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Title: Kimono
Author: Paris, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kimono" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



KIMONO

by

JOHN PARIS

1922



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

    I AN ANGLO-JAPANESE MARRIAGE

   II HONEYMOON

  III EASTWARDS

   IV NAGASAKI

    V CHONKINA

   VI ACROSS JAPAN

  VII THE EMBASSY

 VIII THE HALF-CASTE GIRL

   IX ITO SAN

    X THE YOSHIWARA WOMEN

   XI A GEISHA DINNER

  XII FALLEN CHERRY-BLOSSOMS

 XIII THE FAMILY ALTAR

  XIV THE DWARF TREES

   XV EURASIA

  XVI THE GREAT BUDDHA

 XVII THE RAINY SEASON

XVIII AMONG THE NIKKO MOUNTAINS

  XIX YAÉ SMITH

   XX THE KIMONO

  XXI SAYONARA (GOOD-BYE)

 XXII FUJINAMI ASAKO

XXIII THE REAL SHINTO

 XXIV THE AUTUMN FESTIVAL

  XXV JAPANESE COURTSHIP

 XXVI ALONE IN TOKYO

XXVII LADY BRANDAN



  _Utsutsu wo mo
  Utsutsu to sara ni
  Omowaneba,
  Yume wo mo yume to
  Nani ka omowamu?

  Since I am convinced
  That Reality is in no way
  Real,
  How am I to admit
  That dreams are dreams?_


The verses and translation above are taken from A. Waley's "JAPANESE
POETRY: THE UTA" (Clarendon Press), as are many of the classical
poems placed at the head of the chapters.



CHAPTER I

AN ANGLO-JAPANESE MARRIAGE

  _Shibukaro ka
  Shiranedo kaki no
  Hatsu-chigiri_.

  Whether the fruit be bitter
  Or whether it be sweet,
  The first bite tells.


The marriage of Captain the Honourable Geoffrey Barrington and Miss
Asako Fujinami was an outstanding event in the season of 1913. It
was bizarre, it was picturesque, it was charming, it was socially
and politically important, it was everything that could appeal to
the taste of London society, which, as the season advances, is apt to
become jaded by the monotonous process of Hymen in High Life and by
the continued demand for costly wedding presents.

Once again Society paid for its seat at St. George's and for its
glass of champagne and crumb of cake with gifts of gold and silver and
precious stones enough to smother the tiny bride; but for once in a
way it paid with a good heart, not merely in obedience to convention,
but for the sake of participating in a unique and delightful scene, a
touching ceremony, the plighting of East and West.

Would the Japanese heiress be married in a kimono with flowers and
fans fixed in an elaborate _coiffure_? Thus the ladies were wondering
as they craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the bride's
procession up the aisle; but, though some even stood on hassocks and
pew seats, few were able to distinguish for certain. She was so very
tiny. At any rate, her six tall bridesmaids were arrayed in Japanese
dress, lovely white creations embroidered with birds and foliage.

It is hard to distinguish anything in the perennial twilight of St.
George's; a twilight symbolic of the new lives which emerge from its
Corinthian portico into that married world about which so much has
been guessed and so little is known.

One thing, however, was visible to all as the pair moved together
up to the altar rails, and that was the size of the bridegroom as
contrasted with the smallness of his bride. He looked like a great
rough bear and she like a silver fairy. There was something intensely
pathetic in the curve of his broad shoulders as he bent over the
little hand to place in its proud position the diminutive golden
circlet which was to unite their two lives.

As they left the church, the organ was playing _Kimi-ga-ya_, the
Japanese national hymn. Nobody recognized it, except the few Japanese
who were present; but Lady Everington, with that exaggeration of the
suitable which is so typical of her, had insisted on its choice as a
voluntary. Those who had heard the tune before and half remembered
it decided that it must come from the "Mikado"; and one stern dowager
went so far as to protest to the rector for permitting such a tune to
desecrate the sacred edifice.

Outside the church stood the bridegroom's brother officers. Through
the gleaming passage of sword-blades, smiling and happy, the strangely
assorted couple entered upon the way of wedlock, as Mr. and Mrs.
Geoffrey Barrington--the shoot of the Fujinami grafted on to one of
the oldest of our noble families.

"Are her parents here?" one lady was asking her neighbour.

"Oh, no; they are both dead, I believe."

"What kind of people are they, do you know? Do Japs have an
aristocracy and society and all that kind of thing?"

"I'm sure I don't know. I shouldn't think so. They don't look real
enough."

"She is very rich, anyhow," a third lady intervened, "I've heard they
are big landowners in Tokyo, and cousins of Admiral Togo's."

       *       *       *       *       *

The opportunity for closer inspection of this curiosity was afforded
by the reception given at Lady Everington's mansion in Carlton House
Terrace. Of course, everybody was there. The great ballroom was draped
with hangings of red and white, the national colours of Japan. Favours
of the same bright hues were distributed among the guests. Trophies
of Union Jacks and Rising Suns were grouped in corners and festooned
above windows and doorways.

Lady Everington was bent upon giving an international importance to
her protégée's marriage. Her original plan had been to invite the
whole Japanese community in London, and so to promote the popularity
of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance by making the most of this opportunity
for social fraternising. But where was the Japanese community in
London? Nobody knew. Perhaps there was none. There was the Embassy, of
course, which arrived smiling, fluent, and almost too well-mannered.
But Lady Everington had been unable to push very far her programme for
international amenities. There were strange little yellow men from
the City, who had charge of ships and banking interests; there were
strange little yellow men from beyond the West End, who studied the
Fine Arts, and lived, it appeared, on nothing. But the hostess could
find no ladies at all, except Countess Saito and the Embassy dames.

Monsieur and Madame Murata from Paris, the bride's guardians, were
also present. But the Orient was submerged beneath the flood of our
rank and fashion, which, as one lady put it, had to take care how it
stepped for fear of crushing the little creatures.

"Why _did_ you let him do it?" said Mrs. Markham to her sister.

"It was a mistake, my dear," whispered Lady Everington, "I meant her
for somebody quite different."

"And you're sorry now?"

"No, I have no time to be sorry--ever," replied that eternally
graceful and youthful Egeria, who is one of London's most powerful
social influences. "It will be interesting to see what becomes of
them."

Lady Everington has been criticised for stony-heartedness, for
opportunism, and for selfish abuse of her husband's vast wealth. She
has been likened to an experimental chemist, who mixes discordant
elements together in order to watch the results, chilling them in ice
or heating them over the fire, until the lives burst in fragments or
the colour slowly fades out of them. She has been called an artist in
_mésalliances_, a mismatch-maker of dangerous cunning, a dangler of
picturesque beggar-maids before romantic-eyed Cophetuas, a daring
promoter of ambitious American girls and a champion of musical comedy
peeresses. Her house has been named the Junior Bachelors Club. The
charming young men who seem to be bound to its hospitable board by
invisible chains are the material for her dashing improvisations and
the _dramatis personae_ of the scores of little domestic comedies
which she likes to keep floating around her in different stages of
development.

Geoffrey Barrington had been the secretary of this club, and a
favourite with the divinity who presided over it. We had all supposed
that he would remain a bachelor; and the advent of Asako Fujinami into
London society gave us at first no reason to change our opinion. But
she was certainly attractive.

       *       *       *       *       *

She ought to have been married in a kimono. There was no doubt about
it now, when there was more liberty to inspect her, as she stood there
shaking hands with hundreds of guests and murmuring her "Thank you
very much" to the reiterated congratulations.

The white gown was perfectly cut and of a shade to give its full
value to her complexion, a waxen complexion like old ivory or like
a magnolia petal, in which the Mongolian yellow was ever so faintly
discernible. It was a sweet little face, oval and smooth; but it might
have been called expressionless if it had not been for a dimple which
peeped and vanished around a corner of the small compressed mouth, and
for the great deep brown eyes, like the eyes of deer or like pools of
forest water, eyes full of warmth and affection. This was the feature
which struck most of us as we took the opportunity to watch her in
European dress with the glamour of her kimono stripped from her. They
were the eyes of the Oriental girl, a creature closer to the animals
than we are, lit by instinct more often than by reason, and hiding
a soul in its infancy, a repressed, timorous, uncertain thing,
spasmodically violent and habitually secretive and aloof.

Sir Ralph Cairns, the famous diplomat, was talking on this subject to
Professor Ironside.

"The Japanese are extraordinarily quick," he was saying, "the most
adaptable people since the ancient Greeks, whom they resemble in some
ways. But they are more superficial. The intellect races on ahead, but
the heart lingers in the Dark Ages."

"Perhaps intermarriage is the solution of the great racial problem,"
suggested the Professor.

"Never," said the old administrator. "Keep the breed pure, be it
white, black, or yellow. Bastard races cannot flourish. They are waste
of Nature."

The Professor glanced towards the bridal pair.

"And these also?" he asked.

"Perhaps," said Sir Ralph, "but in her case her education has been so
entirely European."

Hereupon, Lady Everington approaching, Sir Ralph turned to her and
said,--

"Dear lady, let me congratulate you: this is your masterpiece."

"Sir Ralph," said the hostess, already looking to see which of her
guests she would next pounce upon, "You know the East so well. Give
me one little piece of advice to hand over to the children before they
start on their honeymoon."

Sir Ralph smiled benignly.

"Where are they going?" he asked.

"Everywhere," replied Lady Everington, "they are going to travel."

"Then let them travel all over the world," he answered, "only not to
Japan. That is their Bluebeard's cupboard; and into that they must not
look."

There was more discussion of bridegroom and bride than is usual at
society weddings, which are apt to become mere reunions of fashionable
people, only vaguely conscious of the identity of those in whose
honour they have been gathered together.

"Geoffrey Barrington is such a healthy barbarian," said a pale young
man with a monocle; "if it had been a high-browed child of culture
like you, Reggie, with a taste for exotic sensations, I should hardly
have been surprised."

"And if it had been you, Arthur," replied Reggie Forsyth of the
Foreign Office, who was Barrington's best man, "I should have known
at once that it was the twenty thousand a year which was the supreme
attraction."

There was a certain amount of Anglo-Indian sentiment afloat among
the company, which condemned the marriage entirely as an outrage on
decency.

"What was Brandan dreaming of," snorted General Haslam, "to allow his
son to marry a yellow native?"

"Dreaming of the mortgage on the Brandan property, I expect, General,"
answered Lady Rushworth.

"It's scandalous," foamed the General, "a fine young fellow, a fine
officer, too! His career ruined for an undersized _geisha_!"

"But think of the millions of _yens_ or _sens_ or whatever they are,
with which she is going to re-gild the Brandan coronet!"

"That wouldn't console me for a yellow baby with slit eyes," continued
the General, his voice rising in debate as his custom was at the
Senior.

"Hush, General!" said his interlocutor, "we don't discuss such
possibilities."

"But everybody here must be thinking of them, except that unfortunate
young man."

"We never say what we are thinking, General; it would be too
upsetting."

"And we are to have a Japanese Lord Brandan, sitting in the House of
Lords?" the General went on.

"Yes, among the Jews, Turks, and Armenians, who are there already,"
Lady Rushworth answered, "an extra Oriental will never be noticed. It
will only be another instance of the course of Empire taking its way
Eastward."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Everington dining-room the wedding presents were displayed. It
looked more like the interior of a Bond Street shop where every kind
of _article de luxe_, useful and useless, was heaped in plenty.

Perhaps the only gift which had cost less than twenty pounds was Lady
Everington's own offering, a photograph of herself in a plain silver
frame, her customary present when one of her protégées was married
under her immediate auspices.

"My dear," she would say, "I have enriched you by several thousands of
pounds. I have introduced you to the right people for present-giving
at precisely the right moment previous to your wedding, when they know
you neither too little nor too much. By long experience I have
learnt to fix it to a day. But I am not going to compete with this
undistinguished lavishness. I give you my picture to stand in
your drawing-room as an artist puts his signature to a completed
masterpiece, so that when you look around upon the furniture, the
silver, the cut glass, the clocks, the engagement tablets, and the
tantalus stands, the offerings of the rich whose names you have
long ago forgotten, then you will confess to yourself in a burst of
thankfulness to your fairy godmother that all this would never have
been yours if it had not been for her!"

In a corner of the room and apart from the more ostentatious homage,
stood on a small table a large market-basket, in which was lying a
huge red fish, a roguish, rollicking mullet with a roving eye, all
made out of a soft crinkly silk. In the basket beneath it were rolls
and rolls of plain silk, red and white. This was an offering from
the Japanese community in London, the conventional wedding present of
every Japanese home from the richest to the poorest, varying only
in size and splendour. On another small table lay a bundle of brown
objects like prehistoric axe heads, bound round with red and white
string, and vaguely odorous of bloater-paste. These were dried flesh
of the fish called _katsuobushi_ by the Japanese, whose absence also
would have brought misfortune to the newly married. Behind them, on
a little tray, stood a miniature landscape representing an aged
pine-tree by the sea-shore and a little cottage with a couple of old,
old people standing at its door, two exquisite little dolls dressed
in rough, poor kimonos, brown and white. The old man holds a rake,
and the old woman holds a broom. They have very kindly faces and white
silken hair. Any Japanese would recognise them at once as the Old
People of Takasago, the personification of the Perfect Marriage.
They are staring with wonder and alarm at the Brandan sapphires,
a monumental _parure_ designed for the massive state of some
Early-Victorian Lady Brandan.

Asako Fujinami had spent days rejoicing over the arrival of her
presents, little interested in the identity of the givers but
fascinated by the things themselves. She had taken hours to arrange
them in harmonious groups. Then a new gift would arrive which would
upset the balance, and she would have to begin all over again.

Besides this treasury in the dining-room, there were all her
clothes, packed now for the honeymoon, a whole wardrobe of fairy-like
disguises, wonderful gowns of all colours and shapes and materials.
These, it is true, she had bought herself. She had always been
surrounded by money; but it was only since she had lived with Lady
Everington that she had begun to learn something about the thousand
different ways of spending it, and all the lovely things for which it
can be exchanged. So all her new things, whatever their source, seemed
to her like presents, like unexpected enrichments. She had basked
among her new acquisitions, silent as was her wont when she was happy,
sunning herself in the warmth of her prosperity. Best of all, she
never need wear kimonos again in public. Her fiancé had acceded to
this, her most immediate wish. She could dress now like the girls
around her. She would no longer be stared at like a curio in a shop
window. Inquisitive fingers would no longer clutch at the long sleeves
of, crinkled silk, or try to probe the secret of the huge butterfly
bow on her back. She could step out fearlessly now like English women.
She could give up the mincing walk and the timid manner which she felt
was somehow inseparable from her native dress.

When she told her protectress that Geoffrey had consented to its
abandonment, Lady Everington had heaved a sigh.

"Poor Kimono!" she said, "it has served you well. But I suppose a
soldier is glad to put his uniform away when the fighting is over.
Only, never forget the mysterious power of the uniform over the other
sex."

Another day when her Ladyship had been in a bad mood, she had
snapped,--

"Put those things away, child, and keep to your kimono. It is your
natural plumage. In those borrowed plumes you look undistinguished and
underfed."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Japanese Ambassador to the Court of St. James proposed the health
of the bride and bridegroom. Count Saito was a small, wise man, whom
long sojourn in European countries had to some extent de-orientalised.
His hair was grizzled, his face was seamed, and he had a peering way
of gazing through his gold-rimmed spectacles with head thrust forward
like a man half blind, which he certainly was not.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "it is a great pleasure for me to
be present on this occasion, for I think this wedding is a personal
compliment to myself and to my work in this splendid country. Mr. and
Mrs. Geoffrey Barrington are the living symbols of the Anglo-Japanese
Alliance; and I hope they will always remember the responsibility
resting on their shoulders. The bride and bridegroom of to-day must
feel that the relations of Great Britain and Japan depend upon the
perfect harmony of their married life. Ladies and gentlemen, let us
drink long life and happiness to Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Barrington, to
the Union Jack and to the Rising Sun!"

The toast, was drunk and three cheers were given, with an extra cheer
for Mrs. Geoffrey. The husband, who was no hand at speechmaking,
replied--and his good-natured voice was quite thick with emotion--that
it was awfully good of them all to give his wife and himself such a
ripping send-off, and awfully good of Sir George and Lady Everington
especially, and awfully good of Count Saito; and that he was the
happiest man in the world and the luckiest, and that his wife had told
him to tell them all that she was the happiest woman, though he really
did not see why she should be. Anyhow, he would do his best to give
her a jolly good time. He thanked his friends for their good wishes
and for their beautiful presents. They had had jolly good times
together, and, in return for all their kindness, he and his wife
wanted to wish them all a jolly good time.

So spoke Geoffrey Barrington; and at that moment many people present
must have felt a pang of regret that this fine specimen of England's
young manhood should marry an oriental. He was over six feet high. His
broad shoulders seemed to stoop a little with the lazy strength of a
good-tempered carnivore, of Una's lion, and his face, which was almost
round, was set off by a mane of the real lion colour. He wore his
moustache rather longer than was the fashion. It was a face which
seemed ready to laugh at any moment--or else to yawn. For there
was about the man's character and appearance something indolent and
half-awakened and much of the schoolboy. Yet he was over thirty. But
there is always a tendency for Army life to be merely a continuation
of public-school existence. Eton merges into Sandhurst, and Sandhurst
merges into the regiment. One's companions are all the time men of
the same class and of the same ideas. The discipline is the same,
the conventionality and the presiding fetish of Good and Bad Form. So
many, generals are perennial school boys. They lose their freshness,
that is all.

But Geoffrey Barrington had not lost his freshness. This was his great
charm, for he certainly was not quick or witty. Lady Everington said
that she kept him as a disinfectant to purify the atmosphere.

"This house," she declared, "sometimes gets over-scented with
tuberoses. Then I open the window and let Geoffrey Barrington in!"

He was the only son of Lord Brandan and heir to that ancient but
impoverished title. He had been brought up to the idea that he must
marry a rich wife. He neither jibbed foolishly at the proposal, nor
did he surrender lightly to any of the willing heiresses who threw
themselves at his head. He accepted his destiny with the fatalism
which every soldier must carry in his knapsack, and took up his post
as Mars in attendance in Lady Everington's drawing-room, recognising
that there lay the strategic point for achieving his purpose. He was
not without hope, too, that besides obtaining the moneybags he might
be so fortunate as to fall in love with the possessor of them.

Asako Fujinami, whom he had first met at dinner, at Lady Everington's,
had crossed his mind just like an exquisite bar of melody. He made no
comments at the time, but he could not forget her. The haunting tune
came back to him again and again. By the time that she had floated in
his arms through three or four dances, the spell had worked. _La belle
dame sans merci_, the enchantress who lurks in every woman, had him
in thrall. Her simplest observations seemed to him to be pearls of
wisdom, her every movement a triumph of grace.

"Reggie," he said to his friend Forsyth, "what do you think of that
little Japanese girl?"

Reggie, who was a diplomat by profession and a musician by the grace
of God, and whose intuition was almost feminine especially where
Geoffrey was concerned, answered,--

"Why, Geoffrey, are you thinking of marrying her?"

"By Jove!" exclaimed his friend, starting at the thought as at a
discovery; "but I, don't think she'd have me. I'm not her sort."

"You never can tell," suggested Reggie mischievously; "She is quite
unspoilt, and she has twenty thousand a year. She is unique. You could
not possibly get her confused with somebody else's wife, as so many
people seem to do when they get married. Why not try?"

Reggie thought that such a mating was impossible, but it amused him
to play with the idea. As for Lady Everington, who knew every one so
well, and who thought that she knew them perfectly, she never guessed.

"I think, Geoffrey, that you like to be seen with Asako," she said,
"just to point the contrast."

Her confession to her sister, Mrs. Markham, was the truth. She had
made a mistake; she had destined Asako for somebody quite different.
It was the girl herself who had been the first to enlighten her. She
came to her hostess's boudoir one evening before the labours of the
night began.

"Lady Georgie," she had said--Lady Everington is Lady Georgie to
all who know her even a little. "_Il faut que je vous dise quelque
chose_." The girl's face glanced downward and sideways, as her habit
was when embarrassed.

When Asako spoke in French it meant that something grave was afoot.
She was afraid that her unsteady English might muddle what she
intended to say. Lady Everington knew that it must be another
proposal; she had already dealt with three.

"_Eh bien, cette fois qui est-il?_" she asked.

"_Le capitaine Geoffroi_" answered Asako. Then her friend knew that it
was serious.

"What did you say to him?" she demanded.

"I tell him he must ask you."

"But why drag me into it? It's your own affair."

"In France and in Japan," said Asako, "a girl do not say Yes and No
herself. It is her father and her mother who decide. I have no father
or mother; so I think he must ask you."

"And what do you want me to say?"

For answer Asako gently squeezed the elder woman's hand, but Lady
Georgie was in no mood to return the pressure. The girl at once felt
the absence of the response, and said,--

"What, you do not like the _capitaine Geoffroi_?"

But her fairy godmother answered bitterly,--

"On the contrary, I have a considerable affection for Geoffrey."

"Then," cried Asako, starting up, "you think I am not good enough for
him. It's because I'm--not English."

She began to cry. In spite of her superficial hardness, Lady
Everington has a very tender heart. She took the girl in her arms.

"Dearest child," she said, raising the little, moist face to hers,
"don't cry. In England we answer this great question ourselves. Our
fathers and mothers and fairy godmothers have to concur. If Geoffrey
Barrington has asked you to marry him, it is because he loves you. He
does not scatter proposals like calling-cards, as some young men do.
In fact, I have never heard of him proposing to anyone before. He does
not want you to say 'No', of course. But are you quite ready to say
'Yes'? Very well, wait a fortnight, and don't see more of him than you
can help in the meantime. Now, let them send for my _masseuse_. There
is nothing so exhausting to the aged as the emotions of young people."

That evening, when Lady Everington met Geoffrey at the theatre, she
took him severely to task for treachery, secrecy and decadence. He,
was very humble and admitted all his faults except the last, pleading
as his excuse that he could not get Asako out of his head.

"Yes, that is a symptom," said her Ladyship; "you are clearly
stricken. So I fear I am too late to effect a rescue. All I can do
is to congratulate you both. But, remember, a wife is not nearly so
fugitive as a melody, unless she is the wrong kind of wife."

It was a wrench for the little lady to part with the oldest of
her friendships, and to give up her Geoffrey to the care of this
decorative stranger whose qualities were unknown, and undeveloped. But
she knew what the answer would be at the end of the fortnight. So she
steeled her nerves to laugh at her friends commiserations and to make
the marriage of her godchildren one of the season's successes. It
would certainly be an interesting addition to her museum of domestic
dramas.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was one person whom Lady Everington was determined to pump for
information on that wedding-day, and had drawn into the net of her
invitations for this very purpose. It was Count Saito, the Japanese
Ambassador.

She cornered him as he was admiring the presents, and whisked him away
to the silence and twilight of her husband's study.

"I am so glad you were able to come, Count Saito," she began. "I
suppose you know the Fujinamis, Asako's relatives in Tokyo?"

"No, I do not know them." His Excellency answered, but his tone
conveyed to the lady's instinct that he personally would not wish to
know them.

"But you know the name, do you not?"

"Yes, I have heard the name; there are many families called Fujinami
in Japan."

"Are they very rich?"

"Yes, I believe there are some who are very rich," said the little
diplomat, who clearly was ill at ease.

"Where does their money come from?" his inquisitor went on
remorselessly, "You are keeping something from me, Count Saito. Please
be frank, if there is any mystery."

"Oh no, Lady Everington, there is no mystery, I am sure. There is one
family of Fujinami who have many houses and lands in Tokyo and other
towns. I will be quite open with you. They are rather what you in
England call _nouveaux riches_."

"Really!" Her Ladyship was taken aback for a moment. "But you would
never notice it with Asako, would you? I mean, she does not drop her
Japanese aitches, and that sort of thing, does she?"

"Oh no," Count Saito reassured her, "I do not think Mademoiselle Asako
talks Japanese language, so she cannot drop her aitches."

"I never thought of that," his hostess continued, "I thought that if a
Japanese had money, he must be a _daimyo_, or something."

The Ambassador smiled.

"English people," he said, "do not know very well the true condition
of Japan. Of course we have our rich new families and our poor old
families just as you have in England. In some aspects our society is
just the same as yours. In others, it is so, different, that you would
lose your way at once in a maze of ideas which would seem to you quite
upside down."

Lady Everington interrupted his reflections in a desperate attempt to
get something out of him by a surprise attack.

"How interesting," she said, "it will be for Geoffrey Harrington and
his wife to visit Japan and find out all about it."

The Ambassador's manner changed.

"No, I do not think," he said, "I do not think that is a good thing at
all. They must not do that. You must not let them."

"But why not?"

"I say to all Japanese men and women who live a long time in foreign
countries or who marry foreign people, 'Do not go back to Japan,'
Japan is like a little pot and the foreign world is like a big garden.
If you plant a tree from the pot into the garden and let it grow, you
cannot put it back into the pot again."

"But, in this case, that is not the only reason," objected Lady
Everington.

"No, there are many other reasons too," the Ambassador admitted; and
he rose from his sofa, indicating that the interview was at an end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bridal pair left in a motor-car for Folkestone tinder a hailstorm
of rice, and with the propitious white slipper dangling from the
number-plate behind.

When all her guests were gone, Lady Everington fled to her boudoir and
collapsed in a little heap of sobbing finery on the broad divan. She
was overtired, no doubt; but the sense of her mistake lay heavy upon
her, and the feeling that she had sacrificed to it her best friend,
the most humanly valuable of all the people who resorted to her house.
An evil cloud of mystery hung over the young marriage, one of those
sinister unfamiliar forces which travellers bring home from the East,
the curse of a god or a secret poison or a hideous disease.

It would be so natural for those two to want to visit Japan and to
know their second home. Yet both Sir Ralph Cairns and Count Saito, the
only two men that day who knew anything about the real conditions,
had insisted that such a visit would be fatal. And who were these
Fujinamis whom Count Saito knew, but did not know? Why had she, who
was so socially careful, taken so much for granted just because Asako
was a Japanese?



CHAPTER II

HONEYMOON

  _Asa no kami
  Ware wa kezuraji
  Utsukushiki
  Kimi ga ta-makura
  Fureteshi mono wo._

  (My) morning sleep hair
  I will not comb;
  For it has been in contact with
  The pillowing hand of
  My beautiful Lord!


The Barringtons left England for a prolonged honeymoon, for Geoffrey
was now free to realise his favourite project of travelling abroad.
So they became numbered among that shoal of English people out of
England, who move restless leisure between Paris and the Nile.

Geoffrey had resigned his commission in the army. His friends thought
that this was a mistake. For the loss of a man's career, even when it
is uncongenial to him, is a serious amputation, and entails a lesion
of spiritual blood. He had refused his father's suggestion of settling
down in a house on the Brandan estate, for Lord Brandan was an
unpleasing old gentleman, a frequenter of country bars and country
barmaids. His son wished to keep his young bride as far away as
possible from a spectacle of which he was heartily ashamed.

First of all they went to Paris, which Asako adored; for was it not
her home? But this time she made the acquaintance of a Paris unknown
to her, save by rumour, in the convent days or within the discreet
precincts of Monsieur Murata's villa. She was enchanted by the
theatres, the shops, the restaurants, the music, and the life which
danced around her. She wanted to rent an _appartement_, and to live
there for the rest of her existence.

"But the season is almost over," said her husband; "everybody will be
leaving."

Unaccustomed as yet to his freedom, he still felt constrained to do
the same as Everybody.

Before leaving Paris, they paid a visit to the Auteuil villa, which
had been Asako's home for so many years.

Murata was the manager of a big Japanese firm in Paris. He had spent
almost all his life abroad and the last twenty years of it in the
French capital, so that even in appearance, except for his short
stature and his tilted eyes, he had come to look like a Frenchman with
his beard _à l'impériale_, and his quick bird-like gestures. His wife
was a Japanese, but she too had lost almost all traces of her native
mannerisms.

Asako Fujinami had been brought to Paris by her father, who had died
there while still a young man. He had entrusted his only child to the
care of the Muratas with instructions that she should be educated in
European ways and ideas, that she should hold no communication with
her relatives in Japan, and that eventually a white husband should be
provided for her. He had left his whole fortune in trust for her, and
the interest was forwarded regularly to M. Murata by a Tokyo lawyer,
to be used for her benefit as her guardian might deem best. This money
was to be the only tie between Asako and her native land.

To cut off a child from its family, of which by virtue of vested
interests it must still be an important member, was a proceeding
so revolutionary to all respectable Japanese ideas that even the
enlightened Murata demurred. In Japan the individual counts for
so little, the family for so much. But Fujinami had insisted, and
disobedience to a man's dying wish brings the curse of a "rough ghost"
upon the recalcitrant, and all kinds of evil consequences.

So the Muratas took Asako and cherished her as much as their hearts,
withered by exile and by unnatural living, were capable of
cherishing anything. She became a daughter of the well-to-do French
_bourgeoisie_, strictly but affectionately disciplined with the proper
restraints on the natural growth of her brain and individuality.

Geoffrey Barrington was not very favourably impressed by the Murata
household. He wondered how so bright a little flower as Asako could
have been reared in such gloomy surroundings. The spirits dominant in
the villa were respectable economy and slavish imitation of the tastes
and habits of Parisian friends. The living-rooms were as impersonal as
the rooms of a boarding-house. Neutral tints abounded, ugly browns
and nightmare vegetable patterns on carpets, furniture and wallpapers.
There was a marked tendency towards covers, covers for the chairs
and sofas, tablecloths and covers for the tablecloths, covers for
cushion-covers, antimacassars, lamp-stands, vase-stands and every kind
of decorative duster. Everywhere the thick smell of concealed grime
told of insufficient servants and ineffective sweeping. There was not
one ornament or picture which recalled Japan, or gave a clue to the
personal tastes of the owners.

Geoffrey had expected to be the nervous witness of an affecting scene
between his wife and her adopted parents. But no, the greetings were
polite and formal. Asako's frock and jewellery were admired, but
without that note of angry envy which often brightens the dullest talk
between ladies in England. Then, they sat down to an atrocious lunch
eaten in complete silence.

When the meal was over, Murata drew Geoffrey aside into his shingly
garden.

"I think that you will be content with our Asa San," he said; "the
character is still plastic. In England it is different; but in France
and in Japan we say it is the husband who must make the character of
his wife. She is the plain white paper; let him take his brush and
write on it what he will. Asa San is a very sweet girl. She is very
easy to manage. She has a beautiful disposition. She does not tell
lies without reason. She does not wish to make strange friends. I do
not think you will have trouble with her."

"He talks about her rather as if she were a horse," thought Geoffrey.
Murata went on,--

"The Japanese woman is the ivy which clings to the tree. She does not
wish to disobey."

"You think Asako is still very Japanese, then?" asked Geoffrey.

"Not her manners, or her looks, or even her thoughts," replied Murata,
"but nothing can change the heart."

"Then do you think she is homesick sometimes for Japan?" said her
husband.

"Oh no," smiled Murata. The little wizened man was full of smiles.
"She left Japan when she was not two years old. She remembers nothing
at all."

"I think one day we shall go to Japan," said Geoffrey, "when we get
tired of Europe, you know. It is a wonderful country, I am told;
and it does not seem right that Asako should know nothing about it.
Besides, I should like to look into her affairs and find out about her
investments."

Murata was staring at his yellow boots with an embarrassed air. It
suddenly struck the Englishman that he, Geoffrey Harrington, was
related to people who looked like that, and who now had the right to
call him cousin. He shivered.

"You can trust her lawyers," said the Japanese, "Mr. Ito is an old
friend of mine. You may be quite certain that Asako's money is safe."

"Oh yes, of course," assented Geoffrey, "but what exactly are her
investments? I think I ought to know."

Murata began to laugh nervously, as all Japanese do when embarrassed.

"_Mon Dieu_!" he exclaimed, "but I do not know myself. The money has
been paid regularly for nearly twenty years; and I know the Fujinami
are very rich. Indeed, Captain Barrington, I do not think Asako would
like Japan. It was her father's last wish that she should never return
there."

"But why?" asked Geoffrey. He felt that Murata was keeping something
from him. The little man answered,--

"He thought that for a woman the life is more happy in Europe; he
wished Asako to forget altogether that she was Japanese."

"Yes, but now she is married and her future is fixed. She is not going
back permanently to Japan, but just to see the country. I think we
would both of us like to. People say it is a magnificent country."

"You are very kind," said Murata, "to speak so of my country. But the
foreign people who marry Japanese are happy if they stay in their own
country, and Japanese who marry foreigners are happy if they go away
from Japan. But if they stay in Japan they are not happy. The national
atmosphere in Japan is too strong for those people who are not
Japanese or are only half Japanese. They fade. Besides life in Japan
is very poor and rough. I do not like it myself."

Somehow Geoffrey could not accept these as being the real reasons. He
had never had a long talk with a Japanese man before; but he felt that
if they were all like that, so formal, so unnatural, so secretive,
then he had better keep out of the range of Asako's relatives.

He wondered what his wife really thought of the Muratas, and during
the return to their hotel, he asked,--

"Well, little girl, do you want to go back again and live at Auteuil?"

She shook her head.

"But it is nice to think you have always got an extra home in Paris,
isn't it?" he went on, fishing for an avowal that home was in his arms
only, a kind of conversation which was the wine of life to him at that
period.

"No," she answered with a little shudder, "I don't call that home."

Geoffrey's conventionality was a little bit shocked at this lack
of affection; he was also disappointed at not getting exactly the
expected answer.

"Why, what was wrong with it?" he asked.

"Oh, it was not pretty or comfortable," she said, "they were so afraid
to spend money. When I wash my hands, they say, 'Do not use too much
soap; it is waste.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Asako was like a little prisoner released into the sunlight. She
dreaded the idea of being thrust back into darkness again.

In this new life of hers anything would have made her happy, that is
to say, anything new, anything given to her, anything good to eat or
drink, anything soft and shimmery to wear, anything--so long as her
big husband was with her. He was the most fascinating of all her
novelties. He was much nicer than Lady Everington; for he was not
always saying, "Don't," or making clever remarks, which she could not
understand. He gave her absolutely her own way, and everything that
she admired. He reminded her of an old Newfoundland dog who had been
her slave when she was a little girl.

He used to play with her as he would have played with a child,
watching her as she tried on her finery, hiding things for her to
find, holding them over her head and making her jump for them like
a puppy, arranging her ornaments for her in those continual private
exhibitions which took up so much of her time. Then she would ring the
bell and summon all the chambermaids within call to come and admire;
and Geoffrey would stand among all these womenfolk, listening to the
chorus of "_Mon Dieu!_" and "_Ah, que c'est beau!_" and "_Ah, qu'elle
est gentille!_" like some Hector who had strayed into the _gynaeceum_
of Priam's palace. He felt a little foolish, perhaps, but very happy,
happy in his wife's naive happiness and affection, which did not
require any mental effort to understand, nor that panting pursuit
on which he had embarked more than once in order to keep up with the
witty flirtatiousness of some of the beauties of Lady Everington's
_salon_.

Happiness shone out of Asako like light. But would she always be
happy? There were the possibilities of the future to be reckoned
with, sickness, childbirth, and the rearing of children, the hidden
development of the character which so often grows away from what
it once cherished, the baleful currents of outside influences, the
attraction and repulsion of so-called friends and enemies all of which
complicate the primitive simplicity of married life and forfeit the
honeymoon Eden. Adam and Eve in the garden of the Creation can hear
the voice of God whispering in the evening breeze; they can live
without jars and ambitions, without suspicion and without reproaches.
They have no parents, no parents-in-law, no brothers, sisters,
aunts, or guardians, no friends to lay the train of scandal or to
be continually pulling them from each other's arms. But the first
influence which crosses the walls of their paradise, the first being
to whom they speak, which possesses the semblance of a human voice,
is most certainly Satan and that Old Serpent, who was a liar and a
slanderer from the beginning, and whose counsels will lead inevitably
to the withdrawal of God's presence and to the doom of a life of pain
and labor.

There was one cloud in the heaven of their happiness. Geoffrey was
inclined to tease Asako about her native country. His ideas about
Japan were gleaned chiefly from musical comedies. He would call his
wife Yum Yum and Pitti Sing. He would fix the end of one of her black
veils under his hat, and would ask her whether she liked him better
with a pigtail.

"Captain Geoffrey," she would complain, "it is the Chinese who wear
the pigtail; they are a very savage people."

Then he would call her his little _geisha_, and this she resented;
for she knew from the Muratas that _geisha_ were bad women who took
husbands away from their wives, and that was no joking matter.

"What nonsense!" exclaimed Geoffrey, taken aback by this sudden
reproof: "they are dear little things like you, darling, and they
bring you tea and wave fans behind your head, and I would like to have
twenty of them--to wait upon you!"

He would tease her about a supposed fondness for rice, for
chop-sticks, for paper umbrellas and _jiujitsu._ She liked him to
tease her, just as a child likes to be teased, while all the time
on the verge of tears. With Asako, tears and laughter were never far
apart.

"Why do you tease me because I am Japanese?" she would sob; "besides,
I'm not really. I can't help it. I can't help it!"

"But, sweetheart," her Captain Geoffrey would say, suddenly ashamed
of his elephantine humour, "there's nothing to cry about. I would be
proud to be a Japanese. They are jolly brave people. They gave the
Russians a jolly good hiding."

It made her feel well to hear him praise her people, but she would
say:

"No, no, they're not. I don't want to be a Jap. I don't like them.
They're ugly and spiteful. Why can't we choose what we are? I would be
an English girl--or perhaps French," she added, thinking of the Rue de
la Paix.

       *       *       *       *       *

They left Paris and went to Deauville; and here it was that the
serpent first crawled into Eden, whispering of forbidden fruit.
These serpents were charming people, amusing men and smart women, all
anxious to make the acquaintance of the latest sensation, the Japanese
millionairess and her good-looking husband.

Asako lunched with them and dined with them and sat with them near the
sea in wonderful bathing costumes which it would be a shame to wet.
Conscious of the shortcomings of her figure as compared with those
of the lissom mermaids who surrounded her, Asako returned to kimonos,
much to her husband's surprise; and the mermaids had to confess
themselves beaten.

She listened to their talk and learned a hundred things, but another
hundred at least remained hidden from her.

Geoffrey left his wife to amuse herself in the cosmopolitan society of
the French watering-place. He wanted this. All the wives whom he
had ever known seemed to enjoy themselves best when away from their
husbands' company. He did not quite trust the spirit of mutual
adoration, which the gods had given to him and his bride. Perhaps it
was an unhealthy symptom. Worse still, it might be Bad Form. He wanted
Asako to be natural and to enjoy herself, and not to make their love
into a prison house.

But he felt a bit lonely when he was away from her. Occupation did not
seem to come easily to him as it did when she was there to suggest it.
Sometimes he would loaf up and down on the esplanade; and sometimes he
would take strenuous swims in the sea. He became the prey of the bores
who haunt every seaside place at home and abroad, lurking for lonely
and polite people upon whom they may unload their conversation.

All these people seemed either to have been in Japan themselves or to
have friends and relations who knew the country thoroughly.

A wonderful land, they assured him. The nation of the future, the
Garden of the East, but of course Captain Barrington knew Japan
well. No, he had never been there? Ah, but Mrs. Barrington must have
described it all to him. Impossible! Really? Not since she was a baby?
How very extraordinary! A charming country, so quaint, so original,
so picturesque, such a place to relax in; and then the Japanese girls,
the little _mousmés_, in their bright kimonos, who came fluttering
round like little butterflies, who were so gentle and soft and
grateful; but there! Captain Barrington was a married man, that was no
affair of his. Ha! Ha!

The elderly _roués_, who buzzed like February flies in the sunshine
of Deauville, seemed to have particularly fruity memories of tea-house
sprees and oriental philanderings under the cherry-blossoms of
Yokohama. Evidently, Japan was just like the musical comedies.

Geoffrey began to be ashamed of his ignorance concerning his wife's
native country. Somebody had asked him, what exactly _bushido_ was. He
had answered at random that it was made of rice and curry powder. By
the hilarious reception given to this explanation he knew that he must
have made a _gaffe_. So he asked one of the more erudite bores to give
him the names of the best books about Japan. He would "mug it up,"
and get some answers off pat to the leading questions. The erudite
one promptly lent him some volumes by Lafcadio Hearn and Pierre Loti's
_Madame Chrysanthème_. He read the novel first of all. Rather spicy,
wasn't it?

Asako found the book. It was an illustrated edition; and the little
drawings of Japanese scenes pleased her immensely, so that she began
to read the letter press.

"It is the story of a bad man and a bad woman," she said; "Geoffrey,
why do you read bad things? They bring bad conditions."

Geoffrey smiled. He was wondering whether the company of the
fictitious _Chrysanthème_ was more demoralizing than that of the
actual Mme. Laroche Meyerbeer, with whom his wife had been that day
for a picnic lunch.

"Besides, it isn't fair," his wife continued. "People read that book
and then they think that all Japanese girls are bad like that."

"Why, darling, I didn't think you had read it," Geoffrey expostulated,
"who has been telling you about it?"

"The Vicomte de Brie," Asako answered. "He called me _Chrysanthème_
and I asked him why."

"Oh, did he?" said Geoffrey. Really it was time to put an end to
lunch picnics and mermaidism. But Asako was so happy and so shiningly
innocent.

She returned to her circle of admirers, and Geoffrey to his studies of
the Far East. He read the Lafcadio Hearn books, and did not perceive
that he was taking opium. The wonderful sentences of that master of
prose poetry rise before the eyes in whorls of narcotic smoke. They
lull the brain as in a dream, and form themselves gradually into
visions of a land more beautiful than any land that has ever existed
anywhere, a country of vivid rice plains and sudden hills, of gracious
forests and red temple gateways, of wise priests and folk-lore
imagery, of a simple-hearted smiling people with children bright as
flowers laughing and playing in unfailing sunlight, a country where
everything is kind, gentle, small, neat, artistic, and spotlessly
clean, where men become gods not by sudden apotheosis but by the easy
processes of nature, a country, in short, which is the reverse of our
own poor vexed continent where the monstrous and the hideous multiply
daily.

One afternoon Geoffrey was lounging on the terrace of the hotel
reading _Kokoro_, when his attention was attracted by the arrival of
Mme. Laroche Meyerbeer's motor-car with Asako, her hostess and another
woman embedded in its depths. Asako was the first to leap out. She
went up to her apartment without looking to right or left, and before
her husband had time to reach her. Mme. Meyerbeer watched this arrow
flight and shrugged her shoulders before lazily alighting.

"Is all well?" asked Geoffrey.

"No serious damage," smiled the lady, who is known in Deauville as
_Madame Cythère_, "but you had better go and console her. I think she
has seen the devil for the first time."

He opened the door of their sunny bedroom, and found Asako packing
feverishly, and sobbing in spasms.

"My poor little darling," he said, lifting her in his arms, "whatever
is the matter?"

He laid her on the sofa, took off her hat, and loosened her dress,
until gradually she became coherent.

"He tried to kiss me," she sobbed.

"Who did?" her husband asked.

"The Vicomte de Brie."

"Damned little monkey," cried Geoffrey, "I'll break every miserable
bone in his pretence of a body."

"Oh, no, no," protested Asako, "let us go away from here at once. Let
us go to Switzerland, anywhere."

The serpent had got into the garden, but he had not been a very adroit
reptile. He had shown his fangs; and the woman had promptly bruised
his head and had given him an eye like an Impressionist sunset, which
for several days he had to hide from the ridicule of his friends.

But Asako too had been grievously injured in the innocence of her
heart; and it took all the snow winds of the Engadine to blow away
from her face the hot defilement of the man's breath. She clung
closely to her husband's protection. She, who had hitherto abandoned
herself to excessive amiability, barbed the walls of their violated
paradise with the broken glass of bare civility. Every man became
suspect, the German professors culling Alpine plants, the mountain
maniacs with their eyes fixed on peaks to conquer. She had no word
for any of them. Even the manlike womenfolk, who golfed and rowed and
clambered, were to her indignant eyes dangerous panders to the lusts
of men, disguised allies of _Madame Cythère_.

"Are they all bad?" she asked Geoffrey.

"No, little girl, I don't suppose so. They look too dismal to be bad."

Geoffrey was grateful for the turn of events which had delivered up
his wife again into his sole company. He had missed her society more
than he dared confess; for uxoriousness is a pitiful attitude. In
fact, it is Bad Form.

At this period he wanted her as a kind of mirror for his own mind and
for his own person. She saw to it that his clothes were spotless and
that his tie was straight. Of course, he always dressed for dinner
even when they dined in their room. She too would dress herself up in
her new finery for his eyes alone. She would listen to him laying down
the law on subjects which he would not dare broach were he talking
to any one else. She flattered him in that silent way which is so
soothing to a man of his character. Her mind seemed to absorb his
thoughts with the readiness of blotting paper; and he did not pause to
observe whether the impression had come out backwards or forwards. He
who had been so mute among Lady Everington's geniuses fell all of a
sudden into a loquaciousness which was merely the reaction of his love
for his wife, the instinct which makes the male bird sing. He just
went on talking; and every day he became in his own estimation and in
that of Asako, a more intelligent, a more original and a more eloquent
man.



CHAPTER III

EASTWARDS

  _Nagaki yo no
  To no nemuri no
  Miname-zame,
  Nami nori fune no
  Oto no yoki kana_.

  From the deep sleep
  Of a long night
  Waking,
  Sweet is the sound
  Of the ship as it rides the waves.


When August snow fell upon St. Moritz, the Barringtons descended to
Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome. Towards Christmas they found their
way to the Riviera, where they met Lady Everington at Monte Carlo,
very indignant, or pretending to be so, at the neglect with which she
had been treated.

"Fairy godmothers are important people," she said, "and very easily
offended. Then, they turn you into wild animals, or send you to sleep
for a hundred years. Why didn't you write to me, child?"

They were sitting on the terrace with the Casino behind them,
overlooking the blue Mediterranean. A few yards farther on, a tall,
young Englishman was chatting and laughing with a couple of girls too
elaborately beautiful and too dazzlingly gowned for any world but the
half-world. Suddenly he turned, and noticed Lady Everington. With a
courteous farewell to his companions, he advanced to greet her.

"Aubrey Laking," she exclaimed, "you never answered the letter I wrote
to you at Tokyo."

"Dear Lady Georgie, I left Tokyo ages ago. It followed me back to
England; and I am now second secretary at Christiania. That is why I
am in Monte Carlo!"

"Then let me introduce you to Asako Fujinami, who is now Mrs.
Barrington. You must tell her all about Tokyo. It is her native city;
but she has not seen it since she was in long clothes, if Japanese
babies wear such things."

Aubrey Laking and Barrington had been at Eton together. They were old
friends, and were delighted to meet once more. Barrington, especially,
was pleased to have this opportunity to hear about Japan from one who
had but lately left the country, and who was moreover a fluent and
agreeable talker. Laking had not resided in Japan long enough to get
tired of orientalism. He described the quaint, the picturesque, the
amusing side of life in the East. He was full of enthusiasm for the
land of soft voices and smiling faces, where countless little shops
spread their wares under the light of the evening lanterns, where the
twang of the _samisen_ and the _geisha's_ song are heard coming from
the lighted tea-house, and the shadow of her helmet-like _coiffure_
is seen appearing and disappearing in silhouette against the paper
_shoji_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The East was drawing the Barringtons towards its perilous coasts.
Laking's position at the Tokyo Embassy had been taken by Reggie
Forsyth, one of Geoffrey's oldest friends, his best man at his wedding
and a light of Lady Everington's circle. Already, Geoffrey had sent
him a post-card, saying, "Warm up the _saké_ bottle," (Geoffrey
was becoming quite learned in things Japanese), "and expect friends
shortly."

However, when the Barringtons did at last tear themselves from the
Riviera, they announced rather disingenuously that they were going to
Egypt.

"They are too happy," Lady Everington said to Laking a few days later,
"and they know nothing. I am afraid there will be trouble."

"Oh, Lady Georgie," he replied, "I have never known you to be a
prophetess of gloom. I would have thought the auspices were most
fortunate."

"They ought to quarrel more than they do," Lady Everington complained.
"She ought to contradict him more than she does. There must be a
volcanic element in marriage. It is a sign of trouble coming when the
fires are quiet."

"But they have got plenty of money," expostulated Aubrey, whose
troubles were invariably connected with his banking account, "and they
are very fond of each other. Where is the trouble to come from?"

"Trouble is on the lookout for all of us, Aubrey," said his companion,
"it is no good flying from it, even. The only thing to do is to look
it in the face and laugh at it; then it gets annoyed sometimes, and
goes away. But those two poor dears are sailing into the middle of it,
and they don't even know how to laugh yet."

"You think that Egypt is hopelessly demoralising. Thousands of people
go there and come safely home, almost all, in fact, except Robert
Hichens's heroines."

"Oh no, not in Egypt," said Lady Everington; "Egypt is only a
stepping-stone. They are going to Japan."

"Well, certainly Japan is harmless enough. There is nobody there worth
flirting with except us at the Embassies, and we generally have our
hands full. As for the visitors, they are always under the influence
of Cook's tickets and Japanese guides."

"Aubrey dear, you think that trouble can only come from flirting or
money."

"I know that those two preoccupations are an abundant source of
trouble."

"What do you think of Mrs. Barrington?" asked her Ladyship, appearing
to change the subject.

"Oh, a very sweet little thing."

"Like your lady friends in Tokyo, the Japanese ones, I mean?"

"Not in the least. Japanese ladies look very picturesque, but they are
as dull as dolls. They sidle along in the wake of their husbands, and
don't expect to be spoken to."

"And have you no more intimate experience?" asked Lady Everington.
"Really, Aubrey, you have not been living up to your reputation."

"Well, Lady Georgie," the young man proceeded, gazing at his polished
boots with a well-assumed air of embarrassment, "since I know that you
are one of the enlightened ones, I will confess to you that I did keep
a little establishment _à la_ Pierre Loti. My Japanese teacher thought
it would be a good way of improving my knowledge of the local
idiom; and this knowledge meant an extra hundred pounds to me for
interpreter's allowance, as it is called. I thought, too, that it
would be a relief after diplomatic dinner parties to be able to swear
for an hour or so, big round oaths in the company of a dear beloved
one who would not understand me. So my teacher undertook to provide me
with a suitable female companion. He did. In fact, he introduced me
to his sister; and the suitability was based on the fact that she
held the same position under my predecessor, a man whom I dislike
exceedingly. But this I only found out later on. She was dull, deadly
dull. I couldn't even make her jealous. She was as dull as my Japanese
grammar; and when I had passed my examination and burnt my books, I
dismissed her."

"Aubrey, what a very wicked story!"

"No, Lady Georgie, it was not even wicked. She was not real enough to
sin with. The affair had not even the excitement of badness to keep it
going."

"Do you know the Japanese well?" Lady Everington returned to the
highroad of her inquiry.

"No, nobody does; they are a most secretive people."

"Do you think that, if the Barringtons go to Japan, there is any
danger of Asako being drawn back into the bosom of her family?"

"No, I shouldn't think so," Laking replied, "Japanese life is so very
uncomfortable, you know, even to the Japs themselves, when once they
have got used to living in Europe or America. They sleep on the floor,
their clothes are inconvenient, and their food is nasty, even in the
houses of the rich ones."

"Yes, it must be a peculiar country. What do you think is the greatest
shock for the average traveller who goes there?"

"Lady Georgie, you are asking me very searching questions to-day. I
don't think I will answer any more."

"Just this one," she pleaded.

He considered his boots again for a moment, and then, raising his face
to hers with that humorous challenging look which he assumes when on
the verge of some indiscretion, he replied,--

"The _Yoshiwara_."

"Yes," said her Ladyship, "I have heard of such a place. It is a kind
of Vanity Fair, isn't it, for all the _cocottes_ Of Tokyo?"

"It's more than that," Laking answered; "it is a market of
human flesh, with nothing to disguise the crude fact except the
picturesqueness of the place. It is a square enclosure as large as a
small town. In this enclosure are shops, and in the shop windows
women are displayed just like goods, or like animals in cages; for the
windows have wooden bars. Some of the girls sit there stolidly like
stuffed images, some of them come to the bars and try to catch hold of
the passers-by, just like monkeys, and joke with them and shout after
them. But I could not understand what they said--fortunately, perhaps.
The girls,--there must be several thousands--are all dressed up in
bright kimonos. It really is a very pretty sight, until one begins to
think. They have their price tickets hung up in the shop windows, one
shilling up to one pound. That is the greatest shock which Japan has
in store for the ordinary tourist."

Lady Everington was silent for a moment; her flippant companion had
become quite serious.

"After all," she said, "is it any worse than Piccadilly Circus at
night?"

"It is not a question of better or worse," argued Laking. "Such a
purely mercenary system is a terrible offence to our most cherished
belief. We may be hypocrites, but our hypocrisy itself is an admission
of guilt and an act of worship. To us, even to the readiest sinners
among us, woman is always something divine. The lowest assignation
of the streets has at least a disguise of romance. It symbolises
the words and the ways of Love, even if it parodies them. But to the
Japanese, woman must be merely animal. You buy a girl as you buy a
cow."

Lady Everington shivered, but she tried to live up to her reputation
of being shocked by nothing.

"Well, that is true, after all, whether in Piccadilly or in the
Yoshiwara. All prostitution is just a commercial transaction."

"Perhaps," said the young diplomat, "but what about the Ideal at the
back of our minds? Passion is often a grotesque incarnation of the
Ideal, like a savage's rude image of his god. A glimpse of the ideal
is possible in Piccadilly, and impossible in the Yoshiwara. The divine
something was visible in Marguérite Gautier; little Hugh saw it even
in Nana. For one thing, here in London, in the dirtiest of sordid
dramas, it is still the woman who gives, but in Japan it is always the
man who takes."

"Aubrey," said his friend, "I had no idea that you were a poet, or in
other words that you ever talked nonsense without laughing. You think
such a shock is strong enough to upset the Barrington _ménage_?"

"It will give furiously to think," he answered, "to poor old Geoffrey,
who is a very straight, clean and honest fellow, not overused to
furious thinking. I suppose if one married a monkey, one might
persuade oneself of her humanity, until one saw her kindred in cages."

"Poor little Asako, my latest god-daughter!" cried Lady Everington.
"Really, Aubrey, you are very rude!"

"I did not mean to be," said Laking penitently. "She is a most
ingratiating little creature, like a lazy kitten; but I think it is
unwise for him to take her to Japan. All kinds of latent orientalisms
may develop."

       *       *       *       *       *

The spring was at hand, the season of impulse, when we obey most
readily the sudden stirrings of our hearts. Even in the torrid climate
of Egypt, squalls of rain passed over like stray birds of passage.
Asako Barrington felt the fresh influence and the desire to do new
things in new places. Hitherto she had evinced very little inclination
to revisit the home of her ancestors. But on their return from the
temples of Luxor, she said quite unexpectedly to Geoffrey,--

"If we go to Japan now, we shall be in time to see the
cherry-blossoms."

"Why, little Yum Yum," cried her husband, delighted, "are you tired of
Pharaohs?"

"Egypt is very interesting," said Asako, correctly; "it is wonderful
to think of these great places standing here for thousands and
thousands of years. But it makes one sad, don't you think? Everybody
here seems to have died long, long ago. It would be nice to see green
fields again, wouldn't it, Geoffrey dearest?"

The voice of the Spring was speaking clearly.

"And you really want to go to Japan, sweetheart? It's the first time
I've heard you say you want to go."

"Uncle and Aunt Murata in Paris used always to say about now, 'If we
go back to Japan we shall be in time to see the cherry-blossoms.'"

"Why," asked Geoffrey, "do the Japanese make such a fuss about their
cherry-blossoms?"

"They must be very pretty," answered his wife, "like great clouds of
snow. Besides, the cherry-flowers are supposed to be like the Japanese
spirit."

"So you are my little cherry-blossom--is that right?"

"Oh no, not the women," she replied, "the men are the
cherry-blossoms."

Geoffrey laughed. It seemed absurd to him to compare a man to the
frail and transient beauty of a flower.

"Then what about the Japanese ladies," he asked, "if the men are
blossoms?"

Asako did not think they had any special flower to symbolise their
charms. She suggested,--

"The bamboo, they say, because the wives have to bend under the storms
when their husbands are angry. But, Geoffrey, you are never angry. You
do not give me a chance to be like the bamboo."

Next day, he boldly booked their tickets for Tokyo.

The long sea voyage was a pleasant experience, broken by fleeting
visits to startled friends in Ceylon and at Singapore, and enlivened
by the close ephemeral intimacies of life on board ship.

There was a motley company on board _S.S. Sumatra_; a company
whose most obvious elements, the noisy and bibulous pests in the
smoking-room and the ladies of mysterious destination with whom
they dallied, were dismissed by Geoffrey at once as being terrible
bounders. Beneath this scum more congenial spirits came to light,
officers and Government officials returning to their posts, and a few
globe-trotters of leisure. Everybody seemed anxious to pay attention
to the charming Japanese lady; and from such incessant attention it
is difficult to escape within the narrow bounds of ship life. The
only way to keep off the impossibles was to form a bodyguard of the
possibles. The seclusion of the honeymoon paradise had to be opened up
for once in a way.

Of course, there was much talk about the East; but it was a different
point of view, from that of the enthusiasts of Deauville and the
Riviera. These men and women had many of them lived in India, the
Malay States, Japan, or the open ports of China, lived there to earn
their bread and butter, not to dream about the Magic of the Orient.
For such as these the romance had faded. The pages of their busy lives
were written within a mourning border of discontent, of longing for
that home land, to which on the occasion of their rare holidays they
returned so readily, and which seemed to have no particular place or
use for them when they did return. They were members of the British
Dispersion; but their Zion was of more comfort to them as a sweet
memory than as an actual home.

"Yes," they would say about the land of their exile, "it is very
picturesque."

But their faces, lined or pale, their bitterness and their reticence,
told of years of strain, laboriously money-earning, in lands where
relaxations are few and forced, where climatic conditions are adverse,
where fevers lurk, and where the white minority are posted like
soldiers in a lonely fort, ever suspicious, ever on the watch.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most faithful of Asako's bodyguard was a countryman of her own,
Viscount Kamimura, the son of a celebrated Japanese statesman and
diplomat, who, after completing his course at Cambridge, was returning
to his own country for the first time after many years.

He was a shy gentle youth, very quiet and refined, a little
effeminate, even, in his exaggerated gracefulness and in his
meticulous care for his clothes and his person. He avoided all company
except that of the Barringtons, probably because a similarity in
circumstances formed a bond between him and his country-woman.

He had a high, intellectual forehead, the beautiful deep brown eyes of
Asako, curling, sarcastic lips, a nose almost aquiline but starting a
fraction of an inch too low between his eyes. He had read everything,
he remembered everything, and he had played lawn tennis for his
university.

He was returning to Japan to be married. When Geoffrey asked him who
his fiancée was, he replied that he did not know yet, but that his
relatives would tell him as soon as ever he arrived in Japan.

"Haven't you got any say in the matter?" asked the Englishman.

"Oh yes," he answered, "If I actually dislike her, I need not marry
her; but, of course, the choice is limited, so I must try not to be
too hard to please."

Geoffrey thought that it must be because of his extreme aristocracy
that so few maidens in Japan were worthy of his hand. But Asako asked
the question,--

"Why is the choice so small?"

"You see," he said, "there are not many girls in Japan who can speak
both English and French, and as I am going into the Diplomatic Service
and shall leave Japan again shortly, that is an absolute necessity;
besides, she must have a very good degree from her school."

Geoffrey could hardly restrain himself from laughing. This idea of
choosing a wife like a governess for her linguistic accomplishments
seemed to him exceedingly comic.

"You don't mind trusting other people," he said, "to arrange your
marriage for you?"

"Certainly not," said the young Japanese, "they are my own relatives,
and they will do their best for me. They are all older than I am, and
they have had the experience of their own marriages."

"But," said Geoffrey, "when you saw your friends in England choosing
for themselves, and falling in love and marrying for love's sake--?"

"Some of them chose for themselves and married barmaids and divorced
persons, just for the reason that they were in love and uncontrolled.
So they brought shame on their families, and are probably now very
unhappy. I think they would have done better if they had let their
relatives choose for them."

"Yes; but the others who marry girls of their own set?"

"I think their choice is not really free at all. I do not think it is
so much the girl who attracts them. It is the plans and intentions of
those around them which urge them on. It is a kind of mesmerism. The
parents of the young man and the parents of the young girl make the
marriage by force of will. That also is a good way. It is not so very
different from our system in Japan."

"Don't you think that people in England marry because they love each
other?" asked Asako.

