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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But Nobunaga detected their fallacy


with facts. Thus, when still

a young man, it is related of him that he summoned one of his vassals to his presence but, giving no order, allowed the man to retire. This was repeated with two others, when the third, believing that there must be something in need of care, looked about attentively before retiring, and observing a piece of torn paper on the mats, took it up and carried it away. Nobunaga recalled him, eulogized his intelligence, and declared that men who waited scrupulously for instructions would never accomplish much. The faculties of observation and initiation were not more valued by Nobunaga than those of honesty and modesty. It is recorded that on one occasion he summoned all the officers of his staff, and showing them a sword by a famous maker, promised to bestow it upon the man who should guess most correctly the number of threads in the silk frapping of the hilt. All the officers wrote down their guesses with one exception, that of Mori Rammaru. Asked for the reason of his abstention, Mori replied that he happened to know the exact number of threads, having counted them on a previous occasion when admiring the sword. Nubunaga at once placed the weapon in his hands, thus recognizing his honesty. Again, after the construction of the famous castle at Azuchi, to which reference will be made hereafter, Nobunaga, desiring to have a record compiled in commemoration of the event, asked a celebrated priest, Sakugen, to undertake the composition and penning of the document. Sakugen declared the task
to be beyond his literary ability, and recommended that it should be entrusted to his rival, Nankwa. Nobunaga had no recourse but to adopt this counsel, and Nankwa performed the task admirably, as the document, which is still in existence, shows. In recognition of this success, Nobunaga gave the compiler one hundred pieces of silver, but at the same time bestowed two hundred on Sakugen for his magnanimity in recommending a rival.

Nobunaga unquestionably had the gift of endearing himself to his retainers, though there are records which show that he was subject to outbursts of fierce anger. Even his most trusted generals were not exempt from bitter words or even blows, and we shall presently see that to this fault in his character was approximately due his tragic end. Nevertheless, he did not lack the faculty of pity. On the occasion of a dispute between two of his vassals about the boundaries of a manor, the defeated litigant bribed one of Nobunaga's principal staff-officers to appeal for reversal of the judgment. This officer adduced reasons of a sufficiently specious character, but Nobunaga detected their fallacy, and appeared about to take some precipitate action when he happened to observe the wrinkles which time had written on the suppliant's face. He recovered his sang-froid and contented himself with sending the officer from his presence and subsequently causing to be handed to him a couplet setting forth the evils of bribery and corruption. He forgave the guilty man in consideration of his advanced age, and the incident is said to have closed with the suicide of the old officer. Frugality was another trait of Nobunaga's character. But he did not save money for money's sake. He spent with lavish hand when the occasion called for munificence; as when he contributed a great sum for the rebuilding of the Ise shrines. Perhaps nothing constitutes a better clue to his disposition than the verses he habitually quoted:


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