Lois and Leona had been the last to reach the assemblage of girls. “Hullo Agnes! Hullo Margaret. Patricia! Hello Violet!” Leona exclaimed, joy burgeoning from within at the sight of all these promising prospects. Her plan must work. There was a flurry of excited squeals and uncontrollable giggles as the final two participants melted into the revelry. “How do you do, Cammie?’ Leona finally inquired with reticence.
“Simply delightful, thank you. It was a lovely idea to begin our swim hole assembly early,” Cammie acknowledged.
“Our?” Leona muttered under her breath, “Who invited you anyway?”
“Oh yes! Coming today was an exquisite notion!” Violet chimed in.
Some of the girls had gathered with the attachment of their younger sisters and brothers, without whom they would not have been allowed to attend. After they had all exchanged affectionate greetings they gathered their bundles and walked over to their favorite retreat. They spread out hand-stitched quilts along the bank of the swimming hole in the same secret spot that had been their tradition. It was warm in the sun-dappled shadows. They could look our and see the current flowing swiftly beyond the cove.
Gradually the reminiscing began. A few of these girls lived on ranches several miles out of town and did not attend school with the others. They were starved for information concering their friends and there was an insatiable hunger for gossip concerning mutual acquaintances in the town. The girls conveyed stories of their occupation during the long, cold, dreary winter, and each one tried to outdo the one before. Voices would interrupt and talk over others as the volume and pitch began to rise. After awhile the girls began to break up into groups of two or three of the very dearest friends. Some strolled about deeply in conversation.
Up to this point Lois felt alone. These were all the friends of Leona, and she felt left out of the gossip and intimacies being shared. Now, in her loneliness she turned to the youngest members of the group. She would always turn her mind toward things that were productive and helpful instead of dwelling on the disappointments and discouragements that the world seemed to pour out onto a life. She gathered the younger children and led them on a hunt for buried treasure through the peach orchard, singing and dancing as they went along the way. The peach trees did not blossom as early as the almonds, so there was no interference from the busy bees.
Lois was content. Something deep in her spirit always made her long to be outdoors in the presence of creation. She would listen to the world of sky and water and trees. She allowed God’s creation to change her – to make her life profoundly more simple and satisfying.
Cammie sat in the midst of three girls, bewitching them with her deceptively coy smile, enchanting stories and supercilious flattery. Her bright blue eyes and golden blond hair made her dizzyingly beautiful. She was dressed in a casual frock of vanilla cream linen with the palest of pink satin piping.
“As if anyone would wear linen to a swim hole!” Leona thought, eyeing her scathingly.
Cammie lived on the north side of town, past St. Paul’s. It was an auspicious neighborhood, pervaded with opulence and self-indulgence. Her home was one of white limestone, elaborate and ornate and reminiscent of Europe. Her father, on the crest of his fortune, had decided to settle here and become and important man in this small town. Cammie had been raised to regard herself with prestige and distinction. It was an honor to be affiliated with “Cam” and her repertoire of friends was extensive.
This was the first year she had been cast in any part less than the lead of the school Festival Theatre, and it was repugnant to her that Leona had been chosen for the part. Clearly the superior talent and competency were hers. She felt contempt at the decision, and would repudiate any claim to her rightful due! Even as she sat there with her bright smile, Cammie was calculating her jealous retribution. All at once it became clear what she meant to do. There was only one thing to do – only one course in which there was dignity. And what was more important than dignity?
Unexpectedly a deep voice bellowed from the river, “Hello ladies!” It was a young man in a canoe, paddling against the rapidly moving river water. He was obviously struggling across the current, but his strength and determination persevered, and he glided toward the girls with a modest, toothy grin. It was Lois who recognized him first, and she was pleased he had happened upon this secret meeting. She had always enjoyed the pastor’s son, Michael, since they had met at six years old.
“How are you?” He addressed Lois.
“I’m doing well, thank you,” she smiled, “Where are you going?”
“The day is so fine that I decided I would paddle from the O’Connells’ down to the bridge. I love the renewal of the countryside in the spring!” He didn’t approach the shore too closely. The now apparent number of girls was intimidating, and propriety was a significant concern to him. Pleasantly, but with some diffidence, he greeted the other girls and inquired if they were enjoying the glorious spring afternoon. After exchanging a few more pleasantries, he bid them good day and drifted out of the cove and off again down the river.
Watching till he was out of sight Lois suddenly realized the sun was sinking low on the horizon. It was getting late, she announced, and time to start home. Leona was in a heated discussion with Violet and Agnes and too umbrage at her sister’s abrupt proclamation.
If you’re new to “Paladini Potpie” or haven’t visited in awhile you might want to read about Jane Jardscg and how this Novel Adventure came to be.