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THE OPEN GATE
THE GRAND OLD MAN
IT was in the fall of 1852 that I, Dave Hazard, foreign correspondent of the American Republic, received the following letter:
NEW YORK, November 21.
MY DEAR HAZARD:
You have probably heard that Commodore Perry has sailed on his diplomatic expedition to Japan.
The press has exhausted every means in its power to obtain permission to send correspondents with the fleet, but the Government has rigorously refused.
However, yours truly proposes to scoop his rival brothers of the ink-well, in the following manner. With the enclosed passports and letter of credit sail immediately to Bombay. Thence overland to Calcutta,—two months ought to make it. Then by mail steamer to Shanghai, where we figure the fleet will anchor about the middle of May.
Present credentials to Commodore Perry, and obtain some sort of commission on his flag-ship. If you get the Republic in first you can have any place on the staff. You are a live-wire and your linguistic attainments fit you admirably for the post.
We depend upon you to succeed. Stoker or cabin-boy, it does not matter what, but get something. If the “old man” is obdurate go as a stowaway. Stay not on the manner of your going but go!
I followed instructions but reached Shanghai, too late. Perry had just sailed for Japan!
By good luck, however, I found a Japanese fishing-craft bound for the Loo-Choo Islands and bribed the captain to give me passage.
After a nasty voyage on the treacherous Yellow Sea we sighted the island of Oshima. Perry’s fleet lay at anchor in the palm-fringed bay.
Presenting my credentials I hopefully boarded the Susquehanna. But to all my eloquence “the grand old man” turned a deaf ear.
In vain I urged him to accept me as interpreter, since I possessed a rudimentary knowledge of the Japanese language.
“Do you not see, Commodore, that I can be of vital service?” I persisted; “I have, moreover, a friend at Nagasaki, who will present me to the Shogun, on whose favour the treaty depends.”
He reflected a moment and my hopes soared only to crash suddenly to the ground.
“Impossible,” he blurted with finality.
“Very well” I shrugged; “if you have no use for me I shall go on my own account. Should I secure the Shogun’s consent to the treaty, may I infer you would not be altogether displeased?
“I wish you success and shall be glad to hear the outcome of your venture,” he smiled, “but are you aware how they treat ‘Foreign Devils’ here?” He drew his finger across his throat with a significant sound. “Will you not relinquish this reckless plan?”
“Never,” I insisted; “a fool and his folly are ill parted!”
“Damned if I don’t like your pluck!” he laughed, wringing my hand.
FALSE FRIEND AND FRIENDLY FOE
Beneath her broidered robe of satin rare,
Bound by an obi tied in a great bow,
White, cloven-stockinged feet flit to and fro,
Like butterflies a flutter in the air.
While, from the lustrous lacquer of her hair,
And pallid oval face and forehead low
Her eyes, twin jets within a lake of snow,
Gleam gladly forth, with glances debonair.
A fleeting flower, abloom for our delight,
A winged essence from a blither sky,
Born but to blossom for a single night,
Then swift to fade into the realm of gloom.
But not in vain thy bright ephemeral bloom,
Thy fragrance lingers still in memory!
The day was deadly sultry. Suddenly out of a vivid cobalt sky came a torrential tropic downpour.
The glad little hills gleamed green and glossy like Della Robbia enamels, then faded grey and leaden like Hiroshige prints. Again the sun blazed forth revealing the rain-washed landscape.
Hard by, a vermilion temple unsheathed its sword-like roof. Beyond, a grassy moor-land ribboned by a silver stream rolled away to coral crags, floating mid sky and sea.
Down a tortuous trail rode a cavalcade. Stalwart spearmen strode in advance bearing plumed lances, crying as they came:
“Make way for his exalted Highness, the august daimio of Satsuma!”
I drew aside to allow the troop to pass; when, to my surprise, riding by the side of the daimio I recognized my old friend Van Zwyn.
“By all the gods!” I greeted; “you are the very man I am looking for!”
But the fat Dutchman gave me only a cold and glassy stare.
“Does not the Honourable Hollander recognize the Hairy Barbarian?” I asked, extending my hand.
“I never saw you before in my life,” retorted Van Zwyn, scorning my proffered courtesy.
Astonishment, anger, and chagrin rankled within me. I could not believe he had failed to recognize me. Why did the cad disdain my acquaintance?
