I was afraid the Minister might be angry, but he looked quite proud of himself. He and Pumpkin were soon friendly, and the Chairman seemed to like her too.
Pumpkin wore a really extraordinary gray kimono to the parties, with bright gold dots on it. These were stars set against a background of water and mountains, in the light of the moon. Neither my kimono nor Mameha’s could compare with it.
The Chairman seemed to like the kimono too because he asked Pumpkin to model it for him. She turned around and around slowly for him, so that he could admire her. At the next party Pumpkin wasn’t there, she was sick, and the Chairman left early. I spent many unhappy hours wondering if these two events were connected.
My concern about the Chairman’s opinion of me made me take a chance. We were playing a game called «Truth and Lies.» You have to tell two stories. One of them is the truth, and the other a lie-and then everyone guesses which one was which. Geisha play this game so often that they all have lots of stories ready. But this time I told a story that I’d never told before.
«Once when I was a child,» I began, «I was very upset one day, and I went to the banks of the Shirakawa Stream and began to cry…»
As I began this story, I felt almost as though I were reaching across the table to touch the Chairman on the hand. It seemed to me that no one else in the room would consider the story to be unusual, but the Chairman would understand it-or at least I hoped he would. I felt I was having a very private conversation with him alone, and I could feel myself getting warm as I spoke.
When I finished my story, I looked up, expecting to find the Chairman looking at me with understanding, but he didn’t even seem to be listening. I felt a fool. Like a girl who walks along the street imagining that every man is looking at her, but the street is empty.
Luckily, the Minister was too drunk to notice anything, and Nobu was busy eating his food. Mameha had just started her story. Pumpkin, though, had been watching me carefully. When I looked at her, she had a smile on her face that I feared, though I didn’t completely understand it.
Worse followed. Minister Sato had asked the mistress of the Ichiriki if he could be my danna. Nobu and Mother together didn’t have too much difficulty in stopping this. They told the mistress of the Ichiriki to tell Sato that I wasn’t available.
Nobu was telling me what happened next. He looked angry, even for him.» And do you know what that foolish Minister Sato said? After he found out he wasn’t going to be your danna, he sat there for a long time like a pile of dirt and then he finally said, ‘Could you arrange for me to be Sayuri’s danna just once?’ He meant for one night! Really! You wouldn’t do that, would you?
«If you’re a woman who would do such a thing, I want you to leave this room right now, and never speak to me again!
He picked his beer glass up and banged it down again on the table so hard that it cracked and beer spilled on the table. He’d cut his hand on the glass too, and there was blood on it. I couldn’t understand how the evening had suddenly become so dangerous; but it was perfectly clear to me that I could give only one answer.
«I would never do that,» I said.
I thought that would calm him, but for a long terrifying moment the anger stayed in his face. Then he slowly breathed out.
«Next time, speak before I have to cut myself for an answer,» he said. «Now listen. Things are possible that weren’t possible before. Sato is going to tell the Americans the truth, that Iwamura didn’t help the government in the war. The Chairman and I are safe now. I’m going to be your danna.
I left the room as quickly as I could to find a maid to help with Nobu’s hand, which was covered with blood from his cut.