Carlton Dawe.

The girl from Nippon online

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Author of " The Crackswoman," " The Black Spider,"
"A Bride of Japan," etc.





TT was a rather curious patchwork of a room
into which Sir Basil Everard was shown by
the small, soft-footed Japanese servant, a
room in which East and West strove incongruously
to blend. Here and there an Oriental vase stood
cheek by jowl with a glaring exposition of cheap
Western art, which seemed to struggle blatantly
for domination, while the quaintly-designed kake-
mono, delicately finished, betraying in grey monotone
the everlasting snow-capped summit of the incom-
parable Fuji, appeared as though supplicating its
immediate neighbour for gracious permission to
breathe. A large satsuma bowl, negligently and
yet artistically filled with sprays of apple-blossom,
stood on a table in the middle of the room. Another
bowl, but of bronze, rested on a small round table




in the window. This also was filled with beautiful
pink and white blossoms.

As Sir Basil looked about him his lips twitched
curiously, and an angry frown deepened the line
between his eyebrows. This suggestion of the
Far East did not appeal to him. Since returning
to England, and, incidentally, succeeding to certain
properties, which carried with them no uncertain
position in the social world, he had no wish to be
reminded of wild days spent among the wilder
heathen. He was not a particularly pleasant-
looking man, his narrow cold blue eyes and heavy
jaw being such as to render him, on occasion, almost
repellent ; and just then this suggestion of the
Orient threw him in a mood by no means amiable.

However, he was given but slight opportunity to
indulge in murmurings or complaints, for presently
the door by which he had entered was quietly
opened, so quietly, indeed, that he gave a sudden
start as he turned round, and a woman entered,
a strange, almost timid, look on her face.

A remarkable apparition this, and as such seemed
greatly to startle the man. She was dressed in a
kimono of pale blue silk edged with a delicate shade
of coral pink. Round her waist was the obi, or
sash, of the same delicate pink shade, hunched in a
huge bow at the back in the Japanese manner
and on her feet were the tabi, or socks, which are


worn in the house. In her glossy black hair was set
a sprig of apple-blossom, and though the hah- itself
was abundant, it was not pounded out in the
approved native manner, but seemed as though
the East and the West here also struggled for

And yet more marvellously striking than figure
or hair was the extraordinary, the singularly weird
beauty of this woman. Her face was white, almost
unnaturally so, and betrayed no suspicion of colour,
save hi the lips, and they were almost outrageously
red by comparison. The mouth pouted slightly with
that supercilious curl which one will frequently see
on the lips of a woman of Mongol blood. It might
express much affection or much hate.

But perhaps the most wonderful feature of this
astounding apparition was her eyes. They were
blue, of that intense blue-grey colour which one
sees in the skies on a summer day, and though
large, and deeply expressive, were set in a slant.
That this setting was Asiatic no one could doubt
for a moment, though how an Asiatic came to
possess eyes of a colour so distinctly European was
a problem which might puzzle the uninitiated.

Recovering the momentary loss of his self-
possession Sir Basil Everard bowed gravely, she
replying in the native manner, her hands on her


" O Iris-san ! " he said.

" On the contrary," she answered gravely. " In
this country I am an English girl, and I take my
father's name of May ford. O Iris-san was left
behind at Kobe, with the other things that do
not count in the West. You have not forgotten
Kobe ? " she asked in rather a plaintive tone.

She spoke the purest English, with just a sus-
picion of that throaty intonation which seems
peculiar to the East. The Eurasian has it always,
and even the white child seems to acquire it from
the native servant.

No, he had not forgotten Kobe, and if one might
guess from the expression of his face the memory of
that far-off town was not of the pleasantest.

" There are some things one never forgets," he
said with purposeful ambiguity.

" Yet you forgot to return as you promised."

He looked at her as if to catch the reproach in her
eyes, in her face, for no suspicion of it could he
detect in the tone. Yet gazing on her he might
have been gazing on a carven image of Buddha, so
impassive and unemotional did she seem. What-
ever her thoughts, whatever her emotions, no
suggestion of them was allowed to come to the
surface. She might have been a cold, uninterested
stranger who questioned him for the sake of making


" I meant to then," he stammered.

