The Lady and Sada San
(pseudonym of Fannie Caldwell Macaulay)
The Lady and Sada San
A Sequel to
The Lady of the Decoration
New York The Century Co. 1912
Copyright, 1912, by
THE CENTURY CO.
Published, October, 1912
ELLEN CHURCHILL SEMPLE
MY FELLOW WANDERERS THROUGH THE ORIENT
The Lady and Sada San
ON THE HIGH SEAS. June, 1911.
You once told me, before you went to Italy, that after having been
my intimate relative all these years, you had drawn a red line through
the word surprise. Restore the abused thing to its own at once. You
will need it when the end of this letter is reached. I have left
Kentucky after nine years of stay-at-home happiness, and once again I
am on my way to Japan—this time in wifely disobedience to Jack's
What do you think that same Jack has “gone and done”! Of course he
is right. That is the provoking part of Jack; it always turns out that
he is in the right. Two months ago he went to some place in China
which, from its ungodly name, should be in the furthermost parts of a
wilderness. Perhaps you have snatched enough time from guarding the
kiddies from a premature end in Como to read a headline or so in the
home papers. If by some wonderful chance, between baby prattle, bumps
and measles, they have given you a moment's respite, then you know that
the Government has grown decidedly restless for fear the energetic and
enterprising bubonic or pneumonic germ might take passage on some of
the ships from the Orient. So it is fortifying against invasion. The
Government, knowing Jack's indomitable determination to learn
everything knowable about the private life and character of a given
germ, asked him to join several other men it is sending out to get
information, provided of course the germ doesn't get them first.
Jack read me the official-looking document one night between puffs
of his after-dinner pipe.
Another surprise awaits you. For once in my life I had nothing to
say. Possibly it is just as well for the good of the cause that the
honorable writer of the letter could not see how my thoughts looked.
I glanced about our little den, aglow with soft lights; everything
in it seemed to smile. Well, as you know it, Mate, I do not believe
even you realize the blissfulness of the hours of quiet comradeship we
have spent there. With the great know-it-all old world shut out, for
joyful years we have dwelt together in a home-made paradise. And yet it
seemed just then as if I were dwelling in a home-made Other Place.
The difference in the speed of time depends on whether love is your
guest or not.
The thought of the briefest interruption to my content made me feel
like cold storage. A break in happiness is sometimes hard to mend. The
blossom does not return to the tree after the storm, no matter how
beautiful the sunshine; and the awful fear of the faintest echo of past
sorrow made my heart as numb as a snowball. To the old terror of
loneliness was added fear for Jack's safety. But I did not do what you
naturally would prophesy. After seeing the look on Jack's face I
changed my mind, and my protest was the silent kind that says so much.
It was lost! Already Jack had gone into one of his trances, as he does
whenever there is a possibility of bearding a brand-new microbe in its
den, whether it is in his own country or one beyond the seas. In body
he was in a padded chair with all the comforts of home and a charming
wife within speaking distance. In spirit he was in dust-laden China,
joyfully following the trail of the wandering germ. Later on, when Jack
came to, we talked it over. I truly remembered your warnings on the
danger of impetuosity; for I choked off every hasty word and gave my
consent for Jack to go. Then I cried half the night because I had.
We both know that long ago Jack headed for the topmost rung of a
very tall scientific ladder. Sometimes my enthusiasm as chief booster
and encourager has failed, as when it meant absence and risk. Though I
have known women who specialized in renunciation, till they were the
only happy people in the neighborhood, its charms have never lured me
into any violent sacrifice. Here was my chance and I firmly refused to
be the millstone to ornament Jack's neck.
You might know, Mate? I was hoping all the time that he would find
it quite impossible to leave such a nice biddable wife at home. But I
learn something new about Jack every day. After rather heated
discussion it was decided that I should stay in the little home. That
is, the heat and the discussion was all on my side. The decision lay in
the set of Jack's mouth, despite the tenderness in his eyes. He thought
the risks of the journey too great for me; the hardships of the rough
life too much. Dear me! Will men never learn that hardship and risk are
double cousins to loneliness, and not even related to love by marriage?
But just as well paint on water as to argue with a scientist when he
has reached a conclusion.
Besides, said Jack, the fatherly Government has no intention that
petticoats, even hobbled ones, should be flitting around while the
habits and the methods of the busy insect were being examined through a
microscope or a telescope. The choice of instrument depending, of
course, upon the activity of the bug.
Black Charity was to be my chief-of-police and comforter-in-general.
Parties—house, card and otherwise—were to be my diversion, and I was
to make any little trips I cared for. Well, that 's just what I am
doing. Of course, there might be a difference of opinion as to whether
a journey from Kentucky to Japan is a little trip.
I am held by a vague uneasiness today. Possibly it 's because I am
not certain as to Jack's attitude, when he learns through my letter,
which is sailing along with me, that I am going to Japan to be as near
him as possible. I hope he will appreciate my thoughtfulness in saving
him all the bother of saying no. Or it might be that my slightly
dampened spirits come from the discussion I am still having with myself
whether it 's the part of a dutiful wife to present herself a wiggling
sacrifice to science, or whether science should attend to its own
business and lead not into temptation the scientifically inclined heads
of peaceful households.
You 'll say the decision of what was best lay with Jack. Honey,
there 's the error of your mortal mind! In a question like that my
spouse is as one-sided as a Civil War veteran. Say germ-hunt to Jack
and it 's like dangling a gaudy fly before a hungry carp.
I saw Jack off at the station, and went hack to the little house.
Charity had sent the cook home and with her own hands served all the
beloved dainties of my long-ago childhood, trying to coax me into
forgetfulness. As you remember, Mate, dinner has always been the
happiest hour of the day in our small domain. Now? Well, everything was
just the same. The only difference was Jack. And the half circle of
bare tablecloth opposite me was about as cheerful as a snowy afternoon
at the North Pole. I wandered around the house for awhile, but every
time I turned a corner there was a memory waiting to greet me. Now the
merriest of them seemed to be covered with a chilly shadow, and every
one was pale and ghostly. All night I lay awake, playing at the old
game of mental solitaire and keeping tryst with the wind which seemed
to tap with unseen fingers at my window and sigh,
“Then let come what come may
. . . . . .
I shall have had my day.”
Is it possible, Mate, that my glorious day, which I thought had
barely tipped the hour of noon, is already lengthening into the still
shadows of evening?
It was foolish but, for the small comfort I got out of it, I turned
on the light and looked inside my wedding-ring. Time has worn it a bit
but the letters which spell “My Lady of the Decoration,” spelled again
the old-time thrill into my heart.
What 's the use of tying your heartstrings around a man, and then
have ambition slip the knot and leave you all a-quiver?
Far be it from me to stand in Jack's way if germ-stalking is
necessary to his success. Just the same, I could have spent profitable
moments reading the burial service over every microbe, home-grown and
Really, Mate, I 've conscientiously tried every plan Jack proposed
and a few of my own. It was no use. That day-after-Christmas feeling
promptly suppressed any effort towards contentment.
At first there was a certain exhilaration in catching pace with the
gay whirl which for so long had been passed by for homier things. You
will remember there was a time when the pace of that same whirl was
never swift enough for me; but my taste for it now was gone, and it was
like trying to do a two-step to a funeral march. For once in my life I
knew the real meaning of that poor old worn-to-a-frazzle call of the
East, for now the' dominant note was the call of love.
I heard it above the clink of the teacups. It was in the swish of
every silk petticoat. If I went to the theater, church or concert, the
call of that germ-ridden spot of the unholy name beat into my brain
with the persistency of a tom-tom on a Chinese holiday.
Say what you will, Mate, it once took all my courage to leave those
I loved best and go to far-away Japan. Now it required more than I
could dig up to stay—with the best on the other side of the
The struggle was easy and swift. The tom-tom won and I am on my way
to be next-door neighbor to Jack. Those whom it concerned here were
away from home, so I told no one good-by, thus saving everybody so much
wasted advice. If there were a tax on advice the necessities of life
would not come so high. Charity followed me to the train, protesting to
the last that “Marse Jack gwine doubt her velocity when she tell him de
truf bout her lady going a-gaddin' off by herse'f and payin' no mind to
her ole mammy's prosterations.” I asked her to come with me as maid.
She refused; said her church was to have an ice-cream sociable and she
had “to fry de fish.” This letter will find you joyfully busy with the
babies and the “only man.” Blest woman that you are.
But I know you. I have a feeling that you have a few remarks to
make. So hurry up. Let us get it off our minds. Then I can better tell
you what I am doing. Something is going to happen. It usually does when
I am around. I have been asked to chaperone a young girl whose face and
name spell romance. If I were seeking occupation here is the
opportunity knocking my door into splinters.
STILL AT SEA. June, 1911.
Any time you are out of a job and want to overwork all your
faculties and a few emotions, try chaperoning a young room-mate
answering to the name of Sada San, who is one-half American dash, and
the other half the unnamable witchery of a Japanese woman; a girl with
the notes of a lark in her voice when she sings to the soft twang of an
If, too, you are seeking to study psychological effect of such a
combination on people, good, middlin' and otherwise, I would suggest a
Pacific liner as offering fifty-seven varieties, and then some.
The last twinge of conscience I had over coming, died a cheerful
death. I 'd do it again. For not only is romance surcharging the air,
but fate gives promise of weaving an intricate pattern in the story of
this maid whose life is just fairly begun and whom the luck of the road
has given me as traveling mate. Now, remembering a few biffs fate has
given me, I have no burning desire to meddle with her business. Neither
am I hungering for responsibility. But what are you going to say to
yourself, when a young girl with a look in her eyes you would wish your
daughter to have, unhesitatingly gives you a letter addressed at large
to some “Christian Sister”! You read it to find it's from her home
pastor, requesting just a little companionship for “a tender young soul
who is trying her wings for the first time in the big and beautiful
world”! I have a very private opinion about reading my title clear to
the Christian Sister business, but no woman with a heart as big as a
pinch of snuff could resist giving her very best and much more to the
slip of a winsome maid, who confidingly asks it—especially if the
sister has any knowledge of the shadows lurking in the beautiful world.
Mate, these steamers as they sail from shore to shore are like giant
theaters. Every trip is an impromptu drama where comedy, farce, and
often startling tragedy offer large speaking parts. The revelation of
human nature in the original package is funny and pathetic. Amusement
is always on tap and life stories are just hanging out of the port-hole
waiting to attack your sympathy or tickle your funny bone. But you 'd
have to travel far to find the beginning of a story so heaped up with
romantic interest as that of Sada San as she told it to me, one long,
lazy afternoon as I lay on the couch in my cabin, thanking my stars I
was getting the best of the bare tablecloth and the empty house at
Some twenty years ago Sada's father, an American, grew tired of the
slow life in a slow town and lent ear to the fairy stories told of the
Far East, where fortunes were made by looking wise for a few moments
every morning and devoting the rest of the day to samisens and flutes.
He found the glorious country of Japan. The beguiling tea-houses, and
softly swinging sampans were all too distracting. They sang ambition to
sleep and the fortune escaped.
He drifted, and at last sought a mean existence as teacher of
English in a school of a remote seaside village. His spirit broke when
the message came of the death of the girl in America who was waiting
for him. Isolation from his kind and bitter hours left for thought made
life alone too ghastly. He tried to make it more endurable by taking
the pretty daughter of the head man of the village as his wife.
My temperature took a tumble when I saw proofs of a hard and fast
marriage ceremony, signed and counter-signed by a missionary brother
who meant business.
You say it is a sordid tale? Mate, I know a certain spot in this
Land of Blossoms, where only foreigners are laid to rest, which bears
testimony to a hundred of its kind—strange and pitiful destinies begun
with high and brilliant hopes in their native land; and when illusions
have faded, the end has borne the stamp of tragedy, because suicide
proved the open door out of a life of failure and exile.
Sada's father was saved suicide and long unhappiness by a timely
tidal-wave, which swept the village nearly bare, and carried the man
and his wife out to sea and to eternity.
The child was found by Susan West who came from a neighboring town
to care for the sick and hungry. Susan was a teacher-missionary. Not
much to look at, if her picture told the truth, but from bits of her
history that I 've picked up her life was a brighter jewel than most of
us will ever find in a heavenly crown. Instead of holding the
unbeliever by the nape of the neck and thrusting a not-understood
doctrine down his unwilling throat, she lived the simple creed of
loving her neighbor better than herself. And the old pair of goggles
she wore made little halos around the least speck of good she found in
any transgressor, no matter how warped with evil.
When she was n't helping some helpless sinner to see the rainbow of
promise at the end of the straight and narrow way, Susan spent her time
and all her salary, giving sick babies a fighting chance for life. She
took the half-drowned little Sada home with her, and searched for any
kinsman left the child. There was only one, her mother's brother. He
was very poor and gladly gave his consent that Miss West should keep
the child—as long as it was a girl! Susan had taught the man English
once in the long ago and this was his chance to repay her.
Later on when the teacher found her health failing and headed for
home in America, Uncle Mura was still more generous and raised no
objections to her taking the baby with her.
Together they lived in a small Western town. The missionary reared
the child by rule of love only and went on short rations to educate
her. Sada's eager mind absorbed everything offered her like a young
sponge, and when a few months ago Susanna folded her hands and joined
her foremothers, there was let loose on the world this exquisite girl
with her solitary legacy of untried ideals and a blind enthusiasm for
her mother's people.
Right here, Mate, was when I had a prolonged attack of cold shivers.
Just before Miss West passed along, knowing that the Valley was near,
she wrote to Uncle in Japan and told him that his niece would soon he
alone. Can't you imagine the picture she drew of her foster child who
had satisfied every craving of her big mother heart? Fascinating and
charming and so weighted with possibilities, that Mura, who had
prospered, leaped for his chance and sent Sada San money for the
Not a mite of anxiety shadowed her eyes when she told me that Uncle
kept a wonderful tea-house in Kioto. He must be very rich, she thought,
because he wrote her of the beautiful things she was to have. About
this time the room seemed suffocating. I got up and turned on the
electric fan. The only thing required of her, she continued, was to use
her voice to entertain Uncle's friends. But she hoped to do much more.
Through Miss West she knew how many of her mother's dear people needed
help. How glorious that she was young and strong and could give so
much. Susan had also talked to her of the flowers, the lovely scenery,
the poetry of the people and their splendid spirit—making a dreamland
where even man was perfect. How she loved it! How proud she was to feel
that in part it was her country. Faithfully would she serve it. Oh,
Susanna West! I 'd like to shake you till your harp snapped a string.
It 's like sending a baby to pick flowers on the edge of a bottomless
What could I say! The missionary-teacher had told the truth. She
simply failed to mention that in the fairy-land there are
cherry-blossom lanes down which no human can wander without being torn
by the brier patches.
The path usually starts from a wonderful tea-house where Uncles have
grown rich. Miss West didn't mean to shirk her duty. In most things the
begoggled lady was a visionary with a theory that if you don't talk
about a thing it does not exist; and like most of her kind she swept
the disagreeables into a dust heap and made for the high places where
all was lovely. And yet she had toiled with the girl through all the
difficulties of the Japanese language; and, to give her a musical
education, had pinched to the point of buying one hat in eight years!
Now it is all done and Sada is launched on the high seas of life
with a pleasure-house for a home and an unscrupulous Uncle with
unlimited authority for a chaperon. Shades of Susan! but I am hoping
guardian angels are “really truly,” even if invisible.
Good night, Mate. This game of playing tag with jarring thoughts,
new and old, has made six extra wrinkles. I am glad I came and you and
Jack will have to be, for to quote Charity, “I 'se done resoluted on my
word of honah” to keep my hands, if possible, on Sada whose eyes are as
blue as her hair is black.
Since morning the sea has been a sheet of blue, streaked with the
silver of flying fish. That is all the scenery there is; not a sail nor
a bird nor an insect. Either the unchanging view or something in the
air has stimulated everybody into being their nicest. It is surprising
how quickly graciousness possesses some people when there is a witching
girl around. Vivacious young men and benevolent officers have suddenly
appeared out of nowhere, spick and span in white duck and their
winningest smiles. Entertainments dovetail till there is barely time
for change of costume between acts.
But let me tell you, Mate, living up to being a mother is no idle
pastime, particularly if it means reviving the lost art of managing
love-smitten youths and elderly male coquettes. There is a specimen of
each opposite Sada and me at table who are so generous with their
company on deck, before and after meals, I have almost run out of
excuses and am short on plans to avoid the heavy obligations of their
The youth is a To-Be-Ruler of many people, a Maharajah of India. But
the name is bigger than the man. Two years ago his father started the
boy around the world with a sack full of rubles and a head full of
ancient Indian lore. With these assets he paused at Oxford that he
might skim through the classics. He had been told this was where all
the going-to-be-great men stopped to acquire just the proper tone of
superiority so necessary in ruling a country. Of course he picked up a
bit on electricity, mechanics, etc. This accomplished to his
satisfaction he ran over to America to view the barbarians' god of
money and take a glance at their houses which touched the sky. But his
whole purpose in living, he told me, was to yield himself to certain
meditations, so that in his final reincarnation, which was only a few
centuries off, he would return to the real thing in Buddha. In the
meantime he was to be a lion, a tiger and a little white bird. At
present he is plain human, with the world-old malady gnawing at his
heart, a pain which threatens to send his cogitations whooping down a
thornier and rosier lane than any Buddha ever knew. Besides I am
thinking a few worldly vanities have crept in and set him hack an eon
or so. He wears purple socks, pink ties and a dainty watch strapped
around his childish wrist.
When I asked him what impressed him most in America, he promptly
answered with his eyes on Sada, “Them girls. They are rapturous!”
