“There are very many,” answered the Japanese, “more than in any other country. In divorce Japan leads the world. Even the States come second to our country. Among the low-class persons in Japan there are even women who have been married thirty-five times, married properly, honourably and legally. In upper society, too, many divorce, but not so many, for it makes the family angry.”
“Marvellous!” said Geoffrey. “How do you do it?”
“There is divorce by law-courts, as in your country,” said Ito. “The injured party can sue the other party, and the court can grant decree. But very few Japanese persons go to the court for divorce. It is not nice, as you say, to wash dirty shirt before all people. So there is divorce by custom.”
“Well?” asked the Englishman.
“Now, as you know, our marriage is also by custom. There is no ceremony of religion, unless parties desire. Only the man and the woman go to the Shiyakusho, to the office of the city or the village; and the man say, ’This woman is my wife; please, write her name on the register of my family,’ Then when he want to divorce her, he goes again to the office of the city and says, ’I have sent my wife away; please, take her name from the register of my family, and write it again on the register of her father’s family.’ You see, our custom is very convenient. No expense, no trouble.”
“Very convenient,” Geoffrey agreed.
“So, if Captain Barrington will come with me to the office of Akasaka, Tokyo, and will give notice that he has sent Mrs. Barrington back to her family, then the divorce is finished. Mrs. Barrington becomes again a Japanese subject. Her name becomes Fujinami. She is again one of her family. This is her prayer to you.”
“And Mrs. Barrington’s money?” asked Geoffrey sarcastically. “You have forgotten that.”
“Oh no,” was the answer, “we don’t forget the money. Mr. Fujinami quite understand that it is great loss to send away Mrs. Barrington. He will give big compensation as much as Captain Barrington desires.”
To Ito’s surprise, his victim left the table and did not return. So he inquired from the servants about Captain Barrington’s habits; and learned from the boy sans that the big Englishman drank plenty whisky-soda; but he did not talk to any one or go to the brothels. Perhaps he was a little mad.
* * * * *
Ito returned to the charge next day. This time Geoffrey had an inspiration. He said that if he could be granted an interview alone with Asako, he would discuss with her the divorce project, and would consent, if she asked him personally. After some demur, the lawyer agreed.
The last interview between husband and wife took place in Ito’s office, which Geoffrey had visited once before in his search for the fortune of the Fujinami. The scene of the rendezvous was well chosen to repress any revival of old emotions. The varnished furniture, the sham mahogany, the purple plush upholstery, the gilt French clock, the dirty bust of Abraham Lincoln and the polyglot law library checked the tender word and the generous impulse. The Japanese have an instinctive knowledge of the influence of inanimate things, and use this knowledge with an unscrupulousness, which the crude foreigner only realises—if ever—after it is too late.