Prince Sagaritsu’s Patriotism: A Story of the Japo-Chinese War

107

Prince Sagaritsu’s Patriotism

A Story of The Japo-Chinese War

I.

Great confusion reigned in the house of the Chinese consul at Yokohama. Servants hurried hither and thither, moving and packing furniture and personal effects, while men and women, both Chinese and Japanese, crowded about the place. The Japs watched curiously, with a touch of satisfaction, the bustle and stir going on in the house, and gossiped and commented as to how its inmates felt over their forced departure. But the Chinese watched wistfully, painfully, the preparations, and as each load moved away a heavier load seemed to sink on their hearts—-a burden of fear and dread of what was to come.
The imperial declaration of war against China had been published on blood-red paper, and the Chinese consul at Yokohama was about to leave for China.
A young man with dark, piercing eyes, and proud erect form, clad in a brilliant uniform, came rapidly down the street. He appeared excited and nervous, his eyes roved restlessly over the crowd, which made way respectfully for him; the Japanese in their white uniforms apparently recognizing his high rank from his dress, saluted with uncovered head and prostrations.
He asked questions of some of the officers in a low voice, then approached the house as if to enter. Suddenly he appeared to have changed his mind, turned, and walked rapidly away, as swiftly and proudly as he came.
A little farther down the street a Chinaman accosted him. He listened coldly at first, but after a while grew impatient, and from his attitude and gestures showed his dislike and contempt for his companion. Still the Chinaman pleaded on, and, as his eloquence grew with the knowledge of the urgency of his mission, Prince Sagaritsu wavered and faltered.
There were but two courses open to him, and they were opposed to each other. Both had their bitternesses, their sorrow and pain. If he joined in the conflict, truly all honor might await him, who, as a descendant of the immortal house of S———, would be among the leaders. But what were honor, greatness, fame, or glory, if by them he lost those that were dearest to him on earth. And yet it was not fame nor glory he sought, it was not that which impelled him to long to be one of those that were to do something for Japan. Ah! Japan! His eyes gleamed softly as he thought of Japan; for with all the yearning patriotism remarkable in a Japanese he loved his home. Could he choose those who had for many years been as father, brother, and sister—-nay, sweetheart—-to him, who belonged, after all, to that hated race, rather than Japan? No! He would become an object of contempt, not only to others but to himself, were he to abandon his work—-his duty-—for the sake of sentiment. He, too, would join in the conflict. Nay, he must lead. Was he not born a leader of his fellow-men? Why did he linger? Why hesitate?
“Thy master, give him regretful farewells from me, who will ever love and cherish his memory.”
The Chinaman attempted to stay him with further pleading, but in vain, and the two parted—-Prince Sagaritsu with firm, proud tread and eyes that glowed with zeal and enthusiasm, the Chinese secretary with weary, lagging steps.
When a student in China, Prince Sagaritsu had dearly loved Ching Li, the old Chinese mandarin, under whom he had studied and with whose family he had made his home for six years, it being customary in Japan, some years ago, for the higher classes to send their sons to China to be educated. Then it was through Prince Sagaritsu’s influence, on his return to Japan, that Ching received the consulship at Yokohama. He came, bringing with him his family, which consisted of a son and daughter. The latter, having remarkable beauty and being of a sweet and modest disposition, was loved by every one. Prince Sagaritsu had played with her when she was a tiny little girl, and now in her womanhood he loved her.

II.

Over the plains of C———, gliding stealthily through the woods in the darkness of the night, came a squad of Japanese soldiers. Many days and nights they had traveled thus; much ravage and slaughter had been done; helpless bands of Chinamen had been attacked by them, defenseless farmers in their homes assaulted, and small villages ruined. The leaders were cruel and relentless, one of them was reckless. They were not a large body of men—-some five hundred, perhaps—-and could not, so far from their base, have fought the enemy in open battle. But their work was more deadly than any open combat could have been. From village to village they went, attacking the defenseless; for, in most of the smaller towns and villages in this region, knowledge, even of the war, had scarce reached, and they were unprotected and at the mercy of Japanese soldiers.
The moon rose high and red over the soldiery, and cast wild, flickering shadows around them. The night was strangely still and peaceful, scarce a leaf stirred in the trees and bushes that screened the mass of men crouching, gliding, whispering under its shadow, awaiting a band of some two hundred Chinese mandarins, with their wives and servants. Their object? Massacre. The reason? National hatred, grown almost to insanity, duty to the emperor, thirst for blood.
“Sure are you this is the night?” queried one shadow, bringing his horse close to that of another official’s.
“Information by me yesterday received was ‘the next moon;’ and lo, it is here.”
The words were hardly out of his mouth when another put his hand out and, leaning forward, peered through the darkness.
“Hark! Listen!”
A faint muffled sound is heard—-a dull beat, beat, beat. It is the unmistakable sound of sandaled runners. It becomes clearer; it is nearer! In the distance the watchers descry the gleam of a yellow light. It moves slowly; they stand in the deep hush, their swords drawn in readiness. Louder and louder becomes the beat of the runners; brighter and brighter gleams the yellow light, flickering from yellow to red and green, as the expected band approaches nearer and nearer, all unconscious of the lurking danger.
126
Hah! they are at hand!
The silent mass of men among the trees become quick, alert, flying figures. They spring out from the shadow into the gray moonlight and fall upon their prey like hungry panthers. Taken by surprise, the Chinese party hardly attempt to defend themselves. Without parley, without remonstrance, only one universal startled cry of terror rings out; then they fall like grass beneath the scythe, and the groans of the dying mingle horribly with the clash of swords, gleaming like tongues of intermittent flame in the glancing flare of the moon.
Only one group is left. They have slipped into the shadow of the friendly trees, the trees which only lately shadowed the enemy. But can they hide from the sharp eye and alert ear of the Japanese? The father grasps the hand of the son. He is wounded and faint. He stumbles, falls, and the crash of his fall among the bushes betrays them. One horseman springs to the ground, and, plunging his sword into the darkness at the fatal spot, knows he has done well, for a groan of agony and the fall of a heavy body answers his stroke. Then he hears a woman weep.

