Mystery of the Necklace

Author:Alie Vogelaar
Retail Price:$6.95
Grade Level:3-5

From the Back Cover:
Going to a new school often means that you do not immediately have new friends. That was also the case with Paul.

And yet there is a classmate who is concerned about the "new boy." John isn't swayed by his classmates and befriends Paul.

Sometimes, however, it seems there is something between him and Paul, and yet it is not only because of the fact that Paul never goes to church.

In school the classmates even whisper that Paul is a thief...

Chapter 1
The New School


A small country with dikes and canals, with woods and fields, with dark, gray skies and many white, puffy clouds which are always changing.

Behind the dikes, at the ends of small country roads, over many little bridges, are small villages. The houses surround a church with a tower pointing to heaven. There are also big cities, with noisy traffic and houses close together. In all those houses, both in the villages as well as in the big cities, are boys and girls who have to go to school. Every morning they walk, or they ride their bikes, their bookbags hanging on their backs or tied behind them on their bikes.

Paul stood in front of the class. He felt the silence that had fallen when he came through the door. First there had been bumping, thumping, and sounds of laughter that came through the open door, but then, suddenly, it had become quiet. That was because he had come in. He saw the rows of strange faces. His stomach felt pinched, and his eyes burned. He straightened his shoulders, and, without expression, he returned the gaze of all those staring eyes that looked at him curiously.

See? I'm not scared. I don't care what you think of me. I'll find my own way.

"Paul, we put a desk for you over there. We hope that you'll like it here."

Like it here? Paul sank into his chair. How could he ever like it, when ...

"At recess the boys will tell you their names. You'll learn to know them all soon enough. When you come to a new school everything is so strange, isn't it?"

Paul looked at the new teacher. He saw two bluish-gray eyes, and it looked as if they twinkled, saying something like, "Hey, I know how you feel." Did the teacher really understand how he felt? Oh, no, older people didn't understand that.

He shrugged his shoulders and looked at his hands. He didn't nod, didn't give an answer. He just stared at the floor. So, this was his new school.

"Let's move, start all over again," his mother had said. Paul remembered it very well. His father hadn't said anything at first. Then his mother had started to cry. She did that often. "I can't stand it. Every time I come upstairs ..."

His father had nodded, very quietly. Paul remembered how he had looked then. His eyes had looked like the eyes of the new teacher. His father had looked at his mother in the same way, as if he understood. But he had sighed, a long, deep sigh, as if he were very tired.

They had moved, of course, and Paul had to go to a different school. He thought it was awful, but he hadn't said anything.

"You don't mind too much, do you, Paul?" his mother had asked. He had mumbled something indifferently. What if he had said that he thought it was terrible? They would have gone anyway.

"You'll see that you'll soon have new friends," his mother had said.

Friends? He didn't have many friends anymore. Only Arthur ...he had always remained his friend and played with him. But now Arthur wasn't here anymore, either. Here nobody knew what had happened. That was good. Then nobody could talk about it, either.

"Let's begin. Please pay attention and be reverent, boys and girls." Paul looked up. What was going on? It had become so quiet in the class. He looked at the teacher when he started to speak. He was talking with his eyes closed and his hands folded. Oh, yeah.

"It is a Christian school," his mother had said hesitantly, and she had looked questioningly at Father.

"Oh, well. It is close by, and you won't learn anything bad there. I had to sign some statements, so I went ahead and did it."

Paul looked at the other children. They all sat with their eyes closed and their hands folded on their desks. So this was what they did at a Christian school. He shrugged and looked at the teacher again. Now he finally heard what he was saying.

"Wilt Thou keep us during this day and help us with all we have to do."

Strange! Paul didn't even know what he had to do yet. Who had to help him? He could do it himself. He didn't need anybody for that.

"Amen." He looked up, surprised, as all the children shifted. They all had their eyes open again.

"Today, we have a story from the Bible about ... "

Paul's thoughts wandered. What would they be doing at his old school right now? There they usually started with math. "Then you're still fresh," the teacher always said. He had had nice friends there. Until... oh, well, that had been his own fault.

The voice of the new teacher came back to him. There was something that caught his attention. Someone who tore a lion in half? He never heard that before. His dark eyes stared straight at the new teacher, who was telling the story about Samson. What a strange story! Still, the part about the bees in the dead lion was mysterious and interesting. And how could Samson have thought of such a hard riddle? For a while he listened closely, and he sighed when the teacher stopped and said, "Now we have to take out our language books." Of course, the usual schoolwork had to be done at this school, too.

