Harry was panting as he caught up to the girl was walking briskly along the edge of the wood.
She stopped short, keeping her back towards him, her fingers working agitatedly along the sides of her apron. If he could have seen her face, he wouldn't have been surprised to see her biting her lip and tears trickling along her nose.
"What'd you want?" She finally asked in an attempt at a 'nothing is wrong' tone of voice.
Harry reached out and grabbed her shoulders, turning her around. Meredith didn't raise her eyes, but she tucked her chin tighter against her chest.
"Lookee here, Meredith, your Grandpa did that on purpose."
Meredith glanced up quickly, then down again, "You know what he said?"
"No. Not really, but I got a close enough idea."
Suddenly, Meredith looked up and exclaimed, "Why? Why did he do it? It's so embarrasing having what you think you have cleverly hidden thrown out like that in front of everybody!"
Harry's good-nature and sense of fun suddenly took over as he looked down at the weepily indignant girl standing in front of him and he began to laugh softly. It didn't help her mixed-emotions any and she straighted up some.
"What's so funny?" she demanded.
"Your grandpa must have been planning this for a while...he knew right where to hit both of us and when. He saw me coming and knew that I'd be worried about you and that I'd come after you after hearing his explaination of his scheme to your mama."
"His what?" Meredith looked surprised.
"No matter..." Harry plowed on, ignoring her question, "I might as well finish what he started. Meredith," he paused momentarily, then stumbled on, "I haven't said anything becuase I love it here and I knew that if you didn't want to marry me, the only honorable thing for me to do was to leave. I spoke to your mother and she said it was fine with her, but I still didn't say anything because I thought maybe Daniel..."
At the mention of young Mr. Erwin, Meredith, who had been trying to soak up the full import of Harry's passionate outburst, suddenly put her hand up and stopped the flow of his words.
"Daniel!" she exclaimed. "You really thought...why he comes to see you more than he does me! I told him months ago that I liked him, but I wasn't really interested in marrying him." Her voice softened, "I-I didn't realize how much I cared about you until I thought you were going to die."
Harry's face glowed with delight and he grabbed Meredith's hands in his and beamed into her face, holding her hands to his heart. No more words were needed. Blue eyes and green eyes smiled understandingly at each other.
While the two young people were getting themselves on the same sheet of music, Mrs. Drewy had risen after giving her father a somewhat reproving glance. She went into the barn to start supper. Janet followed. She didn't like trouble, and she keenly felt that something wasn't right, even though she didn't understand it all. Samuel streached out on the bench and stared at the sky. He grinned to himself. Sophia and James captured their grandfather and hauled him towards James' prize-field--a 5 acre cotten field that the boy had almost single handedly planted and tended. Harry had borrowed the Harvey's plow every other weekend during planting season and taught James how to use it.
"Grandpa," James demanded, "Why did you pull such a stunt? Nobody will ever trust you after this!" He started to laugh uncontrollably, gasping, "Though I will admit that the thought of doing something similar has entered my mind before!"
"And mine!" broke in Sophia. "Meredith didn't think her face told tales...but it did!"
"I actually noticed Harry first," James put in. "He'd stand around watching when the young fella's come to call. I remember once I saw his eyes flash when Meredith was laughing over some idiotic joke...I knew then that he was sweet on her--big time!"
"I think," Sophia expounded, "that Harry wanted to marry her long before she started to think of him as anyone more special than Francis' best friend. After he got on to her for flirtting, I think she really began to respect him...and then the respect turned to something deeper."
James nodded his head in agreement and both children looked at their grandfather. He was smiling broadly.
"Well now, my fellow conspirators," he grinned, "what do you think of my little scheme?"
With a flurish of his hand, he indicated a young couple strolling along towards the barn. The girl was leaning on the young man's arm and they were talking...about what, no one ever knew.
To be continued...