Chonkina, Chonkina, Chon, Chon, Kina,
Yokohama, Nagasaki, Hakodate—Hoi!
The refrain of an old song was awakened in his mind by the melodious name of the place.
He descended the hill from the hotel, and crossed a bridge over a narrow river. The town was full of beauty. The warm light in the little wooden houses, the creamy light of the paper walls, illuminated from within, with the black silhouettes of the home groups traced upon them, the lanterns dancing on the boats in the harbour, the lights on the larger vessels in stiff patterns like propositions of Euclid, the lanterns on carts and rickshaws, lanterns like fruit, red, golden and glowing, and round bubble lamps over each house entrance with Chinese characters written upon them giving the name of the occupant.
As though in answer to his incantation, Geoffrey suddenly came upon Wigram. Wigram had been a fellow-passenger on board the steamer. He was an old Etonian; and this was really the only bond between the two men. For Wigram was short, fat and flabby, dull-eyed and pasty-faced. He spoke with a drawl; he had literary pretensions and he was travelling for pleasure.
“Hello, Barrington,” he said, “you all alone?”
“Yes,” answered Geoffrey, “my wife is a bit overtired; she has turned in.”
“So you are making the most of your opportunity, studying night-life, eh, naughty boy?”
“Not much about, is there?” said Geoffrey, who considered that a “pi fellow” was Bad Form, and would not be regarded as such even by a creature whose point of view was as contemptible as that of Wigram.
“Doesn’t walk the streets, old man; but it’s there all the same. The men at the club here tell me that Nagasaki is one of the hottest spots on the face of the globe.”
“Seems sleepy enough,” answered Geoffrey.
“Oh, here! these are just English warehouses and consulates. They’re always asleep. But you come with me and see them dance the Chonkina.”
Geoffrey started at this echo of his own thoughts, but he said,—
“I must be getting back; my wife will be anxious.”
“Not yet, not yet. It will be all over in half an hour, and it’s worth seeing. I am just going to the club to find a fellow who said he’d show me the ropes.”
Geoffrey allowed himself to be persuaded. After all he was not expected home so immediately. It was many years since he had visited low and disreputable places. They were Bad Form, and had no appeal for him. But the strangeness of the place attracted him, and a longing for the first glimpse behind the scenes in this inexplicable new country.
Why shouldn’t he go?
He was introduced to Wigram’s friend, Mr. Patterson, a Scotch merchant of Nagasaki, who lurched out of the club in his habitual Saturday evening state of mellow inebriation.