- chapter: V
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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 bathtub. 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
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.| | 54
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?"| | 55
"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 | | 56 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" | | 57 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 | | 58 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 re- | | 59 venged 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 | | 60 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 | | 61 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 | | 62 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.
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