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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 new missionary assumed that Hyacinth was the sister of Komazawa. His interest in her was less than in Komazawa, since the boy was his father's heir. Possibly, too, this might have been because of the natural antagonism with which the little girl had from the first met his overtures to her. From the moment when she became acutely aware that the new minister was practically responsible for the departure of her beloved Koma, the child conceived a violent dislike for him.

When the old minister, worn with his years of labor, quietly resigned his pastorate into the hands of his successor, and the new minister had taken up the management of the little church, Hyacinth refused henceforth even to | | 62 page image : 62 THE HEART OF HYACINTH enter the mission-house. All the entreaties and threats of Aoi were in vain, and, with Koma gone, she soon realized the fruitlessness of attempting to force her to do anything against her will. Comprehending the turbulent nature of the child, she knew that Hyacinth would only disgrace them both if she were forced into the church. So the departure of Komazawa meant at least the Sunday freedom of Hyacinth.

Nor was this the only result. The child, whose strange, independent nature had never been controlled by any one save by Koma, now that he was gone broke all restraints. She wandered at will about the bay, hiding in hollows in the rocks among the tombs when they sought to find her. Her little vagabond existence was not unlike that which Koma himself had led in his early childhood, save that she was not so easily restrained by the reproaches of Aoi. Like him, at this time, she scorned the companionship of other children. Like him she wan- | | 63 page image : 63 THE HEART OF HYACINTH dered away from her home in fits and starts, passive for an interval, and then bursting all bounds and disappearing sometimes for the space of an entire day or night, to return ragged and ravenously hungry.

But when the winter came, and the snow and icicles crested the trees and whitened the hills, poor Hyacinth was like a little, languishing, caged bird. Her face grew wistful and mournful. She would remain for hours with her face pressed against the street shoji, staring out into the white, cold world that bounded the horizon on all sides. If you had asked her what she was waiting for, she would have replied:

"I am waiting for the summer, for the summer brings Koma. He has promised."

Yet when the summer came no Koma returned with the flowers and the sun.

Little Hyacinth grew accustomed to her solitude. The following year she came under the new edict of education, | | 64 page image : 64 THE HEART OF HYACINTH compulsory everywhere in Japan, and, in spite of her protests, was forced into school with a half-score of Japanese children of her own age.

At first she regarded with a fierce detestation the school and all connected with it. Did not the sensei (teacher), on the very first day, perch his spectacles upon his nose, and, drawing her by the sleeve to one side, examine her with the curiosity he would have bestowed upon some small animal. The children eyed her askance. One or two of the larger ones pointed at her hair, and, laughing shrilly, called her a strange name. If familiarity breeds contempt it also breeds toleration with the young. Hyacinth in the beginning had merely excited the curiosity, not the antipathy, of the Japanese teacher and his scholars. But as time passed they became accustomed to the difference between her and themselves. Gradually she slipped into being regarded and treated as one of them.

| | 65 page image : 65 THE HEART OF HYACINTH

Then Hyacinth's small, lonesome soul expanded to stretch out timid though passionate glad hands of comradeship to all the world. She became a favorite, the very life and soul of the school. Japanese children are painfully docile and passive. Never were such strange spirits infused into a Japanese class before.

So the years passed, not unhappily, for Hyacinth. Koma at the end of the second year was a mere memory, at the end of the third he was forgotten--wholly forgotten. Such is the fickle mind of a child of the nature of Hyacinth.

The fourth year brought him back to Matsushima. He had become very tall, taller than any of the inhabitants of Sendai he seemed, quite a head over them. He wore strange and unpleasant-looking clothes, such as those worn by the Reverend Mr. Blount, who was disliked as heartily as his predecessor had been beloved.

Koma was not an object of the great- | | 66 page image : 66 THE HEART OF HYACINTH est curiosity to Hyacinth. At first his strange appearance in the house frightened her into speechlessness. Never had she seen in all her minute experience such a strange-apparelled being, save, of course, the "abominable Blount." In concert with the small children of the neighborhood, and in spite of the remonstrances of Aoi, Hyacinth would shout strange names whenever the gaunt figure of the white missionary appeared. "Forn debbil! Clistian!"--such were the names this little Caucasian bestowed upon the representative of her race.

