by Eva Lecomte
Adapted and translated from the Spanish Version by W. M. Strong
I Hope and trust that the young people who read this book will have as much joy in the reading of it as I have had in its writing.
Paula's Saviour wishes to be your Saviour too. Paula was by no means perfect, but she did love God with all her heart and her neighbor as herself.
This simple country girl, young and strong, yet so tender-hearted and forgetful of self, appears to me sometimes like one of the clear brooks of my beloved land, pure and fresh, slipping noiselessly between flowered banks of forget-me-nots. It was by love that she "conquered"—as we shall see!
If some day you should come to my country, do not forget that I would have great joy in seeing any of those who have read this book. I live in the little town of Villar at the bottom of the valley, where on every side there are hills and mountains as far as the eye can reach. To me it is the loveliest country in the world and I am sure that Paula thought so too.
And so good-bye, dear young reader! I must not keep you any longer, for I am sure you have a great desire to know about Paula; and anyway, I suppose you will have done what I would have done at your age, namely, read the story first, and left my poor preface to the last—for which I have already pardoned you!
And now, may God bless you, Paula dear, as you walk among these my young friends who read about you! My prayer is that you may shed over them the same sweet ray of celestial light that you have already shed over others.
"Paula" was originally written in French and translated from thence into Spanish; and the present translator having discovered this literary and spiritual jewel, felt that it should be given also to the young people of the English-speaking world, not only that they might know Paula herself, but that, through her, they might become more intimately acquainted with Paula's Saviour and accept Him as their own Redeemer and Lord.
W. M. STRONG.
Coihueco, Chile, South America, 1940.
1. AN UNEXPECTED LETTER
3. PAULA ARRIVES
4. PAULA'S TREASURES
5. LOUIS' WATCH
6. IN THE MIDST OF DARKNESS
7. CATALINA'S ILLNESS
8. THE FIVE-FRANC PIECE
9. A LITTLE GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN
10. IN THE COUNTRY
11. THE CAT MOTHER
12. A TREASURE RESTORED
13. THE SCHOOL-TEACHER AND HER BROTHER
1. SOME YEARS LATER
2. THE BRETON
4. THE YOUNG SCHOOL-MISTRESS
5. THE NIGHT-SCHOOL
6. THE HOUSE OF GOD
7. IN HIS PRESENCE
AN UNEXPECTED LETTER
Clearly engraved on the walls of my memory there still remains a picture of the great gray house where I spent my childhood. It was originally used for more than a hundred years as the convent of the "White Ladies", with its four long galleries, one above the other, looking proudly down upon the humbler dwellings of the village. On the side of the house, where ran the broad road from Rouen to Darnetal, a high rugged wall surrounded a wide yard, guarded at the entrance by two massive doors, studded with enormous spikes. The naked barrenness of this yard was, to say the least, forbidding in the extreme; but the fertile fields on the other side of the house spread themselves like a vast and beautiful green carpet, dotted here and there with little villages, crowned with church spires and their corresponding belfries, from which on a Sunday morning pealed out the cheerful call to prayer and worship. The ancient convent long before our story begins had been transformed into a lovely dwelling with an immense garden on one side, edged by a dozen little brick houses that seemed so small that they made us children think of certain doll-houses that we used to see in the Paris magazines. They were known locally as the "Red Cottages." A long avenue of ancient elms separated us from these houses of our neighbors, and in front of the cottages stretched a line of stone benches, where, in the shade of the great trees, the old men of the village used to sit and recount to us tales of the days when the Convent flourished. Some of these stories made us shiver. (Indeed, they had a habit of straying into our dreams at night.)
The rest of the land around the Convent had, with the passing of the years, fallen into the hands of the villagers themselves. Each one had a small space for flowers in front and a vegetable garden behind.
Of course, our own garden covering the whole space in front of the Red Cottages, was a much more pretentious affair with its deep well, its many-colored kiosks, and its noisy bee-hives. In fact, it was in our eyes, the most enchanting corner of the earth.
I don't remember all the details about the special thing that happened one day, but I know that I shall never forget it to the end of my life.
We were at tea in the garden. Teresa, our old servant, was walking up and down in her kitchen. She never seemed to have time to sit down to eat Dear old Teresa! She always seemed like a mother to me, for we had lost our own dear mother when I was still in the cradle.
My brother and I had quarrelled over a mere nothing, when we were called in to tea by our father. Of course, we did not dare continue our dispute openly in front of him, but we continued our war-like activities by kicking each other under the table.
Louis was ten years old and I was nine. As he was older and a boy, he of course, considered that he had the right to the last word. Now kicks had replaced words; but as we were seated at quite a distance from one another, we did not succeed in causing very great damage to each other's shins. Notwithstanding this, I began to lose patience, and in order to end the matter, knowing that Louis was not very courageous, I leaned my chair as far inside as I could and let him have one terrific kick. At this, his face changed color and my father now disturbed by the extra noise of my kick, finally began to realize what was happening. I do not know how matters would have terminated, if Teresa had not at this moment come into the garden with a black-bordered letter in her hand which she delivered to our father. He took it silently and opened it as Teresa carried away the tea-pot.
I saw immediately by my father's expression that the letter carried serious news, and I am sure Louis noticed it also for he completely forgot to return my kick.
"Teresa!" called my father.
"All right, I'm coming," said that good lady.
"Read this, and tell me what you think of it," and my father handed the letter to the old servant.
Teresa seated herself at the end of the table between Louis and me, and with her head in her hand commenced to read—Teresa was not very well-educated and she read the letter very slowly and half-aloud. "Who wrote this?" was her first question.
"The Pastor of the village," replied my father.
"A minister!" exclaimed Teresa. "He's a mighty poor writer for a minister, and no doubt his mother paid mighty well for his 'education.'"
My father smiled a bit sadly.
"You don't understand it, Teresa?"
"Yes, yes; I understand half of it, and I think I can guess at the other half."
"Do you want me to help you?" offered Louis.
Teresa looked scornfully at Louis—
"You! I should say not! You don't care to help me in the kitchen or run errands for me, and the only thing the matter with you now is curiosity!"
That settled Louis, and Teresa went on with her reading. Bending her great fat form more and more closely over the letter, she became more serious as she neared the bottom of the fourth page where the writing became so close and so fine that it was hardly possible to decipher it. When, at last, she lifted her head, her eyes were full of tears. "Poor, poor little thing!" she repeated softly.
"Well, what do you think?" said my father.
"What do I think? Why we must send at once and have her come here as soon as possible, because—"
"Who?" my father interrupted her without ceremony.
"Yes; who? who?" questioned Louis.
"Tell us, father, please," added my sister Rosa, a tall, serious girl of fifteen.
And as he did not answer us quickly our questions multiplied.
"Patience! Patience!" cried my father; "your turn will come."
"Teresa, you are getting old, and another girl in the house simply means more work for you and a lot more problems for me. If 'she' (my father had never been able to reconcile himself to pronounce the name of my mother since her untimely death)—if 'she' were here I would not hesitate, but to bring another orphan into a family already half-orphaned doesn't seem right to me."
"Don't worry, sir, a little more work doesn't worry Teresa Rouland. She will have to get up a little earlier and go to bed a little later, and that will be all."
"Well, Teresa, I'll think about it, and it needs to be 'thought about' a good deal."
"And why do you say that, sir? One doesn't have to reflect long about doing good."
"Well, I'll tell you why I hesitate. I'm sure that someone else could much better replace the parents of this orphaned girl. I must confess that for my part I don't feel equal to the task."
"Sir, would you like to know what I think? You have said to yourself, 'From the time that my wife died life has become a burden, and if it wasn't for the children I would have died of grief, but for love of them I must work and live. Therefore, with my heart torn and desolated as it is, I don't feel called upon to take any responsibility upon myself other than that of my own children!'"
"There is a good deal of truth in what you say, Teresa."
