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Title: Kott? - Being Japanese Curio's with Sundry Cobwebs
Author: Hearn, Lafcadio
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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in an extended version,also linking to free sources for
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KOTTŌ

BEING JAPANESE CURIOS, WITH

SUNDRY COBWEBS

COLLECTED BY

LAFCADIO HEARN

Lecturer on Literature in the Imperial University of Tōkyō, Japan

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY

GENJIRO YETO

New York

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO. LTD.

1903


[Illustration]

TO

SIR EDWIN ARNOLD

IN

GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE

OF

KIND WORDS


[Illustration]

Contents

    Old Stories:

       I. The Legend of Yurei-Daki
      II. In a Cup of Tea
     III. Common Sense
      IV. Ikiryō
       V. Shiryō
      VI. The Story of O-Kamé
     VII. Story of a Fly
    VIII. Story of a Pheasant
      IX. The Story of Chūgorō

    A Woman's Diary
    Heiké-gani
    Fireflies
    A Drop of Dew
    Gaki
    A Matter of Custom
    Revery
    Pathological
    In the Dead of the Night
    Kusa-Hibari
    The Eater of Dreams



Old Stories

_The following nine tales have been selected from the
"Shin-Chomon-Shū" "Hyaku Monogatari," "Uji-Jūi-Monogatari-Shō," and
other old Japanese books, to illustrate some strange beliefs. They are
only Curios._

[Illustration]



The Legend of Yurei-Daki


Near the village of Kurosaka, in the province of Hōki, there is
a waterfall called Yurei-Daki, or The Cascade of Ghosts. Why it
is so called I do not know. Near the foot of the fall there is a
small Shintō shrine of the god of the locality, whom the people
name Taki-Daimyōjin; and in front of the shrine is a little wooden
money-box--_saisen-bako_--to receive the offerings of believers. And
there is a story about that money-box.

*

One icy winter's evening, thirty-five years ago, the women and girls
employed at a certain _asa-toriba_, or hemp-factory, in Kurosaka,
gathered around the big brazier in the spinning-room after their
day's work had been done. Then they amused themselves by telling
ghost-stories. By the time that a dozen stories had been told, most
of the gathering felt uncomfortable; and a girl cried out, just to
heighten the pleasure of fear, "Only think of going this night, all
by one's self, to the Yurei-Daki!" The suggestion provoked a general
scream, followed by nervous bursts of laughter.... "I'll give all the
hemp I spun to-day," mockingly said one of the party, "to the person
who goes!" "So will I," exclaimed another. "And I," said a third. "All
of us," affirmed a fourth.... Then from among the spinners stood up
one Yasumoto O-Katsu, the wife of a carpenter;--she had her only son,
a boy of two years old, snugly wrapped up and asleep upon her back.
"Listen," said O-Katsu; "if you will all really agree to make over to
me all the hemp spun to-day, I will go to the Yurei-Daki." Her proposal
was received with cries of astonishment and of defiance. But after
having been several times repeated, it was seriously taken. Each of
the spinners in turn agreed to give up her share of the day's work to
O-Katsu, providing that O-Katsu should go to the Yurei-Daki. "But how
are we to know if she really goes there?" a sharp voice asked. "Why,
let her bring back the money-box of the god," answered an old woman
whom the spinners called Obaa-San, the Grandmother; "that will be proof
enough." "I'll bring it," cried O-Katsu. And out she darted into the
street, with her sleeping boy upon her back.

*

The night, was frosty, but clear. Down the empty street O-Katsu
hurried; and she saw that all the house fronts were tightly closed,
because of the piercing cold. Out of the village, and along the
high road she ran--_pichà-pichà_--with the great silence of frozen
rice-fields on either hand, and only the stars to light her. Half
an hour she followed the open road; then she turned down a narrower
way, winding under cliffs. Darker and rougher the path became as she
proceeded; but she knew it well, and she soon heard the dull roar of
the water. A few minutes more, and the way widened into a glen,--and
the dull roar suddenly became a loud clamor,--and before her she
saw, looming against a mass of blackness, the long glimmering of the
fall. Dimly she perceived the shrine,--the money-box. She rushed
forward,--put out her hand....

"_Oi!_ O-Katsu-San!"[1] suddenly called a warning voice above the crash
of the water.

O-Katsu stood motionless,--stupefied by terror.

"_Oi!_ O-Katsu-San!" again pealed the voice,--this time with more of
menace in its tone.

But O-Katsu was really a bold woman. At once recovering from her
stupefaction, she snatched up the money-box and ran. She neither
heard nor saw anything more to alarm her until she reached the
highroad, where she stopped a moment to take breath. Then she ran on
steadily,--_pichà-pichà_,--till she got to Kurosaka, and thumped at the
door of the _asa-toriba_.

*

How the women and the girls cried out as she entered, panting, with the
money-box of the god in her hand! Breathlessly they heard her story;
sympathetically they screeched when she told them of the Voice that
had called her name, twice, out of the haunted water.... What a woman!
Brave O-Katsu!--well had she earned the hemp!... "But your boy must be
cold, O-Katsu!" cried the Obaa-San, "let us have him here by the fire!"

"He ought to be hungry," exclaimed the mother; "I must give him his
milk presently."... "Poor O-Katsu!" said the Obaa-San, helping to
remove the wraps in which the boy had been carried,--"why, you are all
wet behind!" Then, with a husky scream, the helper vociferated, "_Arà!
it is blood!_"

And out of the wrappings unfastened there fell to the floor a
blood-soaked bundle of baby clothes that left exposed two very small
brown feet, and two very small brown hands--nothing more. The child's
head had been torn off!...

[Illustration]

[Footnote 1: The exclamation _Oi!_ is used to call the attention of a
person: it is the Japanese equivalent for such English exclamations as
"Halloa!" "Ho, there!" etc.]



[Illustration]



In a Cup of Tea


Have you ever attempted to mount some old tower stairway, spiring up
through darkness, and in the heart of that darkness found yourself
at the cobwebbed edge of nothing? Or have you followed some coast
path, cut along the face of a cliff, only to discover yourself, at
a turn, on the jagged verge of a break? The emotional worth of such
experience--from a literary point of view--is proved by the force
of the sensations aroused, and by the vividness with which they are
remembered.

Now there have been curiously preserved, in old Japanese story-books,
certain fragments of fiction that produce an almost similar emotional
experience.... Perhaps the writer was lazy; perhaps he had a quarrel
with the publisher; perhaps he was suddenly called away from his little
table, and never came back; perhaps death stopped the writing-brush
in the very middle of a sentence. But no mortal man can ever tell us
exactly why these things were left unfinished.... I select a typical
example.

*

On the fourth day of the first month of the third Tenwa,--that is to
say, about two hundred and twenty years ago,--the lord Nakagawa Sado,
while on his way to make a New Year's visit, halted with his train
at a tea-house in Hakusan, in the Hongō district of Yedo. While the
party were resting there, one of the lord's attendants,--a _wakatō_[1]
named Sekinai,--feeling very thirsty, filled for himself a large
water-cup with tea. He was raising the cup to his lips when he suddenly
perceived, in the transparent yellow infusion, the image or reflection
of a face that was not his own. Startled, he looked around, but could
see no one near him. The face in the tea appeared, from the coiffure,
to be the face of a young samurai: it was strangely distinct, and
very handsome,--delicate as the face of a girl. And it seemed the
reflection of a living face; for the eyes and the lips were moving.
Bewildered by this mysterious apparition, Sekinai threw away the tea,
and carefully examined the cup. It proved to be a very cheap water-cup,
with no artistic devices of any sort. He found and filled another cup;
and again the face appeared in the tea. He then ordered fresh tea,
and refilled the cup; and once more the strange face appeared,--this
time with a mocking smile. But Sekinai did not allow himself to be
frightened. "Whoever you are," he muttered, "you shall delude me no
further!"--then he swallowed the tea, face and all, and went his way,
wondering whether he had swallowed a ghost.

*

Late in the evening of the same day, while on watch in the palace of
the lord Nakagawa, Sekinai was surprised by the soundless coming of
a stranger into the apartment. This stranger, a richly dressed young
samurai, seated himself directly in front of Sekinai, and, saluting the
_wakatō_ with a slight bow, observed:--

"I am Shikibu Heinai--met you to-day for the first time.... You do not
seem to recognize me."

He spoke in a very low, but penetrating voice. And Sekinai was
astonished to find before him the same sinister, handsome face of
which he had seen, and swallowed, the apparition in a cup of tea. It
was smiling now, as the phantom had smiled; but the steady gaze of the
eyes, above the smiling lips, was at once a challenge and an insult.

"No, I do not recognize you," returned Sekinai, angry but cool;--"and
perhaps you will now be good enough to inform me how you obtained
admission to this house?"

[In feudal times the residence of a lord was strictly guarded at
all hours; and no one could enter unannounced, except through some
unpardonable negligence on the part of the armed watch.]

"Ah, you do not recognize me!" exclaimed the visitor, in a tone of
irony, drawing a little nearer as he spoke. "No, you do not recognize
me! Yet you took upon yourself this morning to do me a deadly
injury!..."

Sekinai instantly seized the _tantō_[2] at his girdle, and made a
fierce thrust at the throat of the man. But the blade seemed to touch
no substance. Simultaneously and soundlessly the intruder leaped
sideward to the chamber-wall, _and through it!_... The wall showed no
trace of his exit. He had traversed it only as the light of a candle
passes through lantern-paper.

*

When Sekinai made report of the incident, his recital astonished and
puzzled the retainers. No stranger had been seen either to enter or
to leave the palace at the hour of the occurrence; and no one in the
service of the lord Nakagawa had ever heard of the name "Shikibu
Heinai."

*

On the following night Sekinai was off duty, and remained at home with
his parents. At a rather late hour he was informed that some strangers
had called at the house, and desired to speak with him for a moment.
Taking his sword, he went to the entrance, and there found three armed
men,--apparently retainers,--waiting in front of the doorstep. The
three bowed respectfully to Sekinai; and one of them said:--

"Our names are Matsuoka Bungō, Tsuchibashi Bungō, and Okamura Heiroku.
We are retainers of the noble Shikibu Heinai. When our master last
night deigned to pay you a visit, you struck him with a sword. He was
much will hurt, and has been obliged to go to the hot springs, where
his wound is now being treated. But on the sixteenth day of the coming
month he will return; and he will then fitly repay you for the injury
done him...."

Without waiting to hear more, Sekinai leaped out, sword in hand, and
slashed right and left, at the strangers. But the three men sprang
to the wall of the adjoining building, and flitted up the wall like
shadows, and....

[Illustration]

Here the old narrative breaks off; the rest of the story existed only
in some brain that has been dust for a century.

I am able to imagine several possible endings; but none of them would
satisfy an Occidental imagination. I prefer to let the reader attempt
to decide for himself the probable consequence of swallowing a Soul.

[Footnote 1: The armed attendant of a _samurai_ was thus called. The
relation of the _wakatō_ to the _samurai_ was that of squire to knight.]

[Footnote 2: The shorter of the two swords carried by samurai. The
longer sword was called _katana_.]



Common Sense


[Illustration]


Once there lived upon the mountain called Atagoyama, near Kyoto, a
certain learned priest who devoted all his time to meditation and the
study of the sacred books. The little temple in which he dwelt was far
from any village; and he could not, in such a solitude, have obtained
without help the common necessaries of life. But several devout country
people regularly contributed to his maintenance, bringing him each
month supplies of vegetables and of rice.

Among these good folk there was a certain hunter, who sometimes visited
the mountain in search of game. One day, when this hunter had brought a
bag of rice to the temple, the priest said to him:--

"Friend, I must tell you that wonderful things have happened here since
the last time I saw you. I do not certainly know why such things should
have happened in my unworthy presence. But you are aware that I have
been meditating, and reciting the sûtras daily, for many years; and
it is possible that what has been vouchsafed me is due to the merit
obtained through these religious exercises. I am not sure of this. But
I am sure that Fugen Bosatsu[1] comes nightly to this temple, riding
upon his elephant.... Stay here with me this night, friend; then you
will be able to see and to worship the Buddha."

"To witness so holy a vision," the hunter replied, "were a privilege
indeed! Most gladly I shall stay, and worship with you."

So the hunter remained at the temple. But while the priest was engaged
in his religious exercises, the hunter began to think about the
promised miracle, and to doubt whether such a thing could be. And the
more he thought, the more he doubted. There was a little boy in the
temple,--an acolyte,--and the hunter found an opportunity to question
the boy.

"The priest told me," said the hunter, "that Fugen Bosatsu comes to
this temple every night. Have you also seen Fugen Bosatsu?"

"Six times, already," the acolyte replied, "I have seen and reverently
worshipped Fugen Bosatsu." This declaration only served to increase
the hunter's suspicions, though he did not in the least doubt the
truthfulness of the boy. He reflected, however, that he would probably
be able to see whatever the boy had seen; and he waited with eagerness
for the hour of the promised vision.

*

Shortly before midnight the priest announced that it was time to
prepare for the coming of Fugen Bosatsu. The doors of the little temple
were thrown open; and the priest knelt down at the threshold, with his
face to the east. The acolyte knelt at his left hand, and the hunter
respectfully placed himself behind the priest.

It was the night of the twentieth of the ninth month,--a dreary,
dark, and very windy night; and the three waited a long time for the
coming of Fugen Bosatsu. But at last a point of white light appeared,
like a star, in the direction of the east; and this light approached
quickly,--growing larger and larger as it came, and illuminating all
the slope of the mountain. Presently the light took shape--the shape
of a being divine, riding upon a snow-white elephant with six tusks.
And, in another moment, the elephant with its shining rider arrived
before the temple, and there stood towering, like a mountain of
moonlight,--wonderful and weird.

Then the priest and the boy, prostrating themselves, began with
exceeding fervour to repeat the holy invocation to Fugen Bosatsu. But
suddenly the hunter rose up behind them, bow in hand; and, bending his
bow to the full, he sent a long arrow whizzing straight at the luminous
Buddha, into whose breast it sank up to the very feathers. Immediately,
with a sound like a thunder-clap, the white light vanished, and the
vision disappeared. Before the temple there was nothing but windy
darkness.

"O miserable man!" cried out the priest, with tears of shame and
despair, "O most wretched and wicked man! what have you done?--what
have you done?"

But the hunter received the reproaches of the priest without any sign
of compunction or of anger. Then he said, very gently:--

"Reverend sir, please try to calm yourself, and listen to me. You
thought that you were able to see Fugen Bosatsu because of some merit
obtained through your constant meditations and your recitation of the
sûtras. But if that had been the case, the Buddha would have appeared
to you only--not to me, nor even to the boy. I am an ignorant hunter,
and my occupation is to kill;--and the taking of life is hateful to the
Buddhas. How then should I be able to see Fugen Bosatsu? I have been
taught that the Buddhas are everywhere about us, and that we remain
unable to see them because of our ignorance and our imperfections.
You--being a learned priest of pure life--might indeed acquire such
enlightenment as would enable you to see the Buddhas; but how should
a man who kills animals for his livelihood find the power to see the
divine? Both I and this little boy could see all that you saw. And
let me now assure you, reverend sir, that what you saw was not Fugen
Bosatsu, but a goblinry intended to deceive you--perhaps even to
destroy you. I beg that you will try to control your feelings until
daybreak. Then I will prove to you the truth of what I have said."

At sunrise the hunter and the priest examined the spot where the vision
had been standing, and they discovered a thin trail of blood. And after
having followed this trail to a hollow some hundred paces away, they
came upon the body of a great badger, transfixed by the hunter's arrow.

*

The priest, although a learned and pious person, had easily been
deceived by a badger. But the hunter, an ignorant and irreligious man,
was gifted with strong common sense: and by mother-wit alone he was
able at once to detect and to destroy a dangerous illusion.

[Illustration]

[Footnote 1: Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.]



Ikiryō[1]


[Illustration]

Formerly, in the quarter of Reiganjima, in Yedo, there was a great
porcelain shop called the Setomonodana, kept by a rich man named Kihei.
Kihei had in his employ, for many years, a head clerk named Rokubei.
Under Rokubei's care the business prospered;--and at last it grew so
large that Rokubei found himself unable to manage it without help.
He therefore asked and obtained permission to hire an experienced
assistant; and he then engaged one of his own nephews,--a young man
about twenty-two years old, who had learned the porcelain trade in
Osaka.

The nephew proved a very capable assistant,--shrewder in business
than his experienced uncle. His enterprise extended the trade of the
house, and Kihei was greatly pleased. But about seven months after his
engagement, the young man became very ill, and seemed likely to die.
The best physicians in Yedo were summoned to attend him; but none of
them could understand the nature of his sickness. They prescribed no
medicine, and expressed the opinion that such a sickness could only
have been caused by some secret grief.

Rokubei imagined that it might be a case of lovesickness. He therefore
said to his nephew:--

"I have been thinking that, as you are still very young, you might have
formed some secret attachment which is making you unhappy,--perhaps
even making you ill. If this be the truth, you certainly ought to
tell me all about your troubles. Here I stand to you in the place of
a father, as you are far away from your parents; and if you have any
anxiety or sorrow, I am ready to do for you whatever a father should
do. If money can help you, do not be ashamed to tell me, even though
the amount be large. I think that I could assist you; and I am sure
that Kihei would be glad to do anything to make you happy and well."

The sick youth appeared to be embarrassed by these kindly assurances;
and for some little time he remained silent. At last he answered:--

"Never in this world can I forget those generous words. But I have no
secret attachment--no longing for any woman. This sickness of mine is
not a sickness that doctors can cure; and money could not help me in
the least. The truth is, that I have been so persecuted in this house
that I scarcely care to live. Everywhere--by day and by night, whether
in the shop or in my room, whether alone or in company--I have been
unceasingly followed and tormented by the Shadow of a woman. And it is
long, long since I have been able to get even one night's rest. For so
soon as I close my eyes, the Shadow of the woman takes me by the throat
and strives to strangle me. So I cannot sleep...."

"And why did you not tell me this before?" asked Rokubei.

"Because I thought," the nephew answered, "that it would be of no use
to tell you. The Shadow is not the ghost of a dead person. It is made
by the hatred of a living person--a person whom you very well know."

"What person?" questioned Rokubei, in great astonishment.[2]

"The mistress of this house," whispered the youth,--"the wife of Kihei
Sama.... She wishes to kill me."

*

Rokubei was bewildered by this confession. He doubted nothing of
what his nephew had said; but he could not imagine a reason for the
haunting. An _ikiryō_ might be caused by disappointed love, or by
violent hate,--without the knowledge of the person from whom it had
emanated. To suppose any love in this case was impossible;--the wife
of Kihei was considerably more than fifty years of age. But, on the
other hand, what could the young clerk have done to provoke hatred,--a
hatred capable of producing an ikiryō? He had been irreproachably well
conducted, unfailingly courteous, and earnestly devoted to his duties.
The mystery troubled Rokubei; but, after careful reflection, he decided
to tell everything to Kihei, and to request an investigation.

Kihei was astounded; but in the time of forty years he had never had
the least reason to doubt the word of Rokubei. He therefore summoned
his wife at once, and carefully questioned her, telling her, at the
same time, what the sick clerk had said. At first she turned pale, and
wept; but, after some hesitation, she answered frankly:--

"I suppose that what the new clerk has said about the _ikiryō_ is
true,--though I really tried never to betray, by word or look, the
dislike which I could not help feeling for him. You know that he is
very skilful in commerce,--very shrewd in everything that he does.
And you have given him much authority in this house--power over the
apprentices and the servants. But our only son, who should inherit this
business, is very simple-hearted and easily deceived; and I have long
been thinking that your clever new clerk might so delude our boy as to
get possession of all this property. Indeed, I am certain that your
clerk could at any time, without the least difficulty, and without the
least risk to himself, ruin our business and ruin our son. And with
this certainty in my mind, I cannot help fearing and hating the man. I
have often and often wished that he were dead; I have even wished that
it were in my own power to kill him. ... Yes, I know that it is wrong
to hate any one in such a way; but I could not check the feeling. Night
and day I have been wishing evil to that clerk. So I cannot doubt that
he has really seen the thing of which he spoke to Rokubei."

"How absurd of you," exclaimed Kihei, "to torment yourself thus! Up
to the present time that clerk has done no single thing for which he
could be blamed; and you have caused him to suffer cruelly.... Now if I
should send him away, with his uncle, to another town, to establish a
branch business, could you not endeavour to think more kindly of him?"

"If I do not see his face or hear his voice," the wife answered,--"if
you will only send him away from this house,--then I think that I shall
be able to conquer my hatred of him."

"Try to do so," said Kihei;--"for, if you continue to hate him as you
have been hating him, he will certainly die, and you will then be
guilty of having caused the death of a man who has done us nothing but
good. He has been, in every way, a most excellent servant."

Then Kihei quickly made arrangements for the establishment of a branch
house in another city; and he sent Rokubei there with the clerk, to
take charge. And thereafter the _ikiryō_ ceased to torment the young
man, who soon recovered his health.

[Illustration]


[Footnote 1: Literally, "living spirit,"--that is to say, the ghost of
a person still alive. An _ikiryō_ may detach itself from the body under
the influence of anger, and proceed to haunt and torment the individual
by whom the anger was caused.]

[Footnote 2: An _ikiryō_ is seen only by the person haunted.--For
another illustration of this curious belief, see the paper entitled
"The Stone Buddha" in my _Out of the East_, p. 171.]



Shiryō[1]


[Illustration]

On the death of Nomoto Yajiyémon, a daikwan[2] in the province of
Echizen, his clerks entered into a conspiracy to defraud the family of
their late master. Under pretext of paying some of the daikwan's debts,
they took possession of all the money, valuables, and furniture in his
house; and they furthermore prepared a false report to make it appear
that he had unlawfully contracted obligations exceeding the worth of
his estate. This false report they sent to the Saishō,[3] and the
Saishō thereupon issued a decree banishing the widow and the children
of Nomoto from the province of Echizen. For in those times the family
of a daikwan were held in part responsible, even after his death, for
any malfeasance proved against him.

But at the moment when the order of banishment was officially announced
to the widow of Nomoto, a strange thing happened to a maid-servant in
the house. She was seized with convulsions and shudderings, like a
person possessed; and when the convulsions passed, she rose up, and
cried out to the officers of the Saishō, and to the clerks of her late
master:--

"Now listen to me! It is not a girl who is speaking to you; it is
I,--Yajiyémon, Nomoto Yajiyémon,--returned to you from the dead. In
grief and great anger do I return--grief and anger caused me by those
in whom I vainly put my trust!... O you infamous and ungrateful clerks!
how could you so forget the favours bestowed upon you, as thus to ruin
my property, and to disgrace my name?... Here, now, in my presence, let
the accounts of my office and of my house be made; and let a servant
be sent for the books of the Metsuké,[4] so that the estimates may be
compared!"

