It’s true enough

Jane gazed over Nagasaki, the blue water, the green hills, to the blue
beyond, and sighed. They were standing near the gate; tea was over, and
they were waiting for Campanula, who had gone into the house to make
some alteration in her dress before accompanying them “down town.”

“Richard,” she said, “take us somewhere where we can talk, you and I. I
have such a heap of things to ask you and talk about. Twelve years–can
it be twelve years since we last saw each other? Did you get my last

George du Telle was standing near smoking a cigar, and staring at the
beautiful view with about the same amount of interest he would have felt
had it been a soap advertisement, but she did not lower her voice. She
was perfectly frank with the world and her husband.

This frankness carried her far, and enabled her sometimes to skate on
ice that would have given under many a woman of half her weight, for it
was a genuine frankness, not a thing put on.

She was a person whom women called nice-looking on first acquaintance,
and men mentally registered as plain. Tall, pale, with an excellent
figure, and gray eyes. A man met her and spoke to her, and found her
plain but very jolly, increased the acquaintanceship and found her
plainness vanishing, and then, all of a sudden, his foolish soul was
caught in a trap.

It was the magic of her lips, perhaps. They formed the true Cupid’s bow,
full, and seemingly cut by a chisel wielded by a master hand, sensitive
and sensuous. Gazing at them one came to understand how in the ancient
world tall Troy fell before a kiss.

“Which letter?” asked Leslie, plucking a lilac spray and strewing the
ground with the tiny petals.

“The one I wrote six years ago telling you I was married. I sent it care
of your father.”

“No,” said Leslie gloomily. “I have heard from no one for eight years
and more. I cut the world, you know–or it cut me rather; but I’ll tell
you some other time, here’s Campanula.”

Then they started, Leslie and his companion leading the way.

“Where are you going to take us?” asked Jane, when they had reached the

“Through the city to a place I know on a hill,” replied Leslie.

He had called four rikshas from the stand, and he gave some directions
to the riksha men, and they started.

You cannot imagine the size of Nagasaki till you drive through it in a
swift-running riksha, nor the quaintness, nor the terror that causes
your heart to fly upwards as your riksha man shaves a baby, not with a
razor, but with the off wheel.

Boy babies fighting tops, girls bouncing colored balls, flights of
children whose clogs clatter like the dominoes in an Italian restaurant
as they pursue each other in some mysterious game–everywhere children,
a shifting, colored maze in which the eye gets tangled and lost. Babies,
temples, tea-houses, streets upon streets of houses that look as if you
could flatten them out with the blows of a shovel, bursts of
cherry-blossoms, tripping Mousmés, stone monsters, awful, yet pathetic
with the gray of lichen and the green of moss, a courtyard with a
twisted fir tree leaning across it, laughter, and the tune of a
_chamécen_ running through it all, that is the impression that a riksha
ride through Nagasaki in spring would leave on the mind, were not the
picture blurred by the European element.

Street after street they passed through, and still the mysterious city
kept building up streets before them. Leslie had thought of taking his
companions to the O Suwa, but he had changed his mind and given other
directions to the riksha men.

They passed up a steep incline, dark with fir trees, and drew up at a
great gateway consisting of two joists of wood supporting a vast beam,
the whole making a figure something in the fashion of the Greek II.

Beyond the gateway lay an inclined path, bordered by cryptomeria trees,
leading to the façade of a temple.

“It’s a place I sometimes come to,” said Leslie, as he helped Jane to
descend. “It’s quiet, and worth seeing in its way.”

Campanula and George du Telle led the way this time, Leslie and his
companion leisurely following.

“Come down this path,” said Jane, turning to a side alley. “Oh, how
pretty! and how mournful too, with those rows of dark trees. Dick, this
is not a cemetery you have brought us to?”

“No; it’s a Shinto monastery. Few people know it, and it’s out of the
run of the general sight-seeing bounders.”

“Things with kodaks?”

“And without–but see here, Jane.”


“What’s your husband?”


