Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Al Haines
The Lady and Sada San
A Sequel to
The Lady of the Decoration
The Century Co.
Copyright, 1912, by
THE CENTURY CO.
Published, October, 1912
ELLEN CHURCHILL SEMPLE
MY FELLOW WANDERERS THROUGH THE ORIENT
The Lady and Sada San
ON THE HIGH SEAS. June, 1911.
You once told me, before you went to Italy, that after having been
my intimate relative all these years, you had drawn a red line
through the word surprise. Restore the abused thing to its own at
once. You will need it when the end of this letter is reached. I
have left Kentucky after nine years of stay-at-home happiness, and
once again I am on my way to Japan--this time in wifely
disobedience to Jack's wishes.
What do you think that same Jack has "gone and done"! Of course he
is right. That is the provoking part of Jack; it always turns out
that he is in the right. Two months ago he went to some place in
China which, from its ungodly name, should be in the furthermost
parts of a wilderness. Perhaps you have snatched enough time from
guarding the kiddies from a premature end in Como to read a
headline or so in the home papers. If by some wonderful chance,
between baby prattle, bumps and measles, they have given you a
moment's respite, then you know that the Government has grown
decidedly restless for fear the energetic and enterprising bubonic
or pneumonic germ might take passage on some of the ships from the
Orient. So it is fortifying against invasion. The Government,
knowing Jack's indomitable determination to learn everything
knowable about the private life and character of a given germ,
asked him to join several other men it is sending out to get
information, provided of course the germ doesn't get them first.
Jack read me the official-looking document one night between puffs
of his after-dinner pipe.
Another surprise awaits you. For once in my life I had nothing to
say. Possibly it is just as well for the good of the cause that
the honorable writer of the letter could not see how my thoughts
I glanced about our little den, aglow with soft lights; everything
in it seemed to smile. Well, as you know it, Mate, I do not
believe even you realize the blissfulness of the hours of quiet
comradeship we have spent there. With the great know-it-all old
world shut out, for joyful years we have dwelt together in a
home-made paradise. And yet it seemed just then as if I were
dwelling in a home-made Other Place.
The difference in the speed of time depends on whether love is your
guest or not.
The thought of the briefest interruption to my content made me feel
like cold storage. A break in happiness is sometimes hard to mend.
The blossom does not return to the tree after the storm, no matter
how beautiful the sunshine; and the awful fear of the faintest echo
of past sorrow made my heart as numb as a snowball. To the old
terror of loneliness was added fear for Jack's safety. But I did
not do what you naturally would prophesy. After seeing the look on
Jack's face I changed my mind, and my protest was the silent kind
that says so much. It was lost! Already Jack had gone into one of
his trances, as he does whenever there is a possibility of bearding
a brand-new microbe in its den, whether it is in his own country or
one beyond the seas. In body he was in a padded chair with all the
comforts of home and a charming wife within speaking distance. In
spirit he was in dust-laden China, joyfully following the trail of
the wandering germ. Later on, when Jack came to, we talked it
over. I truly remembered your warnings on the danger of
impetuosity; for I choked off every hasty word and gave my consent
for Jack to go. Then I cried half the night because I had.
We both know that long ago Jack headed for the topmost rung of a
very tall scientific ladder. Sometimes my enthusiasm as chief
booster and encourager has failed, as when it meant absence and
risk. Though I have known women who specialized in renunciation,
till they were the only happy people in the neighborhood, its
charms have never lured me into any violent sacrifice. Here was my
chance and I firmly refused to be the millstone to ornament Jack's
You might know, Mate? I was hoping all the time that he would find
it quite impossible to leave such a nice biddable wife at home.
But I learn something new about Jack every day. After rather
heated discussion it was decided that I should stay in the little
home. That is, the heat and the discussion was all on my side.
The decision lay in the set of Jack's mouth, despite the tenderness
in his eyes. He thought the risks of the journey too great for me;
the hardships of the rough life too much. Dear me! Will men never
learn that hardship and risk are double cousins to loneliness, and
not even related to love by marriage?
But just as well paint on water as to argue with a scientist when
he has reached a conclusion.
Besides, said Jack, the fatherly Government has no intention that
petticoats, even hobbled ones, should be flitting around while the
habits and the methods of the busy insect were being examined
through a microscope or a telescope. The choice of instrument
depending, of course, upon the activity of the bug.
Black Charity was to be my chief-of-police and
comforter-in-general. Parties--house, card and otherwise--were to
be my diversion, and I was to make any little trips I cared for.
Well, that 's just what I am doing. Of course, there might be a
difference of opinion as to whether a journey from Kentucky to
Japan is a _little_ trip.
I am held by a vague uneasiness today. Possibly it 's because I am
not certain as to Jack's attitude, when he learns through my
letter, which is sailing along with me, that I am going to Japan to
be as near him as possible. I hope he will appreciate my
thoughtfulness in saving him all the bother of saying no. Or it
might be that my slightly dampened spirits come from the discussion
I am still having with myself whether it 's the part of a dutiful
wife to present herself a wiggling sacrifice to science, or whether
science should attend to its own business and lead not into
temptation the scientifically inclined heads of peaceful households.
You 'll say the decision of what was best lay with Jack. Honey,
there 's the error of your mortal mind! In a question like that my
spouse is as one-sided as a Civil War veteran. Say germ-hunt to
Jack and it 's like dangling a gaudy fly before a hungry carp.
I saw Jack off at the station, and went hack to the little house.
Charity had sent the cook home and with her own hands served all
the beloved dainties of my long-ago childhood, trying to coax me
into forgetfulness. As you remember, Mate, dinner has always been
the happiest hour of the day in our small domain. Now? Well,
everything was just the same. The only difference was Jack. And
the half circle of bare tablecloth opposite me was about as
cheerful as a snowy afternoon at the North Pole. I wandered around
the house for awhile, but every time I turned a corner there was a
memory waiting to greet me. Now the merriest of them seemed to be
covered with a chilly shadow, and every one was pale and ghostly.
All night I lay awake, playing at the old game of mental solitaire
and keeping tryst with the wind which seemed to tap with unseen
fingers at my window and sigh,
"Then let come what come may
. . . . . .
I shall have had my day."
Is it possible, Mate, that my glorious day, which I thought had
barely tipped the hour of noon, is already lengthening into the
still shadows of evening?
It was foolish but, for the small comfort I got out of it, I turned
on the light and looked inside my wedding-ring. Time has worn it a
bit but the letters which spell "My Lady of the Decoration,"
spelled again the old-time thrill into my heart.
What 's the use of tying your heartstrings around a man, and then
have ambition slip the knot and leave you all a-quiver?
Far be it from me to stand in Jack's way if germ-stalking is
necessary to his success. Just the same, I could have spent
profitable moments reading the burial service over every microbe,
home-grown and foreign.
Really, Mate, I 've conscientiously tried every plan Jack proposed
and a few of my own. It was no use. That day-after-Christmas
feeling promptly suppressed any effort towards contentment.
At first there was a certain exhilaration in catching pace with the
gay whirl which for so long had been passed by for homier things.
You will remember there was a time when the pace of that same whirl
was never swift enough for me; but my taste for it now was gone,
and it was like trying to do a two-step to a funeral march. For
once in my life I knew the real meaning of that poor old
worn-to-a-frazzle call of the East, for now the' dominant note was
the call of love.
I heard it above the clink of the teacups. It was in the swish of
every silk petticoat. If I went to the theater, church or concert,
the call of that germ-ridden spot of the unholy name beat into my
brain with the persistency of a tom-tom on a Chinese holiday.
Say what you will, Mate, it once took all my courage to leave those
I loved best and go to far-away Japan. Now it required more than I
could dig up to _stay_--with the best on the other side of the
The struggle was easy and swift. The tom-tom won and I am on my
way to be next-door neighbor to Jack. Those whom it concerned here
were away from home, so I told no one good-by, thus saving
everybody so much wasted advice. If there were a tax on advice the
necessities of life would not come so high. Charity followed me to
the train, protesting to the last that "Marse Jack gwine doubt her
velocity when she tell him de truf bout her lady going a-gaddin'
off by herse'f and payin' no mind to her ole mammy's
prosterations." I asked her to come with me as maid. She refused;
said her church was to have an ice-cream sociable and she had "to
fry de fish." This letter will find you joyfully busy with the
babies and the "only man." Blest woman that you are.
But I know you. I have a feeling that you have a few remarks to
make. So hurry up. Let us get it off our minds. Then I can
better tell you what I am doing. Something is going to happen. It
usually does when I am around. I have been asked to chaperone a
young girl whose face and name spell romance. If I were seeking
occupation here is the opportunity knocking my door into splinters.
STILL AT SEA. June, 1911.
Any time you are out of a job and want to overwork all your
faculties and a few emotions, try chaperoning a young room-mate
answering to the name of Sada San, who is one-half American dash,
and the other half the unnamable witchery of a Japanese woman; a
girl with the notes of a lark in her voice when she sings to the
soft twang of an old guitar.
If, too, you are seeking to study psychological effect of such a
combination on people, good, middlin' and otherwise, I would
suggest a Pacific liner as offering fifty-seven varieties, and then
The last twinge of conscience I had over coming, died a cheerful
death. I 'd do it again. For not only is romance surcharging the
air, but fate gives promise of weaving an intricate pattern in the
story of this maid whose life is just fairly begun and whom the
luck of the road has given me as traveling mate. Now, remembering
a few biffs fate has given me, I have no burning desire to meddle
with her business. Neither am I hungering for responsibility. But
what are you going to say to yourself, when a young girl with a
look in her eyes you would wish your daughter to have,
unhesitatingly gives you a letter addressed at large to some
"Christian Sister"! You read it to find it's from her home pastor,
requesting just a little companionship for "a tender young soul who
is trying her wings for the first time in the big and beautiful
world"! I have a very private opinion about reading my title clear
to the Christian Sister business, but no woman with a heart as big
as a pinch of snuff could resist giving her very best and much more
to the slip of a winsome maid, who confidingly asks it--especially
if the sister has any knowledge of the shadows lurking in the
Mate, these steamers as they sail from shore to shore are like
giant theaters. Every trip is an impromptu drama where comedy,
farce, and often startling tragedy offer large speaking parts. The
revelation of human nature in the original package is funny and
pathetic. Amusement is always on tap and life stories are just
hanging out of the port-hole waiting to attack your sympathy or
tickle your funny bone. But you 'd have to travel far to find the
beginning of a story so heaped up with romantic interest as that of
Sada San as she told it to me, one long, lazy afternoon as I lay on
the couch in my cabin, thanking my stars I was getting the best of
the bare tablecloth and the empty house at home.
