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Paula the Waldensian | Eva Lecomte

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.’* (Colossians 3:20) 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 anymore. 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 ought to obey God rather than men.’* (Acts 5:29) ”

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,’* (Acts 5:29) ” 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.* (Acts 5) ”

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 anymore! 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. “Anyway, 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, goodbye, 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 about 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 bookshops 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’* (Matthew 6:9)?”

“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 to me I will in no wise cast out.’* (John 6:37) ”

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 knelt 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 undercurrent 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.”

My father looked down at her, surprised. “And now you’re perfectly willing that I keep it?”

“Oh, yes, of course, for I did not at all understand. Teresa tells me that you had no Bible, and you see I didn’t know that. And she said that after you had read it, you would of course be giving it back to me. I am so sorry that I appeared so selfish. Please, pardon me, won’t you, uncle dear?”

“I’ve already pardoned you, so don’t worry about that. So you like to read your Bible?”

“Oh, yes; indeed I do, uncle.”

“Well, perhaps some day I’ll return it to you.”

It was not exactly a promise, but Paula was willing to content herself with that much.

“Oh, thank you, thank you so much, uncle,” said Paula as she embraced him.

“And so you love me a little, do you? In spite of everything?” asked my father smiling, as he took hold of her chin and turned her face up toward his.

“Oh, yes, indeed; you don’t know how much!”

“You do?” said my father. “Well, that certainly gives me great pleasure. I see that soon we shall come to understand one another, you and I. By the way, I noticed that in your Bible there were quite a number of dry flowers. If you would like them, I will return them to you immediately.”

“Oh, many thanks, uncle. I kept them there as remembrances of my father. I shall keep them in some book where I can look at them often—often!”

“That’s what I thought, my little daughter. I’ll go and get your Bible, and you yourself shall take them out.”

But now Paula seemed to have a different idea. “No, I think that I prefer that they remain where they are,” she said in an altered voice.

“What’s that you say?” exclaimed my father, astonished. “How is it that you have so suddenly changed your mind?”

“Well, you see,” explained Paula, trembling a bit, “they’d better remain where they are, for I love my Bible, and I’ve read it every day, and now if I saw it again, I’m afraid—I’m afraid—” and poor Paula’s lip was trembling.

“I understand, I understand,” said my father.

But on turning to go into Catalina’s room, he hesitated with his hand on the latch of the door, and turning, he looked searchingly at Paula, as if he would know the secret of the innermost heart of this child, so loving, so angelic, and yet so absolutely natural.