Read Leaf VII - Heart Agonies of The Melting of Molly, free online book, by Maria Thompson Daviess, on ReadCentral.com.

I have suffered this day until I want to lay my face down against the hem of His garment and wait in the dust for Him to pick me up.  I shall never be able to do it myself, and how He’s going to do it I can’t see, but He will.

That dinner-party last night was bad enough, but to-day’s been worse.  I didn’t sleep until long after daylight and then Jane came in before eight o’clock with a letter for me that looked like a state document.  I felt in my trembly bones that it was some sort of summons affair from Judge Wade; and it was.  I looked into the first paragraph and then decided that I had better get up and dress and have a cup of coffee and a single egg before I tried to read it.

Incidental to my bath and dressing, I weighed and found that I had lost all four of those last surplus pounds and two more in three days.  Those two extra pounds might be construed to prove that I was in love, but exactly with whom I was utterly unprepared to say.  I didn’t even enjoy the thinness, but took a kind of already married look in my glass and tried to slip the egg past my bored lips and get myself to chew it down.  It was work; and then I took up the judge’s letter, which also was work and more of it.

He started at the beginning of everything, that is at the beginning of the tuberculosis girl, and I cried over the pages of her as if she had been my own sister.  At the tenth page we buried her and took up Alfred, and I must say I saw a new Alfred in the judge’s bouquet-strewn appreciation of him, but I didn’t want him as bad as I had the day before, when I read his own new and old letters, and cried over his old photographs.  I suppose that was the result of some of what the judge manages the juries with.  He’d be apt to use it on a woman, and she wouldn’t find out about it until it was too late to be anything but mad.  Still when he began on me at page sixteen I felt a little better, though I didn’t know myself any better than I did Alfred when I got to page twenty.

What I am, is just a poor foolish woman, who has a lot more heart than she can manage with the amount of brains she got with it at birth.  I’m not any star in a rose-coloured sky, and I don’t want to inspire anybody; it’s too heavy an undertaking.  I want to be a healthy, happy woman and a wife to a man who can inspire himself and manage me.  I want to marry a thin man, and when I get to be thirty I want my husband to want me to be as large as Aunt Bettie, but not let me.  An inspiration couldn’t be fat, and I’m always in danger from hot cakes and chicken gravy.

However, if I should undertake to be all the things Judge Wade said in that letter he wanted me to be to him, I should soon be skin and bones from mental and physical exercise.  Still, he does live in Hillsboro, and I won’t let myself know how my heart aches at the thought of leaving my home and other things.  It’s up in my throat, and I seem always to be swallowing it, the last few days.

All the men who write me letters seem to get themselves wound up into a sky rocket and then let themselves explode in the last paragraph, and it always upsets my nerves.  I was just about to begin to cry again over the last words of the judge, when the only bright spot in the day so far suddenly happened.  Pet Buford ran in with the pinkest cheeks and the brightest eyes I had seen since I looked in the mirror the night of the dance.  She was in an awful hurry.

“Molly dear,” she said with her words literally falling over themselves, “Tom says you would give us some of your dinner left-overs to take for lunch in the car, for we are going to take a run down to Hedgeland to see some awfully fine cattle he has heard will be in the market there.  I don’t want to ask mother, in case she won’t let me go; and his mother, if he asked her, will begin to talk about us.  Tom said I was to come to you, and you would understand and arrange it all quickly.  He sent his love and all sorts of other messages.  Isn’t he fond of a joke?” And we kissed and laughed and packed a basket, and kissed and laughed again for good-bye.  I felt amused and happy for a few minutes and also deserted.  It’s a very good thing for a woman’s conceit to find out how many of her lovers are just make-believes.  I may have needed Tom’s deflection.

Anyway, I don’t know when I ever was so glad to see anybody as I was when Mrs. Johnson came in the front door.  A woman who has proved to her own satisfaction that marriage is a failure is at times a great tonic to other women.  I needed a tonic badly this morning and I got it.

