“You must not make the man angry, Madge,” argued gentle Eleanor, who knew Madge’s fiery, temper and stood in awe of it. “Perhaps, when he sees we are girls, he will be sorry he took our boat away and will bring it back for us.”
“Let us go and see him at once,” was Madge’s sole response.
After all, it was Eleanor’s gentleness that won the day! She told the farmer, whom they found in the hay field, the whole story of the houseboat, and how they hoped to spend their holiday aboard it.
“I declare, I’m real sorry I moved your houseboat,” he apologized. “If I’d ‘a’ known the pretty toy boat belonged to a parcel of young girls like you, I’d never have laid hands on it. You kin stay along my shore all summer if you like. But no one asked my permission to tie the boat to my post. And soon as I seen it, I just thought the boat belonged to some rich society folks who thought they owned the airth. I hid the boat up the bay a piece. But don’t you fret. I’ll go git it and tote it back in no time.”
“I am so sorry,” explained Madge prettily, ashamed of her bad temper and how near she had come to displaying it. “I thought, of course, the engineer who towed our boat out here from Baltimore had asked your permission before he made a landing. I suppose he was in such a hurry to get back to the city that he neglected it.”
While the girls and their chaperon waited for the return of their houseboat they ate an early luncheon out of the hampers that Phil and Lillian had brought from their homes to provision the travelers for the day.
The houseboat finally did appear, much as the girls had pictured her. She was painted white, with a line of green showing just above the water. The four rooms in the cabin, which was set well toward the stern, opened into each other, and each room had a small door and window facing on the deck. The two bedrooms had six berths set along the walls. One room was intended for the kitchen and the fourth, which was the largest, was to serve as the dining room, sitting room, work and play room for the houseboat party on rainy days, when it was impossible for them to be out on deck.
While the men were unloading the barrels and boxes on the boat the girls ran in and out the doors of their cabin rooms like the figures in a pantomime, bumping into each other and stumbling over things. Miss Jones at last sent Eleanor and Lillian to the kitchen to drive nails along the wall and to hang up their limited display of kitchen utensils, while Phil and Madge helped with the unpacking. There was one steamer chair, bought in honor of the chaperon, and a great many sofa cushions, borrowed from their rooms at school, to be used as deck furniture. A barrel of apples, a barrel of potatoes and two Virginia hams were donations from the farm in Virginia. Mrs. Seldon, Lillian’s mother, had also sent a store of pickles and preserves.
Phil, too, had brought a big box from home, while Madge’s own purchases for the houseboat included a small table, five chairs, besides the necessary china and some of the bedding. The rest of the outfit the girls managed to secure from their own homes.