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Bakemono Yashiki (The Haunted House) - Tales of the Tokugawa, Volume 2 (of 2)
by James S. De Benneville
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CHAPTER VIII

AOYAMA SHU[U]ZEN

These events could not fail to cause comment. It was in the general room of the hiban, the fire guard of the castle, that the discussion came to a head. There were a number of these guards for different quarters of the castle inclosure; and for better drill and coordination the officers met, apart from the site of their particular duties. This made the office of the hiban a sort of club of the hatamoto, bringing together the members of the more particular cliques, known respectively as the Shiratsukagumi (white handle club), the Kingingumi (gold and silver clubs), the members of which knocked out a conspicuous tooth, replacing it with the metal ensign of their affiliation, and the Kubo no Shiro-oshigumi. These organizations, something like the Otokodate of the townsmen in the closeness of the relations of their members, had by no means the same worthy object. They were often merely a way of ruffling it through the town, particularly at the amusement quarter of Asakusa; seeking quarrels with ro[u]nin, abusing women, and literally gravelling the discomfited townsmen, not seldom left on the ground, subsequently to be put into it. The Otokodate, or chivalrous band, were indeed needed in this state of early Edo. They could hold their own, inasmuch as the samurai involved dared not bring a quarrel to light. He had the advantage of his training; and by the rules of his caste did not hesitate to have assassinated a plebeian he could not overcome, and chose to regard as impertinent. Collisions with these, however, were rare. Ro[u]nin were the particular object of dislike of the Tokugawa adherents. It was the great exception made, when Hida no Kami (Yagyu[u] Matajuro[u]) admitted Kume no Heinai to his fencing room and discipleship. The ro[u]nin, of course, deserved the proscription, being often the devoted adherents of a lost cause—Hoo[u]jo[u] or Toyotomi—and unwilling to transfer their fealty to a second lord. The most noted and hated of the ro[u]nin, though free from any taint of rebellion to the Tokugawa, was this Heinaibei; the vilest assassination, that of his friend Bandzuin Cho[u]bei by Mizuno Juro[u]zaemon aided by other members of the Shiratsukagumi.

Endo[u] Saburo[u]zaemon had related the mishap of his chu[u]gen, his own experience in pursuing the offenders. The old fellows, heroes of the Genwa and Kwanei periods, were gathered close to a hibachi. Despite the season age sought pretence of warmth or closer company. Said the veteran Matsudaira Montaro[u]—"O[u]kubo, what think you? Surely the ice water of gathering years runs in our veins. Such happenings, so close to the dwelling of the Ue Sama, never would have taken place in former days. But we are old. The stiffened joints and the wrinkles would not deceive such miscreants. 'Twould be a palpable fraud, our presentation."—"True," growled Shichinosuke; "but ice water runs in other veins than those who are old." Kondo[u] Noborinosuke, verging toward his fifties, now chimed in—"Naruhodo! The talk of these young chaps infects one with their own complaints. This one can but thump himself on the chest and speculate as to whether he has one lung, or two of the kind. This other limps and dreams of kakke. His tongue hangs out a yard, that he can better inspect its colour; and his legs are black and blue from efforts to detect a dropsy. A third excuses himself by a flux, which he would cure with hot wine; and a fourth is assured of a cold, to lead to all these and other ailments, and hence steeps himself night and day in the hot bath, the one to be most easily excused. Emma Dai-O[u] in Hell[8] could not afflict these fellows more than they grieve over themselves. Only in talk of their ailments do they find company. Plasters and medicaments for their persons, instead of armour and the quietus of the foe, these are the objects of their quest." The two old rascals, and their middle aged abettor, looked slyly over each other's heads at the younger men grouped in the rear, then at each other. Thus it was with these violent fellows of the actual battlefield. They would stir someone to action.

"Heigh! Heigh! Not Endo[u] Uji: he at least has proved his mettle. The pressing offices of the day do not call for sleep all night. He is of the stock of Kiemon Dono. Old Hikoza never tired of tales of his father's prowess." Kondo[u] chuckled as he continued—"The old fellow (oyaji) spoke well of the dead. The living had need to take care of his praise of them. Witness Torii Dono and Akiyama Dono, at the two extremes of age. Good luck, as well as management, extricated them from the results of a commendation like to cost them much. Alas! His place is not to be filled." O[u]kubo Hikozaemon, governor of these wild fellows, keeper of the suzerain's conscience, had left his seat vacant these past five years. Sorrow for his loss did not prevent Noborinosuke bringing a bright and beady eye on Aoyama Shu[u]zen. O[u]kubo Shichinosuke followed the look. All of the old ones fastened Shu[u]zen with inquisitive glare. The object of their attention neither quailed nor showed undue eagerness. "The honoured ancients favour this Shu[u]zen with the task." His laugh was so cold and purposeful, his look so derisive and comprehending, that the old fellows in some confusion sought comfort in each other. This Aoyama Shu[u]zen was a very devil of a fellow. He had a perspicacity in finesse that the plain, keen, and honest bluntness of former days could not deceive. Aoyama was not one to charge with effeminacy in any form. He had a wife—whom he neglected. He had a page, whom he favoured. He had all the harsh vices and capabilities of the warrior age. Turning to Endo[u] Saburo[u]zaemon—"Endo[u] Uji has seen the vision, not fox or tanuki. This has been the experience of the chu[u]gen?" Saburo[u]zaemon did not like the connection; nor did he like Shu[u]zen. "It is fact. Rokuzo was bewitched, not Endo[u]. See to it that Aoyama Dono has better luck." Thus tacitly he would force the mission on Shu[u]zen. The latter suppressed his anger at the assumption. "Endo[u] Dono, as with this Shu[u]zen, is hatamoto of the land. Such vile rascals as these do not make them object of their tricks."—"Don't be too sure of that," replied Endo[u]. "Neither fox nor tanuki would care for the company of the vision. This Saburo[u]zaemon does but seek to give it rest—and himself." He spoke with some gloom. Said Aoyama with decision—"Agreed! What may be the reward?" A chorus of protest went up. "Reward! Reward!... The applause of all.... The interest in the tale, as with that of Endo[u] Dono, just recited." But Shu[u]zen smiled and shook his head—"Endo[u] Dono seeks the good will of an unworshipped demon." Saburo[u]zaemon shot a glance at him. "Shu[u]zen too has his object. Otherwise, let others volunteer." The force of what he said was made plain by the silence of the company. The stories told, none longed for the experience. Thought Montaro[u] testily—"This fellow always has something in his sleeve." With hesitation—"Endo[u] deserves reward, and claims it not. Aoyama would have it in advance. How now: a sword?" All looked inquisitively at Shu[u]zen. They were surprised and disgruntled at his gesture of dissent. He knew the ancients, and could suspect a trap. "Shu[u]zen knows the kind. As with buying radishes at Yanagibara; one good for nothing, and bringing anything but honour.... Shu[u]zen selects his own weapon, nor asks reward apart from the issue." Kondo[u] Noborinosuke clapped his hands. The younger man was a favourite and kindred spirit of his own, near enough in age to be congenial. "The presiding chair at the Endurance Society meeting. We are samurai, hatamoto of the land. Gold is not to the purpose. A sword is bought with gold. Let Aoyama Uji make report to the meeting, and on that hang the office." Shu[u]zen was the first to nod eager assent. All agreed; with no great joy at prospect of the coming test, yet afraid of his refusal. Thus the company separated, committed to a meeting of the Gaman Kwai at the house of Noborinosuke, to hear the report of Aoyama Shu[u]zen's venture into the Bancho[u].

His preparations made, the next night, at the hour of the rat (11-1 A.M.), saw Aoyama in his turn climbing the slope of the Gomizaka. Attached to the immediate service of the palace, the place was very desolate and strange to him. At a loss where to look for the objects of his search he sauntered at random, attention drawn to footing in this darkness. Thus it was that the Gekkeiji bell sounded over the moorland, striking the first watch of the hour of the ox (3 A.M.). He stopped to listen his eye fixed at the time on the long line of wall and fine gate of a besso[u]-yashiki (country villa), evidently of a great lord. He had passed from here some little distance, to the turning of the wall, when hasty steps and the hard breathing of one who had just breasted the hill struck his ear. Shu[u]zen standing at the corner was almost knocked down by the dark bulk which bounded out of the shadow. Both parties sprang back in attitude of watchfulness. Shu[u]zen had never seen such a fellow. At least seven feet in height, hairy of arms and legs and face, his eyes shone like bright mirrors. Bulging forth these made him like to the ghost of some huge dragon fly. Did he not have an eye in the middle of his forehead? Shu[u]zen could not have denied it. Of size to inspire fear, decidedly the rascal was to be suspected. Shu[u]zen was the first to question. "Who and where from? Answer at once, or this Aoyama deigns the death cut." The man, or monster, merely opened and shut the plate like eye holes. Then with a roaring derisive lip—"Ha! Ha! This is Tanuki-bake, come hither to find and fetch Aoyama."

