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Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

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Then Minokichi told her about the terrible night in the ferryman's hut,--
and about the White Woman that had stooped above him, smiling and
whispering,-- and about the silent death of old Mosaku. And he said:--

"Asleep or awake, that was the only time that I saw a being as beautiful
as you. Of course, she was not a human being; and I was afraid of her,--
very much afraid,-- but she was so white!... Indeed, I have never been sure
whether it was a dream that I saw, or the Woman of theSnow."...

O-Yuki flung down her sewing, and arose, and bowed above Minokichi where
he sat, and shrieked into his face:--

"It was I -- I -- I! Yuki it was! And I told you then that I would kill
you if you ever said one work about it!... But for those children asleep
there, I would kill you this moment! And now you had better take very, very
good care of them; for if ever they have reason to complain of you, I will
treat you as you deserve!"...

Even as she screamed, her voice became thin, like a crying of wind;-- then
she melted into a bright white mist that spired to the roof-beams, and
shuddered away through the smoke-hold... Never again was she seen.


In the era of Bummei [1469-1486] there was a young samurai called Tomotada
in the service of Hatakeyama Yoshimune, the Lord of Noto (1). Tomotada was
a native of Echizen (2); but at an early age he had been taken, as page,
into the palace of the daimyo of Noto, and had been educated, under the
supervision of that prince, for the profession of arms. As he grew up, he
proved himself both a good scholar and a good soldier, and continued to
enjoy the favor of his prince. Being gifted with an amiable character, a
winning address, and a very handsome person, he was admired and much liked
by his samurai-comrades.

When Tomotada was about twenty years old, he was sent upon a private
mission to Hosokawa Masamoto, the great daimyo of Kyoto, a kinsman of
Hatakeyama Yoshimune. Having been ordered to journey through Echizen, the
youth requested and obtained permission to pay a visit, on the way, to his
widowed mother.

It was the coldest period of the year when he started; and, though mounted
upon a powerful horse, he found himself obliged to proceed slowly. The road
which he followed passed through a mountain-district where the settlements
were few and far between; and on the second day of his journey, after a
weary ride of hours, he was dismayed to find that he could not reached his
intended halting-place until late in the night. He had reason to be
anxious;-- for a heavy snowstorm came on, with an intensely cold wind; and
the horse showed signs of exhaustion. But in that trying moment, Tomotada
unexpectedly perceived the thatched room of a cottage on the summit of a
near hill, where willow-trees were growing. With difficulty he urged his
tired animal to the dwelling; and he loudly knocked upon the storm-doors,
which had been closed against the wind. An old woman opened them, and cried
out compassionately at the sight of the handsome stranger: "Ah, how
pitiful! -- a young gentleman traveling alone in such weather!... Deign,
young master, to enter."

Tomotada dismounted, and after leading his horse to a shed in the rear,
entered the cottage, where he saw an old man and a girl warming themselves
by a fire of bamboo splints. They respectfully invited him to approach the
fire; and the old folks then proceeded to warm some rice-wine, and to
prepare food for the traveler, whom they ventured to question in regard to
his journey. Meanwhile the young girl disappeared behind a screen. Tomotada
had observed, with astonishment, that she was extremely beautiful,-- though
her attire was of the most wretched kind, and her long, loose hair in
disorder. He wondered that so handsome a girl should be living in such a
miserable and lonesome place.

The old man said to him:--

"Honored Sir, the next village is far; and the snow is falling thickly.
The wind is piercing; and the road is very bad. Therefore, to proceed
further this night would probably be dangerous. Although this hovel is
unworthy of your presence, and although we have not any comfort to offer,
perhaps it were safer to remain to-night under this miserable roof... We
would take good care of your horse."

Tomotada accepted this humble proposal, -- secretly glad of the chance
thus afforded him to see more of the young girl. Presently a coarse but
ample meal was set before him; and the girl came from behind the screen, to
serve the wine. She was now reclad, in a rough but cleanly robe of
homespun; and her long, loose hair had been neatly combed and smoothed. As
she bent forward to fill his cup, Tomotada was amazed to perceive that she
was incomparably more beautiful than any woman whom he had ever before
seen; and there was a grace about her every motion that astonished him. But
the elders began to apologize for her, saying: "Sir, our daughter, Aoyagi,
[1] has been brought up here in the mountains, almost alone; and she knows
nothing of gentle service. We pray that you will pardon her stupidity and
her ignorance." Tomotada protested that he deemed himself lucky to be
waited upon by so comely a maiden. He could not turn his eyes away from her
-- though he saw that his admiring gaze made her blush;-- and he left the
wine and food untasted before him. The mother said: "Kind Sir, we very much
hope that you will try to eat and to drink a little,-- though our
peasant-fare is of the worst,-- as you must have been chilled by that
piercing wind." Then, to please the old folks, Tomotada ate and drank as he
could; but the charm of the blushing girl still grew upon him. He talked
with her, and found that her speech was sweet as her face. Brought up in
the mountains as she might have been;-- but, in that case, her parents must
at some time been persons of high degree; for she spoke and moved like a
damsel of rank. Suddenly he addressed her with a poem -- which was also a
question -- inspired by the delight in his heart:--

Hana ka tote koso,
Hi wo kurase,
Akenu ni otoru
Akane sasuran?"

["Being on my way to pay a visit, I found that which I took to be a
flower: therefore here I spend the day... Why, in the time before dawn, the
dawn-blush tint should glow -- that, indeed, I know not."] [2]

Without a moment's hesitation, she answered him in these verses:--

"Izuru hi no
Honomeku iro wo
Waga sode ni
Tsutsumaba asu mo
Kimiya tomaran."

[If with my sleeve I hid the faint fair color of the dawning sun,-- then,
perhaps, in the morning my lord will remain."] [3]

Then Tomotada knew that she accepted his admiration; and he was scarcely
less surprised by the art with which she had uttered her feelings in verse,
than delighted by the assurance which the verses conveyed. He was now
certain that in all this world he could not hope to meet, much less to win,
a girl more beautiful and witty than this rustic maid before him; and a
voice in his heart seemed to cry out urgently, "Take the luck that the gods
have put in your way!" In short he was bewitched -- bewitched to such a
degree that, without further preliminary, he asked the old people to give
him their daughter in marriage,-- telling them, at the same time, his name
and lineage, and his rank in the train of the Lord of Noto.

They bowed down before him, with many exclamations of grateful
astonishment. But, after some moments of apparent hesitation, the father

"Honored master, you are a person of high position, and likely to rise to
still higher things. Too great is the favor that you deign to offer us;--
indeed, the depth of our gratitude therefor is not to be spoken or
measured. But this girl of ours, being a stupid country-girl of vulgar
birth, with no training or teaching of any sort, it would be improper to
let her become the wife of a noble samurai. Even to speak of such a matter
is not right... But, since you find the girl to your liking, and have
condescended to pardon her peasant-manners and to overlook her great
rudeness, we do gladly present her to you, for an humble handmaid. Deign,
therefore, to act hereafter in her regard according to your august

Ere morning the storm had passed; and day broke through a cloudless east.
Even if the sleeve of Aoyagi hid from her lover's eyes the rose-blush of
that dawn, he could no longer tarry. But neither could he resign himself to
part with the girl; and, when everything had been prepared for his journey,
he thus addressed her parents:--

"Though it may seem thankless to ask for more than I have already
received, I must again beg you to give me your daughter for wife. It would
be difficult for me to separate from her now; and as she is willing to
accompany me, if you permit, I can take her with me as she is. If you will
give her to me, I shall ever cherish you as parents... And, in the
meantime, please to accept this poor acknowledgment of your kindest

So saying, he placed before his humble host a purse of gold ryo. But the
old man, after many prostrations, gently pushed back the gift, and said:--

"Kind master, the gold would be of no use to us; and you will probably
have need of it during your long, cold journey. Here we buy nothing; and we
could not spend so much money upon ourselves, even if we wished... As for
the girl, we have already bestowed her as a free gift;-- she belongs to
you: therefore it is not necessary to ask our leave to take her away.
Already she has told us that she hopes to accompany you, and to remain your
servant for as long as you may be willing to endure her presence. We are
only too happy to know that you deign to accept her; and we pray that you
will not trouble yourself on our account. In this place we could not
provide her with proper clothing,-- much less with a dowry. Moreover, being
old, we should in any event have to separate from her before long.
Therefore it is very fortunate that you should be willing to take her with
you now."

It was in vain that Tomotada tried to persuade the old people to accept a
present: he found that they cared nothing for money. But he saw that they
were really anxious to trust their daughter's fate to his hands; and he
therefore decided to take her with him. So he placed her upon his horse,
and bade the old folks farewell for the time being, with many sincere
expressions of gratitude.

"honored Sir," the father made answer, "it is we, and not you, who have
reason for gratitude. We are sure that you will be kind to our girl; and we
have no fears for her sake."...

[Here, in the Japanese original, there is a queer break in the natural
course of the narration, which therefrom remains curiously inconsistent.
Nothing further is said about the mother of Tomotada, or about the parents
of Aoyagi, or about the daimyo of Noto. Evidently the writer wearied of his
work at this point, and hurried the story, very carelessly, to its
startling end. I am not able to supply his omissions, or to repair his
faults of construction; but I must venture to put in a few explanatory
details, without which the rest of the tale would not hold together... It
appears that Tomotada rashly took Aoyagi with him to Kyoto, and so got into
trouble; but we are not informed as to where the couple lived afterwards.]

