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 works for the forest service. These friends are quite different from Ernest Wood, Geniel’s friend who owns a shoe store in Denver. Geniel goes to Denver for the Christmas holidays. Her Aunt Nina tells her she can have some books to start a library at Blayney. Geniel’s dates with Ernest are a disappointment, and when her plane lands at Idaho Falls, Jeff Burrows is there to meet her.
January crept slowly by, or so it seemed to Geniel who decided that molasses wasn’t the only thing that lacked speed in that month. The icicles hung low on her bedroom window, and there were snowstorms every few days that often reached blizzard proportions.
It was not unusual to see three or four deer roaming through the streets, and occasionally, the coyotes would come close enough to the edge of the town so that their weird howling could be plainly heard.
So far Geniel had not found any feasible means of bringing the books over from Denver, nor a place to put them in after they arrived. They couldn’t just be piled up in the classrooms.
“There must be some way we could raise the money,” she remarked at the dinner table one evening. “What would you think of a rummage sale? That’s one of the tried and true methods we’ve used at home.”
“It’s never been tried here, so I wouldn’t know,” answered Christine. “We might get the PTA to sponsor a bazaar of some kind.”
“Each grade could take over one part – you know, a fishing pond, cider and doughnuts, and so on. How much money do you think we would need to get the thing going – the library, I mean?” Marva’s enthusiasm was mounting with every word.
“It all depends on what we would have to pay to rent a room,” answered Geniel. “I imagine that we could get someone here in town to go after the books just for the bare expense of the trip. Then, of course, after we find a place to put them, we would have to get someone to look after them – check the books in and out, you know. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have any left within a few months. Maybe the whole project is just too big.”
“Never say die!” Marva spoke up cheerfully. “Where there’s a will – and all the rest of those fine morale-building maxims. Let’s start in by planning our fund-raising project, anyway. Then we can tackle the next problem as it comes. We can spring the idea of a bazaar at the PTA meeting Friday, if Mr. Layton approves.”
Each grade took a turn at furnishing the program for the PTA meetings, and this time it had fallen to Geniel’s third graders. For some time she had toyed with the idea of letting Connie give a short reading. The child had improved wonderfully of late and hardly ever stammered in class. She decided to leave it up to Connie herself. If the little girl really wanted to do a piece in public she could try. It might do more harm than good if she failed – but she had to start sometime.
It happened that Connie was delighted with the idea. She had been in the background for so long now, that she seized an opportunity of doing the same thing the other girls had been doing right along.
Geniel gave Connie a short piece and had her learn it so perfectly that she could have said it in her sleep. There was only one thing more. While her clothes, handed on from Marcie’s little girl, were pretty enough to give any child confidence, her hair was still a straight, unlovely shade of brown. There was nothing that could be done about the color, but Geniel arranged for the mother to give her a home permanent.
Mrs. Roberts was about as happy as Connie over the whole affair. “You are our good angel,” she said gratefully. “No one has ever tried to help her before.”
There were two other poems to be recited by children, and Geniel decided to put Connie in between. It would make her feel less alone. There were also some songs to be sung by the entire class.
Connie came to school a day or two before the program with her hair curled. It was a bit on the frizzy side, but still a great improvement over its former limpness. She was actually quite pretty now and seemed to blossom under the attention she was getting.
The program went off beautifully, the only hitch being that half a dozen of the students came down with the mumps the day before the meeting.
“Oh, that’s nothing,” shrugged Christine. “It’s only a very few of the darlings that ever get past the first and second grades. And it’s all for the best, even if it interferes with PTA programs. Now is the time for them to get over with it.”
During the meeting Geniel was given an opportunity to announce the windfall of books she had received and the problem of raising some money to provide a place for their use. Most of the parents were enthusiastic about the idea of a bazaar and a date was set.
Later, each grade was allowed to choose its own project, including everything from a fishing pond to a lunch stand. The third grade decided upon popcorn balls.
The bazaar was to be held in the auditorium, and a big sign “Books for Blayney” was made by a local painter and hung over the front entrance of the schoolhouse.
Almost everyone, it seemed, was working wholeheartedly on the project. No one knew, as yet, where the books were to go when they arrived but, as Mrs. Willett said, “Something will turn up. It always does. Just to have this many people thinking and working on it is a mighty good start.” She herself had offered to bake a dozen apple pies for the fifth grade to serve in their home bakery.
Geniel was not too greatly surprised, just a week before the event, to receive an invitation from Miss Blayney to call at her home.
“She may say it’s an invitation,” commented Marva, “but it’s an order, as you should know. Did you happen to check with the Duchess before you started this affair?”
“Are you serious?” asked Geniel. “All of the parents in the town, that were interested enough to come out to the PTA meeting, voted for it. Was it also necessary to get her permission?”
