“It almost makes one wish one were dead,” sighed Jane. They were sitting
on a moss-grown tussock near a grave adorned with a fresh spray of
cherry-blossom, contained in a joint of bamboo. Beneath them the hill
stretched downwards, terrace after terrace, casting before their eyes
the cold color of marble, and the mournful green of cryptomeria trees,
the delicate tracery of ferns, and the glory of the wild camellias.
Beyond lay the blue of the harbor, black-blue where the wooded cliffs
met the water; from the water the hills led the eye past camphor woods
and the green of the young bamboo, up and away to where the brown of
their summits cut the dazzling azure of the sky. “I have never seen
anything so beautiful, so peaceful. What are you thinking of, Dick?”
“I was thinking,” said Leslie, rousing himself, “that we might have
luncheon at my place.”
“You are perfectly disgusting!” said Jane. “I’ll never go to a cemetery
with you again. Luncheon! Who wants luncheon here?”
“Very few,” said he grimly, gazing over the tombs.
“Now you’re trying to be smart–at the expense of these poor things. Ah!
look at that tiny grave with the white flower in the little vase.”
“Yes; a thing with a great sash that was flying its kite or spinning its
top the other day, and now it’s here.”
“Or hitting shuttlecocks about the street.”
“Yes,” wiping her cheek where the shuttlecock had hit her–then
suddenly: “I think men are beasts,” addressing the distant hills.
“I’m with you there.”
“No, you’re not; all men are just the same.”
“I suppose you mean to infer in a roundabout way that I’m a beast.
“There’s nothing to be thankful for, only–they don’t understand.”
He took her hand in his as if to make friends, and she let him hold it
for a moment, then she suddenly drew it away.
“Had not we better be going? What’s the time?”
“Will you come and have luncheon at the hotel?”
“No, thanks; why not come and lunch at my place? I’ll give you all sorts
of funny Japanese things to eat. Luncheon won’t be till half-past one,
but you can have a talk with Campanula. It will only take us ten minutes
or so to get there from here.”
They came down to where the rikshas were waiting; he helped her in,
tucked the linen apron round her, and gave the men their direction.
Campanula San had not yet returned, declared Pine-breeze, as she
kow-towed before them on the matting.
“Well, she won’t be long,” said Leslie. “Shall we go into the house or
“The house,” replied Jane. “I’m tired of the sunlight; let’s go in, and
sit on the floor and talk.”
“Right. But do you mind–”
“Well, as a matter of fact, there’s a clause in the lease that no one is
to go in with their boots on.”
“Why, for goodness sake?”
“They say it spoils the matting.”
“All right,” said Jane, holding up a small foot, and trying to unbutton
the shoe on it.
“Let me,” said Leslie, going down on his knees.
The shoe came off, and the little foot in its bronze silk stocking lay
in his hands for half a second–half a second during which he was seized
with a wild desire to kiss it. Next moment it was out of his hands, and
the other was presented to him.
“You are all thumbs!” said Jane. “Do be quick! I’m not a stork to stand
on one leg for an hour. There, you’ve burst a button off! I knew you
“Pine-breeze will sew it on,” said he, hunting for the button on his
“No, she won’t. It doesn’t in the least matter. Gracious, Dick! when I
see you just like that, crawling about on your knees–”
“I can’t help remembering–Do you remember the rainy day at Glenbruach,
when you and I were playing marbles in the pistol gallery, and I said
you cheated, and you said you didn’t, and I said you did, and you called
me a liar?”
“And you hacked my shins?”
“Yes; and old Mrs. Johnstone, the housekeeper, came in and saw me and
said I was an ‘awfu’ lassie!’ Can it be that all that really happened,
and that we are the same people? Imagine me hacking your shins now!
Imagine us both playing marbles on the veranda!”
“And we didn’t speak to each other for a day,” said he, following her
into the house. “And you looked so stiff and sour, and all of a sudden
you came up from behind and flung your arms round my neck.”
“And you shouted: ‘Oh, get away, you little brute!'”
“Yes; because I thought you were making another attack on me, and all
the time you only wanted to k–”
“I didn’t. I only wanted to apologize.”
