Gateway to the Classics: The Filipino Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
The Filipino Twins by  Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Prize

T HREE o'clock in the afternoon was the time set for the prizes to be given out at the exhibition, and all the rest of the morning was spent by the teacher and the town president and other important persons of the village in examining the things sent in by the children and deciding which ones were the best. No one else was allowed in the schoolhouse while this important matter was being settled, so the crowds drifted away for their siestas, and quiet settled upon the village.

Petra and the children took their rest in a coconut grove near the schoolhouse and there ate the lunch they had brought with them. Two o'clock came, and still Felix did not appear. At three o'clock, when the schoolhouse was again opened, Ramon left his rooster hidden in the coconut grove with Dingo to guard it, and with his mother and sister joined the crowd before the door. Just as they were going in, they saw Felix drive up with old Bobtail and the empty cart. Petra looked anxiously at Felix as he joined them.

"Did you sell it all?" she whispered.

Felix nodded. "Can't tell you about it now," he answered, and, following the crowd, they entered the exhibition room.

The room was so changed the children scarcely knew it. The walls were covered with palm leaves, and great bunches of flowers filled the corners with color. On each child's desk his own work was displayed. There were great piles of fresh vegetables raised in the home gardens; there were folds of sinamay cloth woven on hand looms. There was embroidery wrought by the girls, and carved coconut bowls made by the boys. There were baskets of bamboo and mats woven from the leaves of the nipa palms.

It was a wonderful exhibition. The teacher beamed with pride, and all the fathers and mothers went about from desk to desk admiring the work of the children. Rita's basket stood in solitary splendor on her desk, but on Ramon's desk there was nothing. His desk and José's were the only empty ones in the whole room.

It was too much for Ramon. He slipped quietly under the elbows of the crowd and went out into the coconut grove, and, if he shed a few tears there, no one knew it but Dingo, and Dingo never told.


It was not long, however, before his curiosity got the better of his grief and he went back and squeezed himself into the crowded room again. He peeped through a crack between two men who were standing in front of him and saw the president mount the platform to give out the prizes. He was holding Rita's basket in his hand, and these are the very words Ramon heard him say:—

"The first prize is awarded to Rita Santos for this beautiful basket. There are other fine baskets here, made by other children, but Rita is the only one who cut and prepared the material by herself. She also designed the shape and the pattern." Then there was a great clapping of hands. The crowd parted and he saw Rita go forward and receive from the hands of the president himself her own basket with a crisp bank note in it. He saw his father and mother beaming with pride in their daughter. Then he saw his mother search the whole room with her eyes to find him and see if he, too, was sharing in Rita's triumph. It was a hard moment for Ramon. He felt like making a break for the coconut grove again to mope by himself, but just then his mother caught his eye and smiled at him so trustingly he couldn't possibly do anything but smile back at her. After the first smile, a second one came easier, and by the time the prizes were all given out and the crowd had left the hot room for the school yard, he was able to act almost as if his sister's triumph were his very own. He stood with his father and mother while all their neighbors and friends crowded about to admire Rita's basket, and no one but his own family even guessed how disappointed he felt over his part in the exhibition.

While they were standing there, two American ladies from the Manila party came out of the schoolhouse, and one of them, seeing Rita, said to the other, "That's the little girl that took the first prize." Then she held out her hand. "May I see your basket?" she said.

Rita handed it to her, and every one gazed at the strangers as they admired the workmanship and the beauty of the design.

"Think of her having done it all herself!" said the elder of the two ladies, as she turned the basket round and round in her hand. "I should like to take it home with me to show American children what fine work Filipino children can do all by themselves." She turned to Rita. "Would you be willing to sell me your basket?" she asked.


Rita gasped. The basket was her dearest possession. She loved it more than she loved anything in the world except her father and mother and Ramon. How could she bear to part with it? She put out a hand to seize it, then she thought of the rice-harvest and the fish-nets and how very much they needed money, and drew it back again. Still she did not speak.

"I will give you ten pesos for it," said the lady.

Ten pesos! To the little daughter of Felix Santos it was a fortune. She hugged her basket to her breast for an instant, then put it in the lady's hand.

The exhibition at the schoolhouse was only one of many festivities, and the crowd soon scattered to see what else was going on in the village, leaving the Santos family in the coconut grove.

When they were by themselves Rita thrust her prize money and her ten pesos into Felix's hand.

"Now you can buy the nets," she said, and hid her shining face in her mother's neck.

Felix looked at the money and his eyes filled with tears. Petra hugged her daughter and neither spoke for a moment. Ramon, feeling that he had been cheated out of his share in the rescue of the family fortunes, glared reproachfully at his rooster, and Dingo, seeing his master's dejection, crept to his side and licked his hand.