...Now a samurai was not allowed to marry without the consent of his lord;
and Tomotada could not expect to obtain this sanction before his mission
had been accomplished. He had reason, under such circumstances, to fear
that the beauty of Aoyagi might attract dangerous attention, and that means
might be devised of taking her away from him. In Kyoto he therefore tried
to keep her hidden from curious eyes. But a retainer of Lord Hosokawa one
day caught sight of Aoyagi, discovered her relation to Tomotada, and
reported the matter to the daimyo. Thereupon the daimyo -- a young prince,
and fond of pretty faces -- gave orders that the girl should be brought to
the place; and she was taken thither at once, without ceremony.

Tomotada sorrowed unspeakably; but he knew himself powerless. He was only
an humble messenger in the service of a far-off daimyo; and for the time
being he was at the mercy of a much more powerful daimyo, whose wishes were
not to be questioned. Moreover Tomotada knew that he had acted foolishly,--
that he had brought about his own misfortune, by entering into a
clandestine relation which the code of the military class condemned. There
was now but one hope for him,-- a desperate hope: that Aoyagi might be able
and willing to escape and to flee with him. After long reflection, he
resolved to try to send her a letter. The attempt would be dangerous, of
course: any writing sent to her might find its way to the hands of the
daimyo; and to send a love-letter to anyinmate of the place was an
unpardonable offense. But he resolved to dare the risk; and, in the form of
a Chinese poem, he composed a letter which he endeavored to have conveyed
to her. The poem was written with only twenty-eight characters. But with
those twenty-eight characters he was about to express all the depth of his
passion, and to suggest all the pain of his loss:-- [4]

Koshi o-son gojin wo ou;
Ryokuju namida wo tarete rakin wo hitataru;
Komon hitotabi irite fukaki koto umi no gotoshi;
Kore yori shoro kore rojin

[Closely, closely the youthful prince now follows after the gem-bright maid;--

The tears of the fair one, falling, have moistened all her robes.

But the august lord, having one become enamored of her -- the depth of his
longing is like the depth of the sea.

Therefore it is only I that am left forlorn,
-- only I that am left to wander along.]

On the evening of the day after this poem had been sent, Tomotada was
summoned to appear before the Lord Hosokawa. The youth at once suspected
that his confidence had been betrayed; and he could not hope, if his letter
had been seen by the daimyo, to escape the severest penalty. "Now he will
order my death," thought Tomotada;-- "but I do not care to live unless
Aoyagi be restored to me. Besides, if the death-sentence be passed, I can
at least try to kill Hosokawa." He slipped his swords into his girdle, and
hastened to the palace.

On entering the presence-room he saw the Lord Hosokawa seated upon the
dais, surrounded by samurai of high rank, in caps and robes of ceremony.
All were silent as statues; and while Tomotada advanced to make obeisance,
the hush seemed to his sinister and heavy, like the stillness before a
storm. But Hosokawa suddenly descended from the dais, and, while taking the
youth by the arm, began to repeat the words of the poem:-- "Koshi o-son
gojin wo ou."... And Tomotada, looking up, saw kindly tears in the prince's

Then said Hosokawa:--

"Because you love each other so much, I have taken it upon myself to
authorize your marriage, in lieu of my kinsman, the Lord of Noto; and your
wedding shall now be celebrated before me. The guests are assembled;-- the
gifts are ready."

At a signal from the lord, the sliding-screens concealing a further
apartment were pushed open; and Tomotada saw there many dignitaries of the
court, assembled for the ceremony, and Aoyagi awaiting him in brides'
apparel... Thus was she given back to him;-- and the wedding was joyous and
splendid;-- and precious gifts were made to the young couple by the prince,
and by the members of his household.

* * *

For five happy years, after that wedding, Tomotada and Aoyagi dwelt
together. But one morning Aoyagi, while talking with her husband about some
household matter, suddenly uttered a great cry of pain, and then became
very white and still. After a few moments she said, in a feeble voice:
"Pardon me for thus rudely crying out -- but the paid was so sudden!... My
dear husband, our union must have been brought about through some
Karma-relation in a former state of existence; and that happy relation, I
think, will bring us again together in more than one life to come. But for
this present existence of ours, the relation is now ended;-- we are about
to be separated. Repeat for me, I beseech you, the Nembutsu-prayer,--
because I am dying."

"Oh! what strange wild fancies!" cried the startled husband,-- "you are
only a little unwell, my dear one!... lie down for a while, and rest; and
the sickness will pass."...

"No, no!" she responded -- "I am dying! -- I do not imagine it;-- I
know!... And it were needless now, my dear husband, to hide the truth from
you any longer:-- I am not a human being. The soul of a tree is my soul;--
the heart of a tree is my heart;-- the sap of the willow is my life. And
some one, at this cruel moment, is cutting down my tree;-- that is why I
must die!... Even to weep were now beyond my strength!-- quickly, quickly
repeat the Nembutsu for me... quickly!... Ah!...

With another cry of pain she turned aside her beautiful head, and tried to
hide her face behind her sleeve. But almost in the same moment her whole
form appeared to collapse in the strangest way, and to sank down, down,
down -- level with the floor. Tomotada had spring to support her;-- but
there was nothing to support! There lay on the matting only the empty robes
of the fair creature and the ornaments that she had worn in her hair: the
body had ceased to exist...

Tomotada shaved his head, took the Buddhist vows, and became an itinerant
priest. He traveled through all the provinces of the empire; and, at holy
places which he visited, he offered up prayers for the soul of Aoyagi.
Reaching Echizen, in the course of his pilgrimage, he sought the home of
the parents of his beloved. But when he arrived at the lonely place among
the hills, where their dwelling had been, he found that the cottage had
disappeared. There was nothing to mark even the spot where it had stood,
except the stumps of three willows -- two old trees and one young tree --
that had been cut down long before his arrival.

Beside the stumps of those willow-trees he erected a memorial tomb,
inscribed with divers holy texts; and he there performed many Buddhist
services on behalf of the spirits of Aoyagi and of her parents.


In Wakegori, a district of the province of Iyo (1), there is a very
ancient and famous cherry-tree, called Jiu-roku-zakura, or "the Cherry-tree
of the Sixteenth Day," because it blooms every year upon the sixteenth day
of the first month (by the old lunar calendar),-- and only upon that day.
Thus the time of its flowering is the Period of Great Cold,-- though the
natural habit of a cherry-tree is to wait for the spring season before
venturing to blossom. But the Jiu-roku-zakura blossoms with a life that is
not -- or, at least, that was not originally -- its own. There is the ghost
of a man in that tree.

He was a samurai of Iyo; and the tree grew in his garden; and it used to
flower at the usual time,-- that is to say, about the end of March or the
beginning of April. He had played under that tree when he was a child; and
his parents and grandparents and ancestors had hung to its blossoming
branches, season after season for more than a hundred years, bright strips
of colored paper inscribed with poems of praise. He himself became very
old,-- outliving all his children; and there was nothing in the world left
for him to live except that tree. And lo! in the summer of a certain year,
the tree withered and died!

Exceedingly the old man sorrowed for his tree. Then kind neighbors found
for him a young and beautiful cherry-tree, and planted it in his garden,--
hoping thus to comfort him. And he thanked them, and pretended to be glad.
But really his heart was full of pain; for he had loved the old tree so
well that nothing could have consoled him for the loss of it.

At last there came to him a happy thought: he remembered a way by which
the perishing tree might be saved. (It was the sixteenth day of the first
month.) Along he went into his garden, and bowed down before the withered
tree, and spoke to it, saying: "Now deign, I beseech you, once more to
bloom,-- because I am going to die in your stead." (For it is believed that
one can really give away one's life to another person, or to a creature or
even to a tree, by the favor of the gods;-- and thus to transfer one's life
is expressed by the term migawari ni tatsu, "to act as a substitute.") Then
under that tree he spread a white cloth, and divers coverings, and sat down
upon the coverings, and performed hara-kiri after the fashion of a samurai.
And the ghost of him went into the tree, and made it blossom in that same

And every year it still blooms on the sixteenth day of the first month, in
the season of snow.


In the district called Toichi of Yamato Province, (1) there used to live a
goshi named Miyata Akinosuke... [Here I must tell you that in Japanese
feudal times there was a privileged class of soldier-farmers,--
free-holders,-- corresponding to the class of yeomen in England; and these
were called goshi.]

In Akinosuke's garden there was a great and ancient cedar-tree, under
which he was wont to rest on sultry days. One very warm afternoon he was
sitting under this tree with two of his friends, fellow-goshi, chatting and
drinking wine, when he felt all of a sudden very drowsy,-- so drowsy that
he begged his friends to excuse him for taking a nap in their presence.
Then he lay down at the foot of the tree, and dreamed this dream:--

He thought that as he was lying there in his garden, he saw a procession,
like the train of some great daimyo descending a hill near by, and that he
got up to look at it. A very grand procession it proved to be,-- more
imposing than anything of the kind which he had ever seen before; and it
was advancing toward his dwelling. He observed in the van of it a number of
young men richly appareled, who were drawing a great lacquered
palace-carriage, or gosho-guruma, hung with bright blue silk. When the
procession arrived within a short distance of the house it halted; and a
richly dressed man -- evidently a person of rank -- advanced from it,
approached Akinosuke, bowed to him profoundly, and then said:--

"Honored Sir, you see before you a kerai [vassal] of the Kokuo of Tokoyo.
[1] My master, the King, commands me to greet you in his august name, and
to place myself wholly at your disposal. He also bids me inform you that he
augustly desires your presence at the palace. Be therefore pleased
immediately to enter this honorable carriage, which he has sent for your

Upon hearing these words Akinosuke wanted to make some fitting reply; but
he was too much astonished and embarrassed for speech;-- and in the same
moment his will seemed to melt away from him, so that he could only do as
the kerai bade him. He entered the carriage; the kerai took a place beside
him, and made a signal; the drawers, seizing the silken ropes, turned the
great vehicle southward;-- and the journey began.

