|I.||"OH, SHAKA, GRANT HONORABLE WAR—"|
|II.||"—THAT JI-SABURO MAY COME—"|
"OH, SHAKA, GRANT HONORABLE WAR—"
"Oh, Shaka! Hail—hail—hail! Also perceive! And all the augustnesses—hail!—and perceive! Look down. I have brought a sacrifice of flowers—and new rice. Also, I am quite clean. I am shivering with cleanness. Therefore grant that there may be honorable—war!"
Madame Pine-Tree pushed the fusuma noisily aside. Glory put her hands upon the floor and her forehead on them, and saluted her husband's mother as became her. But—if you will know the truth—in this safe posture she smiled.
"Perhaps you are insane!" her mother-in-law said, with haughty asperity.
Glory smiled again.
"Why do you pray for war? Speak!"
"That Ji-Saburo may come."
Glory sat up defiantly.
"A nation for a barbarian who has forsaken his country and his gods!"
"Yes," said Glory, valiantly.
"And what, pray, do you wish of him?"
The elder laughed harshly.
"He knows not the name—no, by Ojin Tenno!"
"He is as brave as any of his ancestors—and they were all samurai—by Benten!" insisted the girl, doggedly.
"Bah! He has the unlaughing face of an American woman. He is a Mister!"
The mother-in-law laughed jeeringly.
"But—why you that angery, oku sama? If he is? You thing mebby he keer yaet for me? No! He got come an' fight. An' I lig jus' see him—if he come, of course. Me? I don' keer liddle bit!"
"Speak Japanese to me, madame!"
"Ah—ah—ah! Please aexcuse me. I 'most always forgitting. Sore-wa makotoni okino-do, oku sama."
The mother-in-law swept with threatenings from the room. For, as you perceive, Glory had continued to speak English in that laughing voice of hers, and then had protested that she was sorry for it! And she was not sorry, if we must have yet other commerce with the truth. And this was known to Madame Pine-Tree as well as to us, and she was the autocrat of that house. Glory was her humble servant as every daughter-in-law is.
"—THAT JI-SABURO MAY COME—"
War was declared. Sei-kwang had been fought and won. The Kowshing had been sunk. But Ji-Saburo had not come. Glory continued her supplications now that peace might not come too soon. Madame Pine-Tree continued her gibes.
And, lo! early one morning there was a knock on the amado,—they had not been taken down yet,—and the little maid announced not only Ji-Saburo, but that he was in uniform—and had a bandage about his head! Glory must be pardoned the gay glance she gave her mother-in-law. It said, " I told you so."
"Now, Marubushu-San [this was only Miss Lemon, the maid], run! My yellow kimono, gold-woven obi, powder for my face, vermilion for my lips, the new kanzashi for my hair; run!" She prostrated herself at the shrine.
"Shaka, thou art almighty!" she said. As she came down, glowing in her bravery, she was intercepted by her mother-inlaw.
"I have seen him. It is not he. It is a barbarian!"
Glory passed on. She smiled again.
But it was Ji-Saburo. And he embraced her in Western fashion. She was visibly frightened.
"But we were betrothed in infancy," he defended gaily.
"Yaes," she said meekly; "I got do what you as' me—I got. But—"
"You don't like it?"
She did not answer, and he audaciously kissed her. She only trembled a little this time—and remained in his arms.
"That's better. At first—"
"Ah! but I din' know. I din' know how that was sweet. I naever been—kiss—nor— How you call that other?"
"Yaes. I naever been kiss nor embrace by nobody. Now thing 'bout that! How I going know how that is nize? How you also know—aexcep' you learn?—Ah—ah—ah! How do you learn those? An' where?" She shook her finger at him. She meant him to think it roguery; but her heart sank dizzily. "You been betroth with—with—another?"
He did not answer. He was looking down at her very fondly.
"Alas an' alas! Those purple-eye Americans! How they are beautiful! How beautiful! They frighten me! All purple, pink, an' yellow!"
