The town is going to celebrate a Japanese victory to-day, and there is no school. The celebration is to be held at the parade ground, and Badger is to take out all the students and attend the ceremony. As one of the instructors, I am to go with them. The streets are everywhere draped with flapping national flags almost enough to dazzle the eyes. There were as many as eight hundred students in all, and it was arranged, under the direction of the teacher of physical culture to divide them into sections with one teacher or two to lead them. The arrangement itself was quite commendable, but in its actual operation the whole thing went wrong. All students are mere kiddies who, ever too fresh, regard it as beneath their dignity not to break all regulations. This rendered the provision of teachers among them practically useless. They would start marching songs without being told to, and if they ceased the marching songs, they would raise devilish shouts without cause. Their behavior would have done credit to the gang of tramps parading the streets demanding work. When they neither sing nor shout, they tee-hee and giggle. Why they cannot walk without these disorder, passes my understanding, but all Japanese are born with their mouths stuck out, and no kick will ever be strong enough to stop it. Their chatter is not only of simple nature, but about the teachers when their back is turned. What a degraded bunch! I made the students apologize to me on the dormitory affair, and considered the incident closed. But I was mistaken. To borrow the words of the old lady in the boarding house, I was surely wrong Mr. Wright. The apology they offered was not prompted by repentance in their hearts. They had kowtowed as a matter of form by the command of the principal. Like the tradespeople who bow their heads low but never give up cheating the public, the students apologize but never stop their mischiefs. Society is made up, I think it probable, of people just like those students. One may be branded foolishly honest if he takes seriously the apologies others might offer. We should regard all apologies a sham and forgiving also as a sham; then everything would be all right. If one wants to make another apologize from his heart, he has to pound him good and strong until he begs for mercy from his heart.
As I walked along between the sections, I could hear constantly the voices mentioning "tempura" or "dango." And as there were so many of them, I could not tell which one mentioned it. Even if I succeeded in collaring the guilty one I was sure of his saying, "No, I didn't mean you in saying tempura or dango. I fear you suffer from nervousness and make wrong inferences." This dastardly spirit has been fostered from the time of the feudal lords, and is deep-rooted. No amount of teaching or lecturing will cure it. If I stay in a town like this for one year or so, I may be compelled to follow their example, who knows,--clean and honest though I have been. I do not propose to make a fool of myself by remaining quiet when others attempt to play games on me, with all their excuses ready-made. They are men and so am I--students or kiddies or whatever they may be. They are bigger than I, and unless I get even with them by punishment, I would cut a sorry figure. But in the attempt to get even, if I resort to ordinary means, they are sure to make it a boomerang. If I tell them, "You're wrong," they will start an eloquent defence, because they are never short of the means of sidestepping. Having defended themselves, and made themselves appear suffering martyrs, they would begin attacking me. As the incident would have been started by my attempting to get even with them, my defence would not be a defence until I can prove their wrong. So the quarrel, which they had started, might be mistaken, after all, as one begun by me. But the more I keep silent the more they would become insolent, which, speaking seriously, could not be permitted for the sake of public morale. In consequence, I am obliged to adopt an identical policy so they cannot catch men in playing it back on them. If the situation comes to that, it would be the last day of the Yedo kid. Even so, if I am to be subjected to these pin-pricking[L] tricks, I am a man and got to risk losing off the last remnant of the honor of the Yedo kid. I became more convinced of the advisability of returning to Tokyo quickly and living with Kiyo. To live long in such a countrytown would be like degrading myself for a purpose. Newspaper delivering would be preferable to being degraded so far as that.
I walked along with a sinking heart, thinking like this, when the head of our procession became suddenly noisy, and the whole came to a full stop. I thought something has happened, stepped to the right out of the ranks, and looked toward the direction of the noise. There on the corner of Otemachi, turning to Yakushimachi, I saw a mass packed full like canned sardines, alternately pushing back and forth. The teacher of physical culture came down the line hoarsely shouting to all to be quiet. I asked him what was the matter, and he said the middle school and the normal had come to a clash at the corner.
The middle school and the normal, I understood, are as much friendly as dogs and monkeys. It is not explained why but their temper was hopelessly crossed, and each would try to knock the chip off the shoulder of the other on all occasions. I presume they quarrel so much because life gets monotonous in this backwoods town. I am fond of fighting, and hearing of the clash, darted forward to make the most of the fun. Those foremost in the line are jeering, "Get out of the way, you country tax!" while those in the rear are hollowing "Push them out!" I passed through the students, and was nearing the corner, when I heard a sharp command of "Forward!" and the line of the normal school began marching on. The clash which had resulted from contending for the right of way was settled, but it was settled by the middle school giving way to the normal. From the point of school-standing the normal is said to rank above the middle.
