Carol Norton.

The Phantom Yacht





Cant we all go down and investigate? Nann asked eagerly.

Dick hesitated. Id heaps rather you girls stayed out in the punt, he began, but when he saw the crestfallen expression of the adventurous older girl he ended with, Well, come, if you want to. I dont suppose anything will hurt us.

Although Dories was afraid to go down, she was even more fearful of remaining alone with those pictured sharp grey eyes glaring at her, and so, clinging to Nann, she descended the rather rickety short flight of steps. The flashlight revealed casks which evidently had contained liquor, and a small iron box. That box, Dick said with conviction, contains the Wetherby deed. He was about to try to lift it when Nann grasped his arm. Hark, she whispered. I heard someone walking. It sounds as though it might be someone in that library or den where the desk was.

They all listened and were convinced that Nann had been right. Its that pilot chap, I reckon, Gib said. But Dick was not so sure. Please, Nann, he pleaded, you and Dories go out to the punt and wait, while Gib and I discover who is prowling around. I didnt hear an airplane pass overhead, but then, of course, he might have come in from the sea as he did before.

The girls were glad to get out in the sunlight. They stood near the punt with hands tightly clasped while the boys went around to the back to enter the opening in the wall of the den. It seemed a very long while before Nann and Dories heard voices.

Then three boys approached them. A tall, slender lad, dressed after the fashion of aviators, with a dark handsome face lighted with interest, was listening intently to what Dick was telling him.

The girls heard him say, Of course, I knew someone else was visiting my grandfathers home, especially after I found the painting of my mother He paused when he saw the girls, and Nann was sure that the boys had neglected to tell him that they were not alone. Dick, in his usual manly way, introduced Carl Ovieda. Dories thought the newcomer the nicest looking boy she had ever seen. At once Dick made a confession. I know that we ought not to have done it, Mr. Ovieda. We read the note book that we found, hoping that it would throw some light on the mystery.

Im glad you did! was the frank reply. The truth is, I was getting rather desperate. You see, Mother and Sister are to arrive tomorrow from overseas, and I did so want to have the deed of Grandma Wetherbys old home to give to Mother. The place has been vacant for years, but the taxes have been paid. Of course no one would dispute our right to live there, but there couldnt be a clear title without having the deed recorded.

Gib asked a question in his usual indifferent manner, but Nann knew how eager he really was to hear the answer, Air they comin in that thar Phantom Yacht, yer mother and sister?

The newcomer looked at the questioner as though he did not understand his meaning; then turning toward Nann and Dories he asked, What is the Phantom Yacht?

Nann told him.

Then the lad, with a friendly smile, answered Gib: No, indeed. That yacht was sold, Mother told me, when we returned to Honolulu. That is where we have lived nearly all of our lives, but ever since my father died, Mother has longed to return to her own home country.

Nann, glancing at Dick, realized that he was very eager to speak, but was courteously waiting until the others were finished, and so she said: Mr. Ovieda, I believe Dick wishes to tell you of an iron box in which he is almost sure the lost deed will be found.

The dark, handsome face lightened. Turning to the boy at his side, he inquired: Have you really unearthed an iron box? Lead me to it, I beg.

Well wait in the punt, Nann told the three boys. Dories knew how hard it was for her friend to say that, since she so loved adventure.

However, it was not long before a joyful shouting was heard and the three boys appeared creeping through the low opening. Carl Ovieda waved a folded document toward them. It is found! Never before had three words caused those young people so much rejoicing. After they had each examined the paper, yellowed with age, and Carl had assured them that he and his mother and sister would never be able to thank them enough for the service they had rendered, Nann exclaimed: I dont know how the rest of you feel, but I am just ever so hungry.

I have a suggestion to make, Dories put in. Lets all go back to the point of rocks and have a picnic. Then, as the newcomer demurred, the pretty young girl hastened to say, Oh, indeed we want you, Mr. Ovieda.

The tall, handsome youth went to the place where he had left his small portable canoe and paddled it around.

Miss Dories, he called, this craft rides better if there are two in it. May I have the pleasure of your company?

Blushing prettily, Dories took Carls proffered hand and stepped in the canoe. Nann, Dick and Gib, in the punt, led the way.

Half an hour later, high on the rocks, the five young people ate the good lunch the girls had prepared and told one another the outstanding events of their lives. Im wild to meet your sister, Mr. Ovieda, Dories told him. Does she still look like a lily, all gold and white. That was the way Gibs father described her.

The tall lad nodded. Yes, Sister is a very pretty blonde. She has iris blue eyes and hair like spun gold, as fairy books say. I want you all to come to our home in Boston just as soon as we are settled. His invitation, Nann was pleased to see, included Gib as well as the others. That embarrassed lad replied, with a hunch of his right shoulder, Dunno as Ill ever be up to the big town. Dunnos I ever will.

Youre wrong there, Gib! Dick exclaimed in the tone of one who could no longer keep a most interesting secret. You know how you have wished and wished that you could have a chance to go to a real school. Well, Dad has been trying to work it so that you might have that chance, and, just before I came away, he told me that he had managed to get a scholarship for you in a boys school just out of Boston. Why, whats the matter, Gib? Its what you wanted, isnt it?

It was hard to understand the country boys expression. Yeah! he confessed. That thars what Ive been hankerin fer. It sure is. Then, as a slow grin lit his freckled face, he exclaimed: Its hit me so sudden, sort of, but I reckon I kinder feel the way yore feelin, he nodded toward the grandson of old Colonel Wadbury, as though Id found a deed to suthin, when Id never expected to have nuthin not as long as Id live.

The girls were deeply touched by Gibs sincere joy and they told him how glad they were for his good fortune. Then Carl Ovieda sprang to his feet, saying that he was sorry to break up the party, but that he must be winging on his way. He held out his hand to each of the group as he bade them good-bye, turning, last of all, to Dories, to whom he said: I shall let you know as soon as we are settled. I want you and my sister to be good friends.

CHAPTER XXVIII
THE BEST SURPRISE OF ALL

As the four young people neared the home cabin, they were amazed to behold Miss Moore seated in a rocker on the front porch and, instead of her house dress, she had on her traveling suit. Dories leaped up the steps, exclaiming, Why, Aunt Jane, what has happened?

The old woman replied suavely: Nothing at all, my dear; that is, nothing startling. Mr. Strait drove over this morning with some mail for me and I asked him to return at two. Now hurry and pack up your things. Were going home.

Dories put her hand to her heart. O, she exclaimed, I was afraid there had been bad news from Mother. Then, hesitatingly, I thought we werent going home until Monday.

We are going now, was all that her aunt said.

Dories ran back to the beach to explain to the three standing there, then the girls bade the boys good-bye and hastened up to the loft to pack their satchels and don their traveling costumes.

What can it mean? Dories almost whispered. There must have been something urgent in the letter Aunt Jane received this morning, she concluded.

Nann snapped down the cover of her suitcase, then flashed a bright smile at her friend. To tell you the truth, she confessed, I am glad that we are going today. Since your Aunt Jane will not travel on Sunday, and since the mysteries have all been solved, there would be nothing to do from now until Monday.

Before the other girl could reply Nann, with eyes glowing, continued enthusiastically: And how wonderfully the old ruin mystery turned out, didnt it? I feel ever so sure that Carl Ovieda and his sister will prove good friends. Then, teasingly, Carl seemed to like you especially well.

Dories surprised expression was sincere. Me? she exclaimed dramatically, then shook her head. Of course you are wrong! You are so much prettier and wittier and wiser, Nann, boys always like you better than they do your friends.

I hold to my opinion, was the laughing response. But come along now, I hear the rattly old stage coming. If we are to make the 3:10 train, Spindly will have to make good time. Nann glanced at her wrist watch as she spoke; then, taking their suitcases, they went down the rickety stairs. On the front porch they found Miss Moore waiting among her bags; her heavy black veil thrown back over her bonnet. Gibs father, having left the stage at the beach end of the road, was coming for the baggage. O, Aunt Jane! Dories suddenly exclaimed, arent we going to put the covers on the furniture and fasten the blinds?

It was Mr. Strait who answered: Men Amandyll tend to all them things, Miss. Well come over fust off Monday an take the key back to the store.

