Read Leaf VIII - Melted of The Melting of Molly, free online book, by Maria Thompson Daviess, on ReadCentral.com.

Some days are like the miracle flowers that open in the garden from plants you didn’t expect to bloom at all.  I might have been born, lived and died without having this one come into my life, and now that I have had it I don’t know how to write it, except in the crimson of blood, the blue of flame, the gold of glory and a tinge of light green would well express the part I have played.  But it is all over at last and

Ruth Clinton was the unfolding of the first hour-petal, and I got a glimpse of a heart of gold that I feel dumb with worship to think of.  She’s God’s own good woman, and He made her what she is.  I wish I could have borne her, or she me, and the tenderness of her arms was a sacrament.  We two women just stood aside with life’s artifices and concealments and let our own hearts do the talking.

She said she had come because she felt that if she talked with me I might be better able to understand Alfred when he came, and that she had seen that the judge was very determined, and she thoroughly recognised his force of character.  We stopped there while I gave her the document to read.  I suppose it was dishonourable, but I needed her protection from it.  I’m glad she had the strength of mind to walk with a head high in the air to the fire and burn it up.  Anything might have happened if she hadn’t.  And even now I feel that only my marriage vows will close up the case for the judge even yet he may But when Ruth had got done with Alfred, she had wiped Judge Wade’s appreciation of him completely off my mind and destroyed it in tender words that burned us both worse than Jane’s fire burned the letter.  She did me an awfully good service.

“And so you see, you lovely woman, you, do you not, that you were for him, as a tribute to his greatness, and it is given to you to fulfil a destiny?” She was so beautiful as she said it that I had to turn my eyes away, but I felt as I did when those solemn “let-not-man-put-asunder” words were spoken over me by Mr. Raines, our minister.  It made me frightened, and before I knew it I had poured out the whole truth to her in a perfect cataract of words.  The truth always acts on women as some hitherto untried drug, and you can never tell what the reaction is going to be.  In this case I was stricken dumb and found it hard to see.

“Oh, dear heart,” she exclaimed as she reached out and drew me into her lovely gracious arms, “then the privilege is all the more wonderful for you, as you make some sacrifice to complete his life.  Having suffered this, you will be all the greater woman to understand him.  I accept my own sorrow at his hands willingly, as it gives me the larger sympathy for his work, though he will no longer need my personal encouragement as he has for years.  In the light of his love, this lesser feeling for Dr. Moore will soon pass away and the accord between you will be complete.”  This was more than I could stand, and, feeling less than a worm, I turned my face into her breast and wailed.  Now who would have thought that girl could dance as she did?

By this time I was in such a solution of grief that I would soon have had to be sopped up with a sponge if Pet hadn’t run in all bubbling over.  Happiness has a habit of not even acknowledging the presence of grief, and Pet didn’t seem to see our red noses, crushed draperies and generally damp atmosphere.

“Molly,” she said with a deliciously young giggle, “Tom says you are to send him two guineas to spend getting the brass band to polish up before the six o’clock train, by which your Mr. Bennett comes.  He has spent a guinea already to induce them to clean up their uniforms, and it cost him five pounds to bail the cornettist out of gaol for roost robbing.  He says I am to tell you that, as this is your festivity, you ought at least to pay the piper.  Hurry up, he’s waiting for me, and here’s the kiss he told me to put on your left ear!”

“I suppose you delivered that kiss straight from where he gave it to you, Pettie dear,” I had the spirit to say as I went over to the desk for my purse.

“Why, Molly, you know me better than that!” she exclaimed from behind a perfect rose cloud of blushes.

“I know Tom better than I do you,” I answered as she fled with the money in her hand.  I looked at Ruth Clinton and we both laughed.  It is true that a broader sympathy is one of the by-products of sorrow, and a week ago I might have resented Pet to a marked degree instead of giving her the money and a blessing.

“I’m going quick, Molly, with that laugh between us,” Ruth said as she rose and took me into her arms again for just half a second, and before I could stop her she was gone.

She met Billy toiling up the front step with a long piece of rusty iron gas-pipe, which took off an inch of paint as it bumped against the doorway.  She bent down and kissed the back of his neck, which theft was almost more than I could stand and apparently more than Billy was prepared to accept.

“Go away, girl,” he said in his rudest manner; “don’t you see I’m busy?”

I met him in the front hall just in time to prevent a hopeless scar on my parquet floor.  He was hot, perspiring and panting, but full of triumph.

“I found it, Molly, I found it!” he exclaimed as he let the heavy pipe drop almost on the bare pink toes.  “You can git a hammer and pound the end sharp and bend it so no whale we ketch can git away for nothing.  You and father kin put it in your trunk ’cause it’s too long for mine, and I can carry father’s shirts and things in mine.  Git the hammer quick, and I’ll help you do it!” The pain in my breast was almost more than I could bear.

