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The Forty-Seven Ronins part 13

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And when they came to their lord’s grave they took the head of Kot- suk£ no Suke, and, having washed it clean in a well hard by, laid it as an offering before the tomb.

When they had done this, they engaged the priests of the temple to come and read prayers while they burnt incense; first Oishi Kuranosuke burnt incense, and then his son Oishi Chikara, and after them the other forty-five men performed the same ceremony. Then Kuranosuke, having given all the money that he had by him to the abbot, said:

“When we forty-seven men shall have performed hara kiri, I beg you to bury us decently. I rely upon your kindness. This is but a trifle that I have to offer; such as it is, let it be spent in masses for our souls.”

And the abbot, marveling at the faithful courage of the men, with tears in his eyes pledged himself to fulfil their wishes. So the forty-seven Ronins, with their minds at rest, waited patiently until they should receive the orders of the Government.

At last they were summoned to the Supreme Court, where the governors ofYedo and the public censors had assembled; and the sentence passed upon them was as follows: “Whereas, neither respecting the dignity of the city nor fearing the Government, having leagued yourselves together to slay your enemy, you violently broke into the house of Kira Kotsukd no Suke by night and murdered him, the sentence of the Court is, that, for this audacious conduct, you perform hara kiri.”

When the sentence had been read, the forty-seven Ronins were divided into four parties, and handed over to the safe keeping of four different daimios; and sheriffs were sent to the palaces of those daimios in whose presence the Ronins were made to perform hara kiri.

But, as from the very beginning they had all made up their minds that to this end they must come, they met their death nobly; and their corpses were carried to Sengakuji, and buried in front of the tomb of their master, Asano Takumi no Kami. And when the fame of this became noised abroad, the people flocked to pray at the graves of these faithful men.

Roadside at Yamashina

Among those who came to pray was a Satsuma man, who, prostrating himself before the grave of Oishi Kuranosuke, said: “When I saw you lying drunk by the roadside at Yamashina, in Kioto, I knew not that you were plotting to avenge your lord; and, thinking you to be a faithless man, I trampled on you and spat in your face as I passed.

And now I have come to ask pardon and offer atonement for the insult of last year.” With these words he prostrated himself again before theave, and, drawing a dirk from his girdle, performed hara kiri and died.

The chief priest of the temple, taking pity upon him, buried him by the side of the Ronins; and his tomb still remains to be seen with those of the forty-seven comrades.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 12

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As they were on their way to Takanawa, the suburb in which the temple called Sengakuji stands, the day broke; and the people flocked out to see the forty-seven men, who, with their clothes and arms all’ blood-stained, presented a terrible appearance; and everyone praised them, wondering at their valor and faithfulness. But they expected every moment that Kotsuke no Suk6’s father-in-law would attack them and carry off the head, so they determined to die nobly sword in hand.

However, they reached Takanawa in safety, for Matsudaira Aki no Kami, one of the eighteen chief daimios of Japan, of whose house Asano Takumi no Kami had been a cadet, had been highly pleased when he heard of the last night’s work, and he had made ready to assist the Ronins in case they were attacked. So Kotsuke no Sukd’s father-in-law dared not pursue them.

At about seven in the morning they came opposite to the palace of Matsudaira Mutsu no Kami, the Prince of Sendai, and the prince hearing of it, sent for one of his councilors and said: “The retainers of Takumi no Kami have slain their lord’s enemy, and are passing this way: I am filled with admiration at their devotion, so, as they must be tired and hungry after their night’s work, do you go and invite them to come in here, and set some gruel and a cup of wine before them.”

Oishi Kuranosuke

So the councilor went out and said to Oishi Kuranosuke, “Sir, I am a councilor of the Prince of Sendai, and my master bids me beg you, as you must be worn out after all you have undergone, to come in and partake of such poor refreshment as we can offer you. This is my message to you from my lord.”

“I thank you, sir,” replied Kuranosuke. “It is very good of his lord- ship to trouble himself to think of us. We shall accept his kindness gratefully.”

So the forty-seven Ronins went into the palace, and were feasted with gruel and wine, and all the retainers of the Prince of Sendai came and praised them.

Then Kuranosuke turned to the councilor and said, “Sir, we are truly indebted to you for this kind hospitality; but as we have still to hurry to Sengakuji, we must needs humbly take our leave.”

And, after returning many thanks to their hosts, they left the palace of the Prince of Sendai and hastened to Sengakuji, where they were met by the abbot of the monastery, who went to the front gate to receive them, and led them to the tomb of Takumi no Kami.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 11

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But Jiutaro wrested the dirk from him, and clutching him by the collar, dragged him out of the outhouse. Then the other Ronin came up, and they examined the prisoner attentively, and saw that he was a noble-looking man, some sixty years of age, dressed in a white satin sleeping-robe, which was stained by the blood from the thigh-wound which Jiutaro had inflicted.