Some twenty years ago Sada's father, an American, grew tired of the
slow life in a slow town and lent ear to the fairy stories told of
the Far East, where fortunes were made by looking wise for a few
moments every morning and devoting the rest of the day to samisens
and flutes. He found the glorious country of Japan. The beguiling
tea-houses, and softly swinging sampans were all too distracting.
They sang ambition to sleep and the fortune escaped.
He drifted, and at last sought a mean existence as teacher of
English in a school of a remote seaside village. His spirit broke
when the message came of the death of the girl in America who was
waiting for him. Isolation from his kind and bitter hours left for
thought made life alone too ghastly. He tried to make it more
endurable by taking the pretty daughter of the head man of the
village as his wife.
My temperature took a tumble when I saw proofs of a hard and fast
marriage ceremony, signed and counter-signed by a missionary
brother who meant business.
You say it is a sordid tale? Mate, I know a certain spot in this
Land of Blossoms, where only foreigners are laid to rest, which
bears testimony to a hundred of its kind--strange and pitiful
destinies begun with high and brilliant hopes in their native land;
and when illusions have faded, the end has borne the stamp of
tragedy, because suicide proved the open door out of a life of
failure and exile.
Sada's father was saved suicide and long unhappiness by a timely
tidal-wave, which swept the village nearly bare, and carried the
man and his wife out to sea and to eternity.
The child was found by Susan West who came from a neighboring town
to care for the sick and hungry. Susan was a teacher-missionary.
Not much to look at, if her picture told the truth, but from bits
of her history that I 've picked up her life was a brighter jewel
than most of us will ever find in a heavenly crown. Instead of
holding the unbeliever by the nape of the neck and thrusting a
not-understood doctrine down his unwilling throat, she lived the
simple creed of loving her neighbor better than herself. And the
old pair of goggles she wore made little halos around the least
speck of good she found in any transgressor, no matter how warped
When she was n't helping some helpless sinner to see the rainbow of
promise at the end of the straight and narrow way, Susan spent her
time and all her salary, giving sick babies a fighting chance for
life. She took the half-drowned little Sada home with her, and
searched for any kinsman left the child. There was only one, her
mother's brother. He was very poor and gladly gave his consent
that Miss West should keep the child--as long as it was a girl!
Susan had taught the man English once in the long ago and this was
his chance to repay her.
Later on when the teacher found her health failing and headed for
home in America, Uncle Mura was still more generous and raised no
objections to her taking the baby with her.
Together they lived in a small Western town. The missionary reared
the child by rule of love only and went on short rations to educate
her. Sada's eager mind absorbed everything offered her like a
young sponge, and when a few months ago Susanna folded her hands
and joined her foremothers, there was let loose on the world this
exquisite girl with her solitary legacy of untried ideals and a
blind enthusiasm for her mother's people.
Right here, Mate, was when I had a prolonged attack of cold
shivers. Just before Miss West passed along, knowing that the
Valley was near, she wrote to Uncle in Japan and told him that his
niece would soon he alone. Can't you imagine the picture she drew
of her foster child who had satisfied every craving of her big
mother heart? Fascinating and charming and so weighted with
possibilities, that Mura, who had prospered, leaped for his chance
and sent Sada San money for the passage over.
Not a mite of anxiety shadowed her eyes when she told me that Uncle
kept a wonderful tea-house in Kioto. He must be very rich, she
thought, because he wrote her of the beautiful things she was to
have. About this time the room seemed suffocating. I got up and
turned on the electric fan. The only thing required of her, she
continued, was to use her voice to entertain Uncle's friends. But
she hoped to do much more. Through Miss West she knew how many of
her mother's dear people needed help. How glorious that she was
young and strong and could give so much. Susan had also talked to
her of the flowers, the lovely scenery, the poetry of the people
and their splendid spirit--making a dreamland where even man was
perfect. How she loved it! How proud she was to feel that in part
it was her country. Faithfully would she serve it. Oh, Susanna
West! I 'd like to shake you till your harp snapped a string. It
's like sending a baby to pick flowers on the edge of a bottomless
What could I say! The missionary-teacher had told the truth. She
simply failed to mention that in the fairy-land there are
cherry-blossom lanes down which no human can wander without being
torn by the brier patches.
The path usually starts from a wonderful tea-house where Uncles
have grown rich. Miss West didn't mean to shirk her duty. In most
things the begoggled lady was a visionary with a theory that if you
don't talk about a thing it does not exist; and like most of her
kind she swept the disagreeables into a dust heap and made for the
high places where all was lovely. And yet she had toiled with the
girl through all the difficulties of the Japanese language; and, to
give her a musical education, had pinched to the point of buying
one hat in eight years!
Now it is all done and Sada is launched on the high seas of life
with a pleasure-house for a home and an unscrupulous Uncle with
unlimited authority for a chaperon. Shades of Susan! but I am
hoping guardian angels are "really truly," even if invisible.
Good night, Mate. This game of playing tag with jarring thoughts,
new and old, has made six extra wrinkles. I am glad I came and you
and Jack will have to be, for to quote Charity, "I 'se done
resoluted on my word of honah" to keep my hands, if possible, on
Sada whose eyes are as blue as her hair is black.
Since morning the sea has been a sheet of blue, streaked with the
silver of flying fish. That is all the scenery there is; not a
sail nor a bird nor an insect. Either the unchanging view or
something in the air has stimulated everybody into being their
nicest. It is surprising how quickly graciousness possesses some
people when there is a witching girl around. Vivacious young men
and benevolent officers have suddenly appeared out of nowhere,
spick and span in white duck and their winningest smiles.
Entertainments dovetail till there is barely time for change of
costume between acts.
But let me tell you, Mate, living up to being a mother is no idle
pastime, particularly if it means reviving the lost art of managing
love-smitten youths and elderly male coquettes. There is a
specimen of each opposite Sada and me at table who are so generous
with their company on deck, before and after meals, I have almost
run out of excuses and am short on plans to avoid the heavy
obligations of their eager attentions.
The youth is a To-Be-Ruler of many people, a Maharajah of India.
But the name is bigger than the man. Two years ago his father
started the boy around the world with a sack full of rubles and a
head full of ancient Indian lore. With these assets he paused at
Oxford that he might skim through the classics. He had been told
this was where all the going-to-be-great men stopped to acquire
just the proper tone of superiority so necessary in ruling a
country. Of course he picked up a bit on electricity, mechanics,
etc. This accomplished to his satisfaction he ran over to America
to view the barbarians' god of money and take a glance at their
houses which touched the sky. But his whole purpose in living, he
told me, was to yield himself to certain meditations, so that in
his final reincarnation, which was only a few centuries off, he
would return to the real thing in Buddha. In the meantime he was
to be a lion, a tiger and a little white bird. At present he is
plain human, with the world-old malady gnawing at his heart, a pain
which threatens to send his cogitations whooping down a thornier
and rosier lane than any Buddha ever knew. Besides I am thinking a
few worldly vanities have crept in and set him hack an eon or so.
He wears purple socks, pink ties and a dainty watch strapped around
his childish wrist.
When I asked him what impressed him most in America, he promptly
answered with his eyes on Sada, "Them girls. They are rapturous!"
Farewell Nirvana! With a camp stool in one hand and a rosary in
the other, he follows Sada San like the shadow on a sun dial.
Wherever she is seated, there is the stool and the royal youth, his
mournful eyes feasting on the curves and dimples of her face, her
lightest jest far sweeter than any prayer, the beads in his hand
The other would-be swain calls himself a Seeker of Truth.
Incidentally he is hunting a wife. His general attitude is a
constant reminder of the uncertainty of life. His presence makes
you glad that nothing lasts. He says his days are heavy with the
problems of the universe, but you can see for yourself that this
very commercial traveler carries a light side line in an assortment
of flirtations that surely must be like dancing little sunbeams on
a life of gloom.
Goodness knows how much of a nuisance he would be if it were not
for a little lady named Dolly, who sits beside him, gray in color,
dress and experience. At no uncertain age she has found a belated
youthfulness and is starting on the first pleasure trip of her life.
Coming across the country to San Francisco, her train was wrecked.
In the smash-up a rude chair struck her just south of the belt line
and she fears brain fever from the blow. The alarm is not general,
for though just freed by kind death from an unhappy life sentence
of matrimony she is ready to try another jailer.
Whether he spied Dolly first and hoped that the gleam from her many
jewels would light up the path in his search for Truth and a few
other things, or whether the Seeker was sought, I do not know.
However the flirtation which seems to have no age limit has
flourished like a bamboo tree. For once the man was too earnest.
Dolly gave heed and promptly attached herself with the persistency
of a barnacle to a weather-beaten junk. By devices worthy a
finished fisher of men, she holds him to his job of suitor, and if
in a moment of abstraction his would-be ardor for Sada grows too
perceptible, the little lady reels in a yard or so of line to make
sure her prize is still dangling on the hook.
To-day at tiffin the griefless widow unconsciously scored at the
expense of the Seeker, to the delight of the whole table. For
Sada's benefit this man quoted a long passage from some German
philosopher. At least it sounded like that. It was far above the
little gray head he was trying to ignore and so weighty I feared
for her mentality. But I did not know Dolly. She rose like a
doughnut. Looking like a child who delights in the rhythm of
meaningless sounds, she heard him through, then exclaimed with
breathless delight, "Oh, ain't he fluid!"
The man fled, but not before he had asked Sada for two dances at
It is like a funny little curtain-raiser, with jealousy as a
gray-haired Cupid. So far as Sada is concerned, it is admiration
gone to waste. Even if she were not gaily indifferent, she is too
absorbed in the happy days she thinks are awaiting her. Poor
child! Little she knows of the limited possibilities of a Japanese
girl's life; and what the effect of the painful restrictions will
be on one of her rearing, I dare not think.
Once she is under the authority of Uncle, the Prince, the Seeker,
and all mankind will be swept into oblivion; and, until such time
as she can be married profitably and to her master's liking, she
will know no man. The cruelest awakening she will face is the
attitude of the Orient toward the innocent offspring in whose veins
runs the blood of two races, separated by differences which never
have been and never will be overcome.
