"IT'S coming! it's coming!" cried Chin, as he sat on the floating platform of his home. As soon as he said these words, he jumped up and followed Chie Lo and the rest of the family into the house.
They all moved faster than usual, for it was a time to hurry, if there ever was such a time in Siam. The sky had been black and overcast with clouds for two or three days, giving warning to the people that the monsoon was drawing near, but now the wind began to blow, which told its arrival.
Did they fear? Surely not. They were only too glad there was a rest from the burning sunshine and the clouds of dust.
Unless rain should come soon, the sugarcane would dry up and immense crops would be lost. The fruits would shrivel and many people would become poor.
But now all could take refreshing sleep after they had prepared for the yearly storm.
Chin had helped his father mend the roof of the little home. The clusters of loose leaves were pulled out, and fresh ones fastened securely in their places. Heavy stones were laid here and there on the roof to make it safe when the gusts of wind should strike it. The doors and window-casings must also be fastened tightly.
As for Chie Lo and her mother, they had been very busy carrying all the jars and baskets inside the house. The mats, on which spices had been drying, must also be put in a safe place. In fact, everything that was loose must be made tight.
The canoes were lifted from the water, and placed on that side of the platform which would be protected from the rising wind.
Now it was coming, as Chin said. The cocoanut and mango-trees on the shore began to rustle; leaves were flying in the air; the crows were hastening to safe resting-places.
Then, all of a sudden, the rain fell in sheets, the thunder rolled through the heavens, lightning flashed right and left, and the wind roared as though in fierce anger.
But Chin and Chie Lo sat in a snug corner of the kitchen and felt little fear.
They say that a giant lives far up in the air, and when he gets angry with his wife and chases her, we hear the thunder in the sky," whispered Chie Lo.
"He isn't angry with us, anyway," said Chin. "Listen, Chie Lo. How our house rocks! but it is fastened tightly, so we are all right, and the wind won't keep up this way very long."
After an hour or two the storm passed by, and the blackness departed from the sky. This was only the beginning of the fall rains, however. Before the night was over, Chin waked up to hear the downpour on the roof. He went to sleep in a few moments, saying to himself, "Rain, rain, rain, for a week at least. I will make up now for the nights I couldn't rest."
If Chin had been kept from sleeping, you may well believe it had been very hot and uncomfortable.
The next day there was little to do. Chin's father did not care to venture out in the heavy rain; and spent a good deal of the time in taking refreshing naps. But when he was awake the children got him to tell stories of the wonderful country in which they lived.
He had never been in the jungle himself, but several of his friends were hunters who had met the wild elephant and the tiger in the deep forests. They had chased the wildcat, and had had narrow escapes from the rhinoceros and the deadly cobra.
"Did you ever see a cobra yourself, father?" asked Chin, as he listened to the stories with wide-open eyes.
"Yes, indeed. It was only the other day that I watched a snake-charmer, who wound a cobra around his arm."
"Please tell us about it," cried his son. "I wish I could have seen him. Wasn't he the least bit afraid?"
"If he had been, he would probably have lost his life," was the answer. "He charmed the creature with music, while he swayed his body back and forth as he played. The serpent followed his motions as it listened to the strange sounds. Of course the man played with only one hand. He seized the cobra's neck with the other, after which he took out its teeth and venom-bag. When this was done the cobra was no more harmful than your kitten."
"How did he do it, father?"
"It was not very hard work, for he used a pair of pincers. Coolness is the most important thing. We should remember to be calm in all things, my son."
"Yes, I must remember that, for I will soon be old enough to have my hair cut, and you will call me a man."
"I hope I can afford to have a fine celebration. Chin, you will go to the temple, of course. The seven steps of the altar will be covered with fresh banana leaves, and figures of angels and animals will be placed there."
"Do I have to walk around the altar three times, holding a wax candle in my hand?"
"Yes, Chin, and then your friends will take the other candles and blow the lights out directly over your head.
"After that you will be given a fresh cocoanut and a cup containing pieces of money. Music will come next"
"It will be the great time of my life, father. I must think about it and get ready for it."
"There are many kinds of people in our city, Chin. There are the Chinese, who live here in great numbers; there are Hindus with pride in themselves; there are the white people who come here on business, or to teach their religion to those who will listen. But Chin, we are Siamese, and we like the ways of our own country. We hear of different fashions, but ours are still the best to us."