Melinda took Edith's arm, led her into the house, and then sat down on the sofa. "So, how are you feeling? You look a little despondent today."
"Oh, Melinda, I am. I'm a little confused."
"Confused? That doesn't sound like the cousin I know. You're usually self-confident and sure of yourself."
"Well, I've only been here for one week and last weekend Mama invited Henry over for Sunday dinner. She's quite the matchmaker, you know. Well, I tried my best to talk to him and be civil, but everything he said and did seemed to irritate me. He was so self-assured, so know-it-all, as if he knew all the answers. Well, anyway, Mama was embarrassed by my behavior, and Henry was amused by it."
When Melinda lovingly touched her hand, Edith shook her head and sighed. "Maybe it's me. What if I'm picking Henry apart just because Mama likes him? Could I be such a rebellious spirit?"
"You? Rebellious?" Melinda laughed. "No, I think it's more of a reaction to others trying to be cupid. You know, like your friends, your mother, and even me. Maybe we try too hard because we want you to have the same happiness that we have."
Edith nodded, understanding the reasoning behind it. She knew they all loved her. They were just trying too hard. That was all.
She squeezed Melinda's hand and smiled. "I finally told Mama in the gentlest way, that I could find the right man all by myself."
"Good for you."
"You know something? I should give Henry another chance. He's got great qualities. He's intelligent, friendly, educated, and polite. But then . . . he's also a little arrogant, overly self-confident, very opinionated, and quite bold. Not to mention flirtatious. Did you know that he actually kissed my hand the first time that we met?"
Melinda nodded with amusement, not saying a word but listening intently.
Edith shook her head in dismay. "You see, there I go again. Picking Henry apart, judging him without even knowing him." She placed her hands over her face and moaned, "Oooh, what am I to do?"
Melinda laughed at her cousin's plight. "You're so funny, Edith. Henry's not so bad when you get to know him."
"Yeah, probably not. That is, if you enjoy being lectured to about the equality of the sexes."
"The equality of what?"
"Never mind. I'll tell you later. Well, anyway, something else came up. A couple days ago Mama handed me a letter.
Edith pulled the letter out of her bag, and the corners of her lips turned up into a slight smile. "Mama said that we truly don't know men until we're married because we never get to know the inner person."
Melinda's brows lifted. "The inner person?"
Edith placed her hand on her chest and tapped her fingers. "You know, the heart, his spiritual side. We're so busy courting and trying to impress one another that we never get to know the soul of the person."
"That's true. I believe that."
"So, after Mama handed me this letter, she said that she couldn't answer any questions because she had given her word."
"Uh-huh. Her word." Edith's eyes lit up. "I've never read a letter like this before in my whole life. It's a letter of sincerity. It has heart. I brought the letter with me so I could share it with you and see what you thought."
"But there's one thing that confuses me and that was what your mother said. Why did she say she could not answer any questions?"
"That's one thing I haven't told you, yet. It's because the letter isn't signed. He's remaining anonymous, so to speak. Either Mama doesn't want me to know who he is, or he doesn't."
Melinda stared into her eyes with curiosity and excitement. "I'm ready. Read it or I'll burst."
The softness in Edith's eyes was evident as she read:
A kind friend has asked me to write to you, for it is through letters that one may learn the deepest thoughts and feelings of another. Too many times we see what's on the surface of another person, but never get to know the soul. Many times we hold back our inner feelings and never express them for fear of ridicule or nonacceptance, or perhaps because we would be embarrassed.
Therefore, we never see into the deepest recesses of another person's soul. We seem to guard ourselves so we don't get hurt, but at the same time we won't let that person see who we truly are. At one time I read that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. But at the same time, we don't want to get hurt so we protect ourselves. I believe sometime in our life, we must take a chance.
To let you know a little about me, I moved here several years ago from across the mountain. It's a small community that is surrounded by mountains on every side. The land is lush and green and is a beautiful little valley. But something tugged at me and told me to move to Bear Lake Valley, so I heeded the feeling.
As you, I also love music and thrive on every note I hear. Music uplifts me when I feel let down. It seems to bring a spirit of peace and joy into my soul. Life would truly be dull without music. I feel that man can become closer to God through music. I have no real talent as you do, but I can play the harmonica.
If you are interested in writing in response to my letter, then give it to Martha, and she'll know what to do with it.
"Oh my, Edith!" Melinda put her hand on her chest. "A person's soul? That's something I haven't thought of before. A person's inner soul . . . I like it. He truly sounds wonderful."
Edith's eyes were bright and alive as she answered, "I know. That's the reason I'm here. I've been mulling this over for a couple days, trying to figure out what I should do. I need your opinion, Melinda."
"All right. First things first! Do you think it's Henry? Do you think your mother realized you needed to get to know the inner Henry first?"
"No. I don't believe he's anyone I've ever met. You can tell what a person is like by their mannerisms and words they use. This definitely does not sound like Henry, Melinda."
"Has Gilbert introduced you to Joseph?"