“Quit joking,” I laughed; “you know me well enough. What is the meaning of all this pretence?”
“It means,” he frowned, “that Holland does not intend to share her monopoly with the United States. Give yourself up to me peaceably and I will send you home; or else I will deliver you to my friend the Daimio and the delights of Japanese torture!”
Cutting him across the face with my riding whip I cried:
“Swine of a Dutchman, take that for an answer.”
In a flash he drew his revolver and fired! The bullet whizzed by my ear wounding a samurai, who slashed at me blindly with his halberd.
Wrenching it from him, I belaboured the rascal roundly.
A second samurai rode to his assistance. I struck the sword from his hand.
On came another. I sent him reeling with a crash on the head.
The fourth I gored in the gorget. Then, hurling the spear in his face, I struck the rowels into my pony and galloped down the road.
There was a pounding of hoofs behind. A shot rang out and my bridle hand hung limp.
My pony raced on through the gathering dusk. I looked back. The entire troop were after me, Van Zwyn riding in advance.
A volley of shots! My little steed bolted like a hunted hare.
I drew away from my pursuers. All but Van Zwyn, who gained rapidly upon me.
I waited till he was abreast, then, turning in my saddle, aimed at his eyes.
He went suddenly white. He had emptied his revolver and realized that he was at my mercy.
I thought of our old student days as I pulled the trigger, and shot his horse through the chest.
Mount and rider fell in a huddled heap.
Up an avenue of palms I rushed to a little yashiki.
I thrust the shoji aside and entered.
A girl raised her child-like face questioningly to mine. With a low sibilation she sank like a wave until her charming nose touched the mat.
“Ohayo, Honourable Foreign Debble!” she smiled enchantingly.
Taking both her hands I raised her gently. Then catching sight of my bleeding wrist:
“Goddess of Light!” she shivered; “what those bloodeys? Speak! You enjoy honourable suffering. Sweet Shaka! What cruel barbarian done that?”
Instantly she raised my hand to her lips and sucked the blood from the wound. Then, tearing a strip from her kimono, she bandaged it tenderly, crooning the while as a mother to a sleepless babe.
Suddenly a rapping resounded at the shoji.
Pointing to a ladder, “Quick, make honourable hurryings,” she whispered.
Scarcely had I mounted to the loft when, with a shattering of shoji a troop of samurai clattered in.
“Most Honourable Princess,” fawned Van Zwyn, “I have strong suspicions that a certain Tojin spy is hiding here.”
Bamboo Blossom laughed nervously:
“Ha! ha! Spy-Tojin. How that is funny, ha! ha! I din’ see nobodys excep Swine Dutch Tojin!”
“But he was seen to enter,” insisted the Hollander.
“I’m sorry but I must search.”
She gave a sudden gasp, then recovering:
“All light,” she laughed, “I don’ keer liddle bit.”
The samurai ransacked the room from end to end.
Setsu San turned triumphantly upon the intruder:
“Now you satisfy, you fooel? Tha’s what I say, nobody’s home!”
His brows knitted in a vicious frown:
“Evidently not,” he grunted. Then, his eyes lighting upon the ladder, “Search the loft,” he thundered.
The light of battle glinted in her eyes. She struck her fan against her palm:
“Shimadzu,” she cried sharply.
A mild-faced youth entered quietly.
“Make searchings, brother,” she commanded. “Tell those Honourable Dutch swine Setsu San is liar! Tell him she make hidings bad Hairy Barbarian in bedrooms.”
The youth bowed. A faint smile of comprehension flamed, then went. He climbed the ladder and gazed at me with wide, appealing eyes.
Placing his finger upon his lips he smiled significantly, then clambered down.
“There is no one!” he asserted calmly.
“Did you search thoroughly?” questioned Van Zwyn sternly.
“Everywhere, Honoured Tojin,” the youth insisted. The Dutchman mumbled a clumsy apology.
“Make goings,” cried Bamboo Blossom, “your Honourable companys not desire is. You are permit to withdraw.”
A clank of mailed feet. The shoji clattered angrily and all was still.
I waited till night-fall, then began to descend the ladder, when a little hand pressed my lips:
“Sh—sh!” she warned, “bad Swine Dutchman make moon - shine - prowling outsides. Goon nighty,” she smiled, “Nize dream, sweet res till sunbeam!”
I clasped her tenderly and kissed her in true American fashion.