“Well, apologize, then!” said he, arranging the cushions on the floor,
and placing the rose tree and the parcel containing the sword in a
“It is sad to look so far away,” said she, taking as comfortable a
position as she could upon the cushions. “Life was so jolly then. Oh! a
good old day’s trout-fishing is worth all the money in the world. Money
is no use; what’s the good of it? It just makes one not care for the
simple pleasures of life. Do you remember the picnic you and I and those
American children, who were staying at Callander, had, when the
soda-water bottle burst, and we found we’d left everything behind but
the jam and the eggs? Dick, I–I–want to ask you something.”
It was one of the peculiarities of Jane’s mind that a question
formulating there would work its way along like a worm, under, maybe,
ten minutes of conversation, and then come out at the end of a
paragraph, rise for air, so to speak, in a manner irrelevant and
“What became of you all those three years before you came here to
Japan?–you vanished. You told me the other day you were in Australia;
“I was in prison.”
She turned deathly pale, and stared at him as if he had struck her.
“Oh, you need not be so alarmed; it was not a criminal but a social
prison. My father allowed me a hundred and fifty a year, paid quarterly,
as long as I lived in Sydney, and as I had no trade and no money I lived
in Sydney for three years–tied by the leg.”
“I think you take a pleasure in frightening me; first you told me you
were a shopman, now a prisoner. Dick, why do you _always_ make your own
case out worse than it really is? Tell me, what was the last quarrel
with your father about?”
“And, Dick–you know you used to–”
“I know I used to drink, but I don’t drink now.”
They were silent for a while, then he began to speak and tell her the
story of his life as a remittance man, and he did not spare black in the
composition of his picture.
She listened at first interested and amused by the thought of Dick tied
by the leg in Sydney, hobbled, so to speak, and made to behave.
Then her amusement gave way to compassion. She saw him wandering in the
Domain, by the sea-shore, in the streets, a lonely figure, a man with no
interest in life, an exile banned by society.
She thought of all the men she knew and the number of them who were just
as wicked and foolish as Dick had ever been, yet who by keeping on the
right side of their bank balance retained their social position and the
respect of all men.
And thinking of all this the heart in her was moved. A most dangerous
condition just now, for Jane, Bessemer steel in her everyday laughing
mood, became wax when her compassion was aroused.
“Why didn’t you write and tell me?” said she. “I’d have gone and seen
your father. Oh, it was wicked to send you off like that, away from
every one. _How_ could a father treat his child so!”
They were silent again for a moment.
“Poor Dick!” said Jane suddenly, and she took his hand in both hers and
stroked it. A little shiver went through him.
Then, all at once, she felt an arm around her waist and his breath upon
her cheek, and she did not try to take her hand from his or struggle,
nor, after the first second of troubled alarm, did she feel the wish to
She had ceased for the moment to be Jane du Telle, a married woman, a
person with a stainless reputation. All these facts were swept away by
nature, just as shrubs and fir trees are swept away by the rush of the
A great faintness came over her. She clung to him, and sinking
backwards, fell upon the matting; his arms were around her, his breath
on her cheek, her lips were returning his kisses, yet all the time her
lips were murmuring: “Don’t–don’t–don’t!”
* * * * *
At this supreme moment came a sound strangely alien to the
situation–the jingling of tea-cups no less–and through the wall, or at
least the opening of a panel, entered Pine-breeze, followed by
Cherry-blossom, with the luncheon.
* * * * *
“Dick!” she cried, sitting up with her cheeks raging red, “tell them to
But Dick was not heeding her. He was sitting up with his hands to the
side of his head, and an expression on his face that made her almost
forget her own position before the Mousmés.
“Do you hear it?” said he.
“That noise, my God, that noise.”
A tiny cage was hanging from a hook on the wall. In it was a thing much
beloved by Campanula–an insect like a grasshopper that sang a buzzing
and tremulous sort of song. The mushi was a creature that only sang by
night as a rule, but some spirit had moved its poetic soul, for it was
“It’s that thing in the cage,” said Jane, pointing to it tremulously,
thankful for any excuse to escape the glances of the Mousmés.
