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- Paula the Waldensian - 10/32 -
shoulder of our old servant I came quite near her and stroked her hair, but I could not utter a word.
"Papa! papa," she called, time after time.
"Your father's in heaven," answered Teresa, taking her tenderly in her arms. "What would he think if he saw his little girl in such a state?"
"Oh, I only wish father had taken me with him! If I could only see him now! You see, I promised him to read my Bible and now I cannot, for my uncle has carried away the only one I had--that wonderful Book that told me of God, and where my father had marked so many beautiful passages! Oh, papa, papa, do come! Your daughter needs you now!"
Teresa, finally seeing that it was useless to try to comfort her, limited herself to drying the floods of tears that still continued to flow. But finally, thoroughly exhausted, Paula at last became calm and listened tranquilly to Teresa's long story which we already knew so well, regarding the death of our mother and Catalina's terrible fall. And following this, she showed her that on account of these great misfortunes, instead of leading our father to seek the Lord, it seemed on the contrary to have hardened his heart. Thus he had become rebellious, and had made it an established rule in our home that not a word should be uttered relative to the Supreme Being. Then she added, "But don't you believe that he does not care for you! If you could know how many times he has said that you should lack nothing and should be treated as one of his own daughters."
"That is certainly true," said Rosa, who had entered during Teresa's narrative. "Father appears severe, and this morning, of course, he became very angry, but he is very good-hearted after all."
"I did not know, I did not know," said Paula, as she bowed her head; "how my poor uncle must have suffered!"
"Besides," continued Teresa, "who can tell but what your uncle will begin to read your little--what is it you call it?--the Bible?"
"Do you think so? Oh, Teresa! Do you think he will read it himself?"
"Certainly I do, and why not? And when he has read it and found that it is a good book, I'm sure he will return it to you. So now, just calm yourself and don't worry any more."
"But," questioned Paula, "do you mean to tell me that my uncle hasn't got a Bible himself?"
"Yes, he had one once, but I imagine that he must have lost it, for it's many years since I have seen the one that he had."
"Oh," exclaimed Paula, "what a wonderful thing if my uncle should read my Bible. For I am sure that he will come to believe in God as my father did, and then he will let me have my precious Book back again. My father, too, passed through great affliction. My mother also died, and then my two sisters, all three in the same year. Father told me that by thus passing through the fire he had learned not to fix his eyes on the things of this world, but to find his happiness in God. I don't know how to explain it very well, of course; but I did understand it fairly well when my father told me and showed me some of the precious passages in the Book that helped me to understand."
"I think I also understand," murmured Teresa, drying her own eyes on the back of her sleeve, as she turned to Rosa. "Rosa, you claim to be very wise. Tell me, where can one buy a Bible?" Rosa smiled, and said, "I'm not very sure, but I think in one of the book-shops one could find a Bible. I could find out in school tomorrow. I know one of my schoolmates has one."
"Good," exclaimed Teresa, "you must find out tomorrow morning. I've got an idea, Paula, a wonderful idea, so dry your tears. I must go tomorrow afternoon to the city, and if Rosa can find out tomorrow morning where a Bible can be found, we shall all four of us go and buy a new Bible there, and you can read it in your room and your uncle will never know."
"Oh, Teresa," cried Paula in a burst of gratitude, "what a good woman you are!"
"That's something I've never yet found out," said the old servant with a dry smile.
Then suddenly we all saw that something had begun to trouble Paula. "What's the matter now?" said Rosa. "Are you not content to get a new Bible?"
"Oh, yes," said Paula, "but under such circumstances that would deceive my uncle."
It was here that Teresa broke in. "No, no," she said, "you don't understand. I'm going to buy this Bible with my own money, and I can do as I please. If I care to buy a Bible, it's no one else's business."
