Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
The ward had all been visited and I felt that a good foundation had been laid for our winter’s work. We had seen every woman in her own home. This had given us a workable grasp of her problems and her needs. We were having an officer’s meeting to see that everything was in readiness for the opening of the season’s work.
Toward the close of the meeting, when I asked if there were any other problems to be brought before the meeting, Mrs. Stimmel, our Literary class leader, rose, and in a “do-or-die” tone said:
“Frankly, I am worried over my lessons. I heard Bessie Dye and a group of her friends talking and they expressed themselves as opposed to the Literary lessons – and the Social Service, too. They doubted if they would attend.”
“Why did they take that attitude?”
“Bessie said if there was any good reason for reading the books outlined, she would stay home and read them instead of wasting time listening to someone else tell them. They all agreed that literature had no place int heir lives.”
“We have always had a larger attendance at Theology and Work and Business meetings.” Mrs. Blomquist had charge of the work meetings and she was justly proud of the attendance.
“You feed them,” Mary Grosbeck said. “That does the trick.”
They all laughed, then looked to me. I was slow to speak for I had noticed this condition last year and now that I was in a position that gave me authority I was determined to break it up. Mrs. Horne, the Social Service leader, spoke.
“I had that trouble last year. Ridiculous as it may seem, much of the lesson material is over the heads of some of the group.”
“That is true,” Mrs. Blomquist nodded in agreement, “but there is nothing can be done about it. If the lessons were put to their level they would bore the others.”
Sometimes Rhoda Blomquist irritates me. She had been in the former presidency and had acquired the attitude that certain conditions could not be remedied and it was best not to stir up something we couldn’t handle. She opposed all changes on general principles. But she was most excellent in her work, and a balance for Mary and me. In choosing workers I had tried to have all groups in the ward represented. Only through them, it seemed to me, could we really reach all of the women, and such varied experiences and opinions would tend to keep us from becoming smug and rut-satisfied.
“Once,” I began, praying for tact, “I was in a teacher-training class that resembled a lesson in Greek to most of us. The attendance dropped to almost nothing. then the teacher was changed and in two lessons we were a different class. he attacked each new problem from a familiar standpoint and from there led us into the realm of the unfamiliar.”
“I get your point,” Mrs. Horne said, “but where in literature or social service can one find familiar ground from which to start?”
“Literature is life and social service problems are so thick about us we do not recognize them as such. Both are bound inextricably to theology – and to me no lesson is a lesson unless each woman gets something to carry away and use in her daily life. There is another reason why work meeting is more popular. Who takes part?”
“Why – why, everyone.”
“Exactly. And I have noticed if the women come to Work and business meeting and there isn’t anything for them to do, the attendance drops the next time. We are all interested in that in which we have a part. Moreover, I think our organization has a more far-reaching responsibility than merely giving book reviews. They m ay go any number of places and hear them. To us lessons are a means to an end, and that end is the development of our women. My vision includes every mother in Zion growing with the group and only when all are advancing can an organization be said to be growing.”
“And,” Mary added, “we chose you two for class leaders because we thought you could do the work.”
Happily they caught the viewpoint and after some discussion we were dismissed.
Going home I wondered if I had said too much. “I chose you because you have vision and courage,” the words came back to me. that did not mean rationalizing nor following the line of least resistance. if that were true then my organization must include women from all classes and each must find food for her soul.
I stopped in the Emporium to do some shopping and just inside the door ran into Mrs. Holman and Jeanie.
“Oh, Mrs. Maylord,” the girl cried, her eyes shining with happiness, “Grandma says we can take the piano home if I will keep the front room clean and don’t let anyone scratch it.”
“Do you think you can do that, Jeanie?”
“I’ll help her,” the mother said. “It would be easier if we had that back room fixed so we could sleep in it.”
“Then you may come for your lesson next Thursday. Be there at four.”
How much better that neither suspected I had influenced the grandmother’s decision. It was going to be very hard to give time to the child, but I could not have done otherwise. One never knows what little things might lead to.
