Little Sister Snow
Produced by Juliet Sutherland David Widger and the Online Distributed
LITTLE SISTER SNOW
Author of "The Lady of the Decoration"
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
TO MY NIECE
ALICE HEGAN RICE
IN MEMORY OF MANY HAPPY MONTHS
SPENT TOGETHER IN JAPAN
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A fervent, whispered prayer . . . _Frontispiece_
With outstretched hands and flying feet
She would throw her into the ditch
The two old people
Yuki San was called before her father
With paint and brush she fell to work
At the slightest sound she listened
Not willing to be surpassed in salutation
"My heart bleed for lonely"
She busied herself with serving the tea
Very helpless and lonesome
To make good her promise to the gods
A quaint old Japanese garden lay smiling under the sunshine of a
morning in early spring. The sun, having flooded the outside world
with dazzling light, seemed to sink to a tender radiance as it wooed
leaf and bud into new life and loveliness. It loosened the tiny
rivulet from the icy fingers of winter, and sped it merrily on its way
to a miniature lake, where shining goldfish darted here and there in
an ecstasy of motion. It stole into the shadows of a great pine-tree,
and touched the white wings of the pigeons as they cooed the song of
mating-time. It gleamed on the sandy path that led to the old stone
lantern, played into the eyes of Kwannon, the Goddess of Mercy, and
finally lost itself in the trees beyond.
Under a gnarled plum-tree, that for uncounted years had braved the
snow and answered joyously the first call of spring, a little maiden
stood and held out eager hands to catch the falling blossoms. The
flowering-time was nearly done, and the child stood watching the
petals twirl quickly down, filling the hollows and fashioning curious
designs on the mossy grass.
The softest of breezes coming across the river, over the thick hedge,
saucily blew a stray petal straight into the child's face. To Yuki
Chan it was a challenge, and with outstretched hands and flying feet
she gave chase to the whirling blossoms. Round and round the old tree,
into the hedge, and up the sandy path she raced, her long sleeves
spreading like tiny sails, her cheeks flushed to the same crimson as
her flowery playmates. A sudden stillness in the air ended the romp.
Yuki Chan returned to her playground beneath the tree, and taking her
captured petals from the folds of her kimono, began to count her
"Ichi, ni, san, ichi, ni, san," she rhythmically droned, three being
the magical number that would bring good luck if the petals were
properly arranged and the number repeated often enough.
But the monotony of repetition brought rest, and soon Yuki Chan,
forgetting to count, made a bed of the fallen petals and turned her
face toward the little straw-roofed house from which noises of busy
It was a birthday. Not Yuki Chan's, for that came with the snow-time.
This was the third day of the third month, which in the long ago was
set apart as the big birthday of all little girls born in the lovely
island, and was celebrated by the Festival of Dolls.
Yuki Chan lay with her slim body stretched in the warmth of the sun.
In every graceful line was the imprint of high breeding; her white
face, so unusual with her race, was stamped with the romance and
tragedy of centuries; while her eyes, limpid and luminous, looked out
at the world with eager, questioning interest.
Through the wide-open _shoji_ of the house she caught glimpses of
her father and mother hurrying and holding consultations. She marked
frequent visits to the old warehouse that held the household
treasures, and the bringing out of bundles wrapped in yellow cloth.
The air brought her whiffs of cooking food, and the flower- and
fish-men deposited a fair part of their stock on the porch. But Yuki
Chan was banished from these joys of preparation because of naughtiness,
and as she lay in the warm sunshine she thought of her recent
wickedness. She smiled as she remembered how she had hid her father's
pipe that he might work the faster, and broken the straps of her
mother's wooden shoes, so that she could not go outdoors. She laughed
softly when she thought of the stray cat which she had brought into the
house and coaxed to drink milk while she, with skilful fingers and a
pair of scissors, transformed her smooth fur into a wonderful landscape
garden. Short work had made kitty's head slick and shiny, like a lake,
with a stray bristle or two, which stood for trees. In the middle of her
back stood Fuji, the great mountain, with numberless little Fujis to
keep company. Many winding paths ran down kitty's legs to queer,
shapeless shrines, and it was only when Yuki Chan had insisted on making
a curious old pine-tree with twisted limbs of kitty's short and stubby
tail that trouble ensued, and she had been requested by her mother to
take her honorable little body to the garden.
Yuki Chan remembered her mother's beautiful smile of love as she
gently chided her, and recalled the note of trouble in the kind voice.
Was the mother sorry because she had stuck out a very pink tongue at a
cross-eyed old image that sat on the floor on the very spot that she
wanted to step upon? Or was it--and Yuki Chan grew grave--that the
last _go rin_ had been spent for the new dress she was to wear that
All her short life Yuki Chan had lived in a house of love, but no veil
of affection, no sacrifice, could shield her from the knowledge of
poverty. She had never seen her mother wear but one festival dress,
yet her own little kimono was ever bright and dainty, and even the new
brocade of the dolls' dresses stood alone with the weave of gold and
A solemn thought, like a pebble dropped into water, caused circle
after circle to trouble her childish mind. She did not quite
understand, but she knew there was something she must learn. She had
been naughty and weighed her mother's spirits. She had caused a grave
look in her father's kind eyes, and had sent the household pets
scattering with her mischief. Now she must be good--very good--else
the fox spirit would come upon her, and she would go through life an
unhappy soul. She would give more obedience to the honorable mother,
whose every word had been a caress. It was as if for the first time
the great book of life opened before her and, though unconscious of
its meaning, the first word she saw spelled Duty.
The noises from the house grew fainter. The child, with blinking eyes,
lay gazing straight above her. Overhead the branches overflowed into a
canopy of crimson, which shut out the great real world and opened into
a fairy world wherein only the untried feet of youth may tread and the
fragile flowers of child-dreams bloom. The gates thereto are slight
but strong, and only knowledge erects an impassable barrier.
The wind sang its lullaby through the blossoms of the tree, and sleep
would soon have overtaken Yuki Chan had not a peculiar sound aroused
her and caused her eyes to fly wide open. Once before she had heard
it, and it had meant death to the big robin who lived in the branches
above. The cry came from the mother bird this time and brought Yuki
Chan to her feet.
Through the shower of blossoms, brought down by the mad fluttering of
wings, she saw a tiny half-feathered thing struggling in the sharp
claws of her lately acquired pet. With certainty of success, the cat
let its victim weakly flutter an inch or two away, then reaching out a
cruel paw drew it back. Twice repeated, the green eyes narrowed to
slits, and Yuki Chan, horrified, saw big red drops slowly dripping
from either side of the whiskered mouth. Terror held her for a moment
as she heard the crunching of small bones, then white passion
enveloped her as she stole noiselessly from behind and closed her two
small hands around the furry throat.
_"Baka!"_ she cried from between her clenched teeth. _"Baka_--to eat
the baby birds! This day will I ask Oni to make you into a stone,
which every foot will kick and hurt, and you can neither move nor cry.
You cruel, cruel beast!" In vain the cat struggled. Yuki Chan held it
firmly at arm's-length while she decided what was to be its fate.
Looking sternly at the offender, her lips rounded into a long-drawn
"s-o," the light of anticipated revenge danced in her eyes. At last
she knew what to do, O most honorable but very ugly cat! She would
throw her into the ditch, where great crawling frogs with popping eyes
would stick out long tongues; where flying things would sting, and
creeping things would bite; where the great tide would come later and
take her out to the big, big ocean, where there was neither milk to
drink nor birds to eat.
At the thought of her furry playmate floating alone and hungry in the
vast place which, to Yuki Chan, had neither beginning nor end,
something of pity touched her heart, and she slightly loosened her
The cat gained a good breath and used it. In the fight for freedom a
sharp claw was drawn down the child's arm, leaving a line of red in
its course. Compassion took flight, and Yuki Chan, clutching anew,
went swiftly down the path that led to the street, with a watchful eye
on the lodge of the keeper of the gate.
The keeper was very old, and very cross, and lately had acquired a
curious idea that little girls must ask his honorable permission to go
in and out the gate. One day he actually threatened punishment, and
Yuki Chan, in her scorn, invited him to cut off his head with a sword,
that he might save his face. Now the way was clear.
She turned her head and bumped her small body against the weight of
the heavy gates until they swung slightly apart and permitted her to
So intent was her purpose to reach the ditch across the street that
she did not see an approaching jinrikisha, and before she knew it she
had been tumbled over and sent rolling to the side of the road. Still
clutching the kitten, she sat up and rubbed the dust from her eyes.
Standing over her was the jinrikisha man, and beside him was his
passenger, a young American boy, whose light hair and blue eyes held
her spell-bound. He was brushing the dust from her kimono, and his
foreign tongue made strange sounds.
"Say, kid," the boy was saying, as he transferred the dust from his
hands to his handkerchief, "glad you're not hurt or got any bones
cracked. Where's your mama, or your papa, or your nurse, to give you a
spanking and keep you off the street?"
As he talked Yuki Chan grew fascinated watching his mouth, and forgot,
for a moment, her direful intention. The cat, again taking advantage
of her relaxed hold, began to tug for freedom, and a lively struggle
The boy, looking on, began to laugh, a laugh that began in his eyes,
ran over his face and down into his throat, whence it came again in a
shout of boyish merriment.
Yuki Chan, looking from him to the smiling jinrikisha man, grew
crimson with anger. With a swift movement she ran toward the ditch.
Divining her purpose by the look in her eyes, Dick Merrit went
gallantly to the rescue of the kitten. He was tall for his sixteen
years, and his long strides more than matched the pattering steps of
the slip of a girl who raced before him.
"No, you don't, kiddie," he cried; "your manicured cat is not going
into the ditch, if we have to scrap for it."
Merrit caught Yuki Chan in one arm, and again and again loosened her
fingers from the struggling kitten.
"Iya, Iya!" the child screamed; but Merrit, as determined as she, held
her firmly, and ended by lightly slapping first one little hand and
then the other.
The child, thus coming into contact for the first time with physical
force, relaxed her grasp and gazed in amazement at the boy's
"I guess your 'Iya' means no, little lady, and I say 'Iya' too," said
Merrit, taking the cat into his arms and smoothing its uneven back.
"You are not going to put it into the ditch. Why don't you give it to
me? I am getting up a collection of cats and things at the school, and
I'd like to take this queer specimen along. Ask her if I can have it."
The jinrikisha man, who stood a smiling spectator, saw Dick Merrit's
hand move toward his pocket, and was instantly alert and eager to
settle the matter.
"Him ve'y bad girl," he said; "him make dead for catty. You give me
ten sen, I take girl homely. You have much of catty."
But Dick declined all interference, and putting the cat inside his
coat he stooped down and took one of Yuki Chan's unresisting hands.
Her sleeve fell back, and he saw the long red scratch.
"Hello! The cat had an inning too, didn't she? I'd like to chuck her
for hurting you, but I can't let you give her a bath in that dirty
hole. Never mind, I'll take her home, and some day I'll bring you
something. I bet you don't understand a word I'm saying, but I'll be
hanged if I know how to make you."
Feeling rather helpless, Dick talked on, patting first Yuki Chan and
then the cat.
The child stood speechless and looked deep into his eyes, not having
entirely recovered from the shock of the first blow she had ever
"You'll be good, won't you?" he went on coaxingly, "not drown any more
cats and things?"
Yuki Chan, with the intuition that only a child can have, suddenly
bridged the gulf of strange language and understood. With the quick
movement of a nestling bird, she bent forward and laid her cheek
against the boy's shoulder. It was not only complete surrender, but
allegiance to the conqueror.
Dick rose, red and confused. Then he climbed into the jinrikisha,
trying to ignore the smiles of the man.
Yuki Chan, with her hands joined just below her sash, bent her body
like a half-shut jack-knife.
"Arigato--arigato," she said politely, as she bowed again and again.
"Him say t'ank you," interpreted the jinrikisha man.
"Good-by," called Dick. "Don't forget--be good!"
Yuki Chan watched the back of the jinrikisha and the swinging brown
legs of the jinrikisha man that showed beneath. She had forgotten the
cat, but she still remembered the kind look in the blue eyes of the
"Yuki, Yuki!" came the voice of the mother in her native tongue.
"Come, the feast is prepared, and the sandals are worn from my feet
running to seek you. Hurry! before the red beans grow cold."
The child sent a long-drawn "Hei" in answer to her mother, then to
herself she said over and over:
"Be goodu--be goodu."
She had heard the words a few times before, but they were associated
with her visits to the mission-school and a certain oblong box out of
which came sticks of red and white with a very sweet taste. Now, as
she said them, a new meaning seemed to play about them.
She slipped through the gate and walked with unhurried feet toward the
small house, so gay in its festal plumage. As she passed the old
plum-tree she looked up and saw the mother bird cuddling her babies
beneath her breast.
Some tender thought lighted the child's face into a strange beauty, as
a stray sunbeam finds a hidden flower and glorifies it. Turning her
face upward to the nest, she patted her own cheek and said: "Be goodu,
Yuki, be goodu."
In the springtime a Japanese house is a fairy-like thing, with only
top and bottom of straw and a few upholding posts to give it a look of
Yuki Chan's house was typical. The paper screens were carefully put
away during the day, that the breezes might play unobstructed through
the house. At night the heavy wooden doors were fitted into grooves
and served not only to keep out the night air, but also the evil
spirits that come abroad when the great sun ceases watching.
Binding the whole was a narrow porch, showing a floor polished like a
mirror from the slipping and sliding of generations of feet. Yuki Chan
first learned to know her face in its reflections and, alas! by the
same method had learned the saucy fascination of sticking out her
small pink tongue.
On the side of the porch toward the plum-tree the child found her
father and mother waiting. The two old people sat on gay cushions with
hands folded and feet crossed. Their festal attire bore the marks of a
once careless luxury, but now shabbiness tried to hide itself under
the bravery of tinsel, where once had been pure gold.
Each year the struggle of obsolete methods of business and the
intricacies of progress plowed the furrows a little deeper in the
man's face, and when his eyes, that in youth had blazed with ambition,
grew wistful and troubled, he dropped them that his wife might not
But what silence could hide from this frail woman any mood of the man
she had served with mind and body and soul these many years? When she
came to him as a shy bride on trial, she knew no such word as love.
Duty was her entire vocabulary, and she asked nothing and gave all.
Many little souls had come to her, with hands all crimped and pink,
like new-blown cherry-leaves, only to close their eyes and pass out to
the good god Jizo, who is always waiting to help little children
across the river of death.
In years gone by, night after night sleep had flown before the terror
that another woman would be brought into the house that the family
name might not die out. Silently she would slip out to the little
shrine and pour out passionate words of prayer that just one little
soul might be permitted to live.
No matter how long the night, nor how bitter the struggle, morning
always found her bright and cheerful, bending every effort to invent
new diversions for her husband. She labored to anticipate every wish,
and even though she did without, she provided him the best of comfort.
Working far into the night, secretly disposing of her small personal
treasures, acquiescing in his most trivial statements, she planned
that no slightest gap in the domestic arrangement should suggest
itself to him.
The woman worked and prayed and waited. Then she triumphed. In the
wake of a great snow-storm came the longed-for child, and they called
her Yuki, after the snow that had brought them their wish. Hand in
hand with Yuki Chan came love, and bound the hearts of the man and
woman with ties of a desire fulfilled. From that time to this love had
prevailed, and as Yuki Chan climbed on the porch, besmirching its
shining surface with her muddy little feet, that had been guiltless of
sandals all day, the faces of the two old people lighted up with
Yuki Chan looked ruefully at the muddy prints she had made and
realized that she had been a most impolite little girl. Remembering
her recent resolve, she sought the eyes in which she had never seen
any light for her save that of love. She drew close, and reaching down
took her mother's hand, hard and cracked by labor, and laying her
cheek against it said, with a voice sure of forgiveness and sweet
desire for atonement:
"Go men nasai."
