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WORK AND PLAY
THE next morning the children were awakened early by the cawing of large flocks of crows. These noisy birds were leaving their resting-places in the trees near by, and starting out to search for breakfast in the fields and gardens of the country.
Chie Lo and her brother jumped out of bed, and a moment afterward were taking a refreshing swim in the waters of the river. The water felt cool and pleasant before the hot sunshine had warmed it.
"Come to breakfast," called their mother, as they were in the midst of a game of chase around the platform. "Come and eat the fine hoppers I have just bought from the baker."
The children did not need to be called twice, for they loved the delicious cakes made of rice flour and cocoanut milk. The breakfast was soon eaten, and then Chin and his sister made haste to load Chie Lo's boat with the fruit she must sell on the river.
The mangosteens were placed in the first pile. They would surely be sold, because they were not only beautiful to look at, but fragrant to smell and delicious to taste. You may look for them in many parts of the world, but you will fail to find them unless you visit Chin and Chie Lo in their own country, or go to the islands near by.
The rind is of a brownish purple that changes its tints in the sunlight. Cut the fruit carefully in halves and you will find a creamy, white pulp, with a dark-red rim.
"They look too good to eat," you say.
But if you have once tasted them, you will long for more.
Chin and his sister are very fond of mangosteens, and so is nearly every person who has the pleasure of eating them.
But Chie Lo likes the durions better still. When she sorted the boat-load this morning, she was very careful to place this fruit so it should not touch any other kind. What an odour came from it! Ugh! It makes one think of bad eggs and everything else unpleasant.
But people who stop to-day to buy from the little girl will not consider that. If they have lived in the country for only a short time, they have grown to think of it as the finest of all fruits.
Picture the nicest things you have ever eaten, — walnuts, and cream and strawberries, and a dozen other delicious things, — they are all mingled together in the flavour of the durion.
Besides the durions and the mangosteens, there were great luscious oranges, noble pineapples, mangoes and bananas, breadfruit and sour-sops. Chie Lo would certainly have no trouble in selling her goods.
When she had rowed away from the house, Chin went inside and got his shuttlecock. He must find his boy friends and have a game before the day grew too hot. You mustn't blame him for letting his sister work while he played. It is the way of his people, and the idea never entered his head that girls should have, at least, as easy a life as boys. Yet this cousin of ours is gentle and good-natured and loving.
An hour after Chie Lo had gone away, Chin and his friends were having a lively game in the shade of some tall palm-trees, near the bank of the river. It was great sport. The shuttlecock was made of bamboo and was very light and easy to toss. But it took great skill to keep it moving through the air for ten minutes at a time. The boys did not once touch it with their hands. As it came bounding toward Chin, he held the sole of his foot to receive it, and kicked it off in another direction. Perhaps the next boy struck at it with his heel, and the next with the side of his ankle or his knee. Forward and back it flew from one to another.
These naked boys of Siam were wonderfully graceful in their play. They must have spent many days of their short lives in gaining such skill as this.
There was little noise about it. There are places in the world where children think they are not having much fun unless there is a good deal of shouting and yelling. Siam is not such a country, and Chin is not that kind of a boy. He has many good times and many pleasures, although he enjoys them in a quiet manner.
How was Chie Lo getting along with her load of fruit this morning? She paddled down the river among the vessels which had come to anchor there.
"Fine oranges! Ripe durions!" her sweet voice called. And the people on the decks of the English steamers and the queer Chinese boats looked down at the little girl in her canoe.
Many of them smiled at the tiny fruit-seller, and beckoned to her to bring some of her fruit on board.
By noontime her wares were all sold and Chie Lo started homeward with a bag of odd-looking coins to give her father. It was very hot and the sunlight was so bright as it sparkled on the river that the little girl kept shutting her eyes.
All at once she felt a tremendous thump and the next moment she found herself far down under the surface of the water. The boat had been overturned and was bobbing around over her head.
Do you suppose she tried to scream, or that she lost her senses from fright? Certainly not. As soon as she got her breath, she began to swim with one arm; with the other she reached out for the boat and quickly righted it.
After half a dozen strokes, she was able to spring into the canoe, and was soon paddling homeward as if nothing had happened.
What had caused her boat to upset? A passing fisherman had carelessly run into her. The accident did not seem to worry him, however. He did not even stop to see if Chie Lo needed help, but kept straight on his way. He did not mean to be unkind. He simply did not think there was any danger to the little girl. And there was none, for swimming is as natural as walking to the children of Siam, who have no fear of the water.
All that Chie Lo thought of was her precious coins, and those were safe in the little bag hanging around her neck. The next day would be a holiday and she knew her father would wish the money to spend.