Abridged from Just Mary, by Effie M. Williams
Just Mary: Part 5
As we conclude our story, an uncle’s devotion, and Mary’s response to the love of God, result in great changes in her life for good. She learns what it means to “overcome evil with good.”
Mary and Otis were in their uncle’s home now, and it seemed as if they were in another world. Everything was strange to them. There was no soft grass, but instead the hard pavements along the street. There was no gazing away over a wide expanse of country fields and lanes, for their new home was surrounded with other buildings and other homes.
The home seemed strange to them also. In this home God was reverenced in every way. At each meal, grace was offered before eating. Morning and evening the Bible was opened and a chapter was read. Then, kneeling before God, Uncle Roy or Aunt Ethel would offer thanks unto Him and invoke His care and blessings. The children went with their Aunt and Uncle regularly to Sunday school and church services. Aunt Ethel never tired of trying to instruct them, for she saw material there that could be polished and made to shine for good. The task was a difficult one, but the real missionary spirit within her gave her patience to wait and overlook many things, so that she might help the poor, neglected children that meant so much to her husband.
One evening after attending services, the others could see that Mary was very much troubled about something. And truly she was, for she had listened attentively to the message delivered that evening. The minister’s subject was “The New Birth.” He not only laid down the principles of the new birth, but the essentials as well, stating that one could not hope to see God—or see those whom God had called away from this world—unless he had received God’s Spirit, had been made a child of God, a new creature in Christ, born again.
As he mentioned the necessity of being born again that we may meet those whom God has called away from us, the face of little baby Margaret came before Mary. She saw her again as she had seen her so many times, smiling up into her face, and she remembered the words of the minister spoken at the time of the funeral, “You cannot bring her back, but you can go to her.” She also remembered the decision made that someday she would go to her. She remembered the deepening of that decision when Grandma Harmon was taken away from them.
Mary was very quiet as they walked home from services and after reaching home. She listened very attentively as Uncle Roy read again from God’s Word. As they knelt for prayer, something stole over her as Aunt Ethel began to pray. Bursting into tears, she cried out, “Oh, I want to be born again, but what must I do?”
It was not an easy matter to instruct the penitent child. Ethel did her best. Roy agreed in prayer with her. They tarried until past the midnight hour, praying to God to enlighten the child and inspire faith within her soul. In the early hours of the morning, light broke through the darkness, and Mary knew that she had been born again. She rejoiced that she now had the assurance of meeting baby Margaret and Grandma Harmon.
A new task now opened for Aunt Ethel. She had to instruct Mary in the things of the Lord, and that in an understandable way. Mary was eager to learn and asked many questions. In this way her aunt got much truth to her. To Mary this new experience was unexplainable, for again it seemed that she had been transported to a new world. She took her place in the home with the family in their daily worship. Sometimes she would only read some Scripture and then again her voice would be lifted in prayer. She really hungered for more and more of the Lord’s richness in her heart. In this her aunt was untiring in trying to teach her.
Mary had been enjoying this new experience for a few weeks when she came to her aunt and said, “Aunt Ethel, I am very much bothered about something. I do not know just what to do about it. You know I read this morning from the Bible, ‘Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you. Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.’ (Luke 6:27-28) I have never thought to pray for Mother yet, and I know she used me spitefully. I would like for you to tell me just what you think should be done.” Mary then told many things that had taken place in the Dennison home, even to the time of the combat between herself and her step-mother. So Ethel had a good chance to give another lesson to Mary. At the close of that conversation, a letter was written to Myra Dennison bearing Mary’s signature, telling of the change that had come into her life and asking her forgiveness for what had been done. In closing the letter, Mary wrote, “Mother, I want you always to remember that I love you, and I am doing just what the Bible says for me to do. Each day I am praying for you.”
If Mary could have seen her step-mother when she received this letter, she would have been convinced that she was not altogether bad. Myra had buried her face in her apron and, seating herself in a rocking chair, wept like a child. Mary was taking the best route to open Myra’s eyes to her own need. It was some weeks before Mary received a reply to her letter, and then came one with all the endearing words a mother could send to her own child. This made Mary rejoice and made her to appreciate the Lord more than ever. She consecrated her life to God, and the Holy Spirit so controlled her life that hers was one of constant victory. She needed this power to help her through the many difficulties which confronted her in her life at school. But whatever came before her, she could always see the goodness of God, and her sweet, Christian character made her a favorite with all who knew her.