"Perhaps so," replied Kamimura, "but in our Japanese language we have
no word which is quite the same as your word Love. So they say we
do not know what this Love is. It may be so, perhaps. Anyhow Mr.
Barrington will not wish to learn Japanese, I think."

Geoffrey liked the young man. He was a good athlete, he was unassuming
and well-bred, he clearly knew the difference between Good and Bad
Form. Geoffrey's chief misgiving with regard to Japan had been a doubt
as to the wisdom of making the acquaintance of his wife's kindred. How
dreadful if they turned out to be a collection of oriental curios with
whom he would not have one idea in common!

The company of this young aristocrat, in no way distinguishable from
an Englishman except for a certain grace and maturity, reassured him.
No doubt his wife would have cousins like this; clean, manly fellows
who would take him shooting and with whom he could enjoy a game of
golf. He thought that Kamimura must be typical of the young Japanese
of the upper classes. He did not realize that he was an official
product, chosen by his Government and carefully moulded and polished,
not to be a Japanese at home, but to be a Japanese abroad, the
qualified representative of a First Class Power.

Kamimura left the boat with them at Colombo and joined them in their
visit to some tea-planting relatives. He was ready to do the same at
Singapore, but he received an urgent cable from Japan recalling him at
once.

"I must not be too late for my own wedding," he said, during their
last lunch together at Raffles's Hotel. "It would be a terrible sin
against the laws of Filial Piety."

"Whatever is that?" asked Asako.

"Dear Mrs. Barrington, are you a daughter of Japan, and have never
heard of the Twenty-four Children?"

"No; who are they?"

"They are model children, the paragons of goodness, celebrated because
of their love for their fathers and mothers. One of them walked miles
and miles every day to get water from a certain spring for his sick
mother; another, when a tiger was going to eat his father, rushed to
the animal and cried, 'No, eat me instead!' Little boys and girls in
Japan are always being told to be like the Twenty-four Children."

"Oh, how I'd hate them!" cried Asako.

"That is because you are a rebellious, individualistic Englishwoman.
You have lost that sense of family union, which makes good Japanese,
brothers and cousins and uncles and aunts, all love each other
publicly, however much they may hate each other in private."

"That is very hypocritical!"

"It is the social law," replied Kamimura. "In Japan the family is the
important thing. You and I are nothing. If you want to get on in the
world you must always be subject to your family. Then you are sure
to get on however stupid you may be. In England you seem to use your
families chiefly to quarrel with."

"I think our relatives ought to be just our best friends," said Asako.

"They are that too in a way," the young man answered. "In Japan it
would be better to be born without hands and feet than to be born
without relatives."



CHAPTER IV

NAGASAKI

  _Hono-bono to
  Akashi no ura no
  Asa-giri ni
  Shima-kakure-yuku
  Fune wo shi zo omou._

  My thoughts are with a boat
  Which travels island-hid
  In the morning-mist
  Of the shore of Akashi
  Dim, dim!


After Hongkong, they let the zone of eternal summer behind them. The
crossing from Shanghai to Japan was rough, and the wind bitter. But on
the first morning in Japanese waters Geoffrey was on deck betimes to
enjoy to the full the excitement of arrival. They were approaching
Nagasaki. It was a misty dawn. The sky was like mother-of-pearl,
and the sea like mica. Abrupt grey islands appeared and disappeared,
phantasmal, like guardian spirits of Japan, representatives of those
myriads of Shinto deities who have the Empire in their keeping.

Then, suddenly from behind the cliff of one of the islands a fishing
boat came gliding with the silent stateliness of a swan. The body of
the boat was low and slender, built of some white, shining wood; from
the middle rose the high sail like a silver tower. It looked like the
soul of that sleeping island setting out upon a dream journey.

The mist was dissolving, slowly revealing more islands and more boats.
Some of them passed quite close to the steamer; and Geoffrey could see
the fishermen, dwarfish figures straining at the oar or squatting at
the bottom of the boat, looking like Nibelungen on the quest for the
Rhinegold. He could hear their strange cries to each other and to the
steamer, harsh like the voice of sea-gulls.

Asako came on deck to join her husband. The thrill of returning to
Japan had scattered her partiality for late sleeping. She was dressed
in a tailor-made coat and skirt of navy-blue serge. Her shoulders were
wrapped in a broad stole of sable. Her head was bare. Perhaps it was
the inherited instinct of generations of Japanese women, who never
cover their heads, which made her dislike hats and avoid wearing them
if possible.

The sun was still covered, but the view was clear as far as the high
mountains on the horizon towards which the ship was ploughing her way.

"Look, Asako, Japan!"

She was not looking at the distance. Her eyes were fixed on an emerald
islet half a mile or less from the steamer's course, a jewel of the
seas. It rose to the height of two hundred feet or so, a conical
knoll, densely wooded. On the summit appeared a scar of rock like a
ruined castle, and, rising from the rock's crest, a single pine-tree.
Its trunk was twisted by all the winds of Heaven. Its long, lean
branches groped the air like the arms of a blinded demon. It seemed to
have an almost human personality an expression of fruitless striving,
pathetic yet somehow sinister--a Prometheus among trees. Geoffrey
followed his wife's gaze to the base of the island where a shoal of
brown rocks trailed out to seawards. In a miniature bay he saw a tiny
beach of golden sand, and, planted in the sand, a red gateway, two
uprights and two lintels, the lower one held between the posts, the
upper one laid across them and protruding on either side. It is
the simplest of architectural designs, but strangely suggestive.
It transformed that wooded island into a dwelling-place. It cast
an enchantment over it, and seemed to explain the meaning of the
pine-tree. The place was holy, an abode of spirits.

Geoffrey had read enough by now to recognize the gateway as a
"_torii_"; a religious symbol in Japan which always announces the
neighbourhood of a shrine. It is a common feature of the country-side,
as familiar as the crucifix in Catholic lands.

But Asako, seeing the beauty of her country for the first time, and
unaware of the dimming cloud of archaeological explanations, clapped
her hands together three times in sheer delight; or was it in
unconscious obedience to the custom of her race which in this way
calls upon its gods? Then with a movement entirely occidental she
threw her arms round her husband's neck, kissing him with all the
devotion of her being.

"Dear old Geoffrey, I love you so," she murmured. Her brown eyes were
full of tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

The steamer passed into a narrow channel, a kind of fiord, with wooded
hills on both sides. The forests were green with spring foliage. Never
had Geoffrey seen such a variety or such density of verdure. Every
tree seemed to be different from its neighbour; and the hillsides were
packed with trees like a crowded audience. Here and there a spray of
mountain cherry-blossom rose among the green like a jet of snow.

At the foot of the woods, by the edge of the calm water, the villages
nestled. Only roofs could be seen, high, brown, thatched roofs with a
line of sword-leaved irises growing along the roof-ridge like a crown.
These native cottages looked like timid animals, cowering in their
forms under the protecting trees. One felt that at any time an
indiscreet hoot of the steamer might send them scuttering back to
the forest depths. There were no signs of life in these submerged
villages, where the fight between the forester's axe and primal
vegetation seemed still undecided. Life was there; but it was hidden
under the luxuriance of the overgrowth, hidden to casual passers-by
like the life of insects. Only by the seaside, where the houses were
clustered together above a seawall of cyclopean stones, and on the
beach, where the long narrow boats, sharp-prowed and piratical, were
drawn up to the shore, the same gnome-like little men, with a generous
display of naked brown limbs, were sawing and hammering and mending
their nets.

The steamer glided up the fiord towards a cloud of black smoke ahead.
Unknown to Geoffrey, it passed the grey Italianate Catholic cathedral,
the shrine of the old Christian faith of Japan planted there by Saint
Francis Xavier four hundred years ago. Anchor was cast off the island
of Deshima, now moored to the mainland, where during the locked
centuries the Dutch merchants had been permitted to remain in
profitable servitude. Deshima has now been swallowed up by the
Japanese town, and its significance has shifted across the bay to
where the smoke and din of the Mitsubishi Dockyard prepare romantic
visitors for the modern industrial life of the new Japan. Night and
day, the furnace fires are roaring; and ten thousand workmen are
busy building ships of war and ships of peace for the Britain of the
Pacific.

The quarantine officers came on board, little, brown men in uniform,
absurdly self-important. Then the ship was besieged by a swarm
of those narrow, primitive boats called _sampan_, which Loti has
described as a kind of barbaric gondola, all jostling each other to
bring merchants of local wares, damascene, tortoise-shell, pottery and
picture post cards aboard the vessel, and to take visitors ashore.

Geoffrey and Asako were among the first to land. The moment of arrival
on Japanese soil brought a pang of disappointment. The sea-front at
Nagasaki seemed very like a street in any starveling European town.
It presented a line of offices and consulates built in Western style,
without distinction and without charm. Customs' officers and policemen
squinted suspiciously at the strangers. A few women, in charge of
children or market-baskets, stared blankly.

"Why, they are wearing kimonos!" exclaimed Asako, "but how dirty and
dusty they are. They look as though they had been sleeping in them!"

The Japanese women, indeed, cling to their national dress. But to
the Barringtons, landing at Nagasaki, they seemed ugly, shapeless and
dingy. Their hair was greasy and unkempt. Their faces were stupid
and staring. Their figures were hidden in the muffle of their dirty
garments. Geoffrey had been told they have baths at least once a day,
but he was inclined to doubt it. Or else, it was because they all
bathed in the same bath and their ablutions were merely an exchange
of grime. But where were those butterfly girls, who dance with fan and
battledore on our cups and saucers?

The rickshaws were a pleasant experience, the one-man perambulators;
and the costume of the rickshaw-runners was delightful, and their
gnarled, indefatigable legs. With their tight trunk-hose of a coarse
dark-blue material and short coat to match like an Eton jacket and
with their large, round mushroom hats, they were like figures from the
crowd of a Flemish Crucifixion.

Behind the Barrington's _sampan_, a large lighter came alongside the
wharf. It was black with coal-dust, and in one corner was heaped
a pile of shallow baskets, such as are used in coaling vessels at
Japanese ports, being slipped from hand to hand in unbroken chain
up the ship's side and down again to the coal barge. The work was
finished. The lighter was empty except for a crowd of coal-stained
coolies which it was bringing back to Nagasaki. These were dressed
like the rickshaw-men. They wore tight trousers, short jackets and
straw sandals. They were sitting, wearied, on the sides of the barge,
wiping black faces with black towels. Their hair was long, lank and
matted. Their hands were bruised and shapeless with the rough toil.

"Poor men," sighed Asako, "they've had hard work!"

The crowd of them passed, peering at the English people and chattering
in high voices. Geoffrey had never seen such queer-looking fellows,
with their long hair, clean-shaven faces, and stumpy bow-legs. One
more disheveled than the others was standing near him with tunic
half-open. It exposed a woman's breast, black, loose and hard like
leather.

"They are women!" he exclaimed, "what an extraordinary thing!"

But the children of Nagasaki--surely there could be no such
disillusionment. They are laughing, happy, many-coloured and
ubiquitous. They roll under the rickshaw wheels. They peep from behind
the goods piled on the floors of the shops, a perpetual menace to
shopkeepers, especially in the china stores, where their bird-like
presence is more dangerous than that of the dreaded bull. They are
blown up and down the temple-steps like fallen petals. They gather
like humming-birds round the itinerant venders of the streets, the old
men who balance on their bare shoulders their whole stock in trade of
sweetmeats, syrups, toys or singing grasshoppers. They are the dolls
of our own childhood, endowed with disconcerting life. Around their
little bodies flames the love of colour of an oriental people, whose
adult taste has been disciplined to sombre browns and greys. Wonderful
motley kimonos they make for their children with flower patterns,
butterfly patterns, toy and fairy-story patterns, printed on
flannelette--or on silk for the little plutocrats--in all colors,
among which reds, oranges, yellows, mauves, blues and greens
predominate.

They invaded the depressing atmosphere of the European-style hotel,
where Geoffrey and Asako were trying to enjoy a tasteless lunch--their
grubby, bare feet pattering on the worn lino.

It pleased him to watch them, playing their game of _Jonkenpan_
with much show of pudgy fingers, and with restrained and fitful
scamperings. He even made a tentative bid for popularity by throwing
copper coins. There was no scramble for this largesse. Gravely and
in turn each child pocketed his penny; but they all regarded Geoffrey
with a wary and suspicious eye. He, too, on closer inspection found
them less angelic than at first sight. The slimy horror of unwiped
noses distressed him, and the significant prevalence of scabby scalps.

       *       *       *       *       *

After their dull lunch in this drab hotel, Geoffrey and his wife
started once more on their voyage of discovery. Nagasaki is a hidden
city; it flows through its narrow valleys like water, and follows
their serpentine meanderings far inland.

They soon left behind the foreign settlement and its nondescript
ugliness to plunge into the labyrinth of little native streets,
wayward and wandering like sheep-tracks, with sudden abrupt hills
and flights of steps which checked the rickshaws' progress. Here, the
houses of the rich people were closely fenced and cunningly hidden;
but the life of poverty and the shopkeepers' domesticity were flowing
over into the street out of the too narrow confines of the boxes which
they called their homes.

With an extra man to push behind, the rickshaws had brought them up a
zigzag hill to a cautious wooden gateway half open in a close fence of
bamboo.

"Tea-house!" said the rickshaw man, stopping and grinning. It was
clearly expected of the foreigners that they should descend and enter.

"Shall we get out and explore, sweetheart?" suggested Geoffrey. They
passed under the low gate, up a pebbled pathway through the sweetest
fairy garden to the entrance of the tea-house, a stage of brown boards
highly polished and never defiled by the contamination of muddy boots.
On the steps of approach a collection of _geta_ (native wooden clogs)
and abominable side-spring shoes told that guests had already arrived.

Within the dark corridors of the house there was an immediate
fluttering as of pigeons. Four or five little women prostrated
themselves before the visitors with a hissing murmur of "_Irasshai_!
(Condescend to come!)."

The Barringtons removed their boots and followed one of these ladies
down a gleaming corridor with another miniature garden in an enclosed
courtyard on one side, and paper _shoji_ and peeping faces on the
other, out across a further garden by a kind of oriental Bridge of
Sighs to a small separate pavilion, which floated on a lake of green
shrubs and pure air, as though moored by the wooden gangway to the
main block of the building.

This summer-house contained a single small room like a very clean box
with wooden frame, opaque paper walls, and pale golden matting. The
only wall which seemed at all substantial presented the appearance of
an alcove. In this niche there hung a long picture of cherry-blossoms
on a mountain side, below which, on a stand of dark sandalwood,
squatted a bronze monkey holding a crystal ball. This was the only
ornament in the room.

Geoffrey and his wife sat down or sprawled on square silk cushions
called _zabuton_. Then the _shoji_ were thrown open; and they looked
down upon Nagasaki.

It was a scene of sheer enchantment. The tea-house was perched on a
cliff which overhung the city. The light pavilion seemed like the
car of some pullman aeroplane hovering over the bay. It was the brief
half-hour of evening, the time of day when the magic of Japan is at
its most powerful. All that was cheap and sordid was shut out by
the bamboo fence and wrapped away in the twilight mists. It was a
half-hour of luminous greyness. The skies were grey and the waters of
the bay and the roofs of the houses. A grey vapour rose from the town;
and a black-grey trail of smoke drifted from the dockyards and from
the steamers in the harbour. The cries and activities of the city
below rose clear and distinct but infinitely remote, as sound of the
world might reach the Gods in Heaven. It was a half-hour of fairyland
when anything might happen.

Two little maids brought tea and sugary cakes, green tea like bitter
hot water, insipid and unsatisfying. It was a shock to see the girls'
faces as they raised the tiny china teacups. Under the glaze of their
powder they were old and wise.

They observed Asako's nationality, and began to speak to her in
Japanese.

"Their politeness is put on to order," thought Geoffrey, "they seem
forward and inquisitive minxes."

But Asako only knew a few set phrases of her native tongue. This
baffled the ladies, one of whom after a whispered consultation and
some giggling behind sleeves, went off to find a friend who would
solve the mystery.

"_Nésan, Nésan_ (elder sister)" she called across the garden.

Strange little dishes were produced on trays of red lacquer, fish
and vegetables of different kinds artistically arranged, but most
unpalatable.

A third _nésan_ appeared. She could speak some English.

"Is _Okusama_ (lady) Japanese?" she began, after she had placed the
tiny square table before Geoffrey, and had performed a prostration.

Geoffrey assented.

Renewed prostration before _okusama_, and murmured greetings in
Japanese.

"But I can't speak Japanese," said Asako laughing. This perplexed the
girl, but her curiosity prompted her.

"_Danna San_ (master) Ingiris'?" she asked, looking at Geoffrey.

"Yes," said Asako. "Do many Englishmen have Japanese wives?"

"Yes, very many," was the unexpected answer. "O Fuji San," she
continued, indicating one of the other maids, "have Ingiris' _danna
San_ very many years ago; very kind _danna san_; give O Fuji plenty
nice kimono; he say, O Fuji very good girl, go to Ingiris' wit him;
O Fuji say, No, cannot go, mother very sick; so _danna san_ go away.
Give O Fuji San very nice finger ring."

She lapsed into vernacular. The other girl showed with feigned
embarrassment a little ring set with glassy sapphires.

"Oh!" said Asako, dimly comprehending.

"All Ingiris' _danna san_ come Nagasaki," the talkative maid went on,
"want Japanese girl. Ingiris' _danna san_ kind man, but too plenty
drink. Japanese _danna san_ not kind, not good. Ingiris' _danna san_
plenty money, plenty. Nagasaki girl very many foreign _danna san.
Rashamen wa Nagasaki meibutsu_ (foreigners' mistresses famous product
of Nagasaki). Ingiris' _danna san_ go away all the time. One year, two
year--then go away to Ingiris' country."

"Then what does the Japanese girl do?" asked Asako.

"Other _danna san_ come," was the laconic reply. "Ingiris' _danna san_
live in Japan, Japanese girl very nice. Ingiris' _danna san_ go away,
no want Japanese girl. Japanese girl no want go away Japan. Japanese
girl go to other country, she feel very sick; heart very lonely, very
sad!"

A weird, unpleasant feeling had stolen into the little room, the
presence of unfamiliar thoughts and of foreign moralities, birds of
unhealth.

The two other girls who could not speak English were posing for
Geoffrey's benefit; one of them reclining against the framework of the
open window with her long kimono sleeves crossed in front of her like
wings, her painted oval face fixed on him in spite of the semblance
of downcast eyes; the other squatting on her heels in a corner of the
room with the same demure expression and with her hands folded in her
lap. Despite the quietness of the poses they were as challenging in
their way as the swinging hips of Piccadilly. It is as true to-day as
it was in Kaempffer's time, the old Dutch traveler of two hundred and
fifty years ago, that every hotel in Japan is a brothel, and every
tea-house and restaurant a house of assignation.

From a wing of the building near by came the twanging of a string,
like a banjo string being tuned in fantastic quarter tones. A few
sharp notes were struck, at random it seemed, followed by a few bars
of a quavering song and then a burst of clownish laughter. Young
bloods of Nagasaki had called in _geisha_ to amuse them at their meal.

"Japanese _geisha_," said the tea-house girl, "if _danna san_ wish to
see _geisha_ dance--?"

"No thank you," said Geoffrey, hurriedly, "Asako darling, it is time
we went home: we want our dinners."



CHAPTER V

CHONKINA

  _Modashi-ite
  Sakashira suru wa
  Sake nomite
  Yei-naki suru ni
  Nao shikazu keri._

  To sit silent
  And look wise
  Is not to be compared with
  Drinking _saké_
  And making a riotous shouting.


As soon as the meal was over, Asako went to bed. She was tired out
by an orgy of sight-seeing and new impressions. Geoffrey said that
he would have a short walk and a smoke before turning in. He took the
road which led towards the harbour of Nagasaki.

  _Chonkina, Chonkina, Chon, Chon, Kina, Kina,
  Yokohama, Nagasaki, Hakodate--Hoi!_

The refrain of an old song was awakened in his mind by the melodious
name of the place.

He descended the hill from the hotel, and crossed a bridge over a
narrow river. The town was full of beauty. The warm light in the
little wooden houses, the creamy light of the paper walls, illuminated
from within, with the black silhouettes of the home groups traced upon
them, the lanterns dancing on the boats in the harbour, the lights on
the larger vessels in stiff patterns like propositions of Euclid, the
lanterns on carts and rickshaws, lanterns like fruit, red, golden and
glowing, and round bubble lamps over each house entrance with Chinese
characters written upon them giving the name of the occupant.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

As though in answer to his incantation, Geoffrey suddenly came upon
Wigram. Wigram had been a fellow-passenger on board the steamer. He
was an old Etonian; and this was really the only bond between the two
men. For Wigram was short, fat and flabby, dull-eyed and pasty-faced.
He spoke with a drawl; he had literary pretensions and he was
travelling for pleasure.

"Hello, Barrington," he said, "you all alone?"

"Yes," answered Geoffrey, "my wife is a bit overtired; she has turned
in."

"So you are making the most of your opportunity, studying night-life,
eh, naughty boy?"

"Not much about, is there?" said Geoffrey, who considered that a "pi
fellow" was Bad Form, and would not be regarded as such even by a
creature whose point of view was as contemptible as that of Wigram.

"Doesn't walk the streets, old man; but it's there all the same. The
men at the club here tell me that Nagasaki is one of the hottest spots
on the face of the globe."

"Seems sleepy enough," answered Geoffrey.

"Oh, here! these are just English warehouses and consulates.
They're always asleep. But you come with me and see them dance the
_Chonkina_."

Geoffrey started at this echo of his own thoughts, but he said,--

"I must be getting back; my wife will be anxious."

"Not yet, not yet. It will be all over in half an hour, and it's worth
seeing. I am just going to the club to find a fellow who said he'd
show me the ropes."

Geoffrey allowed himself to be persuaded. After all he was not
expected home so immediately. It was many years since he had visited
low and disreputable places. They were Bad Form, and had no appeal for
him. But the strangeness of the place attracted him, and a longing for
the first glimpse behind the scenes in this inexplicable new country.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

Why shouldn't he go?

He was introduced to Wigram's friend, Mr. Patterson, a Scotch merchant
of Nagasaki, who lurched out of the club in his habitual Saturday
evening state of mellow inebriation.

They called for three rickshaws, whose runners seemed to know without
instructions whither they had to go.

"Is it far from here?" asked Geoffrey.

"It is not so far," said the Scotchman; "it is most conveniently
situated."

Noiselessly they sped down narrow twisting streets with the same
unfamiliar lights and shadows, the glowing paper walls, and the
luminous globes of the gate lamps.

From the distance came the beat of a drum.

Geoffrey had heard a drum sounded like that before in the Somali
village at Aden, a savage primitive sound with a kind of marching
rhythm, suggestive of the swing of hundreds of black bodies moving to
some obscene festival.

But here, in Japan, such music sounded remote from the civilisation of
the country, from the old as from the new.

"_Chonkina, Chonkina_," it seemed to be beating.

The rickshaws turned into a broader street with houses taller and more
commanding than any seen hitherto. They were built of brown wood like
big Swiss chalets, and were hung with red paper lanterns like huge
ripe cherries.

Another stage-like entrance, more fluttering of women and low
prostrations, a procession along shining corridors and up steep
stairways like companion-ladders, everywhere a heavy smell of cheap
scent and powder, the reek of the brothel.

The three guests were installed, squatting or lounging around a
low table with beer and cakes. There was a chorus of tittering and
squeaking voices in the corridor. The partition slid open, and six
little women came running into the room.

"Patasan San! Patasan San!" they cried, clapping their hands.

Here at last were the butterfly women of the traveller's imagination.
They wore bright kimonos, red and blue, embroidered with gold thread.
Their faces were pale like porcelain with the enamelling effect of the
liquid powder which they use. Their black shiny hair, like liquorice,
was arranged in fantastic volutes, which were adorned with silver
bell-like ornaments and paper flowers. Choking down Geoffrey's
admiration, a cloud of heavy perfume hung around them.

"Good day to you," they squeaked in comical English, "How do you do? I
love you. Please kiss me. Dam! dam!"

Patterson introduced them by name as O Hana San (Miss Flower), O Yuki
San (Miss Snow), O En San (Miss Affinity), O Toshi San (Miss Year), O
Taka San (Miss Tall) and O Koma San (Miss Pony).

One of them, Miss Pony, put her arm around Geoffrey's neck--the little
fingers felt like the touch of insects--and said,--

"My darling, you love me?"

The big Englishman disengaged himself gently. It is Bad Form to be
rough to women, even to Japanese courtesans. He began to be sorry that
he had come.

"I have brought two very dear friends of mine," said Patterson to all
the world, "for pleasure artistic rather than carnal; though perhaps I
can safely prophesy that the pleasure of the senses is the end of
all true art. We have come to see the national dance of Japan, the
Nagasaki reel, the famous _Chonkina_. I myself am familiar with the
dance. On two or three occasions I have performed with credit in these
very halls. But these two gentlemen have come all the way from England
on purpose to see the dance. I therefore request that you will dance
it to-night with care and attention, with force of imagination, with
a sense of pleasurable anticipation, and with humble respect to the
naked truth."

He spoke with the precise eloquence of intoxication, and as he flopped
to the ground again Wigram clapped him on the shoulder with a "Bravo,
old man!"

Geoffrey felt very silent and rather sick.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

The little women made a show of modesty, hiding their faces behind
their long kimono sleeves.

A servant girl pushed open the walls which communicated with the
next room, an exact replica of the one in which they were sitting. An
elderly woman in a sea-grey kimono was squatting there silent, rigid
and dignified. For a moment Geoffrey thought that a mistake had been
made, that this was another guest disturbed in quiet reflection and
about to be justly indignant.

But no, this Roman matron held in her lap the white disc of a
_samisen_, the native banjo, upon which she strummed with a flat white
bone. She was the evening's orchestra, an old _geisha_.

The six little butterflies lined up in front of her and began to
dance, not our Western dance of free limbs, but an Oriental dance
from the hips with posturings of hands and feet. They sang a harsh
faltering song without any apparent relation to the accompaniment
played by that austere dame.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

The six little figures swayed to and fro.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina! Hoi!_

With a sharp cry the song and dance stopped abruptly. The six dancers
stood rigid with hands held out in different attitudes. One of them
had lost the first round and must pay forfeit. Off came the broad
embroidered sash. It was thrown aside, and the raucous singing began
afresh.

_Chonkina! Chonkina! Hoi!_

The same girl lost again; and amid shrill titterings the gorgeous
scarlet kimono fell to the ground. She was left standing in a
pretty blue under-kimono of light silk with a pale pink design of
cherry-blossoms starred all over it.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

Round after round the game was played; and first one girl lost and
then another. Two of them were standing now with the upper part
of their bodies bare. One of them was wearing a kind of white lace
petticoat, stained and sour-looking, wrapped about her hips; the other
wore short flannel drawers, like a man's bathing-pants, coloured in
a Union Jack pattern, some sailor's offering to his _inamorata_. They
were both of them young girls. Their breasts were flat and shapeless.
The yellow skin ended abruptly at the throat and neck with the powder
line. For the neck and face were a glaze of white. The effect of this
break was to make the body look as if it had lost its real head under
the guillotine, and had received an ill-matched substitute from the
surgeon's hands.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

Patterson had drawn nearer to the performers. His red face and his
grim smile were tokens of what he would have described as pleasurable
anticipation. Wigram, too, his flabby visage paler than ever, his
large eyes bulging, and his mouth hanging open, gazed as in a trance.
He had whispered to Geoffrey,--

"I've seen the _danse du ventre_ at Algiers, but this beats anything."

Geoffrey from behind the fumes of the pipe-smoke watched the unreal
phantasmagoria as he might have watched a dream.

  _Chonkina! Chonkina!_

The dance was more expressive now, not of art but of mere animalism.
The bodies shook and squirmed. The faces were screwed up to express an
ecstacy of sensual delight. The little fingers twitched into immodest
gestures.

_Chonkina! Chonkina! Hoi!_

Geoffrey had never gazed on a naked woman except idealised in marble
or on canvas. The secret of Venus had been for him, as for many men,
an inviolate Mecca towards which he worshipped. Glimpses he had seen,
visions of soft curves, mica glistenings of creamy skin, but never the
crude anatomical fact.

An overgrown embryo she seemed, a gawkish ill-moulded thing.

Woman, thought Geoffrey, should be supple and pliant, with a
suggestion of swiftness galvanising the delicacy of the lines.
Atalanta was his ideal woman.

But this creature had apparently no bones or sinews. She looked like
a sawdust dummy. She seemed to have been poured into a bag of brown
tissue. There was no waist line. The chest appeared to fit down upon
the thighs like a lid. The legs hung from the hips like trouser-legs,
and seemed to fit into the feet like poles into their sockets. The
turned-in toes were ridiculous and exasperating. There was no shaping
of breasts, stomach, knees and ankles. There was nothing in this image
of clay to show the loving caress of the Creator's hand. It had been
modelled by a wretched bungler in a moment of inattention.

Yet it stood there, erect and challenging, this miserable human
tadpole, usurping the throne of Lais and crowned with the worship of
such devotees as Patterson and Wigram.

Are all women ugly? The query flashed through Geoffrey's brain. Is
the vision of Aphrodite Anadyomene an artist's lie? Then he thought of
Asako. Stripped of her gauzy nightdresses, was she like this? A shame
on such imagining!

Patterson was hugging a girl on his knee. Wigram had caught hold of
another. Geoffrey said--but nobody heard him,--

"It's getting too hot for me here. I'm going."

So he went.

His little wife was awake, and disposed to be tearful.

"Where have you been?" she asked, "You said you would only be half an
hour."

"I met Wigram," said Geoffrey, "and I went with him to see some
_geisha_ dancing."

"You might have taken me. Was it very pretty?"

"No, it was very ugly; you would not have cared for it at all."

He had a hot bath, before he lay down by her side.



CHAPTER VI

ACROSS JAPAN

  _Momo-shiki no
  Omiya-bito wa
  Okaredo
  Kokoro ni norite
  Omoyuru imo!_

  Though the people of the
  Great City
  With its hundred towers
  Be many,
  Riding on my heart--
  (Only) my beloved Sister!


The traveller in Japan is restricted to a hard-worn road, dictated to
him by Messrs. Thos. Cook and Son, and by the Tourists' Information
Bureau. This _via sacra_ is marked by European-style hotels of varying
quality, by insidious curio-shops, and by native guides, serious and
profane, who classify foreigners under the two headings of Temples and
Tea-houses. The lonely men-travellers are naturally supposed to have
a _penchant_ for the spurious _geisha_, who haunt the native
restaurants; the married couples are taken to the temples, and to
those merchants of antiquities, who offer the highest commission to
the guides. There is always an air of petty conspiracy in the wake of
every foreigner who visits the country. If he is a Japan enthusiast,
he is amused by the naive ways, and accepts the conventional smile as
the reflection of the heart of "the happy, little Japs." If he hates
the country, he takes it for granted that extortion and villainy will
accompany his steps.

Geoffrey and Asako enjoyed immensely their introduction to Japan. The
unpleasant experiences of Nagasaki were soon forgotten after their
arrival at Kyoto, the ancient capital of the Mikado, where the charm
of old Japan still lingers. They were happy, innocent people, devoted
to each other, easily pleased, and having heaps of money to spend.
They were amused with everything, with the people, with the houses,
with the shops, with being stared at, with being cheated, with being
dragged to the ends of the vast city only to see flowerless gardens
and temples in decay.

Asako especially was entranced. The feel of the Japanese silk and the
sight of bright colours and pretty patterns awoke in her a kind of
ancestral memory, the craving of generations of Japanese women. She
bought kimonos by the dozen, and spent hours trying them on amid a
chorus of admiring chambermaids and waitresses, a chorus specially
trained by the hotel management in the difficult art of admiring
foreigners' purchases.

Then to the curio-shops! The antique shops of Kyoto give to the simple
foreigner the impression that he is being received in a private home
by a Japanese gentleman of leisure whose hobby is collecting. The
unsuspecting prey is welcomed with cigarettes and specially honourable
tea, the thick green kind like pea-soup. An autograph book is produced
in which are written the names of rich and distinguished people
who have visited the collection. You are asked to add your own
insignificant signature. A few glazed earthenware pots appear,
Tibetan temple pottery of the Han Period. They are on their way to
the Winckler collection in New York, a trifle of a hundred thousand
dollars.

Having pulverised the will-power of his guest, the merchant of
antiquities hands him over to his myrmidons who conduct him round the
shop--for it is only a shop after all. Taking accurate measurement of
his purse and tastes, they force him to buy what pleases them, just as
a conjurer can force a card upon his audience.

The Barringtons' rooms at the Miyako Hotel soon became like an annex
to the show-rooms in Messrs. Yamanaka's store. Brocades and kimonos
were draped over chairs and bedsteads. Tables were crowded with
porcelain, _cloisonné_ and statues of gods. Lanterns hung from the
roof; and in a corner of the room stood an enormous bowl-shaped bell
as big as a bath, resting on a tripod of red lacquer. When struck
with a thick leather baton like a drum-stick it uttered a deep sob,
a wonderful, round, perfect sound, full of the melancholy of the
wind and the pine-forests, of the austere dignity of a vanishing
civilisation, and the loneliness of the Buddhist Law.

There was a temple on the hill behind the hotel whence such a note
reached the visitors at dawn and again at sunset. The spirit of
everything lovely in the country sang in its tones; and Asako and
Geoffrey had agreed, that, whatever else they might buy or not buy,
they must take an echo of that imprisoned music home with them to
England.

So they bought the cyclopean voice, engraved with cabalistic writing,
which might be, as it professed to be, a temple bell of Yamato over
five hundred years old, or else the last year's product of an Osaka
foundry for antique brass ware. Geoffrey called it "Big Ben."

"What are you going to do with all these things?" he asked his wife.

"Oh, for our home in London," she answered, clapping her hands
and gazing with ecstatic pride at all her treasures. "It will be
wonderful. Oh, Geoffrey, Geoffrey, you are so good to give all this to
me!"

"But it is your own money, little sweetheart!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Never did Asako seem further from her parents' race than during
the first weeks of her sojourn in her native country. She was so
unconscious of her relationship that she liked to play at imitating
native life, as something utterly peculiar and absurd. Meals in
Japanese eating-houses amused her immensely. The squatting on bare
floors, the exaggerated obeisance of the waiting-girls, the queer
food, the clumsy use of chop-sticks, the numbness of her feet after
being sat upon for half an hour, all would set her off in peals of
unchecked laughter, so as to astonish her compatriots who naturally
enough mistook her for one of themselves.

Once, with the aid of the girls of the hotel, she arrayed herself in
the garments of a Japanese lady of position with her hair dressed
in the shiny black helmet-shape, and her waist encased in the broad,
tight _obi_ or sash, which after all was no more uncomfortable than
a corset. Thus attired she came down to dinner one evening, trotting
behind her husband as a well-trained Japanese wife should do. In
foreign dress she appeared _petite_ and exotic, but one would have
hesitated to name the land of her birth. It was a shock to Geoffrey
to see her again in her native costume. In Europe, it had been a
distinction, but here, in Japan, it was like a sudden fading into the
landscape. He had never realised quite how entirely his wife was one
of these people. The short stature and the shuffling gait, the tiny
delicate hands, the grooved slit of the eyelids, and the oval of the
face were pure Japanese. The only incongruous elements were the white
ivory skin which, however, is a beauty not unknown among home-reared
Japanese women also, and, above all, the expression which looked out
of the dancing eyes and the red mouth ripe for kisses, an expression
of freedom, happiness, and natural high spirits, which is not to be
seen in a land where the women are hardly free, never natural, and
seldom happy. The Japanese woman's face develops a compressed look
which leaves the features a mere mask, and acquires very often a
furtive glance, as of a sharp-fanged animal half-tamed by fear,
something weasel-like or vixenish.

Flaunting her native costume, Asako came down to dinner at the Miyako
Hotel, laughing, chattering, and imitating the mincing steps of her
country-women and their exaggerated politeness. Geoffrey tried to play
his part in the little comedy; but his good spirits were forced
and gradually silence fell between them, the silence which falls on
masqueraders in fancy dress, who have tried to play up to the spirit
of their costume, but whose imagination flags. Had Geoffrey been
able to think a little more deeply he would have realized that this
play-acting was a very visible sign of the gulf which yawned between
his wife and the yellow women of Japan. She was acting as a white
woman might have done, certain of the impossibility of confusion. But
Geoffrey for the first time felt his wife's exoticism, not from the
romantic and charming side, but from the ugly, sinister, and--horrible
word--inferior side of it. Had he married a coloured woman? Was he a
squaw's man? A sickening vision of _chonkina_ at Nagasaki rose before
his imagination.

When dinner was over, and after Asako had received the congratulations
of the other guests, she retired upstairs to put on her _négligé_.
Geoffrey liked a cigar after dinner, but Asako objected to the heavy
aroma hanging about her bedroom. They therefore parted generally for
this brief half hour; and afterwards they would read and talk together
in their sitting-room. Like other people, they soon got into the
habit of going to bed early in a country where there were no theatres
playing in a comprehensible tongue, and no supper restaurants to turn
night into day.

Geoffrey lit his cigar and made his way to the smoking-room. Two
elderly men, merchants from Kobe, were already sitting there over
whiskies and sodas, discussing a mutual acquaintance.

"No, I don't see much of him," one of them, an American, was saying,
"nobody does nowadays. But take my word, when he came out here as a
young man he was one of the smartest young fellows in the East."

"Yes, I can quite believe you," said the other, a stolid Englishman
with a briar pipe, "he struck me as an exceptionally well-educated
man."

"He was more than that, I tell you. He was a financial genius. He was
a man with a great future."

"Poor fellow!" said the other. "Well, he has only got himself to
thank."

Geoffrey was not an eavesdropper by nature, but he found himself
getting interested in the fate of this anonymous failure, and wondered
if he was going to hear the cause of the man's downfall.

"When these Japanese women get hold of a man," the American went on,
"they seem to drain the brightness out of him. Why, you have only got
to stroll around to the Kobe Club and look at the faces. You can
tell the ones that have Japanese wives or housekeepers right away.
Something seems to have gone right out of their expression."

"It's worry," said the Englishman. "A fellow marries a Japanese girl,
and he finds he has to keep all her lazy relatives as well; and then a
crowd of half-caste brats come along, and he doesn't know whether they
are his own or not."

"It is more than that," was the emphatic answer. "Men with white wives
have worry enough; and a man can go gay in the tea-houses, and none
the worse. But when once they marry them it is like signing a bond
with the devil. That man's damned."

Geoffrey rose and left the room. He thought on the whole it was better
to withdraw than to hit that harsh-voiced Yankee hard in the eye. He
felt that his wife had been insulted. But the speaker could not
have known by whom he had been overheard. He had merely expressed an
opinion which, as a sudden instinct told Geoffrey, must be generally
prevalent among the white people living in this yellow country. Now
that he came to think of it, he remembered curious glances cast at him
and Asako by foreigners and also, strange to say, by Japanese, glances
half contemptuous. Had he acquired it already, that expression which
marked the faces of the unfortunates at the Kobe Club? He remembered
also tactless remarks on board ship, such as, "Mrs. Barrington
has lived all her life in England; of course, that makes all the
difference."

Geoffrey looked at his reflection in the long mirror in the hall.
There were no signs as yet of premature damnation on the honest,
healthy British face. There were signs, perhaps, of ripened thought
and experience, of less superficial appreciation. The eyes seemed to
have withdrawn deeper into their sockets, like the figurines in toy
barometers when they feel wet weather coming.

He was beginning to appreciate the force of the advice which had urged
him to beware of Japan. Here, in the hotbed of race prejudice, evil
spirits were abroad. It was so different in broad-hearted tolerant
London. Asako was charming and rich. She was received everywhere.
To marry her was no more strange than to marry a French girl or a
Russian. They could have lived peaceably in Europe; and her distant
fatherland would have added a pathetic charm to her personality. But
here in Japan, where between the handful of whites and the myriads of
yellow men stretches a No Man's Land, serrated and desolate, marked
with bloody fights, with suspicions and treacheries, Asako's position
as the wife of a white man and Geoffrey's position as the husband of a
yellow wife were entirely different. The stranger's phrases had summed
up the situation. They were no good, these white men who had pawned
their lives to yellow girls. They were the failures, the _ratés_.
Geoffrey had heard of promising young officers in India who had
married native women and who had had to leave the service. He had
done the same. Better go gay in the tea-houses with Wigram. He was the
husband of a coloured woman.

And then the crowd of half-caste brats? In England one hardly ever
thinks of the progeny of mixed races. That bitter word "half-caste" is
a distant echo of sensational novels. Geoffrey had not as yet noticed
the pale handsome children of Eurasia, Nature's latest and most
half-hearted experiment, whose seed, they say, is lost in the third
generation. But he had heard the tone of scorn which flung out the
term; and it suddenly occurred to him that his own children would be
half-castes.

He was walking on the garden terrace overlooking the starry city. He
was thinking with an intensity unfamiliar to him and terrifying, like
a machine which is developing its fullest power, and is shaking a
framework unused to such a strain. He wanted a friend's presence,
a desultory chat with an old pal about people and things which they
shared in common. Thank God, Reggie Forsyth was in Tokyo. He would
leave to-morrow. He must see Reggie, laugh at his queer clever talk
again, relax himself, and feel sane.

He was nervous of meeting his wife, lest her instinct might guess his
thoughts. Yet he must not leave her any longer or his absence would
make her anxious. Not that his love for Asako had been damaged; but
he felt that they were traveling along a narrow path over a bottomless
gulf in an unexplored country.

He returned to the rooms and found her lying disconsolate on a sofa,
wrapped in a flimsy champagne-coloured dressing-gown, one of the
spoils of Paris. Her hair had been rapidly combed out of its formal
native arrangement. It looked draggled and hard as though she had been
bathing. Titine, the French maid, was removing the rejected débris of
kimono and sash.

"Sweetheart, you've been crying," said Geoffrey, kissing her.

"You didn't like me as a Jap, and you've been thinking terrible things
about me. Look at me, and tell me what you have been thinking."

"Little Yum Yum talks great nonsense sometimes. As a matter of fact, I
was thinking of going on to Tokyo to-morrow. I think we've seen about
all there is to be seen here, don't you?"

"Geoffrey, you want to see Reggie Forsyth. You're getting bored and
homesick already."

"No, I'm not. I think it is a ripping country; in fact, I want to see
more of it. What I am wondering is whether we should take Tanaka."

       *       *       *       *       *

This made Asako laugh. Any mention of Tanaka's name acted as a
talisman of mirth. Tanaka was the Japanese guide who had fixed himself
on to their company remora-like, with a fine flair for docile and
profitable travelers.

He was a very small man, small even for a Japanese, but plump
withal. His back view looked like that of a little boy, an illusion
accentuated by the shortness of his coat and his small straw boater
with its colored ribbon. Even when he turned the illusion was not
quite dispelled; for his was a round, ruddy, chubby face with dimples,
a face with big cheeks ripe for smacking, and little sunken pig-like
eyes.

He had stalked the Barringtons during their first excursion on foot
through the ancient city, knowing that sooner or later they would lose
their way. When the opportunity offered itself and he saw them gazing
vaguely round at cross-roads, he bore down upon them, raising his hat
and saying:

"Can I assist you, sir?"

"Yes; would you kindly tell me the way to the Miyako Hotel?" asked
Geoffrey.

"I am myself _en route_," answered Tanaka. "Indeed we meet very _à
propos_."

On the way he had discoursed about all there was to be seen in Kyoto.
Only, visitors must know their way about, or must have the service
of an experienced guide who was _au fait_ and who knew the "open
sesames." He pronounced this phrase "open sessums," and it was not
until late that night that its meaning dawned upon Geoffrey.

Tanaka had a rich collection of foreign and idiomatic phrases, which
he must have learned by heart from a book and with which he adorned
his conversation.

On his own initiative he had appeared next morning to conduct the two
visitors to the Emperor's palace, which he gave them to understand
was open for that day only, and as a special privilege due to Tanaka's
influence. While expatiating on the wonders to be seen, he brushed
Geoffrey's clothes and arranged them with the care of a trained valet.
In the evening, when they returned to the hotel and Asako complained
of pains in her shoulder, Tanaka showed himself to be an adept at
massage.

Next morning he was again at his post; and Geoffrey realized that
another member had been added to his household. He acted as their
_cicerone_ or "siseroan," as he pronounced it, to temple treasuries
and old palace gardens, to curio-shops and to little native
eating-houses. The Barringtons submitted, not because they liked
Tanaka, but because they were good-natured, and rather lost in this
new country. Besides, Tanaka clung like a leech and was useful in many
ways.

Only on Sunday morning it was the hotel boy who brought their early
morning tea. Tanaka was absent. When he made his appearance he wore a
grave expression which hardly suited his round face; and he carried a
large black prayer-book. He explained that he had been to church. He
was a Christian, Greek Orthodox. At least so he said, but afterwards
Geoffrey was inclined to think that this was only one of his
mystifications to gain the sympathy of his victims and to create a
bond between him and them.

His method was one of observation, imitation and concealed
interrogation. The long visits to the Barringtons' rooms, the time
spent in clothes-brushing and in massage, were so much opportunity
gained for inspecting the room and its inhabitants, for gauging
their habits and their income, and for scheming out how to derive the
greatest possible advantage for himself.

The first results of this process were almost unconscious. The wide
collar, in which his face had wobbled Micawber-like, disappeared; and
a small double collar, like the kind Geoffrey wore, took its place.
The garish neck-tie and hatband were replaced by discreet black. He
acquired the attitudes and gestures of his employer in a few days.

As for the cross-examination, it took place in the evening, when
Geoffrey was tired, and Tanaka was taking off his boots.

"Previous to the _fiancée_," Tanaka began, "did Lady Barrington live
long time in Japan?"

He was lavish with titles, considering that money and nobility in such
people must be inseparable; besides, experience had taught him that
the use of such honorifics never came amiss.

"No; she left when she was quite a little baby."

"Ladyship has Japanese name?"

"Asako Fujinami. Do you know the name, Tanaka?"

The Japanese set his head on one side to indicate an attitude of
reflection.

"Tokyo?" he suggested.

"Yes, from Tokyo."

"Does Lordship pay his _devoir_ to relatives of Ladyship?"

"Yes, I suppose so, when we go to Tokyo."

"Ladyship's relatives have noble residence?" asked Tanaka; it was his
way of inquiring if they were rich.

"I really don't know at all," answered Geoffrey.

"Then I will detect for Lordship. It will be better. A man can do
great foolishness if he does not detect."

After this Geoffrey discouraged Tanaka. But Asako thought him a huge
joke. He made himself very useful and agreeable, fetching and carrying
for her, and amusing her with his wonderful English. He almost
succeeded in dislodging Titine from her cares for her mistress's
person. Geoffrey had once objected, on being expelled from his wife's
bedroom during a change of raiment:

"But Tanaka was there. You don't mind him seeing you apparently."

Asako had burst out laughing.

"Oh, he isn't a man. He isn't real at all. He says that I am like a
flower, and that I am very beautiful in '_deshabeel_.'"

"That sounds real enough," grunted Geoffrey, "and very like a man."

Perhaps, innocent as she was, Asako enjoyed playing off Tanaka against
her husband, just as it certainly amused her to watch the jealousy
between Titine and the Japanese. It gave her a pleasant sense of power
to see her big husband look so indignant.

"How old do you think Tanaka is?" he asked her one day.

"Oh, about eighteen or nineteen," she answered. She was not yet used
to the deceptiveness of Japanese appearances.

"He does not look more sometimes," said her husband; "but he has the
ways and the experience of a very old hand. I wouldn't mind betting
you that he is thirty."

"All right," said Asako, "give me the jade Buddha if you are wrong."

"And what will you give me if I am right?" said Geoffrey.

"Kisses," replied his wife.

Geoffrey went out to look for Tanaka. In a quarter of an hour he came
back, triumphant.

"My kisses, sweetheart," he demanded.

"Wait," said Asako; "how old is he?"

"I went out of the front door and there was Master Tanaka, telling the
rickshaw-men the latest gossip about us. I said to him, 'Tanaka,
are you married?' 'Yes, Lordship,' he answered, 'I am widower.' 'Any
children?' I asked again. 'I have two progenies,' he said; 'they are
soldiers of His Majesty the Emperor.' 'Why, how old are you?' I asked.
'Forty-three years,' he answered. 'You are very well preserved for a
man of your age,' I said, and I have come back for my kisses."

After this monstrous deception Geoffrey had declared that he would
dismiss Tanaka.

"A man who goes about like that," he said, "is a living lie."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later, early in the morning, they left Kyoto by the great
metal high road of Japan, which has replaced the famous way known as
the _Tokaido_, sacred in history, legend and art. Every stone has its
message for Japanese eyes, every tree its association with poetry or
romance. Even among Western connoisseurs of Japanese wood engraving,
its fifty-two resting places are as familiar as the Stations of the
Cross. Such is the _Tokaido_, the road between the two capitals of
Kyoto and Tokyo, still haunted by the ghosts of the Emperor's ox-drawn
wagons, the _Shoguns'_ lacquered palanquins, by feudal warriors in
their death-like armour, and by the swinging strides of the _samurai_.

"Look, look, Fujiyama!"

There was a movement in the observation-car, where Geoffrey and his
wife were watching the unfolding of their new country. The sea was
away to the right beyond the tea-fields and the pine-woods. To the
left was the base of a mountain. Its summit was wrapped in cloud. From
the fragment visible, it was possible to appreciate the architecture
of the whole--_ex pede Herculem_. It took the train quite one hour to
travel over that arc of the circuit of Fuji, which it must pass on its
way to Tokyo. During this time, the curtained presence of the great
mountain dominated the landscape. Everything seemed to lead up to that
mantle of cloud. The terraced rice fields rose towards it, the trees
slanted towards it, the moorland seemed to be pulled upwards, and the
skin of the earth was stretched taut over some giant limb which
had pushed itself up from below, the calm sea was waiting for its
reflection, and even the microscopic train seemed to swing in its
orbit round the mountain like an unwilling satellite.

"It's a pity we can't see it," said Geoffrey.

"Yes; it's the only big thing in the whole darned country," said a
saturnine American, sitting opposite; "and then, when you get on to
it, it's just a heap of cinders."

Asako was not worrying about the landscape. Her thoughts were directed
to a family of well-to-do Japanese, first-class passengers, who had
settled in the observation car for half an hour or so, and had then
withdrawn. There was a father, his wife and two daughters, wax-like
figures who did not utter a word but glided shadow-like in and out of
the compartment. Were they relations of hers?

Then, when she and her husband passed down the corridor train to
lunch, and through the swarming second-class carriages, she wondered
once more, as she saw male Japan sprawling its length over the
seats in the ugliest attitudes of repose, and female Japan squatting
monkey-like and cleaning ears and nostrils with scraps of paper
or wiping stolid babies. The carriages swarmed with children, with
luggage and litter. The floors were a mess of spilled tea, broken
earthenware cups and splintered wooden boxes. Cheap baggage was
piled up everywhere, with wicker baskets, paper parcels, bundles of
drab-coloured wraps, and cases of imitation leather. Among this débris
children were playing unchecked, smearing their faces with rice cakes,
and squashing the flies on the window pane.

Were any of these her relatives? Asako shuddered. How much did she
actually know about these far-away cousins? She could just remember
her father. She could recall great brown shining eyes, and a thin face
wasted by the consumption which killed him, and a tenderness of voice
and manner quite apart from anything which she had ever experienced
since. This soon came to an end. After that she had known only the
conscientiously chilly care of the Muratas. They had told her that her
mother had died when she was born, and that her father was so unhappy
that he had left Japan forever. Her father was a very clever man.
He had read all the English and French and German books. He had left
special word when he was dying that Asako was not to go back to Japan,
that Japanese men were bad to women, that she was to be brought up
among French girls and was to marry a European or an American. But the
Muratas could not tell her any intimate details about her father, whom
they had not known very well. Again, although they were aware that she
had rich cousins living in Tokyo, they did not know them personally
and could tell her nothing.

Her father had left no papers, only his photograph, the picture of a
delicate, good-looking, sad-faced man in black cloak and kimono, and a
little French book called _Pensées de Pascal_, at the end of which was
written the address of Mr. Ito, the lawyer in Tokyo through whom the
dividends were paid, and that of "my cousin Fujinami Gentaro."



CHAPTER VII

THE EMBASSY

  _Tsuyu no yo no
  Tsuyu no yo nagara
  Sari nagara!_

  While this dewdrop world
  Is but a dewdrop world,
  Yet--all the same!--


The fabric of our lives is like a piece of knitting, terribly botched
and bungled in most cases. There are stitches which are dropped,
sometimes to be swallowed up and forgotten in the superstructure,
sometimes to be picked up again after a lapse of years. These stitches
are old friendships.

The first stitch from Geoffrey's bachelor days to be worked back into
the scheme of his married life was his friendship for Reggie Forsyth,
who had been best man at his wedding and who had since then been
appointed Secretary to the Embassy at Tokyo.

Reggie had received a telegram saying that Geoffrey was coming. He was
very pleased. He had reached that stage in the progress of exile
where one is inordinately happy to see any old friend. In fact, he
was beginning to be "fed up" with Japan, with its very limited
distractions, and with the monotony of his diplomatic colleagues.

Instead of going to the tennis court, which was his usual afternoon
occupation, he had spent the time in arranging his rooms, shifting
the furniture, rehanging the pictures, paying especial care to the
disposition of his Oriental curios, his recent purchases, his last
enthusiasms in this land of languor. Reggie collected Buddhas, Chinese
snuff-bottles and lacquered medicine cases--called _inro_ in Japanese.

"Caviare to the general!" murmured Reggie, as he gloated over a
chaste design of fishes in mother-of-pearl, a pseudo-Korin. "Poor old
Geoffrey! He's only a barbarian; but perhaps she will be interested.
Here, T[=o]!" he called out to an impassive Japanese man-servant, "have
the flowers come yet, and the little trees?"

T[=o] produced from the back regions of the house a quantity of dwarf
trees, planted as miniature landscapes in shallow porcelain dishes,
and big fronds of budding cherry blossom.

Reggie arranged the blossom in a triumphal arch over the corner table,
where stood the silent company of the Buddhas. From among the trees
he chose his favourite, a kind of dwarf cedar, to place between the
window, opening on to a sunny veranda, and an old gold screen, across
whose tender glory wound the variegated comicality of an Emperor's
traveling procession, painted by a Kano artist of three centuries ago.

He removed the books which were lying about the room--grim Japanese
grammars, and forbidding works on International Law; and in
their place he left volumes of poetry and memoirs, and English
picture-papers strewn about in artistic disorder. Then he gave the
silver frames of his photographs to To to be polished, the photographs
of fair women signed with Christian names, of diplomats in grand
uniforms, and of handsome foreigners.

Having reduced the serious atmosphere of his study so as to give an
impression of amiable indolence, Reggie Forsyth lit a cigarette and
strolled out into the garden, amused at his own impatience. In London
he would never have bestirred himself for old Geoffrey Barrington, who
was only a Philistine, after all, with no sense of the inwardness of
things.

Reggie was a slim and graceful young man, with thin fair hair brushed
flat back from his forehead. A certain projection of bones under the
face gave him an almost haggard look; and his dancing blue eyes seemed
to be never still. He wore a suit of navy serge fitting close to his
figure, black tie, and grey spats. In fact, he was as immaculate as a
young diplomat should always be.

Outside his broad veranda was a gravel path, and beyond that a
Japanese garden, the hobby of one of his predecessors, a miniature
domain of hillocks and shrubs, with the inevitable pebbly water
course, in which a bronze crane was perpetually fishing. Over the
red-brick wall which encircles the Embassy compound the reddish buds
of a cherry avenue were bursting in white stars.

The compound of the Embassy is a fragment of British soil. The British
flag floats over it; and the Japanese authorities have no power
within its walls. Its large population of Japanese servants, about one
hundred and fifty in all, are free from the burden of Japanese taxes;
and, since the police may not enter, gambling, forbidden throughout
the Empire, flourishes there; and the rambling servants' quarters
behind the Ambassador's house are the Monte Carlo of the Tokyo _betto_
(coachman) and _kurumaya_ (rickshaw runner). However, since the
alarming discovery that a professional burglar had, Diogenes-like,
been occupying an old tub in a corner of the wide grounds, a policeman
has been allowed to patrol the garden; but he has to drop that
omnipotent swagger which marks his presence outside the walls.

Except for Reggie Forsyth's exotic shrubbery, there is nothing
Japanese within the solid red walls. The Embassy itself is the house
of a prosperous city gentleman and might be transplanted to Bromley or
Wimbledon. The smaller houses of the secretaries and the interpreters
also wear a smug, suburban appearance, with their red brick and their
black-and-white gabling. Only the broad verandas betray the intrusion
of a warmer sun than ours.

The lawns were laid out as a miniature golf-links, the thick masses
of Japanese shrubs forming deadly bunkers, and Reggie was trying some
mashie shots when one of the rare Tokyo taxi-cabs, carrying Geoffrey
Barrington inside it, came slowly round a corner of the drive, as
though it were feeling its way for its destination among such a
cluster of houses.

Geoffrey was alone.

"Hello, old chap!" cried Reggie, running up and shaking his friend's
big paw in his small nervous grip, "I'm so awfully glad to see you;
but where's Mrs. Barrington?"

Geoffrey had not brought his wife. He explained that they had been
to pay their first call on Japanese relations, and that they had been
honourably out; but even so the strain had been a severe one, and
Asako had retired to rest at the hotel.

"But why not come and stay here with me?" suggested Reggie. "I have
got plenty of spare rooms; and there is such a gulf fixed between
people who inhabit hotels and people with houses of their own. They
see life from an entirely different point of view; their spirits
hardly ever meet."

"Have you room for eight large boxes of dresses and kimonos, several
cases of curios, a French maid, a Japanese guide, two Japanese dogs
and a monkey from Singapore?"

Reggie whistled.

"No really, is it as bad as all that? I was thinking that marriage
meant just one extra person. It would have been fun having you both
here, and this is the only place in Tokyo fit to live in."

"It looks a comfortable little place," agreed Geoffrey. They had
reached the secretary's house, and the newcomer was admiring its
artistic arrangement.

"Just like your rooms in London!"

Reggie prided himself on the exclusively oriental character of his
habitation, and its distinction from any other dwelling place which
he had ever possessed. But then Geoffrey was only a Philistine, after
all.

"I suppose it's the photographs which look like old times," Geoffrey
went on. "How's little Véronique?"

"Veronica married an Argentine beef magnate, a German Jew, the
nastiest person I have ever avoided meeting."

"Poor old Reggie! Was that why you came to Japan?"

"Partly; and partly because I had a chief in the Foreign Office who
dared to say that I was lacking in practical experience of diplomacy.
He sent me to this comic country to find it."

"And you have found it right enough," said Geoffrey, inspecting a
photograph of a Japanese girl in her dark silk kimono with a dainty
flower pattern round the skirts and at the fall of the long sleeves.
She was not unlike Asako; only there was a fraction of an inch more of
bridge to her nose, and in that fraction lay the secret of her birth.

"That is my latest inspiration," said Reggie. "Listen!"

He sat down at the piano and played a plaintive little air, small and
sweet and shivering.

"_Japonaiserie d'hiver_," he explained.

Then he changed the burden of his song into a melody rapid and
winding, with curious tricklings among the bass notes.

"Lamia," said Reggie, "or Lilith."

"There's no tune in that last one; you can't whistle it," said
Geoffrey, who exaggerated his Philistinism to throw Reggie's artistic
nature into stronger relief. "But what has that got to do with the
lady?"

"Her name is Smith," said Reggie. "I know it is almost impossible and
terribly sad; but her other name is Yaé. Rather wild and savage--isn't
it? Like the cry of a bird in the night-time, or of a cannibal tribe
on the warpath."

"And is this your oriental version of Véronique?" asked his friend.

"No," said Reggie, "it is a different chapter of experience
altogether. Perhaps old Hardwick was right. I still have much to
learn, thank God. Véronique was personal; Yaé is symbolic. She is my
model, just like a painter's model, only more platonic. She is the
East to me; for I cannot understand the East pure and undiluted. She
is a country-woman of mine on her father's side, and therefore easier
to understand. Impersonality and fatalism, the Eastern Proteus, in
the grip of self-insistence and idealism, the British Hercules. A
butterfly body with this cosmic war shaking it incessantly. Poor
child! no wonder she seems always tired."

"She is a half-caste?" asked Geoffrey.