“Well, from all my long experience, Molly,” she said as she seated herself and began to hem a tea-cloth with long steady stabs, “husbands are just like sticks of candy in different jars.  They may look a little different, but they all taste alike, and you soon get tired of them.  In two months you won’t know the difference in being married to Alfred Bennett and Mr. Carter, and you’ll have to go on living with him maybe fifty years.  Luck doesn’t strike twice in the same place, and you can’t count on losing two husbands.  Alfred’s father was Mr. Johnson’s first cousin and had more crotchets and worse.  He had silent spells that lasted a week, and altogether gave his family a bad time of it.  Alfred looks very much like him.”

“Mrs. Johnson,” I said after a minute’s silence, while I had decided whether or not I had better tell her all about it.  If a woman’s in love with her husband you can’t trust her to keep a secret, but I decided to try Mrs. Johnson.  “I really am not engaged exactly to Alfred Bennett, though I suppose he thinks so by now if he has got the answer to that telegram.  But but something has made me made me think about Judge Wade that is he what do you think of him, Mrs. Johnson?” I concluded in the most pitifully perplexed tone of voice.

“All alike, Molly; all as much alike as peas in a pod; all except John Moore, who’s the only exception in all the male tribe I ever met!  His marrying once was just accidental and must be forgiven him.  She fell in love with him while he was attending her when she had typhoid, when his back was turned as it were, and it was simple kindness in him that made him marry her when he found out how it was with the poor thing.  There’s not a woman in this town who could marry that wouldn’t marry him at the drop of his hat but, thank goodness, that hat will never drop, and I’ll have one sensible man to comfort and doctor me down into my old age.  Now, just look at that!  Mr. Johnson’s come home here in the middle of the morning, and I’ll have to get that old paper I hunted out of his desk for him last night.  I wonder how he came to forget it!”

It’s funny how Mrs. Johnson always knows what Mr. Johnson wants before he knows himself and gets it before he asks for it!

As she went out of the gate the postman came in, and at the sight of another letter my heart slunk off into my slippers, and my brain seemed about to back up in a corner and refuse to work.  In a flash it came to me that men oughtn’t to write letters to women very much they really don’t plough deep enough, they just irritate the top soil.  I took this missive from Alfred, counted all the fifteen pages, put it out of sight under a book, looked out of the window and saw Mr. Johnson shooed off down the street by Mrs. Johnson; saw the doctor’s car go chugging hurriedly in the garage, and then my spirit turned itself to the wall and refused to be comforted.  I tried my best, but failed to respond to my own remonstrances with myself, and tears were slowly gathering in a cloud of gloom when a blue gingham, romper-clad sunbeam burst into the room.

“Git your night-gown and your tooth-bresh quick, Molly, if you want to pack ’em in my trunk!” he exclaimed with his eyes dancing and a curl standing straight up on the top of his head, as it has a habit of doing when he is most excited.  “You can’t take nothing but them ’cause I’m going to put in a rope to tie the whale with when I ketch him, and it’ll take up all the rest of the room.  Git ’em quick!”

“Yes, lover, I’ll get them for you, but tell Molly where it is you are going to sail off with her in that trunk of yours?” I asked, dropping into the game as I have always done with him, no matter what game of my own pressed when he called.

“On the ocean where the boats go ’cross and run right over a whale.  Don’t you remember you showed me them pictures of spout whales in a book, Molly?  Father says they comes right up by the ship and you can hear ’em shoot water and maybe a iceberg, too.  Which do you want to ketch’ most, Molly, a iceberg or a whale?” His eager eyes demanded instant decision on my part of the nature of capture I preferred.  My mind quickly reverted to those two ponderous and intense epistles I had got within the hour, and I lay back in my chair and laughed until I felt almost merry.

“The iceberg, Billy, every time,” I said at last.  I just can’t manage whales, especially if they are ardent, which word means intense.  I like icebergs, or I think I should if I could catch one.”

