On a number of occasions, Jones stated that he dealt commercially in stamps and that he wrote for stamp magazines in return for advertising space. If indeed he wrote short stories, rather than articles for these magazines, then it would appear that three of these stories were later reprinted in The Fayetteville Bulletin between August of 1929 and January of 1930. That these stories are part, or all of this set of writings is only an assumption on our part, as all we really know about these stories is that they are credited to Neil R. Jones and that they all involve stamps as a part of their plot.

We have taken the liberty of numbering the stories in the order they were printed in The Bulletin, as we have no information as to their original publication order. There does appear to be a steady progression and improvement as an author on Neil’s part in the order the stories appeared in The Bulletin, leading us to believe this numbering is chronologically correct regarding the original creation of the stories.


By Neil R. Jones

For the first of his “stamp” stories, Jones penned a story that contains a great deal of description—something lacking from his two high school stories. Stamps, of course, are a central part of the narrative, yet they are only a portion of it since the story is, at its heart, a love story.

The story is a change of pace for Jones during this early period. There no science fiction or adventure elements to the tale and, although he seems to have an interest in mystery stories, that genre does not seem to be evident either. In some ways it is a mood piece, yet, unlike the two stories that follow it, the stamp angle is so central to the plot that if it were removed, the story would collapse. What the story does manage to do, however, is to keep the readers’ attention, particularly as the protagonist ponders how, in the early 1900s, does one locate someone in a foreign country when their actual location is unknown?

This version of “A Japanese Romance” appeared in the August 22, 1929 edition of The Fayetteville Bulletin, although it may, or may not, have appeared in an unknown stamp magazine prior to this appearance.

Bob Gay
April, 2019
Introduction © 2019 by Bob Gay
Editor’s Note: this reprinting of "A Japanese Romance" is as it appeared in 1929, with the exception of the correction of obvious mis-spellings and the addition of drop caps to break up the page.

NIAKA Yitsu was lonely. Her head dropped despondently, and she walked listlessly among the nodding flowers which bedecked the sun-kissed hillside. Even their tantalizing essence failed to arouse her from the lethargic gloom which draped her soul. On the wings of the gentle breeze floated the delicate perfume of the fruit blossoms in the Japanese orchards, and somewhere off amid their leafy foliage a bird trilled sweetly, betokening the joy she felt upon this glorious afternoon.

But Niaka was only dully conscious of the surrounding earthly beauty whose priceless heritage was hers. Below her, at the foot of the sloping hillside, flowery gardens stretched away to meet the sparkling ocean, whose waves sent jeweled drops of spray into the air as they smote the rocky beach. Niaka was mourning the loss of her lover, Kya Hyriat who had sailed away to the far off shores of America. Kya, upon meeting the stormy rebuttal of Niaka’s honorable father in seeding her hand, preferred a life of forgetfulness in America rather than to live so near and yet so far from the celestial beauty of Niaka. Worse yet, to be confronted by the maddening fact that she was to be the wife of another, the elderly Yirhito Sakyrn, a rich and powerful land-owner to whom Niaka’s father had already engaged her, was impossible. So Kya, with a heavy heart, had sailed away.

This then, was the cause for the grief of the bright kimonoed Niaka, whose sorrow was so paradoxically in contrast to the charms of Nature through which she now wandered aimlessly. The afternoon grew older, and the flaming sun drew gradually near to the vague and nearly imperceptible line which marked the blending of water and sky.

Niaka stepped slowly yet daintily along towards the gardens bordering the sea, obsessed in the disconsolate mood which enshrouded her. She wandered through the dreamy fragrance of the Oriental gardens by the seashore, as she gazed away over the sapphire-hued ocean lazily tossing beneath the deep blue dome of an azure sky. The sun gradually sank as a great, gilded ball among the purple and gold tinted clouds of the western horizon, sinking, sinking, slowly into the translucent depths of the restless- ocean which lapped the shores of old Cathay across the Japan Sea.

As dusk’s somber mantle spread itself over the great island which the medieval explorers knew as Cipango, a half formed idea gradually shaped itself in Niaka’s mind to assume the proportions of a determined resolution. A hopeful light kindled by the fires of hope, now shone in the limpid depths of her dark, almond eyes.

IT was now dark as she skipped home, and into the recluse of her chamber. From a corner, she drew forth a small chest, and unfastened the lid, which she threw back. Kya deprived of both father and mother at an early age, had been educated at an English school in Hong Kong, where he had also become a collector of stamps. Before he had left, three months ago, ho had given the chest of stamps and other contents to Niaka as keepsakes. Among the stamps, albums and other philatelic articles were several stamp magazines. Kya had once explained to her that these were a medium whereby collections and dealers bought and sold to one another.

She hunted for a moment among the stamps until with a glad cry of exultation she found that for which she was searching. Kya had not given all of his stamps to Niaka as souvenirs when he had left; he kept the stamps of his native country, Japan, intending to specialize in them. Niaka remembered her last night with him. When he left he had not told her where he was going, she only knew that somewhere in America was her Kya. He thought he had separated all of the Japanese stamps from the others, and had taken them with him, but no, he had not, as Niaka found several weeks after his departure. There had been an entire sheet of dark blue ten sen stamps left behind with the others by accident. Niaka recognized them as commemoratives of the fiftieth anniversary of the postal service in Japan.