In a very short time, to Akinosuke's amazement, the carriage stopped in
front of a huge two-storied gateway (romon), of a Chinese style, which he
had never before seen. Here the kerai dismounted, saying, "I go to
announced the honorable arrival,"-- and he disappeared. After some little
waiting, Akinosuke saw two noble-looking men, wearing robes of purple silk
and high caps of the form indicating lofty rank, come from the gateway.
These, after having respectfully saluted him, helped him to descend from
the carriage, and led him through the great gate and across a vast garden,
to the entrance of a palace whose front appeared to extend, west and east,
to a distance of miles. Akinosuke was then shown into a reception-room of
wonderful size and splendor. His guides conducted him to the place of
honor, and respectfully seated themselves apart; while serving-maids, in
costume of ceremony, brought refreshments. When Akinosuke had partaken of
the refreshments, the two purple-robed attendants bowed low before him, and
addressed him in the following words,-- each speaking alternately,
according to the etiquette of courts:--

"It is now our honorable duty to inform you... as to the reason of your
having been summoned hither... Our master, the King, augustly desires that
you become his son-in-law;... and it is his wish and command that you shall
wed this very day... the August Princess, his maiden-daughter... We shall
soon conduct you to the presence-chamber... where His Augustness even now
is waiting to receive you... But it will be necessary that we first invest
you... with the appropriate garments of ceremony." [2]

Having thus spoken, the attendants rose together, and proceeded to an
alcove containing a great chest of gold lacquer. They opened the chest, and
took from it various roes and girdles of rich material, and a kamuri, or
regal headdress. With these they attired Akinosuke as befitted a princely
bridegroom; and he was then conducted to the presence-room, where he saw
the Kokuo of Tokoyo seated upon the daiza, [3] wearing a high black cap of
state, and robed in robes of yellow silk. Before the daiza, to left and
right, a multitude of dignitaries sat in rank, motionless and splendid as
images in a temple; and Akinosuke, advancing into their midst, saluted the
king with the triple prostration of usage. The king greeted him with
gracious words, and then said:--

"You have already been informed as to the reason of your having been
summoned to Our presence. We have decided that you shall become the adopted
husband of Our only daughter;-- and the wedding ceremony shall now be

As the king finished speaking, a sound of joyful music was heard; and a
long train of beautiful court ladies advanced from behind a curtain to
conduct Akinosuke to the room in which he bride awaited him.

The room was immense; but it could scarcely contain the multitude of
guests assembled to witness the wedding ceremony. All bowed down before
Akinosuke as he took his place, facing the King's daughter, on the
kneeling-cushion prepared for him. As a maiden of heaven the bride appeared
to be; and her robes were beautiful as a summer sky. And the marriage was
performed amid great rejoicing.

Afterwards the pair were conducted to a suite of apartments that had been
prepared for them in another portion of the palace; and there they received
the congratulations of many noble persons, and wedding gifts beyond

Some days later Akinosuke was again summoned to the throne-room. On this
occasion he was received even more graciously than before; and the King
said to him:--

In the southwestern part of Our dominion there is an island called Raishu.
We have now appointed you Governor of that island. You will find the people
loyal and docile; but their laws have not yet been brought into proper
accord with the laws of Tokoyo; and their customs have not been properly
regulated. We entrust you with the duty of improving their social condition
as far as may be possible; and We desire that you shall rule them with
kindness and wisdom. All preparations necessary for your journey to Raishu
have already been made."

So Akinosuke and his bride departed from the palace of Tokoyo, accompanied
to the shore by a great escort of nobles and officials; and they embarked
upon a ship of state provided by the king. And with favoring winds they
safety sailed to Raishu, and found the good people of that island assembled
upon the beach to welcome them.

Akinosuke entered at once upon his new duties; and they did not prove to
be hard. During the first three years of his governorship he was occupied
chiefly with the framing and the enactment of laws; but he had wise
counselors to help him, and he never found the work unpleasant. When it was
all finished, he had no active duties to perform, beyond attending the
rites and ceremonies ordained by ancient custom. The country was so healthy
and so fertile that sickness and want were unknown; and the people were so
good that no laws were ever broken. And Akinosuke dwelt and ruled in Raishu
for twenty years more,-- making in all twenty-three years of sojourn,
during which no shadow of sorrow traversed his life.

But in the twenty-fourth year of his governorship, a great misfortune came
upon him; for his wife, who had borne him seven children,-- five boys and
two girls,-- fell sick and died. She was buried, with high pomp, on the
summit of a beautiful hill in the district of Hanryoko; and a monument,
exceedingly splendid, was placed upon her grave. But Akinosuke felt such
grief at her death that he no longer cared to live.

Now when the legal period of mourning was over, there came to Raishu, from
the Tokoyo palace, a shisha, or royal messenger. The shisha delivered to
Akinosuke a message of condolence, and then said to him:--

"These are the words which our august master, the King of Tokoyo, commands
that I repeat to you: 'We will now send you back to your own people and
country. As for the seven children, they are the grandsons and
granddaughters of the King, and shall be fitly cared for. Do not,
therefore, allow you mind to be troubled concerning them.'"

On receiving this mandate, Akinosuke submissively prepared for his
departure. When all his affairs had been settled, and the ceremony of
bidding farewell to his counselors and trusted officials had been
concluded, he was escorted with much honor to the port. There he embarked
upon the ship sent for him; and the ship sailed out into the blue sea,
under the blue sky; and the shape of the island of Raishu itself turned
blue, and then turned grey, and then vanished forever... And Akinosuke
suddenly awoke -- under the cedar-tree in his own garden!

For a moment he was stupefied and dazed. But he perceived his two friends
still seated near him,-- drinking and chatting merrily. He stared at them
in a bewildered way, and cried aloud,--

"How strange!"

"Akinosuke must have been dreaming," one of them exclaimed, with a laugh.
"What did you see, Akinosuke, that was strange?"

Then Akinosuke told his dream,-- that dream of three-and-twenty years'
sojourn in the realm of Tokoyo, in the island of Raishu;-- and they were
astonished, because he had really slept for no more than a few minutes.

One goshi said:--

"Indeed, you saw strange things. We also saw something strange while you
were napping. A little yellow butterfly was fluttering over your face for a
moment or two; and we watched it. Then it alighted on the ground beside
you, close to the tree; and almost as soon as it alighted there, a big, big
ant came out of a hole and seized it and pulling it down into the hole.
Just before you woke up, we saw that very butterfly come out of the hole
again, and flutter over your face as before. And then it suddenly
disappeared: we do not know where it went."

"Perhaps it was Akinosuke's soul," the other goshi said;-- "certainly I
thought I saw it fly into his mouth... But, even if that butterfly was
Akinosuke's soul, the fact would not explain his dream."

"The ants might explain it," returned the first speaker. "Ants are queer
beings -- possibly goblins... Anyhow, there is a big ant's nest under that

"Let us look!" cried Akinosuke, greatly moved by this suggestion. And he
went for a spade.

The ground about and beneath the cedar-tree proved to have been excavated,
in a most surprising way, by a prodigious colony of ants. The ants had
furthermore built inside their excavations; and their tiny constructions of
straw, clay, and stems bore an odd resemblance to miniature towns. In the
middle of a structure considerably larger than the rest there was a
marvelous swarming of small ants around the body of one very big ant, which
had yellowish wings and a long black head.

"Why, there is the King of my dream!" cried Akinosuke; "and there is the
palace of Tokoyo!... How extraordinary!... Raishu ought to lie somewhere
southwest of it -- to the left of that big root... Yes! -- here it is!...
How very strange! Now I am sure that I can find the mountain of Hanryoko,
and the grave of the princess."...

In the wreck of the nest he searched and searched, and at last discovered
a tiny mound, on the top of which was fixed a water-worn pebble, in shape
resembling a Buddhist monument. Underneath it he found -- embedded in clay
-- the dead body of a female ant.


His name was Riki, signifying Strength; but the people called him
Riki-the-Simple, or Riki-the-Fool,-- "Riki-Baka,"-- because he had been
born into perpetual childhood. For the same reason they were kind to him,--
even when he set a house on fire by putting a lighted match to a
mosquito-curtain, and clapped his hands for joy to see the blaze. At
sixteen years he was a tall, strong lad; but in mind he remained always at
the happy age of two, and therefore continued to play with very small
children. The bigger children of the neighborhood, from four to seven years
old, did not care to play with him, because he could not learn their songs
and games. His favorite toy was a broomstick, which he used as a
hobby-horse; and for hours at a time he would ride on that broomstick, up
and down the slope in front of my house, with amazing peals of laughter.
But at last he became troublesome by reason of his noise; and I had to tell
him that he must find another playground. He bowed submissively, and then
went off,-- sorrowfully trailing his broomstick behind him. Gentle at all
times, and perfectly harmless if allowed no chance to play with fire, he
seldom gave anybody cause for complaint. His relation to the life of our
street was scarcely more than that of a dog or a chicken; and when he
finally disappeared, I did not miss him. Months and months passed by before
anything happened to remind me of Riki.

"What has become of Riki?" I then asked the old woodcutter who supplies
our neighborhood with fuel. I remembered that Riki had often helped him to
carry his bundles.

"Riki-Baka?" answered the old man. "Ah, Riki is dead -- poor fellow!...
Yes, he died nearly a year ago, very suddenly; the doctors said that he had
some disease of the brain. And there is a strange story now about that poor

"When Riki died, his mother wrote his name, 'Riki-Baka,' in the palm of
his left hand,-- putting 'Riki' in the Chinese character, and 'Baka' in
kana (1). And she repeated many prayers for him,-- prayers that he might be
reborn into some more happy condition.

"Now, about three months ago, in the honorable residence of Nanigashi-Sama
(2), in Kojimachi (3), a boy was born with characters on the palm of his
left hand; and the characters were quite plain to read,-- 'RIKI-BAKA'!

