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Full text of "The love of Azalea"

. 






THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

PRESENTED BY 

PROF. CHARLES A. KOFOID AND 
MRS. PRUDENCE W. KOFOID 




11 He had come quite close to his garden gate before he 
perceived the little figure waiting there." 

(Page 25) 



THE 
LOVE OF AZALEA 



BY 
ONOTO WATANNA 

AUTHOR OF "A JAPANESE NIGHTINGALE," "THE 
HEART OF HYACINTH," ETC. 



ILLUSTRATED BY GAZO FOUDJI 



NEW YORK 

DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 
1904 



Copyright, 1904, by 
WINIFRED BABCOCK 



Copyright, 19041 by 
DODD, MEAD & CO. 

Published October 




961 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

" He had come quite close to his garden 
gate before he perceived the little 
figure waiting there." . Frontispiece 

" ' This is the American way,' he said, 
boyishly, and, stooping, kissed 
her." ..... Facing page 88 

" She threw the tablets in the direction 
of the little river in the valley 
below." .... Facing page 98 

" ' My house awaits your coming, and 
I have sworn to possess you.' " 

Facing page 162 

" The shadows of the night were her 
only covering, and the soft, mossy 
grass her mattress." Facing page 166 

"As the sword flashed upward he 
dashed to one side and then slipped 
under its guard." . Facing page 228 



M311658 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

CHAPTER I 

IT was drowsy in the little mission church, 
and the gentle mellifluous voice of the 
young preacher increased rather than dis- 
pelled the sleepy peacefulness. The church, 
if such it could be styled, was well filled. 
The people of Sanyo knew it for the cool- 
est of retreats. They drifted aimlessly in 
and out of the church, making no pretense 
of either understanding or appreciating the 
proceedings. It was a curious congrega- 
tion, one which, innocentl" enough, never 
5 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

thought of assisting the pastor. They 
came to see the white priest, not to listen 
to the pleading message he brought, which 
as yet they could not understand. His 
Japanese was too correct. Spoken slowly 
and painfully in the unfamiliar accent of 
the Caucasian, it was often quite unintelli- 
gible. But, as was said, the church was 
cool, the villagers curious, and the minister 
an unending source of wonder to them. If 
some of the congregation waited patiently 
throughout the length of the sermon, it 
was not because they deemed this the 
proper thing to do, but because they knew 
they would be treated to another form of 
entertainment, which they childishly en- 
6 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
joyed. For, after the sermon, the minister, 
closing the large black book before him 
and opening a small red one, would raise 
his voice, throw back his head, open his 
mouth, and sing aloud in a voice which had 
never lost its fascination for his hearers. 
He had done this from the first, leading an 
unresponsive congregation in hymns of 
praise; but singing to the end alone. No 
aiding voice took up the refrain with him 
nor was there even the music of an organ 
to bear his clear voice company. Through 
the opened windows the chirp of the birds 
floated. Sometimes a baby, grown rest- 
less, laughed and crowed aloud. 
On this particular Sunday, however, the 
7 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

minister, who appeared unusually happy, 
had introduced an innovation. As its 
nature had been whispered about the vil- 
lage, the service in consequence was well 
attended. Behind the minister's small san- 
dal-wood pulpit a bench had been placed, 
upon which the people saw seated five of 
the most disreputable waifs of the town. 
At first they were hardly recognizable. 
From smudgy-faced, soiled and tattered bits 
of flotsam, they were transformed in gar- 
ments of white miniature surplices they 
were. 

The minister beamed upon them. The 
boys looked stoically back at him. This 
day those in the church forgot to look about 
8 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

at the various objects of interest, forgot to 
drowse, for all eyes were intent upon that 
little row behind the priest. When the 
sermon was ended and the minister turned 
to the red hymn book, the boys arose to 
their feet, and as his baritone voice was 
raised, five piping and discordant minor 
voices joined with him. 

The result of the minister's effort for a 
choir was immediate. It broke up the apa- 
thy of the congregation. 

Groups lingered about the mission house 
after the service groups of curious child- 
women for the most part. The question 
discussed from every standpoint was the 
seeming elevation of these most unsavory 

r 







TH LOVE OF AZALEA 

and godless of town waifs. How could 
these good people guess that the young 
minister, restless at the seeming fruitless- 
ness of his labors, had given of his own 
meagre salary to induce the hungriest of 
the town, for so many sen, to be respect- 
able for one day in the week ? What would 
not a Japanese vagabond do for a sen or a 
sweet potato ? Submit to a bath, a robe too 
clean to touch and the pleasure some- 
times pain of mimicking the voice of the 
white man. 

The mellow tinkling of temple bells dis- 
turbed the gossips. It was the hour of 
noon, when the gods were good and for a 
little prayer would give them sweet food 
10 



THE LOVE OF AZAI EA 

and excellent appetites. So straight from 
the temple of the white priest they dis- 
persed, through the valley to the opposite 
hill, where the Shinto Temple, golden- 
tipped, beckoned them to the prayers they 
mechanically understood; a moment only 
in the temple, nodding heads and prostrat- 
ing bodies, and after that, home and the 
noon-day meal. Thus every day. Only 
on the Sunday, since the coming of the 
foreign priest, they had added to the routine 
this weekly pilgrimage of curiosity to the 
white man's temple. Strange indeed were 
the ways of the foreign devils! 
" Let us wait a little while," said a round- 
11 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
faced, merry-eyed maid of fifteen, grasping 
the sleeves of girl friends. 

Azalea was departing slowly when re- 
called by the raised voice of her friend. At 
a short distance from the other girls she 
paused and looked back inquiringly. 

" Wait till they come out," continued the 
speaker, Ume-san by name, "those beg- 
gars, and we will have some fun." 

" Oh, good !" agreed Koto, snapping her 
fan upon her hand ; " we will find out what 
the white beast says to them." 

"Perhaps," suggested Fuji, stretching 
herself she was fat and indolent and the 
church seat was hard" he pays them." 
12 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Azalea looked interested. 

" I wish," said she wistfully, " he would 
pay me something." 

"Perhaps he will," said Fuji, nodding 
her head slowly; "my honorable father 
says he is rich very rich." 

"And my honorable father says so, too," 
said Ume. 

"Oh, all foreign devils are," declared 
Koto conclusively. 

"Well, but Matsuda Isami says he is 
not," said Azalea. "And Matsuda knows 
surely." 

" Matsuda is jealous," said Koto. " He 
wants to be always the richest. The gods 
despise avarice." 

13 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Azalea was fluttering her fan somewhat 
nervously. She regarded it thoughtfully, 
then closed it sharply. 

"I am avaricious," she said, with the 
point of her fan touching her pretty red 
underlip. 

Her friends laughed at her, and she 
blushed. 

" Yes," she said, " I am avaricious. The 
gods will despise me truly. I adore money. 
I would like to have one hundred yen all 
to myself." 

"What would you do with it?" ques- 
tioned Ume, the oldest of the four. 

" I would leave my step-mother's house," 
said Azalea simply. 

14 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
"Here they come!" cried Koto. The 
girls fell into an excited little line by the 
church door, one behind the other. Out 
came the choir- their surplices doffed, their 
washed faces wide with smiles and their 
little eyes shining. Five sen rattled in the 
sleeve of each. The girls had drawn in 
hiding behind the church portico in order 
to surprise them. Now they sprang out 
into view, and grasped the boys by the 
sleeves. Thinking they were being set upon 
for their hard-earned sen, a series of angry 
shrieks and snorts burst out. Their fears 
set at rest by the merry laughter of the 
girls, they were finally induced to tell all 
they knew. The minister, it seems, had 
15 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

brought them to his house at various times, 
had fed them on sweet potatoes and rice 
cakes, and had taught them to sing just as 
he did. For this public effort in his temple, 
he had given them each well, they did not 
propose to tell any one how much he had 
given, but the intimation was that it was a 
sum sufficient to keep them in luxury for 
some time to come. Furthermore, they, the 
members of his choir, were to have this 
same sum given to them as a weekly in- 
come, for singing, just like the white priest, 
in his church, each Sunday. 

Azalea sighed and, sitting on the church 
steps, looked at the fortunate boys with 
envious and wistful eyes. 
16 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"And does not the white beast want 
females also to sing?" she asked. 

" Females ! " repeated one of the boys. 
"Did the gods ever favor females?" 

" The foreign devil is not a god," said 
Azalea thoughtfully. "Who knows, per- 
haps he would pay me also to sing with 
him." 

" Time to go home," said Koto, and she 
pulled Ume's sleeve. "Are you not hun- 
gry? Come, Azalea!" 

"She won't give me to eat, my most 
honorable mother-in-law," said Azalea. " I 
need not go there." 

"You will soon be a beggar, too, Aza- 
lea," laughed Koto, "and the white man 
17 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
will give you charity. But come, girls." 

Clinging to each other's hands and almost 
tripping over each other's heels, the three 
girls fluttered homeward down the hill, 
leaving Azalea sitting alone, looking mood- 
ily and reflectively at the choir boys, now 
counting their money. She knew that they, 
like her, were orphans. Unlike her, they 
had not an uncharitable roof, called by her 
ungracious step-parent a home for her. 
Shelter beneath it was only grudgingly 
accorded, because Azalea's step-mother was 
vain and feared the criticism of neighbors 
and the wrath of the gods should she turn 
Azalea out. As it was, the young girl was 
only half fed and her clothes were those 
18 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

half-worn ones thrown to her by arrogant 
and fortunate step-sisters, yet the girl's 
nimble fingers made those same threadbare 
garments objects of attractiveness, which 
set of! her own appealing beauty. But she 
was seventeen, unmarried and unhappy. 
Something must be done soon, or she would 
become the bride of the river. Her step- 
mother's scoldings grew with the girl's in- 
creasing beauty and grace. She did not 
know this was the cause, only she knew 
life was becoming unbearable. 

The choir boys had already shuffled a 
portion of the way down the hill slope, 
when she sprang to her feet and ran after 
them. 

19 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Gonji ! " she called one of th&m by 
name. "Wait just a moment." 

They stopped and she overtook them. 
She was breathless when she reached them. 

" Is it because you are beggars," she 
said, " that this priest favors you ? " 

Gonji nodded. 

" I," said Azalea, spreading out her little 
hands, " am also a beggar." 

They laughed at her. Only the home- 
less were beggars in their eyes. In addi- 
tion, members of her sex were received 
among them only when they had reached 
the old witch age. The country knew 
many old women beggars, who drifted, 
20 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

whining, upon their staffs from town to 
town. Often they were blind and clung 
to the rope about the neck of a tailless cat, 
which led them. Who ever heard of a 
maiden beggar? So Azalea's statement 
was received in laughter. 

"How much did the minister give?" 
she demanded, ignoring their jeers. 

Five ten maybe one hundred sen," 
glibly lied Gonji. 

Her eyes widened and shone. 

"Oh!" she said. 

"That's only for the singing," said 
Gonji; "if we become convert to his re- 
ligion he will pay more." 

He turned to his companions for verifl- 
21 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
cation. They had moved on their way and 
he made to join them. 

" No, no, don't go! Wait a little while, 
please ! " 
"Well?" 

What is ' convert ?'" 
"Why," the Japanese boy of sixteen 
racked his brain for an explanation of the 
word, "why, that's toah that's just 
abandoning the gods for a new one." 

"Oh!" His sleeve dropped from her 
grasp and she drew back, her face some- 
what blanched. 

"Abandon the gods!" she repeated. 
" But if we do that, then the gods will be 
angry with us." 

22 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" That is true," nodded Gonji reflectively. 
" It's bad business," he added. 

"Perhaps," she essayed almost timidly, 
" that new God is also kind and good." 

Gonji shook his head skeptically. 

" The priest at the temple says that he 
is really an evil spirit." 

The girl shuddered. She turned away 
from Gonji and he resumed his way down 
the hill. 

Azalea walked listlessly back to the mis- 
sion house. When she had reached it, she 
paused irresolute. A sudden idea had come 
to her. Why should she not pretend to be 
converted ? When the barbarian priest had 
paid her she would go to the shrine of 
23 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Kwannon and confess her lie. She would 
give half of the money to the gods, who 
would forgive her; she was hungry and ill- 
treated and she wished to leave the home of 
her step-mother, who was cruel to her. If 
money could be earned by a little lie, why 
should she not earn it? She would! She 
would ! 

The young minister closed and locked 
the door of the church. Turning on the 
threshold, he paused a moment before 
descending the little flight of steps, and 
looked about him at the smiling, sunny 
landscape. 

The bells of the neighboring temple were 
melodious, and he found himself absently 
24 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
listening to them. With his hands clasped 
behind, and his head somewhat bent, 
Richard Verley turned slowly toward his 
home. 

It was only the length of an iris field 
from the church, a pleasant saunter. The 
minister was wont to dream upon these 
walks dream of the future harvest which 
would repay his earnest labors. 

He had come quite close to his garden 
gate before he perceived the little figure 
waiting there. It was her voiceher odd, 
breathless voice, which called his attention 
to her though he heard the one word 
' convert ' spoken in English. The rest of 
her speech was unintelligible. 
25 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

She stood in the sunlight, her cheeks 
vividly red, her eyes wide with excitement 
and with fright. It was that fearful, piteous 
something about her whole attitude which 
from the first reached and appealed in- 
stantly to the sympathies of the minister. 

" You wish to speak to me? " he asked. 

" Yaes," she said, nodding her head, and 
then very swiftly, as though she had learned 
the words by rote " I am convert unto 
you, Excellency." 

"Convert!" His eyes kindled and he 
stared at her without speaking a moment. 
Her head drooped, as if from its own small 
weight. 

26 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Yaes," she said in the lowest, the faint- 
est of voices, " I am convert Chlistian ! " 

He seized both her hands, and held them 
warmly in his own. 

" Come into my house, my child," he 
said. " Let us talk it over." 

Her hands fluttered in his, then she 
suddenly withdrew them. They slipped 
back into her sleeves. She stood uncer- 
tainly before him, hesitating to pass through 
the gate he had opened for her. 

" Come ! " he urged gently. 



CHAPTER II. 

Even while the minister in the coolness 
of his study softly and gently questioned 
his faltering " convert," a wily and smooth- 
speaking Nakoda was visiting her step- 
mother. Madame Yamada, as the latter 
was called, knew the marriage broker well, 
and being the mother of two daughters by 
a marriage previous to that with Azalea's 
father, she welcomed him with more than 
usual cordiality. 

Would not the estimable Mr. Okido 
remove his shoes and eat the noon meal 
within her humble house ? 

The estimable Mr. Okido would. 
28 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Madame Yamada sent a scullery maid fly- 
ing to his feet, where, kneeling in the 
humblest attitude, she removed his dusty 
sandals. Then she brought fresh water 
with which to bathe his feet. 

Madame Yamada, who had not engaged 
the services of Okido, was curious to know 
the nature of his mission to her. She dis- 
guised her curiosity, however, under the 
blandest of manners. With swift acuteness 
she introduced her daughters into the room 
and had them serve the man, throughout 
the meal glancing under her eyelashes to 
watch the effect of her daughters' sundry 
charms upon the Nakoda, who she knew 
would not fail to dwell upon all such points 
29 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
with his employer. But strangely enough, 
Okido scarcely seemed to notice the pres- 
ence of her daughters, and ate his meal in 
somewhat stolid silence. After the repast 
he permitted the pipe to be lighted for him 
and proceeded to smoke at his leisure. 

Madame Yamada could contain her curi- 
osity no longer. At a sign from her, her 
daughters withdrew. Then she addressed 
the Nakoda. 

"In what way," she asked, "is the 
humblest one indebted to the esteemed 
Okido for his honorable visit ? " 

Okido put down the pipe on the hibachi 
and, turning toward Madame Yamada, 
looked at her keenly. 
30 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"You have daughters, Madame Yam- 
ada." 

" Two,'* she answered promptly. 

" Three," said Okido slowly. 

The esteemed one was mistaken. The 
gods had only blessed her with two. 

Nay, the gods had been kinder. Were 
there not three, including her step-daughter ? 