In the dry goods department I came suddenly upon Salle Richards. She stood against a counter talking to Don Grow. Everywhere I turned lately I faced this boy and his equally intrusive mother. What could I do to keep Salle away from them?
“Too bad she has to run with him. It is all his mother’s doings. She is crazy about Salle.”
Startled, I turned. Nedra Williams stood beside me, her glance turned to the couple, her lips curled with bitterness.
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, you know what I mean. You were looking at them and not with approval. Don and I were to have been married, and I know he still loves me, but Salle butted in and now he is crazy about her. He thinks it is a feather in his cap to go with a girl like her.”
Muttering some excuse I moved away. She had told the truth, but it made me uncomfortable. Under pretense of examining linens I watched. Nedra joined them but Salle handled the situation with poise and assurance. I caught snatches of their conversation and was surprised at Salle’s wit.
“May I do something for you?”
I forgot her then in the problem of purchasing; but fifteen minutes later when I again passed that way they were still talking. Don lounged near Salle, possessiveness crying aloud from his every move. Nedra was still with them and doing a very good job of taking it on the chin. I started toward them and as I did so Kent Evans came through the swinging door and walked toward them. Instantly Salle turned rigid, and when he stopped to speak to them I could have cried aloud in dismay. The girl’s poise and grace slipped from her like an unfastened gown. She flushed and stammered and made no move to introduce the two men. But Nedra did, and when Kent left the group she went with him. As I passed, Salle looked up and our glances met. I had forgotten my own eyes were full of tears, but in hers I saw such stark misery and self-depreciation. I hurried away; but even in that instant of seeing that I was watching her she turned defiant.
I was nearly to Maylord’s grocery when I heard a quick step beside me and a hand touched my arm. Startled, I whirled about. It was Salle.
“Oh, you nearly frightened me.”
She did not answer immediately but walked with her head high, her eyes turned ahead. When she did speak the question seemed jerked unwillingly from her lips.
“What is the matter with me?”
I glanced swiftly over her shoes, her dress and finally her face. She was in deadly earnest. This was no angling for consolation. She must have stark truth.
“Your hair would be beautiful if it were better cared for. Your dress should be a little shorter and should have been cleaned instead of washed – and it could be better pressed. Your chin goes down instead of up, and there is a whine in your face.”
My frankness took her breath. She flung her head in sudden anger.
“Hold it,” I cried, “you are positively beautiful now. Not your anger but your attitude, your self-forgetfulness. Keep your eyes that way, alive and shining.”
Her anger passed and she drooped again. Tears threatened. “Why am I not like other girls? You saw how flustered and idiotic I acted when Kent came up. That was the first time I have seen him since his return.”
The way her tone caressed his name told me volumes. She had so hoped to register a good impression. No wonder she was heartsick.
I asked, “You like Kent, don’t you?”
She nodded numbly. “I – I always have. We ran around together a lot when we were younger. But lately I can’t be myself when he is around. He doesn’t really see me at all.”
We had reached the store and I turned to go inside. She followed. The first thing I noticed was that the office door was open and Tim was showing Mrs. Grow back into the store. He was laughing at something she had said and I had not seen such a carefree look on his face for a long time. Something primitive and terrible rose within me. Why did she come so often to his store, and what attraction was there about her? She was a rather large, raw-boned woman, with a very bright eye and ready tongue, and she dressed to attract attention, I thought. What could Timothy have in common with her?
As they came toward the front of the store my fighting spirit rose. I stepped into their line of vision.
“Hello,” I greeted them gaily. Both looked suddenly at me. Was Tim startled or pleased? I couldn’t tell. He smiled and turned to a customer.
“Oh, hello,” Mrs. Grow answered, and her glance shifted to Salle. “There you are, Dearie. I was withing for some one to walk home with me.”
She wasn’t going to do it that easy. “I should say not,” I said crisply. “Salle is going home with me.”
A light that was gone before I could identify it flicked through Mrs. Grow’s eyes. Her tone changed.
