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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

A Japanese Blossom, an electronic edition

by Onoto Watanna [Watanna, Onoto, 1879-1954]

date: 1906
source publisher: Harper & Brothers
collection: Genre Fiction

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XIX

THE tea-house was only a short distance from the shops, and the runners, rested and refreshed by sake, drew them swiftly into the heart of the town. Soon they were in a shop kept by a tiny Japanese, very old and very wrinkled, who begged, as he bowed deeply, that they would help themselves to all they saw in his most insignificant shop. The magnificence of this offer, made in intelligible English, quite delighted Billy. He began to have visions of what he would do with his twenty dollars since this Japanese was so polite that he was actually | | 176 page image : 176     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM offering to give them the articles. Soon he was undeceived. In a short time the unwary children were enmeshed in the wily bargaining web of the shrewd small merchant of Tokio.

Billy saw a flag which warmed his heart. It was a large Japanese flag, with the sun solidly embroidered in its centre. What a gift to send to his father! In imagination he saw the flag torn and cut by bullets. He priced it. It was ten dollars. The old man insinuated that he might take eight dollars for it. Billy shook his head, swallowing deep disappointment. The old man would let it go for five dollars. No? Possibly the young augustness was poor? Billy flushed proudly and dipped into his sleeve for his money. Then he said, sturdily: "I'll give you a dollar for it."

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The old man shrugged, protested, but finally rolled up the flag tenderly and gratefully took the dollar in exchange.

"My goodness!" said Billy, "are there Jews in Japan?"

"Be careful, Billy," his mother warned.

She herself, however, was feeling strangely drawn towards a certain padded silk dressing sack, heavily embroidered with chrysanthemums of the color most admired by her husband. Unlike Billy, she did not pause to bargain. Her husband had warned her: "The Japanese shopkeeper will take what he can get. Set your price and give no more."

"I'll give you five dollars for that," said she. Then she felt ashamed of herself when he, with a sad shake of his head, began wrapping it up for her.

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The little girls' purchases were trifling but pretty. Their sleeves, being full of parcels, hung down on either side like heavy bags. Billy's and Taro's purchases, however, were so large that there was some question how they were to be carried.

Three swords, an old American rifle, and a water-pistol were among Taro's acquisitions. Billy had his large flag, a soldier's uniform, a miniature cannon, and a folio of bright pictures describing war. At the last moment his conscience smote him. Neither he nor Taro had bought presents for the girls. Both had been too absorbed in buying things for boys. They put their heads together and whispered now. Ten cents remained to each. Taro bought toothpicks, cheapest face-powder, nail-polish and a backscratcher, each article costing three | | 179 page image : 179     A JAPANESE BLOSSOM cents. He grudgingly gave up one of the articles he had already, and instead purchased for the mother a pot of the rosiest paint.

Billy, too, begrudged the money necessary to spend on the girls, so he was determined not to part with any of his own things. His gifts cost in the neighborhood of a cent or two cents each. For Marion he bought one paper handkerchief, for Plum Blossom a brass ring, for Iris a hatpin, for Juji a bit of candy, and for Norah tooth-blacking. This, he thought, she could utilize for her shoes. As the presents looked very bright and gaudy, Billy and Taro felt that they had done their duty, and that the girls ought to be duly grateful.

On the way home a shrill voice shouting in the street was recognized by the sharp-eared Taro.

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"The treasure-ship!" he cried, excitedly.

Around the corner came a most wonderful cart piled high with brightly colored toys and things dear to the heart of a child. Following the cart was a veritable procession of little children. Loudly the vendor shouted:

"Otakara! Otakara!"

Ambitious to imitate the commercial foreigner, the treasure-vendor had decided to play this little trick on his fellows. He would not wait till January 2nd, but would appear on the street with his treasure cart thus early in the season when people had not yet spent all their money.

The entreaty in the faces of the children Mrs. Kurukawa could not resist. Soon some of the bright things of the treasure-cart were transferred to the jinrikishas.

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"But, mind you, children," she said, as they turned gleefully homeward, "I'm going to put everything away until Christmas."

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