She trembled like a frightened bird:
“You loaf me liddle bit?” she questioned timorously.
“More than life!” I whispered.
“Fare bye, beeg beautiful Foreign Debbie,” she laughed, “Peace sleep till sunbeams.”
THE INN OF HAPPY MEETINGS
The traveller from far-off foreign land,
The friend, his long-lost friend to gladly greet,
Fare to and fro, a blithe and motley band,
Upon the hill where, wending hand in hand
Beneath the moon, the smiling lovers meet.
Disguised as a daimio travelling nebon I journeyed safely to Kioto.
Entering the inn, where a party of Hatamotos were carousing, I fell into the arms of Van Zwyn, gloriously exhilarated with sake.
Feigning forgetfulness of our late quarrel, he slapped me effusively upon the back, insisting that I should drink with him.
Fearing that refusal might result in a brawl, I invited him to share my supper.
He hiccoughed a maudlin farewell to his companions and staggered up the stairway.
“Good fellowsh,” he spluttered, “but fishus, too damn off —off —vicious.’’
“Yes, vicious officials, “I volunteered sympathetically.
“Letsh make night of it,” he gurgled, “Drinksh all on me, Hap Hazhard. Order whasher like for shelf, but for me oceans of sake.”
“What brings you to Kioto?” I questioned, as a maid brought the desired lubricant.
“Sush a lark!” he laughed draining his sake at a gulp. “Lishen Hap Hazhard, old boy. Been sent for by Shon-of-a-gun — thash a joke, shee point?”
“The Shogun?” I ventured.
“Yes, Slowgun,” he corrected, “wansh me to translate letter from Presh-agent United States. Jush your job, Hap Hashhouse, Press Agent Fillmore. Nishe name, fill glash more,” suiting the action to the word. “Nishe job if thash all hash do, eh what?”
“Yes,” I assented enviously, “it might be the nucleus of great achievement.”
“Thash sho,” he laughed, caught by the unfamiliar term, “a nukelus, ha! ha! shush a nukelus!” and babbling a ribald song fell sweetly into Nirvana.
A pock-faced Hatamoto entering eyed us doubtfully. All foreign devils evidently looked alike to him.
“Which Honourable Tojin,” he asked, “is the Shogun’s interpreter?”
Van Zwyn opened a bleary eye, mumbling drowsily, “Too Vicious, too damn vicious.”
“Give your message to me, Officer,” I bluffed, shading the light that he might not note my face.
“The Honourable Interpreter should not forget that in the morning we must make an early start.”
“True enough,” I promised, “I will be ready.”
Kowtowing obsequiously the Hatamoto withdrew.
Van Zwyn, rolling upon the matting grunted:
“Yesh, ol’ fishy, call me early, Mother Dear, goin’ be Queen of the May!” and snoring stertorously, relapsed into oblivion!
Running through his pockets, I appropriated his credentials and left him to sleep off his debauch.
The night was filled with plaintive strains of samisen. ‘Through the garden trees I could see a bridal couple drinking the nuptial sake.
Laughter and song, clatter of cups and rap of pipes upon hibahi resounded from neighbouring tea-houses.
The youth bent over the girl and whispered something. She knelt upon the floor, clapping her hands and droned a prayer.
The lanterns were extinguished; I threw myself upon the mats and felt asleep dreaming that I was the youth and the maiden O Setsu San in a moonlight of mother-of-pearl.
O wondrous magic of the Nippon night!
When, like a ghostly galley, silently
The crescent moon sailed down the cloudless sky
And from the slumbrous earth rose laughter light
With whisperings of love mid lanterns’ bright,
Burning before old shrines innumerably;
We were alone together you and I
Breathless and mute with wonder and delight.
Out of the past there floateth through the gloom
The click of clogs upon the pavement white
And sigh of samisen in booths above,
With intermingled scent of cherry-bloom.
O wondrous magic of the Nippon night,
When through the darkness gleamed the light of love!
(After YONE NOGUCHI.)
THE PUPPET SHOW
Lurking behind a screen in majestic isolation the Shogun watched the marionettes, while unknown to all I craftily pulled the strings.
Throned upon a dais between the Princes of Owari and Satsuma sat the Gotairo,1 cold, impassive, and inscrutable. Ranged about the walls of the great chamber crouched the bright-robed daimios of the realm.
