Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/28

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The Whistling Corpse


A gripping weird tale of the sea—of the thing that walked in the fog—and the terror that stalked on board an ocean liner.

"Why, Steevens, whatever is the matter? You look as if you'd seen a ghost."

"And if I haven't, it's by the mercy of Providence," replied the chief steward, "though what we may see before this trip is over is something I don't want to think about."

Mrs. Maddox stared. She'd been stewardess on board the S. S. Dragon for the past five years, worked under Steevens all that time, and knew him for the most even-tempered, easy-going creature that ever sailed in a ship. She felt a nasty sensation of goose-flesh and clutched her bundle of clean white towels a trifle more tightly in her arms.

"Good gracious me! Well, what is it? You're getting me all in a dither!"

"They've—they've opened Number 14!"

She frowned, blinked, and several towels slid unnoticed to the floor.

"Not the 14? Not 14 on deck A? No!"

Her voice rose discordantly, and Steevens was recalled to his duty by its sudden stridency.

"S-s-s-sh! D'you want the passengers to hear? They're going down to dinner. Second bugle's sounded."

They were standing in one of the linen-rooms, a narrow slip near a main companionway. Mrs. Maddox turned a white, stricken face.

"Tell me, quick!"

"Captain's orders! This is his first command. He's young, thinks he knows everything. Isn't going to keep a first-class stateroom locked up on his ship. I heard the end of a row him and the chief was having. Mr. Owen up and told him as the owners knew all about it. And the Old Man said he was going to show the owners there wasn't no need to lose money every trip."

"Steevens!" Mrs. Maddox looked suddenly far older than her forty-eight years. "If I hear that whistling again I'll—I'll lose my reason and that's a fact."

He had no comfort to offer. The man's cheerful, weathered face wore the same look of dread as her own.

"You can't tell the cap'n anything. But wait till he hears it too!"

"And when he does"—she turned on him with a fury of demoralizing fear—"what good's that going to do us all? It'll be too late then. The door's opened now and it's out again... it's out!"

First-class passengers were making their way to the dining-saloon for the first meal on board. The S. S. Dragon had left Liverpool landing-stage only two hours ago; so people straggled in without ceremony, tired from the bustle of embarkation, agitated about the preliminaries of settling down on board; the majority either wound up to a pitch that sought relief in floods of talk or preserved stony silence that would have done credit to tombstone effigies.

Mark Herron, a boy of ten, traveling in the captain's care, stood in hesitation at the entrance to the dining-saloon. One