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   Chapter 19 MYSTERY FROM THE SKY

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 16347

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Petite Jeanne loved children. They need not be dressed in silks. In truth, she thought that Nelse and Freda, the tots who had come with Swen, dressed as they were in their quaint home-made garments, were about the most fascinating creatures she had seen in all the wide world. While Swen enjoyed his coffee and told Bihari in an excited manner of that which had happened at his house during his absence on the evening before, she led her two young friends to the prow where the bear, like a huge dog, lay sprawled out on the deck.

Seeing their eyes open big with wonder and fear, she seized the bear by the paws, dragged him to his feet, and led him across the deck in a clumsy dance.

In less time than it takes to tell it, they were whirling about in a ring-around-a-rosy, Nelse and Freda, Jeanne and the big brown bear.

"Do you stay here all through the cold winter?" she asked, when at last, quite exhausted, they dropped in a pile on the deck.

"Oh, yes," Nelse said cheerfully. "There is great fun! Snow for forts, ice for sliding. Winter is grand!"

"But there is no school!" she protested.

They did not seem very sorry about this, but Jeanne, recalling Swen's desire for a boat that more money might be made by fishing and that these little ones might go to the mainland where there were schools, wished harder than ever that Florence's dream of finding a barrel of gold might come true.

"A barrel of gold!" she murmured. "What a lot of gold that must be!"

She thought of her castle in France and almost wished she might spend it for these bright-eyed little ones.

"But then," she sighed, "one may not spend a castle. And there is Great-Aunt Minyon who would not allow me to spend a penny of it, even if it were possible. No! No! We must find our barrel of gold!"

All this time there remained in the back of the little French girl's head a question. "What did Swen mean when he said his doorstep had been broken, his bench overturned and bits of cloth scattered before his door? Just what he said, to be sure.

"And the bear!" she whispered. "He was on shore a long time. What did he do?"

To these questions she was destined to find no certain answer. When she had told Swen her part of the story and together they had searched the vicinity of Swen's strange home for some clue as to the whereabouts of the head hunter, they could arrive at no definite conclusions regarding any part of the mysterious affair.

"One thing is sure," Swen declared at last. "We will not make him happy if he comes about our place again! We do not wish our moose killed, nor the good people who visit our island disturbed."

It did not seem probable that the man would return to this spot. "But where will we hear of him next?" Jeanne's brow wrinkled. She thought of her two good pals up there somewhere on the ridge, then of their deserted home, the wreck.

"Does he belong to that black schooner with the diver on board?" she asked herself. She did not think so. "But what of that schooner?"

She decided in the end to abandon the task of solving mysteries and to give herself over, for the time, to the wild care-free life of Bihari and his band. For all that, as the Ship of Joy, riding the long sweeping waves that follow every storm, went plowing its way out of Rock Harbor and into the open lake, this little French girl sat upon the deck, staring at the sky. Her eyes were seeing things in the clouds.

"A barrel of gold!" she whispered. Then, in a hoarse exclamation, "How absurd! And yet, one must dream."

* * * * * * * *

In the meantime Greta, impelled by memory of a strange vision seen in the cavern of fire, had started out in search of her companion. She found little to guide her on her way. Florence had gone away to the right of their camp. This much she knew; nothing more.

She had not proceeded far before she discovered that the narrow plateau was a bewildering labyrinth of trees, bushes, and rocks. More than this, its surface was as irregular as the face of the deep in time of storm. Here it rose steep as a stairway, there sloped away to end in a stretch flat as a floor.

"Never find her in such a place," she grumbled.

"Florence!" she shouted. "Florence!"

No answer save the long-drawn whistle of a bird.

The silence and loneliness of the place began to oppress her. The memory of that scream in the night remained in her mind as something distinct, sinister.

"Who could that have been?" she asked herself with a shudder. "Why did they scream? What could have happened?"

Her mind was filled with pictures of crimes committed in secret places.

"It's absurd!" She paused to stamp her foot. "Nothing of importance will come of it. Mysteries fade before the light of day. The sun is shining. Why do I shudder? And for that matter, why am I here at all? A vision brought me here, a dream dreamed out by the fire. I-"

She broke off short to listen. Faint and from far away there came the drone of an airplane motor.

"The amphibian from Houghton," she told herself. "Wonder if it will come near?"

Every day in summer, sometimes two or three times a day, this great bi-motored plane brings passengers and sightseers to Isle Royale. The moose feeding on grass at the bottom of inland lakes have learned to glance up at its approach, then go on with their feeding.

