A Gentleman of Japan and a Lady
|I.||A DARK SHINY THING|
|II.||HARKING TO THE TOMBS|
|III.||OH, ROBINSON CRUSOE!|
|IV.||WHEN THE LAMB AND THE LION SHALL LIE|
|V.||THE NICE EARTHQUAKE|
|VI.||WELL, IS HE EVER COMING BACK?|
A GENTLEMAN OF JAPAN AND A LADY
A DARK SHINY THING
She threw a charming interrogation at Bob without changing a muscle.
"Eagle," corrected Bob, sadly, from the newspaper cutting in his hand.
"Thangs. 'When the Americazan eegle shall have—shall have'—?"
"'Fraternized with the Japanese dragon,'" prompted Bob, again.
"'Shall have frat-ern'—I cannot say that other' ni-zed'?" She darted at the paper.
"'When the Yankees of the East an'—the—same—kind—Yankees?—of the West?—shall lie—down—together?—asleep?'"
A smile forced its way through Bob's joylessness. "No, no! It 's the same old lamb and lion that do the prevaricating."
"'When those lamb, with the fleece of that in-dus-try upon his back, an' those lion with the powers there-of inside him—' Aha! Tha' 's right?"
"Sh!" whispered Bob, pocketing the paper; "here comes the Lord High Admiral."
A Japanese naval cadet's uniform slowly appeared at the head of the stairs (it was in the remote "up-stairs" of Mrs. Rawlins's Japanese house), and Kohana-San's speech instantly became a dance. She kept her uplifted hands and eyes precisely where they were, raised one foot, swung half round upon the other (in exact accordance with some twenty or thirty rules upon the subject), courtesied thrice, north, east, and south, then slowly subsided to the floor with her pretty nose to the mats. Then she recognized her brother.
"Oh, Ani-San, tha' 's you?"
Her brother (who was inside the uniform) gave her a glance of reproach which would have been chiding but for the presence of Bob. To him the cadet said with extreme politeness—all the more polite because Bob had begun to whistle (it was "See, the Conquering Hero Comes"):
"Tha' 's nize day?"
"It is night, "said Bob, acidly.
"Tha' 's nize night," corrected the cadet, promptly. He turned to his sister. "That Mrs. Rawlins she desire you mos' soon. I egspeg you not dance?" —this with severity. "I accomplish you goon night" —to Bob again; and the uniform descended in good order.
"Go on," said Bob, glancing furtively at the stairs, and producing the paper.
"Your modder—she desire me," ventured Kohana-San.
Bob looked utterly hopeless.
"We got liddle time yit," she relented, taking the paper.
"Do you mind me taking off my coat?"
"I lig you take it off. Don' lig soach dark-black shiny thing."
"You 've got good taste," said Bob, with a spiteful fling of the garment.
"Oh, how your modder will be angery!"
She fetched the garment from the corner.
"Oh! you gitting it full cob-things."
Which was quite imaginary there was no such thing as a cobweb in the house.
"Sa-ay! Tha' 's a foanny kind clothes!"
She peered at Bob from between the parted tails. It made Bob laugh a little.
"Ah-h-h! Tha' 's nize. 'When you laugh the demons skeered away.'"
She had rendered the proverb with great freedom.
"Now, then! How you are brave once more! "
For Bob's bearing had grown fearfully determined.
The rehearsal of the speech went on.
For, to elucidate a little, the coat was a swallowtail, Bob's first, and the occasion was not merely one of Mrs. Rawlins's Thursday "things" (to quote from Bob's and Kohana-San's private vocabulary), but a much more solemn affair—nothing less, in short, than a going-away party for Bob, who had arrived at the age of one-and-twenty. And his fond mother had set her heart upon having Bob make a speech in response to a toast of the Rev. Dr. Peabody, which she had also inspired. Her husband, a naval officer, had had a theory that to vanquish difficulties one must plunge into the midst of them. Bob was destined to illustrate this original theory by being thrust suddenly forth into that fierce light which beats upon a personage.
HARKING TO THE TOMBS
Now, Bob had been born in Japan, and he and Kohana-San had been chums time out of mind. He might have remembered insisting upon her opening and shutting her eyes from time to time, like "other Japanese dolls"; and she would certainly have remembered how she had always solemnly done it. But now, as ever (though both had technically "grown up"), they went to each other for comfort in their troubles. And this threatened speech was certainly the worst they had ever had, Bob insisted. Kohana-San (perhaps it is unnecessary to explain) quite agreed with him; she always did this, and still—curiously enough—always had her own way.
