What a relief to breath again, and what a pleasure to escape from the tortuous streets and the toy houses, from the twisted prettiness of the Tokyo gardens and the tiresome delicacy of the rice-field mosaic, into a wild and rugged nature, a land of forests and mountains reminiscent of Switzerland and Scotland, where the occasional croak of a pheasant fell like music upon Geoffrey’s ear!
The two hours’ climb ended abruptly in a level sandy road running among birch trees. At a wayside tea-house a man was sitting on a low table. He wore white trousers, a coat of cornflower shade and a Panama hat—all very spick and span. It was Reggie Forsyth.
“Hello,” he cried, “my dear old Geoffrey! I’m awfully glad you’ve come. But you ought to have brought Mrs. Harrington too. You seem quite incomplete without her.”
“Yes, it’s a peculiar sensation, and I don’t like it. But the heat, you know, at Tokyo, it made me feel rotten. I simply had to come away. And Asako is so busy now with her new cousins and her Japanese house and all the rest of it.”
For the first time Reggie thought that he detected a tone in his friend’s voice which he had been expecting to hear sooner or later, a kind of “flagging” tone—he found the word afterwards in working out a musical sketch called Love’s Disharmony. Geoffrey looked white and tired, he thought. It was indeed high time that he came up to the mountains.
They were approaching the lake, which already showed through the tree-trunks. A path led away to the left across a rustic bridge.
“That’s the way to the hotel. Yae is there. Farther along are the Russian, French and British Embassies. That’s about half an hour from here.”
Reggie’s little villa stood at a few minutes’ distance in the opposite direction, past two high Japanese hotels which looked like skeleton houses with the walls taken out of them, past sheds where furs were on sale, and picture post-cards, and dry biscuits.
The garden of the villa jutted out over the lake on an embankment of stones. The house was discreetly hidden by a high hedge of evergreens.
“William Tell’s chapel,” explained Reggie, “a week in lovely Lucerne!”
It was a Japanese house, another skeleton. From the wicket gate, Geoffrey could see its simple scheme open to the four winds, its scanty furniture unblushingly displayed; downstairs, a table, a sofa, some bamboo chairs and a piano—upstairs, two beds, two washstands, and the rest. The garden consisted of two strips of wiry grass on each side of the house; and a flight of steps ran down to the water’s edge, where a small sailing-boat was moored.
The landscape of high wooded hills was fading into evening across the leaden ripples of the lake.
“What do you think of our highland home?” asked Reggie.
There was not a sign of life over the heavy waters, not a boat, not a bird, not an island even.