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   Chapter 15 A LEAP IN THE DARK

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7182

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Jeanne's row from the Ship of Joy to the small dock before the ancient lighthouse was a short one. Her boat tied up, she hurried along the dock, then over the winding path leading up the gentle slope.

Darkness was falling. Even now, from the schooner's cabin she caught a yellow gleam of light. She cast a hurried glance toward the tall stone tower.

"They live up there somewhere," she murmured. "But there's no light."

She quickened her step. "Soon be dark."

Hesitating before a door, she took a grip on herself, then seized the doorknob and gave it a quick turn. The door flew open. Silence, the faint smell of smoked fish and half darkness greeted her. She was at the foot of a winding stairway. She sprang forward and up. At the top of that stairway was a second door. It stood ajar. She rapped on it. No answer. A louder rap. Still no answer.

"Just make sure." She pushed the door open. "Yes," she told herself, "someone lives here, some old people who love comfort, chairs and soft, home-made cushions and all that. Dear old people they must be. And there, there's a rag doll! Must be children, too. Swen never spoke of them. Perhaps-"

She was beginning to think she had come to the wrong lighthouse when a sound from the stairs caused her to start violently.

"Who-who's there?" Her voice shook ever so slightly.

There came no answer. Instinctively the girl sprang toward the center of this tower room.

Perhaps this movement saved her. As she whirled about she saw to her horror that there, standing in the doorway, was the head hunter. She had not seen him before, but from Florence's description she knew she could not be mistaken. There was the same short, stout body, the dark, evil face, the blood-shot eyes. That he recognized her as Florence's friend she could not doubt. There was a look of savage glee in his eyes. His yellow teeth showed like fangs.

For a space of seconds the little French girl stood paralyzed with fear. Then as her eyes circled the room they caught sight of a second door. She sprang toward this.

The door swung open and banged shut. Like a flash she was away up a second flight of stairs.

"This leads to the top of the tower," she told herself. "And when I'm out there?"

A bat, frightened from the beams, flashed by her, another, and still another. She hated and feared bats. But a greater terror lay behind. There came the sound of heavy steps.

Darkness lay before her. "A trap door." Her frightened mind recorded these words. "What if it is locked?"

It was not locked. She was through it. It slammed behind her. There was no lock on that side. What was to be done?

Two heavy stones on the ledge beside her seemed loose. They were loose. Pushing more than lifting, she banged one down upon the door, then the other. She caught the sound of muttered curses as the second stone banged down.

Safe for the moment, she considered her next move. That the man would, in time, be able to wreck that door she did not doubt. "Sure to be an axe down there," she told herself.

Wildly her eyes searched the circular platform. In an obscure spot she saw a coil of rope.

"Stout," she told herself, "but too short. Never reach the ground." Dizzily she surveyed the scene below. Beneath her for the most part were rocks. Between these were narrow patches of grass. "Nice place to land!" she grumbled.

To the right and some twenty feet from the tower was a huge fir tree. In her distress she fancied that its branches reached out to her, offering aid.

"If only I could!" she murmured.

Seizing the rope, sh

e tied one end to a beam, then leaning far out, watched the other end drop as it unfolded coil by coil. This came to an end at last. "Still thirty feet," she thought with fresh panic. "Be killed sure."

Standing quite still, she listened. There came no sound. "Gone down. May not come back." She uttered a low prayer.

She was thinking now, wondering how this man had come here, all the way across the ridge from Duncan's Bay. "Probably someone was after him. Should be," she told herself. "Came here to escape. He-"

Breaking in upon her thoughts came a terrific crash. A blow had been aimed at the trap door.

"Got an axe. Door won't last." She was half way over the ledge. Ten seconds later, bracing her feet against the wall, she was going down the rope hand over hand.

The end? She reached that soon enough. Still thirty feet above the earth, she clung there motionless.

Then of a sudden, taking a strong grip on the rope, she began working her way back, round the tower. When she had gone as far as she dared, she gave a quick, strong push and set herself swinging wide.

With a sort of pumping motion, aided by an occasional kick at the wall, she was able to get herself into a wide swing. Then of a sudden, with a quick intake of breath, she let go.

She fell, as she had hoped to do, squarely into the arms of the friendly fir tree. She caught at its branches, swayed forward, held her grip, shifted her feet, then sank to a deep, dark corner where, for the moment, she might rest and gain control of her wildly beating heart.

Ten seconds later there came a low swish. That was the falling rope. The head hunter had cut it. At thought of what might have happened, the girl all but lost her balance.

A moment later, after a hasty scramble, she reached earth and went swiftly away.

With hands scratched, dress torn and heart beating wildly, she reached the dock, raced along on tip-toe, dragged the tie rope free, dropped into her boat, then rowed rapidly and silently away.

Arrived at the side of the Ship of Joy, she drew her boat into its protective shadows to sit there watching, listening, waiting motionless.

From the shore there came a sound. It was strange. She could not interpret it. In time it died away.

"Perhaps I should tell Bihari all about it," she thought soberly. Still she did not move. She respected and loved the gallant gypsy chief; but most of all she feared his terrible anger.

"This," she thought with a shudder, "is no time for battle and bloodshed." Her eyes were fixed upon the dark masses of Greenstone Ridge. The moon in all its golden glory had just risen over that ridge.

On that ridge at this moment, had she but known it, sat two silent watchers, Florence and Greta. Had they been possessed of a powerful searchlight and an equally powerful telescope, they might have looked down from their lofty throne upon the little French girl seated there in the boat.

As Jeanne sat there a curious sound struck her ear. "Like someone swimming," she told herself. "Surely that terrible man would not think of attempting that! He knows Bihari's power."

She sat motionless, listening, ready to spring up and flee, while the sound grew louder. Then of a sudden she gave vent to a low laugh.

"The bear!" she exclaimed in a whisper.

"The bear." Her tone was suddenly sober. "He has been on shore. What has he seen? What has he done?

"Well!" She rose as, without seeing her, the bear tumbled clumsily over the schooner's rail. "Whatever he knows, he never will tell. That's where a bear makes one fine friend."

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