The two men felt convinced that this was no other than Kotsuke no Suke, and they asked him his name, but he gave no answer, so they gave the signal whistle, and all their comrades collected together at the call; then Oishi Kuranosuke, bringing a lantern, scanned the old man’s features, and it was indeed Kotsuke no Suk6; and if further proof were wanting, he still bore a scar on his forehead where their master, Asano Takumi no Kami, had wounded him during the affray in the castle. There being no possibility of mistake, therefore Oishi Kuranosuke went down on his knees, and addressing the old man very respectfully, said:

“My lord, we are the retainers of Asano Takumi no Kami. Last year your lordship and our master quarreled in the palace, and our master was sentenced to hara kiri, and his family was ruined. We have come tonight to avenge him, as is the duty of faithful and loyal men.

To perform hara kiri

I pray your lordship to acknowledge the justice of our purpose. And now, my lord, we beseech you to perform hara kiri. I myself shall have the honor to act as your second, and when, with all humility, I shall have received your lordship’s head, it is my intention to lay it as an offering upon the grave of Asano Takumi no Kami.”

Thus, in consideration of the high rank of Kotsuke no Suke, the R6nins treated him with the greatest courtesy, and over and over again entreated him to perform hara kiri. But he crouched speechless and trembling. At last Kuranosuke, seeing that it was vain to urge him to dir the death of a nobleman, forced him down, and cut off his head with the same dirk with which Asano Takumi no Kami had killed himself.

Then the forty-seven comrades, elated at having accomplished their design, placed the head in a bucket, and prepared to depart; but before leaving the house they carefully extinguished all the lights and fires in the place, lest by any accident a fire should break out and the neighbors suffer.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 10

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Spurred by these words, Chikara seized a spear and gave battle to Waku Handaiyu, but could not hold his ground, and backing by degrees, was driven out into the garden, where he missed his footing and slipped into a pond; but as Handaiyu, thinking to kill him, looked down into the pond, Chikara cut his enemy in the leg and caused him to fall, and then crawling out of the water despatched him. In the meanwhile, Kobayashi Hehachi and Shimidzu Ikkaku had been killed by the other Ronins, and of all Kotsukd no Suke’s retainers not one fighting man remained.

Chikara, seeing this, went with his bloody sword in his hand into a back room to search for Kotsuke no Suke, but he only found the son of the latter, a young lord named Kira Sahioye, who, carrying a halberd, attacked him, but was soon wounded and fled. Thus the whole of Kotsuke no Suke’s men having been killed, there was an end of the fighting; but as yet there was no trace of Kotsuke no Suke to be found.

Then Kuranosuke divided his men into several parties and searched the whole house, but all in vain; women and children weeping were alone to be seen. At this the forty-seven men began to lose heart in regret, that after all their toil they had allowed their enemy to escape them, and there was a moment when in their despair they agreed to commit suicide together upon the spot; but they determined to make one more effort.

So Kuranosuke went into Kotsuke no Suke’s sleeping-room, and touching the quilt, with his hands, exlaimed, “I have just felt the bed-clothes and they are yet warm, and so methinks that our enemy is not far off. He must certainly be hidden somewhere in the house.” Greatly excited by this, the Ronins renewed their search.

Thrusting a spear

Now in the raised part of the room, near the place of honor, there was a picture hanging; taking down this picture, they saw that there was a large hole in the plastered wall, and on thrusting a spear in they could feel nothing beyond it. So one of the Ronins, called Yazama Jiutaro, got into the hole, and found that on the other side there was a little courtyard, in which there stood an outhouse for holding charcoal and firewood.

Looking into the outhouse, he spied something white at the further end, at which he struck with his spear, when two armed men sprang out upon him and tried to cut him down, but he kept them back until one of his comrades came up and killed one of the two men and engaged the other, while Jiutaro entered the outhouse and felt about with his spear.

Again seeing something white, he struck it with his lance, when a cry of pain betrayed that it was a man; so he rushed up, and the man in white clothes, who had been wounded in the thigh, drew a dirk and aimed a blow at him.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 9

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Ten of Kotsuke no Suke’s retainers, hearing the noise, woke up; and, drawing their swords, rushed into the front room to defend their master. At this moment the Ronins, who had burst open the door of the front hall, entered the same room.

Then arose a furious fight between the two parties, in the midst of which Chikara, leading his men through the garden, broke into the back of the house; and Kot- suk6 no Suke, in terror of his life, took refuge, with his wife and female servants, in a closet in the veranda; while the rest of his retainers, who slept in the barrack outside the house, made ready to go to the rescue.

Joined by Chikara

But the Ronins who had come in by the front door, and were fighting with the ten retainers, ended by overpowering and slaying the latter without losing one of their own number; after which, forcing their way bravely towards the back rooms, they were joined by Chikara and his men, and the two bands were united in one.

By this time the remainder of Kotsuke no Sukl’s men had come in, and the fight became general; and Kuranosuke, sitting on a camp- stool, gave his orders and directed the Ronins.

Soon the inmates of the house perceived that they were no match for their enemy, so they tried to send out intelligence of their plight to UyeSugi Sama, their lord’s father-in-law, begging him to come to the rescue with all the force at his command.

