Roy Harmon left his brother David’s home in Whitefield, purchased a ticket, and boarded the train. He was going again to see Peachy, the only one who really claimed his love since the death of his father and mother. Roy had tried to be a brother to David, but their dispositions were so different that they could not agree. As David was now the head of a family, he seemed not to care anything at all for his brother.
After the death of Father Harmon, David married and offered Roy a home with him, which was accepted, but it was only for a few months, for David was so selfish that he thought all Roy’s earnings should be given over to him, although Roy was paying his board weekly. Many times he would borrow money from Roy with a promise of refunding it in a certain length of time. When Roy really needed it and would mention the fact to his brother, he would be met with resentment. At last the day came when David again asked Roy for a loan and was refused, and a quarrel ensued in which Roy took his belongings and went elsewhere. But he could not be satisfied. One day the thought of joining the navy came to him, but he must first see his little Peachy, so he was now on his way to her.
He walked into the Dennison yard unannounced. It was a surprise to all to see him, although Dan, Mary, and Otis were delighted. Roy was a great favorite of Dan’s because of the feeling which he always bore for Elsie and Mary. He received a warm welcome, but as he looked about him, disappointment was written on his countenance and a look of sadness filled his eyes. He could see that his little Peachy was neglected. Caroline, Nancy, and the twins were dressed in nice play suits, but his Peachy was shabbily dressed in faded calico, which had been patched and repatched.
Roy saw also she was the servant in the home, for she was up early in the morning and with milk pail in hand, away to do the milking, then strain it away, and while the others ate breakfast, Peachy busied herself with making beds, sweeping, and straightening things about the place. Then after taking the “leavings” at the table, she went about clearing away the dishes. Myra was a very particular housekeeper and free to find fault with anything that did not come up to her close inspection. The younger children had time for play, but not so with Peachy, for there was no time left for her from her work. Otis helped her in many things, but he had to see with his fingers and therefore could not assist her as he could have had he been able to see. But he helped her with the dishes and with the carrying in of the wood and in many other ways.
Roy also noticed the great change in Dan, for he had become silent and unassuming. He tried in many ways to get alone with Mary, but Myra saw to it that they were not alone, for when she found them so, she would always have something else for Mary to do which would take her away from him. But he was determined to be alone with her for sometime. Early one morning as he saw Mary start with her milk pail toward the cow lot, he started in the opposite direction for his morning’s walk. He went in this direction for some distance, then leaped over the fence and approached the cow lot from the rear.
Mary was busy milking, sitting on her milk stool, and all unconscious of any observer. As Roy approached he heard her singing, and as he listened tears streamed down his face as he again heard the voice of her who was long since lying in the silent city on the hill side some few miles distant. Elsie was again singing as she had sung to him in his childhood, and it brought back memories of a pleasant home with father, mother, brother, and sister before the cruel hand of death came in to separate them. Elsie possessed a beautiful voice, and it was reproduced in Peachy. As Roy stood listening something stirred within him as he said to himself, “Some day others shall hear that voice also.”
He approached Mary, who smiled as he said, “Here, Peachy, let me try my hand at milking. It has been some time since I pailed a cow,” and, sitting down on the milk stool, he convinced her in a very short time that he had not forgotten how to do it, for the milk streamed into the pail and soon the foam was running over the top.
Mary laughed at the expression he had used of “pailing a cow,” and this made an opening for conversation. Roy had noticed her shabby clothes, and now as he looked at her feet he saw an old pair of shoes, worn out, with scarcely any soles to protect her feet from the briars and thistles which were growing about the cow pasture where she had to go daily to drive the cows to the lot. Her shoes were laced with an old blue calico string, and a white string was tied to the end of her hair which hung in one braid down her back. She had not lost all the curl of her babyhood days, for her hair hung in little ringlets about her face.
“Wouldn’t you like to go to town with me today?” inquired Uncle Roy as he looked into her face from where he was sitting on the milk stool.
“Would I?” exclaimed Mary; “I should say that I should, but that is not to he thought of.”
“And why is it not to be thought of?” inquired Roy.
“Why, Mother wouldn’t let me go,” replied Mary.
“But we will ask your father,” said Roy, “and if he says it is all right she will have nothing to say then. You leave it to me, and I shall ask him as we eat breakfast.”
“But, Uncle Roy, I have nothing to wear,” quickly replied Mary, as a blush spread over her face and neck and she looked away across the field.
“Peachy, do you mean to tell me that you have no dresses to wear?” inquired Roy as he rose from the milk stool.
“I have none better than the one that I have on,” replied Mary, “and no other shoes than these either.”
“But why do you not have?” again inquired Roy. “The other children all have clothes; why haven’t you?”
“Mother says that I do not need them, for I never go any place, and she says these are good enough to wear about home for me to work in,” replied Mary.
“But where did you get them?” again questioned Roy.
“I made them out of some of Mother’s old ones,” replied Mary. “She often gets some new dresses and then she lets me have some of her old ones that I can make some for myself, and sometimes they are real nice, too.”
“Do you make your own dresses?” inquired Roy.
“Why, surely I do,” laughingly replied Mary; “who do you think would make them for me? Why, I make dresses for Caroline and Nancy, too, and sometimes make Mother’s dresses for her.”