In America the girl's way would not have been so hard because her
novel charm would have carried her far. But _hear me_: in Japan,
the very wave in her hair and the color of her eyes will prove a
barrier to the highest and best in the land. Even with youth and
beauty and intelligence, unqualified recognition for the Eurasian
is as rare as a square egg.
Another thought hits me in the face as if suddenly meeting a cross
bumblebee. Will the teachings of the woman, who lived with her
head in the clouds, hold hard and fast when Uncle puts on the
The Seeker says it is the fellow who thinks first that wins. He
speaks feelingly on the subject. Right now I am going to begin
cultivating first thought, and try to be near if danger, whose name
is Uncle, threatens the girl who has walked into my affections and
made herself at home.
All the very good people are in bed. The very worldly minded and
the young are on deck reluctantly finishing the last dance under a
canopy of make-believe cherry blossoms and wistaria. I am on the
deck between, closing this letter to you which I will mail in
Yokohama in a few hours.
In a way I shall be glad to see a quiet room in a hotel and hie me
back to simple living, free from the responsibilities of a
temporary parent. I am not promising myself any gay thrills in the
meantime. What 's the use, with Jack on the borderland of a
sulphurous country and you in the Garden of Eden? His letters and
yours will be my greatest excitement. So write and keep on writing
and never fear that I will not do the same. You are the
safety-valve for my speaking emotions, Mate; so let that help you
Please mark with red ink one small detail of Sada's story. When I
was fastening her simple white gown for the dance her chatter was
like that of a sunny-hearted child. Indeed, she liked to dance.
Susan did not think it harmful. She said if your heart was right
your feet would follow. When Miss West could spare her she always
went to parties with _Billy_, and oh, how he could dance if he was
so big and had red hair.
So! there was a Billy? I looked in her face for signs. The way
was clear but there was a soft little quiver in her voice that
caused me carefully to label the unknown William, and lay him on a
shelf for future reference. Whatever the coming days hold for her,
mine has been the privilege of giving the girl three weeks of
Outside I hear the little Prince pacing up and down, yielding up
his soul to holy meditations. I 'd be willing to wager my best
piece of jade his contemplations are something like a cycle from
Nirvana, and closer far to a pair of heavily fringed eyes. Poor
little imitation Buddha! He is grasping at the moon's reflection
on the water. Somewhere near I hear Dolly's soft coo and
deep-voiced replies. But unfinished packing, a bath and coffee are
Dawn is coming, and already through the port hole I see a dot of
earth curled against the horizon. Above floats Fuji, the base
wrapped in mists, the peak eternally white, a giant snowdrop
swinging in a dome of perfect blue. The vision is a call to
prayer, a wooing of the soul to the heights of undimmed splendor.
After all, Mate, I may give you and Jack a glad surprise and
justify Sada handing me that letter addressed to a Christian Sister.
YOKOHAMA, July, 1911.
Now that I am here, I am trying to decide what to do with myself.
At home each day was so full of happy things and the happiest of
all was listening for Jack's merry whistle as he opened the street
door every night. At home there are always demands, big and
little, popping in on me which I sometimes resent and yet being
free from makes me feel as dismal as a long vacant house with the
For Rent sign up, looks. In this Lotus land there is no _must_ of
any kind for the alien, and the only whistles I hear belong to the
fierce little tugs that buzz around in the harbor, in and out among
the white sails of the fishing fleet like big black beetles in a
field of lilies. But you must not think life dull for me. Fate
and I have cried a truce, and she is showing me a few hands she is
dealing other people. But first listen to the tale I have to tell
of the bruise she gave my pride this morning, that will show black
for many a day.
I joined a crowd on the water 's edge in front of the hotel to
watch a funeral procession in boats. Recently a hundred and eighty
fishermen were sent to the bottom by a big typhoon, and the wives
and the sweethearts were being towed out to sea to pay a last
tribute to them, by strewing the fatal spot with flowers and paper
prayers. White-robed priests stood up in the front of the boats
and chanted some mournful ritual, keeping time to the dull thumping
of a drum. The air was heavy with incense. A dreamy melancholy
filled the air and I thought how hallowed and beautiful a thing is
memory. From out that silent watching crowd came a voice that sent
my thoughts flying to starry nights of long ago and my first trip
across the Pacific; soft south winds; vows of eternal devotion that
kept time with the distant throbbing of a ship's engine. I fumed.
I was facing little Germany and five littler Germanys strung out
behind. You surely remember him? and how when I could n't see
things his way he swore to a wrecked heart and a
never-to-be-forgotten constancy. Mate! There was no more of a
flicker of memory in the stare of his round blue eyes than there
would have been in a newly baked pretzel. I stood still, waiting
for some glimmer of recognition. Instead, he turned to the
pincushion on his arm, whom I took to be Ma O., and I heard him say
"Herzallorliebsten." I went straight to the hotel and had it
translated. Thought it had a familiar sound. Would n't it be
interesting to know how many "only ones" any man's life history
records? To think of my imagining him eating his heart out with
hopeless longing in some far away Tibetan Monastery. And here he
was, pudgy and content, with his fat little brood waddling along
behind him. If our vision could penetrate the future, verily
Romance would have to close up shop. Oh, no! I did n't want him
to pine entirely away, but he needn't have been in such an
everlasting hurry to get fat and prosperous over it. Would n't
I took good care to see that he was not stopping at this hotel.
Then I went back to my own thoughts of the happy years that had
been mine since Little Germany bade me a tearful good-by.
And, too, I wanted to think out some plan whereby I can keep in
touch with Sada and be friendly with her relative.
Before I left the steamer, I had a surprise in the way of Uncles.
Next time I will pause before I prophesy. But if Uncle was a blow
to my preconceived ideas, I will venture Sada startled a few of his
traditions as to nieces. Quarantine inspection was short, and when
at last we cast anchor, the harbor was as blue as if a patch of the
summer sky had dropped into it. The thatched roofs shone russet
brown against the dark foliage of the hills. The temple roofs
curved gracefully above the pink mist of the crepe myrtle.
Sada was standing by me on the upper deck, fascinated by the
picture. As she realized the long dreamed-of fairy-land was
unfolding before her, tears of joy filled her eyes and tears of
another kind filled mine.
Sampans, launches and lighters clustered around the steamer as
birds of prey gather to a feast: captains in gilt braid; coolies in
blue and white, with their calling-cards stamped in large letters
on their backs, and the story of their trade written around the
tail of their coats in fantastic Japanese characters. Gentlemen in
divided skirts and ladies in kimono and clogs swarmed up the
gangway. In the smiling, pushing crowd I looked for the low-browed
relative I expected to see. Imagine the shock, Mate, when a man
with manners as beautiful as his silk kimono presented his card and
announced that he was Uncle Mura. I had been pointed out as Sada's
friend. A week afterwards I could have thought of something
brilliant to say. Taken unawares, I stammered out a hope that his
honorable teeth were well and his health poor. You see I am all
right in Japanese if I do the talking. For I know what I want to
say and what they ought to say. But when they come at me with a
flank movement, as it were, I am lost. Uncle passed over my
blunder without a smile and went on to say many remarkable things,
if sound means anything. However, trust even a deaf woman to prick
up her ears when a compliment is headed her way, whether it is in
Sanskrit or Polynesian. In acknowledgment I stuck to my flag, and
the man's command of quaint but correct English convinced me that I
would have to specialize in something more than first thought if I
was to cope with this tea-house proprietor whose armor is the
subtle manners of the courtier.
Blessed Sada! Only the cocksureness of youth made her blind to the
check her enthusiasm was meant to receive in the first encounter of
the new life. She had always met people on equal terms, most men
falling easy victims. She was blissfully ignorant that Mura, by
directing his conversation to me, meant to convey to her that
well-bred girls in this enchanted land lowered their eyes and
folded their hands when they talked in the presence of a MAN, if
they dared to talk at all.
Not so this half-child of the West. She fairly palpitated with joy
and babbled away with the freedom of a sunny brook in the shadow of
a grim forest. From the man's standpoint, he was not unkind;
unrestraint was to him an incomprehensible factor in a young girl's
make-up; and whatever was to follow, the first characters he meant
her to learn must spell reverence and repression.
They hurried ashore to catch a train to Kioto. I must look
harmless, for I was invited to call. I shall accept, for I have a
feeling in spite of manners and silken robes that the day is not
distant when the distress signals will be flying.
I waved good-by to the girl as the little launch made its way to
land. She made a trumpet of her hands and called a merry
"sayonara." The master of her future folded his arms and looked
out to sea.
The next day I had a lonely lunch at the hotel. When I saw two
lovery young things at the table where Jack and I had our wedding
breakfast, so long ago, I made for the other end of the room and
persistently turned my back. But I saw out of the corner of my eye
they were far away above food, and, Mate, believe me, they did n't
even know it was hot, though a rain barrel couldn't have measured
Of course Jack and I were much more sensible, but that whole
blessed time is wrapped in rosy mists with streaks of moonlight to
the tune of heavenly music, so it 's futile to try to recall just
what did happen. I ought to have gone to another hotel, but the
chain of memory was too strong for me.
I was hesitating between the luxury of a sentimental spell and a
fit of loneliness, when a happy interruption came in a message from
Countess Otani, naming the next day at two for luncheon with her at
the Arsenal Gardens at Tokio. How I wished for you, Mate! It was
a fairy-story come true, dragons and all. The Arsenal Garden means
just what it says. Only when the dove of peace is on duty are its
gates opened, and then to but a few, high in command. For across
the white-blossomed hedge that encloses the grounds, armies of men
toil ceaselessly molding black bullets for pale people and they
work so silently that the birds keep house in the long fringed
willows and the goldfish splash in the sunned spots of the tiny
After passing the dragons in the shape of sentries and soldiers, to
each of whom I gave a brief life-history, I wisely followed my nose
and a guard down the devious path.
The Countess received her guests in a banquet-hall all ebony and
gold, and was not seated permanently on a throne with a diamond
crown screwed into her head as we used so fondly to imagine.