But the messengers were shot down by the archers whom Kuranosuke had posted on the roof. So no help coming, they fought on in despair. Then Kuranosuk6 cried out with a loud voice: “Kotusk£ no Suke alone is our enemy; let someone go inside and bring him forth dead or alive!”

Now in front of Kotsuke no Suk6’s private room stood three brave retainers with drawn swords. The first was Kobayashi Hehachi, the second was Waku Handaiyu, and the third was Shimidzu Ikkaku, all good men and true, and expert swordsmen. So stoutly did these men lay about them that for awhile they kept the whole of the Ronins at bay, and at one moment even forced them back.

When Oishi Kuranosuke saw this, he ground his teeth with rage, and shouted to his men: “What! did not every man of you swear to laydown his life in avenging his lord, and now are you beaten back by three men? Cowards, not fit to be spoken to! To die fighting in a master’s cause should be the noblest apibition of a retainer!” Then turning to his own son Chikara, he said, “Here, boy! engage those men, and if they are too strong for you, die!”

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 8

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When the appointed hour came, the Ronins set forth. The wind howled furiously, and the driving snow beat in their faces; but little cared they for wind or snow as they hurried on their road. At last they reached Kotsukd no Suk£’s house, and divided themselves into two bands; and Chikara, with twenty-three men, went round to the back gate.

Then four men, by means of a ladder of ropes which they hung on to the roof of the porch, effected an entry into the courtyard; and, as they saw signs that all the inmates of the house were asleep, they went into the porter’s lodge where the guard slept, and, before the latter had time to recover from their astonishment, bound them.

Guard prayed hard for mercy

The terrified guard prayed hard for mercy, that their lives might he spared; and to this the Ronins agreed on condition that the keys of the gate should be given up; but the others tremblingly said that the keys were kept in the house of one of their officers, and that they had no means of obtaining them. Then the Ronins lost patience, and with a hammer smashed to shivers the big wooden bolt which secured the gate, and the doors flew open to the right and to the left. At the same time Chikara and his party broke in by the back gate.

Then Oishi Kuranosuke sent a messenger to the neighboring houses, bearing the following message: “We, the Ronins who were formerly in the service of Asano Takumi no Kami, are this night about to break into the palace of Kotsuke no Suke, to avenge our lord.

As we are neither night robbers nor ruffians, no hurt will be done to the neighboring houses. We pray you to set your minds at rest.” And as Kotsuke no Suke was hated by his neighbors for his covetousness, they did not unite their forces to assist him. Another precaution was yet taken.

Lest any of the people inside should run out to call the relations of the family to the rescue, and these coming in force should interfere with the plans of the Ronins, Kuranosuke stationed ten of his men armed with bows on the roof of the four sides of the courtyard, with orders to shoot any retainers who might attempt to leave the place. Having thus laid all his plans and posted his men, Kuranosuke with his own hand beat the drum and gave the signal for attack.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 7

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And when at last it became evident from the letters which arrived from Yedo that Kotsuke no Suke was thoroughly off his guard, Kuranosuke rejoiced that the day of vengeance was at hand; and, having appointed a trysting-place at Yedo, he fled secretly from Kioto, eluding the vigilance of his enemy’s spies. Then the forty-seven men, having laid all their plans, bided their time patiently.

It was now midwinter, the twelfth month of the year, and the cold was bitter. One night, during a heavy fall of snow, when the whole world was hushed, and peaceful men were stretched in sleep upon the mats, the Ronins determined that no more favorable opportunity could occur for carrying out their purpose.

So they took counsel together, and having divided their band into two parties, assigned to each man his post. One band, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, was to attack the front gate, and the other, under his son Oishi Chikara, was to attack the rear of Kotsuke no Suke’s house; but as Chikara was only sixteen years of age, Yoshida Chiuzayemon was appointed to act as his guardian.

Further it was arranged that a drum, beaten at the order of Kuranosuke, should be the signal for the simultaneous attack; and that if any one slew Kotsuke no Suk6 and cut off his head he should blow a shrill whistle, as a signal to his comrades, who would hurry to the spot, and, having identified the head, carry it off to the temple called Sengakuji, and lay it as an offering before the tomb of their dead lord.

Report their deed to the Government

Then they must report their deed to the Government, and await their sentence. To this the Ronins one and all pledged themselves. Midnight was fixed upon as the hour, and the forty-seven comrades, having made all ready for the attack, partook of a last farewell feast together, for on the morrow they must die. Then Oishi Kuranosuke addressed the band, and said:

“To-night we shall attack our enemy in his palace; his retainers will certainly resist us, and we shall be obliged to kill them. But to slay old men and women and children is a pitiful thing; therefore, I pray you each one to take great heed-lest you kill a single helpless person.” His comrades all applauded this speech, and so they remained, waiting for the hour of midnight to arrive.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 6

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“Trouble me not,” replied Kuranosuke, “for I will not listen to your whining. Since my way of life is displeasing to you, I will divorce you, and you may go about your business; and I will buy some pretty young girl from one of the public-houses, and marry her for my pleasure. I am sick of the sight of an old woman like you about the house, so get you gone—the sooner the better.”

