From the Relief Society Magazine, 1961 –
Love Is Enough
By Mabel Harmer
The bus swung around a corner and jerked to a sudden stop. Geniel, looking idly out of the windows, smiled at the sight of a teen-age boy trying to balance a stick on his chin. She was waiting to see how long he could balance it, when the driver called, “Blayney! This is your stop, lady.”
She stood and reached for her hatbox on the shelf. As she made her way to the door several of the passengers, in the friendly camaraderie of bus travel, called, “Goodbye. Hope you enjoy your winter.”
“Goodbye. Thank you,” she called back and was assisted down from the high steps by the driver. He brought out her bags and was on his way again in a couple of minutes. She was the only passenger for Blayney, Idaho, population 2300.
She lugged her heavy bags over to the store, which served as ticket and loading office. The freckled-faced boy watched her unconcernedly.
Geniel walked into the store and waited until the owner had finished with his single customer. “Could you tell me how to find Mrs. Willett’s boarding house?” she asked.
“It’s just two blocks north. A big two-story green house. You can’t miss it.”
“But I have some bags. I can’t carry them.”
“Bring them in here. I’ll drop them off on my way home from work tonight.”
“Thank you very much,” said Geniel hesitantly. It didn’t seem to be the best idea in the world, but she had no choice. She brought in the larger of the bags, intending to carry the smaller one herself. Then she had a better idea. “Could I hire you to carry this bag down to Mrs. Willett’s house?” she asked of the boy who was standing on the sidewalk. “What is your name?”
“Yeah, I guess,” he replied, taken unawares. “My name is Fred.”
He picked up the bag and started down the street.
“I am Miss Whitworth,” said Geniel pleasantly. “I’m going to teach school here this year.”
“You won’t like it,” her companion promised with finality.
“”Indeed! And why not?”
“Oh, I dunno. You just won’t.”
There seemed to be no point in arguing the matter, so Geniel turned her attention to the town. They had passed the business district, consisting of three stores, the post office, and the ward chapel. On the next corner was a huge red brick house, the type that had been built in the ‘90s and was usually referred to as a mansion.
“My, but that’s a big house!” she exclaimed. “Does a family live there?”
No family. Just the Duchess.”
“The Duchess?” asked Geniel in mixed surprise and amusement.
“Her real name is Miss Blayney,” Freckles explained. “But everyone calls her the Duchess. Not to her face, of course. Her grandpa built this town. He owned about all the land. She runs the town. You won’t like her.”
The long speech seemed to have exhausted Fred, and he stopped to shift the bag to the other hand.
“I won’t like the town and I won’t like the Duchess,” smiled Geniel. “Tell me, is there anything I will like?”
“Oh, sure. There’s good fishing over there on Silver Creek. And I guess there’re some pretty good dances. Anyway, you’re sort of pretty.”
“Thank you very much,” replied Geniel gravely. She supposed there was some connection between her being sort of pretty and having a good time at the dances.
“This is it,” was the boy’s next remark, turning in at a large two-story, green frame house. He deposited the bag on the steps and turned to leave.
“Here, wait!” called Geniel, opening her handbag.
“Aw, that’s all right.” He waved her off airily and sauntered back to the walk.
“Well, thank you very much, Fred,” she called. “I enjoyed meeting you.”
Geniel walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. It was answered in a minute by a very plump, very pleasant looking woman in her fifties. “Oh, Miss Whitworth,” she called heartily, “do come in. I’ve been expect you.”
“Thank you,” Geniel smiled. She reflected that Fred evidently hadn’t known Mrs. Willett. He couldn’t possibly have said, “You won’t like her.”
“Your room is in the northwest corner upstairs,” said Mrs. Willett. “You may go right up, if you like, and lay off your things. I’m busy getting dinner, but come down and sit in the kitchen now – or any time. Is that all you brought?”
“The man at the store is bringing my large bag this evening. Fred carried this one over for me.”
She climbed the stairs and entered the room. It was large and cheerful looking, with fluffy white curtains at the windows. Number two on the credit side, Fred, she said to herself. I’m going to like this room.
She set her bag on a chair and walked over to the west window. A few houses lined the street on the opposite side and beyond were fields, brown now, after relinquishing their harvest, and rimmed in the distance by the purple mountains.
She turned, removed her hat and light coat, and began to unpack her bag. The toilet articles she placed on the dresser along with two photographs, one of her family, the other of a young man. You’d be on Fred’s side, she remarked mentally to the man in the photo. You wouldn’t care much for this town. There doesn’t seem to be enough enterprise. But it’s very pretty, and I’m going to like it – I think.