The simplicity of her hospitality was charming. She and most of
her ladies-in-waiting had been educated abroad. But despite the
lure of the Western freedom, they had returned to their country
with their heads level and their traditions intact. But you guess
wrong, honey, if you imagine custom and formality of official life
have so overcome these high-born ladies as to make them lay figures
who dare not raise their eyes except by rule. There were three
American guests, and only by being as nimble as grasshoppers did we
hold our own in the table talk which was as exhilarating as a game
of snowball on a frosty day.
We scampered all around war and settled a few important political
questions. Poetry, books and the new Cabinet vied with the
merriment over comparisons in styles of dress. One delightful
woman told how gloves and shoes had choked her when she first wore
them in America. Another gave her experience in getting fatally
twisted in her court train when she was making her bow before the
A soft-voiced matron made us laugh over her story of how, when she
was a young girl at a mission school, she unintentionally joined in
a Christian prayer, and nearly took the skin off her tongue
afterwards scrubbing it with strong soap and water to wash away the
stain. There wasn't even a smile as she quietly spoke of the many
times later when with that same prayer she had tried to make less
hard the after-horrors of war.
The possibilities of Japanese women are amazing even to one who
thinks he knows them. They look as if made for decoration only,
and with a flirt of their sleeves they bring out a surprise that
turns your ideas a double somersault. Here they were, laughing and
chatting like a bunch of fresh schoolgirls for whom life was one
long holiday. Yet ten out of the number had recently packed away
their gorgeous clothes, and laid on a high shelf all royal ranks
and rights, for a nurse's dress and kit. Apparently delicate and
shy they can be, if emergency demands, as grim as war or as tender
It was a blithesome day and if it had n't been for that "all gone"
sort of a feeling, that possesses me when evening draws near and
Jack is far away, content might have marked me as her own. As it
was I put off playing a single at dinner as long as possible by
calling on a month-old bride whom I had known as a girl. With glee
I accepted the offer of an automobile to take me for the visit, and
repented later. Two small chauffeurs and a diminutive footman
raced me through the narrow, crowded streets, scattering the
populace to any shelter it could find. The only reason we didn't
take the fronts out of the shops is that Japanese shops are
frontless. I looked back to see the countless victims of our
speed. I saw only a crowd coming from cover, smiling with
curiosity and interest. We hit the top of the hill with a
flourish, and when I asked what was the hurry my attendants looked
hurt and reproachfully asked if that wasn't the way Americans liked
Mate, this is a land of contrasts and contradictions. At the
garden all had been life and color. At this home, where the
wrinkled old servitor opened the heavily carved gates for me, it
was as if I had stepped into a bit of ancient Japan, jealously
guarded from any encroachment of new conditions or change of custom.
Like a curious package, contents unknown, I was passed from one
automatic servant to another till I finally reached the
_Torishihimari_ or mistress of ceremonies. By clock-work she
offered me a seat on the floor, a fan and congratulations. This
last simply because I was me. The house was ancient and beautiful.
The room in which I sat had nothing in it but matting as fine as
silk, a rare old vase with two flowers and a leaf in formal
arrangement, and an atmosphere of aloofness that lulled mind and
body to restful revery. After my capacity for tea and sugared
dough was tested, the little serving maid fanning me, bowing every
time I blinked, the paper doors near by divided noiselessly and,
framed by the dim light, sat the young bride, quaint and oriental
as if she had stepped out of some century-old kakemono. In
contrast to my recent hostesses it was like coming from a garden of
brilliant flowers into the soft, quiet shadows of a bamboo grove.
No modern touch about this lady. She had been reduced by rule from
a romping girl to a selfless creature fit for a Japanese
gentleman's wife and no questions asked. Her hair, her dress, and
even her speech were strictly by the laws laid down in a book for
the thirty-first day of the first month after marriage. But I
would like to see the convention with a crust thick enough to
entirely obliterate one woman's interest in another whose clothes
and life belong to a distant land. When I told her I had come to
Japan against Jack's wishes and was going to follow him to China if
I could, she paled at my rashness. How could a woman dare disobey?
Would not my husband send me home, take my name off the house
register and put somebody in my place?
Well now, wouldn't you like to see the scientist play any such
tricks with me--that blessed old Jack who smiles at my follies,
asks my advice, and does as he pleases, and for whom there has
never been but the one woman in the world! I struggled to make
plain to her the attitude of American men and women and the
semi-independence of the latter. As well explain theology to a
child. To her mind the undeviating path of absolute obedience was
the only possible way. Anything outside of a complete renunciation
of self-interest and thought meant ruin and was not even to be
whispered about. I gave it up and came back to her sphere of
poetry and mothers-in-law.
When I said good-by there was a gentle pity in her eyes, for she
was certain her long-time friend was headed for the highroad of
destruction. But instead I turned into the dim solitude of Shiba
Park. I had something to think about. To-day's experiences had
painted anew in naming colors the difference in husbands. How
prone a woman is, who is free and dearly beloved, to fall into the
habit of taking things for granted, forgetting how one drop of the
full measure of happiness, that a good husband gives her, would
turn to rosy tints the gray lives of hundreds of her kind who are
wives in name only. Her appreciation may be abundant but it is the
silent kind. Her bugaboo is fear of sentiment and when it is too
late, she remembers with a heart-break.
I can think of a thousand things right now I want to say to Jack
and while storing them away for some future happy hour, I walked
further into the deep shadows of twilight.
Instantly the spell of the East was over me. Real life was not.
In the soft green silences of mystery and fancy, I found a seat by
an ancient moss-covered tomb. Dreamily I watched a great red
dragon-fly frivol with the fairy blue wreaths of incense-smoke that
hovered above the leaf shadows trembling on the sand. The deep
melody of a bell, sifted through a cloud of blossom, caught up my
willing soul and floated out to sea and Jack far from this lovely
land, where stalks unrestrained the ugly skeleton of easy divorce
for men. The subject always irritates me like prickly heat.
NIKKO, July, 1911.
Summer in Japan is no joke, especially if you are waiting for
letters. I know perfectly well I can't hear from you and Jack for
an age, and yet I watch for the postman three times a day, as a
hungry man waits for the dinner-bell.
The days in Yokohama were too much like a continuous Turkish bath,
and I fled to Nikko, the ever moist and mossy. Two things you can
always expect in this village of "roaring, wind-swept
mountains,"--rain and courtesy. One is as inevitable as the other,
and both are served in quantities.
I am staying in a semi-foreign hotel which is tucked away in a
pocket in the side of a mountain as comfy as a fat old lady in a
big rocker who glories in dispensing hospitality with both hands.
Just let me put my head out of my room door and the hall fairly
blossoms with little maids eager to serve. A step toward the
entrance brings to life a small army of attendants bending as they
come like animated jack-knives on a live wire. One struggles with
the mystery of my overshoes, while the Master stands by and begs me
to take care of my honorable spirit. As it is the only spirit I
possess I heed his advice and bring it back to the hotel to find
the entire force standing at attention, ready to receive me. I
pass on to my room with a procession of bearers and bearesses
strung out behind me like the tail of a kite, anything from a
tea-tray to the sugar tongs being sufficient excuse for joining the
When dressing for dinner, if I press the button, no less than six
little, picture maids flutter to my door, each begging for the
honor of fastening me up the back. How delighted Jack would be to
assign them this particular honor for life. Such whispers over the
wonders of a foreign-made dress as they struggle with the curious
fastenings! (They should hear my lord's fierce language!) Each
one takes a turn till some sort of connection is made between hook
and eye. All is so earnestly done I dare not laugh or wiggle with
impatience. I may sail into dinner with the upper hook in the
lower eye and the middle all askew, but the service is so
graciously given, I would rather have my dress upside down than to
grumble. Certainly I pay for it. I tip everything from the
proprietor to the water-pitcher. But the sum is so
disproportionate to the pleasure and the comfort returned that I
smile to think of the triple price I have paid elsewhere and the
high-nosed condescension I got in return for my money. Japanese
courtesy may be on the surface, but the polish does not easily wear
off and it soothes the nerves just as the rain cools the air. It
goes without saying that I did not arrive in Nikko without a
variety of experiences along the way.
Two hours out from Yokohama, the train boy came into the coach, and
with a smile as cheerful as if he were saying, "Happy New Year,"
announced that there was a washout in front of us and a landslide
at the back of us. Would everybody please rest their honorable
bones in the village while a bridge was built and a river filled
in. The passengers trailed into a settlement of straw roofs,
bamboo poles and acres of white and yellow lilies. I went to a
quaint little inn--that was mostly out!--built over a fussy brook;
and a pine tree grew right out of the side of the house. My room
was furnished with four mats and a poem hung on the wall. When the
policeman came in to apologize for the rudeness of the storm in
delaying me, the boy who brought my bags had to step outside so
that the official would have room to bow properly. I ate my supper
of fish-omelet and turnip pickle served in red lacquer bowls, and
drank tea out of cups as big as thimbles. Jack says Japanese
teacups ought to be forbidden; in a moment of forgetfulness they
could so easily slip down with the tea.
It had been many a year since I was so separated from my kind and
each hour of isolation makes clearer a thing I 've never doubted,
but sometimes forget, that the happiest woman is she whose every
moment is taken up in being necessary to somebody; and to such,
unoccupied minutes are like so many drops of lead. That, with a
telegram I read telling of the increasing dangers of the plague in
Manchuria, threatened to send me headlong into a spell of anxiety
and the old terrible loneliness.
Happily the proprietor and his wife headed it off by asking me if I
would be their guest for this evening to see the Bon Matsuri, the
beautiful Festival of the Dead. On the thirteenth day of the
seventh month, all the departed spirits take a holiday from Nirvana
or any other seaport they happen to be in and come on a visit to
their former homes to see how it fares with the living. Poor
homesick spirits! Not even Heaven can compensate for the
separation from beloved country and friends. As we passed along,
the streets were alight with burning rushes placed at many doors to
guide the spiritual excursionists. Inside, the people were
praying, shrines were decorated and children in holiday dress
merrily romped. Why, Mate, it was worth being a ghost just to come
back and see how happy everybody was. For on this night of nights,
cares and sorrows are doubly locked in a secret place and the key
put carefully away. You couldn't find a coolie so heartless as to
show a shadow of trouble to his ghostly relatives when they return
for so brief a time to hold happy communion with the living. He
may be hungry, he may be sick, but there is a brave smile of
welcome on his lips for the spirits.
