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   Chapter 1 THE SHIP’S GHOST

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 9840

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Flo-Florence! They saw me!"

The little French girl, Petite Jeanne, sprang noiselessly through the cabin door. Then, as if to keep someone out, closed the door and propped herself against it. "They saw me!" she repeated in a whisper. "And they-I believe they thought me a ghost. I'm sure it was so. I heard one of them, he said 'ghost.' I heard him!" Jeanne clasped and unclasped her slender fingers.

"Who saw you?" Florence stared at her through the dim light of the moon that came straying through the narrow window.

"Yes. Who saw you?" came from somewhere above them.

"The men." Jeanne was growing calmer. "There were two of them. They saw me. They had tied their boat to the wreck. They were going to do something. I am sure of that. Then they saw me and acted very much afraid. And then-"

"You do look like a ghost," Florence broke in. "In that white dressing gown with your golden hair flying in the moonlight, you look just like a ghost. And I suppose you popped right up out of the hatch like a ghost!" She laughed in spite of herself.

"But these men-" her tone sobered. "What were they doing here at this time of the night?"

"That?" said Jeanne. "How is one to know? They rattle chains. They see me, then Old Dizzy lets out one of his terrible screams, and they are gone!"

Closing her eyes, the little French girl saw all that had happened just as if it were being played before her as a drama. She saw dark waters of night, a golden moon, distant shores of an island, black and haunting and, strangest, most mysterious of all, the prow of a great ship rearing itself far above the surface of Lake Superior's waters.

The ship was a wreck, you would have said a deserted wreck. And yet, even as you said it, you might have felt the hair rise at the back of your neck, for, appearing apparently through the solid deck, a white apparition rose at the prow. Rising higher and higher, it stood at last a wavering ghost-like figure in that eery moonlight. This was her own figure Jeanne was seeing now. Once again, with eyes closed, she seemed to stand there in her wavy gown of filmy white, bathed in the golden moonlight. Once again she looked at the glory of the night, the moon, the stars, the black waters, the distant, mysterious shores where no one lived.

The distant shore line was that of Isle Royale fifteen miles off the shore of Canada, in Lake Superior.

All this was a grand and glorious dream to her.

They had been here three days, she and Florence Huyler, whom you may have met before, and Greta Clara Bronson, whom you are going to love as Petite Jeanne, who had known her for but two months, loved her.

"Tomorrow," Jeanne had whispered to herself, standing there in the moonlight, "we are going ashore, ashore on that Mystic Isle."

Ashore? One would have said she must be standing on a ship lying at anchor. This was not true. The old Pilgrim, a three hundred foot pleasure boat, would never sail again. Fast on the rocks, her stern beneath the black waters, her prow high in air, she would rest there a while until-ah, well, until, who could say what or when?

"This," the little French girl had whispered, "is our summer home." How the thought had thrilled her! Three girls, the "last passengers," they had styled themselves, three girls alone on a great wrecked ship for long summer months.

What fun it had been to fit out the captain's and the first mate's cabins-what fun and what work! Bunks had been leveled, chairs and tables fitted with two short and two long legs to fit the slanting floors, a score of adjustments had been made. But now they were all done.

"And tomorrow," she had repeated in a whisper, "tomorrow-"

But what was that? Had she caught a sound? Yes, there it was again, like the purring of a cat, only louder. It came from the dark waters of night. Listening, intent, motionless, she had failed to fathom its meaning.

"Something on shore," she had tried to assure herself.

"Ashore." At once her keen young mind was busy conjuring up fantastic pictures of those shores which, though so near, scarcely a half mile away, were utterly strange to her. Wild moose, wandering about like cattle; wolves, tawny gray streaks in the forest; high ridges; great boulders laden with precious green stones; and in the silent waters of narrow bays such monstrous fishes.

"Ah!" she breathed. "Tomorrow!"

But again her mind was caught and held by that strange sound, a very faint put-put-put.

Even as she listened the sound ceased. Then of a sudden she felt a thud that shook the wrecked ship. At the same instant she made out a dark bulk that was, she felt sure, some form of a craft.

"Men!" she thought with a shudder. "Men coming to the wreck in the night! I wonder why?"