"If that fool rooster hadn't gone and spoiled it all, I should have had some money for you, too," said Ramon, winking very hard.

His mother smiled at him and, opening her arms, hugged both children at once. "Of course you would," she said. "I know that you wanted to help." Then she looked up at her husband, who was still standing turning the money over and over in his hands as if he could not believe that it was real and feared it might fly away again as suddenly as it had come.

"Don't you think we might buy back some of the rice now?" she said. "The boat can't have left the dock yet, for the ladies from Manila were here only a minute ago."

Felix came to life at once. "Jump up," he cried to Ramon, pointing to old Bobtail, and in another moment Ramon was on the carabao's back and the cart was rumbling down the street with Felix trotting beside it. Rita, her mother, and Dingo followed after it as fast as they could run.

Just as they reached the dock, the whistle of the steamer blew a fearful blast and people began hurrying to the gang-plank. Ramon saw visions of the bags of rice being carried away beyond all hope of recovery and, digging his heels into old Bobtail's side, made him fairly gallop along the dock.

Felix ran ahead and, dashing up the gangway, appeared a moment later on the dock, and the anxious group on the pier saw him arguing excitedly with the Captain. The sailors were already beginning to cast off the ropes, when he reappeared and came staggering down the swaying planks with a bag of rice on his back. He dropped it at Petra's feet and ran back again, returning a moment later carrying a second bag. Four times he made the trip while the deck-hands held the ropes, impatient to be gone. Then there was another hurried conference with the Captain, and, just as the gangway was about to be pulled in, he leaped across it for the last time and came beaming and breathless to where his family stood waiting for him.

"The Captain didn't want to give up any of his cargo," he said, "but, with Rita's money and the price I got for the rice I sold, I have not only got back four bags,—enough for us,—but I have ordered all the things for the raft besides. The Captain will bring them on his next trip."

Then the wheels began to churn the water and the boat moved slowly out into the bay. The family stood still and watched it until it was far out on the blue waters. Then the bags were loaded on the cart and they turned back into the village street.

"Thanks be to God and the Holy Saints!" said Petra, crossing herself devoutly, as she mounted the cart. "Our troubles are now over."

"Thanks also to a good and clever daughter!" said Felix. "We now have rice enough to last until the next harvest and shall soon have a fishing-raft much better than the old one."

"And Rita can make more baskets if she wants to, besides," said Ramon.

Then Petra cried out: "Upon my soul we are always forgetting something! We have forgotten Ramon's rooster!"

They hurried back to the coconut grove and there left the cart beside the bamboo cage, and Dingo to guard both, and spent the rest of the afternoon blissfully in the shops.

When, a little later, Petra sold her embroidery, adding still more to the family purse, they felt so rich they bought new shoes all round, and a dress for Rita besides.

It was late when they left the shops, hugging their purchases in their arms, but the celebration was not yet over. They heard music in the square and, following the crowd, found a throng of people crowded about an open platform in the middle of the street. On the platform were three people acting out a play. The play was about a lovely princess who was held captive by a wicked villain while a noble knight did his best to rescue her and slay her captor.

Round and round the princess the two knights circled and danced, thrusting at each other with their shiny swords and making up verses which they shouted at each other as they fought. When they ran out of verses, the princess came forward and told her story, and in between times the band played as if it meant to burst itself with music. They listened spellbound, until Felix nudged Petra and pointed to the sun. It was hanging like a great red balloon in the sky just above the hills of Bataan far across the bay. Slowly it sank until it seemed to rest on the sky-line, then it slipped down and down until there was nothing but a red glow in the sky to show where it had been.

The play ended with the going down of the sun, the crowd melted away in the gathering darkness, and Felix, Petra, and the children hurried back to the coconut grove, where old Bobtail, still hitched to the cart, patiently awaited them. Dingo came bounding to meet them, barking a welcome, and soon the cart was creeping along on its homeward way. The harvest moon was high in the sky as they turned into the yard and the cart came to a stop beside the little nipa-thatched farm-house.

Petra sprang down and hastened indoors at once to set the pot boiling for their late supper and to light the taper before the household shrine. While Rita carried in the new shoes and her new dress and tenderly laid them away in the chest, Ramon set his rooster free, and Felix stored away the precious bags of rice. Then the cart was put back in its old place under the house, and Ramon, mounting Bobtail's back, took him away to the pasture. When he returned, a few moments later, with Dingo at his heels, the shell windows of the little house were bright with welcome, and from the open kitchen came the fragrance of boiling rice.


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