She had become the most utter little backslider, if she could ever have been considered a member of the church. Respect and awe for the teachings of a careful and pious Shinto teacher, and association with a score of Shinto children, had had their due effect upon Hyacinth, and the influence of Aoi waned with the years. Little if anything of the ethics of the two religions did she understand, but to her the gods were bright, beaute- | | 67 page image : 67 THE HEART OF HYACINTH ous beings, whose temples were glittering gold, and whose priests kept them fragrant with incense and beaming lights by night. The mission-house was empty, ugly, dark, and damp--so it seemed to her--and an odious man, with terrible, long hairs falling from his chin, shouted and gesticulated to a congregation which often wept and groaned in unison.

The small children shouted derisively and often threw stones at the "abominable Blount" when in little groups together. But when one of their number met the minister alone, he would run from him in a sheer agony of fright.

So when Komazawa returned to Sendai, clad in the garments worn by the missionary, Hyacinth regarded him with mingled feelings of terror and fascination.

Though he made ceaseless efforts to speak to her, she could not be brought to utter one word in response. His every movement mystified her. She would sit on the floor through an entire | | 68 page image : 68 THE HEART OF HYACINTH meal watching him with wide eyes while he ate in a fashion she had never seen or heard of before.

Koma had discarded the chop-sticks, and now used, to the extreme joy and agitation of Aoi, great silver knives and forks, which she brought forth from a mysterious recess, which even the inquisitive Hyacinth had never discovered before.

Koma, distressed over the change in his little playmate, sought to win her friendship with presents purchased in England, boxes of strange sweetmeats--at least he told her they were sweetmeats. But they were coated with a black-brown covering which the little girl regarded suspiciously. She pushed almost fearfully from her the harmless chocolate drops. The sugar-coated biscuits tempted her to touch one with the tip of her tongue, but she retreated the next moment when she found the red coloring upon her fingers.

Koma regarded the girl with an ex | | 69 page image : 69 THE HEART OF HYACINTH pression half whimsical, half tragical, and, turning to his mother, said:

"Why, the little one is even more Japanese than I."

Aoi nodded her head, smiling tenderly at the flushing face of Hyacinth.

"Will you not even speak to Komazawa?" she inquired, reproachfully. "Why, that is not kind. Do you not love your august brother?"

As Hyacinth made no response, Koma held out his hands to her.

"Come here, little one," he said, bending to her till his face was quite close to hers.

Her fascinated eyes wandered from his strange apparel to his face. His eyes held hers with their strong, tender, reassuring expression. Half unconsciously she went closer to him.

"Do you not remember me, then?" he queried, in a soft voice, whose reproachful tones thrilled the girl.

Wistfully she approached him still closer, only to retreat in panic the next | | 70 page image : 70 THE HEART OF HYACINTH moment. She was like a little wild bird, shy and fearful, yet half anxious to make friends with a strange being.

Suddenly she began to cry, drawing her sleeve across her eyes and turning her face to the wall. She could not have told why she wept. Was it fear, childish conscience, or a slow recognition of her old, beloved Koma, whose name had become but a word to her?

If she remembered Koma at all, the memory bore no resemblance to this tall man-boy who had returned so suddenly to their home. To her he seemed a stranger, a fearful intruder.

Hurt to the quick, Madame Aoi whispered to her son. He arose without a word and disappeared into his room. Fifteen minutes later, Hyacinth, playing with a regiment of Japanese doll soldiers on the floor, having forgotten all her tears of a few minutes since, leaped to her feet suddenly, with a strange, little cry.

There in the middle of the room she

Illustration included in Watanna's The Heart of Hyacinth.
| | 71 page image : 71 THE HEART OF HYACINTH stood, holding tightly in her hand her doll, and staring, as if fascinated by the smiling figure on the threshold. It was the same stranger surely, yet, ah, not the same. A few minutes had wrought such a change in his appearance. He had discarded the heavy, dark, mysterious clothes. He appeared like any other Japanese youth, save that he was much taller, and his face smiled down upon the little girl with an expression whose power she had been unable to resist even when he had worn those outlandish garments. He called to her, softly.

"Now, come, little one; come, give me that welcome home."

Her hand unclinched, the doll dropped to the floor. With a sudden impulse she ran blindly towards him, and he caught her in his arms with a great hug, which was as familiar to her as life itself.

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