“Yes; but the others who marry girls of their own set?”
“I think their choice is not really free at all. I do not think it is so much the girl who attracts them. It is the plans and intentions of those around them which urge them on. It is a kind of mesmerism. The parents of the young man and the parents of the young girl make the marriage by force of will. That also is a good way. It is not so very different from our system in Japan.”
“Don’t you think that people in England marry because they love each other?” asked Asako.
“Perhaps so,” replied Kamimura, “but in our Japanese language we have no word which is quite the same as your word Love. So they say we do not know what this Love is. It may be so, perhaps. Anyhow Mr. Barrington will not wish to learn Japanese, I think.”
Geoffrey liked the young man. He was a good athlete, he was unassuming and well-bred, he clearly knew the difference between Good and Bad Form. Geoffrey’s chief misgiving with regard to Japan had been a doubt as to the wisdom of making the acquaintance of his wife’s kindred. How dreadful if they turned out to be a collection of oriental curios with whom he would not have one idea in common!
The company of this young aristocrat, in no way distinguishable from an Englishman except for a certain grace and maturity, reassured him. No doubt his wife would have cousins like this; clean, manly fellows who would take him shooting and with whom he could enjoy a game of golf. He thought that Kamimura must be typical of the young Japanese of the upper classes. He did not realize that he was an official product, chosen by his Government and carefully moulded and polished, not to be a Japanese at home, but to be a Japanese abroad, the qualified representative of a First Class Power.
Kamimura left the boat with them at Colombo and joined them in their visit to some tea-planting relatives. He was ready to do the same at Singapore, but he received an urgent cable from Japan recalling him at once.
“I must not be too late for my own wedding,” he said, during their last lunch together at Raffles’s Hotel. “It would be a terrible sin against the laws of Filial Piety.”
“Whatever is that?” asked Asako.
“Dear Mrs. Barrington, are you a daughter of Japan, and have never heard of the Twenty-four Children?”
“No; who are they?”
“They are model children, the paragons of goodness, celebrated because of their love for their fathers and mothers. One of them walked miles and miles every day to get water from a certain spring for his sick mother; another, when a tiger was going to eat his father, rushed to the animal and cried, ‘No, eat me instead!’ Little boys and girls in Japan are always being told to be like the Twenty-four Children.”
“Oh, how I’d hate them!” cried Asako.
“That is because you are a rebellious, individualistic Englishwoman. You have lost that sense of family union, which makes good Japanese, brothers and cousins and uncles and aunts, all love each other publicly, however much they may hate each other in private.”