The Filipino Twins  by Lucy Fitch Perkins

The Rain and the Rice‑Planting

I 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 farm-house. Then a few drops came pattering down. They came faster and faster, and soon it seemed as if the very sky were falling.

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 plowed the rice-field. The rains are beginning early this year."

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 jack-knife and sat down suddenly with Petra on top of him.


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 sleeping-mat out of the way of the rain. It leaked through and fell on my nose."

"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 coconut-oil, but the taper was not lighted.

"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 sleeping-mats, and raced out of doors into the fresh air. Dingo, who had passed a melancholy night alone under the house, came bounding to meet them, wagging the whole back of himself for joy, and the three ran away together to hunt eggs and feed the chickens before breakfast.

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 water-soaked and dripping shoe!


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 clothes-line over the stove in the kitchen to dry, and, when breakfast was over, flew remorsefully to help their mother do the house-work. Rita washed the dishes and put them away in the cupboard, while Ramon swept the steps and rubbed the floor-boards with banana leaves to make them shine. He liked to do this because he could put the juicy banana leaves under his feet and polish the floors just by skating on them.

When this was done, he went to the river and filled the long bamboo tubes in which the water-supply for the household was kept, brought them back, and stood them up in a row in the kitchen ready for use.

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 rain-washed leaf glistened with moisture and danced in the breeze, and the rice-fields were drowned in water.

"A good day for the rice-planting," said Felix to himself, "and, thanks be to God, the field is cleaned and ready." And then, even before he fed the pigs and milked the goat, he went out to his seed-beds to see if the young rice-plants were ready to be set out.

When he came in again he said to Petra, "Wake the children and get ready to go to the rice-field as soon as possible."

"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 rice-planting season too, for then they could wade about in the water all day long, and they liked that almost as well as old Bobtail himself. While their father was taking the young plants out of the seed-bed, cutting off the tops and arranging them in handfuls ready to carry to the field, they helped their mother in the house, and in a little while the whole family, including Dingo, were ready for a long day's work out of doors.

When they reached the rice-paddy, they walked to the farther end of the field upon a little ridge of earth which separated their land from their neighbors'. These ridges not only served to mark the boundaries of the fields, but made it possible for the farmers to govern their water-supply. They were really little dykes, which crossed the land at right angles and made it look like a giant checkerboard.

Felix set his basket down on the ridge and, giving a handful of rice-plants to each of the children and to Petra, waded into the water. They had already tucked their clothes high about their legs, and in a few moments father, mother, and children were all standing in water halfway up to the knees. One at a time, they plunged the rice-plant roots down into the mud, leaving the green stalks just showing above the water-level.


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 rice-field was deserted. When the sun was lowering toward the west and the heat was not quite so great, they all came back again and worked until sunset.

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.