Exciting Capture Of The Thief In Japan
( Originally Published 1915 )
One of the pleasant features experienced in traveling in the interior of Japan is the custom of offering tea to the passing stranger. This is freely given without expectation of pay or reward.
Sometimes the traveler will also be served with bean paste, which is something like our well-known peanut butter, but this is usually given to the stranger who offers a tip to the giver of the tea. That is called tea money, or chaidai.
It was some time before the boys became accustomed to this ceremony, but before many days they learned how to perform every part of the rite, and the fact that they could do it so well was the best . evidence to the native that they were seasoned travelers.
In fact, they judge the stranger by his knowledge of these things, but this, even, was not known to the boys at that time. The most annoying thing to them was the difficulty they had to get a private bath. Singular as it may seem, in many places throughout Japan the baths are taken in public, were the people perform their ablutions in plain view of the passersby.
This did not exactly appeal to the boys, and in some places they were curiously eyed for refusing to take a bath. Sometimes they persuaded the proprietor to bring in a basin and proper washing appliances, but more often than otherwise they had to go to the public stand for washing the face and hands.
Okasaki was reached late that evening, but they preferred to put up at the large town rather than remain in the small village. After taking the room assigned them at the inn, they were directed to the dining room. Returning to their room after the meal, they saw, while nearing the door, some one investigating their knapsacks which hung on the screens.
Winfield was the first to notice the intruder, and shouted: "There is the fellow who stole your purse."
Stanwood jumped toward the door, and the man, hearing the voice, turned. This act revealed his countenance, and seeing the boys he sprang toward the partition and swung himself over.
Winfield ran through the dining room, and burst through the loose bangings on the opposite side in time to see the thief sprinting down the street. Without waiting he began the pursuit, Stanwood following, without waiting for their hats.
The thief was no match for Winfield, as the latter was particularly fleet, and was regarded as one of the best runners among his acquaintances. The man saw that he was no match for the boys, and he dodged from one covert to the next, but Winfield was now too near at hand to lose his prey.
The man dashed into a door not ten feet ahead of Winfield, and the latter, regardless of etiquette, sprang in and grasped the man who had so rudely disturbed the family in its evening meal. Stan-wood followed and was on hand as Winfield was engaged in drawing him out.
Naturally the scene created excitement in the little town. While the boys were conducting him back to the hotel an officer appeared, but as they were not able to explain the affair they were re-quested to accompany the officers to the station.
There all were held and a messenger was sent to get an interpreter. In the meantime the thief was explaining the affair and casting derisive looks at the boys, which was sufficient to indicate that he was trying to fix some charge on the boys, or at least attempting to vindicate himself.
Within fifteen minutes a young white man, who might have hailed from Broadway, entered, carrying a cane: The moment he saw the boys he shouted: "Hello, United States !"
The boys laughed, in spite of the affair, and both began to tell him about the loss of the purse and the second attempt to loot them.
"You say the purse was a small leather one and contained about thirty dollars?" he asked.
"Yes it was just like this one," said Winfield, drawing out his own.
The man said something to the official, and the two who were holding the thief began a search. The first article drawn out was a purse, identical in every respect, to the one exhibited by Winfield.
"That's mine," said Stanwood, as he reached forward; but the man drew it back, and began to question the prisoner. To all replies he vigorously shook his head.
"What does he say?" asked Stanwood.
"That the things are his, and not yours," he answered.
"Then ask him," said Winfield, "why he tried to run away from us."
The interpreter smiled and put the question, to which he immediately replied, and the boys looked at their friend inquiringly for the meaning of his answer.
"He says you threatened him with a revolver, and he ran away from you for that reason."
Then ask him," said Stanwood, "why he was in our room."
He says he was there by mistake."
Their friend explained to the officials that the purse belonged to the boys beyond all question, and that was finally decided in their favor, because Stanwood's initials were sufficient to prove owners in the minds of the officials.
When the purse was examined it was found to contain 98 yen, about $49, and when it was handed to him Stanwood counted out 62 yen, and stated that was the loss so far as he could remember the amount.
The official shook his head and spoke to the interpreter, who turned to Stanwood as he said: "The officer says that they dare not take any of the money found in the purse. You must take the purse as it is; if it has less than the amount it contained when it was stolen, you must be satisfied, and it is just the same if it contains more than the amount it had when it disappeared."
