Yone Santo: A Child of Japan



“ THIS is strange news we have about Yone Santo,” said the elder Miss Philipson, breaking one of the pauses which were frequent, and seemed inevitable, at her Thursday secular receptions in the foreign quarter of Tokio, the capital of Japan.

“ Strange indeed,” said the younger Miss Philipson ; “ but we hope it will all be properly explained. Do we not, sister ? ”

“ Certainly, we hope many things,” responded the first speaker. “ But, as I have said again and again, we are in Japan ; nobody can deny that! ”

It was unquestionably true. Nobody could gainsay the excellent lady’s reiterated declarations that she and those around her were in Japan. This was a comprehensive formula by which she accounted for all the sorrows, evils, or irregularities of life, — as life was regarded by her. If the weather interfered with her favorite pursuits, or with the even tenor of her health, she was grimly content to remind herself that she was in Japan. If servants were deficient in intelligence or honesty, still she drew relief from the reflection that she was in Japan. Did tradesmen disappoint her, or the humble populace misunderstand the eloquence of her teaching in the native tongue, or impediments obstruct the course of her rigid missionary labors, again and always no explanation was needed beyond the fact that she was in Japan. Like the elastic pavilion of the Arabian magician, it was sufficient for all conceivable emergencies. When once propounded argument was unavailing, and debate became superfluous.

People had sometimes remarked that the merit of her cherished axiom was not so manifest when the elder Miss Philipson’s fancies were of a less mournful description. When the sun shone with the sovereign splendor peculiar to the island empire, she was not so eager to proclaim herself a dweller therein. When the docile and patient spirit of her domestic retainers was amiably conspicuous ; when, at holiday seasons, the politeness and geniality of the pleasureseeking multitude were common themes of congratulation ; when the progress of her little school was stimulated by the faithful studiousness and the unwearied application of the warm-hearted young creatures who profited by her rigorously administered instruction, — then she and her fellow-laborers might have been in Patagonia, or at the North Pole, for aught that was heard to the contrary from her guarded lips. In short, none of the occasional bright incidents of her lot was deemed attributable to the social or physical conditions of the country she chanced to inhabit. The shadows alone were due to the destiny that had established her “ in Japan.”

Another idiosyncrasy, not altogether confined to this lady, lent distinction to her character. No power of persuasion, no force of reasoning, could shake her profound conviction that in her quality of missionary she possessed attributes which would appear preternatural outside of her sphere, but which, she insisted, should be recognized by all as the inherent endowments of herself and her sisterhood. Knowledge, especially upon scriptural subjects, came to her by intuition. The study and observation of the majority who surrounded her went for nothing, because they were not missionaries. To intimate that the most recondite erudition could be trusted in opposition to her haphazard notions upon any religious topic would excite her to wrath and scorn. If interrogated as to the authority for some of her startling propositions, she would answer — when in the humor to answer at all — that they were " borne in upon her ; ” which impressive utterance was expected to silence all contention, and to inspire unwavering faith. Nor was her assumption of infallibility confined to moral or intellectual considerations. She would not, perhaps, go to the length of saying that her pies and coffee were superior to those of her worldly-minded but eminently practical neighbor, the civil engineer’s wife ; but she honestly thought it was far better for her acquaintances to drink, in her company, the muddy fluid, and swallow the heavy paste, of her compounding, than to eat and consort with the skillful but “ unawakened ” housekeeper next door, who often forgot to ask a blessing on her fare. Miss Philipson never neglected to ask the blessing. Circumstances not infrequently afforded her the opportunity of invoking grace upon the same viands several times in succession, but it was not observed that her refections, even thrice sanctified, attained a first-class popularity. Nevertheless, under the influence of an instinct which she probably never analyzed, she was convinced that dyspepsia within her walls was preferable to good digestion elsewhere; and fully believed that if her visitors were afflicted with internal discomfort as the consequence of participation in her unsavory banquets, it would, in some mysterious way, “ be made up to them hereafter.”

Pursuing her theories to a natural conclusion, she had grown to look upon herself as legitimately exempt from many of the requirements which govern mankind in general, and as privileged to disregard observances upon the prompt and equitable recognition of which society is largely dependent. Remembering, possibly, the “ courtesies,” so called, which for especial reasons are extended to the clergy in Western communities, she was disposed to affirm her indisputable right to adjust her expenditures at a considerably lower rate than the average. That she should properly be required to pay, for example, the current charge for house rent she could never be brought to understand ; and why the native or foreign tradesmen declined to acknowledge her claim to a righteous discount remained a problem insoluble by any process with which she was familiar. “ They would find it set down to their account elsewhere,” she was accustomed to declare, with solemn emphasis.

In her dealings with the simple Japanese, who. while they could not follow her train of reasoning, were incapable of formulating their remonstrances, she adopted the straightforward plan of meeting their demands according to her peculiar conception of what was due to herself as a spiritual messenger, as well as to them as pagan creditors; with the result that, on the last day of every month, something closely resembling a riot broke out in her back yard, while her front door was in a state of almost chronic siege by the proprietors of the jin-riki-shas which she honored with her patronage, — these discontented gentry unanimously averring that the lady had hired them with a thorough understanding of their terms, and with apparent acquiescence in them. Statements like these Miss Philipson did not think it necessary to deny ; remarking, merely, that she invariably proffered payment sufficient for “a person in her position,” and that if the “ coolies ” were not satisfied with what was tendered, they would get nothing. As a rule, they bowed to necessity ; but they by no means made a virtue of it, for they “ took it out,” so to speak, in jeers and revilings of no pleasant character, though expressed in a dialect with which, fortunately, Miss Philipson’s missionary studies had not made her familiar.

It was observed, I may incidentally mention, that these urgent applicants seldom presented themselves upon Sundays. They had in past times unwittingly done so, only to find themselves severely rebuked for their impiety, and to be turned away without further parley or hope of satisfaction. The lower class, in her neighborhood, appeared to be exceptionally well informed respecting the recurrence of the sacred day; allusions to which fact afforded Miss Philipson the liveliest gratification of which she was known to be capable.



The Philipson Thursdays were always distinguished by the introduction of deliberately chosen topics of discussion, which the visitors were expected to accept as improving,” with the same blind credulity that was demanded on behalf of the refreshments previously alluded to. On the afternoon with which this narrative opens, certain observations, more or less wholesome, had been exchanged with respect to the immediate consequences of an untrammeled education upon the young women of Japan. Having been called upon for a contribution t0 the debate, I had, somewhat languidly I fear, submitted a theory which seemed to me sufficiently justified by observation and experience, to the effect that while universal culture was undoubtedly a consummation earnestly to be desired, the transition from ignorance to enlightenment could not be accomplished without great hardship and suffering in many, not to say the majority, of instances; and by way of partial illustration, I related circumstances in the life of a young girl of unusual intelligence, who, after rapidly passing through such courses of instruction as were supplied by the best government schools in the capital, and becoming at least theoretically familiar with the gentler conditions of society in other lands, had been thrown back into the narrow grooves of an existence which was no longer suited to her, and in which happiness must be forever denied her.