"So the people of that house knew that the birth must have happened in
answer to somebody's prayer; and they caused inquiry to be made everywhere.
At least a vegetable-seller brought word to them that there used to be a
simple lad, called Riki-Baka, living in the Ushigome quarter, and that he
had died during the last autumn; and they sent two men-servants to look for
the mother of Riki.

"Those servants found the mother of Riki, and told her what had happened;
and she was glad exceedingly -- for that Nanigashi house is a very rich and
famous house. But the servants said that the family of Nanigashi-Sama were
very angry about the word 'Baka' on the child's hand. 'And where is your
Riki buried?' the servants asked. 'He is buried in the cemetery of
Zendoji,' she told them. 'Please to give us some of the clay of his grave,'
they requested.

"So she went with them to the temple Zendoji, and showed them Riki's
grave; and they took some of the grave-clay away with them, wrapped up in a
furoshiki [1].... They gave Riki's mother some money,-- ten yen."... (4)

"But what did they want with that clay?" I inquired.

"Well," the old man answered, "you know that it would not do to let the
child grow up with that name on his hand. And there is no other means of
removing characters that come in that way upon the body of a child: you
must rub the skin with clay taken from the grave of the body of the former


On the wooded hill behind the house Robert and I are looking for
fairy-rings. Robert is eight years old, comely, and very wise;-- I am a
little more than seven,-- and I reverence Robert. It is a glowing glorious
August day; and the warm air is filled with sharp sweet scents of resin.

We do not find any fairy-rings; but we find a great many pine-cones in the
high grass... I tell Robert the old Welsh story of the man who went to
sleep, unawares, inside a fairy-ring, and so disappeared for seven years,
and would never eat or speak after his friends had delivered him from the

"They eat nothing but the points of needles, you know," says Robert.

"Who?" I ask.

""Goblins," Robert answers.

This revelation leaves me dumb with astonishment and awe... But Robert
suddenly cries out:--

"There is a Harper! -- he is coming to the house!"

And down the hill we run to hear the harper... But what a harper! Not like
the hoary minstrels of the picture-books. A swarthy, sturdy, unkempt
vagabond, with black bold eyes under scowling black brows. More like a
bricklayer than a bard,-- and his garments are corduroy!

"Wonder if he is going to sing in Welsh?" murmurs Robert.

I feel too much disappointed to make any remarks. The harper poses his
harp -- a huge instrument -- upon our doorstep, sets all the strong ringing
with a sweep of his grimy fingers, clears his throat with a sort of angry
growl, and begins,--

Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day...

The accent, the attitude, the voice, all fill me with repulsion
unutterable,-- shock me with a new sensation of formidable vulgarity. I
want to cry out loud, "You have no right to sing that song!" For I have
heard it sung by the lips of the dearest and fairest being in my little
world;-- and that this rude, coarse man should are to sing it vexes me like
a mockery,-- angers me like an insolence. But only for a moment!... With
the utterance of the syllables "to-day," that deep, grim voice suddenly
breaks into a quivering tenderness indescribable;-- then, marvelously
changing, it mellows into tones sonorous and rich as the bass of a great
organ,-- while a sensation unlike anything ever felt before takes me by the
throat... What witchcraft has he learned? what secret has he found -- this
scowling man of the road?... Oh! is there anybody else in the whole world
who can sing like that?... And the form of the singer flickers and dims;--
and the house, and the lawn, and all visible shapes of things tremble and
swim before me. Yet instinctively I fear that man;-- I almost hate him; and
I feel myself flushing with anger and shame because of his power to move me

"He made you cry," Robert compassionately observes, to my further
confusion,-- as the harper strides away, richer by a gift of sixpence taken
without thanks... "But I think he must be a gipsy. Gipsies are bad people
-- and they are wizards... Let us go back to the wood."

We climb again to the pines, and there squat down upon the sun-flecked
grass, and look over town and sea. But we do not play as before: the spell
of the wizard is strong upon us both... "Perhaps he is a goblin," I venture
at last, "or a fairy?" "No," says Robert,-- "only a gipsy. But that is
nearly as bad. They steal children, you know."...

"What shall we do if he comes up here?" I gasp, in sudden terror at the
lonesomeness of our situation.

"Oh, he wouldn't dare," answers Robert -- "not by daylight, you know."...

[Only yesterday, near the village of Takata, I noticed a flower which the
Japanese call by nearly the same name as we do: Himawari, "The
Sunward-turning;" -- and over the space of forty years there thrilled back
to me the voice of that wandering harper,--

As the Sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look that she turned when he rose.

Again I saw the sun-flecked shadows on that far Welsh hill; and Robert for
a moment again stood beside me, with his girl's face and his curls of gold.
We were looking for fairy-rings... But all that existed of the real Robert
must long ago have suffered a sea-change into something rich and strange...
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his


Blue vision of depth lost in height,-- sea and sky interblending through
luminous haze. The day is of spring, and the hour morning.

Only sky and sea,-- one azure enormity... In the fore, ripples are
catching a silvery light, and threads of foam are swirling. But a little
further off no motion is visible, nor anything save color: dim warm blue of
water widening away to melt into blue of air. Horizon there is none: only
distance soaring into space,-- infinite concavity hollowing before you, and
hugely arching above you,-- the color deepening with the height. But far in
the midway-blue there hangs a faint, faint vision of palace towers, with
high roofs horned and curved like moons,-- some shadowing of splendor
strange and old, illumined by a sunshine soft as memory.

...What I have thus been trying to describe is a kakemono,-- that is to
say, a Japanese painting on silk, suspended to the wall of my alcove;-- and
the name of it is Shinkiro, which signifies "Mirage." But the shapes of the
mirage are unmistakable. Those are the glimmering portals of Horai the
blest; and those are the moony roofs of the Palace of the Dragon-King;--
and the fashion of them (though limned by a Japanese brush of to-day) is
the fashion of things Chinese, twenty-one hundred years ago...

Thus much is told of the place in the Chinese books of that time:--

In Horai there is neither death nor pain; and there is no winter. The
flowers in that place never fade, and the fruits never fail; and if a man
taste of those fruits even but once, he can never again feel thirst or
hunger. In Horai grow the enchanted plants So-rin-shi, and Riku-go-aoi, and
Ban-kon-to, which heal all manner of sickness;-- and there grows also the
magical grass Yo-shin-shi, that quickens the dead; and the magical grass is
watered by a fairy water of which a single drink confers perpetual youth.
The people of Horai eat their rice out of very, very small bowls; but the
rice never diminishes within those bowls,-- however much of it be eaten,--
until the eater desires no more. And the people of Horai drink their wine
out of very, very small cups; but no man can empty one of those cups,--
however stoutly he may drink,-- until there comes upon him the pleasant
drowsiness of intoxication.

All this and more is told in the legends of the time of the Shin dynasty.
But that the people who wrote down those legends ever saw Horai, even in a
mirage, is not believable. For really there are no enchanted fruits which
leave the eater forever satisfied,-- nor any magical grass which revives
the dead,-- nor any fountain of fairy water,-- nor any bowls which never
lack rice,-- nor any cups which never lack wine. It is not true that sorrow
and death never enter Horai;-- neither is it true that there is not any
winter. The winter in Horai is cold;-- and winds then bite to the bone; and
the heaping of snow is monstrous on the roofs of the Dragon-King.

Nevertheless there are wonderful things in Horai; and the most wonderful
of all has not been mentioned by any Chinese writer. I mean the atmosphere
of Horai. It is an atmosphere peculiar to the place; and, because of it,
the sunshine in Horai is whiter than any other sunshine,-- a milky light
that never dazzles,-- astonishingly clear, but very soft. This atmosphere
is not of our human period: it is enormously old,-- so old that I feel
afraid when I try to think how old it is;-- and it is not a mixture of
nitrogen and oxygen. It is not made of air at all, but of ghost,-- the
substance of quintillions of quintillions of generations of souls blended
into one immense translucency,-- souls of people who thought in ways never
resembling our ways. Whatever mortal man inhales that atmosphere, he takes
into his blood the thrilling of these spirits; and they change the sense
within him,-- reshaping his notions of Space and Time,-- so that he can see
only as they used to see, and feel only as they used to feel, and think
only as they used to think. Soft as sleep are these changes of sense; and
Horai, discerned across them, might thus be described:--

-- Because in Horai there is no knowledge of great evil, the hearts of the
people never grow old. And, by reason of being always young in heart, the
people of Horai smile from birth until death -- except when the Gods send
sorrow among them; and faces then are veiled until the sorrow goes away.
All folk in Horai love and trust each other, as if all were members of a
single household;-- and the speech of the women is like birdsong, because
the hearts of them are light as the souls of birds;-- and the swaying of
the sleeves of the maidens at play seems a flutter of wide, soft wings. In
Horai nothing is hidden but grief, because there is no reason for shame;--
and nothing is locked away, because there could not be any theft;-- and by
night as well as by day all doors remain unbarred, because there is no
reason for fear. And because the people are fairies -- though mortal -- all
things in Horai, except the Palace of the Dragon-King, are small and quaint
and queer;-- and these fairy-folk do really eat their rice out of very,
very small bowls, and drink their wine out of very, very small cups...

-- Much of this seeming would be due to the inhalation of that ghostly
atmosphere -- but not all. For the spell wrought by the dead is only the
charm of an Ideal, the glamour of an ancient hope;-- and something of that
hope has found fulfillment in many hearts ,-- in the simple beauty of
unselfish lives,-- in the sweetness of Woman...