"Bad word, bad word. She isn't half-anything; and caste suggests India
and suttees. She is a Eurasian, a denizen of a dream country which has
a melodious name and no geographical existence. Have you ever
heard anybody ask where Eurasia was? I have. A traveling Member of
Parliament's wife at the Embassy here only a few months ago. I said
that it was a large undiscovered country lying between the Equator and
Tierra del Fuego. She seemed quite satisfied, and wondered whether
it was very hot there; she remembered having heard a missionary once
complain that the Eurasians wore so very few clothes! But to return
to Yaé, you must meet her. This evening? No? To-morrow then. You will
like her because, she looks something like Asako; and she will adore
you because you are utterly unlike me. She comes here to inspire me
once or twice a week. She says she likes me because everything in
my house smells so sweet. That is the beginning of love, I sometimes
think. Love enters the soul through the nostrils. If you doubt me,
observe the animals. But foreign houses in Japan are haunted by a
smell of dust and mildew. You cannot love in them. She likes to lie
on my sofa, and smoke cigarettes, and do nothing, and listen to my
playing tunes about her."

"You are very impressionable," said his friend. "If it were anybody
else I should say you were in love with this girl."

"I am still the same, Geoffrey; always in love--and never."

"But what about the other people here?" Barrington asked.

"There are none, none who count. I am not impressionable. I am just
short-sighted. I have to focus my weak vision on one person and
neglect the rest."

       *       *       *       *       *

A rickshaw was waiting to take Geoffrey back to the hotel. Under the
saffron light of an uncanny sunset, which barred the western heavens
with three broad streaks of orange and inky-blue like a gypsy girl's
kerchief, the odd little vehicle rolled down the hill of Miyakezaka
which overhangs the moat of the Imperial Palace.

The latent soul of Tokyo, the mystery of Japan, lies within the
confines of that moat, which is the only great majestic thing in an
untidy rambling village of more than two million living beings.

The Palace of the Mikado--a title by the way which is never used among
Japanese--is hidden from sight. That is the first remarkable thing
about it. The gesture of Versailles, the challenge of "_l'etat c'est
moi_," the majestic vulgarity which the millionaire of the moment can
mimic with a vulgarity less majestic, are here entirely absent; and
one cannot mimic the invisible.

Hardly, on bare winter days, when the sheltering groves are stripped,
and the saddened heart is in need of reassurance, appears a green
lustre of copper roofs.

The _Goshö_ at Tokyo is not a sovereign's palace; it is the abode of a
God.

The surrounding woods and gardens occupy a space larger than Hyde
Park in the very centre of the city. One well-groomed road crosses
an extreme corner of this estate. Elsewhere only privileged feet may
tread. This is a vast encumbrance in a modern commercial metropolis,
but a striking tribute to the unseen.

The most noticeable feature of the Palace is its moats. These lie in
three or four concentric circles, the defences of ancient Yedo, whose
outer lines have now been filled up by modern progress and an electric
railway. They are broad sheets of water as wide as the Thames at
Oxford, where ducks are floating and fishing. Beyond is a _glacis_
of vivid grass, a hundred feet high at some points, topped by vast
iron-grey walls of cyclopean boulder-work, with the sudden angles of
a Vauban fortress. Above these walls the weird pine-trees of Japan
extend their lean tormented boughs. Within is the Emperor's domain.

Geoffrey was hurrying homeward along the banks of the moat. The
stagnant, viscous water was yellow under the sunset, and a yellow
light hung over the green slopes, the grey walls and the dark tree
tops. An echelon of geese passed high overhead in the region of the
pale moon. Within the mysterious _enclave_ of the "Son of Heaven" the
crows were uttering their harsh sarcastic croak.

Witchery is abroad in Tokyo during this brief sunset hour. The
mongrel nature of the city is less evident. The pretentious Government
buildings of the New Japan assume dignity with the deep shadows and
the heightening effect of the darkness. The untidy network of tangled
wires fades into the coming obscurity. The rickety trams, packed to
overflowing with the city crowds returning homeward, become creeping
caterpillars of light. Lights spring up along the banks of the moat.
More lights are reflected from its depth. Dark shadows gather like
a frown round the Gate of the Cherry Field, where Ii Kamon no Kami's
blood stained the winter snow-drifts some sixty years ago, because he
dared to open the Country of the Gods to the contemptible foreigners;
and in the cry of the _tofu_-seller echoes the voice of old Japan, a
long-drawn wail, drowned at last by the grinding of the tram wheels
and the lash and crackle of the connecting-rods against the overhead
lines.

Geoffrey, sitting back in his rickshaw, turned up his coat-collar, and
watched the gathering pall of cloud extinguishing the sunset.

"Looks like snow," he said to himself; "but it is impossible!"

At the entrance to the Imperial Hotel--a Government institution, as
almost everything in Japan ultimately turns out to be--Tanaka was
standing in his characteristic attitude of a dog who waits for his
master's return. Characteristically also, he was talking to a man,
a Japanese, a showy person with spectacles and oily buffalo-horn
moustaches, dressed in a vivid pea-green suit. However, at Geoffrey's
approach, this individual raised his bowler-hat, bobbed and vanished;
and Tanaka assisted his patron to descend from his rickshaw.

As he approached the door of his suite, a little cloud of hotel _boys_
scattered like sparrows. This phenomenon did not as yet mean anything
to Geoffrey. The native servants were not very real to him. But he
was soon to realize that the _boy san_--Mister Boy, as his dignity now
insists on being called--is more than an amusing contribution to the
local atmosphere. When his smiles, his bows, and his peculiar English
begin to pall, he reveals himself in his true light as a constant
annoyance and a possible danger. Hell knows no fury like the untipped
"_boy san_" He refuses to answer the bell. He suddenly understands no
English at all. He bangs all the doors. He spends his spare moments
in devising all kinds of petty annoyances, damp and dirty sheets,
accidental damage to property, surreptitious draughts. And to vex one
_boy san_ is to antagonize the whole caste; it is a boycott. At last
the tip is given. Sudden sunshine, obsequious manners, attention of
all kinds--for ever dwindling periods, until at last the _boy san_
attains his end, a fat retaining fee, extorted at regular intervals.

But even more exasperating, since no largesse can cure it, is his
national bent towards espionage. What does he do with his spare time,
of which he has so much? He spends it in watching and listening to the
hotel guests. He has heard legends of large sums paid for silence or
for speech. There may be money in it, therefore, and there is always
amusement. So the only housework which the _boy san_ does really
willingly, is to dust the door, polish the handle, wipe the
threshold;--anything in fact which brings him into the propinquity of
the keyhole. What he observes or overhears, he exchanges with another
_boy san_; and the hall porter or the head waiter generally serves as
Chief Intelligence Bureau, and is always in touch with the Police.

The arrival of guests so remarkable as the Barringtons became,
therefore, at once a focus for the curiosity the ambition of the _boy
sans_. And a rickshaw-man had told the lodgekeeper, whose wife told
the wife of one of the cooks, who told the head waiter, that there was
some connection between these visitors and the rich Fujinami. All the
_boy sans_ knew what the Fujinami meant; so here was a cornucopia of
unwholesome secrets. It was the most likely game which had arrived at
the Imperial Hotel for years, ever since the American millionaire's
wife who ran away with a San Francisco Chinaman.

But to Geoffrey, when he broke up the gathering, the _boy sans_ were
just a lot of queer little Japs.

Asako was lying on her sofa, reading. Titine was brushing her hair.
Asako, when she read, which was not often, preferred literature of
the sentimental school, books like _The Rosary_, with stained glass in
them, and tragedy overcome by nobleness of character.

"I've been lonely without you and nervous," she said, "and I've had a
visitor already."

She pointed to a card lying on a small round table, a flimsy card
printed--not engraved--on cream-coloured pasteboard. Geoffrey picked
it up with a smile.

"Curio dealers?" he asked.

Japanese letters were printed on one side and English on the other.

[Illustration: _S. ITO_ _Attorney of Law_]

"Ito, that's the lawyer fellow, who pays the dividends. Did you see
him."

"Oh, no, I was much too weary. But he has only just gone. You probably
passed him on the stairs."

Geoffrey could only think of the vivid gentleman, who had been talking
with Tanaka. The guide was sent for and questioned, but he knew
nothing. The gentleman in green had merely stopped to ask him the
time.



CHAPTER VIII

THE HALF-CASTE GIRL


  _Tomarite mo
  Tsubasa wa ugoku
  Kocho kana!_

  Little butterfly!
  Even when it settles
  Its wings are moving.


Next morning it was snowing and bitterly cold. Snow in Japan, snow in
April, snow upon the cherry trees, what hospitality was this?

The snow fell all day, muffling the silent city. Silence is at all
times one of Tokyo's characteristics. For so large and important a
metropolis it is strangely silent always. The only continuous street
noise is the grating and crackling of the trams. The lumbering of
horse vehicles and the pulsation of motor traffic are absent; for as
beasts of burden horses are more costly than men, and in 1914 motor
cars were still a novelty. Since the war boom, of course, every
_narikin (nouveau riche)_ has rushed to buy his car; but even so, the
state of the roads, which alternate between boulders and slush, do
not encourage the motorist, and are impassable for heavy lorries. So
incredible weights and bundles are moved on hand-barrows; and bales of
goods and stacks of produce are punted down the dark waterways which
give to parts of Tokyo a Venetian picturesqueness. Passengers, too
proud to walk, flit past noiselessly in rubber-tyred rickshaws--which
are not, as many believe, an ancient and typical Oriental conveyance,
but the modern invention of an English missionary called Robinson.
The hum of the city is dominated by the screech of the tramcars in the
principal streets and by the patter of the wooden clogs, an incessant,
irritating sound like rain. But these were now hushed by the snow.

Neither the snow nor the other of Nature's discouragements can keep
the Japanese for long indoors. Perhaps it is because their own houses
are so draughty and uncomfortable.

This day they were out in their thousands, men and women, drifting
aimlessly along the pavements, as is their wont, wrapped in grey
ulsters, their necks protected by ragged furs, pathetic spoils of
domestic tabbies, and their heads sheltered under those wide oil-paper
umbrellas, which have become a symbol of Japan in foreign eyes, the
gigantic sunflowers of rainy weather, huge blooms of dark blue or
black or orange, inscribed with the name and address of the owner in
cursive Japanese script.

Most of these people are wearing _ashida_, high wooden clogs perilous
to the balance, which raise them as on stilts above the street level
and add to the fantastical appearance of these silent shuffling
multitudes.

The snow falls, covering the city's meannesses, its vulgar apings of
Americanisms, its crude advertisements. On the other hand, the
true native architecture asserts itself, and becomes more than ever
attractive. The white purity seems to gather all this miniature
perfection, these irregular roofs, these chalet balconies, these broad
walls and studies in rock and tree under a close-fitting cape, its
natural winter garment.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first chill of the rough weather kept Geoffrey and Asako by their
fireside. But the indoor amenities of Japanese hotel life are few.
There is a staleness in the public rooms and an angular discord in the
private sitting-rooms, which condemn the idea of a comfortable day
of reading, or of writing to friends at home about the Spirit of the
East. So at the end of the first half of a desolate afternoon, a visit
to the Embassy suggested itself.

They left the hotel, ushered on their way by bowing _boy sans_; and
in a few minutes an unsteady motor-car, careless of obstacles and
side-slips, had whirled them through the slushy streets into
the British compound, which only wanted a robin to look like the
conventional Christmas card.

It was a pleasant shock, after long traveling through countries
modernized in a hurry, to be received by an English butler against a
background of thick Turkey carpet, mahogany hall table and Buhl clock.
It was like a bar of music long-forgotten to see the fall of snowy
white cards accumulating in their silver bowl.

Lady Cynthia Cairns's drawing-room was not an artistic apartment; it
was too comfortable for that. There were too many chairs and sofas;
and they were designed on broad lines for the stolid, permanent
sitting of stout, comfortable bodies. There were too many photographs
on view of persons distinguished for their solidity rather than for
their good looks, the portraits of the guests whom one would expect
to find installed in those chairs. A grand piano was there; but the
absence of any music in its neighbourhood indicated that its purpose
was chiefly to symbolize harmony in the home life, and to provide a
spacious crush-room for the knick-knacks overflowing from many tables.
These were dominated by a large signed photograph of Queen Victoria.
In front of an open fireplace, where bright logs were crackling, slept
an enormous black cat on a leopard's skin hearthrug.

Out of this sea of easy circumstances rose Lady Cynthia. A daughter
of the famous Earl of Cheviot, hers was a short but not unmajestic
figure, encased in black silks which rustled and showed flashes of
beads and jet in the dancing light of the fire. She had the firm pose
of a man, and a face entirely masculine with strong lips and chin and
humourous grey eyes, the face of a judge.

Miss Gwendolen Cairns, who had apparently been reading to her mother
when the visitors arrived, was a tall girl with fair _cendré_ hair.
The simplicity of the cut of her dress and its pale green color
showed artistic sympathies of the old aesthetic kind. The maintained
amiability of her expression and manner indicated her life's task of
smoothing down feelings ruffled by her mother's asperities, and of
oiling the track of her father's career.

"How are you, my dears?" Lady Cynthia was saying. "I'm so glad you've
come in spite of the tempest. Gwendolen was just reading me to sleep.
Do you ever read to your husband, Mrs. Barrington? It is a good idea,
if only your voice is sufficiently monotonous."

"I hope we haven't interrupted you," murmured Asako, who was rather
alarmed at the great lady's manner.

"It was a shock when I heard the bell ring. I cried out in my
sleep--didn't I, Gwendolen?--and said, 'It's the Beebees!'"

"I'm glad it wasn't as bad as all that," said Geoffrey, coming to his
wife's rescue; "would that have been the worst that could possibly
happen?"

"The very worst," Lady Cynthia answered. "Professor Beebee teaches
something or other to the Japanese, and he and Mrs. Beebee have lived
in Japan for the last forty years. They remind me of that old tortoise
at the Zoo, who has lived at the bottom of the sea for so many
centuries that he is quite covered with seaweed and barnacles. But
they are very sorry for me, because I only came here yesterday. They
arrive almost every day to instruct me in the path in which I should
go, and to eat my cakes by the dozen. They don't have any dinner the
days they come here for tea. Mrs. Beebee is the Queen of the Goonies."

"Who are the Goonies?" asked Geoffrey.

"The rest of the old tortoises. They are missionaries and professors
and their wives and daughters. The sons, of course, run away and go to
the bad. There are quite a lot of the Goonies, and I see much more of
them than I do of the _geishas_ and the _samurais_ and the _harakiris_
and all the Eastern things, which Gwendolen will talk about when she
gets home. She is going to write a book, poor girl. There's nothing
else to do in this country except to write about what is not here.
It's very easy, you know. You copy it all out of some one else's book,
only you illustrate it with your own snapshots. The publishers say
that there is a small but steady demand, chiefly for circulating
libraries in America. You see, I have been approached already on the
subject, and I have not been here many months. So you've seen Reggie
Forsyth already, he tells me. What do you think of him?"

"Much the same as usual; he seemed rather bored."

Lady Cynthia had led her guest away from the fireside, where Gwendolen
Cairns was burbling to Asako.

Geoffrey could feel the searchlight of her judicial eye upon him, and
a sensation like the pause when a great man enters a room. Something
essential was going to invade the commonplace talk.

"Captain Barrington, your coming here just now is most providential.
Reggie Forsyth is not bored at all, far from it."

"I thought he would like the country," said Geoffrey guardedly.

"He doesn't like the country. Why should he? But he likes somebody in
the country. Now do you understand?"

"Yes," agreed Geoffrey, "he showed me the photograph of a half
Japanese girl. He said that she was his inspiration for local colour."

"Exactly, and she's turning his brain yellow," snapped Lady Cynthia,
forgetting, as everybody else did, including Geoffrey himself,
that the same criticism might apply to Asako. However, Geoffrey was
becoming more sensitive of late. He blushed a little and fidgeted, but
he answered,--

"Reggie has always been easily inflammable."

"Oh, in England, perhaps, it's good for a boy's education; but out
here, Captain Barrington, it is different. I have lived for a long
time East of Suez; and I know the danger of these love episodes in
countries where there is nothing else to do, nothing else to talk
about. I am a gossip myself; so I know the harm gossip can do."

"But is it so serious, Lady Cynthia? Reggie rather laughed about it to
me. He said, 'I am in love always--and never!'"

"She is a dangerous young lady," said the Ambassadress. "Two years ago
a young business man out here was engaged to be married to her. In the
autumn his body was washed ashore near Yokohama. He had been bathing
imprudently, and yet he was a good swimmer Last year two officers
attached to the Embassy fought a duel, and one was badly wounded. It
was turned into an accident of course; but they were both admirers of
hers. This year it is Reggie's turn. And Reggie is a man with a great
future. It would be a shame to lose him."

"Lady Cynthia, aren't you being rather pessimistic? Besides, what can
I do?"

"Anything, everything! Eat with him, drink with him, play cards with
him, go to the dogs with him--no, what a pity you are married! But,
even so, it's better than nothing. Play tennis with him; take him to
the top of Fujiyama. I can do nothing with him. He flouts me publicly.
The old man can give him an official scolding; and Reginald will just
mimic him for the benefit of the Chancery. I can hear them laughing
all the way from here when Reggie is doing what he calls one of his
'stunts'. But you--why, he can see in your face the whole of
London, the London which he respects and appreciates in spite of his
cosmopolitan airs. He can see himself introducing Miss Yaé Smith in
Lady Everington's drawing-room as Mrs. Forsyth."

"Is there a great objection?" asked Geoffrey.

"It is impossible," said Lady Cynthia.

A sudden weariness came over Geoffrey. Did that ruthless "Impossible"
apply to his case also? Would Lady Everington's door be closed to him
on his return? Was he guilty of that worst offence against Good Form,
a _mésalliance_? Or was Asako saved--by her money? Something unfair
was impending. He looked at the two girls seated by the fireside,
sipping their tea and laughing together. He must have shown signs of
his embarrassment, for Lady Cynthia said,--

"Don't be absurd, Captain Barrington. The case is entirely different.
A lady is always a lady, whether she is born in England or Japan. Miss
Smith is not a lady; still worse, she is a half-caste, the daughter of
an adventurer journalist and a tea-house woman. What can one expect?
It is bad blood."

       *       *       *       *       *

After taking leave of the Cairns, Geoffrey and Asako crossed the
garden compound, white and Christmas-like under its covering of
snow. They found their way down the by-path which led to the discreet
seclusion of Reggie Forsyth's domain. The leaping of fire shadows
against the lowered blinds gave a warm and welcoming impression of
shelter and comfort; and still more welcoming were the sounds of the
piano. It was a pleasure for the travellers to hear, for they had long
been unaccustomed to the sound of music. Music should be the voice
of the soul of the house; in the discord of hotels it is lost and
scattered, but the home which is without music is dumb and imperfect.

Reggie must have heard them coming, for he changed the dreamy melody
which he was playing into the chorus of a popular song which had been
rife in London a year ago. Geoffrey laughed. "Father's home again!
Father's home again!" he hummed, fitting the words to the tune, as he
waited for the door to open.

They were greeted in the passage by Reggie. He was dressed in all
respects like a Japanese gentleman, in black silk _haori_ (cloak),
brown wadded kimono and fluted _hakama_ (skirt). He wore white _tabi_
(socks) and straw _zori_ (slippers). It is a becoming and sensible
dress for any man.

"I thought it must be you," he laughed, "so I played the watchword.
Fancy you're being so homesick already. Please come in, Mrs.
Harrington. I have often longed to see you in Japan, but I never
thought you would come; and let me take your coat off. You will find
it quite warm indoors."

It was warm indeed. There was the heat of a green-house in Reggie's
artistically ordered room. It was larger too than on the occasion
of Geoffrey's visit; for the folding doors which led into a further
apartment were thrown open. Two big fires were blazing; and old gold
screens, glittering like Midas's treasury, warded off the draught from
the windows. The air was heavy with fumes of incense still rising from
a huge brass brazier, full of glowing charcoal and grey sand, placed
in the middle of the floor. In one corner stood the Buddha table
twinkling in the firelight. The miniature trees were disposed along
the inner wall. There was no other furniture except an enormous black
cushion lying between the brazier and the fireplace; and in the middle
of the cushion--a little Japanese girl.

She was squatting on her white-gloved toes in native fashion. Her
kimono was sapphire blue, and it was fastened by a huge silver sash
with a blue and green peacock embroidered on the fold of the bow,
which looked like great wings and was almost as big as the rest of the
little person put together. Her back was turned to the guests; and
she was gazing into the flames in an attitude of reverie. She seemed
unconscious of everything, as though still listening to the echo of
the silent music. Reggie in his haste to greet his visitors had not
noticed the hurried solicitude to arrange the set of the kimono to a
nicety in order to indicate exactly the right pose.

She looked like a jeweled butterfly on a great black leaf.

"Yaé--Miss Smith," said Reggie, "these are my old friends whom I was
telling you about."

The small creature rose slowly with a dreamy grace, and stepped off
her cushion as a fairy might alight from her walnut-shell carriage.

"I am very pleased to meet you," she purred.

It was the stock American phrase which has crossed the Pacific
westwards; but the citizen's brusqueness was replaced by the
condescension of a queen.

Her face was a delicate oval of the same creamy smoothness as Asako's
But the chin, which in Asako's case receded a trifle in obedience
to Japanese canons of beauty, was thrust vigorously forward; and
the curved lips in their Cupid's bow seemed moulded for kissing by
generations of European passions, whereas about Japanese mouths there
is always something sullen and pinched and colourless. The bridge of
her nose and her eyes of deep olive green, the eyes of a wildcat, gave
the lie to her mother's race.

Reggie's artistry could not help watching the two women together with
appreciative satisfaction. Yaé was even smaller and finer-fingered
than the pure-bred Japanese. Ever since he had first met Yaé Smith he
had compared and contrasted her in his mind with Asako Barrington. He
had used both as models for his dainty music. His harmonies, he was
wont to explain, came to him in woman's shape. To express Japan he
must see a Japanese woman. Not that he had any interest in Japanese
women, physically. They are too different from our women, he used to
think; and the difference repelled and fascinated him. It is so
wide that it can only be crossed by frank sensuality or by blind
imagination. But the artist needs his flesh-and-blood interpreter
if he is to get even as far as a misunderstanding. So in figuring to
himself the East, Reggie had at first made use of his memory of Asako,
with her European education built up over the inheritance of Japan.
Later he met Yaé Smith, through the paper walls of whose Japanese
existence the instincts of her Scottish forefathers kept forcing their
unruly way.

Geoffrey could not define his thoughts so precisely; but something
unruly stirred in his consciousness, when he saw the ghost of his days
of courtship rise before him in the deep blue kimono. His wife had
certainly made a great abdication when she abandoned her native dress
for plain blue serges. Of course he could not have Asako looking like
a doll; but still--had he fallen in love with a few yards of silk?

Yaé Smith seemed most anxious to please in spite of the affectation of
her poses, which perhaps were necessary to her, lest, looking so much
like a plaything, she might be greeted as such. She always wanted to
be liked by people. This was her leading characteristic. It was at the
root of her frailties--a soil overfertilized from which weeds spring
apace.

She was voluble in a gentle cat-like way, praising the rings on
Asako's fingers, and the cut and material of her dress. But her eyes
were forever glancing towards Geoffrey. He was so very tall and broad,
standing in the framework of the folding doors beside the slim figure
of Reggie, more girlish than ever in the skirts of his kimono.

Captain Barrington, the son of a lord! How fine he must look in
uniform, in that cavalry uniform, with the silver cuirass and the
plumed helmet like the English soldiers in her father's books at home!

"Your husband is very big," she said to Asako.

"Yes, he is," said Asako; "much too big for Japan."

"Oh, I should like that," said the little Eurasian, "it must be nice."

There was a warmth, a sincerity in the tone which made Asako stare
at her companion. But the childish face was innocent and smiling.
The languid curve of the smile and the opalescence of the green eyes
betrayed none of their secrets to Asako's inexperience.

Reggie sat down at the piano, and, still watching the two women, he
began to play.

"This is the Yaé Sonata," he explained to Geoffrey.

It began with some bars from an old Scottish song:

  "Had we never loved so sadly,
  Had we never loved so madly,
  Never loved and never parted,
  We had ne'er been broken-hearted."

Insensibly the pathetic melody faded away into the _staccato_ beat
of a _geisha's_ song, with more rhythm than tune, which doubled
and redoubled its pace, stumbling and leaping up again over strange
syncopations.

All of a sudden the musician stopped.

"I can't describe your wife, now that I see her," he said. "I don't
know any dignified old Japanese music, something like the _gavottes_
of Couperin only in a setting of Kyoto and gold screens; and then
there must be a dash of something very English which she has acquired
from you--'Home, Sweet Home' or 'Sally in our Alley.'"

"Never mind, old chap!" said Geoffrey; "play 'Father's home again!'"

Reggie shook himself; and then struck up the rolling chorus; but, as
he interpreted it, his mood turned pensive again. The tone was hushed,
the time slower. The vulgar tune expressed itself suddenly in deep
melancholy, It brought back to the two young men more forcibly than
the most inspired _concerto_, the memory of England, the sparkle
of the theatres, the street din of London, and the warmth of good
company--all that had seemed sweet to them in a time which was distant
now.

Reggie ceased playing. The two girls were sitting together now on
the big black cushion in front of the fire. They were looking at a
portfolio of Japanese prints, Reggie's embryo collection.

The young diplomat said to his friend:

"Geoffrey, you've not been in the East long enough to be exasperated
by it. I have. So our ideas will not be in sympathy."

"It's not what I thought it was going to be, I must admit. Everything
is so much of a muchness. If you've seen one temple you've seen the
lot, and the same with everything here."

"That is the first stage, Disappointment. We have heard so much of
the East and its splendours, the gorgeous East and the rest of it. The
reality is small and sordid, and like so much that is ugly in our own
country."

"Yes, they wear shocking bad clothes, don't they, directly they get
out of kimonos; and even the kimonos look dingy and dirty."

"They are." said Reggie. "Yours would be, if you had to keep a wife
and eight children on thirty shillings a month."

Then he added:

"The second stage in the observer's progress is Discovery. Have you
read Lafcadio Hearn's books about Japan?"

"Yes. some of them," answered Geoffrey. "It strikes me that he was a
thorough-paced liar."

"No, he was a poet, a poet; and he jumped over the first stage to
dwell for some time in the second, probably because he was by nature
short-sighted. That is a great advantage for discoverers."

"But what do you mean by the second stage?"

"The stage of Discovery! Have you ever walked about a Japanese city in
the twilight when the evening bell sounds from a hidden temple? Have
you turned into the by-streets and watched the men returning to their
wise little houses and the family groups assembled to meet them and
help them change into their kimonos? Have you heard the splashing
and the chatter of the bath-houses which are the evening clubs of the
common people and the great clearing-houses of gossip? Have you heard
the broken _samisen_ music tracking you down a street of _geisha_
houses? Have you seen the _geisha_ herself in her blue cloak sitting
rigid and expressionless in the rickshaw which is carrying her off to
meet her lover? Have you heard the drums of Priapus beating from the
gay quarters? Have you watched the crowds which gather round a temple
festival, buying queer little plants for their homes and farthing toys
for their children, crowding to the fortune-teller's booth for news of
good luck and bad luck, throwing their penny to the god and clapping
their hands to attract his attention? Have you seen anything of this
without a feeling of deep pleasure and a wonder as to how these people
live and think, what we have got in common with them, and what we have
got to learn from them?"

"I think I know what you mean," said Geoffrey. "It's all very
picturesque, but they always seem to be hiding something."

"Exactly," said his friend, "and every man of intelligence who has to
live in this country thinks that he need only learn their language and
use their customs, and then he will find out what is hidden. That is
what Lafcadio Hearn did; and that is why I wear a kimono. But what did
he find out? A lot of pretty stories, echoes of old civilization and
folk-lore; but of the mind and heart of the Japanese people--the only
coloured people, after all, who have held their heads up against
the white races--little or nothing until he reached the third stage,
Disillusionment. Then he wrote _Japan, an Interpretation_, which is
his best book."

"I haven't read it."

"You ought to. His other things are mere melodies, the kind of stuff
I can play to you by the hour. This is a serious book of history and
political science."

"Sounds a bit dry for me." laughed Geoffrey.

"It is a disillusioned man's explanation of the country into which he
had tried to sink, but which had rejected him. He explains the present
by the past. That is reasonable. The dead are the real rulers of
Japan, he says. Underneath the surface changing, the nation is deeply
conservative, suspicious of all interference and unconventionally,
sullenly self-satisfied; and above all, still as much locked in its
primitive family system as it was a thousand years ago. You cannot be
friends with a Japanese unless you are friends with his family; and
you cannot be friends with his family unless you belong to it. This is
the deadlock; and this is why we never get any forwarder."

"Then I've got a chance since I've got a Japanese family."

"I don't know of course," said Reggie; "but I shouldn't think they
would have much use for you. They will receive you most politely; but
they will look upon you as an interloper and they will try to steer
you out of the country."

"But my wife?" said Geoffrey, "she is their own flesh and blood, after
all."

"Well, of course, I don't know. But if they are extremely friendly
I should look out, if I were you. The Japanese are conventionally
hospitable, but they are not cordial to strangers unless they have a
very strong motive."

Geoffrey Barrington looked in the direction where his wife was seated
on a corner of the big cushion, turning over one by one a portfolio
full of parti-colored woodprints on their broad white mounts. The
firelight flickered round her like a crowd of importunate thoughts.
She felt that he was looking at her, and glanced across at him.

"Can you see in there, Mrs. Barrington, or shall I turn the lights
on?" asked her host.

"Oh, no," answered the little lady, "that would spoil it. The pictures
look quite alive in the firelight. What a lovely collection you've
got!"

"There's nothing very valuable there," said Reggie, "but they are very
effective, I think, even the cheap ones."

Asako was holding up a pied engraving of a sinuous Japanese woman, an
Utamaro from an old block recut, in dazzling raiment, with her sash
tied in front of her and her head bristling with amber pins like a
porcupine.

"Geoffrey, will you please take me to see the Yoshiwara?" she asked.

The request dismayed Geoffrey. He knew well enough what was to be seen
at the Yoshiwara. He would have been interested to visit the licensed
quarter of the demi-monde himself in the company of--say Reggie
Forsyth. But this was a branch of inquiry which to his mind should be
reserved for men alone. Nice women never think of such things. That
his own wife should wish to see the place and, worse still, should
express that wish in public was a blatant offence against Good Form,
which could only be excused by her innocent ignorance.

But Reggie, who was used to the curiosity of every tourist, male and
female, about the night-life of Tokyo, answered readily:

"Yes, Mrs. Barrington. It's well worth seeing. We must arrange to go
down there."

"Miss Smith tells me," said Asako, "that all these lovely gay
creatures are Yoshiwara girls; and that you can see them there now."

"Not that identical lady of course," said Reggie, who had joined
the group by the fireside, "she died a hundred years ago; but her
professional great-granddaughters are still there."

"And I can see them!" Asako clapped her hands. "Ladies are allowed to
go and look? It does not matter? It is not improper?"

"Oh, no," said Yaé Smith, "my brothers have taken me. Would you like
to go?"

"Yes, I would," said Asako, glancing at her husband, who, however,
showed no signs of approval.



CHAPTER IX

ITO SAN

  _Ama no hara
  Fumi-todorokashi
  Naru-kami mo
  Omou-naka wo ba
  Sakuru mono ka wa?_

  Can even the God of Thunder
  Whose footfall resounds
  In the plains of the sky
  Put asunder
  Those whom love joins?

Geoffrey's conscience was disturbed. His face was lined and worried
with thought, such as had left him untroubled since the effervescences
of his early youth. Like many young men of his caste, he had soon
submitted all the baffling riddles of conduct to the thumb rule of
Good Form. This Yoshiwara question was to him something more than
a moral conundrum. It was a subtle attack by the wife of his bosom,
aided and abetted by his old friend Reggie Forsyth and by the
mysterious forces of this unfamiliar land as typified by Yaé Smith,
against the citadel of Good Form, against the stronghold of his
principles.

Geoffrey himself wished to see the Yoshiwara. His project had been
that one evening, when Asako had been invited to dinner by friends, he
and Reggie would go and look at the place. This much was sanctioned by
Good Form.

For him to take his wife there, and for people to know that he
had done so, would be the worst of Bad Form, the conduct of a rank
outsider. Unfortunately, it was also Bad Form for him to discuss the
matter with Asako.

A terrible dilemma.

Was it possible that the laws of Good and Bad Form were only locally
binding, and that here in Japan they were no longer valid?

Reggie was different. He was so awfully clever. He could extemporize
on Good Form as he could extemporize on the piano. Besides, he was a
victim to the artistic temperament, which cannot control itself. But
Reggie had not been improved by his sojourn in this queer country, or
he would never have so far forgotten himself as to speak in such a way
in the presence of ladies.

Geoffrey would give him a good beating at tennis; and then, having
reduced him to a fit state of humility, he would have it out with him.
For Barrington was not a man to nurse displeasure against his friends.

The tennis courts at Tokyo--which stand in a magnificent central
position one day to be occupied by the Japanese Houses of
Parliament--are every afternoon the meeting place for youth in exile
with a sprinkling of Japanese, some of whom have acquired great skill
at the game. Towards tea-time the ladies arrive to watch the evening
efforts of their husbands and admirers, and to escort them home when
the light begins to fail. So the tennis courts have become a little
social oasis in the vast desert of oriental life. Brilliant it is not.
Sparkle there is none. But there is a certain chirpiness, the forced
gaiety of caged birds.

The day was warm and bright. The snow had vanished as though by
supernatural command. Geoffrey enjoyed his game thoroughly, although
he was beaten, being out of practice and unused to gravel courts. But
the exercise made him, in his own language, "sweat like a pig," and he
felt better. He thought he would shelve the unpleasant subject for the
time being; but it was Reggie himself who revived it.

"About the Yoshiwara," he said, seating himself on one of the benches
placed round the courts. "They are having a special show down there
to-morrow. It will probably be worth seeing."

"Look here," said Geoffrey, "is it the thing for ladies--English
ladies--to go to a place like that?"

"Of course," answered his friend, "it is one of the sights of
Tokyo. Why, I went with Lady Cynthia not so long ago. She was quite
fascinated."

"By Jove!" Geoffrey ejaculated. "But for a young girl--? Did Miss
Cairns go too?"

"Not on that occasion; but I have no doubt she has been."

"But isn't it much the same as taking a lady to a public brothel?"

"Not in the least," was Reggie's answer, "it is like along Piccadilly
after nightfall, looking in at the Empire, and returning via Regent
Street; and in Paris, like a visit to the _Rat Mort_ and the _Bal
Tabarin_. It is the local version of an old theme."

"But is that a nice sight for a lady?"

"It is what every lady wants to see."

"Reggie, what rot! Any clean-minded girl--"

"Geoffrey, old man, would _you_ like to see the place?"

"Yes, but for a man it's different."

"Why do you want to see it? You're not going there for business, I
presume?"

"Why? for curiosity, I suppose. One hears such a lot of people talk
about the Yoshiwara--"

"For curiosity, that's right: and do you really think that women, even
clean-minded women, have less curiosity than men?"

Geoffrey Barrington started to laugh at his own discomfiture.

"Reggie, you were always a devil for arguing!" he said. "At home one
would never talk about things like that."

"There must be a slight difference then between Home and Abroad.
Certain bonds are relaxed. Abroad, one is a sight-seer. One is out to
watch the appearance and habits of the natives in a semi-scientific
mood, just as one looks at animals in the Zoo. Besides, nobody knows
or cares who one is. One has no awkward responsibilities towards one's
neighbours; and there is little or no danger of finding an intimate
acquaintance in an embarrassing position. In London one lives in
constant dread of finding people out."

"But my wife," Geoffrey continued, troubled once more, "I can't
imagine--"

"Mrs. Barrington may be an exception; but take my word for it, every
woman, however good and holy, is intensely interested in the lives
of her fallen sisters. They know less about them than we do. They are
therefore more mysterious and interesting to them. And yet they are
much nearer to them by the whole difference of sex. There is always
a personal query arising, 'I, too, might have chosen that life--what
would it have brought me?' There is a certain compassion, too;
and above all there is the intense interest of rivalry. Who is not
interested in his arch-enemy? and what woman does not want to know by
what unholy magic her unfair competitor holds her power over men?"

The tennis courts were filling with youths released from offices. In
the court facing them, two young fellows had begun a single. One of
them was a Japanese; the other, though his hair and eyes were of the
native breed, was too fair of skin and too tall of stature. He was
a Eurasian. They both played exceedingly well. The rallies were long
sustained, the drives beautifully timed and taken. The few unemployed
about the courts soon made this game the object of their special
attention.

"Who are they?" asked Geoffrey, glad to change the conversation.

"That's Aubrey Smith, Yaé's brother, one of the best players here,
and Viscount Kamimura, who ought to be quite the best; but he has just
married, and his wife will not let him play often enough."

"Oh," exclaimed Geoffrey, "he was on the ship with us coming out."

He had not recognised the good-looking young Japanese. He had not
expected to meet him somehow in such a European _milieu_. Kamimura had
noticed his fellow-traveller, however; and when the set was over
and the players had changed sides, he came up and greeted him most
cordially.

"I hear you are already married," said Geoffrey. "Our best
congratulations!"

"Thank you," replied Kamimura, blushing. Japanese blush readily in
spite of their complexion.

"We Japanese must not boast about our wives. It is what you call Bad
Form. But I would like her to meet Mrs. Barrington. She speaks English
not so badly."

"Yes," said Geoffrey, "I hope you will come and dine with us one
evening at the Imperial."

"Thank you very much," answered the young Viscount. "How long are you
staying in Japan?"

"Oh, for some months."

"Then we shall meet often, I hope," he said, and returned to his game.

"A very decent fellow; quite human," Reggie commented.

"Yes, isn't he?" said Geoffrey; and then he asked suddenly,--

"Do you think he would take his wife to see the Yoshiwara?"

"Probably not; but then they are Japanese people living in Japan. That
alters everything."

"I don't think so," said Geoffrey; and he was conscious of having
scored off his friend for once.

Miss Yaé Smith had arrived on her daily visit to the courts. She was
already surrounded by a little retinue of young men, who, however,
scattered at Reggie's approach.

Miss Yaé smiled graciously on the two new-comers and inquired after
Mrs. Barrington.

"It was so nice to talk with her the other day; it was like being in
England again."

Yes, Miss Yaé had been in England and in America too. She preferred
those countries very much to Japan. It was so much more amusing. There
was so little to do here. Besides, in Japan it was such a small world;
and everybody was so disagreeable; especially the women, always saying
untrue, unkind things.

She looked so immaterial and sprite-like in her blue kimono, her
strange eyes downcast as her habit was when talking about herself and
her own doings, that Geoffrey could think no evil of her, nor could he
wonder at Reggie's gaze of intense admiration which beat upon her like
sunlight on a picture.

However, Asako must be waiting for him. He took his leave, and
returned to his hotel.

       *       *       *       *       *

Asako had been entertaining a visitor. She had gone out shopping for
an hour, not altogether pleased to find herself alone. On her return,
a Japanese gentleman in a vivid green suit had risen from a seat in
the lounge of the hotel, and had introduced himself.

"I am Ito, your attorney-of-law."

He was a small, podgy person with a round oily face and heavy voluted
moustaches. The expression of his eyes was hidden behind gold-rimmed
spectacles. It would have been impossible for a European to guess his
age, anything between twenty-five and fifty. His thick, plum-coloured
hair was brushed up on his forehead in a butcher-boy's curl. His teeth
glittered with dentist's gold. He wore a tweed suit of bright
pea-soup colour, a rainbow tie and yellow boots. Over the bulge of an
egg-shaped stomach hung a massive gold watch-chain blossoming into a
semi-heraldic charm, which might be a masonic emblem or a cycling club
badge. His breastpocket appeared to hold a quiverful of fountain-pens.

"How do you do, Mrs. Harrington? I am pleased to meet you."

The voice was high and squeaky, like a boy's voice when it is
breaking. The extended hand was soft and greasy in spite of its
attempt at a firm grip. With elaborate politeness he ushered Mrs.
Harrington into her chair. He took his place close beside her, crossed
his fat legs, and stuck his thumbs into his arm-holes.

"I am your friend Ito," he began, "your father's friend, and I am sure
to be your friend, too."

But for the reference to her father she would have snubbed him. She
decided to give him tea in the lounge, and not to invite him to her
private rooms. A growing distrust of her countrymen, arising largely
from observation of the ways of Tanaka, was making little Asako less
confiding than of yore. She was still ready to be amused by them, but
she was becoming less credulous of the Japanese pose of simplicity
and the conventional smile. However, she was soon melted by Mr. Ito's
kindliness of manner. He patted her hand, and called her "little
girl."

"I am your old lawyer," he kept on saying, "your father's friend, and
your best friend too. Anything you want, just ring me and you have it.
There's my number. Don't forget now. Shiba 1326. What do you think
of Japan, now? Beautiful country, I think. And you have not yet seen
Miyanoshita, or Kamakura, or Nikko temples. You have not yet got
automobile, I think. Indeed, I am sorry for you. That is a very wrong
thing! I shall at once order for you a very splendid automobile,
and we must make a grand trip. Every rich and noble person possesses
splendid automobile."

"Oh, that would be nice!" Asako clapped her hands. "Japan is so
pretty. I do want to see more of it. But I must ask my husband about
buying the motor."

Ito laughed a fat, oily laugh.

"Indeed, that is Japanese style, little girl. Japanese wife say, 'I
ask my husband.' American style wife very different. She say, 'My
husband do this, do that'--like coolie. I have travelled much abroad.
I know American custom very well."

"My husband gives me all I want, and a great deal more," said Asako.

"He is very kind man," grinned the lawyer, "because the money is all
yours--not his at all. Ha, ha!"

Then, seeing that his officiousness was overstepping the mark, he
added,--

"I know American ladies very well. They don't give money to their
husbands. They tell their husbands, 'You give money to me.' They just
do everything themselves, writing cheques all the time!"

"Really?" said Asako; "but my husband is the kindest and best man in
the world!"

"Quite right, quite right. Love your husband like a good little girl.
But don't forget your old lawyer, Ito. I was your father's friend. We
were at school together here in Tokyo."

This interested Asako immensely. She tried to make the lawyer talk
further, but he said that it was a very long story, and he must tell
her some other time. Then she asked him about her cousin, Mr. Fujinami
Gentaro.

"He is away from town just now. When he returns, I think he will
invite you to splendid feast."

With that he took his leave.

"What do you think of him?" Asako asked Tanaka, who had been watching
the interview with an attendant chorus of _boy sans_.

"He is _haikara_ gentleman," was the reply.

Now, _haikara_, is a native corruption of the words "high collar," and
denoted at first a variety of Japanese "nut," who aped the European
and the American in his habits, manners and dress--of which pose
the high collar was the most visible symbol. The word was presumably
contemptuous in its origin. It has since, however, changed its
character as so to mean anything smart and fashionable. You can live
in a _haikara_ house, you can read _haikara_ books, you can wear a
_haikara_ hat. It has become indeed practically a Japanese equivalent
for that untranslatable expression "_chic_."

       *       *       *       *       *

Asako Harrington, like all simple people, had little familiarity save
with the superficial stratum of her intelligence. She lived in the
gladness of her eyes like a happy young animal. Nothing, not even her
marriage, had touched her very profoundly. Even the sudden shock of
de Brie's love-making had not shaken anything deeper than her natural
pride and her ignorance of mankind.

But in this strange, still land, whose expression looks inwards and
whose face is a mask, a change was operating. Ito left her, as he had
intended, with a growing sense of her own importance as distinct from
her husband. "I was your father's friend: we were at school together
here in Tokyo." Why, Geoffrey did not even know her father's name.

Asako did not think as closely as this. She could not. But she must
have looked very thoughtful; for when Geoffrey came in, he saw her
still sitting in the lounge, and exclaimed,--

"Why, my little Yum Yum, how serious we are! We look as if we were at
our own funeral. Couldn't you get the things you wanted?"

"Oh yes," said Asako, trying to brighten up, "and I've had a visitor.
Guess!"

"Relations?"

"No and yes. It was Mr. Ito, the lawyer."

"Oh, that little blighter. That reminds me. I must go and see him
to-morrow, and find out what he is doing with our money."

"_My_ money," laughed Asako, "Tanaka never lets me forget that."

"Of course, little one," said Geoffrey, "I'd be in the workhouse if it
wasn't for you."

"Geoffrey darling," said his wife hesitating, "will you give me
something?"

"Yes, of course, my sweetheart, what do you want?"

"I want a motor-car, yes please; and I'd like to have a cheque-book of
my own. Sometimes when I am out by myself I would like--"

"Why, of course," said Geoffrey, "you ought to have had one long ago.
But it was your own idea; you didn't want to be bothered with money."

"Oh Geoffrey, you angel, you are so good to me."

She clung to his neck; and he, seeing the hotel deserted and nobody
about, raised her in his arms and carried her bodily upstairs to the
interest and amusement of the chorus of _boy sans_, who had just been
discussing why _danna san_ had left _okusan_ for so many hours that
afternoon, and who and what was the Japanese gentleman who had been
talking to _okusan_ in the hall.



CHAPTER X

THE YOSHIWARA WOMEN

  _Kyushu dai-ichi no ume
  Kon-ya kimi ga tame ni hiraku.
  Hana no shingi wo shiran
  to hosseba,
  San-ko tsuki wo funde kitare_.

  The finest plum-blossom of Kyushu
  This night is opening for thee.
  If thou wishes to know the true character of this flower,
  Come at the third hour singing in the moonlight.

_Yoshiwara Popular Song_.


As the result of an affecting scene with his wife, Geoffrey's
opposition to the Yoshiwara project collapsed. If everybody went to
see the place, then it could not be such very Bad Form to do so.

Asako rang up Reggie; and on the next afternoon the young diplomat
called for the Barringtons in a motor-car, where Miss Yaé Smith was
already installed. They drove through Tokyo. It was like crossing
London for the space of distance covered; an immense city--yet is it a
city, or merely a village preposterously overgrown?

There is no dignity in the Japanese capital, nothing secular or
permanent, except that mysterious forest-land in the midst of the
moats and the grey walls, where dwell the Emperor and the Spirit of
the Race. It is a mongrel city, a vast congeries of native wooden
huts, hastily equipped with a few modern conveniences. Drunken poles
stagger down the streets, waving their cobwebs of electric wires.
Rickety trams jolt past, crowded to overflowing, so crowded that
humanity clings to the steps and platforms in clots, like flies
clinging to some sweet surface. Thousands of little shops glitter,
wink or frown at the passer-by. Many of them have western plate-glass
windows and stucco fronts, hiding their savagery, like a native woman
tricked out in ridiculous pomp. Some, still grimly conservative,
receive the customer in their cavernous interior, and cheat his eyes
in their perpetual twilight. Many of these little shops are so small
that their stock-in-trade flows over on to the pavement. The toy
shops, the china shops, the cake shops, the shops for women's ribbons
and hairpins seem to be trying to turn themselves inside out. Others
are so reticent that nothing appears save a stretch of clean straw
mats, where sulky clerks sit smoking round the _hibachi_ (fireboxes).
Then, when the eye gets accustomed to the darkness, one can see behind
them the ranks of the tea-jars of Uji, or layers of dark kimono stuff.

The character of the shops changed as the Barringtons and their party
approached their destination. The native element predominated more and
more. The wares became more and more inexplicable. There were shops
in which gold Buddhas shone and brass lamps for temple use, shops
displaying queer utensils and mysterious little bits of things, whose
secret was hidden in the cabalistic signs of Chinese script. There
were stalls of curios, and second-hand goods spread out on the
pavement, under the custody of wizened, inattentive old men, who
squatted and smoked.

Red-faced maids stared at the foreigners from the balconies of lofty
inns and eating-houses near Uyeno station. Further on, they passed
the silence of old temple walls, the spaciousness of pigeon-haunted
cloisters, and the huge high-pitched roofs of the shrines, with their
twisted horn-like points. Then, down a narrow alley appeared the
garish banners of the Asakusa theatres and cinema palaces. They heard
the yelling of the door-touts, and the bray of discordant music. They
caught a glimpse of hideous placards whose crude illustrations showed
the quality of the performance to be seen within, girls falling from
aeroplanes, demon ghosts with bloody daggers, melodrama unleashed.

Everywhere the same crowds loitered along the pavements. No hustle, no
appearance of business save where a messenger-boy threaded the maze
on a break-neck bicycle, or where a dull-faced coolie pulled at an
overloaded barrow. Grey and brown, the crowd clattered by on their
wooden shoes. Grey and black, passed the _haikara_ young men with
their yellow side-spring shoes. Black and sabre-dragging, the
policeman went to and fro, invisibly moored to his wooden sentry-box.

The only bright notes among all these drab multitudes were the little
girls in their variegated kimonos, who fluttered in and out of the
entrances, and who played unscolded on the footpaths. These too were
the only notes of happiness; for their grown-up relatives, especially
the women, carried an air, if not an actual expression, of animal
melancholy, the melancholy of driven sheep or of cows ruminant.

The crowds were growing denser. Their faces were all set in one
direction. At last the whole roadway was filled with the slow-moving
tide. The Harringtons and their friends had to alight from their car
and continue the rest of the way on foot.

"They are all going to see the show," Reggie explained to his party,
and he pointed to a line of high houses, which stood out above the low
native huts. It was a square block of building some hundreds of yards
long, quite foreign in character, having the appearance of factory
buildings, or of a barracks or workhouse.

"What a dismal-looking place!" said Asako.

"Yes," agreed Reggie, "but at night it is much brighter. It is all lit
up from top to bottom. It is called the Nightless City."

"What bad faces these people have!" said Asako, who was romantically
set on seeing evil everywhere, "Is it quite safe?"

"Oh yes," said their guide, "Japanese crowds are very orderly."

Indeed they suffered no inconvenience from the crowd beyond much
staring, an ordeal which awaits the foreigner in all corners of Tokyo.

They had reached a very narrow street, where raffish beer-shops were
doing a roaring trade. They caught a glimpse of dirty tablecloths and
powdered waitresses wearing skirts, aprons and lumpy shoes--all very
_haikara_. On the right hand they passed a little temple from whose
exiguous courtyard two stone foxes grinned maliciously, the temple of
the god Inari, who brings rich lovers to the girls who pray to him.

They passed through iron gates, like the gates of a park, where two
policemen were posted to regulate the traffic. Beyond was a single
line of cherry-trees in full bloom, a single wave of pinkish spray, a
hanging curtain of vapourous beauty, the subject of a thousand
poems, of a thousand allusions, licentious, delicate and trite,--the
cherry-blossoms of the Yoshiwara.

At a street corner stood a high white building plastered with golden
letters in Japanese and English--"Asahi Beer Hall."

"That is the place," said Yaé, "let us get out of this crowd."

They found refuge among more dirty tablecloths, Europeanised
_mousmés_, and gaping guests. When Yaé spoke to the girls in Japanese,
there was much bowing and hissing of the breath; and they were invited
upstairs on to the first floor where was another beer-hall, slightly
more exclusive-looking than the downstair Gambrinus. Here a table
and chairs were set for them in the embrasure of a bow-window, which,
protruding over the cross-roads, commanded an admirable view of the
converging streets.

"The procession won't be here for two hours more," said Yaé, pouting
her displeasure.

"One always has to wait in Japan," said Reggie. "Nobody ever knows
exactly when anything is going to happen; and so the Japanese just
wait and wait. They seem to like it rather. Anyhow they don't get
impatient. Life is so uneventful here that I think they must like
prolonging an incident as much as possible, like sucking a sweet
slowly."

Meanwhile there was plenty to look at. Asako could not get over her
shock at the sea of wicked faces which surged below.

"What class of people are these?" Geoffrey asked.

"Oh, shop-people, I think, most of them," said Yaé, "and people who
work in factories."

"Good class Japanese don't come here, then?" Geoffrey asked again.

"Oh no, only low class people and students. Japanese people say it is
a shameful thing to go to the Yoshiwara. And, if they go, they go very
secretly."

"Do you know any one who goes?" asked Reggie, with a directness which
shocked his friend's sense of Good Form.

"Oh, my brothers," said Yaé, "but they go everywhere; or they say they
do."

       *       *       *       *       *

It certainly was an ill-favoured crowd. The Japanese are not an ugly
race. The young aristocrat who has grown up with fresh air and healthy
exercise is often good-looking, and sometimes distinguished and
refined. But the lower classes, those who keep company with poverty,
dirt and pawnshops, with the pleasures of the _saké_ barrel and the
Yoshiwara, are the ugliest beings that were ever created in the image
of their misshapen gods. Their small stature and ape-like attitudes,
the colour and discolour of their skin, the flat Mongolian nose, their
gaping mouths and bad teeth, the coarse fibre of their lustreless
black hair, give them an elvish and a goblin look, as though
this country were a nursery for fairy changelings, a land of the
Nibelungen, where bad thoughts have found their incarnation. Yet the
faces have not got that character for good and evil as we find them
among the Aryan peoples, the deep lines and the firm profiles.

"It is the absence of something rather than its presence which appals
and depresses us," Reggie Forsyth observed, "an absence of happiness
perhaps, or of a promise of happiness."

The crowd which filled the four roads with its slow grey tide was
peaceable enough; and it was strangely silent. The drag and clatter
of the clogs made more sound than the human voices. The great majority
were men, though there were women among them, quiet and demure. If
ever a voice was lifted, one could see by the rolling walk and the
fatuous smile that its owner had been drinking. Such a person would
be removed out of sight by his friends. The Japanese generally go
sight-seeing and merry-making in friendships and companies; and the
_Verein_, which in Japan is called the _Kwai_, flourishes here as in
Germany.

Two coolies started quarreling under the Barringtons' window. They too
had been drinking. They did not hit out at each other like Englishmen,
but started an interchange of abuse in gruff monosyllables and
indistinguishable grunts and snorts.

"_Baka! Chikushomé! Kuso_! (Fool! Beast! Dung!)"

These amenities exasperating their ill humour, they began to pull at
each other's coats and to jostle each other like quarrelsome curs.
This was a sign that affairs were growing serious; and the police
intervened. Again each combatant was pushed away by his companions
into opposite byways.

With these exceptions, all tramplings, squeezings, pushings and
pokings were received with conventional grins or apathetic staring.
Yet in the paper next day it was said that so great had been the crowd
that six deaths had occurred, and numerous persons had fainted.

"But where is the Yoshiwara?" Geoffrey asked at last. "Where are these
wretched women kept?"

Reggie waved his hand in the direction of the three roads facing them.

"Inside the iron gates, that is all the Yoshiwara, and those high
houses and the low ones too. That is where the girls are. There are
two or three thousand of them within sight, as it were, from here.
But, of course, the night time is the time to see them."

"I suppose so," said Geoffrey vaguely.

"They sit in shop windows, one might say," Reggie went on, "only with
bars in front like cages in the Zoo. And they wear gorgeous kimonos,
red and gold and blue, and embroidered with flowers and dragons. It
is like nothing I can think of, except aviaries full of wonderful
parrakeets and humming-birds."

"Are they pretty?" Asako asked.

"No, I can't say they are pretty; and they all seem very much alike to
the mere Westerner. I can't imagine any body picking out one of them
and saying, 'I love her'--'she is the loveliest.' There is a fat,
impassive type like Buddha. There is a foxy animated type which
exchanges _badinage_ with the young nuts through the bars of her cage;
and there is a merely ugly lumpy type, a kind of cloddish country-girl
who exists in all countries. But the more exclusive houses don't
display their women. One can only see a row of photographs. No doubt
they are very flattering to their originals."

Asako was staring at the buildings now, at the high square prison
houses, and at the low native roofs. These had each its little
platform, its _monohoshi_, where much white washing was drying in the
sun.

At the farther end of one street a large stucco building, with a
Grecian portico, stood athwart the thoroughfare.

"What is that?" said Asako; "it looks like a church."

"That is the hospital," answered Reggie.

"But why is there a hospital here?" she asked again.

Yaé Smith smiled ever so little at her new friend's ignorance of the
wages of sin. But nobody answered the question.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a movement in the crowd, a pushing back from some unseen
locality, like the jolting of railway trucks. At the same time there
was a craning of necks and a murmur of interest.

In the street opposite, the crowd was opening down the centre. The
police, who had sprung up everywhere like the crop of the dragons'
teeth, were dividing the people. And then, down the path so formed,
came the strangest procession which Geoffrey Barrington had ever seen
on or off the stage.

High above the heads of the crowd appeared what seemed to be a
life-size automaton, a moving waxwork magnificently garbed in white
brocade with red and gold embroidery of phenixes, and a huge red sash
tied in a bow in front. The hem of the skirt, turned up with red and
thickly wadded, revealed a series of these garments fitting beneath
each other, like the leaves of an artichoke. Under a monumental
edifice of hair, bristling like a hedgehog with amber-coloured pins
and with silver spangles and rosettes, a blank, impassive little face
was staring straight in front of it, utterly expressionless, utterly
unnatural, hidden beneath the glaze of enamel--the china face of a
doll.

It parted the grey multitude like a pillar of light. It tottered
forward slowly, for it was lifted above the crowd on a pair of
black-lacquered clogs as high as stilts, dangerous and difficult to
manipulate. On each side were two little figures, similarly painted,
similarly bedizened, similarly expressionless, children of nine or
ten years only, the _komuro_, the little waiting-women. They served to
support the reigning beauty and at the same time to display her long
embroidered sleeves, outstretched on either side like wings.

The brilliant figure and her two attendants moved forward under the
shade of a huge ceremonial umbrella of yellow oiled paper, which
looked like a membrane or like old vellum, and upon which were written
in Chinese characters the personal name of the lady chosen for the
honour and the name of the house in which she was an inmate. The
shaft of this umbrella, some eight or nine feet long, was carried by a
sinister being, clothed in the blue livery of the Japanese artisan,
a kind of tabard with close-fitting trousers. He kept twisting the
umbrella-shaft all the time with a gyrating movement to and fro, which
imparted to the disc of the umbrella the hesitation of a wave. He
followed the Queen with a strange slow stride. For long seconds
he would pause with one foot held aloft in the attitude of a
high-stepping horse, which distorted his dwarfish body into a diabolic
convulsion, like Durer's angel of horror. He seemed a familiar spirit,
a mocking devil, the wicked _Spielmann_ of the "Miracle" play, whose
harsh laughter echoes through the empty room when the last cup is
emptied, the last shilling gone, and the dreamer awakes from his
dream.

Behind him followed five or six men carrying large oval lanterns,
also inscribed with the name of the house; and after them came a
representative collection of the officials of the proud establishment,
a few foxy old women and a crowd of swaggering men, spotty
and vicious-looking. The _Orian_ (Chief Courtesan) reached the
cross-roads. There, as if moved by machinery or magnetism, she slowly
turned to the left. She made her way towards one of a row of small,
old-fashioned native houses, on the road down which the Barringtons
had come. Here the umbrella was lowered. The beauty bowed her
monumental head to pass under the low doorway, and settled herself on
a pile of cushions prepared to receive her.

Almost at once the popular interest was diverted to the appearance of
another procession, precisely similar, which was debouching from the
opposite road. The new _Orian_ garbed in blue, with a sash of gold and
a design of cherry-blossom, supported by her two little attendants,
wobbled towards another of the little houses. On her disappearing a
third procession came into sight.

"Ah!" sighed Asako, "what lovely kimonos! Where do they get them
from?"

"I don't know," said Yaé, "some of them are quite old. They come out
fresh year after year for a different girl."

Yaé, with her distorted little soul, was thinking that it must be
worth the years of slavery and the humiliation of disease to have that
one day of complete triumph, to be the representative of Beauty upon
earth, to feel the admiration and the desire of that vast concourse of
men rising round one's body like a warm flood.

Geoffrey stared fascinated, wondering to see the fact of prostitution
advertised so unblushingly as a public spectacle, his hatred and
contempt breaking over the heads of the swine-faced men who followed
the harlot, and picked their livelihood out of her shame.

Reggie was wondering what might be the thoughts of those little
creatures muffled in such splendour that their personality, like that
of infant queens, was entirely hidden by the significance of what they
symbolized. Not a smile, not a glance of recognition passed over the
unnatural whiteness of their faces. Yet they could not be, as they
appeared to be, sleep-walkers. Were they proud to wear such finery?
Were they happy to be so acclaimed? Did their heart beat for one man,
or did their vanity drink in the homage of all? Did their mind turn
back to the mortgaged farm and the work in the paddy-fields, to
the thriftless shop and the chatter of the little town, to the
_saké_-sodden father who had sold them in the days of their innocence,
to the first numbing shock of that new life? Perhaps; or perhaps they
were too taken up with maintaining their equilibrium on their high
shoes, or perhaps they thought of nothing at all. Reggie, who had a
poor opinion of the intellectual brightness of uneducated Japanese
women, thought that the last alternative was highly probable.

