“What’s the matter?” she demanded. “The whole crew is tramping outside my windows. I hope we haven’t struck an iceberg.”
“Adele, don’t faint, please. Something awful has happened.”
“Turner! He has killed some one finally!”
“Hush, for Heaven’s sake! Wilmer has been murdered, Adele—and the captain.”
Mrs. Johns had less control than the other women. She stood for an instant, with a sort of horrible grin on her face. Then she went down on the floor, full length, with a crash. Elsa Lee knelt beside her and slid a pillow under her head.
“Call the maids, Leslie,” she said quietly. “Karen has something for this sort of thing. Tell her to bring it quickly.”
I went the length of the cabin and into the chartroom. The maids’ room was here, on the port-side, and thus aft of Mrs. Turner’s and Miss Lee’s rooms. It had one door only, and two small barred windows, one above each of the two bunks.
I turned on the chart-room lights. At the top of the after companionway the crew had been assembled, and Burns was haranguing them. I knocked at the maids’ door, and, finding it unlocked, opened it an inch or so.
“Karen!” I called—and, receiving no answer: “Mrs. Sloane!” (the stewardess).
I opened the door wide and glanced in. Karen Hansen, the maid, was on the floor, dead. The stewardess, in collapse from terror, was in her bunk, uninjured.
WE FIND THE AXE
I went to the after companionway and called up to the men to send the first mate down; but Burns came instead.
“Singleton’s sick,” he explained. “He’s up there in a corner, with Oleson and McNamara holding him.”
“Burns,” I said cautiously—“I’ve found another!”
“God, not one of the women!”
“One of the maids—Karen.”
Burns was a young fellow about my own age, and to this point he had stood up well. But he had been having a sort of flirtation with the girl, and I saw him go sick with horror. He wanted to see her, when he had got command of himself; but I would not let him enter the room. He stood outside, while I went in and carried out the stewardess, who was coming to and moaning. I took her forward, and told the three women there what I had found.
Mrs. Johns was better, and I found them all huddled in her room. I put the stewardess on the bed, and locked the door into the next room. Then, after examining the window, I gave Elsa Lee my revolver.
“Don’t let any one in,” I said. “I’ll put a guard at the two companionways, and we’ll let no one down. But keep the door locked also.”
She took the revolver from me, and examined it with the air of one familiar with firearms. Then she looked up at me, her lips as white as her face.
“We are relying on you, Leslie,” she said.