As the maid uttered these words, all present were filled with
astonishment; for her voice and her manner were the voice and the
manner of Nomoto Yajiyémon. The guilty clerks turned pale. But the
representatives of the Saishō at once commanded that the desire
expressed by the girl should be fully granted. All the account-books
of the office were promptly placed before her,--and the books of the
Metsuké were brought in; and she began the reckoning. Without making
a single error, she went through all the accounts, writing down the
totals and correcting every false entry. And her writing, as she wrote,
was seen to be the very writing of Nomoto Yajiyémon.

Now this reëxamination of the accounts not only proved that there had
been no indebtedness, but also showed that there had been a surplus
in the office treasury at the time of the daikwan's death. Thus the
villany of the clerks became manifest.

And when all the accounts had been made up, the girl said, speaking in
the very voice of Nomoto Yajiyémon:--

"Now everything is finished; and I can do nothing further in the
matter. So I shall go back to the place from which I came."

Then she lay down, and instantly fell asleep; and she slept like a
dead person during two days and two nights. [For great weariness and
deep sleep fall upon the possessed, when the possessing spirit passes
from them.] When she again awoke, her voice and her manner were the
voice and the manner of a young girl; and neither at that time, nor
at any time after, could she remember what had happened while she was
possessed by the ghost or Nomoto Yajiyémon.

[Illustration]

A report of this event was promptly sent to the Saishō; and the Saishō,
in consequence, not only revoked the order of banishment, but made
large gifts to the family of the daikwan. Later on, various posthumous
honours were conferred upon Nomoto Yajiyémon; and for many subsequent
years his house was favoured by the Government, so that it prospered
greatly. But the clerks received the punishment which they deserved.


[Footnote 1: The term _shiryō_, "dead ghost,"--that is to say, the
ghost of a dead person,--is used in contradistinction to the term
_ikiryō_, signifying the apparition of a living person. _Yūrei_ is a
more generic name for ghosts of any sort.]

[Footnote 2: A _daikwan_ was a district governor under the direct
control of the Shōgunate. His functions were both civil and judicial.]

[Footnote 3: The _Saishō_ was a high official of the Shōgunate, with
duties corresponding to those of a prime minister.]

[Footnote 4: The _Metsuké_ was a government official, charged with the
duty of keeping watch over the conduct of local governors or district
judges, and of inspecting their accounts.]



The Story of O-Kamé


[Illustration]

O-Kamé, daughter of the rich Gonyémon of Nagoshi, in the province of
Tosa, was very fond of her husband, Hachiyémon. She was twenty-two, and
Hachiyémon twenty-five. She was so fond of him that people imagined her
to be jealous. But he never gave her the least cause for jealousy; and
it is certain that no single unkind word was ever spoken between them.

Unfortunately the health of O-Kamé was feeble. Within less than two
years after her marriage she was attacked by a disease, then prevalent
in Tosa, and the best doctors were not able to cure her. Persons seized
by this malady could not eat or drink; they remained constantly drowsy
and languid, and troubled by strange fancies. And, in spite of constant
care, O-Kamé grew weaker and weaker, day by day, until it became
evident, even to herself, that she was going to die. Then she called
her husband, and said to him:--

"I cannot tell you how good you have been to me during this miserable
sickness of mine. Surely no one could have been more kind. But that
only makes it all the harder for me to leave you now.... Think! I am
not yet even twenty-five,--and I have the best husband in all this
world,--and yet I must die!... Oh, no, no! it is useless to talk to me
about hope; the best Chinese doctors could do nothing for me. I did
think to live a few months longer; but when I saw my face this morning
in the mirror, I knew that I must die to-day,--yes, this very day. And
there is something that I want to beg you to do for me--if you wish me
to die quite happy."

"Only tell me what it is," Hachiyémon answered; "and if it be in my
power to do, I shall be more than glad to do it."

"No, no--you will not be glad to do it," she returned: "you are still
so young! It is difficult--very, very difficult--even to ask you to do
such a thing; yet the wish for it is like a fire burning in my breast.
I must speak it before I die.... My dear, you know that sooner or
later, after I am dead, they will want you to take another wife. Will
you promise me--can you promise me--not to marry again?..."

"Only that!" Hachiyémon exclaimed. "Why, if that be all that you wanted
to ask for, your wish is very easily granted. With all my heart I
promise you that no one shall ever take your place."

"_Aa! uréshiya!_" cried O-Kamé, half-rising from her couch;--"oh, how
happy you have made me!"

And she fell back dead.

*

Now the health of Hachiyémon appeared to fail after the death of
O-Kamé. At first the change in his aspect was attributed to natural
grief, and the villagers only said, "How fond of her he must have
been!" But, as the months went by, he grew paler and weaker, until
at last he became so thin and wan that he looked more like a ghost
than a man. Then people began to suspect that sorrow alone could not
explain this sudden decline of a man so young. The doctors said that
Hachiyémon was not suffering from any known form of disease: they
could not account for his condition; but they suggested that it might
have been caused by some very unusual trouble of mind. Hachiyémon's
parents questioned him in vain;--he had no cause for sorrow, he said,
other than what they already knew. They counselled him to remarry; but
he protested that nothing could ever induce him to break his promise to
the dead.

*

Thereafter Hachiyémon continued to grow visibly weaker, day by day;
and his family despaired of his life. But one day his mother, who
felt sure that he had been concealing something from her, adjured him
so earnestly to tell her the real cause of his decline, and wept so
bitterly before him, that he was not able to resist her entreaties.

"Mother," he said, "it is very difficult to speak about this matter,
either to you or to any one; and, perhaps, when I have told you
everything, you will not be able to believe me. But the truth is that
O-Kamé can find no rest in the other world, and that the Buddhist
services repeated for her have been said in vain. Perhaps she will
never be able to rest unless I go with her on the long black journey.
For every night she returns, and lies down by my side. Every night,
since the day of her funeral, she has come back. And sometimes I
doubt if she be really dead; for she looks and acts just as when she
lived,--except that she talks to me only in whispers. And she always
bids me tell no one that she comes. It may be that she wants me to die;
and I should not care to live for my own sake only. But it is true,
as you have said, that my body really belongs to my parents, and that
I owe to them the first duty. So now, mother, I tell you the whole
truth.... Yes: every night she comes, just as I am about to sleep; and
she remains until dawn. As soon as she hears the temple-bell, she goes
away."

*

When the mother of Hachiyémon had heard these things, she was greatly
alarmed; and, hastening at once to the parish-temple, she told the
priest all that her son had confessed, and begged for ghostly help. The
priest, who was a man of great age and experience, listened without
surprise to the recital, and then said to her:--

"It is not the first time that I have known such a thing to happen;
and I think that I shall be able to save your son. But he is really
in great danger. I have seen the shadow of death upon his face; and,
if O-Kamé return but once again, he will never behold another sunrise.
Whatever can be done for him must be done quickly. Say nothing of the
matter to your son; but assemble the members of both families as soon
as possible, and tell them to come to the temple without delay. For
your son's sake it will be necessary to open the grave of O-Kamé."

*

So the relatives assembled at the temple; and when the priest had
obtained their consent to the opening of the sepulchre, he led the way
to the cemetery. Then, under his direction, the tombstone of O-Kamé
was shifted, the grave opened, and the coffin raised. And when the
coffin-lid had been removed, all present were startled; for O-Kamé sat
before them with a smile upon her face, seeming as comely as before the
time of her sickness; and there was not any sign of death upon her. But
when the priest told his assistants to lift the dead woman out of the
coffin, the astonishment changed to fear; for the corpse was blood-warm
to the touch, and still flexible as in life, notwithstanding the
squatting posture in which it had remained so long.[1]

It was borne to the mortuary chapel; and there the priest, with a
writing-brush, traced upon the brow and breast and limbs of the body
the Sanscrit characters (_Bonji_) of certain holy talismanic words.
And he performed a Ségaki-service for the spirit of O-Kamé, before
suffering her corpse to be restored to the ground.

[Illustration]

She never again visited her husband; and Hachiyémon gradually recovered
his health and strength. But whether he always kept his promise, the
Japanese story-teller does not say.

[Footnote 1: The Japanese dead are placed in a sitting posture in the
coffin,--which is almost square in form.]



Story of a Fly


[Illustration]

About two hundred years ago, there lived in Kyoto a merchant named
Kazariya Kyūbei. His shop was in the street called Teramachidōri, a
little south of the Shimabara thoroughfare. He had a maid-servant named
Tama,--a native of the province of Wakasa.

Tama was kindly treated by Kyūbei and his wife, and appeared to be
sincerely attached to them. But she never cared to dress nicely, like
other girls; and whenever she had a holiday she would go out in her
working-dress, notwithstanding that she had been given several pretty
robes. After she had been in the service of Kyūbei for about five
years, he one day asked her why she never took any pains to look neat.

Tama blushed at the reproach implied by this question, and answered
respectfully:--

"When my parents died, I was a very little girl; and, as they had no
other child, it became my duty to have the Buddhist services performed
on their behalf. At that time I could not obtain the means to do so;
but I resolved to have their _ihai_ [mortuary tablets] placed in the
temple called Jōrakuji, and to have the rites performed, so soon as I
could earn the money required. And in order to fulfil this resolve I
have tried to be saving of my money and my clothes;--perhaps I have
been too saving, as you have found me negligent of my person. But I
have already been able to put by about one hundred _mommé_ of silver
for the purpose which I have mentioned; and hereafter I will try to
appear before you looking neat. So I beg that you will kindly excuse my
past negligence and rudeness."

Kyūbei was touched by this simple confession; and he spoke to the
girl kindly,--assuring her that she might consider herself at liberty
thenceforth to dress as she pleased, and commending her filial piety.

*

Soon after this conversation, the maid Tama was able to have the
tablets of her parents placed in the temple Jōrakuji, and to have the
appropriate services performed. Of the money which she had saved she
thus expended seventy _mommé_; and the remaining thirty _mommé_ she
asked her mistress to keep for her.

But early in the following winter Tama was suddenly taken ill; and
after a brief sickness she died, on the eleventh day of the first month
of the fifteenth year of Genroku [1702]. Kyūbei and his wife were much
grieved by her death.

*

Now, about ten days later, a very large fly came into the house, and
began to fly round and round the head of Kyūbei. This surprised Kyūbei,
because no flies of any kind appear, as a rule, during the Period of
Greatest Cold, and the larger kinds of flies are seldom seen except in
the warm season. The fly annoyed Kyūbei so persistently that he took
the trouble to catch it, and put it out of the house,--being careful
the while to injure it in no way; for he was a devout Buddhist. It soon
came back again, and was again caught and thrown out; but it entered
a third time. Kyūbei's wife thought this a strange thing. "I wonder,"
she said, "if it is Tama." [For the dead--particularly those who pass
to the state of Gaki--sometimes return in the form of insects.] Kyūbei
laughed, and made answer, "Perhaps we can find out by marking it." He
caught the fly, and slightly nicked the tips of its wings with a pair
of scissors,--after which he carried it to a considerable distance from
the house and let it go.

Next day it returned. Kyūbei still doubted whether its return had any
ghostly significance. He caught it again, painted its wings and body
with beni (rouge), carried it away from the house to a much greater
distance than before, and set it free. But, two days later, it came
back, all red; and Kyūbei ceased to doubt.

"I think it is Tama," he said. "She wants something;--but what does she
want?"

The wife responded:--

"I have still thirty _mommé_ of her savings. Perhaps she wants us to
pay that money to the temple, for a Buddhist service on behalf of her
spirit. Tama was always very anxious about her next birth."

As she spoke, the fly fell from the paper window on which it had been
resting. Kyūbei picked it up, and found that it was dead.

*

Thereupon the husband and wife resolved to go to the temple at once,
and to pay the girl's money to the priests. They put the body of the
fly into a little box, and took it along with them.

Jiku Shōnin, the chief priest of the temple, on hearing the story of
the fly, decided that Kyūbei and his wife had acted rightly in the
matter. Then Jiku Shōnin performed a _Ségaki_ service on behalf of the
spirit of Tama; and over the body of the fly were recited the eight
rolls of the sûtra _Myōten_. And the box containing the body of the fly
was buried in the grounds of the temple; and above the place a _sotoba_
was set up, appropriately inscribed.



Story of a Pheasant


[Illustration]

In the Toyama district of the province of Bishū, there formerly lived a
young farmer and his wife. Their farm was situated in a lonely place,
among the hills.

One night the wife dreamed that her father-in-law, who had died some
years before, came to her and said, "_To-morrow I shall be in great
danger: try to save me if you can!_" In the morning she told this to
her husband; and they talked about the dream. Both imagined that the
dead man wanted something; but neither could imagine what the words of
the vision signified.

After breakfast, the husband went to the fields; but the wife remained
at her loom. Presently she was startled by a great shouting outside.
She went to the door, and saw the Jitō[1] of the district, with a
hunting party, approaching the farm. While she stood watching them, a
pheasant ran by her into the house; and she suddenly remembered her
dream. "Perhaps it is my father-in-law," she thought to herself;--"I
must try to save it!" Then, hurrying in after the bird,--a fine male
pheasant,--she caught it without any difficulty, put it into the empty
rice-pot, and covered the pot with the lid.

A moment later some of the Jitō's followers entered, and asked her
whether she had seen a pheasant. She answered boldly that she had not;
but one of the hunters declared that he had seen the bird run into
the house. So the party searched for it, peeping into every nook and
corner; but nobody thought of looking into the rice-pot. After looking
everywhere else to no purpose, the men decided that the bird must have
escaped through some hole; and they went away.

*

When the farmer came home his wife told him about the pheasant, which
she had left in the rice-pot, so that he might see it. "When I caught
it," she said, "it did not struggle in the least; and it remained very
quiet in the pot. I really think that it is father-in-law." The farmer
went to the pot, lifted the lid, and took out the bird. It remained
still in his hands, as if tame, and looked at him as if accustomed to
his presence. One of its eyes was blind. "Father was blind of one eye,"
the farmer said,--"the right eye; and the right eye of this bird is
blind. Really, I think it is father. See! it looks at us just as father
used to do!... Poor father must have thought to himself, '_Now that I
am a bird, better to give my body to my children for food than to let
the hunters have it._'... And that explains your dream of last night,"
he added,--turning to his wife with an evil smile as he wrung the
pheasant's neck.

At the sight of that brutal act, the woman screamed, and cried out:--

"Oh, you wicked man! Oh, you devil! Only a man with the heart of a
devil could do what you have done!... And I would rather die than
continue to be the wife of such a man!"

And she sprang to the door, without waiting even to put on her sandals.
He caught her sleeve as she leaped; but she broke away from him, and
ran out, sobbing as she ran. And she ceased not to run, barefooted,
till she reached the town, when she hastened directly to the residence
of the Jitō. Then, with many tears, she told the Jitō everything: her
dream of the night before the hunting, and how she had hidden the
pheasant in order to save it, and how her husband had mocked her, and
had killed it.

The Jitō spoke to her kindly, and gave orders that she should be well
cared for; but he commanded his officers to seize her husband.

[Illustration]

Next day the farmer was brought up for judgment; and, after he had
been made to confess the truth concerning the killing of the pheasant,
sentence was pronounced. The Jitō said to him:--

"Only a person of evil heart could have acted as you have acted; and
the presence of so perverse a being is a misfortune to the community
in which he happens to reside. The people under Our jurisdiction are
people who respect the sentiment of filial piety; and among them you
cannot be suffered to live."

So the farmer was banished from the district, and forbidden ever
to return to it on pain of death. But to the woman the Jitō made a
donation of land; and at a later time he caused her to be provided with
a good husband.

[Footnote 1: The lord of the district, who acted both as governor and
magistrate.]



The Story of Chūgorō


[Illustration]

Along time ago there lived, in the Koishi-kawa quarter of Yedo, a
_hatamoto_ named Suzuki, whose yashiki was situated on the bank of the
Yedogawa, not far from the bridge called Naka-no-hashi. And among the
retainers of this Suzuki there was an _ashigaru_[1] named Chūgorō.
Chūgorō was a handsome lad, very amiable and clever, and much liked by
his comrades.

For several years Chūgorō remained in the service of Suzuki, conducting
himself so well that no fault was found with him. But at last the
other _ashigaru_ discovered that Chūgorō was in the habit of leaving
the yashiki every night, by way of the garden, and staying out until
a little before dawn. At first they said nothing to him about this
strange behaviour; for his absences did not interfere with any regular
duty, and were supposed to be caused by some love-affair. But after a
time he began to look pale and weak; and his comrades, suspecting some
serious folly, decided to interfere. Therefore, one evening, just as he
was about to steal away from the house, an elderly retainer called him
aside, and said:--

"Chūgorō, my lad, we know that you go out every night and stay away
until early morning; and we have observed that you are looking unwell.
We fear that you are keeping bad company, and injuring your health. And
unless you can give a good reason for your conduct, we shall think that
it is our duty to report this matter to the Chief Officer. In any case,
since we are your comrades and friends, it is but right that we should
know why you go out at night, contrary to the custom of this house."

Chūgorō appeared to be very much embarrassed and alarmed by these
words. But after a short silence he passed into the garden, followed by
his comrade. When the two found themselves well out of hearing of the
rest, Chūgorō stopped, and said:--

"I will now tell you everything; but I must entreat you to keep my
secret. If you repeat what I tell you, some great misfortune may
befall me.

"It was in the early part of last spring--about five months ago--that
I first began to go out at night, on account of a love-affair. One
evening, when I was returning to the yashiki after a visit to my
parents, I saw a woman standing by the riverside, not far from the main
gateway. She was dressed like a person of high rank; and I thought
it strange that a woman so finely dressed should be standing there
alone at such an hour. But I did not think that I had any right to
question her; and I was about to pass her by, without speaking, when
she stepped forward and pulled me by the sleeve. Then I saw that she
was very young and handsome. 'Will you not walk with me as far as the
bridge?' she said; 'I have something to tell you.' Her voice was very
soft and pleasant; and she smiled as she spoke; and her smile was hard
to resist. So I walked with her toward the bridge; and on the way she
told me that she had often seen me going in and out of the yashiki,
and had taken a fancy to me. 'I wish to have you for my husband,'
she said;--'if you can like me, we shall be able to make each other
very happy.' I did not know how to answer her; but I thought her very
charming. As we neared the bridge, she pulled my sleeve again, and led
me down the bank to the very edge of the river. 'Come in with me,' she
whispered, and pulled me toward the water. It is deep there, as you
know; and I became all at once afraid of her, and tried to turn back.
She smiled, and caught me by the wrist, and said, 'Oh, you must never
be afraid with me!' And, somehow, at the touch of her hand, I became
more helpless than a child. I felt like a person in a dream who tries
to run, and cannot move hand or foot. Into the deep water she stepped,
and drew me with her; and I neither saw nor heard nor felt anything
more until I found myself walking beside her through what seemed to be
a great palace, full of light. I was neither wet nor cold: everything
around me was dry and warm and beautiful. I could not understand where
I was, nor how I had come there. The woman led me by the hand: we
passed through room after room,--through ever so many rooms, all empty,
but very fine,--until we entered into a guest-room of a thousand mats.
Before a great alcove, at the farther end, lights were burning, and
cushions laid as for a feast; but I saw no guests. She led me to the
place of honour, by the alcove, and seated herself in front of me, and
said: 'This is my home: do you think that you could be happy with me
here?' As she asked the question she smiled; and I thought that her
smile was more beautiful than anything else in the world; and out of
my heart I answered, 'Yes....' In the same moment I remembered the
story of Urashima; and I imagined that she might be the daughter of a
god; but I feared to ask her any questions.... Presently maid-servants
came in, bearing rice-wine and many dishes, which they set before
us. Then she who sat before me said: 'To-night shall be our bridal
night, because you like me; and this is our wedding-feast.' We pledged
ourselves to each other for the time of seven existences; and after the
banquet we were conducted to a bridal chamber, which had been prepared
for us.

"It was yet early in the morning when she awoke me, and said: 'My dear
one, you are now indeed my husband. But for reasons which I cannot tell
you, and which you must not ask, it is necessary that our marriage
remain secret. To keep you here until daybreak would cost both of us
our lives. Therefore do not, I beg of you, feel displeased because I
must now send you back to the house of your lord. You can come to me
to-night again, and every night hereafter, at the same hour that we
first met. Wait always for me by the bridge; and you will not have to
wait long. But remember, above all things, that our marriage must be a
secret, and that, if you talk about it, we shall probably be separated
forever.'

"I promised to obey her in all things,--remembering the fate of
Urashima,--and she conducted me through many rooms, all empty and
beautiful, to the entrance. There she again took me by the wrist, and
everything suddenly became dark, and I knew nothing more until I found
myself standing alone on the river bank, close to the Naka-no-hashi.
When I got back to the yashiki, the temple bells had not yet begun to
ring.

"In the evening I went again to the bridge, at the hour she had named,
and I found her waiting for me. She took me with her, as before, into
the deep water, and into the wonderful place where we had passed our
bridal night. And every night, since then, I have met and parted from
her in the same way. To-night she will certainly be waiting for me, and
I would rather die than disappoint her: therefore I must go.... But let
me again entreat you, my friend, never to speak to any one about what I
have told you."

*

The elder _ashigaru_ was surprised and alarmed by this story. He felt
that Chūgorō had told him the truth; and the truth suggested unpleasant
possibilities. Probably the whole experience was an illusion, and
an illusion produced by some evil power for a malevolent end.
Nevertheless, if really bewitched, the lad was rather to be pitied than
blamed; and any forcible interference would be likely to result in
mischief. So the _ashigaru_ answered kindly:--

"I shall never speak of what you have told me--never, at least, while
you remain alive and well. Go and meet the woman; but--beware of her! I
fear that you are being deceived by some wicked spirit."

Chūgorō only smiled at the old man's warning, and hastened away.
Several hours later he reentered the yashiki, with a strangely dejected
look. "Did you meet her?" whispered his comrade. "No," replied Chūgorō;
"she was not there. For the first time, she was not there. I think that
she will never meet me again. I did wrong to tell you;--I was very
foolish to break my promise...." The other vainly tried to console
him. Chūgorō lay down, and spoke no word more. He was trembling from
head to foot, as if he had caught a chill.

*

When the temple bells announced the hour of dawn, Chūgorō tried to get
up, and fell back senseless. He was evidently sick,--deathly sick. A
Chinese physician was summoned.

"Why, the man has no blood!" exclaimed the doctor, after a careful
examination;--"there is nothing but water in his veins! It will be very
difficult to save him.... What maleficence is this?"

