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
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 prin
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 respectfull
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.
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.<
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 of
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
“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 so
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 gu
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