First they went to Mrs. Rawlins and begged for Bob's release. This she affectionately but firmly refused. Bob, she said, was a man, and he must learn the duties of a man, and among those of an American gentleman was the ability to make a speech. She was then petitioned to provide the speech. This she also declined to do. American gentlemen, she said, must be able to prepare their own speeches. Whereupon Bob and Kohana-San went for a walk among the tombs in Shiba.
"I say, Kohana-San, I shall have to disappear," said Bob, with desperate finality. "That 's what everybody does who gets into a hole."
If Bob meant this humorously, considering their whereabouts, it passed quite unnoticed.
Perhaps, however, it spurred Kohana-San to extraordinary effort. The next day she appeared with the speech of one Senator Gopher, clipped from a Chinese newspaper.
"Tha' 's mos' bes' nize speech I aever see!" she declared. She read a little of it. "Jus' full igles, dragons, Goddess Liberty, an' Suffering Freedom In-de-pen-dence! I got not a speech inside my hade, you got not inside your hade. What you go'n' do? Why, tha' 's mos' nize speech!"
She put it at him, and, being at the end of his wits, and thus tempted, he fell.
With a feeling of guilt acknowledged by both, but excused by the condign necessity, they set about editing the speech to suit the occasion, and then took up its rehearsal. But Bob was dissatisfied.
"Kohana-San," he protested, "those are not my sentiments. I don't believe in the eagle-and-dragon business."
"No!" cried Kohana-San, tragically, "I don', too. But—what you go'n' do? You got have sentiments. An' if you got not some of your own—sa-ay—what kin you do? Why! git some sentiments on outside your hade. Aha! Tha' 's a pity you got deceive your modder—yaes. But—if you don' deceive her, you go'n' break her heart—break her heart all up! Me? I thing tha' 's mos' bes'. If you break her heart, she go'n' die. If you deceive her liddle, she go'n' live. Mebby she don' fine out. Mebby she don' keer if she do fine out. Sa-ay—you got speak those speech 'bout igles an' suffering free-dom. Me? I 'm sawry—ver' sawry. But—what kin you do?"
Well, Bob did not see any more than Kohana-San what he could do. But fate seemed inscrutable. He looked, as he had so often done, at the brave little girl in wonder and admiration.
"You 're not bashful, nor—nor—a chump!" he accused, then.
"No," confessed Kohana-San, with down-dropped head.
Now it happened that this was a very charming pose for her.
"Only bewitching," said Bob.
"Yaes," confessed the girl, again.
"I wish I were like you," sighed Bob.
"You could make that speech."
"Yaes," sighed Kohana-San, "but I could not wear those coat."
"No; the whole silly business goes together"; and he ruefully regarded his faultlessly gloved hands. Kohana-San did the same.
"Leviathan, are n't they? "
"Le-vi—a wha' 's that? " questioned Kohana-San, in some alarm.
"Big as a house."
She held up her own satiny small ones. Bob inclosed both of them in his one. The naval cadet was heard, like a machine, on the stairs.
Bob glared in that direction ferociously—and let go the hands.
"Come—come—come! cried Kohana-San, panically, rearranging the kanzashi in her hair. She was to make the tea, in the Japanese fashion.
"Yes," said Bob, with a frightful thumping in the cardiac region; "I might as well get it over. This coat—will you give me a lift?"
This was to the cadet, who stood like a graven image at the head of the stairs; but Kohana-San had him inside of it in a jiffy.
"Go on, Admiral!" said Bob. "We 're coming."
The cadet threw one hand to his chest, dropped the other at his side, faced about, and started down, processionally.
"An' me? I take your arm, this away?"
Kohana-San did it with a gay grace. Bob immediately lost his transient gaiety.
"But—you lig escort me?"
"Of course," said Bob, gallantly.
"Then why you that sad? " Kohana-San pouted a moment, then dropped his arm.
"Go before, then, Mister Bashful Bob, an' I come behine, lig I jus' a slave, an' you a prince."
But Bob had already repented.
"In America it is ladies first."
He stood aside with the finest bow she had ever seen him make.
