"At the amount I'm paid," Harry remarked a week later, "it will take five years to pay off my debt--subtracting the money for taxes and tithes," he added. He looked happily around the table, for the years taxes had been paid. "I'll try this ground in the spring...though I rather doubt that the crops wil do well, if at all. I'm putting some of my pay aside for seed."

"I hate to mention it," Mrs. Drewry hesitated, then continued, "but we all, all seven of us, could use some new clothing."

"And I'm the only one with cash," came the cheerful rejoinder. "Tell me how much you need ma'am, and it's yours!"

"You are very kind, Harry. I should feel ashamed to even think of taking your money..."

"Nonesense! I need new clothes too. Jimmy and Sam aren't the only men popping their britches buttons!" Harry laughed gaily as he looked down at his tattered and increasingly snug woollen pants.

Meredith, over near the fire place, smiled and promised herself that she would stitch Harry's 'britches buttons' on his new pants as securely as possible.

A few days later, Mrs. Drewry had purchased the needed dress goods. She determined that they could get along without pins, though it would have made things easier. They would recycle the bottons off the clothes they were currently wearing.

Such snipping and stitching as had never been seen inside a barn quickly commenced. First, Mrs. Drewry made sure the girls all had fresh undergarments. She did not bother making the boys any. Next she saw to it that the girls all had new frocks. The boys clothing came next--pants and shirts. She made them each a jacket for Sundays. As winter was coming on, she purchased yarn to knit socks with. She had saved the majority of her knitting needles when the Federals had burned the house. For that she was grateful...it saved her money.

Harry was immensely pleased with his new outfit. The heavy cotten pants would last long--even with his contsant activity. Thoughtfully, Mrs. Drewry had made him two shirts; one he set aside for Lord's Days. Since he often worked without a shirt on anyway, he figured the other would last a while.

Harry would rise before daybreak, eat a scant breakfast, and disappear down the wood lot path. After working all day in the Harvey's fields, he would wend his way home to the Drewry's barn. To his great pleasure, though he never admitted it even to himself, Meredith often was waiting for him at the edge of the sparse wood. Most days for the past two weeks, her fingers had been busy knitting winter socks. Therefore, it rather suprised Harry to find her sitting idle on his favorite stump.

"Why so glum?" he called out cheerily as he entered the tiny clearing.

Meredith sighed, "I'm feeling sorry for myself."

"For what reason, fair damsel?" Harry was feeling so pleased with his a half dollar raise that it resulted in a lack of proper sympathy.

Meredith pinched her face up rather comically. "Are you aware that my 16th birthday is next week?"

Harry's grin faded in quizzical suprise. "Well, I reckon not. But that's not all that very old yet," he added with a twinkle.

"I don't suppose you'd understand, would you?" Meredith almost snapped. "But in our family, a girls 16th birthday has always been a huge celebration. A party to denote that she has offically become a woman."

"I see," Harry said thoughtfully, "Your coming out party."

"Yes."

"Well? What do you want me to do?" Harry asked, slightly grumpy at the thought that she might be asking him to fund a party. Adding, "I would rather not expend anymore money at present. I was planning on paying my first installment on my debt next week."

Meredith stared at her hands. "I don't want you to do anything, Harry. I'll get along just fine without a party. Really."

"You don't sound exactly convincing," Harry observed. "Are you sure?"

Suddenly Meredith leaped to her feet and stood almost defiantely before him. "Harry. I would never, ever ask you to waste you hard-earned money on anything as frivolous as a party! Never. I should not have said anything. I was just feeling sorry for myself and I will get over it."

Harry grinned, "Glad to hear it. Say, Merry, I'm hungry. What'd you say about going in?"

He offered her his arm with playful gallantry. She smiled at him as she took it just as playfully, "You are so silly sometimes, Harry!"

"Oh and don't I know it!" he laughingly retorted.

To be continued...
 


Sandra Sullivan
05/17/2012 10:19am

Thumbs up!! Keep 'em comin'

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    A Gray Kepi

    I saw the opening scene for this story in my head and I knew that I had to finish it. I wrote it over several days. Some of it won't be as intersting or as polished as others.  I even teared up while writing it...but I won't say where.

    The War Between the States and Southern Reconstruction are a period of history that hold a great deal of interest for me. I hope that all my facts are historically accurate. (I rather suspect that as I type it up I shall do some fact checking...)

    Perhaps some day I may be able to turn this into a screenplay...but for right now, I will just post it in sections, or 'parts'. Some will be longer and some will be shorter. And so, without any further ado, here is "A Gray Kepi"