Love Is Enough
By Mabel Harmer
Synopsis: Geniel Whitworth, a schoolteacher from Denver, Colorado, takes a position at Blayney, Idaho, and lives at Mrs. Willett’s boarding house. She meets Christine Lacy and Marva Eberhart, fellow schoolteachers, Mrs. Willett’s nephew, Jeff Burrows, a rancher, and Johnny Linford, who is working for the forest service. Geniel finds these friends quite different from Ernest Wood, her friend in Denver. The schoolteachers and Mrs. Willett spend Thanksgiving at Jeff’s ranch.”
The Thanksgiving holidays were no sooner over and school days resumed than almost everyone began dropping remarks about the pageant.
“What pageant?” asked Geniel at the dinner table.
“Ha,” Marva intoned ominously, “you’ll find out.”
“It sounds pretty bad,” said Geniel, drawing her sweater closer together. “When and how do I find out?”
“It isn’t bad at all,” said Christine with a smile. “But it does mean a lot of work for all of us, Miss Blayney …”
“Whom you will remember as the patron saint of the Central School,” interrupted Marva.
“Miss Blayney,” Christine repeated, “writes a pageant every year. Our school has the honor of producing it.”
“Under her eagle and uncompromising eye,” Marva continued.
“Well, naturally, she wants to be sure that everything goes well. I suppose that any author feels the same towards her brain child. The youngsters really all look forward to it every year. The mothers make costumes, and the various acts and scenes are divided up among all the classes, so that none of us has too much to do. Not enough to make it a burden, anyway.”
“Correct,” agreed Marva. “And if we could do it in our own way, or even all work together under one capable director, it would be fine. But we struggle along for fear Miss Blayney will decide we are all wrong, or that even she herself has erred slightly, and change the act, change the cast, change the scenery. …”
“Oh, I know it can’t be as bad as you say,” laughed Geniel. “You’re just trying to scare me.”
“Hm, just you wait,” replied Marva darkly.
“I know one thing,” Geniel commented, “after the brush I had with her last fall when I missed her big dinner, I better not make any mistakes on this affair.”
“You or anyone else,” agreed Marva, “although why we are all so scared of her, I’m not too sure. I doubt if she could do more than get us fired – and schoolmarms are hard to come by these days.”
In another few days copies of the pageant were handed out to the teachers. It was titled “The First Christmas.”
“It gets various titles,” said Christine, “but it’s usually about the same thing.”
“Which any eighth grader could have written,” added Marva, “but it’s up to us to make a shining performance.”
Geniel was given the episode of the herald angels appearing to the shepherds. Since there were only a few lines to be spoken by the shepherds and one song for the angels, it didn’t seem a very formidable assignment.
“‘We have quite a stock of costumes from other years,” Mr. Layton, the principal, told her, “especially of angels and shepherds, so you won’t have to worry on that account.”
When Geniel asked the members of her class which ones would like to be shepherds the hands of every boy in the room went up – sixteen in all. She knew before asking that every girl would want to be an angel. The script called for six shepherds and a chorus of eight angels. Besides, there were costumes for only six of each.
“I can manage to get a dozen angels on the stage,” she decided, “by putting them close together. And white nightgowns, or worn out sheets will do for costumes. But how to manage almost triple the number of shepherds is something else again. And how to costume them is another problem. I’m grateful that I don’t have to bring out the three kings of the Orient. I’m sure that I couldn’t get by with a dozen or so extra there.”
“You could choose them by taking the six with the highest spelling grades,” Marva suggested. “Hardly anyone gets rewarded for being a good speller these days.”
“I’d be sure to end up with the six who had the least stage presence – if there is such a thing in the third grade. No, I’m going to get them all in the act by fair means or foul. They were so eager – bless their hearts.”
“Good luck to you,” said Marva. “But let me warn you that when Miss Blayney puts six shepherds in her act, six is what she wants and not sixteen.”
“As long as the stage will hold them, I’ll figure it out,” said Geniel optimistically.
The rehearsals went forward with a dozen angels singing beautifully, and sixteen shepherds posed over and over again on the stage until they took up the least possible space.
Geniel pondered over the problem of additional costumes and finally decided that she would have to go and see several of the mothers. She was afraid that merely sending word home by the children would not bring the desired results.
In this project she had to call on Johnny for help one Saturday morning. “In the interests of the annual Christmas pageant, to be presented by the Central School, you’d be glad to chauffeur me around for a couple of hours, wouldn’t you?” she asked sweetly.
“With the greatest of pleasure,” he replied. “It’s the least I can do for the cause. Although, in years gone by I’ve been everything from Kris Kringle to a lame beggar. I nearly always had a star part of some kind.”
