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The Mallet

But presently he sings out, “You’re early, Cho.”

“You’re early, Kanè,” says Cho.

“May I come in and talk a bit?” asks Kanè.

“Yes,” says Cho, “you can; but you won’t find anything to eat at this time of day, nor yet to drink, so let disappointments be avoided.”

“Very well,” says Kanè; “as it happens, it’s not food I’ve come for.”

When they were inside the house and sitting on the mats, Cho says, “That’s a fine suit of clothes you’ve got on you, Kanè. You must be doing well. It’s not me that can afford to go about the muddy roads dressed up like a prince. Times are bad, very bad.”

In spite of this not being a good beginning, Kanè plucks up his courage and laughs. And presently he says:

“Look here, brother. These are borrowed clothes, my own will hardly hold together. My rice crop was ruined, and my silk-worms are dead. I have not a rin to buy rice seed or new worms. I am at my wits’ end, and I have come to you begging, so now you have it. For the sake of the mother that bore us both, give me a handful of seed and a few silk-worms’ eggs.”

At this Cho made as if he would faint with astonishment and dismay.

“Alack! Alack!” he says. “I am a poor man, a very poor man. Must I rob my wife and my miserable children?” And thus he bewailed himself and talked for half an hour.

But to make a long story short, Cho says that out of filial piety, and because of the blessed mother of them both, he must make shift to give Kanè the silk-worms’ eggs and the rice. So he gets a handful of dead eggs and a handful of musty and mouldy rice. “These are no good to man or beast,” says the old fox to himself, and he laughs. But to his own blood-brother he says, “Here, Kanè. It’s the best silk-worms’ eggs I am giving you, and the best rice of all my poor store, and I cannot afford it at all; and may the gods forgive me for robbing my poor wife and my children.”

Kanè thanks his brother with all his heart for his great generosity, and bows his head to the mats three times. Then off he goes, with the silk-worms’ eggs and the rice in his sleeve, skipping and jumping with joy, for he thought that his luck had turned at last.

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