The crazy old temple at the foot of the mountain, glorified by a
thousand lights and fluttering flags, reaped a harvest of _rins_
and _rens_ paid to the priests for paper prayers and bamboo
flower-holders with which to decorate the graves. The cemetery was
on the side of the hill, and every step of the way somebody stopped
at a stone marker to fasten a lantern to a small fishing-pole and
pin a prayer near by. This was to guide the spirit to his own
A breeze as soft as a happy sigh came through the pines and gently
rocked the lanterns. The dim figures of the worshipers moved
swiftly about, as delighted as children in the shadow-pictures made
by the twinkling lights, eagerly seeking out remote spots that no
grave might be without its welcoming gleam. A long line of
white-robed dancing girls came swaying by with clapping hands to
I, too, though an alien, was moved with the good-will and kindness
that sung through the very air and fearlessly I would have
decorated any festive ghost that happened along. I looked to see
where I might lay the offering I held in my hand. My hostess
plucked my sleeve and pointed to a tiny tombstone under a camellia
tree. I went closer and read the English inscription, "Dorothy
Dale. Aged 2 years." There was a tradition that once in the long
ago a missionary and his wife lived in the village. Through an
awful epidemic of cholera they stuck to their posts, nursed and
cared for the people. Their only child was the price they paid for
their constancy. To each generation the story had been told, and
through all the years faithful watch had been kept over the little
enclosure. Now it was all a-glimmer with lanterns shaped like
birds and butterflies. I added my small offering and turned
My ancient host and hostess trotted along near by, eager to share
all their pathetic little gaieties with me. Their lives together
had about as much real comradeship as a small brown hen and a big
gray owl, and they had been married sixty years! They had toiled
and grown old together, but that did not mean that wifey was to
walk anywhere but three feet to the rear, nor to speak except when
her lord and ruler stopped talking to take a whiff of his pipe. I
tried to walk behind with the old lady but she threatened to stand
in one spot for the rest of the night. Then I vainly coaxed her to
walk with me at her husband's side. But her face was so full of
genuine horror at such disrespect that I desisted. Think, Mate, of
trying to puzzle out the make-up of a nation which for the sake of
a long-ago kindness will for years keep a strange baby's grave
green and yet whose laws will divorce a woman for disobedience to
her husband's mother and where the ancient custom of "women to
heel" still holds good.
And this is the land where the Seeker came for the truth!
Sada thinks it paradise and I, as before, am sending to Jack
A heart of love for thee
Blown by the summer breezes
Ten thousand miles of sea.
There ought to be some kind of capital punishment for the woman who
has nothing to do but kill time. It's an occupation that puts
crimps in the soul and offers the supreme moment in which the devil
may work his rabbit foot. No, I cannot settle down or hustle up to
anything until I hear from Jack or you. Very soon I will be
reduced to doing the one desperate thing lurking in this corner of
the woods, flirting with the solitary male guest, who has a strong
halt in his voice and whose knees are not on speaking terms.
Of course it is raining. If the sun gets gay and tries the bluff
of being friendly, a heavy giant of a cloud rises promptly up from
behind a mountain and puts him out of business. Still, why moan
over the dampness? It makes the hills look like great green plush
sofa-cushions and the avenues like mossy caves.
I have read till my eyes are crossed and I have written to every
human I know. I have watched the giggling little maids patter up
to a two-inch shrine and, flinging a word or two to Buddha, use the
rest of their time to gossip. And the old lady who washes her
vegetables and her clothes in the same baby-lake just outside my
window amuses me for at least ten minutes. Then, Mate, for real
satisfaction, I must turn to you, whose patience is elastic and
enduring. It is one of my big joys that your interest and love are
just the same, as in those other days when you packed me off to
Japan for the good of my country and myself; and then sent Jack
after me. Guess I should have stayed at home, as Jack told me, but
I am glad I did not.
Though it has poured every minute I have been here, there have been
bursts of sunshine inside, if not out. The other day my table boy
brought me the menu and asked for an explanation of _assorted_
fruits. I told him very carefully it meant _mixed, different
kinds_. He is a smart lad. He understands my Japanese! He
grasped my meaning immediately, and wrote it down in a little book.
This morning he came to my room and announced: "Please, Lady, some
assorted guests await you in the audience chamber; one Japanese and
two American persons."
I have had my first letter from Sada too, simply spilling over with
youth and enthusiasm. The girl is stark mad over the
fairy-landness of it all. Says her rooms are in Uncle's private
house, which is in quite a different part of the garden from the
tea-house. (Thank the Lord for small mercies!) She says Uncle has
given her some beautiful clothes and is so good to her. I dare
say. He has taken her to see a lovely old castle and wonderful
temple. The streets are all pictures and the scenery is glorious!
That is true, but the girl cannot live off scenery any more than a
nightingale can thrive on the scent of roses. What is coming when
the glamour of the scenery wears off and Uncle puts on the pressure
of his will?
I have not dared to give her any suggestion of warning. She is
deadly sure of her duty, so enthralled is she with the thought of
service to her mother's people. If I am to help her, the shock of
disillusionment must come from some other direction. The
_disillusioner_ is seldom forgiven. I do not know what plans are
being worked out behind Uncle's lowered eyelids. But I _do_ know
his idea of duty does not include keeping such a valuable asset as
a bright and beautiful niece hid away for his solitary joy. In
fact, he would consider himself a neglectful and altogether unkind
relative if he did not marry Sada off to the very best advantage to
himself. In the name of all the Orient, what else is there to do
with a _girl_, and especially one whose blood is tainted with that
of the West?
Well, Mate, my thoughts grew so thick on the subject I nearly
suffocated. I went for a walk and ran right into a cavalcade of
donkeys, jinrickshas and chairs, headed by the Seeker and Dolly,
who has also annexed the little Maharajah.
They had been up to Chuzenji--and Chuzenji I would have you know is
lovely enough, with its emerald lake and rainbow mists, to start a
man's tongue to love-making whether he will or not. And so surely
as it is raining, something has happened. Dolly was as gay as a
day-old butterfly and smiled as if a curly-headed Cupid had tickled
her with a wing-feather. The Seeker was deadly solemn. Possibly
the aftermath of his impetuosity.
Oh, well! there is no telling what wonders can be worked by
incurable youthfulness and treasures laid up in a trust company.
The little Prince, with every pocket and his handkerchief full of
small images of Buddha which he was collecting, asked at once for
Sada. His heart was in his eyes, but there is no use tampering
with a to-be-incarnation by encouraging worldly thoughts. So I
said I had not seen her since we landed. They were due on board
the _Siberia_ in Yokohama to-night on their way to China. I waved
them good wishes and went on, amused and not a little troubled.
Worried over Sada, hungry for Jack, lonesome for you. I passed one
of the gorgeous blue, green and yellow gates, at the entrance of a
temple. On one side is carved a distorted figure, that looks like
a cross between an elephant and a buzzard. It is called "Baku, the
eater of evil dreams." My word! but I could furnish him a feast
that would give him the fanciest case of indigestion he ever knew!
Mate, you would have to see Nikko, with its majestic cryptomarias,
sheltering the red and gold lacquer temples; you would have to feel
the mystery of the gray-green avenues, and have its holy silences
fall like a benediction upon a restless spirit, to realize what
healing for soul and body is in the very air, to understand why I
joyfully loitered for two hours and came back sane and hungry, but
wet as a fish.
Write me about the only man, the kiddies and your own blessed happy
I agree with Charity. "Ef you want to spile a valuable wife, tu'n
her loose in a patch of idlesomeness."
STILL AT NIKKO, August, 1911.
You beloved girl, I have heard from Jack and my heart is singing a
ragtime tune of joy and thanksgiving. How he laughed at me for
being too foolishly lonesome to stay in America without him. Oh,
these, men! Does he forget he raged once upon a time, when he was
in America without me? As long as I am here though, he wants me to
have as good a time as possible. Do anything I want, and--blessed
trusting man!--buy anything I see that will fit in the little house
Can you believe it? After a fierce battle the sun won out this
morning, and even the blind would know by the dancing feel of the
air that it was a glorious day. At eight o'clock, when the little
maids went up to the shrine, happy as kittens let out for a romp,
they forgot even to look Buddha-ward and took up their worship time
in playing tag. The old woman who uses the five-foot lake as the
family wash-tub, brought out all her clothes, the grand-baby, and
the snub-nosed poodle that wears a red bib, to celebrate the
sunshine by a carnival of washing.
I could not stand four walls a minute longer. I am down in the
garden writing you, in a tea-house made with three fishing-poles
and a bunch of straw. It is covered with pink morning-glories as
big as coffee cups.
It has been three weeks since my last letter and I know your
interest in Jack and germs is almost as great as mine. Jack has
been in Peking. He thinks the revolution of the Chinese against
the Manchu Government is going to be something far more serious
this time than a flutter of fans and a sputter of
shooting-crackers. The long-suffering worm with the head of a
dragon is going to turn, and when it does, there will not be a
Manchu left to tell the pig tale.
Jack is in Mukden now, where he is about to lose his mind with joy
over the prospect of looking straight in the eye--if it has
one--this wicked old germ with a new label, and telling it what he
thinks. The technical terms he gives are as paralyzing as a
Russian name spelled backwards.
In a day's time this fearful thing wipes out entire families and
villages. It has simply ravaged northern Manchuria and the country
about. Jack says so deadly are the effects of these germs in the
air that if a man walking along the street happens to breathe in
one, he is a corpse on the spot before he is through swallowing.
The remains are gathered up by men wearing shrouds and net masks,
and the peaceful Oriental who was not doing a thing hut attending
strictly to his own business, is soon reduced to ashes. All
because of a pesky microbe with a surplus of energy.
You know perfectly well, Mate, Jack does not speak in this
frivolous manner of his beloved work. The interpretation is wholly
mine. But I dare not be serious over it. I must push any thought
of his danger to the further ends of nowhere.
Jack thinks the native doctors have put up a brave fight, but so
far the laugh has been all on the side of the frisky germ.
It blasts everything it touches and is most fastidious. Nobody can
blame it for choosing as its nesting-place the little soft furred
Siberian marmots, which the Chinese hunt for their skin. If only
the hunters could be given a dip in a sulphur vat before they lay
them down to sleep in the unspeakable inns with their spoils
wrapped around them, the chance for infection would not be so
great. Of course the bare suggestion of a bath might prove more
fatal than the plague, for oftener than not the hunters are used
only as a method of travel by the merry microbe and are immune from
the effects. Of course Jack has all sorts of theories as to why
this is so. But did you ever see a scientist who didn't have a
workable theory for everything from the wrong end of a carpet-tack
to the evolution of a June bug?
