BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
CONSUL AND MRS. SAMUEL C. REAT
IN REMEMBRANCE OF SUNNY ALBERTA DAYS
Madame Many Smiles was dead.The famous dancer of the House of aThousand Joys had fluttered out into theLand of Shadows. No longer would poet orreveller vie with each other in doing homageto her whose popularity had known no wanewith the years, who had, indeed, become one ofthe classic objects of art of the city. In a landwhere one's ancestry is esteemed the all importantthing, Madame Many Smiles hadstood alone, with neither living relatives nor ancestorsto claim her. Who she was, or whenceshe had come, none knew, but the legend of theHouse was that on a night of festival she hadappeared at the illuminated gates, as a moth,who, beaten by the winds and storms without,seeks shelter in the light and warmth of thejoyhouse within.
Hirata had bonded her for a life term. Herremuneration was no more than the geishas'[pg 10]meagre wage, but she was allowed the prerogativeof privacy. Her professional duties over,no admiring patron of the gardens might claimher further service. She was free to return toher child, whose cherry blossom skin and fairhair proclaimed clearly the taint of her whiteblood. Hirata was lenient in his training ofthe child, for the dancer had brought with herinto the House of a Thousand Joys, Daikoku,the God of Fortune, and Hirata could affordto abide the time when the child of the dancershould step into her shoes. But the day hadcome far ahead of his preparations, and whilethe dancer was at the zenith of her fame. Theywere whispering about the gardens that themoth that had fluttered against the House ofJoy had fluttered back into the darkness fromwhich she had come. With her she had takenDaikoku.
A profound depression had settled upon theHouse of a Thousand Joys. Geishas, apprenticesand attendants moved aimlessly abouttheir tasks, their smiles mechanical and theirmotions automatic. The pulse and inspirationof the house had vanished. In the gardensthe effect of the news was even more noticeable.Guests were hurriedly departing, turningtheir cups upside down and calling for[pg 11]their clogs. Tea girls slid in and out on hurriedservice to the departing guests, anddespite the furious orders of the master toaffect a gaiety they did not feel, their bestefforts were unavailing to dispel the strangeveil of gloom that comes ever with death. Thestar of the House of a Thousand Joys hadtwinkled out forever.
It was the night of the festival of the FullMoon. The cream of the city were gatheredto do honour to the shining Tsuki no Kami inthe clear sky above. But the death of thedancer had cast its shadow upon all, and therewas a superstitious feeling abroad that it wasthe omen of a bad year for the city.
In the emptying gardens, Hirata saw impendingruin. Running hither and thither,from house to garden, snapping his fingers,with irritation and fury, he cursed the luck thathad befallen him on this night of all nights.The maids shrank before his glance, or silentlyscurried out of his path. The geishas withautomatic smile and quip vainly sought toforce a semblance of exhilaration, and thetwang of the samisen failed to drown that verylow beat of a Buddhist drum in the temple beyondthe gardens, where especial honour was[pg 12]to be paid to the famous dancer, who had givenher services gratuitously to the temple.
In fury and despair, Hirata turned from theingratiating women. Again he sought theapartments where the dead dancer lay in stateamong her robes. Here, with her face at hermother's feet, the child of the dancer prayedunceasingly to the gods that they would permither to attend her mother upon the longjourney to the Meido. Crushed and hurt bya grief that nothing could assuage, only dimlythe girl sensed the words of the master, orderingher half peremptorily, half imploringlyto prepare for service to the House. Possiblyit was his insinuation that for the sake of hermother's honour it behooved her to step intoher place, and uphold the fame of the departedone, that aroused her to a mechanical assent.Soon she was in the hands of the dressers, hermourning robes stripped, and the skin tightsof the trapese performer substituted.
Hirata, in the gardens, clapping his handsloudly to attract the attention of the departingguests, took his stand upon the little platform.Saluting his patrons with lavish compliments,he begged their indulgence and patience. Thelight of his House, it was true, so he said, hadbeen temporarily extinguished, but the passing[pg 13]of a dancer meant no more than the falling ofa star; and just as there were other stars inthe firmament brighter than those that hadfallen, so the House of a Thousand Joys possessedin reserve greater beauty and talentthan that the guests had generously bestowedtheir favour upon. The successor to the honourabledancer was bound to please, since sheexcelled her mother in beauty even as the sundoes the moon. He therefore entreated hisguests to transfer their gracious patronage tothe humble descendant of Madame ManySmiles.
The announcement caused as much of a sensationas the news of the dancer's death haddone. There was an element of disapprovaland consternation in the glances exchanged inthe garden. Nevertheless there was a disposition,governed by curiosity, to at least see thedaughter of the famous dancer, who appearedon the night of her mother's death.
A party of American students, with atutor, were among those still remaining inthe gardens. Madame Many Smiles had beenan especial favourite with them, their interestpossibly due to the fact that she was said tobe a half caste. Her beauty and fragility hadappealed to them as something especially rare,[pg 14]like a choice piece of cloisonnŤ, and the romanceand mystery that seemed ever abouther, captivated their interest, and set themspeculating as to what was the true story ofthis woman, whom the residents pointed towith pride as the masterpiece of their city. Aninterpreter having translated the words of themanager, there was a general growl of disapprovalfrom the young Americans. However,they, too, remained to see the daughter ofMadame Many Smiles, and pushed up near tothe rope, along which now came the descendant.
