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 and her fellow schoolteachers plan a bazaar for raising funds for the school library, but their plans are shattered when the flu breaks out and the school is closed down.
“What is so rare as a day in February – when it’s a holiday?” chirped Marva, as she came to the breakfast table on the morning of the 22nd.
“A holiday in any other month,” replied Christine. “You, as a schoolteacher, should know by now that some men are born great, some men achieve greatness, and others are born in February.”
“Yes, but we don’t get holidays for any but the Father of our Country. I, for one, am going to celebrate by washing my hair and sitting by the fire with a good book. How about you, Geniel?”
“Your program sounds marvelous, but it isn’t for me. I’ve a committee meeting this morning, and this afternoon I have half a dozen letters to write and I should turn up the hems on a couple of dresses. With a little bit of luck and some fast action, I may be able to join you at the fireside about 8:30 p.m.”
“Slave!” shrugged Marva. “Not even Lincoln could have liberated you.”
Geniel was just leaving for the committee meeting when Johnny showed up at the front door. “How about some skiing this afternoon?” he asked. “It will be great with the sun shining on the snow.”
“Well,” she hesitated, “I’m not very good at it, and I had some work planned. Lots of it, in fact.”
“You don’t have to be good – at skiing. There are bunny slopes for the novices, and work will always wait. You just might not have me around much longer to put light and diversion into your life. You’d better take advantage of your opportunities while you can.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, interest sparking her face. “Are you getting your money? I mean, are things working out so that you can go away to school now?”
“It looks as if a settlement might come soon. Don’t you think we ought to get out and celebrate?”
“I do, indeed,” she agreed vigorously. “What are hems and letters compared to a celebration? Especially a celebration on skis. Have you made any definite plans where you will go to school? I can recommend Colorado, in case you’re undecided. The skiing is real good, too.”
“And the girls are real pretty,” he added admiringly. “Are you going to be there next year? I’ll have to decide soon. I may even be able to get in for the spring quarter. How about three this afternoon for the ski slopes?”
“Three will be fine,” she nodded. “I’ll try to wind up a couple of my chores by then.”
She left the house for her committee appointment, walking lightly over the packed snow. She was so glad for Johnny! He was such a grand lad. He’d go a long way in his chosen field, and the field was wide open for engineering these days – or so she had heard.
Geniel hesitated at the corner as to which route she should take, since there was a choice, and turned left on a sidewalk that was more open than the other. Later, she was thankful that she turned her footsteps in the direction of the Blayney mansion. She was just a few feet away from the front walk when the Duchess herself came out of the door. A moment later she had slipped on the steps and fallen in a crumpled heap.
Geniel rushed forward. “Are you hurt?” she asked anxiously, trying to help the prostrate woman to her feet.
Miss Blayney gave a gasp of pain and fell back again. “Yes, I am. You’ll have to get some help.”
Geniel looked around. There wasn’t a soul in sight. She went in the house, grabbed a blanket, and threw it over Miss Blayney. Then she ran next door for help. Fortunately, the owner of the house was home. He came with a young son and between them they carried the injured woman into her house. Geniel picked up the phone at once and called a doctor. It was some time before he arrived, but Miss Blayney kept up a stoical silence, although it was easy to see she was in a great deal of pain.
After he had made his examination the doctor said cheerfully, “Well, young lady, you’re in luck this time. There are no bones broken. Just some badly wrenched muscles and bruises. You’ll know where you lit, all right, for a few days. Do you have someone you can call to come in and look after you?”
“Oh, I daresay there are any number of people I might call,” she answered. “We could try Mrs. Stewart. She sometimes does some cleaning for me.”
“Fine. I’ll call her myself. And you can stay until she gets here, I hope?” he said to Geniel.
“Yes, of course. I was due at a meeting, but I’ll give them a call. They can get along all right without me.”
“Good. I’ll send Mrs. Stewart over – or someone else, if she can’t come. And I’ll drop in again tonight. All you have to do now is take it easy until you straighten out again. It’s high time you did.”
When he had left, Miss Blayney sighed and said, “It’s hard to grow old. Especially when one has been as active as I have. I guess I kind of thought I could cheat old age by trying to keep up my same pace, but there’s no need to try and fool myself.”
“Growing old is one of the facts of life that we all have to accept,” said Geniel. “But, I must say that you have done it very gracefully. And that, after all, is the important thing.”
“It’s hard to let go of activities that have meant so much to me during a lifetime.” Miss Blayney closed her eyes for a moment and then went on, “I have a sister in California who has been urging me to come down there and live with her. I suppose that I ought to go now before I take another fall and really break some bones.”
“You have no one here at all? No close relatives, I mean?”
“No one. The Blayneys were a small family, and they have all left. My own people lived in Kansas. But most of my life has been here. I have really loved this town and this house.”
Geniel looked around at the large, handsome room. The house had been solidly built and would doubtless last another hundred years. “What would you do with it if you moved away?” she asked.