The mother, with a courtly but playful air, granted her pardon with a
low salutation. Then with a rush of affection that no convention could
stem, she folded the child to her heart and lived another moment of
The father sat by, making no comment, his eyes bright and twinkling.
Then he suggested that their Majesties, the dolls, had been waiting
long on the shelf. Was it not time they were receiving a visit?
The years of toil were telling on both father and mother, but they
daily refreshed themselves at the overbrimming fountain of Yuki Chan's
youth, and now, as they each took one of her hands to go in to see the
dolls, they were so gay that the child suggested that instead of
walking they should do the new one-two-three-hop she had learned at
It was unheard-of conduct, but it was for Yuki Chan, and father and
mother stumped along, cheered on by the small girl who was trying to
keep time, but was breathless through sheer excess of happiness.
There was nothing in the room to impede their progress. No chairs with
treacherous legs to trip over, no beds, nor tables with sharp corners
--nothing whatever but the matting, soft and thick, where Yuki Chan had
practised all the gymnastics of childhood unbruised and unharmed.
Half skipping, half hopping, and wholly undone with laughter and
exertion, the three at last reached the place where, for six years,
offerings had been made for the gift of the child who stood to these
two for love.
Arranged in the best room in the house, on five long red-covered
shelves, were dolls. Big dolls and little dolls, thin ones and fat
ones, each one to represent some royal man or woman of the long ago,
and dressed in a fashion of a time almost forgotten. There was Jimmu
Tenno, the first real emperor. His hair was done in a curious fashion
and his dress was of a wonderful brocade, while his hands clasped two
fierce-looking swords. There was Jingo, too, who had won fame and
lasting honor by her wonderful fighting, and was so great she had to
sit by the emperors and look down on the other empresses. Such a lot
of them! Some worthy to be remembered every day in the year, others
the more quickly forgotten the better.
Yuki Chan knew them all by heart, and she lingered before those she
liked and quickly passed those she did not care for. She could not be
rude to an emperor, even though he had been dead hundreds of years.
She was really not very afraid of the greatness of the old doll men
and women who sat on the shelf, still it was well to be careful about
handling them. She might be turned into a lizard or a snake, just as
the old lodge-keeper had said.
But her delight was in the miniature toilet articles of solid silver,
costly gold lacquer, and porcelain, so tiny, so beautifully carved
they must have meant the eyesight of some workman, only too glad to
shut out the sunlight forever if he might produce just one perfect
The things, however, that made Yuki Chan clap her hands and the
nesting birds perk up their heads at the sound of her clear, sweet
laugh were the funny little lacquer carts in which the royalty was
supposed to ride, drawn by impossible fat bullocks, so bow-legged that
their curves formed a big round O. Yuki Chan made her red lips into
the same shape, and called her mother to look.
She pretended to feed the dolls with real food and wine, and actually
played with the five court musicians, because they were partly
servants and it did not matter.
Her tongue ran in ceaseless chatter. Her father and mother hovered
around her, repeating the history of all those wonderful people. Yuki
Chan listened very little, so concerned was she with her own comments,
until she happened to see an anxious look creep into her mother's
eyes. It was something every little girl must know, and if Yuki Chan's
honorable ears refused to open, how would she learn? Then Yuki Chan
nestled close, and gave little pats of love and tried to listen. THE
shadows of the bamboo grew long and slim as the sun kissed them good
night. The sails skimmed homeward on a silver sea as the west covered
its rosy pink in a veil of deepest blue. The young birds in the old
plum-tree did not stir at the loving touch of the mother who, with a
soft bill, searched and sought for the lost one. The plum-blossoms
lingered yet for a night as the air had grown chill.
Within the house Yuki Chan, still dressed, lay on the floor, weary
with the wonders of the day. Her mother took from a small inclosure
beneath a shelf many soft comforts with which she arranged the child's
bed. Yuki Chan, talking all the time in a low monotone, tried to
unravel a tangle in her mind of birds and cats and dolls. It was all
getting unmanageable and very hazy, when her mother gathered her into
her arms, and quickly casting aside her two garments laid her gently
in a bath of caressing warmth. A moment more and the little maiden lay
like a rose-leaf in her bed.
The night-lamp made shadowy ghosts of all it touched, and one gleam of
light, escaping the paper shade, hung like an aureole above the head
of Yuki Chan's mother as she knelt with clasped hands before the
Buddha on the shelf.
Her moving lips had only one refrain: "The child, the child, the
Yuki Chan watched the play of the light in the half-dark room. What
funny things those shadows made, and, strangely enough, one more
wonderful than all the rest grew into the shape of the boy, and his
lips were saying, "Be good."
Then Yuki Chan lost herself in a mist of drowsiness, and her mother
sat by, and kept time with her hand as she chanted rather than sang:
"Sleep, little one, sleep.
The sparrows are nodding.
Beneath the deep willow-trees
The night-lamp is burning.
Thy mother is watching,
Sleep, little one, sleep."
Twelve times had the plum-tree scattered its petals to the wind, and
Yuki San [Footnote: The honorific _Chan_, used only in childhood, is
changed to _San_ in later years.] had passed from childhood into
girlhood, and had already touched the border of that grave land
of grown-up, where all the worries lie. For though she was apparently
only a larger edition of the spoiled, impulsive happy child of old,
yet often her eyes were shadowed with the struggle of shielding her
aging father and mother from the poverty that was coming closer day by
During the three years she had been gaining her education at the
English mission-school, they had toiled unceasingly that she might
have the best the country could afford, but now that she had returned
after her long struggle with a strange language and a strange people,
it was but fitting that she should take up her duties as the daughter
of an impoverished family of high rank. The father, grown old and
feeble, gave up the battle for existence, and being a devout Buddhist,
turned his thoughts upon Nirvana, which he strove diligently to enter
by perpetual meditation and prayer. The mother, used to guidance and
unable to think or plan for herself, turned helplessly to Yuki San.
The duties were heavy for girlish shoulders, and often as the dawn
crept over the mountains it found the girl wide-eyed and still, trying
to solve the problem of modest demand and meager supply.
She had learned many things at the mission-school. She could read and
write English imperfectly, she could recite the multiplication table
faster than any one else, she could perform the most intricate figures
in physical culture, and if she had infinite time she could play three
hymns on the organ. These varied accomplishments, however, seemed of
little assistance in showing her how to stretch her father's small
pension beyond the barest necessities of the household. Tales had been
told her of a great land, far beyond her sea-bound home, where women
of the highest birth went out to work in the busy world. How she had
marveled at their boldness and wondered at the customs that would
permit it! Now she half envied them their freedom, and sighed over the
iron-bound etiquette that forbade a departure from her father's roof
save for the inevitable end of all Japanese women--a prearranged
It was for this she had been so carefully trained in all phases of
housekeeping, and in all the intricacies of social life. Her education
from birth had been with a view of making smooth the path of her
future husband that his home might be peaceful and he untroubled.
Each day as the burden grew heavier she fought her battle with the
bravery and courage of youth. With jests and chatter she served her
parents' simple meals, constantly urging them to further indulgence of
what she pretended was a great feast, but which in reality she had
secretly sacrificed some household treasure to obtain. She deftly
turned the rice-bucket as she served, that they might not see the
scant supply. With great ceremony she poured the hot water into the
bowls, insisting that no other _sake_ was made such as this. Her
determination to keep them happy and ignorant of the true conditions
taxed her every resource, but it was her duty, and duty to Yuki San
was the only religion of which she was sure.
