|I.||THE FEVER JAPONICA|
|II.||THE SHADOW ON THE SHOJI|
|III.||THE DANCE OF THE RED MAPLE-LEAVES|
|IV.||"HOW THAT IS NIZE!"|
|V.||THE PLAINTIVE TEMPLE BELLS|
|VII.||"WHAT YOU BED?"|
THE FEVER JAPONICA
He perceived, however, by a surreptitious glance at the conversation-book when the napes of the necks were in view, that they were addressing him as "Augustness" and "Excellency," and that the mother was insisting that he should take immediate possession of her "miserable" house and its contents. He wondered dreamily—and he drifted into dreams with the most curious ease—whether the girls would be included.
Finally he began to feel it his duty to be tired of this fawning, as his refluent American democracy insisted upon naming it—though, personally, he liked it—and all the clever pretenses of the Japanese. He sat bolt upright, and frowned. But the charming kotowing did not in the least abate. He had heard somewhere that the only way to stop this sort of thing short of apoplexy was to compete in it.
He tried to reach the mats with his own nose. It seemed easy, but it was a disaster. There is a trick in it. He plunged forward helplessly almost into the lap of one of his hostesses. Garland sat up, with their joint assistance, very red in the face, but quite cheerful; for though the mother looked greatly pained, the girls were smiling like two Japanese angels. (The phrase is again Garland's: there are no Japanese angels.) Garland had the instant intelligence to perceive that this had at once stopped the kotowing, and precipitated a piquant intimacy.
"I say," said he, idiomatically, "I nearly broke my neck trying to say howdy-do in your way. Now won't you kindly say it in mine, without the least danger to life and limb?"
He held out his hand invitingly, and the one on his right went into debate as to which one to give him. She knew there was some foreign etiquette in the matter.
"In doubt, shake both," said Garland, doing it.
The one on his left emulated her sister to the last particular (the mother had retired for refreshments), but he noticed that the hands she gave him were long and white. He glanced up, and found himself looking into a pair of blue eyes. He followed the forehead to the brassy hair above. Then he began furiously to turn the leaves of the conversation-book. The one on his right laughed a little, and said:
"What you lig as', please?"
Garland closed the book, and stared. He did not ask what he had meant to, because of something he saw in the questioner's face.
"Ah, if you lig more bedder for do so, speak the English," she said, with a quiet flourish that was lost upon Garland.
He flung the conversation-book into a corner. Black-Eyes, as he had mentally named her, in despair of her Japanese name, which was Meadowsweet, smiled ecstatically.
"Ah-h-h! You lig those—those English?"
"Like it? It 's heavenly! I say, fancy, if you can,—but you can't,—depending upon a dictionary for your most sacred sentiments for three months."
Wherein it will be perceived that Garland had learned the whole art of Japanese politeness—gentle prevarication.
"How that is nize!" breathed the blueeyed one, fervently.
Garland turned suddenly upon her, then questioned her with his eyes. She understood.
"Those—thing—you—speak-ing," she barely breathed once more, in explanation.
"Oh!" said Garland. But it meant more than print can express. "Tell me, if you please, what your name is."
It was Miss Purple-Wistaria; but the Japanese of this was quite as impossible as the other.
"Do you mind me calling you Blue-Eyes?" asked Garland. " When it comes to Japanese proper names—I have already taken the liberty of mentally calling your sister Black-Eyes, and if you don't mind—"
"You call those blue-eye? " asked Miss Meadowsweet.
"Why, yes," said Garland. "What do you call them?"
"Well, I like that better, anyhow. It shall be Purple-Eyes."
"She got other already English name," confided Black-Eyes, with the manner for her sister he did not like.
"Oh! What is it?"
"Sarann," laughed the dark one. "Tha' 's jus' joke her fadder. He all times joke upon her."
Garland did not quite understand. He decided that he did not wish to, for the blue-eyed one looked very uncomfortable.
"I shall call her Purple-Eyes," he said.
The disagreeableness of the other continued.
"Yaes; tha' 's good name—for her," she added, with an intention that was distinctly odious.
"In America that would be the most beautiful name a man could give to a beautiful woman," said Garland, severely.
The dark one looked a bit frightened. The blonde one gave him the merest horizon of her eyes as she raised her head. Gratitude was in them.
"Now, won't you go on, and tell me how you knew me before I opened my blooming head?"
He had again addressed himself to Purple-Eyes; but Black-Eyes answered:
"What is that—open you' head, an' blooming you' head? "
Garland informed her.
