Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/100

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98
WIERD TALES

"It is a dangerous sign on this island when those little corpse-dragging dwarfs ring a bell as they go along, for that means another death; a bad sign also if a church bell rings without any hand touching it.

"Those are still living who have seen the dames blanches — white ladies — howling in the night at church doors, seeking salvation and relief.

"Alain Gervais, the villagers relate, was swimming with other youths of his age in the St. Jacques basin; of a frolicsome and adventurous nature, he swam some distance from shore. According to another youth who was making his way to Alain at all possible speed, he took what seemed an intentional surface dive, and did not appear again. Many hours were spent fruitlessly diving for his body. A few years later, one of the boys, now grown into a man, "was stationed at the watch of a fishing-boat, when he saw the rough caricature of a man, diving and breaking for air a short distance from his craft. He insisted he recognized Gervais."

A few lame conjectures followed, on the ability of a man being enabled to live at the bottom of the sea.

I remember flinging the book from me as if it were some abhorrent dead thing, and rising weakly, I made my way on deck with a troubled mind.

June 23. — I buttonholed Peter Bunce this morning forward of the lee scuppers. I told him in ragged, forceful exclamations just what I had read. He ponderously turned my story over in his numbed brain. His eyes rolled crazily and his mouth sagged. His face turned yellow, but he caught himself with determination.

"We must act at once," he said.

June 24. — Our plans have been worked out. Peter and I are to bunk together tonight. We have my revolver and a razor-sharp, double-edged knife. Peter contends that the knife will be necessary. He insistently babbles of vampires and other blood-sucking demons. His obsession took an active form this noon. He jumped up and stepped around deftly, brandishing his knife in dark corners, and lunging wildly in offensive alacrity, cutting an imaginary victim to bits. I smiled rather wanly. Finally, exhausted, he slumped down on a stool, his head between his hands. My smile faded as I contemplated his abject dejection. Frankly, we don't know what to expect.

June 25. — It is over — poor Peter is gone — but Gervais will trouble us no more. I am stunned, horrified, but I owe it to Peter to write it all out.

I lay awake in my bunk, flat on my back, and the gnawed beams above me twitched like raw tendons. I had that tight, sick feeling of excitement twisting my stomach. We distinctly heard the door creak on its hinges. Something poised itself in the doorway. The door closed and it slid snake-like into the room. We could hear the thing gulp. Peter gripped my arm. I made ready to strike a match. I stiffened until its soft, slimy approach became unbearable; then I waited until it swayed at the foot of my bunk, until its green, glassy eyes were vaguely discernible in the almost total blackness. It was watching me, and I realized it could see in the dark.

I clawed at the match, lit it, and with a frantically shaking hand carried it to the tallow wick, and then — it sprang. But it didn't spring at me. It went higher and got Peter by the neck. I could hear him choke and gasp. In passing me the thing had knocked the match from my hand, plunging the room once more into total darkness. I was paralyzed, unable to move or think. I sat on the edge of my bunk, deathly sick, and my heart