« AnteriorContinua »
ugly ones! one should always feel for ugly women, dear reader. Heaven no doubt intended all women, like the flowers, to be pretty or beautiful; an ugly woman is a mistake-but at any rate, there were two of those unfortunates sent to attend upon the Ambassador and his party. In justice to them, it must be said that their scrupulous cleanliness, neatness, and the quick wit with which the poor girls saw exactly what each guest wanted, reconciled us to them amazingly; and none enjoyed the joke more heartily than they did, when some of the party beseeched the prudent matron to allow the handsomer young ladies to wait on us; a request she met with a shake of the head, and a glance at that abominable fellow, "No. 2 functionary," who doubtless thus revenged himself upon us for the gallop we had inflicted upon him on his brass-bound demi-peak saddle. The dress of the Japanese women is simple, but graceful. The robe which crosses the breast, close up to the neck, or a little lower according to the taste of the wearer, reaches nearly down to the ground, and has loose sleeves, leaving the wrist free. This robe is confined round the body by a shawl, which is tied behind in a bow, the ends flowing. Everything in Japan, even to dress, is regulated by law, and the sumptuary laws have been very strict until lately, when contact with Europeans appears to be bringing about a slight relaxation. The colour worn by all classes of men in their usual dress is black, or dark blue, of varied patterns; but the women very properly are allowed, and of course avail themselves of the privilege, to wear brighter dresses. Yet their taste was so good that loud and noisy colours were generally eschewed. Their robes were generally striped silks of grey, blue, or black; the shawl some beautiful bright colour-crimson, for instance; and their fine jet-black hair was tastefully set off, by having crimson crape, of a very beautiful texture, thrown in among it. Of course we speak of the outdoor dress of the women-their full dress within doors is, we believe, far more gay.
We had just made up our minds
that life in a Japanese peach-garden was the thing of all others most to be desired, and that the "Furious," "Retribution," and "Lee," might go back to foul and fusty China as soon as they pleased, and that anybody might fight for tea, and do policemen amongst the piratical Cantonese, provided we were troubled no farther upon such points, when “functionary No. 1" ambled up, and "functionary No. 2" suggested to his Excellency that we might, if he pleased, proceed, and we had to resign ourselves to fate, and again mount our ponies. The law prohibited the distribution of any British coins, and how to fee the good people around us was a difficulty, until it was happily discovered that uniform buttons did not come within the enactment, and that they were much prized by the Japanese ladies. That day the party returned to the Embassy, wonderfully shorn of ornamental crown-and-anchor buttons; but some of us hoped we had succeeded in ingratiating ourselves by our presents almost as high in favour as our friends in the Embassy had done, with their magnificent beards and moustachios, the novelty of which manly ornament was evidently great, and the effect these produced must have been highly satisfactory to our diplomatists.
From the peach-garden we rode for a mile or two through a long village, which was a model of neatness; and a love for flowers and pretty plants was very general, round even the poorest cottage. No pigs were seen feeding on the road-side, or poultry running into the houses-both were in their places, the former in their sties, the latter in the yards. A ride of seven miles brought us to the borders of a fine rapid stream, which discharges itself into Yedo Bay, not far from Beacon Point. steeds were placed in admirable ferryboats, and ourselves accommodated in others, and the ferrymen poled us across with long bamboos to a landing-place upon the opposite side. This stream marks the boundary to which European residents at Kanagawa may only for the present proceed in the direction of Yedo, and a very good ride it will be, of more than ten miles, through a most beau
tiful and rich country. It was to this place that an enterprising chaplain, belonging to one of the ships of Commodore Perry's American Expedition, found his way, during that gallant officer's negotiations at Kanagawa. It was at that time so contrary to all Japanese rules that a stranger should thus enter their exclusive country, and dare to walk where he pleased, that a special report was made to the Commodore of the circumstance. That officer immediately despatched a written order by a Japanese official, for the gentleman to retrace his steps; and as a proof of how closely every act is reported upon in Japan, we repeat from memory the Government record, as it was told us that the despatch was delivered to the chaplain on the banks of the river, near the ferry, where he was endeavouring to compel the natives to ferry him over to the Yedo side of the water; that on receiving the letter he stopped, read it, went on a short distance, stopped again, opened the letter, and then returned! A minute detail of his acts, almost equal to that of the reporters of the Irish press upon the late tour of his Eminence Cardinal Wiseman.
