I thanked her many times for helping me, and told her how sorry I was that she’d had to spend these last few years as a slave to Hatsumomo.
Pumpkin put her head on my shoulder and cried.
Mameha went around all the teahouses in Gion, asking people to tell her if Dr. Crab appeared. After a few nights, word came that he was at a teahouse named the Yashino. I rushed to Mameha’s apartment to change into a kimono and then we left for the Yashino with a box of ekubo.
The Yashino was a new teahouse, built in the western style. Instead of tatami mats on the floor, the room we were shown into had armchairs and a sofa. I didn’t feel comfortable in the chairs but Mameha told me not to kneel on the floor. She sounded angry. Then she went off to find Dr. Crab.
Dr. Crab didn’t look at all happy when Mameha brought him into the room. «I prefer to get back to my party,» he said when he saw me. «Please excuse me.»
«Sayuri has brought something for you, Doctor,» Mameha told him. «Just for a moment, if you please.»
After that I think Mameha forgot about using the chairs because when Dr. Crab sat down, we both knelt down in front of him.
«Please accept these ekubo, Doctor,» I said, offering him the rice cakes.
«Why are you giving me these?»
«I’m so sorry, Doctor,» said Mameha. «I told Sayuri that you would enjoy receiving ekubo from her. I hope I’m not mistaken?»
«You are mistaken. Maybe you don’t know this girl as well as you think. I have an excellent opinion of you, Mameha, but I think less of you for introducing this girl to me. I suggest you ask her about the boy who works at a restaurant near her okiya.»
I was pleased he’d mentioned this himself; Mameha and I had feared he might not.
«So that’s the problem!» Mameha said to him. «You must have talked with Hatsumomo. She has been spreading this story all over Gion. It’s completely untrue.»
«Why would Hatsumomo do that?»
«Ever since Sayuri was given an important part in Dances of the Old Capital, Hatsumomo has been telling these stories. It seems she wanted the part for her own Younger Sister, a rather large girl called Pumpkin.»
The doctor looked at me for the first time. I did my best to look like a star dancer who has had lies told about her.
«I don’t like to say this, Doctor,» Mameha continued, «but Hatsumomo is a known liar. You can’t believe anything she says.»
«It’s the first I’ve heard of it.»
«Well,» said Mameha, «either I’m lying to you now or Hatsumomo was lying to you before. You have to decide which of us you know better, Doctor.»
When the Doctor left, walking his crab-like walk, he took the ekubo with him.
One afternoon, a few days later, Mameha came to the okiya and took me into Mrs. Nitta’s room to tell me that bidding for my mizuage had begun.