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Title: A Japanese Blossom
Author: Watanna, Onoto
Language: English
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[Illustration:

  “THEY CALLED ACROSS MERRILY TO EACH OTHER”
]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              _A JAPANESE
                                BLOSSOM_



                                  _by_

                             ONOTO WATANNA


                             ILLUSTRATED BY

                             L. W. ZIEGLER



[Illustration]



                          _NEW YORK AND LONDON
                           HARPER & BROTHERS
                       PUBLISHERS      M-C-M-V-I_


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                 Copyright, 1906, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                         _All rights reserved_.

                        Published October, 1906.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  _TO
                              MY CHILDREN_



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


             “THEY CALLED ACROSS MERRILY TO EACH _Frontispiece_
               OTHER”

             “MARION SAT ON A GIGANTIC                   52
               MOSS-GROWN ROCK, LOOKING ... AT
               THE CHILDREN IN THE FAMILY POND”

             “THE LITTLE WAITRESS BROUGHT HER           170
               SAMISEN, AND ... BEGAN TO PLAY
               AND SING”

             “HE SEIZED HER HAND SUDDENLY IN HIS        226
               OWN AND FELL ON HIS KNEES BEFORE
               HER”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          _A JAPANESE BLOSSOM_



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          _A JAPANESE BLOSSOM_



                                   I


THE children sat in a little semi-circle about their grandmother,
listening intently as she read to them the last letter from their father
in America. Ever since they could remember, his business as a tea
merchant had taken him away from Japan on long visits to the foreign
countries. His latest absence had continued for three years now, and
little Juji—born a short time after his departure—had never seen him.

As the grandmother finished the letter, the children instinctively
looked first of all at Juji, sitting there in placid indifference,
stolidly sucking his thumb. Juji had ceased to be the baby of the
Kurukawa family. Afar off in America a new, strange baby had been born,
and had taken the place of Juji, just as its mother one year before had
taken the place of Juji’s mother, who was dead.

When the old grandmother, with whom they made their home, had gently
broken the news to the children that their father had taken a new wife
from the daughters of America, she had impressed upon them the
seriousness of their duty to their new parent. They must love her as a
mother, revere her as their father’s wife, remember her with their
father in their prayers, and endeavor to learn those things which would
be pleasing to her.

Gozo, who was the eldest of the children—he was seventeen years of
age—set his little brothers and sisters a bad example. He grew red with
anger, allowing himself to be so overcome by his feelings that for a
moment he could not speak. Finally, he snapped his fingers and said, as
his eyes blazed:

“Very well. So my father has put a barbarian in my mother’s place. I
cannot respect him. Therefore I cannot further obey him. _I_ shall leave
his house at once!”

At these revolutionary words, his old grandfather commanded him sternly
to keep his place while he taught him a lesson.

“To whom,” asked the old man, “do you owe your existence, and therefore
your first duty in life?”

The hot-headed boy, who for a number of years had had neither father nor
mother to guide him, answered, immediately:

“To the Emperor I owe my existence and duty, sir. _He_ comes even before
my father. Therefore, in leaving my father’s house to enter the service
of Ten-shi-sama [the Mikado] I am but doing my highest duty.”

The grandfather looked at the flushed face of the young boy.

“You will enlist?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are too young, my boy.”

“I can pass for much older,” said Gozo, proudly.

“You are but seventeen,” said his grandfather, quietly.

The boy’s heart heaved.

“Life would be unbearable here,” said he, “with such a change in the
family.”

“Do not use such expressions before your young brothers and sisters,”
said the grandfather, sternly. “You almost make me think you are unfit
to be an elder brother.”

At this Gozo winced and became pale. He had always been proud of his
position as the young master of the family.

Then his grandmother spoke, and her words reached the heart of the boy.

“Be not rash, my Gozo. Our dearest daughter, your mother, would have
been the first to urge you to filial thought for your father.”

“Grandmother,” cried the boy, “I can’t bear—” He flung his hand across
his eyes as though to hide the tears. Now all the children began to weep
in sympathy with their big brother. Miss Summer, the daughter of their
father’s friend, set up a great wail, declaring between her sobs that
never, never, never could she be induced to wash the feet or be the
slave of a barbarian woman. For Summer, though but twelve years old, was
some day to marry Gozo—so their fathers had said—and in Japan a
daughter-in-law is under the command of the mother-in-law.

By patience and reasoning, the grandparents at last exacted from Gozo a
promise that he would not leave home until his step-mother came to
Japan. It was possible she might never come. Gozo, the proud and
stubborn, sullenly gave the promise. During the months that followed,
however, he seemed greatly changed in disposition. He became studious,
quiet, given to gloomy moods, when he would lock himself up in his room
and brood over what he considered the wrong and insult done to his
mother’s memory. He would have found it hard enough to bear if his
father had married a Japanese woman, but the thought of an American
mother overwhelmed him with dismay. He pictured to his young mind her
influence upon his sisters Plum Blossom and Iris, twelve and eight years
old respectively; in boyish indignation he saw her punishing his little
ten-year-old brother Taro, who could not keep his face and hands clean
nor keep his clothes whole. One night Gozo dreamed he saw his
step-mother in the guise of a hated fox-woman soundly switching with a
bamboo stick his little, fat, baby brother Juji. When he awoke in the
middle of the night to find it only a dream, he got up from his couch,
and, going to where Juji slept, carried him to his own bed. He held the
little, warm body closely in his arms. Juji slept on, and snuggled down
comfortably in his brother’s arms for the rest of the night.

It was the following morning that the letter had come from America
telling of the birth of the new baby. As if this news were not bad
enough, the father, unconscious of the resentment he had awakened,
announced his intention of returning at once to Japan with his wife, the
new baby, and his two young step-children, for he had married a young
American widow.

The children’s faces wore a frightened expression as the grandmother
read the letter aloud. Little Plum Blossom glanced stealthily at her
brother; then suddenly, to the surprise of them all, she spoke up:

“Well,” said she, “Daikoku [god of fortune] is good. He has given us
another sister. _I_ shall make him a great offering this year.”

Iris, who was a mere echo of her sister, ventured a little sing-song
assent.

“I shall make a big offering, too.”

Taro grinned apprehensively in the direction of his moody brother; then
said, defiantly:

“As for me, _I_ shall beat every single day of the honorable year that
barbarian step-brother”; for there was a little step-brother of the same
age as Taro, and the latter, boylike, longed to try his powers upon him.

Gozo ground his teeth together.

“The gods only know,” said he, “what you poor little ones will do. As
for me, I shall not be here to bow to the barbarian. My time has come.
The Emperor needs me.”

“Oh, please don’t leave us, brother,” said Iris, resting her face on his
hand; “I shall die of fear if you are not here to help us defy her.”

“Children, hush!” cried the old grandmother. “Never did I dream I should
hear such words from my children. Ah, had my beloved daughter lived, you
little ones would have had more filial principles.”

“It is not right to distress grandmother,” said Plum Blossom, “and it is
very wrong to speak evil of one we do not even know. I, for one, am
going to—to—love the foreign devil!”

“So am I,” sobbed Iris, still caressing Gozo’s hand, “b-but I shall hate
her if she drives our Gozo away!”

Gozo patted the little girl’s head, but said nothing.

Meanwhile, little Juji’s thumb had fallen from his mouth. For some time
he had been watching in perplexed wonder the expressions upon the faces
of his brothers and sisters. He could not decide in his small mind just
what was troubling them all; but troubled they surely were. The weeping
Iris had finally decided Juji. Plainly something was wrong. The baby’s
lower lip, unnoticed by any one, had gradually been swelling out.
Suddenly a gasp escaped him, the next moment the room resounded with his
cries. When Juji cried, it seemed as if the very house shook. Though not
often given to these tempestuous storms, he seemed fairly convulsed when
once started upon one. He would lie on his back on the floor, stiffened
out. First he would hold his breath, then gasp, then roar. Juji’s crying
could never be stopped until a pail of water was thrown in the face of
the enraged child. This time, however, he became the object of intense
commiseration. The children felt that he had acquired somehow a sense of
their common calamity.

The screaming child was alternately hugged and petted and fanned, until
finally, his fat little legs kicking out in every direction, he was
carried from the room by Gozo. Out in the garden, the big brother ducked
him in the family pond. Kind travellers in Japan have made the
extraordinary statement that Japanese children never cry. Certainly they
could never have heard Juji—and there are many Jujis in Japan, just as
there are in every country.

Juji’s crying fit broke up the little family council for that day, but
he was the only member of the family who slept soundly that night.

The little girls cried softly together, as they whispered under the
great padded coverlid of their bed. Taro was quite feverish in his
imaginative battles with his step-brother.

As for Gozo, he sat up all night long, gazing with melancholy eyes at
the stars, thinking himself the most miserable being on the face of the
earth. He, too, like Juji, needed a little pail of something dashed upon
him, and soon he was to have it!


------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   II


“OH, dear, _how_ I can ever bear this corset!”

Plum Blossom subsided in a little, breathless heap on the floor.

Early in the day both she and Iris had been dressed in their best—a
plum-colored crêpe kimono for little Plum Blossom, and an iris-colored
crêpe one for little Iris. Their hair had been carefully arranged in the
pretty mode at this time fashionable for little girls in Japan. Flower
ornaments glistened at the sides of the glossy coiffures. The
grandmother had regarded them with pride when the maid brought them
before her.

“Certainly,” said she, “your father and mother will be proud to see
you.”

“And _we_ have a great surprise, too, for her,” said Iris, her bright
eyes dancing.

Plum Blossom put a plump little hand over her sister’s mouth.

“Hush! Not even grandmother shall know yet.”

Grandmother smiled knowingly.

“And now,” said she, “can you say all the big English words—you
remember?”

“Yes, yes,” cried Iris, excitedly. At once she began to shout in her
most sing-song voice:

“How de do! Ver’ glad see you two days. Thanzs your healt’ is good. Most
honorable welcome at Japan. Pray seated be and egscuse the most unworthy
house of my fadder.”

Plum Blossom was chanting her welcome before Iris had quite finished.

“Mos’ glad you cum. Come agin. Happy see you. Come agin. Liddle girl,
welcome for sister. Liddle boy, too. Nize bebby! Please I will kees.
So!”

She indicated the kiss by putting a little, open mouth against her
sister’s cheek, leaving a wet spot behind. Iris wiped her cheek
carefully with one of her paper handkerchiefs; then as carefully she
repowdered the spot where her sister’s moist lips had rested.

Ever since their father had been in America, the family had been
learning to speak English. Their teacher was a missionary priest, and
now, at the end of three years, even the smallest child could speak the
language, though imperfectly. In order to obtain fluency, they had made
English the spoken language in the family. The speeches of welcome to
the step-mother were composed: by the grandmother; the children had
learned them like parrots. Madame Sano tapped both of the little girls
on the shoulder and caressed them. Clinging to each other’s sleeves, off
they tripped into the other room, where was the great “secret.” The
secret consisted of a few articles of American attire, which the little
girls had induced a jinrikiman to bring them from Tokio. All of the
money Gozo had left behind for them as his parting gift had been
expended thus. How the boy’s angry heart would have stormed had he known
his little sisters had spent his gift for such a purpose!

Plum Blossom wore a corset outside her kimono. Some one had told her
that this was the most important article of a barbarian woman’s
wardrobe, and the tighter it was the better. So the little Japanese girl
had tied herself by the corset-string to a post. By dint of hard pulling
she had managed to encase her plump form so tightly that she could
scarcely breathe. Iris, with hands clad in large kid gloves, was drawing
on a pair of number five shoes. Her feet were those of the average
American child of seven or eight years. At this juncture Miss Summer
(who being engaged to Gozo was always called “Miss” by the little girls)
opened the shoji and thrust a flushed and excited face between the
partitions. She was six months older than when she had wailed aloud her
determination not to wash the feet of a barbarian mother-in-law, but she
seemed as childish and silly as ever as she came tittering into the
room, an enormous straw hat, from which dangled ribbons and bedraggled
ostrich-feathers, upon her head. The sisters gasped in admiration, their
eyes purple with envy and wonder. Only in pictures had they seen
anything so gorgeous as that hat.

“_Where_ did you get it?” inquired Plum Blossom, letting the corset out
a bit by the simple method of breathing hard, hence snapping the fragile
cord.

“Well,” said Summer, confidentially, “I will tell you if you will never,
never repeat it to my future husband.”

“Gozo?”

Summer nodded. “Gozo hates much Otami Ichi,” said Summer, with meaning.

Plum Blossom’s scorn burst the last string of the corset. It slipped
from her as she arose.

“Hi,” she said, “Otami Ichi! _He_ says he is two years too young to be a
soldier. He is older than Gozo. Did you take gifts from _him_!”

Summer giggled and shrugged her shoulders.

“Why not? His honorable father keeps a fine foreign store in Tokio.”

It was Plum Blossom’s turn to shrug. She undid her obi and tied the
corset to her with the sash.

“What do you suppose Taro has been doing?” said Iris.

“Something bad?”

“No, not bad exactly,” said Plum Blossom, who disliked her future
sister-in-law. “He has been learning jiu-jitsu.”

It was Summer’s turn to gasp, thus displacing her elaborate headgear.

“What! A baby of ten learn jiu-jitsu?”

“Eleven,” corrected Plum Blossom. “His grandfather was samurai. Ver’
well. That grandfather’s friend teach him jiu-jitsu—a few tricks of
jiu-jitsu.”

“What for? Will he, too, fight the Russians?” inquired Miss Summer,
sarcastically.

“N-no,” said Plum Blossom, dubiously, “but he says he will fight
_somebody_.”

“And little Juji,” put in Iris, “has a fine present for our dear
mother.”

“What is it?”

“A bag of peanuts!”

“That’s nize. _How_ can I keep this hat on. It falls off if I move.”

“You must pin it on,” suggested Plum Blossom, “for so the fashion-books
say. There, take one of your hair-pins.” She adjusted the hat back to
front on Summer’s head, and fixed it firmly in place with a long
hair-dagger she took from the girl’s coiffure.

Summer found a seat and began to fan herself languidly. “My sleeves feel
very heavy to-day,” said she.

“Why?”

“They are much weighted,” declared Summer; “I carry in them five
love-letters.”

“Oh! Oh-h! From our Gozo? Why, has he already written to you, Summer?”

“I’ll tell you a secret,” said Summer, giggling. “No, you must not
listen, Iris. You are too young.” She whispered into Plum Blossom’s ear.
Suddenly the latter thrust out her little, plump hands.

“Go away. You are not good girl. Only my brother should write you
love-letters!”

Plaintively Summer made a gesture of annoyance.

“I must spend a lifetime with Gozo,” said she. “Therefore, is it not
better to have a little fun first of all?”

Iris cried out something in a very jeering voice. Summer pretended she
did not hear.

“What is that?” cried her sister, excitedly.

“Oh, I know who wrote Summer’s love-letters to her.”

“Who did?”

“She wrote them herself.”

“I did not.”

“You did.”

“I did _not_!”

“You did, for your cousin told me so.”

“Oh, the wicked little fiend!”

“Young ladies,” called a maid from below. “Come, come; come quickly.
Your father is seen. The jinrikishas! Hurry! Your honorable grandmother
wishes you to be at the door to welcome him!”

In a panic the little girls rushed about the room, gathering up their
various articles. Then, grasping each other’s sleeves, they tripped down
the stairs.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  III


WHILE the husband assisted the children and nurse to alight from the
jinrikishas, Mrs. Kurukawa the second stood looking about her.

She was a little woman, possibly thirty-five years old. Her face was
expressive, showing a somewhat shy and timid nature. Her large, brown
eyes had a look of appeal in them as she turned them towards her
husband. He smiled reassuringly and put an affectionate hand upon her
arm. Immediately her momentary restraint and fear left her.

“Is this the famous Plum Blossom Avenue?” she asked, indicating the
budding trees under which they now passed, and which served as an
exquisite pathway through the garden.

“This is Plum Blossom Avenue,” replied her husband, “and as you see, I
keep my promise. You know I cabled to Japan to have the plum blossoms
all in bud for us when we should arrive.”

“How good of you!” she laughed. “Just as if you didn’t know they bloom
at the end of March! But where are the children? You also promised that
they would be under the trees waiting for us.”

Mr. Kurukawa looked a bit worried.

“It’s strange,” he said. “Ah, here come my mother and father-in-law.”

His first wife’s father and mother hastened down the path to meet them.

To the delight of the little American children, the old man and woman
favored them with the most wonderful bows they had ever seen. In fact,
the boy afterwards insisted that the old man’s bald head had literally
touched his own boots.

The new wife held out both her hands with a pretty impulse.

“Oh,” she said, “I have heard all about you—how very, very good you have
been to the children.”

The old couple did not quite understand what she said, but feeling
assured that it was something complimentary, they began a fresh series
of bows, repeating over and over again one of the English words they had
learned.

“Thangs, thangs, very thangs.”

Mr. Kurukawa now inquired anxiously for his children. He had certainly
expected they would be at the gate to meet them. The grandmother
explained that only a moment before the two little boys had been with
her, and she had sent immediately for the little girls. But just as they
came to the door the little boys had run away in fright, and were now
shyly hiding somewhere.

“Gozo? What of Gozo?”

The two old people looked at each other. They did not know what to say.

“Pray come into the house, my son,” said Madame Sano. “We can better
speak there.”

They had been talking in Japanese. Noting her husband’s look of worry,
Mrs. Kurukawa anxiously inquired the reason. Without explaining, he led
her into the house. As they entered they were startled by the strange
sound that greeted them. It was like the sharp sigh of a wind in an
empty house. In reality it was the panic-stricken flight from the
hallway of the children of Mr. Kurukawa.

Grouped closely together, the four children and Miss Summer had
retreated to the far end of the hall, where they awaited the advent of
the dreaded “barbarian” step-mother, for such Gozo had made them believe
she must be. For many months they had conjured up in imagination
pictures of their step-mother and her children.

They had seen but one foreigner in their town, the missionary, who had
been their teacher. Him they had held in as much awe and fear as they
would a strange animal.

Now their father appeared in the hall, holding by the arm what seemed to
the children a most extraordinary looking creature, while behind them
came, hand in hand, the strangest-looking little boy and girl, with eyes
so big that Plum Blossom thought them like those of a goblin. The face,
however, which frightened them most was that of the Irish nurse, who
bore the baby in her arms. The children gazed only a moment at this
outlandish group; then with one accord they fled, each in a different
direction.

The strangers coming from the out-door sunlight into the darkened hall
had barely time to see the children ere they were gone. They had a hazy
glimpse of a patch of color at the end of the hall, and then its sudden,
wild dispersion. For a moment they stood looking about them in blank
astonishment. Suddenly Mr. Kurukawa, who was ebullient with humor and
good-nature, burst into laughter. He laughed so hard, indeed, that his
wife, the children, and the nurse joined him. This unusual mirth in the
house brought the children cautiously back, too curious and inquisitive
to withstand the novelty of the situation.

Through the paper walls little fingers were cautiously thrust; little
black eyes peered at the new-comers from behind these frail
retrenchments.

When his mirth had subsided, Mr. Kurukawa favored his wife with a sly
wink, and then quick as a flash he pushed back one of the shojis,
disclosing the little figure behind it. He lifted it up by the bow of
its obi. Something strange stuck closely to it and invited the gaze of
Mrs. Kurukawa. It was the corset!

At the same time the father perceived it, and, pulling it off, held it
aloft.

“Ah, ha!” he cried, “here is surely a little flag of truce.”

He threw it aside and caught the little, trembling Plum Blossom in his
arms, hugging her tightly. She hid her face in his bosom. After a time
he set her down upon the floor.

“This,” he said, “is Plum Blossom. In America she would be called
Roly-poly—she is so fat, and, like her father, good-natured,” and he
pinched her cheek. “Go now,” he bade her, “and kiss your new mother.”

She went obediently, but with fear in her eyes, towards Mrs. Kurukawa.
The latter knelt and held out both her arms. She was crying a bit, and
possibly it was the tears and the sweet sound of her voice that won Plum
Blossom. She tried to remember the speech she had learned, but the only
words that came to her lips were:

“Come agin,” and this she kept mechanically reiterating. “Come agin—come
agin—come agin.”

