The Japanese Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
VI. Going to School
One morning Taro and Take heard their Father and Mother talking together. They thought the Twins were asleep, but they weren't. The Mother said, "Honored Husband, don't you think it is time Taro and Take went to school?"
"Yes, indeed," the Father said; "they have many things to learn, and they should begin at once. Have you spoken to the teacher yet?"
"I saw him yesterday," the Mother answered. "He said they might enter to-day. I have everything ready."
Taro and Take looked at each other.
"Do you suppose we shall like it?" Take whispered.
"I don't know," Taro whispered back. "I've liked everything so far, and I think going to school must be some fun, too. But of course, if I don't like it, I shall not say a word. A son of the Samurai should never complain, no matter how hard his lot."
"No, of course not," Take answered.
Before they were dressed, the Mother came into their room. "The bath-tub is ready, Taro," she said. "Hop in and get your bath early to-day, for you and Take are to begin school."
The Twins had a hot bath every day, but they usually took it before going to bed. The bath-tub was in a little room by itself. It was shaped a little like a barrel, and it had a stove set right in the side of it to heat the water. Taro went to the bathroom and climbed over the edge of the tub. It was hard to get up because the tub was high. He dropped into the water with a great splash. Take and her Mother heard the splash.
Then they heard something else. They heard screams! "Ow-ow-ow!" shrieked Taro. "Take me out! take me out! I'm boiled!"
The Mother and Take ran as fast as they could to the tub. Taro's head just showed over the edge. His mouth was open, the tears were streaming down his cheeks, and the air was full of "ows." His Mother reached her arm down into the water.
"It isn't so very hot, Taro," she said; "I can bear my hand in it."
"Ow--ow!" said Taro. He didn't even say, "Ow! ow! Honorable Mother!" as one might have thought such a very polite boy would do.
And he tried to get both feet off the bottom of the tub at the same time!
The Mother put some cold water into the tub. Taro stopped screaming.
"Oh, Taro," Take called to him, "you aren't really and truly boiled, are you?"
"Almost," sniffed Taro; " I'm as red as a red dragon. I think my skin will come off."
"I know you are dreadfully hurt, poor Taro," Take said, "because a son of the Samurai never complains, no matter how hard his lot."
The water was cooler now. Taro's head disappeared below the edge of the tub. He splashed a minute, then he said:--
"I guess a real truly Samurai would scream a little if he were boiled." His words made a big round sound coming out of the tub.
Pretty soon it was Take's turn. She climbed into the tub. She splashed, too, but she didn't scream. Then she stuck her head over the edge of the tub.
"I'm boiled, too," she called to Taro, "but I'm not going to cry."
"Then the water isn't hot," was all Taro said.
When they had finished their baths, they were dressed in clean kimonos. Then they had their breakfast and at seven o'clock they were all ready for school.
Their Mother gave them each a paper umbrella in case of rain. She hung a little brocaded bag, with a jar of rice inside it, on the left arm of each Twin. This was for their luncheon. Then she gave them each a brand- new copy-book and a brand-new soroban. A soroban is a counting-machine.
It is a frame with wires stretched across it and beads hung on the wires. The Twins felt very proud to have sorobans and copy- books.
"Now trot along," the Mother said.
The Twins knew the way. They marched down the street, feeling more grown up than they ever had felt in all their lives. Their Mother watched them from the garden-gate.
When they turned the corner and were out of sight, she went back into the house. She picked up Bot'Chan and hugged him. "Don't grow up yet, dear Sir Baby Boy," she said.
Taro and Take met other little boys and girls, all going to school, too. They all had umbrellas and copy-books and sorobans.
The children got to the school-house before the teacher.
They waited until they heard the clumpty-clump of his wooden clogs. Then all the children stood together in a row. Taro and Take were at the end. The moment the teacher came in, the children bowed very low.
"Ohayo," they called. "Please make your honorable entrance." They drew in their breath with a hissing sound. In Japan this is a polite thing to do. The teacher bowed to the children. Then each child ran to his little cushion on the floor and sat down on it. Taro and Take did not know where to go, because they had not been to school before.
The teacher gave them each a cushion. Then he placed beside each of them a cunning little set of drawers, like a doll's bureau. In the little bureau were India ink and brushes. The teacher sat down on his cushion before the school.
He told the children where to open their books. Taro and Take couldn't even find the place, but O Kiku San, who sat next, found it for them.
The teacher gave Taro and Take each a little stick. "Now I will tell you the names of these letters," he said, "and when I call the name of each one, you can point to it with the little stick. That will help you to remember it."
He began to read. Taro and Take punched each letter as he called it. They tried so hard to remember that they punched a hole right through the paper! But you might have punched something, too, if you had thousands of letters to learn! That's what Taro and Take have to do, while you have only twenty-six letters. They were glad when the teacher said, "Now we will learn how to count."
Taro and Take took out their new sorobans. The teacher showed them how to count the beads. They thought it as much fun as a game.
Then they tried to make some letters in their copy-books with a brush. That's the way they write in Japan.
Taro's and Take's letters were very big and queer-looking, and the paper got so wet that the teacher said, "Children, you may all carry your copy-books outdoors and hang them up to dry, and you may eat your rice out of doors."
The children took their copy-books and their bags of rice and ran out. The Twins found a nice shady place to eat their luncheon.
O Kiku San ate her rice with Taro and Take. They had a real picnic.
At half-past three all their lessons were finished, and the Twins ran home. Their Mother was waiting for them on the porch, with Bot'Chan in her arms.
"See what we made for you!" the Twins cried. They gave her the letters they had made that morning.
"You have made them beautifully, for the first time," she said.
She put the blistered papers with the staggery letters away in the cupboard to keep. "I will show them to Father when he comes home," she said.