Miss Moore nodded her assent. Then, with the help of the two girls, she picked her way through the sand to the stage and was soon seated between the two black bags as she had been three weeks previous, but now how different was the expression on the wrinkled old face. On that other ride the girls had been justified in believing her to be a grouchy old woman, but today Dories noticed that when her aunt smiled across at her, there was a wistful expression in the grey eyes that could be so sharp and a quivering about the thin lips. Poor Aunt Jane, was the thought that accompanied her answering smile, she dreads going back to her lonely mansion of a home, but of course I am to remain with her for a few days, or, at least, until I hear from Mother.

When Siquaw was reached the girls saw that the train was even then approaching the small station, and, in the rush that followed, they quite forgot to look for Dick and Gibralter to say good-bye. It was not until they were seated in the coach, and the train well under way, that Dories exclaimed: We didnt see the boys! Dont you think that is queer, Nann? They knew we were going on that train. I wonder why they werent at the station to see us off.

A merry laugh back of them was the unexpected answer. Seated directly behind them were the two boys about whom they had been talking. Rising, they skipped around and took the seat facing the girls.

Well, where did you come from? Dories began, then noticed that Gib wore his one best suit and that he was carrying a funny old hand satchel. His freckled face was shining from more than a recent hard scrubbing. Nann interpreted that jubilant expression. Gibralter Strait, she exclaimed, youre going away to school, arent you? Then impulsively she held out her hand. You dont know how glad I am. I have great faith in you. I know you will amount to something.

As the country lad was squirming in very evident embarrassment, his friend drew the attention of the girls to himself by saying: I suppose, Mistress Nann, that you dont expect me to amount to anything. The good-looking boy tried so hard to assume an abused expression that the girls laughingly assured him that they had some slight hope of his ultimate success in life.

Dories glanced across at the seat where her aunt was sitting and, excusing herself, she went over and sat with the elderly woman, although Nann could see that they talked but little, her heart warmed toward her friend, who was growing daily more thoughtful of others. After a time Miss Moore said: Dories, dear, I think Ill try to take a little nap. You would better go back to your friends. I am sure that they are missing you.

Then as the old lady did close her eyes and seem to sleep, the four young people talked over the past three weeks in quiet voices and made plans for the future. I hope we will be friends forever, Dories exclaimed, and Nann added, Perhaps, when we have made the acquaintance of Mr. Oviedas sister, we can form a sort of friendship club with six members. We could meet now and then, and have merry times. Dories doleful expression at this happy suggestion caused Nann to add, as she placed a hand on her friends arm, I know what you are thinking, dear. That all the rest of us will be in Boston, but that you will be in Elmwood. But surely you will come to visit your Aunt Jane often during vacations.

Before Dories could reply the boys informed them that they were entering the city. Dories, who had traveled little, was eager to stand on the platform at the back of the car that she might have a better view, and later when the young people returned to the coach it was time to collect their baggage and prepare to descend. First of all, Dick and Gib assisted Miss Moore to the platform and then carried out her bags. Then they hailed a taxi driver at her request. Then Miss Moore surprised the girls by saying hospitably: Come over and see us tomorrow, Dick and Gibralter. You know where I live. She actually smiled at the older boy. Dories will be with me for a few days, I suppose, and Nann as well. Then, when the older girl started to speak, the old woman said firmly, You accepted an invitation to be my guest for one month, and only three weeks of that month have passed. This being true, Nann did not protest.

Dories squeezed her friends arm ecstatically. She had dreaded the moment when Nann would leave for the hotel where her father stayed. Gib lifted his cap as he saw Dick doing when the taxi drove away.

Then the old woman addressed the girls. Theyre fine boys, both of them! she said. Thats why I was willing you should go anywhere with them that you wished. I knew they would take as good care of you as they would of their sisters.

Dusk came early that autumn afternoon, and so, try as she might, Dories could see little of the neighborhoods through which the taxi was taking them. It was a long ride. At first it was through a business district where many lights flashed on, and where their progress was very slow because of the traffic. Then the noise gradually lessened, big elm trees could be seen lining the streets, and far back among other trees and on wide lawns, lights from large homes flickered. At last the taxi turned in between two high stone gate posts. Miss Moore was sitting ram-rod straight and the girls, watching, found it hard to interpret her expression. Dories asked: Aunt Jane, have we reached your home?