Here it is painful to relate that the young son of Mrs. Kurukawa chose
to make himself heard in uncouth American slang. Billy spoke almost
reflectively, as if he had heard that “Come agin” somewhere before.
“Come agin, on agin, gone agin, Finnegan!” said Billy, promptly.

“Oh, Billy, hush!” said his mother, reprovingly, but Plum Blossom’s face
radiated. Here was a kindred spirit, one who had repeated her own words.
“Come agin,” and then possibly finer ones.

Meanwhile, Iris, showing first a curious little topknot, gradually
projected her head, and then her whole body through the dividing doors.
She stood in the opening greedily watching Plum Blossom. Half hidden
behind her scanty little skirt, the small, fat face of Juji peered.
Though no one so far had seen him, Juji, with the usual consciousness of
two and a half years, was alternately showing and then hiding his face,
being divided between a desire to stand joyfully on his head, or indulge
in one of his famous roars. Iris, edging farther into the room, drew him
after her. Mrs. Kurukawa perceived them. On the instant Juji sank to the
floor, impeding the further progress of his sister by clinging to her
legs.

“Oh, the darling little boy!” cried the little American girl, and ran to
him to lift him up. Juji’s lip began to protrude ominously. Plum Blossom
sprang into the breach.

“Juji! Juji!” she cried, in motherly Japanese, “don’t cry! Good boy!
Give nice present to—l-lady!”

Whereupon Juji held out a grimy little hand, from which Plum Blossom
extracted a crumpled paper package. She presented it to Mrs. Kurukawa
with a smiling bow.

“Peanut!” said she, in English; “nize. For you!” She had remembered the
words now.

“Oh, thank you, thank you, darling,” said Mrs. Kurukawa. Wishing to show
her delight in the gift, she added:

“Come, we will all have some.”

She emptied the contents into her lap, then stared for a moment.
Gradually her astonishment changed to laughter.

The package contained only shells. Juji had eaten the peanuts.

Plum Blossom and Iris felt completely disgraced. Iris, from the shelter
of her father’s arms, whither she had gone, now flew towards the wicked
Juji.

“Oh, the bad boy!” she cried.

Juji’s lip broke. One of his terrific roars ensued. He was borne from
the room by the humiliated little girls.

“And now,” said Mr. Kurukawa, rubbing his hands and speaking in a loud
voice: “Where are my sons? Taro!” he called.

Promptly the boy answered. He came literally tumbling into the hall,
which, with the panels pushed aside, had now become a large room.

Taro’s eyes evaded his father. For some time he had been watching
intently the American boy from his peep-hole in the paper shoji. As he
appeared at the call of his father, his eyes were still riveted upon his
hated rival. Suddenly he made a catlike spring in the boy’s direction
and landed sprawling on Billy’s chest. For the astonished Billy, tripped
unawares, was lying on his back. A great flame of indignation, and yet
almost unwilling admiration, stirred within the heart of the prize
fighter of a certain Chicago school.

Could it be possible that this little mite of a Jap was sitting
victoriously on his chest? He growled and moved a bit, but Taro, wildly
trying to keep in mind the few jiu-jitsu tricks he had lately learned,
touched the boy’s arm in a sensitive place.

Billy rose like a lion shaking off a troublesome cub. As Taro caught him
about the calf of his leg, Billy reached down and took the little
Japanese boy by the waist and coolly tucked him under his arm; then he
marched up and down, singing at the top of his voice:

                      “Yankee Doodle came to town,
                        Riding on a pony—
                       Took a little Jappy Jap
                        Who was a bit too funny!”

Here it may be well to explain that Billy, besides being the prize
fighter of his school, was also the class poet.

Mrs. Kurukawa rescued the little “Jappy Jap” from her big son’s hands,
and gave the latter a reproving look, saying:

“Oh, Billy, is that the way to treat your little brother?”

“Well, mother,” protested Billy, “he did get funny, now didn’t he,
father?” He appealed to Mr. Kurukawa, who was patting the ruffled head
of the discomfited and conquered jiu-jitsu student.

Taro’s expression had undergone a change. In his little black eyes a
gleam of respect for Billy might have been seen. Suddenly he nodded his
head significantly, and made a motion of his hand towards the garden,
signifying in boy language the invitation:

“Come outside. I’ll show you some things.”

Out they wandered together, excellent friends at once.

“Sa-ay,” said Taro, pausing on the brink of his own private
garden brook, “you—you,” he touched Billy with a stiff little
finger—“_you_—Gozo!”

Billy was at a loss to understand what “say—you—Gozo!” could mean, but
he liked the look on Taro’s face, so grinned and said: “Me—Gozo.” Taro
nodded. He had paid Billy the highest compliment in his power, likening
him to the hero of the Kurukawa family, the great, elder brother Gozo.


------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   IV


MEANWHILE, in the house, Mr. Kurukawa was inquiring urgently for Gozo.
Where was he? Why was he not the first to greet his parents? The
grandparents would not respond to his inquiries, but remained silent,
looking very dejected and miserable. Their aspect alarmed Mr. Kurukawa,
who now clapped his hands loudly. Several servants came running into the
room in answer to his summons. Immediately the master questioned them:

“Where is my son Gozo?”

But all the response he received from the servants was a profound
silence, broken by that hissing, sighing sound peculiar to the Japanese
when moved, a drawing in of the breath through the teeth. Mr. Kurukawa
recognized a boy who had been his own body-servant, and to him he
strode, seizing the latter by the shoulder of his kimono. But the boy
slipped from his hand to the ground and put his head at his master’s
feet. There, with his face hidden, he answered the questions put to him.

“Speak, my boy, where is Gozo?”

“O Excellency, young master—sir—” he broke off and began to cry, beating
his head as he did so on the floor. Mr. Kurukawa raised him forcibly to
his feet.

“What is it, Ido? Has anything happened to our Gozo?”

He could hardly bring the words out. The bare thought that misfortune
had befallen his eldest son horrified him.

Ido dried his face on his sleeve, and from his new hiding-place spoke:

“Young master, sir, gone away, O Excellency!”

Mr. Kurukawa’s grasp on the boy’s shoulder relaxed. He stepped back and
stood a moment silent, his hand against his forehead.

“What is it, Kiyo? What is it?” asked his wife, going to him and
throwing an arm about him.

The color came back into her husband’s face. He laughed a bit weakly.

“I thought it possible that my boy was—”

She held his hand tightly, her eyes full of tears.

“Oh, I understand. I do,” she said. “But where is he?”

Her husband stepped back to the spot where Ido had been. Then he saw
that in almost complete silence the servants, including Ido, had slipped
from the room.

He fancied he heard the slight movement of their feet on the padded
floor beyond the shoji. Impetuously and insistently he clapped his hands
again, and silently they answered his summons. Nearly all the servants
of the Kurukawa family had been in their service for years, some of them
having served the grandparents. Their averted faces alarmed Mr.
Kurukawa. This time he did not question them.

“Send Plum Blossom-san to me at once,” he said.

The little girl was brought in. With her Iris and the consoled Juji
came.

The father took the eldest girl by the hand; kneeling, he spoke to her
almost pleadingly.

“Tell father all about Gozo,” he said.

Plum Blossom grew very red and looked towards Mrs. Kurukawa. Then she
spoke low in Japanese, her hand half pointing in the direction of her
step-mother.

“She—she—send away our Gozo,” she said.

At the mention of Gozo’s name Juji paused in his eating of a juicy
persimmon to give signs of a renewal of his late tear-storm. Little Iris
drew him comfortingly into her arms, soothing him in this wise:

“There, there, Juji, don’t cry! Gozo is coming back some day. Oh, you
should laugh, Juji, because our Gozo is so brave and fine. Think of it!
He is a soldier of the beloved Ten-shi-sama!”

“Soldier!” cried Mr. Kurukawa, and leaped to his feet. “My boy a
soldier!” he cried, almost staggering forward.

“Yes, father,” said Plum Blossom. “Gozo is a _g-great_ soldier now!”

Mr. Kurukawa went towards the grandparents.

“What does this mean? He was left in your charge. He is only a child—a
mere boy of eighteen. How could he enlist at such an age?”

“He passed for older,” said the grandmother, slowly. “We did everything
to prevent his going—but he has gone.”

“Ah, I see—I understand,” said Mr. Kurukawa. For a moment his face was
lighted as a look of pride swept across it. “The boy was inspired. He
could not wait to come of age. He wanted to give his young life for his
country, his Emperor. I am proud of him. Where is he now?”

“The last time we heard from him he was at Port Arthur. That was—two
months ago.”

“Ah-h! Condescend to give me his letter—”

The grandmother slowly and reluctantly took it from her sleeve and
handed it to the father. Mr. Kurukawa’s eager fingers shook as he
unfolded the letter, a long, narrow sheet, covered with the bold and
characteristic writing up and down the pages of his son Gozo. As he
perused it his face grew darkly red. The sheet rustled in his hands.
When he had finished he crushed it, and stood for a moment in silence,
anger and sorrow combating within him.

“So,” he finally spoke, “it was not honorable loyalty to the Mikado
which inspired him, but a mean emotion—hatred of one he does not even
know. I expected better of my son.”

He let the crumpled letter fall from his hand. Stooping, the grandmother
picked it up, to place it tenderly in her sleeve. She spoke with a touch
of reproach in her voice:

“Kurukawa Kiyskichi,” she said, “never before have I heard your lips
speak bitterly of your eldest son. Be not inspired to feel anger towards
him.” She glanced at Mrs. Kurukawa as though she were the one at fault.
“Gozo is a good boy, has always been so. It was not hatred, as you say,
which prompted him to leave his own. Call it rather a boy’s feeling of
resentment, that the place of the one he had loved dearly—his
mother—should so soon be filled—and by a bar—”

She did not finish the word. Her son-in-law stopped her with a stern
gesture.

“Say no more, honorable mother-in-law. It is enough that my son has,
without so much as referring to me in the matter, left my house. In his
letter he speaks slanderously of one who is good, who was ready to love
him as her very son. She is my wife just as much as Gozo’s mother was.
She is not an intruder in her husband’s house, and my son has no right
to question her place here. Of his own free will he has left his
father’s house. Very well, he shall never return to—”

“What does it all mean?” broke in his wife with agitation. “Tell me what
you are saying, Kiyo. Where is Gozo?”

“_I_ will tell unto you,” spoke the grandmother, going towards her.
“Better, madame, that you should know. I say not English well, but—”

“I understand you.”

“Gozo—our boy—go way—mek soldier—fight Lussians. He angry account
_you_—therefore he be soldier—”

“Account—_me_! Why, I don’t understand—that is—Yes—I think I do
understand. He was opposed to his father’s marriage?”

“He love his _mother_,” said the old woman, and then began to tremble,
for Mrs. Kurukawa had hidden her face in her hands. The grandmother
spoke uncertainly.

“Pray egscuse—I sawry—ve’y sawry. Gozo—Gozo—_bad_.” She brought the word
out as if it hurt her to admit this much of her best-loved grandchild.

“No, no,” said Mrs. Kurukawa, softly. “He is not bad. I understand him.
Why, it was only natural.” She moved appealingly towards her husband.
“Don’t you remember, Kiyo, I feared this—that the children might not
_want_ me.”

“And I told you,” said he, quickly, “that it was not my children you
were marrying, but myself.”

“You are angry with that boy,” she cried.

“Angry! I will never forgive him!”

“Oh, you don’t mean that.”

“We will not talk of it any longer,” said her husband, turning away.

The boy had written:


    “The barbarian female who has taken my mother’s place is a
    witch—a fox-woman—a devil! Otherwise how could she have worked
    upon my father’s mind so soon to forget our mother? I could not
    remain at home and face such a woman. Better that I should go.
    Here, at least, my bitter thoughts can do no injury. How I long
    to be exposed to great danger! Maybe, if I die, my father will
    be sorry!”


Such unfilial, rebellious words were unheard of from a Japanese son.
Left to the care of his doting old grandparents, Mr. Kurukawa saw
clearly how much Gozo had needed the guiding hand of a father.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   V


MARION sat on a gigantic moss-grown rock, looking with somewhat wistful
eyes at the children in the family pond. She envied them their intense
enjoyment. The family pond, it should be explained, was also the family
bath-tub. It was a great pool of water, set in the heart of the garden,
a beautiful and alluring spot for the children. All about it the
blossoming trees bent their heads as if to look at their own reflected
images in the mirror of the water. The Kurukawas had added to its
natural beauty by placing along its banks huge rocks of strange
formation, very charming to look at, and comfortable to sit upon.

[Illustration:

  “MARION SAT ON A GIGANTIC MOSS-GROWN ROCK, LOOKING ... AT THE CHILDREN
    IN THE FAMILY POND”
]

Out over the water a sort of pleasure-booth was built, over which the
wistaria vines clambered and bloomed in wild profusion. This was the
dolls’ house of the little Japanese girls. In the water were two
diminutive sampans and also a raft, the property of Taro, inherited from
Gozo.

The pond was a natural one. It might have been termed a small lake, but
the family had always referred to it as “the pond,” and even had called
it the “bath,” for that was its chief use. The little Kurukawas dipped
into it sometimes three times a day in the summer. They had almost
literally spent their lives in it. Even three-year-old Juji would throw
his fat little hands over his head, and dive into the water, swimming as
naturally as a wild duck.

Now as Marion watched the shining brown bodies of her step-brothers and
sisters her eyes unconsciously filled with tears. Why could not she
throw aside her white starched clothes and join them in their pleasures?
It was not that her mother would not permit her; but Marion’s sensitive
soul had been deeply wounded by the manner of her step-sisters when
first she had put on a kimono, and had gone, with innocent friendliness,
to join them. At first the little girls had regarded her with amazement.
Summer, who happened to be with them, hid her face behind her fan, where
she giggled and tittered in the most provoking way imaginable. Plum
Blossom asked, bluntly:

“Wha’s thad? Dress?”

“My kimono,” faltered Marion.

“Where you git?”

“Mother bought it at a Japanese store in Chicago.”

Plum Blossom shook her head disapprovingly, while Iris, in imitation of
Summer, began to titter also.

“Thas nod Japanese,” said Plum Blossom, severely.

Marion had moved proudly and silently away.

“Mother,” she cried, running into her room, with crimson cheeks and
flashing eyes, “give me back my own clothes. Oh, I never, never, never
want to wear these horrid things again,” she sobbed in her mother’s lap.

And now, a week later, Marion still wore her white starched gown of
piqué, and sat there on the rock, quite alone; for Billy was one of the
happy bathers in the shining spring-pond. It was against him she felt
most bitter. He was her own, own brother; yet there he was quite at home
with the enemy, even sometimes pushing the boat which held that “nasty
Miss Summer,” who was at the root of all her trouble. She felt sure she
could have been happy with Plum Blossom and Iris had not Summer, in some
way, influenced them against her. And as for dear, little, fat Juji,
why, she just loved him!—even if he did scream every time she came near
him and ran from her as fast as his little, fat, frightened legs could
carry him. Summer had told him Marion was a fox-girl, who would bite him
if she caught him. At first Juji had regarded this announcement with
doubt. Full of confidence because of the winning, smiling face of
Marion, he had even timorously gone into her arms. Lo and behold, she
had indeed attempted to “bite” him, for such the kiss had seemed to
Juji, who had never been kissed in all his life. After that, Juji had
kept his distance from the “yellow-haired fox-girl.”

There was a sudden squeal of delight from the pond. Something flashed in
the sun a moment. Then over went the sampan in which the three little
Japanese girls were seated. Billy had tipped it over, immersing the
three girls, who came up shaking their little black heads, and swam
towards the raft, upon which they clambered.

Leading from the booth to the shore was a little arched bridge, part,
indeed, of the pleasure-booth. Suspended between a pole on shore and
another half-way out in the water, was a long, delightful bamboo rest.
The gymnastic Taro would climb out on this pole as easily as a kitten;
he would twist and twirl about, and end with his head hanging over the
water and his feet clinging to the pole. Each time he performed these
tricks Billy was filled with an intense ambition to transport his
step-brother to America, to exhibit him to his old school-mates.

Now the rock on which Marion sat was close to the shore end of the
bamboo pole, and near to the little arbor. As she sat there in sad
dejection, Taro softly clambered up from the water end of the bamboo
pole and crawled along the ridge until he stood over the head of the
unconscious girl. His body swayed, until he rested in his favorite
position and hung by his feet from the pole. One quick, sharp push, and
the next moment the little girl on the rock was plunged head-foremost
into the water below. Taro had revenged the upsetting of his sisters
from the boat by Billy. The latter went suddenly white to his lips and
began swimming frantically in the direction of his sister.

One fleeting glimpse of the boy’s horrified face Taro had; then he
understood. Marion could not swim!

On the instant he threw up his arms and dived. Never had Billy seen
anything so quick as that lightning dive and swift return of Taro. He
supported his step-sister while he swam with her to the shore. She had
been hardly a minute in the water; but she was frightened. Her little
hands and face were blue, her teeth were chattering, and she was
shivering and crying hysterically, although it was sultry and warm. The
first words she spoke were:

“Billy—I—I’m all right. Pl-please don’t fight Taro about it,” for Billy
was pugnaciously regarding his step-brother.

The other children were now all about her, Plum Blossom’s motherly
little face looking very concerned. The water was dripping from the
kimonos of the three Japanese girls. As they looked at the drenched
Marion a kindred feeling must have possessed them simultaneously, for
suddenly they all laughed outright in unison, Marion joining with them.
She was almost glad of the adventure now, as she said:

“If I had on a kimono—I’d—I’d go into the water with you.”

“You want keemono?” inquired Taro, eagerly.

“Yes,” she nodded.

He brought her his own.

She laughed with delight, and Iris and Plum Blossom clapped their hands.
What fun to see the yellow-haired one arrayed in a boy’s kimono! But
Marion had disappeared with the garment. A few minutes later she
returned clad in it, to the uproarious delight of every one.

Taro himself wore with great pride one of Billy’s bathing-suits.

As the sampan moved down the surface of the tiny lake, Marion confided
to Plum Blossom, who held one of her hands, while Iris held the other:

“I wanted so much to go into the water, but—I thought you didn’t want
me. Oh, dear, I feel so _comfy_ in this dear old loose thing,” she
added.

“Tha’s nize,” said Plum Blossom.

“Vaery nize,” agreed Iris.

Summer, sitting in the stern of the boat, opened her paper parasol. The
sight of it sent the little girls into another peal of laughter. When
Billy upset the boat the parasol had shared the fate of its owner as it
was thrust into her obi in front. The effect of its bath was ludicrously
apparent. Being of paper, it split in several places as she opened it.
Now as she held it loftily above her head, water of several shades of
color rolled from it to splash upon its haughty owner, for just at this
moment Summer was endeavoring to make an impression upon the sisters.
She had succeeded beyond her expectations. The boat rocked with the wild
gale of their mirth.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   VI


IT was the day after Marion’s accident that the baby was lost, or,
rather, “shtolen,” as the nurse-maid put it.

Norah had taken it in its carriage a short distance from the house. In
Chicago it had been her daily duty to push the baby up and down the
street on which they lived. The Kurukawas’ garden was of a fair size,
but its dimensions were limited for Norah’s purpose. Moreover, the girl
was intensely homesick “for the soight of the face of a foine cop!”

When she had gone to America, one of the first things she noticed was
that all, or nearly all, the policemen were Irish. The idea occurred to
her that it might be the same in Japan. And so, unmindful of the
instructions of her mistress not to leave the vicinity of the house,
Norah sallied forth, and wandered on until she came to the main street
of the little town. The news of the presence in the street of a most
extraordinary looking foreign devil, a giant in size, pushing an
outlandish jinrikisha with a pale-faced, yellow-hair baby in it, spread
like wildfire through the surrounding streets. Soon a small mob of
children and a number of curious men and women were following and
surrounding Norah. Some of them ran ahead of her, impeding the progress
of the baby-carriage. At first Norah regarded them with inherent
good-humor, but after a time she became embarrassed and annoyed. A
little girl of about seven years had actually climbed over the front of
the carriage, and there she perched, regarding the baby with great
curiosity.