" Oh-h-h! " laughed the dark one. "Tha' 's way know yo' 'fore open you' bloom-ing head!"
She suddenly reached into the bosom of the kimono of the blue-eyed one, and brought forth a photograph of Garland; whereat Garland got red again, and again the blue-eyed one drooped her head.
"Oh, I say," Garland began, without a very distinct idea of what he was going to say, "Brownie sent you that—aha, ha, ha!"—he had happily drifted into the very thing,—"and wrote you that I would arrive with a letter from him; so that you would know me—you know; and of course when I arrived—of course when I arrived why, of course—oh, hang it!"
They both waited breathlessly upon his words.
"Of course," echoed Black-Eyes, sympathetically—"of course—tha' 's correc', an' tha' 's also—nize. Of course—you arrive when you arrive."
Garland wondered whether she was guying him.
"Yes—why, of course," said he once more, and a laugh en masse cleared the air.
Garland, in a panic, was searching his pockets.
"What lot pockets!" sighed Black-Eyes, insidiously desiring to compose his nerves.
"Sixteen," admitted Garland. "I wish they were only one, just now. By Jove, I've lost that letter!"
The graceful mother arrived with the tobaco-bon (there appeared to be no servant), and Garland, professing an ignorance which seems problematical after three months in Japan, desired to be initiated into the art and mystery of the Japanese pipe. The tender was made to Purple-Eyes, but Black-Eyes undertook it.
"So," she said, rolling a pellet of the tobacco, and putting it into the pipe; "an' so," as she fearlessly put a live coal upon it with her fingers; "so," as she put it to her own lips and sent out a tiny puff; "an'—an'—an' so!" as she laughed and put it to his. And yet Garland found himself wishing that the other one had done it, and believing that she could do it better! And this, you perceive, was already perilous business.
It was afternoon when Garland arrived, and the mother's actions, though covered by diplomatic entrances and exits, with a view to impressing him to the contrary, indicated to him that she was cooking. And presently Purple-Eyes got up and lighted the andon. Garland, who delighted in her grace of motion, had not yet learned that each movement was the result of much study and the practice of many stoical rules of decorum. However, he rose as far as his knees, and said he must go. A glance of alarm passed between the girls, and both stiffened in consternation.
"Sa-ay—tha' 's not nize for us," accused the dark one, with valor. "Brownie he write unto us that you so kine with him, you give him you' las' pair boots, an' go naked on you' both feet. Tha' 's way we got do you. But—account you go'n' go 'way, we cannot. Hence we got be always 'shamed 'fore Brownie—an' aeveyybody. Tha' 's not nize—for us." Garland had not risen above his knees, and she came hopefully forward. "Please don' go 'way!" She turned to Purple-Eyes in the peremptory way that Garland resented. "Sa-ay—why you don' as' him stay among us? Sa-ay—don' you wish?"
Garland's eyes followed. Unconsciously they besought her.
"We lig—if you stay—among us," said Purple-Eyes, haltingly.
But there was something else—just the timid lifting of an eyelid. Garland answered this with a rift of pleasure which shot across his face.
"Me? I lig also if you stay among us—I."
But now it was spoken to the mats. There was the edge of a smile visible, nevertheless, and Garland felt the courage it took for this.
"Well, if you like," said Garland,—he laughed suddenly,—" I like too."
They both said it at once; but some splendid reward passed from Purple-Eyes to Garland.
So presently they had a feast, in which four little tables stood in a circle—one for each. There would have been only three had not Garland insisted that the mother should dine with them. He had not the least idea how fearfully he had disarranged domestic matters, for the mother, of course, instantly did as he requested. And then the three of them served him, and cunningly joined in engaging him while one or the other prepared the viands. But finally it was a very joyous meal; and only when the Osaka beer came on did Garland at all suspect how much out of the ordinary it was for them. They had forgotten to be taught how to open the bottles!
THE SHADOW ON THE SHOJI
And he went to sleep that night, when sleep came, on a floor that was as dainty as any bed, in a huge wadded overcoat called a futon, on a wooden pillow that rocked and screeched a little (as if afraid to screech more) when he turned. An andon burned dimly behind a screen, and he was aware of the slumberous aroma Japonica, as he characterized it. But he could not sleep—of course not. For, less than six feet away, behind the translucent walls of paper, he could hear the melodious dithyrambics of the three voices. He could catch a sleepy word now and then, which he knew came from the blue-eyed one. They were much fewer than those of the other two. Some vague picture of those eyes, patiently sad, as he had conceived them, kept itself between him and sleep, until finally it was sudden morning, and the splendid light of Japan, subdued by the shoji, was shining in his face.
