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The Honorable Percival By Alice Caldwell Hegan Rice Characters: 12969

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03

Of course, after what had happened, nothing could induce Percival to join the Weston party in Japan. He left a note of formal regret, and hastened ashore on the first launch in the morning. His one desire was to avoid those detestable young Americans, whose diabolical laughter had rung in his ears all night. The wounds received by vanity are never serious, but they are very hard to heal, and as Percival stopped ashore in this strange land he felt that he was the most unhappy of mortals.

"Call a hansom," he demanded impatiently of Judson, who stood grinning at the queer sights on the hatoba.

"There ain't none, sir."

"Of course; I forgot. But how are we to get to the hotel?"

"Carn't say, sir, unless we go in a couple of them perambulators."

Percival took an instant dislike to a country that forced him to ride in a ridiculous vehicle, pulled by a small bare-legged brown man in a mushroom hat. All the way to the hotel he was unhappy in the conviction that he was making a spectacle of himself.

The rooms which he had engaged in advance were not satisfactory, and it was not until he had inspected all the suites that were unoccupied that he decided upon one that commanded a view of the bay. Once established therein, he despatched Judson for his mail and for any English papers that might be found, then took up his position by a front window and sternly watched the bund.

The picturesque harbor, full of sampans and junks, the gay streets, full of color and movement, the thousand unfamiliar sights and sounds, held no interest for the Honorable Percival. His whole attention was focused upon the jinrikishas that constantly arrived and departed at the entrance below.

He wanted to see Bobby's face and read there the signs of contrition, which he felt sure must have followed her unfeeling conduct of the night before. But he intended to punish her before he forgave. Such a violence to their friendship could not go unrebuked. Even when he received the note of apology which he felt sure she would send up the moment she reached the hotel, he would delay answering it. She must be made to suffer in order to profit by this unhappy experience.

His reflections were interrupted by a rap at the door, which called him away from the window. It proved to be a sleek Chinaman, who proffered his card, bearing the inscription:

"G. Lung Fat, Ladies' and Gents' Tailer."

G. Lung Fat, it seemed, had beheld Percival in the lobby and been greatly impressed with his bearing. It would be an honor, he urged, with the fervor of an artist craving permission to paint a subject that had captured his fancy, to cut, fit, and finish any number of garments for such a figure before the ship sailed on the morrow.

Percival was impressed. He examined the samples with the air of a connoisseur. Like most Englishmen, he had a weakness for light clothes and sun-helmets. The regalia suggested English supremacy in foreign lands. He had ordered his fourth suit and was earnestly considering a white dinner-jacket when familiar voices from the street below made him spring to the window.

It was Bobby Boynton and Andy Black, who were evidently setting forth in jinrikishas alone, Mrs. Weston and the other young people remaining to inspect the fascinating array of curios that were being displayed on the pavement. If any sorrow for past misdeeds dwelt in Bobby's bosom, there was certainly no trace of it on her face as she called gaily back over her shoulder:

"We are off for a lark; you needn't look for us until you see us."

Percival dismissed the Chinaman peremptorily, and paced his room in indignation. It was incredible that a girl who had basked in the sun of his approval could find even temporary pleasure in the feeble rushlight of Andy Black's society. Not that it made the slightest difference to him where she went or with whom. If her father saw fit to permit her to go forth in a strange city with a strange man, unchaperoned, of course it was not for him to interfere. But that she should have, at the first opportunity, disregarded his counsels, to which she had listened with such flattering attention, angered him beyond measure. He bitterly assured himself that all women were alike, an assertion which seems to bring universal relief to the masculine mind.

His ill humor was not decreased when Judson returned, after a long delay, and reported that the mail had been sent to the steamer. Not content with being the bearer of this unpleasant news, Judson committed the indiscretion of waxing eloquent over the charms of Japan. Percival considered it impertinent in an inferior to express enthusiasm for anything that was under the ban of his disapproval. Before the discussion ended it became his painful duty to remind Judson of the fact that he was an ass.

At tiffin-time, when he descended to the dining-room, owing to the recent arrival of two steamers, all the tables were engaged. There was one in the corridor, he was told, if he did not mind another gentleman. He did mind; he much preferred a table alone, but he also wanted his luncheon. He followed the unctuous head waiter the length of the big dining-room, winding in and out among the small tables, only to emerge finally into the corridor and find himself face to face with his bête noire, Captain Boynton.

"Hello! Can't lose you," was the captain's gruff greeting. "How does it happen that you aren't off with the crowd doing the sights?"

"Sights bore me," said Percival, unfolding his napkin with an air of lassitude.

"Crowds, too, eh? Twoing more in your line?"

The remark was treated with contemptuous silence while Percival devoted himself to the menu.

"Seen that girl of mine since she came ashore?" continued the captain.

"Miss Boynton?" asked Percival, as if not quite sure of the identity of the person inquired for. "Oh, yes, I believe I did see her early this morning. She went out with Mr. Black."

"Good! He'll show her a thing or two."

"Rather extraordinary," Percival could not help commenting, "the way young American girls go about alone like that."

"Alone? What's the matter with Andy?"

"But I mean unchaperoned. Dare say young Black is very good in his way, but he can't be called discreet."

"How do you mean?"

"Taking your daughter into that nasty mess of Chinamen in the steerage, for instance, to watch them play fan-tan."

