Danjuro, the curio dealer of Jinrikisha Street, Nagasaki (no relation of
Danjuro the actor), was a gentleman of uncertain age, with a face which
seemed the relic of a thousand years of debauchery.
It was probably only opium, but the awful weary look with which he
swindled you, when you were once in the trap he called his shop, would
have given Dante points for the construction of a new circle in his
He had spent years in China, had Danjuro, hence, perhaps, the expression
on his face; also the fact that he did his calculations not by aid of
the so-ro-ba, or calculating machine used by the Japanese tradesmen. He
did his calculations in his head, and with that far-away look so filled
with the poetry of the horrible, he would calculate the difference
between the price he had paid for the okimono he was selling you and
your offer for it, contrasting them with your own personality, and from
these three factors calculating to a nicety how much money he could
swindle out of you.
He had a hand in the selling of the Great Tung Jade to the Empress of
China, or rather to her ambassador the Mandarin Li, the shadiest
transaction that ever emerged from darkness; and could you place end to
end the globe trotters swindled and chiseled and fleeced by him, they
would reach in a noxious line from London to Newcastle, and maybe
further. He had long, polished finger nails that shone like plate glass,
and when you entered his establishment he advanced, bowed, and hissed at
you by way of welcome.
He was a rogue, yet he was straight in his way. To be a perfect rogue,
at least to succeed in the art, you must be straight in some ways. The
bandit who betrays his brethren never goes far without a dagger sticking
in his back.
M’Gourley had “discovered” Danjuro years ago. M’Gourley had twice come
to financial smash, once because of an earthquake, and again in the
upheaval caused by the breaking of the Barings. Danjuro had helped him
twice, and he had helped Danjuro many times; helped him with his Western
craft, Scotch cuteness, and knowledge of Europeans.
In every city of the East, in every city of the world, you will find a
fixed Scot always prospering; M’Gourley was a floating Scot. Navigating
Japan from end to end, now at Tokyo, now at Kioto, now at Nagasaki,
crossing to Corea and pottering about there, meeting brither Scotchmen
and helping them in trade speculations, selling, or assisting in the
sale, of everything sellable from coals to kakemonos, went M’Gourley, a
busy man, but somehow a rather unfortunate one.
Suddenly Japan rose and smashed China, Russia stepped in and robbed her
of the pieces, and Japan sat down, drew her kimono round her, and began
to think about Russia.
M’Gourley just then (it was some two years before he met Leslie) was on
the Lao-Tung peninsula, a black wandering dot, innocuous to governments,
one would imagine, as a beetle.
Suddenly M’Gourley returned to Japan, and the day after his return a
sheaf of documents addressed by a gentleman named Lessar to a gentleman
named Mouravieff was in the hands of the Japanese Council of Elders.
I don’t say anything about the transaction at all; it is not for me to
take away the characters of my characters. I only know this, that if the
Russian Government had caught Mac just then, they, laboring under,
perhaps, a fantastically wrong impression, would have done something
decidedly unpleasant to him.
At all events, Mac bought a new suit of reach-me-down clothes at a
native shop in the Honcho Dori at Yokohama, and got so drunk that three
Mousmés had put him to bed, whilst a fourth fanned him, and a fifth
played soothing tunes on a moon-fiddle to exorcise the demon; and a
piece of priceless gold lacquer presented to Mac by a high official was
sold by him to an American week later for five thousand dollars gold
coin–gold coin being much more useful than gold lacquer to a man in
Mac’s way of life.
Thus it came about that Mac was a persona grata with the Japanese
Government, and had many little privileges not enjoyed by ordinary
Danjuro’s shop was situated in Jinriksha Street, a street like a picture
slashed out of the “Arabian Nights,” a picture that a child had made
additions to with a lead pencil and half spoiled.
A bowler hat in Jinriksha Street, for instance, is a thing very much out
of place, yet you see many of them, mostly potted down on the back of
Japanese heads, and making the wearers both frightful and
Here passes a Mousmé under an umbrella, a figure fashioned seemingly
from a rainbow, a figure to bless the eye and make the heart feel glad.
Here stumps along a thing that once was a Mousmé, a thing in European
Here you turn from a shop sign in the vernacular, and across the way,
over the booth where cakes reposing on myrtle branches are sold, “Englis
here is spoke,” blasts your sight.