She thought all American women were blonde.
The maid brought the tobaco-bon, which he declined. Then she brought tea and confections, which she put between them.
"Mister Ji-Saburo—I got call you Mister, don' I? I been tell that I got call you Mister."
"Call me what you like. I am no Mister, I am a Japanese." He said it savagely. She leaned toward him with dewy eyes.
"Oh, thang the good Shaka! Then I—I go'n' call you jus'—Liddle Round One, aha! Lig we use' do long—long ago."
"I shall tell you about the purple-eyed women. There was one. And I thought I was American enough to pay court to her."
"Wha' 's that mos' tarrible word? " begged the girl, in mock alarm.
"There is no Japanese for it. It is trying to make a girl care for you—love you—by associating with her. I asked her to marry me finally—"
"You as' the girl—herself?—not her father?—an' all her uncles? "
"In America the girl herself decides."
"How that is nize! " sighed Madame Glory. Ji-Saburo remained silent.
"An'—an' she going marry you? You going marry she? " It took courage, but she had it.
"Ah—ah—ah! Tha' 's sawry—ver' sawry. I don' lig that. Tha' 's not nize. Take 'nother cup tea an' rice-cake? " But her face, radiant with joy, distinctly belied her words.
"She is not sorry—nor am I—now—nor need you be. But I was hit hard. I went to Tokio and enlisted. Was at Sei-kwang. Got this wound there. Am home on furlough. I tried to fancy it all patriotism. But it was—" He tapped the cardiac region and laughed. "I'm afraid you have healed me. I don't want to fight now."
The girl's face lit up anew.
"Oh!—an'—an' you go'n' marry me—lig our both parents promise each other—long ago? Ji-Saburo—you—go'n' marry—me?"
He had no such thought. But, as he looked at her now, she was beautiful to him in a way no American girl had ever been. Her key-note was daintiness. Miss Norris of Philadelphia had told him curtly that of course he must marry a Japanese, when it came to that. Well, Glory had panically stuck two poppies into her hair, one on each side, with the new kanzashi behind them. The maid had touched her lips with beni. She had the patrician face of the old Yamato. And now, with parted lips and long eyes, she was questioning him tragically.
"Yes," he said, "I shall marry you."
The girl drooped her head for joy. She could not speak. But her heart was visibly leaping.
"She said that I ought to marry a Japanese girl. She is right. There are none more beautiful."
Glory looked quickly up.
"You thing I am beautiful?"
"Very," he said.
"As that other—with the purple eye?"
"Yes," he prevaricated. But he did not deceive her.
"Ah, I am jus' liddle beautiful." Her voice was sadder.
"Little," he corrected.
"Ah, yaes; liddle. You don' lig that United States' language?—yaet you as' me learn, so we may converse when you arrive back."
Still there was weariness in her melodious tones.
"Oh, did I? " he laughed.
"Ah, how you forgit, Ji-Saburo! An' how I remember—lig I naever kin forgit! Ah—ah—ah! Mister—seem lig I got call you so—I been tell so moach. An' you got on those square clothes which seem too large at 'most all the places. Ah, Japanese clothes made for jus' Japanese an' no one else; an' Japanese made for jus' Japanese clothes an' no other else. Aha, ha, ha! Tha' 's why I got call you Mister, I egspeg."
"What a sprite you are!"
"Now wha' 's that?"
They had risen from the mats, and he illustrated his absurd idea of the phrase elaborately, saying, besides, that a sprite is a being to be caressed and kissed and loved—to save men's souls.
"I—thing you bedder—not!—don' you—then?—Mebby I lose you your soul?"
But she was very doubtful of it. And he had no doubt at all. It was the American way, he proudly explained.
"Ah! I am happier than I have aever been sinze I was borned! All the evil years are blotted out by jus' this one liddle minute! So—I don' keer who teach you—jus' if you teach me, aha, ha, ha! You lig do that with me? I don' want oblige that you do aenything. But—if you wish—Ji-Saburo—it is—sweet! Oh, all the gods, how it is sweet!"
