From the Relief Society Magazine, March 1950 –
A Place for Three
By Ezra J. Poulsen
Though Jamie Ryan knew he’d acquired a wife worth her weight in gold when he married Daisy Marsh, the little red-headed girl he’d met at the ward reunion, he didn’t realize how wonderful she was. It takes time to learn the true worth of a woman.
Even when she told him they were going to have a baby, he failed to see the extent of her resourcefulness, for he went to his classes at the law school that day with a faraway look in his eyes, and his mind so muddled with worry he scarcely heard the lectures. Trying to live on his G.I. pay in their stuffy attic apartment was a sort of sleight of hand performance within itself, just for him and Daisy. But with a baby coming – well – that was something requiring action.
It followed, therefore, that he went secretly downtown and secured a job for the afternoons in a hardware store. The act was perfectly in keeping with his belief that the man is the natural head of the household, and the protector of the weaker sex. A woman going to have a baby had to be cherished and taken care of, and kept in a pleasant state of mind. Daisy wouldn’t approve, so he didn’t intend to tell her about the new arrangement. She was very insistent on his putting all his time on his studies. That evening, however, he spent the last of his pocket money for a bouquet of carnations which he took home to her.
“Oh, darling,” cried Daisy, after staring at him and the flowers in blank amazement, “oh, they’re beautiful! But – but – you shouldn’t. You can’t afford …” she got no further. The only way she could express her feelings was to throw herself into his arms and half smother him with kisses.
Jamie’s heart beat wildly as he held her. The extra effort required to take a job in addition to carrying on his exacting legal studies seemed to vanish into nothing. He felt very noble and heroic. “Sweetheart,” he murmured, “it’s a pleasure. I wish I could have done more. But I will as time goes on.”
Then, impulsively, as if to demonstrate his power as a man, he picked her up bodily, and carried her across the room, depositing her gently on the sofa. “Honey,” he said, kneeling beside her, “I’ll take the best care of you. In fact, I won’t let you do a thing. You must rest and take care of yourself until the baby comes.”
Daisy, with her loose red hair falling around her head on the pillow, was ravishing. Her eyes, which Jamie had always thought were some kind of mixture of amber and fire, seemed unusually bright. And her upturned lips, parted half in expectancy, and half in sheer amazement, were moist. “Jamie, of course I’ll take care of myself. You’re a perfect dear. The flowers are gorgeous. Now, let me get up and fix your supper. You must be starved.”
“Oh, no, you stay here. I’ll get supper.”
He was really in earnest. But Daisy arose, put on her apron, and began bustling about in a most housewifely manner. She could laugh that one off as one of Jamie’s sweet gestures, not to be taken literally. “Now, darling, you get to work on those law books.”
Seeking his usual corner by the table in the tiny living room, he laid out his books in the order of their importance, and began to study. Jamie was a methodical person. First, there was the volume on contracts, next came torts, and finally evidence. Each had to have its share of sweat, he’d often said laughingly. And now, term exams were less than a week away. But he found it very hard to concentrate, though he sat on a small chair, and let his chest tilt forward aggressively. His mind seemed to be in a whirl of emotional disturbances, involving hardware and the uncertainty of coming events.
For a week Jamie came home every evening with his law books under his arm, after a hard half day in the very unlegal atmosphere of the hardware store. Daisy didn’t seem to suspect any change in his program, a fact for which he was thankful. But, in spite of his best efforts at studying, which kept him up until well after midnight, he felt himself slipping. He began to be haunted by fear, and this made it more difficult to concentrate.
In the exams, he fell down badly. In fact, he knew without being told, he’d failed in contracts. On top of it all, Daisy seemed completely indifferent with regard to her condition. Several times, when he came home, she seemed to have been in the house herself only long enough to get her coat and hat off. Then, she’d pitch right in getting supper, protesting when he tried awkwardly to help her.
“You know, Jamie, we’re getting along nicely on your G.I. pay this month. I’m going to be able to manage until next week when your check comes.”
“You’re wonderful,” he complimented. His mouth was so dry he felt as if he’d choke. He’d made up his mind to quit school, and had arranged at the store to begin work full time. In fact, he’d missed all his classes for three whole days. Perhaps, here was the time to begin to tell her. “Don’t worry about the extra cost of the baby. I’m working something out to take care of that.” He kept his serious face buried in the book on contracts, though he could scarcely tell one word from another.
“Oh, yes,” Daisy tossed her head back lightly. “We’ll manage all right.” She looked at him suspiciously, then, with a queer little smile, turned away.
He celebrated his first pay check by buying more flowers, and getting a nice cake from the bakery. Her soul seemed to shine in her eyes as she took the flowers. “Oh – oh – Jamie.” Tears began to glisten in her eyes.
The telephone rang. She turned to answer it. “The Dean’s office,” she said quietly, handing him the receiver.
His hand trembled as he took it, then, listening, his face turned white. “Yes, sir, I – I – feel it’s the only way.” The voice at the other end spoke at some length. “Yes, yes, sir, I’ll call and see you. I promise.” He hung up.
When he turned to Daisy again, he found her regarding him with deep yearning, and the light in her eyes made it clear she understood everything. The corners of her firm little mouth twisted several times as if she was about to speak. Finally, she rushed into his arms. “Jamie, you crazy, wonderful idiot,” she sobbed. “Didn’t you know you didn’t have to do that?”
“Daisy,” he said sternly, holding her at arm’s length, “I want you to understand I’m head of this household. I did what I knew was best for you and the baby. Understand?” he felt like shaking her but, in deference to her condition, he refrained.
Daisy listened meekly. Then, suddenly she recovered her own poise, and going over to her purse lying on the table, she pulled out a check and showed it to him. He looked at it and gasped. it was twice as big as his own. “You see, I’m working for the poultry association over at the egg candling plant,” she explained, “and, darling, I’m good at it. I worked at the job three years back home before I married.”
He started to scold her, but she kept on talking. “I’ll have a sock full of money months before junior gets here. And – and – I’m enjoying the work immensely. I never felt better in my life. but, honey, where do you think we’ll be in ten years from now if you quit school? Don’t’ you realize I’ve, we’ve got a stake in your future?”
Jamie felt his shoulders sag painfully, but he was staring at her with a new and wonderful light in his eyes. Slowly, he drew himself up with determination. “Darling, I’ll be the best lawyer you ever saw,” he declared. Then, turning to the phone, he dialed the Dean’s number.