W HEN the first rooster crowed the next morning, Ramon woke up and crept down the stairs in the dark so as to be sure to get ahead of the little hen.
He blocked one end of the tunnel with straw and then sat patiently on the pile of boards with Dingo beside him until he heard her first cluck, then he crept stealthily to the other end of the tunnel with his coop. When she came out, he clapped the open part down over her and made her a prisoner.
The little hen was furious. She ruffled her neck feathers and scolded, and pecked at Ramon as hard as she could. Once she pecked his thumb. Ramon stuck his thumb in his mouth and danced with pain. He knew just how Dingo had felt the night before. As for Dingo, he was nowhere to be seen, for at the first glimpse of the little hen he had fled.
Ramon moved the box slowly, scraping it along the
ground. The hen had to walk along inside of it, though
she didn't want to a bit. She clucked frantically to
her chicks and scolded all the way. Ramon placed the
box on some fresh green grass in the yard, put a dish
of water where the mother hen and all the chicks could
reach it, and scattered
At breakfast that morning Rita said: "I've been thinking a lot about my basket, Mother, and I'm not going to buy the material for it. I'm going to fix it myself and save money."
"It takes a long while to get the bamboo ready," said her mother. "If you do it all yourself, it will be some time before you can begin weaving."
"I know," said Rita, "but the exhibition won't be until harvest time, and that's a long way off."
"It is," groaned Ramon.
(His portion of rice that morning had been very small.)
"And besides," Rita went on, "I can work ever so hard when I do begin,—and if I do it all myself, the basket will be my very own. It will be more my own than Ramon's chickens will ever be his, for he didn't even set the hen! She set herself."
"Pooh," said Ramon, "anyway, chickens are alive, and live things are lots better than an old basket any day."
"It isn't an old basket," said Rita hotly. "It's a lovely new basket!"
There might have been a quarrel right there if their mother had not said, "Gently, gently! It isn't any kind of a basket at all yet, you know."
"Well," said Rita proudly. "It's going to be one! You'll see!"
"Pooh," said Ramon again. "You'll never finish it, even if you begin. It will take all summer, and you know very well you give up if things are hard to do and you get tired."
Rita buttoned up her lips and, though she didn't say a word, she looked volumes at Ramon. She made up her mind right then that, no matter what happened, she would finish that basket. She would show Ramon whether she could stick to a task or not!
So she went out that very morning to hunt for young bamboo stems. Before it was time to go to school, she had found six long, slender green stalks and had put them under the house to wither in the shade. Every day on her way to and from school, she hunted for more, and it was not long before she had quite a bundle of them. Then one Saturday she set to work with her knife and cut and split the bamboo stems into narrow thin strips. Even then they were not ready for weaving. They still had to be flattened out, scraped, boiled, and bleached before she could use them.
Ramon watched her slow, patient work from day to day
and took pains to tell her how fast his chicks were
growing. "Lots faster than your old basket," he said.
"One of the roosters is beginning
"My basket will be in use long after your rooster is dead," Rita answered fiercely.
At last she began her weaving. Round and round the
framework her patient fingers plaited the tiny
She was busily at work upon it one Friday morning,
before school, when Felix came in from an early visit
"I hope you'll have good luck," sighed Petra, "for we need the money so badly. The children's shoes are all worn out."
"I know it," said Felix, "but I could not leave the
field work before. I shall get the raft ready
"May we go, too? may we go, too?" begged the Twins.
Their mother laughed. "You look just like Dingo when he wants you to throw sticks in the water for him," she cried. "He pricks up his ears, and watches you with his eyes shining and his mouth open, just the way you are watching Father now."
"Yes, you may go with us!" smiled Felix.
"And stay out all night?" they cried.
Their father nodded. "Don't be late home from school," he said.
He needn't have said it. Nothing would have induced the children to loiter that night.
When they came tearing into the yard after school, they found Felix busy getting the raft ready.
At the front end of it there were two long bamboo poles
which stood upright, and from these he was hanging a
"Go to the house," said Felix, "and help your mother bring down the things we are to take with us."
Petra was just packing food into a basket. When the
children came running in, she had a worried look and
was counting on her fingers. "There's the stove,
that's one," she said, touching with her foot a small box
filled with earth. "A little rice, that's two. The
"Father's waiting," called Rita.