[Footnote 12: The normal school in the province maintains the students mostly on the advance-expense system, supported by the country tax.]
The ceremony was quite simple. The commander of the local brigade read a congratulatory address, and so did the governor, and the audience shouted banzais. That was all. The entertainments were scheduled for the afternoon, and I returned home once and started writing to Kiyo an answer which had been in my mind for some days. Her request had been that I should write her a letter with more detailed news; so I must get it done with care. But as I took up the rolled letter-paper, I did not know with what I should begin, though I have many things to write about.
Should I begin with that? That is too much trouble. Or with this? It is not interesting. Isn't there something which will come out smoothly, I reflected, without taxing my head too much, and which will interest Kiyo. There seemed, however, no such item as I wanted I grated the ink-cake, wetted the writing brush, stared at the letter-paper--stared at the letter-paper, wetted the writing brush, grated the ink-cake--and, having repeated the same thing several times, I gave up the letter writing as not in my line, and covered the lid of the stationery box. To write a letter was a bother. It would be much simpler to go back to Tokyo and see Kiyo. Not that I am unconcerned about the anxiety of Kiyo, but to get up a letter to please the fancy of Kiyo is a harder job than to fast for three weeks.
I threw down the brush and letter-paper, and lying down with my bent arms as a pillow, gazed at the garden. But the thought of the letter to Kiyo would come back in my mind. Then I thought this way; If I am thinking of her from my heart, even at such a distance, my sincerity would find responsive appreciation in Kiyo. If it does find response, there is no need of sending letters. She will regard the absence of letters from me as a sign of my being in good health. If I write in case of illness or when something unusual happens, that will be sufficient.
The garden is about thirty feet square, with no particular plants worthy of name. There is one orange tree which is so tall as to be seen above the board fence from outside. Whenever I returned from the school I used to look at this orange tree. For to those who had not been outside of Tokyo, oranges on the tree are rather a novel sight. Those oranges now green will ripen by degrees and turn to yellow, when the tree would surely be beautiful. There are some already ripened. The old lady told me that they are juicy, sweet oranges. "They will all soon be ripe, and then help yourself to all you want," she said. I think I will enjoy a few every day. They will be just right in about three weeks. I do not think I will have to leave the town in so short a time as three weeks.
While my attention was centered on the oranges, Porcupine[M] came in.
"Say, to-day being the celebration[N] of victory, I thought I would get something good to eat with you, and bought some beef."
So saying, he took out a package covered with a bamboo-wrapper, and threw it down in the center of the room. I had been denied the pleasure of patronizing the noodle house or dango shop, on top of getting sick of the sweet potatoes and tofu, and I welcomed the suggestion with "That's fine," and began cooking it with a frying pan and some sugar borrowed from the old lady.
Porcupine, munching the beef to the full capacity of his mouth, asked me if I knew Red Shirt having a favorite geisha. I asked if that was not one of the geishas who came to our dinner the other night, and he answered, "Yes, I got the wind of the fact only recently; you're sharp."
"Red Shirt always speaks of refinement of character or of mental consolation, but he is making a fool of himself by chasing round a geisha. What a dandy rogue. We might let that go if he wouldn't make fuss about others making fools of themselves. I understand through the principal he stopped your going even to noodle houses or dango shops as unbecoming to the dignity of the school, didn't he?"
"According to his idea, running after a geisha is a mental consolation but tempura or dango is a material pleasure, I guess. If that's mental consolation, why doesn't the fool do it above board? You ought to see the jacknape skipping out of the room when the geisha came into it the other night,--I don't like his trying to deceive us, but if one were to point it out for him, he would deny it or say it was the Russian literature or that the haiku is a half-brother of the new poetry, and expect to hush it up by twaddling soft nonsense. A weak-knee like him is not a man. I believe he lived the life of a court-maid in former life. Perhaps his daddy might have been a kagema at Yushima in old days."
"What is a kagema?"
"I suppose something very unmanly,--sort of emasculated chaps. Say, that part isn't cooked enough. It might give you tape worm."
"So? I think it's all right. And, say, Red Shirt is said to frequent Kadoya at the springs town and meet his geisha there, but he keeps it in dark."
"Kadoya? That hotel?"
"Also a restaurant. So we've got to catch him there with his geisha and make it hot for him right to his face."
"Catch him there? Suppose we begin a kind of night watch?"