Farewell Nirvana! With a camp stool in one hand and a rosary in the
other, he follows Sada San like the shadow on a sun dial. Wherever she
is seated, there is the stool and the royal youth, his mournful eyes
feasting on the curves and dimples of her face, her lightest jest far
sweeter than any prayer, the beads in his hand forgotten.
The other would-be swain calls himself a Seeker of Truth.
Incidentally he is hunting a wife. His general attitude is a constant
reminder of the uncertainty of life. His presence makes you glad that
nothing lasts. He says his days are heavy with the problems of the
universe, but you can see for yourself that this very commercial
traveler carries a light side line in an assortment of flirtations that
surely must be like dancing little sunbeams on a life of gloom.
Goodness knows how much of a nuisance he would be if it were not for
a little lady named Dolly, who sits beside him, gray in color, dress
and experience. At no uncertain age she has found a belated
youthfulness and is starting on the first pleasure trip of her life.
Coming across the country to San Francisco, her train was wrecked.
In the smash-up a rude chair struck her just south of the belt line and
she fears brain fever from the blow. The alarm is not general, for
though just freed by kind death from an unhappy life sentence of
matrimony she is ready to try another jailer.
Whether he spied Dolly first and hoped that the gleam from her many
jewels would light up the path in his search for Truth and a few other
things, or whether the Seeker was sought, I do not know. However the
flirtation which seems to have no age limit has flourished like a
bamboo tree. For once the man was too earnest. Dolly gave heed and
promptly attached herself with the persistency of a barnacle to a
weather-beaten junk. By devices worthy a finished fisher of men, she
holds him to his job of suitor, and if in a moment of abstraction his
would-be ardor for Sada grows too perceptible, the little lady reels in
a yard or so of line to make sure her prize is still dangling on the
To-day at tiffin the griefless widow unconsciously scored at the
expense of the Seeker, to the delight of the whole table. For Sada's
benefit this man quoted a long passage from some German philosopher. At
least it sounded like that. It was far above the little gray head he
was trying to ignore and so weighty I feared for her mentality. But I
did not know Dolly. She rose like a doughnut. Looking like a child who
delights in the rhythm of meaningless sounds, she heard him through,
then exclaimed with breathless delight, “Oh, ain't he fluid!”
The man fled, but not before he had asked Sada for two dances at
It is like a funny little curtain-raiser, with jealousy as a
gray-haired Cupid. So far as Sada is concerned, it is admiration gone
to waste. Even if she were not gaily indifferent, she is too absorbed
in the happy days she thinks are awaiting her. Poor child! Little she
knows of the limited possibilities of a Japanese girl's life; and what
the effect of the painful restrictions will be on one of her rearing, I
dare not think.
Once she is under the authority of Uncle, the Prince, the Seeker,
and all mankind will be swept into oblivion; and, until such time as
she can be married profitably and to her master's liking, she will know
no man. The cruelest awakening she will face is the attitude of the
Orient toward the innocent offspring in whose veins runs the blood of
two races, separated by differences which never have been and never
will be overcome.
In America the girl's way would not have been so hard because her
novel charm would have carried her far. But hear me: in Japan,
the very wave in her hair and the color of her eyes will prove a
barrier to the highest and best in the land. Even with youth and beauty
and intelligence, unqualified recognition for the Eurasian is as rare
as a square egg.
Another thought hits me in the face as if suddenly meeting a cross
bumblebee. Will the teachings of the woman, who lived with her head in
the clouds, hold hard and fast when Uncle puts on the screws?
The Seeker says it is the fellow who thinks first that wins. He
speaks feelingly on the subject. Right now I am going to begin
cultivating first thought, and try to be near if danger, whose name is
Uncle, threatens the girl who has walked into my affections and made
herself at home.
All the very good people are in bed. The very worldly minded and the
young are on deck reluctantly finishing the last dance under a canopy
of make-believe cherry blossoms and wistaria. I am on the deck between,
closing this letter to you which I will mail in Yokohama in a few
In a way I shall be glad to see a quiet room in a hotel and hie me
back to simple living, free from the responsibilities of a temporary
parent. I am not promising myself any gay thrills in the meantime. What
's the use, with Jack on the borderland of a sulphurous country and you
in the Garden of Eden? His letters and yours will be my greatest
excitement. So write and keep on writing and never fear that I will not
do the same. You are the safety-valve for my speaking emotions, Mate;
so let that help you bear it.
Please mark with red ink one small detail of Sada's story. When I
was fastening her simple white gown for the dance her chatter was like
that of a sunny-hearted child. Indeed, she liked to dance. Susan did
not think it harmful. She said if your heart was right your feet would
follow. When Miss West could spare her she always went to parties with
Billy, and oh, how he could dance if he was so big and had red
So! there was a Billy? I looked in her face for signs. The way was
clear but there was a soft little quiver in her voice that caused me
carefully to label the unknown William, and lay him on a shelf for
future reference. Whatever the coming days hold for her, mine has been
the privilege of giving the girl three weeks of unclouded happiness.
Outside I hear the little Prince pacing up and down, yielding up his
soul to holy meditations. I 'd be willing to wager my best piece of
jade his contemplations are something like a cycle from Nirvana, and
closer far to a pair of heavily fringed eyes. Poor little imitation
Buddha! He is grasping at the moon's reflection on the water. Somewhere
near I hear Dolly's soft coo and deep-voiced replies. But unfinished
packing, a bath and coffee are awaiting me.
Dawn is coming, and already through the port hole I see a dot of
earth curled against the horizon. Above floats Fuji, the base wrapped
in mists, the peak eternally white, a giant snowdrop swinging in a dome
of perfect blue. The vision is a call to prayer, a wooing of the soul
to the heights of undimmed splendor.
After all, Mate, I may give you and Jack a glad surprise and justify
Sada handing me that letter addressed to a Christian Sister.
YOKOHAMA, July, 1911.
Now that I am here, I am trying to decide what to do with myself. At
home each day was so full of happy things and the happiest of all was
listening for Jack's merry whistle as he opened the street door every
night. At home there are always demands, big and little, popping in on
me which I sometimes resent and yet being free from makes me feel as
dismal as a long vacant house with the For Rent sign up, looks. In this
Lotus land there is no must of any kind for the alien, and the
only whistles I hear belong to the fierce little tugs that buzz around
in the harbor, in and out among the white sails of the fishing fleet
like big black beetles in a field of lilies. But you must not think
life dull for me. Fate and I have cried a truce, and she is showing me
a few hands she is dealing other people. But first listen to the tale I
have to tell of the bruise she gave my pride this morning, that will
show black for many a day.
I joined a crowd on the water 's edge in front of the hotel to watch
a funeral procession in boats. Recently a hundred and eighty fishermen
were sent to the bottom by a big typhoon, and the wives and the
sweethearts were being towed out to sea to pay a last tribute to them,
by strewing the fatal spot with flowers and paper prayers. White-robed
priests stood up in the front of the boats and chanted some mournful
ritual, keeping time to the dull thumping of a drum. The air was heavy
with incense. A dreamy melancholy filled the air and I thought how
hallowed and beautiful a thing is memory. From out that silent watching
crowd came a voice that sent my thoughts flying to starry nights of
long ago and my first trip across the Pacific; soft south winds; vows
of eternal devotion that kept time with the distant throbbing of a
ship's engine. I fumed. I was facing little Germany and five littler
Germanys strung out behind. You surely remember him? and how when I
could n't see things his way he swore to a wrecked heart and a
never-to-be-forgotten constancy. Mate! There was no more of a flicker
of memory in the stare of his round blue eyes than there would have
been in a newly baked pretzel. I stood still, waiting for some glimmer
of recognition. Instead, he turned to the pincushion on his arm, whom I
took to be Ma O., and I heard him say “Herzallorliebsten.” I went
straight to the hotel and had it translated. Thought it had a familiar
sound. Would n't it be interesting to know how many “only ones” any
man's life history records? To think of my imagining him eating his
heart out with hopeless longing in some far away Tibetan Monastery. And
here he was, pudgy and content, with his fat little brood waddling
along behind him. If our vision could penetrate the future, verily
Romance would have to close up shop. Oh, no! I did n't want him to pine
entirely away, but he needn't have been in such an everlasting hurry to
get fat and prosperous over it. Would n't Jack howl?
I took good care to see that he was not stopping at this hotel. Then
I went back to my own thoughts of the happy years that had been mine
since Little Germany bade me a tearful good-by.
And, too, I wanted to think out some plan whereby I can keep in
touch with Sada and be friendly with her relative.
Before I left the steamer, I had a surprise in the way of Uncles.
Next time I will pause before I prophesy. But if Uncle was a blow to my
preconceived ideas, I will venture Sada startled a few of his
traditions as to nieces. Quarantine inspection was short, and when at
last we cast anchor, the harbor was as blue as if a patch of the summer
sky had dropped into it. The thatched roofs shone russet brown against
the dark foliage of the hills. The temple roofs curved gracefully above
the pink mist of the crepe myrtle.
Sada was standing by me on the upper deck, fascinated by the
picture. As she realized the long dreamed-of fairy-land was unfolding
before her, tears of joy filled her eyes and tears of another kind
Sampans, launches and lighters clustered around the steamer as birds
of prey gather to a feast: captains in gilt braid; coolies in blue and
white, with their calling-cards stamped in large letters on their
backs, and the story of their trade written around the tail of their
coats in fantastic Japanese characters. Gentlemen in divided skirts and
ladies in kimono and clogs swarmed up the gangway. In the smiling,
pushing crowd I looked for the low-browed relative I expected to see.
Imagine the shock, Mate, when a man with manners as beautiful as his
silk kimono presented his card and announced that he was Uncle Mura. I
had been pointed out as Sada's friend. A week afterwards I could have
thought of something brilliant to say. Taken unawares, I stammered out
a hope that his honorable teeth were well and his health poor. You see
I am all right in Japanese if I do the talking. For I know what I want
to say and what they ought to say. But when they come at me with a
flank movement, as it were, I am lost. Uncle passed over my blunder
without a smile and went on to say many remarkable things, if sound
means anything. However, trust even a deaf woman to prick up her ears
when a compliment is headed her way, whether it is in Sanskrit or
Polynesian. In acknowledgment I stuck to my flag, and the man's command
of quaint but correct English convinced me that I would have to
specialize in something more than first thought if I was to cope with
this tea-house proprietor whose armor is the subtle manners of the
Blessed Sada! Only the cocksureness of youth made her blind to the
check her enthusiasm was meant to receive in the first encounter of the
new life. She had always met people on equal terms, most men falling
easy victims. She was blissfully ignorant that Mura, by directing his
conversation to me, meant to convey to her that well-bred girls in this
enchanted land lowered their eyes and folded their hands when they
talked in the presence of a MAN, if they dared to talk at all.
Not so this half-child of the West. She fairly palpitated with joy
and babbled away with the freedom of a sunny brook in the shadow of a
grim forest. From the man's standpoint, he was not unkind; unrestraint
was to him an incomprehensible factor in a young girl's make-up; and
whatever was to follow, the first characters he meant her to learn must
spell reverence and repression.
They hurried ashore to catch a train to Kioto. I must look harmless,
for I was invited to call. I shall accept, for I have a feeling in
spite of manners and silken robes that the day is not distant when the
distress signals will be flying.
I waved good-by to the girl as the little launch made its way to
land. She made a trumpet of her hands and called a merry “sayonara.”
The master of her future folded his arms and looked out to sea.
The next day I had a lonely lunch at the hotel. When I saw two
lovery young things at the table where Jack and I had our wedding
breakfast, so long ago, I made for the other end of the room and
persistently turned my back. But I saw out of the corner of my eye they
were far away above food, and, Mate, believe me, they did n't even know
it was hot, though a rain barrel couldn't have measured the humidity.
Of course Jack and I were much more sensible, but that whole blessed
time is wrapped in rosy mists with streaks of moonlight to the tune of
heavenly music, so it 's futile to try to recall just what did happen.
I ought to have gone to another hotel, but the chain of memory was too
strong for me.
I was hesitating between the luxury of a sentimental spell and a fit
of loneliness, when a happy interruption came in a message from
Countess Otani, naming the next day at two for luncheon with her at the
Arsenal Gardens at Tokio. How I wished for you, Mate! It was a
fairy-story come true, dragons and all. The Arsenal Garden means just
what it says. Only when the dove of peace is on duty are its gates
opened, and then to but a few, high in command. For across the
white-blossomed hedge that encloses the grounds, armies of men toil
ceaselessly molding black bullets for pale people and they work so
silently that the birds keep house in the long fringed willows and the
goldfish splash in the sunned spots of the tiny lake.
After passing the dragons in the shape of sentries and soldiers, to
each of whom I gave a brief life-history, I wisely followed my nose and
a guard down the devious path.
The Countess received her guests in a banquet-hall all ebony and
gold, and was not seated permanently on a throne with a diamond crown
screwed into her head as we used so fondly to imagine.
The simplicity of her hospitality was charming. She and most of her
ladies-in-waiting had been educated abroad. But despite the lure of the
Western freedom, they had returned to their country with their heads
level and their traditions intact. But you guess wrong, honey, if you
imagine custom and formality of official life have so overcome these
high-born ladies as to make them lay figures who dare not raise their
eyes except by rule. There were three American guests, and only by
being as nimble as grasshoppers did we hold our own in the table talk
which was as exhilarating as a game of snowball on a frosty day.
We scampered all around war and settled a few important political
questions. Poetry, books and the new Cabinet vied with the merriment
over comparisons in styles of dress. One delightful woman told how
gloves and shoes had choked her when she first wore them in America.
Another gave her experience in getting fatally twisted in her court
train when she was making her bow before the German Empress.
A soft-voiced matron made us laugh over her story of how, when she
was a young girl at a mission school, she unintentionally joined in a
Christian prayer, and nearly took the skin off her tongue afterwards
scrubbing it with strong soap and water to wash away the stain. There
wasn't even a smile as she quietly spoke of the many times later when
with that same prayer she had tried to make less hard the after-horrors
The possibilities of Japanese women are amazing even to one who
thinks he knows them. They look as if made for decoration only, and
with a flirt of their sleeves they bring out a surprise that turns your
ideas a double somersault. Here they were, laughing and chatting like a
bunch of fresh schoolgirls for whom life was one long holiday. Yet ten
out of the number had recently packed away their gorgeous clothes, and
laid on a high shelf all royal ranks and rights, for a nurse's dress
and kit. Apparently delicate and shy they can be, if emergency demands,
as grim as war or as tender as heaven.
It was a blithesome day and if it had n't been for that “all gone"
sort of a feeling, that possesses me when evening draws near and Jack
is far away, content might have marked me as her own. As it was I put
off playing a single at dinner as long as possible by calling on a
month-old bride whom I had known as a girl. With glee I accepted the
offer of an automobile to take me for the visit, and repented later.
Two small chauffeurs and a diminutive footman raced me through the
narrow, crowded streets, scattering the populace to any shelter it
could find. The only reason we didn't take the fronts out of the shops
is that Japanese shops are frontless. I looked back to see the
countless victims of our speed. I saw only a crowd coming from cover,
smiling with curiosity and interest. We hit the top of the hill with a
flourish, and when I asked what was the hurry my attendants looked hurt
and reproachfully asked if that wasn't the way Americans liked to ride.
Mate, this is a land of contrasts and contradictions. At the garden
all had been life and color. At this home, where the wrinkled old
servitor opened the heavily carved gates for me, it was as if I had
stepped into a bit of ancient Japan, jealously guarded from any
encroachment of new conditions or change of custom.
Like a curious package, contents unknown, I was passed from one
automatic servant to another till I finally reached the
Torishihimari or mistress of ceremonies. By clock-work she offered
me a seat on the floor, a fan and congratulations. This last simply
because I was me. The house was ancient and beautiful. The room in
which I sat had nothing in it but matting as fine as silk, a rare old
vase with two flowers and a leaf in formal arrangement, and an
atmosphere of aloofness that lulled mind and body to restful revery.
After my capacity for tea and sugared dough was tested, the little
serving maid fanning me, bowing every time I blinked, the paper doors
near by divided noiselessly and, framed by the dim light, sat the young
bride, quaint and oriental as if she had stepped out of some
century-old kakemono. In contrast to my recent hostesses it was like
coming from a garden of brilliant flowers into the soft, quiet shadows
of a bamboo grove. No modern touch about this lady. She had been
reduced by rule from a romping girl to a selfless creature fit for a
Japanese gentleman's wife and no questions asked. Her hair, her dress,
and even her speech were strictly by the laws laid down in a book for
the thirty-first day of the first month after marriage. But I would
like to see the convention with a crust thick enough to entirely
obliterate one woman's interest in another whose clothes and life
belong to a distant land. When I told her I had come to Japan against
Jack's wishes and was going to follow him to China if I could, she
paled at my rashness. How could a woman dare disobey? Would not my
husband send me home, take my name off the house register and put
somebody in my place?
Well now, wouldn't you like to see the scientist play any such
tricks with me—that blessed old Jack who smiles at my follies, asks my
advice, and does as he pleases, and for whom there has never been but
the one woman in the world! I struggled to make plain to her the
attitude of American men and women and the semi-independence of the
latter. As well explain theology to a child. To her mind the
undeviating path of absolute obedience was the only possible way.
Anything outside of a complete renunciation of self-interest and
thought meant ruin and was not even to be whispered about. I gave it up
and came back to her sphere of poetry and mothers-in-law.
When I said good-by there was a gentle pity in her eyes, for she was
certain her long-time friend was headed for the highroad of
destruction. But instead I turned into the dim solitude of Shiba Park.
