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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/31

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29
THE WHISTLING CORPSE

ingly. Finally he got to his feet. His face was grave.

"Sorry! You'll have to excuse me. I've—remembered something urgent."

He went out of the saloon with an air of absent-minded haste and took Mark's sketch with him.

"Oh! Was it a prince, d'you think? Is he going to look for him?"

Mr. Amyas discussed the possibility, then led the conversation to other things. The two hit it off famously and went together, afterward, in uproarious spirits to the billiard room.


The coolness in Captain Ross's eyes bordered on contempt as he looked from Mark's sketch. Doctor Fielding's lean, clever face and tired eyes showed a deeper weariness as he met that look. Captain Ross was one who admitted no breath from the chill void of eternity to penetrate his materialism. It was a solid wall about his thoughts.

The doctor's own mind, ever exploring, seeking, experimenting, found no smallest chink whereby to enter, yet he must attempt it. If he failed, if Captain Ross remained unconvinced, then the S. S. Dragon would become a floating hell.

"If the boy saw this man," Captain Ross tapped the menu-card with impatient gesture, "then the man must have been sitting there."

"I did not see him, sir. Mr. Amyas did not see him. The steward did not see him."

"But the boy did! He's not a liar—I happen to know that. If he told you he saw the man, he did see him."

"And I repeat—this man," Doctor Fielding indicated the drawing, "died on this ship a year ago and his body was committed to the deep. I saw it done."

"All right, then. In that case there is a passenger on board who bears an extraordinary resemblance to him. That doesn't pass the bounds of possibility. Your idea of a révenant does."

A knock at the door interrupted them. The first mate, Mr. Owen, entered. Steevens and Mrs. Maddox followed.

"Ah!" the commander's frosty blue eyes regarded them quizzically. "You three, I understand, were on this ship a year ago when Number 14 on deck A was sealed up?"

"Yes, sir," replied the first mate.

The other two made muffled sounds of assent and endeavored to exchange glances while presenting blank, respectful faces to Captain Ross.

"D'you recognize this, Mr. Owen?"

The chief bent over the table to examine Mark's sketch, then straightened himself with a jerk. His ruddy face was suddenly a sickly brown. He averted his eyes from the sketch as from something that shocked him profoundly. His voice came with a queer uncontrolled jerk.

"Yes, sir! It's—it's him!"

"I must ask you to be more explicit. Him?"

"Vernon—Eldred Vernon! Where... how——?"

He stopped, and thrust shaking hands deep into his pockets. Captain Ross turned his scornful, impatient glance toward the steward and stewardess.

"Come on! Come on! Let's get this farce over!"

Timidly the pair advanced and peered reluctantly at the card thrust before their eyes.

"Well? Speak, can't you! Is this your old friend, Vernon?"

"God save us—yes!" muttered Steevens. He fell back from the pictured face in horror.