[Frontispiece: Their houseboat vacation
Captain of the Merry Maid
AMY D. V. CHALMERS
Author of Madge Morton's Secret, Madge Morton's Trust, Madge Morton's
HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY HOWARD E. ALTEMUS
PRINTED IN THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I. MADGE MORTON'S PLAN
II. CHOOSING A CHAPERON
III. THE SEARCH FOR A HOUSEBOAT
IV. THE FAIRY'S WAND
V. ALL ABOARD
VI. PLEASURE BAY
VII. THE UNKNOWN JAILER
VIII. AN ANXIOUS NIGHT
IX. THE GIRL ON THE ISLAND
X. AN EXCITING RACE
XI. AT THE MERCY OF THE WAVES
XII. A BRAVE FIGHT
XIII. LIFE OR DEATH?
XIV. MADGE COMES INTO HER OWN AGAIN
XV. A CALL FOR HELP
XVI. THE ATTEMPTED RESCUE
XVII. THE CAPTURE
XVIII. ON A STRANGE SHORE
XIX. FINDING A WAY TO HELP MOLLIE
XX. MADGE'S OPPORTUNITY
XXI. MOLLIE'S BRAVE FIGHT
XXII. THE EVIL GENIUS
XXIV. FAREWELL TO THE "MERRY MAID"
List of Illustrations
Their houseboat vacation
had begun . . . Frontispiece.
Madge and Tom went gayly down to the boat.
The girls ran down to the water's edge.
"I wish you to come and live with me, Madge."
Madge Morton, Captain of the Merry Maid
MADGE MORTON'S PLAN
"I never can bear it!" cried Madge Morton excitedly, throwing herself
down on her bed in one of the dormitories of Miss Tolliver's Select
School for Girls. "It is not half so bad for Eleanor. She, at least,
is going to spend her holiday
with people she likes. But for Uncle
William and Aunt Sue to leave for California just as school closes, and
to send me off to a horrid
old maid cousin for half my vacation, is
just too awful! If I weren't nearly seventeen years old, I'd cry my
Madge was alone in her bedroom, which she shared with her cousin,
Eleanor Butler. The two girls lived on an old estate
in Virginia, but
for the two preceding
terms they had been attending a college
preparatory school at Harborpoint, not far from the city of Baltimore.
Madge had never known her own parents. She had been reared by her
Uncle William and Aunt Sue Butler and she dearly
loved her old southern
home. But just when she and Eleanor were planning a thousand pleasures
for their three months' vacation
a letter had arrived from Mr. and Mrs.
Butler announcing that they were leaving their estate
for six weeks, as
they were compelled to go west on important business. Eleanor was to
be sent to visit a family of cousins near Charlottesville, Virginia,
and Madge was to stay with a rich old maiden
cousin of her father.
Cousin Louisa did not like Madge. She felt a sense of duty toward her,
and a sense of duty seldom inspires any real affection
in return. So
Madge looked back on the visits she had made to this cousin with a
feeling of horror. Inspired by her Aunt Sue, Madge had always tried to
be on her best behavior
while she was the guest of Cousin Louisa. But
was not Madge Morton's strong point she had succeeded
only in being perfectlymiserable
and in offending her wealthy
by her unconventional ways.
Madge had a letter from this cousin in her hand while she gave herself
up to the luxury
of despair. She had not yet read the letter, but she
knew exactly what it would say. It would contain
from Cousin Louisa, asking Madge to pay her the necessary visit. It
would suggest at the same time that Madge mend her ways; and it would
doubtless recall the unfortunate
occasion when Mistress Madge had set
fire to the bedclothes by her wicked
habit of reading
It was the study hour at Miss Tolliver's school, and all of the girls
except Madge were hard at work. Eleanor had slipped across the hall to
the room of their two chums to consult
them about a problem in algebra.
Madge at that moment was far too miserable
to be approached in regard
to a lesson, though at other times she would have done anything for
Finally Madge raised herself to a sitting posture. It struck her as
to have collapsed so entirely, simply because she was not
to spend the first part of her summer as she chose. She knew, too,
that it was high time she fell to preparing her lessons.
With a little shiver
she opened Cousin Louisa's letter. Suddenly her
eyes flashed, the color glowed in her cheeks, and Madge dropped the
note to the floor with a glad cry and ran out of the room.
