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The Mallet

There were once two farmer men who were brothers. Both of them worked hard in seed-time and in harvest-time. They stood knee-deep in water to plant out the young rice, bending their backs a thousand times an hour; they wielded the sickle when the hot sun shone; when the rain poured down in torrents, there they were still at their digging or such like, huddled up in their rice-straw rain coats, for in the sweat of their brows did they eat their bread.

The elder of the two brothers was called Cho. For all he laboured so hard he was passing rich. From a boy he had had a saving way with him, and had put by a mint of money. He had a big farm, too, and not a year but that he did well, what with his rice, and his silk-worms, and his granaries and storehouses. But there was nothing to show for all this, if it will be believed. He was a mean, sour man with not so much as a “good day” and a cup of tea for a wayfarer, or a cake of cold rice for a beggar man. His children whimpered when he came near them, and his wife was much to be pitied.

The younger of the two brothers was called Kanè. For all he laboured so hard he was as poor as a church mouse. Bad was his luck, his silk-worms died, and his rice would not flourish. In spite of this he was a merry fellow, a bachelor who loved a song and an honest cup of saké. His roof, his pipe, his meagre supper, all these he would share, very gladly, with the first-comer. He had the nimblest tongue for a comical joke, and the kindest heart in the world. But it is a true thing, though it is a pity all the same, that a man cannot live on love and laughter, and presently Kanè was in a bad way.

“There’s nothing for it,” he says, “but to pocket my pride” (for he had some) “and go and see what my brother Cho will do for me, and I’m greatly mistaken if it will be much.”

So he borrows some clothes from a friend for the visit, and sets off in very neat hakama, looking quite the gentleman, and singing a song to keep his heart up.

He sees his brother standing outside his house, and the first minute he thinks he is seeing a boggart, Cho is in such ragged gear.

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