*

Everything was done that could be done to save Chūgorō's life--but in
vain. He died as the sun went down. Then his comrade related the whole
story.

"Ah! I might have suspected as much!" exclaimed the doctor.... "No
power could have saved him. He was not the first whom she destroyed."

"Who is she?--or what is she?" the _ashigaru_ asked,--"a Fox-Woman?"

[Illustration]

"No; she has been haunting this river from ancient time. She loves the
blood of the young...."

"A Serpent-Woman?--A Dragon-Woman?"

"No, no! If you were to see her under that bridge by daylight, she
would appear to you a very loathsome creature."

"But what kind of a creature?"

"Simply a Frog,--a great and ugly Frog!"

[Illustration]

[Footnote 1: The _ashigaru_ were the lowest class of retainers in
military service.]



A Woman's Diary


[Illustration]

Recently there was put into my hands a somewhat remarkable
manuscript,--seventeen long narrow sheets of soft paper, pierced with a
silken string, and covered with fine Japanese characters. It was a kind
of diary, containing the history of a woman's married life, recorded by
herself. The writer was dead; and the diary had been found in a small
work-box (_haribako_) which had belonged to her.

The friend who lent me the manuscript gave me leave to translate as
much of it as I might think worth publishing. I have gladly availed
myself of this unique opportunity to present in English the thoughts
and feelings, joys and sorrows, of a simple woman of the people--just
as she herself recorded them in the frankest possible way, never
dreaming that any foreign eye would read her humble and touching memoir.

But out of respect to her gentle ghost, I have tried to use the
manuscript in such a way only as could not cause her the least pain
if she were yet in the body, and able to read me. Some parts I have
omitted, because I thought them sacred. Also I have left out a few
details relating to customs or to local beliefs that the Western
reader could scarcely understand, even with the aid of notes. And the
names, of course, have been changed. Otherwise I have followed the
text as closely as I could,--making no changes of phrase except when
the Japanese original could not be adequately interpreted by a literal
rendering.

In addition to the facts stated or suggested in the diary itself, I
could learn but very little of the writer's personal history. She was
a woman of the poorest class; and from her own narrative it appears
that she remained unmarried until she was nearly thirty. A younger
sister had been married several years previously; and the diary does
not explain this departure from custom. A small photograph found with
the manuscript shows that its author never could have been called
good-looking; but the face has a certain pleasing expression of shy
gentleness. Her husband was a _kozukai_,[1] employed in one of the
great public offices, chiefly for night duty, at a salary of ten yen
per month. In order to help him to meet the expenses of housekeeping,
she made cigarettes for a tobacco dealer.

The manuscript shows that she must have been at school for some years:
she could write the _kana_ very nicely, but she had not learned
many Chinese characters,--so that her work resembles the work of a
schoolgirl. But it is written without mistakes, and skilfully. The
dialect is of Tōkyō,--the common speech of the city people,--full of
idiomatic expressions, but entirely free from coarseness.

Some one might naturally ask why this poor woman, so much occupied with
the constant struggle for mere existence, should have taken the pains
to write down what she probably never intended to be read. I would
remind such a questioner of the old Japanese teaching that literary
composition is the best medicine for sorrow; and I would remind him
also of the fact that, even among the poorest classes, poems are still
composed upon all occasions of joy or pain. The latter part of the
diary was written in lonely hours of illness; and I suppose that she
then wrote chiefly in order to keep her thoughts composed at a time
when solitude had become dangerous for her. A little before her death,
her mind gave way; and these final pages probably represent the last
brave struggle of the spirit against the hopeless weakness of the flesh.

I found that the manuscript was inscribed, on the outside sheet, with
the title, _Mukashi-hanashi_: "A Story of Old Times." According to
circumstances, the word _mukashi_ may signify either "long ago," in
reference to past centuries, or "old times," in reference to one's own
past life. The latter is the obvious meaning in the present case.

_Mukashi-Banashi_

On the evening of the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month of the
twenty-eighth year of Meiji [1895]? man of the opposite house came and
asked:--

"As for the eldest daughter of this family, is it agreeable that she be
disposed of in marriage?"

Then the answer was given:--

"Even though the matter were agreeable [_to our wishes_], no
preparation for such an event has yet been made."[2]

The man of the opposite house said:--

"But as no preparation is needed in this case, will you not honourably
give her to the person for whom I speak? He is said to be a very steady
man; and he is thirty-eight years of age. As I thought your eldest girl
to be about twenty-six, I proposed her to him...."

"No,--she is twenty-nine years old," was answered.

"Ah!... That being the case, I must again speak to the other party; and
I shall honourably consult with you after I have seen him."

So saying, the man went away.

Next evening the man came again,--this time with the wife of
Okada-Shi[3] [_a friend of the family_],--and said:--

"The other party is satisfied;--so, if you are willing, the match can
be made."

Father replied:--

"As the two are, both of them, _shichi-séki-kin_ ["seven-red-metal"],[4]
they should have the same nature;--so I think that no harm can come
of it."

The match-maker asked:--

"Then how would it be to arrange for the _miai_[5] ["see-meeting"]
to-morrow?"

Father said:--

"I suppose that everything really depends upon the _En_
[_karma-relation formed in previous states of existence_]....
Well, then, I beg that you will honourably meet us to-morrow evening at
the house of Okada."

Thus the betrothal promise was given on both sides.

*

The person of the opposite house wanted me to go with him next evening
to Okada's; but I said that I wished to go with my mother only, as from
the time of taking such a first step one could not either retreat or
advance. When I went with mother to the house, we were welcomed in with
the words, "_Kochira ē_!" Then [my future husband and I] greeted each
other for the first time. But somehow I felt so much ashamed that I
could not look at him.

Then Okada-Shi said to Namiki-Shi [_the proposed husband_]: "Now that
you have nobody to consult with at home, would it not be well for you
to snatch your luck where you find it, as the proverb says,--_'Zen wa
isogé'_?"

The answer was made:--

"As for me, I am well satisfied; but I do not know what the feeling may
be on the other side."

"If it be honourably deigned to take me as it is honourably known that
I am ..."[6] I said.

The match-maker said:--

"The matter being so, what would be a good day for the wedding?"

[Namaki-Shi answered:--]

"Though I can be at home to-morrow, perhaps the first day of the tenth
month would be a better day."

But Okada-Shi at once said:--

"As there is cause for anxiety about the house being unoccupied while
Namiki-Shi is absent [_on night-duty_], to-morrow would perhaps be the
better day--would it not?"

Though at first that seemed to me much too soon, I presently remembered
that the next day was a _Taian-nichi_[7] [perfectly fortunate day]: so
I gave my consent; and we went home.

When I told father, he was not pleased. He said that it was too soon,
and that a delay of at least three or four days ought to have been
allowed. Also he said that the direction [_hōgaku_][8] was not lucky,
and that other conditions were not favourable.

I said:--

"But I have already promised; and I cannot now ask to have the day
changed. Indeed it would be a great pity if a thief were to enter
the house in [his] absence. As for the matter of the direction being
unlucky, even though I should have to die on that account, I would
not complain; for I should die in my own husband's house.. .. And
to-morrow," I added, "I shall be too busy to call on Goto [_her
brother-in-law_]: so I must go there now." I went to Goto's; but, when
I saw him, I felt afraid to say exactly what I had come to say. I
suggested it only by telling him:--

"To-morrow I have to go to a strange house."

Goto immediately asked:--

"As an honourable daughter-in-law [_bride_]?"

After hesitating, I answered at last:--

"Yes."

"What kind of a person?" Goto asked.

I answered:--

"If I had felt myself able to look at him long enough to form any
opinion, I would not have put mother to the trouble of going with me."

"_Ané-San_ [Elder Sister]!" he exclaimed,--"then what was the use of
going to see him at all?... But," he added, in a more pleasant tone,
"let me wish you luck."

"Anyhow," I said, "to-morrow it will be."

And I returned home.

*

Now the appointed day having come--the twenty-eighth day of the ninth
month--I had so much to do that I did not know how I should ever be
able to get ready. And as it had been raining for several days, the
roadway was very bad, which made matters worse for me--though, luckily,
no rain fell on that day. I had to buy some little things; and I could
not well ask mother to do anything for me,--much as I wished for her
help,--because her feet had become very weak by reason of her great
age. So I got up very early and went out alone, and did the best I
could: nevertheless, it was two o'clock in the afternoon before I got
everything ready.

Then I had to go to the hair-dresser's to have my hair dressed, and to
go to the bath-house--all of which took time. And when I came back to
dress, I found that no message had yet been received from Namiki-Shi;
and I began to feel a little anxious. Just after we had finished
supper, the message came. I had scarcely time to say good-by to all:
then I went out,--leaving my home behind forever,--and walked with
mother to the house of Okada-Shi.

There I had to part even from mother; and the wife of Okada-Shi taking
charge of me, I accompanied her to the house of Namaki-Shi in Funamachi.

The wedding ceremony of the _sansan-kudo-no-sakazuki_[9] having been
performed without any difficulty, and the time of the _o-hiraki_
["honourable-blossoming"][10] having come more quickly than I had
expected, the guests all returned home.

So we two were left, for the first time, each alone with the
other--sitting face to face: my heart beat wildly;[11] and I felt
abashed in such a way as could not be expressed by means of ink and
paper.

Indeed, what I felt can be imagined only by one who remembers
leaving her parents' home for the first time, to become a bride,--a
daughter-in-law in a strange house.

*

Afterward, at the hour of meals, I felt very much distressed
[_embarrassed_]....

*

Two or three days later, the father of my husband's former wife [_who
was dead_] visited me, and said:--

"Namiki-Shi is really a good man,--a moral, steady man; but as he is
also very particular about small matters and inclined to find fault,
you had better always be careful to try to please him."

Now as I had been carefully watching my husband's ways from the
beginning, I knew that he was really a very strict man, and I resolved
so to conduct myself in all matters as never to cross his will.

*

The fifth day of the tenth month was the day for our _satogaëri_,[12]
and for the first time we went out together, calling at Goto's on the
way. After we left Goto's, the weather suddenly became bad, and it
began to rain. Then we borrowed a paper umbrella, which we used as
an _aigasa_[13]; and though I was very uneasy lest any of my former
neighbours should see us walking thus together, we luckily reached my
parents' house, and made our visit of duty, without any trouble at all.
While we were in the house, the rain fortunately stopped.

*

On the ninth day of the same month I went with him to the theatre for
the first time. We visited the Engiza at Akasaka, and saw a performance
by the Yamaguchi company.

*

On the eighth day of the eleventh month, we made a visit to
Asakusa-temple,[14] and also went to the [Shinto temple of the]
O-Tori-Sama.

--During this last month of the year I made new spring robes for my
husband and myself: then I learned for the first time how pleasant such
work was, and I felt very happy.

*

On the twenty-fifth day we visited the temple of Ten-jin-Sama,[15] and
walked about the grounds there.

*

On the eleventh day of the first month of the twenty-ninth year [1896],
called at Okada's.

*

On the twelfth day we paid a visit to Goto's, and had a pleasant time
there.

On the ninth day of the second month we went to the Mizaki theatre to
see the play _Imosé-Yama_. On our way to the theatre we met Goto-Shi
unexpectedly; and he went with us. But unluckily it began to rain as we
were returning home, and we found the roads very muddy.

On the twenty-second day of the same month [we had our] photograph
taken at Amano's.

*

On the twenty-fifth day of the third month we went to the Haruki
theatre, and saw the play _Uguisuzuka_.--During the month it was
agreed that all of us [_kindred, friends, and parents_] should make up
a party, and enjoy our _hanami_[16] together; but this could not be
managed.

*

On the tenth day of the fourth month, at nine o'clock in the morning,
we two went out for a walk. We first visited the Shōkonsha [_Shintō
shrine_] at Kudan: thence we walked to Uyéno [park]; and from there we
went to Asakusa, and visited the Kwannon temple; and we also prayed at
the Monzéki [_Higashi Hongwanji_]. Thence we had intended to go round
to Asakusa-Okuyama; but we thought that it would be better to have
dinner first--so we went to an eating-house. While we were dining, we
heard such a noise of shouting and screaming that we thought there was
a great quarrel outside. But the trouble was really caused by a fire
in one of the _misémono_ ["shows"]. The fire spread quickly, even while
we were looking at it; and nearly all the show-buildings in that street
were burnt up.... We left the eating-house soon after, and walked about
the Asakusa grounds, looking at things.

[_Here follows, in the original Ms., the text of a little poem,
composed by the writer herself_:--]

    Imado no watashi nité,
    Aimita koto mo naki hito ni,
    Fushigi ni Miméguri-Inari,
    Kaku mo fūfu ni naru nomika.
    Hajimé no omoi ni hikikaëté,
    Itsushika-kokoro mo Sumidagawa.
    Tsugai hanarénu miyakodori,
    Hito mo urayaméba wagami mo mata,
    Sakimidarétaru doté no hana yori mo,
    Hana ni mo mashita sono hito to
    Shirahigé-Yashiro ni naru madé mo.
    Soïtogétashi to inorinenji!

[_Freely translated._][17]

_Having been taken across the Imado-Ferry, I strangely met at [the
temple of] Miméguri-Inari with a person whom I had never seen before.
Because of this meeting our relation is now even more than the relation
of husband and wife. And my first anxious doubt, "For how long--?"
having passed away, my mind has become [clear] as the Sumida River.
Indeed we are now like a pair of Miyako-birds [always together]; and
I even think that I deserve to be envied. [To see the flowers we went
out; but] more than the pleasure of viewing a whole shore in blossom
is the pleasure that I now desire,--always to dwell with this person,
dearer to me than any flower, until we enter the Shirahigé-Yashiro.
That we may so remain together, I supplicate the Gods!_

... Then we crossed the Azuma bridge on our homeward way; and we
went by steamer to the kaichō [festival] of the temple of the
Soga-Kyōdai,[18] and prayed that love and concord should continue
always between ourselves and our brothers and sisters. It was after
seven o'clock that evening when we got home.

--On the twenty-fifth day of the same month we went to the
Rokumono-no-Yosé.[19]

***

On the second day of the fifth month we visited [the gardens at] Ōkubo
to see the azaleas in blossom. On the sixth day of the same month we
went to see a display of fireworks at the Shōkonsha.

--So far we had never had any words between us nor any
disagreement;[20] and I had ceased to feel bashful when we went out
visiting or sight-seeing. Now each of us seemed to think only of how
to please the other; and I felt sure that nothing would ever separate
us.... May our relation always be thus happy!

The eighteenth day of the sixth month, being the festival of the
Suga-jinja,[21] we were invited to my father's house. But as the
hair-dresser did not come to dress my hair at the proper time, I was
much annoyed. However, I went with O-Tori-San [_a younger sister_] to
father's. Presently O-Kō-San [_a married sister_] also came;--and we
had a pleasant time. In the evening Goto-Shi [_husband of O-Kō_] joined
us; and, last of all, came my husband, for whom I had been waiting with
anxious impatience. And there was one thing that made me very glad.
Often when he and I were to go out together, I had proposed that we
should put on the new spring robes which I had made; but he had as
often refused,--preferring to wear his old _kimono_. Now, however, he
wore the new one,--having felt obliged to put it on because of father's
invitation.... All of us being thus happily assembled, the party became
more and more enjoyable; and when we had at last to say good-by, we
only regretted the shortness of the summer night.

These are the poems which we composed that evening:--

      Futa-fūfu
    Sorōté iwō,
      Ujigami no
    Matsuri mo kyō wa
    Nigiwai ni kéri.
    --_By Namiki (the husband)_.

_Two wedded couples having gone together to worship at the temple, the
parish-festival to-day has been merrier than ever before._

      Ujigami no
    Matsuri médétashi
      Futa-fūfu.--_Also by the husband_.

_Fortunate indeed for two married couples has been the parish-temple
festival!_

      Ikutosé mo
    Nigiyaka narishi,
      Ujigami no,
    Matsuri ni sorō,
    Kyō no uréshisa.--_By the wife._

_Though for ever so many years it has always been a joyous occasion,
the festival of our parish-temple to-day is more pleasant than ever
before, because of our being thus happily assembled together._

      Matsuri toté,
    Ikka atsumaru,
      Tanoshimi wa!
    Géni Ujigami no
    Mégumi narikéri.
    --_By the wife._

_To-day being a day of festival, and all of us meeting together,--what
a delight! Surely by the favour of the tutelar God [Ujigami] this has
come to pass._

      Futa-fūfu
    Sorōté kyō no
      Shitashimi mo,
    Kami no mégumi zo
    Médéta kari-kéri.--By the wife.

Two wedded pairs being to-day united in such friendship as
this,--certainly it has happened only through the favour of the Gods!

      Ujigami no
    Mégumi mo fukaki
      Fūfu-zuré.--_By the wife._

_Deep indeed is the favour of the tutelar God to the two married
couples._

      Matsuri toté,
    Tsui ni shitatéshi
      Iyō-gasuri,
    Kyō tanoshimi ni
    Kiru to omoëba.
    --_By the wife._

_This day being a day of festival, we decided to put on, for the joyful
meeting, the robes of Iyogasuri,[22] that had been made alike._

      Omoïkya!
    Hakarazu sōro
      Futa-fūfu;
    Nani ni tatōën
    Kyō no kichi-jitsu.
    --_By Goto (the brother-in-law)._

_How could we have thought it! Here unexpectedly the two married
couples meet together. What can compare with the good fortune of this
day?_

      Matsuri toté
    Hajimété sorō
      Futa-fūfu,
    Nochi no kaëri zo
    Ima wa kanashiki.
    --_By O-Kō, the married sister._

_This day being a day of festival, here for the first time two wedded
pairs have met. Already I find myself sorrowing at the thought that we
must separate again._

    Furu-sato no
    Matsuri ni sorō
    Futa-fūfu:
    Katarō ma saë
    Natsu mo mijika yo!
    --_By O-Kō._

_At the old parental home, two married couples have met together in
holiday celebration. Alas! that the time of our happy converse should
be only one short summer night!_

On the fifth day of the seventh month, went to the Kanazawa-tei,[23]
where Harimadayū was then reciting; and we heard him recite the jōruri
called Sanjūsangendō.

On the first day of the eighth month we went to the [Buddhist] temple
of Asakusa [Kwannon] to pray,--that day being the first anniversary
[_isshūki_] of the death of my husband's former wife. Afterward we
went to an eel-house, near the Azuma bridge, for dinner; and while we
were there--just about the hour of noon--an earthquake took place.
Being close to the river, the house rocked very much; and I was greatly
frightened.

--Remembering that when we went to Asakusa before, in the time of
cherry blossoms, we had seen a big fire, this earthquake made me feel
anxious;--I wondered whether lightning would come next.[24]

About two o'clock we left the eating-house, and went to the Asakusa
park. From there we went by street-car to Kanda; and we stopped awhile
at a cool place in Kanda, to rest ourselves. On our way home we called
at father's, and it was after nine o'clock when we got back.

*

The fifteenth day of the same month was the festival of the
Hachiman-jinja[25]; and Goto, my sister, and the younger sister of
Goto came to the house. I had hoped that we could all go to the temple
together; but that morning my husband had taken a little too much
wine,--so we had to go without him. After worshipping at the temple, we
went to Goto's house; and I stopped there awhile before returning home.

*

In the ninth month, on the occasion of the Higan[26] festival, I went
alone to the [Buddhist] temple to pray.

On the twenty-first day of the tenth month, O-Taka-San [_probably a
relative_] came from Shidzuoka. I wanted to take her to the theatre
the next day; but she was obliged to leave Tōkyō early in the morning.
However, my husband and I went to the Ryūsei theatre on the following
evening; and we saw the play called _Matsumaë Bidan Teichū-Kagami._[27]

***

On the twenty-second day of the sixth month I began to sew a kimono
which father had asked me to make for him; but I felt ill, and could
not do much. However, I was able to finish the work on the first day of
the new year [1897].

... Now we were very happy because of the child that was to be born.
And I thought how proud and glad my parents would be at having a
grandchild for the first time.

***

On the tenth day of the fifth month I went out with mother to worship
Shiogama-Sama,[28] and also to visit Sengakuji. There we saw the tombs
of the Shijin-shichi Shi [Forty-seven Rōnin], and many relics of their
history. We returned by railroad, taking the train from Shinagawa to
Shinjiku. At Shiochō-Sanchōmé I parted from mother, and I got home by
six o'clock.

***

On the eighth day of the sixth month, at four o'clock in the afternoon,
a boy was born. Both mother and child appeared to be as well as could
be wished; and the child much resembled my husband; and its eyes were
large and black.... But I must say that it was a very small child;
for, though it ought to have been born in the eighth month, it was born
indeed in the sixth.... At seven o'clock in the evening of the same
day, when the time came to give the child some medicine, we saw, by the
light of the lamp, that he was looking all about, with his big eyes
wide open. During that night the child slept in my mother's bosom. As
we had been told that he must be kept very warm, because he was only a
seven-months' child, it was decided that he should be kept in the bosom
by day as well as by night.

Next day--the ninth day of the sixth month--at half-past six o'clock in
the afternoon, he suddenly died....

*

--"_Brief is the time of pleasure, and quickly turns to pain; and
whatsoever is born must necessarily die_"[29];--that, indeed, is a true
saying about this world.

*

Only for one day to be called a mother!--to have a child born only to
see it die!... Surely, I thought, if a child must die within two days
after birth, it were better that it should never be born.

From the twelfth to the sixth month I had been so ill!--then at
last I had obtained some ease, and joy at the birth of a son; and I
had received so many congratulations about my good fortune;--and,
nevertheless, he was dead! ... Indeed, I suffered great grief.

On the tenth day of the sixth month the funeral took place, at the
temple called Senpukuji, in Ōkubo, and a small tomb was erected.

The poems composed at that time[30] were the following:--

      Omoïkya!
    Mi ni saë kaënu
      Nadéshiko ni,
    Wakaréshi sodé no
    Tsuyu no tamoto wo!

_If I could, only have known! Ah, this parting with the flower,[31] for
which I would so gladly have given my own life, has left my sleeves wet
with the dew!_

      Samidaré ya!
    Shimérigachi naru
    Sodé no tamoto wo.

_Oh! the month of rain![32] All things become damp;--the ends of my
sleeves are wet._

Some little time afterward, people told me that if I planted the
_sotoba_[33] upside down, another misfortune of this kind would not
come to pass. I had a great many sorrowful doubts about doing such a
thing; but at last, on the ninth day of the eighth month, I had the
_sotoba_ reversed. ...

*

On the eighth day of the ninth month we went to the Akasaka theatre.