" So I believed. Will you be pleased to take
a seat ? "

" Thanks ; but I'm afraid I must be running
away presently."

" I understand."

" You see, it's like this, O Iris-san

" Miss Mayford, if you do not mind," she corrected.

" But Miss Mayford would not dress like a

" I thought you would like it," she said simply.

" Out there it was charming. In your uncle's
orchard you were like the flower-goddess, O Iris-san
I beg your pardon but here in dull, prosaic
England it seems just a little unusual. By the way,
how is Dr. Mohri ? "

" My honourable uncle is very well, and wishes
kindly to be remembered."

" Clever little fellow," he mused.

' You thought so when he loosened the grip
that death had about your throat."

' Yes, that was a near thing," admitted the man.
' You also were kind to me then, O Iris-san. No,
please don't get angry. You were O Iris-san to
me then, and as O Iris-san I always think of you."
' Then you had not forgotten ? "

" No, I had not forgotten ; but I thought it
better you understand? "


" Perfectly. It was I who was foolish. I forgot
that I am neither one thing nor the other, neither
Japanese nor English, but just a half-breed what
you call a mongrel," she added in a dull monotony
of scorn " despised of all."

' You are a very beautiful woman," he said.

For a moment her eyes narrowed until they
resembled nothing so much as two long blue slits,
but beyond that she betrayed no expression of

" With the defects of both races and the merits
of neither ? " she protested. " I did not know
this once," she continued in the same expressionless
tone. " Indeed, I rather prided myself on the
English blood that was in me, and looked upon
this as my country ; but I find that here I am
an alien, and the worst of aliens an Asiatic. It
was not wise of us to leave Nippon. There, at any
rate, I was respected as the niece of the famous
Dr. Mohri."

" You must always be respected," he said,
" wherever you go."

" It is your honourable condescension that would

" On the contrary, I mean every word of it. Have
I not always been frank with you ? "

" Very."

" Then let me continue to be frank. I am sure


we will understand each other better, honour each
other the more. Out there, in Kobe, things were
different. I was really most grateful to your uncle
and you, and when I left my heart was full of
gratitude, and still is ; but once more among my
own people I realised that it would be a great mis-
take to lead you into a marriage from which you
could not hope to extract any sort of happiness.
We are not of the same race, O Iris-san. The
East and the West can never assimilate : much
misery must result from such an alliance."

" I had not thought that I was wholly of the

" There might be more hope if you were."

" Of what ? "

" An understanding."

" But do we not thoroughly understand each
other already ? What was possible over there in
Kobe is quite impossible here in England. It is a
very simple proposition one which any child
might understand. And I am no longer a child.
You would be ashamed of a wife with Asiatic blood
in her ? The problem of race cannot be overcome
by thinking of it; no, nor heroically defying it.
I am one of inferior blood, despite my English
father. This my uncle told me, but I would not
listen to his wisdom. Sometimes I think he does
not love the white races, though he reads their


books, studies their science, and borrows their

He remembered that strange little Dr. Mohri,
with his wizened, beardless face and his horrible
black slits of eyes. Even though he owed his life
to him, his gratitude was not wholly free of a certain
sense of loathing.

" I am sorry," he began lamely.

" But there is no occasion to be. My obstinacy
and ignorance are entirely to blame. And the
matter is of no importance. Once I might have
thought that I was not so inferior to you, but I
now see the folly and the shame of it, and, believe
me, I am truly repentant."

But neither in tone nor manner could he trace
any sign of repentance. Coldly she spoke, coldly she
regarded him, her face masked in an impenetrable
Oriental calm. Without emotion she spoke : there
was not even the remotest suggestion of the slighted
woman. He might have been a cipher for all
heed she paid to him, a puff of wind that for a
moment blew across her eyes.

" Among your own people," he began, stung to
retort by her unassailable indifference.

