Isabella is again in the wilds. After a day’s travel, she is not completely off of the beaten track but will be soon. From the isolated lake house where she sits, she is watching a number of men dragging down the hillside a bear carcass, which they have killed with spears.
She is absolutely alone, for the first time in forever, having ridden 18 miles from Hakodate without any help. Ito is bringing up the rear with the rest of the luggage. I suspect this is some sort of penance for his untruths.
This part of Japan was long viewed as the frontier. Things are a little looser here and a little more dangerous. She compares it to how “away down in Texas” would feel to an 1870s New Yorker.
There are forest and swamps and active volcanoes. The forests, she reminds us, “are the hunting grounds of the Ainus, who are complete savages in everything but their disposition, which is said to be so gentle and harmless that I may go among them in perfect safety.”
What isn’t safe are the horses, whose already poor behavior is about to get even worse. Horses are “cheap and abundant.” Every morning, a number are driven down from the hills, corralled in villages, used as needed, then released at night. “… they are very badly used. I have not seen one yet without a sore back, produced by the harsh pack-saddle rubbing up and down the spine, as the loaded animals are driven at a run. They are mostly very poor looking.”
Heading out of Hakodate, however, Isabella was given a better mount, even though she was never able to get him to move above a slow walk.* At one point, she dismounted to walk up a steep hill and calamity ensued.
“The saddle being too loosely girthed, the gear behind it dragged it round and under the body of the horse, and it was too heavy for me to lift on his back again.”**
Fortunately, some passing Japanese merchants bringing sake to the Ainu stop to help her out.
* I have ridden this horse’s cousin in spirit, btw.
** I have also ridden a couple of horses who were very good at inflating themselves as you cinched the saddle, only to deflate themselves at the least opportune time. Horses, it must be said, are assholes.