"I wonder what those little houses are where they pay their visits,"
Reggie said.

"Oh, those are the _hikité chaya_" said Yaé glibly, "the Yoshiwara
tea-houses."

"Do they live there?" asked Asako.

"Oh, no; rich men who come to the Yoshiwara do not go to the big
houses where the _oiran_ live. They go to the tea-houses; and they
order food and _geisha_ to sing, and the _oiran_ to be brought from
the big house. It is more private. So the tea-houses are called
_hikité chaya_, 'tea-houses which lead by the hand.'"

"Yaé," said Reggie, "you know a lot about it."

"Yes," said Miss Smith, "my brothers have told me. They tell me lots
of things."

After a stay of about half an hour, the _oiran_ left their tea-houses.
The processions reformed; and they slowly tottered back to the places
whence they had come. Across their path the cherry petals were already
falling like snowflakes; for the cherry-blossom is the Japanese symbol
of the impermanence of earthly beauty, and of all sweet things and
pleasant.

"By Jove!" said Geoffrey Harrington to the world in general, "that
was an extraordinary sight. East is East and West is West, eh? I never
felt that so strongly before. How often does this performance take
place?"

"This performance," said Reggie, "has taken place for three days every
Spring for the last three hundred years. But it is more than doubtful
whether it will ever happen again. It is called _Oiran Dochu_, the
procession of the courtesans. Geoffrey, what you have seen to-day is
nothing more or less than the Passing of Old Japan!"

"But whom do these women belong to?" asked Geoffrey. "And who is
making money out of all this filth?"

"Various people and companies, I suppose, who own the different
houses," answered Reggie. "A fellow once offered to sell me his whole
establishment, bedding and six girls for £50 down. But he must
have been having a run of bad luck. In most countries it is a
most profitable form of investment. Do you remember 'Mrs. Warren's
Profession'? Thirty-five per cent I think was the exact figure. I
don't suppose Japan is any exception."

"By Jove!" said Geoffrey, "The women, poor wretches, they can't help
themselves; and the men who buy what they sell, one can't blame them
either. But the creatures who make fortunes out of all this beastiness
and cruelty, I say, they ought to be flogged round the place with a
cat-o'-nine-tails till the life is beaten out of them. Let's get away
from here!"

As they left the beer-house a small round Japanese man bobbed up from
the crowd, raised his hat, bowed and smiled. It was Tanaka. Geoffrey
had left him behind on purpose, that his servants, at least, might not
know where he was going.

"I think--I meet Ladyship here," said the little man, "but for long
time I do not spy her. I am very sorry."

"Is anything wrong? Why did you come?" asked Geoffrey.

"Good _samurai_ never leave Lordship's side. Of course, I come," was
the reply.

"Well, hurry up and get back," said his master, "or we shall be home
before you."

With renewed bowings he disappeared.

Asako was laughing.

"We can never get rid of Tanaka," she said, "can we? He follows us
like a detective."

"Sometimes I think he is deliberately spying on us," said her husband.

"Cheer up," said Reggie, "they all do that."

The party dispersed at the Imperial Hotel. Asako was laughing and
happy. She had enjoyed herself immensely as usual; and her innocence
had realized little or nothing of the grim significance of what she
had seen.

But Geoffrey was gloomy and distrait. He had taken it much to heart.
That night he had a horrible dream. The procession of the _oiran_ was
passing once more before his eyes; but he could not see the face of
the gorgeous doll whom all these crowds had come out to admire. He
felt strangely apprehensive, however. Then at a corner of the street
the figure turned and faced him. It was Asako, his wife. He struggled
to reach her and save her. But the crowds of Japanese closed in upon
him; he struggled in vain.



CHAPTER XI

A GEISHA DINNER

  _Inishi toshi
  Ne-kojite uyeshi
  Waga yodo no
  Wakaki no ume wa
  Hana saki ni keri_.

  The young plum tree
  Of my house
  Which in bygone years
  I dug up by the roots and transplanted
  Has at last bloomed with flowers.


Next morning Geoffrey rose earlier than was his wont; and arrayed
in one of his many kimonos, entered his sitting-room. There he found
Tanaka, wrapped in contemplation of a letter. He was scrutinizing it
with an attention which seemed to pierce the envelope.

"Who is it from, Tanaka?" asked Geoffrey; he had become mildly
ironical in his dealings with the inquisitive guide.

"I think perhaps invitation to pleasure party from Ladyship's noble
relatives," Tanaka replied, unabashed.

Geoffrey took the note to his wife, and she read aloud:

"DEAR MR. AND MRS. BARRINGTON--It is now the bright Spring weather. I
hope you to enjoy good health. I have been rude thus to absent myself
during your polite visit. Much pressing business has hampered me,
also stomach trouble, but indeed there is no excuse. Please not to be
angry. This time I hope you to attend a poor feast, Maple Club Hotel,
next Tuesday, six p.m. Hoping to esteemed favor and even friend,

"Yours obedient,

"G. FUJINAMI."

"What exactly does he mean?"

"As Tanaka says, it is an invitation to a pleasure party at the
beginning of next week."

"Answer it, sweetheart," said Geoffrey; "tell them that we are not
angry, and that we shall be delighted to accept."

Tanaka explained that the Maple Club Restaurant or Koyokwan, which
more strictly should be translated Hall of the Red Leaf, is the
largest and most famous of Tokyo "tea-houses"--to use a comprehensive
term which applies equally to a shack by the roadside, and to a dainty
pleasure resort where entertainments run easily into four or five
pounds per head. There are restaurants more secretive and more
_élite_, where the aesthetic _gourmet_ may feel more at ease and where
the bohemian spirit can loose its wit. But for public functions of
all kinds, for anything on a really big scale, the Maple Club stands
alone. It is the "Princes" of Tokyo with a flavour of the Guildhall
steaming richly through its corridors. Here the great municipal
dinners take place, the great political entertainments. Here famous
foreigners are officially introduced to the mysteries of Japanese
_cuisine_ and the charms of Japanese _geisha_. Here hangs a picture of
Lord Kitchener himself, scrambled over by laughing _mousmés_, who
seem to be peeping out of his pockets and buttonholes, a Gulliver in
Lilliput.

Both Geoffrey and Asako had treated the invitation as a joke; but at
the last moment, while they were threading the mysterious streets
of the still unfamiliar city, they both confessed to a certain
nervousness. They were on the brink of a plunge into depths unknown.
They knew nothing whatever about the customs, tastes and prejudices of
the people with whom they were to mix--not even their names and their
language.

"Well, we're in for it," said Geoffrey, "we must see it through now."

They drove up a steep gravel drive and stopped before a broad Japanese
entrance, three wide steps like altar stairs leading up to a dark
cavernous hall full of bowing women and men in black clothes, similar,
silent and ghostlike. The first impression was lugubrious, like a
feast of mutes.

Boots off! Geoffrey knew at least this rule number one in Japanese
etiquette. But who were these fluttering women, so attentive in
removing their cloaks and hats? Were they relatives or waitresses?
And the silent groups beyond? Were they Fujinami or waiters? The two
guests had friendly smiles for all; but they gazed helplessly for a
familiar face.

An apparition in evening dress with a long frock coat and a purple tie
emerged from that grim chorus of spectators. It was Ito, the lawyer.
The free and easy American manner was checked by the responsibility
of those flapping coat-tails. He looked and behaved just like a
shop-walker. After a stiff bow and handshake he said:

"Very pleased to see you, Sir, and Mrs. Barrington, also. The Fujinami
family is proud to make your entertainment."

Geoffrey expected further introductions; but the time had not yet
come. With a wave of the arm Mr. Ito added:

"Please step this way, Sir and Lady."

The Barringtons with Ito led the procession; and the mutes closed
in behind them. Down endless polished corridors they passed with
noiseless steps over the spotless boards. The only sound was the
rustling of silk garments. To closed eyes they might have seemed like
the arrival of a company of dowagers. The women, who had at first
received them, were still fluttering around them like humming-birds
escorting a flight of crows. To one of them Geoffrey owed his
preservation. He would have struck his forehead against a low doorway
in the darkness; but she touched the lintel with her finger and then
laid her tiny hand on Barrington's tall shoulder, laughing and saying
in infantile English:

"English _danna san_ very high!"

They came to a sudden opening between paper walls. In a little
room behind a table stood a middle-aged Japanese couple as stiff as
waxworks. For an instant Geoffrey thought they must be the cloakroom
attendants. Then, to his surprise, Ito announced:

"Mr. and Mrs. Fujinami Gentaro, the head of the Fujinami family.
Please walk in and shake hands."

Geoffrey and his wife did as they were directed. Three mutual bowings
took place in absolute silence, followed by a handshake. Then Ito
said:

"Mr. and Mrs. Fujinami Gentaro wish to say they are very pleased you
both come to-night. It is very poor food and very poor feast, they
say. Japanese food is very simple sort of thing. But they ask you
please excuse them, for what they have done they have done from a good
heart."

Geoffrey was mumbling incoherently, and wondering whether he was
expected to reply to this oration, when Ito again exclaimed, "Please
step this way."

They passed into a large room like a concert hall with a stage at one
end. There were several men squatting on the floor round _hibachi_
smoking and drinking beer. They looked like black sheep browsing.

These were joined by the mutes who followed the Barringtons. All of
these people were dressed exactly alike. They wore white socks, a dark
kimono almost hidden by the black cloak upon which the family crest--a
wreath of wisteria (_fuji_) foliage--shone like a star on sleeves and
neck, and by the fluted yellowish skirt of heavy rustling silk. This
dress, though gloomy and sacerdotal, was dignified and becoming; but
the similarity was absurd. It looked like a studied effect at a fancy
dress ball. It was particularly exasperating to the guests of honour
who were anxious to distinguish their relatives and to know them
apart; but Ito alone, with his European clothes and his purple tie,
was conspicuous and unmistakable.

"He is like Mrs. Jarley," thought Geoffrey, "he explains the
waxworks."

In the middle of the room was a little group of chairs of the weary
beast of burden type, which are requisitioned for public meetings. Two
of them were dignified by cushions of crimson plush. These were for
Geoffrey and Asako.

Among the black sheep there was no movement beyond the steady staring
of some thirty pairs of eyes. When the Harringtons had been enthroned,
the host and hostess approached them with silent dragging steps and
downcast faces. They might have been the bearers of evil tidings. A
tall girl followed behind her parents.

Mrs. Fujinami Shidzuyé and her daughter, Sadako, were the only women
present. This was a compromise, and a consideration for Asako's
feelings. Mr. Ito had proposed that since a lady was the chief guest
of honour, therefore all the Fujinami ladies ought to be invited to
meet her. To Mr. Fujinami's strict conservative mind such an idea
was anathema. What! Wives at a banquet! In a public restaurant! With
_geisha_ present! Absurd--and disgusting! _O tempora! O mores_!

Then, argued the lawyer, Asako must not be invited. But Asako was
the _clou_ of the evening; and besides, an English gentleman would be
insulted if his wife were not invited too. And--as Mr. Ito went on
to urge--any woman, Japanese or foreign, would be ill-at-ease in a
company composed entirely of men. Besides Sadako could speak English
so well; it was so convenient that she should come; and under her
mother's care her morals would not be contaminated by the propinquity
of _geisha_. So Mr. Fujinami gave in so far as concerned his own wife
and daughter.

Shidzuyé San, as befitted a matron of sober years, wore a plain black
kimono; but Sadako's dress was of pale mauve color, with a bronze sash
tied in an enormous bow. Her hair was parted on one side and caught
up in a bun behind--the latest _haikara_ fashion and a tribute to the
foreign guests. Hers was a graceful figure; but her expression
was spoiled by the blue-tinted spectacles which completely hid her
features.

"Miss Sadako Fujinami, daughter of Mr. Fujinami Gentaro," said Ito.
"She has been University undergraduate, and she speaks English quite
well."

Miss Sadako bowed three times. Then she said, "How do you do" in a
high unnatural voice.

The room was filling up with the little humming-bird women who had
been present at the entrance. They were handing cigarettes and
tea cups to the guests. They looked bright and pleasant; and they
interested Geoffrey.

"Are these ladies relatives of the Fujinami family?" he asked Ito.

"Oh, no, not at all," the lawyer gasped; "you have made great
mistake, Mr. Barrington. Japanese ladies all left at home, never go
to restaurant. These girls are no ladies, they're _geisha_ girls.
_Geisha_ girls very famous to foreign persons."

Geoffrey knew that he had made his first _faux pas_.

"Now," said Mr. Ito, "please step this way; we go upstairs to the
feast room."

The dining-room seemed larger still than the reception room. Down each
side of it were arranged two rows of red lacquer tables, each about
eighteen inches high and eighteen inches square. Mysterious little
dishes were placed on each side of these tables; the most conspicuous
was a flat reddish fish with a large eye, artistically served in a
rollicking attitude, which in itself was an invitation to eat.

The English guests were escorted to two seats at the extreme end of
the room, where two tables were laid in isolated glory. They were to
sit there like king and queen, with two rows of their subjects in long
aisles to the right and to the left of them.

The seats were cushions merely; but those placed for Geoffrey and
Asako were raised on low hassocks. After them the files of the
Fujinami streamed in and took up their appointed positions along
the sides of the room. They were followed by the _geisha_, each girl
carrying a little white china bottle shaped like a vegetable marrow,
and a tiny cup like the bath which hygienic old maids provide for
their canary birds.

"Japanese _saké_" said Sadako to her cousin, "you do not like?"

"Oh, yes, I do," replied Asako, who was intent on enjoying everything.
But on this occasion she had chosen the wrong answer; for real ladies
in Japan are not supposed to drink the warm rice wine.

The _geisha_ certainly looked most charming as they slowly advanced in
a kind of ritualistic procession. Their feet like little white mice,
the dragging skirts of their spotless kimonos, their exaggerated care
and precision, and their stiff conventional attitudes presented a
picture from a Satsuma vase. Their dresses were of all shades, black,
blue, purple, grey and mauve. The corner of the skirt folded back
above the instep revealed a glimpse of gaudy underwear provoking to
men's eyes, and displayed the intricate stenciled flower patterns,
which in the case of the younger women seemed to be catching hold of
the long sleeves and straying upwards. Little dancing girls,
thirteen and fourteen years old--the so-called _hangyoku_ or half
jewels--accompanied their elder sisters of the profession. They wore
very bright dresses just like the dolls; and their massive _coiffure_
was bedizened with silver spangles and elaborately artificial flowers.

"Oh!" gasped the admiring Asako, "I must get one of those _geisha_
girls to show me how to wear my kimonos properly; they do look smart."

"I do not think," answered Sadako. "These are vulgar women, bad style;
I will teach you the noble way."

But all the _geisha_ had a grave and dignified look, quite different
from the sprightly butterflies of musical comedy from whom Geoffrey
had accepted his knowledge of Japan.

They knelt down before the guests and poured a little of the _saké_
into the shallow saucer held out for their ministrations. Then they
folded their hands in their laps and appeared to slumber.

A sucking sound ran round the room as the first cup was drained. Then
a complete silence fell, broken only by the shuffle of the girls' feet
on the matting as they went to fetch more bottles.

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro spoke to the guests assembled, bidding them
commence their meal, and not to stand upon ceremony.

"It is like the one--two--three--go! at a race," thought Geoffrey.

All the guests were manipulating their chop-sticks. Geoffrey raised
his own pair. The two slender rods of wood were unparted at one end to
show that they had never been used. It was therefore necessary to pull
them in two. As he did so a tiny splinter of wood like a match fell
from between them.

Asako laughed.

"That is the toothpick," cousin Sadako explained. "We call such
chop-sticks _komochi-hashi_, chopstick with baby, because the
toothpick inside the chopstick like the baby inside the mother. Very
funny, I think."

There were two kinds of soup--excellent; there was cooked fish and
raw fish in red and white slices, chastely served with ice; there were
vegetables known and unknown, such as sweet potatoes, French beans,
lotus stems and bamboo shoots. These had to be eaten with the aid of
the chop-sticks--a difficult task when it came to cutting up the wing
of a chicken or balancing a soft poached egg.

The guests did not eat with gusto. They toyed with the food, sipping
wine all the time, smoking cigarettes and picking their teeth.

Geoffrey, according to his own description, was just getting his eye
in, when Mr. Fujinami Gentaro rose from his humble place at the far
end of the room. In a speech full of poetical quotations, which must
have cost his tame students considerable trouble in the composition,
he welcomed Asako Barrington, who, he said, had been restored to Japan
like a family jewel which has been lost and is found. He compared her
visit to the sudden flowering of an ancient tree. This did not seem
very complimentary; however, it referred not to the lady's age but
to the elder branch of the family which she represented. After many
apologies for the tastelessness of the food and the stupidity of the
entertainment, he proposed the health of Mr. and Mrs. Harrington,
which was drunk by the whole company standing.

Ito produced from his pocket a translation of this oration.

"Now please say a few words in reply," he directed.

Geoffrey, feeling acutely ridiculous, scrambled to his feet and
thanked everybody for giving his wife and himself such a jolly good
time. Ito translated.

"Now please command to drink health of the Fujinami family," said
the lawyer, consulting his _agenda_. So the health of Mr. and Mrs.
Fujinami Gentaro was drunk with relish by everybody, including the
lady and gentleman honoured.

"In this country," thought Geoffrey, "one gets the speechmaking over
before the dinner. Not a bad idea. It saves that nervous feeling which
spoils the appetite."

An old gentleman, with a restless jaw, tottered to his feet and
approached Geoffrey's table. He bowed twice before him, and held out a
claw-like hand.

"Mr. Fujinami Gennosuké, the father of Mr. Fujinami Gentaro,"
announced Ito. "He has retired from life. He wishes to drink wine with
you. Please wash your cup and give it to him."

There was a kind of finger-bowl standing in front of Geoffrey, which
he had imagined might be a spittoon. He was directed to rinse his
cup in this vessel, and to hand it to the old gentleman. Mr. Fujinami
Gennosuké received it in both hands as if it had been a sacrament. The
attendant _geisha_ poured out a little of the greenish liquid,
which was drunk with much hissing and sucking. Then followed another
obeisance; the cup was returned, and the old gentleman retired.

He was succeeded by Mr. Fujinami Gentaro himself, with whom the same
ceremony of the _saké_ drinking was repeated; and then all the family
passed by, one after another, each taking the cup and drinking. It was
like a visiting figure in the lancers' quadrille.

As each relative bent and bowed, Ito announced his name and quality.
These names seemed all alike, alike as their faces and as their
garments were. Geoffrey could only remember vaguely that he had been
introduced to a Member of Parliament, a gross man with a terrible
wen like an apple under his ear, and to two army officers, tall
clean-looking men, who pleased him more than the others. There were
several Government functionaries; but the majority were business men.
Geoffrey could only distinguish for certain his host and his host's
father.

"They look just like two old vultures," he thought.

Then there was Mr. Fujinami Takeshi, the son of the host and the hope
of the family, a livid youth with a thin moustache and unhealthy marks
on his face like raspberries under the skin.

Still the _geisha_ kept bringing more and more food in a desultory way
quite unlike our system of fixed and regular courses. Still Ito kept
pressing Geoffrey to eat, while at the same time apologizing for the
quality of the food with exasperating repetition. Geoffrey had fallen
into the error of thinking that the fish and its accompanying dishes
which had been laid before him at first comprised the whole of the
repast. He had polished them off with gusto; and had then discovered
to his alarm that they were merely _hors d'oeuvres_. Nor did he
observe until too late how little the other guests were eating. There
was no discourtesy apparently in leaving the whole of a dish untasted,
or in merely picking at it from time to time. Rudeness consisted in
refusing any dish.

Plates of broiled meat and sandwiches arrived, bowls of soup, grilled
eels on skewers--that most famous of Tokyo delicacies; finally, the
inevitable rice with whose adhesive substance the Japanese epicure
fills up the final crannies in his well-lined stomach. It made its
appearance in a round drum-like tub of clean white wood, as big as
a bandbox, and bound round with shining brass. The girls served the
sticky grains into the china rice-bowl with a flat wooden ladle.

"Japanese people always take two bowls of rice at least," observed
Ito. "One bowl very unlucky; at the funeral we only eat one bowl."

This to Geoffrey was the _coup de grâce_. He had only managed to stuff
down his bowl through a desperate sense of duty.

"If I do have a second," he gasped, "it will be my own funeral."

But this joke did not run in the well-worn lines of Japanese humour.
Mr. Ito merely thought that the big Englishman, having drunk much
_saké_, was talking nonsense.

All the guests were beginning to circulate now; the quadrille was
becoming more and more elaborate. They were each calling on each
other and taking wine. The talk was becoming more animated. A few bold
spirits began to laugh and joke with the _geisha_. Some had laid aside
their cloaks; and some even had loosened their kimonos at the neck,
displaying hairy chests. The stiff symmetry of the dinner party
was quite broken up. The guests were scattered like rooks, bobbing,
scratching and pecking about on the yellow mats. The bright plumage of
the _geisha_ stood out against their sombre monotony.

Presently the _geisha_ began to dance at the far end of the room. Ten
of the little girls did their steps, a slow dance full of posturing
with coloured handkerchiefs. Three of the elder _geisha_ in plain grey
kimonos squatted behind the dancers, strumming on their _samisens_.
But there was very little music either in the instrument or in the
melody. The sound of the string's twang and the rattle of the bone
plectrum drowned the sweetness of the note. The result was a kind of
dry clatter or cackle which is ingenious, but not pleasing.

Reggie Forsyth used to say that there is no melody in Japanese music;
but that the rhythm is marvelous. It is a kind of elaborate ragtime
without any tune to it.

The guests did not pay any attention to the performance, nor did they
applaud when it was over.

Mr. Ito was consulting his _agenda_ paper and his gold watch.

"You will now drink with these gentlemen," he said. Geoffrey must have
demurred.

"It is Japanese custom," he continued; "please step this way; I will
guide you."

Poor Geoffrey! it was his turn now to do the visiting figure, but
his head was buzzing with some thirty cups of _saké_ which he had
swallowed out of politeness, and with the unreality of the whole
scene.

"Can't do it," he protested; "drunk too much already."

"In Japan we say, 'When friends meet the _saké_ sellers laugh!'"
quoted the lawyer. "It is Japanese custom to drink together, and to
be happy. To be drunk in good company, it is no shame. Many of these
gentlemen will presently be drunk. But if you do not wish to drink
more, then just pretend to drink. You take the cup, see; you lift it
to your mouth, but you throw away the _saké_ into the basin when you
wash the cup. That is _geisha's_ trick when the boys try to make her
drunk, but she is too wise!"

Armed with this advice Geoffrey started on his round of visits,
first to his host and then to his host's father. The face of old Mr.
Fujinami Gennosuké was as red as beet-root, and his jaw was chewing
more vigorously than ever. Nothing, however, could have been more
perfect than his deportment in exchanging the cup with his guest. But
no sooner had Geoffrey turned away to pay another visit than he became
aware of a slight commotion. He glanced round and saw Mr. Fujinami,
senior, in a state of absolute collapse, being conducted out of the
room by two members of the family and a cluster of _geisha_.

"What has happened?" he asked in some alarm.

"It is nothing," said Ito; "old gentleman tipsy very quick."

Everybody now seemed to be smiling and happy. Geoffrey felt the curse
of his speechlessness. He was brimming over with good humour, and was
most anxious to please. The Japanese no longer appeared so grotesque
as they had on his arrival. He was sure that he would have much in
common with many of these men, who talked so good-naturedly among
themselves, until the chill of his approach fell upon them.

Besides Ito and Sadako Fujinami, the only person present who could
talk English at all fluently was that blotchy-faced individual, Mr.
Fujinami Takeshi. The young man was in a very hilarious state, and
had gathered around him a bevy of _geisha_ with whom he was cracking
jokes. From the nature of his gestures they must have been far from
decorous.

"Please to sit down, my dear friend," he said to Geoffrey. "Do you
like _geisha_ girl?"

"I don't think they like me," said Geoffrey. "I'm too big."

"Oh, no," said the Japanese; "very big, very good. Japanese man
too small, no good at all. Why do all _geisha_ love _sumotori_
(professional wrestlers)? Because _sumotori_ very big; but this
English gentleman bigger than _sumotori_. So this girl love you, and
this girl, and this girl, and this very pretty girl, I don't know?"

He added a question in Japanese. The _geisha_ giggled, and hid her
face behind her sleeve.

"She say, she wish to try first. To try the cake, you eat some? Is
that right?"

He repeated his joke in Japanese. The girl wriggled with
embarrassment, and finally scuttled away across the room, while the
others laughed.

All the _geisha_ now hid their faces among much tittering.

Geoffrey was becoming harassed by this _badinage_; but he hated to
appear a prude, and said:

"I have got a wife, you know, Mr. Fujinami; she is keeping an eye on
me."

"No matter, no matter," the young man answered, waving his hand to and
fro; "we all have wife; wife no matter in Japan."

At last Geoffrey got back to his throne at Asako's side. He was
wondering what would be the next move in the game when, to his relief
and surprise, Ito, after a glance at his watch, said suddenly:

"It is now time to go home. Please say good-bye to Mr. and Mrs.
Fujinami."

A sudden dismissal, but none the less welcome.

The inner circle of the Fujinami had gathered round. They and the
_geisha_ escorted their guests to the rickshaws and helped them on
with their cloaks and boots. There was no pressing to remain; and as
Geoffrey passed the clock in the entrance hall he noticed that it
was just ten o'clock. Evidently the entertainment was run with strict
adherence to the time-table.

Some of the guests were too deep in _saké_ and flirtation to be
aware of the break-up; and the last vision granted to Geoffrey of the
M.P.--the fat man with the wen--was of a kind of Turkey Trot going
on in a corner of the room, and the thick arms of the legislator
disappearing up the lady's kimono sleeve.



CHAPTER XII

FALLEN CHERRY-BLOSSOM

  _Iro wa nioedo
  Chirinuru wo--
  Woga yo tore zo
  Tsune naran?
  Ui no okuyama
  Kyo koete,
  Asaki yume miji
  Ei mo sezu._

  The colours are bright, but
  The petals fall!
  In this world of ours who
  Shall remain forever?
  To-day crossing
  The high mountains of mutability,
  We shall see no fleeting dreams,
  Being inebriate no longer.


"_O hay[=o] gazaimas!_" (Respectfully early!)

Twitterings of maid-servants salute the lady of the house with the
conventional morning greeting. Mrs. Fujinami Shidzuyé replies in the
high, fluty, unnatural voice which is considered refined in her social
set.

The servants glide into the room which she has just left, moving
noiselessly so as not to wake the master who is still sleeping. They
remove from his side the thick warm mattresses upon which his wife
has been lying, the hard wooden pillow like the block of history,
the white sheets and the heavy padded coverlet with sleeves like an
enormous kimono. They roil up all these _yagu_ (night implements),
fold them and put them away into an unsuspected cupboard in the
architecture of the veranda.

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro still snores.

After a while his wife returns. She is dressed for the morning in a
plain grey silk kimono with a broad olive-green _obi_ (sash). Her
hair is arranged in a formidable helmet-like _coiffure_--all Japanese
matrons with their hair done properly bear a remote resemblance to
Pallas Athene and Britannia. This will need the attention of the
hairdresser so as to wax into obedience a few hairs left wayward by
the night in spite of that severe wooden pillow, whose hard, high
discomfort was invented by female vanity to preserve from disarray
the rigid order of their locks. Her feet are encased in little white
_tabi_ like gloves, for the big toe has a compartment all to itself.
She walks with her toes turned in, and with the heels hardly touching
the ground. This movement produces a bend of the knees and hips so
as to maintain the equilibrium of the body, and a sinuous appearance
which is considered the height of elegance in Japan, so that the grace
of a beautiful woman is likened to "a willow-tree blown by the
wind," and the shuffle of her feet on the floor-matting to the wind's
whisper.

Mrs. Fujinami carries a red lacquer tray. On the tray is a tiny teapot
and a tiny cup and a tiny dish, in which are three little salted
damsons, with a toothpick fixed in one of them. It is the _petit
déjeuner_ of her lord. She put down the tray beside the head of
the pillow, and makes a low obeisance, touching the floor with her
forehead.

"_O hay[=o] gazaimas_'!"

Mr. Fujinami stirs, gapes, stretches, yawns, rubs his lean fist in his
hollow eyes, and stares at the rude incursion of daylight. He takes no
notice of his wife's presence. She pours out tea for him with studied
pose of hands and wrists, conventional and graceful. She respectfully
requests him to condescend to partake. Then she makes obeisance again.

Mr. Fujinami yawns once more, after which he condescends. He sucks
down the thin, green tea with a whistling noise. Then he places in his
mouth the damson balanced on the point of the toothpick. He turns it
over and over with his tongue as though he was chewing a cud. Finally
he decides to eat it, and to remove the stone.

Then he rises from his couch. He is a very small wizened man. Dressed
in his night kimono of light blue silk, he passes along the veranda
in the direction of the morning ablutions. Soon the rending sounds of
throat-clearing show that he has begun his wash. Three maids appear
as by magic in the vacated room. The bed is rolled away, the matting
swept, and the master's morning clothes are laid out ready for him on
his return.

Mrs. Fujinami assists her husband to dress, holding each garment ready
for him to slip into, like a well-trained valet. Mr. Fujinami does not
speak to her. When his belt has been adjusted, and a watch with a gold
fob thrust into its interstice, he steps down from the veranda, slides
his feet into a pair of _geta_, and strolls out into the garden.

Mr. Fujinami's garden is a famous one. It is a temple garden many
centuries old; and the eyes of the initiated may read in the miniature
landscape, in the grouping of shrubs and rocks, in the sudden
glimpses of water, and in the bare pebbly beaches, a whole system of
philosophic and religious thought worked out by the patient priests of
the Ashikaga period, just as the Gothic masons wrote their version of
the Bible history in the architecture of their cathedrals.

But for the ignorant, including its present master, it was just a
perfect little park, with lawns six feet square and ancient pine
trees, with impenetrable forests which one could clear at a bound,
with gorges, waterfalls, arbours for lilliputian philanderings and
a lake round whose tiny shores were represented the Eight Beautiful
Views of the Lake of Biwa near Kyoto.

The bungalow mansion of the family lies on a knoll overlooking the
lake and the garden valley, a rambling construction of brown wood with
grey scale-like tiles, resembling a domesticated dragon stretching
itself in the sun.

Indeed, it is not one house but many, linked together by a number of
corridors and spare rooms. For Mr. and Mrs. Fujinami live in one wing,
their son and his wife in another, and also Mr. Ito, the lawyer, who
is a distant relative and a partner in the Fujinami business. Then,
on the farther side of the house, near the pebble drive and the great
gate, are the swarming quarters of the servants, the rickshaw men, and
Mr. Fujinami's secretaries. Various poor relations exist unobserved
in unfrequented corners; and there is the following of University
students and professional swashbucklers which every important Japanese
is bound to keep, as an advertisement of his generosity, and to do his
dirty work for him. A Japanese family mansion is very like a hive--of
drones.

Nor is this the entire population of the Fujinami _yashiki_. Across
the garden and beyond the bamboo grove is the little house of Mr.
Fujinami's stepbrother and his wife; and in the opposite corner, below
the cherry-orchard, is the _inkyo_, the dower house, where old
Mr. Fujinami Gennosuké, the retired Lord--who is the present Mr.
Fujinami's father by adoption only--watches the progress of the family
fortunes with the vigilance of Charles the Fifth in the cloister of
Juste.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro shuffled his way towards a little room like a
kind of summer-house, detached from the main building and overlooking
the lake and garden from the most favourable point of vantage.

This is Mr. Fujinami's study--like all Japanese rooms, a square box
with wooden framework, wooden ceiling, sliding paper _shoji_, pale
golden _tatami_ and double alcove. All Japanese rooms are just the
same, from the Emperor's to the rickshaw-man's; only in the quality
of the wood, in the workmanship of the fittings, in the newness and
freshness of paper and matting, and by the ornaments placed in the
alcove, may the prosperity of the house be known.

In Mr. Fujinami's study, one niche of the alcove was fitted up as a
bookcase; and that bookcase was made of a wonderful honey-coloured
satinwood brought from the hinterland of China. The lock and
the handles were inlaid with dainty designs in gold wrought by a
celebrated Kyoto artist. In the open alcove the hanging scroll of Lao
Tze's paradise had cost many hundreds of pounds, as had also the Sung
dish below it, an intricacy of lotus leaves caved out of a single
amethyst.

On a table in the middle of this chaste apartment lay a pair of
gold-rimmed spectacles and a yellow book. The room was open to the
early morning sunlight; the paper walls were pushed back. Mr. Fujinami
moved a square silk cushion to the edge of the matting near the
outside veranda. There he could rest his back against a post in
the framework of the building--for even Japanese get wearied by the
interminable squatting which life on the floor level entails--and
acquire that condition of bodily repose which is essential for
meditation.

Mr. Fujinami was in the habit of meditating for one hour every
morning. It was a tradition of his house; his father and his
grandfather had done so before him. The guide of his meditations was
the yellow book, the _Rongo_ (Maxims) of Confucius, that Bible of the
Far East which has moulded oriental morality to the shape of the Three
Obediences, the obedience of the child to his parents, of the wife to
her husband, and of the servant to his lord.

Mr. Fujinami sat on the sill of his study, and meditated. Around him
was the stillness of early morning. From the house could be heard the
swish of the maids' brooms brushing the _tatami_, and the flip-flap
of their paper flickers, like horses' tails, with which they dislodged
the dust from the walls and cornices.

A big black crow had been perched on one of the cherry-trees in the
garden. He rose with a shaking of branches and a flapping of broad
black wings. He crossed the lake, croaking as he flew with a note
more harsh, rasping and cynical than the consequential caw of English
rooks. His was a malevolent presence "from the night's Plutonian
shore," the symbol of something unclean and sinister lurking behind
this dainty beauty and this elaboration of cleanliness.

Mr. Fujinami's meditations were deep and grave. Soon he put down the
book. The spectacles glided along his nose. His chest rose and fell
quickly under the weight of his resting chin. To the ignorant observer
Mr. Fujinami would have appeared to be asleep.

However, when his wife appeared about an hour and a half afterwards,
bringing her lord's breakfast on another red lacquer table she
besought him kindly to condescend to eat, and added that he must
be very tired after so much study. To this Mr. Fujinami replied by
passing his hand over his forehead and saying, "_D[=o]m[=o]! So des' né!_
(Indeed, it is so!) I have tired myself with toil."

This little farce repeated itself every morning. All the household
knew that the master's hour of meditation was merely an excuse for
an after-sleep. But it was a tradition in the family that the master
should study thus; and Mr. Fujinami's grandfather had been a great
scholar in his generation. To maintain the tradition Mr. Fujinami had
hired a starveling journalist to write a series of random essays of
a sentimental nature, which he had published under his own name, with
the title, _Fallen Cherry-Blossoms_.

Such is the hold of humbug in Japan that nobody in the whole
household, including the students who respected nothing, ever allowed
themselves the relief of smiling at the sacred hour of study, even
when the master's back was turned.

       *       *       *       *       *

"_O hay[=o] gozaimas_'!"

"For honourable feast of yesterday evening indeed very much obliged!"

The oily forehead of Mr. Ito touched the matting floor with the
exaggerated humility of conventional gratitude. The lawyer wore
a plain kimono of slate-grey silk. His American manners and his
pomposity had both been laid aside with the tweed suit and the
swallow-tail. He was now a plain Japanese business man, servile
and adulatory in his patron's presence. Mr. Fujinami Gentaro bowed
slightly in acknowledgment across the remnants of his meal.

"It is no matter," he said, with a few waves of his fan; "please sit
at your ease."

The two gentlemen arranged themselves squatting cross-legged for the
morning's confidential talk.

"The cherry-flowers," Ito began, with a sweep of the arm towards the
garden grove, "how quickly they fall, alas!"

"Indeed, human life also," agreed Mr. Fujinami. "But the guests of
last evening, what is one to think?"

"_Ma_! In truth, _sensei_ (master or teacher), it would be impossible
not to call that Asa San a beauty."

"Ito Kun," said his relative in a tone of mild censure, "it is foolish
always to think of women's looks. This foreigner, what of him?"

"For a foreigner, that person seems to be honourable and grave,"
answered the retainer, "but one fears that it is a misfortune for the
house of Fujinami."

"To have a son who is no son," said the head of the family, sighing.

"_D[=o]m[=o]!_ It is terrible!" was the reply; "besides, as the _sensei_
so eloquently said last night, there are so few blossoms on the old
tree."

The better to aid his thoughts, Mr. Fujinami drew from about his
person a case which contained a thin bamboo pipe, called _kiseru_ in
Japanese, having a metal bowl of the size and shape of the socket of
an acorn. He filled this diminutive bowl with a little wad of tobacco,
which looked like coarse brown hair. He kindled it from the charcoal
ember in the _hibachi_. He took three sucks of smoke, breathing them
slowly out of his mouth again in thick grey whorls. Then with three
hard raps against the wooden edge of the firebox, he knocked out again
the glowing ball of weed. When this ritual was over, he replaced the
pipe in its sheath of old brocade.

The lawyer sucked in his breath, and bowed his head.

"In family matters," he said, "it is rude for an outside person to
advise the master. But last night I saw a dream. I saw the Englishman
had been sent back to England; and that this Asa San with all her
money was again in the Fujinami family. Indeed, a foolish dream, but a
good thing, I think!"

Mr. Fujinami pondered with his face inclined and his eyes shut.

"Ito Kun," he said at last, "you are indeed a great schemer. Every
month you make one hundred schemes. Ninety of them are impracticable,
eight of them are foolish, and two of them are masterpieces!"

"And this one?" asked Ito.

"I think it is impracticable," said his patron, "but it would be worth
while to try. It would without doubt be an advantage to send away
this foreigner. He is a great trouble, and may even become a danger.
Besides, the house of Fujinami has few children. Where there are no
sons even daughters are welcome. If we had this Asa, we could marry
her to some influential person. She is very beautiful, she is rich,
and she speaks foreign languages. There would be no difficulty. Now,
as to the present, how about this Osaka business?"

"I have heard from my friend this morning," answered Ito; "it is good
news. The Governor will sanction the establishment of the new licensed
quarter at Tobita, if the Home Minister approves."

"But that is easy. The Minister has always protected us. Besides, did
I not give fifty thousand _yen_ to the funds of the _Seiyukwai_?"
said Mr. Fujinami, naming the political party then in the majority in
Parliament.

"Yes, but it must be done quickly; for opposition is being organised.
First, there was the Salvation Army and the missionaries. Now, there
are Japanese people, too, people who make a cry and say this licensed
prostitute system is not suitable to a civilised country, and it is a
shame to Japan. Also, there may be a political change very soon, and a
new Minister."

"Then we would have to begin all over again, another fifty thousand
_yen_ to the other side."

"If it is worth it?"

"My father says that Osaka is the gold mine of Japan. It is worth all
that we can pay."

"Yes, but Mr. Fujinami Gennosuké is an old man now, and the times are
changing."

The master laughed.

"Times change," he said, "but men and women never change."

"It is true," argued Ito, "that rich and noble persons no longer
frequent the _yukwaku_ (pleasure enclosure). My friend, Suzuki, has
seen the Chief of the Metropolitan Police. He says that he will not
be able to permit _Oiran Dochu_ another year. He says too that it
will soon be forbidden to show the _jor[=o]_ in their windows. It will
be photograph-system for all houses. It is all a sign of the change.
Therefore, the Fujinami ought not to sink any more capital in the
_yukwaku_."

"But men will still be men, they will still need a laundry for their
spirits." Mr. Fujinami used a phrase which in Japan is a common excuse
for those who frequent the _demi-monde_.

"That is true, _sensei_," said the counsellor; "but our Japan must
take on a show of Western civilisation. It is the thing called
progress. It is part of Western civilisation that men will become more
hypocritical. These foreigners say our Yoshiwara is a shame; but, in
their own cities, immoral women walk in the best streets, and offer
themselves to men quite openly. These virtuous foreigners are worse
than we are. I myself have seen. They say, 'We have no Yoshiwara
system, therefore we are good.' They pretend not to see like a
_geisha_ who squints through a fan. We Japanese, we now become more
hypocritical, because this is necessary law of civilisation. The two
swords of the _samurai_ have gone; but honour and hatred and revenge
will never go. The _kanzashi_ (hair ornaments) of the _oiran_ will go
too; but what the _oiran_ lose, the _geisha_ will gain. Therefore, if
I were Fujinami San, I would buy up the _geisha_, and also perhaps the
_inbai_ (unregistered women)."

"But that is a low trade," objected the Yoshiwara magnate.

"It is very secret; your name need never be spoken."

"And it is too scattered, too disorganised, it would be impossible to
control."

"I do not think it would be so difficult. What might be proposed is a
_geisha_ trust."

"But even the Fujinami have not got enough money."

"Within one month I guarantee to find the right men, with the money
and the experience and the influence."

"Then the business would no longer be the Fujinami only--"

"It would be as in America, a combine, something on a big scale. In
Japan one is content with such small business. Indeed, we Japanese are
a very small people."

"In America, perhaps, there is more confidence," said the elder man;
"but in Japan we say, 'Beware of friends who are not also relatives,'
There is, as you know, the temple of Inari Daimy[=o]jin in Asakusa. They
say that if a man worships at that temple he becomes the owner of his
friend's wealth. I fear that too many of us Japanese make pilgrimage
to that temple after nightfall."

With those words, Mr. Fujinami picked up a newspaper to indicate
that the audience was terminated; and Mr. Ito, after a series of
prostrations, withdrew.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as he was out of sight, Mr. Fujinami Gentaro selected from the
pile in front of him a number of letters and newspapers. With these
in his hand, he left the study, and followed a path of broad, flat
stepping-stones across the garden towards the cherry-orchard. Here
the way sloped rapidly downward under a drift of fallen petals. On the
black naked twigs of the cherry-trees one or two sturdy blossoms still
clung pathetically, like weather-beaten butterflies. Beyond a green
shrubbery, on a little knoll, a clean newly-built Japanese house,
like a large rabbit hutch, rested in a patch of sunlight. It was
the _inkyo_, the "shadow dwelling" or dower house. Here dwelt Mr.
Fujinami, senior, and his wife--his fourth matrimonial experiment.

The old gentleman was squatting on the balcony of the front corner
room, the one which commanded the best view of the cherry-grove. He
looked as if he had just been unpacked; for he was surrounded by reams
and reams of paper, some white, and some with Chinese letters scrawled
over them. He was busy writing these letters with a kind of thick
paint-brush; and he was so deep in his task that he appeared not to
notice his son's approach. His restless jaw was still imperturbably
chewing.

"_O hay[=o] gozaimas_'!"

"_Tar[=o], yo! O hay[=o]_!" cried the old gentleman, calling his son by his
short boy's name, and cutting off all honorifics from his speech.
He always affected surprise at this visit, which had been a daily
occurrence for many years.

"The cherry-flowers are fallen and finished," said the younger man.
"Ah, human life, how short a thing!"

"Yes, one year more I have seen the flowers," said Mr. Fujinami
Gennosuké, nodding his head and taking his son's generalisation as
a personal reference. He had laid his brush aside; and he was really
wondering what would be Gentaro's comment on last night's feast and
its guests of honour.

"Father is practising handwriting again?"

The old man's mania was penmanship, just as his son's was literature.
Among Japanese it is considered the pastime becoming to his age.

"My wrist has become stiff. I cannot write as I used to. It is
always so. Youth has the strength but not the knowledge; age has the
knowledge, but no strength."

As a matter of fact, Mr. Gennosuké was immensely satisfied with his
calligraphy, and was waiting for compliments.

"But this, this is beautifully written. It is worthy of Kobo Daishi!"
said the younger man, naming a famous scholar priest of the Middle
Ages. He was admiring a scroll on which four characters were
written in a perpendicular row. They signified, "From the midst of
tranquillity I survey the world."

"No," said the artist; "you see the _ten_ (point) there is wrong. It
is ill-formed. It should be written thus."

Shaking back his kimono sleeve--he wore a sea-blue cotton kimono, as
befitted his years--and with a little flourish of his wrist, like a
golfer about to make his stroke, he traced off the new version of the
character on the white paper.

Perched on his veranda, with his head on one side he looked very like
the marabout stork, as you may see him at the Zoo, that raffish bird
with the folds in his neck, the stained glaucous complexion, the bald
head and the brown human eye. He had the same look of respectable
rascality. The younger Fujinami showed signs of becoming exactly like
him, although the parentage was by adoption only. He was not yet so
bald. His black hair was patched with grey in a piebald design. The
skin of the throat was at present merely loose, it did not yet hang in
bags.

"And this Asa San?" remarked the elder after a pause; "what is to be
thought of her? Last night I became drunk, as my habit is, and I could
not see those people well."

"She is not loud-voiced and bold like foreign women. Indeed, her voice
and her eyes are soft. Her heart is very good, I think. She is timid,
and in everything she puts her husband first. She does not understand
the world at all; and she knows nothing about money. Indeed, she is
like a perfect Japanese wife."

"Hm! A good thing, and the husband?"

"He is a soldier, an honourable man. He seemed foolish, or else he is
very cunning. The English people are like that. They say a thing. Of
course, you think it is a lie. But no, it is the truth; and so they
deceive."

"_Ma, mendo-kusai_ (indeed, smelly-troublesome!) And why has this
foreigner come to Japan?"

"Ito says he has come to learn about the money. That means, when he
knows he will want more."

"How much do we pay to Asa San?"

"Ten per cent."

"And the profits last year on all our business came to thirty seven
and a half per cent. Ah! A fine gain. We could not borrow from the
banks at ten per cent. They would want at least fifteen, and many
gifts for silence. It is better to fool the husband, and to let them
go back to England. After all, ten per cent is a good rate. And we
want all our money now for the new brothels in Osaka. If we make much
money there, then afterwards we can give them more."

"Ito says that if the Englishman knows that the money is made in
brothels, he will throw it all away and finish. Ito thinks it would be
not impossible to send the Englishman back to England, and to keep Asa
here in Japan."

The old man looked up suddenly, and for once his jaw stopped chewing.

"That would be best of all," he exclaimed. "Then indeed he is
honourable and a great fool. Being an Englishman, it is possible. Let
him go back to England. We will keep Asa. She too is a Fujinami; and,
even though she is a woman, she can be useful to the family. She will
stay with us. She would not like to be poor. She has not borne a baby
to this foreigner, and she is young. I think also our Sada can teach
her many things."

"It is of Sada that I came to speak to father," said Mr. Gentaro. "The
marriage of our Sada is a great question for the Fujinami family. Here
is a letter from Mr. Osumi, a friend of the Governor of Osaka. The
Governor has been of much help to us in getting the concession for
the new brothels. He is a widower with no children. He is a man with a
future. He is protected by the military clan. He is wishful to marry
a woman who can assist his career, and who would be able to take the
place of a Minister's wife. Mr. Osumi, who writes, had heard of the
accomplishments of our Sada. He mentioned her name to the Governor;
and His Excellency was quite willing that Mr. Osumi should write
something in a letter to Ito."

"Hm!" grunted the old gentleman, squinting sidelong at his son; "this
Governor, has he a private fortune?"

"No, he is a self-made man."

"Then it will not be with him, as it was with that Viscount Kamimura.
He will not be too proud to take our money."

The truth of the allusion to Viscount Kamimura was that the name of
Sadako Fujinami had figured on the list of possible brides submitted
to that young aristocrat on his return from England. At first, it
seemed likely that the choice would fall upon her, because of her
undisputed cleverness; and the Fujinami family were radiant at the
prospect of so brilliant a match. For although nothing had been
formally mentioned between the two families, yet Sadako and her mother
had learned from their hairdresser that there was talk of such a
possibility in the servants' quarter of the Kamimura mansion, and
that old Dowager Viscountess Kamimura was undoubtedly making inquiries
which could only point to that one object.

The young Viscount, however, on ascertaining the origin of the family
wealth, eliminated poor Sadako from the competition for his hand.

It was a great disappointment to the Fujinami, and most of all to the
ambitious Sadako. For a moment she had seen opening the doorway into
that marvellous world of high diplomacy, of European capitals, of
diamonds, duchesses and intrigue, of which she had read in foreign
novels, where everybody is rich, brilliant, immoral and distinguished,
and where to women are given the rôles to play even more important
than those of the men. This was the only world, she felt, worthy of
her talents; but few, very few, just one in a million Japanese women,
ever gets the remotest chance of entering it. This chance presented
itself to Sadako--but for a moment only. The doorway shut to again;
and Sadako was left feeling more acutely than before the emptiness
of life, and the bitterness of woman's lot in a land where men are
supreme.

Her cousin, Asako, by the mere luck of having had an eccentric parent
and a European upbringing, possessed all the advantages and all the
experience which the Japanese girl knew only through the glamorous
medium of books. But this Asa San was a fool. Sadako had found that
out at once in the course of a few minutes talk at the Maple Club
dinner. She was sweet, gentle and innocent; far more Japanese, indeed,
than her sophisticated cousin. Her obvious respect and affection for
her big rough husband, her pathetic solicitude for the father whose
face she could hardly remember and for the mother who was nothing but
a name; these traits of character belong to the meek Japanese girl
of _Onna Daigaku_ (Woman's Great Learning), that famous classic
of Japanese girlhood which teaches the submission of women and the
superiority of men. It was a type which was becoming rare in her own
country. Little Asako had nothing in common with the argumentative
heroines of Bernard Shaw or with the desperate viragos of Ibsen, to
whom Sadako felt herself spiritually akin. Asako must be a fool. She
exasperated her Japanese cousin, who at the same time was envious of
her, envious above all of her independent wealth. As she observed to
her own mother, it was most improper that a woman, and a young woman
too, should have so much money of her own. It would be sure to spoil
her character.

Meanwhile Asako was a way of access to first-hand knowledge of that
world of European womanhood which so strongly attracted Sadako's
intelligence, that almost incredible world in which men and women were
equal, had equal rights to property, and equal rights to love. Asako
must have seen enough to explain something about it; if only she were
not a fool. But it appeared that she had never heard of Strindberg,
Sudermann, or d'Annunzio; and even Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde were
unfamiliar names.



CHAPTER XIII

THE FAMILY ALTAR

  _Yume no ai wa
  Kurushikari keri?
  Odorokite
  Kaki-saguredomo
  Te ni mo fureneba._

  (These) meetings in dreams
  How sad they are!
  When, waking up startled
  One gropes about--
  And there is no contact to the hand.


Miss Fujinami made up her mind to cultivate Asako's friendship, and to
learn all that she could from her. So she at once invited her cousin
to the mysterious house in Akasaka, and Asako at once accepted.

The doors seemed to fly open at the magic of the wanderer's return.
Behind each partition were family retainers, bowing and smiling.
Three maids assisted her to remove her boots. There was a sense of
expectation and hospitality, which calmed Asako's fluttering shyness.

"Welcome! Welcome!" chanted the chorus of maids, "_O agari
nasaimashi!_ (pray step up into the house!)"

The visitor was shown into a beautiful airy room overlooking the
landscape garden. She could not repress an Ah! of wonder, when first
this fairy pleasance came in sight. It was all so green, so tiny, and
so perfect,--the undulating lawn, the sheet of silver water, the pigmy
forests which clothed its shores, its disappearance round a shoulder
of rock into that hinterland of high trees which closed the vista and
shut out the intrusion of the squalid city.

The Japanese understand better than we do the mesmeric effects
of sights and sounds. It was to give her time to assimilate her
surroundings that Asako was left alone for half an hour or so, while
Sadako and her mother were combing their hair and putting their
kimonos straight. Tea and biscuits were brought for her, but her fancy
was astray in the garden. Already to her imagination a little town
had sprung up along the shingles of the tiny bay which faced her;
the sails of white ships were glimpsing where the sunlight struck the
water; and from round the rock promontory she could catch the shimmer
of the Prince's galleon with its high poop and stern covered with
solid gold. He was on his way to rescue the lady who was immured in
the top of the red pagoda on the opposite hill.

Asako's legs were getting numb. She had been sitting on them
in correct Japanese fashion all this time. She was proud of the
accomplishment, which she considered must be hereditary, but she could
not keep it up for much longer than half an hour. Sadako's mother
entered.

"Asa San is welcome."

Much bowing began, in which Asako felt her disadvantage. The long
lines of the kimono, with the big sash tied behind, lend themselves
with peculiar grace to the squatting bow of Japanese intercourse. But
Asako, in the short blue jacket of her tailor-made serge, felt that
her attitude was that of the naughty little boys in English picture
books, bending over for castigation.

Mrs. Fujinami wore a perfectly plain kimono, blackish-brown in colour,
with a plain gold sash. It is considered correct for middle-aged
ladies in Japan to dress with modesty and reserve. She was tall for a
Japanese woman and big-boned, with a long lantern-face, and an almost
Jewish nose. The daughter was of her mother's build. But her face was
a perfect oval, the melon-seed shape which is so highly esteemed in
her country. The severity of her appearance was increased, by her
blue-tinted spectacles; and like so many Japanese women, her teeth
were full of gold stopping. She was resplendent in blue, the blue of
the Mediterranean, with fronds of cherry-blossom and floating pink
petals designed round her skirts and at the bottom of the long
exaggerated sleeves. The sash of broad stiff brocade shone with light
blue and silver in a kind of conventional wave pattern. This was tied
at the back with a huge bow, which seemed perched upon its wearer like
a gigantic butterfly alighting on a cornflower. Her straight black
hair was parted on one side in "foreign" style. But her mother wore
the helmet-like _marumagé_, the edifice of conservative taste in
married women, which looks more like a wig than like natural hair.

Rings sparkled on Sadako's fingers, and she wore a diamond ornament
across her sash; but neither their taste nor their quality impressed
her cousin. Her face was of the same ivory tint as Asako's, but it
was hidden under a lavish coating of liquid powder. This hideous
embellishment covers not only the Mongolian yellow, which every
Japanese woman seems anxious to hide, but also the natural and
charming nuances of young skin, under a white monotonous surface
like a mask of clay. Painted roses bloomed on the girl's cheeks. The
eyebrows were artificially darkened as well as the lines round the
eyes. The face and its expression, in fact, were quite obscured by
cosmetics; and Miss Fujinami was wrapped in a cloud of cheap scent
like a servant-girl on her evening out.

She spoke English well. In fact, at school she had achieved a really
brilliant career, and she had even attended a University for a time
with the intention of reading for a degree, an attainment rare among
Japanese girls. But overwork brought on its inevitable result. Books
had to be banished, and glasses interposed to save the tired eyes from
the light. It was a bitter disappointment for Sadako, who was a proud
and ambitious girl, and it had not improved her disposition.

After the first formalities Asako was shown round the house. The
sameness of the rooms surprised her. There was nothing to distinguish
them except the different woods used in their ceilings and walls, a
distinction which betrayed its costliness and its taste only to the
practised eye. Each room was spotless and absolutely bare, with golden
_tatami_, rice-straw mats with edgings of black braid, fixed into the
flooring, by whose number the size of a Japanese room is measured.
Asako admired the pale white _shoji_, the sliding windows of opaque
glowing paper along the side of the room open to the outdoor light,
the _fusuma_ or sliding partitions between room and room, set in the
framework of the house, some of them charmingly painted with sketches
of scenery, flowers, or people, some of them plain cream-coloured
boards flecked with tiny specks of gold.

Nothing broke the sameness of these rooms except the double alcove,
or _tokonoma_ with its inevitable hanging picture, its inevitable
ornament, and its spray of blossom. Between the double niche stood
that pillar of wood which Sadako explained as being the soul of the
room, the leading feature from which its character was taken, being
either plain and firm, or twisted and ornate, or else still unshaped,
with the bosses of amputated branches seared and black protesting
against confinement. The _tokonoma_, as the word suggests, must
originally have been the sleeping-place of the owner of the room, for
it certainly is the only corner in a Japanese house which is secured
from draughts. But perhaps it was respect for invisible spirits which
drove the sleeper eventually to abandon his coign of vantage to the
service of aesthetic beauty, and to stretch himself on the open floor.

To Asako the rooms seemed all the same. Each gave the same impression
of spotlessness and nudity. Each was stiffly rectangular like the
honey squares fitted into a hive. Above all, there was nothing about
any of them to indicate their individual use, or the character of
the person to whom they were specially assigned. No dining-room, or
drawing-room, or library.

"Where is your bedroom?" asked Asako, with a frank demand for that
sign of sisterhood among Western girls; "I should so like to see it."

"I generally sleep," answered the Japanese girl, "in that room at the
corner where we have been already, where the bamboo pictures are. This
is the room where father and mother sleep."

They were standing on the balcony outside the apartment where Asako
had first been received.

"But where are the beds?" she asked.

Sadako went to the end of the balcony, and threw open a big cupboard
concealed in the outside of the house. It was full of layers of rugs,
thick, dark and wadded.

"These are the beds," smiled the Japanese cousin. "My brother Takeshi
has a foreign bed in his room; but my father does not like them, or
foreign clothes, or foreign food, or anything foreign. He says
the Japanese things are best for the Japanese. But he is very
old-fashioned."

"Japanese style looks nicer," said Asako, thinking how big and vulgar
a bedstead would appear in that clean emptiness and how awkwardly its
iron legs would trample on the straw matting; "but isn't it draughty
and uncomfortable?"

"I like the foreign beds best," said Sadako; "my brother has let me
try his. It is very soft."

So in this country of Asako's fathers, a bedstead was lent for trial
as though it had been some fascinating novelty, a bicycle or a piano.

The kitchen appealed most to the visitor. It was the only room to her
mind which had any individuality of its own. It was large, dark and
high, full of servant-girls scuttering about like little mice, who
bowed and then fled when the two ladies came in. The stoves for
boiling the rice interested Asako, round iron receptacles like
coppers, each resting on a brick fireplace. Everything was explained
to her: the high dressers hung with unfamiliar implements in white
metal and white wood: the brightly labelled casks of _saké_ and
_shoyu_ (sauce) waiting in the darkness like the deputation of a
friendly society in its insignia of office: the silent jars of tea,
greenish in colour and ticketed with strange characters, the names of
the respective tea-gardens: the iron kettle hanging on gibbet chains
from the top of the ceiling over a charcoal fire sunk in the floor;
the tasteful design of the commonest earthenware bowl: the little
board and chopper for slicing the raw fish: the clean white rice-tubs
with their brass bindings polished and shining: the odd shape and
entirely Japanese character which distinguished the most ordinary
things, and gave to the short squat knives a romantic air and to the
broad wooden spoons a suggestion of witchcraft: finally, the little
shrine to the Kitchen God, perched on a shelf close to the ceiling,
looking like the façade of a doll's temple, and decorated with brass
vases, dry grasses, and strips of white paper. The wide kitchen was
impregnated with a smell already familiar to Asako's nose, one of
the most typical odours of Japan, the smell of native cooking, humid,
acrid and heavy like the smell of wood smoke from damp logs, with
a sour and rotten flavour to it contributed by a kind of pickled
horse-radish called _Daikon_ or the Great Root, dear to the Japanese
palate.

The central ceremony of Asako's visit was her introduction to the
memory of her dead parents. She was taken to a small room, where the
alcove, the place of honour, was occupied by a closed cabinet, the
_butsudan_ (Buddha shelf), a beautiful piece of joiner's work in a
kind of lattice pattern covered with red lacquer and gold. Sadako,
approaching, reverently opened this shrine. The interior was all gilt
with a dazzling gold like that used an old manuscripts. In the centre
of this glory sat a golden-faced Buddha with dark blue hair and cloak,
and an aureole of golden rays. Below him were arranged the _ihai_, the
Tablets of the Dead, miniature grave-stones about one foot high, with
a black surface edged with gold upon which were inscribed the names of
the dead persons, the new names given by the priests.

Sadako stepped back and clapped her hands together three times,
repeating the formula of the Nichiren Sect of Buddhists.

"_Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]!_ (Adoration to the Wonderful Law of
the Lotus Scriptures!)"

She instructed Asako to do the same.

"For," she said, "we believe that the spirits of the dead people are
here; and we must be very good to them."

Asako did as she was told, wondering whether her confessor would
give her penance for idolatry. Sadako then motioned her to sit on the
floor. She took one of the tablets from its place and placed it in
front of her cousin.

"That is your father's _ihai_," she said; and then removing another
and placing it beside the first, she added,--

"This is your mother."

