Judge Hilliard did not appear to be surprised; in fact, he had expected some such statement.
“Your confession,” said he, speaking to Muldoon, “is all we need to enable us to take this girl away. Under the circumstances, it will not be necessary to serve this paper,” he continued, taking the order of court away from Muldoon. “We shall take the girl with us now. Muldoon, see to it that you don’t get into any other trouble. You are getting off easily. Your carrying off these two young ladies under false pretence and depositing them against their will in an unknown place, as you did last night, is very much like abduction, and abduction is a penitentiary offence.”
There being nothing left to do, Judge Hilliard and his party, now including the rescued Mollie, went aboard the “Greyhound” and steamed away toward the houseboat.
Mollie slipped into her place as a member of the little houseboat family as quietly as though she had always been a part of it. She was shy and gentle, and rarely talked. She was more like a timid child than a woman. She liked to cook, to wash the dishes, to do the things to which she was accustomed, and to be left alone. At first the houseboat girls tried to interest her in their amusements, but Miss Jenny Ann persuaded them that it was wiser to let Mollie become accustomed to the change in her life in any way she could. Mollie never spoke of the past, and she seemed worried if any one of the girls questioned her about it. They did not even know whether she feared the return of Captain Mike or Bill. The girls hoped that Mollie’s lack of memory had made her quickly forget her unhappy life.
One thing haunted Mollie: it was her fear of strangers. If a visitor came aboard the houseboat the young girl would disappear and hide in the cabin until there was no danger of her being noticed. Jack Bolling and Tom Curtis came calling nearly every day, but neither one of them had seen anything of Mollie, except her flying skirts as she ran away to hide from them. They were vaguely aware of her unusual beauty, but neither of them knew what she actually looked like.
Madge was particularly sorry that Mollie would not see Mrs. Curtis. The houseboat holiday could only last a short time longer. Mr. and Mrs. Butler had written that they expected to return from California in about ten days, and must have Madge and Eleanor back at “Forest House.” Lillian’s and Phil’s parents were also clamoring for their girls to spend a part of their summer vacation at home. So the question must soon arise: What could be done with Mollie when the crew of the “Merry Maid” disbanded? Madge felt they needed their friend’s advice. But neither Mrs. Curtis nor Miss Jenny Ann thought it best to force Mollie to see people until she became more used to the atmosphere of affection about her,