I had something to think about. To-day's experiences had painted anew
in naming colors the difference in husbands. How prone a woman is, who
is free and dearly beloved, to fall into the habit of taking things for
granted, forgetting how one drop of the full measure of happiness, that
a good husband gives her, would turn to rosy tints the gray lives of
hundreds of her kind who are wives in name only. Her appreciation may
be abundant but it is the silent kind. Her bugaboo is fear of sentiment
and when it is too late, she remembers with a heart-break.
I can think of a thousand things right now I want to say to Jack and
while storing them away for some future happy hour, I walked further
into the deep shadows of twilight.
Instantly the spell of the East was over me. Real life was not. In
the soft green silences of mystery and fancy, I found a seat by an
ancient moss-covered tomb. Dreamily I watched a great red dragon-fly
frivol with the fairy blue wreaths of incense-smoke that hovered above
the leaf shadows trembling on the sand. The deep melody of a bell,
sifted through a cloud of blossom, caught up my willing soul and
floated out to sea and Jack far from this lovely land, where stalks
unrestrained the ugly skeleton of easy divorce for men. The subject
always irritates me like prickly heat.
NIKKO, July, 1911.
Summer in Japan is no joke, especially if you are waiting for
letters. I know perfectly well I can't hear from you and Jack for an
age, and yet I watch for the postman three times a day, as a hungry man
waits for the dinner-bell.
The days in Yokohama were too much like a continuous Turkish bath,
and I fled to Nikko, the ever moist and mossy. Two things you can
always expect in this village of “roaring, wind-swept mountains,”—rain
and courtesy. One is as inevitable as the other, and both are served in
I am staying in a semi-foreign hotel which is tucked away in a
pocket in the side of a mountain as comfy as a fat old lady in a big
rocker who glories in dispensing hospitality with both hands. Just let
me put my head out of my room door and the hall fairly blossoms with
little maids eager to serve. A step toward the entrance brings to life
a small army of attendants bending as they come like animated
jack-knives on a live wire. One struggles with the mystery of my
overshoes, while the Master stands by and begs me to take care of my
honorable spirit. As it is the only spirit I possess I heed his advice
and bring it back to the hotel to find the entire force standing at
attention, ready to receive me. I pass on to my room with a procession
of bearers and bearesses strung out behind me like the tail of a kite,
anything from a tea-tray to the sugar tongs being sufficient excuse for
joining the parade.
When dressing for dinner, if I press the button, no less than six
little, picture maids flutter to my door, each begging for the honor of
fastening me up the back. How delighted Jack would be to assign them
this particular honor for life. Such whispers over the wonders of a
foreign-made dress as they struggle with the curious fastenings! (They
should hear my lord's fierce language!) Each one takes a turn till some
sort of connection is made between hook and eye. All is so earnestly
done I dare not laugh or wiggle with impatience. I may sail into dinner
with the upper hook in the lower eye and the middle all askew, but the
service is so graciously given, I would rather have my dress upside
down than to grumble. Certainly I pay for it. I tip everything from the
proprietor to the water-pitcher. But the sum is so disproportionate to
the pleasure and the comfort returned that I smile to think of the
triple price I have paid elsewhere and the high-nosed condescension I
got in return for my money. Japanese courtesy may be on the surface,
but the polish does not easily wear off and it soothes the nerves just
as the rain cools the air. It goes without saying that I did not arrive
in Nikko without a variety of experiences along the way.
Two hours out from Yokohama, the train boy came into the coach, and
with a smile as cheerful as if he were saying, “Happy New Year,”
announced that there was a washout in front of us and a landslide at
the back of us. Would everybody please rest their honorable bones in
the village while a bridge was built and a river filled in. The
passengers trailed into a settlement of straw roofs, bamboo poles and
acres of white and yellow lilies. I went to a quaint little inn—that
was mostly out!—built over a fussy brook; and a pine tree grew right
out of the side of the house. My room was furnished with four mats and
a poem hung on the wall. When the policeman came in to apologize for
the rudeness of the storm in delaying me, the boy who brought my bags
had to step outside so that the official would have room to bow
properly. I ate my supper of fish-omelet and turnip pickle served in
red lacquer bowls, and drank tea out of cups as big as thimbles. Jack
says Japanese teacups ought to be forbidden; in a moment of
forgetfulness they could so easily slip down with the tea.
It had been many a year since I was so separated from my kind and
each hour of isolation makes clearer a thing I 've never doubted, but
sometimes forget, that the happiest woman is she whose every moment is
taken up in being necessary to somebody; and to such, unoccupied
minutes are like so many drops of lead. That, with a telegram I read
telling of the increasing dangers of the plague in Manchuria,
threatened to send me headlong into a spell of anxiety and the old
Happily the proprietor and his wife headed it off by asking me if I
would be their guest for this evening to see the Bon Matsuri, the
beautiful Festival of the Dead. On the thirteenth day of the seventh
month, all the departed spirits take a holiday from Nirvana or any
other seaport they happen to be in and come on a visit to their former
homes to see how it fares with the living. Poor homesick spirits! Not
even Heaven can compensate for the separation from beloved country and
friends. As we passed along, the streets were alight with burning
rushes placed at many doors to guide the spiritual excursionists.
Inside, the people were praying, shrines were decorated and children in
holiday dress merrily romped. Why, Mate, it was worth being a ghost
just to come back and see how happy everybody was. For on this night of
nights, cares and sorrows are doubly locked in a secret place and the
key put carefully away. You couldn't find a coolie so heartless as to
show a shadow of trouble to his ghostly relatives when they return for
so brief a time to hold happy communion with the living. He may be
hungry, he may be sick, but there is a brave smile of welcome on his
lips for the spirits.
The crazy old temple at the foot of the mountain, glorified by a
thousand lights and fluttering flags, reaped a harvest of rins
and rens paid to the priests for paper prayers and bamboo
flower-holders with which to decorate the graves. The cemetery was on
the side of the hill, and every step of the way somebody stopped at a
stone marker to fasten a lantern to a small fishing-pole and pin a
prayer near by. This was to guide the spirit to his own particular
A breeze as soft as a happy sigh came through the pines and gently
rocked the lanterns. The dim figures of the worshipers moved swiftly
about, as delighted as children in the shadow-pictures made by the
twinkling lights, eagerly seeking out remote spots that no grave might
be without its welcoming gleam. A long line of white-robed dancing
girls came swaying by with clapping hands to soft-voiced chanting.
I, too, though an alien, was moved with the good-will and kindness
that sung through the very air and fearlessly I would have decorated
any festive ghost that happened along. I looked to see where I might
lay the offering I held in my hand. My hostess plucked my sleeve and
pointed to a tiny tombstone under a camellia tree. I went closer and
read the English inscription, “Dorothy Dale. Aged 2 years.” There was a
tradition that once in the long ago a missionary and his wife lived in
the village. Through an awful epidemic of cholera they stuck to their
posts, nursed and cared for the people. Their only child was the price
they paid for their constancy. To each generation the story had been
told, and through all the years faithful watch had been kept over the
little enclosure. Now it was all a-glimmer with lanterns shaped like
birds and butterflies. I added my small offering and turned hotelwards
My ancient host and hostess trotted along near by, eager to share
all their pathetic little gaieties with me. Their lives together had
about as much real comradeship as a small brown hen and a big gray owl,
and they had been married sixty years! They had toiled and grown old
together, but that did not mean that wifey was to walk anywhere but
three feet to the rear, nor to speak except when her lord and ruler
stopped talking to take a whiff of his pipe. I tried to walk behind
with the old lady but she threatened to stand in one spot for the rest
of the night. Then I vainly coaxed her to walk with me at her husband's
side. But her face was so full of genuine horror at such disrespect
that I desisted. Think, Mate, of trying to puzzle out the make-up of a
nation which for the sake of a long-ago kindness will for years keep a
strange baby's grave green and yet whose laws will divorce a woman for
disobedience to her husband's mother and where the ancient custom of
“women to heel” still holds good.
And this is the land where the Seeker came for the truth!
Sada thinks it paradise and I, as before, am sending to Jack
A heart of love for thee
Blown by the summer breezes
Ten thousand miles of sea.
There ought to be some kind of capital punishment for the woman who
has nothing to do but kill time. It's an occupation that puts crimps in
the soul and offers the supreme moment in which the devil may work his
rabbit foot. No, I cannot settle down or hustle up to anything until I
hear from Jack or you. Very soon I will be reduced to doing the one
desperate thing lurking in this corner of the woods, flirting with the
solitary male guest, who has a strong halt in his voice and whose knees
are not on speaking terms.
Of course it is raining. If the sun gets gay and tries the bluff of
being friendly, a heavy giant of a cloud rises promptly up from behind
a mountain and puts him out of business. Still, why moan over the
dampness? It makes the hills look like great green plush sofa-cushions
and the avenues like mossy caves.
I have read till my eyes are crossed and I have written to every
human I know. I have watched the giggling little maids patter up to a
two-inch shrine and, flinging a word or two to Buddha, use the rest of
their time to gossip. And the old lady who washes her vegetables and
her clothes in the same baby-lake just outside my window amuses me for
at least ten minutes. Then, Mate, for real satisfaction, I must turn to
you, whose patience is elastic and enduring. It is one of my big joys
that your interest and love are just the same, as in those other days
when you packed me off to Japan for the good of my country and myself;
and then sent Jack after me. Guess I should have stayed at home, as
Jack told me, but I am glad I did not.
Though it has poured every minute I have been here, there have been
bursts of sunshine inside, if not out. The other day my table boy
brought me the menu and asked for an explanation of assorted
fruits. I told him very carefully it meant mixed, different kinds. He is a smart lad. He understands my Japanese! He grasped my meaning
immediately, and wrote it down in a little book. This morning he came
to my room and announced: “Please, Lady, some assorted guests await you
in the audience chamber; one Japanese and two American persons.”
I have had my first letter from Sada too, simply spilling over with
youth and enthusiasm. The girl is stark mad over the fairy-landness of
it all. Says her rooms are in Uncle's private house, which is in quite
a different part of the garden from the tea-house. (Thank the Lord for
small mercies!) She says Uncle has given her some beautiful clothes and
is so good to her. I dare say. He has taken her to see a lovely old
castle and wonderful temple. The streets are all pictures and the
scenery is glorious! That is true, but the girl cannot live off scenery
any more than a nightingale can thrive on the scent of roses. What is
coming when the glamour of the scenery wears off and Uncle puts on the
pressure of his will?
I have not dared to give her any suggestion of warning. She is
deadly sure of her duty, so enthralled is she with the thought of
service to her mother's people. If I am to help her, the shock of
disillusionment must come from some other direction. The
disillusioner is seldom forgiven. I do not know what plans are
being worked out behind Uncle's lowered eyelids. But I do know
his idea of duty does not include keeping such a valuable asset as a
bright and beautiful niece hid away for his solitary joy. In fact, he
would consider himself a neglectful and altogether unkind relative if
he did not marry Sada off to the very best advantage to himself. In the
name of all the Orient, what else is there to do with a girl,
and especially one whose blood is tainted with that of the West?
Well, Mate, my thoughts grew so thick on the subject I nearly
suffocated. I went for a walk and ran right into a cavalcade of
donkeys, jinrickshas and chairs, headed by the Seeker and Dolly, who
has also annexed the little Maharajah.
They had been up to Chuzenji—and Chuzenji I would have you know is
lovely enough, with its emerald lake and rainbow mists, to start a
man's tongue to love-making whether he will or not. And so surely as it
is raining, something has happened. Dolly was as gay as a day-old
butterfly and smiled as if a curly-headed Cupid had tickled her with a
wing-feather. The Seeker was deadly solemn. Possibly the aftermath of
Oh, well! there is no telling what wonders can be worked by
incurable youthfulness and treasures laid up in a trust company.
The little Prince, with every pocket and his handkerchief full of
small images of Buddha which he was collecting, asked at once for Sada.
His heart was in his eyes, but there is no use tampering with a
to-be-incarnation by encouraging worldly thoughts. So I said I had not
seen her since we landed. They were due on board the Siberia in
Yokohama to-night on their way to China. I waved them good wishes and
went on, amused and not a little troubled. Worried over Sada, hungry
for Jack, lonesome for you. I passed one of the gorgeous blue, green
and yellow gates, at the entrance of a temple. On one side is carved a
distorted figure, that looks like a cross between an elephant and a
buzzard. It is called “Baku, the eater of evil dreams.” My word! but I
could furnish him a feast that would give him the fanciest case of
indigestion he ever knew!
Mate, you would have to see Nikko, with its majestic cryptomarias,
sheltering the red and gold lacquer temples; you would have to feel the
mystery of the gray-green avenues, and have its holy silences fall like
a benediction upon a restless spirit, to realize what healing for soul
and body is in the very air, to understand why I joyfully loitered for
two hours and came back sane and hungry, but wet as a fish.
Write me about the only man, the kiddies and your own blessed happy
I agree with Charity. “Ef you want to spile a valuable wife, tu'n
her loose in a patch of idlesomeness.”
STILL AT NIKKO, August, 1911.
You beloved girl, I have heard from Jack and my heart is singing a
ragtime tune of joy and thanksgiving. How he laughed at me for being
too foolishly lonesome to stay in America without him. Oh, these, men!
Does he forget he raged once upon a time, when he was in America
without me? As long as I am here though, he wants me to have as good a
time as possible. Do anything I want, and—blessed trusting man!—buy
anything I see that will fit in the little house at home.
Can you believe it? After a fierce battle the sun won out this
morning, and even the blind would know by the dancing feel of the air
that it was a glorious day. At eight o'clock, when the little maids
went up to the shrine, happy as kittens let out for a romp, they forgot
even to look Buddha-ward and took up their worship time in playing tag.
The old woman who uses the five-foot lake as the family wash-tub,
brought out all her clothes, the grand-baby, and the snub-nosed poodle
that wears a red bib, to celebrate the sunshine by a carnival of
I could not stand four walls a minute longer. I am down in the
garden writing you, in a tea-house made with three fishing-poles and a
bunch of straw. It is covered with pink morning-glories as big as
It has been three weeks since my last letter and I know your
interest in Jack and germs is almost as great as mine. Jack has been in
Peking. He thinks the revolution of the Chinese against the Manchu
Government is going to be something far more serious this time than a
flutter of fans and a sputter of shooting-crackers. The long-suffering
worm with the head of a dragon is going to turn, and when it does,
there will not be a Manchu left to tell the pig tale.
Jack is in Mukden now, where he is about to lose his mind with joy
over the prospect of looking straight in the eye—if it has one—this
wicked old germ with a new label, and telling it what he thinks. The
technical terms he gives are as paralyzing as a Russian name spelled
In a day's time this fearful thing wipes out entire families and
villages. It has simply ravaged northern Manchuria and the country
about. Jack says so deadly are the effects of these germs in the air
that if a man walking along the street happens to breathe in one, he is
a corpse on the spot before he is through swallowing. The remains are
gathered up by men wearing shrouds and net masks, and the peaceful
Oriental who was not doing a thing hut attending strictly to his own
business, is soon reduced to ashes. All because of a pesky microbe with
a surplus of energy.
You know perfectly well, Mate, Jack does not speak in this frivolous
manner of his beloved work. The interpretation is wholly mine. But I
dare not be serious over it. I must push any thought of his danger to
the further ends of nowhere.
Jack thinks the native doctors have put up a brave fight, but so far
the laugh has been all on the side of the frisky germ.
It blasts everything it touches and is most fastidious. Nobody can
blame it for choosing as its nesting-place the little soft furred
Siberian marmots, which the Chinese hunt for their skin. If only the
hunters could be given a dip in a sulphur vat before they lay them down
to sleep in the unspeakable inns with their spoils wrapped around them,
the chance for infection would not be so great. Of course the bare
suggestion of a bath might prove more fatal than the plague, for
oftener than not the hunters are used only as a method of travel by the
merry microbe and are immune from the effects. Of course Jack has all
sorts of theories as to why this is so. But did you ever see a
scientist who didn't have a workable theory for everything from the
wrong end of a carpet-tack to the evolution of a June bug?
From the hunters and their spoils the disease spreads and their path
southwards can be traced by desolated villages and piles of bones.
Jack tells me he is garbed in a long white robe effect (I hope he
won't grow wings), with a good-sized mosquito net on a frame over his
head and face. He works in heavy gloves. Mouth and nose being the
favorite point of attack, everybody who ventures out wears over this
part of the face a curiously shaped shield, whose firm look says, “No
admittance here.” But all the same, that germ from Siberia is a wily
thief and steals lives by the thousands, in spite of all precautions.
Jack is as enthusiastic over the fight against the scourge as a
college boy over football. His letter has so many big technical words
in it, I had to pay excess postage.
I 've read his letter twice, but to save me I cannot find any
suggestion of the remotest possibility of my coming nearer. Yes, I know
I said Japan only. But way down in the cellar of my heart I hoped
he would say nearer.
What a happy day it has been. Here is your letter, just come. The
priests up at the temple have asked me to see the ceremony of offering
food to the spirits, in the holy of holies.
There is not time for me to add another word to this letter. What a
dear you are, to love while you lecture me. What you say is all true. A
woman's place is in her home. But just now out of the East, I
've had a call to play silent partner to science and while it 's a
lonesome sport, at least it 's far more entertaining than caring for a
husbandless house. Anyhow I am sending you a hug and a thousand kisses
for the babies.
SHOJI LAKE, August, 1911.
Mate, think of the loveliest landscape picture you ever saw, put me
in it and you will know where I am. With some friends from Honolulu and
a darling old man—observe I say old!—from Colorado, we started
two days ago, to walk around the base of Fuji. Everything went
splendidly till a typhoon hit us amidships and sent us careening,
blind, battered and soaked into this red and white refuge of a hotel,
that clings to the side of a mountain like a woodpecker to a telephone
pole. I have seen storms, but the worst I ever saw was a playful summer
breeze compared with the magnificent fury of this wind that snapped
great trees in two as if they had been young bean-poles, and whipped
the usually peaceful lake into raging waves that swept through a gorge
and greedily licked up a whole village.