"Ah, yes." Madame Yamada smiled 
coldly. 

" Let me repeat," he said slowly. " You 
have daughters." 

"Yes;" she allowed the word to escape 
her lips impatiently. Would the stupid 
broker never come to his business? 

"And I," said Okido, "have a client 
31 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

who desires the hand of one of your 
daughters." 

A red spot appeared in either of Madame 
Yamada's cheeks. 

"What is the name of his honorable 
parent? " she asked, no longer attempting 
to conceal her interest. 

Okido leaned toward her impressively. 

" His name is Matsuda Isami." 

Madame Yamada's hands trembled. She 
scarcely could control her voice. 

What the " 

" Yes, the rich Matsuda Isami." 

The woman thrilled with maternal pride. 
Her bosom heaved. "And which of my 
32 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

daughters," she asked, "has pleased the 
taste of the exalted Matsuda? " 

Okido rubbed his hands softly. 

" That one," he said, " who is augustly 
named Azalea." 

Madame Yamada started to her feet with 
a cry. Then recalling herself she sat down 
again and for a space of a long moment 
did not stir. She regarded the Nakoda 

with baleful eyes. Suddenly she found 
her voice. 

" Excellent Okido," she said, "the hum- 

ble one cannot marry the youngest of her 

daughters first. Pray return to the exalted 

Matsuda and say from me that I am willing 

33 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
to consent to his marriage to my oldest 
daughter." 

" What! " cried the amazed Okido, " you 
refuse?" 

" Who spoke of refusing? " she asked in 
an agitated voice. 

" Your answer is a refusal, Madame." 

The woman was silent, her mind busily 
at work. 

"Listen, Okido," she finally said, "a 
promise was made by me to the august 
father, now dead, of the girl Azalea. He 
bade me promise him that Azalea should be 
given to no one in marriage save with her 
own consent. So! I withdraw the offer of 
my oldest daughter as bride to Matsuma, 
34 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
and instead say this: Bid the exalted one 
win first the consent of Azalea. He is then 
welcome to her." 

" Good ! " said Okido, arising and shak- 
ing the crumbs from his hakama. "We 
will make direct suit to the maiden." 

Madame Yamada had arisen also. " Yes, 
that is it," she said, " and for that purpose 
heed the advice of one experienced in such 
matters. Let His Excellency visit much 
the home of the humblest, and, in person, 
press the suit." 

Okido regarded her uneasily. "My 
business " he began. 

" Oh, excellent Okido," interrupted the 
woman, " I promise you that you will earn 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

your fee. Further, should the suit of your 
client fail should the girl be obstinate and 
refuse his proposal, bear in mind, good 
Okido, that a double fee will be in your 
palm if my oldest daughter finds favor in 
the eyes of Matsuda." 

Okido nodded his head slowly. He was 
thoughtful as the maid slipped on his san- 
dals. As he left the house he stopped at 
the threshold and looked back at Madame 
Yamada. Her colorless face was drawn 
into strange lines. Her long eyes were 
half closed. Upon her face there was cal- 
culation cold, cruel. She slowly repeated 
her words. Again nodding understanding, 
if not assent, the marriage broker went on 
36 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

his way pensively toward the house of 
Matsuda Isami. 



37 






CHAPTER III 

As Azalea walked homeward from the 
minister's house, she could still hear in 
dreamy fancy the eloquent tones of his 
voice. She found that though beyond his 
presence she still thrilled at the very mem- 
ory of his face. He had cast a spell upon 
her, she told herself. He was a disciple of 
the Evil One. She must go to the temple 
of Kwannon for help. Possibly the priests 
there would give her some talisman which 
would preserve her from any spell the 
barbarian might cast upon her. For though 
her ruse had failed and her sleeves were 
empty of yen, yet still she had promised 
38 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

the minister to visit him again the following 
day. Now she found herself wishing that 
the morrow would come speedily. 

Her step-mother met her at the door of 
the house. Her lips were drawn in a 
strange fashion apart and her long teeth 
showed. This was her manner of smiling. 
It was uglier and more sinister than a 
frown. Azalea quickened her steps, the 
color beating up into her face. When she 
saw that set smile upon Madame Yamada's 
face she stopped abruptly before the 
woman. But her step-mother spoke in the 
most amiable of tones: 

"You must be hungry, my daughter, 
since you have not had your noon meal." 
39 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

The girl raised her eyes inquiringly 
toward the woman. Then she answered 
simply: 

"Yes, mother-in-law, I am hungry." 

"Come into the kitchen, then, Azalea. 
The maid has kept your rice warm." 

Azalea was too much accustomed to the 
vicissitudes of fortune to wonder at the 
sudden generosity of the step-mother. She 
ate the rice and sipped the fragrant tea with 
mechanical relish. The meal was unex- 
pected, but non the less palatable to a 
hungry young girl. She suspected that her 
step-mother required something of her, but 
her mind, occupied with its late thoughts of 
the minister, had no room for speculation 
40 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

over the motives of her step-mother. She 
let Madame Yamada herself open the 
subject. 

"Daughter," said the woman, "would 
you enjoy a trip to Tokyo ? " 

Azalea looked up quickly; then she 
answered shortly: 

" No." 

Madame Yamada's eyes narrowed. She 
controlled her feelings, however. 

" What, Azalea ! You do not wish to go 
to Tokyo, where everything is so gay and 
bright and beautiful ? " 

Azalea rested her chin upon her hand and 
looked out from the kitchen shoji across 
the fields. She did not answer. 
41 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" You are becoming old," said the step- 
mother. "You will have to earn your 
living soon." 

Azalea did not move, but her step- 
mother knew she was listening to her 
words. 

" Here," she continued, " there is no way 
in which you could earn money, for you 
are of samurai descent and your august 
ancestors would not rest easily should you 
be reduced to manual labor." 

"Mother-in-law," said the girl quietly, 
" you would be ashamed before our neigh- 
bors if I were to obtain work here. My 
august ancestors would feel no shame." 

"What could you do here?" 
42 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Azalea looked at her small white hands 
thoughtfully. 

" I could work in the mills," she said, 
and added with a girlish sigh, " but it would 
maim my hands." 

"Yes, and also your back, your knees, 
and afterwards your spirit. Let the stout 
peasant women labor that way, Azalea. 
Such employment is not for one of gentle 
birth. You shall go to Tokyo." 

"What shall I do there? " inquired the 
girl. 

"You have beauty and youth," said 
Madame Yamada slowly. 

The girl moved uneasily and then catch- 
ing sight of the expression upon her 
43 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

mother's face, she made as if to arise; but 
the other held her by the sleeve. 

"Why do you start so?" she inquired 
gruffly. "Do you suppose I referred to 
the yoshiwara ? " 

"Yes," said Azalea, white to the lips. 
Her voice became passionate. " I will not 
go, then," she said. "You shall not sell 
me. I am the daughter of a samurai." 

" Foolish child ! Who spoke of selling 
you to the yoshiwara ? " 

"Ah, your eyes spoke, mother-in-law. 
Besides, what other employment could my 
youth and beauty find in Tokyo ? " 

"Are there not geishas and tea house 
44 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

girls, and is not their employment esteemed 
admirable?" 

"Yes, but I have not their accomplish- 
ments, and I am too old to learn how to 
dance. To be a geisha, I have heard, one 
must apprentice at the age of twelve. I 
am eighteen years. Yes, I am getting old," 
she finished. 

Madame Yamada, who sat behind her, 
looked at her with eyes that held no mercy. 
In some manner the girl must be sent away. 
Matsuda should then be told that she pre- 
ferred the life of gayety in Tokyo to mar- 
riage with him. After that, Yuri-san, the 
oldest daughter, would console and win 
him. Azalea had always appeared passive 
45 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

and obedient by nature. This sudden im- 
pulse of stubbornness was as unexpected 
as it was disturbing to her step-mother. 
What if this slim young girl, with her child- 
ish face of innocence, should develop the 
strong will of her samurai parent ? Madame 
Yamada smiled unpleasantly at the pros- 
pect, and her smile boded no good for the 
young girl. 

Meanwhile Azalea continued to look out 
dreamily through the opened shoji towarcj 
the hill, upon whose slope stood the little 
peaked mission house. The words of the 
minister kept repeating themselves in her 
head. 

"There is only one true God. He it 
46 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

was who created the world and you. He 
loves you, and will watch over and care 
for you always." 

Ah, if it were only true, thought Azalea. 
If this new God would only be kinder than 
those she had known, then she might even 
close the eyes of her heart to the words of 
the priests of Kwannon, and forget they 
had told her the God of the barbarians was 
an evil spirit. She would prove Him. If 
He proved unkind to her she would believe 
it, but if it were otherwise, why how could 
the evil one be kind ? It was not possible. 

"Answer when you are spoken to," 
broke in her step-mother's sharp voice. 

Azalea started. 

47 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"I did not hear you speak, honorable 
step-mother." 

"Your ears are accommodatingly dull. 
You did not care to hear." 

Azalea sighed, then pressed her lips to- 
gether, as if to prevent the retort that might 
have escaped them. 

Madame Yamada bent toward her. 

"Do you wish to marry?" 

Azalea reflected. 

" No-o," she said softly, and then, "per- 
haps, yes. It would be a solution of my 
troubles, step-mother, would it not? " 

" Would you marry any one who asked. 
you, then? You appear to lack the com- 
mon qualities of maiden modesty." 
48 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" I did not say I would marry any one," 
said the girl, flushing, " but almost anyone 
would be kinder than you." 

They were daring words, and she antici- 
pated their effect upon her step-mother, for, 
after having spoken them she made a 
frightened motion from the older woman, 
who had seized her arm and was cruelly 
pinching it. Tears of pain came into the 
girl's eyes, but she made no outcry. Sud- 
denly Madame Yamada flung the girl's arm 
from her. 

"Did my touch hurt, then?" she in- 
quired. 

" Yes," said Azalea briefly, her arm still 
sore, though released. 
49 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Yet," said her step-mother, " the pain 
inflicted by a woman, who is weak, is 
nothing to that inflicted by a man. What 
will you do when your husband beats you ?" 

" I do not know," said Azalea mechanic- 
ally, and then added slowly, " but I should 
not weep, mother-in-law. I would not give 
him that pleasure. But " she paused; 
"all husbands do not beat their wives. 
Perhaps the gods will favor me with a kind 
one. I should not marry him otherwise." 

"How will you test his kindness? " asked 
her mother scornfully. 

" I will know," she answered. " I will 
see him and love him before I marry him." 

She arose and fluttered her sleeves back 
50 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
and forth. Her arm was in pain. She 
moved it thus mechanically as a nervous 
method of relief, but Madame Yamada had 
seen the figure coming along the white road 
toward their house, and she leaped to her 
feet like a savage. 

" What ! " she cried. " You stand shame- 
lessly in the open doorway shaking your 
arms in unmaidenly fashion because a man 
approaches." 

"I did not even see him," said Azalea, 
shrinking before the anger of her step- 
mother's expression, "and, mother-in-law, 
see for yourself. The man is Matsuda 
Isami. Is it likely I would fling my sleeves 
at him?" 

51 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
"At him most of all," said her step- 
mother hoarsely. " Do not deny it, shame- 
less girl!" 

Before Azalea could recover from the 
surprise occasioned by these words, Madame 
Yamada, with one black look cast back at 
her, had left the kitchen, and was hastening 
to the front part of the house, there to 
prostrate herself with slavish sweetness and 
politeness before the exalted Matsuda 
Isami. 



CHAPTER IV 

Matsuda Isami was a small, sharp-eyed 
man of possibly forty. He was rich and 
powerful, the landlord of many of the 
families in Sanyo. The people feared him, 
while they respected his employment of 
hundreds of coolies, and it was said his 
parsimony had made him rich and kept the 
whole community poor. In some way, 
direct or indirect, nearly everyone in the 
community was in his service or debt. He 
was the magnate of the town, and accord- 
ingly hated, feared, dreaded. He had come 
on foot to the humble home of Madame 
Yamada, he, the taciturn, cold-hearted head 
53 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
man of the town, and all because Azalea, 
walking in the sun, in a kimona, patched, 
faded, but pretty, had turned her head 
toward him quite recently and smiled with 
childish impudence. Few people smiled 
upon Matsuda. This shabby daughter of 
a samurai who in the early days had made 
no secret of his lordly contempt for the 
rich tradesman had captivated Matsuda by 
one fleeting, innocent smile. Matsuda de- 
sired her now above all things, and swore 
by all the gods that he would have her. 

Wealth and power, after all, were not 

sufficient to gratify the insatiable greed of 

his nature. He was desirous of something 

more priceless, and for which he would 

54 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

have given up all Ms possessions this 
beautiful young girl, Azalea. 

With impatience he listened to Madame 
Yamada's servile words of compliment and 
welcome. Hardly had he seated himself 
and with a gesture refused the proffered 
pipe, when he spoke of the object of his 
visit. 

In accordance with her suggestion con- 
veyed to him through the Nakoda, he had 
come in person to make his suit to her 
daughter. He desired to see her at once. 

The prevaricating words of temporizing 
that came to Madame Yamada's lips were 
not even listened to by him. 

Her daughter not at home? Very well, 
55 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

he would go, then, at once. Thereupon 
he arose. Madame Yamada bit her lip 
until the blood came. Then she clapped 
her hands and bade the maid who answered 
tell the eldest daughter of the house to 
hasten at once to assist the most exalted 
Matsuda with his clogs. The latter, how- 
ever, kicked his feet into his own sandals. 
When the maiden appeared, he went shuf- 
fling in them toward the door, returning 
only a curt nod to her deep and graceful 
obeisance. Madame Yamada, clasping her 
hands in despair, followed him to the door. 

Would not His Excellency wait a little 
while? 

No, His Excellency would not that is to 
56 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

say yes, His Excellency would; for just 
at that moment His Excellency, casting a 
keen glance about him, saw a little figure 
sitting on the door-step in the garden to 
the rear of the house. 

"Your daughter, I perceive," he said, 
indicating Azalea, "has returned." 

The angry blood buzzed in Madame 
.Yamada's ears, but she answered calmly 
enough : 

" Why, yes, it is true, Excellency." Then 
raising her voice, she called to the girl: 
"Azalea!" 

Matsuda, returning to the interior of the 
house, seated himself in the guest room, 
lighted his pipe and drew a long whiff. 
57 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Then he looked at Azalea sitting before him 
pensively. His little keen eyes going from 
her to her step-mother and catching the 
glance of baffled fury bestowed by Madame 
Yamada upon her daughter Yuri, he allowed 
a sound which was oddly like a chuckle to 
escape him. Then he put the pipe down 
and again regarded the maiden Azalea. He 
said: 

" It is the wish of your step-mother that 
I address you personally." 

She looked at him with eyes of inquiry. 
What had Matsuda Isami to say to her? 
She did not dream that a man as old as 
her father, and one who was so exalted in 
public opinion, would deign to propose 
58 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

marriage with her, so insignificant and 
humble. 

" I wish to marry you," said Matsuda 
bluntly. 

Her lips parted and her eyes enlarged. 

" Me? " she said faintly, and repeated the 
little word. "Me?" 

"Yes," he smiled. "Marry you, Aza- 
lea." 

The color came in a frightened ebb to 
her face. She looked at her mother and 
sister fearfully. Their faces were abso- 
lutely cold and impassive. In a flash she 
understood her step-mother's attitude of a 
moment since. It was all clearer than 
daylight. Azalea arose and bowed extrava- 
59 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
gantly down to the very mats. Then, with 
her head almost at Matsuda's feet, she said : 

"The humblest one is altogether too 
insignificant and small to become the wife 
of so exalted a personage." 

The words pleased Matsuda. Plainly 
this girl would make a most excellent and 
humble wife. He bent graciously and 
touched her head, patting it. She slippe4 
under his hand to her knees, and then to a 
sitting position. But her head was still 
bent far over, and if the suitor could have 
seen that dimpling face, its expression 
would have perplexed him. 

He seated himself opposite to her. 

" The marriage," he said, "can be speed- 
60 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

ily arranged. I do not like delays in any 
of my affairs." 