He looked up, sprang to his feet, went to the cage, and tore it from its
The Mousmés screamed out, for from his furious manner and the expression
of his face they felt he was about to dash cage and mushi on the
matting, and trample them underfoot.
And he was, for one horrible moment. Then something in him
prevailed–the something that had made him pick the Lost One up and kiss
her, and carry her all the way to Nikko; the spirit of good that had
made him always not so bad as he might have been.
He rehung the little cage on the hook, and the thing in it became dumb;
the sound in his head that troubled him had died away, and he returned
to where Jane was sitting, and resumed his position on the cushions near
Then he told the Mousmés to leave what they had brought on the floor,
and to go away till he called them.
“Oh,” said Jane, when they were alone again, “to think they should have
seen me like that. Oh, _Dick_! How could we–how could I–”
“_They_ don’t matter,” said he gloomily.
“Oh, don’t _talk_ to me!” She wrung her hands.
“For goodness sake,” said Leslie, “don’t make mountains out of
molehills. They saw me kiss you, well, what of that? and they don’t talk
English–at least, English that any one can understand.”
“But like that on the floor,” murmured Jane, comforted somewhat by the
“Well, what of that? We are in Japan, where people live on the floor. I
admit if a servant in England came in and saw–”
“_Don’t!_” screamed she; “don’t speak about it again. It was a moment of
weakness; let us forget forget it. I mean, let us _remember_ it as a
“Do you feel like eating luncheon?” he asked, looking at the pathetic
little dishes and tea-cups, each on its sea-green mat.
“No; I feel like nothing. I only want to go and bury myself.”
He poured her out some tea and took some himself.
“You frightened me,” she said in a tremulous voice after they had sat
for a moment in silence. “I thought you were going to do something
“When you took that cage down with the buzzing thing in it that annoyed
“It didn’t annoy me; that was not the sound I heard. It was the sound I
heard in the dream I told you of–that devil–”
A figure stood in the doorway: it was Campanula returned.
Mac had gone down to the office that morning in a temper.
The staff consisted of himself and Ah Hop Sing, the Chinese office boy.
He could not quarrel with himself, so he quarreled with Ah Hop Sing,
using a rattan cane to enforce the argument, till Ah Hop Sing hopped and
sang in a fashion that justified his title.
Then Mac wrote business letters and whilst he wrote, the thoughts of
this dusty and unlovable-looking Scot went far astray on pleasant and
picturesque roads, under blue skies, by brakes all gay with the crimson
japonica flowers and the glorious beauty of the red camellias, and
beneath the solemn darkness of the cryptomeria woods of Nikko.
That is to say, they would stray to these places, and then he would
recall them to indite letters of advice to Maconochie of Glasgow, a
letter of abuse to Mr. Oyama–a gentleman who never fulfilled his
contracts when they threatened loss, sheltering his business self behind
the ample kimono of the Tokyo guild–and letters to divers other people
And still his thoughts would stray whilst he gummed and stamped the
envelopes, and they would be buying dolls now at booths in Jinrikisha
Street, or helping to fly kites at the House of the Clouds.
They would stand watching a small person playing kitsune-ken with
another person of her own age; and the same small person laboring up the
Hill to the House of the Clouds, burdened with a bundle of books, and
sheltered beneath a many-ribbed crimson umbrella.
Then they would glance at the same person, bigger grown, and suddenly
become beautiful; then they would heave their shoulders and sigh, and
all come back to help in the addressing of a letter to M’Clintock of
Osaka, or some other magnate of the Jap Rubbish Trade.
Mac was in love, as I have before indicated: in love with three people.
A tiny dot in a blue kimono and stiff sash; a person somewhat similarly
dressed, whom he had sometimes helped of evenings with her lessons, or
watched as she pricked her fingers over needlework; and a Mousmé as
pretty as seven.
He had been in love for years without knowing it; a flower had been
growing in this dusty soil, where one could not fancy any green thing
finding nutriment, unless, perhaps, a weed. A white flower, pure and
Nothing could be more ideal than this love, nothing with legs and arms
attached to it could be more un-ideal than Mac. And the strange thing
was that this pure blossom of the soul did not improve the soul it grew
from a bit, at least as far as human eye could see, for the man of the
Great Tung Jade and the Lessar papers incidents was, morally, just the
same–worse, if anything–as the wailing clients of Danjuro could
When Campanula was alone with Leslie in these later days, she wore a
grave and thoughtful air. Watching her, one could perceive that he alone
possessed her mind; all the quaint and charming ways of her childhood,
all things frivolous and light, she seemed to have dropped and left
behind her with her toys.