"I know, I know," said her mother. "I'm coming," and, hastily picking up the basket, she started for the raft.
Rita carried the
Petra sighed. "Dingo on the raft would be a perfect nuisance," she said, but Dingo was already on the raft.
Ramon, obeying his mother's command, tried to put him off, but he sat down and refused to budge, and when Ramon tried to pull him off, he just slid along sitting down.
"It's no use," said Felix. "We're losing time. Let him stay. Load on the rest of the stuff, and I'll push off."
Petra and the children flew like good sailors to obey the captain's orders. They stowed the stove, the basket, the wood, and themselves on board, and Felix was just pushing off with his long pole, when Petra clapped her hand to her head and shrieked: "Wait a minute! Where are the matches?" She searched frantically through the basket.
"Santa Maria! they were left behind," she cried.
The raft was already a short distance from shore, but
Ramon took a running jump, and as he was
The little brown hen was in the coop, clucking away as
if she had
He sped past her and, jumping aboard the raft, tossed
"I thought all the time there was something missing," said Petra. "But I couldn't think what it was. I said the list over and over to myself, just like my rosary. It's lucky I thought of it at last, for whatever should we do without matches?"
Felix said, "Humph!" That was all he said about the matches. Then he pushed the raft out into the stream, and the fishing expedition was begun.
When they were well cut in the stream, Felix let down
the net. He let it down and drew it up again three
times without finding a single fish in it. Each time it
came up empty, he poled the raft to another spot and
tried again. Petra sat beside the
It grew later and later, and still they had not caught even one fish to cook for their supper. Felix was disgusted, Ramon and Rita were tired of keeping still, Dingo's ears drooped and even Petra looked downcast. Then the sun dropped out of sight behind the hills of Bataan across the bay and the sudden tropic night was upon them.
As it grew dark, Petra rose from her seat by the empty baskets and went to the back of the raft and, placing the stones upon the little stove, began to lay a fire.
"We shall just have to make our supper of the rice," she said. "But there is only a little of it. I thought surely there would be a fish to cook. It's a lucky thing I thought of the matches in time," she went on, as she struck a light and set fire to the fuel.
"I put them in a tin box on purpose so they couldn't get wet." She handed the box to her husband. "You had better light the torches before it gets quite dark," she said.
Felix had brought five bamboo flares. One he fastened to the bamboo net pole and the other four he placed on the four corners of the raft. Petra's fire was soon crackling merrily, and long streamers of light from the flares and the fire danced over the rippling waters. Other lights shone out from distant fishing boats and were mirrored in the bay. Overhead the sky was dark.
"It looks as if the stars had all fallen out of the sky and were floating about on the sea, doesn't it?" said Rita, looking up into the darkness overhead and then at the glittering lights below.
Just then Felix drew up the net again, and there, to
their great joy, were ten crabs! He dumped them into one
With every dip of the great net, he now brought up either crabs or fish. He put the fish in one basket and the crabs in another, and let down the net again as soon as he could. Dingo sat beside the baskets and watched the crabs, yelping and backing off now and then when one of the fierce-looking creatures moved a threatening claw in his direction.
"If this luck keeps up, we shall have a fine catch for the Rosita in the morning," said Felix joyfully as he emptied another netful on the squirming mass.
It was very unlucky for Dingo that he was so near the
basket just at that moment, for one of the crabs
spilled over the edge of it and lit on his tail, and
the next instant he was racing like a mad dog round and
round the raft with the crab bouncing and rattling
after him. The harder Dingo ran to get away from it,
the harder it thumped and bumped after him for the
dreadful thing had shut its claws firmly on Dingo's
tail and had no notion of letting go. He ran round the
Dingo's feelings were so hurt he went to the farthest corner of the raft and sat down by himself.
When quiet was restored again, Petra quickly cleaned a fine, large pompano fish, and soon the sputter of frying fat gave promise of supper. Felix could not bear to leave his fishing, even to eat, so he snatched a mouthful now and then as he could between letting the net down and hauling it up again.
The Twins sat near the stove with their mother, stuffing themselves with rice and fried fish while Dingo, his injuries forgotten, lay flat on his stomach gnawing at the fish's head in great content. They were all so absorbed in what they were doing that no one realized that the raft, borne quietly along by the river current, had slipped out into the bay and that the ebbing tide was carrying it farther and farther with every receding wave.