*

On the eighteenth day of the tenth month I went by myself to the Haruki
theatre in Hongō, to see the play of _Ōkubo Hikozaëmon_.[34] There,
having carelessly lost my sandal-ticket [_gésoku-fuda_], I had to
remain until after everybody else had left. Then I was at last able to
get my sandals, and to go home; but the night was so black that I felt
very lonesome on the way.

On the day of the _Sekku_,[35]in the first month [1898], I was talking
with Hori's aunt and the wife of our friend Uchimi, when I suddenly
felt a violent pain in my breast, and, being frightened, I tried to
reach a talisman (_o-mamori_) of Suitengū,[36] which was lying upon the
wardrobe. But in the same moment I fell senseless. Under kind treatment
I soon came to myself again; but I was ill for a long time after.

***

The tenth day of the fourth month being the holiday
_Sanjiu-nen-Sai_,[37] we arranged to meet at father's. I was to go
there first with Jiunosuké [_perhaps a relative_], and there wait for
my husband, who had to go to the office that morning for a little
while. He met us at father's house about half-past eight: then the
three of us went out together to look at the streets. We passed through
Kōjimachi to Nakatamachi, and went by way of the Sakurada-Mon to the
Hibiya-Metsuké, and thence from Ginzadōri by way of the Mégané-Bashi
to Uyéno. After looking at things there, we again went to the
Mégané-Bashi; but then I felt so tired that I proposed to return, and
my husband agreed, as he also was very tired. But Jiunosuké said: "As
I do not want to miss this chance to see the Daimyō-procession,[38] I
must go on to Ginza." So there we said good-by to him, and we went to
a little eating-house [_tempura-ya_], where we were served with fried
fish; and, as luck would have it, we got a good chance to see the
Daimyō-procession from that very house. We did not get back home that
evening until half-past six o'clock.

*

From the middle of the fourth month I had much sorrow on account of a
matter relating to my sister Tori [_the matter is not mentioned_].

***

On the nineteenth day of the eighth month of the thirty-first year of
Meiji [1898] my second child was born, almost painlessly,--a girl; and
we named her Hatsu. We invited to the _shichiya_[39] all those who had
helped us at the time of the child's birth.

--Mother afterwards remained with me for a couple of days; but she
was then obliged to leave me, because my sister Kō was suffering from
severe pains in the chest. Fortunately my husband had his regular
vacation about the same time; and he helped me all he could,--even in
regard to washing and other matters; but I was often greatly troubled
because I had no woman with me....

When my husband's vacation was over, mother came often, but only while
my husband was away. The twenty-one days [_the period of danger_] thus
passed; but mother and child continued well.

--Up to the time of one hundred days after my daughter's birth, I
was constantly anxious about her, because she often seemed to have a
difficulty in breathing. But that passed off at last, and she appeared
to be getting strong.

Still, we were unhappy about one matter,--a deformity: Hatsu had been
born with a double thumb on one hand. For a long time we could not make
up our minds to take her to a hospital, in order to have an operation
performed. But at last a woman living near our house told us of a very
skilful surgeon in [the quarter of] Shinjiku; and we decided to go to
him. My husband held the child on his lap during the operation. I could
not bear to see the operation; and I waited in the next room, my heart
full of pain and fear, wondering how the matter would end. But [when
all was over] the little one did not appear to suffer any pain; and she
took the breast as usual a few minutes after. So the matter ended more
fortunately than I had thought possible.

At home she continued to take her milk as before, and seemed as if
nothing had been done to her little body. But as she was so very young
we were afraid that the operation might in some way cause her to be
sick. By way of precaution, I went with her to the hospital every day
for about three weeks; but she showed no sign of sickness.

*

On the third day of the third month of the thirty-second year [1899],
on the occasion of the _hatsu-sekku_,[40] we received presents of
_Dairi_ and of _hina_, both from father's house and from Goto's,--also
the customary gifts of congratulation: a _tansu_ [chest of drawers],
a _kyōdai_ [mirror-stand], and a _haribako_ [work-box: lit.
"needle-box"][41] We ourselves on the same occasion bought for her
a _chadai_ [teacup stand], a _zen_ [lacquered tray], and some other
little things. Both Goto and Jiunosuké came to see us on that day; and
we had a very happy gathering.

*

On the third day of the fourth month we visited the temple Ana-Hachiman
[_Shintō shrine in the district of Waséda_] to pray for the child's
health....

On the twenty-ninth day of the fourth month Hatsu appeared to be
unwell: so I wanted to have her examined by a doctor.

A doctor promised to come the same morning, but he did not come, and
I waited for him in vain all that day. Next day again I waited, but
he did not come. Toward evening Hatsu became worse, and seemed to be
suffering great pain in her breast, and I resolved to take her to a
doctor early next morning. All through that night I was very uneasy
about her, but at daybreak she seemed to be better. So I went out
alone, taking her on my back, and walked to the office of a doctor in
Akasaka. But when I asked to have the child examined, I was told that I
must wait, as it was not yet the regular time for seeing patients.

While I was waiting, the child began to cry worse than ever before;
she would not take the breast, and I could do nothing to soothe her,
either by walking or resting, so that I was greatly troubled. At last
the doctor came, and began to examine her; and in the same moment I
noticed that her crying grew feebler, and that her lips were becoming
paler and paler. Then, as I could not remain silent, seeing her thus, I
had to ask, "How is her condition?" "She cannot live until evening," he
answered. "But could you not give her medicine?" I asked. "If she could
drink it," he replied.

I wanted to go back home at once, and send word to my husband and to
my father's house; but the shock had been too much for me--all my
strength suddenly left me. Fortunately a kind old woman came to my aid,
and carried my umbrella and other things, and helped me to get into a
jinrikisha, so that I was able to return home by jinrikisha. Then I
sent a man to tell my husband and my father. Mita's wife came to help
me; and with her assistance everything possible was done to help the
child. ... Still my husband did not come back. But all our pain and
trouble was in vain.

So, on the second day of the fifth month of the thirty-second year, my
child set out on her journey to the Jūmanokudō[42]--never to return to
this world.

*

And we, her father and mother, were yet living--though we had caused
her death by neglecting to have her treated by a skilled doctor! This
thought made us both sorrow greatly; and we often reproached ourselves
in vain. But the day after her death the doctor said to us: "Even if
that disease had been treated from the beginning by the best possible
means, your child could not have lived more than about a week. If
she had been ten or eleven years old, she might possibly have been
saved by an operation; but in this case no operation could have been
attempted--the child was too young." Then he explained to us that the
child had died from a _jinzōen_.[43]...

Thus all the hopes that we had, and all the pains that we took in
caring for her, and all the pleasure of watching her grow during those
nine months,--all were in vain!

But we two were at last able to find some ease from our sorrow by
reflecting that our relation to this child, from the time of some
former life, must have been very slight and weak.[44]

*

In the loneliness of that weary time, I tried to express my heart by
writing some verses after the manner of the story of Miyagino and
Shinobu in the _gidayū-bon_[45]:--

    Koré, kono uchi é enzukishi wa,
    Omoi kaëséba itsutosé maë;
    Kondo mōkéshi wa onago no ko,
    Kawaii mono toté sodatsuru ka to;--

    Waga mi no nari wa uchi-wasuré,
    Sodatéshi koto mo, nasaké nai.
    Kōshita koto to wa tsuyushirazu,
    Kono Hatsu wa buji ni sodatsuru ka.
    Shubi yō seijin shita naraba,
    Yagaté muko wo tori
    Tanoshimashō dōshité to.
    Monomi yusan wo tashinandé,
    Wagako daiji to,
    Otto no koto mo, Hatsu no koto mo,
    Koïshi natsukashi omō no wo;
    --Tanoshimi-kurashita kai mo no.
    Oyako ni narishi wa uréshii ga,
    Sakidatsu koto wo miru haha no
    Kokoro mo suishité tamoi no to!

    --Té wo tori-kawasu fūfu ga nagéki,
    Nagéki wo tachi-giku mo,
    Morai nakishité omotéguchi
    Shōji mo nururu bakari nari.

_Here in this house it was that I married him;--well I remember the
day--five years ago. Here was born the girl-baby,--the loved one whom
we hoped to rear. Caring then no longer for my person [,--heedless
of how I dressed when I went out],--thinking only of how to bring
her up,--I lived. How pitiless [this doom of mine]! Never had I even
dreamed that such a thing could befall me: my only thoughts were as
to how my Hatsu could best be reared. When she grows up, I thought,
soon we shall find her a good husband, to make her life happy. So,
never going out for pleasure-seeking, I studied only how to care for my
little one,--how to love and to cherish my husband and my Hatsu. Vain
now, alas! this hoped-for joy of living only for her sake.. .. Once
having known the delight of the relation of mother and child, deign to
think of the heart of the mother who sees her child die before her!_
[46]

*

[_All of the foregoing is addressed to the spirit of the dead
child._--Translator.]

*

_Now, while husband and wife, each clasping the hands of the other,
make lament together, if any one pausing at the entrance should listen
to their sorrow, surely the paper window would be moistened by tears
from without._

*

About the time of Hatsu's death, the law concerning funerals was
changed for the better; and permission was given for the burning of
corpses in Ōkubo. So I asked Namiki to have the body sent to the temple
of which his family had always been parishioners,--providing that
there should be no [legal] difficulty about the matter. Accordingly
the funeral took place at Monjōji,--a temple belonging to the Asakusa
branch of the Hongwanji Shin-shū; and the ashes were there interred.

--My sister Kō was sick in bed with a rather bad cold at the time of
Hatsu's death; but she visited us very soon after the news had reached
her. And she called again a few days later to tell us that she had
become almost well, and that we had no more cause to feel anxious about
her.

--As for myself, I felt a dread of going out anywhere; and I did not
leave the house for a whole month. But as custom does not allow one to
remain always indoors, I had to go out at last; and I made the required
visit to father's and to my sister's.

***

--Having become quite ill, I hoped that mother would be able to help
me. But Kō was again sick, and Yoshi [_a younger sister here mentioned
for the first time_] and mother had both to attend her constantly:
so I could get no aid from father's house. There was no one to help
me except some of my female neighbours, who attended me out of pure
kindness, when they could spare the time. At last I got Hori-Shi to
engage a good old woman to assist me; and under her kind care I began
to get well. About the beginning of the eighth month I felt much
stronger....

On the fourth day of the ninth month my sister Kō died of consumption.

--It had been agreed beforehand that if an unexpected matter[47] came
to pass, my younger sister Yoshi should be received in the place of
Kō. As Goto-Shi found it inconvenient to live altogether alone, the
marriage took place on the eleventh day of the same month; and the
usual congratulations were offered.

On the last day of the same month Okada-Shi suddenly died.

We found ourselves greatly troubled [_pecuniarily embarrassed_] by the
expenses that all these events caused us.

*

--When I first heard that Yoshi had been received so soon after the
death of Kō, I was greatly displeased. But I kept my feelings hidden,
and I spoke to the man as before.

*

In the eleventh month Goto went alone to Sapporo. On the second day of
the second month, thirty-third year of Meiji [1900], Goto-Shi returned
to Tōkyō; and on the fourteenth day of the same month he went away
again to the Hokkaidō [_Yezo_], taking Yoshi with him.

***

On the twentieth day of the second month, at six o'clock in the
morning, my third child--a boy--was born. Both mother and child were
well.

*

--We had expected a girl, but it was a boy that was born; so, when my
husband came back from his work, he was greatly surprised and pleased
to find that he had a boy.

--But the child was not well able to take the breast: so we had to
nourish him by means of a feeding-bottle.

*

On the seventh day after the boy's birth, we partly shaved his head.
And in the evening we had the _shichiya_ [seventh-day festival]--but,
this time, all by ourselves.

--My husband had caught a bad cold some time before; and he could not
go to work next morning, as he was coughing badly. So he remained in
the house. Early in the morning the child had taken his milk as usual.
But, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, he seemed to be suffering great
pain in his breast; and he began to moan so strangely that we sent
a man for a doctor. Unfortunately the doctor that we asked to come
was out of town; and we were told that he would not come back before
night. Therefore, we thought that it would be better to send at once
for another doctor; and we sent for one. He said that he would come
in the evening. But, about two o'clock in the afternoon, the child's
sickness suddenly became worse; and a little before three o'clock--the
twenty-seventh day of the second month--_aënaku_![48]--my child was
dead, having lived for only eight days....

*

--I thought to myself that, even if this new misfortune did not cause
my husband to feel an aversion for me, thus having to part with all my
children, one after another, must be the punishment of some wrong done
in the time of a former life. And, so thinking, I knew that my sleeves
would never again become dry,--that the rain [_of tears_] would never
cease,--that never again in this world would the sky grow clear for me.

And more and more I wondered whether my husband's feelings would not
change for the worse, by reason of his having to meet such trouble,
over and over again, on my account. I felt anxious about his heart,
because of what already was in my own.

Nevertheless, he only repeated the words, _Temméï itashikata koré
naku_: "From the decrees of Heaven there is no escape."

*

--I thought that I should be better able to visit the tomb of my child
if he were buried in some temple near us. So the funeral took place
at the temple called Sempu-kuji in Ōkubo; and the ashes were buried
there....

      Tanoshimi mo
    Samété hakanashi
      Haru no yumé![49]

[_Translation._]

--_All the delight having perished, hopeless I remain: it was only a
dream of Spring!_[50]

[No date.]

... I wonder whether it was because of the sorrow that I suffered--my
face and limbs became slightly swollen during the fortnight[51] after
my boy's death.--It was nothing very serious, after all, and it soon
went away.... Now the period of twenty-one days [the period of danger]
is past....

Here the poor mother's diary ends. The closing statement regarding the
time of twenty-one days from the birth of her child leaves it probable
that these last lines were written on the thirteenth or fourteenth day
of the third month. She died on the twenty-eighth of the same month.

*

I doubt if any one not really familiar with the life of Japan can fully
understand this simple history. But to imagine the merely material
conditions of the existence here recorded should not be difficult:--the
couple occupying a tiny house of two rooms--one room of six mats and
one of three;--the husband earning barely per month;--the wife sewing,
washing, cooking (outside the house, of course);--no comfort of fire,
even during the period of greatest cold. I estimate that the pair
must have lived at an average cost of about seven pence a day, not
including house-rent. Their pleasures were indeed very cheap: a payment
of twopence admitted them to theatres or to _gidayū_-recitations; and
their sight-seeing was done on foot. Yet even these diversions were
luxuries for them. Expenses represented by the necessary purchase of
clothing, or by the obligation of making presents to kindred upon the
occasion of a marriage or a birth or a death, could only have been met
by heroic economy. Now it is true that thousands of poor folk in Tōkyō
live still more cheaply than this,--live upon a much smaller income
than £1 per month,--and nevertheless remain always clean, neat, and
cheerful. But only a very strong woman can easily bear and bring up
children under such conditions,--conditions much more hazardous than
those of the harder but healthier peasant-life of the interior. And, as
might be supposed, the weakly fail and perish in multitude.

*

Readers of the diary may have wondered at the eagerness shown by
so shy and gentle a woman to become thus suddenly the wife of a
total stranger, about whose character she knew absolutely nothing.
A majority of Japanese marriages, indeed, are arranged for in the
matter-of-fact way here described, and with the aid of a _nakōdo_;
but the circumstances, in this particular case, were exceptionally
discomforting. The explanation is pathetically simple. All good girls
are expected to marry; and to remain unmarried after a certain age is a
shame and a reproach. The dread of such reproach, doubtless, impelled
the writer of the diary to snatch at the first chance of fulfilling her
natural destiny. She was already twenty-nine years old;--another such
chance might never have offered itself.

*

To me the chief significance of this humble confession of struggle
and failure is not in the utterance of anything exceptional, but
in the expression of something as common to Japanese life as blue
air and sunshine. The brave resolve of the woman to win affection
by docility and by faultless performance of duty, her gratitude for
every small kindness, her childlike piety, her supreme unselfishness,
her Buddhist interpretation of suffering as the penalty for some
fault committed in a previous life, her attempts to write poetry
when her heart was breaking,--all this, indeed, I find touching, and
more than touching. But I do not find it exceptional. The traits
revealed are typical,--typical of the moral nature of the woman of
the people. Perhaps there are not many Japanese women of the same
humble class who could express their personal joy and pain in a
record at once so artless and pathetic; but there are millions of
such women inheriting--from ages and ages of unquestioning faith--a
like conception of life as duty, and an equal capacity of unselfish
attachment.


[Footnote 1: A _kozukai_ is a man-servant chiefly employed as
doorkeeper and messenger. The term is rendered better by the French
word _concierge_ than by our English word "porter"; but neither
expression exactly meets the Japanese meaning.]

[Footnote 2: The reader must understand that "the man of the opposite
house" is acting as _nakōdo_, or match-maker, in the interest of a
widower who wishes to remarry. By the statement, "no preparation
has been made," the hither means that he is unable to provide for
his daughter's marriage, and cannot furnish her with a bridal
outfit,--clothing, household furniture, etc.,--as required by custom.
The reply that "no preparation is needed" signifies that the proposed
husband is willing to take the girl without any marriage gifts.]

[Footnote 3: Throughout this Ms., except in one instance, the more
respectful form _Sama_ never occurs after a masculine name, the popular
form _Shi_ being used even after the names of kindred.]

[Footnote 4: The father has evidently been consulting a fortune-telling
book, such as the _San-zé-sō_, or a professional diviner. The allusion
to the astrologically determined natures, or temperaments, of the pair
could scarcely be otherwise explained.]

[Footnote 5: _Miai_ is a term used to signify a meeting arranged in
order to enable the parties affianced to see each other before the
wedding-day.]

[Footnote 6: Meaning: "I am ready to become your wife, if you are
willing to take me as you have been informed that I am,--a poor girl
without money or clothes."]

[Footnote 7: Lucky and unlucky days were named and symbolized as
follows, according to the old Japanese astrological system:--

Senkatsu:--forenoon good; afternoon bad.

Tomobiki:--forenoon good; afternoon good at the beginning and the end,
but bad in the middle.

Senpu;--forenoon bad; afternoon good.

Butsumetsu:--wholly unlucky.

Taian;--altogether good.

Shakō:--all unlucky, except at noon.]

[Footnote 8: This statement also implies that a professional diviner
has been consulted. The reference to the direction, or _bōgaku_, can
be fully understood only by those conversant with the old Chinese
nature-philosophy.]

[Footnote 9: Lit. "thrice-three-nine-times-wine-cup."]

[Footnote 10: At a Japanese wedding it is customary to avoid the use
of any words to which an unlucky signification attaches, or of any
words suggesting misfortune in even an indirect way. The word _sumu_,
"to finish," or "to end"; the word _kaēru_, "to return," (suggesting
divorce), as well as many others, are forbidden at weddings.
Accordingly, the term _o-hiraki_ has long been euphemistically
substituted for the term _oitoma_ ("honourable leave-taking," i.e.
"farewell"), in the popular etiquette of wedding assemblies.]

[Footnote 11: "I felt a tumultuous beating within my breast," would
perhaps be a closer rendering of the real sense; but it would sound
oddly artificial by comparison with the simple Japanese utterance:
"_Ato ni wa futari sashi-mukai to nari, muné uchi-sawagi; sono
bazukashisa bisthi ni tsukushi-gatashi._"]

[Footnote 12: From _sato_, "the parental home," and _kaëri_, "to
return." The first visit of a bride to her parents, after marriage, is
thus called.]

[Footnote 13: _Aigasa_, a fantastic term compounded from the verb
_au_, "to accord," "to harmonize," and the noun _kasa_, "an umbrella."
It signifies one umbrella used by two persons--especially lovers: an
umbrella-of-loving-accord. To understand the wife's anxiety about being
seen walking with her husband under the borrowed umbrella, the reader
must know that it is not yet considered decorous for wife and husband
even to walk side by side in public. A newly wedded pair, using a
single umbrella in this way, would be particularly liable to have jests
made at their expense--jests that might prove trying to the nerves of a
timid bride.]

[Footnote 14: She means the great Buddhist temple of Kwannon,--the most
popular, and perhaps the most famous, Buddhist temple in Tokyo.]

[Footnote 15: In the Ōkubo quarter. The shrine is shadowed by a fine
grove of trees.]

[Footnote 16: That is to say, "It was agreed that we should all go
together to see the flowers." The word _hanami_ ("flower-seeing") might
be given to any of the numerous flower-festivals of the year, according
to circumstances; but it here refers to the season of cherry blossoms.
Throughout this diary the dates are those of the old lunar calendar.]

[Footnote 17: A literal rendering is almost impossible. There is
a ferry, called the Ferry of Imado, over the Sumidagawa; but the
reference here is really neither to the ferry nor to the ferryman,
but to the _nakōdo_, or match-maker, who arranged for the marriage.
_Miméguri-Inari_ is the popular name of a famous temple of the God of
Rice, in Mukojima; but there is an untranslatable play here upon the
name, suggesting a lovers' meeting. The reference to the Sumidagawa
also contains a play upon the syllables _sumi_,--the verb "sumi"
signifying "to be clear." _Shirahigé-Yashiro_ ("White-Hair Temple")
is the name of a real and very celebrated Shintō shrine in the city;
but the name is here used chiefly to express the hope that the union
may last into the period of hoary age. Besides these suggestions, we
may suppose that the poem contains allusions to the actual journey
made,--over the Sumidagawa by ferry, and thence to the various temples
named. From old time, poems of like meaning have been made about these
places; but the lines above given are certainly original, with the
obvious exception of a few phrases which have become current coin in
popular poetry.]

[Footnote 18: The Soga Brothers were famous heroes of the twelfth
century. The word _kaichō_ signifies the religious festival during
which the principal image of a temple is exposed to view.]

[Footnote 19: Name of a public hall at which various kinds of
entertainments are given, more especially recitations by professional
story-tellers.]

[Footnote 20: Lit. "there never yet having been any waves nor even wind
between us."

[Footnote 21: The Shinto parish-temple, or more correctly,
district-temple of the Yotsuya] quarter. Each quarter, or district,
of the city has its tutelar divinity, or Ujigami. Suga-jinja is the
Ujigami-temple of Yotsuya.]

[Footnote 22: _Iyogasuri_ is the name given to a kind of dark-blue
cotton-cloth, with a sprinkling of white in small patterns,
manufactured at Iyo, in Shikoku.]

[Footnote 23: The Kanazawa-tei is a public hall in the Yotsuya quarter.
Harimadayū is the professional name of a celebrated chanter of the
dramatic recitations called _jōruri_ and _gidayū_,--in which the
reciter, or chanter, mimes the voices and action of many different
characters.]

