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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Popular Farce



Room in a Private House.

HUSBAND, alone.
Husband.I am a resident in the suburbs of the metropolis. On the occasion of a recent journey East I was served at a tea-house in the post-town of Nogami, in the province of Mino, by a girl called Hana, who, having since then heard of my return to the capital, has followed me up here, and settled down at Kita-Shirakaha, where she expects me this evening according to a promise made by letter. But my vixen of a wife has got scent of the affair, and thus made it difficult for me to go. So what I mean to do is to call her, and tell her some pretty fable that may set me free.—Hullo! Hullo! Are you there, pray? Are you there?

Wife(outside).So it seems you are pleased to call me. What may it be that makes you thus call me?

Husband.Well, please to come in.

Enter WIFE.
Wife.Your commands are obeyed.

Husband.My reason for calling you is simply this: I want to tell you how much my spirits have been affected by continual dreams that I have had. That is why I have called you.

Wife.You are talking rubbish. Dreams proceed from organic disturbance, and do not come true; so pray don’t trouble your head about them.

Husband.What you say is quite correct. Dreams, proceeding as they do from organic disturbance, do not come true nine times out of ten. Still, mine have affected my spirits to such an extent that I am thinking of some pilgrimage or other to offer up prayers both on your behalf and on my own.

Wife.Then where shall you go?

Husband.I mean—to say nothing of those in the metropolis and in the suburbs—to worship at all Shinto shrines and all Buddhist temples throughout the land.

Wife.No, no! I won’t allow you to go out of the house for a single hour. If you are so completely bent upon it, choose some devotion that can be performed at home.

Husband.Some devotion to be performed at home? What devotion could it be?

Wife.Burning incense on your arm or on your head.

Husband.How thoughtlessly you do talk! What! is a devotion like that to suit me—a layman, if ever there was one?

Wife.I won’t tolerate any devotion that cannot be performed at home.

Husband.Well, I never! You are one for talking at random. Hang it! what devotion shall it be?(Reflects a few moments.)Ah, I have it! I will perform the devotion of abstraction.

Wife.Abstraction? What is that?

Husband.Your want of familiarity with the term is but natural. It is a devotion that was practised in days of old by Saint Daruma—blessings on him! You put your head under what is called the “abstraction blanket,” and obtain salvation by forgetting all things past and to come—a most difficult form of devotion.

Wife.About how long does it take?

Husband.Well, I should say about a week or two.

Wife.That won’t do, either, if it is to last so many days.

Husband.Then for how long would my darling consent to it without complaining?

Wife.About one hour is what I should suggest; but, however, if you can do it in a day, you are welcome to try.

Husband.Never, never! This important devotion is not a thing to be so easily performed within the limits of a single day. Please, won’t you grant me leave for at least a day and a night?

Wife.A day and a night?


Wife.I don’t much relish the idea; but if you are so completely bent upon it, take a day and a night for your devotion.

Husband.Do you really mean it?

Wife.Yes, really.

Husband.Oh, that is indeed too delightful! But I have something to tell you. Know, then, that if a woman so much as peep through a chink, to say nothing of her coming into the actual room where the devotee is sitting, the spell of the devotion is instantly broken. So be sure not to come where I am.

Wife.All right. I will not come to you. So perform away.

Husband.Well, then, we will meet again after it shall have been happily accomplished.

Wife.I shall have the pleasure of seeing you when it is over.

Husband and Wife.Good-by! Good-by!(She moves away.)

Husband.Wait a moment!

Wife.What is it?

Husband.As I mentioned before, mind you don’t come to me. We have the Buddhist’s warning words, “When there is a fuss in the kitchen, to be rapt in abstraction is an impossibility.” So, whatever you do, do not come to me.

Wife.Please feel no uneasiness. I shall not think of intruding.

Husband.Well, then, we shall meet again when the devotion is over.

Wife.When it is done, I shall have the pleasure of seeing you.

Husband and Wife.Good-by! Good-by!(Exit WIFE.)

Husband.What fools women are, to be sure! To think of the delight of her taking it all for truth, when I tell her that I am going to perform the religious devotion of abstraction for one whole day and night!—Taraukuwazhiya, are you there? Hullo!

Servant(without).Yes, sir!

Husband.Are you there?

Servant.At your service.

Husband.Oh, you have been quick in coming.