Our path was high up, but right over the water. Sometimes we were
crawling on all fours. Mostly we were flying just where the wind
listed. If a tree got in our way as we flew, so much the worse for us.
It is funny now, but it was not at the time! Seriously, I was in
immediate peril of being blown to glory via the fierce green
foam below. My Colorado Irishman is not only a darling, but a hero.
Once I slipped, and stopped rolling only when some faithful pines were
too stubborn to let go.
I wag many feet below the reach of any arm. In a twinkling, my
friend had stripped the kimono off the baggage coolie's back, and made
a lasso with which he pulled me up. Then shocked to a standstill by the
shortcomings of the coolie's birthday suit, he snatched off his coat
and gave it to him, with a dollar. Such a procession of bedraggled and
exhausted pleasure-seekers as we were, when three men stood behind our
hotel door and opened it just wide enough to haul us in. But hot baths
and boiling tea revived us and soon we were as merry as any people can
be who have just escaped annihilation.
The typhoon passed as suddenly as it came, and now the world—or at
least this part of it—is as glowing and beautiful as if freshly tinted
by the Master Hand.
A moment ago I looked up to see my rescuer gazing out of the window.
I asked, “How do you feel, Mr. Carson?” His voice trembled when he
answered: “Lady, I feel glorified, satisfied and nigh about petrified.
Look at that!”
Below lay Shoji, its shimmering waters rimmed with velvety green.
Every raindrop on the pines was a prism; the mountain a brocade of
blossom. To the right Fuji, the graceful, ever lovely Fuji; capricious
as a coquette and bewitching in her mystery, with a thumbnail moon over
her peak, like a silver tiara on the head of a proud beauty; at her
base the last fleecy clouds of the day, gathered like worshipers at the
feet of some holy saint.
The man's face shone. For forty years he had worked at
harness-making, always with the vision before him that some day he
might take this trip around the world. He has the soul of an artist,
which has been half starved in the narrow environment of his small town
life. Cannot you imagine the mad revel of his soul in this pictureland?
He is going to Mukden. Of course I told him all about Jack's work.
The old fellow, he must be all of seventy, was thrilled. I am going to
give him a letter to Jack. Also to some friends in Peking; they will be
good to him. If anybody deserves a merry-go-round sort of a holiday, he
does. Think of sewing on saddles and bridles all these years, when his
heart was withering for beauty!
I am glad of your eager interest in Sada. How like you! Never too
absorbed in your own life to share other people's joys and sorrows and
If your wise head evolves a plan of action, send by wireless, for if
I read aright her message received to-day, the time is fast coming when
the red lights of danger will be flashing. I will quote: “Last night
Uncle asked me to sing to some people who were giving a dinner at the
tea-house. I put on my loveliest kimono and a hair-dresser did my hair
in the old Japanese style and stuck a red rose at the side. For the
first time I went into that beautiful, beautiful place my Uncle
calls “the Flower Blooming” tea-house. It was more like a fairy palace.
How the girls, who live there, laughed at my guitar. They had never
seen one before. How they whispered over the color of my eyes. Said
they matched my kimono, and they tittered over my clumsiness in sitting
on the floor. But I forgot everything when the door slid open and I
looked into the most wonderful dream-garden that ever was, and people
everywhere. I finished singing, there was clapping and loud banzais. I looked up and realized there were only men at this dinner and I
never saw so many bottles in all my life. I felt very strange and so
far away from dear Susan West. After I had sung once more I started
back to my home. Uncle met me. I told him I was going to bed. For the
first time he was cross and ordered me back to the play place, where I
was to stay until he came for me. There never was anything so lovely as
the green and pink garden and the lily-shaped lights, and the flowers;
and such pretty girls who knew just what to do. But I cannot
understand the men who come here. When dear old Billy”—thank heaven
she says dear Billy!—“talks I know just what he means. But
these men use so many words Susan never taught me, and laugh so loud
when they say them.
“There was one man named Hara whose clothes were simply gorgeous.
The girls say he is very rich, and a great friend of Uncle's! He may
have money, but he is not over-burdened with manners. He can out-stare
There was more. But that is enough to show me Uncle's hand as
plainly as if I were a palmist. If nothing happens to prevent, the man
promises to do what thousands of his kind have done before: regardless
of obstacles and consequences marry the girl off to the highest bidder;
rid himself of all responsibility and make a profit at the same time.
From his point of view it is the only thing to do. He would be the most
astonished uncle in Mikado-land if anybody suggested to him that Sada
had any rights or feelings in the matter. He would tell you that as
Sada's only male relative, custom gave him the right to dispose of her
as he saw fit, and custom is law and there is nothing back of that!
So far I have played only a thinking part in the drama. But I will
not stand by and see the girl, whose very loneliness is a plea,
sacrificed without some kind of a struggle to help her. At the present
writing I feel about as effective as a February lamb, and every move
calls for tact. Wish I had been born with a needle wit instead of a
Roman nose! For if Uncle has a glimmer of a suspicion that I would
befriend Sada at the cost of his plans, so surely as the river is lost
in the sea, Sada would disappear from my world until it was too late
for me to lend a hand.
Good-by, Mate. At eventide, as of old, look my way and send me
strength from your vast store of calm courage and common sense. The
odds are against me, but the god of luck has never yet failed to laugh
I am in a monastery, Mate, but only temporarily, thank you. It is a
blessing to the cause that Fate did not turn me into a monk or a sister
or any of those inconvenient things with a restless religion, that
wakes you up about 3 A.M. on a wintry dawn to pray shiveringly to a
piece of wood, to the tune of a thumping drum. Some morning when the
frost was on the cypress that carven image would disappear!
For one time at least I would have a nice fire, and my prayers would
not be decorated with icicles.
For two weeks my friends and I have been tramping through
picture-book villages and silk-worm country, and over mountain winding
ways, sleeping on the floor, sitting on our feet and giving our
stomachs surprise parties with hot, cold and lukewarm rice, seaweed and
It has been one hilarious lark of outdoor life, with nothing to pin
us to earth but the joy of being a part of so beautiful a world.
The road led us through superb forests, over the Bridge of Paradise
to Koyo San, whose peak is so far above the mist-wreathed valleys that
it scrapes the clouds as they float by. But I want to say right here;
Kobo Daishi, who founded this monastery in the distant ages and built a
temple to his own virtues, may have been a saint, but he was not much
of a gentleman! Else he would not have been so reckless of the legs and
necks of the coming generations, as to blaze the trail to his shrine
over mountains so steep that our pack-mule coming up could easily have
bitten off his own tail if he had so minded.
This afternoon I must hustle down. I suppose the only way to get
down is to roll. Well; anyway I am in a hurry. My mail beat me up the
trail and a letter from Sada San begs me to come to Kioto to see her as
soon as I can. She only says she needs help and does not know what to
do. And blessed be the telegram that winds up from Hiroshima; the
school is in urgent need of an assistant at the Kindergarten and they
ask me to come. The principal, Miss Look, has gone to America on
business, for three months. Hooray! Here is my chance to resign from
the “Folded Hands' Society” and do something that is really worth
while, as long as I cannot go to my man. How good it will seem once
again to be in that dear old mission school, where in the long ago I
toiled and laughed and suffered while I waited for Jack.
The prospect of being with the girls and the kiddies again makes me
want to do a Highland Fling, even if I am in a monastery with a
sad-faced young priest serving me tea and mournful sighs between
What a flirtatious old world it is after all. It smites you and
bruises you, then binds up the hurts by giving you a desire or so of
your heart. Just now the desire of my heart is to catch that train for
So here goes a prayer, pinned to a shrine, for a body intact as I
tread the path that drops straight down the mountain, through the
crimson glory of the maples and the blazing yellow of the gingko tree,
to the tiny little station far away that looks like a decorated
KIOTO, September, 1911.
I cannot spend a drop of ink in telling you how I got here. How the
baggage beast ran away and decorated the mountain shrubbery with my
belongings. And how after all my hurry of dropping down from Koyo San,
the brakesman forgot to hook our car to the train and started off on a
picnic while the engine went merrily on and left us out in the
rice-fields. Suffice it to say I landed in a whirl that spun me down to
Uncle's house and back to the hotel. And by the way my thoughts are
going, for all I know I may be booked to spin on through eternity.
My visit to Sada was so full of things that did not happen. When I
reached the house, I sent in my card to Sada. Uncle came gliding in
like a soft-footed panther. He did it so quietly that I jumped when I
saw him. We took up valuable time repeating polite greetings, as set
down on page ten of the Book of Etiquette, in the chapter on Calls Made
by Inconvenient Foreigners.
When our countless bows were finished, I asked in my coaxingest
voice if I might see Sada. Presently she came in, dressed in Japanese
clothes and beautiful even in her pallor. She was changed—sad, and a
little drooping. The conflict of her ideals of duty to her mother's
people and the real facts in the case, had marked her face with
something far deeper than girlish innocence. It was inevitable. But
above the evidences of struggle there was a something which said the
dead and gone Susan West had left more than a mere memory. Silently I
blessed all her kind.
Sada was unfeignedly glad to see me, and I longed to take her in my
arms and kiss her. But such a display would have marked me in Uncle's
eyes as a dangerous woman with unsuppressed emotions, and unfit for
companionship with Sada. I had hoped his Book of Etiquette said, “After
this, bow and depart.” But my hopes had not a pin-feather to rest on.
He stayed right where he was. All right, old Uncle, thought I, if stay
you will, then I shall use all a woman's power to beguile you and a
woman's wit to out-trick you, so I can make you show your hand. It is
going to be a game with the girl as the prize. It is also going to be
like playing leap-frog with a porcupine. He has cunning and authority
to back him, and I have only my love for Sada.
For a time I talked at random, directing my whole conversation to
him as the law demands. By accident, or luck, I learned that the weak
point in his armor of polite reserve was color prints. Just talk color
prints to a collector and you can pick his pocket with perfect ease.
My knowledge of color prints could be written on my thumb nail. But
I made a long and dangerous shot, by looking wise and asking if he
thought Matahei compared favorably with Moronobo as painters of the
same era. I choked off a gasp when I said it, for I would have you know
that for all I knew, Matahei might have lived in the time of Jacob and
Rebecca, and Moronobo a thousand years afterwards. But I guessed right
the very first time and Mura San, with a flash of appreciation at my
interest, said that my learning was remarkable. It was an untruth and
he knew that I knew it, but it was courteous and I looked easy. Then he
talked long and delightfully as only lovers of such things can. At
least, it would have been delightful had I not been so anxious to see
Sada alone. But it was not to be. At least, not then. But mark one for
me, Mate: Uncle was so pleased with my keen and hungry interest in
color prints and my desire to see his collection, that he invited me to
a feast and a dance at the house the next night.
The following evening I could have hugged the person, male or
otherwise, who called my dear host away for a few minutes just before
the feast began.
Sada told me hurriedly that Uncle had insisted on her singing every
night at the tea-house. She had first rebelled, and then flatly
refused, for she did not like the girls. She hated what she saw and was
afraid of the men. Her master was furiously angry; said he would teach
her what obedience meant in this country. He would marry her off right
away and be rid of a girl who thought her foreign religion gave her a
right to disobey her relatives. She was afraid he would do it, for he
had not asked her to go to the tea-house again. Neither had he
permitted her to go out of the house. Once she was sick with fear, for
she knew Uncle had been in a long consultation with the rich man Hara
and he was in such good humor afterwards. But Hara, she learned, had
She would not sing at these dinners again, not if Uncle
choked her and what must she do! I saw the man returning but I quickly
whispered, “What about Billy?”
Ah, I knew I was right. The rose in her hair was no pinker than her
cheeks. If Billy could only have seen her then, I would wager my
shoes—and shoes are precious in this country—that her duty to her
mother's people would have to take a back seat.
Before Uncle reached us I whispered, “Keep Billy in your heart,
Sada. Write him. Tell him.” And in the same breath I heartily thanked
Uncle for inviting me.
It was a feast, Mate—the most picturesque, uneatable feast I ever
sat on my doubly honorable feet to consume. There were opal-eyed fish
with shaded pink scales, served whole; soft brown eels split up the
back and laid on a bed of green moss; soups, thin and thick; lotus root
and mountain lily, and raw fish. Each course—and their name was
many—was served on a little two-inch-high lacquer table, with
everything to match. Sometimes it was gold lacquer, then again green,
once red and another black. But it was all a dream of color that shaded
in with the little maids who served it; and they, swift, noiseless and
pretty, were trained to graceful perfection. The few furnishings of the
room were priceless. Uncle sat by in his silken robes, gracious and
courteous, surprising me with his knowledge of current events. In the
guise of host, he is charming. That is, if only he would not always
talk with dropped eyelids, giving the impression that he is half
dreaming and is only partly conscious of the world and its follies. And
all the time I know perfectly well that he sees everything around him
and clean on to the city limits.
Again and again in his talks he referred to his color prints and the
years of patience required to collect them. Right then, Mate, I made a
vow to study the pesky things as they have seldom been attacked
before—even though I never had much use for pictures in which you
cannot tell the top side from the bottom, without a label. But then,
Jack says, my artistic temperament will never keep me awake at night.
Now I decided all at once to make a collection. Heaven knows what I
will do with it. But Uncle grew so enthusiastic he included his niece
in the conversation, and while his humor was at high tide I coaxed him
into a promise that Sada might come down to Hiroshima very soon, and
help me look for prints.
Yes, indeed there was a dance afterwards, and everything was deadly,
hysterically solemn—so rigidly proper, so stiffly conventional that it
palled. It was the most maleless house of revelry I ever saw. Why, even
the kakemono were pictures of perfect ladies and the gate-man was a
withered old woman.
There was absolutely nothing wrong I could name. It was all
exquisitely, daintily, lawfully Japanese. But I sat by my window till
early morning. There was a very ghost of a summer moon. Out of the
night came the velvety tones of a mighty bell; the sing-song prayers of
many priests; the rippling laugh of a little child and the tinkling of
a samisen. Every sound made for simple joy and peace. But I thought of
the girl somewhere beyond the twinkling street lights, who, with mixed
races in her blood and a strange religion in her heart, had dreamed
dreams of this as a perfect land, and was now paying the price of
disillusionment with bitter tears.
Eight o 'clock the next morning.
I cabled Jack, “Hiroshima for winter.”
He answered, “Thank the Lord you are nailed down at last.”
P.S.—I have bought all the books on color prints I could find.
Hiroshima! Get up and salute, Mate! Is not that name like the face
of an old familiar friend? I have to shake myself to realize that it is
not the long ago, but now. A recent picture of Jack and one of you and
the babies is about the only touch of the present. Everything is just
as it was in the old days, when the difficulties of teaching in a
foreign kindergarten in a foreigner language was the least of
the battle that faced me. Well, I thought I 'd finished with battles,
but there 's a feeling of fight in the air.
Same little room, in the same old mission school. Same wall paper,
so blue it turned green. And, Lord love us, from the music-rooms still
come the sounds like all the harmonies of a baby organ-factory gone on
But bless you, honey, there is an eternity of difference in having
to stand a thing and doing it of your own free will. As Black Charity
would remark, “I don't pay 'em no mind,” and let them wheeze out their
mournful complaints to the same old hymns.
Had you been here the night my dinky little train pulled into the
station, you would have guessed that it was a big Fourth of July
celebration or the Emperor's birthday. I would not dare guess how many
girls there were to meet me. It seemed like half a mile of them lined
up on the platform, and each carried a round red lantern.
Until they had made the proper bow with deadly precision, there was
not a smile or a sound. That ceremony over, they charged down upon me
in an avalanche of gaiety. They waved their lanterns, they called
banzai, they laughed and sung some of the old time foolish songs we
used to sing. They promptly put to rout all legends of their excessive
modesty and shyness. They were just young and girlish. Plain happy.
Eager and sweet in their generous welcome. It warmed every fiber of my
being. When they thinned out a little, I saw at the other end of the
platform a figure flying towards me, with the sleeves of her kimono
out-stretched like the wings of a gray bird, and a great red rose for a
top-knot. It was Miss First River, a little late, but more than happy,
as she sobbed out her welcome on the front of my clean shirt-waist.
It was she, you remember, who in all those other years was my
faithful secretary and general comforter. The one who slept across my
door when I was ill and who never forgot the hot water bag on a cold
night. For years she has supported a drunken father and a crazy mother;
has sent one brother to America and made a preacher of another.
Now she is to be married, she told me in a little note she slipped
into my hand as we walked up the Street of the Upper Flowing River to
the school, adding, “Please guess my heart.”
And miracle of the East! She has known the man a long time and they
are in love! I am so glad I am going to be here for the wedding. It
comes off in a few weeks.
I started work in the kindergarten this morning. It has been said
that when the Lord ran out of mothers he made kindergartners. Surely he
never did a better job—for the kindergartners. Mate, when I stepped
into that room, it was like going into an enchanted garden of
morning-glories and dahlias. What a greeting the regiment of young
Japlings gave me! I just drank in all the fragrance of joy in the eager
comradeship and sweet friendliness of the small Mikados and Mikadoesses
with a keen delight that made the hours spin like minutes.
And would you believe it? The first sound that greeted my ears after
their whole duty had been accomplished in the very formal bow,
was—“Oh—it is the skitten Sensei (skipping teacher) A skit! A
skit! We want to skit!” Of course, they were not the same children by
many years. But things die slowly in Hiroshima. Even good reputations.
Everything was pushed aside, and work or no work, teachers and children
celebrated by one mad revel of skipping.
