Carol Norton.

The Phantom Yacht





Because I am convinced that since it, or he, doesnt know of my existence, I am not the object of the search, so why should I be afraid? Now, Miss Dories Moore, if you wish to stay awake speculating as to what became of that light, you may, but Im going to sleep, and, if this loft bedroom of ours is just swarming with ghosts and mysterious lights, dont you waken me to look at them until morning.

So saying, Nann curled up and went to sleep. Dories, fearing that she would again be awakened by a light, drew the quilt up over her head so that she could not see it.

Although she was nearly smothered, like an ostrich, she felt safer, and in time she too slept, but she dreamed of headless horsemen and hollow-eyed skeletons that walked out on the rocky point at midnight carrying lanterns.

It was nearing dawn when a low whistle outside awakened the girls.

Its Gibralter Strait, I do believe, Nann declared, at once alert. Then, as she sprang up, she whispered, Do hurry, Dori. I feel ever so sure that we are this day starting on a thrilling adventure.

CHAPTER VII
THE PHANTOM YACHT

The girls dressed hurriedly and silently, then crept down the boarded-in stairway and emerged upon the back porch of the cottage. It was not yet dawn, but a rosy glow in the east assured them that the day was near.

The waiting lad knew that the girls had something to tell, nor was he wrong.

Oh, Gibralter, what do you think? Dories began at once in an excited whisper that they might not disturb Great-Aunt Jane, who, without doubt, was still asleep.

I dunno. What? the boy was frankly curious.

We saw it last night. We saw it with our very own eyes! Didnt we, Nann? The other maiden agreed.

You saw what? asked the mystified boy, looking from one to the other. Then, comprehendingly, he added: Gee, you don mean as you saw the spook from the old ruin, do you?

Dories nodded, but Nann modified: Not that, Gibralter. Since there is no such thing as a ghost, how could we see it? But we did see the light you were telling about. Someone was walking along the rocks out on the point carrying a lighted lantern.

Wall, the boy announced triumphantly, that proves twas a spook, cause human beings couldnt get a foothold out there, the rocks are so jagged and irregular like. But come along, maybe we can find footprints or suthin.

The sun was just rising out of the sea when the three young people stole back of the boarded-up cottages that stood in a silent row, and emerged upon the wide stretch of sandy beach that led toward the point.

The tide was low and the waves small and far out. The wet sand glistened with myriad colors as the sun rose higher. The air was tinglingly cold and, once out of hearing of the aunt, the girls, no longer fearful, ran along on the hard sand, laughing and shouting joyfully, while the boy, to express the exuberance of his feelings, occasionally turned a hand-spring just ahead of them.

Oh, what a wonderful morning! Nann exclaimed, throwing out her arms toward the sea and taking a deep breath.

Its good just to be alive.

Dories agreed. Its hard to believe in ghosts on a day like this, she declared.

Then why try? Nan merrily questioned.

They had reached the high headland of jagged rocks that stretched out into the sea, and Gibralter, bounding ahead, climbed from one rock to another, sure-footed as a goat but the girls remained on the sand.

When he turned, they called up to him: Do you see anything suspicious looking?

Nixy! was the boys reply. Then anxiously: Dye think yo girls can climb on the tip-top rock? Then, noting Dories anxious expression as she viewed the jagged cliff-like mass ahead of her, he concluded with. O, course yo cant. Hold on, Ill give yo a hand.

Very carefully the boy selected crevices that made stairs on which to climb, and the girls, delighted with the adventure, soon arrived on the highest rock, which they were glad to find was so huge and flat that they could all stand there without fear of falling.

This is a dizzy height, Dories said, looking down at the waves that were lazily breaking on the lowest rocks. But theres one thing that puzzles me and makes me think more than ever that what we saw last night was a ghost.

I know, Nann put in. I believe I am thinking the same thing. How could a man walk back and forth on these jagged rocks carrying a lantern?

Huh, their companion remarked, Spooks kin walk anywhars they choose.

Why, Gibralter Strait, I do believe that you think there is a ghost in She paused and turned to look in the direction that the boy was pointing. On the other side of the point, below them, was a swamp, dense with high rattling tullies and cat-tails. It looked dark and treacherous, for, as yet, the sunlight had not reached it. About two hundred feet back from the sea stood the forlorn ruin of what had once been, apparently, a fine stone mansion.

Two stained white pillars, standing in front, were like ghostly sentinels telling where the spacious porch had been. Behind them were jagged heaps of crumbling rock, all that remained of the front and side walls. The wall in the rear was still standing, and from it the roof, having lost its support in front, pitched forward with great yawning gaps in it, where chimneys had been.

