There was a little circle which gathered about Mrs. Harold, and which was always alluded to as “her big children.” These were men from the different classes in the Academy, for there were no “class rates” in “Middies’ Haven,” as they called her sitting-room. Peggy met them all, though, naturally, there were some she liked better than others. Among the upper-classmen who would graduate in the spring were three who were at Middies’ Haven whenever there was the slightest excuse for being there. These boys who seemed quite grown-up men to fourteen-year-old Peggy, though she soon lost her shyness with them, and learned that they could frolic as well as the younger ones, went by the names of Happy, Wheedles and Shortie, the latter so nicknamed because he was six feet, four inches tall, though the others’ nicknames had been bestowed because they really fitted. There were also two or three second-classmen and youngsters who frequently visited Mrs. Harold, one in particular, who fascinated every one with whom he came in touch. His name was Durand Leroux, and, strange to state, he looked enough like Peggy to be her own brother, yet try as they would, no vestige of a relationship could be traced, for Peggy came of purely Southern stock while Durand claimed New England for his birthplace. Nevertheless, it became a good joke and they were often spoken of as the twins, though Durand was three years Peggy’s senior.
Polly’s chum, Ralph Wilbur, was about the same age as Durand, though in the lowest or fourth class, having just entered the Academy, and consequently was counted as very small fry indeed. He was a quiet, undemonstrative chap but Peggy liked him from the moment she met him. He had mastered one important bit of knowledge: That a “plebe” does well to lie low, and as the result of mastering that salient fact he was well liked by the upper-classmen and found them ready to do him a good many friendly turns which a more “raty” fourth-classman would not have found coming his way.
Altogether, Peggy found herself a member of a very delightful little circle and was happier than she had ever been in her life. In Mrs. Harold she found the love she had missed without understanding it, and in Polly a companion who filled her days with delight.
And what busy days they were. So full of plans, duties and pleasures, for Mrs. Harold had been very quick to understand the barrenness of Peggy’s life in spite of her rich supply of this world’s goods, and she promptly set about rounding it out as it should have been.
And so November with its wonderful Indian Summer slipped on, and it was during one of these ideal days that an absurd episode took place upon the well-conducted estate of Severndale, which caused Peggy to be run most unmercifully by the boys. But before we can tell of it a few words of explanation are needed.
As can be readily understood, in a large institution like the Naval Academy, where the boys foregather from every state in the Union, there are all classes and all types represented.