But the councilor went home, and was much troubled, and thought anxiously about what his prince had said. And as he reflected, it occurred to him that since Kotsuke no Suke had the reputation of being a miser he would certainly be open to a bribe, and that it was better to pay any sum, no matter how great, than that his lord and his house should be ruined.
So he collected all the money he could, and, giving it to his servant to carry, rode off in the night to Kotsuke no Suke’s palace, and said to his retainers: “My master, who is now in attendance upon the Imperial envoy, owes much thanks to my Lord Kotsuke no Suke, who has been at so great pains to teach him the proper ceremonies to be observed during the reception of the Imperial envoy.
This is but a shabby present which he has sent by me, but he hopes that his lordship will condescend to accept it, and commends himself to his lordship’s favor.” And, with these words, he produced a thousand ounces of
The present version, translated by A. B. Mitford, is reprinted from The Fortnightly Review, London, 1870, by permission of Macmillan and Co., owners of the copyright, who include it in Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan.
The Forty-Seven Ronins
At the beginning of the Eighteenth Century there lived a daimio, called Asano Takumi no Kami, the Lord of the Castle of Ako, in the province of Harima. Now it happened that an Imperial ambassador from the Court of the Mikado, having been sent to the Shogun at Yedo, Takumi no Kami and another noble called Kamei Sama, were appointed to receive and feast the envoy; and a high official, named Kira Kotsuke no Suke, was named to teach them the proper ceremonies to be observed upon the occasion.
The two nobles were accordingly forced to go daily to the castle to listen to the instructions of Kotsuke no Suke. But this Kotsuke no Suke was a man greedy of money, and as he deemed that the presents which the two daimios, accor
In the Eighth Century A.D. (712) the annals of the chief families of Japan were collected in a work known as the Kojiki, or Record of Ancient Matters. This constituted the first writing of note in Japanese, but it was not until the appearance eight years later of the volume called JVihongi, or Chronicles of Japan, that Japanese literature can be said to have begun.
The Kojiki was in the language of old Japan, while the Nihongi was in the classical Chinese, which superseded the Japanese and was in use until the Seventeenth Century. In the Eighteenth Century Motoori composed a work of forty-four volumes devoted to the elucidation of the Kojiki called Exposition of the Record of Ancient Matters. This has been declared by Chamberlain to be “perhaps the most admirable work of which Japanese erudition can boast.”
In the first part of the Eleventh Century Murasaki-no-Shikibu, a lady of the great Fujiwara family, composed t
That evening the counselor was a caller at the home of Mr. Z —, whose entire life was passed in performing trifling services to such representatives of humanity as comprise Classes VII to III of the official hierarchy. In his desire to please, the counselor related to Mr. Z what the Countess had witnessed at the Orphanage and what she had heard from the representative of the religious sisterhood. He added his own contribution that—ah—yes—that—really, books ought to be provided for the orphans.
“Nothing is simpler!” cried Mr. Z. “To-morrow I am going to the office of the Courier and I’ll see to it that an announcement of the book needs of the Orphanage is published.”
The next day Mr. Z very excitedly rushed into the editorial rooms of the Courier, imploring in the name of all the saints that it print an appeal to the public to donate books to the orphans.
He arrived at an opportune moment, for the paper needed matter for a few sensati
Boleslav Prus (Alexander Glowacki) (1847-1912)
Alexander Glowacki, known and loved among his people under the pen-name Prus, was born near Lublin in Poland, in 1847. His first novel was published in 1872, and from that time until his death in 1912, his literary activities were uninterrupted. He was a very prolific writer.
“He believed in humanity, in civilization, in the creative power of good and light. He demanded national self-education… he yearned for the training of the will of the people, to whom he proclaimed that each man must find in himself the source of strength and energy.” Prus’s short stories are especially characteristic of the man’s nature and art.
This story is translated—for the first time into English—by Sarka B. Hrbkova, by whose permission it is here printed.