"Sa-ay," she said, with the confidence of a chum, "you not Bashful Bob."
"Yes, I am," groaned Bob.
"You not," insisted Kohana-San.
"I am. I 'm afraid of girls, and pretty fellows,—like your brother,—as well as speeches."
"Ah, yaes; but—you brave—an' strong; an' Ani-San is jus'—"
"Pretty?" said Bob, with distinct inward gratitude. "He could make that speech, too, and get enjoyment out of it, I suppose. I 'm in a perspiration."
"An' it is col' weather!" laughed his chum.
"Sa-ay, I will as' the Sun-Goddess to help us!"
She announced it as a triumph of subtlety.
"Do," counseled Bob; "and if she 's the sort of a goddess she ought to be, she 'll send an earthquake, or something of that sort, at the right moment." He stopped with his coat half off again. "I 'd rather be shot, slightly, than make that speech. Look here, Kohana-San; I believe I 'll steal a march on mama, and just thank them in the good old American fashion for their patronage, or words to that effect, and hoping for a continuance of the same—don't you know?"
"Tha' 's mos' bes' nize of aeny!" declared the girl, comfortingly. "But—your modder she lig you say those 'bout Goddess Liberty an' Suffering Freedom In-de-pen-dence! an' 'bout the igle."
"Yes," sighed the victim of circumstance.
The white uniform began to appear again, and they descended behind it.
OH, ROBINSON CRUSOE!
Bob found long coat-tails even more of a nuisance than he had supposed he should. He discovered presently that the Japanese tailor had deliberately neglected to put pockets in the trousers.
"What the deuce does he expect a fellow to do with his hands?" he asked KohanaSan, as if she were to blame for it. She could not make him believe that the tailor had probably forgotten it, and she did not much comfort him by the information that Ani-San never had any pockets in his uniform.
"That 's the reason I want pockets in mine," said Bob. "But say; I never knew before that there was such an intimate relation between pockets and hands." He reflected a moment. "Look here; I 've heard that they do that sometimes to divorce a fellow's hands from his pockets! Well, I '11 do with my hands precisely as I please! And the next uniform of this kind I get, I will have pockets all over it, just for spite."
"How that will be nize!" said Kohana-San.
Bob's mother was very proud of him that night, and looking down upon her white hair and pretty figure, Bob was conscious of heroic pride in being sacrificed for her.
"Or otherwise there would be no speech to-night by Robinson Crusoe Rawlins," said he, within himself. Bob had once or twice thought that it was this name of his that made him so bashful. It was so much like a joke. He had been born on a nearly desert island,—Yezo,—and his father, in the illness of his mother, had attended to his christening. The evidence, to Bob, though circumstantial, was complete. She called him Robert; but Bob, whenever it came to a question of his name, gave it in full, and in defiance.
His mother took admirable care of him in the crush of guests who presently came, and Bob was delighted to find more and more use for his hands, and that his gloves were becoming more and more soiled.
His mother was as pleased as he, except as to the condition of his gloves.
"Robert," she said, "only a very little confidence in yourself, and a little self-forgetfulness, and you can do anything."
But she had to leave him then, and his spirits fell. Kohana-San, released from her duties by Mrs. Rawlins, came up behind him.
"You not bashful. You deceiving me all times," she accused reproachfully. "Me? I see you doing so—so—so!" She illustrated: "'Tha' 's nize evening, Mrs. Willing. Yaes, ma'am.' 'Tha' 's nize day, Mrs. Finley. Yaes, ma'am. How your health is? Yaes. An' the health of your large family? Ma'am? Ah, thangs.' Me? I cannot be so be-witch-ing. You deceiving me all times! Tha' 's not nize for me."
She dramatized his debut with the most charming inflections and gestures, and meant it to be vastly encouraging; but it brought up Bob's specter again.
"Oh," he groaned, "I had forgotten for a moment. I believe if it were not for that I should enjoy myself, in spite of these clothes, with your help."
He glanced fearfully around, and found Dr. Peabody's smile upon him, as who should say, "Be of good cheer." He dragged Kohana-San precipitately behind a screen, and once more fished the paper out of his pocket.
"You got have it your hade," admonished Kohana-San, forcibly.
"I have, somewhere. But I can never lay hands upon it when I want it. Now!"
They went over it again, and returned, and at last Bob's hour arrived. Dr. Peabody was getting to his feet, and polishing his glasses.
