- chapter: XI
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MEANWHILE Hyacinth lay stretched upon the matted floor of her chamber, her chin in one hand, the other holding an ancient oval mirror. She was studying her face closely, critically, and also wistfully.
The head was quaintly Japanese, yet the face was oddly at variance. For the hair was dressed in the prevailing mode of the Japanese maid of beauty and fashion in Sendai. It was a very elaborate coiffure, spread out on either side in the shape of the wings of a butterfly. Upon both sides of the little mountain at top projected long, dagger-like pins; gold they were and jewelled--the gift of Yoshida.
Hyacinth no longer fretted under the hands of a hair-dresser, since it was her | | 95 pride and delight to have her hair dressed in this becoming and striking mode. If the hair-dresser, who came once a fortnight, puckered her face and shook her head when the beautiful, soft, brown locks twisted about her fingers, and did not follow the usual plastic methods used upon the hair of most Japanese maids, Hyacinth cared little. When the operation was completed, her hair, dark, shining, and smooth, appeared little different from that of other girls in the village.
It was the face beneath the coiffure that distressed the girl. The eyes were undoubtedly gray-blue. They were large, too, and wore an expression of wistful questioning which had only come there, perhaps, since the girl had begun to look into the mirror and to discover the secret of those strange, unnatural eyes.
The whiteness of her skin pleased her. What girl of her acquaintance would not be glad of such a complexion? She had small use for the powder-pot, into which | | 96 her friends must dip so freely. Her mouth was rosy, the teeth within white and sparkling. Her chin was dimpled at the side and tipped with the same rose that dwelt in her rounded cheeks. The little nose was thin and delicate, piquant in shape and expression.
Why should such a face have distressed her? She would not admit to herself that she was homely. Perfume, Dewdrop, Spring--what did their judgment amount to? They were rude, uncouth even to have hinted at her "deformities." They were one-eyed, seeing but one type of beauty. There must be another kind, for she was surely, surely beautiful. Then she fell into a reverie in which she speculated upon the possible existence of another people whose maidens' hair and eyes were not like the night, but reflected the day.
Yet Yoshida, the son of Yamashiro Shawtaro, had actually suggested to her once, with a shamefaced expression, that if she stood in the sun-rays the goddess | | 97 might darken her skin and eyes! Also, he had brought her, all the way from Tokyo, a little box of oil with which to shade her hair!
The oil had disappeared in the bay, though the pretty box in which it had come had been placed with the other gifts of Yoshida. As for the sun-goddess--those at the mission-house had insisted that there was no such being. Great and wise were the mission-house people, since they had come from the land of Komazawa.
Komazawa represented to her all that was fine and great and good. He was the beloved of Aoi, and the good God had given him to her for a brother and a hero. He wrote to her every week from the other end of the world, never forgetting. His letters were the sun and light of Aoi's life, and Hyacinth shared with her something of the joy of receiving them. These two talked of him always. They watched for his letters, and devoured them with eager little | | 98 outcries to each other when they arrived.
He was in London. College was done for the year. He was going to Cheshire, though apprehensive of the welcome he would receive from his father's people. But the lawsuit had been won, with scarcely any struggle. His claim, his papers, withstood the closest of legal scrutiny. Yes; he was now an Englishman, almost entirely. Yet, ah, how he longed for home--for his mother and for little Hyacinth. The estate was very large, his lawyers told him, so large that he could not live there alone. Soon he was coming to take back with him the little mother and sister. Yes; it would be strange at first, but they would soon become accustomed to it. It was a cold country, and the milk of human kindness ran not freely, but it satisfied the desires of an ambitious one.
So ran his last letter.
Hyacinth wondered, vaguely, what he would say when he returned to Japan | | 99 and found that she could not accompany him. By that time she would be married--married to Yamashiro Yoshida, who was rich and owned large stores in Tokyo, and who sometimes wore an English hat, the envy and marvel of all the gilded youth of Sendai.
Upon her cogitations came Aoi, trembling and anxious. She hovered a moment over the girl, hesitation and worry depicted in her countenance.
