The water had just been changed. With its slender feet in the middle of the bowl, the bunchō immersed itself to the down of its breast. From time to time it would spread out its wings, bend its legs to lower its belly further into the water, and shake itself side to side. Then it would hop back lightly onto the lip of the bowl. After a while it would plunge back in. The water bowl was small, no more than five centimeters in diameter. When the bird plunged in, its tail, its head, and, of course, its backside, were high and dry. The water only touched its legs and its underbelly. Even at that, it bathed with great satisfaction.
I hurried off, brought back the spare cage, and transferred the bunchō over. Then I took the watering pot to the washroom, filled it from the spigot, and drained it over the cage from above. By the time the pot was empty, beads of water were rolling off the white feathers. The bunchō blinked its eyes repeatedly.
Once, long ago, when the woman I'd teased with the purple tassel was working in the parlor, I'd amused myself by catching spring sunlight with my pocket mirror and directing it her way from my room at the back side of the second floor. She'd lifted her lightly-crimsoned cheeks and shielded her brow with her delicate hand, blinking in bewilderment. The feeling of the woman then, and the feeling of the bunchō now, were no doubt similar.
Days passed, and the bunchō poured forth its song. It received in return, however, less and less notice. On one occasion, its food bowl was reduced to only hulls. Another time, the floor of the cage became covered in droppings. One evening, I returned home late from a banquet. The winter moon shone through the glass, faintly illuminating the wide veranda. The birdcage, still as the night, was resting on top of its box. Tucked inside, barely discernible in the faint light, was the pale white figure of the bunchō on its perch. I threw off my coat and immediately placed the cage in its box.