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THE THREE DEVILS
A pirate bold of a galleon old
In the trough of the tropic sea,
With a swarthy crew aroam for loot,
A buccaneer and a ruthless brute,
Is the lawless life for me.
With a yo, ho, ho! and a brandished blade
Here’s a toast to the jolly rover!
A braver lad ne’er bussed a maid
Than he, the wide world over.
As we plunder ingots of sunken gold,
And drink of the life so free
Of a pirate bold on a galleon old,
In the trough of the tropic sea,
After BERTON BRALEY
THE Pirate stood before me, as ugly a brute as has ere been my ill fate to encounter.
Slit eyes, lewd and suspicious, leered above his shapeless nose; the moustachios of an angry cat bristled above his cruel, sensual lips; and swine’s jowls sagged in folds of fat beneath his brutal chin.
His mighty paunch girt by a leathern baldric was draped in a soiled Mandarin robe, revealing beneath its folds the boots of a samurai. In his hairy hand he brandished a bared blade.
Such was the formidable figure that met my gaze as I straightened from salute.
“Flames of Fudo! what have we here?” he thundered. “A fugitive from justice who seeketh passage in thine honourable galleon,” I faltered.
“Bowels of Bishamon!” he bellowed, “thou darest to seek the ship which all men flee?”
“Is not this the galleon of Mendez Pinto?” I demanded.
“By all the demons the junk is mine. I slaughtered its filthy crew, save Pinto whom I spared to work the guns.”
My jaw fell in consternation. “Thou art Kosenya, King of the Pirates!” I stammered.
He laughed contemptuously.
“Thou blind puppy, thou sucking pig, what crime couldst thou commit?”
“I slew a bully in a quarrel,” I shrugged, “and am like to slay another an thou mendest not thy manners.”
“The bantam cock can ruffle his crest,” he grinned, “mayhap his spurs will grow.”
“Meanwhile Mate, since we are short-handed, shackle him to the captive.”
They dragged me aft, where, chained to the wheel, Pinto bent to his task, great beads of bloody sweat trickling from a gash on his forehead.
He regarded me curiously. “Methinks the devil tricked himself, when he made thee pirate,” he smiled, noting my samurai attire.
“As pretty a pirate as thou,” I retorted, “for if thy doublet were less tattered one might think thee a Seignior.”
“A Seignior am I in sooth,” he bridled. “Let any say that Fernando Mendez Pinto, lord of two castles in Portugal, and erstwhile Captain of this vessel, is no gentleman and I will slit his lying tongue.”
“First let us slice the Pirate,” I suggested suavely.
“Good!” he cried, “thou art a lad after mine own heart. Remain with me and I will make thy fortune.”
“Prate not of fortune,” I protested, “hut contrive some scheme whereby we may escape from this den of devils.”
“That will I,” he assented, “but ere I go, Kosenya shall pay me well for his treachery.”
Then he told me of an isle called Calempuy, where seventeen kings had been entombed in golden sarcophagi, filled with treasure and gems innumerable.
“Thither we shall sail,” he laughed, “to plunder this golden loot.”
After long questing we sighted the treasure isle. Through the dim dawn-mist the wind brought a scent of flowers. A parakeet winged by with a mournful screech. A purplish blur darkened the horizon, glowing slowly with the sun.
“Ylha Encantada, the Enchanted Island!” exclaimed Pinto.
A drift of white butterflies, fluttering seaward, folded their weary wings and fell like snow-flakes on the deck.
We anchored the galleon and beached our boats on a palm-fringed strand, beyond which the temple walls glinted jasper and jade in the shimmering sunlight; then plunged into a dusky forest where mossy creepers trailed from writhen limbs and wan, white orchids outstretched their beckoning fingers. Myriad birds of lustrous plumage chanted within the bosky gloom, and winged from palm to palm like flying flames. Monkeys stoned us with cocoanuts and scurried chattering to the tree-tops.
At length we came to a goodly avenue guarded by great green monsters leading to the golden temple.
Its dim interior gleamed with gold and gems through rifts of drifting incense. We fell to our ruthless task, rifling the shrines and looting tombs, tearing tiaras, crowns, and necklaces from the mummied bodies till we had laden the boats to the gunwale.
Returning for a last foray a blare of pipes and cymbals smote upon our ears, as a wedding procession wended to the temple.
On seeing us the bridegroom advanced and greeted Kosenya courteously. Behind him stood the bride, smiling timidly and clasping a rude doll, in token that her child-life was ended.
Drawn by her beauty I ran to the little bride: “Ware thee!” I whispered, intent to save her from Kosenya.
Tossing me an azalea blossom: “My name,” she smiled winsomely.
Suddenly, without warning, Kosenya discharged his pistol in the face of the bridegroom, who fell wounded to the death. A volley rang from his followers, as the amazed Koreans sprang upon us with spears and axes.
Thinking to bear her to safety I caught up the bride; but, misinterpreting my action, the frantic natives tore her from my arms.
Back to the beach they drove us inch by inch. A lance bit my shoulder and my temple bled from a slingshot.
Grasping the gunwale of a boat I strove to push off, but a burly Korean tripped me and I fell heavily to the strand.
Kosenya and his cut-throats with arquebus, pistol, and cutlass, charged in a demoniac onrush. Yelling and cursing they slashed, hacked, and thrust, fighting the Koreans into the sea.
As I staggered blindly to my feet all was a chaos of naked writhing men. Mistaking me for a native a pirate gripped my throat in an iron vise. After a mighty tussle I threw him off and, plunging into the sea, struck out blindly for Pinto’s voice. Then darkness fell over me till a hand drew me from the water.
“Did the maid win free?” I demanded eagerly.
Pinto shook his head sorrowfully. “She might have escaped had she not clung to her husband’s body, but Kosenya bore her to the ship and flung her senseless into his cabin.”
Drunk with sake the crew fell to singing and capering like maniacs. In sooth there were but three sober men upon the ship; Pinto, a little lascar, and myself.
The galleon rode before a light breeze over a satin sea. One by one the pirates sank into sodden slumber.