Asako was deeply moved. In England we love our dead; but we consign
them to the care of nature, to the change of the seasons, and the cold
promiscuity of the graveyard. The Japanese dead never seem to leave
the shelter of their home or the circle of their family. We bring to
our dear ones flowers and prayers; but the Japanese give them food
and wine, and surround them with every-day talk. The companionship is
closer. We chatter much about immortality. We believe, many of us, in
some undying particle. We even think that in some other world the
dead may meet the dead whom they have known in life. But the actual
communion of the dead and the living is for us a beautiful and
inspiring metaphor rather than a concrete belief. Now the Japanese,
although their religion is so much vaguer than ours, hardly question
this survival of the ancestors in the close proximity of their
children and grandchildren. The little funeral tablets are for them
clothed with an invisible personality.

"This is your mother."

Asako felt influences floating around her. Her mind was in pain,
straining to remember something which seemed to be not wholly
forgotten.

Just at this moment Mrs. Fujinami arrived, carrying an old photograph
album and a roll of silk. Her appearance was so opportune that any one
less innocent than Asako might have suspected that the scene had
been rehearsed. In the hush and charm of that little chamber of the
spirits, the face of the elder woman looked soft and sweet. She opened
the volume at the middle, and pushed it in front of Asako.

She saw the photograph of a Japanese girl seated in a chair with a
man standing at her side, with one hand resting on the chair back. Her
father's photograph she recognised at once, the broad forehead, the
deep eyes, the aquiline nose, the high cheek bones, and the thin,
angry sarcastic lips; not a typically Japanese face, but a type
recurrent throughout our over-educated world, cultured, desperate and
stricken. Asako had very little in common with her father; for his
character had been moulded or warped by two powerful agencies, his
intellect and his disease; and it was well for his daughter that she
had escaped this dire inheritance. But never before had she seen her
mother's face. Sometimes she had wondered who and what her mother had
been; what she had thought of as her baby grew within her; and with
what regrets she had exchanged her life for her child's. More often
she had considered herself as a being without a mother, a fairy's
child, brought into this world on a sunbeam or born from a flower.

Now she saw the face which had reflected pain and death for her. It
was impassive, doll-like and very young, pure oval in outline,
but lacking in expression. The smallness of the mouth was the most
characteristic feature, but it was not alive with smiles like her
daughter's. It was pinched and constrained, with the lower lips drawn
in.

The photograph was clearly a wedding souvenir. She wore the black
kimono of a bride, and the multiple skirts. A kind of little
pocket-book with silver charms dangling from it, an ancient marriage
symbol, was thrust into the opening at her breast. Her head was
covered with a curious white cap like the "luggage" of Christmas
crackers. She was seated rigidly at the edge of her uncomfortable
chair; and her personality seemed to be overpowered by the solemnity
of the occasion.

"Did she love him," her daughter wondered, "as I love Geoffrey?"

Through Sadako's interpretation Mrs. Fujinami explained that Asako's
mother's name had been Yamagata Haruko (Spring child). Her father had
been a _samurai_ in the old two-sworded days. The photograph was not
very like her. It was too serious.

"Like you," said the elder woman, "she was always laughing and happy.
My husband's father used to call her the _Semi_ (the cicada), because
she was always singing her little song. She was chosen for your father
because he was so sad and wrathful. They thought that she would
make him more gentle. But she died; and then he became more sad than
before."

Asako was crying very gently. She felt the touch of her cousin's hand
on her arm. The intellectual Miss Sadako also was weeping, the tears
furrowing her whitened complexion. The Japanese are a very emotional
race. The women love tears; and even the men are not averse from this
very natural expression of feeling, which our Anglo-Saxon schooling
has condemned as babyish. Mrs. Fujinami continued,--

"I saw her a few days before you were born. They lived in a little
house on the bank of the river. One could see the boats passing. It
was very damp and cold. She talked all the time of her baby. 'If it is
a boy,' she said, 'everybody will be happy; if it is a girl,
Fujinami San will be very anxious for the family's sake; and the
fortune-tellers say that it will surely be a little girl. But,' she
used to say, 'I could play better with a little girl; I know what
makes them laugh!' When you were born she became very ill. She never
spoke again, and in a few days she died. Your father became like a
madman, he locked the house, and would not see any of us; and as soon
as you were strong enough, he took you away in a ship."

Sadako placed in front of her cousin the roll of silk, and said,--

"This is Japanese _obi_ (sash). It belonged to your mother. She gave
it to my mother a short time before you were born; for she said,
'It is too bright for me now; when I have my baby, I shall give up
society, and I shall spend all my time with my children.' My mother
gives it to you for your mother's sake."

It was a wonderful work of art, a heavy golden brocade, embroidered
with fans, and on each fan a Japanese poem and a little scene from the
olden days.

"She was very fond of this _obi_, she chose the poems herself."

But Asako was not admiring the beautiful workmanship. She was thinking
of the mother's heart which had beat for her under that long strip of
silk, the little Japanese mother who "would have known how to make her
laugh." Tears were falling very quietly on to the old sash.

The two Japanese women saw this; and with the instinctive tact
of their race, they left her alone face to face with this strange
introduction to her mother's personality.

There is a peculiar pathos about the clothes of the dead. They are so
nearly a part of our bodies that it seems unnatural almost that they
should survive with the persistence of inanimate things, when we who
gave them the semblance of life are far more dead than they. It would
be more seemly, perhaps, if all these things which have belonged to
us so intimately were to perish with us in a general _suttee_. But the
mania for relics would never tolerate so complete a disappearance of
one whom we had loved; and our treasuring of hair and ornaments and
letters is a desperate--and perhaps not an entirely vain--attempt to
check the liberated spirit in its leap for eternity.

Asako found in that old garment of her mother's a much more faithful
reflection of the life which had been transmitted to her, than the
stiff photograph could ever realise. She had chosen the poems herself.
Asako must get them transcribed and translated; for they would be a
sure indication of her mother's character. Already the daughter could
see that her mother too must have loved rich and beautiful things,
happiness and laughter.

Old Mr. Fujinami had called her "the _Semi_." Asako did not yet
know the voice of the little insects which are the summer and autumn
orchestra of Japan. But she knew that it must be something happy and
sweet; or they would not have told her.

       *       *       *       *       *

She rose from her knees, and found her cousin waiting for her on the
veranda. Whatever real expression she may have had was effectively
hidden behind the tinted glasses, and the false white complexion, now
renovated from the ravages of emotion. But Asako's heart was won by
the power of the dead, of whom Sadako and her family were, she felt,
the living representatives.

Asako took both of her cousin's hands in her own.

"It was sweet of you and your mother to give me that," she said--and
her eyes were full of tears--"you could not have thought of anything
which would please me more."

The Japanese girl was on the point of starting to bow and smile the
conventional apologies for the worthlessness of the gift, when she
felt herself caught by a power unfamiliar to her, the power of the
emotions of the West.

The pressure on her wrists increased, her face was drawn down towards
her cousin's, and she felt against the corner of her mouth the warm
touch of Asako's lips.

She started back with a cry of "_Iya_! (don't!)," the cry of outraged
Japanese femininity. Then she remembered from her readings that such
kissings were common among European girls, that they were a compliment
and a sign of affection. But she hoped that it had not disarranged her
complexion again; and that none of the servants had seen.

Her cousin's surprise shook Asako out of her dream; and the kiss left
a bitter powdery taste upon her lips which disillusioned her.

"Shall we go into the garden?" said Sadako, who felt that fresh air
was advisable.

They joined hands; so much familiarity was permitted by Japanese
etiquette. They went along the gravel path to the summit of the little
hillock where the cherry-trees had lately been in bloom, Sadako in her
bright kimono, Asako in her dark suit. She looked like a mere mortal
being introduced to the wonders of Titania's country by an authentic
fairy.

The sun was setting in the clear sky, one half of which was a tempest
of orange, gold and red, and the other half warm and calm with roseate
reflections. Over the spot where the focus point of all this glory
was sinking into darkness, a purple cloud hovered like a shred of
the monarch's glory caught and torn away on the jag of some invisible
obstruction. Its edges were white flame, as though part of the sun's
fire were hidden behind it.

Even from this high position little could be seen beyond the Fujinami
enclosure except tree-tops. Away down the valley appeared the grey
scaly roofs of huddled houses, and on a hill opposite more trees with
the bizarre pinnacle of a pagoda forcing its way through the midst of
them. It looked like a series of hats perched one on the top of the
other by a merchant of Petticoat Lane.

Lights were glimpsing from the Fujinami mansion; more lights were
visible among the shrubberies below. This soft light, filtered through
the paper walls, shone like a luminous pearl. This is the home light
of the Japanese, and is as typical of their domesticity as the
blazing log-fire is of ours. It is greenish, still and pure, like a
glow-worm's beacon.

Out of the deep silence a bell tolled. It was as though an unseen hand
had struck the splendour of that metallic firmament; or as though a
voice had spoken out of the sunset cloud.

The two girls descended to the brink of the lake. Here at the farther
end the water was broader; and it was hidden from view of the houses.
Green reeds grew along the margin, and green iris leaves, like sword
blades, black now in the failing light. There was a studied roughness
in the tiny landscape, and in the midst of the wilderness a little
hut.

"What a sweet little summer-house!" cried Asako.

It looked like a settler's shack, built of rough, unshapen logs and
thatched with rushes.

"It is the room for the _chanoyu_, the tea-ceremony," said her cousin.

Inside, the walls were daubed with earth; and a round window barred
with bamboo sticks gave a view into what was apparently forest depths.

"Why, it is just like a doll's house," cried Asako, delighted. "Can we
go in?"

"Oh, yes," said the Japanese. Asako jumped in at once and squatted
down on the clean matting; but her more cautious cousin dusted the
place with her handkerchief before risking a stain.

"Do you often have tea-ceremonies?" asked Asako.

The Muratas had explained to her long ago something about the
mysterious rites.

"Two or three times in the Spring, and then two or three times in the
Autumn. But my teacher comes every week."

"How long have you been learning?" Asako wanted to know.

"Oh, since I was ten years old about."

"Is it so difficult then?" said Asako, who had found it comparatively
easy to pour out a cup of drawing-room tea without clumsiness.

Sadako smiled tolerantly at her cousin's naive ignorance of things
aesthetic and intellectual. It was as though she had been asked
whether music or philosophy were difficult.

"One can never study too much," she said, "one is always learning; one
can never be perfect. Life is short, art is long."

"But it is not an art like painting or playing the piano, just pouring
out tea?"

"Oh, yes," Sadako smiled again, "it is much more than that. We
Japanese do not think art is just to be able to do things, showing
off like _geisha_. Art is in the character, in the spirit. And
the tea-ceremony teaches us to make our character full of art, by
restraining everything ugly and common, in every movement, in the
movement of our hands, in the position of our feet, in the looks of
our faces. Men and women ought not to sit and move like animals; but
the shape of their bodies, and their way of action ought to express a
poetry. That is the art of the _chanoyu_."

"I should like to see it," said Asako, excited by her cousin's
enthusiasm, though she hardly understood a word of what she had been
saying.

"You ought to learn some of it," said Sadako, with the zeal of a
propagandist. "My teacher says--and my teacher was educated at the
court of the Tokugawa Shogun--that no woman can have really good
manners, if she has not studied the _chanoyu_."

Of course, there was nothing which Asako would like more than to sit
in this fascinating arbour in the warm days of the coming summer,
and play at tea-parties with her new-found Japanese cousin. She would
learn to speak Japanese, too; and she would help Sadako with her
French and English.

The two cousins worked out the scheme for their future intimacy until
the stars were reflected in the lake and the evening breeze became too
cool for them.

Then they left the little hermitage and continued their walk around
the garden. They passed a bamboo grove, whose huge plumes, black in
the darkness, danced and beckoned like the Erl-king's daughters. They
passed a little house shuttered like a Noah's Ark, from which came a
monotonous moaning sound as of some one in pain, and the rhythmic beat
of a wooden clapper.

"What is that?" asked Asako.

"That is my father's brother's house. But he is illegitimate brother;
he is not of the true family. He is a very pious man. He repeats the
prayer to Buddha ten thousand times every day; and he beats upon the
_mokugy[=o]_ a kind of drum like a fish which the Buddhist priests use."

"Was he at the dinner last night?" asked Asako.

"Oh no, he never goes out. He has not once left that house for ten
years. He is perhaps rather mad; but it is said that he brings good
luck to the family."

A little farther on they passed two stone lanterns, cold and blind
like tombstones. Stone steps rose between them to what in the darkness
looked like a large dog-kennel. A lighted paper lantern hung in front
of it like a great ripe fruit.

"What is that?" asked Asako.

In the failing twilight this fairy garden was becoming more and more
wonderful. At any moment, she felt she might meet the Emperor himself
in the white robes of ancient days and the black coal-scuttle hat.

"That is a little temple," explained her cousin, "for Inari Sama."

At the top of the flight of steps Asako distinguished two stone foxes.
Their expression was hungry and malign. They reminded her of--what?
She remembered the little temple outside the Yoshiwara on the day she
had gone to see the procession.

"Do you say prayers there?" she asked her companion.

"No, _I_ do not," answered the Japanese, "but the servants light
the lamp every evening; and we believe it makes the house lucky.
We Japanese are very superstitious. Besides, it looks pretty in the
garden."

"I don't like the foxes' faces," said Asako, "they look bad
creatures."

"They _are_ bad creatures," was the reply, "nobody likes to see a fox;
they fool people."

"Then why say prayers, if they are bad?"

"It is just because they are bad," said Sadako, "that we must please
them. We flatter them so that they may not hurt us."

Asako was unlearned in the difference between religion and
devil-worship, so she did not understand the full significance of this
remark. But she felt an unpleasant reaction, the first which she had
received that day; and she thought to herself that if she were the
mistress of that lovely garden, she would banish the stone foxes and
risk their displeasure.

The two girls returned to the house. Its shutters were up, and it,
too, had that same appearance of a Noah's Ark but of a more complete
and expensive variety. One little opening was left in the wooden
armature for the girls to enter by.

"Please come again many, many times," was cousin Sadako's last
farewell. "The house of the Fujinami is your home. _Sayonara_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Geoffrey was waiting for his wife in the hall of the hotel. He was
anxious at her late return. His embrace seemed to swallow her up to
the amusement of the _boy sans_ who had been discussing the lateness
of _okusan_, and the possibility of her having an admirer.

"Thank goodness," said Geoffrey, "what have you been doing? I was just
going to organise a search party."

"I have been with Mrs. Fujinami and Sadako," Asako panted, "they
would not let me go; and oh!"--She was going to tell him all about her
mother's picture; but she suddenly checked herself, and said instead,
"They've got such a lovely garden."

She described the home of the cousins in glowing colours, the
hospitality of the family, the cleverness of cousin Sadako, and
the lessons which they were going to exchange. Yes, she replied to
Geoffrey's questions, she had seen the memorial tablets of her father
and mother, and their wedding photograph. But a strange paralysis
sealed her lips, and her soul became inarticulate. She found herself
absolutely incapable of telling that big foreign husband of hers,
truly as she loved him, the veritable state of her emotions when
brought face to face with her dead parents.

Geoffrey had never spoken to her of her mother. He had never seemed
to have the least interest in her identity. These "Jap women," as he
called them, were never very real to him. She dreaded the possibility
of revealing to him her secret, and then of receiving no response to
her emotion. Also she had an instinctive reluctance to emphasise in
Geoffrey's mind her kinship with these alien people.

After dinner, when she had gone up to her room, Geoffrey was left
alone with his cigar and his reflection.

"Funny that she did not speak more about her father and mother. But I
suppose they don't mean much to her, after all. And, by Jove, it's a
good thing for me! I wouldn't like to have a wife who was all the time
running home to her people, and comparing notes with her mother."

Upstairs in her bedroom, Asako had unrolled the precious _obi_. An
unmounted photograph came fluttering out of the parcel. It was a
portrait of her father alone taken a short time before his death. At
the back of the photograph was some Japanese writing.

"Is Tanaka there?" Asako asked her maid Titine.

Yes, of course, Tanaka was there, in the next room with his ear near
the door.

"Tanaka, what does this mean?"

"Japanese poem," he said, "meaning very difficult: very many meanings:
I think perhaps it means, having travelled all over the world, he
feels very sad."

"Yes, but word for word, Tanaka, what does it mean?"

"This writing means, World is really not the same it says: all the
world very many tell lies."

"And this?"

"This means, Travelling everywhere."

"And this at the end?"

"It means, Eveything always the same thing. Very bad translation I
make. Very sad poem."

"And this writing here?"

"That is Japanese name--Fujinami Katsundo--and the date, twenty-fifth
year of Meiji, twelfth month."

Tanaka had turned over the photograph and was looking attentively at
the portrait.

"The honoured father of Ladyship, I think," he said.

"Yes," said Asako.

Then she thought she heard her husband's step away down the corridor.
Hurriedly she thrust _obi_ and photograph into a drawer.

Now, why did she do that? wondered Tanaka.



CHAPTER XIV

THE DWARF TREES

  _Iwa-yado ni
  Tateru maisu no ki,
  Na wo mireba,
  Mukashi no hito wo
  Ai-miru gotashi._

  O pine-tree standing
  At the (side of) the stone house,
  When I look at you,
  It is like seeing face to face
  The men of old time.


For the first time during the journey of their married lives, Geoffrey
and Asako were pursuing different paths. It is the normal thing, no
doubt, for the man to go out to his work and to his play, while the
wife attends to her social and domestic duties. The evening brings
reunion with new impressions and new interests to discuss. Such a life
with its brief restorative separations prevents love growing stale,
and soothes the irritation of nerves which, by the strain of petty
repetitions, are exasperated sometimes into blasphemy of the heart's
true creed. But the Barrington _ménage_ was an unusual one. By
adopting a life of travel, they had devoted themselves to a
protracted honeymoon, a relentless _tête-à-tête_. So long as they were
continually on the move, constantly refreshed by new scenes, they did
not feel the difficulty of their self-imposed task. But directly their
stay in Tokyo seemed likely to become permanent, their ways separated
as naturally as two branches, which have been tightly bound together,
spread apart with the loosening of the string.

This separation was so inevitable that they were neither of them
conscious of it. Geoffrey had all his life been devoted to exercise
and games of all kinds. They were as necessary as food for his
big body. At Tokyo he had found, most unexpectedly, excellent
tennis-courts and first-class players.

They still spent the mornings together, driving round the city, and
inspecting curios. So what could be more reasonable than that Asako
should prefer to spend her afternoons with her cousin, who was so
anxious to please her and to initiate her into that intimate Japanese
life, which of course must appeal to her more strongly than to her
husband?

Personally, Geoffrey found the company of his Japanese relatives
exceedingly slow.

In return for the hospitalities of the Maple Club the Barringtons
invited a representative gathering of the Fujinami clan to dinner at
the Imperial Hotel, to be followed by a general adjournment to the
theatre.

It was a most depressing meal. Nobody spoke. All of the guests were
nervous; some of them about their clothes, some about their knives and
forks, all of them about their English. They were too nervous even to
drink wine, which would have been the only remedy for such a "frost."

Only Ito, the lawyer, talked, talked noisily, talked with his mouth
full. But Geoffrey disliked Ito. He mistrusted the man; but, because
of his wife's growing intimacy with her cousins, he felt loath to
start subterranean inquiries as to the whereabouts of her fortune. It
was Ito who, foreseeing embarrassment, had suggested the theatre party
after dinner. For this at least Geoffrey was grateful to him. It saved
him the pain of trying to make conversation with his cousins.

"Talking to these Japs," he said to Reggie Forsyth, "is like trying to
play tennis all by yourself."

Later on, at his wife's insistence, he attended an informal
garden-party at the Fujinami house. Again he suffered acutely from
those cruel silences and portentous waitings, to which he noticed that
even the Japanese among themselves were liable, but which apparently
they did not mind.

Tea and ice-creams were served by _geisha_ girls who danced afterwards
upon the lawn. When this performance was over the guests were
conducted to an open space behind the cherry-grove, where a little
shooting-range had been set up, with a target, air-guns and boxes of
lead lugs. Geoffrey, of course, joined in the shooting-competition,
and won a handsome cigarette case inlaid with Damascene work. But he
thought that it was a poor game; nor did he ever realize that this
entertainment had been specially organized with a view to flattering
his military and sporting tastes.

But the greatest disillusionment was the Akasaka garden. Geoffrey was
resigned to be bored by everything else. But his wife had grown so
enthusiastic about the beauties of the Fujinami domain, that he had
expected to walk straight into a paradise. What did he see? A dirty
pond and some shrubs, not one single flower to break the monotony of
green and drab, and everything so small. Why, he could walk round the
whole enclosure in ten minutes. Geoffrey Barrington was accustomed
to country houses in England, with their broad acres and their lavish
luxuriance of scent and blossom. This niggling landscape art of the
Japanese seemed to him mean and insignificant.

       *       *       *       *       *

He much preferred the garden at Count Saito's home. Count Saito,
the late Ambassador at the Court of St. James, with his stooping
shoulders, his grizzled hair, and his deep eyes peering under the
gold-rimmed spectacles, had proposed the health of Captain and Mrs.
Barrington at their wedding breakfast. Since then, he had returned
to Japan, where he was soon to play a leading political rôle. Meeting
Geoffrey one day at the Embassy, he had invited him and his wife to
visit his famous garden.

It was a hanging garden on the side of a steep hill, parted down the
middle by a little stream with its string of waterfalls. Along either
bank rose groups of iris, mauve and white, whispering together like
long-limbed pre-Raphaelite girls. Round a sunny fountain, the source
of the stream, just below the terrace of the Count's mansion, they
thronged together more densely, surrounding the music of the water
with the steps of a slow sarabande, or pausing at the edge of the pool
to admire their own reflection.

Count Saito showed Geoffrey where the roses were coming on, new
varieties of which he had brought from England with him.

"Perhaps they will not like to be turned into Japanese," he observed;
"the rose is such an English flower."

They passed on to where the azaleas would soon be in fiery bloom.
For with the true gardener, the hidden promise of the morrow is more
stimulating to the enthusiasm than the assured success of the full
flowers.

The Count wore his rustling native dress; but two black cocker
spaniels followed at his heels. This combination presented an odd
mixture of English squire-archy and the _daimyo_ of feudal Japan.

On the crest of the hill above him rose the house, a tall Italianate
mansion of grey stucco, softened by creepers, jessamine and climbing
roses. Alongside ran the low irregular roofs of the Japanese portion
of the residence. Almost all rich Japanese have a double house,
half foreign and half native, to meet the needs of their amphibious
existence. This grotesque juxtaposition is to be seen all over Tokyo,
like a tall boastful foreigner tethered to a timid Japanese wife.

Geoffrey inquired in which wing of this unequal bivalve his host
actually lived.

"When I returned from England," said Count Saito, "I tried to live
again in the Japanese style. But we could not, neither my wife nor I.
We took cold and rheumatism sleeping on the floor, and the food made
us ill; so we had to give it up. But I was sorry. For I think it is
better for a country to keep its own ways. There is a danger nowadays,
when all the world is becoming cosmopolitan. A kind of international
type is springing up. His language is _esperanto_, his writing is
shorthand, he has no country, he fights for whoever will pay him most,
like the Swiss of the Middle Ages. He is the mercenary of commerce,
the ideal commercial traveler. I am much afraid of him, because I am
a Japanese and not a world citizen. I want my country to be great and
respected. Above all, I want it to be always Japanese. I think that
loss in national character means loss of national strength."

Asako was being introduced by her hostess to the celebrated collection
of dwarf trees, which had made the social fame of the Count's sojourn
as Ambassador in Grosvenor Square.

Countess Saito, like her husband, spoke excellent English; and her
manner in greeting Asako was of London rather than of Tokyo. She took
both her hands and shook them warmly.

"My dear," she said, in her curious deep hoarse voice, "I'm so glad to
see you. You are like a little bit of London come to say that you have
not forgotten me."

This great Japanese lady was small and very plain. Her high forehead
was deeply lined and her face was marked with small-pox. Her big mouth
opened wide as she talked, like a nestling's. But she was immensely
rich. The only child of one of the richest bankers of Japan, she
had brought to her husband the opportunity for his great gifts as a
political leader, and the luxury in which they lived.

The little trees were in evidence everywhere, decorating the living
rooms, posted like sentinels on the terrace, and staged with the
honour due to statuary at points of vantage in the garden. But their
chief home was in a sunny corner at the back of a shrubbery, where
they were aligned on shelves in the sunlight. Three special gardeners
who attended to their wants were grooming and massaging them, soothing
and titivating them, for their temporary appearances in public. Here
they had a green-house of their own, kept slightly warmed for a few
delicate specimens, and also for the convalescence of the hardier
trees; for these precious dwarfs are quite human in their ailments,
their pleasures and their idiosyncracies.

Countess Saito had a hundred or more of these fashionable pets, of all
varieties and shapes. There were giants of primeval forests reduced to
the dimensions of a few feet, like the timbers of a lordly park seen
through the wrong end of a telescope. There were graceful maple trees,
whose tiny star-like leaves were particularly adapted to the process
of diminution which had checked the growth of trunk and branches.
There were weeping willows with light-green feathery foliage, such
as sorrowing fairies might plant on the grave of some Taliessin
of Oberon's court. There was a double cherry in belated bloom; its
flowers of natural size hung amid the slender branches like big birds'
nests. There was a stunted oak tree, creeping along the earth with
gnarled and lumpy limbs like a miniature dinosaur; it waved in the air
a clump of demensurate leaves with the truculent mien of boxing-gloves
or lobsters' claws. In the centre of the rectangle formed by this
audience of trees, and raised on a long table, was a tiny wisteria
arbour, formed by a dozen plants arranged in quincunx. The
intertwisted ropes of branches were supported on shining rods of
bamboo; and the clusters of blossom, like bunches of grapes or like
miniature chandeliers, still hung over the litter of their fallen
beauty, with a few bird-like flowers clinging to them, pale and
bleached.

"They are over two hundred years old," said their proud owner, "they
came from one of the Emperor's palaces at Kyoto."

But the pride of the collection were the conifers and
evergreens--trees which have Japanese and Latin names only, the
_hinoki_, the _enoki_, the _sasaki_, the _keyaki_, the _maki_, the
_surgi_ and the _kusunoki_--all trees of the dark funereal families of
fir and laurel, which the birds avoid, and whose deep winter green in
the summer turns to rust. There were spreading cedar trees, black like
the tents of Bedouins, and there were straight cryptomerias for the
masts of fairy ships. There was a strange tree, whose light-green
foliage grew in round clumps like trays of green lacquer at the
extremities of twisted brandies, a natural _étagère_. There were the
distorted pine-trees of Japan, which are the symbol of old age, of
fidelity, of patience under adversity, and of the Japanese nation
itself, in every attitude of menace, curiosity, jubilation and gloom.
Some of them were leaning out of their pots and staring head downwards
at the ground beneath them; some were creeping along the earth
like reptiles; some were mere trunks, with a bunch of green needles
sprouting at the top like a palm; some with one long pathetic branch
were stretching out in quest of the infinite to the neglect of the
rest of the tree; some were tall and bent as by some sea wind blowing
shoreward. Streaking a miniature landscape, they were whispering
together the tales of centuries past.

The Japanese art of cultivating these tiny trees is a weird and
unhealthy practice, akin to vivisection, but without its excuse. It is
like the Chinese custom of dwarfing their women's feet. The result is
pleasing to the eye; but it hurts the mind by its abnormality, and the
heart by its ruthlessness.

Asako's admiration, so easily stirred, became enthusiastic as Countess
Saito told her something of the personal history of her favourite
plants, how this one was two hundred years old, and that one three
hundred and fifty, and how another had been present at such and such a
scene famous in Japanese history.

"Oh, they are lovely," cried Asako. "Where can one get them? I must
have some."

Countess Saito gave her the names of some well-known market gardeners.

"You can get pretty little trees from them for fifty to a hundred
_yen_ (£5 to £10)," she said. "But of course the real historical trees
are so very few; they hardly ever come on the market. They are like
animals, you know. They want so much attention. They must have a
garden to take their walks in, and a valet of their own."

This great Japanese lady felt an affection and sympathy for the girl
who, like herself, had been set apart by destiny from the monotonous
ranks of Japanese women and their tedious dependence.

"Little Asa Chan," she said, calling her by her pet name, "take care;
you can become Japanese again, but your husband cannot."

"Of course not, he's too big," laughed Asako; "but I like to run
away from him sometimes, and hide behind the _shoji_. Then I feel
independent."

"But you are not really so," said the Japanese, "no woman is. You see
the wisteria hanging in the big tree there. What happens when the
big tree is taken away? The wisteria becomes independent, but it lies
along the ground and dies. Do you know the Japanese name for wisteria?
It is _fuji_--Fujinami Asako. If you have any difficulty ever, come
and talk to me. You see, I, too, am a rich woman; and I know that it
is almost as difficult to be very rich as it is to be very poor."

       *       *       *       *       *

Captain Barrington and the ex-Ambassador were sitting on one of the
benches of the terrace when the ladies rejoined them.

"Well, Daddy," the Countess addressed her husband in English, "what
are you talking about so earnestly?"

"About England and Japan," replied the Count.

As a matter of fact, in the course of a rambling conversation, Count
Saito had asked his guest:

"Now, what strikes you as the most surprising difference between our
two countries?"

Geoffrey pondered for a moment. He wanted to answer frankly, but he
was still awed by the canons of Good Form. At last he said: "This
Yoshiwara business."

The Japanese statesman seemed surprised.

"But that is just a local difference in the manner of regulating a
universal problem," he said.

"Englishmen aren't any better than they should be," said Geoffrey;
"but we don't like to hear of women put up for sale like things in a
shop."

"Then you have not actually seen them yourself?" said the Count.
He could not help smiling at the characteristic British habit of
criticising on hearsay.

"Not actually; but I saw the procession last month."

"You really think that it is better to let immoral women stray about
the streets without any attempt to control them and the crime and
disease they cause?"

"It's not that," said Geoffrey; "it seems to me horrible that women
should be put up to sale and exposed in shop windows ticketed and
priced."

Count Saito smiled again and said:

"I see that you are an idealist like so many Englishmen. But I am only
a practical statesman. The problem of vice is a problem of government.
No law can abolish it. It is for us statesmen to study how to restrain
it and its evil consequences. Three hundred years ago these women
used to walk about the streets as they do in London to-day. Tokugawa
Iyeyasu, the greatest of all Japanese statesmen, who gave peace to the
whole country, put in order this untidiness also. He had the Yoshiwara
built, and he put all the women there, where the police could watch
both them and the men who visited them. The English might learn from
us here, I think. But you are an unruly people. It is not only that
you object for ideal reasons to the imprisonment of these women; but
it is your men who would object very strongly to having the eye of the
policeman watching them when they paid their visits."

Geoffrey was silenced by the experience of his host. He was afraid,
as most Englishmen are, of arguing that the British determination to
ignore vice, however disastrous in practice, is a system infinitely
nobler in conception than the acquiescence which admits for the evil
its right to exist, and places it among the commonplaces of life.

"And how about the people who make money out of such a place?" asked
Geoffrey. "They must be contemptible specimens."

The face of the wise statesman became suddenly gentle.

"I really don't know much about them," he said. "If we do meet them
they do not boast about it."



CHAPTER XV

EURASIA

  _Mono-sugo ya
  Ara omoshiro no
  Kaeri-bana._

  Queer--
  Yes, but attractive
  Are the flowers which bloom out of season.


Although he felt a decreasing interest in the Japanese people,
Geoffrey was enjoying his stay in Tokyo. He was tired of traveling,
and was glad to settle down in the semblance of a home life.

He was very keen on his tennis. It was also a great pleasure to see
so much of Reggie Forsyth. Besides, he was conscious of the mission
assigned to him by Lady Cynthia Cairns to save his friend from the
dangerous connection with Yaé Smith.

Reggie and he had been at Eton together. Geoffrey, four years the
senior, a member of "Pop," and an athlete of many colours, found
himself one day the object of an almost idolatrous worship on the part
of a skinny little being, discreditably clever at Latin verses, and
given over to the degrading habit of solitary piano practicing on
half-holidays. He was embarrassed but touched by a devotion which was
quite incomprehensible to him; and he encouraged it furtively. When
Geoffrey left Eton the friends did not see each other again for some
years, though they watched each other's careers from a distance,
mutually appreciative. Their next meeting took place in Lady
Everington's drawing-room, where Barrington had already heard fair
ladies praising the gifts and graces of the young diplomat. He heard
him play the piano; and he also heard the appreciation of discerning
judgment. He heard him talking with arabesque agility. It was
Geoffrey's turn to feel on the wrong side of a vast superiority, and
in his turn he repaid the old debt of admiration; generosity filled
the gulf and the two became firm friends. Reggie's intelligence
flicked the inertia of Geoffrey's mind, quickened his powers of
observation, and developed his sense of interest in the world around
him. Geoffrey's prudence and stolidity had more than once saved the
young man from the brink of sentimental precipices.

For Reggie's unquestionable musical talent found its nourishment
in love affairs dangerously unsophisticated. He refused to consider
marriage with any of the sweet young things, who would gladly
have risked his lukewarm interest for the chance of becoming an
Ambassador's wife. He equally avoided pawning his youth to any of
the maturer married ladies, whose status and character, together with
those of their husbands, license them to practice as certificated
Egerias. His dangerous _penchant_ was for highly spiced adventuresses,
and for pastoral amourettes, wistful and obscure. But he never gave
away his heart; he lent it out at interest. He received it again
intact, with the profit of his musical inspiration. Thus his liaison
with Véronique Gerson produced the publication of _Les demi-jours_, a
series of musical poems which placed him at once in the forefront of
young composers; but it also alarmed the Foreign Office, which was
paternally interested in Reggie's career. This brought about his
banishment to Japan. The _Attente d'hiver_, now famous, is his candid
musical confession that the coma inflicted upon him by Véronique's
unconcern was merely the drowsiness of the waiting earth before the
New Year brought back the old story.

Reggie would never be attracted to native women; and he had not the
dry inquisitiveness of his predecessor, Aubrey Laking, which might
induce him to buy and keep a woman for whom he felt no affection. The
love which can exchange no thoughts in speech was altogether too
crude for him. It was his emotions, rather than his senses, which were
always craving for amorous excitement. His frail body claimed merely
its right to follow their lead, as a little boat follows the strong
wind which fills its sails. But ever since he had loved Geoffrey
Barrington at Eton it was a necessity for his nature to love some one;
and as the haze of his young conceptions cleared, that some one became
necessarily a woman.

He soon recognized the wisdom of the Foreign Office in choosing Japan.
It was a starvation diet which had been prescribed for him. So he
settled down to his memories and to _L'attente d'hiver_, thinking that
it would be two long years or more before his Spring blossomed again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then he heard the story of the duel fought for Yaé Smith by two young
English officers, both of them her lovers, so people said, and the
vaguer tale of a fiancé's suicide. Some weeks later, he met her for
the first time at a dance. She was the only woman present in Japanese
dress, and Reggie thought at once of Asako Barrington. How wise of
these small women to wear the kimono which drapes so gracefully their
stumpy figures. He danced with her, his right hand lodged somewhere in
the folds of the huge bow with the embroidered peacock, which covered
her back. Under this stiff brocade he could feel no sensation of a
living body. She seemed to have no bones in her, and she was as
light as a feather. It was then that he imagined her as Lilith, the
snake-girl. She danced with ease, so much better than he, that at the
end of a series of cannons she suggested that they might sit out the
dance. She guided him into the garden, and they took possession of a
rustic seat. In the ballroom she had seemed timid, and had spoken in
undertones only; but in this shadowy _tête-à-tête_ beneath the stars,
she began to talk frankly about her own life.

She told him about her one visit to England with her father; how she
had loved the country, and how dull it was for her here in Japan. She
asked him about his music. She would so like to hear him play. There
was an old piano at her home. She did not think he would like it very
much--indeed, Reggie was already shuddering in anticipation--or else?
Would she come to tea with him at the Embassy? That would be nice! She
could bring her mother or one of her brothers? She would rather come
with a girl friend. Very well, to-morrow?

On the morrow she came.

Reggie hated playing in public. He said that it was like stripping
naked before a multitude, or like having to read one's own love
letters aloud in a divorce court. But there is nothing more soothing
than to play to one attentive listener, especially if that listener
be feminine and if the interest shown be that personal interest, which
with so many women takes the place of true appreciation, and which
looks over the art to the artist.

Yaé came with the girl friend, a lean and skinny half-caste girl
like a gipsy, whom Yaé patronized. She came once again with the girl
friend; and then she came alone.

Reggie was relieved, and said so. Yaé laughed and replied:

"But I brought her for your own sake; I always go everywhere by
myself."

"Then please don't take me into consideration ever again," answered
Reggie.

So those afternoons began which so soon darkened into evenings, while
Reggie sat at the piano playing his thoughts aloud, and the girl
lay on the sofa or squatted on the big cushion by the fire, with
cigarettes within reach and a glass of liqueur, wrapped in an
atmosphere of laziness and well-being such as she had never known
before. Then Reggie would stop playing. He would sit down beside her,
or he would take her on his knee; and they would talk.

He talked as poets talk, weaving stories out of nothing, finding
laughter and tears in what she would have passed by unnoticed. She
talked to him about herself, about the daily doings of her home,
its sadness and isolation since her father died. He had been the
playfellow of her childhood. He had never grudged his time or his
money for her amusement. She had been brought up like a little
princess. She had been utterly spoiled. He had transferred to her
precocious mind his love of excitement, his inquisitiveness, his
courage and his lack of scruple; and then, when she was sixteen, he
had died, leaving as his last command to the Japanese wife who would
obey him in death as she had obeyed him living, the strict injunction
that Yaé was to have her own way always and in everything.

He left a respectable fortune, a Japanese widow and two worthless
sons.

Poor Yaé! Surrounded by the friends and amusements of an English
girl's life, the qualities of her happy disposition might have borne
their natural fruit. But at her father's death she found herself
isolated, without friends and without amusements. She found herself
marooned on the island of Eurasia, a flat and barren land of narrow
confines and stunted vegetation. The Japanese have no use for the
half-castes; and the Europeans look down upon them. They dwell apart
in a limbo of which Baroness Miyazaki is the acknowledged queen.

Baroness Miyazaki is a stupendous old lady, whose figure might be
drawn from some eighteenth-century comedy. Her late husband--and
gossip says that she was his landlady during a period of study in
England--held a high position in the Imperial Court. His wife, by
a pomposity of manner and an assumption of superior knowledge,
succeeded, where no other white woman has succeeded, in acquiring the
respect and intimacy of the great ladies of Japan. She has inculcated
the accents of Pentonville, with its aitches dropped and recovered
again, among the high Japanese aristocracy.

But first her husband died; and then the old Imperial Court of the
Emperor Meiji passed away. So Baroness Miyazaki had to retire from
the society of princesses. She passed not without dignity, like an
old monarch _en disponibilité_, to the vacant throne of the Eurasian
limbo, where her rule is undisputed.

Every Friday afternoon you may see her presiding over her little court
in the Miyazaki mansion, with its mixture of tinsel and dust. The
Bourbonian features, the lofty white wig, the elephantine form, the
rustling taffeta, and the ebony stick with its ivory handle, leads
one's thoughts backwards to the days of Richardson and Sterne.

But her loyal subjects who surround her--it is impossible to place
them. They are poor, they are untidy, they are restless. Their black
hair is straggling, their brown eyes are soft, their clothes are
desperately European, but ill-fitting and tired. They chatter together
ceaselessly and rapidly like starlings, with curious inflections in
their English speech, and phrases snatched up from the vernacular.
They are forever glancing and whispering, bursting at times into wild
peals of laughter which lack the authentic ring of gladness. They are
a people of shadows blown by the harsh winds of destiny across the
face of a land where they can find no permanent resting place. They
are the children of Eurasia, the unhappiest people on earth.

It was among these people that Yaé's lot was cast. She stepped into an
immediate ascendancy over them, thanks to her beauty, her personality
and, above all, to her money. Baroness Miyazaki saw at once that
she had a rival in Eurasia. She hated her, but waited calmly for the
opportunity to assist in her inevitable collapse, a woman of wide
experience watching the antics of a girl innocent and giddy, the
Baroness playing the part of Elizabeth of England to Yaé's Mary Queen
of Scots.

Meanwhile, Yaé was learning what the Eurasian girls were whispering
about so continually--love affairs, intrigues with secretaries of
South American legations, secret engagements, disguised messages.

This seed fell upon soil well-prepared. Her father had been a
reprobate till the day of his death, when he had sent for his
favourite Japanese girl to come and massage the pain out of his wasted
body. Her brothers had one staple topic of conversation which they
did not hesitate to discuss before their sister--_geisha_, assignation
houses, and the licensed quarters. Yaé's mind was formed to the idea
that for grown-up people there is one absorbing distraction, which is
to be found in the company of the opposite sex.

There was no talk in the Smith's home of the romance of marriage,
of the love of parents and children, which might have turned this
precocious preoccupation in a healthy direction. The talk was of women
all the time, of women as instruments of pleasure. Nor could Mrs.
Smith, the Japanese mother, guide her daughter's steps. She was a
creature of duty, dry-featured and self-effaced. She did her utmost
for her children's physical wants, she nursed them devotedly in
sickness, she attended to their clothes and to their comforts. But she
did not attempt to influence their moral ideas. She had given up any
hope of understanding her husband. She schooled herself to accept
everything without surprise. Poor man! He was a foreigner and had
a fox (i.e. he was possessed); and unfortunately his children had
inherited this incorrigible animal.

To please her daughter she opened up her house for hospitality with
unseemly promptitude after her husband's death. The Smiths gave
frequent dances, well-attended by young people of the Tokyo foreign
community. At the first of these series, Yaé listened to the
passionate pleadings of a young man called Hoskin, a clerk in an
English firm. On the second opportunity she became engaged to him. On
the third, she was struck with admiration and awe by a South American
diplomat with the green ribbon of a Bolivian order tied across his
false shirt front. Don Quebrado d'Acunha was a practiced hand at
seduction and Yaé became one of his victims soon after her seventeenth
birthday, and just ten days before her admirer sailed away to rejoin
his legitimate spouse in Guayaquil. The engagement with Hoskin still
lingered on; but the young man, who adored her was haggard and pale.
Yaé had a new follower, a teacher of English in a Japanese school, who
recited beautifully and wrote poetry about her.

Then Baroness Miyazaki judged that her time was ripe. She summoned
young Hoskin into her dowager presence, and, with a manner heavily
maternal, she warned him against the lightness of his fiancée. When he
refused to believe evil of her she produced a pathetic letter full
of half-confessions, which the girl herself had written to her in
a moment of expansion. A week later the young man's body was washed
ashore near Yokohama.

Yaé was sorry to hear of the accident; but she had long ceased to be
interested in Hoskin, the reticence of whose passion had seemed like
a touch of ice to her fevered nerves. But this was Baroness Miyazaki's
opportunity to discredit Yaé, to crush her rival out of serious
competition, and to degrade her to the _demi-monde_. It was done
promptly and ruthlessly; for the Baroness's gossip carried weight
throughout the diplomatic, professional and missionary circles, even
where her person was held in ridicule. The facts of Hoskin's suicide
became known. Nice women dropped Yaé entirely; and bad men ran after
her with redoubled zest. Yaé did not realize her ostracism.

The Smith's dances next winter became so many competitions for the
daughter's corruption, and were rendered brilliant by the presence
of several of the young officers attached to the British Embassy, who
made the running, and finally monopolized the prize.

Next year the Smiths acquired a motor-car which soon became Yaé's
special perquisite. She would disappear for whole days and nights.
None of her family could restrain her. Her answer to all remonstrances
was:

"You do what you want; I do what I want."

That summer two English officers whom she especially favoured fought a
duel with pistols--for her beauty or for her honour. The exact motive
remained unknown. One was seriously wounded; and both of them had to
leave the country.

Yaé was grieved by this sudden loss of both her lovers. It left her
in a condition of double widowhood from which she was most anxious to
escape. But now she was becoming more fastidious. The school teachers
and the dagos fascinated her no longer. Her soldier friends had
introduced her into Embassy circles, and she wished to remain there.
She fixed on Aubrey Laking for her next attempt, but from him she
received her first rebuff. Having lured him into a _tête-à-tête_, as
her method was, she asked him for counsel in the conduct of her life.

"If I were you," he said dryly, "I should go to Paris or New York. You
will find much more scope there."

Fortunately fate soon exchanged Aubrey Laking for Reggie Forsyth. He
was just what suited her--for a time. But a certain impersonality in
his admiration, his fits of reverie, the ascendancy of music over his
mind, made her come to regret her more masculine lovers. And it was
just at this moment of dissatisfaction that she first saw Geoffrey
Barrington, and thought how lovely he would look in his uniform. From
that moment desire entered her heart. Not that she wanted to lose
Reggie; the peace and harmony of his surroundings soothed her like a
warm and scented bath. But she wanted both. She had had two before,
and had found them complimentary to one another and agreeable to her.
She wanted to sit on Geoffrey's knee and to feel his strong arms round
her. But she must not be too sudden in her advances, or she would lose
him as she had lost Laking.

It is easy to condemn Yaé as a bad girl, a born _cocotte_. Yet such
a judgment would not be entirely equitable. She was a laughter-loving
little creature, a child of the sun. She never sought to do harm to
anybody. Rather was she over-amiable. She wished above all to make
her men friends happy and to be pleasing in their eyes. She was never
swayed by mercenary motives. She was to be won by admiration, by good
looks, and by personal distinction, but never by money. If she tired
of her lovers somewhat rapidly, it was as a child tires of a game or
of a book, and leaves it forgotten to start another.

She was a child with bad habits, rather than a mature sinner. It never
occurred to her that, because Geoffrey Harrington was married, he at
least ought to be immune from her attack. In her dreams of an earthly
paradise there was no marrying or giving in marriage, only the
sweet mingling of breath, the quickening of the heart-beats like the
pulsation of her beloved motor-car, the sound as of violin arpeggios
rising higher and ever higher, the pause of the ecstatic moment
when the sense of time is lost--and then the return to earth on lazy
languorous wings like a sea-gull floating motionless on a shoreward
breeze. Such was Yaé's ideal of Love and of Life too. It is not for
us to condemn Yaé, but rather should we censure the blasphemy of mixed
marriages which has brought into existence these thistledown children
of a realm which has no kings or priests or laws or Parliaments or
duty or tradition or hope for the future, which has not even an acre
of dry ground for its heritage or any concrete symbol of its soul--the
Cimmerian land of Eurasia.

Reggie Forsyth understood the pathos of the girl's position; and being
a rebel and an anarchist at heart, he readily condoned the faults
which she confided to him frankly. Gradually Pity, most dangerous
of all counsellors, revealed her to him as a girl romantically
unfortunate, who never had a fair chance in life, who had been
the sport of bad men and fools, who needed only a measure of true
friendship and affection for the natural sunshine of her disposition
to scatter the rank vapours of her soul's night. What Reggie grasped
only in that one enlightened moment when he had christened her Lamia,
was the tragic fact that she had no soul.



CHAPTER XVI

THE GREAT BUDDHA

  _Tsuki-yo yoshi
  Tachitsu itsu netsu
  Mitsu-no-hama._

  The sea-shore of Mitsu!
  Standing, sitting or lying
  down,
  How lovely is the moonlight
  night!


Before the iris had quite faded, and before the azaleas of Hibiya were
set ablaze--in Japan they count the months by the blossoming of the
flowers--Reggie Forsyth had deserted Tokyo for the joys of sea bathing
at Kamakura. He attended at the Embassy for office hours during
the morning, but returned to the seaside directly after lunch. This
departure disarranged Geoffrey's scheme for his friend's salvation;
for he was not prepared to go the length of sacrificing his daily game
of tennis.

"What do you want to leave us for?" he remonstrated.

"The bathing," said Reggie, "is heavenly. Besides, next month I have
to go into _villegiatura_ with my chief. I must prepare myself for the
strain with prayer and fasting. But why don't you come down and join
us?"

"Is there any tennis?" asked Geoffrey.

"There is a court, a grass court with holes in it; but I've never seen
anybody playing."

"Then what is there to do?"

"Oh, bathing and sleeping and digging in the sand and looking at
temples and bathing again; and next week there is a dance."

"Well, we might come down for that if her Ladyship agrees. How is
Lamia?"

"Don't call her that, please. She has got a soul after all. But it
is rather a disobedient one. It runs away like a little dog, and goes
rabbit-hunting for days on end. She is in great form. We motor in the
moonlight."

"Then I think it is quite time I did come," said Geoffrey.

So the Harringtons arrived in their sumptuous car on the afternoon
before the dance of which Reggie Forsyth had spoken.

On the beach they found him in a blue bathing-costume sitting under an
enormous paper umbrella with Miss Smith and the gipsy half-caste girl.
Yaé wore a cotton kimono of blue and white, and she looked like a
figurine from a Nanking vase.

"Geoffrey," said the young diplomat, "come into the sea at once. You
look thoroughly dirty. Do you like sea-bathing, Mrs. Harrington?"

"I have only paddled," said Asako, "when I was a little girl."

Geoffrey could not resist the temptation of the blue water and the
lazy curling waves. In a few minutes the two men were walking down to
the sea's edge, Geoffrey laughing at Reggie's chatter. His arms were
akimbo, with hands on the hips, hips which looked like the boles of a
mighty oak-tree. He touched the ground with the elasticity of Mercury;
he pushed through the air with the shoulders of Hercules. The line of
his back was pliant as a steel blade. In his hair the sun's reflection
shone like wires of gold. The Gods were come down in the semblance of
men.

Yaé did not repress a sharp intake of her breath; and she squeezed the
hand of the gipsy girl as if pain had gripped her.

"How big your husband is!" she said to Asako. "What a splendid man!"

Asako thought of her husband as "dear old Geoffrey." She never
criticized his points; nor did she think that Yaé's admiration was in
very good taste. However, she accepted it as a clumsy compliment from
an uneducated girl who knew no better. The gipsy companion watched
with a peculiar smile. She understood the range of Yaé's admiration.

"Isn't it a pity they have to wear bathing dress?" Miss Smith went on.
"It's so ugly. Look at the Japanese."

Farther along the beach some Japanese men were bathing. They threw
their clothes down on the sand and ran into the water with nothing on
their bodies except a strip of white cotton knotted round the loins.
They dashed into the sea with their arms lifted above their head,
shouting wildly like savage devotees calling upon their gods. The sea
sparkled like silver round their tawny skin. Their torsos were well
formed and hardy; their dwarfed and ill-shaped legs were hidden by the
waves. Certainly they presented an artistic contrast with the sodden
blue of the foreigners' bathing suits. But Asako, brought up to the
strict ideals of convent modesty, said:

"I think it's disgusting; the police ought to stop those people
bathing with no clothes on."

The dust and sun of the motor ride, the constant anxiety lest they
might run over some doddering old woman or some heedless child, had
given her a headache. As soon as Geoffrey returned from his dip, she
announced that she would go back to her room.

As the headache continued, she abandoned the idea of dancing. She
would go to bed, and listen to the music in the distance. Geoffrey
wished to stay with her, but she would not hear of it. She knew that
her husband was fond of dancing; she thought that the change and the
brightness would be good for him.

"Don't flirt with Yaé Smith," she smiled, as he gave her the last
kiss, "or Reggie will be jealous."

At first Geoffrey was bored. He did not know many of the dancers,
business people from Yokohama, most of them, or strangers stopping at
the hotel. Their appearance depressed him. The women had hard faces,
the lustre was gone from their hair, they wore ill-fitting dresses
without style or charm. The men were gross, heavy-limbed and
plethoric. The music was appalling. It was produced out of a piano,
a cello, and a violin driven by three Japanese who cared nothing for
time or tune. Each dance, evidently, was timed to last ten minutes.
At the end of the ten minutes the music stopped without finishing the
phrase or even the bar; and the movement of the dancers was jerked
into stability.

Reggie entered the room with Yaé Smith. His manner was unusually
excited and elate.

"Hello, Geoffrey, enjoying yourself?"

"No," said Geoffrey, "my wife has got a headache; and that music is
simply awful."

"Come and have a drink," proposed Reggie.

He took them aside into the bar and ordered champagne.

"This is to drink our own healths," he announced, "and many years
of happiness to all of us. It is also, Geoffrey, to drive away your
English spleen, and to make you into an agreeable grass-widower into
whose hands I may commend this young lady, because you can dance and I
cannot. My evening is complete. This is my _Nunc Dimittis._"

He led them back to the ballroom. Then, with a low bow and a flourish
of an imaginary cocked-hat, he disappeared.

Geoffrey and Yaé danced together. Then they sat out a dance; and then
they danced again. Yaé was tiny, but she danced well; and Geoffrey was
used to a small partner. For Yaé it was sheer delight to feel the
size and strength of this giant man bending over her like a sheltering
tree; and then to be lifted almost in his arms and to float on tiptoe
over the floor with the delightful airiness of dreams.

What strange orgies our dances are! To the critical mind what a
strange contradiction to our sheepish passion-hiding conventions! A
survival of the corroboree, of the immolation of the tribal virgins,
a ritual handed down from darkest antiquity like the cult of the
Christmas Tree and the Easter Egg; only their significance is lost,
while that of the dance is transparently evident.

Maidens as chaste as Artemis, wives as loyal as Lucretia pass into the
arms of men who are scarcely known to them with touchings of hands and
legs, with crossings of breath, to the sound of music aphrodisiac or
fescennine.

The Japanese consider, not unreasonably, that our dancing is
disgusting.

A nice girl no doubt, and a nice man too, thinks of a dance as a
graceful exercise or as a game like tennis or hockey. But Yaé was not
a nice girl; and when the music stopped with its hideous abruptness,
it awoke her from a kind of trance in which she had been lost to all
sensations except the grip of Geoffrey's hand and arm, the stooping of
his shadow above her, and the tingling of her own desire.

Geoffrey left his partner at the end of their second dance. He went
upstairs to see his wife. He found her sleeping peacefully; so he
returned to the ballroom again. He looked in at the bar, and drank
another glass of champagne. He was beginning to enjoy himself.

He could not find Yaé, so he danced with the gipsy girl, who had a
stride like a kangaroo. Then Yaé reappeared. They had two more dances
together, and another glass of champagne. The night was fine. There
was a bright moonlight. Geoffrey remarked that it was jolly hot for
dancing. Yaé suggested a stroll along the sea-shore; and in a few
minutes they were standing together on the beach.

"Oh! Look at the bonfires," cried Yaé.

A few hundred yards down the sea-front, where the black shadows of the
native houses overhung the beach, the lighted windows gleamed softly
like flakes of mica. The fishermen were burning seaweed and jetsam
for ashes which would be used as fertilizer. Tongues of fire were
flickering skywards. It was a blue night. The sky was deep blue, and
the sea an oily greenish blue. Blue flames of salt danced and vanished
over the blazing heaps. The savage figures squatting round the fires
were dressed in tunics of dark blue cloth. Their legs were bare. Their
healthy faces lit up by the blaze were the color of ripe apricots.
Their attitudes and movements were those of apes. The elder men were
chattering together; the younger ones were gazing into the fire with
an expression of healthy stupor. A boat was coming in from the sea.
A ruby light hung at the prow. It was rowed by four men standing and
_yulohing_, two in the stern and two at the bow. They were intoning
a rhythmic chant to which their bodies moved. The boat was slim and
pointed; and the rowers looked like Vikings.

The shadows cast by the moonlight were inky black, the shadows of the
beaked ships, the shadows of the savage huts, of the ape-like men, of
the huge round fish-baskets like immense _amphorae_.

Far out from land, where the wide floating nets were spread, lights
were scattered like constellations. The foreland was clearly visible,
with the high woods which clothed its summit. But the farther end of
the beach faded into an uneven string of lights, soft and spectral as
will-o'-the-wisps. Warmth rose from the sleeping earth; and a breeze
blew in from the sea, making a strange metallic rustling, which to
Japanese ears is the sweetest natural music, in the gaunt sloping
pine-trees, whose height in the semi-darkness was exaggerated to
monstrous and threatening proportions.

Geoffrey felt a little hand in his, warm and moist.

"Shall we go and see _Dai-Butsu_?" said Yaé.

Geoffrey had no idea who _Dai-Butsu_ might be, but he gladly agreed.
She fluttered on beside him with her long kimono sleeves like a big
moth. Geoffrey's head was full of wine and waltz tunes.

They dived into a narrow street with dwellings on each side. Some of
the houses were shuttered and silent. Others were open to the
street with a completeness of detail denied by our stingy
window-casements--women sitting up late over their needlework, men
talking round the firebox, shopkeepers adding up their accounts,
fishermen mending their tackle.

The street led inland towards abrupt hills, which looked like a
wall of darkness. It was lit by the round street lamps, the luminous
globules with Chinese letters on them which had pleased Geoffrey first
at Nagasaki. The road entered a gorge between two precipices, the
kind of cleft into which the children of Hamlin had followed the Pied
Piper.

"I would not like to come here alone," said Yaé, clinging tighter.

"It looks peaceful enough," said Geoffrey.

"There is a little temple just to the left, where a nun was murdered
by a priest only last year. He chopped her with a kitchen knife."

"What did he do it for?" asked Geoffrey.

"He loved her, and she would not listen to him; so he killed her. I
think I would feel like that if I were a man."

They passed under an enormous gateway, like a huge barn door with no
barn behind it. Two threatening gods stood sentinel on either hand.
Under the influence of the moonlight the carved figures seemed to
move.

Yaé led her big companion along a broad-flagged path between a
pollarded avenue. Geoffrey still did not know what they had come so
far to see. Nor did he care. Everything was so dreamy and so sweet.

The path turned; and suddenly, straight in front of them, they saw the
God--the Great Buddha--the immense bronze statue which has survived
from the days of Kamakura's sovereignty. The bowed head and the broad
shoulders were outlined against the blue and starry sky; against
the shadow of the woods the body, almost invisible, could be dimly
divined. The moonlight fell on the calm smile and on the hands palm
upwards in the lap, with finger-tips and thumb-tips touching in the
attitude of meditation. That ineffably peaceful, smiling face seemed
to look down from the very height of heaven upon Geoffrey Barrington
and Yaé Smith. The presence of the God filled the valley, patient and
powerful, the Creator of the Universe and the Maintainer of Life.

Geoffrey had never seen anything so impressive. He Stooped down
towards his little companion, listening for a response to his own
emotion. It came. Before he could realize what was happening he felt
the soft kimono sleeves like wings round his neck, and the girl's
burning mouth pressing his lips.

"Oh, Geoffrey," she whispered.

He sat down on a low table in front of a shuttered refreshment bar
with Yaé on his knee, his strong arm round her, even as she had
dreamed. The Buddha of Infinite Understanding smiled down upon them.

Geoffrey was too little of a prig to scold the girl, and too much of
a man not to be touched and flattered by the sincerity of her embrace.
He was too much of an Englishman to ascribe it to its real passionate
motive, and to profit by the opportunity.

Instead, he told himself that she was only a child excited by the
beauty and the romance of the night even as he was. He did not begin
to realize that he or she were making love. So he took her on his knee
and stroked her hand.

"Isn't he fine?" he said, looking up at the God.

She started at the sound of his voice, and put her arms round his neck
again.

"Oh, Geoffrey," she murmured, "how strong you are!"

He stood up laughing, with the girl in his arms.

"If it wasn't for your big _obi_" he said, "you would weigh nothing at
all. Now hold tight; for I am going to carry you home."

He started down the avenue with a swinging stride. Yaé could watch
almost within range of her lips the powerful profile of his big face,
a soldier's face trained to command strong men and to be gentle to
women and children. There was a delicious fragrance about him, the
dry heathery smell of clean men. He did not look down at her. He was
staring into the black shadows ahead, his mind still full of that
sudden vision of Buddha Amitabha. He was scarcely thinking of the
half-caste girl who clung tightly to his neck.

Yaé had no interest in the _Dai-Butsu_ except as a grand background
for love-making, a good excuse for hand squeezings and ecstatic
movements. She had tried it once before with her school-master lover.
It never occurred to her that Geoffrey was in any way different from
her other admirers. She thought that she herself was the sole cause of
his emotion and that his fixed expression as he strode in the darkness
was an indication of his passion and a compliment to her charms. She
was too tactful to say anything, or to try to force the situation; but
she felt disappointed when at the approach of lighted houses he put
her down without further caresses. In silence they returned to the
hotel, where a few tired couples were still revolving to a spasmodic
music.

Geoffrey was weary now; and the enchantment of the wine had passed
away.

"Good-night, Yaé," he said.

She was holding the lapels of his coat, and she would have dearly
loved to kiss him again. But he stood like a tower without any sign of
bending down to her; and she would have had to jump for the forbidden
fruit.