Stanwood turned to Winfield with a sort of ' 4 w hat do you think of that" expression, and put the purse into its accustomed; place. Winfield was quick to thank the officials, and then addressed their young countryman who had so kindly aided them.
"My name is Crowell and my father is the American Consul at Noyama, and I have been here on business for several days. But where are you staying?" he asked.
The boys told him, and they walked out of the court room together. Before the door was Mr. Crowell's car. "Get in," he said, "but don't you think you had better go back and get your hats!"
Winfield laughed as he recalled the sudden flight from their hotel. "They are at the hotel," he answered. "We didn't have time to put them on after we saw the fellow in our room."
"I will return to Noyama in the morning, and you must accompany me," he said, as he deposited them at the door.
The street about the hotel was filled with people when they arrived, and the car, which had a miniature American flag in the sides and the words "Consulate, U. S. A." on the sides, gave the boys an importance that they did not have before.
They did not notice the inscription until Mr. Crowell's machine was moving away, and then they went into the hotel with a feeling of importance. After reaching their room they indulged in mutual congratulations over the favorable turn their affair had taken.
Stanwood immediately drew out the purse and looked at it eagerly, and Winfield could not help but feel a little piqued at the success of Stanwood's experience with burglars.
"That makes eighteen dollars so far since we landed. Why, that's better than working. Let me see; we have been here just eight days. Two dollars and a quarter a day! How is that for business?" and Stanwood's delight was beyond description.
An hour afterwards Mr. Crowell called and invited them to the sole entertainment in the town for the evening. It was one of the athletic contents so common throughout the country.
"I think the sport will interest you, and as they have but little amusement in the way of shows, compared with our own country, all classes of people attend. In the large cities you can find any kind of amusement, theatres, and the like, but here the shows are of no account except such as we are going to see tonight."
The theatre was simply an open air enclosure, the stage being placed in the center, and the seats surrounding the roped-off portion so that it had somewhat the appearance of the American prize ring stage.
"The program will give an idea of the events that are on, he said, and I will look over it for a moment."
While he was doing so the boys had an opportunity to see the manner in which these events were staged. There was a seating capacity for probably three hundred. The stage itself was elevated about three feet, and the seats at the outer circle of benches, or steps, were higher than the inner ones, so that it had the appearance of a miniature amphitheatre.
"Yes," he said, "there will be two wrestling exhibitions, and in addition the American style of wrestling, and we shall see some fun when they get at that."
"Will they have the Ju jits, or whatever it is ?" asked Stanwood. Mr. Crowell laughed, and Stan-wood blushed. "Didn't I pronounce it right?" he continued. "I never could find out the right way.'
"Well, did you ever know an American who could pronounce it right? About the nearest you can come to it is to say Jhue-yuitsu."
"But what else is on the program?"
"Sword fighting, archery and pulling games." "Pulling games? Do you mean tug of war?" "Something like that; but just watch them now.
They are going to make the grand entree."
Everything in Japan is most formal. It is done with precision, and with an eye to the spectacular. It is so with their meals, in the serving of tea, and ever in the making up of the beds at night.
In speaking of this Mr. Crowell said: "Indeed, in almost every act of life the real Japanese is hedged about by forms which are copied and imitated for one generation to the next. This is so striking that it is not difficult for an observer to detect a foreigner from a Japanese even at a distance merely by his walk. Just notice it to-morrow when you think of it."
The performers marched in, ascended the plat-form in single file, and tramped around the stage, boning to the audience. The women would flutter their fans, while the men clapped their hands as the various favorites appeared around the circle.
Then the entertainers slowly disappeared from the stage, the whole scene being carried out with the slowest steps, and in exact marching order, while a drum and several instruments like clarionets performed music, the scale of instruments being limited to four or five notes.
A. few moments after the disappearance of the actors, the announcer held up a placard and called out the first event, an exhibition of Jui-jitsu. They are remarkable for their agility. The Japanese are a small people physically, but when in training their athletes have wonderful skill in this form of wrestling. This art is so well thought of abroad that it has been introduced and practiced in the United States, as well as in other countries.
Success in this manner of wrestling does not, however, depend so much on strength as on the ability to grasp an opponent in a proper manner, and in acquiring the knowledge of applying lever-age.