Servant.You seem to be in good spirits, master.

Husband.For my good spirits there is a good reason. I have made, as you know, an engagement to go and visit Hana this evening. But as my old woman has got scent of the affair, thus making it difficult for me to go, I have told her that I mean to perform the religious devotion of abstraction for a whole day and night—a very good device, is it not, for carrying out my plan of going to see Hana?

Servant.A very good device indeed, sir.

Husband.But in connection with it, I want to ask you to do me a good turn. Will you?

Servant.Pray, what may it be?

Husband.Why, simply this: It is, that I have told my old woman not to intrude on my devotions; but, being the vixen that she is, who knows but what she may not peep and look in? In which case she would make a fine noise, if there were no semblance of a religious practise to be seen; and so, though it is giving you a great deal of trouble, I wish you would oblige me by taking my place until my return.

Servant.Oh, it would be no trouble; but I shall get such a scolding if I am found out, that I would rather ask you to excuse me.

Husband.What nonsense you talk! Do oblige me by taking my place; for I will not allow her to scold you.

Servant.Oh, sir, that is all very well; but pray excuse me for this time.

Husband.No, no! you must please do this for me; for I will not so much as let her point a finger at you.

Servant.Please, please let me off!

Husband.Gracious goodness! The fellow heeds what my wife says, and won’t heed what I say myself! Do you mean that you have made up your mind to brave me?(Threatening to beat him.)

Servant.Oh, I will obey!

Husband.No, no; you mean to brave me!

Servant.Oh, no, sir! surely I have no choice but to obey.

Husband.Will you really?

Servant.Yes, really.

Husband.My anger was only a feint. Well, then, take my place, please.

Servant.Yes, to be sure; if it is your desire, I will do so.

Husband.That is really too delightful! Just stop quiet while I set things to rights for you to sit in abstraction.

Servant.Your commands are laid to heart.

Husband.Sit down here.

Servant.Oh, what an unexpected honor!

Husband.Now, then; I fear it will be uncomfortable, but oblige me by putting your head under this “abstraction blanket.”

Servant.Your commands are laid to heart.

Husband.Well, it is scarcely necessary to say so; but even if my old woman should tell you to take off the abstraction blanket, be sure not to do so until my return.

Servant.Of course not. I should not think of taking it off. Pray don’t be alarmed.

Husband.I will be back soon.

Servant.Please be good enough to return quickly.

Husband.Ah, that is well over! No doubt Hana is waiting impatiently for me. I will make haste and go.(Exit.)

Enter WIFE.
Wife.I am mistress of this house. I perfectly understood my partner the first time he asked me not to come to him on account of the religious devotion which he was going to perform. But there is something suspicious in his insisting on it a second time with a “Don’t come to look at me! Don’t come to look at me!” So I will just peep through some hidden corner, and see what the thing looks like.(Peeping.)What’s this? Why, it seems much more uncomfortable than I had supposed! Please, please; you told me not to come to you, and therefore I had intended not to do so; but I felt anxious, and so I have come. Won’t you lift off that “abstraction blanket,” and take something, if only a cup of tea, to rest your mind a little?(The figure under the blanket shakes its head.)You are quite right. The thought of my being so disobedient, and coming to you after the care you took to tell me not to intrude, may justly rouse your anger; but please forgive my rudeness, and do please take that blanket off, and repose yourself, do!(The figure shakes its head again.)You may say no again and again, but I will have it off! You must take it off! Do you hear?(She pulls it off, and the SERVANT stands exposed.)What! you, you rascal? Where has my old man gone? Speak, why don’t you?

Servant.Oh, I know nothing about it!

Wife.Oh, how furious I am! Oh, how furious I am! Of course he must have gone to that woman’s house. Why don’t you speak? Why don’t you speak? I shall tear you in pieces!

Servant.In that case, how can I keep anything from you? Master has walked out to see Miss Hana.

Wife.What! Miss Hana, do you say? Say Minx—say Minx! Gracious me, what a rage I am in! Then he really has gone to Hana’s house, has he?

Servant.Yes, he really has gone there.

Wife.Oh, when I hear he has gone to Hana’s house, I feel all ablaze, and oh, in such a passion! Oh, I’m in such a passion!(Bursts out crying.)

Servant.Your tears are only natural.

