For a long time after Mollie’s disquieting prediction none of the three prisoners spoke. They hardly dared to breathe. Their bodies ached from their cramped, uncomfortable positions; they were hungry, and, worse than anything else, Madge and Phyllis were tormented with thirst. Since leaving the houseboat early in the morning they had drunk no water. Phil was thinking remorsefully that all this trouble had come from her asking Madge to go with her to the island in search of Mollie.
Madge was wondering just what she would do and say if Mollie’s father should find them, while Mollie’s delicate face had lost its expression of apathy and now wore one of lively terror. Even the faint rustle of leaves as a passing breeze swept through the trees caused her to start. An hour passed and no one came to look for them. Either Mike had not learned of his daughter’s escape, or else he had not taken the trouble to come to search for her. He must have believed that she would return to the boat later on of her own accord, driven by hunger and loneliness.
It was now growing late in the afternoon. Neither Madge nor Phyllis wore a watch, so it was impossible to tell how much time they had spent in the cave. Miss Jenny Ann would wonder what had happened. Of course, Lillian and Eleanor would explain matters. Miss Jones might remember the tide and understand what was keeping them away. Yet there was a lively possibility that she might fail to take the tide into consideration.
At last Madge decided to end the suspense.
She knew their skiff would float from the shore of Fisherman’s Island several hours before full tide. They had tried to make their escape at the moment when the tide was almost at its lowest ebb. The tide had been high that morning. It was nearly two o’clock in the afternoon when they had attempted to leave the island. She now believed it to be almost five o’clock. At least, it was time to reconnoitre. She put her ear close to the ground. She could hear no sound of any one approaching.
“Phil,” she whispered, “will you and Mollie please wait here for me. I am going down to the water to see if it is possible to get the boat off. It must be very late. Remember, high tide is at eight o’clock to-night. We ought to be able to pull away from here between five and six o’clock. When I come back to tell you how things are we can make a run for it to the beach, and perhaps get a fair start before we are seen.”
“Let me go with you,” insisted Phil, as anxious as her chum to get out of their close quarters.
“I don’t think we ought to leave Mollie alone,” demurred Madge. “But, if you think best, you may go and I will stay here.”
Mollie’s terror at Phyllis’s suggestion of deserting her was too much for tender-hearted Phil. “No, I won’t leave you,” she said gently, taking Mollie’s hand in hers. “You had better run along, Madge. I’ll stay here. But, for goodness’ sake, do be careful. If anything happens to you, Mollie and I will starve in this cave like Babes in the Woods, if you don’t come back to find us.”