“Then come over this evening, Dearie. Don and I will both be looking for you.”
“Okay,” Salle answered.
I helped myself to what I wanted and made a slip for it. There was nothing unusual about that but for some reason I felt slighted. That made me act all the merrier. Salle left with me.
“Why did you tell her that?” she demanded suspiciously when we were on the sidewalk.
“Tell her what? Oh, that you were going home with me? You are, aren’t you? I want you to stay for dinner.”
The girl’s keen eyes searched for a hidden reason. “You don’t like Mrs. Grow, do you?”
That shocked me. If my feelings were so obvious I must take care. I evaded. “Do you?”
“Yes,” the girl cried fiercely. “I love her. she is one of the nicest women I know. I know what people say of her but there is no truth in it. Your husband knows that. I am glad he is so courteous to her. Of course she has her own standards about some things.”
Now what did she mean by that? I could not trust myself to ask. Luckily we reached my home and there on the steps sat little Jeanie Holman. She rose as we approached.
“My, you are a long time coming. I have been here most an hour.”
Come in with us.” I opened the door and my own children smothered me with embraces. It was some minutes before I remembered Jeanie.
“What did you want, Jean?” I asked then.
“Mom wants you to come. Daddy took all the money and left. he talked mean to her.”
My eyes turned involuntarily to Mrs. Jenkins who had been caring for my children. She shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I must go.”
“I’ll stay,” Salle offered abruptly.
“Go along. the children will stay with me. Won’t you, Denise?”
Denise turned her appraising eyes upon the older girl. After a moment she said, “I like you.”
I sighed with relief. Denise did not take up readily with people. That said something for Salle.
Two hours later I came wearily up my steps again. I was tired and so discouraged. Mrs. Holman feared her husband had left her for good, and woman-like wanted him back. The only thing I could do was listen to the depressing, heart-breaking story. It would take a wiser person than I to adjust matters between them. Order and regularity were almost a ritual with me, so I could sympathize with the husband. And here was my own tired husband who would have to wait for his dinner.
A glance at the living room showed me he hadn’t come yet. I went to the dining room. There little Tim was laboriously placing silverware, being directed by Denise.
“I’m helping,” he cried.
I kissed them hurriedly and with a sigh of relief turned to the kitchen.
“Um-m-m. It smells good in here.”
Salle, enveloped in one of my aprons, was whipping cream. Perched beside her and listening wide-eyed was baby Rob. She looked up as I spoke and paused.
“You are back?”
“Yes,” and I thought, “and worried needlessly over a late dinner. It smells so good.”
“I thought perhaps you would be late so I went ahead. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Mind! You saved my happy home.”
The dinner tasted as good as it looked and smelled. In the dining room, before Timothy, Salle was again awkward and constrained. I was more determined than ever to do something for this girl who was so capable and yet so incapable.
“She is over-conscious of a social situation,” I told myself, “and the remedy for that is familiarity.”
Before we were through eating the doorbell rang. Timothy went to answer it. We heard him say.
“Hello, Kent. By George, I had forgotten we were to fix those teacher’s lists. Come in until I finish my dinner.”
Fate. It could be nothing else that would send Kent Evans here tonight of all nights. I decided to take time by the fetlock or whatever it is he is grasped by. When dinner was over and I saw an opportunity I said,
“What luck you came, Kent. I thought I would have to loan my husband to Salle, but now you are here you may see her home and I will keep my tired Tim.”
“Splendid.” Kent Laughed, I thought, a little eagerly. “There is a new moon outside. Just the night for a stroll.”
Later I remembered that Salle’s face had darkened, but at the time I took no notice of it. When I returned from putting the children to bed she was gone. In the kitchen was a note.
“I don’t need someone to make dates for me.”
There was nothing to do but tell Kent. he laughed it off, but I noticed his eyes snapped. I laughed with him. It was the only thing I could do, but it taught me a lesson. next time I would not be quite so obvious. such things to be genuine must, like a flower, unfold slowly and naturally. Anyway it took my mind away from the thing Salle had said about my Tim.