Madame Yamada interposed, desperately : 

" Time will be needed to make her mar- 
riage garments, to call together her august 
relatives, for maidenly meditation, and for 
preparation for the marriage feast." 

" We can dispense with all these things," 
said Matsuda suavely. 

"Too early a marriage would be un- 
seemly," said Madame Yamada. 
' "Madame Yamada exaggerates public 
opinion," was Matsuda's response. 

The woman's voice was barely controlled 
in its harshness. 

"You, Azalea, what have you to say?" 
61 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Azalea opened her fan and looked at it 
thoughtfully, almost as though in the 
painted pictures upon it she found an 
answer. Suddenly she raised her head. 

" I do not wish to marry," she said, and 
added as an afterword : " yet." 

At that moment her step-mother could 
have embraced her. 

Matsuda cleared his throat. 

" When, then, will it suit you? " he asked 
respectfully. 

The girl's eyes were still upon her fan, 
and without raising them she replied with 
a slight shrug of her small, bewitching 
shoulders : 

"I do not know when. Maybe in one 
62 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
year; maybe in ten. I do not wish to 
marry yet." 

Matsuda arose. 

"For one year," he said, "or for ten 
years, or as long as your caprice may make 
it, I will wait for you." 

Azalea's fan fluttered closed. She bowed 
her head upon it. 

" Excellency is very faithful." 

" Once," said Matsuda, looking at her 
with half closed eyes, " your august samu- 
rai father deigned to call me ' Dog.' You 
will learn, maiden, that I shall prove my 
title to 'Dog' by my watchfulness and 
faithfulness. I have sworn to possess you, 
and possess you I will." 
63 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

The moment he was gone Azalea turned 
toward her step-mother, upon whose coun- 
tenance a look of sweetest benevolence 
toward her step-daughter was slowly ap- 
pearing. 

" Mother-in-law," said the girl, " you 
need not fear that I will marry him. No, 
my father spoke true words. He is a dog. 
He has only the instincts of a tradesman, 
and as such he comes here to buy the 
daughter of a samurai." 

" Your words are wise, Azalea," said the 
step-mother, "and you win my maternal 
affection. Matsuda is not the fit husband 
for a warrior's daughter. Yet, Azalea, bear 
in mind that Yuri, your sister, had for 
64 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

father one less elevated than a samurai 
one, indeed, who was a mere tradesman. 
She is well fitted to be the wife of Matsuda 
Isami. Therefore, you can help or hinder 
this our ambition." 

" I will neither help nor hinder," said 
Azalea, crossing the room, and looking 
through the shoji. " Mother-in-law, I have 
no interest in the matter," she added. 

Madame Yamada was behind her and had 

touched her arm, the arm she had lately 
i 

pinched so viciously. 

" Promise to be steadfast in your refusal 
of Matsuda. Promise that, Azalea, and you 
will find that harshness is an unknown 
quality in this household." 
65 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
" Oh, I will promise that, easily," said 
Azalea. " I will not even look at or speak 
to the man. Other things now occupy my 
insignificant head." 



CHAPTER V 

It was in the springtime, when the little 
leaves upon the trees were of the most 
entrancing shade of green and the wild plum 
and cherry blossoms blew in clouds of pink 
and white, making an impressionistic pic- 
ture against the deep blue sky so lovely and 
entrancing that even such a serious-minded, 
earnest worker as the Rev. Richard Verley 
became unconscious of the sermon he had 
been writing and smiled out at the land- 
scape. 

Nature oftentimes, from her very beauty, 
distracts one from the work of composition, 
though one would call her lovingly an 
67 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

inspiration. How could the young mis- 
sionary continue the writing of his sermon, 
when the alluring breezes of the spring 
softly slipped into his room and insistently 
drew the pencil from his hand. And so he 
sat there smiling at his desk and dreaming. 
He was not conscious of his dreams. He 
only knew the world seemed very good and 
fair. His pen trailed over the paper for a 
space, then paused, to continue again. Idly^ 
and unconsciously, he had covered a sheet 
of foolscap. 

The slight noise of the opening of his, 

sliding doors caused him to come to life 

with a guilty start. His usually pale face 

was flooded with color, as for the first time 

68 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

he saw what he had written on the page. 
He turned it over quickly, though he did not 
lay this last sheet among the previous pages 
of his sermon. 

A face of prodigious fatness was thrust 
between the shoji. 

" What is it, Natsu? " asked the minister 
in Japanese. 

"The girl Azalea," she answered. "I 
have told her Your Excellency is most busy, 
but she still stays." 

" That is right," he said quietly. " I am 
expecting her." 

The servant pursed her lips and her 
round cheeks expanded till her little eyes 
69 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

were almost hidden. She muttered dis- 
contentedly: "Again, Excellency?" 

" Yes," he said, " again. What are you 
waiting for? " 

She shuffled unwillingly from the room, 
drawing the doors behind her. Suddenly 
she opened them again. 

" Excellency," she said, " she is not truly 
convert no! That is a lie! " 

He smiled. The maid's jealousy of all 
his parishioners gave him amusement. She 
was envious even of their possible con- 
version. 

" That will do, Natsu," he said. ' " Don't 
keep our visitor waiting." 
70 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

The woman muttered ill-temperedly as 
she passed along the hall. 

The minister waited in pleasing antici- 
pation. He had not expected her at this 
hour. She came usually in the afternoon. 
He remembered with what fearful shyness 
she had first entered his house, and the 
tremulous, almost breathless, fashion in 
which she had replied to his questions. He 
was of a hopeful, sanguine disposition. 
Though he knew that his small congrega- 
tion consisted of those induced by sen to 
come to church, those who came from 
curiosity and others still young boys and 
girls from mischief solely, still he believed 
that his labor would bear eventual fruit, and 
71 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
lo, at last a convert ! She was very young, 
somewhat fragile and in her own strange 
fashion lovely. From the first he had 
likened her to a timid wild bird. Even after 
she had entered his house, she had turned 
backward as though to retreat; then as his 
deep serious eyes met hers she spoke as if 
urged by some impulse, and repeated her 
faltering words in English. 

" Minister, I am convert unto you ! " 
At first her visits had been irregular and 
spasmodic. She would come as far as the 
hill, then turn back. Again, her courage 
emboldened, she would reach his garden 
gate, there to linger but a moment, the 
antagonistic face of the minister's servant 
72 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

affrighting her. But in the absence of the 
maid, Azalea would daringly pass beyond 
the gate. A few moments later the minis- 
ter would meet her in the path and lead her 
into his house. 

The minister hearing the light glide of 
her little feet now outside the doors, has- 
tened to slide back the shoji. 

She stood upon the threshold, her eyes 
widened, her cheeks glowing with the trem- 
ulous excitement that always assailed her 
upon the occasion of these visits. He held 
out his large hand in silence, and she, the 
color fluttering wildly now over her face, 
slowly and timidly lifted her little one from 
the folds of her sleeve and put it into his. 
73 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He drew her towards his desk. Still hold- 
ing her hand, he seated himself and looked 
up at her, without speaking, but smiling 
very tenderly. Her eyes turned from his 
and her lips trembled. She tried to with- 
draw her hand, but he held it firmly and 
then suddenly enclosed it completely with 
his other hand. Fright assailed the girl. 
She slipped to the floor, her head dropping 
on a level with his knees. Then Richard 
Verley bent and spoke to her in his strangely 
tender voice, which somehow always 
seemed to penetrate and still her beating 
little heart. 

" Azalea! " He spoke her name so softly. 
"Lift your face, my little girl," he said. 
74 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
" I want to see it, while I tell you some- 
thing." 

She obeyed him like a child, but the eyes 
that met his were mutely appealing. 

" What do you think I am going to say 
to you to-day ? " he asked, smiling a trifle. 

"About those honorable command- 
ments?" 

He shook his head. 

" No you already have learned them 
well, have you not ? " 

"Yes. You like hear me say them, 
mebbe?" 

"Not to-day. I wish to speak to you 
about another matter." 

She looked at him apprehensively. 
75 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Oh," she said, " mebbe your august 
God tell you I also visit at the temple that 
other day?" 

He looked a trifle startled. 

"What temple what do you mean?" 

"You God sees all things?" 

" All things," he said solemnly. 

Her eyes expressed momentary fright. 
She drew her hands forcibly from his and 
sat backward a little way from him, her 
head bent. 

"Then," she said, "you already know 
about about my my lie ? " 

"Lie?" 

He leaned forward in his chair. 

"Yaes yaes your God told you." 
76 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Tell me what you mean." 

The face she raised was pitiful. 

" Excellency, that was velly wicked lie I 
tell you wen I say I am convert unto you." 

He stared at her blankly. She could not 
bear the expression on his face and pushed 
herself nearer to him on her knees. Her 
hands fluttered above and then timidly 
touched his. 

" Excellency, I sawry sawry " There 
was a sob in her voice now, and her eyes 
were misty. "Pray you be like unto the 
gods and forgive that lie." 

He stood up mechanically, then sat down 
again, turning in his seat toward the desk 
and resting his clasped hands there. She, 
77 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
from her kneeling posture, reached up to 
touch his arm. 

" Pray " she began and broke off, as 
though she could not finish. He turned 
his head and looked at her curiously. Still 
he did not speak. 

" Listen," she continued in her low, 
almost sighing, voice, which he no longer 
wished to hear. " I tell you only one lie 
one liddle bit lie. Thas not velly much. 
Also I beseech the gods to pardon that lie 
and I beseech also your mos' kind God 
pardon me." She broke off distressfully 
" Excellency, will you not hear me ? " 

" I am listening," he said heavily. 

" Your voice so hard," she said. 
78 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

His eyes were still stern. He spoke 
mechanically. 

" I was going to say something some- 
thing personal to you to-day. You have 
shocked me. That is all. But I want to 
hear what you have to say. There may 
be extenuating well, tell me how it came 
about that you pretended conversion." 

" I wanted moaney," she said. 

She saw his hands clinch and shrank 
before the look upon his face. She shook 
her head uncertainly. 

" For money ! " he repeated. 

"Yaes, I needed some velly much. 
Gonji say you pay big moaney to convert, 
and so and so I became convert." 
79 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

The minister closed his eyes, then cov- 
ered them spasmodically with his hand. 
Sitting back in his seat he remained with 
his face thus half shielded while she 
spoke on. 

" But," she said, " you din not give me 
moaney; no, not even one half sen." She 
laughed a little, almost joyously. 

"Ah, I am so glad you din nod give," 
she said. "I doan want that moaney. 
After that first day my honorable step- 
mother doan be unkind no more. Also 
she give me plenty to eat, an' new dress, 
also Matsuda Isami ask me marry wis him 
evelly day in those weeks." 

The minister uncovered his eyes and 
80 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

looked at her. The expression of his face 
must have been less forbidding, for she 
moved confidently nearer to him. 

" What do you think now? " she asked. 

His voice was husky. 

" You spoke of marrying some one." 

She shook her head. 

" No. Some one want marry wiz me. 
I doan desire. But sinz he want, my 
honorable mother-in-law is mos' kind unto 
me, and I doan starve no more. There- 
fore I doan wan no moaney be convert 
now." 

" Ah, why do you keep up the pretense, 
then?" 

" Pretense? " She could not understand 
81 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
the word, as her English vocabulary was 
limited to words acquired from the minis- 
ter's predecessor, a woman missionary. 

"Why do you still pretend to be a 
Christian ? Why do you continue to come 
here if it is no longer necessary for you 
to obtain money? " 

"Because," said Azalea, smiling up at 
him, " I want do so. Also, I kinnod stay 
away. My august feet bringing me back 
all those times." 

He sighed. Her face with its quickly 
changing expressions became wistful. 

" Excellency, I am glad thad honorable 
God telling you thad about those moaneys. 
Perhaps he also tell you that I want be 
82 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

convert an' doan' want no moaney." 

He wavered toward her a moment, and 
then turned his eyes from her. He had 
been beguiled too long. 

"Mebbe your God doan 1 desire me? 
mebbe," she said. 

He did not answer. To recall him to 
her she touched his knee. His voice was 
hoarse. 

" Salvation is free to all," he said dully. 

She laughed almost joyfully. 

"I make nudder confession," she said 
eagerly. "Sometimes I 'fraid of your 
God. The priest tell me he is evil spirit 
and I getting skeered. Well, wen I come 
unto your house I know that your God 
83 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

gitting hold of my heart, for it beating so 
hard, I doan know wha's matter wis me. I 
doan know whether I lidder bit skeered of 
your honorable God, or or of you 
augustness. So that other day wen you 
take my hand this away." She tried to 
illustrate, but found him unresponsive, 
her voice toiled forlornly. " I so 'fraid of 
tha's influence of your God. I run so 
,$uick from your house I kinnod see, and 
ihen I came to thad temple and prostrate 
myself before Kwannon and beseech her 
save me from all those powers of evil spirit. 
Then I go home, and I know I jusd silly, 
foolish girl. Thad God you tell me 'bout 
Is not evil spirit. No no! You say nod, 
84 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

an' I jus* foolish, skeered, because, mebbe 
jus* because I am thad happy." 

" Happy ! Why were you happy ? " 

He could not resist the expression of her 
eyes and almost unconsciously allowed her 
hands to slip back into his. 

"Because you so kind unto me," she 
said ; " you touching my hand this way 
so warm so nize ! Tha's why I coon nod 
speag. Tha's stop my heart." 

" I love you ! " he said, the words escap- 
ing his lips almost without his volition. 
" I cannot help it. That was what I wanted 
to say to you to-day." 

She clung to his hands. Her lips parted 
The color was wild in her face. 
85 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"Oh," she said, "you love me! Tha's 
a most beautifulest thought, Excellency. 
Mebbe also your God love me jus' me 
also?" 

He drew her into his arms and held her 
there a moment. He forgot everything else 
as he kissed her willing, questioning face 
and little hands. Then after an interval : 

"What does it matter what does any- 
thing matter now ? " he said. " I love you. 
I know that you love me. Your eyes do 
not lie." 

When he released her, her hands fell 
limply on his knees. 

" No one," she said breathlessly, her eyes 
shining, " aever clasping me like thad." 
86 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He laughed as joyously as she could. 
With his arm about her, as she knelt before 
him, he showed her the sheet of paper 
covered with his writing of her name. 

"That," he said, almost boyishly, "is 
how the Rev. Richard Verley wrote his ser- 
mon to-day ' Azalea, Azalea, Azalea, 
Azalea nothing but Azalea.' " 

"Tha's me! I am Azalea!" she said. 
" Oh, tha's so nize be your convert." 

He laughed, then sighed. 

"You will be that in time, I promise," 
he said, " and meanwhile, well, meanwhile, 
we will be married." 

She looked up at him with frightened 
eyes. 

87 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"Married! You also marry me?" she 
asked. 

" Why, yes, of course. We will make 
a little trip to a town where there's another 
minister, or possibly I can have the cere- 
mony here." 

" Oh ! Pray you doan make other con- 
verts. Please doan." 

"Why?" 

" Because perhaps you also marry them 
yaes?" 

He laughed again and kissed the tip of 
her little pointed chin. There was a be- 
witching dimple in it, and he had always 
desired to kiss it. 

"When you are my wife, you will, in 
88 




" ' This is the American way,' he said, boyishly, and 
stooping, kissed her." 

(Page 90) 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

time, become my helper. You, too, will 
make converts." 

"You gotter git consent my honorable 
mother-in-law," she interrupted. 

His face fell. 

"Also," she said, "I gotter git those 
marriage garments, and you must buy me 
lots presents." 

"No, I'll marry you in the gown you 
have on." 

"This!" She touched it in dismay. 
" Why thad would be disgrace upon me." 

" Very well, you shall be disgraced then. 
Now come we'll go to your step-mother 
right away. There's no time to be lost." 

She hesitated as they reached the door. 
89 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Wait," she said. He paused with the 
sliding door half open. 

"You bedder not come also. Let me 
speag to her alone. Tha's bedder. If she 
doan consent, then I skeer her and say I 
marry wiz Matsuda. She doan wish that. 
She desire him for Yuri." 