“Lover,” I said as I knelt down by him in the dim old hall and put my arms around him as if to shield him from some blow I couldn’t help being aimed at him, “you wouldn’t mind much, would you, if just this time your Molly couldn’t go with you?  Your father is going to take good care of you and and maybe bring you back to me some day.”

“Why, Molly,” he said, flaring his astonished blue eyes at me, “’tisn’t me to be took care of!  I’m not going to leave you here for maybe a a bear to come out of a circus and eat you up, with me and father gone.  ’Sides, father isn’t very useful and maybe wouldn’t help me hold the rope right to keep the whale from gitting away.  He don’t know how to do like I tell him like you do.”

“Try him, lover, and maybe he will will learn to ” I couldn’t help the tears that came to stop my words.

“Now you see, Molly, how you’d cry with that kiss-spot gone,” he said with an amused, manly little tenderness in his voice that I had never heard before, and he cuddled his lips against mine in almost the only voluntary kiss he had given me since I had got him into his ridiculous little trousers under his blouses.  “You can have most a hundred kisses every night if you don’t say no more about not going, and make that whale-hook for me quick,” he coaxed against my cheek.

Oh, little lover, little lover, you didn’t know what you were saying with your baby wisdom, and your rust-grimy little hand burned the sleep-place on my breast like a terrible white heat from which I was powerless to defend myself.  You are mine, you are, you are! You are soul of my soul and heart of my heart and spirit of my spirit.

I don’t know how I managed to answer Mrs. Johnson’s call from my front gate, but I sometimes think that women have a torture-proof clause in their constitutions.

She and Aunt Bettie had just come up the street from Aunt Bettie’s house, and the Pollard cook was following them with a large basket, in which were packed things Aunt Bettie was contributing towards the entertainment of the distinguished citizen.  Mr. Johnson is Alfred’s nearest kinsman in Hillsboro, and, of course, he is to be their guest while he is in town.

“He’ll be feeding his eyes on Molly, so he’ll not even know he’s eating my Kensington almond pudding with Thomas’s old port in it,” teased Aunt Bettie with a laugh as I went across the street with them.

“There’s going to be a regular epidemic of love affairs in Hillsboro, I do believe,” she continued in her usual strain of sentimental speculation.  “I saw Mr. Graves talking to Delia Hawes in front of the draper’s an hour ago, as I came out from looking at the blue chintz to match Pet for the west wing, and they were both so absorbed they didn’t even see me.  That was what might have been called a conflagration dinner you gave the other night, Molly, in more ways than one.  I wish a spark had set off Benton Wade and Henrietta, too.  Maybe it did, but is just taking fire slowly.”

I think it would be a good thing just to let Aunt Bettie blindfold every unmarried person in this town and marry them to the first person they touch hands with.  It would be fun for her, and then we could have peace and apparently as much happiness as we are going to have anyway.  Mrs. Johnson seemed to be in somewhat the same state of mind as I found myself.

“Humph,” she said as we went up the front steps, “I’ll be glad when you are married and settled, Molly Carter, so the rest of this town can quiet down into peace once more, and I sincerely hope every woman under fifty in Hillsboro who is already married will stay in that state until she reaches that age.  But come on in, both of you, and help me get this marriage feast ready, if I must!  The day is going by on greased wheels, and I can’t let Mr. Johnson’s crotchets be neglected, Alfred or no Alfred.”

And from then on for hours and hours I was strapped to a torture wheel that turned and turned, minute after minute, as it ground spice and sugar and bridal meats and me relentlessly into a great suffering pulp.  Could I ever in all my life have hungered for food and been able to get it past the lump in my throat that grew larger with the seconds?  And if Alfred’s pudding tasted of the salt of Dead Sea fruit this evening, it was from my surreptitious tears that dripped into it.

It was late, very late, before Mrs. Johnson realised it and shooed me home to get ready to go to the train along with the brass band and all the other welcomes.

I hurried all I could, but for long minutes I stood in front of my mirror and questioned myself.  Could this slow, pale, dead-eyed, slim, drooping girl be the rollicking girl of a Molly who had looked out of that mirror at me one short week ago?  Where were the wings on her heels, the glint in her curls, the laugh on her mouth, and the light in her eyes?

Slowly at last I lifted the blue muslin, twenty-three-inch waist shroud and let it slip over my head and fall slimly around me.  I was fastening the buttons behind and was fumbling the next one into the buttonhole when I suddenly heard laughing excited voices coming up the side street that ran just under my west window.  Something told me that Alfred had come by the five-down train instead of the six-up, and I fairly reeled to the window and peeped through the venetian blind.

They were all in a laughing group around him, with Tom as master of ceremonies, and Ruth Clinton was looking up into his face with an expression I am glad I can never forget.  It killed all my regrets on the score of his future.

It took two good looks to take him all in, and then I must have missed some of him, for, all in all, he was so large that he stretched your eyes to behold him.  He’s grown seven feet tall, I don’t know how many pounds he weighs, and I don’t want anybody ever to tell me!

