HotFreeBooks.com
The Motor Maids in Fair Japan
by Katherine Stokes
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE MOTOR MAIDS IN FAIR JAPAN

BY KATHERINE STOKES

AUTHOR OF "THE MOTOR MAIDS' SCHOOL DAYS," "THE MOTOR MAIDS BY PALM AND PINE," "THE MOTOR MAIDS ACROSS THE CONTINENT," "THE MOTOR MAIDS BY ROSE, SHAMROCK AND THISTLE" ETC.

1913



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. OFF FOR JAPAN

II. TEA IN THE GARDEN

III. SHOPPING IN JINRIKSHAS

IV. THE GARDEN IN THE RAIN

V. IN THE LIBRARY

VI. CHERRY BLOSSOMS

VII. A BAD QUARTER OF AN HOUR

VIII. THE COMPASSIONATE GOD, JIZU

IX. A BIRTHDAY PARTY

X. IN THE DARK

XI. THE COMET DISGUISED

XII. A THEATER PARTY

XIII. A FALLING OUT

XIV. A LETTER THAT CAME, THOUGH IT WAS NEVER SENT

XV. THE ANCIENT CITY OF SLEEP

XVI. THE STORM KING

XVII. A VISIT OF CEREMONY

XVIII. THE MAGNET AND THE SILVER CHURN

XIX. FATHER AND DAUGHTER

XX. THE TYPHOON

XXI. CONUNDRUMS AND ANSWERS

XXII. GOOD BYE, SUMMER



CHAPTER I.

OFF FOR JAPAN.

"The Motor Maids are off again," announced the West Haven Courier one morning, as if every citizen in the gray old town on the coast was not already well aware of it.

The four famous travelers and their chaperone, Miss Helen Campbell, were always off somewhere in the red motor car. If they were not making a voyage to England with the "Comet" stored in the hold of the ship for immediate use on arrival, or taking perilous journeys across the American continent in the faithful car, they were making excursions to Shell Island or Seven League Island, or down the coast to the Sailors' Inn.

"Where is it to be this time, Nancy-Bell?" Captain Brown had asked his daughter when she had broken the news to him that she must give up the spring term at High School for something far more educational than mere books. Perhaps the sea captain had intended to be stern when he asked that question; but Nancy had her own peculiar methods of dispelling sternness. A beaming anticipatory smile irradiated her face and scattered parental disapproval even as the warm rays of the sun scatter the morning mists.

"Japan!" she announced solemnly; and Captain Brown, who himself had made voyages to Japan in his youth, pricked up his ears like an old hunting dog when he hears the call of the pack. The name of High School faded from his memory. It was the high seas he was thinking of—the great desert of waters, the fresh salt breeze and the foam track left by the little ship as it cut through the waves.

Without a word, he opened an old sea chest and drew out an atlas and chart. Nancy blinked her eyes and smiled happily. She wondered if the other girls were having as easy a time in breaking the amazing news to their parents. Would Elinor Butler's father and mother consent to her taking this long journey? Would Mrs. Price be willing to part with Mary for many, many months while that young person journeyed to the other side of the world? Captain Brown settled himself on a settee in front of the crackling driftwood fire and Nancy seated herself beside him.

"You see, it's this way, father," she began, while Captain Brown turned the leaves of the atlas with reverent fingers. "Billie Campbell's father is a great engineer—"

"I've known him since he was a boy, child," interrupted the Captain.

"He's been invited by the Japanese government to go to Japan on some consulting work, and he says he can't live without Billie another summer, and Billie says she can't exist without us; so Mr. Campbell is to take a house in Tokyo and we are all to go. Mr. Ignatius Donahue is going to take us across to San Francisco in his private car. He says it's a very small return for something we did for him once, and the end of the story is that we are to sail for Japan in two weeks. Isn't that delightful, Captain Brown?" she added, giving her father a tight hug and kissing him on the end of his nose. "And aren't you overjoyed for your little daughter to have such an opportunity to see the other side of the world?"

The Captain returned the kiss with good measure and resumed his study of the maps and charts.

"You'll be a member of the Royal Geographical Society next," he observed.

"It's all happened because Billie Campbell has a mole on the sole of her left foot and a Gypsy once told her that was the mark of the wanderer."

"But you and Elinor and Mary haven't any moles on the soles of your feet, have you?"

"No, and neither has Miss Campbell."

"It's just as well," commented the Captain. "One is enough in the party if it's going to take my little daughter away from her home most of the time."

"Not most of the time, father," protested Nancy. "Only to Palm Beach and across the Continent and to England—"

At this dangerous turn in the conversation, the door was pushed open and Billie Campbell rushed in, followed by Elinor Butler and Mary Price.

"It's all settled, Nancy-Bell," she cried. "Cousin Helen has consented and the girls can go. Everything depends on you, now—"

"We are just studying the map," answered Nancy quickly, with a demure smile.

Immediately the other girls seated themselves in a circle about the sea captain and his charts, and Mrs. Brown, whose consent had already been gained, presently appeared with a large platter of cookies.

So it was that the Motor Maids and Miss Campbell sailed through the Golden Gate of San Francisco harbor one morning en route for the island empire of Japan. On the long and sometimes tedious voyage we will not dwell; nor shall we pause until we have left them on the piazza of their new home in Tokyo, while seven Japanese servants are making profound obeisances at the entrance and their attendant families, including three grandmothers and five funny little children, bob and bow in the rear of this formidable company.

Billie, who had scarcely left her father's side since the joyful moment of their reunion, hung on his arm and smiled up into his face inquiringly; while Miss Helen Campbell, his cousin, exclaimed:

"Dear me, Duncan; I thought we were to stay at a private house—not a hotel."

Mr. Campbell, from his mysterious dwelling places in far distant lands, had made so many things possible for the Motor Maids that Billie's three friends had come to regard him as a kind of powerful spirit who had only to will things to happen and they happened. At first they were rather shy of the real Mr. Campbell, big and strong and splendid, the very image of his daughter, Billie, if she had grown half a foot and cropped her light brown hair closely all over her head.

"But, Cousin Helen, this is a private house," answered this human presentment of the good spirit, a subdued humor lighting his gray eyes, exactly as they had seen Billie's eyes kindle hundreds of times. "This is your very own villa and this is your staff of domestics," he added, indicating the regiment of servants who again bowed low like the chorus in a comic opera. "You are to regard yourself as queen of this little realm," he went on, pointing to the charming grounds and garden surrounding the house, "and you are to be in absolute command. Nellie and Nannie and Mollie and Billie are to be your maids of honor and I'll be general factotum and protector. As for the staff," he continued in a whisper, "their combined wages for one month amount to about one good servant's hire at home."

The maid in the front of the cohort now stepped forth. She was much older than the others; her hair was short and her blue cotton robe seemed severe and plain in comparison to the gay colored kimonos of the younger maids.

"This is our housekeeper and cook, O'Haru San," announced Mr. Campbell. "I shall leave you in her charge now and keep an appointment."

So saying, Mr. Duncan Campbell kissed his daughter, smiled delightfully on the company in general and hastened down the walk to the road, for the villa was in the suburbs of Tokyo.

"Will honorable ladies enter humble, small house," said O'Haru making an obeisance.

But before they could move an inch, the maids were at their feet deftly unfastening their shoes.

"What in the world are they doing?" demanded Miss Campbell.

"One never wears shoes in the house, Cousin, don't you remember? Papa told us so this morning," answered Billie slipping her feet into the straw sandals provided.

"Perfect nonsense!" exclaimed Miss Campbell, shuffling into the hall in her loose footgear. "I suppose I shall be expected to sit on the floor and eat my meals on a door mat," she complained, "and that I positively will not do. My old joints are far too stiff to be doubled up like a pair of nut crackers."

The girls giggled and the four little Japanese maids giggled, too; not that they understood a word of the language, but good humor is the keynote of the Japanese character and strangers are treated with a sympathetic courtesy and hospitality unequaled in any other country.

However, Miss Campbell's fears were immediately set at rest, for the long, low-ceiled drawing-room of the villa was furnished in European fashion with plenty of comfortable arm-chairs and sofas made of bamboo. The floors were covered with thick soft mats and the front walls facing the piazza were really sliding panels covered with opaque paper through which the light cast a soft mellow luster. As a matter of fact, Dr. and Mrs. Spears, the owners of the villa, had kept it as Japanese as possible without interfering with their foreign ideas of comfort. The only ornaments were several beautiful scrolls and screens and a few vases.

Instead of sitting down quietly and being served to tea, which was evidently the next duty expected of them by these formal domestics, Billie and her friends rushed from one room to another in a state of eager curiosity. They poked their inquisitive little noses into the charming bedrooms and even peeped into the mysterious kitchen quarters where O'Haru reigned supreme,

"It's Japanese enough to be pretty and American enough to be comfortable," observed Nancy, arranging her curls at one of the bedroom mirrors.

"I don't know why you call it 'American,'" objected Billie. "I think you should say 'international,' since beds may be imported from Turkey, Russia, Prussia, England, or France, to say nothing of Germany and Italy."

"Well, no matter what nationality it is, I'm glad I'm going to sleep on a bed instead of on the floor as Japanese girls do, with a little bench for a pillow to keep from rumpling my hair."

Just then a Japanese girl appeared in the doorway. She was quite young, perhaps seventeen, perhaps older, and enchantingly pretty.

