Happy was desperate. Who under the sun would take his part? There was not another man whose voice was like Wharton’s. Happy flew about like a distracted hen, at length rushing to Mrs. Harold and begging her to give him just ten minutes private interview.
“Why, what under the sun do you want, Happy?” she asked, going into her own room and debarring all the others whose curiosity was at the snapping point. When they emerged Happy’s face was brimful of glee, but Mrs. Harold warned:
“Mind the promise is only conditional: If Polly says ‘yes’ well and good, but if you let the secret out you and I will be enemies forevermore.”
THE MASQUERADERS’ SHOW
It was the night of the Masqueraders’ Show. The auditorium was packed, for Annapolis was thronged with the relatives of the graduating class as well as hundreds of visitors.
Among others were Polly Howland’s mother, her married sister Constance, and her brother-in-law, Harry Hunter, now an ensign. They had been married at Polly’s home in Montgentian, N.J., almost a year ago. Harry Hunter had graduated from the Academy the year Happy and his class were plebes, and had been the two-striper of the company of which Wheedles was now the two-striper. His return to Annapolis with his lovely young wife was the signal for all manner of festive doings, and it need hardly be added that Mrs. Harold’s party had a row of seats which commanded every corner of the stage. Mr. Stewart and Peggy were of the party, of course, and anything radiating more perfect happiness than Peggy’s face that night it would have been hard to find. Was not Daddy Neil beside her, and in her private opinion the finest looking officer present? Again and again as she sat next him she slipped her hand into his to give it a rapturous little squeeze. Nor was “Daddy Neil” lacking in appreciation of the favors of the gods. The young girl sitting at his side, in spite of her modesty and utter lack of self-consciousness, was quite charming enough to make any parent’s heart thrill with pride. With her exceptional tact, Mrs. Harold had won Harrison’s favor, Harrison pronouncing her: “A real, born lady, more like your own ma than any one you’ve met up with since you lost her; she was one perfect lady if one ever lived.”
It had been rather a delicate position for Mrs. Harold to assume, that of unauthorized guardian and counsellor to this young girl who had come into her life by such an odd chance, but Mrs. Harold seemed to be born to mother all the world, and subtly Harrison recognized the fact that Peggy was growing beyond her care and guidance, and the thousand little amenities of the social world in which she would so soon move and have her being. For more than a year this knowledge had been a source of disquietude to the good soul who for eight years had guarded her little charge so faithfully, and she had often confided to Mammy Lucy: