- chapter: XXVIII
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JUST before the noon hour the train bearing the Kurukawas arrived. They were unprepared for the reception. The towns-people had gathered at the station. When Mr. Kurukawa, pale, but able to walk alone, appeared on the platform, a murmur which rapidly became a cheer arose from the crowd. Old friends and neighbors rushed forward to greet him. He was overwhelmed by the storm of banzais and cheers. The Japanese people do not often give way in this fashion, but in these times they let themselves loose, and they shouted now with all the pent- | | 247 up enthusiasm of months. Their heroes were sacred objects to them--to look at them even was an honor. How proud the little town had become! Did they not boast as a citizen one of the bravest heroes of the war? The gods had singled them out for the peculiar honor. Grateful and proud indeed they felt. Always a modest man by nature, the homage offered Mr. Kurukawa now almost distressed him. Indeed, his face showed bewilderment and embarrassment. Respectfully the people permitted his son to lead him to the waiting jinrikisha. The crowds impeded the progress of the vehicles, which they followed all the way to the house.
At the house everything was ready for the reception. The children were in their gayest clothes. All were rosy with excitement. About them ev- | | 248 erything seemed to shine. Madame Sano, old as she was, made quite a picture. Her withered old cheeks were pink with pride.
They were all waiting there in the hall. Hard by, the servants in their best attire waited also.
"It's after twelve already," said Billy, consulting for the twentieth time his Christmas watch. "They're late."
"I hear sounds," said Taro, his ears pinched up like a small dog's.
Taro rushed to the shoji, and before his grandmother could prevent him he had thrust his fist through the beautiful new paper upon it. Billy, however, made a rush for the door, forgetting in one moment all the grandmother's injunctions concerning the "dignified and most refined" reception due at such a time. Billy's departure seemed to affect the girls. They looked at one another in hesi- | | 249 tation. Then almost with one accord they followed their brother's lead, dragging little Juji along with them. Down the garden-path they sped, stocking-footed, for they had not stayed to put on clogs. Billy and Taro pushed through the gate ruthlessly. Down the road they dashed. A moment later they were in the midst of the crowd following and cheering their father. They shouted as they ran and waved their arms wildly above their heads. Mr. Kurukawa saw them while still a distance off, and suddenly arose in his seat. Unmindful of the crowd, he gave an answering shout to the boys. How he reached the house he never could remember. His wife told him afterwards that the children seemed to fall upon him at once. They clung about his legs, his hands, and his waist.| | 250
Once across the threshold, he gave a great sigh. Then in a voice which went straight to the very heart of old Madame Sano, he said:
"This house seems to be the most beautiful place on earth."
He permitted an excited, happy maid to take off his sandals and bathe his feet. Then followed by the happy ones, he ascended the stairs to the upper floor, where the meal was served. Never in his life, he declared over and over again, had he been so hungry. He ate everything placed before him. When the children begged to be told this or that about his adventures he would answer: "After dinner. Talk, all of you, if you wish, but let me eat."
"I thought," said Billy, "that you were wounded, and that wounded men aren't allowed to eat so much."
"So I thought in Saseho, my boy. | | 251 We ate not much in Manchuria, but we famished in the hospital."
"Honorable father, why did you not send me that sword?" queried Taro.
"I had none to send, my son. It was lost."
"And the rifle, too, father?" asked Billy.
"The rifle, too."
"But what about the--uniform?"
"Well, it was, as you thought, torn and worn from service. The Russians gave me a new one."
"What!" cried Billy, in horror, "a Russian uniform!"
Mr. Kurukawa smiled.
"Hardly that, my boy. You see a sick man on a stretcher usually wears a--er--nightie--isn't that what they call it?"
"Oh-h!" said Taro and Billy both together, apparently disappointed.| | 252
"If they put a Russian uniform on me," growled Taro, "I would tear it off!"
Billy's eyes rolled.
"Hm! They'd never get one on me!" said he.
"What did they put on you, Gozo?" asked Taro, turning to his brother.
"Yes," added Billy. "You weren't wounded."
"Neither was my uniform," smiled Gozo. "They permitted me to retain my honorable garment."
"Huh! Well, did they torture you?"
"Not even knout you?"
"No. They were augustly kind--sometimes."
"Sometimes!" repeated Billy, excitedly. "Then some other times they were cruel, huh?"| | 253
"Not exactly, but--well, there were many things we thought reasonable to ask for, and they did not agree with us."
Gozo looked at his father. The latter, still eating, nodded to him to continue.
"Well, sometimes we begged for letters to be sent to our friends."
"And they wouldn't--"
"They would take our letters, but they did not send them. Our people permitted Russian prisoners to write to their friends. Not always were the Japanese allowed to do so."
"But on the whole," put in Mrs. Kurukawa, gently, "they treated you kindly, did they not?"
Gozo's face was inscrutable. Then after a slight silence he answered, gravely:| | 254
"We were prisoners, madame mother--not guests."
"I bet they herded you together like cattle!" cried Billy, indignantly.
Gozo and his father exchanged smiles.
"Hardly," said Mr. Kurukawa. "There were not enough Japanese prisoners to 'herd,' you know."
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