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   Chapter 26 PASSING OF THE PILGRIM

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 10867

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Florence had scarcely concealed the newly discovered treasure before she knew, from the shape of the oncoming boat, that it was owned by a friend. In truth it was Swen with his stout little fishing boat.

"Hello!" he shouted as the fire, flaring up, revealed her face. "I thought you were at home on the wreck. I saw a light there. I was sure of it. Had to come in there for some nets I left on the shore, then I was going over to see how you were getting on and to warn you."

"No," said Florence, "there can't be a light on the wreck. No one is there."

"Yes." Swen's tone carried conviction. "There was a light."

"Then," said Florence, "Jeanne has returned, or-or someone else is there.

"Greta!" she called. "Greta! Wake up! Someone is on the wreck. We must go there.

"We'll leave the tent as it is," she said five minutes later as Greta, hastily dressed and half asleep, stepped out in the air of night.

"I'll take you over," Swen said. "The sea is roughing up a bit."

"Swen," Florence said as they went pop-popping through the narrows, "you said you meant to warn us. Warn us of what?"

"Probably nothing." Swen seemed ill at ease. "There'll be a storm-just a storm, that's all. Two waves, like tidal waves, came near swamping my boat. It's a sign, the fishermen say. But then, we are superstitious. That's it, I guess."

For all that, when he had landed the girls at the wreck and had made sure Jeanne, not some stranger, was there, he turned his boat about and steamed away at full speed.

"He came to warn us," Florence whispered to herself. Then a matter of overwhelming interest drove all other thoughts from her mind. She turned to the others.

"Oh, girls!" she exclaimed. "Just think! I found a barrel, a small barrel!"

"On the camping ground?" Jeanne leaped to her feet.

"Nowhere else."

"And-and what was in it?" Greta was fairly dancing with excitement.

"There wasn't time to see. It had copper hoops, that's all I know. Swen came and then-then we were away. I-I covered it up. It won't run away," she laughed as Jeanne's face sobered. "It will keep for another day."

"But let us go now, tonight!" Jeanne was quite beside herself with excitement.

"No, not tonight," Florence said with an air of decision. "Tomorrow."

As things turned out it was to be tonight; but this she could not know.

Some three hours later Florence stirred uneasily in her sleep. It was a very dark night. The cabin on the wrecked Pilgrim in which she slept was a well of darkness. Yet there were times when, for one brief second, every detail of the cabin showed out in bold relief. The over-ornamented walls, done in white and gold, the narrow shelf where a small clock ticked loudly, the rough table with two short legs and two long ones to make up for the slanting deck; all these could be seen plainly. So too could the blond hair of her bunk-mate, Jeanne, sleeping beside her in the berth where for forty years only ship captains had slept.

The large girl stirred once again. One brown arm stole from beneath the covers. The hand seemed to reach for some object hung in space.

"A barrel of gold." Her lips said the words aloud. The sound of her own voice roused her to a state of half-awakeness. "A barrel of gold," she repeated.

For some little time she lay there half asleep, half awake.

Her sleep had been disturbed by certain sounds, distant rumbles, rushes and swishes of water; also by those vivid flashes of light.

A moment more and she sat bolt upright in bed.

"Going to storm," she mumbled to herself, without being greatly disturbed. It had stormed before. Three times great, dark clouds had come driving in across black waters to engulf them. Each time the wrecked Pilgrim, with her three last passengers on board, had weathered the storm in as stalwart a manner as any ship afloat on the sea.

For some time she sat there listening, watching. As the flashes of light grew brighter, more frequent, and the rumbles broke into short, sharp crashes, she crept silently from beneath the covers to draw on a heavy mackinaw, then step out upon the deck.

At once a cold chill seized her. A flash of lightning had revealed such a cloud as she had not seen in all her life. Inky black, straight up and down like a gigantic pillar, it appeared to glide across waters that reflected its ink-blackness and to grow-grow-grow as it advanced.

Stepping quickly back into the cabin, she shook her companions into wakefulness.

"Jeanne! Greta! Wake up! It is going to storm. Something rather terrible!"

Instantly she went about the business of lighting a flickering candle. Then she drew on knickers and high boots.

Her mind was in a whirl, yet she managed to maintain a certain degree of inner calm.

What was to be done? Here they were, three girls on board a wreck with a storm that promised unparalleled violence, sweeping down upon them.

There was but one way of leaving the wreck. They must go, if at all, in their sixteen-foot rowboat-a mere nutshell in such a time as this. And yet-

"Are-are you dressed?" she asked shakily.

"Yes, all dressed." Both Jeanne and Greta appeared to be quite calm.

"All right. Throw what things you can into your suitcase, then come on." She set the example by tossing garments into a corner, then cramming them into her bag.

Having thrust a flashlight into her pocket, she led the way out into the night.

She was met by a gust of wind that all but blew her off the deck.

"Look-look out!" she warned. "Hang on tight! Over here! The boat's over here."

To leave the ship at such a time as this seemed madness. Yet there had come to her a sense of guidance. In times of great crises she had more than once experienced just this. Now she moved like one directed by a master hand.

The water appeared blacker now. The flashes of light were vivid beyond belief. The swells were coming in. Great sweeping swells, they lifted the little rowboat, tied on the lee side of the wreck, to a prodigious height, then dropped it into a well of darkness.

"Drop-drop your bag into the boat when it comes-comes up." Wind seemed to fill the girl's ears. It caught her words and cast them away.

Down went the bags, and with them the boat.

One, two, three, up surged the boat again.

"Now! Over you go!" Seizing Greta, she fairly threw her into the boat.

Her heart sank with the boat. It rose with it as well. Jeanne was next. A moment more and she was over the side, clinging to the seat, cutting the rope, seizing the oars, then shoving off, all in one wild breath.

"We-we'll keep-keep our stern to the storm!" she screamed. "Head in toward Duncan's Bay. Some sandy beaches there. Mi-might land. Mi-" The wind blew the words from her throat.

The cove that forms an approach to Duncan's Bay is shaped like the top of an hourglass. At the seaward side it is a mile wide. At the land side it is tapered to a narrow channel. By great good fortune the wind was shoreward and slightly toward the entrance of Duncan's Bay. The big girl's hope was to work her boat back into this cove where, more and more protected by the reef, she might find calmer water.

To ride a great storm in a rowboat is always thrilling, but not certainly too dangerous. If the waves are long and high, you may ride to their crest, glide down the other side, then rise again.

Pulling with all her might, the stout young oarsman held her boat's stern to the gale. They rose. They fell. They rose again, this time in the midst of hissing foam.

"This-this is going to be worth telling," she shrieked. "If we live to tell it.

"But I don't think we will," she whispered to herself.

Now and again sharp flashes of lightning revealed their position. They were working back into the cove. But each moment the storm grew wilder. The wind fairly shrieked in their ears. Their hair flew out wildly. Some sea bird, seeking shelter, shot past them at a wild speed.

Clinging to one another, Jeanne and Greta sat in the stern. As Greta watched that onrushing pillar of cloud, she was all but overcome by the conviction that never again would they romp upon the deck of the ill-fated ship.

"And we have known such joy there!" she told herself with a low sob. "Our swimming pool, long, lazy hours in the sun, songs at sunset. When shall we know such joys again?"

Then a strange question crept into her mind. What was it the men on the black schooner had sought on the wreck?

"Whatever it was," she whispered, "they will never find it now."

And yet, could she be sure of this? Moments, not hours, would tell.

Then the storm broke. A vivid flash revealed the dark column. It appeared to hover over the Pilgrim.

"Oh!" Greta covered her eyes.

Florence still stared straight away and continued to row. This was no time for flinching. She saw the battered wreck rise high in air. After that came moments of intense darkness, such darkness as seems solid, like a black wall at the dead of night.

When at last the blackness lifted, a flash of light showed the pillar of cloud far away and on the reef-not a sign of the ill-fated ship, the Pilgrim.

"Look!" Jeanne cried, pointing away in the other direction. "Look over there! A light!"

There could be no mistaking it. Off toward the entrance to Duncan's Harbor was a swaying light.

"It's a boat. Some sort of a boat. We-we'll try to head that way.

"The ship," Florence said soberly a moment later, "is gone! It was like an arm, that cloud, a great black arm reaching down and picking it up. I saw it. A waterspout, I suppose they'd call it. We-we were saved by God's guidance."

A short time later they found themselves approaching a small power boat that, tossing about over the waves, moved cautiously nearer.

To their great joy they found this to be Swen, and with him was Vincent Stearns.

"I didn't want to leave you," Swen said a trifle shamefacedly, once he had them on board and well within the narrows. "I was afraid. But when I saw that cloud, when I knew what was sure to happen, I got Vincent to come with me. Now here we are, and, thank God, you are safe!"

"Listen!" It was Greta who held up a hand for silence as they passed out of the narrows. Music had reached her ears, wild, delirious music, such as one may produce only at the end of a terrific storm.

The storm was over-there could be no questioning that. The moon was out in all its glory. And there, his gray hair glistening in that light, standing before their tent on the camping ground, was the Phantom, Percy O'Hara. He was playing as perhaps he had never played before.

"Now," Greta whispered, "I have found him. I shall never lose him again."

Florence, you might say, was strange. At this dramatic moment she was thinking to herself, "A barrel, a copper-bound barrel. A barrel of gold."

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