“Yes, I suppose his name is George. What is he?”

“He’s in the wool trade–he’s the richest man in the wool trade, they
say. He thinks and talks of nothing else but wool. He got off the
subject to-day with you for awhile; wasn’t he brilliant? But we get on
all right together; he has his set, and I have mine.”

“What is his set?”

“The very best–I mean the very worst; the poor old Smart Set that every
one is always beating as if it were a donkey–which it is,” said Jane,
taking her seat on the plinth supporting the prancing figure of Ama-ino,
fronted across the walk by the equally fantastic figure of Koma-ino, a
veritable Lion and Unicorn. “Sit down beside me, Dick, and tell me–”


“What have you been doing all these years?”

“I–I’ve been keeping alive–”

“Dick,” suddenly broke out Jane, as if she had not been listening, “I
have often thought you must have thought me a heartless wretch; but I’m

“There is no use in going over the past,” he said. “What is done is
done, and never can be undone. I can only say that I have never in the
past had a friend to stick to me, or a woman to love me, or a father to
care for me.”

“May it not have been your own fault, Dick? Think for a moment. I don’t
want to reproach you, but you know how wild you were–you know that was
one of the reasons we couldn’t get married. Oh, it wasn’t ‘my
heartlessness,’ as you told me in your last letter but one. I have heart
enough–at least I hope so,” said Jane, looking at Koma-ino as if for
confirmation, “and I wouldn’t have done what I did if you’d been
different. Never mind, Dick, cheer up!–buck up! as they used to say in
the poor old Smart Set, till the respectable folk took the expression
away from them. What’ve you been doing all these long years, Dick?”

“Oh, I’ve been in Australia.”

“What were you doing there?”

“Curse Australia!” suddenly broke out Leslie, digging his heel in the
ground. “Don’t speak to me about it; let’s talk of something else.”

“Well, what are you doing here? I mean, what have you been doing all
these years–playing the guitar, or what?”

“I’m a shopman.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I and a man named M’Gourley are in business.”

“Two Scotchmen?” sneered Jane.

“Two Scotchmen.”

“And what are you selling–paper umbrellas?”

“Yes; and hats and kakemonos, and every other sort of a mono that the
European trade will swallow. We export them.”

“Then you’re a merchant, _not_ a shopman,” said Jane in a half-angry,
half-relieved voice. “I _wish_ you would not give me these sort of
horrible shocks. I thought at first you were serving in some place
behind the counter–”

“Oh, I don’t want to make money in business much; I do it more for
interest and to have an object in life. I’m well off; my father’s money
all came to me–he died well off.”

“And wasn’t it queer?” said Jane. “George is awfully rich, you know;
well, directly I was married, old Aunt Keziah died, and every penny of
her money came to me. Fifty thousand. No, forty-eight thousand, four
hundred and eighty-two pounds, ten and sixpence. It seemed so sweet, the
little sixpence following at the end. I sent for it, and had a hole
drilled through it, and I always wear it on this bangle–look!”

He looked; there were many things hanging on the bangle. He touched a
tiny gold pig swinging by a ring.

“Good heavens!”

“_You_ gave me that,” said Jane, “and I’ve never parted with it.”

“What’s this?” said he, fingering a cabalistic-looking blue stone.

“That’s an inkh, I think; I’m not sure of the name. It’s lucky, or
supposed to be.”

“Who gave it to you?”

“A boy at Cairo last winter.”

“How old was he?”

“Oh, about twenty.”

“And this?” said Leslie, picking out another charm in the form of a

“Look here,” said Jane, pulling her wrist away, “I don’t want to waste
time like this, I want you to tell me more about yourself; I want you to
tell me about that child Campanula. _Why_ did you adopt her?”

“I found her on the road going to Nikko.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s away up in Shimotsuke, beyond Tokyo. I and M’Gourley were on the
tramp. We were sitting by the roadside resting, when a blind man came
along. He was half mad, and talked wild. Said he was a juggler, and
offered to fetch devils out of a wood near by, if we gave him gold.”