Beyond the landing-place referred to, we passed through another pretty little town, and at "the Hotel of Ten Thousand Centuries" another meal was ordered to be ready for us on our way back from the temple. We are afraid to trust ourselves to a minute description of the country scene through which we now rode. It was neither monotonous nor stiff; yet the road, fields, ditches, drains, and cottages, all looked as if they had just been constructed, tilled, clipped, planted, or clean swept, ready for special inspection ;-industry combined with the greatest economy of space and material, blended with taste and beauty. Our precious saddle-we won't use violent language, fair reader-was enough to knock all appreciation of the picturesque out of any one, and it is the best guarantee for our not exaggerating what we saw. There were orchards of pears and peaches, where the trees were trained over neat trellises of bamboo, as if they had been vines-bright
patches of the Taro plant spread their dark-green broad leaves on the one hand; and on the drier soil the millet plant of Northern China flourished, as well as the rich golden ears of the Indian-corn. Now a gentleman's house appeared within a neat enclosure of hedge, as well clipped as that of a London suburban villa; but its stiffness of outline was broken by a Japanese convolvulus having been allowed to run over it, loaded with many-coloured flowers. Very fine groves of trees were seen, and we noticed among them two sorts of pinetree, one which throws out its sprays like the Norfolk Island pine, and the other the ordinary one peculiar to Japan. The maple, chestnut, walnut, and oak, we likewise recognised, or trees very like them, and the orange was not rare. Bamboo was plentiful; and finding it in a climate which in the winter is undoubtedly severe, we could not help hoping that it, as well as the banana tree of China, may be naturalised on the south coast of England. We were anything but tired of the scenes through which we were riding, when the Temple of Tetstze came in sight; and we rattled through a street, followed by a vast throng of wonder-stricken Japanese, and turned into the portals of the Temple. A broad well-paved court led to a building that stood upon a lofty basement. A fine flight of granite steps led to the porch, round which, as well as up the steps, there was a balustrade in stone and bronze. The interior of this Buddhist temple consisted mainly of a very elaborate altar, having a raised dais in front, carefully railed round, upon which there was the most extraordinary collection of metal castings, mostly of white copper, we ever saw. They were no doubt offerings to the placid stucco deity, who was ensconced behind candlesticks, lights, and silken banners. Everything was clean, neat, and in working order, evincing that the religion, such as it is, is active in Japan, not dormant, worn-out, effete, as in China. The priests were well to do, decently clad, and reverent in their appearance, and were treated with respect. The Principal saluted Lord Elgin, and paid him every attention, offering to conduct him over
the grounds and cloisters. Time, however, pressed for the ride back to the Embassy, and the civility was declined. On reaching the porch, the scene round the grand flight of steps, and across the court, was such a sight as only Japan could produce upon so short a notice. Every space was literally crammed with human beings. The corridors of the temple, the galleries in the cloisters, the walls and roofs which overlook the yard, were black or brown with men, women, and children. It was a wonderful sight. They shouted, not violently, but shouted with astonishment and delight at the spectacle the half-dozen Europeans afforded them. The prospect of having to fight a way through such a sea of human beings was not cheering, but three or four policemen quietly cleared the way, and a path opened before us to the gate. There the policemen checkmated the crowd, who were on the point of rushing after us into the street, by securing the gates instantaneously, amidst a roar of indignation from the thousands who found themselves thus shut up within the limits of the temple. Then came cries, and laughter, and a rush; and as we rounded another portion of the temple enclosure, the prodigious crowd had collected for a last gaze at us, where a broad intervening ditch, however, prevented them from incommoding the strangers.