"Yes, you know there is a rooming house called Masuya in front of Kadoya. We'll rent one room upstairs of the house, and keep peeping through a loophole we could make in the shoji."
"Will he come when we keep peeping at him?"
"He may. We will have to do it more than one night. Must expect to keep it up for at least two weeks."
"Say, that would make one pretty well tired, I tell you. I sat up every night for about one week attending my father when he died, and it left me thoroughly down and out for some time afterward."
"I don't care if I do get tired some. A crook like Red Shirt should not go unpunished that way for the honor of Japan, and I am going to administer a chastisement in behalf of heaven."
"Hooray! If things are decided upon that way, I am game. And we are going to start from to-night?"
"I haven't rented a room at Masuya yet, so can't start it to-night."
"Will start before long. I'll let you know, and want you help me."
"Right-O. I will help you any time. I am not much myself at scheming, but I am IT when it comes to fighting."
While Porcupine and I were discussing the plan of subjugating Red Shirt, the old lady appeared at the door, announcing that a student was wanting to see Professor Hotta. The student had gone to his house, but seeing him out, had come here as probable to find him. Porcupine went to the front door himself, and returning to the room after a while, said:
"Say, the boy came to invite us to go and see the entertainment of the celebration. He says there is a big bunch of dancers from Kochi to dance something, and it would be a long time before we could see the like of it again. Let's go."
Porcupine seemed enthusiastic over the prospect of seeing that dance, and induced me to go with him. I have seen many kinds of dance in Tokyo. At the annual festival of the Hachiman Shrine, moving stages come around the district, and I have seen the Shiokukmi and almost any other variety. I was little inclined to see that dance by the sturdy fellows from Tosa province, but as Porcupine was so insistent, I changed my mind and followed him out. I did not know the student who came to invite Porcupine, but found he was the younger brother of Red Shirt. Of all students, what a strange choice for a messenger!
The celebration ground was decorated, like the wrestling amphitheater at Ryogoku during the season, or the annual festivity of the Hommonji temple, with long banners planted here and there, and on the ropes that crossed and recrossed in the mid-air were strung the colors of all nations, as if they were borrowed from as many nations for the occasion and the large roof presented unusually cheerful aspect. On the eastern corner there was built a temporary stage upon which the dance of Koehi was to be performed. For about half a block, with the stage on the right, there was a display of flowers and plant settings arranged on shelves sheltered with reed screens. Everybody was looking at the display seemingly much impressed, but it failed to impress me. If twisted grasses or bamboos afforded so much pleasure, the gallantry of a hunchback or the husband of a wrong pair should give as much pleasure to their eyes.
In the opposite direction, aerial bombs and fire works were steadily going on. A balloon shot out on which was written "Long Live the Empire!" It floated leisurely over the pine trees near the castle tower, and fell down inside the compound of the barracks. Bang! A black ball shot up against the serene autumn sky; burst open straight above my head, streams of luminous green smoke ran down in an umbrella-shape, and finally faded. Then another balloon. It was red with "Long Live the Army and Navy" in white. The wind slowly carried it from the town toward the Aioi village. Probably it would fall into the yard of Kwanon temple there.
At the formal celebration this morning there were not quite so many as here now. It was surging mass that made me wonder how so many people lived in the place. There were not many attractive faces among the crowd, but as far as the numerical strength went, it was a formidable one. In the meantime that dance had begun. I took it for granted that since they call it a dance, it would be something similar to the kind of dance by the Fujita troupe, but I was greatly mistaken.
Thirty fellows, dressed up in a martial style, in three rows of ten each, stood with glittering drawn swords. The sight was an eye-opener, indeed. The space between the rows measured about two feet, and that between the men might have been even less. One stood apart from the group. He was similarly dressed but instead of a drawn sword, he carried a drum hung about his chest. This fellow drawled out signals the tone of which suggested a mighty easy-life, and then croaking a strange song, he would strike the drum. The tune was outlandishly unfamiliar. One might form the idea by thinking it a combination of the Mikawa Banzai and the Fudarakuya.
