Love Is Enough
By Mabel Harmer
Synopsis: Geniel Whitworth, a schoolteacher, arrives in Blayney, Idaho, from Denver, Colorado. She has a room in Mrs. Willett’s boarding house and meets Christine Lacy, another schoolteacher. Geniel tells Christine about Ernest Wood, her friend in Denver. She also meets Mrs. Willett’s nephew, Jeff Burrows, a rancher.
There was an all-day institute on Monday before the beginning of school the following day. Marva, the third school teacher at the boarding house, had arrived Saturday afternoon. She was a year or two younger than Geniel, full of life and enthusiasm for everything from kittens to sunsets. Christine confided that, contrary to appearances, she was an excellent teacher and the youngsters of the second grade loved her.
The other teachers, including Mr. Layton, the principal, all lived in Blayney. Geniel was the only newcomer to the group, and they welcomed her most cordially. She was assigned to the third grade.
On Tuesday, just after she returned home from school, she found her first letter from Ernest. It was a gray day with a light drizzle of rain, and she had felt a definite twinge of homesickness. She opened the letter and read it eagerly. He had missed her but was very busy with the fall trade. He had picked up an excellent new salesman and the business was going very well indeed. She was so glad to get the letter that she would have answered right away, if Mrs. Willett hadn’t put in a call for help.
“Something is wrong with the furnace, and with this rain we’re going to need some heat. I’m right in the middle of peeling a bushel of peaches. Would you mind stepping over next door to the Linfords and asking Johnny to come and fix it?”
“Not at all,” Geniel answered. “I’ll be glad to go.”
She slipped on her raincoat and a scarf and went over to the house next door. It was a small, rather shabby place, with a momentary glory created by scores of zinnias in a profusion of bloom. When she rang the bell she was somewhat surprised to have the door opened by a tall, extremely handsome young man. His dark wavy hair was a bit unruly at the moment and his skin was deeply tanned. he was obviously an outdoor man.
“Hello, Miss Whitworth,” he smiled. Do come in.”
“Oh, I can’t!” she exclaimed, a bit nonplused at his use of her name. “I’m here on an errand for Mrs. Willett. She wants Johnny Linford to come over and fix the furnace.”
“Well, since I’m the only one here who answers to that name, I had better give it a try,” he answered cheerfully. “I’ll pick up my tools and be right over.”
“Thanks.” Geniel turned and hurried back to the house. “He said he’d come right over,” she told Mrs. Willett, who was putting the first of the peaches into bottles. “Does this boy mend furnaces all the time – I mean, is that his regular work?” she asked.
“Johnny? Oh, no. He’s just handy with tools. He’s always fixed everything since he was knee high to a cricket. He’s been working in the forestry service this summer. He just got back from the station yesterday.”
“If he just got back yesterday, how did he know my name?” asked Geniel.
Before Mrs. Willett could answer, Johnny came through the back door without the formality of knocking. “Hi, Allie,” he greeted Mrs. Willett. “What have you been trying to do with your furnace to get it out of order?”
“I tried making a fire by remote control. Anyway, I knew you’d take care of it.”
“Okay. but I’m charging union wages these days and double for overtime.”
He opened the basement door and went down the stairs. A moment later he called back, “I need someone to hold a flashlight. Anyone just sitting around up there who could give me a hand?”
“He couldn’t possibly mean me, I guess,” said Geniel. “But maybe I’d best volunteer, anyway, if we want heat tonight.”
“That’s right. And make him pay you union wages,” advised Mrs. Willett.
Geniel climbed gingerly down the rather steep steps and took the flashlight. “I’ll charge double if you get any soot on me,” she warned.
“Maybe it would be worth it,” he decided. “How was the third grade today?”
“Lovely. They’re perfect dears.” Then almost without thinking, she asked, “How did you know that I was teaching the third grade?”
“I just read it in the newspaper. They publish a list every fall, although it rarely changes from year to year. I went to school under four of the current teachers.”
“Oh, well, that wasn’t so long ago,” said Geniel, and could have bitten her tongue, remembering that no man likes to be told he looks young.
Apparently Johnny didn’t notice the slip. “It was long enough. But I’m awfully anxious to get back into a school room again.”
“Do you plan on going away to school sometime – or will you stay with the forestry service?”
“I sure hope to get away – and that pretty soon,” replied Johnny earnestly. “This forestry business is just a stopgap, although a mighty welcome one. I want to get a degree in mechanical engineering and then build bridges and dams and super-highways. The only drawback is money – of which I have practically none. I’m taking a few correspondence courses and slowly building a savings account.”
“Good! I hope you make it. I’m sure that you will some day. I’ll look for your name on a big dam about ten years from now.”
“Twenty will be more like it,” Johnny corrected her. “And I’m twenty-two now. I need to get going.”
Twenty-two, Geniel noted. That was just two years younger than she. Then she wondered what difference it could possibly make whether he was two or forty-two years younger. What a ridiculous idea.
