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   Chapter 6 A STRANGE CATCH

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 10016

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

In the meantime there were things to do. The boat must be dragged up and turned over, to afford them a shelter for the night. Balsam tips must be gathered. These are nature's mattresses. Over these their blankets must be spread. This accomplished, they would think of supper.

Three pairs of eager hands accomplished all this in a surprisingly short time. Then, over a fire that had burned down to a bed of glowing coals, they brewed strong tea, toasted bread, broiled bacon, and in the end enjoyed a delicious feast.

After this, with a great log at their backs, they sat staring dreamily at the fire.

"It's so good to live," Jeanne murmured.

"Just to live," Florence echoed.

"And breathe," Greta added. "You can't know how it feels to take one long, deep breath of this glorious air, after you have struggled and struggled just for a tiny breath of life."

For some time after that they sat in silence. Florence was thinking of the wreck, wondering what might be happening to it in their absence. In her short sojourn there she had come to love the old Pilgrim that would sail no more.

"A diver," she whispered low. "He came in search of something. I wonder what? Will I ever know?"

Jeanne's thoughts were in far-away France. The glowing coals reminded her of many another campfire that had warmed her on the sloping hillsides of France.

"Bihari," she thought, "I wonder where he and his gypsy band are tonight?" He had returned to France. She had left him there. But gypsies seldom remain in one place. "He may be back in America." She listened to the rustle of cottonwood leaves. They seemed to say, "He is in America; you will see him soon."

"But how could this be?" She smiled at her own fancy. "He is a gypsy. I am on an island. Can he drive his van across miles of water?" But gypsies, she knew right well, went where they chose. Neither wind, storm nor broad waters could stop them.

As for Greta, she was hearing again the magic music of the phantom violin. "Some day," she told herself, "I shall see that violin and the hands that created that entrancing melody." But would she? Who could tell?

"Do you know," Florence at last broke in upon these reveries, "Swen is a fine boy. I wish we could help him with that boat affair he told about."

"What boat affair?" Jeanne looked at her.

"Don't you remember? He said it would help the whole island. There are many fishermen living all around the island. A boat comes twice a week for their fish. And the captain pays so very little for their fish! In these hard times money is so scarce the fishermen are being obliged to stay on the island all winter. And some of them have no opportunity to send their children to school.

"Swen says they are trying to charter a boat so they can carry their own fish to market. Not a big boat, but large enough. They've got some money pledged. But it is not enough. So there you are."

Swen was a fine young fisher boy whose nets were set not far from the wrecked Pilgrim.

He it had been, who pointed out to them what a wonderful summer home the wreck might become. For a very little pay he had assisted them in fitting up their rooms. He had rented them a boat and had thrown in much equipment besides.

"He's a fine boy," Florence repeated. "When hard times came he was planning to enter college. Now-"

"Now if we only could help him!" Jeanne put in eagerly. "He might go!"

"They live in a lighthouse," Greta said, "he and his people do. He told me."

"How romantic!" Jeanne hugged her knees. "We should see him in his lighthouse tower."

"But most of all I wish we could help him," Florence said. "All we need-" she prodded the ground with a sharp stick. "All we need is a barrel of gold. Greta wants a fine music teacher. I'd love to travel. Swen wants a boat for his people. And you, Jeanne, what is it you want?"

"I?" Jeanne laughed. "Only happiness for all my good friends."

"A barrel of gold," Florence repeated dreamily. "And perhaps it is right beneath us, in this very soil."

"Beneath us?" Greta stared.

"Why not? A very small barrel, even a tiny keg. This spot, the only level ground on the shores of this bay, has been a camping ground for countless generations. The Indians came to Isle Royale to pound out native copper from the rocks. They built their campfires right here. Swen says if you dig down you will find the remains of those campfires still."

"How thrilling!" Greta's eyes were large with wonder. "Suppose we dug down and found some treasure-a barrel of-. But then, Indians didn't have barrels, not even kegs." Her dream faded.

"The voyageurs did," Florence encouraged.

"Who were they?"

"The traders who came after the Indians. They camped here on their way across the lake. Can't you see them?" With outstretched hands, the big girl stared into the darkness that is Duncan's Bay at night. "Great, stalwart men, muscles like iron bands, faces browned by the sun, eyes ever looking forward to fresh fields of a

dventure, the voyageurs!

