“Then she knows the truth,” returned naughty Madge. “No, Phil, please don’t ask Miss Jones to come out with us this afternoon, there’s a dear. I told you I wanted to think. And I can think brilliantly only when in the company of my beloved chums.”
Phyllis Alden and Madge Morton were good oarsmen. Indeed, they were almost as much at home on the water as they were on land. Each girl wore a tiny silver oar pinned to her dress. Only the week before Madge had won the annual spring rowing contest; for Miss Tolliver made a special point of athletics in her school, and fortunately the school grounds ran down to the bank of a small river.
Phil and Madge rowed out into the middle of the river with long, regular strokes. They were in their own little, green boat, called the “Water Witch.” Lillian sat in the stern, trailing her white hands idly in the water. Eleanor sat quietly looking out over the fields.
Suddenly Madge, who always did the most unexpected things in the world, locked her oars across the boat and sat up in her seat with a jerk that rocked the little craft.
“Girls, I have thought it all out!” she exclaimed. “I have the most glorious, the most splendid plan you ever heard of in the world! Just wait until you hear it!”
“Madge,” Phil called in horror, “do sit down!” The boat was careening perilously. Before Phil could finish her speech Madge had tumbled over the side of the skiff and disappeared in the water below.
The girls waited for their friend to rise to the surface. They were not frightened, for Madge was an expert swimmer.
“I am surprised at Madge,” declared Phil severely. “The idea of plunging into the water in that fashion, not to mention almost capsizing our boat! Why doesn’t she come up?”
The second lengthened to a minute. Still Madge’s curly head did not appear on the surface of the water. Eleanor’s face turned white. Madge had on her rowing costume, a short skirt and a sailor blouse. She could easily swim in such a suit. But perhaps she had been seized with a cramp, or her head might have struck against a rock at the bottom of the river!
Lillian and Phil shared Eleanor’s anxiety. “Sit still, girls,” said Phyllis. “I must dive and see what has happened to Madge. If you are quiet, I can dive out of the boat without upsetting it.”
Phil slipped out of her sweater. But Eleanor caught at her skirts from behind. “Sit down, Phil. Here comes that wretched Madge, swimming toward us from over there. She purposely stayed under water.”
The three friends looked in the direction, indicated by Phyllis. They saw Madge moving toward the boat as calmly as though she had been in her bathing suit and had dived off the skiff for pure pleasure. She had been swimming under the water for a little distance and had risen at a spot at which her friends were not looking. As she lifted her head clear of the water a ray of the afternoon sunlight slanted across her face, touching its mischievous curves, until she looked like a naughty water-sprite.