Samuel had taken a decided interest in carpentry. "Harry's taught me everthing I know," he added proudly after pointing out places where he had helped to make repairs and improvements.
"Very good, my dear boy!" Grandpa McRae looked extremely pleased.
Janet, who's shyness often prohibited her from speaking freely, had her interests deftly pryed out of her by her grandfather. "Tell me, Janet," he began, placing the girl on his lap, "do you like carpentry as much as Samuel?"
She entirely missed the twinkle in his eyes. "Oh no, Grandpa! It is noisy and hurts my ears. And," she added thoughtfully, "I always hit myself with the hammer."
"I see. I don't suppose it is a very lady-like business anyway, is it?"
Janet shook her head, "Sophia likes to help sometimes, but she's a lady, too. Aren't you Sophy?"
"Of course! One can be a lady and do 'boy' things, too. Can't they, Grandpa?"
"I think so," he laughed. "So long as you don't try to take the man's place."
"She wouldn't do that!" protested Janet. "She just like to help. Harry says she's a very good helper."
Grandpa smiled over Janet's head at his daughter who returned it merrily. "So, little lady, what do you like to do?"
Janet got a very contented look on her face, "Well, I like to make messes in front of the fire--Harry says I make a fine mess of greens--and I like stitching and reading and walking in the woods."
"Ah, a little homebody, I preceive." Grandpa smiled and kissed the little girl tenderly.
James came around the corner at that moment, having just knocked off for the day. He had refused to "be lazy, simply because Grandpa is here."
"Ah now, here's our young farmer! Jamie, me lad, I want to know what are you interests?"
"Other than farming?" He grinned and ran a grimy hand through his mousy hair. "Someday I'd like to own a horse again and ride. I used to be a pretty fair horseman--at least I thought so. But really, it's kind of funny. I never expected that I would end up working as a field hand " (here his mother glanced up startled, but relaxed again as he continued) " much less enjoy it! I get very tired, of course, but it is rewarding to see the crops rise from the ground, mature, and harvested. I know now why Harry has always been so happy to be a farmer."
James lapsed into silence and beamed--Harry-like--at the gathered family.
"I see now, Elizabeth, with my own eyes, and hear--with my own ears--that your young farmer has been a good, edifying influence on your children."
Mrs. Drewry smiled and put her hand over her fathers, "If he hadn't been, I wouldn't have let him stay."
Sophia's turn came next. At fourteen, she was a bundle of energy and one never knew what the clumsy girl would upset next.
"As for me," she declared, "I like nothing better than laughing. But I also like to work hard outdoors."
James nodded his agreement. She was his right-hand man when he needed help and Harry was unavailable.
"Besides that," she rambled on, "I love babies and children and boys of all ages...and animals."
At the mention of 'boys of all ages', James and Samuel burst into laughter.
"But I do," she threw back at them. "I like old men who can bearly walk, middle-aged men who don't understand why a little girl cares diddly-squat about a new kind of plow, young men who think I'm just a silly little girl," she rolled her eyes to demonstrate their attitude, and brought another shout of laughter from her audience. She continued, "boys my own age who feel threatened because I can work as hard as they do, and little boys who occasionally need a piggy-back ride!"
Having defended herself ably (at least in her own mind), Sophia returned to her knitting. James leaped upon the bench by the door and whooped as he gave her thunderous applause. The rest of the family laughed and joined in.
Meredith was the only remaining one to be questioned; she felt rather apprehensive about it because she knew that her grandfather was an alert old gentleman and had probably seen her pointed and tell-tale ignoring of Harry the night before.
Mr. McRae's gaze roved over to where she sat; industriously mending Harry's shirt.
"My dear lassie," he smiled, "you look as though that shirt must be mended--or else!"
There was no verbal response, but she fumbled her needle.
"And why would my cheerful girl be so agitated by her grandpa's traditional questioning spree?" He paused, then added slyly, "A young man, perhaps?"
"Father!" Mrs. Drewry exclaimed in surprise, while her daughter turned scarlet and dropped the needle.
He smiled, "I think he's a fine young man and I would be quite proud for him to officially join the family."
At this, Meredith sprang to her feet, dropping the shirt in the dirt, and rushed off. She ran headlong into Harry, nearly throwing both of them to the ground.
"Whoa, now!" Harry was more than a little surprised. "Wha...?" he began and he stared after her as she disappeared.
Puckering up his brow, he demanded, "What's wrong with her?"
Sophia and James exchanged glances and burst into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. Janet opened her mouth, then snapped it shut again--understanding dawning in her eyes. Samuel just stared at everyone. Mrs. Drewry gave her father a preplexed looked.
"It's best they get it out of their systems early, my dear. Keep it up as it is and there will be much greater unrest and tension."
"But Papa, in such a fashion!"
"Oh, aye. Why not? I saw him coming and I can read Merry the same why I can read you...My plan was and still is, for her upset to start the chain of events."
Suddenly, it hit Harry like a shot between the eyes what the old man was talking about. He spun around on his heel after giving him a hard, disbelieving look. As Harry's back disappeared in the direction Meredith had taken, Mr. McRae leaned back with a mischeveous smile.
To be continued...