This girl thought little of an airplane's approach. Indeed, she had all but forgotten it when, as she reached a rocky space quite devoid of trees and found herself in a position to look down upon another plateau that lay some two hundred feet below, she was made doubly conscious of its presence.

"Why it-it's not the bi-motor at all!" she exclaimed. "It's some strange plane, all white, and it-it's landing!"

Instinctively she drew back into the shadow.

On the surface of that other plateau she discovered a narrow lake, little more than a pond in size, but doubtless quite deep. It was on this lake that the plane was about to land. Having circled twice, it came swooping down to touch the water gently, gracefully as some wild migrating bird.

"Wonderful!" she murmured in admiration.

But that was not all. She had assumed for the moment that this was but a chance landing, caused perhaps by motor trouble. That it was not she was soon enough to know, for the plane taxied toward a large clump of dark spruce trees. And to the girl's astonishment a narrow boat, painted the color of the water, stole out from that shore to at last glide alongside the now motionless plane.

"Sol-solitude!" she murmured. "No one up here. They told us that. And now look! There must be a settlement. What-"

Something strange was going on down there. She crawled back among the pine needles. Someone was being lifted out of the plane and into the boat. Now the boat with its apparently helpless burden was pulling for the shore. Studying this shore for a space of seconds, she thought she made out some sort of lodge there among the trees.

Her heart pounded painfully. What was this? A kidnaping? A murder? Strange doings! Curious sort of place they had chosen for it all!

She did not wait to see more. Gliding about the pine tree, she headed straight for her own camp; nor did she pause till the white of their small tent showed through the trees.

* * * * * * * *

And Florence? At the very moment Greta sighted their tent, she stood contemplating the rope that had so miraculously come to her aid.

"Greta!" she called once more, this time softly. No answer.

"It couldn't be Greta." She experienced a wild flutter at her heart. "We have no rope like that. But who can it be?"

"There's somebody waiting for you up there." The words of the young fisherman came back to her, this time with a force that carried conviction.

"Someone up here," she murmured, "but who, and why? What can that person be like?"

Recalling the face in the little book, she drew the book again from her pocket, struck a match, then peered at the picture.

A youngish face topped by a mass of all but white hair seemed to smile at her from the book.

"A man!" She caught her breath. "He's handsome. I never saw him.

"

Then realizing that she might be seen in that circle of yellow light, she snuffed out the match, snapped the book shut, then stood at attention, listening.

Aside from the long-drawn whistle of some small bird, no sound reached her ears.

"Well," she sighed, "there's no good in delay."

Putting her hand to the rope, she tested it. "Solid! Solid as the rock itself. Now! Up I go!"

Florence was no weakling. Indeed she was above all else a perfect physical being. No cigarette had ever stained her lips. She had lived clean. She had not neglected her physical inheritance. Boating, swimming, hiking in summer, skating and skiing in winter, kept her ever at her best. A forty-foot climb up a rope with a stone wall for footing was play.

She did not pause to tell herself how easy it would be. A tight gripping at the rope, a quick breath, a leap upward, and she was away. Having scaled the steep portion, she paused for a second breath, then raced upward to find-

"No-no one here!" she breathed as her keen eyes took in every detail, rock, bush, and tree.

"Someone heard me call. Came to my aid, then vanished. How-how weird!"

As if possessed by the idea that the place might be haunted, leaving the rope as it hung, she quickly lost herself on the hillside.

"Where-where have you been?" Greta demanded as she at last hurried into camp. "Have-have you been in great peril?"

Florence stared at her speechless. For a full moment she could not speak. When she found her voice she blurted out:

"Mean to tell me you lowered that rope, then bolted?"

"What rope?" Greta stared.

"The rope in the old mine."

"What mine?"

Florence burst out laughing. "What a world! You ask me if I have been in great danger. I have. But, after all, you seem to know nothing of it. How-how come?" She dropped to a place before the freshly kindled fire.

"I dreamed it, I guess," Greta replied slowly. "But please do tell me about it."

"I will. But first-" Florence drew the small blank book from her pocket, opened it to the place of the picture, then asked quietly, "Ever see him before?"

"Why, yes, I-" Greta's face was a study. "Florence, where did you get that?"

"It came tumbling down into the mine."

There was a touch of something akin to awe in the slim girl's voice as she said hoarsely, "That is a picture of the most wonderful musician I have ever heard. He plays the violin with a touch almost divine."

"The violin!"

"Yes. But, Florence-" Greta leaned forward eagerly. "Tell me all about it. Tell me what happened to you!"