Dories unconsciously clung to her friend as they stood gazing down at the old ruin. Poor, poor thing, Nann said, how sad and lonely it must be, for, I suppose, once upon a time it was very fine home filled with love and happiness. Wasnt it, Gibralter? If you know the story of the old house, please tell it to us?

The boy cast a quick glance at the timid Dories. I dunno as Id ought to. She scares so easy, he told them.

Ill promise not to scare this time, Dories hastened to say. Honest, Gib, I am as eager to hear the story as Nann is, so please tell it.

Thus urged, the boy began. He did not speak, however, in his usual merry, bantering voice, but in a hollow whisper which he believed better fitted to the tale he had to tell.

Wall, he said, as he seated himself on a rock, motioning the girls to do likewise, I might as well start way back at the beginnin. Pa says that this here house was built nigh thirty year ago by a fine upstandin man as called himself Colonel Wadbury and gave out that hed come from Virginia for his gals health. Pa said the gal was a sad-lookin creature as ever hed set eyes on, an bye an bye twas rumored around Siquaw that she was in love an wantin to marry some furreigner, an that the old Colonel had fetched her to this out-o-the-way place so that he could keep watch on her. He sure sartin built her a fine mansion to live in.

Pa said twas filled with paintins of ancestors, and books an queer furreign rugs a hangin on the walls, though thar was plenty beside on the floor. Pad been to a museum up to Boston onct, an he said as twas purty much like that inside the place.

Wall, when twas all finished, the two tuk to livin in it with a man servant an an old woman to keep an eye on the gal, seemed like.

Twant swamp around here in those days, twas sand, and the Colonel had a plant put in that grew all over sand verbeny he called it, but folks in Siquaw Center shook their heads, knowin as how the day would come when the old sea would rise up an claim its own, bein as that had all been ocean onct on a time.

Pa says as how he tol the Colonel that he was takin big chances, buildin a house as hefty as that thar one, on nothin but sand, but that want all he built either. Furst off twas a high sea wall to keep the ocean back off his place, then twas a pier wi lights along it, and then he fetched a yacht from somewhere.

Pa says hed never seen a craft like it, an hed been a sea-farin man ever since the North Star tuk to shinin, or a powerful long time, anyhow. That yacht, Pa says, was the whitest, mos glistenin thing hed ever sot eyes on. An graceful! When the sailors, as wore white clothes, tuk to sailin it up and down, Pa says folks from Siquaw Center tuk a holiday just to come down to the shore to watch the craft. It slid along so silent and was so all-over white, Gus Pilsley, him as was school teacher days and kep the poolhall nights, said it looked like a phantom yacht, an thats what folks got to callin it.

Pa says it was well named, for, if ever a ghost rode on it, twas the gal who went out sailin every day. Sometimes the Colonel was with her, but most times twas the old woman, but she never was let to go alone. The Colonels orders was that the sailors shouldnt go beyond the three miles that was American. He wasnt goin to have his gal sailin in waters that was shared by no furreigners, him bein that sot agin them, like as not because the gal wanted to marry one of em. So day arter day, early and late, Pa says, she sailed on her Phantom Yacht up and down but keepin well this side o the island over yonder.

Gibralter had risen and was pointing out to sea. The girls stood at his side shading their eyes. Thats it! he told them. Thats the island. Its on the three-mile line, but Pa says its the mos treacherous island on this here coast, bein as thars hidden shoals fer half a mile all around it, an thars many a whitenin skeleton out thar of fishin boats that went too close. The lad reseated himself and the girls did likewise. Then he resumed the tale. Wall, so it went on all summer long. Pa says if youd look out at sunrise likes not thard be that yacht slidin silent-like up and down. Pa says it got to hauntin him. Hed even come down here on moonlit nights an, sure nuf, thard be that Phantom Yacht glidin around, but one night suthin happened as Pa says hell never forget if he lives to be as old as Methusalahs grandfather.

W-what happened? the girls leaned forward. Did the yacht run on the shoals? Nann asked eagerly.