He lay indolently awake for a long time. Presently a noise not much greater than the alighting of a fly upon a stretched screen drew his attention. He perceived a dampened finger slowly working against the other side of the shoji, until presently the paper parted, and the finger came through. It was very pink at the tip. Slowly it reamed the hole larger, then disappeared, to be replaced by an eye. And the eye was blue. Garland nearly laughed aloud, until he remembered that he was the objective of the eye. Then unconsciously he arranged his hair a little, and began to pose. But the humor of it came down upon him again, and he laughed. The eye instantly disappeared, and he could see the shadow of its owner gliding away. In a panic of regret, Garland called out:
"Don't go, Purple-Eyes!"
The shadow hesitated, and then returned.
"How you know tha' 's Purple-Eyes?"
"By her own confession—now."
Her pretty laugh sifted through the shoji.
"You want me come unto you?" asked the voice beyond. "Tha' 's what I dunno."
Garland was (in his own phrase again) quite paralyzed. He might have thought, but he did not, that she was only tendering the offices of the servant they did not have; but he called out, with a mixture of bravado and trembling which alarmed them both:
"Yes; come in!"
The damaged shoji slid haltingly aside, and she entered very slowly and softly, and he thought of the pictures of the returning Sun-Goddess as she came through the opening and down the burst of light it let in. As she prostrated herself Garland noticed that her hair had been newly dressed (an operation of several hours), and that she wore a dainty blue kimono, too gay for any but a geisha to wear. But it became her royally.
"You look more than ever like a picture on a fan," greeted Garland, with even more admiration in his eyes than in his voice.
Instead of being pleased, as any other Japanese girl would have been, Purple-Eyes slowly shook her head.
"Alas! you naever see no picture on fan lig unto me."
"But I have," insisted Garland.
She shook her head again.
"Well, then, if not, why not? "
"They got not those purple eye—an' pink face—an' flaming hair—"
She sighed, and looked askance at Garland. He seemed fully to agree with her. She changed her tone to one of resigned solicitude and ceremony.
"You sleeping well—all those night?"
"Well, by the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress, if I were a Japanese artist, that is the kind of eyes and face and hair they should all have! Yessir!—every blamed one of them!"
The girl caught her breath, and something flamed up her face and lighted her splendid eyes anew. She dared to look at him. It had all sounded quite true. Wistfully she dissembled—this at least was truly Japanese.
"You sleeping well all"—she lost her purpose for a moment—"all those night—all?"
"Blue eyes for me, every day in the week."
"You sleeping well?" Joy was all too plainly in her voice now—irrepressible joy.
He laughed, and caught her hands rapturously. She did not deny him, and he kissed them.
"Oh, you are delightful!" said he.
"Me? I don' sleep—moach."
"You look as fresh as new porcelain."
"Yaes; I been fix up."
She consciously let him look her over.
"No; I did n't sleep at first. I was listening to your voice," Garland confessed, quite without reservation.
The girl was confused a little.
"You don' lig be annoy with those voice?"
"Why, it is divine!"
A white shaft of fear crossed her face.
"Tha' 's—jus'—fun—I egspeg?"
"Tha' 's ver' earnest," he gaily mocked.
He was pleasing her now. She even went with his mood a little way. Joy was such a beautiful and tempting and elusive thing!
"Lig goddess, mebby?"
Garland nodded seriously.
"Tha' 's nize—for me."
"An' for me"—in quite her own manner.
"But not the goddesses?"
They laughed together, and she drew confidently a little closer to him.
"Listen; I go'n' tell you a thing. You not in fun—not?"
"I mean every word," declared Garland, " and more than I have words to mean."
"An" you lig be tell?"
"That is what I am waiting so impatiently for—to be tell."
"Tha' 's nize. Eijinsan 'most always fun. Nobody but you aever lig those hair an' eye. Aeverybody hate me. Why? Account they say I b'long pink-face people. Account my fadder he sei yo jin—a west-ocean mans. I di'n' do so unto those hair an' eye! I cannot help. Me? When I see you got those purple eye lig unto me, an' also those yellow hairs, an' all pink in the face, I thing mebby you go'n' lig me liddle—lig I was brodder an' fadder with you. Also, I thing mebby you go'n' take me away with you—beyond those west-ocean, where pink-face people live. Me? Don' you thing those pink-face people lig me liddle if I come unto them?"