Wife.Ah, I had meant not to let you go if you had kept it from me. But as you have told the truth, I forgive you. So get up.

Servant.I am extremely grateful for your kindness.

Wife.Now tell me, how came you to be sitting there?

Servant.It was master’s order that I should take his place; and so, although it was most repugnant to me, there was no alternative but for me to sit down, and I did so.

Wife.Naturally. Now I want to ask you to do me a good turn. Will you?

Servant.Pray, what may it be?

Wife.Why, just simply this: You will arrange the blanket on top of me, just as it was arranged on top of you. Won’t you?

Servant.Oh, your commands ought, of course, to be laid to heart; but I shall get such a scolding if the thing becomes known, that I would rather ask you to excuse me.

Wife.No, no. I will not allow him to scold you. So you must really please arrange me.

Servant.Please, please, let me off this time!

Wife.No, no. You must arrange me, as I will not so much as let him point a finger at you.

Servant.Well, then, if it comes to my getting a scolding, I count on you as an intercessor.

Wife.Of course; I will intercede for you. So do you please arrange me.

Servant.In that case, be so good as to sit down here.

Wife.All right.

Servant.I fear it will be uncomfortable, but I must ask you to put your head under this.

Wife.Please arrange me so that he cannot possibly know the difference between us.

Servant.He will never know. It will do very nicely like this.

Wife.Will it?


Wife.Well, then, do you go and rest.

Servant.Your commands are laid to heart.(Moves away.)

Wife.Wait a moment, Taraukuwazhiya!

Servant.Yes, ma’am.

Wife.It is scarcely necessary to say so, but be sure not to tell him that it is I.

Servant.Of course not. I should not think of telling him.

Wife.It has come to my ears that you have been secretly wishing for a purse and silk wrapper. I will give you one of each, which I have worked myself.

Servant.I am extremely grateful for your kindness.

Wife.Now be off and rest.

Servant.Yes, ma’am.(Exit.)

  • Enter HUSBAND, singing.
  • “Why should the lonely sleeper heed
  • The midnight bell, the bird of dawn?
  • But ah, they’re sorrowful indeed
  • When loosen’d was the damask zone!
  • Her image still, with locks that sleep
  • Had tangled, haunts me, and for aye;
  • Like willow-sprays where winds do sweep,
  • All tangled, too, my feelings lie.”