" My own people ! Who are they ? I have no
people. I am neither of the East nor the West :
there is no place for me in the world. Out there it
was different. I did dream that I was an English


girl, and that one day I should come to England
and take my place among my own kin : and this
in spite of the fact that among the white people my
father was said to have disgraced himself and his
race by marrying my mother."

" Then he did marry her ? "

" Oh, yes." Still no sign of anger or resent-
ment. " He was one of those men, it seems,
who honourably do foolish things. For such men
there is no place in this world, nor for their

" It was a mistake for you to come to England,
O Iris-san."

" So I begin to realise. You wish I had not, eh ?
But why let my presence disconcert you ? I be-
lieved in your kisses and your words : I see now
that you did not mean them. Well, perhaps I shall
not die of grief. It was very sweet to dream, and
if the dreaming ends in nothing well, is not that
the way of all dreams ? 1 have been rightly served
for my pride. I thought I was an English girl,
and would not look at the natives, whom you call
' my people.' I find that English girls are not so
proud here in England. Your pride of race is a sham,
Sir Basil Everard, your pretensions hypocrisy, for
you cannot make your own women conform to
your own laws. Truly your notions of race, and the
pride of race, are much beyond my conception. I


suppose they are pegs to hang your moral cloaks
upon when the occasion suits ? "

She hit him hard in that cold, passionless way
of hers, and his rather ponderous jaw projected
aggressively towards her. Argument, entreaty,
supplication, were little likely to affect the imper-
turbability of this amaring product of the East and
West. If she felt, she betrayed no sign of feeling :
emotion was dead, or more probably had never
existed. And yet odd memories floated in
memories of Dr. Mohri's garden, and the sun above
the Kobe hills.

" These things come of their own accord." he said
sententiously. " and are beyond our power to regulate.
Out there all things were possible; here we are
ruled by convention and must obey its laws."

' I beg of you honourably not to apologise. As
it was with yon, so it is with me. In Kobe yon
were one of the few ; here you are but one of the
many. The glamour has faded. Your greatness
has vanished in the greater glory of more important
personages. The mistake was mine, but I bear it

" I was afraid you might have thought difleienlly.
This philosophic attitude conies as a great relief."

" You forget that I have been educated in the
school of Dr. Mohri, who is renowned for his phflo-
sophic outlook on life. Being a student of the


philosophy of every nation, he has learnt the worth-
lessness of them all. Yet out of their futilities he
has founded a system which may one day startle
the world."

" And you are his disciple ? I congratulate both
master and scholar. It is well known that all
wisdom came from the East."

" It still comes," she said.

In. spite of himself he was not a little impressed
by this interview and the manner of this strange
girl. At least he had expected tears, and, behold !
this woman regarded him with a calm which brought
the mysterious East, with all its terrific brooding,
palpably before his eyes. What was he to make of
it, of her, of that sense of the unforeseen which, like
an intangible shadow, hovered in the distance ? Had
he been a man of sentiment he might have ex-
perienced weird sensations as he looked at this girl
with her white face, her red lips, and her slanting,
blue eyes ; might almost have regarded her as the
reincarnation of some long-dead goddess of Asia,
and bowed as one does to the mystery of the un-
known. But being what he was, he congratulated
himself on thus satisfactorily solving a somewhat
intricate problem.

When he had received the letter informing him
that Dr. Mohri and his niece had taken a little
house near Richmond for the summer months, and


that they would esteem it a great honour if he
would condescend to call on them, his sensations were
none of the pleasantest ; for he had striven with
all the assiduity of a determined mind to forget both
Dr. Mohri and his niece. Indeed, he had striven,
and had more or less succeeded, 'in forgetting many
things which irked him to remember. But out
there hi the Far East that had happened which it
was not easy to forget ; and if the truth must be
told, he both hated and feared this same Dr. Mohri,
with his inscrutable smile and his beady little eyes
with their lizard-like lids.

At first he would not go. That he had not re-
turned to fulfil his promise ought surely to convince
them that he wished the past to be forgotten. Why
would not these people understand ? Marry a half-
breed ! As well go and blow his brains out. And
yet he knew he would go that he must, because
that little man with the lizard eyes was expecting
him. But he was in no mood for feminine tantrums
or Oriental pretensions. Had he been met with
recrimination he would have known how to defend
his conduct, would have brazened out the broken
promise and justified himself with vigour ; but to
be met with the unpenetrable calm of indifference
this was something he had not bargained for,
something which lessened his pride and secretly set
him seething.


