- chapter: XVI
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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 | | 148 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 | | 149 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 | | 150 her. After a time the various epistles were read aloud by their authors. With her little lisp Plum Blossom read her letter:
--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 | | 151 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.
--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 | | 152 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 | | 153 reading in Japanese, but was forced to translate:
--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.
--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 jackknife 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. | | 154 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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