"Perhaps-" her voice dropped to a low note of mystery, "perhaps they camped here one night with a great bag of gold. Perhaps they were expecting an attack by Indians and, thrusting their gold in their water barrel, buried it here, never to return."

"Yes," Jeanne smiled doubtfully, "perhaps they did. Anyway, you are right on one score. It's a barrel of gold we need."

"Just now," Florence laughed, "what we need most is a good night's sleep."

Their balsam-scented bed at last called them to rest. They went reluctantly.

Greta and Jeanne were weary. After listening for a time to the constant rush of water against the rocky shores of Blake's Point and staring at the ribs of their boat just over their heads, they fell asleep.

Florence did not fare so well. Lying there in that narrow bed beneath their boat, she found her mind going over the events of the day and of those days that had gone before.

The adventure with that great pike had excited her beyond belief. Ever a child of nature, she had experienced in this event a return to the wild desires of her early ancestors. They had been wanderers, adventurers, hunters, fishermen, explorers. The world had changed. Her people were now city dwellers.

"And yet-" she felt her splendid muscles swell, "adventure has not passed from the earth. There still are adventures for those who desire them, clean, clear adventures. One-"

She broke short off to sit straight up. The stretch of level land on which they were camped was hardly a hundred feet wide. Back of that was a sloping hillside where the spruce, balsam and pine of a primeval forest battled for a place in the sun. From this forest she had caught some faint sound, the snap of a twig, the click of some hard object against a stone.

"Could be men," she whispered. "Just over that ridge is Tobin's Harbor. Many people there. But such a trail! Straight up! And on such a night. They-"

There it was again. She clenched her hands hard to prevent crying out. A loud click had sounded out in the night. "Like the raising of a rifle's hammer," she told herself.

But was it a rifle? She must see. Lying flat down, she pushed the covers quietly aside, rolled over twice and found herself beneath the dark night sky.

The moon was still shining. Her eyes soon accustomed themselves to the light. Still lying flat on the damp earth, she listened with all her ears. What she heard set her blood racing. "Footsteps," she whispered, "in the night."

They seemed very near, those footsteps. But were they human footsteps? She doubted it. And from this came a sense of relief.

Raising herself on one elbow she peered into the night. At that moment a loud groan sent the chills down her spine.

Next instant she was ready to laugh. A giant old patriarch of his tribe, a moose with wide-spreading antlers had stepped out into the moonlight.

"A moose," she whispered. "Swen says there are a thousand or more on the island, and that they are harmless. But how old and feeble this one seems!"

She had judged correctly. The moose was nearing the end of his days. His giant antlers were a burden. He walked very slowly and with many a groan. On the island he was known as Old Uncle Ned.

The girl's lips were parted in a smile when, of a sudden, the blood seemed to freeze in her veins. A second creature had appeared at the edge of the forest-a great, gaunt wolf.

At this instant, with one more groan, Old Uncle Ned stepped into the water prepared to swim across the bay.

The bit of wild life drama witnessed by the girl during the next moment will never leave the walls of her memory. Neither the moose nor the wolf had seen her. The moose, no doubt, smelled fresh water grass on the other side. The wolf was eager for a kill.

Waiting in the shadows, the killer opened his mouth to show his white teeth, his lolling tongue. But the instant the aged moose was well in the water and, for the time, quite defenseless, with one wild spring his pursuer was after him.

"He-he'll kill that moose!"

Scarcely knowing what she did, in her excitement Florence sprang to her feet, seized the steel casting rod and, racing to the bank, sent the red and white spoon darting toward the swimming wolf.

The first cast fell short. The reel sang and she rolled in for a second try. All this she had done under the impulse of the moment, without truly willing it.

Next instant she was awake to reality, for on a second cast the spoon, striking the wolf on the back, slid down to at last entangle the three-pronged hook in the tangled hair of his bushy tail.

"Jeanne! Greta!" the girl screamed. "Wake up! I've caught a wolf!"

"Wake up yourself," Jeanne replied dreamily. "You are walking in your sleep. You let that fish free long ago."

"No! No!" Florence, quite beside herself, protested. "Get up! Quick! Quick! I've caught a wolf. A real wolf of the forest!"

At the same time she was saying to herself, "Whatever am I to do?"

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