"Her eyes are like stewed prunes," wrote Nancy to her mother that night, "rich and black and luscious. Her hair is as black as father's ebony box and quite as shiny; her skin smooth and creamy. She has a little rosebud mouth and a small straight nose and she wore the most beautiful kimono, all blue with a cerise sash or obi, as it is called. Her name is 'Onoye' and she's the daughter of the cook, O'Haru. She is just one of the maids in the house, I suppose, but she seems better class and she speaks a little English. Her mother adores her and I suppose Onoye is being spoiled Japanese fashion, which is very different from American fashion. Japanese girls are the most unselfish, uncomplaining, considerate, everything-that-I'm-not little souls I ever saw."

Nancy's description of O'Haru's daughter was not exaggerated in the least. Little Onoye, pausing timidly at the entrance to their bedroom, was a vision to charm the eye. She blushed, smiled deprecatingly and hung her head.

"Will honorable ladies be pleased to employ humble refreshment?" she announced in a funny high voice with a prim, precise accent.

The girls would have laughed if it had not been impolite. All their impulsive actions must be checked in this land of perfect manners, or they would certainly appear rude and rough.

"We should be most pleased and happy, I am sure," answered Billie, feeling that she must not be outdone in lofty expression, "But what excellent English you speak. Do you live here, too?"

Onoye looked up and her face brightened.

"I make studying of American language one time," she said.

"And are we to have tea now?" asked Nancy as the Japanese girl backed out of the room.

"If pleasingly to gracious ladies," she answered.

With bobs and bows, she led the way to a summer house in the garden where the others were already installed in comfortable chairs.

"These are certainly the most hospitable servants I ever saw," Miss Campbell was saying to Mary and Elinor. "They make one feel like a guest in one's own house. I am sure if I lived here long, I should learn to meet myself at the front door and invite myself to take refreshments in the garden."

The girls smiled lazily. They seemed somehow to have entered into a land of unrealities and dream pictures. The bamboo and rice paper villa was a doll's house, the lovely garden, a stage setting and the picturesque band of Japanese servants gliding noiselessly about, the chorus.

And while they talked and sipped their tea, a fat, decrepit pug dog came slowly toward them down the walk on spindle legs. As the aged creature approached, O'Haru paused and made it a profound bow. The girls choked and sputtered in their tea and Miss Campbell laughed outright. They learned afterwards that this venerable animal was "Nedda," the Spears' pet pug, eighteen years old, and that every servant attached to the household regarded her with great respect because they believed that she was really Mr. Spears' grandmother.

Old Nedda was very pleased to meet with a little human company of her own social status. She wagged her twisted tail cordially and when she heard American voices speaking the language of her youth, she gave a little expressive whine of pleasure.

"You poor old lonesome thing," exclaimed the compassionate Billie.

Just then a maid hurried up with a cushion. She had evidently been detailed to look after Nedda in the absence of the mistress of the house; to feed and bathe her; to see that she was covered up at night; to guard against her sleeping in damp places. Nedda stepped gingerly on the mat, moved round and round in a circle several times, even as the most primitive dog might do, and settled herself in a round heap for her late afternoon siesta. Then O'Sudzu, the little maid, spread a wadded silk cover over the pampered old Nedda and departed, bowing again.

They were still laughing over this absurd incident when Mr. Campbell appeared on the walk with two companions. One was a good looking young man about twenty-one and the other a Japanese in European clothes, and very handsome, the girls thought him, in spite of his Oriental features and dark complexion.



CHAPTER II.

TEA IN THE GARDEN.

Nancy Brown instinctively put her hand to her curls when she saw the three approach. Elinor patted her coronet braids. Mary blushed and shrank timidly into the depths of her chair, for she was very shy; and Billie, whose candid nature had no coquetry, looked calmly interested and remarked:

"Dear old Papa, there he is with two visitors."

"I'm not at all surprised," said Miss Campbell smiling, "your Papa is one of the most general inviters I ever knew. He always loved to entertain."

"How do my five beautiful American ladies feel?" called her jovial relation as he entered the summer house. "Rested with humble refreshment in poor modest little house?"

"Yes, indeed, honorable father," answered Billie laughing.

"I want you to meet my two friends, Nicholas Grimm and Yoritomo Ito," went on Mr. Campbell.

Nicholas Grimm was apparently a young Dutchman. His figure was well set up and stocky, his features regular, his mouth firm with a good square chin, and his clear dark eyes under bushy brows gazed on the world with a frank, good-humored expression.

Yoritomo Ito was the best type of Japanese, lithe and straight, rather tall, with shrewd brown eyes and a smile that always hovered about his shapely mouth. He was immaculately neat and his skin looked as if it might have been scrubbed and then polished. Not a speck of dust marred his spotless linen or his dark blue suit.

"Mr. Ito, will you sit on a mat on the floor or in a chair?" asked Miss Campbell when the introductions were over.

"Oh, he can be Japanese or American, whichever suits him," interrupted Mr. Campbell, "though I'll wager you didn't do much floor sitting when you went to Harvard, did you, Yoritomo?"

The Japanese's smile broadened somewhat when he answered with a slight accent:

"American floors are not intended to be used as chairs."

"Meaning, Mr. Ito, that the American floors are not as entirely free from dust as the Japanese floors?" inquired Miss Campbell.

"Oh, no, Madam," protested the Japanese, horrified at this implication of rudeness but unable to dispel the impression nevertheless.

"I grant you that our houses are not as clean as yours," went on Miss Campbell, "but you see we haven't time to remove our shoes whenever we enter the house, and then we have so much furniture and so many hangings to catch the dust. I don't see how you Japanese can resist the collecting habit in a country where there are so many beautiful things to collect."

"My dear Cousin, they are as great collectors as anybody, only they keep their valuables stored in a fire-proof house—what is it you call it, Yoritomo?" asked Mr. Campbell.

"It is called in English language a 'go-down.'"

"So it is, a 'go-down.' It always reminds me of a steep grade down the side of a mountain. Here they keep all their best clothes and vases and ornaments and only bring out one vase and one scroll at a time. When they grow tired of those things, they are stored and something else is brought out, so that there is perpetual variety in the Japanese home."

"I should hate to have my best clothes locked in a fire-proof house," announced Nancy. "Suppose one wanted to make a quick change and the key was mislaid."

"Ah, Miss Nancy," laughed Mr. Campbell, "it is not difficult to see where your heart lies."

Yoritomo looked at Nancy with polite though evident interest which gradually developed into a cautiously veiled admiration. He was about to speak, when he was interrupted by the troop of little maids headed by Onoye with tea and refreshments. It was Onoye who served the young Japanese. First she bowed before him until her forehead almost touched the ground. Then she placed a mat for him to sit upon and a low lacquer tray containing tea and rice cakes. But Yoritomo, ignoring these humble services, sat himself in a chair next to Nancy and little Onoye hastened to rectify her mistake.

In the meantime, Nicholas Grimm was talking to Billie and Elinor.

"Are you from Holland?" they asked him.

"Several hundreds of years ago I was. Kinterhook, New York, has been my home for the last generation."

"Good," exclaimed Billie, "I thought you were a Dutchman and it's lots nicer to be an American, don't you think so?"

"I wouldn't care to change," answered Nicholas solemnly. "America's good enough for me."

"Are you one of the engineers on the new railroad they are building?" asked Billie.

"I'm going to lay a few ties," he answered.

"Are you going to build those little funny openwork bridges over all the streams?" demanded Elinor.

"Something like it. Everything is picturesque in this country from beggars to railroad bridges, and, speaking of bridges, have you explored the garden yet? There's a ripping little bridge down there. When Mrs. Spears gave garden parties that was one of the strolling places."

"Why, we didn't know we had such a pretentious garden!" exclaimed Billie. "Papa wrote that he had sublet a suburban villa near Tokyo with an acre or so of ground around it."

"An acre or so?" repeated Nicholas. "That's an estate to them. They can put as much into an acre without crowding it as other people put into ten. Perhaps you would like to explore the garden if you have had enough honorable refreshment?"

"Oh, yes," they answered eagerly, and drawing shy little Mary from the depths of her chair, Billie followed Elinor and the new friend down the garden path.

"Would you be interested in seeing the garden?" asked Yoritomo of Nancy.

"I might be induced," she answered drooping her long eyelashes, to the great amusement of Mr. Campbell, and they also wandered off, leaving the two older people for a cousinly chat.

The girls were amazed at the beauty of the garden back of the house. Against the high wall surrounding the small estate clustered masses of flowers. Everywhere were little winding paths and an occasional grove of stunted pines that gave the impression of great age. It was in exquisite order, the green turf clipped to the smoothness of a velvet carpet. In all the garden there was not a leaf nor twig out of place. Back of the house the land sloped slightly and at the foot of this gentle depression trickled a musical little stream. Here was a stone lantern five feet high, also the miniature curved bridge; and to make the picture complete in every Japanese detail, leaning pensively on the railing of the bridge, stood Onoye. She herself might have been a bright colored flower in her gay kimono and sash.

Only Mary noticed that the little Japanese was weeping softly. When she saw the Americans coming, she hastily withdrew down one of the paths and in another moment had disappeared entirely.

"Poor little thing," thought Mary, "perhaps her mother has been scolding her."

Perhaps she had, indeed, for O'Haru, the housekeeper, presently appeared looking for her daughter. Shading her eyes with one hand, she scanned the vistas of the garden.

Mary left the group of friends and hastened down the path.

"Are you looking for Onoye?" she asked the old woman.

