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The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 11310

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Late next afternoon the Ship of Joy with Bihari and his band, including Jeanne and the bear, went gliding down the long, narrow stretch of water known as Rock Harbor. As Jeanne, seated in a sunny spot on the deck, watched the small island to the left go gliding by, she felt, as one feels the current of galvanic electricity go coursing through his system, the thrill and mild terror that comes when one senses impending adventure, terror, or disaster. She could not tell what was to happen.

"Something will happen," a voice seemed to whisper. "You are coming nearer and nearer."

She did not doubt the voice. It had come to her before. Such is the gift of wandering people; they feel and know in advance.

No, she did not doubt. And yet, the low sun shone so mildly, waves lapped the boat's sides so dreamily, islands of green and brown glided by so like drifting shadows, she forgot all else and, stretching out upon the deck, she surrendered herself to the spell of it all.

Not for long. A chill wind came sweeping over the tops of the islands. Dark clouds scurried overhead.

"This is bad!" Bihari grumbled. "Our next stop is Chippewa Harbor. We must go out into the lake to get there. Lake Superior is bad when he is angry. He puts out hands and seizes small boats. He drags them down and they are never seen again.

"At Chippewa Harbor there are little cabins and just now a large party camping in tents. We will sing and dance for them.

"But tomorrow-" he laughed a large, good-natured laugh. "Tomorrow. We have with us always tomorrow. That will do.

"In this harbor we are safe. Tonight we will sing for ourselves."

He was right. When at last they reached the narrow passage through which they were to glide into broad, open waters, they saw an endless field of black and white, a stormy sea.

Pulling in behind a small island where the wind could not reach them and the water was at rest, they dropped anchor and at once the gypsy band were engaged in a merry and quite innocent revel of wild music.

Jeanne did not join them. Had one asked her why, she perhaps could not have told. She thought of Florence and Greta, wondered if they were at the wreck or on land, wondered, too, how the wreck would stand the storm. She thought of friends in Chicago and her castle in France where her great-aunt saw to it that she lived up to her position as a great young lady.

"Life," she whispered, "is strange. We long for the past. And when we find it again, we are not sure that we want it. Life, it seems, goes on and on, but never truly backward. We must go on and on with it to the end. And then-

"Oh, but life is truly wonderful!" she cried, springing to her feet and doing a wild fling across the deck. "Who would not love to live on and on and on forever!

"And perhaps-" her voice dropped as if in a prayer. "Perhaps we shall."

Jeanne's soul was like a day of clouds and sunshine, a change with every tick of the clock.

Next instant she had caught sight of a tall, narrow tower rising above a low building.

"The abandoned lighthouse!" she cried. "That is where our good friend the fisher boy, Swen, lives. He told me he had his home with his father and mother in that tower. What an odd home it must be! No corners in the rooms at all. Oh, I must see it and our good friend Swen!"

Next instant she sprang into a boat bumping at the side of the schooner, untied the rope, seized the oars and rowed away alone. Even as she did this there came over her again that sense of impending danger.

* * * * * * * *

Greenstone Ridge, like the backbone of a very lean horse, runs the entire length of Isle Royale. The crest of that ridge may be reached only by climbing a very steep slope. This climb is broken by narrow plateaus. When Florence and Greta had reached the first plateau they turned their backs upon that end of the island that was known to them and headed straight on into the great unknown.

They came at once upon a well-trodden moose trail. Hundreds of moose wander from end to end of this strange island. This trail made travel easy. Moss soft as carpet, bits of soft wood beaten into pulp, with here and there a stretch of black earth or gray rock, offered pleasant footing for their patiently plodding feet.

"We'll stop at noon," Florence said. "Have a cold lunch and a good rest. We'll travel some more after that. When we're tired we'll find a big flat rock, build a fire, make hot chocolate, fry bacon, have a real feast. Then the tent and blankets. We'll be living where no one has lived, explorers. Won't it be grand?"

Greta had thought it might be. She did not feel quite sure. Pictures of her own safe bed, of a table spread with snowy linen and shining silver, floated before her eyes. "If mother could see me now!" she whispered.

"But, oh, it is good to breathe-just breathe!" Throwing back her shoulders, she drank in a breath of air that was like water, clear and cold from a deep well.

On this long tramp Florence led the way. Never a person who would waste breath with idle talk on such an occasion, she plodded along in silence. For all that, her active brain was busy. She was thinking through a very special and private interview she had had with Swen the fisher boy only three days before.

"So you are going way back up yonder?" He had waved a sun-browned arm toward the distant ridge.

"Yes." Florence had caught her breath. "Yes, we are going up there. Won't it be gr-a-a-nd! They say no one goes up there-that perhaps no one has ever been up there. It must be lonely, silent, beautiful!"

