Monday, March 26, 2012

AMELIA MERROW'S FOLDED HANDS; part 3 of 4; by Dorothy Donnell Calhoun; 1918

Two days after the social, Abel came in from his chores to find the hired girl standing on the table in the sitting room, her gaunt person arrayed in a beruffled white muslin dress, turning slowly while Ma basted up the hem. Scraps of conversation floated out into the kitchen as he hung up his cap and overcoat.

“An' then he ses, 'I'd be pleased to call,' he ses.” It was Lizzie's shrill soprano, tuned to the pitch of pride. “He ses it just like that, Mis' Merrows--'I'd be pleased to call.'”

“Ruel Granger's a nice steady boy, Lizzie,” Ma commented, evidently around a mouthful of pins. “I shouldn't wonder if he had intentions. There! That hem's ready to run on the machine. You go up and curl your hair and put that ribbon I gave you in the camisole and I'll have this done if a jiffy. Maybe you'd better lie down a spell. Trying on is tiring work. I'll call you, soon's suppers' ready.”

In the mirror over the sink Abel caught a glimpse of his face. It wore a slightly dazed expression. After supper he and Ma sat on the hard pine chairs in the kitchen listening to the creak of rockers in the next room where Lizzie in all the glory of the ruffled muslin, was entertaining her caller. Ma listened to the murmur of voices, her lips curving in the little secret smile women wear in the presence of love affairs but her shoulders had a weary droop. Abel eyed her anxiously.

“You look tuckered, Ma.”

Amelia nodded cheerfully. “I am sort of tuckered. I guess I'll go up and go to bed. It's been a full day. That dress Lizzie's got on was one your cousin Emma left hanging in the spare-room closet last summer. It was all yellow and I had a sight of trouble doing it up and ironing out the ruffles. I thought she looked nice in it, didn't you, Father, now she's getting a little plumper?”

Whether from the ruffled muslin or the additional plumpness Ruel Granger soon progressed from the formal status of “calling one” the Merrows' hired girl thru the intermediate stage known as “going with,” to the pronounced attentions that belong to “keeping company.” Lizzie began to crochet yards of lace while Ma, that her work might not be interrupted, washed the dishes and scoured the milk pans happily in the kitchen.

More often than not Abel would come down in the morning to find Ma building the fire and setting the coffeepot on the stove.

“Lizzie was out till eleven at the Ladies' Aid social,” she would explain rather guiltily. “Young folks need their sleep.”

At other times he would find Ma bent above the sewing machine, joyously working over her store of old clothes for Lizzie's adornment or baking a batch of sugar cookies for her to regale her admirer when he came to call.

“Having a hired girl would be a good thing,” he told himself musingly, “if only it didn't make so much work. Ma isn't really able to stand it. I don't know how folks that have two-three of them get along at all!”