"God bless you—yes," said Garland, with something suspiciously tender in voice and eyes. He still had her hands, delighting in them, caressing them. The girl's face was irradiated. She poured out all her soul for him.
"Me? Listen 'nother time. Before I know you' eyes purple an' you' hair yellow lig unto me, I lig you! Me? Sa-ay—I lig jus' your picture!" She laughed, confessed, and shifted a little closer. "You don' hate me account 1 doing those?"
"No," said Garland, guiltily"—no, I don't hate you."
"Sa-ay—you go'n' take me at those pinkface people?"
Garland was silent.
"If you don', I got go myself. Me? I got go!"
Garland nodded, and she understood him to have assented. This was wrong. But her joy was superb, and Garland had a very soft heart.
"Oh—how that is nize! Me? I got go. I dunno—all times seem lig I b'long 'cross west-ocean. Seem lig I different from aeverybody else. Me? I got have somebody lig me—somebody touch me—hole my hands—so—so—so!" She illustrated fervidly.
Garland, alarmed at her dynamic emotion, released them. She returned them to him.
"But—nobody don' wish. Others—Japan people—they don' lig be ligued. But me? I got be—else I got pain in my heart an' am ill. You aever have those pain at you' heart—lig you all times falling down—down—down? Tha' 's mos' tarrible. Tha' 's lonesome-ness. Me? I thing I go'n' die sometime account that. Tha' 's lone-some-ness to cross west-ocean to pink-face people. Yaes; tha' 's why I got do those. Oku-Sama—tha' 's my modder—she saying 'most all times, 'Jus' lig pink-face people. Always got be lig by 'nother—touch by 'nother—speak sof by 'nother.' An' tha' 's you—yaes! You lig me, an' you touch me, an' you speak sof unto me the ver' first time I seeing you. Me? I know, those time I first seeing you, that you don' hate me account I got those pink face upon me."
"No," admitted Garland, seriously.
"How that is nize! It make something rest—go 'sleep inside me. I got that peace. Jus' when you touch my hand at first I got some happiness. But now—I got that peace."
She began regretfully to detach herself. Garland detained her. She was very dainty and very confiding—very wise. She had unconsciously got very close to him. And Garland had vanquished his alarm of her.
"Me? I don' wish; but I got git you somethings eat. Soon you starve. I got."
But Garland would not let her go—and she was a willing captive, though she dissembled an urgent necessity.
"Where is Black-Eyes—and your mother? " asked Garland.
The girl seemed reluctant, but told him that they all worked in the neighboring silkmill, the pulsations of which he had heard in the night.
"Never mind. I 'd rather famish," said the impulsive Garland, with a strange remorse. "Will you assist?"
"Yaes," laughed the girl. "Me? I been famish—many times."
"Heavens!" breathed Garland, inventorying all her daintiness once more. "How much do your mother and sister earn? "
The girl seemed quite indifferent as to this.
"Sometime fi' sen; sometime ten—fifteen; one times, twenty-two."
"Me? Oh, jus' liddle."
She earned more than the other two.
"And what does it cost you to live?"
"Live? Half those fi'—ten—fifteen sen."
"And you save the rest? That is very prudent."
The girl looked bewildered; then she explained:
"Other half sen' Brownie."
He suddenly let her go. She leaned over him bewitchingly.
"Firs' some breakfas'; then I go'n' help you famish—all day! What you thing?"
She came back in a moment. The sleeves of her kimono were tucked out of the way, and there was rice-flour on her pretty arms.
"You go'n' to naever tell—'bout those fi'—ten—fifteen sen, an' all those?"
"No," said Garland; "I will never tell."
"Else they go'n' kill me," she threatened gaily.
"I prefer to have you live," he laughed, as brightly as he could.
"Tha' 's secret among jus' you an' me?"
"Yes," said Garland.
She started away, then came back.
"Me? I lig—I lig have secret among jus' you an' me." With a radiant face she fled.
AND here was Brownie's poor little skeleton stripped naked. He had lived at the university like a gentleman. He was still living in Philadelphia like a gentleman. Garland wondered whether it would make any difference in Philadelphia if it were known that it was the pitiful "fi'—ten—fifteen sen" that his mother and sisters earned each day that supported him. A great disgust for Brownie and a great pity for Purple-Eyes were the immediate postulates. And is not pity akin to love?
