- chapter: XXVII
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IN the guest-room of Madame Aoi's house, the Lorrimers had waited fully a half-hour. Their patience was wellnigh exhausted. Lorrimer's nervousness and anxiety threatened to result in utter collapse. The events of the last few months, through which this dissipated man of the world had suddenly found himself to be the father of a child he had never seen, and by the woman his conscience had never ceased to tell him he had wronged, were having their effect upon him.
He was a weak-natured man, easily ruled through his affections; but he was not bad-hearted. Many years ago the woman who was now his wife had prevailed upon him to divorce another wife that he might marry her. Richard | | 229 Lorrimer's affection for his second wife had evaporated during the honeymoon, and was flameless and dead in twelve months. Since then his life with her had been dull, aimless, purposeless, broken in its monotony only at intervals by the woman's spasmodic efforts to fan the flame into life.
Now a strange and novel emotion was stirring the soul--if soul it could be called in such a nature--of Richard Lorrimer. He had a feverish, almost childish, longing to see, to possess, this child--his own. He was too sluggish and indolent by nature to have an imagination which would have pictured her in his mind. He had a hazy idea that she would be like any other American child, that she would, of course, be shy of him at first, but that the natural feeling of a child for its father would assert its power. He felt certain that she would prove a source of pleasure and comfort to him.
Nervously he paced the floor, with | | 230 irregular, broken strides, stopping now and then to look about him, or to answer the impatient remarks that escaped his wife's lips.
"This is beautiful," she said. "I suppose we are to wait here all day."
Lorrimer glanced about the room.
"Do you suppose there's a bell somewhere?" he asked, fretfully.
"What a question! Did you ever see a bell in a Japanese house?"
"The hotels all have them," he answered.
"This is not a hotel."
Lorrimer winced at her retorts. He said, a trifle apologetically:
"You see, my dear, the woman said she was dressing, or something like that."
"Then we may as well go back to Mr. Blount's. These Japanese women are inordinately vain, and spend hours in dressing."
"My daughter is not Japanese," said her husband, mildly.
The woman pursed her lips.| | 231
"I wonder what you really expect to see, Dick?" she said, looking at him curiously. "You're all unstrung."
Just then Aoi appeared at the door. She came towards them in a state of repressed excitement, and she welcomed her guests with stammering and uncertain words, though she courtesied so repeatedly that the visitors became uneasy.
"My daughter?" inquired Lorrimer, as soon as Aoi had ceased her kowtowing.
"She will come in a moment. The illustrious ones will pardon the child's nervousness."
"It is only natural," said Lorrimer, quietly, biting his underlip in his own restlessness.
Aoi's face, with its humble smile, suddenly appeared alert. She seemed to be listening.
"Ah, now she is coming, augustness," she said, as she crossed to the doors and slowly pushed them aside.| | 232
The Lorrimers had not heard the soft patter of the little feet in the matted hall, for a Japanese girl's tread in the house is almost soundless. Hence, when Aoi drew the sliding-doors apart, they had not expected to see the girl on the very threshold.
They started, simultaneously, at sight of the little figure. With drooping head, Hyacinth softly entered the room. At first glance she seemed no different from any other Japanese girl, save that she was somewhat taller. She was dressed in kimono and obi, her hair freshly arranged and shining in its smooth butterfly mode. Her face was bent to the floor, so that they could scarcely see more than its outline.
She hesitated a moment before them; then, as though unaware of the impetuous motion towards her of the man she knew was her father, she subsided to the mats and bowed her head at his feet.
The silence that ensued was painful. | | 233 Then Mrs. Lorrimer gasped, hysterically:
"This is not--not she?"
Lorrimer stooped gently down to the little figure and lifted her to her feet. She raised her face, and for a moment these two whose lives were so strangely connected looked into each other's faces. The father could not speak for some time, so intense were the emotions that assailed him. When he did find his voice, it was broken and trembling.
"My--my dear little daughter!" he said.
Then he bent and kissed her. She stood still, almost stonily, under his caress, but she did not return his embrace. She quietly withdrew her hands from his.
"It is unnatural--horrible," said Mrs. Lorrimer, beneath her breath. Low as was her voice, it broke the spell of silence, which rested like a pall in the room. Lorrimer turned to her quietly.| | 234
"And this," he said to Hyacinth, "is your--your mother."
She turned her eyes slowly upon the woman, and looked at her steadily. Then she said, in clear English:
"You make mistake. My mother is dead."
Again an embarrassed silence and constraint fell upon them all. This time it was Aoi who broke it. She turned her head from them as she spoke.
"Little one, it is your duty to accept the Engleesh lady as your mother."
For the first time the girl's unnatural calmness deserted her. She ran to Aoi, throwing her arms passionately about her.
"No, no," she cried. "You are the only mother I know. I will never have another. No!"
"What are they saying to each other?" asked Mrs. Lorrimer, watching them curiously.
"My knowledge of Japanese is limited," said her husband, heavily.| | 235
"The whole thing's a farce," she said.
"Do you find it so?" he asked, smiling bitterly.
"Oh, Dick, we can't be expected to understand a girl--like that."
"She is my daughter," was his quiet reply; and there was a new dignity in his voice.
"Yes, but she is different from us, so utterly alien. Just look at her. Would any one believe she was your daughter?"
He looked over at the little figure now soothing the weeping Aoi, and his wife's words found a hollow echo within him.
"Yet," said Mrs. Lorrimer, thoughtfully, "she is still very young and quite pretty. A few years in the West may make a great change in her. Who knows, we may make quite a little civilized modern out of her yet. She is Richard Lorrimer's daughter."
As though she knew they were talking about her, Hyacinth left Aoi and came | | 236 towards them, though she was careful to keep at a distance.
"Will my honorable father excuse our presence for to-day?" she said, in English.
"But you are going with us at once," said Mrs. Lorrimer.
With a movement that in a Western girl would have seemed rudeness, Hyacinth turned her hack slowly towards her step-mother and addressed her words solely to her father.
"If it please you, august father," she said, "will you not deign to permit me to remain here with my--my friends till the time comes to leave Sendai?"
Her form of speech hurt her father strangely. He watched her face--unloving, emotionless, it seemed, when turned to his--and his own grew wistful. He was more than anxious to indulge her.
"Yes, yes, certainly," he said. "I appreciate your feelings. By all means | | 237 stay here if you wish. How long before--"
"Will you not permit me to remain one month?" she said, somewhat timidly, and her eyes suddenly fell. She could not tell why, but a flood of emotions seemed to fill her heart, so that she could no longer contain herself if she must look into the face of her father.
"We expected to leave at once," he said, gently; "but if it is your wish to remain longer, understand, I want you to have your desires gratified."
She went towards him falteringly a few steps. She held out her hands uncertainly.
He took them quickly in his own. She raised her face to his, and suddenly her eyes became blinded with tears; but, when he stooped to kiss her, she slipped to the floor at his feet.
He clasped his slender, nervous hands together and looked down at the queer little figure, now seeming to bow to him | | 238 after the strange fashion of the Japanese in bidding adieu. Then he turned to his wife.
"We had better go now," he said, huskily.
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