Was it possible that the laws of Good and Bad Form were only locally binding, and that here in Japan they were no longer valid?
Reggie was different. He was so awfully clever. He could extemporize on Good Form as he could extemporize on the piano. Besides, he was a victim to the artistic temperament, which cannot control itself. But Reggie had not been improved by his sojourn in this queer country, or he would never have so far forgotten himself as to speak in such a way in the presence of ladies.
Geoffrey would give him a good beating at tennis; and then, having reduced him to a fit state of humility, he would have it out with him. For Barrington was not a man to nurse displeasure against his friends.
The tennis courts at Tokyo—which stand in a magnificent central position one day to be occupied by the Japanese Houses of Parliament—are every afternoon the meeting place for youth in exile with a sprinkling of Japanese, some of whom have acquired great skill at the game. Towards tea-time the ladies arrive to watch the evening efforts of their husbands and admirers, and to escort them home when the light begins to fail. So the tennis courts have become a little social oasis in the vast desert of oriental life. Brilliant it is not. Sparkle there is none. But there is a certain chirpiness, the forced gaiety of caged birds.
The day was warm and bright. The snow had vanished as though by supernatural command. Geoffrey enjoyed his game thoroughly, although he was beaten, being out of practice and unused to gravel courts. But the exercise made him, in his own language, “sweat like a pig,” and he felt better. He thought he would shelve the unpleasant subject for the time being; but it was Reggie himself who revived it.
“About the Yoshiwara,” he said, seating himself on one of the benches placed round the courts. “They are having a special show down there to-morrow. It will probably be worth seeing.”
“Look here,” said Geoffrey, “is it the thing for ladies—English ladies—to go to a place like that?”
“Of course,” answered his friend, “it is one of the sights of Tokyo. Why, I went with Lady Cynthia not so long ago. She was quite fascinated.”
“By Jove!” Geoffrey ejaculated. “But for a young girl—? Did Miss Cairns go too?”
“Not on that occasion; but I have no doubt she has been.”
“But isn’t it much the same as taking a lady to a public brothel?”
“Not in the least,” was Reggie’s answer, “it is like along Piccadilly after nightfall, looking in at the Empire, and returning via Regent Street; and in Paris, like a visit to the Rat Mort and the Bal Tabarin. It is the local version of an old theme.”
“But is that a nice sight for a lady?”
“It is what every lady wants to see.”
“Reggie, what rot! Any clean-minded girl—”
“Geoffrey, old man, would you like to see the place?”