When Campanula was quite alone with M’Gourley, a subtle change came over
her. The child came out and played.
Though Leslie had adopted her as a daughter, she had by no means adopted
him as a father.
Tod M’Gourley was her adoptive father, or, at least, she treated him as
such. He acted also as uncle, aunt, grandmother, brother and general
playmate all combined; and any half-holiday during the last few years,
you might have seen Campanula and her family strolling along Jinrikisha
Street, or on the Bund: the family in an old top hat, black broadcloth
suit, and bearing a gamp umbrella in its hard fist.
They would stray together through the wonders of the town, Mac and she,
and pause and gaze in at shops like two children, buy sweets and eat
them unashamed and openly. Stop to look at performing monkeys, or listen
to street ballad-singers, or criticize passing funerals.
He had never seen so much of life round town as Campanula showed him,
clapping beside him in her little clogs when the streets were damp, or
gliding beside him sandal-shod in the warm, dry days of spring.
Where Campanula was concerned, this dour and dusty Scot had all the
delicate and instinctive feelings of a woman; he had noticed “fine” the
change that had come over her of late, and the change in her manner
The thing pleased him, yet it made him sigh–and frown, when he called
to mind “that wumman,” the mental label he had attached to Jane du
When he had finished business he went to Danjuro’s shop, where he had an
appointment, as we have seen, with an Englishman. The Englishman having
been duly plundered, Mac looked at his watch, found it was nearly
twelve, and was struck by a bright idea.
He would go to the House of the Clouds, fetch Campanula out, and have
luncheon with her.
Ten minutes later found him on the veranda.
Campanula had just returned, having left O Toku San.
M’Gourley sat down on the veranda, and Campanula sat down beside him on
a little fur rug made from the skin of an Ounce, or some such small
animal. She looked sad and depressed, and her eyes wandered about the
landscape garden as if questioning its hills, its streams, its old, old
“Campanula,” said Mac, taking her little hand between his great rough,
red paws, “what ails you, child? You look sad and fashed, what’s been
“I have been to see O Toku San,” replied Campanula, speaking in
Japanese. “She is dying. Her heart is dead,” said Campanula, putting her
other little hand over her own heart. “I am–oh, so sad! for to-day the
thought of death has come to me, a thought that I never knew before.”
“Child, child,” said M’Gourley, “dinna speak like that. We must all die
soon or later–ay, ay, we must all die, sure enough.”
“But not so sadly as she,” replied Campanula with a little sob.
M’Gourley looked at her; she was in tears.
He drew her close to him just as a mother might have done, and held her
to him whilst she rested her head against his old coat, and sobbed and
wept like a little child, gazing at the landscape garden through the
veil of her tears.
He rocked her gently to soothe her, but said nothing, holding her just
as he had held her that day in the gardens of Dai Nichi Do, as if to
protect her against Death, as he had that day protected her against the
vision of the terrible Akudogi.
Her sobs slowly ceased, but still she kept her cheek rested against his
“What is Death?” she suddenly asked. The question was quite beyond
“Dinna ask me,” he said. “It’s what we all must come to some day.”
“And will O Toku San see him she loved when she goes–there?” continued
she, as if unheeding his reply. “Perhaps”–after a long pause–“he will
know her love for him when he too is there, and make her happy.”
“Mayhap,” said M’Gourley, who did not know the facts of the case, or
perhaps he would not have taken so cheerful a view of O Toku San’s
lover’s future state. “Mayhap.” He looked down at her little face. Her
eyes were dry, but a tear was still wet on her cheek. He took out his
handkerchief and dried it.
Campanula smiled faintly, pressed her cheek ever so slightly against his
arm as if in thanks, and drew away from him, resuming her position on
the little rug.
M’Gourley took out his pipe, lit it, and began to smoke.