" I hope you will have a pleasant stay in England,"
he ventured at last. " When do you think of
returning to Japan ? "

" That is for my uncle to say. At present he is
seriously investigating certain Western phenomena
which takes up much of his valuable time."

' You will kindly remember me to him, and
express my regret at having called when he was
from home."

" No doubt he will give you an opportunity of
personally expressing that regret."

" Then he is not from home ? "

" Oh, no ; he is here now."

Instinctively he turned and beheld a small, black-
coated figure standing in the doorway, blinking at
him with strange, inhuman eyes ; and though he
resented the sensation, he knew that this apparition
had startled him horribly.


MOHRI ! " he stammered.
The little man bowed still lower, and
then looked up over his large, steel - rimmed

" I have the honour to greet your excellency,"
he said in admirable English, and in a low, smooth
tone in which the other distinguished the accentu-
ated accent of the girl.

" This is indeed a great pleasure," said Sir Basil

" The pleasure is mine once more to behold your
illustrious countenance. Will you honourably please
to be seated ? "

" I was just going," said the baronet.
" Indeed ! Then doubly am I to be commiser-

The tone, the manner, brought back vivid pictures
of other days and other lands. The unctuous
hypocrisy of the yellow man swept over him with
sickening effect. That attitude of humility, that




offensive courtesy how he hated it all ! Boldly he
stared into the ugly little face, into those strange,
flickering eyes, to see what he could read there.
But that impassive countenance baffled him. He
might as well have studied a bundle of old parchment.

Swiftly, and in a low tone, the girl spoke in
Japanese, and though Sir Basil strained his ears,
he caught only the one word, kekkon (marriage) ;
he guessed the gist of her speech from that. The
doctor bowed gravely, listening in an attitude of
the utmost deference, but without exhibiting the
faintest sign of interest or emotion. Then he
answered in that soft, oily tone of his, and held
wide the door for her to pass through. She bowed
gravely to their honourable guest, then with equal
gravity to her weird relative, and without another
word left the room. Softly the little doctor closed
the door after her, so softly, indeed, that the very
absence of noise jarred the tense nerves of Sir Basil.

" My niece has informed me that there has been
some slight misunderstanding," cooed the doctor
in that throaty, sing-song tone of his, blinking up
at the Englishman through his big, round glasses.

" Did you think it was to be avoided ? " asked
the other sharply.

" Never for a moment," replied the doctor
promptly. " Indeed, I have never failed to realise
the possibility of such an ending, and consequently


I have always striven to prepare her for some such

" You are a wise man, Dr. Mohri : you see that
the thing would be impossible ? "

" Quite. I am not one of those who believe that
the East and the West can ever assimilate satis-
factorily. You, too, have fully realised that truth
since your return to your own people ? "

" More than I ever thought I should. Of course
you know that I have the greatest respect

" Undoubtedly," replied the little man, curbing
the other's eagerness to explain. " Yet women are
not so easily impressed by the commonsense of
things, and it would distress me exceedingly if my
niece were to take this matter seriously to heart."

" Oh," laughed the other, " I don't think you need
let the thought of that occasion you any great
concern. What your niece lacks in experience she
makes up for by her singular quality of self-possession.
In spite of the white blood in her veins she is a
thorough Asiatic, and as such impervious alike to
triumph or defeat."

" You think so ? " The little voice tinkled in
the most remarkable manner : a wheedling, coaxing
tinkle of a voice that might have emanated from the
striking of an antique bronze which had been
hidden away for centuries in a Shinto temple.
" Perhaps you are right. The East has not yet


learnt to question the profoundity of the West.
It is quite possible that my niece possesses that
singular quality with which you credit her. Cer-
tainly I have sought to instil in her the supreme
virtues of her ancestors. But in these days, when
the East and the West seem to become inextricably
mixed, it is difficult to know exactly what a woman
really thinks. You must bear with us, Sir Basil,
and attribute our many shortcomings, not to vicious
obstinacy, but to inherent misfortune."