Having concluded my brief demonstration, with a distinct consciousness of failing to arouse the slightest interest on the part of any of my hearers, excepting, perhaps, one of the younger and more recently arrived of Miss Philipson’s staff, I was preparing to get myself quietly away when I was arrested by the allusion, before quoted, to Yone Santo. I was, indeed, especially struck by it, inasmuch as she, and no other, was the living original of the figure I had just attempted to introduce in support of my theory. For a moment I fancied that the hostess had done me the honor to follow the train of my reminiscence, and now desired to proclaim her discovery; but this was an error.

“ And what of Yone Santo ? ” I ventured to inquire.

“ Ah, what, indeed ? ” was the response, lugubriously intoned.

Nothing disagreeable, I trust, — and nothing wrong, I know,” I retorted, with some feeling.

“ That last is saying a great deal,” rejoined Miss Philipson, “ considering that we are in Japan.”

“ Nevertheless, I say it, and undertake to abide by it.”

“ Perhaps, Dr. Cliarwell. the young person would do as well without such earnest ” —

“ Such very earnest ” — interjected the junior Miss Philipson.

“Yes, sister; such very earnest support from a — from one of the opposite ” —

“From a man!” interposed a middle-aged fellow-worker in the missionary field; hard-voiced and stern-featured, but known as a zealous and indefatigable follower of one of the least agreeable branches of her calling.

“ Miss Jackman puts it strongly,” said Miss Philipson, with an unmirthful smile ; “ but I suppose plain speech is the best.”

“ To be sure it is,” I replied ; “ and who, if not I, should speak plainly when Yone Santo’s name is brought up ? I have known her from childhood, known her well; and a lovelier girl, a nobler, purer, truer nature, I have never encountered. Every woman that has met her ought to be glad to say as much ; but if no woman is ready to tell the truth about her, I shall not be silent, you may be sure.”

“ Whenever I hear a Japanese woman held up in that way by a foreign man,” said Miss Jackman, with stiff deliberation, “ I feel that there is work for me to do. Who is this Yone Santo? ”

The labor which Miss Jackman delighted in, and in which she was fond of declaring her efficacy, was what she called “reclaiming.” For that purpose she had come to the East, and to that object she devoted herself with untiring assiduity. She was never unhappy except when occasions for the exercise of her self-imposed functions were wanting; and there were times when, in her excess of enthusiasm, she seemed almost to desire that the feminine population of all Japan might go astray, that she might leap to the rescue and “ reclaim ” them.

“ Why,” cried the young new-comer to whom I have incidentally referred,

“ is n’t that the little lady who went shopping with us, last month, and interpreted so beautifully ? I thought she was one of the dearest creatures I ever met. I fell quite in love with her.”

“ Miss Gibson,” said the “ reclaimer,” with the air of one to whom a happy opportunity of tendering rebuke has fallen unawares, and is therefore doubly welcome, “ it is my duty to tell you that your language is most improper; and if you had been here longer and knew the country better I should call it indecent. It is bad enough for men to talk so about these girls ; but for ladies, and particularly for missionaries, I call it scandalous ! ”

Miss Gibson was too lately from America to have lost the freshness of her independence, and it was with an unlooked-for spirit that she answered her assailant.

“ Excuse me, Miss Jackman,” she exclaimed, “ I believe I am not under your authority in any way. Miss Philipson is the head of my mission. She made me acquainted with the young Japanese, and, as I said before. I thought her as sweet and charming as she could be, and so did all our party.”

“ Yes, Marian,” Miss Philipson admitted, rather awkwardly, “ I did send her out with you and your friends, but that was a month ago, and we had not then heard ” —

“ Heard what, Miss Philipson ? ” I demanded. “ Let us have it all, if you please.”

“ Well, if you must know, Dr. Charwell, we had not heard of her goings-on with that young Bostonian who is spending so much money here, and mixing with all sorts of people.”

“ What, Arthur Milton ? ” said I, in great surprise. “ Why, he knows her only through me.”

“ Likely enough,” remarked Miss Jackman, scenting another exquisite opportunity, and pouncing upon it with hawkish eagerness ; “ no doubt, Miss Philipson, Dr. Charwell understands all about it.”

But Miss Philipson had reasons, which I do not care to explain further than that they were connected with my professional position in our little community, for not overstraining my forbearance. She felt herself, as the head of a school, in some degree indebted to me, and was not unwilling to lend me a helping hand, nor to bear testimony in my favor, within reasonable and cautious limits.

“ I am quite convinced of Dr. Charwell’s sincerity, Miss Jackman,” she said. “ I should not think of associating him with any of Yone Santo’s present misdeeds.”

“ It is an unpleasant thing to talk about,” persisted Miss Jackman, defiantly ; “ but since you force it from me, I must say I have very little to learn about Dr. Charwell. I keep my eyes and ears open, and I know for a fact that he has been seen to stop young girls on the street, perfect strangers to him, and — and take their heads in his hands. Yes, and put his face close to theirs, they do say. And I had a most promising pupil, three months ago, who was just beginning to walk in the true path. She fell in with Dr. Charwell, and since then I have seen nothing of her. You cannot deny it, sir ; it was Ume Harada.”

“ Oh, doctor ! ” ejaculated Miss Philipson, in woful accents ; while a few others of the company seemed genuinely shocked, and the majority awaited the impending revelation with countenances expressive of joyous gloom.

“ Exactly,” I rejoined ; “ she was nearly blind.”

“ I don’t know about that, and I don’t care,” Miss Jackman retorted.

“ Pardon me,” said I ; “it may be that you do not care ; but you certainly know, since you were warned that she was destroying the little sight she had left by reading badly printed books, in small type, at your ill-lighted evening class-room.”

“ It was the Bible, sir ! ” cried Miss Jackman, with a ring of triumph in her voice.

“ More shame to those who use it in such a shape,” I replied, growing absurdly angry as the controversy proceeded. “ But never mind. The child can now see, almost as well as ever. Another month of your nightly ‘ darkness visible,’ and the light of her life would have gone out.”

“We are not ashamed of our poverty,” Miss Jackman declared, rearing her crest again. “We give what light we can. And I shall now take steps to reclaim Ume Harada. She may not yet be wholly lost.”

“Let us hope not,” said I, pulling myself together, and making a better show of good-humor than I really felt; “but you will leave that poor girl unmolested, Miss Jackman. She is one of my reclaimed, you see.”

“ I shall see her this very day,” answered Miss Jackman,

“ No, I really must protest. You are aware, Miss Philipson, and ladies and gentlemen all, that there are methods of checking injudicious enthusiasm, in extreme cases. Miss Jackman already knows something about consular authority, I have been told, and I am confident that she would not care to confront it again. At any rate, it must be understood that the young girl is not to be persecuted into blindness. With respect to Yone Santo, my interest is much deeper ” —

“Undoubtedly,” interrupted the irrepressible Jackman. “ and therefore the more need that she should be reclaimed, while there is time. That is, unless Dr. Charwell proposes to have legal or consular authority extended also to her.”

“Madam,”I replied, with restored equability of manner, but with anything but serenity of temper, “ as I know her thoroughly, I have no fear of evil results from any acquaintance she may make. If I did not know her so well, I might suffer the sort of apprehension which, as my friend Kracken will tell you, always possesses American physicians in Italy when they see the native practitioners attempting to cure the miliare.”

Kracken was one of the class of “ medical missionaries,” honest and well disposed, but the least disputatious of mortal men. He therefore declined to satisfy Miss Jackman’s curiosity as to the miliare, whereupon the lady, with undiminished courage, demanded that I should give the explanation myself.

