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   Chapter 8 DIZZY’S WELCOME

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7069

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

As they neared the wreck, from somewhere inside it came one wild scream, then the maddest laugh one might ever hope to hear. Just such a laugh as on that other night had completed the task of turning Jeanne into a ghost and frightening the mysterious men of the black schooner away.

Had some stranger been present, he might have expected at this moment to see Florence drop her oars in surprise and consternation. Instead, she rowed calmly on, chuckling meanwhile.

"Dizzy's welcome!" she exclaimed.

"Good old Dizzy!" Jeanne chimed in.

Dizzy, as they had named him, had been aboardship when they arrived. At least they had found him swimming frantically about in the one-time dining room of the ship. He was a large loon. Crippled by some accident so he could not fly, he had somehow got into this place, but had failed to find his way out.

Almost starved, he had appeared to welcome their arrival. They had bought fresh trout and fed him. From this time on, with no apparent desire to leave the place, he had become a devoted pet.

"We'll be joining you shortly," Florence cried out to him as the boat bumped the side of the ship. This news was answered by one more delirious burst of mirth.

"One could almost think he was human!" Greta shuddered in spite of herself. For her this old ship had a haunting appearance.

Old Superior is ever ready enough to display his various moods. The girls had not been aboard an hour when a dense fog came sweeping in from the north.

"Never find our way if we were out there now," Florence said with a shrug of her stout shoulders.

There came a slow, drizzling rain, followed by more and denser fog.

Two hours later a wild storm came sweeping in. Sheets of water, seeming at times to leap from the very lake, dashed against narrow cabin windows. There was a ceaseless wash-wash of waves against the black hull of the wreck. What did this mean to the happy trio? Nothing at all. They were down in their private swimming pool with Dizzy. Such a strange and wonderful swimming pool as it was too! Once the dining saloon of the great ship, it now lacked both chairs and tables, but the decorative railing leading to the floor above made a perfect diving board. A second rail ran slantwise into the water that at the far end must be twenty feet in depth.

"Shoot the shoots!" Greta cried as, sitting astride the rail, she shot downward to hit the water with a splash and to go swimming away. How Dizzy beat the water with his wings and screamed! How they laughed and splashed him! How he dove and swam!

"It-it's wonderful!" Jeanne bubbled, her mouth half filled with water. "And to think," she exclaimed as she dragged herself to a place beside Florence on the topmost step of the broad stairway, "to think that only a short time back all this was swarming with people off on a holiday! Some gay, some solemn, some rich, some poor, but all promenading the deck and all coming in here for their dinner. And now look! Here we are, only three. And it is all ours! And look at the cabins! Rows of them on either side, high and dry, half of them. People could sleep in them."

"But they never will," Florence said soberly. "We are the old ship's last passengers, no doubt about that. Next winter ice will form on the bay. It may be a foot thick. Then a storm will come roaring in and break it all up. The ice will come tearing at the old ship and cut her in pieces, if she lasts that long." Florence had not meant to add this last bit; it just came out.

"Of course th

e ship will last the summer through." There was the slightest tremor in Jeanne's voice. "Everyone says that. S-o-o-o!" she cried in her old merry way, "Let us enjoy it all while we may!" Once again she sat astride the rail to go sliding down and lose herself in a mass of foam.

"Old ships," Florence thought, "are like old houses. They have secrets to tell. What stories the doors to those cabins could relate!" Her eyes swept the long array of cabin doors.

"Secrets they keep," she whispered. "And treasures they sometimes hide, these old ships." She was wondering what the secrets of this old ship were and whether after all there was some treasure hidden here.

They had set up a small stove in the captain's cabin. Five minutes later they were all three doing a wild Indian dance round the fire. This ended by a pow-wow in blankets, then a feast of smoked trout, hard crackers and some hot drink only Jeanne knew how to make. And still, outside, the wind drove rain against the windowpanes.

"If she lasts that long," Jeanne whispered under her breath. She was thinking of Florence's words about the ship.

For the time it appeared there was nothing to fear. The wind dropped at sunset. Clouds went scudding away and the moon, shining like a newly polished copper kettle, hung over all.

After Greta and Jeanne had crept into their berths, Florence slipped into knickers and mackinaw to climb the steps leading to the bridge. There, while the moon sank lower and lower, she paced slowly back and forth.

In common with all other girls, this big girl had her dreams. Strange dreams they were that night. For her the ship was not a wreck, but a living ship riding on an even keel, plowing its way through the dark night waters. She was the captain on the bridge. From time to time, as if for a word with the wheelman, she paused in her march; at times, too, appeared to jangle a bell. For the most part she paced slowly back and forth.

"Why not?" she murmured at last. "Why should I not some day command a ship? I am strong as a man. There would be things to learn. I could master them as well as any man, I am sure."

She paused for a moment's reflection. Had there been other lady captains? Yes, she had read stories of one who commanded a tugboat in Puget Sound.

And there had been the lady of the "Christmas Tree Ship." The husband of this Christmas tree lady had been lost on his craft while bringing thousands of Christmas trees to Chicago. She had chartered another ship and had carried on his work.

"What a glorious task!" the girl murmured. "Bringing Christmas trees to the people of a great city!

"She's dead now," she recollected, "that lady captain is dead. The Christmas tree ship sails no more. But it shall sail. Some day I shall be its captain. And Christmas trees shall be free to all those who are poor."

Laughing low, she once more resumed her walk on the bridge. This time her thoughts dwelt upon things very near at hand. "This wreck," she was thinking, "this old Pilgrim-is it a safe place to be?

"It-it just has to be!" she exclaimed after a moment's reflection. "It's such a grand place for the summer. Broad deck, sloping a little, but not too terribly much. Cabins without number, a swimming pool that once was a dining hall. Who could ask for more? And yet-" her brow wrinkled. The little breezes that blew across the water seemed to whisper to her of danger.

At last, shaking herself free from all those thoughts, she went down to her cabin and was soon fast asleep.

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