In surprise, Hyacinth looked up at her, then, carefully slipping the mirror into her sleeve, raised herself erect.
"What is troubling you, mother? Why, your hands tremble. I will hold them. You have news from Koma? What is it?"
"No, little one; it is not of Koma I speak."
"Of whom, then?"
"Then smile instantly. I am an insignificant subject for mirth, not tears."
"Little one, if the right of freedom | | 100 were given you, would you leave the humble one?"
"No; not in ten million years. What sort of freedom would that be?"
"Yet the learned ones at the mission-house will surely persuade you to take some such step."
Hyacinth laughed scornfully.
"One cannot persuade a hummingbird to come to one's hand. No; nor can these ones of the mission-house persuade me to do aught against my will."
"But they of the mission-house--Mr. Blount--insinuated that we have not the right to possess you."
"He is foolish. He has blue eyes," said she of the blue eyes, disdainfully.
"Yet it is true that we have no legal right to you," said Aoi, sadly.
"No? And why have you not?"
"Because I am not your real mother, and the time may come when others may claim you."
"Since my own mother is gone, has | | 101 not my foster-mother all right over me?"
"I do not know the law as to that," said Aoi. "Oh, if the old, good excellency were but still alive to enlighten and advise us."
"Mother," said Hyacinth, looking up with questioning, wistful eyes at Aoi, "I have never asked a question of you concerning my own mother. You were always enough for me. I needed no other parent, dear, dear one. Yet now I would ask, can you tell me aught concerning my people?"
"No, little one. The sick one gave to me no information of her people. The good excellency made effort to find them, but failed."
"My mother was a stranger to Sendai?"
"Yes, a stranger."
"And she left nothing--nothing for--me?"
Aoi hesitated a moment, then, crossing the room, slipped her hand deftly | | 102 along the wall and pushed aside a small panel. Hyacinth arose slowly. Her eyes were apprehensive, her lips apart. She had grown white with expectation.
"Here, in your own chamber, little one, is all that the august one left. I would have given you them on your wedding-day."
Fearfully the girl touched the things in the little cupboard. How long had they lain there untouched? There were a woman's strange dress, white underwear, a queer, basket-shaped thing with dark feathers upon it, a pair of black Suede gloves, small shoes, and then, in a little heap, three rings--a plain gold band, one with a large diamond, another with a ruby set between two smaller diamonds. Also a little chamois-skin bag containing a little roll of green bills and some strange coin.
Upon her knees Hyacinth fell beside the little shelf, and she stretched her arms out over it, burying her face in her sleeves.| | 103
For a long time neither of the two uttered a word. When the girl raised her face, after a long interval, it was very white, and tears streamed down her cheeks. She put out a little, groping hand to Aoi.
"Oh, you were good to her, were you not--were you not?" she whisperingly cried.
Aoi could not speak.
After a time the girl arose and reverently pushed the panel into place.
"The things are Engleesh," she said, slowly. "Is it not strange?"
"Yes," said Aoi, brokenly.
Yet even then she did not tell the girl the truth. Why she had hidden this fact always from Hyacinth she could hardly have explained even to herself. She thought she had but waited for the girl to come to years of understanding. Afterwards, when the proud Yamashiro family condescended to seek alliance with her, Aoi, faintheartedly fearful lest they should refuse to permit the mar- | | 104 riage if they knew the truth, had carefully guarded the secret even from the girl. She knew that only a few people in the little village of Matsushima had heard of the history of the girl. It was only recently that they had moved to the City of Sendai. This match with the Yamashiro family was a thing so splendid as to be regarded with awe by Aoi. It could not be possible that such a chance would ever come again to her adopted daughter.
Now she said to the girl, placing both her hands upon her shoulders:
"Promise me, then, that you will refuse to discuss this subject with the mission-house people."
"I will not even see them," said the girl, stooping to kiss the anxious face.
"For if you should do so," said Aoi, sadly, "they might persuade you to abandon us."
"Ah, no; never, mother. No one could ever do so."| | 105
"Save Yamashiro Yoshida," said Aoi, quickly.
A cloud stole for an instant over the girl's face. She sighed as she repeated, half under her breath:
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