1 The Gotairo, the Shogun’s representative and chief executive.
“August Council of Elders,” greeted the Gotairo, “we are gathered here to take council concerning a grave and unknown menace. The sacrilegious Tojin threatens to profane our sacred land, so long protected by the ancient code of Ieyasu.”
Lifting from a rose-wood casket a vellum document bearing the seal of the United States:
“Behold the message!” cried the Gotairo.
“Let it be heard,” rumbled the assembly in unison.
Taking the paper I carefully translated:
Millard Fillmore, President of the United States of America, to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan, Great and Good Friend:
I send this letter by Commodore Matthew C. Perry (a naval officer of the highest rank) to propose to your Majesty that the United States and Japan should live in friendship and have commercial intercourse with each other.”
“These be but idle pretensions,” stormed Satsuma.
“Beware, the Tojins plot to invade Dai Nippon and reinstate the Evil Sect!”
A muttered imprecation rose from the hundred daimios.
“‘Tis false!” I cried, meeting their eyes unflinchingly. “The Constitution and laws of the United States,” I read, “forbid all interference with the political and religious concerns of other nations!”
A hush of incredulous surprise fell over the assembly.
“Your Highness,” flashed Satsuma, “I challenge the accuracy of the translation! Who is this interpreter?”
“The official expert from Nagasaki,” affirmed the Gotairo, imperturbably.
“Nevertheless,” stammered Satsuma, momentarily bewildered, “He is an impostor!”
The Gotairo smiled inscrutably.
“Are you perchance aware,” sneered the Prince, “that he is an American spy?”
“Preposterous,” scoffed the Gotairo. “Your accusations are groundless.”
Satsuma bowed defeat. “On the morrow,” he muttered, “your Highness shall have proof.”
“Meanwhile,” resumed the Gotairo, “if you still doubt the validity of this translation, know that it has been verified by the Chinese linguist Hayashi.”
Thereupon a grave, goggled gentleman, salaaming profoundly, announced: “The transcription of the Honourable Interpreter is unassailably exact.”
I could not forbear a smile of triumph as Satsuma sank chin upon breast.
“Why is it,” I demanded, “that you have granted to Holland a commercial monopoly? The Americans are a wealthier people than the Dutch; might it not be to your advantage to trade with them?”
Mutterings of dissent ran through the chamber. “We have no need of the Tojin’s money,” protested Satsuma, “nor will we barter our honour for their filthy trade.”
“Nor their long guns and great, black ships?” I smiled.
“Might we not rather buy their weapons, that we may arm ourselves against them?” suggested Mito.
“Precisely,” I assented, “should you ratify the Treaty!” The Shogun clicked his fan and passed the Gotairo a letter.
Pressing it to his forehead he read:
“In the last famine, our people perished by thousands, Korea possessed food in abundance, which the Ieyasu rendered us powerless to purchase. Let us arm ourselves against such disaster by revoking this law!’’
Satsuma knitted his brows. Had another than the Shogun made such a demand he might have assented; but fighting to the last he thundered! “The Code of Ieyasu is immutable!”
Immutable as fate,” echoed the puppet daimios.
I waited till their uproar subsided, then resumed my reading:
“We know that your ancient laws do not allow foreign trade; but as the world changes it seems wise to make new laws. If your Majesty is not satisfied to entirely abrogate ancient decrees they might be suspended for a temporary period.”
Satsuma reiterated firmly:
“From the Code of Ieyasu there is no appeal!”
“Is permission given that ‘The Code’ be consulted,” I asked.
“Permission is granted,” assented the Gotairo.
The Council waited in hushed expectancy.
A herald crept in on his knees bearing a time-stained scroll upon a tray.
“When in the course of time foreign nations beseech intercourse” (I read), “the matter shall be deliberated in a council of the daimios and the Shogun may act as he deems best.
“Ancient customs may be modified as it becomes expedient. This is the Shogun’s duty.”
“Ye have deliberated. Let the Shogun act!”
A sudden crash resounded through the chamber! The screen fell. Every man sprang to his feet, hand upon hilt!
In a movement as simultaneous they sank upon their knees with reverential sibilations like the rustling of windswept boughs.
The Shogun stood before us, his face transfigured by a wondrous fire:
“Sons of Nippon,” he cried, “I have listened to the beating of your loyal hearts. I have heard how, rather than break our honoured ancient law, ye have with heroic devotion scorned the wealth of the foreigner; how with unflinching courage ye have suffered famine and pestilence, beholding your loved ones perish of hunger, rather than buy the stranger’s bread.
