THE COURT AROUSED

In one of the kuge residences, not far from the palace occupied by the
Tenshi sama, four men had just exchanged the protracted salutations
prescribed by their rank. All knew that this very meeting would be
considered as treason if it were known to the authorities at Yedo, and
they felt, intuitively, that it would exercise a great influence upon
their lives. Yet every face bore but one expression, that of placid
contentment.

Sanjo, as the highest in rank, spoke first:–“His Lordship, Karassu
Maru has informed us that the chief Councillor of Mori desires to make
a communication. It is long since the chief of a clan desired the
intercession of a kuge.”

Kano bowed:–“It is the fault of the Tokugawa, My Lord. The clans
are shut out from Kyoto. We are not permitted to occupy our yashiki
here, unless we secure the gracious consent of the men who rule at
Yedo. I know none of the old families, Mori, Shimadzu,[77] who would
not willingly enroll himself among the lowest servants of the Son of
Heaven. If you are robbed of the homage which is your due, surely we
suffer more severely by being shut out from the sacred presence.”

Sanjo bowed, and looked at Iwakura Tomomi, who said:–“You speak
well, Sir Knight, and we do not hold the clans responsible for their
compulsory neglect of His Majesty. But we shall be glad to hear what it
is that Mori of Nagato desires of us.”

“Your Lordships, the Tokugawa has admitted barbarians within the realm
of the divine ancestors. They are now upsetting all our time-honored
customs at Kanagawa, and demand admittance at Hyogo. Your humble
servant has dwelt for six weeks among them. I desired to study
them, because I was anxious to know if their unhallowed presence
foreboded evil to our country. I am convinced that it does. The five
relations[78] upon which our social system rests are disregarded and
set at nought by them. They respect nothing we respect. They are rude
and insolent, and act as if the country of the gods was theirs by right
of conquest. They defy our laws. Who ever heard of a merchant talking
back to a samurai? Not only do they do this, but they dare order them
about.”

“Have you seen that yourself?” asked Sanjo.

“I have, my Lord.”

“And what did the Tokugawa Knights do?”

“They did as they were bidden; they obeyed the orders of the insolent
dogs.”

“Was no complaint brought?”

“Who would bring a complaint, and before whom? The samurai is not
accustomed to seek protection. He protects, and in such a quarrel,
his good sword is both judge and executioner. But, alas! the Tokugawa
samurai is no longer a knight. He has forgotten the existence of the
word duty, and has substituted the word pleasure. The country is no
longer safe under the guidance of the Tokugawa. It must be taken away
from them.”

“And given to Mori?” asked Karassu Maru.

“That may be decided later, my lord,” said Kano calmly. “At present it
is not a question of who shall rule with Tenshi Sama’s consent, but if
the country shall be safe from the invasion of the barbarians. They may
not come in large numbers for some years; but if they upset all our
sacred customs, they can ruin Japan without any armed invasion. They
are but few in number now, your lordships, and we can expel them. But
if we wait for a few years, they will have obtained such a foothold
that we may not be able to succeed.”

“But what can we do?” asked Iwakura.

“Your lordship, there is but one way. Tenshi Sama may order the
Tokugawa to expel the barbarians, the order will not be obeyed, because
the clan can not do it, and will not entrust the work to other clans.
But Tenshi Sama can give an order to all the clans to do it, and I know
of some who will obey His Majesty’s orders, regardless of consequences.”

“But,” said Sanjo, “you know that Tokugawa is Shogun; all orders must
be issued to him; such is the law and the custom.”

“But if Tokugawa can not, or will not obey?”

Here was a supposition which was very unpalatable, and the three kuge
were silent. Orders had been issued from the Palace before, and had
been disregarded, but the kuge had been respectfully assured that
they had been obeyed. Iwakura knew of one instance, and the angry
blood appeared almost through the thick coating of self-control and
restraint. At last Karassu Mara said:

“What would you have us do?”