“I think that should do now,” he decided, giving a bolt a final tap. “We’ll draw cuts to see who builds the fire.” Solemnly he picked up a splinter and broke it in halves. “The short one gets the job.”
Geniel studied them carefully and made her choice.
“You won,” said Johnny, tossing them both aside. “I’ll bet you don’t know how to build a fire anyway. I can let you off now.”
She was at the top of the stairs when he added, “And thanks very much.”
She sat down in the kitchen again to wait until the rest of the house would have a chance to warm up. “That is one of the nicest lads I ever met,” she said, just after he had left.
“He sure is,” agreed Mrs. Willett. “There just isn’t anyone quite like Johnny. No one could help loving him.”
“He seems very ambitious, too. It’s too bad he can’t get away to finish school.”
“Yes, but he’ll make it some day,” Mrs. Willett agreed easily. “His father died last spring, and that means he has to take care of his mother. Otherwise, he could work his own way through. She has a little money coming from the estate of a brother, once it gets settled, and that may take care of the matter.”
“I surely hope so. Does he have a girl?”
“Not any special one. Although, as I said, everyone loves Johnny, from me to three-year-old Kathy on the corner.”
Mrs. Willett filled the last of the bottles, reserving a bowl full of the choicest fruit to be eaten fresh. She had just started to pound the dinner steaks when Jeffry Burrows came walking in. “Hi, Auntie dear,” he called from the doorway. “I just came in for some supplies and thought I’d better bring you a few. Where shall I leave this bag of spuds?”
“Down in the storeroom, if you can lug them that much farther.”
“If I can’t, I’ll just roll them down.”
When he returned to the kitchen, Mrs. Willett asked, “How about staying for dinner? I can have these steaks ready in less than half an hour.”
“Thanks, but the Evans Merc. would be closed by then and I have some things to pick up. I could manage a bowl of those peaches, however, if the lady who is sitting there doing nothing would care to peel them for me.”
“I’ll have you know that the lady just finished repairing the furnace,” said Geniel indignantly, as she stood up and picked out the largest of the fruit.
“What do you know! I must say that Aunt Allie has marvelous luck when it comes to boarders. She certainly draws the best.”
“We both thank you,” said Geniel, as she set the peaches in front of him. She could help thinking how nice and homey it all was – not in the least like an ordinary boarding house. It had driven out her wave of homesickness completely.
At the dinner table Christine passed out some large, square envelopes. “I seem to remember this from last year,” observed Marva. “It must be another Command Performance from the Duchess.”
Geniel opened hers and read an invitation to dinner from Miss Blayney for the coming Saturday night. “This must be very special,” she said.
“It is, indeed,” Marva replied. “Once each fall the lady opens Blayney Manor for the schoolteachers and the board of education. It’s supposed to be a gracious gesture of hospitality, but I doubt that any of us would last the school year out, if we didn’t pass muster.”
“Oh, surely she can’t have that much influence!’ protested Geniel.
“Maybe not. But just let me warn you to be on your best behavior. Repress any arguments or contradictions. Actually, you’ll be the honored guest this year because you are the only newcomer to the force.”
“Actually, to do the lady justice,” said Christine, “she just figures that this is her town and she wants it run right.”
“And she must do all the running in order to make sure that it is,” added Marva.
Geniel was not greatly concerned. After dinner she looked over her dresses and decided that the green velveteen with the gold costume jewelry would be about right for the occasion. It would be rather exciting, she thought, to see the inside of Blayney Manor and to meet the great lady herself.
On the way home from school on Friday, she was a big surprised to find Johnny waiting for her outside his gate. “Are you the lady who mends furnaces, fences, and …?”
“Just my own fences,” interrupted Geniel.
“Well, I have another little job in which you might be interested,” he continued. “I have to go up to the ranger’s station tomorrow to put shutters on the place against the coming winter blizzards. I was wondering if you would care to take the job over – under my supervision, of course.”
“Oh, putting shutters on forest ranger stations is absolutely the very best thing I do,” declared Geniel. “What time would we have to start?”
“It’s only a thirty mile drive, and if you work fast you can be through in two or three hours. So I think that ten a.m. would do nicely.”
“Good. I’ll be ready. Shall I pack a lunch, or do you furnish that for your hired help:”
“I furnish one meal only,” said Johnny in his most businesslike tones. “But if Mrs. Willett has any chocolate cake on hand, you might bring enough for four.”
“You have additional help going?” Geniel’s spirits suffered an unaccountable letdown.
“Oh, no. But bring enough for four anyway. I can manage to take care of that much – with some additional help from you.”
“I’ll guarantee the cake.”
She went on home and quickly changed to a cotton dress. Then she hurried down to the kitchen. “I’m going up to the ranger’s station with Johnny to close up for the winter,” she told Mrs. Willett, “and he has ordered a chocolate cake. Do you mind if I make one?”
“Not at all,” was the cheerful reply. “Go right ahead. I’d do it myself, it I had the time.”