Returning by the way we had come, we halted for refreshment at "the Hotel of Ten Thousand Centuries," which was as decent a house as a good many European countries could produce, and a vast deal cleaner and more moderate than a great many we could mention in Great Britain. Functionary No. 2 here eat and drank himself into such a state of supreme contempt for foreigners that he left us, and we only caught sight of him again for a moment in what might have been the
window of his club, where, surrounded by swells as great as himself, to whom he was pointing out the various members of our party, he had a bevy of Japanese houris dancing attendance upon him. As our cavalcade neared Yedo, it was certain that it had been expected to return by this route, and all Kanagawa, Omagawa, and the inhabitants of that part of Yedo, were there to stare. The crowd at a Lord Mayor's show, in the old days when such glories were, can alone bring before the reader the idea of such a vast mass of human beings thus brought together. The pavement, side-streets, and houses were full; yet no insult was met with, and no hindrance suffered. In places where the crowd in a side-street threatened to block the thoroughfare by pouring into the main street, a small piece of rope or string was stretched across from corner to corner, and no one dared to break the fragile barrier. In the suburbs, at 5 P.M., every one was bathing, and "cleanliness first, modesty afterwards!" seemed to be their motto. In some cases, the tubs were outside the doorways, and the family enjoyed themselves in the open air, rubbing themselves down in the steaming hot water, with cloths; others had their tubs in the room on their ground-floors, but the front of the house was perfectly open, and the manner in which the fair Eves stepped out of their baths, and ran to stare at us, holding a steaming hot and squalling babe, was a little startling.
Night was closing in as we reached the Embassy, about which the inhabitants, more accustomed to the sight of strangers than those in the distant quarters, left the streets comparatively clear. It appeared to us as if there was little traffic carried on during the night, and in some cases the barriers at the ends of the streets were closed.
(To be continued.)
THE LUCK OF LADYSMEDE.
CHAPTER II. THE CHAPLAIN'S SECRET.
THE evening was growing chill and dark as the Italian Giacomo, after quitting the barge, made his way across the plashy meadows in the direction of Ladysmede. He drew the loose folds of his cloak over his lips, and walked rapidly, for the raw cold mists from the riverflats made the southern blood shudder in his veins. There was no path, but it was still light enough, for one who knew the landmarks of the country, to make out the tops of the line of tall poplars and the chapelturret of Lowcote rising through the fog straight before him. From the hamlet a short two miles would take him to the manor. But when he reached the beaten track, instead of pursuing his way homewards, he stopped, and, after a moment's hesitation, struck off into an unfrequented bypath which led in a different direction. A few minutes' rapid walking brought him to a large osier-bed, which extended over some acres of the low marshy ground, through which one of the little streams which fed the river wandered and seemed to lose its way, and partly stagnated, until at last what was left of it escaped, by means of two or three reedy ditches, to its destination. One of these ditches Giacomo crossed, and followed, not without some difficulty in the increasing darkness, a rough foot-track made through the osiers. He reached at last a spot where the ground rose rather higher than the ordinary level, and where advantage had been taken, as it seemed, of the comparative dryness of the situation to clear a space of some few square yards, and to erect there what served for a human habitation. Rude indeed it was, even amongst the rude dwellings of the age, but yet solid and substantial enough to resist the weather, perhaps even better than some more pretentious structures, and giving sufficient promise of warmth and shelter beneath the low-pitched roof, over which, protected as it was by
the thicket of osiers, the winds from all points swept harmless. A light was shining through the chinks in the wooden shutter which closed the unglazed aperture that served as a window. Here the Italian stopped, and, after listening for a moment, knocked at the door. A man's voice from within demanded his name and business.
"It is I," said Giacomo; "open." The occupiers of the hut seemed scarcely satisfied; there was no answer for some moments, when the question was repeated, this time in harsh female tones.
"I am here, Swytha; open-I am in haste."
