Carol Norton.

The Phantom Yacht





Although Dories was not enthusiastic over the prospect of capturing a ghost in a woodshed on so dark a fog-damp night, yet, since her companion was ready to start, she couldnt refuse to accompany her, and so, after closing the kitchen door, they stole along the path leading from the porch to the shed that was nearer the swamp. Suddenly Dories clutched her friends arm, whispering, Hark. Whats that?

Its the ghost. Hes still in there. This triumphantly from Nann, the fearless. Thats the same scrambling noise that I heard before. Come on. Dont be afraid. Ill throw open the door and at least well see who it is.

Leaping forward, Nann unbolted the door and held up the lantern. The shed was as empty as it had been before, and there was nothing at all in the barrel.

Dories sigh was one of relief, and she fairly darted back to the warm kitchen, nor did she breathe naturally until the outer door was bolted. Then Nann inquired, What did the note say. We forgot to read it? Stooping, she took it from under a splinter of wood and, opening it, read: In ten days you will know all.

CHAPTER XVII
MORE MYSTERIES

Long after Dories slept that night Nann lay awake thinking of the several mysteries surrounding them. Who was leaving the notes in places where the girls could not help finding them; who was carrying a lantern on the rocky point at night; was it the same light that was seen in the old ruin by people living in Siquaw Center, and why had the blind in the Burton cottage opened ever so little and then closed again as though someone had peered out at them for a brief moment? It was indeed puzzling. Could it possibly have anything to do with the Phantom Yacht? Nann decided that was impossible. At last she fell asleep. When she awakened it was nearly dawn. The fog had drifted away, the stars shone out and the full moon made it as light as day.

Nann, the fearless, decided to dress and go out on the sand and look at the Burton cottage. She was nearly dressed before she realized that if Dories woke and found her gone, she might scream out in her fright and waken the old woman, and so she shook her gently, whispering her plan. Dories eyes showed her terror at being left alone. She got up at once. I simply will not stay in this haunted loft, she declared vehemently. Im going with you. As it was still dark they took the lighted lantern with them, but when they reached the back porch, Nann whispered that they would have to put out the light as they would be seen if, indeed, there was anyone to see them. Well take it, though. I have matches in my pocket. Well light it if we need it.

Dories clung to her friends hand as Nann led the way back of the row of boarded-up cottages. When they reached the seventh, Dories suddenly drew back and whispered, Nann, why are we doing this? What are you expecting to see? Im simply scared to death. Her companion realized that this was true, since Dories teeth were chattering.

Self-rebukingly, she said, O, I ought not have brought you. In fact, I probably shouldnt have come myself, but I am so eager to solve at least one of the mysteries that surround us. Then she told how she had been sure that she had seen a blind open ever so slightly and close late the afternoon before as though someone had been watching them. I thought if someone goes every night to the old ruin and returns to the Burton cottage to hide during the day, he probably comes just about this hour, and that if we were watching, we might at least see what the the well whoever it is looks like. They had crouched down in the shadow of the seventh cottage as Nann made this explanation.

Slowly the darkness lightened, the stars and moon dimmed and the east became gray; then rosy, but still there had been no sign of anyone entering the Burton cabin. Nann had been sure that an entrance could not be made in the front of the cottage as the lower windows and door on that side were securely boarded up. The back door was not boarded, and so that was where she was watching.

An hour dragged slowly by. The sun rose and was well on its apparent upward way, and still no one appeared.

Dont you think that maybe you imagined it all? Dories inquired at length as she tried to change her position, having become stiffened from crouching so long.

Why, no, I am sure that I didnt. Then, fearless as usual, Nann announced, Im going up to the back porch and try the door.

This she did, and to her surprise it opened, creaking noisily as it swung on rusty hinges.

Dories leaped to her side. Gracious, Nann, are you going in? she whispered tragically. If anyone is in there, he might lock us in or something.

Nann turned to reply, but instead she exclaimed: Why, Dories Moore, youre whiter than any sheet I ever saw. If youre that scared, wed better go right home.

I am! Dories nodded miserably. I wouldnt any more dare go into this cottage than than

Then we wont. Nann took her friend by the hand and together they went down the back steps, and Dories said: Id rather go home by the front beach if you dont mind. Its more open. Theres something so uncanny about the swamps at the back.

Anything to please, was the laughing reply. As they rounded the cottage, Nann looked curiously at the upper windows, and was sure that she saw the same blind open ever so little, then close again. She said nothing of this, and tried to change the trend of her companions thoughts by talking about Gibralter Strait and wondering if they would see him during that day which had just dawned. Nann was deciding that she would take Gib into her confidence. A boy as fearless as he was would not mind entering the Burton cottage and finding out why that upper blind had opened and closed as it seemed to do.