“What refreshing modesty!” exclaimed Geniel. “About the costumes – we only have to get ten. There are six on hand in the school collection.”
She had expected that the trip would be something of a chore, but instead it turned out to be a delightful afternoon. Several of the mothers she met for the first time. It was not surprising that Johnny knew them all. Nor was it too surprising that they not only knew him but obviously liked him very much.
Before they had started out, he said, “When we’re through with the collecting we’ll go for a toboggan ride. All work and no play makes Jane a you-know-what.”
He had chartered their course to make the circuit as quickly as possible, but it was soon clear that they wouldn’t get through in time for any tobogganing – at least, not that afternoon.
The first stop was at the home of Chris Humphreys. “One of my lesser lights,” she explained. “His chief talent is for drawing. He never gets half the answers right on his arithmetic, but the decorations are absolutely fascinating.”
Mrs. Humphreys welcomed them with exuberant hospitality. She served them hot cider and doughnuts, showing them the stuffed cloth animals she had made for various nieces and nephews and at least two dozen samples of Chris’ art work. It was with some difficulty that Geniel got around to the subject of costumes.
“Bath robes, no indeed!” Mrs. Humphreys replied scornfully. “I have a striped blanket from Mexico. It will make a beautiful robe. And I also have just the thing for the top. This purple silk I am going to make into a blouse. But not before Christmas. It will make a fine headdress.”
When they were finally able to tear themselves away, Johnny said cheerfully, “Well, one down and just nine more to go. Mrs. Rossiter is next on the list. Does Fred draw?”
“No. Fred drawls. Let’s hope that his mother doesn’t. I must get through this afternoon or I’ll have to make the rest of the costumes myself.”
Mrs. Rossiter was so shy that she was obviously relieved to get the visit over with as quickly as possible.
The balance of the calls took the rest of the afternoon, but Geniel ended up with a plentiful supply of costumes. “It’s been worth while to get better acquainted with the parents in their own homes, too,” she said. “I guess this spree takes the place of the toboggan party.”
“Not at all,” declared Johnny. “We’ll scare up another couple or two and go sliding by moonlight. It’s even more fun that way – and colder.”
“It does sound like fun,” she agreed. “I’m sure that Marva would like to go. And, maybe we can get Jeff.”
“Sure. It would do him good to get out of the barnyard for a change. I never did see a guy so wrapped up in his cows.”
“That’s elegantly put,” smiled Geniel. “But rather correctly, I’m afraid. Anyway, it won’t hurt to ask.”
Marva was delighted to go. She was always ready for a party of any kind, anywhere.
“Jeff says it’s okay with him,” Johnny reported after phoning. “He’ll be through with his milking by seven. He says that we can come to his place for chili afterwards, too.”
“Good!” cried Geniel. “This begins to sound like a grand affair.”
She was especially glad that Jeff was going and was hoping that this time she would be able to maintain some semblance of dignity. At any rate, she couldn’t make herself ridiculous by getting stuck in the mud.
“I’ll pick you up right after dinner,” said Johnny. “And be sure to put on your boots and snowsuit. Nobody has swept a path on those hills, or installed a ski lift.”
He was right about the ski lift and wrong about the path. Several other parties were on the hill and the snow was packed down hard. It had been years since Geniel had been on a toboggan. “It’s just too far away to get to a real hill in Denver,” she said. “About the best we could manage were a few gentle slopes for coasting.”
“It all goes to show there’s just no place like Idaho,” declared Jeff. “The best in spuds, mountains, scenery, snow …”
“Men,” added Johnny.
“Granted,” agreed Marva easily, as she slipped down on the toboggan. Johnny sat in front to guide. Geniel was just behind Marva and Jeff at the back to give the necessary push.
It was a thrilling ride. Geniel thought that no plane trip could possibly compare with it. The moonlight sparkled on the white snow, untouched by city smoke. There were whoops of joy from each passing crowd, either going up or down the hill.
Once, when they hit a bump and all bounded up in the air, Geniel was caught by Jeff’s strong arms. His touch was almost like an electric shock, and she caught herself wishing that they would hit another bump.
It’s nothing more than the excitement of the evening, she tried to tell herself. But it seemed that only a part of her was listening; the other self was hoping to be held again by those same arms.
It seemed as if they had been there only a matter of minutes when Johnny said, “My appetite is getting to the unbearable stage. Do you suppose that chili is hot yet?”
“Sure,” replied Jeff. “It was when I left. So is the cider and so forth.”
The other three started towards the car but Geniel hesitated. Would she ever again capture the magic of this night? She felt as if she would give anything for just one more ride.
“Are you coming?” demanded Johnny. “Or do you want your face washed in the snow first?”
“Yes, I’m coming. I don’t want to see you starve before my very eyes,” she answered reluctantly.
