Reggie Forsyth used to say that there is no melody in Japanese music; but that the rhythm is marvelous. It is a kind of elaborate ragtime without any tune to it.
The guests did not pay any attention to the performance, nor did they applaud when it was over.
Mr. Ito was consulting his agenda paper and his gold watch.
“You will now drink with these gentlemen,” he said. Geoffrey must have demurred.
“It is Japanese custom,” he continued; “please step this way; I will guide you.”
Poor Geoffrey! it was his turn now to do the visiting figure, but his head was buzzing with some thirty cups of sake which he had swallowed out of politeness, and with the unreality of the whole scene.
“Can’t do it,” he protested; “drunk too much already.”
“In Japan we say, ‘When friends meet the sake sellers laugh!’” quoted the lawyer. “It is Japanese custom to drink together, and to be happy. To be drunk in good company, it is no shame. Many of these gentlemen will presently be drunk. But if you do not wish to drink more, then just pretend to drink. You take the cup, see; you lift it to your mouth, but you throw away the sake into the basin when you wash the cup. That is geisha’s trick when the boys try to make her drunk, but she is too wise!”
Armed with this advice Geoffrey started on his round of visits, first to his host and then to his host’s father. The face of old Mr. Fujinami Gennosuke was as red as beet-root, and his jaw was chewing more vigorously than ever. Nothing, however, could have been more perfect than his deportment in exchanging the cup with his guest. But no sooner had Geoffrey turned away to pay another visit than he became aware of a slight commotion. He glanced round and saw Mr. Fujinami, senior, in a state of absolute collapse, being conducted out of the room by two members of the family and a cluster of geisha.
“What has happened?” he asked in some alarm.
“It is nothing,” said Ito; “old gentleman tipsy very quick.”
Everybody now seemed to be smiling and happy. Geoffrey felt the curse of his speechlessness. He was brimming over with good humour, and was most anxious to please. The Japanese no longer appeared so grotesque as they had on his arrival. He was sure that he would have much in common with many of these men, who talked so good-naturedly among themselves, until the chill of his approach fell upon them.
Besides Ito and Sadako Fujinami, the only person present who could talk English at all fluently was that blotchy-faced individual, Mr. Fujinami Takeshi. The young man was in a very hilarious state, and had gathered around him a bevy of geisha with whom he was cracking jokes. From the nature of his gestures they must have been far from decorous.
“Please to sit down, my dear friend,” he said to Geoffrey. “Do you like geisha girl?”