So saying, he flew into a violent rage, and his wife, terror-stricken, pleaded piteously for mercy.

“Oh, my lord! unsay those terrible words! I have been your faithful wife for twenty years, and have borne you three children; in sickness and in sorrow I have been with you; you cannot be so cruel as to turn me out of doors now. Have pity! have pity!”

“Cease this useless wailing. My mind is made up, and you must go; and as the children are in my way also, you are welcome to take them with you.”

When she heard her husband speak thus, in her grief she sought her eldest son, Oishi Chikara, and begged him to plead for her, and pray that she might be pardoned. But nothing would turn Kuranosuke from his purpose; so his wife was sent away, with the two younger children, and went back to her native place. But Oishi Chikara remained with his father.

The spies communicated all this without fail to Kotsuke no Suke, and he, when he heard how Kuranosuke, having turned his wife and children out of doors and bought a concubine, was groveling in a life of drunkenness and lust, began to think that he had no longer anything to fear from the retainers of Takumi no Kami, who must be cowards, without the courage to avenge their lord.

Uyesugi Sama

So by degrees he began to keep a less strict watch, and sent back half of the guard which had been lent to him by his father-in-law, Uyesugi Sama. Little did he think how he was falling into the trap laid for him by Kuranosuke, who, in his zeal to slay his lord’s enemy, thought nothing of divorcing his wife and sending away his children! Admirable and faithful man!

In this way Kuranosuke continued to throw dust in the eyes of his foe, by persisting in his apparently shameless conduct; but his associates all went to Yedo, and, having in their several capacities as workmen and peddlers contrived to gain access to Kotsuke no Suke’s house, made themselves familiar with the plan of the building and the arrangement of the different rooms, and ascertained the character of the inmates, who were brave and loyal men, and who were cowards; upon all of which matters they sent regular reports to Kuranosuke.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 5

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Now amongst these retainers was his principal councilor, a man called Oishi Kuranosuke, who with forty-six other faithful dependents formed a league to avenge their master’s death by killing Kotsukd no Suke.

This Oishi Kuranosuke was absent at the castle of Ako at the time of the affray, which, had he been with his prince, would never have occurred; for, being a wise man, he would not have failed to propitiate Kotsuke no Suke by sending him suitable presents; while the councilor who was in attendance on the prince at Yedo was a dullard, who neglected this precaution, and so caused the death of his master and the ruin of his house.

So Oishi Kuranosuke and his forty-six companions began to lay their plans of vengeance against Kotsuke no Suke; but the latter was so well guarded by a body of men lent to him by a daimio called Uyesugi Sama, whose daughter he had married, that they saw that the only way of attaining their end would be to throw their enemy off his guard.

With this object they separated, and disguised themselves, some as carpenters or craftsmen, others as merchants; and their chief, Kuranosuke, went to Kioto, and built a house in the quarter called Yama- shina, where he took to frequenting houses of the worst repute, and gave himself up to drunkenness and debauchery, as if nothing were further from his mind than revenge.

Kotsuke no Suke, in the meanwhile, suspecting that Takumi no Kami’s former retainers would be scheming against his life, secretly sent spies to Kioto, and caused a faithful account to be kept of all that Kuranosuke did. The latter, however, determined thoroughly to delude the enemy into a false security, went on leading a dissolute life with harlots and winebibbers.

Oishi Kuranosuke

One day, as he was returning home drunk from some low haunt, he fell down in the street and went to sleep, and all the passers-by laughed him to scorn. It happened that a Satsuma man saw this, and said: “Is not this Oishi Kuranosuke, who was a councilor of Asano Takumi no Kami, and who, not having the heart to avenge his lord, gives himself up to women and wine? See how he lies drunk in the public street! Faithless beast! Fool and craven! Unworthy the name of a Samurai!”

And he trod on Kuranosuke’s face as he slept, and spat upon him; but when Kotsuke no Suke’s spies reported all this at Yedo he was greatly relieved at the news, and felt secure from danger.

One day Kuranosuke’s wife, who was bitterly grieved to see her husband lead this abandoned life, went to him and said: “My lord, you told me at first that your debauchery was but a trick to make your enemy relax in watchfulness. But indeed, indeed, this has gone too far. I pray and beseech you to put some restraint upon yourself.”

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 4

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Shortly after this Takumi no Kami, who had sent no present, arrived at the castle, and Kotsuke no Suke turned him into ridicule even more than before, provoking him with sneers and covered insults; but Takumi no Kami affected to ignore all this, and submitted himself patiently to Kotsuke no Suk£’s orders.

This conduct, so far from producing a good effect, only made Kotsuke no Suke despise him the more, until at last he said haughtily: “Here, my Lord of Takumi, the ribbon of my sock has come untied; be so good as to tie it up for me.”

