Harry looked around bewildered. Mrs. Drewry and James were not there. Meredith had Sophia and Janet dressed in their best frocks and she herself looked rather stunning in her Sunday best, faded as it was and covered with an expansive apron. Her face was flushed with excitment as she flew about putting the finishing touches on supper.
"Looks like it woulda been nice if I'd caught a rabbit," Harry mumbled for the sake of speaking.
Samuel appeared at his side, also neatly dressed. He pulled at his collar and squeaked hurridly, "Harry, wash up and put your good clothes on!"
Harry stared at him for a minute before demanding, "What is going on?"
Meredith bustled over and grabbing him by the shoulders turned him about and gave him a shove towards the door, "Out! Go wash yourself up. Once you have cleaned up, come back in and put your good clothes on. Hurry now!"
Finding his nose pointed in the direction of the well, where sat a wash basin, Harry obligingly, though somewhat irritated, trundled over while stripping off his filthy shirt. He scrubbed himself good, by no means rushing himself and wishing that Samuel would come over so he could find out what was going on.
As soon as he was clean, he went back into the barn. While changing his clothes, he asked causally, "So, what's the excitment all about?"
Once again, his question remained unanswered as Samuel started shouting, "They're here!"
"Who?" Harry demanded in frustration as he stepped out of the stall where he had been dressing.
Meredith had quickly hustled the children into a line and had just barely whisked her apron off when the door opened. Harry stood off to one side with his thumbs hooked into his suspenders (he and James had made all the young men in the family a pair.)
James, with the air of a peacock, ushered in his mother and a small bent man with clear blue eyes, kindly like those of the woman beside him. After getting a shy greeting from the younger children and a more enthusiastic one from the older girls, Mrs. Drewry turned the old man toward Harry. By this time the young farmer had the the identity of the gentleman fingured out.
"Father," Mrs. Drewry said, "this is Harry Finch. Harry, my father, Mr. McRae."
Harry shook his hand gravely, yet with a wide smile, "Greetings, Grandfather!"
Janet giggled as she leaned on Harry, "He's not your grandfather, Harry!"
Harry winked at her, "Close enough, little lady."
At this 'Grandfather' laughed, "I see, young man, that you really do love my daughter's little family. I thank-you, sir, for the care you have taken of them. I have heard much of you on the walk here."
Harry blushed up to his roots and attempted to make some depricating remark, but was roundly routed in the attempt by Sophia and James.
Supper was served in style on wooden plates and real silver (somehow rescued from the burning house.) Francis McRae was a lively old man, despite the fact that he was bent, and after supper he caught Meredith up in a spirited jig. Once they had danced themselves breathless, he collaspsed into a chair to rest.
Turning toward Harry, who had watched the exhibition with delight and amusement, he boasted, "I taught her that jig when she was just a wee lassie of four!" And he laughed gaily at the memory of a chubby baby with big blue eyes keeping up with her grandpa.
Meredith leaned over his chair and put her arms around his neck, "I still remember the first time we danced it, Grandpa. You kept enccouraging me and I loved the sound of your boots on the parlor floor!"
Mr. McRae directed a wink at Harry, "Teach your granddaughters to dance young man and you won't regret it when you are old!"
Harry grinned back, "Yes, sir!" Almost immediately he leaned forward, "Forgive me, sir, but haven't I seen you someplace before?"
Mr. McRae leaned back thoughtfully, "Perhaps in my grandson Francis? He looked a lot like me."
"Perhaps, but I don't think so...Did you don the gray, sir?"
"My dear boy, I'm an old man!"
"But you did, Grandpa! It was right after Francis and Harry took off like the rascals they were!" Meredith cried, know from her grandfather's tone of voice that he was stringing Harry along. Mr. McRae was quite fond of harmless jokes.
He laughed, seeing he'd been found out. "Yes, that's true. But I was nothing but a lazy quartermaster!"
"That's it!" Harry sprang to his feet excitedly. "You are the kindly old gentleman who slipped me some extra hardtack!"
"Well! Really!" Mr. McRae puffed as though angry, but the twinkle in his merry eyes belied him. "Enumerating my crimes! But I do remember that scrawny green-eyed lad with the wide mouth now that you mention it."
To be continued...