Christ in Nanking

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南京の基督 Nankin no Kirisuto

Akutagawa Ryūnosuke 芥川龍之介

translated by Yoshiko Dykstra

(1)

It was an autumn evening. A young Chinese girl was sitting at an old table in a room of the house on the Rare Hope Street in Nanking. Resting her chin on her hands, she was listlessly chewing watermelon seeds from a tray.

There was an old lamp on the table. The dim light from the lamp created a dismal effect. The wallpaper was peeled in a corner where a dusty curtain hid a rattan bed from which the skirt of a blanket was hanging. An old chair was casually placed, as if abandoned, beyond the table. The room was meagerly furnished.

In these bleak surroundings the girl cast her cool eyes from time to time on a wall by the table as she stopped chewing the watermelon seeds. A small brass cross was hanging from a nail on the wall. On the cross a cheaply carved wooden Christ spreading his arms high in passion looked worn out in a shadowy outline. Every time the girl looked at the Christ on the cross, the sad color behind her long eyelashes changed into a lively radiance with innocent hope. However, as soon as she looked away, she sighed and resumed chewing the seeds as her shoulders drooped under her faded black satin dress.

The girl was fifteen years old and called Chinhua, Gold Blossom. Night after night, as a prostitute she received her customers in her room to help her poor father. One might see numbers of girls with her looks in the private brothels of the area, but would have difficulty in finding anyone as sweet and gentle as Gold Blossom who, unlike other prostitutes, never lied, nor complained, but always cheerfully entertained her guests in her dreadful room. When she earned a little more than usual, she was most delighted to treat her father to a cup of wine. Gold Blossom’s goodness must have been natural, but it also owed much to her faith in the Catholic teachings introduced to her by her deceased mother.

One day the previous spring, a young Japanese traveler, who was sightseeing in southern China, happened to spend a night at Gold Blossom’s room. Holding her on his lap, a cigar in his mouth, the Japanese man casually glanced at the cross on the wall and curiously asked her in his awkward Chinese, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes. I was baptized at five.”

“And you are doing a business like this?” At that moment his voice sounded satirical. However, Gold Blossom, still leaning her head against his arms, replied with her usual happy smile, “Unless I work at this job, both my father and I will starve.”

“Is your father old?”

“Yes, he cannot walk anymore.”

“But, don’t you think that you may not be able to go to Heaven if you work in this kind of business?”

“No,” Gold Blossom had said, looking at the cross reflectively, and continued, “I believe that Christ in the Heaven will understand my heart. Otherwise he would be no different from the police officers of Yao-chia-hsiang.”

The young Japanese smiled, and taking a pair of jade earrings out of his jacket pocket he gave them to her, saying, “I bought these to take as a souvenir to Japan, but I give them to you as a token for tonight.” In such cases, Gold Blossom was always confident of herself from the time when she took her first customer.

A month later, however, this devout prostitute unfortunately contracted syphilis. Hearing her sad news, her colleagues, including her friend Mountain Tea, suggested that she take opium tea; while another friend, Welcome Spring, kindly brought her left-over Koran pills and Karo rice which she had taken when she had had the same trouble. However, these treatments proved ineffective for Gold Blossom, who by then had taken no customers for a month.

One day Mountain Tea visited Gold Blossom and suggested another remedy, saying, “Since you have gotten the disease from a customer, you should give it back to another customer. Only then will you be cured.” Still resting her chin on her hands, Gold Blossom looked uninterested in the beginning, but began to feel curious as she asked, “Really?”

“Yes, it’s true. My older sister also suffered from the same trouble for a long time. But as soon as she gave it to one of her customers, she became better.”

“What about the customer?”

“Oh, terrible. He eventually lost his eyesight.”

After her friend left, Gold Blossom knelt before the cross on the wall and began to pray, “Jesus Christ in Heaven, I am engaging in this debased business to feed my father. However, I have not troubled anyone except myself so far. So I believe that I can go to Heaven if I die now. But according to my friend, unless I give this disease to a customer, I cannot continue this job. So, even if I die of starvation and only my death relieves me from my present disease, I must never share a bed with any customers. Otherwise, I will cause others to be unhappy to make myself happy. However, being a woman I may be exposed to any kind of temptation at any time. Oh, Christ in Heaven, please help and protect me. You are the only one on whom I can rely.”

With her firm resolution, Gold Blossom refused to take any customers, no matter how much her colleagues urged her to resume her job. When some of her old customers visited her, she only smoked together with them, but never complied with their wishes as she repeated, “Since I have a bad disease, you may catch it if you come closer to me.” When the drunken customers persisted, she even went so far as to expose herself as proof. So eventually no customers visited her, and her economic situation became worse day by day.

This evening, also, she was sitting at the table doing nothing for a long time. No customers appeared in her room. As night deepened, the only sounds she heard were crickets chirping. The cold in the fireless room attacked her like water seeping through the stone floor to her little feet in gray satin slippers. While gazing at the dim lamp light, Gold Blossom shivered as she touched her jade earrings and swallowed a yawn.

Just at that instant, the painted door to her room opened suddenly, and a strange foreigner came staggering into the room. The bursting wind was so strong that the lamplight flared up for a second to fill the small room with its strange red lights. Bathed in the light, the customer first leaned against the table, but stood up straight, and stepped backwards to rest his back against the painted door.

Flabbergasted, Gold Blossom stood up, and stared at the foreigner who appeared about thirty-five or -six years of age. Dressed in a brown suit and a deerstalker hat of the same color, the man had large eyes, a tanned complexion, high cheek bones, and a beard. The only thing she could not tell was whether he was a Caucasian or an Asian. But he looked like no one but a street drunkard with a pipe on his mouth, and the disheveled dark hair hung below his hat. He was barely holding himself up against the door.

