- chapter: II
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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.| | 15
"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 | | 16 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 | | 17 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 jinriki-man 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 | | 18 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 | | 19 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."
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.| | 20
"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.
"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?"| | 21
"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 hack to front on Summer's head, and fixed it firmly in place with a long | | 22 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.
"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 car. 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.| | 23
"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."
"She wrote them herself."
"I did not."
"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 honor- | | 24 able 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.
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