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´╗┐Title: Noto: An Unexplored Corner of Japan
Author: Lowell, Percival
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Noto, an unexplored corner of Japan

by Percival Lowell



From you, my dear Basil, the confidant of my hopes toward Noto, I
know I may look for sympathy now that my advances have met with such
happy issue, however incomplete be my account.  And so I ask you to
be my best man in the matter before the world.

Ever yours,
Percival Lowell.

Basil Hall Chamberlain, Esq.



Contents.

    I.  An Unknown.
   II.  Off and On.
  III.  The Usui Pass.
   IV.  Zenkoji.
    V.  No.
   VI.  On a New Cornice Road.
  VII.  Oya Shiradzu, Ko Shiradzu.
 VIII.  Across the Etchiu Delta.
   IX.  Over the Arayama Pass.
    X.  An Inland Sea.
   XI.  Anamidzu.
  XII.  At Sea Again.
 XIII.  On the Noto Highway.
  XIV.  The Harinoki Toge.
   XV.  Toward the Pass.
  XVI.  Riuzanjita.
 XVII.  Over the Snow.
XVIII.  A Genial Inkyo.
  XIX.  Our Passport and the Basha.
   XX.  Down the Tenriugawa.
  XXI.  To the Sea.



NOTO: an unexplored corner of Japan.



I.  An Unknown.

The fancy took me to go to Noto.

It seemed a strange fancy to my friends.

Yet I make no apology for it; for it was a case of love at first sight.

Scanning, one evening, in Tokyo, the map of Japan, in a vague, itinerary
way, with the look one first gives to the crowd of faces in a ballroom,
my eye was caught by the pose of a province that stood out in graphic
mystery from the western coast.  It made a striking figure there,
with its deep-bosomed bays and its bold headlands.  Its name, it
appeared, was Noto; and the name too pleased me.  I liked its vowel
color; I liked its consonant form, the liquid n and the decisive t.
Whimsically, if you please, it suggested both womanliness and will.
The more I looked the more I longed, until the desire carried me not
simply off my feet, but on to them.

Nobody seemed to know much about my inamorata.  Indeed, those I asked
asked me, in their own want of information, why I went, and what
there was to see: of which questions, the second itself did for
answer to the first.  Why not in fact have set my heart on going to
Noto just because it was not known!  Not that it is well to believe
all the unseen to be much worth the seeing, but that I had an itching
sole to tread what others had not already effacingly betrodden.

Privately, I was delighted with the general lack of knowledge on the
subject.  It served admirably to put me in conceit with my choice;
although I will own I was rather at a loss to account for it, and I
can only explain it now by the fact that the place was so out of the
way, and not very unlike others, after all. Being thus candid, I
ought perhaps to go a step farther and renounce the name.  But, on
the two great principles that the pursuit is itself the prize and
that the means justifies the end, I prefer to keep it.  For there was
much of interest to me by the way; and I cling to the name out of a
kind of loyalty to my own fancy.  I like to think that Xenophon felt
as much in his Anabasis, though but one book out of seven deals with
the going up, the other six being occupied with the getting safely
away again.  It is not told that Xenophon regretted his adventure.
Certainly I am not sorry I was wedded to my idea.

To most of my acquaintance Noto was scarcely so much as a name, and
its local habitation was purely cartographic.  I found but one man
who had been there, and he had dropped down upon it, by way of harbor,
from a boat.  Some sympathetic souls, however, went so far toward it
as to ask where it was.

To the westward of Tokyo, so far west that the setting sun no longer
seems to lose itself among the mountains, but plunges for good and
all straight into the shining Nirvana of the sea, a strangely shaped
promontory makes out from the land.  It is the province of Noto,
standing alone in peninsular isolation.

It was partly in this position that the fascination lay.  Withdrawn
from its fellows, with its back to the land, it faced the glory of
the western sky, as if in virginal vision gazing out upon the deep.
Doubly withdrawn is it, for that the coast from which it stands apart
is itself almost unvisited by Europeans,--an out-of-the-world state,
in marked contrast to the shore bordering the Pacific, which is now a
curbstone on the great waterway round the earth, and incidentally
makes a happy parenthesis of promenade for the hasty globe-trotter.
The form, too, of the peninsula came in for a share in its attraction.
Its coast line was so coquettishly irregular.  If it turned its back
on the land, it stretched its hands out to the sea, only to withdraw
them again the next moment,--a double invitation.  Indeed, there is
no happier linking of land to water.  The navigator in such parts
becomes himself a delightfully amphibious creature, at home in both
elements.  Should he tire of the one, he can always take to the other.
Besides, such features in a coast suggest a certain clean-cut
character of profile,--a promise, in Japan at least, rarely unkept.

To reach this topographically charming province, the main island had
to be crossed at its widest, and, owing to lofty mountain chains,
much tacking to be done to boot.  Atmospherically the distance is
even greater than afoot.  Indeed, the change in climate is like a
change in zone; for the trend of the main island at this point,
being nearly east and west, gives to the one coast a southerly
exposure, and to the other a northerly one, while the highest wall of
peaks in Japan, the Hida-Shinshiu range, shuts off most meteorological
communication.  Long after Tokyo is basking in spring, the west coast
still lies buried in deep drifts of snow.

It was my misfortune to go to this out-of-the-way spot alone.  I was
duly sensible of my commiserable state at times.  Indeed, in those
strange flashes of dual consciousness when a man sees his own
condition as if it were another's, I pitied myself right heartily;
for I hold that travel is like life in this, at least, that a
congenial companion divides the troubles and doubles the joys.
To please one's self is so much harder than to be pleased by another;
and when it comes to doubt and difficulty, there are drawbacks to
being one's own guide, philosopher, and friend.  The treatment is too
homoeopathic by half.

An excuse for a companion existed in the person of my Japanese boy,
or cook.  He had been boy to me years before; and on this return of
his former master to the land of the enlightened, he had come back to
his allegiance, promoting himself to the post of cook.  During the
journey he acted in both capacities indifferently,--in one sense,
not in the other. In addition to being capable he was willing and of
great endurance.  Besides, he was passionately fond of travel.

He knew no more about Noto than I, and at times, on the road, he could
not make out what the country folk said, for the difference in dialect;
which lack of special qualification much increased his charm as a
fellow-traveler. He neither spoke nor understood English, of course,
and surprised me, after surprising himself, on the last day but one
of our trip, by coming out with the words "all right." His surname,
appropriately enough, meant mountain-rice-field, and his last name
--which we should call his first name--was Yejiro, or
lucky-younger-son.  Besides cooking excellently well, he made paper
plum blossoms beautifully, and once constructed a string telephone
out of his own head.  I mention these samples of accomplishment to
show that he was no mere dabbler in pots and pans.

In addition to his various culinary contrivances we took a large and
motley stock of canned food, some of his own home-made bread, and a
bottle of whiskey.  We laid in but a small supply of beer; not that
I purposed to forego that agreeable beverage, but because, in this
Europeanized age, it can be got in all the larger towns.  Indeed,
the beer brewed in Yokohama to-day ranks with the best in the world.
It is in great demand in Tokyo, while its imported, or professedly
imported, rivals have freely percolated into the interior, so popular
with the upper and upper middle classes have malt liquors become.
Nowadays, when a Japanese thinks to go in for Capuan dissipation
regardless of expense, he treats himself to a bottle of beer.

These larder-like details are not meant to imply that I made a god of
my palate, but that otherwise my digestion would have played the
devil with me.  In Japan, to attempt to live off the country in the
country is a piece of amateur acting the average European bitterly
regrets after the play, if not during its performance.  We are not
inwardly contrived to thrive solely on rice and pickles.

It is best, too, for a journey into the interior, to take with you
your own bedding; sheets, that is, and blankets.  The bed itself
Yejiro easily improvised out of innumerable futons, as the quilts
used at night by the Japanese are called.  A single one is enough for
a native, but Yejiro, with praiseworthy zeal, made a practice of
asking for half-a-dozen, which he piled one upon the other in the
middle of the room.  Each had a perceptible thickness and a rounded
loglike edge; and when the time came for turning in on top of the
lot, I was always reminded of the latter end of a Grecian hero,
the structure looked so like a funeral pyre.  When to the above
indispensables were added clothes, camera, dry plates, books,
and sundries, it made a collection of household gods quite appalling
to consider on the march. I had no idea I owned half so much in the
world from which it would pain me to be parted.  As my property lay
spread out for packing, I stared at it aghast.

To transport all these belongings, native ingenuity suggested a thing
called a yanagigori; several of them, in fact.  Now the construction
of a kori is elementally ingenious. It consists simply of two wicker
baskets, of the same shape, but of slightly different size, fitting
into each other upside down.  The two are then tied together with cord.
The beauty of the idea lies in its extension; for in proportion as
the two covers are pulled out or pushed home will the pair hold from
a maximum capacity of both to a minimum capacity of one.  It is
possible even to start with more than a maximum, if the contents be
such as are not given to falling out by the way.  The contrivance is
simply invaluable when it comes to transporting food; for then, as
you eat your way down, the obliging covers shrink to meet the vacuum.
If more than one kori be necessary, an easy step in devices leads to
a series of graded sizes.  Then all your baskets eventually collapse
into one.

The last but most important article of all was my passport, which
carefully described my proposed route, and which Yejiro at once took
charge of and carried about with him for immediate service; for a
wise paternal government insisted upon knowing my intentions before
permitting me to visit the object of my choice.



II.

Off and On.

It was on the day but one before the festival of the fifth moon that
we set out, or, in English, the third of May; and those emblems of
good luck, the festival fishes, were already swimming in the air
above the house eaves, as we scurried through the streets in
jinrikisha toward the Uyeno railway station.  We had been a little
behindhand in starting, but by extra exertions on the part of the
runners we succeeded in reaching the station just in time to be shut
out by the gatekeeper.  Time having been the one thing worthless in
old Japan, it was truly sarcastic of fate that we should reach our
first goal too late.  As if to point chagrin, the train still stood
in waiting. Remonstrances with the wicket man about the imported
five-minute regulation, or whatever it was, proved of no avail.
Not one jot or tittle of the rule would he yield, which perhaps was
natural, inasmuch as, however we might have managed alone, our
companions the baskets never could have boarded the train without
offical help.  The intrinsic merits of the baggage failed, alas,
to affect its mobility.  Then the train slowly drew out.

To be stopped on the road is the common lot of travelers; but to be
stopped before one has fairly started is nothing less than to be
mocked at.  It is best, however, to take such gibes in good part.
Viewing the situation in this light, the ludicrousness of the
disconnection struck me so forcibly as very nearly to console me for
my loss, which was not trifling, since the next train did not leave
for above three hours; too late to push on beyond Takasaki that night,
a thing I had most firmly purposed to do.  Here I was, the miserable
victim of a punctuality my own people had foisted on a land only too
happy without it!  There was poetic justice in the situation, after all.
Besides, the course of one's true love should not run too smooth.
Judicious difficulty whets desire.

There was nothing to turn to on the spot, and I was ashamed to go home.
Then I opportunely remembered something.

I have always thought we limited our pharmacopoeia.  We prescribe
pills enough for the body, while we leave the mind to look after itself.
Why should not the spirit also have its draughts and mixtures,
properly labeled and dispensed!  For example, angling appears to be a
strong mental opiate.  I have seen otherwise normal people stupefied
beyond expression when at the butt of a rod and line. Happening to
recall this effect, I instantly prescribed for my perturbed state of
mind a good dose of fishing, to be taken as suited the day.  So I
betook me down a by-street, where the aerial carp promised the
thickest, and, selecting a house well placed for a view, asked
permission to mount upon the roof.  It chanced to be a cast-off
clothing shop, along whose front some fine, if aged, garments were
hung to catch the public eye.  The camera and I were inducted up the
ascent by the owner, while my boots, of course, waited dog-like in
the porch below.

The city made a spectacle from above.  On all sides superb paper carp
floated to the breeze, tugging at the strings that held them to the
poles quite after the manner of the real fish.  One felt as though,
by accident, he had stepped into some mammoth globe of goldfish.
The whole sky was alive with them.  Eighty square miles of finny folk
inside the city, and an untold company without.  The counterfeit
presentments were from five to ten feet long, and painted to mimic
life.  The breeze entered at the mouth and passed out somewhat less
freely at the tail, thus keeping them well bellied and constantly in
motion.  The way they rose and dove and turned and wriggled was
worthy of free will.  Indeed, they had every look of spontaneity,
and lacked only the thing itself to turn the sky into an ocean,
and Tokyo into a sea bottom with a rockery of roof.  Each fish
commemorates the birth of a boy during the year.  It would thus be
possible to take a census of the increase of the male population
yearly, at the trifling cost of scaling a housetop,--a set of
statistics not without an eventual value.

While we were strolling back, Yejiro and I, we came, in the way,
upon another species of fish.  The bait, which was well designed to
captivate, bade for the moment to exceed even the angler's
anticipations.  It was a sort of un-Christmas tree with fishing-pole
branches, from which dangled articulated figures, bodied like men,
but with heads of foxes, tortoises, and other less likelybeasts,
--bewitching objects in impossible evolution to a bald-pated
urchin who stood gazing at it with all his soul.  The peddler sat with
his eyes riveted on the boy, visions of a possible catch chasing
themselves through his brain.  I watched him, while the crowd behind
stared at me.  We made quite a tail of curiosity.  The opiate was
having its effect; I began to feel soporifically calm.  Then I went
up to the restaurant in the park and had lunch as quietly as
possible, in fear of friendly discovery.

Sufficiently punctual passengers being now permitted to board the
next train, I ensconced myself in a kind of parlor compartment, which,
fortunately, I continued to have all to myself, and was soon being
rolled westward across the great Musashi plain, ruminating.  My chief
quarrel with railway rules is, I am inclined to think, that they
preach to the public what they fail to practice themselves.  After
having denied me a paltry five minutes' grace at the station, the
officials proceeded to lose half an hour on the road in a most
exasperating manner.  Of course the delay was quite exceptional.
Such a thing had never happened before, and would not happen
again--till the next time.  But the phenomenal character of the
occurrence failed to console me, as it should no doubt have done.
My delay, too, was exceptional--on this line.  Nor was I properly
mollified by repeated offers of hard-boiled eggs, cakes, and oranges,
which certain enterprising peddlers hawked up and down the platforms,
when we stopped, to a rhythmic chant of their own invention.

The only consolation lay in the memory of what travel over the
Musashi plain used to be before trains hurried one, or otherwise,
into the heart of the land.  In those days the journey was done in
jinrikisha, and a question of days, not hours, it was in the doing,
--two days' worth of baby carriage, of which the tediousness lay
neither in the vehicles nor in the way, but in the amount of both.
Or, if one put comparative speed above comparative comfort, he rose
before the lark, to be tortured through a summer's day in a basha,
or horse vehicle, suitable only for disembodied spirits.  My joints
ached again at the thought. Clearly, to grumble now was to sin
against proportion.

Besides, the weather was perfect: argosies of fleecy cloud sailing
slowly across a deep blue sky; a broad plain in all its spring
freshness of color, picked out here and there with fruit trees
smothered in blossom, and bearing on its bosom the passing shadows of
the clouds above; in the distance the gradually growing forms of the
mountains, each at first starting into life only as a faint wash of
color, barely to be parted from the sky itself, pricking up from out
the horizon of field.  Then, slowly, timed to our advance, the tint
gathered substance, grew into contrasts that, deepening minute by
minute, resolved into detail, until at last the whole stood revealed
in all its majesty, foothill, shoulder, peak, one grand chromatic
rise from green to blue.

One after the other the points came out thus along the southern sky:
first the summits behind Ome; then Bukosan, like some sentinel,
half-way up the plain's long side; and then range beyond range
stretching toward the west.  Behind Bukosan peeped Cloud's Rest, the
very same outline in fainter tint, so like the double reflection
from a pane of glass that I had to shift to an open window to make
sure it was no illusion.  Then the Nikko group began to show on the
right, and the Haruna mass took form in front; and as they rose
higher and the sunbeams slanted more, gilding the motes in the heavy
afternoon air, they rimmed the plain in front into one great bowl
of fairy eau de vie de Dantzic.  Slowly above them the sun dipped to
his setting, straight ahead, burnishing our path as we pursued in
two long lines of flashing rail into the west-northwest.  Lower he
sank, luring us on, and lower yet, and then suddenly disappeared
beyond the barrier of peaks.

The train drew up, panting.  It was Takasaki, now steeped in saffron
afterglow.  The guards passed along, calling out the name and
unfastening the doors.  Everybody got out and shuffled off on their
clogs.  The baskets, Yejiro, and I followed, after a little, through
the gloaming.

It was not far to the inn.  It was just far enough, at that hour, to
put us in heart for a housing.  Indeed, twilight is the time of
times to arrive anywhere.  Any spot, be it ever so homely, seems
homelike then.  The dusk has snatched from you the silent
companionship of nature, to leave you poignantly alone.  It is the
hour when a man draws closer to the one he loves, and the hour when
most he shrinks from himself, though he want another near.   It is
then the rays of the house lights wander abroad and appear to beckon
the houseless in; and that must be, in truth, a sorry hostelry to
seem such to him.

Even Takasaki bore a look of welcome alike to the foreign and the
native stranger, which was certainly wonderful for Takasaki.  The
place used not to fancy foreigners, and its inns bandied the European
traveler about like a bale of undesirable merchandise with the duties
still due.  But now, what a change!  The innkeeper not only received
us, but led the way at once to the best room,--a room in the second
story of the fireproof storehouse at the back, which he hoped would
be comfortable.  Comfortable!  The room actually proffered us a table
and chairs.  No one who has not, after a long day's tramp, sought in
vain to rest his weary body propped up against a side beam in a
Japanese inn can enter into the feeling a chair inspires, even long
afterward, by recollection.

I cannot say I loved Takasaki in former days.  Was it my reception or
was it sentiment that made me see it all now through a mist of glamour?
Unsuspected by us, that atmosphere of time tints everything.  Few
things but look lovelier seen down the vista of the years.  Indeed,
sentiment is a kind of religion; or is it religion that is a kind of
sentiment?  Both are so subtly busy canonizing the past, and crowning
with aureoles very every-day things as well as very ordinary people.
Not men alone take on a sanctity when they are no more.



III.

The Usui Pass.

The first object to catch my eye, when the shoji were pushed apart,
the next morning, was a string of the ubiquitous paper fish, dangling
limp in the motionless May air from a pole in a neighboring yard;
highly suggestive of having just been caught for breakfast.  The
sight would have been painfully prophetic but for the food we had
brought with us; for, of all meals, a Japanese breakfast is the most
cold, the most watery, and the most generally fishy in the world.
As it was, breakfast consisted of pathetic copies of consecrated
originals.  It might have been excellent but for the canned milk.

No doubt there are persons who are fond of canned milk; but, for my
part, I loathe it.  The effect of the sweetish glue upon my inner man
is singularly nauseating.  I have even been driven to drink my
matutinal coffee in all its after-dinner strength rather than
adulterate it with the mixture.  You have, it is true, the choice of
using the stuff as a dubious paste, or of mixing it with water into a
non-committal wash; and, whichever plan you adopt, you wish you had
adopted the other.  Why it need be so unpalatably cloying is not
clear to my mind.  They tell me the sugar is needed to preserve the
milk.  I never could make out that it preserved anything but the
sugar. Simply to see the stuff ooze out of the hole in the can is
deterrent.  It is enough to make one think seriously at times of
adding a good milch cow to his already ample trip encumberment, at
the certain cost of delaying the march, and the not improbable chance
of being taken for an escaped lunatic.  Indeed, to the Japanese mind,
to be seen solemnly preceding a caravan of cattle for purposes of
diet would certainly suggest insanity.  For cows in Japan are never
milked.  Dairy products, consequently, are not to be had on the road,
and the man who fancies milk, butter, or cheese must take them with
him.

It used to be the same in Tokyo, but in these latter days a dairy has
been started at Hakone, which supplies fresh butter to such Tokyoites
as like it.  One of my friends, who had been many years from home,
was much taken with the new privilege, and called my attention to it
with some pride.  The result was a colorless lardy substance that
looked like poor oleomargarine (not like good oleomargarine, for that
looks like butter), but which was held in high esteem, nevertheless.
My friend, indeed, seriously maintained to me once that such was the
usual color of fresh butter, and insisted that the yellow hue common
elsewhere must be the result of dyes.  He was so positive on the
point that he almost persuaded me, until I had left him and reason
returned.  It took me some time to recover from the pathos of the
thing: a man so long deprived of that simple luxury that he had quite
forgotten how it looked, and a set of cows utterly incapable, from
desuetude, of producing it properly.

After I had duly swallowed as much as I could of the doubtful dose
supposed to be cafe au lait, the cans were packed up again, and we
issued from the inn to walk a stone's throw to the train.

Takasaki stands well toward the upper end of the plain, just below
where the main body of it thrusts its arms out into the hills.
Up one of these we were soon wending.  Every minute the peaks came
nearer, frowning at us from their crumbling volcanic crags.  At last
they closed in completely, standing round about in threatening
pinnacles, and barring the way in front.  At this, the train,
contrary to the usual practice of trains in such seemingly impassable
places, timidly drew up.

In truth, the railway comes to an end at the foot of the Usui toge
(toge, meaning "pass"), after having wandered up, with more zeal than
discretion, into a holeless pocket.  Such untimely end was far from
the original intention; for the line was meant for a through line
along the Nakasendo from Tokyo to Kioto, and great things were
expected of it.  But the engineering difficulties at this point, and
still more at the Wada toge, a little farther on, proving too great,
the project was abandoned, and the through line built along the
Tokaido instead.  The idea, however, had got too much headway to be
stayed.  So it simply jumped the Usui toge, rolled down the Shinano
valley, climbed another divide, and came out, at last, on the sea of
Japan.

The hiatus caused by the Usui pass is got over by a horse railroad!
Somehow, the mere idea seemed comic.  A horse railroad in the heart
of Japan over a pass a mile high!  To have suddenly come upon the
entire Comedie Francaise giving performances in a teahouse at the top
could hardly have been more surprising.  The humor of the thing was
not a whit lessened by its looks.

To begin with, the cars were fairly natural.  This was a masterly
stroke in caricature, since it furnished the necessary foil to all
that followed.  They were not, to my eye, of any known species, but,
with the exception of being evidently used to hard lines, they looked
enough like trams to pass as such.  Inside sat, in all seriousness,
a wonderful cageful of Japanese.  To say that they were not to the
horse-car born conveys but a feeble notion of their unnaturalness.
They were propped, rather than seated, bolt upright, with a decorum
which would have done more than credit to a funeral.  They did not
smile; they did not even stir, except to screw their heads round to
stare at me.  They were dummies pure and simple, and may pass for the
second item in the properties.

The real personnel began with the horses. These were very sorry-looking
animals, but tough enough admirably to pull through the performance.
Managing them with some difficulty stood the driver on the front
platform, arrayed in a bottle-green livery, with a stiff military cap
which gave him the combined look of a German officer and of a
musician from a street band.  His energy was spent in making about
three times as much work for himself as was needed.  On the tail of
the car rode the guard, also notably appareled, whose importance
outdid even his uniform.  He had the advantage of the driver in the
matter of a second-class fish-horn, upon which he tooted vigorously
whenever he thought of it; and he was not a forgetful man.

Comedie Francaise, indeed!  Why, here it all was in Japanese farce!
From the passivity of the passengers to the pantomime of the driver
and guard, it could hardly have been done better; and the actors all
kept their countenances, too, in such a surprising manner.
A captious critic might have suggested that they looked a thought too
much at the audience; but, on the whole, I think that rather added to
the effect.  At all events, they were excellently good, especially
the guard, whose consequential airs could not have been happier if
they had been studied for years.

There was no end of red tape about the company.  Though the cars were
some time in starting, so that I got well ahead of them, they could
not admit me on the road, when my baggage kuruma turned out to be too
slow, because I had not bought a ticket at the office.  So I was
obliged to continue to tramp afoot, solacing myself with short cuts,
by which I gained on them, to my satisfaction, and by which I gained
still more on my own baggage, to my disgust, in that I ceased to be
near enough to hasten it.

I had to wait for the latter at the parting of the ways; for the tram
had a brand-new serpentine track laid out for it, while the old trail
at this point struck up to the right, coming out eventually at a
shrine that crowned the summit of the pass.  Horse-railroads not
being as new to me as to the Japanese, I piously chose the narrow way
leading to the temple, to the lingering regret of the baggage
trundlers, who turned sorry eyes down upon the easier secular road at
every bend in our own.

