Gateway to the Classics: When Molly Was Six by Eliza Orne White
When Molly Was Six by  Eliza Orne White

A Sunday Valentine

M OLLY was sitting in the square old-fashioned pew at church. As she was a very little person, her view was somewhat limited. It was chiefly confined to the row of heads that appeared above the back of the seat in front of her. To-day there was only one head there. It was a shiny bald head belonging to a very old gentleman. Molly wondered as she looked at him whether he was thankful enough that he did not have long curly hair to be pulled by his aunt Mary when she combed it. But perhaps he did not have an aunt Mary. Her aunt Mary was sitting in the pew by her side, tall, straight, and handsome. If she had not been there, Molly would have ventured to climb upon the seat, and enlarge her view by looking over the back of the pew; for directly behind her there often sat a very beautiful young lady who looked just like a fairy princess. Molly was sure of this; because she had often seen pictures of fairy princesses, and they always had curly yellow hair and blue eyes, like Miss Sylvia.

It was Valentine's Day; and Molly wondered whether there would be an especial service, as there had been at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That morning she had heard her sister Flora say, "It's Valentine's Day! I think it's a mean shame to have it come on Sunday."

"What is Valentine's Day?" Molly had asked her father.

"It is a day when people tell their friends how much they love them," he had said, stooping to kiss her upturned face.

Molly was thinking about this now, while she sat very still on the faded damask pew-cushion, with her legs dangling down in a most uncomfortable fashion. She thought: "How nice it would be to write a valentine all my own self to Miss Sylvia, and tell her how much I love her; and I can give it to her when church is over."

Molly had a pencil in her pocket, and she knew that her mamma kept some paper under the pew-cushion, so that her little daughter could amuse herself during the sermon. Molly looked up furtively at her aunt Mary, and saw that her face was fixed with apparent absorption upon the minister; so she ventured to put one of her hands under the pew-cushion to try and find the paper. First she found a palm-leaf fan, all torn on the edge, and looking so shabby that she felt quite ashamed of it and hastily put it back; and then she moved softly along to the other end of the pew toward her father, that she might see if the paper was under the cushion where she had been sitting. She found it; but she could not help making it rustle as she pulled it out. Her aunt Mary shook her head at her with decision. Her father looked at her aunt appealingly. "Let her write; it is a harmless amusement," he seemed to say.

Molly glanced doubtfully from one to the other, and then cautiously slid down and seated herself on the cricket. She looked up with shy apprehension at her aunt, but gained confidence when she saw that she was merely looking at her father with an expression with which the little girl was familiar. It was half resigned, half protesting. It said as plainly as words:—

"If that were my child, I would make her behave herself."

It was a whole year since Molly had had any valentines, and she could only dimly remember what they were like. Should she write on her paper, "I love you, Miss Sylvia.—Molly Benson"? No, that was not enough; and besides it was Sunday, and it would be better to make it a Sunday valentine. She could find something about loving one another, in the Bible, and she could copy it. She took down her little Testament, which happened to open toward the end of the volume, and turned the leaves diligently. Her aunt Mary looked at her, and was beginning to shake her head again; but Molly held her book up triumphantly. Even her aunt Mary could not object to her reading in church if the book that she read was the Bible.

Molly looked through the pages slowly, for she found it hard to read the long words. At first she could not find anything at all appropriate, and she began to be afraid that they did not have any Valentine's Day when the New Testament was first written. She felt discouraged, and was just going to shut her book, when she came to a whole chapter that seemed to be all about loving one another. Molly thought it must be the "Valentine Chapter." She was glad now that her aunt Mary had persevered and taught her to read, in spite of the fact that her father and mother had thought her too young to learn.

Molly did not know how to write; but she could print very neatly, although it took her a long time to do it. She printed: "Beloved, let us love one another." Then she found something so much to the point that it seemed as if it must have been written on purpose: "I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another."

Molly thought that the words "commandment" and "beginning" were too long to write, so she left out that part of the sentence, and printed the rest of it as carefully as she could: "I beseech thee, lady, that we love one another." Then some more words on the page caught her eye: "I would not write with paper and ink."

Molly wondered why the person who had written this letter would not write with ink. Could it be for the same reason that she was not allowed to write with ink? No, that was not possible; because, if his letter was in the Bible, he must have been a grown-up person, and there would have been no danger of his upsetting the inkstand. She could think of no way of explaining this little sentence; but it gave her a very friendly feeling for the man who had been writing his letter without ink such a long, long time ago.