“ Don’t ask,” said Kracken, looking a little scared.

“ Oh, but I will ask,” insisted the undaunted reclaimer. “ Having gone so far, Dr. Charwell is not to stop just when it suits his convenience.”

“Very well. Miss Jackman; I will not disappoint you. It is believed by most medical men outside of Italy that the average physician of that country is capable of treating the miliare, and nothing else. Consequently, whenever summoned, no matter for what disease, he announces a case of his favorite fever, and straightway begins to talk so much about it, and to represent it in so many interesting lights, that the patient soon shows signs of being contaminated. Then the admirable doctor goes to work with his conventional remedies — and sometimes the sufferer does n’t die.”

Miss Jackman looked puzzled ; Miss Philipson, vaguely alarmed. Kracken was horrified, and so was I, a little, when I found how far my anger had led me. To avoid further temptation, I hastily took leave of the hostess before my meaning had become generally apparent, and promptly retreated from the scene.

As I passed into the street, I observed. just before me, the young lady who had tired, with a few kind words, to stem the current of prejudice and ill-feeling. She had left the house by a side door, while I was last speaking.

“If you are not in too great haste, Miss Gibson,” I called to her, “ pray wait, and let me thank you for what you said about my little friend. It gratified me. and touched me.”

“ I said what I thought, Dr. Charwell,” she answered ; “ but I ought to be less forward with my opinions. Those ladies are so much older, and — oh, dear, how could you be so hitter to that Miss Jackman ? ”

“ What she said was very bitter to me. But no matter ; I am surprised at my own roughness. I shall keep myself out of the way hereafter. Her objects of attack are mostly indifferent to me, and I did not imagine she could ever touch one of my tender spots. Nor did I believe that Yone Santo could be brought within the reach of human malice.”

“ It would be hard,” said the warmhearted neophyte, “ to believe anything — anything unkind of that sweet little girl. I’m sure I should not know where to look for goodness, in this country, if such a face and such a voice can go with wickedness.”

“ You cannot come to much harm, my good young lady,” I responded, “by trusting to your instinct in these matters. At any rate, it is a better guide than rusty and corroded prejudice. I will not prompt you to defy authority, but I give you a practical old man’s earnest assurance that a life like Yone Santo’s may teach lessons of courage, high principle, faithfulness to duty, and patience in adversity to any who will study it. Do not forget what I say. Try to know that gentle creature. You will find that if there is much to impart, there is also much to be learned, in association with these people.”

On leaving this new acquaintance, I registered an internal vow that I would never again, no matter what the provocation, commit a folly like that from which I had just emerged, — by no means with consciousness of the highest credit to myself. Nor, in society, would I break silence upon any of the subjects which my respectable missionary friends were accustomed to discuss with a logic peculiar to their order and satisfactory to most of their adherents, but as unwholesome and indigestible to the laity as the products, similarly home-made, of Miss Philipson’s kitchen. I may say on my own behalf, that it was only on rare occasions that I thus transgressed. It was my habit to take advantage of such opportunities for entertainment as presented themselves in our somewhat restricted community, and, among these, the Philipson reunions were far too enjoyable to be neglected. The superficial, one-sided, and utterly selfish views of life, education, religion, and humanity which were there propounded by wellintending but curiously unintelligent and illiterate professors of a narrow and microscopic Christianity were often irresistibly diverting in their unconscious humor. The sincerity of these same professors, their self-reliant faith, and their adamantine conceit kept them unaware that concealment of their Spiritual nudity and squalor was desirable. Totally ignorant that indecency was not necessarily confined to physical exposure, and that intellectual nakedness might also have its repulsive features, they presented such spectacles as, I fear, only an abandoned cynicism could view without compassion. I was not, I trust, an abandoned cynic, and many a shock of honest shame thrilled through me as I witnessed these revelations of mental feebleness and incapacity on the part of men and women supposed to be entrusted with the noblest of human duties, and to be striving for a revival of the spirit which animated the other extremity of Asia nineteen hundred years ago. Their words and acts, however, were beyond my interference, and I saw no reason why I might not take my share of the amusement they afforded. But I had no wish for such experiences as I had that day gone through, and I forthwith resolved to encounter no more temptations of the kind. The arena of religious controversy, as it was understood by my missionary friends, should be disturbed by no further intrusions on my part.



Between Yone Santo and myself a trustful and tender friendship had longexisted, dating, indeed, from the first year of my sojourn in her native land. We were brought together by accident, through which alone, at that early period, was it possible for acquaintances to be formed by ladies of Japan, however youthful, on the one side, and masculine visitors from the distant West, however aged, on the other. I was passing a summer month at one of the popular bathing resorts near the main road of the Empire, looking with eager eye for fresh novelties to enjoy, when, at the close of a sultry day, a little traveling procession entered the courtyard of the inn which was my temporary dwelling. Such miniature caravans were common at that period, for, after some years of uncertainty, it was now understood by all that the Mikado had permanently established his court in the great Eastern capital, — therefore newly named Tokio, instead of Yedo, as of old, — and the last of the feudal nobles, with their numerous retainers, were gathering to that centre in loyal acknowledgment of the restoration of imperial power, while, from all parts of the nation, families were flocking to the metropolitan headquarters of their provincial chiefs.

The group that came in view on the afternoon of which I speak was singular only in the circumstance that it was led by a young girl, apparently about ten years old, — the first I had seen in so prominent a position of authority. She walked lightly and briskly in advance of her norimono,1 the ends of her long robe being tucked up in her girdle, for the disencumberment of her feet. Beside her marched a kitten, preternatural in dignity and gravity, and wearing the air of subdued melancholy peculiar to the feline race in Japan, —which is interpreted by philosophic foreigners as a mute protest against the irrevocable fiat that deprives them of tails. A few yards behind strode a couple of male attendants, duly armed with the conventional two swords; and following these came a line of three or four other norimono, variously occupied, a servingman of humble grade bringing up the rear. The somewhat unusual appearance of a child at the head of the party was afterward explained by the information that mademoiselle represented, in Japanese usage, the master of the family. She was the sole daughter of a gentleman of Nagoya city, — Yamada Naonobu by name, — who had taken the journey in advance of a portion of his household. By right of birth, this daughter had precedence over aunts and certain other elderly relations, to whom, in domestic privacy, she was doubtless more submissive than an infant of European lineage would be, but over whom, on public occasions, she was expected to assert the nominal superiority which was her legitimate inheritance.

I learned, in course of time, that she had never before beheld a foreigner. I also learned that if her father had been present to relieve her from her burden of ceremony she would have rushed into seclusion, from the disquieting spectacle, as rapidly as her little legs could have carried her. But the sense of a stern duty sustained her, and she entered the spacious porch, in which I was sitting, with an unfaltering step ; betraying no consciousness of the proximity of one of the awful invaders of her country, except by interposing between us the barrier of an expanded sun-umbrella. She disappeared, with her retinue, and I heard no more of the party until the next morning, when my interpreter casually mentioned that they proposed resting a few days, to give one of the ancient aunts, who was ailing, the benefit of the famous baths. Thus it happened that another illustration of the power of traditional training over natural instinct was presently afforded me ; although I was then too ignorant to understand the conflict of opposing influences which passed before my eyes.