When Florence had told her story Greta sat for a long time staring at the fire. When at last she spoke it was in a subdued and mellow tone. "That," she said, pointing to the little book that lay open before them, "is the picture of Percy O'Hara. Strange name for a great musician. But the Irish, they say, have musical souls.

"It was more than three years ago that I heard him play. It happened that I was with one of his personal friends. After the concert I was introduced to him. Can you imagine?" Her laugh was low and melodious. "Actually shook hands with him, the truly great O'Hara.

"I'm afraid I was a bit romantic. I was young. He became my hero in a way. I tried to keep track of his triumphs. But quite suddenly his triumphs ceased to be. I heard nothing about him. There was a rumor that he had disappeared. What do you think could have happened? Surely one who had entranced thousands with his delirious music would not voluntarily allow himself to be lost-lost from the world that loves him!"

"Something terrible may have happened to him." Florence was staring at the fire. "Terrible things do happen these days."

"And this picture?" Greta whispered.

"Probably belongs to some ardent admirer like yourself."

"But listen, Florence-" Greta's lips tightened, a fresh light shone in her face. "I too have had an adventure, discovered a mystery. There is a narrow lake off there to the right and below us. A monoplane landed there today. Someone was lifted from the plane into a boat. They rowed to the shore where there is some sort of lodge. What can that mean?"

"As far as we are concerned," Florence responded soberly, "it seems to mean that we should strike our tent and descend to less inhabited regions where we can enjoy ourselves in peace."

"And leave those people to go on with their evil deeds?"

"How do you know they are evil?"

"Who would hide away up here if their purposes were lawful? Think, Florence! They may be kidnapers! That person may be a victim!"

"Yes," exclaimed Florence, springing to her feet, "and they may be law-abiding citizens! Come, you have given me the creeps. Besides, I'm starving. You get some bacon frying while I start the coffee brewing. We'll eat. That will brighten our horizon."

Nine o'clock came. Seated before a fire of brightly gleaming coals, their cozy bed of blankets and balsam boughs awaiting them, the two girls forgot the mysteries and adventures of the day to sit and talk, as young people will, of home, of friends, of hopes and fears, and of the future that stretches on and on before them like a golden pathway. They were deep in this whispered revery when, gripping her companion's arm, Greta exclaimed, "There it is again!"

A wild, piercing, blood-curdling scream had rent the air of night.

"Wha-what can it be?" As if for protection, the slim girl threw herself into the arms of her stout companion.

"It's no loon!" Florence measured her words. "It's some human being in distress."

"I told you!" The slim girl shuddered.

"We should go to their aid."

"But just two girls! What could we do? We-"

"Listen!" Florence touched Greta's lips. From afar, as on that other night, there came, wafted in faint and glorious tones, the whisper of a violin.

"I'll tell you!" Greta sprang to her feet. "That man playing the violin has nothing to do with this other affair. He couldn't possibly, or how could he play so divinely?"

"He couldn't. He must be a friend of Percy O'Hara or he wouldn't have had his picture. He is interested in others or he would not have lowered that rope to me. We must hunt him out and make him help us."

"But how do you know it is a man? Why not a girl, or two girls like ourselves?" Greta doubted.

"It must be a man, just must be! Come!" Florence pulled her companion to her feet. "Come, we will follow the sound of the phantom violin."

Florence led the way. It was strange, this following a sound into the night. More than once Greta found herself in the grip of an almost irresistible desire to turn back; yet always that cry of terror appeared to ring in her ears and she whispered: "We must!"

The trail they followed was one made by wild creatures. And night is their time for being abroad. Now as they pressed forward they caught the sound of some wolf or lynx sneaking away into the brush. Would they always flee? Greta shuddered as she asked the question.

From time to time they paused to listen for those silver notes of the phantom violin. "Growing louder," Florence whispered on each occasion.

Once, after they had remained motionless for some time, she said with an air of certainty, "Comes from over the ridge."

Soon after that they took a side trail and began to climb. This path was steep, all but straight up. More than once Greta caught her breath sharply as her foot slipped. The sturdy Florence struggled steadily upward until with a deep sigh she exclaimed, "There!"

She said no more. For a space of seconds the violin had been silent. Now, as the music burst once more upon their ears, it seemed all but upon them.

"A-a little farther." The slender girl gripped Florence's arm until it hurt.

Just then the moon went under a cloud.

"Look!" Greta whispered in an awed tone. "Look! What is that?"

What indeed? Before them, just how far away they could not tell, shone what appeared to be innumerable pairs of eyes.

"Green eyes," Greta whispered.

Next moment her voice rose in a note of sheer terror.

"Florence! Florence! Where are you?"

No answer. Florence had vanished into the night.

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