“What do you want?” asked Gold Blossom, almost blaming him for crashing in. Shaking his head, the foreigner tried to tell her that he did not understand Chinese. Taking the pipe out of his mouth, he began to speak a few words in a fluent foreign language which she could not fathom. Now she could do nothing but shake her head as her dangling earrings gleamed in the dim light of the table lamp.

Seeing her beautiful troubled and knitted eyebrows, the visitor broke into laughter, staggered a few steps towards the table as he casually took off his hat, and sat down with a thud in the chair across the table. At that moment, she thought his face familiar. She felt that she had seen the face before, though she could not remember where. Now the foreigner was aimlessly handling the watermelon seeds in the tray as he stared at her, and began to speak with his hands. She did not understand his words, but vaguely guessed that he knew something of her business.

It was not rare that she spent nights with foreigners whose languages she did not understand. As usual, the sitting Gold Blossom began to smile amicably, and told a few jokes not understood by the visitor at all. However, the foreigner, as if he understood her, nodded at her every few words, and moved his hands rapidly, raising his laughing voice.

His breath smelled of liquor, but his red animated face brightened and filled the dismal room with manly energy which appeared to her more splendid than that of any men in Nanking including the Chinese and foreigners she had met so far. However, she still could not overcome the belief that she had seen his face before. Gazing at the dark curly hair on his forehead, she intently tried to recall her memories with an engaging smile.

“Was he the one who was riding a boat with his fat wife the other day? No his hair was more reddish. Or, might he be the one who was taking a picture at the Confucian mausoleum? No, no, he was much older. Well, another day, by the restaurant near the bridge, I saw a foreigner hitting a rickshaw man with his thick stick. But his eyes were bluer.”

While Gold Blossom was thinking and wondering, the foreigner began to tap tobacco into his pipe and lighted it. Immediately, the fragrant smoke filled the air. The foreigner became quiet for a moment, and stuck his two fingers before her face as he grinned, and gestured to invite her agreement. It was quite obvious that the two fingers meant two dollars. With her firm conviction that she would not let anyone stay overnight at her place, the smiling Gold Blossom shook her head two times as she skillfully split watermelon seeds. Now insolently resting his elbows on the table, the foreigner brought his drunken face closer to her, stared at her in the dim light, and finally lifted three fingers, and waited for her answer.

Slightly moving her chair, and holding some seeds in her mouth, Gold Blossom looked perplexed. Now she knew that her visitor thought his two dollars were not enough to have her. However, it seemed almost impossible for her to explain her complex situation in his language. Now regretting her frivolous behavior, she coolly looked away from him, and shook her head negatively.

The foreign customer, still grinning, hesitated for a second, but stuck his four fingers toward her as he spoke something in his language. The confused Gold Blossom, now holding her cheeks in her hands, did not feel like smiling any more, and determined that she had no choice but to shake her head until he would give up. Meanwhile, the customer raised five fingers as if to catch something invisible.

For a long while, the two continued their argument with their hands and gestures during which time the number of the customer’s fingers increased to ten, reflecting his strong wish to have her even at any cost. Even ten dollars would not change her determination. Now she was leaving the table and standing by the wall. At the sight of the ten fingers, the irritated Gold Blossom frantically shook her head, stamping her feet so hard that the cross on the wall fell with a slight metallic sound on the stone floor by her feet. Hastily stretching out one of her arms, she picked up her precious cross, and casually glanced at the face of the Christ which strangely resembled that of the foreigner across the table. “So this is the face I have been trying to recall.” She pressed the cross to her bosom, and cast her surprised glance at the customer across the table.

Reflecting the lamplight, the customer, still with a grin on his hot and red face while emitting the pipe smoke from his mouth, was now constantly looking at her figure — probably gazing at her white neck and the ears from which the jade earrings were dangling. The customer’s attitude now impressed her as solemnly gentle.

Soon the customer stopped smoking, and began to speak with a smile on his slanting face. Whatever he said sounded to her like a hypnotist’s whispering. Gold Blossom, completely forgetting her commendable resolution, now shyly walked to the customer as she lowered her smiling eyes while handling the cross. The customer, putting his hands in his pockets and jingling the silver coins, continued watching her with smiling eyes. As soon as his slight grin changed into a passionate gleam, he suddenly jumped up from the chair, and held her tightly in his arms. His sleeves smelled of liquor. Almost in a trance, Gold Blossom, resting her head with the dangling jade earrings on his arms, was now ecstatic with blushing cheeks to which his face was coming closer. Whether she would let this strange foreigner have her body, or refuse his kissing to avoid giving him her disease was not a question for her at that moment. Burying her lips in his beard, she only felt the surging pleasure of making love and her first burning desire filling her bosom.

(2)

Several hours later, in the room where the lamplight was extinguished, only the sound of crickets was heard and added a lonely bleakness to the breathing of the two lovers in the bed. Meanwhile, the dream of Gold Blossom rose from the dusty curtain by the bed to the roof, and ascended high into the sky above the roof.

Gold Blossom was now sitting on a sandalwood chair at a table on which various kinds of gourmet dishes were spread. Now she was tasting them one by one — the swallow’s nest, shark fins, steamed eggs, smoked carp, a whole roast pig, and so on. It was impossible to count the number of dishes on the table. And the containers were most elegant with their designs of blue lotus flowers and gold phoenixes.

Behind her were windows covered by thick brocade draperies, and the warbling sounds suggested a stream beyond the windows. She felt as if she was back at her hometown in the countryside. But she knew she must actually be in the house of Christ in a town of Heaven. From time to time, she rested her chopsticks and looked about her. She saw no one but herself and pillars with curved, coiled dragons and huge vases containing great chrysanthemums in the steaming vapor from the dishes on the table. As soon as she finished one of the dishes, another one was brought in with a delicious smell. And before she picked up her chopsticks again, the pheasant on another dish suddenly flew to the ceiling, knocking down the liquor flask on the table.