"What of that? She only lost a couple of quarters and had a dollar's wort

h of fun. Can't see it was any worse than keeping her out at the prow until midnight, or taking her up to the crow's-nest." The captain pushed back his chair, and smiled with maddening significance. "See here, my young friend, you needn't worry about Bobby. She's been taking care of herself for twenty years. You better look after yourself."

The Honorable Percival did not answer. He got his eye-glass right and looked straight ahead of him.

But the captain was not through. He leaned across the table and shook a warning finger:

"Beware of J. Lucy," he said, then he took a smiling departure.

Through the rest of the meal and well into the afternoon Percival puzzled his brain over that cryptic warning. When its meaning dawned upon him he flung "Guillim's Display of Heraldry" clear across the room, and used language not becoming an English gentleman. He assured himself for the hundredth time that Americans were the most odious people in the world, and the captain the most convincing proof of it.

The afternoon dragged miserably, and the prospect of waiting about the hotel until the steamer sailed at noon the next day appalled him. The obvious thing, of course, was to go out and see the city, but he had declared to Judson that there was nothing worth seeing, and one must be consistent before one's servants. Even the morrow offered no abatement to his misery. Most of the people he knew were going from Yokohama to Kobe by rail, and he pictured himself the only guest at the captain's table for three mortal days.

At three o'clock he went down to the terrace and took his seat at a small table that commanded a view of the hotel entrance. To one with a free mind the scene was highly diverting, with jinrikishas and occasional victorias thronging the bund, and gay parties constantly arriving and departing. Coolies in blue, with mysterious Chinese lettering on their kimonos and with bright towels about their heads, trotted past; women with blackened teeth and with babies strapped on their backs clattered by on wooden shoes; street venders sang their savory wares; merchants displayed treasures of lacquer and ivory, street dancers posed and sang to the tinkle of the samisen.

But to Percival it was at best a purgatory where he seemed to be doomed to wait through eternity. Not that he meant to speak to Bobby Boynton when she arrived or make the slightest sign of forgiveness. That she should have allowed Andy Black to keep her out from eleven in the morning until after three in the afternoon was even more shocking than her behavior to him the night before. He was resolved to show her by every means in his power that to even a disinterested acquaintance like himself her conduct was wholly unpardonable. Meanwhile that emotion to which the captain had so grossly alluded took entire and absorbing possession of him.

Toward the middle of the afternoon Mrs. Weston joined him on the terrace in an anxious mood.

"Have you seen anything of that naughty Bobby Boynton?" she asked. "I am quite distracted about her. Our train for Kioto leaves in half an hour. You don't suppose anything has happened to her, do you?"

"I really can't say," said Percival, with a shrug that suggested the direst possibilities.

"We simply must go on to Kioto tonight," continued Mrs. Weston, anxiously nervous. "My cousin would never forgive me if I disappointed him. You see, he's lived in Kioto for years, and he's promised to take us out to an old Buddhist temple on a wonderful sacred mountain that I can't pronounce. We've been looking forward to it for weeks."

Percival stood back of his chair and watched his tea getting cold. The suggestion of something having happened to Bobby had changed his anger to sharp solicitude. Gruesome tales of brutality toward foreigners in Eastern ports came back to him.

"I wonder," said Mrs. Weston, persuasively, "if you would mind taking a jinrikisha and going down to Benten Dori to see if they are there. I have no one else to send."

"I don't know that I should care to go myself," said Percival, "but I'll send my man."

Judson having been despatched, Percival with difficulty refrained from following him. Mrs. Weston's solicitude as she hovered between the telephone-booth and the desk was infectious, and he found himself pacing from entrance to entrance, imagining the most calamitous causes for the delay.

It was not until a joyful exclamation from Elise Weston announced the approach of the truants that he drew a deep breath of relief and retired to the reading-room. He was more than ever resolved not to see Bobby; to her former transgressions was now added the new and unpardonable offense of having made him acutely anxious about her.

He took up an old copy of the "Graphic," and resolutely read of events that had taken place before he left England. He even glanced through the pages of the innocuous "Gentlewoman," and tried to concentrate upon an article entitled "Favorite Fabrics for Autumn." In vain were his efforts; every sound from the lobby or the street claimed his instant attention. At last, when an unmistakable commotion without gave evidence that the Weston party was leaving, he got up, despite himself, and went to the window.

They were all there, Mrs. Weston, Elise, the Scotchman, Andy, and Bobby, all climbing into their jinrikishas in the greatest possible haste and in the highest possible spirits. One after another the jinrikishas trundled away, until only Bobby's was left while her runner adjusted his sandal. Percival saw her turn in her seat and eagerly scan the terrace and the windows of the hotel. Then suddenly she caught sight of him, and her face broke into a radiant smile as she waved her hand and nodded.

A moment later and his eyes were straining after a figure that was fast disappearing up the bund. It was a small, alert figure, disturbingly young and sweet and buoyant. The flying jinrikisha, the hair blowing across her cheek, the scarf that fluttered in the breeze, all suggested flight, and flight to the masculine mind is only another term for pursuit.

He flung down his paper and strode out to the lobby.

"When is the next train for Kioto?" he demanded.

"At ten to-night, sir."

"Make out my bill, and get my luggage down; I'm leaving on that train."

"But, sir, you have made no reservation. You may have to sit up all night."

"Have you any objections?" asked the Honorable Percival in his most insular manner.

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