MOSTLY ABOUT FLOWERS

It was late when Leslie left the hotel. The moon was rising over
Nagasaki, and he required no lamp to light him up the hill path leading
to the house.

In the veranda he sat down to rest a moment and pull off his boots. The
landscape garden, looking very antique in the moonlight, lay before him,
the moon lighting its tiny hills and melancholy groves with the same
particular care that presently he would bestow on the forests of Scindia
and the Himalayas. On one of its verdurous swards lay a mark. It was the
mark of Jane du Telle’s footstep imprinted on Campanula’s garden.

He sat for a while in thought, then he unlatched a panel with a sort of
gridiron-shaped key, then he searched in his pocket for matches, and
found he had none.

Determining to grope his way up and go to bed by moonlight, he closed
and fastened the panel, leaving himself in darkness, caught his toe
against an hibachi, left as if on purpose for him to tumble over, swore,
knocked himself against a screen, which fell crash on Sweetbriar San,
the household cat, who had once made part of the Fir-cone, Plum-blossom,
Moon, and Snow ministry, and the intelligent animal, conceiving that
robbers had entered, rushed wildly round and round in the dark till a
panel slid back revealing Pine-breeze with a wan and weary smile on her
face, and an andon or night lantern in her hand. She handed Leslie a
candle and box of matches, and, still smiling, slid back, closing the
panel as she went, like a figure in a trick toy, Sweetbriar San
bristling and glowering on her shoulder like a fiend.

The upper part of the House of the Clouds was divided by panels into a
passage and three rooms. One for Leslie, one for the Mousmés, and the
third for Campanula.

Pine-breeze, with her arm full of towels, or what not, would often come
into Leslie’s bedroom through the wall. He might be in his bath, he
might be–anything, it was all the same to Pine-Breeze, she was thinking
of her duties, not of him.

One night, long ago, he had awakened in the arms of Mother Fir-cone, who
was jibbering with fright. There was a mosquito-net between them, for
she had rushed through the wall, and literally flung herself upon him,
tearing the mosquito-net from its attachments. I do not wonder at her
fright. Also San was in eruption, and a fearful earthquake was roaring
and billowing under Nagasaki.

Several times had the Mousmés rushed into his room all clinging
together, and crying “Dorobo!” (Robbers). Robbers had tried to burgle
the house twice, in fact. He had shot one the second time, and they
never came again. Yet he always slept with a Smith and Wesson
convenient, for a Japanese robber is a business man, without a heart,
but with a desire for plunder keen as the edge of a sword.

Leslie’s bedroom was a very bare apartment, furnished mostly with a
nothing. A futon and pile of pillows–he had tried the makura or
Japanese pillow, but given it up in disgust–under a mosquito-net, a
wash-stand, a stick-rack, and some pegs to hang clothes on, constituted
the remainder of the furniture. The window was a wide open space crossed
by lattice slats, through which the moon was now shining, her light
partly intercepted by the dance of a cherry bough waving in the wind.

Leslie undressed and got into bed. Seen through the blue gauze of a
mosquito-net, the room had a character all its own.

The House of the Clouds by night was not the place for a person
afflicted with insomnia. There were so many noises only waiting to tell
strange tales to the strained ear. Tales of mystery and exaggeration.
Lying awake you would hear some one leaning close against the attenuated
house wall; it was the wind. And now, a scratching sound as of a panther
trying to commit a burglary; it was the wind; and now a whisper like the
whisper of a lover to his mistress–or maybe of a robber to his mate; it
was the wind.

Then the owl sitting on the roof, staring with saucer eyes at the moon,
would give one low, whistling cry, and his mate beyond somewhere, would
make cautious answer.

Then “tap, tap, tap.” It would be the wind–making the skeleton finger
of a dead Samurai out of a loose lattice.

Then a thunder of cats and a yell on the veranda roof, and the drowsy
one, just off to goblin land with the dead Samurai, would be brought up
all standing, and half rise for a boot, or a boot-jack, or anything
hurlable, and sink back with a sigh, remembering that he was in Japan.

The wind played upon the House of the Clouds just as a maestro plays on
a fiddle, but with a more distressing result. Sometimes of an autumn or
winter night you might have sworn the place was surrounded by a company
of old Japanese ghosts escaped from the clutches of Emma O[1] and
requestful of succor and safety.

[1] The Guardian of the Buddhistic hells.

Leslie could not sleep. This eruption of his past into the present
disturbed him deeply.

He had been getting acclimatized, losing little by little that horrible
sense of exile and home-sickness that had driven him once across half
the world to London, and now it was all coming back.

And she was married to that little beast, and, worst of all, she seemed
content.

For eight years he had looked upon her as a thing dead to him, and now
she had returned with sevenfold power, for she brought the past with
her. The golden past, golden despite that dour father, Colonel Leslie of
Glenbruach, that just man unacquainted with folly. She brought the river
in spate and the leaping salmon, the heather-scented wind from the
purple hills, Glenbruach in the midst of a world of snow, the ripple of
the mountain burn and the faint reek of peat.

