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   Chapter 3 A PHANTOM OF THE AIR

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7499

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"It's a phantom, a phantom of the air!" Body aquiver, her black eyes reflecting the light of the setting sun, Greta stood intent, listening with all her ears.

A moment before she had been hearing only the goodnight song and twitter of birds. Strange sounds they were to her. Bird songs all the same. But now this. "It is celestial music from heaven!" she whispered. Yet as she thought it, she knew that was not true. A musician herself, she had recognized at once the notes of a violin.

The sound came from afar. At times a light breeze carried it quite away.

"May be miles away. In this still air sound carries far. But where can that one be who plays so divinely?"

To this question she could find no answer. She was standing on a narrow, natural platform of stone. Before her, almost straight down two hundred feet, were the black waters of Duncan's Bay. Miles away, with ridges, tangled jungles and deep ravines between, was the nearest settlement.

She had climbed all the way up Greenstone Ridge from the shore of Duncan's Bay that she might be alone, that she might think. She was not thinking now. She was listening to such music as one is seldom privileged to hear.

Yes, she had climbed all that way through the bush that she might think. Greta was an only child. This was her first long journey away from home and mother. Tears had stood in her mother's eyes as she bade her goodby, yet she had said bravely enough, "You must go, Greta. The doctor says you will escape from the poison of ragweed. I cannot come with you. You will be safe and happy with Jeanne and Florence. Goodby, and God bless you!"

There were times when this dark-eyed child recalled those words, when great waves of longing swept over her, when her shoulders drooped and all her body was aquiver. At such times as these she wanted nothing so much as to be alone.

As she had stepped into the still shadows of the evergreen forest at the back of the camping ground on Duncan's Bay that afternoon, she had been caught in such a wave of homesickness as would seem for the moment must sweep away her very soul.

"Florence!" she had called, and there was despair in her heart. "Florence, I am going to climb the ridge. You and Jeanne go on. I have my flashlight. I-I'll be back after the sun has set."

"All right," Florence had called cheerfully. "Don't go over the ridge. If you do you'll get lost. Keep on this side. If you lose your way, just come down to the water's edge and call. We'll hear you and come for you in the boat."

"Oh!" the slim black-eyed girl had breathed. "Oh, how good it will be to be alone-to watch the sun set over the black waters and to know that the same sun is making long shadows in our own back yard at home, and perhaps playing hide and seek in mother's hair!"

She turned her face toward the rocky ridge that towered above her and whispered to herself once more, "Alone, all alone."

Strangely enough, though no one is known to inhabit Greenstone Ridge, and surely no one at that hour would be found wandering there so far from the regular haunts of men, she had experienced from the first a feeling that on that ridge she was not quite alone.

"And now," she breathed, "I know I am not alone up here. There is someone else somewhere. But who can that person be? And where?"

Here indeed was a mystery. For the moment however, no mystery could hold her attention. Even thoughts of mother and the sunset were forgotten. It was enough to stand there, head bare, face all alight, listening to that matchless melody.

* * * * * * * *

As Florence had pushed her stout little boat off the sandy shore that afternoon, she had been tempted to call Greta back. "Perhaps," she said to Jeanne, "we have made a

mistake in allowing her to lose herself in that forest alone."

"But what can harm her?" Jeanne had reasoned. "Wolves are cowards. The wild moose will not come near her. There is no one on the ridge. It will do her good to be alone."

Thus reassured, Florence had straightened the line on her pole, hooked a lure to a bar on her reel, and, with Jeanne in the stern of the boat, had rowed away.

Someone had told Florence that the waters of Duncan's Bay were haunted by great dark fish with rows of teeth sharp as a shark's. From that time the big girl had experienced a compelling desire to try her hand at catching these monsters. Now she breathed a sigh of suppressed excitement as she unwound a fathom of line from her reel.

"You do it this way," she said to Jeanne. Her whole being was filled with a sort of calm excitement. "Cousin Joe told me just how you fish for pike. You put this red and white spoon with its four-pointed hook on the line. Then you let the line out, almost all of it, a hundred and thirty feet. Then you row around in curves. You drag that red and white spoon after the boat. See?"

Jeanne nodded. "And-and what happens then?" She had caught a little of the big girl's excitement.

"Why then of course the fish takes the spoon."

"But what does he want with the spoon?" Jeanne's brow wrinkled.

"He thinks-" Florence hesitated, "well, maybe he thinks it's a herring or a perch. Perhaps red makes him mad. He's a wolf, this pike is, the wolf of all dark waters. He eats the other fish. He-but come on!" her voice changed. "Let's get going. Be dark before long. You let out the line while I row."

For some time after that, only the thump-thump of oars and the click of the reel disturbed the Sabbath-like stillness of that black bay, where the primeval forest meets the dark water at its banks and only wild creatures have their homes.

"There!" Jeanne breathed. "It's almost all out." She sat in the back seat and, lips parted, pulse throbbing, waited.

They circled the dark pool. The sun sank behind the fringe of evergreens. A bottle-green shadow fell across the waters. They circled it again. A giant dragon fly coursed through the sky. From afar came the shrill laugh of a loon. A deep sigh rose from nowhere to pass over the waters. A ripple coursed across the glassy surface. And then-

"Florence! Stop! We've hit something! The line! It's burning my fingers!" Jeanne was wild with excitement.

"Here! Give it to me!" Florence sprang up, all but overturning the boat. Gripping the rod, she reeled in frantically. "It's a fish!" Her words came short and quick. "I-I feel him flapping his tail. He-he's coming. Must have half the line. Here-here he comes. Two-two-thirds.

"Oh! Oh! There he goes!" The reel screamed. In her wild effort to regain control, Florence felt her knuckles bruised and barked, but she persisted. Not ten feet of line remained on the reel when the fish reluctantly halted in his wild flight.

"He-he's hooked fair!" she panted. "And the line is stout, stout as a cowboy's lariat. We-we'll get him! We'll get him!"

Once again her splendid muscles worked in perfect time as she reeled in yard after yard of the stout line.

This time she fancied she caught a glimpse of a dark shadow in the water before a second mad rush all but tore rod and reel from her grasp.

"Florence! Let the old thing go!" Jeanne's tone was sober, almost pleading. "Think what a monster he must he! Might be a sea-horse or-or a crocodile."

"This," said Florence, laughing grimly, "is Michigan, not Florida. There are no alligators here."

Once again she had the fish under control and was reeling in with a fierce and savage delight. "He's coming. Got to come. Now! Now! Now!"

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