33

A Daughter of Two Lands

Author of A Japanese Nightingale, etc
Illustrated by W.H.D. Koerner
It seemed more like a smart tea or reception than an auction sale. Society women, gorgeously gowned, chatted eagerly with each other, or pushed their way to the front. Their eyes were bright and keen, their faces flushed with that eager expression which games of chance always bring to the features of American women, giving them a curiously sexless look, and, in a moment, robbing them of all their vaunted beauty.
Knowing well the nature of his customers, the auctioneer had chosen a fitting place for his wares, and the latter were spread out with sumptuous taste. Such a collection was indeed unlikely to be offered again within the span of a life-time. The Chinese treasures had been gathered by an American diplomat during a few years’ sojourn in the Orient. One object of art or archaic treasure after another was sold; a fortune was already piled up for the late owner of the treasure.
I’m just played out—and broke! breathlessly confessed a flossy-haired little matron, who was arrayed in fleecy finery suitable for a fête. She tapped off on her fingers the various articles she had acquired, gloatingly triumphing over having obtained this or that bit of bronze or porcelain.
What did you get, Mr. Carruthers?
34
A half-whimsical smile flickered around the lips of the cadaverous gentleman, whose own private collections were famous. His wife giggled with half-chiding pride in her husband’s attainments.
He paid five hundred dollars for one of Buddha’s best back teeth, she said flippantly.
Nonsense, protested the man.
It’s a fact, insisted the woman shrilly, her high nasal voice curiously unpleasant, and anyhow if it wasn’t that exactly, it was something equally as silly—a temple relic of some obscure sort.
What I’d like to know, chipped in a third woman of the party, a good-looking young individual of the horsey type, is this: Granted that the Wardwells were the particularly cherished pets of many high officials in China, and therefore—er—came naturally by—well—some of this, how on earth, will you tell me, did they acquire temple treasures, archaeological specimens, and—what not? I always thought the Chinese held such things so sacred that not even the priests—or the Emperors for that matter—could either give them away or sell them. How came the formidable ‘foreign devils’ by such treasure, my friends?
The blonde-haired lady had finished her calculations and snapped closed her note book.
Those are questions, my dear, said she, smilingly, for the ‘heathen chinee’ to ask—not us.
The girl who sat beside her leaned suddenly forward. She had bought nothing and had sat throughout the sale with her hands clasped spasmodically in her muff, her eyes down-drooped, as though she dared not raise them. Her voice trembled slightly.
I always thought, she said—and there was the least foreign lisp in her speech—that the receivers of stolen goods were as culpable as—the thieves.
Tut, tut, exclaimed Mrs. Fanton—she of the flossy hair. What did you buy, my dear?
Nothing at all.
No?
Mrs. Fanton looked at her sharply, and even the renowned collector regarded her with some anxiety.
You don’t think them spurious, do you? asked his wife in a tone of dismay.
There was a moment of anxious silence before the 35 girl answered. She raised a pair of intensely dark eyes.
No—they are the real thing, she said, and then, almost whispering: That’s why I could not—would not—have them.
Silly child! exclaimed Mrs. Fanton, in a tone of relief. You, a little half-Jap, disdaining rare treasures like these. Listen to her, Lieutenant Burrows—do!
The latter had been standing behind the girl’s chair throughout the afternoon, though they had scarcely spoken. He had brought her to this sale of oriental loot, and had watched her with mixed feelings, as she sat throughout it with averted face, all her brightness gone—shocked out of her.
I suppose, went on Mrs. Fanton, with a side glance at the girl that was half caressing, half cattish, that Sakura, as a Japanese, simply wants to show her contempt for mere Chinese art—eh?
Believe that, if you wish, said the girl, rising suddenly, and—good-by, Mrs. Fanton.
Going? Good-by, dear. And she turned to whisper the girl’s history to her companions before she was barely out of sight.

II.

