Part 6 out of 7
Sadako would steal into the room. Her cousin would leave the invalid
in silence, but she always smiled; and she would bring some offering
with her, a dish of food--Asako's favorite dishes, of which Tanaka had
already compiled a complete list--or sometimes a flower. At the open
door she would pause to shuffle off her pale blue _zori_ (sandals);
and she would glide across the clean rice-straw matting shod in her
snow-white _tabi_ only.
Asako gradually accustomed herself to the noises of the house. First,
there was the clattering of the _amado_, the wooden shutters whose
removal announced the beginning of the day, then the gurgling and the
expectorations which accompanied the family ablutions, then the harsh
sound of the men's voices and their rattling laughter, the sound
of their _geta_ on the gravel paths of the garden like the tedious
dropping of heavy rain on an iron roof, then the flicking and dusting
of the maids as they went about their daily _soji_ (house-cleaning),
their shrill mouselike chirps and their silly giggle; then the
afternoon stillness when every one was absent or sleeping; and then,
the revival of life and bustle at about six o'clock, when the clogs
were shuffled off at the front door, when the teacups began to jingle,
and when sounds of swishing water came up from the bath-house, the
crackle of the wood-fire under the bathtub, the smell of the burning
logs, and the distant odours of the kitchen.
Outside, the twilight was beginning to gather. A big black crow
flopped lazily on to the branch of the neighbouring pine-tree. His
harsh croak disturbed Asako's mind like a threat. High overhead passed
a flight of wild geese in military formation on their way to the
continent of Asia. Lights began to peep among the trees. Behind the
squat pagoda a sky of raspberry pink closed the background.
The twilight is brief in Japan. The night is velvety; and the
moonlight and the starlight transfigure the dolls' house architecture,
the warped pine-trees, the feathery bamboo clumps and the pagoda
From a downstair room there came the twang of cousin Sadako's _koto_,
a kind of zither instrument, upon which she played interminable
melancholy sonatas of liquid, detached notes, like desultory thoughts
against a background of silence. There was no accompaniment to this
music and no song to chime with it; for, as the Japanese say, the
accompaniment for _koto_ music is the summer night-time and its heavy
fragrance, and the voice with which it harmonizes is the whisper of
the breeze in the pine-branches.
Long after Sadako had finished her practice, came borne upon the
distance the still more melancholy pipe of a student's flute. This was
the last human sound. After that the night was left to the orchestra
of the insects--the grasshoppers, the crickets and the _semi_
(cicadas). Asako soon was able to distinguish at least ten or twelve
different songs, all metallic in character, like clock springs being
slowly wound up and then let down with a run. The night and the house
vibrated with these infinitesimal chromatics. Sometimes Asako
thought the creatures must have got into her room, and feared for
entanglements in her hair. Then she remembered that her mother's
nickname had been "the _Semi_" and that she had been so called because
she was always happy and singing in her little house by the river.
This memory roused Asako one day with a wish to see how her own house
was progressing. This wish was the first positive thought which had
stirred her mind since her husband had left her; and it marked a stage
in her convalescence.
"If the house is ready," she thought "I will go there soon. The
Fujinamis will not want me to live here permanently."
This showed how little she understood as yet the Japanese family
system, whereby relatives remain as permanent guests for years on end.
"Tanaka" she said one morning, in what was almost her old manner, "I
think I will have the motor car to-day."
Tanaka had become her body servant as in the old days. At first
she had resented the man's reappearance, which awakened such cruel
memories. She had protested against him to Sadako, who had smiled and
promised. But Tanaka continued his ministrations; and Asako had
not the strength to go on protesting. As a matter of fact, he
was specially employed by Mr. Fujinami Gentaro to spy on Asako's
movements, an easy task hitherto, since she had not moved from her
"Where is the motor car, Tanaka?" she asked again.
He grinned, as Japanese always do when embarrassed.
"Very sorry for you," he answered; "motor car has gone away."
"Has Captain Barrington--?" Asako began instinctively; then,
remembering that Geoffrey was now many thousands of miles from Japan,
she turned her face to the wall and began to cry.
"Young Fujinami San," said Tanaka, "has taken motor car. He go away
to mountains with _geisha_ girl. Very bad, young Fujinami San, very
Asako thought that it was rather impertinent to borrow her own motor
car without asking permission, even if she was their guest. She did
not yet understand that she and all her possessions belonged from
henceforth to her family--to her male relatives, that is to say; for
she was only a woman.
"Old Mr. Fujinami San," Tanaka went on, happy to find his mistress, to
whom he was attached in a queer Japanese sort of way, interested and
responsive at last, "old Mr. Fujinami San, he also go to mountain
with _geisha_ girl, but different mountain. Japanese people all very
_roue_. All Japanese people like to go away in summer season with
_geisha_ girl. Very bad custom. Old Mr. Fujinami San, not so very
bad, keep same _geisha_ girl very long time. Perhaps Ladyship see one
little girl, very nice little girl, come sometimes with Miss Sadako
and bring meal-time things. That little girl is _geisha_ girl's
daughter. Perhaps old Mr. Fujinami San's daughter also, I think: very
bastard: I don't know!"
So he rambled on in the fashion of servants all the world over, until
Asako knew all the ramifications of her relatives, legitimate and
She gathered that the men had all left Tokyo during the hot season,
and that only the women were left in the house. This encouraged her
to descend from her eyrie, and to endeavour to take up her position in
her family, which was beginning to appear the less reassuring the more
she learned about its history.
The life of a Japanese lady of quality is peculiarly tedious. She is
relieved from the domestic cares which give occupation to her humbler
sisters. But she is not treated as an equal or as a companion by her
menfolk, who are taught that marriage is for business and not for
pleasure, and consequently that home-life is a bore. She is supposed
to find her own amusements, such as flower-arrangement, tea-ceremony,
music, kimono-making and the composition of poetry. More often, this
refined and innocent ideal degenerates into a poor trickle of an
existence, enlivened only by scrappy magazine reading, servants'
gossip, empty chatter about clothes, neighbours and children,
backbiting, envying and malice.
Once Sadako took her cousin to a charity entertainment given for the
Red Cross at the house of a rich nobleman. A hundred or more ladies
were present; but stiff civility prevailed. None of the guests seemed
to know each other. There was no friendly talking. There were no
men guests. There was three hours' agony of squatting, a careful
adjustment of expensive kimonos, weak tea and tasteless cakes, a blank
staring at a dull conjuring performance, and deadly silence.
"Do you ever have dances?" Asako asked her cousin.
"The _geisha_ dance, because they are paid," said Sadako primly. Her
pose was no longer cordial and sympathetic. She set herself up as
mentor to this young savage, who did not know the usages of civilized
"No, not like that," said the girl from England; "but dancing among
yourselves with your men friends."
"Oh, no, that would not be nice at all. Only tipsy persons would dance
Asako tried, not very successfully, to chat in easy Japanese with
her cousin; but she fled from the interminable talking parties of
her relatives, where she could not understand one word, except the
innumerable parentheses--_naruhodo_ (indeed!) and _so des'ka_ (is it
so?)--with which the conversation was studded. As the realization of
her solitude made her nerves more jumpy, she began to imagine that the
women were forever talking about her, criticizing her unfavorably and
disposing of her future.
The only man whom she saw during the hot summer months, besides the
inevitable Tanaka, was Mr. Ito, the lawyer. He could talk quite
good English. He was not so egotistical and bitter as Sadako. He had
traveled in America and Europe. He seemed to understand the trouble of
Asako's mind, and would offer sympathetic advice.
"It is difficult to go to school when we are no longer children,"
he would say sententiously. "Asa San must be patient. Asa San must
forget. Asa San must take Japanese husband. I think it is the only
"Oh, no," the poor girl shivered; "I wouldn't marry again for
"But," Ito went on relentlessly, "it is hurtful to the body when once
it has custom to be married. I think that is reason why so many widow
women are unfortunate and become mad."
Every day he would spend an hour or so in conversation with Asako. She
thought that this was a sign of friendliness and sympathy. As a matter
of fact, his object at first was to improve his English. Later on more
ambitious projects developed in his fertile brain.
He would talk about New York and London in his queer stilted way. He
had been a fireman on board ship, a teacher of _jiujitsu_, a juggler,
a quack dentist, Heaven knows what else. Driven by the conscientious
inquisitiveness of his race, he had endured hardships, contempt and
rough treatment with the smiling patience inculcated in the Japanese
people by their education. "We must chew our gall, and bide our time,"
they say, when the too powerful foreigner insults or abuses them.
He had seen the magnificence of our cities, the vastness of our
undertakings and had returned to Japan with great relief to find that
life among his own people was less strenuous and fierce, that it was
ordered by circumstances and the family system, that less was left
to individual courage and enterprise, that things happened more often
than things were done. The impersonality of Japan was as restful to
him as it is aggravating to a European.
But it must not be imagined that Ito was an idle man. On the contrary,
he was exceedingly hard working and ambitious. His dream was to become
a statesman, to enjoy unlimited patronage, to make men and to break
men, and to die a peer. When he returned to Japan from his wanderings
with exactly two shillings in his pocket, this was his programme. Like
Cecil Rhodes, his hero among white men, he made a will distributing
millions. Then he attached himself to his rich cousins, the Fujinami;
and very soon he became indispensable to them. Fujinami Gentaro,
an indolent man, gave him more and more authority over the family
fortune. It was dirty business, this buying of girls and hiring of
pimps, but it was immensely profitable; and more and more of the
profits found their way into Ito's private account. Fujinami Gentaro
did not seem to care. Takeshi, the son and heir, was a nonentity.
Ito's intention was to continue to serve his cousins until he had
amassed a working capital of a hundred thousand pounds. Then he would
go into politics.
But the advent of Asako suggested a short cut to his hopes. If he
married her he would gain immediate control of a large interest in the
Fujinami estate. Besides she had all the qualifications for the wife
of a Cabinet Minister, knowledge of foreign languages, ease in foreign
society, experience of foreign dress and customs. Moreover, passion
was stirring in his heart, the swift stormy passion of the Japanese
male, which, when thwarted, drives him towards murder and suicide.