A Japanese pass has one feature which is invariable: it is always
longer than you think it is going to be.  I can, of my own
experience, recall but two exceptions to this distressing family
likeness, both of which were occasions of company which no doubt
forbade proper appreciation of their length, and vitiates them as
scientific observations.  When toiling up a toge I have been tempted
to impute acute ascentomania to the Japanese mind, but sober second
thought has attributed this inference to an overheated imagination.
It seems necessary, therefore, to lay the blame on the land, which,
like some people, is deceptive from very excess of uprightness.
There is so much more soil than can possibly be got in by simple
directness of purpose, or even by one, more or less respectable,
slope.

It was cold enough at the summit to cool anything, imaginary or
otherwise.  Even devotion shivered, as, in duty bound, it admired the
venerable temple and its yet more venerable tree.  The roofs of the
chalets stood weighted with rocks to keep them there, and the tree,
raised aloft on its stone-girded parapet, stretched bare branches
imploringly toward the sky.  So much for being a mile or so nearer
heaven, while still of the earth and earthy.

Half-way down the descent, Asamayama came out from behind the brow of
a hill, sending his whiffs of smoke dreamily into the air; and a
little lower still, beyond a projecting spur on the opposite side,
the train appeared, waiting in the plain, with its engine puffing a
sort of antiphonal response.  The station stood at the foot of the
tramway, which tumbled to it after the manner of a cascade over what
looked to be a much lower pass, thus apparently supporting the theory
of "supererogatory climb." The baggage passed on, and Yejiro and I
followed leisurely, admiring the view.

Either the old trail failed to connect with the railway terminus,
which I suspect, or else we missed the path, for we had to supply a
link ourselves.  This resulted in a woefully bad cut across a
something between a moor and a bog, supposed to be drained by
ditches, most of which lay at right angles to our course.  We were
not much helped, half-way over, by a kindly intentioned porter, who
dawned upon us suddenly in the distance, rushing excitedly out from
behind the platform, gesticulating in a startling way and shouting
that time was up.  We made what sorry speed was possible under the
circumstances, getting very hot from exertion, and hotter still from
anxiety, and then waited impatiently ten good minutes in our seats in
the railway carriage for the train to start.  I forget whether I
tipped that well-meaning but misguided man.

The tram contingent had already arrived,--had in fact finished
feeding at the many mushroom teahouses gathered about the station,--
and were now busy finding themselves seats.  Their bustle was most
pleasing to witness, till suddenly I discovered that there were no
first-class carriages; that it was my seat, so to speak, for which
they were scrambling.  The choice, it appeared, began with
second-class coaches, doomed therefore to be doubly popular.
Second-class accommodation, by no means merely nominal, was evidently
the height of luxury to the patrons of the country half of this
disjointed line, which starts so seductively from Tokyo.  Greater
comfort is strictly confined to the more metropolitan portion.

The second-class coaches had of course the merit of being cheaper,
but this was more than offset by the fact that in place of panes of
glass their windows had slats of wood with white cotton stretched
over them,--an ingenious contrivance for shutting out the view and a
good bit of the light, both of which are pleasing, and for letting in
the cold, which is not.

"If you go with the crowd, you will be taken care of," as a shrewd
financier of my acquaintance used to say about stocks.  This occurred
to me by way of consolation, as the guard locked us into the carriage,
in the approved paternal government style.  Fortunately the
locking-in was more apparent than real, for it consisted solely in
the turning of a bar, which it was quite possible to unturn, as all
travelers in railway coaches are aware, by dropping the window into
its oubliette and stretching the arm well down outside,--a trick of
which I did not scruple to avail myself.  My fellow-passengers the
Japanese were far too decorous to attempt anything of the kind, which
compelled me to do so surreptitiously, like one who committeth a crime.

These fellow-passengers fully made up for the room they took by their
value as scientific specimens.  I would willingly have chloroformed
them all, and presented them on pins to some sartorial museum;
for each typified a stage in a certain unique process of evolution,
at present the Japanese craze.  They were just so many samples of
unnatural development in dress, from the native Japanese to the
imitated European.  The costume usually began with a pot-hat and
ended in extreme cases with congress boots.  But each man exhibited a
various phase of it according to his self-emancipation from former
etiquette.  Sometimes a most disreputable Derby, painfully
reminiscent of better bygone days, found itself in company with a
refined kimono and a spotless cloven sock.  Sometimes the metamorphosis
embraced the body, and even extended down the legs, but had not yet
attacked the feet, in its creeping paralysis of imitation.  In another
corner, a collarless, cravatless semiflannel shirt had taken the
place of the under tunic, to the worse than loss of looks of its
wearer.  Opposite this type sat the supreme variety which evidently
prided itself upon its height of fashion.  In him the change had gone
so far as to recall the East End rough all over, an illusion
dispelled only by the innocence of his face.

While still busy pigeonholing my specimens, I chanced to look through
the open window, and suddenly saw pass by, as in the shifting background
of some scenic play, the lichenveiled stone walls and lotus-mantled
moats of the old feudal castle of Uyeda.  Poor, neglected, despised
bit of days gone by!--days that are but yesterdays, aeons since as
measured here.  Already it was disappearing down the long perspective
of the past; and yet only twenty years before it had stood in all the
pride and glory of the Middle Ages.  Then it had been

    A daimyo's castle, wont of old to wield
    Across the checkerboard of paddyfield
    A rook-like power from its vantage square
    On pawns of hamlets; now a ruin, there,
    Its triple battlements gaze grimly down
    Upon a new-begotten bustling town,
    Only to see self-mirrored in their moat
    An ivied image where the lotus float.

Some subtle sense of fitness within me was touched as it might have
been a nerve; and instantly the motley crew inside the car became not
merely comic, but shocking.  It seemed unseemly, this shuffling off
the stage of the tragic old by the farce-like new.  However little
one may mourn the dead, something forbids a harlequinade over their
graves.  The very principle of cosmic continuity has a decency about
it.  Nature holds with one hand to the past even as she grasps at the
future with the other.  Some religions consecrate by the laying on of
hands; Nature never withdraws her touch.



IV.

Zenkoji.

We were now come more than half-way from sea to sea, and we were
still in the thick of Europeanization.  So far we had traveled in the
track of the comic.  For if Japan seems odd for what it is, it seems
odder for what it is no longer.

One of the things which imitation of Western ways is annihilating is
distance.  Japan, like the rest of the world, is shrinking.  This was
strikingly brought home that afternoon. A few short hours of shifting
panorama, a varying foreground of valley that narrowed or widened
like the flow of the stream that had made it, peaks that opened and
shut on one another like the changing flies in some spectacular play,
and we had compassed two days' worth of old-time travel when a man
made every foot of ground his own, and were drawing near Zenkoji.

I was glad to be there; hardly as glad to be there so soon.
There are lands made to be skimmed, tame samenesses of plain or weary
wastes of desert, where even the iron horse gallops too slow.  Japan
is not one of them.  A land which Nature herself has already crumpled
into its smallest compass, and then covered with vegetation rich as
velvet, is no land to hurry over.  One may well linger where each
mile builds the scenery afresh. And in this world, whose civilization
grows at the expense of the picturesque, it is something to see a
culture that knows how least to mar.

Upon this mood of unsatisfied satisfaction my night fell, and shortly
after the train rolled into the Zenkoji station, amid a darkness
deepened by falling rain.  The passengers bundled out.  The station
looked cheerless enough.  But from across the open space in front
shone a galaxy of light.  A crowd of tea-houses posted on the farther
side had garlanded themselves all over with lanterns, each trying to
outvie its neighbor in apparent hospitality.  The display was
perceptibly of pecuniary intent; but still it was grateful.  To be
thought worth catching partakes, after all, of the nature of a
compliment.  What was not so gratifying was the embarrassment of
choice that followed; for each of these gayly beckoning caravansaries
proved to be a catch-pilgrim for its inn up-town.  Being on a hill,
Zenkoji is not by way of easy approach by train; and the pilgrims to
it are legion.  In order, therefore, to anticipate the patronage of
unworthy rivals, each inn has felt obliged to be personally
represented on the spot.

The one for which mine host of Takasaki had, with his blessing,
made me a note turned out so poorly prefaced that I hesitated.
The extreme zeal on the part of its proprietor to book me made me still
more doubtful.  So, sending Yejiro off to scout, I walked to and fro,
waiting.  I did not dare sit down on the sill of any of the booths,
for fear of committing myself.

While he was still away searching vainly for the proper inn, the
lights were suddenly all put out.  At the same fatal moment the
jinrikisha, of which a minute before there had seemed to be plenty,
all mysteriously vanished.  By one fell stroke there was no longer
either end in sight nor visible means of reaching it.

    "In the street of by and by
     Stands the hostelry of never,"

as a rondel of Henley's hath it; but not every one has the chance to
see the Spanish proverb so literally fulfilled.  There we were--nowhere.
I think I never suffered a bitterer change of mood in my life.

At last, after some painful groping in the dark, and repeated resolves
to proceed on foot to the town and summon help, I chanced to stumble
upon a stray kuruma, which had incautiously returned, under cover of
the darkness, to the scene of its earlier exploits.  I secured it on
the spot, and by it was trundled across a bit of the plain and up the
long hill crowned by the town, to the pleasing jingle of a chime of
rings hung somewhere out of sight beneath the body of the vehicle.
When the trundler asked where to drop me, I gave at a venture the
name that sounded the best, only to be sure of having guessed awry
when he drew up before the inn it designated.  The existence of a
better was legible on the face of it.  We pushed on.

Happily the hostelries were mostly in one quarter, the better to keep
an eye on one another; for in the course of the next ten minutes I
suppose we visited nearly every inn in the place.  The choice was not
a whit furthered by the change from the outposts to the originals.
At last, however, I got so far in decision as to pull off my boots,
--an act elsewhere as well, I believe, considered an acquiescence in
fate,--and suffered myself to be led through the house, along the
indoor piazza of polished board exceeding slippery, up several
breakneck, ladder-like stairways even more polished and frictionless,
round some corners dark as a dim andon (a feeble tallow candle
blinded by a paper box), placed so as not to light the turn, could
make them, until finally we emerged on the third story, a height that
itself spoke for the superiority of the inn, and I was ushered into
what my bewildered fancy instantly pictured a mediaeval banqueting
hall.  It conjured up the idea on what I must own to have been
insufficient grounds, namely, a plain deal table and a set of
questionably made, though rather gaudily upholstered chairs.
But chairs, in a land whose people have from time immemorial found
their own feet quite good enough to sit on, were so unexpected a
luxury, even after our Takasaki experience, that they may be pardoned
for suggesting any flight of fancy.

The same might formerly have been said of the illumination next
introduced.  Now, however, common kerosene lamps are no longer so
much of a sight even in Japan.  Indeed, I had the assurance to ask
for a shade to go with the one they set on the table in all the glaring
nudity of a plain chimney.  This there was some difficulty in finding,
the search resulting in a green paper visor much too small, that sat
on askew just far enough not to hide the light.  The Japanese called
it a hat, without the least intention of humor.

By the light thus given the room stood revealed, an eyrie, encased on
all sides except the one of approach by shoji only.  Into these had
been let a belt of glass eighteen inches wide all the way round the
room, at the height at which a person sitting on the mats could see
out.  It is much the fashion now thus to graft a Western window upon
a Far-Eastern wall.  The idea is ingenious and economical, and has but
two drawbacks,--that you feel excessively indoors if you stand up,
and strangely out-of-doors if you sit down.

I pushed the panels apart, and stepped out upon the narrow balcony.
Below me lay the street, the lanterns of the passers-by flitting like
fireflies through the dark; and from it stole up to me the hum of
pleasure life, a perfume of sound, strangely distinct in the still
night air.

Accredited pilgrim though one be not, to pass by so famous a shrine
as Zenkoji without the tribute of a thought were to be more or less
than human, even though one have paid his devoirs before.  Sought
every year by thousands from all parts of Japan, it serves but to
make the pilgrimage seem finer that the bourne itself should not be
fine.  Large and curious architecturally for its roof, the temple is
otherwise a very ordinary structure, more than ordinarily besoiled.
There is nothing rich about it; not much that is imposing.  Yet in
spite of poverty and dirt it speaks with a certain grandeur to the
heart.  True shrine, whose odor of sanctity is as widespread as the
breeze that wanders through its open portals, and which comes so near
the wants of the world that the very pigeons flutter in to homes
among its rafters.  The air-beats of their wings heighten the hush
they would seem to break, and only enhance the sacred quiet of the
nave,--a stillness such that the coppers of the faithful fall with
exaggerated ring through the lattice of the almsbox, while the
swiftly mumbled prayers of the givers rise in all simplicity straight
to heaven.

In and about the courtyard live the sacred doves, and he who will may
have their company for the spreading of a feast of crumbs.  And the
rush of their wings, as they descend to him from the sky, seems like
drawing some strange benediction down.



V.

No.

My quest still carrying me westward along the line of the new railway,
I took the train again, and in the compartment of the carriage I found
two other travelers.  They were a typical Japanese couple in middle
life, and in something above middle circumstances.  He affected
European clothes in part, while she still clung to the costume of her
ancestors.  Both were smoking,--she her little pipe, and he the
fashionable cigarette.  Their mutual relations were those of substance
to shadow.  She followed him inevitably, and he trod on her feelings
regardless of them.  She had been pretty when he took her to wife,
and though worn and withered she was happy still.  As for him, he was
quite satisfied with her, as he would have been quite satisfied
without her.


The roadbed soon left the Shinano plain, across which peered the
opposite peaks, still hooded with snow, and wound up through a narrow
valley, to emerge at last upon a broad plateau.  Three mountains
flanked the farther side in file, the last and highest of the three,
Myokosan, an extinct volcano; indeed, hardly more than the ruins of one.
Time has so changed its shape, and the snow whitens its head so
reverently, it would be possible to pass it by without a suspicion of
its wild youth.  From the plateau it rose proudly in one long sweep
from moor to shoulder, from shoulder to crag, from crag to snow, up
into the leaden sky, high into its second mile of air.  Subtly the
curve carried fancy with it, and I found myself in mind slowly
picking my way upward, threading an arete here and scaling a slope
there, with all the feelings of a genuine climb.  While I was still
ascending in this insubstantial manner, clouds fell upon the summit
from the sky, and from the summit tumbled down the ravines into the
valley, and met me at Naoyetsu in a drizzling rain.

Naoyetsu is not an enlivening spot to be landed at in a stress of
weather; hardly satisfactory, in fact, for the length of time needed
to hire jinrikisha.  It consisted originally of a string of fishermen's
huts along the sea.  To these the building of the railway has
contributed a parallel row of reception booths, a hundred yards
in-shore; and to which of the two files to award the palm for
cheerlessness it would be hard to know.  The huts are good of a kind
which is poor, and the booths are poor of a kind which is good.
To decide between such rivals is a matter of mood.  For my part,
I hasted to be gone in a jinrikisha, itself not an over-cheerful
conveyance in a pour.

The rain shut out the distance, and the hood and oil-paper apron
eclipsed the foreground.  The loss was not great, to judge by what
specimens of the view I caught at intervals.  The landscape was a
geometric pattern in paddyfields.  These, as yet unplanted, were
swimming in water, out of which stuck the stumps of last year's crop.
It was a tearful sight.  Fortunately the road soon rose superior to
it, passed through a cutting, and came out unexpectedly above the
sea,--a most homesick sea, veiled in rain-mist, itself a
disheartening drab.  The cutting which ushered us somewhat proudly
upon this inhospitable outlook proved to be the beginning of a pass
sixty miles long, between the Hida-Shinshiu mountains and the sea of
Japan.

I was now to be rewarded for my venture in an unlooked-for way; for I
found myself introduced here to a stretch of coast worth going many
miles to see.

The provinces of Hida and Etchiu are cut off from the rest of Japan
by sets of mountain ranges, impassable throughout almost their whole
length.  So bent on barring the way are the chains that, not content
with doing so in mid-course, they all but shut it at their ocean end;
for they fall in all their entirety plumb into the sea.  Following
one another for a distance of sixty miles, range after range takes
thus its header into the deep.  The only level spots are the deltas
deposited by the streams between the parallels of peak.  But these
are far between.  Most of the way the road belts the cliffs, now near
their base, now cut into the precipice hundreds of feet above the
tide.  The road is one continuous observation point.  Along it our
jinrikisha bowled.  In spite of the rain, the view had a grandeur
that compensated for much discomfort.  It was, moreover, amply
diversified.  Now we rushed out to the tip of some high cape, now we
swung round into the curve of the next bay; now we wound slowly
upward, now we slipped merrily down.  The headlands were endless, and
each gave us a seascape differing from the one we folded out of sight
behind; and a fringe of foam, curving with the coast, stretched like
a ribbon before us to mark the way.

We halted for the night at a fishing village called No: two lines of
houses hugging the mountain side, and a single line of boats drawn
up, stern on, upon the strand; the day and night domiciles of the
amphibious strip of humanity, in domestic tiff, turning their backs
to one another, a stone's throw apart.  As our kuruma men knew the
place, while we did not, we let them choose the inn.  They pulled up
at what caused me a shudder.  I thought, if this was the best inn,
what must the worst be like!  However, I bowed my head to fate in the
form of a rafter lintel, and passed in.  A dim light, which came in
part from a hole in the floor, and in part from an ineffective lamp,
revealed a lofty, grotto-like interior.  Over the hole hung a sort of
witches' caldron, swung by a set of iron bars from the shadowy form
of a soot-begrimed rafter.  Around the kettle crouched a circle of
gnomes.

Our entrance caused a stir, out of which one of the gnomes came forward,
bowing to the ground.  When he had lifted himself up enough to be seen,
he turned out quite human.  He instantly bustled to fetch another light,
and started to lead the strangers across the usual slippery sill and
up the nearly perpendicular stairs.  Why I was not perpetually
falling down these same stairways, or sliding gracefully or otherwise
off the corridors in a heap, will always be a mystery to me.  Yet,
with the unimportant exception of sitting down occasionally to put on
my boots, somewhat harder than I meant, I remember few such mishaps.
It was not the surface that was unwilling; for the constant scuffle
of stocking feet has given the passageways a polish mahogany might
envy.

The man proved anything but inhuman, and very much mine host.
How courteous he was, and in what a pleased mind with the world,
even its whims of weather, his kind attentions put me!  He really did
so little, too.  Beside numberless bows and profuse politeness,
he simply laid a small and very thin quilt upon the mats for me to
sit on, and put a feeble brazier by my side.  So far as mere comfort
went, the first act savored largely of supererogation, as the mats
were already exquisitely clean, and the second of insufficiency,
since the brazier served only to point the cold it was powerless to
chase.  But the manner of the doing so charmed the mind that it
almost persuaded the grumbling body of content.

As mine host bowed himself out, a maid bowed herself in, with a tray
of tea and sugar-plums, and a grace that beggared appreciation.

"His Augustness is well come," she said, as she sank on her knees and
bowed her pretty head till it touched the mats; and the voice was
only too human for heaven.  Unconsciously it made the better part of
a caress.

"Would his Augustness deign to take some tea?  Truly he must be very
tired;" and, pouring out a cup, she placed it beside me as it might
have been some beautiful rite, and then withdrew, leaving me, beside
the tea, the perfume of a presence, the sense that something
exquisite had come and gone.

I sat there thinking of her in the abstract, and wondering how many
maids outside Japan were dowried with like grace and the like voice.
With such a one for cupbearer, I could have continued to sip tea, I
thought, for the rest of my natural, or, alas, unnatural existence.

There I stayed, squatting on my feet on the mats, admiring the mimic
volcano which in the orthodox artistic way the charcoal was arranged
to represent, and trying my best to warm myself over the idea.
But the idea proved almost as cold comfort as the brazier itself.
The higher aesthetic part of me was in paradise, and the bodily half
somewhere on the chill confines of outer space.  The spot would no
doubt have proved wholly heaven to that witty individual who was so
anxious to exchange the necessities of life for a certainty of its
luxuries.  For here, according to our scheme of things, was everything
one had no right to expect, and nothing that one had.  My European
belongings looked very gross littering the mats; and I seemed to
myself a boor beside the unconscious breeding of those about me.
Yet it was only a poor village inn, and its people were but peasants,
after all.

I pondered over this as I dined in solitary state; and when I had
mounted my funeral pyre for the night, I remember romancing about it
as I fell asleep.

I was still a knight-errant, and the princess was saying all manner
of charming things to me in her still more charming manner, when I
became aware that it was the voice of the evening before wishing me
good-morning.  I opened my eyes to see a golden gleam flooding the
still-shut shoji, and a diamond glitter stealing through the cracks
that set the blood dancing in my veins.  Then, with a startling
clatter, my princess rolled the panels aside.

Windows are but half-way shifts at best.  The true good-morning comes
afield, and next to that is the thrill that greets the throwing your
whole room wide to it.  To let it trickle in at a casement is to wash
in a dish.  The true way is to take the sunshine with the shock of a
plunge into the sea, and feel it glow and tingle all over you.

The rain had taken itself off in the night, and the air sparkled with
freshness.  The tiny garden court lay in cool, rich shadow, flecked
here and there with spots of dazzle where a ray reflected found a
pathway in, while the roofs above glistened with countless
starpoints.

Nor was mine host less smiling than the day, though he had not
overcharged me for my room.  I was nothing to him, yet he made me
feel half sorry to go.  A small pittance, too, the tea money seemed,
for all that had gone with it.  We pay in this world with copper for
things gold cannot buy.  Humanities are so cheap--and so dear.

The whole household gathered in force on its outer sill to wish us
good luck as we took the street, and threw sayonaras ("if it must be
so") after us as we rolled away.

There is a touch of pathos in this parting acquiescence in fate.
If it must be so, indeed!  I wonder did mine host suspect that I did
not all leave,--that a part of me, a sort of ghostly lodger, remained
with him who had asked me so little for my stay?  Probably in body I
shall never stir him again from beside his fire, nor follow as he
leads the way through the labyrinth of his house; but in spirit, at
times, I still steal back, and I always find the same kind welcome
awaiting me in the guest room in the ell, and the same bright smile
of morning to gild the tiny garden court.  The only things beyond the
grasp of change are our own memories of what once was.



VI.

On a New Cornice Road.

The sunshine quickened us all, and our kuruma took the road like a
flock of birds; for jinrikisha men in company run as wild geese fly,
crisscross.  It is an artistic habit, inculcated to court ladies in
books on etiquette.  To make the men travel either abreast or in
Indian file, is simply impossible.  After a moment's conformity, they
invariably relapse into their own orderly disorder.

This morning they were in fine figure and bowled us along to some
merry tune within; while the baby-carriages themselves jangled the
bangles on their axles, making a pleasing sort of cry.  The village
folk turned in their steps to stare and smile as we sped past.

It was a strange-appearing street.  On both sides of it in front of
the houses ran an arcade, continuous but irregular, a contribution of
building.  Each house gave its mite in the shape of a covered portico,
which fitted as well as could be expected to that of its next door
neighbor.  But as the houses were not of the same size, and the
ground sloped, the roofs of the porticos varied in level.  A similar
terracing held good of the floors.  The result was rather a
federation than a strict union of interests.  Indeed, the object in
view was communal.  For the arcades were snow galleries, I was told,
to enable the inhabitants in winter to pass from one end of the
village to the other, no inconsiderable distance.  They visored both
sides of the way, showing that then in these parts even a crossing of
the street is a thing to be avoided.  Indeed, by all report the
drifts here in the depth of winter must be worth seeing.  Even at
this moment, May the 6th, there was still neve on some of the lowest
foothills, and we passed more than one patch of dirt-grimed snow
buttressing the highway bank.  The bangles on the axles now began to
have a meaning, a thing they had hitherto seemed to lack.  With the
snow arcades by way of introduction they spoke for themselves.
Evidently they were first cousins of our sleighbells.  Here, then,
as cordially as with us man abhors an acoustic vacuum, and when Nature
has put her icy bell-glass over the noises of the field, he must
needs invent some jingle to wile his ears withal.

Once past the houses we came upon a strip of paddyfields that bordered
the mountain slope to the very verge of the tide.  Some of these
stood in spots where the tilt of the land would have seemed to have
precluded even the thought of such cultivation.  For a paddyfield
must be perfectly level, that it may be kept under water at certain
seasons of the year.  On a slope, therefore, a thing a paddyfield
never hesitates to scale, they rise in terraces, skyward.  Here the
drop was so great that the terraces made bastions that towered
proudly on the very knife-edge of decision between the seaweed and
the cliffs.  A runnel tamed to a bamboo duct did them Ganymede service.
For a paddyfield is perpetually thirsty.