The Human Telegraph
On her visit to the Orphanage recently the Countess X witnessed an extraordinary scene. She beheld four boys wran
“Then she said that she had entrusted a bundle of letters to my late wife; she could not possibly keep them at her own house owing to their peculiar character, and asked whether I would be good enough to return them to her. I felt a chill down my spine as I listened to her. With assumed calm I asked her what those contained? She trembled at the question and said:
“ ‘Your wife was the most faithful and loyal woman I ever met. She did not ask what they contained; she even gave me her word never to look into them.”
“ ‘Where did she keep your letters?’
“ ‘She said she kept them under lock and key in the drawer of her sewing-table. They are tied with a pink ribbon. You will easily recognize them. Thirty letters in all.’
“I took her to the room where the sewing-table stood and opened the drawer. I took out the bundle and handed it to her.
“ ‘Are these the letters?’
“She reached out for them eagerly.
“We chatted, had supper together and went to bed as usual, each in Our own room. I had by that time decided upon a course of action Which I would carry out with the stubbornness of a maniac. What a miserable deception on the part of nature to endow sin with such an open face, I said to myself as I entered her room at midnight and looked at her beautiful innocent face as she slept. The poison had taken effect in my soul and had eaten itself through every vein of my body. I placed my right hand silently on her neck and pressed it with all my might. For a moment she opened her eyes and looked at me astounded, then closed them again and died. She did not make a move in self- defense, but died as quietly as though she were in a dream.
Authority to investigate
She bore no grudge against me even for killing her. One drop of blood oozed through her lips and dropped on my hand—you know the spot. I only noticed it in the morning after it was already dried. We b
“I can’t say what it was that brought me to the belief that this was but pretense. Man is foolish enough to seek misery in the midst of his greatest happiness.
“She had a small sewing-table, the drawer of which she always kept locked. This began to torture me. I often noticed that she never left the key in the drawer and she never left it unlocked. What could she have to conceal so carefully? I became mad with jealousy. I did not believe her innocent eyes, her kisses and loving embraces. Perhaps all this was but cunning deceit?
“One day the Countess came to fetch her and managed to persuade her to spend the day at the Castle. I promised that I should follow later in the afternoon.
“The carriage had scarcely pulled out of the yard when I began trying to open the drawer of the sewing-table. One of the many keys I tried at last opened it. Rummaging among the many feminine effects under a folder of silk, I discovered a bundle of letters. One could
“I never experienced or heard anything like this before.”
There was nothing to be done but to repeat the operation. Everything passed off as it had the first time. The pain stopped, and though the patient experienced a great relief, this time he failed to smile, and when he thanked the doctor it was with a sad and depressed expression.
“You needn’t be surprised if I am back again in a month,” he said as he took leave.
“You mustn’t think of it.”
“It is as sure as there’s a God in heaven,” he said, with an air of finality. “Au revoir.”
The surgeon discussed the case with several of his colleagues, each of whom expressed a different opinion. Not one, however, could offer a satisfactory explanation.
A month passed and the patient did not appear. Another few weeks, and then, instead of the patient, came a letter from his place of residence. The surgeon opened it with pleasure, thinking that the pain had
“Stop,” he shouted, afraid lest the sufferer should sever a vein. “Since you believe it must be done, very well, I’ll do it.”
He then prepared for the operation. When it came to the actual cutting the doctor advised his patient to turn his head away, for people are generally upset at the sight of their own blood.
“Quite unnecessary,” said the other. “I must direct your hand so that you may know how far to cut.”
The stranger took the operation stoically and was helpful with his directions. His hand never even trembled, and when the round spot had been carved out he sighed a sigh of happy relief, as if a load had been taken off his shoulders.
“You don’t feel any pain now?” asked the surgeon.
“Not the least,” he said with a smile. “It is as if the pain had been cut off and the slight irritation caused by the cutting seems like a cool breeze after a hot spell. Just let the blood run. It soothes me.”