“I sign the truce, sweetheart, for one year, but I want a detailed report every week, do you understand?”
“You shall have it, accurate as a ship’s log.”
Five days later he had joined his ship and Peggy was once more alone, yet, even then, over yonder under the shadow of the dome of the chapel at the Naval Academy the future was being shaped for the young girl: a future so unlike one those who loved her best could possibly have foreseen or planned.
IN OCTOBER’S DAYS
September slipped by, a lonely month for Peggy as contrasted with August. At first she did not fully realize how lonely, but as the days went by she missed her father’s companionship more and more. Formerly, after one of his brief visits she had taken up her usual occupations, fallen back into the old order of things, and been happy in her dumb companions. But this time she could not settle down to anything. She was restless, and as nearly unhappy as it was possible for Peggy Stewart to be. She could not understand it. Poor little Peggy, how could she analyze it? How reason out that her life, dearly as she loved it, was an unnatural one for a young girl, and, consequently, an unsatisfactory one.
Dr. Llewellyn was troubled. Tender, wise and devoted to the girl, he had long foreseen this crisis. It was all very well for the child Peggy to run wild over fields and woodland, to ride, drive, paddle, sail, fish or do as the whim of the moment prompted, happy in her horses and her dogs. Mammy and Harrison were fully capable of looking to her corporal needs and he could look to her mental and spiritual ones, and did do so.
Situated as Severndale was, remote from the other estates upon the river and never brought into social touch with its neighbors, Peggy was hardly known. When Neil Stewart came home on leave he was only too glad to get away from the social side of his life in the service, and the weeks spent with his little girl at Severndale had always been the delight of his life. They took him into a new world all his own in which the small vexations of the outer service world were entirely forgotten.
And how he looked forward to those visits. He rarely spoke of them to his friends, mentioned Severndale to very few and hardly a dozen knew of Peggy’s existence. It was a peculiar attitude, but Neil Stewart had never been reconciled to the cruel fate which had taken from him the beautiful wife he had loved so devotedly, and the thought of guests at Severndale without her there to entertain them as she had been accustomed to, was peculiarly abhorent to him. He became almost morbid on the subject and did not realize that he was growing selfish in his sorrow and making Peggy pay the penalty.