“That’s part of my problem. No one realizes what this place means to me. I couldn’t sell it, even if I wanted to do so. It would be too big for almost anyone to keep up. I have thought some of turning it over to the town for a cultural center.”
Bells began ringing in Geniel’s head. She mustn’t seem too anxious – or too pleased. She remembered that the bazaar might have been a success if the idea had come first from Miss Blayney.
Carefully she chose her words. “Then I suppose you would include a reading room. Maybe there would be a place to house my poor, homeless books.” She smiled as if it were merely a childish suggestion.
“Yes, of course,” was the quick reply. “In fact, the whole lower floor might be used for a library.”
“The Blayney Library,” said Geniel quietly. “It sounds fine.”
“Or maybe The Blayney Memorial Library. That is a bit more euphonious. Of course, I have a good many books of my own. It would make a good start.”
Geniel said nothing more. She was afraid that the elderly woman had already talked more than her strength allowed. She wondered, also, if the pain-easing shot the doctor had given her was causing her to think less clearly. She certainly hoped that the conversation would be clear in Miss Blayney’s mind on future days.
Mrs. Stewart arrived just before noon, and Geniel hurried back home again.
She arrived just as the others were sitting down to lunch.
“That must have been quite a lengthy meeting,” said Christine.
“And a strange one,” replied Geniel. “I spent the morning with my friend Miss Blayney – and I do mean my friend.”
“The plot thickens,” remarked Marva, raising her eyebrows. “Let’s hope it doesn’t curdle. Do tell us about it.”
“With the greatest of pleasure. Just as I reached her premises she came out of the front door and slipped on the steps. The neighbors and I carried her into the house and called a doctor. Later, she told me that she might move to California and turn the house over to the town for a cultural center.”
“Including – let me be the first to guess – a library!” exclaimed Marva.
“Right. The Blayney Memorial Library. And it was her own idea – almost. I used just a bit of mental telepathy and auto-suggestion, or what have you.”
“It sounds wonderful!” exclaimed Christine.
“She has just a few bruises and wrenched muscles, no breaks, fortunately. If there had been, the doctor would have whisked her off to a hospital, and I wouldn’t have had a chance to talk with her. Of course, as it is, one or the other of us may have been dreaming. We’ll have to see what we can do to get it down in black and white and all legal.”
“After all, it’s perfectly logical,” agreed Marva. “She couldn’t do much else with the house. And think of having the Blayney Memorial Library for all future generations to enjoy. Mr. Franklin is a lawyer. We must get him to make a friendly call as soon as possible.”
When Johnny arrived with skis early in the afternoon, Geniel met him wreathed in smiles. “This is going to be a double celebration,” she beamed. “Just wait until you hear my good news.”
The sun shone brightly on the stretches of snow that covered the countryside, free from any smoke or grime. “I’ll have wings today,” she said. “Skis are just a secondary addition.”
“Good.” He nodded as if in great relief. “Then I won’t have to worry about any possible spills. You can even take the high runs.”
“Perhaps. We’ll have to try out my wings first and see just how good they are. What little skiing I have done was back in my college days. Ernest doesn’t go in for sports much.”
The name had slipped out. She hadn’t really intended to bring him into the conversation.
Johnny was thoughtful for a moment. “That’s your boy friend back home, isn’t it?” he said.
“Are you going to marry him?”
“We aren’t engaged,” she answered quickly.
She didn’t ask him what was so good about it. That might be pursuing the matter much too far.
When they reached the hills they found mostly youngsters on the slopes. He fastened on her skis, and they climbed up to a starting place.
“It’s too bad we don’t have a ski lift,” he said. “If we find that your wings are strong enough we can hop over to Sun Valley some day.”
“It sounds wonderful,” she replied enthusiastically. “Maybe if I worked real hard I could manage before the end of the season.”
They started down, and she made it without undue trouble. It was great fun to be rushing down the glistening hill, even if it was on one of the so-called bunny slopes. It was always fun to be with Johnny, she reflected. There was never a dull moment, to use a very satisfactory cliche.
“That was pretty good,” he commented approvingly. “This next trip we go up a bit farther.”
She was really pleased to discover that she could do so well, after the little amount she had actually skied – and that some time ago. Even when Johnny suggested that she quit before she had incapacitated herself, she insisted upon taking one more run. The sun had disappeared in a red mantle before she finally gave up.
“You’ll pay for this tomorrow, my girl,” warned Johnny sternly. “And don’t come yelling to me for ointment. I told you to quit six runs back.”
“I know. And if I can’t wiggle a single muscle tomorrow, it will still have been worthwhile. Maybe we can come out again next Saturday.”
Johnny was helping her off with the skis when they noticed a lone little figure coming down the slope. “Hey, Sonny,” Johnny called, “how come you’re here all alone? Didn’t you come with anyone else?”
The lad nodded. “Yes, my brother. But he wanted to go home a while back and I didn’t. So he left me.”
“I had that same trouble,” remarked Johnny. “Only in this case I had the transportation, so I was safe. Hop in and we’ll take you home. It will be mighty cold here in a few minutes.”
