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"Well, mainly because I 'm a junk- "Have I informed you," he replied headed fool," I replied, this time quietly, “that I desire to change my acridly.
residence? I'm obliged to you, no He looked slowly at me—at the braid doubt,”—he shrugged deprecatingly and epaulets of my rather smart uni- toward the empty dishes,—"but as I form, then at his squalor. The con- have only lately arrived in this delighttrast was not pleasant, but he smiled, ful city-delightful, that is, to you," perhaps with amusement at the thought he added, with secret hatred in his of the humiliation it would cause me, eyes, "I don't see just why you are so evidently a person without humor, to particularly interested in my departwalk the tourist-thronged streets with ure.' him. The smile, though sardonic, was "Nor do I," I answered harshly, unspeakably wretched.
realizing that I must speak plainer. "As you please," he assented, a touch “But there is a reason, and I 've no of mockery still left, for self-respect, doubt it's a good one.” in his bow; and we turned into the His stare became more guarded, but street.
there was only such doubt in his face He walked beside me with shame and as comes easily to those who distrust yet with contemptuous enjoyment. Our destiny at large. way was past the rich curio-shops, dis- “This is most interesting," he said playing shadowy treasures of bronze, with more elaborate irony, yet at the silver, and ivory. It took all Mrs. Neil- same time clenching an uncontrolled son's attractions, I 'm willing to admit, hand. “I've no love for this city, mind to keep me from turning him loose you; more than you, a seaman, with yen in his pocket, or at best from would have for a rotten ship in a China handing him over somehow to the care typhoon. I came here first fifteen of the consulate.
years ago. And then, my friend, I But, with clothes obtained, he was was a lad, happy, healthy, hopefulat length seated before a substantial lunch on the balcony of my room at He paused at the vision his words the hotel. The rain had ceased. The had unintentionally raised before him bund, with its moist human stream, -paused as if it were a ghost ready to flowed below. In the harbor were strangle him. I knew I must say more the tethered ships of many nations, to get the scene over. swarmed about by sampans, and from
must clear out,” I my destroyer floated the beloved stars growled, "and the sooner the better. and stripes.
If you lack money, all right. That 's He ate and drank in silence. I stood all I 've got to say, except that one with my back to him, looking over the can't hang around making women missea I had been glad to get away from a erable." few hours since, but that I now heart- “Women?” ily wished myself back on, out of this “The woman with me this morning irritating pother.
when I passed you was Mrs. Hilda NeilIt had to be got over, however; so son." I turned. He was just finishing his It took a moment before the name whisky and soda, and was doubtless got through the blankness of his stare; considering the particular tone in then he quivered as if a harpoon had which to thank me, when I spoke. suddenly been hooked in his heart, and
"I don't know who you are, where a flood of horror surged over his face you came from, or what you are doing such horror, it seemed, as might break in Yokohama," I began, with an inten- into any terrible passion. sity that made him stare, “but I 've "Hilda-Neilson ?" fell from him, got to ask you to be good enough to like slow drops of blood. “Hildatell me where you wish to go."
Neilson?” This was not entirely impressive or I stared in turn. The inner cause tactful, as he was quick to see. He of his horror and anguish was of course scanned me coolly; then his lip curled. unknown to me, but of one thing I be
came aware: the thought that he had “She met me out there in the harstood there in his degradation begging bor; came on a tug. As it danced up of her, and had been recognized, was and down on the waves, it seemed to an overwhelming poison.
me she was dancing with joy at seeing “God! God! God!” he exclaimed, gaz
And perhaps she was inwardly; ing at me with the expression of one perhaps not. God! I don't know now. who has been diabolically betrayed, and She was flushed, anyhow, and happy not for the first time, by chance. Then, and beautiful, fatally beautiful. And as if on the verge of hysteria, or at yet she was restrained; she was Hilda least with an indignation that made Holt. him writhe, he cried: “It 's a lie. She “My things were taken to the hotel lives in San Francisco. She would n't and handed to the porter, an ivorycome back here. She would n't. Who faced villain who—but, no; wait till you are you, anyway?”
have heard, to judge him.
Then we His debilitated body shook from went to Hilda's home to see her people. head to foot.
