“Please stop now, Mr. Brown,” entreated Lillian. “I am sure you have punished the boy enough. Make him give up the money he has stolen, but don’t beat him any more.”
“No, please, don’t beat him any more,” echoed Eleanor.
Phil could have endured to see the thrashing continue a little longer. But she did not wish to appear hard-hearted.
“Just as you like,” answered Mr. Brown. “I am enjoying myself, but I will quit if you say so. Don’t you think I had better turn him over to the police?”
“No,” Phil protested. “He won’t trouble us again, now he knows we can look after ourselves. Next time he wouldn’t get off so easily.”
The youth vowed never to come within the range of the houseboat if he were permitted to go free this time. As he got out of sight he stopped to shake his fist at the distant houseboat, and he vowed to be revenged for the punishment he had received if it cost him his life.
The girls begged Mr. Brown to say nothing to their chaperon of their encounter. Miss Jenny Ann was already dreadfully nervous about them and, besides, it would spoil Madge’s home coming.
By the middle of the afternoon Eleanor had made another caramel cake and Lillian another plate of fudge. The farmer boy had come down after luncheon, and had scrubbed the decks of the houseboat to the last degree of cleanliness. The girls had hung flags everywhere, and on the outside of the cabin, facing the water, Phyllis had hung a piece of white bunting with the word “Welcome” stamped on it in large letters. This was the first thing Madge would see as she came within sight of the houseboat.
Inside the cabin the table was set for tea. It held the best pickles, preserves, cold meats and jellies that the houseboat larder could furnish. Lillian had made a pitcher of lemonade and another of iced tea. Miss Jones had roasted potatoes, and her corn muffins were ready to slip into the oven as soon as she heard their friends approaching.
The three girls and their chaperon wore simple white frocks, with blue sashes knotted about their waists, for blue and white were the houseboat colors.
They were watching a golden sunset from the deck of their ship when, together, they espied a figure standing up in a small skiff that was moving in their direction. The boat was rowed by one man. The other man sat with his arm in a sling. The upright figure was waving a great bunch of flowers.
“Madge is coming!” cried Phil. The four women got out their handkerchiefs and shouted across the water.
As Madge climbed aboard the boat a strange, squeaky sound greeted her. First it played fast, then slow. It was undoubtedly music.
“My bonnie lies over the ocean,
My bonnie lies over the sea,
My bonnie lies over the ocean,
Oh, bring back my bonnie to me.”
The tune was old as the hills.