Carol Norton.

The Phantom Yacht





Dick, before leaving the room, hooked the blind carefully on the inside, and, after closing the window, he remarked, Its queer Mother should have left a window open as well as the back door. But I remember now. She said that they were afraid of losing the train. Something had delayed them. I had gone on ahead to start school.

When they were again safely out in the sunshine, Nann inquired, I wonder where your mother left the key. It isnt in the door.

Before replying Dick went to one corner beneath the porch, removed a lattice door which could not have been discovered by anyone not knowing about it, reached his hand around to one of the uprights where, on a nail, he found the key hanging. He held it up triumphantly. Then, after locking the kitchen door, he replaced the key and the lattice, exclaiming as he did so, I believe I understand now what happened. In the hurry, Mother put the key in the right place without having locked the door, so thats that. But Nann was not entirely convinced.

The late afternoon fog was drifting in when the three started to walk along the beach. They saw Dories running to meet them. Well, thanks be youre all alive, was her relieved exclamation.

Nann laughed. Did you think a cannibal was hiding in the Burton cottage? Then she added, pretending to be disappointed, I had at least hoped to find a ghost or a

Look! Look! Gib cried excitedly, pointing beyond the rocks.

What? Where? the girls scrambled to the top step of cabin three, which they happened to be passing, that they might have a better view of whatever had aroused Gibs interest.

Is it the Phantom Yacht? Nann asked, almost hoping that it was.

No, tisnt that, Im sure, because it isnt white. Gib continued to stare into the gathering dusk. Its some queer kind of craft, as best I can make out, and its scooting away from the shore at a pretty speedy rate and heading right for the island. For a moment the young people fairly held their breath as they watched.

Dick was the first to break in with, Gee-whiliker! I know what it is! Stupid that I didnt get on to it from the very first.

Why, Dick, what do you think it is? Dories inquired.

I dont think; I know! Its that seaplane! Look! There she soars. See her take the air! Now the pilots turning her nose, and heading straight for Boston.

Whoever tis in that airplane is takin a purty big chance, Gibralter commented, startin up with night a comin on and fog a sailin in.

Dick was optimistic. Hell keep ahead of the fog all right, and those high-powered machines travel so fast hell be at the landing place, outside of Boston, before its really dark. Hes safe enough, but the big question is, who is he, and what was he doing over there close to the old ruin?

Maybe he knows about that opening in the swamp, Nann ventured.

I bet ye he does! Likes not he has a little boat and goes up to the ol ruin in it.

But where do you suppose his airship was anchored? Dories inquired.

Probably in the cove beyond the marsh, Dick replied, when Gib broke in with, Gee, I sure sartin wish wed taken a chance and gone out in the punt. I sure do. Id o gone, but Dick, he was afraid!

The city lad flushed, but he said at once, You are wrong, Gib, but I promised my mother that I would only go out in your punt when the tide was low, and when I give my word, she knows that she can depend upon it.

You are right, Dick. It is worth more to have your mother able to trust you, when you are out of her sight, than it is to solve all the mysteries that ever were or will be. Nanns voice expressed her approval of the city lad. Gibs only comment was, Wall, how kin we go at low tide? It comes long bout midnight!

What if it does? We can Dick had started to say, but interrupted himself to add, Twouldnt be fair to go without the girls since they found the opening in the swamp. It will be low tide again tomorrow noon, and I vote we wait until then.

O, Dick, thats ever so nice of you! We girls are wild to go. Nann fairly beamed at him.

Wall, so long. Well see you bout noon tomorrow. This from Gib. Dick waved his cap and smiled back over his shoulder.

I can hardly wait, Nann said, as the two girls went into the cabin. I feel in my bones that were going to find clues that will solve all of the mysteries soon.

CHAPTER XX
ONE MYSTERY SOLVED

A glorious autumn morning dawned and Dories sat up suddenly. Shaking Nann, she whispered excitedly: I hear it again.

What? The ghost? Was he ringing the bell? This sleepily from the girl who seemed to have no desire to waken, but, at her companions urgent: No, not the bell! Do sit up, Nann, and listen. Isnt that the airplane coming back? Hark!

Fully awake, the other girl did sit up and listen. Then leaping from the bed, she ran to the window that overlooked the wide expanse of marsh.

Yes, yes, she cried. There it is! Its flying low, as though it were going to land, and its heading straight for the old ruin. Get dressed as quickly as you can.

