- chapter: XII
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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 re- | | 117 cruit 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 stepfather 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 stepbrothers 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!"| | 118
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-marllow."
Billy's voice was heard in raised tones outside.
"Then we can see into the chest to-day!" he cried, excitedly.
Taro rushed into the hail to speak in excited Japanese to his father. | | 119 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 | | 120 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 prom- | | 121 ise 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 | | 122 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?"| | 123
"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 | | 124 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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