Norah stopped. One hand sought her plump hip, and the other doubled to a
fist, which she shook.

“Now, you young spalpeen,” said she, “you climb down, or I’ll put you
down none too gently. Off with you, you haythen imp!”

The little girl regarded her unblinkingly, but the surrounding crowd
began to jabber excitedly. Norah turned upon them.

“Shure, it’s a fine lot of haythens you be! wid nothing better to
consarn yersilves wid than the business of others. Off wid you all, or
Oi’ll make short worruk of the boonch of yez.”

A threatening movement cleared a space about her. Her fighting blood was
up. She began to lay about her in every direction, spanking a little boy
on her right, pushing along by the ear another, and cuffing a giggling
maiden of fifteen summers, whose tittering had for some time irritated
her. But in attacking the children following her, Norah made a mistake.
The “haythens,” merely curious at first, now became aggressive. In a few
minutes there was a concerted rush in the direction of the Irish girl.
She took fright at this, and at the top of her voice shrieked:

“Police! Police! Murdher! Hilp!”

Her cry had immediate effect. Some one came running towards her. The
crowd fell back, and indeed dispersed almost in silence at the approach
of the little, uniformed figure which descended upon them. He made his
way straight to Norah with wonder. She watched the magic effect of his
coming upon the crowd, and as he came up to her she spoke admiringly:

“Shure it’s the Mikado himself yer afther being, I should think, from
the grand way you’re threated.”

He touched her arm with a hand of authority.

“I have the honor to arrest you,” said he, in distinct English.

“Arrest me!” shouted the now irate Norah. “And who in Harry are you?”

“Police,” said the little man, shortly.

“You a policeman!” cried Norah. “Now the saints forgive you for the lie!
Shure, I niver saw a policeman of your sawed-off size before! Where I
come from—”

But the grip upon her arm had tightened. Indignantly Norah sought to
withdraw, but to her astonishment she could not move. The little,
“sawed-off” policeman held her in a tighter grip than any Irish
policeman could have done. Norah’s red face blazed.

“It’s yersilf that’ll be arrested for the outrage,” she said, and then
began to wail aloud in most distressing accents.

“Oh, wirrah, wirrah, wirrah! And why did I iver lave the ould country?
And why did I iver come to this haythen land of savages? Shure it was
love for the innocent babe that—”

She stopped and turned to look for the baby. Carriage and child were
gone!

A frightful scream escaped the lips of the terrified girl. Then she
collapsed heavily in the arms of the little “haythen” policeman.


------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  VII


IT would be cruel to dwell upon the sufferings of Norah. She came to
consciousness while being carried bodily through the streets by half a
dozen of “the finest” in Japan. But she retained consciousness only long
enough to give vent to another terrific shriek and then faint again.
When next she came to, she was in the “dhirty haythen doongeon,” as she
termed it. There Mr. Kurukawa found her, secured her release, and took
her home.

But the baby! It was only a little after nine when Norah had gone forth
so bravely. By five in the afternoon the search for the baby had not
ended. Everybody in the village appeared to have had the baby at one
time or another through the day. The little one had been passed from
house to house as an object of curiosity. Its clothing was a marvel to
all Japanese eyes; its blue eyes were extraordinary; its little wisps of
yellow hair the most amazing of sights ever seen in the little town; and
its milk-white skin positively unreal. Japanese mothers brought their
own brown offspring and put them side by side with the little white
baby. They patted its little, chubby hands, and put their fingers into
its mouth. The latter never failed to please the Kurukawa baby, which
immediately fell to sucking the finger greedily. After a time, however,
as no milk was forthcoming from the numberless fingers thus offered, the
baby became cross.

Then nobody wanted it any longer.

Mr. and Mrs. Kurukawa and a policeman went about the town hunting for
the child. The mother was almost prostrated, but insisted on
accompanying her husband. As they turned away from each house the mother
grew paler and more fearful. Finally the policeman suggested that they
abandon the search until the following morning. It was getting towards
night, and the Japanese retire early.

The parents would not hear of this. They would search all night if
necessary. The policeman shrugged his shoulders. Very well, he had other
duties. As the honorable excellencies could see for themselves, the
streets were already almost deserted. Indeed, there were only a few
children left yonder in the street. The father and mother turned almost
aimlessly towards the place where a number of children were playing skip
rope. One little girl after another would jump back and forth over the
swinging rope. One girl seemed less nimble than the others. She slipped
once, and trod on the rope often. As the Kurukawas came nearer to the
group they noticed her because she seemed humpbacked. But the hump upon
her back bobbed and moved up and down. When she stopped skipping and
came to their side of the rope the hump upon her back moved a bit
higher, until it rested against her neck. It was a little baby’s head!

Mrs. Kurukawa uttered a faint cry and rushed upon the little girl,
pitifully trying to drag the baby from her back. It was sound asleep and
seemed perfectly comfortable and none the worse for its late adventures.
Mrs. Kurukawa hugged it wildly.

“Oh, my little, little baby!” she sobbed. It opened its sleepy blue eyes
and gooed and gurgled softly.

From this time forth the baby became the centre of attraction to all the
family. Even Juji seemed to be conscious of its enviable position. Was
it not surrounded at all times by the little girls? Was it not hugged
and petted in a way he had considered due only to him from his sisters?

He had watched with wonder the queer little plaything ever since it had
come into the house. It was no larger than some dolls his sisters had;
but when it opened its mouth it could make a noise almost as loud as
Juji himself. In fact, its noises and its limbs and everything about it
had an absorbing interest for Juji. He began to hang about its vicinity.
Norah would discover him pressed up close to her knee, his little,
serious slits of eyes intent upon every movement of the baby.

“Bless his heart,” she would say. “Shure the little lamb loves his wee
brother. Then give him a nice kiss,” whereupon she would put the baby’s
face close to Juji. The latter would rub his nose against the fat, soft,
baby cheek. He must have pondered over his little step-brother, for one
night Norah was awakened by strange little sounds in the vicinity of the
baby’s bed. She reached over in the dark, found and enclosed a little
hand in her large one. Then she saw a little figure in bed with the
baby. Juji was sitting up and leaning over the baby. In his hand was a
bottle, the end of which was thrust into the baby’s mouth!

Norah was too astonished at first to do anything but watch the child.
Then she seized him.

“You lamb!” said she. “If you aren’t the swatest haythen, shure I don’t
know who is!”

“Opey mouth,” said little Juji, in English, and pushed the bottle
towards Norah’s lips.

He had seen the nurse-maid do this with the baby, and had heard her say:

“Opey mouthie, lovey!”

He had found the bottle, and while all were asleep and there was no one
to interfere with him, he had sought to feed his baby step-brother.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  VIII


MARION came flying into the garden, her cheeks aglow, her bright eyes
dancing.

“Iris—Blossom!” she called, excitedly.

She could hardly get her breath to tell them the great news. In her hand
she waved aloft a sheet of paper.

“What ees’t?” asked Plum Blossom, puzzled.

“A letter,” cried Marion. “Guess who from?”

“Gozo,” both answered at once.

Marion nodded.

“Right,” she said, “and to me!—_me_!” She began dancing airily about,
waving the letter triumphantly and then caressing it.

Iris shrieked the news across the garden to Taro, pirouetting on his
beloved pole. He leaped down and came running to join them.

“Why he ride unto _you_?” demanded Plum Blossom, enviously.

“Well, now, I’ll tell you,” confided Marion, sweetly. “You know ever
since we’ve been here I’ve heard nothing but Gozo, Gozo, Gozo, from you
all. Goodness! you never speak a sentence without ‘Gozo’ in it. Well,
_I_ began to think him a real hero, and I just longed to _know_ him.
Besides”—she lowered her voice—”I did think he ought to be warned about
that—about Summer!”

“About Summer?” repeated Plum Blossom, hazily.

“We kinno understan’. You spik so fast.”

“Oh, dear, don’t you see? Why, she’s not good enough for a _hero_—now is
she?”

“Wha’s ‘hero’?” asked Taro, disgustedly. Had they brought him from his
favorite sport merely to bother him with words he could not understand.

“A hero is—is—well, he’s something _grand_!”

Iris yawned sleepily. She had forgotten all about the letter and now was
lying on the grass blinking sleepily at the blue sky overhead.

“You’re not listening, Iris,” said Marion, frowning upon her and forcing
her to get up.

“Don’t you want to hear Gozo’s letter?”

“Yes, yes—spik it,” urged Plum Blossom.

“But I didn’t finish what I was saying—explaining _why_ he wrote me.
Don’t you see, _I_ wrote to him first. Yes, I did, too, I wrote him the
longest letter, and I told him about you all—and—and—can he read
English?”

Billy had joined the group, and he spoke up now:

“Ah, sis, go on now—read his answer. What’s he say?”

“But I can’t read it. See, it’s in Japanese.”

“You read it, Taro.”

“Me?” Taro seized the letter, and began laboriously reading it in
Japanese.

“Well, well, what does he say?” asked Marion, excitedly.

Plum Blossom looked over her brother’s shoulder and translated in this
wise:


    “M-M-MADAME,—Your letter got—

              “Yours truly forever,

                        “KURUKAWA GOZO.”


“Is that all?” inquired Marion, blankly, her blue eyes filling with
tears.

“Postscript,” shouted Taro, then read it: “Write agin, thangs!”

Marion pouted and sat down in deep dejection.

“Well, I won’t do it, if _that’s_ the way he answers _my_ letters.”

She took the letter and went to her mother.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   IX


ON the 15th of April the children dressed themselves in pink-and-white
kimonos, simulating cherry blossoms, and strolled abroad for _hanami_
(flower picnic). They had been looking forward to this delightful
occasion for weeks. The costumes had been prepared by their grandmother
some days in advance of the festival. Even Marion had a little, white
crêpe kimono embroidered with the pale pink flower, and with the sash or
obi of the same shade. She made quite a picture, as with her eyes
dancing and shining she came running into the garden to join her
step-sisters. The wings of the dainty sleeves of her dress fluttered
back and forth. Her cheeks were the color of the cherry blossom, and the
golden crown of her hair, drawn up into the Japanese fashion, glistened
in the sun. Plum Blossom wore a crêpe silk gown of deep pink, shading at
the ends to white. The sash was white with pale green leaves and stalks
embroidered on it. Iris, too, was in pink, and the bow of her obi was
tied to imitate a cherry blossom. The three little girls had flowers in
their hair—cherry blossoms, of course. They waited now in the garden for
their brothers and parents. As the festival was new to Marion, she was
the most eager of the girls.

From above their heads a voice rang out:

“Here, you, girls! get your masks and petals ready.”

“Where are you, Billy?” called Marion, looking everywhere about them.

“Here—up in the tree.”

He was perched in an old cherry-tree, where with vandal hand he was
plucking the blossoms.

“O-o-oo!” exclaimed Plum Blossom. “You ba’ boy! No can pig flower. Tha’s
nod ride!”

“Why, father _said_ we were to fill our sleeves—get all we could,”
called down Billy.

“Yes, pig from ground,” said Plum Blossom; “never mus’ pig from tree.”

“Billy, you vandal, what are you doing up there?”

Mr. Kurukawa had joined the children in the garden. He, too, was in
Japanese dress.

“Why,” said Billy, “you said—”

“Now, my boy, come down.”

Very promptly Billy obeyed.

Taking his step-son by the hand, Mr. Kurukawa taught him a lesson known
to all Japanese children.

“Never pluck the flowers wantonly, least of all the sacred cherry
blossom. When you wish the flower in your house, pluck out one branch,
one flower. See, you have filled the front of your kimono, your sleeves,
and your obi with the blossoms. Look at them!”

He held up the crushed branches to view. They drooped almost
reproachfully at Billy.

“But, father,” he began again. “You did tell me—”

“To gather all the cherry-blossom petals you could. See, the ground is
thick with them.”

“But they are all apart. They have no stalks.”

Mr. Kurukawa stooped and filled his hands full of petals. He held them a
moment and then lightly tossed them into the air.

“_That_ is how we want them, boy. We use them like confetti. Now fill
all your sleeves, children. Get as many as you can, and then we’ll
start.”

Soon the long sleeves of their dresses were filled with the petals, and
hung like little pillows. Mrs. Kurukawa was the last to join the merry
party. All the children helped her to fill her sleeves, for she, too,
wore the national kimono.

“Here are your masks, children,” said the father. With laughing chatter
they fastened on the grotesque masks and clambered into the jinrikishas.
It was a joyful day.

They passed numbers of picnickers, and exchanged showers of
cherry-blossom petals with them.

They ate a delicious luncheon under a tree fairly weighted down with the
heavenly flower. While they were in the midst of their repast, Taro and
Billy mounted into the tree and shook it till the lunch was almost
hidden under the petals, and the heads of all were crowned in cherry
pink.

The petals they slipped into their food purposely, declaring that it
added a delicious taste. Then the children played battledore and
shuttlecock. Later, there being a pleasant wind, Mr. Kurukawa sent up a
kite. Billy was permitted to hold the string. This was great fun,
especially when Taro’s kite had a race with Billy’s, and finally won. By
four in the afternoon they were all so refreshingly tired that nobody
wanted to go home, and soon “father” was besieged for a story.

“Make it modern, father,” said Billy, “for we like that kind best.”

“Well, let’s see. What shall it be about?”

“War,” shouted Taro.

For a while there was silence, and Mr. Kurukawa looked very grave. He
was thinking of Gozo.

“Very well,” said he, after a moment’s thought. “I will tell you a true
story of to-day which has to do with a war.”

“Make it very, very long, father,” said Plum Blossom.

“And exciting,” said Taro.

“With a little girl in it,” said Iris.

“No, no, a liddle boy,” growled Juji.

“It’s about a little woman,” said Mr. Kurukawa, “and she was called ‘The
Widow of Sanyo.’”


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[Illustration]


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                                   X


THIS is the story the Japanese father told, in English, for his own
children understood the language better than they spoke it.

“You must know, children, that all loyal Japanese love and reverence
Ten-shi-sama (the Mikado). No true Japanese would hesitate to give his
life for the father of us all. That is why our boys go to war with faces
shining like the sun. That is why we bid them go, and do not weep
because we love them. We are proud and glad to give them for such
service.”

“Father,” put in little Iris very gently, “_we_ are glad to give our
Gozo, are we not?”

He hesitated a moment, and then said, simply:

“Yes, my child. But this story is not of Gozo.”

It was the first time since his return that he had mentioned his son’s
name, and he did it without any sign of bitterness. His wife reached out
and sought his hand, which she held for a moment closely.

“Go on,” urged Billy. “What do you want to interrupt for, Iris?”

She leaned against her father. He put his arm about her.

“Ten million egscuse,” said she to Billy.

“Where does the _widow_ come in?” asked Billy.

“Well, she was not a widow at the beginning. She was just a very young
and very beautiful girl. But she had the spirit of a man. You see,
before she came, her parents had prayed for a son to give to the service
of Ten-shi-sama; but they were unfortunate. Their gods gave them only a
girl, and they never felt quite the same to her as they would to a boy.
They were very powerful people, and of noble ancestry, so they did not
wish their race to die out. They prayed constantly for a son, and all
they got was one daughter. Quite unfairly, they neglected the girl, just
as if it were her fault that she were not born a boy. She grew up in the
great shiro (palace) all alone, under the care of servants and tutors.
None of the relatives cared to see her. Her mother died when she was
born, and her father, being in the cabinet service of the Mikado, rarely
saw her. But though a maiden, as I have said, she had the soul of a man,
and she yearned to do the deeds of a man and a hero. Every morning of
her life, as a little girl, she would prostrate herself before her
shrine and beseech the gods to perform some miracle whereby she might
indeed become a man. But that was a child’s prayer, and of course vain.
So from childhood she came to womanhood. Looking one day into her
mirror, she beheld the most beautiful face she had ever seen. Hitherto
she had scorned to loiter over her mirror. Her thoughts were on other
matters than her looks, she told herself. But this day she picked up her
mirror on a sudden impulse, and the face which looked back at her so
enthralled her that she could not put it down.

“‘Why,’ said she, ‘I am the most beautiful maiden in Japan!’ For a long
time she continued to look at her face. Then she spoke again:

“‘And to think,’ said she, ‘that no one but my servants have ever seen
me!’”

“What did she look like?” asked Marion.

“Well, let me see. I do not know whether Americans would regard her as
the highest type of beauty, but to the Japanese mind she would have been
considered peerless. Her hair was so black and shiny it was like
lacquer. Sometimes when her maid would take it down it fell to her knees
in a perfect glory of ebony. Her eyes were of the same color, almost
pure black, and they were very long and poetic looking, the thick lashes
veiling them. Her brows were perfectly formed, a slim, silky black line
above the eyes. Her nose was thin and very delicate. Her mouth was
small, the lower lip a trifle pointed, curling up just the least bit at
the corners. The lips were red as blood. The shape of her face was oval,
though her chin was delicately pointed. And she had tiny pink ears, as
pretty as a baby’s, and small, exquisite hands.”

“Kiyo,” said Mrs. Kurukawa, gently, “who is this Japanese Venus?” She
smiled.

“The Widow of Sanyo,” he replied as gently. “This is as she appeared
when she looked at her own image in the mirror.

“Well, it was on that very day that Japan proclaimed war against China,
and the country was pulsing with fever. Haru, as her name was, had spent
many wretched hours in her chamber. Her despair and impatience at being
unable to serve the Mikado and her country, was breaking her heart. What
could she do, a helpless maiden? All the employment left to women she
scorned. She wanted to do something more than a mere woman could
accomplish. Her soul was the soul of a man, not a maiden’s. All day she
prayed, and all night, and then she looked into her mirror and saw that
lovely face! Suddenly the face changed, became curiously illuminated. A
great idea had come to her. It was this:

“The gods had given her marvellous beauty. What man could resist her?
She would wed a man, bear him children, and give them all to the Mikado.

“That was her first thought.

“But the war would be over by the time her children were grown—and they
might not be men!

“No, that would never do!

“A better way presented itself to her. She sprang wildly to her feet,
and wildly she clapped her hands, so!”

He illustrated her action, and the children did likewise, as they moved
nearer their father to hear, their eyes wide with excitement.

“Her servants came running to answer her summons. She bade them dress
her in the most beautiful and luxurious garments. At once a dozen maids
waited on her. One brushed her glossy hair; dressed it in the most
becoming mode, placed long, golden daggers and pins with sparkling
stones glistening in them, and on either side of her ears set precious
kanzashi. Another manicured, perfumed, and massaged her little hands.
Still another softly kneaded her face until the blood sprang to the
surface, and made it more beautiful than any paint could do. Then they
robed her in a rosy gown—one fit only for a princess—as perhaps she
was.”

He paused here, and the impatient children prompted him.

“Well—well?”

“What did she do then?”

“She was carried from the house and gently lifted into a gorgeous
norimono.”

“A norimono!” cried Billy. “What’s a norimono?”

“Why—a little—something they used before jinrikishas.”

“But did not this all happen recently?” It was Marion’s question.

“Yes, that’s so,” admitted the romancer. “Now that I think of it, what
she did was to walk down to her gate and allow them to lift her into the
jinrikisha. That’s where the ‘lifting’ comes in.”

“Then where did she go?”

“I know,” said Taro.

“Where?” queried Billy.

“She go ad temple.”

“What for?”

“Pray to gods mek her man ride away.”

“Did she, father?”

“No. She drove to—” Again he paused.

“Where? Where?”

“To the house of the best known Nakoda in the town.”

“Nakoda!” Even Mrs. Kurukawa echoed the word.

“Professional match-maker.”

“Oh-h—what did she want there?” questioned Marion.

“A husband,” said Mr. Kurukawa. “Well, in she walked, and the Nakoda,
when he beheld her glorious beauty, was overcome with the honor of her
presence in his house. Said she:

“‘Honorable creature, cease to degrade yourself at my insignificant
feet. Pray arise.’

“He did so, humbly and apologetically.