-- Evil winds from the West are blowing over Horai; and the magical
atmosphere, alas! is shrinking away before them. It lingers now in patches
only, and bands,-- like those long bright bands of cloud that train across
the landscapes of Japanese painters. Under these shreds of the elfish vapor
you still can find Horai -- but not everywhere... Remember that Horai is
also called Shinkiro, which signifies Mirage,-- the Vision of the
Intangible. And the Vision is fading,-- never again to appear save in
pictures and poems and dreams...




Would that I could hope for the luck of that Chinese scholar known to
Japanese literature as "Rosan"! For he was beloved by two spirit-maidens,
celestial sisters, who every ten days came to visit him and to tell him
stories about butterflies. Now there are marvelous Chinese stories about
butterflies -- ghostly stories; and I want to know them. But never shall I
be able to read Chinese, nor even Japanese; and the little Japanese poetry
that I manage, with exceeding difficulty, to translate, contains so many
allusions to Chinese stories of butterflies that I am tormented with the
torment of Tantalus... And, of course, no spirit-maidens will even deign to
visit so skeptical a person as myself.

I want to know, for example, the whole story of that Chinese maiden whom
the butterflies took to be a flower, and followed in multitude,-- so
fragrant and so fair was she. Also I should like to know something more
concerning the butterflies of the Emperor Genso, or Ming Hwang, who made
them choose his loves for him... He used to hold wine-parties in his
amazing garden; and ladies of exceeding beauty were in attendance; and
caged butterflies, se free among them, would fly to the fairest; and then,
upon that fairest the Imperial favor was bestowed. But after Genso Kotei
had seen Yokihi (whom the Chinese call Yang-Kwei-Fei), he would not suffer
the butterflies to choose for him,-- which was unlucky, as Yokihi got him
into serious trouble... Again, I should like to know more about the
experience of that Chinese scholar, celebrated in Japan under the name
Soshu, who dreamed that he was a butterfly, and had all the sensations of a
butterfly in that dream. For his spirit had really been wandering about in
the shape of a butterfly; and, when he awoke, the memories and the feelings
of butterfly existence remained so vivid in his mind that he could not act
like a human being... Finally I should like to know the text of a certain
Chinese official recognition of sundry butterflies as the spirits of an
Emperor and of his attendants...

Most of the Japanese literature about butterflies, excepting some poetry,
appears to be of Chinese origin; and even that old national aesthetic
feeling on the subject, which found such delightful expression in Japanese
art and song and custom, may have been first developed under Chinese
teaching. Chinese precedent doubtless explains why Japanese poets and
painters chose so often for their geimyo, or professional appellations,
such names as Chomu ("Butterfly-Dream)," Icho ("Solitary Butterfly)," etc.
And even to this day such geimyo as Chohana ("Butterfly-Blossom"), Chokichi
("Butterfly-Luck"), or Chonosuke ("Butterfly-Help"), are affected by
dancing-girls. Besides artistic names having reference to butterflies,
there are still in use real personal names (yobina) of this kind,-- such as
Kocho, or Cho, meaning "Butterfly." They are borne by women only, as a
rule,-- though there are some strange exceptions... And here I may mention
that, in the province of Mutsu, there still exists the curious old custom
of calling the youngest daughter in a family Tekona,-- which quaint word,
obsolete elsewhere, signifies in Mutsu dialect a butterfly. In classic time
this word signified also a beautiful woman...

It is possible also that some weird Japanese beliefs about butterflies are
of Chinese derivation; but these beliefs might be older than China herself.
The most interesting one, I think, is that the soul of a living person may
wander about in the form of a butterfly. Some pretty fancies have been
evolved out of this belief,-- such as the notion that if a butterfly enters
your guest-room and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you
most love is coming to see you. That a butterfly may be the spirit of
somebody is not a reason for being afraid of it. Nevertheless there are
times when even butterflies can inspire fear by appearing in prodigious
numbers; and Japanese history records such an event. When Taira-no-Masakado
was secretly preparing for his famous revolt, there appeared in Kyoto so
vast a swarm of butterflies that the people were frightened,-- thinking the
apparition to be a portent of coming evil... Perhaps those butterflies were
supposed to be the spirits of the thousands doomed to perish in battle, and
agitated on the eve of war by some mysterious premonition of death.

However, in Japanese belief, a butterfly may be the soul of a dead person
as well as of a living person. Indeed it is a custom of souls to take
butterfly-shape in order to announce the fact of their final departure from
the body; and for this reason any butterfly which enters a house ought to
be kindly treated.

To this belief, and to queer fancies connected with it, there are many
allusions in popular drama. For example, there is a well-known play called
Tonde-deru-Kocho-no-Kanzashi; or, "The Flying Hairpin of Kocho." Kocho is a
beautiful person who kills herself because of false accusations and cruel
treatment. Her would-be avenger long seeks in vain for the author of the
wrong. But at last the dead woman's hairpin turns into a butterfly, and
serves as a guide to vengeance by hovering above the place where the
villain is hiding.

-- Of course those big paper butterflies (o-cho and me-cho) which figure
at weddings must not be thought of as having any ghostly signification. As
emblems they only express the joy of living union, and the hope that the
newly married couple may pass through life together as a pair of
butterflies flit lightly through some pleasant garden,-- now hovering
upward, now downward, but never widely separating.


A small selection of hokku (1) on butterflies will help to illustrate
Japanese interest in the aesthetic side of the subject. Some are pictures
only,-- tiny color-sketches made with seventeen syllables; some are nothing
more than pretty fancies, or graceful suggestions;-- but the reader will
find variety. Probably he will not care much for the verses in themselves.
The taste for Japanese poetry of the epigrammatic sort is a taste that must
be slowly acquired; and it is only by degrees, after patient study, that
the possibilities of such composition can be fairly estimated. Hasty
criticism has declared that to put forward any serious claim on behalf of
seventeen-syllable poems "would be absurd." But what, then, of Crashaw's
famous line upon the miracle at the marriage feast in Cana?--

Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit. [1]

Only fourteen syllables -- and immortality. Now with seventeen Japanese
syllables things quite as wonderful -- indeed, much more wonderful -- have
been done, not once or twice, but probably a thousand times... However,
there is nothing wonderful in the following hokku, which have been selected
for more than literary reasons:--

Nugi-kakuru [2]
Haori sugata no
Kocho kana!

[Like a haori being taken off -- that is the shape of a butterfly!]

Torisashi no
Sao no jama suru
Kocho kana!

[Ah, the butterfly keeps getting in the way of the bird-catcher's pole! [3]]

Tsurigane ni
Tomarite nemuru
Kocho kana!

[Perched upon the temple-bell, the butterfly sleeps:]

Neru-uchi mo
Asobu-yume wo ya --
Kusa no cho!

[Even while sleeping, its dream is of play -- ah, the butterfly of the
grass! [4]

Oki, oki yo!
Waga tomo ni sen,

[Wake up! wake up! -- I will make thee my comrade, thou sleeping
butterfly. [5]]

Kago no tori
Cho wo urayamu
Metsuki kana!

[Ah, the sad expression in the eyes of that caged bird! -- envying the

Cho tonde --
Kaze naki hi to mo
Miezari ki!

[Even though it did not appear to be a windy day, [6] the fluttering of
the butterflies --!]

Rakkwa eda ni
Kaeru to mireba --
Kocho kana!

[When I saw the fallen flower return to the branch -- lo! it was only a
butterfly! [7]]

Chiru-hana ni --
Karusa arasou
Kocho kana!

[How the butterfly strives to compete in lightness with the falling
flowers! [8]]

Chocho ya!
Onna no michi no
Ato ya saki!

[See that butterfly on the woman's path,-- now fluttering behind her, now

Chocho ya!
Hana-nusubito wo

[Ha! the butterfly! -- it is following the person who stole the flowers!]

Aki no cho
Tomo nakereba ya;
Hito ni tsuku

[Poor autumn butterfly!-- when left without a comrade (of its own race),
it follows after man (or "a person")!]

Owarete mo,
Isoganu furi no
Chocho kana!

[Ah, the butterfly! Even when chased, it never has the air of being in a

Cho wa mina
Jiu-shichi-hachi no
Sugata kana!

[As for butterflies, they all have the appearance of being about seventeen
or eighteen years old.[9]]

Cho tobu ya --
Kono yo no urami
Naki yo ni!

[How the butterfly sports,-- just as if there were no enmity (or "envy")
in this world!]

Cho tobu ya,
Kono yo ni nozomi
Nai yo ni!

[Ah, the butterfly! -- it sports about as if it had nothing more to desire
in this present state of existence.]

Nami no hana ni
Tomari kanetaru,
Kocho kana!

[Having found it difficult indeed to perch upon the (foam-) blossoms of
the waves,-- alas for the butterfly!]

Mutsumashi ya! --
Nobe no cho. [10]

[If (in our next existence) we be born into the state of butterflies upon
the moor, then perchance we may be happy together!]

Nadeshiko ni
Chocho shiroshi --
Tare no kon? [11]

[On the pink-flower there is a white butterfly: whose spirit, I wonder?]

Ichi-nichi no
Tsuma to miekeri --
Cho futatsu.

[The one-day wife has at last appeared -- a pair of butterflies!]

Kite wa mau,
Futari shidzuka no
Kocho kana!

[Approaching they dance; but when the two meet at last they are very
quiet, the butterflies!]

Cho wo ou

[Would that I might always have the heart (desire) of chasing butterflies![12]]

* * *

Besides these specimens of poetry about butterflies, I have one queer
example to offer of Japanese prose literature on the same topic. The
original, of which I have attempted only a free translation, can be found
in the curious old book Mushi-Isame ("Insect-Admonitions"); and it assumes
the form of a discourse to a butterfly. But it is really a didactic
allegory,-- suggesting the moral significance of a social rise and fall:--

"Now, under the sun of spring, the winds are gentle, and flowers pinkly
bloom, and grasses are soft, and the hearts of people are glad. Butterflies
everywhere flutter joyously: so many persons now compose Chinese verses and
Japanese verses about butterflies.