It was the season of repairing of dykes and ditches in rice chronology,
a much more complicated annal than might be thought.  This initial
stage of it has a certain architectural interest.  Every year before
planting begins the dykes have all to be re-made strictly in place,
for they serve for both dams and bounds to the elaborately
partitioned fields.  Adjacent mud is therefore carefully plastered
over the remains of the old dyke, which, to the credit of the former
builders, is no small fraction of it, and the work then finished off
with a sculptor's care.  An easier-going peasantry might often forego
renewal.  Indeed, I cannot but think the farmers take a natural
delight in this exalted form of mud pies; they work away on already
passable specimens with such a will.  But who does quite outgrow his
childish delights?  And to make of the play of childhood the work of
middle life, must be to foil the primal curse to the very letter.
What more enchanting pastime than to wade all day in viscous mud,
hearing your feet plash when you put them in, and suck as you draw
them out; while the higher part of you is busied building a parapet
of gluey soil, smoothing it down on the sides and top, and crowning
your masterpiece with a row of sprigs along the crest?  And then in
the gloaming to trudge homeward, feeling that you have done a
meritorious deed after all!  When I come to my second childhood,
I mean to turn paddyfield farmer myself.

Though the fields took to the slopes so kindly, they had a preference
for plains.  In the deltas, formed by the bigger streams, they
expanded till they made chesswork of the whole.  Laborers knee deep
in the various squares did very well for pawns.  The fields being
still in their pre-natal stage, were not exactly handsome.  There was
too much of one universal brown.  This was relieved only by the
nurseries of young plants, small fields here and there just showing a
delicate downy growth of green, delightful to the eye.  They were not
long sown.  For each still lay cradled under its scarecrow, a pole
planted in the centre of the rectangle with strings stretched to the
four corners, and a bit of rag fluttering from the peak.  The
scarecrows are, no doubt, useful, since they are in general use; but
I counted seven sparrows feeding in reckless disregard of danger
under the very wings of one of the contrivances.

The customs of the country seemed doomed that day to misunderstanding,
whether by sparrows or by bigger birds of passage.  Those which
should have startled failed of effect, and those which should not
have startled, did.  For, on turning the face of the next bluff,
we came upon a hamlet apparently in the high tide of conflagration.
From every roof volumes of smoke were rolling up into the sky, while
men rushed to and fro excitedly outside.  I was stirred, myself, for
there seemed scant hope of saving the place, such headway had the
fire, as evidenced by the smoke, already acquired.  The houses were
closed; a wise move certainly on the score of draft, but one that
precluded a fighting of the fire.  I was for jumping from the
jinrikisha to see, if not to do something myself, when I was stopped
by the jinrikisha men, who coolly informed me that the houses were
lime-kilns.

It appeared that lime-making was a specialty of these parts, being,
in fact, the alternative industry to fishing, with the littoral
population; the farming of its strip of ricefields hardly counting as
a profession, since such culture is second nature with the Far Oriental.
Lime-making may labor under objections, considered generically, but
this method of conducting the business is susceptible of advantageous
imitation.  It should commend itself at once to theatrical managers
for a bit of stage effect.  Evidently it is harmless.  No less
evidently it is cheap; and in some cases it might work a double
benefit.  Impresarios might thus consume all the public statuary
about the town to the artistic education of the community, besides
producing most realistic results in the theatre.

Through the courtesy of some of the laborers I was permitted to enter
a small kiln in which they were then at work.  I went in cautiously,
and came out with some haste, for the fumes of the burning, which
quite filled the place, made me feel my intrusion too poignantly.
I am willing to believe the work thoroughly enjoyable when once you
become used to it.  In the meantime, I should choose its alternative,
--the pleasures of a dirty fishing boat in a nasty seaway,--if I were
unfortunate enough to make one of the population.  I like to breathe
without thinking of it.

The charcoal used in the process came, they told me, from Noto.
I felt a thrill of pride in hearing the land of my courting thus
distinctively spoken of, although the mention were not by way of any
remarkable merit.  At least the place was honorably known beyond its
own borders; had in fact a certain prestige.  For they admitted there
was charcoal in their own province, but the best, they all agreed,
came from their neighbor over the sea.  They spoke to appreciative
ears.  I was only too ready to believe that the best of anything came
from Noto.  Did they lay my interest to the score of lime-making,
I wonder, or were they in part undeceived when I asked if Noto were
visible from where we were?

"It was," they said, "on very clear days." "Did I know Noto?" What
shall a man say when questioned thus concerning that on which he has
set his heart?  He cannot say yes; shall he say no and put himself
without the pale of mere acquaintance?  There is a sense of nearness
not to be justified to another, and the one to whom a man may feel
most kin is not always she of whom he knows the most.

"I am by way of knowing it," I said, as my eyes followed my thoughts
horizonward.  Was it all mirage they saw or thought to see, that
faint coastline washed a little deeper blue against the sky?  I fear
me so, for the lime-burners failed to make it out.  The day was not
clear enough, they said.

But the little heap of charcoal at least was real, and it had once
been a tree on that farther shore.  Charcoal to them, it was no
longer common charcoal to me; for, looking at it, was I not face to
face with something that had once formed part of Noto, the unknown!



VII.

Oya Shiradzu, Ko Shiradzu.

Toward the middle of the afternoon we reached a part of the coast
locally famous or infamous, for the two were one; a stretch of some
miles where the mountains made no apology for falling abruptly into
the sea.  Sheer for several hundred feet, the shore is here unscalable.
Nor did it use to be possible to go round by land, for the cliffs are
merely the ends of mountain-chains, themselves utterly wild and
tractless.  A narrow strip of sand was the sole link between Etchiu
on the one hand and Echigo on the other.  The natives call the place
Oya shiradzu, ko shiradzu, that is, a spot where the father no longer
knows the child, nor the child the father; so obliterating to sense
of all beside is the personal danger.  Refuge there is none of any
kind.  To have been caught here in a storm on the making tide, must
indeed have been to look death in the face.

Between the devil of a precipice and the deep sea, he who ventured on
the passage must have hurried anxiously along the thread of sand,
hoping to reach the last bend in time.  As he rounds the ill-omened
corner he sees he is too late; already the surf is breaking against
the cliff.  He turns back only to find retreat barred behind by
rollers that have crept in since he passed.  His very footprints have
all been washed away.  Caged!  Like the walls of a deep-down dungeon
the perpendicular cliff towers at his side, and in the pit they rim,
he and the angry ocean are left alone together.  Then the sea begins
to play with him, creeping catlike up.  Her huge paws, the breakers,
buffet his face.  The water is already about his feet, as he backs
desperately up against the rock.  And each wave comes crushing in
with a cruel growl to strike--short this time.  But the next breaks
closer, and the next closer still.  He climbs a boulder.  The spray
blinds him.  He hears a deafening roar; feels a shock that hurls him
into space, and he knows no more.

Now the place is fearful only to fancy.  For a road has been built,
belting the cliffs hundreds of feet above the tide.  It is a part of
what is known as the new road, a name it is likely long to keep.
Its sides are in places so steep that it fails of its footing and is
constantly slipping off into the sea.  Such sad missteps are the
occasion for bands of convicts to appear on the scene under the
marshaling of a police officer and be set to work to repair the slide
by digging a little deeper into the mountain-side.  The convicts wear
clothes of a light brick-color which at a distance looks a little
like couleur de rose, while the police are dressed in sombre
blue.  It would seem somewhat of a satire on the facts!

The new road is not without its sensation to such as dislike looking
down.  Fortunately, the jinrikisha men have not the instinct of
packmules to be persistently trifling with its outer edge.
In addition to the void at the side, another showed every now and then
in front, where a dip and a turn completely hid the road beyond.
The veritable end of the world seemed to be there just ahead, close
against the vacancy of space.  A couple of rods more and we must step
off--indeed the end of the world for us if we had.

When the road came to face the Oya shiradzu, ko shiradzu, it attacked
the rise by first running away from it up a stream into the mountains;
a bit of the wisdom of the serpent that enabled it to gain much
height on the bend back.  Trees vaulted the way tapestrying it with
their leaves, between which one caught peeps at the sea, a shimmer of
blue through a shimmer of green.  The path was strung with pedlars
and pilgrims; the latter of both sexes and all ages, under mushroom
hats with their skirts neatly tucked in at the waist, showing their
leggings; the former doing fulcrum duty to a couple of baskets swung
on a pole over their shoulders.  The pilgrims were on their way back
from Zenkoji.  Some of them would have tramped over two hundred miles
on foot before they reached home again.  A rich harvest they brought
back, religion, travel, and exercise all in one, enough to keep them
happy long.  I know of nothing which would more persuade me to be a
Buddhist than these same delightful pilgrimages.  Fresh air, fresh
scenes on the road, and fresh faith at the end of it.  No desert
caravan of penance to these Meccas, but a summer's stroll under a
summer's sky.  An end that sanctifies the means and a means that no
less justifies its end.

While we were still in the way with these pious folk we touched our
midday halt, a wayside teahouse notched in a corner of the road
commanding a panoramic view over the sea.  The place was kept by a
deaf old lady and her tailless cat.  The old lady's peculiarity was
personal; the cat's was not.  No self-respecting cat in this part of
Japan could possibly wear a tail.  The northern branch of the family
has long since discarded that really useless feline appendage.  A dog
in like circumstance would be sadly straitened in the expression of
his emotions, but a cat is every whit a cat without a continuation.

With the deaf old lady we had, for obvious reasons, no sustained
conversation.  She busied herself for the most part in making dango,
a kind of dumpling, but not one calculated to stir curiosity, since
it is made of rice all through.  These our men ate with more relish
than would seem possible.  Meanwhile I sat away from the road where I
could look out upon the sea over the cliffs, and the cat purred about
in her offhand way and used me incidentally as a rubbing post.  Trees
fringed the picture in front, and the ribbon of road wound off through
it into the distance, beaded with folk, and shot with sunshine and
shadow.

I was sorry when lunch was over and we took leave of our gentle
hostesses; tabbies both of them, yet no unpleasing pair.  A few more
bends brought us to where the path culminated.  The road had for some
time lain bare to the sea and sky, but at the supreme point some fine
beeches made a natural screen masking the naked face of the precipice.
On the cutting above, four huge Chinese characters stood graved in
the rock.

"Ya no gotoku, to no gotoshi."

"Smooth as a whetstone, straight as an arrow," meaning the cliff.
Perhaps because of their pictorial descent, the characters did not
shock one.  Unlike the usual branding of nature, they seemed not out
of keeping with the spot.  Not far beyond, the butts of the winter's
neve, buried in dirt, banked the path.

For miles along the raod the view off was superb.  Nothing bordered
one side of the way and the mountain bordered the other.  Far below
lay the sea, stretching away into blue infinity, a vast semicircle of
ultramarine domed by a hemisphere of azure; and it was noticeable how
much vaster the sea looked than the sky.  We were so high above it that
the heavings of its longer swells were leveled to imperceptibility,
while the waves only graved the motionless surface.  Here and there
the rufflings of a breeze showed in darker markings, like the changes
on watered silk.  The most ephemeral disturbance made the most show.
Dotted over the blue expanse were black spots, fishing boats; and a
steamer with a long trail of smoke showed in the offing, stationary
to the eye, yet shifting its place like the shadow of a style when
you forgot to look.  And in long perspective on either hand stretched
the battlement of cliff.  Visual immensity lay there before us, in
each of its three manifestations; of line, of surface, and of space.

We stood still, the better to try to take it in--this grandeur
tempered by sunshine and warmth.  Do what he will, man is very much
the creature of his surroundings yet.  In some instant sense, the
eyes fashion the feelings, and we ourselves grow broader with our
horizon's breadth.  The Chaldean shepherds alone with the night had
grander thoughts for the companionship, and I venture to believe that
the heart of the mountaineer owes quite as much to what he is forced
to visage as to what he is compelled to do.

We tucked ourselves into our jinrikisha and started down.  By virtue
of going, the speed increased, till the way we rolled round the
curves was intoxicating.  The panorama below swung to match, and we
leaned in or out mechanically to trim the balance.  Occasionally, as
it hit some stone, the vehicle gave a lurch that startled us for a
moment into sobriety, from which we straightway relapsed into
exhilaration.  Curious this, how the body brings about its own
forgetting.  For I was conscious only of mind, and yet mind was the
one part of me not in motion.  I suppose much oxygen made me tipsy.
If so, it is a recommendable tipple.  Spirits were not unhappily
named after the natural article.

It was late afternoon when we issued at last from our two days
Thermopylae upon the Etchiu plain.  As we drew out into its expanse,
the giant peaks of the Tateyama range came into view from behind
their foothills, draped still in their winter ermine.  It was last
year yet in those upper regions of the world, but all about us below
throbbed with the heartbeats of the spring.  At each mile, amid the
ever lengthening shadows, nature seemed to grow more sentient.
Through the thick air the peaks stood out against the eastern sky, in
saffron that flushed to rose and then paled to gray.  The ricefields,
already flooded for their first working, mirrored the glow overhead
so glassily that their dykes seemed to float, in sunset illusion,
a mere bar tracery of earth between the sky above and a sky beneath.
Upon such lattice of a world we journeyed in mid-heaven.  Stealthily
the shadows gathered; and as the hour for confidences drew on, nature
took us into hers.  The trees in the twilight, just breaking into
leaf, stood in groups among the fields and whispered low to one
another, nodding their heads; and then from out the shadow of the May
evening came the croaking of the frogs.  Strangely the sound fitted
the hour, with its like touch of mysterious suggestion.  As the
twilight indefinite, it pervaded everything, yet was never anywhere.
Deafening at a distance, it hushed at our approach only to begin
again behind us.  Will-o'-the-wisp of the ear, infatuating because
forever illusive!  And the distance and the numbers blended what had
perhaps been harsh into a mellow whole that filled the gloaming with
a sort of voice.  I began to understand why the Japanese are so fond
of it that they deem it not unworthy a place in nature's vocal
pantheon but little lower than the song of the nightingale, and echo
its sentiment in verse.  And indeed it seems to me that his soul must
be conventionally tuned in whom this even-song of the ricefields
stirs no responsive chord.



VIII.

Across the Etchiu Delta.

The twilight lingered, and the road threaded its tortuous course for
miles through the rice plain, bordered on either hand by the dykes of
the paddyfields.  Every few hundred feet, we passed a farmhouse
screened by clipped hedgerows and bosomed in trees; and at longer
intervals we rolled through some village, the country pike becoming
for the time the village street.  The land was an archipelago of
homestead in a sea of rice.  But the trees about the dwellings so cut
up the view, that for the moments of passing the mind forgot it was
all so flat and came back to its ocean in surprise, when the next
vista opened on the sides.

Things had already become silhouettes when we dashed into
lantern-lighted Mikkaichi.  We took the place in form, and a fine
sensation we made.  What between the shouts of the runners and the
clatter of the chaises men, women and children made haste to clear a
track, snatching their little ones back and then staring at us as we
swept past.  Indeed, the teams put their best feet foremost for local
effect, and more than once came within an ace of running over some
urchin who either would not or could not get out of the way.
Fortunately no casualties occurred.  For it would have been
ignominious to have been arrested by the police during our first ten
minutes in the town, not to speak of the sad dampening to our
feelings an accident would have caused.

In this mad manner we dashed up the long main street.  We were forced
to take the side, for the village aqueduct or gutter--it served both
purposes--monopolized the middle.  At short intervals, it was spanned
by causeways made of slabs of stone.  Over one of these we made a
final swirl and drew up before the inn.  Then our shafts made their
obeisance to the ground.

A warm welcome greeted the appeal.  A crowd of servants came rushing
to the front of the house with an eye to business, and a crowd of
village folk with an eye to pleasure closed in behind.  Between the
two fires we stepped out and entered the side court, to the
satisfaction of the one audience and the chagrin of the other.
But it is impossible to please everybody.

Fortunately it was not so hard to please us, and certainly the inn
people did their best; for they led the way to what formerly were the
state apartments, that part of the house where the daimyo of Kaga had
been wont to lodge when he stopped here over night on his journey
north.  Though it had fallen somewhat into disrepair, it was still
the place of honor in the inn, and therefore politely put at the
service of one from beyond sea.  There I supped in solitary state,
and there I slept right royally amid the relics of former splendor,
doubting a little whether some unlaid ghost of bygone times might not
come to claim his own, and oust me at black midnight by the rats, his
retinue.

But nothing short of the sun called me back to consciousness and bade
me open to the tiny garden, where a pair of ducks were preening their
feathers after an early bath in their own little lake.  On the
veranda my lake already stood prepared; a brass basin upon a wooden
stand, according to the custom of the country.  So ducks and I
dabbled and prinked in all innocence in the garden, which might well
have been the garden of Eden for any hint it gave of a world beyond.
It was my fate, too, to leave it after the same manner.
For breakfast over we were once more of the road.

We had a long day of it before us, for I purposed to cross the Etchiu
delta and sleep that night on the threshold of my hopes.  The day,
like all days that look long on the map, proved still longer on the
march.  Its itinerary diversified discomfort.  First seventeen miles
in kuruma, then a ferry, then a tramp of twelve miles along the beach
through a series of sand dunes; then another ferry, and finally a
second walk of seven miles and a half over some foothills to top off
with.  The inexpensiveness of the transport was the sole relieving
feature of the day.  Not, I mean, because the greater and worse half
of the journey was done on our own feet, but because of the cheap
charges of the chaises and even of the porters.  To run at a dogtrot,
trundling another in a baby carriage, seventeen miles for twenty
cents is not, I hold, an extortionate price.  Certain details of the
tariff, however, are peculiar.  For instance, if two men share the
work by running tandem, the fare is more than doubled; a ratio in the
art of proportion surprising at first.  Each man would seem to charge
for being helped.  The fact is, the greater speed expected of the
pair more than offsets the decreased draft.

Otherwise, as I say, the day was depressing.  It was not merely the
tramp through the sand dunes that was regrettable, though heaven
knows I would not willingly take it again.  The sand had far too
hospitable a trick of holding on to you at every step to be to my
liking.  Besides, the sun, which had come out with summer insistence,
chose that particular spot for its midday siesta, and lay there at
full length, while the air was preternaturally still.  It was a
stupidly drowsy heat that gave no fillip to the feet.

But such discomfort was merely by the way.  The real trouble began at
Fushiki, the town on the farther side of the second ferry.  In the
first place the spot had, what is most uncommon in Japan, a very
sorry look, which was depressing in itself.  Secondly, its inhabitants
were much too busy or much too unemployed, or both, to be able to
attend to strangers at that hour of the afternoon.  Consequently it
was almost impossible to get any one to carry the baggage.
We dispatched emissaries, however.  By good luck we secured some beer,
and then argued ourselves dry again on the luggage question.
The emissaries were at work, we were assured, and at last some one
who had been sent for was said to be coming.  Still time dragged on,
until finally the burden bearers turned up, and turned out to
be--women.

At this I rebelled.  The situation was not new, but it was none the
less impossible.  In out-of-the-way districts I had refused offers of
the kind before.  For Japanese beasts of burden run in a decreasing
scale as follows, according to the poverty of the place: jinrikisha,
horses, bulls, men, women.  I draw my line at the last.  I am well
aware how absurd the objects themselves regard such a protective
policy, but I cling to my prejudices.  To the present proffer I was
adamant.  To step jauntily along in airy unencumberedness myself,
while a string of women trudged wearily after, loaded with my heavy
personal effects, was more than an Anglo-Saxon attitude towards the
sex could stand.  I would none of them, to the surprise and dismay of
the inn landlord, and to the no slight wonder of the women.
The discarding was not an easy piece of work.  The fair ones were
present at it, and I have no doubt misinterpreted the motive.
For women have a weakness for a touch of the slave-master in a man.
Beside, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," though it be only
in the capacity of a porter.  There was nothing for it, however, but
to let it go at that.  For to have explained with more insistence
would infallibly have deepened their suspicions of wounded vanity.
But it did seem hard to be obliged to feel a brute for refusing to be
one.

The landlord, thanks to my importunities, managed after some further
delay to secure a couple of lusty lads, relatives, I suspect, of the
discarded fair ones, and with them we eventually set out.  We had not
gone far, when I came to consider, unjustly, no doubt, that they
journeyed too slow.  I might have thought differently had I carried
the chattels and they the purse.  I shuddered to think what the
situation would have been with women, for then even the poor solace
of remonstrance would have been denied.  As it was, I spent much
breath in trying to hurry them, and it is pleasanter now than it was
then to reflect how futilely.  For I rated them roundly, while they
accepted my verbal goadings with the trained stolidity of folk who
were used to it.

When at last we approached the village of our destination, which bore
the name of Himi, it was already dusk, and this with the long May
twilight meant a late hour before we should be comfortably housed.
Indeed, I had been quartered in anticipation for the last few miles,
and was only awaiting arrival to enter into instant possession of my
fancied estate.  Not content even with pure insubstantiality, I had
interviewed various people through Yejiro on the subject.  First, the
porters had been exhaustively catechized, and then what wayfarers we
chanced to meet had been buttonholed beside; with the result of much
contradictory information.  There seemed to be an inn which was,
I will not say good, but the best, but no two informants could agree
in calling it by name.  One thought he remembered that the North Inn
was the place to go to; another that he had heard the Wistaria House
specially commended.

All doubts, however, were set at rest when we reached the town.
For without the slightest hesitation, every one of the houses in
question refused to take us in.  The unanimity was wonderful
considering the lack of collusion.  Yejiro and I made as many
unsuccessful applications together as I could stand.  Then I went
and sat down on the sill of the first teahouse for a base of
operations--I cannot say for my headquarters, because that is just
what we could not get--and gave myself up to melancholy.  Meanwhile
Yejiro ransacked the town, from which excursions he returned every
few minutes with a fresh refusal, but the same excuse.  It got so at
last I could anticipate the excuse.  The inn was full already--of
assessors and their victims.  The assessors had descended on the
spot, it seemed, and the whole country-side had come to town to lie
about the value of its land.  I only wished the inhabitants might
have chosen some other time for false swearing.  For it was a sad tax
on my credulity.

We did indeed get one offer which I duly went to inspect, but the
outside of the house satisfied me.  At last I adopted extreme
measures.  I sent Yejiro off to the police station.  This move
produced its effect.

Even at home, from having contrived to keep on the sunny side of the
law and order, my feelings toward the police are friendly enough for
all practical purposes; but in no land have I such an affectionate
regard for the constabulary as in Japan.  Members of the force there,
if the term be applicable to a set of students spectacled from
over-study, whose strength is entirely moral, never get you into
trouble, and usually get you out of it.  One of their chief charms to
the traveler lies in their open-sesame effect upon obdurate
landlords.  In this trick they are wonderfully successful.

Having given ourselves up to the police, therefore, we were already
by way of being lodged, and that quickly.  So indeed it proved.
In the time to go and come, Yejiro reappeared with an officer in
civilian's clothes, who first made profuse apologies for presenting
himself in undress, but it seemed he was off duty at the moment,--and
then led the way a stone's throw round the corner; and in five minutes
I was sitting as snugly as you please in a capital room in an inn's
third story, sipping tea and pecking at sugar plums, a distinctly
honored guest.

Here fate put in a touch of satire.  For it now appeared that all our
trouble was quite gratuitous.  Most surprisingly the innkeepers'
story on this occasion proved to be entirely true, a possibility I
had never entertained for a second; and furthermore it appeared that
our present inn was the one in which I had been offered rooms but had
refused, disliking its exterior.

Such is the reward for acting on general principles.



IX.

Over the Arayama Pass.

The morning that was to give me my self-promised land crept on tiptoe
into the room on the third story, and touched me where I slept, and
on pushing the shoji apart and looking out, I beheld as fair a day as
heart could wish.  A faint misty vapor, like a bridal veil, was just
lifting from off the face of things, and letting the sky show through
in blue-eyed depths.  It was a morning of desire, bashful for its
youth as yet, but graced with a depth of atmosphere sure to expand
into a full, warm, perfect noon; and I hastened to be out and become
a part of it.

Three jinrikishas stood waiting our coming at the door, and amidst a
pelting of sayonara from the whole household, we dashed off as
proudly as possible down the main street of the town, to the
admiration of many lookers-on. The air, laden with moisture, left
kisses on our cheeks as we hurried by, while the sunshine fell in
long scarfs of gauzy shimmer over the shoulders of the eastern hills.
The men in the shafts felt the fillip of it all and encouraged one
another with lusty cries, a light-heartedness that lent them heels.
Even the peasants in the fields seemed to wish us well, as they
looked up from their work to grin good-humoredly.

We value most what we attain with difficulty.  It was on this
principle no doubt that the road considerately proceeded to give out.
It degenerated indeed very rapidly after losing sight of the town,
and soon was no more than a collection of holes strung on ruts, that
made travel in perambulators tiring alike to body and soul.  At last,
after five miles of floundering, it gave up all pretence at a
wheel-way, and deposited us at a wayside teahouse at the foot of a
little valley, the first step indeed up the Arayama pass.  Low hills
had closed in on the right, shutting off the sea, and the ridge
dividing Noto from Etchiu rose in higher lines upon the left.