There are many things to do, and getting into the old harness of
steady routine work and living on the tap of a bell, is not so easy as
it sounds, after years of live-as-you-please. But it is good for the
constitution and is satisfying to the soul.
I once asked my friend Carson from Colorado if he could choose but
one gift in all the world, what would it be? “The contintment of stidy
work,” answered the wise old philosopher from out of the West; and my
heart echoes his wisdom.
Had a big fat letter from Jack, and the reputation he gives those
germs he is associating with, is simply disgraceful. He gives me
statistics also. Wish he wouldn't. It takes so much time and I always
have to count on my fingers.
He tells me, too, of an English woman who has joined the insect
expedition. Says she is the most brilliant woman he ever met. Thanks
awfully. And he has to sit up nights studying, to keep up with her. I
I 'll wager she 's high of color and mighty of muscle and with equal
vehemence says a thing is “strawdn'ry” whether it 's a dewdrop or a
I can't help feeling a little bit envious of her—out there with my
Jack! Well! I will not get agitated till I have to.
A note from Sada says Uncle has had another outburst. He still
consents for her to come down here. Her beautiful ideals have been
smashed to smithereens, and the fact that nothing has ever been
invented that will stick them together, adds no comfort to the
situation. Her disappointment is heart-breaking. I cannot make a move
till I get her to myself and have a life-and-death talk with her. I am
playing for time.
I wrote her a cheerfully foolish letter. Told her I was making all
kinds of plans for her visit. I also looked up some doubtful dates—at
least, my textbook on color prints said they were doubtful—and
referred them to Uncle for confirmation, asking that he give
instructions to Sada about a certain dealer in Hiroshima who has some
pictures so violent, positively I would not hang them in the cow-shed.
That is, if I cared for Suky. But it is anything for conversation now.
I almost forgot to tell you that we have the same chef as
when I was kindergarten teacher here in the school years ago. He 's
prosperous as a pawnbroker. He gave me a radiant greeting. “How are
you, Tanaka?” quoth I. “All same like damn monkey, Sensei,” he replied. But he is unfailingly cheerful and the cleverest grafter
in the universe, with an artistic temperament highly developed; he
sometimes sends in the unchewable roast smothered in cherry blossoms.
How wise you were, Mate, to choose home and husband instead of a
career. I love you for it.
HIROSHIMA, October, 1911.
For springing surprises, all full of kindness and delicate
courtesies, Japanese girls would be difficult to equal. Before a
whisper of it reached me, they made arrangements the other day for a
re-union of all my graduates of the kindergarten normal class. It is
hard to imagine when they found the time for the elaborate decorations
they put up in the big kindergarten room, and the hundred and one
little things they had done to show their love and warmth of welcome.
It was a part of their play to blindfold me and lead me in. When I
opened my eyes, there they stood. Twenty-five happy faces smiling into
mine, and twenty babies to match. It was the kiddies that saved the
day. I was not a little bewildered, and tears stung my eyes. But with
one accord the babies set up a howl at anything so inconceivable as a
queer foreign thing with a tan head appearing in their midst. When
peace was restored by natural methods, the fun began.
The girls fairly bombarded me with questions. Could I come to see
every one of them? Where was Jack? Could they see his picture? Did he
say I could come? How “glad” it was to be together again. Did I
remember how we used to play? Then everybody giggled. One thought had
touched them all. Why not play now!
The baby question was quickly settled. Soon there was a roaring fire
in my study. We raided the classroom for rugs and cushions and with the
collection made down beds in a half ring around the crackling flames.
On each we put a baby, feet fireward. We called in the Obasan
(old woman) to play nurse, and on the table near we placed a row of
bottles marked “First aid to the hungry.” As I closed the door of the
emergency nursery, I looked back to see a semi-circle of pink heels
waving hilariously. Surely the fire goddess never had lovelier devotees
than the Oriental cherubs that lay cooing and kicking before it that
How we played! In all the flowery kingdom so many foolish people
could not have been found in one place. What chaff and banter! What
laying aside of cares, responsibilities, and heavy hearts, if there
were any, and just being free and young! For a time at least the years
fell away from us and we relived all the games and folk-dances we ever
knew. True, time had stiffened joints and some of the movements were
about as graceful as a pair of fire tongs and I may be dismissed for
some of the fancy steps I showed the girls, but they were happy, and
far more supple than when we began.
When we were breathless we hauled in our old friend the big
hibachi, with a peck of glowing charcoal right in the middle. We
sat on our folded feet and made a big circle all around, with only the
glimmer of the coals for a light. Then we talked.
Each girl had a story to tell, either of herself or some one we had
known together. Over many we laughed. For others the tears started.
Warmed by companionship and moved by unwonted freedom, how much the
usually reserved women revealed of themselves, their lives, their
trials and desires! But whatever the story, the dominant note was
acceptance of what was, without protest. It may be fatalism, Mate, but
it is indisputable that looking finality in the face had brought to all
of them a quietness of spirit that no longing for wider fields or
personal ambition can disturb.
None of them had known their husbands before marriage. Few had ever
seen them. Many were compelled to live with the difficulties of an
exacting mother-in-law, who had forgotten that she was ever a young
But above it all there was a cheerful peacefulness; a willingness of
service to the husband and all his demands, a joy in children and home,
that was convincing as to the depth and dignity of character which can
so efface itself for the happiness of others.
One girl, Miss Deserted Lobster Field, was missing. I asked about
her and this is her story. She was quite pretty; when she left school
there was no difficulty in marrying her off. Two months afterward the
young husband left to serve his time in the army. For some reason the
mother-in-law did not “enter into the spirit of the girl,” and without
consulting those most concerned, she divorced her son and sent the girl
home. When the soldier-husband returned, a new wife, whom he had never
seen, was waiting for him at the cottage door.
The sent-home wife was terribly in the way in her father's house,
for by law she belonged neither there nor in any other place. It is
difficult to re-marry these offcasts. Something, however, had to be
done. So dear father took a stroll out into the village, and being
sonless adopted a young boy as the head of his house. A yoshi
this boy is called. Father married the adopted son to the soldier's
wife that was, securely and permanently. A yoshi has no voice in any
family matter and is powerless to get a divorce.
Moral: If in Japan you want to make sure of keeping a husband when
you get him, take a boy to raise, then marry him.
But the wedding of weddings is the one which took place last summer,
by suggestion. The great unseen has lived in America for two years. The
maid makes her home in the school. The groom-to-be wrote to a friend in
Hiroshima: “Find me a wife.” The friend wrote back: “Here she is.” Miss
Chestnut Tree, the maid, fluttered down to the court-house, had her
name put on the house register of the far-away groom, did up her hair
as a married woman should and went back to work.
To-morrow she sails for America, and we are all going down to wave
her good-by and good luck.
She is married all right. There will be no further ceremony.
I would not dare tell you all the stories they told me. For I would
never stop writing and you would never stop laughing or crying.
The end of all things comes sometimes. The beautiful afternoon ended
too soon. But for the rest of time, this day will be crowned with halos
made with the mightiness of the love and the dearness of the girls who
were once my students, always my friends.
It took some time to assort the babies and make sure of tying the
right one on the right mother's back. Not by one shaved head could I
see the slightest difference in any of them, but mothers have the knack
Out of the big gate they went and down the street all aglow with the
early evening lights twinkling in the purple shadows. Their geta
click-clacked against the hard street, to the music of their voices as
they called back to me, “Oyasumi, Oyasumi, Go kigen yoro shiku"
(Honorably rest. Be happy always to yourself).
My gratitude to this little country is great, Mate. It has given me
much. It was here life taught me her sternest lessons. And here I found
the heart's-ease of Jack's love. But for nothing am I more thankful
than for the love and friendship of the young girl-mothers who were my
pupils, but from whom I have learned more of the sweetness and patience
of life than I could ever teach.
Mate, there is a man in Hiroshima for whom I long and watch as I do
for no other inhabitant. It is the postman. You should see him grin as
he trots around the corner and finds me waiting at the gate, just as I
used to do in the old teaching days. I doubly blest him this morning.
Thank you for your letter. It fairly sings content. Homeyness is in
every pen stroke.
Please say to your small son David that I will give his love to the
“king's little boy” if I see him. My last glimpse of him was in
Nikko. Poor little chap. He was permitted to walk for a moment. In that
moment he spied a bantam hen, the anxious mother of half a dozen
puff-ball chickens. Royalty knew no denial and went in pursuit. The
bantam knew no royalty, pursued also. The four men and six women
attendants were in a panic. The baby was rescued from a storm of
feathers and taken back to the palace with an extra guard of three
I have been very busy, at play and at work. We have just had a
wedding tea. My former secretary, Miss First River, as she expressed
it, “married with” Mr. East Village.
The wedding took place at the ugly little mission church, which was
transformed into a beautiful garden, with weeping willows,
chrysanthemums, and mountain ferns. Also we had a wedding-bell. In a
wild moment of enthusiasm I proposed it. It is always a guess where
your enthusiasm will land you out here. I coaxed a cross old tinner to
make the frame for me. He expostulated the while that the thing was
impossible, because it had never been done before in this part of the
country. It was rather a weird shape, but I left the girls to trim it
and went to the church to help decorate. The bell was to follow upon
completion. It failed to follow and after waiting an hour or so I sent
for it. The girls came carrying one trimmed bell and one half covered.
I asked, “Why are you making two wedding-bells?” My answer was, “Why
Sensei! must not the groom have one for his head too?”
Everybody wanted to do something for the little maid, for she had so
bravely struggled with adversity of fortune and perversity of family.
So there were four flower girls, and the music teacher played at the
wedding march! In spite of her efforts, Lohengrin seemed suffering as
it came from the complaining organ.
Miss First River was a lovely enough picture, in her bridal robes of
crepe, to cause the guests to draw in long breaths of admiration, till
the room sounded like the coming of a young cyclone. They were not
accustomed to such prominence given a bride, nor to weddings served in
Oh, yes, the groom was there, a secondary consideration for the
first time in the history of Hiroshima, but so in love he did not seem
to mind the obscurity.
The ceremony over, the newly-wed seated themselves on a bench facing
the guests. An elder of the church arose and with a solemnity befitting
a burial, read a sermon on domestic happiness and some forty or fifty
congratulatory telegrams. After an hour or so of this and several
speeches, cake was passed around, and it was over. At the maid's
request I gave her an “American watch with a good engine in it” and my
blessing with much love in it, and went back to work. Do not for a
minute imagine that because I am not a regularly ordained
missionary-sister, that I am not working. The fact is, Mate, the
missionaries are still afflicted with the work habit, and so subtle is
its cheerful influence, it weaves a spell over all who come near. No
matter what your private belief is, you roll up your sleeves and pitch
right in when you see them at it, and you put all your heart in it and
thank the Lord for the opportunity to help.
The fun begins at 5:30 in the morning, to the merry clang of a
brazen bell, and it keeps right on till 6 P.M. For fear of getting
rusty before sunrise, some of the teachers have classes at night. I
would rather have rest. I am too tired, then, to think.
I have put away all my vanity clothes. No need for them in Hiroshima
and in an icy room on a winter's morning, I do not stop to think
whether my dress has an in-curve or an out-sweep. I fall into the first
thing I find and finish buttoning it when the family fire in the
dining-room is reached. A solitary warming-spot to a big house is one
of the luxuries of missionary life.
In between times I 've been cheering up the home sickest young Swede
that ever got loose from his native heath. So firmly did he believe
that Japan was a land where necessity for work doth not corrupt nor the
thief of pleasure break through and steal, he gave up a good position
at home and signed a three-years' contract with an oil firm. Now he is
so sorry, all the pink has gone out of his cheeks. Until he grows used
to the thought that living where the Sun flag floats is not a
continuous holiday, the teachers here at school take turns in making
life livable for him.
His entertainment means tramps of miles into the country, sails on
the lovely Ujina Bay and climbs over the mountains. In the afternoon
the boy is so in evidence, we almost fall over him if we step.
Yesterday in desperation I tied an apron on him and let him help me
make a cake. Even at that, with a dab of chocolate on his cheek and
flour on his nose, his summer sky eyes were weepy whenever he spoke of
his “Mutter.” I have done everything for him except lend him my
shoulder to weep on. It may come to that. There is hope, however. One
of our teachers is young and pretty.
Jack, in a much delayed epistle, tells me thrilling and awful things
about the plague; says he walks through what was once a prosperous
village, and now there is not a live dog to wag a friendly tail. Every
house and hovel tenantless. Often unfinished meals on the table and
beds just as the occupants left them. A great pit near by full of ashes
and bones tells the story of the plague come to town, leaving silent,
empty houses, and the dust-laden winds as the only mourners.
The native doctors gave a splendid banquet the other night. With the
visiting doctors in full array of evening dress and decorations. Jack
says it looked like a big international flag draped around the table.
Everybody made a speech and Jack has not stopped yet shooting off
fireworks in honor of that Englishwoman.
Well, maybe I should have studied science. It is too late
now. Besides, I have Uncle on my hands, and I have to commit to memory
pages on color printing that run like this: “Fine as a single hair or
swelling imperceptibly till it becomes a broken play of light and shade
or a mass of solid black, it still flows, unworried and without
hesitation on its appointed course.”
Sada San is coining down nest week. I am looking forward to it with
great delight and hunting for a plan whereby I can help her.
Suppose Uncle should give me a glad surprise and come too!
My dear Best Girl:
If ever a sailor needed a compass, I need the level head that tops
your loving heart. I am worried hollow-eyed and as useless as a brass
It has been days since I heard from Jack. When he last wrote, he was
going to some remote district out from Mukden. I dare not think what
might happen to him. Says he must travel to the very source of the
If Jack really wanted trouble he could find it nearer home. Is n't
it like him, though, with his German education, to hunt a thing to its
lair? I suppose when next I hear from him, he will have disappeared
into some marmot hole at the foot of a tree in a Siberian forest.
Sada is here. A pale shadow of her former radiant self. She is in
deadly fear of what Uncle has written he expects of her when she
For the first few days of her visit, she was like an escaped
prisoner. She played and sang with the girls. The joy of her laughter
was contagious. Everybody fell a victim to her gaiety. We have been on
picnics up the river in a sampan where we waded and fished, then landed
on an island of bamboo and fern and cooked our dinner over a hibachi. We have had concerts, tableaux and charades, here at the school, with
a big table for the stage and a silver moon and a green mosquito-net
for the scenery.
In every pastime or pleasure, Sada San has been the moving spirit.
Adorably girlish and winning in her innocent joy, I grow faint to think
of the rude awakening.
She has talked much of Miss West and their life together; their work
and simple pleasures.
To the older woman she poured out unmeasured affection, fresh and
sweet. Susan made a flower garden of the girl's heart, where, if even a
tiny weed sprouted it was coaxed into a blossom. But she gave no
warning of the savage storms that might come and lay the garden waste.
Well, I 'm holding a prayer-meeting a minute that the rosy ideals of
the visionary teacher will hold fast when the wind begins to blow.
I found Sada one day on the bed, a crumpled heap of woe; white and
shaking with tearless sobs. Anxious to shield her from the persistent
friendliness of the girls, I persuaded her to come with me to the old
Prince's garden, just back of the school.
She had heard from Uncle. For the first time he definitely stated
his plans. Hara, the rich man, had sent to him a proposal of marriage
for Sada! Of course, said Uncle, such an offer from so prosperous and
prominent a man must be accepted without hesitation. It was wonderful
luck for any girl, said dear Mura, especially one of her birth. Nothing
further would be done until she returned, and he wished that to be at
Not a suggestion of feeling or sentiment; not a word as to Sada's
wishes or rights. If these were mentioned to him, he would undoubtedly
reply that the rights in the matter were all his. As to feelings, a
young girl had no business with such things. His voice would be
courteous, his manner of saying it would fairly puncture the air.
His letter was simply a cold business statement for the sale of the
girl. When I looked at the misery in her young eyes, I could joyfully
have throttled him and stamped upon him. I wished for a dentist's
grinding machine and the chance to bore a nice big hole into each one
of his white, even teeth.
She knows nothing of the man Hara except that he is coarse and
drinks heavily. The girls in the tea-house always seemed afraid when he
came. Vague whispers of his awful life had come to her. What was she to
do? She had no money, no place to go, and Uncle was the only relative
she had in the world.
Mate, I heard a missionary speak a profound truth, when he said that
no Japanese would ever be worth while till all his relatives were dead.
Their power is a chain forged around individual freedom.
She had such loving thoughts of Uncle, Sada sobbed, before she came.
She longed to make his home happy and be one of his people. She loved
the beautiful country of her mother and craved its friendship.
Miss West had drilled it into her conscience that marriage was holy,
and impossible without love. (Bless you, Susan!) She wanted to do her
duty, but she could not marry this man whom she had never seen
but once, and had never spoken to.
She knew the absolute power the law of the land gave Uncle over her.
She knew the uselessness of a Japanese girl struggling against the
rigid rules laid down by her elders. She knew resistance might bring
punishment. Well, Mate, I do not care ever to see again such a look as
was in Sada's eyes as she turned her set face to me and forced through
her stiff lips a stony, “I won't!” But I thanked God for all the Susan
Wests and their teachings.
In spite of the girl's unhappiness, there was a thrill in the region
of my heart. Of her own free will Sada San had decided. Now there was
something definite to work upon. In the back of my brain a plan was
beginning to form. Hope glimmered like a Jack-o'-lantern.
It was late evening. A flaming sunset flushed the sky and bathed the
ancient garden of arched bridges and twisted trees in a pinkish haze.
The very shadows spelled romance and poetry. It was wise to use the
charm of the hour for the beginning of my plan.
I drew Sada down beside me, as we sat in a queer little play-house
by the garden lake.
