Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/32

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Mrs. Maddox gave a terrified squawk and clutched him by the arm.

"A-r-r-r! A-r-r-r! It's him again! Take it away! I won't look at it! A-r-r-r——"

"Be quiet," barked the captain. "Take her over to that chair, Steevens. You two have got to stop here while this affair is settled once and for all."

He looked from one tense face to another and his eyes sparkled with temper.

"You all agree, it seems, that this boy's drawing resembles—who's the man?"

"Eldred Vernon, sir—the late Eldred Vernon," replied the doctor.

"Eldred Vernon, yes. The man who was murdered on this ship in May of 1935."

"The man who murdered Mr. Lackland, sir," softly corrected the first mate.

"Murderer, or murdered, it's all one now. The point is, he's dead."

A deep, unassenting silence answered the statement. Four pairs of eyes expressed complete unbelief in it.

"A pretty lot of fools I seem to have on board! What is this mystery? Doctor Fielding, will you have the goodness to make a clear, sensible statement of the facts? The facts, I said, mind you. I don't want a fairy-tale packed with superstition and ghosts."

"Did you read the log for May of 1935?" asked the doctor. "And did the owners explain their reasons for leaving Number 14 sealed up?"

"Yes, to both questions. But don't forget that my predecessor, Captain Brakell, was a very side man when he entered up that log. The owners had the facts from him—a sick man's delusions! I attach no value to them. I said as much in the office at Liverpool, gave my opinions. They understood that I proposed to run my own ship in my own way. I will allow no tomfool nonsense to interfere with it."

The doctor's face showed a stain of painful color.

"You are very much mistaken, sir, in thinking that Captain Brakell was ill when he entered up the log. He was a very sound man, sound and sane and healthy. His mind then, and to the end of his days, was particularly clear. He was a man of enviable courage and strength and determination. Otherwise he could never have done what he did."

There was a stir and murmur of assent in the small, brightly lit room.

"Captain Brakell collapsed only on reaching port. He brought his ship home first. He brought her home with that devil, Eldred Vernon, imprisoned in Number 14."

"You mean Vernon didn't die during the voyage, after all? You have already told me you saw his body committed to the deep."

"I repeat that I did. But Eldred Vernon's devil lived on—an audible and visible thing."

"And I repeat that I don't believe a syllable."

Again color painted the doctor's sallow face an angry red.

"Words mean nothing," he answer curtly. "Words mean nothing. Captain gave his life to make his ship safe. He was heroic, I tell you. Faced terrific odds, and won by sheer strength and goodness, He cornered that crafty devil, Vernon. He couldn't destroy him—that was beyond even his wisdom, but he managed! to imprison him, to make his ship safe, I And you——"

He broke off, remembering he and the captain were not alone. There was an awkward pause. Captain Ross sat with broad, well-kept hands folded on