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ever, the extensive underground powder magazine one morning caught a spark of fire, and all of a sudden the towers and palaces blew up with a tremendous explosion. At that period the Japanese apprehended the possible invasion of the "redhaired devils," the foreigners; for which reason it was not to be wondered at that the patriotic citizens of Imabari mistook the earth-rending roar and the heavy ascending columns of smoke in the direction of the old stronghold for a cannonade of enemies. The panic it produced in town struck terror into everybody's heart; the weak and nervous fell into fits. A drizzling rain since the previous eve rendered the streets excessively wet. Splashing in the mud and puddles, the heroic of the townsmen, with the loose dangling skirt of the Japanese garment tucked up through the belt for action, hurried castleward with the utmost speed, with unsheathed spear and sword in hand, to the great consternation of the astounded populace. I was scarcely of an age to comprehend the dire calamity, yet the scene impressed me indelibly. Soon the vision of foreign hairy invaders vanished; the people saw that it was a sheer accident, fearful as it was; but in that ancient lax administration behind the screen of cruel rigidity, the real cause of it has never been thoroughly investigated. Lives were lost in the disaster, for a multitude of servants still lived in the castle. Mutilated limbs and bodies were subsequently picked up in abundance from the surrounding moats; the features of many were too badly marred for identification; and as to the severed limbs no one could
tell which belonged to which of the shattered trunks.
The remaining half-burned buildings have since been destroyed piecemeal; all that now remains of the proud castle is the innermost circle of masonry, which cannot so easily be leveled to the ground. It is not provided with a railing, and in looking down the steep one feels his heart stand still. The vast prospect it commands, extending far beyond the town limits, is superb. A man taking the path directly below the wall appears no bigger than a dot.
Since I have begun a long story about this grand ruin, give me leave to recount a tradition in connection with it. Back in the dark ages the superstitious belief existed in Japan, that in building a castle, to secure the firmness of its foundation a human life should be sacrificed. Usually a person was buried alive beneath one of the walls; some declare the efficacy nullified unless the victim be taken in unawares. The chronicle says, that in conformity to the above belief when the Imabari castle, was being raised a horrible homicide had been committed. At first the authorities were much at a loss in the choice of a proper offering. One day a poor, decrepit old woman, either prompted by curiosity or to beg money of the men, approached the work; little did she dream her life was in peril; in an instant a sagacious magistrate solved the problem. The signal nod from him, and the castle-builders fell upon the crone and, amid her screams, struggles, entreaties, stoned her to the earth. Henceforward, it is said, in the dead
silence of the castle at night a faint, pitiful cry, now drowned in the soughing storm outside, now audible in the dreadful pause, echoes from under the ground. I had the precise spot pointed out to me; it lies in the centre of all the outlying bulwarks; in passing it I always felt a thrill steal through me, and turned that corner at a greater angle than I would an ordinary corner, with the intention of keeping my feet off the buried bones.
In those tyrannical days of feudalism the samurais presumed much upon the commoners of the town. They not only laid claim wrongly to their personal property, but also regarded their lives as of no importance. The samurai always carried two swords by his side, one long and one short, to arbitrate right and wrong in altercations. Blades tempered by certain smiths were particularly esteemed; and in order to test the cutting edge, he would lie in wait nightly at a street corner for a victim. An innocent passer-by was ferociously attacked and, unless he could defend himself, was wantonly slain. Such outrages actually occurred in places; people, forthwith, seldom stirred abroad nights. Heaven be thanked, those savage times are gone forever; the street-lamps light every nook and corner, and the police guard the safety of the citizen,
My mother is fond of parties and young people and their keen appreciation of pleasure; my father is of a far different turn of mind; he has his happiest moments in smoking leisurely, in manipulating the fishing-rod and line, under the shielding pinetree, by some quiet river-bank, or in hunting out edible mushrooms in the mountains. He is a respectable, practical Izaak Walton; quaint ripples of smile pass across his face as the nibbling fish gives his line a tantalizing pull; he helps me bait, he teaches me when and how to make sure of my spoil, for many a victim hangs to the hook just long enough to rise out of water, glitters transiently in the sun and thrills one with joy, and then decides, undeceived, to reject the dainty morsel: there rises an ever widening, ever receding circle on the still liquid surface, a golden flap of the tail, and the fish is invisible, leaving one despondent. I liked mother's and sisters' company, but also appreciated father's soothing, restful influence. At the simple repast in the open solitary scene of the field and stream, after angling all the morning, he said little; yet the expression of calm enjoyment and honest humor on his face brightened his companion. Those were delightful
times; I have the scene at this moment before my mental eye:-the broad beach of white sand surrounding the cove, where the river meets the sea, with a lonely stork standing on one leg in shallow water; the briny odor from the sea, and the fresh scent from the meadow; the sighing pines overhead and the turbulent water at the stone abutments of the bridge; the sunny blue sea beyond the sand-bar, studded with white sails; a huge cloud of smoke swaying landward, rising from the distant brick-yard; and in the grayishblue background the silhouette of a grove and knoll, whereon a wayside shrine stands.
"See what you can do about here," says my father, taking in his line, "I shall follow the river up and find if they bite." He turns his back and disappears and reappears among the scrub oaks and stunted willows that fringe the margin. I stay where I am like a good son; but being no more successful than before, and bored and wishing company, after a reasonable lapse of time, I find myself going after my father. Upon finding him quietly seated under some protruding tree, beneath whose mirrored branches and near whose knotty root the water darkens in a pool, I inquire into his success. "No, nothing marvelous," he responds gently, gazing dreamily across the river, yet wary with the fish that "cometh as a thief in the night." I take the liberty of lifting the lid of his basket and peep at the contents; a large trout disturbed by the jar I gave it, snaps violently—I let down the lid instantly at that-and then it lies exhausted, working its jaw in anguish for water.