Takumi no Kami, although burning with rage at the affront, still thought that as he was on duty he was bound to obey, and tied up the ribbon of the sock. Then Kotsuke no Suke, turning from him, petulantly exclaimed: “Why, how clumsy you are! You cannot so much as tie up the ribbon of a sock properly! Anyone can see that you are a boor from the country, and know nothing of the manners of Yedo.” And with a Scornful laugh he moved towards an inner room.

But the patience of Takumi no Kami was exhausted; this last insult was more than he could bear.

“Stop a moment, my lord,” cried he.

Takumi no Kami

“Well, what is it?” replied the other. And, as he turned round, Takumi no Kami drew his dirk, and aimed a blow at his head; but Kotsuk6 no Suke, being protected by the Court cap which he wore, the wound was but a scratch, so he ran away; and Takumi no Kami, pursuing him, tried a second time to cut him down, but missing his aim, struck his dirk into a pillar. At this moment an officer, named Kaji- kawa Yosobei, seeing the affray, rushed up, and holding back the infuriated noble, gave Kotsuke no Suke time to make good his escape.

Then there arose a great uproar and confusion, and Takumi no Kami was arrested and disarmed, and confined in one of the apartments of the palace under the care of the censors. A council was held, and the prisoner was given over to the safeguard of a daimio, called Tamura Ukiyo no Daibu, who kept him in close custody in his own house, to the great grief of his wife and of his retainers; and when the deliberations of the council were Completed, it was decided that, as he had commited an outrage and attacked another man within the precincts of the palace, he must perform hara kiri, that is, commit suicide by disemboweling; his goods must be confiscated, and his family ruined.

Such was the law. So Takumi no Kami performed hara kiri, his castle of Ako was confiscated, and his retainers, having become Ronins, some of them took service with other daimios, and others became merchants.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 3

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But the councilor went home, and was much troubled, and thought anxiously about what his prince had said. And as he reflected, it occurred to him that since Kotsuke no Suke had the reputation of being a miser he would certainly be open to a bribe, and that it was better to pay any sum, no matter how great, than that his lord and his house should be ruined.

So he collected all the money he could, and, giving it to his servant to carry, rode off in the night to Kotsuke no Suke’s palace, and said to his retainers: “My master, who is now in attendance upon the Imperial envoy, owes much thanks to my Lord Kotsuke no Suke, who has been at so great pains to teach him the proper ceremonies to be observed during the reception of the Imperial envoy.

This is but a shabby present which he has sent by me, but he hopes that his lordship will condescend to accept it, and commends himself to his lordship’s favor.” And, with these words, he produced a thousand ounces of silver for Kotsuke no Suke, and a hundred ounces to be distributed among his retainers.

When the latter saw the’money their eyes sparkled with pleasure, and they were profuse in their thanks; and, begging the councilor to wait a little, they went and told their master of the lordly present which had arrived with a polite message from Kamei Sama.

Carefully in all the different points

Kotsuke no Suke in eager delight sent for the councilor into an inner chamber, and after thanking him, promised on the morrow to instruct his master carefully in all the different points of etiquette.

So the councilor seeing the miser’s glee rejoiced at the success of his plan; and having taken his leave returned home in high spirits. But Kamei Sama, little thinking how his vassal had propitiated his enemy, lay brooding over his vengeance, and on the following morning at daybreak went to Court in solemn procession.

When Kotsuke no Suk£ met him his manner had completely changed, and nothing could exceed his courtesy. “You have come early to Court this morning, my Lord Kamei,” said he. “I cannot sufficiently admire your zeal. I shall have the honor to call your attention to several points of etiquette to-day.

I must beg your lordship to excuse my previous conduct, which must have seemed very rude; but I am naturally of a cross-grained disposition, so I pray you to forgive me.” And as he kept on humbling himself and making fair speeches, the heart of Kamei Sama was gradually softened, and he renounced his intention of killing him.’ Thus, by the cleverness of his councilor, was Kamei Sama, with all his house, saved from ruin.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 2

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The present version, translated by A. B. Mitford, is reprinted from The Fortnightly Review, London, 1870, by permission of Macmillan and Co., owners of the copyright, who include it in Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan.

The Forty-Seven Ronins

At the beginning of the Eighteenth Century there lived a daimio, called Asano Takumi no Kami, the Lord of the Castle of Ako, in the province of Harima. Now it happened that an Imperial ambassador from the Court of the Mikado, having been sent to the Shogun at Yedo, Takumi no Kami and another noble called Kamei Sama, were appointed to receive and feast the envoy; and a high official, named Kira Kotsuke no Suke, was named to teach them the proper ceremonies to be observed upon the occasion.

The two nobles were accordingly forced to go daily to the castle to listen to the instructions of Kotsuke no Suke. But this Kotsuke no Suke was a man greedy of money, and as he deemed that the presents which the two daimios, according to time-honored custom, had brought him in return for his instruction, were mean and unworthy, he conceived a great hatred against them, and took no pains in teaching them, but on the contrary rather sought to make laughing-stocks of them. Takumi no Kami, restrained by a stem sense of duty, bore his insults with patience, but Kamei Sama, who had less control over his temper, was violently incensed and determined to kill Kotsuke no Suke.

