The girl stole softly to the cabin window and peeped out. She could just catch the outline of two figures that were standing well up toward the bow of the boat. One was a woman’s figure, with a shawl thrown over her head, but Madge was sure that she recognized the chaperon. Hurrying back to her berth she slipped on her steamer coat and slippers. She was trying every moment to fight down the distrust and dislike she had felt toward Miss Jones ever since their first acquaintance. She was trying to tell herself that she had invited their teacher to act as their chaperon from other motives, as well as from sympathy. But the finger of suspicion seemed to point plainly toward the teacher.
Madge walked quietly, and without any fear or hesitation, out on the deck of the houseboat, straight toward the two shrouded figures in the bow. Neither of them heard her coming, but she heard Miss Jones’s distressed plea: “Won’t you go away, and never come here again. I tell you, I can not do it. I simply can’t——”
“Miss Jones,” Madge’s voice, clear and cold, sounded almost in her chaperon’s ear.
The young woman turned so white that Madge could see her pallor in the moonlight.
The figure with her was shrouded in a long, black coat which was pulled up about its face. At the first sound of Madge’s voice it made for the extreme end of the boat. With a quick turn, Madge ran after the escaping form. As it poised itself for a leap toward the shore, Madge caught at the cloak and dragged it away from the face, and for a brief instant she saw the face of a boy a little older perhaps than she was. It was a wild and elfish face, while a pair of ears, ending almost in points, stuck up through the masses of thick, curly hair that covered his head. But before she could get a distinct impression of his face the young man was gone, racing up the low embankment with great leaps, like a hunted deer.
Madge turned to their chaperon, waiting for the latter to offer some explanation. Miss Jones said nothing, but regarded Madge with distressed eyes.
“Who was your visitor? I did not know that any one knew we were anchored here. We did not know, ourselves, that we were to land here until we spied the place. Was that boy a stranger to you? Why didn’t you call one of us if he frightened you?” Madge’s tone was distinctly unfriendly.
Miss Jones only shook her head. Big tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was trembling so that Madge, much against her will, took her by the arm and assisted her across the deck.
“I can tell you nothing, Madge,” was the teacher’s husky reply. “I am perfectly aware that you have a right to know. Still, I simply can’t tell you. But I can go away, if you like, and I will, as soon as you can get some one else to chaperon you. Only I must ask you not to tell the other girls what has happened to-night, or why I must leave you. You see, dear,” Miss Jones ended wistfully, “the other girls are fond of me. You never have been. I can not bear to lose their faith and trust.”