But one day a great event happened in the little home. Yuki San was
called before her father and told, in ceremonious language, that a
marriage had been arranged for her with Saito San, a wealthy officer
in the Emperor's household. She laid her head upon the mats and gave
thanks to the gods. Now her father and mother would live in luxury for
the rest of their lives!
Saito San was to her only a far-away, shadowy being, whom she was to
obey for the rest of her life and whose house she was to keep in
order. He was a means to an end, and entered into her thoughts merely
as one to whom she was deeply grateful. Youth and all its joys were
strong within her, and the pressure of poverty gone, her whole nature
rebounded with delight.
Many times had marriage been proposed for her, for the story of her
beauty and obedience had spread, but her father guarded his treasure
zealously, and it was not until an offer came, suiting his former rank
and condition, that he gave his consent.
Now, when he saw the happy light in the eyes of his child, and saw the
color come into her cheeks, he laid his hands upon her head and
blessed her. When Yuki San was by herself she clapped her hands
joyfully. "I make happy like 'Merican," she whispered. "Hooray,
hooray! now my troublesome make absence," and she hurried away to put
a thank-offering before the household god.
Having arranged all preliminaries and instructed the mother to sell
every household treasure that his child's clothes might do honor to
the rich man's house, the father went back once more to his pipe and
Yuki San and her mother were up with the sun, sewing and embroidering,
and going about their daily task with zest and song. The past trials
were forgotten and the future not considered.
One morning, not many weeks after the marriage had been arranged, Yuki
San heard the call of the _Yubin_ San, and running out to meet him,
received a strange-looking letter. The envelope was white and square,
and straight across the middle, in very plain English, was her name
and address. Puzzled, she turned it over and over, then broke the
The picture of the big hotel at the top of the sheet was so
distracting that for a time she could get no further, but a word here
and there and the signature at the end finally made her cry out with
delight and surprise.
"Oh! it's from that funny lil' boy what gave spank to my hands long
time ago. He want to come to my house for stay. Listen."
There was no one to listen but her own happy self, and lying flat upon
the floor she propped her glowing face between her palms, while she
read aloud from the letter spread before her:
Miss YUKI INOUYE--
_Dear Miss Inouye_: I wonder if you remember an American boy with whom
you had an encounter in your very early days, because he dared to
thwart your plans concerning a cat? I remember it very well, and the
jolly picnics and excursions that you and my mother and I took
I hope you have not forgotten me, for I am going to claim the
privilege of the conqueror in that old battle and ask a favor of you.
My Government has sent me out to your country on some important
business, and finding there was no hotel close to my work, I wrote to
the school where my mother and I visited twelve years ago, and asked
them to recommend a family that would be good enough to take me in for
two months. Strangely enough your father's name was suggested, and
when I read that the only daughter both spoke and wrote English, and
that her name was Yuki San, my mind flew back to my "Little Sister
Snow" of the days gone by.
Could your father manage to accommodate me for a couple of months, if
I promise to be very good and take up as little room as possible? If
you think he can, please wire me here at Yokohama, and I'll come
Hoping to see you very soon, I am
Your old friend,
RICHARD MELTON MERRIT.
Yuki San turned the letter this way and that, and vainly tried to
decipher the strange words. It was undoubtedly English, but not the
English she was used to. She ran for her small dictionary and
diligently searched out the meaning of each phrase.
Yes, she remembered the boy--he had light hair, and blue eyes that
laughed, and he was a big, big boy and carried her on his shoulder.
She sat with the folded letter clasped carefully in her hands and gave
herself up to joyous anticipation. A foreign guest was coming to stay
two whole months in her house; after that she was to be married and
wear her beautiful kimono, and give rich gifts to her father and
Surely Buddha was caring for her! There had been grave moments of
doubt about it since she left the mission-school, for he had never
seemed to listen, though she prayed him night and day. But he had been
only waiting to send all her happiness at once--he was a good god,
kind and thoughtful. To-morrow, before the sun touched the big
pine-tree on the mountain-top, she would go to the temple and tell
Yuki San's plans found favor with her parents, chiefly because of
their great desire to give her pleasure, and incidentally because the
board of the foreigner would swell the fund that was needed for her
The plighted maid to them was already the wife, and the danger of a
youthful heart defying tradition and clearing the bars of
conventionality to reach its own desire was something unknown to these
simple people. The child wished the foreigner to come--they could give
her few pleasures--she should have her desire.
The sending of the telegram was the first exciting thing to be
attended to. Five times Yuki San rewrote the short message, finding
her fingers less deft than her tongue in framing an English sentence.
Gravely and with effort she wrote:
"I give you all my house. Your lovely friend, Yuki."
But she shook her head over this and tried again:
"You have the welcome of my heart. Yuki."
This, too, fell short of her ideal, so she decided to send simply two
words of which she was quite sure:
The days that followed were crowded with busy preparation. The
difficulty of providing the ease and comfort that the presence of so
honorable a guest demanded taxed to the utmost Yuki San's resourceful
nature. Gaily she set her wits and fingers to work--placing a heavy
brass _hibachi_ over a black scorch in the matting, fitting new
rice-paper into the small wooden squares of the _shoji_, and hanging
_kakemono_ over the ugly holes made by the missing plaster in the
From one part of the house to another she flitted, laughing and
working, while the old garden echoed her happiness and overflowed with
blossom and song.
On the day of Merrit's expected arrival, when the last flower had been
put in the vases, and the last speck of dust flecked from the matting,
Yuki San's keen eyes detected a torn place in the paper door which
separated the guest-chamber from the narrow hall.
A puzzled little frown drew her black brows together, but it soon fled
before her smile.
"Ah!" she cried, "idea come quickly! I write picture of bamboo on
With paint and brush she fell to work, and beneath her skilful fingers
the ugly tear disappeared in a forest of slender _take_ which
stretched away to the foot of a snow-capped mountain.
With a last touch she sank back on her heels and viewed her work with
deep satisfaction. "All finished," she said, opening wide her arms;
"no more to do now but wait for that time 'Merican sensei call
A laugh behind her made her turn her head quickly, and there in the
doorway stood a tall foreigner, with outstretched hand of welcome.
Hand-shaking was an unknown art with Yuki San, so after one startled
upward glance she touched her head to the floor in gracious courtesy.
All her gay spirits and freedom of speech vanished, and she was
instantly enveloped in a mist of shyness and reserve that Merrit's
direct look did not serve to lessen.
With lowered eyes, she ushered him into the larger living-room, and
bade him be seated and accept all the hospitality her father's poor
house could give.
After a long and tiresome journey Merrit found something inexpressibly
charming in the quiet, picturesque place, and in the silent young girl
who sat so demurely in the shadow. He tactfully ignored her timidity
by talking cheerful nonsense about impersonal things, treating her as
a bashful child who wanted to be friends but hardly dared.
As he talked Yuki San gained courage, and ventured many curious
glances at the broad-shouldered young fellow, whose figure seemed
completely to fill the room. At first she saw only a strange
foreigner, but gradually, as she watched his face and listened to his
unfamiliar speech, she discovered a long-lost playmate.
Through all the years that she had struggled for an education at the
mission-school, English had been invariably associated with a tall,
awkward, foreign boy, whose mouth made funny curves and whose eyes
laughed when he made strange sounds. How big and splendid and handsome
he had grown! How different his clothes from any she had ever seen
before! How white his long hands, whose strong, firm touch she
remembered so well! She looked and looked again, drinking in the tones
of his deep voice, till the throbbing of her heart sent a flood of
crimson to her cheeks.
But gradually her shyness wore away, and when Merrit asked her how in
the world he was to conduct his business with so few Japanese words at
his command, she ventured to answer: "I know; I give you the teach of
Nippon, you give me the wise of dat funny 'Merican tongue."
