"You're taking Harry's side!" Meredith complained.
"No, I'm not." Her mother's voice was firm. "I'm taking the truth's side. Meredith, when I was your age, I did my own share of flirting. Not only is it silly and foolish, it is dangerous." She paused. "Let me explain. Your father was really the only man I ever felt attracted to. He was tall, handsome, manly, and strong. His strength was more than skin deep--he was morally strong. I was out to 'catch' him--not a very Christian, nor ladylike attitude to be sure--but that is how it was. Well, up until the time I started acting foolish, James was gratifyingly attentive, though somewhat reserved. I decided that I would have some fun with him. I started to flirt, not just with him, but other young men. I saw the hurt in his eyes, but I continued my horrible flirtations. It was thrilling, though ultimately unsatisfying to hold sway over a man's heart like that. Due to my foolishness, I almost lost him." Mrs. Drewry stopped here to let the message sink in before continuing. "I began to realize that his visits were fewer and farther between. When I saw him at dinners, or at church, or just passing on the street, he seemed reluctant to talk to me. Your father was a man of integrity, Meredith, even at the age of 22!" She smiled tenderly in memory of her husband. "I mentioned it to my mother, who did not offer any suggestions. My father overheard and took me aside. 'Elizabeth,' he told me, 'you realize that you are the one who has driven him away, don't you?' 'How?' I asked him, even though deep down inside of me I knew the answer. 'Flirting.' That is all he said. That was all he needed to say. That night I cried my heart out. I had been toying and playing with James' heart so cruelly; I thought he would never come back. I was afraid that he would never trust me again. I didn't know how to apologize for my folly. Once again, my father stepped in. He invited James over to supper. Your father accepted, more I think in order not to be rude to your grandfather than anything. Papa managed to contrive a way to remove himself and Mama from the room." Mrs. Drewry shook her head with a half smile on her face. "I had hardly looked at James all evening so ashamed did I feel. As Papa left the room, I must have looked frightened, or something, (I was rather), because James strode across the room and planted himself in front of me, inquiring, 'Are you quite all right?' Not knowing what to say, I did what at that time I thought was the most foolish thing for me to do; but in hindsight I think it was the best thing I could have done--providence works that way sometimes." Mrs. Drewry laughed slightly, as she did so she noticed the rapt attention she was receiving from her daughter; she had never told this story to her children before. "I covered my face with my hands and started to cry dreadfully. Poor James was totally unprepared for this. Startled, he knelt down in attempt to look me in the face, but I wouldn't let him. 'Elizabeth!' (It was the first time he had called me that--just plain Elizabeth.) 'What on earth is the matter?' I was sobbing so hard I couldn't answer; but as soon as I could speak I started repeating over and over, 'I'm sorry, James! I'm sorry.' 'For what?' he wanted to know. 'For being a fool!'" Mrs. Drewry actually laughed at this point, her blue eyes glowing and her cheeks flushing with pleasure. "He said, 'Oh!' in a such a happy voice that I looked up. How he knew exactly what I meant I'll never know; but he understood. He sat down next to me and before the evening was over we were engaged. I have always thought that proposal was a bit premature after the way I had been acting, but I have never regretted it. I will never, ever forget the lesson I learned. Flirting is foolish, my child. Harry," here she brought up the offending personage, "was simply addressing a problem that he saw because he cares about you. I should hope Francis would have done the same. Indeed, I should have addressed it. Take it to heart, Meredith. Pray about it. No one can make you stop flirting; you have to do it yourself--if you want to. I sincerely hope that you wish to stop...you will damage both yourself and the young men you flirt with."
Meredith said nothing, but nodded slowly and wandered off; scowling somewhat.
"Pride," her mother remarked to herself, "is the hardest sin to beat. We smash it in one form only to have it pop up in another. O Father," she prayed softly, "give Meredith the softness of heart to do what is right."
Knowing that she could do nothing more at this point, Mrs. Drewry turned her face toward the kitchen. Afterall, supper needed to be cooked.
To be continued...