As they neared their home cabin, Dories became more like her natural self and even skipped along the hard beach, laughing back at Nann as she called, Another glorious, sparkling day! I hope something interesting is going to happen.

I believe something will, Nann replied. They were nearing the front steps when Dories stood still, pointing, Look at that stone lying in the middle of the top step. How do you suppose it ever got there?

Nann shook her head and, leaping up the steps, she lifted the small rock, then turned back, exclaiming: Just what I thought! Here is todays note from your ghost. Its much too clever for us. Then she read: In nine days you shall know all.

Not wishing to awaken Miss Moore at so early an hour, the girls tiptoed down the steps and went around to the back of the cabin.

Lets look in the woodshed by daylight, Nann suggested as she unbolted the door. Nothing within, just as I supposed, she remarked. Humm-ho. Were not very good detectives, I guess.

They started walking toward the kitchen. But why try to find out what the mysteries are about if every day brings us one nearer to the time when we are to know all? Dories inquired.

Nann laughed. O, Id heaps rather ferret the thing out for myself than be told. Then she said more seriously: Honestly, Dori, I dont think the notes refer to the mystery of the old ruin at all. I think, if that is ever solved, well have to find it out for ourselves.

Why do you think that?

Id rather not tell quite yet. They entered the kitchen. Now, Nann said, Im going to make a fire and get breakfast. Weve been up so long that Im ravenously hungry. Im going to make flapjacks no less.

Good! Dories replied. I wont refuse to eat them. Although consumed with curiosity concerning what her friend had said, Dories decided to bide her time before asking Nann to explain.

CHAPTER XVIII
AN AIRPLANE SIGHTED

Miss Moore did not awaken, apparently, until midmorning and the girls did not want to go away until they had served her breakfast. They had been to her door several times and to all appearances the elderly woman had been asleep. When, at length, Miss Moore did awaken, she complained of having been disturbed by noises in the night. Why did you girls tiptoe around the living-room just before daybreak?

Why, we didnt, Aunt Jane! Truly we didnt, Dories replied. She did not like to tell that it would have been a physical impossibility for them to have done so, as they were crouched behind cabin seven at that hour watching cabin eight.

The old woman looked at the speaker sharply, then continued: I called your name and for a time the tiptoeing stopped. Then, when I pretended to be asleep, it began again. I was sure that under the crack of the door I could see a fire burning as though you had lighted wood on the grate.

Oh, no, Miss Moore, we didnt, I assure you, Nann exclaimed. There wasnt any wood on it. We swept it clean yesterday afternoon. A cry from Dories caused the speaker to pause and turn toward her. She was pointing at the fireplace. There was a small charred pile in the center of the grate. The old womans thoughts had evidently changed their direction for she asked, querulously, if they were going to keep her waiting all the morning for her breakfast.

While out in the kitchen preparing it, Dories whispered, her eyes wide, Nann, what do you make of it all? You are smiling to yourself as if you had solved the mystery.

I believe I have, one of them; but, Dori, please dont ask me to explain until I catch the ghost red-handed, so to speak.

White-handed, shouldnt it be? Dories inquired, her fears lessened by Nanns evident delight in something she believed she had discovered.

When Miss Moores breakfast had been served, the girls, wishing to tidy up the cabin, set to work with a will. Nann was sweeping the porch and Dories was dusting and straightening the living-room when a queer humming noise was heard in the distance. Dori, Nann called, come out here a moment. Cant you hear a strange buzzing noise? It sounds as though it were high up in the air. What can it be?

The other girl appeared in the open doorway and they both listened intently.

Maybe its a flock of geese going south for the winter, Dories ventured, but her friend shook her head. That noise is coming nearer. Not going farther away, she said. The buzzing and whizzing sounds increased with great rapidity. Springing down the steps, Nann exclaimed, Whatever is making that commotion, is now right over our heads.

Dories bounded to her friends side and they both gazed into the gleaming blue sky with shaded eyes.

There it is! Nann cried excitedly. Why, of course, its an airplane! We should have guessed that right away. I wonder where it is going to land. Theres nothing but marsh and water around here besides this narrow strip of beach.

Oh, look! look! This from Dories. Its dropping right down into the ocean and so it must be one of those combination air and sea planes.

Unless it has broken a wing and is falling, Nann suggested. The airplane, nose downward, had seemed verily to plunge into the sea.