The boy climbed in without further urging.
“What’s your name and where do you live?” Johnny asked.
“Pete Edmunds. You turn north on the second road down.”
They turned off on a narrow road and drove a couple of miles before they came to the farmhouse.
“It would have been dark before you got home,” said Johnny, “and I’ll be you have a cow to milk.”
“Yep. Three of them,” replied the boy casually.
“You just thought this was a holiday.”
“Hm. I’ll bet the cows don’t know that.” Johnny made the statement as if it might have been debatable. “That’s the worst of being a farmer, the work goes on every day of the week, regardless. Are you going to be a farmer when you grow up?”
“Naw.” This was clearly not in the least debatable. “I’m going to be an airplane pilot. I’ve got six planes built now. You want to see them?”
“Sure,” answered Johnny, as if he had been waiting months for just this opportunity.
“But it must be nearly dinner time,” Geniel protested mildly.
“That’s all right. If they have a phone, you can give Mrs. Willett a call and she’ll warm up the beans again for you when you get home. It isn’t every day we get a chance to see six airplanes.”
Mrs. Edmunds was very much surprised and, for a moment, apparently not too overjoyed to have unexpected company. However, she made them welcome and tried to hustle Pete out with his milking pail.
“But I have to show them my planes. That’s what they came in for,” he argued.
“You’re already late,” she reminded him. “You’d better get to your chores or you may not have a chance to go skiing again in a hurry. Your Dad was just about ready to go after you. They’ll wait to see your planes.”
Geniel was trying to figure out how long it would take to milk three cows, and when they might reasonably hope to be on their way again, when Mrs. Edmunds said, “You’ll stay to supper, of course. It’s so seldom we have anyone out here in the wintertime.”
“But, I’m really not very presentable in these ski togs,” Geniel protested rather weakly.
“Oh, dear! As if that mattered! You look just beautiful to me. I’ll set on the extra places while they are finishing the chores, and whip up a pudding.”
“Very well,” agreed Geniel.”Only I’m afraid we are putting you to a lot of trouble.”
“Not at all. A couple extra doesn’t mean a thing on a farm, as far as work goes.”
They talked for the next half hour while Mrs. Edmunds bustled back and forth from her kitchen coal range to the big table on the other side of the room. By the time the boys and Mr. Edmunds came in from the barn, Geniel was so hungry that almost anything in the guise of food would have tasted wonderful. As it was, the corned venison, mashed potatoes, home-canned corn, and string beans made a real banquet.
Afterwards, she insisted upon helping to clear the table while Johnny looked over Pete’s planes.
“Your boy tell us he is going to be a pilot,” she remarked. “That’s quite a far cry from a farm.”
“Yes,” replied the mother. “He’s been crazy about planes ever since he could talk. He claims he can tell which make of plane is up in the air when one flies over. Well, it’s all right with me, if he still feels that way when he grows up. And I guess he will. I wouldn’t ever urge any of my children to stay on a farm. It’s too hard work for what you get out of it.”
“And yet there are many who wouldn’t think of living any other way,” observed Geniel. “Jeff Burrows, for instance.”
“Yes, that’s right,” she agreed. “Well, it’s everybody to his own notion. Lots of men like it. I don’t know as there are many women who do.”
By the time the planes had been duly admired and discussed, Geniel was very tired and rather anxious to get home. As they rode along in the frosty night, she thought of the home they had just left and the people who lived there.
“In spite of what Mrs. Edmunds says, there must be lots of advantages for farm life – even for a woman,” she said.
“Name one,” challenged Johnny.
“Peace, serenity, security – there are three for you.”
“I’d trade all the serenity and security in the world for the excitement and thrill of constructing something big like a dam or a bridge,” he replied. “Even if I had just a small part in the work.”
“Yes, I believe you would. Well, people are different, fortunately.”
Johnny left her at the door, and when she went inside she found Mrs. Willett, Christine, Marva, and Jeff seated in the living room playing a game of scrabble. They looked so comfortable and contented that Geniel felt a momentary pang of resentment, which she knew to be entirely unreasonable.
“What five-letter word starting with K means where in the dickens have you been?” asked Marva. “Don’t tell us you stayed up on the mountain until now?”
“We’ve been looking at Pete Edmunds’ airplanes,” Geniel replied, “at least Johnny has. I listened to his mother expound the joys of farm life.”
“Such as …?” asked Jeff.
“Such as solitude and serenity.” Geniel neglected to explain that this was her own interpretation.
“There’s dinner out on the stove,” said Mrs. Willett. “I’ll give you my place here as soon as you’ve eaten.”
“Thanks, we ate – abundantly, at the Edmunds. I’ll go up and limber in a hot bath while I can still move.”
She climbed the stairs, and after her bath put on a warm robe. She brought out writing materials and began a letter. After the first few lines she changed the robe for a pretty red woolen dress, and started down again. Mrs. Willett, she remembered, got sleepy after nine. Someone really ought to take her place at the game.