"Ya! Ya!" Aoyama was in a great rage. In the act of drawing his sword he would cut the rascal down. Thus to insult a hatamoto of the land, lord of twelve hundred koku! "Make ready!" Apparition or not, at a bound the man was some ten feet off. Then followed a space, during which Shu[u]zen made every effort known to the fencing room. He would have impaled a real dragon fly more readily. Without attempt to flee the object merely darted hither and thither. Shu[u]zen was dripping with perspiration. He felt badly and discouraged. For a moment he would rest—"To see this Aoyama?" He grunted. "Just so," was the reply. "Fools at close quarters give entertainment. Aoyama is not the clever one to cut down the tanuki-bake (badger-ghost). Get you hence to your quilts, good sir; to your fool companions who wear summer garb in depth of winter, and triple garments in the heats of the sixth and seventh months; stuff themselves with hot food and wine in summer, and freeze the viands and sake in winter. Get you hence to your companions of the Gaman Kwai (Endurance Society). Make report to them of Aoyama's venture, and bray and brag to them of spending a night outside the sheets." Shu[u]zen strove to be calm on receipt of these insults to his kind. In haughty condescension he explained—"Those of the Gaman Kwai wear katabira (light summer wear) in winter, triple gear in summer, to undergo the hardships of the battlefield. In war one regards not heat or cold. He drinks from the puddle on the field, and cooks the rice straw for food in his helmet. This is the great time of peace. The experiences and the hardships of the battlefield are lacking. It is as substitute for these...." He was interrupted by a mighty burst of impolite merriment from the heavy man, who held his sides as like to split from laughter. "Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Naruhodo! These chitterlings; stuffed sausages! 'Sufferings of the battlefield; hardships'! They are not to encountered in such childish sport. He who would face these must practise the art of the inner belly (mind). It is by hardening the belly that the trials of war are met. You fellows practise but the outer cult. Of the inner and secret precepts you are ignorant. Degraded fools (bakeyaro[u])!"—"Shut up!" roared Shu[u]zen. He could take the fellow at a disadvantage in his fit of outrageous merriment. Close to hand he leaped on him. In effort to avoid the blow the miscreant tumbled head over heels into the close deep waving suzuki grass. With satisfaction Aoyama felt the sword sink deep into the resisting substance. Great his disgust to find that he had cleft an old and hidden stump to the very root. He seated himself upon it.

At least he was in the centre of disturbance. Should he await further encounter, or depart elsewhere to find it. He had a mind to abandon the lanes and plunge into the waste land. Just then screams and cries were heard; the sound of rapid flying feet coming in his direction. A young woman in flight was now close at hand. Her hair unbound streamed behind her. She was in night clothes, and the knot of the narrow obi or band come loose in her flight, exposed a figure all attraction. On reaching Aoyama she threw herself at his feet, clasping his knees. "Aid! Aid from the honoured samurai! Thieves breaking in threaten with death and pillage. Deign, honoured sir, to aid." Shu[u]zen was very willing to do so. The lady was very urgent and very beautiful. He himself was uncertain as to goal, and the matter of the ghost could wait on her extremity. To his inquiry she made reply—"Just yonder." With her he retraced his steps. To his surprise the gate of the yashiki, already noticed, was wide open. In all haste she urged him to the entrance, yet in his rapid passage he seemed to have seen this place before. The girl gave a call, then another. Shu[u]zen joined her in chorus and the search. The mansion was thrown wide open and abandoned. Not a soul was to be seen. All had either been killed, or had fled. The wailing of the girl brought him to her side. Prostrate she lay on the bodies of an old man and old woman, who had been put to death without mercy by the miscreants. Great was the pity of Aoyama. "The bodies still smoke in blood; the perpetrators cannot be far off. It would be well to seize them. This lantern ... how now? Is it of the house?" The girl raised her head to observe it. "No," she said. "The house lanterns have not the bow handle. This is of the thieves.... What's that?" A noise was heard above. Aoyama, hand on his sword, sprang to the stairway. The girl, all smiles at the prospective vengeance, followed him.

Three fellows were busy at the closets and chests. The contents were scattered over the floor, evidently for purpose of selection. Aoyama burst upon them. "Heigh-ho! Vile rascals! Submit your necks at once to the blow, your arms to the cord." At first the pillagers were greatly astonished and put out. "A samurai! Our work is interfered with. Alas! We must away." Said the leader, a determined looking fellow—"Umph! 'Tis nothing but a board wages samurai (sampin). He is alone. Kick him down. Teach him the lesson of interference." With yells all made for Shu[u]zen. Disregarding those at the side he delivered his blow at the man in front. Kiya! He split him in two as one would green bamboo. Shu[u]zen drew back with a side sweep which cut another clean across the girdle. He stopped to rub his eyes with amazement. Was it not witchcraft? Not three, but five men now confronted him; and lively rascals they were. Strive as he would Aoyama's blows seemed but to multiply his foes. He was but one man. A kick to this side sent a rascal flying to the wall; an elbow shot sent another through the screens. Then all took to flight. One closely pursued sought the roof, the drying frame its heights. Aoyama was about to cut him down, when the fellow sprang off into the darkness like a flying bird. At the same time came most urgent and piteous cries from below. "Danna Sama! Honoured Samurai Sama! Deign rescue. The thieves! They force me to extremities." Reluctant Shu[u]zen turned back. On reaching the lower stair he came upon the rascals who were gathered round the girl. At sight of him all took to flight. To Shu[u]zen's astonishment the girl in her turn fled in pursuit. Out of the house rushed the whole band, Shu[u]zen joining in the mad race. Down the slope went all. Then dobun!... Shu[u]zen's foot caught in a hole, or root, or some obstacle. Head first he went into the ditch. Struggling, gasping, spitting out the dirty water of the drain, Aoyama scrambled up on the bank. He looked around in amazement. The white light of dawn illuminated the scene; the ill fated tree stump and the dirty drain close by. House there was none. Girl and thieves had disappeared. He stood on the moor, shivering in Nippon's always cool dawn and dripping wet with the filthy fluid of the ditch or stream flowing through these fields and the valley. With discomfiture he took his long way homewards to the Do[u]sanbashi. Plainly he had been bewitched and derided. So believing, he was startled to find himself again before the yashiki gate; but in the light of day it showed the obvious neglect of years. Shu[u]zen at once sought entrance, not by the gate, but over the wall for lack of other means. He recognized the scene of last night's exploit, and its description as given by Endo[u] Saburo[u]zaemon. Besides, he recognized the place in his own experience of long past years, the favour and support of one to whom he was much indebted. Ah! Truly these were dangerous rascals he had encountered.



CHAPTER IX

SHU[U]ZEN MEETS SHU[U]ZEN

Aoyama Shu[u]zen was not likely to brag of this exploit. All day he sat biting his thumbs, and drinking wine to obviate the effect of his nasty bath. An idea began to crystallize in his brain. But this matter pressed. The preparations for the night were to be made. He hoped for better luck in his vengeance on the miscreants. The watch of the rat again saw him skirting the Ushigafuchi on his way to the Bancho[u]. He had just started up the slope of the Gomizaka when he heard steps behind him. Oya! Oya! Two chu[u]gen and a lady. About these there was nothing suspicious. But the lantern they carried? It was marked with the mitsuba-aoi, or triple leaf holly hock crest of the suzerain's House. Plainly the bearers were on mission from one of the San Ke (Princes of the Blood), or perhaps from the palace itself. Reverence must be done to the lantern. On his present mission, and thus arrayed, Aoyama sought to avoid notice. He disappeared into the long suzuki grass at the road side. He could hear the lady express her anxiety and haste. Then with curiosity Aoyama watched their strange behavior. A bare sixty feet beyond they came to a halt. The lady shrank back as in terror. Hatena! Aoyama recognized him by his size, the antagonist and critic of the previous night. Without delay, or giving time for flight, the huge ruffian with one hand grasped the bosom of the lady's dress, with the other the arm of a chu[u]gen. A kick sent the other fellow very willingly to the ground. Tremendous was the apparition as he towered over his victims. He seemed taller than ever. His hair stood out like iron wire. His mouth grinned open wide from ear to ear; and now Aoyama could see distinctly the horns sprouting from his temples. Did he not have claws? Aoyama could not remember.

He would rescue the lady, beautiful of course. Rapidly passing through the grass Aoyama burst out upon the group. He took aim at the knave's breast bone. "Yai!" The fellow let go. The two prisoners, thrust violently into the knees of Shu[u]zen, brought him to the ground. When he had recovered balance the rascal had disappeared. The lady was in a dead faint. One chu[u]gen seemed to be dead. The other was squatting at some distance, eyes saucer like in fright. He regarded Aoyama with grave suspicion. The samurai called to him. "Here you! Your mistress has fainted. Water at once!" But the fellow did nothing but answer "Hei! Hei!" without sign of motion. "Don't sit and purr like a cat," roared Shu[u]zen. "Off with you, and fetch water." At last the man took courage to approach. "Alas! Danna Sama, this Bancho[u], where the thieves are apparitions, and apparitions turn to women, frightens this Isuke."—"Fear or no fear, water must be had. Such milk livered fellows are not for man's work. Weakness of loins won't do. Off with you."—"But how?"—"In your scabbard, fool." For answer the chu[u]gen made a wry face and tugged at his weapon. As often the case with those men, it was of wood. Shu[u]zen laughed. Then he gave his own scabbard to the chu[u]gen. Off the fellow crawled, with gait and speed of a maimed insect.