She had drawn his bayonet.
"I don' lig that you cut with a sword, Ani-San. Oh—oh—oh! Mebby you git kill sometime, an' I jus' liddle ole widows. What you thing?"
"That I shall stay right here and not run the risk—of making you a widow. I am entitled to my discharge."
Glory thought of her mother-in-law—and of something else.
"No—no—no! You got go back an' fight. You got. Tha' 's why I pray so hard—" She laughed roguishly. "Oh, jus' to fight—nothing else in the worl'. Aha, ha, ha!"
"Then? Ah—when you come back all glorious—"
"You will marry me?"
Their eyes met. Hers fell; she knew not why.
"Why not now?" insisted Ji-Saburo.
"I—I am marry jus' now," said Glory. His face changed instantly. She, looking down, did not see it.
"They make me marry account I so poor, an' you go'n' to naever come back an' marry me. Me? I don' keer who I marry. The nakodo he bring a mans here—two—three—four time. Me? I marry him after while, account I tire' of him. This hosban'—he gitting tire' of me now. An' me? Oh, how I gitting more tire' of him! An' of that mother of him! He go'n' divorce me, I egspeg, account I don' lig those mother. Me? I will naever lig her! See! Tha' 's how I make him divorce me. Then—then—ah, Ji-Saburo—you shall marry me! Jus' lig I been praying for aever sinze I been borned! Aha, Ji-Saburo! "
She looked up now with a tense triumph in her face. But the eyes of Ji-Saburo were stony. A savage chill swept the joy from her heart. She shivered as if with cold. But she crept a little closer, and the words she spoke trembled forth haltingly.
"Ah—ah—ah! All the gods in the sky! Don' you lig that I go'n' marry you—an' be that happy—for aever an' aever—an' make you that happy—also for aever an' aever—you, Ji-Saburo?"
But the superb young soldier was a threatening god as he stood there with the effulgent intelligence of the West in his face.
"Ah, God of the Light! What I done with you to put such a loog in your face? Speak it to me! Ji-Saburo, speak! "
His voice, as he answered her, was soft with Eastern gentleness:
"Permit me to go without speaking—that is best. I was mistaken in thinking I am Japanese. I am not—I am nothing. Born here; bred there."
"Ah, Ji-Saburo, thing how long I have waited! An' will you not tell me why you go'n' be so crule with me? See, I beg on my both knees."
She laid her head at his feet.
"You will never forgive me if I do."
"Me? I forgive you bifore! Now—tell me. By all the gods, tell me!"
"To be 'married' and 'divorced' so easily is held an evil custom by all the rest of the world."
The girl's head drooped. The merciful explanation was entirely insufficient to her. She could not even guess her shame. But it was sufficiently pictured in his face.
"An'—tha' 's what—the purple-eye one—thing—'bout me?—that—I do—evil?"
"Forgive me—you are innocent. I am not. God help me! I have eaten of the tree of knowledge."
"Oh, Shaka! Jus' one minute ago I was that happy!" She sat up again, though she did not raise her head. "Ah, Ji-Saburo, all the days, an' nights, an' months, an' years I have waited an' prayed. Alas! the gods have both answered an' denied my prayers—for I asked only to see you. I did not dream—dream that you would make me that happy that you might wish for marry me. Oh, all the gods in the sky! if I had jus' dreamed those—I should have been a nun for you, Ji-Saburo—a nun." She looked slowly, avariciously, up at him. " An' you are more splendid than I even dream you. An' I—when you see me I am jus'—evil. Forgive me, Ani-San. I would die rather than make you thing—regret—" she sighed. "Jus"—jus' I shall always be sad in hereafter. An' will you be a liddle kine to me—oh, jus' a liddle—account I got be always sad? "
He took her hands gently and said yes.