  • As the world goes, this rarely happens even with the most ardent secret love; but in my case I never see her but what I care for her more and more.
  • “’Twas in the spring-time that we first did meet,
  • Nor e’er can I forget my flow’ret sweet.”
  • Ah, well—ah, well! I keep talking like one in a dream, and meantime Taraukuwazhiya is impatiently awaiting me. I wonder how he has been keeping my place for me. I feel a bit uneasy.—Hullo! Hullo! Taraukuwazhiya! I’m back! I’m back! I’m just back! Poor fellow, the time must have seemed long to you! Well, I should like to tell you to take off the “abstraction blanket”; but you would probably feel ashamed at being exposed. Anyhow, I will relate to you what Hana said last night, if you care to listen. Do you?(The figure nods acquiescence.)So you would like to? Well, then, I’ll tell you all about it. I made all the haste I could, but it was nearly dark before I arrived; and I was just going to ask admittance, my thoughts full of how anxiously Hana must be waiting for me in her loneliness, saying, perhaps, with the Chinese poet:
  • “He promised, but he comes not, and I lie on my pillow in the fifth watch of the night;
  • The wind shakes the pine-trees and the bamboos: can it be my beloved?”
  • when there came borne to me the sound of her voice, humming as she sat alone:
  • “The breezes through the pine-trees moan,
  • The dying torch burns low;
  • Ah me, ’tis eery all alone!
  • Say, will he come, or no?”
  • So I gave a gentle rap on the back door, on hearing which she cried out, “Who’s there? Who’s there?” Well, a shower was falling at the time; so I answered by singing:
  • “Who comes to see you, Hana, dear,
  • Regardless of the soaking rain?
  • And do your words, ‘Who’s there? Who’s there?’
  • Mean that you wait for lovers twain?”
  • To which Hana replied:
  • “What a fine joke! Well, who can tell?
  • On such a dark and rainy night,
  • Who ventures out must love me well,
  • And I, of course, must be polite,
  • And say, ‘Pray, sir, pass this way.’”
  • And, with these words, she loosened the ring and staple with a cling-a-ring, and pushed open the door with a crick-a-tick; and while the breeze from the bamboo blind poured toward me laden with the scent of flowers, out she comes to me, and, “At your service, sir,” says she, “though I am but a poor country maid.” So in we went, hand in hand, to the parlor. But yet her first question, “Who’s there?” had left me so doubtful as to whether she might not be playing a double game, that I turned my back on her, and said crossly that I supposed she had been expecting a number of lovers, and that the thought quite spoiled my pleasure. But, oh, what a darling Hana is! Coming to my side, and clasping my hand tight, she whispered, saying:
  • “If I do please you not, then from the first
  • Better have said that I do please you not;
  • But wherefore pledge your troth, and after turn
  • Against me? Alas! alas!”
  • Then she asked why I had not brought you, Taraukuwazhiya, with me; and on my giving the reason why you had remained at home, “Poor fellow,” said she, “how lonely he must be all by himself! Never was there a handier lad at everything than he, though doubtless it is a case of the mugwort planted among the hemp, which grows straight without need of twisting, and of the sand mixed with the mud, which gets black without need of dyeing, and it is his having been bound to you from a boy that has made him so genteel and clever. Please always be a kind master to him.” Yes, those are the things you have said of you when Hana is the speaker. As for my old vixen, she wouldn’t let as much drop from her jaw in the course of a century, I’ll warrant!(Violent shaking of the blanket.)Then she asked me to pass into the inner room to rest awhile. So in we went to the inner room, hand in hand. And then she brought out wine and food, and pressed me to drink, so that what with drinking oneself, and passing the cup to her, and pressing each other to drink, we kept feasting until quite far into the night, when at her suggestion we sought another room, and took a little repose. But soon day began to break, and I said I would go home. Then Hana exclaimed:
  • “Methought that when I met thee, dearest heart,
  • I’d tell thee all that swells within my breast!
  • But now already ’tis the hour to part,
  • And oh, how much still lingers unexpress’d!”
  • She wanted me to stay a little longer! “No!” said I, “I must get home. All the temple-bells are ringing.” “And heartless priests they are,” cried she, “that ring them! Horrid wretches to begin their ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, when it is still the middle of the night!” But for all her entreaties, and for all my own regrets, I remembered that “meeting is but parting,” and,
  • “Tearing me loose, I made to go. Farewell!
  • Farewell a thousand times, like ocean sands
  • Untold! And follow’d by her distant gaze,
  • I went; but as I turn’d me round, the moon,
  • A slender rim, sparkling remain’d behind,
  • And oh, what pain it was to me to part!”
  • (He sheds tears.)And so I came home. Oh, isn’t it a pity?(Weeping again.)Ah, well! out of my heart’s joy has flamed all this long history, and meanwhile you must be very uncomfortable. Take off that “abstraction blanket.” Take it off, for I have nothing more to tell you. Gracious goodness, how clumsy you are! Well, then, I must pull it off myself! I will have it off, man! Do you hear me?(He pulls off the blanket, and up jumps his WIFE.)

    Wife.Oh, how furious I am! Oh, how furious I am! To hoax me, and go off to Hana in that manner!

    Husband.Oh, not at all—not at all! I never went to Hana. I have been performing my devotions; indeed I have.

    Wife.What! So he means to come and tell me that he has been performing his devotions? And then into the bargain to talk about “things the old vixen would never have let drop”! Oh, I’m all ablaze with rage! Hoaxing me and going off—where? Going off—where?(Pursuing HUSBAND round the stage.)

    Husband.Not at all! not at all! I never said anything of the kind. Do, do forgive me! Do forgive me!

    Wife.Oh, how furious I am! Oh, how furious I am! Where have you been, sir? Where have you been?

    Husband.Well, then, why should I conceal it from you? I have been to pray both for your welfare and for my own at the Temple of the Five Hundred Disciples in Tsukushi.

    Wife.Oh, how furious I am! Oh, how furious I am! As if you could have got as far as the Five Hundred Disciples!

    Husband.Do, do forgive me! Do forgive me!

    Wife.Oh, how furious I am! Oh, how furious I am!(HUSBAND runs away.)Where’s the unprincipled wretch off to? Is there nobody there? Please catch him! I won’t let him escape! I won’t let him escape!