Within an hour of the great city of Nagasaki, in the midst of a park
that was at the same time half a garden, lay the country residence of
Mr. Kamamura; once a man who carried two swords, with the longer of
which he would have beheaded you for two words and have done it with
neatness and despatch, now a gentleman in a frock-coat and tall hat,
wearing gold-rimmed glasses and a smile.
The long, low house, white as snow and surrounded by a narrow veranda,
faced west, and was surrounded by a garden recalling the gardens of Dai
Nichi Do: a garden filled with the music of fountains and the poetry of
Alas! on the day of his garden-party Mr. Kamamura, seized with the
spirit of modernity and the savagery of civilization, not content with
the music of heaven, and prompted, no doubt, by the devil, had hired a
brass band and placed it in a little kiosk, with orders to bray Strauss
in the face of Nature from three o’clock till dusk.
There were many guests, and the gardens soon presented an animated
appearance. Many of the ladles had retained the national dress, and
marvelous were the fabrics to be seen in the form of the obi or flowing
loose in the graceful kimono.
Some of the guests surrounded a pair of jugglers, two terrible men
dressed in red, who fenced with and transfixed one another with long
swords, swallowed fire, and belched it like dragons.
In another corner of the grounds fireworks were whizzing and cracking,
filling the clear air above with a thin blue haze through which, just as
Jane and Leslie entered the grounds, there rose a wonderful fire balloon
made of colored paper and fashioned in the form of a turkey cock.
“It’s like a party in the lunatic asylum,” whispered Jane, as they
threaded the maze of guests in search of their host and hostess. “And,
Dick, you _do_ look perfectly awful in that panama amongst all these men
in tall hats–I mean they look awful beside you, but they are _de
rigueur_; and it’s better to be _de rigueur_ and look frightful, than to
be not _de rigueur_ and look nice. How d’y’ do?” and Jane extended her
arm, pump-handle fashion, to the little gentleman with the sallow face
to whom Leslie was introducing her.
“Much pleasure, much pleasure,” said Mr. Kamamura, whose English was
mixed and limited, and who, like Kiku San, had not completely mastered
the letter “l.” “Will the honorable rady so make equal health Nagysaki
(the proper way to pronounce Nagasaki) you stay? So good. Over there
Mrs. Kamamura; you make known;” and Mr. Kamamura presenting his arm Jane
was led away through the crowd like some tall and graceful frigate
threading a maze of painted cock-boats.
Leslie, left to himself, turned with a gloomy expression of countenance
to where the jugglers were dislocating each other’s necks. He did not
see them; he was looking out of the side of his eyes at Jane.
She had been led across one of the willow-pattern bridges, and he could
see her now standing at one of the kiosks, a tea-cup in her hand. She
was talking to Mr. Kamamura and a little lady in European dress–Mrs.
What could they be talking about? Conversation, probably, sufficient to
dislocate the gravity of a Socrates.
He turned his head impatiently and tried to take an interest in the
jugglers, without success. There was something deeply irritating about
the scene of frivolity in which Fate had staged the last scenes of the
most important act in his life.
The _Empress of Japan_ sailed at eight on the morrow morning, and as yet
he had made no movement as regards Jane. All this trifling was but a bad
prelude to those words so soon to be spoken.
He little knew that Tragedy stood at his elbow in the form of James
Anderson, manager to M’Cormick, the great silk dealers on the Bund.
“Why, Leslie, man! I thought I knew the nape of your neck. How are you?”
“Hullo, Anderson!” said Leslie, returning the other’s hand-grip. “What
are you doing here?”
“I’m just looking round,” said Anderson. “I’m just looking round, and
you’ll admit it’s worth the turning of one’s head. I shouldn’t mind
exchanging places with Kamamura. It’s not a bad life, his, by a long
penny. This affair will bang a hole through a good pile of ten pun
notes. They tell me those balloons made like dicky-birds cost–I forget
now, but it’s a good pile of dollars a-piece, for every feather is
painted correct, and that’s just like the Japs–make a pretty thing, and
then stick it away in some hidey-hole where no one can see it, or burn
it–What’s agate now?”
The crowd was in motion, flooding towards a part of the grounds where a
little stage had been erected, backed and half surrounded by cypress
trees. On the stage, against the dark-green background, could be seen
the graceful figure of a girl.
She was dancing. It was a dance that at first insipid, became after a
few moments fascinating, lulling, exquisite to watch as the movements of
a flower blown by the wind.
They drew close and stood to look. The girl was dressed in amber and
scarlet, with a scarlet flower in the night of her hair–a _bijou rose
et noir_, recalling Baudelaire’s Lola de Vallence.
