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

After the Storm

T HE steamer steadily plowed its course through the choppy sea, and in an hour more was threading its way through the crowded shipping of the harbor of Manila. When at last after steaming slowly up the Pasig River it had reached the dock, Felix thanked the Captain for his kindness and led his family and Dingo down the gang-plank and on to the pier. It was a busy place. Men were unloading fish and vegetables from other boats as well as from the one which had rescued them. Other men were piling the produce on carts drawn by carabaos and hurrying away to the markets. Scores of boats were tied along the banks, and in and out and up and down the waterway busy tugs plied back and forth, filling the air with the screams of their whistles and with smoke from their stacks.

The children had never been in any place larger than their own little village before, and they gazed in bewilderment at all the new and wonderful scenes of a big city. There were ocean steamers from all parts of the world which had brought cargoes of iron, steel, and machinery to the islands. There were great warehouses where all these things and many more were stored until they could be sent to other destinations. There were also ships just sailing away loaded with sugar, tobacco, lumber, hemp, and coconuts. It was so interesting and new to Petra and the children that for a time they almost forgot their desperate situation in watching the strange new life about them.

Felix, however, did not forget, even for a moment. They must find a way to get home, and they must eat. He had been to Manila before and knew his way about.

"Come with me," he said to Petra and the children. "We are in every one's way here." He led them away from the waterfront to a grass-covered plaza with fine buildings fronting upon it and driveways swarming with carriages and automobiles, and stopped in front of a high stone monument.

"Stay here," he said, "until I come for you." Then he disappeared in the direction of the wharves.

Glad to rest, Petra and the children sat down upon the grass and gazed about them. For a long time they waited, and at last, just as they were beginning to grow uneasy, Felix appeared with a bag of food in his hands and a cheerful smile on his face.


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"Where did you get it, my angel," cried Petra, seizing the bag.

"I worked on the docks helping to unload a cargo and earned enough to buy a little food," Felix answered; "and I have more news. The Rosita is just about to leave the harbor and go northward. I have no fish for her to take to market as I thought I should have, but the Captain says that if I help load his boat with produce at the landing-places, we may sail with him."

At first Petra shuddered at the thought of going out again upon the treacherous waters, but Felix said: "Come, they are waiting for us; there is no other way." So she and the children rose at once and followed him, as he plunged again into the noise and confusion of the busy harbor. It was not until they were on board the Rosita and were slowly making their way down the Pasig through the crowded shipping to the open waters of the bay that they had a chance to eat the food that Felix had brought.

The direction of the wind had changed after the storm, and though the water was still rough, the boat traffic of the bay was already going on as usual. Even Petra forgot her fears, as the light breeze filled the sails of the Rosita and they skimmed away over the blue waters in the direction of their home. There was nothing she could do; so, while Felix sorted fish into baskets, she and her children found a spot as far out of the way as they could in one corner of the deck and went sound asleep. The boat stopped at several little towns along the shore to take on loads of dried coconut meat, vegetables, and fish, but the weary travelers slept on, with Dingo beside them sleeping too.

They were aroused at last by Felix. "Wake up, wake up," he shouted in their ears. "We are almost home."

Joyfully they sprang to their feet, rubbing the sleep from their eyes, and, making their way around fish-baskets and over coils of rope, leaned over the deck-rail in a row.

"See," cried Felix, pointing toward the shore, "don't you see the river, and the coconut tree where we tied the raft? And look, the roof! The roof shows among the trees!"

"Thanks be to God, it is still on the house," Petra exclaimed, fervently crossing herself. "I thought it might be blown away.

Soon a small boat was lowered from the Rosita, and the shipwrecked mariners were let down into it one by one. Felix was the first to go. Dingo was the second, for when he saw Felix in the small boat, he gave a yelp, leaped over the rail, and landed with a thump which nearly overturned it. In a few moments Petra and the children had also made a safe descent and were waving farewells as the little boat turned its prow toward the shore.

"One of the biggest banana trees is down," cried Ramon, pointing to a fallen heap of green near the kitchen as they drew near land.

"So is the bamboo clump," said Felix. "There is hardly one stem left standing."

"Anyway the house is still there," said Petra.

"And there is the goat, looking out of the kitchen door!" screamed Rita.

"Santa Maria! How did she get there?" groaned Petra. "Ramon, you must have left the door open, when you went for the matches."

"I never did," said Ramon stoutly. "I remember shutting it. At least I almost remember shutting it."

They were so happy to get home that Felix even joked a little. "I don't see old Bobtail anywhere. Maybe he is in the kitchen, too," he said. Petra smiled at this, and the children shouted with laughter at the idea of old Bobtail climbing the kitchen steps.

The moment the keel of the boat ground into the soft mud of the river-bank, Petra and the children sprang ashore, and, leaving Felix to say good-bye to the boatman, ran for the house.

