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The Japanese Twins
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Taro and Take loved their birthdays the best of all the days in the year.They had two of them. Most twins have only one birthday between them, but Japanese twins have two.
That is because all the boys in Japan celebrate their birthdays together on one day, and all the girls celebrate theirs together on another day.So, you see, though they were twins, Taro and Take didn't have the same birthday at all.
Take's birthday came first. She knew days beforehand that it was coming, for every once in a while she would say to her Mother, "How many days is it now?" and her Mother always knew she meant, "How many days is it to my birthday?"One morning when she woke up, Take said, "Only six days more." The next morning she said, "Only five days more." One morning she jumped out of bed very early and said, "Oh, it's to-day! To-day! It begins this very minute."
Taro didn't get up early that day. When he heard Take singing, "It's to-day," he just buried his nose under the bedclothes and pretended to be asleep!
He remembered Take's last birthday, and he remembered that boys seemed to be in the way that day. They weren't asked to play with the girls, and they wouldn't have done it anyway, because the girls spent the whole day playing with dolls! Taro didn't think much of dolls.
Before breakfast, her Father took Take out to the Kura. He reached up to the high shelf and brought down the big red box that held the dolls. It was as big as a trunk. Then he reached down another box and carried them both into the house.
Although it was so early in the morning, the Mother had already put fresh flowers in the vase, in honor of Take's birthday. The bedding had been put away, and on one side of the room there were five shelves, like steps against the wall. Take knew what they were for.
"Oh," said Take, "everything is all ready to begin! May I open the boxes right now?"
Her Mother said, "Yes." She even got down on her knees beside the boxes and helped Take open them. They opened the red box first. It was full of dolls! A whole trunkful of dolls. Thirty-five of them!
The first doll Take took out was a very grand lady doll, dressed in stiff silk robes, embroidered with chrysanthemums.
"Here's the Empress," she cried; she set the Empress doll up against the trunk. Then she ran to get her dear everyday doll. She called her everyday doll "Morning Glory," and sometimes just "Glory" for short. Glory was still asleep in Take's bed.
"Why, you sleepy head!" Take said. "Don't you know you are going to have company to-day? Where are your manners, child?"
She took Glory to the trunk and put her down on her knees before the Empress, "Make your bow," she said. Glory bowed so low that she fell over on her nose!
"Oh, my dear child!" said Take. "I must take more pains with you! Your manners are frightful! You will wear out your nose if you bow like that!"
She reached into the box and carefully lifted out the Emperor doll. He was dressed in stiff silk, too. He sat up very straight against the trunk beside the Empress.
Take made Morning Glory bow to the Emperor, too. This time Glory didn't fall on her nose.
These dolls had belonged to Take's Grandmother. She had played with them on her birthdays, and then Take's Mother had played with them on her birthdays, and still they were not broken or torn; they had been so well cared for.
They were taken out only once in the whole year, and that time was called the "Feast of Dolls."
Take's Mother had covered the five steps with a beautiful piece of silk. Take placed the Emperor and Empress in the middle of the top step. Then she ran back to the trunk to get more dolls.
There were girl dolls and boy dolls and lady dolls in beautiful dresses, and baby dolls in little kimonos, strapped to the backs of bigger dolls.
Take took each one to the steps. She made each one bow very low before the Emperor and Empress before she put him in his own place. All the shelves were filled so full that one baby doll spilled over the edge and fell on the floor! Take picked her up and strapped her on Glory's back. "I know you won't let her fall," she said to Glory. Glory looked pleased and sat up very straight and responsible.
Then Take opened the other box. She took out a little stove and some blue-and-white doll dishes and two tiny lacquered tables.
While she was taking out these things, her Father brought in a new box that she had never seen before. He put it down on the floor before the steps. Take was so busy she didn't see it at first. When she did, she shouted, "Oh, Father, is it for me?"
"Yes, it is for you," the Father answered.
"Oh, thank you, whatever it is!" said Take.
She flew to the box and untied the string. She lifted the cover and there was a beautiful big toy house, made almost like the house the Twins lived in! It had a porch and sliding screens, and a cunning cupboard with doll bedding in it. It even had an alcove with a tiny kakemono, and a little vase in it! There was a flower in the vase! There were little straw mats on the floor!
Take lifted the mats and slid the screens back and forth. She put her little stove in the kitchen. She was too happy for words. She ran to her Father and threw herself on her knees before him and hugged his feet. "Thank you, ten thousand times, dear honored Father," she said.
When her own breakfast-time came, Take was very busy getting breakfast for the Emperor and Empress. She was so busy she couldn't stop. "It wouldn't be polite for me to have my breakfast before the Emperor and Empress have theirs," she explained.
Her Mother smiled. "Very well," she said, "You may get their breakfast first; we must be polite, whatever happens."
So Take had Morning Glory place the tiny lacquered tables before the Emperor and Empress. She put some rice in the little bowls on the tables. She placed some toy chop-sticks on the tables, too. Then she made Morning Glory bow and crawl away from the august presence on her hands and knees! "It wouldn't be at all right to stay to see them eat," she said.
Just then Taro came in, rubbing his eyes, He was still sleepy.
"Oh, Taro," cried Take, "look at my new house!"