Her supple body seemed inspired by the mysterious music we hear
wandering through the land of spring, and expressing itself in the
voices of the wind and the birds and the streams.
She seemed to have learned her art in the academy where the daffodils
are taught to dance and the bluebells to make their bow.
“It’s the Geisha Kamamura has hired–paid her something like two hundred
to dance that fan-dance, or whatever they call it. She was a Tokyo girl,
and had left the business to get married, but she couldn’t withstand the
two hundred; the best Geisha in Japan, they say. What’s this her name? O
something San. Hoots! but my memory is gone fishing to-day. Listen!
The dance had ceased, and the girl, in the silence that followed the
tinkling of the three accompanying _chamécens_, had commenced one of
those poetical recitals in favor with an intellectual Japanese audience.
Her recitation was sad; it bemoaned the thing we call change. The
cherry-blossom is fair, ran this untranslatable poem, but it must die
and give place to the lotus.
“I cannot understand this depression in trade,” murmured the muted voice
of Anderson, as he stood beside Leslie. “It’s been spreading and
spreading, and there’s nothing it hasn’t spread into.”
And the lotus parts with its petals to give place to the chrysanthemum,
the Royal chrysanthemum.
“We’ve had a good year till now, ourselves, but hech! man, there’s a
matter of fifteen thousand gone over the breaking of the Bombay and
Benares bank–clean gone, never to come back–and that takes the sugar
off the cake–ay, the devil himself won’t whistle it home again.”
And the gray winter sky and the snowflakes, like ghosts of flowers,
finished the poem of the Geisha, whilst Leslie stood transfixed for a
second, frozen by the news he had just heard, and unable to turn. He
turned round full on Anderson.
“The breaking of _what_?”
“The Bombay and Benares. Have you not heard the news? It came by cable
to-day at one o’clock. Good God! man, you hadn’t much money in it, had
“Everything–everything,” said Leslie in a stammering voice. “I’m
He linked his arm in Anderson’s, and dragged him along hurriedly. He
wanted to go, nowhere in particular, but just get away from the spot
where Anderson had sentenced his future to death.
“Man, I’m sorry! Man, I’m sorry!” said his companion. “I should not have
told you so sudden, but how was I to know?”
“Smashed–smashed–smashed!” said the other, talking as a man talks in
He held Anderson by the arm as he spoke. All around spread the
many-colored crowd; fans were fluttering, umbrellas bobbing, tongues
chattering, soft women’s voices inlaid like music of gold on the silvery
music of the fountains and cascades.
“Anderson, man, are you sure they’ve broken–sure?”
“Ay, ay, sure. Better to tell you straight. Sure as my name’s James
Boom! Boom! Boom! the band broke into a march by Gungl, and Leslie,
releasing Anderson, ran after a figure in the crowd some twenty paces
“Jane! I must speak to you at once.”
Jane looked up from the little Japanese gentleman who was escorting her,
saw the distress in her countryman’s face, and dismissed Asia with a
“I have just had frightful news. Come with me to some quiet place till I
tell you about it. Anywhere. No matter where. See! there are no people
across that bridge where the trees are; let us go there.”
Jane spoke not a word, but he saw that she was very pale and trembling.
That weakness of Jane’s gave him a strange sensation. It said something
that her lips had never uttered.
They passed over the little bridge. They passed over another bridge;
there were no people here, only trees; they went no further.
They were in a small forest. The garden was lost to sight; only the
music of the band, muted by distance, told of the festivity so near, yet
apparently so far away.
The trunk of a felled tree lay in the path; they sat down upon it by
common consent. Leslie took out his watch, and looked at it attentively.
Then, still holding it open in his hand, he spoke.
“I want you to listen to me for five minutes–only five minutes; you can
hold the watch, and measure the time yourself. Jane, when a man is going
to be hanged, they will give him a glass of brandy to help him along to
the drop. Will you do the same by me–give me five minutes’ clear
speech, and let me say just what I please without interruption; will
“Yes,” said Jane, and she shivered as she spoke the word. She had
maintained a strange silence; impulsive as she was, one might have
expected her to implore him to tell her the worst, and have it over.
Perhaps she understood dimly that Leslie’s disaster was personal to
herself, a cataclysm the effect of which would reach her future as well
“You remember,” he said, after a moment’s pause, “how I asked you to
marry me long ago, and everything that happened after? Well, when I
think of all that, it seems to me that I must have passed through life
in a state of insanity, and only awakened to consciousness now. Jane, I
am feeling now as a man must feel when he wakes in hell, and
remembers–No matter, it is all done with now; and even if you loved me
as well as I love you, it’s all over and done with and useless now.”