This requires strength in the fingers, hands and wrists, and as a result these -performers had wonderfully-developed hands, and remarkable agility to spring from one side to the other.
The three rounds were considered draws, for while one after the other were thrown, and in several cases one or the other was thrown clear over the head of the other, they were so agile that they alighted on their feet as easily as the typical cat.
Then came the sword fight. This was an amusing encounter to the boys, but the audience took it very seriously. Imagine two combatants, neither more than four and a half feet in height, each of whom wielded a wooden sword fully six feet long, which was grasped by both hands.
The attack was made, in the first instance, by one of the combatants who rushed at the other with the point of the sword aimed at the breast. The party thus attacked awaited the onrush until the point of the sword was five feet away, when by a dextrous swing he parried the blow, and quickly stepping aside swung his sword with terrific force to crush the opponent's skull had the blow landed.
It was, however, parried by the other, who lowered his head and brought up his sword to a horizontal position, and although it seemed as though the blow was delivered with sufficient force to break one or both of the weapons, neither suffered from the impact.
"There is a wonderful trick in that parry," said Mr. Crowell. "If you will carefully notice, when that blow is again repeated by one or the other, that while the sword is held horizontally while the opponent's sword is coming down, the moment, or a little before, the attacking sword strikes the de-lender will tilt his sword and the best the at-tacker can get is a glancing blow."
There was no play or make-believe in this sword combat. It was a fight in earnest, and the people arose from their reclining positions, for they were reposing on the little steps of the arena and not sitting in chairs or benches.
Sometimes one of the combatants would drive the other around the platform with mad rushes, and just at the moment when you would feel that it was all up with him, the retreating swordsman would perform some trick that would completely demolish the attack and win the applause of all present.
Then came a brief sleight of hand performance very marvelous to the boys, who had never witnesed anything more clever, this being followed by exhibitions on ropes and swings, and finally an act; in which the contortionists took a leading part.
It was past eleven o'clock before the show ended, and every minute was enjoyed on account of its exceeding novelty, and because they had such an entertaining companion to explain many of the things which otherwise would have been mysteries.
Mr. Crowell informed them he would call at nine o'clock the next morning, and they retired for the night happy and contented.
After a good night's rest they had an early breakfast, because they felt like taking a look about the town before the car would arrive.
After the morning meal they sauntered through the town, and were struck by the courtesies of the people everywhere. They had forgotten the incident of the previous day, and did not attribute the attentions to the arrest of the thief. It was, however, noised about, and they were the targets for all eyes.
Fruit is plentiful in the season, and one of the sights in Japan is the fruit vender. He carries an immense load from place to place simply by means of a pole, on each end of which is swung a dozen or more receptacles containing fruit.
He also carries a forked stick a little longer than the height of his shoulder. When attending to a purchaser he forces the lower pointed end of the forked stick into the ground and poises the pole on the fork, and in this way the pole swings and he is able to select or remove the purchases.
In a half dozen places at least the boys had to partake of the tea kindly offered. Everywhere the tea was of the green variety, very weak, and served without either sugar or milk. In time they learned to relish it in this way, and when, after their journey through the island, they tried tea with sugar and cream, it had lost all its charm.
In this place for the first time they noticed many of the natives who had black or dark teeth. This seemed very strange, although it was observed that only elderly women were so decorated.
They afterwards learned that it was formerly the rule throughout the Empire for married women to blacken their teeth, so they might be recognized, but that the custom was fast disappearing.
After two hours of wandering they returned to welcome Mr. Crowell, who had arrived by this time. After bidding the hostess good-by they speeded along the main road to the west, and as they were passing along the first stretch of open country Stanwood burst out into laughter.
"What is up now?" asked Mr. Crowell.
"Well, I must tell you about our experience when we started out from New York. It was the first day of the trip, and our contract said we shouldn't accept favors from any one, and when a fellow came along with a machine and offered to give us a ten-mile ride we refused, but after-wards compromised with him."
"Well, what was there about it that made you laugh?" he asked.
"Winfield can tell you the rest." And Stan-wood again laughed, and as Winfield refused to continue the story he went on: "Winfield made a contract to fill up his tank with gas, so as to pay for the trip."
By this time Mr. Crowell began to see the point, and inquired: "How much did the gas cost?"
"Only three dollars, and the trolley trip would have cost only ten cents," and Winfield joined the others in their merriment because he couldn't help himself.