“I can’t stick it any longer,” he said fretfully, “I don’t know what’s coming over me.”
“Leave Japan?” cried his wife, aghast.
“Well, I don’t know,” grunted her husband, “it’s no good stopping here and going all to seed.”
The rainy season was just over, the hot season of steaming rain which the Japanese call nyubai. It had played havoc with Geoffrey’s nerves. He had never known anything so unpleasant as this damp, relaxing heat. It made the walls of the room sweat. It impregnated paper and blotting-paper. It rotted leather; and spread mould on boots and clothes. It made matches unstrikeable. It drenched Geoffrey’s bed with perspiration, and drove away sleep. It sent him out on long midnight walks through the silent city in an atmosphere as stifling as that of a green-house. It beat down upon Tokyo its fetid exhalations, the smell of cooking, of sewage and of humanity, and the queer sickly scent of a powerful evergreen tree aflower throughout the city, which resembled the reek of that Nagasaki brothel, and recalled the dancing of the Chonkina.
It bred swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes from every drop of stagnant water. They found their way through the musty mosquito-net which separated his bed from Asako’s. They eluded his blow in the evening light; and he could only wreak his vengeance in the morning, when they were heavy with his gore.
The colour faded from the Englishman’s cheeks. His appetite failed. He was becoming, what he had never been before, cross and irritable. Reggie Forsyth wrote to him from Chuzenji,—
“Yae is here, and we go in for yachting in a kind of winged punt, called a ‘lark.’ For five pounds you can become a ship-owner. I fancy myself as a skipper, and I have already won two races. But more often we escape from the burble of the diplomats, and take our sandwiches and thermata—or is thermoi the plural?—to the untenanted shores of the lake, and picnic a deux. Then, if the wind does not fall we are lucky; but if it does, I have to row home. Yae laughs at my oarsmanship; and says that, if you were here, you would do it so much better. You are a dangerous rival, but for this once I challenge you. I have a spare pen in my rabbit-hutch. There is just room for you and Mrs. Barrington. You must be quite melted by now.”
But Asako did not want to go to Chuzenji. All her thoughts were centred on the little house by the river.
“Geoffrey darling,” she said, stroking his hair with her tiny waxen fingers, “it is the hot weather which is making you feel cross. Why don’t you go up to the mountains for a week or so, and stop with Reggie?”
“Will you come?” asked her husband, brightening.
“I can’t very well. You see they are just laying down the tatami: and when that is done the house will be ready. Besides, I feel so well here. I like the heat.”