"Yes, honorable lady," answered O'Haru, trying to replace her uneasy and troubled expression with a pleasant smile.

"She was on the bridge a moment ago. Is she unhappy? I think she was crying."

"Have greatly kindness to forgive humble Japanese girl," answered O'Haru in a low voice.

Mary thought the housekeeper was going to say more and no doubt, if she had poured out her confidences at that time, many later misunderstandings might have been averted. As it was, they were interrupted by Nancy and her Japanese cavalier who turned the curve of the path and came full upon them quite suddenly.

Instead of hastening away as quietly as possible, O'Haru immediately fell on her knees and began speaking in a low voice in her own language.

There was nothing unusual in this. All the servants seemed to be in a continual state of "nervous prostration," as Billie expressed it, and Nancy, smiling and dimpling, followed Yoritomo down the path without thinking any more about O'Haru.

"What was she saying, Mr. Ito?" she asked.

"You might accuse me of being a flatterer if I told you," he answered.

"But I don't understand."

"I mean she was speaking of you. 'The honorable young American lady,'" she said, "'is very beautiful.'"

Nancy was flattered, as who would not have been over this frank compliment. A rosy flush spread over her face and the dimple deepened in her cheek.

"You see, you are an unusual type in this country, Miss Brown," continued the Japanese. "You must expect to arouse comment wherever you go. Hair with so much color to it, like polished copper and curling, too, causes much admiration. You are very different from the Japanese."

Again Nancy felt flattered.

"I really believe I am rather pretty," she thought. What she said was: "You are very kind, Mr. Ito, but I am sure I think the Japanese girls are just as pretty as American girls. Little Onoye, our maid, is charming. She is a perfect picture."

For the rest of the day, however, vain Nancy was enveloped in a rosy cloud of self-satisfaction. It was pleasing to be admired and still more pleasing to feel that the admiration was justified.

The truth is, that admiration was quite as stimulating to Nancy as it is to the rest of us, and when she realized that the young Japanese had fallen an instant victim to her charms, she felt some pardonable pride in the power of her blue eyes and bright curls.

By this time the others had returned to the pagoda-like summer house.

"Come, Nancy, dear," floated Miss Campbell's voice across the garden. She was too careful a chaperone to permit one of her girls to wander at dusk with a strange young Japanese.

Nancy quickened her pace. Nevertheless, she felt a little impatient with all these restrictions.

"I am almost eighteen. I suppose I might be trusted to look after myself occasionally," she thought with some irritation.

"May I not see you again to-morrow, Miss Brown?" Yoritomo was asking.

"I am afraid you'll have to ask Miss Campbell."

"It is now almost the American dinner hour," he went on thoughtfully, looking at his watch. "If I should be strolling to-morrow at this time down by the bridge, it would be very pleasant. We could have a few words together."

"But—" began Nancy, and the voices of her friends interrupted her.

They had paused near a great bush of azaleas in full bloom. Almost over their heads the silver crescent of the new moon hung poised like a fairy scimitar. It was exquisite and unreal. Nancy felt somehow out of place in the lovely picture, while the young Japanese, standing intense and rigid beside her, was as much a part of the Oriental garden as the stone lantern and the fragrant spice bush near the path. Even his blue serge European suit seemed to have lost its values in the deepening shadows.

"If I come every day to see you, there would be great comment," he said in a low voice. "But often I shall wait on the bridge about this time."

It was only a little time ago that Nancy's mother had lengthened her little daughter's skirts from shoe tops to ankles. The line of the old hem was still noticeable in some of her summer frocks. Just six months since, Nancy had tucked up the bunch of curls into a Psyche knot and transformed the ribbon bow into a velvet bandeau. Since she had been old enough to go to parties she had had boy admirers who had said sweet things to her. But this was quite different, and Nancy, almost eighteen, and capable of looking after herself, felt suddenly frightened.

"I—I must hurry," she said, and turning she ran as fast as she could up the garden path nearly colliding with Billie and Mary who had come to look for her.

"Why, Nancy, you are chasing along like a scared rabbit," cried Billie. "Has anything happened to you?"

"Oh, no. I thought we had better run because it was so late," she answered breathlessly, while Yoritomo, following close behind, calm and collected, bade them a formal good night and hurried over to the summer house to pay his respects to Miss Campbell and her cousin.

Nancy decided that night not to tell Billie, her intimate confidante, what the Japanese had said to her. The walls were too thin, she thought. Besides, she was curious to know if Yoritomo would be on the bridge the next afternoon. Just how she intended to find this out, she had not then decided.



CHAPTER III.

SHOPPING IN JINRIKSHAS.

"I feel very much like a baby in a baby carriage," observed Miss Helen Campbell as Mr. Campbell almost lifted her into the graceful little two-wheeled vehicle. "And is that poor soul going to turn into a horse and pull me?" she demanded.

"You aren't such a heavy load," replied her cousin. "I doubt if the S. P. C. A. would get excited over it. I am only sorry you have to be alone, but I suppose those four inseparables are paired off as usual. Billie with Nancy and Mary with Elinor."

"Indeed, I much prefer to be alone," said Miss Campbell. "Then I can hold on with both hands in case I am upset backwards."

"You never will be. They will treat you like spun glass. You will take good care of the ladies, Komatsu," he said to the 'riksha man who, leaning against the garden wall, resembled a bronze figure, brown and muscular.

"Gracious lady of fearing not need," answered Komatsu with an ingratiating smile as he stepped between the shafts of the 'riksha.

"It is impossible to tell how much English they know and how much they don't know," Mr. Campbell confided to his relative in a low voice. "They never ask twice and they always make some kind of an out at a reply. But I think, until I can go with you, it is safer for you to go in the 'rikshas. The common people here aren't used to motor cars and there are still some fanatics in Japan, you know, who are opposed to every sort of progress and the invasion of foreign customs."

"Good-by, Papa," called Billie, "I do wish you were not a working man so that you could go with us."

"I am sorry I must be a laborer in the vineyards, Miss Wilhelmina," he answered, "but it's only that you may ride in a fine carriage and wear a silk robe."

"Silk robe?" repeated Miss Campbell. "That's just what I want. Komatsu, we wish to go to a silk shop," she ordered the man-servant, speaking very loud and distinctly as if she were addressing a deaf person.

Komatsu grinned amiably.

"I bring honorable lady to fine shop with quickness."

The next moment the three vehicles were flying along the road drawn by three tireless individuals, whose good nature, like the widow's cruse, knew no diminishing.

It would be difficult to find in all the world a more beautiful city than Tokyo at this season of the year. It is really a city of gardens and everywhere are palms and pines and waving willow trees, magnificent arbors of wisteria not yet in bloom and splendid azalea bushes bursting into masses of white and pink blossoms. Even the humblest brown cottage has its bit of garden, for the love of flowers is innate in every Japanese nature: it is a national trait.

"There is no prospect that isn't graceful and picturesque," thought Mary watching an old fruit and vegetable man in front of them. He wore a dull blue cotton tunic much faded but still a heavenly color, and on either end of a pole resting on his shoulders was a flat brown basket filled with small oranges and vegetables of an unknown variety. Behind him walked an old woman in a dull brown and purple dress with an orange sash around her waist. Her back was burdened with a great bundle of bark. The sun was hot and many of the wayfarers carried paper umbrellas. Most of the women had babies swung on their backs and sometimes shiny little black eyes peeped out from the front of a kimono, the mother's arms being engaged in supporting another burden on her back.

"It seems to me the women work very hard in this country," remarked Elinor severely, pointing to a cart filled with charcoal propelled by two women and a man. One of the women had a baby on her back and another child holding to her skirts.

"They do," said Mary. "Even the women in the upper classes have to work hard. Don't you remember what the missionary on the steamer told us? The wife is always the first one up in the household no matter how many servants she has. She has to bring her mean old mother-in-law a cup of tea and get out her husband's clothes. The mother-in-law has had to work so hard when she was a daughter-in-law that she takes it out on her son's wife later."

"I'd like to see an American wife ridden by her mother-in-law that way," broke in Elinor indignantly.

"But then the Japanese daughter-in-law's turn comes later," said Mary laughing, "when she gets to be a mother-in-law. So it's all nicely balanced."

But the streets were too interesting to pursue the subject of mother-in-law any further. They were passing a row of open-fronted shops on the edges of which customers were squatted looking at materials while the proprietor bobbed and smiled and dickered over his bargains. Red and yellow banners hung in a row from the roof of the shop, the gay colored hieroglyphics on them indicating what manner of goods were displayed within.

"Here's a nice little silk shop, Komatsu. Let us stop here," called Miss Campbell.

But Komatsu only grinned over his shoulder and called:

"Too littleness for gracious big lady."

"But I like the looks of this place, Komatsu," said the gracious big lady helplessly.

However Komatsu had his own ideas of obedience and he trotted on, never pausing until he reached a large silk store thronged with clerks and customers.

Here all the 'rikshas drew up and the girls alighted with Miss Campbell, who was a little red in the face but determined to overlook the annoyance of orders disregarded.

The front of the store was screened from the street by dark blue cotton curtains behind which was a roofed platform carpeted with matting. Here sat a group of clerks, each with his soroban or adding machine at his side. Little Japanese boys, their shoulders loaded with bales of rich materials, staggered about, and through the open doors of the fire-proof warehouse they caught glimpses of costly stuffs stored away. An obsequious clerk who spoke excellent English came forward and presently, when their eyes became accustomed to the busy, brilliantly colored scene, they began to examine silk materials on their own account. Miss Campbell made each of her charges a present of crpe de chine and still was not very much out of pocket. As they were about to leave, they were followed by a chorus of shouts.