CHAPTER VIII
WHAT HAPPENED

Gibralter was thoroughly enjoying their suspense. Wall, he drawled, making the moment as dramatic as possible, long about midnight, once, Pa heard a gallopin horse comin along the road from the sea. Pa knew thar want no one as rode horseback but the old Colonel himself, an, bein as hed been gettin gouty, he hadnt been doin much ridin of late days, Pa said, but thar was somethin about the way the horse was gallopin that made Pa sit right up in bed. He an Mad jest been married an started keepin house in the store right whar we live now. Pa woke up and they both listened. Then they heard someone hollerin an Pa knew twas the old Colonels voice, an Ma said, Likes not someones sick over to the mansion! Pa got into his clothes fast as greased lightnin, took a lantern and went down to the porch, and thar was the ol Colonel wiout any hat on. His gray hair was all rumped up and his eyes was wild-like. Pa said the ol Colonel was brown as leather most times, but that night he was white as sheets.

As soon as the Colonel saw Pa, he hollered, Whar kin I get a steam launch? I wanta foller my daughter. She an the woman that takes keer o her is plumb gone, an, whats more, my yachts gone too. Theyve made off wi it. That scalawag of a furriner thats been wantin to marry her has kidnapped em all. Shes only seventeen, my daughter is, an Ill have the law on him.

Pa said when he got up clost to the horse the Colonel was ridin, he could see the old man was shakin like he had the palsy. Pa didnt know no place at all whar a steam launch could be had, leastwise not near enuf to Siquaw to help any, so the old Colonel said hed take the train an go up the coast to a town whar he could get a launch an hed chase arter that slow-sailin yacht an hed have the law on whoever was kidnappin his daughter.

The ol Colonel was in an awful state, Pa said. He went into the store part o our house and paced up an down, an up an down, an up an down, till Pa thought he must be goin crazy, an every onct in a while hed mutter, like twas just for himself to hear, Shell pay fer this, Darlina will!

The boy looked up and smiled at his listeners. Queer name, wasnt it? he queried. Most as funny as my name, but I guess likely taint quite.

I suppose they wanted to call her something that meant darling, Dories began, but Nann put in eagerly with, Oh, Gib, do go on. What happened next? Did the old Colonel go somewhere and get a fast boat and overtake the yacht. I do hope that he didnt.

Wall, than yo get what yer hopin fer, all right. About a week arter hed took the early mornin train along back came the ol Colonel, Pa said, an he looked ten year older. He didnt splain nothin, but gave Pa some money fer takin keer o his horse while hed been gone, an then back he came here to his house an lived shut in all by himself an his man-servant for nigh ten year, Pa said. Nobody ever set eyes on him; his man-servant bein the only one who came to the store for mail an supplies, an he never said nuthin, tho Pa said now an then hed ask if Darlinad been heard from. He knew when hed ask, Pa said, as how he wouldnt get any answer, but he couldnt help askin; he was that interested. But arter a time folks around here began to think mornen like the Phantom Yacht, as Pad called it, had gone to the bottom before it reached wherever twas theyd been headin fer, when all of a sudden somethin happened. Gee, but Pa said hed never been so excited before in all his days as he was the day that somethin happened. It was ten year ago an Pad jest had a letter from yer aunt the boy leaned over to nod at Dori, askin him to go to the Point an open up her cottage as shed built the summer before. Thar was only two cottages on the shore then; hers an the Burtons, thats nearest the point. Pa said as how he thought hed get down thar before sun up, sos he could get back in time to open up the store, bein as Ma want well, an so he set off to walk to the beach.

Pa said he was up on the roof of the front porch takin the blind off thet little front window in the loft whar yo girls sleep when the gray dawn over to the east sort o got pink. Pa said twas such a purty sight he turned round to watch it a spell when, all of a sudden sailin right around that long, rocky island out thar, what should he see but the Phantom Yacht, her white sails glistening as the sun rose up out o the water. Pa said he had to hold on, he was so sure it was a spook boat. He couldnt no-how believe twas real, but thar came up a spry wind wi the sun an that yacht sailed as purty as could be right up to the long dock whar the sailors tied it. Wall, Pa said he was so flabbergasted that he fergot all about the blind he was to take off an slid right down the roof and made fer a place as near the long dock as he could an hid behind some rocks an waited. Pa said nothin happened fer two hours, or seemed that long to him; then out of that yacht stepped the mos beautiful young woman as Pad ever set eyes on. He knew at onct twas the ol Colonels daughter growed up. She was dressed all in white jest like shed used to be, but what was different was the two kids she had holdin on to her hands. One was a boy, Pa said, about nine year old, dressed in black velvet wi a white lace color. Pa said he was a handsome little fellar, but twas the wee girl, Pa said, that looked like a gold and white angel wi long yellow curls. She was youngern the boy by nigh two year, Pa reckoned. Their mas face was pale and looked like sufferin, Pa said, as she an her children walked up to the sea wall and went up over the stone steps thar was then to climb over it. Pa knew they was goin on up to the house, but from whar he hid he couldnt see no more, an so bein as he had to go on back to open up the store, he didnt see what the meetin between the ol Colonel an his daughter was like. How-some-ever it couldnt o been very pleasant, fer along about noon, Pa said he recollected as how he had fergot to take off the blind on yer aunts cottage, an knowin how mad shed be, he locked up the store an went back down to the beach, an the first thing he saw was that glistenin white yacht a-sailin away. The wind had been gettin stiffer all the mornin an Pa said as he watched the yacht roundin the island, it looked to him like it was bound to go on the shoals an be wrecked on the rocks. Whoever was steerin Pa said, didnt seem to know nothin about the reefs. Pa stood starin till the yacht was out of sight, an then he heard a hollerin an yellin down the beach, an thar come the ol man-servant runnin an stumblin an shoutin to Pa to come quick.

