She was made to alight at a tall stone building, where they passed down several echoing corridors, until, at the end of a little passage a warder pushed open a door. This was the “sty,” where prisoners are kept pending examination in the procurator’s court. The floor and walls were of stone. It was bitterly cold. There was no window, no light, no firebox, and no chair. Alone, in the petrifying darkness, her teeth chattering, her limbs trembling, poor Asako huddled her misery into a corner of the dirty cell, to await the further tender mercies of the Japanese criminal code. She could hear the scuttering of rats. Had she been ten times guilty, she felt that she could not have suffered more!
* * * * *
Daylight began to show under the crack of the door. Later on a warder came and beckoned to Asako to follow him. She had not touched food for twenty hours, but nothing was offered to her. She was led into a room with benches like a schoolroom. At the master’s desk sat a small spotted man with a cloak like a scholar’s gown, and a black cap with ribbons like a Highlander’s bonnet. This was the procurator. At his side, sat his clerk, similarly but less sprucely garbed.
Asako, utterly weary, was preparing to sit down on one of the benches. The warder pulled her up by the nape of her kimono. She had to stand during her examination.
“What is your name? What is your age? What are your father’s and mother’s names?”
The monotonous questions were repeated all over again; and then,—
“To confess were better. When you confess, we shall let you go. If you do not confess, we keep you here for days and days.”
“I am feeling sick,” pleaded Asako; “may I eat something?”
The warder brought a cup of tea and some salt biscuit.
“Now, confess,” bullied the procurator; “if you do not confess, you will get no more to eat.”
Asako told her story of the murder. She then told it again. Her Japanese words were slipping from the clutch of her worn brain. She was saying things she did not mean. How could she defend herself in a language which was strange to her mind? How could she make this judge, who seemed so pitiless and so hostile to her, understand and believe her broken sentences? She was beating with a paper sword against an armed enemy.
An interpreter was sent for; and the questions were all repeated in English. The procurator was annoyed at Asako’s refusal to speak in Japanese. He thought that it was obstinacy, or that she was trying to fool him. He seemed quite convinced that she was guilty.
“I can’t answer any more questions. I really can’t. I am sick,” said Asako, in tears.
“Take her back to the ‘sty,’ while we have lunch,” ordered the procurator. “I think this afternoon she will confess.”
Asako was taken away, and thrust into the horrible cell again. She collapsed on the hard floor in a state which was partly a fainting-fit, and partly the sleep of exhaustion. Dreams and images swept over her brain like low-flying clouds. It seemed to her distracted fancy that only one person could save her—Geoffrey, her husband! He must be coming soon. She thought that she could hear his step in the corridor.