Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Photo © Vintage Holiday Crafts
With February being the month for love, I thought I’d post a story I wrote a few years ago and have kept, waiting for the right time to share it. It took shape in my mind when I remembered this ending line from a poem, “As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets, the same look which she turned when he rose.”
Although the story is based on a true event, the main character’s personality is a figment of my imagination. And yet, every time I read this story that I created, the love between Bessy and her husband, Thomas, touches me, and I wonder if perhaps … just perhaps … “Bessy” sent a hint of the tale my way.
The Heart That Has Truly Loved
Tears streamed down Bessy’s face as she fingered the sharp scissors. Sunlight filtered through the ivy that crept along the window casement, but she neither saw it nor heard the finch that twittered from its nest in the heart-shaped leaves.
A small drop of blood oozed as she pressed harder on the blade with her thumb. “If only I had the courage, I would take these scissors and plunge them into my heart,” she cried. A sob caught in her throat as she glanced wildly about the room. There were no mirrors in the bedroom, no basin of water that would reflect the ugliness that was Bessy Moore.
The muslin in her lap slid to the floor, jolting her back to the task at hand. Wiping the tears from her disfigured face, she picked up the cloth and jabbed in the scissors—jabbed them to start the eyeholes for the mask she would wear for the rest of her life.
A soft knock sounded at the door. “Bessy, please let me come in,” Thomas pleaded.
“It doesn’t matter that you contracted the pox. It’s you that I love, not your face.” He ran his hands through his hair, causing it to stand on end in his distress, and turned the knob on the door. The handle clicked and then stopped. Bessy had turned the lock days before his return from the city.
“Thomas, please go away. I’m not a fit wife. I can no longer stand by your side. I’m a freak. I can’t …” She broke into sobs, and tears rolled down Thomas’ cheeks at the sound.
“I love you more than life itself,” he whispered.
The golden colors of sunset melted against the horizon as he sat at the desk and wrote with the quill pen. The blues of twilight settled on the house, and still he wrote. Finally finished, he folded the paper, climbed the stairs and slid the note under her door. He knocked softly, just once. Then, putting his ear against the door and holding his breath, Thomas listened.
The bed creaked when she arose. Her nightgown swished, almost sounding like a sigh, as Bessy leaned down to pick up the paper. Thomas pressed his ear more firmly against the rough wood while she read aloud the words he’d penned.
Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly today,
Were to change by tomorrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy gifts fading away.
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And the cheeks unprofaned by a tear,
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear,
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.
The door opened slowly. The muslin rustled as she slipped the mask from her face. Thomas took her in his arms and whispered, “Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art … for my heart, which has truly loved never forgets, and will truly love on to the close.”
Then he took the muslin from her hand, threw it into the hall, and kissed her tears away.
(“Believe Me, if All Those Endearing Young Charms” is believed to have been written by Thomas Moore for his wife, upon finding that she had contracted smallpox and her face had been marred by the disease. Thomas Moore (1779-1852) Irish Melodies)