Suddenly a heartrending scream broke the stillness. Little deeming the fate that lurked in the silent shadows Kosenya came from the cabin. Going to the mast he took down the cat-o’-nine tails with which he was wont to lash mutinous sailors.
My head swam as I realized that he would flog the maid into submission.
With a bound I was upon him and drove my dirk through his flabby throat.
Groaning piteously he sank in a huddled heap. Seizing his pistols I dragged him to the bulwarks and flung him headlong in the sea.
“Azalea,” I cried, “thou art free,” but she gave no answer.
Covering the lascar with a pistol I commanded him to unshackle Pinto, who cried out in amaze:
“Where is Kosenya?”
“In the depths of hell,” I muttered, whereat he flung his arms about me and laughed like a child.
Surpassing fair she seemed, the light of a lantern glinting upon the bridal tiara crowning her blue-black hair.
A trustful smile gleamed from her fawn-like eyes and a faint flush flooded her cheeks, as she sank upon her knees pressing her forehead to the floor:
“August Lord, thou didst slay that monster,” she murmured. “Forever shall I be thine humble slave.”
“Nay, thou shalt be my little daughter,” I smiled, enraptured by her elfin beauty. She was but a mere child, exquisite as a humming-bird, in her dainty broidered robes and jewelled ornaments.
When I proposed returning to her own country she shook her head with a wistful smile which I could not fathom.
She pattered about the ship the spoiled pet of all on board. Even gruff Pinto returned from the forests, his arms laden with orchids which he suspended in cocoanut shells from the cabin roof, making a bower of beauty.
In the evening she would sing ditties to the accompaniment of a koto, ‘neath the flowery tropic starlight.
The flower of the sky is the Star
That blooms in the garden of Night.
The star of the earth is a Flower
That flames ever fragrant and bright.
But when with the dawn skies grow clear,
And fadeth the flower of the sky,
The Star of the earth drops a tear
Of the dew from its sorrowful eye.
“Little Flower,” I smiled, “soon shall we come to Nippon, mine own land!”
“The land of my Star is mine!” she echoed.
“Flower of my Heart,” I laughed, “we will drink the nuptial sake; for with all my soul I love thee.”
With the dawn we anchored ‘neath the green-clad hills of Oita.
Here I fell in with an old friend, the youthful daimio Odo Nobunaga, who was afterward to stand us in good stead. He listened eagerly to my converse but little answered, concealing a mort of shrewdness behind his little, slanted eyes. Much he marvelled at our firearms for ne’er before had he witnessed the might of gunpowder.
When, upon a hunt, I despatched a wild boar he was filled with admiration; and his delight knew no bounds as I courteously presented him with my arquebus. Methinks he foresaw how by that same “Devil’s Dust” he would one day overcome the Fighting Monks. But of this in due time. Suffice it to recount that he purchased our cargo for many times its value, paying therefor in good gold bullion.
Longing for Azalea I took my leave and hastened to the harbour.
A vague foreboding oppressed me as I noted that the crew were already hoisting sail.
I sprang into a sampan urging the boatman to his utmost. By dint of great effort we breasted the breakers and gained the ship. Catching a rope I swung myself to the deck, only to be confronted by the threatening gun of Kosenya.
The arquebus blazed! The flash scorched my eyes, a ball grazed my scalp, and I fell unconscious on the deck.
A sharp lash of the cat brought me to my senses, as, my wrists triced to the mast, I winced under the ruthless blows of the Pirate.
“So, thou didst think to slay me,” he laughed, “to steal my ship and my mistress!” — driving home each word with a lash. “Ne’er shalt thou behold her more, for I sold her to a tea-house!”
Pinto lay bleeding in the scuppers, bound hand and foot and gagged with a thole-pin. Kosenya kicked him into unconsciousness and only refrained from killing me for the pleasure of seeing me suffer.
This living death dragged on for days. Taunted, flogged, starved, I suffered the tortures of the damned. Nor was my physical suffering to be compared with the mental anguish which ceaselessly beset me. Day and night I was haunted by the eyes of Azalea looking upon me with pitiful reproach. My heart was rent with fear lest she had suffered some nameless fate, and my conscience lashed me with whips of remorse. I longed to grip Kosenya by the throat and wrest his evil soul from his loathsome body; but the Pirate read my purpose in my eyes and stood ever on his guard.
It was the lull between Monsoon and Trades.
The heat became intense. There was no wind. The sails drooped limply from the spars. The sea shone in blinding calm.
Drop by drop the water dwindled, till we were driven to slake our thirst with the death-giving brine.
Then broke out a deadly pestilence, spreading like wild-fire through the death-doomed ship. One by one the plague-stricken mariners perished and we gave them to the sea.
Pinto lingered between life and death murmuring paternosters. Kosenya lay in his cabin swearing oaths foul and blasphemous.
At last I was stricken. Barbs darted through every nerve of my body. My throat was a raging furnace, my brain a flaming Bedlam. I lay on the deck shivering and burning by turns, watching sharp-finned sharks disporting in the green and purple sea. Then delirium fell upon me. I fell down an unfathomable gulf, down, down, unendingly. I dreamed that the eternal waters closed above me and prisoned me in hell.
It seemed to my disordered fancy that the spirit of Azalea rose from the deep in flaming vestments and called me to her rescue. A great gulf of fire yawned between us, across which, upon a bridge of burning coals I ran.
Of a sudden beneath my naked feet the fiery embers became as the velvet petals of a dew-sprent rose. The leaping flames were transformed to fragile lilies, through whose fragrant bloom Azalea peered with a smile of celestial peace, murmuring tenderly:
“Through death to life; through bitter strife to love
unutterable; through winter night to ceaseless light and
bliss beyond believing.”
I dreamed that she had gone the unknown way, whence there is no returning.
“Within his eyes abides celestial light”
(“Arabia, Egypt and India,” by Isabella Burton)
She walks the high, untrodden ways
Where dwelleth all delight.
Fair as a star her lovesome face
A-gleam upon the night.
Tier petaled lips like roses were.
Smiles blossomed in her eye,
A breath of music followed her
As she fled swiftly by.