"That's a go!" said Dick, as he held out his hand to close the
But the girl drew back, troubled.
"No, no, you no _go_! You stay. I give you all my intellect of Nippon
speech. Please!" and she looked up pleadingly.
Merrit laughed outright.
"That's all right, Yuki San; I am going to stay, and we will begin
school in the morning."
By this time the mother and father had learned of the guest's arrival
and hurried in to bid him welcome. The unpacking of his steamer-trunk
and the disposal of his possessions in his small apartment was a
matter of interest to the whole family. Each article was politely
examined and exclaimed over, and when Merrit drew out a package of
photographs and showed them his home and family and friends, the
excitement became intense.
That night Yuki San lay once more on her soft _futon_ and watched the
shadow of the night-lamp play upon the screens. Nothing was changed in
the homely room since she had lain there in her babyhood: the same
little lamp, the same little Buddha on the shelf looking at her with
Yuki San stirred restlessly. "Dat most nice girl in picture," she said
to herself. "Him make marry with dat girl, he say." Then she added
inconsequently, with a sigh, "I much hope Saito San go to war for
long, long time."
For two halcyon months Yuki San lived in a dream. The ample
compensation Merrit insisted upon making for the hospitality extended
to him more than met the modest needs of the little household, and
once again, as in the earlier days, they went on jolly excursions,
visited ancient temples, and picnicked under the shadow of the
_torii_. The father and mother always trotted close behind, and Yuki
San, vastly pleased with her ability, gaily translated the speeches
from one to another. She talked incessantly, laughing over her own
mistakes, and growing prettier and more winsome every day.
Merrit was glad to fill his leisure time in such pleasant
companionship. Yuki San was the same little bundle of charm he
remembered of old, with her innocence untouched, and a heart whose
depths had never yet been stirred.
He teased her, and taught her, and played with her, as he would have
played with a merry child. Naturally gentle and affectionate, he
unconsciously swept Yuki San to the borderland of that golden world
where to awaken alone is agony.
One morning, when the heavy mists of the valley lay in masses of pink
against the deeper purple of the mountain, and his Highness, the sun,
his face flushed from his long climb, was sending his first glances
over the sunny peaks of Fuji-yama, Yuki San arose, after a sleepless
night, and faced the morning with sorrowful eyes.
"You ve'y lazy, Mister Sun, this morning," she said, shaking a finger
at him in reproof; "where you the have been? Why you not come the more
early and make light for my busy?"
She tied the long sleeves of her bright kimono out of her way, and
twisting a bit of cloth about her head, fell to dusting the
_shoji_ and setting the small room in order.
"I must the hurry," she said, as she kept up her brisk dusting. "I
make the food so quick as that Robin San steal berry for his babies.
To-day him one big, big day, but him no glad day. Merrit San go away."
She paused in her work, and a look of pain darkened her eyes, but she
shook her head reproachfully.
"Ah, Yuki San, you make sorry voice and your heart is thinking tears.
You naughty girl! Quick you make the fire to rise in _hibachi_ and
give that Merrit San his _gohan_--same thing what that funny 'Merica
After the steam had begun to rise from the vessels on several
_hibachi_, Yuki San, flushed by her exertions, rested upon her heels
before the door that led into the garden. As she fanned her flushed
face with her sleeve, she glanced again and again toward the narrow
stairway that led to the chamber above, and at the slightest sound she
listened in smiling expectancy.
From outside the wall came the gentle slip-slap of the water against
the _sampan_, and the cheerful banter of the owners as they made ready
for the work of the day.
Circling the garden, the fern-like maples made a note of vivid crimson
amid the feathery green of the bamboo. Every feature of the place was
closely associated with her short happy life. She had learned to walk
on the soft sandy paths, she had spelled out her first characters on
the old stone-lantern. She had whispered her secrets to the
broken-nosed image of Kwannon, who sat in the shadow of the pines, and
there under the plum-tree she had caught the naughty kitten that first
brought her and Merrit San together.
As she sat, with folded hands, and watched the sunshine on the dewy
leaves and flowers, her intense, restless, vivacious body relaxed in
sudden languor and her soft mouth drooped in wistfulness.
A splash in the pool below attracted her, and looking down she saw the
gleaming bodies of the goldfish as they leaped into the air. Instantly
she was all life and volubility.
"Yuki San one big bad girl; she no remember li'l fish. They always
like hungry baby San in early morning. I make fast to fill big hole
inside--ve'y li'l outside."
Slipping her half-stockinged feet out of her straw house-shoes, she
stepped into her wooden _geta,_ and passing a shelf, filled her hands
with round rice-cakes.
The edge of the water turned to gold as the fish crowded close. Yuki
San scattered the crumbs and stood watching the wriggling mass for a
moment, then said:
"You ve'y greedy li'l fish. I never no can fill your bodies. Now I get
flower for Merrit San's breakfast."
She made her way over the flat mossy stones, passed the miniature Fuji
where dwelt the spirit of the wondrous "Lady who made the flowers to
bloom." She paused before the gorgeous chrysanthemums and looked long
at the morning-glories, with their tender tints of dawn. But at last
she spied on a rose-bush, set apart from the rest, a single white rose
with a heart of red.
With a little cry of satisfaction, she thrust her hands among the
thorns to pluck it. The rebound of the bush sent fluttering to her
feet a brilliant purple butterfly. Tender to all living things, Yuki
San dropped quickly to her knees and folded the half-chilled creature
between the palms of her warm hands.
"Ah, Cho Cho San," she said, "the day of yesterday you so big and
strong. The morning of to-day you have the weakness of cold body. That
Jack Floss him ve'y naughty boy!"
She put her moist red lips to her folded palms and the warmth of her
breath stirred to action the gauzy creature she held captive.
"You no must kick, Cho Cho San! Have the patience. I make you warm, I
give you one more day of happy."
Yuki San's wooden shoes sent a sharp click into the quiet morning air
as she quickly crossed the arched bridge and followed the path to the
stone image beyond the pool. With a touch as soft as the wings she
held, the girl lightly balanced the now thoroughly warmed butterfly on
the broad forehead of the Goddess of Mercy.
In sharp contrast to the spirit of the scene came the clear,
rollicking strains of an American air, whistled by some one coming
down the steps.
For a moment Yuki San stood motionless, pressing her lips softly to
the rose she held. Then, with a swift pitter-patter, she ran back to
"The top of the morning to the honorable Miss Snow," said Merrit, who
quite filled the doorway.
Not willing to be surpassed in salutation, Yuki San laid a hand on
each knee, and bending her back at right angles, replied with mock
"Ohayo Gozaimasu-Kyo wa yoi O tenki."
Merrit knew she had him at a disadvantage in her own language, but,
always delighted to see the play of her dimples and the soft pink
creep into her cheeks when he teased, he stood by her now, big and
stern, and growling.
"See here, Yuki San, otherwise Miss Snow, you just come off your high
stilts of that impossible lingo, and speak nice English suitable for a
little boy like me to understand."
"Li'l boy like you!" she rippled, "li'l boy like you! Merrit San him
so long when he make Japanese bow he come down from top like big
bamboo-tree--so!" Putting her hands high above her head, she bent till
the tips of her fingers touched the floor. Still bent, she twisted her
head till her eyes, bright with laughter, looked straight into
He lifted his eyebrows quizzically. "See here, Yuki San, you are fast
developing the symptoms of a coquette."
She quickly straightened her back, and with a smile of bewilderment,
"Me croquette? No, no; croquette, him li'l chicken-ball what you eat.
I no can be eat!"
Merrit shouted with delight, then grew grave.
"No, Yuki San, you don't ever want to be a coquette. You want to be
your sweet little self, and make a good wife to that handsome soldier
Saito, with all his gold braid and dingle-dangles. But what about
breakfast? You see, my train leaves in an hour. If you don't give me
something to fill my honorable insides, I'll have to eat you, sure
In mock fear she quickly brought a low table from an inner room, and
with deft hands placed the steaming soup and broiled fish before him.