One night when his duties at the castle were ended, Kamei Sama returned to his own palace, and having summoned his councilors to a secret conference, said to them: “Kotsuke no Suke has insulted Takumi no Kami and myself during our service in attendance on the Imperial envoy.

This is against all decency, and I was minded to kill him on the spot; but I bethought me that if I did such a deed within the precincts of the castle, not only would my own life be forfeit, but my family and vassals would be ruined: so I stayed my hand. Still the life of such a wretch is a sorrow to the people, and to-morrow when I go to Court I will slay him: my mind is made up, and I will listen to no remonstrance.” And as he spoke his face became livid with rage.

Now one of Kamei Sama’s councilors was a man of great judgment, and when he saw from his lord’s manner that remonstrance would be useless, he said: “Your lordship’s words are law; your servant will make all preparations accordingly; and to-morrow, when your lord- ship goes to Court, if this Kotsuke no Suk6 should again be insolent, let him die the death.” And his lord was pleased at this speech, and waited with impatience for the day to break, that he might return to Court and kill his enemy.

The Forty-Seven Ronins part 1

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Japan

Introduction

In the Eighth Century A.D. (712) the annals of the chief families of Japan were collected in a work known as the Kojiki, or Record of Ancient Matters. This constituted the first writing of note in Japanese, but it was not until the appearance eight years later of the volume called JVihongi, or Chronicles of Japan, that Japanese literature can be said to have begun.

The Kojiki was in the language of old Japan, while the Nihongi was in the classical Chinese, which superseded the Japanese and was in use until the Seventeenth Century. In the Eighteenth Century Motoori composed a work of forty-four volumes devoted to the elucidation of the Kojiki called Exposition of the Record of Ancient Matters. This has been declared by Chamberlain to be “perhaps the most admirable work of which Japanese erudition can boast.”

In the first part of the Eleventh Century Murasaki-no-Shikibu, a lady of the great Fujiwara family, composed the Genji Monogatari, the first Japanese novel, a prose epic of contemporary life. Except for some volumes of poetry, among which may be named Hundred Odes by a Hundred Poets in the Thirteenth Century, and Anthologies of the One- and-Twenty Reigns gathered between the Eleventh and the Fifteenth Centuries, which constitute the classics of Japanese poetry, the period was not very productive.

Kiokutei Bakin (1767—1848) and Shikitei Samba (1775—1822) are authors whose fame has reached Europe. Both have written delightful stories of modern Japanese life. These, however, are for the most part too long for consideration here.

Japanese literature is rich in folk-tales, some of which have been translated by Lafcadio Hearn—but on the whole these belong rather to the category of folk lore than to that of narrative fiction.
During the golden era which began in the Seventeenth and extended into the Eighteenth Century, the drama and the novel flourished, but the short story was evidently neglected by serious artists. The Forty- Seven Ronins, the most famous story of the period, was never intended as a story at all, but an episode from history.

It is only in recent years, after the close of the Russo-Japanese war, when Occidental customs and ideas began to influence the Empire, that Japan has contributed genuine short stories. Since then a whole literature has developed, an integral branch of the literature of the entire modem World.

The Forty-Seven Ronins (Anonymous: Early 18th Century)

This famous story is a relation of the most celebrated episode in the annals of modern Japan. It occurred in the year 1703, and within a few months had been used as the basis of a popular play. Before the middle of the century over fifty plays and operas and any number of tales and poems had been written round the vendetta. Practically nothing is known of the authorship of the stories, which form a contderable literature in themselves.

The Human Telegraph part 2

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That evening the counselor was a caller at the home of Mr. Z —, whose entire life was passed in performing trifling services to such representatives of humanity as comprise Classes VII to III of the official hierarchy. In his desire to please, the counselor related to Mr. Z what the Countess had witnessed at the Orphanage and what she had heard from the representative of the religious sisterhood. He added his own contribution that—ah—yes—that—really, books ought to be provided for the orphans.

“Nothing is simpler!” cried Mr. Z. “To-morrow I am going to the office of the Courier and I’ll see to it that an announcement of the book needs of the Orphanage is published.”

The next day Mr. Z very excitedly rushed into the editorial rooms of the Courier, imploring in the name of all the saints that it print an appeal to the public to donate books to the orphans.

He arrived at an opportune moment, for the paper needed matter for a few sensation-stirring lines. The reporter sat down at once and prepared an article headed: “A handful of children—under public care— suffering for lack of books.—The little tots are full of yearning.—Remember their famished souls!”

Then, whistling in satisfaction, he left for dinner.

Few days later on a Sunday

A few days later on a Sunday, arriving with my friend, the physics professor, I encountered before the locked door of the editorial office a shabbily dressed man with hands as soiled as a chimney-sweep’s and beside him a pale, thin little girl, illy clad, carrying a bundle of old books.

“What do you wish, sir?”

The sooty man raised his cap and answered timidly: “We have brought a few books, sir, for those ‘famished’ children that you wrote about.”

The emaciated little girl curtsied and flushed as much as incipient anaemia permitted her to.

I took the books from her arms and put them in charge of the office- boy.

