Cathedral of Peace
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
CAROLYN EVANS had a problem almost bigger than she could carry in the disparity of interests between herself and her husband, TURNER. She had unknowingly let him grow away from her. She was suddenly and rudely awakened, and then realized the home condition was affecting the lives of her boys.
BOB, the eldest, was in love with JUNE STRAUGHN but would do nothing about it because of the difference int heir homes and families. CARSON, the second son, unknown to Carolyn was worrying his father and older brother. Calves were disappearing from the lower pasture, and evidence pointed toward him as the thief. He, Bob reasoned, could easily feel he had a right to the calves.
Carolyn, as newly selected counselor in Relief society, had been making calls in the lower valley. When she returned, she found the gate wired fast. Turner had wired it against the loss of more calves, but she thought he had wired it out of disrespect for her. In crawling under the fence she tore her only dress; in anger, she decided there was no point in going so shabby.
The next time her husband made ready to go to town she demanded to go with him. He would not give her money unless she told him what she wanted to do with it. But his credit was good, and once in the store she decided to do more than just buy a dress. However, she kept her purchases secret. On the way home she told Turner that Bob was taking Lucile Semple to the ward reunion rather than June. Turner is disgusted and vows to reprimand his son for it.
True to his word, Turner spoke to Bob at the breakfast table the next morning after they had been in town.
“Since when have you been running with the Semple crowd?” he demanded.
Bob paused in the act of buttering a biscuit. “I – haven’t been running with them, exactly.” He saw Carson give him a swift glance.
“Are you taking Lucile to the dance tonight?”
“Haven’t nerve enough to ask the one you want, eh? I wouldn’t let a sissy like Joe Colts beat my time.”
“I asked the one I wanted,” Bob answered shortly. It hurt all the more because he knew his father was right. He had wanted June, but he wasn’t taking her now or any time. The fact that he had been very careful regarding whom he went with did not add to his peace of mind.
Still Turner would not drop the subject, and suddenly Bob rose. His mouth was a straight, hard line.
“I am still taking her.” Striding quickly to the door, he went out.
“If you want him to go with girls like June,” Carson drawled, “you might loosen up. Taking the car occasionally would help.”
“He has a car.”
“Ho, you mean the flivver. How come you are not worrying about me? I am taking Garden.”
“I don’t like it any better than I like his taking Lucile. Plenty of boys and girls ride in flivvers, as you call them. It is as good a car as Joe has.”
“But Joe isn’t Bob.”
“He will have to use it if he uses anything. Mother will want the other car.”
Carson turned to his mother. “How come you rate the car? It must be that new house dress.”
At her look of distress, he laughed. He rose to leave the table. As he passed her, he grinned.
“Take courage, Fair One. He’ll be human yet – by the time he gets us all reared.” Then he ran his fingers over her hair. “What has happened to your hair? It has lost its haggard look.”
She smiled at him, but at the same time she was thinking, “No wonder I keep quiet. When Turner starts something, it is the only thing to do.”
Vaguely she wondered what drove Turner to such outbursts. She did not think of them as an emotional outlet which served him much as her quiet spells served her. She did not think of him as needing an outlet; he had things so much his own way. It was always her or Bob on whom his anger fell. Carson must not irritate him.
Suddenly she felt an unreasoning anger toward her new house dress, her numerous purchases. They could not solve her problem. Had she expected them to take her back fifteen years? With help she might recover part of what had been lost. Turner would never give her that help. And, of course, she had no desire for it either.
Then it was evening and time for the party.
“Aren’t you going?” Carolyn asked her husband again when he came in late and settled himself with a book. He made no answer. At her look of dismay, Carson said:
“Get ready, Mom. I will drive you. Garden can go with us.”
Still Turner did not speak, so Carolyn nodded in agreement and went to dress.
Dressing slowly and carefully, Carolyn realized her hands were shaking. If this proved an idle gesture, she would never make another.
“Why do I keep thinking of it that way?” she asked herself irritably. “I do not care what he thinks.”
However, she was very careful about dressing. She tried to coax her hair into soft waves. She could not get the effect the operator had achieved; but even with her inexperienced efforts the result was startling, for the softness gave youth to her features. She used the new powder and rouge, and then slipped the dress over her head and patted her hair into place.
“Oh!” she gasped, viewing herself full-length in the mirror. “I couldn’t go this way. I would be too self-conscious. I feel like a bride.”
But as she looked, her dismay turned to satisfaction, to deep-down joy. “I can go,” she reassured herself. “It will be fun.”
The dress was a black sheer with white lace at the throat and a fine line of white-marked gores on a short, flared skirt. Sheer hose and black suede pumps accentuated her trimness. She was fervently thankful for the work that had kept her slender. Unconsciously she straightened her shoulders. Her head came up. When she could no longer find an excuse for lingering, she opened the door and stepped into the living room.
“Gosh!” Denis’s mouth dropped. It wasn’t a word as much as an exclamation.
Bob, who was dressed and ready to leave, stopped short with his hand on the door knob. Never before could he remember seeing his mother look just like this. She had never, in his memory, had a complete outfit. Her hair had never had that particular sheen; her features had never seemed so delicate or her skin so smooth. And these things were not all. There was something more – a radiance, a poise, a self-worth. She was lifted from a fact to a presence, to a person. Catching her eye, he raised his hand in salute. It said, “Good going.”
The twins swooped upon her. She stooped and put out her hands to catch them. “U-um. What lovely kisses.”
“We want to go.”
“You can’t go,” Denis told them in a misery-loves-company tone. “You have to stay here with me.”
Just then Carson came downstairs. His quick eyes lighted with incredulity, then approbation.
“Whew! Are you stepping out, or are you! Here, you haven’t your powder on right. Give me your puff – and the rouge,” he added, as she turned to her room for the powder.
“Where did you learn the art?” Denis wanted to know, as he watched his older brother’s deft movements. “You must have had practice. Better watch him, Mom.”
“Anyone but a blind man would know how it is done,” Carson answered genially. “Now where is your lipstick?”
“Lipstick!” Dennis and Bob gasped over the word.
“Haven’t you any?”
“Yes. There was some came in the kit, but I don’t think – ”
When Carson was through, he stepped back to view his work.
“You look a million,” was his comment. “Be sure your shoes are comfortable. You are going to be danced off your feet.”
“I think I’ll drive you, instead – ,” Bob began, but his brother cut him short.
“No, you don’t. I’m driver tonight.”
“Thanks, son.” Something more than joy flooded over Carolyn. The moment, so perfect, carried her on wings of memory back ten, fifteen years; back beyond this harsh present to where parents and children were united in a seemingly unbreakable bond of sympathy and understanding. Where along the way had she lost touch? Wasn’t there some way of holding this precious, precious moment to be used later when strong-willed, hot-headed Carson needed something to which to tie?
She glanced at Turner. Through all of it he had continued to read assiduously. To her knowledge he had not even glanced her way. His brows were drawn together in a scowl.
“You had better hurry, Bob.”
Carolyn turned her attention to Carson. “Finish what you are doing, but hurry. I must be there early. I must help prepare the lunch. Denis, you might bring the car around and be loading up the freezer, if you can, and these dishes and things.”
Denis sprang to obey. He snatched every chance to learn to drive. Never before had his mother suggested such a thing.
“Give me the keys, Dad,” he cried.
Then Turner slowly lowered his book. With exasperating insouciance he faced the group.
“Give you what?” he asked, mildly.
“The keys to the car. Mother said I might bring it around to the gate.”
With a bang Bob closed the door behind him. Outside he had a wild idea of taking the car and running it into the river.
“Mother said I might back the car out and load up the freezer,” Dennis explained, when the echo of the bang was stilled.
“I’m through now,” Carson was struggling with his coat. “I’ll run down after Garden while Mother is finishing.”
“No, I am,” Denis began, but his father rose slowly.
“Neither of you shall have them.”
