When Whistler was told by Frenchy and Ikey that they had first heard the “ghost-clock” after the subsiding of the storm, he declared it to be nonsense, pure and simple.
“Don’t you fellows forget the scare we all got aboard the Graf von Posen over that old lead coffin in her hold? I should think you would know better than to circulate such yarns about the ship,” he declared in some heat.
“We didn’t say a word about it,” Frenchy denied. “Only to you and Torry. Seven Knott started the row, not us.”
“And he ought to be keelhauled for it,” growled Torry.
Nothing would satisfy Frenchy and Ikey, however, until Phil and Al went down with them to listen to the strange sound themselves. It was there, all right. When their ears became used to the steady thumping of the engines, they were able to distinguish the clock-like noise.
“It’s some trick,” declared Torrance, with conviction. “Sure you chaps haven’t started a joke on us?”
“No joke!” denied Ikey.
“We’ve sworn off practical jokes,” joined in Frenchy earnestly.
“Huh! what’s the matter with you?” sniffed Torry suspiciously. “Why this eleventh-hour conversion?”
But the two smaller fellows refused to be “drawn.” They merely reiterated that they knew nothing about the cause of the ghostly sound. The four overhauled all the stowed tackle and lumber in the compartment, but found nothing but a locked carpenter’s chest that was too heavy to move. And the noise did not seem to come from that.
“It’s in the air—it’s all about us,” declared Whistler seriously. “I doubt if the source of the noise is in this room at all; it is somewhere near and by some freak of acoustics the sound is heard more plainly in this place.”
“You can try to explain it as you will,” returned Torry. “It’s mighty mysterious.”
“‘Mysterious’ is no name for it,” said Frenchy. “It’ll be more than that before all’s said and done. By St. Patrick’s piper that played the last snake out of Ireland! some of these garbies are getting blue around the gills already.”
“Laugh at them,” commanded Whistler. “We’re Americans. We ought not to have a superstitious bone in our bodies.”
“Arrah!” grunted Frenchy. “I don’t know rightly that it’s me bones that are superstitious. But that ‘tick-tock’ gives me the creeps, just the same.”
In a week the bulk of the Kennebunk’s crew were keeping strictly away from the compartment on the lower deck from which came the strange sound. In addition, a run of small accidents broke out which seemed to the minds of many of the crew to assure that the ship was doomed to bad luck.
“The ship is haunted,” continued to be whispered from division to division. The sternness of the petty officers could not halt the spreading feeling.
“How about our very first gun sinking a submarine?” demanded Philip Morgan of one group.