I was carelessly lounging in the tavern garden, when the little maid entered, unaware of human contiguity, and accompanied only by the staid and reserved kitten before mentioned, and a doll of uncertain age but well-preserved exterior. At sight of me she would have retired, after a hasty salutation, had I not, in such imperfect speech as I could then command, begged permission to inspect her protégés. By way of compensation. I offered her a collection of photographs, and, summoning my interpreter, engaged her in a conversation which, though formal and ceremonious, appeared to cause her no serious embarrassment. To every question of mine she responded graciously and freely, until one of her elderly relatives happened to come upon the scene ; when my youthful colloquist was suddenly stricken dumb, refusing further share in the conversation, and mutely referring all subsequent interrogatories to her senior, who from that point took up the dialogue with perfect courtesy and without apparent reluctance.

My immediate impression was that I had lighted upon an adept in pure feminine coquetry, the arts of which may be supposed intuitive in the tenderest ages and the most unfamiliar climes. Repeated examples of the little lady’s willingness to confer with me, in a certain grave and precise fashion, when no other member of her family was at hand, and of her prompt relapse into silence on the approach of any of her elders, tended to confirm this conclusion. I am sorry to remember how long it was before I discovered the utter injustice of my suspicion. The mischief that has been done by the readiness of foreigners to leap to the same conviction is wholly beyond conjecture. The simple truth is that, among the well-bred classes in Japan, every child is taught that he or she must be prepared to take up the task of entertaining, — to “do the honors,” in New England phrase, — in the absence of those who are more maturely qualified to perform that duty. Timidity, sensitiveness, even repulsion, must not stand in the way of this delicate obligation. Many a stranger has observed, during his first, or second, or third visit to a Japanese family, that the daughters of the house have shyly kept themselves aloof, murmuring indistinctly when addressed, and taking no part in the social proceedings beyond pouring a cup of tea, or offering candies and cakes. Calling again, and finding only these daughters at home, — whereas he had previously been received by the whole household, — he has been surprised by a complete abandonment of the reserve before displayed, and gratified, we may presume, by attentions which he had never expected from the incarnations of bashfulness he had encountered on other occasions. Little has he dreamed of the struggle of those poor girls to fulfill with composure and graciousness the behests of their system of hospitality. Still less, I regret to say, has it ordinarily been his habit to seek a reasonable and decorous explanation of the phenomenon. A custom founded upon the truest refinement has been made the basis of theories which are never less than absurd, and are too often shameful, — although, as I regard it, the shame belongs exclusively to those whose imagination makes haste to misjudge what it imperfectly comprehends.

And so it happened that I fancied myself getting upon pleasant terms with a pretty damsel of ten years, whereas in truth I was subjecting her, whenever I encountered her alone, to nothing less than a species of moral torture. I was interested in her chiefly because she was the only very young girl whom I had found disposed to tolerate me at all. As a rule, children of her sex and age had shunned my amiable advances with indifference or aversion. I attributed the contrast of her demeanor to a superior intelligence, but it was really due to the superiority of her birth and culture. Until then I had not chanced to fall in with any of the Japanese gentry, and had no idea that the rules of her training forbade her to manifest the feelings which probably possessed her. But there is no doubt that her natural acuteness aided her in overcoming an instinct which was merely conventional. Circumstances presently placed us in fairly confidential relations with one another. Her aunt’s illness grew serious, and my professional assistance was found effective to an unexpected extent. The malady was of a kind which yielded rapidly to a specified treatment, and the wonder of the unsophisticated Japanese was extreme. I observed that my little friend, in particular, watched all the proceedings with close intentness. Was it to learn, if possible, some part of the method to be pursued, in case of future need ? Partly that, no doubt. Indeed, she afterward confided to me that her neko (kitten) suffered from rheumatism, the consequence of an infantile calamity, and she hoped to gather a few suggestions for her playfellow’s relief and comfort. But, in a broader sense, she was a passionate seeker for knowledge in every form, and the evidence of what she considered my miraculous skill in restoring her relative was sufficient to invest me, in her esteem, with marvelous attributes of wisdom and genius. A “ learned man ” (sensei) is always an object of respect in Japan, and this child was not only roused to admiration, but, in a vague way, hoped to obtain, by communion with me, some little addition to her own juvenile store of erudition. Finding me inclined to humor her, she attached herself to me with almost a blind devotion ; poring over the small collection of books I had with me ; building wild projects of a course of study then and there to be instituted ; starting valorously upon explorations in the mazes of the alphabet ; groping among labyrinthine numerals; and begging me, with timid wistfulness, always to be kind to her, and to help her in the hard struggle she would have to make to get an education in her new home at Tokio.



Shall I tell the story of Yone’s kitten ? Of the early adversity which brought upon it the premature aches and pains from which the young mistress would have studied to shield it ? Of the persecution from which she had rescued it, thus rendering the little animal — as in the natural order of things — an object of unspeakable endearment to its preserver ? Why not ? It will serve, perhaps better than pages of stiff description, to exhibit in a clear light certain features of the child’s character

which were then developing, and which grew with her growth as she advanced toward maturity.

She was sitting in a snug corner of the garden, one afternoon, chatting confidentially to her cherished companions, when I ventured, through my interpreter, to join in the conversation, — her original distrust of me having by this time almost melted away.2

“ Which do you love better, Yone, the cat or the doll ? ”

“ All, which do I ? ” she answered, contemplatively, in the sweet, silvery voice which belongs to the children of Japan.

“ Yes, which would you rather lose ? ”

“ Truly, it would be a great sorrow to lose either.”

“ Now tell me, which will you give me for my own ? ”

No immediate response, excepting a look of perplexity and dismay, which gradually passed away as she gazed intently at me.

“ Ah, the Doctor is jesting.”

“ Certainly I am jesting ; nobody shall take away your treasures. But I wish to know why you are so fond of them.”

“ They are my children.”

“ To be sure ; and you prefer the doll because she is older.”

Yes, she is older — but ” — and here she sank into deep reflection, as if the problem presented difficulties hitherto undreamed of to her sense of maternal justice and impartiality.

“ And then she never misbehaves,” I added, desiring to stimulate the course of her ideas, which were sometimes delightfully quaint and fresh.

“ But she does ; she often behaves ill. Not very ill; just the same as nekosan.”3

” What, exactly the same ? ”

“ Exactly the same. Please understand, Doctor-san, how unhappy the neko will be if he hears he is naughtier than the doll. My doll must not be better than my kitten.”

“ You are very skillful to keep a strict balance, Yone,” said I; “ many foreign ladies would be glad to do as much with their children.”

“ Oh, Doctor-san, it is not real, " she answered, nervously. “ My doll — you know, my doll is nobody.”

She made this acknowledgment in a cautious undertone, pointing stealthily at the little stuffed image, as if tenderly reluctant to wound its feelings. Then, as I waited for a more intelligible explanation, she began to cast furtive glances at the interpreter, intimating, so far as I could guess her meaning, that she was not unwilling to impart to me, privately, if it could be done, the secret of her disciplinary art, but doubted the propriety of taking into her confidence a third party, who possibly would laugh at her.

“ Never mind, Yone,” I said; “you need not tell me everything.”

“ I think I will tell you,” she replied, with some hesitation. “ My neko, you know, is real; he is alive. My doll — my doll ” —

The lines came into her childish brow, as she sought for words to express what was plain enough within her mind, but which it puzzled her to put into language.

