“No,” returned Eleanor, as she vanished inside the kitchen again. “But sing out if you see Miss Jenny Ann and the boy coming.”
A little while later Phil saw the figure of a young man coming slowly down the path toward the houseboat. She thought, of course, that it was the boy from the farm. She did not turn around. She was too deeply engrossed in pulling up the weeds that had mysteriously appeared in their window boxes. When his footsteps sounded on the floor of the lower deck she called out carelessly, “Miss Seldon and Miss Butler are in the cabin waiting for you. Miss Jones is not here. I suppose she gave you the message.”
The youth, who had been moving cautiously toward the houseboat, was not the boy for whom the girls were waiting. This one had black, curly hair and wild dark eyes. He looked up and down the shore. There was no one in sight.
Although there were several farmhouses beyond the embankment that sloped down to the inlet of the bay, there was no house within calling distance of the “Merry Maid.” Their boat was anchored to the pier only a few yards from the shore, tied firmly to one of the upstanding posts. The youth grinned maliciously. He decided that he had met with an unexpected stroke of good luck. He was hungry and penniless. Nothing could be easier than to terrify the girls on board into submission, take what money and food they had, and be off with it before any one appeared to help them. If it was a desperate venture, well, he must take a desperate chance. He could not wander around in the woods forever with no food or money.
Meanwhile Phil had not once glanced behind her. “You’d better begin scrubbing at once,” she directed. “We have been waiting for you a long time. We wish to get our houseboat in order. We are going to give a party for our friends. Do hurry, there is such a lot to do.”
The young man below was not troubling himself about the amount of work to be done; he had other matters to consider. This girl on top the cabin deck was evidently expecting some one. She would not come down her little ladder unless she heard a noise or disturbance from below. The next question was, how many girls were on board and where were they?
Eleanor and Lillian had finished the cake and the fudge. They had brought them into the living room and set them on the table to wait for the evening tea party. Eleanor was tired.
She had thrown herself down on a lounge and her eyes were closed. Lillian, with her back to the door, stood talking to her friend. They did not hear the intruder’s light footfalls.
Suddenly Lillian felt her two hands caught roughly behind her in such a powerful grasp that she staggered back. Eleanor sprang from the couch, opening her eyes in amazement! She saw Lillian struggling with a man whose face wore the expression of a hungry animal.
“Don’t scream,” he ordered harshly. “Give me what food and money you have and I will let you go. If you scream, you will be sorry.” He glared savagely at the two girls.