“Dolly Levi, I don’t want you to find me any ideal wives! If I want an ideal wife, I’ll find one of my own, and I have found her, and it’s you, damn it! I know I’ve been a fool, and I probably always will be, but, Dolly, forgive me and mary me.” Horace glanced up at Dolly as he finished, an unfamiliar look in his eyes, a look of pleading and vulnerability that she wasn’t used to seeing from Horace Vandergelder, the well-known, unmarried, half-a-millionaire. Even though Dolly had just finished telling her late husband Ephraim Levi she was getting remarried, she was still surprised but Horace’s sudden proposal.
“Yes, Horace. I was wondering when you were going to come around and see the light.” she joked as she knelt down beside him, helping him sweep up the burst chicken mash.
Horace reluctantly smiled at her as he paused to contemplate his new life with this unusual woman that he had suddenly found himself falling for.
“I’d say a penny for your thoughts but you obviously don’t need it,” Dolly said, staring ar her recently betrothed and wondering he was already regretting his proposal.
“My thoughts are worth more than a penny. Anyone who sells his thoughts for that little is probably an artist like that good for nothing vagabond who wants to marry my little niece. And another thing-” Horace cut himself off in the middle of his tirade when he remembered who he was talking to. “But of course you knew that darling.” he hesitantly tried out the affectionate nickname.
Dolly merely offered her hand as she stood up, pulling him with her. They stood there, facing each other, hand in hand, each waiting for the other to make the next move. Finally, the lady had had enough and she turned from her fiance and made as though she was going to walk up the stairs.
“Well Horace, if you’re not going to kiss me I think I better go take a look at Ermengarde’s trousseau so we can start sewing.”
“Dolly Levi, you come back here this instant.” Horace reached and grabbed her hand, spinning her around until she was trapped in his arms. “I am going to kiss you now.” He declared although he hadn’t entirely made up his mind about the whole thing.
“Well, I should certainly hope so, darling. I do so like to be kissed by charming men and I’ve always said you are one the most charming men I know and so handsome too and-”
“Woman! Would you please stop moving your mouth for one second!” Horace finally cut in and as soon as he had a stable target, leaned in to capture her lips
“Uncle Horace, Uncle Horace” Ermengarde came running down the stairs, causing Horace to jump back as though burned.
“Yes, Ermengarde, what do you want?” Horace meant for his voice to be cold and stern, to reflect his disgust with his niece’s intended but he could not keep the fondness he had for her from creeping into his voice.
“I was just wondering, Uncle you look positively ill, are you alright?” Ermengarde scurried down the stairs reaching her hand up to Horace’s temple, or at least as close as she could get to his temple.
“I’m fine Ermengarde, what do you want?” He answered gruffly but still leaned down towards the girl, keeping Dolly in his line of sight.
“Hmmm, you don’t feel too warm. Anyway, do you know where my mother’s old blue trunk is? I want her wedding dress.”
Horace looked like he was going to protest once again at the union of his niece to an artist but a glance at the beautiful redhead looking very much at home in his store reminded him of what he had been doing before Ermengarde interrupted them and he shooed her back upstairs.
“It got buried in the back of the spare closet, go up and find it yourself. Better yet, put Ambrose to work. It’ll be good for him.”
“Thank you, Uncle Horace” Ermengarde turned and skipped up the rest of the stairs.
“I believe we were doing something, Mr. Vandergelder?” Dolly Levi asked, stepping right up to him, head tilted all the way back so she could see his face.
“Mrs. Levi? Mrs. Levi?” This time the interruption came from Barnaby and Cornelius, who stuck their heads cautiously down the staircase, causing Horace to once again take large steps backward to put space between himself and Dolly.
“You keep jumping backward, you’ll go right through that window, darling,” Dolly whispered to Horace before turning to face the two ex-clerks. “Yes, boys? How can I be of assistance?”
“We were just wondering if..”Cornelius paused and pushed his friend slightly, “You ask her Barnaby.”
“No, you’re older, and it was your idea. You have to ask her” Barnaby argued, pulling Cornelius down the stairs to stand in front of Horace and Dolly.
“Whatever you want to ask you better ask quickly,” Horace commanded
“Well, you see” Cornelius started, glancing nervously between Barnaby, Mr. Vandergelder, and Mrs. Levi “We were wondering if maybe you could help us with something Mrs. Levi?”
“Certainly, Cornelius. What do you need help with?”
"We wanted to ask you for the girl's hands in marriage. Cause neither of them has any family left and I don't who to ask but I know you're supposed to ask somebody."
"I would be happy to give my blessing, when do you plan on proposing?" Dolly inquired, stepping slightly closer to Horace, causing him to tense up.
"Well…" the two boys looked at each other and shrugged, "We hadn't gotten that far."
"Well, why don't you two go back upstairs and think about it. Just let me know when to break out my dancing shoes." Dolly watched them turn and take the stairs two at a time before turning to Horace.
"Now, where were we?"
"Mr. Vandergelder?" If looks could kill, the poor workman who appeared in the doorway would have died a fiery death.
"I said outside. Now get moving.” Horace growled, watching the man scurry away to do his job.
Normally Mrs. Dolly Levi would have made him give her an explanation but in this case, she decided it was not worth waiting longer and risking another interruption.
“Come here, Horace.” She grabbed him by the two sides of his vest and pulled him downwards until she could reach his lips with hers
“ Mrs. Levi?”
The two on the main level broke apart for a moment as they realized that once again they were needed by the sixsome updates
“I have an idea, follow me.” Dolly grabbed Horace’s hand and weaved them through the boxes and crates, littering the floor of the store until they were sequestered in a small corner behind the register unable to be seen from either the front door or the staircase.
“Dolly Levi, you have some nerve. We can’t hide back here, what would people think?”
“I don’t care, now kiss me.” When Mrs. Dolly Levi, of New York City, used that tone of voice, not even Benjamin Harrison would dare to argue with her.