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Just Mary | Effie M. Williams

A Baby Girl

Mother Harmon glanced at the postmark on the letter which the delivery man left in her mailbox, and then, hastily breaking the seal, she drew a few sheets of folded paper from the envelope and began to read:

My Own Dear Mother:

How awful it is for me to try to write to you this morning, and I know that you will scold me for so doing, but I just had to write to you so that your anxiety will be relieved, for I know that you have been very anxious for the past few days. I can now tell you that it is all over, and we have a lovely little daughter which was born yesterday afternoon. It seems remarkable to me that my first-born should be born a Thursday afternoon and be a girl, the same as yours was, but I am so glad that my baby girl and myself have the same day of the week in which we came into this world, although it could not be the same day of the month. She surely is a darling, and I wonder if your feelings were akin to mine, when you looked on your first-born for the first time and heard my cry. I cannot tell you the feeling of motherly love which I had when I heard the cry of my baby, and it seems that I just can’t keep my eyes off the little basket where nurse has her all wrapped up in blankets. And Dan is just as foolish as I am about her. He could not sleep last night, and every little move that was made, he was up to see if he could not do something. Nurse laughed at him and told him he would soon be accustomed to a baby’s cry and could sleep if two were crying at once. But he is a proud father, and I cannot find words to express what kind of a mother I am. But as I look at my baby, my love for you deepens, Mother, dear, for I know now what it means to be a mother.

When we decided on a name we thought of you and of Mother Dennison, and could decide on no better name than the name you both have, so we call her Mary. Just Mary. We thought there was no other name to go with it that is suited to our baby since she has the name of both of her grandmothers, so she is just Mary Dennison.

Then followed in the letter many things which were meant only for the mother to know, and then an inquiry into the health of both herself and Father Harmon, and the letter was signed, “Your loving daughter, Elsie.”

Tears were streaming down the cheeks of Mother Harmon as she reached the porch, where she paused long enough to fold the letter together and place it in the envelope again, then passing through the house she donned a big sunbonnet, and with letter in hand, started down the lane toward the field where a man and two boys were plowing.

“Elsie’s baby is a girl,” said she as she lifted the letter in her hand and handed it to Father Harmon, “and they have named her Mary.”

Father Harmon rested on the plow handles, and drawing the letter from the envelope, as his wife had done before him, began to peruse the pages. The contents of the letter stirred his emotions, for he first smiled as he read of the new baby and how proud she was of it, but soon his expression changed as he came to the closing of the letter, and tears fell from his eyes as they had from the eyes of Mother Harmon.

Folding the letter, he placed it in the envelope, handed it back to Mother Harmon, and said, “Well, I am glad. And I was almost sure that they would name her Mary should the baby be a girl, but isn’t it strange that it is just Mary? I think I could have found a name to go with it. Ann, Jane, Elizabeth, Lou, or Susan—any of them would sound good with Mary, and they could have called her by both names.”

“Yes, I think they sound all right myself,” said Mother Harmon, “but I guess they wanted it to be just Mary, and I think that is all right. But would you not like to see the little thing? I can almost see it, for I am sure that Mary is just like Elsie was when she was born, with a little, round face and a head of hair as black as a crow.”

At this time the two boys came to the end of the furrow they were plowing, wrapped the lines around the plow handles, and came to where Father and Mother Harmon were, only to hear the same as Father Harmon had heard, for as soon as they came near enough for Mother Harmon to make them hear her call she said, “Elsie has a little baby girl.”

“Yes,” said Father Harmon, “you are Uncle Roy and Uncle Dave now, and you have a little niece whose name is Mary.”

“Hmph,” said the younger of the two, who was Roy, “I don’t see why it couldn’t have been a boy.”

“The principal reason why it could not be a boy is because it is a girl,” laughingly replied Father Harmon, “and I think that is reason enough, don’t you?”

Roy had no reply to make, but Dave said, “I do not know as it makes much difference to me which it is, but it seems like I am getting old, to be called Uncle Dave.”

“You can’t expect her to call you Uncle Dave for a few days yet,” retorted Roy in a disgusted tone of voice as he turned to go back to his plow.

“He acts like he is not pleased, but I dare say he is as proud as the rest of us,” said Mother Harmon as she watched her youngest son walk across the field to his team; they were standing with heads down and closed eyes, enjoying the few minutes’ rest which had been given them.

“Why, yes,” replied Father Harmon; “he is just at the age when he tries to make us believe that he does not care anything about the girls, but I dare say when Elsie comes home with the baby that he will be the most foolish of any of us, and will forget all about saying that he did not see why it couldn’t have been a boy.”

