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   Chapter 25 FATHER SUPERIOR TAKES A HAND

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 8699

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The paper taken from the Little Black Tramp, as Florence had named the derelict, proved a disappointment. Though there was still some suggestion of writing remaining on its surface after it was dry, not one word could be read. Only those four words, brighter than ever, stood out clear and strong, "A BARREL OF GOLD."

Without the sprightly Jeanne about, the wreck seemed a lonely place. "What do you say we row back to the camping ground and dig for treasure?" Florence suggested after their midday siesta. "We can stay all night if the wind blows up."

"Dig for treasure? Florence, you're still thinking of that barrel of gold!" Greta exclaimed. "You'll not find it there. It's on this old ship. You wait and see!"

Greta was glad enough to go. She hoped, for one thing, that she might catch again the tuneful notes of that phantom violin. "Shall I ever know?" she asked herself. "Why does he hide away there on Greenstone Ridge? Percy O'Hara," she whispered. She closed her eyes to see again that tangled mass of gray hair, those frank, smiling young eyes. "Percy O'Hara. How much good he could be doing! How he can charm the world's cares away! And how this poor old world needs that these days!

"And he could help those who are struggling up. He could teach-" she dared not continue, dared not hope that sometime, somewhere, this matchless musician might take her bow gently from her hand as he said with that marvelous smile, "No, my child. Not that way. See! Listen!"

"If only it might be!" she sighed. Yes, she wanted to go ashore, longed to climb all the way up Greenstone Ridge. But this last she was resolved never to do. "He said he would come," she whispered. "He will not fail."

At ten that night Greta slept soundly beneath the tent on the camping grounds. Having listened in vain for the faintest tremor of music on the air, she had surrendered at last to the call of dreamland.

Florence, too, was beneath the blankets, but she did not sleep. The strange discovery of that day was still on her mind. "Barrel of gold," she repeated more than once.

Her treasure hunt that afternoon had been singularly unsuccessful. She had not found so much as a flint arrowhead or a copper penny.

"Big piece of nonsense!" she told herself. "And yet-"

A half hour later, having dragged on shoes, knickers, and sweater, she was digging once more on the camping ground, digging for gold. Such are the strange, unfathomable ways of youth.

She had stirred up their campfire and was digging with the aid of its light. As she labored her sturdy figure cast odd, fantastic shadows on the dark forest at her back.

* * * * * * * *

At the same hour Jeanne returned to the wreck. She came with her gypsy friends on the Ship of Joy. For once in his life Bihari was in a great rush. His journey round the island had been completed. There was in the air some deep prophecy of storm. Being one of those who live their lives beneath the blue dome of heaven, he felt rather than saw this.

"They are here!" Jeanne cried in great joy as they neared the wreck of the old Pilgrim. "Florence and Greta are here!"

"But there is no light," someone protested.

"They are dreaming in some corner of the ship, or perhaps they are asleep," Jeanne insisted. "They must be here, for-see! There is their boat. We have but one boat. They could not well be away."

Climbing to the deck, the little French girl bade her gypsy friends a fond farewell, then from her favorite spot on the deck watched the lights of Bihari's boat grow dim in the distance. Then she set about the task of finding her friends. This, as you know well enough, was to be a hard task. They were not there.

The explanation is simple enough. Having tried out the Little Black Tramp and found it easy to row, Florence had chosen to go ashore in it and to leave her own boat tied up to the wreck. So here it was and here was the little French girl alone on the Pilgrim. It was night, and she had not forgotten Bihari's warning: "There comes a great storm."

* * * * * * * *

On the camping ground, lighted by the campfire's flickering glow, Florence dug steadily on. "Not that I expect to find anything," she told herself. "I'm just wearing down my mental resistance to sleep. Pretty soon I'll drop this old spade and creep beneath the blankets. I'll-"

She bro

ke short off. Strange sounds were reaching her ears; at least they were strange for this place. Music, the tones of a violin, came to her. Clear and distinct they were.

"Can't be far," she told herself. She thought of Percy O'Hara, the "Phantom."

"Air's strange tonight," she told herself.

"Perhaps he's still away up there. Sound carries a long way at times."

Once again her spade cut deep in the sand. But now her heart skipped a beat. She had struck some solid object.

"Only a rock or a log buried by a storm centuries ago," she told herself. "And yet-" she was digging fiercely now. Like a dog close to a ground squirrel's nest, she made the dirt fly.

The thing she had found was not a rock. "Not hard enough for that," she told herself. "A log? Well, perhaps. But it-it's-"

She ceased digging. Seizing a firebrand, she fanned it into flame, then held it low in the hole she had dug. Next instant she was all but bowled over with astonishment.

"It is a barrel!" she breathed. "Or, at least a keg. And it has heavy copper hoops. It-"

But at this instant a light shone full upon her face. It was there for only an instant, but long enough to give her warning. Seizing her spade, she had half filled the hole when a small boat came around the point.

* * * * * * * *

At that hour too there were strange doings on the wreck. The mysterious black schooner had returned. Only chance had prevented the men on the schooner from seeing the light that shone from Jeanne's cabin, to which she had retired in uneasy solitude. They approached the wreck from the other side.

The first suggestion of their presence came to Jeanne as a slight bump ran through the stout old hull.

"A-a boat!" she breathed. Instantly her light was out. A moment had not elapsed before, wrapped in a long dark coat, she crept out on the deck.

Once outside, she stood there, silent, intent, ready to flee, listening.

"Chains," she whispered at last, "I hear them. That's what they had on that black schooner that other night. They mean to lift something with chains. I'll creep along the deck to that box where life preservers were kept. Have a look at these men from there. They won't see me. I'll be in the shadows."

She crept along in the deep shadows.

"Here-here's the place." She drew up behind a large box painted white.

After a brief rest to quiet the wild beating of her heart, she crept forward.

"There!" she whispered. "I can see them plainly from here. There's the man in the diving rig again. He is just going over the side. Taking a chain with him. I can hear it rattle. Chain's fast to a light cable. They're going to try lifting something from below, that's certain."

The diver disappeared beneath black waters. Two other men stood at attention. The girl held her breath and waited. She tried to picture to herself the inside of the ship beneath the water.

"Cabins where people have slept. Fishes swimming there and big old crawfish crawling over the berths. Deck slippery with slime, and the hold where all the freight was stored dark as a dungeon. You'd think-"

She did not finish. From the distance had come a strange sound. A rushing as of a mighty wind. "But there's no wind!"

The sound increased in volume until it was like the roar of a storm. Then, of a sudden, a great swell struck the ship. It set the old wreck shuddering from stem to stern. It picked up the black schooner and, tossing it high, landed it half upon the dry deck of the ship and half upon the water. It keeled over on one side, reeled like a drunken man, seemed about to turn square over, then sliding off the deck, went gliding away.

"But the diver?" Once again the girl held her breath.

After what seemed a very long time, a dark spot appeared off to the right. The power boat glided over. The dark spot was taken on board.

Next moment a second swell shook the ship. When this wave had subsided the power boat was nowhere to be seen.

"Good old Father Superior," the little French girl exclaimed. "He took a hand!

"Will they return?" she asked herself. She found no answer. A glance away to the left caused her to shudder. Like an army of black demons, clouds were massed low against the sky. A faint flash of light painted them a lurid hue. This was repeated three times. Then all was darker than before.

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