Part 2 out of 7
"_Nesan, Nesan_ (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
A third _nesan_ 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.
Renewed prostration before _okusama_, and murmured greetings in
"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
A weird, unpleasant feeling had stolen into the little room, the
presence of unfamiliar thoughts and of foreign moralities, birds of
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."
Sakashira suru wa
Yei-naki suru ni
Nao shikazu keri._
To sit silent
And look wise
Is not to be compared with
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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,
Geoffrey felt very silent and rather sick.
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.
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
_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.
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
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.
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
_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
"I met Wigram," said Geoffrey, "and I went with him to see some
"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.
Kokoro ni norite
Though the people of the
With its hundred towers
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
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
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, _cloisonne_ 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
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
"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
When dinner was over, and after Asako had received the congratulations
of the other guests, she retired upstairs to put on her _neglige_.
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
"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
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
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 _rates_.
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
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 debris 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
"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
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
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
"Can I assist you, sir?"
"Yes; would you kindly tell me the way to the Miyako Hotel?" asked
"I am myself _en route_," answered Tanaka. "Indeed we meet very _a
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
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
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
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 _fiancee_," 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
"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
"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
"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 debris
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 _Pensees 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."
_Tsuyu no yo no
Tsuyu no yo 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
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?"
"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
"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
"I suppose it's the photographs which look like old times," Geoffrey
went on. "How's little Veronique?"
"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
"Her name is Smith," said Reggie. "I know it is almost impossible and
terribly sad; but her other name is Yae. 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 Veronique?" 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. Veronique was personal; Yae 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 Yae, 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 _Goshoe_ at Tokyo is not a sovereign's palace; it is the abode of a
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
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
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
"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
THE HALF-CASTE GIRL
Tsubasa wa ugoku
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
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 _cendre_ 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
"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
"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
"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 Yae 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 _mesalliance_? 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.
"Yae--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. Yae was even smaller and finer-fingered
than the pure-bred Japanese. Ever since he had first met Yae 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 Yae Smith, through the paper walls of whose Japanese
existence the instincts of her Scottish forefathers kept forcing their
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?
Yae 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
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 Yae 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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 Yae Smith, "my brothers have taken me. Would you like
"Yes, I would," said Asako, glancing at her husband, who, however,
showed no signs of approval.
_Ama no hara
Omou-naka wo ba
Sakuru mono ka wa?_
Can even the God of Thunder
Whose footfall resounds
In the plains of the sky
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 Yae Smith,
against the citadel of Good Form, against the stronghold of his
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
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
"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
"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.