The woman stood alone, en silhouette against the glow of the companionway, her arms thrust out as if to ward off some threatened danger. A second cry broke from her lips, shrill with terror, she tottered and fell as, dropping his cigarette, Lanyard ran to her.
His vision dazzled by the flame of the match, he sought in vain for any cause for her apparent fright. For all he could see, the deck was as empty as he had presumed it to be all through their conversation.
He found her in a faint unmistakably unaffected. Footfalls sounded on the deck as he knelt, making superficial examination. Collison had heard her cries and witnessed her fall from the bridge and was coming to investigate.
“What in blazes——!”
Lanyard replied with a gesture of bewilderment: “She was just going below. I’d stopped to light a cigarette, saw nothing to account for this. Wait: I’ll fetch water.”
He darted down the companionway, filled a glass from a silver thermos carafe, and hurried back. As he arrived at the top of steps, Collison announced: “It’s all right. She’s coming to.”
Supported in the arms of the second mate, Liane was beginning to breathe deeply and looking round with dazed eyes. Lanyard dropped on a knee and set the glass to her lips. She gulped twice, mechanically, her gaze fixed to his face. Then suddenly memory cleared, and she uttered a bubbling gasp of returning dread.
“Popinot!” she cried, as Lanyard hastily took the glass away. “Popinot—he was there—I saw him—standing there!”
A trembling arm indicated the starboard deck just forward of the companion housing. But of course, when Lanyard looked, there was no one there ... if there had ever been....
Lanyard found himself exchanging looks of mystification with Collison, and heard his own voice make the flat statement: “But there is nobody....” Collison muttered words which he took to be: No, and never was. “But you must have seen him from the bridge,” Lanyard insisted blankly, “if....”
“I looked around as soon as I heard her call out,” Collison replied; “but I didn’t see anybody, only mademoiselle here—and you, of course, with that match.”
“Please help me up,” Liane Delorme asked in a faint voice. Collison lent a hand. In the support and shelter of Lanyard’s arm the woman’s body quivered like that of a frightened child. “I must go to my stateroom,” she sighed uncertainly. “But I am afraid...”
“Do not be. Remember Mr. Collison and I... Besides, you know, there was nobody...”
The assertion seemed to exasperate her; her voice discovered new strength and violence.
“But I am telling you I saw ... that assassin!”—she shuddered again—“standing there, in the shadow, glaring at me as if I had surprised him and he did not know what next to do. I think he must have been spying down through the skylight; it was the glow from it that showed me his red, dirty face of a pig.”