“I have something to tell you, Madge,” announced Miss Jenny Ann, raising a flushed face from her task. “Do you remember when you came into the library, at school, and found me crying over a letter? I told you that I was frightened at what my doctor had written me. I have a different story to tell now. I am well as well can be. I have gained ten pounds in six weeks; that is a record, isn’t it?”
“I am so glad,” bubbled Madge. “You’ve been the jolliest kind of a chaperon, dear Miss Jenny Ann, and we love you. You know I am sorry I used to be so disagreeable to you at school, and you do like me now, don’t you?”
Miss Jenny Ann and Madge desisted from their labors long enough to embrace each other.
“Here, here, what is all this love-feast about?” demanded Tom Curtis cheerfully. He had come quietly aboard the houseboat, and was standing at the cabin door, smiling cheerfully at the little captain.
“Go away, Tom,” returned Madge reproachfully. “I told you we couldn’t have any company to-day. I said good-bye to you last night. We are getting things in shape to leave the houseboat. A man who has a boat-house is going to take care of the ‘Merry Maid’ for us until we come into another fortune and have another holiday.”
“What time does your train leave?” inquired Tom coolly, picking up a hammer and preparing to fasten the top on Madge’s barrel.
“At four o’clock,” sighed Madge. “We are going to Baltimore together, and start home from there.”
“It is all right, then,” answered Tom Curtis placidly. “I have plenty time to stay to luncheon.”
“Tell him he can’t, Miss Jenny Ann Jones,” declared Madge inhospitably, “we haven’t a thing to eat except some crackers and stale bread, and a few odd pieces of cold meat. And I am so dreadfully hungry that I can eat them all myself.”
“I am going to stay just the same,” asserted Tom. “I am going to be the busiest little worker on the ’Merry Maid’.”
The houseboat party would never have finished its packing except for their uninvited visitor. He sat on trunks, fastened locks and doors. At one o’clock “The Merry Maid” was in order to be deserted.
“Let’s go up to the farmhouse to get some food,” suggested Tom. “I am hungry as a bear, and I know they will give us some milk and bread.”
Madge demurred, but the other three girls and Miss Jenny Ann were much too hungry to stand on ceremony.
Tom led the way to the farmhouse as though he felt sure of his welcome.
At the old gate, however, they found Mrs. Curtis and Madeleine apparently waiting for them. “We couldn’t bear that yesterday should be good-bye,” explained Mrs. Curtis, putting her arm about Madge and drawing her away from the others.