"Yes, sir, but it is very bad, very bad, if you will let me say so! I know I ought not to talk so, as I'm only a poor old servant; but remember, I was the one that brought up the lovely woman that we all mourn for, and I knew her before you did, sir, and I loved her as if she were my own child. When I put her in the coffin it was as if they had taken out a piece of my own heart. She was so young to die, so sweet, so good, and besides so marvelously beautiful! But I dried my tears as best I could, for I knew there was much to be done; and I said to myself that I would honor the memory of my mistress by doing always that which I knew she would have approved of. And now, sir, take this little orphan as you know your good wife would have done, as the daughter of her beloved sister...." She stopped suddenly, slightly abashed, as she realized that perhaps she had said a little too much for one in her station in life.
But more than her mere words, her voice vibrant with emotion had moved us all to the depths of our souls.
"You are a valiant woman with a great heart," my father said, as he took her hand. "I will write this very night and ask them to send the girl to us as soon as possible."
Then turning to us he added, "You no doubt know by this time of whom we have been speaking. Your cousin Paula has just lost her father. You will remember, her mother died some years ago, and we are her nearest relatives. Your uncle's friends have written me as to whether I will consent to receive Paula in our home, and in a few days, more or less, she will be among us."
We opened our mouths to ask a thousand questions, but father stopped us. "No, no! That is enough for now! Later I will tell you the details; besides, I must go out immediately. Go now to your various tasks and don't be thinking too much about this coming of your cousin."
That night I could not study my lessons. In fact, I could do nothing but think about Paula! I was not a student and was always at the bottom of the class. Louis, in the matter of study, was no better than I; but in the school, thanks to his brilliancy of mind, he always seemed to skin through somehow. Rosa was not a bit like her brother and sister; being a model of patience, application and obedience. I was very proud of my sister Rosa, and I loved and admired her, but I never had the slightest desire to imitate her.
After my father had gone, nothing was talked of except our cousin Paula. When would she come? What would she be like? Would she be content to be here among us? All these were questions which we could not answer as we knew very little about her. They had told me that Paula lived in the Waldensian Valley—a country where the inhabitants fed on black bread and lived in homes that were like stables. I had no idea just exactly where the mountains of Piedmont were. I had searched the map without being able to find the region, but I supposed it must be somewhere between France, Italy and Switzerland.
There was another thing I had found out; namely, that Paula was about my own age. What happiness! This fact I repeated over and over until Louis told me to keep quiet. This attitude on his part I put down as discontent because Paula wasn't a boy, so I kept repeating, "Paula's the same as me!"
"For mercy's sake, will you keep quiet, Lisita? Besides you have your grammar twisted as usual. It doesn't surprise me in the least that you're always at the foot of the class, if that's the way you study."
"You can talk to me as you like," I answered, "but when Paula gets here I'll never speak to you again, and I'll tell her not to say a word to you either. I am mighty glad that Paula's a girl and not a disagreeable boy like you."
"Oh, keep your Paula, much do I care!" replied Louis.
"Come, come," exclaimed Rosa, "what's the good of fighting over this poor girl Paula whom neither of you have ever seen!"
"It's Louis' fault!"
"No, it's Lisita's!"
"It's the two of you! If Paula could see the way you quarrel I'm sure she would not want to come. I hope she will love us all and we must all of us love her also, because she's not only an orphan, but she's a niece of our poor dear, dead mother."
Rosa knew well how to bring about peace. One word about our mother was enough.
"See here, Lisita," and Rosa drew me toward her, "I see that you haven't the slightest desire to study tonight, so close your book, and if you get up early tomorrow morning I'll help you. Do you know what I would do now if I were you."
"I'd go and see Catalina, You know that she does not like to be alone all of the afternoon, and I think Teresa has gone out If I didn't have so much to do I'd see her myself. Now, look out you don't make too much noise. Catalina has a terrible headache today."
"All right. I'm off!" I said.
The idea of visiting my oldest sister never made me very happy in those days. In fart, I hardly ever entered her room because it bored me terribly to be in the company of such a disagreeable invalid.
I remembered the time when Catalina was the liveliest and happiest person in the whole house, but unfortunately all this had changed in an instant. One day three years before, Catalina had fallen from the top of a high cherry-tree which she had climbed against the advice of Teresa. She was unconscious when we picked her up, and it seemed at first as if she would die as a result of the fall. After six months of cruel suffering, however, her youth had triumphed over death; but the big sister who had always been as happy and as lively as a bird was gone from us, and in her place remained a forlorn, unhappy girl with a poor twisted body, who at rare intervals sallied from her room a few steps with the aid of her crutches. Unfortunately her character had also suffered severely, for in spite of the tenderness and solicitude of my father who sought to satisfy her slightest desire, and in spite of the untiring care of Teresa and the patience and sweetness of Rosa, Catalina's life was one long complaint. Her room, with its white bed adorned with blue curtains and its magnificent view of the fields and mountains, was the most beautiful in the whole house. A pair of canaries sang for her in their respective corners; the finest fruits were always for her; and as she was a great reader, new books were continually brought in; but nothing seemed to have power to put a smile of satisfaction on her thin, wasted face.
Poor Catalina! It was certainly true—I didn't love her very much. I was so accustomed to see my sister in her invalid state that her pitiful condition didn't seem to move me, and she was always in such a bad humor that I only went to see her on rare occasions.
However, on this particular afternoon, I had, of course, a great desire to carry her the news of our cousin's coming, and so I gladly went to visit her; but forgetting all the warnings of Rosa I burst open the door like a gust of wind.
Catalina was lying with her face toward the wall with the curtains of the bed partly drawn, and a green shade had been placed over the cages of the two birds in order to stop their singing. Under other circumstances I would have prudently retired, thinking that Catalina, more irritated or sicker than usual, was endeavoring to sleep. Doubtless our old servant had come in to speak to her regarding Paula, and finding her apparently asleep had arranged things as I found them. She turned her head on hearing me come in and in a sharp tone exclaimed, "What a noise, Lisita! Can't you give me a single quiet moment!"
"You know I haven't been here all day!" I answered impatiently. "In fact, I haven't been here since yesterday morning, and besides, I forgot that Rosa told me that you had a headache."
"Well, you know it now!"
"So you wouldn't care to have me tell you the big news!"
"Well, I am going to tell you anyhow, because I can't keep it to myself any longer! Uncle John is dead!"
"Uncle John! Dead?"
"Yes, and I'm happy!"
"What do you mean, you're happy!"
"Well, I am happy!—not because Uncle John is dead, but because his little girl, Paula, who is just my age, is coming to live with us, so, of course, why shouldn't I be happy?"
"Well, you can just forget your 'happiness,' because Paula is not going to live with us. I can tell you that right now!"
"And why not? Father said she was coming! You can ask Teresa, or Rosa, or Louis!"
"I am not going to ask anyone, but I tell you that Paula is not coming here! No! and indeed, NO! I've got enough to put up with, with Louis and you! It seems as if you tear my head apart, for you quarrel from morning till night; and when you play it seems as if the house is coming down; and now suppose another bad-mannered little girl should come among us! But I tell you it never shall happen!"
"You're not the one who orders things here!"
"Neither do you, you impertinent little thing."
"Now, don't get mad, Catalina!" I cried, as I burst into tears.
"You don't know what you are talking about. You do not realize that Paula has no one in the world to care for her. Teresa read us the letter out loud. I know I'm not a good girl and I'm almost as disagreeable as you are, but I am going to be good when Paula comes. You shall see. She will be my dearly beloved sister and she is almost exactly my age. Oh, I certainly shall love her so, and we shall always be together and we, we...."
"Keep quiet, Lisita. Your tongue runs like a mill-wheel. Besides, where did you get all these details?"
"It was this afternoon, just as we finished tea. They wrote to father, and father gave the letter to Teresa, and Teresa said that a little extra work didn't bother her, and so father said, 'All right, let her come!'"
"And I? Father said nothing about me?"
"Not that I remember."