I had never thought enough about evolution to know whether I believed in it and woman’s suffrage.  But I know now that millions of years ago a great, big, distinguished hippopotamus stepped out of the woods and frightened one of my foremothers so that she turned and fled through a thicket that almost tore her limb from limb, right into the arms of her own mate.  That’s what I did!  I caught that blue satin belt and hooked it together with one hand and ran through my garden right over a bed of savage tiger-lilies and flung myself into John Moore’s surgery, slammed the door and backed up against it.

“He’s come!” I gasped.  “And I’m frightened to death, with nobody but you to run to.  Hide me quick!  He’s large and coarse-looking, and I hate him!”.  I was that deadly cold you can get when fear runs into your very marrow and congeals the blood in your arteries.  “Quick, quick!”, I panted.

He must have been as pale as I was, and for an eternity of a second he looked at me, then suddenly heaven shone from his eyes and he opened his arms to me with just one word.

“Here?”

I went.

He held me gently for half a second, and then, with a sob which I felt rather than heard, he crushed me to him and stopped my breath with his lips on mine.  I understood things then that I never had before, and I felt I was safe at last.  I raised my hand and pressed it against John’s wet lashes until he could let me speak, and I was melted into his very breast itself.

“Molly,” he said, when enough tenderness had come back into his arms to let me breathe, “you have almost killed me!”

“You!” I exclaimed, crowding still closer, or at least trying to.  “It’s not you; it’s I that am killed, and you did it!  I know you don’t really want me, but I can’t help that.  I’d rather you do the suffering with me than to do it myself away from you.  I’m so hungry and thirsty for you that that I can’t diet any longer!”.  I put the case the strongest way I knew how.

“Want you, Molly?” he almost sobbed, and I felt his heart pounding hard next to my shoulder.

“Yes, want me!” I answered with more spirit than breath left in me.  “I refuse to believe you are as stupid as I am, and anybody with even an ordinary amount of brains must have seen how hard I was fighting for you.  I feel sure I left no stone unturned.  Some of them I can already think back and see myself tugging at, and it makes me hot all over.  I’m foolish and always was, so I’m to be excused for acting that awful way, but you are to blame for letting me do it.  I’m going to be your punishment for life for not having been stern and stopped me.  You had better stop me, for if I go on loving you as I have been for the last few minutes it will make you uncomfortable.”

“Blossom,” he said, after he had hushed me with another broken dose of love, as large as he thought I could stand I could have stood more! “I am never going to tell you how long I have loved you, but that day you came to me all in a flutter with Bennett’s letter in your hand it is going to take you a lifetime to settle for.  You were mine and Bill’s!  How could you but women don’t understand!” I felt him shudder in my arms as I held him close.

“Don’t women know, John?” I managed to ask softly in memory of a like question he had put to me across that bread and jam with the rose a-listening from the dark.

What brought me to consciousness was his fumbling with the lace on that blue muslin relict of a sentiment.  The lace had got caught on his sleeve buttons.

“Please don’t forget that that is his possession,” I laughed under his chin.  “I’m still scared to death of him, and you haven’t hid me yet!”

“Molly,” he asked, this time with a heaven-laugh, “where could you be more effectually hid from Alfred Bennett than in my arms?”

I spent ten minutes telling Billy what a hippopotamus really looks like as I put him to bed, but later, much as I should have liked to, I couldn’t consume that horrible dinner, that I had helped prepare at the Johnsons’, in the shelter of John’s arms, and I had to face Alfred.  Ruth Clinton was there, and she faced him too.

A man that can’t be happy with a woman who is willing to “fulfil his destiny” doesn’t deserve to be.

Then we came over here, and John had the most beautiful time persuading Aunt Adeline how a good man like Mr. Carter would want his young widow to be taken care of by being married to a safe friend of his instead of being flighty and having folks wondering whom she would marry.

“You know yourself how hard a time a beautiful young widow has, Mrs. Henderson,” he said in the tone of voice that always makes his patients glad to take his worst doses.  He got his blessing and me with a warning.

A lovely night wind is blowing across my garden and bringing me congratulations from all my flower family.  Flowers are a part of love and the wooing of it, and they understand.  I am waiting for the light to go out behind the tall trees over which the moon is stealthily sinking.  He promised me to put it out at once, and I’m watching the glow that marks the place where my own two men creatures are going to rest, with my heart in full song.

He needs rest, he is so very tired and worn.  He confessed it as I stood on the step above him to-night, after he had taken his own good night from me out under the oak-tree.  When he explained to me how his agony over me for all these months had kept him walking the floor night after night, not knowing that I was waiting for the light to go out, I gave myself a sweetness that I am going to say a prayer for the last thing before I sleep.  I took his head in my arms and put my lips to that drake-tail kiss-spot that has tempted me for I won’t say how long.  Then I fled and so did he!

I had about decided to burn this book, because I shan’t need it any longer, for he says he and Billy and I are going to play so much golf and tennis that I shall keep as thin as he wants me to without any more melting, or freezing, or starving, but perhaps he would like to read the little red book.