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The Japanese Twins
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A RAINY DAY
WHEN the Twins woke up the next morning it was cold, and the rain was beating on the roof. They couldn't look out of the window to see it, because there were no glass windows in their house. There were just the pretty screens covered with white paper.
Taro slid one of the screens back and peeped out into the garden. "It 's all wet," he said to Take. "We can't play outdoors to-day."
"We'll have a nice time in the house, then," said Take. "I can think of lots of things to do."
"So can I, if I try," Taro said.
"Let's try, then," Take answered. They thought all the time they were dressing. They put on three kimonos because it was cold. It made them look quite fat.
"I've thought of one," Take called, just as she was putting on the last kimono.
"I have, too," Taro said.
"You tell me and I'll tell you," Take begged.
"No, not until after breakfast," Taro answered. "Then first we'll play one and then the other."
After breakfast Mother was busy waiting upon Father and getting him off to his work. Then she had to bathe the Baby. So the Twins went to Grandmother for help.
"O Ba San" (that means "Honorable Grandmother"), Take said to her, "it is rainy and cold, and Taro and I have thought of nice games to play in the house. Will you get the colored sands for us?"
"I know what you 're going to do!" cried Taro.
Grandmother brought out four boxes. In one box was yellow sand. In another was black sand. The other two were filled with blue and red sand. Grandmother brought out some large pieces of paper.
"Thank you, O Ba San," the Twins said.
They spread the paper on the floor. Taro had one piece, and Take had another.
"I'm going to make a picture of a boat on the sea," said Taro.
He took some of the blue sand in his right hand. He let it run through his fingers until it made a blue sea clear across the paper.
"And now I'm going to make a yellow sky for a sunset." He let the yellow sand run through the fingers of his left hand.
"I'll put some red clouds in it," he said.
Then he let red sand run through his fingers.
When that was done he took some black sand. He made a boat.
This was the way his picture looked when it was done, only it was in colors. The sail of the boat was blue.
"Oh, Taro, how beautiful!" Take said. "Mine won't be half so nice, I'm sure. I'm going to make -- I'm going to make -- let's see. Oh, I know. I'll make the pine tree beside the pond!"
She took some blue sand and made the little lake. Then she took the black sand and made the trunk of the tree and some branches.
She spilled a little of the black sand. It made black specks.
"Oh, dear! " she cried. "I've spilled."
Taro looked at it. "Put the green leaves over the spilled place," he said.
"It isn't the right place for leaves," Take said.
She took some blue sand in one hand and some yellow in the other. She let them fall on the paper together. They made the green part of the tree.
"I know what I'll do about the black that spilled," she said. "I'll call it a swarm of bees!"
This is Take's picture. You can see the bees!
"I think your picture is just as good as mine," said Taro.
"Oh, no, Honorable Brother! Yours is much better," Take answered politely. They showed them to Grannie when they were all finished. Grannie thought they were beautiful.
"Now, Taro, what's your game?" Take said when the sand was all put away.
"I have to go into the garden first for mine," Taro said.
"Put on your clogs and take an umbrella, and don't stay but a minute," Grannie said.
Taro put on his clogs and opened his umbrella, and ran into the garden.
Take couldn't guess what he wanted. She watched him from the door.
Taro ran from one tree or vine to another. He looked along the stems and under the leaves. He looked on the ground, too. Soon he jumped at something on the ground, and caught it in his hand.
"I've got one," he called.
"One what?" Take called back.
"Beetle," Taro said.
Then he found another. He brought them in very carefully, so as not to hurt them.
In the house he put them in a little cage which he made out of a pasteboard box. Then he got more paper and a little knife.
"Oh, Taro, what are you going to make?" Take asked.
"If you and Grannie will help me, I'll make some little wagons and we'll harness the beetles," Taro said.
"Won't it hurt them?" Take asked.
"Not a bit; we'll be so careful," Taro answered.
So Take ran for thread, and Taro got Grannie to help him. Grannie would do almost anything in the world for the Twins. And pretty soon there were two cunning little paper wagons with round paper wheels!
Taro tied some thread to the front of each little wagon. Then he opened the cage to take out the beetles.
One of the beetles didn't wait to be taken out. He flew out himself. He was big and black, and he flew straight at Take! He flew into her black hair!
Maybe he just wanted to hide. But he had big black nippers, and he took hold of Take's little fat neck with them.
Take rolled right over on the floor and screamed. Her Mother heard the scream. She came running in. The maids came running too to see what was the matter.
"Ow! ow!! OW!!!" squealed Take. She couldn't say a word. She just clawed at her neck and screamed.
Everybody tried to find out what was the matter.
"I know -- I know!" shouted Tare.
He shook Take's hair. Out flew the beetle!
Taro caught him. "He isn't hurt a bit," he said.
"But I am," wailed Take.
Mother and Grannie bathed Take's neck, and comforted her; and soon she was happy again and ready to go on with the play.
She and Taro harnessed the beetles with threads to the little wagons. But Take let Taro do the harnessing.
"You can have that one, and I'll have this," Taro said; "and we'll have a race."
He set the beetles on the floor. They began to crawl along, pulling the little carriages after them.
Taro's beetle won the race.
They played with the beetles and wagons a long time until Grannie said, "Let them go now, children. Dinner will soon be ready."
The Twins were hungry. They unharnessed the beetles and carried them to the porch. They put them on the porch railing.
