The Phantom YachtŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďBecause I am convinced that since it, or he, doesnít 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 Iím going to sleep, and, if this loft bedroom of ours is just swarming with ghosts and mysterious lights, donít you waken me to look at them until morning.Ē
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.
ďItís Gibralter Strait, I do believe,Ē Nann declared, at once alert. Then, as she sprang up, she whispered, ďDo hurry, Dori. I feel ever so sure that we are this day starting on a thrilling adventure.Ē
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.
ďOh, Gibralter, what do you think?Ē Dories began at once in an excited whisper that they might not disturb Great-Aunt Jane, who, without doubt, was still asleep.
ďI dunno. What?Ē the boy was frankly curious.
ďWe saw it last night. We saw it with our very own eyes! Didnít we, Nann?Ē The other maiden agreed.
ďYou saw what?Ē asked the mystified boy, looking from one to the other. Then, comprehendingly, he added: ďGee, you doní mean as you saw the spook from the old ruin, do you?Ē
Dories nodded, but Nann modified: ďNot 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.Ē
ďWall,Ē the boy announced triumphantly, ďthat proves ítwas a spook, ícause human beings couldnít get a foothold out there, the rocks are so jagged and irregular like. But come along, maybe we can find footprints or suthiní.Ē
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.
ďOh, what a wonderful morning!Ē Nann exclaimed, throwing out her arms toward the sea and taking a deep breath.
ďItís good just to be alive.Ē
Dories agreed. ďItís hard to believe in ghosts on a day like this,Ē she declared.
ďThen why try?Ē 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: ďDo you see anything suspicious looking?Ē
ďNixy!Ē was the boyís reply. Then anxiously: ďDíye think yoí girls can climb on the tip-top rock?Ē Then, noting Doriesí anxious expression as she viewed the jagged cliff-like mass ahead of her, he concluded with. ďO, course yoí canít. Hold on, Iíll give yoí a hand.Ē
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.
ďThis is a dizzy height,Ē Dories said, looking down at the waves that were lazily breaking on the lowest rocks. ďBut thereís one thing that puzzles me and makes me think more than ever that what we saw last night was a ghost.Ē
ďI know,Ē Nann put in. ďI believe I am thinking the same thing. How could a man walk back and forth on these jagged rocks carrying a lantern?Ē
ďHuh,Ē their companion remarked, ďSpooks kin walk anywharís they choose.Ē
ďWhy, Gibralter Strait, I do believe that you think there is a ghost in Ė Ē 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. ďPoor, poor thing,Ē Nann said, ďhow sad and lonely it must be, for, I suppose, once upon a time it was very fine home filled with love and happiness. Wasnít it, Gibralter? If you know the story of the old house, please tell it to us?Ē
The boy cast a quick glance at the timid Dories. ďI dunno as Iíd ought to. She scares so easy,Ē he told them.
ďIíll promise not to scare this time,Ē Dories hastened to say. ďHonest, Gib, I am as eager to hear the story as Nann is, so please tell it.Ē
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.
ďWall,Ē he said, as he seated himself on a rock, motioning the girls to do likewise, ďI might as well start way back at the beginniní. Pa says that this here house was built nigh thirty year ago by a fine upstandiní man as called himself Colonel Wadbury and gave out that heíd come from Virginia for his galís health. Pa said the gal was a sad-lookiní creature as ever heíd set eyes on, aní bye aní bye ítwas rumored around Siquaw that she was in love aní wantiní to marry some furreigner, aní that the old Colonel had fetched her to this out-oí-the-way place so that he could keep watch on her. He sure sartin built her a fine mansion to live in.
ďPa said ítwas filled with paintinís of ancestors, and books aní queer furreign rugs a hanginí on the walls, though thar was plenty beside on the floor. Paíd been to a museum up to Boston onct, aní he said as ítwas purty much like that inside the place.
ďWall, when ítwas all finished, the two tuk to liviní in it with a man servant aní an old woman to keep an eye on the gal, seemed like.