Colonel Wadburys took a stroke! was what he was hollerin, an so Pa follered arter him as fast as he could an when they got into the big library-room, whar all the books an pictures was, Pa saw the ol Colonel on the floor an his face was all drawed up somethin awful. Pa helped the man-servant get him to bed, and fer onct the man-servant was willin to talk. He told Pa all that had happened. He said how Darlinas furrin husband had died an how she wanted to come back to America to live. She didnt ask to live wi her Pa, but she did want him to give her the deed to a country place near Boston. It pears her ma had left it for her to have when she got to be eighteen, but the ol Colonel wouldnt give her the papers, though they was hers by rights, an he wouldnt even look at the two children; he jest turned em all right out, and then as soon as they was gone, he tuk a stroke. Twant likely, so Pa said, hed ever be able to speak again. The man-servant said as the last words the ol Colonel spoke was to call a curse down on his daughters head.

Wall, the curse come all right, Gibralter nodded in the direction of the crumbling ruin, but twas himself as it hit.

Youll recollect awhile back I was mentionin that folks in Siquaw Center had warned ol Colonel Wadbury not to build a hefty house on shiftin sand that was lowern the sea. Thar was nothin keepin the water back but a wall o rocks. But the Colonel sort o dared Fate to do its worst, and Fate tuk the dare.

When November set in, Pa says, folks in town began to take in reefs, so to speak; shuttin the blinds over their windows and boltin em on to the inside. Gettin ready for the noreaster that usually came at that time o year, sort o headin the procession o winter storms. Wall, it came all right; an though twas allays purty lively, Pa says that one beat all former records, and was a howlin hurricane. Folks didnt put their heads out o doors, day or night, while it lasted, an some of em camped in their cellars. That thar storm had all the accompaniments. Thar was hail beatin down as big and hard as marbles, but the windows, havin blinds on em, didnt get smashed. Then it warmed up some, and how it rained! Pa says Noahs flood was a dribble beside it, hes sure sartin. Then the wind tuk a turn, and how it howled and blustered. All the outbuildins toppled right over; but the houses in Siquaw Center was built to stand, and they stood. Then on the third night, Pa says, long about midnight, thar was a roarin noise, loudern wind or rain. It was kinder far off at first, but seemed like twas comin nearer. That thar stone walls broke down, Pa told Ma, an the seas coverin the lowland.

Wall, Pa was right. The tide had never risen so high in the memory of Ol Timer as had been around these parts nigh a hundred years. The waves had banged agin that wall till it went down; then they swirled around the house till they dug the sand out an the walls fell jest like yo see em now.

The next mornin the sky was clear an smilin, as though nothin had happened, or else as though twas pleased with its work. Pa and Gus Pilsley an some other Siquaw men made for the coast to see what the damage had been, but they couldnt get within half a mile, bein as the road was under water. How-some-ever, bout a week later, the road, bein higher, dried; but the water never left the lowlands, an thats how the swamp come all about the old ruin reeds and things grew up, just like tis today.

Pa and Gus come up to this here point an looked down at what was left of the fine stone house. Pears like it served him right, was what the two of em said. Then they went away, and the ol place was left alone. Folks never tried to get to the ruin, sayin as the marsh around it was oozy, and would draw a body right in.

But what became of old Colonel Wadbury and the man-servant? Dories inquired.

Dunno, the boy replied, laconically. Some thar be as guess one thing, and some another. Ol Timer said as how hed seen two men board the train that passes through Siquaw Center long bout two in the mornin, but Pa says the storm was fiercest then, and no trains went through for three days; and whod be out to see, if it had? Pa thinks they tried to get away an was washed out to sea an drowned, an I guess likely thats what happened, all right.





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