The door was unbarred, and the figure of the woman who had spoken stood in the low doorway, strongly thrown out by the blaze from the logs which burnt upon the hearth behind her. She was of middle age, short and broad in person, and her countenance, as far as it could be distinguished in the uncertain light, was far from attractive. The natural coarseness of the features was not redeemed by any pleasant expression, or softened by any of the commonest appliances of female art. Smoke seemed to have been more habitual than water as a cosmetic; and the red unkempt locks were only gathered off the face as a matter of convenience. It was the mere female of the animal man, of all female animals the least pleasant to look at, when she is nothing more. She muttered some words that scarcely sounded like a welcome, as the priest brushed lightly past her, and stood within the hut. A man was sitting on a low stool by the wood fire, which was made nearly in the middle of the floor, and sent up a pungent vapour almost stifling to a stranger, and of which very little seemed to find its way out by the hole in the roof which was intended for its exit. He was shivering in an ague-fit, but he rose and made some sort of half reverence as his visitor entered.
"How is she to-night?" the Italian asked.
"Nay, what can I tell about her?" replied the man; "there be no difference that I can see. Hadst better go look for thyself, father; we be but poor leeches, Swytha and I." "Has she spoken ?"
The man looked to the woman to answer; she shook her head.
"Nor made sign as though she knew any one?"
Swytha still shook her head as before.
Do you give her the drink as I bid you!"
Ay," said the woman; "she be fain enough to take that; 'tis the only mark of sense I see about her; she gulps it down as lustily as if it were royal liquor, and not the poor stuff 'tis."
The priest moved towards a low side-door in the wall of the hut, and, stooping down, entered cautiously, followed by the woman. The chamber into which it led was small, and so low, that although Giacomo barely reached middle height, it was only in some places that he could stand upright. Yet, close and uninviting as it was, there was nothing in it repulsive to the habits of the period; and there were traces of some rude attempts at comfort which might even have been considered luxurious. A coarse lamp was flickering on a wooden bracket against the wall; clean rushes strewed the floor, and one side of the chamber had its rough mud plastering covered with something which looked as if it had once been rich tapestry. In one corner a low wooden bench had been arranged with more than usual regard to the ease of the occupant, so as to form, by the help of skins and dried heather, a nearer approach to the modern notion of a bed than our Norman or Saxon forefathers cared to indulge in. There, under a coverlet of what seemed a costlier fabric than suited the rude appliances of a peasant's household, lay the figure of a woman apparently in the prime of life. For though the face, calm as it was, bore evident traces of present suffering, it was not worn and wan as from a sickness of long duration. The round lines had not sunk, and a
slight feverish flush rather added to their beauty. The eyes were closed, and the soft dark eyelashes rested in distinct outline on cheeks which, but for the hectic in the centre, were very pale and clear. She lay quite motionless; and her breathing, though regular, had the heavy distinct sound which speaks of mischief in the brain. At the foot of the couch, against the wall, there hung a small richly-carved crucifix of ivory. Giacomo went up to the sufferer, and motioned to Swytha to bring the light nearer. He carefully moved back some of the rich dark hair which had escaped over the temples, and laid his hand upon the brow. Then taking in his own the hand which was hanging over the side of the rude bedstead, he felt the pulse for some moments in silence. Having satisfied himself with this examination, he gently placed the arm in a more comfortable position, and remained gazing on the face, still without speaking. The patient was totally unconscious - of that there could be no doubt; but the life was there, still full and vigorous, and struggling hard with disease for the mastery. In such a struggle, perhaps the safest course for imperfect human science is to look on. Swytha was the first to break the silence, her harsh voice awed into a whisper.
"That way she lies, day and night," she said, "and a wearisome watch I have of it: howsoever, no one will be troubled with her long, poor soul; she is but waiting for death, as it seems to me."
"Death!" exclaimed the priest, turning round upon her almost fiercely; "she is not dying! it shall be worse for ye both if ye dare to let her die! Has not all your care and tendance been well paid for? what is it ye are grudging at now?"
"Nay, I grudge her nought, father!" said the woman, in a somewhat humbled tone; “I have tended her, God wot, and will do, as if she were my own child, and we find no fault about the payment; if 't not for that, we might well starved, for my man there hɛ struck a stroke of work these