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Broken Butterflies

118 pages
Library of Alexandria
The black bow of the Tenyo Maru cut into the broad ribbon of moonlight stretching, interminably, straight into the vast spaces of the opalescent night. Somewhere ahead, bathed in that same pale illumination, invisible, lay Japan. Arms folded over the rail, Hugh Kent looked forward into the opaque dimness. From the main deck below the plaint of a bamboo flute came softly up to him. The following wind brought stray bits of the dance music from astern where the cabin passengers were enjoying their last night at sea. Ahead the Orient, dim, mysterious, indefinitely veiled as the flute notes—behind him the virile, strident, restless clamor of the West; ever approaching, the two, East and West, seeking to blend, even partly blending, yet each as yet too strongly individual, mutually strange, to combine in full harmony. The vastness of space, vagueness of translucent darkness, shimmer of niveous sparkle of foam cascaded before the tall prow and glimmer of phosphorescence flickering in the dark water below, all induced to introspection, reflection, vague wonder as to what lay before him, what new revelations would life in Japan bring to him. It had surely changed vastly in the score of years which had passed since he had left it, at fifteen. He would find much that he knew though, would enjoy recapturing fluency in the speech which he had prattled expertly as a toddler in amah's care and as a boy in the streets and gardens of Kyoto. It would be a new, a more sophisticated Japan that he would see, spoiled without doubt; still how he had longed for years to return, to rediscover. A shadow fell over his thoughts. How he had cherished that dream, a few years ago, during the first years of their marriage, to go there with Isabel. How they had both looked forward to it, to the time when he should attain a post as correspondent at Tokyo for one of the great dailies, to which his knowledge of the language gave him good reason to aspire. Even after the first years of marriage had passed, when in time they had gradually drifted apart, had become almost indifferent, he had hoped that when Japan should provide a new scene for their lives, it might be possible to revive interest, to make a new start. He had felt that it contained some vague potentiality of that sort, and when the offer came from the San Francisco Herald to be its Tokyo correspondent, he had felt certain that the opportunity had come for them, that she would appreciate it as well as he. For that reason he had said nothing to her about it until every arrangement had been made, the contract signed, that he might carry the glad tidings to her, complete, that the realization of all that this meant to them might sweep her off her feet and envelop her, as it had him. And then the shock of her absolute coldness, when he had brought his surprise to her; her absolute refusal to go to Japan. It had thrown him off his feet, confused him, so that when she reproached him with secrecy, with having taken this important step without even consulting her, trying to learn her wishes, he had been able to explain only confusedly how with the very best intentions he had meant to give her a splendid surprise; how, in fact, he had had to restrain himself from telling her when the first inkling of the great news came, just in order that he might make the marvel of the revelation more complete. As he had tried to justify himself, to explain, to convince her, her indifference had baffled him—surely, commonplace and torpid as their relations had become, he had never felt towards her the indifference which she apparently felt towards him.