In olden times it had been the rest place of the Prince Asano, when
he was specially moved to write poetry to the moon as it floated up, a
silver ball in a navy-blue sky over “Three Umbrella Mountain.” Had his
ghost been strolling along then, it would have found deeper things
than, “in the sadness of the moon night beholds the fading blossom of
the heart,” to fill his thoughts.
I led the girl to tell me much of her life in Nebraska; of her
friends and their amusements. Hers had been the usual story of any
fresh wholesome girl. The social life in a small town had limited her
experiences, but had kept her deliciously naive and sweet.
For the first time in our talks, she avoided Billy's name. I hailed
it as a beautiful sign. I mentioned William myself and delighted in her
red-cheeked confusion. I gently asked her to tell me of him.
She and Billy had gone to school together, played together and he
always seemed like a big brother to her. Once a boy had called her a
half-breed and Billy promptly knocked him down and sat on his head
while he manipulated a shingle.
Another time when they were quite small, the desire of her heart was
to ride on the tricycle of a rich little boy who lived across the
street. But the pampered youth jeered at her pleadings and exultingly
rode up and down before her. Billy saw and bided his time till the
small Croesus was alone. He nabbed him, chucked him in a chicken-coop
and stood guard for an hour while Sada rode gloriously.
Through college they were comrades and rivals. Billy had to work his
way, for he was the poor son of an invalid mother. From college he had
gone straight to a firm of rich manufacturers and was now one of the
He had pleaded with her not to come to Japan. He loved her. He
wanted her. When she had persisted, he was furious and they had
quarreled. But she had thought she was right, then; she did not know
how dear Billy was, how big and splendid. She had written to him but
seldom, nothing of her disappointment. Maybe he had married. She could
not write now. It would be too much like begging, when she was at bay,
for the love she had refused when all was well. No, she could not
We talked long and earnestly in that old garden, and the wind that
sifted through the pine-needles and the waxy leaves was as gentle as if
the spirit of Susan West had come to watch and to bless.
I gained a half promise from her that she would write to Billy at
once, but I didn't stop there.
Unsuspected by Sada I learned his full address, and Mate, I wrote a
letter to the auburn-haired lover in Nebraska, in which I painted a
picture that is going to cause something to happen, else I am mistaken
in my estimate of the spirit of the West in general and William Weston
Milton in particular.
I told him if he loved the girl to come as fast as steam would bring
him; that I would help him at the risk of anything, though I have no
idea how. I have just returned from a solitary promenade to the
post-office through the dark and lonely streets, so that letter will
catch to-morrow's American mail.
Sada told me that for some reason she had never mentioned Billy's
name to Uncle. Now isn't that a full hand nestling up my half-sleeve?
Uncle thinks the way clear as an empty race-track, and all he has to do
is to saunter down the home stretch and gather in the prize-money.
Any scruple on the girl's part will be relentlessly and carelessly
brushed aside as a bothersome insect. If she persists, there is always
force. He fears nothing from me. I am a foreigner—from his standpoint
too crudely frank to be clever.
He doubtless argues, if he gives it any thought, that if I could I
would not dare interfere. And then I am so absorbed in color-prints! So
I am, and, I pray Heaven, in some way to his undoing. The child has no
other friend. Shrinkingly she told me of her one attempt to make
friends with some high-class people, and the uncompromising rebuff she
had received upon their discovering she was an Eurasian. The pure
aristocrats seldom lower the social bars to those of mixed blood. I
wonder, Mate, if the ghost of failure, who was her father, could see
the inheritance of inevitable suffering he has left his child, what his
message would be to those who would recklessly dare a like marriage?
Sada goes to Kioto in the morning. She promises not to show
resistance, but to keep quiet and alert, writing me at every
I am sure Uncle's delight in securing so rich a prize as Hara will
burst forth in a big wedding-feast and many rich clothes for the
trousseau. I hope so. Preparation will take time. I would rather gain
time than treasure.
I put Sada to bed. Tucked her in and cuddled her to sleep as if she
had been my own daughter.
There she lies now. Her face startlingly white against the mass of
black hair. The only sign of her troubled day is a frequent half-sob
and the sadness of her mouth, which is constantly reading the riot act
to her laughing eyes in the waking hours.
Poor girl! She is only one of many whose hopes wither like
rose-leaves in a hot sun when met by authority in the form of
The arched sky over the mountain of “Two Leaves” is all a-shimmer
with the coming day. Thatched roof and bamboo grove are daintily etched
against the amber dawn. Lights begin to twinkle and thrifty tradesmen
cheerfully call their wares.
It is a land of peace, a country and people of wondrous charm, but
incomprehensible is the spirit of some of the laws that rule its
One of my girls, when attached with the blues, invariably says in
her written apology for a poor lesson, “Please excuse my frivolous with
your imagination, for my heart is warmly.” So say I.
I am sending you the crepes and the kimono you asked for. Write for
something else. I want an excuse to spend another afternoon in the
two-by-four shop, with a play-garden attached, that should be under a
glass case in a jewelry store. The proprietor gives me a tea-party and
tells me a few of his troubles every time I go to his store. Formerly
he kept two shops exclusively for hair ornaments and ribbons.
He did a thriving trade with schoolgirls. Recently an order went out
from the mighty maker of school laws to the effect that lassies, high
and low, must not indulge in such foolish extravagances as head
ornaments. The ribbon market went to smash. The old man could not give
his stock away. He stored his goods and went to selling high-priced
crepes, which everybody was permitted to wear. Make another request
quickly. I would rather shop than think.
Also, if you need any information as to how to run a cooking-school,
I will enclose it with the next package.
Since the war, scores of Japanese women are wild to learn foreign
cooking. On inquiry as to the reason of such enthusiasm, we found it
was because their husbands, while away from home, had acquired a taste
for Occidental dainties. Now their wives want to know all about them so
they can set up opposition in their homes to the many tea-houses which
offer European food as an extra attraction. And depend upon it, if the
women start to learn, they stick to it till there is nothing more to
know on the subject.
I was to furnish the knowledge and the ladies the necessary
utensils, but I guess I forgot to mention everything we might need.
The first thing we tried was biscuit. All went well until the time
came for baking. I asked for a pan. A pan? What kind of a pan? Would a
wash pan do? No, if it was all the same I would rather have a flat pan
with a rim. Certainly! Here it was with a rim and a handle! A shiny
dust-pan greeted my eyes. Well, there was not very much difference in
the taste of the biscuit.
The prize accomplishment so far has been pies. Our skill has not
only brought us fame, but the city is in the throes of a pie epidemic.
A few days ago when the old Prince of the Ken came to visit his
Hiroshima home, the cooking-ladies, after a few days' consultation,
decided that in no better way could royalty be welcomed than by sending
him a lemon pie. They sent two creamy affairs elaborately decorated
with meringued Fujis. They were the hit of the season. The old
gentleman wrote a poem about them saying he ate one and was keeping the
other to take back to his country home when he returned a month hence.
Then he sent us all a present.
We have had only one catastrophe. In a moment of reckless adventure
my pupils tried a pound cake without a recipe. A pound cake can be
nothing else but what it says. That meant a pound of everything and
Japanese soda is doubly strong. That was a week ago and we have not
been able to stay in the room since.
Good-by! The tailless pink cat and the purple fish with the pale
blue eyes are for the kiddies.
I am inclosing an original recipe sent in by Miss Turtle Swamp of
Clear Water Village:
1 cup of Desecrated coconut
5 cup flowers
1 small spoon and barmilla [vanilla]
3 eggs skinned and whipped
1 cup sugar
Stir and pat in pan to cook.
HIROSHIMA, December, 1911.
I would be ashamed to tell you how long it is between Jack's
letters. He says the activity of the revolutionists in China is
seriously interfering with traffic of every kind. All right, let it go
at that! Now he has gone way up north of Harbin. In the name of
anything why cannot he be satisfied? England is with him. I do not know
who also is in the party. Neither do I care. I do not like it a little
bit. Jealous? The idea. Just plain furious. I am no more afraid of Jack
falling in love with another woman than I am of Saturn making Venus a
birthday present of one of his rings. The trouble is she may fall in
love with him, and it is altogether unnecessary for any other woman to
get her feelings disturbed over Jack.
I fail to see the force of his argument that it is not safe nor wise
for any woman in that country, and yet for him to show wild enthusiasm
over the presence of the Britisher. No, Jack has lost his head over
intellect. It may take a good sharp blow for him to realize that
intellect, pure and simple, is an icy substitute for love. Like most
men he is so deadly sure of one, he is taking a holiday with the other.
Of course you are laughing at me. So would Jack. And both would say
it is unworthy. That's just it. It is the measly little unworthies that
nag one to desperation. Besides, Mate, I shrink from any more trouble,
any more heart-aches as I would from names. The terror of the by-gone
years creeps over me and covers the present like a pall.
There is only one thing left to do. Work. Work and dig, till there
is not an ounce of strength left for worry. I stay in the kindergarten
every available minute. The unstinted friendship of the kiddies over
there, is the heart's-ease for so many of life's hurts.
There are always the long walks, when healing and uplift of spirit
can be found in the beauty of the country. I tramp away all alone. The
little Swede begs often to go. At first I rather enjoyed him. But he is
growing far too affectionate. I am not equal to caring for two young
things; a broken-hearted girl and a homesick fat boy are too much for
me. He is improving so rapidly I think it better for him to talk love
stories and poetry to some one more appreciative. I am not in a very
poetical mood. He might just as well talk to the pretty young teacher
as to talk about her all the time.
I have scores of friends up and down the many country roads I
travel. The boatmen on the silvery river, who always wave their head
rags in salute, the women hoeing in the fields with babies on their
backs, stop long enough to say good day and good luck. The laughing
red-cheeked coolie girls pause in their work of driving piles for the
new bridge to have a little talk about the wonders of a foreigner's
head. With bated breath they watch while I give them proof that my long
hatpins do not go straight through my skull.
The sunny greetings of multitudes of children lift the shadows from
the darkest day, and always there is the glorious scenery; the shadowed
mystery of the mountains, a turquoise sky, the blossoms and bamboo. The
brooding spirit of serenity soon envelops me, and in its irresistible
charm is found a tender peace.
On my way home, in the river close to shore, is a crazy little
tea-house. It is furnished with three mats and a paper lantern. The
pretty hostess, fresh and sweet from her out-of-door life, brings me
rice, tea and fresh eel. She serves it with such gracious hospitality
it makes my heart warm. While I eat, she tells me stories of the river
life. I am learning about the social life of families of fish and their
numerous relatives that sport in the “Thing of Substance River”; the
habits of the red-headed wild ducks which nest near; of the god and
goddesses who rule the river life, the pranks they play, the revenge
they take. And, too, I am learning a lesson in patience through the
lives of the humble fishermen. In season seven cents a day is the total
of their earnings. At other times, two cents is the limit. On this they
manage to live and laugh and raise a family. It is all so simple and
childlike, so free from pretension, hurry and rush. Sometimes I wonder
if it is not we, with our myriad interests, who have strayed from the
real things of life.
On my road homeward, too, there is a crudely carved Buddha. He is so
altogether hideous, they have put him in a cage of wooden slats. On
certain days it is quite possible to try your fortune, by buying a
paper prayer from the priest at the temple, chewing it up and throwing
it through the cage at the image. If it sticks you will be lucky.
My aim was not straight or luck was against me to-day. My prayers
are all on the floor at the feet of the grinning Buddha.
Jack is in Siberia and Uncle has Sada. I have not heard from her
since she left. I am growing truly anxious.
At last I have a letter from Jack. Strange to say I am about as full
of enthusiasm over the news he gives me as a thorn-tree is of
He says he has something like a ton of notes and things on the
various stunts of the bubonic germ in Manchuria when it is feeling fit
and spry. But he is seized with a conviction that he must go somewhere
in northwest China where he thinks there is happy hunting-ground of
evidence which will verify his report to the Government. Suppose the
next thing I hear he will be chasing around the outer rim of the old
world hunting for somebody to verify the Government.
There is absolutely no use of my trying to say the name of the place
he has started for. Even when written it looks too wicked to pronounce.
It is near the Pass that leads into the Gobi Desert.
Jack wrote me to go to Shanghai and he would join me later. I am
writing him that I can't start till the fate of Sada San is settled for
better or for worse.
NANKOW, CHINA. February, 1912.
News of Jack's desperate illness came to me ten days ago and has
laid waste my heart as the desert wind blasts life. I have been flying
to him as fast as boat and train and cart will take me.
The second wire reached me in Peking last night. Jack has typhus
fever and the disease is nearing the crisis. I have read the message
over and over, trying to read between the lines some faint glimmer of
hope; but I can get no comfort from the noncommittal words except the
fact that Jack is still alive. I am on my way to the terminus of the
railroad, from where the message was sent. I came this far by train,
only to find all regular traffic stopped by order of the Government.
The line may be needed for the escape of the Imperial Family from
Peking if the Palace is threatened by the revolutionists.
Orders had been given that no foreigner should leave the Legation
enclosure. I bribed the room boy to slip me through the side streets
and dark alleys to an outside station. I must go the rest of the
distance by cart when the road is possible, by camel or donkey when
not. Nothing seems possible now. Everything within sight looks as if it
had been dead for centuries, and the people walking around have just
forgotten to be buried.
I am wild with impatience to be gone but neither bribes nor threats
will hurry the coolies who take their time harnessing the donkeys and
A ring of ossified men, women and children have formed about me,
staring with unblinking eyes, till I feel as if I was full of peep
holes. It is not life, for neither youth nor love nor sorrow has ever
passed this way. The tiniest emotion would shrivel if it dared begin to
live. Maybe they are better so. But then, they have never known Jack.
How true it is that one big heart-ache withers up all the little
ones and the joy of years as well. With this terror upon me, even
Sada's desperate trouble has faded and grown pale as the memory of a
dream. Jack is ill and I must get to him, though my body is racked with
the rough travel, and the ancient road holds the end of love and life
Around the sad old world I am stretching out my arms to you, Mate,
for the courage to face whatever comes, and your love which has never
Such wild unbelievable things have happened!
After twenty miles of intolerable shaking on the back of a camel, my
battered body fell off at the last stopping-place, which happened to be
here. There is no hotel. But three blessed European hoys living at this
place—agents for a big tobacco firm—took me into their little home.
From that time—ten days ago—till now, they have served and cared for
me as only sons who have not forgotten their mothers could do.
On that awful night I came, while forcing food on me, they said that
Jack had stopped with them on his way out to the desert, where he was
to complete his work for the Government. He was to go part of the
distance with the English woman, who, with her camels and her guides,
was traveling to the Siberian railroad. The next day they heard the
whole caravan had returned. Four days out Jack had been taken ill. The
only available shelter was an old monastery about a mile from the
village. To this he had been moved. My hosts opened a window and
pointed to a far-away, high-up light. It was like the flicker of a
match in a vast cave of darkness. They told me wonderful things of the
rooms in the monastery, which were cut in the solid rock of the
mountain-side, and the strange dwarf priest who kept it.
They lied beautifully and cheerfully as to Jack's condition, and all
the time in their hearts they knew that he had the barest chance to
live through the night.
The woman doctor had nursed him straight through, permitting no one
else near. The dwarf priest brought her supplies.
Her last message for the day had been, “The crisis will soon be
Even now something grips my throat when I remember how those dear
boys worked to divert me, until my strength revived. They rigged up a
battered steamer-chair with furs and bath robes, put me in it,
promising that as soon as I was rested they would see what could be
done to get me up to the monastery. But I was not to worry. All of them
set about seeing I had no time to think. Each took his turn in telling
me marvelous tales of the life in that wild country. One boy brought in
the new litter of puppies, begging me to carefully choose a name for
each. The two ponies were trotted out and put through their pranks
before the door in the half light of a dim lantern.
They showed me the treasures of their bachelor life, the family
photographs and the various little nothings which link isolated lives
to home and love. They even assured me they had had the
table-cloth and napkins washed for my coming. Household interests
exhausted, they began to talk of boyhood days. Their quiet voices
soothed me. Prom exhaustion I slept. When I woke, my watch said one
o'clock. The house was heavy with sleeping-stillness.
Through my window, far away the dim light wavered. It seemed to be
signaling me. My decision was quick. I would go, and alone. If I
called, my hosts would try to dissuade me, and I would not listen. For
life or for death, I was going to Jack. The very thought lent me
strength and gave my feet cunning stealthiness. A high wall was around
the house but, thank Heaven, they had forgotten to lock the gate.
Soon I was in the deserted, deep-rutted street shut in on either
side by mud hovels, low and crouching close together in their pitiful
poverty. There was nothing to guide me, save that distant speck of
flame. Further on, I heard the rush of water and made out the dim line
of an ancient bridge. Half way across I stumbled. From the heap of rags
my foot had struck, came moans, and, by the sound of it, awful curses.
It was a handless leper. I saw the stumps as they flew at me. Sick with
horror, I fled and found an open place.
The light still beckoned. The way was heavy with high, drifted sand.
The courage of despair goaded me to the utmost effort. Forced to pause
for breath, I found and leaned against a post. It was a telegraph pole.
In all the blackness and immeasurable loneliness, it was the solitary
sign of an inhabited world. And the only sound was the wind, as it sang
through the taut wires in the unspeakable sadness of minor chords. A
camel caravan came by, soft-footed, silent and inscrutable. I waited
till it passed out to the mysteries of the desert beyond the range of
I began again to climb the path. It was lighter when I crept through
a broken wall and found myself in a stone courtyard, with gilded
shrines and grinning Buddhas. One image more hideous than the rest,
with eyes like glow-worms, untangled its legs and came towards me. I
shook with fright. But it was only the dwarf priest—a monstrosity of
flesh and blood, who kept the temple. I pointed to the light which
seemed to be hanging to the side of the rocks above. He slowly shook
his head, then rested it on his hands and closed his eyes. I pushed him
aside and painfully crawled up the shallow stone stairs, and found a
door at the top. I opened it. Lying on a stone bed was Jack, white and
still. A woman leaned over him with her hand on his wrist. Her face was
heavily lined with a long life of sorrow. On her head was a crown of
snow-white hair. She raised her hand for silence. I fell at her feet a
shaking lump of misery.
