The Call of the Race

By Elizabeth Cooper

It was the last day of September, the maple trees were turning to red and gold, the mist of purple haze was in the air, and all Japan was going to the parks and woods to revel in the colors they loved so well.

Three men came out of the American Embassy, and looked for a moment over the roofs below them, half conscious of the beauty of this autumn time. They chatted for a few moments, then one of them motioned to a servant to put his mail bag in the jinrickshaw and slowly stepping into the tiny carriage he was whirled away.

The other men watched him for a few moments in silence, then as they turned to go to the English club, the elder shook his head slowly as he rather viciously bit the end from his cigar.

"Freeman's made a big fool of himself," he said. "Nice man, too."

The younger man looked after the fast disappearing jinrickshaw and asked after a moment's hesitation:

"He's married a Jap, hasn't he? I'm new here but I have heard something about him that's queer."

"Yes," the Ambassador replied. "Married her, preacher, ring, the whole thing."

"How did it happen? Why did he marry her?" the younger man asked with a laugh.

"We all talked to him. I talked to him like a father, but he wouldn't listen to reason. Saw her at the mission school, fell head and heels in love with her and wouldn't take anyone's advice. Even the missionary was against it. Told him that mixed marriages never came out right; that the girl always reverted to type," said the Ambassador a little bitterly.

"Well, has it turned out as they predicted?" inquired the secretary interestedly.

"Well, no," admitted the Ambassador. "It's been two years, and everything seems to be all right so far. No one ever sees much of either of them. You meet her with him once in a while in some garden admiring the wistaria, or the lotus. She's a beauty—a real beauty—and belongs to one of the old Samurai families up north somewhere."

"How did the mission get her? I thought they went in more for the lower classes," asked the secretary.

"Well, it seems that some missionary up north saw her and was attracted by her cleverness and her pretty face, and she persuaded the girl's parents to send her to school here. They're as poor as Job's turkey; but they live in a great old palace and observe all the old time Jap customs. Haven't changed a bit for centuries. The real thing in old-time aristocracy. But the missionary got past them some way and the girl came down—when was it?—six years ago, I think. Missionary says she's clever, has become a Christian, and evidently forgotten that she's a Jap."

"It'll perhaps be the exception that proves that all mixed marriages are not failures," said the optimistic secretary.

"No," said the older man, "I know Japan and the Japanese. There's something in them that never changes—the call of the blood or whatever it is. No matter how much education they have, change of religion, life in foreign countries—anything—they're Japanese, and in a crisis they go back to their gods and the instincts of their race. We all told Freeman this—the missionary, myself, everybody took a hit at him when we found he really meant business, but he only laughed. He said Yuki was as European as he was. Never thought of the gods, hardly remembered her people, and all that rot. He ought to know better: this is his second post in Japan. Was out here twelve years ago and got in some kind of trouble. I was surprised when the government sent him back; but I suppose they thought it had all blown over, and I presume it has, although the Japs don't forget."

The Ambassador was quiet for a few moments, then he said:

"No, I don't believe at all in intermarriage between the Oriental and the Occidental. Their traditions, customs, everything is different. They have no common meeting ground, and that racial instinct, that inherent something is stronger in the Oriental than in the Westerner. A woman here in this country, for example, is taught from babyhood that she must obey her parents, her clan, absolutely. Her family is first, and she must sacrifice her life if necessary for them, and they will go to any lengths in this obedience. I told this to Freeman, everyone did, but he just gave his happy laugh, and said that his wife-to-be was no more Japanese in feeling and sentiment than he was—that she had outgrown the old religion, the old beliefs. He laughed at the idea that her family would have any influence over her after she was his wife. Yet—I know these people—and have always been a little worried——"

The two men chatted until they entered the doors of the English club.

Morris Freeman with his fast runner was drawn swiftly through the modern streets of new Japan, then more slowly through the little alleys, where the shops were purely native. Finally he drew up at an entrance and stopped under the tiny roof of a gateway. He had been expected, evidently, because no sooner had he stopped than the great gate was swung open and a smiling servant stood in the entrance. Freeman handed him the mail bag and said:

"Tell the Ok San that I will be back in about an hour," and was taken swiftly up the street. The coolie at the gate was still watching the disappearing jinrickshaw when a Japanese approached, and bowing to the servant asked: "Is your mistress within?" The servant answered in the affirmative, looking at him interestedly, as he was different from the average man one sees in Tokio. He was dressed in an old-time costume that immediately told the city-bred servant that the man was from some distant province.