"Oh," sobbed Catalina, "everything is done without me now! Because I am nothing more than an invalid, everything is arranged without consulting me! What difference does it make to you—who are able to laugh and run and play—if I suffer here without having a thing to say about what goes on in the house! How would you like to be in my place? Father never came to say one single word to me about the matter, and now without consulting me as to whether it would disturb me, they wish to bring another trouble to torment me more! But it shall not be, and the day that she comes I shall go to a hospital, because they do not want me here any more!"
Poor Catalina! She had passed a very bad day, and always on such days she would weep on the slightest pretext. I didn't care for her very much, but that day I pitied her with all my heart and I did what I could to calm her; for once her nerves were excited, nothing could console the poor unhappy girl. Besides, I was very much afraid that she would be able to change my father's purpose in regard to Paula. He, generally so severe, so cold, and insensible in his attitude toward us, obeyed the slightest wish of his eldest daughter. And if—if!—she succeeded in preventing Paula's coming I felt that I would never, never pardon Catalina! But now I tried to embrace her.
"Listen," I said; "father had to go out, but when he returns he will tell you the same thing that I have told you!"
But Catalina would not hear me. With her head hidden in the pillows, she continued crying.
I was desperate! As a rule it took a lot less than this to make Catalina worse. Catalina worse! And all my fault! What would my father say! And yet I had had no bad intentions. How could I have known that she would have received my good news in this way? Suddenly I had a brilliant idea. Leaving Catalina I ran to the kitchen where Teresa was preparing the vegetables for supper. "Teresa, come quickly," I cried with my eyes full of tears; "Catalina is making herself sick with crying."
"And why? I left her sleeping only a short time ago."
"Oh, yes, I know; but please come at once, Teresa! It's all my fault! I told her that Paula was coming and she is beside herself! But really and truly I had no idea that she would take it that way!"
Teresa jumped up quickly, saying under her breath, "What next?" and then to me, "You certainly are a troublesome youngster, my poor Lisita!"
"But Teresa, I vow to you...."
"Be quiet, and go back to Catalina's room! I'll be there as soon as I can!"
I left the kitchen well content. Teresa was not full of pretty phrases but she had a heart of gold, and I knew that somehow or other she would be able to fix things with Catalina. I found Rosa already in Catalina's room on my return, trying in vain to calm her. She turned to me.
"What on earth has happened? I heard Catalina sobbing, clear at the other end of the house. Are you responsible for this?"
"No, no, it wasn't I; it was Paula."
I tried to explain, but at this minute Teresa entered, bringing with her a plateful of delicious apples.
"Come, come, Catalina!" and her deep, sonorous voice seemed like soothing balm, as her presence appeared to fill the room. "What on earth are you crying about? It is but a short moment ago that I secured permission from your papa to read you a letter which he has just received from Italy, and I went out to pick up some of your favorite apples, the first of the season, and here I come to find you crying!"
Catalina became a little calmer hearing the word "letter," for, to the poor confined invalid, a letter from abroad was a great event. Nevertheless, between her sobs she remarked, "Is it a letter about this terrible 'Paula' that they are talking about?"
"Yes," answered Teresa, with that soothing voice of hers. "It's a letter that tells us a bit about a niece of your poor mother."
Catalina calmed down completely. If the memory of our mother still lived in the heart of her other daughters it had first place above all else with Catalina.
"Now, read it to me, Catalina," said Teresa. "You can do so much better than I can in the reading line, and it will sound so much better from your lips than from my poor stumbling ones. Wait till I fix up the pillows, and don't cry any more. And now your headache is better, isn't it?"
"It still pains terribly, Teresa. Let Rosa read it."
Rosa took the letter, and read in her clear, sweet voice the lines that had so stirred us all.
There were but few details. Our Uncle John had died; so wrote the pastor of the little church in that far-off Waldensian Valley. He had died as he had lived—a real Christian. He had no near relatives, it appeared; and the rest of the family had gone to America two years before. Paula, therefore, was alone. Just before breathing his last, my uncle had expressed the desire to leave his daughter in the care of our father whom he had never known, but of whom he had heard nothing but good. Beside all this he had left his daughter in the hands of God, the loving Father of all orphans, praying Him to guide and direct in the whole affair. His last prayer had been for us; asking God to bless our family that we might all be guided into the straight and narrow Way that leadeth unto life eternal. Then followed certain details relative to a small inheritance that Paula possessed, and the prayer of the Pastor himself that the temporal and spiritual happiness of the little orphan might be maintained.
"Is that all?" asked Catalina.
"Yes," said Rosa; "that is the end of the letter."
"Poor little thing!"
There was a long silence. I think Catalina was thinking of her mother, for her face had softened for once.
Teresa sat with her large agile fingers flying—those strong fingers that were never idle;—the metallic sound of her needles alternating with the happy song of the canaries, from whose cages the curtains had again been removed.
Never in my life had I lingered very long to observe Catalina, but this afternoon I could not help but notice how pale and delicate she really was. Propped up on her pillows with her golden hair falling around her shoulders, one would not have guessed her to be more than fourteen years old, instead of eighteen. Seeing her thus after her day of sufferings, I pardoned all her bad humor and hardness of heart toward Paula; and I had a great desire to take her in my arms but I did not dare do such a thing—fearing she would refuse my caresses.
"Teresa," she said suddenly, closing her eyes to keep back the tears, "do you think that it hurts very much when one dies?"
"Why do you ask that?" and Teresa looked at her quite surprised.
"I was thinking of Uncle John."
"That depends, Catalina, that depends. There are some persons who die tranquilly in their sleep with no pain at all, but in the case of others it is quite the contrary."
"But afterward, Teresa! How about afterward? What happens to us after death?"
"Afterward?" Teresa looked puzzled. "Nobody knows what happens to us afterward. When I was a little girl, my mother who was a very pious woman, told us that if we were very good we would go to heaven, but if we were bad we went to hell. I believe she was right, poor woman, but it is sometime since I have thought of religious things, and your father does not like to have us talk about it."
"I know that, Teresa, but I can't help thinking about it often and often. Was our mother a 'pious woman?'"
"Not exactly—at least, not before she became ill. Her relatives in Villar—your Aunt and your Uncle John used to write lovely letters to her, that spoke of God and heaven and prayer. Your mother used to sigh after reading them, and sometimes she would read me a page or two from those letters, and would say to me, 'My good Teresa, we both ought to think about these things! My sister is far more happy in her hut on the mountain-side in Waldensia than we are here in the midst of abundance. It must be wonderful not to fear death and to love God with all our heart' When she spoke thus to your father he laughed at her and said. 'Now, don't you worry about that, darling, you couldn't be any better than you are now; and I am glad that you are not like these pious ladies who try to tell you what will happen to you after death. You'll have plenty of time to think about those things when you come to your last days; but now with your good health and robust constitution you can count on a good old age.'"
"But father was mistaken, Teresa!"
"Yes, he certainly was mistaken, poor man. Nobody could have believed that when on that Monday afternoon she complained of a little pain in her throat, she would die on the following Thursday."
"Was it diphtheria, Teresa?"
All that poor Teresa could say amid her tears was, "Poor, poor little beloved one! Never shall I forget her last moments or the desperation of your father. From his very first visit the doctor said that there was no hope. I thought I would go insane when he said that! How I remember her the day before she was taken ill, in all her youth and beauty—singing as she worked, and then suddenly came that terrible pressure in her throat."
"Then, Teresa, you remember, she could not kiss us goodbye."
"No, poor lady, that was her greatest pain when they told her that her sickness was very contagious. But—there! there! Catalina, I did not mean to make you cry, and I have told you this story so many times, and now here I am telling it over again like the foolish woman I am!"
"No, no, Teresa, go on," answered Catalina between her sobs. "I am always happy when I hear you speak of our beloved Mamma."
And now, I too could not keep back my tears as I kneeled beside the old servant, who left her work to pass her hand over my head.
"Thou didst not know her, dear Lisita. How many times during her sickness she told me especially to take care of thee, and love thee as if I were thine own mother. Yes, and correct thee also.... At times I ask myself whether I have obeyed her."
