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   Chapter 10 SILENT BATTLE

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7681

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Ten minutes of running and dodging brought Florence, still gripping her rifle, squarely against a towering wall of rock.

"Did he see me?" she asked herself. "And if he did?"

Dropping back into the protecting branches of a black old fir tree, she stood breathing hard, listening.

Her mind was in a whirl. She had saved the moose. But what of herself?

"Probably a foolish thing to do," she muttered low. "And yet-"

Her mind took another turn. Who was this man? Certainly he was breaking the law. No man had a right to kill a moose on Isle Royale.

"They are one of the great joys of the island," she told herself. "Hundreds of people come just to see them. Nowhere else can one see them so easily and safely in their native haunts. If men begin to shoot them they will go to the heart of the island and no one will see them. What a pity!"

Again, who was this man? She thought of the black schooner that had come creeping up the bay in the dead of night and that other one Jeanne had seen by the wrecked ship. Were they the same? And did this man belong to that schooner? To none of these questions could she form a positive answer.

When she had rested there in the shadows until she was sure the man had not followed her, she went gliding along beneath the rocky ridge, then started, slipping and sliding downward, to the camping ground.

Like a patient steed her boat lay waiting on the beach.

"Should hurry back to the ship," she told herself. But the waters of Duncan's Bay, so peaceful, so undisturbed and deserted, seemed to call. She answered that call.

After rowing quietly for a half hour, she dropped her oars, took up her rod and began to cast. Her reel sang, the spoon gave off a silvery gleam as, cutting a narrow arc through the air, it sank from sight.

Without truly hoping to catch a fish, she reeled in slowly. She repeated this again and again. Her boat was drifting. She gave no attention to that. Each cast was straighter, longer than the last. Here was real sport.

But wait! Of a sudden the pole was fairly yanked from her hand. "A fish!" she exclaimed. "Oh! A fish."

She reeled in rapidly. The fish came up from the deep.

"Only a poor little four pound pike," she sighed as she shook him free.

The little pike had three brothers; at least she hooked that number and threw them back.

Then came a sudden shock. It was as if a powerful man had seized her lure and given it a terrific yank.

"That's the big boy again, or his brother." She was thinking of that other night with Jeanne. She set her shoulders for a tussle. "If it is-" She set her teeth tight. "Watch me land him!"

The "tussle" never rightly began. With a suddenness beyond power to describe, a voice in her very ear said:

"So! Now I have you!"

It was the man who meant to murder the aged moose. In his two gnarled hands he gripped a stout ashen oar. The oar was raised for a blow.

What had happened was this. Her mind fully occupied with the fishing adventure, the girl had allowed her boat to drift farther and farther into the bay. She had at last come within the stranger's view. Still angry because of his interrupted piece of vandalism, he had pushed off from the shore and, by using an oar for a paddle, had stolen upon her unobserved.

That there would be a battle the strong girl did not doubt. How would it end? Who could say? Her pulse pounded madly as she reached for her own oar.

The two small boats were a full mile from the Narrows, through which one enters Duncan's Bay. At that moment a white fishing boat, fully forty feet long and gay with all manner of flags and bunting, was entering the Narrows.

There were a number of men and women on board, all gayly dressed, and, until a few moments before, enjoying a grand fete of music and dancing. Now they were silent. Duncan

's Bay affects all in this same manner. Dark, mysterious, deserted, it seems to speak of the past. A hush falls upon all alike as they pass between the narrow, sloping walls that stand beside the entrance to this place of strange enchantment.

Conspicuous because of his size and apparent strength, one man stood out from the other voyagers. Garbed in green breeches and a gayly decorated vest, he stood at the prow, massive brown arms folded, silently directing the course of the boat by a slight swaying, this way and that, of his powerful body.

Florence was quick. Hours of work in a gymnasium each day for months on end had given her both the speed and strength of a tiger. Before the intruder could strike she had seized her oar and was prepared to parry the blow.

The oars came together with a solid thwack. Not a word was said as they drew back for a second sally. This was to be a silent battle.

The man tried a straight on, sword-like thrust. It became evident at once that he meant to plunge her into the icy water. What more?

Swinging her oar in a circle, she struck his weapon such a blow as all but knocked it from his hands.

Before he could regain his grip, she sent a flashing blow that barely missed his head, coming down with a thud upon his back.

Turning upon her a face livid with anger, he executed a crafty thrust to the right, leading her weapon astray. Before she could recover, her boat tipped. She fell upon one knee. At the same instant there came a crashing blow that all but downed her for a count of ten. The man smiled.

"I'm done!" her aching heart seemed to whisper.

But what was this? There came the sound of heavy feet dropping upon the bottom of the boat. This was followed by a wolf-like growl. Then came the panting breath of terrific struggle.

Florence regained full consciousness in time to see her adversary caught in the grip of a powerful man, and to witness the feat of strength that lifted him clear of the boat and sent him sprawling into black waters a full ten feet away.

At that her deliverer turned and smiled, showing all his fine white teeth.

"Bihari!" she exclaimed. "Bihari the gypsy!"

"Yes, Miss Florence." The man bowed. "Here we meet again. And this one-" He glanced at the man struggling in the water. "What of him?"

"It's not far to shore. Perhaps he can swim that far."

"Ah, yes, I am sure of that." Bihari's grin broadened. "Come then, we will forget him. You will come aboard our fine little schooner. My good Mama will look you over and see if you are hurt."

To her surprise Florence found the flag-bedecked boat close at hand. The villainous intruder had been outgeneraled by his own tactics. He had come upon Florence silently, unobserved. In this same manner Bihari, witnessing the struggle, had stolen upon him. Not, however, until he had won the battle had Bihari discovered he was defending a long-time friend.

"Florence!" his buxom wife cried as the girl climbed aboard. "It is indeed good to see you! And where is my Jeanne?"

"She-she's not far away. You shall see her within an hour if you choose."

"Choose?" Bihari laughed a great roaring laugh. "Have we not traveled half way round the world that we might see her? Have we not traded our vans for a boat that we might come to this place? Show us the way."

"You saw the wreck as you came in?"

"Ah, yes."

"That is the place."

"The wreck?" Bihari stared.

"The wreck," she repeated.

Without another word this strange skipper mounted the deck to begin that unusual directing of his craft.

Four words came back to Florence, as with her boat in tow, she rode in luxurious ease out of the bay. "We will forget him." Bihari had said that. He had been speaking of the stranger. Could they safely forget him? Something seemed to tell her they could not.

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