Her cousin, Asako, by the mere luck of having had an eccentric parent and a European upbringing, possessed all the advantages and all the experience which the Japanese girl knew only through the glamorous medium of books. But this Asa San was a fool. Sadako had found that out at once in the course of a few minutes talk at the Maple Club dinner. She was sweet, gentle and innocent; far more Japanese, indeed, than her sophisticated cousin. Her obvious respect and affection for her big rough husband, her pathetic solicitude for the father whose face she could hardly remember and for the mother who was nothing but a name; these traits of character belong to the meek Japanese girl of Onna Daigaku (Woman’s Great Learning), that famous classic of Japanese girlhood which teaches the submission of women and the superiority of men. It was a type which was becoming rare in her own country. Little Asako had nothing in common with the argumentative heroines of Bernard Shaw or with the desperate viragos of Ibsen, to whom Sadako felt herself spiritually akin. Asako must be a fool. She exasperated her Japanese cousin, who at the same time was envious of her, envious above all of her independent wealth. As she observed to her own mother, it was most improper that a woman, and a young woman too, should have so much money of her own. It would be sure to spoil her character.
Meanwhile Asako was a way of access to first-hand knowledge of that world of European womanhood which so strongly attracted Sadako’s intelligence, that almost incredible world in which men and women were equal, had equal rights to property, and equal rights to love. Asako must have seen enough to explain something about it; if only she were not a fool. But it appeared that she had never heard of Strindberg, Sudermann, or d’Annunzio; and even Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde were unfamiliar names.
THE FAMILY ALTAR
Yume no ai wa Kurushikari keri? Odorokite Kaki-saguredomo Te ni mo fureneba.
(These) meetings in dreams
How sad they are!
When, waking up startled
One gropes about—
And there is no contact to the hand.
Miss Fujinami made up her mind to cultivate Asako’s friendship, and to learn all that she could from her. So she at once invited her cousin to the mysterious house in Akasaka, and Asako at once accepted.
The doors seemed to fly open at the magic of the wanderer’s return. Behind each partition were family retainers, bowing and smiling. Three maids assisted her to remove her boots. There was a sense of expectation and hospitality, which calmed Asako’s fluttering shyness.
“Welcome! Welcome!” chanted the chorus of maids, “O agari nasaimashi! (pray step up into the house!)”
The visitor was shown into a beautiful airy room overlooking the landscape garden. She could not repress an Ah! of wonder, when first this fairy pleasance came in sight. It was all so green, so tiny, and so perfect,—the undulating lawn, the sheet of silver water, the pigmy forests which clothed its shores, its disappearance round a shoulder of rock into that hinterland of high trees which closed the vista and shut out the intrusion of the squalid city.