“Now,” said he, “just put on those sandal shoes of yours again, for I am
going to take you out with me.”
“Where?” asked Campanula.
“No matter where,” replied Mac, rising from the veranda. “A nice place
where you and I’ll go–you and I together, as we did along the Nikko
road, only not on my shoulder. Na, na! you’re ower big for that. Do you
remember the sugar-candy dragon?”
“Ah! the Hon. Dragon!” replied she in the vernacular, as she bent to
pass the sandal-strap past the great toe of her white tabi. “He is
upstairs with–other things, but the Hon. Dragon is very old now.”
Then she took her umbrella and opened it, and M’Gourley and she passed
down the path to the gate.
He held the gate open for her, and she passed through with a murmured
word of thanks, and then she led the way down hill under the perfumed
beauty of the lilac boughs.
About half-way down, Campanula stepped aside as if to let some one pass.
M’Gourley, close on her heels, and in a reverie, did the same thing
unconsciously. If someone had passed, that someone must have effaced
himself amidst the lilac trees on the left of the path.
“Poor blind man!” said Campanula, looking back up the path.
“Whoat?” cried Mac. “Whoat did y’ say?”
“Blind man,” replied Campanula; “he who came last night–you remember!”
M’Gourley took off his old top hat, and drew his coat sleeve across his
forehead. Beads of sweat had sprung there all of a sudden.
He stood for a second or two looking at Campanula, and then for a second
or two looking up the path, pied with sunshine and shadow, the pretty
path that for him had suddenly been made horrible. There was nothing to
be seen, nothing but the sunshine and shadow.
“My eyes are growing auld,” he said at length. “Do you see him still,
She had turned away to look at a fern that was growing on the bank.
“I do not see him now,” she replied. “He has gone through the gate.”
“Are you sure,” said Mac, speaking in a subdued voice, “that he was the
same man that came last night?”
Campanula was quite sure.
“Wait for me,” said Mac, “and I’ll run up and tell them to give him some
He came hurriedly back up the path, very much against his will.
There was nobody in front of the house, he went round to the kitchen.
The Mousmés were there, preparing luncheon–at least, preparing to
prepare it in a leisurely way.
Had they seen anyone about the house, a blind man?
No, they had seen nobody, only the poulterer, who had been with eggs an
Had they seen a blind man last night–had a blind man called round at
the kitchen to ask for food?
No; nobody had been for food to the kitchen last night, least of all a
Then Mac hurried off, and the Mousmés dropped everything to discuss the
meaning of all these questions asked by the Learned One; and Pine-breeze
embarked on a story about two blind men and a frog, and the fox-faced
representative of the rice god, a story that put the luncheon back half
Campanula was plucking flowers when Mac returned. Just three or four
with a delicate fern frond, such a charming little bouquet, a veritable
work of art made in a moment with unerring taste and a few turns of her
deft fingers. She made Mac bend, and fixed the tiny bouquet in his
Then they pursued their way, Mac vastly perturbed in his mind.
There was just now living in the pleasant city of Nagasaki an inn-keeper
of the name of Yamagata, who owned a tea house named “The Full-blown
Mr. Yamagata was a Progressive. He believed that a tea house where a
real English luncheon or dinner could be obtained would, judging from
his compatriots’ passion for things European, be a success.
And it was, till half Jinrikisha Street nearly died of indigestion.
His tea house was a tiny affair situated up an entry near Danjuro’s
shop, and surrounded by a little courtyard, wherein grew
dyspeptic-looking plum trees in pale amber-colored pots.
Danjuro, who was a friend of Yamagata’s, had been chanting the praises
of the place so long, that Mac had become obsessed by the idea of it;
and casting about for somewhere new to take Campanula, the idea had
turned up like a horrible sort of trump card.
The tea house was on its last legs, and practically deserted, so they
had the place to themselves; and having ordered the meal they sat on the
matting of a desolate room and waited for it to come.
“Campanula,” said Mac, “you have never seen that blind man before?”
She shook her head.
“Never; nor one so ugly as he.”
“Campanula,” said Mac earnestly, “if you see him again dinna speak with
him; he’s an ill man and bodes no good.”