Worse than all these, she brought herself. She was the same spiritually
and mentally as the slim girl of long ago–a slip of a girl straight as
a wand and as full of laughter and movement and brightness as a mountain
brook.

But materially she had vastly altered. She was now a woman, divinely
formed, a creature appealing to every sensual fiber in a man’s nature.

And George du Telle owned all this!

Leslie, I daresay you have perceived, was a man who did not take what
one may call a dry-light view of things, past or present, when they had
relation to himself; as a matter of fact, he saw the shortcomings of
others tremendously clearly. The shortcomings of his father, of
Bloomfield the lawyer, of the Sydney bar loafers, of Danjuro the curio
dealer, and of poor old sinful, grubbing M’Gourley–too clearly, in
fact.

His own shortcomings he acknowledged by word of mouth. He knew they were
there, just as a merchant knows a bale of damaged and unsaleable goods
is in his cellar, but he did not go down and rake them out and examine
them carefully.

No one ever had cared for him, he said, but he never asked himself if he
ever had permitted any one to care for him. With this outlook on life, a
semi-poetical nature, and passions that slept long and deeply only to
awake rejuvenated and with the strength of demons, he might before this
have gone entirely to the devil, only for a lodger he had.

An old Scotch ancestor lived with him. This “pairson,” who had
once worn a long upper lip and had been a writer to the signet, a
just, hard, God-fearing, and straight man, had a chamber in a
convolution of Leslie’s brain, where he sat–he, or his attenuated
personality–twiddling his thumbs like a night watchman and waiting for
alarms.

It was this gentleman who had saved his descendant from the weak man’s
form of suicide–drink.

He now came out in his old carpet slippers and read his descendant a
lecture on the text: “Thou shalt not lust after another man’s wife.”

And he spoke hard and strong, taking almost entirely the “wumman’s” side
of the question; pointing out that society, as we know it, imperfect as
it may be, is ruled by a number of laws whose aim is the common weal and
the individual’s comfort and happiness.

He pointed out that the life of a “wumman” is composed, not of grand
passions and Italian opera scenes, but of a hundred thousand trifles,
each one insignificant enough, yet each helping to form that grand
masterpiece, a pure woman’s life.

That a woman might be pure in mind, even if married to a “red-headed
runt” like George du Telle. That if that was so she was a happy woman,
and that if a man loved her, loved he never so madly, it would be a
strange expression of that love to blast her happiness, and soil her
soul.

It would not be love, but lust–the passion of those devils which Mr.
Channing had hinted at that evening, those people of the night who
slumber not nor sleep.

Having finished, he went into his chamber and shut the door.

And Leslie lay reflecting on his words, also on the words of Channing.

Evil made manifest. The face of the creature on the Nikko road came
before his mental eye. That was evil made manifest. He had seen the
thing. He had known the devil by hearsay since a child. He had heard the
“Deevil” thundered at from Scotch pulpits, tracts about the devil had
been put into his hand; he had heard people make laughing remarks about
him: he was so familiar with the vague personality called Satan that he
felt no interest in him, neither interest nor aversion. Never a shudder.

But that thing in the sky of the opium dream, the music that had brought
it–that, indeed, was evil painted by the hand of an artist; worth all
the sermons ever thundered from pulpits, all the tracts ever printed.

Then his weary brain grew drowsy, and there strayed across it the fair
figure of the Lost One, the very antithesis of all things evil.

Only last night before going to bed she had murmured a story half to
herself, half to him, with her eyes fixed on the glowing embers of the
hibachi, and he retold it to himself now to put himself to sleep.

It was about the great battle between the beasts and the birds–the real
reason why the owl was reduced to shame and forced to cover himself with
night.

“And they came from the North and the South and the East and the West in
flight, oh, many ri broad. The quails from the millet, the stork from
the river, and from the pond the king-fisher, flashing like a blue jewel
in the sunlight.

“Then said the stork, who led all these people of the air:

“‘Behold! we are all assembled but where tarries Sir Owl?'”

“Then a sparrow made answer and said:

“‘As I paused to rest on a cherry bough, for my wings be little though
my heart is big, I heard Sir Owl in treasonable conversation with a rat.
And said he, “Come forth from thy burrow, O Rat, that I may feast my
eyes upon thee; and the empire of the beasts shall be thine, and also
the empire of the birds.”‘”

“And the voice of the Hidden One replied–”

But what the Hidden One made answer, Leslie did not remember, for the
artless story had lulled him to sleep.

O Japan! Spring! Dawn! what an exquisite and roseate mystery surrounds
the meeting of ye three!

Night, and the owls, and the ghosts, have vanished, day and the sparrows
have come.

Up from Nagasaki rise the murmurs of life, mists are vanishing from the
hills across the harbor, where the lateen sails of junks are rising to
find the wind, and the sampans dart about like attenuated water-beetles.