“Why didn’t you try him?” said Jane in an interested voice.

“I did try him,” said Leslie; “gave him some money. He made a circle in
the dust, with signs round the rim of it, told us not to touch it or
come near it, got into the middle of it, and fetched out a reed-pipe.
Then he began to play a tune that would make you shiver to hear, and
things croaked in the wood.”

“Go on,” said Jane shivering pleasantly.

“I took my walking-stick and made a mark in the dust just near his foot.
I touched his heel by accident, and–whew!”


“He went off like a rocket; bounded out of the circle, rushed this way
and that, knocking against trees and striking right and left with his
stick, as if dogs were about him. He got round the bend of the road and
vanished. We were pretty much astonished, but that wasn’t the end of it.
In front of us was a valley of the most beautiful crimson azaleas.”

“Wait a moment, Dick; you’re a very bad story-teller. You should always
stage your characters: you should have described the azaleas first and
the scenery. Well, go on.”

“Bother the azaleas!” said Dick. They were fast getting into the old
boy-and-girl way of talking to each other, a somewhat dangerous language
at thirty. “It doesn’t matter whether they come in first or last. Where
was I? Oh yes. Mac suddenly said: ‘Look there!’ I looked, and there sure
enough was a child amidst the azaleas. She hadn’t been there a few
seconds before, and Mac would have it that she had been ‘fetched’; it
was a pretty wild country and no houses around, and there she was, just
as if she had stepped out of a house, plucking away at the azalea
blossoms for all she was worth, a tiny dot in a blue kimono and scarlet
obi. I stole up behind her.”

“I’d have caught her up and kissed her.”

“Just what I did, in fact; and it may have been fancy, but she seemed
slipping through my fingers like–grease till I kissed her, and she
became solid.”

“There’s one thing, Dick, you’ll never make a poet. Well, go on; it’s
awfully interesting.”

“We carried her off to Nikko. No parents could be found to own her, so I
adopted her.”

“What became of the juggler?”

“That was a funny thing. As we turned the bend of the road we saw him
away up in a gorge of the hills. He was still running for all he was
worth, beating about him with his stick as if hitting off devils, and
dashing himself against trees in a quite regardless manner.”

“How awful!”

“Well, frankly, it was, and it had a sequel, for his dead body was found
miles away some days after, and the Japanese police said the trees had
beaten him to death, which they practically had.”

“But, Dick, what was the meaning of it?”

“Who knows! When I touched him on the heel perhaps he may have thought
it was a devil seizing him, and his imagination did the rest. Mac
thinks, or, at least, he once thought–”


“That there was something developing in the wood, something bad; that
Campanula’s ghost was wandering in the wood; that when I made the mark I
did inside the circle, the bad thing was flung out of the developing
medium and Campanula’s ghost sucked into it, and so she became

“And the bad thing went for the juggler man?”

“It and perhaps others.”

“I never heard anything half so horrible, if it’s true.”

“It’s true enough. I was forgetting it almost, but I had a horrid dream
to-day that brought it all back. I was sitting in the garden smoking and
I dropped off to sleep; and I heard the sound of that beast’s pipe, and
I saw the place on the Nikko road, and there was a child amongst the
flowers. Then a frightful bird came along and was going to attack the
child, and I awoke–it was just before you came.”

“Dick, what was the mark you made on the road?”

“The sign of the cross,” said Leslie.

Jane was silent for a moment then–

“I wish you wouldn’t tell me stories like that,” she suddenly broke out.
“I’ll be dreaming about it all to-night.” She shuddered, and gazed at
Koma-ino. “Japan seems a horribly creepy sort of place; I think I’ll
make George come away to-morrow.”

“One side of it,” said Leslie, “is simply crawling; you have no idea,
and I who have lived here five years have only a glimmering of the mind
of the people. Do you know what I think?”


“I think that in the sleeves of their kimonos–I mean their frock coats,
for they’ve put off their kimonos for a while for business
purposes–they are simply laughing at us.”