“Now, in America, a girl might have said: ‘Have you any husbands for
sale?’ In Japan the girl said: ‘Deign to prepare a look-at meeting for
me. I wish to marry.’

“Then she proceeded to explain herself further by means of questions.

“‘Know you many men creatures so depraved of mind they prefer not to go
to the war?’

“‘I am, alas, acquainted with many such depraved reptiles,’ answered the
Nakoda.

“‘Ah! Well, it is such a one I would marry. Do you think I can secure
such a husband?’

“‘No man can look in the sublime direction of your serenity without
immediately being willing to do anything you might command,’ declared
the Nakoda.

“‘That is well, then,’ she smiled, graciously. ‘Bring forth a man-worm!’

“Well, a man-worm was brought forth and he fell at her feet. The thought
of his great fortune in being able to marry any one so beautiful nearly
drove him out of his senses.

“They were married at once, without much ceremony, and she took him
home. He was like one in a dream of heavenly bliss. Well, the first
thing she said to him as they entered the palace was:

“‘Man, dost thou adore me?’

“He fell on his face and kissed the hem of her robe.”

“Kiyo, I believe you’re making it all up as you go along,” interposed
his wife here.

“Hush! Hush! We are coming to the thrilling part.”

“What a story to tell children!”

“When does the war begin?” asked Billy.

“Oh, the war is going right on now. Well, then, he fell on his face; she
graciously bent over and lifted up his head, and she spoke in the most
wooing of voices:

“‘If you of a truth adore me, are you ready to die for me?’

“He said he wanted to live for her. She shook her head, and said she
wanted better proof of his affection than that. He then declared he
would do anything she asked.

“She thereupon said: ‘You must be a soldier!’ At this he began to
tremble, for he was a great coward at heart. However, she kept him in
her house for five days, teaching him the principles of bravery and
valor. At the end of that time she had so wrought upon his feelings that
she persuaded him to enlist. She went in person to see him march away,
which he did quite bravely for him! Her last words were the noble ones
Japanese women say to their men at such a time: ‘I give you to
Ten-shi-sama. Come not back to me. Glorious may be your end. The
blessings of Shahra upon you.’

“He was not a good soldier; he turned out to be a wretched one, indeed,
and in a short time was killed. She was free again to marry. Then she
chose another man-worm, and again she sacrificed him to her Emperor,
with the same result. He was one of those doomed in a transport sunk in
Chinese waters. She married again, and her third husband was killed. Her
fourth husband was blown to atoms, and her fifth met the fate of the
first. Her sixth died scarcely six months later, and her seventh died of
melancholia while in Manchuria.

“Now, seven is a lucky number, and she stopped there. She said: ‘If I
marry another I will have no more luck. He will live, and I have given
seven men already to the Emperor. What woman of Japan has done more?
Behold, I am a widow seven times over.’

“That is why she is called ‘The Widow of Sanyo.’”

So the story ended.

“Is she still beautiful?” questioned Plum Blossom, wistfully.

“Very.”

“Ugh!” said Marion, “I think she’s horrid.”

Taro rolled into Billy on the grass.

“I’ll be the next,” said Billy.

Iris was softly crying.

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked her father.

“Oh, father,” said she, “I—I’m afraid that _she_ was the fox-woman who
sent away our Gozo—and not—mother!”

He embraced her.

“There, it was a foolish story.”

“And told,” said his wife, “in the way an American would tell it—not a
Japanese!”

“Hm!” Mr. Kurukawa cleared his throat. “Well, I think you’ll admit I
began in the most approved Japanese style, but as I went on I fell under
your American influence, and by the time I reached the end the story was
just as you might have told it.”

They gathered up their baskets and piled them into the jinrikishas. Juji
was sound asleep on the grass. The cherry-blossom petals had fallen so
thickly upon him that he seemed half buried in them. Mr. Kurukawa bent
over him tenderly. He turned his head back towards his wife; at once she
came and knelt among the petals by his side. His voice was husky.

“That is how my Gozo looked as a little boy,” he said, softly.

She kissed the sleeping Juji.


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[Illustration]


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                                   XI


LIFE would be delightful were it made up entirely of flower picnics. But
even in the land of sunrise storms must come.

The little family of Kurukawa, idling and playing in the small inland
town, for the nonce seemed to put behind them all thought of care. Even
the father, in the first few weeks of his return, refused utterly to do
otherwise than enjoy what he termed his “honeymoon” with his wife and
children. But the honeymoon season began to wane. It was not possible
for any Japanese, however optimistic and cheerful in temperament, at
such a crisis in his nation’s history to be free from care. Then, was
not Gozo at the front? Mr. Kurukawa might laugh and play all day with
the children, but at night, when, worn out, they slept soundly and well,
he would lie awake thinking and worrying. At first it was his boy Gozo
who occupied his night thoughts to the exclusion of all else. After all,
he was a true Japanese at heart, for, although father-like, he scarcely
dared to think of the possible death of his son, yet he was glad that
Gozo was serving the Mikado. All the papers, local and foreign, he could
get he read with avidity. Because he knew it would give his wife pain,
he read them at night when she was asleep. After a time the father-love
was slowly pushed aside for a greater, deeper emotion, the longing to
help his country. He was of samurai ancestry, and patriotism was as
natural and deep-rooted in him as life itself. Yet he had married a
woman belonging to a country that believed that the men of his age did
their duty best by remaining at home, the protectors of the weak. So she
had told him many times. Often he had believed himself convinced of its
truth.

But reading and hearing of his countrymen’s sacrifices, struggles,
splendid heroism and victories, a wavering, an aching grew within him to
emulate their example and give himself to the glorious service of his
nation.

A Japanese wife would have shared in his confidence at this time, would
have understood his feelings and suffered with him. More, she would have
been the first to urge him, command him to leave her.

Mr. Kurukawa thought he understood completely the character of the
American woman who was his wife. Hence he hid from her his feelings.

But his wife was more sensitive than he knew. Her husband’s evident
depression began to be noticed by her. She sought the cause, and
attributed it to the absence of Gozo. She, too, suffered because she was
the innocent cause of his exile. One night there was a moon festival in
the little town. The people gathered in the river booths and drank their
_sake_ and tea in the moonlight. She remarked to her husband that more
than three-quarters of the festival-makers were women. He had turned
about with a sudden movement; then answered in an almost hoarse voice:

“That is as it should be.”

So silent and taciturn was he during the rest of the evening that for
her the festival was spoiled; but even the moon gave not enough light to
show her tears. Restless that night, she could not sleep, or slept so
lightly that she waked at intervals. It must have been almost morning,
when, waking from a restless sleep, she saw the dim light of an andon
shining through the paper shoji that divided their chamber from an
adjoining room; clearly outlined by the light on the shoji was the
silhouette of her husband. His bed was empty. She went to him quickly
and pushed the shoji apart. Then she saw the papers about him on all
sides. He had not time to hide them. His startled face betrayed him.

She sank down on the floor beside him, terror in her eyes.

“Kiyo!” she cried. “Oh, Kiyo! I understand—everything. Why did you not
tell me before?”

He spoke with difficulty. His hands trembled as he folded up the papers.

“It is all right. I read the news—of the victories. What Japanese could
help himself?”

“Oh, but you read it in secret; you hide your feelings from me. Why do
you not confide in me?”

He took her hands and stroked them very gently.

“If you were a Japanese woman—” he began, when she interrupted:

“It ought to make no difference what I am. I am your wife. Do not treat
me as an alien—a stranger.”

He drew her warmly to him at that.

“No, I will not,” he said. “I will tell you everything—all my thoughts.
You know, Ellen, I am of samurai ancestry, and as a young man I was
brought up in that school. When I became old enough I served for a time
in the army. I hold a commission. Later, my father, who was one of the
most enlightened of the men of old Japan, was imbued with the new
thought. He put aside old traditions and pride. I was forced, so to
speak, into a commercial life. Conditions changed for the samurai then.
We were desperately poor for a time. They looked to me to redeem the
family fortunes. And to do it I had to be taken from one school of
thought and put into another—from samurai to tradesman. It was a strange
transformation for a Japanese of such ancestry as mine. But I learned to
like the work. I succeeded. You know of my long sojourn in America, till
I could almost believe that I thought as your people think, and saw
things as you in America see them. I seemed to be a living example of
the evolution of an Oriental mind long swayed by Occidental environment.
I called myself American many times, as you know. We came back here. The
war, with all it meant to Japan, and the old patriotic feeling aroused,
began a struggle with my acquired Occidental sense. Now I know that I
never can be other than what I am by every inherent instinct—a true
Japanese! I loved you, so I feared to tell you. You married me thinking
possibly I was other than I am, Japanese only by birth, but of thought
the same as you. That is why I have not confided in you.”

“But I knew it all the time,” she said. “_I_ never thought you other
than you were. Because you wore our dress, it did not make you of our
country, nor did I love you for that, Kiyo. I did not require that _you_
should become like my people. _I_, as your wife, was willing to become
one of you, if you would let me.”

For a long time he was silent. Then with a sudden impulse he held the
light before her face.

“Let me see your face then,” he said, “when I tell you of my resolve.”

“Tell me,” she whispered; “I am not afraid.”

“I must give you up for one who has a larger claim upon me—for beloved
Ten-shi-sama!”

He saw her face whitening in the dim light. She tried to part her lips
to speak, but no words came. Then she smiled, a smile so full of bravery
and love that he almost dropped the light.

“Now I know,” he said, “that you are my own true wife—not foreign to me,
but as my wife should be.”

Then she spoke: “Yes, as a Japanese wife would be. Oh, Kiyo, _I_ have
understood them. It is not because they do not love their husbands that
they do not weep and protest when they must lose them for a glorious
cause. It _is_ brave to give up the loved ones freely, willingly.”

He began rapidly to discuss plans for his going, watching her face
closely. She bore it all with that brave cheerfulness peculiar to the
Japanese woman. Only when he planned the disposition of his fortune in
case of his death, did she protest.

“We will not anticipate the worst, Kiyo.”

“Is it not best to do so?” he gently interposed.

“I know it is Japanese,” she said, wistfully, “but I will always look
for you to return. In that you can’t make me Japanese.”

“A Japanese soldier never expects to return. His wife gives him up
forever. But I, like you, will have the better hope, my wife. _I_ will
come back to you.”

“It is a promise,” she said, and for the first time her eyes were full
of tears. He took her in his arms and held her closely.

“It is a promise,” he said, solemnly. He wiped the tears away from her
eyes.

“There must be no more of these,” he said, “else how can I have the
strength to go?”

“I have shed my last tear, Kiyo,” was her answer. “You have promised
me!”


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XII


THE “glorious news,” as they termed it, was given to the children the
following morning. Even Juji was called to the family council, while the
nurse-maid, Norah, held the baby in her arms.

Mr. Kurukawa talked of his going to the front as if it were a cause to
make them happy and rejoice. His words had the desired effect upon the
Japanese children. Taro, Plum Blossom, and Iris were thrilled with pride
and excitement. Taro wanted to rush out to the village at once to
proclaim to every one the great tidings. His father was going to serve
Ten-shi-sama. He was going to recruit a new regiment from their town and
vicinity. And they would all march away, with drums beating and the sun
flag flying. His satisfaction and excitement spread to some extent to
Billy, who began begging his step-father to let him and Taro go, too, as
“drummer-boys,” just as the little boys in the Kipling stories did. But
Marion stole from the room to weep. She loved her step-father as dearly
as if he were her own father, and so in imagination she saw him wounded,
or even killed. Her tender little heart was bruised at the thought. The
pride and elation of her step-brothers and sisters horrified her. She
could not understand it. She cried out her thoughts in her mother’s
arms.

“Oh, mamma, mamma, hear them singing! Oh!—and papa may be killed, and
they are _glad—glad_!”

She had expected her mother at least to understand, and to weep with
her, but to her astonishment her mother put her gently from her arms.

“Listen, Marion! Listen, darling, to what they are singing! Don’t you
know what it is? It is the national hymn, Marion. Oh, my little girl, be
brave, too, with them. There is nothing to cry about—nothing—nothing!”

Taro bounded into the room, his cheeks aflame. “My fadder goin’ ride
away. Mebbe he leave to-marl-low.”

Billy’s voice was heard in raised tones outside.

“Then we can see into the chest to-day!” he cried, excitedly.

“Yes.”

Taro rushed into the hall to speak in excited Japanese to his father.
With the two boys clinging to his arms Mr. Kurukawa came into the room.

“There’s a little ceremony I have promised the boys, mother,” he said.
“It was once customary for Japanese soldiers to look at, and often
worship, the swords of their ancestors before starting for the seat of
war.”

“We are going to look into the ancestor’s chest,” cried Billy; “that old
brown thing in the go-down.”

The “old brown thing” was brought reverently into the room by careful
servants. At Mr. Kurukawa’s quiet command complete silence reigned
before he touched it. Then he said, in the gravest of voices:

“You children must learn to control your feeling. You exhibit too much
excitement. You, Billy, and Taro, both of you, evince the same
excitement over a solemn occasion such as this, as you would over a
festival or a game. Appreciate and remember this occasion, my boys.”

The boys, reproved, hung their heads. Mr. Kurukawa then opened the old
chest. One by one he brought forth the various articles within it. Some
of them were mouldering with age. These he handled with reverent touch.
He explained to the family what each relic was after this fashion:

“This garment, my children, was worn exactly three hundred years ago by
your ancestor, Carsunora. He was in the service of the Emperor. The
Shogun Lyesade set a price upon his head, and after repeated battles
with his clan they succeeded in surrounding his fortress at Carsunora.
Here for fifty-five days they kept a siege. His brave men preferred
death to surrender, despite the promise of Lyesade. Day and night the
assault was made upon the fortress. Its turrets and windows were
demolished. Starvation stared them in the face. Still your ancestor held
out. Finally one of the enemy started a fire under the walls, and the
brave ones were driven out into the open. Your ancestor was surrounded
on all sides. The swords of his enemy pierced him. See, there are the
rents in his garments. It is said there were over a hundred wounds upon
his body. But desperately and valiantly he fought on, killing or
wounding all who came within touch of his sword. See it, my children,
bent and rusty, with the very stains of the enemy’s blood preserved upon
it! But even the most valiant of heroes cannot bear up against a host of
men. With his retainers dead on all sides, wounded by the eager swords
of a thousand enemies, he suddenly signified his intention of committing
supuku.

“For the first time in many hours the enemy, out of respect, lowered
their weapons. Your ancestor broke his shorter sword—here are the
pieces. Then taking the longer one, he thrust it into his bowels, and
expired.”

One bit of grewsome history after another he related to the children,
listening with awe-struck faces.

Subdued and very quiet the children left the room when the “ceremony”
was over. Marion alone had been unable to contain her emotion, and,
weeping bitterly, had been sent from the room. Now husband and wife were
alone for the first time that day.

“Does it seem strange to you,” he said, “that I should repeat such tales
to my children?”

“No,” she said, steadily, “not if they are accustomed to such things.”

“Japanese children are told stories of war from their youngest years.
That is why they seem impassive when their own family’s gory history is
unfolded to them.”

“But the little girls,” she said; “their eyes shone with as great a zeal
as Taro’s.”

“Yes, they are fine girls. You have heard of their ancestry.”

“And Taro?” she said.

“Taro,” smiled the father, “has a great sorrow. He is too young yet to
emulate the deeds of his ancestors. His little heart is almost ready to
burst with his longing.”

“Will it be the same with our baby?” she asked, earnestly.

“Would you have it so?” was his question.

She thought a moment, and then she said: “Yes—yes, indeed. Who would
not? Even our Billy is affected.”

“Billy has inquired most earnestly of me whether when he grew up he
could be a Japanese soldier, and I told him he would have to be a
Japanese citizen first. He said his father—meaning me—was Japanese, and
he would be whatever he was!”

“And so he will be,” said she, earnestly.

“But we will wait till he is a man to decide that,” said her husband.


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                                  XIII


THE old grandmother was the first to arise on the auspicious morning.
The sun had not yet made its appearance when she opened her shoji and
looked out at the dawning.

She dressed herself hastily, and then went to arouse the servants. While
the family still slept the house was put in perfect order, and soon
breakfast was preparing. When she had set all the maids at their tasks
the grandmother returned to the floor above, and entered the room now
shared jointly by Taro and Billy. Opening the shutters she let in the
light. Then as they did not stir, she deftly turned down their
bedclothes and drew the pillows from beneath their heads. Taro sat up
grumbling and yawning, while Billy turned over on his side, felt about
for the pillow, and then slept uneasily without it. Taro, now awake,
shook Billy.

“Oh, let me sleep,” complained Billy.

“All ride,” said Taro, slipping out of bed and beginning to put on his
clothes quickly. “You kin sleep when we marsh off with my fadder. No
more Port Authur. Soon no more Lussians!”

Billy was out of bed in a minute, suddenly recalled to the fact of what
this day was to bring forth.

“I’ll beat you dressing,” said he.

Meanwhile, Madame Sano was helping the little girls with their toilets.

Iris was standing patiently while her hair was being dressed in an
elaborate mode. Plum Blossom, her round, fat little face still flushed
with sleep, was sitting on the floor drawing on a white stocking.

A maid was helping Marion. The latter’s hair was arranged in the same
fanciful mode as her step-sister’s.

“Grandmother, please let me wear my new cherry-blossom kimono to-day,”
coaxed Iris.

“You must wear your white,” said the grandmother; “all wear white
to-day. You must look your best. Now, Plum Blossom, let O’Chika arrange
your hair.”

“Please, grandmother, tie my obi. You do it so beautifully,” begged
Marion.

Smiling, Madame Sano pulled and twisted the little girl’s kimono into
correct shape, wound the sash about her, and tied it in a huge bow
behind. Then she slipped a fan and two little paper handkerchiefs into
the sleeves of each little girl. Now that they were all ready, she took
occasion to give them a short lecture.

“You mus’ wear sweed, smiling face to-day, liddle gells. No more cry.”

“Oh, grandmother, how can I help it?” asked Marion, a catch in her voice
which already betokened the forbidden tears. “I’d better stay home. I
_can’t_ see father go away to that awful, cruel war.”

“When Gozo went away I nebber cry one tear!” said Plum Blossom,
fervently.

“I no cry needer,” said Iris; “and when he say good-bye I laff and wave
both these han’s like this.”

“She have flag in both those han’s,” explained Plum Blossom. “She have
_my_ flag also; so when I also wave _my_ han’s I have no flag, but jus’
same—me—_I_ laff, too.”

“Oh, didn’t Gozo feel bad to see you laughing at him like that?”

“No,” cried Plum Blossom, indignantly. “My! how good he feel. He hol’
himself like thisaway.” She threw out her chest in illustration. “And
when he reached corner of street he put Juji down.”

“Juji? Where was he?”

“Gozo carry him on shoulder all way down stleet. And Taro he too marsh
ride nex’ his side with Gozo. Then when Gozo reach that corner he put
Juji down and he putting his han’ on his head thisaway, and then he turn
quick, and thad was las’ time we saw Gozo.”

Her voice fell at the end, and her face had now a distressed expression.

“_I_ only cry after he gone way,” admitted Iris.

Plum Blossom turned on her fiercely.

“If you talk of thad cry _now_, you goin’ cry again, and to-day you
_mus’_ smile, accounts our fadder marshing, too.”

Iris smothered all signs of tears.

“_Me?_ _I_ cry to-day?” she said. “Never I cry.”

“Did Juji cry?” asked Marion, curiously, mindful of the child’s talent
in that direction.

“No, Juji never cry, even after Gozo gone. Everybody cry then ’cept
Juji. He forget he god brudder naime Gozo.”

“Now all honorably go down-stairs and sedately wait for your august
parents to descend for breakfast.”

Later the grandmother dressed little Juji, and the baby, too, for the
lazy Norah could not see the necessity for such early rising, and
grumbled at being awakened.

“Shure an’ wot time is it he’s afther goin’ away?” she inquired of the
grandmother.

“Your master go away at three o’clock,” said the grandmother, quietly.

“Thray o’clock! In the afthernoon, may I arsk?”

“Certainly.”

“And you get up at thray in the morning because he laves at thray in the
afthernoon?”