Meanwhile what was to be done. Shu[u]zen put his hand into the bosom of the lady, and rummaged. Women were always dosing and fainting. Doubtless she was provided for such contingency. Surely a perfume reached his nostrils. Ah! Here it was. He drew out the fragrant package. Medicine without doubt. The drug savoured strongly of musk. At last the fellow was on hand with the liquid. Shu[u]zen made a pellet from the drug. "Raise up your mistress. Take her in your arms." But the man drew away in horror. He prostrated himself flat on the ground. "Deign forbearance. To touch with a finger one of the ladies of the palace is not to be ventured."—"Ah! Is that so?" grunted Shu[u]zen. "Circumstances of course don't alter cases. He who will not touch a woman is usually a most lecherous rascal." With this comment he roughly shoved aside the awkward efforts of this meticulous attendant. Taking the operation upon himself, he gently pressed the back of the lady's neck, forcing her to open her mouth. Inserting the drug he poured in water from the scabbard. A sudden slap on the back and down went the bolus. The lady opened and shut her eyes. Then they remained open. "Be firm," commented Aoyama Sensei. "Thanks," replied the dame. "Ah! What fright! With hand on dagger was this Bancho[u] entered on. So near, how suspect misfortune at hand? Truly honoured sir, great your trouble and inconvenience."

Aoyama accepted the thanks, to satisfy curiosity. "But so late abroad ... and doubtless of the honoured San Ke...." Replied the lady—"The mission was of Kishu[u] Ke, said to be of grave import. Hence the late hour of the night. This insignificant person is lady in waiting at the San no Ma of the palace; Takigawa by name. The yashiki of Okumura Shu[u]zen, my father, lies close at hand. Great the cowardice shown by this Taki." Shu[u]zen grasped the whole affair. Between Kishu[u] Ke and the parent House the feeling in those days was none too good. Grave suspicion on the part of one, angry resentment on that of the other. He would see more of the matter. It was his duty as hatamoto. "To go abroad with chu[u]gen is no safe thing. At this hour and place samurai could well have been taken as company. As for courage—of that kind it is not expected of a woman. Valour was shown in undertaking the mission. And this fellow...." He turned sharply to the chu[u]gen and pointed to his fellow. "Mujina-take."—"What!" roared Shu[u]zen. He looked from chu[u]gen to lady, and from lady to chu[u]gen. They seemed surprised. Stammered the man in fright—"It is but a nickname. His name is Take, and he is very worthless. Hence he is called Tanuki-take. I am called Yo[u]kai Isuke (Apparition Isuke), being nothing but wind." Aoyama grunted a ready assent to this self critic. The fellow's ignorance and cowardice was as gross as the material flesh which Shu[u]zen tested with a well applied kick in the buttocks, bringing Isuke in position to render first aid to his companion. This was done by passing on the application. A vigorous snort followed the thump on the back administered to Mujina. He sat up and regarded his mate with astonishment. "Ah! The Yo[u]kai.... No more of that. 'Tis Mujina's turn." This, when his fellow proposed a second application. The return came sooner than anticipated. A terrific sneeze followed. Up came his head sharply, and the yo[u]kai rolled over backwards on the ground. He rose in fury, holding his jaw. Shu[u]zen was laughing, the lady smiling. "The distance is but short? Plainly those fellows are next to worthless. This Shu[u]zen will act as guard." Thus did Aoyama go in company to the yashiki of Okumura Shu[u]zen; and thus was his second night's venture brought to naught.

The arrival of the Ojo[u]sama (lady daughter) in company with Aoyama caused much excitement. Okumura was of five hundred koku; Aoyama of twelve hundred koku. The latter was at once ushered to the inner apartments. The lady wife of Okumura came forward to urge his stay for some entertainment. Aoyama in turn was curious to know more of this mission in connection with a hatamoto like himself. He spoke gravely of the dangers in this neighbourhood, apart from the strange tales told. Okumura Shu[u]zen heartily agreed. The charge being to Kishu[u] Ke was not to be declined. Himself he had many strange tales to relate. Though the hour was late, every effort was made. Aoyama Shu[u]zen was gratified with a beautiful repast. The wine was served in person by Takigawa Dono. The talk passed from personal affairs to tales of war. Here Aoyama was in his element, both from experience and the tales of others heard in the hiban and at the meetings of the Gaman Kwai. This was a first meeting, not to be too long drawn out. Okumura was a new comer in the Bancho[u], his service was in connection with the public works. Aoyama had been of the palace staff until very recently. Both expressed deepest gratification at their encounter. As he took his way home in the morning light, Aoyama Shu[u]zen could but contrast with pleasure his present arrival with that of the previous morning. He had feasted well, and made an acquaintance of some value.

The following day he would make his acknowledgments. Aping no great style he walked accompanied by a page and two chu[u]gen. Inquiry soon brought him to the yashiki. Inquiry soon introduced him to a sitting room. "Lucky fellow!" thought Aoyama. "The influence of Matsudaira Ko[u] lands him in affluence. A modest income; a double yashiki!" This part of the house was different from that of his last night's introduction. Then he stated his business to the karo[u]. The night before he had accompanied the Ojo[u]san to the yashiki. He would make acknowledgment of the courtesy then received. The face of old Beita Heima was a puzzle. Deep the respect due to twelve hundred koku Aoyama, but had he been drunk or dreaming?—"Has not your lordship mistaken the yashiki?" Aoyama was a little severe at what seemed gratuitous assumption. "You were not on the guard last night." Beita spoke, prostrate and with great respect, but with an earnestness and obstinacy not to be mistaken. He had been on the guard—from sunset to dawn. Aoyama began to feel uncomfortable. Veiling the sharpness—"Is this not the yashiki of Okumura Dono?" Heima gulped assent. "Is not Takigawa Dono, of the San no Ma, the Ojo[u]san of the House?" Here Heima was on sure ground. "Ojo[u]san of the House there is none. It is very rude; but surely there is mistake as to the yashiki." Aoyama now was beginning to see light. He felt very hot and uncomfortable. He ventured a last question for surety. "And Okumura Dono?"—"The Tono Sama absent in Shimosa, the yashiki has been in this Heima's charge for this past month's course." With such grace as he could in his discomfiture Aoyama Shu[u]zen took his leave. The astonished page and chu[u]gen, still retaining the intended presents of acknowledgment, with difficulty kept up with their master. Ah! The beasts again had scored. Detestable! Shu[u]zen thought with horror of his repast of the previous night. He had no better fare than Rokuzo the chu[u]gen. In rage he sought his room, and swallowed all the purges and emetics to hand. Occupied in retching, and thinking, and other matters germane to his condition, he concocted the plan by which he hoped to bring the foe to book, and himself to the presiding chair which surely he had earned.



CHAPTER X

THE MEETING OF THE GAMAN KWAI

With the fall of O[u]saka castle (1615), and the culmination of the uneasy movements of the years following in the conspiracy of Honda Masazumi, the country entered on a long peace—the Tokugawa Taihei. The Arima rebellion after all was but an affair of farming folk, in far off Kyu[u]shu[u]. Masazumi struck right at the person of the Sho[u]gun himself. A special ceiling was constructed in his castle at Utsunomiya. This was to collapse on the sleeping Iyemitsu Ko[u] sheltered beneath it. Caught between the heavy boulders above and beneath the couch, the Sho[u]gun was to be sent to rest with, not worship of, his divinized grandfather at Nikko[u]. Iyemitsu slept the night at Edo castle, owing to the valour and strength of Ishikawa Hachiemon. Masazumi had failed, and the set field of battle between the factions of the samurai was a thing of the past. The duel, forbidden in theory and compulsory in practice, was to take its place. The substitute always had existed. It tried men's courage, not the sustained endurance of campaigning. How then was the old spirit of the warrior to be maintained? The desire to emulate their sires worked on the younger generation. The relics of the Tensho[u], Keicho[u] and Genwa periods (1573-1623) O[u]kubo Hikozaemon, Matsudaira Montaro[u], Nagasaki Chiyari Kuro[u], were heroes who could boast of having stood before the horse of Iyeyasu in his earlier trials of battles, trials in which the veteran commander would pound with his fist the pommel of the saddle until it was red with the blood from his bruised knuckles. Their tales of actual war, the sly jeers at the softening manners, spurred on younger members to find ways by which to simulate practical experience of campaigning. The result was curious. One of the organizations was the Undameshi Kwai, or Fortune Testing Society. Loaded firelocks were stacked in the middle of the room of meeting. Around them sat the members of the club, squeezed into full armour, from helmet to the warriors shoes of skin. The match was set. The weapons were exploded, sending a shower of balls in every direction. "Ah! Ha! The bullet grazed my helmet."—"The gorgelet caught it."—"The corselet has saved me."—"Congratulations are in order. Surely your pension will be increased during the year."—"Oya! Oya! And Genzaemon Uji?" The unfortunate Genzaemon had not fared so well in the mimic war. At all events he sat the meeting out—if he could. To be reported dead, in the course of duty; or be overcome with regrets at showing such clumsiness in being wounded; or, if actually incapacitated, to go home and die of "illness" (cut belly).[9]

The Gaman Kwai, or Endurance Society, was another form the movement took. In the season of great cold its meetings were held as if in the height of the doyo[u] or dog days; vice-versa with the time of great heat. It was the beginning of the seventh month (first half of August). The heat was intense, and had been for the past weeks. The farmer watched the steamy vapour rising from the rice fields and rejoiced. The plants were growing luxuriantly, the leaves of the willow trees were hanging yellow and wilted. Passers by on city or village streets sought the shade under the buildings, walking with languid lagging step, and, home once reached, removing every garment which etiquette—not decency—had hitherto compelled. Great was the dismay of the weaker members of the Gaman Kwai on receipt of a circular letter couched much as follows:

"In this season of great cold the continuance of the honoured health is observed with joy. On the seventeenth day it is desired to make offering of a cup of indifferent wine. It is begged that the use of the honoured kago (palanquin) be condescended. This the purport of the missive. With reverence and respect.