"Oh, Teresa," exclaimed Rosa, interrupting her and closing, with a bang the book which she had not read. "Indeed, you have done your duty. What would we have done without you? Of course, I can't say," and Rosa smiled, "that your punishments have been very numerous, but father has taken care of that. Father corrects us and you do the loving part"
"Now, see here, your father loves you also, and it's only the pain of having lost your mother that makes him appear more severe than he really is. Open the window, Rosa, I can hardly see, and I must finish this stocking before I quit tonight."
Rosa obeyed, and a soft breeze entered, laden with the perfume of the garden, and Teresa resumed; "After the doctor had gone that afternoon your mother called me and said, Teresa, tell me the truth. The doctor believes I am going to die; does he not?' I didn't know what to answer her. Your father hoped in spite of the doctor's opinion that she'd pull through, and did not wish me to let your poor mother know that there was any danger. But here she lay praying me with her joined hands that I should tell her the truth. She spoke with great difficulty and I feared that soon she would not be able to speak at all, and therefore weeping, told her the whole truth."
"Then she said to me, 'Teresa, I'm certainly afraid to die! I'm afraid! I'm afraid!"
"'But,' said I, 'Madame, why should you be afraid? You have always been so good to everybody. The good God will take you to heaven.' But she could not be calm.
"'According to the world's standard perhaps yes, Teresa—but before God! To think that in a few hours I shall be face to face with the Lord Jesus and I am not prepared!—No, no, let me speak, Teresa! I have done my duty by my husband and by my children, but I have forgotten God. I have not loved Him, neither have I prayed to Him and therefore I'm afraid to meet Him. Oh, Teresa, I'm afraid to die."
"I could only repeat, 'The good God will pardon you, Madame. He is so good and kind. He will have pity on you, for you have never done any harm to anybody.'
"'Ah.' she answered, if I had but listened to my sister and brother-in-law! How many times they urged me in their letters to surrender to the Lord Jesus, but I always put it off ... and now I'm dying! Oh, Teresa, Teresa, can you not help me?'"
"But I thought Mamma died in peace?" suddenly questioned Rosa. "I remember toward the end that she was anxious to go, and at last said that she was going to heaven."
"Yes, my beloved madame did indeed die in peace. Sometime after she had asked me whether I could help her she said, 'Teresa, read again that last letter from my sister. I have it here under my pillow.' I read it to her as best I could, and as I finished she said to me, 'Read it again, Teresa. Oh, if only my dear sister were here this minute!" Twice again I read the letter, but still she was not satisfied. 'Those last words, Teresa, Read them again to me, please.' And again I read them."
"Do you remember those last words, Teresa?" Catalina asked as she listened with rapt attention to the story she had heard so often from the lips of our old servant.
"I don't remember all. I would have liked to have kept the letter. It was such a letter that would help any one to die, for it was certainly a treasure. But my poor madame wished to carry it to the tomb with her, and no doubt it is there yet in her hands, poor little angel. As I remember it, the letter concluded thus: 'He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out!'"
"I read these, the last words of the letter, a dozen times over to her and she seemed to take hold of them as a drowning man would grasp a board that floated by him—then without movement, with her eyes shut, she seemed to be sleeping, but every once in a while she appeared to be talking with someone."
"Do you think she was praying, Teresa?" I asked in a trembling voice.
"Yes, Lisita, she was praying. And I am sure that the good God heard her, for she said to me after a long silence, Teresa, I believe my Saviour has taken me for His own—I am a poor, guilty, and ungrateful sinner—I have waited until the last moment, and I know my sins are great, but my Saviour's love is greater. But oh, my husband!—and my children! I have done nothing to attract them to God. Oh, Teresa, take care of them! Take care of them! I have put them in the hands of the Lord that He may save them also. I can do nothing and—it is too late!'
"She asked me to call your father who was resting in the next room for he had watched all the previous night and had worked as usual all day. She could hardly speak, but as best she could she prayed him to be reconciled to God and to teach their children to know the way of salvation."
"The strange thing to me, Teresa," said Rosa thoughtfully, "is that our father who loved our mother so much, has not taught us this Christian religion according to our dear mother's last wish."
"That is the terrible part," Teresa answered. "An awful change came on him at the death of your mother. He loved her desperately and when she died it seemed as if his heart turned to stone, and when I tried to console him he cried out bitterly, 'Don't speak to me of God and don't try to tell me He is a God of love. He took away my most precious treasure and tore my heart and my very life to pieces.'
"About a week after the death of my poor madame he called me to him and said, 'Teresa, you are a good woman. You've brought up my dear Maria, carried her in your arms when she was small, and in your arms she drew her last breath. She commended her poor children into your hands, and I want you to remain forever at their side, but on one condition, remember—that you never speak to them again on the subject of religion, neither of prayer, nor of church, nor anything of the kind. Hear me well, Teresa! Hear me! I have prayed very little in my life, but on that last night when my dear wife passed away, if anyone prayed with all his heart and all his strength, I did so. Kneeling beside her bed I promised God to serve Him; to bring up my children for Him if He would only leave me my treasure. But He didn't do it Then why should I serve Him?'
"When I saw that it was useless to argue with him I promised what he asked. Just think, if I had been obliged to abandon you to a strange servant!" and Teresa viewed the three of us with those great blue eyes of hers full of affection for us.
"Oh," I cried, trying to take her great fat body in my arms, "What would we have done without you!"
But Teresa, wanting very much to cry and yet trying hard not to show it, put me gently aside, saying, "There, there! You are making me lose a lot of time. Stand up, stand up! You have been on the floor at my feet for over half-an-hour like a little purring kitten and wearing out your stockings besides."
And then continuing without awaiting my reply:
"Well, I am only a poor ignorant servant. If I can read, it is because my poor madame taught me. Nevertheless it has nearly broken my heart to see all three of you, and Louis besides, growing up like a bunch of heathen. And, what happiness prayer does bring one!"
"Do you pray, Teresa?" asked the wondering Rosa.
"Oh, at times. But see now, servants must do what they see their masters do. After the death of my poor madame I prayed often, but little by little I seemed to lose the habit. Your father hardly ever spoke to me, and excepting Catalina, you were all too small to understand important things, and the neighbors!—Oh, you know among our neighbors one never hears any prayers at their houses either. I would be so happy before I die to see the day when my poor madame's prayers be heard regarding us."
"It's a shame," said Rosa, "that Paula is so small. If she were only a few years older perhaps she could"—"I'll tell you what's a shame, and that is that she is coming at all," interrupted Catalina with the return of her bad humor.
"Oh," sighed Teresa, "poor little thing! What could she do at her age! A child of ten years will never be able to change your father's ideas. The more you speak to him the worse he is. No, the one who has to change will be the child herself! She must learn to do as we do. I do hope she may not have to suffer too much. Of course, at her age she will adapt herself quickly to her surroundings, and after all, your father is a good-hearted man. There! At last the sock is done! It was time, for I cannot see any more. What a lovely day it has been! The fruit ought to ripen quickly with a few more days like this."
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine ... it was the great clock of Darnetal that recalled us to the present.
"Nine o'clock!" exclaimed Teresa, "how the time has passed! Lisita! Off to bed!"
"Please, Teresa, let me stay a few minutes more; it's lovely here by the open window."
"Yes, it won't be so lovely tomorrow morning when you must rise early to be in class on time. Isn't that so? Now go, Lisita! No more nonsense!"
"Here, take this," said Catalina, handing me a lovely orange that she had received; "You can have it if you go to bed immediately!"
"Oh," I exclaimed beamingly; "I do love you so, dear Catalina."
"Is it me or the orange that you love?"
"It's you, and the orange, and Teresa, and Papa, and Rosa, and Louis, and Paula."
"There! there! Go to bed," said Catalina, disentangling herself from my arms. "If you don't go to bed at once I will take away your orange."
Laughing, I embraced her again, and Rosa too, and then rushed off to my room, but not without slamming Catalina's door with a noise that shook the whole house.
