Carol Norton.

The Phantom Yacht





Dear girl, the mothers voice held a tenderly given rebuke, you arent thinking in the least of the pleasure your companionship might give your Great-Aunt Jane. She was very fond of your father when he was a boy, and he spent many a summer with her at Siquaw. That may be her reason for inviting you. Your father seemed to be the only person for whom she really cared. Then, before the rather surprised girl could reply, the mother continued, I wish, dear, that you would hunt up your Aunts last letter and answer it more fully. I was so busy when it came that I merely sent a few lines, thanking her for the invitation.

Dories sighed as she rose to obey, but turned back to listen when her mother continued: I know how hard it is going to be, dear girl, but I have a reason, which I cannot explain just now, for very much wishing you to go. Now write the letter and make it as interesting and newsy as you can.

Dories, from the door, dropped a curtsy. Very well, Mrs. Moore, she said, to please you Ill write to the crabbedy old lady, but Her mother merrily shook her finger at her. I want you to withhold judgment, daughter, until you have seen your Great-Aunt Jane.

CHAPTER III
A LOST MOTHER

A week passed, and though Dories received several picture postcards from her best friend, not a line came from her Great-Aunt Jane.

She has probably changed her mind about going to Siquaw, dear, and so you would better prepare to start back to school on Monday. I had talked the matter over with the principal, Mr. Setherly, and he told me that you could easily make up Octobers work, but, if you are not going away, it will be better for you to begin the term with the others.

They were at breakfast, and for a long, silent moment the girl sat gazing out of the window at a garden that was beginning to look dry and sear. When she turned back toward her mother, there were tears in her eyes.

The woman placed a hand on the one near her as she tenderly inquired, Are you disappointed because youre not going, daughter?

No, no, not that, but you cant know how I dread returning to High without Nann. We had planned graduating together and after that going to college together if only we could find a way.

Her mother glanced up quickly as though there was something that she wanted to say, then pressed her lips firmly as though to keep some secret from being uttered. Dories listlessly continued eating. There was a closer pressure of her mothers hand. It is hard, dear, I know, the understanding voice was saying. Life brings many disappointments, but there is always a compensation. Youll see! Then, glancing toward the stair door, which was slowly opening, the mother called, Hurry up, you lazy Peterkins. Come and have your breakfast. I want you and Dories to go to the village and match some silk for me as soon as you can.

Then, when she served the little fellow, the loving woman returned to her daily task and left a half self-pitying, half rebellious and wholly dispirited girl to wash and put away the dishes.

Then listlessly she donned her scarlet tam and sweater coat and went into the sewing room to get the samples that she was to match. Her mother smiled up into her dismal face. Dori, daughter, dont gloom around so much, she pleaded. I shall actually believe that you are disappointed because you are not going to Siquaw. Now, heres the silk to be matched and theres Peterkins waiting for you. Come back as soon as you can, wont you?

It was midmorning when Dories and the small boy returned from the shopping expedition. They went at once to the sewing room, but their mother was not there. They looked in the living room and in the kitchen. Mother, where are you? they both called, but there was no reply.

Maybe shes upstairs, Peter suggested.

Of course. How stupid for me to forget that we have an upstairs to our house. Dories felt strangely excited as she ran up the circling front stairway calling again and again, but still there was no reply. Down the long upper corridor they went, opening one door and another, beginning to feel almost frightened at the stillness.

Then Dories exclaimed, Oh, maybe shes gone over to Mrs. Dorans for a moment. I guess she couldnt do any sewing until we came back with the silk. They were about to descend the back stairs when they heard a noise in the garret overhead.

The frail boy caught his sisters hand and held it tight. Do you suppose its ghosts, he whispered.

No, of course not, the girl replied. The attic was a low, dark, cobwebby place hardly high enough to stand in, and they never went there. There are no ghosts. Mother said so.

Then maybe its a rat scratching around, the boy suggested, or that wild barn cat may have got in somehow. Do you dare open the door, Dori, and call up?

Of course I do, but first Ill creep up a little way and look. Very quietly Dories opened the door and stealthily ascended the dark, short stairway. All was still in the dusky, musty attic. Then a light flashed for a moment in a far corner. Truly frightened, Dories turned and hurried down the stairs. Quick steps were heard above: then a familiar voice called, Dories, is that you, dear? Why are you stealing about in that way? Come up a moment, daughter! I want you to help me drag this old trunk out of the corner.