THE DANCE OF THE RED MAPLE-LEAVES
The question of making one's toilet in the interior of Japan is still a serious one for the American who lives behind closed doors and cherishes his divine right of privacy. Garland had solved the vexation for all his contemporaries (according to Garland) by making his toilet as to half or quarter of his sacred person at a time (depending somewhat upon the danger of surprise), thus reducing the chances of exposure by one half or three quarters. Purple-Eyes brought him the requisites for his toilet, and the moment she was gone he bared his shoulders and chest, and plunged into the delightful water, perfumed, like everything else, with the aroma Japonica. But his pretty hostess reappeared through the movable walls at an unwatched place.
He abandoned a momentary impulse to scuttle behind the screen because of the admiration he saw in her eyes, and then he half turned that she might see the muscles of his back.
"How you are beau-ti-f ul!" she said slowly, as her eyes traveled, quite without embarrassment, over his athletic uppers.
"Thanks," he laughed, with pleasure in the little incident.
Garland turned a little farther, and raised his arms above his head in the way of athletes.
She handed him a towel he had dropped.
"I thing I come tell you we got large tub for bath," she said then.
"Where is it?" asked Garland, suspiciously.
"That 's what I thought. You must excuse me. I can't perform that sacred rite in the fierce light that beats upon a front porch."
"Yaes? Eijinsan don' lig?" She did not understand.
"No," admitted Garland.
"Also, you lig for me go 'way liddle?"
Garland said yes, and she went.
When she returned, it was with a delightful breakfast of fish, rice, and persimmons. She put the little table between them, and on her knees, on the other side, taught him how to eat as a Japanese should. This is really not difficult, except the chopsticks; and with these she had to help him so often that their fingers were in almost constant contact. Alas! Garland made it as difficult as possible. And, alas! Garland was glad of the chopsticks!
Her joy overflowed the mouth and eyes which it seemed should know nothing but tears.
Afterward he helped her, with masculine joy of his own ineptitude, to reform the apartment, and secrete the things which had made it successively a reception-room, sleeping-chamber, and breakfast-room. You may judge whether or not this was delightful to a fellow like Garland, and also whether it was perilous.
It is not often that one has the felicity of ending one's breakfast with a song, and then of ending the song with a dance. Purple-Eyes brought her samisen quite without suggestion from Garland, and said with naïveté:
"I go'n' sing you a song. You lig me sing?"
"Try me!" challenged Garland, with an admiration in his eyes which pleased her greatly.
"Long down behine the Suwanee River" was the curious song she sang, in Japanese English.
"Don' you lig those?" she pouted. "I learn it for you."
He said it was lovely, and begged her to go on.
But his eyes wandered from the fingers on the strings to those on the plectrum, and then away to the lips above; and when she turned into the chorus he joined her with his inconstant eyes still there. It was only an indifferent tenor, but the girl thought it full of fervor. It was only that it joined and mingled with hers as she fancied their spirits doing and might always do.
"How that is nize!" she breathed in frank ecstasy, "You got voice lig—lig—"
But there was nothing at hand to compare it with, and she laughed confessingly.
"Nothing," said Garland. "It 's original."
"Yaes—nothing original," she admitted.
"Sing another," begged Garland, with enthusiasm.
She did—"When the swallows flying home"; and then still another—"'T is the last rosebud summer,"
"Where did you learn them?" asked he.
"That day when I got you' picture. Me? I thing you lig me sing, mebby. Well, I git those song; I make them United States' language, so you comprehend."
"God bless you!" said Garland.
The girl leaned forward with dewy eyes.
"Sa-ay—you lig me also dance—jus' one—liddle dance—for you!"
She came bewitchingly nearer. Garland glanced again at her geisha-like costume. Had she thought all this out for his entertainment, he wondered?
"Yes," he said.
"But—you naev—naever go'n' tell?"
She raised her brows, and held up a finger archly.
"On my sacred honor!" laughed Garland.
"Not a soul."
"Tha' 's go'n' be 'nother secret among jus' you an' me for aever an' aever? "
"For ever and ever," announced Garland, as if it were the Service.
"Account if you aever do, they go'n' kill me!"
"What! Kill you?"
"Dade!" She nodded ominously.
"Black-Eyes an' those modder."
"Oh!" said Garland. He understood.
He was left to guess that this dainty flower had been taught the arts of a geisha to assist also in keeping up Brownie's state.
"I lig dance for you," confessed the girl, joyously. "Others? No; I do not lig. They as' me, 'Where you got those pink face?' Me? I don' lig those. I rather work in those mill. My modder an' my sister gitting all times an-gery—account I don' dance. But—tha' 's in-sult upon me! I don' lig be insult. So! Me? I jus' don' dance for no one—but—but—but—jus'—you!"
