“But you know the name, do you not?”
“Yes, I have heard the name; there are many families called Fujinami in Japan.”
“Are they very rich?”
“Yes, I believe there are some who are very rich,” said the little diplomat, who clearly was ill at ease.
“Where does their money come from?” his inquisitor went on remorselessly, “You are keeping something from me, Count Saito. Please be frank, if there is any mystery.”
“Oh no, Lady Everington, there is no mystery, I am sure. There is one family of Fujinami who have many houses and lands in Tokyo and other towns. I will be quite open with you. They are rather what you in England call nouveaux riches.”
“Really!” Her Ladyship was taken aback for a moment. “But you would never notice it with Asako, would you? I mean, she does not drop her Japanese aitches, and that sort of thing, does she?”
“Oh no,” Count Saito reassured her, “I do not think Mademoiselle Asako talks Japanese language, so she cannot drop her aitches.”
“I never thought of that,” his hostess continued, “I thought that if a Japanese had money, he must be a daimyo, or something.”
The Ambassador smiled.
“English people,” he said, “do not know very well the true condition of Japan. Of course we have our rich new families and our poor old families just as you have in England. In some aspects our society is just the same as yours. In others, it is so, different, that you would lose your way at once in a maze of ideas which would seem to you quite upside down.”
Lady Everington interrupted his reflections in a desperate attempt to get something out of him by a surprise attack.
“How interesting,” she said, “it will be for Geoffrey Harrington and his wife to visit Japan and find out all about it.”
The Ambassador’s manner changed.
“No, I do not think,” he said, “I do not think that is a good thing at all. They must not do that. You must not let them.”
“But why not?”
“I say to all Japanese men and women who live a long time in foreign countries or who marry foreign people, ‘Do not go back to Japan,’ Japan is like a little pot and the foreign world is like a big garden. If you plant a tree from the pot into the garden and let it grow, you cannot put it back into the pot again.”
“But, in this case, that is not the only reason,” objected Lady Everington.
“No, there are many other reasons too,” the Ambassador admitted; and he rose from his sofa, indicating that the interview was at an end.
* * * * *
The bridal pair left in a motor-car for Folkestone tinder a hailstorm of rice, and with the propitious white slipper dangling from the number-plate behind.
When all her guests were gone, Lady Everington fled to her boudoir and collapsed in a little heap of sobbing finery on the broad divan. She was overtired, no doubt; but the sense of her mistake lay heavy upon her, and the feeling that she had sacrificed to it her best friend, the most humanly valuable of all the people who resorted to her house. An evil cloud of mystery hung over the young marriage, one of those sinister unfamiliar forces which travellers bring home from the East, the curse of a god or a secret poison or a hideous disease.