When I woke the following morning, the matter at hand still occupied my thoughts. However willing the party in question might be, marriage into any such household was bound to end badly. She was still just a child, and all too ready to jump at a proffered match. Once it was done, though, there'd be no going back. Many in this world rush happily to their own misfortune. These were my thoughts as I finished breakfast, picked my teeth, and set off to bring the matter to a close.
It was after three when I returned home. I hung my coat in the entry hall and followed the corridor to the study, making my usual excursion to check the veranda. Once there, I found the cage on top of its box. The bunchō, however, lay flat on the cage bottom. Its legs, gathered together, extended stiffly from its body. I stood there transfixed, regarding the bird. Its black eyes were shut, and its lids were a pale blue.
The food dish was full of hulls. Not a single edible grain was among them. The bottom of the water bowl glistened bone dry. The western sun seeped through the glass doors, falling obliquely cross the cage. The black-lacquered base, just as Miekichi had said, was in fact fading from black to vermillion.
I stared at that vermillion base that the winter sun had worn. I stared at the empty food bowl. I stared at the perches, thoughtfully placed but now of no use. Finally, I stared at the rigid bunchō lying below.
I bent down, scooped up the cage in my arms, and carried it into the study. I set it down in the center of the ten-mat room and seated myself solemnly in front. I opened the door, reached my large hand inside, and took hold of the bunchō. Its soft feathers were cold to the touch.