The knife and fork were a concession to Merrit's inability to wield
the chopsticks, and sitting on his heels was Merrit's concession to
the inability of the house to provide a chair.
"Hello!" he said, picking up a long-stemmed rose, "where did you find
"I guessed her with my nose," the girl answered. "You know what make
her heart so red? Long time ago, most beautiful princess love with
wrong man. Make Buddha ve'y angly, and he turn her body into white
rose. But her heart just stay all time red 'cause of beautiful love
that was there."
"My! he's a fierce old customer, that Buddha of yours," said Merrit.
Yuki San paused in the filling of the rice-bowl and looked at him
"Merrit San, do you know God?"
"Do I know God?" he repeated, with a half-embarrassed laugh.
"Yes, Christians' God, what you must love and love, but no never can
see till die-time come. You know, Merrit San?" Then, lowering her
voice in earnest inquiry, she went on: "You believe that Christians'
God more better for Japanese girl than Buddha?"
For a moment Merrit felt the hot blood of confusion rise to his
temples. The role of spiritual adviser was a new and somewhat
embarrassing one. Struggling for expression, he floundered hopelessly.
"I--I--I guess I don't know very much about it. But there's one sure
tip, Yuki San, the Christians' God is all right. You can't lose out if
you pin to him." He stammered like a foolish schoolboy, but struggled
bravely on: "When things get pretty thick and you've struck bottom,
that's the time you find out. I know. I've been there. More's the pity
I don't remember it oftener!"
"And you think him more better for me?" asked Yuki San, still
"You bet I do!" said Merrit with conviction. "Take my word for it and
"I no forget," she said.
A sliding of the screen and a call from the court-yard announced the
arrival of the jinrikisha men, who had come for the baggage.
Merrit thrust back his half-finished breakfast.
"By Jove! I'd most forgotten this is my last meal with you. Just to
think all that tiresome old government contract is finished and I'll
soon be on my way to the other side!"
"You want to see other side?" she asked. "Mama San not there no more."
Then seeing his face darken, she laid a quick hand of sympathy on his.
"I have the sorrowful for you," she said earnestly, then went on
hastily: "That other side! Yes, I know that most beautiful 'Merica.
Most big ship in the world come rolling into Hatoba. Merrit San so
long and big, stand way out front and see over much people. Then he
cry out, 'Herro!' herro!' with glad and much joyful. He see that
lovely girl like picture waiting there!"
Without pausing for a reply, she pushed open a door and called in
Japanese to her father and mother, who never made their appearance
till Merrit's breakfast was finished.
"Come, make ready to give our guest an honorable departure," she said.
In the small courtyard facing the street the girl found the men, with
their jinrikishas and baggage-wagon, waiting to convey Merrit to the
station. She carefully directed the tying on of the various trunks and
bags, and placed the family just where they should stand that the
greatest honor might be done the departing guest.
As Merrit came out of the little house and reached for his shoes,
which stood waiting at the side, Yuki San started toward him, eager to
serve him to the last. Merrit motioned her back.
"Don't come too near, Yuki San. If you happened to fall into one of
those shoes, you'd be lost for ever and ever, and that big Mr. Saito
would be inviting me to cut off my head."
Yuki San laughed and smoothed the cushions in the jinrikisha while she
gave minute directions to the jinrikisha men.
Merrit made his adieu with high good humor, and so many big words that
Yuki San was hard pressed to interpret. He invited the family and all
their relatives to come to see him in America. When he reached Yuki
San he held out his hand. Made shy by the unusual ceremony, she
timidly laid a cold and unresponsive little palm in his. He looked
down from his height with tender memories of all her gentle
"Good-by, little snow-girl," he said. "I'll never forget Japan, nor
She withdrew her hand and looked inquiringly up at him.
"Some long time you come back?"
Merrit climbed into the jinrikisha "No, Yuki San, you know I'll soon
have a little home of my own to work and care for. I'll be a busy man
for the next few years, so I guess I'll not come back."
As in a dream, Yuki San saw the men adjust their hats and tighten
their sashes as they took their places in front of the small vehicle.
Mechanically she bowed her farewell with the rest of the family, but
she did not join their "Sayonara."
She watched the swift moving of the jinrikisha wheels, then she saw
Merrit turn at the gate and wave his hat as he joyously called:
"Good-by, Yuki San, God bless you!"
The girl stood still, her eyes on the empty gate. Like a lonely, hurt
child her lip quivered, and she caught it between her teeth to steady
"Ah, Yuki," cried her mother, "some spirit has wished you harm. A drop
of blood rests on your lips."
Yuki San drew her hand across her mouth, and lightly answered that
maybe a robin had tried to steal a cherry. But to herself she
"My heart bleed for lonely. He _never_ come back."
The following day a host of accumulated duties and various
preparations for the first ceremonious visit of the groom-elect kept
Yuki San's hands and mind busy, and if sometimes a sob rose in her
throat, or her eyes strayed wistfully from her task, she resolutely
refused to let herself dwell upon the past.
The marriage, which had been dutifully accepted as a matter of course
and looked forward to as a financial relief to the entire family, had
never held any particular interest for her, but now even the
preparations, which had hitherto excited her interest and enthusiasm,
found her listless and indifferent.
She would be mistress over a great mansion and many servants, and her
days were to be spent in arranging for the physical comfort of Saito
and the entertainment of his friends.
The arrangement had seemed so simple, and so right, and she had been
gratified that a desirable husband had been found. But now she could
neither understand nor explain to herself her new and strange
resistance. She only knew that for the first time in her life there
was rebellion against the inevitable.
As she rested her tired body before beginning her toilet for the
afternoon, she remembered an American teacher at school who had been
_in love_ with the man she was soon to marry. She remembered how she
had hidden behind the trees to see this young teacher run to the gate
to meet the postman, and her own failure to see why these letters
should bring such joy. She, with other girls, had spent a whole recess
acting this scene amid peals of laughter. Now it all came back to her
with new meaning, and it seemed neither strange nor amusing.
She leaned her head against the open _shoji_ and looked out into the
garden, radiant and beautiful in the high noon of a perfect autumn
The working world paused in a brief sleep and the music of the garden
was hushed, while the insects sought the shadow of green leaves. Peace
was within and without, save in the girl's awakening heart.
"Ah, Sensei," she murmured through her trembling lips. "Then I make
fun for your letter of love. Forgive my impolite. Now I the
Yuki San chose her toilet for the coming visit with due regard for all
convention. There must be no touch of purple--that being the color
soonest to fade made it an evil omen. She selected an _obi_ of rare
brocade, the betrothal gift of Saito, the great length of which
expressed the hope of an enduring marriage.
As she dressed, her mother flitted about her, chatting volubly and in
such high spirits that Yuki San's heart was warmed. The elaborate
trousseau had caused the little household many a sacrifice, but the
joy in the hearts of the old people more than justified them.
Presently the clatter of the jinrikisha in the courtyard announced the
arrival of the guest. Yuki San heard the long ceremonious greeting of
her father. She saw her mother hasten away to do her part and, left
alone, she sat with troubled eyes and drooping head.
The strange feeling in her heart, one moment of joy and one of pain,
bewildered and frightened her. No thought of evading her duty crossed
her mind, but her whole being cried out for a beautiful something she
had just found, but which it was futile to hope for in her new life.
At the call of her mother, Yuki San silently pushed open the screen
and made her low and graceful greeting. Custom forbidding her to take
part in the conversation, she busied herself with serving the tea,
listening while Saito San recounted various incidents of the
picturesque court-life, or told of adventures in the recent war.
After all the prescribed topics had been discussed and the farewells
had been said, Yuki San retained a vague impression of a small,
middle-aged man, with many medals on his breast, who looked at her
with kind, unsmiling eyes.
