Melissa: A Novel

Melissa: A Novel

by Taylor Caldwell
Melissa: A Novel

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Overview

Melissa: A Novel by Taylor Caldwell

The #1 New York Times–bestselling author’s “magnificent” tale of romantic intrigue in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (The New York Times).
 
In the eyes of his daughter Melissa, Charles Upjohn can do no wrong. Where others see a minor novelist whose ego far outweighs his talent, Melissa sees a brilliant artist deserving of a wider audience. Where her sister and brother see a cold and inattentive parent who can’t provide for his family, Melissa sees a doting father whose intentions are beyond reproach. On his deathbed, Charles puts his eldest daughter in charge of her mother and siblings. Melissa will do anything she can to please him—even if it means marrying a man she hates.
 
As Charles Upjohn’s publisher, Geoffrey Dunham holds the keys to the writer’s legacy. Dunham also has the means to provide for Melissa and her family, and the desire to do so. Melissa knows her life with Dunham will be grim and passionless, but she’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness in order to fulfill her father’s wishes. Dunham, however, refuses accept a wife in name only. To win Melissa’s heart, he must destroy everything she believes about her father—and herself.
 
A darkly riveting portrait of the thin line between love and hate, Melissa confirms author Taylor Caldwell’s reputation as one of the twentieth century’s greatest storytellers.
 
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504053129
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 430
Sales rank: 38,932
File size: 18 MB
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About the Author

Taylor Caldwell (1900–1985) was one of the most prolific and widely read authors of the twentieth century. Born Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell in Manchester, England, she moved with her family to Buffalo, New York, in 1907. She started writing stories when she was eight years old and completed her first novel when she was twelve. Married at age eighteen, Caldwell worked as a stenographer and court reporter to help support her family and took college courses at night, earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Buffalo in 1931. She adopted the pen name Taylor Caldwell because legendary editor Maxwell Perkins thought her debut novel, Dynasty of Death (1938), would be better received if readers assumed it were written by a man. In a career that spanned five decades, Caldwell published forty novels, many of which were New York Times bestsellers. Her best-known works include the historical sagas The Sound of Thunder (1957), Testimony of Two Men (1968), Captains and the Kings (1972), and Ceremony of the Innocent (1976), and the spiritually themed novels The Listener (1960) and No One Hears But Him (1966). Dear and Glorious Physician (1958), a portrayal of the life of St. Luke, and Great Lion of God (1970), about the life of St. Paul, are among the bestselling religious novels of all time. Caldwell’s last novel, Answer as a Man (1981), hit the New York Times bestseller list before its official publication date. She died at her home in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1985.
 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The damp and wrinkled gloves lay in a little heap on the hall table, where they had been dropped in gestures of complete desolation.

Melissa removed hers from her cold hands and added them to the heap. She stood a moment and looked emptily down at the gloves, lying one on top of the other, and they seemed to be external manifestations of her own stupefied hopelessness. Her mother had gone into the drawing-room before her, and her young sister, Phoebe, and her brother, Andrew, and Mrs. Arabella Dunham Shaw and the latter's brother, Geoffrey Dunham. They were all sitting there, in the utter silence that follows calamity, while she remained behind in the dark cold hall, this late November afternoon. None of them had glanced at her, except Geoffrey Dunham, and he had stood near her for a few moments, while she had fumbled at her gloves. But she had indicated that she wanted him to leave her, with a motion of her hands so abrupt and repellent that he had obeyed automatically. She had watched him go; she believed she saw him shrug as if in indifferent contempt. It was no more than she expected of him; everything he did increased her distrust and detestation. Suddenly, in the midst of her dreadful anguish, she felt a sharp and vivid thrill of hatred, an emotion that was alive for the first time in three stunned days.

She could not look away from the wrinkled gloves, lying there in a heap on the table. It had begun to rain again, and Melissa heard the dolorous running of the eaves and the forsaken voice of the wind against the great oaken door of the old house. What little light remained in the narrow hall faded; what little warmth had seeped into the hall from the drawing-room was sucked away. Now there was only dimness and chill, and herself alone in the hall. Melissa could hear her mother's sobbing, which became part of the wind and the rain. There was no other sound, not even from the kitchen, where old Sally and the Dunhams' cook, Hulda, were preparing the funeral baked meats.