The far, faint sound of a bugle from the man-of-war anchorage crosses
the far, shrill crowing of a cock owned by Mr. Pinecape, the cobbler of
Jinriksha Street–two rapiers of sound crossing each other in the now
brilliant air. Then the noises of the day deepen, and the whirr of the
cicala mixes with all sorts of faint domestic noises, a _mélange_ from
which the ear can pick out notes just as the eye points in an
impressionist’s picture: the clatter of a pair of clogs, the call of a
watercress seller, the clash of a tin pan dropped somewhere, and then
cock-crow after cock-crow from far and near, some loud and defiant,
others defiant enough but faint, as if coming through a pin-pole half a
mile away.

The kitchen of the House of the Clouds is a square apartment, with no
matting on the floor, and just now flooded with sunshine.

Leslie, in the early days, had caused to be constructed by a stranded
ship’s carpenter, a solid English kitchen-table of white pine. He wanted
to give the man a job, and he thought the thing would prove useful; and
it did.

To begin with, it smelt deliciously, and Mother Fir-cone amidst her
avocations would take a sniff at it now and then, just as a snufftaker
takes a pinch of snuff; she would also sit under it preparing sweet
potatoes, stringing beans or what not; but as for using it as a table,
such an idea never occurred to her. In fact, she had no ideas at all
about a table, and was quite convinced that this gift of Leslie San’s
was a sort of pine-wood temple, constructed for the purpose of being sat
under.

It was also a place of refuge in time of earthquakes, when the whole
household, saving Leslie and Campanula, got under it for fear of the
roof falling. It received the title of “Honorable,” and was altogether a
thing very much respected, and even vaguely beloved.

Under it this morning sat Lotus-bud, preparing fish for breakfast; on it
(these new Mousmés used it as a shelf) reposed various paper boxes
containing eggs and groceries, weird-looking boxes suggesting that a
conjurer was about to commence operations, not a cook.

The sun laid a great square of light like a burning mat upon the floor
near the table, and on her knees in the center of this mat of light sat
Pine-breeze cleaning an hibachi. Cherry-blossom, the third Mousmé,
squatted right before Pine-breeze doing nothing.

From under the table was escaping a faint blue haze of smoke. Lotus-bud
had just taken a few whiffs from a tiny pipe.

They all smoked, these Mousmés, pinches of stuff like chopped hay in
pipe bowls the size of a child’s thimble; but Campanula had never
acquired the art, though all her friends were ardent tobacco lovers.
Leslie San had said “No,” and that was enough.

As Pine-breeze cleaned the hibachi and made it spick and span, she was
telling the others a yarn, mostly to do with her doings when down the
town marketing last evening. How she had bought this or that, what had
been said to her, and so forth–a tale simple enough, but a miracle of
genius considering the tongue in which it was told. For in the Japanese
there are but two parts of speech, the noun and the verb; these, and
splinters and scraps of broken-up nouns and verbs, which, in the form of
particles and suffixes, help to shore up the meaning and pin together
the common sense, have to do all the talking.

The learner of Japanese feels at first like a person condemned to eat
gravy soup with chop-sticks. Oh, for even a pronoun! Imagine talking to
a person without being able to use the word “You,” without being able to
use the word “I”! Imagine the horrible tortures of a Japanese egoist on
his death-bed making, or attempting to make, his dying speech!

But there are no egoists in Japan–can’t be with such a language–and
there are no purse-proud snobs, or if there are, they hide themselves
very closely.

For self-depreciation is the key-note of Japanese conversation and
manners.

So she goes on with her story, in a voice sweet to listen to as the
ripple of a mountain brook, and Lotus-bud listens under the table,
fish-knife held in air, for the tale is reaching an interesting point.

Then Campanula’s voice is heard speaking to Sweetbriar San. She is
coming to the kitchen to superintend things and–crack! the fish’s head
is cut off, and three Mousmés are working like one.

Campanula San is younger than any of these Mousmés, and she treats them
like sisters, yet strangely enough, they do not encroach, but treat her
as their mistress–a condition of things impossible in Europe, and
presently, perhaps, impossible in Japan.

The sun has leapt now over the hills, and Leslie is heard moving
upstairs. Pine-breeze claps her hands with horror, and rises to her
feet: she has forgotten to fill his bath.

She goes to do so, and Campanula wanders out the front way to the
balcony, where she pauses to gaze at the azaleas, shading her eyes with
her hand.

The fire is spreading; another crimson blossom is almost unfolded, and
others are soon to be born. Every spring the coming of the azaleas is an
event in Campanula’s life.

A wealth of crimson azaleas is one of her first recollections. Away
beyond that crimson fire of flowers lies the land of her earliest
childhood. The house with the plum tree, very vague indeed; the father
who hit things with a hammer, still vaguer; the sugar-candy dragon lost,
and so miraculously recovered; the little boy who went to sleep in the
snow–or was it in a field of lilies?

Her real life, it seemed to her, began as she was reaching for a crimson
blossom one day in a field of crimson blossoms, and was suddenly caught
up sky-high by a thing taller than a tree, who did something to the side
of her neck, just under her left ear, that was not hurtful or
particularly unpleasant, but which, nevertheless, made her scream.

Then, behold, she saw that the thing was a man, though in strange
clothes, but he did not frighten her in the least, and she gave him her
hand at once, and with confidence, whereupon he took her in his arms and
carried her to a road where stood another man, all black, even to his
hands, but his face was white, and he had a red beard.

