One afternoon, Sophia ran to the edge of the wood where her mother stood serveying the burnt ruins of her home and the imporved-looking old barn. Her wistful gaze shifted to her daughter who seemed highly amused over something. Sophia's eyes were dancing and the girl was rather unsuccessfully striving to keep a straight face.
"Sophia, just what has tickled you so?" Mrs. Drewry inquired, smiling herself; it being impossible not to smile at Sophia in one of her "funny fits" as Samuel called them.
"Oh,oh, oh!!" By now the girl was shaking with laughter. "Harry is so funny!" Sophia became helpless with laughter as her mother asked, "Why?"
In bits and starts, Sophia told her, "Meredith and Dan Erwin were sitting there by the fire, you know. And Dan is so shy. The poor fellow was trying to think of something to say--obviously. Meredith was trying to be polite and not laugh--for poor young Mr. Erwin did look so funny--twisting his hat about so! Harry had just finished fixing that shutter that broke during the last storm, you know, and he was leaning on the wall watching them. Janet and Samuel were playing in another corner and James was whittling--or trying to. All of a sudden, Harry pushed off the wall, grabbed a chair and plopped down on it backwards and started talking to Mr. Erwin about the book Meredith has been reading to us all!"
"And why is this so funny, Sophia?" Mrs. Drewry smiled.
"Oh Mama! It just is! Mr. Erwin seemed so relieved, yet insulted, that his wooing be interrupted so rudely--not that Harry was really being rude, of course."
Mrs. Drewry laughed softly and ran her hand over her daughter's hair, "Sophy, you have a perverse streak in you."
Sophia grinned impishly, "Don't we all, one way or another?"
Meanwhile, Harry was arguing the finer points of growing cucumbers with Daniel Erwin--who knew absolutely nothing about cucumbers--but quite a lot about horses. Meredith felt crowded out and therefore she got up and started banging around with the cooking pans. Harry's own perverse streak made him grin.
"So, Harry," asked Mr. Erwin suddenly, "are you going to try planting this ground come spring?"
"I'm going to try planting some of it," responded the farmer. "I keep praying that we'll get more rain to wash the salt away--least ways, desperse it some. The total war polices of Sherman and Grant--among others--are inhuman."
"Rather." After a pause, "I hear you work for the Harvey's?"
"Yes." Harry got a defensive look in his eyes. "They have land that can be worked--the only thing I know how to do--and they give fair wages. I need the money to pay off a debt."
Meredith turned from what she was doing and stood behind Harry's chair. "He barrowed the money to pay our taxes," she said softly.
"I see." replied Dan Erwin. Suddenly he smiled sheepishly, "Well, it's been enjoyable. I must be going however. Good-evening all!"
After he left, Meredith turned to Harry, "Why did you do that?"
"Do what?" he inquired innocently.
Sophia nearly strangled herself trying to keep her laughter under control.
"You know what I mean, Harry! Why did you come butting in like that?" Meredith demanded.
Harry grinned, "I'd hardly call it 'butting in'; there wasn't anything going on. Poor Erwin was tongue-tied and looked absolutely ridiculous--somewhat like a fish out of water."
"Well...well..." Meredith was still attempting to rebuke, but couldn't do so. 'Fish out of water' was exactly how the young man had looked, opening his mouth only to change his mind and close it again.
It wouldn't be the last time Harry would interupt a suitors 'wooing', as Sophia called it. Mrs. Drewry soon found herself looking at Sophia everytime it happened and grinning as if at a personal joke--which it was. She approved of the move and started dropping in on the converstations herself more frequently. It kept them from being too personal and it also allowed all parties to see how the other interacted around others. Meredith began to feel insulted--as though she couldn't be trusted. Her attitude got thicker; and then she started to seriously flirt.
When Harry realized that Meredith was flirting he got very upset. He began to wonder if it was his fault since he had purposely started 'butting in'on her and her visitors. But then, so had her mother. Mrs. Drewry had in fact remarked that she found such a courtship safer and probably much more informative. Also, it wasn't as though they never let the girl and her suitor ("No...woo-er. How many times do I have to tell you Harry, that's what they should be called. Moon-eyed boys!" "I suppose, Sophia, you will change your mind about that one day? "Bah!") have private conversations.
About the same time that Meredith started to get bolder with her flirtation, Mrs. Drewry became serverely distracted. The younger children all got very sick. Samuel in particular was dangerously ill. Spring was coming and the local farmers who could, started plowing. Harry returned to long days at the Harvey's; getting up early and going to bed late in order to work the Drewry land as well. James was getting better, but he was too ill to be of any assistance, even though he longed to be. Harry beecame irritable and sharp due to lack of sleep and both physical and mental strain.
One Lord's Day afternoon, Harry betook himself to his favorite stump in the woods. He often came here on Sunday's to rest and pray and wrestle with himself. Being illiterate, he did not bring a copy of the Scriptures with him. It would do him no good, "except maybe to make me look pious" he once said with a laugh.
He felt he should say something to Meredith about her flirting, but he didn't know how to go about it. Hopping up from his seat, he tramped back and forth and around and around. His heart was screaming at him, "You are a coward! You are a coward!" His reason told him, "Take it easy." Back and forth the raging internal argument went: "It would be hypocritcal for you to say anything! Look at yourself, growling and snapping at everybody of late!" "I know I have. I've working on that (Lord, strengthen me against myself!) But at the same time....I know I'm a sinner--I sin every day! I'm not perfect. Yet, aren't we called to correct a brother (or in this case, a sister) in error?"
Exhausted, he threw himself down on his stump and rested his head in his hand. He'd lain his trusty kepi on his knee and as he sat there, he stared at it and the longer he stared at it the blurrier it became. At last, he ceased to see it at all and he slipped from the stump and lay there peacefully asleep.
To be continued...