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   Chapter 16 GRETA’S SECRET

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 8533

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


That night the dark-eyed Greta found herself in the midst of a nature lover's paradise. Yet she was not at that moment thinking of any paradise. She was listening with all her ears, listening to the sounds of the night, waiting, too, for some other sound that she hoped might come.

"Will it play tonight," she whispered to herself, "the phantom violin?"

That her ear might catch the faintest sound, she was sitting up in bed. And such a sweet-scented bed as it was! Blankets spread over nature's thick mattress of dry moss and balsam tips.

"Why can't I forget and fall asleep," she asked herself.

Once again she leaned forward to listen. "How sweet!" she murmured as she caught the night call of some small bird, a single long-drawn note. "Just a call in the night."

And then, muscles tense, ears strained, she sat erect.

"There it is again!"

No bird this time, no single note, but many notes. Yet it was all so indistinct.

"The phantom violin!" Her lips trembled. "Like the singing of angels!" she told herself.

"There, now it has faded away." Regret was registered in her tone.

Once again she crept under the blankets to the warm spot at Florence's side.

They had come far that day, with pack on back over rough moose trails. The stalwart Florence had carried the heaviest load. Now, oblivious to all about her, she slept the deep sleep of one possessed of a clear head and a healthy body.

The spot they had chosen for their night camp was down from the very crest of Greenstone Ridge but a dozen paces.

Greta was very weary. They had traveled farther that day than had been their intention. There were no fit camping places along the moose trail. At last, just as shadows were falling, they had decided to climb to the crest, a hard task for the day's end. They had made it, for all that. And on the far side of that ridge they had discovered the very spot. A flat rock, some twenty feet across, offered support for an improvised hearth of stones. A mossy bed above this invited them to sleep.

"Plenty of wind. No rain tonight," had been Florence's prophecy. "We'll just make our bed beneath the stars."

And so, here they were, and here was Greta, sitting up, wide awake, dreaming in the night.

Florence had known Greta for only a short time. The true nature of this dark-eyed girl was for the most part as yet to her a veiled secret. She did not know that the nature of these slender, black-eyed ones often drives them unflinching into places of great peril, that roused by anger or intrigued by mystery they will dare all without one backward look.

The story Swen had told Florence could not have frightened Greta from taking a part in this great adventure. Truth was, she knew it all, and more. She treasured a secret all her own, did this dark-eyed girl. She was thinking of it now.

"He called them white flares," she murmured low. "Said if we were in grave danger or needed help in any way, to light one of them. He would see the white light against the sky and come. Vincent Stearns said that."

She had met Vincent Stearns, a sturdy, sun-tanned young man, a famous newspaper camera man, at Tobin's Harbor only two days before. Swen had taken her to the Harbor in his fishing boat. On the way he had told her of the mysterious someone who, he was sure, lived on Greenstone Ridge. She had repeated the story to Vincent Stearns.

"Yes," the photographer had said, "I've heard the story myself. So you are going up there on a camping trip-just two girls?" He had arched his brows.

"Oh, but you should see Florence!" Greta had exclaimed. "She's big as a man and strong! You can't know how strong she is."

"All the same," he had insisted, "you may find yourself in need of help. Take these. They are white flares. If you need help, set one on a flat rock atop the ridge and set it off. I use 'em for taking pictures of moose at night. It can be seen for miles, that white light.

"I'm going to be hunting moose with a camera on the lakes near the far end of Rock Harbor. Wherever you are, if I see that flare I'll come."

Greta had accepted the white flares. They were in her kit bag now. "Not that we'll need them. But then, you never can tell."

After listening a long time for the return o

f the bewitching phantom music, she cuddled down and fell asleep.

* * * * * * * *

It was at about this same hour that Jeanne, looking from her porthole in the Ship of Joy, watching the brown old lighthouse tower that stood all dark in the moonlight, saw at one of the windows a wavering light. This was followed by a steady yellow gleam.

"Who is it?" she asked herself. "Is that truly Swen's home? And has he returned? Or is that the head hunter making himself comfortable for the night?"

One more problem returned to her before she fell asleep. The bear had been to the mainland. Doubtless he had missed her and had followed by swimming. He had not, however, returned for some time. What had he done there on land?

"Probably nothing," she told herself. She could not be sure, however.

In the morning she was to learn much and wonder still more.

* * * * * * * *

Greta had not slept long before she found herself once more wide awake, staring up at the fleeing clouds. "Something must have disturbed my dreams," she murmured. "What can it have been?"

Then, as minds have a way of doing, her mind took up an old, old problem and thought it all through again. This problem had to do with her future. A very rich woman had heard her playing the violin in a very small concert. She had, as she had expressed it, been "charmed, charmed indeed," by Greta's modest efforts. She had offered to become her good angel, had this very rich and rather pompous lady. "You shall study at my expense, under the very great masters," she had said. "No expense shall be spared. And in time-" her bulging eyes had glowed. "In time you shall have the world at your feet!"

Greta had not said "I will do it." Instead, she had replied, "I must talk it over with my mother. I will see."

She was still "seeing." This was one of the problems yet to be solved. She did long to study under great masters. And yet, she loved her own family. She wished that they might do for her all that was grand and glorious. "To invite a rich stranger into one's life," some wise person had said to her, "is often to shut one's humble friends out."

"The world at my feet," she repeated, then laughed softly to herself. Beneath them, rolling away like billows of the sea, was the glorious green of that primeval forest; and beyond that, black and mysterious in the night, lay the waters of Lake Huron.

"The world at my feet! I have that tonight!" she murmured. "I-"

She sat straight up to listen. The wind had changed. It was rising. The right side of their tent was sagging. Borne in on this wind, the sound that had puzzled her before came sweeping in like the notes of some long forgotten song.

"Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana!" Her astonishment knew no bounds. Surely there was someone on Greenstone Ridge! Someone who played the violin divinely.

"And yet," she thought more soberly, "in this still air sound carries far. May be on some boat out there on the black waters."

Peering into the night she strained her eyes in a vain attempt to discover a light on the lake. There was no light.

She had just snuggled down in her warm corner once more when every muscle of her supple form stiffened in terror. She sprang to her feet. From some distant spot, yet startling in its distinctness, had come one wild, piercing scream.

"Wha-what could that have been?"

Gripping at her heart to still its mad beating, she sank back in her place.

"Boo! How cold!" She drew the blankets about her.

Her mind was in a turmoil. Who had screamed? That it was a person, not some wild creature, she could not doubt. But who?

Should she waken Florence? Her hand was on the big girl's shoulder. "But why?" she asked herself. "We are two girls. What can we do in the night on a ridge we do not know? Fall into a crevice. No help to anyone."

Once again she crawled down beneath the blankets. Once more she caught the notes of that mysterious music. It had not stopped. Plainly that person was not associated in any way with the scream.

The wind began whispering in the pines. The sound blended with that strange music. Together they became the accompaniment to a dream. She slept. And still at her feet lay the glorious little world that is Isle Royale.

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