Walking swiftly down Fifth Avenue, scarcely conscious of her companion, Sakura’s tumultuous heart beat rebelliously. She turned quickly at the half-soothing, half-humorous tone of Burrows.
Well—I didn’t do it, you know, he protested.
No—not you! she said passionately, but—your countrymen. Oh, to think, she cried, of the brazenness of it all! The open, bragging, public display!
Most of it was loot, admitted the Lieutenant, but then, the Wardwells were no worse than others, though of course it was too bad in an ambassador. You should have seen the French and German and English people licking up the stuff. You should have been in China at the Boxer period. That was the time of plenty, I can tell you. Got a thing or two myself for that matter. Fishing into a vest pocket he brought up a single mandarin stone, a thing of beauty, pink, glossy, and quite as large as a walnut.
Want it? he asked, noting, with unconcealed admiration, the color mantling the girl’s cheeks.
Want it! she cried impulsively, taking the stone, and looking at it with wide eyes. Yes—for that purpose! And she threw it into the gutter, as if it were something unclean.
The young man’s face fell.
Well, I didn’t steal it, said he ruefully. I bought it from one of my men who—
Stole it for you, she finished bitterly.
They walked on in silence for some time. She spoke at least tremulously, the sound of tears in her voice.
Tony, I’m sorry I threw away your—your stone, she said.
Don’t say that, he begged, almost pleadingly, I can’t bear to have you speak to me like that. You can throw away anything of mine you want—even my—heart! She shook her head wearily. The color had died down from her face, leaving it pale and wistful. All the passionate indignation which had throbbed within her was stilled now. She was not thinking of a country’s wrongs, but hearing and seeing only her young American lover. He was there vividly before her, big, strong, so good to look at.
Don’t you know what I mean? he urged in his insistent way. I’ve told you often enough.
I do know what you mean, she answered softly, but I wouldn’t throw away your heart, Tony.
You’d keep it? he demanded eagerly, pressing, close to her, unmindful that they were on the street.
No, she said, I couldn’t even—take it, Tony.
Why?he demanded, hoarsely.
They were before her house now, and she stood with one little hand pressed against the great stone colonial pillar. Because of such things as this afternoon—that sale, and all that it meant, she said.
How does it concern me? he pleaded.
Don’t you see? You are American, and I—why, I am half Japanese—Eurasian. I’ve lived here—in my mother’s home most of my life, but I know, deep in my heart, I am more Japanese than anything else.
If you could see yourself now—as I see you—you wouldn’t say it. Why you are as Western as I am, he protested.
38 In my dress, perhaps. In my looks even, to a degree; but not in my heart! Ah, don’t you see how everything about me yearns over the Orient when anything really vital touches it? Sometimes when people speak slightingly of the Japanese or Chinese I want to run away—to flee far, far away from them, because of the terrible hatred that surges in me! How could I marry an American, feeling as I do?
I’m an individual. Marry me as such, Sakura-san.
Why, Tony, you are a soldier, more American indeed than a mere citizen, because you are one of your country’s appointed defenders.
Their eyes met, hers piteous, his with an honest appeal in them she could not have long resisted.
That’s the answer then, he said, bravely.
Yes—
Her hand came timidly from her muff, and touched his just for a second. Then she fled up the steps. At the top she turned and saw him, still waiting there below.
Ah, she breathed, maybe—at another time. But not—to- day!

III.

