- chapter: XXVI
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THE following morning Mrs. Kurukawa was with her husband, having travelled all night, accompanied by Gozo. He had known she would come. When she approached his bed he raised himself on his elbow and greeted her cheerily, with an airy wave of his arm. When she saw his dear, familiar face, with the kindly smile lighting up the features, she rushed with an inward sob towards him. She could not speak, so deep were the emotions that assailed her, but she clung to his hand as he whispered to her.
Later, when she was calmer, she | | 228 took the chair Gozo placed for her; then, with broken sentences, she poured out to her husband all that was in her heart.
The days that followed were cheery ones for the soldiers in Mr. Kurukawa's ward. His wife would come each day loaded with flowers, books, magazines, and food of various sorts. She seemed to forget no one in the ward. Sometimes her impatient and selfish husband actually begrudged the little time she spent away from his side, as she went from cot to cot with her gifts and her words of comfort and praise. He would hold her hand greedily when she would come to him and say:
"There! At last, you have come. Tell me everything now. Ah! the letters. Read them, please, at once."
They always began the day with her reading of the pile of letters that | | 229 came from the impatient children at home.
Taro wanted his father's sword sent, unwashed, by express. If he waited until they returned home he feared that some one might steal the precious weapon in the interval. Of course, Gozo, as the eldest son, was rightfully entitled to the sword, but he had a sword of his own already, and Taro had none. If his father would only give him this one he would swear by it to use it only in glorious service. Billy, apparently inspired at his step-brother's request, wrote an eloquent plea for his father's rifle. If his father could spare his uniform, which must be all ragged and worn from bullet wounds and blood, Billy would cherish it as his choicest possession. Marion's epistles were always blurred by tear marks. They were sometimes al- | | 230 most undecipherable. Because the invalid insisted on hearing every word she had written, Mrs. Kurukawa usually spent more time over her letters than any of the other children's. The little girl was given to dissecting her inmost emotions. Her letters were usually a recital of how she felt when she heard this and that about her dear, dear, dear, brave father, whom she loved so much.
Plum Blossom wrote pages of flowery words. The father had simply made a bird of her, she said. She wanted to sing and laugh all the time. She had a calendar. on which she chalked off each day the date, so she could keep count of the days until her father would return. The baby had fallen down the stairs, she wrote, but the floor, fresh padded with rice-paper, in anticipation of the | | 231 return of "father," was so soft that she only bounced when she reached the bottom. When Norah had picked her up the baby had actually laughed, and said: "Coco faw down." The baby could make long sentences now. She could even say a prayer Marion had taught her, but she was very rude, and often said "Amen" right in the middle.
There were three soldiers in the town, and everybody was making a great fuss over them. Miss Summer had said she wished she could marry one of them, which showed she had no sense, since Gozo already was a soldier. Anyhow, the soldiers never deigned to look at little girls, and they only marched by the Kurukawa house because they wanted to see Norah, who said they were "small, but grand!"
Iris's letters brimmed over with | | 232 the same expressions of love and entreaties for the quick return of her parents.
Finally, there came an extraordinary little document penned by Juji. It was written in English, apparently under the direction of the faithful Norah, for at the bottom of the sheet she had written:
"If you please, mam, it was Norah that taught the little lad to write the beautiful letter."
Beautiful it was to the eye of the fond father. Every letter was printed and loving words misspelled. There were three smudges of ink on the page. One distinct little mark, where a dirty little finger had rested for a moment, pleased him.
"Do you know," said Mrs. Kurukawa, very earnestly, "I would still be in Tokio if it had not been for | | 233 the children's letters. They used to come in every mail--little, soiled epistles of love, all hearing their childish pleas for mother to return. Why, I could not stay away from them. They just drew me back."
Her husband looked at her fondly.
"What a mother you are!" he said.
"Yes," said she, "that's my strongest trait--maternity. I love all children. There's nothing sweeter in the world than baby arms about one's neck, baby voices, baby kisses, baby touches. Oh, they are the most precious things in life!"
He looked a trifle injured.
"You think more of babies than of husbands, then."
She laughed with the tears in her eyes.
"Why, husbands are the biggest babies of all!" she said. "I've al- | | 234 ways felt like a mother to you, you know."
She nodded brightly.
"Don't you know what first appealed to me in you?"
"Well, it was your utter loneliness in a strange country. You seemed so strangely alone in America, and you wanted so much to be friendly. I saw it in your face."
"Yes, I did want to be friendly--with you," he admitted, gravely.
"You did not find it hard, did you?" she asked, still smiling.
"Yes, I did."
"Why, I gave you every encouragement."
"I know, but still I could not know that."
Gozo came into the ward, and, joining them, tossed upon the bed a | | 235 number of newspapers and periodicals.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, noting their smiling expressions.
Blushing like a girl, the wife looked at her husband shyly.
"We were talking about our courtship days, my son," said Mr. Kurukawa.
"Ah," said Gozo, very seriously, it makes one happy to think of those times, does it?"
"Very, very happy," said his stepmother.
"I cannot understand why," he said, simply.
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