Then, when the girl, with Peter following, appeared on the top step, the mother explained: I thought Id be down before you could get back. I have news for you, Dori. Just after you left, a night letter was delivered. In it your Great-Aunt Jane said that she had entirely given up her plan to spend a month at Siquaw Point until she received your letter. She had decided that if you were so rude as to ignore her invitation, you were not the kind of a girl she wished to know, even if you are her niece, but your letter caused her to change her mind. She wishes you to meet her this afternoon in Boston and go directly from there to Siquaw Point.

O, Mother, how terrible! Dories was truly dismayed. I wont have time to let Nann know, and she was to meet me at the station. That was the one redeeming feature about the whole thing.

Well, you can see her when you return, and maybe you can plan to stay a day or two with her. Now help me with this little trunk, dear. We have only two hours to prepare your clothes and pack.

They carried the small steamer trunk down to Dories room and by noon it was packed and locked, and, soon after, the expressman came to take both the trunk and the girl to the station.

Dories face was flushed and tears were in her eyes when she said good-bye. I feel so strange and excited, Mother, she confided, going out into the world for the very first time, and O, Mumsie, no one knows how I dread being all alone in a boarded-up cottage at a deserted summer resort with such a dreadful old woman. Dories clung to her mother in little girl fashion as though she hoped at the very last moment she might be told that she need not go, but what she heard was: Mr. Hanson is in a hurry, dear. He has the trunk on his cart and hes waiting to help you up on the seat.

Dories caught her breath in an effort not to cry, kissed her mother and Peter hurriedly, picked up her hand-satchel and darted down the path.

From the high seat she waved and smiled. Then she called in an effort at cheeriness. Dont forget, Mrs. Moore, that you promised to take October for a real vacation and not sew a bit after you finish the silk dress.

I promise! the mother called. Peter and I will just play. Write to us often.

Mr. Hanson, finding that it was late, drove rapidly to the station, and it was well that he did, for the train was just drawing in when they arrived. Dories quickly purchased a ticket and checked her trunk with the expressmans help, then, climbing aboard, chose a seat near a window. After all, she found herself quite pleasurably excited. It was such a new experience to be traveling alone. Few of the passengers noticed her and no one spoke. She was glad, as her mother had warned her not to enter into conversation with strangers.

As she watched the flying landscape the girl thought of something her mother had said on the day that she had asked her to answer her Great-Aunt Janes letter. I have a reason, Dori, for really wishing you to go to Siquaw with your aunt, she had said. What could that reason be? Not until Boston was neared did her speculation cease; then she became conscious of but two emotions, curiosity about her Great-Aunt Jane and a crushing disappointment because she had not been able to let Nann Sibbett know when to meet her.

When the train finally stopped, Dories, feeling very young and very much alone, followed the crowd of passengers into the huge station. She was to meet her aunt in the womans waiting room, and she stopped a hurrying porter to inquire where she would find it. Almost timidly she entered the large, comfortably furnished room, then, seeing an elderly woman dressed in black, who was sitting stiffly erect, the girl went toward her as she said diffidently: Pardon me, but are you my Great-Aunt Jane? The woman threw back a heavy black crepe veil and her sharp gray eyes gazed up at the girl penetratingly.

Humph! was the ungracious reply. Well, at least youve got your fathers eyes. Thats something to be thankful for, but Ive no doubt that you look like your mother otherwise.

There was something about the tone in which this was said that put the girl on the defensive.

I certainly hope I do look like my darling mother, she exclaimed, her diffidence vanishing. The elderly woman seemed not to hear.

Sit down, why dont you? she said in a querulous tone. The train doesnt go for an hour yet.

The girl sank into a comfortable chair which faced the one occupied by her aunt; the back of which was toward the door.

For a moment neither spoke, then remembering the coaching she had received, Dories said hesitatingly, I want to thank you, Aunt Jane, for having invited me to go with you. I am pleased to

A sniff preceded the remark that interrupted: I know how pleased you are to go with a fussy old woman to a deserted summer resort. About as pleased as a cat is out in the rain. Then, as though her interest in Dories had ceased, the old woman drew the heavy cr?pe veil down over her face, but the girl was sure that she could see the sharp eyes peering through it as though she were intently watching some object over Doris shoulder.

