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Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 4514

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"I promised to wait for Jeanne on Byrd's Polar Ship," she recalled. "I'll go there now. Peter Nordsen, the watchman, will be there. People will be passing through. It will be safe enough now." She had hidden the three-bladed knife beneath her blouse. For all this, she did not feel quite easy about it.

To her surprise, when she arrived at the spot where the ship had been moored she found it gone.

"Gone!" she exclaimed in surprise.

This surprise lasted but an instant. "Oh! I forgot. There was a parade of ships on the lake to-day. Byrd's ship was in that parade. It will be tied up outside the bridge. The mast must come down before she'll go under the bridge.

"That's fine!" she exulted. "I'll have a good rest on the old ship with no one about but old Peter Nordsen smoking his pipe. If Jeanne doesn't show up I'll go to the little theatre at midnight."

She found the ship readily enough, gave Peter a smile and a "Good evening," then went forward to a seat well up in the prow.

"Sturdy old ship!" she murmured as she sank into the chair. Then she relaxed in a fit attitude for dreaming.

She had learned to love this old ship. It was easy to imagine it in motion, booming along with all sails set before a nor'west wind.

"Good old ship!" she murmured again. "If only I could sail with you over the seven seas. Australia, the South Sea Islands, Japan, China and-" She drew a deep breath. "That mysterious land, China."

She thought quite suddenly of the jewel-hilted knife. "I should hunt up Erik Nord and give it to him at once," she told herself. "But then, I have no notion where he is; he went off duty an hour ago."

She laughed a little low laugh as she thought of the Chinaman splashing in the water of the lagoon. Then, of a sudden there came a thought that puzzled her. "He said we had the bell and the banners. How absurd! The chest was empty. They were gone. Who could have taken them if he did not?"

The thought did not remain with her. No thought did. This was an hour for relaxation and dreaming. But she must not dream too long. This was Jeanne's big night. She must not miss it. "Jeanne's big night," she murmured.

She allowed her eyes to wander once more over the magnificent spectacle that lay before

her. What a sight! Fountains playing amid golden walls, a hundred lights gleaming as white as diamonds from a lofty tower, trees turning red and gold under the touch of many-hued lamps, and a ladder of light towering skyward. All this exercised upon this impressionable girl a semi-hypnotic spell.

"I must not forget. This is Jeanne's big night. I must not be late. I-I will not fail-"

For all that, her head sank lower and lower. The day had been a long one. The battle in the orange grove had drawn heavily from her reserve of energy. The hypnotic spell of night and the ever-changing panorama of light sank deep. She nodded twice, then her head fell slowly forward. She was asleep.

Along the breakwater at that moment there glided a mysterious figure. By his nervous stops and starts one might judge him to be in a high state of nervous excitement. Yet there was in his movements a suggestion of extreme caution.

As he came near to the spot where the Polar ship lay anchored, he came to a sudden halt, stood there for a full moment as if rooted to the spot, then dashed away at full speed.

* * * * * * * *

At this moment Jeanne was standing with Jensie at the back of the Rutledge Tavern. They were looking out into the night. As if for mutual protection, they had their arms locked tightly together.

"There it is!" Jensie whispered.

"The hearse!" Jeanne shuddered.

And there most certainly it was, standing in the moonlight just as it had been on that first memorable night.

"Ah, well," Jeanne whispered to herself, "much has happened since then."

They were all here at the Tavern, her little company. They had come here for a late dinner; Soloman, Anthony Hope, Scott Ramsey, Pietro, Tom and Jensie were by the fireplace.

Now as Jeanne felt the urge to retreat she said to Jensie in a tone that came from down deep in her throat, "There were two black horses and a coffin. I saw them."

"Yes," Jensie agreed. "There were. And, Jeanne," her voice took on an air of mystery, "last night the organ played again."

"It played again?" Looking into the mountain girl's eyes, Jeanne thought she detected there a curious unwonted gleam, but she said not another word as they wandered back to their place by the fireside.

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