Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/45

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stood frowning. Mr. Amyas went up to him.

"That devil's got us, ail right." Captain Ross turned fiercely. "Five men driven from the wheel this last hour. That infernal whistling fog! And I find it's the same with the wireless. He's cutting us off completely. What's the use of waiting, Amyas? I tell you it's madness to let him corner us like this. Every hour my ship's more at his mercy. Tom Everett is dead—murdered—I murdered him! It's Vernon, not Everett, walking round now, mocking us, destroying us. I'm going to shoot him. D'you hear me? It's time to do something. My ship will be helpless soon—driving blind—lost! There's only my first mate left to steer now—until that cursed whistling Thing drives him off too!"

"Only till midnight!" the other spoke with strong entreaty. "Only a few hours more! I know your friend is still alive. It will indeed be murder if you shoot him now. At midnight, I swear to you, Everett will be himself again. For a few minutes he will be the man you've always known—and loved."

"How d'you know? It's only a guess in the dark. And even if we wait—even if Tom does come back, he may not tell me how to destroy Vernon! You're only guessing all along the line. Why should Tom know this secret that you don't—and I don't? No! I must shoot that devil while there's a chance. It's monstrous—it's madness to let him destroy us inch by inch."

Mr. Amyas looked at him and said no more. He'd been afraid of this. The strain was inhuman. It passed the line of what could be endured. He turned to leave the bridge. Queerly enough, his submission touched some secret spring that protest and entreaty could not reach.

"Come back! Come back! Help me, Amyas! I can't watch here alone."

In the huge, handsome main saloon, unobtrusively reserved in gray oak and clouded-green upholstery, groups of card-players worked in isolated quartets, tense, serious, absorbed. Mostly elderly and middle-aged. The younger set was dancing. To this sanctum, Colonel Everett entered, stood observant, bright cruel eyes raking the unconscious players.

He walked, his accustomed firm decisive tread, now curiously sinuous and smooth, to a table where the Marchmonts and the Hore-Smiths were engaged in a long-drawn interesting battle. Wealthy, autocratic, exclusive, they represented a high average of breeding and brains.

"I shouldn't risk that."

Colonel Everett stabbed a finger down on the card which Mrs. Hore-Smith had led.

"Dummy," he went on, "has only queen, seven and three of clubs—ace and ten of diamonds—nine, five and two of hearts—and knave, ten, five, four and two of spades."

Four amazed, resentful faces were raised to meet the colonel's hard glare. Mr. Marchmont picked up the cards he had put face-down on the table and reversed them.

"You're right. Very clever. I've seen it done before—in Siam. Perhaps you'd reserve your—er—tricks until later!"

Cold malice leaped in Colonel Everett's eyes.

"Reserve my—er—tricks until later!" he mocked. "Later! You gibbering, conventional puppets! There won't be any later for you. After midnight I rule here! Even now——"

Mrs. Marchmont, very handsome, very haughty, cut him short.

"If you must talk, go elsewhere. Otherwise——"

"You don't want to talk?"

"Nor to listen."