O NE summer morning the red rooster on his perch in the fig tree woke up and took a look at the sky.
He was a very responsible rooster. He was always the first one up in the morning, and I really think he believed that if it were not for him the sun himself would forget to rise.
It was so very early that a few stars still shone, and a pale moon was sailing away toward the west. Over the eastern hills the rooster saw a pink cloud, and knew at once that it was time to wake the world. He stood up and stretched his wings. Then he crowed so long and loud that he nearly fell off his perch backward, on to the cat, who was sleeping on the roof just below.
"Cock a doodle
At least that is the way it must have sounded to all the other roosters in the little village, for they began at once to answer him.
"Cock a doodle
Last of all the turkey opened his eyes and flapped heavily to the ground, gobbling all the way.
The cat stretched herself and sprang from the roof to the fig tree and sharpened her claws on its bark.
The birds began to sing, and still there was no sound from the tiny gray adobe house under the fig tree.
The little white hen tiptoed round to the front of the hut and peeped in at the open door. There in one corner of their one room lay Tonio and Tita and their father and mother, all sound asleep.
The little white hen must have told the red rooster what she saw, for he followed her and looked into the hut too. Then he ruffled his neck feathers, flapped his wings, and crowed so loudly that Pancho and Dona Teresa and the Twins all woke at once and sat up with a bounce, to see what was the matter.
It startled the little white hen to see them all sit up suddenly in a row, so she squawked and scrambled out through the open door as fast as she could go.
The red rooster ran too, and the two of them never stopped until they disappeared behind
The moment she was really awake, Dona Teresa began to talk.
"Upon my soul!" she cried, crossing herself, "the red rooster gave me a dreadful turn. I was just in the midst of a most beautiful dream! But now he has driven it all out of my head with his silly noise, and I cannot even remember what it was about!"
Dona Teresa rose, and while she talked she deftly rolled up the mat on which she had slept and stood it on end in the corner of the room. You see it didn't take any time at all to dress, because they always slept with their clothes on. But Dona Teresa was very particular about one thing. She made them all wash their faces and hands the very first thing every single morning!
For a wash-basin there was a part of a log, hollowed out like a trough. Beside the hollow log there was a large red olla, with a gourd in it. Pancho had dipped water from the olla into the trough and was already splashing about, while Dona Teresa, rolled the Twins off on to the floor and placed their mats in the corner with the others.
"Come, my pigeons," she said to them, "it is time to be stirring. We are very lazy to lie in bed after cockcrow on San Ramon's Day!
"Oh, Little Mother," cried Tita, picking herself up, "is it really the fiesta of San Ramon? And may I take the little white hen to be blessed, all myself?"
"You may take the little white hen if you can catch her," Dona Teresa answered. "Indeed, we must take all the animals, or at the very least one of each kind to stand for all the others. The turkey must be caught, and the goat must be brought from the field so I can milk her. Tonto [that was what they called the donkey] is waiting in the shed to be made ready, not to speak of the cat and dog! Bless my soul, how many things there are to be done!"
While his mother talked, Tonio had taken his lasso down from the nail where it hung, and was just quietly slipping out of the door with it, when Dona Teresa saw him. "Here you—Tonio," she cried, "come back and wash yourself!"
Can't I wait until I've caught Pinto?" Tonio begged. "What's the use of washing? You only get dirty again. Lots of the boys don't wash at all except on Sunday."
"Come right back and wash yourself this minute," commanded Dona Teresa. "You might as well say it's no use to eat your breakfast because you'll be hungry again right away! As long as I'm your mother you shall begin the day right at least."
Tonio groaned a little, and came back to the trough. There he did something that he called washing, though I feel quite sure that there were corners behind his ears that were not even wet!
On the wall above the place where the sleeping mats had been spread, there was a picture of the Virgin and Child, and Dona Teresa kept a little taper always burning before the picture.
When they had all washed, Dona Teresa called Pancho and the Twins to her side, and all four knelt in a row before the picture, crossed themselves, and murmured a little prayer.
"If you want the day to go right," said Dona Teresa as she rose from her knees, "always begin with saying your prayers and washing your face. And now, Tonio, run and catch Pinto for your father while I get his breakfast, for the cows must be rounded up for milking even if it is San Ramon's Day; and Tita, you take the little red olla and go for water!"
While the Twins were gone on these errands, Pancho fed the donkey, and Doña Teresa made the fire in her queer little stove; only she didn't call it a stove—she called it a brasero.
It was a sort of box built up of clay and stones. The brasero stood in an alcove, and beside it was a large red olla, which Doña Teresa kept filled with water for her cooking. Beyond the brasero was a cupboard for the dishes.
Doña Teresa knelt before the brasero and pulled out the ashes of yesterday's fire. Then she put in some little sticks, lighted them, and set a flat red dish on top of the brasero over the tiny flames.
In the corner of the room there was a pretty basket covered with a white drawn-work napkin. Doña Teresa turned back the napkin and counted out ten flat cakes, made of corn meal. They were yesterday's tortillas. These she put in the dish to heat.
When they were warm, she brought some of them to Pancho, with a dish of beans and red chile sauce. Pancho sat down on a flat stone under the fig tree to eat his breakfast. He had no knife or fork or spoon, but he really did not need them, for he tore the tortillas into wedge-shaped pieces and scooped up the beans and chile sauce with them, and ate scoop, beans, chile sauce, and all in one mouthful. The chile sauce was so hot with red pepper that you would have thought that Pancho must have had a tin throat in order to swallow it at all; but he was used to it, and never even winked his eyes when it went down. Just as he was taking the last bite of the last tortilla, Tonio came back, leading Pinto by the rope of his lasso.
Tonio was very proud of catching Pinto and bringing him back to his father all by himself. He even put the saddle on. But the moment he felt the saddle-girth around him Pinto swelled up like everything, so that Tonio couldn't buckle it! Tonio pulled and tugged until he was red in the face, but Pinto just stood still with his ears turned back, and stayed swelled.
Then Pancho came up. He took hold of the strap, braced his knee against Pinto's side, and pulled.
Pinto knew it was no use holding his breath any longer, so he let go, and in a minute Pancho had the strap securely fastened and had vaulted into the saddle.
He was just starting away, when Doña Teresa came running out of the hut with something in her hand. "Here's a bite of lunch for you," she said, "in case you get hungry in the field. There's beans and chile sauce and four tortillas."
She had put it all nicely in a little dish with the tortillas fitted in like a cover over the chile sauce and beans, and it was all tied up in a clean white cloth.
Pancho took off his sombrero, put the dish carefully on his head, and clapped his hat down over it. The hat was large, and the dish just fitted the crown, so it seemed quite safe. Then he galloped off, looking very grand and gay, with his red serape flying out behind him.
When he was out of sight, Doña Teresa and the Twins had their breakfasts too, sitting on the stones under the fig tree.