Molly was so absorbed in her occupation that she forgot to get up with the others when they stood up to sing. She rose hastily in the middle of the second verse. She did not know what they were singing; but she liked the music, and so she joined in and sang the tune softly, as well as she could, to words of her own.

"I am very happy," Molly sang; "I love everybody. I love papa, and mamma, and Ruth, and Turner, and Flora, and Aunt Mary, and dear Miss Sylvia; and I love the gentleman who couldn't write with ink and paper. I love everybody, everybody, everybody! I love God too. He has made me very happy. I hope he won't mind because I didn't find the place in the hymn-book, and so have to sing my own words, which aren't as pretty as the music. This is my valentine-hymn, and this my special service."

When church was over, and the people began to leave their pews with the rustle and buzz that always follows, Molly clasped her paper tightly in her hand, and shyly opened the door of Miss Sylvia's pew. Molly wished that all doors were as small as pew-doors, they would be so much easier to open. A pew-door seemed made on purpose for little children.

Alas! there was no pretty golden-haired fairy princess there; the pew was empty. Molly felt bitterly disappointed; but then she remembered that she could copy her valentine on pink paper, and carry it that afternoon her own self to Miss Sylvia. Her papa said that she might; and Flora gave her some pink paper.

Molly felt some misgivings as she walked up the driveway that led to the house where Miss Sylvia lived with her uncle.

"Suppose she shouldn't like the valentine," she thought. "Suppose she should say, as Aunt Mary did, 'You silly child' "—

Just then a big black dog came out from behind a tree, and jumped up on Molly, putting two of his big paws on her shoulders. Poor Molly was now thoroughly frightened. She ran up to the door very fast, and pulled the bell; and then she turned to look at the dog, who raised his eyes to hers reproachfully.

"Poor thing, you didn't mean to hurt me, did you?" she said doubtfully. "That was your way of hugging. I suppose you wanted to tell me that you loved me. It is your kind of valentine. Oh, please, don't do it again! Please  don't; for you are so big, and I'm so very little."

At that moment the maid came to the door.

"Down, Ponto! Down!" she said. "Don't touch the little lady. Whom do you want to see, miss?"

"Miss Sylvia. Please tell her it's Molly Benson."

The maid looked doubtful.

"I don't think Miss Sylvia can see any one today."

Molly's heart sank. She felt like crying. Presently, however, Miss Sylvia, who had heard the voices below, came to the head of the stairs.

"My dear little Molly," she said, "I am so very glad to see you."

Molly watched her come down the stairway, and she thought her more lovely than ever. She made up her mind that if she ever grew up into a young lady, she would have a blue gown with ribbon and lace down the front of it, just like Miss Sylvia's.

"What do you want, dear?" asked Miss Sylvia. Her face looked sad; and if she had not been a grown-up person, Molly would have thought that she had been crying.

The little girl did not answer. A sudden fit of shyness had seized her. She held out her valentine mutely.

"For me?" asked Miss Sylvia.

Molly nodded.

"Oh, how pretty!" Miss Sylvia said, as she took it. "Pink is my favorite color."

She seated herself on the lowest step of the staircase, and motioned to Molly to come and sit beside her.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It is a Sunday valentine, all out of the Bible," said Molly, who had found her tongue.

Miss Sylvia opened it and read it.

"Beloved, let us love one another. I beseech thee, lady, that we love one another. I love you.—Molly Benson."

Miss Sylvia turned and put her arms around the little girl.

"You dear child, how lovely of you to write this for me all yourself!" she said.

"It would have been much nicer," said Molly, "only Flora wouldn't let me have the ink, and so I had to print it in pencil."

"It couldn't have been nicer," said Miss Sylvia; "I like it best just as it is. How did you ever think of anything so sweet?"

"Aunt Mary said you wouldn't care for it at all," observed Molly. "She"—

"Mary knows nothing about it," said Miss Sylvia, with decision.

She kissed Molly again and again. "I can't tell you how much good you have done me," she said. "Something has happened which has made me very unhappy to-day, and I was feeling as if nobody cared very much about me; and just then you came in at the door, like a little good fairy."

* * * * * *

"She liked it ever so much, papa," said Molly, that evening. "She said she had never had such a lovely valentine. Do you suppose it was because it was a Sunday valentine, or because it was on pink paper?"

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