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   Chapter 7 THE LAST PASSENGERS

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7689

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Florence had the wolf by the tail, there could be no doubt about that. The three-pronged hook of her trolling spoon was securely entangled in that bushy mat of hair. The line that held the spoon was strong. What was she to do next?

The aged moose, awakened to his peril by the sound of her voice, threw his head about, took one startled look, then grunting prodigiously, went swimming for the other shore.

Turning angrily, the wolf began snapping at the hook. "Won't do to let him take more line," the girl told herself. "Got to give the poor old moose a chance."

At that moment Greta rolled from beneath the boat, leaped to her feet to stand staring, wild eyed, at the scene before her.

"Florence! It's a wolf!" she cried.

"Yes, and I've got him!" Florence laughed in spite of herself.

"Let-let him go! Throw down the rod! Let him go!" Jeanne cried as she came tumbling out from her bed.

But Florence held tight. When the wolf turned about to snap at the line, she reeled in. When he started away, she gave him line, but not too much. There was the venerable moose to consider. Having started the affair, she was determined to finish it.

"Let him go!" Jeanne's voice dropped to a terrified whisper. "Can't you see he's turning? He-he's coming this way. He'll eat us!"

Then, calmed by her sense of danger, she rushed back to the half burned out campfire, seized two smouldering sticks and waved them to a red glow. Rushing forward, she threw one at the gray beast who was indeed swimming toward the camping ground.

The flaming stick struck the water with a vicious sizzle. Black on the instant, it nevertheless left its imprint on the wolf's brain. Once again he wheeled about.

The moose by this time had climbed up the opposite bank and disappeared, as much as to say, "Well, you go ahead and fight it out."

Strange to say, Florence at this moment began losing her calm assurance. She reeled in when perhaps she should have given line. It was astonishing the way the wolf came in. He had not half the pull of the great fish.

Before she knew it, his feet were on a sandbar. After that it was quite another story. He was not looking for a fight, that wolf. He was looking only for safety. With a mad dash he was down the sandbar, up the bank and into the forest.

Completely unnerved at last, Florence lost all control of the reel. After spinning round and round like mad, it came to a jerking halt. For one split second there was a tremendous strain on the line, then it fell limp.

"He-he's gone!" Jeanne breathed. "Broke the line."

"Maybe he did. I'm going to see." To her companions' utter consternation, Florence followed the wolf into the dark forest.

She returned some moments later. In her hand was the red and white spoon.

"Went round a tree and tore the hook out of his tail," she explained calmly. "See! Some gray hairs!" She held it out for inspection. "Gray hairs, that's all I get. But the moose got his life back, for a time at least. Perhaps he's learned his lesson and won't try swimming bays again.

"You see," she explained, throwing some bits of birch bark on the fire and fanning them into a blaze, "a moose is practically powerless in deep water. If you catch up with him when you're in a canoe, you may leap into the water, climb on his back, and have a ride. He can't hurt you. But on land-that's a different matter."

The little drama played through, a tragedy of the night averted, Jeanne and Greta crept back among the blankets beneath the boat and, like two squirrels in a nest of leaves, fell fast asleep.

Florence remained outside. The wind had dropped, but still the rush of waves might be heard on the distant shore. This wild throbbing made her restless. She thought of the wreck. How was it standing the storm? Well enough, she was sure of that. But ot

her more terrible storms? Her brow wrinkled.

"Could camp here," she told herself. "Get a tent or have some one build us a rough cabin. Stay all summer. But then-"

Already she had begun to love their life on the wreck.

"It's different!" she exclaimed. "Different! And in this life that's what one wants, things that are different, experiences that are different, a whole life that is different from any other.

"Well," she laughed a low laugh, "looks as if we were going to get just that, whether we stay on the wreck or on land."

Her thoughts were now on the mysterious black schooner that had visited the wreck the night before, and now on Greta's phantom violin and the strange green light.

"May never happen again," she murmured. "For all that, Greta will go back again and again, when it is quite dark. People are like that."

She had turned about and was considering a return to her nest beneath the boat when, of a sudden, she dropped on her knees in the dark shadows of a wild cranberry bush.

"Something moving," she told herself, "moving out there in the channel."

At first she thought it a swimming moose, and laughed at her own sudden shock. Not for long, for as the thing came into clearer view she saw it was a power boat.

Moving along, it glided past her, dark, silent, mysterious in the night.

"The black schooner!" she whispered. "Wonder if it's been to the wreck!" Her heart sank.

"But no," came as an afterthought. "It has been too stormy. They are putting in here for the rest of the night."

When the schooner had passed on quite out of sight, she made her way to the overturned boat, crept beneath it and had soon found herself a cozy spot among the blankets. She did not fall asleep at once. In time the silence lulled her to repose.

When she awoke there was the odor of coffee and bacon in the air. Greta and Jeanne were getting breakfast.

"Boats leave no trail," she assured herself. "Unless they have seen the black schooner, I will not tell them it passed in the night."

A bright glitter was on the surface of the bay. Old Superior had put on a bland and smiling face. No trace now of last night's boisterous roaring.

"We'll get back to the Pilgrim as soon as breakfast is over," Florence decided.

"But the barrel of gold?" Greta protested. "Aren't we going to dig for that?"

She was thinking of the talk they had had about the campfire, of the Indians, trappers and traders who had camped here for hundreds of years. In a flight of fancy she had dug a barrel of gold from beneath the sandy surface.

"No gold digging today," Florence laughed. "No spade. But you'll see! There's another day coming. We'll find it, don't you ever doubt it, a whole barrel of gold!"

Florence was born to the wilds. High boots, corduroy knickers, a blue chambray shirt, a red necktie, these were her joy. She was as much at home in a boat as a cowboy is in a saddle. Breakfast over, she sent their light craft skimming through the narrows and out into the broad stretch of water lying between Blake's Point and the reef that was the Pilgrim's last resting place.

"Look how he smiles!" she cried, throwing back her head. "Old Superior, the great deceiver! You can't trust him!"

And indeed you cannot. When a storm comes sweeping in over those miles of black waters and the fog horn on Passage Island adds its hoarse voice to the tumult of the waves, it is a terrible thing to hear those waves come roaring in.

Florence had accepted the judgment of old time fishermen that for the time the wreck was a safe place to be. But this morning her brow wrinkled. "What if it should be carried out to sea!" she thought with a shudder. "And we, the last passengers, on board!" She said never a word to her companions who, reflecting the smile of Old Superior, were deliriously happy.

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