Chapter Twelve. Sayonara!
I am going away - very far away. I have already resigned my post as teacher, and am waiting only for my passport.
So many familiar faces have vanished that I feel now less regret at leaving than I should have felt six months ago. And nevertheless, the quaint old city has become so endeared to me by habit and association that the thought of never seeing it again is one I do not venture to dwell upon. I have been trying to persuade myself that some day I may return to this charming old house, in shadowy Kitaborimachi, though all the while painfully aware that in past experience such imaginations invariably preceded perpetual separation.
The facts are that all things are impermanent in the Province of the Gods; that the winters are very severe; and that I have received a call from the great Government college in Kyushu far south, where snow rarely falls. Also I have been very sick; and the prospect of a milder climate had much influence in shaping my decision.
But these few days of farewells have been full of charming surprises. To have the revelation of gratitude where you had no right to expect more than plain satisfaction with your performance of duty; to find affection where you supposed only good-will to exist: these are assuredly delicious experiences. The teachers of both schools have sent me a farewell gift - a superb pair of vases nearly three feet high, covered with designs representing birds, and flowering-trees overhanging a slope of beach where funny pink crabs are running about - vases made in the old feudal days at Rakuzan - rare souvenirs of Izumo. With the wonderful vases came a scroll bearing in Chinese text the names of the thirty-two donors; and three of these are names of ladies - the three lady-teachers of the Normal School.
The students of the Jinjo-Chugakko have also sent me a present - the last contribution of two hundred and fifty-one pupils to my happiest memories of Matsue: a Japanese sword of the time of the daimyo. Silver karashishi with eyes of gold - in Izumo, the Lions of Shinto - swarm over the crimson lacquer of the sheath, and sprawl about the exquisite hilt. And the committee who brought the beautiful thing to my house requested me to accompany them forthwith to the college assembly-room, where the students were all waiting to bid me good-bye, after the old-time custom.
So I went there. And the things which we said to each other are hereafter set down.
DEAR TEACHER: - You have been one of the best and most benevolent teachers we ever had. We thank you with all our heart for the knowledge we obtained through your kindest instruction. Every student in our school hoped you would stay with us at least three years. When we learned you had resolved to go to Kyushu, we all felt our hearts sink with sorrow. We entreated our Director to find some way to keep you, but we discovered that could not be done. We have no words to express our feeling at this moment of farewell. We sent you a Japanese sword as a memory of us. It was only a poor ugly thing; we merely thought you would care for it as a mark of our gratitude. We will never forget your kindest instruction; and we all wish that you may ever be healthy and happy.
MASANABU OTANI, Representing all the Students of the Middle School of Shimane-Ken.
MY DEAR BOYS: - I cannot tell you with what feelings I received your present; that beautiful sword with the silver karashishi ramping upon its sheath, or crawling through the silken cording of its wonderful hilt. At least I cannot tell you all. But there flashed to me, as I looked at your gift, the remembrance of your ancient proverb: 'The Sword is the Soul of the Samurai.' And then it seemed to me that in the very choice of that exquisite souvenir you had symbolised something of your own souls. For we English also have some famous sayings and proverbs about swords. Our poets call a good blade 'trusty' and 'true'; and of our best friend we say, 'He is true as steel' - signifying in the ancient sense the steel of a perfect sword - the steel to whose temper a warrior could trust his honour and his life. And so in your rare gift, which I shall keep and prize while I live, I find an emblem of your true- heartedness and affection. May you always keep fresh within your hearts those impulses of generosity and kindliness and loyalty which I have learned to know so well, and of which your gift will ever remain for me the graceful symbol!
And a symbol not only of your affection and loyalty as students to teachers, but of that other beautiful sense of duty you expressed, when so many of you wrote down for me, as your dearest wish, the desire to die for His Imperial Majesty, your Emperor. That wish is holy: it means perhaps even more than you know, or can know, until you shall have become much older and wiser. This is an era of great and rapid change; and it is probable that many of you, as you grow up, will not be able to believe everything that your fathers believed before you - though I sincerely trust you will at least continue always to respect the faith, even as you still respect the memory, of your ancestors. But however much the life of New Japan may change about you, however much your own thoughts may change with the times, never suffer that noble wish you expressed to me to pass away from your souls. Keep it burning there, clear and pure as the flame of the little lamp that glows before your household shrine.