Grace and Willie were on their way to the old Witherspoon mansion, where their new classmate, Jasmine, lived. All three children had been at Grace's birthday party that afternoon, but an upsetting present from Jasmine brought the party to an unhappy end. Grace hated snakes, and hurt Jasmine's feelings. She didn't mean to, but that's what happened. Jasmine had run home crying, and now Grace was going to apologize. Willie was coming along to encourage Grace, but also because he was very curious about Jasmine and her spooky old house.
"Well, here we are!" announced Willie cheerfully. Since he wasn't the one who had to apologize, and since he wasn't afraid of snakes, he was as happy as a clam. This irritated Grace, who was already a little jumpy.
"Willie, I just know that house will be crawling with snakes! Didn't she say that her father raised the nasty creatures? What kind of man could he be, do you think?"
"Let's knock and find out. Go on, knock!" urged Willie.
There was an old brass knocker on the front door in the shape of a lion's head. Fearfully, Grace let the knocker fall against the door. "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me," she mumbled under her breath.
After a long time, a tall, thin man with glasses answered the door. He was wearing a white jacket like doctors wore. He did not seem especially happy to see the two children on his front steps. "And who might you two be?" he asked in an impatient voice. Even Willie was having second thoughts.
But Grace stood up straight and said, "Sir, are you Jasmine's father?"
"I am," he answered.
"My name is Grace Castillo, and this is my friend Willie. Jasmine was just at my house for a birthday party, when...."
"You! You are the mean girl who made Jasmine run home crying! What do you want?" shouted Jasmine's father.
"We came to tell her that we're sorry," said Grace in a soft voice. "May we see her?"
"No, you may not!" yelled the man, and he slammed the door shut!
Grace and Willie were surprised. In all their lives, whenever they apologized, they had been forgiven. They sat down on the steps and wondered what to do next. As they were thinking, they heard a quiet voice say, "Did you really come to apologize, Grace? Really?"
Grace stood up and walked over to Jasmine. She reached out and took her hand. "Yeah, I came to tell you how sorry I am for the way I acted when I opened your present. I was very rude. Will you forgive me?"
Jasmine smiled. "Sure," she said. "I didn't realize that you were scared of snakes. I've been around them all my life. Would you like to see our collection?"
"OK, let's go see 'em. But what about your dad? He's mad at us, you know."
"That's because he hates to see my feelings get hurt. But when I tell him what nice kids you are, he'll show you his collection himself. Dad's a herpetologist!"
"What's a herpetologist?" asked Grace, afraid she already knew the answer.
"That's s scientist who studies snakes!" answered Willie with much enthusiasm. "Let's go, Jasmine!"
Jasmine opened the front door and led them into the house. "We keep our collection in the basement," she said.
"Why am I not surprised to hear that?" muttered Grace under her breath.
NEXT STORY: "Down into the Basement"