"No. Who's he?"
"He's a farmer that lives here in Paris and he works part-time for Gilbert. He's a nice enough fellow, but he's sort of quiet. He's polite but he keeps to himself." Melinda looked a little sheepish as she continued. "I was going to invite Henry over to meet you myself."
Edith giggled with amusement. "So, if Mama wouldn't have introduced us, you would have?"
Melinda nodded. "Sorry. Well, anyway, maybe Gilbert gave up and decided not to introduce the two of you. Perhaps he could see what was happening with your mother. He's quite perceptive, you know."
Edith shrugged. "Well, since all's well with you. I'm going home but I'll come over tomorrow to check up on you again. Have you felt any movement yet?"
Melinda shook her head. "Not yet. That seems to be Gilbert's first question each night when we get ready for bed. He's so cute. He's just as excited as I am, if not more so." Then she looked at the letter and asked, "Are you going to respond to his letter?"
Edith's eyes widened. "Of course. Whoever he is, I'm willing to get to know him through letters. That was the most intriguing letter I've ever read. In fact, I've already written a reply. Do you want to hear it?"
"What? Are you asking me? There's no question about it. I'm definitely interested."
Edith pulled an envelope out of her bag and handed it to her. "Tell me what you think."
Melinda unfolded the letter and began to read.
I feel that you have an unfair advantage, for you know all about me through someone else and I know nothing of you. Pray tell me more of yourself so I can know who you are as well. You know my name, my occupation, and my hobbies, but I know nothing of you.
Edith, the Confused
Melinda laughed. "It's perfect. I can't wait for his answer. Do you think he'll reveal himself to you?"
"Of course not. He's doing this so we can get to know one another first. That's what I think, anyway." Then she grinned mischievously. "Besides, I don't want to know. It's more mysterious this way, don't you think?"
A deep voice came from the screen door. "What's more mysterious?"
Melinda turned and saw Gilbert peering inside at the two of them. Then he opened the door and pushed it shut behind him.
"Edith received a letter from a mysterious stranger."
Gilbert lifted his brow with surprise. "She did? What kind of letter?"
"A real nice one. He wants to get to know her. But she doesn't know who put him up to it. Was it you, Gilbert?"
"Me? Why would I do that when courting is a lot more fun?"
"Well, it wasn't me. Do you think it was Martha? She's such a matchmaker."
"I wouldn't put it past her. But then, I wouldn't put it past you, either. I'm not sure what kind of tricks you would do just to win."
Edith looked between the two of them and asked, "Win?"
Gilbert grinned. "Yup. Win! We had a little challenge going and I think she's cheating."
"Me? Cheat?" Melinda said with a shake of her head. "I wouldn't do that."
Gilbert chuckled. "You wouldn't? So, who do you think he is, Melinda?"
"It's a mystery. We have no idea who he is. He wrote to her, and it's one of the most interesting letters I've ever heard."
With a mischievous glint in her eyes, she said teasingly, "But I suspect it's Henry."
Gilbert rolled his eyes. "Oh, Henry again. Why do you think that?"
"Because of his words. The way a person uses the English language shows what kind of person he is. This man's intelligent, educated."
Seeing the challenge in her eyes, he readily responded. "Educated? Has Martha introduced Edith to the new schoolmaster in town? He's single." Then he raised his eyebrows and grinned at Melinda. "And he's educated, too."
Edith laughed when she heard the emphasis on "educated" and wondered what all this was about. "Oh, I don't think Mama's going to introduce me to anyone else for a while. I might embarrass her too much. Besides, I think she knows that I need to do this myself with no pressure."
Gilbert went to the sink and began to wash up as he asked, "What do you want for supper, Melinda?"
"I can make it tonight. You've been working real hard and need a break. I'm feeling so much better since I've been taking herbs. And besides, we have the catnip tea for emergencies."
Gilbert grabbed a towel and dried his hands in silence. Then he turned to Melinda and looked at her with soberness, his eyebrows furrowed. He did not say a word but something passed between them.
Melinda had seen that look before. It was one of concern mixed with a stern look that meant more than words could say. She knew that he was not going to allow her to cook. She also knew it was fruitless to just argue about it.
Sensing what was happening between them, Edith stood up and looked down at Melinda with a serious expression. "You've got a good husband, Melinda. Listen to him. He knows best. Don't push yourself too much just because you feel better. Use wisdom in how much you do each day so you can protect this baby. . .and yourself. Just because you have herbs doesn't mean you can overdo."
Melinda nodded. Two against one was an overwhelming number when one of them was Gilbert. She smiled and waved as Edith walked out the door. "Good luck and let me know how it turns out, Edith."
After she left, Melinda turned to her husband. He was standing next to the sink with the towel still in his hands and he was staring at her with a worried look. She knew that he loved her beyond words and was just trying to protect her. So why wasn't she cooperating?
Melinda nodded. "Anything you say, dear."
Gilbert grinned. "At least I have Edith on my side."