Jinrikisha Street, and for Jinrikisha Street read nearly every other
street in sea-board Japan, is a picture, as I have said, spoiled as if
by a meddlesome English child.
Danjuro’s shop was all open in front so that you could come right in
past the bronze stork on the tortoise, past the leaping dragon made of
jointed steel, a dragon hard as adamant yet flexible as india-rubber.
Then you met Danjuro, and he sank towards the floor and hissed at you by
way of welcome. The chief treasures were in the cellar below, but here
was quite enough to feast the eye of a not too wise amateur, and make
the purse jump in his pocket.
Danjuro had the art of shop-dressing at his finger-ends. Things always
looked better in his establishment than they did when fetched home.
People would cry: “Is _that_ the Owari vase I bought? Why, _what has
happened to it_?”
It would be the same vase, but divorced from its surroundings.
You cannot imagine the effect of a dwarf plum tree in a green tile pot
upon a dragon of steel until you see them in juxtaposition, nor the
strange difference certain backgrounds make in an Owari vase till you
try them. Danjuro was well up in these subtleties, and this knowledge,
combined with his own personality, lent an added value to his
wares–twenty per cent. at least.
Here in the shop of Danjuro, in a semi-twilight, glimmer demons and
beasts in porcelain and bronze. The frightful face of Akudogi shouts at
you from the wall, the lotus expands over pools in the silent land of
lacquer, and the hundred guinea ivory Mousmé, ten inches high, trips
beneath her ivory umbrella, ever on the way to some fanciful pageant
that had once existed in her creator’s dreams.
Here is a Jap baby, about as big and as round as a tangerine orange,
feeding ducks. Here a little box a size larger than a walnut. Open it;
inside are seated a man and boy playing some game with dice. The man is
holding the dice cup up preparing to cast; in it are the dice, every
cube separate and real, and each marked with the proper pips.
In the shop of Danjuro you are gazing, not upon bronzes and lacquers,
but upon the mind of Japan, partly made visible. There is here evidence
of patience and labor sufficient to conquer the world, beauty enough to
charm the world, and ferocity enough to terrify it.
There is nothing so strange on earth as this art that reveals in
glimpses the exquisite and the awful, where the lily blossoms and the
dragon tramples it under foot.
That baby feeding the ducks, could anything be more laughable or
lovable? But do not open the drawers of the cabinet he is standing on:
they are filled with ivory obscenities carved with just as loving care.
No, the kakemonos and bronzes that adorn the drawing-rooms of Bayswater
and Bedford Park do not disclose the whole of Japanese art. If you don’t
believe me, then go to Japan and become a friend of Danjuro the
curio-dealer, who lives in Jinrikisha Street, in the quaint city of
“There’s no use talking,” said Leslie, the second day after his arrival
at Nagasaki. “I don’t want to live in the European quarter. I want that
white house up on the hill there you said was empty, and I want to buy
“Weel,” said Mac–they were standing in Danjuro’s shop consulting–“I’m
thinking you want more than it’s likely y’ll get. You cannot buy the
house–rent it, maybe. Stay till I ask Dan.”
Dan and he had a consultation, the upshot of which was that the
curio-dealer, after a cynical declaration to the effect that anything
could be obtained for money, offered his services as an intermediary.
A friend of his, a brother dealer, a Mr. Initogo, or some such name,
owned the house up there on the heights; he would probably let it. It
was named the House of the Clouds, warranted rainproof and free from
Mr. Initogo was fetched from across the way–a gentleman in horn
spectacles, who looked as wise as Confucius but was a little bit deaf.
After some five minutes’ polite bawling on the part of Mac and Danjuro,
Mr. Initogo came to understand the matter, and at once declared with a
thousand protestations of regret that the thing was impossible.
Well, he could not allege any specific reason. The House of the Clouds
was empty, but he had not considered the matter of letting it. The
proposition came as an honorable shock to him.
Then Mac and Danjuro tackled Mr. Initogo, tea was brought forth, and
after half an hour’s wavering Mr. Initogo began to give in.
He sent for his son, and piloted by the son, the two Scotchmen went off
to inspect the House of the Clouds.