They drove over to Jeff’s house where they enjoyed the hot food before the big fireplace with its blazing logs.
“This makes all of my troubles seem vague and far away,” said Geniel, stretching her feet towards the fire.
“Troubles, such as …?” inquired Jeff.
“Such as sixteen shepherds, when there should be only eight, and twice too many angels. Each and every one in the third grade wants to get into the act, and I didn’t have the heart to refuse even the lowliest one. If it was anybody’s play but Miss Blayney’s, I would worry. And perhaps I needn’t anyway. Maybe she won’t say a word.”
“It’s much more likely that she will,” comforted Marva grimly. “I remember last year when we tried to have a golden-haired Madonna, because we wanted to use Margaret Stapley in the tableau. She’d had polio and couldn’t do a walking part. We had to rig up a dark wig in the twenty minutes between the first curtain and the tableau. This thing has to be perfect, I’m telling you. It’s a tradition.”
“But all the boys want to be shepherds,” Geniel insisted. “Besides, Johnny and I gathered up almost a dozen elegant costumes this afternoon.”
“Could you possibly rotate them?” suggested Jeff. “You know – you might have some of them move slowly across the stage as others come on. Follow the star, in other words.”
“Oh, that sounds perfectly wonderful!” cried Geniel. “I knew there must be a way out, somehow or other. It certainly must be perfectly logical that they would follow the star.”
“Let us hope that Miss Blayney will think so,” said Marva, still highly skeptical.
When it came time to go home, Geniel was almost as loath to leave the coziness of the grate fire as she had been to leave the magic of the snowy hillside. I guess It’s just that I don’t want to return to the old routine at all, she decided. It’s so much fun just to relax and play.
When they were back at the boarding house, Marva remarked lightly, “You know, Johnny is right about the Idaho men. They are rather special. At least, these two are.”
“Is either one any more special than the other?” Geniel asked with a smile.
Marva only shrugged. The gesture told Geniel nothing.
She looked forward eagerly now to the Monday rehearsal. Everything seemed to be working out wonderfully well. She had an ample supply of costumes and, with Jeff’s help, she had figured out a way to put sixteen shepherds on the stage in place of a mere six.
“Thank goodness, the stage will be in semi-darkness, so it shouldn’t be too noticeable anyway,” she said happily. The main problem now was to teach them to move slowly and spend as much time as possible gazing up at the star.
She also trained the angels to stand partly sidewards so that the chorus would take up no more room than half a dozen would have done. At least, not very much more.
Just the same Geniel practically held her breath at the final rehearsal, for Miss Blayney was sitting close up to the front and had offered very liberal criticisms during each of the preceding scenes.
Geniel had taken her charges through the act so many times that it went off without a mistake or hitch of any kind. When it was over, Miss Blayney said nothing whatsoever. Geniel breathed a deep sigh of relief. She didn’t expect or even hope for praise. All she wanted was to get each and every member of the third grade onto the stage, if only for a brief moment.
For the final performance on Friday night she was not greatly worried, even when she remembered that a blonde had to be transformed in twenty minutes the previous year. She figured that it would be too late for Miss Blayney, or anyone else to make any drastic changes.
Anyway, it developed that the lady had more serious worries. The three live lambs, which she had insisted upon having in the stable, were neither used to being on the stage nor to night life. True to their nature, they went astray back into the scenery, knocking over one wall.
Each of the three kings of the Orient came in dark makeup, because the teacher had mentioned that one of them could be dark. Two of them had to be scrubbed at the last minute. Miss Blayney failed to see anything amusing in either incident.
When the spotlight fell upon the angel chorus, Geniel was telling herself, well, nothing can go wrong with this part, anyway. But she had reckoned without the children in the audience. A small brother of Connie’s shrieked at the top of his lungs, “Look, Mommie! Connie’s an angel!”
For a moment Geniel feared that the shy Connie might turn and run or drop from sight, but they were all standing so closely together that she couldn’t do either, and the crisis passed.
She was very pleased when it was over to see Jeff waiting in the audience. “I just thought I’d come and see if you got away with it,” he smiled.
“Yes, thanks to you,” she smiled back. “Thanks from all of the third grade, their mothers – and their little brothers.”
“I suppose you’re going home for the holidays?” It was a casual question, but Geniel had a notion that he half hoped she would say “no.” Unaccountably she half wished so herself. Instead she replied, “Yes, I’m leaving first thing in the morning. It’s a long way around by bus.”
“But worth all the trouble, I’m sure. I hope that certain parties appreciate their good fortune.”
“Oh, my folks will be glad to have me home, of course,” she answered quickly. “I’ve never missed a Christmas at home yet. None of us has, in fact.”
Jeff only smiled and said, “Have a merry one.”