It was not till after the simple evening meal that Yuki San found the
chance to slip away to the little upper room which had been Merrit's
for two months. Nothing there had been touched, for the old mother
claimed that to set a room in order too soon after a guest's departure
was to sweep out all luck with him.
The girl entered and stood, a ghostly image, in the soft and tender
light of the great autumn moon as it lay against the paper doors and
filled the tiny room. Through the half-light Yuki San saw many touches
of the late inmate's personality. A discarded tie hung limply from a
hook on the wall, a half-smoked cigar and a faded white rose lay side
by side on the low table.
From the garden the sad call of a night-bird, with its oft-repeated
wail, seemed to voice her loneliness, and with a sob she sank upon her
knees beside the cot. Long she lay in an abandonment of grief, beating
futile wings against the bars of fate. At last, throwing out her arms,
she touched a small object beneath the pillow. Drawing it toward her,
she took it to the open _shoji_, and by the bright moonlight she saw a
small morocco note-book. She puzzled over the strange figures on the
first few pages, but from the small pocket on the back cover she drew
forth a picture that neither confused nor surprised. It was the girl
Merrit had told her about--the girl to whom he was going so joyously.
It was a face full of the gladness of life and love, whose laughing
eyes looked straight into Yuki San's with such a challenge of
friendship and good will that the girl smiled back at the picture and
laid it gently against her warm cheek.
She sought out each detail of hair and dress as she held it for closer
inspection, then replacing it in the pocket she said softly:
"He have the big, big love for you. You give him the happy. I close my
heart about you."
On the back of the book in letters of gold she spelled out the strange
word, "Diary." She puzzled for a moment, then she remembered where she
had seen it before. The young American teacher had written in just
such a book, and when she asked its meaning, the teacher had said it
was her best friend, her confidant, to whom she told her secrets.
For a moment Yuki San stood with the book in her hand, then she said
"Diary! I make diary, too. I speak my thoughts to you. I tole you all
my secrets. Maybe my lonely heart will flew away."
THE DIARY OF YUKI SAN
'Merican Sensei say she have one closest friend in little book. I tell
my troublesome to this little book what spells "Diary" in gold letters
on back. I make it my closest friend what no never speaks the words of
yours when heart overflows with several feelings. I write for Merrit
San, but his eyes no must never see. Just my heart speak to his heart
in that 'Merican tongue what he understands.
Japanese girl very naughty if she love man. She made for the take care
of man's mother, man's house. Very bad for Japanese girl to say love
when she marry with man. Merrit San say 'Merican girl speak love with
eyes when lips are shame. Japanese girl cover the eye with little
curtain when man comes. She no must peep out one little corner. No
must see, no must hear, no must speak the love.
So I make little book guess my heart each day.
The happy days are pass away, and the flowers are bloom and birds will
return to me again, but where can I find Merrit San? How I feel the
sorry and the lonesome when I think I can't find him no more in this
long island. I no can express my heart with words. I never the forget
of his kindness to me.
Big lamp by Merrit San's desk no never burn so bright for me. It make
funny little crooked shadow of my body on _shoji_. Merrit San's body
always make big and strong black picture. I saw it last time big moon
look over mountain. I took walk in garden and I thinking this time
next moon Merrit San will not be here. Though the lamplight shines
through the _shoji,_ still in next month the owner of the light will
be different and the ache come into my heart.
Whole Japan are changed, and everything I see or hear makes me think
of him; but my thoughts of him never, never changed, yet more and more
increase and longing for him all time. My heart speak the much word of
love for Merrit San. My eyes grow shame to say it. Little book, close
ALL day many rains come down in garden. He steals flowers' sweetness
and damp my heart with lonesome. Last rainy day Merrit San teached me
more better English, and he laugh very long when I read the English
writing with my Japanese tongue. He say: "Ah, Yuki San, you very funny
Then I teach him the play of _go ban_, and he make the pain in his
head with the several thoughts how he must move the black or white. He
try long, long time, then he shake his big feest, and he say: "You've
got me beat, little sister; you've got me sure."
I laugh, but I think much thoughts. _I_ no hurt Merrit San with beat,
and girl with much laugh in her eyes have got him for surely. I no
understand that funny 'Merican tongue.
Merrit San so many time call me little sister, and he say my soul all
white like my name. What _is_ my soul? Ah, that same spirit what leave
my body and go out 'cross that many seas to safe Merrit San's journey.
I keep that soul all purely and white all of because Merrit San call
me Little Sister Snow.
One day I take Merrit San with me to very old temple. Sun, him so
bright he make all leaves to dance with glad. Green lizard take sleep
on stone step while big honey-bee sing song. All things have the
joyful, and my feets just touch earth with lightsome.
I go inside temple and say one very little pray to Amida, for I have
the hurry. When I go back, Merrit San he say:
"See here, Yuki San, you no waste time over pray. You get the trouble
with that old gentleman if you have not the careful."
Then I say: "Next time I give him little money and make big smoke with
incense," and he say, "Yuki, you very good girl."
Just by temple's side is little bamboo-tree which have very nice
story. One good god he like this bamboo, and he like the beautiful
love. He say give names of man and woman to boughs of bamboo and make
the tie together with long pin of thorn. Give the low bow, and by and
by the dear wish in heart will be truly.
Merrit San he no can know what I do, but he hold the high boughs of
bamboo down and I name him and me and make the tie together.
The dear wish of my heart come not truly. It is full of sad.
What shall I do to less my anxious? To-day at temple I ask Buddha. He
never speak. He always look far away at big sea. He no care, though
tears of the heart make damp the kimono sleeve. The Christians' God I
no can see. But Merrit San say he is everywhere and listens for voice
of troublesome. I no can make him hear, though I say the loud prayer.
Buddha very ugly old god. Maybe him cross when he see very pretty
Japanese girl make the low bow to him.
I believe Christians' God more better than Buddha, because Merrit San
say he make everything truly. He make me, he make Merrit San, he make
the beautiful love. Maybe some day that big God hear about Japanese
girl's heart of trouble and speak the peace.
To-day one long so busy day. Many silk must be sewed into fine kimono
for the when I go to live in other house. Sometimes I very glad I go
to other house. I make the many comforts of my mother and my father.
To-day I see the much cold in my father's body. Very soon he have nice
warm kimono with sheep's fur all inside. Then I make the glad heart, I
marry with Japanese man.
It is getting little cold, and every night the moon is so clear. These
day crickets are singing among the grasses. Those make me to think of
Merrit San more and more. This fall was quite changed to me. At first
Merrit San never come back to me as I expect in dreamy way. I have the
feel of very helpless and lonesome. Before, though I had some trouble
or unhappiness, if I saw Merrit San's smile everything was taken clear
away and my heart was full with cheer and happy.
Ah, Merrit San, though it makes my cheek red with hot to write the
speak, I love you most.
Buddha very naughty old god to say nothing truly is.
Ah, Merrit San, what you suppose I have dream last night? I was so
happy that I cannot tell with my tongue nor pen. That _you_ come back!
I could no word speak out with so much glad. I had many things to tell
you before I wake, but I could not even one thing.
You say you stay ten days. It is too short, but it far more better is
than half night. Oh, I wish so bad I did not wake up from dream!
I was tearful with much disappoint, then I remember that day you go to
big 'Merica you call back "God bless you, Yuki San," and with my heart
I make one soft prayer to Christians' God.
When big temple bell wake me up and all birds, my troublesome was more
light, and I make so big breakfast for my father and my mother, my
pocket began to tell the loneliness, and I could not perform all my
When I write these letters Merrit San is far away at sea on the way of
his home. He will have joyful time. I wish I can see her, that girl
with the laugh in her eyes. Wonder how she thinks of Japan. Perhaps
she would think how small and lonely country and people. One girl in
that Japanese country very sad with lonely.