" I am glad to see you grasp so clearly the
difficulties of the situation."

" Oh, yes, I grasp them with the greatest of ease.
They are a problem quite simple of solution if one
only approaches them in the correct manner. In
Kobe you asked me for the hand of my niece, and
I said she shall please herself, though I would rather
you both waited. Then came the sudden news of
your accession to fortune. They said that you were
wanted in England ; that it would be better if you
were to return at once. I think you agreed with
me then that when I counselled waiting I was
very wise ? "

" You were."

Sir Basil looked sharply into the impassive face
as if he would read the thought that lay behind
these words ; but beyond the blinking of the soul-
less eyes he could detect no sign which might suggest


a deeper motive. In all he said this little man was
evidently sincere, and his guest began to feel the
ground grow firmer beneath his feet. What, after
all, had he to dread ? With true oriental fatalism
these people accepted the inevitable without demur,
bowed to the will of the gods, and were content.

" Perhaps she suffered a little : it is possible.
Women are scantily endowed with a philosophic
outlook on life. Nor do they properly understand
this pride of race which plays so important a part
in the destiny of nations. We who have read and
thought deeply make many allowances for the
incertitude of fate ; but mankind, broadly speaking,
ignores circumstance and judges only by result."

The little eyes blinked up curiously. " Yes,
yes," muttered Sir Basil ; but he was not sure that
he saw the drift of these remarks, nor was he sure
that even the orator was not a victim to his own
love of voluble expression. Vanity, he knew,
assailed us in many singular forms, and these newly-
wise Japanese were obsessed by the thought of their
own importance. Personally he resented that air
of detached superiority which he seemed to trace
in the manner of the little doctor. These mystical
airs of wisdom assumed by the East had as much
foundation in reality as any other shadowy super-
stition, and this impassive baboon was as great a
fraud as the rest of his mystical brethren.


Nevertheless he could not rid himself of the
thought that in the brain of this man was much
more than his tongue expressed. Personally he
would have expressed more than was in his brain,
which is the way of the choleric European ; and
that was the wide gulf which separated the two men.
Only hi this instance he thought it better to restrain
his natural ardour, and, though the thought annoyed
him immeasurably, he was effectively conscious of
the fact that there might be wisdom in the face
of discretion.

And yet, wise as he wished to be, he strongly
resented this sense of insecurity which dominated
him against his will. Why should he pay such
deference to this ridiculous little person ? Why
should that soft-spoken, impassive, presumptuous
piece of parchment have the power to make him
feel so absurdly ill at ease ? And O Iris-san, or,
as she would have it, Miss Mayford, she also had
stung him with her indifference, made him feel that
the loss of him was a matter of the minutest concern.
Miss Mayford ! A . rather unpleasant smile played
round his lips as he showed his teeth.

" I'm afraid I offended your niece," he said, " by
calling her O Iris-san ; but of course you realise
that to me she must always be O Iris-san."

" Quite so. Always O Iris-san out there in
Nippon, where her English name might cause


confusion ; but here, in her own country, she is her
father's daughter."

" Her own country ! "

" Is not the father's country also the country of
the child ? "

" Perhaps you are right. But then you are
always right, my wise doctor."

The little man shook his head, smiling in a manner
of which Sir Basil was not altogether enamoured.
That smile was the one thing about this diminutive
Asiatic which left an uneasy doubt in the more
robust mind of the other. Anger, facial or
expletive, came well within the scope of a none
too subtle intelligence ; but this evasive quality
of the alien mind left a singular sense of in-

" Not always, I fear. Sometimes the profoundest
calculations of wisdom are destroyed by the antics
of a fool. We think, conceive, build, and in a
moment is destroyed that which has taken us years
to erect. This is the action of blind, fortuitous
chance, which no reason or foresight can combat.

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Online LibraryCarlton DaweThe girl from Nippon → online text (page 1 of 18)