The Dunhams had filled the parlor with armfuls and baskets and vases of flowers from their conservatories. The flowers now lay on a raw grave in St. Margaret's Cemetery on the slope of a hill, yet Melissa could smell their horrible sick ghosts in the hall. Strange that funeral flowers smelled as no other flowers ever smelled! There was a deathliness about them, a sickness, a miasma. O Papa, Papa! Melissa cried in herself.

She wrung her hands together. The merciful stupefaction drained away from her, leaving her open and naked and anguished in the swirling waves of her grief. Her mouth parted in a kind of suppressed gasp, as if for air. But no tears came. Her mother had wept, little Phoebe had cried with the faint and mewling sound of a wounded and innocent animal, Andrew had sobbed drily a few times. But Melissa's eyes had remained glazed, burning, stark, completely sleepless and parched, since her father's death three days ago. She knew that her mother thought her heartless. It did not matter; it had never mattered to her what her mother, Amanda, had ever thought about her, or, for that matter, what anyone else thought. Wherever lay the source of tears, that source in Melissa remained dry. Arabella Dunham Shaw, that sharkmouthed, sentimental and emotional fool, had throbbingly urged her to "give way; do, my poor child." But there was no "giving way" in Melissa. She had looked at Arabella with disgust and bitter loathing, and had confirmed in Arabella's mind the opinion that she lacked sensibility and true female sentiment. How was it possible — Arabella had plainly revealed her thought — that the favorite and most beloved daughter of Charles Upjohn could refrain from the slightest expression of sorrow, could maintain an attitude of subdued calm and glacial dignity in the face of his death?

A fog floated outside over the brown drenched earth. Wisps of it appeared to penetrate the hall, so that faint scarfs and whitish shadows filled every oaken corner. The round drum table where the gloves and the cards lay gleamed like water in the gloom. Above it was a mirror. Old Sally had removed the cloths from the glimmering surface. Melissa lifted her head and saw her own face in the dark and fitful depths, and it was the face of a ghost. Her face stared blindly back at her from the glass, a rigid and emotionless face, all bleached contours and hard delicate planes, like dull marble. When she had been young and helpless, her mother, Amanda, had forced her to swallow iron concoctions, in the belief that she was anaemic and afflicted with the "green sickness," not understanding, then, that the pure and colorless pallor was no indication of weakness, but rather of an indomitable constitution.

"A New England old maid," Arabella Dunham had once said to her brother, Geoffrey. "Oh, believe me, dear Geoffrey, it is not that I truly dislike Melissa Upjohn! I'm sure you'd never accuse me of such uncharitableness, for you know how readily I believe the best of everyone and how far malice is from my nature. But you must admit that Melissa can be very odious at times, most repulsive. She is so cold and without sensibility, and has such a high, hard face. There is nothing attractive in her, though you insist, in your kindness, that she is a true beauty. No one else shares your opinion, dear Geoffrey.

"What did you say, Geoffrey? Melissa is a grande dame? Oh, how absurd, how completely ridiculous! She is nothing but a bluestocking, utterly without heart and sweetness, priding herself on her knowledge of Greek and Latin, and on her scholarly accomplishments! What does a woman need of these?"

"She needs me," Geoffrey Dunham had replied with a smile. He laughed when his sister uttered a shrill wail of horror. "And, what's more, she's going to have me, though she does not know it yet. I may have to wait a long time, until poor old Charles is dead."

Melissa stood unmoving before the mirror, which steadily darkened until her face and figure were lost in it and there remained only a ghostly blur. Now she heard Geoffrey Dunham's strong grave voice consoling her mother, and her white mouth became more tense, harder. The wound in her chest throbbed and pulsated. "Papa," she said aloud, in a low and searching voice. She pressed her hands down on the wet gloves, dropped her head, and leaned heavily against the table. Her father's last words came to her: "I know I can trust your strength and your calmness, Lissa. Your poor mother and your little sister will need you. I know now that it was wrong to have taken you so far from them, to have absorbed you in my needs and my dreams and my hopes. Your brother cannot be the man of the family when I am gone. That is left for you, and I know that I can trust you."