She vanished through the shoji, and presently returned, a symphony in autumnal reds and browns.
"I go'n' dance for you that red maple-leaf dance. Me? I am that leaf."
"You look it," said Garland, more tenderly than he knew.
The girl spread her garments that he might inspect her.
"This is a forest," she went on; "an' you—sa-ay you a tree! Aha, ha, ha!"
She laughed, made him a noble courtesy, and murmured a little tune to which she floated down from the top of a maple-tree. For a while she lay quite still, shivering a little. Then the wind stirred her, and she rose, and swept down upon Garland, then back and into a whirl of other leaves. Then hither and thither, merrily, like an autumn leaf, until she shivered down at his feet, with bowed head.
She was making it more and more perilous for Garland.
"HOW THAT IS NIZE!"
That night they had a gay little supper, with a tiny servant, who, Garland guessed, with entire accuracy, had been borrowed for the occasion.
"You got nize day?" asked Black-Eyes.
Garland caught a startled glance from Purple-Eyes, and answered discreetly that he had had—oh, yes; a very pleasant day, giving no damaging particulars.
But Black-Eyes fancied from the blankness of his countenance that he was indulging in the same kind of prevarication with which she would have met such a question. She devoted herself to him all the rest of the evening. As he retired for the night, the last thing she said to him, with a reproachful glance at Purple-Eyes, was:
"To-morrow you go'n' have mos' bes' nize times. I go'n' stay home with you!"
And she did, making it a very dreary day for Garland. He could not help thinking of Purple-Eyes at the factory, with her dainty hands begrimed.
But presently, when she returned, there was no grime upon her hands. She was dainty and smiling.
"You got nize day?" she asked, with her head coyly down. She knew he had not. And she purposely quoted her sister.
"No," he said savagely. "I 'm glad it 's over."
The flame was in her face again. But she kept it down.
"I thing Black-Eyes ver' be-witch-ing."
"But she is not—you," he said.
She looked slowly up. The little weariness which had been limned upon her face by the day's drudgery was gone, and in its stead was a vague glory reflected from within.
"How that is nize," she whispered—"for me!"
"For me," said Garland, approaching her threateningly. She did not retreat. She subsided a little toward him—just a little—that he might know she would never retreat from him. Her eyes smiled confidently.
He stopped where he was.
"Who is to be chatelaine to-morrow?"
"What is that chat—?" she asked.
"Who is to keep the house?"
"Me. Me one day, Black-Eyes next."
She saw his face lighten.
"You lig that?"
"I like half of it."
She thought a moment until she understood; then she lifted her shining face.
"Ah, Eijinsan, how be-witch-ing you are!"
THE PLAINTIVE TEMPLE BELLS
The next day they went up to the temple on the mountain-side the plaintive bells of which Garland had heard. Purple-Eyes was tall, and walked with less difficulty than most Japanese girls, so they walked. It was a day of dreams. Garland remembered afterward the smell of the incense, the voices of the chanting bonzes, that the tea-house on the mountain-side where they rested called itself the House of the Seven Golden Crystals; the rest was Purple-Eyes—and happiness. Japan had been growing upon him for three months, and now unhappiness made but little impression.
The day remained in his mind with the sum of his dreams—this lotus-eating, nectar-drinking, happy-go-lucky Garland!
Thus it curiously went on. One day it was Black-Eyes, and the true Japan, and the real Garland. The next it was Purple-Eyes, and the ideal Japan, and the lotus-eating Garland. What is more like lotus-eating than being adored? At first Garland used to smile at the strange dual life which circumstances had wrought out for him. Then he used to wonder which was better. Later he tried to decide only which he liked better. Now he no longer differentiated at all. His analytical edge was quite dulled. Still, he had heard that this fever of Japan always wore off. Some said it lasted as long as two years, some said five; no one had said ten. And what then?
"Why, then? Me!"
He had spoken the last three words aloud, and they had been answered by the laughing, dewy-eyed subject of them. He looked at her.
"Well, one ought to be content," he laughed.
"An' you—content?" she smiled back.
He did not answer at once.
"Do you know that you have been growing more bewitching every day since—"
"Sinze you—an' joy—came at Japan?"
From the opened shoji she flung him the gay greeting he had taught her, and disappeared; for it was Black-Eyes' day, and she had yet to dress for her work.
