Every day he would spend an hour or so in conversation with Asako. She thought that this was a sign of friendliness and sympathy. As a matter of fact, his object at first was to improve his English. Later on more ambitious projects developed in his fertile brain.
He would talk about New York and London in his queer stilted way. He had been a fireman on board ship, a teacher of jiujitsu, a juggler, a quack dentist, Heaven knows what else. Driven by the conscientious inquisitiveness of his race, he had endured hardships, contempt and rough treatment with the smiling patience inculcated in the Japanese people by their education. “We must chew our gall, and bide our time,” they say, when the too powerful foreigner insults or abuses them.
He had seen the magnificence of our cities, the vastness of our undertakings and had returned to Japan with great relief to find that life among his own people was less strenuous and fierce, that it was ordered by circumstances and the family system, that less was left to individual courage and enterprise, that things happened more often than things were done. The impersonality of Japan was as restful to him as it is aggravating to a European.
But it must not be imagined that Ito was an idle man. On the contrary, he was exceedingly hard working and ambitious. His dream was to become a statesman, to enjoy unlimited patronage, to make men and to break men, and to die a peer. When he returned to Japan from his wanderings with exactly two shillings in his pocket, this was his programme. Like Cecil Rhodes, his hero among white men, he made a will distributing millions. Then he attached himself to his rich cousins, the Fujinami; and very soon he became indispensable to them. Fujinami Gentaro, an indolent man, gave him more and more authority over the family fortune. It was dirty business, this buying of girls and hiring of pimps, but it was immensely profitable; and more and more of the profits found their way into Ito’s private account. Fujinami Gentaro did not seem to care. Takeshi, the son and heir, was a nonentity. Ito’s intention was to continue to serve his cousins until he had amassed a working capital of a hundred thousand pounds. Then he would go into politics.
But the advent of Asako suggested a short cut to his hopes. If he married her he would gain immediate control of a large interest in the Fujinami estate. Besides she had all the qualifications for the wife of a Cabinet Minister, knowledge of foreign languages, ease in foreign society, experience of foreign dress and customs. Moreover, passion was stirring in his heart, the swift stormy passion of the Japanese male, which, when thwarted, drives him towards murder and suicide.
Like many Japanese, he had felt the attractiveness of foreign women when he was traveling abroad. Their independence stimulated him, their savagery and their masterful ways. Ito had found in Asako the physical beauty of his own race together with the character and energy which had pleased him so much in white women. Everything seemed to favor his suit. Asako clearly seemed to prefer his company to that of other members of the family. He had a hold over the Fujinami which would compel them to assent to anything he might require. True, he had a wife already; but she could easily be divorced.