The Japanese understand better than we do the mesmeric effects of sights and sounds. It was to give her time to assimilate her surroundings that Asako was left alone for half an hour or so, while Sadako and her mother were combing their hair and putting their kimonos straight. Tea and biscuits were brought for her, but her fancy was astray in the garden. Already to her imagination a little town had sprung up along the shingles of the tiny bay which faced her; the sails of white ships were glimpsing where the sunlight struck the water; and from round the rock promontory she could catch the shimmer of the Prince’s galleon with its high poop and stern covered with solid gold. He was on his way to rescue the lady who was immured in the top of the red pagoda on the opposite hill.
Asako’s legs were getting numb. She had been sitting on them in correct Japanese fashion all this time. She was proud of the accomplishment, which she considered must be hereditary, but she could not keep it up for much longer than half an hour. Sadako’s mother entered.
“Asa San is welcome.”
Much bowing began, in which Asako felt her disadvantage. The long lines of the kimono, with the big sash tied behind, lend themselves with peculiar grace to the squatting bow of Japanese intercourse. But Asako, in the short blue jacket of her tailor-made serge, felt that her attitude was that of the naughty little boys in English picture books, bending over for castigation.
Mrs. Fujinami wore a perfectly plain kimono, blackish-brown in colour, with a plain gold sash. It is considered correct for middle-aged ladies in Japan to dress with modesty and reserve. She was tall for a Japanese woman and big-boned, with a long lantern-face, and an almost Jewish nose. The daughter was of her mother’s build. But her face was a perfect oval, the melon-seed shape which is so highly esteemed in her country. The severity of her appearance was increased, by her blue-tinted spectacles; and like so many Japanese women, her teeth were full of gold stopping. She was resplendent in blue, the blue of the Mediterranean, with fronds of cherry-blossom and floating pink petals designed round her skirts and at the bottom of the long exaggerated sleeves. The sash of broad stiff brocade shone with light blue and silver in a kind of conventional wave pattern. This was tied at the back with a huge bow, which seemed perched upon its wearer like a gigantic butterfly alighting on a cornflower. Her straight black hair was parted on one side in “foreign” style. But her mother wore the helmet-like marumage, the edifice of conservative taste in married women, which looks more like a wig than like natural hair.