That day he harbored madly the notion of marriage with Purple-Eyes and a residence in Japan. It had quite infected him before night, and was distinctly, but less and less strongly, in his mind for several days. But then came a letter from his elder brother, in answer to his own of a rather confessional and emotional sort, asking him what he meant by living upon three working-women. It told him to go away—to the devil—anywhere—but away from there. It was like a cold douche. The fever Japonica, as every one had said, was at last gone. So small a thing as his brother's letter had cured it. Now he smiled. He had meant to write to Miss Warburton, offering to release her.
I know not what he said to Purple-Eyes, but with her tears there was a certain buoyancy that had not been there but for some hope. And why not? For Garland was a very sweet and gentle fellow, who abhorred pain. The three went to see him off, and he tried desperately to be gay; but something was pulling at his heart-strings, and there were tears perilously near his eyes. Black-Eyes did not marvel at this. She had always understood that it was the way of west-ocean men. But they were only too evidently ready to be answered by other tears in the dewy eyes that were blue. And this was annoying to Black-Eyes. She made her sister tremble by a look. So she of the blue eyes could only grasp and hold Garland's big hand in both her own exquisite ones when the others looked away. When their eyes returned hers looked off to the big funnels of the ship, though she still held the hand. But when she looked at Garland again he had his handkerchief to his eyes; something inside had given way. Then hers came from her sleeve, too. So at last it was quite a little tragedy.
Sad it is that one forgets that one has eaten of the lotus; but thus it is with the lotus, and thus did Garland.
That night, in bed, Black-Eyes undertook some criticism of Garland. Her sister flared up in a way that was new and superb.
"Tha' 's lie! He 's the mos' bes' nize gent in the whole worl'." And she fell to sobbing.
"What is the matter? " asked the mother, who was kinder than Black-Eyes.
"I got that lone-some-ness," sobbed the girl, in answer.
"Poor little pink-face!" said the mother, touching her cheek. "Always must be touch by some one!"
"Me?" said Purple-Eyes, with a power and assurance which were startling. "I am glad I have that pink face!" She laughed.
"And I am glad I have not that brown face! Aha!"
The mother asked in alarm:
"Has the Eijinsan told you strange things?"
"The strangest and most beautiful things in all the world!" breathed Purple-Eyes. "Not told them, but looked them—thought them—to me."
"And you believed?"
"That is very sad," said the mother. "It is the way of the west-ocean men."
"Ah, it is his way, thank Shaka! and it is not sad. It is very joyous."
"Shaka grant that it is not, my daughter.
To the Eijinsan you are only a plaything, I fear."
"He may have me for a plaything," said the girl, defiantly. "Who has not playthings? "
"When a plaything becomes shabby—"
"But I am not, and I never shall be."
"In a little while we shall know," said the mother, finally.
"In a little while we shall know," repeated the girl, joyously.
"WHAT YOU BED?"
Later they found the letter—in the discarded conversation-book. It said that Garland was having his final outing before becoming a Benedick; and the missionary on the hill told them that that meant that he was to be married upon his return to America. Purple-Eyes drew a sharp breath, then faced the other two savagely. She was able to laugh presently; but it was a very piteous laugh.
"Tha' 's what I know! Aha, ha, ha! He—he—tell me all those." But the pitiful lie stuck in her throat, and her lips were dry.
"He tell me aeverything! Yaes"—to a look of doubt from Black-Eyes "he go'n' marry that other for jus' liddle—"
"Speak Japanese," said her mother, who was not so clever at English as her daughters; but the request fell like a lash upon Purple-Eyes' heart.
"I will not!" she flamed forth. "I will speak his language. He will come for me.
If he do not come, I shall go to him. He go'n' marry that other—if he marry her—if—jus' liddle— Me? He go'n' marry me las' an' foraever! "
Suddenly she became aware that she had betrayed her secret.
"Oh, all the gods in the sky!" she cried in anguish. "Tha' 's lie. He not go'n' marry me. He don' say. Jus' I thing so—jus' I—" She had to debase herself still further, if she would be shriven. "He not go'n' come for me. I not go'n' go at him. Me? Tha' 's correc', Oku-San; I jus' his liddle plaything. He don' say nawthing. Jus' I thing so."
Her mother nodded.
"And when he tires of the plaything—"
She threw an imaginary something into the air.
"Yaes," whispered Purple-Eyes, humbly bowing her head; but when her face was down she smiled. It was all very sure to her. As she looked up she saw something like malevolence upon the face of her sister.
"But—also he not go'n' marry that other foraever!"
Her sister smiled unbelievingly.
"I bed you he don'!"
"Ah! What you bed?" challenged BlackEyes.