Here we hired porters, securing them from the neighboring fields,
for they were primarily peasants, and were porters only as we were
tramps, by virtue of the country.  Porterage being the sole means of
transport, they came to carry our things as they would have carried
their own, in skeleton hods strapped to their backs.  In this they
did not differ from the Japanese custom generally; but in one point
they showed a strange advance over their fellows.  They were
wonderfully methodical folk.  They paid no heed to our hurry, and
instead of shouldering the baggage they proceeded to weigh it, each
manload by itself, on a steelyard of wood six feet long; the results
they then worked out conscientiously on an abacus.  After which I
paid accordingly.  Truly an equitable adjustment between man and man,
at which I lost only the time it took.  Then we started.

From the teahouse the path rose steadily enough for so uneducated a
way, leaving the valley to contract into an open glen.  The day,
in the mean time, came out as it had promised, full and warm, fine
basking weather, as a certain snake in the path seemed to think.  So,
I judge, did the porters.  If it be the pace that kills, these simple
folk must be a long-lived race.  They certainly were very careful not
to hurry themselves.  Had they been hired for life, so thrifty a
husbanding of their strength would have been most gratifying to
witness; unluckily they were mine only for the job.  They moved, one
foot after the other, with a mechanical precision, exhausting even to
look at.  To keep with them was practically impossible for an ordinary
pedestrian.  Nothing short of a woman shopping could worthily have
matched their pace.  In sight their speed was snail-like; out of it
they would appear to have stopped, so far did they fall behind.
Once I thought they had turned back.

The path we were following was the least traveled of the only two
possible entrances into Noto by land.  It was a side or postern gate
to the place, over a gap on the northern end of a mountain wall;
the main approach lying along its other flank.  For a high range of
uninhabited hills nearly dams the peninsula across, falling on the
right side straight into the sea, but leaving on the other a lowland
ligature that binds Noto to Kaga.  To get from Kaga into Etchiu, the
range has to be crossed lower down.  Our dip in the chain was called
the Arayama toge or Rough Mountain pass, and was perhaps fifteen
hundred feet high, but pleasingly modeled in its lines after one ten
times its height.

Half-way up the tug of the last furlong, where the ascent became
steep enough for zig-zags, I turned to look back.  Down away from me
fell the valley, slipping by reason of its own slope out into the
great Etchiu plain.  Here and there showed bits of the path in
corkscrew, from my personal standpoint all perfectly porterless.
Over the low hills, to the left, lay the sea, the crescent of its
great beach sweeping grandly round into the indistinguishable
distance.  Back of it stretched the Etchiu plain, but beyond that,
nothing.  The mountains that should have bounded it were lost to
sight in the spring haze.

Mechanically my eyes followed up into the languid blue, when suddenly
they chanced upon a little cloud, for cloud I took it to be.
Yet something about it struck me as strange, and scanning it more
closely, by this most natural kind of second sight, I marked the
unmistakable glisten of snow.  It was a snow peak towering there in
isolated majesty.  As I gazed it grew on me with ineffable grandeur,
sparkling with a faint saffron glamour of its own.  Shifting my look
a little I saw another and then another of the visions, like puffs of
steam, rising above the plain.  Half apparitions, below a certain
line, the snow line, they vanished into air, for between them and the
solid earth there looked to be blue sky.  The haze of distance, on
this soft May day, hid their lower slopes and left the peaks to tower
alone into the void.  They were the giants of the Tateyama range,
standing there over against me inaccessibly superb.

A pair of teahouses, rivals, crowned the summit of the pass, which,
like most Japanese passes, was a mere knife-edge of earth.  With a
quickened pulse if a slackened gait, I topped the crest, walked
--straight past the twin teahouses and their importunities to stop--
another half-dozen paces to the brink, and in one sweep looked down
over a thousand feet on the western side.  Noto, eyelashed by the
branches of a tree just breaking into leaf, lay open to me below.

After the first glow of attainment, this initial view was, I will
confess, disillusioning.  Instead of what unfettered fancy had led me
to expect, I saw only a lot of terraced rice-fields backed by ranges
of low hills; for all the world a parquet in green and brown tiles.
And yet, as the wish to excuse prompted me to think, was this not,
after all, as it should be?  For I was looking but at the entrance to
the land, its outer hallway, as it were; Nanao, its capital, its
inland sea, all its beyond was still shut from me by the nearer
hills.  And feeling thus at liberty to be amused, I forthwith saw it
as a satire on panoramas generally.

Panoramic views are painfully plain.  They must needs be mappy at
best, for your own elevation flattens all below it to one topographic
level.  Field and woodland, town or lake, show by their colors only
as if they stood in print; and you might as well lay any good atlas
on the floor and survey it from the lofty height of a footstool.
Such being the inevitable, it was refreshing to see the thing in
caricature.  No pains, evidently, had been spared by the inhabitants
to make their map realistic.  There the geometric lines all stood in
ludicrous insistence; any child could have drawn the thing as
mechanically.

The two teahouses were well patronized by wayfarers of both sexes,
resting after their climb.  Some simply sipped tea, chatting; others
made a regular meal of the opportunity.  The greater number sat, as
we did, on the sill, for the trouble of taking off their straw sandals.
Our landlady was the model of what a landlady should be, for it was
apparently a feminine establishment.  If there was a man attached to
it, he kept himself discreetly in the background.  She was a kind,
sympathetic soul, with a word for every one, and a deliberateness of
action as effective as it was efficient.  And in the midst of it all,
she kept up a refrain of welcomes and good-bys, as newcomers appeared
or old comers left.  The unavoidable preliminary exercise and the
crisp air whetted all our appetites.  So I doubt not she drove a
thriving trade, although to Western ideas of value her charges were
infinitesimally small.

Midday halts for lunch are godsends to tramps who travel with porters.
They compel the porters to catch up, and give the hirer opportunity
to say things which at least relieve him, if they do no good.  I had
begun to fear ours would deprive me of this pleasure, and indeed had
got so far on in my meal as to care little whether they did, when
automatically they appeared.  Fortunately they needed but a short rest,
and as the descent on the Noto side was much steeper than on the other,
half an hour's walk brought us to the level of kuruma once more.

A bit of lane almost English in look, bowered in trees and winding
delightfully like some human stream, led us to a teahouse.  While we
were ordering chaises a lot of children gathered to inspect us, thus
kindly giving us our first view of the natives.  They looked more
open-eyed than Japanese generally, but such effect may have been due
to wonder.  At all events, the stare, if it was a stare, seemed like
a silent sort of welcome.

Leaving the children still gazing after us we bowled away toward
Nanao, and in the course of time caught our first glimpse of it from
the upper end of a sweep of meadows.  It sat by the water's edge at
the head of a landlocked bay, the nearer arm of the inland sea; and
an apology for shipping rode in the offing.  It seemed a very
fair-sized town, and altogether a more lively place than I had
thought to find.  Clearly its life was as engrossing to it as if no
wall of hills notching the sky shut out the world beyond.  Having
heard, however, that a watering-place called Wakura was the sight of
the province, and learning now that it was but six miles further, we
decided, as it was yet early in the afternoon, to push on, and take
the capital later.  We did take it later, very much later the next
night, than was pleasing.

Wakura, indeed, was the one thing in Noto, except the charcoal, which
had an ultra-Noto-rious reputation.  Rumors of it had reached us as
far away as Shinshiu, and with every fresh inquiry we made as we
advanced the rumors had gathered strength.  Our informants spoke of
it with the vague respect accorded hearsay honor.  Clearly, it was no
place to pass by.

The road to it from Nanao was not noteworthy, but for two things; one
officially commended to sight-seers, the other not.  The first was a
curious water-worn rock upon the edge of the bay, some waif of a
boulder, doubtless, since it stuck up quite alone out of the sand.
A shrine perched atop, and a larger temple encircled it below, to which
its fantastic cuttings served as gateway and garden.  The uncommended
sight was a neighboring paddyfield, in which a company of frogs,
caught trespassing, stood impaled on sticks a foot high, as awful
warnings to their kind.  Beyond this the way passed through a string
of clay cuttings following the coast, and in good time rolled us into
the midst of a collection of barnlike buildings which it seemed was
Wakura.

The season for the baths had not yet begun, so that the number of
people at the hotels was still quite small.  Not so the catalogue of
complaints for which they were visited.  The list appalled me as I
sat on the threshold of my prospective lodging, listening to mine
host's encomiums on the virtues of the waters.  He expatiated
eloquently on both the quantity and quality of the cures, quite
unsuspicious that at each fresh recommendation he was in my eyes
depreciating his own wares.  Did he hope that among such a handsome
choice of diseases I might at least have one!  I was very near to
beating a hasty retreat on the spot.  For the accommodation in
Japanese inns is of a distressingly communistic character at best,
and although at present there were few patients in the place, the
germs were presumably still there on the lookout for a victim.

Immediate comfort, however, getting the better of problematical risk,
I went in.  The room allotted me lay on the ground floor just off the
garden, and I had not been there many minutes before I became aware,
as one does, that I was being stared at.  The culprit instantly
pretended, with a very sheepish air, to be only taking a walk.  He
was the vanguard of an army of the curious.  The people in the next
room were much exercised over the new arrival, and did all decency
allowed to catch a glimpse of me; for which in time they were
rewarded.  Visitors lodged farther off took aimless strolls to the
verandas, and looked at me when they thought I was not looking at
them.  All envied the servants, who out-did Abra by coming when I
called nobody, and then lingering to talk.  Altogether I was more of
a notoriety than I ever hope to be again; especially as any European
would have done them as well.  My public would have been greater, as
I afterwards learned, if Yejiro had not been holding rival court in
the kitchen.

Between us we were given a good deal of local information.  One bit
failed to cause me unmitigated delight.  We were not, it appeared,
the first foreigners to set foot in Wakura.  Two Europeans had, in a
quite uncalled-for way, descended upon the place the summer before,
up to which time, indeed, the spot had been virgin to Caucasians.
Lured by the fame of the springs, these men had come from Kanazawa in
Kaga, where they were engaged in teaching chemistry, to make a test
of the waters.  I believe they discovered nothing startling.  I could
have predicted as much had they consulted me beforehand.  They
neglected to do so, and the result was they came, saw and conquered
what little novelty the place had.  I was quite chagrined.  It simply
showed how betrodden in these latter days the world is.  There is not
so much as a remote corner of it but falls under one of two heads;
those places worth seeing which have already been seen, and those
that have not been seen but are not worth seeing.  Wakura Onsen
struck me as falling into the latter halves of both categories.

While discussing my solitary dinner I was informed by Yejiro that
some one wished to speak with me, and on admitting to be at home,
the local prefect was ushered in.  He came ostensibly to vise my
passport, a duty usually quite satisfactorily performed by any
policeman.  The excuse was transparent.  He really came that he might
see for himself the foreigner whom rumor had reported to have
arrived.  As a passport on his part he presented me with some pride
the bit of autobiography that he had himself once been in Tokyo;
a fact which in his mind instantly made us a kind of brothers,
and raised us both into a common region of superiority to our
surroundings.  He asked affectionately after the place, and I
answered as if it had been the one thought in both our hearts.
It was a pleasing little comedy, as each of us was conscious of
its consciousness by the other.  Altogether we were very friendly.

Between two such Tokyoites it was, of course, the merest formality to
vise a passport, but being one imposed by law he kindly ran his eye
over mine.  As it omitted to describe my personal appearance in the
usual carefully minute manner, as face oval, nose ordinary,
complexion medium, and so forth, identification from mere looks was
not striking.  So he had to take me on trust for what I purported to
be, an assumption which did not disconcert him in the least.  With
writing materials which he drew from his sleeve, he registered me
then and there, and, the demands of the law thus complied with to the
letter, left me amid renewed civilities to sleep the sleep of the
just.



X.

An Inland Sea.

They had told us overnight that a small steamer plied every other day
through Noto's unfamed inland sea, leaving the capital early in the
morning, and touching shortly after at Wakura.  As good luck would
have it, the morrow happened not to be any other day, so we embraced
the opportunity to embark in her ourselves.  On her, it would be more
accurate to say, for she proved such a mite that her cabin was barely
possible and anything but desirable.  By squatting down and craning
my neck I peered in at the entrance, a feat which was difficult
enough.  She was, in truth, not much bigger than a ship's gig; but
she had a soul out of all proportion to her size.  The way it
throbbed and strained and set her whole little frame quivering with
excitement, made me think every moment that she was about to explode.
The fact that she was manned exclusively by Japanese did not entirely
reassure me.

There was an apology for a deck forward, to which, when we were well
under way, I clambered over the other passengers.  I was just sitting
down there to enjoy a comfortable pipe when I was startlingly
requested by a voice from a caboose behind to move off, as I was
obscuring the view of the man at the wheel.  After that I perched on
the gunwale.

We steamed merrily out into the middle of the bay.  The water was
slumberously smooth, and under the tawny haze of the morning it shone
with the sheen of burnished brass.  From the gentle plowing of our
bow it rolled lazily to one side, as if in truth it were molten metal.
Land, at varying picturesque distances, lay on all sides of us.
In some directions the shore was not more than a mile and a half off;
in others, the eye wandered down a vista of water framed by low
headlands for ten miles or more.  But the atmosphere gave the
dominant thought, a strange slumber-like seclusion.  So rich and
golden, it shut this little corner of the world in a sort of happy
valley of its own, and the smoke from my pipe drifted dreamily
astern, a natural incense to the spirits of the spot.

The passengers suggested anything, from a public picnic to an early
exploration party.  There were men, women and children of all ages
and kinds, some stowed away in the cabin behind, some gathered in
groups amidships; and those in the cabin thought small fry of those
on deck.  The cabin was considered the place of honor because the
company made one pay a higher price for the privilege of its
discomfort.  Altogether it was a very pretty epitome of a voyage.

Just as the steamer people were preparing for their first landing,
there detached itself from the background of trees along the shore
the most singular aquatic structure I think I have ever seen.
It looked like the skeleton of some antediluvian wigwam which a
prehistoric roc had subsequently chosen for a nest.  Four poles
planted in the water inclined to one another at such an angle that
they crossed three-quarters of the way up.  The projecting quarters
held in clutch a large wicker basket like the car of a balloon.
Peering above the car was a man's head.  As the occupant below slowly
turned the head to keep an eye on us, it suggested, amid its web of
poles, some mammoth spider lying in wait for its prey.

It was a matter of some wonder at first how the man got there, until
the motion of the steamer turned the side and disclosed a set of
cross poles lashed between two of the uprights, forming a rude sort
of ladder.  Curiosity, satisfied on this primary point, next asked
why he got there.  As this was a riddle to me, I propounded it to
Yejiro, who only shook his head and propounded it to somebody else;
a compliment to the inquiry certainly, if not to my choice of informant.
This somebody else told him the man was fishing.  Except for the
immobility of the figure, I never saw a man look less like it in my
life.

Such, however, was the fact.  The wigwam was connected by strings to
the entrance of a sort of weir, and the man who crouched in the basket
was on the lookout for large fish, of a kind called bora.  As soon as
one of them strayed into the mouth of the net, the man pulled the
string which closed the opening.  The height of his observatory above
the level of the water enabled him to see through it to the necessary
depth.  I am a trifle hazy over the exact details of the apparatus,
as I never saw a fish inquisitive enough to go in; but I submit the
existence of the fishermen in proof that it works.

Having deposited such wights as wished to go ashore--for the place
was of no pretension--our steam fish once more turned its tail and
darted us through some narrows into another bay.  It must have been a
favorite one with bora, as its shores were dotted with fish-lookouts.
The observatories stood a few stone-throws out in deepish water, at
presumably favorable points, and never very near one another, lest
they should interfere with a possible catch.  Some were inhabited,
some not.

This bay was further remarkable for a solar halo which I chanced to
see on glancing up at the sun.  I suppose it was the singular quality
of the light that first caused me to look overhead.  For a thin veil
of cloud had drawn over the blue and tempered the sunshine peculiarly.
Of course one is familiar with caricatures of the thing in
meteorological books; but the phenomenon itself is not so common,
and the effect was uncanny.  At the first glance it seemed a bit of
Noto witchery, that strangely luminous circle around the sun.
To admire the moon thus bonneted, as the Japanese say, is common enough,
and befits the hour.  But to have the halo of the night hung aloft in
broad day is to crown sober noon with enchantment.

The sheet of water was sparsely dotted with sail.  One little craft
in particular I remember, whose course bore her straight down upon us.
She dilated slowly out of the distance, and then passed so close I
might have tossed a flower aboard of her.  So steady her motion she
seemed oblivious to our presence, as she glided demurely by at
relatively doubled speed.

Only after we had passed did she show signs of noticing us at all.
For, meeting our wake, the coquette, she suddenly began dropping us
curtseys in good-by.



XI.

Anamidzu.

We seemed bound that day to meet freaks in fishing-tackle.  The next
one to turn up was a kind of crinoline.  This strange thing confronted
us as we disembarked at Anamidzu.  Anamidzu was the last port in the
inland sea.  After touching here the steamer passed out into the sea
of Japan and tied up for the night at a small port on the eastern
side of the nose of the peninsula.

As the town lay away from the shore up what looked like a canal, we
were transferred to a small boat to be rowed in.  Just as we reached
the beginnings of the canal we saw squatting on the bank an old crone
contemplating, it seemed, the forlorn remains of a hoopskirt which
dangled from a pole before her, half in and half out of water.  The
chief difference between this and the more common article of commerce
was merely one of degree, since here the ribs by quite meeting at the
top entirely suppressed the waist.  Their lower extremities were hid
in the water and were, I was informed, baited with hooks.

The old lady's attitude was one of inimitable apathy; nor did she so
much as blink at us, as we passed.  A little farther up, on the
opposite bank, sat a similar bit of still life.  A third beyond
completed the picture.  These good dames bordered the brink like so
many meditative frogs.  Though I saw them for the first time in the
flesh, I recognized them at once.  Here were the identical fisherfolk
who have sat for centuries in the paintings of Tsunenobu, not a whit
more immovable in kakemono than in real life.  I almost looked to
find the master's seal somewhere in the corner of the landscape.

The worthy souls were, I was told, inkyos; a social, or rather
unsocial state, which in their case may be rendered unwidowed
dowagers; since, in company with their husbands, they had renounced
all their social titles and estates.  Their daughters-in-law now did
the domestic drudgery, while they devoted their days thus to sport.

Whether it were the dames, or the canal, or more likely still, some
touch of atmosphere, but I was reminded of Holland.  Indeed, I know
not what the special occasion was.  It is a strange fabric we are so
busy weaving out of sensations.  Let something accidentally pick up
an old thread, and behold, without rhyme or reason, we are treated to
a whole piece of past experience.  Stranger yet when but the
background is brought back.  For we were unconscious of the warp
while the details were weaving in.  Yet reproduce it and all the woof
starts suddenly to sight.  For atmosphere, like a perfume, does
ghostly service to the past.

There is something less mediate in my remembrance of Anamidzu.  The
place has to me a memory of its own that hangs about the room they
made mine for an hour.  It was certainly a pretty room; surprisingly
so, for such an out-of-the-way spot.  I dare say it was only that to
my fellow-voyager of the steamer, hurrying homeward to Wakamatsu.
I could hear him in the next apartment making merry over his midday
meal.  To him the place stood for the last stage on the journey home.
But to me, it meant more.  It marked both the end of the beginning,
and the beginning of the end.  For I had fixed upon this spot for my
turning point.

It was high noon in my day of travel, like the high noon there
outside the open shoji.  The siesta of sensation had come.  Thus far,
the coming events had cast their shadows before and I had followed;
now they had touched their zenith here in mid-Noto.  Henceforth I
should see them moving back again toward the east.  The dazzling
sunshine without pointed the shade within, making even the room seem
more shadowy than it was.  I began to feel creeping over me that
strange touch of sadness that attends the supreme moment of success,
though fulfillment be so trifling a thing as a journey's bourne.
Great or little, real or fancied, the feeling is the same in kind.
The mind seems strangely like the eye.  Satisfy some emotion it has
been dwelling on, and the relaxed nerves at once make you conscious
of the complementary tint.

Then other inns in Japan came up regretfully across the blue distance
of the intervening years, midday halts, where an hour of daydream lay
sandwiched in between two half days of tramp.  And I thought of the
companions now so far away.  Having heard the tune in a minor key,
these came in as chords of some ampler variation, making a kind of
symphony of sentiment, where I was brought back ever and anon to the
simple motif.  And the teahouse maidens entered and went out again
like mutes in my mind's scene.

I doubt not the country beyond is all very commonplace, but it might
be an Eldorado from the gilding fancy gave it then.  I was told the
hills were not high, and that eighteen miles on foot would land the
traveler at Wakamatsu on the sea of Japan, fronting Korea, but seeing
only the sea, and I feel tolerably sure there is nothing there to
repay the tramp.  When a back has bewitched you in the street, it is
a fatal folly to try to see the face.  You will only be disillusioned
if you do.



XII.

At Sea Again.

I was roused from my mid-Noto reverie by tidings that our boat was
ready and waiting just below the bridge.  This was not the steamer
which had long since gone on its way, but a small boat of the country
we had succeeded in chartering for the return voyage.  The good
inn-folk, who had helped in the hiring, hospitably came down to the
landing to see us off.

The boat, like all Japanese small boats, was in build between a
gondola and a dory, and dated from a stage in the art of rowing prior
to the discovery that to sit is better than to stand even at work.
Ours was a small specimen of its class, that we might the quicker
compass the voyage to Nanao, which the boatmen averred to be six ri
(fifteen miles).  My estimate, prompted perhaps by interest, and
certainly abetted by ignorance, made it about half that distance.
My argument, conclusive enough to myself, proved singularly unshaking
to the boatmen, who would neither abate the price in consequence nor
diminish their own allowance of the time to be taken.

The boat had sweeps both fore and aft, each let in by a hole in the
handle to a pin on the gunwale.  She was also provided with a sail
hoisting on a spar that fitted in amidships.  The sail was laced
vertically: a point, by the way, for telling a Japanese junk from a
Chinese one at sea, for Cathay always laces horizontally.

Whatever our private beliefs on the probable length of the voyage,
both crew and passengers agreed charmingly in one hope, namely, that
there might be as little rowing about it as possible.  Our reasons
for this differed, it is true; but as neither side volunteered
theirs, the difference mattered not.  So we slipped down the canal.

The hoopskirt fisher-dames were just where we had left them some
hours before, and were still too much absorbed in doing nothing to
waste time looking at us.  I would gladly have bothered them for a
peep at their traps, but that it seemed a pity to intrude upon so
engrossing a pursuit.  Besides, I feared their apathy might infect
the crew.  Our mariners, though hired only for the voyage, did not
seem averse to making a day of it, as it was.

One thing, however, I was bent on stopping to inspect, cost what it
might in delay or discipline; and that was a fish-lookout.  To have
seen the thing from a steamer's deck merely whetted desire for nearer
acquaintance.  To gratify the wish was not difficult; for the shore
was dotted with them like blind light-houses off the points.  I was
for making for the first visible, but the boatmen, with an eye to
economy of labor, pointed out that there was one directly in our path
round the next headland.  So I curbed my curiosity till on turning
the corner it came into view.  As good luck would have it, it was
inhabited.

We pulled up alongside, gave its occupants good-day, and asked leave
to mount.  The fishermen, hospitable souls, offered no objection.
This seemed to me the more courteous on their part, after I had made
the ascent, for there were two of them in the basket, and a visitor
materially added to the already uneasy weight.  But then they were
used to it.  The rungs of what did for ladder were so far apart as to
necessitate making very long legs of it in places, which must have
been colossal strides for the owners.  The higher I clambered, the
flimsier the structure got.  However, I arrived, not without
unnecessary trepidation, wormed my way into the basket and crouched
down in some uneasiness of mind.  The way the thing swayed and
wriggled gave me to believe that the next moment we should all be
shot catapultwise into the sea.  To call it topheavy will do for a
word, but nothing but experience will do for the sensation.  This
oscillation, strangely enough, was not apparent from the sea; which
reminds me to have noticed differences due the point of view before.

I was greeted by an extensive outlook.  The shore, perhaps a hundred
yards away, ran shortly into a fisher hamlet, and then into a long
line of half submerged rocks, like successive touches of a skipping
stone.  Beyond the end of this indefinite point, and a little to the
right of it, stood another lookout.  This was our only near neighbor,
though others could be seen in miniature in the distance, faint
cobwebs against the coast.  The bay stretched away on all sides,
landlocked at last, except where to the east an opening gave into the
sea of Japan.

To a dispassionate observer the basket may have been twenty feet
above the water.  To one in the basket, it was considerably higher
--and its height was emphasized by its seeming insecurity.
The fishermen were very much at home in it, but to me the sensation
was such as to cause strained relations between my will to stay and
my wish to be gone.