During recess everyone came and stood around him. He was sure it was beginning already.

"Hello, Paul! What school do you come from?"

"Hey, are you any good at playing soccer?"

"That's Jeff, watch out for him. He thinks he's a champion."

"Jake, be quiet."

They all wanted to say something.

Paul looked around the circle; he listened to the yelling, to the many questions which tumbled around him, but he didn't say anything. He only looked at them with his dark eyes, and no smile softened the thin line of his mouth. He shrugged his shoulders. Questions, questions. No, he didn't give an answer.

The boys became quiet. Then they looked at each other, wondering why this new boy was acting so strangely. Well, if he didn't have anything to say, they would just leave him alone.

"Come on, let's play tag," Carl said. As he ran away, he called, "I'll be it."

The whole group of boys ran away. Only John waited. "Come on, you can join us," he said.

Paul looked at him. He seemed like a nice boy. He meant what he said, Paul could see.. John wasn't just curious. However, Paul stayed where he was and shook his head. Then John shrugged and ran after the other boys. Paul glared at the running and yelling group. He clenched his fists in his pockets. Oh, no, he wouldn't answer. He didn't want to say anything. They would keep on asking. First these questions, very normal, but then other questions would come. He clenched his fists. He felt a wad in his pocket. Yes, it was still there. Every night he put it under his pillow, and every morning he put it deep in his pocket.

He sighed and walked slowly along the fence to the doors of the school. If the bell rang, he could immediately go inside.

The teacher looked at Paul's grim, closed face when the class came in noisily. There was something in those dark eyes. There is something about that boy, he thought. It was hidden way down deep in those dark eyes, but it was there, and his whole attitude said, "Leave me alone."

The teacher frowned when he noticed that Paul didn't look at anybody, didn't talk with anybody, but walked around alone with his face closed and expressionless.

That boy is going to have a hard time here, he thought. The other boys won't take that. He would have to keep an eye on him.

"So, Paul, did you get some fresh air?"

The boy looked at him. He gave him a short nod.

The teacher closed the door to the hall and looked at the fidgeting class. He tapped on the blackboard. "We're beginning again. Everyone, take out your reading books."

It was lunchtime. Paul quickly walked through the gate. The street was busy, with traffic streaming past in both directions. A few more streets, and then he was home. He took out the key that he kept on a cord and opened the door.

Mother had put some sandwiches and something to drink on the kitchen table. She couldn't come home for lunch. Her office was on the other side of the city, and now that they had moved to this new area, it was even farther away.

Paul sat at the table and stared out the window. The yard was still a mess. Father hadn't had time to fix it up.

"We'll do it together sometime," he had said. "On a Saturday or something." The yard was very big, and it would be a long time before such a piece of ground was fixed up nicely.

Fortunately, there were a few trees in the backyard. They had old, crooked, gnarled trunks, but they gave the bare yard a cozy look.

Paul worked his way through the sandwiches and milk thoughtlessly. It wasn't time to go to school yet. It was quiet in the house. He turned on the radio. Cheerful music blared into the room. There, that was better!

That morning he had timed exactly how long it took to get to school: seven minutes. Eight minutes before afternoon classes began, he pulled the door closed behind him. When he reached the playground, the first bell rang. Well, he had timed that perfectly! Still, there was one boy by the fence, the same boy who had wanted to play that morning. John ... yes, that was his name.

"Hi, Paul," John said. "You're just in time."

Paul nodded abruptly and walked quickly to the door. John walked along. Paul glanced at him. John did seem friendly. Why would he stand there waiting for him?

When school ended that afternoon, John walked with him again.

"You don't mind, do you?" he asked, still a little unsure. His good-natured, blue eyes looked into Paul's face, but Paul looked straight ahead. "I saw this morning that you go the same direction as I do," John added.

"The street is free. Walk wherever you like," Paul said abruptly.

They walked silently down the sidewalk.

John had a heavy bookbag. "Pfff! I still have so much homework," he sighed.

Paul glanced at him. John wasn't that bad, he thought. He wasn't one of the smartest either, he had found out. John had made several mistakes that morning when he had had to solve a problem on the blackboard. And now he had to finish all the rest of his work at home. Paul had finished everything. He felt a bit sorry for John. Doing so much homework was not fun.

"Do you have a lot?" he asked.

"Every day," John grumbled. "You finished everything, right?"

Paul shrugged. "I didn't think it was too hard," he mumbled.

At the next street, John turned the comer. "See you tomorrow!"

Paul nodded. John turned around one more time, but Paul kept on walking and didn't look back again.