"That heart in my bosom!" answered Purple-Eyes.
Garland did not reach the end of his ante-Benedick wanderings until a year later. Then he found, among other letters awaiting him, one in a long, dainty envelop addressed in English and Japanese. He knew it was from Purple-Eyes before he opened it. It was seven months old.
As he read, all her little tricks of inflection came back -upon him. He knew that her long white hands were waving emphases at him—very gently. The questioning which her eyes had learned after his coming—as if she were not quite sure of something—was upon him out of the shadows beyond the lamp. The subtle aromas which always exhaled from her garments were distinct enough to startle him. He looked quickly back and about the room. Then he laughed softly. But his face had flushed, and gladness had lit his eyes. The fever Japonica was once more in his veins—and it was his own room—and America with only her pictured face (fallen from the envelop) before him—herself on the other side of the world. Unconsciously he read aloud—in her voice and manner.
"That is ledder from me, Miss PurpleEyes, unto you, Mister J. F. Garland. That is nize day in Japan. I lig if you hoarry soon coming at Japan 'nother time. You been 'way ver' long time. I lig if you hoarry account aeverybody hating me more an' more. I got those feeling again 'bout somethings I want an' have not got it. That is lone-some-ness. That is to cross west-ocean. You have also got those? Me? I been that sad aever sinze you gone me away from. I been that ill. I thing mebby I go'n' die soon, Aexcep' you come? Say you go'n' come, that I don' die? BlackEye she all times make amusement 'bout you don' come. That is a liar. She don' know you who you are. She don' know you that you go'n' come soon as you kin. Mebby you go'n' marry with those pink-face for liddle while? Me? I study those conversation-book so I kin write unto you. Also, 1 fine those ledder you lose when you first arrive among us at Japan. You desire those ledder? Me? I keep it upon my bosom among those photograph of you. Mister J. F. Garland, I don' keer you do marry those other for liddle while. Then you go'n' marry me las' an' foraever. Jus' hoarry. Yit I am not gay. I cannot be gay until you come again. That is sad for me. Also, you do not lig for me be gay, but lig unto widow till you come. Then, Mister J. F. Garland, I shall be that happy. Mebby you ill an' cannot come unto me? Then I come unto you, if you wish me. What you thing? That is a picture of me lig I promise. I fix up same lig those day you hoi' my hands. How that was nize! That is first time I aever been my hands hoi' so nize so—sof'. Mister J. F. Garland, that is you hoi' my hands that sof. Me? I don' let no one else do those unto my hands—lig you wishing, mebby. Jus' you. Mister J. F. Garland, you go'n' hoi' my hands all times this afterwhile? Say, don' stay marry with that other so ver' long. Account those lonesome-ness. Please sen' me picture of those other you marry unto. If you marry unto them. I lig see how she is that beautiful. Please write me ledder aevery day. Please come back that soon. So I kin be joyous. It is that sad for me."
Every laboriously formed letter, printed like the first copy of a child at school, told him what this had cost her; and the little flourishes at the end, where she had grown more certain, what pride she had in them! The picture was exquisitely colored, as only the Japanese can color them, and had been very costly to her. He set it before him, and with his head in his hands studied it. The eyes were very blue, but no bluer than her own. They looked into his half sadly, half gaily, tempting him again. The Japan fever had its way with him, and for a moment—ten—he lived that lotus life with her over again. Then came a great upheaval inside which was yearning. He was tired. He had been tired ever since leaving Japan. In those eyes he saw again the invitation to rest. The hair, with its brassy luster—he could see the sun on it again—smell its perfume—feel it under his hands. The lips were parted a little, as they nearly always were, and within showed the brilliant teeth.
"Oh," he cried out, as he rose, "get thee behind me—moon-goddess—get thee behind me!" He laughed woefully, and took up the picture again. "I thought it gone—the fever—the dreaming—the lotus-eating."
There was a knock on the door, and a messenger-boy handed in the answer to a note.
"Yes," it ran;" I shall be at home at eight—and so glad!"
It was twenty minutes to eight.
Garland hurried into his evening clothes, and hastened away, leaving the rest of the letters unopened. But he came back, from down the stairs, and again set the picture up before him. Then he strode softly up and down the apartment, a smile half sad, half gay upon his face. The little clock chimed the few notes which told him it was a quarter past eight. He smiled—another kind of smile. He had forgotten—that she would be at home at eight and would be glad! He looked again briefly at the picture of Purple-Eyes. There was moisture in his own. Then softly, as if it were sentient, he turned it face down, and went out.