Miss Jones, Phil and Madge were industriously turning the berths into beds when a sharp scream from Lillian, who was working in the kitchen, filled them with terror. Miss Jones arrived first at the kitchen door, with her heart in her mouth. Had some horrible disaster overtaken them, just as they were about to start on their adventures? There stood the two girls, Lillian and Eleanor, their faces, instead of showing fright, apparently shining with delight. The men who had been setting up the little stove, which they had bought for a trifling sum after all, had disappeared. The girls were now in full possession of their domain.
“What is it, children? What has happened?” implored Miss Jones, with a white, scared face. Lillian pointed ahead of her, but only the kitchen stove was to be seen. Madge and Phil, who had followed close behind their chaperon, were equally mystified.
But hark! What was the noise they heard all at once? A gentle crackling, a roar, a burst of flame, and a puff of smoke up through the long stove pipe! The pipe went through a hole cut in the side of the wall. “A fire, a fire!” exclaimed Lillian joyously, wondering why the others looked so startled.
There was really a fire burning in the stove of the houseboat kitchen! And as a fire is a first sign to the pioneer that he is at last at home, so the little company felt themselves to be the original girl pioneers in houseboat adventures, and felt the same thrill of peace and pleasure.
Madge seized the shining new tea-kettle and filled it with water from the big bucket that rested on a shelf just outside the kitchen door.
“Madge, put the kettle on,
Madge, put the kettle on,
We’ll all take tea,”
She sang in a sweet, high, rapturous voice.
Toot, toot, toot! a motor boat whistle sounded out on the water. The four girls rushed on deck to call a greeting to the engineer who was to tow their houseboat down the bay, until it found an anchorage in a cove in the bay near a stream of clear water.
Four weary but happy girls sat out on deck on cushions as the engineer made fast to their boat preparatory to starting. The chaperon was installed in the solitary grandeur of their one steamer chair.
There was a heavy tug at the great rope that bound the houseboat to the little motor tug. The motor boat moved out into the bay, and with almost no perceptible motion and no noise, except the gentle ripple of the water purling against the sides of the craft, the houseboat followed it. The longed-for vacation on the water had begun.
Just before twilight the boat reached a spot that seemed especially created for the travelers. For two hours they had been silently drinking in the beauty of the sun-lit bay and the green earth. They were not in the main body of the great Chesapeake Bay, but in one of the long arms of the bay that reaches into the Maryland coast.