Eleven-year-old Cassie sat on the front porch, frowning at the yellow stains on her fingernails. Since early morning she’d helped peel bushels and bushels of peaches, and the fuzzy skins had not only stained her fingers but made her hands itch. She never wanted to see another peach as long as she lived.
It had been a good summer for her family. The garden had given them lots of vegetables, and they’d already bottled beans and peas. The corn and the apples looked promising, but the peaches had been the best crop that Cassie could remember.
“Come inside and wash up for supper,” Mama called. “We have to go to bed early because we’re making peach jam tomorrow.”
Peaches, peaches, and more peaches, Cassie thought. Too many peaches! I’ll be dreaming all night about peaches.
“I see Papa and the boys coming up the back way,” Mama said. “Please hurry.”
Cassie hadn’t realized how hungry she was. Mama’s beef stew was wonderful, and even the peach cobbler tasted good.
After supper, Papa, Willy, and Jon took the bottles of peaches down to the fruit cellar. “These will be mighty tasty this winter,” Papa said. “How many bottles did we get?”
“Nearly two hundred,” Mama answered. “Almost twice as many as last year, even after we took the tithing bushels to the storehouse.”
Papa smiled. “I hope you children realize how much the Lord has blessed us.”
Cassie offered the family prayer that night and thanked Heavenly Father for all their blessings, including the peaches, though it was hard to feel grateful when she was so tired.
Cassie fell asleep right away. She awoke to the sounds of people shouting and wagons rattling down the road. She looked out the window and saw a smoky orange and red glow coming from the direction of the Ashman house. She jumped out of bed, her heart pounding. Sara Ashman was her best friend! She wrapped her quilt around her and ran downstairs. The floor felt cold on her bare feet. Mama was shaking out their extra quilts.
“What’s wrong, Mama?”
“I’m glad you’re up, Cassie. The Ashmans’ house caught fire. I don’t know how bad it is yet, but Papa and the boys are helping to put it out. The Ashmans are going to have to stay with us awhile, and I need your help to get the house ready. Brother and Sister Ashman will stay in your room. You, Sara, and Molly will stay in the boys’ room, and the boys can sleep down here on the floor.”
Cassie dressed quickly and moved her things to her brothers’ room. She put fresh sheets on her big double bed that had belonged to Grandma Bingham. The boys’ straw mattresses wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable as her down-filled one, but she was happy to share it with Sara’s parents. Besides, it would be fun to have Sara and Molly stay with her.
As she and Mama finished getting the house ready, a wagon pulled up outside. Cassie was hurrying downstairs when Willy came through the door, carrying Molly wrapped in a quilt. Sara and Sister Ashman followed him in. Their faces were smudged with soot, and Cassie could see where tears had run down their cheeks. She ran to Sara and gave her a hug.
“Oh, Cassie,” Sara cried, “everything’s gone—our clothes, our furniture, even our dolls!”
“Couldn’t you save anything, Edith?” Mama asked.
Sister Ashman shook her head. “We’re just very grateful to be alive.”
Papa and Jon came in with Brother Ashman, Tim Ashman, and Bishop Smith. “Looks like some rags were left too close to the wood stove, and the fire just spread from there,” the bishop said. “It’s a good thing Tim smelled smoke and woke the family. You’re a hero, Tim.”
Tim blushed. “I’m just glad the house was built next to the oak tree. We all climbed out Sara’s window and down the tree. You should have seen Mother—she shinned down faster than any of us.”
“We’re grateful that you’re safe,” Papa said. “We’ll go over when it’s light and see what’s to be done. Bishop, will you offer a prayer?”
The Bishop thanked Heavenly Father for saving the lives of the Ashman family. He asked for a special blessing on Cassie’s house while the Ashmans were staying there. Cassie felt good inside knowing that they had more than enough to share.
At daylight the men examined the ruins. They decided that it would take nearly two months to build a new house since they could work on it only after their own work was done. Every man in town volunteered to help.
The time went by quickly. Each evening except Sunday the men worked on the house. Lumber was donated from the sawmill in the next town, and Mr. Farley gave them paint from his store. People Cassie didn’t even know came to help. If anyone had a spare minute, it was spent building the house.
The sisters from the ward were busy too. They met to make quilts and clothing. People donated furniture, clothes, and kitchen utensils. A traveling salesman stopped by with a box of kitchen knives and left without telling anyone his name. Cassie couldn’t remember when everyone had seemed so happy.
Cassie and Mama kept busy making peach jam and canning the vegetables from both their own garden and the Ashman’s, which had not been harmed by the fire. Being with Sara and Molly was so much fun that Cassie even forgot that canning was hard work.
Because of everyone’s help, the house was finished sooner than expected. Cassie felt sad to think about Sara leaving. One night at dinner Sister Ashman began to cry. “I don’t know how I’ll ever repay all of you. The new house, the clothes, the dishes. Why I feel like a young bride again.”
“There’s no need to thank us,” Mama said. “You’d do the same for us.”
When the Ashmans moved, everyone came to see the new house. It was beautiful. Cassie couldn’t believe all the wonderful things the neighbors had done. There were dishes in the cupboards, rugs on the floors, and curtains at the windows. But for Cassie, the best part of the house was the fruit cellar. Lined up on the shelves were the bottles of vegetables she’d helped preserve—including three full shelves of bottled peaches. Well, she thought, maybe there weren’t too many peaches after all.