“The streets seemed enchanted, for "I don't think she believed you would I'd never been out of America before, come back," I said. It was getting and our kuruma was double; so I sat hard to keep pity and kindness out of close to her, as you did this morning. my voice, for back of his ruin, I began To live in this place, as I expected to, to feel, was some calamity greater than and to work for her among these little mere infirmity of individual will. Life people, who seemed so pleasant and had sometimes a way of destroying us kindly-it suffocates me with despair with subtle and impersonal mischances as I recall it. more relentless than our own folly. "Her people received me open-armed,
His passion, however, was as was right. They jested at my incaught up and torn by another thought. fatuation and about the
the wedding. “She sent you to me," he raged- Meanwhile we went out through the “sent you with money left her by How- streets of little shops, whose blue-andard Neilson, whom she never loved, white hangings, with Japanese characnever, though she did marry him! She ters on them, seemed to me like goodsent you to get me out of town-out luck signs. Good luck? They are of sight. Brushing her skirts against writhing serpents of hell to me now.” a memory that has become bloated is He reached for his empty whiskynot, dou tless, to her taste.”
glass and drained the few drops that I did not deny this. At the moment had gathered at the bottom. The mere it would have been useless. His loud habit seemed to steady him. sense of betrayal was deafening him “The third day Hilda was occupied to any other possible interpretation. with clothes. I was left alone at the He continued:
hotel, with nothing to do. The charm “You, my gallant friend, may know of the land had already intoxicated me. nothing of all this, you who no doubt can, with almost any man. want to marry her yourself. But you soothes the senses, yet lures them. And shall know it, endure it. I came here, the curst place does so with such as I told you, fifteen years ago—came quaintness and witchery of beautiful to marry Hilda Holt. Yes, I. We had sights and sounds that he never thinks been engaged for a year, and had writ- of evil or danger. ten each other two, three, four times “An idea struck me that I would buy a week.
It was April, the month set something for Hilda—something wonfor the wedding, when I sailed from derful and unique; something that even San Francisco. I was young,” his voice the connoisseurs would gape at; somebroke, and irony dropped away from it thing, too, for our home, which was to as he added: “The Golden Gate seemed be built in Japanese fashion. For we to me the very gate of heaven as our intended to be real Orientals, Hilda ship put out through it."
and I did, with mats, shoji, kakemono, He paused. Undeniable sobs were and all. on the point of breaking from him. "I told the porter at the door that
I wanted a treasure of the rarest sort, pine-trees in the center. There he and asked him to tell my kurumaya. I stopped, hot, smiling, and panting, bewas young, and no doubt love and de- fore a Japanese door, with its shoji sire were rawly apparent in me. Per- thrown open.
And inside" haps that porter misunderstood me; Speech failed him again, and this perhaps he did n't. For years after time his head sank to his arms, which I would have killed him at sight, any
rested on the table. His face was where, merely on the strength of the twitching. When he lifted it to condoubt."
tinue, he asked, with startling hopeHe pushed the knife, unconsciously lessness, “Do you believe in freedom picked up from the table, away from of the will?” him as he said it, and went on:
The question was evidently always "My kurumaya quickly wheeled me at the bottom of his heart-and of his away, off across the canal, where the soul, which had been overthrown and fishermen sunned themselves in sam- betrayed. He did not wait for an pans, past Motomachi, up the hill, you answer. know the way, -and along the winding “Inside there stood a girl. That porresidence road leading to Mississippi ter had, indeed, sent me to something Bay.
She was the aristocratic type of “The cherries were in bloom; bam- Japanese beauty, with long oval face, boos swayed. I sat back, and crossed black hair done up in the geisha fashmy legs. Flowers and miniature gar- ion, dreamy eyes--that kind. A kidens were everywhere, as now, and mono of light-rose silk hung, and fell those shady rocks the natives prize so. open, from her shoulders.
She was “I was transported.” He faltered. wonderful. The bitterness and irony of years again “She turned and smiled at me in the fell from him, and it was easy to im- way Japanese women can, a submisagine him as he must have been, sive, irresistible smile. They get it, I young, handsome, radiant, with a bliss suppose, through ages of wheedling ful future before him. “Yes, trans- their indifferent men. ported and in love. And I had been “ 'Please to come in?' she said. Then, faithful, too, never untrue to Hilda, when she saw clearly that I was taken even in thought. Yet if desire was at by surprise and stood helpless before work in me, was n't I a man? Anyhow, her beauty, 'Please to come up-stairs.' I drank in beauty at every pore, though “They were her only words of Engbeing all the while in a sort of Nir- lish, but as I followed, they seemed vana.”
like a leash that at the moment I would Some hatred of the word, as he said rather have died than broken. She it, brought him back to his present bit- gave me food, sake, music on the koto, ter self, from which, indeed, more than dancing—and herself. a moment's escape was impossible to “Yes," he went on almost fiercely, him.
"herself. And Puritan as I was and "My kurumaya had taken a direction am yet in belief, those two hours did away from the shopping district, but not seem wrong, but only a part of the that did n't seem strange. What did enchantment of the land." it matter where I bought my gift? This old insoluble perplexity-of deWhat did anything matter but the sun- sire, somehow implanted, that yet can shine and enchantment, but the lure bring ruin—was, I fancy, much in his and sweetness of this precious land of thought; but now he dismissed it with the lotus, where I had come to marry a sentence. Hilda?