" Oh, I see." 

"Ah-bah!" (Good-bye!) she said, pass- 
ing through the opening. He drew hef 
back. 

* " Is that the way to say ' good-bye ' ? " 
he asked reproachfully. 

She was puzzled. 

"This is the American way," he said 
boyishly, and stooping, kissed her. 
90 



CHAPTER VI 

She ran all the way home. She wanted 
her stepmother's consent as quickly as 
possible, so that she might hasten back to 
the minister. 

Her breathless words astounded Madame 
Yamada. 

" That barbarous, beautiful priest wishes 
to marry me," she announced in one 
breath. 

Madame Yamada's lips fell apart. 

"What do you mean?" she inquired 
roughly. 

"That's right right!" cried the girl, 
91 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
clasping her hands excitedly. " Oh, i am 
the happiest girl in all Japan ! " 

Her step-mother extended a long finger 
and struck it at the girl's breast. 

"What! The foreign devil wants to 
marry you ? " 

Madame Yamada was excited, agitated, 
above all delighted. The gods were favor- 
ing her. Here was a solution to all their 
difficulties. 

" Breathe not a word to anyone of this, 
my daughter," she said, " but hasten back 
with the speed of wings to the house of the 
barbarian. Bring him here, and we will 
go at once to the next town and have a 
92 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

private ceremony there. The Nakoda 
Okido must not suspect." 

Azalea swung her sleeves coquettishly. 

" Oh," she said airily, " we will not make 
Japanese marriage, step-mother." She 
clasped her hands behind her and raised 
her head with childish dignity and pride. 

" I am to be an American lady. There- 
fore we will marry in American fashion." 

" How is that ? " asked Madame Yamada, 
mystified. 

" Oh, you don't understand," said Azalea 
pityingly, "but I do. He told me once 
how they marry. Just pray, bend head 
like this, and knees like this, hold hands 
tight so, mother-in-law; and then the 
93 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

priest prays on top of the heads and the 
bride is given a ring big and shining 
very fine. That's the way they marry." 

"They do not exchange the marriage 
cup ? " questioned her mother, horrified. 

" No there are no marriage cups. Also 
to marry that foreign way, I have got to 
be Kirishitan. 

" Ah-h ! I see. You will turn convert ? " 

" I am already. I wish already to be 
so," said the girl simply. 

An idea flashed swiftly across the mind 
of Madame Yamada a brilliant idea. 

"Good!" she said. "It is well for a 
maiden to be of the same religion as the 
man she marries. But do not let it be 
94 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

known till the ceremony is over. Then 
throw away your ancestral tablets. You 
will have no further use for them." 

Azalea paled a trifle. She was not ignor- 
ant of the effect of such an action. One 
who renounces the tablets of his ancestor 
she knew is in popular opinion forever 
lowered. One might attend the church 
meetings of the Kirishitans, one might even 
affiliate with the foreigners; but it is only 
when one has openly declared oneself for 
the new religion and, in defiance of the old, 
destroyed the sacred symbols, the ancestral 
tablets, that one becomes an outcast. Yet 
it was necessary, surely. It was not pos- 
sible without hypocrisy to acknowledge the 
95 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

new God, and still in secret cherish the 
tablets of the old. 

Well, what were the tablets to her now? 

Her husband's love, the new God's 
strength, would stand between her and 
shield her from her enemies. Azalea 
smiled bravely at her step-mother. 

*<Yes," she said, "if my honorable hus- 
band requires it, I will throw away the 
tablets." 

They were married in the little mission 
church on the hill. An old and venerable 
missionary officiated. 

The church was quite crowded, for 
Madame Yamada had spread the news about 
the town, in anticipation of its effect upon 
96 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

the community. She herself wept unceas- 
ingly throughout the ceremony, never once 
uncovering her shamed face buried in the 
sleeve of her kimona. Truly, thought her 
neighbors, the good Madame Yamada was 
distressed by this action of her step- 
daughter. 

When, after it was all over, Azalea's 
friends turned their heads from her or 
looked askance at her, the girl simply lifted 
her eyes to her husband. The look of wist- 
ful apprehension that a moment before had 
clouded them vanished. Her face became 
radiant. She clung to his sleeve like a child, 
proudly, gaily. But when, after proceed- 
ing a few steps in the direction of her new 
97 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

home, she realized that they were being 
followed, a feeling of recklessness and 
defiance assailed her. She stopped sud- 
denly and dipped her hand down into the 
long sleeve of her marriage gown. She 
hardly looked at what she had drawn out, 
but raising her hand suddenly she threw 
the tablets in the direction of the little 
river in the valley below. The noise of 
their fall upon the rocks frightened her. 
She covered her ears with her hands and 
stood trembling in the sunny light. Then 
she became conscious of the fact that those 
who had followed her had suddenly, and it 
seemed, silently, disappeared. She stood 
alone with the man, her husband. For a 
98 




"She threw the tablets in the direction of the little 
river in the valley below." 

(Page 98) 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
moment he seemed a stranger. That 
momentary blind impulse, she knew, cut 
her off forever from her kind. Publicly 
she had insulted her ancestors. She had 
chosen between them and this tall white 
stranger whom she scarcely dared to look 
at now. The silent departure of those who 
had followed her told more eloquently than 
any outcry could have done the resentment 
of her people. 

Azalea looked about her dazedly. Sup- 
pose, after all, her friends spoke truly? 
Suppose this new God was in reality an 
evil spirit? Had she not felt its subtle 
influence upon her? When in memory 
could she recall the time that her whole 
99 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
being had thrilled and glowed with emo- 
tions and feelings so strange and new to 
her? Was it not the influence of this spirit 
which had forced her to throw away the 
tablets had forced her to marry one of 
its priests? 

Her husband stood looking at her ten- 
derly, yearningly. He was thinking of her 
future, and of the trusting soul that had 
come to his keeping. 

" Well, they are all gone now," he said, 
" and what was that you threw away ? " 

She shook her head piteously. He 

waited for her answer, and marvelled that 

she, who had gone through the marriage 

ceremony in such a brave and happy spirit, 

100 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
w'as now so white and trembling. Surely, 
she had not begun to fear him ? Poor little 
frightened bride! 

" I din nod mean to throw it away," she 
said brokenly. " I coon nod help me." 

" Oh, you are trembling about what you 
threw away? Well, let me go after it. 
Such a little mite of a hand cannot fling 
very far." 

"No, no," she said, catching at his 
sleeve, " do not touch it. The gods may 
punish you also." 

He enclosed her hands in his, and looked 
at her very seriously. 

" You must not talk of ' the gods/ my 
101 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
wife. It sounds pagan, and I am going to 
cure you of the habit." 

"Yes, yes," she said, and now she was 
almost sobbing; "pray you do so, ple-ase. 
I am most ignorant girl in all the whole 
woiT. I like know about those gods. 
Pray tell me truth, will you not ? " 

He could not understand the meaning of 
her beseeching voice. How could he sup- 
pose that she still dreaded the thought that 
he was a priest of a possible evil spirit? 
She wanted to be reassured. He only saw 
that she was very white and trembling, now 
that the ceremony was over, a-nd he dimly 
realized that in marrying him she had 
sacrificed much. 

102 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" When you look and speak like that," 
he said, " I feel as if I had done some brutal 
act. Come, be my happy, joyful sweet- 
heart again. Why, marriage is not a 
tragedy; not when there is love. Now,, 
let us look about us just a moment, and 
then we will go home to our own home 
together. Just see how sunny and beauti- 
ful everything is hare. Was ever a sky 
more lovely? And the fields! What color 
can we call them ? " 

His arm was about her and she had 
recovered somewhat of her confidence. 

"It is a purple world," she said, "all 
purple and green to-day, Excellency." 

"Why, yes, it does seem so," he said. 
103 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" The skies are more purple than blue, and 
their very reflection seems to rest upon 
the fields to-day. Just look down there 
in the valley." 

" It is the purple iris and wistaria," she 
said. " I so love them, Do they grow 
like that in America ? " 

" No, unfortunately." 

"And are not the skies purple there?" 
she asked. 

" No-o. That is, not often." 

"Oh," she said, with a sudden, unex- 
pected vehemence, " I never want to go to 
that America. I love these fields so purple 
and so green and those skies! Excellency, 
you will not take me away, will you? " 
104 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He was touched to the heart of him. 
" No, no," he said. " I will not. I will 
not." 



105 



CHAPTER VII 

Azalea had been married during a brief 
absence of Matsuda Isami in Tokyo. He 
had gone there especially at Madame 
Yamada's suggestion, to purchase city gifts 
with which to help him in his suit. The 
townspeople had never been on sufficiently 
familiar terms with Matsuda to talk with 
him even upon his return from an absence. 
Hence he learned nothing of the marriage 
until Madame Yamada herself broke the 
news to him. She appeared to be suffering 
from intense mortification and anguish of 
mind because of what she termed the un- 
natural defiance of her step-daughter, who 
106 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

had married a barbarian beast against all 
the wishes of her people. As if this shame 
were not sufficient, she had turned 
Kirishitan and destroyed the tablets of her 
ancestors. Madame Yamada daclared ve- 
hemently that though she, from motives of 
pity, must sometimes see the abandoned 
girl, yet she never would allow her pure 
and virtuous daughters to be contaminated 
with her society. 

The woman had not foreseen the real 
effects of such news upon Matsuda. For 
a moment he stood as if turned to stone. 
Then his long white teeth gleamed out 
between his thick, coarse lips like the tusks 
of a savage animal. In his eyes there was 
107 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
unchained rage. Suddenly he laughed 
hideously. That laughter alone would 
have unstrung the nerves of one less cow- 
ardly than Madame Yamada. She pros- 
trated herself to the very ground and 
touched his feet with her head. 

" Most Exalted," she said, " the humble 
one craves your august pardon and abjectly 
beseeches you to perceive her distress. 
That this wretched girl has abandoned you 
for a vile and horrible barbarian is not the 
fault of the humblest one, who sought with 
all her power to bring about her union 
with you." 

There was an odd quality in the respond- 
ing voice of Matsuda. 
108 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Who spoke of fault ? " said he. " Has 
my mouth uttered blame upon you, 
Madame Yamada ? " 

Her courage returned and she arose. 

" I should have known," she said, " that 
Your Excellency is too noble to have 
blamed the unfortunate. And now that 
you have deigned to pardon me, will you 
not permit my daughters to wait upon 
you?" 

The gray face of Matsuda had resumed 
its impassive expression, but his eyes were 
almost closed. He refused Madame Yam- 
ada's invitation with a gesture and without 
words. When she did not attempt to press 
him, he moved toward the door. 
109 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" What was the effect of this marriage 
upon the community?" he asked, turning 
to the woman. 

"They were righteously insulted, and 
pity me." 

"Was there any demonstration when 
she threw away the tablets? " 

" Yes. Her friends and neighbors turned 
from her as if she were evil, as she has 
truly become." 

"She is, then, forsaken?" 

" Punished, Excellency. She believes 
herself happy at present, but who envies 
the lot of an outcast? She is entirely 
friendless." 

110 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
Matsuda's eyes turned inward, as for a 
space he meditated. 

" Not friendless entirely," he said, finally, 
tapping his own chest significantly. " She 
still has Matsuda Isami for friend." 
"You!" repeated Madame Yamada 

faintly. 
ti T 

"But," she gasped, "she has deceived 
you more than anyone else. Exalted 
Matsuda, she has forced you to break the 
oath you made to possess her. She is 
married forever to the foreign devil." 

" It is news," said Matsuda coldly, " that 
the foreign devils marry Japanese girls 
forever." He went a step nearer to the 
111 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
woman and brought his eyes on a level 
with hers. "She is not married to him, 
Madame Yamada. He will leave her soon 
remember my words. After that there 
is time then for the fulfilment of my oath." 
Madame Yamada, left alone, grew re- 
pulsive in aspect. Her powdered face was 
white and long drawn. She had thrust her 
hands mechanically through her hair and 
it stood up from her head in stiff disorder. 
In the hope of securing Matsuda for her 
own daughter she had herself assisted in 
putting the girl she hated beyond her reach. 
Now she realized how utterly vain was this 
last hope. Her very action but brought 
upon her head the implacable enmity of 
112 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

the man himself, who she knew was not 
deceived in her. The gods alone knew to 
what extent he would carry his malicious 
vengeance upon her. 



113 



CHAPTER VIII 

Meanwhile Matsuda sent the articles he 
had purchased in Tokyo as marriage gifts 
to the most respected and honorable 
foreigner, Mr. Verley. The latter was actu- 
ally pleased and touched. He laughed at 
Azalea's first impulse of fear when the 
presents had arrived and reminded her that 
these were the only wedding gifts they had 
received. She, after her temporary fear, 
fell to admiring the beauty of the gifts. By 
the time Matsuda came to pay his personal 
respects to the couple, only the remotest 
suspicion of design on his part remained in 
her mind. No one could have been more 
114 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

respectful and humble in attitude than the 
rich Matsuda to the foreign minister, no one 
more solicitous for their comfort and happi- 
ness. The little mission house and its 
pastor found a sudden, unexpected patron, 
for Sunday after Sunday the chief man of 
Sanyu attended the services. Matsuda be- 
came a "pillar of the church." First he 
won the confidence of the minister, and 
later made the acquaintance of other and 
more powerful foreigners in the larger 
cities of Japan. 

The recall of the missionary came like 

a shock in the midst of their happiness. 

Azalea, by this time, had learned and 

seemingly understood the religion of her 

115 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

husband. She had accepted it even before 
she understood it with a meek faith almost 
sublime. Yet, in spite of her seeming con- 
version, and her almost idolatrous love for 
her husband, there had curiously enough 
remained always with Azalea that small 
stubborn feeling of terror of the far-away 
" land of the barbarians " which constituted 
the home of her husband. All the joyful 
searching with her husband as teacher in 
the books of his people had failed to cure 
her of this innate sense of fear of the 
foreigner, a fear inculcated since childhood, 
when she had listened to the weird and 
horrible tales of an old grandfather who 
had once lived in one of the open ports and 
116 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

whose imagination was livelier than his 
memory. These vivid tales of horror, 
added to an occasional visit to the town of 
foreign sailor men, whose shore conduct 
was not that of superior beings, and the 
further assurance of the temple priests that 
these barbarians were evil all these im- 
pressions were deeply enough implanted in 
the nature of Azalea, who had never wholly 
outgrown her child-nature. Just as a Cau- 
casian child might shrink in fear at the 
thought of suddenly being taken from his 
safe little cot and transplanted among the 
savage tribes of Africa, so the little Japan- 
ese girl dreaded the thought of life in the 
questionable and unknown land of America. 
117 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

And now, when she had come to the years 
of womanhood, a thrill of that early fear 
still remained with her. Hence when her 
husband told her of his recall Azalea was 
quite stupefied. 

" You are going to leave me ! " she 
gasped, her eyes wide with terror. 

"Leave you!" he repeated. "Why, 
what put such an idea as that into your 
head? You are going with me." 

She shook her head. 

" No, no ! I kinnod go," she said. 

" Cannot ! What a word to use to me. 
Certainly you will go." 

She caught at his hands and held them 
spasmodically. 

118 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" You promise me on that day you 
marry wiz me that you never goin' take 
me away across those oceans. Yes, you 
promise." 

" But Azalea, I am recalled. I must go. 
Now, be reasonable. These people who 
sent for me are my employers." 

She slipped to the floor and sat with her 
hands clasped about her huddled knees. 

"Velly well," she said after a moment. 
" You go. I will wait here for you." 

He sat down on the mat beside her and 
put his arm about her. 

" No, no, we must go together." 

With her head against his shoulder she 
cried hysterically. 

119 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"I do not want to go no, I do not 
want ! " she kept repeating. 

Thinking her eccentric stubbornness due 
to he* condition, he said in the tenderest 
voice : 

"I could not leave you alone now. 
Why, what would a little girl like you do 
all alone with a wee baby and no husband 
to care for both of you." 

She struck her hands passionately to- 
gether. 