Since when in loneliness I wait,
Unwitting how or why;
And knock upon the door of fate
‘Neath a relentless sky.
But ne’er again her starry grace
Will greet my eager sight;
She walks the high, untrodden ways,
Where dwelleth all delight!
Then all was still save for the babbling of a hidden brook whose welcome waters laved my brow with cool, refreshing streams.
The rain, the blessed rain had come!
I drew in deep breaths of healing and slept the sleep of a child.
With sunrise the storm ceased. A sapphire sky gleamed through swirling draperies of mist. A light breeze had arisen, but there was none to hoist the sagging sails.
Presently I heard a rhythmic beat of oars throbbing nearer and nearer, then voices raised in altercation:
“Go not on board, Father, I beseech thee, the ship is accursed!”
“I follow my Master who descended even into hell to seek and to save,” replied a resolute voice.
A calm, angelic face bent over me, a strong but gentle hand caressed my brow; and yet I knew that it was no vision, for my delirium was past though I was still so spent I scarce could speak.
With what little strength I could muster I warned him: “Touch me not, Father, for I am stricken of the plague!”
“Nay,” the priest protested, “the Lord hath called thee to new life, for the former things have passed away.”
Out of life’s dread and melancholy gloom,
Like falling star-dust in the silent night
Lighting its darksome vasts for our delight,
Springeth a stainless flower of perfect bloom.
The glint of dawn is on his knightly plume,
Within his eyes abides celestial light,
His lips breathe Faith, seen with eternal sight
That fears not death nor dust of earthly tomb,
Nor doubt nor pain he knows, nor vain desire.
Scorning life’s little lusts, his spirit free
Treadeth ethereal pathways passionless,
Greeting the unseen goal with fearlessness,
His heart a quenchless flame of living fire,
Lit from the altar of eternity.
Again I slept, how long I know not, and waking gazed about me in amaze. I lay in a sunny, white-walled chamber, through whose open archways I caught a glimpse of a palm-shaded cloister. A line of snow-white pallets stretched away in endless vista, and black-robed monks, with noiseless tread, ministered gently to my needs.
It was the hospice of Malacca, built upon a rock-bound islet for the succour of the shipwrecked.
Here, like an angel of mercy, there came to me each morning the blessed Father Francis. To the tenderness of a maiden he united the valour of a knight. Like a young staghound he was spare and clean of limb. Slender, strong, and wiry, a stranger to sloth and ease. The little lusts of life for him had no appeal. The pomp of courts, delusions of wine, witchery of women, delights of the table all were naught. Only the vision of the spirit realized in service was to him the very breath of life.
His thin, firm lips and placid, lofty brow proclaimed the anchorite; but the flaming eyes and square-cut jaw betokened a relentless will that knew neither fear nor defeat.
To him I confessed my broken life and great dismay. With loving patience he comforted me, promising forgiveness through repentance.
I confided my love for Azalea; how she had loved and trusted me, and told him how my unwitting negligence had compassed her ruin.
“All manner of sin shall be forgiven,” he murmured, “but whoso shall cause one of my little ones to perish it were better for him that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.
“Thou shalt find her,” he promised “and lead her to the light. Thou hast won me for Japan, even as I have won thee for Christ. Thither thou shalt lead me, and together we shall teach.”
After passing my novitiate in the Jesuit College at Goa I took the vow and became a priest.
Kosenya, hypocrite to the core, simulated repentance and became a Franciscan friar, thereafter known as Brother Jude.
One spring morning Pinto came to us with the glad tidings that he was ready to sail, and laden with a cargo of cotton fabrics and leather we embarked for Nippon.
The Spring bath come but still Yamato bears
Her ermine mantle of the stainless snow,
Heaven send us soon the breath of zephyrs low
To melt the nightingale’s melodious tears!
The coast gleamed purple and white beneath its wintry burden. A veil of amethyst shrouded the ancient cliffs, down whose beetling foreheads trickled thin streams of light. The morning sun embroidered their velvet shadows with a myriad glittering jewels. Across the silken sea a toy-like town gleamed, like a willow plate, with tiny streaks of white and blue against mist-wreathed mountains of porphyry and pearl.
My heart swelled with the bursting buds, for somewhere in this flowery isle waited Azalea. Tears of hope welled to my eyes and my lips sang a song of
From town to town I wandered with Father Francis in fruitless quest of Azalea. At last I found a clue: the keeper of a tea-house told me of a Korean geisha, who sang this song:
“And from the memory fades all sense of woe
When to a heart expectant cometh spring!”
Then I knew that this was none other than Azalea. But alas! he had sold her and she had gone he knew not whither.
These tidings rent my heart and well-nigh drove me mad. But Father Francis sustained me in the faith that we would find her.
“Let us forth!” he cried, “for truly I believe the Master will reward his husbandmen.”
As we were nearing the outskirts of Kioto a band of Buddhist bonzes trudged sullenly by.
Black looks they flung us and blacker oaths, nor was this the worst, for of a sudden from behind a hedge a volley of shots blazed forth.
Our coolies took to their heels in consternation as Father Francis fell wounded at my feet.
Leaping from ambuscade three burly ruffians sprang suddenly upon me. I had no weapon but my pilgrim’s staff, but this I let fly so lustily about their heads that the caitiffs drew off apace.
Their leader paused at a little distance and hastily reloading his arquebus sighted it upon me.
Though cloaked and cowled methought I recognized the malevolent features of Brother Jude.
Suddenly a shot rang out, the gun dropped from his hand, and he fled shrieking to the forest as a troop of samurai galloped to our rescue.
Then all was a chaos of plunging steeds and clashing blades.
Having pursued the fleeing bonzes to the forest, where he was unable to penetrate the undergrowth, the leader of the samurai rode up to us and courteously demanded if we had suffered scathe.
“By the Ship of Good Fortune,” he cried, “it is Anjiro! The arquebus thou didst give me hath served thee in good stead!”
With delight I recognized the youthful daimio Oda Nobunaga.
“Of late the monks have grown arrogant beyond endurance,” he flared indignantly. “There are three things I can scarce control: the throw of the dice, the waters of the Kamagawa and the monks of Hiei-zan! But I will humble their pride.
