A Daughter of the Samurai

A Daughter of the Samurai by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto Read Free Book Online

Book: A Daughter of the Samurai by Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto Read Free Book Online
Authors: Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto
formed a protection from flying arrows and shooting spears, and now were only hilly, peaceful vegetable gardens.
    "All of this ground beyond," said Kin, with a wide sweep of her hand as we started toward home, "was once covered with beautiful gardens of noble retainers whose mansions were gathered about the outer wall of the castle. Now all that beauty is crushed into hundreds of plain little farms; and some of them, like ours, are ploughed by the unused hands of vassals of the 'ancient glorious'!"
    Kin was quiet all the way home, and I walked soberly by her side, with my bright anticipations for the morrow's celebration somewhat dampened.
    "Castle Sinking" is a term used in Japanese literature to describe the sublime desolation of the useless castle of a conquered people. The new government was both wise and generous in its endeavour to help its subjects adjust themselves to the puzzling situation which confronted them at the close of the war, but Nagaoka people were slow to forget. Many still believed that to have dragged the god-descended Emperor from his palace of holiness and peace, only to plunge him into a material world of sordid duties, was sacrilege; and that the failure of the shogun power to march steadily on its rightful way was a sorrowful thing for Japan.
    I was many years younger than the time of the Restoration, but its memories were with me all through my childhood, for I was born not so long after those years of desolation and bitterness but that the everyday talk of the town was of the awful days that had left so many homes without a master. In my babyhood I heard war-songs as frequently as lullabies, and half of my childhood stories were tales of heroes on the battlefield. From the gateway of my home could be seen the ruined walls and half-filled moat of the castle, our godowns were filled to the roof with weapons and belongings of my father's retainers, and I scarcely ever went on to the street that I did not meet some old person who, as I passed, would stand humbly aside, bowing and bowing, with respectful and tearful murmurings of the "glories of the past." Ah me! Death had stepped many times between the strain of those days and the hesitating progress of my childhood's time, and yet the old spirit of dutiful loyalty to the overlord was not yet quenched.
    May 7, 1869, was the day on which all power was removed from Nagaoka castle by the new Government, and after the bitterness of the first few years had passed, the anniversary of that day was always observed by the samurai families of the town. To the newcomers and to the tradespeople, the celebration was only an interesting episode, but to those who took part it was a tribute to the dying spirit of chivalry. The morning after my walk with Kin by the castle moat, I wakened with an excited feeling that something was going to happen. And indeed, it was a day of busy happenings! For breakfast everybody ate black rice—rice husked but not whitened, such as is used by soldiers during the haste of battle marches—and in the afternoon a sham battle was held on Yukuzan plain back of the shrine dedicated to the Nagaoka daimios.
    What a gay assemblage there was that day! Most of the aristocracy were poor and much of their valuable armour had been disposed of, but everybody had retained some, and each one appeared in what he had. I can even now see the procession as it started, with my father as leader. He sat very straight on his horse, and, to my childish eyes, looked very grand in his cloth garment with close-wrist sleeves and bloomer-like skirt, over which rattled and clanged the lacquer-scaled breastplate with its cross-stitching of silk cord and its great gold crest. Of course, his own horse was gone, as well as its elaborate trappings, but Mother's ingenuity had decorated a plain harness with cords and tassels twisted from strips of silk, thus transforming a tenant's farm horse into somewhat the appearance of a war steed; and in place of the swords

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