Oh, indeed, she did not wish to speak with him, but he was so old and
poor and ugly she could not but feel sorrow for him; and he said last
night that he had come such a long way off, and must soon return.
“Ay,” said he to himself, “a dom long way off;” then to Campanula: “Said
he anything else?”
“No,” replied Campanula, “for I told him to go to the back entrance, and
At this moment the soup was brought in by three somewhat faded-looking
Mousmés, each armed with a plate, a real English soup plate.
The soup was thin and not exuberantly hot, but it seemed vastly to amuse
Campanula when it was put before her. “A,” said she, pointing with her
spoon-tip to something at the bottom of the plate, “B–C”–she was
pointing to the little Italian paste letters floating, or rather sunk,
in the mixture. “D–and look–a cow!”
Mac looked over to admire.
“Ay, ay, it’s a coo, right enough, an’ there’s a cock and hen; but eat
it up before it gets cold.”
Campanula ate her alphabet, and the next course appeared. A boot sole
labeled a beef-steak, which vanished, uneaten, and was replaced by what
seemed to be an old stone cannon-ball, such as they used to fire out of
Mons Meg. The O.S.C.B. was labeled a pudding.
It was the caricature of an ordinary English middle-class country
But it was an amazingly clever caricature: a perfect work of art.
After luncheon, M’Gourley returned to business, and Campanula to the
House of the Clouds.
On the way, she stopped at the shop of Mr. Initogo to pay a visit to her
Campanula in her school-days had shown both qualities and defects of
mind. At languages, at least in learning the English language, she was a
success; a very moderate success where mathematics were concerned,
though she knew enough to do long division, and to keep household
accounts. They teach a lot of useful things at the mission
schools–needlework, and so forth, and in some of these branches
Campanula shone, but at geography she was a dismal failure. She had been
always lacking in the power of location. Witness her first statements as
to the whereabouts of the house with the plum tree in front of it.
The long sea voyage from Tokyo, or rather from Yokohama, had brought
into her mind the impression that she had traveled to the end of things,
yet they told her there were things beyond.
They showed her maps and globes. The maps were flat, and the globes were
round, yet they said they were the same thing, or were pictures of the
same thing. How a flat thing could be round or the converse, she could
not say, but Howard San, the missionary, said they were. Was it for her
to contradict him? So, instead of setting up her own wits against Howard
San, and questioning him, she accepted his words just as you or I accept
the words of mathematicians or physiologists concerning subjects on
which we are ignorant. And thus on geography she got hopelessly muddled,
and remained so.
This morning she was lamenting her want of geography, and casting about
for some friend learned in the art. Of course she might have gone to
Howard San, but she would have to wait till school was over, and,
besides she felt a certain diffidence in approaching him on the subject,
so she turned to the shop of Mr. Initogo.
Mr. Initogo was sitting on his heels on the floor of his shop, engaged
in the gentle art of making tea; it was one of his fads that he always
made his own tea with his own hands. Beside him stood an hibachi, on
which a kettle was coming to the boil; before him, a tea-cup without a
handle on a tray, and a microscopic tea-pot.
He warmed the tea-cup with a few drops of hot water; then, from a
cylindrical tea-canister, with a thing like a snuff-scoop, he took a
small quantity of green tea–tea of the color that an old black coat
turns after years of sun and rain–this he popped into the tea-pot.
Then the honorable hot water being ready, he poured it into a porcelain
dish to let it cool slightly, which it did, becoming converted during
the act into the honorable old hot water.
The honorable old hot water being now ready, he poured it into the
tea-pot, popped on the lid, looked up, and saw Campanula.
So immersed in his darling employment had he been, that he had not
observed her entrance.
She wished to see Kiku? She was upstairs; this with a thousand apologies
for his own blindness, and comparisons of himself with worms and other
Campanula knew the way up; she had been up often enough before, and up
Kiku San, since we hinted at her as a playmate of Campanula, had grown.
The tumbling tot that Leslie had once caught by the “scruff” of her obi
and held out at arm’s length wriggling, for the amusement of M’Gourley,
had become a Mousmé with a face at once heavy and flighty-looking; a
broad face, pretty enough, but with a maddeningly irresponsible
Pine-breeze was bad enough in the irresponsible line, but she could have
learnt much from Kiku.