She placed the sheet of stamps face down before her, and wrote the following inscription in Japanese characacters upon the back of each stamp:

“Kya, come back to Niaka. I love you. We shall run away together and be happy. Hurry.”

Next, she took a pack of envelopes and attempted to copy the addresses of the numerous stamp collectors in English but the effort was futile. She could not read or understand the English words which were so outlandishly queer in contrast to her own familiar Japanese characters, and then, too, she was not sure as to which part of the advertisement were the address. She finally solved the problem by cutting out the entire advertisement of each dealer and pasting it on the envelope, after which she carefully affixed one of the broad commemorative stamps to each of the many envelopes. It was nearly dawn before the task was finished and the envelopes were ready to mail.

A month or so later a large number of stamp dealers in all parts of the United States, and a few in European countries were surprised to find in their mail a letter from Japan, which, instead of bearing their name and address, had their entire advertisement pasted on the envelope’s front. What was more puzzling, the envelope was empty, and part of the postage on the envelope consisted of one of the famous postal commemoratives of Japan. Each dealer thought little more about the matter except to feel thankful, to whoever had mailed him such an uncommon stamp on cover.

Some of the stamps were sold intact on cover, while others were offered on approval sheets or else by price list. Those who soaked the stamps off the paper paid little, attention to the Japanese characters written on, its back. Not understanding the writing, they merely gave it a curious, speculative glance.

IN one of the great colleges of the United States Kya Hyriat, a Japanese student was rounding out the elementary education he had received in Hong Kong. It was now nearly a year since he had left his Cipango home. On this particular afternoon he was down on the baseball diamond, which adjoined the college, learning the great American outdoor sport. The crack of the bat, the thump of baseballs into padded gloves, the excited yells and laughter and mingled together as the students practiced after school hours had finished.

“Hey, Kya, C'mere a minute!”

A young man on the fence called to the Japanese student, who dropped a catching glove and approached his friend. Both of them were united in the common cause of stamp-collecting, often trading stamps and experiences together.

“What’s up?” queried Kya in the perfect English he had acquired at Hong Kong.

“I thought you might want to look over these approvals before I send them back. There are several Japanese stamps on the sheet, and I know you’re specializing in them.”

Kya took the sheet.

"Look Jack! I had an entire sheet of those stamps in the mint condition once!” exclaimed the Japanese student pointing to a postal commemorative on the sheet of approval stamps. “I must have left them in Japan before I sailed, for I’ve never been able to find them since.”

A far away look appeared in his slanting eyes as he spoke these last words, and as in a trance his mind was once more back in his native land of Nippon.

“I’ll take that stamp, Jack, and these two others also,” stated Kya, as he paid his friend the required amount and handed back the sheet.

THAT night Kya prepared to hinge his newly acquired stamps into an album. He bent a hinge and moistened one side of it, after which he turned over the rectangular commemorative stamp to affix the hinge. There was Japanese writing on the back of the stamp! His heart gave a bound, as he read it, and for a moment his thoughts were in such a whirl that the import of the message was lost upon him!

THE very next day, a cablegram left for Japan and a Japanese student left for Hong Kong. From Hong Kong he went to Kyoto on the west coast of Japan, and from Kyoto, a speed launch swept north along the seacoast just after dusk, until it stopped in a lagoon which was familiar to Kya. He stole softly up through the gardens to the outskirts of the village where Niaka lived. At the time, Niaka was in her bed chamber dressing her hair.

Outside, a night bird shrilled its low, plaintive call. Her head went up in an attentive pose, for, though the calls of night birds were numerous, this one’s fluting note was peculiarly distinctive and stirred her memory strangely. Again it came, and with a suppressed cry of joy, surprise and pent up emotion, Niaka rushed to the window. Beneath her. she could vaguely discern a shadowy form, and to her ears came a hoarse whisper:


She admonished a cautious finger at her lover, lest her father or some other member of the family hear him.

She would soon be with him, she hoped. Making her way downstairs, she advanced leisurely out-of-doors. Just across the threshhold, her heart chilled as a gruff voice accosted her:

“Where are you going Niaka?”

“For a walk by moonlight, father.”

“Be not very long, for your betrothed, Yirhitoa Sakryn is to call this evening to make the final plans for your coming marriage.’’

Niaka continued on her way until she had reached the arbor beneath the window where Kya waited. Once more she was in the strong arms of her lover who folded her to him gently.

“Come, let us make haste!” whispered Kya. “I have come to take you with me to Hong Kong! A motor launch awaits down by the sea!”

Together, hand in hand, they made their way quickly towards the seashore. Once, Niaka stumbled, whereupon Kya picked her up and carried her the remaining distance to the little lagoon, where they entered the speed launch. The motor was soon purring, and the boat shot out of the lagoon and into the broad waters. Above, a friendly moon shone down, its full face throwing into a pale radiance the swiftly moving boat, whose sharp prow cut the smooth surface in twain and revealed in ghostly effect the two fleeing lovers who were escaping from an irate father’s wrath and the avid attentions of an undesired suitor. A path of silver stretched from the boat to the low hung moon and down this path the motor launch sped into the distance and away.


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