Of what are you thinking, Sakura? asked her aunt. Your face looks positively tragic.
The girl sat up with a slight shiver.
Oh, she said, with that curious directness which some of her acquaintances found so quaint and attractive and others so disconcerting, I was thinking about Japan—and my childhood there. Do you know, Aunt Margaret, I think, to the expatriate, the land of his birth must always be rose- colored in his dreams.
I insist, said her aunt, stiffly, that you are not an expatriate in any sense of the word. It is absurd to consider yourself anything but American.
The girl’s long dark eyes narrowed slightly, but she ignored her aunt’s assertion, and continued dreamily.
To me, Japan looms dimly in my mind as a sort of fairyland of happiness—all flowers and smiles! It is when people are wronging Japan, I know how deeply I love her!
The memories of childhood are always gilded, said her aunt, tartly.
Yes, said Sakura eagerly, they are gilded—our memories of childhood, and isn’t it good they are? Oh, it’s the one really beautiful, innocent part of our lives that we can always look back upon without the least shadow of regret— isn’t it, dear Aunt Margaret?
Your present period of life is happy—innocent, is it not, Sakura?
I don’t know! I don’t know! cried the girl, restlessly clasping and unclasping her hands, the vague sound of tears in her voice. Sometimes such—such terrible emotions come over me. I want to hurt—to injure people!
Now, Sakura, I know exactly what is troubling you. You are reading all that rubbish in the papers about the possibility of war with Japan. Even if it does come, you have nothing to fear!
Fear! She turned bodily around in her seat, her eyes wide, blazing at her aunt. You think me capable of—
Why not? I would be if I were of your nationality. But as I said, you have nothing to fear, because no one here regards you as Japanese, and if you will only listen to Lieutenant—
The girl came quickly to her feet.
D-don’t speak of him, even. Don’t! I cannot even—now!
She began pulling on her gloves, as if about to make her departure. There was a flush of fever in her cheeks. Her eyes were unnaturally bright. In the restlessness of her mood she had come to her aunt’s house to see her younger cousins, and found her aunt home alone.
If you take my advice, said the older lady, with rough kindliness in her tone, you will do away with all this Japanese hysteria. Your duty is to the man you love, first of all!
Is it, though? asked the girl in a suffocating voice. Is it? In my father’s country we turn instinctively first to the authors of our being. They should come first, by every natural law, and yet—and yet. Oh! how account for this treacherous impulse in us that makes us desert—betray- -our parent for the stranger whom we love!
Desert! Betray! You are impossible, Sakura! In what way, pray, will you betray your father in marrying Lieutenant Burrows?
40
Father does not wish it. He has made—other plans for me, she said, piteously.
And you, raised and bred as you have been in this Twentieth Century, enlightened, civilized country, would submit to a low and degrading oriental arrangement of that sort? Do you wish me to believe that?
No, no! cried the girl wildly. That is not what I meant, but in refusing my father’s wishes, can I—dare I do the other thing?
Why not? Did he not himself dare likewise—once?
Sakura turned pearly white.
My mother! she said faintly, and covered her face with her little shaking hands.
Her aunt put an affectionate arm about her, but she still spoke severely.
Yes, your mother, dear. He married her in spite of the disapproval of all her own and his family. And he took her to his home. What a martyrdom!
The girl shook her head mutely, but her aunt continued inexorably.
It was, indeed. Why, no American girl can realize what it is to marry a Japanese of title and be taken back to his antagonistic relatives—for they always are antagonistic beneath their surface of insincere smiles. Your mother’s case is a distinct example.
My honorable grandparents loved my mother, Sakura said, in a passionate voice that trembled with her effort to control it. They tried to—to be kind to her. They simply did not understand, nor did she. How could they? But I—I understand, Aunt Margaret, for I am of both countries— daughter of both lands!
It was an unfortunate situation all around, said her aunt. From the first her parents and I predicted what would happen. There she was, a spoiled, proud American girl, thrust down in the midst of a family whose whole thought and life were centered in an ancient oriental civilization. Why, she never even stepped into the streets, or drove abroad in her palanquin, or whatever they call it, but a dozen officious relatives dogged her footsteps. They expected her to become as they were, because, forsooth, she was a woman, and therefore should adopt her husband’s mode of life. She wore their dress, ate their food, though it nauseated, and then—then—why your Japanese grandmother actually 42 suggested that she blacken her teeth in signal that she was married, that youth was behind her, and her aim should be to repel, not attract, other men who might see her!
She was very—old my grandmother! said Sakura softly, and she was of the ancient school, Aunt Margaret. But she was good, good! How can I tell you how good she was? You do not want to know—you would not believe if I told you. And yet—sometimes, I close my eyes, and I feel the touch of her withered old fingers about my face again. She is stroking my cheek—oh, so softly, so sweetly; and now she is twisting my hair—it always distressed her because it curled so rebelliously about my face, as a child—and trying to confine it in the conventional topknot, and mother would pull it down when she saw me, and grandmother would roll it up again, patiently and persistently. I never understood— then, but now—
Your mother was distinctly in the right, said her aunt, stiffly. When she left your grandmother’s home, how could she know that in Japan that would be regarded as a scandal? Her husband accompanied her. What absurd rule was that which made a wife take up her residence in the house of her husband’s parents? No free-born girl of the slightest spirit could have endured it.
Yet—I think my mother was happier in my grandparents’ shiro1 than in the new house, Aunt Margaret.
That was because your father and his relatives made her feel as if she were a criminal. I think the only reason your father finally brought her back to America was because he realized that her presence in Japan could only bring pain and havoc in his parents’ household.
Sakura went quickly to her father’s defense.
No, you wrong him, Aunt Margaret. He brought her back because she was unhappy, and he stayed here throughout all these years, when I know he longed to return to Japan. When mother died, he seemed to take it so for granted that I would return with him, and I think that was the cruelest blow of all—that I should fail him—when he needed me most!
When it came to a flat choice between Japan and America, said her aunt didactically, you naturally chose America.
43 It wasn’t that, cried the girl, sharply. A scarlet stain rose to her cheeks and brow, tingeing her neck, even. Aunt Margaret, she said, I—I—had met—Tony!

