Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
At the General’s side was also his devoted wife, who took the same signal to stab herself and follow her husband. In this way they each carried out their high sense of duty, proving how the power of will and sense of duty are stronger than death.
But it is not only the Japanese who have possessed this wonderful fortitude, for in the wars of Scotland we read of very much the same kind of heroism in the battle at Inverneithie, which took place between the Royalists and Cromwellians.
Here, the Chieftain Sir Hector Maclean of Duart was protected by his foster-father and seven foster-brothers. Each of these in turn dashed forward at a critical point in the battle and offered himself for the protection of Sir Hector, and each in succession was killed in doing so.
It is a grand story of heroism and can be read in Sir Walter Scott’s “Waverley” in the Waverley Novels.
The Story of the Forty-seven Ronins
I visited the graves of the forty-seven Ronins at Tokio. Every Japanese boy knows the story of the forty-seven Ronins, so I will tell it to you.
A Japanese nobleman named Takumi-no-Kami was continually being insulted by another noble named Kotsuke-no-Suke.
Takumi kept his temper till one day they met in the palace of the Emperor and Kotsuke again insulted Takumi worse than ever.
This time Takumi gave way to anger, and, drawing his sword, challenged Kotsuke to fight; but Kotsuke, like most bullies, did not like this, and ran for his life, howling for help, with Takumi after him.
Other men interposed and stopped Takumi and held him in arrest, because it was against the law to make any disturbance in the Emperor’s palace, the penalty for doing so being death.
For a nobleman it was too great a disgrace to be executed, and he was therefore allowed instead to kill himself. This was always done with great ceremony and in a certain way; that is, the condemned man had to carry out a fixed programme before a meeting of other nobles, and eventually to cut his stomach open and so to kill himself in their presence. This self-execution is called hara-kiri.
So Takumi had to commit hara-kiri; but everybody was sorry for him because he was a brave fellow. He was buried in the sacred ground at Takanawa, near Tokio. But his own particular retainers, forty-seven of them, were so fond of him and so angered at his death that they swore to avenge it by killing Kotsuke.
This came to the ears of Kotsuke, and he had the men carefully watched by spies so that he would know directly they started to attack him, and he had strong guards posted all about his house to protect him.
The Cunning of Kowanosoke
The forty-seven had, by the death of their master, become Ronins, that is rovers, or adventurers, without a proper leader. However, they elected as their commander for this plot one who was specially devoted to their late master, named Oishi Kowanosoke. He was very brave and very cunning.
He knew that Kotsuke was keeping a watch on them, so he made every one of the Ronins take up some different trade or occupation and never meet together, so that it looked as if they had given up all idea of revenge, and for himself he pretended to become a drunkard and even turned his