Meredith stood for a moment struck speechless. Harry was never home this time of day! What's more, the young man groaned softly where he'd fallen. As she ran over to him, a knock sounded on the door and was followed by a head poked in. Daniel Erwin had continued his wooing, the only of Meredith's suitors to do so; but sometimes the girl woundered if it wasn't simply to talk cucumbers with Harry. The two young men had become great friends and Daniel was finding that gardening suited his shy personality. It was by no-means unusual for him to appear mid-afternoon and help in the fields or garden in return for supper. His family had ended up dispersed over Georgia and Tennessee with relatives, being rather large and needy.
"Hullo!" he said cheerily. His attitude quickly changed to one of anxiety. "What's wrong with Harry?" he demanded, charging in.
"Thank-goodness you've come!" Meredith jumped up and grabbed his arm. "I have no idea what it is, but he is very sick! As long as I've known Harry, he has never had anything worse than a cold!"
Daniel bent down, gently grasping Harry's shoulder, "Harry! Harry, ol' man, what's wrong with you?"
With effort Harry rolled over onto his back and lay there gasping, holding onto his side as if in great anguish. Great beads of sweat were forming on his forehead, which had a clear delination of where his hat normally sat.
Almost immediately, Daniel leaped to his feet and bolted out the door, yelling over his fast departing shoulder, "I'm getting the doctor!"
"What is wrong?" Meredith shouted after him, her fears that it was something serious confirmed by the young man's actions.
Either he did not hear her or he did not think it worth the time to answer because he never slowed down. Both James and Samuel sprinted up though. Unable to do anything, James despondently went back to the cornfield--he could do that much for Harry. Samuel just watched as his sister got a bowl of water and a cloth and began to wipe the sweat off him. She also attempted to get him to talk. To her seemingly unneeded question, "Are you in pain?", he nodded. "Where?" she wanted to know once she got the affirmative answer. Words would not come, for Harry had his lips pressed together so tightly that they were white. Suddenly, he gasped as though he'd been slugged and clutched at his side as he rolled over. In the process, he spilt the bowl of water and put his head on Meredith's knee. Laying curled in a ball with his eyes squeezed shut, he continued to gasp spasmatically and groan in between gasps. His forehead bit into Meredith's knee painfully. She had never seen anyone in such a state and she felt totally helpless.
Sam stared at Harry. He felt rather frightened and sick all at once. He left his chair, crept over beside his sister and putting a hand on Harry's steaming face, whispered, "Is he...is he going to...to die?"
Meredith looked over sharply at her little brother and then her blue eyes spilled over, "Oh, Sammy, I don't know."
Sometime later, Daniel Erwin got back with Dr. Holt. They had come in the doctor's buggy and James ran in as they arrived. The doctor took one look at Harry and said, "You were right, Erwin. Appendix. Miss Drewry, get some water on to boil immediately. Boys clean off that table. Erwin, help me get him undressed and lifted on the table. You will assist me during the operation."
Everyone hurried to do their prescribed duties. "Sam," Meredith gently pulled him aside, "stand outside and if Mama comes home tell her that Harry is getting emergency surgery." By this time Meredith had regained full control of herself.
James inquired urgently, "Is there anything I can do, sir?"
The doctor sent a scathing, but not unkindly glance over the young fellow. He was thin, but sturdy. Blue eyes stared out of a brown face thatched with mousey hair. The hands were steady. At nearly 14, James was not as handsome as his brother Francis had been, but he was a great deal stronger.
"Yes, son," Dr. Holt replied briefly, "You can control the chloroform."
James whitened ever so slightly, he understood that chloroform could kill if used too liberally.
"The water is boiling, doctor," Meredith reported.
"Good! Let's get started." Dr. Holt turned toward the patient.
When she refused to leave, the doctor put Meredith to work holding a lamp. The grisly opperation was executed as quickly as Dr. Holt could perform it. Still, it seemed like hours to Harry's friends.
As they cleaned up and beded Harry down, Dr. Holt explained, as he had not taken the time nor effort to do so during the proceedure, "His appendix was ruptured. If Erwin hadn't come for me when he did, that young man might very well have died."
This news shook Meredith so badly that she nearly burst into tears again. The doctor left with directions on how best to care for Harry until he was healed. Meredith hardly processed a word of it, but James very seriously look mental notes and wrote them down with a piece of charcoal on the wall, referring to Daniel to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.
Arriving home, Mrs. Drewry was surprised to see Samuel and James sitting on the doorstep talking in undertones with Daniel Erwin. All three had serious faces. Daniel, as the eldest, quickly explained the situation and the woman hurried in. Meredith was sitting on the floor holding one of Harry's strong hands in her lap.
"Mama!" the girl cried in a choking voice as soon as she saw her mother.
"There, there now." Her mother held the poor girl in her arms while she poured out the story.
"And I completely forgot about supper!" she ended pathetically.
In the meantime, Sophia had come in and quietly set to work making supper. Janet was terrified to come in. Finally the boys convinced her to go in and she crept over. "Is he dead?" she whispered tearfully.
At that moment, Harry's eyelids began to twitch. "Who's dead?" he muttered thickly.
Meredith tightened her grip on his hand and leaned in a little, Janet sat down next to his head, and Mrs. Drewry also leaned in. Sophia hurried to the door, "He's waking up!"
Daniel had just left with the intention of stopping by the Harvey's on the way home. He figured that, Scalawags as they were, they deserved to know their hired help wasn't going to show up in the morning.
The boys hurried in. Thus it was, that when Harry opened his green eyes that he found the six people he loved most surrounding him. "Well now," he grinned slowly, though a touch painfully, "I feel a whole lot better now. What happened by the way?"
Several voices started to talk at once.
"Whoa! Hang on, there...Okay now, James, please continue."
James told him in gory detail all about it.
"I was outside," Sam inserted, "I'm glad."
Harry attempted a chuckle and reached up and ruffled the boy's hair, "Sure, Sammy, sure." The look on Samuel's face reminded him of Francis' timidity about entering the hosptials...
To be continued....