The first day in the city’s school was torturous for Mary. She had never attended school other than in the rural district. Everything was strange and everybody so different that she felt like rushing back to her uncle’s house and remaining there. Her Aunt Ethel had gone with her the day before to register, but here she was alone, and she did not know where to go nor what to do. A number of students passed her in the halls. Some only gave her a glance, while others made rude remarks. Some of them passing by would jeer at her and say to others, “Look; a regular hayseed,” and these remarks would reach her ears.
She was ready to burst into tears when one of the teachers passed by her and, after conversing with her, led her to the assembly room. How lonesome and fearful she felt, and so out of place! She could not be ashamed of her clothing, for she was as well-dressed as any of them. Her uncle had been careful to see to that. But all the other students acted free and unassuming, while she felt cramped and awkward.
The first day passed by; the second was not so bad; and by the end of the week, Mary had begun to see things differently. Although she was very awkward for awhile, she adapted herself rapidly to surroundings and soon felt very much at home in the city schoolroom.
It was Graduation Day, four years later. Roy, Ethel, and Otis were sitting with many other relatives in the large assembly hall, facing a curtained platform. Mary was graduating, and she was to be valedictorian of her class. Behind that curtain somewhere was Roy’s “Peachy girl.” He leaned forward anxiously as the curtain arose. Yes, there she sat in the front row of seats. He had sacrificed many things. The task had been a difficult one. But as Mary arose before that large audience to render the valedictory address, Roy was delighted and all these things faded away, for the dream of many years was being realized.
There were other renditions before Mary stepped before that large audience to deliver her oration, “Success, a Lure to Youth.” From the first word to the closing one, Roy sat open-mouthed while tears streamed down his cheeks. “Peachy girl” had chosen a good topic. In opening her address, she pictured the future before her hearers, as viewed by the eyes of youth, in such a way that those before her could feel the same longings and desires surging within their own bosoms. She illustrated her thought with the story of a boy handicapped in his youth, crippled, homeless, penniless, and destitute of what youth might deem necessary to make success. Through it all he followed on after that bright star of hope which ever shone before him, and through constant perseverance reached the success dreamed of in his early youth. Then followed the names of many prominent statesmen and financiers who overcame difficulties, lured on by the bright star, Hope, in making success. Then she paused.
She elevated her voice as she said, “But some will say there are many noble men and women of whom the world has never heard, and this may be true, but I want to say to you that true greatness of soul and of spirit, though it be clothed in tatters and rags, and nursed in direst poverty, cannot be thwarted in its purpose nor overcome in its determination.”
She lowered her voice as she continued, “In the little city of Bethlehem, a baby was born in a stable, cradled in a manger and lulled to slumber by the lowing of the oxen and the bleating of the sheep.” Then followed a description of the early life of the lowly Galilean, a carpenter’s helper, a wanderer without any place to lay his head and no plot of ground which he could call his own or which might rest his body when it was carried from Golgotha’s hill. “But did he make a success of life?” The question came ringing out over the audience, and many leaned forward to catch the next words. “I say again, greatness, though it be clothed in direst poverty, cannot be thwarted nor overcome. His path lay across the pathway of kings and governors, but he could not be stopped. As we look at the innumerable host of earth’s millions who, in catching a glimpse of Golgotha’s hill, fall down and render homage unto the lowly man of Galilee, we are made to cry out, ‘He succeeded.’ ” She then turned to her classmates and, motioning her hand, said, “We, too, can succeed, for when we are partakers of his goodness and clothed in his greatness that star of hope will lure us on. When we shall have passed from time, and eternity dawns before us, others will say of us as we now say of him, ‘Theirs was a successful life.’ ”
Mary took her place again among her classmates on the platform while the audience applauded. Roy could scarcely wait for the conclusion of the program to get to his “Peachy girl,” for she had surely carried off the honors of the day in the rendition of that oration. But the program was concluded, the diplomas were presented, and Mary was surrounded by her loved ones and many classmates.
The days and years flew on. Pleasant years for all of them, for there has sprung up a love and an appreciation for one another which brings real happiness in any home.
