“Geoffrey, will you please take me to see the Yoshiwara?” she asked.
The request dismayed Geoffrey. He knew well enough what was to be seen at the Yoshiwara. He would have been interested to visit the licensed quarter of the demi-monde himself in the company of—say Reggie Forsyth. But this was a branch of inquiry which to his mind should be reserved for men alone. Nice women never think of such things. That his own wife should wish to see the place and, worse still, should express that wish in public was a blatant offence against Good Form, which could only be excused by her innocent ignorance.
But Reggie, who was used to the curiosity of every tourist, male and female, about the night-life of Tokyo, answered readily:
“Yes, Mrs. Barrington. It’s well worth seeing. We must arrange to go down there.”
“Miss Smith tells me,” said Asako, “that all these lovely gay creatures are Yoshiwara girls; and that you can see them there now.”
“Not that identical lady of course,” said Reggie, who had joined the group by the fireside, “she died a hundred years ago; but her professional great-granddaughters are still there.”
“And I can see them!” Asako clapped her hands. “Ladies are allowed to go and look? It does not matter? It is not improper?”
“Oh, no,” said Yae Smith, “my brothers have taken me. Would you like to go?”
“Yes, I would,” said Asako, glancing at her husband, who, however, showed no signs of approval.
Ama no hara Fumi-todorokashi Naru-kami mo Omou-naka wo ba Sakuru mono ka wa?
Can even the God of Thunder
Whose footfall resounds
In the plains of the sky
Those whom love joins?
Geoffrey’s conscience was disturbed. His face was lined and worried with thought, such as had left him untroubled since the effervescences of his early youth. Like many young men of his caste, he had soon submitted all the baffling riddles of conduct to the thumb rule of Good Form. This Yoshiwara question was to him something more than a moral conundrum. It was a subtle attack by the wife of his bosom, aided and abetted by his old friend Reggie Forsyth and by the mysterious forces of this unfamiliar land as typified by Yae Smith, against the citadel of Good Form, against the stronghold of his principles.
Geoffrey himself wished to see the Yoshiwara. His project had been that one evening, when Asako had been invited to dinner by friends, he and Reggie would go and look at the place. This much was sanctioned by Good Form.
For him to take his wife there, and for people to know that he had done so, would be the worst of Bad Form, the conduct of a rank outsider. Unfortunately, it was also Bad Form for him to discuss the matter with Asako.
A terrible dilemma.