" Tha's why ! " she said. " Jus' why I 
doan want go. I am 'fraid for that liddle 
bit bebby." 

Argument and persuasion seemed useless 
at this time, for Azalea could neither under- 
120 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

stand the one, nor would she yield to the 
other. Even when Richard Verley returned 
from Tokyo, where he had found money 
cabled for two passages by his missionary 
society, Azalea would not consider the jour- 
ney. A less conscientious man than the, 
young minister would have used the price 
of the second passage in providing for the 
comfort of his wife, during his absence, but 
Verley repelled the idea, even though he 
knew that once in America he could easily 
find funds. So in obedience to his Massa- 
chusetts conscience, Azalea's share of the 
cabled funds was sent back. 
Then it was that Azalea would hysteric- 
121 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
ally consent to journey with her husband, 
only to refuse in the end. 

Verley's recall was imperative. Yet at 
times he thought of refusing to return. 
His many gifts and benevolences among 
the people had eaten away the last instal- 
ment of his small salary. He could not 
leave his wife supplied with funds sufficient 
for the entire period of her illness; yet once 
in America he would be able to send small 
sums regularly. The society had mentioned 
something vaguely of a desire to have him 
lecture in the United States and after that 
it was intimated that he might be sent to 
China. In any event he would return for 
Azalea after the birth of her child. 
122 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

All these confused thoughts and reason- 
ings played through the mind and con- 
science of Verley. Yet so finely balanced 
were the moral and emotional traits of this 
young man that for a time he could come 
to no decision. He prayed, and then the 
precepts of his religion conquered. Since 
Azalea would not accompany him, he must 
go alone. Parting was inevitable, but 
absence was not for long. 

Once again he sought Azalea. Failing to 
move her by the most passionate entreaty, 
Verley tried to make her see his reasons for 
his decision, which he now felt more than 
ever must be final. 

123 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Azalea looked up at him with an apa- 
thetic, yet tender, expression: 

" Yaes, yaes," she said wearily, " I un- 
derstand. I kinnod go. Your God yaes, 
my God also he calling you not me. 
You go! I stay!" 

Verley now mutely enough accepted the 
cruelty of circumstances and sought to 
cheer the drooping spirits of his wife. She 
at this time was beset by feelings of the 
most intense depression, induced as much 
by her frail condition of health as her child- 
ish terror of the seas which lay between 
and separated her husband's America from 
her Japan. 

During the last weeks of his stay in 
124 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Japan, Richard Verley spent his time in 
attempts to earn sufficient money so that, 
at least, Azalea, until he could communi- 
cate with her from America, should not 
want for anything. He wrote articles for 
a Tokyo weekly paper. Even the native 
journalists of Japan dream not of making 
a living at this profession, unless they own 
an interest in the paper to which they 
contribute. The amount the young Amer- 
ican missionary received for his contribu- 
tions could be said to add nothing to the 
meagre sum he had been enabled to lay by 
from his salary. This, he calculated, would 
keep Azalea in comparative comfort for 
possibly two months. He sighed as he 
125 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

thought of her childish ignorance of the 
value of money, and he hardly dared to 
think of the possibility of the premature 
birth of his child. 

But upon the eve of his going fortune 
quite suddenly reversed its frowning face. 
His financial worries found an unexpected 
alleviation. Matsuda Isami, the friend of 
his church and a professed convert, had 
come to him and offered a certain sum of 
money. Of course the American had pro- 
tested at accepting any money for personal 
use from the Japanese, but Matsuda in- 
sisted that he knew of the minister's embar- 
rassment, and being himself possessed of 
much, wished to share at least a small part 
126 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

of it with his friend. He felt sure Mr. 
Verley would sail from Japan in an easier 
frame of mind if he could be assured that 
his wife was well protected from want. 
The amount offered by Matsuda was insig- 
nificant, but seventy-five yen goes far 
toward living in Japan. She would be 
independent for six months to come, at 
least. And while the minister hesitated 
over the temptation, the wily Matsuda sug- 
gested that if the minister felt any back- 
wardness about accepting it as a gift, to at 
least accept it as a loan, giving Matsuda a 
lien upon the contents of his house. This 
need only be perfunctory, a formal salve to 
his pride, for Matsuda was confident the 
127 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

minister would pay the loan in no time. It 
is needless to say that the man of trade 
triumphed over the man of dreams. Richard 
Verley mortgaged the furniture of his 
house, without explaining this part to his 
wife, who was already disheartened at his 
protracted departure. He was enabled to 
put into her hand, the day before he sailed, 
a sum of money larger than she had ever 
seen before. 

The parting was heart-wrenching. It 
took place in the little house, for he did 
not wish to have her go to the big city to 
see the actual sailing of the boat, and she 
at the last moment had decided against 
oing even to the railroad station of the 
128 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
town with him. She wished, she said, to 
see him leave the house, just as if he were 
going on a visit in the neighborhood, to the 
church, to an afflicted beggar, or one dying 
and deserted. He told her she was the 
bravest woman in the world because she 
would not let him see her face save with a 
smile upon the lips. Her eyes kept back 
their tears. Only at the last moment she 
clung about his neck and, from kissing his 

face, fell to kissing his breast, his arms and 

i 

hands, and then slipped to the floor, there 
to kiss, in a fashion that shocked him, his 
very feet. 

When he was gone she closed every 
shoji of the house and shut herself up alone. 
129 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

That night she slept underneath his desk in 
the little study where he had worked, his 
large black bible the pillow for her head. 



130 



CHAPTER IX 

When the fields had turned from purple 
to gold and yellow, and Summer was hot 
in the land, Azalea for the first time in two 
months crept from her chamber and sat 
at the door of the cottage, her baby on her 
back. She had been very ill and now she 
was as thin and fragile as a spirit. Weak 
as she was Azalea had come to the door 
during the absence of Natsu, to watch for 
the mail carrier. During her long illness, 
and almost from the first day, she had been 
wont to turn her face always toward the 
Street shoji, there to watch and wait with 
undying patience for the coming of that 
131 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

carrier who should bring her word from 
her husband. But every day, from the 
rising of the sun to its setting, she waited 
in hungry vainness. She hindered the 
progress of her health and became feverish, 
and then delirious. Even in her delirium 
she would seize the hands of the hard-faced 
Natsu and pitifully beseech her to bring 
her a letter from her husband. Now July 
had come. Spring had gone and the 
Spring baby had come. Still no word 
from the father to bless and cheer them in 
their solitude. Azalea had been too ill in 
those days to wonder why the woman 
Matsu attended her with such faithfulness. 
But as she grew stronger she used to watch 
132 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

mutely the sullen-faced servant, moving 
about her chamber, keeping it cleanly and 
even sweet with the flowers she brought 
from the woods. Azalea would have wished 
to be on friendly terms with her, but when 
she attempted speech with her Natsu re- 
mained grimly silent, seldom even answer- 
ing the timid questions of her mistress. On 
this day when Azalea, by clinging with her 
hands to the dividing walls of shoji, had 
made her weak way to the door step, Natsu 
was absent from the house. She had gone, 
to the house of Matsuda Isami. 

The sun was warm and very good to 
feel. The baby, in its little bag on her 
back, was no heavier a weight than the 
133 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

discarded obi. Azalea, though weak, felt 
happier and more restful than she had in 
days. How good it was to be out in the 
open air once more, to look up at the wide 
blue sky, the abode of the great white God; 
to feel the touch of the soft breezes and to 
hear the little babbling noise of the moving 
trees, the wee creatures in the grass and the 
singing of the birds in the camphor trees. 

With chin resting upon her hands she 
sat there, absently dreaming. Her position 
brought the sleeping baby's head close 
against her neck. The warmth of its con- 
tact comforted and thrilled her, just as the 
touch of the child's father had done. Ah, 
it was true she had waited long for word 
134 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
from him, but he would not fail them! 
That small, soft head pressed at her neck 
seemed to reassure her of this. She would 
grow strong again, strong and happy as 
she had been. To Matsuda she gave no 
thought. The one God was good and he 
would not permit this evil one to intrude 
again upon her. 

Some one spoke her name, and she lifted 
her head. Before her, in the path, stood 
the bowing Okido. Mechanically, and 
without speaking, she returned his saluta- 
tion. She was too weak and listless to feel 
interest in his unexpected call upon her, 
and did not question him. 

Madame Azalea was recovered ? 
135 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

She nodded listlessly. 

"Good!" 

He shuffled his feet, waiting for an invi- 
tation to enter the house. The indifferent 
silence of the girl was not encouraging, and 
the Summer sun was very hot and un- 
comfortable upon his back. However, he 
was not to be conquered by a woman's 
unnatural silence and the heat of the Lord 
of Day. 

" I perceive, Madame Azalea," he con- 
tinued, " that the gods have been good to 
you. You have a child." 

She smiled faintly. 

" Yes," she said, and for the first time 
he perceived the faintness and weariness 
136 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

of her voice. He inquired with some 
anxiety : 

"You are still ill?" 

She shook her head. 

" Quite well," she said, " but when one 
has lain long upon the honorable back, then 
one's speech sometimes becomes ex- 
hausted." 

"Ah!" 

This response, he took it, might be an 
intimation that she was not strong enough 
for conversation. On the other hand, it 
was longer than her previous monosyllabic 
answers, and therefore more encouraging. 
Well, he would speak to her of the child. 
This subject must surely interest her. 
137 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"Permit me to inquire," he continued, 
with bland interest, "the sex of your 
honorable offspring ?" 

" Male," she answered simply. 

"Ah! you are indeed fortunate." He 
went a step nearer to her, looking solicit- 
ously at the child's head. The projecting 
gable above mother and child was a suffi- 
cient shade for the upturned face of the 
sleeping child; but the mother must be 
moved from her apathetic listlessness in 
some way. So the Nakoda exclaimed in 
alarm : 

"Do you not fear the sun upon your 
child's young eyes will blind them ? " 

His words had the desired effect. She 
138 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

started and put back her hands behind her 
head. Then, somewhat unsteadily, she 
arose. 

" You will pardon us, if you please," she 
said. "We must go into the interior." 

Okido had hoped to be invited to enter, 
but her answer did not disconcert him. He 
went up the little steps, and stretched out 
his hand as if to assist her. Madame was 
too weak to walk alone; would she not 
permit his most respectful assistance ? She 
clung for support to the front of the sliding 
door. 

"Yes," she said, "I am still augustly 
weak. So pray you, good-bye, kind 
visitor." 

139 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He bowed deeply to her, and then : 

"Madame Azalea, permit me first to 
leave in your house a little gift for your 
man child." 

She let him put into her hands a child's 
tiny toy. 

" You are very good," she sakl. 

"It is not I who am so well disposed 
toward your child," he said, "but one 
whose interest in it is such that he would 
give all his possessions to it if you would, 
permit it." 

She raised her face, white and startled in 
expression now. Her hands crept out 
from the sleeves. 

140 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"Ah," she said, " of whom do you 
speak, good Okido?" 

He did not answer her query, and her 
breath came excitedly. 

" You speak of my husband ? You have 
heard from him ? " 

" Not your husband, Madame Azalea," 
he said, " but one who would become so." 

She passed her hand bewilderedly over 
her brow. 

" I do not understand," she said. 

Her strength had been already too much 
taxed. She turned from the Nakoda and 
opened the shoji behind her. Then noise- 
lessly she slipped into her chamber, feeling 
her way through the room with her hands 
141 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

outstretched like one gone blind. When 
she found the couch she tottered, rather 
than lay, face down upon it in that instinct- 
ive fashion of the Japanese woman to pro- 
tect the child upon her back. Soon she 
slept the sleep of the exhausted. 

Some one sent fresh flowers in the early 
mornings to the house of Azalea. They 
were sweet always with the sparkling dews 
upon them and they filled -the house with 
fragrance. Azalea delighted in them. They 
were symbolic of the truth that there was 
sweetness in life in spite of its melancholy. 
And so, in those days, she would sit before 
the flowers, her little head bent above her 
sewing, and would attempt to fashion the 
142 



**< 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

garments of her baby in imitation of the. 
flowers themselves. 

The baby grew in strength and beauty, 
a solemn-faced, large-eyed morsel of hu- 
manity, with skin like a peach bloom in 
color, soft and fat and delightful to the 
touch of the caressing mother. 

If it had not been for that ceaseless, tire- 
less waiting and watching for the promised 
letters from the father of the child, and of 
his own personal absence from the house, 
Azalea might have found complete happi- 
ness in her child. But always by day she 
sat with her face turned toward the West, 
and at night she trimmed and burned the 
light and set it at the West shoji, that any 
143 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

time he might come would find her waiting. 
Often the man Okido would loiter by her 
house and stop a moment to chat with her 
and to praise the child. Sometimes he 
brought a little gift, and once he inquired 
very solicitously whether Madame Azalea 
was in need of money. She had answered 
with careless pride: 

" No, I have sufficient until his return." 

But the Nakoda's question nevertheless 

worried her after his departure. She went 

indoors and took down the little lacquer 

box in which she had kept the money left 

her by her husband. It had been so full 

in the beginning that she had laughed over 

its weight. Now the box was light as 

144 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

though empty. There were only a few 
bits left. She shivered as she closed the 
lid over them. 

" Yet," she said, with trembling lip, " it 
is not all gone. He will come when but 
one bit remains." 

She burned more oil that night in the 
waiting room for him. Through the night 
the bright red light twinkled against his 
coming. But he came not. 



145 



CHAPTER X 

She was sewing by a half-opened shoji. 
The garment upon which Azalea was work- 
ing was very tiny. It seemed almost 
ridiculous to conceive of the amount of 
labor she was expending upon an article 
so trivial. Nevertheless, she worked un- 
ceasingly upon it. The little garment was 
gorgeous with the embroidery wrought by 
her nimble fingers, embroidery so fine and 
exquisite that even a connoisseur in Tokyo 
would have been delighted to see it. From 
early morning till the darkening night, 
Azalea worked upon this one garment. 
Upon it she had expended all her passion,* 
146 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

her love. This labor was a balm, a salve, 
a comfort for her ever-aching loneliness of 
spirit, for it was the garment in which the 
child was to be dressed when his father 
should return. 

Azalea, alone in the little cottage, ostra- 
cised by her former friends and without the 
presence of her husband, found a nameless 
comfort in working upon the garments of 
her baby. She said : 

, "My baby came in Springtime. If it 
had been a girl, she should be called Sakura- 
san, after the cherry blossoms that he so 
loved. But his great God was kinder. He 
blessed us with a man-child, and it shall 
bear the name of Sachi. Now I shall 
147 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

fashion a little garment which shall hold 
all the tints of the Spring, and, like my 
baby, will be a thing of joy." 

As she sat on this day, with her head 
bent above her sewing, she became con- 
scious of the fact that some one had entered 
her garden and was looking in at her. But 
when she peered out through her shoji she 
could see no one. Feeling uneasy, she 
folded her work and, leaving it, stepped out 
into the garden. Then she saw at once 
Matsuda Isami. He had evidently been 
talking to the maid Natsu, for the latter 
had disappeared into her kitchen. Azalea 
went forward to meet the visitor. He was 
very cheerful, though at first constrained 
148 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
by her sudden appearance. He inquired 
solicitously after her honorable health and 
insisted that she was pale and heavy-eyed 
from too much sewing. She smiled 
faintly as she shook her head and assured 
him that she was most honorably well. 

" And your august husband ? His health 
also is good ? " 

"My husband " her voice faltered, 

but she finished with pride: "Yes, his 
health is good." 

" Ah! Then you have heard from him? " 

She flushed. Did Matsuda guess the 

truth, that since the going of her husband, 

nearly two months before, no letter from 

him had reached her hands? She did not 

149 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

answer the question and he repeated it. 

" You have a letter from your honorable 
husband?" 

She bowed her head without speaking. 
It was the simplest way of lying. He had 
taught her it was an evil thing to prevari- 
cate with the lips. 

Matsuda appeared somewhat taken 
aback. 

" And when do you expect his return ? " 

She looked away from her interlocutor. 
Her eyes were wide and wistful. 

