Cathedral of Peace
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
The winter came on, and in its inevitable way brought changes and developments. At the beginning, the loss of cattle that had begun in Turner’s pasture spread. The Elkhorn lost four, and the three ranches on South Fork suffered losses. Turner was the only one who lost anything but calves. The winter was comparatively open, and cars could still be used. There were suspicions, voiced and unvoiced. Bob made several trips to the Cross Line. Once Carolyn went but returned alone.
When they knew certainly that Carson was not going to relent and go to school, Bob also gave up the idea. He enrolled for extension courses in animal husbandry. It became easy to talk to his father about it, for Turner reached out to Bob for companionship. He offered the money. While Bob would never have admitted it, his decision to not press the matter of going away was influenced by another happening.
On the Relief Society’s first Work Day, he had driven to the ward house to bring his mother home. To his surprise, Mrs. Straughn came out and asked if she might ride home with them. Hiding his eagerness, he said:
“I’d be delighted.” He got out and opened the door for her, while she went for her things.
“The men were busy today,” she explained, as they started away, “and June took my car to town on an errand for her father. She brought me over, but I told her I thought I could ride home with you.”
“You will miss her dreadfully when she goes to school,” Carolyn sympathized, thinking of the many ways a grown girl can help.
“She isn’t going,” Mrs. Straughn answered. “I feel dreadful about it, but I must have help. A winter at home will help both of us, though, especially if she decides to get married.”
“Oh!” Carolyn expelled the word in sudden alarm. “Is she getting married?”
“We don’t know. She has been going with a young man for a long time. He graduated last spring and has a good position; so there is no reason for their not getting married, if she is in love with him. But she doesn’t say.”
Bob stepped on the gas. The flame of the shrubs on the hillside was no brighter than the one that lighted his heart. The tang of the fall air was instantly more heady. She was going to be here all winter! By spring, who could tell?
Since that long night when Carolyn had lain listening, listening lest Turner walk out of the house and out of her life forever, she had changed many of her ideas. She knew now that she had expected the impossible. She had expected a love to survive when its every expression was denied. She had expected Turner, with all his expanding power, to cling to the level upon which she had chosen to live. That he was ripe for some other woman to snatch she also knew, and she grew cold with fear at the knowledge.
The night that Carson had left she had found that Turner could not be coaxed suddenly into a state of companionship. She first must have something to contribute that would invite companionship. She would have to build up little by little that which she had so callously let die. The realization had come to her that night that clothes do not make the inner woman; they are merely an expression of her, her approach to friendship and social intercourse.
She was thankful now that she had accepted responsibility in the Relief Society. It was a wedge with which to open a new life. It was a ladder up which she could climb to a new self-esteem. Kane had said she was stubborn. She was, and now she was using that quality to remedy conditions. It was surprising how many avenues opened to help her.
The little progress she made with Turner, however, was heartbreaking. There were times when the bother, the struggle and heartbreak were almost too great a price to pay. Turner resisted every advance coldly, often rudely; but she refused to quit.
She did not go to the grove any more, although its cold, stark, winter beauty had always fascinated her. She knew nothing of psychology, but she sensed that keeping away from the old situation would be the first step in creating a new one. She joined the Parent-Teacher Association, and to her surprise found that she was really interested. She studied her Relief Society lessons avidly, the more so because they were hard for her – extremely hard at first. She not only had to learn, but she had to train herself to study. Turner had always studied. He was constantly being asked to give service which required study. This fact helped her when otherwise she would have become discouraged and given up.
She had never been a scholar as he was, and the little inclination she had had originally was long since dead of inactivity. It was hard to bring it back to life. But step by step she restored it, until her desire to learn became strong. Talking of doing better, or promising, would have had no weight with Turner.
One evening when Denis was preparing a lesson in English Literature, he asked Bob for help. Bob was busy. Turner took no notice, so Carolyn hesitantly offered. Once she would have shied from offering. Now, to her own surprise as well as his, she was able to help clear his problem. When she arose from the table, she noticed Turner watching her intently. He quickly averted his gaze.
The Relief Society Magazine she read from cover to cover. The magazines she had read on rare occasions had interested her very little. The people in them were too far removed from her; they were like creatures from another life. In this little magazine she met her own, and in meeting them found courage. She studied the lessons each week but would never volunteer to take part in the discussion. Once, quite by accident, she was called on. Her answer was slow, faltering, but worth listening to. After that she was often asked to express an opinion. It was not surprising, then, that in January she was asked to give the lesson on emotions.
‘Oh, I couldn’t,” was her first startled reaction.
“I am sure you can,” the far-sighted Mrs. Straughn answered. “Anyone as eager to learn as you are can do anything.”