Then this man, who was also unfrightful, began to make her remember
things that she had for the moment forgotten. To remember her father,
and the fact that she had lost her way, and other things too, including
the errant dragon. He made her remember that she wished to get back to
her father, but she did not remember this so very clearly. In fact she
was quite content to go with these two men over the hills and far away,
feeling sure she was safe with them, went they where they would.

The scenes on the road to Nikko she remembered: a funny man away in the
distance dancing amongst trees, and the entry into Nikko borne sky-high
above all the other children, the Tea House of the Tortoise,
and–grandest remembrance of all!–the miraculous awakening with the
long-lost dragon in her hand. He was so full of mystery that she never
had even dreamt of eating him, and she still possessed him. He was
upstairs in the drawer of a lacquered cabinet, cracked, it is true, by
changes of temperature and warped in the back, for age touched all
things, even sugar-candy dragons.

Then there was her life at the House of the Clouds, the mission school;
rainy days when she splashed through the mud under a broad paper
umbrella; fine days when she flew kites with M’Gourley San, played
hop-scotch with Kiku San and Kitsune Ken, with all sorts of other Sans,
mostly with shaved heads.

This was Campanula’s childhood as she remembered it. But as you cannot
remember your childhood till you have stepped over the line where the
child becomes a boy or girl, Campanula had not begun remembering it till
about six months ago.

Up till then M’Gourley San, and Leslie San, and Sweetbriar San, and a
host of other honorable people surrounded her, one as important as the
other, Mac perhaps more important than any.

Then all at once–in a week or so, to be more precise–a host of new
ideas came to her, bothersome, formless ideas, as ungraspable yet as
insistent as the great Boyg himself.

Then the ideas began to take form. It was in the garden one day. Her
eyes fell on one of the flowerless azalea bushes, and she remembered how
it had been covered with crimson flowers last year, and how beautiful
they were, beautiful above every other flower, even the lordly peony,
who seems to hold the whole glory and mystery of summer in the gloom of
his splendid heart. And her mind wandered back from spring to spring,
led by the crimson blossoms, till she called to mind the valley where
Leslie had found her.

It was he who had found her wandering alone there, and he had picked her
up.

She had never forgotten the valley; it had lain in the distance in her
mind, but she had no use for it till now. Now it came to her in all its
splendor, and explained to her why the azalea was the flower she loved
above the peony, the lotus, or even that glorious mystery, the
dragon-spume chrysanthemum.

Flowers are so bound up with the lives of the children of Japan that
they have a meaning and speak a language to them almost unknown to us.

So Campanula sat immersed in her dream, and Leslie, who had swung a
hammock between two cherry trees and was lying in it, little knew what
was going on in the small head of the person seated near him on the
square of matting. She had been doing some needlework, but her work had
dropped in her lap, her hands were folded, and her eyes were fixed on
the azalea bush.

Next day, or perhaps the day after, for a man’s perceptions in these
matters are sometimes dull, he noticed a change in her. He could not say
what it was, but the submissive and humble person, the very fact of
whose existence was a theme for perpetual self-excuse, had somehow
changed. She was just as submissive and humble, but there was a subdued
joyousness in her manner when excusing her existence as though she
thought that somehow it might not be such a frightful crime after all,
and perhaps capable of condonation some day.

Then, when he called for his cigar-case Pine-breeze did not appear with
it, though Pine-breeze loved to be the carrier of it, because it was a
foreign thing, and the leather smelt deliciously.

Campanula brought it _and_ a match-box, a thing that Pine-breeze’s
flighty little mind nearly always forgot.

A few days before, Leslie had possessed three servants and what he
called an adoptive daughter. Then he suddenly found himself in the
possession of four servants, one of them more attentive than the other
three put together. He put it down to the fact that her housewifely
instincts were awakening, and as the change in her wrought for his
comfort and ease he did not speculate on the cause as he would have done
had the reverse been the case.

Women are curious creatures, as the philosophic Mac once said. But on
the whole, in their way, I think men are just as strange.

Kite-flying had now been put aside with other childish things, and the
tiny hands that had grasped the sugar-candy dragon were now preparing to
grasp the real business of life: a business whose main objective was the
happiness and comfort of “He who is taller than the tallest of trees.”

Pine-breeze, Lotus-bud, and Cherry-blossom. Looking at them in a row,
you might have thought them pretty much alike, as far as mind and spirit
were concerned, just as three sleek, well-groomed ponies may seem
identical–until you try to drive them.

It was not till Campanula took the reins that she found the three
underlings were each afflicted with a special infirmity, or rather
special infirmities.

Pine-breeze was such a scatterbrain that if you sent her down town in a
hurry for eggs she would, as likely as not, dawdle home in an hour with
tomatoes and some wild tale picked up on the way, pleasant and
interesting enough, no doubt, but useless for the purpose of making an
omelette. She would leave Leslie’s bath unprepared, and then, sitting in
her own tub, would clap her hands with horror at the remembrance of her
own forgetfulness, and as likely as not attempt to rectify her error
attired in a bath towel; and she would smash things–crockery ware
understood–with almost the facility of your Western parlor-maid. To
make up for these bad points, she was literary above her class; had a
passion for flowers above her fellows, and had composed a poem about a
grasshopper.

