It was perhaps eight o’clock, although to the girls it seemed midnight, when Lillian whispered:
“Girls, I hear some one coming this way. Phil was right; it was a joke, after all. Whoever locked the door has come back to unlock it.”
The girls smiled hopefully. After all, their experience did not amount to anything. They would be back inside the houseboat in another hour.
The footsteps now sounded plainly just outside the cabin door.
“Won’t you please unbar the door for us?” called Phil and Madge in chorus. “Some one has locked us inside.”
An elfish laugh answered them. Or was it the wind? Perhaps they had heard no one after all. They strained their ears but heard no further sound. Then the last bit of twilight vanished and night came down in reality.
AN ANXIOUS NIGHT
Huddled together in the darkness, Phil and Madge endeavored to relieve the strain of the situation by talking, but the very sound of their voices dismayed them and they became silent. Finally Eleanor, who had been leaning against Madge’s shoulder, laid her head in her cousin’s lap and went to sleep. A little later Lillian, after receiving Madge’s assurance that she and Phil intended to keep watch, went to sleep also.
“Madge,” Phil’s voice trembled a little, “what do you suppose poor Miss Jones will think? She won’t have the least idea in which direction to look for us. Goodness knows how long we may have to stay here. We may never get out.” Her voice sank to a whisper.
“Why, Phil,” Madge feigned a hopefulness which she did not feel, “I am surprised at you. You haven’t given up hope. It is just the darkness and being hungry that makes things appear so dreadful. I have been thinking about our plight, and when daylight comes I am going to try to climb up the wall to the window. The mud has broken away between some of the logs, so that I can get my foot in the opening. We shall have to dig it away in other places too.”
“But what can we dig with, Madge? We haven’t a knife.”
“With our fingers and hairpins, if we must, Phil. Sh-sh, Nellie is waking. I want her to sleep on till daylight.”
Toward morning, however, the two girls’ eyes closed wearily. In spite of their resolve to keep awake, the gray dawn creeping in at the windows found them fast asleep. It was Phil who first opened her eyes. She touched Madge, who sat up with a start, then springing to her feet exclaimed, “I’m so glad it’s morning. Now for my great circus stunt.”
“You can’t possibly climb up there without hurting yourself, Madge. You will surely fall,” expostulated Eleanor. “Please, please don’t try it.”
“Please don’t discourage me, Nellie. It is the only way I know to get out of this dreadful place. Phil, if you will try to brace me, I can climb up and dig in the mud farther up.”