KONDO[U] NOBORINOSUKE.

To...."

The weaker allowed this missive to float gently and despairingly earthwards. Gasping for breath in the stifling heat they sought to fan themselves into a semi consciousness. "Terrific! Terrific! Yet refusal is out of the question. Ah! This Kondo[u] is a doubtful sort of rascal. He is of the cruel kind. No mercy is to be expected of him. Yet if one fails to attend there will be but jeers and taunts of cowardice. One could not appear in public. Alas! Alas!" The stronger received it with equal impatience, but with the purpose to put in the evil hours with the best possible face, and score on the host—if they could. All left strict orders at home for a cold bath to be in readiness for the return. To this rash step the weaker groaned and yielded. The Nipponese fear and detest cold water—even for drink.

Thus they sallied forth—from Ichigaya to Honjo[u] Kameidocho[u], from Shitaya to Shinagawa; some on horseback, some in kago; all arrayed in triple set of thickly wadded winter garments, in hakama, or trousers with double folds, in shirts and leggings, and fur shoes of the warrior on winter campaign. The gate keeper of the yashiki in Owaricho[u] called their names on arrival—"O[u]kubo Hikoroku Dono, Endo[u] Saburo[u]zaemon Dono, Abe Shiro[u]goro[u] Dono, Matsudaira Montaro[u] Dono, O[u]kubo Shichinosuke Dono, Mizuno Juro[u]zaemon Dono, Ishikawa Hachiemon Dono,[10] Okumura Shu[u]zen Dono, Kuse Sanshichiro[u] Dono, Aoyama Shu[u]zen Dono...." The list was a long one. One and all were met by Kondo[u] Noborinosuke in person at the entrance. Over his triple winter garb he wore a wadded coat or kosode. Others had donned the longer kataginu. These were of the weaker kind. It did not fit so closely; pressed the warmth of its tissue less lovingly to the person. All complained of the intense cold. "Never was such cold felt," blandly agreed Noborinosuke. "An old fellow of the gardeners says that for sixty years such cold has not been experienced. It is a marvellous cold year. The ground will not be thawed this season. Deign to enter. Warmth is provided against this intensity of cold." And his hearers bowed and offered thanks, as well as their unwieldy wrappings would allow. At all events in the room yonder there would be the breeze from the garden side. They knew the place and its delights. Kondo[u] was of the age to provide himself with quiet comforts. With eager stride the banquet room was sought.

"Oya! Oya!" The speaker gasped in dismay and for breath. They had been introduced into a furnace. Explained Kondo[u] gently—"Everything has been done to shut out the intense cold. The amado are tight closed, the braziers well supplied.... Heigh-ho! Allow none of these to get dark. More charcoal! More fuel!" The attendants obeyed, urging the fires before each guest. Seated close together to conserve the heat, the sweat poured off in streams. Unable to get breath some groaned and grunted—to pass it off as due to the intensity of cold. Soon they "would be thawed out with the genial warmth." Kondo[u] and Aoyama were immensely pleased in their assent and at their sufferings. But the more discontented sought the fly in the ointment of the content of their hosts. Aoyama really was such. He was the one responsible for the call; Kondo[u] his ready abettor. Said one—"Intense the cold, yet how explain the freaks of Nature. If it were not so freezing the blue clusters hanging in Kondo[u] Dono's garden, just traversed, could well pass for wisteria." They laughed at him—"Wisteria in the seventh month? That would be as great a marvel as the cold."—"Not so the grape," replied another. "Kondo[u] Uji long since promised sight of the new plant. To be sure the barbarian fruits are as ill trained and uncouth as the denizens of the land they grow in. They flower and fruit in winter season. If not wisteria the clusters must be of the grape."—"Not so," promptly put in Aoyama. "Truly it is the green eye of jealousy which colours the vision. They are icicles; and no seasoning for the repast or the conversation of this cold occasion."—"Which brings the sweat to the face of Aoyama Uji." Aoyama turned calmly on the rash interloper. "It is not sweat; 'tis mucous. The intense cold causes flow of mucous. Are not others so affected?" He looked around grimly on the steaming shining faces before him. "Mucous?" questioned a doubter. "Yes: face mucous," was the calm rejoinder.

All turned to Kondo[u] Noborinosuke who would explain the more particular purport of the meeting. There was report to make, a new member to introduce. All turned with respect and salutation to Okumura Shu[u]zen. It was a long and painful ceremony in the bulky winter garb. But they were in relays, took turns. Ah! If it was but Aoyama, thus long bent double, murmuring apology and compliment. Then Aoyama Shu[u]zen made his report. He made it as one sure to please his hearers, many of whom regarded him with no particular liking. In fact at the tale of his discomfiture there was some joy, and tendency to show it. "Then, as with us, Aoyama Uji meets Okumura Dono for the first time." Aoyama nodded an amused assent. Said one more malicious, "And the repast? Surely the hatamoto was as well entertained as the chu[u]gen?" Shu[u]zen skilfully dodged the issue. "The hour was very late. Such could hardly be expected or offered to this Shu[u]zen without raising doubts. Fortunately it was thus." Said one more persistent—"At least a cup of wine...."—"Without fire or heating? More than rude the implication!"—"Yet beasts know but little of etiquette; and if fox or badger...." Kondo[u] Noborinosuke came in with—"That shall be at once determined. It is time for the repast. The tanuki killed by Aoyama Uji furnishes the soup." At a sign the retainers brought the beast in his own skin. All rose in marvel at the sight. Truly it was a huge fellow. "An old rascal, too. See! The hair on the back is of different colour from that on the rest of the body."—"Showing the great age and wickedness. Many are those he has gulled to their destruction. Now in turn he furnishes forth the repast." Said Kondo[u]—"How did Aoyama Uji secure the beast."

"This Shu[u]zen was much put out. Plainly by no ordinary means could these miscreants be eliminated. How meet them in true shape? Against the usual weapons they were secure in their transformations. Only the flying bullet could reach such mark; and the discharge of a gun in Edo town means banishment at the least. Then an idea came to Shu[u]zen. At the hour of the ox again the Bancho[u] was sought. Position of great dejection and weariness was taken, on a stone amid its greatest desolation. The wait was not long. Unexpectedly the sound of a gunshot was heard. This was surprising, for the reasons given. Hardly believing in an apparition, thinking it rather due to some rascally outlaw, his coming was awaited. Slouching along appeared a man in hunter's garb. He carried a fowling piece, and evidently was the criminal. Taught however by past events this Shu[u]zen took no action. Merely hailing him, his purpose and game was inquired. He was ready in answer as to both. Yonder on Matsuyama harboured a huge and dangerous boar. It was this boar he sought. Kindly he gave warning, and advised return to safer quarters. On my part great enthusiasm was expressed for the sport; his company was sought. At this he jeered; then denied attendance as lacking a gun. 'Not so,' quoth I. With these words the punk carried in the hand was touched to the fuse of the fire crackers concealed at one side. 'Kiya!' So startled was he that his gun fell to the ground and he took his proper shape. At once this Shu[u]zen in the act of drawing cut him into two parts. Thus he died. Awaiting dawn another beast appeared, this time in true form. Approaching the prostrate body it wept and wailed. This too 'twas sought to slay, but the beast had the advantage of being forewarned. For the time it has escaped. Meanwhile, returning from its pursuit, was found an admiring crowd of plebeians gathered round the slaughtered tanuki. The priest for his exorcisms took cash; the samurai were the ones to act. Their joy and wonder was turned to good account. Under penalty of sharing the fate of the beast two of them shouldered it to the yashiki. Such the tale of Shu[u]zen. And now for the results!"

Kondo[u] gave a sign, and the gaping wonder of the assembly at the deed was stifled in the wave of heat which poured in from the neighbouring room. "Ah! Truly these are cruel fellows!" Here a furnace had been erected for the cooking of the tanuki. It sent its streams of hot air into the already crowded and stifling room. Aoyama in person supervised the cooking. The animal was cut into small portions. Smoking hot the viands were placed under the noses of the gasping guests. With the great age of the beast it had accumulated great toughness. The younger members had the consolation of their jibes at the old fellows. They tore at, struggled with, the leathery fragments. But the latter had no teeth, and the malicious Aoyama would see to it that it stuck in their throats. "How, now, ancients? Is not the meat of this tanuki tender beyond measure? Truly one cannot call this engaging in the practice of war; to enjoy such a delightful mess."—"Just so," grunted Montaro[u]. "One can then eat the knobs off one's helmet. The flesh of this fellow is so tender it sticks in one's throat, as unwilling to allow it passage.... G'up! G'up! G'up!"