“Noble Seignior,” I proffered, “mayhap it is in my power to aid thee.”
“How?” demanded Nobunaga eagerly. “Hast thou brought the Devil Dust wherewith we may send them to Hell?”
“Nay,” protested Father Francis, “we bring the peace of God which leadeth unto Heaven.”
“Bah! Religion!” he scoffed, “I would liefer have a vat of Devil’s Dust than all thy paternosters.”
“That will I give thee!” I cried, “for I alone possess the secret formula.”
The first bright clusters of wistaria sway
Their fragile tassels o’er the plashing nil
As comes a lone wild cuckoo from the hill
To thrill my heart with his melodious lay.
The days were bright and balmy, a riot of ceaseless sunshine and cloudless azure skies. From a thousand arbours, purple and white wistaria drooped graceful clusters over brook and pool. Pale pink lotus buds peered shyly forth from great green spatulas, and timid cuckoos quitted wood and mountain to wake the meadows with melodious song.
But my heart was sad with vain longing, for despite incessant questing I could not find Azalea.
Night and day Father Francis toiled throughout the streets of Kioto to seek and to save.
In teeming marts and before tea-houses in the “Flower Quarter,” he lifted up his voice in supplication:
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
From a balcony where a group of glittering geisha postured to the tinkling samisen, a heart-sick Magdalen came and threw herself weeping at his feet.
“Many a lovesome evening did we beguile with lute and psaltery”
Little deeming to whom he spake, Father Francis told her the story of that Mary of the long ago:
“Thy sins,” he said, “are forgiven, for thou hast loved much,” and lifting his hand in blessing, bade her gently, ‘‘Go and sin no more.”
White with anger the owner of the tea-house rushed forth and grasping the trembling girl thrust her brutally within.
Towering to his full height, his eyes blazing with divine wrath, Father Francis cried: “Renegade, open thy doors and let the girl go free! Else shalt thou burn forever in eternal fire!”
Cowering before the dauntless apostle the panderer unbarred.
Revenge fired my heart as I recognized Brother Jude.
“Traitor!” I cried, leaping through the doorway into a gilded banquet-hall.
Clatter of cups, tinkle of samisens, mad laughter, and swish of silken draperies flooded the chamber. Flitting, lancing maidens poured hot sake for drunken guests, while Brother Jude leered motionless and malevolent upon Azalea cowering in terror at his feet.
Snatching a sword from the tokonoma, I swept aside the bystanders and rushed upon him.
“Let me pass,” I shouted while the noisy crowd grew mute.
A sudden slash was his only answer.
I parried and thrust, fencing warily, waiting carefully for an opening. His prowess was well known to the company and they thought to see him spit me at the first onset.
As this expectation was deferred they watched each stroke with bated breath, as steel clashed against steel till sparks flashed from our whirling blades.
Slowly the leer faded from his face and a grim foreboding glazed his shifty eyes. He tried one form of attack after another, for he had mastered all the tricks of Japanese swordsmanship. But he had found his match at last, and knew it. I had learned the Portuguese style of fencing, and my mode of attack bewildered him, for I used the point as readily as the blade.
A tricky feint of his roused my wrath and, forgetting all restraint, I lunged with renewed vigour.
Sweat stood in great beads on his forehead and his breath came in short laboured gasps.
I would not let him breathe but pressed him more and more mercilessly.
Fear glared from his blank protruding eyes.
At last his nerveless fingers relaxed their grip, and, with a sudden parry, I sent his sword flying into the crowd.
A shout from the onlookers acclaimed my victory.
As the caitiff shrank back Covering his face with his hands, I stood unable to strike the death-blow, for a voice rang out:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Father Francis stepped between:
“Go, Jude!” he cried, “but beware to cross my path again.”
He stayed not for a second bidding but bounded through the doorway like a frightened cur.
Father Francis smiled upon me reproachfully:
“My Son, I fear ‘the sword of the spirit’ hath not yet replaced thy sword of steel.”
Ne’er was sinner more devoutly penitent than Azalea. She had been caught in the toils like some poor bird. She had tasted of the cup of pleasure and had found it gall.
My heart was filled with a divine joy. I loved her with an affection in which was mingled no unworthy earthly thought. Her presence glorified the dawn and I blessed the tranquil evening. These halcyon days were very near to Heaven.
We journeyed to Hikone, seeking the protection of Nobunaga; who received us with warm hospitality, converting his castle into a chapel and rearing thereon the cross.
Many a lovesome evening did we beguile with lute and psaltery. Azalea was beloved by all, more especially by the children who trooped about her like a brood of pheasants.
“Thou shalt minister to the little ones,” said Father Francis. “The motherless shall find in thee a mother.”
The pearly dewdrops gleam beneath the night
Translucent, pale, and pure, like crystals white,
Then tell me, gentle jewels, truly why,
Your crystal dews, with such alluring hues
Blazon the gold brocade of autumn bright?
Sleep had fallen on the silent forest. The ancient firs towered hoar and holy in the misty moonlight. The flaming tapestry of oak and maple faded to faint brocade of russet rose. Dew dripped from the lacquered branches, streaming in strands of silver down their mossy stems. The velvet shadows gleamed with a myriad lustrous pearls. Silent and sinister loomed the slumbering forest, august, mysterious as death.
Beneath the moonlight we repeated to one another a joyous litany of love:
“Amo te cará,” I murmured.
“Amo te,” she echoed with fluttering lids.
“Semper me amabis?” she questioned shyly.
“Semper, ci solo te,” I vowed.
But, like an unproved knight, I was over-confident in my strength.
“Azalea,” I cried, “I love thee body and soul. God hath made me man and thee woman. Thou dost love me. Thou canst not forswear thyself, my Heart, my Love, my Life!”
She drew back suddenly and buried her face in her hands.
Then it came over me that she shrank not in shame but with the sorrow a mother feels for a wayward child.
“Am I then so base,” she flared, “that I lure thee to sin? Nay, Anjiro, thou hast given thyself to me, I give thee back to Christ!”