They were surprised at the bitterness of the tone in which the reply was given: Home? No! We have reached my house. A place where there is only a housekeeper and a maid to welcome you is not a home.

Dories slipped a hand in her aunts and held it close. She wanted to say something comforting, but could think of nothing. The taxi had stopped under the portico by the front steps, and, when she had been helped out, Miss Moore paid the driver. Then they went upon the wide stone porch, followed by the man, laden with their baggage. I cant understand why there isnt a light in the house. The maids knew I was to return almost any day. Miss Moore rang the bell as she spoke.

Suddenly lights within were flashed on. The heavy oak door was thrown open and a small boy leaped out and hurled himself at one of the girls. Dori! Hello, Dori! he cried jubilantly. Heres Mother and me waiting to surprise you all. And truly enough, there back of him was Mrs. Moore, smiling and holding out her hand to the old woman, who stood as one dazed. Then, comprehending what it all meant, she went in, tears falling unheeded down her wrinkled cheeks. She took the outstretched hand as she said tremulously, My Peters wife is here to welcome me home. She was so deeply affected that Mrs. Moore, after stooping to quietly kiss her daughter, led the old woman into a formally furnished parlor and sat with her on a handsome old lounge. Then to the small boy in the doorway she said, Little Peter, show Dori and Nann up to their room.

What those two women had to say to each other, no one ever knew, but that it drew them very close together was evident by the loving expression in the grey eyes of the older woman when she looked at the younger.

Meanwhile the two girls, led by the small boy, entered a large upper room which seemed to overlook a garden. Like the rooms below, it was formally furnished after the style of an earlier period, but it seemed very grand indeed to Dories.

Her eyes were star-like with wonderment. Nann, she half whispered in an awed voice when Peter had gleefully displayed the wardrobe where the girls were to hang their dresses and had opened each empty bureau drawer that they were to use, do you suppose that Mother, Peter and I are to live here forever?

Im sure of it! Nann replied. And O, Dori, isnt it wonderful?

Just then a bell in some room below tinkled musically. Thats the supper bell, the small boy told them. Hildas the cook, and O, Dori, such nice puddings as she can make. Yum! Jum! Then he cried excitedly: Quick! Take off your hats. Heres the bathroom that belongs to you. Honestly, Dori, you have one all to yourself, and Mother and I, we have one.

The girls smiled at the little fellows enthusiasm. Dories felt as though she must be dreaming. It all seemed so unreal.

A few moments later they went downstairs and found that Miss Moore, whose room was on the first floor, had changed to a house dress. She was seated in a comfortable chair by the fireplace, on which a log was burning, and she looked content, at peace with the world. She was saying to her nephews wife: I do love Dories; she is a dear girl, but I will confess that I was disappointed because she does not look like the lad I had so loved.

Hearing a sound at the door, the old woman turned, and for the first time really beheld the small boy who appeared in front of the girls.

Peter! was her amazed exclamation; the light of a great joy in her eyes. Then she pointed to a life-size painting over the mantle in which was a pictured boy of about the same age. They are so alike, she said, with tears in her eyes, as she looked up at Mrs. Moore, who, having risen, was standing by the older womans chair. Dories, gazing up at the picture, thought that it might have been a painting of her small brother except for the old-fashioned costume.

The elderly woman was holding out her arms to the little fellow, and, unafraid, he went to her trustingly. My cup of joy is now full! she said, her voice tremulous with emotion. Then, smiling over the boys head at his mother, she asked: Niece, shall we tell our plan to the girls that their cup of joy may also be full?

Mrs. Moore nodded and the old woman continued: Nann, your father has written to Dories mother for advice. It seems that a change in his business will take him traveling about the country for at least a year, and he wanted to know what she thought would be best for you. He was thinking of sending you to some distant relatives, but we, my Peters wife and I, have decided to keep you as a sister-companion for our Dori. Then, before the girls could express their joy, the old woman concluded, as she held little Peter close: And so, at last, after many years of desolate loneliness, this old house among the elms is to be a real home.

THE END

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