“Ye have resolved in childish pride to pit our obsolete and worthless weapons against their invincible artillery, which will crush us as inevitably as the typhoon crushes a skiff. Shall we not rather arm ourselves with their resistless ‘weapons even as the immortal Ieyasu conquered his enemies by means of the Tojin devil dust?
“This opportunity is now offered us. We needs must form with the United States a pact for permanent peace!”
Ieyasu hath spoken,” shouted the daimios. “He hath given thee power!”
Raising his hand in calm command Ieyoshi quelled the tumult:
“The spirit of my great ancestor stands before me,” he smiled as one a-dream. “His hand is on mine own. He bids me sign the pact!”
When cometh spring with footsteps light
And clotheth earth with verdure bright,
The songless birds with songs resound,
And cherry petals flood the ground.
So flowerless since ‘neath winter’s white,
I scarce can bide the lovely sight,
So soon to pass into the night,
Of life perfected without blight,
When cometh spring.
Put in the winter-tide at night,
When earth is bathed in wan moonlight,
And fallen leaves drift o’er the ground
With russet rustlings all around —
Then yearn I for the year’s delight
When cometh spring
A dull foreboding obsessed me as I rode from my lodging that drear March morning in quest of Setsu San.
In the sleety park, oblivious of discomfort, a white-haired artist was painting industriously.
“What maniac is this?” I asked myself. Then suddenly I recognized the gentle enthusiast Hiroshige.
“A beautiful morning,” he smiled, “amethyst and pearl!”
“Mire and murk,” I muttered irritably.
“I can’t hear a word you say,” he shrilled, cupping his ear.
“Slush and gloom!” I shouted, at the top of my lungs.
“Yes, yes,” he piped, “the plum trees are in bloom, though we can scarcely see them. You remember the poem?
“How shall I know the plum’s white bloom,
In the silver snow of the winter moon?
By the fragrant breath of the frosty air,
You shall know my fragile blossoms fair!”
Heartened, as by a stirrup cup, I resumed my ride.
Dusk was falling when I reached Satsuma yashiki. I inquired for Setsu San and the guard informed me that she was waiting at the “go-down.”
I hurried to the treasure-house. From its open doorway glimmered a vague light.
“Setsu San,” I called, peering into the dusk.
But there was no answer. I entered cautiously. The great bronze door clanged behind me. I was caught like a rat in a trap.
I stumbled heavily, fell, and lay for hours, thirsty, and despondent, for, strive as I might, I could devise no means of escape.
A rasping voice broke the silence:
“I will not use the poniard. I will rush upon him and will break his neck!”
“No,” protested the other; “stab him to the heart!”
“When?” inquired the first stolidly.
“After the wrestling-match, when the Commodore shakes your hand.”
Incensed beyond control: “Coward!” I cried, “let me out of this rat-trap!”
No, my dear friend,” laughed Van Zwyn, “you will stay just where you are. You’ve had your innings, Hazard, it’s my turn now!”
Then, turning to the wrestler:
“Driving Wind! keep strict watch! At the hour of the rat he shall have a taste of Japanese torture.”
For hours I waited in suspense, eating my heart out with impotent despair.
The wrestler was not amenable to bribery. He was however, susceptible to drink and drained my flask, which I passed through a crevice in the floor.
All night he sang hilariously, but at last collapsed into sodden slumber.
Time was passing; I must act quickly, but how?
I looked about me. A lantern hung from the ceiling. An armour-chest stood beneath.
A bamboo pipe protruded through the floor. A gruesome tale of boiling to death in a bath flashed into my mind! I plugged the pipe with a tattered kimono, and waited for my fate.
The air grew foul. An odor of death filled the chamber. I became faint with nausea.
A monastery bell knelled its melancholy boom. Twice it struck, reverberating slowly to silence. “The hour of the rat!” I reflected hopelessly.
Suddenly the lantern swayed!
It seemed to me that the ceiling was descending.
With eyes starting from their sockets I strove to pierce the darkness.
A reiterant sound of wailing echoed in my ears.
Again I looked upward.
To my consternation the ceiling had lowered by nearly a foot.
A clammy sweat oozed from my every pore. Inch by inch, in a descent scarcely perceptible, through moments that seemed interminable, down and down it came.