After Mary’s graduation she taught in the grade schools for a few terms, and in this way relieved her uncle of a heavy burden by helping to keep Otis in school.
As no children came into the home of Roy and Ethel, Mary and Otis filled a place in their hearts equal to children of their own and their admiration was unbounded. It was a struggle for them to educate the children as they did. Many times they felt they would have to give it up, but always there was some way provided.
As they looked at the two children grown and doing for themselves, they felt rewarded for all the efforts put forth. Ethel was often heard to say, “We are proud of our children.”
Mary’s school closed in June, and she decided not to teach the following term. Teacher and pupils wept as she said goodbye at the close of school. They had endeared themselves to her and she herself to them, and it was not easy to separate. She felt that she had instructed them in a way that would make them better citizens. She always held out before them the greatness of One who will endow all mankind with greatness, and all knew that Mary’s life was one filled with His graces. Many boys who had been very unruly had been won by her kindness. She always held before them their good qualities and gave them something good to see, thereby letting the good overcome the bad in them, and making them realize what there was in life. She moved among them in such a way as to convince them that she loved them and was vitally interested in them. None could be thrown in constant touch with her without feeling her godly influence.
“Who giveth this daughter in marriage?” said the minister.
“I do,” said Uncle Roy as he placed Mary’s hand in the hand of Edwin Wheeler. The minister continued to read the ceremony joining Mary and Edwin. As he pronounced them husband and wife, the sound of ringing bells was heard, and the bridal party turned from the altar and marched out.
After the ceremony many gathered in the Harmon home to say goodbye to the young couple. They were going away to their new home in a distant city, where Edwin was pastor of a congregation, to take up their new duties, each to be a helper of the other, and the two to be real helpers to the flock they were to pastor.
It has been ten years since Mary walked down the aisle on the arm of her uncle, meeting at the altar the young man whom she had selected to go through life with her. These years have brought about many changes. In Mary’s home is heard the prattle of childish voices. Two little girls and one little boy have made their appearance. These three children have about them all that makes a home pleasant. Edwin and Mary are fond, loving parents, teaching their children of the God that means so much to both of them. Theirs is a happy home, for love rules. Otis spends much of his time with Mary and her husband, although his home is with Uncle Roy. He delights to romp with Mary’s children and they love their uncle as he loves them.
There is another inmate in Mary’s home who requires much of her attention. Myra Dennison lies a helpless invalid, having been confined to her bed for a number of months. She has no other place to go, and Mary would have choosen to have her, for she delights in doing what she can to make her comfortable.
Shortly after Mary’s wedding, her father was injured by some piece of machinery while threshing, which injury resulted in his death, leaving Myra with a house full of children to support. She did the best she could, but as they grew up they went out to do for themselves. Some of them married and had homes of their own. But when Myra’s health failed so that she could not care for herself, none of them made room for her nor offered to help her in any way. It was then that she appealed to Mary, who made room for her and cared for her untiringly. Although there are impressions made on childish minds that can never be erased, Mary swept past memories aside as she looked at the sufferer before her and kindly ministered unto her needs.
In her sufferings, Mary pointed her to One who has promised to be a present help in every time of trouble. She felt rewarded as she saw the smile of hope spread over Myra’s face. Shortly after, Myra passed into eternity, but Mary’s kind, loving hands ministered to her until the last moment of her life. As her tears fell, none would think that she bore other than the sweetest memories for her who was gone. Her reverence and respect were as great is if Myra had been her own mother.
As Roy looked on during this trial of Mary’s life, he again thanked God that he had taken her into his own home and, through God’s help, had polished the rough diamond until it was now shining with the real Christian graces. As he once more gathered his little “Peachy girl” (as he still continued to call her) into his arms and began to talk of the past, she silenced him by saying, “I have too much to be thankful for now to think of dwelling on the past. The comfort which comes to me at this time well repays me.”
“Yes,” said Uncle Roy, “but you have done something which Myra’s own children would not do. Caroline has a home as well as you, and you know she could have made room for her, but she would not do it.”
Mary stood proudly erect before her uncle as she replied, “I know it, Uncle Roy. She could have given Mother a home and cared for her if she would have wanted to. But you must remember, she is Caroline, and I am Mary, just Mary.”