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- Paula the Waldensian - 7/32 -
them always, and when I return to Villar, I will carry them with me." "But you will never return there," I cried, "you are to stay with us always. I never want you to leave us."
"Well, don't worry about that, Lisita. When we grow up, you will go with me to my old home. Uncle Peter and the man that rented the farm from father, promised me never to leave the place until I grew up and returned. So I made them a solemn promise that I would come back and take over the farm some day. Perhaps the cows and the goats and the rabbits will all be different when I go back. If you only knew how I cried when I kissed them all on coming away. They all know me so well. I wonder if they still remember me."
With a sigh, Paula put her flowers back carefully in the handkerchief, and then passed over the little black book to me. "This is my Bible," she said. "It was my father's for years, and he gave it to me on the day he died. See, he has written my name here on the first page."
I was hardly able to decipher the shaky signature of our Uncle John, but finally made out the following,
"To PAULA JAVANEL A remembrance from her dying father."
It was an old book with many loosened leaves. On each page were many underlined passages, some marked with pencil, others with ink, with small neat comments in the margins.
"This is my most precious treasure," said Paula. "Father had it in his hands as he breathed his last. I promised him to read from it every day of my life, asking the Lord's help to understand what I read. Although Papa is no longer here, still I obey him. I try to remember all that he told me. He was a wonderful man, this dear father of mine, and how he did love the Lord! My one desire is to be like him."
"Yes, but you are only a girl yet," I said to her.
"That's true, Lisita, naturally I know that, but father used to say to me, 'You're not too small to serve the Lord, Paula!' I read the Bible with him many times, and when we didn't have time to read it in the house, we took it to the fields with us and read it as we rested. Then as I watched the cows and sheep, I read the Book alone. And now you and I can read it together; can we not, Lisita? And I know the Lord will help us to make everybody else happy around us. I've never had a sister, and now that you say you wish to be my sister, my prayers are answered!"
Then after a pause, she said, "Why don't you answer me, Lisita?" And she laid her head on my shoulder and fixed her great eyes upon me. How could I answer her! I had a great desire to tell her of the true situation. We all of us wished to be as good as possible, if that should please her, but we would never be permitted to read the Bible. I knew father would never consent to that. Yet how could I tell her that things in our house were not as they were in hers--in that God was never mentioned! Then I remembered a long discussion our old servant had had that very morning with my sisters on this subject, and Teresa had ended the matter by saying, "She's only a little girl, anyway, and she'll soon become accustomed to do as we do. Besides your father will remember how she has been brought up, and he has too good a heart to make the poor child unhappy. Of course in the end the thing will finally adjust itself. Poor little thing! How she would suffer if we should bluntly tell her the truth that we live here in this house like a bunch of savages."
As I searched my poor brain for a reply, Teresa without knowing it, came to my help by calling me into the kitchen. Upon any other occasion, I would have simply answered, without moving, "What do you want?" But now I was only too glad to obey her immediately and so put an end to a difficult situation. "I'm going to town," she said, as she put on a clean apron. "Perhaps you and Paula would like to come along." "What a lark!" I cried, as I ran out to tell the glad news to Paula, and two minutes later we were ready.
Teresa looked us over from head to foot, reminding us that the strings of our shoes hadn't even been tied, that our faces and hands showed signs of an all-too-hasty toilet, to say nothing of a lack of a comb in our hair. Finally, however, we were on the road to town, happy to find ourselves in the cool shade of the long avenue of linden trees that stretched away in the distance. What a joy it was to have at my side this new, wonderful companion to whom I would be able to open the mysteries of the great shops and public buildings--marvelous things which this simple country girl had never seen before in all her life. What could be greater happiness for any girl of my age!