“Soul of my Life,” I pleaded, “for me there is no I leaven save thy love!”
“Thou wouldst love me not,” she chided gently, “should I yield to thy desire.”
And in my inmost self I knew that she spake sooth.
“I have lost all, all,” I moaned. “Christ have pity on me!’’
Clasping her hands in prayer she whispered, “Grieve not, Beloved, he will take thee to his heart.”
Beyond the tranquil blue of Lake Biwa loomed a mighty mountain upon whose beetling cliffs frowned he monastery of the warrior monks of Hiei-zan.
From his fortress of Hikone the Regent frowned back, angered by their surly insolence.
“They roar through the city,” cried Nobunaga, “like the Kamagawa in flood. ‘Twas all my guards could do to beat me passage with the flat of their swords. Belike soon these lawless knaves shall feel the blade.”
“Aye, Master,” I assented. “Time is to burn this nest of hornets.”
“Even now,” he answered, “go I to take counsel with the Emperor, for they threaten to burn his palace else he yield them ransom.”
One evening, as I moored my boat and mounted to the castle, there broke from the forest such a flood of melody that I was smitten with foreboding.
It was the sad, sweet song of
Like silent samurai the cedars loom,
Lifting their serried lances to the light,
About the moonlit pool where iris white,
Wan little ghosts in shadowland a-bloom
And lotus pale the fragrant dusk perfume;
While from the forest near with fond delight
The nightingale pours forth unto the night
Its love-sweet ecstasy of joyous doom.
Elusive sound-flowers, waning fast to death
Like wind-blown blossoms in the sunless sky,
Brief as an evanescent thought, an idle breath;
Thus vanisheth life’s summer-dream of vain delight:
A little gleam of love, of beauty, bliss,
Then endless darkness blind as winter night.
Suddenly from the shadow of the cedars a cowled figure advanced to meet me. He lifted his hand in blessing and I recognized Father Francis. He gazed upon me with a look of such infinite sympathy that I trembled ere he spake.
“My Son, “ he faltered, “strengthen thine heart to bear a great sorrow. Azalea—”
“Tell me not,” I implored, “that she is dead!”
“Not dead, but lost,” he answered sadly. “Seeking her at the chapel I found the children weeping instead of playing as is their wont. Then they told me the ill tidings that Azalea had been carried away by a band of horsemen.”
“This is Jude’s work,” I cried, and ran to the stables.
As I sprang to saddle, Father Francis gave me a sword:
“The time bath come, my Son, to gird the sword of steel!”
When I reached the “Flower Quarter” to my astonishment I found the tea-house deserted. The great doors of the banquet-hall were barred. The firefly lanterns swung no longer from the eaves. As I paced to and fro in bewilderment I perceived, upon the pavement, ,i little golden flower, a fragment from the tiara of Azalea.
I crossed the street. A faint light flickered through the shoji. Suddenly a woman’s shadow flitted across and I heard the plaintive murmur of a lute.
Aglow with hope I threw wide the shutters and made my way into the dim interior. Softly I tiptoed from one deserted chamber to another, whither I knew not, in fruitless quest of my beloved.
Of a sudden the earth yawned beneath me and I fell. Down, down I hurtled, through fathoms of pitchy darkness, as it seemed a lifetime, till I landed, bruised and bleeding, in the noisome slime of a cistern, an oubliette where many a wretch had been cast to rot in filth and darkness.
How long I lingered there I know not, save that at last I was awakened by a clamour of voices.
A lantern was lowered and I discerned, peering down upon me, a ring of ghostly faces. A gruff voice bade me grasp a rope and I was drawn, spent but exultant, to the light of day.
Then the slit eyes of Jude leered upon me in malevolent triumph, and I knew my hour had come!
“So my bait lured thee,” laughed Jude, “this should teach thee that the way of sinners leadeth to hell!”
“Have a care, Hypocrite,” I cried, “thine insolence will not go unpunished.”
“Look not to Nobunaga for aid,” he muttered; “soon shalt thou be beyond his power. Meanwhile, keep a civil tongue in thy head lest it be torn from thy caitiff throat.”
Whereupon his minions bound, gagged, and cast me helpless into a bullock-cart, and, covering me with straw, lumbered from the city.
At the barrier I heard a samurai bid the wardens keep careful watch in quest of a certain Krishitan priest whom the Buddhist bonzes had secretly spirited away.
Whereat the guard prodded the straw with his halberd, but, strive as I might, I could make no outcry.
Then he turned to interrogate a band of monks, and Jude lashing the bullocks, we jolted on our way.
I heard the laughter of the bonzes as they overtook us, and learned that they were bearing me to the Monastery of Hiei-zan.
The roads were a quagmire of pools and ruts, and so shaken was I by my fall that I feared each jolt would be my last. After hours of tedious plodding the bullocks halted, I heard the clang of portcullis, a rattle of bolts and screaming of hinges; the cart jolted a pace or two farther then, heaving out its load of straw, I tumbled suddenly forth.
Massy walls frowned on every hand, a great keep towering black against the rising sun. Stern, mailed warriors scowled down upon me from tile-roofed parapets. It was the fortress of Hiei-Zan.
“So this is the knave who hath the secret,” blurted the truculent Abbot. “Verily there are three devils:
Gunpowder, Christianity, and the Portuguese, and in the first only have I faith. Therefore deliver to us thy formula.”
“Nay, of thy courtesy, gentle Sir, I have it not,” I asseverated truly.
“Hast searched the lying rogue ?“ demanded the Abbot unconvinced.”
“Of a surety,” shrugged Brother Jude, “but found naught.”
“Trouble me then no further, but behead him forthwith!”
“Nay, reverend Father,” protested the other, “let not the secret perish with him. Perchance, an he willeth, he may recall the formula to his mind.”
“Lead him to the torture-chamber,” smiled the Abbot. “Twill jog his flagging memory.”
I eyed my inquisitors calmly. They were men who knew neither pity nor remorse, but I vowed within my heart that neither rack nor crucifixion should wrest from me my secret.