Like many Japanese, he had felt the attractiveness of foreign women
when he was traveling abroad. Their independence stimulated him, their
savagery and their masterful ways. Ito had found in Asako the physical
beauty of his own race together with the character and energy which
had pleased him so much in white women. Everything seemed to favor
his suit. Asako clearly seemed to prefer his company to that of other
members of the family. He had a hold over the Fujinami which would
compel them to assent to anything he might require. True, he had a
wife already; but she could easily be divorced.
Asako tolerated him, _faute de mieux_. Cousin Sadako was becoming
tired of their system of mutual instruction, as she tired sooner or
later of everything.
She had developed a romantic interest in one of the pet students, whom
the Fujinami kept as an advertisement and a bodyguard. He was a pale
youth with long greasy hair, spectacles and more gold in his teeth
than he had ever placed in his waist-band. Popriety forbade any actual
conversation with Sadako; but there was an interchange of letters
almost every day, long subjective letters describing states of mind
and high ideals, punctuated with shadowy Japanese poems and with
quotations from the Bible, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Bergson, Eucken, Oscar
Wilde and Samuel Smiles.
Sadako told her cousin that the young man was a genius, and would one
day be Professor of Literature at the Imperial University.
THE REAL SHINTO
_Yo no naka wo
Nani ni tatoyemu?
Kogi-yuku fune no
Ato no shira-nami_.
To what shall I compare
To the white wake behind
A ship that has rowed away
When the autumn came and the maple trees turned scarlet, the men
returned from their long summer holidays. After that Asako's lot
became heavier than ever.
"What is this talk of tall beds and special cooking?" said Mr.
Fujinami Gentaro. "The girl is a Japanese. She must live like a
Japanese and be proud of it."
So Asako had to sleep on the floor alongside her cousin Sadako in one
of the downstairs rooms. Her last possession, her privacy, was taken
away from her. The soft mattresses which formed the native bed, were
not uncomfortable; but Asako discarded at once the wooden pillow,
which every Japanese woman fits into the nape of her neck, so as to
prevent her elaborate _coiffure_ becoming disarranged. As a result,
her head was always untidy, a fact upon which her relatives commented.
"She does not look like a great foreign lady now," said Mrs. Shidzuye,
the mistress of the house. "She looks like _osandon_ (a rough kitchen
maid) from a country inn."
The other women tittered.
One day the old woman of Akabo arrived. Her hair was quite white like
spun glass, and her waxen face was wrinkled like a relief map. Her
body was bent double like a lobster; and her eyes were dim with
cataracts. Cousin Sadako said with awe that she was over a hundred
Asako had to submit to the indignity of allowing this dessicated
hag to pass her fumbling hands all over her body, pinching her and
prodding her. The old woman smelt horribly of _daikon_ (pickled
horse-radish). Furthermore the terrified girl had to answer a
battery of questions as to her personal habits and her former marital
relations. In return, she learned a number of curious facts about
herself, of which she had hitherto no inkling. The lucky coincidence
of having been born in the hour of the Bird and the day of the Bird
set her apart from the rest of womankind as an exceptionally fortunate
individual. But, unhappily, the malignant influence of the Dog Year
was against her nativity. When once this disaffected animal had been
conquered and cast out, Asako's future should be a very bright one.
The family witch agreed with the Fujinami that the Dog had in all
probability departed with the foreign husband. Then the toothless
crone breathed three times upon the mouth, breasts and thighs of
Asako; and when this operation was concluded, she stated her opinion
that there was no reason, obstetrical or esoteric, why the ransomed
daughter of the house of Fujinami should not become the mother of many
But on the psychical condition of the family in general she was far
from reassuring. Everything about the mansion, the growth of the
garden, the flight of the birds, the noises of the night-time,
foreboded dire disaster in the near future. The Fujinami were in the
grip of a most alarming _inge_ (chain of cause and effect). Several
"rough ghosts" were abroad; and were almost certain to do damage
before their wrath could be appeased. What was the remedy? It was
indeed difficult to prescribe for such complicated cases. Temple
charms, however, were always efficacious. The old woman gave the names
of some of the shrines which specialized in exorcism.
Some days later the charms were obtained, strips of rice paper with
sacred writings and symbols upon them, and were pasted upon posts and
lintels all over the house. This was done in Mr. Fujinami's absence.
When he returned, he commented most unfavourably on this act of faith.
The prayer tickets disfigured his house. They looked like luggage
labels. They injured his reputation as an _esprit fort_. He ordered
the students to remove them.
After this sacrilegious act, the old woman, who had lingered on in the
family mansion for several weeks, returned again to Akabo, shaking her
white locks and prophesying dark things to come.
* * * * *
For some reason or other, the witch's visit did not improve Asako's
position. She was expected to perform little menial services, to bring
in food at meal-times and to serve the gentlemen on bended knee,
to clap her hands in summons to the servant girls, to massage Mrs.
Fujinami, who suffered from rheumatism in the shoulder, and to scrub
her back in the bath.
Her wishes were usually ignored; and she was not encouraged to leave
the house and grounds. Sadako no longer took her cousin with her to
the theatre or to choose kimono patterns at the Mitsukoshi store. She
was irritated at Asako's failure to learn Japanese. It bored her to
have to explain everything. She found this girl from Europe silly and
Only at night they would chatter as girls will, even if they are
enemies; and it was then that Sadako narrated the history of her
romance with the young student.
One night, Asako awoke to find that the bed beside her was empty, and
that the paper _shoji_ was pushed aside. Nervous and anxious, she
rose and stood in the dark veranda outside the room. A cold wind was
blowing in from some aperture in the _amado_. This was unusual, for a
Japanese house in its night attire is hermetically sealed.
Suddenly Sadako appeared from the direction of the wind. Her hair
was disheveled. She wore a dark cloak over her parti-coloured night
kimono. By the dim light of the _andon_ (a rushlight in a square paper
box), Asako could see that the cloak was spotted with rain.
"I have been to _benjo_," said Sadako nervously.
"You have been out in the rain," contradicted her cousin. "You are wet
through. You will catch cold."
"_Sa! Damare!_ (Be quiet!)" whispered Sadako, as she threw her cloak
aside, "do not talk so loud. See!" She drew from her breast a short
sword in a sheath of shagreen. "If you speak one word, I kill you with
"What have you done?" asked Asako, trembling.
"What I wished to do," was the sullen answer.
"You have been with Sekine?" Asako mentioned the student's name.
Sadako nodded in assent. Then she began to cry, hiding her face in her
"Do you love him?" Asako could not help asking.
"Of course, I love him," cried Sadako, starting up from her sorrow.
"You see me. I am no more virgin. He is my life to me. Why cannot I
love him? Why cannot I be free like men are free to love as they wish?
I am new woman. I read Bernard Shaw. I find one law for men in Japan,
and another law for women. But I will break that law. I have made
Sekine my lover, because I am free."
Asako could never have imagined her proud, inhuman cousin reduced to
this state of quivering emotion. Never before had she seen a Japanese
soul laid bare.
"But you will marry Sekine, Sada dear; and then you will be happy."
"Marry Sekine!" the girl hissed, "marry a boy with no money and leave
you to be the Fujinami heiress, when I am promised to the Governor of
Osaka, who will be home Minister when the next Governor comes!"
"Oh, don't do that," urged Asako, her English sentimentalism flooding
back across her mind. "Don't marry a man whom you don't love. You say
you are a new woman. Marry Sekine. Marry the man whom you love. Then
you will be happy."
"Japanese girls are never happy," groaned her cousin.
Asako gasped. This morality confused her.
"But that would be a mortal sin," she said. "Then you could never be
"We cannot be happy. We are Fujinami," said Sadako gravely. "We are
cursed. The old woman of Akabo said that it is a very bad curse. I do
not believe superstition. But I believe there is a curse. You also,
you have been unhappy, and your father and mother. We are cursed
because of the women. We have made so much money from poor women. They
are sold to men, and they suffer in pain and die so that we become
rich. It is a very bad _inge_. So they say in Akabo, that we Fujinami
have a fox in our family. It brings us money; but it makes us unhappy.
In Akabo, even poor people will not marry with the Fujinami, because
we have the fox."
It is a popular belief, still widely held in Japan, that certain
families own spirit foxes, a kind of family banshee who render them
service, but mark them with a curse.
"I do not understand," said Asako, afraid of this wild talk.
"Do you know why the Englishman went away?" said her cousin brutally.
It was Asako's turn to cry.
"Oh, I wish I had gone with him. He was so good to me, always so kind
and so gentle!"
"When he married you," said Sadako, "he did not know that you had the
curse. He ought not to have come to Japan with you. Now he knows you
have the curse. So he went away. He was wise."
"What do you mean by the curse?" asked Asako.
"You do not know how the Fujinami have made so much money?"
"No," said Asako. "It used to come for me from Mr. Ito. He had shares
"Yes. But a share that means a share of a business. Do you not know
what is our business?"
"No," said Asako again.
"You have seen the Yoshiwara, where girls are sold to men. That is our
business. Do you understand now?"
"Then I will tell you the whole story of the Fujinami. About one
hundred and twenty years ago our great-great-grandfather came to Yedo,
as Tokyo was then called. He was a poor boy from the country. He had
no friends. He became clerk in a dry goods store. One day a woman,
rather old, asked him: 'How much pay you get?' He said, 'No pay, only
food and clothes.' The woman said, 'Come with me; I will give you food
and clothes and pay also,' He went with her to the Yoshiwara where she
had a small house with five or six girls. Every night he must stand
in front of the house, calling. Then the drunken workmen, and the
gamblers, and the bad _samurai_ would come and pay their money. And
they pay their money to him, our great-great-grandfather. When the
girls were sick, or would not receive guests, he would beat them, and
starve them, and burn _o kyu_ (a medical plant called moxa, used for
cauterization) on their backs. One day he said to the woman who was
mistress of the house, 'Your girls are too old. The rich friends do
not come any more. Let us sell these girls. I will go into the
country and get new girls, and then you will marry me and make me your
partner.' The woman said, 'If we have good luck with the girls and
make money, then I marry you.' So our great-great-grandfather went
back to his own country, to Akabo; and his old friends in the country
were astonished, seeing how much money he had to spend. He said 'Yes.