" I look for him to come at any time 

any day any hour," she said. " Always 

by day I look to the West for his coming, 

and all night long I burn the light; with its 

150 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

flame to the West. He is always ex- 
pected." 

"You are a most estimable wife," said 
Matsuda sneeringly. "Yet has it never 
occurred to you that your faithfulness is 
old-fashioned and fit only for a Japanese 
woman? You, the wife of a foreigner, 
should not entertain such feeling." 

"Is not faithfulness esteemed by all 
nations? " she asked quickly. 

" No. The Westerners make light of its 
qualities. Have you not heard how many 
of these foreigners who marry in Japan 
leave their wives never to return ? " 

" My husband is different," she said. 
151 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" So they all say while they wait," said 
Matsuda. 

Half unconsciously her hand went to her 
heart. She looked as if she were in some 
sudden pain as she spoke. 

"You do not understand. He was a 
priest of the great God. He could not lie. 
Ah! he was different from all other men." 

" The eyes of a foolish wife are blind," 
said Matsuda. "What a pity that yours 
could not sooner perceive the baseness of 
the barbarian." 

" Baseness," she repeated. " I do not 
understand." 

" You think your husband will return to 
you?" 

152 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" I am sure of it." 

" And against his coming you embroider 
rich garments for his child." 

The blood rose slowly to her temples. 
Her fingers twitched and then she closed 
them tightly. 

"Yes," she said; "it is true." 

Matsuda laughed harshly. 

" Yet," said he, " it is not your husband 
who pays for these garments of your 
child." 

She stared at him incredulously. 

" You are insane to speak so," she finally 
said. " My husband gave me money with 
which to purchase the articles upon which 
I work." 

153 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He bent his lean, evil face to hers. 

" That money he accepted from me," he 
said. 

She shrunk back a step. 

" From you ! I do not believe you." 

He fumbled in the bosom of his gown. 

" Behold this," he said, shaking before 
her eyes a piece of paper. "This is his 
receipt." 

She pushed the paper from her. 

" I will not look at it," she said. 

"You are afraid." 

"No!" 

She seized the paper and read, her eyes 
dilating with horror as she- did so. It was 
a receipt for a loan of 75 yen. Her hand 
154 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

fell limply to her side. The paper flut- 
tered to the ground. 

What! Was the money of this Matsuda 
paying for the sacred garments of her 
child! Ah, how terribly blind must have 
been her husband to accept help from such 
a source. Her pride scorched her. She 
suddenly turned and walked swiftly into 
the house. In a moment, however, she re- 
turned, a lacquer box and the tiny garment 
upon which she had worked in her arms. 
She set the box at Matsuda's feet. 

"There," she said, "is what is left of 
your evil money. Some of it I have al- 
ready spent upon this garment. I would 
not let it touch my child.'* She tore it 
155 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

across and threw the pieces upon the box. 

" Go now ! " She pointed to the gate. 
"You contaminate his august home. I 
have always hated you, Matsuda Isami, 
now more than ever. My father spoke 
true words. You are a dog ! " 

Laughing softly, he stooped and lifted 
the box, then slowly counted its contents. 

"Seventy-five yen," he said, "was the 
amount of the loan. There are but twenty- 
five here." 

"My husband's letter will come in the 
next foreign mail," she replied proudly. 
"You will wait until then." 

He changed his tone. 

" Madame Azalea, it is well known that 
156 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

you are deserted by the barbarian. No one 
pities you, because it is alleged you insulted 
your ancestors for the sake of this beast. 
Now you have become an outcast. Even 
the beggars will not ask you for charity. 
Yet I I, Matsuda Isami, whom you have 
named ' dog/ have compassion upon you." 

He paused to note the effect of his words. 
She was staring coldly and stonily before 
her. Her thoughts were bitter. Matsuda 
went a step nearer to her. 

"You do not believe in my pity for 
you ? " he asked. 

She raised her head proudly. 

" I do not need it," she said. 

"Hah! Your words are proud. You 
157 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
will learn soon to frame your lips to meeker 
words." 

She turned as if to re-enter the house, 
but he sprang lithely before her and stood 
in her path, his hideous face thrust before 
the range of her vision. 

" Listen once again. You have come to 
beggary, Madame Azalea, for in my sleeve 
this minute rests the last of your yen. 
What will you do now? " 

"Yes, Matsuda Isami," she said, "you 
hold the last of the money, but there are 
things I can sell, and the house is yet mine. 
Let me pass." 

He laughed in her face so that his breath 
struck her. 

158 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Every article within the house belongs 
to me me ! " he said, touching his breast 
with his fingers. She stared at him with 
horrified eyes. Inside the house the wail 
of her baby, awakened from its sleep, 
floated out to them, and the sound silenced 
both for a moment. Then she pushed by 
him, and still he barred her passage. 

" Where would you go ? " he taunted. 
She slipped desperately under his arm and 
snapped the shoji between them. He 
could have pushed it aside without the 
smallest difficulty, but he stood on the 
steps like one already having possession, 
and laughed softly to himself. 

159 



CHAPTER XI 

He heard her soothing the child within 
and the sound of its subdued cries. Finally, 
comforted, it must have slept, for there 
was no further sound within. 

Matsuda pushed open the shoji door. 
The house and furniture were his. He 
would enter when he pleased. 

She was standing behind the shoji, as 
though awaiting his coming. Her baby 
was strapped to her back and she held 
something clasped close to her heart. It 
was a large black book. Matsuda recog- 
nized it. She spoke in unfaltering accents. 

" Pray you walk in, Matsuda Isami. The 
160 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

furniture is waiting to be taken. Truly an 
empty house will be of more comfort than 
one dressed in what belongs to you." 

" An empty house ? " he repeated. " But 
I do not propose to empty my house. The 
house, too, is mine, since I bought it within 
the month." 

" Ah," she said, " I suspected as much. 
Very well, take also the house, most honor- 
able Matsuda Isami. We will leave it at 
once." 

He followed her down the path for a 
space. When he seized her sleeve, she 
shook it from his grasp. 

"Do not make claim upon us, also, 
Matsuda Isami," she scornfully mocked. 
161 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
" It is not possible you purchased us, too? " 

" No, but I shall do so, Madame Azalea." 

" Oh, no, that is not possible." 

Her proud and stubborn demeanor caused 
him to change his tone. 

" Listen," he said. " By the law you are 
no longer the wife of the barbarian. He 
has deserted you and hence you are di- 
vorced. Become wife with me. My 
house awaits your coming, and I have 
sworn to possess you." 

" I would rather wed with Death," was 
her answer. 

He turned in savage exasperation and 
ran toward the house. . She, standing still 
now, watched him enter. A moment later 
162 




" ' My house awaits your coming, and I have sworn 
to possess you.' '" 

(Page 162) 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

she heard his hoarse laughter and the crash- 
ing of articles within. Sick despair crept 
through her being, freezing her faculties. 
She could not move, but stood like one 
fascinated, watching the trembling of the 
house itself. It shivered, swayed and 
shook from side to side, as though a very 
tempest were sweeping it within. Then 
suddenly there was an upheaval, a splinter- 
ing crash, and the little house upon the hill 
was a mass of broken debris. Matsuda, his 
passion unsatisfied with the destruction of 
the furniture, had seized the main pole of 
the house the support of the frail struc- 
ture and had shaken it with such violence 
that the house itself had collapsed. A 
163 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

providence which seems by some irony of 
fate to watch over the fortunes of the evil, 
had saved the man himself from so much 
as a scratch. He was snorting and puffing 
like a bull as he sped down the hill past the 
trembling, shrinking Azalea. 

A sound escaped her lips. It could not 
be called a cry. She made a little rush 
toward the fallen house, then stopped and 
covered her eyes with her sleeves. She 
was homeless, without means, and upon 
her back her warm, sleeping babe hung 
heavy and helpless. 

Dazedly, almost blindly, Azalea made 
her way down the hill slope, across the 
little bridge that spanned the narrow river 
164 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

in the valley below, up another hill, and 
on through the fields. She had come to 
the house of her stepmother. At least she 
had never been denied a roof there. 

Her knock was timid and faint. As 
though expecting her, Madame Yamada 
hastened to the door. Azalea spoke in the 
weariest, the faintest of accents. 

" Excellent mother-in-law, my house has 
fallen and I am without money and very 
tired. I wish to come into my father's 
house a little while." 

Madame Yamada laughed shrilly. 

" The doors of your father's house," she, 
said, " are closed to the one who has dis- 
honored them." 

165 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Azalea stood in silence. Even in her 
misery, her pride withheld her from plead- 
ing. She bowed her head in apathetic 
politeness. 

" Say no more, then," she said. " We 
will go elsewhere." 

That night she slept under the open 
skies. The shadows of the night were her 
only covering, and the soft, mossy grass 
her mattress. She slept well, as the ex- 
hausted often do, and felt nor knew the 
discomfort of her unusual bed, for she was 
close to the ruin of her home that had 
been, and near, too, to the little mission 
house. Her last thought ere she slept was 
a vague and almost childish remembrance 
166 




cr* 



" The shadows of the night were her only covering, 
aiki the soft, mossy grass her mattress ." 

(Page 156) 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

of an argument she had once had with her 
husband. She had protested against the 
locking of the mission house, declaring that 
locks were unknown and unneeded in 
Japan. He had insisted that thieves might 
enter the place and despoil the little church 
of its few possessions. Now Azalea thought 
with a strange feeling of bitter triumph that 
she had proved herself right. Oh, if the 
little church were but open, what a haven 
of refuge it would prove now for her and 
for their child. Who had better right to 
its protection than the wife and offspring 
of the priest of the church? 



'167 



CHAPTER XII 

The Summer slipped by on sleepy wings. 
Autumn's mellow, balmy touch was upon 
the land. By day all Nature was beautiful, 
but at night the starry skies were cold and 
chilling. The earth, too, lost its warmth 
and shivered as if in anticipation of the 
coming winter. 

On a certain night in the month of Octo- 
ber, a woman, with a baby on her back, 
made her weary way through the village of 
Sanyo. One could see even in the dim 
light that she was haggard and hollow- 
eyed. Her small hands, which ever and 
anon crept nervously toward the little head 
168 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
against her neck, were tragically thin. For 
almost two months Azalea, the wife of the 
white priest, had been a common mendi- 
cant. She had wandered about from place 
to place, seeking at first employment and 
later reduced to the begging of alms. The 
small inland towns of Japan have few 
industries offering employment to women. 
Azalea was further hampered by the white 
child she bore upon her back and the igno- 
miny of her religion, for in some way her 
history had followed her from town to 
town. Neither her beauty nor her youth 
were of avail to her now to earn the pity 
of those who feared the gods too much to 
refuse alms to a beggar. The wife of the 
169 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
foreign devil was an outcast of the gods, a 
pariah, a thing accursed. What respectable 
Japanese would lend aid to one who had 
wilfully destroyed the tablets of her 
ancestors? And so in this land where 
beggars oft-times grow fat on charity 
the pariah starved. Sometimes a peas- 
ant or farmer, knowing nothing of her 
history, would give her shelter and 
food at night, but when the morning 
light revealed the blue-eyed babe upon 
her back, they turned her superstitiously 
away. She hardly knew whither her feet 
carried her, so many, many had been the 
days since her wanderings began. Only 
Nature was compassionate in that the sum- 
170 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

mer months kept her at least from the chill 
of exposure. But even Nature has limits 
to her patience, and Autumn had come. 
During the first few weeks of her wander- 
ings, the baby had appeared strong and 
well. The out-door life in the country but 
strengthened its little frame. The starving 
of the mother was a gradual process, some- 
thing which at first did not affect the baby. 
But as the days and weeks went by and 
the mother grew weaker, the contagion of 
her weariness affected the babe. He be- 
came peevish and ailing. The round, cun- 
ning, gurgling baby, to whom the mother 
had passionately clung as though for 
strength, grew thin and cried constantly. 
171 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
Its little face fell into the odd lines of one 
aged, thin, pinched and anxious; for what 
nourishment is there in the breast of a 
starving woman ? 

After a night of vain effort to keep the 
baby warm in her arms in the open country, 
Azalea turned frantically back toward her 
native village. 

She had a vague notion of going once 
more to the home of her step-mother, this 
time to beg with her head at the august 
woman's feet for shelter and charity. When 
the latter had turned her from the door, 
stubborn pride had buoyed the girl up and 
given her that almost feverish strength 
which had sustained her this long. Now 
172 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

the last strain of pride in her breast was 
dead. Hope had long lingered, hope and 
faith in the dimly remembered words of 
the white God, that he would protect her 
always yet now even hope was gone. 

And thus it was, then, half clad and 
almost starving, that Azalea returned to 
Sanyo. It was night and the streets of 
the town were almost deserted. But the 
little houses, like fairy lanterns, glowed in 
the darkness with light and warmth, and 
as she passed along she could hear the 
babble and soft, happy murmur of the 
contented and housed families. Her hun- 
ger gripped at her throat, parching it. The 
baby was mercifully silent, but its weight 
173 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

was so heavy that she walked unsteadily 
and stooped beneath it. 

Who would have recognized in this 
shadow of a woman the exquisitely lovely 
and dainty girl who, despite her shabby 
clothes, had bravely held her head so high 
in the town ? Would the white priest him- 
self have recognized her? She had ceased 
to think of him in these days. She had 
told herself that he had been but a beautiful 
spirit whom the gods had sent to bless her 
for a little time only. Now he was gone. 
Azalea had forgotten the language he had 
taught her; had forgotten the God he had 
told her would comfort. Her own wan- 
derings and the cries of her baby had occu- 
'174 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
pied her mind to the exclusion of all 
else. Only sometimes when she slept she 
dreamed of his great, tender brown eyes 
watching over and guarding her, and in 
her sleep she sighed his name. 

Now before the door of her step-mother's 
home she stood once more. Madame 
Yamada came and looked at her. With 

her came to the doorstep her two daughters. 
Azalea bent so low and humbly that with 
the weight upon her back she nigh fell to 
the ground. Her voice was almost too 
faint to hear. 

" One night of shelter, good, dear, kind- 
est of mothersand a little food! " 
175 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Madame Yamada's voice was as hard as 
her face. 

"So you have returned!" she said. 
" You are without shame, it seems. This 
is the house of respectable people. The 
Kirishitan cannot enter." 

" Kirishitan Kirishitan ! " Azalea re- 
peated the word vaguely, dazedly. " I am 
not Kirishitan," she said. " The gods " 

Madame Yamada's shrill laugh inter- 
rupted her. 

"What! And you carry the evil book 
in the front of your obi ! " 

"That! " Azalea dragged the book from 
Her obi. She held it up with both hands, 
176 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

then with a sudden, wild vehemence dashed 
it to the ground and put her foot upon it. 

"It has brought me evil. Good step- 
mother, I have cast it from me. Give me 
shelter," and she stretched her hands out 
in piteous appeal. But only the blank wall 
of shoji faced her now. Madame Yamada 
and her daughters had closed the doors 
upon her, even as she renounced her re- 
ligion. 

In a frenzy she beat with her thin hands 
upon the panelling, and her moaning voice 
reached those within. 

" Oh, hearts of stone, take then the child 
within. It is dying! dying! " 

Her step-mother thrust her fist through 
177 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

the paper shoji. One baleful eye was 
placed at the opening. But she did not 
speak. 

The burst of passion subsided. Azalea's 
hands fell to her side; she slowly stiffened 
and straightened herself. She stood in 
giddy hesitation a moment, then slowly 
moved away. 

Through half the length of the night she 
wandered about the hill country and town 
of Sanyo. Once she came to some water 
and its murmuring song evoked a moment- 
ary response in her. She began to laugh in 
a soft, mad way as she stepped into it; 
but the water came only to her ankles and 
the baby upon her back moved and moaned 
178 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

in its sleep. Something burned within her 
head. Words, words words spoken in 
that deep voice she had so loved. To take 
life was an evil and unpardonable thing in 
the sight of the One God! She stepped 
upon the bank of the brook in shivering 
terror. Suddenly she ran from it as though 
from a great temptation. She sped on 
from the dark allurement of the country to 
where the light of the city told her of the 
warmth and happiness of others. Through 
street and street she wandered, her feet 
dragging, her head dropped forward. She 
lost her sandals and her feet, in the worn 
and old linen, bled from the touch of the 
pavement. She had now lost all sense of 
179 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

locality. Only she knew that thrice she 
paraded one particular street an avenue 
shaded by dark, drooping bamboos, under 
whose shade houses of exquisite structure 
and light gleamed out upon the night. 

