“And to think you are right here and I have not been aware of it. Oh, I must know that darling child of whose existence I have actually been ignorant. I shall never, never cease to reproach myself.”
Neil Stewart did not inquire upon what score, but as soon as it could be done with any semblance of grace, bade his undesirable relative farewell, promising to “give himself the pleasure of calling the following day.”
“And be sure I shall not lose sight of that darling girl again,” Mrs. Peyton Stewart assured him.
“I’m betting my hat she won’t either,” was Durand’s comment to Wheedles, “and I’d also bet there’s trouble in store for Peggy Stewart if that femme once gets her clutches on her. Ugh! She’s a piece of work.
“A rotten, bad piece, I’d call it,” answered Wheedles under his breath.
When Mr. and Mrs. Harold, Captain Stewart and Peggy returned to the launch one might have thought that they, instead of Durand, had been plunged overboard. They seemed dazed, and the run across to the Griswold dock was less joyous than the earlier portion of the day had been.
SHADOWS CAST BEFORE
Captain Boynton as host entertained the launch party at dinner at the Griswold that evening, and later all attended the dance given in honor of the winning crew.
Many of the Yale and Harvard men were old friends of the midshipmen, having been to Annapolis a number of times either to witness or participate in some form of athletics. So old friendships were renewed, and new ones made, though, in some way Peggy and Polly felt less at home with the college men than with “our boys,” as they both called all from Annapolis, notwithstanding the fact that “our boys” were in some instances the seniors of the college men. But the Academy life is peculiar in that respect, and tends to extremes. Where the collegian from the very beginning of his career is permitted to go and come almost at will, and as a result of that freedom of action attains a liberty which, alack, has been known to degenerate into license, the midshipman must conform to the strictest discipline, his outgoings limited, with the exception of one month out of the twelve, to the environs of a little, undeveloped town, and with every single hour of the twenty-four accounted for. Yet, on the other hand he must at once shoulder responsibilities which would make the average collegian think twice before he bound himself to assume them.
And the result is an exceptional development: they are boys at heart, but men in their ability to face an issue. Ready to frolic, have “a rough house,” and set things humming at the slightest provocation, but equal to meet a crisis when one must be met and—with very rare exceptions—gentlemen in word and deed.
Peggy’s and Polly’s chums during the winter just past had been chosen from the best in the Academy, and it was no wonder they drew very sharp, very critical comparisons when brought in touch with other lads. In Peggy’s case it was all a novelty, though Polly had known boys all her life.