“But how would I give it?”
“If you feel you need help, why not ask your husband? The Priesthood members think he is a wonderful teacher; and he keeps up so well, that he will know a great deal about the subject.”
So it came about a few nights later when work was finished, Carolyn put her books on the table where Turner was working on his accounts.
Some quality in her voice made him raise his head quickly. He looked questioningly from her to the books and back again.
“Well?” he did not make the approach easy for her.
“I have been asked to give a lesson, and I do not know how.”
“Well?” he asked again.
“Will you help me?”
“Why not Bob? I am busy.” But there was none of his hard, cutting sarcasm.
“I would rather you would.”
With a great show of deliberation he reached for her magazine. She handed it to him. Sitting at the table beside him, she explained about the time to be used and the usual procedure.
“Let me read it over,” he suggested, “then we can discuss it.”
Flushed and pleased, she raised her head and met Bob’s eyes. They were puzzled, but while he looked at her a light leaped into his own. When she went to the kitchen to set bread, he followed.
“Atta girl, Mother,” he said, putting an arm over her shoulder. “You will win.”
“I didn’t think you had noticed. Does it mean anything to you?”
A white line came about his mouth. “It means just about everything to me. How could I help but notice?”
“Have I been so different?”
“You feel different. That puts new spirit into all of us – even Dad, though he won’t acknowledge it.”
“Do you suppose he realizes what I am trying to do? He doesn’t seem to.”
“He would take good care that you shouldn’t find it out if he did, but he will break down in time.” He turned toward the outside. She noticed the droop of his shoulders.
“Yes.” He turned, with one hand on the door knob.
“I am not as strong nor as capable as you.”
His brow wrinkled, then his mouth twisted in a wry smile.
“She refuses to go with me, Mother.”
“So does Dad. She does that because of the dance. Have you persisted?”
“No. I haven’t the heart. If I just knew it wasn’t the other fellow! I did a shabby trick that night.”
“Yes. After paying special attention to her and giving every indication of special interest, you turned and asked Lucile for the dance. June’s pride was hurt.”
He thought, “She even went on that ride with me, and still I ignored it.” For a moment longer he considered, then his head went up. “I can fight, now. I feel as if I had some reason for it.”
Back in the dining room, Turner motioned to her. “Sit down,” he said, “and we will go over your material.”
She took a chair near him. He seemed reluctant to start. At length he spoke.
“I suppose you realize this lesson covers personal ground.”
“You still want me to help?”
Again she nodded.
“Then we will do our best. Tell me, what particular thing do you want to stress? That is, what shall you use as an objective?”
“I don’t know.”
He began showing her. He was a fluent and persuasive speaker. Carolyn forgot his words in listening to the inflections of his voice, in watching the muscles of his mouth. She felt her spirit flow out to meet his.
“Do you see now?”
“Huh? Oh, I beg your pardon. I wasn’t listening.”
“I thought so.”
“Yes, I was,” she said softly, “but to something out of the past. Forgive me. I shall really listen.”
For a moment he did not speak. She saw his knuckles whiten. With an effort he began His thoughts were clear and concise. At once the thing began to take shape in her mind.
“If you two are going to talk all evening, how am I to study?” Denis complained.
“Go into the living room,” his father answered quickly. There was no annoyance in the words. In pointi9ng to a certain sentence, his finger shook. Immediately he stood.
“Read your material over again with that thought in mind. Make a note of everything that bears on it. Another time I will help you organize it.”
He left then, ostensibly to look over things before going to bed. Instead of reading, Carolyn simply sat, and felt. Already the material had opened her eyes to a world of past mistakes and future possibilities. She saw the tremble of Turner’s hand. Some day he would relent; and when he did, she would hold fast to that which was good.
In the meantime, Bob, buttoning a heavy jacket about him, had gone out into the crackling cold night. He knew now what he was going to do. He had been alone a great deal this winter, and he was hungry for companionship. Perhaps Mother was right about June. Was she angry; or, a cold chill went down his spine, had she found it was the other man? Joe Colts, he knew, was just someone to go places with. He did not count.
Snow lay over everything, but it was not deep. The roads were all open. Getting his skis, he threw them over his shoulder and struck east toward the Elkhorn. As he neared the ranch buildings, he caught sight of figures against the white of Bald Mountain. The crowd was up there skiing. He was soon at the foot of the slope. Disdaining the easy way, he started up. At the top, he was greeted with shouts and reproaches.
“Hi, there, hermit,” Joe called.
“It is time you were coming to earth,” Lucile added tartly.
“Why didn’t you bring Carson?” another asked.
Bob was stooping. He raised his head quickly. “Carson?” he asked. He disliked talking about his brother.
“I thought Tim said he talked to him this afternoon.”
“I did,” Tim told him, “but it was this evening, not this afternoon. He was very likely on his way home.”
June was poised for the descent.
“Come on,” Joe called, and was gone. But she hung back. The crowd that had resented her at first now acknowledged her as its leader. She had not accomplished this, Bob admitted, by staying home. She would always make herself a part of things. She would want someone who would do the same. For one brief moment he doubted, then the thought of his mother brought reassurance. He could do whatever he wanted to do.
“Hello, Bob,” June called gaily, but with no intimacy.
‘Wait a moment.” He was struggling with his skis.
“Come on, Ju-une,” Joe called from below.
In her bright plaid jacket and fur hood the girl made a sharp contrast to those who were dressed in haphazard costumes. To her credit, none seemed to notice. Cupping her hands, she called, “Wait a minute.”
Crowding her to one side, Joe’s sister and Ben Dunn swept down the trail. The slope was not too high, the snow not too good, but they were enjoying every minute of the evening. As Bob stood up after fastening his skis, he noticed a cloud bank in the west. The weather had moderated slightly, too, or his climb up had warmed him.
“Ready?” she asked.
Away they went, the cold air stinging their faces and whipping the blood through their veins. As they reached the foot of the hill, they circled in opposite directions and came back facing each other. Their skis struck, and June was thrown slightly off balance. Joe rushed to catch her, but there was no need. With one movement of his long arm, Bob had caught and steadied her.
“Thanks,” she laughed, shaking the wind from her face.
“Want to go up again?” he asked quietly.
“We are all going up again.” Joe reached for her hand.
“I am taking her up.”
A half dozen more of the group were down and were laughing and rushing about. When they began the ascent, Joe went with them. He was not deceived. He knew he was only a friend. He did not like it, but there was nothing he could do about it.
“What has that guy got that the rest of us haven’t?” he muttered to himself, but was honest enough to admit he had something. “Hi, Lucile,” he called, “wait for me.”
After they had rested long enough for the others to get a good start, Bob shouldered his own and June’s skis.
“Shall we start?”
She looked up the slope. “I couldn’t go up the way you did.”
“We will go around. The long way is the best for us tonight.”
June’s pulse quickened. Affecting indifference, she asked, “How did you happen to come tonight? We have tried all winter to get you out.”
“You know why I haven’t been out.”
“You mean you were sulking because I turned you down?” It was rude, but she couldn’t help saying it. He had such a sense of his own importance, and yet at times he had none at all.
“No, there just wasn’t any reason why I should go.”
“Then why bother to come tonight?” she asked tartly.
“It wasn’t a bother. I decided.”
“Decided to come? It is time. I dislike men who are too busy to live.”
“That wasn’t what I decided.”
She was suddenly impatient to go. “Let’s catch the others.”
“No.” he caught her back as she would have hurried after the others. They walked in silence – a comfortable silence for Bob. Just to be with her gave him that feeling. There was no need for words.
June was not sure she liked the silence. She wished Bob had not come tonight, just when she had made up her mind to invite Ray up for the spring vacation. It was not, she told herself, that she particularly liked Bob. He had deliberately stepped between her and Joe. The moment he came around, he assumed authority. He gave her a glimpse of things no other boy had ever done; yet, she did not like him – she certainly did not. He would leave her abruptly if he chose, as if she were of no moment. He couldn’t do that to her! Bob shifted his skis. The silence was no longer comfortable.
“I am thinking of going up to see Carson tomorrow,” he said. “It will be a grand sleigh ride if it doesn’t snow too much. Could you be ready by ten?”
“To go with me, of course.”
“No,” she said shortly, “I couldn’t, because I am not going.”
“Not going?” he echoed in astonishment. “What do you mean?”
Her courage ebbed. He was such a lovable combination of fear and courage. But she must not weaken.
“That is what I mean.”
“Because,” she spoke very slowly so that her voice would not tremble, “I am marrying another man.” There. If he were going to be afraid, he had a prop to lean on.
“Listen, you.” He dropped the skis and whirled her about to face him. they were high on the slope, and the world in her robes of white was their footstool. “Don’t you dare say that again.” His arms suddenly enveloped her, and she was close against him. “June!” Then the beauty, the wonder of the word overwhelmed her. “June,” he whispered. His lips moved toward hers.
But over her head, he had caught a glimpse of something. He tensed. Something black was moving over the white expanse down hear the river. He watched. it moved again.
“What is it?” she asked. “Did you see something?”
“I’m not sure, but I have to leave – now.” He looked up at the slope above. “Sorry. Call Joe.”
Then he was gone, and she was left alone, undecided whether to laugh or cry.