The grandmother did not answer. She was unused to such questioning from
her own servants, and found it hard to tolerate it from the Irish girl.
But Norah persisted:

“What’s the sinse of getting up before you’re awake?”

The grandmother condescended an explanation.

“We desire to make this day a long one, since we can’t have your master
with us long.”

Still grumbling, the Irish girl dressed herself, and then took the baby
from the grandmother.


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                                  XIV


THE farewell breakfast was as merry a one as they could make it under
the circumstances. To please the father, it was served in the
ceremonious Japanese fashion peculiar to such a time. There were hot
rice and freshly fried fish, fruit, persimmons and oranges, and clear,
delicious tea. Everything, in fact, there was to tempt the appetite at
this time, when the appetite might fail them. Even Mrs. Kurukawa, whose
white face showed a night of wakefulness, ate some of the crisp,
inviting fish, and drank the tea with grateful relish. Mr. Kurukawa
appeared all cheerfulness. He made them gifts. Each of the family had an
exchange gift for him. Smiling whimsically, he looked at the little
pile.

“Do you suppose I can find room to take them to the front with me?” he
asked his wife, jocularly.

“Oh yes, yes,” she said, earnestly, “for I advised them all to get you
something you could use there.”

“Let me see.” He began going over the heap of presents. There were
needles and thread from Plum Blossom. Iris had bought a tiny pair of
scissors. Taro’s gift was a little drinking-cup which folded up, a
foreign novelty. Billy gave a jack-knife, such a one as he had long
saved to buy for himself. A little Bible was Marion’s gift. The
grandparents gave the most sensible gift—certain clothes he would
appreciate, compactly rolled in a small bundle, and consisting of
Japanese underwear and sandals. He would find them grateful after long
use of the uniform. Juji had been permitted to choose his own gift.

“Buy something for father,” said Plum Blossom in the store. Then Juji
had pointed with a fat finger at something bright. It proved to be a
silk handkerchief. Even Norah and the baby had gifts for him. A pin the
Irish girl had prized much, since it had been given her by an old
sweetheart, and which bore in twisted letters of silver the legend,
“Remember me,” was the nurse’s tribute. The baby’s gift Mrs. Kurukawa
had chosen—a leather folder containing the photographs of the entire
family. Her own gift she put upon his finger, a ring he had given her.
“Bring it back to me,” she said, and he promised that he would.

The parting took place on the threshold. It was not similar to that of
most Japanese farewells, for Mr. Kurukawa embraced his little girls and
his wife, and they clung about his neck and kissed him, while Marion,
because she could not keep back her tears, rushed into the house to hide
them.

The boys, Billy, Taro, and Juji, were allowed to go with him to the
train. As Gozo had done, Mr. Kurukawa carried Juji on his shoulder.

The little boys waved their flags as the train drew out, and shouted at
the top of their voices.

“Banzai! Banzai! Banzai Dai Nippon!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

They were silent as they made their way homeward. Even Billy, the
garrulous, found he could not speak with such a great lump choking his
throat. When they reached the house they found all the blinds drawn.
Suspecting that the “females,” as Taro called them, had retired to weep
in their rooms, Taro drew Billy towards the pond.

“Let’s play,” said he.

Billy shook his head.

“Play fight,” urged Taro. “_I_ will be Admiral Togo—you be the Lussian
admiral.”

“_Me_ a Russian!” cried Billy, fiercely.

“Yaes, because you loog jes’ same.”

At the insult Billy became purple. He shouted:

“I don’t. Father says when I wear your old kimono I look Japanese.
_I’ll_ be Togo. I’m the oldest.”

Taro shook his head.

“I tell you what,” said Billy. “Juji can be the Russian. See how sleepy
and lazy he looks. Let’s just duck him in the water and wake him up.”

“He’ll cry too much.”

“Oh, the Russians all cry and pray and make a big noise, but they can’t
do anything after a Jap gets them. We won’t really hurt Juji. He’ll
groan like a wounded Russian, and you can be a Red Cross Japanese doctor
and make him better.”

“All lide,” said Taro.

So they began to play.


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                                   XV


SUMMER, with its flowers, carnivals, moonlight fêtes and banquets, is a
season of unalloyed bliss to Japanese children. It seemed as if all
nature took a holiday, and bade the children and the grown folks, too,
come forth from their houses and rejoice at her beauty and happiness.

Never before had the Japanese held so many celebrations. But this year
their festivals were not in honor of the beauty of the flowers or the
glory of the moon. They tossed their fans, their parasols, any article,
above their heads. They marched the streets of the towns at night with
swinging lanterns and torches in their hands, sometimes singing and
always shouting, “Banzai! Banzai!” Impassive faces turned ruddy with
excitement and pride. Even delicate-faced ladies leaned from their
jinrikishas in the public streets and waved the sun flags in their
hands. Never had a flower festival drawn forth such enthusiasm and
excitement. On all sides people spoke the word, breathlessly, with
smiling lips:

“Victory! Always victory for Dai Nippon.”

The Kurukawa family caught the spirit of the country. There was not a
member of the little flock that did not feel a personal pride in Japan’s
achievements. Even Mrs. Kurukawa, after the first shock of the actual
sense of loss had passed, refused to be oppressed by her sorrow. By this
time her husband’s friends in the town were hers. She became a member of
a society which had for its aim the succor of the town’s poor families
whose wage-earners had been given to the war. No Western women’s club or
society ever worked harder than did these little Japanese women when
they took upon themselves the actual support of the poor of the town.
Mrs. Kurukawa found a wonderful comfort in the work. All the little
girls assisted. Immediately after the departure of her husband the
grandmother had come to her with a suggestion that at first she could
not understand.

“Now that the master has gone,” had said the old woman, “shall we not
dismiss all the servants?”

“But why?” she had inquired, astonished. “We can afford to keep them,
can we not?”

Madame Sano could not make her reasons understood. For a time she went
about the house very gloomy and unhappy, shaking her old head as the
servants waited upon their mistress and the children. She herself
refused to be waited upon. Her own meals she cooked herself. It was
shortly after she had become a member of the Aid Society that Mrs.
Kurukawa learned from another member that most of the war families had
dismissed their servants, or kept at most but one scullery maid. The
little Japanese lady told her at the same time that none of them had
bought new clothes since the beginning of the war, and that some of them
had refused fire, food, and luxuries. The reason was this. Their
husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers were suffering hardship and peril.
It would be unseemly for them to live in luxury. Since they could not
share that hardship at the front with their men they would deny
themselves at home.

“But what of the servants?” Mrs. Kurukawa had asked. “They would be
without employment.”

The answer was prompt. “The men-servants belong to the war service. Some
of the women receive reduced wages. The money saved is devoted to
charity. The servants themselves understand that they, too, must make
sacrifices. Some of them are sent by their mistresses to the homes of
the poor and the sick, there to work.”

When she returned home Mrs. Kurukawa called the family together to tell
them of her resolve. They would keep but one maid-servant and Norah, the
nurse. The maid-servant would do the cooking and the scullery work.
Marion, Plum Blossom, and Iris were to do all the chamber work and keep
the second floor clean and sweet. Madame Sano would do the sewing. The
boys must take care of the garden and draw the water. Mrs. Kurukawa
would see to the rest of the house. As the average Japanese family of
similar circumstances kept a great many servants—in fact, any number of
“assistants,” cook’s assistant, scullery assistant, etc.—the Kurukawas
had in all fourteen, including the men who worked in the garden and the
rice-fields. Of these, one old man’s services were retained. The younger
men were advised to enlist if they could. If not, they would receive
reduced wages and be employed in caring for the poor. So the work
previously done by the servants was now done cheerfully and happily by
the members of the Kurukawa family.

No chamber-maid ever cleaned a sleeping-chamber with more pleasure than
did the little girls. Their hair wrapped about in white linen, their
sleeves rolled up, they made the bamboo brooms fly across the floor.

“If one liddle bit of dust be in corner even,” said Plum Blossom, “I
shall die of shame.”

That was the spirit of all.

They who had never known what it was to wash their own bright faces, now
joyfully did all such services for themselves and for one another. They
were always so busy that they found no time for sadness. They arose with
the sun to busy themselves in the house throughout the mornings. The
afternoon was given to more pleasurable work. They would sew and
embroider in the garden, or write letters to their father and Gozo.
Often all of them would go on missions of charity to the town. Japan has
no actual slums in her smaller towns. Asylums and “Refuges” are scarcely
needed. The charity work done is all personal, and perhaps, better.


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                                  XVI


OCTOBER forced the little family in-doors. It was a bleak month, cold
and chilly this year. There is a general superstition in Japan that this
desolate month, when the gods are all absent, will bring disaster to all
who observe events connected with home joys. The Kurukawas were
Christians, and had no faith in these childish superstitions;
nevertheless, they instinctively felt the contagion of the general
feeling of dreariness everywhere. Nearly every afternoon they were wont
to gather together in the great ozashiki, and there they would talk of
the war, or listen to tales of their ancestors’ valor told by the
grandfather, a garrulous story-teller when once upon a theme that
pleased him. It is true his English was at times almost unintelligible,
and he chose the most gory subjects for his tales, but he held his
listeners spellbound. Indeed, Marion, high-strung and excitable as she
had been, became quite hardened and used to stories of bloodshed.

“I believe, mamma,” she said, “_I_ could see a great fight now without
closing my eyes.”

The gloominess of the month was broken by a great letter from the
father. It had been written September 5th, during the action at
Lyago-yang. He told the family little or nothing of the war itself
beyond simple descriptions of his companions and of Russian prisoners he
had seen. There was no word of the hardships, no word of the battles
fought, and he was now a veteran. He wrote that at night when he closed
his eyes he could see them all so clearly, as they had looked in their
cherry gowns on that day of the flower festival. It seemed now so far
away that he sometimes wondered if he were the same man who, covered
with cherry-blossom petals, told them the foolish story of “The Widow of
Sanyo.” There were messages for each child individually. Finally he
wrote that he had not seen Gozo, but that he knew of his whereabouts.
Soon he hoped to be with him.

The children rushed for their little writing-desks. Soon, heels doubled
under, all of them were busily engaged in writing to father. Mrs.
Kurukawa, too, writing at her desk, described the absorbed group about
her. After a time the various epistles were read aloud by their authors.
With her little lisp Plum Blossom read her letter:


    “HONORABLE FADDER,—We got you proud ledder. Oh, how happy we
    feel! I kees this ledder ride this one place. Please kees me bag
    agin. I lig kees. I am now chamber-maid and Marion she also
    chamber-maid and Iris also. House never so clean before. We keep
    light all time burn for you and Gozo. Juji burn his liddle
    finger with match. When we hear of grade victory we blow plenty
    fire worg and Juji burn match. Thas something for him. I am now
    soon 13 years ole. Kees agin that spot as I do.

              “Your most obedient and filialest

                   “daughter foraver,

                        “P. B.”


As soon as Plum Blossom ceased, Iris began reading. Her letter proved to
be, however, an almost exact copy of her sister’s, for, sitting close to
Plum Blossom, she had simply copied her sister’s letter bodily, thus
saving herself the labor of composition. They all laughed when she
re-read Plum Blossom’s letter. Marion read hers shyly.


    “DEAR FATHER,—Please come back soon. I pray for you every night.
    Have you got my Bible still? I hope you read it. Do you remember
    Miss Lamb in Chicago? She used to be my Sunday-school teacher,
    and when you became my papa she told me to be sure to urge you
    to read the Bible, for that was the way to convert the heathen,
    and I told her you were not a heathen, but my own dear father,
    and the best man in the world. But I don’t know why I
    condescended to write about Miss Lamb at this time. It makes my
    letter so long.

    Dear father, I do love you. Mamma cries for you at night.”


She was interrupted here by a protest from the family. Father ought not
to be told of tears. So she scratched that sentence out laboriously, and
then continued:


    “I know she cries at night, because her eyes show it, and it’s
    because she loves you so. So please come back to her at once
    and—”


Billy interrupted this time. “How much longer is it?” he asked, gruffly.
Marion continued, her face flushed:


    “—and this is all, dear father, and I hope you will win the
    fight, only please, please don’t kill anybody or let any one
    kill you. Your own little ‘Yankee girl,’

                                                           “MARION.”

    “P. S.—Give my best love to Gozo, and tell him I pray for him,
    too, and, please, also, would you lend him the Bible I gave you
    sometimes?”


It was Taro’s turn. He began reading in Japanese, put was forced to
translate:


    “AUGUST FATHER,—I would like much to be with you and fight. I
    could kill ten Russians now for Samurai Komatzou has taught me
    some great tricks. Billy says I would make a giant Russian look
    like ‘30 cents.’ Billy also wants to be Japanese soldier. We
    hope war lasts till we grow up so your two dutiful sons may
    enlist. I sign myself now your unworthy son,

                                                             “TARO.”


Billy’s letter was characteristic.


    “DEAR FATHER,—Are there any drummer-boys our age? Have _you_
    killed any Russians yourself? How did you do it? Did you shoot
    him or run your sword through his bowels like that ancestor you
    told us about did? Do you use my jack-knife any? I hope it’s
    useful. I wish I was grown-up. Say, would you ask Gozo, when you
    see him, to send me some Russian buttons. He sent one to Marion.
    It was all rusty, and she gave it to me, as Taro told there was
    blood on it. Taro and I worked very hard this summer in the
    garden, but it’s great sport. We pretended we were digging
    trenches, and whenever we found stones we said they were
    bullets, and we piled them up together, and after a time had
    lots of ammunition. Say, there’s a French boy living out here,
    and he told Taro that after a time there’d be no Japs left,
    because Japan was so small, and he said we’d all be killed off,
    and he said that the regiments would have to have boys in them
    soon, because his father said so. Is it true, and if so, can’t
    Taro and I come at once? Taro licked the Frenchy till he
    squeaked for mercy, and his father came out and jabbered a lot
    of gibberish, and he got terribly excited and said, ‘Insoolt to
    France!’ and everybody laughed at him. Well, this is all. We
    want the French boy to play war with us, but he’s like
    Rojestvensky, he bluffs—but we’ll catch him yet. Say, father,
    write something about the fight and if you’re wounded anywhere.
    Aff., “BILLY.”


“Talk about long letters,” said Marion.

“Oh, well,” said Billy, “_I_ had something to say. Besides, if it’s true
what the Frenchy says, Taro and I will be soldiers soon, too, and father
ought to know.”


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                                  XVII


THERE was a long silence from the soldier in Manchuria. The Kurukawas,
like many other families in Japan, watched for the mail each day with
greedy feverishness. But the autumn passed away and there was no further
word from Kurukawa. He had told his wife she must expect these long
silences. There were reasons that she must understand for such
interludes. A soldier’s letter cannot be had every day. And so she
waited with the patience worthy of a brave woman. But when December was
ushered in with a little drift of snow, and she knew that winter was
coming, her thoughts wandered unceasingly to that one out there in the
frozen Manchuria, and, brooding over it, her strength gave way. Nights
passed; alone with a terrified imagination further exhausted her.
Suddenly she decided that she must go at once to Tokio and make inquiry
of the Minister of War of the fate of her husband. Leaving Juji and the
baby at home, she took the three little girls and two older boys with
her. She told the children nothing of her fears. They believed the trip
to Tokio was made for the purpose of making purchases for the Christmas
and New-Year’s season.

“When you come back,” had said the smiling old grandmother, “the
honorable house will be quite new and fresh for New-Year’s.”

The children were excited by the prospect of a visit to Tokio. The
Japanese children had never been in the large town. Thus it actually
fell to Billy and Marion to describe Tokio to them, for they had passed
two days in the city.

The little party arrived at the Shinbasi Station, where they took
jinrikishas and rode through the bewildering streets to the Imperial
Hotel. As it was past six o’clock, the children after dinner went
straight to bed, thoroughly tired out. But Mrs. Kurukawa sought to see
some one who could allay her anxiety. There were only two clerks left in
the War Office at this hour. They were excessively polite and even
sympathetic, going over all the lists of the dead and wounded they
possessed. There were two Kurukawas among the wounded, but neither was
her husband. She felt that a great load had been lifted from her, and
with a happier heart she drove back to the hotel. For the first time in
many days she slept in peace.

Early in the morning she was awakened by the children. They were crowded
at the windows, looking out upon the streets and chattering.

“I’m going to buy all my gifts to-day,” announced Marion, “because if we
don’t buy early all the best things will be snapped up,” she added,
wisely.

Taro said, reflectively: “I’m going to wait till second January.”

“Second January!” cried Billy. “Why, that’s after Christmas!”

Taro nodded.

“I nod give Christmas presents. I give only New-Year’s gift.”

“Oh, Taro!” cried Marion. “Why, we’re going to have a Christmas-tree!
Who wants to wait till January second?”

“But thad is day the otakara (treasure-ships) are on streets,” explained
Plum Blossom.

“Yes,” said Iris, “and in Tokio he has beau-tee-ful presents.”

“Mother says we’ll be home for Christmas. So how can you wait till
January second?”

The little Japanese children’s faces fell.

“Tha’s true,” admitted Iris, dejectedly.

“Oh, well,” said Plum Blossom, consolingly, “the toshironschi is open in
December, and I wan’ take home wiz me plenty mochitsuki” (nice pastry).

“Are you dressed, children?” asked Mrs. Kurukawa, coming into the room.

They were in their quaint blue linen Japanese night-dresses, a queer
little group, all barefooted.

They dressed quickly, busily talking and planning as they did so. The
day was to be spent in the stores of Tokio. Never were there more
enticing stores to shop in, the children thought. They got out their
little savings, rolled up in paper handkerchiefs in their sleeves, and
counted them over and over.

Billy had the most money, nearly twenty dollars in all. He had not saved
a penny, but becoming desperate as the Christmas season advanced, he had
sold nearly all his American clothes to various susceptible Japanese
youth of the town. One paid him two dollars for a sailor hat. A young
man of eighteen years now wore the twelve-year-old Billy’s short
trousers under a kimono. Three of his shirts had been purchased by Miss
Summer, which she proudly wore on festival occasions. Even his
suspenders had proved marketable, and also his heavy shoes and rubbers.
When he had asked his mother’s permission to “give” his clothes away she
had laughed and told him that by the time he ceased to wear kimonos
again he would be too large for the American clothes he now possessed,
and so had lightly given her consent. But she was quite distressed when
she learned he had sold them. Billy, however, was equal to the occasion,
and soon persuaded her that he had done right. “It would have been wrong
to make the proud Japanese accept second-hand American clothes as
charity.” So Billy was now rich, and accordingly avaricious. He wished
he had a hundred dollars instead of twenty dollars; then he could buy
cameras and guns and such things which cost plenty of money, but since
there was such a large family, and since the Japanese had to have
presents at New-Year’s as well, he couldn’t afford costly ones. In any
event he wanted them all to know that he was not going to spend more
than half his money, as he was saving the other half for something for
himself—he wouldn’t tell what.

Ten dollars was Taro’s total, but he had in addition an unopened bank
half full of sen (pennies). He had been saving all summer, and would
have had a larger sum, but he had generously contributed two yen to the
support of an old coolie whose sons were at the war and whom his mother
was befriending. Billy, too, had made a like contribution, though he
said nothing about it now. Taro, however, could not forget that two yen.

“If I had thad two yen more I could buy fine present for you, Billy, but
I have only liddler got—I gotter buy for girls first. Mebbe I buy you
something if I have aeny left.”

“Well, you’d just better,” snorted Billy, “and you know what I want.”

Taro grunted discontentedly, but made no rash promises.

“How much have you got?” Billy asked Plum Blossom, who had her money
arranged in a neat row.

“Three yen and—” she began counting the sen again.

“And you, Iris?”

“Jus’ same Plum Blossom,” said Iris, who had not bothered to count.

“Why, no, you silly, you haven’t. I’ll count for you.” Iris possessed
three yen and seventy-five sen, about two dollars and a quarter.

Marion had seven dollars; two dollars she had saved, and five dollars an
aunt had sent her “to buy a pretty kimono with.”

“But I have lots of kimonos,” said Marion, “so I’ll buy Christmas
presents instead, as it’s more blessed to give than to receive,” she
added, piously.

