Gilly thumped down the stairs, through the hallway, and out to the back garden. She stripped off her mostly clean socks and stuffed them in a pocket, planning on putting them on again later, thereby cleverly hiding her dirty feet.
Half of the garden was a wide, shallow and slow moving stream that pooled there on its way down the mountain. Thick grass and clipped bushes grew right up to the edge. Beside the water stood a thick, squat stone lantern and beside that grew a thin tree with silver bark and pale pink blossoms. Gilly made camp at this appealing spot.
The girl was not sure about her new doll; she had never been a big fan of dolls in general and certainly not of the color pink, but she figured the toy would do in a pinch. Plum Blossom proved to be an adequate companion, but several hours and not a few aqueous adventures later, Gilly was startled by the sudden presence of a Sennyo at her side.
Resigned now to the inevitable, Gilly surrendered her damp and muddy person without fuss. She was led into the house and made presentable again. Afterward, she followed the surprised Sennyo into the sunken kitchen area at the back of the house. When the retainers saw that Gilly intended to stay in the interesting area, they provided her with cotton slippers to wear and an apron and set her to work.
Tenshio came to himself a few hours later with a sudden start of concern. Where was Gilly? Why hadn’t she come looking for him? What could she have gotten into?
He found her in the kitchen area, wearing a brightly patterned red and orange apron over a make shift and much too large outfit that appeared to consist of some elderly woman’s jacket and the shorts from a boy’s school uniform.
On the wooden surface of the table in front of Gilly was a bamboo steamer full of hot rice, a tray of dried seaweed strips and a rough jar filled with pickled plums. There was a growing pile of distinctly lumpy balls of rice on a platter to one side of Gilly.
The child was kneeling on a cushion on the raised work area of the kitchen; her arms and clothing were covered with bits of steamed rice. Her doll sat on the cushion beside her, propped up by the table leg. The doll was looking much the worse for wear, but was still managing to stare pleasantly and calmly up at the beamed ceiling.
A Sennyo knelt on a cushion across the table from Gilly. The creature bowed elegantly from the waist when she saw the O-nishi Daitoku appear in the open doorway.
“Tenshio!” Gilly exclaimed with joy, turning to see who the Sennyo was bowing to. Then her face fell. “I mean, Mr. Tenshio. Master Tenshio. Look what I made!”
She eagerly extended to him her latest creation. It was a not quite spherical ball of rice with a strip of seaweed pasted to it with the steam from the hot rice.
“It’s to eat,” Gilly said shyly. “Do you want lunch?”
“Thank you very much, Gilly,” said Tenshio, gravely accepting the offering. It was very small in his large hand. He knelt down on a spare cushion and popped the whole thing in his mouth. Gilly watched nervously.
“Umeboshi,” said Tenshio approvingly, after swallowing the morsel.
“It’s salty,” admitted Gilly. “Hers are better. She can make square ones. Look!”
“That comes with practice,” said Tenshio.
“I got in the water,” confessed Gilly.
“In the garden. There’s a stream…” Gilly’s eyes lit up with the remembered pleasure of it.
“So that’s why you’re wearing those clothes.”
“Yes,” admitted Gilly, settling down on her cushion.
“No more of that. You can’t keep going through other people’s clothing.”
“Yes sir. Master Tenshio.”
“Did you find what you were looking for?” asked Gilly, drawing the doll onto her lap.
“I think so.”
“Is it not good?” she asked, tilting her head and looking up into his troubled face.
“It’s not going to be easy.”