"Good-night, Geoffrey," she purred, "I will never forget to-night."

"It was lovely," said the Englishman, thinking of the Great Buddha.

       *       *       *       *       *

Geoffrey retired to his room, where Asako was sleeping peacefully.
He was very English. Only the first surprise of the girl's kiss had
startled his loyalty. With the ostrich-like obtuseness, which our
continental neighbours call our hypocrisy, he buried his head in his
principles. As Asako's husband, he could not flirt with another woman.
As Reggie's friend, he would not flirt with Reggie's sweetheart. As an
honourable man, he would not trifle with the affections of a girl who
meant nothing whatever to him. Therefore the incident of the Great
Buddha had no significance. Therefore he could lie down and sleep with
a light heart.

Geoffrey had been sleeping for half an hour or so when he was awakened
by a sudden jolt, as though the whole building had met with a violent
collision, or as though a gigantic fist had struck it. Everything
in the room was in vibration. The hanging lamp was swinging like a
pendulum. The pictures were shaking on the walls. A china ornament on
the mantelpiece reeled, and fell with a crash.

Geoffrey leapt out of bed to cross to where his wife was sleeping.
Even the floor was unsteady like a ship's deck.

"Geoffrey! Geoffrey!" Asako called out.

"It must be an earthquake," her husband gasped, "Reggie told me to
expect one."

"It has made me feel so sick," said Asako.

The disturbance was subsiding. Only the lamp was still oscillating
slightly to prove that the earthquake was not merely a nightmare.

"Is any one about?" asked Asako.

Geoffrey went out on to the veranda. The hotel having survived many
hundreds of earthquake shocks, seemed unaware of what had happened.
Far out to sea puffs of fire were dimly seen like the flashes of a
battleship in action, where the island volcano of Oshima was emptying
its wrath against the sky.

There were hidden and unfamiliar powers in this strange country, of
which Geoffrey and Asako had not yet taken account.

Beneath a tall lamp-post on the lawn, round whose smooth waxy light
scores of moths were flitting, stood the short stout figure of a
Japanese, staring up at the hotel.

"It looks like Tanaka," thought Geoffrey, "by Jove, it _is_ Tanaka!"

They had definitely left their guide behind in Tokyo. Had Asako
yielded at the last moment unable to dispense with her faithful
squire? Or had he come of his own accord? and if so, why? These Japs
were an unfathomable and exasperating people.

Sure enough next morning it was Tanaka who brought the early tea.

"Hello," said Geoffrey, "I thought you were in Tokyo."

"Indeed," grinned the guide, "I am sorry for you. Perhaps I have
commit great crime so to come. But I think and I think Ladyship not so
well. Heart very anxious. Go to theatre, wish to make merry, but all
the time heart very sad. I think I will take last train. I will turn
like bad penny. Perhaps Lordship is angry."

"No, not angry, Tanaka, just helpless. There was an earthquake last
night?"

"Not so bad _jishin_ (earth-shaking). Every twenty, thirty years one
very big _jishin_ come. Last big _jishin_ Gifu _jishin_ twenty years
before. Many thousand people killed. Japanese people say that beneath
the earth is one big fish. When the fish move, the earth shake. Silly
fabulous myth! Tanaka say, 'It is the will of God!'"

The little man crossed himself devoutly.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes later there was a loud banging at the door, followed by
Reggie's voice, shouting,--

"Are you coming down for a bath?"

"Earthquakes are horrible things," commented Reggie, on their way to
the sea. "Foreigners are supposed always to sleep through their first
one. Their second they find an interesting experience; but the
third and the fourth and the rest are a series of nervous shocks in
increasing progression. It is like feeling God--but a wicked, cruel
God! No wonder the Japanese are so fatalistic and so desperate. It is
a case of 'Eat and drink, for to-morrow ye die.'"

The morning sea was cold and bracing. The two friends did not remain
in for long. When they were dried and dressed again, and when Geoffrey
was for returning to breakfast, Reggie held him back.

"Come and walk by the sea," he said, "I have something to tell you."

They turned in the direction of the fishing village, where Geoffrey
and Yaé had walked together only a few hours ago. But the fires were
quenched. Black circles of charred ashes remained; and the magic world
of the moonlight had become a cluster of sordid hovels, where dirty
women were sweeping their frowsty floors, and scrofulous children were
playing among stale bedding.

"Did you notice anything unusual in my manner last night?" Reggie
began very seriously.

"No," laughed Geoffrey, "you seemed rather excited. But why did you
leave so early?"

"For various reasons," said his friend. "First, I hate dancing, but
I feel rather envious of people who like it. Secondly, I wanted to be
alone with my own sensations. Thirdly, I wanted you, my best friend,
to have every opportunity of observing Yaé and forming an opinion
about her."

"But why?" Geoffrey began.

"Because it would now be too late for me to take your advice," said
Reggie mysteriously.

"What do you mean?" Barrington asked.

"Last night I asked Yaé to marry me; and I understand that she
accepted."

Geoffrey sat in the sunlight on the gunwale of a fishing-boat.

"You can't do that," he said.

"Oh, Geoffrey, I was afraid you'd say it, and you have," said his
friend, half laughing. "Why not?"

"Your career, old chap."

"My career," snorted Reggie, "protocol, protocol and protocol. I am
fed up with that, anyway. Can you imagine me a be-ribboned Excellency,
worked by wires from London, babbling platitudes over teacups to
other old Excellencies, and giving out a lot of gas for the F.O. every
morning. No, in the old days there was charm and power and splendour,
when an Ambassador was really plenipotentiary, and peace and war
turned upon a court intrigue. All that is as dead as Louis Quatorze.
Personality has faded out of politics. Everything is business, now,
concessions, vested interests, dividends and bond-holders. These
diplomats are not real people at all. They are shadowy survivals
of the _grand siècle_, wraiths of Talleyrand; or else just restless
bagmen. I don't call that a career."

Geoffrey had listened to these tirades before. It was Reggie's froth.

"But what do you propose doing?" he asked.

"Doing? Why, my music of course. Before I left England some music-hall
people offered me seventy pounds a week to do stunts for them. Their
first offer was two hundred and fifty, because they were under the
illusion that I had a title. My official salary at this moment is two
hundred _per annum_. So you see there would be no financial loss."

"Then are you giving up diplomacy because you are fed up with it? or
for Yaé Smith's sake? I don't quite understand," said Geoffrey.

He was still pondering over the scene of last evening, and he found
considerable comfort in ascribing Yaé's behaviour to excitement caused
by her engagement.

"Yaé is the immediate reason: utter fed-upness is the original cause,"
replied Reggie.

"Do you feel that you are very much in love with her?" asked his
friend.

The young man considered for a moment, and then answered,--

"No, not in love exactly. But she represents what I have come to
desire. I get so terribly lonely, Geoffrey, and I must have some one,
some woman, of course; and I hate intrigue and adultery. Yaé never
grates upon me. I hate the twaddling activities of our modern
women, their little sports, their little sciences, their little
earnestnesses, their little philanthropies, their little imitations of
men's ways. I like the seraglio type of woman, lazy and vain, a little
more than a lovely animal. I can play with her, and hear her purring.
She must have no father or mother or brothers or sisters or any social
scheme to entangle me in. She must have no claim on my secret mind,
she must not be jealous of my music, or expect explanations. Still
less explain me to others,--a wife who shows one round like a monkey,
what horror!"

"But Reggie! old chap, does she love you?"

Geoffrey's ideas were stereotyped. To his mind, only great love on
both sides could excuse so bizarre a marriage.

"Love!" cried Reggie. "What is Love? I can feel Love in music. I can
feel it in poetry. I can see it in sunshine, in the wet woods, and in
the phosphorescent sea. But in actual life! I think of things in too
abstract a way ever to feel in love with anybody. So I don't think
anybody could really fall in love with me. It is like religious faith.
I have no faith, and yet I believe in faith. I have no love, and yet
I have a great love for love. Blessed are they who have not seen, and
yet have believed!"

When Reggie was in this mood Geoffrey despaired of getting any sense
out of him, and he felt that the occasion was too serious for smiles.

They were walking back to the hotel in the direction of breakfast.

"Reggie, are you quite sure?" said his friend, solemnly.

"No, of course I'm not, I never could be."

"And are you intending to get married soon?"

"Not immediately, no: and all this is quite in confidence, please."

"I'm glad there's no hurry," grunted Geoffrey. He knew that the girl
was light and worthless; but to have shown Reggie his proofs would
have been to admit his own complicity; and to give a woman away
so callously would be a greater offence against Good Form than his
momentary and meaningless trespass.

"But there is one thing you have forgotten," said. Reggie, rather
bitterly.

"What's that, old chap?"

"When a fellow announces his engagement to the dearest little girl
in all the world, his friends offer their congratulations. It's Good
Form," he added maliciously.



CHAPTER XVII

THE RAINY SEASON

  _Fugu-jiru no
  Ware ikite ir
  Ne-zame kana!_

  Poisonous delicacies (last night)!
  I awake
  And I am still alive.


Geoffrey Barrington tried not to worry about Yaé Smith; and, of
course, he did not mention the episode of the Great Buddha either to
his wife or to Reggie Forsyth. He did not exactly feel ashamed of the
incident; but he realised that it was open to misinterpretation. He
certainly had no love for Yaé; and she, since she was engaged to his
friend, presumably had no love for him. There are certain unnatural
states of mind in which we are not altogether morally responsible
beings. Among these may be numbered the ballroom mood, which drives
quite sane people to act madly. The music, the wine, the giddy
turning, the display of women's charms and the confusing proximity of
them produce an unwonted atmosphere, of which we have most of us been
aware, so bewildering that admiration of one woman will drive sane
men to kiss another. Explanation is of course impossible; and
circumstances must have their way. Scheming people, mothers with
daughters to marry, study the effects of this psychical chemistry and
profit by their knowledge. Under similar influences Geoffrey himself
had been guilty of wilder indiscretions than the kissing of a
half-caste girl.

But when he thought the matter over, he was sorry that it had
occurred; and he was profoundly thankful that nobody had seen him.

Somebody had seen him, however.

The faithful Tanaka, who had been charged by Mr. Ito, the Fujinami
lawyer, not to let his master out of his sight, had followed him at
a discreet distance during the whole of that midnight stroll. He had
observed the talk and the attitudes, the silences and the holding of
hands, the glad exchange of kisses, the sitting of Yaé on Geoffrey's
knees, and her triumphant return, carried in his arms.

To the Japanese mind such conduct could only mean one thing. The
Japanese male is frankly animal where women are concerned. He does
not understand our fine shades of self-deception, which give to our
love-making the thrill of surprise and the palliation of romance.
Tanaka concluded that there could be only one termination to the scene
which he had witnessed.

He also learned that Yaé Smith was Reggie Forsyth's mistress, that he
visited her room at night, that she was a girl of no character at all,
that she had frequently stopped at the Kamakura hotel with other men,
all of them her lovers.

All this information Tanaka collected with a wealth and precision of
detail which is only possible in Japan, where the espionage habit is
so deeply implanted in the every-day life of the people.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Ito could scarcely believe such welcome tidings. The Barrington
_ménage_ had seemed to him so devoted that he had often despaired
of his boast to his patron that he would divide the wife from her
husband, and restore her to her family. Now, if Tanaka's story were
true, his task would be child's play. A woman charged with jealousy
becomes like a weapon primed and cocked. If Ito could succeed
in making Asako jealous, then he knew that any stray spark of
misunderstanding would blast a black gulf between husband and wife,
and might even blow the importunate Englishman back to his own
country--alone.

The lawyer explained his plan to the head of the family, who
appreciated its classic simplicity. Sadako was given to understand the
part which she was to play in alienating her cousin's affections from
the foreigner. She was to harp on the faithlessness of men in general,
and on husbands in particular, and on the importance of money values
in matrimonial considerations.

She was to suggest that a foreign man would never choose a Japanese
bride merely for love of her. Then when the psychological moment had
struck, the name of Yaé Smith was to be flashed into Asako's mind with
a blinding glare.

Asako had been visiting her Japanese cousins almost every day. Her
conversation lessons were progressing rapidly; for the first stages
of the language are easy. The new life appealed to Asako's love
of novelty, and the strangeness of it to her child's love of
make-believe. The summoning of her parents' spirits awakened in her
the desire for a home, which lurks in every one of us; the love of old
family things around us, the sense of an inheritance and a tradition.
She was tired of hotel life; and she turned for relaxation to playing
at Japan with cousin Sadako, just as her husband turned to tennis.

Her favourite haunt was the little tea-house among the reeds at the
edge of the lake, which seemed so hidden from everywhere. Here the
two girls practised their languages. Here they tried on each others
clothes, and talked about their lives and purposes. Sadako was
intellectually the cleverer of the two, but Asako had seen and heard
more; so they were fairly equally matched.

Often the cousins shocked each other's sense of propriety. Asako had
already observed that to the Japanese mind, the immediate corollary
to being married is to produce children as promptly and as rapidly as
possible. Already she had been questioned on the subject by Tanaka, by
_boy sans_ and by shop-attendants.

"It is a great pity," said cousin Sadako, "that you have no baby. In
Japan if a wife have no baby, she is often divorced. But perhaps it is
the fault of Mr. Barrington?"

Asako had vaguely hoped for children in the future, but on the whole
she was glad that their coming had been delayed. There was so much
to do and to see first of all. It had never occurred to her that her
childlessness might be the _fault_ of either herself or her husband.
But her cousin went on ruthlessly,--

"Many men are like that. Because of their sickness their wives cannot
have babies."

Asako shivered. This beautiful country of hers seemed to be full of
bogeys like a child's dream.

Another time Sadako asked her with much diffidence and slanting of the
eyes,--

"I wish to learn about--kissing."

"What is the Japanese for 'kiss'?" laughed Asako.

"Oh! There is no such word," expostulated Sadako, shocked at her
cousin's levity, "we Japanese do not speak of such things."

"Then Japanese people don't kiss?"

"Oh, no," said the girl.

"Not ever?" asked Asako, incredulous.

"Only when they are--quite alone."

"Then when you see foreign people kissing in public, you think it is
very funny?"

"We think it is disgusting," answered her cousin.

It is quite true. Foreigners kiss so recklessly. They kiss on meeting:
they kiss on parting. They kiss in London: they kiss in Tokyo. They
kiss indiscriminately their fathers, mothers, wives, mistresses,
cousins and aunts. Every kiss sends a shiver down the spine of a
Japanese observer of either sex, as we should be shocked by the crude
exhibition of an obscene gesture. For this blossoming of our buds of
affection suggests to him, with immediate and detailed clearness, that
other embrace of which in his mind it is the inseparable concomitant.

The Japanese find the excuse that foreigners know no better, just as
we excuse the dirty habits of natives. But they quote the kiss as an
indisputable proof of the lowness of our moral standard, and as a sign
of the guilt, not of individuals so much as of our whole civilisation.

"Foreign people kiss too much," said cousin Sadako, "it is a bad
thing. If I had a husband, I would always fear he kiss somebody else."

"That is why I am so happy with Geoffrey," said Asako, "I know he
would never love any one but me."

"It is not safe to be so sure," said her cousin darkly, "a woman is
made for one man, but a man is made for many women."

Asako, arrayed in a Japanese kimono, and to all appearance as Japanese
as her cousin, was sitting in the Fujinami tea-parlour. She had not
understood much of the lesson in tea-ceremony at which she had just
assisted. But the exceeding propriety and dignity of the teacher, the
daughter of great people fallen upon evil days, had impressed her. She
longed to acquire that tranquillity of deportment, that slow graceful
poise of hand and arm, that low measured speech. When the teacher
had gone, she began to mimic her gestures with all the seriousness of
appreciative imitation.

Sadako laughed. She supposed that her cousin was fooling. Asako
thought that she was amused by her clumsiness.

"I shall never be able to do it," she sighed.

"But of course you will. I laugh because you are so like Kikuyé San."

Kikuyé San was their teacher.

"If only I could practise by myself!" said Asako, "but at the hotel it
would be impossible."

Then they both laughed together at the incongruity of rehearsing those
dainty rites of old Japan in the over-furnished sitting-room at
the Imperial Hotel, with Geoffrey sitting back in his arm-chair and
puffing at his cigar.

"If only I had a little house like this," said Asako.

"Why don't you hire one?" suggested her cousin.

Why not? The idea was an inspiration. So Asako thought; and she
broached the matter to Geoffrey that very evening.

"Wouldn't it be sweet to have a ducky little Japanese house all our
very own?" she urged.

"Oh yes," her husband agreed, wearily, "that would be great sport."

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro was delighted at the success of his daughter's
diplomacy. He saw that this plan for a Japanese house meant a further
separation of husband and wife, a further step towards recovery of
his errant child. For he was beginning to regard Asako with parental
sentiment, and to pity her condition as the wife of this coarse
stranger.

Miss Sadako was under no such altruistic delusions. She envied her
cousin. She envied her money, her freedom, and her frank happiness.
She had often pondered about the ways of Japanese husbands and wives;
and the more she thought over the subject, the more she envied Asako
her happy married life. She envied her with a woman's envy, which
seeks to hurt and spoil. She was smarting from her own disappointment;
and by making her cousin suffer, she thought that she could assuage
her own grief. Besides, the intrigue in itself interested her, and
provided employment for her idolent existence and her restless mind.
Of affection for Asako she had none at all, but then she had no
affection for anybody. She was typical of a modern Japanese womanhood,
which is the result of long repression, loveless marriages and sudden
intellectual licence.

Asako thought her charming, because she had not yet learned to
discern. She confided to her all her ideas about the new house; and
together the two girls explored Tokyo in the motor-car which Ito
provided for them, inspecting properties.

Asako had already decided that her home was to be on the bank of the
river, where she could see the boats passing, something like the house
in which her father and mother had lived. The desired abode was found
at last on the river-bank at Mukojima just on the fringe of the city?
where the cherry-trees are so bright in Springtime, where she could
see the broad Sumida river washing her garden steps, the fussy little
river boats puffing by, the portly junks, the crews of students
training for their regattas, and, away on the opposite bank, the trees
of Asakusa, the garish river restaurants so noisy at nightfall, the
tall peaceful pagoda, the grey roofs and the red plinths of the temple
of the Goddess of Mercy.

Just when the new home was ready for occupation, just when Asako's
enthusiasm was at its height and the purchases of silken bedding and
dainty trays were almost complete, Geoffrey suddenly announced his
intention of leaving Japan.

"I can't stick it any longer," he said fretfully, "I don't know what's
coming over me."

"Leave Japan?" cried his wife, aghast.

"Well, I don't know," grunted her husband, "it's no good stopping here
and going all to seed."

The rainy season was just over, the hot season of steaming rain
which the Japanese call _nyubai_. It had played havoc with Geoffrey's
nerves. He had never known anything so unpleasant as this damp,
relaxing heat. It made the walls of the room sweat. It impregnated
paper and blotting-paper. It rotted leather; and spread mould on boots
and clothes. It made matches unstrikeable. It drenched Geoffrey's
bed with perspiration, and drove away sleep. It sent him out on long
midnight walks through the silent city in an atmosphere as stifling as
that of a green-house. It beat down upon Tokyo its fetid exhalations,
the smell of cooking, of sewage and of humanity, and the queer sickly
scent of a powerful evergreen tree aflower throughout the city, which
resembled the reek of that Nagasaki brothel, and recalled the dancing
of the _Chonkina_.

It bred swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes from every drop of stagnant
water. They found their way through the musty mosquito-net which
separated his bed from Asako's. They eluded his blow in the evening
light; and he could only wreak his vengeance in the morning, when they
were heavy with his gore.

The colour faded from the Englishman's cheeks. His appetite failed.
He was becoming, what he had never been before, cross and irritable.
Reggie Forsyth wrote to him from Chuzenji,--

"Yaé is here, and we go in for yachting in a kind of winged punt,
called a 'lark.' For five pounds you can become a ship-owner. I fancy
myself as a skipper, and I have already won two races. But more often
we escape from the burble of the diplomats, and take our sandwiches
and _thermata_--or is _thermoi_ the plural?--to the untenanted shores
of the lake, and picnic _à deux_. Then, if the wind does not fall
we are lucky; but if it does, I have to row home. Yaé laughs at my
oarsmanship; and says that, if you were here, you would do it so much
better. You are a dangerous rival, but for this once I challenge you.
I have a spare pen in my rabbit-hutch. There is just room for you and
Mrs. Barrington. You must be quite melted by now."

But Asako did not want to go to Chuzenji. All her thoughts were
centred on the little house by the river.

"Geoffrey darling," she said, stroking his hair with her tiny waxen
fingers, "it is the hot weather which is making you feel cross. Why
don't you go up to the mountains for a week or so, and stop with
Reggie?"

"Will you come?" asked her husband, brightening.

"I can't very well. You see they are just laying down the _tatami_:
and when that is done the house will be ready. Besides, I feel so well
here. I like the heat."

"But I've never been away without you!" objected Geoffrey, "I think it
would be beastly."

This side of the question had not struck Asako. She was so taken up
with her project. Now, however, she felt a momentary thrill of relief.
She would be able to give all her time to her beloved Japanese home.
Geoffrey was a darling, but he was so uninterested in everything.

"It will only be for a few days," she said, "you want the change; and
when you come back it will be like being married again."



CHAPTER XVIII

AMONG THE NIKKO MOUNTAINS

  _Io chikaki
  Tsumagi no michi ya
  Kure-nuramu;
  Nokiba ni kudaru
  Yama-bito no koye_!

  Dusk, it seems, has come
  To the wood-cutter's track
  That is near my hut;
  The voices of the mountainmen
  Going down to the shed!


Geoffrey left early one morning in a very doubtful frame of mind,
after having charged Tanaka to take the greatest care of his lady, and
to do exactly what she told him.

It was not until half-way up the steep climb between Nikko and
Chuzenji that his lungs suddenly seemed to break through a thick film,
and he breathed fresh air again. Then he was glad that he had come.

He was afoot. A coolie strode on before him with his suit-case
strapped on his back. They had started in pouring rain, a long tramp
through narrow gorges. Geoffrey could feel the mountains around him;
but their forms were wrapped in cloud. Now the mist was lifting;
and although in places it still clung to the branches like wisps of
cotton-wool, the precipitous slopes became visible; and overhead,
peeping through the clouds at impossible elevations, pieces of the
mountain seemed to be falling from the grey sky. Everything was bathed
in rain. The sandstone cliffs gleamed like marble, the luxuriant
foliage like polished leather. The torrent foamed over its wilderness
of grey boulders with a splendid rush of liberty.

Country people passed by, dressed in straw overcoats which looked
like bee-hives, or with thin capes of oiled paper, saffron or
salmon-coloured. The kimono shirts were girt up like fishers--both
men and women--showing gnarled and muscular limbs. The complexions
of these mountain folk were red like fruit; the Mongolian yellow was
hardly visible.

Some were leading long files of lean-shanked horses, with bells to
their bridles and high pack-saddles like cradles, painted red. Rough
girls rode astride in tight blue trunk-hose. It was with a start that
Geoffrey recognised their sex; and he wondered vaguely whether men
could fall in love with them, and fondle them. They were on their
way to fetch provision for the lake settlements, or for remote
mining-camps way beyond the mountains.

The air was full of the clamour of the torrent, the heavy splashing
of raindrops delayed among the leaves, and the distant thunder of
waterfalls.

What a relief to breath again, and what a pleasure to escape from the
tortuous streets and the toy houses, from the twisted prettiness of
the Tokyo gardens and the tiresome delicacy of the rice-field mosaic,
into a wild and rugged nature, a land of forests and mountains
reminiscent of Switzerland and Scotland, where the occasional croak of
a pheasant fell like music upon Geoffrey's ear!

The two hours' climb ended abruptly in a level sandy road running
among birch trees. At a wayside tea-house a man was sitting on a low
table. He wore white trousers, a coat of cornflower shade and a Panama
hat--all very spick and span. It was Reggie Forsyth.

"Hello," he cried, "my dear old Geoffrey! I'm awfully glad you've
come. But you ought to have brought Mrs. Harrington too. You seem
quite incomplete without her."

"Yes, it's a peculiar sensation, and I don't like it. But the heat,
you know, at Tokyo, it made me feel rotten. I simply had to come away.
And Asako is so busy now with her new cousins and her Japanese house
and all the rest of it."

For the first time Reggie thought that he detected a tone in his
friend's voice which he had been expecting to hear sooner or later, a
kind of "flagging" tone--he found the word afterwards in working out
a musical sketch called _Love's Disharmony_. Geoffrey looked white
and tired, he thought. It was indeed high time that he came up to the
mountains.

They were approaching the lake, which already showed through the
tree-trunks. A path led away to the left across a rustic bridge.

"That's the way to the hotel. Yaé is there. Farther along are the
Russian, French and British Embassies. That's about half an hour from
here."

Reggie's little villa stood at a few minutes' distance in the opposite
direction, past two high Japanese hotels which looked like skeleton
houses with the walls taken out of them, past sheds where furs were on
sale, and picture post-cards, and dry biscuits.

The garden of the villa jutted out over the lake on an embankment of
stones. The house was discreetly hidden by a high hedge of evergreens.

"William Tell's chapel," explained Reggie, "a week in lovely Lucerne!"

It was a Japanese house, another skeleton. From the wicket gate,
Geoffrey could see its simple scheme open to the four winds, its
scanty furniture unblushingly displayed; downstairs, a table, a sofa,
some bamboo chairs and a piano--upstairs, two beds, two washstands,
and the rest. The garden consisted of two strips of wiry grass on each
side of the house; and a flight of steps ran down to the water's edge,
where a small sailing-boat was moored.

The landscape of high wooded hills was fading into evening across the
leaden ripples of the lake.

"What do you think of our highland home?" asked Reggie.

There was not a sign of life over the heavy waters, not a boat, not a
bird, not an island even.

"Not much doing," commented Geoffrey, "but the air's good."

"Not quite like a lake, it is?" his host reflected.

That was true. A lake had always appealed to Geoffrey, both to his
sense of natural beauty and to his instinct for sport. There is a
soothing influence in the imprisoned waters, the romance of the sea
without its restlessness and fury. The freshness of untrodden islands,
the possibilities of a world beneath the waters, of half-perceived
Venetas, the adventure of entrusting oneself and one's fortunes to a
few planks of wood, are delights which the lake-lover knows well. He
knows too, the delicious sense of detachment from the shore--the shore
of ordinary affairs and monotonous people--and the charm of unfamiliar
lights and colours and reflections. Even on the Serpentine he can find
this glamour, when the birds are flocking to roost in the trees of
Peter Pan's island.

But on this lake of Chuzenji there was a sullen brooding, an absence
of life, a suggestion of tragedy.

"It isn't a lake," explained Reggie; "it's the crater of an old
volcano which has filled up with water. It is one of the earth's
pockmarks healed over and forgotten. But there is something lunar
about it still, some memory of burned out passions, something creepy
in spite of the beauty of the place. It is too dark this evening to
see how beautiful it is. In places the lake is unfathomably deep, and
people have fallen into the water and have never been seen again."

The waters were almost blue now, a deep dull greyish blue.

Suddenly, away to the left, lines of silver streaked the surface; and,
with a clapping and dripping commotion, a flight of white geese rose.
They had been dozing under the bank, and some one had disturbed them.
A pale figure like a little flame was dimly discernible.

"It's Yaé!" cried Reggie; and he made a noise which was supposed to be
a _jodel_ The white figure waved an answer.

Reggie picked up a megaphone which seemed to be kept there for the
purpose.

"Good night," he shouted, "same time to-morrow!"

The figure waved again and disappeared.

Next morning Geoffrey was awakened by the boom of a temple bell. He
stepped out on to his balcony, and saw the lake and the hills around
clear and bright under the yellow sunshine. He drank in the cool
breath of the dew. For the first time after many limp and damp
awakenings he felt the thrill of the wings of the morning. He thanked
God he had come. If only Asako were here! he thought. Perhaps she was
right in getting a Japanese home just for the two of them. They would
be happier there than jostled by the promiscuity of hotels.

At breakfast, Reggie had found a note from the Ambassador.

"Oh, damn!" he cried, "I must go over and beat a typewriter for two
or three hours. I must therefore break my tryst. But I expect you to
replace me like the immortal Cyrano, who should be the ideal of all
soldiers. Will you take Yaé for an hour or two's sail? She likes you
very much."

"And if I drown your fiancée? I don't know anything about sailing."

"I'll show you. It's very easy. Besides, Yaé really knows more about
it than I do."

So Geoffrey after a short lesson in steering, tacking, and the
manipulation of the centreboard, piloted his host safely over to
British Bay, the exclusive precinct of the temporary Embassy on the
opposite shore of the lake. He then made his way round French Cape
past Russia Cove to the wooden landing-stage of the Lakeside Hotel.
There he found Yaé, sitting on a bench and throwing pebbles at the
geese.

She wore the blue and white cotton kimono, which is the summer dress
of Japanese women. It is a cheap garment, but most effective--so clean
and cool in the hot weather. Silk kimonos soon become stale-looking;
but this cotton dress always seems to be fresh from the laundry. A
rope of imitation pearls was entwined in her dark hair; and her broad
sash of deep blue was secured in front with an old Chinese ornament of
jade.

"Oh, big captain," she cried, "I am so glad it is you. I heard you
were coming."

She stepped into the boat, and took over the tiller and the command.
Geoffrey explained his friend's absence.

"The bad boy," she said, "he wants to get away from me in order to
think about a lot of music. But I don't care!"

Under a steady wind they sheered through the water. On the right hand
was Chuzenji village, a Swiss effect of brown chalets dwarfed to utter
insignificance by the huge wooded mountain dome of Nantai San which
rose behind it. On the left the forest was supreme already, except
where in small clearings five or six houses, tenanted by foreign
diplomats, stood out above the lake. A little farther on a Buddhist
temple slumbered above a flight of broad stone steps. The sacred
buildings were freshly lacquered, and red as a new toy. In front, on
the slope of golden sand, its base bathed by the tiny waves, stood
the _torii_, the wooden archway which is Japan's universal religious
symbol. Its message is that of the Wicket Gate in the Pilgrim's
Progress. Wherever it is to be seen--and it is to be seen
everywhere--it stands for the entering in of the Way, whether that way
be "_Shinto_" (The Way of the Gods), or "_Butsudo_" (The Way of the
Buddhas), or "_Bushido_" (The Way of the Warriors).

There was plenty of breeze. The boat shot down the length of the
lake at a delicious speed. The two voyagers reached at last a little
harbour, Sh[=o]bu-ga-Hama--The Beach of the Lilies--a muddy shore with
slimy rocks, a few brown cottages and a saw-mill.

"Let's go and see the waterfall," suggested Yaé, "it's only a few
minutes."

They walked together up a steep winding lane. The fresh air and the
birch trees, the sight of real Alderney cows grazing on patches
of real grass, the distant rumble of the cataract brought back to
Geoffrey a feeling of strength and well-being to which he had for
weeks been a stranger.

If only the real Asako had been with him instead of this enigmatic and
disquieting image of her!

The Japanese, who have an innate love for natural beauty, never
fail to mark an exceptional view with a little bench or shelter for
travelers, whence they can obtain the best perspective. If sight-seers
frequent the spot in any number, there will be an old dame _en
guérite_ with her picture post-cards and her Ebisu Beer, her
"Champagne Cider," her _sembei_ (round and salted biscuits) and her
tale of the local legend.

"_Irrasshai! Irrasshai_;" she pipes. "Come, come, please rest a
little!"

But the cascade above Sh[=o]bu-ga-Hama is only one among the thousand
lesser waterfalls of this mountain country. It is honoured merely by
an unsteady bench under a broken roof, and by a rope knotted round the
trunk of a tall tree in mid-stream to indicate that the locality is
an abode of spirits, and to warn passers-by against inconsiderately
offending the Undine.

Geoffrey and Yaé were balancing themselves on the bench, gazing at the
race of foam and at the burnished bracken. The Englishman was clearing
his mind for action.

"Miss Smith," he began at last, "do you think you will be happy with
Reggie?"

"He says so, big captain," answered the little half-caste, her mouth
queerly twisted.

"Because if you are not happy, Reggie won't be happy; and if you are
neither of you happy, you will be sorry that you married."!

"But we are not married yet," said the girl, "we are only engaged."

"But you will be married sometime, I suppose?"

"This year, next year, sometime, never!" laughed Yaé. "It is nice to
be engaged, and it is such a protection. When I am not engaged, all
the old cats, Lady Cynthia and the rest, say that I flirt. Now when
I am engaged, my fiancé is here to shield me. Then they dare not
say things, or it comes round to him, and he is angry. So I can do
anything I like when I am engaged."

This was a new morality for Geoffrey. It knocked the text from under
the sermon which he had been preparing. She was as preposterous as
Reggie; but she was not, like him, conscious of her preposterousness.

"Then, when you are married, will you flirt?" asked her companion.

"I think so," said Yaé gravely. "Besides, Reggie only wants me to
dress me up and write music about me. If I am always the same like an
English doll wife, he won't get many tunes to play. Reggie is like a
girl."

"Reggie is too good for you," said the Englishman, roughly.

"I don't think so," said Yaé, "I don't want Reggie, but Reggie wants
me."

"What do you want then?"

"I want a great big man with arms and legs like a wrestler. A man who
hunts lions. He will pick me up like you did at Kamakura, big captain,
and throw me in the air and catch me again. And I will take him away
from the woman he loves, so that he will hate me and beat me for it.
And when he sees on my back the marks of the whip and the blood he
will love me again so strongly that he will become weak and silly like
a baby. Then I will look after him and nurse him; and we will drink
wine together. And we will go for long rides together on horseback in
the moonlight galloping along the sands by the edge of the sea!"

Geoffrey was gazing at her with alarm. Was she going mad? The girl
jumped up and laid her little hands on his shoulder.

"There, big captain," she cried, "don't be frightened. That is only
one of Reggie's piano tunes. I never heard tunes like his before. He
plays them, and then explains to me what each note means; and then
he plays the tune again, and I can see the whole story. That is why I
love him--sometimes!"

"Then you _do_ love him?" Geoffrey was clutching pathetically for
anything which he could understand or appeal to in this elusive
person.

"I love him," said Yaé, pirouetting on her white toes near the edge of
the chasm, "and I love you and I love any man who is worth loving!"

They returned to the lake in silence. Geoffrey's sermon was abortive.
This girl was altogether outside the circle of his code of Good Form.
He might as well preach vegetarianism to a leopard. Yet she fascinated
him, as she fascinated all men who were not as dry as Aubrey Laking.
She was so pretty, so frail and so fearless. Life had not given her
a fair chance; and she appealed to the chivalrous instinct in men, as
well as to their less creditable passions. She was such a butterfly
creature; and the flaring lamps of life had such a fatal attraction
for her.

The wind was blowing straight against the harbour. The bay of
Sh[=o]bu-ga-Hama was shallow water. Try as he might, Geoffrey could not
manoeuvre the little yacht into the open waters of the lake.

"We are on a lee-shore," said Geoffrey.

At the end he had to get down and wade bare-legged, towing the boat
after him until at last Yaé announced that the centreboard had been
lowered and that the boat was answering to the helm.

Geoffrey clambered in dripping. He shook himself like a big dog after
a swim.

"Reggie could never have done that," said Yaé, with fervent
admiration. "He would be afraid of catching cold."

       *       *       *       *       *

At last they reached the steps of the villa. They were both hungry.

"I am going to stop to lunch, big captain," said Yaé, "Reggie won't be
back."

"How do you know?"

"Because I saw Gwendolen Cairns listening last evening when he spoke
to me through the big trumpet. She tells Lady Cynthia, and that means
a lot of work next day for poor Reggie, so that he can't spend his
time with me. You see! Oh, how I hate women!"

After lunch, at Chuzenji, all the world goes to sleep. It awakes at
about four o'clock, when the white sails come gliding out of the green
bays like swans. They greet, or avoid. They run side by side for
the length of a puff of breeze. They coquet with one another like
butterflies; or they head for one of those hidden beaches which are
the principal charm of the lake, where baskets are unpacked and cakes
and sandwiches appear, where dry sticks are gathered for a rustic
fire, and after an hour or more of anxious stoking the kettle boils.

"Of all the Japanese holiday places, Chuzenji is the most select and
the most agreeable," Reggie Forsyth explained; "it is the only place
in all Japan where the foreigner is genuinely popular and respected.
He spends his money freely, he does not swear or scold. The
woman-chasing, whisky-swilling type, who has disgraced us in the
open ports, is unknown here. These native mountaineers are rough and
uneducated savages, but they are honest and healthy. We feel on easy
terms with them, as we do with our own peasantry. In the village
street of Chuzenji I have seen a young English officer instructing the
sons of boatmen and woodcutters in the mysteries of cricket."

In Chuzenji there are no Japanese visitors except the pilgrims who
throng to the lake during the season for climbing the holy mountain of
Nantai. These are country people, all of them, from villages all over
Japan, who have drawn lucky lots in the local pilgrimage club. One
can recognize them at once by their dingy white clothes, like
grave-clothes--men and women are garbed alike--by their straw mushroom
hats, by the strip of straw matting strapped across their shoulders,
and by the long wooden staves which they carry and which will be
stamped with the seal of the mountain-shrine when they have reached
the summit. These pilgrims are lodged free by the temple on the
lake-side, in long sheds like cattle-byres.

The endless files of lean pack-horses, laden with bags of rice and
other provisions, the ruddy sexless girls who lead them, and the women
who have been foraging for wood and come down from the mountain with
enormous faggots on their bent shoulders, provide a foreground for the
Chuzenji landscape.

       *       *       *       *       *

Geoffrey was sleeping upstairs in his bedroom. Yaé was sleeping
downstairs on the sofa. He had expected her to return to the hotel
after lunch, but her attitude was that of "_J'y suis, j'y reste_."

He awoke with a start to find the girl standing beside his bed.
Afterwards he became sure that he had been awakened by the touch of
soft fingers on his face.

"Wake up, big captain," she was saying. "It is four o'clock, and the
Ark's coming."

"What Ark?" he yawned.

"Why, the Embassy boat."

Out of sheer devilry, Miss Smith waited for the arrival of Lady
Cynthia. The great lady paid no more attention to her existence than
if she had been a piece of the house. But she greeted Geoffrey most
cordially.

"Come for a walk," she said in her abrupt way.

As they turned down the village street she announced:

"The worst has happened--I suppose you know?"

"About Reggie?"

"Yes; he's actually engaged to be married to the creature. Has he told
you?"

"In the greatest confidence."

"Well, he forgot to bind his young lady to secrecy. She has told
everybody."

"Can't he be recalled to London?"

"The old man says that would just push him over the edge. He has
talked of resigning from the service."

"Is there anything to be done?"

"Nothing! Let him marry her. It will spoil his career in diplomacy, of
course. But he will soon get tired of her fooling him. He will divorce
her, and will give up his life to music to which, of course, he
belongs. People like Reggie Forsyth have no right to marry at all."

"But are you sure that she wants to marry him?" said his friend; and
he related his conversation with Yaé that morning.

"That's very interesting and encouraging," said Her Excellency. "So
she has been trying her hand on you already."

"I never thought of that," exclaimed Geoffrey. "Why, she knows that
Reggie is my best friend; and that I am married."

The judicial features of Lady Cynthia lightened with a judicial smile.

"You have been through so many London seasons, Captain Barrington, and
there is still no guile in you!"

They walked on in silence past the temple terraces down a winding
country lane.

"Captain Barrington, would you care to play the part of a real hero, a
real theatre hero, playing to the gallery?"

Geoffrey was baffled. Had the talk suddenly swung over to amateur
theatricals? Lady Cynthia was a terrible puller of legs.

"Did you ever hear of Madge Carlyle?" she asked, "or was she before
your time?"

"I have heard of her."

She was a famous London _cocotte_ in the days when mashers wore
whiskers and "Champagne Charlie" was sung.

"At the age of forty-three'" said Lady Cynthia, "Madge decided to
marry for the third or fourth time. She had found a charming young man
with plenty of money and a noble heart, who believed that Madge was
a much slandered woman. His friends were sorry for the young man; and
one of them decided to give a dinner to celebrate the betrothal. In
the middle of the feast an urgent message arrived for the enamoured
one, summoning him to his home. When he had gone the others started
plying poor Madge with drinks. She was very fond of drinks. They
had splendid fun. Then one of the guests--he was an old lover of
Madge's--suggested--Good-bye to the old days and the rest of it!"

"But what did he think of his friends?" asked Geoffrey. "It seems a
low-down sort of trick."

"He was very sore about it at the time," said Lady Cynthia; "but
afterwards he understood that they were heroes, real theatre heroes."

"It looks like rain," said Geoffrey, uneasily.

So they turned back, talking about London people.

The first drops fell as they were passing through the wicket gate; and
they entered the house during a roar of thunder. Reggie was alone.

"I see that my fate is sealed," he said, as he rose to meet them.
"'The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes!'"



CHAPTER XIX

YAÉ SMITH

  _Nusubito wo
  Toraete mireba
  Waga ko nari_.

  The thief--
  When I caught him and looked
  at him,
  Lo! My own child!


A week of very hard work began for Reggie. The Ambassador
was reporting home on every imaginable subject from political
assassination to the manufacture of celluloid. This was part of Lady
Cynthia's scheme. She was determined to throw Yaé Smith and Geoffrey
Barrington together all the time, and to risk the consequences.

So Yaé though she had her room at the hotel, became an inmate of
Reggie's villa. She took all her meals there, and her siesta during
most of the afternoons. She even passed whole nights with Reggie;
and their relations could no longer be a secret even to Geoffrey's
laborious discretion.

This knowledge troubled him; for the presence of lovers, and the
shadows cast by their intimacies are always disquieting even to the
purest minds. But Geoffrey felt that it was no business of his;
and that Reggie and Yaé being what they were, it would be useless
hypocrisy for him to censure their pleasures.

Meanwhile, Asako was writing to him, bewailing her loneliness. So
one morning at breakfast he announced that he must be getting back to
Tokyo. A cloud passed over Yaé's face.

"Not yet, big captain," she expostulated; "I want to take you right to
the far end of the lake where the bears live."

"Very well," agreed Geoffrey, "to-morrow morning early, then; for the
next day I really must go."

He wrote to Asako a long letter with much about the lake and Yaé
Smith, promising to return within forty-eight hours.

At daybreak next morning Yaé was hammering at Geoffrey's door.

"Wake up, old sleepy captain," she cried.

Geoffrey got the boat ready; and Yaé prepared a picnic breakfast to be
eaten on the way. Poor Reggie, of course, had work at the Embassy; he
could not come.

It was an ideal excursion. They reached Senju, the wood-cutter's
village at the end of the lake. They ascended the forest path as far
as the upper lake, a mere pond of reeds and sedges, which the bears
are supposed to haunt.

Geoffrey and Yaé, however, saw nothing more alarming than the village
curs.

"Returned in safety from the land of danger!" cried the girl, as she
sprang ashore at the steps of the villa.

The air and exercise had wearied Geoffrey. After lunch he changed into
a kimono of Reggie's. Then he lay down on his bed and was soon fast
asleep.

How long he slept he could not say; but he awoke slowly out of
confusing dreams. Somebody was in his room. Somebody was near his bed.
Was it Asako? Was it a dream?

No, it was his comrade of the morning's voyage. It was Yaé Smith. She
was sitting on the bed beside him. She was gazing into his face with
her soft, still, cat-like eyes. What was she doing that for? She was
stroking his arm. Her touch was soft. He did not stop her.

Her hair was let down to below her waist, long black hair, more silky
in texture and more wavy than that of a pure Japanese woman. Her
kimono was wide open at the throat. A sweet fragrance exhaled from her
body.

"Big captain, may I?" she pleaded.

"What?" said Geoffrey, still half asleep.

"Just lie by your side--just once,--just for the last time," she
cooed.

Geoffrey was for going to sleep again, well pleased with his dream.
But Yaé slipped an arm across his chest, and caught his shoulder in
her hand. She nestled closer to him.

"Geoffrey," she murmured, "I love you so much. You are so strong and
so big, Geoffrey. I want to stay like this always, always, holding
on to you till I make you love me. Love me just a little, Geoffrey.
Nobody will ever know. Geoffrey, it must be nice to have me near you.
Geoffrey, you must, you must want to love me."

She was hugging his body now in an embrace astonishingly powerful
for so small a creature. It was this pressure which finally awoke
Geoffrey. Gently he disengaged her arms and sat up in the bed.

She was clinging to his neck now, wild-eyed like a Maenad. He
felt pitifully ridiculous. The rôle of Joseph is so thankless and
humiliating. A month ago he would have ordered her sternly to get out
of the room and behave herself. But the hot month in Tokyo had relaxed
his firmness of mind; and familiarity with Reggie's bohemian morality
has sapped his fortress of Good Form.

"Don't be so naughty, Yaé," he said feebly. "Reggie may be coming. For
God's sake, control yourself."

Her voice was terrible now.

Geoffrey had lost the first moment when he might have been stern with
her. Clumsily he tried to loosen her embrace. But for the first time
in his life he was in the grip of an elemental natural force, a thing
foreign to his experience of women in marriage or out of it.

"Yaé, don't," he gasped, pushing the girl away. "I can't; I'm
married."

"Married!" she screamed. "Does marriage hurt like this? Love me, love
me, Geoffrey. You must love me, you will!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"The rhapsody is ended!"

A voice which nobody would have recognized as Reggie's put a sudden
end to this frantic assault.

He was standing in the doorway smiling queerly. He had watched the two
from the garden, whence indeed all Chuzenji could have seen them
in the open bedroom. He had slipped off his shoes and had stolen
up quietly in order to listen to them. Now he judged it time to
intervene.

Yaé started up from the bed. For a moment she hovered on the edge,
uncertain of her tactics. Geoffrey stared, one hand to his forehead.
Then the girl darted across the room, fell at Reggie's feet, clasped
his knees, and sobbed convulsively.

"Reggie, Reggie, forgive me!" she cried. "It's not my fault. He's been
asking me and asking me to do this--ever since Kamakura--and all the
time here. This is what he came to stay here for. Reggie, forgive me.
I will never be naughty again."

Reggie looked across at his friend for confirmation or denial. The
queer smile had vanished. Good Form decreed that the man must lie for
the woman's sake, if necessary till his soul were damned. But, with
Geoffrey, Good Form had long since been thrown to the winds, like
International Law in war time. Besides, the woman was no better than a
_cocotte_; and Reggie's friendship was at stake.

"No," he said huskily; "that is not true. I was quietly sleeping here
and she came up to me. She is man-mad."

The tangled heap at Reggie's feet leaped up, her green eyes blazing.

"Liar!" she cried. "Reggie, do you believe him? The hypocrite, the
goody-goody, the white slave man, the pimp!"

"What does she mean?" said Geoffrey. Thank God, the woman was clearly
mad.

"Fujinami! Fujinami!" she yelled. "The great girl king! The Yoshiwara
_daimyo_! Every scrap of money which his fool wife spends on sham
curios was made in the Yoshiwara, made by women, made out of filth,
made by prostitutes!"

The last word brought Geoffrey to his feet. In his real agony he had
quite forgotten his sham sin.

"Reggie, for God's sake, tell me, is this true?"

"Yes," said Reggie quietly, "it is quite true."

"Then why did no one tell me?"

"Husbands," said the young man, "and prospective husbands are always
the last to learn. Yaé, go back to the hotel. You have done enough
harm for to-day."

"Not unless you forgive me, Reggie," the girl pleaded. "I will never
go unless you forgive."

"I can't forgive," he said, "but I can probably forget."

The wrath of these two men fascinated her. She would have waited if
she could, listening at the door. Reggie knew this.

"If you don't clear out, Yaé, I will have to call T[=o] to take you," he
threatened.

To his great relief she went quietly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reggie returned to the bare bedroom, where Geoffrey with bowed head
was staring at the floor. In Reggie's short kimono the big man looked
decidedly ridiculous.

"Good," thought Reggie. "Thank God for the comic spirit. It will be
easier to get through with this now."

His first action was to wash his hands. He had an unconscious instinct
for symbolism. Then he sat down opposite his friend.

The action of sitting reduces tragedy to comedy at once,--this was one
of Napoleon's maxims.

Then he opened his cigarette case and offered it to Geoffrey. This,
too, was symbolic. Geoffrey took a cigarette mechanically, and sucked
it between his lips, unlighted.

"Geoffrey," said his friend very quietly, "let us try to put these
women and all their rottenness out of our heads. We will try to talk
this over decently."

Geoffrey was so stunned by the shock of what he had just learned that
he had thought of nothing else. Now, all of a sudden he remembered
that he owed serious explanations to his friend.

"Reggie," he said dully, "I'm most awfully sorry. I had never dreamed
of this. I was good pals with Yaé because of you. I never dreamed of
making love to her. You know how I love my wife. She must have been
mad to think of me like that. Besides," he added sheepishly, "nothing
actually happened."

"I'm sure I don't care what actually happened or did not happen. Damn
actual facts. They distort the truth. They are at the bottom of every
injustice. What actually happened never matters. It is the picture
which sticks in one's brain. True or false, it sticks just the same;
and suddenly or slowly it alters every thing. But I can wipe up my
own mess, I think. It is much more serious with you than with me,
Geoffrey. She has bruised my heel, but she has broken your head. No,
don't protest, for Heaven's sake! I am not interested."

"Then what she says is absolutely true?" said Geoffrey, lighting his
cigarette at last, and throwing the match aside as if it were Hope.
"For a whole year I have been living on prostitutes' earnings. I am
no better than those awful _ponces_ in Leicester Square, who can be
flogged if they are caught, and serve them right too. And all that
filthy Yoshiwara, it belongs to Asako, to my sweet innocent little
girl, just as Brandan belongs to my father; and with all this
filthy money we have been buying comforts and clothes and curios and
rubbish."

Reggie was pouring out whiskies and sodas, two strong ones. Geoffrey
gulped down his drink, and then proceeded with his lamentation:

"I understand it all now. Everybody knew. The secrecy and the mystery.
Even at my wedding they were saying, 'Don't go to Japan, don't go.'
They must have all known even then. And then those damned Fujinami,
so anxious to be civil for the beastly money's sake, and yet hiding
everything and lying all the time. And you knew, and the Ambassador,
and Count Saito, and the servants too--always whispering and laughing
behind our backs. But you, Reggie, you were my friend, you ought to
have told me."

"I asked Sir Ralph," said Reggie candidly, "whether you ought to be
told. He is a very wise man. He said, 'No.' He said, 'It would be
cruel and it would be useless. They will go back to England soon and
then they will never know.' Where ignorance is bliss, you understand?"

"It was unfair," groaned Geoffrey; "you were all deceiving me."

"I said to Sir Ralph that it seemed to me unfair and dangerous. But he
has more experience than I."

"But what am I to do now?" said the big man helplessly. "This money
must be given up, yes, and everything we have. But whom to? Not to
those filthy Fujinami?"

"Go slow," advised Reggie. "Go back to England first. Get your
brain clear. Talk it over with your lawyers. Don't be too generous.
Magnanimity has spoiled many noble lives. And remember that your wife
is in this too. You must consider her first. She is very young and she
knows nothing. I don't think that she wants to be poor, or that she
will understand your motives."

"I will make her understand then," said Geoffrey.

"Don't talk like a brute. You will have to be very patient and
considerate for her. Go slow!"

"Can I stop here to-night, then?" asked Barrington, plaintively.

"No," said Reggie with firmness; "that is really more than I could
stick. I told you--truth or untruth, the mind keeps on seeing
pictures. Pack up your things. Call a coolie. The evening walk down to
Nikko will do you more good than my jawing. Good-bye."

An unreal handshake--and he was gone.

Then, of a sudden, Geoffrey realized that, how very unwittingly, he
had deeply wronged this man who was his best friend and upon whom
he was leaning in his hour of trial. Like Job, his adversities were
coming upon him from this side and from that, until he must curse God
and die. Now his friend had given him his dismissal. He would probably
never see Reggie Forsyth again.

As he was starting on his long walk downhill a motor car passed him.
Only one motor car that season had climbed the precipitous road from
the plains. It must be Yaé Smith's. Just as it was passing the girl
leaned out of the carriage and blew a kiss to Geoffrey.

She was not alone. There was a small fat man in the car beside her,
a Japanese with a round impertinent face. With a throb of bitter
heart-sickness Geoffrey recognized his own servant, Tanaka.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning Reggie Forsyth crossed the lake as usual to his work at
the Embassy. He met the Ambassadress on the terrace of her villa.

"Good morning, Lady Cynthia," he said, "I congratulate you on your
masterly diplomacy."

"What do you mean?"

Her manner nowadays was very chilly towards her former favourite.

"In accordance with your admirable arrangements," he said, "my
marriage is off."

"Oh, Reggie," her coolness changed at once, "I'm so glad--"

He held up a warning hand.

"But--you have broken a better man than I."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Geoffrey Barrington. He has learned who the Fujinami are, and where
his money comes from."

"You told him?"

"I'm not such a skunk as all that, Lady Cynthia."

Her Excellency was pondering what had better be done for Geoffrey.

"Where is he?" she asked.

"He stopped the night at Nikko. He is probably in the train for Tokyo
by now."

If she were a hero, a real theatre hero, as Geoffrey had been
apparently, she would go straight off to Tokyo also; and perhaps she
would be able to prevent a catastrophe. Or perhaps she would not.
Perhaps she would only make things worse. On the whole, she had better
stop in Chuzenji and look after her own husband.

"Reggie," she said, "you've had a lucky escape. How did you know that
I had any hand in this? You're more of a girl than a man. A rotten
marriage would have broken you. Geoffrey Barrington is made of
stronger stuff. He is in for a bad time. But he will learn a lot which
you know already; and he will survive."



CHAPTER XX

THE KIMONO

  _Na we to wa wo
  Hito zo saku naru.
  Ide, wagimi!
  Hito no naka-goto
  Kiki-kosu na yume!_

  It is other people who have separated
  You and me.
  Come, my Lord!
  Do not dream of listening
  To the between-words of people!


After a ghastly night of sleeplessness at Nikko, Geoffrey Barrington
reached Tokyo in time for lunch. His thoughts were confused and
discordant.

"I feel as if I had been drunk for a week," he kept on saying to
himself. Indeed, he felt a fume of unreality over all his actions.

One thing was certain: financially, he was a ruined man. The thousands
a year which yesterday morning had been practically his, the ease and
comfort which had seemed so secure, were lost more hopelessly than if
his bank had failed. Even the cash in his pocket he touched with the
greatest disgust, as if those identical bills and coins had been paid
across the brothel counter as the price for a man's dirty pleasures
and a girl's shame and disease. He imagined that the Nikko
hotel-keeper looked at his notes suspiciously as though they were
endorsed with the seal of the Yoshiwara.

Geoffrey was ruined. He was henceforth dependent on what his brain
could earn and on what his father would allow him, five hundred pounds
a year at the outside. If he had been alone in the world it would not
have mattered much; but Asako, poor little Asako, the innocent cause
of this disaster, she was ruined too. She who loved her riches, her
jewellery, her pretty things, she would have to sell them all. She
would have to follow him into poverty, she, who had no experience of
its meaning. This was his punishment, perhaps, for having steadily
pursued the idea of a rich marriage. But what had Asako done to
deserve it? Thank God, his marriage had at least not been a loveless
one.

Geoffrey felt acutely the need of human sympathy in his trouble. By
sheer bad luck he had forfeited Reggie's friendship. But he could
still depend upon his wife's love.

So he ran up the stairs at the Imperial Hotel longing for Asako's
welcome, though he dreaded the obligation to break the bad news.

He threw open the door. The room was empty. He looked for cloaks and
hats and curios, for luggage, for any sign of her presence. There was
nothing to indicate that the room was hers.

Sick with apprehension, he returned to the corridor. There was a _boy
san_ near at hand.

"_Okusan_ go away," said the _boy san_. "No come back, I think."

"Where has she gone?" asked Geoffrey.

The _boy san_, with the infuriating Japanese grin, shook his head.

"I am very sorry for you," he said. "To-day very early plenty people
come, Tanaka San and two Japanese girls. Very plenty talk. _Okusan_
cry tears. All nice kimono take away very quick."

"Then Tanaka, where is he?"

"Go away with _okusan_" the boy grinned again, "I am very sorry--"

Geoffrey slammed the door in the face of his tormentor. He staggered
into a chair and collapsed, staring blankly. What could have happened?

Slowly his ideas returned. Tanaka! He had seen the little beast in
Yaé's motor car at Chuzenji. He must have come spying after his master
as he had done fifty times before. He and that half-caste devil had
raced him back to Tokyo, had got in ahead of him, and had told a pack
of lies to Asako. She must have believed them, since she had gone
away. But where had she gone to? The _boy san_ had said "two Japanese
girls." She must have gone to the Fujinami house, and to her horribly
unclean cousins.

He must find her at once. He must open her eyes to the truth. He must
bring her back. He must take her away from Japan--forever.

Harrington was crossing the hall of the hotel muttering to himself,
seeing nothing, hearing nothing, when he felt a hand laid on his arm.
It was Titine, Asako's French maid.

"_Monsieur le capitaine_" she said, "_madame est partie_. It is not my
fault, _monsieur le capitaine_. I say to madame, do not go, wait for
monsieur. But madame is bewitched. She, who is _bonne catholique_, she
say prayers to the temples of these yellow devils. I myself have seen
her clap her hands--so!--and pray. Her saints have left her. She is
bewitched."

Titine was a Breton peasant girl. She believed implicitly in the
powers of darkness. She had long ago decided that the gods of the
Japanese and the _korrigans_ of her own country were intimately
related. She had served Asako since before her marriage, and would
have remained with her until death. She was desperately faithful. But
she could not follow her mistress to the Fujinami house and risk her
soul's salvation.

"_Monsieur le capitaine_ go away, and madame very, very unhappy. Every
night she cry. Why did monsieur stay away so long time?"

"It was only a fortnight," expostulated Geoffrey.

"For the first parting it was too long," said Titine judicially.
"Every night madame cry; and then she write to monsieur and say, 'Come
back.'" Monsieur write and say, 'Not yet.' Then madame break her heart
and say, 'It is because of some woman that he stay away so long time!'
She say so to Tanaka; and Tanaka say, 'I go and detect, and come again
and tell madame;' and madame say, 'Yes, Tanaka can go: I wish to know
the truth!' And still more she cry and cry. This morning very
early Tanaka came back with Mademoiselle Smith and mademoiselle _la
cousine_. They all talk a long time with madame in bedroom. But they
send me away. Then madame call me. She cry and cry. 'Titine,' she say,
'I go away. Monsieur do not love me now. I go to the Japanese house.
Pack all my things, Titine.' I say, 'No, madame, never. I never go to
that house of devils. How can madame tell the good confessor? How can
madame go to the Holy Mass? Will madame leave her husband and go to
these people who pray to stone beasts? Wait for monsieur!' I say,
'What Tanaka say, it is lies, all the time lies. What Mademoiselle
Smith say all lies.' But madame say, 'No come with me, Titine!' But
I say again, 'Never!' And madame go away, crying all the time: and
sixteen rickshaw all full of baggage. "Oh, _monsieur le capitaine_,
what shall I do?"

"I'm sure, I don't know," said the helpless Geoffrey.

"Send me back to France, monsieur. This country is full of devils,
devils and lies."

He left her sobbing in the hall of the hotel with a cluster of _boy
sans_ watching her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Geoffrey took a taxi to the Fujinami house. No one answered his
ringing; but he thought that he could hear voices inside the building.
So he strode in, unannounced, and with his boots on his feet, an
unspeakable offence against Japanese etiquette.

He found Asako in a room which overlooked the garden where he had been
received on former occasions. Her cousin Sadako was with her and Ito,
the lawyer. To his surprise and disgust, his wife was dressed in the
Japanese kimono and _obi_ which had once been so pleasing to his eyes.
Her change of nationality seemed to be already complete.

This was an Asako whom he had never known before. Her eyes were ringed
with weeping, and her face was thin and haggard. But her expression
had a new look of resolution. She was no longer a child, a doll. In
the space of a few hours she had grown to be a woman.

They were all standing. Sadako and the lawyer had formed up behind the
runaway as though to give her moral support.

"Asako," said Geoffrey sternly, "what does this mean?"

The presence of the two Japanese exasperated him. His manner was
tactless and unfortunate. His tall stature in the dainty room looked
coarse and brutal. Sadako and Ito were staring at his offending boots
with an expression of utter horror. Geoffrey suddenly remembered that
he ought to have taken them off.

"Oh, damn," he thought.

"Geoffrey," said his wife, "I can't come back. I am sorry. I have
decided to stay here."