WHEN THE LAMB AND THE LION SHALL LIE
"Friends," he began, "if this is not the happiest moment of my life, it is one of them. Our young friend here,"—he turned directly upon Bob, and so did everybody else,—"I say, our young friend here is about to return to his native land, to take his part in the responsibilities of the grandest government on earth. From the land of the Sun-Goddess to the land of the Goddess of Liberty—from the place where freedom has been born anew to the one where liberty and independence, one and inseparable, had their first baptism of fire! Ladies and gentlemen, ties have grown up between that country and this which have more than a moral significance. This nation is destined to blaze the way in the East to a new birth of civilization and freedom, as that did in the West more than a hundred years ago. And our young friend here is but another who shall assist in bringing these mighty forces together. When the American eagle and the Japanese dragon shall have fraternized, and the Yankee of the East and the Yankee of the West shall join hands across the sea in one commercial brotherhood, the salvation of the nations is assured. And when the lamb, with the fleece of industry, and the lion, with its power, shall, not lie down together in idle slumber, but go forth together in joyous and enlightened toil, then indeed is the millennium almost come. In his presence it is not proper to speak of his sterling young manhood. You all know him as I do, and perhaps that is enough. But I cannot forbear to venture this much, even to his face: if I were asked for a model upon which to build the nascent citizenship of the great country to which he goes on the 20th instant by the Empress of India, I should point with pride to our young friend, Mr. Robinson Crusoe Rawlins!"
Dr. Peabody had spoken Senator Gopher's speech without editing, and with his own horrid improvisations.
During the applause nobody thought of Bob. But he dazedly saw his mother hastening from the other end of the room toward him, while between he encountered the stony stare of the cadet; and then he heard something like a sob behind him. He reached back and touched the comforting little hand he found in his way. Then he rose. His feet were unsteady, and his face was very pale. He saw his mother pause perplexed in the crowd on the right. The stare of the cadet was like a lodestone to his eyes. He tried to smile at him carelessly, but knew it was a ghastly sham. He determined grimly that he would be heard, if only by way of a savage yell; that, bethought, would at least be American. But when he opened his mouth his tongue clacked against the roof of it. Kohana-San put a glass of water into his hand; but he was too far gone in panic now to know what to do with it. The action loosed something within that welled up into his throat and choked and blinded him. He suddenly dropped into his chair, and covered his face with his hands.
Kohana-San placed herself before him. She too was very pale, and while one hand was waving itself out toward her audience very prettily, and quite according to rule, the other was clenched desperately on the edge of the table.
"Tha' 's account he too mod-es' to listen 'bout hisse'f. That breaking his heart. 'Bout some other he kin make speech all day an' all night. He got nize speech 'bout igle an' dragon also. Me? How I know? I see it. But—he break his heart. He lig thang you 'bout your pat-ron-ages, an' hoping that you con-tinue same for aever an' aever. You got to henceforth aexcuse him; an' me—you got aexcuse me."
The company promptly recovered from the death-like horror of his own fiasco, and thundered its approval of Kohana-San. And Bob had the guilty consciousness that he liked the applause more than any one else. He reached under the table and caught again the little brown hand he found there.
"God bless you," he said; "I 'll never forget—"
But his eyes gave way to a sound. A curious rumbling detached itself from the noise of hands and voices. It caught an ear as keen for " signs " of this sort as an Indian's for those of another sort. Bob had been born to this noise, and he knew it. It grew. No one else seemed to have noticed it.
His mother, with a grave and remorseful face, was approaching him; but he did not see her.
"Bob," she was saying contritely, "you must try and forgive me. I know you did it for me. It was a foolish ambition of mine. If I had at all suspected—"
"Git out!" shouted Bob, with a sudden leap upon the table into the midst of dishes and viands. "Git out—all of you!" He caught the large beam which crossed the apartment just as it was leaving its mortise. Those who had not understood at first knew now what it meant. The sickening rock of the earthquake followed.
THE NICE EARTHQUAKE
Presently some one made a light. Bob looked down from where he was holding the beam from doing destruction, like another young Atlas. All his good humor had returned.
"Oh, Kohana-San! That 's lucky. You 're worth the whole lot of them. That you, mother? Excuse me for frightening you, but there was no time for talk." Bob grinned good-naturedly. " That beam had to be stopped, and talk would n't do it. Kohana-San, did you run?"
