“O Madge! what shall we do? We forgot all about the tide,” mourned Phil. “It has gone out, and now we’ll have to drag our heavy boat half a mile through the sand to the water or else wait until the tide runs in again before we can get away from the island.”
Madge hurried down to where their rowboat lay. She dragged the anchor out of the sand and pulled at the skiff with all her might. Phil also took hold and together the two girls worked like beavers, but without success. The boat was firmly wedged in the sand.
“Is there any place on the island where we can hide, Mollie?” questioned Phil as the two girls rested for a moment from their fruitless effort. “We can not leave here until the tide turns.”
“I know a cave,” said Mollie hesitatingly. “It is in the woods not very far from the beach. But I am afraid they will find us there.”
“We had better go to it,” urged Madge, wiping the perspiration from her tired face. “At least we can hide in the cave for a while, until we make up our minds what is best for us to do, We may not be discovered until the tide turns. Later on I shall slip down here again to see if things are safe, and then we can make a run for our boat. If we wait here along the shore, we shall not have the least chance of escaping. The first person who comes to look for Mollie will surely see us. Come on. We have no time to lose.”
This time Mollie led the way through a tangle of trees and underbrush to the center of the little island. Here they found the cave which was only an opening behind an immense old tree that had been uprooted by a storm. A flat rock protruded over the hollow, and the sand had gradually drifted away until the cavity was hardly large enough to hold the three girls. These were cramped quarters, and they were only partially protected from view by the immense roots of the fallen tree, but they knew of no other refuge and resolved to make the best of it.
The girls had barely crept into their hiding place when they heard a noise of some one tramping through the underbrush. A few moments later a man slouched along a narrow path between the trees. His hat was pulled down over his face, but Madge and Phil recognized him by his dress as the man they had seen asleep on the ground earlier in the day.
Mollie made no sound. She was hidden between the two friends, and never in her life before, so far as she could recall, had she been so protected by affection. But her increased trembling told her rescuers that she had recognized the man who passed so near to them, and that she feared him.
“It’s Bill,” she faltered when the figure disappeared without having the slightest suspicion that he was being watched. “He is on his way to our boat. He will ask for me, and my father will be sure to find out that I have gone. Then they will come out here to hunt for me.”