Lotus-bud was the cook; her infirmity was weakness. She would sit and
listen to Pine-breeze’s idle chatter and let the bread burn. Pine-breeze
could work and talk, but Lotus-bud could not even work and listen. So
she would sit with her hands in her lap, listening. She made a splendid
audience but a somewhat indifferent cook.

As for Cherry-blossom, she was purely and simply an idler, a
lotus-eater, a hobboe in the guise of a butterfly. A thing so fragile
and pretty, so perfectly dressed and so seemingly boneless, that you
felt to expect work from her would be absurd; which, indeed, it would
have been.

For she never worked, she dreamed.

She was enamored of a riksha man, and she would go out and meet him
under the lilacs at the gate, and then vanish with him to goodness knows
where for the evening.

He was the strangest natural phenomenon, this lover of Cherry-blossom’s,
for he was always changing in size, and his face was never scarcely
twice alike, and his number–rikshas are numbered just like hansom
cabs–was

255.
66.
7.
103.
and 42.

At least Pine-breeze, who was an observant body, got that far in her
notation, and then gave it up as a bad job.

All these things, and more, Campanula had to cope with, and she did so
with more or less success, gaining in her experience much that a girl of
her age is supposed not to know, but losing nothing either in gentleness
or modesty.

She brought Pine-breeze to a vague sense of the wrongfulness of flighty
ways, and with her own little hands she made new bread to replace a
batch of loaves burnt to cinders by Lotus-bud (bread that gave Leslie
indigestion for a week).

As for Cherry-blossom, she told her, missionary fashion, that she would
certainly go to hell and be burnt like Lotus-bud’s loaves if she did not
stop vanishing down town with riksha men; and Cherry-blossom ground her
nose on the matting and wept, and promised reformation, and went out two
nights afterwards with No. 173 to a grand blaze up at the O Suwa temple,
where she devoured candied beans and comfits, and bowed before graven
images, and had a general good time with a host of “heathen” people like
herself.

Cherry-blossom’s rikshas never cost her anything. Love lent them to her.

Leslie’s socks up to this had always been vanishing, and the ones that
remained, were always, or generally, in holes. The Mousmés said it must
be the mice. Campanula, however, found Pine-breeze one morning cleaning
a kettle with a silk dress-sock. It seemed silk socks at half a guinea a
pair gave a polish nothing else would give.

The kettles were duller after that, but the depredations of the mice
ceased.

Having looked at the promise of the azaleas, she went in to see how
things were getting on.

Presently she and Leslie were seated at breakfast opposite to one
another on the floor. Leslie, attired in a suit of faultlessly fitting
pale gray tweed, looked much more like an Indian cavalry officer on
leave than an umbrella merchant, as he called himself. He had arranged
to call for Jane du Telle at ten o’clock to take her out shopping; the
gloomy thoughts of the night before, the effect of the opium, and the
effect of the dream, had vanished.

He was sipping his tea, and glancing over the _Japan Mail_, when
Campanula interrupted him.

“What iss Dick?” she suddenly asked; she prolonged her s’s in the
faintest degree, difficult to reproduce in print, for there is no type
capable of representing an s and a quarter.

“What is what?” asked Leslie, lowering the _Japan Mail_, and staring at
his pretty _vis-â-vis_.

“Dick–she called you Dick.”

“Who?”

“She who gave you the flower,” said Campanula, lowering ever so little
her head.

“Which flower?”

“The one in your coat–yesterday.”

“Oh,” said Leslie, remembering a bluebell that Jane had plucked and
given him as they went down hill the day before, and remembering also
that George du Telle and Campanula had been walking behind and must have
seen the transaction. “She calls me Dick because that is short for my
name.”

“Dick,” murmured she, in a meditative voice.

She seemed turning the name over in her mind. Tasting it mentally, so to
speak.

“She is an old friend of mine,” continued Leslie. “I knew her,
Campanula, before you were born, away over in another part of the world,
where half the year it snows and where the wind blows just as hard as it
does in Nippon, but the wind never brings flowers as it does here.”

“No flowers,” she murmured, incapable of imagining such a land.

“Only flowers like that blue one, and wild roses and a few others, but
you never see camellia trees growing by the roads, nor lotus flowers on
the ponds.”

“Nor azaleas?”

“Nor azaleas–at least, as they grow here.”

A shadow crossed the open doorway.

“M’Gourley San,” said Campanula, who was seated facing the door.

“Dinna rise,” said M’Gourley. “I’ve had ma breakfast, and I’ll juist tak
a seat on the verandy till y’ve done.”

“I’m done,” said Leslie, forgetful of grammar, and rising up, he came
out, the _Japan Mail_ under his arm, and a briar root in his hand.

They talked business a while, and then Leslie said:

“I say.”

“Weel?”

“You remember that woman I told you of on the Nikko road?”

“Which wumman?” asked Mac, taking up a pebble from the path just by the
veranda, and shying it at one of the hills of the landscape garden.