"And this season, O Butterfly, is indeed the season of your bright
prosperity: so comely you now are that in the whole world there is nothing
more comely. For that reason all other insects admire and envy you;-- there
is not among them even one that does not envy you. Nor do insects alone
regard you with envy: men also both envy and admire you. Soshu of China, in
a dream, assumed your shape;-- Sakoku of Japan, after dying, took your
form, and therein made ghostly apparition. Nor is the envy that you inspire
shared only by insects and mankind: even things without soul change their
form into yours;-- witness the barley-grass, which turns into a butterfly.

"And therefore you are lifted up with pride, and think to yourself: 'In all
this world there is nothing superior to me!' Ah! I can very well guess what
is in your heart: you are too much satisfied with your own person. That is
why you let yourself be blown thus lightly about by every wind;-- that is
why you never remain still,-- always, always thinking, 'In the whole world
there is no one so fortunate as I.'

"But now try to think a little about your own personal history. It is
worth recalling; for there is a vulgar side to it. How a vulgar side? Well,
for a considerable time after you were born, you had no such reason for
rejoicing in your form. You were then a mere cabbage-insect, a hairy worm;
and you were so poor that you could not afford even one robe to cover your
nakedness; and your appearance was altogether disgusting. Everybody in
those days hated the sight of you. Indeed you had good reason to be ashamed
of yourself; and so ashamed you were that you collected old twigs and
rubbish to hide in, and you made a hiding-nest, and hung it to a branch,--
and then everybody cried out to you, 'Raincoat Insect!' (Mino-mushi.) [14]
And during that period of your life, your sins were grievous. Among the
tender green leaves of beautiful cherry-trees you and your fellows
assembled, and there made ugliness extraordinary; and the expectant eyes of
the people, who came from far away to admire the beauty of those
cherry-trees, were hurt by the sight of you. And of things even more
hateful than this you were guilty. You knew that poor, poor men and women
had been cultivating daikon (2) in their fields,-- toiling under the hot
sun till their hearts were filled with bitterness by reason of having to
care for that daikon; and you persuaded your companions to go with you, and
to gather upon the leaves of that daikon, and on the leaves of other
vegetables planted by those poor people. Out of your greediness you ravaged
those leaves, and gnawed them into all shapes of ugliness,-- caring nothing
for the trouble of those poor folk... Yes, such a creature you were, and
such were your doings.

"And now that you have a comely form, you despise your old comrades, the
insects; and, whenever you happen to meet any of them, you pretend not to
know them [literally, 'You make an I-don't-know face']. Now you want to
have none but wealthy and exalted people for friends... Ah! You have
forgotten the old times, have you?

"It is true that many people have forgotten your past, and are charmed by
the sight of your present graceful shape and white wings, and write Chinese
verses and Japanese verses about you. The high-born damsel, who could not
bear even to look at you in your former shape, now gazes at you with
delight, and wants you to perch upon her hairpin, and holds out her dainty
fan in the hope that you will light upon it. But this reminds me that there
is an ancient Chinese story about you, which is not pretty.

"In the time of the Emperor Genso, the Imperial Palace contained hundreds
and thousands of beautiful ladies,-- so many, indeed, that it would have
been difficult for any man to decide which among them was the loveliest.
So all of those beautiful persons were assembled together in one place; and
you were set free to fly among them; and it was decreed that the damsel
upon whose hairpin you perched should be augustly summoned to the Imperial
Chamber. In that time there could not be more than one Empress -- which was
a good law; but, because of you, the Emperor Genso did great mischief in
the land. For your mind is light and frivolous; and although among so many
beautiful women there must have been some persons of pure heart, you would
look for nothing but beauty, and so betook yourself to the person most
beautiful in outward appearance. Therefore many of the female attendants
ceased altogether to think about the right way of women, and began to study
how to make themselves appear splendid in the eyes of men. And the end of
it was that the Emperor Genso died a pitiful and painful death -- all
because of your light and trifling mind. Indeed, your real character can
easily be seen from your conduct in other matters. There are trees, for
example,-- such as the evergreen-oak and the pine,-- whose leaves do not
fade and fall, but remain always green;-- these are trees of firm heart,
trees of solid character. But you say that they are stiff and formal; and
you hate the sight of them, and never pay them a visit. Only to the
cherry-tree, and the kaido [15], and the peony, and the yellow rose you go:
those you like because they have showy flowers, and you try only to please
them. Such conduct, let me assure you, is very unbecoming. Those trees
certainly have handsome flowers; but hunger-satisfying fruits they have
not; and they are grateful to those only who are fond of luxury and show.
And that is just the reason why they are pleased by your fluttering wings
and delicate shape;-- that is why they are kind to you.

"Now, in this spring season, while you sportively dance through the
gardens of the wealthy, or hover among the beautiful alleys of cherry-trees
in blossom, you say to yourself: 'Nobody in the world has such pleasure as
I, or such excellent friends. And, in spite of all that people may say, I
most love the peony,-- and the golden yellow rose is my own darling, and I
will obey her every least behest; for that is my pride and my delight.'...
So you say. But the opulent and elegant season of flowers is very short:
soon they will fade and fall. Then, in the time of summer heat, there will
be green leaves only; and presently the winds of autumn will blow, when
even the leaves themselves will shower down like rain, parari-parari. And
your fate will then be as the fate of the unlucky in the proverb, Tanomi ki
no shita ni ame furu [Even through the tree upon which I relied for shelter
the rain leaks down]. For you will seek out your old friend, the
root-cutting insect, the grub, and beg him to let you return into your
old-time hole;-- but now having wings, you will not be able to enter the
hole because of them, and you will not be able to shelter your body
anywhere between heaven and earth, and all the moor-grass will then have
withered, and you will not have even one drop of dew with which to moisten
your tongue,-- and there will be nothing left for you to do but to lie down
and die. all because of your light and frivolous heart -- but, ah! how
lamentable an end!"...


Most of the Japanese stories about butterflies appear, as I have said, to
be of Chinese origin. But I have one which is probably indigenous; and it
seems to me worth telling for the benefit of persons who believe there is
no "romantic love" in the Far East.

Behind the cemetery of the temple of Sozanji, in the suburbs of the
capital, there long stood a solitary cottage, occupied by an old man named
Takahama. He was liked in the neighborhood, by reason of his amiable ways;
but almost everybody supposed him to be a little mad. Unless a man take the
Buddhist vows, he is expected to marry, and to bring up a family. But
Takahama did not belong to the religious life; and he could not be
persuaded to marry. Neither had he ever been known to enter into a
love-relation with any woman. For more than fifty years he had lived
entirely alone.

One summer he fell sick, and knew that he had not long to live. He then
sent for his sister-in-law, a widow, and for her only son,-- a lad of about
twenty years old, to whom he was much attached. Both promptly came, and did
whatever they could to soothe the old man's last hours.

One sultry afternoon, while the widow and her son were watching at his
bedside, Takahama fell asleep. At the same moment a very large white
butterfly entered the room, and perched upon the sick man's pillow. The
nephew drove it away with a fan; but it returned immediately to the pillow,
and was again driven away, only to come back a third time. Then the nephew
chased it into the garden, and across the garden, through an open gate,
into the cemetery of the neighboring temple. But it continued to flutter
before him as if unwilling to be driven further, and acted so queerly that
he began to wonder whether it was really a butterfly, or a ma [16]. He
again chased it, and followed it far into the cemetery, until he saw it fly
against a tomb,-- a woman's tomb. There it unaccountably disappeared; and
he searched for it in vain. He then examined the monument. It bore the
personal name "Akiko," (3) together with an unfamiliar family name, and an
inscription stating that Akiko had died at the age of eighteen. Apparently
the tomb had been erected about fifty years previously: moss had begun to
gather upon it. But it had been well cared for: there were fresh flowers
before it; and the water-tank had recently been filled.

On returning to the sick room, the young man was shocked by the
announcement that his uncle had ceased to breathe. Death had come to the
sleeper painlessly; and the dead face smiled.

The young man told his mother of what he had seen in the cemetery.

"Ah!" exclaimed the widow, "then it must have been Akiko!"...

But who was Akiko, mother?" the nephew asked.

The widow answered:--

"When your good uncle was young he was betrothed to a charming girl called
Akiko, the daughter of a neighbor. Akiko died of consumption, only a little
before the day appointed for the wedding; and her promised husband sorrowed
greatly. After Akiko had been buried, he made a vow never to marry; and he
built this little house beside the cemetery, so that he might be always
near her grave. All this happened more than fifty years ago. And every day
of those fifty years -- winter and summer alike -- your uncle went to the
cemetery, and prayed at the grave, and swept the tomb, and set offerings
before it. But he did not like to have any mention made of the matter; and
he never spoke of it... So, at last, Akiko came for him: the white
butterfly was her soul."


I had almost forgotten to mention an ancient Japanese dance, called the
Butterfly Dance (Kocho-Mai), which used to be performed in the Imperial
Palace, by dancers costumed as butterflies. Whether it is danced
occasionally nowadays I do not know. It is said to be very difficult to
learn. Six dancers are required for the proper performance of it; and they
must move in particular figures,-- obeying traditional rules for ever step,
pose, or gesture,-- and circling about each other very slowly to the sound
of hand-drums and great drums, small flutes and great flutes, and pandean
pipes of a form unknown to Western Pan.


