In an instant Madge’s hands were alongside the boat, and Phil pulled her into it. “I am so sorry, girls,” she explained, shaking the water. out of her hair; “but I had such a wonderful idea that it really knocked me overboard. I was afraid I would throw you all into the river, so I jumped. But don’t you want to know my plan? We are going to spend the summer on the water!”
“In the water, you mean, don’t you?” laughed Phyllis, as she wrapped her sweater about her friend. “Madge, will any one ever be able to guess what you are going to do next?”
“Just listen, girls,” Madge went on with shining eyes. “I have been determined, ever since I got my letter from Cousin Louisa, that we girls should do something original for our summer vacation. And while I was rowing peacefully along, without meaning to create a disturbance, it suddenly came to me that the most perfect way to spend a holiday would be to live out on the water. First I thought we might just take the ‘Water Witch’ and row along the river all summer, sleeping in hotels and boarding-places at night. But I know we must have a chaperon; and meals and things would make it cost too much. Then it occurred to me that we could get a boat big enough to live in by day and sleep in by night—a canal boat, or something——”
“Madge Morton!” cried Phil, clapping both hands, “you are a goose, but sometimes I think you are a genius as well. You mean you can rent a houseboat with your money and we can truly spend our vacation together out on the water. I never heard of such a splendid plan in my life.”
Madge gave a little shiver, half from the cold and half from happiness. She was beginning to feel the chill of her wet clothing.
“Eleanor, Phyllis, Lillian,” she said impressively. “I hereby invite you to spend six weeks of your vacation aboard a houseboat. Now, the next thing to be done is to find one.”
CHOOSING A CHAPERON
Madge Morton walked into the school library with a grave expression on her usually laughing face. She had two letters in her hand, which she intended putting into the school post-bag, that was always kept in the library. One of the letters she had written to her uncle and aunt, explaining her houseboat scheme in the most sensible and matter-of-fact fashion; for Madge knew that the fate of the four chums depended, first, on what Mr. and Mrs. Butler thought of their niece’s idea. If they disapproved, Madge was certain that she could never be happy again, for there was no other possible way of spending Cousin Louisa’s gift that would give her any pleasure. Madge’s second letter was directed to a boy cousin, who was at college in Baltimore. She explained that she expected to rent a houseboat for the summer, and she asked her cousin to give her the address of places in Baltimore where such a boat could be hired. She wished it to cost the smallest sum of money possible, for Eleanor had suggested that even houseboat girls must eat. Indeed, the water was likely to make them especially hungry. If all the two hundred dollars went for the houseboat, what were they to do for food?