From the hunters and their spoils the disease spreads and their
path southwards can be traced by desolated villages and piles of
Jack tells me he is garbed in a long white robe effect (I hope he
won't grow wings), with a good-sized mosquito net on a frame over
his head and face. He works in heavy gloves. Mouth and nose being
the favorite point of attack, everybody who ventures out wears over
this part of the face a curiously shaped shield, whose firm look
says, "No admittance here." But all the same, that germ from
Siberia is a wily thief and steals lives by the thousands, in spite
of all precautions.
Jack is as enthusiastic over the fight against the scourge as a
college boy over football. His letter has so many big technical
words in it, I had to pay excess postage.
I 've read his letter twice, but to save me I cannot find any
suggestion of the remotest possibility of my coming nearer. Yes, I
know I said Japan only. But way down in the cellar of my heart I
_hoped_ he would say nearer.
What a happy day it has been. Here is your letter, just come. The
priests up at the temple have asked me to see the ceremony of
offering food to the spirits, in the holy of holies.
There is not time for me to add another word to this letter. What
a dear you are, to love while you lecture me. What you say is all
true. A woman's place _is_ in her home. But just now out of the
East, I 've had a call to play silent partner to science and while
it 's a lonesome sport, at least it 's far more entertaining than
caring for a husbandless house. Anyhow I am sending you a hug and
a thousand kisses for the babies.
SHOJI LAKE, August, 1911.
Mate, think of the loveliest landscape picture you ever saw, put me
in it and you will know where I am. With some friends from
Honolulu and a darling old man--observe I say _old_!--from
Colorado, we started two days ago, to walk around the base of Fuji.
Everything went splendidly till a typhoon hit us amidships and sent
us careening, blind, battered and soaked into this red and white
refuge of a hotel, that clings to the side of a mountain like a
woodpecker to a telephone pole. I have seen storms, but the worst
I ever saw was a playful summer breeze compared with the
magnificent fury of this wind that snapped great trees in two as if
they had been young bean-poles, and whipped the usually peaceful
lake into raging waves that swept through a gorge and greedily
licked up a whole village.
Our path was high up, but right over the water. Sometimes we were
crawling on all fours. Mostly we were flying just where the wind
listed. If a tree got in our way as we flew, so much the worse for
us. It is funny now, but it was not at the time! Seriously, I was
in immediate peril of being blown to glory _via_ the fierce green
foam below. My Colorado Irishman is not only a darling, but a
hero. Once I slipped, and stopped rolling only when some faithful
pines were too stubborn to let go.
I wag many feet below the reach of any arm. In a twinkling, my
friend had stripped the kimono off the baggage coolie's back, and
made a lasso with which he pulled me up. Then shocked to a
standstill by the shortcomings of the coolie's birthday suit, he
snatched off his coat and gave it to him, with a dollar. Such a
procession of bedraggled and exhausted pleasure-seekers as we were,
when three men stood behind our hotel door and opened it just wide
enough to haul us in. But hot baths and boiling tea revived us and
soon we were as merry as any people can be who have just escaped
The typhoon passed as suddenly as it came, and now the world--or at
least this part of it--is as glowing and beautiful as if freshly
tinted by the Master Hand.
A moment ago I looked up to see my rescuer gazing out of the
window. I asked, "How do you feel, Mr. Carson?" His voice trembled
when he answered: "Lady, I feel glorified, satisfied and nigh about
petrified. Look at that!"
Below lay Shoji, its shimmering waters rimmed with velvety green.
Every raindrop on the pines was a prism; the mountain a brocade of
blossom. To the right Fuji, the graceful, ever lovely Fuji;
capricious as a coquette and bewitching in her mystery, with a
thumbnail moon over her peak, like a silver tiara on the head of a
proud beauty; at her base the last fleecy clouds of the day,
gathered like worshipers at the feet of some holy saint.
The man's face shone. For forty years he had worked at
harness-making, always with the vision before him that some day he
might take this trip around the world. He has the soul of an
artist, which has been half starved in the narrow environment of
his small town life. Cannot you imagine the mad revel of his soul
in this pictureland?
He is going to Mukden. Of course I told him all about Jack's work.
The old fellow, he must be all of seventy, was thrilled. I am
going to give him a letter to Jack. Also to some friends in
Peking; they will be good to him. If anybody deserves a
merry-go-round sort of a holiday, he does. Think of sewing on
saddles and bridles all these years, when his heart was withering
I am glad of your eager interest in Sada. How like you! Never too
absorbed in your own life to share other people's joys and sorrows
If your wise head evolves a plan of action, send by wireless, for
if I read aright her message received to-day, the time is fast
coming when the red lights of danger will be flashing. I will
quote: "Last night Uncle asked me to sing to some people who were
giving a dinner at the tea-house. I put on my loveliest kimono and
a hair-dresser did my hair in the old Japanese style and stuck a
red rose at the side. For the first time I went into that
beautiful, _beautiful_ place my Uncle calls "the Flower Blooming"
tea-house. It was more like a fairy palace. How the girls, who
live there, laughed at my guitar. They had never seen one before.
How they whispered over the color of my eyes. Said they matched my
kimono, and they tittered over my clumsiness in sitting on the
floor. But I forgot everything when the door slid open and I
looked into the most wonderful dream-garden that ever was, and
people everywhere. I finished singing, there was clapping and loud
_banzais_. I looked up and realized there were only men at this
dinner and I never saw so many bottles in all my life. I felt very
strange and so far away from dear Susan West. After I had sung
once more I started back to my home. Uncle met me. I told him I
was going to bed. For the first time he was cross and ordered me
back to the play place, where I was to stay until he came for me.
There never was anything so lovely as the green and pink garden and
the lily-shaped lights, and the flowers; and such _pretty_ girls
who knew just what to do. But I cannot understand the men who come
here. When dear old Billy"--thank heaven she says _dear_
Billy!--"talks I know just what he means. But these men use so
many words Susan never taught me, and laugh so loud when they say
"There was one man named Hara whose clothes were simply gorgeous.
The girls say he is very rich, and a great friend of Uncle's! He
may have money, but he is not over-burdened with manners. He can
out-stare an owl."
There was more. But that is enough to show me Uncle's hand as
plainly as if I were a palmist. If nothing happens to prevent, the
man promises to do what thousands of his kind have done before:
regardless of obstacles and consequences marry the girl off to the
highest bidder; rid himself of all responsibility and make a profit
at the same time. From his point of view it is the only thing to
do. He would be the most astonished uncle in Mikado-land if
anybody suggested to him that Sada had any rights or feelings in
the matter. He would tell you that as Sada's only male relative,
custom gave him the right to dispose of her as he saw fit, and
custom is law and there is nothing back of _that_!
So far I have played only a thinking part in the drama. But I will
not stand by and see the girl, whose very loneliness is a plea,
sacrificed without some kind of a struggle to help her. At the
present writing I feel about as effective as a February lamb, and
every move calls for tact. Wish I had been born with a needle wit
instead of a Roman nose! For if Uncle has a glimmer of a suspicion
that I would befriend Sada at the cost of his plans, so surely as
the river is lost in the sea, Sada would disappear from my world
until it was too late for me to lend a hand.
Good-by, Mate. At eventide, as of old, look my way and send me
strength from your vast store of calm courage and common sense.
The odds are against me, but the god of luck has never yet failed
to laugh with me.
I am in a monastery, Mate, but only temporarily, thank you. It is
a blessing to the cause that Fate did not turn me into a monk or a
sister or any of those inconvenient things with a restless
religion, that wakes you up about 3 A.M. on a wintry dawn to pray
shiveringly to a piece of wood, to the tune of a thumping drum.
Some morning when the frost was on the cypress that carven image
For one time at least I would have a nice fire, and my prayers
would not be decorated with icicles.
For two weeks my friends and I have been tramping through
picture-book villages and silk-worm country, and over mountain
winding ways, sleeping on the floor, sitting on our feet and giving
our stomachs surprise parties with hot, cold and lukewarm rice,
seaweed and devil-fish.
It has been one hilarious lark of outdoor life, with nothing to pin
us to earth but the joy of being a part of so beautiful a world.
The road led us through superb forests, over the Bridge of Paradise
to Koyo San, whose peak is so far above the mist-wreathed valleys
that it scrapes the clouds as they float by. But I want to say
right here; Kobo Daishi, who founded this monastery in the distant
ages and built a temple to his own virtues, may have been a saint,
but he was not much of a gentleman! Else he would not have been so
reckless of the legs and necks of the coming generations, as to
blaze the trail to his shrine over mountains so steep that our
pack-mule coming up could easily have bitten off his own tail if he
had so minded.
This afternoon I must hustle down. I suppose the only way to get
down is to roll. Well; anyway I am in a hurry. My mail beat me up
the trail and a letter from Sada San begs me to come to Kioto to
see her as soon as I can. She only says she needs help and does
not know what to do. And blessed be the telegram that winds up
from Hiroshima; the school is in urgent need of an assistant at the
Kindergarten and they ask me to come. The principal, Miss Look,
has gone to America on business, for three months. Hooray! Here
is my chance to resign from the "Folded Hands' Society" and do
something that is really worth while, as long as I cannot go to my
man. How good it will seem once again to be in that dear old
mission school, where in the long ago I toiled and laughed and
suffered while I waited for Jack.
The prospect of being with the girls and the kiddies again makes me
want to do a Highland Fling, even if I am in a monastery with a
sad-faced young priest serving me tea and mournful sighs between
What a flirtatious old world it is after all. It smites you and
bruises you, then binds up the hurts by giving you a desire or so
of your heart. Just now the desire of my heart is to catch that
train for Kioto.
So here goes a prayer, pinned to a shrine, for a body intact as I
tread the path that drops straight down the mountain, through the
crimson glory of the maples and the blazing yellow of the gingko
tree, to the tiny little station far away that looks like a
KIOTO, September, 1911.
I cannot spend a drop of ink in telling you how I got here. How
the baggage beast ran away and decorated the mountain shrubbery
with my belongings. And how after all my hurry of dropping down
from Koyo San, the brakesman forgot to hook our car to the train
and started off on a picnic while the engine went merrily on and
left us out in the rice-fields. Suffice it to say I landed in a
whirl that spun me down to Uncle's house and back to the hotel.
