Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
“The only thing we found amiss was Mrs. Richards worrying over Salle,” reported one of the visiting teachers. “She went somewhere with Don Grow about two weeks ago and came home engaged. He gave her a lovely diamond. I don’t know why Mrs. Richards should worry so. He has a good job and his mother certainly has money.”
“How did you find the Peters family?”
“The best. He has fixed up that old place until you wouldn’t know it. He is working at the ward shop – but of course you know that. It is queer that such a family would move into our ward for no reason on earth.”
After the teachers had all given their reports and gone back to help with the sewing I found my thoughts going back to one sentence, the one about Salle. I tried to tell myself that she wasn’t my responsibility but I knew better. Any one of my flock who was being warped from lack of work was my responsibility. There was something so lovable and so prideful about her, and her mother had asked me to help.
We had a big day’s sewing. There was a quilt for a family in need and some mending for a sick member. In the art department they were making Christmas presents. But about four o’clock I slipped away. I had suddenly resolved that mere wishing never saved any girl. if there was going to be anything done about Salle it was high time to begin. Downtown I faced Dave Holsinger across his office desk.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the president of the Old Ladies’ organization. How much today?” He made a great show of jingling some coins in his pocket.
“All you’ll give. Seriously, I want help, not money.”
“Good. What may I do?”
I met his suspicious eye blandly. “You told me some time ago you were having trouble with an office girl. What did you do about her?”
“She solved the problem by getting married.”
“Have you replaced her?”
The man looked at me shrewdly. “Not exactly, but I have someone in mind who will be free in another week or two. I hope you aren’t going to ask me to take an inexperienced girl.”
“That is just what I was going to ask.”
“Can’t do it, Dona. Sorry.”
“Let me tell you about her. It is Salle Richards. About four years ago her father died and left them practically penniless. She was on the highest honor roll all through high school. Her grades in business training were above average.”
“Then why isn’t she working?”
“Salle’s personality is against her. No, no, don’t decide until I explain.” I tried to make him see how capable and really fine she was under her wall of defiance. I ended by saying, “I believe good work that supports her pride would kill her martyr complex and put her on equal footing with other girls. Meeting people every day as she would here would cure her fear of social situations.”
The lines of habitual good nature faded from the man’s face. He drummed on his desk.
“All I ask is that you give her a chance.”
Again the man hesitated. “It is against our policy.”
I did not answer for I did not want to use too much pressure. But in my heart I felt he just had to hire her. Salle must have her chance before it was too late.
“All right.” He brought his fist down on his desk. “All right. I will try her. Send her up.”
Now I could laugh with relief. “Oh, no. You do not get away that easily. She must never know I had anything to do with it. That would be the Relief Society helping her and would defeat the very purpose of giving her work. She must be hired in the regular way.”
“I have let myself into something. You are mighty particular about how you receive a favor. Would you object to Tim telling her we need a girl? Being in the store he would hear such things, and he sees her often enough.”
Now that it was settled I felt an inclination to weep. It was almost too good to be true.
“Some day you will be thankful you have done this. We are none of us through life yet and may need help ourselves some day.”
Afterward I remembered the sort of baffled look that came over his face when I said that. That he was not happy in his home was evident. How could he be with Gloria so engrossed in trivial things and he in his business and each trying to find recompense for the other’s lack of interest.
“What they need is a child to unite them,” and immediately upon saying it I thought, “some day I might be able to help them.”
On the way home I stopped to talk with Tim. He promised to see that Salle heard about the opening but his answer was short and preoccupied. Was there something bothering him or was it my imagination? Tim certainly was not himself. We seldom went places together any more.
“You go and I will stay with the children,” was his ever ready excuse. He was tired anyway and it would save hiring someone to be with them. Then he was so indifferent about his ward teaching and other things.
“If I make a living I must stay with my business. Now, please let me do it in my own way.” After that there was nothing I could do but watch and pray. I tried to look at the problem impersonally. Was I to blame? Where was I failing? Was I giving so much time to Relief Society that I was neglecting my own? I had heard women discuss the breach that inevitably widens between man and woman as they grow older and their interests change. It was held to be inevitable but I could not have that happen to us. I must not lose the companionship of my Timothy.