Lighting a link from a cresset, Jude led me down a slimy stairway to the bowels of the fortress, where, unbolting an iron-studded door, he thrust me into a vaulted dungeon.
A fire glowed in a furnace, the floor was littered with crucibles, and the air reeked with noisome stenches.
For days I laboured in this inferno, sleeping on the dank earth, nor ever passing that bolt-studded door.
I had hoped to gain time by a pretence that I was wildered in my wits, but Jude fathomed that subterfuge and flogged me piteously.
This only served to rouse my spirit. Each lash the malefactors rained on my bleeding shoulders strengthened my resolve never to reveal my precious secret.
As my torturers heated their irons at the forge, a battle-hymn of the spirit rang within my ears, heartening my courage to endure.
The Sword of the Soul
Forged in the furnace flame of Life
The sword-blade gleameth white,
Beneath the bludgeonings of strife
Reverberant and bright.
The stern artificer of years
Tempers youth’s ardent fires,
Within Truth’s well of joy and tears,
Made free from base desires.
Thus shall our souls, through slow anneal,
Within Fate’s furnace cast,
Beneath Time’s tireless sledge reveal
Life’s flawless steel at last.
Each day I suffered a fresh ordeal: lashed, burned, and racked until I prayed that death might end my misery.
Meanwhile Jude strove feverishly to fabricate the Devil’s Dust, mingling various compounds of sulphur and saltpetre, in a vain hope of discovering the secret.
One day a youth entered bearing a pannier of charcoal, which he threw carelessly upon the floor.
Jude glared in astonishment at the black dust, struck by its resemblance to gunpowder. Of a sudden the conviction dawned upon him that this was the missing ingredient.
Clutching a handful, he flung it into the mortar and pounded furiously. A blinding flash illumined the laboratory, shaking the walls and filling the chamber with a smother of lurid smoke.
Scorched and blackened, frantic with fiendish delight, Jude danced and sang like a raving maniac. He had found the secret formula!
Nor was I ungrateful for his discovery. My torture was ended, though now, I thought, in all likelihood will he slay me since I am no longer of use.
But in this I was mistaken. Commanding me to store the powder in a vault outside the monastery walls, he committed to me the task of excavation.
The course of this subterranean gallery lay beneath the gate-tower. I could hear the guard laughing and singing above me as I worked, and determined upon my plan of escape.
Day and night I descended and, little by little, dug a tunnel to a grove on the shore of the lake.
Many weary days I laboured thus, scarce stopping to sleep or eat. Having no sure means of judging the distance I delved on until I encountered a thick tangle of roots; then burrowing upwards to the air, I beheld with delight the full moon shining through the pines.
I turned to cast a last glance behind, when suddenly, at a barred window in the topmost tower, I saw Azalea. Well it was I had not known this before, else should I have gone mad, for I could not have rescued her, nor could I now without an army at my back. But I thought of Nobunaga and laughed aloud as I planned a means for her deliverance.
Hastening back to the magazine I emptied sack after sack of gunpowder beneath the gate-tower and laid a fuse therefrom along my secret tunnel to the outlet; then sped through the forest to the lake.
A lone fisherman with a flock of cormorants was plying his curious craft. Drawing in his greedy fowls he gave me an oar, and in the misty moonlight we sculled silently across the lake.
The mighty castle of Hikone bristled with warriors, and the broad champaign teemed with a myriad horsemen eager for the fray. Nobunaga was rejoiced beyond measure at my miraculous deliverance.
I told him of Azalea’s imprisonment, and of my plan to capture Hiei-zan.
“Go back,” he commanded, “burst asunder the gates. At dawn I will attack the fortress!”
Disguised as a fisherman I oared across the lake, crept through the wood, and came to the hidden way. To my consternation the tunnel was blocked by a pile of stones!
I believed my plan foiled, until after many moments of digging I found the fuse undisturbed.
Striking a flint I ignited the end, and a fiery serpent hissed swiftly along the ground.
Suddenly the barbican rose in a blinding shaft of fire, with a shock that seemed to shatter the universe, and a pall of soot-black clouds shrouded the sky.
Then a great bell boomed. Shrieks of terror rang from the panic-stricken monks as the samurai of Nobunaga rushed to the assault. Through the smouldering ruins of the barbican burst the mailed warriors thrusting with pike and halberd, slashing with sword and axe; while, heedless of the foe, in flaming vestments the half-burned inmates staggered blindly forth and fell writhing upon the ground.
Warrior-monks poured from archways and shot from arrow-slits. For a space they fought desperately, then, overpowered by the ever-increasing numbers, fled up burning stairways through toppling galleries, out upon the battlements whence they leapt, only to be dashed in fragments upon the stones.
Foremost in the panic-stricken mob I caught sight of Jude fleeing for his cowardly life, leaving Azalea imprisoned a prey to the relentless flames.
And ever the merciless samurai of Nobunaga poured ceaselessly in, putting all to sword and flame. Through underground burrows they ferreted their fleeing foes, slaughtering them like rats in their holes.
Of a sudden, at a loop-hole in the topmost tower, her arms outstretched in appeal, I beheld Azalea, wreathed in a ring of flames.
I leaped over the smoking threshold into the blazing furnace. Up the burning stairway I hurried till I came to a bolted door.
“Azalea,” I cried. “Unbar; ‘tis I, Anjiro.”
But she gave no answer.
Putting forth all my strength I wrenched the door from, its hinges, as the stairway crumpled behind me and was swallowed in a well of fire.
With a joyous cry I lifted Azalea in my arms and ran with her to the window.
Seizing the lattice I wrenched it from its fastenings; and grasping Azalea by the wrists lowered her until her feet touched the tile roof of the story below. Then, using the window-lattice as a ladder, I climbed cautiously down.
A cheer rang out as the samurai of Nobunaga watched us from the court.
The tower terraced beneath us, each roof of its seven nones jutting out beyond the one above. My ladder was just long enough to reach from one gable to the next. Along the tiles we crept, clambering down the ladder, from eave to eave, until we reached the lowest cornice.
Below us yawned a sheer wall of masonry full fifty feet above the court!