“Send peremptory orders to the Go rojiu, and let the clans know that
such orders have been sent.”

“Do you know, Sir Knight,” he asked, “how we are situated here? Aidzu,
one of the Tokugawa clans that will fight, confound it! has a guard at
every gate. Not a soul goes in or out, but they know who he is, and I
shall be very much astonished and glad for your sake, if you return
home without some disagreeable encounter. Why! They discovered after
your messenger had left that a stranger had been in the palace grounds,
and there was a fine hue and cry. The captain of the guard came to
me and dared ask questions; I don’t think he will do it again, for I
made him understand the difference between a kuge and a dog. We could
contrive, perhaps, to send a secret order. But an open order to the
clans! Why, that messenger must be nimble-footed who could get as far
as one hundred yards from the gate!”

“No!” said Sanjo, “that suggestion is worthless. Mark you, Sir Knight,
I do not deny that the Tokugawa hand has rested heavily upon the Gosho,
but under whatever circumstances, the Court has maintained its dignity.
Nor would any infringement be permitted. Besides, while it is true that
his Lordship Iwakura and myself are members of the Inner Council, we
are but two, and the majority is composed of old men, wedded to the
secluded, contemplative life we lead. If you have no other suggestion
to offer, I am afraid that we can not help you.”

“But, my Lord,” said Kano, “surely, that life of seclusion and
contemplation ends as soon as the barbarians land at Hyogo. They are,
even now, clamoring to be admitted into Yedo. It is only a question of
time, perhaps of very brief time, before they will demand admittance
in Kyoto, and from what I have seen of them, they will not show any
respect for the Sacred Enclosure.”

Karassu Maru grasped the hilt of his sword, while Iwakura and Sanjo
were startled.

“Ah! That must be prevented at any cost!” said the former, and Sanjo
bowed assent.

After a few moments Iwakura made a movement indicating the termination
of the audience, saying: “Sir Knight, we shall report our conference to
the Council. We do not pretend to know what the result will be, but I
suppose that, if we wish to communicate with you, his lordship Karassu
Maru will know how to reach you.” Deep bows and sucking of the breath
followed, and Kano left escorted by Karassu Maru, who led the way to a
secluded part of the grounds.

“Now then, Sir Knight, what do you think of the prospect? Encouraging,
is it not? And the two gentlemen whom we have left just now, are the
most progressive. Now, let me give you a hint. The Miya and kuge, I say
it with all respect, have taken root into the ground. That root must
be torn up by main force, before they will move. Pull the ground from
under them and you will succeed. If you can not find means to do that,
return to your clan and prepare to defend yourself. By the way! Are you
acquainted with a gigantic Satsuma knight, who loves the Tokugawa as
much as you do?”

“I am not, my Lord,” said Kano, surprised.

“Well, he, too, is in hiding in some temple. Hunt him up, and work
together. Two can do more than one. Now, how are you going to leave
here?”

“I saw a nosimono going to one of the palaces a moment ago, is it going
beyond the gate?”

“Yes, that is his lordship Honami, who is so exceedingly bright that he
can go wherever and whenever he pleases, but why?”

“Can not your lordship arrange that I shall be one of the bearers?”

“Why, certainly. Come this way and wait in that copse.” Karassu Maru
returned after half an hour’s absence, evidently in great glee. He said
that Honami had consented to carry a package to the temple where Inouye
had rooms. Karassu Maru then handed to Kano a chair-bearer’s coat, and
kerchief to tie around his head. It took only a minute to change the
clothes, and to make a bundle of haori, hakama, kimono, and swords. A
little later Honami’s well-known nosimono passed through the gate borne
by four stalwart men. When it returned there were only three. One had
been lost, and poor Honami’s privileges were curtailed, while the other
chairbearers were subjected to a severe but useless examination.

