When Madge started back through the woods the man followed her at a safe distance. He did not wish her to know that he was following her, for fear she would lead him off the trail, but he kept near enough to know exactly where she was going.
She arrived, as she believed undiscovered, at their hiding place in the woods.
Phyllis and Mollie heard her light footfalls and gave a united sigh of relief. Their friend had escaped discovery. So far all was well!
Madge leaned over the opening of the cave, to reassure her friends before she crawled into it again.
“It’s all right!” she cried softly. “I saw no one, heard nothing. We can get away, without any trouble, in another hour.”
She crouched down to slip into the place of concealment. At the same instant the three girls heard a noise. It was unmistakably the hurried tramp of heavy feet! Mike Muldoon burst through the thicket of trees, his face blazing with heat and anger.
ON A STRANGE SHORE
Madge had just time enough to leap to her feet. She would not allow their determined enemy to catch her while in the act of hiding.
“Keep still,” she whispered quickly to Phyllis and Mollie. Then she turned, with flashing eyes, to the approaching figure of Captain Mike Muldoon.
“What do you want?” she demanded imperiously, stamping her foot. “Why have you followed me through the woods?”
For a moment the man was speechless. It had not dawned on him that Madge would turn upon him. He had expected her to burst into tears and exhibit signs of fear.
“I want my daughter, and I want her quick, young woman,” he answered gruffly. “When I find her I will settle with you.” He pushed past Madge and dragged the unfortunate Mollie from her place of shelter. Phil sprang out after her. Her black eyes were flashing with anger and disappointment. She fastened a firm grip on Mollie’s arm. If Mike Muldoon jerked or shook his daughter, he would jerk and shake Phyllis Alden, too, for nothing would induce her to let go her hold on Mollie.
“Let me go,” whispered Mollie gently, looking affectionately into the faces of her new friends. “I don’t want you to be in trouble for my sake. I ran away. It was no fault of yours.” Mollie appeared to be quite rational. She seemed to appreciate the girls’ loyalty to her.
“Give up my daughter and get back to where you came from, and I will let you off this time,” roared Mike savagely. He did not think it wise to deal roughly with the girls. Their friends would surely come to look for them and hold him responsible for their disappearance.
“We won’t go a step unless you will let Mollie go with us,” returned Phil wrathfully. “You shan’t make her marry that horrible Bill. It is unlawful for you to force her to marry against her will.”