“What is your name, sir?” I asked.

“But, sir, what do you wish it for?” he responded, in embarrassment.

“Why, we must, of course, print the name of the donor of the books.”

“Oh, that isn’t necessary, please, sir. I am only a poor man working in the hat-factory. It isn’t necessary.”

And he went away with his thin little daughter.

Maybe it was because the professor of physics stood beside me that the thought of telegraphing by a new system occurred to me. The main station was the Orphanage, the receiving station the workman in the hat-factory. When the first gave the signal, “Attention,” the second responded immediately. When one demanded, the other supplied. The rest of us were the telegraph poles.

The Human Telegraph part 1

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Boleslav Prus (Alexander Glowacki) (1847-1912)

Alexander Glowacki, known and loved among his people under the pen-name Prus, was born near Lublin in Poland, in 1847. His first novel was published in 1872, and from that time until his death in 1912, his literary activities were uninterrupted. He was a very prolific writer.

“He believed in humanity, in civilization, in the creative power of good and light. He demanded national self-education… he yearned for the training of the will of the people, to whom he proclaimed that each man must find in himself the source of strength and energy.” Prus’s short stories are especially characteristic of the man’s nature and art.

This story is translated—for the first time into English—by Sarka B. Hrbkova, by whose permission it is here printed.

The Human Telegraph

On her visit to the Orphanage recently the Countess X witnessed an extraordinary scene. She beheld four boys wrangling over a tom book and pounding each other promiscuously with right sturdy and effective fists.

“Why, children, children—what does this mean—you are fighting!” cried the lady, greatly shocked. “For that—not one of you will get a taste of gingerbread and, besides, you’ll have to go and kneel in the comer.”

“He took Robinson Crusoe away from me,” one boy ventured in extenuation of his offense.

“That’s a lie! He took it himself!” burst out another.

“See how you lie!” shrieked a third boy at him. “Why you yourself took Robinson away from me!”

The Sister in charge explained to the Countess that in spite of the most watchful supervision similar scenes occurred often, because the children loved to read and the Orphanage lacked books.

A spark of some strange sensation lighted up the heart of the Countess. But as thinking wearied her, she strove to forget it. Not until some days later, when she was a guest at the home of the Chief Counselor where one had to discuss religious and philanthropic subjects, did it occur to her to mention it. Then she related at length the incident at the Orphanage and the explanation given by the Sister in charge.

The counselor, listening attentively, also experienced an odd sensation, and being more adept in thinking, he suggested that it would be a good idea to send some books to the orphans. In fact, he recalled that in his bookcases or in his trunk he had a whole collection of volumes going to waste which in bygone years he had purchased for his own children. But then—it was too laborious a task for him to go rummaging around to gather up the books.

The Massacre of the Innocents part 8

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Round
the churchyard a multitude gathered in front of a long low green farmhouse. The
proprietor wept bitterly as he stood in his door-way. He was a fat,
jolly-looking man, and happened to arouse the compassion of a few soldiers who
sat near the wall in the sunlight, patting a dog. The soldier who was taking
off his child made gestures as if to convey the meaning, “What can I do? I’m
not to blame!”

One
peasant who was being pursued leaped into a boat near the stone bridge, and,
with his wife and children, rowed quickly across that part of the pond that was
not frozen. The Spaniards, who dared not follow, walked angrily among the reeds
by the shore. They climbed into the willows along the bankside, trying to reach
the boat with their lances. Unable to do so, they continued to threaten the
fugitives, who drifted out over the dark water.

The
orchard was still thronged with people: it was there, in the pres-ence of the
white-bearded commanding officer, that most of the children were being
murdered. The children who were over two and could just walk, stood together
eating bread and jam, staring in wide-eyed wonder at the massacre of their
helpless playmates, or gathered round the village fool, who was playing his
flute.

All
at once there was a concerted movement in the village, and the peasants made
off in the direction of the castle that stood on rising ground at the far end
of the street. They had caught sight of their lord on the battlements, watching
the massacre. Men and women, young and old, extended their hands toward him in
supplication as he stood there in his velvet cloak and golden cap like a king
in Heaven.

 But he only raised his hands and shrugged his
shoulders to show that he was ownerless, while the people supplicated him in
growing despair, neeling with heads bared in the snow, and crying piteously. He
turned slowly back into his tower. Their last hope had vanished.

When
all the children had been killed, the weary soldiers wiped their swords on the
grass and ate their supper among the pear-trees, then mounting in pairs, they
rode out of Nazareth across the bridge over which they had come.

The
setting sun turned the wood into a flaming mass, dyeing the vil-lage a blood
red. Utterly exhausted, the curd threw himself down in the snow before the
church, his servant standing at his side. They both looked out into the street
and the orchard, which were filled with easants dressed in their Sunday
clothes.

Before
the entrances of many ouses were parents holding the bodies of children on
their knees, still full of blank amazement, lamenting over their grievous
tragedy. Others wept over their little ones where they had perished, by the
side of a cask, under a wheelbarrow, or by the pond. Others again carried off
their dead in silence. Some set to washing benches, chairs, tables, bloody
underclothes, or picking up the cradles mat had been hurled into the street.

