“Why I can’t remember when I haven’t ridden. Shelby put me on a horse when Mammy Lucy declared I was too tiny to sit in a chair, and oh, how I love it and them. It is all so easy, so free—so—I don’t quite know how to express it. But I must not take any more of your time talking about myself. Please excuse me for having talked so much. I wanted you to see Silver Star’s paces but I did not plan to show them in just this way. But isn’t he a dear? I don’t know how I can let him go away from Severndale, but he as well as the others must. We sent Columbine only a few days ago. She has the sweetest disposition of any horse I have ever trained. It nearly broke my heart to send her off. They are all relatives. Shashai and Star are half-brothers. Shashai is my very own and I shall never sell him. Would you like to try Star, Miss Polly? I can get you a riding skirt. Shall you ride cross or side? He is trained for both.”
“Not today, I think,” answered Mrs. Harold for Polly. “We must make our arrangements for Star and then we will see about riding lessons. I wish you would undertake to teach Polly.”
“Oh, would you really let me teach her?” cried Peggy enthusiastically.
“I think the obligation would be all on the other side,” laughed Mrs. Harold. “It would be a privilege too great to claim.”
“There would be no obligation whatever. I’d just love to,” cried Peggy eagerly. “Why it would be perfectly lovely to have her come out here every day. Please walk back to the house and let us talk it over,” Peggy’s eyes were sparkling.
“Oh, Tanta, may I?”
“Slowly, Polly. My head is beginning to swim with so many ideas crowding into it,” but Polly Howland knew from the tone that the day was as good as won.
A FRIENDSHIP BEGINS
As they walked back to the house the girls talked incessantly, Mrs. Harold listening intently but saying very little. She was drawing her own conclusions, which were usually pretty shrewd ones.
Commander Harold had for the past four years been stationed either at the Naval Academy, or on sea duty on board the Rhode Island when she made her famous cruise around the world. Mrs. Harold had remained at Wilmot Hall during the winter of 1907 and 1908, Polly’s sister Constance spending it with her. Later Commander Harold had duty at the Academy, but recently with his new commission, for he had been a commander only a few months, he had been given one of the new cruisers and was at sea once more. They had no children, their only child having died many years before, but Mrs. Harold, loving young people as she did, was never without them near her. This winter her niece, Polly Howland, would remain with her and she was anxious to make the winter a happy one for the young girl. This she had a rare opportunity of doing, for her pretty sitting-room in Wilmot Hall