“Girl, I meant; you remember the girl I told you of?”

“Oh ay; the lass that flung you ower board–what of her?”

“She’s here with her husband.”

“Whaur?” said Mac, turning his head as though he fancied Jane and her
spouse were camping out in the garden.

“She’s staying at the Nagasaki Hotel with her husband.”

“Whoat’s their names?”

“Du Telle.”

Mac doubled himself up for a moment, alleging for reason a touch of the
stomach-ache, as a matter of fact it was a touch of internal laughter.

The day before yesterday he had found the newly-arrived George du Telle
in the smoke-room of the Nagasaki Hotel, stood him drinks, and conducted
him to Danjuro.

There they had saki and pipes, and George du Telle had bought a
Pickford’s van-full of rubbish, and parted with a fat green check on
Cox’s. An exceedingly fat check written with one eye shut, it is true,
but quite in order.

“I dined with them.”

“Ye whoat!” cried Mac, coming back from a vision of the victorious
Danjuro doing the cake-walk amidst his bronzes and lacquers, kimono
pinched up on either side between finger and thumb, his nose in the air,
and on his face an assumption of stiff and haughty pride enough to kill
one with laughter.

“Weel! weel!” said Mac, addressing the hills of the landscape garden.

“What are you weel-weeling about?” asked Leslie irritably.

“I am not a puncteelious man,” said Mac, still addressing the hills, “in
the small concairns of life, but if a lassie had treated me same’s she
you, _I’d a seen her dammit before I’d ha’ dined wi’ her_.” He shouted
the last words, and brought his big fist down on his knee with a bang.

“Don’t shout,” said Leslie, “and make an ass of yourself. We didn’t
quarrel when we parted; we parted good friends. She didn’t want to marry
me–well, that was her look-out.”

“I wish they hadna’ come,” said Mac gloomily.

“What on earth is the matter with you _now_?”

“I’ve seen the waurld,” said the Gloomy One, “and I’ve seen wummen. And
I’ve seen _her_–saw her in the smoke-room–” He stopped.

“What smoke-room?”

“Of the hotel. I was havin’ a crack wi’ her husband day-fore yesterday,
and in she come to speak a word to him; and I know wummen–and, weel, I
know, fixed between that chap with a head like a blazin’ whin-bush and
you, which way she’ll run.”

“I wish you wouldn’t be such a fool,” said Leslie, now really annoyed
and therefore keeping himself in check; “she’s nothing to me.”

Mac turned, and under his bushy, half-grizzled eyebrows stared in
Leslie’s face, and Leslie did not support his gaze, but turned away
irritably, and flung stones at a brown hawk that was circling in the air
before them.

Mac got up, tapped the ashes out of his pipe, and made off.

“See ye the morn?” he called back as he got to the gate.

“Maybe,” said Leslie, looking at his watch and rising to go into the
house.

He went down at ten, and shortly after his departure, out came
Campanula, a basket in her hand and sandals on her feet, for the weather
was dry. She came along the path towards the cherry trees, examining the
ground and the interstices of the bushes.

At last she saw what she wanted, a bluebell.

She plucked it with tender care and put it in her basket, then she saw
another and treated it the same, and another; so went she on till it
became perfectly plain that her object was not gardening, or the
gathering of a bunch of flowers, but the extermination of every bluebell
on the premises.

When the place had been cleared and the basket was half full of victims,
the question came how to dispose of them. Impossible to throw them away
or burn them; she would as soon, almost, have treated children so.

She stood at the gate undecided, till suddenly there came the solution
of the problem, and opening the gate she passed down the lilac-shaded
path to Nagasaki. On the way she saw more bluebells and stopped to pluck
them, so that when the lane at the bottom was reached the basket was
nearly full.

In a rabbit-hutch of a house off the lane lay a tragedy, or the remains
of one, in the form of O Toku San, a poor work-girl. She had loved a
man, and he had not even betrayed her in the ordinary way. He had simply
changed his mind, and gone off with another girl.

She tried to kill herself, not in the native way, but with some
abominable sort of foreign poison–Oxalic acid, most likely; but they
saved her life, and she lay in the hospital nearly a month with her
hands tied, to prevent her trying to kill herself again.

When she came out of the hospital she made no more attempts to obtain
peace. She was in the clutches of pernicious anæmia, and she now lay
dying, a despairing shadow, the ghost of what had once been a pretty and
happy girl.

Campanula turned to the tiny house, and that day O Toku San had a whole
silver yen to give to her mother on her return, and a bunch of
freshly-gathered blue flowers to charm her eye: things to the dying
better than all music and poetry, and far above the greatest
masterpieces of art.

They were in the street running parallel with Jinrikisha Street, a
street truly of the old time, narrow with the house-tops, when the
houses had upper stories over-leaning the way.

Jane seemed fascinated by the contents of the little shops, that sold
everything from cuttle-fish to paper lanterns. Shops that were, most of
them, simply raised platforms, matted and roofed.

Here abounded the tortoise-shell carvers, and the men who can make a
netsuké to charm the eye out of anything: a knot of wood, a shark’s
tooth, a useless bit of ivory.