"You—thing—I go'n' 'way—while—you making—such—nize—speech!"
Bob was not quite sure whether she was sobbing or laughing.
"Speech! What speech? I must have been unconscious."
"That 'Git out!'"
It was certain that she was laughing now; but it was also certain that Mrs. Rawlins's nerves had broken, and that she was crying.
"Now, wait a minute, mother, till I get down here, and I 'll fix it all right with you. I can't make a speech."
"But—you—kin hole up—a—house!"
Kohana-San's words were disjointed by her struggles to get some of the fusuma out of their grooves and under the threatening beam.
The cadet carefully inserted his head between the fusuma to see if things were done falling. In Japanese houses occupied by Japanese there is seldom anything to fall; but it is quite the other way in Japanese houses occupied by foreigners.
"Come in!" shouted Bob. "Everything is down—but me; and I want to get down. Say, be useful, for once, won't you? Help your little sister to prop this beam, and give me a rest. Never mind your trousers."
But the cadet got himself carefully inside, rolled up his trousers, pulled his sleeves out of the way, and then did as he was told with great efficiency.
Bob jumped down, and caught his mother up in his arms.
"I say, little mammy," Bob began, "I 'm as sorry as I possibly can be—"
"I 'm not," sobbed his mother, savagely.
"What?" shouted Bob, giving her an ecstatic hug." Thanks!"
"It was very foolish of me, and vulgar. I don't want you to make speeches."
"Second the motion," said Bob.
"Except like that one."
"You said 'git'!"
"Oh, well," laughed Bob.
His mother, for once, did n't seem to care a particle about the style of his language.
"I want you to be able to do things."
"That 's all right," said Bob, confidently.
"And to be brave," said his mother.
"That 's harder," confessed Bob. "Kohana-San?" He looked about, but she and the Admiral had quietly slipped out, fearing one of those American manifestations of emotion which are so embarrassing to the Japanese. "I meant her to respond to that toast, mammy, because she does it so well and she is brave."
His mother wound an arm about him, and called him a rogue. Bob presently disentangled himself to show her the gloves, split through the palms, and the coat, split up the back. To Bob's surprise, his mother smiled, and he, encouraged thereby, laughed.
"I say, little mammy, I never thought I could be so happy in these garments."
"You are not very much in them," sighed his mother.
"I 'll wear them hereafter with pleasure," laughed Bob.
WELL, IS HE EVER COMING BACK?
From the deck of the Empress of India Bob at last saw a small gray figure arrive upon the pier. He thought it looked just a little woeful. He dashed down the gang-plank and almost over it.
"I knew you 'd come!" he cried.
She seemed frightened by his ardor.
"House is all fixed up again."
He saw by her face that she knew this.
"I say, it was good of you and Amaterasu to bring on that earthquake just at the right moment, and give me a chance."
"You got make speech then!"
Bob shouted joyously. He had about exhausted his small talk.
"Tha' 's mos' bes' nize speech of all."
"An' that the mos' bes' nize earthquake of all."
"Me? I also lig gents what kin do things."
"Me? I also lig girls what kin say things."
The ship was giving its last warning.
"Well—" began Bashful Bob, with another such uprising in his throat as on the night of his party, holding out his hands. But she was looking down, and did not see them.
"Sa-ay, you aever coming back at Japan 'nother time? Me? I thing I git that lonely—if you don'," was what she was murmuring.
It was her most charming pose again.
"Am I ever coming back? Oh, say, look up here!"
She did it; and Bob, who had seen a man on his right snatch a kiss and run up the gang-plank, did the same—such is the bane of example.
And all down the bay Bob kept his handkerchief going, and Kohana-San kept answering it, till long after he was out of sight. Then she turned happily away.
"Tha' 's firs' time I aever been kiss," she mused, as she went. "Tha' 's—tha' 's mos' bes' nize—" she thought a moment, "tha' 's mos' bes' nize" She came into collision with a jinriki-man a moment later. She looked up with the little dream still in her eyes, and murmured: "Tha' 's mos' bes' nize—" The jinriki-man grinned. Kohana-San smiled. "Gomen nasai" ("I beg your pardon"), she said, still smiling, as she went on her way.
The man turned to look after her. Then he too changed his grin for a smile.