MoboReader> Literature > Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls


Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 6340

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Florence awoke with a start. She sprang to her feet. Where was she? She knew on the instant, or thought she knew. But truly, where was she? Cold fear gripped her heart. All the bright glory of the Fair, the changing lights, splashing fountains, clashing rocket cars had faded into mere nothing, a dull blue against the horizon.

Was she going blind? Men had gone blind in just that way. She rubbed her eyes, then looked at her hand. She could see it, indistinctly it is true, but with plenty of detail.

She looked over the rail. Black water was all about her. The old ship swayed slightly. To her ears there came the sound of a motor.

"But this old ship has no motor. Byrd took it out before he passed through the Panama Canal."

For all this, she was convinced that the ship was in motion. She looked up. Masts, but no sails.

"A tow! Some one is giving it a tow!" Once again her blood chilled. There had been no plans for moving the ship; this she knew. The old night watchman had said that the masts would be lowered during the night and the ship would be brought back within the lagoon.

"But this? What can it mean?"

She had not long to wait. A light came swinging forward. A gas lantern, it was carried by a short man. Two others were just behind him.

As they came into view she gasped. The leader of the trio was the long-eared Chinaman. The others were his fellow-countrymen. As if sure of his ground, he advanced slowly. There was something sinister, deadly, about that slow advance, like a march of death.

"Caught!" Her head whirled. She thought of leaping overboard. A strong swimmer, she might make land. But the blur of red and gold that was the Fair was dim, indistinct.

"We're far off shore." Taking a grip on herself, she held her ground.

She took to counting the short, gliding steps of those who approached. "One, two, three, four, five."

They came to a halt. The leader advanced two steps farther.

"You will give me that knife!" His tone was low, smooth, musical, menacing.

"No!" Her tone was defiant.

"The water is deep; the distance is very far." His tone had not changed. "You will give me the knife."


"This knife is for Chinaman. Very old, that knife." His body rocked slowly back and forth. His voice rose in a sort of chant. "Very powerful, that knife. Not fight man, that knife. Fight demons. Very 'fraid demons. Wave that knife, ring that bell, demons gone. You have that bell. You also give bell, give banners."

"We do not have the banners or the bell. But if we had, you should not have them." Florence held her ground.

"You not speak truth. You have bell, have banners. You will give. The water is deep. The distance is far.

"Long time fight demons, that knife." He was chanting again. "Far away, back very far in China, people all happy, all demons 'fraid, stay away. Priests of Buddha fight demons, that knife.

"White man take knife, take bell, take banners. Now demons come back. Make people sick, those demons. Many people die. No knife, no bell, no banners, can't fight demons.

"Very dry, no rain. No millet, no rice. Demons make land dry. No knife, no bell, no banne

r. Can't fight demons. I come for knife. He come. He come." He nodded at his statue-like companions. "Come for knife, for bell, for banners. You give."

"No." The girl's figure stiffened. "You will not get the knife. I do not have those others. You have them. You stole them. The chest was empty.

"All you have said is nonsense!" Her voice rose. "Demons do not make men die. If your people are sick they should go to the white doctor. He will cure them. All those things, the knife, the bell, the banners were sold for money, much money. That money would buy things for the white doctor. You have no right to them. You stole them. You have them all but the knife. You will not get the knife."

"The water is deep. The distance is very far. You will give the knife!" He advanced a step. Without appearing to move their feet, the statue-like pair advanced.

The whole scene, the dark ship, the menacing men, the water, the night, was so like a play that Florence could scarcely believe her senses.

Then to her alert ears came a sound, a low chant:

"A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh!"

She had heard that sound before. But where? For ten seconds she wracked her brain. Then she knew.

"Listen!" She endeavored to speak quietly. "You believe in demons. Listen! What do you hear?"

The long-eared one stood rigid, silent, listening.

The sound grew louder: "A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh!"

"You believe in demons," she repeated. "Well, here are demons for you, black demons with long knives in their belts. They are coming to rescue me. And let me tell you, you will need a hundred three-bladed knives to frighten these away, and men to use the knives. You are only three. They are many. They are big, black!"

The menacing ones and the statues glided back a step.

The sound they had heard was the chant of a crew of black men from the heart of Africa. A part of this great carnival, they were practicing in their forty-foot dugout, a hollow log boat, for a race.

What she had said was, she supposed, pure fiction. Now her courage forsook her. They were not coming for her. They would pass a long way off. They would turn and go back before they came within hailing distance.

For once luck was with her. What she had said was true. Jeanne, having come in search of her, had found the ship gone and had seen a frantic watchman, who had left the ship "but for one short breathing spell," racing up and down the breakwater.

At that instant the boatload of black men hove into view. Fearing treachery, Jeanne had begged them to take her in search of the missing ship.

So now here they were, out on the dark waters of night. The watchman in the prow, twenty black men from the heart of Africa at the oars, and the golden-haired Petite Jeanne urging them on and shouting with them:

"A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh!"

It was no time at all before it became plain that their destination was the misplaced ship. And at this the three yellow men vanished. Came the sound of a boat's motor throbbing. Then that sound grew fainter and fainter in the distance.

"They are gone!" Florence breathed. "And I still have the knife!"

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