“I’m going to buy things,” said Jane, looking with a lustful eye on the
cheap, or seemingly cheap, curios exposed for sale in some of the shops:
old bronze gongs, kettles, sword guards, broken crockery were carefully
mended, lamps, such as the Chinese magician might have hawked at the
back entrance of the palace of Aladdin, fans, trick toys, and tiny boxes
for holding rouge; tobacco-monos and opium pipes, broken-down English
umbrellas, lacquer trays, and a heap of other dust-traps utterly
useless, and some of them not very ornamental.

“If you _will_ waste your money,” said Leslie, “I’d advise you to come
to Danjuro’s. We can get to it by this lane, and I won’t let him swindle
you beyond the ordinary tourist pitch.”

“Very well,” said Jane, turning from a booth bearing this cabalistic
inscription on its front, “Come rightin!”[2] “The things look pretty
dusty, and I don’t see anything I very much want–I’d like to buy
_that_, though.” She pointed to a mite in the colored kimono, playing
battledore and shuttlecock in the gutter with another mite of its own
size. “They seem so happy and jolly, these Japanese children, and clean,
and I read somewhere they never give any trouble, or break things, or
annoy people–Bless the child!”

[2] I presume “Come right in!” was the artist’s intention.

A shuttlecock hit her a slap in the face, and the shuttlecock hitter
laughed, and trotted after it, without any semblance of apology to his
target.

“There’s another illusion shattered,” said Jane, wiping her face with
her handkerchief.

“Have you–” began Leslie.

“What?”

“Any children?”

“No,” said Jane; “I have not.”

The stork on the tortoise, emblem of eternal life, and a “supposed”
masterpiece of the great Miochin family of metal-workers, still stood on
guard in the fore-front of Danjuro’s wares. It was the same stork that
Leslie had seen five years ago–at least, in appearance. In reality it
had been sold five or six times during the last five years.

The selling of the thing always brought forth Danjuro’s latent sense of
humor, and could Danjuro the actor have seen his namesake at these
supreme moments of trade, he would certainly have claimed him as a
brother in art.

It would be an American woman, perhaps, in a blue veil, and with a
smattering of knowledge picked up from artistic books about Japan. Mac
would be the go-between, translating the desires of the female into
Japanese for the edification of Dan, who spoke English, by the way, as
well as Mac, and even, perhaps, better.

“Sell it!” Danjuro would cry. “I would as soon think of selling my own
mother. Tell her Augustness to ask of me anything else. It is a piece of
true Miochin, owned by my father, and his father before him. It has
always brought my family luck, etc.”

All of which M’Gourley would faithfully translate with the addition:

“He’s the greatest auld scamp in the waurld; he’s only puttin’ up the
price. Bide a wee, and let him simmer doon. It is not a true Miochin,
but it’s a vara excellent imitation, made, mayhap, by some pupil of the
Miochins. Would y’ be wullin’ to pay twanty poonds?”

The Blue-veiled One assenting, Mac and Danjuro would go for each other
in Japanese, and after five minutes’ ferocious wrangling, and five
minutes more of interpretations, the thing would change hands at
twenty-five pounds, to be replaced next day, or, at least, the day after
the departure of the Blue-veiled One from Nagasaki, by its twin image. A
man at Osaka made them by the gross, and he charged two pounds ten
a-piece for them to the trade.

Fortunately, the dead know not the doings of the living, else would the
artistic Miochin family be turning eternally in their uneasy graves,
with the rapidity of spinning bobbins.

Danjuro came out with his usual profound salute and low hiss.

Hiss is perhaps not the proper word, for the sound is made by the intake
of air between closed teeth, and is intended to represent delight beyond
words.

And, indeed, when Danjuro beheld M’Gourley entering with a client ready
to be shorn, the sound came from him as no empty compliment, but as a
natural expression of his true feelings.

It was different as regards Leslie. Danjuro looked on Leslie with the
nervous dread with which you or I might look upon a mischievous lunatic.

Leslie had once nearly spoiled a bargain–a delightful bargain from the
dealer’s point of view, a disgraceful swindle viewed by the cold light
of English ethics.

An English Member of Parliament had been trepanned into paying two
hundred pounds for a pair of vases worth, maybe, twenty. Mac in his
jubilation boasted before Leslie, and Leslie had “put the stopper on,”
caused the money to be returned, with a note to the effect that the jars
were now discovered (from some documents connected with them) to be
imitation, and not as represented when bought.

The Member of Parliament, instantly concluding that _this_ was a
swindle, and that he had obtained priceless articles by accident,
refused to accept the money, or return the jars.

And thus was he done brown on his own spit, and basted by his own right
hand, for in his book of travels, “Amongst the Japs,” he mentioned the
transaction, and, worse still, sent a copy of the book to Danjuro, with
the passage marked with blue pencil.

Dan read the passage with the aid of a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles,
and with a face mirthless as a shovel.

But the soul in him bubbled. He could quite understand the Member of
Parliament’s point of view, but Leslie’s was quite beyond his power to
grasp.

