The two friends stopped by the tent for their basket of food and sat down just outside it under a tree to eat their luncheon. Neither of them noticed that they had seated themselves with their backs to the water, and they were so interested in talking of Mollie that they gave no thought to the outgoing tide. By rising they could see their boat drawn up on the shore, where, as arranged with Lillian and Eleanor, it had been left by the farm boy. What they failed to notice, however, was the distance it lay from the water line, and they also had forgotten that it was time for the going out of the tide.
As they sat quietly eating their luncheon the sound of running feet was borne to their ears. Nearer and nearer they came. Then round the curve of the beach darted the object of their morning’s search. With a wild cry she flung herself upon Phil. “You said you would help me,” she moaned. “Oh, help me now.” Little rivulets of water ran from her ragged clothing. The pupils of her dark blue eyes were distended with fear. Her dress was torn across her shoulder and an ugly bruise showed through it. There was a long, red welt on her cheek that looked as though it had been made with a whip, and another across one forearm.
Madge and Phyllis rushed toward the frightened girl. Phil put her arm protectingly about Mollie while Madge stood on guard. Resolution and defiance looked out from their young faces. They were not afraid of poor Mollie’s captors. They would fight for her.
“How did you come to us? Where have you been?” questioned Phil.
Five minutes had passed and no one had appeared. “Sit down here, Mollie. We won’t let any one hurt you.”
“I was hidden in the shanty boat, locked in a dark closet,” faltered Mollie, casting a terrified glance about her. “I heard you ask for me, but I could not come out. The woman is more cruel to me than the man. She would have killed me. But when my father came home he was so angry because you had been to see me that he beat me and said I must marry Bill to-morrow, before you could come back to help me. Oh, he is horrible! I won’t marry him! I’ll die first! I crawled through a porthole in the boat when I heard what they said. I dropped into the water and swam and swam until I could land on the beach out of sight of my father’s boat. Then I ran until I found you. But they will try to find me. They may be looking for me now. Tell me, tell me what I must do?”
“Don’t be frightened,” soothed Madge. “They can’t force you to marry Bill or any one else against your will. Phil and I will take care of you. Come with us. We are going over to our houseboat now. Your father need not know what has become of you. Hurry!” Madge was listening intently for sounds announcing the coming of Mollie’s pursuers. So far the girls were safe. A moment more and they would be in their rowboat.
Linking their arms within Mollie’s her rescuers hurried her along. Straight to the water’s edge they ran, then a cry of consternation went up from the two girls.