"Fly away home!" they said. Then they ran to the kitchen to see what there was for dinner. They sniffed good things cooking.
Take went to the stove and lifted the lid of a great kettle. It was such a queer stove!
Here is a picture of Take peeping into the kettle. It shows you just how queer that stove was.
"It's rice," Take said.
"Of course," said Taro. "We always have rice in that kettle. What's in this one?" He peeped into the next kettle. It was steaming hot. The steam flew out when Taro opened the lid, and almost burned his nose!
That kettle had fish in it. When it was ready, Grannie and Mother and the Twins had their dinner all together. Bōt'Chan was asleep.
After dinner Grannie said, "I'm going for a little nap."
"We shall keep very quiet so as not to disturb you and Bōt'Chan," Taro said.
When the little tables were taken away, the Mother said, "Come, my children, let us sit down beside the hibachi and get warm."
The "hibachi" is the only stove, except the cook-stove, that they have in Japanese houses. It is an open square box, made of metal, with a charcoal fire burning in it. In very cold weather each person has one to himself; but this day it was just cold enough so the Twins loved to cuddle close up to their Mother beside the big hibachi.
The Mother put on a square framework of iron over the fire-box. Then she brought a comforter -- she called it a "futon" -- from the cupboard. She put it over the frame, like a tent. She placed one large cushion on the floor and on each side of the big cushion she put a little one.
She sat down on the big cushion. Taro sat on one side and Take sat on the other, on the little cushions. They drew the comforter over their laps -- and, oh, but they were cozy and warm!
"Tell us a story, honored Mother," begged Taro.
"Yes, please do!" said Take.
"Let me see. What shall I tell you about?" said the Mother. She put her finger on her brow and pretended to be thinking very hard.
"Tell us about 'The Wonderful Tea-Kettle,'" said Take.
"Tell us about 'The Four and Twenty Paragons,'" said Taro.
"What is a Paragon?" asked Take.
"A Paragon is some one who is very good, indeed, -- better than anybody else," said the Mother.
"Are you a Paragon?" Take asked her Mother.
"Oh, no," cried the Mother. "I am a most unworthy creature as compared with a Paragon."
"Then there aren't any such things," said Take, "because nobody could be better than you!"
The Mother laughed. "Wait until I tell you about the Paragons. Then you'll see how very, very good they were," she said. "Once there was a Paragon. He was only a little boy, but he was so good to his parents! Oh, you can't think how good he was! He was only six years old. He was a beautiful child, with a tender, fine skin and bright eyes. He lived with his parents in a little town among the rice-fields. The fields were so wet in the spring that there were millions and millions of mosquitoes around their home. Everybody was nearly bitten to death by them. The little boy saw how miserable and unhappy his parents were from the mosquito-bites. He could not bear to see his dear parents suffer; so every night he lay naked on his mat so the mosquitoes would find his tender skin and bite him first, and spare his father and mother."
"Oh, my!" said Take. " How brave that was! I don't like mosquito-bites a bit!"
"You don't like beetle-bites any better, do you?" Taro said.
"Well," said Take, "I'd rather the beetle should bite me than Mother."
"Well, now, maybe you'll be a Paragon yourself sometime." the Mother said.
"'There weren't any women paragons, were there?" asked Taro.
"Oh, yes", said the Mother. "Once there was a young girl who loved her father dearly, and honored him above everything in the world, as a child should. Once she and her father were in a jungle, and a tiger attacked them. The young girl threw herself upon the tiger and clung to his jaws so that her father could escape."
"Did the tiger eat her up?" said Taro.
"I suppose he did," the Mother answered.
"Was it very noble of her to be eaten up so her father could get away?" Take asked.
"Oh, very noble!" said the Mother.
"Well, then," said Take, "was it very noble of the father to run away and let her stay and be eaten up?"
"The lives of women are not worth so much as those of men," her Mother answered.
Take bounced on her cushion. "I don't see how she could honor a man who was so mean," she said.
Take's mother held up her hands. She was shocked. "Why, Take!" she said. "The man was her father!"
"Tell us another," said Taro.
"Please, honored Mother, don't tell me about any more Paragons," said Take. Her Mother was still more shocked.
"Why, little daughter," she said, "don't you want to hear about the Paragon that lay down on the cold, cold ice to warm a hole in it with his body so he could catch some fish for his cruel stepmother to eat?"
"No, if you please, dear Mother," said Take, "because all the Paragons had such horrid parents."
"My dear little girl," the Mother said, you must not say such dreadful things! We must honor and obey our parents, no matter what kind of persons they are."
"Well," said Take, "we love and honor you and our Father -- you are so good and kind." She put her hands on the matting in front of her, and bowed to the floor before her Mother.
Taro saw Take do this, and he wanted to be just as polite as she was; so he rolled over on his cushion and bowed to the floor, too.
"Now, tell us about the 'Lucky Tea-Kettle,'" begged Take.
Their Mother began: "Once upon a time --"
But just as she got as far as that they heard a little sound from Bōt'Chan's cushion in the corner, and the covers began to wiggle.
"There's Bōt'Chan awake," said the Mother. "I must take care of him now. The 'Lucky Tea-Kettle' must wait until another time."
And just at that minute bright spots of sunshine appeared on the paper screen, and the shadows of leaves in pretty patterns fluttered over it.
"The sun is out! The sun is out!" cried the Twins.
They ran to the door, put on their clogs, and were soon dancing about in the bright sunshine.