Said another—"The wine thus steaming hot, the viands sizzling, truly the feed is most beneficial. One even sweats in this intensity of cold."—"Of course," was the matter of fact reply of the wise. "Thus does the heat of spring thaw out the cold ground into a perspiration; thus does the frozen body burst into a sweat with the hot food and drink." All accepted the explanation without argument. They were in haste to end this meeting, even at cost of swallowing whole the tanuki and Aoyama Shu[u]zen with it. Despite the prospect of attendance at his yashiki all rapturously agreed. Aoyama was an original. He would not repeat the experiment of Kondo[u]. They had nearly a six month's respite before them. With this the entertainment was brought to a close. In almost unceremonious haste the guests took their leave, fairly galloping out of the entrance, hanging out of the kago or over the horse's neck, urging attendants to full speed homeward. Here the stifling garments were torn off, the plunge into the cold tub followed; and many paid for this rashness with an illness of days. Meanwhile Aoyama Shu[u]zen had learned one important fact. Endo[u] Saburo[u]zaemon in application for the bakemono yashiki had met with flat refusal. The field was open to himself. Moreover he had said nothing of the fact that, in the exercise of his new office as magistrate for the apprehension of thieves and fire-bugs, he was in fair way to suppress forever and in great torments the Mujina-bake and his fellows, residuary legatees of the prowess and field of action of the late So[u]ja Mushuku.

END OF PART I



PART II

THE BANCHO[U] SARAYASHIKI

OR

THE LADY OF THE PLATES

WHAT AOYAMA SHU[U]ZEN BECAME.



CHAPTER XI

THE YOSHIDA GOTEN

When Prince Iyeyasu consolidated his power at Edo, more particularly on his becoming Sei-i-tai-Sho[u]gun, some provision had to be made for the great daimyo[u] brought by the necessities of occasion to personal interview with their chief and suzerain. In the suburbs rose beautiful structures devoted to the entertainment of these kyakubun—or guests—as the greater daimyo[u] were then termed. The Yatsuyama Goten, the Hakuzan Goten, the Kosuge Goten, the Yoshida Goten, other and elegant, if minor, palaces arose. Their first use disappeared with the compulsory residence of the daimyo[u] under Iyemitsu Ko[u], but some were still maintained as places of resort and entertainment for the Sho[u]gun in his more relaxed moments. Others were devoted to the residences of favoured members of his family. Others were maintained for the entertainment of State or Church dignitaries, on occasion of particular mission from the court in Kyo[u]to to that of Edo. Others were destroyed, or put to temporal uses, or their use granted to favoured retainers or church purposes.

One of the most beautiful of these was the Yoshida Goten in the Bancho[u]. The site originally had been covered by the yashiki of Yoshida Daizen no Suke. One of those nobles favouring the Tokugawa against Ishida Mitsunari, as their designs became clearer with the years following Sekigahara, at the attack on Osaka castle he was found within its walls. Thus the "Overseer of the kitchen" fell under the wrath of his suzerain. Hidetada Ko[u] was a man of much kind temperament, but he was a strict disciplinarian and a rough soldier. Whether or not the dishes furnished for his consumption and digestion had anything to do with the matter, there was serious cause enough. With many others the Daizen no Suke was ordered to cut belly, and his tribe suffered extinction—of rank and rations (kaieki). Such the reward of this turn-coat. His disappearance from the scene was followed by other removals. Daizen no Suke was head of the Ko[u]sho[u]gumi. With the confiscation of his yashiki site five other Houses of the "company" were ordered to remove to other sites at Akasaka. Thus 2,500 tsubo of ground (24 acres) were obtained for the building of a new kyakubun goten. Erected on the ground of Yoshida's old mansion, now waste ([sara]), it got the name of Sarayashiki. Time confused this character [sara] with the events which there took place; and it was written Sara ([sara]) yashiki or Mansion of the Plates. Thus was the unhappy tale of O'Kiku written into the history of Edo and the Yoshida Goten.

The second daughter of Hidedata Ko[u], the Nidai Sho[u]gun, had been married to the lord of Echizen, Matsudaira Tadanao. At the time of the Osaka campaign Tadanao sulked. Prince Iyeyasu was very angry with him. However, when finally Echizen Ke did appear, he acted with such bravery, and to such effect in the campaign, that the old captain's anger was dispelled in his appreciation. To this connected House of the Tokugawa he thought to be liberal enough; not to meet the inflated scale of the ideas of Tadanao, who spent the next half dozen years in so misgoverning his lordly fief as to render necessary an adviser, planted at his side by his powerful cousin in Edo. In Genwa ninth year Tadanao rebelled—with the usual result to him who acts too late. He was suppressed, largely by the aid of his own vassals, and exiled to Hita in Bungo province. Here he shaved his head, took the name of Ichihaku. It was of no avail. Promptly he died. It seemed to be a dispensation of Providence—or dispensation of some kind—that exiles usually and early developed alarming symptoms; in the shortest possible time removing themselves and all cause of irritation to the overlord by their transfer to another sphere.

The Tokugawa Sho[u]gun was generous to his relations. The exit of Tadanao was promptly followed by the induction of his infant son Mitsunaga into his fief. However, for the child to govern the great district of 750,000 koku appeared to be a doubtful step. Its government actually being invested in the daimyo[u], it was not to be made a breeding ground for trouble through the action of subordinates. Hence the main fief with the seat at Kita no Sho[u] (Fukui) was given to the uncle. Fukui to-day is a dull provincial town, and excellent stopping place for those who would have eyes opened as to the great wealth and wide flat expanse of these three provinces of Kaga, Etchu[u], and Echizen. Their lord was a mighty chieftain, entrenched behind mountain barriers; and the great campaigns, which figure in pre-Tokugawa history, were fought for a great object. The Maeda House, however, had had their wings clipped, and were confined to Kaga. The Matsudaira were established in Echizen. Etchu[u] was much divided up. The reduction of the fief of Echizen Ke to 500,000 koku brought him within reasonable bounds, and he could well be left to ride with his hawks along the pretty Ashibagawa, or to take his pleasure outing on the crest of Asuwayama, the holy place of the city suburbs, and where Hideyoshi nearly lost life and an umbrella by a stray shot. Then would follow the return, the ride across the wide moat, its waters dotted with the fowl he went elsewhere to shoot, but safe within these precincts. Whether he returned to any better entertainment than that of the present day Tsuki-mi-ro or Moon viewing inn, one can doubt. He certainly did not have the pretty outlook from its river bordered garden front.

Sen-chiyo-maru, later Mitsunaga, was relegated to Takata castle in Echigo, with the minor income of 250,000 koku. Perhaps this fact, together with his youth, and the more entertaining expenditure of the income at an Edo yashiki, rather than in a mountain castle town, brought the Takata no Kata to the capital. Takata Dono, or the Takata no Kata, so named from the fief, is not known to fame or history under other appellation. She is said to have possessed all the beauty of her elder sister, the Senhimegimi, wife of Hideyori Ko[u], son of the Taiko[u], he who fell at Osaka castle. Furthermore, with the training of the samurai woman, the greatness of her position and personal attraction, she possessed all the obstinacy and energy of the male members of her family, with few of the restraints imposed on them by public service. Takata Dono frankly threw herself into all the pleasures she could find at the capital. Established in the Yoshida Goten, the younger samurai of the hatamoto quickly came under her influence. There was a taint of license in her blood, perhaps inherited from the father who was most unbridled in his passions. The result was a sad falling off from the precepts of Bushido[u] in herself and her paramours. The Bakufu (Sho[u]gunal Government) was compelled to look on, so great was her power at the castle. In the earlier days sentence of seppuku (cut belly) was a common reward for open misconduct. A word from Takata Dono, and the disgraceful quarrels over her favours were perforce condoned; and her lavish expenditures on her favourites were promptly met. Alas! Alas! The up to date histories of Nippon sigh over and salve these matters. "They were the inventions of a later age; were not current in her life-time." Nor likely to be put too bluntly by those tender of their skins. But an old poem has come down to express the popular belief:

"Yoshida to[u]reba nikai kara maneku; Shikamo kano ko no furisode de."

Somewhat irregular, like the lady's conduct, but which can be interpreted,

"Passing Yoshida, from above the signal; Furthermore, the waving of long sleeves."

Of little deer (or dears) for the style of sleeve, the kano ko, can be read young deer. Bah! Was there not a "parc aux cerfs" half way round the world? Nor were such confined to the capital cities of Edo and Paris.[11]

The poem refers to the unbridled licentiousness the little lady developed on her translation from her provincial residence; though locally she had not failed to distinguish herself. What follows is part of the tales current. At the time the himegimi (princess) was thrown on her own devices in Takata-jo[u] the karo[u] or chief officer of the household was one Hanai Iki. This fellow owed his position entirely to his good looks and her ladyship's favour. This favour he met, not in the spirit of a loyal vassal, but in that of a professed and bold lady killer. As karo[u] his attendance on her ladyship was constant and intimate, and it took no particular acumen to find out that the intimacy was of a more peculiar relation. Hence great was the under current of comment, and regret at the unbridled conduct of the lady. None, however, dared to interfere with the caprices of one so highly placed; and the only means was to work on the decent feelings of Iki himself. Thus the tale was brought to his wife's ears. It is to be said that with her all jealousy was suppressed. It was for her to find the cure for her husband's unbridled conduct. As Hanai Iki was a mere official, and with no great claim to unusual or able services, it was hoped that his removal or reform in conduct would bring back the himegimi to a befitting conduct. There was no suspicion that her passion was a disease raging in her very blood, and that it was the man, not his personality she sought.

