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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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IT was late in December, the time of Great Snow. Komazawa was still in Sendai, and Hyacinth had been taken from the school. She was now twelve years of age, still undeveloped in body and childish in mind.

Hyacinth, like most impressionable children, had quickly succumbed to the influence of the school-teacher. In his hands she had yielded like plaster to the sculptor. Out of crude, almost wild, material had been developed what seemed on the surface an admirable example of a Japanese child.

Komazawa, fresh from four years of training at an English school and intimate association with English students and professors, now set about the task | | 73 page image : 73 THE HEART OF HYACINTH of undermining all that the sensei had taught Hyacinth.

This was no light task. Hyacinth could not unlearn in a few months that which had practically become ingrained. Quite useless it was, therefore, for Komazawa to seek to turn the child's mind to a new and alien point of view, when, too, this view-point was, in a measure, an acquired thing with Koma himself. Yet he was patient, and labored unceasingly.

No; the people in the West were not all savages and barbarians.

"Did they not look like the Reverend Blount?" would inquire his small pupil.

"Yes, somewhat like him."

"Ah, then, they perhaps were not savages, but they certainly were monsters."

"No; they are very fine people--high, great."

"But only monsters and evil spirits have hair growing from the chin and awful, blue-glass eyes," protested Hyacinth.

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Whereupon Koma quietly brought a small mirror from his room, held it before her face, and bade her look within.

She stared curiously and somewhat timorously.

"What do you see?" he inquired, quietly.

"Little girl," she said, in a faint voice.

"Yes, and what color are her eyes?"

The eyes within the glass became enlarged with excitement. The lips parted. Hyacinth put her face close to the glass.

"They are blue, also," she said, shrinking.

"Very well, then. You, also, have blue eyes, Hyacinth."

"Me!" She stared up at him, aghast.

"Certainly. Is not the little girl in the glass you?"

"No!" Her dilated eyes strained at the glass, then looked behind it and about her. She could see no other little girl in the room. There was only that | | 75 page image : 75 THE HEART OF HYACINTH face in the shining glass, with its blue, shiny eyes. With spasmodic working of features, she regarded it.

"This is you--certainly," repeated Koma, pointing to the reflection.

An uncanny fear took possession of the little girl. Suddenly she raised her hand, knocking the glass from that of Koma.

"That's not me. No! That's lie. I am here--here! That's not me."

She burst into a passion of tears.

Raising the glass, Koma put it aside. He sought his mother immediately, and, with concern and perplexity in his face, told her of the incident of the mirror.

"Hyacinth was frightened--yes, actually afraid of the mirror. What can be the matter?"

"That is only natural," said Aoi. "And I am much distressed that you should have frightened her with the glass."

"But why should it affright her?"

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"Because she has never seen one before."

"Never seen a mirror before?"

"No. It is only of late years that they have come to Sendai, my son."

"Why, the mirror is as old as the nation."

"Oh, son, but not for general use. Until recent years they were regarded as things of mystery, and were very precious and priceless."

"Yet as a child I had often seen my father's mirror. Our house contains one, does it not?"

"True; but it is locked away in our secret panel."

"But why?"

Aoi hesitated.

"It was, perhaps, a useless custom, my son. But in my younger days maidens were not permitted to see their own faces. The mirror was for the married woman only. Thus, a maiden was saved from being vain of her beauty."

Koma frowned impatiently.

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"A useless and foolish custom, truly. And now, here in these enlightened times, you put it into practice with Hyacinth. Why, you are prolonging the customs of the ancients here in this house, which should be an example of the new and enlightened age."

Meekly Aoi bowed her head.

"You are honorably right, my son; yet there was another reason why the mirror was kept from the sight of the little one."


"How could I blast the little one's life by letting her know of--of her peculiar physical misfortunes?"

"Physical misfortunes! What do you mean?"

"Why, the hair, eyes, skin--how strange, how unnatural!"

Koma threw back his head and laughed with an angry note.

"Oh, my mother, you are growing backward. You are seeing all things from a narrowing point of view. Be- | | 78 page image : 78 THE HEART OF HYACINTH cause Hyacinth is not like other Japanese children, she is not ugly. Why, the little one is beautiful, quite so, in her own way."

Aoi appeared troubled.

"You did not consider my father ugly, did you?"

"Ah no."

"Well, but was he not fair of face?"

"It is true," she admitted; then, sighing, added, "But I fear the little one would not agree with us in the matter. It might terrify her to see her own face--so different from that of her playmates. In heart and nature she is all Japanese."

"Nay; her natural parts have had no opportunities. She, like you, has seen only one side of life and the world. Now, is it not time to educate her real self?"

With an unconscious motion of distress, Aoi wrung her hands.

"The task is beyond me, my son. How can I effect it? Alas! as you say, I am in the same condition, for am I not | | 79 page image : 79 THE HEART OF HYACINTH all Japanese? My lord is gone these many years. I cannot keep step with the passage of time. Yes, son, I slip backward into the old mode of life and thought. When you were by my side, you were the prop that kept me awake, alive. But you were gone so long. Ah! it seemed as if time would never end."

"Oh, my mother," he cried, "I will never leave you again. It is I who am all wrong, wrong--I who am the renegade. But we will remain here together, and you, dear mother, will teach me all over again the precepts of my childhood. For these four years I have been studying, acquiring a new method of thought and life, yet I fell into it naturally. My father's blood was strong in me. Yet, dear mother, now I feel I have been wrong in leaving you, and I will not return."

"Oh, son," she said, with trembling lips, "you are all Engleesh--all your father. And it is right. Do not speak of remaining here with us. A mother's | | 80 page image : 80 THE HEART OF HYACINTH eyes can see deep beyond the shallows into her child's soul. I know your restless heart cries for the other world. It is there, indeed, you belong. And you must return to this England and the college."

"But I shall not remain," he said, throwing his arm about her shoulder. "No; I shall come back when I am through college, for you and Hyacinth."

Aoi did not speak. Her poor little hands trembled against his arms.

Fluttering to the door came Hyacinth. The tear-stains were gone from her face. In her hand she carried the small English mirror. Evidently she had overcome her repugnance and fear of it, and now regarded it as some strange and active possession.

Aoi looked up at her son with questioning eyes.

"The little one's new education must commence at once," he said, slowly.

He went to the child and took the | | 81 page image : 81 THE HEART OF HYACINTH mirror from her hand and again held it before her face.

"This is the beginning," he said. "Let her become acquainted with herself as she is. This will force a new trend of thought."

Then to the child:

"Who is this within?" he asked.

"It is I," she said, simply.

She had discovered the secret of the mirror, and somehow it had lost all terror for her--nay, it held her with a strange delight and fascination.

"Little one," said Komazawa, kneeling beside her, "look very often into the honorable mirror--every day. There you will see your own image. You will not be ignorant of yourself. You will learn much which the sensei cannot teach you. Also, go each day to the mission-house. No; do not shake your head so. But every day you must go to the school class. Then very soon, maybe in three years, I will return and complete the teaching."

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Hyacinth looked timidly up into his earnest face a moment. Then she suddenly smiled and dimpled.

"Very well," she said, in English, in a tone whose note expressed as words could not her perplexed emotion.

A smile overspread Koma's face.

"Ah," he said, with a glance back at his mother, "the little one has not forgotten."

"Yet," said Aoi, "she has not spoken it, son, since you left Sendai five years ago."

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