He leaned forward with his face in his hands. Jane did not speak; the
music of the band had ceased, and the only sound to be heard was the
weary sighing of the warm wind in the pine-tops.
“I’m broken utterly, I have just heard the news. Don’t think I brought
you here to listen to me whining about my misfortunes. I brought you
here to tell you I love you. I meant to have carried you off in the
steamer that sails to-morrow morning for the north-west. With the money
I had yesterday, I would have supported you, I would have torn you out
of society, and made you love me. I would have made you a Paradise. Yes,
by the living God, a Paradise, or there’s no such thing as love. But now
I’m a beggar, and I love you too well to drag you into my ruin, and it’s
Fate, Fate, Fate that has done it all, and cursed be its name!”
Again silence, broken only by a faint, dreary sound. Jane was weeping.
“Don’t, for the love of God!” cried Leslie. “Don’t cry, or you’ll make
me cry too. Oh, miserable life! why was I ever born into it?” And he
moved his hands in the air, as blind Samson might have done amidst the
pillars of the temple.
A bird piped three times in the recesses of the wood, three flute-like
notes sweet as the notes of a bell-bird. They were answered by its mate
in the branches above.
Leslie put his hands to his ears, as if to shut out the happy sounds.
Jane’s tears had ceased, but she did not speak, she did not breathe;
only a deep sigh occasionally escaped from her.
“And now, we can only say good-bye. Let us part here for ever. We will
meet again in–Heaven,” said Leslie, with a horrible shuddering laugh.
He stretched out his hand and took hers. She let him have it without
seeming to know that he had taken it.
She was murmuring his name in a whisper, staring at him and through him,
and as if her gaze was fixed on some terrible catastrophe beyond.
“Dick! Dick! Dick!” All poetry could not express the helpless, hopeless
sorrow she put into those three little whispered words.
Suddenly, filtering through the wood, came a sound, a voice, a spirit,
that unrolled around them a panorama of loch, moor, and sky, hills
purple with heather, lakes dark with shadow. “Auld Lang Syne.”
The band was playing it, villainously enough, but the distance smoothed
away the defects.
It broke Jane down. She leaned against his shoulder and sobbed like a
child, and then, with both hands upstretched, she drew his face down to
hers and murmured–no matter what.
Then all at once–heedless of ruin, forgetting all things, carried away
on the dumb tide of passion, the wave that had retreated before
disaster, only to come shoreward again resistless and gigantic–all at
once, and without a word, he took her in his arms.
It was the eloquence of passion and despair, the speech without tongue
of a soul tormented and _in extremis_.
It broke Jane down utterly. Hopeless, haggard, and pale as a person in
the midst of some terrible disaster, she clung to him, whispering in his
ear words repeated over and over again, with that reiteration which
forms the rhetoric of the dying and the lost.
She had cast everything aside, the world, her position in society, her
husband, her wealth. Passion and pity, that strange combination, had for
the moment blinded her eyes to everything but the man beside her–but
did she love him? Fate had not yet disclosed the answer to that old
fatal question, that sphinx-like question whose answer forms the plot of
each man’s story.
Mr. Kamamura never again saw his two tall English guests.
As a matter of fact, they sought for and found a means of leaving his
garden by a back way that brought them to a road which in its turn
brought them to the station.
And the native gentlefolk in the train, which brought them back to
Nagasaki by six o’clock, could not imagine what great grief it was that
made the tall English lady so pallid, and so like the very picture of
At the Nagasaki station Leslie helped his companion into a riksha.
“Don’t come back with me to the hotel,” she murmured; “I will drive
there alone. I want to be alone, quite alone for a while. All our
arrangements are made, and there is nothing more to be said. God help
me!–God help us both! Good-bye, Dick, for the present.”
He watched her drive off. Then he took a riksha himself, and ordered the
man to take him to the House of the Clouds.
Everything was arranged. Jane was to be his for ever. But there was no
triumph in the thought. The battle had been won by his own weakness, not
by his strength. Jane’s compassion for him had betrayed her.
They were to sail to-morrow by the _Empress of Japan_. He was to stay
the night at the hotel, for he could not possibly remain the night at
the House of the Clouds having once bidden good-bye to Campanula.
Beyond Vancouver lay the scheme traced out by him, accepted by Jane.