"Why?" asked Geoffrey brusquely.

"Because I know that you do not love me. I think you never loved
anything except my money."

The hideous irony of this statement made poor Geoffrey gasp. He
gripped the wooden framework of the room so as to steady himself.

"Good God!" he shouted. "Your money! Do you know where it comes from?"

Asako stared at him, more and more bewildered.

"Send these people out of the room, and I'll tell you," said Geoffrey.

"I would rather they stayed," his wife answered.

It had been arranged beforehand that, if, Geoffrey called, Asako was
not to be left alone with him. She had been made to believe that she
was in danger of physical violence. She was terribly frightened.

"Very well," Geoffrey blundered on, "every penny you have is made
out of prostitution, out of the sale of women to men. You saw the
Yoshiwara, you saw the poor women imprisoned there, you know that any
drunken beast can come and pay his money down and say, 'I want that
girl,' and she has to give herself up to be kissed and pulled about
by him, even if she hates him and loathes him. Well, all this filthy
Yoshiwara and all those poor girls and all that dirty money belongs to
these Fujinami and to you. That is why they are so rich, and that is
why we have been so rich. If we were in England, we could be flogged
for this, and imprisoned, and serve us right too. And all this money
is bad; and, if we keep it, we are worse than criminals; and neither
of us can ever be happy, or look any one in the face again."

Asako was shaking her head gently like an automaton, understanding
not a word of all this outburst. Her mind was on one thing only, her
husband's infidelity. His mind was on one thing only, the shame of
his wife's money. They were like card-players who concentrate their
attention exclusively on the cards in their own hands, oblivious to
what their partners or opponents may hold.

Asako remaining silent, Mr. Ito began to speak. His voice seemed more
squeaky than ever.

"Captain Barrington," he said, "I am very sorry for you. But you
see now true condition of things. You must remember you are English
gentleman. Mrs. Barrington wishes not to return to you. She has been
told that you make misconduct with Miss Smith at Kamakura, and again
at Chuzenji. Miss Smith herself says so. Mrs. Harrington thinks this
story must be true; or Miss Smith do not tell so bad story about
herself. We think she is quite right--"

"Shut up!" thundered Geoffrey. "This is a matter for me and my wife
alone. Please, leave us. My wife has heard one side of a story which
is unfair and untrue. She must hear from me what really happened."

"I think, some other day, it would be better," cousin Sadako
intervened. "You see, Mrs. Barrington cannot speak to-day. She is too
unhappy."

It was quite true. Asako stood like a dummy, neither seeing nor
hearing apparently, neither assenting nor contradicting. How powerful
is the influence of clothes! If Asako had been dressed in her Paris
coat and skirt, her husband would have crossed the few mats which
separated them, and would have carried her off willy-nilly. But in her
kimono did she wholly belong to him? Or was she a Japanese again,
a Fujinami? She seemed to have been transformed by some enchanter's
spell; as Titine had said, she was bewitched.

"Asako, do you mean this?" The big man's voice was harsh with grief.
"Do you mean that I am to go without you?"

Asako still showed no sign of comprehension.

"Answer me, my darling; do you want me to go?"

Her head moved in assent, and her lips answered "Yes."

That whisper made such a wrench at her husband's heart that his grip
tightened on the frail _shoji_, and with a nervous spasm he sent it
clattering out of its socket flat upon the floor of the room, like
a screen blown down by the wind. Ito dashed forward to help Geoffrey
replace the damage. When they turned round again, the two women had
disappeared.

"Captain Barrington," said Ito, "I think you had better go away. You
make bad thing worse."

Geoffrey frowned at the little creature. He would have liked to have
crushed him underfoot like a cockroach. But as that was impossible,
nothing remained for him to do but to depart, leaving the track of his
dirty boots on the shining corridor. His last glimpse of his cousins'
home was of two little serving-maids scuttering up with dusters to
remove the defilement.

Asako had fainted.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Reggie had said in Chuzenji, "What actually happens does not
matter: it is the thought of what might have happened, which sticks."
If Reggie's tolerant and experienced mind could not rid itself of the
picture conjured up by the possibility of his friend's treachery and
his mistress's lightness, how could Asako, ignorant and untried, hope
to escape from a far more insistent obsession? She believed that her
husband was guilty. But the mere feeling that it was possible that he
might be guilty would have been enough to numb her love for him, at
any rate for a time. She had never known heartache before. She did not
realise that it is a fever which runs its appointed course of torment
and despair, which at length after a given term abates, and then
disappears altogether, leaving the sufferer weak but whole again.
The second attack of the malady finds its victim familiar with the
symptoms, resigned to a short period of misery and confident of
recovery. A broken heart like a broken horse is of great service to
its owner.

But Asako was like one stricken with an unknown disease. Its violence
appalled her, and in her uncertainty she prayed for death. Moreover,
she was surrounded by counsellors who traded on her little faith, who
kept on reminding her that she was a Japanese, that she was among her
father's people who loved her and understood her, that foreigners
were notoriously treacherous to women, that they were blue-eyed and
cruel-hearted, that they thought only of money and material things.
Let her stay in Japan, let her make her home there. There she would
always be a personage, a member of the family. Among those big,
bold-voiced foreign women, she was overshadowed and out of place. If
her husband left her for a half-caste, what chance had she of keeping
him when once he got back among the women of his own race? Mixed
marriages, in fact, were a mistake, an offence against nature. Even if
he wished to be faithful to her, he could not really care for her as
he could for an Englishwoman.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as Geoffrey Barrington had left the house, Mr. Ito went in
search of the head of the Fujinami, whom he found at work on the
latest literary production of his tame students, _The Pinegrove by the
Sea-shore_.

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro put his writing-box aside with a leisurely
gesture, for a Japanese gentleman of culture must never be in a hurry.

"Indeed, it has been so noisy, composition has become impossible," he
complained; "has that foreigner come, to the house?"

He used the uncomplimentary word "_ket[=o]jin_" which may be literally
translated "hairy rascal". It is a survival from the time of Perry's
black ships and the early days of foreign intercourse, when "Expel the
Barbarians!" was a watchword in the country. Modern Japanese assure
their foreign friends that it has fallen altogether into disuse; but
such is not the case. It is a word loaded with all the hatred, envy
and contempt against foreigners of all nationalities, which still
pervade considerable sections of the Japanese public.

"This Barrington," answered the lawyer, "is indeed a rough fellow,
even for a foreigner. He came into the house with his boots on,
uninvited. He shouted like a coolie, and he broke the _shoji_.
His behaviour was like that of Susa-no-O in the chambers of the
Sun-Goddess. Perhaps he had been drinking whisky-sodas."

"A disgusting thing, is it not?" said the master. "At this time I am
writing an important chapter on the clear mirror of the soul. It is
troublesome to be interrupted by these quarrels of women and savages.
You will have Keiichi and Gor[=o] posted at the door of the house. They
are to refuse entrance to all foreigners. It must not be allowed to
turn our _yashiki_ into a battlefield."

Mr. Fujinami's meditations that morning had been most bitter. His
literary preoccupation was only a sham. There was a tempest in the
political world of Japan. The Government was tottering under the
revelations of a corruption in high places more blatant than usual.
With the fall of the Cabinet, the bribes which the Fujinami had
lavished to obtain the licences and privileges necessary to their
trade, would become waste money. True, the Governor of Osaka had not
yet been replaced. A Fujinami familiar had been despatched thither
at full speed to secure the new Tobita brothel concessions as a _fait
accompli_ before the inevitable change should take place.

The head of the house of Fujinami, therefore, being a monarch in a
small way, had much to think of besides "the quarrels of women and
savages." Moreover, he was not quite sure of his ground with regard to
Asako. To take a wife from her husband against his will, seems to the
Japanese mind so flagrantly illegal a proceeding; and old Mr. Fujinami
Gennosuké had warned his irreligious son most gravely against the
danger of tampering with the testament of Asako's father, and of
provoking thereby a visitation of his "rough spirit."



CHAPTER XXI

SAYONARA (GOOD-BYE)

  _Tomo ni narite
  Onaji minato wo
  Izuru fune no
  Yuku-ye mo shirazu
  Kogi-wakari-nuru!_

  Those ships which left
  The same harbour
  Side by side
  Towards an unknown destination
  Have rowed away from one another!


Reggie Forsyth, remaining in Chuzenji, had become a prey to a
most crushing reaction. At the time of trial, he had been calm and
clear-sighted. For a moment he had experienced a sensation of relief
at shaking off the shackles which Yaé's fascination had fastened upon
him. He had been aware all along that she was morally worthless. He
was glad to have the matter incontestably proved. But his paradise,
though an artificial one, had been paradise all the same. It had
nourished him with visions and music. Now, he had no companion except
his own irrepressible spirit jibing at his heart's infirmity. He came
to the reluctant conclusion that he must take Yaé back again. But she
must never come again to him on the same terms. He would take her for
what she really was, a unique and charming _fille-de-joie_, and he
knew that she would be glad to return. Without something, somebody,
some woman to interest him, he could not face another year in this
barren land.

Then what about Geoffrey, his friend who had betrayed him? No,
he could not regard him in such a tragic light. He was angry with
Geoffrey, but not indignant. He was angry with him for being a
blunderer, an elephant, for being so easily amenable to Lady Cynthia's
intrigues, for being so good-natured, stupid and gullible. He argued
that if Geoffrey had been a wicked seducer, a bold Don Juan, he would
have excused him and would have felt more sympathy for him. He would
have thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with him to a discussion of Yaé's
psychology. But what did an oaf like Geoffrey understand about
that bundle of nerves and instincts, partly primitive and partly
artificial, bred out of an abnormal cross between East and West, and
doomed from conception to a life astray between light and darkness?
He had been disillusioned about his old friend, and he wished never to
see him again.

"What frauds these noble natures are!" he said to himself, "these Old
Honests, these sterling souls! And as an excuse he tells me, 'Nothing
actually happened!' Disgusting!"

  'To play with light loves in the portal,
  To kiss and embrace and refrain!'

"The virtue of our days is mostly impotence! Lust and passion and love
and marriage! Why do our dull insular minds mix up these four entirely
separate notions? And how can we jump with such goat-like agility from
one circle of thought into another without ever noticing the change in
the landscape?"

He strolled over to the piano to put these ideas into music.

Lady Cynthia had decided that it would be bad for him to stop in
Chuzenji. Mountain scenery is demoralising for a nature so Byronic.
He was forthwith despatched to Tokyo to represent his Embassy at a
Requiem Mass to be celebrated for the souls of an Austrian Archduke
and his wife, who had recently been assassinated by a Serbian fanatic
somewhere in Bosnia. Reggie was furious at having to undertake this
mission. For the mountains were soothing to him, and he was not yet
ready for encounters. When he arrived in Tokyo, he was in a very bad
temper.

       *       *       *       *       *

Asako had heard from Tanaka that Reggie Forsyth was expected at the
Embassy. That useful intelligence-officer had been posted by the
Fujinami to keep watch on the Embassy compound, and to report any
movements of importance; for the conspirators were not entirely at
ease as to the legality of abducting the wife of a British subject,
and keeping her against her husband's demands.

Asako had received that day a pathetic letter from Geoffrey, giving
detail for detail his account of his dealings with Yaé Smith, begging
her to understand and believe him, and to forgive him for the crime
which he had never committed.

In spite of her cousin's incredulity, Asako's resolution was shaken
by this appeal. At last, now that she had lost her husband, she was
beginning to realise how very much she loved him. Reggie Forsyth would
be a more or less impartial witness.

Late that evening, in a hooded rickshaw she crossed the short distance
which led to the Embassy. Mr. Forsyth had just arrived.

Mr. Forsyth was very displeased to hear Mrs. Barrington announced. It
was just the kind of meeting which would exasperate and unnerve him.

Her appearance was against her. She wore a Japanese kimono,
unpleasantly reminiscent of Yaé. Her hair was disordered and
frantic-looking. Her eyes were red with weeping.

"Let me say at once," observed Reggie, as he offered her a chair,
"that I am in no way responsible for your husband's shortcomings. I
have too many of my own."

Asako could never understand Reggie when he talked in that sarcastic
tone.

"I want to know exactly what happened," she begged. "I have no one
else who can tell me."

"Your husband says that nothing actually happened," replied Reggie
brutally.

The girl realised that this statement was far from being the
vindication of Geoffrey which she had begun to hope for.

"But what did you actually see?" she asked.

"I saw Miss Smith with your husband. As it was in my house, they might
have asked my leave first."

Asako shivered.

"But do you think Geoffrey had been--love-making to Miss Smith?"

"I don't know," said Reggie wearily. "From what I heard, I think Miss
Smith was doing most of the love-making to Geoffrey; but he did not
seem to object to the process."

Asako's yearnings for proof of her husband's innocence were crushed.

"What shall I do?" she pleaded.

"I'm sure I don't know." This scene to Reggie was becoming positively
silly. "Take him back to England as soon as possible, I should think."

"But would he fall in love with women in England?"

"Possibly."

"Then what am I to do?"

"Grin and bear it. That's what we all have to do."

"Oh, Mr. Forsyth," Asako implored, "you know my husband so well. Do
you think he is a bad man?"

"No, not worse than the rest of us," answered Reggie, who felt quite
maddened by this talk. "He is a bit of a fool, and a good deal of a
blunderer."

"But do you think Geoffrey was to blame for what happened?"

"I have told you, my dear Mrs. Barrington, that your husband assured
me that nothing actually happened. I am quite sure this is true, for
your husband is a very honourable man--in details."

"You mean," said Asako, gulping out the words, "that Miss Smith was
not actually Geoffrey's--mistress; they did not--sin together."

Asako did not know how intimate were the relations between Reggie and
Yaé. She did not understand therefore how cruelly her words lanced
him. But, more than the shafts of memory it was the imbecility of the
whole scene which almost made the young man scream.

"Exactly," he answered. "In the words of the Bible, she lay with him,
but he knew her not."

"Then, do you think I ought to forgive Geoffrey?"

This was too much. Reggie leaped to his feet.

"My dear lady, that is really a question for yourself and yourself
alone. Personally, I do not at present feel like forgiving anybody.
Least of all, can I forgive fools. Geoffrey Harrington is a fool. He
was a fool to marry, a fool to marry you, a fool to come to Japan when
everybody warned him not to, a fool to talk to Yaé when everybody
told him that she was a dangerous woman. No, personally, at present I
cannot forgive Geoffrey Barrington. But it is very late and I am very
tired, and I'm sure you are, too. I would advise you to go home to
your erring husband; and to-morrow morning we shall all be thinking
more clearly. As the French say, _L'oreiller raccommode tout_."

Asako still made no movement.

"Well, dear lady, if you wish to wait longer, you will excuse me,
if, instead of talking rot, I play to you. It is more soothing to the
nerves."

He sat down at the piano, and struck up the _Merry Widow_ chorus,--

  "I'll go off to Maxim's: I've done with lovers' dreams;
  The girls will laugh and greet me, they will not trick
  and cheat me;
  Lolo, Dodo, Joujou,
  Cloclo, Margot, Frou-frou,
  I'm going off to Maxim's, and you may go to--"

The pianist swung around on his stool: his visitor had gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Thank God," he sighed; and within a quarter of an hour he was asleep.

He awoke in the small hours with that sick restless feeling on his
chest, which he described as a conviction of sin.

"Good God!" he said aloud; "what a cad I've been!"

He realised that an unspoiled and gentle creature had paid him
the greatest of all compliments by coming to him for advice in
the extremity of her soul's misery. He had received her with silly
_badinage_ and cheap cynicism.

At breakfast he learned that things were much more serious than he had
imagined, that Asako had actually left her husband and was living with
her Japanese cousins. What he had thought to be a lover's quarrel, he
now recognised to be the shipwreck of two lives. With a kindly word he
might have prevented this disaster.

He drove straight to the Fujinami mansion, at the risk of being late
for the Requiem Mass. He found two evil-eyed hooligans posted at the
gate, who stopped his rickshaw, and, informing him that none of the
Fujinami family were at home, seemed prepared to resist his entry with
force.

During the reception of the Austrian Embassy which followed the
Mass, an incident occurred which altered the whole set of the young
diplomat's thoughts, and, most surprisingly, sent him posting down
to the Imperial Hotel to find Geoffrey Harrington, as one who has
discovered a treasure and must share it with his friend.

The big Englishman was contemplating a whisky-and-soda in the hall of
the hotel. It was by no means the first of its series. He gazed dully
at Reggie.

"Thought you were at Chuzenji," he said thickly.

"I had to come down for the special service for the Archduke Franz
Ferdinand," said Reggie, excitedly. "They gave us a regular wake,
champagne by the gallon! Several of the _corps diplomatique_ became
inspired! They saw visions and made prophesyings. Von Falkenturm, the
German military attache, was shouting out, 'We've got to fight. We're
going to fight! We don't care who we fight! Russia, France, England:
yes, the whole lot of them!' The man was drunk, of course; but, after,
all, _in vino veritas_. The rest of the square-heads were getting very
rattled, and at last they succeeded in suppressing Falkenturm. But, I
tell you, Geoffrey, it's coming at last; it's really coming!"

"What's coming?"

"Why, the Great War. Thank God, it's coming!"

"Why thank God?"

"Because we've all become too artificial and beastly. We want
exterminating, and to start afresh. We shall escape at last from women
and drawing-rooms and silly gossip. We shall become men. It will give
us all something to do and something to think about."

"Yes," echoed Geoffrey, "I wish I could get something to do."

"You'll get it all right. I wish I were a soldier. Are you going to
stop in Japan much longer?"

"No--going next week--going home."

"Look here, I'll put in my resignation right away, and I'll come along
with you."

"No, thanks," said Geoffrey, "rather not."

In his excitement Reggie had failed to observe the chilliness of his
friend's demeanour. This snub direct brought up the whole chain of
events, which Reggie had momentarily forgotten, or which were too
recent as yet to have assumed complete reality.

"I'm sorry, Geoffrey," he said, as he rose to go.

"Not at all," said Barrington, ignoring his friend's hand and turning
aside to order another drink.

Geoffrey had a letter in his pocket, received from his wife that
morning. It ran:--

    "DEAR GEOFFREY,--I am very sorry. I cannot come back. It is
    not only what has happened. I am Japanese. You are English.
    You can never really love me. Our marriage was a mistake.
    Everybody says so even Reggie Forsyth. I tried my best to want
    to come back. I went to Reggie last night, and asked him what
    actually happened. He says that our marriage was a mistake,
    and that our coming to Japan was a mistake. So do I. I think
    we might have been happy in England. I want you to divorce me.
    It seems to be very easy in Japan. You only have to write a
    letter, which Mr. Ito will give you. Then I can become quite
    Japanese again, and Mr. Fujinami can take me back into his
    family. Also you will be free to marry an English girl. But
    don't have anything to do with Miss Smith. She is a very bad
    girl. I shall never marry anybody else. My cousins are very
    kind to me. It is much better for me to stay in Japan. Titine
    said I was wrong to go away. Please give her fifty pounds from
    me, and send her back to France, if she wants to go. I don't
    think it is good for us to see each other. We only make
    each other unhappy. Tanaka is here. I do not like him now.
    Good-bye! Good-bye!

    "Your loving,

    "ASAKO."

From this letter Geoffrey understood that Reggie Forsyth also was
against him. The request for a divorce baffled him entirely. How could
he divorce his wife, when he had nothing against her? In answer, he
wrote another frantic appeal to her to return to him. There was no
answer.

Then he left Tokyo for Yokohama--it is only eighteen miles away--to
wait there until his boat started.

Thither he was pursued by Ito.

"I am sorry for you." The revolting little man always began his
discourse now with this exasperating phrase. "Mrs. Barrington would
like very much to obtain the divorce. She wishes very much to have her
name inscribed on family register of Fujinami house. If there is no
divorce, this is not possible."

"But," objected Geoffrey, "it is not so easy to get divorced as to get
married--unfortunately."

"In Japan," said the lawyer, "it is more easy, because we have
different custom."

"Then there must be a lot of divorces," said Geoffrey grimly.

"There are very many," answered the Japanese, "more than in any other
country. In divorce Japan leads the world. Even the States come second
to our country. Among the low-class persons in Japan there are even
women who have been married thirty-five times, married properly,
honourably and legally. In upper society, too, many divorce, but not
so many, for it makes the family angry."

"Marvellous!" said Geoffrey. "How do you do it?"

"There is divorce by law-courts, as in your country," said Ito. "The
injured party can sue the other party, and the court can grant decree.
But very few Japanese persons go to the court for divorce. It is not
nice, as you say, to wash dirty shirt before all people. So there is
divorce by custom."

"Well?" asked the Englishman.

"Now, as you know, our marriage is also by custom. There is no
ceremony of religion, unless parties desire. Only the man and the
woman go to the _Shiyakusho_, to the office of the city or the
village; and the man say, 'This woman is my wife; please, write her
name on the register of my family,' Then when he want to divorce her,
he goes again to the office of the city and says, 'I have sent my wife
away; please, take her name from the register of my family, and write
it again on the register of her father's family.' You see, our custom
is very convenient. No expense, no trouble."

"Very convenient," Geoffrey agreed.

"So, if Captain Barrington will come with me to the office of Akasaka,
Tokyo, and will give notice that he has sent Mrs. Barrington back
to her family, then the divorce is finished. Mrs. Barrington becomes
again a Japanese subject. Her name becomes Fujinami. She is again one
of her family. This is her prayer to you."

"And Mrs. Barrington's money?" asked Geoffrey sarcastically. "You have
forgotten that."

"Oh no," was the answer, "we don't forget the money. Mr. Fujinami
quite understand that it is great loss to send away Mrs. Barrington.
He will give big compensation as much as Captain Barrington desires."

To Ito's surprise, his victim left the table and did not return. So
he inquired from the servants about Captain Barrington's habits;
and learned from the _boy sans_ that the big Englishman drank plenty
whisky-soda; but he did not talk to any one or go to the brothels.
Perhaps he was a little mad.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ito returned to the charge next day. This time Geoffrey had an
inspiration. He said that if he could be granted an interview alone
with Asako, he would discuss with her the divorce project, and would
consent, if she asked him personally. After some demur, the lawyer
agreed.

The last interview between husband and wife took place in Ito's
office, which Geoffrey had visited once before in his search for the
fortune of the Fujinami. The scene of the rendezvous was well chosen
to repress any revival of old emotions. The varnished furniture, the
sham mahogany, the purple plush upholstery, the gilt French clock, the
dirty bust of Abraham Lincoln and the polyglot law library checked the
tender word and the generous impulse. The Japanese have an instinctive
knowledge of the influence of inanimate things, and use this knowledge
with an unscrupulousness, which the crude foreigner only realises--if
ever--after it is too late.

Geoffrey's wife appeared hand in hand with cousin Sadako. There was
nothing English in her looks. She had become completely Japanese
from her black helmet-like _coiffure_ to the little white feet which
shuffled over the dusty carpet. There was no hand-shaking. The
two women sat down stiffly on chairs against the wall remote from
Geoffrey, like two swallows perched uneasily on an unsteady wire.
Asako held a fan. There was complete silence.

"I wish to see my wife alone," said Geoffrey.

He spoke to Ito, who grinned with embarrassment and looked at the two
women. Asako shook her head.

"I made it quite clear to you, Mr. Ito," said Geoffrey angrily, "that
this was my condition. I understand that pressure has been used to
keep my wife away from me. I will apply to my Embassy to get her
restored."

Ito muttered under his breath. That was a contingency which he had
greatly dreaded. He turned to Sadako Fujinami and spoke to her in
voluble Japanese. Sadako whispered in her cousin's ear. Then she rose
and withdrew with Ito.

Geoffrey was left alone with Asako. But was she really the same Asako?
Geoffrey had often seen upper class Japanese ladies at receptions in
the hotel at Tokyo. He had thought how picturesque they were, how well
mannered, how excellent their taste in dress. But they had seemed
to him quite unreal, denizens of a shadow world of bowing, gliding
figures.

He now realised that his former wife had become entirely a Japanese,
a person absolutely different from himself, a visitant from another
sphere. He was English she was Japanese. They were divorced already.

The big man rose from his chair, and held out his hand to his wife.

"I'm sorry, little Asako!" he said, very gently. "You are quite right.
It was a mistake. Good-bye, and--God bless you always!"

With immense relief and gratitude she took the giant's paw in her
own tiny hand. It seemed to have lost its grip, to have become like a
Japanese hand.

He opened the door for her. Once again, as on the altar-steps of St.
George's, the tall shoulders bent over the tiny figure with a movement
of instinctive protection and tenderness. He closed the door behind
her, recrossed the room and stared into the empty fireplace.

After a time, Ito returned. The two men went together to the district
office of the Akasaka Ward. There Geoffrey signed a declaration
in Japanese and English to the effect that his marriage with Asako
Fujinami was cancelled, and that she was free to return to her
father's family.

Next morning, at daylight his ship left Yokohama.

Before he reached Liverpool, war had been declared.



CHAPTER XXII

FUJINAMI ASAKO

  _Okite mitsu
  Nete mitsu kaya no
  Hirosa kana_.

  When I rise, I look--
  When I lie down, I look--
  Alas, how vast is the mosquito-curtain.


Asako Barrington was restored to the name and home of the Fujinami.
Her action had been the result of hereditary instinct, of the
natural current of circumstances, and of the adroit diplomacy of her
relatives. She had been hunted and caught like a wild animal; and
she was soon to find that the walls of her enclosure, which at first
seemed so wide that she perceived them not, were closing in upon her
day by day as in a mediaeval torture chamber, forcing her step by step
towards the unfathomable pit of Japanese matrimony.

The Fujinami had not adopted their foreign cousin out of pure
altruism. Far from it. Like Japanese in general, they resented the
intrusion of a "_tanin_" (outside person) into their intimacy. They
took her for what she was worth to them.

Since Asako was now a member of the family, custom allowed Mr.
Fujinami Gentaro to control her money. But Mr. Ito warned his patron
that, legally, the money was still hers, and hers alone, and that in
case of her marrying a second time it might again slip away. It was
imperative, therefore, to the policy of the Fujinami house that Asako
should marry a Fujinami, and that as soon as possible.

A difficulty here arose, not that Asako might object to her new
husband--it never occurred to the Fujinami that this stranger from
Europe might have opinions quite opposed to Japanese conventions--but
that there were very few adequately qualified suitors. Indeed, in the
direct line of succession there was only young Mr. Fujinami Takeshi,
the youth with the purple blotches, who had distinguished himself
by his wit and his _savoir vivre_ on the night of the first family
banquet.

True, he had a wife already; but she could easily be divorced, as
her family were nobodies. If he married Asako, however, was he still
capable of breeding healthy children? Of course, he might adopt the
children whom he already possessed by his first wife, but the
elder boy showed signs of being mentally deficient, the younger was
certainly deaf and dumb, and the two others were girls and did not
count.

Grandfather Fujinami Gennosuké, who hated and despised his grandson,
was for sweeping him and his brood out of the way altogether, and for
adopting a carefully selected and creditable _yoshi_ (adopted son) by
marriage with either Sadako or Asako.

"But if this Asa is barren?" said Mrs. Fujinami Shidzuyé, who
naturally desired that her daughter Sadako's husband should be the
heir of the Fujinami. "That Englishman was strong and healthy. There
was living together for more than a year, and still no child."

"If she is barren, then a son must be adopted," said the old
gentleman.

"To adopt twice in succession is unlucky," objected Mr. Fujinami
Gentaro.

"Then," said Mrs. Shidzuyé, "the old woman of Akabo shall come
for consultation. She shall tell if it is possible for her to have
babies."

Akabo was the up-country village, whence the first Fujinami had come
to Tokyo to seek his fortune. The Japanese never completely loses
touch with his ancestral village; and for over a hundred years the
Tokyo Fujinami had paid their annual visit to the mountains of the
North to render tribute to the graves of their forefathers. They still
preserved an inherited faith in the "wise woman" of the district,
who from time to time was summoned to the capital to give her advice.
Their other medical counselor was Professor Kashio, who held degrees
from Munich and Vienna.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the first days of her self-chosen widowhood Asako was little
better than a convalescent. She had never looked at sorrow before; and
the shock of what she had seen had paralyzed her vitality without as
yet opening her understanding. Like a dog, who in the midst of
his faithful affection has been struck for a fault of which he is
unconscious, she took refuge in darkness, solitude and despair.

The Japanese, who are as a rule intuitively aware of others' emotions,
recognized her case. A room was prepared for her in a distant wing of
the straggling house, a "foreign-style" room in an upper story with
glass in the windows--stained glass too--with white muslin blinds, a
colored lithograph of Napoleon and a real bed, recently purchased on
Sadako's pleading that everything must be done to make life happy for
their guest.

"But she is a Japanese," Mr. Fujinami Gentaro had objected. "It is not
right that a Japanese should sleep upon a tall bed. She must learn to
give up luxurious ways."

Sadako protested that her cousin's health was not yet assured; and so
discipline was relaxed for a time.

Asako spent most of her days in the tall bed, gazing through the open
doorway, across the polished wood veranda like the toffee veranda of
a confectioner's model, past the wandering branch of an old twisted
pine-tree which crouched by the side of the mansion like a faithful
beast, over the pigmy landscape of the garden, to the scale-like roofs
of the distant city, and to the pagoda on the opposite hill.

It rested her to lie thus and look at her country. From time to time
Sadako would steal into the room. Her cousin would leave the invalid
in silence, but she always smiled; and she would bring some offering
with her, a dish of food--Asako's favorite dishes, of which Tanaka had
already compiled a complete list--or sometimes a flower. At the open
door she would pause to shuffle off her pale blue _zori_ (sandals);
and she would glide across the clean rice-straw matting shod in her
snow-white _tabi_ only.

Asako gradually accustomed herself to the noises of the house. First,
there was the clattering of the _amado_, the wooden shutters whose
removal announced the beginning of the day, then the gurgling and the
expectorations which accompanied the family ablutions, then the harsh
sound of the men's voices and their rattling laughter, the sound
of their _geta_ on the gravel paths of the garden like the tedious
dropping of heavy rain on an iron roof, then the flicking and dusting
of the maids as they went about their daily _soji_ (house-cleaning),
their shrill mouselike chirps and their silly giggle; then the
afternoon stillness when every one was absent or sleeping; and then,
the revival of life and bustle at about six o'clock, when the clogs
were shuffled off at the front door, when the teacups began to jingle,
and when sounds of swishing water came up from the bath-house, the
crackle of the wood-fire under the bathtub, the smell of the burning
logs, and the distant odours of the kitchen.

Outside, the twilight was beginning to gather. A big black crow
flopped lazily on to the branch of the neighbouring pine-tree. His
harsh croak disturbed Asako's mind like a threat. High overhead passed
a flight of wild geese in military formation on their way to the
continent of Asia. Lights began to peep among the trees. Behind the
squat pagoda a sky of raspberry pink closed the background.

The twilight is brief in Japan. The night is velvety; and the
moonlight and the starlight transfigure the dolls' house architecture,
the warped pine-trees, the feathery bamboo clumps and the pagoda
spires.

From a downstair room there came the twang of cousin Sadako's _koto_,
a kind of zither instrument, upon which she played interminable
melancholy sonatas of liquid, detached notes, like desultory thoughts
against a background of silence. There was no accompaniment to this
music and no song to chime with it; for, as the Japanese say, the
accompaniment for _koto_ music is the summer night-time and its heavy
fragrance, and the voice with which it harmonizes is the whisper of
the breeze in the pine-branches.

Long after Sadako had finished her practice, came borne upon the
distance the still more melancholy pipe of a student's flute. This was
the last human sound. After that the night was left to the orchestra
of the insects--the grasshoppers, the crickets and the _semi_
(cicadas). Asako soon was able to distinguish at least ten or twelve
different songs, all metallic in character, like clock springs being
slowly wound up and then let down with a run. The night and the house
vibrated with these infinitesimal chromatics. Sometimes Asako
thought the creatures must have got into her room, and feared for
entanglements in her hair. Then she remembered that her mother's
nickname had been "the _Semi_" and that she had been so called because
she was always happy and singing in her little house by the river.

This memory roused Asako one day with a wish to see how her own house
was progressing. This wish was the first positive thought which had
stirred her mind since her husband had left her; and it marked a stage
in her convalescence.

"If the house is ready," she thought "I will go there soon. The
Fujinamis will not want me to live here permanently."

This showed how little she understood as yet the Japanese family
system, whereby relatives remain as permanent guests for years on end.

"Tanaka" she said one morning, in what was almost her old manner, "I
think I will have the motor car to-day."

Tanaka had become her body servant as in the old days. At first
she had resented the man's reappearance, which awakened such cruel
memories. She had protested against him to Sadako, who had smiled and
promised. But Tanaka continued his ministrations; and Asako had
not the strength to go on protesting. As a matter of fact, he
was specially employed by Mr. Fujinami Gentaro to spy on Asako's
movements, an easy task hitherto, since she had not moved from her
room.

"Where is the motor car, Tanaka?" she asked again.

He grinned, as Japanese always do when embarrassed.

"Very sorry for you," he answered; "motor car has gone away."

"Has Captain Barrington--?" Asako began instinctively; then,
remembering that Geoffrey was now many thousands of miles from Japan,
she turned her face to the wall and began to cry.

"Young Fujinami San," said Tanaka, "has taken motor car. He go away
to mountains with _geisha_ girl. Very bad, young Fujinami San, very
_roué_."

Asako thought that it was rather impertinent to borrow her own motor
car without asking permission, even if she was their guest. She did
not yet understand that she and all her possessions belonged from
henceforth to her family--to her male relatives, that is to say; for
she was only a woman.

"Old Mr. Fujinami San," Tanaka went on, happy to find his mistress, to
whom he was attached in a queer Japanese sort of way, interested and
responsive at last, "old Mr. Fujinami San, he also go to mountain
with _geisha_ girl, but different mountain. Japanese people all very
_roué_. All Japanese people like to go away in summer season with
_geisha_ girl. Very bad custom. Old Mr. Fujinami San, not so very
bad, keep same _geisha_ girl very long time. Perhaps Ladyship see one
little girl, very nice little girl, come sometimes with Miss Sadako
and bring meal-time things. That little girl is _geisha_ girl's
daughter. Perhaps old Mr. Fujinami San's daughter also, I think: very
bastard: I don't know!"

So he rambled on in the fashion of servants all the world over, until
Asako knew all the ramifications of her relatives, legitimate and
illegitimate.

She gathered that the men had all left Tokyo during the hot season,
and that only the women were left in the house. This encouraged her
to descend from her eyrie, and to endeavour to take up her position in
her family, which was beginning to appear the less reassuring the more
she learned about its history.

The life of a Japanese lady of quality is peculiarly tedious. She is
relieved from the domestic cares which give occupation to her humbler
sisters. But she is not treated as an equal or as a companion by her
menfolk, who are taught that marriage is for business and not for
pleasure, and consequently that home-life is a bore. She is supposed
to find her own amusements, such as flower-arrangement, tea-ceremony,
music, kimono-making and the composition of poetry. More often, this
refined and innocent ideal degenerates into a poor trickle of an
existence, enlivened only by scrappy magazine reading, servants'
gossip, empty chatter about clothes, neighbours and children,
backbiting, envying and malice.

Once Sadako took her cousin to a charity entertainment given for the
Red Cross at the house of a rich nobleman. A hundred or more ladies
were present; but stiff civility prevailed. None of the guests seemed
to know each other. There was no friendly talking. There were no
men guests. There was three hours' agony of squatting, a careful
adjustment of expensive kimonos, weak tea and tasteless cakes, a blank
staring at a dull conjuring performance, and deadly silence.

"Do you ever have dances?" Asako asked her cousin.

"The _geisha_ dance, because they are paid," said Sadako primly. Her
pose was no longer cordial and sympathetic. She set herself up as
mentor to this young savage, who did not know the usages of civilized
society.

"No, not like that," said the girl from England; "but dancing among
yourselves with your men friends."

"Oh, no, that would not be nice at all. Only tipsy persons would dance
like that."

Asako tried, not very successfully, to chat in easy Japanese with
her cousin; but she fled from the interminable talking parties of
her relatives, where she could not understand one word, except the
innumerable parentheses--_naruhodo_ (indeed!) and _so des'ka_ (is it
so?)--with which the conversation was studded. As the realization of
her solitude made her nerves more jumpy, she began to imagine that the
women were forever talking about her, criticizing her unfavorably and
disposing of her future.

The only man whom she saw during the hot summer months, besides the
inevitable Tanaka, was Mr. Ito, the lawyer. He could talk quite
good English. He was not so egotistical and bitter as Sadako. He had
traveled in America and Europe. He seemed to understand the trouble of
Asako's mind, and would offer sympathetic advice.

"It is difficult to go to school when we are no longer children,"
he would say sententiously. "Asa San must be patient. Asa San must
forget. Asa San must take Japanese husband. I think it is the only
way."

"Oh, no," the poor girl shivered; "I wouldn't marry again for
anything."

"But," Ito went on relentlessly, "it is hurtful to the body when once
it has custom to be married. I think that is reason why so many widow
women are unfortunate and become mad."

Every day he would spend an hour or so in conversation with Asako. She
thought that this was a sign of friendliness and sympathy. As a matter
of fact, his object at first was to improve his English. Later on more
ambitious projects developed in his fertile brain.

He would talk about New York and London in his queer stilted way. He
had been a fireman on board ship, a teacher of _jiujitsu_, a juggler,
a quack dentist, Heaven knows what else. Driven by the conscientious
inquisitiveness of his race, he had endured hardships, contempt and
rough treatment with the smiling patience inculcated in the Japanese
people by their education. "We must chew our gall, and bide our time,"
they say, when the too powerful foreigner insults or abuses them.

He had seen the magnificence of our cities, the vastness of our
undertakings and had returned to Japan with great relief to find that
life among his own people was less strenuous and fierce, that it was
ordered by circumstances and the family system, that less was left
to individual courage and enterprise, that things happened more often
than things were done. The impersonality of Japan was as restful to
him as it is aggravating to a European.

But it must not be imagined that Ito was an idle man. On the contrary,
he was exceedingly hard working and ambitious. His dream was to become
a statesman, to enjoy unlimited patronage, to make men and to break
men, and to die a peer. When he returned to Japan from his wanderings
with exactly two shillings in his pocket, this was his programme. Like
Cecil Rhodes, his hero among white men, he made a will distributing
millions. Then he attached himself to his rich cousins, the Fujinami;
and very soon he became indispensable to them. Fujinami Gentaro,
an indolent man, gave him more and more authority over the family
fortune. It was dirty business, this buying of girls and hiring of
pimps, but it was immensely profitable; and more and more of the
profits found their way into Ito's private account. Fujinami Gentaro
did not seem to care. Takeshi, the son and heir, was a nonentity.
Ito's intention was to continue to serve his cousins until he had
amassed a working capital of a hundred thousand pounds. Then he would
go into politics.

But the advent of Asako suggested a short cut to his hopes. If he
married her he would gain immediate control of a large interest in the
Fujinami estate. Besides she had all the qualifications for the wife
of a Cabinet Minister, knowledge of foreign languages, ease in foreign
society, experience of foreign dress and customs. Moreover, passion
was stirring in his heart, the swift stormy passion of the Japanese
male, which, when thwarted, drives him towards murder and suicide.

Like many Japanese, he had felt the attractiveness of foreign women
when he was traveling abroad. Their independence stimulated him, their
savagery and their masterful ways. Ito had found in Asako the physical
beauty of his own race together with the character and energy which
had pleased him so much in white women. Everything seemed to favor
his suit. Asako clearly seemed to prefer his company to that of other
members of the family. He had a hold over the Fujinami which would
compel them to assent to anything he might require. True, he had a
wife already; but she could easily be divorced.

Asako tolerated him, _faute de mieux_. Cousin Sadako was becoming
tired of their system of mutual instruction, as she tired sooner or
later of everything.

She had developed a romantic interest in one of the pet students, whom
the Fujinami kept as an advertisement and a bodyguard. He was a pale
youth with long greasy hair, spectacles and more gold in his teeth
than he had ever placed in his waist-band. Popriety forbade any actual
conversation with Sadako; but there was an interchange of letters
almost every day, long subjective letters describing states of mind
and high ideals, punctuated with shadowy Japanese poems and with
quotations from the Bible, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Bergson, Eucken, Oscar
Wilde and Samuel Smiles.

Sadako told her cousin that the young man was a genius, and would one
day be Professor of Literature at the Imperial University.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE REAL SHINTO

  _Yo no naka wo
  Nani ni tatoyemu?
  Asa-borake
  Kogi-yuku fune no
  Ato no shira-nami_.

  To what shall I compare
  This world?
  To the white wake behind
  A ship that has rowed away
  At dawn!


When the autumn came and the maple trees turned scarlet, the men
returned from their long summer holidays. After that Asako's lot
became heavier than ever.

"What is this talk of tall beds and special cooking?" said Mr.
Fujinami Gentaro. "The girl is a Japanese. She must live like a
Japanese and be proud of it."

So Asako had to sleep on the floor alongside her cousin Sadako in one
of the downstairs rooms. Her last possession, her privacy, was taken
away from her. The soft mattresses which formed the native bed, were
not uncomfortable; but Asako discarded at once the wooden pillow,
which every Japanese woman fits into the nape of her neck, so as to
prevent her elaborate _coiffure_ becoming disarranged. As a result,
her head was always untidy, a fact upon which her relatives commented.

"She does not look like a great foreign lady now," said Mrs. Shidzuyé,
the mistress of the house. "She looks like _osandon_ (a rough kitchen
maid) from a country inn."

The other women tittered.

One day the old woman of Akabo arrived. Her hair was quite white like
spun glass, and her waxen face was wrinkled like a relief map. Her
body was bent double like a lobster; and her eyes were dim with
cataracts. Cousin Sadako said with awe that she was over a hundred
years old.

Asako had to submit to the indignity of allowing this dessicated
hag to pass her fumbling hands all over her body, pinching her and
prodding her. The old woman smelt horribly of _daikon_ (pickled
horse-radish). Furthermore the terrified girl had to answer a
battery of questions as to her personal habits and her former marital
relations. In return, she learned a number of curious facts about
herself, of which she had hitherto no inkling. The lucky coincidence
of having been born in the hour of the Bird and the day of the Bird
set her apart from the rest of womankind as an exceptionally fortunate
individual. But, unhappily, the malignant influence of the Dog Year
was against her nativity. When once this disaffected animal had been
conquered and cast out, Asako's future should be a very bright one.
The family witch agreed with the Fujinami that the Dog had in all
probability departed with the foreign husband. Then the toothless
crone breathed three times upon the mouth, breasts and thighs of
Asako; and when this operation was concluded, she stated her opinion
that there was no reason, obstetrical or esoteric, why the ransomed
daughter of the house of Fujinami should not become the mother of many
children.

But on the psychical condition of the family in general she was far
from reassuring. Everything about the mansion, the growth of the
garden, the flight of the birds, the noises of the night-time,
foreboded dire disaster in the near future. The Fujinami were in the
grip of a most alarming _ingé_ (chain of cause and effect). Several
"rough ghosts" were abroad; and were almost certain to do damage
before their wrath could be appeased. What was the remedy? It was
indeed difficult to prescribe for such complicated cases. Temple
charms, however, were always efficacious. The old woman gave the names
of some of the shrines which specialized in exorcism.

Some days later the charms were obtained, strips of rice paper with
sacred writings and symbols upon them, and were pasted upon posts and
lintels all over the house. This was done in Mr. Fujinami's absence.
When he returned, he commented most unfavourably on this act of faith.
The prayer tickets disfigured his house. They looked like luggage
labels. They injured his reputation as an _esprit fort_. He ordered
the students to remove them.

After this sacrilegious act, the old woman, who had lingered on in the
family mansion for several weeks, returned again to Akabo, shaking her
white locks and prophesying dark things to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

For some reason or other, the witch's visit did not improve Asako's
position. She was expected to perform little menial services, to bring
in food at meal-times and to serve the gentlemen on bended knee,
to clap her hands in summons to the servant girls, to massage Mrs.
Fujinami, who suffered from rheumatism in the shoulder, and to scrub
her back in the bath.

Her wishes were usually ignored; and she was not encouraged to leave
the house and grounds. Sadako no longer took her cousin with her to
the theatre or to choose kimono patterns at the Mitsukoshi store. She
was irritated at Asako's failure to learn Japanese. It bored her to
have to explain everything. She found this girl from Europe silly and
undutiful.

Only at night they would chatter as girls will, even if they are
enemies; and it was then that Sadako narrated the history of her
romance with the young student.

One night, Asako awoke to find that the bed beside her was empty, and
that the paper _shoji_ was pushed aside. Nervous and anxious, she
rose and stood in the dark veranda outside the room. A cold wind was
blowing in from some aperture in the _amado_. This was unusual, for a
Japanese house in its night attire is hermetically sealed.

Suddenly Sadako appeared from the direction of the wind. Her hair
was disheveled. She wore a dark cloak over her parti-coloured night
kimono. By the dim light of the _andon_ (a rushlight in a square paper
box), Asako could see that the cloak was spotted with rain.

"I have been to _benjo_," said Sadako nervously.

"You have been out in the rain," contradicted her cousin. "You are wet
through. You will catch cold."

"_Sa! Damaré!_ (Be quiet!)" whispered Sadako, as she threw her cloak
aside, "do not talk so loud. See!" She drew from her breast a short
sword in a sheath of shagreen. "If you speak one word, I kill you with
this."

"What have you done?" asked Asako, trembling.

"What I wished to do," was the sullen answer.

"You have been with Sekiné?" Asako mentioned the student's name.

Sadako nodded in assent. Then she began to cry, hiding her face in her
kimono sleeve.

"Do you love him?" Asako could not help asking.

"Of course, I love him," cried Sadako, starting up from her sorrow.
"You see me. I am no more virgin. He is my life to me. Why cannot I
love him? Why cannot I be free like men are free to love as they wish?
I am new woman. I read Bernard Shaw. I find one law for men in Japan,
and another law for women. But I will break that law. I have made
Sekiné my lover, because I am free."

Asako could never have imagined her proud, inhuman cousin reduced to
this state of quivering emotion. Never before had she seen a Japanese
soul laid bare.

"But you will marry Sekiné, Sada dear; and then you will be happy."

"Marry Sekiné!" the girl hissed, "marry a boy with no money and leave
you to be the Fujinami heiress, when I am promised to the Governor of
Osaka, who will be home Minister when the next Governor comes!"

"Oh, don't do that," urged Asako, her English sentimentalism flooding
back across her mind. "Don't marry a man whom you don't love. You say
you are a new woman. Marry Sekiné. Marry the man whom you love. Then
you will be happy."

"Japanese girls are never happy," groaned her cousin.

Asako gasped. This morality confused her.

"But that would be a mortal sin," she said. "Then you could never be
happy."

"We cannot be happy. We are Fujinami," said Sadako gravely. "We are
cursed. The old woman of Akabo said that it is a very bad curse. I do
not believe superstition. But I believe there is a curse. You also,
you have been unhappy, and your father and mother. We are cursed
because of the women. We have made so much money from poor women. They
are sold to men, and they suffer in pain and die so that we become
rich. It is a very bad _ingé_. So they say in Akabo, that we Fujinami
have a fox in our family. It brings us money; but it makes us unhappy.
In Akabo, even poor people will not marry with the Fujinami, because
we have the fox."

It is a popular belief, still widely held in Japan, that certain
families own spirit foxes, a kind of family banshee who render them
service, but mark them with a curse.

"I do not understand," said Asako, afraid of this wild talk.

"Do you know why the Englishman went away?" said her cousin brutally.

It was Asako's turn to cry.

"Oh, I wish I had gone with him. He was so good to me, always so kind
and so gentle!"

"When he married you," said Sadako, "he did not know that you had the
curse. He ought not to have come to Japan with you. Now he knows you
have the curse. So he went away. He was wise."

"What do you mean by the curse?" asked Asako.

"You do not know how the Fujinami have made so much money?"

"No," said Asako. "It used to come for me from Mr. Ito. He had shares
or something."

"Yes. But a share that means a share of a business. Do you not know
what is our business?"

"No," said Asako again.

"You have seen the Yoshiwara, where girls are sold to men. That is our
business. Do you understand now?"

"No."

"Then I will tell you the whole story of the Fujinami. About one
hundred and twenty years ago our great-great-grandfather came to Yedo,
as Tokyo was then called. He was a poor boy from the country. He had
no friends. He became clerk in a dry goods store. One day a woman,
rather old, asked him: 'How much pay you get?' He said, 'No pay, only
food and clothes.' The woman said, 'Come with me; I will give you food
and clothes and pay also,' He went with her to the Yoshiwara where she
had a small house with five or six girls. Every night he must stand
in front of the house, calling. Then the drunken workmen, and the
gamblers, and the bad _samurai_ would come and pay their money. And
they pay their money to him, our great-great-grandfather. When the
girls were sick, or would not receive guests, he would beat them, and
starve them, and burn _o kyu_ (a medical plant called moxa, used for
cauterization) on their backs. One day he said to the woman who was
mistress of the house, 'Your girls are too old. The rich friends do
not come any more. Let us sell these girls. I will go into the
country and get new girls, and then you will marry me and make me your
partner.' The woman said, 'If we have good luck with the girls and
make money, then I marry you.' So our great-great-grandfather went
back to his own country, to Akabo; and his old friends in the country
were astonished, seeing how much money he had to spend. He said 'Yes.
I have many rich friends in Yedo. They want pretty country girls to be
their wives. See, I pay you in advance five pieces of gold. After the
marriage more money will be given. Let me take your prettiest girls to
Yedo with me. And they will all get rich husbands.' They were simple
country people, and they believed him because he was a man of their
village, of Akabo. He went back to Yedo with about twenty girls,
fifteen or sixteen years old. He and the other clerks of the Yoshiwara
first made them _jor[=o]_. From those twenty girls he made very much
money. So he married the woman who kept the house. Then he hired a big
house called Tomonji. He furnished it very richly; and he would only
receive guests of the high-class people. Five of his girls became very
famous _oiran_. Even their pictures, drawn by Utamaro, are worth now
hundreds of _yen_. When our great-great-grandfather died he was a very
rich man. His son was the second Fujinami. He bought more houses in
the Yoshiwara and more girls. He was our great-grandfather. He had
two sons. One was your father's father, who bought this land and first
built a house here. The other was my grandfather, Fujinami Gennosuké,
who still lives in the _inkyo_. They have all made much money from
girls; but the curse was hurting them all, especially their wives and
daughters."

"And my father?" asked Asako.

"Your father wrote a book to say how bad a thing it is that money is
made from men's lust and the pain of Women. He told in the book
how girls are tricked to come to Tokyo, how their parents sell them
because they are poor or because there is famine, how the girls are
brought to Tokyo ten and twenty at a time, and are put to auction sale
in the Yoshiwara, how they are shut up like prisoner, how very rough
men are sent to them to break their spirit and to compel them to be
_jor[=o]_. There is a trial to see how strong they are. Then, when the
spirit is broken, they are shown in the window as 'new girls' with
beautiful kimono and with wreath of flowers on their head. If they
are lucky they escape disease for a few years, but it comes soon or
late--_rinbyo, baidoku_ and _raibyo_. They are sent to the hospital
for treatment; or else they are told to hide the disease and to get
more men. So the men take the disease and bring it to their wives and
children, who have done no wrong. But the girls of the Yoshiwara have
to work all the time, when they are only half cured. So they become
old and ugly and rotten very quickly. Then, if they take consumption
or some such thing, they die and the master says, 'It is well. She
was already too old. She was wasting our money.' And they are
buried quickly in the burial place of the _jor[=o]_ outside the city
boundary, the burial place of the dead who are forgotten. Or some, who
are very strong, live until their contract is finished. Then they go
back to the country, and marry there and spread disease. But they all
die cursing the Fujinami, who have made money out of their sorrow and
pain. I think this garden is full of their ghosts, and their curses
beat upon the house, like the wind when it makes the shutters rattle!"

"How do you know all these terrible things?" asked Asako.

"It is written in your father's book. I will read it to you. If you do
not believe, ask Ito San. He will tell you it is true."

So for several evenings Sadako read to this stranger Fujinami her own
father's words, the words of a forerunner.

Japan is still a savage country, wrote Fujinami Katsundo, the Japanese
are still barbarians. To compare the conventional codes, which they
have mistaken for civilization, with the depth and the height of
Occidental idealism, as Christ perceived it and Dante and St. Francis
of Assisi and Tolstoy, is "to compare the tortoise with the moon."
Japan is imitating from the West its worst propensities--hard
materialism, vulgarity and money-worship. The Japanese must be humble,
and must admit that the most difficult part of their lesson has yet to
be learned. Cut and dried systems are useless. Prussian constitution,
technical education, military efficiency and bravado--such things are
not progress. Japan must denounce the slavery of ancestor-worship, and
escape from the rule of the dead. She must chase away the bogeys of
superstition, and enjoy life as a lovely thing, and love as the vision
of a life still more beautiful. She must cleanse her land of all its
filth, and make it what it still might be--the Country of the Rising
Sun.

Such was the message of Asako's father in his book, _The Real Shinto_.

"We are not allowed to read this book," Sadako explained; "the police
have forbidden it. But I found a secret copy. It was undutiful of your
father to write such things. He went away from Japan; and everyone
said, 'It is a good thing he has gone; he was a bad man; he shamed his
country and his family.'"

There was much in the book which Asako could not follow. Her cousin
tried to explain it to her; and many nights passed, thus, the two
girls sitting up and reading by the pale light of the _andon_. It was
like a renewal of the old friendship. Sometimes a low whistle sounded
from outside the house. Sadako would lay aside the book, would slip
on her cloak and go out into the garden, where Sekiné was waiting for
her.

When she was left to herself Asako began to think for the first time
in her life. Hitherto her thoughts had been concerned merely with her
own pleasures and pains, with the smiles and frowns of those around
her, with petty events and trifling projects. Perhaps, because some
of her father's blood was alive in her veins, she could understand
certain aspects of his book more clearly than her interpreter, Sadako.
She knew now why Geoffrey would not touch her money. It was filthy,
it was diseased, like the poor women who had earned it. Of course, her
Geoffrey preferred poverty to wealth like that. Could she face poverty
with him? Why, she was poor already, here in her cousins' house. Where
was the luxury which her money used to buy? She was living the life of
a servant and a prisoner.

What would be the end of it? Surely Geoffrey would come back to her,
and take her away! But he had no money now, and it would cost much
money to travel to Japan. And then, this terrible war! Geoffrey was a
soldier. He would be sure to be there, leading his men. Supposing he
were killed?

One night in a dream she saw his body carried past her, limp and
bleeding. She screamed in her sleep. Sadako awoke, terrified.

"What is the matter?"

"I dreamed of Geoffrey, my husband. Perhaps he is killed in the war."

"Do not say that," said Sadako. "It is unlucky to speak of death. It
troubles the ghosts. I have told you this house is haunted."

Certainly for Asako the Fujinami mansion had lost its charm. Even the
beautiful landscape was besieged by horrible thoughts. Every day two
or three of the Yoshiwara women died of disease and neglect, so Sadako
said and therefore every day the invisible population of the Fujinami
garden must be increasing, and the volume of their curses must be
gathering in intensity. The ghosts hissed like snakes in the bamboo
grove. They sighed in the pine branches. They nourished the dwarf
shrubs with their pollution. Beneath the waters of the lake the
corpses--women's corpses--were laid out in rows. Their thin hands
shook the reeds. Their pale faces rose at night to the surface, and
stared at the moon. The autumn maples smeared the scene with infected
blood; and the stone foxes in front of the shrine of Inari sneered and
grinned at the devil world which their foul influence had called into
being through the black witchcraft of lechery, avarice and disease.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE AUTUMN FESTIVAL

  _Yo no naka ni
  Ushi no Kuruma no
  Nakari-seba,
  Omoi no iye wo
  Ikade ide-mashi?_

  In this world
  If there were no
  Ox-cart (_i.e._ Buddhist religion),
  How should we escape
  From the (burning) mansion of our thought?


During October, the whole family of the Fujinami removed from Tokyo
for a few days in order to perform their religious duties at the
temple of Ikégami. Even grandfather Gennosuké emerged from his
dower-house, bringing his wife, O Tsugi. Mr. Fujinami Gentaro was in
charge of his own wife, Shidzuyé San, of Sadako and of Asako. Only
Fujinami Takeshi, the son and heir, with his wife Matsuko, was absent.

There had been some further trouble in the family which had not
been confided to Asako, but which necessitated urgent steps for the
propitiation of religious influences. The Fujinami were followers of
the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Their conspicuous devotion and their
large gifts to the priests of the temple were held to be causes of
their ever-increasing prosperity. The dead Fujinami, down from that
great-great-grandfather who had first come to seek his fortune in
Yedo, were buried at Ikégami. Here the priests gave to each _hotoké_
(Buddha or dead person) his new name, which was inscribed on small
black tablets, the _ihai_. One of these tablets for each dead person
was kept in the household shrine at Tokyo, and one in the temple at
Ikégami.

Asako was taken to the October festival, because her father too was
buried in the temple grounds--one small bone of him, that is to say,
an _ikotsu_ or legacy bone, posted home from Paris before the rest of
his mortality found alien sepulture at Père Lachaise. Masses were said
for the dead; and Asako was introduced to the tablet. But she did not
feel the same emotion as when she first visited the Fujinami house.
Now, she had heard her father's authentic voice. She knew his scorn
for pretentiousness of all kinds, for false conventions, for false
emotions, his hatred of priestcraft, his condemnation of the family
wealth, and his contempt for the little respectabilities of Japanese
life.

       *       *       *       *       *

A temple in Japan is not merely a building; it is a site. These sites
were most carefully chosen with the same genius which guided our
Benedictines and Carthusians. The site of Ikégami is a long-abrupt
hill, half-way between Tokyo and Yokohama. It is clothed with
_cryptomeria_ trees. These dark conifers, like immense cypresses, give
to the spot that grave, silent, irrevocable atmosphere, with which
Boecklin has invested his picture of the Island of the Dead. These
majestic trees are essentially a part of the temple. They correspond
to the pillars of our Gothic cathedrals. The roof is the blue vault
of heaven; and the actual buildings are but altars, chantries and
monuments.

A steep flight of steps is suspended like a cascade from the crest of
the hill. Up and down these steps, the wooden clogs of the Japanese
people patter incessantly like water-drops. At the top of the steps
stands the towered gateway, painted with red ochre, which leads to the
precincts. The guardians of the gate, _Ni-O_, the two gigantic Deva
kings, who have passed from India into Japanese mythology, are encaged
in the gateway building. Their cage and their persons are littered
with nasty morsels of chewed paper, wherever their worshippers have
literally spat their prayers at them.

Within the enclosure are the various temple buildings, the bell-tower,
the library, the washing-trough, the hall of votive offerings,
the sacred bath-house, the stone lanterns and the lodgings for the
pilgrims; also the two main halls for the temple services, which are
raised on low piles and are linked together by a covered bridge, so
that they look like twin arks of safety, floating just five feet above
the troubles of this life. These buildings are most of them painted
red; and there is fine carving on panels, friezes and pediments,
and also much tawdry gaudiness. Behind these two sanctuaries is the
mortuary chapel where repose the memories of many of the greatest
in the land. Behind this again are the priests' dormitories, with a
lovely hidden garden hanging on the slopes of a sudden ravine; its
presiding genius is an old pine-tree, beneath which Nichiren himself,
a contemporary and a counterpart of Saint Dominic, used to meditate on
his project for a Universal Church, founded on the life of Buddha, and
led by the apostolate of Japan.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the inside of a week the Fujinami dwelt in one of a row of stalls,
like loose-boxes, within the temple precincts. The festival might have
some affinity with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, when the devout
left their city dwellings to live in booths outside the walls.

  _Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]._

(Adoration to the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Scriptures!)

The famous formula of the priests of the Nichiren sect was being
repeated over and over again to the accompaniment of drums; for in
the sacred text itself lies the only authentic Way of Salvation. With
exemplary insistence Mr. Fujinami Gennosuké was beating out the rhythm
of the prayer with a wooden clapper on the _mokugy[=o]_, a wooden drum,
shaped like a fish's head.

  _Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.

From every corner of the temple _enclave_ the invocation was droning
like a threshing machine. Asako's Catholic conscience, now awakening
from the spell which Japan had cast upon it, became uneasy about its
share in these pagan rites. In order to drive the echo of the litany
out of her ears, she tried to concentrate her attention upon watching
the crowd.

  _Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.

Around her was a dense multitude of pilgrims, in their hundreds of
thousands, shuffling, chaffering and staring. Some, like the
Fujinami, had hired temporary lodgings, and had cooks and servants in
attendance. Some were camping in the open. Others were merely visiting
the temple for the inside of the day. The crowds kept on shifting and
mingling like ants on an ant-hill.