The roots of my hair stirred as I realized that, do what I might, I could not escape my impending doom.
Down, unceasingly down it vibrated, tilting and swaying as it came.
I struggled to rise but a rigid paralysis held me fast.
Lower and lower, slowly but relentlessly it closed down upon me, till it was within a yard of my head.
In vain I strove to thrust it back; its inexorable weight crushed me to my knees.
I shut my eyes and prayed that a miracle might stay its irresistible descent.
Down, ever downward it crept, till it hovered just above my head.
I fell upon my face and shrieked in blind despair.
Suddenly it paused, held by the heavy chest!
A light flashed in my eyes! A voice called my name, and in the open doorway stood Setsu San!
“Quick, make hurryings!” she cried. “Here is the Khan, mos’ swiftest horse in all Japan!”
I strained her to my heart, then leaped to saddle. “Ride like debble!” she laughed. “You gon’ save those Perry daimio, then come back marry Setsu San!”
Striking spurs to flank I was off like the wind.
I galloped through a misty landscape like pictures on painted fans.
Old gnarled pines and thatch-roofed Shinto temples, billowy, green hillsides and level, flooded rice-fields whirled swiftly by. Scarcely a soul was yet abroad, save an occasional, straw-clad peasant leading a spare-ribbed pack-horse.
Far and near the country-side bloomed like a garden. The pools were thick with the spreading spatulas of the lotus, though not a solitary blossom yet peeped out.
Now and again I caught a glimpse of the shimmering sapphire sea. Then through a rent in the leaden cloud beyond the mist-shrouded horizon where hills and rice-fields merged, loomed a phantom mountain, pale, pure, and unearthly, the snow-white cone of Fujiyama.
I recalled an ancient poem:
The Mount of Fire
Betwixt Suruga and the land of Kai
Thou liftest, Fujiyama, thy white head!
The very clouds of heaven in reverent dread
Forbear to touch thy hoary summit high.
Even the tireless eagle, soaring nigh,
Fails to attain thy heart of burning red
Where ceaseless fires from hidden craters fed
On fields of endless snow flare fitfully.
Within thy heart a lake unfathomed lies
From which a river floweth joyously,
O’er far Yamato, land of fair sunrise,
Blessing her fruitful plains with glad increase,
Mountain of Fire, Father of pain and peace
Flame within ice, Devil and Deity!
A rain-drop whipped my face! A bolt of lightning flashed across the sky. I was riding before the wrath of the March monsoon.
Suddenly a bullet zipped above my head. Glancing backward I saw a troop of mailed samurai galloping upon my heels. I struck home the spurs; the Khan snorted and sprang forward like a thunderbolt.
A volley rang behind and the rain burst in torrents.
With the next flash I saw that I had gained slightly upon my pursuers. I spurred again, the Khan answered with a rush. Thoroughbred though he was, could he hold the pace?
I looked over my shoulder; the samurai were closing up! I could hear their muttered imprecations.
I pressed the Khan’s flanks with my legs. He responded nobly, but his stride soon flagged. He had raced three miles at break-neck speed and was failing fast.
A volley rattled behind me.
I urged him again, spurring relentlessly, but the rasping wheeze of his breathing told me he was nearly spent.
A bullet grazed my cheek. I unholstered my revolver and fired blindly into the galloping troop.
Two burly ruffians fell, but the remainder pressed )n drawing nearer with every stride till I could hear the laboured breathing of their steeds. I spurred incessantly but the Khan could give no more.
A shot rang close behind me, I wheeled and fired into the face of the leader. The flash revealed the fright-bleached features of Van Zwyn, as horse and rider sank in a huddled heap.
The storm had ceased. Before me unrolled the vale of the Kamagawa like a brilliant kakemono, each knoll and pine grove gilded with the sun. A turn in the road revealed a streak of silver in the grey-green valley, where a river gashed the plain.
A bamboo bridge spanned it, and beyond, only a quarter of a mile distant, lay Kamagawa and safety.
I reached forward and patted the Khan’s neck:
“Only one more spurt, Little Devil,” I coaxed as I felt the pumping of his heart. But the spring was gone from his haunches. The end was near.
The clatter of hoofs drew nearer and nearer! Another volley rang from my pursuers!
A flare of lightning illumined the road and the storm crashed about me with renewed fury. On I splashed through mire and murk, shouting encouragement to my floundering horse.