They passed up a by-street and then up a steep path, till they came to a
gate shadowed by lilac trees. The gate led to a tiny demesne, a long,
white, two-storied house, before which lay a grass plot, at the far end
of the house some cherry trees, and a space that might be used as a
From the veranda of the House of the Clouds one could look down on
Nagasaki and the harbor that pierces the land like a crooked sword. The
hum of Jinrikisha Street came up, mixed with the eternal song of the
Across the harbor, where the junks and sampans contrasted strangely with
the foreign shipping, hills rose up, green near the water, brown further
off; over the hills a few white fleecy clouds passed on the light wind.
It was the sky of an English summer.
“I like this,” said Leslie, turning from the view. “Now let’s look at
It was furnished with primrose-colored matting, nothing else, and it was
about as substantial as a bandbox. There were two stories connected by a
flight of steps without a balustrade, and you could make as many rooms
as you liked with sliding panels.
“I’ll take it,” said Leslie, and they returned to the shop of Danjuro.
Mr. Initogo was fetched, and after more wriggling and haggling and
tea-drinking and the smoking of tiny pipes, he consented to let the
place–the authorities willing.
Mac undertook to make everything right in that respect, though it would
cost him a good deal of trouble, as the government have a holy horror of
foreigners spreading beyond the allotted quarters; and then a Chinese
comprador was obtained, and received orders from Leslie to furnish the
place with the necessary futons (he determined to live in the native
way), pots, tins, kettles, Mousmés, and a decent cook; also screens and
mosquito-nets, plum trees in pots, and everything else that might be
necessary for comfort and adornment.
Three days later the comprador appeared at the Nagasaki hotel, where
Leslie was staying, and declared that everything was in order–even to
the last tea-cup. He had hired servants, made a most advantageous
bargain: he had hired a whole family.
“But, bless my soul! I don’t want a family,” said Leslie. “I only want a
cook and a couple of girls.”
Just so. This family consisted of a cook–her name was Fir-cone–and
three daughters. They would all come together or not at all; he had got
them at a bargain. The names of the daughters were: Moon, Plum-blossom,
and Snow. Sixteen shillings a month a-piece was the wages they were
promised. There was also a cat belonging to this family–
“Oh, well, I’ll take them,” said Leslie, “and if they don’t suit I can
That afternoon, preceded by the comprador and followed by two coolies
carrying his luggage he went up to take formal possession, and was
received by his new servants all on their knees–the three Mousmés in
front and mother Fir-cone in the background.
Next day he started on the long journey to Nikko to fetch Campanula.
When he returned with his charge the first person to meet him on the
quay was Mac. Mac in a stove pipe hat he had bought cheap and which did
not fit him but of which he seemed proud. Campanula instantly recognized
Mac with a smile and an attempt to kow-tow before him, which Leslie
frustrated, on account of the dirty state of the quay. It was a pretty
little incident, and went to the old fellow’s heart.
Plum-blossom was a Mousmé with a broad face, ever lit by a half smile.
Moon was a girl with a serious expression, but gorgeous of dress as any
girl of Kioto. Snow looked shrunk–not withered, you understand, fresh
as a daisy, in fact; but something had happened in her development: she
was preternaturally small, and looked like a Mousmé seen through a
The three Mousmés and old mother Fir-cone took almost entire possession
of Campanula San when she arrived, and Campanula San seemed quite
Mixed with her charming childishness there was a philosophical calm that
would have done honour to a sage of the Stoic school. Riding on
Leslie’s shoulder through Nikko, under examination at the Tea House of
the Tortoise, playing with Plum-blossom in the veranda of the House of
the Clouds, she was just the same. Life was a pageant at which she was
an humble spectator, whose duty was to be amiable and submissive, and
accept things just as they came.
She did not say this, but she acted it, or rather expressed it in her
actions and ways.
Down on the Bund an office had been rented by M’Gourley. He slept there
and lived there, ascending occasionally at night to the House of the
Clouds to smoke a pipe with his partner and talk business, and give
advice on things Japanese, advice often needful enough to the
House-keeping in Japan is full of surprises. One day, for instance,
Leslie met a figure coming from the back part of the premises–a figure
like a rag-doll that had spent its life in a coal-scuttle. Interrogated,
the figure turned out to be the mother of Moon, and by profession–well,
her profession was helping to coal the Canadian Pacific boats.