But why? queried the astonished Dories. We cant get any nearer than we did yesterday; that is, not by land, and the tide is high again, and so we cant go out in the punt.

Nann did not reply, but continued to dress hurriedly, and so her friend did likewise.

I dont know why it is, the former confided a moment later, but I feel in my bones that this is the day of the great revelation.

Not according to the yellow messages. They would tell us that in seven days we would know all. Dories was brushing her brown hair preparing to weave it into two long braids.

But, as I told you before, Nann remarked, I dont believe the papers refer to the old ruin mystery at all. In fact, I think the ghost that writes the message on the papers does not even know there is an old ruin mystery.

Well, youre a better detective than I am, Dories confessed as she tied a ribbon bow on the end of each braid. I havent any idea about anything that is happening.

The girls stole downstairs and ran out on the beach, hoping to see the airplane, but the long, shining white beach was deserted and the only sound was the crashing of the waves over the rocks and along the shore, for the tide was high.

I wonder if Dick and Gib heard the plane passing over their town? Dories had just said, when Nann, glancing in the direction of the road, exclaimed gleefully, They sure did, for here they come at headlong speed this very minute. The big, boney, white horse stopped so suddenly when it reached the sand that both of the boys were unseated. Laughingly they sprang to the beach and waved their caps to the girls, who hurried to meet them.

Good morning, boys! Nann called as soon as they were near enough for her voice to be heard above the crashing of the waves. I judge you also saw the plane.

Yeah! Weuns heerd it comin long fore we saw it, an we got ol Spindly outn her stall in a twinklin, I kin tell you.

The city lad laughed as though at an amusing memory. The old mare was sound asleep when we started, but when she heard that buzzing and whirring over her head, she thought she was being pursued by a regiment of demons, seemed like. She lit out of that barn and galloped as she never had before. Of course the airplane passed us long ago, but that gallant steed of ours was going so fast that I wasnt sure that we would be able to stop her before we got over to the island.

Gib, it was plain, was impatient to be away, and so promising to report if they found anything of interest, the lads raced toward the point of rocks, while the girls went indoors to prepare breakfast. Dories found her Great-Aunt Jane in a happier frame of mind than usual. She was sitting up in bed, propped with pillows, when her niece carried in the tray. And when a few moments later the girl was leaving the room, she chanced to glance back and was sure that the old woman was chuckling as though she had thought of something very amusing. Dories confided this astonishing news item to Nann while they ate their breakfast in the kitchen. What do you suppose Aunt Jane was thinking about? It was surely something which amused her? Dories was plainly puzzled.

Nann smiled. Doesnt it seem to you that your aunt must be thoroughly rested by this time? I should think that she would like to get out in the sunshine these wonderful bracing mornings. It would do her a lot more good than being cooped up indoors.

Dories agreed, commenting that old people were certainly queer. It was midmorning when the girls, having completed their few household tasks, again went to the beach to look for the boys. The tide was going out and the waves were quieter. Arm in arm they walked along on the hard sand. Dories was saying, Aunt Jane told me that she would like to read to herself this morning. I was so afraid that she would ask me to read to her. Not but that I do want to be useful sometimes, but this morning I am so eager to know what the boys are doing. I wish they would come. I wonder where they went.

I think I know, Nann replied. I believe they are lying flat on the big smooth rock on which we sat that day Gibralter told us the story of the Phantom Yacht. You recall that we had a fine view of the old ruin from there.

But why would they be lying flat? Dories, who had little imagination, looked up to inquire.

So that they could observe whoever might enter the old ruin without being observed, my child.

But, Nann, why would anyone want to get into that dreadful place unless it was just out of curiosity, which, of course, is our only motive.

Im sure I dont know, the older girl had to confess, adding: That is a mystery that we have yet to solve.

Suddenly Nann laughed aloud. Whats the joke? This from her astonished companion. Since Nann continued to laugh, and was pointing merrily at her, Dories began to bristle. Well, whats funny about me? Have I buttoned my dress wrong?

The other maid shook her head. Its something about your braids, she replied.

Oh, I suppose I put on different colored ribbons. I remember noticing a yellow one near the red. She swung both of the braids around as she spoke, but the ribbon bows were of the same hue. Tossing them back over her shoulder, she said complacently: This isnt the first of April, my dear. Theres nothing the matter with my braids and so But Nann interrupted, Isnt there? Unbeliever, behold! Leaping forward, she lifted a braid, held it in front of her friend, and pointed at a bit of crumpled yellow paper. Dories laughed, too.