Azalea stopped before one of them the 
largest of all. Her hand rested heavily 
upon the bamboo gate; but she did not 
attempt to push it open. Now she stood 
still with a nameless quiet and terror in her 
heart. Suddenly, as she wavered, the babe 
upon her back twisted in its wrappings, 
and wierdly, piercingly cried aloud. A 
moment later one appeared at the door of 
the house with a lighted andon in his hand. 
He came with hasty steps down to the 
180 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
bamboo gate, and there in the dim light of 
the lifted andon he saw the woman Azalea. 
He seized her by the arm and drew her up 
the path and into the house. 



'181 



CHAPTER XIII 

For nine days she remained in the house 
of Matsuda Isami. He put her into the 
great sleeping chamber above the ozashishi, 
removed the paper shoji from the house 
and slid into its place the winter wooden 
sliding walls and doors. Thus they were 
.safe from spying intruders, and she might 
not leave the house, since the wooden street 
doors were fast. Outside her room the 
woman Natsu-san remained. Matsuda him- 
self moved into the ozashiki, and from 
there he kept guard over the woman in the 
chamber above. 

When first the serving-woman Natsu-san 
182 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

entered the chamber to serve her, she found 
the girl crouched off in the farthest corner 
of the room, whither she had crept after 
Matsuda Isami had set her in the room. 
She was numb with cold, hunger and fear. 
Her feverish mind could not follow the 
tangled sequence of events that had passed 
over her that night. She dimly recalled 
that sudden flash of andon light at the end 
of her wanderings, the touch of arms of 
seeming supernatural strength which had 
crushed her aching body as they carried 
her up and into this room of fears. The 
room had no light save what sifted into it 
from a takahiri (lantern) in the hall, which 
the servant had set by the dividing doors. 
183 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"I have brought food," she said briefly, 
and set the tray on the floor by the famished 
Azalea. She reached out a trembling hand 
and cautiously, fearfully touched and felt 
of the food. Reassured of what she, 
touched, her hands seized upon the con- 
tents of the tray. She found the milk, 
warm and sweet, and in a moment she had 
slipped the child out of its bag, laid its limp 
and listless little body at her feet and thrust 
the nipple of the bottle between the tiny, 
parted lips. 

Someone in the night put a slumber robe 

upon her. Her weakness and exhaustion 

gave way. She slept. But in the early 

morning, turning in her sleep instinctively 

184 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

to reach out for her child, she missed it, and 
started with a cry of fright and anguish that 
rang out wildly through the silent house. 

It was five days before they put the child 
back into her arms. At the end of that 
period she put her head at the feet of 
Matsuda Isami, swore by the eight million 
gods of heaven that she was his humblest 
and meekest of slaves, and promised to do 
whatsoever he should command if he would 
but return to her her child. After that she 
was like a mechanical puppet. The woman 
Natsu-san dressed her in softest silken 
crepe, loaded down her little fingers with 
rich jewels, and drew the hair, fallen so 
wildly about her face, back into smooth 
185 




THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

mode. She moved about like one in a 
dream, a nightmare from which she could 
not wake nor extricate her. She was but 
a passive doll in the hands of the woman, 
and did not even move her hands to assist 
the servant in attiring her. But when they 
brought the child, she rushed upon the 
woman, seized it with savage force from 
her arms, and then fell to weeping over it 
in such a way that the one she was here- 
after to name "masteY" feared for her 
reason, and left her for the nonce alone. 
Thus a respite of a few days was given her. 
Physical strength crept back into her 
wasted body, bringing health, too, to her 
bewildered mind. Memory burning, in- 
186 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

vincible, accusing awoke, told her that 
she was about to become a thing more out- 
cast than ever, because she would be guilty 
of that sin the most unpardonable of any a 
woman of his (her husband's) people could 
commit. She could not delude herself with 
the fancy that she would be the wife of 
Matsuda Isami, whatever the law might be, 
for she had pledged an eternal faith to her 
true husband and the child was the connect- 
ing link between them." Now as from day 
to day she waited in fear for the time to 
come when Matsuda Isami should claim 
her promise, a promise she dared not break 
if she would keep her child, there flooded 
back upon her the teachings of her husband. 
187 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
Now at last she knew she believed in 
the faith of the Kirishitan. and before that 
faith she stood convicted. She did not at- 
tempt to justify her actions by her suffer- 
ings. There was no justification in the 
creed of his religion. His last words to 
her had been : " Have faith always. Be 
true to me, my love, and to yourself. I 
will return." Yet how had he kept his 
word to her. There had not come to her 
one word or sign since his departure. If 
he had sent word to her the great waters 
that divided them must have swallowed 
it up. There was nothing left to her now 
save the child, and for his sake she would 

sell herself and become wife to Matsuda 
Isami. 

188 



CHAPTER XIV 

Patience is not always an enduring virtue. 
That of Richard Verley had long since 
evaporated. Waiting, with a faith excelled 
only by that of the one in Japan, for word 
from his wife, his stay in America had 
become unbearable. 

At first he had thought her failure to 
answer his letters due to mistakes she 
might make in addressing him. He re- 
called how, when teaching her to write his 
address, she had continually forgotten to 
put the name of the city or State. She 
was quite sure that everyone in the United 
States must know him. But as time 
189 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

passed, he knew this could not be the rea- 
son. His letters urging her to answer at 
.once, and giving explicit instructions as to 
address, received no response. He thought 
of her condition and became alarmed. 

When finally, refusing to wait longer, 
and leaving his duties unfinished, he took 
ship for Japan, he was in an agony of be- 
wilderment and apprehension. If anything 
had happened to her! Illness, the possible 
premature birth of the child, when she 
would be too helpless and ill to write. How 
foolish he had been not to have arranged 
communication with her through a third 
party. And yet, who could he have called 
upon for such a service? He thought of 
190 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

her outcast position since becoming his 
wife; of the eccentric and stubborn fears 
that had impelled her to remain in Japan. 
And then an overwhelming sense of regret 
overpowered him, that he had left her at 
all. His place was by her side. His first 
duty belonged to her! There had been a 
flaw in his former reasoning. His service 
to the Master could have been better sub- 
served than the way he had chosen. 

So, with his mind sick with gloomy fore- 
bodings, his conscience and heart aching, 
Richard Verley returned to Japan. He 
hurried from Tjipkyo in a fever of impatience 
to the little town of Sanyo. The journey 
was interminable intolerable! For the 
191 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
first time in his life the gentle-natured 
Richard Verley fretted and upbraided those 
who served him. The runners crept! 
Their vehicles were ancient and broken 
down. The conductors of the miserable 
trains were responsible for the creeping of 
fhe train. Some one was responsible! 
Everything was wrong! Most of his jour- 
ney, besides, was made by the slow method 
of kurumma. Sometimes, unable to bear 
it, he would get out from the kurumma and 
plunge ahead himself on foot. Every step, 
every moment that brought him nearer to 
her, but added to his sick premonitions. 
All was not well with her! Something 
192 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

dire had overtaken her. He dared not 

N 
imagine what that might be. 

When he touched Jhe town at last, he 


did not wait a minute, but without noticing 

the townspeople, who regarded him curi- 
ously, he hastened on toward where had 
stood his home. 

The sight that met him when he 
reached the place staggered him. He 
looked about him dazed, as one who sees 
with unseeing eyes. He could not under- 
stand. Something was wrong with his 
sight his head, he told himself. Where 
once had stood the little flower-embowered 
home, there was nothing but a heap of 
193 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

broken planks and debris, the melancholy 
debris of a fallen house. 

Snow was falling slowly and turning to 
water as it fell. The trees were leafless. 
Where the sunny, flowering bushes had 
stood about the tiny cottage, there were 
only the black stalks standing up in barren 
nakedness. Desolation and tragedy seemed 
heavy everywhere. He blundered forward 
a few steps, his hand to his eyes. 

"A mistake somewhere," he muttered, 
"I have lost my way. This is not the 
place this is not and yet ! " 

He uncovered his eyes and again cast 
them about, slowly. The surroundings 
were as familiar to him as the face of a 
194 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

mother, and over there, the length of an 
iris field away, there was the church his 
church! He turned in its direction. 

At the church door he fumbled with key 
to the lock. It turned easily enough, but 
when he pushed the door inward it did not 
move. Then he discovered the reason. 
The door was nailed to. Panic and frenzy 
swept over him in a flood. He began 
frantically pounding upon the door, shaking 
it by the handle, pushing against it with his 
shoulder, beating upon its panelling with 
his fists, and tearing at the hinges with his 
fingers. The blood was in his head. He 
could neither see nor hear. Only that 
sensation of horrible foreboding and cer- 
195 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

tainty of disaster pervaded his whole being. 

A temple bell began to tinkle, lazily, 
insistently. Small black birds, cawing as 
they flew, swept close over his head, has- 
tening toward their night home in the 
woods. The rain descended heavily, noise- 
lessly. The shadows darkened dully. 

"What am I doing? " the minister sud- 
denly asked himself, and paused in his 
efforts to break the church door. " She is 
not here! My fears are driving me mad. 
How do I know that harm has come to 
her? I must not trust to the phantoms of 
my imagination. God is good, good ! " 
He walked out a few paces, thinking 
dazedly. Then with a sudden resolution to 
196 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

seek her in the village, he began to descend 
the hill. His step was more hopeful. He 
tried to keep up his courage, but as he 
made his way along his lips moved cease- 
lessly in prayer. 

He went first of all to her step-mother's 
house. Here in the miserable, drizzling 
rain he stood outside the house, none bid- 
ding him enter in response to his knock. 
Yet all through the house he could hear 
the sounds of his coming announced. 

A woman shrieked his name. Some one 
called back in a loud whisper which pene- 
trated through the paper shoji walls: 

"TheKirishitan!" 

Then he heard the pattering of hurried 
197 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

steps and the jabbering of voices. Soon 
he was conscious of the fact that eyes were 
regarding him from a dozen of wall holes. 
He knocked again, louder, and one within, 
unseen, called in insolent tone: 

"Begone! The curses of Shaka upon 
you!" 

He told himself his ears deceived him. 
His knowledge of Japanese confused the 
language surely. He knocked again, and, 
again, each time louder. Again the voice 
within: 

"Who is it knocks?" 

He spoke distinctly in pure Japanese. 

" I am Verley-sama, your daughter's hus- 
band. I have come to seek my wife." 
198 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

There was silence, and then: 

" We do not understand your language." 

He repeated his words slowly, patiently, 
enunciating each Japanese syllable dis- 
tinctly. But again came the reply: 

"We do not understand." 

He recognized now the voice. It was 
that of the step-mother of his wife, Madame 
Yamada. She had some reason for her lies. 
He was positive she understood his Japan- 
ese. 

" My words are plain," he said. " I have 
come to seek my wife." 

" She is not here." The voice was raised 
angrily now. "Seek elsewhere, foreign 
devil!" 

199 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He ignored the insult and persisted dog- 
gedly. 

"Where shall I seek?" 

Someone laughed jeeringly within, and 
then the taunting words floated out : 

"Ask of the gods, priest of the evil 
one." 

" I ask of you," he said hoarsely. " I 
shall not leave your house till you reply." 

He heard the sound as of one moving 
with angry and impetuous haste within, 
pushing whatever stood in her path aside. 
Madame Yamada thrust aside the sliding 
shoji doors and stood in the opening. 

Her words were mockingly sarcastic, and 
she bowed with extravagance. 
200 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" In what way can the humblest one 
serve the mightiest ? " 

"My wife?" he demanded. "Speak, 
woman, where is she ! " 

She smiled inscrutably, but as he went 

nearer to her the sneering lines about her 

\ 

face deepened, revealing all her bitter de- 
testation of the Kirishitan. 

"You will be punished if you have in- 
jured her," he said. 

" What will the wise and mighty Excel- 
lency do?" 

" I will have you arrested. You will be 
forced to answer." 

"So!" 

She drew in her breath with the hissing 
201 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

sound peculiar to the Japanese. Then she 
drew the skirt of her kimona closely about 
her, and turned to re-enter the house. He 
caught and held her by the sleeve and 
then she stood still, her eyes half closed. 

" Answer me ! " he cried. 

" It is not I who am the keeper of the 
Outcast. You come to the wrong house, 
sei-yo-gin. Seek elsewhere." 

Still he held her, and she could not free 
herself, though she made effort to do so. 
Thus held, in angry durance she stood. 

" You are her mother-in-law. You know 
where she is. I will not release you till you 
speak." 

202 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" Go to Okido-sama, the Nakoda," she 
said sullenly. 

"Okido-sama?" 

"He knows!" said she. 

He let her arm go and she, free, pushed 
the shoji viciously closed, attempting to 
crush his hand in the opening. 

"Okido-sama!" he repeated thought- 
fully, " Okido-sama, the Nakoda! " 



203 



CHAPTER XV 

Okidosama, the Nakoda, was squatting 
comfortably upon his heels eating his warm 
rice and fish when Richard Verley came to 
his door. During the absence of the minis- 
ter, Okido had apparently prospered. His 
house was new. His servants many and 
obsequious. The one who hastened to 
respond to the minister's knock did not 
recognize him in the darkened rainy even- 
ing. He perceived only a barbarian and, 
knowing his master's trade, saw in him a 
possible customer. 

Verley was shown into the guest cham- 
204 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

ber. Shortly came Okido to the room, fat 
and oily, discreetly wiping the rice crumbs 
from his thick lips with the back of his 
hands. He was bowing grotesquely at 
every step as he came toward the minister, 
but when he finally lifted his head and saw 
who his guest was, he gave such a startled 
jump that he fell in a heap on the floor, 
and there he remained, trembling with 
fright. Instantly Verley was convinced 
that the man knew all about his wife, her 
whereabouts, the horrible fate that must 
have befallen her. 

"My wife! You know her where- 
abouts?" 

" Your wife ! " stammered the cringing 
205 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Okido. "What was her august name, 
Excellency?" 

" You know it. Answer at once." 

"Excellency is honorably mistaken. I 
do not know the name of the exalted one's 
wife." 

Verley, with no effort at gentleness, 
seized him by the shoulder of his robe, 
and as he spoke shook the trembling 
wretch threateningly. 

" You will answer my question. Under- 
stand." 

The Nakoda began to whimper, drawing 
his sleeve across his eyes and furtively 
looking about for a means of escape. 

He was poor man, very poor, harmless 
206 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
man. Surely Excellency would not hurt 
him. 

" Quick. I am waiting." 

" So many people I know," whimpered 
the Nakoda. " How I can remember one 
woman among them all." 

"You do not need to remember. You 
already know of whom I speak." 

" She was a tall woman with thin cheeks, 
yes ? " he inquired with attempted guile. 

The minister answered by tightening his 
grip upon the man's collar, and pushing his 
knuckles hard upon the neck. Okido 
shrunk fearfully from the large hand of the 
white man. He felt sure it would hurt 
hard. After a moment : 
207 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" She was fat yes, surely fat ! " 

" That will do." 

He slipped down to the minister's feet 
and beat his head, seeking to shake off that 
hand at his neck. 

" Listen," said Richard Verley, " I will 
give you five minutes in which to answer. 
At the end of that time " 

"Excellency will not beat a poor man. 
Ah, surely not ! " 

"Excellency will kick the life out of 
you." 

" No, no. " Okido cast a fearful glance 
at the minister's boots. " I will speak truth. 
Surely!" 

At those words, the minister for a 
208 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

moment forgot his caution, and slackened 
the tension at the man's neck. But in that 
moment Okido was free. He had slipped 
not only from the minister's grip, but had 
disappeared as if by magic through the 
wall against which he had crouched. 