But strong feelings are so easily changed into their opposites!  I can
imagine one of these eyries a delightful setting to certain moods.
A deserted one should be the place of places for reading a romance.
The solitude, the strangeness, and the cradle-like swing, would all
compose to shutting out the world.  To paddle there some May morning,
tie one's boat out of sight beneath, and climb up into the nest to
sit alone half poised in the sky in the midst of the sea, should
savor of a new sensation.  After a little acclimatization it would
probably become a passion.  Certainly, with a pipe, it should induce
a most happy frame of mind for a French novel.  The seeming risk of
the one situation would serve to point those of the other.

The fishermen received my thanks with amiability, watched us with
stolid curiosity as we pulled off, and then relapsed into their
former semi-comatose condition.  Their eyrie slipped perspectively
astern, sank lower and lower, and suddenly was lost against the
background of the coast.

The favoring breeze we were always hoping for never came.  This was a
bitter disappointment to the boatmen, who thus found themselves
prevented from more than occasional whiffs of smoking.  Once we had
out the spar and actually hoisted the sail, a godsend of an excuse to
them for doing nothing for the next few minutes; but it shortly had
to come down again and on we rowed.

Our surroundings made a pretty sight.  A foreground of water, smooth
as one could wish had he nowhere to go, with illusive cat's-paws of
wind playing coyly all around, marking the great shield with dark
scratches, and never coming near enough to be caught except when the
sail was down.  Fold upon fold of low hills in the distance, with
hamlets showing here and there at their bases by the sea.  And then,
almost like a part of the picture, so subtly did the sensations
blend, the slow cadenced creak of the sweeps on the gunwale, a
rhythmic undercurrent of sound.

At intervals, a wayfarer under sail, bound the other way, crept
slowly by, carrying, as it seemed to our envious eyes, his own capful
of wind with him; and once a boat, bound our way and not under sail,
passed us not far off.  Our boatmen were beautifully blind to this
defeat till their attention had been specifically called to it for an
explanation.  They then declared the victor to be lighter than we,
and this in face of our having chosen their craft for just that
quality.  What per cent of such statements, I wonder, do the makers
expect to have credited?  And if any appreciable amount, which is the
more sold, the artless deceiver or his less simple victim?

But we always headed in the direction of Nanao, and the shores
floated by through the long spring afternoon.  At last they began to
contract upon us till, by virtue of narrowing, they shot us through
the straits in water clear as crystal, and then widening again,
dropped us adrift in Wakura bay.  Though not so beloved of bora, the
bay was most popular with other fish.  Schools of porpoises turned
cart-wheels for our amusement, and in spots the water was fairly
alive with baby jelly-fish.  On the left lay Monkey island, so called
from a certain old gentleman who had had a peculiar fondness for
those animals.  His family of poor relations had disappeared at his
death, and the island was now chiefly remarkable for a curious clay
formation, which time had chiseled into cliffs so mimicking a folding
screen that they were known by the name.  They were perfectly level
on top and perpendicular on the sides, and as double-faced as the
most matter-of-fact nicknamer could desire. Sunset came, found us
still in the bay and left us there.  Then the dusk crept up from the
black water beneath, like an exhalation.  It grew chilly.

Just as we were turning the face of Screen cliff a sound of singing
reached us, ricochetting over the water.  It had a plaintive ring
such as peasant songs are wont to have, and came, as we at length
made out, from a boat homeward bound from the island, steering a
course at right angles to our own.  The voices were those of women,
and as our courses swept us nearer each other, we saw that women
alone composed the crew.  They had been faggot-cutting, and the
bunches lay piled amidships, while fore and aft they plied their
oars, and sang.  The gloaming hid all but sound and sex, and threw
its veil of romance over the trollers, who sent their hearts out thus
across the twilight sea.  The song, no doubt some common ditty,
gathered a pathos over the water through the night.  It swept from
one side of us to the other, softened with distance, lingered in
detached strains, and then was hushed, leaving us once more alone
with the night.

Still we paddled on.  It was now become quite dark, quite cold, quite
calm, and we were still several good miles off from Nanao.  At length
on turning a headland the lights of the town and its shipping came
out one by one from behind a point, the advance guards first, then
the main body, and wheeling into line took up their post in a long
parade ahead.  We began to wonder which were the nearer.  There is a
touch of mystery in making a harbor at night.  In the daytime you see
it all well-ordered by perspective.  But as you creep slowly in
through the dark, the twinkles of the shipping only doubtfully point
their whereabouts.  The most brilliant may turn out the most remote,
and the faintest at first the nearest after all.  Your own motion
alone can sift them into place.  If we could voyage through the sea
of space, it would be thus we might come upon some star-cluster and
have the same delightful doubt which should become our sun the first.

In half an hour they were all about us; the nearer revealing by their
light the dark bodies connected with them; the farther still showing
only themselves.  The teahouses along the water-front made a
milky-way ahead.  We threaded our course between the outlying lights
while the milky-way resolved itself into star-pointed silhouettes.
Then skirting along it, we drew up at last at a darksome quay, and
landed Yejiro to hunt up an inn.  I looked at my watch; it was ten
o'clock.  We had not only passed my estimate of time somewhere in the
middle of the bay; we had exceeded even the boatmen's excessive
allowance.  Somehow we had put six hours to the voyage.  I began to
realize I had hired the wrong men.  Nor was the voyage yet over, if
remaining attached to the boat for fully an hour more be entitled to
count.  For Yejiro did not return, and the boatmen and I waited.

I was glad enough to make pretence at arrival by getting out of the
boat on to the quay.  The quay was a dismal place.  I walked out to
the farther end, where I found an individual haunting it with an idea
to suicide apparently.  His course struck me as so appropriate that I
felt it would be hollow mockery to argue the point with him.  He must
have become alarmed at the possibility, however, for he made off.
Heaven knows he had small cause to fear; I was certainly at that
moment no unsympathetic soul.

Having only come to grief on the quay, I next tried a landward stroll
with much the same effect.  The street or place that gave upon the
wharf was as deserted as the wharf itself.  Half the houses about it
were dark as tombs; the other half showed only glimmering shoji
taunting me by the sounds they suffered to escape, or by a chance
silhouette thrown for a moment upon the paper wall by some one
within.  And now and then, as if still further to enhance the
solitude, a pair passed me by in low self-suited talk.

Still no sign of the boy.  Every few minutes I would walk back to the
boat and linger beside it till I could no longer stand the mute
reproach of the baskets huddled in a little pile on the stones, poor,
houseless immigrants that they were.  And from time to time I made a
touching spectacle of myself, by pulling out my watch and peering, by
what feeble light I could find, anxiously at its face to make out the
hour.

At last Yejiro turned up in the company of a policeman.  This official,
however, proved to be accompanying him in a civil capacity, and,
changing into a guide, led the way through several dark alley-waysto
an inn of forbidding face, but better heart.  There did we eventually
dine, or breakfast, for by that time it was become the next day.



XIII.

On the Noto Highway.

On the morrow morning we took the road in kuruma, the road proper,
as Yejiro called it; for it was the main bond between Noto and the rest
of Japan.  This was the nearest approach it had to a proper name,
a circumstance which showed it not to be of the first importance.
For in Japan, all the old arteries of travel had distinctive names,
the Nakasendo or Mid-Mountain road, the Tokaido or Eastern Sea road,
and so forth.  Like certain other country relations, their importance
was due to their city connections, not to their own local magnitude.
For, when well out of sight of the town, they do not hesitate to
shrink to anything but imposing proportions.  In mid career you might
often doubt yourself to be on so celebrated a thoroughfare.  But they
are always delightful to the eye, as they wander through the country,
now bosomed in trees among the mountains, now stalking between their
own long files of pine, or cryptomeria, across the well-tilled plains.
This one had but few sentinels to line it in the open, but lost
little in picturesqueness for its lack of pomp.  It was pretty enough
to be very good company itself.

It was fairly patronized by wayfarers to delight the soul; cheerful
bodies, who, though journeying for business, had plenty of time to be
happy, and radiated content.  Take it as you please, the Japanese
people are among the very happiest on the face of the globe, which
makes them among the most charming to meet.

Nothing notable beyond such pleasing generalities of path and people
lay in our way, till we came to a place where a steep and perfectly
smooth clay bank shot from a spur of the hills directly into the
thoroughfare.  Three urchins were industriously putting this to its
proper use, coasting down it, that is, on the seats of what did them
for breeches.  An over-grown-up regard for my own trousers alone
deterred me from instantly following suit.  No such scruples
prevented my abetting them, however, to the extent of a trifling
bribe for a repetition.  For they had stopped abashed as soon as they
found they had a public.  Regardless of maternal consequences, I thus
encouraged the sport.  But after all, was it so much a bribe as an
entrance fee to the circus, or better yet, a sort of subsidy from an
ex-member of the fraternity?  Surely, if adverse physical circumstances
preclude profession in person, the next best thing is to become a
noble patron of art.

From this accidental instance, I judged that boys in Noto had about
as good a time of it as boys elsewhere; the next sight we chanced
upon made me think that possibly women did not.  We had hardly parted
from the coasters on dry ground when we met in the way with a lot of
women harnessed to carts filled with various merchandise, which they
were toilsomely dragging along towards Nanao.  It was not so
picturesque a sight as its sex might suggest.  For though the women
were naturally not aged, and some had not yet lost all comeliness of
feature, this womanliness made the thing the more appealing.  Noto
was evidently no Eden, since the local Adam had thus contrived to
shift upon the local Eve so large a fraction of the primal curse.
It was as bad as the north of Germany.  The female porters we had been
offered on the threshold of the province were merely symptomatic of
the state of things within.  I wonder what my young Japanese friend,
the new light, to whom I listened once on board ship, while he launched
into a diatribe upon the jinrikisha question, the degrading practice,
as he termed it, of using men for horses,--I wonder, I say, what he
would have said to this!  He was a quixotic youth, at the time
returning from abroad, where he had picked up many new ideas.
His proposed applications of them did him great credit, more than
they are likely to win among the class for whom they were designed.
A cent and two thirds a mile, to be had for the running for it, is as
yet too glittering a prize to be easily foregone.

Of the travel in question, we were treated to forty-three miles'
worth that day, by relays of runners.  The old men fell off
gradually, to be replaced by new ones, giving our advance the
character of a wave, where the particles merely oscillated, but the
motion went steadily on.  The oscillations, however, were not
insignificant in amount.  Some of the men must have run their
twenty-five miles or more, broken only by short halts; and this at a
dog-trot, changed of course to a slower pull on bad bits, and when
going up hill.  A fine show of endurance, with all allowances.
In this fashion we bowled along through a smiling agricultural
landscape, relieved by the hills upon the left, and with the faintest
suspicion, not amounting to a scent, of the sea out of sight on the
right.  The day grew more beautiful with every hour of its age.
The blue depths above, tenanted by castles of cloud, granted fancy
eminent domain to wander where she would.  Even the road below gave
free play to its caprice, and meandered like any stream inquisitively
through the valley, visiting all the villages within reach, after a
whimsical fashion of its own.  All about it, meadows were tilling,
and the whole landscape breathed an air of well-established age, amid
the lustiness of youth.  The very farmhouses looked to have grown
where they stood, as indeed the upper part of them had.  For from the
thatch of their roofs, deep bedded in mud, sprang all manner of
plants that made of the eaves gardens in the air.  The ridgepoles
stood transformed into beds of flowers; their long tufts of grass
waved in the wind, the blossoms nodding their heads amicably to the
passers-by.  What a contented folk this should be whose very homes
can so vegetate!  Surely a pretty conceit it is for a peasantry thus
to sleep every night under the sod, and yet awake each morning to
life again!

At the threshold of Kaga we turned abruptly to the left, and attacked
the pass leading over into Etchiu.  As we wound our way up the narrow
valley, day left the hollows to stand on rosy tiptoe on the sides of
the hills, the better to take flight into the clouds.  There it
lingered a little, folding the forests about with its roseate warmth.
Even the stern old pines flushed to the tips of their shaggy branches,
while here and there a bit of open turned a glowing cheek full to the
good-night kiss of the sun.  And over beyond it all rose the twilight
bow, in purplish insubstantiality creeping steadily higher and
higher, above the pine-clad heights.

I reached the top before the jinrikisha, and as a sort of reward of
merit scrambled a little farther up the steep slope to the left.
From here I commanded the pass, especially that side of it I had not
come up.  The corkscrew of the road carried the eye most pleasingly
down with it.  I could see a teahouse a few hundred feet below, and
beyond it, at a much lower level, a bridge.  Beyond this came a
comparatively flat stretch, and then the road disappeared into a
gorge.  Here and there it was pointed with people toiling slowly up.
Of the encircling hills the shoulders alone were visible.  While I
was still surveying the scene, the jinrikisha men, one after the
other, emerged from the gulf out of sight on the right and proceeded
to descend into the one on the left.  When the last had well passed,
and I had tickled myself with the sense of abandonment, I scrambled
back, took a jump into the road and slipped down after them.  The
last had waited for me at the teahouse, and stowing me in started to
rattle down the descent.  The road, unlike us, seemed afraid of its
own speed, and brought itself up every few hundred feet with a round
turn.  About each of these we swung, only to dash down the next bend,
and begin the oscillation over again.  The men were in fine excitement,
and kept up a shouting out of mere delight.  In truth we all enjoyed
the dissipated squandering in a few minutes of the energy of position
we had so laboriously gained by toiling up the other side.  Over the
bridge we rattled, bowled along the level stretch, and then into the
gorge and once more down, till in another ten minutes the last fall
had shot us out into the plain with mental momentum enough to carry
us hilariously into Imaisurugi, where we put up for the night.

At breakfast the next morning the son of the house, an engaging lad,
presented me with an unexpected dish, three fossil starfish on a
platter.  They were found, he said, in numbers, on the sides of the
hill hard by; a fact which would go to prove that this part of Japan
has been making in later geologic time.  Indeed, I take it the better
part of Etchiu has thus been cast up by the sea, and now lies between
its semicircle of peaks and its crescent of beach, like a young moon
in the western sky, a new bay of ricefield in the old bay's arms.
We had come by way of its ocean terminator along its fringe of sand;
we were now to cross its face.

As we pulled out from the town and entered the great plain of
paddyfields it was like adventuring ourselves in some vast expanse of
ocean, cut up only by islets of trees.  So level the plain and so
still the air on this warm May morning, the clumps shimmered in
mirage in the distance like things at sea.  Farmhouses and peasants
at work in the fields loomed up as ships, past which we slowly tacked
and then dropped them out of sight behind.  And still no end of the
same infinite level.  New clumps rose doubtfully afar, took on form
and vanished in their turn.  Our men rolled along at a good six-knot
gait, and mile went to join mile with little perceptible effect on
the surroundings.  Only the misty washes of the mountains, glistening
in spots with snow, came out to the south and then swung slowly round
like the sun himself.  Occasionally, we rolled into a village of
which I duly inquired the distance from the last known point.  One of
these, Takaoka, was a very large place and stretched a mile or more
along the road, with ramifications to the side.

At last we neared some foothills which we crossed by a baby pass, and
from the farther side looked off against the distant Tateyama range.
Descending again, another stretch of plain brought us to Toyama,
the old feudal capital of the province.  It is still a bustling town,
and does a brisk business, I was told, in patent medicine, which is
hawked over Japan generally and cures everything.  But the former
splendor of the place has left it forever.  The rooms in the inn,
where neighboring daimyos were wont to rest on their journeys
through, are still superb with carving, lacquer and paintings, but no
daimyo will ever again hold his traveling court before their tokonoma.
The man perchance may again tarry there, but the manner of it all has
gone to join the past.  Now he who wills may ensconce himself in the
daimyo's corner, and fancy himself a feudal lord; nor will the
breeding of those about him disillusion his midday dream.

The castle they have turned into a public school; and as I strolled
into its close I met bands of boys in foreign lycee-like uniform
trooping out; chubby-faced youngsters in stiff visored caps.  Girls
there were too, in knots of twos and threes, pretty little things in
semi-European dress, their hair done a la grecque, stuck with a
single flower, who stopped in their chatter to stare at me.  To think
that the feudal times are to them as much a tale as the making of the
plain itself where its ruins stand already mantled with green!



XIV.

The Harinoki Toge.

There now befell us a sad piece of experience, the result of misplaced
confidence in the guidebook.  Ours was the faith a simple public pins
upon print.  Le journal, c'est un jeune homme, as Balzac said, and
even the best of guidebooks, as this one really was, may turn out--a
cover to many shortcomings.

Its description of the crossing of the Harinoki toge implied a
generality of performances that carried conviction.  If he who read
might not run, he had, at least, every assurance given him that he
would be able to walk.  That the writer might not only have been the
first to cross, but the last, as well, was not evident from the text.
Nor was it there apparent that the path which was spoken of as
difficult and described as "hanging to the precipitous side of the
cliff," might have become tired of hanging thus for the sake of
travelers who never came, and have given itself over at last to the
abyss.

In the book, the dead past still lived an ever-youthful present.
In truth, however, the path at the time of the account, some twelve
years before, had just been made by the samurai of Kaga to join them
to the capital.  Since then the road by the sea had been built, and
the Harinoki pass had ceased to be in practice what it purported to
be in print.  It had in a double sense reverted to type.  There was
small wonder at this, for it was a very Cerberus of a pass at best,
with three heads to it.  The farthest from Etchiu was the Harinoki
toge proper.

The guidebook and a friend had gone over one season, and the guidebook
had induced another friend to accompany him again the year after.
Whether there were any unpersonally conducted ascents I am not sure.
But at any rate, all this happened in the early days; for years the
Harinoki toge had had rest.

We ought to have taken warning from the general skepticism we met
with at Toyama, when we proposed the pass.  But with the fatal faith
of a man in his guidebook, we ignored the native forebodings.
Besides, there were just people enough who knew nothing about it, and
therefore thought it could be done, to encourage us in our delusion.
Accordingly we left Toyama after lunch in the best of spirits, in
jinrikisha, for Kamidaki, or Upper Fall, to which there professed to
be a jinrikisha road.  The distance was three ri, seven miles and a
half.  Before we had gone one of them the road gave out, and left us
to tack on foot in paths through the rice-fields, which in one long
inclination kept mounting before us.  Just before reaching the village,
a huge tree in full faint purple bloom showed up a little to the left.
Under a sudden attack of botanical zeal, I struck across lots to
investigate, and after much tacking among the paddy dykes found,
to my surprise, on reaching it, that the flowers came from a huge
wistaria that had coiled itself up the tree.  The vine must have been
at least six feet round at the base, and had a body horribly like an
enormous boa that swung from branches high in air.  The animal look
of the vegetable parasite was so lifelike that one both longed and
loathed to touch it at the same time.

At Kamidaki, after the usual delay, we found porters, who echoed the
doubts of the people of Toyama, and went with us protesting.  Half an
hour after this we came to the Jindogawa, a river of variable
importance.  It looked to have been once the bed of a mighty glacier
that should have swept grandly round from unseen fastnesses among the
hills.  At the time of our visit, it was, for the most part, a waste
of stones through which two larger and several lesser streams were in
much worry to find their way to the sea.  The two larger were just
big enough to be unfordable; so a Charon stationed at each ferried
the country folk across.  At the smaller, after picking out the
likeliest spots, we took off our shoes and socks and waded, and then,
upon the other side, sat some time on stones, ill-modeled to that
end, to draw our things on again.

Our way now led up the left bank--the right bank, according to
aquatic convention, which pleasingly supposes you to be descending
the stream.  It lay along a plateau which I doubt not to have been
the river's prehistoric bed, so evidently had the present one been
chiseled out of it to a further depth of over fifty feet.  At first
the path struck inland, astutely making a chord to the river's bow,
an unsuspected sign of intelligence in a path.  It was adventurous,
too, for soon after coming out above the brink, it began upon
acrobatic feats in which it showed itself nationally proficient.
A narrow aqueduct had been cut out of the side of the cliff, and along
its outer embankment, which was two feet wide, the path proceeded to
balance.  The aqueduct had given way in spots, which caused the path
to take to some rickety boards put there for its benefit.  After this
exhibition of daring, it descended to the stream, to rise again later.
Meanwhile night came on and the river bottom began to fill with what
looked to be mist, but was in reality smoke.  This gave a weird
effect to the now mountainous settings.  Into the midst of it we
descended to a suspension bridge of twisted strands of the wistaria
vine, ballasted at the ends with boulders piled from the river's bed.
The thing swayed cheerfully as we passed over.

On the top of the opposite bank stood perched a group of houses, not
enough to make a village, and far too humble to support an inn.
But in their midst rose a well-to-do temple, where, according to the
guidebook, good lodging was to be had.  It may indeed be so.  For our
part we were not so much as granted entry.  An acolyte, who parleyed
with us through the darkness, reported the priest away on business,
and refused to let us in on any terms.  Several bystanders gathered
during the interview, and had it not been for one of them we might
have been there yet.  From this man we elicited the information that
another hamlet lay half a mile further up, whose head-man, he thought,
might be willing to house us.  We followed straight on until some
buildings showed in still blacker silhouette against the black sky,
and there, after some groping in the dark and a second uncanny
conversation through a loophole,--for the place was already boarded
up for the night,--we were finally taken in.

The house was a generous instance of a mountain farmhouse.
The floors were innocent of mats, and the rooms otherwise pitiably
barnlike.  Yet an air of largeness distinguished the whole.  It was
clearly the home of a man of standing in his community, one who lived
amply the only life he knew.  You felt you already knew the man from
his outer envelope.  And this in some sort prepared me for a little
scene I was shortly to witness.  For while waiting for Yejiro to get
dinner ready I became aware that something was going on in what stood
for hall; and on pushing the shoji gently apart I beheld the whole
household at evening prayers before an altar piece, lighted by
candles and glittering with gilded Buddhas and bronze lotus flowers.
The father intoned the service from a kind of breviary, and the
family joined from time to time in the responses.  There was a
sincerity and a sweet simplicity about the act that went to my heart
and held me there.  At the close of it the family remained bowed
while the intoner reverently put out the lights and folded the doors
upon the images within.  Locked in that little case lay all the
luxury which the family could afford, and to which the rest of the
house was stranger.  There is something touching in any heartfelt
belief, and something pathetic too.

This peaceful parenthesis was hardly past before the trials of travel
intruded themselves again.  The porters proved refractory.  They had
agreed to come only as far as they could, and now they refused to
proceed further.  Here was a pretty pass.  To turn back now was worse
than not to have set out at all.  Besides, we had not yet even come
in sight of the enemy.  Yejiro reasoned with them for some hours in
the kitchen, occasionally pausing for lack of further argument to
report his want of progress.  It seemed the men valued their lives
above a money consideration, strangely enough.  They made no bones
about it; the thing was too dangerous.  The streams they declared
impassable, and the charcoal burners the only men who knew the path.
Yejiro at once had these witnesses subpoenaed, and by good luck one of
them came, who, on being questioned, repeated all the porters had
said.  But Yejiro's blood was up, and he boldly played his last
trump.  He threatened them with the arm of the law, a much more
effective weapon in Japan than elsewhere.  He proposed, in fine, to
walk three ri down the valley to the nearest police station and fetch
a policeman who should compel them to move on.  It is perhaps open to
doubt whether even a Japanese policeman's omnipotence would have
extended so far.  But the threat, though not conclusive, had some
effect.  This strategic stroke I only learnt of later, and I laughed
heartily when I did.  That night, however, it was no laughing matter,
and I began to have doubts myself.  But it was no time for
misgivings, so I went in to help.  The circle round the kitchen fire
was not a cheerful sight.  To have the courage of one's convictions
is rare enough in this weak world, but to have the courage of one's
doubts is something I uncover to.  To furnish pluck for a whole
company including one's self; to hearten others without letting them
see how sore in need of heartening is the heartener, touches my
utmost admiration.  If only another would say to him that he might
believe the very things he does not believe, as he says them to that
other; they then might at least seem true.  Ignorance saved me.  Had
I known what they did, I should have agreed with them on the spot.
As it was, I did what I could, and went back to my own room, the prey
of somewhat lonely thoughts.



XV.

Toward the Pass.

I was waked by good news.  The porters had, to a certain extent,
come round.  If we would halve their burdens by doubling their number,
they would make an attempt on the pass, or, rather, they would go on
as far as they could.  This was a great advance.  To be already
moving implies a momentum of the mind which carries a man farther
than he means.  I acquiesced at once.  The recruits consisted of the
master of the house--his father, the officiator at family prayers,
had retired from the cares of this world--and a peasant of the
neighborhood.  The charcoal burners were too busy with their own
affairs.  From the sill, as I put on my boots, I watched with
complacence the cording of the loads, and then, with quite a
lightsome gait, followed the lengthened file out into the street.
One after the other we tramped forth past the few houses of the
place, whose people watched us go, with the buoyant tread of those
about to do great things, and so out into the open.

