Madge kept her arms about Eleanor. Every now and then she would lean over to kiss her cousin.
Nellie laughed softly. “What’s the matter, Madge? Why are you so affectionate with me all of a sudden? Does it make you care more for me because poor, lovely Mollie is so ill, and because it might just as easily have been me, or Phil, or Lillian?”
Madge nodded. “Perhaps that is the reason.”
Neither Lillian nor Eleanor even faintly dreamed that their friend had anything on her mind to worry her, except the critical condition poor Mollie was in; but Phil knew differently. She had long suspected what Mrs. Curtis’s preference for Madge meant. Phyllis and Miss Jenny Ann had even discussed the possibility of their captain leaving them. However, Phil had never broached the subject to Madge. She Phil couldn’t, she wouldn’t think of it.
Mrs. Curtis and Tom arrived at the houseboat just as Madge and Phil were about to relieve Miss Jenny Ann’s second watch. The physician had said that he expected Mollie to regain consciousness some time during the morning, and that she must not be left alone for a moment.
“Mrs. Curtis, slip into the room to see Mollie,” whispered Madge. “Phil and I must go to her now. She is unconscious, so your presence could not frighten her. I want you to see how beautiful she is. She is really the prettiest person I ever saw, except you,” Madge declared, as she threw a kiss to her friend and hurried after Phil into the cabin.
Miss Jenny Ann went into the sitting-room to lie down. Eleanor and Lillian went into the kitchen to wash the dishes.
Madge and Phil sat side by side at Mollie’s berth. Madge’s eyes were fixed on Mollie’s unconscious face, but Phil looked often at her chum. Phyllis cared very little for wealth and position, for fine clothes and servants, but she knew these things were very dear to her friend. Yet, in a vague way, she realized that Madge would be likely to grow into a finer, sweeter woman without them. Phyllis understood their little captain. She knew that Madge was full of fine impulses, was brave and loyal in the midst of difficulties; but she also knew that she was easily spoiled and that too much money and admiration would not be good for her.
“Phil,” asked Madge, “isn’t Mollie stirring? Is there anything we ought to do for her?”
Phil bent over to gaze more attentively at their patient. She studied every curve and line in the girl’s exquisite face. Now that Mollie’s eyes were closed, and the vacant, pathetic stare was no more visible in them, her beauty was the more remarkable. Something in Mollie’s quiet features seemed to surprise Phyllis, but she said nothing.
“We can’t do anything but wait,” answered Phil. “The doctor said that quiet is all Mollie needs. She is sure to come to herself some time to-day.”
Phil slid her chair up close beside her chum’s and kissed her friend on the cheek. It was an unusual demonstration for the reserved Phyllis. Madge stared at her. Then she turned a little pale. “You know what has happened to me, don’t you?” she whispered. “I am sure you must know.”