IV.

A few days later she was sitting at her desk, writing to him. She wanted to see him—badly. Then her maid brought in a letter from her father, and her hands fell limply upon the sheet before her.
Her hair hung in a glossy, dusky cloud about her. A dressing gown, all silken and lace, a feminine, exquisite thing, fell about her in long, loose folds as she stood up slowly. For a moment her glance, almost unconsciously, wandered about her room, the delicately tinted, faintly perfumed chamber of an American girl of refinement and wealth. The dressing table with its pieces of chaste ivory, the chintz-covered chairs, the soft white mull curtains, topped with the colonial ruffle of the same chintz; and the flowered ceiling, the old-rose covered rugs, the long cheval glass—all part of the life to which she had thought but a moment since, she purely belonged.
She read her father’s letter through slowly, studiously, her face becoming fixed and stern. Suddenly she reached over, and catching up the sheets of that other letter she had been writing, deliberately tore them across. The clear-eyed, winning face of Lieutenant Burrows looked up at her insistently from the photograph on her desk. She turned it over. Then, as though something snapped within her, she ran to the window seat, slipped to her knees, and hid her face.
The stars came out in the dark vault of heaven. Night was beautiful, even in this city of monstrosities. Below, in the darkly glistening street, the flaming eyes of countless automobiles went glimmering by. The distant clang of the street cars, the grumbling roar of the great city floated up to the girl as she crouched there by the window. What menacing, engulfing tones they seemed to her! Like those of a monstrous enemy, closing in about, as if to throttle a frailer adversary.
Presently her weakness passed. Tossing back her head bravely, she gathered up the great mass of hair into her hands, coiling it securely against her neck. She dressed quickly and without ringing for her maid’s 44 assistance. Nor did the latter accompany her, as, slipping into a taxicab, she gave to the driver the address of the Japanese consul.
She did not falter once in the task her father had set her. She was buoyed up chiefly by the many accounts of the Japanese subjects in San Francisco, at this time appearing daily in the American papers. Half-American herself, though she was motherless, she exaggerated the importance of even the most insignificant of these incidents, and when the papers loudly proclaimed the probability of war, she firmly believed it. At an age when a girl’s head is full of transient ideals—false or otherwise—Sakura greedily read and learned all she could of other women before her who had served their countries, as she wished to serve hers, and, indeed, as her father had ordered her to do.
She was now pure Japanese. All thought of self, of friends, of relatives even, for she had many here in America- -must be put aside. And love! Duty was the greatest word in the language of her ancestors. Every thought now must be concentrated upon the accomplishment of one purpose only.
Thus, she sought her friends and relatives only when she needed to make use of them, and with her eyes wide open, she accepted the invitation to visit at the home of her lover’s parents, and traveled down to Washington.
There, in the house of a cabinet officer, the father of the man who loved her, she learned all she had set herself to learn, and with copies of plans and maps of certain American forts and points of weaknesses, she suddenly cut short her visit—and disappeared.
Lieutenant Burrows was stationed at F——— when a letter from home apprised him of the visit of the Countess Sakura Sano. Impetuously he cursed his luck. She, it seems, so wrote his mother, had unexpectedly accepted possibly the fiftieth invitation they had tendered her. There was no end to the teas, and parties, and what not, given in her honor, and, as his mother lovingly wrote, she had endeared herself to both his father and herself. Of course the Lieutenant instantly applied for leave of absence, and after an unnecessary amount of red-taped delay, obtained it; but the day before he reached Washington the prized guest had 46 unexpectedly been called away. He followed her to New York, presuming she had returned to her home. There he found the house closed. Inquiry among her relatives revealed the fact that every one believed she had gone to a different place!

