A GEISHA DINNER
Inishi toshi Ne-kojite uyeshi Waga yodo no Wakaki no ume wa Hana saki ni keri.
The young plum tree
Of my house
Which in bygone years
I dug up by the roots and transplanted
Has at last bloomed with flowers.
Next morning Geoffrey rose earlier than was his wont; and arrayed in one of his many kimonos, entered his sitting-room. There he found Tanaka, wrapped in contemplation of a letter. He was scrutinizing it with an attention which seemed to pierce the envelope.
“Who is it from, Tanaka?” asked Geoffrey; he had become mildly ironical in his dealings with the inquisitive guide.
“I think perhaps invitation to pleasure party from Ladyship’s noble relatives,” Tanaka replied, unabashed.
Geoffrey took the note to his wife, and she read aloud:
“DEAR MR. AND MRS. BARRINGTON—It is now the bright Spring weather. I hope you to enjoy good health. I have been rude thus to absent myself during your polite visit. Much pressing business has hampered me, also stomach trouble, but indeed there is no excuse. Please not to be angry. This time I hope you to attend a poor feast, Maple Club Hotel, next Tuesday, six p.m. Hoping to esteemed favor and even friend,
“What exactly does he mean?”
“As Tanaka says, it is an invitation to a pleasure party at the beginning of next week.”
“Answer it, sweetheart,” said Geoffrey; “tell them that we are not angry, and that we shall be delighted to accept.”
Tanaka explained that the Maple Club Restaurant or Koyokwan, which more strictly should be translated Hall of the Red Leaf, is the largest and most famous of Tokyo “tea-houses”—to use a comprehensive term which applies equally to a shack by the roadside, and to a dainty pleasure resort where entertainments run easily into four or five pounds per head. There are restaurants more secretive and more elite, where the aesthetic gourmet may feel more at ease and where the bohemian spirit can loose its wit. But for public functions of all kinds, for anything on a really big scale, the Maple Club stands alone. It is the “Princes” of Tokyo with a flavour of the Guildhall steaming richly through its corridors. Here the great municipal dinners take place, the great political entertainments. Here famous foreigners are officially introduced to the mysteries of Japanese cuisine and the charms of Japanese geisha. Here hangs a picture of Lord Kitchener himself, scrambled over by laughing mousmes, who seem to be peeping out of his pockets and buttonholes, a Gulliver in Lilliput.
Both Geoffrey and Asako had treated the invitation as a joke; but at the last moment, while they were threading the mysterious streets of the still unfamiliar city, they both confessed to a certain nervousness. They were on the brink of a plunge into depths unknown. They knew nothing whatever about the customs, tastes and prejudices of the people with whom they were to mix—not even their names and their language.