Monday, April 2, 2012

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

He was still puzzling over the problem that evening when Ma plumped herself down in the rocker across the hearth, determination in every kindly line of her soft old face.
“I been thinking, Abel,” she said firmly. “Lizzie's going to be married in the spring and it's natural for a girl to want to buy some things to start housekeeping with. The fifteen a month we pay her doesn't go far these days. There's just one thing it's our bounden duty to do and that's—raise Lizzie's wages! It's as plain as day.”

Abel groping in the mazes of his mind for words meet to express his views of Ma's guileless plan, found instead a familiar phrase that had done good service in their life together.

“Just as you say, Ma,” he nodded feebly. “Just as you say.”

Accordingly he hired girl's wages were raised and the weeks that followed were brimful of preparations for the wedding. Yards of unbleached cotton draped the sitting room; napkins, tablecloths in all stages of hemming, concealed Abel's pipe and farm paper from view. The air was redolent with the spicy fumes of baking fruit cake while Lizzie continued to crochet endless yards of lace to adorn the trousseau Ma was making for her.

Ma was gently radiant. “If our little Ellie had lived, Pa,” she told Abel, “we'd have wanted her to have a nice wedding.”

In May, Lizzie and Ruel were married. The little farmhouse overflowed with guests. Ma was everywhere, helping Lizzie dress, greeting the guests, arranging great platters of chicken salad and plates of cake on her best damask cloth in the sitting room, a busy, radiant little figure with excitement-pink cheeks and shining eyes.

Abel, jammed submissively into a corner of the bookcase, watched the simple ceremony wonderingly. He had always thought of Lizzie as homely but to-day in the dainty white dress Ma had given her she seemed oddly transfigured. Perhaps it was the bride-look that all girls, hired or not, poor or rich, wear on their wedding day; perhaps, he mused dimly, she looked beautiful to him because she was going away!

After Lizzie and Ruel were on their honeymoon trip to Centerville and the last guest had gone, Abel Merrows and his wife stood in the bay window, looking across the fields, the sunset light red on their old faces. The breath of apple blooms crept about them from the jars and pitchers of the pink blossoms clustered in the room. Outside in the soft spring dusk a robin burst into song.

Shyly, Abel's gnarled old hand went out seeking Amelia's. He drew her toward him and kissed her awkwardly like a boy.

“Pa!” Amelia cried softly. “Pa! The idea—old as we are!”

But she was blushing like a girl. To cover her confusion she turned from the window and looked about the disordered room; the light of eager planning crept into her gaze.

“After all, I don't know as sixty-five is what you'd call real old,” she said thoughtfully. “Pa, do you know, I don't believe I'll get me another hired girl—not right away. Now I've had such a nice rest and all, I shouldn't wonder if it would seem real pleasant to have something to do again!”