"What in the world is the matter?" demanded Miss Campbell uneasily. "Has the place caught fire, or didn't we give the right amount of change?"

"No, madam," answered the polite English-speaking clerk, who had accompanied her to the sidewalk. "They are saying farewell. In English it would mean, 'Thanks for your continued favors.'"

"Don't mention it," said Miss Campbell. "We'll come again."

The clerk smiled and bowed formally and once more they whirled away in their 'rikshas. They visited many shops in Tokyo that morning. It was like a fascinating bazaar and it seemed impossible to tear themselves away, although Komatsu kept always close to their elbows and several times observed:

"Muchly more time. Come again."

At last, just as an ominous mass of black clouds had spread itself over the heavens, against which the brilliant colors of the signs and the people's clothes stood out in bold relief, they started for home. But on the outskirts of the city great drops of rain pelted them in the face, the advance scouts of a tremendous downpour.

"Oh, Komatsu, we will ruin our clothes," cried Miss Campbell in alarm. "You must take us somewhere until the rain is over."

They were passing the high walls of a garden, the gate of which stood open. Without an instant's hesitation Komatsu turned in and the three 'rikshas raced up a broad walk toward a Japanese house at the end. Several smiling hospitable persons whom they took to be servants ran out with large umbrellas made of oiled paper and protected the five ladies, who hurried unceremoniously into the house just as the heavens opened and the rain came down in bucketfuls.

Three Japanese ladies, seated on the floor drinking tea, rose quickly and made low formal bows. The five refugees from the storm returned the bows with some bewilderment.

"I do hope you will pardon this intrusion," Miss Campbell found herself saying. "The storm was so sudden and terrible, we fled to the nearest house."

One of the little Japanese ladies bowed. She was evidently the mistress of the house, but she spoke no English.

Miss Campbell pointed outside to the rain and made expressive signs indicative of haste. It was really like being in a deaf and dumb asylum. Then the little lady smiled again and bowed again, and the others bowed.

"Good heavens, Billie, what am I to do? Must I continue to smile and bob and bow forever? Do come to my rescue!"

But the hospitable hostess now hurried from the room and presently reappeared followed by her maids, each of whom carried a little lacquered table. It was indicated that the American guests would confer a favor if they would seat themselves.

"I've never sat on the floor in my life," complained Miss Campbell in a low voice. "It will kill me. I am certain it will displace a ligament."

"You'll just have to, Cousin. Try sitting on your feet. That's the way they do."

"I think tailor-fashion would be easier," answered the poor lady. "Don't help me. They might take it for rudeness. Everything is bad manners in this country."

Crossing her feet, she slid slowly to the floor. The visitors were promptly served with delicious tea, rice cakes, candied fruits and other confections molded and colored like the flowers in season.

Certainly that was one of the most silent and ceremonious tea parties ever given. It was all dumb show, but the manners of the three Japanese ladies were exquisite. While this excruciatingly polite scene transpired, there raged such a storm of wind and rain that at each moment they feared the fragile bamboo and rice paper abode would be blown from its slight foundations.

"They won't lose much if it's blown away," thought Billie. "There's not a stick of furniture to be seen except a screen."

In one corner of the room was a splendid vase almost as tall as she was, and on the wall hung a scroll showing two women gathering cherry blossoms. On the floor were soft mats fitted closely together.

Suddenly Billie blushed scarlet.

"Oh, Cousin Helen," she exclaimed. "We forgot to take off our shoes."

"Don't speak to me," answered her relation. "My legs have gone to sleep and I have lost the power to move them. I am in an agony of pain."

At this moment a figure darkened the doorway. The three Japanese women rose and bowed low and the servants made obeisances. The five Americans were amazed to recognize their friend of yesterday, Yoritomo Ito. He was quite as amazed as they were, although he did not show it except by the flick of an eyelash, because no well-bred Japanese ever shows surprise.

"How do you do, Mr. Ito?" cried Miss Campbell. "Is it possible that this is your house we have broken into so rudely?"

It was indeed Mr. Ito's home, and, the three ladies were his mother, his aunt and his sister.

"It is a great pleasure, I am sure, that you have found refuge in my home. I trust they have served you well."

Then he spoke rapidly in Japanese to his mother, who smiled and clasped her hands with joy, as if heaven could not have bestowed a greater gift than the privilege to entertain these delightful foreigners.

"And are you the head of the family, Mr. Ito?" asked Miss Campbell.

"No, my father takes first place. He is a tea merchant in Tokyo. I have also a younger brother who works with him. He did not wish to go to America with me."

At this moment a human doll baby toddled into the room. His round little head was bald except for a thick mat of hair on top. His beady black eyes gleamed like polished glass. He wore a dark red kimono and his feet and legs were bare.

"Oh, the darling," cried Mary whose love of children overcame any shyness she might feel before strangers. The three Japanese were pleased at the attention the little person created. The girls gathered around him in a circle while he stood perfectly still regarding them curiously, as if they were some new strange birds which had dropped into his room from the skies.

Yoritomo also was pleased. He took the little fellow's hand in his and led him from one to another while his relatives stood in a beaming row.

Children are called "treasure-flowers" in Japan, and are petted and spoiled quite as much as American children.

"What a cunning little baby brother, Mr. Ito," said Nancy. "What is his name?"

"Kenkyo," answered Yoritomo. Suddenly he turned and spoke to one of the women and the "treasure-flower" was led from the room.

"Oh, don't send him away," objected Miss Campbell. "I haven't had half a chance to see him yet."

"He is not dressed to see distinguished visitors," answered Yoritomo, quickly. "My mother would like to show you some of her embroidery if you would care to see it."

So the subject of little Kenkyo was dropped and Madame Ito, hurrying away, returned in a moment with an armful of linen and silk on which she had worked the most wonderful floral designs.

In the meantime, the faithful 'riksha man, Komatsu, had trotted all the way through floods of rain to the Campbell villa half a mile distant, and now returned in company with O'Haru. Between them they carried a covered basket containing five mackintoshes, five pairs of overshoes and five umbrellas.

Komatsu was very angry with O'Haru. He explained to Miss Campbell:

"I not wish, but she coming without not wish."

He pointed accusingly at the sad old face. O'Haru, dripping and imperturbable, stood on the piazza near the entrance to the villa.

"That was very good of you, O'Haru; we appreciate your devotion," said Miss Campbell, but the housekeeper did not appear to grasp all this fine English. She seemed to be taking in every detail of the room and its occupants. Nobody took any notice of her. All the ladies and the servants were engaged in helping the guests on with their rain coats and overshoes. Mme. Ito insisted on doing up their hats in paper bundles.

In the midst of a great deal of leave-taking and much smiling and bowing, Yoritomo found time to say to Nancy:

"You see, chance has favored me to-day. The rain which kept me away from the bridge has brought you to my home."

Nancy blushed in spite of her efforts not to. She felt half pleased and half frightened at the earnest manner of the young Japanese. He was undeniably handsome and graceful, with a self-possession she had never seen equaled. Just then a dark figure darted across the floor so swiftly that it was like a flash of brown wings in the air. There was a low exclamation from the ladies, a bird-like chatter from the servants, and for one brief moment the surprised Americans beheld old O'Haru on her knees before little Kenkyo in the act of touching her forehead to the floor. She drew a beautiful, bright-colored toy from her bosom and gave it to the solemn-eyed little boy. Then, bowing again with extreme reverence, she rose and left the house. When they next saw her she was swinging along in the rain on her wooden clogs. Miss Campbell made Komatsu stop the 'riksha and invited her to climb in, but she refused politely but firmly.

"Extraordinary creature," exclaimed Miss Campbell, but Komatsu could offer no explanation.



CHAPTER IV.

THE GARDEN IN THE RAIN.

For three interminable days the rain poured down uninterruptedly. The floodgates of heaven had opened and it seemed as though they would never close again. The all-pervading dampness and chill brought illness to the Campbell household of a kind not to be healed by medicine. Homesickness it was, and it spread rapidly like a contagious disease. Only one member of the party of Americans was not afflicted and that was Mr. Campbell, who had lived in many climates and countries and was accustomed to seasons of rain and wet. Moreover, as he himself had said, he had no home to be sick for. He felt a supreme content in the thought of having his daughter with him and no amount of rain could chill his enthusiasm.

Miss Campbell took to her bed with an attack of rheumatism, brought on, she insisted, from having sat on the floor at the home of Mme. Ito. Mary began a diary of her experiences in Japan and had several private weeping spells entirely due to the unsurpassed dismalness of the weather. Billie endeavored to throw off her depression by giving Onoye lessons in English in exchange for lessons in Japanese, and in the course of these lessons she learned a little of Onoye's history. O'Haru had been obliged to go to work after the death of her husband who had lost all his property in a fire. Onoye's only brother had been killed in great "bat-tel." The family had had "muchly unfortune. All money gone—nothing."

At the conclusion of this sad story told mostly by expressive gestures and queerly chosen words, Onoye smiled sweetly. That is the only polite thing for a well brought up Japanese girl to do even when her own misfortunes are the subject of the conversation.

"What a shame," Billie exclaimed sympathetically. "I should think you would learn something, some trade, I mean, Onoye. You are much too clever to be a housemaid. But I suppose you will marry. I hear there are no old maids in Japan."