Well, Nann exclaimed, that proves to my entire satisfaction that a supernatural being does not write the notes and hide them just where we will be sure to find them.

But who do you suppose does write them? Dories asked. This morning Ive been close enough to four people to have them slip that folded paper in my hair ribbon. Their names are Nann Sibbett, Great-Aunt Jane, Gibralter Strait and Dick Moore. Dick, of course, is eliminated because he was nowhere about when the messages first began to appear. It isnt your hand-writing, the speaker was closely scrutinizing the note, and, as for Gib, Im not sure that he can write at all. Then a light of conviction appeared in her eyes. Do you know what I believe? she turned toward her friend as one who had made an astonishing discovery. I believe Great-Aunt Jane writes these notes and that she gets up out of bed when we are away from home and hides them.

Nann laughed. I agree with you perfectly. I suspected her the other day, but I didnt want to tell you until I was more sure. But why do you suppose she does it if she does?

Dories shook her head, then she exclaimed: Now I know why Aunt Jane was chuckling to herself when I looked back. She had just slipped the folded paper into my hair ribbon, I do believe.

The next thing for us to find out is when and why she does it? The girls had stopped at the foot of the rocks and Nann changed the subject to say: I wonder why the boys dont come. Its almost noon. Well have to go back and prepare your Aunt Janes lunch. She turned toward the home cottage as she spoke. Dories gave a last lingering look up toward the tip-top rock. Maybe they have been carried off in the airplane, she suggested.

Impossible! Nann said. It couldnt depart without our hearing.

When they reached the cabin, Dories whispered, Ive nine minds to show Aunt Jane the notes and watch her expression. I am sure I could tell if she is guilty.

Dont! Nann warned. Let her have her innocent fun if she wishes. Then, when they were in the kitchen making a fire in the wood stove, Nann added, I believe, my dear girl, that there is more to the meaning of those messages than just innocent fun. I believe your Aunt Jane is going to disclose to you something far more important than the solving of the ruin mystery. She may tell you where the fortune is that your father should have had, or something like that.

Dories, who had been filling the tea-kettle at the kitchen pump, whirled about, her face shining. Nann Sibbett, she exclaimed in a low voice, do you really, truly think that may be what we are to know in seven days? O, wouldnt I be glad I came to this terrible place if it were? Then Mother darling wouldnt have to sew any more and you and I could go away to school. Why just all of our dreams would come true.

Clip fancys wings, dearie, Nann cautioned as she cut the bread preparing to make toast. Usually I am the one imagining things, but now it is you.

Dories looked at her aunt with new interest when she went into her room fifteen minutes later with the tray, but the old woman, who was again lying down, motioned her to put the tray on a small table near and not disturb her. As Dories was leaving the room, her aunt called, I wont need you girls this afternoon.

Just as though she divined our wish to go somewhere, Nann commented, a few moments later, when Dories had told her.

Ill tell you what lets do, the younger girl suggested, lets pack a lunch of sandwiches and olives and cookies. Then when the boys come we can have a picnic. Its noon and they didnt have a lunch with them, I am sure.

Good, that will be fun, Nann agreed. Ill look now and see if they are coming. We dont want them to escape us.

A moment later she returned from the front porch shaking her head. Not a trace of them, she reported. Hurriedly they prepared a lunch and packed it in a box. Then, after donning their bright-colored tams and sweater coats, they went out the back door and were just rounding the front of the cabin when Nann exclaimed, Here they come, or rather there they go, for they do not seem to have the least idea of stopping here.

Nann was right. The two lads had appeared, scrambling over the point of rocks, and away they ran along the hard sand of the beach, acknowledging the existence of the girls merely by a hilarious waving of the arms.

Nann turned toward her friend, her large eyes glowing. Theyve found a clue, Im sure certain! You can tell by the way they are racing that they are just ever so excited about something. As she spoke the boys disappeared over a hummock of sand, going in the direction of the inlet where Gibralter kept his punt hidden.

Dories clapped her hands. I know! she cried elatedly. Theyre going out in the punt. The tide has turned! Oh, Nann, what do you suppose they saw?

I believe they saw the pilot of the airplane enter the old ruin, so now they are going to get the punt, and theyre in a great hurry to get back to the creek before the airplane leaves.

Oh! How exciting! Do you suppose they will make it?