The wife first adopted the orthodox method of formal remonstrance. Without chiding, with a smile and great indulgence of one at no particular fault himself, she enlarged upon the subject in the service of the tea. "It is not a matter between Iki Dono and this Chiyo. There is no unseemly jealousy in the wife to bring forward the complaint. In fact the marital relation is not in question. As the husband pleases, so should the wife submit. But great is the talk aroused at these too private meetings with the himegimi. It is the House which is at stake. Its influence and prestige is threatened by a mere retainer. This in a short time can but lead to ruin. The caprice of a woman is well known. In some cooler moment the eyes of her ladyship will see another colour. The one to suffer will be Iki Dono, for now he has no other support but in his mistress. Deign to regain the confidence of the household, and no great harm can result beyond neglect. Honoured sir, you stretch out for what is far beyond reach; and in the end can but fail. Deign to be circumspect." If there was any tone of contempt and depreciation in the protest it was in the last few words. At all events the eyes of Iki were opened to the fact that it was sought to reach him through the wife's remonstrance. He expressed surprise and discomfiture at what he asserted had no real basis in fact. His office brought him in close contact with her ladyship; the more so as the management of the fief was in her hands. Matters were to be discussed which necessitated the exclusion of all others. However, if such was the talk of the palace, or even beyond its walls, he could but give thanks for the kindness of the remonstrance. Henceforth he would be more careful, and would trust to her good feeling to believe in his good faith.

With joy the wife heard what he said. With all good will she made herself the apostle of this explanation. No one believed her and facts soon belied words. Her ladyship, just entering on her passion, became more exigent in her calls for the karo[u]'s attendance. Iki now seldom appeared at his home. Long absences from the castle town, pressing business, any excuse to hand came to the alarmed ears of the wife. All the rumours gathered were sure to reach her in exaggerated form. Hanai Dono was the constant companion of her ladyship's wine feasts. He was her acknowledged paramour, and lived in the private apartments of the castle as in his own house. All talked—except the ladies in waiting of the himegimi. These were selected and trained by her; selected for beauty and trained to discretion. She would have no ugly thing about her; and all was to be for her use. Iki was handsome, and discreet. To her he was an object; as were the maids; the same apart from sex. He filled his role admirably, never introduced his favour with her ladyship into the public affairs of the House, or solicited for such personal advancement as made toward outward display. But circumspection of conduct never yet closed the mouth of gossip. There were those who were jealous of what he might do; and jealous of a favour they would gladly share themselves. The himegimi was the prize which all coveted, and which no one should possess to the exclusion of others.

Hence the buzz of talk rose loud, and the criticism stung the wife. She determined herself to learn the truth of these tales. Hitherto they were but the scandalous talk of people. Wife of the karo[u], naturally her ladyship did not require her attendance; but as such she had ready access and an intimate acquaintance with the palace routine. Her mind made up, she presented herself on some trifling pretext. Certainly in her manner there was nothing to arouse comment. Received in the inner apartments (oku), her plea, the introduction of a page into the service, was readily granted. On retiring she would speak with the superintendent of the oku, the old and experienced lady in waiting in charge of the himegimi's service. Thus she found the opportunity to wander the inner precincts, to disappear and to slip into the bed room of the himegimi. Here she stepped into a closet, pulled to the screen, and crouched down behind the heaped up quilts. For the companionship of her wandering lord she did not have long to wait; nor for proof of his inconstancy. Iki came into the room, holding by the hand and drawing after him one of palace ladies in waiting, Takeo by name. The girl was by no means unwilling. Her blushes and confusion added to the great beauty which made her the favoured attendant on the himegimi. Iki pressed her close and openly. The girl plead ignorance and inexperience. She was ashamed. Iki laughed. "Does not her ladyship set the example for others to follow? Deign...." The plea of his relations with the mistress came quite fit to the coarse feeling of Iki. Not so to the girl, who was warmed into some indignation, and drew all the more from him. He would persist; but just then her ladyship called from the next room—"Takeo! Takeo!" The voice was impatient, as of one in haste. Iki had time to thrust a letter into the girl's hand, which she quickly transferred to her bosom. All the boldness of O'Chiyo was at stake as the maid came to the closet. Close down she crouched; but Takeo had one eye on Iki, and only one careless eye on the heap of futon, of which she drew from the top. Iki made a grimace, for the benefit of the one he really loved. Her ladyship's appearance was received with the warm and flattering affection of the favoured lover; and O'Chiyo had proof positive that the relations of the two were kind indeed.

The suicide of the wife, the letter of protest she left behind, had more influence on the public than on the conduct of Hanai Iki. It simply removed the last restraint and means of reaching him. All now depended on her ladyship's infatuation. Old vassals sighed with joy when they heard of the proposed removal to Edo. As karo[u] Hanai Iki would be left in charge of the fief. Not so: it was soon learned that his name headed the list of those transferred for household service. The grumbling was as open as it dared to be. The fief was to be contented with the service of two vice-karo[u]; no great loss, except in matter of prestige in dealing with other Houses. The karo[u] became a kind of male superintendent of the oku! But at all events the fief was rid of him. Nor was Iki particularly pleased. He had been feathering his nest in the material sense. The severance of the connection, without loss of esteem, meant to him a quicker consummation of his wishes with Takeo Dono, whom he would ask for as wife. Their relations had gone forward at a wild pace. Once thrown into the whirl of passion Takeo sought but to meet the wishes of her lover. The passion of the himegimi stood between them.

Established in Edo, at the Yoshida Goten, all went mad with content in their beautiful surroundings. The palace gardens were noted. A hint of the fine construction of the buildings is found to-day at the Kugyo[u]ji of Iinuma, built subsequently from the materials. For the use of the Sho[u]gun Ke in entertainment of his visitors, every art had been exhausted in its adornment. The screens were objects of beauty, and separated the large rooms with their fine pillars and ceilings of grained and polished woods. The rama-sho[u]ji were carved by Nature's handiwork, and the polished lacquer and brass reflected a thousand times the beauties roundabout. Whether the garden be viewed from the apartments, or both from the tsukiyama or artificial hill beside the little lake, it was a scene of balanced beauty, showing every nicety of man's hand in Nature's own proportion, and not guided into the geometrical designs of a carpet square or a surveyor's working table. Instead of the dry dullness of a provincial town, in which themselves they had to fill the stage to give it life and pompousness, Edo was close at hand, and they were part of, and actors in, the luxury and magnificence of the Sho[u]gun's court. It is not surprising that the himegimi returned to all this glitter and activity as one long banished from its seductions to a wilderness; added her own dissipation and lavish entertainment to the constant round of festivity and luxury rapidly supplanting the hard military discipline of the first Sho[u]gun's camp; a luxury itself to crystallize into a gorgeous rigid formalism, as deadly to the one not meeting its requirements as the lined and spotted beauty of some poisonous serpent.

The wine feast was at its height. The cup passed more freely in this chilly season of the year; and in the tightly closed apartments the warmth of association and the table's cheer were sought. The himegimi was more expansive than usual under the influence of the wine. Iki was positively drunk, and in his state over-estimated the condition of her ladyship. Takeo was serving the wine. Beyond stolen interviews of moments the lovers had found no opportunity for the longed for clinging of soul to soul, of person to person, during the night's long hours. The girl's hands trembled with passion as furtively she sought those of her lover in the passing of the wine cup. Iki was absolutely careless. Her ladyship too far gone to note his conduct? He seized the arms of Takeo and drew her to his side. The display of amorous emotion on the part of both was too open to escape notice. The himegimi rose to her feet as on springs. The beautiful flushed face took on a deeper tint as she scowled on the guilty and now frightened pair. Her breath came hard and with difficulty. Then reaching down she wound the long tresses of Takeo in her hand, and dragged her to her knee. Twisting and twisting, until the agony made the girl cry out, she berated her—"Ah! Wicked jade! Thou too have eyes for a man's person. Disloyal wench, would you aim to make the beloved of your mistress partner of your bed?... What's this?" From the girl's hand she tore the answer to the lover's plaint. The sharp eyes of her ladyship sought the maid's person. A nervous hand fumbled the folds of her obi (sash). "Ah! The treasure house is not far off. Such valued gems are carried on the person." Thrusting her hand into the gentle bosom the himegimi drew forth the guilty complement.

Wrote Iki—

"How act to drop the mask; Many the pledges breathed in truth."

And the girl made answer:

"Ah! The night of meeting, love's consummation; The hindrance, thing or person, object of hate."[12]

The words were too plain. There was a certain savage tone of exulting wrath as the himegimi read out loud the contents of the missives. It chilled the hearts of those who heard her. She spoke: at first in low concentrated tones of bitter jesting hate. "Ha! Ha! Disloyalty goes beyond mere thought; would strike at the person of its lord. What lascivious slut is this, who thus would creep into the mistress' bed, to take her place?... Look up! Naruhodo! In that face is too much beauty. Vile huzzy, you would seek the favour of my lover. Hence forth neither he nor any man shall look on you, except with loathing." Close beside her was the hibachi, its burden of the hard burning charcoal from Ikeda now a bright cherry red. Dragging the girl to the brazier, twisting both hands more firmly in the long black hair, she forced her, face downwards, into the heated mass, pressing into the back with her knee. In terror the other girls looked away, or hid their faces in their sleeves. Before the towering anger of the princess none dared apology or intercession. The smell of burning flesh rose sickening. Takeo feebly moaned, and writhed a little under the nervous pressure of those delicate powerful hands. Then she was silent. The inhuman punishment had reached its end. Roughly her ladyship threw her aside, face upward on the tatami. Those who took a hasty glance turned away in horror from the face, black here, red and swollen there, the mouth filled with ashes, the eyes—one totally destroyed.

