LETTER XXXVII - (Continued)
The profusion of black hair, and a curious intensity about their eyes, coupled with the hairy limbs and singularly vigorous physique, give them a formidably savage appearance; but the smile, full of "sweetness and light," in which both eyes and mouth bear part, and the low, musical voice, softer and sweeter than anything I have previously heard, make me at times forget that they are savages at all. The venerable look of these old men harmonises with the singular dignity and courtesy of their manners, but as I look at the grand heads, and reflect that the Ainos have never shown any capacity, and are merely adult children, they seem to suggest water on the brain rather than intellect. I am more and more convinced that the expression of their faces is European. It is truthful, straightforward, manly, but both it and the tone of voice are strongly tinged with pathos.
Before these elders Benri asked me, in a severe tone, if I had been annoyed in any way during his absence. He feared, he said, that the young men and the women would crowd about me rudely. I made a complimentary speech in return, and all the ancient hands were waved, and the venerable beards were stroked in acknowledgment.
These Ainos, doubtless, stand high among uncivilised peoples. They are, however, as completely irreclaimable as the wildest of nomad tribes, and contact with civilisation, where it exists, only debases them. Several young Ainos were sent to Tokiyo, and educated and trained in various ways, but as soon as they returned to Yezo they relapsed into savagery, retaining nothing but a knowledge of Japanese. They are charming in many ways, but make one sad, too, by their stupidity, apathy, and hopelessness, and all the sadder that their numbers appear to be again increasing; and as their physique is very fine, there does not appear to be a prospect of the race dying out at present.
They are certainly superior to many aborigines, as they have an approach to domestic life. They have one word for HOUSE, and another for HOME, and one word for husband approaches very nearly to house-band. Truth is of value in their eyes, and this in itself raises them above some peoples. Infanticide is unknown, and aged parents receive filial reverence, kindness, and support, while in their social and domestic relations there is much that is praiseworthy.
I must conclude this letter abruptly, as the horses are waiting, and I must cross the rivers, if possible, before the bursting of an impending storm. I. L. B.