For nearly a week I couldn't think of another thing but the coming of Paula.
My father had gone to Paris. He would be there some days to arrange certain important matters of business in connection with his factory, and also to wait for the little orphan to be placed in his care by a lady who was journeying from Villar to Paris. In school I talked of nothing else. In fact, I talked about her all day and every day. I learned nothing, nor could I seem to do anything around the house.
One night, while dreaming, I jumped from the bed, crying, "Paula! Paula!" This awakened Teresa, and she made me take some nasty medicine thinking I had fever. I made promises of reform. I wanted to be good, studious and patient, in order to be an example to Paula who would see my good qualities and would thus endeavor to imitate me. Nevertheless I became absolutely insufferable! My older sisters without being quite so enthusiastic as I was, nevertheless spoke often of Paula. Catalina began to worry that Paula might suffer in our house, but she soon consoled herself by remembering that my father had promised to put her out to board, if it turned out that she could not get along amicably with us. As to Louis, he soon showed us that he was not at all interested in the arrival of his young cousin. If it had been a boy, it would have been different—but a girl!
Teresa spoke very little as to Paula, but I am persuaded that long before the arrival of our little orphan cousin, she had been given a large place in our old servant's heart. She found a little white bed up in the attic which was placed in my room beside my own cot.
At last the great day arrived. It was a Wednesday, and of course I had to go to school as usual. We did not know at what hour my father would come from Paris with Paula, and so every moment I said to myself, "Perhaps they have arrived!" Result—my lessons went from bad to worse, but at last at five in the afternoon, I reached the house breathless only to find that Paula had not yet come. "They are not coming!" I cried impatiently, "I knew they wouldn't be here!"
"Then why did you run so fast?" Teresa asked.
I said nothing, but soon Rosa also arrived, and after tea I put all my books in order, redressed my dolls, got rid of the ink on my hands with pumice-stone, and in between each task, took a turn in the garden on the passing of any coach-but always with the same result! Would they ever arrive? Then came supper-time. Catalina had been up and dressed all day and would not hear of going to bed until Paula came. Our summer days are very long, but night had arrived, the lamps had been lighted, and we had resigned ourselves to wait without the consolation of seeing the road from the window. Then suddenly—Oh, joy! We heard a faint sound of wheels in the distance; then clearer and clearer as they rattled over the pavement of the deserted street. Teresa had already arisen from her chair. I had a wild desire to run out in the dark to receive my young cousin for whom I had waited all these weeks, but something seemed to detain me. Then while I waited questioning myself as to what I would say to Paula, trying to remember all the many counsels of Teresa, our old servant staggered in from the yard with a great bag in each hand. Then our father entered with a young girl at his side dressed in black. Paula had come!
In anticipation I had fancied Paula as a pale, sad little girl with blue eyes full of tears. She would have golden hair, very smooth, cut off at the base of her ears, and would be dressed in black muslin, and wear a straw hat with a black ribbon tied under her chin. But here was a different Paula. She was large for her age and appeared quite strong. Her frank open face, bronzed with the sun and air, showed health and intelligence. A black silk cap with a wide ribbon of the same color, failed to entirely hide a magnificent head of brown hair, gathered beneath her cap after the manner of the Waldensians. Her simple dress of black and gray stripes reached almost to her ankles, while an apron of fine cretonne came to her knees. A black shawl whose points passed under her arms and were knotted behind, protected her shoulders, while a pair of great thick shoes completed her attire. In spite of what to our mind was a certain quaint oddness in her dress, it could not hide Paula's beauty. Her forehead was broad and intelligent, her large brown eyes were full of a certain sweetness, and a lovely smile played on her half-opened lips.
"Come," said our father in an almost kindly voice for him; "Embrace your young cousin, and give her a hearty welcome."
Rosa came forward, and I timidly did the same; but Paula dropping father's hand, rushed toward Rosa and then to me, kissing us both and laughing and crying at the same time. She seemed to forget her long voyage and her weariness as she repeated to each one of us in her melodious voice, "I know I shall love you all, and my Uncle Charles here. I already love him, and he has told me all your names. Let me see, this is Rosa," and then turning to me, "You are Lisita. Oh, if you only knew how much I love you all!"
"Now go and greet your cousin Catalina," said my father. "She is the sick one," he added softly.
Paula drew near the big chair where the sick girl re-clined. Catalina was smiling sadly at the young stranger. "Do you also love me a little?" asked my eldest sister.
With tenderness and infinite care Paula enveloped her in her strong arms. "I already love you with all my heart!" she said, laying her head against Catalina's shoulder.
"Have you ever been sick, Paula?" she questioned her.
"No, but Papa was," she said in a trembling tone.
At this moment Teresa arrived carrying in the final bag. "At last," she said, embracing Paula. "Do you know who I am?" Then, seeing that Paula viewed her a bit strangely, she added, "I am only old Teresa. It was I who brought up your dear mother, and I thought I would have to do the same with you; but it looks to me as if you wouldn't need very much of my care. You are so large and healthy, much bigger than Lisita here, and yet you probably are no older. How old are you, pray?"
"I am ten years old, madame."
"Oh, don't call me 'madame.' Call me Teresa, just as your mother did many years ago."
And Teresa took the lamp and brought it close to Paula. "No, you hardly have any similiarity in your face, but your voice is like hers. Now, let me hug you once more, my treasure." And Teresa pressed to her heart the motherless child.
"In my country they say I am like Papa. In fact, I have his portrait in the trunk and I will show it to you."
"Show it to us now!" I shouted.
But Teresa interrupted me. "What a child you are, when poor Paula is so tired! Tomorrow will be time enough."
The meal for the young traveler had been prepared on the end of the great table, where Teresa had placed buttered toast and jam, and soon she sallied from the kitchen with the rest of the food.
"There you are, Paula," Teresa said, drawing her to the table; "Sit down and eat!"
"And the others?" said Paula, looking at us.
"Oh, we ate long ago," said Rosa.
"I think we might eat a little bread and jam to accompany her," I said. Then everybody laughed.
"I think Lisita is right for once," said Teresa, always happy when she was able to give us a bit of pleasure; "and I think Paula will be a little more comfortable that way."
"Now then, Paula, are you not hungry?" asked Teresa with her hand on the lock of the kitchen door.
"Yes, madame ... that is—yes, Teresa."
"Begin then! Lisita doesn't need any urging. Do as she does, and I trust you will eat with a good appetite."
Paula looked at us, one after the other, and then looked at Teresa as if she would say something. As Teresa remained, looking on in an astonished manner, Paula got down from her chair and stood in front of her now cooling cup of hot milk. She placed her hands together, closing her eyes and bending her head a little, she said slowly and deliberately in a low voice, "The food which we receive, O Lord, may it be blessed, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen!"
Naturally, on awakening the next morning, after Paula's arrival, it was "Paula, Paula, Paula," that occupied my every thought. I found she was still sleeping. How I did wish to wake her up! But Teresa had cautioned me to let her sleep as long as she wished on account of her long journey of the day before. So I simply half-opened the curtains of her bed and closed the window to warm up the room.
I had no idea what hour it was. Teresa had the watch under her pillow, and I could never tell the time by the sun, like Louis and Rosa, but I could tell it was very early, for almost every door and window of the red houses across the street, were still closed. Once in a while, I saw a factory hand passing with his lunch under his arm, on his way to work. Among these, I noticed one whom we called the "Breton," a terrific drunkard of whom I was greatly afraid; but, strange to say, this morning he went on his way with a firm, straight step, behaving himself quite like an ordinary person.
The sky was clear and very, very blue, without a single cloud. It had rained the night before, for on all the trees and bushes thousands of water-drops glistened like diamonds in the light of the newly risen sun.