The girl had expected her aunt to be queer, but this was far worse than her most dismal anticipations. At last the girl became so nervous that she glanced back of her to see what her aunt could be watching. She saw only the open door that led into the main waiting room of the station. Women were passing in and out, but that was nothing to stare at. Seeming, at last, to recall her companions presence, the old woman addressed her: Dories, you wrote me that you had a girl friend here in Boston who would come down to the train to see you off. Why doesnt she come?

I didnt have time to let her know, Aunt Jane, was the dismal reply. Im just ever so disappointed.

The old woman nodded her head toward the door. Is that her? she asked. Is that your friend?

Dories sprang to her feet and turned. A tall girl, carrying a suitcase, was approaching them. With a cry of mingled amazement and joy, Dories ran toward her and held out both hands. Why, Nann, darling, it cant be you. The newcomer dropped her bag and they flew into each others arms. Then, standing back, Dori asked, much mystified, Why, are you going somewhere Nann?

It was the old woman who replied grimly: She is! I invited her to go with us. There now! Dont try to thank me. She held up a protesting hand when Dori, flushed and happy, turned toward her. I did it for myself, I can assure you. I knew having you moping around for a month wouldnt add any to my pleasure.

An embarrassing moment was saved by a stentorian voice in the doorway announcing: All aboard for Siquaw Center and way stations. A colored porter appeared to carry the bags, and the old woman, leaning heavily on her cane, limped after him, followed by the girls, in whose hearts there were mingled emotions, but joy predominated, for, however terrible Doris Great-Aunt Jane might be, at least they were to spend a whole long month together.

CHAPTER IV
SEAWARD BOUND

There were very few people on the seaward-bound train; indeed Miss Jane Moore, Nann and Dories were the only occupants of the chair car. After settling herself comfortably in the chair nearest the front, the old woman, with a sweep of her arm toward the back, said almost petulantly: Sit as far away from me as you can. I may want to sleep, and I know girls. They chatter, chatter, chatter, titter, titter, titter all about nothing.

Her companions were glad to obey, and when they were seated at the rear end of the car, they kept their heads close together while they visited that they might not disturb the elderly woman, who, to all appearances, fell at once into a light doze.

As soon as the train was under way, Dories asked: Now do tell me how this perfectly, unbelievably wonderful thing has happened?

Nann laughed happily. Maybe your Great-Aunt Jane is a fairy godmother in disguise, she whispered. They both glanced at the far corner, but the black veiled figure was much more suggestive of a witch than a good fairy.

The disguise surely is a complete one, Dories said with a shudder. My, it gives me the chilly shivers when I think how I might be going to spend a whole month alone with her. But now tell me, just what did happen?

Cant you guess? You wrote your aunt a letter, didnt you, telling all about me and even giving the name of the hotel where Dad and I were staying?

Dories nodded, Yes, thats true. Mother wanted me to write to Aunt Jane and I couldnt think of a thing to tell her about, and so I wrote about you.

Well, Nann continued to enlighten her friend, she must have written me that very day inviting me to be her guest at Siquaw Point for the month of October, but she asked me not to let you know. I sent the last picture postcard, the one of our hotel, just after I had received her letter, and you can imagine how wild I was to tell you. I hadnt started going to the Boston High. Dear old Dad said a month later wouldnt matter, and so here I am. The girls clasped hands and beamed joyfully at each other.

Dories next glance toward the sleeping old woman was one of gratitude. Im going to try hard to love her, that is, if shell let me. Then, after a thoughtful moment, Dories continued: Great-Aunt Jane must have been very different when Dad was a boy, for he cared a lot for her, Mother said. Then with one of her quick changes she exclaimed in a low voice, Nann Sibbett, I have lain awake nights dreading the dismal month I was to spend at that forsaken summer resort. I just knew thered be ghosts in those boarded-up cottages, but now that youre going to be with me, I almost hope that something exciting will happen.

So do I! Nann agreed.

It was four oclock when the train, which consisted of an engine, two coaches and a chair-car, stopped in what seemed at first to be but wide stretches of meadows and marsh lands, but, peering ahead, the girls saw a few wooden buildings and a platform. Siquaw Center! the brakeman opened a door to announce. Miss Jane Moore sat up so suddenly, and when she threw back her veil she seemed so very wide awake, the girls found themselves wondering if she had really been asleep at all. The brakeman assisted the old woman to alight and placed her bags on the platform, then, hardly pausing, the train again was under way. Meadows and marshes stretched in all directions, but about a mile to the east the girls could see a wide expanse of gray-blue ocean.