Mother Harmon returned to the house, and the men returned to their work in the field. As she walked along the lane which led from the field to the house, she recalled many incidents that had happened in life. When she reached the house she sat down in the big rocker in the kitchen, and with a far-off look in her eyes, lived over the past. She saw herself, a little girl with braided hair, carrying the little dinner pail to the country schoolhouse, and the many interesting happenings of her early school life. In all her school life she had been “the girl” of the man she had married, and as she sat in that old rocker recalling many incidents of the past, she would smile and then sigh and then smile again. Many years had passed, but she had not forgotten the many little dainties that had been given her by her schoolboy lover. A flush spread over her face as she recalled the first valentine she had ever received. It was one of those lovely, lacy valentines with two hearts pierced through with an arrow, and a little boy holding an envelope in his hand containing the verse, “As sure as the stars in heaven shine, I want you for my Valentine.” And with the valentine was a note from her schoolboy lover which read, “Mary, I really do want you.” The valentine had been wrapped nicely; and the evening of February 14, as Mary was leaving the schoolroom at the close of that day’s school, this package was placed in her hand. Glancing at the writing on the outside the wrapping she read, “To Mary Colton, from Oliver Harmon.” She did not unwrap it until she had reached her own room at home, and when she did so it was with a heart that beat a-rat-a-tat-tat. How well she remembered it, and remembered also that, although she had not chosen Oliver from any of the rest of her schoolboy friends and classmates, the valentine settled the question with her! From that time forward Oliver Harmon was Mary Colton’s favorite among them all.

Mother Harmon kept rocking and recalling many incidents, and her mind went back to the time when she first entertained Oliver in her home as her beau. She was then seventeen; he twenty. They were together at an apple-peeling given in the neighborhood, and he had walked home with her and then asked if he might call to see her the following Sunday afternoon. This memory brought a pleasant smile to Mother Harmon’s face as she saw herself in calico dress and white apron entertaining her first gentleman friend. This was in the month of October; from that time on Oliver Harmon was seen at the Colton home each Sunday afternoon. When Christmas time drew near, he was invited to eat Christmas dinner with the Colton family, an invitation which he accepted. Mother Colton had the reputation of being the best cook in all the country. Oliver prepared himself to eat plenty of her dinner by not eating any breakfast at all, but when the call was made for dinner and he was placed beside Mary at the table, although it was spread with many tempting dishes such as a big turkey with plenty of dressing, baked sweet potatoes, baked apples, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and many other toothsome dainties, it seemed his appetite had left him and he could eat but very little. And Mary herself did not take anything on her plate at all. How well Mother Harmon remembered this and smiled again as she rocked to and fro in the big rocker!

For three years Oliver Harmon was a weekly visitor at the Colton home. Then came the wedding, which took place on Easter Sunday, and he brought his bride to the little log house which he had built on the place on which they were now living, which was then a wooded tract of land, a part of the Harmon homestead, which was given to Oliver by his father.

How they labored together to get some cleared that they might farm some that year! Mary was by Oliver’s side in all that he did, for she had been reared on the farm and was well-acquainted with all kinds of hard labor. The third year passed and Mary and Oliver had cleared several acres of their land, but left a small, wooded tract for pasture for their cows. They were very prosperous, and each year marked a financial gain for them.

The third year of their life together Elsie was born, and when she was a small baby just beginning to toddle about, these two parents were awakened to their spiritual need through the illness of their only child. Elsie was very ill her second summer, and her life was despaired of. When the two saw their darling wasting away to a mere skeleton and lying almost lifeless before them, they knelt by her little crib and each promised God if He would but spare her to them they would serve Him and endeavor to rear the child in the way that would please God. The child was spared, and they did not forget the vow made, each giving their heart to God. From infancy, Elsie could remember the family altar where Father Harmon called the family together, reading from the Word of God, and then kneeling to ask God’s blessings upon him and his.

When Elsie was four years old, another daughter was born to them, only to stay with them but a few short hours. Three years later came David; and then three and a half years later Roy was born to them. The years had dealt pleasantly with them, and instead of the old log house where Oliver Harmon first brought his bride, there was a large, new frame house, and Oliver Harmon was considered a prosperous farmer. How happy they were together! But it was not to last, for grown birds do not want to stay always in the nest that has been prepared for them, but desire to find a nest of their own, and that was the way in the Harmon home.

When Elsie was in her eighteenth year, Dan Dennison came into the country, hiring to a farmer who lived near the Harmon family, and it was only a short time until a warm friendship sprang up between him and Elsie. Dan remained in the community until the farming season was over and the corn all gathered, and then he returned to his own home which was in an adjoining state. He came back the following summer to work for the same farmer. And that fall, when he went to his own home, he took with him Elsie Harmon to help him in building a home of their own.

Elsie had never been away from her home but a few days until her marriage, but she went to the home of her husband with a promise from him that she could visit her parents twice each year. This she had done until she had informed them that she would not be able to come for her usual visit that year. How anxious Mother Harmon felt until the letter which she had that day received broke the much-desired news to her that her daughter was all right!

As these thoughts flitted through Mother Harmon’s mind, she rested her head on the back of the rocker in which she was sitting, looked up and said, “Lord, I thank Thee for all Thy goodness to me these many years.” Then, again glancing at the letter which lay in her lap, she slipped to her knees before the old rocking chair, and with her face buried in her apron and tears falling like rain from her eyes, she poured out her heart to God, thanking Him for His goodness to her and for His protection to her first-born, asking him to keep His hand on mother and child. The assurance that God had heard her petition came to her soul, and she arose, placed the letter with some others from her daughter, in a box in the old bureau drawer, and began to busy herself to prepare the noon-day meal.