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Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Heart of Hyacinth, an electronic edition

by Onoto Watanna [Watanna, Onoto, 1879-1954]

date: 1903
source publisher: Harper & Brothers
collection: Genre Fiction

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THE City of Sendai, on the northeastern coast of Japan, raises its head queenly-wise towards the sun, as though conscious of its own matchless beauty and that which envelops it on all sides. Here, where the waters flow into the Pacific, the surges are never heard. Neptune seems to have forgotten his anger in the presence of such peerless beauty.

Near to Sendai there is a bay called Matsushima. Here Nature has flung out her favors with more than lavish hand; for throughout the bay she has scattered jewel-like rocks, whose white sides rise above the waters, and whose | | 2 page image : 2 THE HEART OF HYACINTH surface gives nutrition to the graceful pine-trees which find their roots within the stone. Near to a thousand rocks they are said to number, and save for the one called Hadakajima, or Naked Island, all are crowned with pine-trees.

The historic temple Zuiganjii is situated at the base of a hill a few cho from the beach. About the temple are the tombs and sepulchres of the great Date family, once the feudal lords of Sendai. There is a huge image of Date Masamune, whose far-seeing mind sent an envoy to Rome early in the seventeenth century. The sepulchres are, for the most part, in the hollowed caves of the range of rocky hills behind the temples. Nameless flowers, large and brilliant in color, bloom about the tombs of these proud, slumbering lords. Mount Tomi bends its noble head in homage towards the glories of a past generation. The air is very still and cool. Silence enshrines and deifies all.

The inhabitants of Sendai and the | | 3 page image : 3 THE HEART OF HYACINTH little fishing village on the northern shore of the bay were simple, gentle folk. As though affected by the slumbrous beauty of the hills and mountains hedging them in upon all sides, these let their life glide by with slow and sweetly sleepy tread. Not even the shock of the Restoration had brought this region's people into that prophetic regard for the future which pervaded all other parts of the empire. The change-compelling progress which pressed in upon all sides seemed not as yet to have laid its withering finger upon fair Matsushima. Like their home, the inhabitants clung to their hermit existence.

When an English ship, having ploughed its way through the waters of the Pacific, sent out its men in boats to take the bay's soundings, the people were not alarmed, but greatly mystified. The strange white men made their way in their smaller boats to the shore. A missionary and his wife were landed.

A little home, on a small hill situated | | 4 page image : 4 THE HEART OF HYACINTH only a short distance from the Temple Zuiganjii, they built for themselves. Afterwards, native artisans raised for them a larger structure, where for many years they patiently taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. The people gradually learned to love and reverence their pale teachers. There came a time when the little band, which had at first gone desultorily and curiously to the mission-house, began to see what the strangers termed "the light." Then the Christian Church in far-away England enrolled a little list of converts to their religion.

The missionary grew old and white and bent. His gentle wife passed away. He lingered wistfully, a strangely isolated, though beloved, figure in the little community.

Then came a second visitation from an English vessel. Sailors and officers lolled about the town by day and rioted by night. Some of them wooed the dark-eyed daughters of the town but to leave them. One there was, however, | | 5 page image : 5 THE HEART OF HYACINTH who brought a girl, a shrinking, yet trustful girl, to the old missionary on the hill, and there, in the shabby old mission-house, the solemn and beautiful ceremony of the Christian marriage service was performed over their heads.

That was ten years before. At first the Englishman had seemingly settled in his adopted land, as he loved to call it. The place appealed to his artistic perceptions. The Mecca of all his hopes, he called it. Why should he return to the world of cold and strife? Here were peace, rest, and love unbounded. But before the close of the second year of their union an event occurred which shook the stranger suddenly into life's vivid reality. A great duty thrust itself in his track. Not for himself, but for another, must he turn his back upon the land of love. A son had been born to him in the season of Little Heat.

So the Englishman crushed to his breast his foreign wife and child, and | | 6 page image : 6 THE HEART OF HYACINTH with reiterated promises of a speedy return he left them.

Letters in those days travelled slowly from England to Japan. Sometimes those addressed to the little town of Sendai remained for weeks in the offices at the open ports. Sometimes they travelled hither and thither from one port to another, the stupid indifference of officials scarcely troubling itself to send them to their proper destination. But finally, after many months, the little wife and mother in Sendai held between her trembling hands an English letter. It had come in a very large envelope, and there were several bulky inclosures--neatly folded documents they were--tied with red tape. There was also another letter, shorter than the one she held in her hand, and written in a different form. She could not even read her letter, though she did not doubt from whom it had come. Happy, she pressed her precious package to her lips and breast. She believed that the | | 7 page image : 7 THE HEART OF HYACINTH strangely printed papers within the envelopes, similar in her eyes to the many English papers he had always about him, were merely other forms of his epistle of love.

The woman waited with a divine patience for the return of the old missionary from a little journey inland. She watched for him, watched ceaselessly, constantly. And when he had returned she dressed the little Komazawa in fresh, sweet-smelling garments, and carried him with her papers to the mission-house.

Why detail the pain of that interview? The papers and one of the letters, it is true, were, indeed, from her lord, but they were sent by another, a stranger. The Englishman had died--died in what he termed a foreign country, since his home was by her side. In his last hours he had striven to write to her and instruct her in the course she must take in the years to come when he could not be by her as her loving guide.

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Madame Aoi meekly followed the counsel of the aged missionary. Under his guidance, childlike and with unquestioning faith, she studied unceasingly the English language and the Christian faith.

If the old missionary had at first marvelled at the calm which settled upon her after that one wild outcry when first she had heard the dread tidings of her husband, he was not long in discovering that her passiveness was but an outer mask to veil the anguish of a broken heart, and to give her that strength which must overcome the weakness which would be the doom of her hopes. For Aoi was not left without some hope in life. Her lord, in departing, had set upon her an injunction, a duty. This it was her task to perform. Once that was accomplished, perhaps the strain might lessen. Meanwhile tirelessly, ceaselessly, she studied.

She had the natural gift of intelligence, and the advantage of having | | 9 page image : 9 THE HEART OF HYACINTH spent two full years with her husband. Hence it was not long before she mastered the language, and, if she spoke it brokenly and even haltingly, she wrote and read accurately.

To the little Komazawa she spoke only in English. She kept him jealously apart from the villagers, and taught his little tongue to shape and form the words of his father's language.

"Some day, liddle one," she would say, "you will become great big man. Then you will cross those seas. You will become great lord also at that England. So! It is the will of thy august father."

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