“I don’t believe you could, Molly, but maybe father will let you put a rope and a long hook in his trunk to try with, if your clothes go into mine.  His is a heap the biggest anyway, and Nurse Tilly said he ought to put my things in his, but I cried, and then he went upstairs and got out that little one for me.  Come and see ’em.”

“What do you mean, Billy?” I asked, while a sudden fear shot all over me like lightning.  “You’re just playing go-away, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not playing, Molly!” he exclaimed excitedly.  “Me and you and father is going across the ocean for a long, long time away from here.  Father ast me about it this morning, and I told him all right, and you could come with us if you was good.  He said couldn’t I go without you if you was busy and couldn’t come, and I told him you would put things down and come if I said so.  Won’t you, Molly?  It won’t be no fun without you, and you’d cry all by yourself with me gone.”  His little face was all drawn up with anxiety and sympathy at my lonely estate with him out of it, and a cry rose up from my heart with a kind of primitive savagery at what I felt was coming down upon me.

Without waiting to take him with me, or think, or do anything but feel deadly savage anger, I hurried across the garden and into Dr. Moore’s surgery, where he was just taking off his gloves and dust-coat.

“What do you mean, John Moore, by daring, daring to think you can go and take Billy away from me?” I demanded, looking at him with what must have been such fear and madness in my face that he was startled as he came close to the table against which I leaned.  His face had grown white and quiet at my attack, and he waited to answer for a long horrible minute that pulled me apart like one of those inquisition machines they used to torture women with when they didn’t know any better modern way to do it.

“I didn’t know Bill would tell you so soon, Mrs. Molly,” he said at last gently, looking past me out of the window into the garden.  “I was coming over just as soon as I got back from this call to talk with you about it, even if it did seem to intrude Bill’s and my affairs into a day that that ought to be all yours to be be happy in.  But Bill, you see, is no respecter of of other people’s happy days if he wants them in his.”

“Billy’s happy days are mine and mine are his, and he has the heart not to leave me out even if you would have him!” I exclaimed, a sob gathering in my heart at the thought that my little lover hadn’t even taken in a situation that would separate him from me across an ocean.

“Bill is too young to understand when he is is being bereaved, Molly,” he said, and still he didn’t look at me.  “I have been appointed a delegate to attend the Centennial Congress in Paris the middle of next month and somehow I feel a bit run down lately and I thought I would take the little chap and have have a Wanderjahr.  You won’t need him now, Mrs. Molly, and I couldn’t go without him, could I?” The sadness in his voice would have killed me if I hadn’t let it madden me instead.

“Won’t need Billy any more!” I exclaimed with a rage that made my voice literally scorch past my lips.  “Was there ever a minute in his life that I haven’t needed Billy?  How dare you say such a thing to me?  You are cruel, cruel, and I have always known it, cold and cruel like all other men who don’t care how they wring the life-blood out of women’s hearts, and are willing to use their children to do it with.  Even the law doesn’t help us poor helpless creatures, and you can take our children and go with them to the ends of the earth and leave us suffering.  I have gone on and believed that you were not like what the women say all men are, and that you cared whether you hurt people or not, but now I see that you are just the same, and you’ll take my baby away if you want to and I can do nothing to prevent it nothing in the wide world I am completely and absolutely helpless you coward, you!”

When that awful word, the worst word that a woman can use to a man, left my lips, a flame shot up into his eyes that I thought would burn me up, but in a half second it was extinguished by the strangest thing in the world for the situation a perfect flood of mirth.  He sat down in his chair and shook all over, with his head in his hands, until I saw tears creep through his fingers.  I had calmed down now so suddenly that I was about to begin to cry in good earnest when he wiped his eyes and said with a low laugh in his throat

“The case is yours, Molly, settled out of court, and the ‘possession-nine-points-of-the-law clause’ works in some cases for a woman against a man.  Generally speaking, anyway, the pup belongs to the man who can whistle him down, and you can whistle Bill from me any day.  I’m just his father, and what I think or want doesn’t matter.  You had better take him and keep him!”