She was the dunce, or, rather, had been the dunce at the mission school;
this is not saying very much against her, for Japanese girls are
amazingly quick in the “uptake,” learning coming to them as easily as
ignorance to English girls; all the same she had been the dunce. She had
never been able to conquer the letter “l” in English; and would say
“raidy” for “lady;” yet she had a memory of sorts, blocks of facts swam
in the ocean of her unintelligence like those houses that float about
after an inundation of the Mississippi.
But the place left vacant in her skull by want of learning was by no
means devoid of a tenant; therein dwelt a colossal impudence, a supreme
self-assurance that sheltered and helped to hide the nakedness of her
mind, and even obtained for her, amongst her girl friends, a sort of
fungoid reputation for cleverness.
For when Kiku San said a thing, she said it with such assurance that it
seemed true–the assurance of the absolutely untrustworthy intellect,
which of all assurances is the greatest.
She was sitting now on her heels in a bare room on the upper floor, a
tobacco-mono at her side, and in her hands a round flat box with a glass
lid. She was playing at Pigs-in-Clover.
The two Mousmés bowed to one another with great ceremony, enquiring
after each other’s honorific health, and then Campanula came to rest
upon the matting opposite to her friend.
They formed a pretty picture in the bare room with its chess-board
matting, against the bare walls, whose only ornament was a kakemono
representing Fuji San crested with snow.
Kiku was soon to be married–married to a government clerk to whom she
had been engaged nearly since birth; and she entertained Campanula with
long and uninteresting descriptions of her husband-to-be, his mother,
his father, his grandfather, who lived at Nagoya, his brothers and
sisters, how old they were and all about them.
Kiku was a bore, a female bore of the first water, and in this respect
she could have given any old member of the Rag or Carlton points, and
She told all these things looking up from under her thick eyelids, and
with a half-smile, and Campanula listened, half mesmerized, wholly
weary, but with all her courteous soul awake to do honor to the tale.
At last an hiatus occurred of which Campanula took advantage to ask the
question in her mind.
Did Kiku, so learned on all subjects, know of any land where the snow
lay for half the year?
Oh, certainly Kiku did, and she told about it.
Describing her future husband and his relations she had been vague and
uninteresting, lacking, as she did, the gifts of perception and
narration. But now, plunging into the empire of pure lies, she spoke
with an assurance that made her words sound like gospel.
Such a country existed; as a matter of fact, she had it all in a book
somewhere, but she did not need the book, as she never forgot anything.
It lay in the sea beyond Nankin two hundred and sixty-seven ri beyond,
and the snow lay there half a year, sometimes more.
“Is it a country where blue flowers grow, and roses–sometimes?” said
“Just so, sometimes;” and Kiku, searching in the capacious bag of her
ignorance, began to produce old broken-up facts that had been lying
there like rubbish in the basket of a chiffonier.
The sea all round that place was frozen most of the year, and the sun
shone once a month or so.
Then she painted a graphic picture of this desolate land which she
declared to be divided into four parts, Unster, Munster, Rinster and
Comit; and Campanula sat listening and receiving it all as truth.
Liars, somehow, are always sure of an audience; you and I, who speak the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, languish in
conversation and are not heard, whilst your mendacity-monger holds the
floor and absorbs the interest.
So Kiku San went on spinning her tale, and Campanula San sat opposite to
her and listened, shivering at the dismal pictures being raised before
Then, all at once, from below came the irate voice of Mr. Initogo
calling Kiku the “Heedless One.” If he could have used a stronger
expression he would have used it, for the dinner ought to be cooking at
this moment, and the fish and seaweed had not arrived. The Heedless One
had been, as a matter of fact, playing at Pigs-in-Clover all the morning
instead of marketing.
The Complete Geographer rose to her feet in a hurry, for filial
obedience resided in her breast, not so much as a virtue, but rather as
a sort of mainspring put in by nature–or rather, I should say,
They went out together, and Kiku bought the fish and the seaweed and a
few other important items, and then they parted, Kiku returned home
laden with marketings, and Campanula to the House of the Clouds.