With a view to self-protection I have been reading Dr. Howard's book,
"Mosquitoes." I am persecuted by mosquitoes. There are several species in
my neighborhood; but only one of them is a serious torment,-- a tiny needly
thing, all silver-speckled and silver-streaked. The puncture of it is sharp
as an electric burn; and the mere hum of it has a lancinating quality of
tone which foretells the quality of the pain about to come,-- much in the
same way that a particular smell suggests a particular taste. I find that
this mosquito much resembles the creature which Dr. Howard calls Stegomyia
fasciata, or Culex fasciatus: and that its habits are the same as those of
the Stegomyia. For example, it is diurnal rather than nocturnal and becomes
most troublesome in the afternoon. And I have discovered that it comes from
the Buddhist cemetery,-- a very old cemetery,-- in the rear of my garden.

Dr. Howard's book declares that, in order to rid a neighborhood of
mosquitoes, it is only necessary to pour a little petroleum, or kerosene
oil, into the stagnant water where they breed. Once a week the oil should
be used, "at the rate of once ounce for every fifteen square feet of
water-surface, and a proportionate quantity for any less surface." ...But
please to consider the conditions in my neighborhood!

I have said that my tormentors come from the Buddhist cemetery. Before
nearly every tomb in that old cemetery there is a water-receptacle, or
cistern, called mizutame. In the majority of cases this mizutame is simply
an oblong cavity chiseled in the broad pedestal supporting the monument;
but before tombs of a costly kind, having no pedestal-tank, a larger
separate tank is placed, cut out of a single block of stone, and decorated
with a family crest, or with symbolic carvings. In front of a tomb of the
humblest class, having no mizutame, water is placed in cups or other
vessels,-- for the dead must have water. Flowers also must be offered to
them; and before every tomb you will find a pair of bamboo cups, or other
flower-vessels; and these, of course, contain water. There is a well in the
cemetery to supply water for the graves. Whenever the tombs are visited by
relatives and friends of the dead, fresh water is poured into the tanks and
cups. But as an old cemetery of this kind contains thousands of mizutame,
and tens of thousands of flower-vessels the water in all of these cannot be
renewed every day. It becomes stagnant and populous. The deeper tanks
seldom get dry;-- the rainfall at Tokyo being heavy enough to keep them
partly filled during nine months out of the twelve.

Well, it is in these tanks and flower-vessels that mine enemies are born:
they rise by millions from the water of the dead;-- and, according to
Buddhist doctrine, some of them may be reincarnations of those very dead,
condemned by the error of former lives to the condition of Jiki-ketsu-gaki,
or blood-drinking pretas... Anyhow the malevolence of the Culex fasciatus
would justify the suspicion that some wicked human soul had been compressed
into that wailing speck of a body...

Now, to return to the subject of kerosene-oil, you can exterminate the
mosquitoes of any locality by covering with a film of kerosene all stagnant
water surfaces therein. The larvae die on rising to breathe; and the adult
females perish when they approach the water to launch their rafts of eggs.
And I read, in Dr. Howard's book, that the actual cost of freeing from
mosquitoes one American town of fifty thousand inhabitants, does not exceed
three hundred dollars!...

I wonder what would be said if the city-government of Tokyo -- which is
aggressively scientific and progressive -- were suddenly to command that
all water-surfaces in the Buddhist cemeteries should be covered, at regular
intervals, with a film of kerosene oil! How could the religion which
prohibits the taking of any life -- even of invisible life -- yield to such
a mandate? Would filial piety even dream of consenting to obey such an
order? And then to think of the cost, in labor and time, of putting
kerosene oil, every seven days, into the millions of mizutame, and the tens
of millions of bamboo flower-cups, in the Tokyo graveyards!... Impossible!
To free the city from mosquitoes it would be necessary to demolish the
ancient graveyards;-- and that would signify the ruin of the Buddhist
temples attached to them;-- and that would mean the disparition of so many
charming gardens, with their lotus-ponds and Sanscrit-lettered monuments
and humpy bridges and holy groves and weirdly-smiling Buddhas! So the
extermination of the Culex fasciatus would involve the destruction of the
poetry of the ancestral cult,-- surely too great a price to pay!...

Besides, I should like, when my time comes, to be laid away in some
Buddhist graveyard of the ancient kind,-- so that my ghostly company should
be ancient, caring nothing for the fashions and the changes and the
disintegrations of Meiji (1). That old cemetery behind my garden would be a
suitable place. Everything there is beautiful with a beauty of exceeding
and startling queerness; each tree and stone has been shaped by some old,
old ideal which no longer exists in any living brain; even the shadows are
not of this time and sun, but of a world forgotten, that never knew steam
or electricity or magnetism or -- kerosene oil! Also in the boom of the big
bell there is a quaintness of tone which wakens feelings, so strangely
far-away from all the nineteenth-century part of me, that the faint blind
stirrings of them make me afraid,-- deliciously afraid. Never do I hear
that billowing peal but I become aware of a striving and a fluttering in
the abyssal part of my ghost,-- a sensation as of memories struggling to
reach the light beyond the obscurations of a million million deaths and
births. I hope to remain within hearing of that bell... And, considering
the possibility of being doomed to the state of a Jiki-ketsu-gaki, I want
to have my chance of being reborn in some bamboo flower-cup, or mizutame,
whence I might issue softly, singing my thin and pungent song, to bite some
people that I know.



This morning sky, after the night's tempest, is a pure and dazzling blue.
The air -- the delicious air! -- is full of sweet resinous odors, shed from
the countless pine-boughs broken and strewn by the gale. In the neighboring
bamboo-grove I hear the flute-call of the bird that praises the Sutra of
the Lotos; and the land is very still by reason of the south wind. Now the
summer, long delayed, is truly with us: butterflies of queer Japanese
colors are flickering about; semi (1) are wheezing; wasps are humming;
gnats are dancing in the sun; and the ants are busy repairing their damaged
habitations... I bethink me of a Japanese poem:--

Yuku e naki:
Ari no sumai ya!
Go-getsu ame.

[Now the poor creature has nowhere to go!... Alas for the dwellings of the
ants in this rain of the fifth month!]

But those big black ants in my garden do not seem to need any sympathy.
They have weathered the storm in some unimaginable way, while great trees
were being uprooted, and houses blown to fragments, and roads washed out of
existence. Yet, before the typhoon, they took no other visible precaution
than to block up the gates of their subterranean town. And the spectacle of
their triumphant toil to-day impels me to attempt an essay on Ants.

I should have like to preface my disquisitions with something from the old
Japanese literature,-- something emotional or metaphysical. But all that my
Japanese friends were able to find for me on the subject,-- excepting some
verses of little worth,-- was Chinese. This Chinese material consisted
chiefly of strange stories; and one of them seems to me worth quoting,--
faute de mieux.


In the province of Taishu, in China, there was a pious man who, every day,
during many years, fervently worshiped a certain goddess. One morning,
while he was engaged in his devotions, a beautiful woman, wearing a yellow
robe, came into his chamber and stood before him. He, greatly surprised,
asked her what she wanted, and why she had entered unannounced. She
answered: "I am not a woman: I am the goddess whom you have so long and so
faithfully worshiped; and I have now come to prove to you that your
devotion has not been in vain... Are you acquainted with the language of
Ants?" The worshiper replied: "I am only a low-born and ignorant person,--
not a scholar; and even of the language of superior men I know nothing." At
these words the goddess smiled, and drew from her bosom a little box,
shaped like an incense box. She opened the box, dipped a finger into it,
and took therefrom some kind of ointment with which she anointed the ears
of the man. "Now," she said to him, "try to find some Ants, and when you
find any, stoop down, and listen carefully to their talk. You will be able
to understand it; and you will hear of something to your advantage... Only
remember that you must not frighten or vex the Ants." Then the goddess
vanished away.

The man immediately went out to look for some Ants. He had scarcely
crossed the threshold of his door when he perceived two Ants upon a stone
supporting one of the house-pillars. He stooped over them, and listened;
and he was astonished to find that he could hear them talking, and could
understand what they said. "Let us try to find a warmer place," proposed
one of the Ants. "Why a warmer place?" asked the other;-- "what is the
matter with this place?" "It is too damp and cold below," said the first
Ant; "there is a big treasure buried here; and the sunshine cannot warm the
ground about it." Then the two Ants went away together, and the listener
ran for a spade.

By digging in the neighborhood of the pillar, he soon found a number of
large jars full of gold coin. The discovery of this treasure made him a
very rich man.

Afterwards he often tried to listen to the conversation of Ants. But he
was never again able to hear them speak. The ointment of the goddess had
opened his ears to their mysterious language for only a single day.


Now I, like that Chinese devotee, must confess myself a very ignorant
person, and naturally unable to hear the conversation of Ants. But the
Fairy of Science sometimes touches my ears and eyes with her wand; and
then, for a little time, I am able to hear things inaudible, and to
perceive things imperceptible.


For the same reason that it is considered wicked, in sundry circles, to
speak of a non-Christian people having produced a civilization ethically
superior to our own, certain persons will not be pleased by what I am going
to say about ants. But there are men, incomparably wiser than I can ever
hope to be, who think about insects and civilizations independently of the
blessings of Christianity; and I find encouragement in the new Cambridge
Natural History, which contains the following remarks by Professor David
Sharp, concerning ants:--

"Observation has revealed the most remarkable phenomena in the lives of
these insects. Indeed we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that they have
acquired, in many respects, the art of living together in societies more
perfectly than our own species has; and that they have anticipated us in
the acquisition of some of the industries and arts that greatly facilitate
social life."

I suppose that a few well-informed persons will dispute this plain
statement by a trained specialist. The contemporary man of science is not
apt to become sentimental about ants or bees; but he will not hesitate to
acknowledge that, in regard to social evolution, these insects appear to
have advanced "beyond man." Mr. Herbert Spencer, whom nobody will charge
with romantic tendencies, goes considerably further than Professor Sharp;
showing us that ants are, in a very real sense, ethically as well as
economically in advance of humanity,-- their lives being entirely devoted
to altruistic ends. Indeed, Professor Sharp somewhat needlessly qualifies
his praise of the ant with this cautious observation:--

"The competence of the ant is not like that of man. It is devoted to the
welfare of the species rather than to that of the individual, which is, as
it were, sacrificed or specialized for the benefit of the community."

