Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, by Isabella L. Bird

Letter 34

Ito’s Delinquency —“Missionary Manners”— A Predicted Failure.

HAKODATE, YEZO.

I am enjoying Hakodate so much that, though my tour is all planned and my arrangements are made, I linger on from day to day. There has been an unpleasant eclaircissement about Ito. You will remember that I engaged him without a character, and that he told both Lady Parkes and me that after I had done so his former master, Mr. Maries, asked him to go back to him, to which he had replied that he had “a contract with a lady.” Mr. Maries is here, and I now find that he had a contract with Ito, by which Ito bound himself to serve him as long as he required him, for $7 a month, but that, hearing that I offered $12, he ran away from him and entered my service with a lie! Mr. Maries has been put to the greatest inconvenience by his defection, and has been hindered greatly in completing his botanical collection, for Ito is very clever, and he had not only trained him to dry plants successfully, but he could trust him to go away for two or three days and collect seeds. I am very sorry about it. He says that Ito was a bad boy when he came to him, but he thinks that he cured him of some of his faults, and that he has served me faithfully. I have seen Mr. Maries at the Consul’s, and have arranged that, after my Yezo tour is over, Ito shall be returned to his rightful master, who will take him to China and Formosa for a year and a half, and who, I think, will look after his well-being in every way. Dr. and Mrs. Hepburn, who are here, heard a bad account of the boy after I began my travels and were uneasy about me, but, except for this original lie, I have no fault to find with him, and his Shinto creed has not taught him any better. When I paid him his wages this morning he asked me if I had any fault to find, and I told him of my objection to his manners, which he took in very good part and promised to amend them; “but,” he added, “mine are just missionary manners!”

Yesterday I dined at the Consulate, to meet Count Diesbach, of the French Legation, Mr. Von Siebold, of the Austrian Legation, and Lieutenant Kreitner, of the Austrian army, who start tomorrow on an exploring expedition in the interior, intending to cross the sources of the rivers which fall into the sea on the southern coast and measure the heights of some of the mountains. They are “well found” in food and claret, but take such a number of pack-ponies with them that I predict that they will fail, and that I, who have reduced my luggage to 45 lbs., will succeed!

I hope to start on my long-projected tour tomorrow; I have planned it for myself with the confidence of an experienced traveller, and look forward to it with great pleasure, as a visit to the aborigines is sure to be full of novel and interesting experiences. Good-bye for a long time.

I. L. B.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31