Enjoyment, rather than piety, was the prevailing spirit; for this was
one of the few annual holidays of the industrious Tokyo artisan.

In the central buildings, five feet above this noisy confluence of
people, where the golden images of the Buddhas are enthroned, the
mitred priests with their copes of gold-embroidered brown were
performing the rituals of their order. To right and left of the high
altar, the canons squatting at their red-lacquered praying-desks, were
reciting the _sutras_ in strophe and antistrophe. Clouds of incense
rose.

In the adjoining building an earnest young preacher was exhorting a
congregation of elderly and somnolent ladies to eschew the lusts of
the flesh and to renounce the world and its gauds, marking each point
in his discourse with raps of his fan. Foxy-faced satellites of the
abbey were doing a roaring trade in charms against various accidents,
and in sacred scrolls printed with prayers or figures of Nichiren.

The temple-yard was an immense fancy fair. The temple pigeons wheeled
disconsolately in the air or perched upon the roofs, unable to find
one square foot of the familiar flagstones, where they were used to
strut and peck. Stalls lined the stone pathways and choked the spaces
between the buildings. Merchants were peddling objects of piety,
sacred images, charms and rosaries; and there were flowers for the
women's hair, and toys for the children, and cakes and biscuits,
_biiru_ (beer) and _ramuné_ (lemonade) and a distressing sickly drink
called "champagne cider" and all manner of vanities. In one corner of
the square a theatre was in full swing, the actors making up in
public on a balcony above the crowd, so as to whet their curiosity and
attract their custom. Beyond was a cinematograph, advertised by lurid
paintings of murders and apparitions; and farther on there was a
circus with a mangy zoo.

The crowd was astonishingly mixed. There were prosperous merchants of
Tokyo with their wives, children, servants and apprentices. There were
students with their blue and white spotted cloaks, their _képis_ with
the school badge, and their ungainly stride. There were modern young
men in _y[=o]fuku_ (European dress), with panama hats, swagger canes
and side-spring shoes, supercilious in attitude and proud of their
unbelief. There were troops of variegated children, dragging at
their elders' hands or kimonos, or getting lost among the legs of the
multitude like little leaves in an eddy. There were excursion parties
from the country, with their kimonos caught up to the knees, and with
baked earthen faces stupidly staring, sporting each a red flower or
a coloured towel for identification purposes. There were labourers
in tight trousers and tabard jackets, inscribed with the name and
profession of their employer. There were _geisha_ girls on their best
behaviour, in charge of a professional auntie, and recognizable only
by the smart cut of their cloaks and the deep space between the collar
and the nape of the neck, where the black _chignon_ lay.

Close to the tomb of Nichiren stood a Japanese Salvationist, a zealous
pimply young man, wearing the red and blue uniform of General Booth
with _kaiseigun_ (World-saving Army) in Japanese letters round his
staff cap. He stood in front of a screen, on which the first verse of
"Onward, Christian Soldiers," was written in a Japanese translation.
An assistant officiated at a wheezy harmonium. The tune was vaguely
akin to its Western prototype; and the two evangelists were trying to
induce a tolerant but uninterested crowd to join in the chorus.

Everywhere beggars were crawling over the compound in various states
of filth. Some, however, were so ghastly that they were excluded
from the temple enclosure. They had lined up among the trunks of
the cryptomeria trees, among the little grey tombs with their fading
inscriptions and the moss-covered statues of kindly Buddhas.

Asako gave a penny into the crooked hand of one poor sightless wretch.

"Oh, no!" cried cousin Sadako; "do not go near to them. Do not touch
them. They are lepers."

Some of them had no arms, or had mere stumps ending abruptly in a red
and sickening object like a bone which a dog has been chewing. Some
had no legs, and were pulled along on little wheeled trolleys by their
less dilapidated companions in misfortune. Some had no features.
Their faces were mere glabrous disks, from which eyes and nose had
completely vanished; only the mouth remained, a toothless gap fringed
with straggling hairs. Some had faces abnormally bloated, with
powerful foreheads and heavy jowls, which gave them an expression of
stony immobility like Byzantine lions. All were fearfully dirty and
covered with sores and lice.

The people passing by smiled at their grim unsightliness, and threw
pennies to them, for which they scrambled and scratched like beasts.

  _Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.

Asako's relatives spent the day in eating, drinking and gossiping to
the rhythm of the interminable prayer.

It was a perfect day of autumn, which is the sweetest season in Japan.
A warm bright sun had been shining on the sumptuous colours of the
waning year, on the brilliant reds and yellows which clothed the
neighbouring hills, on the broad brown plain with its tesselated
design of bare rice-fields, on the brown villas and cottages huddled
in their fences of evergreen like birds in their nests, on the
red trunks of the cryptomeria trees, on the brown carpet of matted
pine-needles, on the grey crumbling stones of the old graveyard, on
the high-pitched temple roofs, and on the inconsequential swarms of
humanity drifting to their devotions, casting their pennies into the
great alms-trough in front of the shrine, clanging the brass bell with
a prayer for good luck, and drifting home again with their bewildered,
happy children.

Asako no longer felt like a Japanese. The sight of her countrymen in
their drab monotonous thousands sickened her. The hiss and cackle
of their incomprehensible tongue beat upon her brain with a deadly
incessant sound, like raindrops to one who is impatiently awaiting the
return of fine weather.

Here at Ikégami, the distant view of the sea and the Yokohama shipping
invited Asako to escape. But where could she escape to? To England.
She was an Englishwoman no longer. She had cast her husband off for
insufficient reasons. She had been cold, loveless, narrow-minded and
silly. She had acted, as she now recognised, largely on the suggestion
of others. Like a fool she had believed what had been told. She had
not trusted her love for her husband. As usual, her thoughts returned
to Geoffrey, and to the constant danger which threatened him. Lately,
she had started to write a letter to him several times, but had never
got further than "Dearest Geoffrey."

She was glad when the irritating day was over, when the rosy sunset
clouds showed through the trunks of the cryptomerias, when the night
fell and the great stars like lamps hung in the branches. But the
night brought no silence. Paper lanterns were lighted round the
temple; and rough acetylene flares lit up the tawdry fairings. The
chattering, the bargaining, the clatter of the _geta_ became more
terrifying even than in daytime. It was like being in the darkness in
a cage of wild beasts, heard, felt, but unseen.

The evening breeze was cold. In spite of the big wooden fireboxes
strewn over their stall, the Fujinami were shivering.

"Let us go for a walk," suggested cousin Sadako.

The two girls strolled along the ridge of the hill as far as the
five-storied pagoda. They passed the tea-house, so famous for its
plum-blossoms in early March. It was brightly lighted. The paper
rectangles of the _shoji_ were aglow like an illuminated honeycomb.
The wooden walls resounded with the jangle of the _samisen_, the high
screaming _geisha_ voices, and the rough laughter of the guests. From
one room the _shoji_ were pushed open; and drunken men could be seen
with kimonos thrown back from their shoulders showing a body reddened
with _saké_. They had taken the _geishas_' instruments from them, and
were performing an impromptu song and dance, while the girls clapped
their hands and writhed with laughter. Beyond the tea-house, the din
of the festival was hushed. Only from the distance came the echo of
the song, the rasp of the forced merriment, the clatter of the _geta_,
and the hum of the crowd.

Starlight revealed the landscape. The moon was rising through a
cloud's liquescence. Soon the hundreds of rice-plots would catch her
full reflection. The outline of the coast of Tokyo Bay was visible
as far as Yokohama; so were the broad pool of Ikégami and the lumpy
masses of the hills inland.

The landscape was alive with lights, lights dim, lights bright,
lights stationary, lights in swaying movement round each centre of
population. It looked as if the stars had fallen from heaven, and were
being shifted and sorted by careful gleaners. As each nebula of white
illumination assembled itself, it began to move across the vast plain,
drawn inwards towards Ikégami from every point of the compass as
though by a magnetic force. These were the lantern processions of
pilgrims. They looked like the souls of the righteous rising from
earth to heaven in a canto from Dante.

The clusters of lights started, moved onwards, paused, re-grouped
themselves, and struggled forward, until in the narrow street of
the village under the hill Asako could distinguish the shapes of the
lantern-bearers and their strange antics, and the sacred palanquin,
a kind of enormous wooden bee-hive, which was the centre of each
procession, borne on the sturdy shoulders of a swarm of young men to
the beat of drums and the inevitable chant.

  _Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.

Slowly the procession jolted up the steep stairway, and came to rest
with their heavy burdens in front of the temple of Nichiren.

"It is very silly," said cousin Sadako, "to be so superstitious, I
think."

"Then why are we here?" asked Asako.

"My grandfather is very superstitious; and my father is afraid to say
'No' to him. My father does not believe in any gods or Buddhas; but
he says it does no harm, and it may do good. All our family is
_gohei-katsugi_ (brandishers of sacred symbols). We think that with
all this prayer we can turn away the trouble of Takeshi."

"Why, what is the matter with Mr. Takeshi? Why is he not here? and
Matsuko San and the children?"

"It is a great secret," said the Fujinami cousin, "you will tell no
one. You will pretend also even with me that you do not know. Takeshi
San is very sick. The doctor says that he is a leper."

Asako stared, uncomprehending. Sadako went on,--

"You saw this morning those ugly beggars. They were all so terrible
to see, and their bodies were so rotten. My brother is becoming like
that. It is a sickness. It cannot be cured. It will kill him very
slowly. Perhaps his wife Matsu and his children also have the
sickness. Perhaps we too are sick. No one can tell, not for many
years."

Ugly wings seemed to cover the night. The world beneath the hill had
become the Pit of Hell, and the points of light were devils' spears.
Asako trembled.

"What does it mean?" she asked. "How did Takeshi San become sick?"

"It was a _tenbatsu_ (judgment of heaven)," answered her cousin.
"Takeshi San was a bad man. He was rude to his father, and he was
cruel to his wife. He thought only of _geisha_ and bad women. No
doubt, he became sick from touching a woman who was sick. Besides,
it is the bad _ingé_ of the Fujinami family. Did not the old woman of
Akabo say so? It is the curse of the Yoshiwara women. It will be our
turn next, yours and mine."

No wonder that poor Asako could not sleep that night in the cramped
promiscuity of the family dead.

Fujinami Takeshi had been sickly for some time; but then his course
of life could hardly be called a healthy one. On his return from his
summer holiday, red patches had appeared on the palms of his hands,
and afterwards on his forehead. He had complained of the irritation
caused by this "rash." Professor Kashio had been called in to
prescribe. A blood test was taken. The doctor then pronounced that
the son and heir was suffering from leprosy, and for that there was no
cure.

The disease is accompanied by irritation, but by little actual pain.
Constant application of compresses can allay the itching, and can
often save the patient from the more ghastly ravages of disfigurement.
But, slowly, the limbs lose their force, the fingers and toes drop
away, the hair falls, and merciful blindness comes to hide from the
sufferer the living corpse to which his spirit is bound. More merciful
yet, the slow decay attacks the organs of the body. Often consumption
intervenes. Often just a simple cold suffices to snuff out the
flickering life.

In the village of Kusatsu, beyond the Karuizawa mountains, there is a
natural hot spring, whose waters are beneficial for the alleviation of
the disease. In this place there is a settlement of well-to-do lepers.
Thither it was decided to banish poor Takeshi. His wife, Matsuko,
naturally was expected to accompany him, to nurse him and to make
life as comfortable for him as she could. Her eventual doom was almost
certain. But there was no question, no choice, no hesitation and no
praise. Every Japanese wife is obliged to become an Alcestis, if
her husband's well-being demand it. The children were sent to the
ancestral village of Akabo.



CHAPTER XXV

JAPANESE COURTSHIP

  _O-bune no
  Hatsuru-tomari no
  Tayutai ni
  Mono-omoi-yase-nu
  Hito no ko yuye ni_.

  With a rocking
  (As) of great ships
  Riding at anchor
  I have at last become worn out with love,
  Because of a child of a man.


When the Fujinami returned to Tokyo, the wing of the house in which
the unfortunate son had lived, had been demolished. An ugly scar
remained, a slab of charred concrete strewn with ashes and burned
beams. Saddest sight of all was the twisted iron work of Takeshi's
foreign bedstead, once the symbol of progress and of the _haikara_
spirit. The fire was supposed to have been accidental; but the ravages
had been carefully limited to the offending wing.

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, disgusted at this unsightly wreckage wished to
rebuild at once. But the old grandfather had objected that this spot
of misfortune was situated in the northeast corner of the mansion, a
quarter notoriously exposed to the attacks of _oni_ (evil spirits). He
was in favor of total demolishment.

This was only one of the differences of opinion between the two
seniors of the house of Fujinami, which became more frequent as the
clouds of disaster gathered over the home in Akasaka. A far more
thorny problem was the question of the succession.

With the living death of Takeshi, there was no male heir. Several
family councils were held in the presence of the two Mr. Fujinami
generally in the lower-house, at which six or seven members of the
collateral branches were also present. Grandfather Gennosuké, who
despised Takeshi as a waster, would not listen to any plea on behalf
of his children.

"To a bad father a bad child," he enunciated, his restless jaw
masticating more ferociously than ever.

He was strongly of opinion that it was the curse of Asako's father
which had brought this sorrow upon his family. Katsundo and Asako were
representatives of the elder branch. Himself, Gentaro and Takeshi
were mere usurpers. Restore the elder branch to its rights, and the
indignant ghost would cease to plague them all.

Such was the argument of grandfather Gennosuké.

Fujinami Gentaro naturally supported the claims of his own progeny. If
Takeshi's children must be disinherited because of the leprous strain,
then, at least, Sadako remained. She was a well-educated and serious
girl. She knew foreign languages. She could make a brilliant marriage.
Her husband would be adopted as heir. Perhaps the Governor of Osaka?

The other members of the council shook their heads, and breathed
deeply. Were there no Fujinami left of the collateral branches? Why
adopt a _tanin_ (outside person)? So spoke the M.P., the man with a
wen, who had an axe of his own to grind.

It was decided to choose the son-in-law candidate first of all; and,
afterwards, to decide which of the girls he was to marry. Perhaps it
would be as well to consult the fortune tellers. At any rate, a list
of suitable applicants would be prepared for the next meeting.

"When men speak of the future," said grandfather Gennosuké, "the rats
in the ceiling laugh."

So the conference broke up.

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro had no sooner returned to the academic calm of
his chaste reading room, than Mr. Ito appeared on the threshold.

The oily face was more moist than usual, the buffalo-horn moustache
more truculent; and though the autumn day was cool, Ito was agitating
a fan. He was evidently nervous. Before approaching the sanctum, he
had blown his nose into a small square piece of soft paper, which is
the Japanese apology for a handkerchief. He had looked around for
some place where to cast the offence; but finding none along the trim
garden border, he had slipped it into his wide kimono sleeve.

Mr. Fujinami frowned. He was tired of business matters, and the worry
of other people's affairs. He longed for peace.

"Indeed, the weather becomes perceptibly cooler," said Mr. Ito, with a
low prostration.

"If there is business," his patron replied crisply, "please step up
into the room."

Mr. Ito slipped off his _geta_, and ascended from the garden path.
When he had settled himself in the correct attitude with legs
crossed and folded, Mr. Fujinami pushed over towards him a packet of
cigarettes, adding;

"Please, without embarrassment, speak quickly what you have to say."

Mr. Ito chose a cigarette, and slowly pinched together the cardboard
holder, which formed its lower half.

"Indeed, _sensei_, it is a difficult matter," he began. "It is a
matter which should be handled by an intermediary. If I speak face to
face like a foreigner the master will excuse my rudeness."

"Please, speak clearly."

"I owe my advancement in life entirely to the master. I was the son
of poor parents. I was an emigrant and a vagabond over three thousand
worlds. The master gave me a home and lucrative employment. I have
served the master for many years; with my poor effort the fortunes of
the family have perhaps increased. I have become as it were a _son_ to
the Fujinami."

He paused at the word "son." His employer had caught his meaning, and
was frowning more than ever. At last he answered:

"To expect too much is a dangerous thing. To choose a _yoshi_ (adopted
son) is a difficult question. I myself cannot decide such grave
matters. There must be consultation with the rest of the Fujinami
family. You yourself have suggested that Governor Sugiwara might
perhaps be a suitable person."

"At that time the talk was of Sada San; this time the talk is of Asa
San."

A flash of inspiration struck Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, and a gush of
relief. By giving her to Ito, he might be able to side-track Asako,
and leave the highway to inheritance free for his own daughter. But
Ito had grown too powerful to be altogether trusted.

"It must be clearly understood," said the master, "that it is the
husband of our Sada who will be the Fujinami _yoshi_."

Ito bowed.

"Thanks to the master," he said, "there is money in plenty. There is
no desire to speak of such matters. The request is for Asa San only.
Truly, the heart is speaking. That girl is a beautiful child, and
altogether a _haikara_ person. My wife is old and barren and of low
class. I wish to have a wife who is worthy of my position in the house
of Fujinami San."

The head of the family cackled with sudden laughter; he was much
relieved.

"Ha! Ha! Ito Kun! So it is love, is it? You are in love like a school
student. Well, indeed, love is a good thing. What you have said shall
be well considered."

So the lawyer was dismissed.

Accordingly, at the next family council Mr. Fujinami put forward
the proposal that Asako should be married forthwith to the family
factotum, who should be given a lump sum down in consideration for a
surrender of all further claim in his own name or his wife's to any
share in the family capital.

"Ito Kun," he concluded, "is the brain of our business. He is the
family _karo_ (prime minister). I think it would be well to give this
Asa to him."

To his surprise, the proposal met with unanimous opposition. The
rest of the family envied and disliked Ito, who was regarded as Mr.
Fujinami's pampered favourite.

Grandfather Gennosuké was especially indignant.

"What?" he exploded in one of those fits of rage common to old men in
Japan; "give the daughter of the elder branch to a butler, to a man
whose father ran between rickshaw shafts. If the spirit of Katsundo
has not heard this foolish talk it would be a good thing for us.
Already there is a bad _ingé_. By doing such a thing it will become
worse and worse, until the whole house of Fujinami is ruined. This Ito
is a rascal, a thief, a good-for-nothing, a----"

The old gentleman collapsed.

Again the council separated, still undecided except for one thing that
the claim of Mr. Ito to the hand of Asako was quite inadmissible.

When the "family prime minister" next pressed his master on the
subject, Mr. Fujinami had to confess that the proposal had been
rejected.

Then Ito unmasked his batteries, and his patron had to realize that
the servant was a servant no longer.

Ito said that it was necessary for him to have Asa San and that before
the end of the year. He was in love with this girl. Passion was an
overwhelming thing.

  "Two things have ever been the same
  Since the Age of the Gods--
  The flowing of water,
  And the way of Love."

This old Japanese poem he quoted as his excuse for what would
otherwise be an inexcusable impertinence. The master was aware that
politics in Japan were in an unsettled state, and that the new Cabinet
was scarcely established; that a storm would overthrow it, and that
the Opposition were already looking about for a suitable scandal
to use for their revenge. He, Ito, held the evidence which they
desired--the full story of the Tobita concession, with the names and
details of the enormous bribes distributed by the Fujinami. If these
things were published, the Government would certainly fall; also the
Tobita concession would be lost and the whole of that great outlay;
also the Fujinami's leading political friends would be discredited
and ruined. There would be a big trial, and exposure, and outcry, and
judgment, and prison. The master must excuse his servant for speaking
so rudely to his benefactor. But in love there are no scruples; and he
must have Asa San. After all, after his long service, was his request
so unreasonable?

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, thoroughly scared, protested that he himself was
in favour of the match. He begged for time so as to be able to convert
the other members of the family council.

"Perhaps," suggested Ito, "if Asa San were sent away from Akasaka,
perhaps if she were living alone, it would be more easy to manage.
What is absent is soon forgotten. Mr. Fujinami Gennosuké is a very old
gentleman; he would soon forget. Sada San could then take her proper
position as the only daughter of the Fujinami. Was there not a small
house by the river side at Mukojima, which had been rented for Asa
San? Perhaps she would like to live there--quite alone."

"Perhaps Ito Kun would visit her from time to time," said Mr.
Fujinami, pleased with the idea; "she will be so lonely; there is no
knowing."

The one person who was never consulted, and who had not the remotest
notion of what was going on, was Asako herself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Asako was most unhappy. The disappearance of Fujinami Takeshi
exasperated the competition between herself and her cousin. Just
as formerly all Sadako's intelligence and charm had been exerted
to attract her English relative to the house in Akasaka, so now she
applied all her force to drive her cousin out of the family circle.
For many weeks now Asako had been ignored; but after the return from
Ikégami a positive persecution commenced. Although the nights were
growing chilly, she was given no extra bedding. Her meals were no
longer served to her; she had to get what she could from the kitchen.
The servants, imitating their mistress's attitude were deliberately
disobliging and rude to the little foreigner.

Sadako and her mother would sneer at her awkwardness and at her
ignorance of Japanese customs. Her _obi_ was tied anyhow; for she had
no maid. Her hair was untidy; for she was not allowed a hairdresser.

They nicknamed her _rashamen_ (goat face), using an ugly slang word
for a foreigner's Japanese mistress; and they would pretend that she
smelt like a European.

"_Kusai! Kusai_! (Stink! Stink!)" they would say.

The war even was used to bait Asako. Every German success was greeted
with acclamation. The exploits of the _Emden_ were loudly praised; and
the tragedy of Coronel was gloated over with satisfaction.

"The Germans will win because they are brave," said Sadako.

"The English lose too many prisoners; Japanese soldiers are never
taken prisoner."

"When the Japanese general ordered the attack on Tsingtao, the English
regiment ran away!"

Cousin Sadako announced her intention of studying German.

"Nobody will speak English now," she said. "The English are disgraced.
They cannot fight."

"I wish Japan would make war on the English," Asako answered bitterly,
"you would get such a beating that you would never boast again. Look
at my husband," she added proudly; "he is so big and strong and brave.
He could pick up two or three Japanese generals like toys and knock
their heads together."

Even Mr. Fujinami Gentaro joined once or twice in these debates, and
announced sententiously:

"Twenty years ago Japan defeated China and took Korea. Ten years ago
we defeated Russia and took Manchuria. This year we defeat Germany and
take Tsingtao. In ten years we shall defeat America and take Hawaii
and the Philippines. In twenty years we shall defeat England and
take India and Australia. Then we Japanese shall be the most powerful
nation in the world. This is our divine mission."

It was characteristic of the loyalty of Asako's nature, that, although
very ignorant of the war, of its causes and its vicissitudes, yet
she remained fiercely true to England and the Allies, and could
never accept the Japanese detachment. Above all, the thought of her
husband's danger haunted her. Waking and sleeping she could see him,
sword in hand, leading his men to desperate hand-to-hand struggles,
like those portrayed in the crude Japanese chromographs, which Sadako
showed her to play upon her fears. Poor Asako! How she hated Japan
now! How she loathed the cramped, draughty, uncomfortable life! How
she feared the smiling faces and the watchful eyes, from which it
seemed she never could escape!

Christmas was at hand, the season of pretty presents and good things
to eat. Her last Christmas she had spent with Geoffrey on the Riviera.
Lady Everington had been there. They had watched the pigeon
shooting in the warm sunlight. They had gone to the opera in the
evening--_Madame Butterfly!_ Asako had imagined herself in the rôle of
the heroine, so gentle, so faithful, waiting and waiting in her little
wooden house for the big white husband--who never came. What was that?
She heard the guns of his ship saluting the harbour. He was coming
back to her at last--but not alone! A woman was with him, a white
woman!

Alone, in her bare room--her only companion a flaky yellow
chrysanthemum nodding in the draught--Asako sobbed and sobbed as
though her heart were breaking. Somebody tapped at the sliding
shutter. Asako could not answer. The _shoji_ was pushed open, and
Tanaka entered.

Asako was glad to see him. Alone of the household Tanaka was still
deferential in his attitude towards his late mistress. He was always
ready to talk about the old times which gave her a bitter pleasure.

"If Ladyship is so sad," he began, as he had been coached in his part
beforehand by the Fujinami, "why Ladyship stay in this house? Change
house, change trouble, we say."

"But where can I go?" Asako asked helplessly.

"Ladyship has pretty house by river brink," suggested Tanaka.
"Ladyship can stay two month, three month. Then the springtime come
and Ladyship feel quite happy again. Even I, in the winter season, I
find the mind very distress. It is often so."

To be alone, to be free from the daily insults and cruelty; this in
itself would be happiness to Asako.

"But will Mr. Fujinami allow me to go?" she asked, timorously.

"Ladyship must be brave," said the counselor. "Ladyship is not
prisoner. Ladyship must say, I go. But perhaps I can arrange matter
for Ladyship."

"Oh, Tanaka, please, please do. I'm so unhappy here."

"I will hire cook and maid for Ladyship. I myself will be seneschal!"

Mr. Fujinami Gentaro and his family were delighted to hear that their
plan was working so smoothly, and that they could so easily get rid of
their embarrassing cousin. The "seneschal" was instructed at once
to see about arrangements for the house, which had not been lived in
since its new tenancy.

Next evening, when Asako had spread the two quilts on the golden
matting, when she had lit the rushlight in the square _andon_,
when the two girls were lying side by side under the heavy wadded
bedclothes, Sadako said to her cousin:

"Asa Chan, I do not think you like me now as much as you used to like
me."

"I always like people when I have once liked them," said Asako; "but
everything is different now."

"I see, your heart changes quickly," said her cousin bitterly.

"No, I have tried to change, but I cannot change. I have tried to
become Japanese, but I cannot even learn the Japanese language. I do
not like the Japanese way of living. In France and in England I was
always happy. I don't think I shall ever be happy again."

"You ought to be more grateful," said Sadako severely. "We have saved
you from your husband, who was cruel and deceitful--"

"No, I don't believe that now. My husband and I loved each other
always. You people came between us with wicked lies and separated us."

"Anyhow, you have made the choice. You have chosen to be Japanese. You
can never be English again."

The Fujinami had hypnotized Asako with this phrase, as a hen can be
hypnotized with a chalk line. Day after day it was dinned into her
ears, cutting off all hope of escape from the country or of appeal to
her English friends.

"You had better marry a Japanese," said Sadako, "or you will become
old maid. Why not marry Ito San? He says he likes you. He is a clever
man. He has plenty of money. He is used to foreign ways."

"Marry Mr. Ito!" Asako exclaimed, aghast; "but he has a wife already."

"They will divorce. It is no trouble. There are not even children."

"I would rather die than marry any Japanese," said Asako with
conviction.

Sadako Fujinami turned her back and pretended to sleep; but long
through the dark cold night Asako could feel her turning restlessly to
and fro.

Some time about midnight Asako heard her name called:

"Asa Chan, are you awake?"

"Yes; is anything the matter?"

"Asa Chan, in your house by the river you will be lonely. You will not
be afraid?"

"I am not afraid to be lonely," Asako answered; "I am afraid of
people."

"Look!" said her cousin; "I give you this."

She drew from the bosom of her kimono the short sword in its sheath of
shagreen, which Asako had seen once or twice before.

"It is very old," she continued; "it belonged to my mother's people.
They were _samurai_ of the Sendai clan. In old Japan every noble
girl carried such a short sword; for she said, 'Better death than
dishonour.' When the time came to die she would strike--here, in the
throat, not too hard, but pushing strongly. But first she would tie
her feet together with the _obidomé_, the silk string which you have
to hold your _obi_ straight. That was in case the legs open too
much; she must not die in immodest attitude. So when General Nogi did
_harakiri_ at Emperor Meiji's funeral, his wife, Countess Nogi, killed
herself also with such a sword. I give you my sword because in the
house by the river you will be lonely--and things might happen. I can
never use the sword myself now. It was the sword of my ancestors. I am
not pure now. I cannot use the sword. If I kill myself I throw myself
into the river like a common _geisha_. I think it is best you marry
Ito. In Japan it is bad to have a husband; but to have no husband, it
is worse."



CHAPTER XXVI

ALONE IN TOKYO

  _Kuraki yori
  Kuraki michi ni zo
  Iri-nu-beki:
  Haruka ni terase
  Yuma no ha no tsuki!_

  Out of the dark
  Into a dark path
  I now must enter:
  Shine (on me) from afar,
  Moon of the mountain fringe!


Some days before Christmas Asako had moved into her own little home.

To be free, to have escaped from the watchful eyes and the whispering
tongues to be at liberty to walk about the streets and to visit the
shops, as an independent lady of Japan--these were such unfamiliar
joys to her that for a time she forgot how unhappy she really was, and
how she longed for Geoffrey's company as of old. Only in the evenings
a sense of insecurity rose with the river mists, and a memory of
Sadako's warning shivered through the lonely room with the bitter cold
of the winter air. It was then that Asako felt for the little dagger
resting hidden in her bosom just as Sadako had shown her how to
wear it. It was then that she did not like to be alone, and that she
summoned Tanaka to keep her company and to while away the time with
his quaint loquacity.

Considering that he had been largely instrumental in breaking up her
happy life, considering that every day he stole from her and lied to
her, it was wonderful that his mistress was still so attached to him,
that, in fact, she regarded him as her only friend. He was like a
bad habit or an old disease, which we almost come to cherish since we
cannot be delivered from it.

But, when Tanaka protested his devotion, did he mean what he said?
There is a bedrock of loyalty in the Japanese nature. Half-way down
the road to shame, it will halt of a sudden, and bungle back its way
to honour. Then there is the love of the _beau geste_ which is an even
stronger motive very often than the love of right-doing for its own
sake. The favorite character of the Japanese drama is the _otokodaté_,
the chivalrous champion of the common people who rescues beauty in
distress from the lawless, bullying, two-sworded men. It tickled
Tanaka's remarkable vanity to regard himself as the protector of this
lonely and unfortunate lady. It might be said of him as of Lancelot,
that--

  "His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
  And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true."

Asako was glad on the whole that she had no visitors. The Fujinami
were busy with their New Year preparations. Christmas Day passed by,
unheeded by the Japanese, though the personality and appearance of
Santa Claus are not unknown to them. He stands in the big shop windows
in Tokyo as in London, with his red cloak, his long white beard
and his sack full of toys. Sometimes he is to be seen chatting with
Buddhist deities, with the hammer-bearing Daikoku, with Ebisu the
fisherman, with fat naked Hotei, and with Benten, the fair but frail.
In fact, with the American Billiken, Santa Claus may be considered as
the latest addition to the tolerant theocracy of Japan.

Asako attended High Mass at the Catholic Cathedral in Tsukiji, the old
foreign settlement. The music was crude; and there was a long sermon
in Japanese. The magnificent bearded bishop, who officiated, was
flanked by two native priests. But the familiar sounds and movements
of the office soothed her, and the fragrance of the incense. The
centre of the aisle was covered with straw mats where the Japanese
congregation was squatting. Chairs for the foreigners were placed in
the side aisles These were mostly members of the various Embassy
and Legation staffs. For a moment Asako feared recognition. Then she
remembered how entirely Japanese she had become--in appearance.

Mr. Ito called during the afternoon to wish a Merry Christmas. Asako
regaled him with thin green tea and little square cakes of ground
rice, filled with a kind of bean paste called "_an_." She kept Tanaka
in the room all the time; for Sadako's remarks about marriage with Ito
had alarmed her. He was most agreeable, however, and most courteous.
He amused Asako with stories of his experiences abroad. He admired the
pretty little house and its position on the river bank; and, when he
bowed his thanks for Asako's hospitality, he expressed a wish that he
might come again many times in future.

"I am afraid of him," Asako had confided to Tanaka, when the guest had
departed, "because Sada San said that he wants to divorce his wife and
marry me. You are to stop here with me in the room whenever he comes.
Do not leave me alone, please."

"Ladyship is _daimyo_," the round face answered; "Tanaka is faithful
_samurai_. Tanaka gives life for Ladyship!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the week before New Year. All along the Ginza, which is the
main thoroughfare of Tokyo, along the avenue of slender willow trees
which do their gallant utmost to break the monotony of the wide
ramshackle street, were spread every evening the stock-in-trade of the
_yomisé_, the night shops, which cater their most diverse wares for
the aimless multitudes sauntering up and down the sidewalks. There are
quack medicines and stylograph pens, clean wooden altar cabinets for
the kitchen gods, and images of Daikoku and Ebisu; there are cheap
underclothing and old hats, food of various kinds, boots and books and
toys. But most fascinating of all are the antiquities. Strewn over a
square six feet of ground are curios, most attractive to the unwary,
especially by the deceptive light of kerosene lamps. One in a thousand
perhaps may be a piece of real value; but almost every object has a
character and a charm of its own. There are old gold screens, lacquer
tables and cabinets, bronze vases, gilded Buddhas, fans, woodcuts,
porcelains, _kakémono_ (hanging pictures), _makimono_ (illustrated
scrolls), _inro_ (lacquer medicine boxes for the pocket), _netsuké_
(ivory or bone buttons, through which the cords of the tobacco pouch
are slung), _tsuba_ (sword hilts of iron ornamented with delightful
landscapes of gold and silver inlay). The Ginza at night-time is a
paradise for the minor collector.

"_Kore wa ikura_? (How much is this?)" asked Asako, picking up a tiny
silver box, which could slip into a waistcoat pocket. Inside were
enshrined three gentle Buddhas of old creamy ivory, perfectly carved
to the minutest petal of the full-blown lotus upon which each reposed.

"Indeed, it is the end of the year. We must sell all things cheaply,"
answered the merchant. "It is asked sixty _yen_ for true ancient
artistic object."

"Such a thing is not said," replied Asako, her Japanese becoming quite
fluent with the return of her light-heartedness. "Perhaps a joke is
being made. It would be possible to give ten _yen_."

The old curio vender, with the face and spare figure of Julius Caesar,
turned aside from such idle talk with a shrug of hopelessness. He
affected to be more interested in lighting his slender pipe over the
chimney of the lamp which hung suspended over his wares.

"Ten _yen_! Please see!" said Asako, showing a banknote. The merchant
shook his head and puffed. Asako turned away into the stream of
passers-by. She had not gone, ten yards, however, before she felt a
touch on her kimono sleeve. It was Julius Caesar with his curio.

"Indeed, _okusan_, there must be reduction. Thirty _yen_; take it,
please."

He pressed the little box into Asako's hand.

"Twenty _yen_," she bargained, holding out two notes.

"It is loss! It is loss!" he murmured; but he shuffled back to his
stall again, very well content.

"I shall send it to Geoffrey," thought Asako; "it will bring him good
luck. Perhaps he will write to me and thank me. Then I can write to
him."

The New Year is the greatest of Japanese festivals. Japanese of the
middle and lower classes live all the year round in a thickening web
of debt. But during the last days of the year these complications are
supposed to be unraveled and the defaulting debtor must sell some of
his family goods, and start the New Year with a clean slate. These
operations swell the stock-in-trade of the _yomisé_.

On New Year's Day the wife prepares the _mochi_ cakes of ground rice,
which are the specialities of the season; and the husband sees to the
erection of his door posts of the two _kadomatsu_ (corner pine trees),
little Christmas trees planted in a coil of rope. Then, attired in his
frock-coat and top hat, if he be a _haikara_ gentleman, or in his best
kimono and _haori_, if he be an old-fashioned Japanese, he goes round
in a rickshaw to pay his complimentary calls, and to exchange _o
medet[=o]_ (respectfully lucky!), the New Year wish. He has presents
for his important patrons, and cards for his less influential
acquaintances. For, as the Japanese proverb says, "Gifts preserve
friendship." At each house, which he visits, he sips a cup of _saké_,
so that his return home is often due to the rickshaw man's assistance,
rather than to his own powers of self-direction. In fact, as Asako's
maid confided to her mistress, "Japanese wife very happy when New Year
time all finish."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the night following New Year, snow fell. It continued to fall
all the next morning until Asako's little garden was as white as a
bride-cake. The irregularities of her river-side lawn were smoothed
out under the white carpet. The straw coverings, which a gardener's
foresight had wrapped round the azalea shrubs and the dwarf conifers,
were enfolded in a thick white shroud. Like tufts of foam on a wave,
the snow was tossed on the plumes of the bamboo clump, which hid the
neighbour's dwelling, and made a bird's nest of Asako's tiny domain.

Beyond the brown sluggish river, the roofs and pinnacles of Asakusa
were more fairy-like than a theatre scene. Asako was thinking of that
first snow-white day, which introduced Geoffrey and her to the Embassy
and to Yaé Smith.

She shivered. Darkness was falling. A Japanese house is a frail
protection in winter time; and a charcoal fire in a wooden box is poor
company. The maid came in to close the shutters for the night. Where
was Tanaka? He had gone out to a New Year party with relatives. Asako
felt her loneliness all of a sudden; and she was grateful for the
moral comfort of cousin Sadako's sword. She drew it from its sheath
and examined the blade, and the fine work on the hilt, with care and
alarm, like a man fingering a serpent.

No sooner was the house silenced than the wind arose. It smote the
wooden framework with an unexpected buffet almost like an earthquake.
The bamboo grove began to rattle like bones; and the snow slid and
fell from the roof in dull thuds.

There was a sharp rap at the front door. Asako started and thrust the
dagger into the breast of her kimono. She had been lying full length
on a long deckchair. Now she put her feet to the ground. O Hana,
the maid, came in and announced that Ito San had called. Asako,
half-pleased and half-apprehensive, gave instructions for him to be
shown in. She heard a stumbling on the steps of her house; then Ito
lurched into the room. His face was very red, and his voice thick. He
had been paying many New Year calls.

"Happy New Year, Asa San, Happy New Year!" he hiccoughed, grasping her
hand and working it up and down like a pump-handle. "New Year in Japan
very lucky time. All Japanese people say New Year time very lucky.
This New Year very lucky for Ito. No more dirty business, no more
Yoshiwara, no more pimp. I am millionaire, madame. I have made one
hundred thousand pounds, five hundred thousand dollars gold. I now
become _giin giin_ (Member of Parliament). I become great party
organizer, great party boss, then _daijin_ (Minister of State), then
_taishi_ (Ambassador), then _soridaijin_ (Prime Minister). I shall
be greatest man in Japan. Japan greatest country in the world. Ito
greatest man in the world. And I marry Asa San to-morrow, next day,
any day."

Ito was sprawling in the deck chair, which divided the little
sitting-room into two parts and cut off Asako's retreat. She was
trembling on a bamboo stool near the shuttered window. She was
terribly frightened. Why did not Tanaka come?

"Speak to me, Asa San," shouted the visitor; "say to me very glad,
very, very glad, will be very nice wife of Ito. Fujinami give you to
me. I have all Fujinami's secrets in my safe box. Ito greatest man in
Japan. Fujinami very fear of me. He give me anything I want. I say,
give me Asa San. Very, very love."

Asako remaining without speech, the Japanese frowned at her.

"Why so silence, little girl? Say, I love you, I love you like all
foreign girls say. I am husband now. I never go away from this house
until you kiss me. You understand?"

Asako gasped.

"Mr. Ito, it is very late. Please, come some other day. I must go to
bed now."

"Very good, very good. I come to bed with you," said Ito, rolling out
of his chair and putting one heavy leg to the ground. He was earing a
kimono none too well adjusted, and Asako could see his hairy limb high
up the thigh. Her face must have reflected her displeasure.

"What?" the Japanese shouted; "you don't like me. Too very proud! No
dirty Jap, no yellow man, what? So you think, Madame Lord Princess
Barrington. In the East, it may be, ugly foreign women despise Japs.
But New York, London, Paris--very different, ha! ha! New York girl
say, Hello, Jap! come here! London girl say, Jap man very nice, very
sweet manner, very soft eyes. When I was in London I have five or six
girls, English girls, white girls, very beauty girls, all together,
all very love! London time was great fine time!"

Asako felt helpless. Her hand was on the hilt of her dagger, but she
still hoped that Ito might come to his senses and go away.

"There!" he cried, "I know foreign custom. I know everything.
Mistletoe! Mistletoe! A kiss for the mistletoe, Asa San!"

He staggered out of his chair and came towards her, like a great black
bird. She dodged him, and tried to escape round the deck chair. But he
caught hold of her kimono. She drew her sword.

"Help! Help!" she cried. "Tanaka!"

Something wrenched at her wrist, and the blade fell. At the same
moment the inner _shoji_ flew open like the shutter of a camera.
Tanaka rushed into the room.

Asako did not turn to look again until she was outside the room with
her maid and her cook trembling beside her. Then she saw Tanaka and
Ito locked in a wrestler's embrace, puffing and grunting at each
other, while their feet were fumbling for the sword which lay between
them. Suddenly both figures relaxed. Two foreheads came together with
a wooden concussion. Hands were groping where the feet had been. One
set of fingers, hovering over the sword, grasped the hilt. It was
Tanaka; but his foot slipped. He tottered and fell backward. Ito was
on the top of him. Asako closed her eyes. She heard a hoarse roar like
a lion. When she dared to look again, she saw Tanaka kneeling over
Ito's body. With a wrench he pulled Sadako's dagger out of the
prostrate mass. It was followed by a jet of blood, and then by a
steady trickle from body, mouth and nostrils, which spread over the
matting. Slowly and deliberately, Tanaka wiped first the knife and
then his hands on the clothes of his victim. Then he felt his mouth
and throat.

"_Sa! Shimatta_! (There, finished!)" he said. He turned towards the
garden side, threw open the _shoji_ and the _amado_. He ran across
the snow-covered lawn; and from beyond the unearthly silence which
followed his departure, come the distant sound of a splash in the
river.

At last, Asako said helplessly: "Is he dead?"

The cook, a man, was glad of the opportunity to escape.

"I go and call doctor," he said.

"No, stay with me," said Asako; "I am afraid. O Hana can go for the
doctor."

Asako and the cook waited by the open _shoji_, staring blankly at
the body of Ito. Presently the cook said that he must go and get
something. He did not return. Asako called to him to come. There was
no answer. She went to look for him in his little three-mat room
near the kitchen. It was empty. He had packed his few chattels in his
wicker basket and had decamped.

Asako resumed her watch at the sitting-room door, an unwilling Rizpah.
It was as though she feared that, if she left her post, somebody might
come in and steal Ito. But she could have hardly approached the corpse
even under compulsion. Sometimes it seemed to move, to try to rise;
but it was stuck fast to the matting by the resinous flow of purple
blood. Sometimes it seemed to speak:

"Mistletoe! Mistletoe! Kiss me, Asa San!"

Gusts of cold wind came in from the open windows, touching the dead
man curiously, turning over his kimono sleeves. Outside, the bamboo
grove was rattling like bones; and the caked snow fell from the roof
in heavy thuds.

       *       *       *       *       *

O Hana returned with a doctor and a policeman. The doctor loosened
Ito's kimono, and at once shook his head.

The policeman wore a blue uniform and cape; and a sword dragged at his
side. He had produced a notebook and a pencil from a breast pocket.

"What is your name?" he asked Asako; "what is your age? your father's
and mother's name? What is your address? Are you married? Where is
your husband? How long have you known this man? Were you on familiar
terms? Did you kill him? How did you kill him? Why did you kill him?"

The questions buzzed round Asako's head like a swarm of hornets. It
had never occurred to the unfortunate girl that any suspicion could
fall upon her. Three more policemen had arrived.

"Every one in this house is arrested," announced the first policeman.

"Put out your hands," he ordered Asako. Rusty handcuffs were slipped
over her delicate wrists. One of the policemen had produced a coil
of rope, which he proceeded to tie round her waist and then round the
waist of O Hana.

"But what have I done?" asked Asako plaintively.

The policeman took no notice. She could hear two of them upstairs
in her bedroom, talking and laughing, knocking open her boxes and
throwing things about.

Asako and her maid were led out of the house like two performing
animals. It was bitterly cold, and Asako had no cloak. The road was
already full of loafers. They stared angrily at Asako. Some laughed.
Some pulled at her kimono as she passed. She heard one say:

"It is a _geisha_; she has murdered her sweetheart."

At the police station, Asako had to undergo the same confusing
interrogatory before the chief inspector.

"What is your name? What is your age? Where do you live? What are your
father's and mother's names?"

"Lies are no good," said the inspector, a burly unshaven man; "confess
that you have killed this man."

"But I did not kill him," protested Asako.

"Who killed him then? You must know that," said the inspector
triumphantly.

"It was Tanaka," said Asako.

"Who is this Tanaka?" the inspector asked the policeman.

"I do not know; perhaps it is lies," he answered sulkily.

"But it is not lies," expostulated Asako, "he ran away through the
window. You can see his footmarks in the snow."

"Did you see the marks?" the policeman was asked.

"No; perhaps there were no marks."

"Did you look?"

"I did not look actually, but--"

"You're a fool!" said the inspector.

The weary questioning continued for quite two hours, until Asako had
told her story of the murder at least three times. The unfamiliar
language confused her, and the reiterated refrain:

"You, now confess; you killed the man!"

Asako was chilled to the bone. Her head was aching; her eyes were
aching; her legs were aching with the ordeal of standing. She felt
that they must soon give way altogether.

At last, the inspector closed his _questionnaire_.

"_Sa_!" he ejaculated, "it is past midnight. Even I must sleep
sometimes. Take her away to the court, and lock her in the 'sty,'
To-morrow the procurator will examine at nine o'clock. She is
pretending to be silly and not understanding; so she is probably
guilty."

Again the handcuffs and the degrading rope were fastened upon her. She
felt that she had already been condemned.

"May I send word to my friends?" she asked. Surely even the Fujinami
would not abandon her to her fate.

"No. The procurator's examination has not yet taken place. After that,
sometimes permission can be granted. That is the law."

She was left waiting in a stone-flagged guard-room, where eight or
nine policemen stared at her impertinently.

"A pretty face, eh?" they said, "it looks like a _geisha_! Who is
taking her to the court? It is Ishibashi. Oh, so! He is always the
lucky chap!"

A rough fellow thrust his hand up her kimono sleeve, and caught hold
of her bare arm near the shoulder.

"Here, Ishibashi," he cried; "you have caught a fine bird this time."

The policeman Ishibashi picked up the loose end of the rope, and drove
Asako before him into a closed van, which was soon rumbling along the
deserted streets.

She was made to alight at a tall stone building, where they passed
down several echoing corridors, until, at the end of a little passage
a warder pushed open a door. This was the "sty," where prisoners are
kept pending examination in the procurator's court. The floor and
walls were of stone. It was bitterly cold. There was no window, no
light, no firebox, and no chair. Alone, in the petrifying darkness,
her teeth chattering, her limbs trembling, poor Asako huddled her
misery into a corner of the dirty cell, to await the further tender
mercies of the Japanese criminal code. She could hear the scuttering
of rats. Had she been ten times guilty, she felt that she could not
have suffered more!

       *       *       *       *       *

Daylight began to show under the crack of the door. Later on a warder
came and beckoned to Asako to follow him. She had not touched food for
twenty hours, but nothing was offered to her. She was led into a
room with benches like a schoolroom. At the master's desk sat a small
spotted man with a cloak like a scholar's gown, and a black cap with
ribbons like a Highlander's bonnet. This was the procurator. At his
side, sat his clerk, similarly but less sprucely garbed.

Asako, utterly weary, was preparing to sit down on one of the benches.
The warder pulled her up by the nape of her kimono. She had to stand
during her examination.

"What is your name? What is your age? What are your father's and
mother's names?"

The monotonous questions were repeated all over again; and then,--

"To confess were better. When you confess, we shall let you go. If you
do not confess, we keep you here for days and days."

"I am feeling sick," pleaded Asako; "may I eat something?"

The warder brought a cup of tea and some salt biscuit.

"Now, confess," bullied the procurator; "if you do not confess, you
will get no more to eat."

Asako told her story of the murder. She then told it again. Her
Japanese words were slipping from the clutch of her worn brain. She
was saying things she did not mean. How could she defend herself in a
language which was strange to her mind? How could she make this judge,
who seemed so pitiless and so hostile to her, understand and believe
her broken sentences? She was beating with a paper sword against an
armed enemy.

An interpreter was sent for; and the questions were all repeated in
English. The procurator was annoyed at Asako's refusal to speak in
Japanese. He thought that it was obstinacy, or that she was trying to
fool him. He seemed quite convinced that she was guilty.

"I can't answer any more questions. I really can't. I am sick," said
Asako, in tears.

"Take her back to the 'sty,' while we have lunch," ordered the
procurator. "I think this afternoon she will confess."

Asako was taken away, and thrust into the horrible cell again.
She collapsed on the hard floor in a state which was partly a
fainting-fit, and partly the sleep of exhaustion. Dreams and images
swept over her brain like low-flying clouds. It seemed to her
distracted fancy that only one person could save her--Geoffrey, her
husband! He must be coming soon. She thought that she could hear his
step in the corridor.

"Geoffrey! Geoffrey!" she cried.

It was the warder. He stirred her with his foot. She was hauled back
to the procurator's court.

"So! Have you considered well?" said the little spotted man. "Will you
now confess?"

"How can I confess what I have not done?" protested Asako.

The remorseless inquisition proceeded. Asako's replies became more and
more confused. The procurator frowned at her contradictions. She must
assuredly be guilty.

"How many times do you say that you have met this Ito?" he asked.

Asako was at the end of her strength. She reeled and would have
fallen; but the warder jerked her straight again.

"Confess, then," shouted the procurator, "confess and you will be
liberated."

"I will confess," Asako gasped, "anything you like."

"Confess that you killed this Ito!"

"Yes, I confess."

"Then, sign the confession."

With the triumphant air of a sportsman who has landed his fish after
a long and bitter struggle, the procurator held out a sheet of paper
prepared beforehand, on which something was written in Japanese
characters.

Asako tried to move towards the desk that she might write her name;
but this time, her legs gave way altogether. The warder caught her by
the neck of her kimono, and shook her as a terrier shakes a rat. But
the body remained limp. He twisted her arm behind her with a savage
wrench. His victim groaned with pain, but spoke no distinguishable
word. Then he laid her out on the benches, and felt her chest.

"The body is very hot," he said; "perhaps she is indeed sick."

"Obstinate," grunted the procurator; "I am certain that she is guilty.
Are you not?" he added, addressing the clerk.

The clerk was busy filling up some of the blanks in the back evidence,
extemporising where he could not remember.

"Assuredly," he said, "the opinion of the procurator is always
correct."

However, the doctor was summoned. He pronounced that the patient was
in a high fever, and must at once be removed to the infirmary.

So the preliminary examination of Asako Fujinami came to an abrupt
end.



CHAPTER XXVII

LADY BRANDAN

  _Haru no hi no
  Nagaki omoi wa
  Wasureji wo,
  Hito no kokoro ni
  Aki ya tatsuramu._

  The long thoughts
  Of the spring days
  Will never be forgotten
  Even when autumn comes
  To the hearts of the people.


The low-flying clouds of hallucination had fallen so close to Asako's
brain, that her thoughts seemed to be caught up into the dizzy
whirlwind and to be skimming around and round the world at the speed
of an express aeroplane. Like a clock whose regulation is out of
order, the hour-hand of her life seemed to be racing the minute-hand,
and the minute-hand to be covering the face of the dial in sixty
seconds or less, returning incessantly to the same well-known figures,
pausing awhile, then jerking away again at an insane rate. From time
to time the haze over the mind began to clear; and Asako seemed to
look down upon the scene around her from a great height. There was a
long room, so long that she could not see the end of it, and rows of
narrow beds, and nurses, dressed in white with high caps like bishops'
mitres, who appeared and disappeared. Sometimes they would speak to
her and she would answer. But she did not know what they said, nor
what she said to them.

A gentle Japanese lady with a very long, pock-marked face, sat on her
bed and talked to her in English. Asako noticed that the nurses
and doctors were most deferential to this lady; and that, after her
departure, she was treated much more kindly than before. A name kept
peeping out of her memory, like a shy lizard out of its hole; but
the moment her brain tried to grab at it, it slipped back again into
oblivion.

Two English ladies called together, one older and one younger. They
talked about Geoffrey. Geoffrey was one of the roman figures on the
clock dial of her mind. They said good things about Geoffrey; but she
could not remember what they were.

One day, the Japanese lady with the marked face and one of the nurses
helped her to get out of bed. Her legs were trembling, and her
feet were sorely plagued by pins and needles; but she held together
somehow. Together they dressed her. The lady wrapped a big fur cloak
round her; and with a supporter on either side she was led into the
open air, where a beautiful motor-car was waiting. There was a crowd
gathered round it. But the police kept them back. As Asako stepped in,
she heard the click of cameras.

"Asa Chan," said the lady, "don't you remember me? I am Countess
Saito."

Of course, Asako remembered now--a spring morning with Geoffrey and
the little dwarf trees.

The notoriety of the Ito murder case did Asako a good turn. Her
friends in Japan had forgotten her. They had imagined that she had
returned to England with Geoffrey. Reggie Forsyth, who alone knew the
details of her position, had thrown up his secretaryship the day that
war was declared, and had gone home to join the army.

The morning papers of January 3rd, with their high-flown account of
the mysterious house by the river-side and the Japanese lady who could
talk no Japanese, brought an unexpected shock to acquaintances of the
Barringtons, and especially to Lady Cynthia Cairns and to Countess
Saito. These ladies both made inquiries, and learned that Asako was
lying dangerously ill in the prison infirmary. A few days later, when
Tanaka was arrested and had made a full confession of the crime,
Count Saito, who knew how suspects fare at the hands of a zealous
procurator, called in person on the Minister of Justice, and secured
Asako's speedy liberation.

"This girl is a valuable asset to our country," he had explained to
the Minister. "She is married to an Englishman, who will one day be a
peer in England. This was a marriage of political importance. It was a
proof of the equal civilisation of our Japan with the great countries
of Europe. It is most important that this Asako should be sent back
to England as soon as possible, and that she should speak good things
about Japan."

So Asako was released from the procurator's clutches; and she was
given a charming little bedroom of her own in the European wing of the
Saito mansion. The house stood on a high hill; and Asako, seated at
the window, could watch the multiplex activity of the streets below,
the jolting tramcars, the wagons, the barrows and the rickshaws. To
the left was a labyrinth of little houses of clean white wood, bright
and new, like toys, with toy evergreens and pine-trees bursting out of
their narrow gardens. This was a _geisha_ quarter, whence the sound
of _samisen_ music and quavering songs resounded all day long. To the
right was a big grey-boarded primary school, which, with the regular
movement of tides, sucked in and belched out its flood of blue-cloaked
boys and magenta-skirted maidens.

Count and Countess Saito, despite their immense wealth and their
political importance, were simple, unostentatious people, who seemed
to devote most of their thoughts to their children, their garden,
their dwarf trees, and their breed of cocker spaniels. They took
their social duties lightly, though their home was a Mecca for
needy relatives on the search for jobs. They gave generously; they
entertained hospitably. Good-humour ruled the household; for husband
and wife were old partners and devoted friends.

Count Saito brought his nephew and secretary, a most agreeable young
man, to see Asako. The Count said,--

"Asa Chan, I want you to tell Mr. Sakabé all about the Fujinami house
and the way of life there."

So Asako told her story to this interested listener. Fortunately,
perhaps, she could not read the Japanese newspapers; for most of her
adventures reappeared in the daily issues almost word for word. From
behind the scenes, Count Saito was directing the course of the famous
trial which had come to be known as the Fujinami Affair. For the Count
had certain political scores of his own to pay off; and Asako proved
to be a godsend.

Tanaka was tried for murder; but it was established that he had killed
Ito in defending his mistress's honour; and the court let him off
with a year's hard labour. But the great Fujinami bribery case which
developed out of the murder trial, ruined a Cabinet Minister, a local
governor, and a host of minor officials. It reacted on the Yoshiwara
regulations. The notoriety of the case has gone far towards putting
an end to public processions of _oiran_, and to the display of
prostitutes in the windows of their houses. Indeed, it is probably
only a question of time for the great pleasure quarters to be closed
down, and for vice to be driven into secrecy. Mr. Fujinami Gentaro
was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for causing bribes to be
distributed.

Meanwhile Countess Saito had been in correspondence with Lady
Everington in England. On one bright March morning, she came into
Asako's room with a small flowerpot in her hands.

"See, Asa Chan," she said in her strange hoarse voice, "the first
flower of the New Year, the plum-blossom. It is the flower of hope and
patience. It blooms when the snow is still on the ground, and before
it has any green leaves to protect it."

"It smells sweet," said Asako.

Her hostess quoted the famous poem of the exiled Japanese statesman,
Sukawara no Michizané,--

  "When the East wind blows,
  Send your perfume to me,
  Flower of the plum;
  Even if your master is absent,
  Do not forget the spring."

"Asako dear," Countess Saito continued, "would you like to go to
England?"

Asako's heart leaped.

"Oh yes!" she answered gladly.

Her hostess sighed reproachfully. She had tried to make life so
agreeable for her little visitor; yet from the tone of her voice it
was clear that Japan would never be home for her.

"Marchioness Saméjima and I," continued the Japanese lady, "have been
arranging for a party of about twenty-five Red Cross nurses to visit
England and France. They are all very good, clever girls from noble
families. We wish to show sympathy of Japan for the poor soldiers who
are suffering so much; and we wish to teach our girls true facts about
war and how to manage a hospital in war-time. We thought you might
like to go as guide and interpreter."

It needed no words to show how joyfully Asako accepted this proposal.
Besides, she had heard from Geoffrey. A letter had arrived thanking
her for her Christmas gift.

"Little darling Asako," her husband had written, "It was so sweet of
you and so like you to think of me at Christmas time. I hope that
you are very happy and having a jolly good time. It is very rotten
in England just now with the war going on. It had broken out before
I reached home; and I joined up at once with my old regiment. We have
had a very lively time. About half of my brother officers have been
killed; and I am a colonel now. Also, incidentally, I have become Lord
Brandan. My father died at the end of last year. Poor old father! This
war is a ghastly business; but we have got them beat now. I shall be
sorry in a way when it is over; for it gives me plenty to do and
to think about. Reggie Forsyth is with his regiment in Egypt. Lady
Everington is writing to you. I am in the north of France, and doing
quite a lot of _parley-voo_. Is there any chance of your coming to
England? God bless you, Asako darling. Write to me soon.

"Your loving Geoffrey."


With this letter folded near her heart, Asako was hardly in a mood
to admire plum-blossoms. It was with difficulty that she could summon
sufficient attention for give the little Saito children their daily
lessons in English and French.

Long rides in the motor-car through the reviving country-side to the
splendid gorge of Miyanoshita or to the beaches of Oiso, where Count
Saito had his summer villa, long days of play with the children in the
hanging garden, the fascinating companionship of the dwarf trees and
the black spaniels, and the welcome absence of espionage and innuendo,
had soon restored Asako to health again.

"Little Asa Chan," Count Saito said one day, beckoning his guest to
sit down beside him in the sunlight on the terrace, "you will be happy
to go back to England?"

"Oh yes," said the girl.

"It is a fine country, a noble country; and you will be happy to see
your husband again?"

Asako blushed and held down her head.

"I don't think he is still my husband," she said, "but oh! I do want
to see him so."

"I think he wants to see you," said the Count; "My wife has received
a letter from Lady Everington which says that he would like you very
much to come back to him."

The Count waited for this joyful news to produce its effect, and then
he added,--

"Asa Chan, you are going to be a great English lady; but you will
always remain a Japanese. In England, you will be a kind of ambassador
for Japan. So you must never forget your father's country, and you
must never say bad things about Japan, even if you have suffered here.
Then the English people will like you; and for that reason, they will
like Japan too; and the two counties will stand side by side, as they
ought to, like good friends. The English are a very great people, the
greatest of all; but they know very little about us in the East. They
think that because we are yellow people, therefore we are inferior to
them. Perhaps, when they see a Japanese lady as one of their peers'
wives and a leader in society, they will understand that the Japanese
also are not so inferior; for the English people have a great respect
for peers. Japan is proud to be England's younger brother; but the
elder brother must not take all the inheritance. He must be content to
share. For perhaps he will not always be the strong one. This war will
make England weak and it will make Japan strong. It will make a great
change in the world, and in Asia most of all. Already the people of
Asia are saying, Why should these white men rule over us? They cannot
rule themselves; they fight among themselves like drunkards; their
time is over and past. Then, when the white rulers are pushed out of
Asia, Japan will become very strong indeed. It will be said then that
England, the elder brother, is become _inkyo_ (retired from active
life), and that Japan, the younger brother, is manager of the family.
I think you will live to see these things, Asa Chan. Certainly your
children will see them."

"I could never like Japan," Asako said honestly.

The old diplomat shrugged his shoulders.

"Very well, Asa Chan. Just enjoy life, and be happy That will be the
best propaganda."





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