-- The obvious implication,-- that any social state, in which the
improvement of the individual is sacrificed to the common welfare, leaves
much to be desired,-- is probably correct, from the actual human
standpoint. For man is yet imperfectly evolved; and human society has much
to gain from his further individualization. But in regard to social insects
the implied criticism is open to question. "The improvement of the
individual," says Herbert Spencer, "consists in the better fitting of him
for social cooperation; and this, being conducive to social prosperity, is
conducive to the maintenance of the race." In other words, the value of the
individual can be only in relation to the society; and this granted,
whether the sacrifice of the individual for the sake of that society be
good or evil must depend upon what the society might gain or lose through a
further individualization of its members... But as we shall presently see,
the conditions of ant-society that most deserve our attention are the
ethical conditions; and these are beyond human criticism, since they
realize that ideal of moral evolution described by Mr. Spencer as "a state
in which egoism and altruism are so conciliated that the one merges into
the other." That is to say, a state in which the only possible pleasure is
the pleasure of unselfish action. Or, again to quote Mr. Spencer, the
activities of the insect-society are "activities which postpone individual
well-being so completely to the well-being of the community that individual
life appears to be attended to only just so far as is necessary to make
possible due attention to social life,... the individual taking only just
such food and just such rest as are needful to maintain its vigor."


I hope my reader is aware that ants practise horticulture and agriculture;
that they are skillful in the cultivation of mushrooms; that they have
domesticated (according to present knowledge) five hundred and eighty-four
different kinds of animals; that they make tunnels through solid rock; that
they know how to provide against atmospheric changes which might endanger
the health of their children; and that, for insects, their longevity is
exceptional,-- members of the more highly evolved species living for a
considerable number of years.

But it is not especially of these matters that I wish to speak. What I
want to talk about is the awful propriety, the terrible morality, of the
ant [1]. Our most appalling ideals of conduct fall short of the ethics of
the ant,-- as progress is reckoned in time,-- by nothing less than millions
of years!... When I say "the ant," I mean the highest type of ant,-- not,
of course, the entire ant-family. About two thousand species of ants are
already known; and these exhibit, in their social organizations, widely
varying degrees of evolution. Certain social phenomena of the greatest
biological importance, and of no less importance in their strange relation
to the subject of ethics, can be studied to advantage only in the existence
of the most highly evolved societies of ants.

After all that has been written of late years about the probable value of
relative experience in the long life of the ant, I suppose that few persons
would venture to deny individual character to the ant. The intelligence of
the little creature in meeting and overcoming difficulties of a totally new
kind, and in adapting itself to conditions entirely foreign to its
experience, proves a considerable power of independent thinking. But this
at least is certain: that the ant has no individuality capable of being
exercised in a purely selfish direction;-- I am using the word "selfish" in
its ordinary acceptation. A greedy ant, a sensual ant, an ant capable of
any one of the seven deadly sins, or even of a small venial sin, is
unimaginable. Equally unimaginable, of course, a romantic ant, an
ideological ant, a poetical ant, or an ant inclined to metaphysical
speculations. No human mind could attain to the absolute matter-of-fact
quality of the ant-mind;-- no human being, as now constituted, could
cultivate a mental habit so impeccably practical as that of the ant. But
this superlatively practical mind is incapable of moral error. It would be
difficult, perhaps, to prove that the ant has no religious ideas. But it is
certain that such ideas could not be of any use to it. The being incapable
of moral weakness is beyond the need of "spiritual guidance."

Only in a vague way can we conceive the character of ant-society, and the
nature of ant-morality; and to do even this we must try to imagine some yet
impossible state of human society and human morals. Let us, then, imagine a
world full of people incessantly and furiously working,-- all of whom seem
to be women. No one of these women could be persuaded or deluded into
taking a single atom of food more than is needful to maintain her strength;
and no one of them ever sleeps a second longer than is necessary to keep
her nervous system in good working-order. And all of them are so peculiarly
constituted that the least unnecessary indulgence would result in some
derangement of function.

The work daily performed by these female laborers comprises road-making,
bridge-building, timber-cutting, architectural construction of numberless
kinds, horticulture and agriculture, the feeding and sheltering of a
hundred varieties of domestic animals, the manufacture of sundry chemical
products, the storage and conservation of countless food-stuffs, and the
care of the children of the race. All this labor is done for the
commonwealth -- no citizen of which is capable even of thinking about
"property," except as a res publica;-- and the sole object of the
commonwealth is the nurture and training of its young,-- nearly all of whom
are girls. The period of infancy is long: the children remain for a great
while, not only helpless, but shapeless, and withal so delicate that they
must be very carefully guarded against the least change of temperature.
Fortunately their nurses understand the laws of health: each thoroughly
knows all that she ought to know in regard to ventilation, disinfection,
drainage, moisture, and the danger of germs,-- germs being as visible,
perhaps, to her myopic sight as they become to our own eyes under the
microscope. Indeed, all matters of hygiene are so well comprehended that no
nurse ever makes a mistake about the sanitary conditions of her

In spite of this perpetual labor no worker remains unkempt: each is
scrupulously neat, making her toilet many times a day. But as every worker
is born with the most beautiful of combs and brushes attached to her
wrists, no time is wasted in the toilet-room. Besides keeping themselves
strictly clean, the workers must also keep their houses and gardens in
faultless order, for the sake of the children. Nothing less than an
earthquake, an eruption, an inundation, or a desperate war, is allowed to
interrupt the daily routine of dusting, sweeping, scrubbing, and


Now for stranger facts:--

This world of incessant toil is a more than Vestal world. It is true that
males can sometimes be perceived in it; but they appear only at particular
seasons, and they have nothing whatever to do with the workers or with the
work. None of them would presume to address a worker,-- except, perhaps,
under extraordinary circumstances of common peril. And no worker would
think of talking to a male;-- for males, in this queer world, are inferior
beings, equally incapable of fighting or working, and tolerated only as
necessary evils. One special class of females,-- the Mothers-Elect of the
race,-- do condescend to consort with males, during a very brief period, at
particular seasons. But the Mothers-Elect do not work; and they most accept
husbands. A worker could not even dream of keeping company with a male,--
not merely because such association would signify the most frivolous waste
of time, nor yet because the worker necessarily regards all males with
unspeakable contempt; but because the worker is incapable of wedlock. Some
workers, indeed, are capable of parthenogenesis, and give birth to children
who never had fathers. As a general rule, however, the worker is truly
feminine by her moral instincts only: she has all the tenderness, the
patience, and the foresight that we call "maternal;" but her sex has
disappeared, like the sex of the Dragon-Maiden in the Buddhist legend.

For defense against creatures of prey, or enemies of the state, the
workers are provided with weapons; and they are furthermore protected by a
large military force. The warriors are so much bigger than the workers (in
some communities, at least) that it is difficult, at first sight, to
believe them of the same race. Soldiers one hundred times larger than the
workers whom they guard are not uncommon. But all these soldiers are
Amazons,-- or, more correctly speaking, semi-females. They can work
sturdily; but being built for fighting and for heavy pulling chiefly, their
usefulness is restricted to those directions in which force, rather than
skill, is required.

[Why females, rather than males, should have been evolutionally
specialized into soldiery and laborers may not be nearly so simple a
question as it appears. I am very sure of not being able to answer it. But
natural economy may have decided the matter. In many forms of life, the
female greatly exceeds the male in bulk and in energy;-- perhaps, in this
case, the larger reserve of life-force possessed originally by the complete
female could be more rapidly and effectively utilized for the development
of a special fighting-caste. All energies which, in the fertile female,
would be expended in the giving of life seem here to have been diverted to
the evolution of aggressive power, or working-capacity.]

Of the true females,-- the Mothers-Elect,-- there are very few indeed; and
these are treated like queens. So constantly and so reverentially are they
waited upon that they can seldom have any wishes to express. They are
relieved from every care of existence,-- except the duty of bearing
offspring. Night and day they are cared for in every possible manner. They
alone are superabundantly and richly fed:-- for the sake of the offspring
they must eat and drink and repose right royally; and their physiological
specialization allows of such indulgence ad libitum. They seldom go out,
and never unless attended by a powerful escort; as they cannot be permitted
to incur unnecessary fatigue or danger. Probably they have no great desire
to go out. Around them revolves the whole activity of the race: all its
intelligence and toil and thrift are directed solely toward the well-being
of these Mothers and of their children.

But last and least of the race rank the husbands of these Mothers,-- the
necessary Evils,-- the males. They appear only at a particular season, as I
have already observed; and their lives are very short. Some cannot even
boast of noble descent, though destined to royal wedlock; for they are not
royal offspring, but virgin-born,-- parthenogenetic children,-- and, for
that reason especially, inferior beings, the chance results of some
mysterious atavism. But of any sort of males the commonwealth tolerates but
few,-- barely enough to serve as husbands for the Mothers-Elect, and these
few perish almost as soon as their duty has been done. The meaning of
Nature's law, in this extraordinary world, is identical with Ruskin's
teaching that life without effort is crime; and since the males are useless
as workers or fighters, their existence is of only momentary importance.
They are not, indeed, sacrificed,-- like the Aztec victim chosen for the
festival of Tezcatlipoca, and allowed a honeymoon of twenty days before his
heart was torn out. But they are scarcely less unfortunate in their high
fortune. Imagine youths brought up in the knowledge that they are destined
to become royal bridegrooms for a single night,-- that after their bridal
they will have no moral right to live,-- that marriage, for each and all of
them, will signify certain death,-- and that they cannot even hope to be

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