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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/35

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33
THE WHISTLING CORPSE

"Well? What's your little contribution?"

"It's true, sir. You'll know for yourself soon. The whistling and all! Something cruel! Drove you wild, sir! Aye, and that Number 14! Locking the door wasn't no use; no, nor bolting it neither. Chips did his mortal best. But every morning it was burst open, and the bunk—covered thick with dirty foam! The smell of it fair knocked you down, sir. Like something that had rotted in the sea."

Mrs. Maddox was obviously beyond giving verbal support to these statements. She sat shivering, white-faced, tears dripping down her large, pale face to the starched bib on her apron.

Captain Ross got to his feet.

"Thank you, Doctor Fielding. Thank you, Mr. Owen. Steward! Report any complaints about Number 14 on deck A to me, if you please. The passenger who is to occupy it is Colonel Everett, a personal friend. He is aware of the facts. I've told him of the deaths that occurred. The rest interests him even less than me."

"One moment." The doctor followed him to the door. "I shall tell your friend, Colonel Everett, the exact nature of the risk he is running."

"Do! He will laugh at you. He shares my views of what you call supernatural phenomena."

"You are exposing him to hideous peril. It's murder, sir!"

Captain Ross looked bored and put his hand to the door-latch.

"One more thing." The doctor's manner was that of a lecturer making his points. "Eldred Vernon marks down his victims methodically, and in every case he gives twenty-four hours warning, a signal of his intent to kill. He whistles Kathleen Mavourneen. Last May, before Captain Brakell was able to seal up the door you have opened, five passengers heard that tune. Each one died in twenty-four hours."

"Logged as dying of virulent influenza. I gather the owners suggested your substituting influenza as your diagnosis in place of ghosts?"

"It was heart-failure from shock."

"Quite. Well, Captain Brakell and I had the same end in view. But we went about it differently. He calmed down his passengers by going through a ceremony of sealing up Vernon's supposed influence. I see more wisdom in letting sun and wind and everyday life penetrate Number 14. After this trip it will be a chamber of horror no longer. I'll have no locked-up rooms on my ship. And anyone who goes round encouraging a belief in ghosts will lose his job and needn't apply to me for references."


"Good morning! Good morning!" A brick-red, large gentleman at the captain's table, engaged in adding a top-dressing of toast and marmalade to previous strata of porridge, fish, and sausages, spared an inquiring glance for a limp young man who slid into a seat next him. The young man had butter-colored hair and looked as if serious consideration of vitamins had been omitted from his education.

"Why 'good'? he moaned. "I've been kept awake all night."

The brick-red gentleman was surprized. "Eh? What? I slept like old Rip Van Winkle."

The limp young man unfurled a table-napkin with the air of one who drapes a winding-sheet about him.

"China tea. This brown toast and bloater paste." He lifted an eyelid to a hovering steward. Then, to his neighbor:

"Perhaps you're married or live by
W.T.—3