The path appeared very well.  It trotted soberly along across a
mountain moor until it came out above the river.  It then wound up
stream, clinging to the slope several hundred feet above the valley
bottom.  It was precipitous in places, but within reason, and I was
just coming to consider the accounts exaggerated when it descended to
the river bed at a point where a butt of neve stuck a foot into the
shingle.  The stream, which had looked a thread from above, turned
out a torrent when we stood upon its brink.  The valley was nothing
but river bed, a mass of boulders of all sizes, through the midst of
which the stream plunged with deafening roar, and so deep that
fording was out of the question.  A man's life would not have been
worth a rush in it.

We followed up the boulder bank in search of a more propitious spot.
Then we followed down again.  Each place promised at a distance, and
baulked hope at hand.  At last, in despair, we came to a halt
opposite the widest and shallowest part, and after no end of urging,
one of the porters stripped, and, armed with his pole, ventured in.
The channel lay well over to the farther side; thrice he got to its
nearer edge and thrice he turned back, as the rush of water became
too great.  His life was worth too much to him, he said, not
unnaturally, for him to throw it away.  Yet cross the stream we must,
or return ignominiously; for the path we had so far followed had
fallen over the cliff in front.

We improved the moments of reflection to have lunch.  While we were
still discussing viae and viands, and had nearly come to the end of
both, we suddenly spied a string of men defiling slowly down through
the wide boulder desert on the other side.  We all rose and hailed
them.  They were so far away that at first they failed to hear us,
and even when they heard they stared vacantly about them like men who
hear they know not what.  When at last they caught sight of us, we
beckoned excitedly.  They consulted, apparently, and then one of them
came down to the edge of the stream.  The torrent made so much noise
that our men could make themselves intelligible only in part, and
that by bawling at the top of their lungs.  Through the envoy, they
invited the band to string themselves across the stream and so pass
our things over.  The man shook his head.  We rose to fabulous sums
and still he repeated his pantomime.  It then occurred to Yejiro that
a certain place lower down might possibly be bridged, and beckoning
to the man to follow, he led the way to the spot in mind.  A boulder,
two-thirds way in stream, seemed to offer a pier.  He tried to shout
his idea, but the roar of the torrent, narrow though it was, drowned
his voice; so, writing on a piece of paper: "What will you take to
build us a bridge?" he wrapped the paper round a stone and flung it
over.  After reading this missive, the spokesman held a consultation
with his friends and a bargain was struck.  For the huge sum of two
yen (a dollar and a half), they agreed to build us a bridge, and at
once set off up the mountain side for a tree.

The men, it seemed, were a band of wood-cutters who had wintered,
as was their custom, in a hut at Kurobe, which was this side of the
Harinoki toge, and were just come out from their hibernation.
They were now on their way to Ashikura, where they belonged, to
report to their headman, obtain supplies and start to return on the
after-morrow.  It was a two-days' journey either out or in.

Bridges, therefore, came of their trade.  The distance across the
boulder bed was considerable, and as they toiled slowly up the face
of the opposite mountain, they looked like so many ants.  Picking out
a trunk, they began to drag it down.  By degrees they got it to the
river bed, and thence eventually to the edge of the stream.  To lay
it was quite a feat of engineering.  With some pieces of drift-wood
which they found lying about, they threw a span to the big boulder,
and from the boulder managed to get the trunk across.  Then, with
rope which they carried at their girdles, they lashed the whole
together until they had patched up a very workmanlike affair.
We trod across in triumph.  With praiseworthy care lest it should
be swept away they then took the thing all down again.

Such valuable people were not idly to be parted with.  Here was a
rare chance to get guides.  When, however, we approached them on the
point, they all proved so conscientious about going home first, that
the attempt failed.  But they gave us some important information on
the state of the streams ahead and the means of crossing them, and we
separated with much mutual good-will.

For my part I felt as if we had already arrived somewhere.  I little
knew what lay beyond.  While I was plodding along in this blissfully
ignorant state of mind, communing with a pipe, the path, which had
frisked in and out for some time among the boulders, suddenly took it
into its head to scale a cliff on the left.  It did this, as it
seemed to me, without provocation, after a certain reckless fashion
of its own.  The higher it climbed, the more foolhardy it got, till
the down-look grew unpleasant.  Then it took to coquetting with the
gulf on its right until, as I knew would happen, it lost its head
completely and fell over the edge.  The gap had been spanned by a few
loose boards.  Over the makeshift we all, one after the other,
gingerly crawled, each waiting his turn, with the abyss gaping on his
side, for the one in front to move on.

We had not yet recovered from the shock when we came to another place
not unlike the first.  Here again the path had given way, and a
couple of logs had been lashed across the inner elbow of the cliff.
We crossed this by balancing ourselves for the first two steps by the
stump of a bush that jutted out from a crevice in the rock; for the
next two we touched the cliff with the tips of our fingers; for the
last two we balanced ourselves alone.

For the time being the gods of high places had tempted us enough, for
the path now descended again to the dry bed of the stream, and there
for a certain distance tripped along in all soberness, giving me the
chance to look about me.  The precipitous sides of the mountains that
shut in the narrow valley were heavily masked in forest; and for some
time past, the ravines that scored their sides had been patched with
snow.  With each new mile of advance the patches grew larger and
merged into one another, stretching toward the stream.  We now began
to meet snow on the path.  In the mean time, from one cause and
another, insensibly I fell behind.  The others passed on out of
sight.

The path, having lulled me into a confiding unconcern, started in
seeming innocence of purpose to climb again.  Its ingenuousness but
prefaced a malicious surprise.  For of a sudden, unmasking a corner,
it presented itself in profile ahead, a narrow ledge notched in naked
simplicity against the precipice.  Things look better slightly
veiled; besides, it is more decent, even in a path.  In this case the
shamelessness was earnest of the undoing.  For on reaching the point
in view and turning it I stood confronted by a sight sorry indeed.
The path beyond had vanished.  Far below, out of sight over the edge,
lay the torrent; unscalable the cliff rose above; and a line of
fossil footprints, leading across the face of the precipice in the
debris, alone marked where the path had been.  Spectres they seemed
of their former selves.  Crusoe could not have been more horrified
than was I.

Not to have come suggested itself as the proper solution, unfortunately
an impracticable one, and being there, to turn back was inadmissible.
So I took myself in hand and started.  For the first few steps I was
far too much given up to considering possibilities.  I thought how a
single misstep would end.  I could see my footing slip, feel the
consciousness that I was gone, the dull thuds from point to point as
what remained of me bounded beyond the visible edge down, down.  .  .
And after that what!  How long before the porters missed me and came
back in search?  Would there be any trace to tell what had befallen?
And then Yejiro returning alone to Tokyo to report--lost on the
Dragon peak!  Each time I almost felt my foot give way as I put it
down, right before left, left before right.

Then I realized that this inopportune flirting with fate must stop;
that I must give over dallying with sensations, or it would soon be
all over with me.  I was falling a prey to the native Lorelei--for
all these spots in Japan have their familiar devils--subjectively, as
befits a modern man.  I numbed sensibility as best I could and cared
only to make each step secure.  Between the Nirvana within and the
Nirvana below, it was a sorry hell.

In mid-career the path made an attempt to recover, but relapsed to
further footprints in the sand.  At last it descended to a brook.
I knelt to drink, and on getting up again saw my pocket-handkerchief
whisking merrily away down stream.  I gave chase, but in vain; for
though it came to the surface once or twice to tantalize me it was
gone before I could seize it.  So I gave over the pursuit, reflecting
that, after all, it might have fared worse with me.  If the Lorelei
had hoped to turn my head, I was well quit of my handkerchief for her
only trophy.

Shortly after this, the main stream divided into two, and the left
branch, which we followed, led up to a gorge,--beyond a doubt the
abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet.  I do not
remember a landscape more ghastly.  Not a tree, not a blade of grass,
not even decent earth in the whole prospect.  Apparently, the place
had been flayed alive and sulphur had then been poured into the sore.
Thirty years before a cataclysm had occurred here.  The side of one
of the mountains had slid bodily into the valley.  The debris, by
damming up the stream, caused a freshet, which swept everything
before it and killed quantities of folk lower down the valley.
The place itself has never recovered to this day.

Although the stream here was a baby to the one below, it was large
enough to be impassable to the natural man.  From our woodcutter
friends, however, we had learned of the leavings of a bridge, upon
which in due time we came, and putting the parts of it in place, we
passed successfully over.

We now began to enter the snow in good earnest, incipient glacier
snow, treacherously honeycombed.  It made, however, more agreeable
walking than the boulders.  The path had again become precipitous,
and kept on mounting, till of a sudden it landed us upon an
amphitheatral arena, dominated by high, jagged peaks.  One unbroken
stretch of snow covered the plateau, and at the centre of the wintry
winding-sheet a cluster of weather-beaten huts appealed pitiably to
the eye.  They were the buildings of the Riuzanjita hot-springs; in
summer a sort of secular monastery for pilgrims to the Dragon peak.
They were tenanted now, we had been told, by a couple of watchmen.
We struck out with freer strides, while the moon, which had by this
time risen high enough to overtop the wall of peaks, watched us with
an ashen face, as in single file we moved across the waste of level
white.



XVI.

Riuzanjita.

We made for the main hut, a low, mouse-colored shanty fast asleep and
deep drifted in snow.  The advance porter summoned the place, and the
summons drew to what did for door a man as mouselike as his mansion.
He had about him a subdued, monkish demeanor that only partially hid
an alertness within,--a secular monk befitting the spot.  He showed
himself a kindly body, and after he had helped the porters off with
their packs, led the way into the room in which he and his mate
hibernated.  It was a room very much in the rough; boards for walls,
for ceiling, for floor, its only furnishing a fire.  It was the best
of furnishing in our eyes, and we hasted to squat round it in a
circle, in attitudes of extreme devotion, for it was bitter cold.
The monkish watchman threw a handful more twigs on the embers, out of
a cheerful hospitality to his guests.

The fireplace was merely a hole in the floor, according to Japanese
custom, and the smoke found its way out as best it could.  But there
was very little of it; usually, indeed, there is none, for charcoal
is the common combustible.  A cauldron hung, by iron bars jointed
together, from the gloom above.  It was twilight in the room.
Already the day without was fading fast, and even at high noon, none
too much of it could find a way into the building, now half buried
under the snow.  A second watchman sat muffled in shadow on the
farther side of the fire.  He made his presence known, from time to
time, by occasional sympathetic gutturals, or by the sudden glow of a
bit of charcoal, which he took out of the embers with a pair of
chopstick fire-irons to relight his pipe.  The talk naturally turned
upon our expedition, with Yejiro for spokesman, and from that easily
slid into the all-important question of guides.  Our inquiries on
this head elicited nothing but doubt.  We tried at first to get the
watchmen to go.  But this they positively refused to do.  They could
not leave their charge, in the first place, they said; and for the
second, they did not know the path.  We asked if there was no one who
did.  There was a hunter, they said, near by who was by way of
knowing the road.  A messenger was sent at once to fetch him.

In the mean time, if they showed themselves skeptical about our
future, they proved most sympathetic over our past.  Our description
of the Friday footprints especially brought out much fellow-feeling.
They knew the spot well, they said, and it was very bad.  In fact it
was called the Oni ga Jo, or place of many devils, for its fearfulness.
It would be better, they added, after the mountain opening on the
tenth of June.

"Mountain opening!" said I to Yejiro; "what is that?  Is it anything
like the 'river opening'?" For the Japanese words seemed to imply not
a physical, but a formal unlocking of the hills, like the annual
religious rite upon the Sumidagawa in Tokyo.  Such, it appeared, it
was.  For the tenth of June, he said, was the date of the
mountain-climbing festival.  Yearly on that day all the sacred peaks
are thrown open to a pious public for ascent.  A procession of
pilgrims, headed by a flautist and a bellman, wend their way to the
summit, and there encamp.  For three days the ceremony lasts, after
which the mountains are objects of pilgrimage till the twenty-eighth
day of August.  For the rest of the year the summits are held to be
shut, the gods being then in conclave, to disturb whom were the
height of impiety.  A pleasing coincidence of duty and pleasure, that
the scaling of the peaks should be enjoined to pilgrims at the times
of easiest ascent!  Preparatory to the procession all the paths of
approach are repaired.  It was this repairing to which the watchmen
referred and which concerned our secular selves.

Our difficulties began to be explained.  We were very close to
committing sacrilege.  We had had, it is true, no designs on the
peaks, but were we wholly guiltless in attempting so much as the
passes in this the close season?  Apparently not.  At all events,
we were a month ahead of time in our visit, which in itself was of
questionable etiquette.

At this point the messenger sent to find the hunter returned without
his man.  Evidently the hunter was a person who meant to stand well
with his gods, or else he was himself a myth.

Distraught in mind and restless in body, I got up and went out into
the great snow waste.  The sunset afterglow was just fading into the
moonshine.  The effect upon the pure white sheet before me was
indescribably beautiful.  The warm tint of the last of day, as it
waned, dissolved imperceptibly into the cold lustre of the night as
if some alchemist were subtly changing the substance while he kept
the form.  For a new spirit was slowly possessing itself of the very
shapes that had held the old, and the snow looked very silent, very
cold, very ghostly, glistening in its silver sheen.

The sky was bitterly clear, inhumanly cold.  To call it frosty were
to humanize it.  Its expanse stretched far more frozen than the
frozen earth.  Indeed, the night sky is always awful.  For the most
part, we forget it for the kindlier prospect of the cradling trees,
and the whispers of the wind, and the perfumes of the fields, the
sights and sounds that even in slumber stir with life; and the nearer
thrust away the real horror of the far.  But the awe speaks with
insistence when the foreground itself is dead.

Shivering, I returned to the fire and human companionship.
The conversation again rolled upon precipices, which it appeared
were more numerous before than behind, and casualties among the
woodcutters not unknown in consequence.  There was one place, they
said, where, if you slipped, you went down a ri (two miles and a half).
It was here a woodcutter had been lost three days before.  The ri
must have been a flight of fancy, since it far exceeded the height of
the pass above the sea.  But a handsome discount from the statement
left an unpleasant balance to contemplate.

This death had frightened one of the watchmen badly, as it may well
have done.  The facts were these.  Separated from the hot springs of
Riuzanjita by two passes lay a valley, uninhabited except for two
bands of woodcutters, who had built themselves a couple of huts, one
on either side the stream, in which they lived the year round.
It was these huts that went by the name of Kurobe.  During the winter
they were entirely cut off from the outside world.  As soon as
practicable in the spring, a part of each band was accustomed to come
out over the passes, descend to Ashikura, and return with provisions
and money.

Now this year, before the men in the valley had thought it time to
attempt the passes, a solitary woodcutter came up to the hot springs
from below, and, in spite of warning from the watchmen, started alone
for Kurobe.  On the afternoon of the third day after his departure,
the regular band turned up at Riuzanjita, having left Kurobe, it
seemed, that morning.  They passed the night at the hot springs hut,
and on being questioned by the watchmen about the man of three days
before, they said they had heard of no such person.  It turned out,
to the horror of both parties, that he had never reached Kurobe.
It was only the night before we arrived that the woodcutters had been
there, and the affair was still terribly fresh in the watchman's
thoughts; in fact, it was the identical band that had built us our
bridge.  These men were thoroughly equipped for snow-climbing and had
come over safely; and yet, as it was, the head man of the other band
at Kurobe had been afraid to cross with them, and had, instead, gone
all the way round by the river and the sea, a very long and rough
journey.  Fatal accidents, the watchmen said, were of yearly
occurrence on the passes.

And all this was only the way to Kurobe.  Beyond it lay the Harinoki
toge.  That pass no one had yet crossed this year.  And at intervals
during the talk the watchman repeated excitedly, as a sort of
refrain, "It is impossible to go on,--it is impossible to go on."

This talk, a part of which I understood, was not very heartening,
following as it did the personal experience of the Oni ga Jo.
The prospect began to look too uncertain in its conclusion and too
certain in its premises to be inviting.  If professionals, properly
accoutred, found crossing so dangerous a matter, the place was hardly
one for unprovided amateurs.  These mountaineers were not tied
together, but wore over their waraji, or straw sandals, a set of
irons called kanakajiki.  We were shown some of them which had been
left by the woodcutters against their return.  They were skeleton
sandals, iron bands shod with three spikes.  They looked like
instruments of torture from the Middle Ages, and indeed were said to
be indispensable against backsliding.

On the other hand, one Blondin feat over the Devil Place was enough
for me.  To take it on the road rather than turn back was one thing,
to start to take it in cold blood another.  I had had quite enough of
balancing and doubt.  So I asked if there was no other way out.
We might, they said, go to Arimine.

"And how was the road?"

"Oh, the road was good," they answered cheerily.

"Could we get a guide?"

Apparently we could not, for an awkward pause ensued until, after
some suspense, the bigger of the two watchmen, he that sat in the
shadow of the corner, volunteered to pilot us himself; and, he added,
we should not have to start betimes, as the snow would not be fit to
travel on till the sun had melted the crust.

Upon this doubly comforting conclusion I bade them good-night,
and betook me to the cell-like room allotted me to sleep.



XVII.

Over the Snow.

When Yejiro pushed the shoji and the amado (night shutters) apart in
the morning, he disclosed a bank of snow four feet deep; not a
snowfall over night, but the relic of the winter.  I found myself in
a snow grotto beyond which nothing was visible.  He then imparted to
me the cheerful news that the watchman had changed his mind, and now
refused to set out with us.  It was too late in the day to start, the
man said, which, in view of his having informed us only the night
before that the snow would not be fit to travel on till this very
hour, was scarcely logical.  The trouble lay not in the way, but in
the will.  The man had repented him of his promise.  Things look
differently as certainties in the morning from what they do as
possibilities overnight.  Fortunately he proved amenable to
importunity, and finally consented to go.  His fellow was much
worried, and followed him distressfully to the outer threshold;
whence in perturbation of spirit he watched us depart, calling out
pathetically to his mate to be very careful of himself.  His almost
motherly solicitude seemed to me more comical at the time than it
came to seem later.

The sky was without a fleck of cloud, and, as we struck out across
the snow, I feared at first for my eyes, so great was the glare.
For I had neither goggles nor veil.  In fact, we were as unprepared a
troop as ever started on such an expedition.  We had not a pair of
foot spikes nor a spiked pole to the lot of us.

The jagged peaks of the valley's wall notched the sky in vivid
relief, their sharp teeth biting the blue.  We below were blinking.
Luckily before very long we had crossed the level and were attacking
the wall, and once on it the glare lessened, for we were facing the
south, and the slant of the slope took off from the directness of the
sun's rays.  The higher we rose, the greater the tilt became.  The
face of the slope was completely buried in snow except where the
aretes stuck through, for the face was well wrinkled.  The angle soon
grew unpleasant to visage, and certainly looked to have exceeded the
limit of stable equilibrium.  In mid-ascent, as we were winding
cautiously up, a porter slipped.  He stopped himself, however, and
was helped on to his feet again by his fellow behind.  The bad bit
was preface to a worse effect round the corner, for on turning the
arete, we came upon a snow slope like a gigantic house-roof.  It was
as steep as you please, and disappeared a few hundred feet below over
the edge into the abyss.  Across and up this the guide, after looking
about him, struck out, and I followed.  The snow was in a plastic
state, and at each step I kicked my toes well in, so wedging my
footing.  The view down was very unnerving.  It soon grew so bad I
fixed my thought solely on making each step secure, and went slowly,
which was much against my inclination.  In this manner we tacked
gradually upward in zigzags, some forty feet apart, each of us
improving the footprints of his predecessor.

After a short eternity, we came out at the top.  I threw myself upon
the snow, and when I had sufficiently recovered my breath asked the
guide, with what I meant for sarcasm, whether that was his idea of
"a good road." He owned that it was the worst bit on the way, but he
somewhat grudgingly conceded it a "gake." I sat corrected, but in the
interest of any future wanderer I submit the following definition of
a "gake," which, if not strictly accurate, at least leans to the
right side.  If the cliff overhang, it is a "gake;" but if a plumb
line from the top fall anywhere within the base, it is no longer a
"gake," but "a good road."

On the other side the slope was more hospitable.  Even trees wintered
just below the crest, their great gaunt trunks thrust deep into the
snow.  We glissaded down the first few hundred feet, till we brought
up standing at the head of an incipient gorge, likewise smothered in
snow.  Round the boles of the trees the snow had begun to thaw, which
gave me a chance to measure its depth, by leaning over the rim of the
cup and thrusting my pole down as far as I could reach.  The point of
it must have been over seven feet from the surface, and it touched no
bottom.  My investigations took time enough to put a bend of the
hollow between me and the others, and when at last I looked up they
were nowhere to be seen.  As I trudged after them alone I felt like
that coming historical character, the last man on our then frozen
earth.

For some minutes past a strange, far-away musical note, like the
murmur of running water, had struck my ear, and yet all about
everything looked dead.  Of animate or even inanimate pulsation there
was no sign.  One unbroken sheet of snow stretched as far as I could
see, in which stood the great trees like mummies.  Still the sound
continued, seeming to come from under my feet.  I stopped, and,
kneeling down, put my ear to the crust, and there, as distinct as
possible, I heard the wimpling of a baby brook, crooning to itself
under its thick white blanket.  Here then was the cradle of one of
those streams that later would become such an ugly customer to meet.
It was babily innocent now, and the one living thing beside myself on
this May day in the great snow-sheeted solitude.

Perhaps it was the brook that had undermined the snow.  At all events,
soon after I overtook the others, the guide, fearing to trust to it
farther, suddenly struck up again to the left.  We all followed,
remonstrating.  We had no sooner got up than we went down again the
other side, and this picket-fence style of progress continued till we
emerged upon the top of a certain spur, which commanded a fine view
of gorges.  Unfortunately we ourselves were on top of some of them.
The guide reconnoitered both sides for a descent, pushing his way
through a thick growth of dwarf bamboo, and brought up each time on
the edge of an impassable fall to the stream below.  At last he took
to the arete.  It was masked by trees for some distance, and then
came out as a bare knife edge of rock and earth.  Down it we
scrambled, till the slope to the side became passable.  This was now
much less steep, although still steep enough for the guide to make me
halt behind a tree, for fear of the stones dislodged by those behind.
These came down past us like cannon-balls, ricochetting by big
bounds.

At the bottom we reached the stream, and beside it we halted for
lunch.  Just below our resting place another stream joined our own,
both coming down forbidding-looking valleys, shut in by savage peaks.
On the delta, between the waters, we made out a band of hunters,
three of them, tarrying after an unsuccessful chase.  This last was a
general inference, rather than an observed fact.

The spot was ideal for picturesque purposes,--the water clear as
crystal, and the sunshine sparkling.  But otherwise matters went ill
with us.  Our extempore guide had promised us, over his own fire the
evening before, a single day of it to Arimine.  On the road his
estimate of the time needed had increased alarmingly.  From direct
questioning it now appeared that he intended to camp out on the
mountain opposite, whose snowy slopes were painfully prophetic of
what that night would be.  Besides, this meant another day of it to
Arimine; and even when we reached Arimine, we were nowhere, and I was
scant of time.  We had already lost three days; if we kept on, I
foresaw the loss of more.  It was very disheartening to turn back,
but it had to be done.

Our object now was to strike the Ashikura trail and follow it down.
The guide, however, was not sure of the path, so we hailed the
hunters.  One of them came across the delta to the edge of the stream
within shouting distance, and from him we obtained knowledge of the
way.

At first the path was unadventurous enough, though distressingly
rough.  In truth, it was no path at all; it was an abstract
direction.  It led straight on, regardless of footing, and we
followed, now wading through swamps, now stumbling over roots, now
ducking from whip-like twigs that cut us across the face, until at
last we emerged above the stream, and upon a scene as grandly
desolate as the most morbid misanthrope might wish.  A mass of
boulders of all sizes, from a barn to a cobblestone, completely
filled a chasm at the base of a semicircular wall of castellated clay
cliffs.  Into the pit we descended.  The pinnacles above were
impressively high, and between them were couloirs of debris that
looked to us to be as perpendicular as the cliffs.  Up one of these
breakneck slides the guide pointed for our path.  Porters and all,
we demurred.  Path, of course, there was none; there was not even an
apology for a suspicion that any one had ever been up or down the
place.  We felt sure there must be some other way out.  The more we
searched, however, the less we found.  The stream, which was an
impassable torrent, barred exit below on our side by running straight
into the wall of rock.  The slide was an ugly climb to contemplate,
yet we looked at it some time before we accepted the inevitable.

