Part 4 out of 7
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
"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
"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 _sake_ 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 facade 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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"I don't like the foxes' faces," said Asako, "they look bad
"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
"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."
"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 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.
THE DWARF TREES
Tateru maisu no ki,
Na wo mireba,
Mukashi no hito wo
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 _menage_ was an unusual one. By
adopting a life of travel, they had devoted themselves to a
protracted honeymoon, a relentless _tete-a-tete_. 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
Personally, Geoffrey found the company of his Japanese relatives
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
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 role. 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
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
"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
"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 _etagere_. 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
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_ (L5 to L10)," 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
"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
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
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
"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
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."
Ara omoshiro no
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 Yae 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 Veronique 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 Veronique'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 Yae Smith by two young
English officers, both of them her lovers, so people said, and the
vaguer tale of a fiance'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 _tete-a-tete_ 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.
Yae came with the girl friend, a lean and skinny half-caste girl
like a gipsy, whom Yae patronized. She came once again with the girl
friend; and then she came alone.
Reggie was relieved, and said so. Yae laughed and replied:
"But I brought her for your own sake; I always go everywhere by
"Then please don't take me into consideration ever again," answered
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 Yae was to have her own way always and in everything.
He left a respectable fortune, a Japanese widow and two worthless
Poor Yae! 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 disponibilite_, 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 Yae'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 Yae's Mary Queen
Meanwhile, Yae 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. Yae'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, Yae 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 Yae 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.
Yae 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 fiancee. 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.
Yae 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 Yae, 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 Yae entirely; and bad men ran after
her with redoubled zest. Yae 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 Yae's
special perquisite. She would disappear for whole days and nights.
None of her family could restrain her. Her answer to all remonstrances
"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.
Yae 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 _tete-a-tete_, 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 Yae 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 Yae's ideal of Love and of Life too. It is not for
us to condemn Yae, 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.
THE GREAT BUDDHA
Tachitsu itsu netsu
The sea-shore of Mitsu!
Standing, sitting or lying
How lovely is the moonlight
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
"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
"Is there any tennis?" asked Geoffrey.
"There is a court, a grass court with holes in it; but I've never seen
"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
"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
"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.
Yae 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
Yae 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 Yae'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 Yae'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 Yae 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
Reggie entered the room with Yae 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
"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 Yae danced together. Then they sat out a dance; and then
they danced again. Yae was tiny, but she danced well; and Geoffrey was
used to a small partner. For Yae 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
The Japanese consider, not unreasonably, that our dancing is
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 Yae 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 Yae, so he danced with the gipsy girl, who had a
stride like a kangaroo. Then Yae 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. Yae 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 Yae.
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 Yae.
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
"I would not like to come here alone," said Yae, 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
Yae 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 Yae 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 Yae 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
"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. Yae 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.
Yae 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
Geoffrey was weary now; and the enchantment of the wine had passed
"Good-night, Yae," 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
"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
"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
"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 Yae 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 Yae and forming an opinion
"But why?" Geoffrey began.
"Because it would now be too late for me to take your advice," said
"What do you mean?" Barrington asked.
"Last night I asked Yae to marry me; and I understand that she
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 siecle_, 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 Yae 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 Yae's behaviour to excitement caused
by her engagement.
"Yae is the immediate reason: utter fed-upness is the original cause,"
"Do you feel that you are very much in love with her?" asked his
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. Yae 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,
"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
"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.
THE RAINY SEASON
Ware ikite ir
Poisonous delicacies (last night)!
And I am still alive.
Geoffrey Barrington tried not to worry about Yae 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 Yae; 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
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 Yae 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 Yae 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
_menage_ 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
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 Yae 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
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
"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
"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