Onoye shook her head and smiled sadly. Perhaps she did not understand Billie's remark because she did not reply.

"Old maid, Onoye, is one who never marries," explained Nancy at the dressing table arranging her hair.

"Ah, Komatsu old maid. He not marry."

"No, no, Komatsu is a man," said Billie trying not to laugh. "Old maid is a woman who has no husband, like Miss Campbell."

"Old maid," repeated Onoye, and because of what happened that very evening, it was evident that the retentive Japanese memory had not lost the words.

In the afternoon there came a characteristic note from Mr. Campbell to his cousin.

"Tell O'Haru to put on the big pot and the little," it ran, "and to kill the fatted calf. I am going to cheer up my gloomy household by bringing four men home to dinner. If it were not for these flimsy little card houses, I would suggest a dance afterwards, but I couldn't answer for the walls and roof if two young Americans danced a two-step in the parlor."

"I am sure a two-step is no rougher than one of these storms of wind and rain," observed Miss Campbell, feeling a sudden loyalty toward everything American, including dances.

O'Haru was informed of the party and the house became at once a beehive of activity. Several of the little maids, without being told, took down all the dresses in the wardrobes and began drying them out with square boxes of red embers.

"I'd like to be done the same way," remarked Miss Campbell. "I think I am just as mildewed as my clothes."

The kitchen quarters of the house fairly vibrated with the stir of preparation. In the living rooms the air was dried with small charcoal stoves. The gardener was seen bringing in armfuls of flowers; and with all the activity and preparation, there was no noise, not a sound. It was positively uncanny.

Late in the afternoon Nancy slipped away from this noiseless busy scene and tripped demurely down a garden path toward the bridge. She was not exactly bent on mischief but she wanted to satisfy her curiosity about something. The rain had lessened considerably but it was still necessary for her to protect her recently arranged curls with her small blue silk umbrella. In her mackintosh of changeable silk in two shades of blue, she made a charming picture coming down the rain-soaked path. The garden itself was a thing of beauty. On the end of every pine needle hung a crystal drop, and through the thin veil of mist clinging to the shrubbery a clump of azaleas glowed like a crimson flame. Taking a path to the left, Nancy began the gentle and almost imperceptible descent to the little bridge. The air was filled with the perfume of wild roses and late plum blossoms. It was really a fairy land, this Japan; a place too exquisite and unreal for human beings to live in. She began to sing softly to herself Elinor's favorite song:

"'Know'st thou the land of the citron bloom?'"

As she approached the bridge she felt a little frightened for some reason. It was rather reckless of her to come down to this lonely place in the late afternoon even if it was their own premises. It was the first time she had done it and she decided it would be the last. But as long as she had come, she would see it through. Nancy could hardly explain to herself what she meant by "seeing it through."

She would stroll carelessly down the path, walk across the bridge, pause a moment and walk back again, not looking behind her of course, as, if she were observed, and she was sure she was not, she would pretend she was out for a walk and had not expected to meet anyone. Thus Nancy reasoned with herself, but by the time she had reached the bridge she had changed her mind and was about to turn and hasten back, when she noticed a beautiful tea rose that had been laid conspicuously on the hand rail of the bridge.

"He has been here," she thought. "He must have just gone. The rose is quite fresh."

Sticking its long stem through the buttonhole of her raincoat, she glanced about her curiously. Somehow, behind every clump of shrubs and every branching pine tree she felt black eyes staring at her and yet she was sure she was alone. Again she started for the house, feeling profoundly relieved that Yoritomo had not waited, if, indeed, it was he who had left the rose. Suddenly Nancy's heart jumped into her throat and she felt a cold chill down her spinal column,—and for no reason, except that standing in front of her was not a man, but a woman. The stranger was too tall to be a Japanese and she was dressed, moreover, in European clothes,—a beautifully fitting tailor-made suit and English traveling hat of stitched cloth. But there was something faintly suggestive of the Japanese about her face. Perhaps it was the slightly slanting eyes and the smooth olive skin. Her hair was much lighter than her eyes and quite fluffy; her features were regular and there was a graceful dignity in the poise of her head on her shoulders. Nancy concluded after a swift examination that she was, if peculiar looking, still strangely fascinating.

"May I ask your pardon for intruding on your beautiful gardens?" began the woman, speaking with a slightly English accent. "I did not expect to meet any one on this rainy afternoon."

Nancy wondered how she had got into the garden and where she had come from. These things the stranger did not explain. However, Nancy answered politely:

"It isn't my garden, but I am sure Mr. Campbell would be delighted to have other people enjoy it."

"You are a sweet child," said the woman, deliberately taking Nancy's chin in her hand and looking down at her, "a sweet, exquisite child."

After all, Nancy decided, this mysterious lady was both fascinating and beautiful.

"And who is Mr. Campbell?"

Nancy explained. In fact, after a few leading questions, she disclosed the entire history of the household; who they were, how long they expected to stay, and how they happened to be spending the summer in Japan.

"Is it possible that you are the Motor Maids who have ridden so many thousands of miles in a red car?" asked the stranger.

Nancy opened her eyes.

"Yes," she answered. "But we never dreamed we were so famous as that."

"Ah, you will find that Tokyo is not so far removed from the world," answered the woman, smiling gravely. "And Mr. Campbell is building a railroad, you say?"

"No, I didn't say so," replied Nancy, a little surprised. "He's not building anything that I know of. He is being consulted, or something."

But the stranger did not seem to have heard her.

"I must be going," she said absently. "You are an adorably pretty child. It's been a pleasure to see you. I only wandered in here because I was unhappy and wanted to be alone, but you have cheered me up. Run along, now, and don't walk in Japanese gardens at dusk unattended too often." Her glance fell on the tea rose. "And remember that the Japanese do not understand the meaning of the word 'flirtation.' Good-by, ma cherie, belle et charmante. You won't tell your Mr. Campbell that I trespassed on his garden, will you? Promise?"

"I promise," answered Nancy, quite bewildered and fascinated.

Then the mysterious lady disappeared down a dripping path and Nancy was left standing alone in the rain.

"I am sorry I promised," was her first thought. "It would have been such fun to tell Billie." But her second thought was: "Billie would have asked me why I had gone walking at dusk in the rain, and what a teasing I should have got."

It was late and she hurried back to dress for dinner. No one had missed her because Billie had been helping Miss Campbell into her best evening frock, and the others were all engaged in their own toilets.

That evening at half past seven a very jolly party gathered around the dinner table, which was a miracle of beauty with its decorations of apple blossoms. Besides Nicholas Grimm and Yoritomo Ito, there were two Englishmen, Reginald Carlton, a young man who was taking a trip around the world by way of finishing his education, and Mr. Buxton, an older man who lived in Tokyo. All the men wore evening clothes, although Mr. Campbell had sighed when Billie made him appear in his. He was a man of camps and open air and seldom appeared in society. Nancy watched his rugged, handsome face admiringly.

"What a splendid looking man he is," she was thinking, when Yoritomo at her right said in a low voice:

"You did go to the bridge."

"How do you know?" she asked.

"Because I saw the rose. It was fastened on your rain coat, which you left on a hook in the passage with your wet umbrella."

"I only went for the air," said Nancy hastily. "I shall not go again alone."

Yoritomo's face darkened, and he turned his attention to his dinner.

In the meantime the others were all amusing themselves in various ways, and there was a great deal of talk and laughter. Miss Campbell felt rejuvenated and her rheumatic twinges had entirely disappeared.

"There is nothing like a little pleasure for driving acidity out of the system," she thought, as she finished the last spoonful of her dessert of beautifully preserved fruits.

Onoye had entered, carrying a small lacquered tray on which lay a square, foreign-looking visiting card.

"A lady calling to the honorable old maid," she announced calmly at Miss Campbell's elbow.

"The what?" cried Mr. Campbell.

"The honorable old maid," repeated poor Onoye, with her precise accent, smiling innocently.

There was a perfect shout of laughter. Only Yoritomo's face remained impassive, but who could tell what angry thoughts were hidden behind that mask-like face? Billie tried to explain how the mistake had occurred, and Onoye rushed from the room in an agony of embarrassment and shame.

"Don't scold her, Cousin. She thought she had learned a new English word," Billie besought Miss Campbell.

"Scold her? I should think not. I don't mind being called an 'honorable old maid,' I am sure. But who is this caller, I wonder?" she added, in a lower voice.

Mr. Campbell examined the card with some curiosity. "Mme. Marie Fontaine," it read. Miss Campbell hastened into the drawing-room, and Nancy, peeping through the doors a few minutes later, was surprised to find that Mme. Fontame was her recent companion in the garden.

The visit was very brief, and Miss Campbell presently returned looking somewhat amused and a little annoyed.

"Mme. Fontaine wished to know if she might have an interview with the Motor Maids on the subject of their motor trip across the American continent and through the British Isles."

"And what did you tell her?" demanded the four girls in one voice, it must be confessed somewhat eagerly.

"I told her that while we appreciated the compliment, it would be impossible."

"Quite right," said Mr. Campbell. "Publicity is the thing of all others I wish to avoid, and if an article like that appeared in a Tokyo paper, either in Japanese or English, you would probably be the object of the most disagreeable curiosity. Am I not right, Yoritomo?"

"Oh, yes. It would not be agreeable to the young ladies. Many people would come to look at them."