"An' you go'n' say farewell? Ah, Ji-Saburo, can you not kiss me? Jus' this once more? It was so sweet! Loog! I thing jus' that liddle while ago that you go'n' to always kiss me an'—How you call that other? Ah—ah—ah! you will not? Alas, no! for I am—evil. But my hands? Kiss my hands—lig you do the purple-eye women see,—I beg."
She put them out to him with Protean beseeching.
He kissed them one after the other, and was gone. She groveled at the Butsu-dan a moment. Then she rose and hastened to the door. He was just disappearing.
"Sayonara!" she sobbed, "foraever an' foraever—sayonara!"
Her husband came in. She faced him savagely.
"Oh, all the gods, how I hate you! You have made me evil."
He tried to salute her mockingly.
"If you touch me I will kill you," she cried.
One moment of amazed silence. Then he struck her. As she lay at his feet she heard him say to the man-servant:
"Find the nakodo. Let him return her to her father. Take all the presents she brought."
She was divorced.
Ji-Saburo had once more set his face to the south—where the war was.
Her purification began at the great temple of Asakusa. I cannot stop to tell what it cost—of penance and travail. But at the end the bonzes assured her that she was again without sin. They had never seen the evil she accused herself of—prayed for. To them she had done no wrong. But for the repose of her soul they humored her—the gentle priests. Now she was without sin, they said. So she meant always to remain. As she went from them for the last time, they burnt incense upon her, and, with smiles, gave her the blessings of all the gods.
Ji-Saburo had disappeared at Ping-yang. He was with the first army-corps that led the attack on the front. He had planted the flag of his regiment upon the first rampart in the very face of the enemy. The army called his courage that of the young devil. The world knows the fury of the Chinese to dislodge that emblem of alien authority. Oshima's troops were forced sullenly back. Ji-Saburo alone remained by the flag he had planted. And he stood at ease and smiled contemptuously at the disordered horde below him. Then Oshima himself took his place beneath it.
"Soldier, we will die here alone rather than retreat," he said.
But Nagaoka also sprang to the side of his commander. With a savage shout his retreating regiment followed him. Again the rampart was won. And again the Chinese swarmed upon the flag and its handful of defenders. Nothing could live in that hell of metal and flame. Savagery, that had not yet learned defeat, raved here as in primeval carnage. The flag went down—lost in the heaps of slain. And Ji-Saburo went down with it.
That his old mother might erect a little tablet at the shrine if he were dead—to find him if alive—was the task that Glory undertook. Everybody helped her. But it was long, and everywhere the wounded needed her, and she became a nurse. Soon there was not a field-hospital where the wan face of the "Spirit Nurse," as the soldiers affectionately called her, was not known. If a soldier had his eyes closed by her hands he died with a better hope of Nirvana.
And one day the great commander himself came to see and thank her. She told him quite simply all her little story. And he, looking into her worn face, told her, with generous untruth, that Ji-Saburo had been made a colonel, had gone home to marry her, had not found her there. He would be with her in six days now. She must rest a great deal—sleep—and Ji-Saburo would come.
A courier left for the front within an hour. He carried to Ji-Saburo this message:
"Your general commands you to appear here within six days. He awaits you. Fail not."
And Glory did as she was commanded. But her resting was the subsiding of the spirit. She smiled happily on the preparations they made for her wedding. It was to be a stately military function. This was the general's command. She was in the service, he said.
And Ji-Saburo, too, obeyed like a soldier. In six days he was at her side. She was dead. She lay upon the narrow military bed, with her head resting lightly on her bent arm. Her unbound hair duskily framed her face—very young and beautiful it was now. She was in her dainty wedding-garments. A knot of pink ribbon was pinned above her heart. It held the decoration she had won in the service. And some one—the same good hand that understood and had disposed her thus—had laid beside her, so that her face was partly buried in it, a huge bunch of pink cherry-blossoms. The flowers touched her eyes and lips as if she had kissed them—and they had kissed her. The peace on her wan face had come, they told him, with her last word, which had been his name.