"Yes, yes! I've seen—the Thing...the damned whistling Thing!"
Mr. Amyas nodded. "I was there. I ran down to look for the colonel while you were watching the mate. The cabin was empty then. I'm afraid we're too late. He's gone."
"Gone!" The word burst from the captain's white lips. He seized his companion's arm. His eyes were tortured. "Overboard?"
"No! No! It's worse than that. Eldred Vernon has become a permanent tenant now."
Captain Ross frowned in a fierce effort to follow the incomprehensible statement.
"I mean that Vemon has taken possession of your friend—body and soul! Colonel Everett appears to be in the smoking-room at this moment. In reality he's no more there than you or I. Vernon possesses him. Vernon is walking and talking in the body of Colonel Everett."
"But Tom—Tom, himself! Where is he, then?"
"A slave in bondage. In bondage so long as his body is possessed by Vernon. Suffering the torments of the damned. He is still able to think, to feel, to remember, but he is helpless. Vernon has overpowered him, taken his house from him. He's like a prisoner lying gagged and bound in some dark cellar of it."
"Go on, Mr. Amyas, go on!" The other's voice was harsh with grief. "What will happen to my passengers—my ship—to all of us, now?"
"I do not know. I can only guess. But I think not one of us will live to see land again. Your ship may be found—sometime—somewhere—a derelict, a mystery like the Marie Celeste!"
"There must be a way out. There must be a way."
"Only by destroying Eldred Vernon."
"How? How? D'you mean kill"—a look of awful enlightenment dawned in the captain's eyes—"you mean—I must kill—Tom Everett?"
"I don't know. I don't know." Mr. Amyas's brown face showed a network of lines and wrinkles. "I can only recall an affair I was once concerned in—an exorcism and a sacrifice—to drive out a devil."
"——to drive out a devil! Tell me what you know!"
And in the haunted silence of Number 14 Mr. Amyas told it.
"Colonel Everett! Colonel Everett!" Mark called after the tall figure just stepping from the smoke-room to the deck outside. "You promised to tell me that tale about your tiger-hunt after tea."
The man paused on the threshold and half turned back to the boy, Mark, dashing across to him, drew up with a start about a yard away.
"I beg your pardon. I thought you were——" His serious slate-gray eyes flashed to the man's face, then to his dark green necktie, his collar, his gray tweeds—even his sports-shoes didn't escape the quick, keen scrutiny.
"I—have you borrowed the colonel's clothes?"
The boy's clear, surprized tone seemed to ring out like a bell in the room.
"Borrowed my own clothes! I am the colonel! What's the idea, Mark? Is this a riddle? Or, are you giving me an intelligence test?"
The boy stood absolutely still. Quite suddenly he drew back, a look of horror dawning on his pale, intelligent face.
"You're not the colonel. You've got black hair and your skin is yellow and you're older—much older. Where is Colonel Everett? I want him."