[Footnote 24: She alludes to a popular saying of Buddhist
origin:--_Jishin, kwaji, kaminari, misoka, kikin, yamai no naki kuni é
yuku_ ("Let us go to the Land where there is neither earthquake, nor
fire, nor lightning, nor any last day of the month, nor famine, nor
sickness").]

[Footnote 25: _Ujigami_ of the Ushigomé district.]

[Footnote 26: Festival of the "Further Shore" (that is to say,
Paradise). There are two great Buddhist festivals thus called,--the
first representing a period of seven days during the spring equinox;
the second, a period of seven days during the autumnal equinox.]

[Footnote 27: This drama is founded upon the history of a famous rice
merchant named Matsumaëya Gorōbei.]

[Footnote 28: Shiogama-Daimyōjin, a Shinto deity, to whom women pray
for easy delivery in child-birth. Shrines of this divinity may be found
in almost every province of Japan.]

[Footnote 29: Uréshiki ma wa wazuka nité, mata kanashimi to henzuru;
umaréru mono wa kanarazu shizu.--A Buddhist text that has become a
Japanese proverb.]

[Footnote 30: Composed by the bereaved mother herself, as a discipline
against grief.]

[Footnote 31: _Nadéshiko_ literally means a pink; but in poetry the
word is commonly used in the meaning of "baby."]

[Footnote 32: _Samidaré_ is the name given to the old fifth month, or,
more strictly speaking, to a rainy period occurring in that month.
The verses are, of course, allusive, and their real meaning might be
rendered thus: "Oh! the season of grief! All things now seem sad: the
sleeves of my robe are moist with my tears!"]

[Footnote 33: The _sotoba_ is a tall wooden lath, inscribed with
Buddhist texts, and planted above a grave. For a full account of the
_sotoba_, see the article entitled "The Literature of the Dead," in my
_Exotics and Retrospectives_, p. 102. I am not able to give any account
or explanation of the curious superstition here referred to; but it
is probably of the same class with the strange custom recorded in my
_Gleanings in Buddha-Fields_, p. 126.]

[Footnote 34: It would be unfair to suppose that this visit to the
theatre was made only for pleasure; it was made rather in the hope of
forgetting pain, and probably by order of the husband.

Ōkubo Hikozaëmon was the favourite minister and adviser of the Shōgun
Iyem-itsu. Numberless stories of his sagacity and kindness are recorded
in popular literature; and in many dramas the notable incidents of his
official career are still represented.]

[Footnote 35: There are five holidays thus named in every year. These
_go-sekku_ are usually called, _Jinjitsu_ (the 7th of the 1st month),
_Joki_ (the 3d of the 3d month), _Tango_ (the 5th of the 5th month),
_Tanabata_ (the 7th of the 7th month), and _Chōyō_ (the 9th of the 9th
month).]

[Footnote 36: A divinity half-Buddhist, half-Shintō, in origin, but now
popularly considered Shintō. This god is especially worshipped as a
healer, and a protector against sickness. His principal temple in Tōkyō
is in the Nihonbashi district.]

[Footnote 37: A festival in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary
of the establishment of Tōkyō as the Imperial capital, instead of
Kyōtō.]

[Footnote 38: _Daimyō-no-g yōretsu_. On the festival mentioned there
was a pageant representing feudal princes travelling in state,
accompanied by their retainers and servants. The real armour, costumes,
and weapons of the period before Meiji were effectively displayed on
this occasion.]

[Footnote 39: A congratulatory feast, held on the evening of the
seventh day after the birth of a child. Relatives and friends invited
usually make small presents to the baby.]

[Footnote 40: The first annual Festival of Girls is thus called.]

[Footnote 41: All the objects here mentioned are toys--toys appropriate
to the occasion. The _Dairi_ are old-fashioned toy-figures,
representing an emperor and empress in ancient costume. _Hina_ are
dolls.]

[Footnote 42: Another name for the Buddhist Paradise of the West,--the
heaven of Amida (Amitābha).]

[Footnote 43: Nephritis.]

[Footnote 44: Or, "very thin and loose,"--the Karma-relation being
emblematically spoken of as a bond or tie. She means, of course, that
the loss of the child was the inevitable consequence of some fault
committed in a previous state of existence.]

[Footnote 45: _Gidayū-bon_, "the book of the _gidayū_." There are many
_gidayū_ books. _Gidayū_ is the name given to a kind of musical drama.
In the dramatic composition here referred to, the characters Miyagino
and Shinobu are sisters, who relate their sorrows to each other.]

[Footnote 46: I.e. before she herself (the mother) dies;--there is a
colloquial phrase in the Japanese text. _Ko ga oya ni sakidatsu_ is the
common expression: "the child goes before the parents,"--that is to
say, dies before the parents.]

[Footnote 47: A euphemistic expression for death.]

[Footnote 48: _Aënaku_ is an adjective signifying, according to
circumstances, "feeble," or "transitory," or "sad." Its use here might
best be rendered by some such phrase as "Piteous to say!"]

[Footnote 49: Her poem bears no date.]

[Footnote 50: A necessarily free translation;--the lines might also
be read thus: "Having awakened, all the joy fleets and fades;--it was
only a dream of Spring." The verb _saméru_, very effectively used here,
allows of this double rendering; for it means either "to awake" or "to
fade." The adjective _hakanashi_ also has a double meaning: according
to circumstances it may signify either "fleeting" (evanescent) or
"hopeless" (wretched).]

[Footnote 51: Lit. "the first two _nanuka_": one _nanuka_ representing
a period of seven successive days from the date of death.]



Heiké-gani


[Illustration]

In various countries of which the peoples appear strange to us, by
reason of beliefs, ideas, customs, and arts having nothing in common
with our own, there can be found something in the nature of the
land--something in its flora or fauna--characterized by a corresponding
strangeness. Probably the relative queerness of the exotic nature in
such regions helped more or less to develop the apparent oddity of the
exotic mind. National differences of thought or feeling should not be
less evolutionally interpretable than the forms of vegetables or of
insects; and, in the mental evolution of a people, the influence of
environment upon imagination must be counted as a factor....

*

These reflections were induced by a box of crabs sent me from the
Province of Chōshū,--crabs possessing that very same quality of
grotesqueness which we are accustomed to think of as being peculiarly
Japanese. On the backs of these creatures there are bossings and
depressions that curiously simulate the shape of a human face,--a
distorted face,--a face modelled in relief as a Japanese craftsman
might have modelled it in some moment of artistic whim.

[Illustration]

Two varieties of such crabs--nicely dried and polished--are constantly
exposed for sale in the shops of Akamagaséki (better known to
foreigners by the name of Shimonoséki). They are caught along the
neighbouring stretch of coast called Dan-no-Ura, where the great
clan of the Heiké, or Taira, were exterminated in a naval battle,
seven centuries ago, by the rival clan of Genji, or Minamoto. Readers
of Japanese history will remember the story of the Imperial Nun,
Nii-no-Ama, who in the hour of that awful tragedy composed a poem, and
then leaped into the sea, with the child-emperor Antoku in her arms.

[Illustration]

Now the grotesque crabs of this coast are called Heiké-gani, or
"Heiké-crabs," because of a legend that the spirits of the drowned and
slaughtered warriors of the Heiké-clan assumed such shapes; and it is
said that the fury or the agony of the death-struggle can still be
discerned in the faces upon the backs of the crabs. But to feel the
romance of this legend you should be familiar with old pictures of the
fight of Dan-no-Ura,--old coloured prints of the armoured combatants,
with their grim battle-masks of iron and their great fierce eyes.

The smaller variety of crab is known simply as a
"Heiké-crab,"--Heiké-gani. Each Heiké-gani is supposed to be animated
by the spirit of a common Heiké warrior only,--an ordinary samurai. But
the larger kind of crab is also termed Taishō-gani ("Chieftain-crab"),
or Tatsugashira ("Dragon-helmet"); and all Taishō-gani or Tatsugashira
are thought to be animated by ghosts of those great Heiké captains
who bore upon their helmets monsters unknown to Western heraldry, and
glittering horns, and dragons of gold.

I got a Japanese friend to draw for me the two pictures of Heiké-gani
herewith reproduced; and I can vouch for their accuracy. But I told
him that I could not see anything resembling a helmet, either in his
drawing of the Tatsugashira, nor in the original figure upon the back
of the crab.

[Illustration]

"Can you see it?" I asked. "Why, yes,--somewhat like this," he
answered, making the following sketch:--

"Well, I can make out part of the head-gear," I said;--"but that
outline of yours is not according to facts,--and that face is vapid as
the face of the Moon. Look at the nightmare on the back of the real
crab!..."

[Illustration]



Fireflies


[Illustration]

I

I want to talk about Japanese fireflies, but not entomologically.
If you are interested, as you ought to be, in the scientific side
of the subject, you should seek enlightenment from a Japanese
professor of biology, now lecturing at the Imperial University of
Tōkyō. He signs himself "Mr. S. Watasé" (the "S" standing for the
personal name Shozaburo); and he has been a teacher as well as a
student of science in America, where a number of his lectures have
been published,[1]--lectures upon animal phosphorescence, animal
electricity, the light-producing organs of insects and fishes, and
other wonderful topics of biology. He can tell you all that is
known concerning the morphology of fireflies, the physiology of
fireflies, the photometry of fireflies, the chemistry of their
luminous substance, the spectroscopic analysis of their light, and the
significance of that light in terms of ether-vibration. By experiment
he can show you that, under normal conditions of temperature and
environment, the number of light-pulsations produced by one species
of Japanese firefly averages twenty-six per minute; and that the
rate suddenly rises to sixty-three per minute, if the insect be
frightened by seizure. Also he can prove to you that another and
smaller kind of firefly, when taken in the hand, will increase the
number of its light-pulsings to upward of two hundred per minute.
He suggests that the light may be of some protective value to the
insect,--like the "warning colours" of sundry nauseous caterpillars
and butterflies,--because the firefly has a very bitter taste, and
birds appear to find it unpalatable. (Frogs, he has observed, do not
mind the bad taste: they fill their cold bellies with fireflies till
the light shines through them, much as the light of a candle-flame
will glow through a porcelain jar.) But whether of protective value or
not, the tiny dynamo would seem to be used in a variety of ways,--as
a phototelegraph, for example. As other insects converse by sound or
by touch, the firefly utters its emotion in luminous pulsings: its
speech is a language of light.... I am only giving you some hints about
the character of the professor's lectures, which are never merely
technical. And for the best part of this non-scientific essay of
mine,--especially that concerning the capture and the sale of fireflies
in Japan,--I am indebted to some delightful lectures which he delivered
last year to Japanese audiences in Tōkyō.


II

As written to-day, the Japanese name of the firefly (_hotaru_) is
ideographically composed with the sign for fire, doubled, above the
sign for insect. The real origin of the word is nevertheless doubtful;
and various etymologies have been suggested. Some scholars think that
the appellation anciently signified "the First-born of Fire"; while
others believe that it was first composed with syllables meaning "star"
and "drop." The more poetical of the proposed derivations, I am sorry
to say, are considered the least probable. But whatever may have been
the primal meaning of the word _hotaru_, there can be no doubt as to
the romantic quality of certain folk-names still given to the insect.
Two species of firefly have a wide distribution in Japan; and these
have been popularly named _Genji-botaru_ and _Heiké-botaru_: that is
to say, "the Minamoto-Firefly" and "the Taira-Firefly." A legend avers
that these fireflies are the ghosts of the old Minamoto and Taira
warriors; that, even in their insect shapes, they remember the awful
clan-struggle of the twelfth century; and that once every year, on the
night of the twentieth day of the fourth month,[2] they fight a great
battle on the Uji River. Therefore, on that night all caged fireflies
should be set free, in order that they may be able to take part in the
contest.

*

The _Genji-botaru_ is the largest of Japanese fireflies,--the largest
species, at least, in Japan proper, not including the Loochoo Islands.
It is found in almost every part of the country from Kyūshū to Ōshū.
The _Heiké-botaru_ ranges further north, being especially common in
Yezo; but it is found also in the central and southern provinces. It
is smaller than the Genji, and emits a feebler light. The fireflies
commonly sold by insect-dealers in Tōkyō, Ōsaka, Kyoto, and other
cities, are of the larger species. Japanese observers have described
the light of both insects as "tea-coloured" (_cha-iro_),--the tint of
the ordinary Japanese infusion, when the leaf is of good quality, being
a clear greenish yellow. But the light of a fine Genji-firefly is so
brilliant that only a keen eye can detect the greenish colour: at first
sight the flash appears yellow as the flame of a wood-fire, and its
vivid brightness has not been overpraised in the following _hokku_:--

      Kagaribi mo
    Hotaru mo hikaru--
      Genji kana!

"Whether it be a glimmering of festal-fires[3] [far away], or a
glimmering of fireflies, [one can hardly tell]--ah, it is the Genji!"

*

Although the appellations _Genji-botaru_ and _Heiké-botaru_ are still
in general use, both insects are known by other folk-names. In
different provinces the Genji is called _Ō-botaru_, or "Great Firefly";
_Ushi-botaru_, or "Ox-Firefly"; _Kuma-botaru_, or "Bear-Firefly"; and
_Uji-botaru_, or "Firefly of Uji,"--not to mention such picturesque
appellations as _Komosō-botaru_ and _Yamabuki-botaru_, which could not
be appreciated by the average Western reader. The _Heiké-botaru_ is
also called _Himé-botaru_, or "Princess-Firefly"; _Nennéi-botaru_, or
"Baby-Firefly"; and _Yuréi-botaru_, or "Ghost-Firefly." But these are
only examples chosen at random: in almost every part of Japan there is
a special folk-name for the insect.


III

There are many places in Japan which are famous for fireflies,--places
which people visit in summer merely to enjoy the sight of the
fireflies. Anciently the most celebrated of all such places was a
little valley near Ishiyama, by the lake of Ōmi. It is still called
Hotaru-Dani, or the Valley of Fireflies. Before the Period of Genroku
(1688-1703), the swarming of the fireflies in this valley, during the
sultry season, was accounted one of the natural marvels of the country.
The fireflies of the Hotaru-Dani are still celebrated for their size;
but that wonderful swarming of them, which old writers described,
is no longer to be seen there. At present the most famous place for
fireflies is in the neighbourhood of Uji, in Yamashirō. Uji, a pretty
little town in the centre of the celebrated tea-district, is situated
on the Ujigawa, and is scarcely less famed for its fireflies than for
its teas. Every summer special trains run from Kyōtō and Ōsaka to
Uji, bringing thousands of visitors to see the fireflies. But it is
on the river, at a point several miles from the town, that the great
spectacle is to be witnessed,--the _Hotaru-Kassen_, or Firefly Battle.
The stream there winds between hills covered with vegetation; and
myriads of fireflies dart from either bank, to meet and cling above the
water. At moments they so swarm together as to form what appears to the
eye like a luminous cloud, or like a great ball of sparks. The cloud
soon scatters, or the ball drops and breaks upon the surface of the
current, and the fallen fireflies drift glittering away; but another
swarm quickly collects in the same locality. People wait all night in
boats upon the river to watch the phenomenon. After the _Hotaru-Kassen_
is done, the Ujikawa, covered with the still sparkling bodies of the
drifting insects, is said to appear like the Milky Way, or, as the
Japanese more poetically call it, the River of Heaven. Perhaps it was
after witnessing such a spectacle that the great female poet, Chiyo of
Kaga, composed these verses:--

      Kawa bakari,
    Yami wa nagarété--?
      Hotaru kana!

--Which may be thus freely rendered:--

"Is it the river only?--or is the darkness itself drifting?... Oh, the
fireflies!..."[4]


IV

Many persons in Japan earn their living during the summer months by
catching and selling fireflies: indeed, the extent of this business
entitles it to be regarded as a special industry. The chief centre of
this industry is the region about Ishiyama, in Goshū, by the Lake of
Ōmi,--a number of houses there supplying fireflies to many parts of
the country, and especially to the great cities of Osaka and Kyōtō.
From sixty to seventy firefly-catchers are employed by each of the
principal houses during the busy season. Some training is required
for the occupation. A tyro might find it no easy matter to catch a
hundred fireflies in a single night; but an expert has been known to
catch three thousand. The methods of capture, although of the simplest
possible kind, are very interesting to see.

Immediately after sunset, the firefly-hunter goes forth, with a long
bamboo pole upon his shoulder, and a long bag of brown mosquito-netting
wound, like a girdle, about his waist. When he reaches a wooded place
frequented by fireflies,--usually some spot where willows are planted,
on the bank of a river or lake,--he halts and watches the trees. As
soon as the trees begin to twinkle satisfactorily, he gets his net
ready, approaches the most luminous tree, and with his long pole
strikes the branches. The fireflies, dislodged by the shock, do not
immediately take flight, as more active insects would do under like
circumstances, but drop helplessly to the ground, beetle-wise, where
their light--always more brilliant in moments of fear or pain--renders
them conspicuous. If suffered to remain upon the ground for a few
moments, they will fly away. But the catcher, picking them up with
astonishing quickness, using both hands at once, deftly tosses them
_into his mouth_--because he cannot lose the time required to put them,
one by one, into the bag. Only when his mouth can hold no more, does he
drop the fireflies, unharmed, into the netting.

Thus the firefly-catcher works until about two o'clock in the
morning,--the old Japanese hour of ghosts,--at which time the insects
begin to leave the trees and seek the dewy soil. There they are said to
bury their tails, so as to remain viewless. But now the hunter changes
his tactics. Taking a bamboo broom he brushes the surface of the
turf, lightly and quickly. Whenever touched or alarmed by the broom,
the fireflies display their lanterns, and are immediately nipped and
bagged. A little before dawn, the hunters return to town.

At the firefly-shops the captured insects are sorted as soon as
possible, according to the brilliancy of their light,--the more
luminous being the higher-priced. Then they are put into gauze-covered
boxes or cages, with a certain quantity of moistened grass in each
cage. From one hundred to two hundred fireflies are placed in a
single cage, according to grade. To these cages are attached small
wooden tablets inscribed with the names of customers,--such as hotel
proprietors, restaurant-keepers, wholesale and retail insect-merchants,
and private persons who have ordered large quantities of fireflies
for some particular festivity. The boxes are despatched to their
destinations by nimble messengers,--for goods of this class cannot be
safely intrusted to express companies.

Great numbers of fireflies are ordered for display at evening parties
in the summer season. A large Japanese guest-room usually overlooks
a garden; and during a banquet or other evening entertainment, given
in the sultry season, it is customary to set fireflies at liberty in
the garden after sunset, that the visitors may enjoy the sight of the
sparkling. Restaurant-keepers purchase largely. In the famous Dōtombori
of Ōsaka, there is a house where myriads of fireflies are kept in a
large space enclosed by mosquito-netting; and customers of this house
are permitted to enter the enclosure and capture a certain number of
fireflies to take home with them.

*

The wholesale price of living fireflies ranges from three sen per
hundred up to thirteen sen per hundred, according to season and
quality. Retail dealers sell them in cages; and in Tokyo the price of
a cage of fireflies ranges from three sen up to several dollars. The
cheapest kind of cage, containing only three or four fireflies, is
scarcely more than two inches square; but the costly cages--veritable
marvels of bamboo work, beautifully decorated--are as large as cages
for song-birds. Firefly cages of charming or fantastic shapes--model
houses, junks, temple-lanterns, etc.--can be bought at prices ranging
from thirty sen up to one dollar.

Dead or alive, fireflies are worth money. They are delicate insects,
and they live but a short time in confinement. Great numbers die in
the insect-shops; and one celebrated insect-house is said to dispose
every season of no less than five _shō_--that is to say, about one
peck--of dead fireflies, which are sold to manufacturing establishments
in Osaka. Formerly fireflies were used much more than at present in
the manufacture of poultices and pills, and in the preparation of
drugs peculiar to the practice of Chinese medicine. Even to-day some
curious extracts are obtained from them; and one of these, called
_Hotaru-no-abura,_ or Firefly-grease, is still used by woodworkers for
the purpose of imparting rigidity to objects made of bent bamboo.

A very curious chapter on firefly-medicine might be written by
somebody learned in the old-fashioned literature. The queerest part of
the subject is Chinese, and belongs much more to demonology than to
therapeutics. Firefly-ointments used to be made which had power, it was
alleged, to preserve a house from the attacks of robbers, to counteract
the effect of any poison, and to drive away "the hundred devils." And
pills were made with firefly-substance which were believed to confer
invulnerability;--one kind of such pills being called _Kanshōgan_, or
"Commander-in-Chief Pills"; and another, _Buigan_, or "Military-Power
Pills."


V

Firefly-catching, as a business, is comparatively modern; but
firefly-hunting, as a diversion, is a very old custom. Anciently
it was an aristocratic amusement; and great nobles used to give
firefly-hunting parties,--_botaru-gari_. In this busy era of Meiji
the _botaru-gari_ is rather an amusement for children than for
grown-up folks; but the latter occasionally find time to join in the
sport. All over Japan, the children have their firefly-hunts every
summer;--moonless nights being usually chosen for such expeditions.
Girls follow the chase with paper fans; boys, with long light poles,
to the ends of which wisps of fresh bamboo-grass are tied. When struck
down by a fan or a wisp, the insects are easily secured, as they are
slow to take wing after having once been checked in actual flight.
While hunting, the children sing little songs, supposed to attract
the shining prey. These songs differ according to locality; and the
number of them is wonderful. But there are very few possessing that
sort of interest which justifies quotation. Two examples will probably
suffice:--

    (_Province of Choshū._)
    Hotaru, koi! koi!
    Koi-tomosé!
    Nippon ichi no
    Jōsan ga,
    Chōchin tomoshité,
    Koi to ina!

Come, firefly, come! Come with your light burning! The nicest girl in
Japan wants to know if you will not light your lantern and come!

    (_Dialect of Shimonoséki._)

          Hōchin, koi!
          Hōchin, koi!
    Séki no machi no bon-san ga,
          Chōchin tomoshité,
              Koi!
              Koi!

Firefly, come! firefly, come! All the boys of Séki [want you to come]
with your lantern lighted! Come! come!

*

Of course, in order to hunt fireflies successfully, it is necessary
to know something about their habits; and on this subject Japanese
children are probably better informed than a majority of my readers,
for whom the following notes may possess a novel interest:--

*

Fireflies frequent the neighbourhood of water, and like to circle
above it; but some kinds are repelled by impure or stagnant water,
and are only to be found in the vicinity of clear streams or lakes.
The Genji-firefly shuns swamps, ditches, or foul canals; while the
Heiké-firefly seems to be satisfied with any water. All fireflies
seek by preference grassy banks shaded by trees; but they dislike
certain trees and are attracted by others. They avoid pine trees, for
instance; and they will not light upon rose-bushes. But upon willow
trees--especially weeping willows--they gather in great swarms.
Occasionally, on a summer night, you may see a drooping willow so
covered and illuminated with fireflies that all its branches appear "to
be budding fire." During a bright moonlight night fireflies keep as
much as possible in shadow; but when pursued they fly at once into the
moonshine, where their shimmering is less easily perceived. Lamplight,
or any strong artificial light, drives them away; but small bright
lights attract them. They can be lured, for example, by the sparkling
of a small piece of lighted charcoal, or by the glow of a little
Japanese pipe, kindled in the dark. But the lamping of a single lively
firefly, confined in a bottle, or cup, of clear glass, is the best of
all lures.