The Choshiu Clan was by no means alone in taking the alarm at the
admittance of foreigners. The Japanese, as a nation, possess a dual
character, which was typified in their government. Just as the
Gosho at Kyoto presented the highest degree of refinement attained
by the nation, as well as the amiability, natural kindness, and
light-heartedness of the people, so did the Camp at Yedo picture the
sterner side of their character inculcated and developed to the utmost
in the samurai. But the samurai shared with the people the curiosity
which is a national characteristic, and many had visited Yokohama
for the sole purpose of examining and taking the measure of these
strangers. The early history of that open port, is one of bloodshed.
Numerous are the names of foreigners in the graveyard upon the bluff,
with the inscription: Murdered. Yet in not one single instance was the
perpetrator brought to justice. Not one of these murders was for the
purpose of robbery; in every instance the sharp sword had been used to
avenge some real or fancied insult.

Except the missionaries who arrived as soon as Japan was opened, there
were few, very few foreigners who made any effort to propitiate this
people. Most of them had lived for some time in China, where they had
met a submissive people. They treated the Japanese in the same manner,
with very unexpected results. The resentment turned from the foreigners
upon the government which had admitted them, and the Tokugawa dynasty
was doomed.

But of the Genrô, the statesmen of revolutionary time, no one had
any thought of uniting Japan into an Empire under the direct rule of
Tenshi Sama. They knew of no history save that of their own country,
and that demonstrated the Son of Heaven as too sacred a person to be
troubled with mundane affairs. All desired a strong country under a
strong Shogun. There is not the least doubt that Satsuma, Choshiu, and
Tosa, to whom Japan chiefly owes its present greatness, worked with
that end in view. Nor does it detract from their credit that probably
each worked with the ultimate hope to see his own clan take Tokugawa’s
place. There was not an atom of selfishness in this. The chief impulses
constituting our motives in life, the acquisition of wealth and honor
or fame, were unintelligible to the Japanese at that time.

* * * * *

Kano returned to the temple, where he had left his chair and bearers,
for he was stopping at the Choshiu yashiki, and entered the room where
Inouye was waiting for him. Having satisfied himself that there were no
listeners, he briefly summed up the result of his interview with the
kuge. “There will be no opening of Hyogo,” he said. “The Court will
move heaven and earth, before it concedes that demand. But Karassu Maru
is right. The ground must be pulled from under them, before they will
abate one jot of their dignity, such as they understand it. By the way.
Go back to Nagato as soon as you can. The attention of the spies will
be drawn toward this temple, because one of the bearers of Honami’s
chair disappeared here. I shall follow you in a few days.”

The two devoted samurai reached their own province in safety, and the
affairs of the clan continued peaceably, except that a considerable
number of young samurai resigned as members of the clan, and
disappeared. It was not generally known that their names were not
stricken off the rolls, but that the letters of resignation were held
in a safe place, in case of emergency. Nobody heard from Ito; at
least not directly. Indirectly the cry of Sonno Joï! growing more and
more common, showed that he was still gathering recruits in the ranks
against the Tokugawa.

Kano smiled grimly when he received from Yedo a copy of a letter
sent by the Court to the Daimiyo of Mito. “The Bakufu” (Camp or Yedo
Government) it ran “has shown great disrespect of public opinion in
concluding treaties without waiting for the opinion of the Court, and
in disgracing princes so closely allied by blood to the Shogun. Tenshi
Sama’s rest is disturbed by the spectacle of such misgovernment when
the fierce barbarian is at our very door. Do you, therefore assist the
Bakufu with your advice, expel the barbarians, content the mind of the
samurai, and restore tranquillity to his Majesty’s bosom.”

The wedge had entered, but time was required before it could be driven
deeper. Kano had gradually prepared his friend Hattori to share his
hopes and fears, and effective improvements had been made in the
fortifications on the coast of Nagato. Cannon, not of very modern
make, but decidedly better than the rusty fire pieces of old, had
been purchased at Nagasaki and smuggled in at Shimonoseki; a supply
of powder was also procured, and several companies of young samurai
practiced daily with the guns. Ekichi had attached himself to Inouye
and was rapidly growing into an expert swordsman.