“I intend to,” I answered haughtily, uncertain as to whether I had better give in and be agreeable, or stay prepared to cry in case there was further argument.  But suddenly a strange diffidence came into his eyes, and he looked away from me as he said in queer hesitating words

“You see, Mrs. Molly, I thought, from now on, your life wouldn’t have exactly a place for Bill.  Have you considered that you have trained him to demand you all the time and all of you?  How would you manage Bill and and other claims?”

And if there is a contagious thing in this world it is embarrassment.  I never felt anything worse in all my life than the shame that swept over me in a great hot wave when that look came into his eyes and made me realise just exactly what I had been saying to him, about what, and how I had said it.  I stood perfectly still, shook all over like a leaf, and wondered if I would ever be able to raise my eyes from the ground.  A dizzy nauseated feeling for myself rose up in me against myself, and I was just about to turn on my heels and leave him, I hoped for ever, when he came over and laid his hand on my shoulder.

“Molly,” he said in a voice that might have come down from heaven on dove wings, “you can’t for a moment feel or think that I don’t realise and appreciate what you have been to the motherless little chap, and for life I am yours at command, as he is.  I really thought it would be a relief to you to have him taken away from you for a little while just now, and I still think it is best; but not unless you consent.  You shall have him back whenever you are ready for him, and at all times both he and I are at your service to the whole of our kingdoms.  Just think the matter over, won’t you, and decide what you want me to do?”

Something in me died for ever, I think, when he spoke to me like that.  He’s not like other men, and there aren’t any other men on earth but him!  All the rest are just nowhere.  And I’m not anything myself.  There’s no excuse for my living, and I wish I wasn’t so healthy and likely to go on doing it.  It was all over, and there was nothing left for me to live for, and before I could stop myself I buried my face in my hands.

“Billy asked me to go with him on this awful whale-hunt!” I sobbed out to comfort myself with the thought that somebody did care for me, regardless of just how I was further embarrassing and complicating myself in the affairs of the two men I had thought I owned and was now finding out that I had to give up.  I wish I had been looking at him, for I felt him start, but he said in his big friendly voice that is so much and never enough for me

“Well, why not you and Alfred come along and make it a family party, if that is what suits Bill, the boss?”

If men would just make an end of women’s hearts in a businesslike way, it would be so much kinder of them.  Why do they prefer to use dull weapons that mash the life out slowly?  Everything is at an end for me to-night, and that blow did it.  It was a horrible cruel thing for him to say to me!  I know now that I have been in love with John Moore for longer than I can tell, and that I’ll never love anybody else, and that also I have offered myself to him and have had to be refused at least twice a day for a year.  A widow can’t say she didn’t understand what she was doing, even to herself, but My humiliation is complete, and the only thing that can make me ever hold up my head is to puzzle him by by happily marrying Alfred Bennett and quick.

Of course, he must suspect how I feel about him, for two people couldn’t both be so ignorant as not to see such an enormous thing as my love for him is, and I was the blind one.  But he must never, never know that I ever realised it, for he is so good that it would distress him.  I must just go on in my foolish way with him until I can get away.  I’ll tell him I’m sorry I was so indignant to-night, and say that I think it will be fine for him to take my Billy away from me with him.  I must smile at the idea of having my very soul amputated, insist that it is the only thing to do, and pack up the little soul in a cabin trunk with a smile.  Just smile, that is all!  Life demands smiles from a woman even if she must crush their perfume from her own heart; and she generally has them ready.

Oh, Molly, Molly, is it for this you came into the world, twice to give yourself without love?  What difference does it make that your arms are strong and white if they can’t clasp him?  Why are your eyes blue pools of love if they are not for his questioning?

Yes, I know God is very tender with a woman, and I think He understands; so, if she crept very close to Him and caught at His sleeve to steady herself, He would be kind to her until she had the courage to go on along her own steep way.  Please, God, never let him find out, for it would hurt him to have hurt me!