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Percival Lowell

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

My quest still carrying me westward along the line of the new railway, I took the train again, and in the compartment of the carriage I found two other travelers. They were a typical Japanese couple in middle life, and in something above middle circumstances. He affected European clothes in part, while she still clung to the costume of her ancestors. Both were smoking, - she her little pipe, and he the fashionable cigarette. Their mutual relations were those of substance to shadow. She followed him inevitably, and he trod on her feelings regardless of them.

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

Toward the middle of the afternoon we reached a part of the coast locally famous or infamous, for the two were one; a stretch of some miles where the mountains made no apology for falling abruptly into the sea. Sheer for several hundred feet, the shore is here unscalable. Nor did it use to be possible to go round by land, for the cliffs are merely the ends of mountain-chains, themselves utterly wild and tractless. A narrow strip of sand was the sole link between Etchiu on the one hand and Echigo on the other.

The twilight lingered, and the road threaded its tortuous course for miles through the rice plain, bordered on either hand by the dykes of the paddyfields. Every few hundred feet, we passed a farmhouse screened by clipped hedgerows and bosomed in trees; and at longer intervals we rolled through some village, the country pike becoming for the time the village street. The land was an archipelago of homestead in a sea of rice.

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

They had told us overnight that a small steamer plied every other day through Noto's unfamed inland sea, leaving the capital early in the morning, and touching shortly after at Wakura. As good luck would have it, the morrow happened not to be any other day, so we embraced the opportunity to embark in her ourselves. On her, it would be more accurate to say, for she proved such a mite that her cabin was barely possible and anything but desirable. By squatting down and craning my neck I peered in at the entrance, a feat which was difficult enough.

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

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

On the morrow morning we took the road in kuruma, the road proper, as Yejiro called it; for it was the main bond between Noto and the rest of Japan. This was the nearest approach it had to a proper name, a circumstance which showed it not to be of the first importance. For in Japan, all the old arteries of travel had distinctive names, the Nakasendo or Mid-Mountain road, the Tokaido or Eastern Sea road, and so forth. Like certain other country relations, their importance was due to their city connections, not to their own local magnitude.

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