The himegimi was on her feet. "Iki—here with you!" In fear the man prostrated himself before the vision. "Not yet did the demon's horns sprout from her head; but the eyes injected with blood, the hair standing up to Heaven, converted her ladyship into a veritable demon." In slow and measured wrath she spoke—"Ah, the fool! Admitted to the favour of his mistress, the long continued object of her affection, with all at his command and service, he would sacrifice these for the embraces of a serving wench. Truly the man has gone mad with lust; or rather it is a man's face and a beast's mind. Thus before my very eyes he would dally with his whore and make me cuckold. Of such miscreants one feels no jealousy. Hate and punishment follow the insult." A quick movement backward and her halberd hanging at the wall was in her hand. The scabbard stripped from the shining blade was held over head. "Namu San! Holy the three sacred things!" Iki sprang to his feet, coward and fool he sought not to grapple with her, but to flee. The command of the himegimi rang sharp—"He is not to escape!" In this company of her maids, all samurai women, the discipline was complete. If they would not suffer the punishment of Takeo, they must respond. Whatever the backbiting and division among themselves, in her ladyship's service they would sacrifice life itself. Besides, more than one hated Iki with the heart-whole hate of neglected love and advances. Takeo had been more favoured than her companions, not through any fault of theirs in seeking this lady killer. Hence the alarm was quickly given. Iki was beset by this female army, every one armed, himself with but his dagger. There was no outlet for escape. Then they came to close quarters. The boldest threw themselves on him. Dragged to the ground, bound fast, he was pulled and pushed into the garden. Breathless and dishevelled the female horde parted to allow the approach of the himegimi—"Such open insult and vile conduct is difficult to overlook. The disloyalty intended is past pardon. For this, too great the grudge." The keen blade flashed, and the head of Iki rolled some feet distant. Without a glance in the direction of the miserable Takeo, the princess took her way back to her apartment. At last some attention could be given to the suffering and disfigured girl. She was paying the penalty for her treachery and disloyal thoughts. The pains which followed were aggravated by neglect. The face and chest one mass of burns, the wounds soon became putrid. The stench was so frightful that none would go near her. They brought her food; then fled her presence in disgust. As she grew weaker, unable to feed herself, the pangs of starvation were added to her woes. The continued cries of agony grew feebler and feebler, became a mere low moaning; then ceased altogether. "Thus trifles lead to death, and lechery finds its punishment." The bodies of the guilty pair, thrown into the garden well, there found the only interment.

Her ladyship was not to escape. Following this scene her passions broke out of all bounds. She took no new lover; it was lovers. Men were beckoned to the Yoshida Goten as to a brothel—with waving sleeves from the upper story. For a night, for a week, for a month they would be entertained. The weaker sort soon displeased her, and were dismissed; to find their end in the well of the willow, the Yanagi no Ido, of the inner garden of the palace. It would seem as if some wicked demon had entered the person of Takata Dono, to lead her into this course of debauchery.



CHAPTER XII

THE KO[U]JIMACHI WELL

One day a toilet dealer came through the Bancho[u]. The sun was already on its decline as he passed the front of the Yoshida Goten on his way to his home in Kanda. It shone, however, on a fellow who at once attracted the attention of the look-out maid. She gave an exclamation—"Ma! Ma! What a handsome man! Such a loveable fellow! Her ladyship...." Then a feeling of pity seemed to close her mouth. But further speech was useless. The himegimi lacked company for her night's feast. Herself she responded to the incomplete summons. A glance and—"Bring him here; without delay. Such a fine specimen is not to be allowed to escape." It could not be helped. At once the beauty, all smiles and gestures, with waving sleeves sought to attract the attention of the itinerant trader. The district was new to him, his sales had been poor. This summons was the direct favour of the Buddha. From this great mansion surely his pack would be much lighter on return. Timidly he approached the samurai at the gate, fearing harsh repulse. The officer, however, was very amenable, transferring him at once to the guidance of the maid already waiting close by. Thus was he brought to the women's apartments; to be surrounded by a bevy of the sex, of a beauty of which he had had no experience. They began looking negligently over his poor stock, and closely over his own person. Then—"'Tis at her ladyship's order that the summons is made. Come this way." At this unusual conduct in a yashiki he had some misgivings. His hesitation met with small consideration. The crowd of women surrounded him and pushed him forward, exercising a violence which astonished and paralysed resistance at being thus exalted above his sphere. Protesting he was taken to the bath. This office completed amid admiring comment, he was dressed in hakama (trousers) and blouse, of stuff perfumed and of silky softness, which made him feel as if he moved in some dream. Thus purified and arrayed he was led through a long range of magnificent rooms, the sight of which sent his heart further and further into his heels. Finally he was introduced into an apartment of no great size, but with dais and bamboo blind. Led before this, his guides drew apart and prostrated themselves in obeisance. The toilet dealer followed the excellent example.

The screen slowly rose and the Takata Dono appeared in all her beauty. At this period she was barely thirty years, in the full development of her charms. To the eyes of the poor toilet dealer it seemed as if Benten Sama, the goddess of love, was thus gravely regarding and measuring every line of face and body. Finally she seemed satisfied with this close inspection. A sign and the formality of the scene vanished. "Come closer.... The sake cup!" Anxiously wriggling himself to her very presence, she then questioned him as to age, business, habits. Her voice was as silvery gentle as her face was beautiful. Soon he found himself looking up into it with confidence, as well as with awed respect. The sake utensils brought, she condescended herself to fill the cup. This was filled again; and yet again. When the liquor began to show its influence her manner became more familiar. With a quick movement, which surprised him by the latent strength shown, she drew him close to her side, began openly to show her favour for him. "Such fine figure of a man is no such fool as not to know he can please a woman. The very trade leads him to study women's taste. Now sir: for test of your qualities...." But frightened the toilet dealer disengaged himself, and springing back a little he prostrated himself flat on the ground. "Deign not an unseemly jest. Close to the person of a great lady, such as is the honoured presence, the poor artisan finds but distress. His wares have no market amid this magnificence. Dependent on him for means of life are two aged parents. A bare subsistence is secured for them. Condescend his dismissal, that he may return to relieve their anxieties."

The speech met with but poor reception. Gentle was the laugh of the himegimi, yet a little wrinkle knitted her brow. She seemed to regard him in a somewhat strange light. "Have no misgivings as to their fate. An ample sum shall be sent to assure them against need. Meanwhile Nature and the occasion has furnished forth the toilet dealer—for the lady's toilet.... Now for the wine feast." In the scene of riot and merriment which followed the one thought of the unfortunate trader was to escape. There was no strict order in the banquet, no formality. The idea of the himegimi was to get the greatest pleasure out of everything to her hand, and all vied with each other, by song and art, with voice and musical accompaniment, by a minute attention to needs of host and guest to make the sensual effect of the scene complete. There was not a jarring element in the well trained bevy of women devoted to pleasure. The toilet dealer was free, yet bound. If he would seek occasion to leave his place, to move uneasily hither and thither in these wide rooms, as did the women with their carelessness and ease, always he found himself balked by their presence. Escape there was none. Soon he found himself again by her ladyship's side, to be plied with the wine until sense and caution gave way before the spell of the beautiful woman. To her it was an amusing game, a stimulant to her passion, the conquest of this reluctance in a man found to lack the brazenness and vulgarity of his caste. In the end he could but murmur at her feet that he was hers—to do with as she would. "Would that this dream could last forever! In this Paradise of the wondrous Presence."

The scene was changed. Her ladyship rose. In the company of a few of the women he was led still further into the recesses of the palace. Here he was arrayed for the night, amid the merry jesting and admiring criticism of his attendants. Accompanied to the bed chamber the fusuma (screens) were closed, and he could hear the fall of the bars in the outer passages. Submission now was easy, as inevitable, as taken by the storm of this woman's passion. With but short intervals of dozing she would draw him to her embrace, and intoxicate him with her caresses. "When the poison be taken—let the plate be full." With clearing brain, though under the spell of her beauty he never lost sight of the purpose to flee this doubtful snare. When at dawn she really slept, he rose to seek exit; to run into the ever vigilant guard. "Naruhodo! Truly an early riser the honoured guest. But all has been made ready. The bath is at hand. Deign to enter." Thus surrounded and compelled he began the second day. As the maid dressed him after the bath she broke out in admiration of his physical presence. "The handsome fellow! No wonder her ladyship was seized by the love wind." In the evening's entertainment he had proved himself no fool in interesting anecdote of the town, and a quaint and naive description of the view the lowly take of those who call themselves the great. Under the skilful questioning of one or other this simple fellow—of keen wit and observation—had shown a phase of life unknown to them, beyond the careless view afforded from between the blinds of the curtains of the palanquin. The vulgar boldness of his predecessors was conspicuously lacking, as was the tedious talk of war and discussion of court etiquette of noble and more formal guests. Not only her ladyship, but the maids thoroughly enjoyed him.