Taro didn't think much of dolls, but he liked that house just as much as Take did. When he saw the little stove with its play kettles, he said: "Why don't you have a real fire in it?"
"Do you think we could?" Take said.
Of course they were never, never allowed to play with fire, but because it was Take's birthday the Mother said, "Just this once I will sit here beside you and you may have three little charcoal embers from the tobacco-ban to put in the stove."
The tobacco-ban is a little metal box with a place for a pipe and tobacco. It always had a few pieces of burning charcoal in it so that the Father could light his pipe any time he wanted to. The Mother sat down beside the tobacco-ban.
She let Taro take a pair of tongs, like sugar-tongs. He put three pieces of charcoal in the tiny stove. Take put water in the kettle. Soon the water began to boil! Real steam came out of the spout.
"I can make real tea!" cried Take.
She got some tea leaves and put some in each tiny cup. Then she poured the boiling water into the cups. She put the cups of tea before the Emperor and Empress.
"Now you'd better have your own breakfast," the Mother said. She put the fire out in the little stove and the Twins sat down before their tiny breakfast-tables.
While they were eating, Taro had a splendid idea. "I know what I'll do. I'll make you a little garden for your house!" he said.
"Oh, that will be beautiful!" cried Take. The moment they had finished eating, they ran into the garden. Out by the well the maids were drawing water.
"I need some water, too," Taro said.
They let Taro draw a pail of water himself. Here is a picture of him doing it.
Then he found a box-cover -- not very deep -- and filled it with sand. He set a little bowl in the sand and filled it with the water, for a pond. Then he broke off little bits of branches and twigs and stuck them up in the sand for trees. He made a tiny mountain like the one in their garden and put a little bridge over the pond. He put bright pebbles around the pond. When it was all done, they put the garden down beside the toy house. They put Glory in the garden, beside the tiny pond.
But a horrible accident happened! Glory fell over again, and this time she fell into the pond! At least her head did. Her legs were too long to go in. She might have been drowned if Take hadn't picked her out in a hurry.
Just as Take was wiping Morning Glory's face, her Mother came in dressed for the street. She had Bōt'Chan on her back. He was awake and smiling.
Take ran and squeezed his fat legs. "You are the best doll of all," she said.
"You take your doll, and I'll take mine," the Mother said, "and let us go for a walk."
Take had put on one of her very gayest kimonos that morning because it was her birthday, so she was all ready to go. Her Mother helped her strap Glory on her back and the two started down the street.
There were other mothers and other little girls with dolls on their backs in the street, too. They were all going to one place, -- the Doll Shop! Each little girl had some money to buy a new doll.
Such chattering and laughing and talking you never heard! And such gay butterfly little dresses you never saw! nor such happy smiling faces, either.
At the Doll Shop there were rows and rows of dolls, and swarms and swarms of little girls looking at them. Take saw a roly-poly baby doll, with a funny tuft of black hair on his head.
"This is the one I want, if you please," she said to the shopkeeper. She gave him her money. He gave her the doll.
"Glory," she said over her shoulder, "this is your new little brother!" Glory seemed pleased to have a little brother, and Take promised that she should wear him on her back whenever she wanted to. Take bought a little doll for Bōt'Chan, too, with her own money. It was a funny little doll without any legs. He was fat, and when any one knocked him over, he sat up again right away. She called him a "Daruma."
Bōt'Chan seemed to like the Daruma. He put its head in his mouth at once and licked it.
Just then Take saw O Kiku San. O Kiku San was Take's best friend, and her home was not far from the little house where the Twins lived. O Kiku San had been to buy a doll, too. She had her new doll on her back. It was a large doll, with a red kimono.
She ran to speak to Take. "Won't you come into my house on your way home?" she asked.
"May I, Mother?" said Take.
Her Mother said, "Yes," so the little girls ran together to O Kiku San's house. Other little girls came, too, to see O Kiku San's dolls. She had just as many dolls as Take. She had five shelves, too, and she had an Emperor and Empress doll. But she had no little house to play with.
"Come home with me and see my new house, all of you," Take said when the little girls had looked at O Kiku San's dolls.
So they marched in a gay procession to the little house in the garden. All the other girls' brothers had had a very lonesome day, but Taro had had fun all the afternoon with the little garden. He had made a little well, and a kura to put in the garden he made them out of boxes. The little girls looked at Take's dolls. They thought the doll-house the most beautiful toy they had ever seen, and when they saw the garden, you can't think how happy they were!
"We wish our brothers would make gardens like that for us," they said.
Taro felt proud and pleased to have them like it so much, but all he said was, "It is very polite of you to praise my poor work!"
Then the Mother brought out some sweet rice-cakes. The maids brought out tiny tables and set them around. Take brought a doll teapot and placed it with toy cups on her little table. Then she made real tea, and they had a party! For candy they had sugared beans and peas. They gave some of everything to the dolls. It was nearly time for supper when the little girls bowed to Take and her mother, said "Sayonara" very politely, and went home.
Take sat up just as late as she wanted to that night. It was eight o'clock when she went to bed. She hugged each one of the thirty-five dolls when she said good night to them.
"Sayonara, Sayonara," she said to each one; "good-bye for a whole year, you darling dolls!"
Then she took her dear old Glory and went happily to bed.