Dingo tore up the slope ahead of them as if he had been shot out of a gun, for he too saw the goat and meant to teach her a lesson as soon as possible.

When the family reached the door, they didn't dare to go in, for Dingo had scrambled up the steps and was having it out with the goat. He barked at her and tore frantically about the kitchen, nipping at her legs, while the goat backed round, butting at him whenever she got a chance.

"There go the water-tubes," groaned Petra, as a crash and a splash warned them of fresh disaster. The water must have doused Dingo, for the next moment he came yelping down the steps, dripping wet. By the time Felix reached the house, the war was over. Dingo was out of sight, the goat and her kid were on their way to the pasture down by the river, and Rita and her mother were cleaning up the kitchen.

When the goat was taken care of, Ramon began to search for his hen and her brood. There was no sign of her in her place by the kitchen door. Even the coop was gone. Feeling very guilty for his neglect of her, he ran along the river-bank, hoping every moment to hear her cluck. Then he heard Dingo barking as if he had found one of the big lizards he was always hunting for, and, dashing across the pasture, found him up to his knees in a pool of water. On the bank stepping anxiously about and clucking as industriously as ever, was the little brown hen, followed by just one of her brood, the young rooster of whose tail-feathers Ramon was so proud.


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Near the pool lay the coop, and floating upon its surface were two dead chickens. There were no others of the brood to be seen. Ramon mournfully picked up the coop, which, in spite of having been blown so far by the wind, was still whole, and started for the house, driving the hen and her one chick before him.

"If I had only just put her under the house, this would never have happened," he mourned. "Now the whole brood is blown away, all but that one little rooster, and there is no chance at all of my taking a prize at the festival. Oh, dear I wish there were no such things as typhoons in the whole world."

When he came into the house, he found his father studying a hole in the roof where the thatch had been torn away. Rita was examining the chest to see if her precious basket had been injured by the storm, and Petra was trying to get something for the family to eat. It was a sad group, even though a thankful one, that knelt that night before the household shrine, for even the children knew that with the loss of the raft they were poorer than they had ever been before in their lives.

In the night Ramon was awakened by the murmur of voices. His father and mother were talking together in low tones.

"It is a hard blow to us," he heard Felix say. "I cannot fish without a raft and baskets and nets, and without fish to sell I don't know how it will be possible for us to pull through until harvest. The field was swept by the storm, too. It may come up again, but at best the crop is not likely to be as good as I hoped."

For a moment there was silence. Petra could not seem to find anything hopeful to say. When she spoke, there was the sound of tears in her voice.

"At least we are all alive," she said. "When we were on the raft in the storm, I thought nothing would ever again seem hard if only we were alive and together,—but" (and this was the place where her voice choked) "maybe we have been saved from drowning only to be starved at last."

"It is not so bad as that," said Felix comfortingly, "but we may have to sell old Bobtail; he's about the only valuable thing we have left that we could sell."

"Oh! we cannot sell old Bobtail," sobbed Petra. "Then we could not plow or carry our rice to market, or the fish, if we should ever be able to fish again."

"Yes," admitted Felix. "It would set us back years to part with old Bobtail. Without Bobtail we cannot raise rice, and without rice, we cannot keep Bobtail. We are in a fix either way."

"Couldn't you make another raft?" asked Petra.

"Yes," answered Felix, "I mean to do that. I can use the bamboos that were blown down, but without nets and baskets, and such things, the raft isn't of any use."

Again there was silence, and Ramon lay perfectly still listening with all his ears. He caught the sound of a little sob.

Then Felix said: "Crying won't do any good, Petra. We shall get along somehow. We can get fish enough for ourselves, and there are vegetables growing in the garden. We shall not starve even if we have no money and no way of getting any."

"There's the goat," said Petra. "We shall have milk."

"Yes," said Felix. "And there are the chickens and the pigs."

His voice already sounded a little more cheerful. "If only we could get new nets and pulleys," he exclaimed, "but I cannot make a living without fishing, and I cannot fish without these things, and there is no money, and no prospect of any to buy them with. I had counted on the fishing for most of our living until harvest, and now if we have a poor crop again—" he broke off with a sigh.

Then Petra said soothingly: "It's night now. Things always seem much worse in the dark. When morning comes, we shall think of something. Now go to sleep."

Ramon knew his father and mother had not meant that he should hear what they said, because they did not wish to make their children unhappy. He could not bear to have his mother cry. So, for a long time he lay wide awake on his mat, thinking over ways of helping them. He thought first of discovering a gold-mine in the pasture.

"I'm almost sure there must be gold there," he thought to himself. "If I could find where it is, I would dig it up and bring it home and give every bit of it to mother. Then she could buy the nets for father and some fine clothes for herself. Maybe we could buy a big boat like the Rosita. I could be the Captain." And then, just as he saw himself heroically saving his family from all their troubles, he fell asleep.


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