One evening, in the beginning of April, Kano was sitting in his room,
talking to his son. The rain doors were up, for it had been blowing
hard all day, and it looked like rain. Kano began to think that it was
time to retire, when Ekichi told him that there was a knock at the rain
doors. Kano took up a lantern, and went on the verandah, when he heard
a muffled voice calling him. He opened a door and asked who was there,
when he recognized the voice of Ito. He gladly invited him to enter,
and reclosing the door, led the way to his room. After the customary
salutations, seeing that Ito was cold and wet, he ordered dry garments
to be brought, and then inquired when he had arrived. Ito replied that
he had come straight to Kano’s yashiki, and then asked him if he had
heard the news. He received a negative answer and said:–“Before I
tell you what it is, I must warn you that you have a spy in the house.”

“O! I know that, but he is harmless.”

“Yes; he is harmless now; but he must have found out something because
the Go rojiu dogs were hot on my trail.”

“Ekichi,” said Kano, “watch around the rooms; and if you see any one
trying to listen, silence him.”

The boy bowed and slipped out.

Ito sipped a cup of tea, and, seeing that Kano expected him to speak,
said:

“Ii Naosuke is dead.”

“Is that so? When did he die?”

“He was assassinated in Yedo on the 23rd of last month.”

Kano knocked the ashes out of his pipe, put it up, and looked for
further particulars. Ito continued:–

“It was blowing a severe storm in Yedo that day. There was rain and
sleet, and sometimes it snowed very heavily. The streets within the
moats of the castle are almost always deserted, but this time they
were wholly so on account of the weather. It appears that there was
some meeting at the castle. At all events the Daimiyo of Kii and Owari
with their respective retinues were marching across the bridge into
the inner walls, when the retinue of the Lord Regent also approached.
The last of the Kii samurai had just left the bridge when the head of
Ii’s retinue reached it. Several men in rain coats had been loitering;
they flung off their coats and as samurai in full armor, attacked the
regent’s escort. These men were taken unawares, and before they could
drop their rain coats a number of them had been killed and Ii was
dragged out of his nosimono, and decapitated. Several of the assailants
lost their lives, but the leader escaped with the head. It is said that
they were Mito rônin.”

Kano was silent for some time. At last he said: “This is a death
blow for the Tokugawa, for Ii Naosuke was the only man, so far as I
know, who could have propped up that falling house. For that reason I
am glad. But I am sorry too, for Ii was a patriot. I disagreed with
him, but he may have been right when he said, in defense of the treaty
which he had made: ‘Let us have intercourse with foreign countries,
learn their drill and tactics, and let us make the nation united as one
family.’ I do not think that he could have succeeded, but–”

There was a stifled cry and a blow. A moment later a sho ji opened, and
Ekichi came in holding in one hand the bleeding head of the spy, and in
the other his drawn sword. The boy said simply: “I have silenced him.”

Kano and Ito both looked at the boy. He stood there, waiting patiently
until his father should address him. Ito, however, took some paper from
his sleeve, and placed it upon the woodwork of the grooves, motioning
Ekichi to put the head on it. The boy did so, and Kano told him to come
near and tell him what had happened.

“I have watched him several times, as you told me to, when he was
trying to listen, and once when he was looking over some of your
papers. Every time he made some excuse, but I did not answer him. A few
moments ago, I passed into that room, and saw his form crouching before
the sho ji. You had ordered me to silence him, and I did so.”

Kano said a few words in praise, and bade him go to sleep. Ekichi bowed
and withdrew.

Kano went out of the room and in a few moments returned with Fujii.
The old man looked grimly at the head as he took it up. The body was
removed, and the bloodspots cleaned. It was merely an incident in the
life of old Japan.