When Louis returned at the end of the week, he was surprised to find Paula so happy and contented. He found her in the kitchen helping Teresa to dry the dishes. "One would think," said he, "that you had been with us for many months instead of a few days." Paula showed herself to be much more embarrassed in his presence than she had been with us. It may have been the school uniform that did it. But Louis, like the good-hearted lad that he was, did what he could to make her feel at home. Presently, out we went into the garden to play, not without an anxious look from Teresa, for she knew that when Louis came into any situation, he generally caused trouble. When, however, we returned with our aprons decorated with mud but still happy, the good old lady heaved a sigh of relief. The fact is, that when Louis played with us he always acted as he did with the boys at school. But no matter what happened, Paula seemed afraid of nothing. When it came to running races, Louis found to his great chagrin, that she could even beat him at this; and in the other games if she happened to fall and hurt herself, she'd rub an injured knee with a laugh or sucked a stubbed finger without further comment, and go on playing as if nothing had happened. But in spite of entering wholeheartedly into all our fun, it was easy to see that our servant had well named her, "The daughter of the good God!" She was always ready to step aside and let others take the first place, and to yield all her own rights, to recover a ball at whatever distance when a dispute arose as to, "Who should get it?" or to look for a lost kite, no matter how thick the brambles might be. No wonder Louis was quite content to have such an accommodating companion!
Then the moment arrived when we must go back to the house. That fatal time always seemed to arrive on the wings of the wind. Teresa seldom had any time to come and call us, but she relied on Louis, as he had a watch. Beside all that, we could clearly hear the hour strike in the great clock on Darnetal Church.
"Listen," cried Paula, woefully, "it's nine o'clock, and Teresa said we must go back to the house at nine."
"Oh, shut up," said Louis. (He had just started a thrilling new game of jumping from a high wall.) "I'll tell you when it's time to go home. Now are you ready? Hurry up, Paula, get the ladder. There it is, under the cherry-tree!" Paula obediently ran and returned with the required ladder, and helped Louis put it in position, saying at the same time, "But Louis, you know well that Teresa told us that we must be in at nine o'clock."
"Oh, yes, I heard it," said Louis ill-humoredly.
"Well, then we must go!"
"Oh, not yet, five minutes more or less won't make any difference."
"No, five minutes won't make any great difference, of course," said Paula slowly, "and it certainly is lovely here, but Teresa ordered us in at nine o'clock. I'll run and ask her if we cannot stay another fifteen minutes."
"Certainly not," sneered Louis. "Teresa would never give permission. Now, hurry up, you're first on the wall, Paula."
"No, I'm not going to stay. Teresa will be angry."
"No, no, never fear. Besides, she'll never know. I think she's out."
"Well, she'll know when she returns. She'll ask us what time we came in."
"Oh, you needn't worry about that," and Louis took out his watch. "I can fix that matter easily." We both looked over his shoulder at the watch, which by this time clearly pointed to five minutes after the hour. Suddenly, we saw the hands of the watch begin to turn backwards. "Now," said Louis, "what time it is?"
"Half-past eight," answered Paula, lifting astonished eyes to her cousin's face.
"Well, if it's half-past eight why do you look at me like that?"
"Because I don't understand."
"What do you mean by saying you don't understand? It's all quite simple. If Teresa is angry, I'll tell her that we left the garden at nine o'clock; then I'll show her my watch."
"But," cried Paula, quite upset, "that would be a lie!"
"Nonsense, you foolish youngster, that's not a lie. We'll go from here at the dot of nine, according to my watch, and that's what I'll tell Teresa in case she asks us. Of course, if she doesn't ask us, we don't have to say anything. Besides, I do it for you and Lisita, for if you were boys instead of girls, there would be no reason to return so early. Now, up with you. Yes, or no."
"Not I," said Paula, with a heightened color. Louis was furious.
"No, you say? Oh," he laughed, "the wall's too high." Paula looked at the wall. It was certainly high, but he knew very well from past exploits that the height would not bother her.
"No," she said, "I'm not afraid to jump. Over in Villar, when I had to tend the goats, many a time I have had to jump from far greater heights than that to keep them from straying into our neighbor's pastures; but I tell you now, we promised Teresa to return at nine o'clock, and I'm not going to disobey her."
Then it was that I joined in on the side of Louis. "If you're always going to obey Teresa, you'll never have a quiet moment."
"Then are you, too, going to stay with Louis?" Paula asked sadly.
"Of course," cried Louis, without giving me time to reply. "And now, go if you wish and leave us in peace. Get out of the way!"
Paula, who was seated on the lowest rung of the ladder, immediately stepped aside and soon Louis was on the wall.
"Now, it's your turn," he called to me. I followed my brother as Paula slowly moved away up the garden walk.
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