"You never took me away from anything, Papa," she said, in her heart. "I never cared for anything but you. You were all my life. We understood each other so completely. How can I go on without you?"

For the first time there was an acid moisture in her eyes, which burned and stung. But it did not spill over. After an instant it was gone. But she felt weak and faint, and she clutched at the smooth edges of the table. Her mind became dim and blurred, the rough thick carpet under her feet began to slide away from her.

Someone was holding her, someone strong and steady. Without that grasp, she would have fallen. Her eyes were blind. She murmured: "Andrew. It's perfectly all right. Just a moment of faintness." She tried to pull herself away gently, but the arms held her.

"And no wonder," said a man's voice in reply. "I hear you haven't eaten anything in three days. There, don't move; just lean against me for a while."

But the sound of that hateful voice aroused Melissa, invigorated her. She pushed the arms away with new strength. She could still see only dimly. Geoffrey Dunham's figure swayed and floated and expanded and retreated before her like a dancing shadow. But her detestation made her strong again. She pressed her hands to the sides of her head and muttered: "I am perfectly well now, thank you." All the spots on her body where he had touched her became acutely aware.

"Good," said Geoffrey Dunham, and under the tone of friendly sympathy she heard the old good-natured jeer in his voice. "We've been waiting for you. I am about to read your father's will, and then we'll have our supper. May I assist you, Melissa? My arm —"

But she was already walking away from him, her quivering knees held rigidly, her thin and slender back as hard as stone. Her black-and- rusty gown trailed on the floor; it was an old gown, and completely without taste or fashion, yet it gave to her figure an air of cold elegance. There was only a suggestion of crinoline under it. Not for Melissa the hoops and draperies and ruffles of other women, the soft beguilements of lace and of bows.

Geoffrey reached the door of the drawing-room before her, however. He waved her through it with a bow, in which she felt was his old mockery and amusement. Her flesh tightened and cringed away from him, and she sped into the drawingroom almost precipitously. It was too much! But she must endure this, for the last time. One had only to be calm and composed. One must be steadfast, for Papa's sake. Oh, Papa, Papa!

CHAPTER 2

Melissa had always hated the drawing-room, and had frequented it as little as possible. It was her mother's sanctuary, pride and throne-room, filled with a hundred relics of a New England past. Long and narrow like a huge coffin, dark even on a summer's day, it was faintly lighted by six high and slit-like windows, three in front, three in the rear, all darkly and heavily draped in crimson embossed curtains. A yellow marble fireplace stood in the center of one wall, and now a fire twinkled feebly on the hearth, sending its wavering tongues of little flame in pale reflection on the brass fender, the brass fire-screen, the brass andirons. Small heat came from it; the room, as usual, smelled of wax, earthy chill, ancient wood and potpourri. These odors were overlaid, just now, with the scent of Amanda Upjohn's lavender-water and the old sickening ghosts of the flowers which had lately filled the room.

When Amanda as a bride had accompanied her husband to this house some twenty-seven years before, she had brought with her the cherished furniture of her dead mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother, still shining from the wax of one hundred years. There, at the right of the fire, stood the great mahogany highboy, flanked on the left by a huge break front. From the Goodbody family of Boston had come those low, armless chairs, upholstered in faded greens, russets and yellows, and those two love seats in a sallow shade of ancient gold. Drum tables, parquetry tables, tier tables and tiny square tables had been scattered about the room profusely, bearing upon them china and brass lamps over which there perpetually hovered the odor of old oil. Against the wall, facing the fire, stood Amanda's authentic Queen Anne sofa, upholstered in black tapestry over which had been superimposed nosegays of tiny red flowers. Only one thing had ever aroused Melissa's admiration, and that was the fine old Aubusson rug, all delicate and shadowy grays, pinks, blues and yellows. This rug had been Charles Upjohn's single contribution to the room, and Amanda had admitted it chillily. Her preference was for polished bare floors and a scattered rug or two. But one must make a concession to one's husband, even if he was only a New Yorker, and Amanda had endured the rug during all her married life, though she was often heard to comment on the fact that it was a dust-catcher.