“ My doll,” she continued, “ is neither good nor bad, if I must tell you the truth. She is only — my doll. But if I pretend she is good, then she is good ; and if I pretend she is naughty, she is so. But it is different with my kitten. He is sometimes truly bad and disobedient. That is because he is so young. But he is very sorry, and, not to let him

feel too much ashamed when I scold him, I scold my doll at the same time. She is just as bad as I choose to have her — and so — I make them always both alike. It is n’t real, you must understand. It is — I beg you to excuse me ; I cannot say it at all.”

“ You have said it very well, Yone. I see how it is, now. I understand, too, why you cannot decide which you care for the more.”

“ Indeed,” replied the child, pleased at being thus encouraged, and enjoying the opportunity of working out her little fable in seeming seriousness, — “ indeed, it is difficult. Shall I tell you all ? I know I am often very unjust to the doll, because, really, really, she never can do anything wrong, and she is scolded for nothing, and I pity her. But then she does not mind the scolding, being only a doll; while my kitten, who is real and alive, does mind the scolding, and so I am obliged to pity him. What do you think, Doctor-san ? I will pretend they are both yours. There, they are yours. Now, which is your favorite ? ”

“ Yes, I see; they are mine, and I am Yone Yamada. That is simple enough. Well, then, the question is, Which is my favorite ? Let me think ; when did I first get them ? That is important, and I have forgotten all about it.”

The child’s eyes sparkled, as if the sympathy and coöperation of a grown person in her innocent fancies were rare and strange to her experience.

“ Oh, I can tell you,” she said. “ Your father gave you the doll, you know.”

“ Did he ? Yes, he gave me the doll. But when was it ? I cannot remember.”

“ Many years ago ; why, you were too young to remember.”

“ Of course ; and the kitten ? ”

Her countenance suddenly fell. Our little comedy had evidently brought us to a point which she had not foreseen, and had perhaps awakened unpleasant recollections.

“ It does not matter, Yone,” I said, hastily ; “ I can decide without that. Or, let us remember that it is all play.”

Again she regarded me with one of the keen looks by which I was still occasionally reminded of her inward doubts as to the perfect trustworthiness of the unfamiliar foreigner. Then casting her eyes upon the ground, and seeming to gather herself together for an unwonted effort, she said, falteringly, —

“ No, it is not all play. I did not think; but I will tell you about the kitten.”

“ Indeed, you shall not,” I answered. “ Come, we will talk of something else.”

“But I must, Doctor-san ; it is right. I do ask you to hear me.”

The decision in her countenance was remarkable, for so young a child. She was plainly resolved to relate something which, however painful, she considered it her duty to impart without reserve.

“ It was in the third month,” she began, “ and, as my father was about to leave Nagoya, we were all going, one day, to kneel at the graves of our family, in the Soken burial-ground. We had nearly reached the gate, when I saw, on the other side of a moat, many boys, jumping, and shouting, and throwing things into the water. Then I looked closely, and saw a small kitten — this kitten — my kitten — climbing slowly up the steep stone side. The boys caught it, and threw it far away into the water again. Oh, Doctor-san, I did not think what I was doing. It was very wrong, but I ran across a bridge, screaming and screaming again. Some of the boys ran away, some threw stones worse than before ; they would not heed me, and so I — I — the moat is not deep at all, and ” —

“ I see, my child; you went in and saved the poor kitten.”

“ It was wrong, ” she said, in a voice scarcely above a whisper.

“Wrong ! " exclaimed I. “ How can you say so ? ”

“ I spoiled my dress, and could not go with the others to kneel before our graves.”

“ But wrong? Think again, Yone.”

“I cried out in the street, and disobeyed my grandmother.”

“But you saved the kitten’s life. Consider. Would you not do the same again ? ”

She looked around her timorously, and, seeing that none of her own people were near, answered, —

“I — am — afraid — I would ; but I am not a good girl.”

I peered into her big dark eyes, to find if I could detect any sign of affectation or pretense, but there was none. Her self-depreciation was undoubtedly sincere.

“ Tell me, Yone, do you think it wrong to do a kind thing ? ”

“ No, oh no; but I ran away from my father.”

“ Were you not glad to get this pretty pet, all to yourself ? ”

“ Truly, yes ; but my best dress was torn and spoiled.”

“ What is that, compared with your beautiful kitten ? ”

“ Nothing, to me ; oh, nothing. But my grandmother said I did not respect our dead.”

“ Tell me what happened next, Yone.”

“It was not much. Grandmother told me to throw the cat away, but I believe I cried very loud, and my father said I might take it home, and he would decide afterward. I went quickly back, and when they returned the neko was clean and almost dry. Grandmother was still much displeased, but my father was smiling and gentle. He had been talking with the good priest at Soken-ji, who asked where I was, and why I was not with them. When he heard the reason, he told my father that our dead fathers and mothers would not be angry with me for saving the kitten from being killed, instead of going to bow before their tombs. And the kind priest sent me a present.”

“ What was it, Yone ? ”

“ I do not know ; grandmother said I must not have it. I never saw it.

“ Indeed ! An interesting old lady, I should judge.”

“ Yes, she is very wise, —wiser than anybody. And she was willing, after all, that I should keep the kitten.”

“ Ah, that is better.”

“ At first she was not willing, but my father thought we might decide by the wishes of the greater number. We were five, all together, and he began by saying he believed we need not send the kitten away. That was one for me, and I was grateful to my good father. It seemed that perhaps he thought my aunts, or one of them, would follow him. But grandmother was very positive, and the aunts were both obliged to agree with her. Then my father said, ‘ Yone, we are only two against three. I am afraid the neko must go.’ I said that if he went, so little and so weak, he would surely die. I know my father was sorry, for he answered, ‘ If we had only been two against two, or three against three, it would be different.’ Then I kneeled to my father, and begged him to listen. I said, ‘ Oh, father, it is so hard to think of, that we must send the suffering, trembling creature out to die. Forgive your daughter if she dares to ask you who, of all that live and breathe now in this room, is the most concerned in your judgment; who must feel it the most deeply; who will suffer, or rejoice, the most.’ ‘ Why, truly,’ he said, ‘ that is easy to answer : it is the cat, and no other.’ Then I bowed down again, and said, ‘ In that case, if it please you, we are three against three, for surely the cat has no wish to go, and it is just that his opinion should be taken with the rest.’ My father laughed, and looked as if he would consent, but grandmother said quickly, ‘ No, no, the cat has no voice ! ’ At that moment, suddenly, the poor animal, who was in my arms, began to cry out and make a great noise, and my father laughed more and more, and said that everything was settled ; I might have my wish. Then he left us immediately, and grandmother did not object any more.”

“ Why, it was quite a miracle,” said I, affecting great astonishment.

“ What is a miracle ? ” asked Yone.

I explained as well as I could, at the same time highly eulogizing the kitten’s instinct.

“ No,” said Yone, with cautious deliberation, — " no ; I do not think it was a miracle.”

“ At any rate, it was a remarkable coincidence.”

“ What is that ? ” again demanded the child.

With somewhat greater difficulty,— the interpreter being here at a loss, and even the dictionaries affording us no guidance (“ coincidence ” being a word for which there is as yet no Japanese equivalent), — I made this also plain, causing her once more to ponder earnestly.

