Miss Jones smiled. She was beginning to understand the impetuous Madge better than she had ever dreamed of knowing her, and she was very grateful for her invitation. Miss Jones was fairly well aware of how much it had cost her pupil to ask her. “Yes, I shall be thinking of you girls every minute,” she declared. “Let me see. This is the twenty-fifth of May. School will close in another week. You girls wish to spend a week at home with your parents and relatives; but just as early in June as possible we are to go aboard our houseboat. That is our plan, isn’t it, Madge?”
Madge nodded. Then, as she heard Phil and Lillian calling her, she waved a hasty farewell and darted from the room.
Madge had received a letter from the boy cousin who was at school in Baltimore. He had given her several addresses in Baltimore where there was just a bare chance that she might find a ready-to-use houseboat. He assured her, however, that houseboats were usually made to order, and that she might find some difficulty in securing what she wished, and must, therefore, not become easily discouraged.
Just before noon the four young women arrived in Baltimore on their quest for a house-boat. Lillian and Eleanor demanded their luncheon at once, but Phil and Madge protested against eating luncheon so early. “You can’t be hungry already,” argued Madge. “As for me, I shall never be able to eat until we find our boat.”
For two hours the girls tramped about the boat yards in search of their treasure. They saw canoes and motor boats of every size and kind, and models of private yachts, but not a trace of a houseboat could they find. The representatives of the various boat companies whom they interviewed suggested the building of a houseboat at a cost of anywhere from six hundred to a thousand dollars.
Lillian and Eleanor were the first to complain of being tired. Then Phil, who was usually the sweetest-tempered of the four girls, began to show signs of irritability. Madge, however, undaunted and determined, would not think of giving up the search.
“Just one more place, girls,” she begged; “then we can rest and have our luncheon somewhere. This is a very large ship-building yard we are going to. I am sure we can find our boat there.”
Half an hour later the four chums turned wearily away from another fruitless quest. They were now in a part of Baltimore which none of them had ever seen before. A few blocks farther down the street they could see the line of the water and the masts of several sailing vessels that were lying near the shore.
“I tell you, Madge Morton,” declared Phyllis Alden firmly, “whether or not we ever find a houseboat, there is one thing certain: I positively must have something to eat. I am half starved. What good would finding the boat do me if I were to die of hunger before I have even seen it?”
“Please don’t be cross, Phil,” soothed Madge. “I am sure we are all as hungry as you are. I am awfully sorry. We ought to have eaten luncheon before we came here. There isn’t a restaurant in sight.”