Dozens of little birds were singing their morning songs in the great linden trees on the avenue, and the scent of the flowers from the laborers' little gardens over the way, floated in through the window, and what a multitude they were!—roses, lilies, geraniums, pansies and forget-me-nots. I could not see our own garden from our bedroom window, but I knew that there also there would be flowers in profusion, thanks to faithful Teresa's unceasing care. Here also hung that delight of my life—the swing which my father had placed under the apple-tree one happy day five years ago. Oh, how Paula would love it, and how happy she would be among us! Again I took a peep between the curtains but still she slept. Would she never wake up? Now I had a chance to observe her more closely. That beautiful face, just a bit serious, buried in the white pillow, on which were signs of moisture, betraying the fact that tears had been mixed with her slumbers.
It was long after we finished breakfast, and our father had gone to his work, that she finally awoke. But now, all her sadness had disappeared, and not a sign of a tear remained. She ate her breakfast with great gusto, not however without again performing that strange custom of putting her hands together, and repeating the prayer which our astonished ears had heard the night before.
Teresa searched among my sister's clothes for something a little more modern with which to clothe our little country visitor. Meanwhile Paula chatted happily to us, telling us quite a little of her life in that far-off Waldensian valley. In the winter she and her father had lived in the stable in the midst of the cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, etc. It was the heat from the bodies of these animals that kept them quite warm; and at the same time saved the price of the fuel which would otherwise have been necessary if they had stayed during the day in the dwelling-house. Sometimes, she told us, the poor from the village would come to their stable, bringing their children with them for this same purpose of getting warm without any expenditure for fuel. Then, what happiness and what games they had together, in that little space in the stable between the animals!
Oh, yes, she went to the school, she said—the little school whose teacher was her own father who every afternoon gathered the children together in that self-same stable. In the evening, the neighbors would bring each one his own little stool, crowding into every unoccupied space that could be found in the stable; the women spinning, the men reading in turn from the Bible by the light of a tallow candle. Meanwhile the babies were put to sleep in the straw above the sheep-fold, until the time came to disperse for the night Paula, being a great girl of ten years old, always tried desperately to keep awake along with the older folks. Toward the close of the evening, her father would say, "Now, my friends, let us meet before the Lord." Then the needles would be put away, the hymn-books would be taken out, and often they would sing far into the night. Then after earnest prayers by several of the neighbors, the long winter meeting would break up.
Of course, Paula preferred the summer, she said, when she ran barefoot through the flower-covered fields or when she accompanied her father as they gathered the wheat. Then at other times she had to take her turn caring for the flocks of sheep and goats, and see that the lambs and little kids did not stray too far away. She never tired of watching these happy little creatures with their thousand antics as thy jumped over the rocks.
In the summer, how happy she was in those vast green Alpine fields, how magnificent that pure air, and that bluest of all blue skies! And in the autumn!—What a beautiful season was that, with the nut-gathering and the bringing in of the apples and the grapes. Then she told us how our Uncle John would take the honey from the hives, that golden honey with its heavenly taste.
As she spoke, Paula with her lovely animated face, appeared to live again in her happy past, quite forgetful that she was now far away from her beloved, sunny land of the Alps, where that dear father slept on the hillside, nevermore to return.
I, of course, had been in the habit of hearing our mother speak of her home in the Alps with nothing but sighs and tears. It astonished me now to hear this young creature so full of life and vigor and happiness speak of her old life in Waldensia. I had been preparing myself to console her and endeavor to make her happy and forget her past life of poverty. But now it was quite the contrary. Here was Paula scattering happiness and love all around her, entertaining us and making us laugh at her wonderful stories.
Teresa came and went from one room to another opening boxes, finding here a dress that Catalina could not wear any more, there an apron that had grown too short for Rosa, and here again a pair of small shoes that would no doubt fit our country cousin, with a black ribbon or two that had formerly served us in our time of mourning when mamma died. From her bed in the other room, Catalina listened, calling me at times to re-tell some of the conversation which she had missed, and Rosa wrote a letter to Louis to tell him in detail all about Paula's arrival.
Of course, we were all in high good humor, but I believe I was the happiest of all, for I certainly loved this newly-arrived cousin of mine and found her a thousand times finer than I had even imagined.
I said to her once without thinking, "Paula, were you very sorry when you lost your father?" Teresa looked at me threateningly, but it was too late! Paula had already heard me and her eyes filled with tears. I would have given a good deal if I could have recalled my thoughtless words. "Father is in heaven," said this valiant, young daughter of his. "He suffered much before he died, but now he is happy indeed! One day I shall go and be with him there."
Never had I heard such an astonishing statement. Suddenly Teresa exclaimed, her voice shaking with emotion, "Surely, thou art a daughter of the good God and our very beloved Paula!"
The three days that followed Paula's arrival were very happy ones for me. I greatly wanted to take her to school with me, but my father thought that for a while she would be better in the house, where she could accustom herself to her new life and be with poor Catalina whose strength diminished day by day.
In the morning, and at dinner-time, and after school, and in the evening, we were always together. On my return from school, we took tea together out of doors. When I had finished my home-work, we would dig together in my portion of the garden, and then as the summer days were long ones, Teresa would let us play outside until bed-time.
Of course, I showed Paula all our toys and dolls and the wonderful illustrated books that had been given me from time to time by relatives and friends. Paula was in ecstasies in this new world of books that opened before her. She touched my dolls one by one, looking at them with awe, examining their clothes, passing and repassing her fingers through their hair and exclaimed, "Oh, how beautiful! Never have I seen such things before!" Paula in her turn, showed us her treasures. They were not very numerous, but we could see our country cousin esteemed them very highly. With a trembling hand she untied a red-and-blue pocket-handkerchief, and without a word placed on the table a portrait, a little black-covered book, and some faded flowers. I took up the portrait. It was that of a young man with smiling eyes, quite similar to those of Paula, and with that same kindness and sweetness in his face, so that it was not difficult to recognize who he might be. "It's my father," said Paula quite simply.
I wished at that moment I could have said something to comfort her but I could not find a word to say. Sobbing, I embraced her, and I felt her hot tears mingling with mine.
"Don't let us cry any more," she said presently. "My father has gone to heaven and my mother also. They are there with the Lord. Some day we shall go and join them, and we shall be with them there forever; shall we not, Lisita?" "Yes," I said, somewhat troubled.
"See my flowers," she said. "I picked them near our house in the morning just before leaving. Do you not see? Here are forget-me-nots, pansies and daisies. Poor little things! It is hard to recognize them, but I shall keep 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.
"I'm going back with Paula," I said to Louis. Then from the top of the wall, I saw her turn her head for one last look.
"Oh, let her go!" said Louis. "She can find her own way. I'm afraid the little fool is going to become impossible. Now, do as I do. But be sure and don't break your nose, for Teresa will blame me."
"You jump first," I said.
"Getting afraid, are you? All right, see me jump. One, two, three!" and down he went, in the middle of a pansy-bed, Teresa's especial pride and the object of her particular care.
"Oh, oh," I cried, viewing the ruin that Louis had made. "Now, won't Teresa be angry indeed!"
"Well, why should I care?" said Louis. "Why did she have to put flowers alongside of a perfectly good wall like this? Now, hurry up and jump. We'll fix it up and water it, and she'll know nothing about what happened."
"Oh, Louis, I'm afraid!"—Certainly the distance to the ground seemed enormous!
"What are you afraid of? I'll catch you if you fall. Don't be a 'fraidcat!'" Just at that moment I would have done anything rather than jump.
"I'm coming down by the ladder."
"No, you'll do no such thing! Now, come on; don't be a coward!"
Just at this moment we heard a voice calling, "Louis! Lisita!"
Louis turned to see Paula calling us from the bottom of the garden.
"And now what do you want?" cried Louis. "I thought you had gone home."
I profited by this diversion to come rapidly down the ladder.
"I was almost at the house," answered Paula, coming nearer, "but I didn't go in because I didn't want to meet Teresa."
"Because I didn't know what to say to her, if she should ask me where you two were."
"Well, wouldn't you have told her the truth?"
"Of course, I would have had to tell her. That's why I've come back to look for you. I've run all the way. Oh, please, come now; won't you?"
My brother seemed to hesitate.
"You know I hated to disobey," added Paula, with tears in her eyes, "and at the same time, I don't like to be a 'tattle-tale.' Won't you please come home now with me?"
Louis was a good-hearted lad in spite of his shortcomings. Therefore, seeing his young cousin beginning to cry, he said, "All right, let's go. Anyway, I can't play the way I want, especially with a pair of youngsters like you two. But, look here, Paula, you forgot the ladder. Take it away now, if you want us to play up to all your nonsense."
Paula, grabbing the ladder, simply said, "Oh, thank you so much," as she dried her tears. I went meanwhile and filled the watering-pot while Louis tried to restore the crushed pansies as best he could.
"There you are," said Louis finally, "Teresa will never know." And off we all three raced for the house.
"And so you are back already," remarked Teresa as we invaded the kitchen.
"Back already!" said Louis. "It's more than a quarter after nine, but if it hadn't been for the country cousin here, we'd have been a whole lot later."
IN THE MIDST OF DARKNESS
My father had not had much time to pay attention to Paula since her arrival; for on his return from his long trip he had found the head of the factory very sick. This had so increased his duties that he hardly had time in the morning to take a hurried cup of coffee, before going off to his work. In the evening, he always went to see Catalina for a few moments, and then he shut himself in his room where he worked far into the night.
It was, therefore, with a sigh of relief that he sat down at the family table on Sunday morning to take breakfast with us children.
"Now, then, Paula," he said, turning to our cousin as Teresa served us coffee, "you haven't told me how you like your new family?"
Paula colored a little as she said, "Oh, I love you all very much, uncle mine."
"Well, that's a happy reply," said my father, "and we love you also, my little daughter."
The coffee had been served. Paula had been with us four days and she knew that we never asked the blessing; but she never dreamed that anyone would hinder her from following her own custom which she still continued at every meal. Without any hesitation therefore, she repeated in front of my father, the words that had surprised us so at our very first meal. "The food which we receive, O Lord, may it be blessed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
"What's that you say?" said my father, hardly giving her time to conclude.
Paula, still on her feet, with her hands still joined for the prayer, fixed her great luminous eyes on my father.
She was not smiling now, and I saw that she understood that somehow she must have displeased him.
"Answer me," demanded my father. "What were you doing?"
"Repeat those words of your prayer."
Paula quietly obeyed.
"Where did you learn that?"
"My father taught it to me. We always prayed before and after eating." Paula said this with a trembling voice, trying to restrain her tears.
"Listen to me, Paula," my father said in a voice much less severe; "I don't wish you to imagine that I'm angry with you. In fact, I'm glad that you want to remember your father and his words. That is all very well. But I simply wish you to understand that in the future you are to conduct yourself like the other members of my family. Do you understand, my little daughter?"
"No, uncle, I don't."
"No? Well, then, I must speak more plainly. Your cousins no doubt have already told you that in this house I will permit no word relative to religion. In the future that applies to you also."
"But, uncle dear!"
"That will do. When you come to more mature years you will be able to understand my reasons, and if you should desire it at that time I will give them to you. At present it is enough for you to know that you are not to pray anymore. Hand me the morning paper, Rosa."
We ate in silence, all except Paula who apparently couldn't swallow a mouthful. Our father with his eyes buried in the paper, paid no more attention to her. I had a great desire to cry without knowing why, for I couldn't possibly understand why my father's warning should make Paula so unhappy. Father had not punished her, yet, nevertheless, to see her stand there with a mixture of grief and fright on her pale face, one would have thought that she had been threatened with a most terrible misfortune.
Rosa and Louis made understanding signs to one another. Meanwhile to demonstrate my own sympathy, I tried to take my poor cousin's hand, but she withdrew it, and I understood that it was useless to try to comfort her.
"Uncle," she cried suddenly, "oh, uncle mine, please pardon me but I cannot, cannot obey you."
"What's this?" said my father, gazing at her with stupefaction and growing anger. Our surprise at this untoward daring of our young country cousin was so great, that even Louis dropped his spoon and forgot to eat.
We had disobeyed very often, especially Louis and I, and many times we had been punished for it, for disobedience in my father's eyes was the greatest of all crimes; but never had we dared to defy him openly.
"Paula, be quiet," cried Rosa, fearing the terrible consequences of such temerity.
To our great surprise, my father, in spite of his anger, remained calm.
"So you don't wish to obey me," he said, fixing Paula with a cold and severe eye. "That's the first time I've ever heard such words from any child in this house. Tell me, my daughter, what do you mean?"
"Oh, dear uncle," she said, drawing quite close to father, "oh, oh, uncle mine, don't be angry, please. I do wish to obey you in everything. Oh, yes, in everything, everything! I promised my father to be good and to show to everyone that I am a daughter of the Lord Jesus. But, oh, uncle, I must pray, and I must serve the Lord. My father told me so, and God Himself tells me so, for so it is written down in the Bible itself."
"I think," said my father, "you will find written in your Bible, these words, 'Children, obey your parents.' And according to you, you ought to obey the Bible."
"Yes, I know that well, those words truly are in the Bible, but papa told me that I should always obey God, cost what it may. Oh, dear uncle, surely you wish to serve Him. The Lord died for us, and for this, of course, we love Him. And I thought that you loved Him too. I never knew that there were people in this world who did not love God. Oh, please let me pray, dear uncle. I beg of you, I beg of you. Papa, my dear papa, oh, if he should know that I could never pray anymore! I promised him I'd see him in heaven one day, and he'll be waiting for us there, waiting there for all of us, you, and Lisita, and Rosa, and Catalina, and everybody. Oh, please, please let me pray!" And Paula put her head on my father's shoulder and sobbed as if her heart would break.
"Oh, let her pray, father," implored Rosa in a low voice. "She is so young, she'll soon forget." We could all see that there was a great struggle in my father's innermost self, as a tender look came in his eye, as if he would say, "Don't cry any more. There, there! Pray if you wish." But suddenly his eye rested on us and the stern look returned. He had forgotten us. If he gave way to Paula now, how about the discipline of the rest of his family? Besides, if he permitted her to pray, what would hinder us also from invoking that same holy Name? It was too much.
"Listen, I tell you," he said; "you must obey, and obey at once. This thing has gone too far already." The only reply that came was the sound of Paula's crying. "There, there," said my father, "Stop your crying. I know your religion perfectly, and once I was on the point of practising it, but, as I said before, your religion teaches obedience to those who are over you."
Paula raised her head, and amid her tears she said, "Listen, uncle dear, I'm only a little girl, and I don't know much, and I can't explain to you what I wish to say. I know well that it is my duty to obey you, and so my father instructed me before he died, and when I disobeyed him, he punished me, but in my father's case—" and here she hesitated.
"Go on, go on," said my father.
"My father's will was also God's will. He used to say that he was my earthly father but that God was my heavenly Father, and that if he should die, God was to be my Father forever. And no matter what happened, or where I was, I must continue to serve God, no matter who endeavored to stop me. For it is written in God's Word, 'We should obey God, rather than men.'"
I saw my father go pale with anger. "You're an insolent girl!" he cried. "And I have a good mind to give you a good whipping, to teach you to respect your elders."
Paula looked at him with surprise. "I don't understand, uncle. Those words are written in the New Testament."
"Show them to me," ordered my father.
Paula, glad to escape for a moment, ran for her Bible, which was always beside her in our little bedroom. As she crossed the threshold, Teresa entered to carry away the dishes. "What now? What's the matter?" said the old servant as she looked at Paula's tearful face. "What on earth have you been crying about, poor child?"
My father answered for her. "She's been guilty of most incredible impertinence."
"That's strange," said the old servant. "That's not a bit like her, with her happy, humble ways with all of us."
"That may be," said my father, "but it's just as I feared. She's got all the ideas of her father's family. She talks of nothing but God and the Bible and of her religion, and that's insupportable in this house."
"Oh, do go slow, sir," Teresa implored. "She's a mere child yet."
"Yes, but she must obey."
Teresa contented herself with a shrug of her shoulders, for she saw that my father was not going to yield. And now Paula had returned with her Bible in hand.
"And now," said my father, after a moment of silence, "let us see those words. Have you found them yet?"
Paula had paused, her hand turning over the pages of her Bible rapidly. "No, uncle, not yet, but I will find them soon."
Again there was silence. Teresa had returned to the kitchen, the door closing with a bang to demonstrate her displeasure. Nothing could be heard but the tick-tack of the clock, and the sound of the turning pages, as Paula, in spite of her tears, looked for the desired words.
"Here it is," she said at last, smiling in spite of her emotion. "See, uncle, here you are, at the fifth chapter of Acts, verse 29."
"'We ought to obey God, rather than men!'" murmured my father two or three times, as he read the words of Holy Writ, while Paula looked at him with confident eyes, even though a few tears still lingered.
"Let us see, now, something of the context," he added. "Oh, yes, here it is," and he commenced to read aloud,
"'And the high priest asked them saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.'"
Teresa, who had forgotten the tablecloth, came to get it, and smiled as she saw that happiness had again returned to Paula's countenance; for nothing pleased the good woman more than to find everybody in the house happy.
My father leaving certain directions relative to Catalina whom he had found very weak that morning, gathered up his papers, also the Bible, and started to go out.
"Uncle," Paula reminded him timidly, "you've made a mistake. You are carrying my Bible away with your papers."
"Yes, that is true, but I've made no mistake. I'm keeping your Bible now."
"And you will return it to me tonight, uncle?"
"And why tonight?"
"To read it, uncle, as I always do, every night."
"Well, you're not going to read it any more! My children do not read the Bible and they're not so bad. And I've already told you that from now on, you're going to live the same as all the other members of my family, of which you now form a part!"
"Oh, uncle, uncle!" implored Paula, "please leave me that Bible! It is the Bible my father gave me on his dying bed! Please let me have it, I pray you, my dear uncle! I will be good, and I will give you everything that I brought here from Villar. But leave me my Bible, please! please! Leave me my Bible!" Paula sobbed, clinging to my father with a desperate courage.
Teresa, who had viewed this scene with dismay, did not dare to interfere. She came and went, pretending to arrange things here and there in the room.
For my part, I could not comprehend Paula's conduct, not being able to imagine why she should dare so much for her little old black book—I, who would have exchanged all my books for a new doll; but I would have suffered anything to help her now. And so in spite of all Teresa's signs for me to keep quiet and sit down, I took my father by the sleeve and burst into tears saying, "Papa, please give it to her."
My father turned and looked at me for an instant. Never had I seen him so angry. His face had become as white as a sheet. Suddenly throwing Paula off, who had been holding on to him on the other side, he raised the Bible over her head and with a thundering voice, he threatened her. "Will you keep quiet?" Paula appeared not to have heard him.
"Oh, dear uncle," she implored once more, extending her hands to secure her treasured book, "oh, uncle." In reply all I heard was a dull thud, and I saw Paula fall to the ground. Beside himself, my father had given her a tremendous blow on the head with the Bible.
Teresa rushed toward the child and carried her into the kitchen, turning as she did so toward my father "Have a care, sir," she cried, her voice trembling with indignation. "Mark my words, you will repent some day of what you have just done."
It appeared to me that my father had already repented. He took his hat without a word and went out, and did not return until the evening.
* * * * *
"What a shame that Paula isn't a boy," said Louis, as soon as our father had disappeared.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because she is so brave. Did you notice she stopped crying as soon as father hit her? In her place, you would have been crying yet."
"And you? How about yourself?"
"Oh, boys wouldn't cry for a little thing like that. I'm surprised, though, that father hit her."
"I'm surprised too," said Rosa, "but, of course, she must learn to obey."
"I wonder what can be in this Bible of hers to make her love it so," continued Louis. "Any way, what is a Bible? Is it a kind of a prayer-book?"
"No," I said, proud that I knew so much, "it's not a prayer-book. At least I have seen Paula pray in the morning and at night. She kneels and closes her eyes and prays, and does not use the Book at all during the time that she prays. She tells me that in the Book she learns how to be good and to serve God. Her father used to read it to her every day, and when he died she promised him to continue to read it."
"Poor Paula!" sighed Rosa. "There is something mighty fine about her. I wonder how all this is going to come out."
"I think she'll die," I said, trying hard to keep back the tears.
"Nonsense," said Louis, "she'll not die! Not she! Don't worry about that. In a few days she'll forget all about it. But I can't help feeling very sorry to see her so unhappy. Well, good-bye, Rosa. Don't cry anymore, Lisita. I'm going into the kitchen to see what's happened to poor Paula."
I followed him out and we found the kitchen empty. I went to our room and found Teresa seated on my bed with Paula on her lap. I heard Teresa say, "My treasure, don't cry any more! Don't afflict poor Teresa who loves you so, and who loved your mother before you. Now, come, come, my angel, that will do. You will make yourself sick. See, here comes Lisita also to comfort you."
But Paula continued crying, inconsolable, as she hid her face on the ample 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 words from, oh, such different hearts—the one, pure and confiding, and the other now contrite and penitent.
Then, as they finished, Paula continued, "Lord Jesus, be pleased to bless my uncle, Teresa, Catalina, Rosa, Lisita and Louis. Oh, bless them, Lord, and help them all to come to Thee. And bless me, also, and give me of Thy goodness, for Thy name's sake, Amen."
"So may it be," sighed poor Teresa.
Paula opened her eyes, but closed them again as she saw that Teresa had not moved, and that she was struggling to add a prayer of her own. Then finally it came.
"Oh, my God, my God," murmured poor Teresa. "If you can have pity on a poor sinful woman like me, that has forgotten Thee for so many years, be pleased to pardon me, and change my poor wicked heart, in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen."
* * * * *
For a good while after that, Teresa made no allusion whatever to what had transpired in our little bedroom on that first Sunday after Paula's arrival; but we noticed a great change in her conduct She did not work harder—that would have been impossible—neither was she more unselfish, for a more unselfish person than our dear old servant would have been hard to find. But the thing we began to notice was that she was more patient and tender in her dealings with us children, and more charitable toward the great number of our poor neighbors, who would come to the door from time to time to "borrow" food—these poor, miserable neighbors whom she had despised on account of their laziness and untidiness. Beside all this, we saw no more of her days of bad humor and fretfulness. For instance, she treated our father with much more respect and listened without argument or impatience when, at times, he was unjust in his criticism of the house arrangements. Then we noticed also that all her little lies with which she tried to frighten us at times had completely disappeared.
In the cottages of our poor neighbors, there had existed an atmosphere of discouragement and desperation, brought on of course, through poverty and drink, and it was here that our good Teresa began to be known as a veritable friend. As she passed from door to door giving a word of encouragement here, or taking the burden temporarily from the shoulders of a poor tired mother there, we began to notice the under-current of a happy change in the atmosphere of these poor and destitute ones around us. It was easy to imagine that Teresa might be the cause of the change.
* * * * *
The day following the above-mentioned Sunday, Rosa was sitting by the bedside of Catalina who complained of her usual headache, and Teresa had gone out on an errand.
Paula, a bit exhausted with her emotions of the day before, appeared to have lost all animation, but soon her naturally happy nature asserted itself, and by the time my father returned from his work, she ran to meet him and opened the door as he entered, embracing him as if nothing had happened.
"Well, well," said my father, "I'm glad to see that you have recovered your good humor, Paula." A frank smile passed over Paula's face, but she said nothing. "And how has Catalina been today?" he said, turning to me.
"She has a terrible headache. Teresa is afraid she's going to be sick again."
"Poor girl! We must be especially careful then not to make any noise," and he turned to go into Catalina's room, but Paula detained him.
"Please, uncle, have you pardoned me?"
"What for, child?"
"For what occurred yesterday. Surely you remember, uncle. I was a bit stubborn about giving up my Bible."