Carolyn dropped into the nearest chair. She might have known. He was always a jump ahead. Carson’s quick temper flared.
“If you think for one moment you are keeping Mother home …”
“Who said anything about keeping her home?”
Carolyn expelled her breath with relief. He had decided to go after all. She looked hopefully at Carson.
“In that case,” the boy was saying, “let me go after Garden while you are getting ready.”
“What has Garden to do with us?”
“I am supposed to be taking her to the dance,” Carson explained elaborately. He was keeping a leash on his tongue, but his eyes were blazing.
“Too bad,” the father said indifferently, and turning his back he left the room. For a moment the boy stared at the closed door. His hands clinched. He took a step forward.
“Carson,” his mother warned. “He’ll let you go for Garden later. Don’t start anything.”
“Don’t start anything. That’s a laugh. I’ll go horseback,” he exploded.
“Not in those clothes.”
“Who cares about clothes?” He, too, was gone.
Denis looked at his mother. She had wilted. All the buoyancy and expectancy had been replaced by hopeless despair.
“Cheer up,” he said bravely, trying to keep back, his own tears. “You have just changed boy-friends, that’s all.”
“I can’t go.”
“You will have to,” he explained, anxiously. “They are expecting you, and if you don’t go, someone will be sure to ask questions.”
So young – so young to know such things. But it was true. There was an unspoken coalition between them. These scenes must never be known beyond the family circle.
As it turned out, no excuses were needed.
“No wonder you were late,” Mrs. Sutton, the other counselor, cried, as Carolyn removed her coat. “We will forgive you for wasting time on yourself. The result justifies it.” She looked up at Turner Evans who had come in with his arms full. “We should have arranged for a prize for the best looking couple. I hope you will let her help us in the kitchen at least some of the time.”
Mrs. Straughn, who was superintending the placing of the food and dishes, spoke in her ear, “You are sweet tonight.”
“Where did you find her?” Bill Sutton asked Turner, waggishly, when the program was over and they were waiting for the floor to be cleared for dancing.
Carolyn was helping Mrs. Sutton, but she caught Turner’s reply. “I’ll never tell.” It was all happy nonsense, but somehow it thrilled. She wanted the Suttons to think she and Turner were as happy as they. What an absurd want, when they were all but separated. Her face flushed. Turner had to answer, of course, but there needn’t be that happy lilt to his voice.
“You are plain lucky,” Mrs. Sutton added.
Presently Bob came seeking her for a dance. “Those new clothes weren’t bought to sell ice-cream in.”
“Why aren’t you dancing with the girls?” she asked, when they were on the dance floor.
“I am,” he answered briefly. Then later, “Have you see Carson?”
She told him what had happened and ended with, “He and Garden must have gone some other place.”
“That is what I was afraid of.”
At first the dancing was difficult for Carolyn. It had been so long since she had been on a dance floor; but she had once been an easy, graceful dancer, and with Bob’s help she was soon gliding about as if she had never had a recess from it.
“Are you having a good time, Bob?” she asked at length, noticing his quiet manner.
“Oh, sure.” But his tone belied his words. She saw his glance stray toward June Straughn. She was a dream in an organdie formal. It was canary yellow at her throat but deepened downward until the last billowing ruffle was burnt orange. Her black hair was long, and she had a habit of tossing her head to throw it back. Joe was puffing with importance. He hung about her – an attention she received with apparent indifference.
“You haven’t danced with June, have you?”
“That is so,” he said, just as if he had not yet thought of it.
“Don’t be rude, Bob. After all, she is – June. Why are you acting this way?”
“When I am not afraid to take a girl to my home,” he said bitterly, “I’ll answer that question.”
She sighed and looked about for Turner. He was dancing with Pearl Grover. That meant he would likely dance with her next.
And he did. When the next dance was well started, he found his way to where she was. “I thought you were helping in the kitchen,” he said for the benefit of the listeners.
