Madge crawled cautiously out of the hole. Her muscles were so stiff that she rose to her feet with difficulty. But she soon started off through the narrow path between the trees, making as little noise as she possibly could. Her way through the grove of trees covered the greater part of the distance to the shore. But there was still a stretch of open beach, where she feared she would be discovered. When she came to the shelter of the last tree she stopped and peered cautiously up and down the line of the shore. As far as she could see the beach was empty. And, surely enough, the tide was coming in. Tiny waves touched the prow of the “Water Witch.” It was true the water was not yet deep enough to float their boat, but in less than an hour they might be able to row away from danger with their new friend.
There was but one thing to do. She must return to Phyllis and Mollie, and they must make up their minds to remain in their hiding place for a little while longer. Madge hated to go back to the cave. She would have liked to linger in the woods, hiding behind the trees until they were able to leave the island. But she knew it would not be fair to Phyllis and Mollie to leave them any longer in suspense. They would think something had happened to her unless she returned to them at once. The knowledge that she had not been seen made her feel more cheerful. She was sure that she would yet outwit the brutal sailor, Mike Muldoon, and carry Mollie safe to the shelter of their houseboat, where Miss Jenny Ann, or perhaps Mrs. Curtis, would tell them how they could continue to take care of the poor girl.
Unfortunately, Madge’s gown was of some soft, white material and altogether too conspicuous. She could be easily seen for some distance as she ran along the shore, and in her anxiety to return to her friends as soon as possible she did not look about her as carefully as she should have done. Therefore she missed seeing the cruel face that stared malignantly forth from the opening in the tent where Phil had her first talk with Mollie. The man’s whole body was carefully concealed, and as Madge flitted by the tent his head disappeared from sight.
The man in the tent had caught sight of Madge’s white gown the moment she stepped forth from the shelter of the woods. He had at once understood the situation, but he did not stir until she started to return to the cave. He knew that Madge had come down to see if she could get the boat off the beach and into the water. It was evident that the other girls must be hidden somewhere in the forest. There was nothing to be gained by capturing Madge alone; he must wait until she went back to her friends, then he could find out where Mollie was concealed.
The boat on the shore and the disappearance of the two girls who had visited him that morning told the whole story. Why had the two young women concealed themselves unless they meant to guard the fugitive Mollie?