Nann intently watched the blue water beyond the hummock of sand as she replied, I believe they will. Then she added, Oh, dear, I do hope theyll take time to stop and get us. It wouldnt be fair for them to have all the thrills, since we girls found the channel in the marsh.

Of course theyll take us, Dories replied, although in her heart of hearts she rather hoped they would not, as she was not as eager as Nann for adventure. You know Dick said it wouldnt be fair to go without us.

Nann nodded. Then, with sudden brightening, Hurry! Here they come! Lets race down to the point o rocks and see if they want to hail us.

Then, as they started, Do you know, Dori, I feel as though something most unexpected is about to happen. I mean something very different from what we think.

The girls had reached the point of rocks and were standing with shaded eyes, gazing out at the glistening water.

The flat-bottomed boat slowly neared them. Dick held one oar and Gib the other. They both had their backs toward the point and evidently they had not seen the girls.

Why, I do declare! They arent going to stop. Theyre going right by without us. Nann felt very much neglected, when suddenly Gib turned and grinned toward them with so much mischief in his expression that Dories concluded: They did that just to tease. See, theyre heading in this way now.

This was true, and Dick, making a trumpet of his hands, called: Want to come, girls? If so, scramble over to the flat rock, quicks you can! Were in a terrifical hurry!

Dories and Nann needed no second invitation, but climbed over the jagged rocks and stood on the broad one which was uncovered at low tide and which served as a landing dock.

Dick, the gallant, leaped out to assist them into the punt, then, seizing his oar, he commanded his mate, Make it snappy, old man. We want to catch the modern air pirate before he gets away with his treasure.

CHAPTER XXI
A CHANNEL IN THE SWAMP

The wind was from the shore and Gib suggested that the small sail be run up. This was soon done and away the little craft went bounding over the evenly rolling waves and, before very many minutes, the point was rounded and the swamp reached.

Where is the airplane anchored? Nann inquired, peering curiously into the cove which was unoccupied by craft of any kind.

Well, we arent sure as to that, Dick told her, speaking softly as though fearing to be overheard. We climbed to the top of the rocks and lay there for hours, or so it seemed to me. We were waiting for the tide to turn so we could go out in the punt. But all the time we were there we didnt see or hear anything of the airplane or the pilot. Of course, since its a seaplane, too, its probably anchored over beyond the marsh.

Now my theory is that the pilot has a little tender and that in it he rowed up the creek and probably, right this very minute, he is in the old ruin, and like as not if we go up there we will meet him face to face.

Br-r-r! Dories shuddered and her eyes were big and round. Dont you think wed better wait here? We could hide the punt in the reeds and watch who comes out. You wouldnt want to meet a a

Dories was at a loss to conjecture who they might meet, but Gib chimed in with, Dont care who tis! Then, looking anxiously at the girl who had spoken, he said, Pears wed ought tove left you at home. Pears like wed ought.

The boy looked so truly troubled that Dories assumed a courage she did not feel. No, indeed, Gib! If you three arent afraid to meet whoever it is, neither am I. Row ahead.

Thus advised, the lad lowered the small sail, and the two boys rowed the punt to the opening in the marsh.

It was just wide enough for the punt to enter. Wall, we uns cant use the oars no further, thats sure sartin. Gib took off his cap to scratch his ear as he always did when perplexed.

I have it! Dick seized an oar, stepped to the stern, asked Nann to take the seat in the middle of the boat and then he stood and pushed the punt into the narrow creek.

They had not progressed more than two boat-lengths when a whizzing, whirring noise was heard and the seaplane scudded from behind a reedy point which had obscured it, and crossed their cove before taking to the air. Then it turned its nose toward the island. All that the watchers could see of the pilot was his leather-hooded, dark-goggled head, and, as he had not turned in their direction, it was quite evident that he didnt know of their existence.

Gone! Dick cried dramatically. Foiled again, as they say on the stage.

Wall, anyhow, were here, so lets go on up the creek and see whats in the ol ruin.

Dick obeyed by again pushing the boat along with the one oar. Dories said not a word as the punt moved slowly among the reeds that stood four feet above the water and were tangled and dense.

Theres one lucky thing for us, Nann began, after having watched the dark water at the side of the craft. That sea serpent you were telling about, Gib, couldnt hide in this marsh.

Maybe not, Dick agreed, but its a favorite feeding ground for slimy water snakes. Nann glanced anxiously at her friend, then, noting how pale she was, she changed the subject. How still it is in here, she commented.

A breeze rustled through the drying reed-tops, but there was indeed no other sound.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14