I could not live through it again, Mate—those remaining hours of
agony, when every second seemed the last for Jack. But morning dawned,
and with the miracle of a new-born day came the magic gift of life.
When Jack opened his eyes and feebly stretched out his hand to me, my
singing heart gave thanks to God.
And so the crisis was safely passed. And the hateful science I
believed was taking Jack from me, in the skilful hands of a good woman,
gave him back to me.
The one comfort left me in the humiliation of my petty, unreasoning
jealousy—yes, I had been jealous—was to tell her.
And she, whose name was Edith Bowden, opened to me the door of her
secret garden, wherein lay the sweet and holy memories of her lover,
dead in the long ago.
For forty long and lonesome years she had unfalteringly held before
her the vision of her young sweetheart and his work, and through them
she had toiled to make real his ideals.
I take it all back, Mate. A career that makes such women as this is
a beautiful and awesome thing.
In spite of all my pleadings to come with us, Miss Bowden started
once again on her lonely way across the wind-swept plains, back to
Europe and her work, leaving me with a never-to-be-forgotten humility
of spirit and an homage in my heart that never before have I paid a
I am too polite to say it, but I have had a taste of the place you
spell with four letters. Also of Heaven. Just now, with Jack's thin
hand safely in mine, I am hovering around the doors of Paradise in the
house of the boys in Kalgan. If you could see the dusty little
Chinese-Mongolian village, hanging on the upper lip of the mouth of the
Gobi Desert, you would think it a strange place to find bliss. But joy
can beautify sand and Sodom.
Yesterday my hosts made me take a ride out into the Desert. Oh,
Mate, in spots these glittering golden sands are sublime. My heart was
so light and the air so rare, it was like flying through sunlit space
on a legless horse.
Life, or what answers to it, has been going on in the same way since
thousands of years before Pharaoh went on that wild lark to the Red
Sea. Every minute I expected to see Abraham and Sarah trailing along
with their flocks and their families, hunting a place to stake out a
claim, and Noah somewhere on a near-by sand-hill, taking in tickets for
the Ark Museum, while the “two by two's” fed below. I never heard of
these friends being in this part of the country, but you can never tell
what a wandering spirit will do.
Jack is getting fat laughing at me. But Jack never was a lady and
does not know what havoc imagination and the spell of the East can play
with a loving but lonesome wife. And take it from me, beloved, he never
will. Nothing gained in exposing all your follies. He sends love to
you. So do I—from the joyful heart of a woman whose most terrible
troubles never happened.
PEKING, February, 1912.
I do not know whether I can write you sanely or not. But write you I
must. It is my one outlet in these days of anxious waiting. I have just
cabled Billy Milton, in Nebraska, to come by the first steamer. I have
not an idea what he will do when he gets to Japan, or how I will help
him; but he is my one hope.
Yesterday, on our arrival here, I found a desperate letter from Sada
San, written hurriedly and sent secretly. She finds that the man Hara,
whom her uncle has promised she shall marry, has a wife and three
The man, on the flimsiest pretest, has sent the woman home to clear
his establishment for the new wife. And, Mate, can you believe it, he
has kept the children—the youngest a nursing baby, just three months
One of the geisha girls in the tea-house slipped in one night and
told Sada. She went at once to Uncle and asked him if it was true. He
said that it was, and that Sada should consider herself very lucky to
be wanted by such a man. Upon Sada telling him she would die before she
would marry the man, he laughed at her. Since then she has not been
permitted to leave her room.
The lucky day for marriage has been found and set. Thank goodness,
it is seventeen days from now, and if Billy races across by Vancouver
he can make it. In the meantime Nebraska seems a million miles away. I
know the heartbeats of the fellow who is riding to the place of
execution, with a reprieve. But seventeen days is a deadly slow nag.
I had already told Jack of my anxiety for Sada San and of the fate
that was hanging over her, but now that the blow has suddenly fallen I
dare not tell him. In a situation like this I know what Jack would want
to do; and in his present weakened condition it might be fatal.
It is useless for me to appeal to anybody out here. Those in Japan
who would help are powerless. Those who could help would smile serenely
and tell me it was the law. And law and custom supersede any lesser
question of right or wrong. By it the smallest act of every inhabitant
is regulated, from the quantity of air he breathes to the proper
official place for him to die. But, imagine the majesty of any
law which makes it a ghastly immorality to mildly sass your
mother-in-law, and a right, lawful and moral act for a man, with any
trumped-up excuse, to throw his legal wife out of the house, that room
may be made for another woman who has appealed to his fancy.
Japan may not need missionaries, but, by all the Mikados that ever
were or will be, her divorce laws need a few revisions more than the
nation needs battleships. You might run a country without gunboats, but
never without women.
This case of Hara is neither extreme nor unusual. I have been face
to face in this flowery kingdom with tragedies of this kind when a
woman was the blameless victim of a man's caprice, and he was upheld by
a law that would shame any country the sun shines on. By a single
stroke of a pen through her name, on the records at the courthouse, the
woman is divorced—sometimes before she knows it. Then she goes away to
hide her disgrace and her broken heart—not broken because of her love
for the man who has cast her off, but because, from the time she is
invited to go home on a visit and her clothes are sent after her, on
through life, she is marked. If she has children, the chances are that
the husband retains possession of them, and she is seldom, if ever,
permitted to see them.
I know your words of caution would be, Mate, not to be rash in my
condemnations, to remember the defects of my own land. I am neither
forgetful nor rash. I do not expect to reform the country, neither am I
arguing. I am simply telling you facts.
I know, too, that some Fountain Head of knowledge will rise from the
back seat and beg to state that the new civil code contains many
revisions and regulates divorce. The only trouble with the new civil
code is that it keeps on containing the revisions and only in theory do
they get beyond the books in which they are written.
Next to my own, in my affections, stands this sunlit, flower-covered
land which has given the world men and women unselfishly brave and
noble. But there are a few deformities in the country's law system that
need the knife of a skilled surgeon, amputating right up to the last
joint; among these the divorce laws made in ancient times by the
gone-to-dust but still sacred and revered ancestors. Who would give a
hang for any old ancestor so cut on the bias?
I cannot write any more. I am too agitated to be entertaining.
I wrote Sada a revised version of Blue Beard that would turn that
venerable gentleman gray, could he read it. Uncle will be sure to. I
dare him to solve the puzzle of my fancy writing. But I made Sada San
know the Prince Red Head was coming to her rescue, if the engine did
not break down.
Now there is nothing to do but wait and pray there are no weak spots
in Billy's backbone.
Cable just received. William is on the wing!
PEKING, CHINA, February, 1912.
Well, here we still are, my convalescent Jack and I, bottled up in
the middle of a revolution, and poor, helpless little Sada San calling
to me across the waters. Verily, these are strenuous days for this
It is a tremendous sight to look out upon the incomprehensible
saffron-hued masses that crowd the streets. I no longer wonder at the
color of the Yellow Sea.
But, Oh, Mate, if I could only make you see the gilded walled city,
in which history of the ages is being laid in dust and ashes, while the
power that made it is hastening down the back alley to a mountain
nunnery for safety! Peking is like a beautiful golden witch clothed in
priceless garments of dusty yellow, girded with ropes of pearls. Her
eyes are of jade, and so fine is the powdered sand she sifts from her
tapering fingers it turns the air to an amber haze; so potent its magic
spell, it fascinates and enthralls, while it repels.
For all the centuries the witch has held the silken threads, which
bound her millions of subjects, she has been deaf—deaf to the cries of
starvation, injustice and cruelty; heedless to devastation of life by
her servants; smiling at piles of headless men; gloating over torture
when it filled her treasure-house.
Ever cruel and heartless, now she is all a-tremble and sick with
fear of the increasing power of the mighty young giant—Revolution. She
sees from afar her numbered days. She is crying for the mercy she never
showed, begging for time she never granted. She is a tottering despot,
a dying tyrant, but still a beautiful golden witch.
We have not been here long but my soul has been sickened by the
sights of the pitiless consequences of even the rumors of war all over
the country and particularly in Peking. If only the responsible ones
could suffer. But it is the poor, the innocent and the old who pay the
price for the greed of the others. In this, how akin the East is to the
West! The night we came there was a run on the banks caused by the
report that Peking was to be looted and burned. Crowds of men, women
and even children, hollow-eyed and haggard, jammed the streets before
the doors of the banks, pleading for their little all. Some of them had
as much as two dollars stored away! But it was the twenty dimes that
deferred slow starvation. Banks kept open through the night. Officials
and clerks worked to exhaustion, satisfying demands, hoping to placate
the mob and avert the unthinkable results of a riot. Countless soldiers
swarmed the streets with fixed bayonets. But the bloodless witch has no
claim to one single heart-beat of loyalty from the unpaid wretches who
wear the Imperial uniform; and when by simply tying a white
handkerchief on their arms they go over in groups of hundreds to the
Revolutionists, they are only repaying treachery in its own foul coin.
Though I hate to leave Jack even for an hour, I have to get out each
day for some fresh air. To-day it seemed to me, as I walked among the
crowds, fantastic in the flickering flames of bonfires and incandescent
light, that life had done its cruel worst to these people—had written
her bitterest tokens of suffering and woe in the deeply furrowed faces
and sullenly hopeless eyes.
Earlier in the year thousands of farmers and small tradesmen had
come in from the country to escape floods, famine and robber-bands.
Hundreds had sold their children for a dollar or so and for days lived
on barks and leaves, as they staggered toward Peking for relief.
Now thousands more are rushing from the city to the hills or to the
desert, fleeing from riot and war, the strong carrying the sick, the
young the old—each with a little bundle of household goods, all
camping near the towering gates in the great city wall, ready to dash
through when the keeper flings them open in the early morning.
And through it all the merciless execution of any suspect or
undesirable goes merrily on. Close by my carriage a cart passed. In it
were four wretched creatures with hands and feet bound and pigtails
tied together. They were on their way to a plot of crimson ground where
hundreds part with their heads. By the side of the cart ran a
ten-year-old boy, his uplifted face distorted with agony of grief. One
of the prisoners was his father.
I watched the terrified masses till a man and woman of the
respectable farmer class came by, with not enough rags on to hide their
half-starved bodies. Between them they carried on their shoulders a
bamboo pole, from which was swung a square of matting. On this, in
rags, but clean, lay a mere skeleton of a baby with beseeching eyes
turned to its mother; and from its lips came piteous little whines like
a hunger-tortured kitten. Tears streamed down the woman's cheeks as she
crooned and babbled to the child in a language only a tender mother
knows, but in her eyes was the look of a soul crucified with helpless
I slipped all the money I had into the straw cradle and fled to our
room. Jack was asleep. I got into my bed and covered up my head to shut
out the horrors of the multitude that are hurting my own heart like an
But, honey, bury me deep when there isn't a smile lurking around the
darkest corner. Neither war nor famine can wholly eliminate the
comical. Yesterday afternoon some audacious youngsters asked me to
chaperon a tea-party up the river. We went in a gaily decorated
house-boat, made tea on a Chinese stove of impossible shape, and ate
cakes and sandwiches innumerable. Aglow with youth and its joys,
reckless of danger, courting adventure, the promoters of the enterprise
failed to remember that we were outside the city walls, that the gates
were closed at sunset and nothing but a written order from an official
could open them. We had no such order. When it was quite dark, we faced
entrances doubly locked and barred. The guardian inside might have been
dead for all he heeded our importunities and bribes. At night outside
the huge pile of brick and stone, inclosing and guarding the city from
lawless bandits, life is not worth a whistle. A dismayed little giggle
went round the crowd of late tea revelers as we looked up the
twenty-five feet of smooth wall topped by heavy battlements. Just when
we had about decided that our only chance was to stand on each other's
shoulders and try to hack out footholds with a bread knife, some one
suggested that we try the effect of college yells on the gentlemen
within. Imagine the absurdity of a dozen terrified Americans standing
there in the heart of China yelling in unison for Old Eli, and Nassau,
and the Harvard Blue!
The effect was magical. Curiosity is one of the strongest of
Oriental traits, and before long the gates creaked on their hinges and
a crowd of slant-eyed, pig-tailed heads peered wonderingly out. The
rest was easy, and I heard a great sigh of relief as I marshaled my
little group into safety.
Jack's many friends here in Peking are determined that I shall have
as good a time as possible. Worried by disorganized business, harassed
with care, they always find opportunity not only to plan for my
pleasure but see that I have it, properly attended—for of course Jack
is not yet able to leave his room.
Beyond the power of any man is the prophecy of what may happen to
official-ridden Peking. The air is surcharged with mutterings. The
brutally oppressed people may turn at last, rise, and, in their fury,
rend to bits all flesh their skeleton fingers grasp.
The Legations grouped around the hotel are triply guarded. The
shift, shift, shift of soldiers' feet as they march the streets rubs my
nerves like sandpaper.
Rest and sleep are impossible. We seem constantly on the edge of a
precipice, over which, were we to go, the fate awaiting us would reduce
the tortures of Hades to pin-pricks. The Revolutionists have the
railroads, the bandits the rivers. Yet, if I don't reach Japan in
twelve days now, I will be too late. Poor Sada San!
Please say to your small son David that his request to send him an
Emperor's crown to wear when he plays king, is not difficult to grant.
At the present writing crowns in the Orient are not fashionable. As I
look out of my window, the salmon-pink walls of the Forbidden City rise
in the dusty distance. Under the flaming yellow roof of the Palace is a
frail and frightened little six-year-old boy—the ruler of
millions—who, if he knew and could, would gladly exchange his
priceless crown for freedom and a bag of marbles.
PEKING, Next day.
It is Sunday afternoon and pouring rain. Outside it is so drearily
mournful, I keep my back turned. At least, the dripping wet will secure
me a quiet hour or so.
My Chinese room-boy reasons that only a sure-enough somebody would
have so many callers and attend so many functions—not knowing that it
is only because Jack's wife will never lack where he has friends. Hence
the boy haunts my door ready to serve and reap his reward. But I am
sure it was only kindness that prompted him on this dreary day to set
the fire in the grate to blazing and arrange the tea-table, the
steaming kettle close by, and turn on all the lights. How cozy it is!
Jack grows stronger each day, and crosser, which is a good sign. At
last I have told him of Sada San's plight; and he is for starting for
Kioto to-morrow to “wipe the floor with Uncle Mura,” as he elegantly
expresses it. But of course he 's still too weak to even think of such
He makes me join in the gaieties that still go on despite the
turmoil and unrest. I must tell you of one dinner which, of the many
brilliant functions, was certainly unique.
It was a sumptuous affair given by one of the Legation officials. I
wore my glory dress—the color Jack loves best. I went in a carriage
guarded on the outside by soldiers. Beside me sat a strapping European
with his pockets bulging suspiciously. I was not in the least afraid of
the threatening mob which stopped us twice.
I could almost have welcomed an attack, just to get behind my big
escort and see him clear the way.
Merciful powers! Hate is a sweet and friendly word for what the
masses feel for the foreigners, whom most believe to be in league with
Happily, nothing more serious happened than breaking all the
carriage windows; and, in the surprise that awaited me in the
drawing-room of the gorgeously appointed mansion, I quite forgot that.
Who should be almost the first to greet me but Dolly and Mr. Dolly,
otherwise the Seeker, married and on their honeymoon! She was radiant.
And oh, Mate, if you could only see the change in him! As revolutions
seem to be in order, Dolly has worked a prize one on him, I think. He
was positively gentle and showed signs of the making of a near
gentleman. I was glad to see them, and more than glad to see Dolly's
unfeigned happiness. The mournful little prince has gone on his way to
lonely, isolated Sikkam to take up his task of endless reincarnation.
Very soon I found another surprise—my friend Mr. Carson of the
Rockies. It seemed a little incongruous that the simple, unlettered
Irishman should have found his way into the brilliant, many-countried
company, where were men who made history and held the fate of nations
in their hands and built or crumbled empires, and women to match,
regally gowned, keen of wit and wisdom.
But, bless you, he was neither troubled nor out of place. He was the
essence of democracy and mixed with the guests with the same innocent
simplicity that he would have shown at his village church social.
He greeted me cordially, asked after Jack and spoke enthusiastically
of his work.
I smiled when I saw that in the curious shuffling of cards he had
been chosen as the dinner escort of a tall and stately Russian beauty.
I watched them walk across the waxen floor and heard him say to her,
“Sure if I had time I would telegraph for me roller skates to guide ye
safely over the slickness of the boards.” Her answering laugh, sweet
and friendly, was reassuring.
For a while it was a deadly solemn feast. The difficulty was to find
topics of common interest without stumbling upon forbidden subjects.
You see, Mate, times are critical; and the only way to keep out of
trouble is not to get in by being too wordy. By my side sat a
stern-visaged leader of the Revolution. Across the way, a Manchu
Mr. Carson and the beauty were just opposite. I became absorbed in
watching her exquisite tact in guiding the awkward hands of her partner
through the silver puzzle on each side of his plate to the right eating
utensils at the proper time. I saw her pleased interest in all his
talk, whether it was crops, cider or pigtails. And for her gentle
courtesy and kindness to my old friend I blessed her and wiped out a
big score I had against her country. How glad Russia will be!
But the Irishman was not happy. Course after course had been served.