The visitor went to the veranda, dropped his clogs, and entered the doorway. A young girl was kneeling before a koto lightly strumming its strings and did not hear the entrance of the man. He stood for a moment looking around the room; then he saw Yuki and walking over to her sat down facing her. Yuki stared at him first in astonishment; then a look of fear came into her black eyes. He was silent for many minutes, then he coolly remarked:

"You do not speak to your uncle. You do not care to make me welcome in this your home." He looked down at her contemptuously.

She saluted him, touching her head to her folded hands upon the floor. After a few polite phrases she rose, went to the hibachi, fanned the flame a moment, poured water from the kettle into the teapot, and brought a tiny tray on which was a cup and the pot of tea. She poured out the tea, and, taking the cup in both hands, slid it across the floor to him; when he took it, she again touched her head to the floor, and inquired:

"I trust my honorable Uncle is in the enjoyment of good health?"

The man sipped the tea slowly, gazing around the room, taking in all its details. His eyes especially rested upon the shrine in the corner. Then he regarded her long and intently.

"I see you have brought your family shrine to the house of the foreigner with whom you live—the man who has made you forget your people. Have you opened it; do you offer the daily incense; or is it simply an article of furniture for your foreign husband to admire?"

Yuki said nothing; she could not explain to this old man that the shrine had meant nothing to her, but having come from her old home she had kept it simply as a remembrance of the past.

Not receiving an answer the man continued:

"The foreigner is kind to you?"

Yuki smiled and said softly to herself: "Kind—kind—my Dana San." Then seeing her uncle expected an answer, she said in a quiet tone:

"Most kind, my honorable Uncle."

"You wonder why I come to you to-night?" he inquired.

Yuki took the tea-things and put them behind her, then remarked:

"My humble house is honored by your presence."

"Honored, yes," sneered the uncle. "But still you wonder. I will tell you why I came to you to-night. Once upon a time there was a family in Japan—happy, honored—proud of their title, of their history—and, more than all, proud of their overlord. He was impetuous, and like many of the older Japanese, resentful of the foreigner's intrusion. Here, one day on a visit to his capital, he met a stranger, one of that hated race who spoke slightingly of his country, of his gods. There was the quick retort, the blow, and he our lord went to the Land of Shadows. The evil gods of the foreigner protected the man who gave the blow. His name was never discovered—it was claimed he did the cowardly act in self-defense and he got safely away."

Yuki leaned forward eagerly.

"Oh, it is of my honorable father you speak?"

"Yes, it is of your father I speak," said the man in a low, bitter voice. "Since his death the gods have not favored our house; we have lost position, money, everything. But at last—at last our prayers to the gods have been answered. The enemy of our house is delivered into our hands—into your hands."

Yuki looked bewildered.

"My hands? What do you mean, my honorable Uncle?"

"Yuki San, we have learned the name of the man who struck your father!" he exclaimed in a low, tense voice.

Yuki looked at the tragic face before her a moment, then she said: "At last, at last you know?"

"Yes," replied her uncle. "At last, after all these years of patience, revenge is in our hands. Oh, Yuki San, the foreigner, your husband, is the man who killed your father."

Yuki drew back, her face pallid, her body trembling.

"Morris, my Dana San?"

"Yes, your Dana San."

Yuki sat for a moment in bewilderment, then the color came back to her face and she leaned forward eagerly.

"But, my lord, my lord, he could not have done it! He is so kind, so good, he never hurt a thing in all his life."

The man leaned forward, gazing intently into her eyes.

"Has this stranger made you forget your father? Have you forgotten your oath, your oath? Have you forgotten why your father is now in the Land of Shadows?" He pointed to the shrine.

"Look, there is his tablet within that shrine. But the doors are closed. In our home, in our family temple are tablets. The doors of the shrines have never been opened. His spirit has not had the incense to help him on the way. The morning offering has not been his. He has been compelled to travel alone on the way to the gods, because we, his family—you and I—have not avenged his death.

"No, do not speak," he continued, as Yuki was about to interrupt. "He was murdered, and until the man who sent him on his way joins him in his journey, his spirit can have no peace. And you, his daughter, dare not, for fear of the gods, open the shrine to make the offering that the poorest peasant makes to his dead! But to-night I bring you the final word of the clan. To give you the honor of doing the deed that will wash the stain from our name. You know that a servant must avenge the death of his master, a son that of his father, a Samurai the death of his overlord, and I come to give you—a girl, an inheritance that will make you envied of men."

"I do not understand—my lord, you mean——"

"Yuki San, he killed your father, the head of our house, and he must die to-night."

Yuki rose and went to the man. Taking him by the arms she looked up into his face piteously, with wide, frightened eyes.

"My lord, my lord, you can not mean it—that he shall die—Morris die!"

