Outside the church stood the bridegroom’s brother officers. Through the gleaming passage of sword-blades, smiling and happy, the strangely assorted couple entered upon the way of wedlock, as Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Barrington—the shoot of the Fujinami grafted on to one of the oldest of our noble families.
“Are her parents here?” one lady was asking her neighbour.
“Oh, no; they are both dead, I believe.”
“What kind of people are they, do you know? Do Japs have an aristocracy and society and all that kind of thing?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. I shouldn’t think so. They don’t look real enough.”
“She is very rich, anyhow,” a third lady intervened, “I’ve heard they are big landowners in Tokyo, and cousins of Admiral Togo’s.”
* * * * *
The opportunity for closer inspection of this curiosity was afforded by the reception given at Lady Everington’s mansion in Carlton House Terrace. Of course, everybody was there. The great ballroom was draped with hangings of red and white, the national colours of Japan. Favours of the same bright hues were distributed among the guests. Trophies of Union Jacks and Rising Suns were grouped in corners and festooned above windows and doorways.
Lady Everington was bent upon giving an international importance to her protegee’s marriage. Her original plan had been to invite the whole Japanese community in London, and so to promote the popularity of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance by making the most of this opportunity for social fraternising. But where was the Japanese community in London? Nobody knew. Perhaps there was none. There was the Embassy, of course, which arrived smiling, fluent, and almost too well-mannered. But Lady Everington had been unable to push very far her programme for international amenities. There were strange little yellow men from the City, who had charge of ships and banking interests; there were strange little yellow men from beyond the West End, who studied the Fine Arts, and lived, it appeared, on nothing. But the hostess could find no ladies at all, except Countess Saito and the Embassy dames.
Monsieur and Madame Murata from Paris, the bride’s guardians, were also present. But the Orient was submerged beneath the flood of our rank and fashion, which, as one lady put it, had to take care how it stepped for fear of crushing the little creatures.
“Why did you let him do it?” said Mrs. Markham to her sister.
“It was a mistake, my dear,” whispered Lady Everington, “I meant her for somebody quite different.”
“And you’re sorry now?”
“No, I have no time to be sorry—ever,” replied that eternally graceful and youthful Egeria, who is one of London’s most powerful social influences. “It will be interesting to see what becomes of them.”