When I reached home I called Gloria Holsinger and the voice that came back over the wire was as one that had never known care.
“Before long I am going to need a lovely sport dress, and shoes. How about a raid on your wardrobe?”
“Has Tim ceased providing for you or are you going out for a handsomer man?”
“Neither, just now. They are to be ready in case of emergency.”
“Come and see what I have.”
Then a week alter in answer to the telephone’s ring Denise said, “It’s for you, Mother, and she sounds ‘cited.”
It was Mrs. Richards. She hardly waited for my “Yes” before she exclaimed,
“That you, Sister Maylord? I wanted to talk to you about Salle. She has a chance to get the best job down town. Just what she has been waiting for, but she won’t take it now that she has a chance. I wish you would talk to her. She would listen to you.”
My hopes sank. How like Salle to upset the apple cart just when we had it nicely loaded. I lost patience.
“Why does she refuse to take it?”
“She says she hasn’t any clothes to wear in such a place. It is a real nice place, Sister Maylord, and good pay, but all she has is her blue silk that has been washed a time or two. It is lovely and clean but doesn’t suit her. Could you come over?”
“No.” I had anticipated this and was relieved that it was nothing worse. “To beg her to go would be humiliating to both of us. Salle is old enough to do her own deciding, but if she wants to come over I might help her solve the clothes problem.”
It was perhaps two hours later when I opened my front door to admit a defiant, expectant Salle. With irritating nonchalance she twisted a blazon ring that circled her left third finger.
“Mother told me,” she began without preamble, and there was none of the friendliness of her last visit in her voice, “that you might help me.”
Her tone nettled me. In her determination to protect her own pride she disregarded the feelings of others. I answered her in the same tone.
“It depends on how badly you want help. I think it is the height of silliness, if silliness has any height, to refuse to take work because of the lack of a dress. In a week you could buy one.”
The girl’s words turned icy. “And in a week have myself classed.” Why, the poor child was nearly to cry in spite of her tone. I softened.
“You put the full responsibility on clothes, Salle. They are important, but not nearly as important as the girl.”
“But I could never be myself in this old dress. I’d be awkward and self-conscious and afraid to talk to anyone.”
“I think I understand. Suppose you come with me.”
I led the half-0reluctant girl into my bedroom where I opened a closet and took from it a blue and tan knit dress. I held it up before her slightly veiled eagerness.
“This has never been worn in this town and only twice elsewhere. Try it on.”
She made no move to touch it. “I couldn’t accept a gift like that from anyone.”
“Who said I was giving it to you? I am trying to sell it for someone who cannot wear it.”
“I shan’t have any money until my first pay day.”
“Try it on.”
The girl touched the dress for the first time. She held it up against her and looked in the mirror.
“It is beautiful,” she whispered, “simply beautiful – but with these shoes.”
That reminded me. Into the closet I went again and brought out a pair of blue and tan suede shoes. I held my breath for getting them had been a real feat; Gloria’s had been too small by far. At sight of them Salle breathed swiftly.
“Try them on.”
Hastily then, trembling with eagerness, she slipped out of the old blue dress. Kicking aside her shoes she put her feet into the new ones. They were a perfect fit. I breathed naturally once more for in her eagerness Salle had failed to note the remarkable fact. The dress was a trifle wide but could be blocked to her size. I pinned up a seam to show her how it would look.
“There – it will fit perfectly.”
“It needs to be shortened an inch.”
“Then no one will guess it wasn’t bought for you.”
Salle looked again in the mirror and what she saw there brought quickly checked tears to her eyes. it was a different girl than she had ever faced before. not the dress and shoes alone but the knowledge of possessing them had brought light and power to her face. It was a pleasing girl, a striking girl, a girl vibrant with life and ability who smiled so confidently from the glass. I ached with the joy that swept through me.
“You beautiful creature,” I cried impulsively. “Make that terrible pride your ally and go conquer the world.”
Turning Salle gave me a swift kiss; then changing clothes she ran out toward work and a future.
“Mother,” Denise called, “Daddy telephoned while you were in there and said he would not be home to dinner.”