I have many rich friends in Yedo. They want pretty country girls to be
their wives. See, I pay you in advance five pieces of gold. After the
marriage more money will be given. Let me take your prettiest girls to
Yedo with me. And they will all get rich husbands.' They were simple
country people, and they believed him because he was a man of their
village, of Akabo. He went back to Yedo with about twenty girls,
fifteen or sixteen years old. He and the other clerks of the Yoshiwara
first made them _jor[=o]_. From those twenty girls he made very much
money. So he married the woman who kept the house. Then he hired a big
house called Tomonji. He furnished it very richly; and he would only
receive guests of the high-class people. Five of his girls became very
famous _oiran_. Even their pictures, drawn by Utamaro, are worth now
hundreds of _yen_. When our great-great-grandfather died he was a very
rich man. His son was the second Fujinami. He bought more houses in
the Yoshiwara and more girls. He was our great-grandfather. He had
two sons. One was your father's father, who bought this land and first
built a house here. The other was my grandfather, Fujinami Gennosuke,
who still lives in the _inkyo_. They have all made much money from
girls; but the curse was hurting them all, especially their wives and
"And my father?" asked Asako.
"Your father wrote a book to say how bad a thing it is that money is
made from men's lust and the pain of Women. He told in the book
how girls are tricked to come to Tokyo, how their parents sell them
because they are poor or because there is famine, how the girls are
brought to Tokyo ten and twenty at a time, and are put to auction sale
in the Yoshiwara, how they are shut up like prisoner, how very rough
men are sent to them to break their spirit and to compel them to be
_jor[=o]_. There is a trial to see how strong they are. Then, when the
spirit is broken, they are shown in the window as 'new girls' with
beautiful kimono and with wreath of flowers on their head. If they
are lucky they escape disease for a few years, but it comes soon or
late--_rinbyo, baidoku_ and _raibyo_. They are sent to the hospital
for treatment; or else they are told to hide the disease and to get
more men. So the men take the disease and bring it to their wives and
children, who have done no wrong. But the girls of the Yoshiwara have
to work all the time, when they are only half cured. So they become
old and ugly and rotten very quickly. Then, if they take consumption
or some such thing, they die and the master says, 'It is well. She
was already too old. She was wasting our money.' And they are
buried quickly in the burial place of the _jor[=o]_ outside the city
boundary, the burial place of the dead who are forgotten. Or some, who
are very strong, live until their contract is finished. Then they go
back to the country, and marry there and spread disease. But they all
die cursing the Fujinami, who have made money out of their sorrow and
pain. I think this garden is full of their ghosts, and their curses
beat upon the house, like the wind when it makes the shutters rattle!"
"How do you know all these terrible things?" asked Asako.
"It is written in your father's book. I will read it to you. If you do
not believe, ask Ito San. He will tell you it is true."
So for several evenings Sadako read to this stranger Fujinami her own
father's words, the words of a forerunner.
Japan is still a savage country, wrote Fujinami Katsundo, the Japanese
are still barbarians. To compare the conventional codes, which they
have mistaken for civilization, with the depth and the height of
Occidental idealism, as Christ perceived it and Dante and St. Francis
of Assisi and Tolstoy, is "to compare the tortoise with the moon."
Japan is imitating from the West its worst propensities--hard
materialism, vulgarity and money-worship. The Japanese must be humble,
and must admit that the most difficult part of their lesson has yet to
be learned. Cut and dried systems are useless. Prussian constitution,
technical education, military efficiency and bravado--such things are
not progress. Japan must denounce the slavery of ancestor-worship, and
escape from the rule of the dead. She must chase away the bogeys of
superstition, and enjoy life as a lovely thing, and love as the vision
of a life still more beautiful. She must cleanse her land of all its
filth, and make it what it still might be--the Country of the Rising
Such was the message of Asako's father in his book, _The Real Shinto_.
"We are not allowed to read this book," Sadako explained; "the police
have forbidden it. But I found a secret copy. It was undutiful of your
father to write such things. He went away from Japan; and everyone
said, 'It is a good thing he has gone; he was a bad man; he shamed his
country and his family.'"
There was much in the book which Asako could not follow. Her cousin
tried to explain it to her; and many nights passed, thus, the two
girls sitting up and reading by the pale light of the _andon_. It was
like a renewal of the old friendship. Sometimes a low whistle sounded
from outside the house. Sadako would lay aside the book, would slip
on her cloak and go out into the garden, where Sekine was waiting for
When she was left to herself Asako began to think for the first time
in her life. Hitherto her thoughts had been concerned merely with her
own pleasures and pains, with the smiles and frowns of those around
her, with petty events and trifling projects. Perhaps, because some
of her father's blood was alive in her veins, she could understand
certain aspects of his book more clearly than her interpreter, Sadako.
She knew now why Geoffrey would not touch her money. It was filthy,
it was diseased, like the poor women who had earned it. Of course, her
Geoffrey preferred poverty to wealth like that. Could she face poverty
with him? Why, she was poor already, here in her cousins' house. Where
was the luxury which her money used to buy? She was living the life of
a servant and a prisoner.
What would be the end of it? Surely Geoffrey would come back to her,
and take her away! But he had no money now, and it would cost much
money to travel to Japan. And then, this terrible war! Geoffrey was a
soldier. He would be sure to be there, leading his men. Supposing he
One night in a dream she saw his body carried past her, limp and
bleeding. She screamed in her sleep. Sadako awoke, terrified.
"What is the matter?"
"I dreamed of Geoffrey, my husband. Perhaps he is killed in the war."
"Do not say that," said Sadako. "It is unlucky to speak of death. It
troubles the ghosts. I have told you this house is haunted."
Certainly for Asako the Fujinami mansion had lost its charm. Even the
beautiful landscape was besieged by horrible thoughts. Every day two
or three of the Yoshiwara women died of disease and neglect, so Sadako
said and therefore every day the invisible population of the Fujinami
garden must be increasing, and the volume of their curses must be
gathering in intensity. The ghosts hissed like snakes in the bamboo
grove. They sighed in the pine branches. They nourished the dwarf
shrubs with their pollution. Beneath the waters of the lake the
corpses--women's corpses--were laid out in rows. Their thin hands
shook the reeds. Their pale faces rose at night to the surface, and
stared at the moon. The autumn maples smeared the scene with infected
blood; and the stone foxes in front of the shrine of Inari sneered and
grinned at the devil world which their foul influence had called into
being through the black witchcraft of lechery, avarice and disease.
THE AUTUMN FESTIVAL
_Yo no naka ni
Ushi no Kuruma no
Omoi no iye wo
In this world
If there were no
Ox-cart (_i.e._ Buddhist religion),
How should we escape
From the (burning) mansion of our thought?
During October, the whole family of the Fujinami removed from Tokyo
for a few days in order to perform their religious duties at the
temple of Ikegami. Even grandfather Gennosuke emerged from his
dower-house, bringing his wife, O Tsugi. Mr. Fujinami Gentaro was in
charge of his own wife, Shidzuye San, of Sadako and of Asako. Only
Fujinami Takeshi, the son and heir, with his wife Matsuko, was absent.
There had been some further trouble in the family which had not
been confided to Asako, but which necessitated urgent steps for the
propitiation of religious influences. The Fujinami were followers of
the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Their conspicuous devotion and their
large gifts to the priests of the temple were held to be causes of
their ever-increasing prosperity. The dead Fujinami, down from that
great-great-grandfather who had first come to seek his fortune in
Yedo, were buried at Ikegami. Here the priests gave to each _hotoke_
(Buddha or dead person) his new name, which was inscribed on small
black tablets, the _ihai_. One of these tablets for each dead person
was kept in the household shrine at Tokyo, and one in the temple at
Asako was taken to the October festival, because her father too was
buried in the temple grounds--one small bone of him, that is to say,
an _ikotsu_ or legacy bone, posted home from Paris before the rest of
his mortality found alien sepulture at Pere Lachaise. Masses were said
for the dead; and Asako was introduced to the tablet. But she did not
feel the same emotion as when she first visited the Fujinami house.
Now, she had heard her father's authentic voice. She knew his scorn
for pretentiousness of all kinds, for false conventions, for false
emotions, his hatred of priestcraft, his condemnation of the family
wealth, and his contempt for the little respectabilities of Japanese
* * * * *
A temple in Japan is not merely a building; it is a site. These sites
were most carefully chosen with the same genius which guided our
Benedictines and Carthusians. The site of Ikegami is a long-abrupt
hill, half-way between Tokyo and Yokohama. It is clothed with
_cryptomeria_ trees. These dark conifers, like immense cypresses, give
to the spot that grave, silent, irrevocable atmosphere, with which
Boecklin has invested his picture of the Island of the Dead. These
majestic trees are essentially a part of the temple. They correspond
to the pillars of our Gothic cathedrals. The roof is the blue vault
of heaven; and the actual buildings are but altars, chantries and
A steep flight of steps is suspended like a cascade from the crest of
the hill. Up and down these steps, the wooden clogs of the Japanese
people patter incessantly like water-drops. At the top of the steps
stands the towered gateway, painted with red ochre, which leads to the
precincts. The guardians of the gate, _Ni-O_, the two gigantic Deva
kings, who have passed from India into Japanese mythology, are encaged
in the gateway building. Their cage and their persons are littered
with nasty morsels of chewed paper, wherever their worshippers have
literally spat their prayers at them.
Within the enclosure are the various temple buildings, the bell-tower,
the library, the washing-trough, the hall of votive offerings,
the sacred bath-house, the stone lanterns and the lodgings for the
pilgrims; also the two main halls for the temple services, which are
raised on low piles and are linked together by a covered bridge, so
that they look like twin arks of safety, floating just five feet above
the troubles of this life. These buildings are most of them painted
red; and there is fine carving on panels, friezes and pediments,
and also much tawdry gaudiness. Behind these two sanctuaries is the
mortuary chapel where repose the memories of many of the greatest
in the land. Behind this again are the priests' dormitories, with a
lovely hidden garden hanging on the slopes of a sudden ravine; its
presiding genius is an old pine-tree, beneath which Nichiren himself,
a contemporary and a counterpart of Saint Dominic, used to meditate on
his project for a Universal Church, founded on the life of Buddha, and
led by the apostolate of Japan.