The old man looked down into the pale face, the searching, pitiful eyes; but there shone no mercy in the hard eyes that met the ones raised pleadingly to his.

"Yes, and you, the only child of the man he killed, shall fulfill the sacred oath, and bring peace to your father's honorable soul."

Yuki was utterly bewildered and said falteringly: "I do not understand—I do not understand."

With the monotonous voice of the fatalist the uncle continued:

"It would have been better if a man-child had been born to our lord, as his arm would not falter; but you will take as sure a way, if not as honorable as the sword. Here is the means." He drew a little bottle from the sleeve of his kimono. "A little of this and he sleeps instantly and well."

Yuki held out her hands to the man sitting like fate before her.

"My lord, how can I? We have been so happy! My Dana San has never given me an unkind look, never caused me a moment's sorrow. I love him, Uncle, not as a Japanese woman loves her lord, but as a foreign woman from over the seas loves the man whom she has chosen from all the world. For two years we have been in this little house, for two years he has been my every breath. My first thought in the morning was for Morris, my Dana San, my last thought at night was joy in the thought that I was his and that he loved me. Sometimes I waken and look at him, and wonder how such a great man can care for such a simple Japanese girl as I am. And now you ask me to hurt him?" She drew her head up proudly. "I can not and I will not. He is my husband, and no matter what he has done I will protect him—even from you."

The man rose, and striding to her, grasped her roughly by the arm.

"Woman, you will do as we say. You are a Japanese and you know even unto death you must obey. I have no fear. It will be done—and by you—to-night."

He released her arm, and she, looking down upon the tatami, moved her foot silently to and fro, absorbed with this tragedy that had come into her happy life. Then she had a thought that brought hope to her, and she looked up eagerly. "Perhaps it is not true—perhaps it was not really Morris——"

"Listen," said the man roughly. "It was he. We know. But you—if you do not believe—make him confess to-night. If it was not he, then you are free. If it is, you will know what to do—and it will be done to-night—remember."

Yuki looked into the hard black eyes staring at her, fascinating her, taking all the life from her, and she said slowly as if under a spell:

"Yes—if he confesses—if it was he—I know it will be done. But—if the gods take him, they will also take me."

The uncle shook her roughly by the arm.

"No! Listen to me. Your work is not yet done. You must live. It would be too much happiness to have your spirit travel with him the lonely road. He must walk the path alone, without love to guide him. You will return to me to-night, return to your home and family who await you. Our vengeance would be only half complete if we allowed you to journey to the Land of Shadows with him. Come to me—" and he drew her to him. "Look at me. I will await you at the Willow Tea House."

He took her face in his hands and gazed steadily into her eyes, saying in a low, tense voice:

"I do not fear—you will obey. Are you not a Japanese? I expect—you—to—come—to—me—after your work is done—and the gods will be with you. Sayonara."

He put on his clogs at the entrance and went away, his form scarcely distinguishable in the gloom as he went down the pathway. Yuki looked after him, then threw herself on her face on the floor with a little moan, beating her hands in the manner of an Eastern woman.

It was absolutely quiet in the room, no noise coming from the street outside, except from a far distance a woman's voice chanting in a tone of singular sweetness words that sounded in their minor key like the soft tones of a flute: "Amma Konitchi Wahyak Mo," then between these sweet calls a plaintive whistle—one long-drawn note, then two shorter ones—the cry of the blind massage woman, making her rounds for her evening's toil.

The cry died away, and only the low moan was heard within the little room. Morris opened the gate and came lightly up the pathway, whistling a few bars of the latest popular song. He came inside the room, and, hardly able to distinguish the objects, looked about wonderingly, then seeing Yuki lying where she had thrown herself, he went over to her and picked her up.

"My sweetheart, what is it? What has happened?" He sat down upon the long chair and held her against him. "Tell me, dear one, tell me."

Morris went over to the lamp after a few moments and lighted it, then came back and showed Yuki a little gift he had brought her. She took it and looked at it with eyes filled with tragic grief; then, pressing it against her face, put her head on his shoulder and began sobbing in a heart-broken way that amazed Morris.

She lay with her face hidden, he softly caressing her hair. Finally she said:

"Morris, we have been here two years. Tell me—have I made you happy?"

Morris threw back his head and laughed happily.

"Happy, Yuki, happy? Dear heart, I had a long time ago put aside the thought that love meant happiness and happiness meant love. Now you have taught me that one cannot exist without the other. I love you, I live with you, you are mine. That tells everything. When you came into my life, into my heart, I was soured and embittered. Life meant only work and duties done; after that, comfort and a cigar—that was all. But now, I love my work as well, I do it as thoroughly, but there is something more. I know when I shut the office-door, I can come here where no one can enter. I can be alone with the woman I love and who loves me. There is no question of society or dinners, but just us two alone, you and me—and," turning up her face, "you are happy with me, my Yuki San? You love me?"

