There were two other blankets left. Mollie started back to the cabin for these, when to her terror she discovered that the skirt of her cotton dress was in names. She tried to beat it out with her hands, but it crept steadily up toward her head. She cried aloud, but she could see no one coming to save her. The pain was more intense every moment. She could not keep still. She ran toward the edge of the deck. Before her the placid water lay cool and sweet. With a cry of pain, Mollie threw herself over the side of the houseboat. She did not realize how shallow the water was. She flung herself with all her force. Her head struck against the bottom with a heavy thud. At least the water was cool; the fire no longer burned her.
Miss Jones and Mr. Brown, who had joined Miss Jenny Ann on her way back from the farmhouse, heard Mollie’s first cry of alarm. The artist had been coming down to the houseboat to make an evening call. Two strangers, a man and his wife, were strolling along the top of the small embankment. They also heard the call. The four of them started down the hill almost at the same time. Before they reached the houseboat, the odor of burning wood was borne to their nostrils. Miss Jenny Ann cried out for Mollie, but Mollie did not answer. Mr. Brown and the two strangers began beating out the fire on the boat. It had not spread far; the blankets had covered the flames and kept them from increasing. The overturned oil can gave the clue to the mystery. Mr. Brown dashed into the kitchen for a bag of salt, because salt more quickly puts out the flames from burning oil.
Miss Jenny Ann had, so far, been unable to find Mollie. Now she looked over the side of the boat, and Mollie’s body could be plainly seen lying in the shallow water. Mr. Brown and the stranger together brought the girl back to the houseboat. She was insensible. In her plunge into the water she had struck her head with great force against the bottom of the bay. She was stunned by the shock, and when she returned to consciousness the pain from the burn and the blow made her delirious. As she alone could tell what had transpired in that brief hour, the cause of the fire remained a mystery.
THE EVIL GENIUS
“I think I had better go up to the hotel to prepare the girls for what has happened,” suggested Mr. Brown a short time afterward.
Miss Jenny Ann seemed surprised at the thought of his leaving her alone with Mollie, and said so.
“Yes; I think I had better go at once,” he announced decisively. “The doctor will be here in a few minutes. I can do nothing for you or for Mollie, but I can save the girls from the shock of returning to find their houseboat damaged and their friend so ill.”
Miss Jenny Ann agreed quietly. If Mr. Brown thought it best to go, it did not really matter. “Ask the girls to come home as soon as they can,” she added. “Phil is so clever in cases of illness.”