Lets run to the Point o Rocks. Dories started as she spoke and Nann, throwing down the broom, raced after her. It was hard to go very rapidly where the sand was deep and dry, and so by the time they had climbed up on the highest boulder out on the rocky point, there was no sign whatever of the airplane either sailing safely on the water nor lying on the shore disabled.

Hmm! That certainly is puzzling, Nann said as she half closed her eyes in meditative thought. Now, where can that huge thing have gone that it has disappeared so entirely?

I cant imagine, Dories replied. If only Gibralter were here with his punt, we might be able to find out. Then she exclaimed merrily, Nann, there is another mystery added to the twenty and nine that we already have.

Not quite that many, the other maid replied, giving one last long look in the direction they believed the plane had descended or fallen. Im inclined to think, she ventured, that there is a bay or something beyond the swamp. O, well, lets go back to our task. Its lunch time, if nothing else.

They decided, as the day was unusually warm for that time of the year, to eat a cold lunch, and, as their aunt did not wish anything then, the girls decided to walk along the beach in the opposite direction and see if they could find the cove where Gib kept his punt in hiding. But, just as they reached the spot where the road from town ended at the beach, they heard a merry hallooing, and, turning, they beheld Gibralter Strait riding the white horse that was usually hitched to the coach.

Oh, good, good! was Dories delighted exclamation. Now perhaps we will find out about the plane. Of course the people in town saw it and Gib may know She stopped talking to stare at the approaching steed and rider in wide-eyed amazement. How queer! she ejaculated. Nann, am I seeing double? Im sure that I see four legs and Gib certainly has only two.

There were undeniably four long, slim legs, two on either side of the big white horse, but the mystery was quickly explained by the appearance, over Gibs shoulder, of a head belonging to another boy.

Nann Sibbett! Dories whirled, the light of inspiration in her eyes, I do believe that other boy is Dick Burton, of whom Gib has so often spoken.

And Dories was right. Gib waved his cap, then leaped to the sand, closely followed by the newcomer. One glance at the young stranger assured the girls that he was a city lad. His merry brown eyes twinkled when Gibralter introduced him merely as the kid that was crazy to find a way into the old ruin.

The city boy took off his cap in a manner most polite, adding, By name, Richard Ralston Burton, but Im usually called Dick.

Nann, realizing that Gib hadnt the remotest idea how to introduce his friend to them, then told the lad their names, adding, Oh, Gib, you just cant guess how glad we are that you have come at last. The mysteries are heaping up so high and fast that we simply must solve a few of them.

But it was quite evident that the boys were equally excited about the airplane, which they, too, had seen as they were riding on the white horse along the road in the swamps. I say, Gib began at once, did youns see where that airplane fellow dove to? Dyou spose hes smashed all to smithereens on the rocks over yonder?

The girls shook their heads. No, Dories replied, we just came from there and there wasnt a sign of that airplane. We thought that at least we would see the wreck of it.

It must o landed round the curve whar the swamp comes down to the shore, Gib said.

Come on, old man, lets investigate. Then Dick smiled directly at Nann as he added, We wont be gone long.

CHAPTER XIX
TWO BOYS INVESTIGATE

Turning, the two girls, with arms locked, walked slowly back toward their home cabin, but their gaze was following the rapidly disappearing boys.

My, how they did scramble over the rocks. I wonder why they went over the top. Im sure one can see better from up there, Dories turned to her friend to exclaim with enthusiasm. Isnt Dick Burton the nicest boy? Im ever so glad he came. Hell add a lot to our good times.

Nann nodded. One can tell in a moment that Dick has been well brought up, she commented. Isnt it too bad that Gib isnt going to have a chance to make something of himself? I believe he would be a writer if he had an education. You know how imaginative he is and how he enjoyed telling us the story of the Phantom Yacht.

The girls sauntered along to the point of rocks and stood watching the waves break over the boulders that projected into the water.

Isnt it queer how calm it is sometimes and how rough at others, and yet there isnt a bit of wind blowing, and its as warm and balmy one time as another, Dories said, then leaped back with a merry laugh as an unusually large breaker pursued her up the beach.

I think it may be the stage of the tides, Nann speculated, or else there may have been a storm at sea. O good! Here come the boys.

Dicks expressive face told the girls of his disappointment before he spoke. Didnt see a thing unusual, he said. Of course we couldnt go far because of the marsh.

It sure is too bad the surfs crashin in the way tis today, Gibralter told them. Heres Dick, come all the way from Boston to stay till Sunday night, jest sos we could go up that little creek in the marsh. Hes wild to get into the ol ruin, arent you, Dick?