Stopping by Grief- Stricken

Many
mothers sat bewailing their children under the trees, having recognized them by
their woolen dresses. Those who had had no children wandered through the
square, stopping by grief- stricken mothers, who sobbed and moaned. The men,
who had stopped crying, doggedly pursued their strayed beasts to the
accompaniment of the barking of dogs; others silently set to work mending their
broken windows and damaged roofs.

As
the moon quietly rose through the tranquil sky, a sleepy silence fell upon the
village, where at last the shadow of no living thing stirred.

The Massacre of the Innocents part 7

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One
family, who had concealed themselves in the cellar of a large house, stood at
the gratings and wildly lamented, while the father desperately brandished his
pitchfork through the grating. Outside, an old bald-headed fellow sat on a
manure-heap, sobbing to himself. In the square a woman dressed in yellow had
fainted away, her weeping husband holding her up by the arms against a
pear-tree.

Another
woman, in red, clutched her little girl, whose hands had been cut off, and
lifted the child’s arms to see whether she could move. Still another woman was
escaping toward the open country, the soldiers running after her among the
haystacks, which stood out in sharp relief against the snow-covered fields.

Before
the Four Sons of Aymon confusion reigned. The peasants had made a barricade
while the soldiers encircled the inn, unable to effect an entrance. They were
trying to climb up to the sign-board by means of the vines, when they caught
sight of a ladder behind the garden gate. Setting this against the wall, they
scaled it, one after another. But the landlord and his family threw down at
them tables and chairs, crockery and cradles from the window, upsetting ladder
and soldiers together.

Two soldiers carried off

In
a wooden cottage at the outskirts of the village another group of soldiers came
upon an old woman washing her children in a tub before the open fire. She was
old and deaf, and did not hear them when they entered. Two soldiers carried off
the tub with the children in it, while the bewildered old woman set off in
pursuit, carrying the clothes which she had been about to put on the infants.

Out
in the village she saw traces of blood, swords in the orchard, smashed cradles
in the open streets, women praying and wringing their hands over their dead
children, and began to scream and strike the soldiers who had to set down the
tub in order to defend themselves. The curd hurried over to her, his hands
still folded over his chasuble, and entreated the Spaniards for mercy, in the
presence of the naked children screaming in the tub. Other soldiers came up,
bound the distracted mother to a tree, and went off with the children.

The
butcher, having hidden his baby girl, leaned against the front of his shop with
apparent unconcern. A foot-soldier and one of the armed horsemen entered his
home and found the child in a copper pot. The butcher desperately seized a
knife and rushed off in pursuit, but the soldiers disarmed him and suspended
him by the hands from some hooks in the wall, where he kicked and wriggled
among his dead animals until evening.

The Massacre of the Innocents part 6

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There
had been a kermesse in this house: relatives had come to feast on waffles,
hams, and custards. At the sound of the smashing of windows they crouched
together behind the table, still laden with jugs and dishes.

The
soldiers went to the kitchen and after a savage fight in which many were
wounded, they seized all the small boys and girls, and a little servant who had
bitten the thumb of one soldier, left the house and closed the door behind them
to prevent their being followed.

Those
who had no children cautiously came forth from their houses and followed the
soldiers at a distance. They could see them throw down their victims on the
ground before the old man, and cold-bloodedly massacre them with lances or
swords.

Meanwhile
men and women crowded the windows of the blue farmhouse and the barn, cursing
and raising their arms to heaven as they contemplated the pink, red, and white
clothes of their motionless children on the ground among the trees. Then the
soldiers hanged the servant from the Half Moon Inn on the other side of the
street. There was a long silence in the village.

It
had now become a general massacre. Mothers escaped from their houses, trying to
flee through vegetable and flower gardens out into the open country, but
mounted soldiers pursued them and drove them back into the street. Peasants,
with caps held tight between their hands, fell to their knees before the
soldiers who dragged off” their little ones, and dogs barked joyously amid
the disorder.

The
curl, his hands raised heavenward, rushed back and forth from house to house
and out among the trees, praying in desperation like a martyr. The soldiers,
trembling from the cold, whistled in their fingers as they moved about, or
stood idly with their hands in their pockets, their swords under their arms, in
front of houses that were being entered.

Market-Gardener’s Wife

Small
groups in all directions, seeing the fear of the peasants, were entering the
farmhouses, and in every street similar scenes were enacted. The
market-gardener’s wife, who lived in an old hut with pink tiles near the
church, pursued with a chair two soldiers who were carrying off her children in
a wheelbarrow. She was terribly sick when she saw her children die, and made to
sit on a chair against a tree.

Other
soldiers climbed into the lime trees in front of a farmhouse painted the color
of lilacs, and made their way in by taking off the tiles. When they reappeared
on the roof, the parents with extended arms followed them until the soldiers
forced them back, finding it necessary finally to strike them over the head
with their swords before they could shake themselves free and return again to
the street below.