They stood in the cow lot talking for some time—Roy asking, and Mary answering questions. At the close of that conversation a real resentment rose in his heart against Dan because of some things which he permitted to be done against his daughter—Roy’s own niece—who was as much Dan’s child as were the other children in the home.
“We shall go to town today,” said Uncle Roy as they started toward the house, Roy with one arm about Peachy and with the pail of foaming milk in his hand. How Mary’s heart went out to Roy at that time, for it was the first little act of kindness or appreciation that she had had for many, many days. She lingered about as the family sat down to breakfast to hear what the outcome would be of his inquiry to go to town.
When Roy approached the subject to Dan, before he had time to reply, Myra answered, “Oh, no, I could not possibly spare her today, for I have so much to do.”
Roy ignored her as though she had not spoken and said again to Dan, “I want to take Mary and Otis to town with me for I am leaving shortly for the navy and will be gone for a long time, and I want to leave something for them to remember my last visit with them before leaving. You know we do not know what will terminate before I return, and I may never return. May they go with me?”
“You may take Otis if you want to, but I told you that I could not spare Mary for I need her,” said Myra very emphatically.
Again Roy turned to Dan and in a positive tone said, “What do you say? May I take my sister’s children with me to town?”
“Yes, they may go,” said Dan, as he gave his wife a look which was meant for silence; “and I shall go with you, too. Mary, get ready,” and he rose from the table.
“I have nothing to do to get ready,” replied Mary, “for this is the best that I have to wear.”
“Very well,” replied Dan.
We shall not try to picture the scene in the Dennison home when Myra found that for one time she could not have her way. Roy did not escape the bite of her sharp tongue. But Mary and Otis went to town with their Uncle Roy, returning with more clothes than they had had for some time. Mary had two pairs of shoes, one pair for every day and one for better wear, three new dresses, a new hat, new hair ribbons, and material to make herself some new undergarments. What pleased Mary most was a dress of soft, silky material, ready to wear. Otis was also supplied with clothes, and both children were delighted. Otis would run his fingers over the different garments that Roy had bought for him and then thank him again and again.
Myra was too indignant to speak to any of them when they returned home and refused to notice Roy when he took his departure the next day. Poor Mary had to suffer for the trip which she had to town, for Myra made life almost unbearable for her! Until this time she had not resented Otis so much, for although she did not like him, his misfortune called forth all the good that was in her, and she had sympathy for him. Now her rage must be spent, and she gave him part of it. She refused them the privilege of eating at the table with the rest of the family, giving them tin plates from which to eat their food and tin cans from which to drink. Her own children received the best, and then if there was anything left, Otis and Mary could have it if they chose.
The material which Roy bought for Mary was left lying in the dresser drawer for weeks, because Myra refused Mary the privilege of making it, as she always had something else for her to do. But again Dan came in as the head of the family, for Aunt Millie asked that Mary and Otis might visit her, and Dan inquired of Mary if she had made her dresses. When informed that she had not and the reason of it there was another scene in the Dennison home, and Mary began to prepare one dress by cutting into the goods. Myra then denied her the privilege of using the sewing machine, and she stitched her dress with her fingers and a needle, but as she was very neat it looked very well.
Mary had sewed since a small child, for whenever she would get a doll she felt that she must have a good wardrobe for it. Every little scrap of goods large enough for use was made up into some garment for her doll. Then when there were others in the family with dolls, she kept them well supplied with dresses. Myra was delighted with this for it kept her from being troubled with making doll garments, and Mary delighted in doing it. In this way she became a neat little seamstress and was soon making garments for herself and for the children and then for Myra also.
When Mary had finished her dress she viewed it with pride, and as she had the dress ready for wear that Uncle Roy had bought her, she thought the two of them would be all right for the time that she would be with Aunt Millie. But when she went to get her dress, the one of which she had been so proud and had tried it on again and again in the secrecy of her own room, she found it covered with axle grease. It was completely ruined, and she could not wear it at all. There was another scene in the Dennison home, and Mary and Otis went to visit their aunt, although Myra did everything she could to keep them at home. Mary wore the dress that she had made, and when her aunt saw it she exclaimed at the neatness of it but said, “Why, Mary, dear, why did you not make it with the machine? Your mother has a machine that stitches nicely, and why did you not use it?”
Upon being informed as to the reason, she then had Mary to rip the dress apart and stitch it on her machine, but when Mary returned home after Myra saw what had been done she again ripped the dress apart and Mary had to put it together again, stitching it with a needle.
How unbearable life was becoming, yet Dan never took his place in the home as he should until aroused beyond further endurance, and then there would always be a scene! So Mary kept many things from him for fear of such, for after a scene in the home Myra would usually avenge herself on the children.
But there were some bright spots in her life, for after Roy joined the navy, he never failed to write to his little Peachy girl. There came letters to her from Panama, Cuba, South America, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Many times he would send them some curios from different places and often money, so that Mary no longer had to clothe herself in Myra’s old dresses. She delighted also in answering Roy’s letters, but her heart was starving for the love of a tender, sympathetic, understanding parent. Aunt Millie took special interest in her, and their talks together helped Mary to develop into a girl with bright and noble ideals.