Harry retained his job at the Harvey's, but his duties now mainly consisted of mucking the stables and caring for the livestock. He spent more time at home working around the place. Since he was there he came in contact with Meredith suitors. They all knew one another to some extent or other, but Harry increasingly found himself in an uncomfortable position. These young men were from the upper classes of society while Harry boasted the background of small-time farmer. To make matters worse, he was employed by Scalawags! Often they seemed to have difficulty in remembering that he had also faithfully served his State and Country in the Confederate Army.
Flattered at having young men surrounding her, at church and at home, Meredith began to wish she didn't have to work and longed for the 'old days' of leisure. She developed something of a superior attitude. Her mother throughly understood and when convenient, dropped hints here and there. Usually Meredith caught on and behaved herself for the rest of the day.
Her younger siblings giggled at her and put on fake airs to make each other laugh. Nothing was as funny as Samuel and Janet play-acting to be Meredith and a "fella". James often stood to one side with his arms crossed watching them with a mysterious look. One day Sophia asked him what he was doing.
James grinned, "Oh, I'm bein' Harry."
Sophia shouted, laughing, "What?" Then she and James nodded at each other.
Inside, in front of the fire, Mrs. Drewry paused, spoon in hand. "So," she mused, "I am not the only one who has noticed!"
Harry's easy laughter was not heard as often as before. Neither did he smile so readily. One afternoon while pitching hay to the Harvey's cattle, he exclaimed aloud, "I'm jealous! That's what's wrong with me!" Frowning, he tossed another fork-full of hay into
the manger. "Well?" he demanded of himself, "What are you going to do about it?"
"Have you talked to Mrs. Drewry about it?"
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. "Mr. Harvey! I had no idea you were here!"
Mr. Harvey smiled, "Well, Harry, have you?"
"Start there." With that Mr. Harvey left.
"As much as I hate to take advice from a Scalawag," Harry muttered, "I think he's right."
Following Mr. Harvey's wise advice, Harry acosted Mrs. Drewry the following day, a Sunday. Meredith was blithely recounting some adventure of the week to a couple of hovering gents. Harry relieved himself by unkindly glaring at them before pulling the mother aside.
"So, what do I do?" he asked. "I'm an out cast from Meredith's society. I'm plumb jealous, to be truthful. Look," he interrupted Mrs. Drewry as she started to speak, "I know I'm a feller from the 'working class' and ya'll ain't. I'm completely aware of that. But I also know that I'm attracted to Meredith (I've always like her--even when Francis and I used to tease her mercilessly). I have no right to put myself forward--but I'm jealous. Should I leave? What should I do?"
Mrs. Drewry took the adgitated young man's hands in hers. "Harry, I would much perfer you as son-in-law than any of these other fellows."
Harry gasped in both suprise and hope and leaned forward.
"I know," she continued, "what you are made of--your determination, your graciousness, your loyalty, your courage. I know you. I know that you would lay down your own life to save any of us. Most importantly, I know your faith. What difference does 'class' have now? We are all poor. My dear boy, I have been watching closely. I have know for quite some time now that you love Meredith. You have behaved like a perfect gentleman. I had suspicions that she loved you too. Maybe she does and she doesn't realize it...maybe she doesn't. I don't know." She paused, then said softly, "Harry, you have my full permission to speak."
Harry's head was reeling with happiness, but he also felt an anxiety. "What if I do?" he asked, "What if she rejects me? What then? I could not stay--for several reasons."
Mrs. Drewry sighed, "Well, in that case, Harry, you would have to find someplace else to stay...but you would always be welcome back!"
To be continued...