On the door of her chums' room was a sign, printed in large letters,
which was usually observed by the school girls. The sign read:
"Studying; No Admittance." But to-day Madge paid no attention to it.
She flung open the door and rushed in upon her three friends.
"Eleanor, Phyllis, Lillian," she protested, "stop studying this very
minute!" She seized Eleanor's paper and pencil and closed Lillian
Seldon's ancient history with a bang. Phyllis Alden had just time to
grasp her own notebookfirmly
with both hands before she exclaimed:
"Madge Morton, whatever
has happened to you? Have you gone entirely
Madge laughed. "Almost!" she replied. "But just listen to me, and you
will be nearly as crazy as I am."
Madge had dark, auburn
hair, which was curly and short, like a boy's.
To her deep regret her long braids had been cut off several years
before, when she was recovering from an attack of typhoid
now her hair was just long enough to tuck into a small knot on top of
her head. But when Madge was excited, which was a frequent
this knot would break loose, and her curls would fly about, like the
hair of one of Raphael's cherubs. Madge had large, blue eyes, with
long, dark lashes, and a short, straight nose, with just the tiniest
tilt at the end of it. Although she was not vain, she was secretly
proud of her row of even, white teeth.
Phyllis Alden was the daughter of a physician
with a large family, who
lived in Hartford, Connecticut. Phil was not as pretty as her three
friends, and no one knew it better than Phyllis. She was small and
dark, with irregular
features. But she had large, black eyes, and a
smile that illuminated her clever face. Put to the vote, Phyllis Alden
had been declared to be the most popular girl in Miss Tolliver's
school, and Phyllis and Madge were friendly rivals in athletics.
Lillian Seldon was perhaps the prettiest of the four boarding school
chums, if one preferred regular features to vivacity and charm.
Lillian was of Madge's age, a tall, slender, blonde girl, with two long
plaits of sunny, light hair, a fair, delicate
skin and blue eyes. She
was the daughter of a Philadelphia lawyer
and an only child. A number
of her school companions thought her cold and proud, but her chums knew
that when Lillian really cared for any one she was the most loyal
friend in the world. Eleanor, who was the youngest of the four school
friends, looked like the little, southern girl that she was. She had
light brown hair and hazel eyes, and charming
manners which made
friends for her wherever
The three girls now waited with their eyes fixed inquiringly on the
fourth. They were not very much excited; they knew Madge only too
well. She was either in the seventh heaven of bliss, or else in the
depths of despair. Yet this time it did look as though Madge had more
reason than usual for her excitement. Eleanor wondered how she could
have changed so quickly from her recent disconsolate mood.
"What has happened to you, Madge?" Lillian inquired. "Eleanor said you
were upset because you are obliged to spend the first of your vacation
with your hateful
"Hateful? Did I ever dare to say that my Cousin Louisa was hateful?
She is one of the loveliest women in this world! Just think! Cousin
Louisa has written to say that she can't have me, or rather won't have
me, visit her. She is going to shut up her house, and is going to sail
for Europe. I know it is just to escape my odious
"Why, Madge, what will you do?" Eleanor asked. "You've nowhere
go." You know how you hate those awful children at Charlottesville."
"Wait, Eleanor Butler--wait!" Madge cried dramatically. "You do not
know what has happened, nor why I now truly love and adore the same
Cousin Louisa whom I once thought I disliked. Just look here." Madge
waved a small strip of paper in the air. "Cousin Louisa has sent me a
check for two hundred dollars! She says I am to spend the money on my
in any way I like, provided Aunt Sue and Uncle William
"But you can't go off traveling by yourself," objected Eleanor. "I
should think you would hate to spend your summer alone."
"Alone!" Madge answered indignantly. "Who said I meant to spend my
vacation alone? I want you three girls to spend the six weeks with me.
Only last night Eleanor and I said that we four girls could never be
really happy anywhere
without one another."
"Generous Madge," smiled Lillian affectionately. "Two hundred dollars
seems quite a fortune. Perhaps you ought not to spend it all. Where
can we go, and what can we do?"
"Young ladies," a stern voice spoke just outside the door, "kindly
remember this is the study hour. You are expected to keep silence."
fell on the four offenders. Only Madge's blue
eyes flashed rebelliously. "It's that tiresome
Miss Jones. You might
know she would be somewhere about. She is the crossest teacher in this
"Sh-sh, Madge," Eleanor lowered her voice, "Miss Jones might hear you.