They were to buy a farm in the Canadian North-west, and live there for
ever happily. He would not touch a penny of her money; he had jewelry
worth at least four hundred pounds, which would be amply sufficient to
start on. His share in M’Gourley’s business was to be left for
It is true he knew little about farming, but–love can do anything.
Viewed from a natural standpoint the whole arrangement was not only
natural but praiseworthy. That a woman, fond of a natural life in the
open air, should leave a creature like George du Telle, and cast herself
into the arms of a man like Leslie. What could be more in keeping with
the grand aim of Nature, the propagation of the fit in body?
Viewed from a social standpoint the whole arrangement was wickedly
absurd. And from a moral standpoint simply wicked.
Nature stood decidedly on Leslie’s side; God (according to the
theologians) and society stood against him.
These problems are occurring every day and every minute of the day,
perplexing the thinker and confounding his belief, unless he looks upon
the world as a higher thing than a breeding ground for animals. And it
is generally by their side issues they are to be solved, and the side
issue in Leslie’s case was Campanula.
He was nearing Danjuro’s shop when he saw a riksha with a disguised
figure in it.
It was Mac, and Mac was disguised with whisky.
He was flushed, and his hat was on the back of his head, and he was so
obviously fuddled that the gentle Japanese who passed smiled and passed
on, without looking back.
“Stop!” cried Leslie to his man, then jumping out he ran to M’Gourley’s
riksha, which had also stopped.
“Have you heard the news?”
“News?” said Mac. “News–what news?”
“The Bombay and Benares bank is broken.”
“It is not,” replied the other, fumbling in his pocket. “Na, na–false
report. Bombay and Ta-Lien, you mean.” Then, drawing a paper from his
pocket, and with ferocity: “Canna ye read?”
Leslie took the paper; it was a cablegram from Shanghai.
“False report. Bombay and Ta-Lien suspended. Bombay and Benares
“Good Heavens!” said Leslie. “When did you get this?”
“Hoor ago. Drive on, you–wheel me awa’.”
“Where are you going?”
“Mogi–to forget I was ever such a fule as to go into partnership with a
man like–_wheel me awa’_!”
“Steady on, steady on,” said Leslie.
“I’ll be back the morrow morn and see y’ before you’re awa’ to
Vancouver.” Then, leaning back as the riksha started: “I may be a fule,
but I’m not a blind fule, and I’m not a–(_hic!_).”
The riksha joggled over a stone and he collapsed like a shut-down opera
Leslie continued his way.
It was seven o’clock; the birds were taking their nests in the cherry
orchard with one final burst of chattering. The sky in the west,
wave-green melting into vaguest blue, held one solitary cloud floating
like a rose-leaf beneath the evening star. Leslie stood at his gate,
looking for the last time at the twilight stealing over Nagasaki. He had
M’Gourley’s words were still ringing in his ears, and his mind was in a
He was in exactly the position of the man who has cheated unwittingly at
cards, who has found out his mistake, and who has still time to save his
If the Bombay and Benares bank was safe, it was his plain duty to go at
once to Jane du Telle and inform her of the fact. She was laboring under
the impression that he was a ruined man. Half of her sympathy, the whole
of the present situation, had arisen from that misconception. To leave
her under this delusion would amount to fraud–the meanest of all
He was feeling this keenly, but unfortunately his mind, instead of
grappling with the situation, and forcing his body to act, was engaged
in cursing Fate, and the tangled net in which he found himself taken.
Was it his fault that the false news had come just at the psychological
moment, the news that had actually thrown Jane into his arms? He kept
asking himself this, as he gazed across the dusk-eyed harbor to the
hills now becoming dimmed by the twilight.
This last touch of Fate would, if he accepted it without resistance, rob
him of the last remnants of honor and all self-respect.
His hand was upon the stakes, he had a moment to decide whether to take
them or leave them: to be a thief or an honest man.
Suddenly, as if silence had placed her finger upon their throats, the
birds in the orchard ceased their chatter.
The warm day dying seemed to have called all the spirits of beauty from
air and earth and sea, to stain the skies above its death-bed with the
tints of the ocean and the dawn. Over the tomb of light Color, Light’s
firstborn child hovered like some exquisite ephemera whose wings change
from beauty to beauty before dissolving for ever in darkness and death.
The silence that had come over the orchard was broken occasionally by
little outbursts of squabbling from over-full nests, sounds like the
flirting of a fan amongst the leaves, chirrupings that told of
differences made up. Then final and complete silence that would last
till night woke the owls.
Leslie at the gate suddenly made a gesture as if he were flinging
something away, turned on his heel, and came towards the house.
