At this moment the big bell rang for supper. Hunne grasped Dora’s hand, declaring that there was no time to lose, for his father always came punctually to his meals, and Hunne liked to do the same. The table was spread under the apple-tree, and covered with a great variety of good things. As she sat there looking about at these new acquaintances who already seemed like old friends, Dora felt as if she were dreaming; it was so much more delightful even than she had hoped; and she was almost afraid that she should wake up all at once, and find it only a dream. But she did not wake up, except to find that her plate had been loaded with good things, so very real, that all anxiety passed away, and she realized that she was living, and living remarkably well, into the bargain.
“Do eat your cake, or you will be the last to get through,” said Hunne, “see, Dora, Jule and I have eaten four. Jule and I can do a great many things; only we can’t pull the riding-boots off very well. You’ll help about that, won’t you, Dora?” “Eat your cakes, and be quiet, Hunne,” said Jule, in a warning tone; and Dora did not answer about the boots, for Mr. Birkenfeld was asking her questions, and she began to tell him about her father, and of their life together in Hamburg and Karlsruhe.
Up to this time, Paula had not made any attempt to talk with Dora; but when supper was over, she came up to her, and said, softly,
“Will you come with me a little while now?”
Dora was delighted with the invitation, for she had begun to be afraid that Paula did not mean to have anything to say to her, and yet she had been particularly attracted toward this quiet girl, so near her own age. Paula had wanted to see what sort of a girl Dora was, before she made advances, and she was evidently well pleased with what she saw, for she now took her new friend by the hand, and led her away down the garden path. The twins and Hunne, and even Rolf, were soon tired of waiting for Dora to come back, and went calling and searching everywhere for her; but they could not find her; she had quite disappeared. In fact, Paula had taken her all round the garden, and then up to her own room. There the two girls sat and talked, and talked, about all sorts of things. They told each other their thoughts and feelings on various subjects, and found themselves in perfect sympathy. It was a great happiness to both, for neither had ever had an intimate friend, of her own age, one whose tastes, purposes and ideals were like her own.
“Now we will be ‘best friends’ forever,” they said, and sat, forgetful of all the world besides, till the stars stood shining in the heavens above, and all the earth was bathed in shadow.
The mother found them at last; she had suspected that they had taken refuge in Paula’s room. Dora sprang up hastily when she noticed how dark it had grown, and recollected that her aunt would be expecting her. The other children were waiting below, rather a dissatisfied little party at Dora’s disappearance; for they all wanted to talk to her. Rolf was particularly annoyed.