The Phantom Yachtñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Because I am convinced that since it, or he, doesn’t 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 I’m going to sleep, and, if this loft bedroom of ours is just swarming with ghosts and mysterious lights, don’t 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.
“It’s 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.”
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! Didn’t 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 couldn’t 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.
“It’s good just to be alive.”
Dories agreed. “It’s 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 boy’s reply. Then anxiously: “D’ye 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’ can’t. Hold on, I’ll 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 there’s 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 anywhar’s 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. Wasn’t 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 I’d ought to. She scares so easy,” he told them.
“I’ll 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 he’d come from Virginia for his gal’s health. Pa said the gal was a sad-lookin’ creature as ever he’d 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 paintin’s of ancestors, and books an’ queer furreign rugs a hangin’ on the walls, though thar was plenty beside on the floor. Pa’d 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.
“’Twan’t 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 wan’t 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 he’d never seen a craft like it, an’ he’d 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 he’d 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’ that’s 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 Colonel’s orders was that the sailors shouldn’t go beyond the three miles that was American. He wasn’t 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. “That’s it!” he told them. “That’s the island. It’s on the three-mile line, but Pa says it’s the mos’ treacherous island on this here coast, bein’ as thar’s hidden shoals fer half a mile all around it, an’ thar’s 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 you’d look out at sunrise like’s not thar’d be that yacht slidin’ silent-like up and down. Pa says it got to hauntin’ him. He’d even come down here on moonlit nights an’, sure nuf, thar’d be that Phantom Yacht glidin’ around, but one night suthin’ happened as Pa says he’ll never forget if he lives to be as old as Methusalah’s grandfather.”
“W-what happened?” the girls leaned forward. “Did the yacht run on the shoals?” Nann asked eagerly.
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 wan’t no one as rode horseback but the old Colonel himself, an’, bein’ as he’d been gettin’ gouty, he hadn’t 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’ Ma’d 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 Colonel’s voice, an’ Ma said, ‘Like’s not someone’s 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 wi’out 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’, what’s more, my yacht’s gone too. They’ve made off wi’ it. That scalawag of a furriner that’s been wantin’ to marry her has kidnapped ’em all. She’s only seventeen, my daughter is, an’ I’ll 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 didn’t 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 he’d take the train an’ go up the coast to a town whar he could get a launch an’ he’d chase arter that slow-sailin’ yacht an’ he’d 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 he’d mutter, like ’twas just for himself to hear, ‘She’ll pay fer this, Darlina will!’”
The boy looked up and smiled at his listeners. “Queer name, wasn’t 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 didn’t.”
“Wall, than yo’ get what yer hopin’ fer, all right. About a week arter he’d took the early mornin’ train along back came the ol’ Colonel, Pa said, an’ he looked ten year older. He didn’t s’plain nothin’, but gave Pa some money fer takin’ keer o’ his horse while he’d 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 he’d ask if Darlina’d been heard from. He knew when he’d ask, Pa said, as how he wouldn’t get any answer, but he couldn’t help askin’; he was that interested. But arter a time folks around here began to think morne’n like the Phantom Yacht, as Pa’d called it, had gone to the bottom before it reached wherever ’twas they’d been headin’ fer, when all of a sudden somethin’ happened. Gee, but Pa said he’d never been so excited before in all his days as he was the day that somethin’ happened. It was ten year ago an’ Pa’d 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 she’d built the summer before. Thar was only two cottages on the shore then; hers an’ the Burtons’, that’s nearest the point. Pa said as how he thought he’d get down thar before sun up, so’s he could get back in time to open up the store, bein’ as Ma wan’t 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 couldn’t 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 Pa’d ever set eyes on. He knew at onct ’twas the ol’ Colonel’s daughter growed up. She was dressed all in white jest like she’d 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 younger’n the boy by nigh two year, Pa reckoned. Their ma’s 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 couldn’t see no more, an’ so bein’ as he had to go on back to open up the store, he didn’t see what the meetin’ between the ol’ Colonel an’ his daughter was like. How-some-ever it couldn’t o’ been very pleasant, fer along about noon, Pa said he recollected as how he had fergot to take off the blind on yer aunt’s cottage, an’ knowin’ how mad she’d 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, didn’t 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 Wadbury’s 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 Darlina’s furrin husband had died an’ how she wanted to come back to America to live. She didn’t 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 wouldn’t give her the papers, though they was hers by rights, an’ he wouldn’t 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. ’Twan’t likely, so Pa said, he’d 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 daughter’s head.
“Wall, the curse come all right,” Gibralter nodded in the direction of the crumbling ruin, “but ’twas himself as it hit.
“You’ll 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 lower’n 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 nor’easter 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 didn’t 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, didn’t get smashed. Then it warmed up some, and how it rained! Pa says Noah’s flood was a dribble beside it, he’s sure sartin. Then the wind tuk a turn, and how it howled and blustered. All the outbuildin’s 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, louder’n wind or rain. It was kinder far off at first, but seemed like ’twas comin’ nearer. ‘That thar stone wall’s broke down,’ Pa told Ma, ‘an’ the sea’s 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 couldn’t 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’ that’s 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 he’d 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 who’d 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 that’s what happened, all right.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
ñòðàíèöû: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14