His astonishment and fearful protest at the gorgeous robe put on him turned them from pity to amusement. Said a bolder wench—"Take and enjoy the gifts of her ladyship as offered. The chance is not likely again to present itself. Put aside all thought of past; seek pleasure in the present, without regard to the future." Though spoken with a smile which showed the whole row of beautiful teeth, there was a menace in the words which came home to him. If he had had some suspicions of his whereabouts, he felt sure of it now. There were but rumours and suspicions, slanders of course, of which he seemed destined to prove the truth. The knowledge seemed to add dignity to his pose. He would await her ladyship's exit from the bath. Conducted to the garden he strolled its beautiful inclosure, noted the high roofs on every side. Standing by the tsukiyama he heard the shuffling of sandals. Turning he prostrated himself before the himegimi. Rosy, with sparkling eyes, long flowing black hair, regal presence, she was indeed the goddess Benten Sama in human flesh and blood. Without rising the toilet dealer made request—"Deign the honoured pity. To spend one's life in the service of the honoured Presence, this has been said; and for the words regret there is none. It is for those dependent. Condescend that no harm come to them, no distress from this visitation of gods and the Buddha. Willingly the price is paid for the delicious dream, no grudge felt for what is to follow."

The himegimi stopped short. For some time she was lost in thought. This man was keen enough of wit to know the price at which her favours were bought; brave enough not to flinch, or to make abortive effort to avoid his fate. Her whole experience brought feeling of disgust toward men, when once satiated. With this man the chord of pity was touched. The honoured sleeves were wet with the honoured tears as she made answer to the plea. Without slightest effort to deny her once purpose she consoled and reassured him. "It was determined, that granted favour you should never leave this place." Her brow darkened for a moment at the ominous words; than cleared radiant. "Those who enter here ascribe to their good fortune the pleasures they enjoy. Instead of modest gratitude they show the arrogance of possession. Purpose was first shaken by the filial love expressed for those who gave you being, the tender care and anxiety for their welfare. A man like you, one is assured of his faith and silence. At night you shall depart from here unharmed." She took him by the hand, and when he would show respect, with familiarity drew him along with her. Thus they walked the gardens, talking of varying subjects; she listening to his explanations and instances of life in the common world, and questioning him adroitly as to his past and future. Then the return was made to the inner apartments of the palace. From this stray honey bee the little lady sucked the last juices of its nature. The day was spent in the same riotous merriment and feasting. At the order of the himegimi he had withdrawn for the moment from her presence. When the maid came toward him, it was with expectation of another summons that he followed after. She took him to a little room. Here were his coarse garments and his pack. To these were added the gifts heaped on him by her ladyship. The change of garb completed suddenly the girl took him in her embrace, pressing the now soft perfumed hair and warm moist skin of his neck. "Ah! You lucky fellow! But know that silence is golden." With this she as suddenly seized his hand and led him swiftly along the dark corridor. At its end an amado was slipped back, and they were in the garden. To a postern gate she fitted the key. Pack adjusted he would turn to make salutation. Two slender firm hands laid on his shoulders sent him flying into the roadway. The gate closed with a sharp bang, and all sign of this fairy palace disappeared.

Every day the toilet dealer had prayed to kami and Buddha, made his offering of "cash" at the favoured shrines, performed such pilgrimages (sankei) as his limited means and scanty time permitted. To this alone is to be ascribed his escape. Not so with others: to turn the page to a second instance—One day a maid from above called to the gate guard—"Stop that man!"—"Who?" The guard was at loss, not what to do, but whom to stop. Promptly the highway was roped off. None were allowed to move until inspection was made. As the plebeians lay prostrate with noses on the backs of their hands they marvelled and spoke to each other. "Truly a wondrous event! Some great rascal must have been detected. Thanks to the kami and the Buddhas the heart of this Taro[u]bei is clean."—"And of this Jimbei. To pay the debt to the sake shop he has not hesitated to contract Tama to the Yoshidaya of Yoshiwara."—"Well done!" quoth his friend. "Then credit at the Echigoya is good?"—"Deign to come and drink a glass of poor wine, to the pleasure and good luck of Jimbei." The edifying conversation was interrupted by call for inspection. All passers by but men were summarily motioned on. A maid stood by—"No, not this one ... nor this one ... nor that.... Ah! That big brown fellow, with huge calves. He is the man." At once the "big brown man" with enlarged pediments was cut out from the heap of humanity, with whispering fear and looks the others went about their business. "Truly his crime must be very great. Yet who would suspect it! He is not an ill looking fellow by any means." Others shook their heads as they went away, vowing never again to take this road to work, or home, or pleasure.

Before the yakunin the prisoner fell on his knees. "Deign the honoured pardon. Doubtless grave is the offence; but of it there is no remembrance. An humble wheel-wright of Kanda, this worthless fellow is known as Gonjuro[u]. It is work at Nakano which brings him hither." He turned from one officer to the other. They disregarded his prayers, and delivered him over to the maid, directing him to obey her orders, or suffer for it. In dumbfounded surprise and gathering confidence he followed after. Surrounded by the army of maids he more than readily submitted to their ministrations. The freedom of the bath, the donning of the gorgeous robe, pleased him beyond measure. To their quips and words of double meaning he made ready answer, meeting them more than half way with the obscenity of the Yoshiwara. "Taro[u]bei is tricked out like an actor." At this all the greater was their merriment and boisterousness. Introduced into the presence of her ladyship, his first confusion at the magnificence of the surroundings was quickly removed by his cordial reception. The himegimi laughed at sight of him; laughed still louder at his uncouthness. Then she passed to more earnest measures; praised his thickness of limb, the sturdy robustness of neck and loins. To his apologies—she urged him not to be frightened or backward. Pushing the thick shock of hair back from his eyes he eyed her with growing comprehension. After all a woman was a woman. "'Tis no fault of this Taro[u]bei. The yakunin compelled his presence. For such a noble lady he would make any sacrifice." He spoke with bold look and manner, thoroughly understanding now the nature of his summons at the caprice of some great lady. Had he not suffered equal good fortune with the beauties of Yoshiwara? He treated lady and maids with the same free familiarity and sportive roughness as if in one of his favoured haunts.

All the more was the himegimi amused at his extravagance. She made no sign of displeasure, and the girls made little resistance to the fellow's boisterous manifestations as he tousled them. Always her ladyship had eyes of the greatest appreciation on this splendid animal. The feast set before him he looked on with small favour. "What then tickles the palate of Juro[u]?" She leaned toward him, her face flushed with this struggle to cage her latest prize. The silvery and enticing voice had for answer—"Take (bamboo); just plain boiled, with syrup and sho[u]yu." Then timidly, as he sought her good will—"Just a little wine; two go (a pint) ... say five go." She laughed with good humour. His choice among this bevy of beauties at last had fallen spontaneously on herself. The conquest pleased her. Then he was well stuffed with coarse foods, hunted out of the supplies for the grooms and stablemen in the palace kitchen, with sake of a harsh and burning kind—"which had some taste to it." Indeed never had he drank such! The himegimi sipped a drop or two of the acrid liquor, made a wry face, and sought to bring the scene to its climax.

With the bath next day he was all grumbling and exigencies. The maids bore this with patience, and glances interchanged. Her ladyship had promised him breakfast to restore exhausted Nature—"And such was promised as that this Taro[u]bei would never need another." He roared his dissatisfaction. The hint was taken up at once. "This way: it is for the yakunin to carry out her ladyship's order, and to stop your gullet." The brusqueness of the samurai was poor exchange for the noisy amorous atmosphere of the inner palace. With indignation the worthy wheelwright obeyed the order to march ahead. "Ah! Just wait my fine fellow. A word to the lady of the mansion, and you shall learn the cost of insult to the man she favours. This yaro[u] Gonjuro[u] has no other wife. Her ladyship takes him as adopted husband." The officer winked and blushed a little at this very crude specimen. By this time he had led the man to the well curb in the inner garden. Harshly—"Now down with you. Favoured by the gods and Buddhas you cannot even hold your tongue. Ladies like not boasting of their favours. 'Tis now the time to express pity for you. Make ready!" Deftly he tripped him up, to send him an all fours. The sword flashed, and the wheelwright's head rolled on the ground. Just as it was the body was cast into the well.

Such was the fate of those who found favour with the himegimi. More and more suspicious became people of the strange disappearances traced to the precincts of the palace. Strange tales went around, to gather force with numbers. Kwanei 8th year (1635), whether for closer supervision of the lady or actual necessity, she was removed to the castle precincts, and there given quarters. Time doubtless it was, that tempered these crazy outbursts of the himegimi. She lived until Kwambun 12th year. On the 2nd month 21st day (12th September 1672) she died at the age of seventy two years. Grand were the obsequies of one so favoured by the Sho[u]gun. The daimyo[u] went up in long processions to condole with the suzerain at the death of a rich aunt, and congratulate him on the possessions seized. On the 24th day the lord of the land sent lavish incense and a thousand pieces of silver, by the hand of Inaba Mimasaka no Kami Masamori, to Matsudaira Echigo Ke the son and heir, doubtless glad enough to get this much out of his lady mother's rich furniture and dower. From the Midai-dokoro, the Sho[u]gun's consort, by the Bangashira (Superintendent) of the women's apartments of the Sho[u]gunal palace, he secured another thousand pieces of silver. All was treasure trove toward the heavy expense of the imposing funeral. On the seventh day of the decease—the 27th day (18th September)—the obsequies took place at the Tentokuji of Shiba, where she was to rest, well weighted down by massive sandstone and an interminable epitaph—of which the posthumous name of Tenso[u]-in can be remembered. The Sho[u]gun Ke was present in his proxy of Tsuchiya Tajima no Kami Kazunao.

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