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The Squash Of The Esvidos
by [?]

Black dog slipped through a swinging gate and Miss Elizabeth followed him into an olive, orchard of small dimensions. The family to whom the black dog belonged was there. The father, Bernardo Esvido, stood on a step-ladder, picking black olives into a bucket half filled with water, the bucket being fastened to Mr. Esvido’s waist so that he might use both hands, while the water in the bucket prevented the ripe olives from being bruised. He who picks ripe olives into a hard bucket knows not his business.

Beneath another olive tree sat the mother, the daughter, and the son, washing olives in a water-trough. The small black dog raised his voice, and did his best to inform the Esvidos that a stranger eyed their olive-washing.

“You read Portuguese?” asked Miss Elizabeth, smiling on the busy group. Miss Elizabeth was not a book-agent, but, moved by the religious destitution of the Portuguese, she had devised the plan of buying at some city book-store Bibles or Testaments in Portuguese, and then going into the surrounding country and hunting for Portuguese who could read. To such, on account of their poverty, Miss Elizabeth often sold for ten cents a Bible she had bought for forty or sixty cents. She would gladly have given the Bibles free, but from observation she had become persuaded that those Portuguese who paid a few cents for a Bile were much more likely to read it than were those to whom one was given for nothing.

At Miss Elizabeth’s question the united Esvido family looked at the mother. She was the one reader of the group. Many Portuguese do not read, either in English or in their own language. If a Portuguese woman reads Portuguese, her neighbors perhaps know of her accomplishment. Mr. Esvido was proud that his wife knew how to read Portuguese even if he was ignorant. None of the family could read English.

“You like buy Biblia Sagrada?” (Holy Bible) questioned Miss Elizabeth. “It is all Portuguese.”

The red book was passed to the mother, who shook olive-leaves and dust from her hands, and took up the Bible. She had dimly known that there was such a book. She remembered hearing of the Biblia Sagrada years ago, when she was a girl in Lisbon, long before she came to California; but none of her acquaintances had such a book, and she had never before to-day seen a Portuguese Bible.

But at last the book was handed back to Miss Elizabeth.

“No money,” carelessly explained Mr. Esvido.

The oil-maker who bought the crops of the local olive-growers had not yet paid for the olives. Even ten cents was not in Mr. Esvido’s pocket, just now.

Miss Elizabeth looked around. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Esvido seemed very anxious about the Bible, but Miss Elizabeth felt anxious for them. A woman who could read Portuguese ought to have a Bible, and she ought to pay something for it in order to interest her in it thoroughly. Miss Elizabeth’s eyes spied a yellow squash. She did not want it, but it would be payment.

“You give me squash, I give you Biblia Sagrada,” she proposed.

“How you take it?” asked Mr. Esvido, smiling.

Miss Elizabeth opened her hands with a gesture that showed she meant to carry the squash, hidden as much as possible under her short cape.

“We make trade,” agreed Mr. Esvido; and Miss Elizabeth, leaving the Bible, bore the big squash away.

But Miss Elizabeth’s yellow burden became very heavy before she had gone far on the long country road. She found at last a wandering piece of newspaper, which she wrapped over as much of the vegetable as possible. The rest her cape covered, and then she marched on toward the far wires of the electric car-line that had brought her into the country. So vanished the squash of the Esvidos from their eyes.

Meantime the Portuguese mother read aloud from the Bible. The daughter, Delpha, listened, while gently rubbing the black olives in the water-trough. She knew of Christ, yet the words of the Biblia Sagrada were unknown.