She was silent. They listened together to the splashing of the water. What was the special gift, she wondered, which gave this man such insight? She felt her heart beating; she was conscious that he was looking at her. He knew already that it was through her medium that those despatches which never reached London were to have been handed on to their destination! He must know that she was to some extent in the confidence of her country’s Ambassador! Perhaps he knew, too, those other thoughts which were in her mind,—knew that it had been her deliberate intent to deceive him, to pluck those secrets which he carried with him, even from his heart! What a fool she had been to dream, for a moment, of measuring her wits against his!
He began to speak again, and his voice seemed pitched in lighter key.
“After all,” he said, “you must think it strange of me to be so egotistical—to speak all the time so much of my likes and dislikes. To you I have been a little more outspoken than to others.”
“You have found me an interesting subject for investigation perhaps?” she asked, looking up suddenly.
“You possess gifts,” he admitted calmly, “which one does not find amongst the womenfolk of my country, nor can I say that I have found them to any extent amongst the ladies of the English Court.”
“Gifts of which you do not approve when possessed by my sex,” she suggested.
“You are a law to yourself, Miss Morse,” he said. “What one would not admire in others seems natural enough in you. You have brains and you have insight. For that reason I have been with you a little outspoken,—for that reason and another which I think you know of. You see, my time over here grows nearer to an end with every day. Soon I must carry away with me, over the seas, all the delightful memories, the friendships, the affections, which have made this country such a pleasant place for me.”
“You are going soon?” she asked quickly.
“Very soon,” he answered. “My work is nearly finished, if indeed I may dignify it by the name of work. Then I must go back.”
She shrank a little away from him, as though the word were distasteful to her.
“Do you mean that you will go back for always?” she asked.
“There are many chances in life,” he answered. “I am the servant of the Emperor and my country.”
“There is no hope, then,” she continued, “of your settling down here altogether?”
For once the marble immobility of his features seemed disturbed. He looked at her in honest amazement.
“Here!” he exclaimed. “But I am a son of Japan!”
“There are many of your race who do live here,” she reminded him.
He smiled with the air of one who is forced to humor a person of limited vision.
“With them it is, alas! a matter of necessity,” he said. “It is very hard indeed to make you understand over here how we feel about such things,—there seems to be a different spirit amongst you Western races, a different spirit or a lack of spirit—I do not know which I should say. But in Japan the love of our country is a passion which seems to throb with every beat of our hearts. If we leave her, it is for her good. When we go back, it is our reward.”