After a while she felt someone approaching behind her. Still holding her chopsticks, she turned her head around and saw, instead of the windows, a foreigner with a brass water pipe in his mouth, sitting on a heavily brocaded chair. Immediately she recognized the foreigner as the same one who had come to her room that night. The only difference was that the one behind her now had a halo suspended a foot above his head. At that instant, a large dish with steaming food appeared on the table before her. When she was about to pick up the delicious food in the dish, she remembered the foreigner behind her, and asked him over her shoulder, “Won’t you come here and join me?”

“Only you will eat. If you take that food, you will be cured within the night,” replied the haloed foreigner with a smile of transcendent love.

“Then, aren’t you going to eat these foods?”

“Me? I don’t like Chinese food. Don’t you know that? Jesus Christ has never tasted any Chinese food yet.” And saying this, the Christ of Nanking slowly approached her sandalwood chair and gave a gentle kiss to the cheek of the speechless Gold Blossom.

When Gold Blossom woke up from her heavenly dream, the autumn light of early morning was already spreading into her small and cold room. The warm darkness still remained in the small, boat-like bed by the dusty curtain. Gold Blossom’s face with her eyes still closed seemed to be floating in the faint shadows with her round chin partly hidden by an old faded blanket. Strands of her oily disheveled hair were stuck to her colorless cheeks with the perspiration from the previous night, and her teeth as tiny as rice grains appeared between her parted lips.

Even after waking up, her mind was still wandering among the dreamy memories of chrysanthemums, watery sounds, baked pheasant, and Jesus Christ. As her bed was gradually brightened by the morning sun, the crude reality, the fact of climbing into the bed with a strange foreigner clearly came back to her hazy head. “I wonder if I have given my disease to him?” Suddenly she became depressed and began to feel it unbearable to see him again. However, being unable to see his familiar sun-tanned face was even more unbearable. Finally she slowly opened her eyes to look around her bed. She saw neither the foreigner who resembled her Christ on the cross, nor his shadow, but only herself covered by the blanket.

“So, was it also a dream?” Kicking off the soiled blanket, she jumped up on the bed. Rubbing her sleepy eyes, she opened the curtain and looked around her room which cruelly exposed the scanty features in the reality of the cold morning air; the old table, the unlighted lamp, one chair fallen over on the floor, and another facing the wall. Everything was just as it had been since last night. Moreover, she saw the small brass cross with a dull gleam among the scattered watermelon seeds on the table. Still blinking her sleepy eyes, the yawning Gold Blossom sat on the messy bed, and gazed around her room for a while.

“No, it was not a dream, after all,” Gold Blossom murmured to herself, thinking of all kinds of possibilities for her foreigner. Needless to say, he must have left her while she was still asleep. But how could he leave her without saying a word of farewell after such passionate love-making? Besides she had forgotten the ten dollars from him! “I wonder if he has really left here.” With a heavy heart, she started to put on her black jacket which had been thrown over the bed. Just at that moment her hands stopped as her cheeks suddenly became red with fresh blood spreading under her skin. Was that because she thought she heard the footsteps of her foreign lover? Or was it because his sweaty smell permeating the old pillow and blanket suddenly reminded her of the shameful moments of their last love-making? No, that wasn’t it at all. At that instant she realized that the miracle happening to her overnight had completely cured her formidable disease. “So he was the Christ after all.”

Crawling out from her bed, Gold Blossom knelt on the cold stone floor, and exchanged words with her resurrected Master, just like the beautiful Maria of Magdalene.

(3)

Later, on another spring night, the young Japanese traveler was sitting again in Gold Blossom’s room under the dim lamplight.

“So, you still have the cross on the wall.” At the Japanese man’s slight ridicule, Gold Blossom seriously began to tell him the miraculous story of her Christ who had descended on Nanking to cure her disease.

While listening to her story the Japanese thought to himself, “I know that foreigner who is a half-American and half-Japanese. His name is something like George Murray. He boasted to one of my colleagues that he had once bought a Christian prostitute in Nanking, and stealthily left her without paying while she was sleeping. When I was in Shanghai last, I happened to stay at the same hotel with Murray. He said that he was a journalist of a certain English paper. Though good-looking, he seemed to be a mean person. Later he became insane from syphilis. Maybe he had contracted the disease from this girl. However, even today this girl still believes in such a half-breed rascal as her Jesus Christ. Should I awaken and enlighten her or let her continue to dream the old Western legend?”

After Gold Blossom finished talking, the Japanese man lighted his fragrant cigar, and asked her with deliberate sincerity, “Indeed, it is a wonderful story. And, you, haven’t you ever had any trouble after that?”

Without any hesitation the radiant Gold Blossom happily replied, “No, not even once,” while chewing her watermelon seeds.


南京の基督

芥川龍之介

或秋の夜半であつた。南京ナンキン奇望街きばうがいの或家の一間には、色の蒼あをざめた支那の少女が一人、古びた卓テエブルの上に頬杖をついて、盆に入れた西瓜すゐくわの種を退屈さうに噛み破つてゐた。
卓テエブルの上には置きランプが、うす暗い光を放つてゐた。その光は部屋の中を明くすると云ふよりも、寧むしろ一層陰欝な効果を与へるのに力があつた。壁紙の剥はげかかつた部屋の隅には、毛布のはみ出した籐とうの寝台が、埃臭さうな帷とばりを垂らしてゐた。それから卓テエブルの向うには、これも古びた椅子が一脚、まるで忘れられたやうに置き捨ててあつた。が、その外は何処を見ても、装飾らしい家具の類なぞは何一つ見当らなかつた。
少女はそれにも関らず、西瓜の種を噛みやめては、時々涼しい眼を挙げて、卓の一方に面した壁をぢつと眺めやる事があつた。見ると成程その壁には、すぐ鼻の先の折れ釘に、小さな真鍮しんちゆうの十字架がつつましやかに懸つてゐた。さうしてその十字架の上には、稚拙ちせつな受難の基督キリストが、高々と両腕をひろげながら、手ずれた浮き彫の輪廓を影のやうにぼんやり浮べてゐた。少女の眼はこの耶蘇ヤソを見る毎に、長い睫毛まつげの後の寂しい色が、一瞬間何処どこかへ見えなくなつて、その代りに無邪気な希望の光が、生き生きとよみ返つてゐるらしかつた。が、すぐに又視線が移ると、彼女は必かならず吐息を洩らして、光沢つやのない黒繻子くろじゆすの上衣の肩を所在なささうに落しながら、もう一度盆の西瓜の種をぽつりぽつり噛み出すのであつた。
少女は名を宋金花そうきんくわと云つて、貧しい家計を助ける為に、夜々よなよなその部屋に客を迎へる、当年十五歳の私窩子しくわしであつた。秦淮しんわいに多い私窩子の中には、金花程の容貌の持ち主なら、何人でもゐるのに違ひなかつた。が、金花程気立ての優しい少女が、二人とこの土地にゐるかどうか、それは少くとも疑問であつた。彼女は朋輩の売笑婦と違つて、嘘もつかなければ我儘わがままも張らず、夜毎に愉快さうな微笑を浮べて、この陰欝な部屋を訪れる、さまざまな客と戯れてゐた。さうして彼等の払つて行く金が、稀に約束の額より多かつた時は、たつた一人の父親を、一杯でも余計好きな酒に飽かせてやる事を楽しみにしてゐた。
かう云ふ金花の行状は、勿論彼女が生れつきにも、拠つてゐるのに違ひなかつた。しかしまだその外に何か理由があるとしたら、それは金花が子供の時から、壁の上の十字架が示す通り、歿なくなつた母親に教へられた、羅馬加特力教ロオマカトリツクけうの信仰をずつと持ち続けてゐるからであつた。
――さう云へば今年の春、上海シヤンハイの競馬を見物かたがた、南部支那の風光を探りに来た、若い日本の旅行家が、金花の部屋に物好きな一夜を明かした事があつた。その時彼は葉巻を啣くはへて、洋服の膝に軽々と小さな金花を抱いてゐたが、ふと壁の上の十字架を見ると、不審らしい顔をしながら、
「お前は耶蘇教徒かい。」と、覚束おぼつかない支那語で話しかけた。
「ええ、五つの時に洗礼を受けました。」
「さうしてこんな商売をしてゐるのかい。」
彼の声にはこの瞬間、皮肉な調子が交つたやうであつた。が、金花は彼の腕に、鴉髻あけいの頭を凭もたせながら、何時もの通り晴れ晴れと、糸切歯の見える笑を洩らした。
「この商売をしなければ、阿父様おとうさんも私も餓ゑ死をしてしまひますから。」
「お前の父親は老人なのかい。」
「ええ――もう腰も立たないのです。」
「しかしだね、――しかしこんな稼業をしてゐたのでは、天国に行かれないと思やしないか。」
「いいえ。」
金花はちよいと十字架を眺めながら、考深さうな眼つきになつた。
「天国にいらつしやる基督様は、きつと私の心もちを汲みとつて下さると思ひますから。――それでなければ基督様は姚家巷えうかかうの警察署の御役人も同じ事ですもの。」
若い日本の旅行家は微笑した。さうして上衣の隠しを探ると、翡翠ひすゐの耳環を一双さう出して、手づから彼女の耳へ下げてやつた。
「これはさつき日本へ土産みやげに買つた耳環だが、今夜の記念にお前にやるよ。」――
金花は始めて客をとつた夜から、実際かう云ふ確信に自ら安んじてゐたのであつた。
所が彼是かれこれ一月ばかり前から、この敬虔けいけんな私窩子しくわしは不幸にも、悪性の楊梅瘡やうばいさうを病む体になつた。これを聞いた朋輩の陳山茶ちんさんさは、痛みを止めるのに好いと云つて、鴉片酒あへんしゆを飲む事を教へてくれた。その後又やはり朋輩の毛迎春まうげいしゆんは、彼女自身が服用した汞藍丸こうらんぐわんや迦路米かろまいの残りを、親切にもわざわざ持つて来てくれた。が、金花の病はどうしたものか、客をとらずに引き籠つてゐても、一向快方には向はなかつた。
すると或日陳山茶が、金花の部屋へ遊びに来た時に、こんな迷信じみた療法を尤もつともらしく話して聞かせた。
「あなたの病気は御客から移つたのだから、早く誰かに移し返しておしまひなさいよ。さうすればきつと二三日中に、よくなつてしまふのに違ひないわ。」
金花は頬杖ほほづゑをついた儘、浮かない顔色を改めなかつた。が、山茶の言葉には多少の好奇心を動かしたと見えて、
「ほんたう?」と、軽く聞き返した。
「ええ、ほんたうだわ。私の姉さんもあなたのやうに、どうしても病気が癒なほらなかつたのよ。それでも御客に移し返したら、ぢきによくなつてしまつたわ。」
「その御客はどうして?」
「御客はそれは可哀さうよ。おかげで目までつぶれたつて云ふわ。」
山茶が部屋を去つた後、金花は独り壁に懸けた十字架の前に跪ひざまづいて、受難の基督を仰ぎ見ながら、熱心にかう云ふ祈祷きたうを捧げた。
「天国にいらつしやる基督様。私は阿父様おとうさまを養ふ為に、賤いやしい商売を致して居ります。しかし私の商売は、私一人を汚す外には、誰にも迷惑はかけて居りません。ですから私はこの儘死んでも、必かならず天国に行かれると思つて居りました。けれども唯今の私は、御客にこの病を移さない限り、今までのやうな商売を致して参る事は出来ません。して見ればたとひ餓ゑ死をしても、――さうすればこの病も、癒るさうでございますが、――御客と一つ寝台に寝ないやうに、心がけねばなるまいと存じます。さもなければ私は、私どもの仕合せの為に、怨うらみもない他人を不仕合せに致す事になりますから。しかし何と申しても、私は女でございます。いつ何時なんどきどんな誘惑に陥らないものでもございません。天国にいらつしやる基督様。どうか私を御守り下さいまし。私はあなた御一人の外に、たよるもののない女でございますから。」
かう決心した宋金花は、その後山茶や迎春にいくら商売を勧められても、剛情に客をとらずにゐた。又時々彼女の部屋へ、なじみの客が遊びに来ても、一しよに煙草でも吸ひ合ふ外に、決して客の意に従はなかつた。
「私は恐しい病気を持つてゐるのです。側へいらつしやると、あなたにも移りますよ。」
それでも客が酔つてでもゐて、無理に彼女を自由にしようとすると、金花は何時もかう云つて、実際彼女の病んでゐる証拠を示す事さへ憚はばからなかつた。だから客は彼女の部屋には、おひおひ遊びに来ないやうになつた。と同時に又彼女の家計も、一日毎に苦しくなつて行つた。……
今夜も彼女はこの卓テエブルに倚よつて、長い間ぼんやり坐つてゐた。が、不相変あひかはらず彼女の部屋へは、客の来るけはひも見えなかつた。その内に夜は遠慮なく更ふけ渡つて、彼女の耳にはひる音と云つては、唯何処どこかで鳴いてゐる蟋蟀こほろぎの声ばかりになつた。のみならず火の気のない部屋の寒さは、床に敷きつめた石の上から、次第に彼女の鼠繻子ねずみじゆすの靴を、その靴の中の華奢きやしやな足を、水のやうに襲つて来るのであつた。
金花はうす暗いランプの火に、さつきからうつとり見入つてゐたが、やがて身震ひを一つすると翡翠ひすゐの輪の下つた耳を掻いて、小さな欠伸あくびを噛み殺した。すると殆ほとんどその途端に、ペンキ塗りの戸が勢よく開いて、見慣みなれない一人の外国人が、よろめくやうに外からはひつて来た。その勢が烈しかつたからであらう。卓テエブルの上のランプの火は、一しきりぱつと燃え上つて、妙に赤々と煤すすけた光を狭い部屋の中に漲みなぎらせた。客はその光をまともに浴びて、一度は卓の方へのめりかかつたが、すぐに又立ち直ると、今度は後へたじろいで、今し方しまつたペンキ塗りの戸へ、どしりと背を凭もたせてしまつた。
金花は思はず立ち上つて、この見慣れない外国人の姿へ、呆気あつけにとられた視線を投げた。客の年頃は三十五六でもあらうか。縞目のあるらしい茶の背広に、同じ巾地きれぢの鳥打帽をかぶつた、眼の大きい、顋髯あごひげのある、頬の日に焼けた男であつた。が、唯一つ合点の行かない事には、外国人には違ひないにしても、西洋人か東洋人か、奇体にその見分けがつかなかつた。それが黒い髪の毛を帽の下からはみ出させて、火の消えたパイプを啣くはへながら、戸口に立ち塞ふさがつてゐる有様は、どう見ても泥酔した通行人が戸まどひでもしたらしく思はれるのであつた。
「何か御用ですか。」
金花は稍やや無気味な感じに襲おそはれながら、やはり卓テエブルの前に立ちすくんだ儘、詰なじるやうにかう尋ねて見た。すると相手は首を振つて、支那語はわからないと云ふ相図をした。それから横啣へにしたパイプを離して、何やら意味のわからない滑なめらかな外国語を一言ひとこと洩らした。が、今度は金花の方が、卓の上のランプの光に、耳環の翡翠ひすゐをちらつかせながら、首を振つて見せるより外に仕方がなかつた。
客は彼女が当惑らしく、美しい眉をひそめたのを見ると、突然大声に笑ひながら、無造作に鳥打帽を脱ぎ離して、よろよろこちらへ歩み寄つた。さうして卓テエブルの向うの椅子へ、腰が抜けたやうに尻を下した。金花はこの時この外国人の顔が、何時いつ何処どこと云ふ記憶はないにしても、確に見覚えがあるやうな、一種の親しみを感じ出した。客は無遠慮に盆の上の西瓜の種をつまみながら、と云つてそれを噛むでもなく、じろじろ金花を眺めてゐたが、やがて又妙な手真似まじりに、何か外国語をしやべり出した。その意味も彼女にはわからなかつたが、唯この外国人が彼女の商売に、多少の理解を持つてゐる事は、朧おぼろげながらも推測がついた。
支那語を知らない外国人と、長い一夜を明す事も、金花には珍しい事ではなかつた。そこで彼女は椅子にかけると、殆ほとんど習慣になつてゐる、愛想の好い微笑を見せながら、相手には全然通じない冗談じようだんなどを云ひ始めた。が、客はその冗談がわかるのではないかと疑はれる程、一言二言しやべつては、上機嫌の笑ひ声を挙げながら、前よりも更に目まぐるしく、いろいろな手真似を使ひ出した。
客の吐く息は酒臭かつた。しかしその陶然と赤くなつた顔は、この索寞さくばくとした部屋の空気が、明あかるくなるかと思ふ程、男らしい活力に溢あふれてゐた。少くともそれは金花にとつては、日頃見慣れてゐる南京の同国人は云ふまでもなく、今まで彼女が見た事のある、どんな東洋西洋の外国人よりも立派であつた。が、それにも関らず、前にも一度この顔を見た覚えのあると云ふ、さつきの感じだけはどうしても、打ち消す事が出来なかつた。金花は客の額に懸つた、黒い捲き毛を眺めながら、気軽さうに愛嬌あいけうを振り撒く内にも、この顔に始めて遇あつた時の記憶を、一生懸命に喚よび起さうとした。
「この間肥つた奥さんと一しよに、画舫ぐわばうに乗つてゐた人かしら。いやいや、あの人は髪の色が、もつとずつと赤かつた。では秦淮しんわいの孔子様の廟べうへ、写真機を向けてゐた人かも知れない。しかしあの人はこの御客より、年をとつてゐたやうな心もちがする。さうさう、何時か利渉橋りせふけうの側の飯館はんくわんの前に、人だかりがしてゐると思つたら、丁度この御客によく似た人が、太い籐とうの杖を振り上げて、人力車夫の背中を打つてゐたつけ。事によると、――が、どうもあの人の眼は、もつと瞳が青かつたやうだ。……」
金花がこんな事を考へてゐる内に、不相変あひかはらず愉快さうな外国人は、何時かパイプに煙草をつめて、匂の好い煙を吐き出してゐた。それが急に又何とか云つて、今度はおとなしくにやにや笑ふと、片手の指を二本延べて、金花の眼の前へ突き出しながら、?と云ふ意味の身ぶりをした。指二本が二弗ドルと云ふ金額を示してゐることは、勿論誰の眼にも明かであつた。が、客を泊めない金花は、器用に西瓜の種を鳴らして、否と云ふ印に二度ばかり、これも笑ひ顔を振つて見せた。すると客は卓テエブルの上に横柄な両肘を凭もたせた儘、うす暗いランプの光の中に、近々と酔顔をさし延ばして、ぢつと彼女を見守つたが、やがて又指を三本出して、答を待つやうな眼つきをした。
金花はちよいと椅子をずらせて、西瓜の種を含んだ儘、当惑らしい顔になつた。客は確に二弗の金では、彼女が体を任せないと云つたやうに思つてゐるらしかつた。と云つて言葉の通じない彼に、立ち入つた仔細しさいをのみこませる事は、到底出来さうにも思はれなかつた。そこで金花は今更のやうに、彼女の軽率を後悔しながら、涼しい視線を外へ転じて、仕方なく更にきつぱりと、もう一度頭を振つて見せた。
所が相手の外国人は、暫しばらくうす笑ひを浮べながら、ためらふやうな気色を示した後、四本の指をさし延ばして、何か又外国語をしやべつて聞かせた。途方に暮れた金花は頬を抑へて、微笑する気力もなくなつてゐたが、咄嗟とつさにもうかうなつた上は、何時までも首を振り続けて、相手が思ひ切る時を待つ外はないと決心した。が、さう思ふ内にも客の手は、何か眼に見えないものでも捉へるやうに、とうとう五指とも開いてしまつた。
それから二人は長い間、手真似と身ぶりとの入り交つた押し問答を続けてゐた。その間に客は根気よく、一本づつ指の数を増した揚句、しまひには十弗ドルの金を出しても、惜しくないと云ふ意気ごみを示すやうになつた。が、私窩子しくわしには大金の十弗も、金花の決心は動かせなかつた。彼女はさつきから椅子を離れて、斜に卓の前へ佇たたずんでゐたが、相手が両手の指を見せると、苛立いらだたしさうに足踏みして、何度も続けさまに頭を振つた。その途端にどう云ふ拍子ひやうしか、釘に懸つてゐた十字架がはづれて、かすかな金属の音を立てながら、足もとの敷石の上に落ちた。
彼女は慌あわただしい手を延べて、大切な十字架を拾ひ上げた。その時何気なく十字架に彫られた、受難の基督の顔を見ると、不思議にもそれが卓の向うの、外国人の顔と生き写しであつた。
「何でも何処かで見たやうだと思つたのは、この基督様の御顔だつたのだ。」
金花は黒繻子くろじゆすの上衣の胸に、真鍮しんちゆうの十字架を押し当てた儘、卓を隔てた客の顔へ、思はず驚きの視線を投げた。客はやはりランプの光に、酒気を帯びた顔を火照ほてらせながら、時々パイプの煙を吐いては、意味ありげな微笑を浮べてゐた。しかもその眼は彼女の姿へ、――恐らくは白い頸くびすぢから、翡翠の環を下げた耳のあたりへ、絶えずさまよつてゐるらしかつた。しかしかう云ふ客の容子ようすも、金花には優しい一種の威厳に、充ち満ちてゐるかのやうな心もちがした。
やがて客はパイプを止めると、わざとらしく小首を傾けて、何やら笑ひ声の言葉をかけた。それが金花の心には、殆ほとんど巧妙な催眠術師が、被術者の耳に囁ささやき聞かせる、暗示のやうな作用を起した。彼女はあの健気けなげな決心も、全く忘れてしまつたのか、そつとほほ笑んだ眼を伏せて、真鍮の十字架を手まさぐりながら、この怪しい外国人の側へ、羞はづかしさうに歩み寄つた。
客はズボンの隠しを探つて、じやらじやら銀の音をさせながら、依然とうす笑ひを浮べた眼に、暫くは金花の立ち姿を好ましさうに眺めてゐた。が、その眼の中のうす笑ひが、熱のあるやうな光に変つたと思ふと、いきなり椅子から飛び上つて、酒の匂のする背広の腕に、力一ぱい金花を抱きすくめた。金花はまるで喪心さうしんしたやうに、翡翠の耳環の下がつた頭をぐつたりと後へ仰向あふむけた儘、しかし蒼白あをじろい頬の底には、鮮あざやかな血の色を仄ほのめかせて、鼻の先に迫つた彼の顔へ、恍惚くわうこつとしたうす眼を注いでゐた。この不思議な外国人に、彼女の体を自由にさせるか、それとも病を移さない為に、彼の接吻を刎はねつけるか、そんな思慮をめぐらす余裕は、勿論何処にも見当らなかつた。金花は髯だらけな客の口に、彼女の口を任せながら、唯燃えるやうな恋愛の歓喜が、始めて知つた恋愛の歓喜が、激しく彼女の胸もとへ、突き上げて来るのを知るばかりであつた。……