I paused aghast, to leap would be certain death! But even as I hesitated a tongue of flame lapped the parapet.
Clasping her hands about my neck, Azalea buried her face in my bosom:
“Leap!” she cried, “into the great unknown.” Raising her above me, I leaped backward that my body might break the shock of her fall.
But lo! ‘Twas not to death.
We lay cradled safely in a net, which the samurai of Nobunaga held beneath us. Their cheers rent the air as the great keep toppled suddenly in, throwing up a volcano of flame into the very heavens.
First wee snowflakes white
On the lily lending,
Their frail freight so light
Scarce its petals bending.
Thus musing, I culled a lily for the altar; then, glancing at the belfry, noted that the lantern was not displayed, and, seeking the old sexton, I reproached him for his remissness.
“Father,” he pleaded, “strange rumours are abroad. ‘Tis said the cruel Hideyoshi hath come to enforce his edict against the Christians. Shall I light the wolf to the sheepfold?”
“Our Shepherd will care for his flock,” I answered, as with shaking fingers he set the tapers aglow.
A step rang upon the pavement and I beheld a man cloaked in a fisherman’s straw raincoat who entered the chapel and disappeared within a confessional. Pondering who this stranger-penitent might be I followed and knelt within the curtained alcove.
“My Son,” I asked, “hast thou some secret sin whereof thou wouldst ease thy conscience?”
“Sins a-plenty,” he replied, “but not that of deserting a friend in peril.”
Then with a thrill of pleasure I recognized the voice of Pinto.
“Come forth, Sinner,” I cried, “that I may embrace thee!”
“By your leave we will deem embraces exchanged, and bide in hiding,” he whispered cautiously.
“Art thou in peril, Friend?” I questioned.
“Nay, Anjiro, ‘tis thee I have come to warn. Jude came on board my ship today and offered to betray to me the citadel of Nagasaki. He maintained that thou wast in the plot; but well I knew he lied. I kicked him from my deck as a scurvy traitor, and have it upon my conscience that I slew him not.”
“Tis like the rogue,” I mused, “but how can this avail since his plot hath failed?”
“Listen, Friend,” he resumed, “Hideyoshi hath commanded all Christians to leave Japan on pain of death. There are but two courses: to fight or flee; in which shall I aid thee?”
“In neither, faithful comrade,” I made answer.
“I must not desert my flock. I will betray neither my country nor Christ.”
“Nay, ‘tis not betrayal,” he persisted. “Come with me until this peril be overpast. I will wait by the lighthouse of Hirado until the morrow.”
I wrung his hand warmly but shook my head.
“Fool,” he muttered, yet methought with kindly feeling, “thou shalt still have thy day of grace,” and was gone.
“My day of grace!” I echoed, falling upon my knees.
“Merciful Father, let me not fail!”
Of a sudden I discerned the clank of arms, tread of mailed feet, and roar of wrathful voices. Up the toilsome path trailed a troop of grim samurai, their footsteps dogged by a flock of Christians shaking clenched fists and muttering anathemas.
A skulking form darted swiftly forward and thrust a parchment into the hand of the officer:
“Proof, Captain,” he hissed, “damning proof! Mark the red light within the belfry. Take him to Hideyoshi, his guilt is clear!”
“Judas!” I cried, “thou traitor, wouldst seek to shoulder thy crime upon the innocent?”
He made no answer save a smiling shrug, as the samurai pinioned my arms and led me forth.
The tidings sped like flame. My faithful converts flocked around me by scores, kneeling to kiss my robe. Youths hurled stones and imprecations. Women wailed and beat their breasts. Thus they attended me to the citadel where the samurai clanged the brazen gates in their faces as they thrust me into a dungeon.
A cloudlet white as mountain snows
Blows blithely by,
And whence it comes or whither goes
It scarce knows why:
Till, like an iris aureole,
It melts in sky.
E’en thus, man’s soaring cloud-like soul
Is born—to die!
MINAMOTO NO JUN.
After hours of blind suspense I was at last summoned before the relentless Hideyoshi.
Flanked by two councillors he sat upon a dais, smoking unconcernedly, heeding not my presence as I knelt submissively at his feet.
At length he glared upon me with his loathly, serpent eyes.
“Thou hast not the visage of a murderer,” he muttered. “Why have ye brought this miscreant to me? There is a lower court for thieves and vagabonds.”
“Nay, august General,” protested the Captain, “the prisoner is accused of treason.”
“Ha! this promises well,” smiled Hideyoshi, rapping the hibachi with his pipe. “Let the accusation be read.”
In a perfunctory tone a clerk droned the trumped-up indictment:
“Tis charged that the accused, a notorious pirate, by name Kosenya, cloaking his identity under the alias, Brother Paul of the Evil Sect, hath hatched a vile conspiracy to deliver our Heaven-descended Empire into the hands of King Philip of Spain!”
“Art thou Brother Paul of the Evil Sect?” demanded Hideyoshi.
“By the name of Paul of the Holy Faith am I honoured,” I answered proudly, “but I am innocent of this shameful plot;. Though a Christian I am a true son of Nippon, and would sooner suffer death than sell my country.”
“Enough,” interrupted the General, “we have proofs. Let the scrolls be read.”
“This letter,” explained the Captain, “was found concealed beneath the chapel altar.” Whereupon he read:
“To the Reverend, FATHER PAUL of the Holy Faith:
“Be it known that his Majesty Philip II. King of Spain having duly considered thy petition, hath despatched me with a fleet of armed galleons, to complete the conquest of Japan, which thou hast inaugurated.
“Send runners to all thy churches. Instruct thy people to seize the arsenals and citadels. I will subdue Nagasaki, join thy insurgents in Kioto and the victory will be complete.
“As sign that thou dost consent, within the belfry of thy Church display tonight a red lantern; I will come thither that we may perfect our plans.
“(signed) FERNANDO MENDEZ-PINTO.
“Commander of the Spanish war-galleon San Felipe, and accredited agent of His Majesty Philip II. of Spain.”
“Permission is humbly implored,” I besought, “to I fond myself from this false accusation.”