And by the way my thoughts are going, for all I know I may be
booked to spin on through eternity.
My visit to Sada was so full of things that did not happen. When I
reached the house, I sent in my card to Sada. Uncle came gliding
in like a soft-footed panther. He did it so quietly that I jumped
when I saw him. We took up valuable time repeating polite
greetings, as set down on page ten of the Book of Etiquette, in the
chapter on Calls Made by Inconvenient Foreigners.
When our countless bows were finished, I asked in my coaxingest
voice if I might see Sada. Presently she came in, dressed in
Japanese clothes and beautiful even in her pallor. She was
changed--sad, and a little drooping. The conflict of her ideals of
duty to her mother's people and the real facts in the case, had
marked her face with something far deeper than girlish innocence.
It was inevitable. But above the evidences of struggle there was a
something which said the dead and gone Susan West had left more
than a mere memory. Silently I blessed all her kind.
Sada was unfeignedly glad to see me, and I longed to take her in my
arms and kiss her. But such a display would have marked me in
Uncle's eyes as a dangerous woman with unsuppressed emotions, and
unfit for companionship with Sada. I had hoped his Book of
Etiquette said, "After this, bow and depart." But my hopes had not
a pin-feather to rest on. He stayed right where he was. All
right, old Uncle, thought I, if stay you will, then I shall use all
a woman's power to beguile you and a woman's wit to out-trick you,
so I can make you show your hand. It is going to be a game with
the girl as the prize. It is also going to be like playing
leap-frog with a porcupine. He has cunning and authority to back
him, and I have only my love for Sada.
For a time I talked at random, directing my whole conversation to
him as the law demands. By accident, or luck, I learned that the
weak point in his armor of polite reserve was color prints. Just
talk color prints to a collector and you can pick his pocket with
My knowledge of color prints could be written on my thumb nail.
But I made a long and dangerous shot, by looking wise and asking if
he thought Matahei compared favorably with Moronobo as painters of
the same era. I choked off a gasp when I said it, for I would have
you know that for all I knew, Matahei might have lived in the time
of Jacob and Rebecca, and Moronobo a thousand years afterwards.
But I guessed right the very first time and Mura San, with a flash
of appreciation at my interest, said that my learning was
remarkable. It was an untruth and he knew that I knew it, but it
was courteous and I looked easy. Then he talked long and
delightfully as only lovers of such things can. At least, it would
have been delightful had I not been so anxious to see Sada alone.
But it was not to be. At least, not then. But mark one for me,
Mate: Uncle was so pleased with my keen and hungry interest in
color prints and my desire to see his collection, that he invited
me to a feast and a dance at the house the next night.
The following evening I could have hugged the person, male or
otherwise, who called my dear host away for a few minutes just
before the feast began.
Sada told me hurriedly that Uncle had insisted on her singing every
night at the tea-house. She had first rebelled, and then flatly
refused, for she did not like the girls. She hated what she saw
and was afraid of the men. Her master was furiously angry; said he
would teach her what obedience meant in this country. He would
marry her off right away and be rid of a girl who thought her
foreign religion gave her a right to disobey her relatives. She
was afraid he would do it, for he had not asked her to go to the
tea-house again. Neither had he permitted her to go out of the
house. Once she was sick with fear, for she knew Uncle had been in
a long consultation with the rich man Hara and he was in such good
humor afterwards. But Hara, she learned, had gone away.
She would _not_ sing at these dinners again, not if Uncle choked
her and what must she do! I saw the man returning but I quickly
whispered, "What about Billy?"
Ah, I knew I was right. The rose in her hair was no pinker than
her cheeks. If Billy could only have seen her then, I would wager
my shoes--and shoes are precious in this country--that her duty to
her mother's people would have to take a back seat.
Before Uncle reached us I whispered, "Keep Billy in your heart,
Sada. Write him. Tell him." And in the same breath I heartily
thanked Uncle for inviting me.
It was a feast, Mate--the most picturesque, uneatable feast I ever
sat on my doubly honorable feet to consume. There were opal-eyed
fish with shaded pink scales, served whole; soft brown eels split
up the back and laid on a bed of green moss; soups, thin and thick;
lotus root and mountain lily, and raw fish. Each course--and their
name was many--was served on a little two-inch-high lacquer table,
with everything to match. Sometimes it was gold lacquer, then
again green, once red and another black. But it was all a dream of
color that shaded in with the little maids who served it; and they,
swift, noiseless and pretty, were trained to graceful perfection.
The few furnishings of the room were priceless. Uncle sat by in
his silken robes, gracious and courteous, surprising me with his
knowledge of current events. In the guise of host, he is charming.
That is, if only he would not always talk with dropped eyelids,
giving the impression that he is half dreaming and is only partly
conscious of the world and its follies. And all the time I know
perfectly well that he sees everything around him and clean on to
the city limits.
Again and again in his talks he referred to his color prints and
the years of patience required to collect them. Right then, Mate,
I made a vow to study the pesky things as they have seldom been
attacked before--even though I never had much use for pictures in
which you cannot tell the top side from the bottom, without a
label. But then, Jack says, my artistic temperament will never
keep me awake at night. Now I decided all at once to make a
collection. Heaven knows what I will do with it. But Uncle grew
so enthusiastic he included his niece in the conversation, and
while his humor was at high tide I coaxed him into a promise that
Sada might come down to Hiroshima very soon, and help me look for
Yes, indeed there was a dance afterwards, and everything was
deadly, hysterically solemn--so rigidly proper, so stiffly
conventional that it palled. It was the most maleless house of
revelry I ever saw. Why, even the kakemono were pictures of
perfect ladies and the gate-man was a withered old woman.
There was absolutely nothing wrong I could name. It was all
exquisitely, daintily, lawfully Japanese. But I sat by my window
till early morning. There was a very ghost of a summer moon. Out
of the night came the velvety tones of a mighty bell; the sing-song
prayers of many priests; the rippling laugh of a little child and
the tinkling of a samisen. Every sound made for simple joy and
peace. But I thought of the girl somewhere beyond the twinkling
street lights, who, with mixed races in her blood and a strange
religion in her heart, had dreamed dreams of this as a perfect
land, and was now paying the price of disillusionment with bitter
Eight o 'clock the next morning.
I cabled Jack, "Hiroshima for winter."
He answered, "Thank the Lord you are nailed down at last."
P.S.--I have bought all the books on color prints I could find.
Hiroshima! Get up and salute, Mate! Is not that name like the
face of an old familiar friend? I have to shake myself to realize
that it is not the long ago, but now. A recent picture of Jack and
one of you and the babies is about the only touch of the present.
Everything is just as it was in the old days, when the difficulties
of teaching in a foreign kindergarten in a _foreigner_ language was
the least of the battle that faced me. Well, I thought I 'd
finished with battles, but there 's a feeling of fight in the air.
Same little room, in the same old mission school. Same wall paper,
so blue it turned green. And, Lord love us, from the music-rooms
still come the sounds like all the harmonies of a baby
organ-factory gone on a strike.
But bless you, honey, there is an eternity of difference in having
to stand a thing and doing it of your own free will. As Black
Charity would remark, "I don't pay 'em no mind," and let them
wheeze out their mournful complaints to the same old hymns.
Had you been here the night my dinky little train pulled into the
station, you would have guessed that it was a big Fourth of July
celebration or the Emperor's birthday. I would not dare guess how
many girls there were to meet me. It seemed like half a mile of
them lined up on the platform, and each carried a round red lantern.
Until they had made the proper bow with deadly precision, there was
not a smile or a sound. That ceremony over, they charged down upon
me in an avalanche of gaiety. They waved their lanterns, they
called _banzai_, they laughed and sung some of the old time foolish
songs we used to sing. They promptly put to rout all legends of
their excessive modesty and shyness. They were just young and
girlish. Plain happy. Eager and sweet in their generous welcome.
It warmed every fiber of my being. When they thinned out a little,
I saw at the other end of the platform a figure flying towards me,
with the sleeves of her kimono out-stretched like the wings of a
gray bird, and a great red rose for a top-knot. It was Miss First
River, a little late, but more than happy, as she sobbed out her
welcome on the front of my clean shirt-waist.
It was she, you remember, who in all those other years was my
faithful secretary and general comforter. The one who slept across
my door when I was ill and who never forgot the hot water bag on a
cold night. For years she has supported a drunken father and a
crazy mother; has sent one brother to America and made a preacher
Now she is to be married, she told me in a little note she slipped
into my hand as we walked up the Street of the Upper Flowing River
to the school, adding, "Please guess my heart."
And miracle of the East! She has known the man a long time and
they are in love! I am so glad I am going to be here for the
wedding. It comes off in a few weeks.
I started work in the kindergarten this morning. It has been said
that when the Lord ran out of mothers he made kindergartners.
Surely he never did a better job--for the kindergartners. Mate,
when I stepped into that room, it was like going into an enchanted
garden of morning-glories and dahlias. What a greeting the
regiment of young Japlings gave me! I just drank in all the
fragrance of joy in the eager comradeship and sweet friendliness of
the small Mikados and Mikadoesses with a keen delight that made the
hours spin like minutes.
And would you believe it? The first sound that greeted my ears
after their whole duty had been accomplished in the very formal
bow, was--"Oh--it is the _skitten Sensei_ (skipping teacher) A
skit! A skit! We want to skit!" Of course, they were not the same
children by many years. But things die slowly in Hiroshima. Even
good reputations. Everything was pushed aside, and work or no
work, teachers and children celebrated by one mad revel of skipping.
There are many things to do, and getting into the old harness of
steady routine work and living on the tap of a bell, is not so easy
as it sounds, after years of live-as-you-please. But it is good
for the constitution and is satisfying to the soul.
I once asked my friend Carson from Colorado if he could choose but
one gift in all the world, what would it be? "The contintment of
stidy work," answered the wise old philosopher from out of the
West; and my heart echoes his wisdom.
Had a big fat letter from Jack, and the reputation he gives those
germs he is associating with, is simply disgraceful. He gives me
statistics also. Wish he wouldn't. It takes so much time and I
always have to count on my fingers.
He tells me, too, of an English woman who has joined the insect
expedition. Says she is the most brilliant woman he ever met.
