Nagaki yo no To no nemuri no Miname-zame, Nami nori fune no Oto no yoki kana.
From the deep sleep
Of a long night
Sweet is the sound
Of the ship as it rides the waves.
When August snow fell upon St. Moritz, the Barringtons descended to Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome. Towards Christmas they found their way to the Riviera, where they met Lady Everington at Monte Carlo, very indignant, or pretending to be so, at the neglect with which she had been treated.
“Fairy godmothers are important people,” she said, “and very easily offended. Then, they turn you into wild animals, or send you to sleep for a hundred years. Why didn’t you write to me, child?”
They were sitting on the terrace with the Casino behind them, overlooking the blue Mediterranean. A few yards farther on, a tall, young Englishman was chatting and laughing with a couple of girls too elaborately beautiful and too dazzlingly gowned for any world but the half-world. Suddenly he turned, and noticed Lady Everington. With a courteous farewell to his companions, he advanced to greet her.
“Aubrey Laking,” she exclaimed, “you never answered the letter I wrote to you at Tokyo.”
“Dear Lady Georgie, I left Tokyo ages ago. It followed me back to England; and I am now second secretary at Christiania. That is why I am in Monte Carlo!”
“Then let me introduce you to Asako Fujinami, who is now Mrs. Barrington. You must tell her all about Tokyo. It is her native city; but she has not seen it since she was in long clothes, if Japanese babies wear such things.”
Aubrey Laking and Barrington had been at Eton together. They were old friends, and were delighted to meet once more. Barrington, especially, was pleased to have this opportunity to hear about Japan from one who had but lately left the country, and who was moreover a fluent and agreeable talker. Laking had not resided in Japan long enough to get tired of orientalism. He described the quaint, the picturesque, the amusing side of life in the East. He was full of enthusiasm for the land of soft voices and smiling faces, where countless little shops spread their wares under the light of the evening lanterns, where the twang of the samisen and the geisha’s song are heard coming from the lighted tea-house, and the shadow of her helmet-like coiffure is seen appearing and disappearing in silhouette against the paper shoji.
* * * * *
The East was drawing the Barringtons towards its perilous coasts. Laking’s position at the Tokyo Embassy had been taken by Reggie Forsyth, one of Geoffrey’s oldest friends, his best man at his wedding and a light of Lady Everington’s circle. Already, Geoffrey had sent him a post-card, saying, “Warm up the sake bottle,” (Geoffrey was becoming quite learned in things Japanese), “and expect friends shortly.”