* * * * *
For the inside of a week the Fujinami dwelt in one of a row of stalls,
like loose-boxes, within the temple precincts. The festival might have
some affinity with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, when the devout
left their city dwellings to live in booths outside the walls.
_Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]._
(Adoration to the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Scriptures!)
The famous formula of the priests of the Nichiren sect was being
repeated over and over again to the accompaniment of drums; for in
the sacred text itself lies the only authentic Way of Salvation. With
exemplary insistence Mr. Fujinami Gennosuke was beating out the rhythm
of the prayer with a wooden clapper on the _mokugy[=o]_, a wooden drum,
shaped like a fish's head.
_Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.
From every corner of the temple _enclave_ the invocation was droning
like a threshing machine. Asako's Catholic conscience, now awakening
from the spell which Japan had cast upon it, became uneasy about its
share in these pagan rites. In order to drive the echo of the litany
out of her ears, she tried to concentrate her attention upon watching
_Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.
Around her was a dense multitude of pilgrims, in their hundreds of
thousands, shuffling, chaffering and staring. Some, like the
Fujinami, had hired temporary lodgings, and had cooks and servants in
attendance. Some were camping in the open. Others were merely visiting
the temple for the inside of the day. The crowds kept on shifting and
mingling like ants on an ant-hill.
Enjoyment, rather than piety, was the prevailing spirit; for this was
one of the few annual holidays of the industrious Tokyo artisan.
In the central buildings, five feet above this noisy confluence of
people, where the golden images of the Buddhas are enthroned, the
mitred priests with their copes of gold-embroidered brown were
performing the rituals of their order. To right and left of the high
altar, the canons squatting at their red-lacquered praying-desks, were
reciting the _sutras_ in strophe and antistrophe. Clouds of incense
In the adjoining building an earnest young preacher was exhorting a
congregation of elderly and somnolent ladies to eschew the lusts of
the flesh and to renounce the world and its gauds, marking each point
in his discourse with raps of his fan. Foxy-faced satellites of the
abbey were doing a roaring trade in charms against various accidents,
and in sacred scrolls printed with prayers or figures of Nichiren.
The temple-yard was an immense fancy fair. The temple pigeons wheeled
disconsolately in the air or perched upon the roofs, unable to find
one square foot of the familiar flagstones, where they were used to
strut and peck. Stalls lined the stone pathways and choked the spaces
between the buildings. Merchants were peddling objects of piety,
sacred images, charms and rosaries; and there were flowers for the
women's hair, and toys for the children, and cakes and biscuits,
_biiru_ (beer) and _ramune_ (lemonade) and a distressing sickly drink
called "champagne cider" and all manner of vanities. In one corner of
the square a theatre was in full swing, the actors making up in
public on a balcony above the crowd, so as to whet their curiosity and
attract their custom. Beyond was a cinematograph, advertised by lurid
paintings of murders and apparitions; and farther on there was a
circus with a mangy zoo.
The crowd was astonishingly mixed. There were prosperous merchants of
Tokyo with their wives, children, servants and apprentices. There were
students with their blue and white spotted cloaks, their _kepis_ with
the school badge, and their ungainly stride. There were modern young
men in _y[=o]fuku_ (European dress), with panama hats, swagger canes
and side-spring shoes, supercilious in attitude and proud of their
unbelief. There were troops of variegated children, dragging at
their elders' hands or kimonos, or getting lost among the legs of the
multitude like little leaves in an eddy. There were excursion parties
from the country, with their kimonos caught up to the knees, and with
baked earthen faces stupidly staring, sporting each a red flower or
a coloured towel for identification purposes. There were labourers
in tight trousers and tabard jackets, inscribed with the name and
profession of their employer. There were _geisha_ girls on their best
behaviour, in charge of a professional auntie, and recognizable only
by the smart cut of their cloaks and the deep space between the collar
and the nape of the neck, where the black _chignon_ lay.
Close to the tomb of Nichiren stood a Japanese Salvationist, a zealous
pimply young man, wearing the red and blue uniform of General Booth
with _kaiseigun_ (World-saving Army) in Japanese letters round his
staff cap. He stood in front of a screen, on which the first verse of
"Onward, Christian Soldiers," was written in a Japanese translation.
An assistant officiated at a wheezy harmonium. The tune was vaguely
akin to its Western prototype; and the two evangelists were trying to
induce a tolerant but uninterested crowd to join in the chorus.
Everywhere beggars were crawling over the compound in various states
of filth. Some, however, were so ghastly that they were excluded
from the temple enclosure. They had lined up among the trunks of
the cryptomeria trees, among the little grey tombs with their fading
inscriptions and the moss-covered statues of kindly Buddhas.
Asako gave a penny into the crooked hand of one poor sightless wretch.
"Oh, no!" cried cousin Sadako; "do not go near to them. Do not touch
them. They are lepers."
Some of them had no arms, or had mere stumps ending abruptly in a red
and sickening object like a bone which a dog has been chewing. Some
had no legs, and were pulled along on little wheeled trolleys by their
less dilapidated companions in misfortune. Some had no features.
Their faces were mere glabrous disks, from which eyes and nose had
completely vanished; only the mouth remained, a toothless gap fringed
with straggling hairs. Some had faces abnormally bloated, with
powerful foreheads and heavy jowls, which gave them an expression of
stony immobility like Byzantine lions. All were fearfully dirty and
covered with sores and lice.
The people passing by smiled at their grim unsightliness, and threw
pennies to them, for which they scrambled and scratched like beasts.
_Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.
Asako's relatives spent the day in eating, drinking and gossiping to
the rhythm of the interminable prayer.
It was a perfect day of autumn, which is the sweetest season in Japan.
A warm bright sun had been shining on the sumptuous colours of the
waning year, on the brilliant reds and yellows which clothed the
neighbouring hills, on the broad brown plain with its tesselated
design of bare rice-fields, on the brown villas and cottages huddled
in their fences of evergreen like birds in their nests, on the
red trunks of the cryptomeria trees, on the brown carpet of matted
pine-needles, on the grey crumbling stones of the old graveyard, on
the high-pitched temple roofs, and on the inconsequential swarms of
humanity drifting to their devotions, casting their pennies into the
great alms-trough in front of the shrine, clanging the brass bell with
a prayer for good luck, and drifting home again with their bewildered,
Asako no longer felt like a Japanese. The sight of her countrymen in
their drab monotonous thousands sickened her. The hiss and cackle
of their incomprehensible tongue beat upon her brain with a deadly
incessant sound, like raindrops to one who is impatiently awaiting the
return of fine weather.
Here at Ikegami, the distant view of the sea and the Yokohama shipping
invited Asako to escape. But where could she escape to? To England.
She was an Englishwoman no longer. She had cast her husband off for
insufficient reasons. She had been cold, loveless, narrow-minded and
silly. She had acted, as she now recognised, largely on the suggestion
of others. Like a fool she had believed what had been told. She had
not trusted her love for her husband. As usual, her thoughts returned
to Geoffrey, and to the constant danger which threatened him. Lately,
she had started to write a letter to him several times, but had never
got further than "Dearest Geoffrey."
She was glad when the irritating day was over, when the rosy sunset
clouds showed through the trunks of the cryptomerias, when the night
fell and the great stars like lamps hung in the branches. But the
night brought no silence. Paper lanterns were lighted round the
temple; and rough acetylene flares lit up the tawdry fairings. The
chattering, the bargaining, the clatter of the _geta_ became more
terrifying even than in daytime. It was like being in the darkness in
a cage of wild beasts, heard, felt, but unseen.
The evening breeze was cold. In spite of the big wooden fireboxes
strewn over their stall, the Fujinami were shivering.
"Let us go for a walk," suggested cousin Sadako.
The two girls strolled along the ridge of the hill as far as the
five-storied pagoda. They passed the tea-house, so famous for its
plum-blossoms in early March. It was brightly lighted. The paper
rectangles of the _shoji_ were aglow like an illuminated honeycomb.
The wooden walls resounded with the jangle of the _samisen_, the high
screaming _geisha_ voices, and the rough laughter of the guests. From
one room the _shoji_ were pushed open; and drunken men could be seen
with kimonos thrown back from their shoulders showing a body reddened
with _sake_. They had taken the _geishas_' instruments from them, and
were performing an impromptu song and dance, while the girls clapped
their hands and writhed with laughter. Beyond the tea-house, the din
of the festival was hushed. Only from the distance came the echo of
the song, the rasp of the forced merriment, the clatter of the _geta_,
and the hum of the crowd.
Starlight revealed the landscape. The moon was rising through a
cloud's liquescence. Soon the hundreds of rice-plots would catch her
full reflection. The outline of the coast of Tokyo Bay was visible
as far as Yokohama; so were the broad pool of Ikegami and the lumpy
masses of the hills inland.
The landscape was alive with lights, lights dim, lights bright,
lights stationary, lights in swaying movement round each centre of
population. It looked as if the stars had fallen from heaven, and were
being shifted and sorted by careful gleaners. As each nebula of white
illumination assembled itself, it began to move across the vast plain,
drawn inwards towards Ikegami from every point of the compass as
though by a magnetic force. These were the lantern processions of
pilgrims. They looked like the souls of the righteous rising from
earth to heaven in a canto from Dante.
The clusters of lights started, moved onwards, paused, re-grouped
themselves, and struggled forward, until in the narrow street of
the village under the hill Asako could distinguish the shapes of the
lantern-bearers and their strange antics, and the sacred palanquin,
a kind of enormous wooden bee-hive, which was the centre of each
procession, borne on the sturdy shoulders of a swarm of young men to
the beat of drums and the inevitable chant.
_Namu my[=o]h[=o] renge ky[=o]_.
Slowly the procession jolted up the steep stairway, and came to rest
with their heavy burdens in front of the temple of Nichiren.
"It is very silly," said cousin Sadako, "to be so superstitious, I
"Then why are we here?" asked Asako.
"My grandfather is very superstitious; and my father is afraid to say
'No' to him. My father does not believe in any gods or Buddhas; but
he says it does no harm, and it may do good. All our family is
_gohei-katsugi_ (brandishers of sacred symbols). We think that with
all this prayer we can turn away the trouble of Takeshi."
