Having reduced the serious atmosphere of his study so as to give an impression of amiable indolence, Reggie Forsyth lit a cigarette and strolled out into the garden, amused at his own impatience. In London he would never have bestirred himself for old Geoffrey Barrington, who was only a Philistine, after all, with no sense of the inwardness of things.
Reggie was a slim and graceful young man, with thin fair hair brushed flat back from his forehead. A certain projection of bones under the face gave him an almost haggard look; and his dancing blue eyes seemed to be never still. He wore a suit of navy serge fitting close to his figure, black tie, and grey spats. In fact, he was as immaculate as a young diplomat should always be.
Outside his broad veranda was a gravel path, and beyond that a Japanese garden, the hobby of one of his predecessors, a miniature domain of hillocks and shrubs, with the inevitable pebbly water course, in which a bronze crane was perpetually fishing. Over the red-brick wall which encircles the Embassy compound the reddish buds of a cherry avenue were bursting in white stars.
The compound of the Embassy is a fragment of British soil. The British flag floats over it; and the Japanese authorities have no power within its walls. Its large population of Japanese servants, about one hundred and fifty in all, are free from the burden of Japanese taxes; and, since the police may not enter, gambling, forbidden throughout the Empire, flourishes there; and the rambling servants’ quarters behind the Ambassador’s house are the Monte Carlo of the Tokyo betto (coachman) and kurumaya (rickshaw runner). However, since the alarming discovery that a professional burglar had, Diogenes-like, been occupying an old tub in a corner of the wide grounds, a policeman has been allowed to patrol the garden; but he has to drop that omnipotent swagger which marks his presence outside the walls.
Except for Reggie Forsyth’s exotic shrubbery, there is nothing Japanese within the solid red walls. The Embassy itself is the house of a prosperous city gentleman and might be transplanted to Bromley or Wimbledon. The smaller houses of the secretaries and the interpreters also wear a smug, suburban appearance, with their red brick and their black-and-white gabling. Only the broad verandas betray the intrusion of a warmer sun than ours.
The lawns were laid out as a miniature golf-links, the thick masses of Japanese shrubs forming deadly bunkers, and Reggie was trying some mashie shots when one of the rare Tokyo taxi-cabs, carrying Geoffrey Barrington inside it, came slowly round a corner of the drive, as though it were feeling its way for its destination among such a cluster of houses.
Geoffrey was alone.
“Hello, old chap!” cried Reggie, running up and shaking his friend’s big paw in his small nervous grip, “I’m so awfully glad to see you; but where’s Mrs. Barrington?”