“At whom?”

“At the English–at Europe.”

“Like their impudence!”

“Perhaps it’s impudence, perhaps not, anyhow–I distrust them–”

“Dick,” said his companion, “look! It’s getting dusk: let’s go and look
for George and your ‘adoptive daughter.’ Mercy! What’s that!”

A deep hum filled the air; it seemed to come at first from the statue of
Koma-ino–a soul-disturbing hum that deepened and swelled and then
leapt, leapt into a deafening roar that rushed over Nagasaki, to die on
the distant sea.

Jane clung to her companion like a child, hugged him as a child might
hug a nurse; her straw hat was pushed sideways, and he found his face
buried in the masses of her perfumed hair. His arm had slipped round her
waist, her arm was over his shoulder, and her fingers pressing his neck;
for a moment he felt as if he were absorbing her being–drinking her.

Then the sound died away.

“_What_ was it?” gasped she, pushing away from him and gazing at him
with a white, drawn face. “Why, you seem half dazed; you were more
frightened than I. Dick, what was it?”

“I’m all right,” said Leslie, in the voice of a man waking from the
effect of an opiate. “I wasn’t frightened. It was only the big gong of
the monastery; I’ve heard it lots of times.”

“Then why couldn’t you have told me?” cried Jane, flying from fright to
fury. “Think what it must have looked like, you hugging me like that.”
She sprang to her feet. “You bring me here and tell me ghost stories,
and frighten me to death with gongs and things, and then–I believe
you’re half a Japanese already, you’ve grown so horrid.”

“There wasn’t any one to see,” said Leslie, rising to his feet. “And
talking about hugging–”

“I don’t want to talk about hugging–talk about hugging! Do you fancy
yourself on Hampstead Heath? Come, let us find George. I want something
common-place after all this.”

They found George and Campanula–the most strangely matched pair in the
world–waiting for them at the gates.

“You’ll come and dine with us at the hotel, won’t you?” asked Jane as
they got into the rikshas.

“I’ll come right enough,” said Leslie. “Wait, please.”

He went to Campanula’s riksha and asked her, but she prayed to be
honorably excused–she had a headache.

She passed her hand across her forehead as if in confirmation of her
words. Leslie tucked the riksha blanket round her knees, and explained
to the Du Telles, and they started.

The quaint city they had come through had changed to a quainter city
still. Night had blotted out the traces of Europe on Nagasaki–at least,
in the purely native streets. All sorts of strange little trades that
sleep in the daytime had awakened with the dusk. Things queer in the
daytime were now mysterious, and things common, quaint. The fish shop,
with its huge paper lantern, besides the fish and the sea-weed on its
slabs, disposed of dreams which it flung away gratis to the passing
traveler in the running riksha, and the booth of the sandal merchant,
with the tiny potted rose tree in front of the wares, became at once an
apology and atonement for all the commonplace villainy condensed in the
word “shop.”

Mousmés passed, now half Mousmés, half glowworms, each bearing a
colored lantern on the end of a little stick; and then the shadows
half lit by lamp-light, where a cherry tree was attempting to peep
into the street: the light of lamps glimmering through paper shutters,
the light of lanterns swinging in the wind–red, blue, white, and
yellow, some pictured with chrysanthemums; the stork that stands so
boldly forth in Japanese pictures but is nearly gone from Japan,
cherry-blossoms, and fish that seem swimming vigorously in a bowl of
water lambent and green; and then the sounds, ten _chamécens_ for one
in the day. The riksha whisks by a booth, whence comes the squalling of
cats–seemingly. It is the gaku, Japanese poetry set to music and flung
into the lamp-lit street to make things stranger, and heighten, if
possible, the charm. At the corner of the by-street leading to the
House of the Clouds they met Pine-breeze simply laden with all sorts of
weird and wonderful paper boxes, and lighting herself on her way with a
lantern pictured with a cuttle-fish and carried on the end of a short
bamboo rod. She had been marketing. It was a fortunate meeting, for she
could escort Campanula home.