ďíTwanít swamp around here in those days, ítwas sand, and the Colonel had a plant put in that grew all over Ė sand verbeny he called it, but folks in Siquaw Center shook their heads, knowiní as how the day would come when the old sea would rise up aní claim its own, beiní as that had all been ocean onct on a time.
ďPa says as how he tolí the Colonel that he was takiní big chances, buildiní a house as hefty as that thar one, on nothiní but sand, but that wanít all he built either. Furst off ítwas a high sea wall to keep the ocean back off his place, then ítwas a pier wií lights along it, and then he fetched a yacht from somewhere.
ďPa says heíd never seen a craft like it, aní heíd been a sea-fariní man ever since the North Star tuk to shininí, or a powerful long time, anyhow. That yacht, Pa says, was the whitest, mosí glisteniní thing heíd ever sot eyes on. Aní graceful! When the sailors, as wore white clothes, tuk to sailiní 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 kepí the poolhall nights, said it looked like a Ďphantom yacht,í aní thatís what folks got to calliní it.
ďPa says it was well named, for, if ever a ghost rode on it, ítwas the gal who went out sailiní every day. Sometimes the Colonel was with her, but most times ítwas the old woman, but she never was let to go alone. The Colonelís orders was that the sailors shouldnít go beyond the three miles that was American. He wasnít goiní to have his gal sailiní in waters that was shared by no furreigners, him beiní that sot agin them, like as not because the gal wanted to marry one of íem. So day arter day, early and late, Pa says, she sailed on her ĎPhantom Yachtí up and down but keepiní well this side oí the island over yonder.Ē
Gibralter had risen and was pointing out to sea. The girls stood at his side shading their eyes. ďThatís it!Ē he told them. ďThatís the island. Itís on the three-mile line, but Pa says itís the mosí treacherous island on this here coast, beiní as tharís hidden shoals fer half a mile all around it, aní tharís many a whiteniní skeleton out thar of fishiní boats that went too close.Ē The lad reseated himself and the girls did likewise. Then he resumed the tale. ďWall, so it went on all summer long. Pa says if youíd look out at sunrise likeís not tharíd be that yacht slidiní silent-like up and down. Pa says it got to hauntiní him. Heíd even come down here on moonlit nights aní, sure nuf, tharíd be that Phantom Yacht glidiní around, but one night suthiní happened as Pa says heíll never forget if he lives to be as old as Methusalahís grandfather.Ē
ďW-what happened?Ē the girls leaned forward. ďDid the yacht run on the shoals?Ē Nann asked eagerly.
Gibralter was thoroughly enjoying their suspense. ďWall,Ē he drawled, making the moment as dramatic as possible, ďílong about midnight, once, Pa heard a gallopiní horse cominí along the road from the sea. Pa knew thar wanít no one as rode horseback but the old Colonel himself, aní, beiní as heíd been gettiní gouty, he hadnít been doiní much ridiní of late days, Pa said, but thar was somethiní about the way the horse was gallopiní that made Pa sit right up in bed. He aní Maíd jest been married aní started keepiní house in the store right whar we live now. Pa woke up and they both listened. Then they heard someone holleriní aní Pa knew ítwas the old Colonelís voice, aní Ma said, ĎLikeís not someoneís sick over to the mansion!í Pa got into his clothes fast as greased lightniní, took a lantern and went down to the porch, and thar was the olí Colonel wiíout any hat on. His gray hair was all rumped up and his eyes was wild-like. Pa said the olí Colonel was brown as leather most times, but that night he was white as sheets.
ďAs soon as the Colonel saw Pa, he hollered, ĎWhar kin I get a steam launch? I wanta foller my daughter. She aní the woman that takes keer oí her is plumb gone, aní, whatís more, my yachtís gone too. Theyíve made off wií it. That scalawag of a furriner thatís been wantiní to marry her has kidnapped íem all. Sheís only seventeen, my daughter is, aní Iíll have the law on him.í
ďPa said when he got up clost to the horse the Colonel was ridiní, he could see the old man was shakiní like he had the palsy. Pa didnít 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 heíd take the train aní go up the coast to a town whar he could get a launch aní heíd chase arter that slow-sailiní yacht aní heíd have the law on whoever was kidnappiní his daughter.