"I am very glad my action is approved, then," said Miss Campbell. "I have an old-fashioned horror of notoriety like that, and I am sure none of my girls would care to see herself in a newspaper. Would she?"

"No, indeed," they answered promptly in a chorus.

In a secret place in Nancy's mind, however, she saw a picture of her own pretty face occupying at least one-third of a newspaper page and underneath, blazoned in large letters: "The Beautiful Miss Anne Starbuck Brown, One of the Famous Motor Maids."



CHAPTER V.

IN THE LIBRARY.

The house Mr. Campbell had sub-let for the summer was somewhat labyrinthian in design, since it was only one story high and contained many rooms for living and sleeping, besides the servants' quarters in the rear. Mr. Spears had engaged a Japanese architect to build the house and Japanese and European ideas were curiously combined in its construction. Down the middle ran a broad hall, intersected at the back by another hall running across the house. This was known as "the passage," and it was in a manner a social boundary line, dividing the quarters of master and servants. Only one opening broke the monotony of the uninterrupted partition on the far side of the passage. This was the door into the library which had been placed in a quiet and out-of-the-way corner overlooking the garden.

This library was decidedly the most attractive and home-like room in the villa. There was a large open fireplace at one end where a pile of blazing logs now crackled cheerfully. It would have taken an immense "go-down" to accommodate all the books which lined the walls. But Mr. Spears was evidently not afraid of fire, for they stood in serried ranks, rows and rows of them, and between each group of shelves was a panel of carved and polished wood. Over the mantel hung a beautiful Japanese print. Curtains of some heavy material, old rose in color, hung at the windows, and instead of the usual three by six mats, the floor was covered with an Oriental rug in soft warm colors. There were many low, comfortable chairs about and several tables on which stood shaded lamps.

Later in the evening after Mr. Campbell's dinner party, the three older members of the company sat down in the drawing-room for a quiet game, while the young people repaired to the library where they might talk and laugh freely without fear of disturbing the players.

"Oh, I say, what a jolly room," exclaimed Reginald Carlton, looking about him with interest.

"Isn't it?" agreed Billie. "Papa says that if people would only stick to Japanese notions of decoration and add a few comfortable chairs to sit in, they would never make any mistakes. You see, there's only one picture in this room, but that's considered very fine. It's by a famous Japanese artist."

"I like that one-picture idea," put in Nicholas Grimm, "especially if it is at a comfortable elevation. Just pull up an easy chair and raise your eyes and you have seen all there is to see. There's a delightful simplicity about that to me. But I suppose Yoritomo would call this room crowded, nevertheless. How about it, old man? It wouldn't take you fifteen minutes to pull down the curtains and roll up the rug and store them in the 'go-down.' Would it, now, honor bright?"

"No, no. I like the European furnishings," protested the Japanese. "You must remember that I lived in America for many years. There is only one thing I would store in the 'go-down,' and that is the little safe."

He pointed to a small American fire-proof safe in a corner of the room.

"But that is our 'go-down,'" laughed Billie. "We haven't any other. When Papa first came here he discovered that there was no place to lock up anything except some desk drawers, and he rented this little safe for his papers. A Japanese gentleman advised him to do it. He told Papa there was a great deal of curiosity here about the private business of foreigners."

A dark flush overspread Yoritomo's face and gradually faded out. The others did not notice it, however. They had followed Nicholas across the room and were standing in a circle around the safe, while the young American touched it with a caressing hand.

"Made in Newark, N.J., U.S.A.," he exclaimed. "Think of that. It's like meeting an old friend from home."

"A very proper kind of friend," observed Reginald. "The kind that keeps a secret behind a combination lock."

"I don't call it being a real friend to have any combination at all," put in Elinor, "because anybody who learns the combination can get the secret."

Nicholas laughed.

"You don't understand the Japanese, Miss Butler," he exclaimed. "They regard all persons with important secrets as combination safes. Sooner or later they believe they can learn any combination if they only persist."

"Why don't you stand up for your country, Mr. Ito?" asked Nancy.

"What Nicholas says is true," answered Yoritomo. "If the secret concerns his country, the Japanese will learn it if he must give up his life. What you call 'spy' in your language should be changed to patriot, or one who risks all for his country. Every Japanese is a spy, because every Japanese will suffer for Japan."

"Perfectly good logic," said Nicholas.

"Are you a spy?" asked Mary, so innocently that even the imperturbable Yoritomo laughed.

"I am, in the sense of being a patriot," he answered. "There is nothing I would not do for Japan."

"Are you a Samurai?" asked Billie, hardly understanding the meaning of the word.

"My grandfather was. There are no real samurai now. Only descendants."

"But what were they?"

Yoritomo's face became strangely animated.

"A samurai was a soldier," he said. "He was brave and feared neither death nor suffering in any form. He carried two swords, a long one for fighting and a short one for defense. The sword was the emblem of the samurai spirit. He took pride in keeping it sharp and bright."

"Aren't some of the descendants of the old warrior samurai rather fanatical?" asked Reginald. "That is, I mean—" he hesitated, seeing a peculiar gleam in Yoritomo's eyes, "aren't some opposed to the entrance of foreigners into Japan, and the invasion of foreign ideas—perhaps that feeling has died out now?"

"The old samurai defended his country against the foreigner and no descendant of a samurai, either now or ever, would endure for a foreigner to learn the secrets of his country. But that is not fanaticism. That is patriotism. He is very jealous of his country's honor, you understand. You will look at the history of other countries. First it is only a few foreigners; then more and more. They slip into the government. They spread their ideas and customs—they get a foot-hold—then—all of a sudden, what is it? Not Japan any longer—but—America—England."

"Oh, come off, Yoritomo," cried Nicholas, laughing. "What in the name of all the powers are you driving at? There are about forty millions of people on this island and I guess a few foreigners won't make much headway in such a bunch as that."

"At least, you are not afraid of being Americanized, Mr. Ito," broke in Nancy, "since you were educated in America."

"I am not afraid of the invasion of beautiful American young ladies," answered Yoritomo gallantly, and the others laughed and felt somewhat relieved that the conversation had drifted into a less serious vein. They drew their chairs into a circle about the fire and talked pleasantly for some time, when they were summoned back to the drawing-room by Mr. Campbell, who reminded Elinor of a promise she had made to him to sing for them with her guitar.

This performance was a subject of wondering curiosity to the servants of the household. Through the door to the dining-room Elinor caught a glimpse of a multitude of natives crouched on the floor behind the screen, including Komatsu and O'Haru, all the little maids, the numerous grandmothers, and the 'riksha men who had brought the guests out from Tokyo. If the music seemed strange to the Japanese ear trained for centuries to a curious uneven scale, at least they admired Elinor's lovely voice, clear and sweet as a bell. She had a large repertoire and knew all the favorites of everybody. While she was singing "Oh, that we two were Maying," at the request of Miss Campbell, Nancy, seated on the couch beside Billie, near the door, whispered into her friend's ear:

"I left my handkerchief in the library," and slipped into the hall. Hardly a moment later Billie, glancing through the door, saw Nancy in the distance, beckoning violently. She rose and followed, much against her will, thinking perhaps Nancy wished to bestow a confidence which might just as well be kept until later.

"What on earth do you want?" she asked, with the irritability intimate friends use toward each other without meaning really to be cross.

"The queerest thing has happened. The library is perfectly black dark."

"I don't think there is anything specially remarkable about that. The fire had burned low before we left and I suppose one of the maids put out the lamps. The Japs are nothing if not economical."

"They are nothing if not polite, too," argued Nancy. "And I am sure they wouldn't put out the lights before the company left. Besides, they are all listening to Elinor sing."

"Well, the lights are out and I don't see that it matters much, Nancy-Bell. Let's go back and hear the rest of the song."

"Won't you come with me first to get my handkerchief?" pleaded Nancy. "I know exactly where I left it, and I am afraid to go alone, if you want to know the real truth."

"Oh, you little coward," laughed Billie good-naturedly, taking her arm. "Come along, then."

The two young girls hastened down the long hall until they reached the passage.

"Billie," whispered Nancy, pausing at the door. "You won't think me silly if I tell you this? Of course it may have been imagination, but I was awfully frightened when I came in here just now. I opened the door suddenly and ran into the room before I realized it was dark. Then, of course, I stopped short. The door had closed behind me and it seemed to me that some one else was in the room. I remembered that as I opened the door I heard some one move or collide with a chair. I stood perfectly still for an instant. I was really frightened. Then I just flew."

"Perhaps it was one of the servants who had put out the lights and was afraid to acknowledge it," suggested Billie. "The little maids are as timid as wild things."

"But every servant in the house is in the dining room, I tell you. I saw them as I went down the hall, and I counted them just for fun. There were the four little maids and Onoye and O'Haru and Komatsu and the three jinriksha men and the three old grandmothers and the gardener. There aren't any others."

The door leading into the library was not a sliding panel of thick opaque paper, like the usual Japanese door, but a real European door of heavy wood with a brass handle.

"Don't you think we had better get your father, Billie, or one of the boys?" whispered Nancy, placing a detaining hand on her friend's arm.

"But that would be a needless alarm. Everybody would want to know what was the matter. There would have to be explanations and Cousin Helen would be frightened. Besides, I am sure it was just your vivid imagination, Nancy."

She opened the door very softly and peeped in. The room was flooded with the radiance of two shaded lamps, both burning brightly; in fact, one had been turned up too high, as if lighted in haste.

"Oh," gasped Nancy, in amazement.

