We were stumbling along, Clarke with the lantern, I next, and Charlie Jones behind, on our way to the ladder again, when I received a stunning blow on the back of the head. I turned dizzy, expecting nothing less than sudden death, when it developed that Jones, having stumbled over a loose plank, had fallen forward, the revolver in his outstretched hand striking my head.
He picked himself up sheepishly, and we went on. But so unnerved was I by this fresh shock that it was a moment or two before I could essay the ladder.
Burns was waiting at the hatchway, peering down. Beside him on the deck lay a bloodstained axe.
Elsa Lee, on hearing the story of Henrietta Sloane, had gone to the maids’ cabin, and had found it where it had been flung into the berth of the stewardess.
THE STEWARDESS’S STORY
But, after all, the story of Henrietta Sloane only added to the mystery. She told it to me, sitting propped in a chair in Mrs. Johns’s room, her face white, her lips dry and twitching. The crew were making such breakfast as they could on deck, and Mr. Turner was still in a stupor in his room across the main cabin. The four women, drawn together in their distress, were huddled in the center of the room, touching hands now and then, as if finding comfort in contact, and reassurance.
“I went to bed early,” said the stewardess; “about ten o’clock, I think. Karen had not come down; I wakened when the watch changed. It was hot, and the window from our room to the deck was open. There is a curtain over it, to keep the helmsman from looking in—it is close to the wheel. The bell, striking every half-hour, does not waken me any more, although it did at first. It is just outside the window. But I heard the watch change. I heard eight bells struck, and the lookout man on the forecastle head call, ‘All’s well.’
“I sat up and turned on the lights. Karen had not come down, and I was alarmed. She had been—had been flirting a little with one of the sailors, and I had warned her that it would not do. She’d be found out and get into trouble.
“The only way to reach our cabin was through the chart-room, and when I opened the door an inch or two, I saw why Karen had not come down. Mr. Turner and Mr. Singleton were sitting there. They were—” She hesitated.
“Please go on,” said Mrs. Turner. “They were drinking?”
“Yes, Mrs. Turner. And Mr. Vail was there, too. He was saying that the captain would come down and there would be more trouble. I shut the door and stood just inside, listening. Mr. Singleton said he hoped the captain would come—that he and Mr. Turner only wanted a chance to get at him.”
Miss Lee leaned forward and searched the stewardess’s face with strained eyes.
“You are sure that he mentioned Mr. Turner in that?”