I guess the name means the center of the marshes, Dori whispered, making a wry face while her aunt was talking to the station-master, a tall, lank, red-whiskered man in blue overalls who did not remove his cap nor stop chewing what seemed to be a rather large quid.

Yeah! the girls heard his reply to the womans question. Gibll fetch the stage right over. Quare time o year for yo to be comin out, Mis Moore, aint it? Yeah! I got your letter this here mornin. The supplies ar all ready to tote over to yer cottage.

The girls were wondering who Gib might be when they heard a rumbling beyond the wooden building and saw a very old stage coach drawn by a rather boney old white horse and driven by a tall, lank, red-headed boy. A small girl, with curls of the same color, sat on the high seat at his side. Hurry up, thar, you Gib Strait! the man, who was recognizable as the boys father, called to him. Come tote Mis Moores luggage. Then the man sauntered off, having not even glanced in the direction of the two girls, but the rather ungainly boy who was hurrying toward them was looking at them with but slightly concealed curiosity.

Miss Moore greeted him with, How do you do, Gibralter Strait. Upon hearing this astonishing name, the two girls found it hard not to laugh, but the lad, evidently understanding, smiled broadly and nodded awkwardly as Miss Moore solemnly proceeded to introduce him.

To cover his embarrassment, the lad hastened to say. Well, Miss Moore, sort o surprisin to see yo hereabouts this time o year. Be yo goin to the Pint?

The old woman looked at him scathingly. Well, Gibralter, where in heavens name would I be going? Im not crazy enough yet to stay long in the Center. Here, you take my bags; the girls can carry their own.

Yessum, Miss Moore, the boy flushed up to the roots of his red hair. He knew that he wasnt making a very good impression on the young ladies. He glanced at them furtively as they all walked toward the stage; then, when he saw them smiling toward him, not critically but in a most friendly fashion, there was merry response in his warm red-brown eyes. What he said was: If them bags are too hefty, set em down an Ill come back for em.

O, we can carry them easily, Nann assured him.

The small girl on the high seat was staring down at them with eyes and mouth open. She had on a nondescript dress which very evidently had been made over from a garment meant for someone older. When the girls glanced up, she smiled down at them, showing an open space where two front teeth were missing.

Whats your name, little one? Nann called up to her. The lad was inside the coach helping Miss Moore to settle among her bags.

The childs grin grew wilder, but she did not reply. Nann turned toward her brother, who was just emerging: What is your little sisters name? she asked.

The boy flushed. Nann and Dori decided that he was easily embarrassed or that he was unused to girls of his own age. But they better understood the flush when they heard the answer: Her names Behring. Then he hurried on to explain: I know our names are queer. It was Pas notion to give us geography names, being as our last is Strait. Thats why mines Gibralter. Yo kin laugh if yo want to, he added good-naturedly. I would if twasnt my name. Then in a low voice, with a swift glance toward the station, he confided, I mean to change my name when I come of age. I sure sartin do.

The girls felt at once that they would like this boy whose sensitive face expressed his every emotion and who had so evident a sense of humor. They were about to climb inside of the coach with Miss Moore when a shrill, querulous voice from a general store across from the station attracted their attention. A tall, angular woman in a skimp calico dress stood there. Howdy, Miss Moore, she called, then as though not expecting a reply to her salutation, she continued: Behring Strait, you come here right this minute and mind the baby. What yo gallavantin off fer, and me with the supper gettin to do? Nann and Dori glanced at each other merrily, each wondering which strait the baby was named after.

The small girl obeyed quickly. Mrs. Strait impressed the listeners as a woman who demanded instant obedience. As soon as the three passengers were settled inside, the coach started with a lurch. The sandy road wound through the wide, swampy meadows. It was rough and rutty. Miss Moore sat with closed eyes and, as she was wedged in between two heavy bags, she was not jounced about as much as were the girls. They took it good-naturedly, but Dories found it hard to imagine how she could have endured the journey if she had been alone with her queer Aunt Jane. Nann decided that the old woman feined sleep on all occasions to avoid the necessity of talking to them.

At last, even above the rattle of the old coach, could be heard the crashing surf on rocks, and the girls peered eagerly ahead. What they saw was a wide strip of sand and a row of weather-beaten cottages, boarded up, as Dori had prophesied, and beyond them white-crested, huge gray breakers rushing and roaring up on the sand.





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