She was a child of possibly fourteen years,her cheeks as vividly red as the poppies in herhair, her long large eyes, with their shiningblack lashes, strangely bright and feverish.She came tripping across the rope, with alaugh upon her lips, her hair glistening, underthe spotlight, almost pure gold in colour.Bobbed and banged in the fashion of the Japanesechild, it yet curled about her exquisiteyoung face, and added the last touch of witcheryto her beauty. Though her bright red lipswere parted in the smile that had made hermother famous, there was something appealingin her wide, blank stare at her audience.
She was dressed in tights, without the customary[pg 15]cape above her, and her graceful, slenderlimbs were those of extreme youth, suppleas elastic from training and ancestry, the lithe,pliable young body of the born trapese performerand dancer. She tossed her parasol toher shoulder, threw up her delicate littlepointed chin and laughed across at that sea offaces, throwing right and left her kisses; butthe Americans, close to the rope, were observinga phenomenon, for even as her charminglittle teeth gleamed out in that so captivatingsmile, a dewdrop appeared to glisten on thechild's shining face. Even as she laughed andpostured to the music that burst out, therea-tiptoe on the tightrope, the dewdrop felldown her face and disappeared into the sawdust.
Like a flower on the end of a long slenderstalk, tossing in the wind, her lovely little headswayed from side to side. Her small, speakinghands, the wrists of which were lovelierthan those celebrated by the Japanese poetwho for fifteen years had penned his one-linepoems to her mother, followed the rhythm ofthe music, and every part of that delicateyoung body seemed to sensitively stir and moveto the pantomime dance of the tightrope.
In triumph, Hirata heard the loud "Hee-i-i-!"[pg 16]and the sharp indrawing and expulsionsof breaths. Scrambling across the room,puffing and expressing his satisfaction, camethe Lord of Negato, drunk with sake andamorous for the child upon the rope. Hepushed his way past the besieging tea housemaidens, who proffered him sweets and tea andsake. His hands went deep into his sleeves,and drew forth a shining bauble. With ingratiatingcries to attract her attention, heflung the jewel to the girl upon the rope. Returninghis smile, she whirled her fan wideopen, caught the gift upon it, and, laughing,tossed it into the air. Juggling and playingwith the pretty toy, she kept it twirling in acircle above her, caught it again on her fan,and dropped it down onto the sawdust beneath.Then, like a naughty child, pleasedover some trick, she danced back and forthalong the rope, as it swung wide with her.
A grunt of anger came from Hirata, whoapproached near enough for her to see and beintimidated by him, but she kept her gaze wellabove his head, feigning neither to see him,nor the still pressing Negato. He was callingup to her now, clucking as one might at a dog,and when at last her glance swept his, he threwat her a handful of coin. This also she caught[pg 17]neatly on her opened fan, and then, actingupon a sudden impetuous and impish impulse,she threw right in the face of her besiegingadmirer. Jumping from the rope to theground, she smiled and bowed right and left,kissed her hands to her audience, and vanishedinto the teahouse.
With an imprecation, Hirata followed herinto the house. The little maiden, holding thetray, and pausing to solicit the patronage ofthe Americans, had watched the girl's exit withtroubled eyes, and now she said in English:
"Now Hirata will beat her."
"What do you mean?" demanded the youngman, who had rejected the proffered cup, andwas staring at her with such angry eyes thatSpring Morning dropped her own, and bobbedher knees in apology for possible offence.
"What do you mean?" repeated JerryHammond, determined upon securing an answer,while his friends crowded about interestedalso in the reply.
Half shielding her face with her fan, thegirl replied in a low voice:
"Always the master beats the apprenticewho do wrong. When her mother live, he donot touch her child, but now Madame Many[pg 18]Smiles is dead, and Hirata is very angry. Hewill surely put the lash to-night upon her."
"Do you mean to tell me that that little girlis being beaten because she threw back thatdirty gorilla's coin to him?"
Spring Morning nodded, and the tears thatcame suddenly to her eyes revealed that thegirl within had all of her sympathy.
"The devil she is!" Jerry Hammond turnedto his friends, "Are we going to stand forthis?" demanded Jerry.
"Not by a dashed sight!" shrilly respondedthe youngest of the party, a youth of seventeen,whose heavy bone-ribbed glasses gavehim a preternaturally wise look.
The older man of the party here interposedwith an admonitory warning:
"Now, boys, I advise you to keep out ofthese oriental scraps. We don't want to getmixed up in any teahouse brawls. These Japanesegirls are used——"
"She's not a Japanese girl," furiously deniedJerry. "She's as white as we are. Didyou see her hair?"
"Nevertheless——" began Professor Barrowes,but was instantly silenced by his clamouringyoung charges.
"I," said Jerry, "propose to go on a privately[pg 19]conducted tour of investigation into theinfernal regions of that house of alleged joys.If any of you fellows have cold feet, stay righthere snug with papa. I'll go it alone."
That was quite enough for the impetuousyoungsters. With a whoop of derision at theidea of their having "cold feet," they weresoon following Jerry in a rush upon the housethat was reminiscent of football