“ I do not think.” she presently observed, with an air of graver solemnity than she had yet displayed, although the story had been told throughout with the dolorousness of a penitential confession? —— " I do not think that it was a remarkable co—co—co— ”

“ Never mind the foreign polysyllable, my young philologist. It was fortunate, at least, that your kitten took just that opportunity to make himself heard.”

“ Yes,” she admitted, " it was fortunate— it was fortunate — and — I think I will not speak any more now, if you please.”

Her voice was steady, hut I could see tears gathering in her eyes. So, to shield her from observation, I sent my translator away, and, after addressing a few instructive remarks to the doll, withdrew myself to a distant corner, screening my little friend from my own scrutiny by means of a newspaper.

About a quarter of an hour after, she crept to my side, with her kitten under one arm, and — of all unexpected things my copy of Hepburn’s Dictionary under the other. Haying the volume, wide open, upon my knee, she pointed to a Japanese character which she had laboriously hunted up, — evidently with the desire to escape the interpreter’s intervention, — and lifted her woebegone face in pathetic appeal to my comprehension, softly repeating with her lips the word which she indicated with her finger. The translation was “To take between the ends of the fingers ; to take a pinch.” Having read this, I turned for further elucidation, which she supplied by transferring her hand from the book to her living burden, and nipping its flesh so vigorously as to call forth an eloquent wail of astonishment and remonstrance.

Nothing could be clearer. The timely feline outcry at the critical instant of the creature’s fate was not a miracle, nor yet a strange coincidence. It was the natural effect of a lucky inspiration on the child’s part, — that was all. Perceiving that she had made herself understood, she nodded her head several times, with a seriousness which checked my impulse to laugh at the disclosure; tried to fall on her knees, until I managed to convince her that such abasement was superfluous ; and finally divining that she had not entirely forfeited my good-will by her revelation, took herself and her playmates away, still smiling mournfully, but certainly less dejected than she had been at any time since my untoward question as to the origin of her relations with the nekosan.

Who could resist these pretty and touching evidences of simplicity and can-

dor ? It was a pleasant study to trace the current of the child’s ingenuous thoughts, and endeavor to accompany her through the various perplexities in which her mind had wandered. I failed entirely, as I afterward learned, in fathoming the actual depth of her emotions, but my inferences were at least in the right direction. In truth, her sensitive soul was painfully agitated by the struggles of timidity, apprehension, and harsh necessity created by her recollection of the kitten’s rescue and its attendant incidents. That she must tell me all that had happened, having once opened the subject, she did not allow herself to question ; notwithstanding that the recital would fill her with an agony of mortification, possibly subject her to fresh penalties, and almost inevitably deprive her of my aid in her future studies. For she never doubted the strict justice of her grandmother’s verdict, and fully anticipated that I would view her conduct with similar censure. She was not a good girl; she had committed grievous faults, which she was compelled to lay open to the inspection of one who, though kindly disposed toward her, was almost a stranger. The very goodness and generosity he had shown made it the more imperative that she should conceal nothing. To deceive him would be a darker shame than to suffer the consequences of her misdeeds. Hardest of all, she must tell her tale through the cold and unsympathetic medium of an interpreter. Nevertheless, it was her duty. It would be difficult to look me in the face, after the disclosure ; but if she left me in ignorance, she could not look me in the face at all. Yet how to convey the terrible avowal of her culminating fraud, — the strategic pinch which her grandmother still refused to condone? No interpreter could be trusted with that guilty secret. Hence her reliance upon the dictionary, with the subsequent touch of pantomime. I was glad, in later years, to remember that I had not laughed at her, as was my impulse at the time. In her overwrought state, anything like mirth, however good-natured, would have cut her to the quick, and probably gone far to break up the confidence she had begun to extend to me.

It was long before Yone could bring herself to regard her act of natural tenderness and humanity in the proper light; and, during the whole of her girlhood, her faith in the righteousness of the aged relative’s judgment remained unshaken. What child of her years, in Japan, would dream of doubting the infallibility of a parent or a grandparent ? Any attempt to disturb her convictions on this point would have startled her beyond measure, and would have severely strained, if not severed, the pleasant ties that held us together during that summer sojourn in the country. I left her in the enjoyment of an illusion which she never ceased to cherish until it was forcibly dispelled by the torturing experiences of her later life. It was a great concession, for her, to accept the indirect consolation I offered. Beyond that limit she did not desire to be comforted.

The subject was referred to only once again, in those days. She began the morning which followed her awful revelation by sedulously avoiding me. As I made no advances, she presently came shyly hovering, looking at me over her shoulder, or from places of imaginary concealment, such as the corners of the house, or clusters of bushes, or adjacent hedges. Next, she drew near, a picture of bashful diffidence, and waited for opportunities of attempting slight services, like brushing a fallen leaf from my table, or picking up a paper which the wind had blown away. The performance of these afforded her such satisfaction that, out of pure charity, I was constrained to drop a knife or a pencil, now and then, for the sole purpose of allowing her to replace them. When my interpreter came to join me, she disappeared with celerity ; but finding that her flight attracted no notice, she instituted a series of irregular approaches, until, having reached a spot some two or three yards in front of me, she assumed a statue-like immobility, never stirring for half an hour, but keeping her big appealing eyes fixed upon me all the while, and speaking volumes without uttering a word.

“ Bless the child,” said I to myself, after I had endured it as long as possible, “ she will throw me into a fit.

I closed my books, and leaned back, as if the morning’s work were ended. Soon she stepped nearer, and intimated, humbly, that if I were at leisure she would like to ask a few questions about America. Everything was different from Japan, was it not? All the birds could sing, and the flowers all smelled sweet, and the cats had tails. Yes, she knew that; and the children, — they were always good, of course. What, not better than in Japan? Then, if they sometimes did wrong, would their friends forgive them? All this tended one way, and I found means to convince her that she had not sunk irretrievably in my esteem ; that I was in no degree less fond of her than before ; and, in spite of her fears and anxieties on this last point, that I would keep my promise, in case we should meet in Tokio, and help her, if it were possible for me to do so, in the great object of her aspirations, the attainment of learning.

Only a little child, and perhaps, so far as I was concerned, only a pretty playfellow for a few idle days; but a child in whose future it was impossible not to feel a deep and genuine interest. I asked myself if the strange combination of shrinking humility and high ambition ; naive simplicity and bright intelligence ; timidity so extreme that neither her sex nor her youth could fairly account for it, yet above which she rose dauntlessly when sustained by her resolute sense of duty, and courage sufficient at the moment of need to conquer her girlish fear, and blind her to consequences which could be forgotten only in the heat of a noble impulse, — I asked myself if this conjunction of diverse qualities were the possible effect of an Eastern training, the result of the Japanese system of social and domestic culture, to be found whenever sought for ; or if accident had brought me in contact with a child of exceptional endowments, upon whom artificial methods of education had thus far made little impression, and whose generous nature had been trammeled, rather than helped forward, by conventional practices. In any case, I earnestly desired to watch her course toward womanhood, and should have been glad to constitute myself her guide, if no better were at hand, during her years of study. I hoped that, at the least, I might enjoy the privilege of offering such aid and encouragement as should clear away what I then considered with the ignorance of a novice in the land —the most formidable obstacles from the path she longed to pursue.