*

As a rule the children hunt only in parties, for obvious reasons.
In former years it would have been deemed foolhardy to go alone in
pursuit of fireflies, because there existed certain uncanny beliefs
concerning them. And in some of the country districts these beliefs
still prevail. What appear to be fireflies may be malevolent spirits,
or goblin-fires, or fox-lights, kindled to delude the wayfarer. Even
real fireflies are not always to be trusted;--the weirdness of their
kinships might be inferred from their love of willow trees. Other trees
have their particular spirits, good or evil, hamadryads or goblins; but
the willow is particularly the tree of the dead--the favourite of human
ghosts. Any firefly may be a ghost--who can tell? Besides, there is an
old belief that the soul of a person still alive may sometimes assume
the shape of a firefly. And here is a little story that was told me in
Izuno:--

*

One cold winter's night a young shizoku of Matsuë, while on his way
home from a wedding-party, was surprised to perceive a firefly-light
hovering above the canal in front of his dwelling. Wondering that such
an insect should be flying abroad in the season of snow, he stopped
to look at it; and the light suddenly shot toward him. He struck at
it with a stick; but it darted away, and flew into the garden of a
residence adjoining his own.

Next morning he made a visit to that house, intending to relate the
adventure to his neighbours and friends. But before he found a chance
to speak of it, the eldest daughter of the family, happening to enter
the guest-room without knowing of the young man's visit, uttered a cry
of surprise, and exclaimed, "Oh! how you startled me! No one told me
that you had called; and just as I came in I was thinking about you.
Last night I had so strange a dream! I was flying in my dream,--flying
above the canal in front of our house. It seemed very pleasant to fly
over the water; and while I was flying there I saw you coming along the
bank. Then I went to you to tell you that I had learned how to fly; but
you struck at me, and frightened me so that I still feel afraid when I
think of it.. .." After hearing this, the visitor thought it best not
to relate his own experience for the time being, lest the coincidence
should alarm the girl, to whom he was betrothed.


VI

Fireflies have been celebrated in Japanese poetry from ancient time;
and frequent mention of them is made in early classical prose. One
of the fifty-four chapters of the famous novel, _Genji-Monogari_,
for example,--written either toward the close of the tenth century
or at the beginning of the eleventh,--is entitled, "Fireflies"; and
the author relates how a certain noble person was enabled to obtain
one glimpse of a lady's face in the dark by the device of catching
and suddenly liberating a number of fireflies. The first literary
interest in fireflies may have been stimulated, if not aroused, by
the study of Chinese poetry. Even to-day every Japanese child knows a
little song about the famous Chinese scholar who, in the time of his
struggles with poverty, studied by the light of a paper bag filled with
fireflies. But, whatever the original source of their inspiration,
Japanese poets have been making verses about fireflies during more than
a thousand years. Compositions on the subject can be found in every
form of Japanese poetry; but the greater number of firefly poems are in
_hokku_,--the briefest of all measures, consisting of only seventeen
syllables. Modern love-poems relating to the firefly are legion; but
the majority of these, written in the popular twenty-six-syllable form
called _dodoïtsu_, appear to consist of little more than variants of
one old classic fancy, comparing the silent burning of the insect's
light to the consuming passion that is never uttered.

*

Perhaps my readers will be interested by the following selection of
firefly poems. Some of the compositions are many centuries old:--

    Catching Fireflies

      Mayoi-go no
    Naku-naku tsukamu
      Hotaru kana!

Ah! the lost child! Though crying and crying, still he catches
fireflies!

      Kuraki yori
    Kuraki hito yobu:
      Hotaru kana!

Out of the blackness black people call [to each other]: [they are
hunting] fireflies!

      Iu koto no
    Kikoëté ya, takaku
      Tobu hotaru!

Ah! having heard the voices of people [crying "Catch it!"], the firefly
now flies higher!

      Owarété wa
    Tsuki ni kakururu
      Hotaru kana!

Ah, [the cunning] fireflies! being chased, they hide themselves in the
moonlight!

      Ubayoté
    Fumi-koroshitaru
      Hotaru kana!

[Two firefly-catchers] having tried to seize it [at the same time], the
poor firefly is trampled to death!

    The Light of Fireflies

      Hotarubi ya!
    Mada kuréyaranu,
      Hashi no uri.

Fireflies already sparkling under the bridge,--and it is not yet dark!

      Mizu-gusa no
    Kururu to miété
      Tobu hotaru.

When the water-grasses appear to grow dark, the fireflies begin to
fly.[5]

      Oku-no-ma yé
    Hanashité mitaru
      Hotaru kana!

Pleasant, from the guest-room,[6] to watch the fireflies being set free
in the garden!

      Yo no fukuru
    Hodo ōkinaru
      Hotaru kana!

Ever as the night grows [deeper, the light of] the firefly also grows
[brighter]!

      Kusakari no
    Sodé yori idzuru,
      Hotaru kana!

See! a firefly flies out of the sleeve of the grass-cutter!

      Koko kashiko,
    Hotaru ni aoshi
      Yoru no kusa.

Here and there the night-grass appears green, because of the light of
the fireflies.

      Chōchin no
    Kiyété, tōtoki
      Hotaru kana!

How precious seems [the light of] the firefly, now that the
lantern-light has gone out!

      Mado kuraki,
    Shōji wo noboru
      Hotaru kana!

The window itself is dark, but see!--a firefly is creeping up the paper
pane!

      Moë yasuku,
    Mata kéyé yasuki,
      Hotaru kana!

How easily kindled, and how easily put out again, is the light of the
firefly!

      Hitotsu kité,
    Niwa no tsuyukéki,
      Hotaru kana!

Oh! a single firefly having come, one can see the dew in the garden!

      Té no hira wo
    Hau ashi miyuru
      Hotaru kana!

Oh, this firefly!--as it crawls on the palm of my hand, its legs are
visible [by its own light]!

      Osoroshi no
    Té ni sukitōru,
      Hotaru kana!

It is enough to make one afraid! See! the light of this firefly shows
through my hand![7]

      Sabéshisaya!
    Isshaku kiyété
      Yuku hotaru!

How uncanny! The firefly shoots to within a foot of me, and--out goes
the light!

      Yuku saki no
    Sawaru mono naki
      Hotaru kana!

There goes a firefly! but there is nothing in front of it to take hold
of [nothing to touch: what can it be seeking--the ghostly creature?].

      Hōki-gi ni
    Ari to wa miyété,
      Hotaru kana!

In this hoki-bush it certainly appeared to be,--the firefly! [but where
is it?]

      Sodé é kité,
    Yōhan no hotaru
      Sabishi kana!

This midnight firefly coming upon the sleeve of my robe--how
weird[8]!...

      Yanagi-ba no
    Yami saki kaësu
      Hotaru kana!

For this willow tree the season of budding would seem to have returned
in the dark--look at the fireflies!

      Mizu soko no
    Kagé wo kowagaru
      Hotaru kana!

Ah, he is afraid of the darkness under the water,--that firefly!
[Therefore he lights his tiny lantern!]

      Sugitaru wa!
    Mé ni mono sugoshi
      Tobu hotaru!

Ah, I am going too far!... The flitting of the fireflies here is a
lonesome sight!

      Hotarubi ya!
    Kusa ni osamaru
      Yoäkégata.

Ah, the firefly-lights! As the darkness begins to break, they bury
themselves in the grass.

      Love-Poems

      Muréyo, hotaru,
    Mono iu kao no
      Miyuru hodo!

O fireflies, gather here long enough to make visible the face of the
person who says these things to me![9]

      Oto mo sédé,
    Omoi ni moyuru,
      Hotaru koso,
    Naku mushi yori mo
    Awaré nari-kéri!

Not making even a sound [yet] burning with desire,--for this the
firefly indeed has become more worthy of pity than any insect that
cries![10]

      Yū sareba,
    Hotaru yori ki ni
      Moyurédomo,
    Hikari minéba ya
    Hito no tsurénaki!

When evening falls, though the soul of me burn more than burns the
firefly, as the light [of that burning] is viewless, the person
[beloved] remains unmoved.[11]

    Miscellaneous

      Suito yuku,
    Mizu-gi wa suzushi,
      Tobu-hotaru!

Here at the water's edge, how pleasantly cool!--and the fireflies go
shooting by--suito!

      Midzu é kité,
    Hikuu naritaru
      Hotaru kana!

Having reached the water, he makes himself low,--the firefly![12]

      Kuzu no ha no
    Ura, utsu amé ya,
      Tobu-hotaru!

The rain beats upon the _Kuzu_-plant;[13]--away starts the firefly from
the underside of the leaf!

      Amé no yo wa,
    Shita bakari yuku
      Hotaru kana!

Ah! this rainy night they only go along the ground,--the fireflies!

      Yura-yura to
    Ko-amé furu yo no
      Hotaru kana!

How they swing themselves, to and fro, the fireflies, on a night of
drizzling rain!

      Akinuréba,
    Kusa nomi zo
      Hotaru-kago.

With the coming of dawn, indeed, there is nothing visible but grass in
the cage of the firefly!

      Yo ga akété,
    Mushi ni naritaru
      Hotaru kana!

With the coming of the dawn, they change into insects again,--these
fireflies!

      Hiru miréba,
    Kubi-suji akaki
      Hotaru kana!

Oh, this firefly!--seen by daylight, the nape of its neck is red!

      Hotaru kōté,
    Shiba shi-go-mai ni
      Fuzeï kana!

Having bought fireflies, respectfully accord them the favour of four or
five tufts of lawn-grass![14]

Song of the Firefly-seller

      Futatsu, mitsu,
    Hanashité misénu
      Hotaru-uri.

      Mitsu, yotsu wa,
    Akari ni nokosé
      Hotaru-uri.

      Onoga mi wa
    Yami ni kaëru ya
      Hotaru-uri.

He will not give you the chance to see two or three fireflies set
free,--this firefly-seller.

He leaves in the cage three or four, just to make a light,--this
firefly-seller.

For now he must take his own body back into the dark night,--this
firefly-seller.


VII

But the true romance of the firefly is to be found neither in the
strange fields of Japanese folk-lore nor in the quaint gardens of
Japanese poetry, but in the vast profound of science. About science
I know little or nothing. And that is why I am not afraid to rush in
where angels fear to tread. If I knew what Professor Watasé knows
about fireflies, I should feel myself less free to cross the boundaries
of relative experience. As it is, I can venture theories.

*

The tremendous hypotheses of physical and psychical evolution no
longer seem to me hypotheses: I should never dream of doubting them.
I have ceased to wonder at the growth of Life out of that which has
been called not-living,--the development of organic out of inorganic
existence. The one amazing fact of organic evolution, to which my
imagination cannot become accustomed, is the fact that the substance
of life should possess the latent capacity or tendency to build itself
into complexities incomprehensible of _systematic_ structure. The power
of that substance to evolve radiance or electricity is not really more
extraordinary than its power to evolve colour; and that a noctiluca,
or a luminous centipede, or a firefly, should produce light, ought not
to seem more wonderful than that a plant should produce blue or purple
flowers. But the biological interpretation of the phenomenon leaves me
wondering, just as much as before, at the particular miracle of the
machinery by which the light is made. To find embedded in the body of
the insect a microscopic working-model of everything comprised under
the technical designation of an "electric plant," would not be nearly
so wonderful a discovery as the discovery of what actually exists.
Here is a firefly, able, with its infinitesimal dynamo, to produce a
pure cold light "at one four-hundredth part of the cost of the energy
expended in a candle flame"!... Now why should there have been evolved
in the tail of this tiny creature a luminiferous mechanism at once
so elaborate and so effective that our greatest physiologists and
chemists are still unable to understand the operation of it, and our
best electricians impotent to conceive the possibility of imitating
it? Why should the living tissues crystallize or build themselves
into structures of such stupefying intricacy and beauty as the visual
organs of an ephemera, the electrical organs of a gymnotus, or the
luminiferous organs of a firefly?... The very wonder of the thing
forbids me to imagine gods at work: no mere god could ever contrive
such a prodigy as the eye of a May-fly or the tail of a firefly.

Biology would answer thus:--"Though it is inconceivable that a
structure like this should have been produced by accumulated effects
of function on structure, yet it is conceivable that successive
selections of favourable variations might have produced it." And no
follower of Herbert Spencer is really justified in wandering further.
But I cannot rid myself of the notion that Matter, in some blind
infallible way, _remembers_; and that in every unit of living substance
there slumber infinite potentialities, simply because to every ultimate
atom belongs the infinite and indestructible experience of billions of
vanished universes.


[Footnote 1: Professor Watasé is a graduate of Johns Hopkins. Since
this essay was written, his popular Japanese lectures upon the
firefly have been reissued in a single pretty volume. The coloured
frontispiece,--showing fireflies at night upon a willow-branch,--is
alone worth the price of the book.]

[Footnote 2: By the old calendar. According to the new calendar, the
date of the Firefly Battle would be considerably later: last year
(1901) it fell upon the tenth day of the sixth month.]

[Footnote 3: The term _kagar-bi_, often translated by "bonfire,"
here especially refers to the little wood-fires which are kindled,
on certain festival occasions, in front of every threshold in the
principal street of a country town, or village. During the festival of
the Bon such little fires are lighted in many parts of the country to
welcome the returning ghosts.]

[Footnote 4: That is to say, "Do I see only fireflies drifting with the
current? or is the Night itself drifting, with its swarming of stars?"]

[Footnote 5: More literally: "The water-grasses having appeared to
grow dark, the fireflies begin to fly." The phrase _kururu to miété_
reminds one of the second stanza in that most remarkable of modern
fairy-ballads, Mr. Yeats' "Folk of the Air":--

    "And he saw how the weeds grew dark
      At the coming of night-tide;
    And he dreamed of the long dim hair
      Of Bridget his bride."
]

[Footnote 6: _Oku-no-ma_ really means the back room. But the best
rooms in a Japanese house are always in the rear, and so arranged as
to overlook the garden. The composer of the verse is supposed to be
a guest at some banquet, during which fireflies are set free in the
garden that the visitors may enjoy the spectacle.]

[Footnote 7: That is to say, makes the fingers appear diaphanous,
as if held before a bright candle-flame. This suggestion of rosy
semi-transparency implies a female speaker.]

[Footnote 8: The word _sabishi_ usually signifies lonesome or
melancholy; but the sense of it here is "weird." This verse suggests
the popular fancy that the soul of a person, living or dead, may assume
the form of a firefly.]

[Footnote 9: The speaker is supposed to be a woman. Somebody has been
making love to her in the dark; and she half doubts the sincerity of
the professed affection.]

[Footnote 10: From the _Fugetsu-Sh'u_. The speaker is a woman: by the
simile of the silent-glowing firefly she suggests her own secret love.]

[Footnote 11: From the Kokon Wakashū Enkyō. The speaker is supposed to
be a woman.]

[Footnote 12: Or, "he stoops low." The word _bikui_ really means low of
stature.]

[Footnote 13: A kind of arrowroot.]

[Footnote 14: Not literal; and I doubt whether this poem could be
satisfactorily translated into English. There is a delicate humour in
the use of the word _fuzei_, used in speaking humbly of one's self, or
of one's endeavours to please a superior.]



A Drop of Dew


Tsuyu no inochi.
  --_Buddhist proverb._

[Illustration]

To the bamboo lattice of my study-window a single dewdrop hangs
quivering.

Its tiny sphere repeats the colours of the morning,--colours of sky
and field and far-off trees. Inverted images of these can be discerned
in it,--also the microscopic picture of a cottage, upside down, with
children at play before the door.

Much more than the visible world is imaged by that dewdrop: the world
invisible, of infinite mystery, is likewise therein repeated. And
without as within the drop there is motion unceasing,--motion forever
incomprehensible of atoms and forces,--faint shiverings also, making
prismatic reply to touches of air and sun.

*

Buddhism finds in such a dewdrop the symbol of that other microcosm
which has been called the Soul.... What more, indeed, is man than
just such a temporary orbing of viewless ultimates,--imaging sky and
land and life,--filled with perpetual mysterious shudderings,--and
responding in some wise to every stir of the ghostly forces that
environ him?...

*

Soon that tiny globe of light, with all its fairy tints and topsy-turvy
picturings, will have vanished away. Even so, within another little
while, you and I must likewise dissolve and disappear.

Between the vanishing of the drop and the vanishing of the man, what
difference? A difference of words.... But ask yourself what becomes of
the dewdrop?

By the great sun its atoms are separated and lifted and scattered. To
cloud and earth, to river and sea they go; and out of land and stream
and sea again they will be updrawn, only to fall and to scatter anew.
They will creep in opalescent mists;--they will whiten in frost and
hail and snow;--they will reflect again the forms and the colours of
the macrocosm; they will throb to the ruby pulsing of hearts that are
yet unborn. For each one of them must combine again with countless
kindred atoms for the making of other drops,--drops of dew and rain and
sap, of blood and sweat and tears....

How many times? Billions of ages before our sun began to burn, those
atoms probably moved in other drops, reflecting the sky-tints and the
earth-colours of worlds in some past universe. And after this present
universe shall have vanished out of Space, those very same atoms--by
virtue of the forces incomprehensible that made them--will probably
continue to sphere in dews that will shadow the morning beauty of
planets yet to be.

*

Even so with the particles of that composite which you term your
very Self. Before the hosts of heaven the atoms of you were--and
thrilled,--and quickened,--and reflected appearances of things. And
when all the stars of the visible Night shall have burnt themselves
out, those atoms will doubtless again take part in the orbing of
Mind,--will tremble again in thoughts, emotions, memories,--in all
the joys and pains of lives still to be lived in worlds still to be
evolved....

*

Your personality?--your peculiarity? That is to say, your ideas,
sentiments, recollections?--your very particular hopes and fears and
loves and hates? Why, in each of a trillion of dewdrops there must
be differences infinitesimal of atom-thrilling and of reflection. And
in every one of the countless pearls of ghostly vapour updrawn from
the Sea of Birth and Death there are like infinitesimal peculiarities.
Your personality signifies, in the eternal order, just as much as the
especial motion of molecules in the shivering of any single drop.
Perhaps in no other drop will the thrilling and the picturing be ever
exactly the same; but the dews will continue to gather and to fall,
and there will always be quivering pictures ... The very delusion of
delusions is the idea of death as loss.

There is no loss--because there is not any Self that can be
lost. Whatsoever was, that you have been;--whatsoever is,
that you are;--whatsoever will be, that you must become.
Personality!--individuality!--the ghosts of a dream in a dream! Life
infinite only there is; and all that appears to be is but the thrilling
of it,--sun, moon, and stars,--earth, sky, and sea,--and Mind and
Man, and Space and Time. All of them are shadows. The shadows come and
go;--the Shadow-Maker shapes forever.



Gaki


[Illustration]


--"Venerable Nagasena, are there such things as demons in the world?"

--"Yes, O King."

--"Do they ever leave that condition of existence?"

--"Yes, they do."

--"But, if so, why is it that the remains of those demons are never
found?"...

--"Their remains are found, O King.... The remains of bad demons can
be found in the form of worms and beetles and ants and snakes and
scorpions and centipedes."...

--_The Questions of King Milinda._


I

There are moments in life when truths but dimly known before--beliefs
first vaguely reached through multiple processes of reasoning--suddenly
assume the vivid character of emotional convictions. Such an experience
came to me the other day, on the Suruga coast. While resting under
the pines that fringed the beach, something in the vital warmth
and luminous peace of the hour--some quivering rapture of wind and
light--very strangely bestirred an old belief of mine: the belief that
all being is One. One I felt myself to be with the thrilling of breeze
and the racing of wave,--with every flutter of shadow and flicker of
sun,--with the azure of sky and sea,--with the great green hush of the
land. In some new and wonderful way I found myself assured that there
never could have been a beginning,--that there never could be an end.
Nevertheless, the ideas of the moment were not new: the novelty of the
experience was altogether in the peculiar intensity with which they
presented themselves; making me feel that the flashing dragon-flies,
and the long gray sand-crickets, and the shrilling sémi overhead, and
the little red crabs astir under the roots of the pines, were all of
them brothers and sisters. I seemed to understand, as never before, how
the mystery that is called the Soul of me must have quickened in every
form of past existence, and must as certainly continue to behold the
sun, for other millions of summers, through eyes of other countless
shapes of future being. And I tried to think the long slow thoughts of
the long gray crickets,--and the thoughts of the darting, shimmering
dragonflies,--and the thoughts of the basking, trilling cicadæ,--and
the thoughts of the wicked little crabs that lifted up their claws
from between the roots of the pines.

[Illustration]

Presently I discovered myself wondering whether the consequence of
such thoughts could have anything to do with the recombination of my
soul-dust in future spheres of existence. For thousands of years the
East has been teaching that what we think or do in this life really
decides,--through some inevitable formation of-atom-tendencies, or
polarities,--the future place of our substance, and the future state
of our sentiency. And the belief is worth thinking about--though no
amount of thinking can enable us either to confirm or to disprove it.
Very possibly, like other Buddhist doctrines, it may adumbrate some
cosmic truth; but its literal assertions I doubt, because I must doubt
the power ascribed to thought. By the whole infinite past I have been
moulded, within and without: how should the impulse of a moment reshape
me against the weight of the eternities?... Buddhism indeed answers
how, and that astounding answer is irrefutable,--but I doubt....

Anyhow, acts and thoughts, according to Buddhist doctrine, are
creative. Visible matter is made by acts and thoughts,--even the
universe of stars, and all that has form and name, and all the
conditions of existence. What we think or do is never for the moment
only, but for measureless time: it signifies some force directed to the
shaping of worlds,--to the making of future bliss or pain. Remembering
this, we may raise ourselves to the zones of the Gods. Ignoring it, we
may deprive ourselves even of the right to be reborn among men, and may
doom ourselves, though innocent of the crimes that cause rebirth in
hell, to reënter existence in the form of animals, or of insects, or of
goblins,--_gaki_.[1]

So it depends upon ourselves whether we are to become insects or
goblins hereafter; and in the Buddhist system the difference between
insects and goblins is not so well defined as might be supposed. The
belief in a mysterious relation between ghosts and insects, or rather
between spirits and insects, is a very ancient belief in the East,
where it now assumes innumerable forms,--some unspeakably horrible,
others full of weird beauty.