“All right,” grinned Billy. “You must not expect to _receive_ much,
sis.”


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[Illustration]


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                                 XVIII


WHEN the little Kurukawa family started for the shopping district the
streets were bathed in the beautiful early winter sun. In a city where
the distances are very great, where large parks and actual stretches of
bare country exist in seemingly the centre of the town and where the
streets zigzag in every direction, it is a matter often of hours to
reach certain points. But the children enjoyed the long ride. They would
have laughed aloud at the average foreigner’s complaint against the
“jerking jinrikisha.” What child does not prefer a vehicle that bumps up
and down a bit to one that runs inanely and smoothly?

Taro and Billy occupied one jinrikisha, Marion and Plum Blossom another,
while Iris rode with her mother. They called across merrily to each
other. When one runner, swifter-footed for the moment than his fellows,
sped on ahead, the pair in advance would cheer in delight.

The speed with which the jinriki-men ran, Billy thought wonderful.

“They would beat anybody at our Sunday-school picnic races,” he told
Taro.

It would be great fun, suggested Taro, if some time they could come to
Tokio alone and apprentice themselves to jinriki-men. Then they _would_
learn to run! The suggestion thrilled Billy. He saw in it glowing
possibilities of easily earned money; the opportunity to own a
jinrikisha and learn to run like the wind. But, then, how would they be
soldiers? Certainly their military ambitions came first.

At the end of two hours’ running they drew up before a tea-house which
stood within a little park of its own. Smiling and bowing the
jinriki-men suggested that their patrons must be thirsty, as they, the
runners, were. Would they not condescend to refresh themselves with tea
and sweetmeats? The suggestion went to the hearts of the children. They
had no idea how hungry they were, and so “mother” smilingly nodded to
the little, begging faces. In a few moments they were within the
tea-house. At that season of the year the tea-house is not well
patronized, but as it was close to the noon hour, a number of Japanese
business-men sat at the various tables eating their luncheon.

A maiden with roguish black eyes came running over to the Kurukawas to
help the children into their seats. Her rosy mouth slipped open as she
saw that her visitors, despite their dress, were not all Japanese. For a
moment she stood perfectly still staring at Marion, but when Mrs.
Kurukawa addressed her she slipped to her knees, bowed very deeply, and
inquired what they might command her to bring.

All of them wanted tea and sweetmeats except Billy, who insisted upon
having a piece of rare steak with fried onions. When Taro translated
this astonishing order the little maid shook her head and laughingly
declared that they were too poor a house to serve such extraordinary
luxuries.

“Well,” said Billy, crossly, “I’m tired of rice-cakes and sweet things.
I want something else. Do you keep chop-suey?” It was a dish he liked
very much, having become acquainted with it through a Chinese cook
lately employed. The little maid thought she might bring something
resembling chop-suey. So she sped away to fill the orders. Soon she was
back, followed by another maid carrying the luncheon on black lacquer
trays. The omelets ordered by Mrs. Kurukawa were served in the most
attractive shapes. Each omelet was formed in a different pattern, as a
chrysanthemum, a twig of pine-tree, a plum blossom.

“They’re too pretty to eat,” said Marion, looking with delight at the
flower form before her.

[Illustration:

  “THE LITTLE WAITRESS BROUGHT HER SAMISEN AND .... BEGAN TO PLAY AND
    SING”
]

Billy’s chop-suey was a chicken-stew, to which had been added mushrooms.
As they ate the meal the little waitress brought her samisen, and,
running her fingers lightly across it, she began to first play and then
to sing:

                    “Oh, the soldiers march away!
                     See them march away.
                     The maids at home must stay,
                     Hush! do not weep, but pray,
                        Oh, the soldiers march away!

                    “Oh, how long now will they stay?
                     No one truth can say.
                     When soldiers march away,
                     List! often ’tis for aye,
                        Oh, the soldiers march away!”

Her queer little staccato voice fell mournfully at the end, and the
samisen concluded her song in its lower keys.

Plum Blossom tried to explain to them what it was she sang, though both
Billy and Marion now partially understood the language.

“The soldiers marching way, naever, naever come bag. All maidens must
not cry, bud pray for them.”

She threw a reproachful look at Marion, who had wept so often.

“Tell her to sing something happy,” said Billy.

Mrs. Kurukawa addressed the girl, as she spoke Japanese with more than
usual fluency.

“Whose songs do you sing?”

“My own, honored one.”

“You make up your own songs?”

“Yes, gracious lady.”

“The music, too?”

“Yes, augustness. By profession I am a geisha, but since the war our
business is so poor we are obliged to become tea-waitresses also.”

“And are geishas also poetesses and musicians?”

“Yes, gracious one. Shall I write my honorably foolish poetry for you,
and will you condescend to accept it?”

“I should be delighted. I should keep it always. But sing to us again.”

She sang shrilly, to the high notes of her samisen:

                      “Look! the moon is peeping,
                        Little maid, take care!
                       Lovers trysts are keeping,
                        Little maid, take care!

                      “Lovers oft are weeping,
                        Little maid, take care!
                       When the moon is peeping,
                        Little maid, take care!

                      “Who is this comes creeping?
                        Little maid, take care!
                       Hah! the moon still peeping,
                        Little maid, take care!

                      “Oh, the heart upleaping!
                        Little maid, take care!
                       Lovers?—moon a-peeping!
                        No! It’s brother there!
                        Little maid, take care!”

Still squatting on her heels, the little geisha-girl wrote her poems in
Japanese characters for the American woman. Then bowing very deeply she
presented them to her, saying sweetly:

“Two sen, highness, one sen for each poem.”

Mrs. Kurukawa paid the price, and laughed as she did so.


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[Illustration]


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                                  XIX


THE tea-house was only a short distance from the shops, and the runners,
rested and refreshed by sake, drew them swiftly into the heart of the
town. Soon they were in a shop kept by a tiny Japanese, very old and
very wrinkled, who begged, as he bowed deeply, that they would help
themselves to all they saw in his most insignificant shop. The
magnificence of this offer, made in intelligible English, quite
delighted Billy. He began to have visions of what he would do with his
twenty dollars since this Japanese was so polite that he was actually
offering to _give_ them the articles. Soon he was undeceived. In a short
time the unwary children were enmeshed in the wily bargaining web of the
shrewd small merchant of Tokio.

Billy saw a flag which warmed his heart. It was a large Japanese flag,
with the sun solidly embroidered in its centre. What a gift to send to
his father! In imagination he saw the flag torn and cut by bullets. He
priced it. It was ten dollars. The old man insinuated that he might take
eight dollars for it. Billy shook his head, swallowing deep
disappointment. The old man would let it go for five dollars. No?
Possibly the young augustness was poor? Billy flushed proudly and dipped
into his sleeve for his money. Then he said, sturdily: “I’ll give you a
dollar for it.”

The old man shrugged, protested, but finally rolled up the flag tenderly
and gratefully took the dollar in exchange.

“My goodness!” said Billy, “are there Jews in Japan?”

“Be careful, Billy,” his mother warned.

She herself, however, was feeling strangely drawn towards a certain
padded silk dressing sack, heavily embroidered with chrysanthemums of
the color most admired by her husband. Unlike Billy, she did not pause
to bargain. Her husband had warned her: “The Japanese shop-keeper will
take what he can get. Set your price and give no more.”

“I’ll give you five dollars for that,” said she. Then she felt ashamed
of herself when he, with a sad shake of his head, began wrapping it up
for her.

The little girls’ purchases were trifling but pretty. Their sleeves,
being full of parcels, hung down on either side like heavy bags. Billy’s
and Taro’s purchases, however, were so large that there was some
question how they were to be carried.

Three swords, an old American rifle, and a water-pistol were among
Taro’s acquisitions. Billy had his large flag, a soldier’s uniform, a
miniature cannon, and a folio of bright pictures describing war. At the
last moment his conscience smote him. Neither he nor Taro had bought
presents for the girls. Both had been too absorbed in buying things for
boys. They put their heads together and whispered now. Ten cents
remained to each. Taro bought toothpicks, cheapest facepowder,
nail-polish, and a back-scratcher, each article costing three cents. He
grudgingly gave up one of the articles he had already, and instead
purchased for the mother a pot of the rosiest paint.

Billy, too, begrudged the money necessary to spend on the girls, so he
was determined not to part with any of his own things. His gifts cost in
the neighborhood of a cent or two cents each. For Marion he bought one
paper handkerchief, for Plum Blossom a brass ring, for Iris a hat-pin,
for Juji a bit of candy, and for Norah tooth-blacking. This, he thought,
she could utilize for her shoes. As the presents looked very bright and
gaudy, Billy and Taro felt that they had done their duty, and that the
girls ought to be duly grateful.

On the way home a shrill voice shouting in the street was recognized by
the sharp-eared Taro.

“The treasure-ship!” he cried, excitedly.

Around the corner came a most wonderful cart piled high with brightly
colored toys and things dear to the heart of a child. Following the cart
was a veritable procession of little children. Loudly the vendor
shouted:

“Otakara! Otakara!”

Ambitious to imitate the commercial foreigner, the treasure-vendor had
decided to play this little trick on his fellows. He would not wait till
January 2d, but would appear on the street with his treasure-cart thus
early in the season when people had not yet spent all their money.

The entreaty in the faces of the children Mrs. Kurukawa could not
resist. Soon some of the bright things of the treasure-cart were
transferred to the jinrikishas.

“But, mind you, children,” she said, as they turned gleefully homeward,
“I’m going to put everything away until Christmas.”


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[Illustration]


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                                   XX


THE following day Mrs. Kurukawa yielded to the coaxing of the children
and took them to hear one of the famous story-tellers of Tokio. There is
not a child, I believe, of any nationality, who does not love a “story.”
In Japan story-telling is an actual profession, possessing its own halls
and houses of entertainment. But the audience is not made up of
children. People of all ages attend, though the story-teller is not as
popular to-day as he once was. With eagerness, then, the little Kurukawa
children, after hanging their clogs among others, entered the hall. They
were led into a square little booth or box. In a few minutes a waitress
from an adjoining tea-house sold them refreshments.

The hall was dimly lighted by candles. As black cloths were draped about
the stage the place had a gloomy appearance. Presently the story-teller
entered and seated himself on the raised dais. So horrible and weird was
his aspect that the little girls involuntarily clung to one another’s
hands and looked at their mother apprehensively. His face and bald head
were chalky white. Seen from the distance of their box his eyes were
black chasms set into his white face. He appeared to have enormous teeth
which protruded as long fangs beyond his lips. As he seated himself on
the dais all the candles in the hall went out, seemingly of their own
accord. Only those upon the stage remained burning.

“Oh,” said Marion, grasping Taro’s hand in the darkness, “he looks like
some horrible ghost!”

“Sh!” whispered the little Japanese boy. “He’s going to tell a
ghost-story.”

“I thought,” broke in Billy, “they told war-stories.”

“Sh! I’ll tell you what he says, if you be quiet.”

“I don’t want to hear,” said Marion, covering her ears with her hands,
for at that moment the deep and hollow voice of the story-teller fell
upon the hushed audience. He was a pantomimist as well as a
story-teller. As both Billy and Marion understood some Japanese he made
his story clear even to them. As he proceeded with his tale the candles
on the stage gradually flickered out, until he was in darkness, save for
a weird yellow glow surrounding him. Then it was that the thrilled
audience thought saw strange white shapes fluttering about him, first
hovering over and covering the speaker, then wandering about the stage.

The tale he told was an old one known to all Japanese. It was the story
of the faithless husband who swore to his young and dying wife that he
would never marry again. Scarcely, however, had she been cold in her
grave before he married a young and beautiful girl. For many nights the
bride was visited by a wraith with warning to leave her husband. She
would wake screaming with fright, but always her husband, lying there
beside her, would reassure her. Finally the ghost set a day for the
bride’s departure, telling her that if she did not go on that day a
terrible fate would befall her. That night the husband set a guard of
twelve watchmen in their chamber. When the ghostly visitor entered the
room of armed men they fell dead at the feet of the spirit as it crossed
the threshold and went straight to the bed where the frightened bride
cowered close against her sleeping lord, for although he had sworn to
keep the watch with the guards he had yielded to irresistible slumber.
The following morning, waking early, he stretched his arms out to enfold
his bride. The form he held was stiff and cold. Something wet and slimy
touched him. As he put out a hand to caress her hair he saw the thing
beside him, a trunk from which the head had been torn away.

As the story-teller finished the recital there was a long interval of
absolute silence in the hall. Then out of the darkness of the stage a
white figure bore upon the vision. In the weird light that suddenly
enwrapped the spectre the audience saw that it held aloft the head of a
woman, the long, black hair floating away from the deathly face as
though a wind were blowing through the hall.

A stir, a shiver seemed to pass at once over the whole audience.
Then—almost an unknown thing in Japan—a child’s shrill voice startled
the silence. Mrs. Kurukawa reached out to catch Marion in her arms; the
little girl had become almost paralyzed with fear. A moment later the
candles were lighted. People looked at one another in the new
light—everywhere faces were pale and lined with fear.

“Oh, let’s go home,” pleaded Marion, at which the mother arose.

“No, no!” protested Taro. “He’ll tell war-tales now. _We_ want to stay.”

“Of course we do,” cried Billy. “That old cry-baby always spoils our
fun.”

A smiling waitress with candy beans assured them that the lights would
not be turned out again, and so Marion leaned against her mother
resignedly.

“_I_ wasn’t the only one afraid,” she said, plaintively. “All of you
were, even mother, weren’t you?”

“Yes, I was,” she answered, truthfully. “I didn’t know I could feel
quite so shivery over a mere ghost-story.”

“Don’t they ever tell pretty fairy-stories?” asked Marion.

“No,” said Taro, disgustedly. “They would have no business then.”

“Story-tellers’ halls,” said Billy, didactically, “aren’t for girls.
Girls haven’t the sense to enjoy tragedy.”

They remained until five o’clock, listening to exaggerated accounts of
the war. Graphic details were recounted of the battles. Many Japanese
fed their imaginations at the story-teller’s table after the hunger left
by mere official accounts published in the newspapers.


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[Illustration]


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                                  XXI


THREE more days the little party remained in Tokio. Then, tired out,
happy, and loaded down with purchases, they returned to their home.
There they found the long-looked-for letter from the soldier. It had
come during their absence.

He had not written sooner because the soldiers had been forbidden to
write to their families during a certain period of operations. He hoped
that his letter would reach them in time to make their Christmas and New
Year season happy. His letter ran:


    “As I write, I am a happy man, despite the many things of which
    I am deprived. First, I am a servant in a glorious cause. Who
    could choose a nobler way to die? It is with cheerfulness that
    we soldiers bear the enforced hardships. Indeed, we scarcely
    feel them, so buoyed up are we by our cause. But I have still
    another reason for happiness at this time. I am with my boy Gozo
    at last, and if the fates but permit, we shall never separate
    again. I have told him about you all, and his letter to you will
    reach you with my own. The experiences he has been through since
    leaving his father’s home have made a man of him. And it is with
    a man’s deep understanding that he asks your pardon. But he
    speaks for himself.

    “I cannot send you gifts this year, my children and my wife, but
    my prayers and blessings are for you always. Tell Billy I cannot
    send him the Russian buttons for which he asks. I think he would
    understand if he were here. Let him imagine the kind of man who
    would cut away a trifling souvenir from the body of a dead
    enemy. Tell the boys also that I do not doubt their zeal to
    serve Japan, but that it is not likely we shall need their
    services. Their French friend had better revise his thoughts.

    “I read many times the letters from my little girls. Tell Plum
    Blossom so well have I kissed the spot she indicated in her
    letter that there is a little hole there now. Tell my little
    Yankee girl, too, that not only have I lent her Bible to Gozo,
    but it is the common property of the little band of Christians
    in our regiment. There are fifteen of us in all. It will give
    Marion pleasure to know that her gift to me passes from hand to
    hand, and fifteen loyal soldiers of Ten-shi-sama unconsciously
    bless her each day they read.

    “Take care of my house for me, my children, and my wife.
    Encourage my boys in thoughts of patriotism. Remember that
    always I think of you, and that is happiness enough.”


The letter from Gozo was brief, but his step-mother read it greedily. It
was written in the English language.


    “ESTEEMED MADAME, AND MOTHER-BY-LAW,—I know not to express
    myself good in your language. How I can find words begging your
    pardon? Put my rudeness to you down to my ignorance. I am more
    old to-day and through my honored father’s words I am now
    acquainted with your respected character. I shall never have
    pleasure to look upon your honorable face, for I have given my
    insignificant life to my Emperor, yet I write begging for your
    affection.

    “Also I humbly asking that you will continue to show kindness to
    my little brothers and sisters, whom though they be unworthy, I
    am very sick to see. Sometimes I think all night long of that
    little Juji brother. Pray excuse each foolish emotion. I beg
    remain,

              “Your filial step-son forever,

                   “KURUKAWA GOZO.”


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[Illustration]


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                                  XXII


THE country was ringing with the hateful news of the Kamrahn Bay
incident. When a French name was mentioned, Japanese faces looked dark
and bitter. Foreigners in Japan talked more about the matter than did
the Japanese themselves, however, for they were silent and thought much.
Nevertheless, this incident and others pierced deeply. Women, smiling
strangely, told their little sons the story, and they repeated after
their mothers the words: “We Japanese never forget!” In the higher
classes of the schools the teachers quietly instructed their pupils of
the unfriendly act of a “friendly” nation. The story-tellers in their
halls enlarged upon the theme, and told the story over and over again,
with greater exaggeration each time. By-and-by the news reached the ears
of the Kurukawa family. Billy and Taro held a council of war.

“How to be revenged?” that was the question.

They marched up and down the little garden-path discussing the subject
from every stand-point. By some unfortunate coincidence the little
French boy from the neighboring street happened to pass the Kurukawa
house at the fateful moment when this fierce debate was in progress. In
one of those flashes that often come, even to children, Billy and Taro
simultaneously recognized in him the object for just vengeance. With a
bound Taro sprang through the garden-gate and seized the helpless and
unsuspecting French boy, whom he dragged down the path. Then Taro sat
upon him. Billy was jumping about wildly, throwing out his fists, and
pretending to spit upon them. Taro, however, was quite calm.

“We kinnod,” said he, proudly, “_both_ beat thad French boy. That’s nod
fair.”

Billy’s jaw dropped. Then his face brightened.

“Say, Japan doesn’t want to fight France _yet_. You leave him to _me_.
They interfered in what wasn’t their affair, and now America’s going to
do the same.”

Taro shook his head.

“You be England,” said he, wisely; “she our honorable ally.”

“I am English, then,” shrieked Billy; “all our people come from England
originally. Mamma said so. Let him up.”

Taro reluctantly arose, permitting the crushed young Frenchman to do
likewise. He was a little fellow, though past his fourteenth year. His
eyes were very black and furtive, and he had a tiny little mouth that
would not keep closed. Actually his face was smiling. He spoke Japanese
with only slight hesitancy. His polite suggestion was that they should
go to his father to borrow swords with which to fight a decent duel. The
boys received this suggestion with shouts of derision. Then the little
Frenchman declared he would not fight at all, and crossing his arms over
his chest, told them they could murder him if they wished.

Billy surveyed him contemptuously.

“Say, what’s your name, anyhow?” he queried, after a moment.

“Alphonse Napoleon Tascherean.”

“Well, what do you think of that Kamrahn Bay matter?” continued Billy,
curious to know the boy’s views; but Alphonse only shrugged expressive
shoulders and smiled a little, subtle, sneering smile.

“D’ye remember how Taro licked you last fall?”

The French boy turned darkly red. His hands were in his pocket, and one
of them suddenly flashed out. He had a knife.

“I no longer am afraid of heem,” he said, contemptuously. “I will cut
him up—so! if he touch me once again!”

“You will?” cried Billy. “You think _we’re_ afraid of your old knife?
Get it, Taro.”

Taro did get it, though he had a scratch on his hand to show how
dangerous the undertaking was. Then the French boy’s assured manner
vanished as if by magic. Quite piteously he began to cry. At the top of
his voice he shouted aloud for “Pa-pa! Pa-pa!”

