- chapter: XXII
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THE country was ringing with the hateful news of the Kamrahn Bay incident. When a French name was mentioned, Japanese faces looked dark and bitter. Foreigners in Japan talked more about the matter than did the Japanese themselves, however, for they were silent and thought much. Nevertheless, this incident and others pierced deeply. Women, smiling strangely, told their little sons the story, and they repeated after their mothers the words: "We Japanese never forget!" In the higher classes of the schools the teachers quietly instructed their pu- | | 195 pils of the unfriendly act of a "friendly" nation. The story-tellers in their halls enlarged upon the theme, and told the story over and over again, with greater exaggeration each time. By-and-by the news reached the ears of the Kurukawa family. Billy and Taro held a council of war.
"How to be revenged?" that was the question.
They marched up and down the little garden-path discussing the subject from every standpoint. By some unfortunate coincidence the little French boy from the neighboring street happened to pass the Kurukawa house at the fateful moment when this fierce debate was in progress. In one of those flashes that often come, even to children, Billy and Taro simultaneously recognized in him the object for just vengeance. | | 196 With a bound Taro sprang through the garden-gate and seized the helpless and unsuspecting French boy, whom he dragged down the path. Then Taro sat upon him. Billy was jumping about wildly, throwing out his fists, and pretending to spit upon them. Taro, however, was quite calm.
"We kinnod," said he, proudly, "both beat thad French boy. That's nod fair."
Billy's jaw dropped. Then his face brightened.
"Say, Japan doesn't want to fight France yet. You leave him to me. They interfered in what wasn't their affair, and now America's going to do the same."
Taro shook his head.
"You be England," said he, wisely; "she our honorable ally."
"I am English, then," shrieked | | 197 Billy; "all our people come from England originally. Mamma said so. Let him up."
Taro reluctantly arose, permitting the crushed young Frenchman to do likewise. He was a little fellow, though past his fourteenth year. His eyes were very black and furtive, and he had a tiny little mouth that would not keep closed. Actually his face was smiling. He spoke Japanese with only slight hesitancy. His polite suggestion was that they should go to his father to borrow swords with which to fight a decent duel. The boys received this suggestion with shouts of derision. Then the little Frenchman declared he would not fight at all, and crossing his arms over his chest, told them they could murder him if they wished.
Billy surveyed him contemptuously.| | 198
"Say, what's your name, anyhow?" he queried, after a moment.
"Alphonse Napoleon Taseherean."
"Well, what do you think of that Kamrahn Bay matter?" continued Billy, curious to know the boy's views; but Alphonse only shrugged expressive shoulders and smiled a little, subtle, sneering smile.
"D'ye remember how Taro licked you last fall?"
The French boy turned darkly red. His hands were in his pocket, and one of them suddenly flashed out. He had a knife.
"I no longer am afraid of heem," he said, contemptuously. "I will cut him up--so! if he touch me once again!"
"You will?" cried Billy. "You think we're afraid of your old knife? Get it, Taro."
Taro did get it, though he had a | | 199 scratch on his hand to show how dangerous the undertaking was. Then the French boy's assured manner vanished as if by magic. Quite piteously he began to cry. At the top of his voice he shouted aloud for "Pa-pa! Pa-pa!"
"We're not going to hurt you after all," said Billy, after a moment. "We'll make you do something you'll remember. Taro, help me tie his hands first."
They secured him firmly.
"Now," ordered Billy, "you run to the house and get that old French flag you and I have been using as a mark for firing at for some time, and get a Jap flag, too."
Taro was gone but a moment, and then returned with the desired flags. These Billy took and held before the French boy.
"Now, you," said he, "if you don't | | 200 want to stay tied up here all night, you just do what we tell you. Kiss that sun flag-right in the centre. That's the thing! What!--Ah, you will, you divil," for the French boy put his lips against the flag but a second, and then withdrew them to spit at it.
Taro had turned livid. In a flash he had seized the flag and was ramming it fiercely into the mouth of the French boy. Billy fought Taro back.
"Here, Taro! That's not fair! He's tied!"
He drew forth the flag. The dye ran down in livid streams on Alphonse's chin. He fought vainly to free his arms.
"Now, you," said Billy, "we'll let you free if you'll fight either one of us alone. But if you won't, you'd better do what we tell you. If you don't--"| | 201
Taro had quietly stripped himself to the waist prepared for battle. He was younger by several years than the French boy, but the latter had already felt the taste of the little Japanese's strength. When he encountered that bloody purpose in the eye of Taro he trembled visibly.
"I will do what you ask," he decided, suddenly.
"Good!" cried Billy. "You believe in spitting, eh? Well, now you just spit good and plenty at that!" He thrust the French flag before Alphonse, who spat at his country's flag. Then shrugging his shoulders, he swore as little boys of some nationalities do not.
Fifteen times he was forced to bow to the Japanese flag, touching each time the ground with his head. Finally he cried as instructed at the top of his voice:| | 202
"Vive la Nippon! Banzai!"
He went home a very much wilted and bedraggled little Frenchman, but he did not tell his papa or mamma of the flag incident.
When his father read with apparent exultation further news of Kamrahn Bay, Alphonse raised his little thin shoulders and eyebrows to venture the astonishing remark:
"Was it wise of France, pa-pa?"
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