But Tokio is a large city, a huge congeries of ill-connected, unnamed thoroughfares, in which the most determined search for casual friends might be defeated ; and while I always looked forward to a renewal of acquaintance with the little lady, I was too busily occupied with important duties to allow myself time for possibly futile exploration. Neither she nor any of her party had known precisely where they would reside, and, though I had given them my own address, it appeared that they were in no eagerness to avail themselves of it. Had not her father belonged to the true and ancient gentry, the chances are that we should never have met again ; but to one of that punctilious order, the necessity of sooner or later acknowledging a service rendered was as peremptory as a fixed law of nature.

Some weeks after my return to the capital, therefore, I was called upon by a gentleman of polished and engaging manners, whose errand was to thank me for saving his sister from otherwise inevitable death, — so he was pleased to put it, and to feebly indicate the depth of his gratitude by depositing in the hands of my servant a small basket of eggs. I gave him such welcome as I could, offering him sundry refreshments, which he not only enjoyed in his own person, but several specimens of which he begged permission to carry away with him, for the gratification of his household. There was nothing unusual in this proceeding. It was quite in accord with Japanese etiquette. Nor was there much to be wondered at in his frank avowal that the cakes and sandwiches would be a rare and gladdening treat to the ladies at home, old and young ; for poverty entails no shame, in the estimation of these people, and though it would go very hard with a gentleman in difficulties before he could ask assistance, or even accept it, unless in the direst stress, he would know of no reason for concealing his situation, or refusing to discuss it with the careless gayety characteristic of an improvident race. With many pleasant expectations,

I speedily returned the call, and was greeted with the seemingly cordial effusion which almost invariably accompanies Japanese hospitality, even when extended to a foreigner by those uncompromising believers in early principles who still nourish the distrust and suspicion which prevailed in their youth. Little Yone would have remained in the background, obedient to the usage hitherto explained, had I not drawn her forth, and especially questioned her with reference to the school prospects. Alas, they were dim enough, and her heart was heavy with the conviction that the hopes she had so happily cherished could never be realized. Education was costly, under the most moderate teachers, unless one could enter a government college ; and to gain admission to one of these, great interest was needed. The worthy father explained that in the civil war, a few years earlier, the clan to which he belonged, that of Owari, had been on the losing side ; and his daimio, though not directly involved in the struggle, was destitute of influence at the capital, and could give no help to an humble retainer, even in so small a matter as this.

“ Yone will not repine,” said the head of the Yamada household ; “ she knows we would indulge her if we could, but the little power we once had is gone, and food is more necessary than learning, after all, is it not, my child ? ”

“ My father knows best,” answered the girl, with a sigh, in which the faintest breath of skepticism might have been thought to mingle, if such a thing as distrust of the paternal wisdom could have held a place in that loyal little mind. As it was, the instinct of submission to authority forbade her to enter upon a calculation of the relative disadvantages of ignorance and starvation.

It was my privilege, however, to avert the disappointment to which she had begun to resign herself. The position which I had been called to Japan to hold gave me a temporary control over minor educational affairs, and without much difficulty I obtained permission for the child to enter the best of the national schools for her sex, — an establishment recently opened for the study of the English language, a knowledge of which might lead, in various ways, to future advancement. Wishing to enjoy a bit of dramatic effect, I disclosed nothing of my action until the matter was arranged, when I visited my protégeé, and quietly handed her the certificate of admission. I had quick cause, however, to regret having planned a surprise the consequences of which I had not properly calculated. It was plain that I had been misled by the girl’s self-imposed calmness, and had failed to discern the powerful springs of emotion that were hidden beneath her superficial composure. She read the document, at first, without understanding its meaning, or probably regarding it only as a barren form or blank, possessing no validity or purpose. But as she continued to gaze, its bearing upon her own fortune became visible, and, like a flash, she saw the realization of her dearest desire.

With a wild glance she turned to me for confirmation, and, reading it in my face, she suddenly grew pale, and trembled so violently that I ran in alarm to support her. She labored to maintain the outward equanimity which is cultivated by well-bred Japanese, but her girlish strength was overtaxed, and she began to gasp and sob convulsively, though without tears, as if overcome by an unexpected physical inability to fight against her frailty. For a moment I was as much frightened as her relations, ignorant of the cause of this agitation, were amazed ; but she presently clasped her slender arms about her delicate body, as if determined thus to impose tranquillity upon herself. She did, indeed, succeed in controlling her excitement in a marvelously short time, and, as soon as she could move without betraying further weakness, she lifted the precious paper to her forehead, and then, sinking upon her knees, bowed herself to the ground before me, in token of a thankfulness which she did not venture to convey in speech.

Unfortunately, Yone’s sentiments were not shared by the majority of those around her. The father, who had a better perception of the benefits of foreign culture than, at that period, most of his class, and who, in his way, was an affectionate parent, was genuinely gratified at the opportunity thus opened, although beset by many misgivings as to the added expense that would fall upon the family. If Yone’s mother had been alive, the child would assuredly have had one unfaltering advocate on her side, but of this source of comfort and support she had been deprived in her earliest infancy. Her aunts looked at the question chiefly from the standpoint of domestic economy, not only foreseeing the need of extra disbursements, but misliking, also, the prospect of a daily absence which would lessen the value of her home industry, and perhaps necessitate additional outlay in the form of wages for a servant. The grandmother, heartily coinciding in this latter view, was furthermore stimulated to opposition by a blind hostility to alien ideas of every description. Habits of thought, methods of education, the entire scheme of Western life, were all odious to her. And the influence of a grandmother is so potent in the discipline of a Japanese home that, but for the suddenness of my announcement and the immediate ratification of the plan by Yamada the sire, she might have found means to prevent its consummation entirely. In one sense, therefore, and possibly the most important one, my little coup de théâtre had been a happy inspiration. Yamada, carried away by his daughter’s pathetic demonstration, had distinctly given his sanction, and it was not then possible — as it would not have been in any case becoming, while I was present — for the women of the family to signify disapproval of a proffer which was obviously inspired by friendliness and sincerity of heart.

It was fortunate for Yone’s aspirations, as well as for my peace of mind, that I was left in ignorance of their dissatisfaction. Years passed, indeed, before I learned the full extent of their objections, and of their power to make their displeasure felt. But I saw enough of what was in their minds to make me urge that, as the plan was of my contriving, with deep, far-reaching objects of my own, I could claim the right of assuming such costs as might be incurred, — for school dress, books, and other equipment. I should not have ventured to supply any deficiency caused by Yone’s withdrawal from her domestic labors, even if I had comprehended that part of the difficulty, which I certainly did not. She, however, foresaw the impending trouble, and hastened (all unknown to me, be it understood) to avert internal dissension by pledging herself to perform her complete share of indoor service, in time which she would take from her ordinary rest by day and her sleep by night. This meant that she would make up the five or six hours required for attendance at school and for study by depriving herself of an equal period of sleep in the morning and relaxation at night. On these hard conditions, the aunts abstained from violent antagonism. The grandmother was never reconciled, and from that moment mercilessly devoted herself to burdening the unhappy child’s life with weariness, grief, and pain.