He entered just as Cherry-blossom, with a white flower in her hair, her
amber sleeves fallen back and exposing her fore-arms, her body stretched
to its fullest height on the tips of her tabis, was in the act of
lighting the big hall-lamp. She looked like a little cat stretching
A pang went through his heart. He would never see Cherry-blossom light
the big hall-lamp again, never again see Pine-breeze bring in the
tea-cups, nor Lotus-bud carrying off Sweetbriar San to his box in the
You cannot possibly live in Japan without loving your maid-servants. I
mean by love that sort of passion which was inspired in Matthew Prior by
the lady of fashion aged five.
It was a feature of the House of the Clouds that sometimes on the lower
floor you would find a hall with two rooms on either side of it, and
sometimes two rooms and no hall, and sometimes, in very hot weather, one
huge room. The sliding paper partitions made this possible; nay, very
easy, for Mr. Initogo had improved upon the ordinary Japanese method,
being of an inventive turn of mind.
He looked into the room on the right of the hall. A _chamécen_ lay on
the floor, an hibachi showed a crimson spark, and a dwarf maple in a pot
of Arita ware displayed its pretty form vaguely in the twilight.
He looked into the room on the left: no one.
Where was Campanula? She must have returned by this, surely. Perhaps she
He went up, making little noise in his stocking-feet. At the door of his
room he peeped in.
There was Campanula. Oh, desolate sight! She was sitting on his big
portmanteau all alone in the dusk. Her head was bent.
She looked so forlorn and so small, and the sash of her obi so huge in
comparison with the wearer, that he could not but recall how she sat
that morning in the Tea House of the Tortoise. That morning, when she
had likened herself to a lump of mud; the morning he had proposed to
adopt her, and care for her, and make her a chattel of his own.
A moment later, he had caught her up in his arms. She did not resist,
but he seemed to have taken up a lifeless thing.
As he carried her downstairs, had he known, it might have seemed strange
to him that so great a grief should be so light a burden.
He brought her to the room on the right, where Cherry-blossom had just
lit the lamp, and sat down beside her on the matting.
He took a cigarette from his pocket, and approached the tobacco-mono
with it. Then, without lighting it, he flung the cigarette away.
“Campanula, I am going on a journey. I did not tell you last night, for
I had not made up my mind.”
“I have heard it,” she replied. She sat there beside him, a small figure
with head bowed and hands folded in her lap; and the sadness and
sorrowful sweetness of those four words pierced his heart.
To get this terrible interview over, to tear himself away at once, he
would have sold years of his life. But it had to be gone through with.
Whether she loved him as a woman loves a man, or a child loves a father,
she loved him, loved him as no person had ever loved him before–and he
Then he talked to her, telling her that he would come back.
“I have been away before, Campanula, and I have returned. Will you not
believe me that I will return?”
“Ah yes,” she answered, “but you did not go with her.”
He said nothing for a moment. There was a sound outside; it was the
coolie he had ordered to take his portmanteau to the hotel. He heard
Pine-breeze accosting him, he heard him go upstairs and come down again,
walking heavily. It was like the sound of a man carrying out a coffin.
He heard his steps on the garden walk dying towards the gate.
How had she discovered with whom he was going?
If she would only weep or cry out, or move, or break in some way this
terrible stillness. If she would only reproach him. But she said
nothing, nor even sighed. She seemed like a person stricken not by
grief, but death. Then he began to talk again, telling her of the
arrangements he had made. How M’Gourley San would look after her, just
as he had done before, till he came back. And he would write every
week–till he came back. And they would all be happy together again, as
happy as ever they had been–when he came back.
To which she replied:
“If you are going away to find happiness, my happiness is great.”
Fancy a white house, lantern-lit, and steeped in dusk, a tall man
walking away from it rapidly, three Mousmés on their knees on the
veranda crying after the vanishing form: “Come again, oh, condescend to
come again quickly!”
The sound of their voices rings in his ears as he passes through the
little gate. He hears it pursuing him like the faint murmur of bees,
until a puff of wind blows it away and replaces it by the faint sound of
the city below.
Come again! He will never come again to lie in the hammock beneath the
cherry trees. Never more shall Lotus-bud hand him the night lantern to
light him to his bed, nor thy small hands, O Pine-breeze, bear him the
brown leather cigar-case that thy small nose loved to smell!
As he came down hill towards Nagasaki he felt as though he were leaving
spring for ever behind him.
Thrice he stopped as if to return, and stood gazing into the darkness of
the uphill path, listening to the wind in the branches of the lilac
The last of these pauses ended more abruptly than the others, and he
plunged on again down hill through the gloom.