“This performance,” said Reggie, “has taken place for three days every Spring for the last three hundred years. But it is more than doubtful whether it will ever happen again. It is called Oiran Dochu, the procession of the courtesans. Geoffrey, what you have seen to-day is nothing more or less than the Passing of Old Japan!”
“But whom do these women belong to?” asked Geoffrey. “And who is making money out of all this filth?”
“Various people and companies, I suppose, who own the different houses,” answered Reggie. “A fellow once offered to sell me his whole establishment, bedding and six girls for L50 down. But he must have been having a run of bad luck. In most countries it is a most profitable form of investment. Do you remember ’Mrs. Warren’s Profession’? Thirty-five per cent I think was the exact figure. I don’t suppose Japan is any exception.”
“By Jove!” said Geoffrey, “The women, poor wretches, they can’t help themselves; and the men who buy what they sell, one can’t blame them either. But the creatures who make fortunes out of all this beastiness and cruelty, I say, they ought to be flogged round the place with a cat-o’-nine-tails till the life is beaten out of them. Let’s get away from here!”
As they left the beer-house a small round Japanese man bobbed up from the crowd, raised his hat, bowed and smiled. It was Tanaka. Geoffrey had left him behind on purpose, that his servants, at least, might not know where he was going.
“I think—I meet Ladyship here,” said the little man, “but for long time I do not spy her. I am very sorry.”
“Is anything wrong? Why did you come?” asked Geoffrey.
“Good samurai never leave Lordship’s side. Of course, I come,” was the reply.
“Well, hurry up and get back,” said his master, “or we shall be home before you.”
With renewed bowings he disappeared.
Asako was laughing.
“We can never get rid of Tanaka,” she said, “can we? He follows us like a detective.”
“Sometimes I think he is deliberately spying on us,” said her husband.
“Cheer up,” said Reggie, “they all do that.”
The party dispersed at the Imperial Hotel. Asako was laughing and happy. She had enjoyed herself immensely as usual; and her innocence had realized little or nothing of the grim significance of what she had seen.
But Geoffrey was gloomy and distrait. He had taken it much to heart. That night he had a horrible dream. The procession of the oiran was passing once more before his eyes; but he could not see the face of the gorgeous doll whom all these crowds had come out to admire. He felt strangely apprehensive, however. Then at a corner of the street the figure turned and faced him. It was Asako, his wife. He struggled to reach her and save her. But the crowds of Japanese closed in upon him; he struggled in vain.