The homes of the Japanese are not always the abodes of bliss that genial foreigners have desired to paint them. Absolute despotism is the law that rules in all of them, though the despotism may be in many cases tempered by natural amiability or a sense of honest duty. The masculine head of the family is the autocrat; but a large share of his power is delegated to any aged woman or women that may belong to the household. A grandmother, as in the present instance, may work her own will, so far as the adjustment of interior affairs is concerned, without likelihood of interference on any pretense. If Yone, in the years of her schooling, had ever ventured to remonstrate, or to appeal to her father against any hardship, she would have been looked upon as a vicious and lawless rebel, heedless of the authority to which she was subject by every precept of filial piety; and she would probably have been recommended, kindly but firmly, to remember that mute obedience is the unvarying principle upon which a child’s existence should be modeled. But she would never have dreamed of taking such a step. She was as gentle and submissive as she was eager in her wish to gain knowledge. In her little humble heart, she felt that more had been granted her than she could ever repay, with all her exertion ; and if her soul was wounded by the treatment she underwent, she did not murmur, but strove by renewed effort to conciliate the inflexible will which controlled her destiny.

She did not know, unless the knowledge came to her in later days, that she was struggling for an impossibility. It was her grandmother’s set purpose, by breaking down her strength and spirit, to interrupt the course of study to winch Yamada, in a moment of weakness, had given his consent. To the accomplishment of this end, the old woman bent all her energy and invention. Hoping to conquer easily, she became incensed at the child’s power of passive resistance, and gradually proceeded from petty annoyances to harsh oppression, and finally to bitter and injurious persecution. It may be said, to explain if not to palliate her cruelty, that she was one of a generation reared in hatred to the foreigner; densely ignorant, as it was formerly the habit of Japanese to keep their women ; a fanatic in the faith of her country’s moral and intellectual supremacy, as well as in the religion of her people; and proud, withal, of the very chains which bound her mind in narrow imprisonment. Moreover, there was no tie of true affection between her and the girl. Her son had married, not altogether to her fancy, a lady of social station superior to his own, — although he likewise might justly claim an aristocratic pedigree, — and the wife and mother-in-law had never been in harmony. The consciousness of inferiority to a junior has been, until recent times, the cause of innumerable hatreds and contests among the Japanese ; and to the older and less favored woman the comeliness and intelligence of Yone’s mother rendered her an object of odium. She was a fragile lady, too sensitive, in her delicacy and refinement, for the surroundings to which she was condemned, and after giving her husband and master two daughters, the younger of whom alone survived, she fell into the neglect which is the usual lot of Japanese wives who supply no male heir to the family name. So she faded out of existence, and Yone remained the only inmate of her father’s home who represented any but the paternal line. He was fond of her, — more fond than disappointed Japanese fathers mostly are; but there was no warmth of affection for her among the women who reared her. Perhaps it was this lack of loving-kindness that turned her thoughts elsewhere, and awakened the yearning for a career to which she could attach herself with undivided devotion.

I have not set myself to relate the sorrows of Yone’s childhood, and I pass them over with brief recital. Her tasks had been so various and so severe before entering the school that, had I known of them, and of the necessity for continuing them, I should have hesitated to satisfy her wishes. The grandmother, privileged by age and position, was exempt from toil of any kind. The two aunts occupied themselves with a reasonable share of the housework, and the lowest offices were performed by two menials, a man and a maid. In Nagoya, their former residence, they had been better provided; but prices were higher in Tokio, while the income which sustained the house of Yamada under the old régime had totally disappeared with the disestablishment of the feudal system. Whilst searching for a livelihood, like thousands of his fellows, he could not maintain the luxuries of former times, and it was considered a proper concession to the household needs when, not long after Yone’s admission to the school, the last remaining female servant was dismissed. Perhaps her father thought, if he thought at all of the matter, that the labors of the outgoing individual would be divided among all who remained ; but, by the grandmother’s decree, everything was thrust upon the child of eleven years, who was already heavily overweighted with drudgery.

At that period, she rose long before dawn, set the house in order for the day, cleaned the utensils (studying whenever her task allowed her to keep a book within view), lighted the fires, prepared the morning meal for all, arranged her grandmother’s garments and assisted her to dress, served breakfast to her elders before taking her own, washed and set aside the dishes after the meal was ended, made ready for the dinner which was to be eaten in her absence, and then, donning the semi-masculine attire which girl students were expected to wear, started upon her run of four miles to the college. Walk she could not, with any chance of arriving in time ; and as it was, she was so often late as to provoke reproaches, from which she never attempted to defend herself, lest she should seem to be, in her turn, reproaching others. Her high standing in the school, of which she speedily became one of the most promising pupils, alone saved her from harsher rebuke. In the interval between the morning and afternoon sessions she stole away into seclusion, unwilling that her companions should see the insufficient quantity and doubtful quality of the food she was permitted to bring for her luncheon, and also anxious to gain a few extra moments for study. The day’s attendance over, she darted homeward again, there to cleanse the plates and implements which had intentionally been left, from the dinner, soiled and in disorder; to take in hand the family sewing ; to make ready the evening meal; to set the house to rights for the night; and, finally, — not till then, — to give her worn and jaded mind to the lessons which she loved. Only so long as the family remained up was she allowed a light. For the half of each month, she afterward would say, this was not an irremediable deprivation; for the skies are clear in Japan, and the moon, less cold and distant than those whose name she bore, gave her the light which her kindred denied her.

While the child was thus oppressed with cares and travail beyond her strength, the grandmother executed her final stroke of policy by discharging the man-servant, imposing upon Yone all his work, and commanding her daughters to abstain from even the few tasks they had up to that time performed. This chanced to be in midwinter, and to all her previous burdens were now superadded such rough and arduous labors as wood-splitting, drawing water from a distant aqueduct, — the relentless old woman going so far as to pretend that the flavor of the neighboring well was unpleasant to her taste, — sweeping the yard, and keeping the garden in order, with others more degrading and intolerable. But no syllable of remonstrance escaped her. She clung to her studies, and silently fought against fatigue, exposure, cold, and imperfect nourishment, with a spirit as truly heroic as that which had won for her ancestors their title to swords and crest three hundred years before.

All this continued for not less than two years, at any moment of which a single word to me would have freed her from the worst of her misery; for the child’s sweet patience and ardent gratitude had endeared her to me, and, had I suspected the truth, I would have spared no effort to change the current of her afflicted life. But I never knew. Her strict fidelity to the standard of duty by which she had been taught, and to deviate from which she believed would alienate her foreign friend and protector, as well as her own people, — this unswerving constancy darkened her innocent life, and filled my after years with many a sorrowful memory.

E. H. House.

  1. Norimono: a cage-like box in which travelers were formerly borne, by stout porters, from place to place.
  2. Persons conversant with the Japanese language need no reminder that its translation admits of a wide latitude. But in this, as in other similar cases, I have endeavored to reproduce, with all possible exactitude, in apposite English, the thoughts which were expressed in the Eastern tongue.
  3. It may amuse readers who are unfamiliar with Japan, as it always amuses travelers in the East, to learn that the Japanese suffix of courtesy which corresponds to our “Mr.”or “ Mrs.” is applied to animals as habitually as to human beings. The dumb inmates of a household are invariably addressed as " Mr. Dog,” “Mr. Cat,” “Mr. Parrot,” etc., until their proper individual designations are known, when they are called " Mr. Rover, " " Mr. Tom,” “ Mr. Polly,” or whatever the correct name may he.