But Billie was determined not to be surprised.

"Take my word for it, Nancy; one of the servants put out the lights by mistake, thinking we had finished in here for the night, and when you returned he or she was frightened and lit them again, thinking that honorable American young lady might be displeased."

Nancy found her handkerchief.

"Very well," she said. "If that is your expert opinion I am willing to abide by it, but I was fright—"

Before she could finish one of the long French windows blew open and a gust of wet wind extinguished the lamp on a table near the window. Billie marched boldly over and closed and bolted the window.

"Whoever it was," she said, "must have got out this way."

The girls exchanged a long glance of uneasy speculation. In the dim light of the remaining lamp the room seemed filled with shadows. Billie drew the heavy curtains across the casement. Those at the other window were already drawn.

"Come along, Nancy-Bell," she exclaimed. "Thieves don't blow out lights and then come back and relight them. It would be extremely unprofessional if they did and very reckless besides. It's certain to be one of those timid little persons in a kimono. We had better be getting back to the drawing-room or Papa will be wondering what has become of us."

Hardly had they closed the door after them, when a figure, wrapped from head to foot in a long brown garment something like a cape, emerged from behind the other curtains. Whoever it was, whether man or woman, it was impossible to judge, opened the door, peeped cautiously into the passage and, finding it quite empty, marched boldly out. In another moment the intruder had disappeared into the garden.

As the girls passed along the hall they paused to notice the picturesque group of servants gathered near the door. There was a smile on every face, not a smile of ridicule, but of courteous enjoyment.

"Is there any rude person in the length and breadth of Japan?" thought Billie, while Nancy once more counted heads and then shook her own thoughtfully.

"I don't understand," she pondered, "but Billie is usually right, so I'll just cease to worry."



CHAPTER VI.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS.

A few hours of brilliant sunshine and all the dampness had been sucked up from the earth; the air was warmed and dried and the mists rolled back from the garden, revealing a fairy-land too exquisite to be real.

Something especially wonderful had happened that morning. The faces of the little maids had been filled with a joyous expectancy as they hurried from room to room on their household duties. A mysterious smile hovered on the lips of Komatsu when he appeared to receive his orders. Even old O'Haru was secretly immensely pleased about something, but they all had evidently agreed among themselves to keep the great news secret until the psychological moment had arrived when the ladies of the house and Mr. Campbell had assembled on the piazza just before breakfast.

When this occurred word was swiftly and silently conveyed over the household and all persons belonging to the domestic staff instantly gathered in the hall and doorway.

"Why, what on earth is the matter with them?" Miss Campbell asked uneasily. "Will you please look: the entire household collected in the front hall."

Mr. Campbell was as much at a loss as his cousin.

"They look as if they were going to play a joke on us," observed Billie, "Did you ever see anything so guileless and simple-hearted as they are?"

"Oh, I know what it is," cried Mary, clasping her hands with delight. "There," she said, pointing to the old gardener, who was approaching by way of one of the paths. There was an inimitable smile on his face, and he carried tenderly and gingerly a double handful of brown branches on which clustered delicate pink blossoms.

"It's the cherry blossoms! They are in bloom!" Mary shouted in her enthusiasm. "That's why they are all so delighted. The dears! They are just like a lot of children."

The crown of the year for the Japanese had indeed arrived, the season when every cherry tree becomes a magnificent nosegay which has caught the sunset's glow, and all the world goes forth to view the splendid sight.

The love of these people, young and old and of all classes, for flowers, and particularly for cherry blossoms, is touching in its simplicity and sincerity.

The old gardener was himself a delightful picture in his blue cotton, tunic-like coat, queer, tight-fitting trousers and an enormous hat that resembled an inverted flower basket. Against the coarse blue of his tunic rested the delicate rosy cloud of blossoms. With an elaborate bow he presented Mr. Campbell and each of the ladies with a branch. "Him muchly more big soon all same," he said.

"Thank you, Saiki. They are very beautiful," said Miss Campbell, speaking in the distinct, loud tone she used for persons not understanding her own language.

The girls exclaimed and admired and Mr. Campbell was delighted. He felt a kind of reverence for the old man's simple unaffected love of beauty. In the meantime, the regiment of servants who had witnessed and enjoyed the ceremony of presenting the first cherry blossoms to the master and mistress of the house retired to their various occupations.

The pleasure and surprise of the foreigners over the beauty of the cherry blossoms would be a memory for these humble people to cherish all their lives. Perhaps they had never seen the like before, these honorable barbarians; certainly nothing so perfect as the double blossom, of a delicacy and shade not to be surpassed.

Later at the breakfast table Billie concocted a scheme.

"Papa," she began, "can't we take the 'Comet' and go sight-seeing? It would be such fun, and while the 'rikshas are very nice, we are so separated, we can't all sympathize together as we usually do."

"A kind of sympathy in detachments, is it?" asked Mr. Campbell. "But I wanted to go with you on your first ride in the 'Comet.' I don't know just how the people will take to a girl's driving a red 'devil-wagon,' as they call it."

"Why not let Komatsu go along?"

"What do you think, Cousin?" asked Mr. Campbell.

Up to this time Miss Campbell had kept out of the discussion. The truth is, she yearned to relieve the tedium of life by taking a trip in the red motor car.

"Couldn't you get away and go with us?"

"Impossible this afternoon, because I have an appointment to meet some very distinguished persons to discuss various plans. One can hardly be polite enough as it is in this good-mannered country, and it would never do to break an engagement. In another week or so I shall be free to take the ladies on excursions."

"What is it all about, Papa?" asked Billie.

"Oh, government improvements, child. Things that are too important to be talked about." He pinched her cheek. "Well, beautiful American ladies, if you take Komatsu with you as interpreter and protector, guide and friend, I think you might be trusted to make a little cherry-blossom excursion in the 'Comet.' Only don't go too far or too fast and on your life don't run over anything, even a chicken, or there'll be trouble for all concerned."

So it was settled, and after breakfast Billie rushed to the mysterious back premises of the place on the other side of the house, where various hitherto unsuspected industries seemed to be in progress. There was a kitchen garden hidden by a hedge of althea bushes, a chicken yard, and in a most picturesque building, used by the Spears for a carriage house, the "Comet." So far they had been unable to find a chauffeur, and Mr. Campbell himself had gone over all the machinery and put it in order. Billie cranked up, and, jumping into her old accustomed place, guided the motor car into the open. Komatsu came at a run from around the side of the house. He was so amazed at sight of Billie in the chauffeur's seat that he could not conceal his feelings.

"Komatsu, we want you to go with us to-day. We want you to show us the cherry trees in Tokyo and Uyeno Park. I suppose we couldn't get to all the famous cherry blossom places in one afternoon?"

"Him fast runner. No sakura all same see."

"No, no. We shall go quite slowly. We want to see everything."

In less than an hour the hanami, signifying in Japanese a picnic to a famous place to view certain flowers in season, conducted on the most modern lines in a red motor car, proceeded on its way. Komatsu, a strangely incongruous figure, sat on the front seat beside Billie.

On the way to Tokyo the "Comet" created a sensation. All the varied wayfarers on that picturesque highway paused and stared, pointing and gesticulating.

The city was a vision of beauty. Most of its broad avenues are lined with close set rows of cherry trees which were now bursting into blossom in all the most delicate and exquisite shades of pink known to nature. Komatsu guided them about the city with a kind of pleased and gratified delight as if he were showing his own property. Sometimes he stood up and pointed to the feathery tops of carefully nurtured cherry trees, glimpses of which could be seen over the high walls surrounding private gardens.

The motorists were fairly bewildered by the beauty of it all. It was like a vast conservatory with the roof taken off. Nothing could have been more exotic or more lovely than the vista through the park with the white peak of Fujiyama, queen of mountains, glistening in the distance.

Moreover, this little jaunt in the car had stirred their blood into action. They felt once more the call of the road, the fever to be going. The old accustomed sensation that they must make a certain place by such and such a time had returned. They were of one opinion, this party of Motor-Gypsies: to go back home until sunset would be a foolish waste of golden hours. Their five wishes accorded like the notes of an harmonious chord and presently Billie, influenced by the force of this silent opinion, exclaimed:

"Suppose we take a country road and eat lunch later at some wayside tea house?"

"Splendid!" cried the others almost before she had finished.

Miss Campbell raised one feeble objection—something about the weather—but it was promptly overridden by her relative at the wheel, and presently she settled down in her seat and abandoned herself to the joy of motion.

"In all the ten thousands of miles we have covered in this car," she remarked, "I never was happier than I am at this moment."

"Why can't we go to the Arakawa Ridge?" suggested Mary, consulting a guide book. "It's only seven miles from here on the Sumida River and there are miles and miles of road bordered by double-flowering cherry trees."

This was agreeable to all concerned, and, accordingly, Komatsu guided them to this famous spot, the pride of Tokyo. On the way they passed hundreds of people in jinrikshas or on foot. Many of the pedestrians carried paper parasols and fans, exactly like the chorus in the "Mikado." Those who rode in the graceful little two-wheeled buggies looked out upon the world with expressions of calm enjoyment.

The "Comet" was a conspicuous object as it progressed slowly along the road, but so far all things worked together for good and there was no cause for uneasiness. At a little roadside tea house they paused for lunch. The building was nothing more than a shed with a low-hanging thatched roof and sides made of coarse strips of matting joined together with bamboo sticks. Humble as it was it possessed a peculiar charm, all its own. They were presently to find that the rear of the tea house facing a little garden was glorified into something rich and strange by a magnificent azalea bush in full bloom. It reached to the roof of the house and was a mass of deep red blossoms.

