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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/38

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own ends. It's a tremendous prize. He'll rank high in hell."

"But—how d'you know all this? You speak as if——"

"It's a long, grim, unnerving tale. Made an old man of me when I was in my twenties, experimenting, like the mad young fool I was then, in occult research. Some day, if we survive, I'll tell it."

"Isn't there the barest chance of saving Everett? Can't you make him believe?"

"That's what I don't know. I can only guess. It's one of the things that doesn't go by rule of thumb. Every crisis varies. But there is a moment——"

They were interrupted by a scream, sounds of running feet, a second scream. Mr. Amy as turned, ran lightly along to deck A with the doctor at his heels. An excited group of passengers was collecting there. The first mate appeared. Inside the open doorway of a lounge stood Steevens with several other cabin stewards. They appeared to be holding an agitated council of war.

The first mate addressed this twittering little group. "What's all this?"

"Sir! It's Number 14. We saw——"

"Get inside. I'll come along."

He returned to the startled passengers. "Nothing much." His smile was reassuring. "One of the stewardesses! She's had hysterics again. Husband died a few weeks ago and she's gone to pieces over it."

"Very neat," commended Doctor Fielding. "We'll come with you to see what's really happened."

Owen nodded. His eyes and mouth looked strained. Outside the closed door of Number 14 a huddle of white-coated stewards waited.

"It's what it was before, sir," whispered Steevens. "The bunk was covered with it. Foam—dirty gray foam—inches thick! Right over the bunk, pillows and all. And the smell—my Gawd!"

Owen stood rigid, one hand on the door-latch. Mr. Amy as saw him shudder, caught the loathing on his face as he flung open the door and went inside. Doctor Fielding and Mr. Amyas followed quickly. All three looked instantly at the bunk. A pall of dirty gray foam covered it, like the silt of a monster tidal wave; the air was foul with the odor of stale sea- water and things long dead. Doctor Fielding scribbled a few words in his note-book, tore out the leaf and gave it to the first mate.

"Take that to the captain—at once!"

Thankfully the man escaped. A steward called after him.

"If he wants this bunk made up he'll have to get another man for the job. I'd sooner jump overboard. I'm not going inside 14 again! He can put me in irons—but I won't—I won't——"

The first mate vanished beyond reach of the man's hysterical outburst. No one paid any attention to it. All eyes were fixed on Doctor Fielding and Mr. Amyas standing inside.

"Quick!" cried the doctor. "Out of here!"

Next moment, both were in the passage, and the door fast bolted, but not before they'd seen the blanket of gray foam ripple and heave as if water surged beneath it. And as the door banged to, a sudden shrill whistling began—like the sound of escaping steam. Footsteps approached, a firm, soldierly tread. Colonel Everett's tall straight figure advanced down the long corridor. The whistling ceased abruptly.

"What on earth? Are you playing 'Clumps'? And why outside my door?"

The colonel's eyes, friendly and puzzled, turned from the doctor's haggard