The death of Ii Naosuke decided Kano to return to Kyoto with his
friends, Ito and Inouye, as he said grimly “to help pull the ground
from under the feet of the Court.” His acquaintance with Karassu Maru
was of material assistance to him. This kugé was of a very impulsive
temperament, with none of that self control, characteristic of the
samurai. Generous to a fault, he was implacable as a foe. While he
frightened some of the more timid kugé by the boldness of his speech,
he attracted others. The Court mustered the courage to summon the
Shogun to Kyoto, to answer the charge of misgovernment brought against
him by several clans. No Shogun had deigned doing homage to Tenshi Sama
since 1634. The humble reply from the Go rojiu was followed by another
command, in which it appeared plainly that Tenshi Sama’s advisers would
not entertain a thought of his assuming the government. It said:–

“Since the barbarian vessels commenced to visit this country, the
barbarians have conducted themselves in an insolent manner, without any
interference on the part of the Yedo officials. The consequence has
been that the peace of the empire has been disturbed and the people
have been plunged into misery. Tenshi Sama was profoundly distressed
at these things, and the Go rojiu on that occasion replied that
discord had arisen among the people, and it was therefore impossible
to raise an army for the expulsion of the barbarians, but that if His
Majesty would graciously give his sister in marriage to the Shogun
that then the court and camp would be reconciled, the samurai would
exert themselves, and the barbarians would be swept away. Thereupon His
Majesty good-naturedly granted the request and permitted the Princess
Kazu to go down to Yedo. Contrary to all expectations, however,
traitorous officials became more and more intimate with the barbarians
and treated the imperial family as if they were nobody; in order to
steal a day of tranquillity they forgot the long years of trouble to
follow, and were close upon the point of asking the barbarians to take
them under their jurisdiction. The nation has become more and more
turbulent. Of late, therefore, the rônin of the western provinces have
assembled in a body to urge the Tenshi Sama to ride to Hakone, and,
after punishing the traitorous officials, to drive out the barbarians.
The two clans of Satsuma and Choshiu have pacified these men and are
willing to lend their assistance to the court and camp in order to
drive out the barbarians. The Shogun must proceed to Kyoto to take
counsel with the nobles of the court, and must put forth all his
strength, must despatch orders to the clans of the home provinces and
the seven circuits, and, speedily performing the exploit of expelling
the barbarians, restore tranquillity to the empire. On the one hand,
he must appease the sacred wrath of Tenshi Sama’s divine ancestors,
and, on the other, inaugurate the return of faithful servants to their
allegiance, and of peace and prosperity to the people, thus giving
to the empire the immovable security of Taisan.”[79] (Ta shan–Great
Mountain, the Sacred mountain of China.)

The effect of Kano’s visit to the Gosho is plainly visible in this
document. Iyemochi, the Shogun, paid homage to the Tenshi Sama in April
1863, and the same year released the Daimiyo from their compulsory
residence at Yedo. At the same time Kano at last secured the long
coveted imperial order to commence the expulsion of the barbarians, and
he returned to Nagato in high glee.

In the south-western part of the main island of Japan, known as Hondo,
a narrow strait separates it from the island of Kiusiu. This strait
is named after the city of Shimonoseki,[80] situated on the northern
shore, in Nagato. This shore is composed of bold bluffs, formed of
solid rock, covered, however, with abundant verdure owing to ample
moisture and the heat of the sun. These bluffs control the strait
which forms the western entrance to the Inland Sea, and is used by
all vessels plying between Japan and China as offering a safe and
quick route. It was here that the Choshiu clan had reconstructed its
fortifications, and supplied them with new cannon. The clan had also
purchased at great expense two sailing vessels and a steamer and was
thus, as the Council thought, well equipped to expel the handful of
barbarians.

[Illustration: “THE FRIENDS WERE STANDING IN A GARDEN OF A TEAHOUSE.”]