The ear was left in a pine grove near the house, and following Komatsu along a rocky path they presently found themselves in this delectable little garden. Here they were met by an old man and his wife, a very aged couple whose gentle deprecating expressions almost moved Miss Campbell to tears.

"The adorable old things," she exclaimed. "They remind me of two old turtle doves."

Close at their heels came two little maids who conducted the ladies into the tea house and brought tea for temporary refreshment, while Komatsu consulted with the proprietor regarding lunch.

Presently one of the little maids hurried in and placed a menu in front of Miss Campbell.

"Me speak little honorable American language," she said. "You like all same American food? Will gracious lady make eyes to look?"

Miss Campbell raised her lorgnette and examined the menu while the small maid backed away and disappeared, in the throes of extreme shyness over her endeavors.

"Girls," said Miss Campbell, in a curious, strained voice, "don't any of you dare to laugh because of course they are all peeping at us from somewhere, but I want you all to make eyes to look at this amazing production."

They crowded about her and over her shoulder read the following menu:

Soup by egge Eels to rice Seaweed Podadoe Sweete Sponge boiled Doormats a la U. S.

There were tears of laughter in Miss Campbell's eyes and her voice was so shaky she could hardly trust herself to speak, even when she saw the little maid returning around the corner of the azalea bush. The faces of the four girls were crimson with suppressed laughter.

"Very nice, my dear," said Miss Campbell, "you may bring in luncheon as soon as you can."

After she had gone there was a brief but eloquent silence.

"Do, some one, make a joke," whispered Elinor.

At that moment a strange looking bob-tailed cat walked by.

"There," cried Nancy, and they all instantly burst into hysterical laughter.

"In the name of good health and excellent digestion, tell me what are doormats?" asked Billie.

"Dear knows," answered her cousin, "but I think if they must be eaten it would be best to take boiled sponges afterward."

The luncheon was purely Japanese, in spite of the English menu, and it was really excellent.

"I never thought to come to eels," Miss Campbell observed, but she enjoyed her portion, nevertheless.

"Doormats a la U. S." turned out to be a sweet cake with a sugary icing.

"I believe they were intended for doughnuts," observed that astute little person, Mary Price, and no doubt she was quite right.

When the feast was over Miss Campbell paid the bill, which was pathetically small, since there was no charge for tea and sweetmeats.

"How do we give the tip?" she asked.

"I know," answered Billie, "Papa taught me about that the other day." She consulted her note book. Tearing out a leaf, she wrapped up what would amount to about a dollar in American money, then with her little silver pencil she wrote on the package "On chadai." "That means 'honorable money for tea,'" she explained.

Next she clapped her hands. All through the house voices could be heard calling "Hai! Hai!"

Presently the maid appeared hanging her head humbly. Billie motioned to her that she wished the proprietor, who, indeed, was close at hand. With an expression of much surprise he received the chadai and bowing to the ground murmured something which Komatsu explained meant honorable thanks for poor insignificant service.

Each guest on departing received a fan as a souvenir; because, as they were to learn before they left Japan, no Japanese ever receives a present without giving another in return. Every person attached to the tea house went out to see the departure of the car, and the old woman clutched her husband's arm fearfully when she heard the vibrations of the machinery and saw Billie turn the "Comet" down the hillside to the main road.

At last, fortified by strange if not unpalatable food and thoroughly enjoying themselves, they arrived at the entrance to the magnificent avenue called Arakawa Ridge, along each side of which, as far as the eye could see, ran two rows of cherry trees in full bloom.

The avenue was lined with 'rikshas, and hundreds of pedestrians paced slowly along. They were in holiday attire and the bright colors of the kimonos and obis made a bewildering and brilliant picture. At intervals booths had been erected, decorated with lanterns, where refreshments were sold, and nearby a roving band of musicians and dancers were entertaining the crowd.

The mistake Billie made was to attempt to take the car through the crowded road where apparently there were only pedestrians and jinrikshas. But Komatsu had not objected and since they had been accustomed to take the "Comet" wherever there was a navigable road, they pushed innocently on. As for the populace celebrating the cherry blossom festival, they evidently regarded the sight of a young woman driving a red devil-wagon as something just short of miraculous. Slowly and at a dignified pace the motor car moved along the avenue, and suddenly like a bolt from the blue two things happened.

A little boy escaped from his sister's hand and ran across the road. Billie reversed the lever just as the child fell under the wheels. At the same instant a tire on a rear wheel exploded with a loud report.

Miss Campbell groaned and hid her face in her hands.

Instantly they were surrounded by a mob of angry people.



CHAPTER VII.

A BAD QUARTER OF AN HOUR.

In the uncertainty of that terrible moment everything turned black before Billie's eyes.

"I am a murderer," was all she could think. "I've killed a little child."

When the mists had cleared away she saw a weird scene about her: hundreds of Japanese men and women, speaking in low angry voices which somehow reminded her of the breaking of the surf on the beach—perhaps because the Japanese language has a sing-song rhythm. The little boy, apparently limp and lifeless, lay in his sister's arms. Komatsu had leapt clear over the front of the car and pushed his way through the people gathered about them. With a hand as skillful as a doctor's he felt the child's pulse and placed his ear over his heart.

"Baby only make believe dead," he said. "Honorable heart beating all same like steam engine."

At these hopeful words Miss Campbell came to herself with a start. For a moment she had been faint and sick with the notion of what had happened. Never before in all their thousands of miles of touring in the "Comet" had they injured so much as a fly; and now to run down a little child! It was too dreadful to contemplate.

"Komatsu," she ordered, in an unsteady voice, "tell the girl to get in and we will take her brother to the nearest doctor."

Komatsu conveyed this message to the stricken sister, who shook her head violently.

"Honorable devil-wagon shoot pistol. Japanese no likee," he said.

Closer and closer pressed the tense mob about the party. These courteous and gentle Japanese had suddenly been transformed into a fierce, savage people.

From one end of Japan to the other a child is considered a sacred thing. If Billie had injured a grown person the public sentiment would not have been so strong, but to harm one of these little "treasure flowers" was to strike at the very heart of the nation.

"Can't you understand that we are sorry and anxious to help you?" cried Miss Campbell, addressing the mob, but her voice was lost in the subdued threatening murmur which sounded like distant thunder heralding the approach of a storm.

"Good heavens, Komatsu, what are we to do? The child might be saved if they would only listen to reason."

"People no likee honorable devil-wagon. Going breaking little pieces all same like sticks."

"No, no, they must not," ejaculated Billie. "We are sorry," she cried, stretching out her hands appealingly to the circle of Japanese pressed around the car. "We didn't mean to do it."

In the meantime Miss Campbell had produced her bottle of smelling salts, the same that had accompanied her on all her trips, and climbed out of the car. With a motion imperious and compelling she pushed aside the men and women in the circle.

The sister had laid the child on the ground and was kneeling beside him. Komatsu knelt on the other side, feeling the little legs and body.

"No break bones," he said briefly.

Miss Campbell sat on the ground by the unconscious child, wondering vaguely if she would ever rise again.

"They may tear us to pieces before we get back. They are like an angry, silent pack of wolves," she thought to herself. "Komatsu," she said aloud, "I believe he has fainted from fright," She put the smelling bottle to the baby's funny snub nose.

Presently the boy opened his eyes.

At this moment from the midst of the crowd there came a strange shrill cry and a distracted looking woman began beating and fighting her way toward the group.

"Honorable mother come in big hurry," said Komatsu, in a low voice. "Gracious lady, take jinriksha. Honorable quickness best now."

"But the child isn't injured, Komatsu. Look, he's opened his eyes and he's going to sit up. It was simply fright."

"No like honorable devil-wagon," went on Komatsu steadily.

While this low, rapid dialogue was taking place Billie, standing on the front seat of the "Comet" on the lookout for help, saw something that made her blood turn cold. A band of fierce looking young men in Japanese costume was approaching on the run. The leader was brandishing a short knife with a two-edged glittering blade and the others flourished sword canes. Billie was thankful that Miss Campbell was too much occupied at that moment in assuring the poor mother that her child was not injured to notice this murderous looking company. Komatsu had quietly placed himself beside the car, faithful soul, ready to die in the service of his ladies.

Were they all going to be cut to pieces or was only the "Comet" to be sacrificed in revenge for the accident?

The Motor Maids exchanged frightened glances.

"If I only knew six words in Japanese," thought Billie.

"Make honorable quickness to descend, gracious lady. Come, come," Komatsu urged. "To jinriksha. Leave red devil-wagon. This place no good for staying in."

"Oh, Komatsu, try and reason with them," pleaded Billie. "We don't want to lose the 'Comet,' It wasn't his fault. He was going quite slowly. He didn't mean to hurt the little boy. He's the kindest hearted old thing. It wasn't anybody's fault. Can't you tell them that?"

Billie was too distracted and unhappy to realize how absurd her words might have sounded to any English-speaking person. It had always seemed to her that a real heart beat somewhere in the mechanical organism of the red motor. Gasoline was his life's blood and his pulse-beats were only the throb of the engine, but, to Billie, he was a faithful and devoted soul and she was not quite prepared to say what she would do in order to save him from destruction.

However, at the moment that the band of young men, scarcely more than boys any of them, reached the car, some one sprang into the machine from the other side.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse