Kusaba no tsuyu (Dew by the Graveside)

Dew by the Graveside

草葉の露 [Kusaba no Tsuyu]

Synopsis by Ian McArthur.

First published in 1886. Adapted from the Mary Braddon novellete Flower and Weed.

Part One

The widower and parliamentarian Lord Ingleshaw and his only child, a daughter, the Lady Lucille, live peacefully in Ingleshaw Castle amidst its vast surrounding gardens. Lucille is approaching her eighteenth birthday when she learns that her cousin Bruno will soon return from a lengthy trip to Africa and Continental Europe. Bruno plans to take a seat in parliament. Excited at the news that Bruno will return, Lucille takes her horse and goes riding in the castle grounds where she encounters the homeless and starving orphan Bess. Lucille is impressed with Bess’s intelligence and good looks and decides after taking her to the castle for treatment to go against the advice of her governess Miss Marujuru and oversee Bess’s subsequent training for domestic duties.

 

Part Two

Bess makes a good recovery and over several days begins to learn various womanly accomplishments from Lucille’s maid Tompion. Some days later, Bruno arrives. Bess serves Lucille and Bruno tea, impressing Bruno with her presence and beauty. Later, in the grounds of the castle, Bruno embraces Lucille. The two pledge their love for each other.

 

Part Three

Lucille contracts the same illness which had afflicted Bess at the time of her appearance in the castle grounds. Lord Ingleshaw hurries from London with two nurses to care for Lucille. Bess devotedly assists the nurses. Bess confesses to Lord Ingleshaw that she had been on her way to Dover to join a cousin whom she had learned had gone there to enlist in the army. At Lucille’s urging, he agrees to allow Bess to remain in the castle at least until Lucille is completely recovered, after which they will find appropriate domestic employment in the region for her. Lord Ingleshaw gives her the surname of May, since that is the month in which she was found.

 

Part Four

By June, Lucille has recovered. She orders Marujoru to train Bess as a governess. The doctor orders Lucille to spend time in a seaside ryokan as part of her recuperation. The household, including Bess, relocate to the town of Uimâfu (Weymouth) for several months. Bruno visits and he and Lucille are absorbed in themselves, prompting Bess to display a moment of anger. Bess complains that they are treating her like a mere object. This prompts Bruno to doubt whether Lucille has done the right thing by taking Bess in. Lucille defends Bess and excuses her temper by arguing that Bess was originally very sick and still has much to learn.

The next morning Bruno rises early to take a stroll along the beach. He encounters Bess. Bess explains that she has been unhappy at being left alone since Lucille has been preoccupied with Bruno. She explains that she is not content with the company of the other servants. Bruno advises her to remember her place and then leaves to return to the ryokan. Bruno takes a meal with Lucille but then excuses himself, saying he has things to do. Lucille is disappointed that he has recently appeared busy and has not spent much time with her. She is unable to hide her tears from Marujoru. But shortly after, Bruno returns to tell Lucille that he has hired a boat.

On the boat with Bruno, Lucille is happy again. Having learned a lesson from Bruno, Bess remains polite and circumspect. However, one day toward the end of their voyage, Lucille is surprised to see Bruno and a tearful Bess talking while seated together. Unable to hear what they are saying, she sees that Bruno has his hand on Bess’s shoulder. Lucille interrupts, asking what has happened. Bruno explains that Bess is unhappy with her life.  Lucille demands of Bess that in future if she is not happy, she should explain this to her and not to Bruno.

 

Part Five

Back at the castle, Lucille’s aunt, Lady Câron, visits. She expresses approval at the impending marriage between Bruno and Lucille, arguing that it is a mutually beneficial arrangement for the continuation of the estate. She says she would rather that the two marry in London, but Lucille says she is happy to marry in the local church.

In an aside (page 105), Black explains that women in the West have their wedding gowns specially fitted by an expert before the ceremony.)

Lucille explains to her aunt that she expects Tompion to marry eventually and that after that, Bess will become her maid. Her aunt complains that Bess is not up to the task, but Lucille argues that Bess learns fast and could even become a governess. Bess continues her work around the castle.

One day, while out walking in the castle grounds, Bess encounters her estranged husband, Tom. She berates him for having left her penniless. He reminds her that they were married according to her wishes in a temple (tera) and that they are still husband and wife. Tom explains that he will look for work in the area and claim her once he has enough money. Bess is suspicious of his motive, but he warns her that if she causes problems for him, he will make life difficult for her. Tom then mentions the many valuable things he imagines are in the castle. She explains that it is a well-off household, but refrains from describing the castle in detail. He then leaves.