V.

On a morning in the month of May, Sakura Sano crept out on deck, and saw the first shadowy outlines of the land of her birth. She had been ill, with a dull heavy fever of the brain. The unnatural strain and excitement which had buoyed her up for months had suddenly snapped, and nervous break- down had ensued.
For many days she had lain in her cabin, staring wide-eyed at the patch of sky and water which swirled tempestuously by her. Her maid, a devoted Frenchwoman, who petted and mothered her as if she were a baby, tried to arouse her from the lethargy into which she seemed to have fallen, but vainly. Events of the past few months revolved and revolved through the girl’s tired mind. Far away now from America— ah, farther every day!—slowly all she had suffered there was being forgotten, minimized, obliterated.
At first she had thought with triumph of the success she had achieved, of the wit of the Oriental, as persistently she called herself, which had outmatched that of the cleverest of American statesmen. Oh! How vainly had they breathed their contempt for insignificant little Japan. But they would see! She would show them—aye, point out to Japan all their colossal weaknesses. Like the giant in the scientific jiujitsu,2 whose very bulk and strength constituted his chief frailty, to the agile-footed, dwarfed opponent, so would America be pricked by the despised pigmy in the very heart of her strength.
Thus the fevered thoughts seethed unceasingly through her tangled mind. Then came a period when she would think of individuals—men, women, girls she had known and lived among in America. She would recall this and that incident of the past, and lie there smiling over old, dear memories.
So, at last, she came to think of Anthony Burrows! She could remain there no longer, still and quiet. Like some imprisoned creature, she paced her little cabin, 47 daring not to show her face outside the room; scarcely daring to look at herself, because the wild-eyed, pale-faced girl who stared back at her from the mirror seemed to accuse her of some secret guilt.
And now at last, in sight of the home of her dreams, rather than her memory, Sakura stood and gazed. Ah, surely not alone to those who have been born under its blessed shadow, Fuji Yama’s enchanting beauty holds one in enraptured thrall! There, in the purple air, enshrouded like a goddess of purity, in fleecy clouds of white, the peerless cone stood revealed in all its golden glory. She felt, as she gazed, justified, forgiven, purged of what had lain as heavy on her soul as crime.
For you! she whispered, breathless. Oh, my beloved home- -for you I have done it!

VI.