Thanks awfully. And he has to sit up nights studying, to keep up
with her. I dare say.
I 'll wager she 's high of color and mighty of muscle and with
equal vehemence says a thing is "strawdn'ry" whether it 's a
dewdrop or a spouting volcano.
I can't help feeling a little bit envious of her--out there with my
Jack! Well! I will not get agitated till I have to.
A note from Sada says Uncle has had another outburst. He still
consents for her to come down here. Her beautiful ideals have been
smashed to smithereens, and the fact that nothing has ever been
invented that will stick them together, adds no comfort to the
situation. Her disappointment is heart-breaking. I cannot make a
move till I get her to myself and have a life-and-death talk with
her. I am playing for time.
I wrote her a cheerfully foolish letter. Told her I was making all
kinds of plans for her visit. I also looked up some doubtful
dates--at least, my textbook on color prints said they were
doubtful--and referred them to Uncle for confirmation, asking that
he give instructions to Sada about a certain dealer in Hiroshima
who has some pictures so violent, positively I would not hang them
in the cow-shed. That is, if I cared for Suky. But it is anything
for conversation now.
I almost forgot to tell you that we have the same _chef_ as when I
was kindergarten teacher here in the school years ago. He 's
prosperous as a pawnbroker. He gave me a radiant greeting. "How
are you, _Tanaka_?" quoth I. "All same like damn monkey,
_Sensei_," he replied. But he is unfailingly cheerful and the
cleverest grafter in the universe, with an artistic temperament
highly developed; he sometimes sends in the unchewable roast
smothered in cherry blossoms.
How wise you were, Mate, to choose home and husband instead of a
career. I love you for it.
HIROSHIMA, October, 1911.
For springing surprises, all full of kindness and delicate
courtesies, Japanese girls would be difficult to equal. Before a
whisper of it reached me, they made arrangements the other day for
a re-union of all my graduates of the kindergarten normal class.
It is hard to imagine when they found the time for the elaborate
decorations they put up in the big kindergarten room, and the
hundred and one little things they had done to show their love and
warmth of welcome. It was a part of their play to blindfold me and
lead me in. When I opened my eyes, there they stood. Twenty-five
happy faces smiling into mine, and twenty babies to match. It was
the kiddies that saved the day. I was not a little bewildered, and
tears stung my eyes. But with one accord the babies set up a howl
at anything so inconceivable as a queer foreign thing with a tan
head appearing in their midst. When peace was restored by natural
methods, the fun began.
The girls fairly bombarded me with questions. Could I come to see
every one of them? Where was Jack? Could they see his picture?
Did he say I could come? How "glad" it was to be together again.
Did I remember how we used to play? Then everybody giggled. One
thought had touched them all. Why not play now!
The baby question was quickly settled. Soon there was a roaring
fire in my study. We raided the classroom for rugs and cushions
and with the collection made down beds in a half ring around the
crackling flames. On each we put a baby, feet fireward. We called
in the _Obasan_ (old woman) to play nurse, and on the table near we
placed a row of bottles marked "First aid to the hungry." As I
closed the door of the emergency nursery, I looked back to see a
semi-circle of pink heels waving hilariously. Surely the fire
goddess never had lovelier devotees than the Oriental cherubs that
lay cooing and kicking before it that day.
How we played! In all the flowery kingdom so many foolish people
could not have been found in one place. What chaff and banter!
What laying aside of cares, responsibilities, and heavy hearts, if
there were any, and just being free and young! For a time at least
the years fell away from us and we relived all the games and
folk-dances we ever knew. True, time had stiffened joints and some
of the movements were about as graceful as a pair of fire tongs and
I may be dismissed for some of the fancy steps I showed the girls,
but they were happy, and far more supple than when we began.
When we were breathless we hauled in our old friend the big
_hibachi_, with a peck of glowing charcoal right in the middle. We
sat on our folded feet and made a big circle all around, with only
the glimmer of the coals for a light. Then we talked.
Each girl had a story to tell, either of herself or some one we had
known together. Over many we laughed. For others the tears
Warmed by companionship and moved by unwonted freedom, how much the
usually reserved women revealed of themselves, their lives, their
trials and desires! But whatever the story, the dominant note was
acceptance of what was, without protest. It may be fatalism, Mate,
but it is indisputable that looking finality in the face had
brought to all of them a quietness of spirit that no longing for
wider fields or personal ambition can disturb.
None of them had known their husbands before marriage. Few had
ever seen them. Many were compelled to live with the difficulties
of an exacting mother-in-law, who had forgotten that she was ever a
But above it all there was a cheerful peacefulness; a willingness
of service to the husband and all his demands, a joy in children
and home, that was convincing as to the depth and dignity of
character which can so efface itself for the happiness of others.
One girl, Miss Deserted Lobster Field, was missing. I asked about
her and this is her story. She was quite pretty; when she left
school there was no difficulty in marrying her off. Two months
afterward the young husband left to serve his time in the army.
For some reason the mother-in-law did not "enter into the spirit of
the girl," and without consulting those most concerned, she
divorced her son and sent the girl home. When the soldier-husband
returned, a new wife, whom he had never seen, was waiting for him
at the cottage door.
The sent-home wife was terribly in the way in her father's house,
for by law she belonged neither there nor in any other place. It
is difficult to re-marry these offcasts. Something, however, had
to be done. So dear father took a stroll out into the village, and
being sonless adopted a young boy as the head of his house. A
_yoshi_ this boy is called. Father married the adopted son to the
soldier's wife that was, securely and permanently. A yoshi has no
voice in any family matter and is powerless to get a divorce.
Moral: If in Japan you want to make sure of keeping a husband when
you get him, take a boy to raise, then marry him.
But the wedding of weddings is the one which took place last
summer, by suggestion. The great unseen has lived in America for
two years. The maid makes her home in the school. The groom-to-be
wrote to a friend in Hiroshima: "Find me a wife." The friend wrote
back: "Here she is." Miss Chestnut Tree, the maid, fluttered down
to the court-house, had her name put on the house register of the
far-away groom, did up her hair as a married woman should and went
back to work.
To-morrow she sails for America, and we are all going down to wave
her good-by and good luck.
She is married all right. There will be no further ceremony.
I would not dare tell you all the stories they told me. For I
would never stop writing and you would never stop laughing or
The end of all things comes sometimes. The beautiful afternoon
ended too soon. But for the rest of time, this day will be crowned
with halos made with the mightiness of the love and the dearness of
the girls who were once my students, always my friends.
It took some time to assort the babies and make sure of tying the
right one on the right mother's back. Not by one shaved head could
I see the slightest difference in any of them, but mothers have the
knack of knowing.
Out of the big gate they went and down the street all aglow with
the early evening lights twinkling in the purple shadows. Their
_geta_ click-clacked against the hard street, to the music of their
voices as they called back to me, "Oyasumi, Oyasumi, Go kigen yoro
shiku" (Honorably rest. Be happy always to yourself).
My gratitude to this little country is great, Mate. It has given
me much. It was here life taught me her sternest lessons. And
here I found the heart's-ease of Jack's love. But for nothing am I
more thankful than for the love and friendship of the young
girl-mothers who were my pupils, but from whom I have learned more
of the sweetness and patience of life than I could ever teach.
Mate, there is a man in Hiroshima for whom I long and watch as I do
for no other inhabitant. It is the postman. You should see him
grin as he trots around the corner and finds me waiting at the
gate, just as I used to do in the old teaching days. I doubly
blest him this morning. Thank you for your letter. It fairly
sings content. Homeyness is in every pen stroke.
Please say to your small son David that I will give his love to the
"king's little boy" _if_ I see him. My last glimpse of him was in
Nikko. Poor little chap. He was permitted to walk for a moment.
In that moment he spied a bantam hen, the anxious mother of half a
dozen puff-ball chickens. Royalty knew no denial and went in
pursuit. The bantam knew no royalty, pursued also. The four men
and six women attendants were in a panic. The baby was rescued
from a storm of feathers and taken back to the palace with an extra
guard of three policemen.
I have been very busy, at play and at work. We have just had a
wedding tea. My former secretary, Miss First River, as she
expressed it, "married with" Mr. East Village.
The wedding took place at the ugly little mission church, which was
transformed into a beautiful garden, with weeping willows,
chrysanthemums, and mountain ferns. Also we had a wedding-bell.
In a wild moment of enthusiasm I proposed it. It is always a guess
where your enthusiasm will land you out here. I coaxed a cross old
tinner to make the frame for me. He expostulated the while that
the thing was impossible, because it had never been done before in
this part of the country. It was rather a weird shape, but I left
the girls to trim it and went to the church to help decorate. The
bell was to follow upon completion. It failed to follow and after
waiting an hour or so I sent for it. The girls came carrying one
trimmed bell and one half covered. I asked, "Why are you making
two wedding-bells?" My answer was, "Why Sensei! must not the groom
have one for his head too?"
Everybody wanted to do something for the little maid, for she had
so bravely struggled with adversity of fortune and perversity of
family. So there were four flower girls, and the music teacher
played at the wedding march! In spite of her efforts, Lohengrin
seemed suffering as it came from the complaining organ.
Miss First River was a lovely enough picture, in her bridal robes
of crepe, to cause the guests to draw in long breaths of
admiration, till the room sounded like the coming of a young
cyclone. They were not accustomed to such prominence given a
bride, nor to weddings served in Western style.
Oh, yes, the groom was there, a secondary consideration for the
first time in the history of Hiroshima, but so in love he did not
seem to mind the obscurity.
The ceremony over, the newly-wed seated themselves on a bench
facing the guests. An elder of the church arose and with a
solemnity befitting a burial, read a sermon on domestic happiness
and some forty or fifty congratulatory telegrams. After an hour or
so of this and several speeches, cake was passed around, and it was
over. At the maid's request I gave her an "American watch with a
good engine in it" and my blessing with much love in it, and went
back to work. Do not for a minute imagine that because I am not a
regularly ordained missionary-sister, that I am not working. The
fact is, Mate, the missionaries are still afflicted with the work
habit, and so subtle is its cheerful influence, it weaves a spell
over all who come near. No matter what your private belief is, you
roll up your sleeves and pitch right in when you see them at it,
and you put all your heart in it and thank the Lord for the
opportunity to help.
The fun begins at 5:30 in the morning, to the merry clang of a
brazen bell, and it keeps right on till 6 P.M. For fear of getting