Two weeks later the practice ships weighed anchor for Newport, and the party at Navy Bungalow was broken up. Mrs. Howland, Constance, Gail and Snap returned to Montgentian. Captain Stewart and Captain Harold were obliged to rejoin their ships, Mrs. Harold, with Polly and Peggy, going on to Newport, thence along the coast, following the practice squadron until its return to Annapolis the last day of August when all midshipmen go on a month’s leave and the Academy is deserted.
Mrs. Harold was to spend September with her sister, a pleasure upon which she had long counted. Peggy was invited to join her, but alas! Captain Stewart had rendered that impossible by asking his sister-in-law to pass September at Severndale.
Of this Peggy had not learned at once, but was bitterly disappointed when she did, though she strove to conceal it from her father, when, too late, he awakened to what he had done.
Mrs. Stewart had contrived to spend as many hours as possible at Navy Bungalow, but she had certainly not succeeded in winning the friendship of its inmates, and Neil Stewart bitterly regretted the impulse which had prompted him to invite her to Severndale. When too late he realized that he had fallen into a cleverly planned trap, dragging Peggy with him. And what was still worse, that there would be no one at hand to help her out of the situation into which his short-sightedness had involved her. As a last resort he wrote to Dr. Llewellyn:
“I’ve been seven kinds of a fool. Watch out for Peggy. She’s up against it, I am afraid, and it is all my doing. I’ll write you at length later. Meanwhile, I’m afraid there’ll be ructions.”
Poor Dr. Llewellyn was hopelessly bewildered by that letter and prepared for almost anything.
Mrs. Harold and Polly bade Peggy good-bye at New York. Jerome and Mammy acting as her body-guard upon the homeward journey.
It was a hard wrench, and the two girls who had been such close companions for so long felt the separation keenly.
“But you know we’ll meet in October and have all next winter before us,” were Polly’s optimistic parting words, little guessing how the coming winter would be changed for both her and Peggy.
It had been arranged that Mrs. Stewart should arrive at Severndale on the fifth of September. Peggy reached there on the second and in a half-hearted way went about her preparations for receiving her aunt.
Nor were Mammy and Jerome more enthusiastic. They had pretty thoroughly sized up their expected guest while at New London.
Nevertheless, noblesse oblige was the watchword at Severndale.
BACK AT SEVERNDALE