- chapter: XXVIII
|<< chapter 27||< chapter 1||chapter 29 >|
ON an early morning in the month of August, two young people were drifting in a light sail-boat in and out of the waters surrounding the rock islands of Matsushima. They might have been new lovers, they were so silent, and always they were gazing into each other's faces, flushing and trembling when their eyes met.
The boy, for he seemed still very young, was graceful, and of grave, sombre beauty. He was tall and dark, and the expression of his deep-brown eyes was tender and piercing. His limbs were well formed, and his strong arms, as he handled the boat, showed that he was no mean athlete. He was dressed in a gray hakama, the sleeves rolled back. His head was bare, and the | | 240 wind, lifting the soft, dark locks, showed his high, fine brow.
The girl was small. Her hair, though brown, had a strangely sunny sheen to it, and her eyes were gray-blue, dreamy, and wistful. Koma, as he watched the changing expressions of her face, thought her fairer and lovelier than all the women of the great world he had seen.
There was a little padded seat in the boat, and against this she leaned back, trailing her hand in the still water, and watching now the sky, now the bay, now the hills on either side, and sometimes Komazawa.
They drifted about the bay in this silent, thrilling fashion for some time; then she suddenly spoke. Koma dropped the oar and sat forward.
"Do you know what the days seem like to me now?" she asked.
"No," he said, his eyes wandering inconstantly over her face.
"They are like a lotos bloom," she | | 241 said, "always pink and gold, and so beautiful that they are sure to fade."
For a moment he did not reply, then, leaning on his oar, he said:
"And if the day must fade, will not the morrow be as beautiful?"
"Ah, no," she said, sadly; "besides, we are not acquainted with the morrow. We only know the to-day, and so the heart breaks at the thought of parting from what is with us now."
"You are sad to-day. Yesterday you were merry."
"I was not merry at heart," she said, plaintively. "You are very clever, Koma, but, ah, you do not know everything."
He watched her face in silence.
"You think because I laugh and say gay things that my heart, too, is light."
"No, I do not think that," he said, earnestly; "but why should you not be happy and gay? You are only a maiden. You cannot know tears yet--little one." He added the old, familiar term | | 242 "little one" so softly that she strained her ears to hear it.
She held a lotos blossom close to her face, and looked down into its heart.
"See," she said, holding it towards him, "there is one drop of dew in the heart of the lotos. It is like a tear. It, too, poor flower, must fade away with the summer."
"Why do you say 'it, too'?"
"Like me," she said; "I will not be here when the summer has passed." Her voice broke. "You said I should not go. Yet--yet the days pass so swiftly. Only one week more--and--after that--? Ah, I cannot bear to think of it."
"Do you, then, love this Japan of ours so dearly?"
She looked about her, her eyes filled with tears. She clasped her little hands together.
"Ah, yes," she said.
"And you would not even be content | | 243 to go to the home of your ancestors for--for a little while?"
"I am afraid," she said, simply--"afraid to leave the land of gods and go out into the unknown. It is the unknown that has such horror for me. And the great seas are flat and bottomless. I could not have courage to cross them unless I were forced to do so."
"But you would not be afraid to cross them with me, would you, little one?"
"No--not with you, Koma," she said, looking into his eyes.
Leaning across, he took one of her little hands, held it a space between both his own, then lifted it to his lips.
"Never was there such faith as yours, and in one--one who is not worthy to touch you."
"When you talk like that, Koma," she said, with tears in her voice, "you make me sadder still, because when I am gone from you I must recall those words."
"Then if such words make you sad, I | | 244 will not speak them again. Nothing but joy and sunshine should dwell in your face. So let us talk of happier things. See how near to the shore we are coming. Shall we land?"
"No. Let us drift on."
"Look how the sunbeams are gliding down the pine trunks. See how they, too, have tinted the green leaves to gold."
"There are no--no pine-trees in America. No more--And there are no sunbeams there. The sensei told me so."
"The sensei is ignorant. The sun is generous. He scatters his gifts all over the world."
"But he favors Nippon."
"Yes," he repeated, "he favors Nippon--all nature does so."
"And that America is cold."
"It has its summers, little one."
"Look," she said; "see, there is a little white fox on the hill there. It is looking at us. Ah, it is gone!"| | 245
"That is a good omen, is it not?" said Koma, smiling.
"Oh, surely. The foxes are sacred. Every one believes so except the mission-house people."
"We do not belong to the mission-house. We will believe so."
"How cheerful you are, Koma. You are not sorry to see me go?"
"You are not gone yet."
"But there is only one week left," she said, "and despair craves company. Do you, therefore, give me your sympathy?"
"Wait till the week is gone," he said, "and then if you still wish it, none will be sadder with you than I."
|<< chapter 27||< chapter 1||chapter 29 >|