Honesty for the sake of honesty, and without any ulterior reason, even
Art for Art’s sake was more understandable than that.

So he hissed without pleasure as he bowed before Leslie and Jane,
imploring them to condescend to make the honorable entrance, and
intimating that everything in the place was theirs.

Jane nodded to him, and looked round.

“There’s one of the monstrosities I told you of that George bought the
other day,” said she, pointing to a bronze frog half as big as an
ordinary coal-box. “Oh, look at _that_!”

She pointed to a furious struggle in bronze between a man and a monster.
The monster had opened its mouth to devour the man, and the man had
caught it by the tongue, which he was tearing out.

It was the climax of the fight, and the conclusion one could read in the
triumphant ferocity of the man’s face–a thing to make one shudder.

“Danjuro San,” said Leslie grimly, speaking in Japanese, whilst Jane
gazed at the fighting group, “this is the lady whose husband you and
M’Gourley San entertained the other day–the Red-headed One. She is a
friend of mine, and I pray you to entertain her differently.”

This is a vague interpretation of the Japanese for “This is the lady
whose husband you swindled the other day, but if you play any of your
tricks with _her_, I’ll make you sit up–see?”

To fight with a Japanese you must come to blows, for you can’t possibly
do it in words properly. The old Japanese who made the language had no
use for terms of abuse: swords were good enough for them.

“I’ll have that,” said Jane, suddenly seizing the fat baby, the size of
a tangerine orange, done in ivory and engaged in feeding ivory ducks on
top of a lacquer cabinet, “and the ducks. Tell him to send them to the
hotel; you can fight with him about the price afterwards–and those two
vases; and oh, that ivory Mousmé with the umbrella–isn’t she sweet! I
don’t see anything else I want. _You_ have something, I want to make you
a present.”

“I don’t want anything, I’m tired of curios.”

“Well, you’ll just have to want something, for I’m going to make you a
present. I’ll give you this.”

She took up a short sword in a carved ivory scabbard. On the ivory
handle of it was figured a grimacing god, dancing apparently. She drew
the blade, polished and razor-sharp, and then returned it to its sheath.

“Take it; it will come in handy when those robbers you told us of last
night at dinner come again.”

“I don’t want the thing; it’s unlucky to give knives.”

“It’s not a knife, it’s a sword!”

“All right,” said Leslie, “anything for peace;” and he took a great
sheet of rice paper from Danjuro and wrapped the thing carefully up.

“Now,” said Jane, “I want something for langn-yappe, as they say in New
Orleans–something thrown in.”

Danjuro declared that the whole shop was hers to do what she liked with.

“I don’t want the whole shop,” said Jane, “but I’ll have that.” She took
possession of a tiny rose tree in the pot, a rose tree with blossoms the
size of farthings.

“Now come.”

“One moment,” said Leslie.

His ear had caught a familiar sound. It came from the cellar where many
of Danjuro’s goods were stowed; it was the voice of Mac, and it came up
like the voice of the Hidden One in Campanula’s story. Mac evidently had
a victim in the cellar. Leslie went to the cellar stairs and listened.

“I would not let him see you’re wanting it. Juist assume a casual
expreesion as if ye were na so vary carin’ whether ye got it or no’.
He’ll be sure to tell ye it’s a piece o’ Miochin–it is _not_.”

“How much do you think it’s worth?” (A burly English voice, suggestive
of shepherd’s plaid trousers, a corporation, gold albert, and double
chin.)

“All of fifty pounds, but not a penny more, not a penny more. Show him
the money; there’s not a Jap in Nagasaki can withstaund the sight of
goud–or notes.”

“Look here, if you get it for forty, I’ll give you a ten per cent.
commission.”

“Am no so very carin’ about commeesions; stull, as you offer it, I’ll
not say ‘No.'”

The stork and tortoise were being sold again.

Leslie turned away in disgust.

“Come,” he said to Jane, “let’s go.” And they passed out into the sunlit
street, he carrying the parcel containing the sword, she the rose tree
done up in rice paper pictured vaguely with the forms of storks.

“She has given him a wakizashi,” murmured Danjuro, and he retired into a
corner to smoke a whiff or two of hay-colored tobacco, and think
inscrutable thoughts, before addressing himself to the victim that Mac
was preparing down in the cellar.

“What shall we do now?” asked Jane when they were in the street.

Leslie thought for a moment.

“I’ll tell you,” said he. “We’ll get rikshas and go to the cemetery–”

“I’ll do no such thing,” said Jane promptly.

“If you will allow me one moment–I’m not proposing to take you to a
place like Kensal Green. A Japanese cemetery is worth seeing, just as
much worth seeing as a Japanese town. Then we can go and have luncheon.”

“Where?”

“Would you like to go to an eel-house?”

“Gracious, no! I hate eels. First a cemetery, and then an eel-house! I
have half a mind to go back to the hotel.”

“Well, a tea house, then; we can go to the Tea House of a Thousand
Joys.”

“Oh, that quite decides the matter,” said she, assuming an outraged air,
and hailing one of two rikshas that were passing.

Leslie hailed the other, and quietly directed the riksha boys to the
cemetery.

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