“We’re not going to hurt you after all,” said Billy, after a moment.
“We’ll make you do something you’ll remember. Taro, help me tie his
hands first.”

They secured him firmly.

“Now,” ordered Billy, “you run to the house and get that old French flag
you and I have been using as a mark for firing at for some time, and get
a Jap flag, too.”

Taro was gone but a moment, and then returned with the desired flags.
These Billy took and held before the French boy.

“Now, you,” said he, “if you don’t want to stay tied up here all night,
you just do what we tell you. Kiss that sun flag—right in the centre.
That’s the thing! What!—Ah, you will, you divil,” for the French boy put
his lips against the flag but a second, and then withdrew them to spit
at it.

Taro had turned livid. In a flash he had seized the flag and was ramming
it fiercely into the mouth of the French boy. Billy fought Taro back.

“Here, Taro! That’s not fair! He’s tied!”

He drew forth the flag. The dye ran down in livid streams on Alphonse’s
chin. He fought vainly to free his arms.

“Now, you,” said Billy, “we’ll let you free if you’ll fight either one
of us alone. But if you won’t, you’d better do what we tell you. If you
don’t—”

Taro had quietly stripped himself to the waist prepared for battle. He
was younger by several years than the French boy, but the latter had
already felt the taste of the little Japanese’s strength. When he
encountered that bloody purpose in the eye of Taro he trembled visibly.

“I will do what you ask,” he decided, suddenly.

“Good!” cried Billy. “_You_ believe in spitting, eh? Well, now you just
spit good and plenty at _that_!” He thrust the French flag before
Alphonse, who spat at his country’s flag. Then shrugging his shoulders,
he swore as little boys of some nationalities do not.

Fifteen times he was forced to bow to the Japanese flag, touching each
time the ground with his head. Finally he cried as instructed at the top
of his voice:

“Vive la Nippon! Banzai!”

He went home a very much wilted and bedraggled little Frenchman, but he
did not tell his papa or mamma of the flag incident.

When his father read with apparent exultation further news of Kamrahn
Bay, Alphonse raised his little thin shoulders and eyebrows to venture
the astonishing remark:

“Was it _wise_ of France, pa-pa?”


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[Illustration]


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                                 XXIII


THERE came not many letters during the winter months to the little
Kurukawa family, but the ones that did come were all the more precious.
Before the first flowers of the year had begun to tint the plum-trees
with their pink beauty, all Japan knew that the war would have but one
ending. Victory followed victory. Instances of heroism became so
frequent they could scarcely keep count of them. People, smiling, would
hear the tale of a certain officer or soldier’s self-sacrifice for his
country, then they would say, still with that mysterious smile so common
in Japan: “He has done only what any soldier of Japan would do.”

The newspapers, little, slim sheets, containing less than a quarter of
the words an American newspaper would give to the war-story, seemed to
drift about the empire. Everywhere they were found, everywhere people
carried them.

It was in April that the _Far East_ published a story of a certain act
of surpassing heroism performed by a Japanese officer. Mrs. Kurukawa had
seen the head-lines, and stopping in the street had bought the paper.
She read it through slowly, still standing there in the street. As she
stood, perfectly still, her white face tense and drawn, curious
passers-by stopped to look at her, wondering what it was the foreign
woman found in the paper to make her look so strangely. It was the act
of a child which aroused her. Passing, he lightly pulled the sleeve of
her kimono. She started as if struck, the paper fluttered from her hand.
Mechanically she reached for it, but a sudden wind caught it up and blew
it hither and thither about the street. She stood there watching its
flight until it had passed out of sight. It disappeared utterly. Surely
it had never been at all, she had not really held it in her hand and
read the story of her husband’s terrible fate! Walking unsteadily and
blindly, she started down the street.

Madame Sano came swiftly from the garden-path to meet her, for the news
had reached the house in Mrs. Kurukawa’s absence.

Japanese women are not demonstrative, but they are exquisitely tender.
The touch of Madame Sano’s hands upon her face was balm itself. The
stricken woman’s features quivered. Sobs burst from her lips, and in the
other woman’s arms she wept as though she had found the haven of a
mother’s breast. Without speaking, Madame Sano led her into the house.
The children, a pitiful, frightened group, were in the hall, waiting for
her. Passionately, Marion called her mother by name, and clung to her a
moment, but Madame Sano gently put the little girl aside and took the
mother to her room. There she induced her to lie down until she waited
upon her, murmuring words in soothing Japanese. When the younger woman
was calmer, Madame Sano gently spoke of the sad news. She said, in a
reverent voice:

“God is good, my daughter. How gloriously he has rewarded your husband!”

The woman on the bed did not stir or speak. Madame Sano continued:

“Think how many families there are in Japan whose men have never had the
opportunity to give such august service to their Emperor. We are
fortunate indeed.”

Mrs. Kurukawa covered her face with her hands. The tears came slipping
through them; helpless, silent tears which would not be held back. Her
voice was choked but inexpressibly sweet:

“I know,” she said, “it is all—very—glorious—but—I will not give up
hope.”

“Hope?” repeated Madame Sano. “Our best hopes are realized, my daughter.
Kurukawa Kiyskichi has made the supreme sacrifice. He has given his life
to his Emperor and to his country.”

Now, Mrs. Kurukawa raised herself. Two spots of red appeared in her
cheeks. Her eyes were feverish, her nervous fingers clasped each other
spasmodically.

“I will tell you my hope—my belief. I feel, in spite of what we have
heard, that my husband is not dead. I _feel_ it somehow. I cannot
explain. Only this I do know: he promised he would return, and he must!
Oh, I am sure he will!”

Gently the old woman spoke, smoothing the hands of the other woman as
she did so.

“My child, he will truly return to you as he has promised. All Japanese
soldiers expect to return to their wives, but in the spirit!”

Mrs. Kurukawa drew her hands passionately away.

“That was not his meaning,” she said.

Madame Sano shook her head sadly.

“Ah, my child, be reconciled to the august inevitable.”

There was a smile upon the pale lips of the younger woman.

“You do not understand my faith,” she said, “and I cannot explain it.
When I read that story in the street I felt as if something had struck
me. I tried to push it from me with my hands, and I do not know how I
found my way home. I still feel as if I had been hurt and bruised in
some way, and yet I know—I feel—that it is not true—that he is—dead.”

Her voice whispered the word, and for a long interval there was silence
in the room. Then she said, slowly: “It is a mistake—a horrible mistake.
God give us courage to bear the mistake. But that is all it is.”

“You do not believe the story of your husband’s magnificent heroism?”

“I do believe it.”

“Then you must admit that he has passed away. Is it not clearly stated
that after he had saved almost the entire division that was caught in
the ambush that he himself was struck down and his body carried away by
the Russians, for what purposes can only be surmised?”

Mrs. Kurukawa was silent. After a while she arose, and, though her hands
were trembling, she dressed herself afresh with calmness. Madame Sano
watched her in silence.

After a while she asked:

“You are going out?”

“Yes, to learn what I can. If necessary I will go again to Tokio,
leaving the children with you.”

The old woman nodded.

“They will make an honorable effort,” she said, “to obtain possession of
your husband’s body, and he will be given an exalted funeral. ‘He died
gloriously for Dai Nippon’ will say all loyal Japanese.”

Mrs. Kurukawa smiled wearily.

“He is not dead,” she said. “Do not, dear Madame Sano, rob me of my
hope. I want to be courageous, for while I feel he is not gone truly
from me, I do not know what may have befallen him. It may be that he is
wounded—sick—tortured—a prisoner. Oh, I cannot bear to think of it!”

“Better, my child,” urged the old woman, gently, “to believe he is at
rest. Cherish not false hopes. Ah, had you been a true daughter of
Japan, you would have looked for, expected, and even hailed this
bereavement, but—”

“Do not reproach me,” cried Mrs. Kurukawa. “My husband would not have
done so. Oh, I have tried to be as he would wish me, and—and—I feel that
he would have me believe as I do. I know he will keep his promised word.
He will return to me.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXIV


TWO weeks later the mail for Tokio contained several pathetic epistles.
Most of them were written in the wandering, crude, yet peculiarly
attractive handwriting of little children. Mrs. Kurukawa read them over
and over again, crying softly as she did so.


    “DARLING MAMMA,—Do please let us come to you in Tokio. You do
    not know how sad we are without you. Little girls have little
    hearts, but I know that they can suffer much, just the same.
    Grandmother, too, is very sad, and Norah is crying, ‘Wirrah,
    wirrah, wirrah!’ all the time, and, oh, mamma, she says she
    hears the banshee every night wailing outside our house.
    Grandmother says it’s only that old gray cat of Summer’s. You
    probably remember her. But Norah says it is the banshee, and it
    means that some one in our family is dead. Oh, mamma, _how_ it
    made me cry! Grandmother has made us all the strangest-looking
    kimonos. They are of black crêpe, and I cannot bear to put mine
    on. She says that black is not the mourning color in Japan, but
    we must wear black in honor of you, mamma, because black crêpe
    is mourning in America. So yesterday we all went to church in
    those black kimonos, and everybody stared at us, and I put my
    head down on the pew, and cried and cried. Plum Blossom and Iris
    also hid their faces, and though they say _they_ did not cry, I
    think they did, for their eyes were all red. Everybody treats us
    as if we were great people. In church they all bowed so deeply
    to us as we went in. Sometimes the men we meet on the street
    will cheer when they see us. Taro says it is because father did
    such heroic things. Taro has no heart, I sometimes think, for he
    seems to be proud and happy that father is gone, and he says he
    wishes he could have the chance to do what father did. Billy is
    very serious these days. He thinks he ought to be with you in
    Tokio, to take care of you and protect you. Oh, dear mamma, do
    let us know all the news you hear, and if we cannot come to you,
    _please_, please come home to us soon.

              “Your affectionate and loving,

                                                           “MARION.”


    “BELOVED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW,—I hope that your health is excellent
    and that you will return home soon. The servants weep for their
    okusama (honorable lady of the house). The children are augustly
    sad without you. Billy has lost his appetite for food. He has
    the pale face got. When I request, ‘Are you ill, Billy?’ he
    makes reply, in boy rough way, ‘No, but I ought to be with my
    mother.’ Marion spoils her pretty eyes with too much weep. She
    and Juji weep enough tears for all the honorable family. Plum
    Blossom does all your work most neatly, and is learning
    excellently to be a good house-keeper. You chose wisely to put
    her in your place, and she feels proudly your august confidence
    in her. Iris assists her in all things, but neither does she
    appear in good health. She has too much paleness in the face
    also. Taro is a great comfort. His father’s heroism has inspired
    him with noble ambitions. He is a worthy son, though young. The
    baby has more words to say each day. Yesterday she spoke of the
    white moon which appeared in the sky while it was yet day as
    “ball,” and she said, ‘It is too high!’ Those are many words for
    one so young. She has her august mother’s eyes.

    “Excellent daughter-in-law, I beseech you to earnestly seek
    details concerning the fate of our beloved Gozo. It is said
    in some of the papers that he did accompany his father upon
    this expedition. I entreat you to think first of all of your
    august health and happiness. I sign myself, Your unworthy
    mother-in-law,

                                                       “SANO-OTAMA.”


    “DEAR MOTHER,—Since father is dead, _I_ ought to take care of
    you. I think about it all the time and want to come to you. I
    don’t think it right for a woman to be alone, and I must come to
    you at once. Taro and I have not felt like doing anything
    lately. I don’t know what’s the matter with everything. The
    house doesn’t seem the same without you. I can’t write much. I
    want to be with you, mother.

                   “Your boy,

                                                            “BILLY.”


    “ESTEEMED MOTHER,—The plum-trees have much buds again got now,
    but very sad they make us this year. I think only of those
    cherry blossoms we did see with our honorable father. They are
    so like the plum. Billy says they make him sick if he look upon
    those trees. So we go not out much, as it makes so sorrow in the
    hearts to see those same trees shine.

    “Earnestly I endeavor to follow your honorable counsel about the
    house, and it is unworthily clean to your honor. I am become
    like Marion. Always my eyes those tears in them when I think
    about you, and several times I make my pillow wet. Therefore I
    praying until you _please_ come home with us. Tha’s very sad
    that our father die and go way, but tha’s sadder that we lose
    our mother also.

              “Unworthy and insignificant,

                                                     “PLUM BLOSSOM.”


    “DEAR MAM,—I thought I would write you a letter, hoping that you
    are well. i like you very much, mam, and i love the precious
    lambs, both the babby and Juji, but, mam, i cannot bear any
    longer so much sorrow, and it’s a letter to you i’m writing to
    say i must go back to the old country, for i cannot bear so much
    trouble and i have heard the banshee cry at night and it’s
    afraid i am that there’s death hovering about. Will you buy my
    ticket, please, mam? And it’s breaking my heart sure to leave
    you and the lambs.

                   “Respectfully,

                        “NORAH O’MALLEY.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXV


THE letters brought the mother back to her home. She had altered
strangely in the two months she had been in the city. Always slim, she
seemed now a mere shadow of a woman—slight and frail as if a breath
would blow her away. But the thin face still retained its gentle
sweetness of expression and the eyes held that smile of hope.

The children were glad to see her. Laughing and crying they clung to
her.

“Why,” she said, as if she had only just realized it, “what a lot there
is to live for!”

“Seven of us, mother,” said Marion; “no, eight!—for there’s Gozo, too.”

She took no one into her confidence, but began, in secret, a
correspondence with the Minister of War. All of her inquiries were
answered. In Japan her husband had not been without high influence, and
his heroism had made his name revered by all Japanese. Hence the
requests of his widow were given the greatest attention. Soon they had
reached the highest authorities. Orders went straight to the field of
action. At last there came a day when she knew that a special search was
to be made for her husband—dead or alive.

The Russians would tell if he were with them. If not, then, at least,
his body must be found. Such were the orders issued from a high place.

She was like a flower opening to the sunshine and spring rain. The color
came back to her pale cheeks and lips. Back also came the light of
health to her eyes. She moved like a new person.

The assurance that no stone would be left unturned to learn her
husband’s fate, and her strange faith that he was still alive,
invigorated her. The change effected in her rapidly spread to the entire
household. Gloom slipped out of the door and sunshine ventured in with
summer. And this is as it should be in the house of children.

While the cherry blossoms were still flying like myriad pink-and-white
birds in the skies and all the mossy ground was white with the flowery
carpet blown from the trees, the family went out once again on a flower
picnic.

In the same little flowery gowns, the sleeve-wings weighted with petals,
they started gayly for the picnic grounds where “father” had taken them
only a year before. A gentle melancholy which pervaded even the youngest
of them, at the memory of that absent one, was dispersed with the
mother’s thought!

“Father would have you happy to-day, children. This is _his_ day,
darlings. So be happy.”

And so they were. They played the games popular in Japan, engaged in the
fascinating sport of kite-flying, listened with eager ears to the tales
of the grandfather, and then, sleepy, homeward bound in their
jinrikishas, lazily attacked passing festival-makers with the petals, to
be smothered in turn with the flowery shower.

When they reached home it was gloaming. Norah made the discovery that
most of the children were asleep.

“Shure,” said the girl, “they’re all babbies, mam, just look at the
darlints,” and she indicated the heads of the three little girls all
resting asleep on the back of the seat. Marion was in the middle with a
hand of each step-sister in her own. Mrs. Kurukawa stood silently
looking at them, then Norah interrupted her thoughts again.

“Did you think, ma’am, I’d have the heart to leave them?”

“I hoped not, Norah,” she answered, gently, “but I know it has been hard
for you, and you are a good girl.”

She helped the Irish girl lift the sleeping Juji from the carriage. As a
maid from the house came to the jinrikisha Mrs. Kurukawa turned to
direct her to assist Norah. Something in the girl’s face startled her.
The usual impassive expression was gone, and in the dim light of the
evening her mistress saw the silent tears rolling down her face.

“Why are you crying, Natsu?” she said. “Are you in trouble?”

The girl shook her head.

“What is it? You are unhappy about something.”

Suddenly the girl slipped to the ground and buried her face in the folds
of her mistress’s kimono. Madame Sano drew her almost roughly away.

“What is it?” she demanded, harshly, in Japanese. “It is unseemly to act
so in the okusama’s presence. Keep your troubles for your own chamber.”

“But I have no troubles,” said the girl, rising and wiping her eyes with
her sleeves. “I w-weep because I am happy.”

She brought the last word out with such hysterical vehemence that she
woke the older sleepers. They sat up, looking about them, startled from
their dreams. But Mrs. Kurukawa shook the girl by the arm. Her voice was
hoarse.

“What is it, Natsu? Tell me quickly!”

For answer the girl turned towards the house and pointed to the silent
figure standing there by the doorway. Even in the twilight the Japanese
children knew him. They jumped tumblingly from the jinrikishas and ran
towards him, calling his name aloud:

“Gozo! Gozo! Gozo!”

Mrs. Kurakawa turned and blindly followed the children.

He put the clinging children aside from him and advanced a step towards
her. Then suddenly he stopped short, standing uncertainly. She spoke
with a note of irresistible appeal in her voice.

“Oh, you bring me news of my husband—your father!” she said.

He made a sort of smothered sound; then, with a movement strangely
reminiscent of his father, he seized her hand suddenly in his own and
fell on his knees before her.

“Good news—for good woman!” he said.

“He is alive!” she cried.

“In Japan—the hospital at Saseho. I unworthily brought him home on—”

He noticed that her hand fell feebly from his. Then he caught her as she
reeled. She had fainted.

[Illustration:

  “HE SEIZED HER HAND SUDDENLY IN HIS OWN AND FELL ON HIS KNEES BEFORE
    HER”
]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXVI


THE following morning Mrs. Kurukawa was with her husband, having
travelled all night, accompanied by Gozo. He had known she would come.
When she approached his bed he raised himself on his elbow and greeted
her cheerily, with an airy wave of his arm. When she saw his dear,
familiar face, with the kindly smile lighting up the features, she
rushed with an inward sob towards him. She could not speak, so deep were
the emotions that assailed her, but she clung to his hand as he
whispered to her.

Later, when she was calmer, she took the chair Gozo placed for her;
then, with broken sentences, she poured out to her husband all that was
in her heart.

The days that followed were cheery ones for the soldiers in Mr.
Kurukawa’s ward. His wife would come each day loaded with flowers,
books, magazines, and food of various sorts. She seemed to forget no one
in the ward. Sometimes her impatient and selfish husband actually
begrudged the little time she spent away from his side, as she went from
cot to cot with her gifts and her words of comfort and praise. He would
hold her hand greedily when she would come to him and say:

“There! At last, you have come. Tell me everything now. Ah! the letters.
Read them, please, at once.”

They always began the day with her reading of the pile of letters that
came from the impatient children at home.

Taro wanted his father’s sword sent, unwashed, by express. If he waited
until they returned home he feared that some one might steal the
precious weapon in the interval. Of course, Gozo, as the eldest son, was
rightfully entitled to the sword, but he had a sword of his own already,
and Taro had none. If his father would only give him this one he would
swear by it to use it only in glorious service. Billy, apparently
inspired at his step-brother’s request, wrote an eloquent plea for his
father’s rifle. If his father could spare his uniform, which must be all
ragged and worn from bullet wounds and blood, Billy would cherish it as
his choicest possession. Marion’s epistles were always blurred by tear
marks. They were sometimes almost undecipherable. Because the invalid
insisted on hearing every word she had written, Mrs. Kurukawa usually
spent more time over her letters than any of the other children’s. The
little girl was given to dissecting her inmost emotions. Her letters
were usually a recital of how she felt when she heard this and that
about her dear, dear, _dear_, brave father, whom she loved so much.

Plum Blossom wrote pages of flowery words. The father had simply made a
bird of her, she said. She wanted to sing and laugh all the time. She
had a calendar on which she chalked off each day the date, so she could
keep count of the days until her father would return. The baby had
fallen down the stairs, she wrote, but the floor, fresh padded with
rice-paper, in anticipation of the return of “father,” was so soft that
she only bounced when she reached the bottom. When Norah had picked her
up the baby had actually laughed, and said: “Coco faw down.” The baby
could make long sentences now. She could even say a prayer Marion had
taught her, but she was very rude, and often said “Amen” right in the
middle.