“But,” said Leslie, “it is impossible, for Moon already has a mother
whose name is Fir-cone.”
He was just going to send for the police when the whole truth came out
on the veranda, in the form of Moon herself.
She explained in indifferent English, kneeling as she spoke with the
backs of her little hands held upwards to her face, that the comprador
had lied; that there was no particular connection between her and her
fellow-servants; that the comprador had made a bunch of them just as he
might make a bunch of weeds, picking one up here and the other there,
and pretending they were all the one family. Why had he done this thing?
Who could say? For some dark reason of his own. She said also that her
mother was not always as dirty as that, but was going home now to wash.
Would Leslie San like to see her washed so that Moon’s words might be
proved to him true? Leslie San would not.
M’Gourley was had up, and managed to arrange matters without the
disruption of the household, which seemed imminent.
M’Gourley mixed a good deal in the affairs of the House of the Clouds.
Six months had not passed before the member of the Wee Kirk declared
that Campanula should be sent to the missionary day school near the
Bund, and brought up a Christian.
Leslie at first demurred. The state of Campanula’s mind, as revealed by
her in conversations mostly translated by Mac, but often conducted
limpingly by Leslie himself (he was beginning to pick up the native),
did not argue a good foundation for a structure like the Christian
Her mind, as far as he could get at it, was the mind of a sensitive and
cultured lady who was slightly mad–mad on the subject of demons and
Tortoises who talked, storks whose language was the acme of politeness,
and toads of polished speech, seemed as real to her as ordinary folk.
Whether the tin-smith, her supposed father, had filled her head with
these things, no one can say, but the fact remained that she was a
perfect Uncle Remus as far as animal-tale construction was concerned,
and had a Mrs. Radcliffe touch in the weird, so that it was a not
uncommon thing for her to be marched off to bed, the triumvirate of
Mousmés–Moon, Plum-blossom, and Snow–acting as a body-guard to protect
her from her own extraordinary fancies.
Then the self-abasement, the absolute self-abasement with which she
would kow-tow with both tiny hands backs upward before your august self,
and next minute she would be spinning a top on the veranda, or playing
just like an ordinary child with Kiku San, a dot about her own size, and
only daughter of Mr. Initogo, the landlord.
She had a whole host of baldheaded Pagan friends, male and female, and
Leslie, taking a siesta of an afternoon, would hear their clogs rattling
on the veranda, or their naked feet pattering in the kitchen, and half
fancy himself the proprietor of a kindergarten.
Quaint kites were often to be seen flying above the House of the Clouds,
kites shaped like hawks and butterflies, and M’Gourley down in the
street below would sometimes glance up and see these evidences of
Campanula’s existence, and nod his head and say, “A’weel!” and hurry on
to Danjuro’s to meet him about some perhaps questionable transaction,
revolving in his mind the while the question of Campanula’s conversion
He was a strange mixture. He would spend a whole morning in trade. That
is to say, he would get to the office on the Bund early, do his
correspondence and what not with regard to the export of cheap curios,
go to the hotel and have a cocktail, and fish round for victims; find
some well-to-do stranger and lead him into Danjuro’s shop, deliver him
up as a dripping roast into Danjuro’s hands, receive his commission, and
go off and have tiffin. Then as likely as not he would go up to the
House of the Clouds and fetch Campanula out for a walk, and buy her
toys, or sweets, or flowers.
And once a week or so he would tackle Leslie about the Christianity
business, till Leslie at last gave in.
Campanula went to the missionary day school, the prettiest school child
in the world under her scarlet umbrella pictured with flying storks.
Leslie went away sometimes for weeks, leaving her in charge of the
Mousmés and leaving Mac with instructions to keep an eye on her welfare.
For the first eight months or so of this new life he was amused and
interested, the beauty of the country, the quaintness of the people, the
new conditions of life, kept him from thinking much about the past or
troubling about the future.
Then came reaction. A craving came on him to see England once again, a
veritable home-sickness that was not to be denied.
He made a journey to London. He only spent a fortnight there; every one
he had known in the past was either gone or dead. He belonged to no
club. It was a miserable fortnight, and every day of it Japan called him
When he returned, he told himself that he had done with the West for
ever. Just as men sometimes tell themselves they have done for ever with
sin, folly, or love.