The black clouds were now chasing one another across the sky, and the wind made a curious whistling noise. Nevertheless the boat was sailing gloriously, and in spite of the oncoming squall Tom and Madge were enjoying themselves immensely, though neither of them was much pleased with their fellow traveler.
The stranger turned to Madge. “You must tell your friend that he’ll have to land me somewhere else than in that picnic party,” he muttered hoarsely. “I tell you I have a reason. I do not want to meet any society folks.”
“I am sorry,” answered Madge distantly, her eyes growing stormy at the young man’s peremptory tone. “Mr. Curtis explained to you why we are in a hurry to land. As long as he took you aboard our boat with us as a favor, you have no right to ask us to change our course.”
The stranger clenched his fists and glanced angrily at Tom.
“Ain’t you going to land me somewhere else first?” he demanded in a snarling voice.
Tom quietly shook his head. The sailboat was now only a little more than half a mile from the pier. The wind was fair, blowing them almost straight to the pier.
Tom Curtis was not looking. Suddenly the fellow sprang up and threw the tiller over. The boat jibed sharply. Madge cried out in quick alarm. Her cry saved Tom Curtis from being knocked overboard by the boom as it swung over to the other side of the boat.
“Keep away from this tiller,” Tom called out angrily, seeing that their boat had now entirely changed its course. “I am sailing this boat.”
“You are not sailing her, if you don’t take her in where I say,” the intruder declared fiercely. His eyes were bloodshot and his teeth closed together with a snap. He stood by as if he were going to spring at Tom Curtis.
Madge’s cheeks were burning. She was so angry that her throat felt dry and parched. “Don’t pay any attention to him,” she called indignantly. Tom Curtis hesitated.
“I don’t fight when I have a woman guest on board the boat,” he declared doggedly. “Once I run my boat in to the pier, you will answer for this.”
“Never mind threatening me: I’m not afraid of you. You know you have got to land me where I say. What do you care about where you land? It is where I land that is important.” Again the stranger made a rush for the tiller.
Tom sprang upon him. The two were evenly matched, and Madge held her breath as she watched them struggle. Brownie, Tom’s setter dog, sprang for the stranger’s leg, then retreated to one end of the boat howling with pain. The intruder had swung back his foot and dealt the dog a savage kick.