The mayor of the village of Karazaki was celebrating the marriage of his daughter. Officials, owners and rentiers of the place were invited to the feast. Sitting in a circle on the mats, they passed one to another, without interruption, the traditional sake cup. The conversation was going well. Sparkling witticisms and puns could be heard from these peasants excited by the precious liquor.
There were, among the guests, a brave and honest old man, whose name was Goroyemon. It was such temperance that the only smell of sake made him ill at heart. So he does not drink. Now you get bored a lot, when you do not drink a wedding feast. The old man was so bored. The master of the house noticed. He immediately called one of his servants, and ordered him to bring the Kompeito vase.
I must explain two things to the reader, without explanation he would have some difficulty in understanding this story. The first, in Japan the graceful name Kompeito is used for small sugar candy, white or pink, like the dragees; the second is that the vase of Kompeito, the master of the house sent for by her maid, was a small jar with a fairly narrow neck that could give passage to a man’s hand.
The maid brought the Kompeito vase.
The servant therefore provides Kompeito vase. The master of the house politely introduced the old man:
– Because you do not drink, he said, please eat, without ceremony, some Kompeito. It will amuse you.
The old man rejects this offer, because, to be polite and do things well, we must first reject the superfluous from a mansion, even when we feel a terrible urge to accept it. Finally, yielding to his neighbors, he took the jar, laying on his lap, plunges and grabbed some Kompeito. But now the hand, which came so easily, can not stand. It remains there, a prisoner in the jar, and all the efforts of the arms at which it is attached are powerless to remove it.
– Whoa! what have you? asked one of the neighbors, struck by the strange expression that has suddenly seized the face of Goroyemon.
– Oh! it’s nothing, he meets, trying to remain calm, but annoyed to see that his misadventure has witnesses. I only have a bit of trouble to withdraw my hand this vase!
– It is curious! answers the other. Wait, I’ll help you.
Thereupon, the complacent neighbor takes the jar with both hands, strongly supports the bottom against his chest and shaking firmly:
– One, two, three, pull! he said.
The poor Goroyemon doing well as he can: vain efforts! The recalcitrant hand still refuses to come out.
The guests, at first intrigued and amused by the strangeness and comedy of the scene, can not suppress a huge laugh.
The old man, he does not laugh. The shame and pain could be read on his face.
– My hand swells, he said suddenly in a trembling voice.
The complacent neighbor takes the jar with both hands.
The guests begin to worry. One speaks to search at once for a doctor. Another suggests a bonesetter. The village schoolmaster, who for a moment contemplating the table without saying anything, got up suddenly and, with a solemn gesture imposing silence at the meeting, address to him, a masterful voice, the following little speech:
– What trouble you so deep, gentlemen? The thing does not really worth the trouble. You have heard, more or less, the story of the famous Shiba Onko! In short, it is this: Shiba Onko, still a child, was playing one day on the edge of the sea, with several of his young comrades. There was, on the shore, a land urn of enormous dimensions. Why was there this urn? The story does not say. Still, gentlemen, the youngest children, having unwisely sitting on the edge of the vessel, sank in. He fell, uttering a cry of terror. His comrades, scared, fled as fast as their legs. Shiba Onko did not move. Master of himself, and keeping everything calm, it remains near the victim. He thought for a long time how to rescue his little friend. Soon a ray of light passes through his mind. Away a few steps, he picked up a large stone, and spear it with all his power against the urn. It was broken and the prisoner came out unharmed.
This story, gentlemen, in my opinion, is striking analogies with the embarrassing situation of good Mr. Goroyemon. It is not a child prisoner in an urn, it is true! but who cares? The hand is as necessary to human body, the child is necessary for the family. Come on! I take upon myself the role of Shiba Onko. But it is not with a stone from the shore, that I will break the vase Kompeito, it is with this, gentlemen!
And he showed his pipe, a small bamboo pipe and iron stove.
The magister, with a jerk, had shattered the Kompeito vase.
Everyone had, in silence, listening to the eloquent teacher. The old man, whose hand was still a prisoner, and the obliging neighbor, who was holding the jar, remained motionless in the same position.
The worthy magister has finished speaking. He walks solemnly, holding his pipe with his right hand, as a former samurai standing raised his sword, when he would cut the neck to some rude clown. He raises the edge of his sleeve which could interfere in this delicate operation. Then, looking round at the guests:
– Gentlemen, he said in a sacramental voice, this jar is a valuable utensil. But it is less valuable than the hand of the old man!
He said, and with a jerk, he shattered the Kompeito vase. The frightened Kompeito spread on the mat, like snowflakes …
A great laugh starts at the same instant from every corner of the room. The hand of the old Goroyemon appears to everyone, and we then understand just now why she refused to get out …
It still holds strongly tight ten Kompeito, which had increased in volume, and that he had not thought of letting go!