- chapter: XXIX
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"TELL us a story of horrible carnage," said Billy, his freckled face aglow with excitement.
Gozo took the long-stemmed pipe Plum Blossom had filled for him with sisterly solicitude. Three or four puffs only he drew, then permitted Iris in turn the pleasure of refilling it.
"You better wait till father is more better. He kin tell better story," he said, gravely.
"Oh, you're a veteran, too," declared Billy, admiringly.
"And a hero!" added Marion, in an awed voice.
Gozo permitted the ghost of a | | 256 smile to flicker across the tranquillity of his face.
"In liddle while," said Plum Blossom, smiling happily, "father coming down into garden. He'll tell story then."
"He naever tell story 'bout his own self," said Taro, discontentedly. "He mos' greatest hero of all. Tha's right, Gozo?"
Gozo nodded gravely.
"Mos' of all," he agreed.
"'Cept you," said Marion, still bent on hero worship.
Gozo smiled in the little girl's direction. His usually impassive face was strangely winning when he smiled. Marion went closer to him, and, taking her hand, put it fondly against his cheek.
"You see, Gozo," she said, "I used to think about you as a hero even before father went away."| | 257
"Yes," said Billy, disgustedly, "she thinks you're a greater hero than Togo even."
"But Miss Summer--she say that you better have die," put in Taro.
"Yes," said Gozo, sighing, "it was my misfortune not to get killed."
"Oh, don't, don't! Just think how unhappy we would all have been if you had never come home," said tender-hearted Marion, "and think what you'd have missed--never to have seen us--mother and Billy and the baby and me."
Gozo admitted that their acquaintance certainly was worth living for.
"Our acquaintance!" said Marion, reproachfully; "our love you should say. We love you, Gozo."
"Then if you love Gozo why you nod waid upon him like unto Iris an' me?" queried Plum Blossom. "See how we fill up thad pipe mebbe | | 258 twenty-one times, an' also we bring viz tea--"
"An' also I fan him," added Iris, suiting the action to the words.
For a moment Marion looked very thoughtful.
"I know," she said, "that you love him, too, but even if I just talk to him, I can love him just the same. Can't I, Gozo?"
"Yes, but you only love me for mebbe liddle w'ile. Then soon's my father come you desert me. Tha's same thing with Plum Blossom and Iris. Me? I am grade hero when I am alone, but when my father come, I am jus' liddle insignificant speck--nothing!"
"Never mind," he said, with mock seriousness. "Nex' week I goin' sail for America. Then, perhaps, you sorry."| | 259
The tears slipped from Marion's eyes, and she wiped them with the pink sleeve of her kimono.
"Take me with you, dear Gozo!"
"An' me, also."
"An' me, too," cried the two little girls.
"Girls," said Billy, with contempt, "aren't allowed in colleges. You haven't any sense, Marion!"
"Well, b-but I could keep house for Gozo."
"A fine house you'd keep," said her brother, witheringly.
Marion's pride arose. She ignored Billy entirely.
"Gozo," she said, "mother let me do all kinds of work when the servants went."
"Hoom!" grunted Billy, "you used to play at work. Plum Blossom did it all. If you take any girl" he spoke the word with almost Orien- | | 260 tal contempt--"take Plum Blossom."
The latter smiled gratefully in the direction of her stepbrother.
"I goin' wait till you grow up, Beely. Then I keep house for you."
"You gotter git marry with Takashima Ido," put in Taro.
"I nod got!" cried the little girl, indignantly.
"You got!" persisted Taro. "His fadder already speag for you to our fadder."
"Tha's jus' account our fadder becom' hero. He wan' be in our family also. But I nod goin' marry thad boy all same. He got a smallpox all over his face."
"Plenty husband got small-pox," said Taro. "He also got lots money. Mebbe one hundred dollars."
Plum Blossom pouted.
"I goin' marry jus' same my | | 261 mother. Me? I goin' loave my husband."
"What's all this talk of husbands?" queried a cheerful voice.
Mr. Kurukawa seated himself among the children. Plum Blossom and Iris found a seat, one on each of his knees. Between them Juji nestled against his father's shoulder. The hand which had rested so contentedly in Gozo's a moment since had become a bit restless. Marion, the fond, showed an inclination again to desert; but Gozo maliciously held her small hand tightly so that she could not escape.
"I want to say something to father," she said.
"Say it to me," said Gozo.
"Hah! Did I not say so? Very well, you love me only sometimes. Tha's not kind love."
She was contrite in a moment, es- | | 262 saying to put her hand back in his, but he waved it away bitterly.
"No, no. Tha's too lade. Never mind. I know one girl never leave me."
"You mean Summer?"
"Summer-san. What a beautiful name!"
Marion turned her back upon him.
"Listen," he said into her little pink ear. "I go alone at America, but after four years I come bag, an' then I goin' tek to America with me--"
"Then who, Gozo?"
"All of you."
"Oh, won't that be lovely," she cried. "Father, are we all going to America in four years?"| | 263
He nodded, smiling. "After Gozo graduates."
"An' naever come bag at Japan?" cried Plum Blossom, in a most tragic voice.
"Oh yes, it will be only a visit, perhaps."
"I goin' to die ride away when I cross that west water," averred the little Japanese girl.
"Why," grumbled Billy, "you just now promised you'd be my housekeeper."
"In Japan," said Plum Blossom.
Taro had finished whittling the bamboo arrow he had been industriously fashioning.
"Pleese, my father, tell now thad story of yourself."
All of the children chorussed assent.
"Very well. Now it's a long, long | | 264 story, and if any of you go to sleep in the telling--"
"Oh, how could we?" breathed Marion.
"Very well, then. Come close, all of you."
They drew in about him, their small, eager faces entranced at once. He smiled about the circle, touched a little head here and there, and then began his tale:
"Once upon a time--"
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