The Rain and the Rice‑Planting
N the middle of the night it began to rain for the
first time in many months. First there was a whisper of
wind in the nipa thatch of the little
Felix Santos woke up and turned over on his bed, which
was just a mat spread on the floor, and said to his
wife: "It is a lucky thing I have already cleaned and
At least he thought he said it to her, but there was no answer. Petra wasn't there.
Just then a stream of water trickled through a hole in the thatch above his head and splashed directly on his nose. He bounced up in bed at once and mopped his face with his sleeve.
"Where are you, Petra?" he called, but Petra did not hear him because at that moment she was struggling with the kitchen window, which she had left open.
The rain was spattering all over the stove, and the wind blew so she had hard work to slide the window shut.
The room was dark except when it was lighted by a flash of lightning. Felix got up and pulled his mat out of the way of the leak and then started toward the kitchen to see what had become of Petra.
He walked slowly, groping about with his arms lest he should run into something in the dark.
By this time Petra had got the window shut and was now on her way back to bed. She too was walking slowly with her arms out.
"Felix is certainly a wonderful sleeper," she said to herself as she groped her way along. "I believe if the sky itself were to fall and break in pieces on the roof it would not wake him! It's a lucky thing I remembered about that window or everything would have been soaked through by morning."
Just at that minute she bumped into something large and soft and alive! She was so startled that she did not think at all! She just opened her mouth and screamed: "Murder! Help! Felix, where are you?"
Of course, Felix knew it was Petra the moment she
bumped into him, and he seized her to keep her from
falling, but she had already lost her balance. The next
instant his foot caught on the edge of the mat and he
lost his. He folded up like a
Then came a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder so loud that it shook the house, and Petra rolled over and sat up on the floor.
"Oh! it was you!" she cried.
"Of course!" said Felix grumpily. He didn't like
being knocked over and sat upon in the dark. "Who else
could it be? I got up to pull the
"I know where the leak is," said Petra, "for there's a stream running down my back and I'm sitting in the puddle this very minute! What a mess! Strike a light, my angel, or I shall be drowned! I don't dare move until I can see where I'm going."
Felix picked himself up and, stepping very cautiously, began to hunt about for matches, and, after running against the chest where their clothes were kept and barking his shins, he finally succeeded in finding them.
At one side of the room there was a little shrine where
there was an image of the Madonna. Before it was a tiny
taper floating in a cup of
"We must keep the lamp burning before the blessed Virgin," said Petra. "It must have been blown out by the wind." And, wet as she was, she took a match from Felix, struck it on the floor, and once more lighted the tiny lamp on the household altar.
By its dim light she mopped up the pool of water on the floor, set an earthen pot under the leak, looked at the two children asleep on their mats, and, having put on dry clothing, settled herself once more for the night.
The next morning, though the rain had ceased, it was plain that the storm was not over. The water dripped from the thatch and dashed down in little showers whenever a gust of wind shook the leaves, and threatening clouds were still scudding across the sky.
Felix and Petra rose early, and while he milked the goat and fed the farm animals, she went to the kitchen to start the fire and get the breakfast. But the stove was damp and the little pile of kindling was wet too, in spite of her having shut the window in the night. It was some time before she could coax a blaze. The sticks sizzled and smouldered, filling the kitchen with smoke and making her eyes smart. The smoke sifted through the cracks in the partition and made all the air blue.
The Twins woke sneezing and, being eager to get out of
the smother, sprang up at once without waiting to be
called. They dressed in record time, rolled up their
When at last the rice was cooked and the family were
seated at the table, there was a sound of wet feet
pattering up the kitchen steps and Dingo's head
appeared in the doorway. In his mouth he carried a
When they saw it, the Twins clasped their hands in dismay. "Our shoes, our shoes," they wailed. "We left them under the coconut tree yesterday when we went to hunt crabs! We never thought about rain."
"And now look at them!" groaned their mother.
The children did not wait to see what else she might say. They dashed out of the house and down to the coconut tree at once. There were their shoes, all soppy with water, lying just where they had left them!
Ramon picked them up and emptied the water out of the toes, and very sadly the two children returned to the kitchen. Their mother stood in the door holding the fourth shoe in her hand.
"It's a lucky thing for you," she said sternly to the Twins, "that it is Saturday. If it were a school day you would have to go barefooted to school."
The children were very miserable. Without a word they
hung the dripping shoes in a row on a
When this was done, he went to the river and filled the
long bamboo tubes in
By the time these things were done the rain had begun
again. The next day it still rained, but on Monday
morning when Felix opened the door and looked out, the
round red face of the sun was peering over the crest of
the Sierra Madre, the mountains which lie along the
eastern coast of Luzon. Its first level rays touched
the tops of the coconut trees and lit the feathery
bamboos with rosy color. Every
"A good day for the
When he came in again he said to Petra, "Wake the
children and get ready to go to the
"But it is a school day!" said Petra.
"I am sorry to keep them out," Felix answered, "but they must help with the transplanting, even if it is a school day. The plants are ready and must be set out at once and I cannot afford any other help."
The children heard him and bounced up at once. They
loved school, but they loved the
When they reached the
Felix set his basket down on the ridge and, giving a
They were the earliest family to begin work, but soon other families appeared in other fields and there was laughter and chattering back and forth among neighbors and friends as they all bent to their task.
The sun mounted higher and higher. The mosquitoes buzzed about them, and steamy vapor rose in little clouds from the wet fields. It was hard, hot work, but after a while some one began to sing. Other voices took up the strain, and soon all the people stooped and rose and stooped again in time to the music, at each bow leaving a plant with its roots set firmly in the mud.
The Twins worked faithfully with the others until
nearly noon. Then every one went home for food and to
take a nap, and for two hours the
Petra left the field in the afternoon earlier than the others, and when Felix and the Twins came trailing into the yard, she poked her head out of the window and called to them: "I've milked the goat and fed the pigs. You go take a dip in the bay and then come in to supper."
There was a little strip of sandy beach in front of the house. In two minutes Felix and the Twins were splashing about in the water. They didn't even stop to take off their clothes. They wore very few garments, and as they were all wet and muddy anyway, they washed themselves and their clothes at the same time, and oh! how good the cool water felt after their day in the hot field!
When they had eaten their supper, the whole family went down to the river and sat on the raft to rest. They watched the fireflies sparkling in the trees like thousands of Christmas candles, and saw the clouds roll up over the dark sky, blotting out the stars, and listened to the soft lapping of the water on the shore, until the first drops of rain began to fall.