She is ill, I am sure. That is what makes her so cross. Phil and I
are both sorry for her."
"Oh, you and Phil are sorry for everybody. That's nothing! Thank
goodness, there is the bell! It is the recreation
hour. Come, my
beloved chums, I simply must think of some way to spend our vacation
and I never can think indoors. 'It is the merry month of May,'"
caroled Madge. "Come, Phil, let us go down to the water and take Nell
and Lillian rowing. It is a dream of an afternoon, all soft and
sunshiny, and the river folk are calling
us, the frogs, and the water
"Dear me, Madge," teased Phil, "do hush. We are glad enough to go
rowing without an invitation
from the frogs. We have two hours before
supper time. Shall we ask poor Miss Jones to go with us? She does not
have much fun, and you know it is her duty to make us keep the rules.
Miss Jones admires you very much, Madge. She said you were clever
enough to do anything you liked, if you would only try. But she knows
you don't like her."
"Then she knows the truth," returned naughty
Madge. "No, Phil, please
don't ask Miss Jones to come out with us this afternoon, there's a
dear. I told you I wanted to think. And I can think brilliantly
when in the company of my beloved
Phyllis Alden and Madge Morton were good oarsmen. Indeed, they were
almost as much at home on the water as they were on land. Each girl
wore a tiny silver oar pinned to her dress. Only the week before Madge
had won the annual
spring rowing contest; for Miss Tolliver made a
special point of athletics
in her school, and fortunately
grounds ran down to the bank of a small river.
Phil and Madge rowed out into the middle of the river with long,
regular strokes. They were in their own little, green boat, called the
"Water Witch." Lillian sat in the stern, trailing her white hands idly
in the water. Eleanor sat quietly looking out over the fields.
Suddenly Madge, who always did the most unexpected
things in the world,
locked her oars across the boat and sat up in her seat with a jerk that
rocked the little craft.
"Girls, I have thought it all out!" she exclaimed. "I have the most
glorious, the most splendid plan you ever heard of in the world! Just
wait until you hear it!"
"Madge," Phil called in horror, "do sit down!" The boat was careening
perilously. Before Phil could finish her speech Madge had tumbled over
the side of the skiff and disappeared in the water below.
The girls waited for their friend to rise to the surface. They were
not frightened, for Madge was an expert
"I am surprised at Madge," declared Phil severely. "The idea of
plunging into the water in that fashion, not to mention almost
capsizing our boat! Why doesn't she come up?"
The second lengthened to a minute. Still Madge's curly head did not
appear on the surface of the water. Eleanor's face turned white.
Madge had on her rowing costume, a short skirt and a sailor blouse.
She could easily swim in such a suit. But perhaps she had been seized
with a cramp, or her head might have struck against a rock at the
bottom of the river!
Lillian and Phil shared Eleanor's anxiety. "Sit still, girls," said
Phyllis. "I must dive and see what has happened to Madge. If you are
quiet, I can dive out of the boat without upsetting it."
Phil slipped out of her sweater. But Eleanor caught at her skirts from
behind. "Sit down, Phil. Here comes that wretched
toward us from over there. She purposely stayed under water."
The three friends looked in the direction, indicated by Phyllis. They
saw Madge moving toward the boat as calmly
as though she had been in
her bathing suit and had dived off the skiff for pure pleasure. She
had been swimming under the water for a little distance and had risen
at a spot at which her friends were not looking. As she lifted her
head clear of the water a ray of the afternoon sunlight
her face, touching
curves, until she looked like a
In an instant
Madge's hands were alongside
the boat, and Phil pulled
her into it. "I am so sorry, girls," she explained, shaking the water.
out of her hair; "but I had such a wonderful idea that it really
knocked me overboard. I was afraid I would throw you all into the
river, so I jumped. But don't you want to know my plan? We are going
to spend the summer on the water!"
"In the water, you mean, don't you?" laughed Phyllis, as she wrapped
about her friend. "Madge, will any one ever be able to
guess what you are going to do next?"
"Just listen, girls," Madge went on with shining eyes. "I have been
determined, ever since I got my letter from Cousin Louisa, that we