Madge and Phil rowed faster than ever after this little falling out. They could see the shores of Fisherman’s Island not far ahead, with several dories and small fishing craft anchored along the banks. They were heading toward an open beach, where there was no sign of life.
“Girls, look out!” warned Lillian. She was sitting in the bow of their skiff, and could see another rowboat moving toward them, the two pairs of oars rising and falling in perfect accord. The boat was so close to them that Lillian was afraid Phil and Madge might cross oars with it. But as the other boat glided smoothly up alongside of their skiff, the oars were drawn swiftly inboard, almost before the girls knew what had happened.
“I suppose you don’t speak to people on the water whom you might be persuaded to notice on land,” called Tom Curtis reproachfully.
“O Mr. Curtis! how do you do?” laughed Madge. “You see, we are not possessed with eyes in the backs of our heads, or we should have recognized you. Goodness gracious! If there isn’t my cousin, Jack Bolling! I never dreamed you knew him. Why didn’t you tell me? Jack, where did you come from?”
Tom looked at Jack, and Jack looked at Tom. “Age before beauty, Mr. Curtis,” bowed Jack. “You answer first.”
“To tell you the solemn truth, I did not know your cousin until this morning,” Tom explained. “But when I saw a not specially bad-looking fellow mooning about our hotel as though lost I went over and spoke to him. It wasn’t long before I found out he knew you young ladies. I told him about meeting you in the woods the other day, and we shook hands on it. Now, Bolling, it is your turn. How did you happen to turn up in this particular place?”
Jack was apparently looking at Lillian and Madge, but he had really glanced first at Phyllis Alden, to see how she had borne the shock of his presence. Jack had guessed correctly that Phyllis did not like him. To tell the truth, she looked anything but pleased. She did not like boys. She could do most of the things they could, and they were, to her mind, a nuisance. They were always on hand, trying to help and to pretend that girls were weaker than they were in order to domineer over them. The worst of it was, Madge, Lillian and Eleanor might think the newcomers would add to the fun. So, though Phyllis did not mean to be rude either to Tom or to Jack, she was far from enthusiastic, and could not help showing it.
“Of course, I had to come down to see what your houseboat looked like after I got your note telling me where you were,” explained Jack. “I knew there was a hotel near here, so, as soon as school closed, I ran down for a few days to see how you were getting on. You see, I was really very much interested in the houseboat.” Jack made this last remark directly to Phyllis. She merely glanced carelessly away in the opposite direction.
“We rowed up from the hotel to the houseboat, but we couldn’t see a soul aboard. ‘The ship was still as still could be,’” declared Tom. “Then we started for a row and found you.” There was no doubt that Tom was looking straight at Madge.