ďThe olí Colonel was in an awful state, Pa said. He went into the store part oí our house and paced up aní down, aní up aní down, aní up aní down, till Pa thought he must be goiní crazy, aní every onct in a while heíd mutter, like ítwas just for himself to hear, ĎSheíll pay fer this, Darlina will!íĒ
The boy looked up and smiled at his listeners. ďQueer name, wasnít it?Ē he queried. ďMost as funny as my name, but I guess likely ítaint quite.Ē
ďI suppose they wanted to call her something that meant darling,Ē Dories began, but Nann put in eagerly with, ďOh, 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 didnít.Ē
ďWall, than yoí get what yer hopiní fer, all right. About a week arter heíd took the early morniní train along back came the olí Colonel, Pa said, aní he looked ten year older. He didnít síplain nothiní, but gave Pa some money fer takiní keer oí his horse while heíd been gone, aní then back he came here to his house aní lived shut in all by himself aní his man-servant for nigh ten year, Pa said. Nobody ever set eyes on him; his man-servant beiní the only one who came to the store for mail aní supplies, aní he never said nuthiní, tho Pa said now aní then heíd ask if Darlinaíd been heard from. He knew when heíd ask, Pa said, as how he wouldnít get any answer, but he couldnít help askiní; he was that interested. But arter a time folks around here began to think morneín like the Phantom Yacht, as Paíd called it, had gone to the bottom before it reached wherever ítwas theyíd been headiní fer, when all of a sudden somethiní happened. Gee, but Pa said heíd never been so excited before in all his days as he was the day that somethiní happened. It was ten year ago aní Paíd jest had a letter from yer aunt Ė Ē the boy leaned over to nod at Dori, ďaskiní him to go to the Point aní open up her cottage as sheíd built the summer before. Thar was only two cottages on the shore then; hers aní the Burtonsí, thatís nearest the point. Pa said as how he thought heíd get down thar before sun up, soís he could get back in time to open up the store, beiní as Ma wanít well, aní so he set off to walk to the beach.
ďPa said he was up on the roof of the front porch takiní the blind off thet little front window in the loft whar yoí girls sleep when the gray dawn over to the east sort oí got pink. Pa said ítwas such a purty sight he turned íround to watch it a spell when, all of a sudden sailiní 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 oí the water. Pa said he had to hold on, he was so sure it was a spook boat. He couldnít no-how believe ítwas real, but thar came up a spry wind wií the sun aní 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 aní slid right down the roof and made fer a place as near the long dock as he could aní hid behind some rocks aní waited. Pa said nothiní happened fer two hours, or seemed that long to him; then out of that yacht stepped the mosí beautiful young woman as Paíd ever set eyes on. He knew at onct ítwas the olí Colonelís daughter growed up. She was dressed all in white jest like sheíd used to be, but what was different was the two kids she had holdiní on to her hands. One was a boy, Pa said, about nine year old, dressed in black velvet wií a white lace color. Pa said he was a handsome little fellar, but ítwas the wee girl, Pa said, that looked like a gold and white angel wií long yellow curls. She was youngerín the boy by nigh two year, Pa reckoned. Their maís face was pale and looked like sufferiní, Pa said, as she aní 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 goiní on up to the house, but from whar he hid he couldnít see no more, aní so beiní as he had to go on back to open up the store, he didnít see what the meetiní between the olí Colonel aní his daughter was like. How-some-ever it couldnít oí been very pleasant, fer along about noon, Pa said he recollected as how he had fergot to take off the blind on yer auntís cottage, aní knowiní how mad sheíd be, he locked up the store aní went back down to the beach, aní the first thing he saw was that glisteniní white yacht a-sailiní away. The wind had been gettiní stiffer all the morniní aní Pa said as he watched the yacht roundiní the island, it looked to him like it was bound to go on the shoals aní be wrecked on the rocks. Whoever was steeriní Pa said, didnít seem to know nothiní about the reefs. Pa stood stariní till the yacht was out of sight, aní then he heard a holleriní aní yelliní down the beach, aní thar come the olí man-servant runniní aní stumbliní aní shoutiní to Pa to come quick.