“Thanks, but I’d really like to make it.” She brought out a mixing bowl and went to work. She loved baking, and it had been a long time since she had had the fun of stirring up a cake. When it was finished she put on a thick icing and some chopped walnuts.
When Johnny called for her at ten the next morning he looked her over critically. “How are your heels? You’ll have to do some climbing. Did you bring a warm sweater? How about putting that scarf on your head?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Geniel meekly. “And how about a compass and …?”
“Who wants a compass!” retorted Johnny. “You could qualify in a jiffy as the girl I’d like to get lost with.”
They swung down the road at a moderate pace, for which she was more than pleased. It was much too nice a day to be spoiled by rushing about. Late September had turned much of the foliage on the hills to a Persian carpet of red, gold, and bronze. The sagebrush had a purple haze that was as beautiful as anything she had ever seen. Altogether, it was a day to be enjoyed to the utmost.
After they had left the main highway, the road was rough and narrow. “This is shown as a jeep road on the map,” he explained, “and they’re not kidding. But we’ll make it. At least, I always have before.”
With this bit of consolation, Geniel clung to the side of the car and held her breath over the worst of the bumps and dugways. She breathed a sigh of relief when they finally arrived at the station. “Now all we have to do is go down again,” she consoled herself.
“You can get out and keep the bears away while I get things started,” said Johnny, opening the door on her side.
“Thanks. All I have to do is shoo them, I suppose?”
“Oh, sure. There’s a nice view thataway,” said Johnny, pointing to the north trail, “and good hunting.”
Geniel walked up the trail to a point where she could see an entirely new vista. She sat down on a log to enjoy the tangy mountain air and the glory of the autumn day. It was so lovely and peaceful that she felt as if she could sit there for hours. When she finally decided to walk down again, she found Johnny putting on the last of the shutters.
“Piker,” he called. “I didn’t say you could stay all morning. Now I’ve gone and done most of your work. You may redeem yourself by setting the lunch out on that table over there by the pine tree. The lunch is in that hamper.”
“Thanks, Mister. I’ll do my best.” She took the basket and carried it over to the table. There was a red checkered cloth which she spread over the table and then put on the lunch. It was quite simple – sandwiches of homemade bread, tomatoes, pickles, a potato salad, some apples, and her chocolate cake.
As she worked she couldn’t help wondering why it was that Johnny made her feel as if she were years younger than he – when actually she was two years older. She wondered, too, why it was that every minute she spent with him was fun. Never could she remember having so much fun with anyone else. Perhaps it was because she could be perfectly natural. She didn’t have to put on a front. Whatever it was, she liked it, and she liked him. She was grateful for this lovely, carefree day.
They were joined for lunch by a couple of squirrels whom Johnny called Kate and Tim and declared to be old acquaintances. He cut up an apple for them, but drew the line at giving them any cake. “It’s much too good for anyone your size,” he commented, adding to Geniel, “when you can bake a cake like that I’ll …” The twinkle in her eyes stopped him, and he asked quickly, “You didn’t really, did you?”
“Cross my heart,” smiled Geniel. “It’s my chief talent, outside of knitting washcloths. School teaching is just a sideline.”
“Well, I predict you’ll go far,” he said seriously. “And, speaking of going far, I’d best pack up the stuff I have to take down so that we can be on our way.”
Geniel walked off on another trail and returned just as he was putting the last of his load in the car. A couple of miles down the road they were waved to a stop by a little girl. “What is it, Hilda?” he called.
“Mom saw you go past this morning. She wants you to send the doctor up to see Mickey. He has a real bad stomach ache,” she replied quickly.
“We’ll come in and see just how bad he is,” said Johnny.
They followed Hilda up to a small house, almost surrounded by fruit trees.”Hello, there, Mrs. Rampton,” he greeted the woman who came to the door. “This is Miss Whitworth, one of the schoolteachers. I hear that Mickey has been eating too many green apples.”
“I sure hope that’s all it is,” she answered. “It came on sort of sudden, but he’s in awful pain. We don’t have a telephone, so I was wondering if you would send the doctor up when you get back to town. Jim is out on the range after his cattle.”
“Let’s have a look at the boy,” said Johnny.
“He’s right in here on the couch.”
They found the nine-year-old boy doubled up with pain. “This could be appendicitis, you know,” said Johnny. “And if it is, he ought to go down to the hospital, such as it is. I think I’d better take you and the boy down with me.”
“But I can’t leave the other children here alone,” said Mrs. Rampton, half in tears.
“I can stay,” offered Geniel. “Johnny can come back and get me later.”
Mrs. Rampton looked doubtful. “Oh, I can’t impose on you like that!”
Mickey broke into tears, along with his pain. “I don’t want to go alone,” he cried.
“Of course you don’t,” soothed Johnny. “Mother will go with you, just as the nice lady said.”
Quickly they prepared to leave, and half an hour later Geniel found herself there in a strange house with three children, the youngest a baby less than a year. She was preparing some supper for them when it struck her that in less than fifteen minutes she was due at a formal dinner where she was to have been the guest of honor.