Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/98

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96
WEIRD TALES

I have lost faith in them. He gloats over the misfortunes of others. He actually smiled as we dropped poor Hanson into the sea. Imagine it!

June 17. — There is still no wind. There is something unnatural about this floating hulk. Even the cook has noticed it. "It ain't natural," he said, "for a ship to smell like this, and that Gervais fellow's cabin, phew! It not only stunk, but———"

I clouted him behind the ear. "You're a fool!" I shouted. "He's all right."

You have a feeling that he knows more than ten ordinary men whenever he opens his mouth to tell one of his amazing yarns. And that tale of the French fleet he told yesterday was so real, so vivid! But it set me to thinking. I must confess the smell of Gervais' cabin did horrify me. I entered it while Gervais was on deck, and the stench nearly laid me out. The place smelt like a charnel house. The odor of decaying shell-fish mingled with a peculiarly offensive and acrid smell that in some way suggested newly shed blood. Tonight I shall finish the rum. Oh, I will get gloriously drunk, but what does it matter?

June 18. — Gervais has grown currish and cynical. He has assumed the authority to curse my men, and refuses to speak to me. This morning Harry Knudson went below to lie down. He was as white as a squid's belly. All I could do was to perform a cursory examination. I told him to strip, and examined his entire body. He was pitifully lean and bloodless. Something had bitten him in the chest. A round discoloration showed plainly on the center of his chest, and in the very middle were two sharp incisions, from which blood and pus trickled ominously. I didn't like the looks of it and told him so. Harry smiled grimly and turned over in his bunk.

June 19. — Gervais seems to have appointed himself king of the ship. He does whatever he pleases. This morning he cut a strip of sail down and improvised a novel marquee for himself on the poop-deck. All during the late afternoon he reclined under the canvas, smoking his briar and gazing reflectively out to sea. None of the men approached him; they want as little as possible to do with so temperamental a person. We were all occupied forward when we heard a triumphant shout from Gervais. He was jumping around under his marquee and pointing over the side. It was Hanson's body, floating face upward, not ten feet from the ship. His nose was gone, and his cheekbones protruding through the wasted skin. The water was so still he seemed to hang there, leering up at the ship. When we buried him yesterday, we sewed his body in canvas and weighted it. Evidently the stitching had loosened, and the suddenly released, air-filled body had popped to the top like a cork.

June 20. — An unaccountable incident occurred on deck today. I am obliged to believe that Gervais is insane. Roland Perresson was working on the braces, and his hand accidentally slipped. He cut himself badly. The blood gushed down his arm, and we all feared he had severed an artery. His under lip trembled, but he didn't complain or cry out. He simply walked with unsteady steps toward the fo'castle. Gervais was on the poop-deck, in his throne room, as we have begun to call it. The sight of Perresson's uncertain steps somehow excited him. He made for Perresson. Perresson saw him coming, and stopped, a little puzzled, a little hopeful. In a moment Gervais had seized upon the injured arm. He gripped it forcefully and stuck it under his shirt Gervais was sweating and acting like one possessed, I feared for Perresson. The situation was unhealthy. I stepped forward to interfere. But when I reached