Boys were selling newspapers in the streets, sheets no larger than a piece of American note paper. The Countess Sano, driving abroad in her lacquer jinrikisha,3 stopped her carriage boy to buy such a paper. As she looked at it, she turned pale and crushed the sheet viciously in her hand.
Let me see it, commanded her father, who was with her, and, as she released the crumpled paper to him, he laughed at the hideous picture upon it—a caricature of the American President.
Well, inquired the Count, good-humoredly, what do you think of this work of art?
It is vile! she declared in a strangled voice.
Several days later, at her father’s house, she heard the arrival of the Japanese men of power to whom she was to reveal her secret. Now, in the guest room, ceremoniously welcomed by her father, they were waiting for her—Sakura. How much did they know? she asked her beating heart. What had her father told them? And then she experienced an uplifting sense of strange relief in the knowledge that he could have told no more than he knew. Always she had put off the day of revelation, saying that it would be time enough when the information should be actually needed. Now!
The sudden sliding of a door startled her. Only a maid, prying. Okusama4’s honorable service? What could the humble one do to oblige her excellency?
48
Nothing! I—I—want nothing, maidens.
To the great, empty chamber again, to pace back and forth, back and forth. Not a single article of furniture was there in the room, just that clear, clean expanse of exquisitely matted floor and paneled sliding walls; as, in the homes of the rich and cultured Japanese, works of art in themselves. Once she had thought ardently of possessing such a home again; now the thought filled her with a sense of desolation. There came to her mind vividly, as though she still were in it, a picture of that room of hers in far-away America—America which she was never again to see!
A fit of shivering seized her. She looked about her wildly, as if desperately in search of something.
Betray America!—her dear dead mother’s home!
She crouched down by the great trunk which had come across the seas with her from that far-off land. It was the only article in the room not purely Japanese. Her hands trembling, she unlocked the trunk and opened it. Then she searched for the papers and plans they were waiting for below in the ozashiki.5 How they creaked under her touch— these crackling, treacherous papers! She glanced backward, across her shoulder, furtively, fearfully, like a thief about to steal; and as she looked, the Frenchwoman who loved and served her, pushed the sliding doors softly open, and she saw Anthony Burrows standing there, looking gravely down at her.
So white was her face, her expression so agonized and tragic that for a moment he stared at her in amazement. Then he crossed swiftly to her.
She began to plead with him wildly, her little hands clasped frantically about the papers.
Oh—if you truly love me—you will understand and forgive me. I cannot do it—I cannot do it! D-don’t you see why? I— I—am as much—I belong to you! It is here I am an alien—
She was wrenching the papers apart, tearing them into tiny pieces.
When she had finished, she looked up at him, mutely regarding her. Then, while below the men of power still waited, she fluttered into his sheltering arms, like one broken and exhausted.

Notes

1
shiro: castle.
2
jiujitsu: a form of Japanese martial arts.
3
jinrikisha: carriage pulled by a human runner.
4
okusama: wife; incorrect romanization of oku-san.
5
ozashiki: inner parlor; incorrect romanization of okuzashiki.

People Mentioned

Jean Lee Cole

Jean Lee Cole is Senior Consultant on The Winnifred Eaton Archive, author of The Literary Voices of Winnifred Eaton: Redefining Ethnicity and Authenticity (2002), co-editor of A Japanese Nightingale and Madame Butterfly: Two Orientalist Texts (2002, with Maureen Honey), and editor of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive (2004). She is Professor of English at Loyola University Maryland.

Greg Murray

Greg Murray is the Director of Digital Initiatives at Princeton Theological and has a MA in Literature and Religion from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Ethan Gruber

Ethan Gruber is the Director of Data Science at the American Numismatic Society and has an M.A. in Art and Architectural History from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

John Ivor Carlson

John Ivor Carlson is the Digital Production Editor at Yale University Press and has a PhD in Medieval Literature from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Jolie Sheffer

Jolie Sheffer is Associate Professor in English and American Culture Studies and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at Bowling Green State University. She was a research assistant on the original Winnfired Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and the User Interface Developer at the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (Simon Fraser University). He is also an M.A. student in English at the University of British Columbia where his research focuses on Indigenous and diasporic Canadian literature; he is currently completing a digital edition of His Royal Nibs.

Organizations Mentioned

Redbook

Still in publication today, Redbook is an American women’s magazine first published in 1903.

Published