"Why, what is the matter with Mr. Takeshi? Why is he not here? and
Matsuko San and the children?"
"It is a great secret," said the Fujinami cousin, "you will tell no
one. You will pretend also even with me that you do not know. Takeshi
San is very sick. The doctor says that he is a leper."
Asako stared, uncomprehending. Sadako went on,--
"You saw this morning those ugly beggars. They were all so terrible
to see, and their bodies were so rotten. My brother is becoming like
that. It is a sickness. It cannot be cured. It will kill him very
slowly. Perhaps his wife Matsu and his children also have the
sickness. Perhaps we too are sick. No one can tell, not for many
Ugly wings seemed to cover the night. The world beneath the hill had
become the Pit of Hell, and the points of light were devils' spears.
"What does it mean?" she asked. "How did Takeshi San become sick?"
"It was a _tenbatsu_ (judgment of heaven)," answered her cousin.
"Takeshi San was a bad man. He was rude to his father, and he was
cruel to his wife. He thought only of _geisha_ and bad women. No
doubt, he became sick from touching a woman who was sick. Besides,
it is the bad _inge_ of the Fujinami family. Did not the old woman of
Akabo say so? It is the curse of the Yoshiwara women. It will be our
turn next, yours and mine."
No wonder that poor Asako could not sleep that night in the cramped
promiscuity of the family dead.
Fujinami Takeshi had been sickly for some time; but then his course
of life could hardly be called a healthy one. On his return from his
summer holiday, red patches had appeared on the palms of his hands,
and afterwards on his forehead. He had complained of the irritation
caused by this "rash." Professor Kashio had been called in to
prescribe. A blood test was taken. The doctor then pronounced that
the son and heir was suffering from leprosy, and for that there was no
The disease is accompanied by irritation, but by little actual pain.
Constant application of compresses can allay the itching, and can
often save the patient from the more ghastly ravages of disfigurement.
But, slowly, the limbs lose their force, the fingers and toes drop
away, the hair falls, and merciful blindness comes to hide from the
sufferer the living corpse to which his spirit is bound. More merciful
yet, the slow decay attacks the organs of the body. Often consumption
intervenes. Often just a simple cold suffices to snuff out the
In the village of Kusatsu, beyond the Karuizawa mountains, there is a
natural hot spring, whose waters are beneficial for the alleviation of
the disease. In this place there is a settlement of well-to-do lepers.
Thither it was decided to banish poor Takeshi. His wife, Matsuko,
naturally was expected to accompany him, to nurse him and to make
life as comfortable for him as she could. Her eventual doom was almost
certain. But there was no question, no choice, no hesitation and no
praise. Every Japanese wife is obliged to become an Alcestis, if
her husband's well-being demand it. The children were sent to the
ancestral village of Akabo.
Hito no ko yuye ni_.
With a rocking
(As) of great ships
Riding at anchor
I have at last become worn out with love,
Because of a child of a man.
When the Fujinami returned to Tokyo, the wing of the house in which
the unfortunate son had lived, had been demolished. An ugly scar
remained, a slab of charred concrete strewn with ashes and burned
beams. Saddest sight of all was the twisted iron work of Takeshi's
foreign bedstead, once the symbol of progress and of the _haikara_
spirit. The fire was supposed to have been accidental; but the ravages
had been carefully limited to the offending wing.
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, disgusted at this unsightly wreckage wished to
rebuild at once. But the old grandfather had objected that this spot
of misfortune was situated in the northeast corner of the mansion, a
quarter notoriously exposed to the attacks of _oni_ (evil spirits). He
was in favor of total demolishment.
This was only one of the differences of opinion between the two
seniors of the house of Fujinami, which became more frequent as the
clouds of disaster gathered over the home in Akasaka. A far more
thorny problem was the question of the succession.
With the living death of Takeshi, there was no male heir. Several
family councils were held in the presence of the two Mr. Fujinami
generally in the lower-house, at which six or seven members of the
collateral branches were also present. Grandfather Gennosuke, who
despised Takeshi as a waster, would not listen to any plea on behalf
of his children.
"To a bad father a bad child," he enunciated, his restless jaw
masticating more ferociously than ever.
He was strongly of opinion that it was the curse of Asako's father
which had brought this sorrow upon his family. Katsundo and Asako were
representatives of the elder branch. Himself, Gentaro and Takeshi
were mere usurpers. Restore the elder branch to its rights, and the
indignant ghost would cease to plague them all.
Such was the argument of grandfather Gennosuke.
Fujinami Gentaro naturally supported the claims of his own progeny. If
Takeshi's children must be disinherited because of the leprous strain,
then, at least, Sadako remained. She was a well-educated and serious
girl. She knew foreign languages. She could make a brilliant marriage.
Her husband would be adopted as heir. Perhaps the Governor of Osaka?
The other members of the council shook their heads, and breathed
deeply. Were there no Fujinami left of the collateral branches? Why
adopt a _tanin_ (outside person)? So spoke the M.P., the man with a
wen, who had an axe of his own to grind.
It was decided to choose the son-in-law candidate first of all; and,
afterwards, to decide which of the girls he was to marry. Perhaps it
would be as well to consult the fortune tellers. At any rate, a list
of suitable applicants would be prepared for the next meeting.
"When men speak of the future," said grandfather Gennosuke, "the rats
in the ceiling laugh."
So the conference broke up.
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro had no sooner returned to the academic calm of
his chaste reading room, than Mr. Ito appeared on the threshold.
The oily face was more moist than usual, the buffalo-horn moustache
more truculent; and though the autumn day was cool, Ito was agitating
a fan. He was evidently nervous. Before approaching the sanctum, he
had blown his nose into a small square piece of soft paper, which is
the Japanese apology for a handkerchief. He had looked around for
some place where to cast the offence; but finding none along the trim
garden border, he had slipped it into his wide kimono sleeve.
Mr. Fujinami frowned. He was tired of business matters, and the worry
of other people's affairs. He longed for peace.
"Indeed, the weather becomes perceptibly cooler," said Mr. Ito, with a
"If there is business," his patron replied crisply, "please step up
into the room."
Mr. Ito slipped off his _geta_, and ascended from the garden path.
When he had settled himself in the correct attitude with legs
crossed and folded, Mr. Fujinami pushed over towards him a packet of
"Please, without embarrassment, speak quickly what you have to say."
Mr. Ito chose a cigarette, and slowly pinched together the cardboard
holder, which formed its lower half.
"Indeed, _sensei_, it is a difficult matter," he began. "It is a
matter which should be handled by an intermediary. If I speak face to
face like a foreigner the master will excuse my rudeness."
"Please, speak clearly."
"I owe my advancement in life entirely to the master. I was the son
of poor parents. I was an emigrant and a vagabond over three thousand
worlds. The master gave me a home and lucrative employment. I have
served the master for many years; with my poor effort the fortunes of
the family have perhaps increased. I have become as it were a _son_ to
He paused at the word "son." His employer had caught his meaning, and
was frowning more than ever. At last he answered:
"To expect too much is a dangerous thing. To choose a _yoshi_ (adopted
son) is a difficult question. I myself cannot decide such grave
matters. There must be consultation with the rest of the Fujinami
family. You yourself have suggested that Governor Sugiwara might
perhaps be a suitable person."
"At that time the talk was of Sada San; this time the talk is of Asa
A flash of inspiration struck Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, and a gush of
relief. By giving her to Ito, he might be able to side-track Asako,
and leave the highway to inheritance free for his own daughter. But
Ito had grown too powerful to be altogether trusted.
"It must be clearly understood," said the master, "that it is the
husband of our Sada who will be the Fujinami _yoshi_."
"Thanks to the master," he said, "there is money in plenty. There is
no desire to speak of such matters. The request is for Asa San only.
Truly, the heart is speaking. That girl is a beautiful child, and
altogether a _haikara_ person. My wife is old and barren and of low
class. I wish to have a wife who is worthy of my position in the house
of Fujinami San."
The head of the family cackled with sudden laughter; he was much
"Ha! Ha! Ito Kun! So it is love, is it? You are in love like a school
student. Well, indeed, love is a good thing. What you have said shall
be well considered."
So the lawyer was dismissed.
Accordingly, at the next family council Mr. Fujinami put forward
the proposal that Asako should be married forthwith to the family
factotum, who should be given a lump sum down in consideration for a
surrender of all further claim in his own name or his wife's to any
share in the family capital.
"Ito Kun," he concluded, "is the brain of our business. He is the
family _karo_ (prime minister). I think it would be well to give this
Asa to him."
To his surprise, the proposal met with unanimous opposition. The
rest of the family envied and disliked Ito, who was regarded as Mr.
Fujinami's pampered favourite.
Grandfather Gennosuke was especially indignant.
"What?" he exploded in one of those fits of rage common to old men in
Japan; "give the daughter of the elder branch to a butler, to a man
whose father ran between rickshaw shafts. If the spirit of Katsundo
has not heard this foolish talk it would be a good thing for us.
Already there is a bad _inge_. By doing such a thing it will become
worse and worse, until the whole house of Fujinami is ruined. This Ito
is a rascal, a thief, a good-for-nothing, a----"
The old gentleman collapsed.
Again the council separated, still undecided except for one thing that
the claim of Mr. Ito to the hand of Asako was quite inadmissible.
When the "family prime minister" next pressed his master on the
subject, Mr. Fujinami had to confess that the proposal had been
Then Ito unmasked his batteries, and his patron had to realize that
the servant was a servant no longer.
Ito said that it was necessary for him to have Asa San and that before
the end of the year. He was in love with this girl. Passion was an
"Two things have ever been the same
Since the Age of the Gods--
The flowing of water,
And the way of Love."