In the beginning of July, 1863, the friends were standing in the garden
of a teahouse, whose upper story overlooked the entrance to the strait,
when an attendant appeared and informed them that a barbarian vessel
was approaching. The party went up-stairs and watched the ship, as,
unable to stem the current, she came to anchor. “She is going to stay
there all night” said Kano grimly. “Well, we don’t want any more
foreigners nor their vessels, and we will give that one yonder a hint
not to come back again.” He went out around the batteries and ordered
the officers to open fire as soon as it should be light enough.

There was grim expectation among Choshiu’s samurai at the prospect of
an early battle. They had imbibed the dislike of Kano, and the cry of
Sonno Joï had excited them. Still, they retired to rest as usual, but
were up with the first dawn. The American bark, the _Pembroke_, was
not expecting any hostilities. When the tide turned in the morning,
the captain gave orders to hoist the anchor, when he was startled by
firing and a moment later a ball went through one of his sails. He had
the American flag hoisted, but it produced no effect, except that more
batteries opened upon her. The two sailing vessels and the steamer
appeared to be preparing to increase her danger, but the sailors worked
with a will, and soon had her under weigh. The marksmanship of the
Choshiu gunners, however, was very poor, and the _Pembroke_ escaped.

It is scarcely credible that Choshiu intended to destroy an unarmed
vessel; it is more likely that they meant the firing as a warning to
keep away. Kano was satisfied at the effect which he thought had been
produced. On the morning of the 16th, about ten days after firing upon
the _Pembroke_, he was called by one of his retainers, and informed
that a steamer was coming toward the Strait from the Inland Sea. After
dressing himself hastily, he went to one of the bluffs where he could
observe and at the same time issue orders. He soon perceived that it
was a war vessel, and sent Ekichi down to the ships at anchor under
the bluff to instruct them to clear for action. He then ordered Ito
and Inouye to take charge of two of the batteries, and to open fire as
soon as possible. The barbarian ship, however, did not remain in the
channel, but made at once for the bluff, where, since the guns could
not be sufficiently depressed, she was safe from the batteries. She
immediately engaged Choshiu’s vessels, and, although the samurai were
anxious to fight and to come to close quarters, they could scarcely
inflict any damage upon their opponents, because they had not been
drilled to this sort of warfare. Kano was furious when he saw his
expensive ships destroyed, and he was more angry still when Capt.
McDougal of the saucy U. S. Sloop-of-war _Wyoming_ by a few parting
shots destroyed one of the batteries, and then steamed away, apparently
none the worse for her late encounter. It did not improve his temper,
when the breeze carried the laughter of some of the barbarian sailors
to his ears.

After the _Wyoming_ had steamed away, Kano sent for his two friends,
and together they discussed the event of that morning.

“It is easy to understand,” he said, “why our ships suffered defeat.
Our samurai can scarcely be expected to learn to handle strange craft
in so short a time. What puzzles me is that we could not sink her with
our batteries.”

“Why,” said Ito, “that was plain enough. She steamed straight under us
and for the vessels. If we had been able to loosen the rock, we might
have sunk her by letting it fall, but if we had depressed our guns, the
shot would have fallen out of them.”

“Then they are cowards!” Kano cried, “they knew that we could not hit
them there, and so crept under shelter. I don’t call that honorable
warfare.”

“I don’t see that,” said Inouye smiling. “It is fair in war to take
every advantage over an enemy; besides, it was decidedly no coward who
would come with one small vessel and attack three, while facing the
guns of our batteries. No! We lack the skill. Suppose we put armor on
our peasants and arm them with our swords, would they be able to fight
as well as we, who are trained from our youth? The biggest and most
powerful peasant, in armor, would not be a match for Ekichi. It is the
same thing in this case. We have the weapons, but we do not know how to
use them.”

“We fired well enough when she was in the channel,” objected Ito.

“Yes, but you confessed yourself that you could not depress your guns,
while that fellow raised his cannon high enough to bring the whole
battery about my ears. I don’t call it unfair, but it was a very
one-sided affair.”

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