- chapter: IV
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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 | | 41 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 mis- | | 42 fortune 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 | | 43 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.| | 44
"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 | | 45 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?"| | 46
"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."| | 47
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- | | 48 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 | | 49 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'v 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."| | 50
"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. | | 51 Left to the care of his doting old grandparents, Mr. Kurukawa saw clearly how much Gozo had needed the guiding hand of a father.
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