This old Japanese poem he quoted as his excuse for what would
otherwise be an inexcusable impertinence. The master was aware that
politics in Japan were in an unsettled state, and that the new Cabinet
was scarcely established; that a storm would overthrow it, and that
the Opposition were already looking about for a suitable scandal
to use for their revenge. He, Ito, held the evidence which they
desired--the full story of the Tobita concession, with the names and
details of the enormous bribes distributed by the Fujinami. If these
things were published, the Government would certainly fall; also the
Tobita concession would be lost and the whole of that great outlay;
also the Fujinami's leading political friends would be discredited
and ruined. There would be a big trial, and exposure, and outcry, and
judgment, and prison. The master must excuse his servant for speaking
so rudely to his benefactor. But in love there are no scruples; and he
must have Asa San. After all, after his long service, was his request
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro, thoroughly scared, protested that he himself was
in favour of the match. He begged for time so as to be able to convert
the other members of the family council.
"Perhaps," suggested Ito, "if Asa San were sent away from Akasaka,
perhaps if she were living alone, it would be more easy to manage.
What is absent is soon forgotten. Mr. Fujinami Gennosuke is a very old
gentleman; he would soon forget. Sada San could then take her proper
position as the only daughter of the Fujinami. Was there not a small
house by the river side at Mukojima, which had been rented for Asa
San? Perhaps she would like to live there--quite alone."
"Perhaps Ito Kun would visit her from time to time," said Mr.
Fujinami, pleased with the idea; "she will be so lonely; there is no
The one person who was never consulted, and who had not the remotest
notion of what was going on, was Asako herself.
* * * * *
Asako was most unhappy. The disappearance of Fujinami Takeshi
exasperated the competition between herself and her cousin. Just
as formerly all Sadako's intelligence and charm had been exerted
to attract her English relative to the house in Akasaka, so now she
applied all her force to drive her cousin out of the family circle.
For many weeks now Asako had been ignored; but after the return from
Ikegami a positive persecution commenced. Although the nights were
growing chilly, she was given no extra bedding. Her meals were no
longer served to her; she had to get what she could from the kitchen.
The servants, imitating their mistress's attitude were deliberately
disobliging and rude to the little foreigner.
Sadako and her mother would sneer at her awkwardness and at her
ignorance of Japanese customs. Her _obi_ was tied anyhow; for she had
no maid. Her hair was untidy; for she was not allowed a hairdresser.
They nicknamed her _rashamen_ (goat face), using an ugly slang word
for a foreigner's Japanese mistress; and they would pretend that she
smelt like a European.
"_Kusai! Kusai_! (Stink! Stink!)" they would say.
The war even was used to bait Asako. Every German success was greeted
with acclamation. The exploits of the _Emden_ were loudly praised; and
the tragedy of Coronel was gloated over with satisfaction.
"The Germans will win because they are brave," said Sadako.
"The English lose too many prisoners; Japanese soldiers are never
"When the Japanese general ordered the attack on Tsingtao, the English
regiment ran away!"
Cousin Sadako announced her intention of studying German.
"Nobody will speak English now," she said. "The English are disgraced.
They cannot fight."
"I wish Japan would make war on the English," Asako answered bitterly,
"you would get such a beating that you would never boast again. Look
at my husband," she added proudly; "he is so big and strong and brave.
He could pick up two or three Japanese generals like toys and knock
their heads together."
Even Mr. Fujinami Gentaro joined once or twice in these debates, and
"Twenty years ago Japan defeated China and took Korea. Ten years ago
we defeated Russia and took Manchuria. This year we defeat Germany and
take Tsingtao. In ten years we shall defeat America and take Hawaii
and the Philippines. In twenty years we shall defeat England and
take India and Australia. Then we Japanese shall be the most powerful
nation in the world. This is our divine mission."
It was characteristic of the loyalty of Asako's nature, that, although
very ignorant of the war, of its causes and its vicissitudes, yet
she remained fiercely true to England and the Allies, and could
never accept the Japanese detachment. Above all, the thought of her
husband's danger haunted her. Waking and sleeping she could see him,
sword in hand, leading his men to desperate hand-to-hand struggles,
like those portrayed in the crude Japanese chromographs, which Sadako
showed her to play upon her fears. Poor Asako! How she hated Japan
now! How she loathed the cramped, draughty, uncomfortable life! How
she feared the smiling faces and the watchful eyes, from which it
seemed she never could escape!
Christmas was at hand, the season of pretty presents and good things
to eat. Her last Christmas she had spent with Geoffrey on the Riviera.
Lady Everington had been there. They had watched the pigeon
shooting in the warm sunlight. They had gone to the opera in the
evening--_Madame Butterfly!_ Asako had imagined herself in the role of
the heroine, so gentle, so faithful, waiting and waiting in her little
wooden house for the big white husband--who never came. What was that?
She heard the guns of his ship saluting the harbour. He was coming
back to her at last--but not alone! A woman was with him, a white
Alone, in her bare room--her only companion a flaky yellow
chrysanthemum nodding in the draught--Asako sobbed and sobbed as
though her heart were breaking. Somebody tapped at the sliding
shutter. Asako could not answer. The _shoji_ was pushed open, and
Asako was glad to see him. Alone of the household Tanaka was still
deferential in his attitude towards his late mistress. He was always
ready to talk about the old times which gave her a bitter pleasure.
"If Ladyship is so sad," he began, as he had been coached in his part
beforehand by the Fujinami, "why Ladyship stay in this house? Change
house, change trouble, we say."
"But where can I go?" Asako asked helplessly.
"Ladyship has pretty house by river brink," suggested Tanaka.
"Ladyship can stay two month, three month. Then the springtime come
and Ladyship feel quite happy again. Even I, in the winter season, I
find the mind very distress. It is often so."
To be alone, to be free from the daily insults and cruelty; this in
itself would be happiness to Asako.
"But will Mr. Fujinami allow me to go?" she asked, timorously.
"Ladyship must be brave," said the counselor. "Ladyship is not
prisoner. Ladyship must say, I go. But perhaps I can arrange matter
"Oh, Tanaka, please, please do. I'm so unhappy here."
"I will hire cook and maid for Ladyship. I myself will be seneschal!"
Mr. Fujinami Gentaro and his family were delighted to hear that their
plan was working so smoothly, and that they could so easily get rid of
their embarrassing cousin. The "seneschal" was instructed at once
to see about arrangements for the house, which had not been lived in
since its new tenancy.
Next evening, when Asako had spread the two quilts on the golden
matting, when she had lit the rushlight in the square _andon_,
when the two girls were lying side by side under the heavy wadded
bedclothes, Sadako said to her cousin:
"Asa Chan, I do not think you like me now as much as you used to like
"I always like people when I have once liked them," said Asako; "but
everything is different now."
"I see, your heart changes quickly," said her cousin bitterly.
"No, I have tried to change, but I cannot change. I have tried to
become Japanese, but I cannot even learn the Japanese language. I do
not like the Japanese way of living. In France and in England I was
always happy. I don't think I shall ever be happy again."
"You ought to be more grateful," said Sadako severely. "We have saved
you from your husband, who was cruel and deceitful--"
"No, I don't believe that now. My husband and I loved each other
always. You people came between us with wicked lies and separated us."
"Anyhow, you have made the choice. You have chosen to be Japanese. You
can never be English again."
The Fujinami had hypnotized Asako with this phrase, as a hen can be
hypnotized with a chalk line. Day after day it was dinned into her
ears, cutting off all hope of escape from the country or of appeal to
her English friends.
"You had better marry a Japanese," said Sadako, "or you will become
old maid. Why not marry Ito San? He says he likes you. He is a clever
man. He has plenty of money. He is used to foreign ways."
"Marry Mr. Ito!" Asako exclaimed, aghast; "but he has a wife already."
"They will divorce. It is no trouble. There are not even children."
"I would rather die than marry any Japanese," said Asako with
Sadako Fujinami turned her back and pretended to sleep; but long
through the dark cold night Asako could feel her turning restlessly to
Some time about midnight Asako heard her name called:
"Asa Chan, are you awake?"
"Yes; is anything the matter?"
"Asa Chan, in your house by the river you will be lonely. You will not
"I am not afraid to be lonely," Asako answered; "I am afraid of
"Look!" said her cousin; "I give you this."
She drew from the bosom of her kimono the short sword in its sheath of
shagreen, which Asako had seen once or twice before.
"It is very old," she continued; "it belonged to my mother's people.
They were _samurai_ of the Sendai clan. In old Japan every noble
girl carried such a short sword; for she said, 'Better death than
dishonour.' When the time came to die she would strike--here, in the
throat, not too hard, but pushing strongly. But first she would tie
her feet together with the _obidome_, the silk string which you have
to hold your _obi_ straight. That was in case the legs open too
much; she must not die in immodest attitude. So when General Nogi did
_harakiri_ at Emperor Meiji's funeral, his wife, Countess Nogi, killed
herself also with such a sword. I give you my sword because in the
house by the river you will be lonely--and things might happen. I can
never use the sword myself now. It was the sword of my ancestors. I am
not pure now. I cannot use the sword. If I kill myself I throw myself
into the river like a common _geisha_. I think it is best you marry
Ito. In Japan it is bad to have a husband; but to have no husband, it
ALONE IN TOKYO
Kuraki michi ni zo
Haruka ni terase
Yuma no ha no tsuki!_
Out of the dark
Into a dark path
I now must enter:
Shine (on me) from afar,
Moon of the mountain fringe!
Some days before Christmas Asako had moved into her own little home.
To be free, to have escaped from the watchful eyes and the whispering
tongues to be at liberty to walk about the streets and to visit the
shops, as an independent lady of Japan--these were such unfamiliar
joys to her that for a time she forgot how unhappy she really was, and
how she longed for Geoffrey's company as of old. Only in the evenings
a sense of insecurity rose with the river mists, and a memory of
Sadako's warning shivered through the lonely room with the bitter cold
of the winter air. It was then that Asako felt for the little dagger
resting hidden in her bosom just as Sadako had shown her how to
wear it. It was then that she did not like to be alone, and that she
summoned Tanaka to keep her company and to while away the time with
his quaint loquacity.
Considering that he had been largely instrumental in breaking up her
happy life, considering that every day he stole from her and lied to
her, it was wonderful that his mistress was still so attached to him,
that, in fact, she regarded him as her only friend. He was like a
bad habit or an old disease, which we almost come to cherish since we
cannot be delivered from it.
But, when Tanaka protested his devotion, did he mean what he said?