"The White Moth" of Mr. Quiller-Couch would not impress a Japanese
reader as novel; for the night-moth or the butterfly figures in
many a Japanese poem and legend as the soul of a lost wife. The
night-cricket's thin lament is perhaps the sorrowing of a voice once
human;--the strange red marks upon the heads of cicadæ are characters
of spirit-names;--dragon-flies and grasshoppers are the horses of the
dead. All these are to be pitied with the pity that is kin to love.
But the noxious and dangerous insects represent the results of another
quality of karma,--that which produces goblins and demons. Grisly
names have been given to some of these insects,--as, for example,
_Jigokumushi,_ or "Hell-insect," to the ant-lion; and _Kappa-mushi_,
to a gigantic water-beetle which seizes frogs and fish, and devours
them alive, thus realizing, in a microcosmic way, the hideous myth of
the _Kappa_, or River-goblin. Flies, on the other hand, are especially
identified with the world of hungry ghosts. How often, in the season of
flies, have I heard some persecuted toiler exclaim, "_Kyō no hai wa,
gaki no yo da ne?_" (The flies to-day, how like gaki they are!)

[Footnote 1: The word gaki is the Japanese Buddhist rendering of the
Sanscrit term "preta," signifying a spirit in that circle or state of
torment called the World of Hungry Ghosts.]


II

In the old Japanese, or, more correctly speaking, Chinese Buddhist
literature relating to the gaki, the Sanscrit names of the gaki are
given in a majority of cases; but some classes of gaki described have
only Chinese names. As the Indian belief reached Japan by way of
China and Korea, it is likely to have received a peculiar colouring
in the course of its journey. But, in a general way, the Japanese
classification of gaki corresponds closely to the Indian classification
of the pretas.

The place of gaki in the Buddhist system is but one degree removed from
the region of the hells, or Jigokudō,--the lowest of all the States
of Existence. Above the Jigokudō is the Gakidō, or World of Hungry
Spirits; above the Gakidō is the Chikushōdō, or World of Animals; and
above this, again, is the Shuradō, a region of perpetual fighting
and slaughter. Higher than these is placed the Ningendō, or World of
Mankind.

Now a person released from hell, by exhaustion of the karma that sent
him there, is seldom reborn at once into the zone of human existence,
but must patiently work his way upward thither, through all the
intermediate states of being. Many of the gaki have been in hell.

But there are gaki also who have not been in hell. Certain kinds or
degrees of sin may cause a person to be reborn as a gaki immediately
after having died in this world. Only the greatest degree of sin
condemns the sinner directly to hell. The second degree degrades him to
the Gakidō. The third causes him to be reborn as an animal.

*

Japanese Buddhism recognizes thirty-six principal classes of gaki.
"Roughly counting," says the Shōbō-nen-jō-kyō, "we find thirty-six
classes of gaki; but should we attempt to distinguish all the different
varieties, we should find them to be innumerable." The thirty-six
classes form two great divisions, or orders. One comprises all
"Gaki-World-dwellers" (_Gaki-Sekai-Ju_);--that is to say, all Hungry
Spirits who remain in the Gakidō proper, and are, therefore, never seen
by mankind. The other division is called Nin-chū-Jū, or "Dwellers among
men": these gaki remain always in this world, and are sometimes seen.

There is yet another classification of gaki, according to the character
of their penitential torment. All gaki suffer hunger and thirst; but
there are three degrees of this suffering. The _Muzai-gaki_ represent
the first degree: they must hunger and thirst uninterruptedly, without
obtaining any nourishment whatever. The _Shōzai-gaki_ suffer only in
the second degree: they are able to feed occasionally upon impure
substances. The _Usai-gaki_ are more fortunate: they can eat such
remains of food as are thrown away by men, and also the offerings of
food set before the images of the gods, or before the tablets of the
ancestors. The last two classes of gaki are especially interesting,
because they are supposed to meddle with human affairs.

*

Before modern science introduced exact knowledge of the nature and
cause of certain diseases, Buddhists explained the symptoms of such
diseases by the hypothesis of gaki. Certain kinds of intermittent
fever, for example, were said to be caused by a gaki entering the
human body for the sake of nourishment and warmth. At first the
patient would shiver with cold, because the gaki was cold. Then, as
the gaki gradually became warm, the chill would pass, to be succeeded
by a burning heat. At last the satiated haunter would go away, and
the fever disappear; but upon another day, and usually at an hour
corresponding to that of the first attack, a second fit of ague would
announce the return of the gaki. Other zymotic disorders could be
equally well explained as due to the action of gaki.

*

In the Shōbō-nen-jō-kyō a majority of the thirty-six kinds of gaki are
associated with putrescence, disease, and death. Others are plainly
identified with insects. No particular kind of gaki is identified by
name with any particular kind of insect; but the descriptions suggest
conditions of insect-life; and such suggestions are reënforced by a
knowledge of popular superstitions. Perhaps the descriptions are vague
in the case of such spirits as the _Jiki-ketsu-gaki_, or Blood-suckers;
the _Jiki-niku-gaki_, or Flesh-eaters; the _Jiki-da-gaki,_ or * * * * *
*-eaters; the _Jiki-fun-gaki_, or * * * *-eaters; the _Jiki-doku-gaki_,
or Poison-eaters; the Jiki-fu-gaki, or Wind-eaters; the Jiki-ké-gaki,
or Smell-eaters; the _Jiki-kwa-gaki_, or Fire-eaters (perhaps they
fly into lamps?); the _Shikkō-gaki_, who devour corpses and cause
pestilence; the _Shinen-gaki_, who appear by night as wandering fires;
the _Shin-ko-gaki_, or Needle-mouthed; and the _Kwaku-shin-gaki_, or
Cauldron-bodied,--each a living furnace, filled with flame that keeps
the fluids of its body humming like a boiling pot. But the suggestion
of the following excerpts[2] will not be found at all obscure:--

*

"Jiki-man-gaki.--These gaki can live only by eating the wigs of false
hair with which the statues of certain divinities are decorated....
Such will be the future condition of persons who steal objects of value
from Buddhist temples.

"Fujō-ko-hyaku-gaki.--These gaki can eat only street filth and
refuse. Such a condition is the consequence of having given putrid or
unwholesome food to priests or nuns, or pilgrims in need of alms.

"Cho-ken-ju-jiki-netsu-gaki.--These are the eaters of the refuse of
funeral-pyres and of the clay of graves.... They are the spirits of men
who despoiled Buddhist temples for the sake of gain.

"Ju-chū-gaki.--These spirits are born within the wood of trees, and
are tormented by the growing of the grain. ... Their condition is
the result of having cut down shade-trees for the purpose of selling
the timber. Persons who cut down the trees in Buddhist cemeteries or
temple-grounds are especially likely to become ju-chū-gaki."[3]

Moths, flies, beetles, grubs, worms, and other unpleasant creatures
seem thus to be indicated. But some kinds of gaki cannot be identified
with insects,--for example, the species called Jiki-hō-gaki, or
"Doctrine-eaters." These can exist only by hearing the preaching of
the Law of the Buddha in some temple. While they hear such preaching,
their torment is assuaged; but at all other times they suffer
agonies unspeakable. To this condition are liable after death all
Buddhist priests or nuns who proclaim the law for the mere purpose
of making money.... Also there are gaki who appear sometimes in
beautiful human shapes. Such are the _Yoku-shiki-gaki_, spirits of
lewdness,--corresponding in some sort to the _incubi_ and _succubi_ of
our own Middle Ages. They can change their sex at will, and can make
their bodies as large or as small as they please. It is impossible to
exclude them from any dwelling, except by the use of holy charms and
spells, since they are able to pass through an orifice even smaller
than the eye of a needle. To seduce young men, they assume beautiful
feminine shapes,--often appearing at wine parties as waitresses or
dancing girls. To seduce women they take the form of handsome lads.
This state of _Yoku-shiki-gaki_ is a consequence of lust in some
previous human existence; but the supernatural powers belonging to
their condition are results of meritorious Karma which the evil Karma
could not wholly counterbalance.

Even concerning the _Yoku-shiki-gaki_, however, it is plainly stated
that they may take the form of insects. Though wont to appear in human
shape, they can assume the shape of any animal or other creature, and
"fly freely in all directions of space,"--or keep their bodies "so
small that mankind cannot see them...." All insects are not necessarily
gaki; but most gaki can assume the form of insects when it serves their
purpose.


[Footnote 2: Abridged from the Shōbō-nen-jō-Kyō. A full translation of
the extraordinary chapter relating to the gaki would try the reader's
nerves rather severely.]

[Footnote 3: The following story of a tree-spirit is typical:--In
the garden of a Samurai named Satsuma Shichizaëmon, who lived in the
village of Echigawa in the province of Ōmi, there was a very old
énoki. (The énoki, or "Celtis chinensis," is commonly thought to be a
goblin-tree.) From ancient times the ancestors of the family had been
careful never to cut a branch of this tree or to remove any of its
leaves. But Shichizaëmon, who was very self-willed, one day announced
that he intended to have the tree cut down. During the following
night a monstrous being appeared to the mother of Shichizaëmon, in a
dream, and told her that if the inoki were cut down, every member of
the household should die. But when this warning was communicated to
Shichizaëmon, he only laughed; and he then sent a man to cut down the
tree. No sooner had it been cut down than Shichizaëmon became violently
insane. For several days he remained furiously mad, crying out at
intervals, "The tree! the tree! the tree!" He said that the tree put
out its branches, like hands, to tear him. In this condition he died.
Soon afterward his wife went mad, crying out that the tree was killing
her; and she died screaming with fear. One after another, all the
people in that house, not excepting the servants, went mad and died.
The dwelling long remained unoccupied thereafter, no one daring even to
enter the garden. At last it was remembered that before these things
happened a daughter of the Satsuma family had become a Buddhist nun,
and that she was still living, under the name of Jikun, in a temple at
Yamashirō. This nun was sent for; and by request of the villagers she
took up her residence in the house, where she continued to live until
the time of her death,--daily reciting a special service on behalf of
the spirit that had dwelt in the tree. From the time that she began to
live in the house the tree-spirit ceased to give trouble. This story is
related on the authority of the priest Shungyō, who said that he had
heard it from the lips of the nun herself.]


III

Grotesque as these beliefs now seem to us, it was not unnatural that
ancient Eastern fancy should associate insects with ghosts and devils.
In our visible world there are no other creatures so wonderful and so
mysterious; and the true history of certain insects actually realizes
the dreams of mythology. To the minds of primitive men, the mere facts
of insect-metamorphosis must have seemed uncanny; and what but goblinry
or magic could account for the monstrous existence of beings so similar
to dead leaves, or to flowers, or to joints of grass, that the keenest
human sight could detect their presence only when they began to walk
or to fly? Even for the entomologist of to-day, insects remain the
most incomprehensible of creatures. We have learned from him that they
must be acknowledged "the most successful of organized beings" in the
battle for existence;--that the delicacy and the complexity of their
structures surpass anything ever imagined of marvellous before the
age of the microscope;--that their senses so far exceed our own in
refinement as to prove us deaf and blind by comparison. Nevertheless
the insect world remains a world of hopeless enigmas. Who can explain
for us the mystery of the eyes of a myriad facets, or the secret
of the ocular brains connected with them? Do those astounding eyes
perceive the ultimate structure of matter? does their vision pierce
opacity, after the manner of the Röntgen rays? (Or how interpret the
deadly aim of that ichneumon-fly which plunges its ovipositor through
solid wood to reach the grub embedded in the grain?) What, again, of
those marvellous ears in breasts and thighs and knees and feet,--ears
that hear sounds beyond the limit of human audition? and what of the
musical structures evolved to produce such fairy melody? What of the
ghostly feet that walk upon flowing water? What of the chemistry that
kindles the firefly's lamp,--making the cold and beautiful light that
all our electric science cannot imitate? And those newly discovered,
incomparably delicate organs for which we have yet no name, because
our wisest cannot decide the nature of them--do they really, as some
would suggest, keep the insect-mind informed of things unknown to human
sense,--visibilities of magnetism, odours of light, tastes of sound?...
Even the little that we have been able to learn about insects fills
us with the wonder that is akin to fear. The lips that are hands,
and the horns that are eyes, and the tongues that are drills; the
multiple devilish mouths that move in four ways at once; the living
scissors and saws and boring-pumps and brace-bits; the exquisite elfish
weapons which no human skill can copy, even in the finest watch-spring
steel--what superstition of old ever dreamed of sights like these?
Indeed, all that nightmare ever conceived of faceless horror, and all
that ecstasy ever imagined of phantasmal pulchritude, can appear but
vapid and void by comparison with the stupefying facts of entomology.
But there is something spectral, something alarming, in the very beauty
of insects....


IV

Whether gaki do or do not exist, there is at least some shadowing of
truth in the Eastern belief that the dead become insects. Undoubtedly
our human dust must help, over and over again for millions of ages,
to build up numberless weird shapes of life. But as to that question
of my revery under the pine trees,--whether present acts and thoughts
can have anything to do with the future distribution and requickening
of that dust,--whether human conduct can of itself predetermine the
shapes into which human atoms will be recast,--no reply is possible. I
doubt--but I do not know. Neither does anybody else.

*

Supposing, however, that the order of the universe were really as
Buddhists believe, and that I knew myself foredoomed, by reason of
stupidities in this existence, to live hereafter the life of an insect,
I am not sure that the prospect would frighten me. There are insects
of which it is difficult to think with equanimity; but the state of an
independent, highly organized, respectable insect could not be so very
bad. I should even look forward, with some pleasurable curiosity, to
any chance of viewing the world through the marvellous compound eyes
of a beetle, an ephemera, or a dragon-fly. As an ephemera, indeed, I
might enjoy the possession of three different kinds of eyes, and the
power to see colours now totally unimaginable. Estimated in degrees of
human time, my life would be short,--a single summer day would include
the best part of it; but to ephemeral consciousness a few minutes would
appear a season; and my one day of winged existence--barring possible
mishaps--would be one unwearied joy of dancing in golden air. And I
could feel in my winged state neither hunger nor thirst,--having no
real mouth or stomach: I should be, in very truth, a Wind-eater. ...
Nor should I fear to enter upon the much less ethereal condition of a
dragon-fly. I should then have to bear carnivorous hunger, and to hunt
a great deal; but even dragon-flies, after the fierce joy of the chase,
can indulge themselves in solitary meditation. Besides, what wings
would then be mine!--and what eyes!... I could pleasurably anticipate
even the certainty of becoming an _Amembō_,[4] and so being able to run
and to slide upon water--though children might catch me, and bite off
my long fine legs. But I think that I should better enjoy the existence
of a sémi,--a large and lazy cicada, basking on wind-rocked trees,
sipping only dew, and singing from dawn till dusk.

Of course there would be perils to encounter,--danger from hawks and
crows and sparrows,--danger from insects of prey--danger from bamboos
tipped with birdlime by naughty little boys. But in every condition of
life there must be risks; and in spite of the risks, I imagine that
Anacreon uttered little more than the truth, in his praise of the
cicada: "_O thou earth-horn,--song-loving,--free from pain>--having
flesh without blood,--thou art nearly equal to the Gods!_"... In fact I
have not been able to convince myself that it is really an inestimable
privilege to be reborn a human being. And if the thinking of this
thought, and the act of writing it down, must inevitably affect my
next rebirth, then let me hope that the state to which I am destined
will not be worse than that of a cicada or of a dragon-fly;--climbing
the cryptomerias to clash my tiny cymbals in the sun,--or haunting,
with soundless flicker of amethyst and gold, some holy silence of
lotos-pools.


[Footnote 4: A water-insect, much resembling what we call a "skater."
In some parts of the country it is said that the boy who wants to
become a good swimmer must eat the legs of an _Amembō._]



A Matter of Custom


[Illustration]

There is a nice old priest of the Zen sect,--past-master in the craft
of arranging flowers, and in other arts of the ancient time,--who comes
occasionally to see me. He is loved by his congregation, though he
preaches against many old-fashioned beliefs, and discourages all faith
in omens and dreams, and tells people to believe only in the Law of the
Buddha. Priests of the Zen persuasion are seldom thus sceptical. But
the scepticism of my friend is not absolute; for the last time that we
met we talked of the dead, and he told me something creepy. "Stories of
spirits or ghosts," he said, "I always doubt. Sometimes a _danka_[1]
comes to tell me about having seen a ghost, or having dreamed a strange
dream; but whenever I question such a person carefully, I find that
the matter can be explained in a natural way.

"Only once in my life I had a queer experience which I could not easily
explain. I was then in Kyūshū,--a young novice; and I was performing my
gyō,--the pilgrimage that every novice has to make. One evening, while
travelling through a mountain-district, I reached a little village
where there was a temple of the Zen sect. I went there to ask for
lodging, according to our rules; but I found that the priest had gone
to attend a funeral at a village several miles away, leaving an old nun
in charge of the temple. The nun said that she could not receive me
during the absence of the priest, and that he would not come back for
seven days.... In that part of the country, a priest was required by
custom to recite the sûtras and to perform a Buddhist service, every
day for seven days, in the house of a dead parishioner.... I said that
I did not want any food, but only a place to sleep: moreover I pleaded
that I was very tired, and at last the old nun took pity on me. She
spread some quilts for me in the temple, near the altar; and I fell
asleep almost as soon as I lay down. In the middle of the night--a
very cold night!--I was awakened by the tapping of a _mokugyo_[2] and
the voice of somebody chanting the _Nembutsu_[3], close to where I was
lying. I opened my eyes; but the temple was utterly dark,--so dark that
if a man had seized me by the nose I could not have seen him [_hana wo
tsumarété mo wakaranai_]; and I wondered that anybody should be tapping
the _mokugyo_ and chanting in such darkness. But, though the sounds
seemed at first to be quite near me, they were somewhat faint; and I
tried to persuade myself that I must have been mistaken,--that the
priest had come back and was performing a service in some other part of
the temple. In spite of the tapping and chanting I fell asleep again,
and slept until morning. Then, as soon as I had washed and dressed, I
went to look for the old nun, and found her. After thanking her for
her kindness, I ventured to remark, 'So the priest came back last
night?' 'He did not,' she answered very crossly--'I told you that he
would not come back for seven days more.' 'Please pardon me,' I said;
Mast night I heard somebody chanting the _Nembutsu_, and beating the
_mokugyo_, so I thought that the priest had come back.' 'Oh, that was
not the priest!' she exclaimed; 'that was the _danka._' 'Who?' I asked;
for I could not understand her. 'Why,' she replied, 'the dead man, of
course![4] That always happens when a parishioner dies; the _hotoké_
comes to sound the _mokugyo_ and to repeat the _Nembutsu_ ...' She
spoke as if she had been so long accustomed to the thing that it did
not seem to her worthwhile mentioning."



[Footnote 1: _Danka_ or _danké_ signifies the parishioner of a Buddhist
temple. Those who regularly contribute to the support of a Shintō
temple are called _Ujiko_.]

[Footnote 2: The _mokugyo_ is a very curious musical instrument of
wood, in the form of a fish's head, and is usually lacquered in red
and gold. It is tapped with a stick during certain Buddhist chants or
recitations, producing a dull hollow sound.]

[Footnote 3: The invocation to Amitâbha, _Namu Amida Butsu_ ("Hail to
the Buddha Amitâbha!"), commonly repeated on behalf of the dead, is
thus popularly named.]

[Footnote 4: The original expression was at least equally emphatic:
"_Aa, aré desuka?--aré wa botoké ga kita no desu yo!_" The word
"hotoké" means either a Buddha or, as in this case, the spirit of a
dead person.]



Revery


[Illustration]

It has been said that men fear death much as the child cries at
entering the world, being unable to know what loving hands are waiting
to receive it. Certainly this comparison will not bear scientific
examination. But as a happy fancy it is beautiful, even for those to
whom it can make no religious appeal whatever,--those who must believe
that the individual mind dissolves with the body, and that an eternal
continuance of personality could only prove an eternal misfortune.
It is beautiful, I think, because it suggests, in so intimate a way,
the hope that to larger knowledge the Absolute will reveal itself
as mother-love made infinite. The imagining is Oriental rather than
Occidental; yet it accords with a sentiment vaguely defined in most of
our Western creeds. Through ancient grim conceptions of the Absolute as
Father, there has gradually been infused some later and brighter dream
of infinite tenderness--some all-transfiguring hope created by the
memory of Woman as Mother; and the more that races evolve toward higher
things, the more Feminine becomes their idea of a God.

Conversely, this suggestion must remind even the least believing that
we know of nothing else, in all the range of human experience, so
sacred as mother-love,--nothing so well deserving the name of divine.
Mother-love alone could have enabled the delicate life of thought to
unfold and to endure upon the rind of this wretched little planet:
only through that supreme unselfishness could the nobler emotions ever
have found strength to blossom in the brain of man;--only by help of
mother-love could the higher forms of trust in the Unseen ever have
been called into existence.

*

But musings of this kind naturally lead us to ask ourselves emotional
questions about the mysteries of Whither and Whence. Must the
evolutionist think of mother-love as a merely necessary result of
material affinities,--the attraction of the atom for the atom? Or can
he venture to assert, with ancient thinkers of the East, that all
atomic tendencies are shapen by one eternal moral law, and that some
are in themselves divine, being manifestations of the Four Infinite
Feelings?... What wisdom can decide for us? And of what avail to know
our highest emotions divine,--since the race itself is doomed to
perish? When mother-love shall have wrought its uttermost for humanity,
will not even that uttermost have been in vain?

*

At first thought, indeed, the inevitable dissolution must appear the
blackest of imaginable tragedies,--tragedy made infinite! Eventually
our planet must die: its azure ghost of air will shrink and pass, its
seas dry up, its very soil perish utterly, leaving only a universal
waste of sand and stone--the withered corpse of a world. Still for a
time this mummy will turn about the sun, but only as the dead moon
wheels now across our nights,--one face forever in scorching blaze, the
other in icy darkness. So will it circle, blank and bald as a skull;
and like a skull will it bleach and crack and crumble, ever drawing
nearer and yet more near to the face of its flaming parent, to vanish
suddenly at last in the cyclonic lightning of his breath. One by one
the remaining planets must follow. Then will the mighty star himself
begin to fail--to flicker with ghastly changing colours--to crimson
toward his death. And finally the monstrous fissured cinder of him,
hurled into some colossal sun-pyre, will be dissipated into vapour more
tenuous than the dream of the dream of a ghost....