"It's all of that." The fisherman's blue eyes were frank

and kind. "But I thought I'd ought to tell you, just in case you don't know, there's someone waiting for you up there."

"No." The girl spoke quickly. "No, there is no one at all. We are going by ourselves, just Greta and I. We sent no one ahead."

"I believe you," Swen replied. "All the same, there's someone up there. I'll tell you how I know."

As if to collect his thoughts, he had paused, looking away at Greenstone Ridge. Florence recalled that now.

It was worth looking at, that ridge. In truth, every little corner of this large island was worth looking at.

Just then the setting sun had transformed the far-away green of spruce and balsam into a crown of green and gold.

"I'll tell you why I know there's someone up there," Swen went on presently. "I've got a little store down by the end of the harbor. Four times that store has been entered. Things have been taken. Not stolen; just taken and the money left to pay for them. The first three times it was food they took. The last time it was a grinding stone for polishing greenstone. Cost me five dollars. The five was there. Can you beat that?"

"But your store is on the other side of the island," Florence had protested. "That's another place entirely. We're not going there."

"It's all the same ridge," Swen explained, patiently. "When you come to the tip-top of the ridge and if you go far enough toward the center of the island-not so far, either-you can look down on Duncan's Bay on your side and upon our harbor on the other.

"And up there somewhere," he added with conviction, "there's someone. I know it! He took things from our store."

Florence had thought of Greta's phantom. Could it be that there truly was someone living on this ridge? And would they discover that person?

"He pays for things he takes. He is honest," she argued to herself. "He loves music. No true musician could be unkind or brutal."

"But, after all," she had insisted, turning her face to Swen, "after all, there is no one. A boat came along at night. The people in the boat took the things from your store."

"Came in a boat, that's what I thought at first." The light of mystery shone in the fisherman's eye. "But the last time, that time he took the grinding wheel and left the five dollars in gold, there was a storm on old Superior, a terrible nor-easter. No one could have lived in that sea. And there wasn't so much as a rowboat in the harbor.

"And that person don't live on the shore, either," he went on after a moment. "Know every boat of the shore, I do. Naturally, then, they're up there on Greenstone Ridge somewhere, someone is, that's certain."

"How-how long ago?" The words had stuck in Florence's throat.

"First time was all of a year ago. Last time, early this spring."

"Then-then perhaps he's gone. This is August, you know."

"Maybe, miss. Somehow I don't think so."

"Why would anyone stay a whole year in such a place? Think what it would mean!" Her eyes had opened wide. "No companions! No food except what you have taken up. All alone!"

"You're assuming there's only one. I don't know. There might be more. Articles have been found missing from cottages closed for the winter, food and clothing. Always paid for, though. One fisherman, who was very poor, found the price of three pairs of boots left for one pair; well-worn ones they were, too.

"But why do they stay up there?" he went on. "It's your question. Perhaps you will find the answer."

"Wh-why haven't you been up there to see?" Florence asked.

"Me? See here, miss, I'm a fisherman-belong to the water. No land lubberin' for mine! And besides, I've a father and mother to look after. I got my money for the things he took, didn't I? Then what call do I have looking into places like that?"

Once again the girl had looked away to the place where the ridge must be. It was gone, swallowed up in the night. Not a light had shone up there. Not a campfire gleamed.

"There is no one up there," she had whispered to herself as she stood alone on the deck of the wrecked ship, straining her eyes for even a very small gleam against the sky. "There can't be. They'd have a lamp of some sort, even if it were only a pine knot torch."

Then of a sudden she had thought of the curious green light Greta had seen at a distance on that very ridge.

"What could have caused that light?" she had asked herself.

She asked it all over again as she trudged away over the moose trail.

"Of course," she thought, "there's the head hunter. But he's out. Such men don't climb ridges unless they're obliged to-too lazy for that! And they don't make divine music nor light green lamps at night.

"I suppose," she whispered to herself after a time, "suppose I should have told Greta what Swen said, but-"

Well, she just hadn't wanted to, that was all. Perhaps she had been selfish, she had wanted this trip so much. She had wanted company too. And too much talk about the secrets of Greenstone Ridge might have frightened Greta out altogether.

"Do you know why they call this Greenstone Ridge?" she said aloud to Greta.

"No. Why?"

"Because there is a kind of quartz embedded in some of the rocks. They call these greenstones. They are about the seventh most valuable stone in the world."

"Shall we find some?" Greta's tone was eager.

"We'll hope so." Florence shifted her pack. "They make grand settings for rings, things like that. You chip them from the rocks with a chisel or hatchet."

"Green stones," Greta whispered to herself. "Green stone and a green light on this very ridge. Of course, there's no connection; but then, it's sort of strange."

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