(Shunchū and Shunchū gokoku, 1906)
The still of the spring day, no doubt, had made it possible for the reply to come so quickly, like an echo to the wanderer's "Excuse me, sir." How else could it be? The old man, wearing a loosely fitting headband on his wrinkled forehead, had a sleepy, almost drunken expression as he calmly worked the soft ground warmed by the sun. The damp and sweaty plum blossoms nearby, a flame ready to flutter away into the crimson sunset, swayed brilliantly with the chatter of small birds. Their voices sounded like conversation, but the old man, even in his rapturous trance, must have known that the sound of a human voice could only be calling for him.
Had he known the farmer would answer so promptly, the passerby might have thought twice about saying anything. After all, he was just out for a walk and could have decided the matter by dropping his stick on the road: if it fell north, toward Kamakura, he would tell the old man; and if it toppled south he would continue his walk without saying a word. Chances are the old man wouldn't hear him anyway,