数時間の後、ランプの消えた部屋の中には、唯かすかな蟋蟀こほろぎの声が、寝台を洩れる二人の寝息に、寂しい秋意を加へてゐた。しかしその間に金花の夢は、埃ほこりじみた寝台の帷とばりから、屋根の上にある星月夜へ、煙のやうに高々と昇つて行つた。

*      *      *
――金花は紫檀したんの椅子に坐つて、卓の上に並んでゐる、さまざまな料理に箸はしをつけてゐた。燕の巣、鮫さめの鰭ひれ、蒸むした卵、燻いぶした鯉、豚の丸煮、海参なまこの羹あつもの、――料理はいくら数へても、到底数へ尽されなかつた。しかもその食器が悉ことごとく、べた一面に青い蓮華れんげや金の鳳凰ほうわうを描き立てた、立派な皿小鉢ばかりであつた。
彼女の椅子の後には、絳紗かうしやの帷とばりを垂れた窓があつて、その又窓の外には川があるのか、静な水の音や櫂かいの音が、絶えず此処まで聞えて来た。それがどうも彼女には、幼少の時から見慣れてゐる、秦淮しんわいらしい心もちがした。しかし彼女が今ゐる所は、確に天国の町にある、基督の家に違ひなかつた。
金花は時々箸を止めて、卓テエブルの周囲を眺めまはした。が、広い部屋の中には、竜の彫刻のある柱だの、大輪の菊の鉢植ゑだのが、料理の湯気に仄めいてゐる外は、一人も人影は見えなかつた。
それにも関らず卓の上には、食器が一つからになると、忽たちまち何処からか新しい料理が、暖な香気を漲みなぎらせて、彼女の眼の前へ運ばれて来た。と思ふと又箸をつけない内に、丸焼きの雉きじなぞが羽搏はばたきをして紹興酒せうこうしゆの瓶を倒しながら、部屋の天井へばたばたと、舞ひ上つてしまふ事もあつた。
その内に金花は誰か一人、音もなく彼女の椅子の後へ、歩み寄つたのに心づいた。そこで箸を持つた儘、そつと後を振り返つて見た。すると其処にはどう云ふ訳か、あると思つた窓がなくて、緞子どんすの蒲団を敷いた紫檀したんの椅子に、見慣れない一人の外国人が、真鍮の水煙管みづぎせるを啣くはへながら、悠々と腰を下してゐた。
金花はその男を一目見ると、それが今夜彼女の部屋へ、泊りに来た男だと云ふ事がわかつた。が、唯一つ彼と違ふ事には、丁度三日月のやうな光の環が、この外国人の頭の上、一尺ばかりの空に懸つてゐた。その時又金花の眼の前には、何だか湯気の立つ大皿が一つ、まるで卓から湧いたやうに、突然旨うまさうな料理を運んで来た。彼女はすぐに箸を挙げて、皿の中の珍味を挾はさまうとしたが、ふと彼女の後にゐる外国人の事を思ひ出して、肩越しに彼を見返りながら、
「あなたも此処へいらつしやいませんか。」と、遠慮がましい声をかけた。
「まあ、お前だけお食べ。それを食べるとお前の病気が、今夜の内によくなるから。」
円光を頂いた外国人は、やはり水煙管を啣へた儘、無限の愛を含んだ微笑を洩らした。
「ではあなたは召上らないのでございますか。」
「私かい。私は支那料理は嫌ひだよ。お前はまだ私を知らないのかい。耶蘇基督ヤソキリストはまだ一度も、支那料理を食べた事はないのだよ。」
南京の基督はかう云つたと思ふと、徐おもむろに紫檀の椅子を離れて、呆気あつけにとられた金花の頬へ、後から優しい接吻を与へた。
*      *      *