There was nothing more she could do in her room, and it was slightly chilly so she decided to go downstairs. On one side of the long hallway she had glimpsed a living room and she decided to go there instead of accepting Mrs. Willett’s invitation to the kitchen. She was pleased to find another of the boarders already there – a tall, rather slender woman, probably in her early forties. She was saved from being rather plain by a pair of deep blue, sparkling eyes and a quick, pleasant smile.
“Hello,” she said, rising and holding out her hand. “I’m Christine Lacy. We are fellow teachers, as well as boarders, so we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.”
“How nice,” said Geniel, returning the smile and the warm handclasp.
They both sat down in front of the large fireplace where a single burning log gave more of an illusion of warmth than anything very real.
“I do hope you’re going to like it here,” said Christine earnestly.
“Oh, I’m sure that I shall,” replied Geniel, “although I was warned very definitely that I wouldn’t by a freckled-faced boy, Fred, who carried my bag here.”
“That would be Freddy Mitchell, and there’s only one like him, thank goodness. I’ve been here for fourteen years and like it well enough to stay on – or else I’m in a dreadful rut. Is this your first year of teaching?”
“No. I taught in the Denver schools for two years.”
“That’s interesting. I mean, it’s rather unusual for anyone to leave a large city to come out to a small town like this. Evidently you like a change.”
“Yes,” Geniel agreed simply. There were much stronger reasons for the move than merely like a change, but she wasn’t going to explain them. Not at the moment, anyway. “How many boarders are there?” she asked.
“Just three, including yourself. The other one is Marva Eberhart, another teacher. She’s still in California on her vacation, but she should be back tomorrow. You’ll like her.”
The call to dinner stopped any further discussion. The food was already on the table, and Mrs. Willett sat down comfortably with them. “It sure is nice to have one more in the family,” she commented. “It’s been pretty lonesome this summer with just the two of us here.”
“I can soon take care of that,” said a voice in the doorway, and Geniel turned to see a tall, bronzed young man in plaid shirt and levis.
“Oh, come on in, Jeff,” said Mrs. Willett. “I’ll get you a plate. I suppose you’re hungry.”
“You suppose correctly, Madam,” he replied, giving her cheek a kiss in passing. “And my timing is perfect, as usual.”
He had put a chair up to the table and sat down before Christine had a chance to say, “This hungry young man is Jeffry Burrows, Mrs. Willett’s nephew. Miss Whitworth, Jeff.”
“Hi,” responded Jeff, briefly but warmly. “Are you a schoolteacher, too?”
“Yes, you can always tell, can’t you?” smiled Geniel.
“Not, not at all. Now, Miss Lacy here, upon a casual meeting I would take her to be a lion tamer in a circus. And Aunt Allie here, I would most certainly spot as being a lady cop. Actually, I was hoping that you were a veterinarian. Our only one has left for greener fields, and I’ve been praying that one would come and settle down in our midst.”
“Jeff is a rancher,” explained his aunt. “Only all of his cattle and horses are fancy breeds with fancy names.”
“And fancy sicknesses,” added Jeff. “Right now half of my summer’s profits are tied up in a heifer that I would swear is a hypochondriac. I can’t find a blamed thing the matter with her, but, if I didn’t humor her every day, she’d lie down and die.”
“And the more temperamental they act, the better you like it,” said Mrs. Willett. “It makes you all the more sure that they aren’t like ordinary animals.”
“It’s what they cost that makes me sure of that,” he said. “But why worry about that when I have all this elegant beef stroganoff, topped by gooseberry pie – I hope?”
“Apple, tonight,” Mrs. Willett corrected him.
Shortly after he had eaten and left, a voice from the porch called,
“Hey, tell that teacher I brought her baggage!”
Geniel jumped up from the table and hurried to the door. “Thank you so much,” she said. “If you’ll wait just a minute I’ll run upstairs and get my purse.”
“Oh, that’s okay.” The storekeeper waved aside her offer. “Don’t bother. I just dropped it off on my way home from work.”
He walked off almost before she could thank him, and Geniel lugged the heavy bag inside. She was wondering how she could manage to get it up the stairs when Christine came out. “Let me help you,” she offered. “I believe that between the two of us we can get it up.”
They each took hold and struggled up the rather narrow stairway and down to the room.
“Sit down and rest while I unpack,” Geniel suggested. “That is, unless you have something else you’d rather do.”
“No, there’s nothing,” answered Christine, and Geniel could tell that she was pleased at the invitation.
“That’s a nice looking young man on the dresser,” she said, indicating the photo. “Is he yours?”