When in desperation we finally made up our minds, we began picking
our dubious way up among a mass of rocks that threatened to become a
stone avalanche at any moment.  None of us liked it, but none of us
knew how little the others liked it till that evening.  In the
expansion of success we admitted our past feelings.  One poor porter
said he thought his last hour had come, and most of us believed a
near future without us not improbable.  It shows how danger unlocks
the heart that just because, halfway up, I had relieved this man of
his stick, which from a help had become a hindrance, he felt toward
me an exaggerated gratitude.  It was nothing for me to do, for I was
free, while he had his load, but had I really saved his life he could
not have been more beholden.  Indeed, it was a time to intensify
emotion.

As we scrambled upward on all fours, the ascent, from familiarity,
grew less formidable.  At least the stones decreased in size,
although their tilt remained the same, but the angle looked less
steep from above than from below.

At last, one after the other, we reached a place to the side of the
neck of the couloir, and scrambling round the coping of turf at the
top emerged, to our surprise, upon a path, or rather upon the ghost
of one.  For we found ourselves upon a narrow ridge of soil between
two chasms, ending in a pinnacle of clay, and along this ribbon of
land ran a path, perfectly preserved for perhaps a score of paces
out, when it broke off bodily in mid-air.  The untoward look of the
way we had come stood explained.  Here clearly had been a cataclysm
within itinerary times.  Some gigantic landslide must have sliced the
mountain off into the gorge below, and instead of a path we had been
following its still unlaid phantom.  The new-born character of the
chasm explained its shocking nakedness.  But it was an uncomfortable
sight to see a path in all its entirety vanish suddenly into the
void.

The uncut end of the former trail led back to a little tableland
supporting a patch of tilling and tenanted by an uninhabited hut.
The Willow Moor they called it, though it seemed hardly big enough to
bear a name.  On reconnoitring for the descent, we found the farther
side fallen away like the first; so that the plateau was now cut off
from all decent approach.  One of us, at last, struck the butt end of
a path; but we had not gone far down it before it broke off, and
delivered us to the gullies.  This side, however, was much better
than the other, and it took none of us very long to slip down the
slope, repair the bridge, and join the Ashikura trail.

We were now once more on the path we had come up, with the certainty
of bad places instead of their uncertainty ahead of us, a doubtful
betterment.  The Oni ga Jo lay in wait round the corner, and the rest
of the familiar devils would all appear in due course of time.

Tied over my boots were the straw sandals of the country.  They were
not made to be worn thus, and showed great uneasiness in their new
position, do what we might with the thongs.  Everybody tried his hand
at it, first and last; but the fidgety things always ended by coming
off at the toe or the heel, or sluing round to the side till they
were worse than useless.  They were supposed to prevent one from
slipping, which no doubt they would have done had they not begun by
slipping off themselves.  They wore themselves out by their nervousness,
and had to be renewed every little while from the stock the porters
carried.  In honor of the Oni ga Jo I had a fresh pair put on beside
the brook sacred to the memory of my pocket-handkerchief.  We then
rose to the Devil Place, and threaded it in single file.  Whether it
were the companionship, or familiarity, or simply that my right side
instead of my left next the cliff gave greater seeming security, I
got over it a shade more comfortably this time, though it was still
far from my ideal of an afternoon's walk.  The road to the next world
branched off too disturbingly to the left.

At last the path descended to the river bottom for good.  I sat down
on a stone, pulled out my tobacco pouch, and lit a pipe.  The porters
passed on out of sight.  Then I trudged along myself.  The tension of
the last two days had suddenly ceased, and in the expansion of spirit
that ensued I was conscious of a void.  I wanted some one with me then,
perhaps, more than I ever craved companionship before.  The great
gorge about me lay filled to the brim with purple shadow.  I drank in
the cool shade-scented air at every breath.  The forest-covered
mountain sides, patched higher up with snow in the gullies, shut out
the world.  Only a gilded bit here and there on some lofty spur
lingered to hint a sun beyond.  The strip of pale blue sky far
overhead bowed to meet the vista of the valley behind, a vista of
peaks more and more snow-clad, till the view was blocked at last by
a white, nun-veiled summit, flushed now, in the late afternoon light,
to a tender rose.  Past strain had left the spirit, as past fatigue
leaves the body, exquisitely conscious; and my fancy came and walked
with me there in that lonely valley, as it gave itself silently into
the arms of night.

Probably none I know will ever tread where I was treading then, nor I
ever be again in that strange wild cleft, so far out of the world;
and yet, if years hence I should chance to wander there alone once
more, I know the ghost of that romance will rise to meet me as I pass.

I own I made no haste to overtake the caravan.

Darkness fell upon us while we were yet a long way from Ashikura,
with an uncertain cliff path between us and it: for the path, like a
true mountain trail, had the passion for climbing developed into a
mania, and could never rest content with the river's bed whenever it
spied a chance to rise.  It had just managed an ascent up a zigzag
stairway of its own invention, and had stepped out in the dark upon a
patch of tall mountain grass, as dry as straw, when Yejiro conceived
the brilliant idea of torches.  He had learned the trick in the
Hakone hills, where it was the habit, he told the guide, when caught
out at night; and he proceeded to roll some of the grass into long
wisps for the purpose.  The torches were remarkably picturesque, and
did us service beside.  Their ruddy flare, bowing to the breeze, but
only burning the more madly for its thwarting, lighted the path like
noonday through a circle of fifteen feet, and dropped brands, still
flaring, into the stubble, which we felt it a case of conscience to
stop and stamp out.  The circle, small as it was, sufficed to
disclose a yawning gulf on the side, to which the path clung with the
persistency of infatuation.

The first thing to tell us of approach to human habitation was the
croaking of the frogs.  After the wildness of our day it sounded like
some lullaby of Mother Earth, speaking of hearth and home, and we
knew that we were come back to ricefields and man.  It was another
half hour, however, before our procession reached the outskirts of
the village.  Here we threw aside our torches, and in a weary,
drawn-out file found our way, one by one, into the courtyard of the
inn.  It was not an inn the year round; it became such only at
certain seasons, of which the present was not one.  It had the habit
of putting up pilgrims on their way to the Dragon Peak; between the
times of its pious offices it relapsed into a simple farmhouse.
But the owner received us none the less kindly for our inopportune
appearance, and hasted to bring the water-tubs for our feet.  Never
was I more willing to sit on the sill a moment and dabble my toes;
for I was footsore and weary, and glad to be on man's level again.
I promise you, we were all very human that evening, and felt a deal
aloud.



XVIII.

A Genial Inkyo.

The owner of the farmhouse had inherited it from his father.  There
was nothing very odd about this even to our other-world notions of
property, except that the father was still living, as hale and hearty
as you please, in a little den at the foot of the garden.  He was, in
short, what is known as an inkyo, or one "dwelling in retirement,"--a
singular state, composed of equal parts of this world and the next;
like dying in theory, and then undertaking to live on in practice.
For an inkyo is a man who has formally handed in his resignation to
the community, and yet continues to exist most enjoyably in the midst
of it.  He has abdicated in favor of his eldest son, and, having put
off all responsibilities, is filially supported in a life of ease and
pleasure.

In spite of being no longer in society, the father was greedily social.
As soon as he heard a foreigner had arrived, he trotted over to call,
and nothing would do but I must visit his niche early in the morning,
before going away.

After breakfast, therefore, the son duly came to fetch me, and we
started off through the garden.  For his sire's place of retirement
lay away from the road, toward the river, that the dear old gentleman
might command a view of the peaks opposite, of one of which, called
the Etchiu Fuji, from its conical form, he was dotingly fond.

It was an expedition getting there.  This arose, not from any special
fault in the path, which for the first half of the way consisted of a
string of stepping-stones neatly laid in the ground, and for the
latter fraction of no worse mud than could easily be met with
elsewhere.  The trouble came from a misunderstanding in foot-gear.
It seemed too short a walk to put one's boots twice on and off for
the doing of it.  On the other hand, to walk in stocking-feet was out
of the question, for the mud.  So I attempted a compromise,
consisting of my socks and the native wooden clogs, and tried to make
the one take kindly to the other.  But my mittenlike socks would have
none of my thongs, and, failing of a grip for my toes, compelled me
to scuffle along in a very undignified way.  Then every few steps one
or the other of the clogs saw fit to stay behind, and I had to halt
to recover the delinquent.  I made a sorry spectacle as I screwed
about on the remaining shoe, groping after its fellow.  Once I was
caught in the act by my cicerone, who turned round inopportunely to
see why I was not following; and twice in attempting the feat I all
but lost my balance into the mud.

The worthy virtuoso, as he was, met us at the door, and escorted us
upstairs to see his treasures.  The room was tapestried with all
manner of works of art, of which he was justly proud, while the house
itself stood copied from a Chinese model, for he was very classic.
But I was pleased to find that above all his heart was given to the
view.  It was shared, as I also discovered, by the tea-ceremonies, in
which he was a proficient; such a mixture is man.  But I believe the
view to have been the deeper affection.  While I was admiring it, he
fetched from a cupboard a very suspicious-looking bottle of what
turned out to be honey, and pressed a glass of it upon me.  I duly
sipped this not inappropriate liquor, since cordials savor of
asceticism, and this one being of natural decoction peculiarly
befitted a secular anchorite.  Then I took my leave of one who,
though no longer in the world, was still so charmingly of it.

The good soul chanced to be a widower, but such bereavement is no
necessary preliminary to becoming a "dweller in retirement."
Sometimes a man enters the inkyo state while he still has with him
the helpmate of his youth, and the two go together to this aftermath
of life.  Surely a pretty return, this, of the honeymoon!  Darby and
Joan starting once more hand in hand, alone in this Indian summer of
their love, as they did years ago in its spring-tide, before other
generations of their own had pushed them on to less romantic parts;
Darby come back from paternal cares to be once more the lover, and
Joan from mother and grandam again become his girl.

We parted from our watchman-guide and half our porters with much
feeling, as did they from us.  As friendships go we had not known one
another long, but intimacy is not measured by time.  Circumstances
had thrown us into one another's arms, and, as we bade good-by first
to one and then to another, we seemed to be severing a tie that
touched very near the heart.

Two of the porters came on with us, as much for love as for money,
as far as Kamiichi, where we were to get kuruma.  A long tramp we had
of it across leagues of ricefields, and for a part of the way beside a
large, deep canal, finely bowered in trees, and flowing with a swift,
dark current like some huge boa winding stealthily under the bamboo.
It was the artery to I know not how many square miles of field.
We came in for a steady drizzle after this, and it was long past noon
before we touched our noontide halt, and stalked at last into the inn.

With great difficulty we secured three kuruma,--the place stood on
the limits of such locomotion,--and a crowd so dense collected about
them that it blocked the way out.  Everybody seemed smitten with a
desire to see the strangers, which gave the inn servants, by virtue
of their calling, an enviable distinction to village eyes.  But the
porters stood highest in regard, both because of their more intimate
tie to us and because we here parted from them.  It was severing the
final link to the now happy past.  We all felt it, and told our
rosary of memories in thought, I doubt not, each to himself, as we
went out into the world upon our different ways.

Eight miles in a rain brought us to the road by which we had entered
Etchiu some days before, and that night we slept at Mikkaichi once
more.  On the morrow morning the weather faired, and toward midday we
were again facing the fringe of breakers from the cliffs.
The mountain spurs looked the grimmer that we now knew them so well by
repulse.  The air was clearer than when we came, and as we gazed out
over the ocean we could see for the first half day the faint coast
line of Noto, stretching toward us like an arm along the horizon.
We watched it at intervals as long as it was recognizable, and when
at last it vanished beyond even imagination's power to conjure up,
felt a strange pang of personal regret.  The sea that snatches away
so many lands at parting seems fitly inhuman to the deed.

In the course of these two days two things happened which pointed
curiously to the isolation of this part of Japan.  The first was the
near meeting with another foreigner, which would seem to imply
precisely the contrary.  But the unwonted excitement into which the
event threw Yejiro and me was proof enough of its strangeness.
It was while I was sipping tea, waiting for a fresh relay of kuruma at
Namerigawa, that Yejiro rushed in to announce that another foreigner
was resting at an inn a little further up town.  He had arrived
shortly before from the Echigo side, report said.  The passing of
royalty or even a circus would have been tame news in comparison.
Of course I hastened into my boots and sallied forth.  I did not call
on him formally, but I inspected the front of the inn in which he was
said to be, with peculiar expectation of spirit, in spite of my
affected unconcern.  He was, I believe, a German; but he never took
shape.

The second event occurred the next evening, and was even more singular.
Like the dodo it chronicled survival.  It was manifested in the
person of a policeman.

Some time after our arrival at the inn Yejiro reported that the
police officer wished to see me.  The man had already seen the
important part of me, the passport, and I was at a loss to imagine
what more he could want.  So Yejiro was sent back to investigate.
He returned shortly with a sad case of concern for consideration,
and he hardly kept his face as he told it.  The conscientious officer,
it seemed, wished to sleep outside my room for my protection.
From the passport he felt himself responsible for my safety, and had
concluded that the least he could do would be not to leave me for a
moment.  I assured him, through Yejiro, that his offer was most
thoughtful, but unnecessary.  But what an out-of-the-world corner the
thought implied, and what a fine fossil the good soul must have been!
Here was survival with an emphasis!  The man had slept soundly through
twenty years or more of change, and was still in the pre-foreign days
of the feudal ages.

The prices of kuruma, too, were pleasingly behind the times.  They
were but two-fifths of what we should have had to pay on the southern
coast.  As we advanced toward Shinshiu, however, the prices advanced
too.  Indeed, the one advance accurately measured the other.  We were
getting back again into the world, it was painfully evident.  At last
fares rose to six cents a ri.  Before they could mount higher we had
taken refuge in the train, and were hurrying toward Zenkoji by steam.

Our objective point was now the descent of the Tenriugawa rapids.
It was not the shortest way home, but it was part of our projected
itinerary and took us through a country typical of the heart of
Japan.  It began with a fine succession of passes.  These I had once
taken on a journey years before with a friend, and as we started now
up the first one, the Saru ga Bamba no toge, I tried to make the new
impression fit the old remembrance.  But man had been at work upon
the place without, and imagination still more upon its picture
within.  It was another toge we climbed in the light of that
latter-day afternoon.  With the companion the old had passed away.

Leaving the others to follow, I started down the zigzags on the
farther side.  It was already dusk, and the steepness of the road and
the brisk night air sent me swinging down the turns with something of
the anchor-like escapement of a watch.  Midway I passed a solitary
pedestrian, who was trolling to himself down the descent; and when in
turn he passed me, as I was waiting under a tree for the others to
catch up, he eyed me suspiciously, as one whose wanderings were
questionable.  They were certainly questionable to myself, for by
that time we were come to habitations, and each fresh light I saw I
took for the village where we were to stop for the night, in spite of
repeated disillusionings.

Overhead, the larger stars came out and winked at me, and then, as
the fields of space became more and more lighted with star-points,
the hearth-fires to other homes of worlds, I thought how local, after
all, is the great cone of shadow we men call night; for it is only
nature's nightcap for the nodding earth, as she turns her head away
from the sun to lie pillowed in space.

The next day was notable chiefly for the up-and-down character of the
country even for Japan; which was excelled only by the unhesitating
acceptance of it on the part of the road, and this in its turn only
by the crowds that traveled it.  It seemed that the desire to go
increased inversely as the difficulty in going.  The wayfarers were
most sociable folk, and for a people with whom personality is at a
discount singularly given to personalities.  Not a man who had a
decent chance but asked whither we were going and whence we had come.
To the first half of the country-side we confided so much of our
private history; to the second we contented ourselves in saying, with
elaborate courtesy, "The same as six years ago," an answer which
sounded polite, and rendered the surprised questioner speechless for
the time we took to pass.

Especially the women added to the picturesqueness of the landscape.
Their heads done up in gay-colored kerchiefs, framing their round and
rosy faces, their kit slung over their shoulders, and their kimono
tucked in at their waists, they trudged along on useful pairs of
ankles neatly cased in lavender gaiters.  Some followed dutifully
behind their husbands; others chatted along in company with their
kind,--members these last of some pilgrim association.

There were wayfarers, too, of less happy mind.  For over the last
pass the authorities were building a new road, and long lines of
pink-coated convicts marched to and fro at work upon it, under the
surveillance of the dark-blue police; and the sight made me think how
little the momentary living counts in the actual life.  Here we were,
two sets of men, doing for the time an identical thing, trudging
along a mountain path in the fresh May air; and yet to the one the
day seemed all sunshine, to the other nothing but cloud.



XIX.

Our Passport and the Basha.

It was bound to come, and we knew it; it was only a question of time.
But then we had braved the law so far so well, we had almost come to
believe that we should escape altogether.  I mean the fatal detection
by the police that we were violating my passport.  That document had
already outrun the statute of limitations, and left me no better than
an outlaw.  For practical purposes my character was gone, and being
thus self-convicted I might be arrested at any moment!

In consequence of pending treaty negotiations the government had
become particular about the privileges it granted.  One of the first
counter-moves to foreign insistence on exterritoriality was the
restricting of passports to a fortnight's time.  You might lay out
any tour you chose, and if granted by the government, the provinces
designated would all be duly inscribed in your passport, but you had
to compass them all in the fortnight or be punished.  Of course this
could be evaded, and a Japanese friend in the foreign office had
kindly promised to send me an extension on telegraph.  But the
dislike of being tied to times and places made me sinfully prefer the
risk of being marched back to Tokyo under the charge of a policeman,
a fate I had seen overtake one or two other malefactors caught at
somewhat different crimes, whom we had casually met on the road.
The Harinoki toge was largely to blame for the delay, it is true.
But then unluckily the Harinoki toge could not be arrested, and I could.

The bespectacled authorities who examined my credentials every night
had hitherto winked at my guilt, so that the bolt fell upon us from a
clear sky.  It is almost questionable whether it had a right to fall
at that moment at all.  It was certainly a case of officious
officialdom.  For we had stopped simply to change kuruma, and the
unwritten rule of the road runs that so long as the traveler keeps
moving he is safe.  To catch him napping at night is the recognized
custom.

Besides, the police might have chosen, even by day, some other
opportunity to light upon us than in the very thick of our wrestle
with the extortionate prices of fresh kuruma.  It was inconsiderate
of them, to say the least; for the attack naturally threw us into a
certain disrepute not calculated to cheapen fares.  Then, too, our
obvious haste helped furnish circumstantial evidence of crime.

Nevertheless, in the very midst of these difficult negotiations at
Matsumoto, evil fate presented itself, clothed as a policeman, and
demanded our papers.  Luckily they were not at the very bottom of the
baggage, but in Yejiro's bosom; for otherwise our effects would have
become a public show, and collected an even greater crowd than
actually gathered.  The arm of the law took the passport, fell at
once on the indefensible date, and pointed it out to us.  There we
were, caught in the act.  We sank several degrees instantly in
everybody's estimation.

How we escaped is a secret of the Japanese force; for escape we did.
We admitted our misfortune to the policeman, and expressed ourselves
as even more desirous of getting back to Tokyo than he could be to
have us there.  But we pointed out that now the Tenriugawa was to all
intents as short a way as any, and furthermore that it was the one
expressly nominated in the bond.  The policeman stood perplexed.
Out of doubt or courtesy, or both, he hesitated for some moments,
and then reluctantly handed the passport back.  We stood acquitted.
Indeed we were not only suffered to proceed, and that in our own way,
but he actually accelerated matters himself, for he turned to against
the kuruma, to their instant discomfiture.  Indeed, this was quite as
it should be, for he was as anxious to be rid of us as we were to be
quit of him.

On the road the kuruma proved unruly.  The exposure we had sustained
may have helped to this, or the coercion of the policeman may have
worked revolt.  They jogged along more and more reluctantly, till,
at last, the worst of them refused to go on at all.  After some quite
useless altercation, we made what shift we might with the remainder,
but had not got far when we heard the toot of a fish-horn behind,
and the sound gradually overhauled us.  Now, a fish-horn on a country
road in Japan means a basha, and a basha means the embodiment of the
objectionable.  It is a vehicle to be avoided; both externally like a
fire-engine, and internally like an ambulance or a hearse.  Indeed,
so far as its victim is concerned, it usually ends by becoming a
cross between the latter two.  It is a machine absolutely devoid of
recommendations.  I speak from experience, for in a moment of
adventure I once took passage in one, some years ago, and I never
mean to do so again.  Even the sound of its fish-horn now provokes me
to evil thoughts.  But we were in a bad way, and, to my wonder,
I found my sentiments perceptibly softening.  Before the thing caught
up with us, I had actually resolved to take it.

We made signals of distress, and, rather contrary to my expectation,
the machine stopped.  The driver pulled up, and the guard, a
half-grown boy, who sat next him on the seat in front, making melody
on the horn, jumped down, a strange bundle of consequence and
courtesy, and helped us and our belongings in.  He then swung himself
into his seat, as the basha set off again, and fell to tooting
vociferously.  We had scarce got settled before the vehicle was
dashing along at what seemed, to our late perambulator experience,
a perfectly breakneck speed.  The pace and the enthusiasm of the boy
infected us.  Yejiro and I fell to congratulating each other, with
some fervor, on our change of conveyance, and each time we spoke,
the boy whisked round in his seat and cried out, with a knowing wag of
his head, "I tell you, it's fast, a basha! He!" and then as suddenly
whisked back again, and fell to tooting with renewed vigor, like one
who had been momentarily derelict in duty.  The road was quite deserted,
so that so much noise would have seemed unnecessary.  The boy thought
otherwise.  Meanwhile, we were being frightfully jolted, and
occasionally slung round corners in a way to make holding on a
painful labor.

I suppose the unwonted speed must have intoxicated us.  There is
nothing else that will account for our loss of head.  For, before we
were well out of the machine, we had begun negotiations for its
exclusive possession on the morrow; and by the time we were fairly
installed in the inn at Shiwojiri, the bargain stood complete.
In consideration of no exorbitant sum, the vehicle, with all
appertaining thereto, was to be taken off its regular route and
wander, like any tramp, at our sweet will, in quite a contrary
direction.  The boy with the horn was expressly included in the
lease.  By this arrangement we hoped to compass two days' journey in
one, and reach by the morrow's night the point where boats are taken
for the descent of the Tenriugawa rapids.  We knew the drive would be
painful, but we had every promise that it would be fast.

The inn at Shiwojiri possessed a foreign table and chairs; a bit of
furnishing from which the freshness of surprise never wore off.  What
was even less to be looked for, the son of the house was proficient
in English, having studied with a missionary in Tokyo.  I had some
talk with him later, and lent him an English classic which he showed
great desire to see.

Betimes the next morning the basha appeared, both driver and guard
got up in a fine dark-green uniform, a spruceness it much tickled our
vanity to mark.  With a feeling akin to princely pride we stepped in,
the driver cracked his whip, and, amid the bows of the inn household,
we went off up the street.  Barring the loss of an umbrella, which
had happened somewhere between the time we boarded the basha on the
yestereen and the hour of departure that morning, and an exhaustive
but vain hunt for the same, first in the vehicle and then at the
stables, nothing marred the serenity of our first half hour.  The sky
was dreamy; a delicate blue seen through a golden gauze.  I fancy it
was such a sky with which Danae fell in love.  We rose slowly up the
Shiwojiri pass, which a new road enabled even the basha to do quite
comfortably; and the southern peaks of the Hida-Shinshiu range rose
to correspond across the valley, the snow line distinctly visible,
though the nearer ranges did their best to cut it off.  Norikura, the
Saddle, especially, showed a fine bit of its ten thousand feet,
wrapped in the indistinctness of the spring haze.  The heavy air gave
a look of slumber to the peaks, as if those summits, waked before the
rest of the world, had already grown drowsy.  We had not yet ceased
gazing at them when a turn of the road shut them out.  A rise of a
few feet, a dip, a turn, and the lake of Suwa lay below us on the
other side, flanked by its own mountains, through a gap in which
showed the just perceptible cone of Fuji.

The Shiwojiri toge is not a high pass, and yet it does duty as part
of a great divide.  A drop of water, falling on the Shiwojiri side,
if it chance to meet with other drops before it be snatched up again
into the sky, wanders into the sea of Japan; while its fellow, coming
to earth not a yard away, ends at last in the Pacific ocean.  Our way
now lay with the latter.  For the Tenriugawa, or River of the
Heavenly Dragon, takes its rise in the lake of Suwa, a bowl of water
a couple of miles or more across.  It trickles out insignificantly
enough at one end; gathers strength for fifty miles of flow, and then
for another hundred cuts its way clean across a range of mountains.
How it ever got through originally, and why, are interesting
mysteries.  Its gorge is now from one to two thousand feet deep,
cleft, not through a plateau, but through the axis of a mountain
chain.  In most places there is not a yard to spare.