But Merrit San say: "Yuki San, you _good girl_, you be good wife." So
I make the try to put my lonely heart to sleep.
Time and days goes too fast as running water. Already old month went
away and new one have come. It is time for us to do last work on many
clothes for new home.
When Japanese girl marry with man she take much goods to his house.
To-day my father bring what 'Merican call bureau, and many work-box
and trays and much fine _futon_ for to sleep on floor with. Next day
after this many mens will come and travel all things to other house.
Japanese girl wear fine kimono long, long time, and keep for more
little girl. Merrit San say 'Merican girl wear fine kimono one time,
then she no more like.
Then 'Merican girl have much happy in her heart. 'Merican man come to
girl's house to marry with her. She no afraid to speak the word of
love, though man's mother sit next by him. She no 'fraid of laugh. She
has the joyful of life.
Japanese girl very happy when she very little girl, or very, very old.
But when she goes to man's house to marry with him, she must always be
the quiet of little mice and more busy than honey-bee. Very bad. But
Japanese girl have the much brave, and holds the happy in her heart
when she brings the comforts to her peoples.
Merrit San say many more big country than Japan in world. I say, "What
is world? I wish I know world like you!" Merrit San stop the laugh and
his voice grow still with quiet, then he say:
"Ah, Yuki San, little snow-girl like you should not know the world.
Cuddle in your little nest and be content."
What is content? It is the don't care of anything but the
flower-garden in my heart. Wonder if girl with laugh in her eyes have
the content? This day I take walk by seas. Last time I take walk so many
peoples come with us. I make into Japanese words all Merrit San's funny
speaks. We have the much laugh: Merrit San try the eat with chop-sticks.
To-day little boat what we ride the water in was broke by its nose and
many seas was eating it up. Loud cold wind make pine-trees shivery and
sad. Big gray cloud come down and make all black with sorrowful.
Sometimes little white waves jump up and dance, but the joyful of last
happy day stings my heart.
More long time go running slowly by since you have left us, and as I
was thinking of that running and those days and longing for you and my
heart getting down in lonely thoughts, _Yubin_ San bring me those
package what you sent, Merrit San, and it made me very glad and happy.
Hardly can I tell what was in my heart then. Before I can open it I
hold it tightly against my breast and kept silence a little while.
Tears of sorrow changed into the great joy for a moment when I see
your name and your hand of write. I feel as if I receive a new life
right in this minute, and I caught a light of hope in yonder. My
heartful joy and gladness will not express, and I wish I can go up in
high place and shout out and tell all people the joyful of beautiful
love. How it make the change in whole earth and life and give the
dance of heart. But I will not. Mens and women of Japanese country
have not the understand of such lovely thing, and make the shameful of
me. So I give silence to my lips and close the door of my heart. Ah,
what funny little thing that heart is! In one half live the joyful.
Other side have all the painful of life, and when the love come
sometimes he knock at wrong door and give the hurtful ache to life.
Ah, Merrit San, you give many thankfuls for the lend of my house in
your letter. I give the love of you many more thankfuls for coming to
my heart, even he knock at two doors. One day me and Merrit San went
down to temple where big feast was. Merrit San go inside and look long
long time at Buddha, then he say:
"Yuki San, what will this old gentleman do to you if you disobey him?"
I give little think, then I say, "I no can know--I no never disobey.
Buddha say, 'Yuki, take care father and mother all time.' I take care.
Him say, 'Yuki, you woman--you not talk too much.' I no talk much.
Then him say, 'Yuki, come many time to temple and make light with
incense and put little money every time in box.' I give obey and much
_go rin_, but Buddha keep all and never give back." Before I finish my
speak Merrit San shiver like cold and say, "Come on, Yuki San, let's
get out of here and find the sun." Outside I make cherry-wreath while
Merrit San tell me story. Him very sweet day--now all gone forever.
Last fine kimono is finished and all baggage is tied. Next day I go to
Then my mother will give all house much sweep with new broom, to tell
gods I go 'way no more to come back. Maybe they make big fire by gate
to tell all peoples I belong to other house now. Ah, little book,
to-night I make big fire in my heart and burn all my wickeds in it. Next
day I make more fire and burn you. To other house I must go all white
and purely as Merrit San say.
Ah, Merrit San, you the one big happy in all my life and I never
forget all your kindful. You give me the good heart, like sun make
flower-bud unclose. You telled me what is soul and purely, and you say
be very good wife.
One night when moon was big and round and red and river outside wall
go spank, spank, you call all my people to garden, and with the
'Merican _samisen_ you sing much songs.
Sometimes you very funny, but sometimes when moon specks slip through
big pine-tree, I see you very sadful.
Now moon speck come on _shoji_ and ache my eyes to look your face once
I try so much to make picture of man's face I marry with. I no can see
anything but much medals on coat, and so many teeths. Merrit San's
eyes all blue and twinkly, and face so white and clean.
But now he make the joyful with girl with laugh in her eyes, and her
feet no touch the ground with much happy.
To-morrow I go to other house and no belong to my father and mother.
To-day I go temple, and I make promise I no more speak of Merrit San's
name; no more the think of his face in my heart.
Little book, I weared you close to my breast many days. To-night I
sleep with you tight to my heart. You gived me the courage to turn my
face to the rising sun of the to-morrow.
The low, deep music of a temple bell rolled down the hillside and
echoed through the giant cryptomerias. It stirred to action the
creatures of the early dawn and passed out with infinite sweetness to
the red-rimmed east of another day.
The priests in the old temples chanted their prayers with weird
monotony, while a single bird poured out his morning song of love at
the door of his mate.
The old stone steps leading from temple to temple would have looked as
they had a thousand other mornings, gray, grim, and mossy, save for a
little figure that slowly took its way up a long and crooked flight.
Yuki San was on her way to make good her promise to the gods. Her
wooden shoes clicked sharply in the quiet morning air, then hushed as
she paused for rest on a broad step. Even the exertion of the long
climb had failed to color her white cheeks, but her lips were carmine
and her eyes luminous with purpose.
The one spot of color about her otherwise sober little figure was a
bright-red _furoshike_ held close, in which something was carefully
A noisy waterfall leaped past her down the hillside in a perpetual
challenge to race to the foot. Stern-faced images, grim of aspect,
stared at her as she climbed, but Yuki San kept gravely on her way
until she reached the open door of the great silent temple.
The faint light of the early morning had scarce penetrated the shadows
that clung about the gorgeous hangings and rich symbols of this
ancient place of worship. A white-robed priest, oblivious to all save
his own meditations, paid little heed to the childlike figure as it
knelt before the cold, calm, unchanging image of the great Buddha.
For a moment Yuki San moved her lips. Still kneeling, she drew from
her sash the red _furoshike_ and took from it a small morocco
With light steps she crossed to a brazier, and with a pair of small
tongs lifted from it a glowing coal. With steady fingers she pushed
aside the many sticks of incense in the great brass vessel before the
shrine, and making a little grave among the ashes, she laid within the
burning coal the little book.
The blue smoke, rising slowly, hung for a moment above the girl's head
as a halo, then rose to the feet of Buddha as in supplication for
mercy, and was finally lost in the darkness of the heavy roof.
The girl watched with wide eyes and parted lips. Clasping her hands,
she lifted her face and from her heart came a fervent, whispered
"I make empty my heart of all wicked. Buddha or Christians' God, I no
can know which. Please the more better speak into my lonely life the
word of peace."
She turned from the silent temple on her homeward way. She paused by
the clump of bamboo where so short a time before she had gleefully
tied together two boughs in the name of Merrit and herself. Tiptoeing
to reach the high boughs which Merrit had held for her to tie, she
drew them downward to slip the thong that bound them. After holding
them to her soft cheek a moment, she let them fly apart, while she
closed her eyes and whispered softly:
"Good-by, beautiful love, good-by."
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