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   Chapter 9 THE CALL OF THE GYPSIES

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 8746

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The following day was bright and clear. The waters of Old Superior were as blue as the sky. Even the wreck took on a scrubbed and smiling appearance.

"As if we were all prepared to shove off for one more voyage," Jeanne said with a merry laugh.

As soon as the sun had dried the deck, Jeanne and Greta spread blankets and, stretching themselves out like lazy cats, prepared for a glorious sun bath.

It was a drowsy, dreamy day. In the distance a dark spot against the skyline was Passage Island where on stormy nights a search-light, a hoarse-hooting fog horn and a whispering radio warned ships of danger.

All manner of ships pass between Isle Royale and Passage Island. They were passing now, slowly and, Jeanne thought, almost mournfully. First came a dark old freighter with cabins fore and aft, then a tugboat towing a flat scow with a tall derrick upon it, and after these, all painted white and with many flags flying, an excursion boat. And then, reared over on one side and scooting along before the wind, a sailboat.

Just to lie in the sun and watch this procession was life enough for Jeanne and Greta. Not so Florence. She was for action. Dizzy needed fish. She would row over to the shoals by Blake's Point. There she would troll for trout.

The water about Blake's Point is never still. It is as if some great green serpent of the sea lies stretched among the rocks and keeps it in perpetual motion by waving his tail. It was not still when Florence arrived.

"Just right," she whispered, as if afraid the fishes might hear. "Rough enough for a little excitement, and no real danger."

Casting a shining lure into the water, she watched the line play out as she rowed.

A big wave lifted her high. Still the line played out. The boat sank low. She checked the line. Then, watching the rocks that she might not come too close and snag them, she rowed away.

For some time she circled out along the shoals, then back again. She had begun to believe there were no fish, and was musing on other things, phantom violins, black schooners, gray wolves, Old Uncle Ned, when, with a suddenness that was startling, her reel began to sing.

Dropping her oars, she seized the pole and began reeling in rapidly. Next moment she tossed a fine three pound trout into her boat. "You get 'em quick or not at all," Swen had said to her. She had got this one "quick."

An hour later four fine trout lay in the stern of her boat. "Enough," she breathed. "We eat tonight, and so does Dizzy."

The day was still young. She had not meant to visit Duncan's Bay, but now the place called to her.

Swen's short, powerful rifle lay in the prow of her boat. Why had she brought it? Perhaps she could not tell. Now she was glad it was there.

"Go ashore on Duncan's Bay," she told herself. "Go hunting phantoms and, perhaps, a gray wolf or two. Wouldn't mind shooting them, the murderers, not a bit!"

It was a strange wolf she was to come upon in the forest that day.

With corduroy knickers tucked in high laced boots, a flannel shirt open wide at the neck, and a small hat crammed well down on her head, this stalwart girl might have been taken for a man as, rifle under arm, she trudged through the deep shadows of the evergreen forest covering the slope of Greenstone Ridge.

That she was in her element was shown by the spring in her footstep, the glad, eager look in her eyes.

"Life!" she breathed more than once. "Life! How marvelous it is!

"'I love life!'" She hummed the words of a song she had once heard.

"Life! Life!" she whispered. Here indeed was life in its most primitive form. At times through a narrow opening she caught a glimpse of gray gulls soaring like phantom ships over the water. To her ears came the long, low whistle of some strange bird. She was not surprised when she found herself standing face to face with a magnificent broad-antlered moose. She stood quite still.

Great eyed, the moose stared at her. A sound to her right caught her attention. She looked away for an instant. When her gaze returned to the spot where the monarch of the forest had stood, he had vanished.

"Gone!" she exclaimed low. "Gone! He was taller than a man, yet he vanished without a sound! How strange! How sort of wonderful! But I wonder-"

But there was that sound from below. Snapping of twigs and swishing of branches.

No moose that. She would see what was down there.

She did see, and that almost at once. A few silent steps, and she came upon him-a man. He was standing at a spot where a break in the evergreens left a view of Duncan's Bay.

He was looking straight ahead. On his face was a savage, hungry look. Only the night before the girl had seen that same look in the eyes of a wolf.

She was not long in learning the reason. In plain view through that narrow gap was the patriarch of his tribe, the moose she had saved from the wolf.

"But why that look?" She was puzzled, but not for long. In the hands of that man was a rifle. An ugly smile overspread his face. His teeth shone out like fangs as he lifted the rifle and took deliberate aim at the moose.

She recalled Swen's words: "Isle Royale is a game preserve. You will not be allowed to kill even a rabbit."

"This man is a poacher." Her mind, always keen, worked quickly. "I can save the moose, and I will!"

Swinging her own rifle into position, she fired well over the heads of man and moose. The shot rang out. The startled moose fled.

And the man? She did not pause to see. Like a startled rabbit she went dodging and gliding back and forth among the evergreens. In her mind, repeated over and over, was the question, "Did he see me? Did he see me?"

* * * * * * * *

After a long and glorious sun bath followed by a delicious lunch served on deck, Jeanne and Greta sat for a long time staring dreamily at the sea. Then Jeanne, throwing off her velvet robe, stood up, slim and straight, on the planked deck.

"Wonder if I can have forgotten," she murmured. Then, seizing a tambourine, she began a slow, gliding and weaving motion that, like some beautiful work evolved from nothing by the painter's skillful hand, became a fantastic and wonderful dance.

For a full quarter hour Greta sat spellbound. She had seen dancing, but none like this. Now the tambourine was rattling and whirling over the little French girl's head, and now it lay soundless on the deck. Now the dancer whirled so fast she was but a gleam of white and gold. And now her arms moved so slowly, her body turned so little, she might have seemed asleep.

"Bravo! Bravo!" cried Greta. "That was marvelous! Where did you learn it?"

"The gypsies taught me." Dropping upon the deck, Jeanne rolled herself in a blanket like a mummy.

"People," she said slowly, "believe that all gypsies are bad. That is not so. One of the very great preachers was a gypsy-not a converted gypsy-just a gypsy.

"Bihari and his wife were my godparents in France. They were wandering gypsies, but such wonderful people! They took me when I had no home. They gave me shelter. I learned to dance with my bear, such a wonderful bear. He is dead now, and Bihari is gone. I wish they were here!"

Next moment she went rolling over and over on the deck. Springing like a beautiful butterfly from a cocoon, she whirled away in one more riotous dance.

It was in the midst of this that a strange thing happened. Music came to them from across the waters-wild, delirious music.

Jeanne paused in her wild dance. For a space of seconds she stood there drinking in that wild glory of sound.

Then, as if caught by some spell, she began once more to dance. And her dance, as Greta expressed it later, was "like the dance of the angels."

"Greta," Jeanne whispered hoarsely when at last the music ceased and she threw herself panting on the deck, "that is gypsy music! No others can make music like that. There is a boat load of gypsies out there by Duncan's Bay."

"Yes, yes!" Greta sprang to her feet. "See! It is a white boat. It is just about to enter the Narrows. Perhaps Florence will see it."

"Florence-" There was a note of pain in Jeanne's voice. "Florence has the boat. I cannot go to them. Perhaps I shall not see them-my friends, the gypsies. And they make music, such divine music!"

"Music-divine music," Greta whispered with sudden shock. "Can one of these have been my phantom violinist?

"No," she decided after a moment's contemplation, "that was different. None of these could have played like that."

"It is the call!" Jeanne cried, springing to her feet and stretching her arms toward the distant shore. Fainter, more indistinct now the music reached their ears. "The gypsies' call! I have no boat. I cannot go."

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