Yuki did not reply at once. Then in a low, sweet voice she replied:

"Morris, we Japanese women never speak of love. It is to us a subject left to singing girls and geishas. Without it we marry, and without it we live, and it is, unless by chance, a closed book to us. I do not know if I love you as the women of your race love their Dana Sans—I know I think of you by day, and I dream of you by night. I live only for you—to be what you wish me to be—and when you take me in your arms and say, 'My Yuki San, my sweetheart,' it seems to me that my heart with its happiness will break! I do not know if that is love—but if it be—I love you, my Dana San, I love you."

She lay quietly, and he rested his face against her hair, caressing it from time to time. After a silence, he inquired lightly:

"What about supper, Yuki?"

Yuki drew him to her again, for he moved as if he would rise.

"Wait, dear, let us talk a little. Tell me, when you to Tokio came—the first time——"

"Twelve years ago, when O Yuki San was a little girl."

"Twelve years ago—there was much trouble then between foreigners and Japanese. You and your friends—had—had trouble."

Morris looked at her quickly and his eyes darkened.

"Where did you hear that?" he asked.

Yuki, carelessly: "Oh, they gossip in the market-place."

Morris rose and walked up and down the room.

"I don't know what you have heard, but I might as well tell you the whole story. I did have trouble here in Japan. One night some of us got in a mix-up—a sort of quarrel with a Japanese, and I don't know how it happened—I never have known—but I struck and killed him. It was in the dark, and I could hardly see him."

After a silence Yuki stammered: "You—killed him?"

"In self-defense, O Yuki San," Morris defended eagerly; "it was in self-defense. But afterwards, what a time it was! Shall I ever forget that night getting back to my ship?" He passed his hand over his face, and then came back to his place beside her on the couch. "Don't speak of it any more; I don't want to think of it."

Yuki slipped down to the floor and sat there with her head against his knee. She sat very quietly, then finally put her hand up to the flower in her dress and slowly took it out and let it fall to the floor, petal by petal, watching the leaves as they fell. Then, after a long silence, she rose and started towards the tea table, hesitated, went a little way, and then came back to him. She knelt by the couch and said, in a low voice:

"Morris, no matter what happens, what you learn, what the gods may teach you soon—remember, I love you with all the love of my life. That I would give that life for you—oh, so willingly, if I only could! That through whatever you pass, I would gladly be with you; but I will come to you soon. I will not send you where I may not follow. I will come. I am yours, and the gods cannot let you go alone. You need me, and I would not be afraid. I love you—I want to go with you—but I am a Japanese—and I understand."

She let her face fall upon her hands and knelt there quietly. Morris looked at her blankly, thinking she was worried about something. Finally he lifted her face and kissed her.

"Never mind, dear one. I don't know what is troubling you, but of course you shall go with me wherever I go. I need you, and could not be without my Yuki San."

He started to read the papers; she rose and stood by the couch a moment, then taking a step toward the tea-things:

"Would my Dana San—like—a cup of tea?"

Morris, absorbed in his papers, assented. "Why, yes, I don't mind if I do."

She turned and walked slowly to the hibachi, knelt beside it, fanned the fire a moment, then poured the water from the iron kettle into the tiny teapot, let it stand a moment, looking over towards Morris. Then she took the bottle from her sleeve and poured a few drops into the cup, filling it with tea. She rose slowly and walked over to the long chair. She looked down at him as he lay half-reclining, hesitated, then handed him the cup. He took it, and looking up at her half laughing, exclaimed:

"To you, sweetheart!" and drank.

He fell back on the chair; the cup dropped from his hands. Yuki looked down at him in silence; then she bent over him, and lovingly crossed his hands upon his breast, touched his face caressingly with her fingers; then bent down and kissed him.

She turned slowly, and, in turning, her eyes fell upon the shrine. She looked at it intently, slowly crossed the room and knelt in front of it, bowed her head to the floor; then opened the doors, and bowed her head again.

She took out two candlesticks, two little jars of incense, a small bowl for rice, and another for water. She lighted the candles, lighted the incense, poured water in one bowl and rice in the other. Then she again touched her head to the floor, once—twice—thrice—rose, and walked backward to the open shojii.

She stood a moment looking around the room that she had loved so well; then turned her face to her lover lying so quietly in the chair. She knelt down facing him, touched her head to the floor and rising in the kneeling position, said, stretching out her arms towards Morris:

"Sayonara, my Dana San, good-bye, good-bye."