“Well, yes and no,” answered Geniel with a smile. “I’ve been going with him for a long time – years in fact, and there has been sort of an understanding between us, if you know what I mean. But there isn’t a definite engagement. Actually, that’s the real reason I came out here. I’m not at all sure that I love him enough for marriage – even if he sets a date – or asks me at all, although I’m rather sure that he will in time. The trouble with him is that he wants to get what he calls a start in life. He is part owner now of a shoe store and is doing well, but it isn’t enough to suit him. I thought it might help both of us to make up our minds if I left for a year – so you see …”
Christine looked thoughtful for a moment. “Yes, I suppose I do,” she answered. “But believe me, love isn’t everything.”
“No, I suppose not,” agreed Geniel. “But it is awfully important.”
“Yes, it is important, but I think that sometimes a young girl can attach too much importance to romance. I did. And that’s why I’m out here in the sticks teaching school instead of rearing a family. It was a terrible mistake.”
Geniel stopped to shake the wrinkles out of a printed silk dress before putting it on a hanger.
“Would you care to tell me?” she asked. “I honestly have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about it. I don’t want to make any mistake. It means too much.”
“It means everything,” agreed Christine. “And I will tell you my story, although I never have before.” She looked out at the growing darkness, fingering a silver link bracelet.
“I was going with a young man back home – I grew up in a town in Southern Utah – and he wanted to marry me. But I didn’t think I loved him enough. He had every quality, almost, that any girl would want in a husband. That is, he was active in Church work, had no bad habits, and had a pretty good job. But I never could get excited about him. I didn’t care whether he called me up or not. If we went out with another couple I didn’t have much fun. I decided it just wasn’t enough.”
“And rightly, I would say,” Geniel broke in emphatically.
“That’s what I thought at the time, so I turned him down. He married another girl, and they had five children – rather close together. A lot of people were sorry for her, but I wasn’t one of them. I would have given my life any time to have been able to claim them for mine. I had to get away. I couldn’t bear to see them grow up and realize what I had missed.”
“And that’s why you came up here?” Geniel asked sympathetically.
“Yes, but I haven’t been able to get away, really. I’ve kept track of all of them. Two of the boys have been on missions and have achieved outstanding success. The girls are lovely. I could have gloried in all of their successes. Instead, I gave it up because some of the thrills of romance were missing. If you have a chance to marry a good man I hope you’ll take it.”
Geniel sat down on the bed. “You may be right,” she said thoughtfully, “to some extent, I’m sure you are. But I can’t help thinking how wonderful it would be to feel so much love for a man that you figured you couldn’t live without him. I remember my sister Marcie on her wedding day. She was simply radiant with joy. I want that, too.”
“Of course you do. It’s what every girl wants, just as every girl would like to be pretty and popular. But some are very plain. Life is like that. It’s up to us to make the best of it.”
“I know,” Geniel agreed, “and that’s what I hope to do. Thanks so much for telling me your story.” She went over to the dresser and picked up the picture. “You know Ernest Wood is really very earnest. And the entire decision isn’t on my side. Maybe he needs to make up his mind about me, too. Anyway, I think being apart this year will help a lot. We might have gone drifting on for the next ten, otherwise. I honestly do want to get married – and I want to marry a good man.”
“I’m sure you do. Every normal, sensible girl does. Well, I’ll leave you alone now. I’m sure you must want some rest after that long bus ride.”
“Oh, but I’m really not tired at all!” Geniel protested.
“Then I’m sure that you must be wanting to drop notes to that fine looking family and handsome gentleman in the photos, and tell them that you have arrived safely,” said Christine.
“Yes, perhaps I should,” agreed Geniel. Then she added with a smile, “I think that you must be pulling for Ernest.”
“I rather think I am,” admitted Christine with a smile.
After she had left, Geniel brought out her writing paper. “I’ve been in Blayney for six hours and twenty-five minutes,” she wrote, “and like it better by the minute. Of course, the real test will come when school starts next week. There will be three of us here at the boarding house when the other teacher, Marva Eberhart, arrives. Christine Lacy is about forty and has been here for several years. I doubt very much if I will like it that much. Mrs. Willett, the landlady, is a motherly soul and an excellent cook. A nephew put in an appearance at dinner time looking, allegedly, for a veterinarian, but seemed perfectly satisfied to take on beef stroganoff and apple pie instead.”
She finished the letters and made ready for bed. With the lights out, she stood at the window looking at the distant mountains faintly outlined in the moonlight. It was peaceful beyond anything she had ever remembered. “A good place to find one’s soul,” she reflected. “But rather a cold one.” She shivered as she climbed into bed.