There is a bedrock of loyalty in the Japanese nature. Half-way down
the road to shame, it will halt of a sudden, and bungle back its way
to honour. Then there is the love of the _beau geste_ which is an even
stronger motive very often than the love of right-doing for its own
sake. The favorite character of the Japanese drama is the _otokodate_,
the chivalrous champion of the common people who rescues beauty in
distress from the lawless, bullying, two-sworded men. It tickled
Tanaka's remarkable vanity to regard himself as the protector of this
lonely and unfortunate lady. It might be said of him as of Lancelot,
"His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true."
Asako was glad on the whole that she had no visitors. The Fujinami
were busy with their New Year preparations. Christmas Day passed by,
unheeded by the Japanese, though the personality and appearance of
Santa Claus are not unknown to them. He stands in the big shop windows
in Tokyo as in London, with his red cloak, his long white beard
and his sack full of toys. Sometimes he is to be seen chatting with
Buddhist deities, with the hammer-bearing Daikoku, with Ebisu the
fisherman, with fat naked Hotei, and with Benten, the fair but frail.
In fact, with the American Billiken, Santa Claus may be considered as
the latest addition to the tolerant theocracy of Japan.
Asako attended High Mass at the Catholic Cathedral in Tsukiji, the old
foreign settlement. The music was crude; and there was a long sermon
in Japanese. The magnificent bearded bishop, who officiated, was
flanked by two native priests. But the familiar sounds and movements
of the office soothed her, and the fragrance of the incense. The
centre of the aisle was covered with straw mats where the Japanese
congregation was squatting. Chairs for the foreigners were placed in
the side aisles These were mostly members of the various Embassy
and Legation staffs. For a moment Asako feared recognition. Then she
remembered how entirely Japanese she had become--in appearance.
Mr. Ito called during the afternoon to wish a Merry Christmas. Asako
regaled him with thin green tea and little square cakes of ground
rice, filled with a kind of bean paste called "_an_." She kept Tanaka
in the room all the time; for Sadako's remarks about marriage with Ito
had alarmed her. He was most agreeable, however, and most courteous.
He amused Asako with stories of his experiences abroad. He admired the
pretty little house and its position on the river bank; and, when he
bowed his thanks for Asako's hospitality, he expressed a wish that he
might come again many times in future.
"I am afraid of him," Asako had confided to Tanaka, when the guest had
departed, "because Sada San said that he wants to divorce his wife and
marry me. You are to stop here with me in the room whenever he comes.
Do not leave me alone, please."
"Ladyship is _daimyo_," the round face answered; "Tanaka is faithful
_samurai_. Tanaka gives life for Ladyship!"
* * * * *
It was the week before New Year. All along the Ginza, which is the
main thoroughfare of Tokyo, along the avenue of slender willow trees
which do their gallant utmost to break the monotony of the wide
ramshackle street, were spread every evening the stock-in-trade of the
_yomise_, the night shops, which cater their most diverse wares for
the aimless multitudes sauntering up and down the sidewalks. There are
quack medicines and stylograph pens, clean wooden altar cabinets for
the kitchen gods, and images of Daikoku and Ebisu; there are cheap
underclothing and old hats, food of various kinds, boots and books and
toys. But most fascinating of all are the antiquities. Strewn over a
square six feet of ground are curios, most attractive to the unwary,
especially by the deceptive light of kerosene lamps. One in a thousand
perhaps may be a piece of real value; but almost every object has a
character and a charm of its own. There are old gold screens, lacquer
tables and cabinets, bronze vases, gilded Buddhas, fans, woodcuts,
porcelains, _kakemono_ (hanging pictures), _makimono_ (illustrated
scrolls), _inro_ (lacquer medicine boxes for the pocket), _netsuke_
(ivory or bone buttons, through which the cords of the tobacco pouch
are slung), _tsuba_ (sword hilts of iron ornamented with delightful
landscapes of gold and silver inlay). The Ginza at night-time is a
paradise for the minor collector.
"_Kore wa ikura_? (How much is this?)" asked Asako, picking up a tiny
silver box, which could slip into a waistcoat pocket. Inside were
enshrined three gentle Buddhas of old creamy ivory, perfectly carved
to the minutest petal of the full-blown lotus upon which each reposed.
"Indeed, it is the end of the year. We must sell all things cheaply,"
answered the merchant. "It is asked sixty _yen_ for true ancient
"Such a thing is not said," replied Asako, her Japanese becoming quite
fluent with the return of her light-heartedness. "Perhaps a joke is
being made. It would be possible to give ten _yen_."
The old curio vender, with the face and spare figure of Julius Caesar,
turned aside from such idle talk with a shrug of hopelessness. He
affected to be more interested in lighting his slender pipe over the
chimney of the lamp which hung suspended over his wares.
"Ten _yen_! Please see!" said Asako, showing a banknote. The merchant
shook his head and puffed. Asako turned away into the stream of
passers-by. She had not gone, ten yards, however, before she felt a
touch on her kimono sleeve. It was Julius Caesar with his curio.
"Indeed, _okusan_, there must be reduction. Thirty _yen_; take it,
He pressed the little box into Asako's hand.
"Twenty _yen_," she bargained, holding out two notes.
"It is loss! It is loss!" he murmured; but he shuffled back to his
stall again, very well content.
"I shall send it to Geoffrey," thought Asako; "it will bring him good
luck. Perhaps he will write to me and thank me. Then I can write to
The New Year is the greatest of Japanese festivals. Japanese of the
middle and lower classes live all the year round in a thickening web
of debt. But during the last days of the year these complications are
supposed to be unraveled and the defaulting debtor must sell some of
his family goods, and start the New Year with a clean slate. These
operations swell the stock-in-trade of the _yomise_.
On New Year's Day the wife prepares the _mochi_ cakes of ground rice,
which are the specialities of the season; and the husband sees to the
erection of his door posts of the two _kadomatsu_ (corner pine trees),
little Christmas trees planted in a coil of rope. Then, attired in his
frock-coat and top hat, if he be a _haikara_ gentleman, or in his best
kimono and _haori_, if he be an old-fashioned Japanese, he goes round
in a rickshaw to pay his complimentary calls, and to exchange _o
medet[=o]_ (respectfully lucky!), the New Year wish. He has presents
for his important patrons, and cards for his less influential
acquaintances. For, as the Japanese proverb says, "Gifts preserve
friendship." At each house, which he visits, he sips a cup of _sake_,
so that his return home is often due to the rickshaw man's assistance,
rather than to his own powers of self-direction. In fact, as Asako's
maid confided to her mistress, "Japanese wife very happy when New Year
time all finish."
* * * * *
On the night following New Year, snow fell. It continued to fall
all the next morning until Asako's little garden was as white as a
bride-cake. The irregularities of her river-side lawn were smoothed
out under the white carpet. The straw coverings, which a gardener's
foresight had wrapped round the azalea shrubs and the dwarf conifers,
were enfolded in a thick white shroud. Like tufts of foam on a wave,
the snow was tossed on the plumes of the bamboo clump, which hid the
neighbour's dwelling, and made a bird's nest of Asako's tiny domain.
Beyond the brown sluggish river, the roofs and pinnacles of Asakusa
were more fairy-like than a theatre scene. Asako was thinking of that
first snow-white day, which introduced Geoffrey and her to the Embassy
and to Yae Smith.
She shivered. Darkness was falling. A Japanese house is a frail
protection in winter time; and a charcoal fire in a wooden box is poor
company. The maid came in to close the shutters for the night. Where
was Tanaka? He had gone out to a New Year party with relatives. Asako
felt her loneliness all of a sudden; and she was grateful for the
moral comfort of cousin Sadako's sword. She drew it from its sheath
and examined the blade, and the fine work on the hilt, with care and
alarm, like a man fingering a serpent.
No sooner was the house silenced than the wind arose. It smote the
wooden framework with an unexpected buffet almost like an earthquake.
The bamboo grove began to rattle like bones; and the snow slid and
fell from the roof in dull thuds.
There was a sharp rap at the front door. Asako started and thrust the
dagger into the breast of her kimono. She had been lying full length
on a long deckchair. Now she put her feet to the ground. O Hana,
the maid, came in and announced that Ito San had called. Asako,
half-pleased and half-apprehensive, gave instructions for him to be
shown in. She heard a stumbling on the steps of her house; then Ito
lurched into the room. His face was very red, and his voice thick. He
had been paying many New Year calls.
"Happy New Year, Asa San, Happy New Year!" he hiccoughed, grasping her
hand and working it up and down like a pump-handle. "New Year in Japan
very lucky time. All Japanese people say New Year time very lucky.
This New Year very lucky for Ito. No more dirty business, no more
Yoshiwara, no more pimp. I am millionaire, madame. I have made one
hundred thousand pounds, five hundred thousand dollars gold. I now
become _giin giin_ (Member of Parliament). I become great party
organizer, great party boss, then _daijin_ (Minister of State), then
_taishi_ (Ambassador), then _soridaijin_ (Prime Minister). I shall
be greatest man in Japan. Japan greatest country in the world. Ito
greatest man in the world. And I marry Asa San to-morrow, next day,
Ito was sprawling in the deck chair, which divided the little
sitting-room into two parts and cut off Asako's retreat. She was
trembling on a bamboo stool near the shuttered window. She was
terribly frightened. Why did not Tanaka come?
"Speak to me, Asa San," shouted the visitor; "say to me very glad,
very, very glad, will be very nice wife of Ito. Fujinami give you to
me. I have all Fujinami's secrets in my safe box. Ito greatest man in
Japan. Fujinami very fear of me. He give me anything I want. I say,
give me Asa San. Very, very love."
Asako remaining without speech, the Japanese frowned at her.
"Why so silence, little girl? Say, I love you, I love you like all
foreign girls say. I am husband now. I never go away from this house
until you kiss me. You understand?"
"Mr. Ito, it is very late. Please, come some other day. I must go to
"Very good, very good. I come to bed with you," said Ito, rolling out
of his chair and putting one heavy leg to the ground. He was earing a
kimono none too well adjusted, and Asako could see his hairy limb high
up the thigh. Her face must have reflected her displeasure.