What, then, will have availed the labour of the life that was,--the
life effaced without one sign to mark the place of its disparition
in the illimitable abyss? What, then, the worth of mother-love, the
whole dead world of human tenderness, with its sacrifices, hopes,
memories,--its divine delights and diviner pains,--its smiles and tears
and sacred caresses,--its countless passionate prayers to countless
vanished gods?

*

Such doubts and fears do not trouble the thinker of the East. Us
they disturb chiefly because of old wrong habits of thought, and the
consequent blind fear of knowing that what we have so long called
Soul belongs, not to Essence, but to Form.... Forms appear and vanish
in perpetual succession; but the Essence alone is Real. Nothing
real can be lost, even in the dissipation of a million universes.
Utter destruction, everlasting death,--all such terms of fear have
no correspondence to any truth but the eternal law of change. Even
forms can perish only as waves pass and break: they melt but to swell
anew,--nothing can be lost....

In the nebulous haze of our dissolution will survive the essence of
all that has ever been in human life,--the units of every existence
that was or is, with all their affinities, all their tendencies, all
their inheritance of forces making for good or evil, all the powers
amassed through myriad generations, all energies that ever shaped the
strength of races;--and times innumerable will these again be orbed
into life and thought. Transmutations there may be; changes also made
by augmentation or diminution of affinities, by subtraction or addition
of tendencies; for the dust of us will then have been mingled with
the dust of other countless worlds and of their peoples. But nothing
essential can be lost. We shall inevitably bequeath our part to the
making of the future cosmos--to the substance out of which another
intelligence will slowly be evolved. Even as we must have inherited
something of our psychic being out of numberless worlds dissolved, so
will future humanities inherit, not from us alone, but from millions of
planets still existing.

For the vanishing of our world can represent, in the disparition of a
universe, but one infinitesimal detail of the quenching of thought: the
peopled spheres that must share our doom will exceed for multitude the
visible lights of heaven.

Yet those countless solar fires, with their viewless millions of
living planets, must somehow reappear: again the wondrous Cosmos,
self-consumed, must resume its sidereal whirl over the deeps of the
eternities. And the love forever with rise again, infinitudes of the
everlasting battle. The light of the mother's smile will survive
our sun;--the thrill of her kiss will last beyond the thrilling of
stars;--the sweetness of her lullaby will endure in the cradle-songs
of worlds yet unevolved;--the tenderness of her faith will quicken the
fervour of prayers to be made to the hosts of another heaven,--to the
gods of a time beyond Time. And the nectar of her breasts can never
fail: that snowy stream will still flow on, to nourish the life of some
humanity more perfect than our own, when the Milky Way that spans our
night shall have vanished forever out of Space.



Pathological


[Illustration]

Very much do I love cats; and I suppose that I could write a large
book about the different cats which I have kept, in various climes and
times, on both sides of the world. But this is not a Book of Cats; and
I am writing about Tama for merely psychological reasons. She has been
uttering, in her sleep beside my chair, a peculiar cry that touched
me in a particular way. It is the cry that a cat makes only for her
kittens,--a soft trilling coo,--a pure caress of tone. And I perceive
that her attitude, as she lies there on her side, is the attitude of
a cat holding something,--something freshly caught: the forepaws are
stretched out as to grasp, and the pearly talons are playing.

*

We call her Tama ("Jewel")--not because of her beauty, though she is
beautiful, but because Tama is a female name accorded by custom to
pet cats. She was a very small tortoise-shell kitten when she was
first brought to me as a gift worth accepting,--a cat-of-three-colours
(miké-neko) being somewhat uncommon in Japan. In certain parts of the
country such a cat is believed to be a luck-bringer, and gifted with
power to frighten away goblins as well as rats. Tama is now two years
old. I think that she has foreign blood in her veins: she is more
graceful and more slender than the ordinary Japanese cat; and she has a
remarkably long tail, which, from a Japanese point of view, is her only
defect. Perhaps one of her ancestors came to Japan in some Dutch or
Spanish ship during the time of Iyéyasu. But, from whatever ancestors
descended, Tama is quite a Japanese cat in her habits;--for example,
she eats rice!

*

The first time that she had kittens, she proved herself an excellent
mother,--devoting all her strength and intelligence to the care of her
little ones, until, by dint of nursing them and moiling for them, she
became piteously and ludicrously thin. She taught them how to keep
clean,--how to play and jump and wrestle,--how to hunt. At first, of
course, she gave them only her long tail to play with; but later she
found them other toys. She brought them not only rats and mice, but
also frogs, lizards, a bat, and one day a small lamprey, which she must
have managed to catch in a neighbouring rice-field. After dark I used
to leave open for her a small window at the head of the stairs leading
to my study,--in order that she might go out to hunt by way of the
kitchen roof. And one night she brought in, through that window, a big
straw sandal for her kittens to play with. She found it in the field;
and she must have carried it over a wooden fence ten feet high, up the
house wall to the roof of the kitchen, and thence through the bars of
the little window to the stairway. There she and her kittens played
boisterously with it till morning; and they dirtied the stairway,
for that sandal was muddy. Never was cat more fortunate in her first
maternal experience than Tama.

But the next time she was not fortunate. She had got into the habit of
visiting friends in another street, at a perilous distance; and one
evening, while on her way thither, she was hurt by some brutal person.
She came back to us stupid and sick; and her kittens were born dead. I
thought that she would die also; but she recovered much more quickly
than anybody could have imagined possible,--though she still remains,
for obvious reasons, troubled in spirit by the loss of the kittens.

*

The memory of animals, in regard to certain forms of relative
experience, is strangely weak and dim. But the organic memory of
the animal,--the memory of experience accumulated through countless
billions of lives,--is superhumanly vivid, and very seldom at fault....
Think of the astonishing skill with which a cat can restore the
respiration of her drowned kitten! Think of her untaught ability to
face a dangerous enemy seen for the first time,--a venomous serpent,
for example! Think of her wide acquaintance with small creatures
and their ways,--her medical knowledge of herbs,--her capacities of
strategy, whether for hunting or fighting! What she knows is really
considerable; and she knows it all perfectly, or almost perfectly. But
it is the knowledge of other existences. Her memory, as to the pains of
the present life, is mercifully brief.

*

Tama could not clearly remember that her kittens were dead. She knew
that she ought to have had kittens; and she looked everywhere and
called everywhere for them, long after they had been buried in the
garden. She complained a great deal to her friends; and she made me
open all the cupboards and closets,--over and over again,--to prove to
her that the kittens were not in the house. At last she was able to
convince herself that it was useless to look for them any more. But she
plays with them in dreams, and coos to them, and catches for them small
shadowy things,--perhaps even brings to them, through some dim window
of memory, a sandal of ghostly straw....



In the Dead of the Night


[Illustration]

Black, chill, and still,--so black, so still, that I touch myself to
find out whether I have yet a body. Then I grope about me to make sure
that I am not under the earth,--buried forever beyond the reach of
light and sound. .. . A clock strikes three! I shall see the sun again!

Once again, at least. Possibly several thousand times. But there will
come a night never to be broken by any dawn,--a stillness never to be
broken by any sound.

This is certain. As certain as the fact that I exist.

Nothing else is equally certain. Reason deludes; feeling deludes; all
the senses delude. But there is no delusion whatever in the certain
knowledge of that night to come.

Doubt the reality of substance, the reality of ghosts, the faiths
of men, the gods;--doubt right and wrong, friendship and love, the
existence of beauty, the existence of horror;--there will always remain
one thing impossible to doubt,--one infinite blind black certainty.

The same darkness for all,--for the eyes of creatures and the eyes
of heaven;--the same doom for all,--insect and man, ant-hill and
city, races and worlds, suns and galaxies: inevitable dissolution,
disparition, and oblivion.

And vain all human striving not to remember, not to think: the
Veil that old faiths wove, to hide the Void, has been rent forever
away;--and Sheol is naked before us,--and destruction hath no covering.

So surely as I believe that I exist, even so surely must I believe that
I shall cease to exist--which is horror!... But--

Must I believe that I really exist?... In the moment of that
self-questioning, the Darkness stood about me as a wall, and spake:--

"I am only the Shadow: I shall pass. But the Reality will come, and
will not pass.

"I am only the Shadow. In me there are lights,--the glimmering of a
hundred millions of suns. And in me there are voices. With the coming
of the Reality, there will be no more lights, nor any voice, nor any
rising, nor any hope.

"But far above you there will still be sun for many a million
years,--and warmth and youth and love and joy.. .. Vast azure of
sky and sea,--fragrance of summer bloom,--shrillings in grass and
grove,--flutter of shadows and flicker of light,--laughter of waters
and laughter of girls. Blackness and silence for you,--and cold blind
creepings."

I made reply:--

"Of thoughts like these I am now afraid. But that is only because I
have been startled out of sleep. When all my brain awakens, I shall
not be afraid. For this fear is brute fear only,--the deep and dim
primordial fear bequeathed me from the million ages of the life of
instinct.... Already it is passing. I can begin to think of death as
dreamless rest,--a sleep with no sensation of either joy or pain."

The Darkness whispered:--

"What is sensation?"

And I could not answer, and the Gloom took weight, and pressed upon me,
and said:--

"You do not know what is sensation? How, then, can you say whether
there will or will not be pain for the dust of you,--the molecules of
your body, the atoms of your soul?... Atoms--what are they?"

Again I could make no answer, and the weight of the Gloom waxed
greater--a weight of pyramids--and the whisper hissed:--

"Their repulsions? their attractions? The awful clingings of them
and the leapings?... What are these?... Passions of lives burnt
out?--furies of insatiable desire?--frenzies of everlasting hate?
--madnesses of never ending torment?... You do not know? But you say
that there will be no more pain!..."

Then I cried out to the mocker:--"I am awake--awake--fully awake!
I have ceased to fear;--I remember!... All that I am is all that I
have been. Before the beginnings of Time I was;--beyond the uttermost
circling of the Eternities I shall endure. In myriad million forms I
but seem to pass: as form I am only Wave; as essence I am Sea. Sea
without shore I am;--and Doubt and Fear and Pain are but duskings
that fleet on the face of my depth.. .. Asleep, I behold the illusions
of Time; but, waking, I know myself timeless: one with the Life that
has neither form yet also one begins and the grave and graves,--the
the eater of neither form nor name, yet also one with all that begins
and ends,--even the grave and the maker of graves,--the corpse and the
eater of corpses...."

*

A sparrow twittered from the roof; another responded. Shapes of things
began to define in a soft gray glimmering;--and the gloom slowly
lightened. Murmurs of the city's wakening came to my ears, and grew and
multiplied. And the dimness flushed.

Then rose the beautiful and holy Sun, the mighty Quickener, the mighty
Putrefier,--symbol sublime of that infinite Life whose forces are also
mine!...



Kusa-Hibari


Issun no mushi ni mo gobu no tamashii.--_Japanese Proverb._


[Illustration]

His cage is exactly two Japanese inches high and one inch and a half
wide: its tiny wooden door, turning upon a pivot, will scarcely
admit the tip of my little finger. But he has plenty of room in that
cage,--room to walk, and jump, and fly; for he is so small that you
must look very carefully through the brown-gauze sides of it in order
to catch a glimpse of him. I have always to turn the cage round and
round, several times, in a good light, before I can discover his
whereabouts; and then I usually find him resting in one of the upper
corners,--clinging, upside down, to his ceiling of gauze.

Imagine a cricket about the size of an ordinary mosquito,--with a
pair of antennae much longer than his own body, and so fine that
you can distinguish them only against the light. _Kusa-Hibari_, or
"Grass-Lark," is the Japanese name of him; and he is worth in the
market exactly twelve cents: that is to say, very much more than his
weight in gold. Twelve cents for such a gnat-like thing!...

By day he sleeps or meditates, except while occupied with the slice of
fresh egg-plant or cucumber which must be poked into his cage every
morning. ... To keep him clean and well fed is somewhat troublesome:
could you see him, you would think it absurd to take any pains for the
sake of a creature so ridiculously small.

But always at sunset the infinitesimal soul of him awakens: then
the room begins to fill with a delicate and ghostly music of
indescribable sweetness,-a thin, thin silvery rippling and trilling as
of tiniest electric bells. As the darkness deepens, the sound becomes
sweeter,--sometimes swelling till the whole house seems to vibrate
with the elfish resonance,--sometimes thinning down into the faintest
imaginable thread of a voice. But loud or low, it keeps a penetrating
quality that is weird.... All night, the atomy thus sings: he ceases
only when the temple bell proclaims the hour of dawn.

*

Now this tiny song is a song of love,--vague love of the unseen and
unknown. It is quite impossible that he should ever have seen or
known, in this present existence of his. Not even his ancestors, for
many generations back, could have known anything of the night-life
of the fields, or the amorous value of song. They were born of eggs
hatched in a jar of clay, in the shop of some insect-merchant; and they
dwelt thereafter only in cages. But he sings the song of his race as it
was sung a myriad years ago, and as faultlessly as if he understood the
exact significance of every note. Of course he did not learn the song.
It is a song of organic memory,--deep, dim memory of other quintillions
of lives, when the ghost of him shrilled at night from the dewy grasses
of the hills. Then that song brought him love--and death. He has
forgotten all about death; but he remembers the love. And therefore he
sings now--for the bride that will never come.

So that his longing is unconsciously retrospective: he cries to the
dust of the past,--he calls to the silence and the gods for the return
of time.... Human lovers do very much the same thing without knowing
it. They call their illusion an Ideal; and their Ideal is, after all,
a mere shadowing of race-experience, a phantom of organic memory. The
living present has very little to do with it.... Perhaps this atomy
also has an ideal, or at least the rudiment of an ideal; but, in any
event, the tiny desire must utter its plaint in vain.

The fault is not altogether mine. I had been warned that if the
creature were mated, he would cease to sing and would speedily die.
But, night after night, the plaintive, sweet, unanswered trilling
touched me like a reproach,--became at last an obsession, an
affliction, a torment of conscience; and I tried to buy a female.
It was too late in the season; there were no more kusa-hibari for
sale,--either males or females. The insect-merchant laughed and said,
"He ought to have died about the twentieth day of the ninth month." (It
was already the second day of the tenth month.) But the insect-merchant
did not know that I have a good stove in my study, and keep the
temperature at above 75° F. Wherefore my grass-lark still sings at
the close of the eleventh month, and I hope to keep him alive until
the Period of Greatest Cold. However, the rest of his generation are
probably dead: neither for love nor money could I now find him a mate.
And were I to set him free in order that he might make the search for
himself, he could not possibly live through a single night, even if
fortunate enough to escape by day the multitude of his natural enemies
in the garden,--ants, centipedes, and ghastly earth-spiders.

*

Last evening--the twenty-ninth of the eleventh month--an odd feeling
came to me as I sat at my desk: a sense of emptiness in the room. Then
I became aware that my grass-lark was silent, contrary to his wont. I
went to the silent cage, and found him lying dead beside a dried-up
lump of egg-plant as gray and hard as a stone. Evidently he had not
been fed for three or four days; but only the night before his death he
had been singing wonderfully,--so that I foolishly imagined him to be
more than usually contented. My student, Aki, who loves insects, used
to feed him; but Aki had gone into the country for a week's holiday,
and the duty of caring for the grass-lark had devolved upon Hana, the
housemaid. She is not sympathetic, Hana the housemaid. She says that
she did not forget the mite,--but there was no more egg-plant. And
she had never thought of substituting a slice of onion or of cucumber!
... I spoke words of reproof to Hana the housemaid, and she dutifully
expressed contrition. But the fairy-music has stopped; and the
stillness reproaches; and the room is cold, in spite of the stove.

*

Absurd!... I have made a good girl unhappy because of an insect half
the size of a barley-grain! The quenching of that infinitesimal life
troubles me more than I could have believed possible. ... Of course,
the mere habit of thinking about a creature's wants--even the wants of
a cricket--may create, by insensible degrees, an imaginative interest,
an attachment of which one becomes conscious only when the relation
is broken. Besides, I had felt so much, in the hush of the night,
the charm of the delicate voice,--telling of one minute existence
dependent upon my will and selfish pleasure, as upon the favour of a
god,--telling me also that the atom of ghost in the tiny cage, and
the atom of ghost within myself, were forever but one and the same in
the deeps of the Vast of being.... And then to think of the little
creature hungering and thirsting, night after night, and day after day,
while the thoughts of his guardian deity were turned to the weaving of
dreams!... How bravely, nevertheless, he sang on to the very end,--an
atrocious end, for he had eaten his own legs!... May the gods forgive
us all,--especially Hana the housemaid!

Yet, after all, to devour one's own legs--for hunger is not the worst
by that can happen to a being cursed with the gift of song. There are
human crickets who must eat their own hearts in order to sing.



The Eater of Dreams


[Illustration]

      Mijika-yo ya!
    Baku no yumé kū
      Hima mo nashi!

--"Alas! how short this night of ours! The Baku will not even have time
to eat our dreams!"--Old Japanese Love-song.

The name of the creature is Baku, or Shirokinakatsukami; and its
particular function is the eating of Dreams. It is variously
represented and described. An ancient book in my possession states that
the male Baku has the body of a horse, the face of a lion, the trunk
and tusks of an elephant, the forelock of a rhinoceros, the tail of a
cow, and the feet of a tiger. The female Baku is said to differ greatly
in shape from the male; but the difference is not clearly set forth. In
the time of the old Chinese learning, pictures of the Baku used to be
hung up in Japanese houses, such pictures being supposed to exert the
same beneficent power as the creature itself. My ancient book contains
this legend about the custom:--

"In the _Shōsei-Roku_ it is declared that Kōtei, while hunting on the
Eastern coast, once met with a Baku having the body of an animal,
but speaking like a man. Kōtei said: 'Since the world is quiet and
at peace, why should we still see goblins? If a Baku be needed to
extinguish evil sprites, then it were better to have a picture of the
Baku suspended to the wall of one's house. Thereafter, even though some
evil Wonder should appear, it could do no harm.'"

Then there is given a long list of evil Wonders, and the signs of their
presence:--

"When the Hen lays a soft egg, the demon's name is Taifu.

"When snakes appear entwined together, the demon's name is Jinzu.

"When dogs go with their ears turned back, the demon's name is Taiyō.

"When the Fox speaks with the voice of a man, the demon's name is
Gwaishū.

"When blood appears on the clothes of men, the demon's name is Yūki.

[Illustration]

"_When the rice-pot speaks with a human voice, the demon's name is_
Kanjo.

"_When the dream of the night is an evil dream, the demon's name is_
Ringetsu...."

And the old book further observes: "Whenever any such evil marvel
happens, let the name of the Baku be invoked: then the evil sprite will
immediately sink three feet under the ground."

*

But on the subject of evil Wonders I do not feel qualified to
discourse: it belongs to the unexplored and appalling world of Chinese
demonology, and it has really very little to do with the subject of the
Baku in Japan. The Japanese Baku is commonly known only as the Eater
of Dreams; and the most remarkable fact in relation to the cult of the
creature is that the Chinese character representing its name used to
be put in gold upon the lacquered wooden pillows of lords and princes.
By the virtue and power of this character on the pillow, the sleeper
was thought to be protected from evil dreams. It is rather difficult to
find such a pillow to-day: even pictures of the Baku (or "Hakutaku," as
it is sometimes called) have become very rare. But the old invocation
to the Baku still survives in common parlance: Baku kuraë! Baku
kuraë!--"Devour, O Baku! devour my evil dream!"... When you awake from
a nightmare, or from any unlucky dream, you should quickly repeat that
invocation three times;--then the Baku will eat the dream, and will
change the misfortune or the fear into good fortune and gladness.

*

It was on a very sultry night, during the Period of Greatest Heat, that
I last saw the Baku. I had just awakened out of misery; and the hour
was the Hour of the Ox; and the Baku came in through the window to ask,
"Have you anything for me to eat?"

I gratefully made answer:--

"Assuredly!... Listen, good Baku, to this dream of mine!--

"I was standing in some great white-walled room, where lamps were
burning; but I cast no shadow on the naked floor of that room,--and
there, upon an iron bed, I saw my own dead body. How I had come to die,
and when I had died, I could not remember. Women were sitting near the
bed,--six or seven,--and I did not know any of them. They were neither
young nor old, and all were dressed in black: watchers I took them to
be. They sat motionless and silent: there was no sound in the place;
and I somehow felt that the hour was late.

"In the same moment I became aware of something nameless in the
atmosphere of the room,-a heaviness that weighed upon the will,--some
viewless numbing power that was slowly growing. Then the watchers began
to watch each other, stealthily; and I knew that they were afraid.
Soundlessly one rose up, and left the room. Another followed; then
another. So, one by one, and lightly as shadows, they all went out. I
was left alone with the corpse of myself.

"The lamps still burned clearly; but the terror in the air was
thickening. The watchers had stolen away almost as soon as they began
to feel it. But I believed that there was yet time to escape;--I
thought that I could safely delay a moment longer. A monstrous
curiosity obliged me to remain: I wanted to look at my own body,
to examine it closely.... I approached it. I observed it. And I
wondered--because it seemed to me very long,--unnaturally long....

"Then I thought that I saw one eyelid quiver. But the appearance of
motion might have been caused by the trembling of a lamp-flame. I
stooped to look--slowly, and very cautiously, because I was afraid that
the eyes might open.

"'It is Myself,' I thought, as I bent down,--'and yet, it is growing
queer!'... The face appeared to be lengthening.... 'It is not Myself,'
I thought again, as I stooped still lower,--'and yet, it cannot be any
other!' And I became much more afraid, unspeakably afraid, that the
eyes would open....

"_They_ opened!--horribly they opened!--and that thing sprang,--sprang
from the bed at me, and fastened upon me,--moaning, and gnawing, and
rending! Oh! with what madness of terror did I strive against it! But
the eyes of it, and the moans of it, and the touch of it, sickened;
and all my being seemed about to burst asunder in frenzy of loathing,
when--I knew not how--

I found in my hand an axe. And I struck with the axe;--I clove, I
crushed, I brayed the Moaner,--until there lay before me only a
shapeless, hideous, reeking mass,--the abominable ruin of Myself....

"--_Baku kuraë! Baku kuraë! Baku kuraë!_ Devour, O Baku! devour the
dream!" "Nay!" made answer the Baku. "I never eat lucky dreams. That
is a very lucky dream,--a most fortunate dream.... The axe--yes! the
Axe of the Excellent Law, by which the monster of Self is utterly
destroyed!... The best kind of a dream! My friend, _I_ believe in the
teaching of the Buddha."

And the Baku went out of the window. I looked after him;--and I beheld
him fleeing over the miles of moonlit roofs,--passing, from house-top
to house-top, with amazing soundless leaps,--like a great cat....





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