A portrait of Amanda's grandmother hung over the fire-place, the colors changed by time to a dull sienna, a vagrant brown, a touch of old blue. Charles had once insisted that the portrait resembled his daughter, Melissa, but when he discovered that Melissa was coldly infuriated by the remark, he did not repeat it. However, that white cold face, so narrow, so strong, and yet so fragile in its contours and planes, those large, faintly grim and steadfast light-blue eyes, deepset in hollow sockets which were tinged with mauve, that sharp, slightly tilted nose, that colorless yet beautifully molded mouth with the almost imperceptibly protruding lower lip, and that sleek mass of pale gilt hair, might have been Melissa's own. The hair shone from the canvas like something alive, though nearly all the other colors had become murky.

One lamp had been lighted to lift the damp gloom this evening, but an obscure and cloudy duskiness still lingered outside and pressed against the windows, which streamed with rain. Three great elms stood on the dying lawns, their tattered rags of yellow foliage fluttering in the wind. Heaps of leaves, sodden and blackened, had piled themselves about the furrowed trunks. One could see the sky, torn, gray, marbled with black mist looming above and beyond the trees. A drifting fog shut away the long meadows that flowed from the lawns to a low line of hills. The rear windows looked out on wide gardens, ruined by autumn, and fenced away from the barnyard by a squat wall of rough gray stones.

Old Sally Brown's half-idiot son, the Upjohns' "hired man," had brought in the cows from the drenched fields. Now, mingling with the sound of wind and rain, could be heard the desolate lowing of the cattle, and then, for a moment or two, as the wind swept towards the old tall house, there came the long and melancholy howl of a train leaving the village half a mile away.

Melissa walked steadily, and with her usual proud dignity, to a chair far from the fire. She sat down and folded her long pale hands on her knees. Her face, never mobile, remained expressionless, almost blank in its rigidity. The lamplight shone on her hair, which had the patina of satin. No agitated breath moved her high and molded breasts under the rusty dark-brown wool. She turned her head slowly, looked at her sister, her brother, and waited. She might have been gazing at painted statues, for all the emotion she revealed, though Geoffrey Dunham, seating himself with his usual careful grace, thought that for one moment Melissa's eyes had lingered on little weeping Phoebe, and had melted as if with mournful pain.

Amanda Goodbody Upjohn sat in her favorite armless chair near the fire. In her black gown, in the posture of her slender body, in the arrangement of her narrow feet crossed discreetly at the ankles, in the very set of her wide thin shoulders, she might have been Melissa herself, especially now that she had covered her face with her white handkerchief. But she had none of Melissa's youth, which still blurred the outlines of the girl's harsh rigidity. Amanda had once possessed hair the color and texture of Melissa's; now frustrated and embittered years had grayed and coarsened it. She wore a cap of white linen and lace, which only partly softened the effect of the hard twists rolled high on her head.

She was weeping soundlessly, but she had heard Melissa and Geoffrey enter and she removed the handkerchief from her eyes. Now Melissa's astonishing resemblance to her mother could be seen. It was a resemblance blasted and changed by the years, so that where, in Melissa, the pallor and clarity of feature were still beautiful and delicately austere, in Amanda they were blanched and grimly withered. Melissa's flesh still retained its fresh smoothness, but her mother's skin resembled the surface of finely cracked china. Yet both women had that high and petrified calmness of forehead which testified to their distinction of race, and not even time could take that from Amanda. Amanda was the prophecy of her elder daughter, and Geoffrey did not find this too pleasant. But then, as he had told his sister, Bella, he himself was not gentle, dreaming Charles Upjohn, who had been as unworldly as a newly laid egg and just as blandly impervious. For all his affection for old Charles, Geoffrey pitied Amanda.

Charles had once told him of Melissa's umbrage on the occasion of his regrettable mistake in calling her attention to her resemblance to her great-grandmother's portrait. "How is it possible for a child to hate an ancestor she never saw, and if so, why?" he had asked in his bewildered innocence. But Geoffrey knew that it was not the ancestress whom Melissa hated. It was her mother, who resembled the portrait even more than did Melissa.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Melissa"
by .
Copyright © 1948 Taylor Caldwell.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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