The Fujinami had hypnotized Asako with this phrase, as a hen can be hypnotized with a chalk line. Day after day it was dinned into her ears, cutting off all hope of escape from the country or of appeal to her English friends.
“You had better marry a Japanese,” said Sadako, “or you will become old maid. Why not marry Ito San? He says he likes you. He is a clever man. He has plenty of money. He is used to foreign ways.”
“Marry Mr. Ito!” Asako exclaimed, aghast; “but he has a wife already.”
“They will divorce. It is no trouble. There are not even children.”
“I would rather die than marry any Japanese,” said Asako with conviction.
Sadako Fujinami turned her back and pretended to sleep; but long through the dark cold night Asako could feel her turning restlessly to and fro.
Some time about midnight Asako heard her name called:
“Asa Chan, are you awake?”
“Yes; is anything the matter?”
“Asa Chan, in your house by the river you will be lonely. You will not be afraid?”
“I am not afraid to be lonely,” Asako answered; “I am afraid of people.”
“Look!” said her cousin; “I give you this.”
She drew from the bosom of her kimono the short sword in its sheath of shagreen, which Asako had seen once or twice before.
“It is very old,” she continued; “it belonged to my mother’s people. They were samurai of the Sendai clan. In old Japan every noble girl carried such a short sword; for she said, ’Better death than dishonour.’ When the time came to die she would strike—here, in the throat, not too hard, but pushing strongly. But first she would tie her feet together with the obidome, the silk string which you have to hold your obi straight. That was in case the legs open too much; she must not die in immodest attitude. So when General Nogi did harakiri at Emperor Meiji’s funeral, his wife, Countess Nogi, killed herself also with such a sword. I give you my sword because in the house by the river you will be lonely—and things might happen. I can never use the sword myself now. It was the sword of my ancestors. I am not pure now. I cannot use the sword. If I kill myself I throw myself into the river like a common geisha. I think it is best you marry Ito. In Japan it is bad to have a husband; but to have no husband, it is worse.”
ALONE IN TOKYO
Kuraki yori Kuraki michi ni zo Iri-nu-beki: Haruka ni terase Yuma no ha no tsuki!
Out of the dark
Into a dark path
I now must enter:
Shine (on me) from afar,
Moon of the mountain fringe!
Some days before Christmas Asako had moved into her own little home.