III.

The bloody work is over. The Japanese stand silent, showing scarce a sign of fatigue after their awful work. They await the command of their leader—the one who fancied he heard a woman weep. He is peering into the darkness among the trees. In and out, here and there, among the bushes he is striking with his sword. Suddenly a form dashes into the road, hesitates in front of the mass of men, trembles wildly, then turns to flee. The remorseless sword of a soldier strikes the slight form down, and they fling it back into the bush from whence it had issued. The leader is silent.
“On our way proceed shall we?” they question him; but he bids them wait, as there is no necessity for further secrecy, and after such work, truly they deserve rest.
So they lie and sleep close by the bodies of their victims, calmly and placidly, as only Japanese might.
But their leader is wakeful. He treads restlessly about the dead and sleeping forms. For weeks and months memory has slept. He has forced himself to forget all save the glory of fighting for his country; forced himself to forget that he once knew one who loved him as a son, one who loved him as a brother, and one who—-ah! memory awoke that night. The cry of a woman in the distance brings him memory and remorse. He whispers a woman’s name—-“Ching Jara!”—-and with deep tenderness asks his heart if she is safe? Will he never see her more?
His eye falls on the dead, and once more they gleam with exaltation, but only for a moment; for in his fancy he hears a woman weep, and again memory returns to Jara, little Jara—-tender, gentle, loving Jara—-the Chinese maiden loved so dearly, daughter of a nation he so despises.
Prince Sagaritsu slept none through the night, though he flung himself restlessly on the grass. At the first pale glimmer of dawn he arose to his feet, his mind none the less full of thoughts of Jara because of the departure of the night. He lingered restlessly around the sleeping soldiers, frowning contemptuously on the dead Chinamen. When he turned toward the wood it was with a feeling of intense reluctance and fear. Behind a clump of bushes lay two forms. They were Chinamen, and by their dress and queues he recognized their rank—-that of mandarin; one, an old man on his face, his arms stretched stiffly out on both sides, his long queue, braided with countless silk threads, hanging grotesquely over the front of his head; by his side a youth, his face thickly clotted with blood, and farther away—-Prince Sagaritsu took a step forward and one back. The glimmering dawn grew brighter. He put his hand above his eyes and stared at a prone, disheveled object before him.
Had be been a devout Buddhist he might have called on his gods; had he been a Christian he would have whispered Christ’s name in his awful agony; but he was neither—-a Japanese without a religion save the religion of patriotism and of love, and he stood mute and stared with eyes that saw naught save the rigid, bloody form of Ching Jara.
Then his eyes moved painfully and slowly from her and rested on the forms of the sleeping soldiers. With a cry of intense hatred and loathing he thrust his sword into the nearest sleeper, and the next, and the next, so swiftly that the men awoke but to die. Five he killed; then, almost with one accord, the rest awoke. They found him standing over his victims with bloody sword and bloodless, fierce face, and when he saw the awakened men he stepped back, back to the side of Jara, close by the bodies of her father and brother, and, stretching his hands out, cried aloud with such piercing anguish in his voice that even the cool, merciless Japanese were stirred and stood silent, not one putting out a hand to touch him, he who was a prince of the immortal house of S———, and yet was more wretched than the lowliest serf or coolie.
And the great red sun rose higher in the east, and the trees stretched their quivering arms toward Prince Sagaritsu, and seemed to whisper—-“Fool!”

Contribute

If you'd like to write a headnote for this text (that would be peer-reviewed before publication), please contact the Project Director Mary Chapman to discuss.

Technical Feedback

If you have noticed a bug, typo, or errors on the site or if you have any other feedback, please contact us.

People Mentioned

Jean Lee Cole

Jean Lee Cole is Senior Consultant on The Winnifred Eaton Archive, author of The Literary Voices of Winnifred Eaton: Redefining Ethnicity and Authenticity (2002), co-editor of A Japanese Nightingale and Madame Butterfly: Two Orientalist Texts (2002, with Maureen Honey), and editor of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive (2004). She is Professor of English at Loyola University Maryland.

Greg Murray

Greg Murray is the Director of Digital Initiatives at Princeton Theological and has a MA in Literature and Religion from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Ethan Gruber

Ethan Gruber is the Director of Data Science at the American Numismatic Society and has an M.A. in Art and Architectural History from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

John Ivor Carlson

John Ivor Carlson is the Digital Production Editor at Yale University Press and has a PhD in Medieval Literature from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Jolie Sheffer

Jolie Sheffer is Associate Professor in English and American Culture Studies and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at Bowling Green State University. She was a research assistant on the original Winnfired Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Jordan Taylor

Jordan Taylor is a teacher of Upper School Humanities, advisor, and UPenn Mentor at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. He has a M.A. in English Literature from University of Virginia. He assisted in the development of the original Winnifred Eaton Digital Archive created by Jean Lee Cole.

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/mchapman/.

Organizations Mentioned

American Home Journal

Illustrated monthly periodical that featured sheet music in each issue. The precursor to Conkey’s Home Journal (both published by the W.B. Conkey Co. based in Chicago, IL), American Home Journal was only in print from 1897-8.
Written by Samantha Bowen

Published