The song was drowsy, and like syrup in summer is dangling and slovenly. He struck the drum to make stops at certain intervals. The tune was kept with regular rhythmical order, though it appeared to have neither head nor tail. In response to this tune, the thirty drawn swords flash, with such dexterity and speed that the sight made the spectator almost shudder. With live men within two feet of their position, the sharp drawn blades, each flashing them in the same manner, they looked as if they might make a bloody mess unless they were perfectly accurate in their movements. If it had been brandishing swords alone without moving themselves, the chances of getting slashed or cut might have been less, but sometimes they would turn sideways together, or clear around, or bend their knees. Just one second's difference in the movement, either too quick or too late, on the part of the next fellow, might have meant sloughing off a nose or slicing off the head of the next fellow. The drawn swords moved in perfect freedom, but the sphere of action was limited to about two feet square, and to cap it all, each had to keep moving with those in front and back, at right and left, in the same direction at the same speed. This beats me! The dance of the Shiokumi or the Sekinoto would make no show compared with this! I heard them say the dance requires much training, and it could not be an easy matter to make so many dancers move in a unison like this. Particularly difficult part in the dance was that of the fellow with drum stuck to his chest. The movement of feet, action of hands, or bending of knees of those thirty fellows were entirely directed by the tune with which he kept them going. To the spectators this fellow's part appeared the easiest. He sang in a lazy tune, but it was strange that he was the fellow who takes the heaviest responsibility.
While Porcupine and I, deeply impressed, were looking at the dance with absorbing interest, a sudden hue and cry was raised about half a block off. A commotion was started among those who had been quietly enjoying the sights and all ran pell-mell in every direction. Some one was heard saying "fight!" Then the younger brother of Red Shirt came running forward through the crowd.
"Please, Sir," he panted, "a row again! The middles are going to get even with the normals and have just begun fighting. Come quick, Sir!" And he melted somewhere into the crowd.
"What troublesome brats! So they're at it again, eh? Why can't they stop it!"
Porcupine, as he spoke, dashed forward, dodging among the running crowd. He meant, I think, to stop the fight, because he could not be an idle spectator once he was informed of the fact. I of course had no intention of turning tail, and hastened on the heels of Porcupine. The fight was in its fiercest. There were about fifty to sixty normals, and the middles numbered by some ninety. The normals wore uniform, but the middles had discarded their uniform and put on Japanese civilian clothes, which made the distinction between the two hostile camps easy. But they were so mixed up, and wrangling with such violence, that we did not know how and where we could separate them.
Porcupine, apparently at a loss what to do, looked at the wild scene awhile, then turned to me, saying:
"Let's jump in and separate them. It will be hell if cops get on them."
I did not answer, but rushed to the spot where the scuffle appeared most violent.
"Stop there! Cut this out! You're ruining the name of the school! Stop this, dash you!"
Shouting at the top of my voice, I attempted to penetrate the line which seemed to separate the hostile sides, but this attempt did not succeed. When about ten feet into the turmoil, I could neither advance nor retreat. Right in my front, a comparatively large normal was grappling with a middle about sixteen years of ago.
I grabbed the shoulder of the normal and tried to force them apart when some one whacked my feet. On this sudden attack, I let go the normal and fell down sideways. Some one stepped on my back with heavy shoes. With both hands and knees upon the ground, I jumped up and the fellow on my back rolled off to my right. I got up, and saw the big body of Porcupine about twenty feet away, sandwiched between the students, being pushed back and forth, shouting, "Stop the fight! Stop that!"
"Say, we can't do anything!" I hollered at him, but unable to hear, I think, he did not answer.
A pebble-stone whiffled through the air and hit squarely on my cheek bone; the same moment some one banged my back with a heavy stick from behind.
"Profs mixing in!" "Knock them down!" was shouted.
"Two of them; big one and small. Throw stones at them!" Another shout.
"Drat you fresh jackanapes!" I cried as I wallopped the head of a normal nearby. Another stone grazed my head, and passed behind me. I did not know what had become of Porcupine, I could not find him. Well, I could not help it but jumped into the teapot to stop the tempest. I wasn't[O] a Hottentot to skulk away on being shot at with pebble-stones. What did they think I was anyway! I've been through all kinds of fighting in Tokyo, and can take in all fights one may care to give me. I slugged, jabbed and banged the stuffing out of the fellow nearest to me. Then some one cried, "Cops! Cops! Cheese it! Beat it!" At that moment, as if wading through a pond of molasses, I could hardly move, but the next I felt suddenly released and both sides scampered off simultaneously. Even the country fellows do creditable work when it comes to retreating, more masterly than General Kuropatkin, I might say.
I searched for Porcupine who, I found his overgown torn to shreds, was wiping his nose. He bled considerably, and his nose having swollen was a sight. My clothes were pretty well massed with dirt, but I had not suffered quite as much damage as Porcupine. I felt pain in my cheek and as Porcupine said, it bled some.
About sixteen police officers arrived at the scene but, all the students having beat it in opposite directions, all they were able to catch were Porcupine and me. We gave them our names and explained the whole story. The officers requested us to follow them to the police station which we did, and after stating to the chief of police what had happened, we returned home.