天国の夢がさめたのは、既に秋の明け方の光が、狭い部屋中にうすら寒く拡がり出した頃であつた。が、埃臭ほこりくさい帷とばりを垂れた、小舸せうかのやうな寝台の中には、さすがにまだ生暖い仄かな闇が残つてゐた。そのうす暗がりに浮んでゐる、半ば仰向いた金花の顔は、色もわからない古毛布に、円い括くくり顋あごを隠した儘、未いまだに眠い眼を開かなかつた。しかし血色の悪い頬には、昨夜の汗にくつついたのか、べつたり油じみた髪が乱れて、心もち明いた唇の隙にも、糯米もちごめのやうに細い歯が、かすかに白々と覗いてゐた。
金花は眠りがさめた今でも、菊の花や、水の音や、雉の丸焼きや、耶蘇基督や、その外いろいろな夢の記憶に、うとうと心をさまよはせてゐた。が、その内に寝台の中が、だんだん明あかるくなつて来ると、彼女の快い夢見心にも、傍若無人な現実が、昨夜不思議な外国人と一しよに、この籐の寝台へ上つた事が、はつきりと意識に踏みこんで来た。
「もしあの人に病気でも移したら、――」
金花はさう考へると、急に心が暗くなつて、今朝は再ふたたび彼の顔を見るに堪へないやうな心もちがした。が、一度眼がさめた以上、なつかしい彼の日に焼けた顔を何時までも見ずにゐる事は、猶更なほさら彼女には堪へられなかつた。そこで暫くためらつた後、彼女は怯おづ怯づ眼を開いて、今はもう明くなつた寝台の中を見まはした。しかし其処には思ひもよらず、毛布に蔽はれた彼女の外は、十字架の耶蘇に似た彼は勿論、人の影さへも見えなかつた。
「ではあれも夢だつたかしら。」
垢あかじみた毛布を刎はねのけるが早いか、金花は寝台の上に起き直つた。さうして両手に眼を擦こすつてから、重さうに下つた帷を掲げて、まだ渋い視線を部屋の中へ投げた。
部屋は冷かな朝の空気に、残酷な位歴々ありありと、あらゆる物の輪廓を描いてゐた。古びた卓テエブル、火の消えたランプ、それから一脚は床に倒れ、一脚は壁に向つてゐる椅子、――すべてが昨夜ゆうべの儘であつた。そればかりか現に卓の上には、西瓜の種が散らばつた中に、小さな真鍮の十字架さへ、鈍い光を放つてゐた。金花は眩まばゆい眼をしばたたいて、茫然ばうぜんとあたりを見まはしながら、暫くは取り乱した寝台の上に、寒さうな横坐りを改めなかつた。
「やつぱり夢ではなかつたのだ。」
金花はかう呟つぶやきながら、さまざまにあの外国人の不可解な行く方を思ひやつた。勿論考へるまでもなく、彼は彼女が眠つてゐる暇に、そつと部屋を抜け出して、帰つたかも知れないと云ふ気はあつた。しかしあれ程彼女を愛撫した彼が、一言も別れを惜まずに、行つてしまつたと云ふ事は、信じられないと云ふよりも、寧むしろ信じるに忍びなかつた。その上彼女はあの怪しい外国人から、まだ約束の十弗の金さへ、貰ふ事を忘れてゐたのであつた。
「それとも本当に帰つたのかしら。」
彼女は重い胸を抱きながら、毛布の上に脱ぎ捨てた、黒繻子の上衣をひつかけようとした。が、突然その手を止めると、彼女の顔には見る見る内に、生き生きした血の色が拡がり始めた。それはペンキ塗りの戸の向うに、あの怪しい外国人の足音でも聞えた為であらうか。或は又枕や毛布にしみた、酒臭い彼の移り香が、偶然恥しい昨夜の記憶を喚よびさました為であらうか。いや、金花はこの瞬間、彼女の体に起つた奇蹟が、一夜の中に跡方もなく、悪性を極めた楊梅瘡やうばいさうを癒いやした事に気づいたのであつた。
「ではあの人が基督様だつたのだ。」
彼女は思はず襯衣したぎの儘、転ころぶやうに寝台を這ひ下りると、冷たい敷き石の上に跪ひざまづいて、再生の主と言葉を交した、美しいマグダラのマリアのやうに、熱心な祈祷を捧げ出した。……

翌年の春の或夜、宋金花を訪れた、若い日本の旅行家は再ふたたびうす暗いランプの下に、彼女と卓テエブルを挾んでゐた。
「まだ十字架がかけてあるぢやないか。」
その夜彼が何かの拍子に、ひやかすやうにかういふと、金花は急に真面目になつて、一夜南京に降くだつた基督が、彼女の病を癒したと云ふ、不思議な話を聞かせ始めた。
その話を聞きながら、若い日本の旅行家は、こんな事を独り考へてゐた。――
「おれはその外国人を知つてゐる。あいつは日本人と亜米利加アメリカ人との混血児だ。名前は確か George Murry とか云つたつけ。あいつはおれの知り合ひの路透ロイテル電報局の通信員に、基督教を信じてゐる、南京の私窩子しくわしを一晩買つて、その女がすやすや眠つてゐる間に、そつと逃げて来たと云ふ話を得意らしく話したさうだ。おれがこの前に来た時には、丁度あいつもおれと同じ上海のホテルに泊つてゐたから、顔だけは今でも覚えてゐる。何でもやはり英字新聞の通信員だと称してゐたが、男振りに似合はない、人の悪るさうな人間だつた。あいつがその後悪性な梅毒から、とうとう発狂してしまつたのは、事によるとこの女の病気が伝染したのかも知れない。しかしこの女は今になつても、ああ云ふ無頼ぶらいな混血児を耶蘇基督だと思つてゐる。おれは一体この女の為に、蒙を啓ひらいてやるべきであらうか。それとも黙つて永久に、昔の西洋の伝説のやうな夢を見させて置くべきだらうか……」
金花の話が終つた時、彼は思ひ出したやうに燐寸マツチを擦つて、匂の高い葉巻をふかし出した。さうしてわざと熱心さうに、こんな窮した質問をした。
「さうかい。それは不思議だな。だが、――だがお前は、その後一度も煩わづらはないかい。」
「ええ、一度も。」
金花は西瓜の種を噛かじりながら、暗れ晴れと顔を輝かせて、少しもためらはずに返事をした。

本篇を草するに当り、谷崎潤一郎氏作「秦淮しんわいの一夜」に負ふ所尠すくなからず。附記して感謝の意を表す。

大正九年六月


Source

「現代日本文学大系 43 芥川龍之介集」筑摩書房; 1968(昭和43)年8月25日初版第1刷発行; 入力:j.utiyama; 校正:柳沢成雄; 1998年11月12日公開; 2004年3月13日修正; 青空文庫作成ファイル:このファイルは、インターネットの図書館、青空文庫(http://www.aozora.gr.jp/)で作られました。

This translation is from: http://www.kanjipress.com/ra_christ_of_nanking.php

A 1995 screen version of the story, The Christ Of Nanjing 南京的基督, was directed by Tony Au 區丁平 and starred Tony Leung Ka-fai 梁家輝 and Tomita Yasuko. Tomita won Best Actress at 1995 Tokyo International Film Festival for her performance.