But there was trouble in Paula's eyes as she said, "I would certainly like to have a Bible, but uncle has forbidden me to read it. I can see from what you say that it would be easy for you to buy another and read it yourselves, but my uncle has prohibited me and that settles it. I simply can't be a hypocrite and deceive him. Dear Teresa, I do certainly thank you from the bottom of my heart, but, you see, you had forgotten what uncle said. Now, listen, the Lord Jesus is going to help me! There are many beautiful passages of the Bible that I know by heart, and there are plenty of the Bible stories that I'll never forget. All these I will keep in my memory, and then besides I shall pray every day for my uncle, that he'll soon return my precious Bible to me, and give me permission to read it. I know the Lord will hear me, if I obey Him and pray with faith. Dear Teresa, I hope you're not going to be provoked with me."
"And why should I be, my precious treasure?"
"Well, just because I didn't want you to buy me a Bible."
"No, no, dear, no; you certainly are right, and a whole lot better than we are." And we, together with our old servant, could not help admiring the honesty of our sturdy country cousin.
"Teresa!" It was Paula who broke the silence that followed the above discussion.
"What now, Paula?"
"Will you pray for me?"
"I," said the astonished Teresa.
"Yes, please, Teresa dear."
"My poor little Paula, I never pray for myself, so how could I pray for you?"
Poor Paula seemed at a loss. "Well, you see," she said, hesitatingly in a trembling voice, "I'm afraid to do it. You see, I don't dare to forget God."
And so our good Teresa, in order to satisfy the poor child, promised to pray for her that very night.
"No," insisted Paula, "let's pray now."
Our poor servant looked around her in dismay.
"I--! I pray here! In front of you and Lisita and Rosa! Never--! Besides, I wouldn't know what to say."
"Do you mean to say that you don't know, 'Our Father which art in heaven?'"
"Perhaps, but it's some time since I've repeated that prayer. I remember my poor mother. I used to kneel beside her and repeat it when I was your age. Once in a while since then, I have said my 'paternoster.' But it's been many years since it's passed my lips, and I haven't even thought of it for ages. No, no; it's useless. No, Paula, you pray for us. We certainly need it, but as for me praying--a poor sinner like me--I tell you it's useless."
But Paula was not easily discouraged.
"Teresa," and Paula put her cheek against the wrinkled one of our old servant, "you know that Jesus died for us, and do you mean to say, notwithstanding that, you are living like a heathen."
"What's that you say? Like a heathen?" cried poor Teresa.
"Yes, Teresa dear, like a heathen. My father used to read me missionary stories on Sunday, and in these stories I always noticed that the heathen people live without praying to God, and that they didn't read the Bible, and that they didn't know how to sing any hymns, and they had no church to go to, that is, until the missionaries came. But we are different here in this house from the heathen because they had never heard of God." And then she added with one of those lovely smiles that always seemed to spread a halo over her, "All the heathen in the pictures that I saw had black skins, whereas you, Teresa, have such a lovely white face."
Poor Teresa, placed her well-worn hands over her wrinkled countenance, and said, "Paula, Paula, you certainly are right. So we are even less worthy of God's mercy than they are."
Paula looked at her for a moment in silence and then, kneeling down beside her, said, "Teresa, you just pray with me, won't you? I know the Lord Jesus will pardon you, and He'll help you to love Him for He has promised to give you a new heart. I'm only a little girl, but He helps me and He hears me when I pray, for that's what He has promised, Teresa. Once my father taught me a beautiful verse, and when my uncle returns my Bible, I'll show it to you, but this is what it says, 'Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.'"
Poor Teresa, with her head hidden in her hands, could not reply.
"Do come and kneel with me," insisted Paula, pulling her by her apron. After a long silence suddenly Teresa fell heavily on her knees beside the bed. Paula up to this moment appeared to have forgotten the rest of us, but now taking both of us by the hand she invited us to kneel also.
"No," said Rosa, with an offended air, "I'll do no such thing."
"Nor will I." I said, a bit intimidated by my sister's refusal.
And so Teresa and Paula kneeled together, "'Our Father which art in Heaven,'" commenced the clear voice of Paula. Slowly came the repetition, 'Our Father which art in Heaven,' and poor Teresa's deep voice trembled with emotion.
"'Hallowed be Thy name'"
"'Hallowed be Thy name.'"
And now Teresa, gathering fresh courage, as the words of the great prayer began to return to her memory, the voices now mingled in the same majestic
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