Richard Verley was alone. He strode 
from one to the other of the four walls of 
the shoji. He threw them all apart and 
penetrated into the interior apartments. 
The servants fled before him with the speed 
of wings and disappeared as silently and 
swiftly as their master. Suddenly he found 
himself on the door step. He went down 
slowly into the street. 
209 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Someone called his name. " Excel- 
lency! Master sir!" 

He turned quickly and saw the woman 
Natsu following him. 

Her name burst in a cry from his lips, 
and he rushed toward her. 

"Natsu! You! Your mistress quick, 
how where is she ? " 

Her eyes shifted from his face. She 
covered her own with her sleeve, and thus 
she stood, the picture of sorrow. 

The minister stared at her, horrified. 
When he spoke his voice was strange. 

" I understand," he said. " She is " 

And so she had died his little, laughing 
Azalea, his beautiful child-wife, had died 
210 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

while he was away from her. He put out 
his hands blindly, as the inclination to faint 
overcame him. He hardly understood the 
words the woman spoke. 
"Oh, master, master, master!" 
But the woman's voice recalled him. He 
stared at her mechanically. Mechanically he 
spoke. 

" I understand," he said. " She is dead." 
" Dead ! " repeated the woman, and 
shook her head. " No, no, not dead ; better 
that than what is, O master sir! " 

"Not dead!" His hands unclinched, 
His fears had lent phantoms to his imagina- 
tion. "Alive! Why, then all was well." 
211 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

His thought escaped his lips, and the woman 
answered : 

" Better death than sin, O master." 

He could have laughed. What! Was 
this servant of his trying to frighten him 
with her old jealous tales of the insincerity 
of his wife's conversion. The sins of 
Azalea were microscopic. 

"Come, Natsu, let us go to her," he 
said impatiently. " Why do you look at 
me in that way? Are you, too, seeking 
to hide her whereabouts from me ? " 

" No, master, but if I take you thither, 
you will curse me for my evil offices." 

" I don't understand you, Natsu. You 
212 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

always were a mystery to me. But now, 
come. Where is she?" 

"Oh, master, seek her not!" 

As he still sought to draw her along with 
him, she slipped down to his feet and stayed 
his progress with her head there. 

"Why do you seek to deceive me, 
Natsu? What is the matter with you? 
Why do you act thus ? What has happened, 
to my wife? Speak!" 

Still kneeling, with her head at his feet, 
she answered : 

" She has become wife to Matsuda Isami, 
Oh, Highness." 

As he did not speak or seem to compre- 
hend her words, she repeated them. And 
213 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
then, as still he made no sound, she said: 

" Isami is richest man in Sanyo. What 
is there he cannot buy? " 

She was seized by the shoulders in a 
savage grip. Her very teeth smote to- 
gether with the shock of his grasp. 

"You lie!" he cried. "You lie! Vile 
thing, you lie, I say!" 



214 



CHAPTER XVI 

It was the evening of the return of 
Richard Verley to Sanyo. Azalea was sit- 
ting passively under the hands of the maid, 
Natsu, having her shining black hair 
brushed and twisted into the elaborate 
mode approved by Matsuda. Word had 
come into the room where thus far she 
had been kept a prisoner, ordering her to 
prepare for the wedding ceremony. What- 
ever her inward emotions, now as she sat 
under the hands of the woman, she showed 
only a stoical calm. That nameless an- 
tagonism which had always existed between 
215 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
these two had become a deeper thing during 
these days in the house of Matsuda. In- 
stinctively Azalea knew the woman for an 
enemy, and accordingly feared and hated 
her. Though forced to submit to the 
woman's attendance, v yet she would not 
condescend a word either of entreaty or 
command. Matsuda held her destiny in his 
hand. He could rob her of her child. He 
had kept his word and taught her lips to 
frame themselves to meeker words. But 
the woman Natsu-san to her at least she 
need not kneel. Now on this day as Natsu 
dressed her mistress, Azalea showed no 
interest in the other's evident agitation, 
despite the fact that the woman showed 
216 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

unusual signs of being discomposed. Fin- 
ally as the silence became unbearable to 
her, the woman broke it with strange 
words : 

" Mistress," she said, " the man Okido is 
waiting below in the guest room." 

Azalea inclined her head, but made no 
comment. Okido, like all other people,- 
was of no interest to her. The woman 
lowered her voice. 

" I have taken a patch from your floor, 
mistress. If you will put your head to it 
you will hear what he has to say to the 
master." 

Azalea's glittering eyes looked at the 
217 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

patch uplifted by the woman. Still she 
remained silent. 

The woman's insidious voice continued 
carefully: 

"Mistress, you have heard the ancient 
saying of the samurai : ' To die with honor 
when one can no longer live with honor.' " 

The girl beneath her hands did not stir, 
nor did she deign to turn her head to where 
the woman pointed. The shorter sword of 
the samurai was set close to the patch. It 
was covered with a white cloth the cloth 
of honorable death. The woman had pro- 
vided the wife of the white priest with a 
means of escape. Yet she had judged 
wrongly. Azalea was not merely th 
218 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

daughter of samurai. She was the wife of 
a Christian. Life could not be taken so 
easily as the woman supposed. The code 
of the samurai pointed out that death was 
better than dishonor. The new religion 
said nothing on this matter. It simply 
forbade the suicide. 

The woman, her task completed, arose 
and brought a mirror to Azalea, who, still 
silent, stared fixedly and unseeingly at the 
reflected face. She started somewhat as 
the maid's lips touched her ears, and in the 
glass she saw the fat red face close to her 
own. 

" Mistress, to-day if you listen you will 
219 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

learn the full extent of your folly and the 
dupe you have been to us all." 

The mirror slipped from Azalea's hands. 
She reached them up suddenly and pushed 
them against the face of the maid. Her 
nails sank into the puffed fatness of the 
woman's cheeks. 

"Your touch offends me," she said. 
" Come not so near, low-born one." 

With a cry of rage the woman sprang 
back, clasping her hands over her hurt 
cheeks. Then, muttering, she shuffled 
toward the doors. There she paused vin- 
dictively. 

"You are a peacock now, Madame 
Azalea, but your feathers will look less 
220 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

proud and pretty when you learn what they 
have cost you. You disdained the servant 
of the white Highness and taught him to do 
likewise. But the lowly one was in his 
service long before his eyes desired you. 
Even a snake crawling in the grass may 
strike a revenge. There is nothing too 
small or lowly to bite.'* 

Azalea did not move or deign to turn her 
head, even after the woman had gone and 
she could hear her glide along the hall. 
For a long time she sat in silence. Once 
she looked with fearful stealth at the open- 
ing in the floor, but she did not look for 
long. There was nothing further for her to 
hear, she told herself. Who knew already 
221 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
better than herself the extent of her de- 
basement? 



222 



CHAPTER XVII 

Okido bowed to the floor before the illus- 
trious Matsuda Isami. Knowing well the 
nature and temper of his employer, he did 
not waste much time upon courtesies, but 
went briefly to the object of his visit. 

" He has returned/' he said. 

"What is that you say?" 

" The white beast " 

"Ah!" Matsuda's grasp relaxed. He 
took several strides across the room, then 
stopped before an opened shoji and 
drummed upon the panelling. 

"Well, then what of that? " he asked. 
223 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

Okido came to his elbow and whispered 
agitatively : 

"But she will see him. It cannot be 
helped." 

Matsuda laughed diabolically. 

" I have complete command over her 
eyes, my good Okido. Have you not yet 
observed how she is conquered ? " 

Okido shook his head dubiously. 

" But should Mr. Beast come in person 
to your house ? " 

"We have means of dealing with bar- 
barous dogs," quoth Matsuda contemptu- 
ously, " and the police of this town respect 
the authority of their masters." 
224 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

" But the letters, most Exalted ? He will 
make inquiry." 

"Pah! What of it?" Will it be the 
first time that mail has been lost between 
this country and America? " 

" so much mail." Okido moved 

uneasily. " Excellency, I am afraid of the 
heavy boot of the barbarian. It was I who 
kept back for you the letters from the 
barbarian to the woman. It is said his 
government is powerful revengeful. Let 
me beseech you to give me a sufficient sum 
to get swiftly away." 

" On the contrary. You must stay here 
and help me. Besides, you forget the 
woman Natsu was the one who held the 
225 




THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

letters. They should weight her sleeves, 
not yours." 

" Yet, good Excellency, I was the carrier, 
and " 

" You delivered the letters? " 

" Not to the one to whom they were 
addressed, but to the servant of the foreign 
devil, who, Exalted, declares she gave them 
to you." 

Matsuda laughed unpleasantly. 

"Huh! Then it is my sleeves which 
are weighted!" 

In the room above the speakers the 

woman Azalea watched over the open patch 

in the floor. Her face beneath the heavy 

rouge plastered lately upon it by Natsu 

22$ 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

was a ghastly white. Her bosom was 
heaving with her quick breathing, her glit- 
tering eyes were horrible to look upon. 
She had heard and understood every word 
of the dialogue, and now she crouched in 
the attitude of a feline about to spring, look- 
ing down with dreadful eyes upon the head 
of that one below. Yet in this moment of 
frenzy Azalea did not scream or faint. Now 
the strength of her samurai ancestors surged 
upward through her veins, tingling her 
whole being. Everything else was blotted 
out forgotten. She obeyed only the 
hereditary instinct of the samurai an in- 
stinct for revenge. When she could move 
from her crouching position by the opening, 
227 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

she arose with silent swiftness. She stood 
straight and still, only her eyes slowly 
travelling about the room as though seeking 
some object. 

Suddenly she found it the sword ! Her 
small hands gripped its blade and felt its 
keenness. Then she hid it in the folds of 
her kimona, and, her colorless lips close 
pressed together, she passed soundlessly 

from the room down the little flight of 

* 
steps and through the hall. Suddenly and 

almost soundlessly she pushed aside the 
shoji of the ozashishi. Now she stood be- 
tween the opening, her eyes upon the 
startled ones of Matsuda Isami. 
In a flash he understood that somehow 
228 




" As the sword flashed upward he dashed to one side 
and then slipped under its guard." 

(Page 229) 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

she had heard and knew now the truth. 
His servants had grown careless. She had 
escaped from the trap he had set for her. 
Vengeance was written in every line of her 
rigid form. He could almost see the 
twitching of her fingers upon the concealed 
weapon in her sleeve. With a cunning 
worthy of the man he advanced a step 
toward her, hoping in this way to precipi- 
tate her attack, and when she should spring 
upon him he would trip her. He said as he 
advanced : 

"Little dove, you look pale to-day- 
why " 

As the sword flashed upward he dashed 
to one side and then slipped under its guard. 
229 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

His heavy hands locked together descended 
crushingly upon her head. She threw back 
her arms, the sword slipping from her 
hand. Then she fell backward. 

Across her fallen body Matsuda Isami 
and Okido stared at each other. The latter 
was shivering as though afflicted with ague. 
He kept repeating over and over between 
his chattering teeth: "Shaka! Shaka! 
Shaka!" 

" Do not speak so loud," hoarsely com- 
manded the other, " or, by all the gods, I 
will send you to join her ! " 

The little Nakoda shrank and shivered 
beat his head upon the floor. 

Matsuda strode to the dividing doors. 
230 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

He called the woman Natsu as he clapped 
his hands. She came hurrying along the 
hall and stood open-mouthed on the thresh- 
old, looking in on that outstretched form. 
Her eyes lifted in question to the man 
Matsuda. 

"Hear me," he whispered hoarsely. 
"The woman has fallen in some swoon. 
We will tie her devil offspring to her back 
and carry her up to the place where she 
belongs. Give me your aid, good Natsu, 
and I will marry you instead." 



231 






CHAPTER XVIII 

Save for the moving of the trees in the 
early winter air, there was only silence on 
the hill, where stood the little mission house, 
but a ghostly moon pushed its rays through 
the boughs of the trees, glistened on the 
panes of the church and silvered the interior. 

The rows of dark pews shone up stiffly 
in the moonlit church, and a great white 
beam glimmered across the pulpit, shaped 
as a cross. 

Azalea crawled on her hands and knees 
up one of the aisles of the church. She 
was moaning to herself as she made her 
painful journey along. 
232 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

"to touch his God!" she said, "for 
even the evil are forgiven." 

Now she was before the little pulpit, her 
weak hands upon it. She sighed at its con- 
tact, and a feeling of intense calm and rest 
seemed to flood her being, but she could 
not support herself against the pulpit struc- 
ture, even upon her knees, so weak was 
she and so nauseating the pain in her head. 
Gradually she sank downward, lower and 
lower, till her face touched the floor. Then 
she spread out her arms, and lay very still, 
face downward. 

It was past midnight when Richard 
Verley came back to the door of the little 
mission house. His old-time beggar pro- 
233 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

tegee Gonji accompanied him. From the 
boy the minister had learned much all, 
indeed concerning his wife. He knew 
now what had befallen her so soon after 
the birth of her child : her homeless condi- 
tion, her vain efforts to obtain work, her 
wanderings and terrible privations, and then 
the gossip of the town. People whispered 
that as a wraith she had returned to Sanyo 
and had passed as a shadow into the house 
of Matsuda Isami. The feelings of the 
husband can be imagined. Such was the 
temperament of Richard Verley that, even 
with the knowledge in his mind of her 
probable relations to the man Isami, there 
was no thought of blame for her in his 
234 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

heart. Indeed, the strongest emotion that 
swayed him was remorse of the deepest and 
bitterest. He should never have left her. 
He should have either forced her to accom- 
pany him or have remained in Japan with 
her. 

His first impulse now was that of the 
man-brute, the desire to kill with his own 
hands the one who had injured him and his 
so terribly. But a calmer, higher instinct 
triumphed the instinct of the man of 
strong spirituality to turn to that One who 

had never failed him in time of stress. 
^ 

Something seemed to force his footsteps 

toward his little house of prayer. So dazed 

and numb was the condition of his mind 

235 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

at this time, however, that he did not 
even notice when he came to the door of 
the church that it was no longer nailed to 
and boarded up. 

Richard Verley entered the church alone. 
The boy was afraid to enter. He did not 
know what evil spirit might be lurking in 
the night within the white priest's temple. 
He stretched himself out on the doorstep 
of the church and went to sleep there. 

It was very dark within now, for the 
moon was gone. For a moment the minis- 
ter paused irresolute. Then his hand 
touched the side of a seat. He sat down 
mechanically. Suddenly he covered his 
face with his hands, and tried to pray, but 
236 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

his prayer was wordless. For how long he 
sat thus he could not have told. It might 
have been the length of half the night, for 
when he uncovered his eyes again things 
seemed changed about him. The faint 
glimmer of the dawn lent its first grey 
light. He looked about him at the melan- 
choly church interior, his eyes traveling 
slowly and painfully over the dusty pews 
and then upward toward the little pulpit 
cross where he had spoken so often. A 
patch of color caught his eyes and held 
them. He thought he dreamed and turned 
his glance away, but, fascinated, his eyes 
came back to that bit of color there at the 
foot of the pulpit. 

237 






THE LOVE OF AZALEA 
He started up with a loud cry. A mo- 
ment only, and he was beside her, his 
trembling hands touching her. Some- 
thing stirred upon her back and he saw the 
round head of the baby. Its eyes were 
wide open now and looking at him with 
interest. Like most Japanese babies, it was 
a grave, mute little mite, but its eyes were 
large and, like his own mother's, blue in 
color. He knew it for his own child, 
though he could not see the face of the 
mother who lay so very still. Some blessed 
instinct guided his staggering feet to the 
door. He aroused the sleeping Gonji, and 
put into his arms the child. Then he went 
back into the church. 
238 



THE LOVE OF AZALEA 

She had told him in those other days, so 
many times, that his voice would waken 
her from the very sleep of death. When 
her eyes looked up into his face she would 
not close them though they ached with 
weariness. She even smiled at his broken 
repetitions of her name. 

"I do not know how it is you are here," 
he said, "but here you are in my arms, 
my wife, and it is enough." 

Her voice was weak, but inexpressibly 
sweet. 

"It is enough," she said. 



239 



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111