We were still a doubtful day off from where it is customary to take a
boat.  We had started somewhat late, stopped for the lack of umbrella,
and now were committed to a digression for letters I expected at
Shimonosuwa.  I never order my letters to meet me on the line of
march but I bitterly repent having chosen that special spot.
There is always some excellent reason why it turns out most
inconvenient.  But as yet I was hopeful, for I thought I knew the
speed of the basha, and the day was still young.

The day had grown older and I wiser by the time my letters were read,
with their strange perfume from outre-mer, the horses harnessed
afresh, and we under way once more, clattering down the main street
of the village.  It was not only in the village that we made a stir.
A basha is equal to the occasion anywhere.  The whole countryside
stopped in its tracks to turn and stare as we passed, and at one
point we came in for a perfect ovation; for our passage and the
noonday recess of a school happening to coincide, the children,
at that moment let loose, instantly dashed after us pell-mell, in a
mass, shouting.  One or two of them were so eager in the chase that
they minded not where they went, and, tripping over stones or ruts,
fell headlong in the mud.  The rest pursued us panting, each
according to his legs, and gave over at last only for want of wind.

The guard was supremely happy.  What time the upper half of him was
too tired to toot the lower half spent in hopping off his seat and on
again upon imaginary duty.  Meanwhile, in spite of enlivenments not
included in the bill, my old dislike was slowly but surely coming
back.  I began to be uneasy on the score of time.  The speed was not
what hope and the company had led me to expect.  I went through some
elaborate rule-of-three calculation between the distance, the speed,
and the time; and, as far as I could make out, it began to look
questionable whether we should arrive that night at all.  I had
already played the part of goad out of precaution; I now had to take
to it in good earnest,--futiley, to boot.  Meanwhile my body was as
uneasy as my mind.  In the first place, the seats faced sideways, so
that we progressed after the fashion of crabs.  Secondly, the vehicle
hardly made apologies for springs.  We were rattled about like
parched corn in a hopper.

What a blessed trick of memory that, of winnowing the joys of travel
from its discomforts, and letting the latter slip unconsciously away!
The dust and the heat and the thousand petty annoyances pass with the
fact to be forgotten, while the snow-hooded mountains and the deep
blue sky and the smiling fields stay with us, a part of ourselves.
That drive seems golden as I look back upon it; yet how sadly
discomforting it was at the time!

Toward afternoon a rumor became current that the road had been washed
away ahead, and that the basha would have to stop some miles short of
where we had hoped to be that night.  This was disheartening.
For with all its shortcomings the basha was undeniably faster than
perambulators.  The rumor gathered substance as we advanced, until in
consequence we ceased to advance at all.  At a certain village,
called Miyada, the basha drew up, and we were informed that it was
impossible to proceed further.

There was nothing for it but to hire kuruma.  The men were a rascally
lot, and made gain of our necessity.  But we were not as sorry to
leave the basha as we might have been, and the reports of
impassability substantiated themselves before we had got a mile out.
In further consolation, the kuruma men turned out well on the road,
and bowled us along right merrily.  The road ran along the skirts of
the mountains on the right, which fell in one long sweep to the
river, a breadth of plain unexpectedly gored by streams.  The canons
were startlingly abrupt, and the darkness which now came on took
nothing from the effect.  A sudden zigzag down to a depth of a
hundred feet, a careful hitching over a decrepit bridge, and a zigzag
up the other side, and we were off at a good trot again.  This
dispatch on the part of the men brought us in much-improved spirits
and in very good time into Iijima, our hoped-for goal.



XX.

Down the Tenriugawa.

We had made arrangements overnight for a boat, not without difficulty,
and in the morning we started in kuruma for the point of embarkation.
We were eager to be off upon our voyage, else we should have strolled
afoot down the long meadow slope, such invitation lay in it, the dew
sparkling on the grass blades, the freshly tilled earth scenting the
air, and the larks rising like rockets up into the sky and bursting
into song as they went.  It seemed the essence of spring, and we had
a mile or more of it all before we reached the brink of the canon.
For even here the river had begun a gorge for itself through the
plain.  We left our jinrikisha at the top and zigzagged on foot down
the steep descent, and straightway departed the upper life of fields
and larks and sunshine for a new and semi-subterranean one.  It was
not simply a change of scene; it was a complete change of sphere.
The world with its face open to the day in a twinkling had ceased to
be, and another world, a world of dark water girt by shadowed walls
of rock and trees, had taken its place.

Amid farewell wavings from the jinrikisha men we pushed off into the
stream.  In spite of the rush of the water and the creaking of the
oars, a strange stillness had fallen on everything.  The swirling,
inky flood swept us on past the hushed banks, heights of motionless
leaves nearly hiding the gray old rock.  Occasionally some puff of
wind more adventurous than its fellows swooped down to make the
leaves quiver a moment, and then died away in awe, while here and
there a bird flew in and out among the branches with strangely
subdued twitter.

Although this part of the river could show its gorge and its rapids,
it made only the preface to that chapter of its biography we had come
to read.  At Tokimata, some hours further down, begins the voyage
proper.  But even the preface was imposing.  The black water glided
sinuous along, its stealthy course every now and again interrupted by
rapids, where the sullen flood lashed itself to a passion of whitecaps
with a kind of hissing roar.  Down these we shot, the boat bowing
first in acquiescence, and then plunging as madly as the water
itself.  It was hard to believe that both boat and river were not
sentient things.

At intervals we met other boats toiling slowly up stream, pulled
laboriously by men who strained along the bank at the ends of
hundreds of feet of tow-rope, the ropes themselves invisible at first
for distance; so that we were aware only of men walking along the
shore in attitudes of impossible equilibrium, and of boats that
followed them doglike from pure affection.  It would seem weary work
even for canal-boating.  It takes weeks to toil up what it once took
only hours to float down.  As we sped past the return convoys,
we seemed sad profligates, thus wantonly to be squandering such
dearly-won vantage of position.  The stream which meant money to them
was, like money, hard come and easy go.

Still the stream hurried us on.  We hugged the cliffs, now on one
side, now on the other, only to have them slip by us the quicker.
Bend after bend opened, spread out, and closed.  The scene changed
every minute, and yet was always the same.  Then at times we were
vouchsafed openings in the surrounding hills, narrow bits of
foreground, hints of a something that existed beyond.

For three hours and more we kept on in our serpentine course, for the
river meandered as whimsically as if it still had a choice of its own
in the matter.  Then gradually the land about began to make overtures
toward sociability.  The trees on the banks disappeared, the banks
themselves decreased in height; then the river took to a more genial
flow, and presently we were ware of the whole countryside to the
right coming down in one long sweep to the water's edge.

The preface was over.  The stream was to have a breathing spell of
air and sunlight before its great plunge into sixty miles of twilight
canon.  With a quick turn of his rudder oar the boatman in the stern
brought the flat-bottomed craft round, and in a jiffy she lay beached
on the shingle at Tokimata.  It was now high noon.

The greater part of the village kindly superintended the operation of
disembarking, and then the more active of its inhabitants trotted
before as guides to the inn.  For our boat would go no further, and
therefore all our belongings had to come out.  It was only when we
inquired for further conveyance that the crowd showed signs of
satiety and edged off.  To our importunities on this head the
populace were statuesque or worse.  A Japanese assent is not always
the most encouraging of replies, and a Japanese "No" touches in you a
depth not unlike despair.  They have a way of hinting the utter
hopelessness of your wish, past, present, and to come, an eternity of
impossibility to make you regret that you ever were born.  After we
had reached the inn, and had stated our wants to a more informed
audience, we were told that the nautical part of the inhabitants were
in the fields, gathering mulberry leaves for the silkworms.  From the
bribe we offered to induce a change in pursuit, we judged money to be
no object to them.  There remained nothing, therefore, but the police.

It is good policy never to invoke the law except in the last
extremity, for you are pretty safe to have some flaw shown up in
you before you are through with it.  The law in this case was
represented, Yejiro found, by a person still yellow with the
jaundice.  He met the demand for boatmen with the counter demand for
the passport, and when this was produced his official eye at once
detected its anachronism.

"This," said he, "is not in order.  I do not see how you can go on at
all."

To add artificial impossibility to natural, was too much.  Yejiro
answered that he had better come to the inn; which he accordingly
did.  Poor man!  I pitied him.  For, in the first place, he was still
jaundiced; and, in the second, although conscious of guilt as I was,
I was much the less disturbed of the two.  I was getting used to
being a self-smuggler; while he, as the Japanese say, was "taihen
komarimasu" (exceedingly "know not what to do"), a phrase which is a
national complaint.  In this instance he had cause.  What to do with
so hardened a sinner was a problem passing his powers.  Here was a
law-breaker who by rights should at once be bundled back to Tokyo
under police surveillance.  But he could not go himself, he had no
one to send, and furthermore the delinquent seemed only too willing
to escort himself there, free of government expense, as speedily as
possible.  All I had to do was to whet his perception that the sooner
boatmen were got the sooner I should be on the right side of the law
again.  After some conflict with himself he went in search of men.

I was left to study the carp-pond, with its gold and silver fish,
the pivot of attention of the pretty little garden court which stood
handy to the kitchen.  This juxtaposition was no accident; for such
ponds are landscape and larder in one.  Between meals the fish are
scenery; at the approach of the dinner hour they turn into game.
The inn guest having sufficiently enjoyed the gambols of future repasts,
picks out his dish to suit his taste or capacity, and the fish is
instantly netted and translated to the gridiron.  The survivors, none
the wiser, continue to steamboat about, intent on their own dinners,
flashing their colors as they turn their armored sides in and out of
the light.  Eccentric nature has fitted these prototypes of navigation
with all the modern improvements.  Double and even triple sets of
screws are common things in tails, and sometimes the fins, too, are
duplex.  As for me, I had neither the heart nor the stomach to help
depopulate the pond.  But I took much mechanical delight in their
motions; so I fed them instead of they me.

I had my choice between doing this and watching the late boatmen at
their dinner in the distance.  No doubt moods have an aesthetic
conscience of their own,--they demand appropriate setting; for I was
annoyed at the hilarity of these men over their midday meal.  I bore
them no malice, but I own I should have preferred not to have seen
them thus making free with time they had declared themselves unable
to sell to me.

Thanks in part to my quality of outlaw, and in part to four hours'
propitiation of the gods of delay, the jaundiced policeman finally
succeeded in beating up a crew.  There were four conscripts in all,
kerchiefed, not to say petticoated, in the native nautical costume;
a costume not due to being fresh-water sailors, since their salt-water
cousins are given to a like disguise of sex.  These mariners made us
wait while they finished their preparations.  It meant a long voyage
to them,--a facilis descensus Averni; sed revocare gradum,--a very
long pull.  Then the bow was poled off, the current took us in its
arms and swung us out into the stream, and the crowd on the shingle
dropped perspectively astern.

While I was still standing gazing at lessening Tokimata, I heard a
cry from behind me, and, turning, ducked just in time to escape being
unceremoniously somersaulted into the water by a hawser stretched
from bank to bank at a level singularly suited to such a trick.
The rope was the stationary half of a ferry to which I had neglected
to make timely obeisance.  It marked, indeed, an incipient stage in
the art of suspension bridges, the ferryboat itself supporting a part
of the weight, while the ferryman pulled it and himself across.
We met several more in the course of the next few minutes, before
which we all bowed down into the bottom of the boat, while the hawser
scraped, grumbling impotently, overhead.

Our boat was of adaptive build.  It was forty-five feet long, not quite
four feet wide, and somewhat over two feet deep.  These proportions
and the character of the wood made it exceeding lithe, so that it
bent like a willow before necessity.  In the stern stood the head
man, wielding for rudder an oar half as long again as those the
others used.  There was very little rowing done, nor was there need;
the current itself took us along at racing speed.

Shortly after ducking under the last ferry rope we reached the
gateway to the canon.  Some rapids made an introduction, rocks in
places jutting out of the foam, and while we were still curveting to
the waves the hills suddenly closed in upon the stream in two
beetling cliffs, spanned surprisingly by a lofty cantalever bridge.
An individual who chanced to cross at the moment stopped in mid path
to watch us through.  The stream swept us in, and the countryside
contracted to a vanishing vista behind.  We were launched on our long
canon voyage.  The change was as sudden as a thunderstorm of a
smiling summer afternoon.  It was an eclipse of the earth by the
earth itself.  Dark rocks picketed with trees rose in still darker
shadow on either hand, higher than one could see.  The black river
swirled beside us, silent, sullen, swift.  At the bottom of that
gorge untrodden by man, borne by the dark flood that untouched by
sunlight coiled snakelike along, we seemed adventured on some
unforgotten Styx.

For some time we had voyaged thus with a feeling not unlike awe, when
all at once there was a bustle among the boatmen, and one of them
went forward and stood up in the bow.  We swept round a corner, and
saw our first great rapids three hundred yards ahead.  We could mark
a dip in the stream, and then a tumbled mass of white water, while a
roar as of rage came out of the body of it.  As we swept down upon
the spot, the man in the bow began beating the gunwale with his oar
in regularly repeated raps.  The board gave out a hollow ring that
strangely filled the river chasm; a sound well calculated to terrify
the evil spirits of the spot.  For indeed it was an exorcism of
homoeopathic design.  His incantation finished, he stood motionless.
So did the rest of us, waiting for the plunge.  The boat dipped by
the bow, darted forward, and in a trice we were in the midst of a
deafening turmoil of boiling waters and crashing breakers.  The
breakers laid violent hands upon us, grappling at the frail gunwale
and coming in part aboard, and then, as we slipped from their grasp,
impotently flung their spray in our faces, and with a growl dropped
astern.  The boat trembled like a leaf, and was trembling yet, when,
with nightmare speed, the thing had slipped into the past, and we
were shot out into the midst of the seething flood below.

Not the least impressive part of the affair was the strange
spirit-rapping on the bow.  The boatmen valiantly asserted that this
was simply for signal to the man in the stern.  Undoubtedly now the
action has largely cloaked itself in habit, but that it once was
superstitious is unquestionable.  Devils still constitute far too
respected a portion of the community in peasant parts of Japan.

The steering the boatmen did was clever, but the steering the stream
managed of its own motion was more so.  For between the rapids proper
were swirls and whirlpools and races without end.  The current took
us in hand at the turns, sweeping us down at speed straight for a
rock on the opposite bank, and then, just as shipwreck seemed
inevitable, whisked us round upon the other tack.  A thick cushion of
water had fended the boat off, so that to strike would have been as
impossible as it looked certain.  And then at intervals came the roar
of another rapid, like a stirring refrain, with the boatman in the
bow to beat the time.

So we swept on, now through inky swirls of tide, now through
snow-capped billows, moods these of the passing stream, while above
the grand character of the gorge remained eternally the same.

  The trees far up, sharp-etched against the blue,
  Let but the river's strip of skylight through
  To trees below, that on each jutting ledge
  Scant foothold found to overlook the edge,--
  As still as statues on their niches there,
  Where no breeze stirred the ever-shadowed air,--
  Spellbound spectators, crowded tier on tier
  From where the lowest, bending to be near
  The shock of spray, with leaves a-tremble stood
  In shuddering gaze above the swirling flood.
  The whole deep chasm, some vast natural nave
  That to the thought a touch of grandeur gave,
  And touch of grace,--for that wistaria clung
  Upon the trees, its grapelike bunches hung
  In stretch to catch their semblance in the stream;
  Pale purple clusters, meant to live in dream,
  Placed high above man's predatory clutch,
  To sight alone vouchsafed, from harming touch
  Wisely withheld as he is hurried past,
  And thus the more a memory to last,
  A violet vision; there to stay--fair fate--
  Forever virginly inviolate.

Slowly the strip of sky overhead became steeped in color, the half
light at the bottom of the gorge deepened in tint, and suddenly a
turn brought us out at a blaze in the cliff, where a handful of
houses straggled up toward the outer world.  We had reached
Mitsushima, a shafting in the tunnel, and our halting place for the
night.



XXI.

To the Sea.

It was a ten minutes' walk, the next morning, from the inn down to
the boat: an everwinding path along a succession of terraces studded
with trees just breaking into leaf, and dotted with cottages, whose
folk gave us good-day as we passed.  The site of the village sloped
to the south, its cheek full turned to the sunshine that stole down
and kissed it as it lay.  On this lovely May morning, amid the
slumbering air, it made as amorous a bit of springtide as the heart
could wish.  In front of us, in vignette, stretched the stream, half
a mile of it to where it turned the corner.  Each succeeding level of
terrace reset the picture, as if for trial of effect.

The boat was waiting, lightly grounded on a bit of shingle left by a
turn of the current.  Several enthusiastic followers accompanied us
out to it with respectful insistence.

On reaching our craft, we found, to our surprise, that it was full of
bales of merchandise of large and plethoric habit.  We asked in
astonishment what all this cargo meant.  The men answered sheepishly
that it was to make the boat ride better.  The boat had ridden well
enough the day before, and on general principles should, it would
seem, ride all the better for being light.  But indeed their guilt
was plain.  Our rascally boatmen, who had already charged a goodly
sum for their craft, had thought to serve two masters, and after
having leased the whole boat to me were intending now to turn a
dishonest penny by shipping somebody else's goods into the bargain.
In company with the rest of my kind, I much dislike to be imposed
upon; so I told them they might instantly take the so-called ballast
out again.  When I had seen the process of disembarkation fairly
begun I relented, deciding, so long as the bales were already aboard,
to take them on to the first stopping place, and there put them
ashore.

The river, its brief glimpse at civilization over, relapsed again
into utter savagery.  Rocks and trees, as wild apparently as their
first forerunners there, walled us in on the sides, and appeared to
do so at the ends, making exit seem an impossibility, and entrance to
have been a dream.  The stream gave short reaches, disclosing every
few minutes, as it took us round a fresh turn, a new variation on the
old theme.  Then, as we glided straight our few hundred feet, the
wall behind us rose higher and higher, stretching out at us as if to
prevent our possible escape.  We had thought it only a high cliff,
and behold it was the whole mountain side that had stood barrier
there.

I cannot point the wildness of it all better than did a certain sight
we came upon suddenly, round a corner.  Without the least warning,
a bend in the current introduced us to a fishing-pole and a basket,
reposing together on the top of a rock.  These two hints at humanity
sat all by themselves, keeping one another company; no other sign of
man was visible anywhere.  The pair of waifs gave one an odd feeling,
as might the shadow of a person apart from the person himself.
There was something uncanny in their commonplaceness in so uncommon
a place.  While we were still wondering at the whereabouts of their
owner, another turn disclosed him by a sort of cove where his boat
lay drawn up.  Indeed, it was an ideal spot for an angler, and a
lucrative one as well, for the river is naturally full of fish.
Were I the angler I have seen others, I would encamp here for the
rest of my life and feed off such phosphoric diet as I might catch,
to the quickening of the brain and the composing of the body.
But fortunately man has more of the river than of the rock in his
composition, and whether he will or no is steadily being hurried past
such nicks in life toward other adventures beyond.

The rapids here were, if anything, finer than those above Mitsushima.
Of them in all there are said to be more than thirty.  Some have
nicknames, as "the Turret," "the Adze," "Boiling Rice," and "the
Mountain Bath." Indeed, probably all of them have distinctive
appellations, but one cannot ask the names of everybody in a
procession.  There were some bad enough to give one a sensation.
Two of the worst rocks have been blown up, but enough still remain to
point a momentary moral or adorn an after tale.  All were exhilarating.
Through even the least bad I should have been more than sorry to have
come alone.  But confiding trust in the boatmen was not misplaced;
for if questionable in their morals, they were above reproach in
their water-craft.

The rapids were incidents; the gorge we had always with us, superb
cleft that it was, hewn as by some giant axe, notching the mountain
chain imperiously for passage.  Hour followed hour with the same
setting.  How the river first took it into its head to come through
so manifestly unsuitable a place is a secret for the geologist to
tell.  But I for one wish I had been by to see.

From morning till noon we raced with the water at the bottom of the
canon.  Each turn was like, and yet unlike, the one before, so that I
wonder that I have other than a blurred composite picture on my
mind's plate.  Yet certain bits have picked themselves out and ousted
the rest, and the river comes up to me in thought as vivid as in
life.

These repeated disclosures that disclosed nothing lulled us at last
into a happy unconsciousness of end in this subterranean passage to a
lower world.  Though we were cleaving the mountain chain in part
against the grain, indeed because we were, it showed no sign of
giving out; until without premonition a curve shot us out at the foot
of a village perched so perpendicularly on terraces that it almost
overhung the stream.  It was called Nishinoto, and consisted of a
street that sidled up between the dwellings in a more than alpine
way.  Up it we climbed aerially to a teahouse for lunch; but not
before I had directed the boatmen to discharge the smuggled goods.

In another hour we were under way again less the uninvited bales,
which, left sitting all alone on the sands, mutely reproached us till
they could be seen no more.  At the first bend the gorge closed round
about us as rugged as ever.  The rapids were not so dangerous as
those above, but the stream was still fast if less furious.  When we
looked at the water we did not appear to be moving at all, and when
we looked up again at the bank we almost lost our balance for the
sudden start.

Then gradually a change crept over the face of things.  The stream
grew a thought more steady, the canon a shade less wild.  We passed
through some more rapids,--our last, the boatmen said.  The river
began to widen, the mountains standing more respectfully apart.
They let us see nothing new, but they showed us more of themselves,
and grand buttresses they made.  Then the reaches grew longer, and other
hills less high became visible ahead.  By all signs we were come to
the beginning of the end.  Another turn, and we were confronted with
a real view,--a very hilly view, to be sure, but one that belonged to
the world of man.

It was like coming out of a tunnel into the light.

The current hurried us on.  At each bend the hills in front rose less
wild than at the bend before.  Villages began to dot the shores,
and the river spread out and took its ease.  Another curve, and we no
longer saw hills and rocks ahead.  A great plain stretched before us,
over which our eyes wandered at will.  Looking back, we marked the
mountains already closing up in line.  I tried to place the river's gap,
but the barrier had grown continuous to the eye.  Like adventurers in
a fairy tale, the opening through which we had come had closed
unrecognizably behind us.

In front all was plain, every-day plain, with people tilling it,
and hamlets; and in the immediate foreground, right athwart our course,
a ferryboat full of folk.  As we bore down between it and the landing
place two men gesticulated at us from the bank.  We swerved in toward
them.  They shouted something to the boatmen, and Yejiro turned to
me.  The wayfarers asked if we would let them go with us to the sea.
There was no regular conveyance, and they much desired to reach the
Tokaido that night.  What would I do?

"Oh! Very well," said I, reluctantly, "take them on board."

So it had come to this, after our romantic solitary voyage!  We were
to end as a common carrier, after all.  One is born a demigod, the
French say, to die a grocer.

Our passengers were honest and businesslike.  Soon after coming
aboard they offered to pay for their passage, an offer I politely
declined.  Then they fell to chatting with Yejiro, and I doubt not in
five minutes had possessed themselves of all our immediate history.

Meanwhile, the river was lazily dropping us down to the sea.  On the
left, at a respectful distance, a long, low rise, like a bit of
fortification, ran down indefinitely in the same direction, by way of
encouraging the stream.  Pitiable supposition!  Was this
meadow-meandering bit of water indeed our wild Tenriugawa!  It seemed
impossible.  Once we had a bathetic bit of excitement over a near
case of grounding, where the water had spread itself out to ripple
down to a lower level.  This was all to recall the past.  The stream
had grown steady and profitable.  More than once we passed craft
jarringly mercantile, and even some highly respectable automations,
water-wheel boats anchored in the current, nose to tail, in a long
line, apparently paddling up stream, but never advancing an inch.
And all these sights had a work-a-day, machine look like middle age.

The afternoon aged to match.  The sun began to dip behind the distant
hills; and then toward the east, in front of us, came out the long
outline of the Tokaido bridge, three quarters of a mile in length,
like a huge caterpillar crawling methodically across the river-bed.
Gradually we drew toward it, till its myriad legs glinted in the
sunset glow; and then, as we swept under, it wheeled round to become
instantly a gaunt stalking silhouette against the sky.  From below by
the river's mouth the roar of the surf came forebodingly up out of
the ashen east.  But in the west was still a glory, and as I turned
to it I seemed to look down the long vista of the journey to western
Noto by the sea.  I thought how I had pictured it to myself before
starting, and then how little the facts had fitted the fancy.  It had
lost and gained; if no longer maiden, it was mine, and the glamour
that fringes the future had but changed to the glamour that gilds the
past.  Distance had brought it all back again.  Delays, discomforts,
difficulties, disappeared, and its memory rose as lovely as the sky
past which I looked.  For the better part of place or person is the
thought it leaves behind.





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translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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