Daily Mrs. Curtis seemed to grow more and more fond of Madge. If Madge failed to come to see her every day or so, she would send Tom over as a messenger to bring her little friend back with him to luncheon or to dinner. She and the little captain used to have long, confidential talks together, and Mrs. Curtis seemed never to weary of the young girl’s romantic fancies. She used to make Madge tell her of her family and what she knew of her dead father and mother. At times Madge wondered idly why Mrs. Curtis was interested in them, and every now and then she thought Tom’s mother wished to ask her an important question. But Mrs. Curtis always put off the inquiry until another time.
Toward the close of their stay on the “Merry Maid” the girls were invited to a six o’clock dinner at the Belleview, given in their honor by Mrs. Curtis and Tom. On the day of the dinner Tom was sent to the “Merry Maid” to ask Madge to come to his mother an hour earlier than the others were expected. Miss Jenny Ann had elected to stay at home with Mollie. Nothing would induce Mollie to attend the party, and Miss Jenny Ann would not allow any one of the girls to remain on the houseboat with her.
Tom and Madge went up to the hotel on the street car, since it was impossible for Tom to row with his lame arm. They found Mrs. Curtis on a little balcony that opened off her private sitting-room. The piazza overlooked the waters of the small bay. It was a wonderful summer afternoon; white clouds were rioting everywhere in the clear, blue sky; the water was astir with white-masted boats, dipping their sails toward the waves like the flapping wings of sea gulls.
Madge was looking her prettiest. She had on her best white frock, and as a mark of her appreciation of Mrs. Curtis wore the string of pearls about her throat. Without making any noise, she crept out on the balcony and kissed Mrs. Curtis lightly on the forehead. Then she dropped into a low, cushioned chair near her friend’s side.
“Here I am, dressed for the dinner,” she announced happily. “How do you like me? Tom said you wanted me to come before the other girls, and that this was perhaps our farewell dinner with you, for you might be going away in a few days. Dear me, I am sorry. Are you going to Old Point Comfort for the rest of the summer, or to your own summer place?”
Mrs. Curtis shook her head. “I don’t know, Madge, just where I shall go,” she answered, pushing Madge’s curls to one side of her white forehead. It was the way that Mrs. Curtis liked best to have Madge wear her hair. “But, wherever we go, can’t you go with us?” she concluded.