With every rich course came a rare wine. Colorado shook a shaggy gray
head at every bottle, though he was choking with thirst. He was a
teetotaler. Whenever boy No. 1, who served the wine, approached, he
whispered, “Water.” It got to be “Water, please, water!” Then
threateningly, “Water, blame ye! Fetch me water.” It was vain pleading.
At best a Chinaman is no friend to water; and when the word is flung at
him with an Emerald accent it fails to arrive. But ten courses without
moisture bred desperation; and all at once, down the length of that
banquet board, went a hoarsely whispered plea, in the richest
“Hostess, where 's the pump?”
It was like a sky-rocket scattering showers of sparks on a lowering
cloud. In a twinkling the heaviness of the feast was dispersed by
shouts of laughter. Everybody found something delightful to tell that
was not dangerous.
We wound up by going to a Chinese theater. When we left, after two
hours of death and devastation, the demands of the drama for gore were
still so great, assistants had to be called from out the audience to
change the scenery and dead men brought to life to go on with the play.
When I got back Jack was, of course, asleep; but he had been busy in
my absence. I found a note on my pin-cushion saying he had sent a wire
to meet Billy's steamer on its arrival at Yokohama and that I 'm to
start alone for Japan in a day or two—as soon as it seems safe to
Honey, there is a thrill a minute. I may not live to see the finish,
for the soldiers have mutinied and joined the mob, maddened with lust
for blood and loot. I must tell you about it while I can; for it is not
every day one has the chance of seeing a fresh and daring young
Republic sally up to an all-powerful dynasty, centuries old with
tyranny and treasure, and say, “Now, you vamoose the Golden Throne. It
matters not where you go, but hustle; and I don't want any back talk
while you are doing it.”
If I was n't so excited I might be nervous. But, Mate, when you see
a cruelly oppressed people winning their freedom with almost nothing to
back them hut plain grit, you want to sing, dance, pray and shout all
at the same time, and there is no mistake about young China having a
mortgage on all the surplus nerve of the country. Of course, the mob,
awful as it is, is simply an unavoidable attachment of war.
All day there has been terrible fighting, and I am told the streets
are blocked with headless bodies and plunder that could not be carried
The way the mob and the soldier-bandits got into the city is a story
that makes any tale of the Arabian Nights fade away into dull myth.
Some years ago a Manchu official, high in command, espied a
beautiful flower-girl on the street and forthwith attached her as his
private property. So great was her fascination, the tables were turned
and he became the slave—till he grew tired. He not only scorned her,
but he deserted her. Though a Manchu maid, the Revolution played into
her tapering fingers the opportunity for the sweetest revenge that ever
tempted an almond-eyed beauty. It had been the proud boast of her
officer master that he could resist any attacking party and hold the
City Royal for the Manchus. Alas! he reckoned without a woman. She knew
a man outside the city walls—a leader of an organization—half
soldiery, half bandits—who thirsted for the chance to pay off
countless scores against officers and private citizens inside. After a
vain effort to win back her lover, the flower-girl communicated with
the captain of the rebel band, who had only been deterred from entering
the city by a high wall twenty feet thick. She told him to be ready to
come in on a certain night—the gates would be open. The night came.
She slipped from doorway to doorway through the guarded streets till
she reached the appointed place. Even the sentries unconsciously lent a
hand to her plan, in leaving their posts and seeking a tea-house fire
by which to warm their half-frozen bodies. The one-time jewel of the
harem, who had seldom lifted her own teacup, tugged at the mighty gates
with her small hands till the bars were raised and in rushed the mob.
She raced to her home, decked herself in all the splendid jewels he had
given her, stuck red roses in her black hair, and stood on a high roof
and jeered her lover as he fled for his life through the narrow
The city is bright with the fires started by the rabble. The yellow
roofs, the pink walls and the towering marble pagodas catch the
reflection of the flames, making a scene of barbaric splendor that
would reduce the burning of Rome to a feeble little bonfire.
The pitiful, the awful and the very funny are so intermixed, my face
is fatally twisted trying to laugh and cry at the same time. Right
across from my window, on the street curbing, a Chinaman is getting a
hair-cut. In the midst of all the turmoil, hissing bullets and roaring
mobs, he sits with folded hands and closed eyes as calm as a Joss,
while a strolling barber manipulates a pair of foreign shears. For him
blessed freedom lies not in the change of Monarchy to Republic, but in
the shearing close to the scalp the hated badge of bondage—his
And, Mate, the first thing the looters do when they enter a house is
to snatch down the telephones and take them out to burn; for, as one
rakish bandit explained, they were the talking-machines of the foreign
devils and, if left, might reveal the names of the looters!
High-born ladies with two-inch feet stumble by, their calcimined
faces streaked with tears and fright. Gray-haired old men shiver with
terror and try to hide in any small corner. Lost children and deserted
ones, frantic with fear, cling to any passer-by, only to be shoved into
the street and often trampled underfoot. And through it all, the mob
runs and pitilessly mows down with sword and knife as it goes, and
plunders and sacks till there is nothing left.
As I stood watching only a part of this horror, I heard a
long-haired brother near me say, as he kept well under cover,
“Inscrutable Providence!” But (my word!) I don't think it fair to lay
it all on Providence.
So far the foreign Legations have been well guarded. But there is no
telling how long the overworked soldiers can hold out. When they
cannot, the Lord help the least one of us.
Jack's friends are working day and night, guarding their property.
I guess the Seeker found more of the plain unvarnished Truth in the
East than he bargained for. He and Dolly have disappeared from Peking.
Nobody undresses these nights and few go to bed. Our bodyguard is
the room-boy. I asked him which side he was on, and without a change of
feature he answered, “Manchu Chinaman. Allee samee bimeby, Missy, I
make you tea.” I have a suspicion that he sleeps across our door, for
his own or our protection, I am not sure which; but sometimes, when the
terrible howls of fighters reach me, as I doze in a chair, I turn on
the light and sit by my fire to shake off a few shivers, trying to make
believe I 'm home in Kentucky, while Jack sleeps the sleep of the
convalescent. Then a soft tap comes at my door and a very gentle voice
says, “Missy, I make you tea.” Shades of Pekoe! I 'll drown if this
keeps up much longer. He comes in, brews the leaves, then drops on his
haunches and looks into the fire. Not by the quiver of an eyelash does
he give any sign, no matter how close the shots and shouts. Inscrutable
and immovable, he seems a thing utterly apart from the tremendous
upheaval of his country. And yet, for all anybody knows, he may be
chief plotter of the whole movement. His unmoved serenity is about the
most soothing thing in all this Hades. I am not really and truly
afraid. Jack is with me, and just over there, above the crimson glare
of the burning city, gently but surely float the Stars and Stripes.
Good night, beloved Mate. I will not believe we are dead till it
happens. Besides, I simply could not die till Jack and I have saved
By the way, I start for Japan tomorrow. The prayers of the
congregation are requested!
KIOTO HOTEL, KIOTO, March, 1912.
Rejoice with me! Sing psalms and give thanks. Something has
happened. I do not know just what it is, but little thrills of
happiness are playing hop-scotch up and down my back, and my bead is
lighter than usual.
Be calm and I will tell you about it.
In the first place, I got here this morning, more dead than alive,
after days of travel that are now a mere blur of yelling crowds,
rattling trains and heaving seas. A wire from Yokohama was waiting.
Billy had beat me here by a few hours. At noon, to-day, a big
broad-shouldered youth met me, whom I made no mistake in greeting as
Mr. Milton. Billy's eyes are beautifully brown. William's chin looks as
if it was modeled for the purpose of dealing with tea-house Uncles.
Not far from the station is a black-and-tan temple—ancient and
restful. To that we strolled and sat on the edge of the Fountain of
Purification, which faces the quiet monastery garden, while we talked
things over. That is, Billy did the questioning; I did the talking to
the mystic chanting of the priests.
I quickly related all that I knew of what had happened to Sada, and
what was about to happen. There was no reason for me to adorn the story
with any fringes for it to be effective. Billy's face was grim. He said
little; put a few more questions, then left me saying he would join me
at dinner in the hotel.
I passed an impatient, tedious afternoon. Went shopping, bought
things I can never use, wondering all the time what was going to be the
outcome. Got a reassuring cable from Jack in answer to mine, saying all
was well with him.
Mr. Milton returned promptly this evening. He ordered dinner, then
forgot to eat. He did not refer to the afternoon; and long intimacy
with science has taught me when not to ask questions. There was only a
fragment of a plan in my mind; I had no further communication from
Sada, and knew nothing more than that the wedding was only a day off.
We decided to go to Uncle's house together. I was to get in the
house and see Sada if possible, taking, as the excuse for calling, a
print on which, in an absent-minded moment, I had squandered thirty
Billy was to stay outside, and, if I could find the faintest reason
for so doing, I was to call him in. This was his suggestion.
I found Uncle scintillating with good humor and hospitality.
Evidently his plans were going smoothly; but not once did he refer to
them. I asked for Sada. Uncle smiled sweetly and said she was not in.
Ananias died for less! He was quite capable of locking her up in some
very quiet spot. I was externally indifferent and internally dismayed.
I showed him my print. At once he was the eager, interested artist and
he went into a long history of the picture.
Though I looked at him and knew he was talking, his words conveyed
no meaning. I was faint with despair. It was my last chance. I could
have wagered Uncle's best picture that Billy was tearing up gravel
outside. I had been in the house an hour, and had accomplished nothing.
Surely if I stayed long enough something had to happen.
Suddenly out of my hopelessness came a blessed thought. Uncle had.
once promised to show me a priceless original of Hokusai. I asked if I
might see it then. He was so elated that without calling a servant to
do it for him he disappeared into a deep cupboard to find his treasure.
For a moment, helpless and desperate, I was swayed with a mad
impulse to lock him up in the cupboard; but there was no lock.
It was so deadly still it hurt. Then, coming from the outside, I
heard a low whistle with an unmistakable American twist to it, followed
by a soft scraping sound. My heart missed two beats. I did not know
what was happening; nor was I sure that Sada was within the house; but
something told me that my cue was to keep Uncle busy. I obeyed with a
heavy accent. When he appeared with his print, I began to talk. I
recklessly repeated pages of text-books, whether they fitted or not; I
fired technical terms at him till he was dizzy with mental gymnastics.
He smoothed out his precious picture. I fell upon it. I raved over
the straight-front mountains and the marceled waves in that foolish old
woodcut as I had never gushed over any piece of paper before, and I
hope I never will again. Not once did he relinquish his hold of that
faded deformity in art, and neither did I.
Surely I surprised myself with the new joys I constantly found in
the pigeon-toed ladies and slant-eyed warriors. Uncle needed
absorption, concentration and occupation. Mine was the privilege to
give him what he required.
No further sound from the garden and the silence drilled holes into
my nerves. I was so fearful that the man would see my trembling
excitement, I soon made my adieux.
Uncle seemed a little surprised and graciously mentioned that tea
was being prepared for me. I never wanted tea less and solitude more. I
said I must take the night train for Hiroshima. It was a sudden
decision; but to stay would be useless.
I said, “Sayonara,” and smiled my sweetest. I had a feeling I would
never see dear Uncle Mura on earth again and doubtless our environment
will differ in the Beyond.
I went to the gate. It faced two streets. Both were empty. Not a
sign of Billy nor the jinrickshas in which we had come. I trod on air
as I tramped back to the hotel.
HIROSHIMA, Five Days Later, 1912.
I am back in my old quarters—safe. Why should n't I be! A detective
has been my constant companion since I left Kioto, sitting by my berth
all night on the train, and following me to the gates of the School!
I had planned to start back to Peking as soon as Sada and Billy were
clear and away. But this detective business has made me very wary—not
to say weary—and I 've had to postpone my return to Jack to await the
Emperor's pleasure and lest I bring more trouble on Sada's head, by
following too closely on her heels; for I suspect the blessed elopers
are themselves on the way to China.
When I took my walk into the country the afternoon after I got here,
I saw the detective out of the back of my head, and a merry chase I led
him—up the steepest paths I knew, down the rocky sides, across the
ferry, and into the remote village, where I let him rest his body in
the stinging cold while I made an unexpected call. For once he earned
his salary and his supper.
That night I was in the sitting-room alone. A glass door leads out
to an open porch. Conscious of a presence, I looked up to find two
penetrating eyes fixed on me. It made me creepy and cold, yet I was
amused. I sat long and late, but a quiet shadow near the door told me I
was not alone. Even when in bed I could hear soft steps under my
I have just come from an interview that was deliciously
Sada San has disappeared; and, so goes their acute reasoning, as I
was the last person in Uncle's house, before her absence was
discovered, the logical conclusion is that I have kidnapped her.
Two hours ago the scared housemaid came to announce that “two Mr.
Soldiers with swords wanted to speak to me.”
I went at once, to find my guardian angel and the Chief of Police
for this district in the waiting-room. We wasted precious minutes
making inquiries about one another's health, accentuating every other
word with a bow and a loud indrawn breath. We were tuning up for the
business in hand.
The chief began by assuring me that I was a teacher of great
learning. I had not heard it but bowed. It was poison to his spirit to
question so honorable, august, and altogether wise a person, but I was
suspected of a grave offense, and I must answer his questions.
Where was my home?
How did I live?
Who was my grandfather?
Fortunately I remembered.
Was I married?
Where was my master?
Did not have any. My husband was in China.
Was I in Japan by his permission?
Had I been sent home for disobedience? Please explain.
No explanation. I was just here.
Did I know the penalty for kidnaping?
No, color-prints interested me more.
Had any of my people ever been in the penitentiary?
No, only the Legislature.
At this both men looked puzzled. Then the Chief made a discovery.
“Ah-h,” he sighed, “American word for crazysylum!”
Would Madame positively state that she knew nothing of the girl's
whereabouts. Madame positively and truthfully so stated. I did not
know. I only knew what I thought; but, Mate, you cannot arrest a man
for thinking. After a grilling of an hour or so they left me, looking
worried and perplexed. They had never heard of Billy, and I saw no use
adding to their troubles. Nobody seems to have noticed him at dinner
with me; and now that I think of it, he had men strange to the hotel
pulling the jinrickshas.
It was dear of Billy not to implicate me. I am ignorant of what
really happened, but wherever they are I am sure Sada is in the keeping
of an honorable man.
Last night, after I closed this letter, I had a cable. It said:
“Married in heaven,
“BILLY AND SADA.”
But the cables must have been crossed, for it was dated Shanghai; or
else the operator was so excited over repeating such a message he
forgot to put in the period.
Just received a letter from Billy and Sada. It is a gladsome tale
they tell. Young Lochinvar, though pale with envy, would how to Billy's
direct method. I can see you, blessed Mate that you are, smiling
delightedly at the grand finale of the true love story I have been
writing you these months. Billy says on the night it all happened he
tramped up and down, waiting for me to call him, till he wore “gullies
in the measly little old cow-path they call a street.”
The passing moments only made him more furious. Finally he decided
to walk right into the house, unannounced, and find Sada if he had to
knock Uncle down and make kindling wood of the bamboo doll-house. But
as he came into the side garden he saw in the second story a picture
silhouetted on the white paper doors. It was Sada and her face was
buried in her hands. That settled Billy. He would save Uncle all the
worry of an argument by simply removing the cause. There in the dusk,
he whistled the old college call, then swung himself up on a fat stone
lantern, and in a few minutes he swung down a suitcase and Sada in
American clothes. They caught a train to Kobe, which is only a short
distance, and sailed out to the same steamer he had left in Yokohama
and which arrived in Kobe that day.
Billy says, for a quick and safe wedding ceremony commend him to an
enthusiastic, newly-arrived young missionary; and for rapid handling of
red tape connected with a license, pin your faith to a fat and jolly
American consul. So that was what the blessed rascal was doing all that
afternoon he left me in Kioto to myself. Cannot you see success in life
branded on William's freckled brow right now?
The story soon spread over the ship. Passengers and crew packed the
music-room to witness the ceremony, and joyously drank the health of
the lovers at the supper the Captain hastily ordered. Without
hindrance, but half delirious with joy, they headed for Shanghai.
Billy found that he could transact a little business in China for
the firm at home and with Western enterprise decided to make his
honeymoon pay for itself.
And now that my task is finished I shall follow them as fast as the
next steamer can carry me.
PEKING, APRIL, 1912.
Back once again, Mate, in the City of Golden Dusts. Glorious spring
sunshine, and the whole world wrapped in a tender haze. Everything has
little rainbows around it and the very air is studded with jewels.
Soldiers are still marching; flags are flying; drums are thumping
and it is all to the tune of Victory for the Revolutionists. But best
of all Jack is well! To me Peking is like that first morning of Eve's
in the Garden of Eden.
What crowded, happy weeks these last have been. Waiting for Jack;
amusing him when time hangs heavy—even unto reading pages of
scientific books with words so big the spine of my tongue is threatened
And in between times? Well, I am thanking my stars for the chance to
doubly make up for any little tenderness I may have passed by. Put it
in your daily thought book, honey, forevermore I am going to remember
that if at the time we'd use the strength in doing, that we consume
afterwards being sorry we didn't do, life would run on an easy trolley.
Billy and Sada are with us, still with the first glow of the
enchanted garden over them. Bless their happy hearts! I am going to
give them my collection of color prints to start housekeeping with. How
I'd love to see Uncle—through a telescope.
To-night we are having our last dinner here. To-morrow the four of
us turn our faces toward the most beautiful spot this side of Heaven,
home. The happy runaways to Nebraska, Jack and I to the little roost we
left behind in Kentucky.
There goes the music for dinner. It 's something about “dreamy
love.” Love is n't a dream, Mate—not the kind I know; it's all of life
I know what they are playing!
Breathe but one breath
Rose beauty above
And all that was death
Grows life, grows love,