“It would have been wise – or perhaps kind is a better word. She’s getting along now and doesn’t have many years left in which to run the town. I guess it would be rather hard to break the habits of a lifetime.”
“Well, it won’t hurt me any to go and see her,” agreed Geniel, “so I’m glad to go if it will make her happy. I’m curious to see her home anyway.”
She dropped in at the mansion the next afternoon on her way home from school. The house was indeed worth seeing, with its high beamed ceilings and polished woodwork. While the furniture dated back half a century or so, it was of the very finest and still in excellent taste.
Her hostess was dressed in a purple velvet gown and her iron gray hair was piled high upon her head. It gave her the appearance of being an extremely tall woman, although actually she was only an inch or two taller than Geniel.
“It was very kind of you to come and see an old lady,” said Miss Blayney graciously.
“It is my pleasure, I am sure,” replied Geniel, determined that it should be just that.
“I hear that you are promoting the establishment of a library for the school,” she went on, getting to the point at once.
“I am doing what I can in a very limited way,” Geniel answered smiling. “I was fortunate enough to have a rather large number of books given to me when I was home at Christmas. It seemed like a windfall at the time. Now I am not so sure, it seems to have brought all kinds of problems. We have to find a way to bring the books here – and that’s just the beginning. We also have to find some place to put them after they arrive. We do need them rather badly, however, and the students and parents are working hard on a bazaar to raise some money for a start.”
“Very commendable, I’m sure,” said Miss Blayney rather stiffly.
“If you have any suggestions for us, I’m sure that we would appreciate it very much,” said Geniel seriously.
“Thank you, I’ll think it over. Now you must let me give you a cup of hot chocolate. It stays very cold, even for this time of the year.”
Under the spell of hospitality both relaxed somewhat, but there was still a feeling of tension. Geniel knew that she hadn’t been completely forgiven for past offenses, such as missing the formal dinner and changing the act in the pageant to suit herself. And now to crown it all, she had dared to start a very ambitious project without at least consulting the lady. She was not sorry when it was time to leave.
“I guess that Miss Blayney and I simply aren’t what you would call kindred souls,” she remarked at the dinner table. “She wished us well in our undertaking, but all the time I had a feeling that she’d gain some sort of satisfaction if we failed. I daresay that I am doing the lady a great injustice.”
“To some extent,” agreed Christine. “Basically, I’m quite sure that she has the welfare of the community at heart.”
“The fly in the ointment, of course,” observed Marva, “is that she didn’t start the business herself.”
“So, now you tell me,” shrugged Geniel. “We’ll have to muddle along as best we can. We and the other 2,399 inhabitants of Blayney.”
Johnny had offered to help put up the booths in the hall. “The wonderful thing about taking a correspondence course,” he said, “is that nobody checks up on you until examination time. You can even leave assignments until almost the last day, thinking there will still be time to get them in. Then you have to break your neck – or flunk.”
“I don’t care to have either on my conscience,” declared Geniel. “We’ll get someone else to do it.”
“No, you won’t. I’m just trying to salve my own conscience for past lapses. Anyway, the booths are already built, and I can get the older boys to help set them up.”
The plans went merrily on with the “Books for Blayney” idea gathering more momentum every day. Geniel bought the corn to send home with the youngsters, along with a recipe for the popcorn balls. Half of them she planned to do herself the day before the bazaar, but she wanted the children to feel that they had a full share in the activities.
The booths were put up on Saturday, the week before the bazaar was to be held because the boys had that day free in which to work. Geniel dropped over to see how they were getting along and was enthusiastic. “this will be a fun night, even without the money-raising angle,” she remarked to Mr. Layton. “I think that bazaars are a circus – or the nearest thing to one.”
“And it’s fine to have a project where all the students can work together,” he added. “It makes it doubly worthwhile.”
On Tuesday, five of her students were out of school because of illness. “There’s quite a bit of flu around,” remarked Mrs. Willett. “I hope that it doesn’t cut into your crowd too much. We don’t want any leftover apple pies.”
“When they’re yours!” exclaimed Marva. “Don’t talk nonsense.”
“It sounds like good sense to me,” said Geniel, more than a little worried. “Maybe I’d better cut down on the number of popcorn balls I planned to make. If we have any left over it will do away with all the profit.”
Geniel became more and more alarmed as additional students dropped out on each succeeding day. On Thursday the blow fell. There were to be no more public gatherings of any sort until the wave was over.
“Isn’t that just my luck!” Geniel wailed despondently.
“Well, don’t feel too bad,” Christine tried to console her. “It is only postponed for a while. Anything that was made, outside of food, will keep all right, and you can always have the affair some other time.”
“It just won’t be the same,” replied Geniel. “You can’t generate enthusiasm like that a second time. Anyway, I’m very much afraid that we can’t.”