ďĎColonel Wadburyís took a stroke!í was what he was holleriní, aní so Pa follered arter him as fast as he could aní when they got into the big library-room, whar all the books aní pictures was, Pa saw the olí Colonel on the floor aní his face was all drawed up somethiní awful. Pa helped the man-servant get him to bed, and fer onct the man-servant was williní to talk. He told Pa all that had happened. He said how Darlinaís furrin husband had died aní how she wanted to come back to America to live. She didnít ask to live wií her Pa, but she did want him to give her the deed to a country place near Boston. It ípears her ma had left it for her to have when she got to be eighteen, but the olí Colonel wouldnít give her the papers, though they was hers by rights, aní he wouldnít even look at the two children; he jest turned íem all right out, and then as soon as they was gone, he tuk a stroke. íTwanít likely, so Pa said, heíd ever be able to speak again. The man-servant said as the last words the olí Colonel spoke was to call a curse down on his daughterís head.
ďWall, the curse come all right,Ē Gibralter nodded in the direction of the crumbling ruin, ďbut ítwas himself as it hit.
ďYouíll recollect awhile back I was mentioniní that folks in Siquaw Center had warned olí Colonel Wadbury not to build a hefty house on shiftiní sand that was lowerín the sea. Thar was nothiní keepiní the water back but a wall oí rocks. But the Colonel sort oí dared Fate to do its worst, and Fate tuk the dare.
ďWhen November set in, Pa says, folks in town began to take in reefs, so to speak; shuttiní the blinds over their windows and boltiní íem on to the inside. Gettiní ready for the noríeaster that usually came at that time oí year, sort oí headiní the procession oí winter storms. Wall, it came all right; aní though ítwas allays purty lively, Pa says that one beat all former records, and was a howliní hurricane. Folks didnít put their heads out oí doors, day or night, while it lasted, aní some of íem camped in their cellars. That thar storm had all the accompaniments. Thar was hail beatiní down as big and hard as marbles, but the windows, haviní blinds on íem, didnít get smashed. Then it warmed up some, and how it rained! Pa says Noahís flood was a dribble beside it, heís sure sartin. Then the wind tuk a turn, and how it howled and blustered. All the outbuildinís toppled right over; but the houses in Siquaw Center was built to stand, and they stood. Then on the third night, Pa says, ílong about midnight, thar was a roariní noise, louderín wind or rain. It was kinder far off at first, but seemed like ítwas cominí nearer. ĎThat thar stone wallís broke down,í Pa told Ma, Ďaní the seaís coveriní the lowland.í
ďWall, Pa was right. The tide had never risen so high in the memory of Olí 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 aní the walls fell jest like yoí see íem now.
ďThe next morniní the sky was clear aní smiliní, as though nothiní had happened, or else as though ítwas pleased with its work. Pa and Gus Pilsley aní some other Siquaw men made for the coast to see what the damage had been, but they couldnít get within half a mile, beiní as the road was under water. How-some-ever, íbout a week later, the road, beiní higher, dried; but the water never left the lowlands, aní thatís how the swamp come all about the old ruin Ė reeds and things grew up, just like ítis today.
ďPa and Gus come up to this here point aní looked down at what was left of the fine stone house. ĎíPears like it served him right,í was what the two of íem said. Then they went away, and the olí place was left alone. Folks never tried to get to the ruin, sayiní as the marsh around it was oozy, and would draw a body right in.Ē
ďBut what became of old Colonel Wadbury and the man-servant?Ē Dories inquired.
ďDunno,Ē the boy replied, laconically. ďSome thar be as guess one thing, and some another. Olí Timer said as how heíd seen two men board the train that passes through Siquaw Center ílong íbout two in the morniní, but Pa says the storm was fiercest then, and no trains went through for three days; and whoíd be out to see, if it had? Pa thinks they tried to get away aní was washed out to sea aní drowned, aní I guess likely thatís what happened, all right.ĒŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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