"What?" the Japanese shouted; "you don't like me. Too very proud! No
dirty Jap, no yellow man, what? So you think, Madame Lord Princess
Barrington. In the East, it may be, ugly foreign women despise Japs.
But New York, London, Paris--very different, ha! ha! New York girl
say, Hello, Jap! come here! London girl say, Jap man very nice, very
sweet manner, very soft eyes. When I was in London I have five or six
girls, English girls, white girls, very beauty girls, all together,
all very love! London time was great fine time!"
Asako felt helpless. Her hand was on the hilt of her dagger, but she
still hoped that Ito might come to his senses and go away.
"There!" he cried, "I know foreign custom. I know everything.
Mistletoe! Mistletoe! A kiss for the mistletoe, Asa San!"
He staggered out of his chair and came towards her, like a great black
bird. She dodged him, and tried to escape round the deck chair. But he
caught hold of her kimono. She drew her sword.
"Help! Help!" she cried. "Tanaka!"
Something wrenched at her wrist, and the blade fell. At the same
moment the inner _shoji_ flew open like the shutter of a camera.
Tanaka rushed into the room.
Asako did not turn to look again until she was outside the room with
her maid and her cook trembling beside her. Then she saw Tanaka and
Ito locked in a wrestler's embrace, puffing and grunting at each
other, while their feet were fumbling for the sword which lay between
them. Suddenly both figures relaxed. Two foreheads came together with
a wooden concussion. Hands were groping where the feet had been. One
set of fingers, hovering over the sword, grasped the hilt. It was
Tanaka; but his foot slipped. He tottered and fell backward. Ito was
on the top of him. Asako closed her eyes. She heard a hoarse roar like
a lion. When she dared to look again, she saw Tanaka kneeling over
Ito's body. With a wrench he pulled Sadako's dagger out of the
prostrate mass. It was followed by a jet of blood, and then by a
steady trickle from body, mouth and nostrils, which spread over the
matting. Slowly and deliberately, Tanaka wiped first the knife and
then his hands on the clothes of his victim. Then he felt his mouth
"_Sa! Shimatta_! (There, finished!)" he said. He turned towards the
garden side, threw open the _shoji_ and the _amado_. He ran across
the snow-covered lawn; and from beyond the unearthly silence which
followed his departure, come the distant sound of a splash in the
At last, Asako said helplessly: "Is he dead?"
The cook, a man, was glad of the opportunity to escape.
"I go and call doctor," he said.
"No, stay with me," said Asako; "I am afraid. O Hana can go for the
Asako and the cook waited by the open _shoji_, staring blankly at
the body of Ito. Presently the cook said that he must go and get
something. He did not return. Asako called to him to come. There was
no answer. She went to look for him in his little three-mat room
near the kitchen. It was empty. He had packed his few chattels in his
wicker basket and had decamped.
Asako resumed her watch at the sitting-room door, an unwilling Rizpah.
It was as though she feared that, if she left her post, somebody might
come in and steal Ito. But she could have hardly approached the corpse
even under compulsion. Sometimes it seemed to move, to try to rise;
but it was stuck fast to the matting by the resinous flow of purple
blood. Sometimes it seemed to speak:
"Mistletoe! Mistletoe! Kiss me, Asa San!"
Gusts of cold wind came in from the open windows, touching the dead
man curiously, turning over his kimono sleeves. Outside, the bamboo
grove was rattling like bones; and the caked snow fell from the roof
in heavy thuds.
* * * * *
O Hana returned with a doctor and a policeman. The doctor loosened
Ito's kimono, and at once shook his head.
The policeman wore a blue uniform and cape; and a sword dragged at his
side. He had produced a notebook and a pencil from a breast pocket.
"What is your name?" he asked Asako; "what is your age? your father's
and mother's name? What is your address? Are you married? Where is
your husband? How long have you known this man? Were you on familiar
terms? Did you kill him? How did you kill him? Why did you kill him?"
The questions buzzed round Asako's head like a swarm of hornets. It
had never occurred to the unfortunate girl that any suspicion could
fall upon her. Three more policemen had arrived.
"Every one in this house is arrested," announced the first policeman.
"Put out your hands," he ordered Asako. Rusty handcuffs were slipped
over her delicate wrists. One of the policemen had produced a coil
of rope, which he proceeded to tie round her waist and then round the
waist of O Hana.
"But what have I done?" asked Asako plaintively.
The policeman took no notice. She could hear two of them upstairs
in her bedroom, talking and laughing, knocking open her boxes and
throwing things about.
Asako and her maid were led out of the house like two performing
animals. It was bitterly cold, and Asako had no cloak. The road was
already full of loafers. They stared angrily at Asako. Some laughed.
Some pulled at her kimono as she passed. She heard one say:
"It is a _geisha_; she has murdered her sweetheart."
At the police station, Asako had to undergo the same confusing
interrogatory before the chief inspector.
"What is your name? What is your age? Where do you live? What are your
father's and mother's names?"
"Lies are no good," said the inspector, a burly unshaven man; "confess
that you have killed this man."
"But I did not kill him," protested Asako.
"Who killed him then? You must know that," said the inspector
"It was Tanaka," said Asako.
"Who is this Tanaka?" the inspector asked the policeman.
"I do not know; perhaps it is lies," he answered sulkily.
"But it is not lies," expostulated Asako, "he ran away through the
window. You can see his footmarks in the snow."
"Did you see the marks?" the policeman was asked.
"No; perhaps there were no marks."
"Did you look?"
"I did not look actually, but--"
"You're a fool!" said the inspector.
The weary questioning continued for quite two hours, until Asako had
told her story of the murder at least three times. The unfamiliar
language confused her, and the reiterated refrain:
"You, now confess; you killed the man!"
Asako was chilled to the bone. Her head was aching; her eyes were
aching; her legs were aching with the ordeal of standing. She felt
that they must soon give way altogether.
At last, the inspector closed his _questionnaire_.
"_Sa_!" he ejaculated, "it is past midnight. Even I must sleep
sometimes. Take her away to the court, and lock her in the 'sty,'
To-morrow the procurator will examine at nine o'clock. She is
pretending to be silly and not understanding; so she is probably
Again the handcuffs and the degrading rope were fastened upon her. She
felt that she had already been condemned.
"May I send word to my friends?" she asked. Surely even the Fujinami
would not abandon her to her fate.
"No. The procurator's examination has not yet taken place. After that,
sometimes permission can be granted. That is the law."
She was left waiting in a stone-flagged guard-room, where eight or
nine policemen stared at her impertinently.
"A pretty face, eh?" they said, "it looks like a _geisha_! Who is
taking her to the court? It is Ishibashi. Oh, so! He is always the
A rough fellow thrust his hand up her kimono sleeve, and caught hold
of her bare arm near the shoulder.
"Here, Ishibashi," he cried; "you have caught a fine bird this time."
The policeman Ishibashi picked up the loose end of the rope, and drove
Asako before him into a closed van, which was soon rumbling along the
She was made to alight at a tall stone building, where they passed
down several echoing corridors, until, at the end of a little passage
a warder pushed open a door. This was the "sty," where prisoners are
kept pending examination in the procurator's court. The floor and
walls were of stone. It was bitterly cold. There was no window, no
light, no firebox, and no chair. Alone, in the petrifying darkness,
her teeth chattering, her limbs trembling, poor Asako huddled her
misery into a corner of the dirty cell, to await the further tender
mercies of the Japanese criminal code. She could hear the scuttering
of rats. Had she been ten times guilty, she felt that she could not
have suffered more!
* * * * *
Daylight began to show under the crack of the door. Later on a warder
came and beckoned to Asako to follow him. She had not touched food for
twenty hours, but nothing was offered to her. She was led into a
room with benches like a schoolroom. At the master's desk sat a small
spotted man with a cloak like a scholar's gown, and a black cap with
ribbons like a Highlander's bonnet. This was the procurator. At his
side, sat his clerk, similarly but less sprucely garbed.
Asako, utterly weary, was preparing to sit down on one of the benches.
The warder pulled her up by the nape of her kimono. She had to stand
during her examination.
"What is your name? What is your age? What are your father's and
The monotonous questions were repeated all over again; and then,--
"To confess were better. When you confess, we shall let you go. If you
do not confess, we keep you here for days and days."
"I am feeling sick," pleaded Asako; "may I eat something?"
The warder brought a cup of tea and some salt biscuit.
"Now, confess," bullied the procurator; "if you do not confess, you
will get no more to eat."
Asako told her story of the murder. She then told it again. Her
Japanese words were slipping from the clutch of her worn brain. She
was saying things she did not mean. How could she defend herself in a
language which was strange to her mind? How could she make this judge,
who seemed so pitiless and so hostile to her, understand and believe
her broken sentences? She was beating with a paper sword against an
An interpreter was sent for; and the questions were all repeated in
English. The procurator was annoyed at Asako's refusal to speak in
Japanese. He thought that it was obstinacy, or that she was trying to
fool him. He seemed quite convinced that she was guilty.
"I can't answer any more questions. I really can't. I am sick," said
Asako, in tears.
"Take her back to the 'sty,' while we have lunch," ordered the
procurator. "I think this afternoon she will confess."
Asako was taken away, and thrust into the horrible cell again.
She collapsed on the hard floor in a state which was partly a
fainting-fit, and partly the sleep of exhaustion. Dreams and images
swept over her brain like low-flying clouds. It seemed to her
distracted fancy that only one person could save her--Geoffrey, her
husband! He must be coming soon. She thought that she could hear his
step in the corridor.
"Geoffrey! Geoffrey!" she cried.
It was the warder. He stirred her with his foot. She was hauled back
to the procurator's court.
"So! Have you considered well?" said the little spotted man. "Will you
"How can I confess what I have not done?" protested Asako.
The remorseless inquisition proceeded. Asako's replies became more and
more confused. The procurator frowned at her contradictions. She must
assuredly be guilty.
"How many times do you say that you have met this Ito?" he asked.
Asako was at the end of her strength. She reeled and would have
fallen; but the warder jerked her straight again.
"Confess, then," shouted the procurator, "confess and you will be
"I will confess," Asako gasped, "anything you like."
"Confess that you killed this Ito!"
"Yes, I confess."
"Then, sign the confession."