A flood of turbid water swelled the rivulet to a raging torrent.
Suddenly, to my consternation, where should have been the bridge, I saw only a yawning gulf. I bit my lips and cursed.
It was not too great a leap for a fresh mount; but the Khan was done for!
“Banzais rent the air! Strains of patriotic music broke from the ship’s bands, as we entered the Treaty house”
From Government Report. W. Heine
At last, with a supreme effort, Driving Wind lifted his antagonist and pinned him violently to the ground!”
From U. S. Government Report. W. Heine
“The ceremonial was a complete triumph”
“Gravely the representatives of the two governments affixed their signatures”
“There shall be a perfect, permanent, and universal peace between the United States, and the Empire of Japan”
I had emptied my revolver. The game was lost!
Suddenly I felt him stiffen under me. I laughed like a madman. He was willing to try the leap!
“Go it, Little Devil!” I cried, gripping the reins and leaning to the take off.
“Hai! Hai!” I yelled giving him the spur.
He left the bank like a shaft of lightning!
I gritted my teeth, expecting to fall into the stream or be dashed in fragments against the further bank. I shut my eyes and prayed. That one moment seemed a lifetime!
The Khan faltered an instant, then rose.
He landed safe! He made the jump, but it broke his heart. He staggered blindly on to the village, his knees collapsed, and he dropped like a stone.
Shouts resounded from my baffled pursuers, who pulled in heir horses at the very brink.
A great darkness fell over me.
The next thing I knew a Jacky from the Mississippi was bathing my head with a wet sponge.
The Commodore bent over me in kindly solicitude:
“You have done the impossible, Hazard,” he laughed. “You have forged the key to the Open Gate!”
His words heartened me like wine. I recalled my mission, telling him of Van Zwyn’s cowardly plot against his life.
“He has found his final recompense,” he interposed. “Return with me; your good work shall not pass unnoticed.”
Longing for O Setsu San held me inexorably.
“My heart is in Japan,” I confided frankly.
“H—m, I see,” he smiled. “You shall stay as Secretary of the American Legation.”
He wrung my hand as I stammered my gratitude.
Upon the beach a troop of bronze-skinned Nios were lumbering about like burly elephants.
About their loins were girded silken sashes emblazoned with the crests of their respective daimios.
Their massive chests and stalwart thighs were bare. Never had I seen men of greater stature nor more prodigious weight.
Their patrons were proudly displaying to the American officers the points of their champions.
As a test of strength the daimios ordered them to carry sacks of rice to the shore. Each sack weighed over a hundred pounds, and each wrestler bore two sacks. One carried a sack by his teeth, and another turned somersaults with his load as easily as if it had been a feather.
While we watched, a gong sounded for the wrestling.
A ring twelve feet in diameter was laid out near the treaty-house, and divans reserved for the Commodore and his suite. The bands blared joyously as with characteristic Oriental ceremony we were conducted to our seats.
On a signal from the herald, Driving Wind and Tajikarao lumber clumsily into the ring. They advance slowly toward each other stamping their feet and clapping their powerful thighs, then stooping to the ground they grasp handfuls of sand which they toss over their monstrous shoulders.
For a while they crouch glaring at one another like wild beasts about to spring.
The umpire hovers about, watching till the combatants draw breath at the same time, then suddenly clicks his fan!
They hurl themselves against each other like tigers ringing on their prey! They grip their brawny arms in desperate tussle. Glistening with sweat their sinews stand out like the knotted muscles of some sculptured Hercules. Their faces grow livid. Their monstrous bodies strain and heave!
Each of forty famous throws they try by turns. The umpire darts here and there scanning each combatant for a sign of victory.
At last, with a supreme effort, Driving Wind lifted his antagonist and pinned him violently to the ground!
A frenzied yell burst from the Japanese. Mad with delight they threw coins, hats, and coats, their own or their neighbours, indiscriminately into the ring!
The victor was conducted to the Commodore that he might admire his brawny limbs.
He grasped the massive arms and ran his hand over the thick, bull-like neck.
Suddenly Driving Wind snatched a knife from his loin-cloth and brandished it in the air!
The Commodore eyed him unflinchingly.
The wrestler wavered an instant then struck!
With a sudden bound I leapt between and caught his wrist. He writhed and squirmed, striving to free his hand from my relentless grip.