She was frightened, dreadfully afraid. She wanted to escape, to drop through the hatch-way, to go where her friends were in the cabin below. Her

feet would not move. So there she stood, white-faced, tossing gold-white hair, waving white robe, a pale ghost in the moonlight.

What did the men on that boat think of her? Of course there were men, two of them, on the deck of that small, black power boat. For the moment they did not see her.

"Why are they here?" Jeanne asked herself. "What will they do?"

This indeed was a problem. The ship had been relieved of her cargo, all but a few barrels of oil in the hold that could not be reached. Even the brass fittings had been removed.

"There is nothing they could want," she assured herself, "absolutely nothing. And yet-"

Jeanne was gifted with a most vivid imagination. This old ship had sailed the seas for more than forty years. What unlawful deeds might not have been done within this grim old hull! There had been smuggling, no doubt of that. The ship had visited the ports of Canada a thousand times. What secret treasure might still be hidden within this hopeless hulk? She shuddered at the thought.

"All we want," she breathed, "is peace, peace and an opportunity to explore that most beautiful island."

Strange to say, the little French girl was not the only person who at that moment felt a cold chill run up his spine. One of the men, the tall one on the little schooner, had caught sight of a patch of wavering white far up on the prow.

"Mart!" he was saying to his companion, and there was fear in his voice, "Do you think anyone ever died on this old ship?"

"Of course. Why not?" His companion's voice was gruff. "What do you think? She's sailed the lakes for forty years, this old Pilgrim has, and why wouldn't people die on her, same as they die on other ships?"

"Then," the other man's words came with a little shudder, "then it was a lady that died, for look! Yonder in the prow is her ghost a-hoverin' still."

The other man looked at the drifting, swaying figure all in white, and he too began to sway. It seemed he might drop.

Seeming to collect his strength with great effort, he seized the line that held his own tiny craft to the wrecked ship, then grasping a pike pole, was prepared to give it a mighty shove that would send it far out.

At this very moment a strange and terrible sound smote the air; a wild scream, a shrill laugh, all in one it rent the still night air three times, then all was still.

The man with the pike pole shuddered from head to foot. Then, regaining control of his senses, he gave a mighty heave that set his small craft quite free of the apparently haunted ship.

The boat had not gone far when a curious animate thing that seemed neither man nor beast burst from the narrow cabin. The thing began roaring and dancing about the deck like a baboon attacked by hornets. On the creature's shoulders was something four times the size of a man's head. The upright body was quite as strange as the head. As the boat continued its course the great round head rolled off and a smaller one appeared. This small head bobbed about and roared prodigiously, but all to no purpose. The little black boat had moved straight on to pass at last from sight into the night.

Then, and not until then, did the wisp of white, which, as you know, was Petite Jeanne, glide forward and vanish. She burst excitedly into a dark cabin.

"I heard chains rattle," Jeanne repeated, standing still in the cabin doorway. "One of the men spoke. They looked up at me. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. My-my feet wouldn't budge!"

She began dancing around the small cabin in her excitement.

"What happened then?" Florence, a large, ruddy-cheeked girl in knickers, demanded. "What did they do?"

"They-why, it was queer! They seemed in an awful hurry. They untied their boat and-

"Of course," she added as an afterthought, "there was Dizzy. He let out a most terrible scream, and laughed. How he did scream and laugh! Three times-one, two, three. They shoved off, those men did, as if their very life depended on it!"

"Thought you were a ghost," Florence chuckled. "Can't be any question about that. Who'd blame them? Look at you!"

"And then," Jeanne went on, "then some queer thing with two legs came out and danced wildly about the deck. He had an enormous head. Bye and bye his head tumbled off, at least the awful big part, and I heard him roaring at the other men."


"Yes. It was a man in a diving rig. He'd taken off the helmet. Now, what do you think of that?"

Quite out of breath, the blonde haired little French girl dropped down upon a berth at the side of the cabin.

"Man in a diving suit." Florence spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. "Going to dive, of course."

"But why?"

"That's right. Why?" Florence's brow wrinkled.

"I wish-" she said slowly after a period of silence, "wish they hadn't come."

She was to wish this many times in the days that were to follow. And then she was to change her mind.

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