There were three soldiers in the town, and everybody was making a great
fuss over them. Miss Summer had said she wished she could marry one of
them, which showed she had no sense, since Gozo already was a soldier.
Anyhow, the soldiers never deigned to look at little girls, and they
only marched by the Kurukawa house because they wanted to see Norah, who
said they were “small, but grand!”

Iris’s letters brimmed over with the same expressions of love and
entreaties for the quick return of her parents.

Finally, there came an extraordinary little document penned by Juji. It
was written in English, apparently under the direction of the faithful
Norah, for at the bottom of the sheet she had written:


    “If you please, mam, it was Norah that taught the little lad to
    write the beautiful letter.”


Beautiful it was to the eye of the fond father. Every letter was printed
and loving words misspelled. There were three smudges of ink on the
page. One distinct little mark, where a dirty little finger had rested
for a moment, pleased him.

“Do you know,” said Mrs. Kurukawa, very earnestly, “I would still be in
Tokio if it had not been for the children’s letters. They used to come
in every mail—little, soiled epistles of love, all bearing their
childish pleas for mother to return. Why, I could not stay away from
them. They just drew me back.”

Her husband looked at her fondly.

“What a _mother_ you are!” he said.

“Yes,” said she, “that’s my strongest trait—maternity. I love all
children. There’s nothing sweeter in the world than baby arms about
one’s neck, baby voices, baby kisses, baby touches. Oh, they are the
most precious things in life!”

He looked a trifle injured.

“You think more of babies than of husbands, then.”

She laughed with the tears in her eyes.

“Why, husbands are the biggest babies of all!” she said. “I’ve always
felt like a mother to you, you know.”

“You have?”

She nodded brightly.

“Don’t you know what first appealed to me in you?”

“No.”

“Well, it was your utter loneliness in a strange country. You seemed so
strangely alone in America, and you wanted so much to be friendly. I saw
it in your face.”

“Yes, I did want to be friendly—with you,” he admitted, gravely.

“You did not find it hard, did you?” she asked, still smiling.

“Yes, I did.”

“Why, I gave you every encouragement.”

“I know, but still I could not know that.”

Gozo came into the ward, and, joining them, tossed upon the bed a number
of newspapers and periodicals.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, noting their smiling
expressions.

Blushing like a girl, the wife looked at her husband shyly.

“We were talking about our courtship days, my son,” said Mr. Kurukawa.

“Ah,” said Gozo, very seriously, “it makes one happy to think of those
times, does it?”

“Very, very happy,” said his step-mother.

Gozo sighed.

“I cannot understand why,” he said, simply.


------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 XXVII


“HURRY down to Takashima, Taro, and tell him he must send us without
fail two large cases of the best and brightest fire-flies. Now,
remember, they must be delivered by to-morrow morning at latest.”

“Can’t we bring them back, grandma?” queried Taro.

“No, oh no, you might break the netting and the flies escape. Where is
Beely?”

“Here I am, gam,” answered the boy from his place on the back piazza. He
was engaged in pasting carefully in a scrap-book several newspaper
pictures of his step-father.

“Beely,” said Madame Sano, speaking now in English, “you must go down to
the river and get all the white pebbles and shells you can find. Fill up
your sleeves full.”

“Aw right, gam,” said the boy, obediently, though he left his
fascinating book reluctantly.

“What d’ye want with them, gam?”

“For the flower-beds I desire. You would not have them look shabby when
your honorable father comes.”

Billy sauntered off on his errand, whistling, overtook Taro, and they
raced down the street, Taro in the lead.

“Marion!” the grandmother called up the little stairway. In answer to
the call she came running.

“Yes, gramma.”

“Where’s those bamboo palms?”

“I’ll get them. Do you want them now?”

“Ride away.”

“All right.”

Madame Sano took them from her and showed the little girl how to dust
the eaves with them.

“Bamboo means long life,” she explained. “I always clean the house with
them, and the gods will deign long life to give.”

“The gods!” gasped Marion, reproachfully. “Oh, grandmamma!”

Madame Sano’s withered little face turned rosy. She had been from
girlhood a Christian, as she was proud to say.

“I speak, my child,” she explained, “only poetically, not religiously.”

“Oh,” said Marion, dubiously; then after a moment of silent work she
stopped and regarded the old woman earnestly.

“Dear grandma, you _aren’t_ a heathen, are you?”

“Dear grandma” grunted, but went on with her work, her little old face
puckered into a rather disdainful expression.

“_Are_ you, grandma?” pleaded Marion.

“Little girls make foolish question,” she answered finally, crossly.

“Well, _are_ you a Christian, dear grandma?” persisted Marion.

“Certainly I am,” replied the old lady, with dignity.

Marion kissed her impulsively, whereupon she declared that the little
girl was honorably rude, and no help at all.

“Join your sisters for flowers,” she ordered.

“Shall we want so many flowers for the house, grandma?” asked Marion.

“No, no, no. Only one small bunch for house.”

“Then why—?”

“The flowers are for the honorable picnic booth. It must have plenty.”

“O—o-h! Why, grandma, it’s just covered heavy with wistarias now—”

“Such a talk-child! Hush! Go at once.”

The little girl obeyed this time, though she thrust a mischievous face
back between the shoji for a moment.

“Grandma,” she called, “I’m going to take a wagon along and fill it.
Will that be enough?”

“Go, go, naughty one!” and the naughty one fled.

On this day the Kurukawa house seemed alive with busy ones. In every
room some one was moving about. Many of the old servants had been
recalled. From the top to the bottom of the house work was in progress.
The shoji of the entire upper floor had been pushed aside, making a sort
of roofed pavilion of this upper level. The little balconies were heaped
with flowers and green trailing vines were threaded in and out among the
railings. The long, bare expanse of exquisite matted floor needed no
relief of furniture. This cool interior was the most attractive place
imaginable. From all sides the breezes swept in, making it delightfully
cool. Madame Sano bustled about the place throwing mats about.

Here the family would dine this day. The outlook was picturesque, for
one could see the blooming country and the blue fields and hills, and
nestling in its heart the little village.

This was the floor on which the children slept. It was only the work of
a few minutes to slip the sliding-walls back into place again. Japanese
beds need no making. On the second floor Madame Sano had been most busy.
How the chamber of the okusama shone! The long, white, foreign bed
seemed not at all out of place in the room. It was the only furniture
Mrs. Kurukawa had brought with her. She used the little toilet-boxes of
Japan, and there were several bamboo chairs and one small rocker her
husband had bought for her in Yokohama.

The room was sweet with the odor of some faint perfume. Perhaps it was
only the sandal-wood of the toilet-boxes, or the odor of sweet-smelling
incense which had recently been burned to purify the house. There was
not a speck of dust on the floor. Even Madame Sano, from whose sharp
little eyes nothing seemed to escape, seemed satisfied as she drew the
sliding-doors in place and descended to the lower floor.

In the guest-room a maid was polishing something round and dark golden
in color. It was very ancient and beautiful, an old hibachi, highly
prized by the master of the house. A serving-boy stood waiting at the
tokonoma. He handed Madame Sano reverently the things he had brought
from the go-down.

She did not put the kakemona in place, but left it on a stand, for there
was much else to see before she could spare the time for the tokonoma,
always the last and pleasantest task. Besides, she had promised Plum
Blossom the task of flower arrangement in the ancient house, and the
hanging of the scroll.

A visit to the kitchen revealed the fact that the cook and four
assistants were deep in the preparation of a meal which promised to be
perfect in its excellence.

Madame Sano felt and smelled of every bit of fish and meat, of fruit and
vegetable, to see that everything was fresh. She condescended to speak a
word of praise to the cook, an old man long in the service of the
family.

“Choice marketing is an art, excellent Taguchi. Worthily you excel.”

The cook bowed with the grace of an old-time courtier, his face wreathed
in smiles. Did the elderly grandmother believe that the okusama would
deign to be satisfied?

The okusama would be honorably pleased, indeed, Madame Sano assured him.
She left the kitchen helpers in a glow, and outside the door listened,
her old face smiling to their happy chatter within.

One said:

“Hah! the master always liked his fish just so. If I give one more beat
to the fish it will be spoiled. These cakes are ready now for frying.”

“The master,” said another, “has not eaten civilized food for many
moons. These rice-balls will water his palate.”

A woman’s voice broke in shrilly.

“Okusama will ask for the sugar-coated beans first of all. Look at
these, fresh as if growing. Think of the pleasure of her tongue.”

“Talk less, work more,” came the admonishing voice of the old chief
cook. For a moment there was silence, then a woman’s voice broke into
song, and the song she sang was of war, furious, glorious war!


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 XXVIII


JUST before the noon hour the train bearing the Kurukawas arrived. They
were unprepared for the reception. The towns-people had gathered at the
station. When Mr. Kurukawa, pale, but able to walk alone, appeared on
the platform, a murmur which rapidly became a cheer arose from the
crowd. Old friends and neighbors rushed forward to greet him. He was
overwhelmed by the storm of banzais and cheers. The Japanese people do
not often give way in this fashion, but in these times they let
themselves loose, and they shouted now with all the pent-up enthusiasm
of months. Their heroes were sacred objects to them—to look at them even
was an honor. How proud the little town had become! Did they not boast
as a citizen one of the bravest heroes of the war? The gods had singled
them out for the peculiar honor. Grateful and proud indeed they felt.
Always a modest man by nature, the homage offered Mr. Kurukawa now
almost distressed him. Indeed, his face showed bewilderment and
embarrassment. Respectfully the people permitted his son to lead him to
the waiting jinrikisha. The crowds impeded the progress of the vehicles,
which they followed all the way to the house.

At the house everything was ready for the reception. The children were
in their gayest clothes. All were rosy with excitement. About them
everything seemed to shine. Madame Sano, old as she was, made quite a
picture. Her withered old cheeks were pink with pride.

They were all waiting there in the hall. Hard by, the servants in their
best attire waited also.

“It’s after twelve already,” said Billy, consulting for the twentieth
time his Christmas watch. “They’re late.”

“I hear sounds,” said Taro, his ears pinched up like a small dog’s.

Taro rushed to the shoji, and before his grandmother could prevent him
he had thrust his fist through the beautiful new paper upon it. Billy,
however, made a rush for the door, forgetting in one moment all the
grandmother’s injunctions concerning the “dignified and most refined”
reception due at such a time. Billy’s departure seemed to affect the
girls. They looked at one another in hesitation. Then almost with one
accord they followed their brother’s lead, dragging little Juji along
with them. Down the garden-path they sped, stocking-footed, for they had
not stayed to put on clogs. Billy and Taro pushed through the gate
ruthlessly. Down the road they dashed. A moment later they were in the
midst of the crowd following and cheering their father. They shouted as
they ran and waved their arms wildly above their heads. Mr. Kurukawa saw
them while still a distance off, and suddenly arose in his seat.
Unmindful of the crowd, he gave an answering shout to the boys. How he
reached the house he never could remember. His wife told him afterwards
that the children seemed to fall upon him at once. They clung about his
legs, his hands, and his waist.

Once across the threshold, he gave a great sigh. Then in a voice which
went straight to the very heart of old Madame Sano, he said:

“This house seems to be the most beautiful place on earth.”

He permitted an excited, happy maid to take off his sandals and bathe
his feet. Then followed by the happy ones, he ascended the stairs to the
upper floor, where the meal was served. Never in his life, he declared
over and over again, had he been so hungry. He ate everything placed
before him. When the children begged to be told this or that about his
adventures he would answer: “After dinner. Talk, all of you, if you
wish, but let _me_ eat.”

“I thought,” said Billy, “that you were wounded, and that wounded men
aren’t allowed to eat so much.”

“So _I_ thought in Saseho, my boy. We ate not much in Manchuria, but we
famished in the hospital.”

“Honorable father, why did you not send me that sword?” queried Taro.

“I had none to send, my son. It was lost.”

“And the rifle, too, father?” asked Billy.

“The rifle, too.”

“But what about the uniform?”

“Well, it was, as you thought, torn and worn from service. The Russians
gave me a new one.”

“What!” cried Billy, in horror, “a Russian uniform!”

Mr. Kurukawa smiled.

“Hardly that, my boy. You see a sick man on a stretcher usually wears
a—er—-nightie—isn’t that what they call it?”

“Oh-h!” said Taro and Billy both together, apparently disappointed.

“If they put a Russian uniform on _me_,” growled Taro, “I would tear it
off!”

Billy’s eyes rolled.

“Hm! They’d never get one _on_ me!” said he.

“What did they put on you, Gozo?” asked Taro, turning to his brother.

“Yes,” added Billy. “_You_ weren’t wounded.”

“Neither was my uniform,” smiled Gozo. “They permitted me to retain my
honorable garment.”

“Huh! Well, did they torture you?”

“No—oh no.”

“Not even knout you?”

“No. They were augustly kind—sometimes.”

“Sometimes!” repeated Billy, excitedly. “Then some other times they were
cruel, huh?”

“Not exactly, but—well, there were many things we thought reasonable to
ask for, and they did not agree with us.”

“What things?”

Gozo looked at his father. The latter, still eating, nodded to him to
continue.

“Well, sometimes we begged for letters to be sent to our friends.”

“And they wouldn’t—”

“They would take our letters, but they did not send them. Our people
permitted Russian prisoners to write to their friends. Not always were
the Japanese allowed to do so.”

“But on the whole,” put in Mrs. Kurukawa, gently, “they treated you
kindly, did they not?”

Gozo’s face was inscrutable. Then after a slight silence he answered,
gravely:

“We were prisoners, madame—mother—not guests.”

“I bet they herded you together like cattle!” cried Billy, indignantly.

Gozo and his father exchanged smiles.

“Hardly,” said Mr. Kurukawa. “There were not enough Japanese prisoners
to ‘herd,’ you know.”


------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXIX


“TELL us a story of horrible carnage,” said Billy, his freckled face
aglow with excitement.

Gozo took the long-stemmed pipe Plum Blossom had filled for him with
sisterly solicitude. Three or four puffs only he drew, then permitted
Iris in turn the pleasure of refilling it.

“You better wait till father is more better. He kin tell better story,”
he said, gravely.

“Oh, _you’re_ a veteran, too,” declared Billy, admiringly.

“And a _hero_!” added Marion, in an awed voice.

Gozo permitted the ghost of a smile to flicker across the tranquillity
of his face.

“In liddle while,” said Plum Blossom, smiling happily, “father coming
down into garden. He’ll tell story then.”

“He naever tell story ’bout his own self,” said Taro, discontentedly.
“He mos’ greatest hero of all. Tha’s right, Gozo?”

Gozo nodded gravely.

“Mos’ of all,” he agreed.

“’Cept _you_,” said Marion, still bent on hero worship.

Gozo smiled in the little girl’s direction. His usually impassive face
was strangely winning when he smiled. Marion went closer to him, and,
taking her hand, put it fondly against his cheek.

“You see, Gozo,” she said, “I used to think about you as a hero even
before father went away.”

“Yes,” said Billy, disgustedly, “she thinks you’re a greater hero than
Togo even.”

“But Miss Summer—she say that you better have die,” put in Taro.

“Yes,” said Gozo, sighing, “it was my misfortune not to get killed.”

“Oh, don’t, don’t! Just think how unhappy we would all have been if you
had never come home,” said tender-hearted Marion, “and think what you’d
have missed—never to have seen us—mother and Billy and the baby and me.”

Gozo admitted that their acquaintance certainly was worth living for.

“Our _acquaintance_!” said Marion, reproachfully; “our _love_ you should
say. We love you, Gozo.”

“Then if you love Gozo why you nod waid upon him like unto Iris an’ me?”
queried Plum Blossom. “See how we fill up thad pipe mebbe twenty-one
times an’ also we bring wiz tea—”

“An’ also I fan him,” added Iris, suiting the action to the words.

For a moment Marion looked very thoughtful.

“I know,” she said, “that you love him, too, but even if I just talk to
him, I can love him just the same. Can’t I, Gozo?”

“Yes, but you only love me for mebbe liddle w’ile. Then soon’s my father
come you desert me. Tha’s same thing with Plum Blossom and Iris. Me? I
am grade hero when I am alone, but when my father come, I am jus’ liddle
insignificant speck—nothing!”

“Oh, Gozo!”

“Never mind,” he said, with mock seriousness. “Nex’ week I goin’ sail
for America. _Then_, perhaps, you sorry.”

The tears slipped from Marion’s eyes, and she wiped them with the pink
sleeve of her kimono.

“Take me with you, dear Gozo!”

“An’ me, also.”

“An’ me, too,” cried the two little girls.

“Girls,” said Billy, with contempt, “aren’t allowed in colleges. You
haven’t any sense, Marion!”

“Well, b-but I could keep house for Gozo.”

“A fine house you’d keep,” said her brother, witheringly.

Marion’s pride arose. She ignored Billy entirely.

“Gozo,” she said, “mother let me do all kinds of work when the servants
went.”

“Hoom!” grunted Billy, “you used to play at work. Plum Blossom did it
all. If you take any _girl_”—he spoke the word with almost Oriental
contempt—”take Plum Blossom.”

The latter smiled gratefully in the direction of her step-brother.

“I goin’ wait till you grow up, Beely. _Then_ I keep house for you.”

“You gotter git marry with Takashima Ido,” put in Taro.

“I _nod_ got!” cried the little girl, indignantly.

“You _got_!” persisted Taro. “His fadder already speag for you to our
fadder.”

“Tha’s jus’ account our fadder becom’ hero. _He_ wan’ be in our family
also. But I nod goin’ marry thad boy all same. He got a small-pox all
over his face.”

“Plenty husband got small-pox,” said Taro. “He also got lots money.
Mebbe one hundred dollars.”

Plum Blossom pouted.

“I goin’ marry jus’ same my mother. Me? I goin’ _loave_ my husband.”

“What’s all this talk of husbands?” queried a cheerful voice.

Mr. Kurukawa seated himself among the children. Plum Blossom and Iris
found a seat, one on each of his knees. Between them Juji nestled
against his father’s shoulder. The hand which had rested so contentedly
in Gozo’s a moment since had become a bit restless. Marion, the fond,
showed an inclination again to desert; but Gozo maliciously held her
small hand tightly so that she could not escape.

“I want to say something to father,” she said.

“Say it to me,” said Gozo.

“Yes, but—”

“Hah! Did I not say so? Very well, you love me only sometimes. Tha’s not
kind love.”

She was contrite in a moment, essaying to put her hand back in his, but
he waved it away bitterly.

“No, no. Tha’s too lade. Never mind. I know one girl never leave me.”

“You mean Summer?”

“Summer-san. What a beautiful name!”

Marion turned her back upon him.

“Listen,” he said into her little pink ear. “I go alone at America, but
after four years I come bag, an’ then I goin’ tek to America with me—”

“Summer?”

“No.”

“Me?”

“No—nod exactly.”

“Then _who_, Gozo?”

“All of you.”

“Oh, won’t that be lovely,” she cried. “Father, are we all going to
America in four years?”

He nodded, smiling. “After Gozo graduates.”

“An’ naever come bag at Japan?” cried Plum Blossom, in a most tragic
voice.

“Oh yes, it will be only a visit, perhaps.”

“I goin’ to die ride away when I cross that west water,” averred the
little Japanese girl.

“Why,” grumbled Billy, “you just now promised you’d be my house-keeper.”

“In Japan,” said Plum Blossom.

Taro had finished whittling the bamboo arrow he had been industriously
fashioning.

“Pleese, my father, tell now thad story of yourself.”

“Yes?”

“Oh do.”

All of the children chorussed assent.

“Very well. Now it’s a long, long story, and if any of you go to sleep
in the telling—”

“Oh, how could we?” breathed Marion.

“Very well, then. Come close, all of you.”

They drew in about him, their small, eager faces entranced at once. He
smiled about the circle, touched a little head here and there, and then
began his tale:

“Once upon a time—”


                                THE END


------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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