Bruno encounters Bess, distraught and alone in the grounds. She explains to him that her husband Tom has come back to claim her. She explains that he was a low-class man and a good-for-nothing (namake mono). Bess says she would rather die than return to him. Bruno urges Bess to reveal all to Lord Ingleshaw. They shake hands and stare into each other’s eyes for a moment. Then Bruno returns the way he had come. Bess remains in the grounds, lying sobbing into the ground until the moon rises and she returns to the castle.

 

Part Six

Bess is obliged to fully confess her past to Lord Ingleshaw. She subsequently asks Lucille’s forgiveness over the incident on the boat when Lucille was angered over her attempt to confide in Bruno. One day, Esureimon visits with three children and Lucille considers it an appropriate time to urge Bess to consider becoming a governess to the children. Esureimon meets Lucille and agrees to take Bess. Esureimon inquires of Lucille when she will marry. Lucille responds that it will probably be around the 20th of December,[1] but that it has not been finally decided yet.

 

Part Seven

On Christmas Eve, Lucille receives a telegram from Bruno saying that he will return from an excursion to his electorate in the north. Lucille decorates the castle rooms for Christmas. Bruno and Lord Ingleshaw return together. Lord Ingleshaw introduces Bruno as the member of parliament for Smokeshire (sumokushia). [2]

(Here, there is an aside by Black referring to legislation recently passed in the British parliament restricting the working hours of clerks. Black explains that they used to have to work from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., but that the legislation had mandated that clerks be allowed to cease work at 6 p.m. for health reasons. Black explains that other similar legislation has been introduced with the health of the workers in mind.)

The three enjoy each other’s company, talking about Lucille’s plans for beautifully tailored gowns once she is married, and other topics even after Lord Ingleshaw falls asleep by the fire. Later, over dinner with the household staff, Lord Ingleshaw inquires after Bess and Lucille explains that she is applying herself to studying well under Marujoru. Later, they each retire to their rooms, but Bruno remains by the fire for a while. Eventually, he makes his way to his room. In the candlelight he sees the figure of a woman carrying some books. It is Bess. Bess is startled to see him and drops some of her books. Bruno stops to talk to her and is struck by her paleness. After a brief chat, they part and leave for their own rooms.

 

Part Eight

The next morning, Christmas Day, the snow which has fallen overnight carpets the ground. Bruno expresses concern that Bess does not appear well. Black explains the Christmas celebrations in England. He explains that since it is a festival to mark the birth of Christ, the houses are cleaned thoroughly, and everyone takes part in a feast with party games and presents between 5 and 11 p.m.

After the guests have left, Bess is alone in a room with Lord Ingleshaw. While tidying up Christmas decorations, Bess explains how much she has enjoyed Christmas, adding that it was her first such experience. Ingleshaw comforts her by giving her an assurance that they will protect her from her husband.

 

Part Nine

A Christmas dinner of turkey is on and the tables are beautifully laid on white cloth. Below, are seated residents from homes surrounding the castle. All have been invited to a feast. Among the guests, Bess notices a strange man with a red beard and long red hair. She can not decide who the man is, although by his manner, she feels that he is from London.

When the feast ends, Bess remains alone, complaining of a headache, but contemplating her good fortune on having been rescued from poverty and given a home and education in the castle. She can hear Lucille and Bruno singing.

 

Part Ten

The clock strikes midnight. Bess has a headache and the clock feels extremely loud. In darkness now, Bess sees three figures moving in the shadows. She looks carefully and realizes that one is her husband Tom, who must have earlier disguised himself as the red-haired man.  She sees that they intend to rob the castle. She intercepts Tom and tells him she has something to say. She says she cannot stand by silently and allow him to rob the premises. She demands that they leave immediately. Tom accuses her of being fond of Bruno. There is a struggle and Tom produces a knife, but Bess screams. An alarm bell rings.  The accomplices escape, but Tom is trapped. Bruno enters and struggles with Tom. Bess comes between them and is stabbed by a blow meant for Bruno. Lord Ingleshaw arrives and apprehends Tom, but Bess dies, confessing to Bruno that she is happy to have saved his life.  Lucille and Bruno marry the following April.