A Japanese Schoolgirl and Her Story

PLUM-BLOSSOM, for that is the meaning in English of her name, is, I believe, living to-day, a happy wife and mother, and better still, an earnest, happy worker for the Savior she has learned to love and trust; but if my story is to be that of a schoolgirl, we shall have to go back some years to the time when Plum-blossom was not more than ten or eleven years old. Such a weary little girl, with a sad, tired face, and a heavy baby strapped on to her back; for, as you may have heard, babies in Japan generally spend their waking, and perhaps many of their sleeping hours, strapped on to the back of some one, mother, aunt, elder sister, or nurse.
The sun was shining brightly; not even a soft, white cloud flitted across the deep blue sky; and the flowers in the well-kept gardens of the small, almost flat-roofed houses that lined the village street were a wealth of color, and filled the air with their perfume. But just then Plum-blossom was not thinking of any of the bright and beautiful things around her. Poor little girl! Her childhood had not been a happy one. Her parents had died when she was too young to remember much about them, and she had gone to live with a married sister and her husband. They were not very kind to her, and though, as soon as she was old enough, she did nearly all the work of the house, and almost always had the fat, heavy, two-year-old baby upon her back, she knew that her brother-in-law grudged her the bread she ate, and sometimes spoke of turning her out to beg or starve.
It was the afternoon of the Lord's day, but it brought no rest or joy to her, for she had never heard of the one true God, or of the Lord Jesus Christ. The heavy wooden shoes she wore made her feet ache, and she was wondering if she should always be so tired, when she stopped suddenly, attracted by the sound of music. Some one was playing; it was not a native instrument, it must be, she thought, a foreign musical-box (American organ). But now there was singing too, and as the voices came through the open windows and paper walls of the mission bungalow, she could hear every word.
“Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.”
Jesus! She had never heard that name before, she was quite sure of that. Who was this Jesus? where did He live? and why did He love some people? No one loved her, except, perhaps, the baby who always held out his arms to her. As she stood thinking and wondering, the door opened, and quite a troop of boys and girls came out; most of the girls were, like herself, baby-carriers. Among them she saw one she knew, and going up to her asked, "Pine-leaf, what has been your honorable employment? Is it a school, and are you forced to go?”
Pine-leaf replied, "Honorable Plum-blossom, it is a school, and yet it is not a school, for we do not write or work sums; we sing, and Miss White, the English lady, who calls it her Sunday-class, tells us such beautiful stories out of the Bible. We are not forced to go, but Miss White visits our mothers, and asks us to come to her class, and we should not like to stay away."
“How much do you pay to go?" Plum-blossom asked somewhat timidly.
“We do not pay anything," Pine-leaf replied. "The class is free to all, and all are welcome. Will you not come too? There will not be another class for a week, but I will meet you here, and we can go in together.”
Plum-blossom promised, if possible, to be there, and wishing each other an honorable good evening, the girls parted. Plum-blossom did not say anything to her sister, as she was afraid that her brother-in- law, who made no secret of his dislike to foreign teachers, might forbid her going. The day came at last, and she got through the work of the house as quickly as possible; when it was finished her sister said, “Now take baby out in the sun." She needed no second bidding; Pine-leaf was at the appointed place, waiting for her. There were about twenty children present; they did not sit upon forms or chairs, but according to Japanese custom, on soft mats. The hymn this time was:
“I am so glad that our Father in heaven
Tells of His love in the book He has given;
Many wonderful things in the Bible I see,
But this is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.”
“All about Jesus and love again, what can it all mean?” Plum-blossom said to herself. But the hymn was finished, and the children bent forward, and covered their faces with their hands, for Miss White was speaking, not to them, but to some one they could not see, and yet the lady seemed so sure that He could hear. Plum-blossom ventured to peep through her fingers to see if any stranger had entered the room during the singing. But there was no one, and she was more puzzled than ever. After the prayer came the Bible lesson, a simple talk about the love of God in the gift of His Son, and though Plum-blossom did not understand all that was said, her heart opened to the gospel message as flowers do to the sunshine, and before many months had passed she was able to say:
“Now I have found a Friend, Jesus is mine.”
The missionary took a great interest in her new pupil, and went to see her sister, but her visit was not welcomed, and she saw that to go again would only make Plum-blossom's home-life more trying and difficult.
So things went on for some time, and when she was fourteen there came a sad day, when her brother-in-law told her he did not intend to keep her any longer, she was never to go to the school or see her missionary friends again, as in a few days she was to be married to quite an old man, who was, the poor girl knew only too well, a heathen and a drunkard. She knew that as a Christian she could never be happy as the wife of such an one, and after prayer for light and help, she left her home never to return to it; going to her friends at the mission-station, she told her story, and begged them to shelter her. A few hours later she was engaged by the wife of a missionary as nurse to her children.
There, loved and valued, she found a really happy home, and when four years later she left it, it was to be the wife of a native Christian schoolmaster, and with him to begin work for the Master in the capital of Japan. There she has her own Sunday class, and loves to tell to others the glad tidings that brought joy and peace to her own soul.