PLAYING GOOD SAMARITAN
February had passed and March was again rushing upon Severndale. A cold, wild March, too. Perhaps because it was coming in like a lion it would go out like a lamb. It is nearly a year since we first saw Peggy Stewart seated in the crotch of the snake-fence talking with Shashai and Tzaritza, and in that year her whole outlook upon life has changed. True it was then later in the month and spring filled the air, but a few weeks make vast changes in a Maryland springtide. And Daddy Neil was coming home soon! Coming in time for an alumni meeting during June week at the Academy, and Mr. Harold was coming also. These facts threw every one at Severndale, as well as Mrs. Harold and Polly into a flutter of anticipation. But several weeks—yes, three whole months in fact—must elapse before they would arrive, for the ships were only just leaving Guantanamo for Hampton Roads and then would follow target practice off the Virginia Capes.
Mrs. Harold and Polly were going to run down to Hampton Roads for a week, to meet Mr. Harold, but Commander Stewart’s cruiser would not be there. He was ordered to Nicaragua where one of the periodical insurrections was taking place and Uncle Sam’s sailor boys’ presence would probably prove salutary. At any rate, Neil Stewart could not be at Hampton Roads, and consequently Peggy decided not to go down with her friends, though urged to join them. Meanwhile she worked away with Compadre and as March slipped by acquired for Severndale a most valuable addition to its paddock.
It all came about in a very simple manner, as such things usually do.
All through Maryland are many small farms, some prosperous, some so slack and forlorn that one wonders how the owners subsist at all. It often depends upon the energy and industry of the individual. These farmers drive into Annapolis with their produce, and when one sees the animals driven, and vehicles to which they are harnessed, one often wonders how the poor beasts have had strength to make the journey even if the vehicle has managed to hold together. Often there is a lively “swapping” of horses at the market-place and a horse may change owners three or four times in the course of a morning.
It so happened that Peggy had driven into Annapolis upon one of these market days, and having driven down to the dock to make inquiry for some delayed freight, was on her way back when she noticed a pair of flea-bitten gray horses harnessed to a ramshackle farm wagon. The wagon wheels were inches thick with dry mud, for the wagon had probably never been washed since it had become its present owner’s property. The harness was tied in a dozen places with bits of twine, and the horses were so thin and apparently half-starved that Peggy’s heart ached to see them. Pulling up her own span she said to Jess:
“Oh, Jess, how can any one treat them so? They seem almost too weak to stand, but they have splendid points. Those horses have seen better days or I’m much mistaken and they come of good stock too.”