“Could be,” agreed Marva. “But you’ll just have to look on the bright side and think of all the corn you don’t have to pop and all the sticky balls you don’t have to make. Now you try and brighten my day by telling me what I’m going to do with all the white elephants my darlings have collected. Have a parade, I guess.”
Geniel was thoughtful for a moment. “It just goes to show. I should have let Miss Blayney start it. Then I’m sure it would have been a howling success. I daresay we would even have escaped the flu.”
Within two weeks the ban on public gatherings was lifted, but Geniel didn’t have the heart to start over again right away. “I’ll have to let some of the scars heal first,” she said. “I simply haven’t the nerve to ask everyone to do all that work again. And, if I did, it might bring on another epidemic.”
She forgot much of her disappointment in preparations for a Lincoln birthday ball, which was to be an evening of square dancing held in the ward recreation hall. She was especially happy because Jeff had invited her to go as his partner. Although they had been out together several times in groups, it was the first time he had asked her for a real date.
“We’ll need some cotton dresses,” said Marva, who always had her choice of three or four partners. “I’m going to have a red and white check. It will suit my personality, don’t you think? And I’ll trim it with rows of white rickrack braid.”
“Anything that is bright and gay will suit your personality,” smiled Geniel. “Now, what shall I choose?”
“Hmm, not purple. How about a lovely daffodil yellow?”
The girls made their own dresses, and both decided the other had done an expert job. Geniel didn’t know when she had been so excited about a party. “I guess it’s because I feel so young in this whirly dress,” she remarked, as she came downstairs, all ready to go. “Do you think I look much too young and giddy for a schoolteacher? Especially a third grade schoolteacher?”
“I don’t know what the grade has to do with it,” remarked Christine, “but I’m sure you don’t look a day too young. I mean, not any younger than you feel. You are both charming.”
“Thank you, Ma’am,” Geniel replied, feeling a momentary pang that Christine was also not young and charming enough to join them for an evening of fun.
Garth Dalton, Marva’s partner for the dance, arrived soon, and they sat in the living room waiting for Jeff to arrive so that they could all go over together. When a bell rang, it wasn’t the door, however, but the phone.
“I’m dreadfully sorry,” Jeff said, “but I can’t make it for a while. One of my heifers – quite a valuable animal – is sick, and I’ll have to stay and dose her up until I know she is all right. I’ll try to see you later.”
Geniel came slowly back into the living room. “Did you ever get stood up for a cow?” she asked not smiling, “a sick cow?”
The others couldn’t help laughing. “Sure, that’s common practice around here,” replied Marva. “It doesn’t have to be a cow. A sheep or any animal that costs over twenty-five dollars will do. Come on and go over with us. There’ll be plenty of partners for you. If not, they’ll fill in the sets with girls.”
“Yes, do,” urged Mrs. Willett. “I’ll send Jeff over when he comes.”
Geniel was about to reply, “Don’t bother” to that suggestion, but it seemed to be rather a small gesture. Anyway, the chances were that he would be spending the evening out in the barn dancing to a bovine tune.
She was still hesitating when Marva brought out her coat and Garth helped her to slip it on. Then he took one girl by each arm and started out.
A reel was in progress when they came into the hall, and the sprightly music helped to drive out Geniel’s feelings of disappointment and annoyance.
By the time they had checked their wraps, another dance had started. She began to make her way to a seat on the sidelines, but her hand was grasped by a young lad, whose name she didn’t know, but whom she had seen in church. “Come on and get in,” he cried. “They change partners every time, so you won’t be stuck long with me.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t mind,” she laughed.
They joined the circle and, after one phase of the dance, moved on in opposite directions.
As Marva had promised, there were enough partners to keep her engaged for most of the evening, and she had a far better time than she had anticipated.
It was nearly eleven when she glanced at the doorway and saw Jeff standing there. At first she thought that she would pretend that she hadn’t seen him, then she decided that was altogether too childish and as she passed close enough she smiled at him.
He joined her at the end of the dance. “Well, I made it – finally,” he said. “Have you had fun?”
“Loads of it, thank you. How’s the cow?”
“Better, thank you,” he replied. Then they both grinned widely.
One of the few waltzes of the evening was being played, and he led her to the floor. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am,” he began.
“Then don’t try,” she smiled, and the last of her resentment seemed to melt away.
“It’s one of the hazards – the unpleasantness of trying to run a farm. Crops fail – animals die on you – people decide they don’t want what you have been struggling to raise …”
“But you still think it’s worthwhile?”
“I still think it’s the only life for me. I guess I’m just contrary. I could have stayed on at Ames and taught, or have taken a county agent’s job. In either case, I could have arrived at this dance on time.”
“It didn’t matter, really,” Geniel said.
“Thanks again.” There was a brief pause, and he added, “I hope that was meant as a compliment.”