Monday, March 19, 2012

AMELIA MERROW'S FOLDED HANDS; part 2 of 4; by Dorothy Donnell Calhoun; 1918

Amelia tilted the saucepan of stew over the blue bowl, dipping out the dumplings with a careful spoon. Her cheeks were delicately flushed, her eyes shone with the joy of her reprieve.

“Lizzie's gone to bed,” she told him comfortingly. “The poor girl was all worn out traveling so far in the snow so I sent her right upstairs. You sit down and start in on your supper, Father, and I'll be right back. I want to run up with this bowl of stew so she can eat it while it's nice and hot.”

The next morning the new hired girl had a stitch in her side and Amelia insisted on her remaining in bed. At intervals thruout the day, Amelia ran upstairs with doses of ginger tea and camomile. Abel's mild protest met with gentle indignation.

“Father! And you a deacon in the church, too! She may be a hired girl but it wouldn't be Christian of us to expect her to work 'round with a pain in her side.”

Lizzie's stitch was a reprieve for Abel too. It put off somewhat the disquieting spectacle of Ma with her hands folded in awful unfamiliarity.

One week after her arrival the hired girl appeared in the kitchen but even then Amelia hovered over her, ready to take the broom and dishcloth out of her hands at the first symptom of relapse.

To be sure when Abel came into the house from his afternoon trip to the village for the mail he found her rocking ostentatiously in the sitting-room bay window but there was always something a little breathless and flurried about her as if she had just that instant untied her apron; sometimes there was a dab of flour on her cheek and once he thought he caught a glimpse of the egg beater hastily concealed behind the row of geraniums.

When a chocolate layer cake with strawberry jam made its appearance in Lizzie's bony hands Abel voiced his suspicions.

“You've been doing the cooking ever since Lizzie came, 'Melia,” he reproached her. “I'd know one of our layers if I met it in Africa. What's a hired girl for, I'd like to know?

Amelia nodded serenely. “She seems real interested watching me cook. You can't expect old heads on young shoulders and that reminds me, Father, I baked an extra cake and boiled a ham for sandwiches and I want you to take Lizzie down to the Methodist box social this evening. She ought to get acquainted with some young folks. We don't want her getting homesick, you know.”