Yep, the other boy agreed, but if we cant make it this week end, Ill come down next. Then with sudden interest, How long are you girls going to be here on Siquaw Point?

Although Dick asked the question of Nann, it was Dories who replied. Aunt Jane said this morning that she thinks we will be leaving in about ten days now. You see, by way of explanation, my elderly aunt came down here for absolute rest, and now that she is rested, we may go back to town sooner than we expected.

The four young people had seated themselves on the rocks.

Nann put in with: I, for one, dont want to leave this place until we have cleared up a few of the mysteries. Then, chancing to thrust her hand in the pocket of her sweater-coat, she drew out a half dozen slips of crumpled yellow paper. Oh, Gib, she exclaimed, where in the world do you suppose these came from? We find them in the queerest places. We cant understand in the least who is leaving them.

Gibralters face was a blank. Whats that writin on em? He picked one up as he spoke and scrutinized it closely.

In nine days you shall know all, Dick read as he looked over his friends shoulder.

Know all o what? Gib queried.

The boys looked from Dories to Nann. The girls shook their heads. We thought maybe you could help clear up some of the mysteries, the latter said. Have you ever heard of any queer person hanging around this beach? A hermit or a a

Gib leaned forward, his red-brown eyes gleaming. Dy mean, mabbe, the lantern person that yo uns saw one night on the rocks?

Nann nodded. We thought it might be someone who visited the ruin by night and the speaker glanced at the visiting boy, then interrupted herself to inquire, Dick, do you remember whether your people left your cabin locked or not?

The lad addressed turned and looked at the cottage nearest for a moment as though trying to recall something. Then a lightening in his eyes proved that he had succeeded. Springing to his feet, he exclaimed, I declare if I hadnt forgotten it. Im glad you spoke, Miss Nann. Mother said that in the hurry of getting away she wasnt sure whether or not she had locked the back door. She always hides the key under the back porch, so that if any one of us comes down out of season, he can get in. Then, when the others had also risen, Dick suggested, Lets walk around that way and see what we will see.

Dories glanced quickly at Nann and saw that her friend was gazing steadily at an upper window. She surmised that Nann was trying to decide whether or not to tell the boys that she had seen the blind moving, for, after all, how could she be sure but that it had been her imagination. The watcher saw Nanns expression change to one of suppressed excitement, then she whirled with her back to the cottage and said in a low voice, Everybody turn and look at the ocean. I want to tell you something.

Puzzled indeed, the boys and Dories faced about as Nann had done, and, to help her friend, the other maid pointed out toward the island. Whats this all about? Dick inquired. Miss Nann, you look as though you had seen something startling. What is it?

Very quietly Nann explained how for the third time she had seen an upper blind open ever so little as though someone was peering out at them, and then close again.

You think someone is hiding in our cottage? Dick asked in amazement. Nann nodded. Well then, well soon find out. The city boys tone did not suggest hesitancy or fear. You girls would better go over to your own cabin and wait until we join you.

It was quite evident that Nann did not like this suggestion, but Dories did, and said so frankly. Ill run home anyway, she said when she saw how disappointed Nann was. Probably Aunt Jane would like me to read to her.

And so it was that Nann accompanied the two boys around to the back of the Burton cottage. As before, the door creaked open, and very stealthily they entered the dark kitchen. This being the largest cottage in the row, the stairway was boarded off from a narrow hall; there being a door at the foot and another at the top. The one at the bottom was unlocked, and so the three investigators began the ascent, groping their way in the dark. Wisht we had along some matches, Gib began, when Nann whispered, I do believe that I have some. I took a dozen with us this morning. Yes, here they are in my watch pocket. Dick, in the lead, took the matches, and as he opened the upper door, he scratched one. It very faintly illumined a long hall with a boarded-up window at the end.

There were four closed doors along the hall. The one at the right front would lead into the room where a window blind had moved. Nann almost held her breath as Dick, after scratching another match, tried the door. It did not open. Mabbe its jest stuck, Gib suggested. Lets all push. This they did and the door burst open so suddenly that they plunged headlong into the room and the flicker of the match went out. How musty and dark it was! Quickly another match was lighted; but there seemed to be no occupant other than themselves. The closet door, standing open, revealed merely row after row of hooks and shelves. There was no furniture in the room of a concealing nature. Nann went at once to the blind and found that it was swinging slightly. Well, she had to acknowledge, I believe after all I was wrong in my surmise. Lets get back. Dories will be worried about me.





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