The low-flying clouds of hallucination had fallen so close to Asako’s brain, that her thoughts seemed to be caught up into the dizzy whirlwind and to be skimming around and round the world at the speed of an express aeroplane. Like a clock whose regulation is out of order, the hour-hand of her life seemed to be racing the minute-hand, and the minute-hand to be covering the face of the dial in sixty seconds or less, returning incessantly to the same well-known figures, pausing awhile, then jerking away again at an insane rate. From time to time the haze over the mind began to clear; and Asako seemed to look down upon the scene around her from a great height. There was a long room, so long that she could not see the end of it, and rows of narrow beds, and nurses, dressed in white with high caps like bishops’ mitres, who appeared and disappeared. Sometimes they would speak to her and she would answer. But she did not know what they said, nor what she said to them.
A gentle Japanese lady with a very long, pock-marked face, sat on her bed and talked to her in English. Asako noticed that the nurses and doctors were most deferential to this lady; and that, after her departure, she was treated much more kindly than before. A name kept peeping out of her memory, like a shy lizard out of its hole; but the moment her brain tried to grab at it, it slipped back again into oblivion.
Two English ladies called together, one older and one younger. They talked about Geoffrey. Geoffrey was one of the roman figures on the clock dial of her mind. They said good things about Geoffrey; but she could not remember what they were.
One day, the Japanese lady with the marked face and one of the nurses helped her to get out of bed. Her legs were trembling, and her feet were sorely plagued by pins and needles; but she held together somehow. Together they dressed her. The lady wrapped a big fur cloak round her; and with a supporter on either side she was led into the open air, where a beautiful motor-car was waiting. There was a crowd gathered round it. But the police kept them back. As Asako stepped in, she heard the click of cameras.
“Asa Chan,” said the lady, “don’t you remember me? I am Countess Saito.”
Of course, Asako remembered now—a spring morning with Geoffrey and the little dwarf trees.
The notoriety of the Ito murder case did Asako a good turn. Her friends in Japan had forgotten her. They had imagined that she had returned to England with Geoffrey. Reggie Forsyth, who alone knew the details of her position, had thrown up his secretaryship the day that war was declared, and had gone home to join the army.
The morning papers of January 3rd, with their high-flown account of the mysterious house by the river-side and the Japanese lady who could talk no Japanese, brought an unexpected shock to acquaintances of the Barringtons, and especially to Lady Cynthia Cairns and to Countess Saito. These ladies both made inquiries, and learned that Asako was lying dangerously ill in the prison infirmary. A few days later, when Tanaka was arrested and had made a full confession of the crime, Count Saito, who knew how suspects fare at the hands of a zealous procurator, called in person on the Minister of Justice, and secured Asako’s speedy liberation.