- chapter: XVII
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THERE was a long silence from the soldier in Manchuria. The Kurukawas, like many other families in Japan, watched for the mail each day with greedy feverishness. But the autumn passed away and there was no further word from Kurukawa. He had told his wife she must expect these long silences. There were reasons that she must understand for such interludes. A soldier's letter cannot be had every day. And so she waited with the patience worthy of a brave woman. But when December was ushered in with a little drift of snow, and she | | 157 knew that winter was coming, her thoughts wandered unceasingly to that one out there in the frozen Manchuria, and, brooding over it, her strength gave way. Nights passed; alone with a terrified imagination further exhausted her. Suddenly she decided that she must go at once to Tokio and make inquiry of the Minister of War of the fate of her husband. Leaving Juji and the baby at home, she took the three little girls and two older boys with her. She told the children nothing of her fears. They believed the trip to Tokio was made for the purpose of making purchases for the Christmas and New Year's season.
"When you come back," had said the smiling old grandmother, "the honorable house will be quite new and fresh for New-Year's."
The children were excited by the | | 158 prospect of a visit to Tokio. The Japanese children had never been in the large town. Thus it actually fell to Billy and Marion to describe Tokio to them, for they had passed two days in the city.
The little party arrived at the Shinbasi Station, where they took jinrikishas and rode through the bewildering streets to the Imperial Hotel. As it was past six o'clock, the children after dinner went straight to bed, thoroughly tired out. But Mrs. Kurukawa sought to see some one who could allay her anxiety. There were only two clerks left in the War Office at this hour. They were excessively polite and even sympathetic, going over all the lists of the dead and wounded they possessed. There were two Kurukawas among the wounded, but neither was her husband. She felt that a great load | | 159 had been lifted from her, and with a happier heart she drove back to the hotel. For the first time in many days she slept in peace.
Early in the morning she was awakened by the children. They were crowded at the windows, looking out upon the streets and chattering.
"I'm going to buy all my gifts today," announced Marion, "because if we don't buy early all the best things will be snapped up," she added, wisely.
Taro said, reflectively: "I'm going to wait till second January."
"Second January!" cried Billy. "Why, that's after Christmas!"
"I nod give Christmas presents. I give only New-Year's gift."
"Oh, Taro!" cried Marion. "Why, we're going to have a Christmas-tree! | | 160 Who wants to wait till January second?"
"But that is day the otakara (treasure-ships) are on streets," explained Plum Blossom.
"Yes," said Iris, "and in Tokio he has beau-tee-ful presents."
"Mother says we'll be home for Christmas. So how can you wait till January second?"
The little Japanese children's faces fell.
"Tha's true," admitted Iris, dejectedly.
"Oh, well," said Plum Blossom, consolingly, "the toshironschi is open in December, and I wan' take home wiz me plenty mochitsuki" (nice pastry).
"Are you dressed, children?" asked Mrs. Kurukawa, coming into the room.
They were in their quaint blue | | 161 linen Japanese night-dresses, a queer little group, all barefooted.
They dressed quickly, busily talking and planning as they did so. The day was to be spent in the stores of Tokio. Never were there more enticing stores to shop in, the children thought. They got out their little savings, rolled up in paper handkerchiefs in their sleeves, and counted them over and over.
Billy had the most money, nearly twenty dollars in all. He had not saved a penny, but becoming desperate as the Christmas season advanced, he had sold nearly all his American clothes to various susceptible Japanese youth of the town. One paid him two dollars for a sailor hat. A young man of eighteen years now wore the twelve-year-old Billy's short trousers under a kimono. Three of his shirts had been pur- | | 162 chased by Miss Summer, which she proudly wore on festival occasions. Even his suspenders had proved marketable, and also his heavy shoes and rubbers. When he had asked his mother's permission to "give" his clothes away she had laughed and told him that by the time he ceased to wear kimonos again he would be too large for the American clothes he now possessed, and so had lightly given her consent. But she was quite distressed when she learned he had sold them. Billy, however, was equal to the occasion, and soon persuaded her that he had done right. "It would have been wrong to make the proud Japanese accept secondhand American clothes as charity." So Billy was now rich, and accordingly avaricious. He wished he had a hundred dollars instead of twenty dollars; then he could buy cameras | | 163 and guns and such things which cost plenty of money, but since there was such a large family, and since the Japanese had to have presents at New-Year's as well, he couldn't afford costly ones. In any event he wanted them all to know that he was not going to spend more than half his money, as he was saving the other half for something for himself--he wouldn't tell what.
Ten dollars was Taro's total, but he had in addition an unopened bank half full of sen (pennies). He had been saving all summer, and would have had a larger sum, but he had generously contributed two yen to the support of an old coolie whose sons were at the war and whom his mother was befriending. Billy, too, had made a like contribution, though he said nothing about it now. Taro, however, could not forget that two yen.| | 164
"If I had thad two yen more I could buy fine present for you, Billy, but I have only liddler got--I gotter buy for girls first. Mebbe I buy you something if I have aeny left."
"Well, you'd just better," snorted Billy, "and you know what I want."
Taro grunted discontentedly, but made no rash promises.
"How much have you got?" Billy asked Plum Blossom, who had her money arranged in a neat row.
"Three yen and--" she began counting the sen again.
"And you, Iris?"
"Jus' same Plum Blossom," said Iris, who had not bothered to count.
"Why, no, you silly, you haven't. I'll count for you." Iris possessed three yen and seventy-five sen, about two dollars and a quarter.
Marion had seven dollars; two dollars she had saved, and five dollars | | 165 an aunt had sent her "to buy a pretty kimono with."
"But I have lots of kimonos," said Marion, "so I'll buy Christmas presents instead, as it's more blessed to give than to receive," she added, piously.
"All right," grinned Billy. "You must not expect to receive much, sis."
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