For answer the guard smote me in the face, bidding me hold my tongue.
Hideyoshi regarded me malevolently: “Dost thou deny knowledge of this letter and that it is the answer to thine own?’’
“I deny both,” I replied firmly.
“Didst thou not signal the Spanish ship with a red lantern?” he thundered, pointing to the belfry, where the light still glowed like a ruby star.
“I displayed the lantern to call my worshippers to midnight mass,” I explained.
“Write that the prisoner doth admit the charge,” commanded the General.
“Dost thou deny that thy fellow conspirator came at thy signal, and that together ye did take counsel concerning the plot?”
“This also I deny,” I maintained stubbornly.
“Are there witnesses to this meeting?” asked Hideyoshi.
The Captain thereupon attested that at midnight he had seen a Spanish officer leave the chapel; that his troops had pursued him to the port, but that he sprang into a sampan and escaped to his galleon.
“Write,” commanded the General, “that the prisoner’s denials have all been proven false.
“Summon the chief witness, the Buddhist bonze — Anjiro!”
I could scarce credit my eyes when, in answer to my name, Brother Jude strode confidently forth.
“Art thou that Anjiro, friend of my late master Odo Nobunaga?” the General demanded.
“Even so,” assented the traitor unabashed.
“Thou art a member of the Evil Sect?”
“Nay, august Lord, when I learned their plot to seize the Emperor through the murder of Nobunaga, I forswore their faith and entered a Buddhist monastery.”
“The artist dipped a brush, poised it between thumb
and forefinger, and with a dexterous fillip hurled
it into the air”
“Write that the testimony of Anjiro is admitted to evidence,” commanded Hideyoshi: ‘‘Recount further the history of the prisoner.”
Whereupon Jude poured forth such a tissue of malicious lies, as made me doubt if he were not Satan incarnate. According to his tale we had completely changed characters. I, as Kosenya, was the scapegoat for his many crimes: First, I had rapt from Korea a princess whom I held as paramour. Second, I had supplied the Monastery of Hiei-zan with Devil’s Dust; Third, I had betrayed Nobunaga to his assassins, and fourth, under the guise of preaching the faith, I had sown sedition throughout the land.
“I have sentenced many a man on less evidence,” smiled Hideyoshi. “Though thou dost merit instant death, yet will I grant thee one last chance.
“Trample upon the cross in token thou dost abjure the evil faith and I will set thee free!”
Jude whispered something in the ear of the General.
“Nay, one more condition,” cried Hideyoshi.
“Renounce forever and deliver into my hands the Korean Princess Azalea! Dost thou consent?”
“Never,” I cried, “were I to suffer an hundred deaths!”
Hideyoshi’s eyes flashed flame, and he muttered a string of foul imprecations. Seeing that I was not to he shaken he resumed:
“Since the criminal persists in denying his guilt, lead him to the torture-chamber! Should he confess, let him be beheaded as a political offender! If he still denies his crime, let him be crucified as a Krishitan before the eyes of his deluded converts, that, as they mark his sightless eyeballs upturned in vain entreaty to a powerless god they may take warning by his fate!”
IN TUAS MANAS
Thou standest at the brink. Behind thee lie
Fair flower-decked meads and rivers of delight,
With reach of verdured hill and valley bright,
Which men call Life. Lo, now before thee nigh
Yawneth an unknown lake of dread infinity!
And, as thou cowerest there in sore affright,
Thou tremblest lest some vague, malignant might
Should thrust thee in the dark abyss to die.
Fear not, within these depths hides Mercy, Friend!
For he who wove the fabric of the wold
Bedecked the darksome pool with blossoms rare.
Plunge boldly in, nor fear the waters cold!
Life’s meadows know not death nor any end
E’en the black mire is white with lilies fair.
Transcribed from The Japan Magazine.
Here endeth the chronicle of Brother Paul. With it I found a letter traced in the blood of his wounded hands.
Abbess of the Bleeding Heart.
Hideyoshi with a band of warriors hath set fourth to sack thy convent.
Disperse thy flock and hasten to the harbour, where thou wilt find my old friend Mendez Pinto, who will convey thee in safety to Portugal.
Tarry not, but flee. On the morrow I shall have gone wither no evil may befall.
And so God give thee grace to endure till thou findest me in Paradise.
When falls from out an ebon clouded sky
The snow’s white petals, fluttering down in showers,
Meseems, somewhere beyond the gloom doth lie
Eternal Spring-tide, bright with festal flowers!
The long, long night was over; in the heavens the stars were paling; a wan luminance whitened the laden sky.
A cock crew, first timidly as if in doubt as to the day, lion confidently with zestful flapping of wings. The hour was rife with rumours, a mystic undertone of vague foreboding wails. Now and again from a distant farmstead came the lowing of cows and bleat of baby lambs. The rose of dawn was bursting into flame.
Then over the purple hills rang clear and sonorous the boom of a mission bell, the Angelus of Brother Paul.
Up the steep path that mounted to the little chapel I wended my eager way. The door was open, the guttering tapers threw their feeble rays upon a formless mass.
Drawing nearer I beheld a cross, shaped like that of Saint Andrew. Upon it, lashed hand and foot, stretched a body transfixed by bloody spears.
On the wan face, uplifted to the dawn, was no trace of fear or agony, only a childlike smile, “the peace that passeth understanding.”
Half buried in the snow at the martyr’s feet crouched a white-faced woman, her hands clasped about the cross in an agony of despair, her glazed eyes turned heavenward in vain appeal.
I strove to raise her, but the frozen limbs refused to move.
“Azalea!” I cried repeatedly, but the wan lips gave no answer.
“In tuas manas, Domini,” I murmured. “The long, long night is over. Thou hast found eternal day!”
My God, I love thee—not because
I hope for heaven thereby:
Nor yet for fear, if I love not,
I must for ever die.
But, O my Jesu, thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace,
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony,
E’en death itself; and all for me
Who was thine enemy!
Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heaven
Nor of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught
Not seeking a reward;
But as thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!
E’en so I love thee, and will love,
And in thy praise will sing;
Solely because thou art my God,
And my eternal King.
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