Slowly but steadily I bent his wrist backward, then, with a quick wrench, bore his arm, elbow downward, over my shoulder!
It was a well-known trick of jujutsu. The bone snapped; the knife fell from his weakened grasp and clanged upon the floor!
Before he could recover, a band of Jackies rushed upon him, overpowered the dumbfounded champion, and put him in irons.
The Commodore gripped my hand:
“Come with me,” he smiled, “and enjoy the fruit of your labours!” and we hastened to the Treaty House.
I spare you the solemn ceremonial. Suffice it to say that it was a complete triumph. Gravely as befitted their sense of responsibility, the representatives of the two governments affixed their signatures. Banzais rent the air! Strains of patriotic music broke from the ships’ bands! My eyes dimmed with joyous tears as I read the President’s prophetic words:
“There shall be a perfect, permanent, and universal peace, and a sincere and cordial amity between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan!”
The cherry-blossoms call you. Far and near
They shed their snowy petals in the light
Like flakes of flame! The first frail lotus white
From timid lids like frightened children peer,
In thickets lush the iris lifts its spear
And wings its purple plumes in mimic flight.
The air is rife with rumours of delight
And myriad rustlings murmurous and clear!
And yet ‘tis winter still without you here—
Without your love to light the ceaseless gloom.
Spring’s wonted flowers for me no longer bloom,
Beneath the leafless bough no birds do sing.
The night is void. The day is bleak and drear
Else thou art nigh, my sunshine and my spring.
Spring was here; my task was completed; the game was won! But my heart was chill with apprehension.
At last I was conscious of the spell that bound me to Japan. Not the zest of adventure or hope of petty reward. The awakening of a sleeping nation to its world-wide life was but a pretext for the great adventure — the quest of O Setsu San!
A heavy hand fell upon my shoulder, and, turning, I looked into the cold, impassive face of Satsuma.
“Hazard Sama,” he muttered. “You are hereby summoned to appear instantly before the Emperor!”
I repressed a shudder as I realized that this was but a courteous announcement of arrest. Well I knew the crime for which they would indict me, conspiracy with the Shogun against the ancient laws — the penalty — death!
As I knelt before the Mikado, his face inscrutable as the Daibutsu, hope faded from my heart.
“Reckless Tojin,” he stormed, “why did you not return to your own country while there was yet time?”
“Because, your Majesty, I wish to make Japan my home.” I stammered clumsily.
“Are you aware, Hazard Sama, that I heard every word you spake in the council of daimios?”
“Possibly, your Majesty, but by what means passes my comprehension.”
A faint smile fluttered the thin moustache. “Most simple,” he shrugged. “I was seated with the Shogun behind the screen. That you undertook this task without my Imperial sanction, ignoring me as a powerless puppet, is an affront punishable with death!”
“Death!” I gasped, falling upon my knees in silent appeal.
Bidding me rise he conducted me to the adjoining chamber.
“Fool,” he laughed, “behold your fate!”
In the shadow, white and trembling, stood O Setsu San, holding a sealed scroll.
“Read!” she cried anxiously.
Breaking the seal, I read:
IMPERIAL PALACE, KYOTO,
May 30, 1854.
The will of the Mikado is that the criminal, having embroiled himself in a conspiracy, be exiled to the Island of Perpetual Youth, in life imprisonment with his coconspirator O Setsu no Satsuma.
A sudden smile shot across her face.
“Sprite!” I laughed, kissing her peach-blow cheek and cherry mouth.
She trembled unresisting in my arms.
“You lig some great god,” she whispered, “so white and beeg and brave. Yaes, you mos’ bes’ beautiful Barbarian Debble in all won’!”
“Dearest,” I faltered, “the moment you risked your life to give me shelter, I loved you body and soul. Tell me you care for me a little!”
“No,” she flashed; “I don’ loaf you liddle bit. I loaf you beeg tarrible lot. Say, you gon’ marry with me? Stay Japan for aever and aever?”
“Forever,” I echoed, clasping her to my heart.
She laughed abandonedly.
“Banzai, Banzai!” she cried, clapping her hands, “I mos’ happy female-woman in all Japan—in whole, wide worl’!”
Their purple tassels o’er the tranquil lake’’
Rainbow Bridge at Kameido
Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y.
“Where the Golden Dolphins frisk their tails on the ridge of the Castle roof”
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