As they circled the floor, she saw Bob. He was dancing with June, his strong arm holding her as if she were a bit of thistle down. Totally unaware of it, his face was aglow with that dream that comes only in youth. June’s head was back, her eyes meeting his. They danced slowly, as if the world held but the two of them.
“Fool.” Turner’s sharp voice brought Carolyn’s attention quickly to him. “He is blind if he can’t see the girl is in love with him.”
Carolyn’s hopes quickened to new life. That lovely, lovely girl loved her son! Life could hold no sweeter promise for him, but until his pride was satisfied he would never claim her. For a moment Carolyn toyed with the idea of changing the home, of improving it so he would be eager to bring her there. She supposed it could be done.
As if Turner’s dance had been a signal, other men danced with Carolyn. Steps, rhythm, long forgotten, came again to memory. It was not until the evening was nearly gone that Turner had another chance.
“The new dress has made you popular,” was his greeting when they were on the floor.
“It might be that. Anyway, I like it.”
“Huh,” was his comment, but there was a difference in this dance and the first. Bob and June were dancing again, and Lucile was flaunting her indifference by romping down the floor with Joe Colts. They came so close, Turner tightened his arm about Carolyn and whirled her away. They made several rounds of the floor before he remembered to release her, and for those brief moments life turned back. She could feel the thud of his heart, and the carressive pressure of his arms brought an ecstasy of memory. How sweet he had once been to her. His love then had encompassed her world. For the first time in a long while she sincerely wondered if she could overtake Time. she was afraid to try for fear that when she did there would be nothing waiting.
Later, while dancing with Kane, he said, “Turner is very proud of you tonight.”
“Yes, he is. How could he help being? Perhaps it was this he needed.”
That was Kane. always ready to give the other fellow a break. Yet Carolyn felt tears sting her eyes at the ache in his voice. She looked and saw Turner scowling at them. He had never liked Kane.
“He is boasting about you to the men.” Then he added, “You are so sweet.”
She flushed. What could Turner have said? He hadn’t resented her rebellion. As a matter of fact, his attitude had been a revelation to her – or was he merely keeping up appearances? Kane sighed. She had not heard his last remark.
Carson hadn’t appeared, and as the dance progressed Carolyn had become more and more worried. he was so reckless, and so much like his father he would not be forced into a situation.
Bob, too, had been watching. The sight of his parents evidently engrossed in each other did something to him. Where was Carson, and what was he up to? Slipping away, he was going down the steps of the building when June, beside him, spoke.
“Are you leaving?”
“June. Go back.”
“No. I am going with you. I could see by your face something was wrong. Please.”
For a moment he hesitated. He did not want her along, but he could not resist. “Come.” He took her arm and guided her through the maze of cars to his father’s. He had a key. Getting in he swung it about carefully, but once on the highway he drove it swiftly toward home.
“May I ask where we are going?”
“I am looking for Carson,” he said simply. But Carson was not at home. Nor was he at Semple’s. nor was Garden home. They must have gone some place together. Before turning the car back toward the ward house, eh stopped. June, watching his face anxiously, was worried. She touched his arm.
“Can you tell me?”
The words recalled him. he looked down, and everything left him except the fact of her presence.
“You darl…,” his arms were about her before he remembered. Then they dropped, lifelessly. He started the car.
Driving home Turner said, “It seems you had a good time. I – I liked your dress.”
“I did have a good time.” Then, “You were lovely to me, Turner,” came to her thoughts. She tried to voice it aloud, but the habit of restraint was too strong. Instead, she said, “I wish I knew why Carson wasn’t there.”
“He needs some temper pounded out of him.”
For a mile she did not answer, then she began hesitantly, “You can’t pound anything out of him. Counsel and advice might work better.”
She expected an angry retort. Instead, he said wearily. “That is true. If parents controlled themselves they would have no trouble with children.”
She looked up quickly, but his glance was on the road ahead. Time and again the words and the inflection of his voice came back to her in the days that were to come.
When they went up the walk to the house, he opened the door and waited for her to enter. As she put away her things, she grew a little cold with anticipation; but without a good night he went to his own room and closed the door.