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   Chapter 24 THE LITTLE BLACK TRAMP

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 5953

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was evening of the following day. The fire on that big flat rock burned brightly. Florence and Greta sat sipping hot chocolate from paper cups. For a full half hour, while twilight faded into night, neither spoke.

It was Greta who broke the silence. "Florence," she said soberly, "life is strange."

"Yes," Florence agreed.

"Here we are on Greenstone Ridge," the dark-eyed girl went on. "We came here to explore and to-to search out the secrets of the phantom. We found the phantom. We solved the mystery. And yet-"

"The phantom is more mysterious than before." Florence smiled a dreamy smile.

"Yes," Greta replied quickly, "he is! And perhaps we shall never delve more deeply into this mystery. We have not seen him since that night when, like knights of old, we marched down upon that mysterious cabin by the lake."

"We have heard his music but have not seen him, your strange Percy O'Hara," Florence said quietly.

This was exactly true. When the strange little doctor had suggested that they assist him in his marvelous cure of that boy afflicted with mental terror, Percy O'Hara had agreed at once, but had suggested that Greta should furnish the music close at hand and that his should be little more than an echo. This arranged, he had slipped away into the night. Since then they had heard him twice, had seen him not at all.

"Why?" Greta whispered to herself. "Why?" There came no answer.

"Florence," she said, springing to her feet, "our work here is done. Doctor Prince has told us that our assistance is no longer needed. As for the phan-phantom, Percy O'Hara, we have no right to pry into his affairs. I-I'd like to go down to the camping ground by Duncan's Bay." She seemed ready to weep.

"Tonight?" Florence rose slowly to her feet.

"Tonight."

"All right." The big girl began stuffing things into her bag. "We'll be away in a jiffy."

A half hour later two dark figures, guided only by a flashlight, made their way over the long moose trail leading along the ridge, thence down to the shores of a dark and silent bay. And all the time Greta was thinking of Percy O'Hara, who had charmed thousands upon thousands with his matchless music, hiding away there on the ridge. Once she whispered, "Green eyes, a hundred pairs of green eyes."

As they neared the shores of the bay, however, her thoughts returned to her good friend Jeanne and their home, the wreck of the old Pilgrim. Once she whispered low, "A barrel of gold."

Had you chanced to look down upon that narrow stretch of level land on the shores of Duncan's Bay later that night, you might have spied, hidden away in a shadowy corner, a small tent. Beneath that tent two girls slept, Florence and Greta. For them Greenstone Ridge had become a memory.

They were up at dawn. Their boat, hidden deep among some scrub spruce trees, awaited them. So did a bright and shimmering lake. And beyond this, dark and silent, was their home, the wreck.

"Perhaps Jeann

e has come back," said Florence. "We will row over at once."

They had covered half the distance to the wreck and were watching eagerly for some sign of life on its sloping decks, when Greta, whose gaze had strayed away to the left, cried out quite suddenly, "Look, Florence! What is that over there?"

Shading her eyes, Florence followed the younger girl's gaze, then said with a slow tone of assurance, "It's a boat, a small black boat adrift. Some ship, or perhaps only a schooner, has lost her lifeboat. We'll take it in tow, tie it up over at the wreck."

The small black boat was soon tied behind their own. Florence's strong arms did double duty as she covered the remaining distance to the wreck.

Greta had climbed on board the wreck, Florence had finished tying up her own boat and was giving her attention to the small black tramp, when she noted something of mild interest. In the bottom of that boat was water two or three inches deep, from a rain, perhaps. Floating on the surface of that water was a small square of paper.

"Might give some clue," she thought as she put out a hand.

Once she had spread the paper on the boat's seat, her lips parted in surprise.

"Greta!" she cried, "Greta! Come here. See what I have found!"

When Greta arrived all she saw was a sheet of water-soaked paper. In the center of that paper, done with a purple pencil, badly blurred but still quite easily read, were four words:

"A BARREL OF GOLD."

"Isn't that strange!" Florence exclaimed. "Here we've been dreaming in a silly sort of way about a barrel of gold. And now, here it is, all written out by a stranger!"

"Perhaps Jeanne wrote it," Greta suggested.

"She can't have. It's not her writing. And look!" Florence studied the paper more closely. "There are two lines drawn under those words as if some other words had been crossed out and these inserted. And that-" she straightened up, "that is exactly what happened. There are faint traces of pencil marks all over the paper. The water has about washed them away. Perhaps when the paper is dry we can read the entire message."

Placing the paper carefully on her outspread hand, she carried it to the deck, then smoothed it out on a board in the sun.

"Jeanne is not here," Greta said quietly. "She's not been here. Everything is just as we left it, except-" she hesitated.

"Except what?" Florence stared.

"I can't be sure, but I think there are fresh marks of a black schooner that has been tied up alongside this wreck. Come and see."

"Can't be any doubt of it," Florence agreed a few moments later. "The black schooner, it's been here again, Greta! Greta!" She gripped the slender girl's arm. "Do you suppose there could have been a barrel of gold hidden on this wreck? And have they carried it away?

"Of course not!" she exploded, answering her own question. "There are three or four barrels of oil in the hold. That was all they left. Swen told us that, and he should know."

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