“Nature's trick is to punish us most "Well, before I knew it we were when she tempted us most. We heard reaching the edge of the city; and a sudden noise of voices down-stairs, again before I knew it my kurumaya and what seemed to be terrified denials had turned suddenly to the left into a from several inmates of the house. little bamboo-walled garden, and had Then there were feet on the stairs, the circled around a rocky pool and several shoji of our room were thrown open,
and police stood in the entrance. The Hilda had turned to stone. She would girl beside me grew pale at some ac- not see or hear him, giving as a reason cusal in Japanese. Denials broke from that unfaithfulness at the moment of her lips, bewitching and indignant, but marriage meant certain unfaithfulness
A thousand-yen note, it seemed, afterward. had been stolen in the place the night He had written pages of pleas for before, and all found there were three months; his letters always came ordered before the magistrates."
back. Oh, she was hard, frozen cruel, The rest fell from him brokenly, Hilda was, as only the proud can be. apathetically, as if he were exhausted And then in six months she had marwith the passion of trying to vindicate ried—she who had scorned marriage to a stranger what could not truly be except for love! vindicated.
He had gone away to Shanghai and There had been a scandal, as a mat- into wild company.
From Shangter of course. He had been compelled hai he went to Java and put the little to appeal to his prospective father-in- money he had left in a coffee concern, law, as he was unknown in Yokohama. which failed.
Then malaria had attacked him. He This was his last submission. The was for months in a Surabaya hospital, sense of wrong he had suffered was the friendless and moneyless. When he one thing he could oppose to his ungot up he was too done for to work; forgetable sense of degradation; it was and he wanted liquor, wanted it badly, his ballast against the reelings of deto forget.
spair. Only a step remained from that to "I will tell her," I said. becoming a beach-comber, to drifting He took up his hat, offered me his here, there, anywhere, helped from hand, hesitantly, and, after I had time to time by a little money bor- grasped it, went out. rowed, begged, or earned; for he would not appeal to his people. Then he had I SAT smoking till dusk, and after come back to Yokohama with the prom- dinner went to see Hilda. The rain ise in a month's time of a job. It was had ceased. The moon was damnably a last chance for him. An old friend haunting. It poured phosphorescent was on the way from San Francisco, silver on the temples, where crimson one who might help him.
lanterns swung; on shadowy gateI heard him out, and ordered more posts, whose ideographs, I recalled, whisky, loath as I was to do so. When seemed to Lowry like writhing hellhe had drunk it at a gulp, I could serpents; on the branches of bamboo speak.
and pine; and on the mystery of the “I don't know," I said, "whether character is destiny, as we've heard Hilda, herself again, was expecting it contended, but destiny is often me, in manner and attire cool, handenough hell. And as it has been so for some, complete. It was fascinating, you, Lowry, I don't mind saying I 'm partly, I believe, because the uncersorry. In fact, as I 'm a man myself, tainty of life at sea made the certainty you have as much of my sympathy in that she would always be thus presentthis matter as Mrs. Neilson. Never- able most tempting. theless, you must leave Yokohama.” We walked in the garden that I
He took this, looking hard at me, and might smoke, or perhaps that she wiping his drink-swollen lips in the might throw over her shoulders a habitual way. An understanding of rarely embroidered mandarin coat of man to man passed slowly between us. irresistible hue. I was given an ac
He rose silently and looked around count of the day at the embassy, begun the room, as if not only Yokohama with regret that I had missed it, but streets, but indeed the whole world, related with the satisfaction and aswere stark prison-walls for him. Then suredness of one who has recently been his gaze went far away out the win- soothed by admiration and flattery. dow, past the ships and the sea, to Yet flattery had not proved a comanother world he had long lost sight plete anodyne to the encounter of the of-the world of noblesse oblige and of morning: it only covered insecurity. the ideals to which he had been bred. I could see that. And she was little
The struggle which took place in him pleased with the silence I was deterwas brief. Perhaps he had suffered mined to keep until she asked for what too much to keep it up long. Perhaps, she most wished to hear. as I am inclined to think, the result “Well?” she said at length, laying was a clear spiritual triumph for him. an intimate hand for the first time on "Yes," he said and smiled miserably,
my arm. sardonically, as when he had first met The touch was crucial. Twentyme, “I must go. Chances are only for four hours before it would have those who don't need a chance. And brought ardent avowal to my lips. Now you may tell Hilda,” he added, with a I let it rest there without seeming to tinge of scorn concealing the gallantry consider the caress or even to be aware of what seemed to him a lie, “that she of it. was right. Hilda, you know, always “Oh, he's going away,” I said, as liked to be right."
if that was all that was needed.