Spring Snow

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima Read Free Book Online
Authors: Yukio Mishima
Kiyoaki and his father used four. The butler had already placed the red and white balls on the table in proper order and now he handed a cue to both the Marquis and his son. Kiyoaki looked down at the surface of the table as he rubbed the tip of his cue with the Italian chalk of compressed volcanic ash. The red and white ivory balls lay motionless on the green baize, each casting a round shadow like a shellfish making a hesitant foray into the open. They stirred not the slightest interest in him. He had the sensation of standing alone on an unknown street at the height of the day and suddenly finding himself face to face with these odd shapes devoid of all meaning.
    The Marquis was always made uneasy by the boredom on his son’s handsome face. Happy as Kiyoaki felt tonight, his eyes remained dull. “Did you know,” said his father, hitting on a subject of conversation, “that two Siamese princes are coming to Japan to Peers School.”
    “No.”
    “Since they’ll be in your class, we might have them staying here with us for a few days. I’ve mentioned it at the Foreign Ministry. It’s a country that’s made great strides recently. They’ve abolished slavery and they’re building railroads and so on. Be sure to keep that in mind when you deal with them.”
    His father lined up his shot. Kiyoaki stood behind him and watched him crouch like a fat leopard twisting his cue with a show of fierceness. Kiyoaki could not suppress a sudden smile. His sense of happiness and the image of a mysterious tropic land fused in his mind with a soft click as appealing to him as the contact of the red and white ivory balls on the table. And then his elation, which had been as abstract as pure crystal, suddenly took on the green extravagance of the tropical jungle.
    The Marquis was an expert at billiards, and Kiyoaki was never a match for him. After each had taken the first five shots, his father turned abruptly from the table with the suggestion Kiyoaki had long been expecting. “I think I’ll take a little stroll. What would you say to that?”
    Kiyoaki did not answer. His father then made a totally unexpected proposal: “You can come just as far as the gate, can’t you? The way you used to when you were a child.”
    Startled, Kiyoaki turned dark, flashing eyes on his father. In any event, the Marquis had scored a point over his son for surprise.
    His father’s mistress was installed in one of the houses just outside the gate. European families rented the other two. Each house had its own back gate in the fence that separated it from the Matsugae estate. The European children were free to make use of this opportunity and played every day in the grounds of the estate. The only gate with a lock on it—and this was covered with rust—was the gate behind his mistress’s house.
    From the front door of the main house to the front gate was half a mile. When Kiyoaki was a child, his father would take him by the hand and walk with him as far as the gate en route to his mistress’s. There they would separate, and a servant would bring Kiyoaki back.
    When his father went out on business, he invariably used the carriage. When he left the house on foot, therefore, his destination was obvious to everyone. Accompanying his father on these occasions had always been painful for Kiyoaki. While some naïve instinct of boyhood urged him to hold his father back for his mother’s sake, the realization of his own helplessness stirred bitter frustration in him. His mother of course was not at all pleased at Kiyoaki’s accompanying her husband on these evening strolls. But the more she resented it, the more her husband persisted in taking Kiyoaki by the hand. Kiyoaki had been quick to detect his father’s covert desire to make him an accomplice in his mother’s betrayal.
    This walk, however, on a cold November night, was something quite new. As his father put on the overcoat proffered by the butler, Kiyoaki left the billiard room to fetch the

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