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The Lovecraft Mythos

Stijn Dejongh

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Table of Contents

      • About: H.P. Lovecraft
    • The Cthulhu Mythos
      • Azathoth
      • Nyarlathotep
      • The Nameless City
      • The Festival
      • The Hound
      • The Unnamable
      • The Outsider
      • The Lurking Fear
      • The Shunned House
      • The Call of Cthulhu
      • Dagon
      • The Colour out of Space
      • The Dunwich Horror
      • The Whisperer in Darkness
      • The Shadow over Innsmouth
      • The Dreams in the Witch House
      • The Evil Clergyman
      • The Haunter of the Dark
      • The Thing on the Doorstep
      • The Man of Stone
      • The Horror in the Museum
      • Out of the Aeons
      • The Tree on the Hill
      • The Mound
      • The Shadow out of Time
      • At the Mountains of Madness
      • History of the Necronomicon
      • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
    • The Dreamlands Cycles
      • Polaris
      • The Doom That Came to Sarnath
      • The White Ship
      • The Cats of Ulthar
      • Celephaîs
      • Ex Oblivione
      • The Quest of Iranon
      • The Other Gods
      • Hypnos
      • The Strange High House in the Mist
      • The Silver Key
      • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
      • Through the Gates of the Silver Key
      • Beyond the Wall of Sleep
      • The Statement of Randolph Carter
      • The Descendant
      • The Transition of Juan Romero
      • The Crawling Chaos
    • The Extended Mythos
      • Ashes
      • The Challenge from Beyond
    • Background information
      • Thematic and stylistic groupings
      • The Lovecraft Universe: Timeline and Key Events
      • Eldritch Horrors: A Guide to Lovecraftian Entities
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    Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937) was an American writer of weird, science, fantasy,and horror fiction. He is best known for his creation of the Cthulhu Mythos.

    Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft spent most of his life in New England. After his father’s institutionalization in 1893, he livedaffluently until his family’s wealth dissipated after the death of his grandfather. Lovecraft then lived with his mother, in reduced financialsecurity, until her institutionalization in 1919. He began to write essays for the United Amateur Press Association, and in 1913 wrote a criticalletter to a pulp magazine that ultimately led to his involvement in pulp fiction. He became active in the speculative fiction community and waspublished in several pulp magazines. Lovecraft moved to New York City, marrying Sonia Greene in 1924, and later became the center of a wider groupof authors known as the “Lovecraft Circle”. They introduced him to Weird Tales, which became his most prominent publisher. Lovecraft’s time in NewYork took a toll on his mental state and financial conditions. He returned to Providence in 1926 and produced some of his most popular works,including “The Call of Cthulhu”, At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow over Innsmouth, and The Shadow Out of Time. He remained active as a writerfor 11 years until his death from intestinal cancer at the age of 46.

    H.P. Lovecraft’s political and racial opinions, which are evident in some of his writings and personal correspondence, reflect the prejudicedattitudes of his time. His xenophobic and racist views, though not uncommon in the early 20th century, are starkly at odds with contemporary valuesof equality and inclusivity. These aspects of Lovecraft’s worldview can be jarring and uncomfortable for modern readers, highlighting the evolutionof societal norms and the ongoing struggle against bigotry. Despite this, the editors of “The Lovecraft Mythos” have chosen to preserve the originaltexts in their entirety, recognizing their historical significance and the importance of presenting Lovecraft’s work unaltered. This decision allowsreaders to engage with his stories authentically, while also acknowledging the dated and problematic elements within his body of work.

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    H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos” is a cornerstone of modern horror literature, weaving a complex tapestry of cosmic terror that has captivatedreaders for generations. Central to the Mythos is the pantheon of ancient, powerful deities known as the Great Old Ones, with Cthulhu being the mosticonic among them. These entities are depicted as vast, malevolent forces that exist beyond the comprehension of humanity, often lying dormant butcapable of causing untold destruction and madness when awakened. The Mythos is characterized by its themes of existential dread, the insignificanceof humanity in the face of an indifferent cosmos, and the fragility of sanity when confronted with the true nature of the universe.

    The stories within the Cthulhu Mythos span a wide range of settings and characters, from the decaying New England towns rife with dark secrets tothe remote corners of the Earth where ancient horrors lurk. Key tales like “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Dunwich Horror,” and “At the Mountains ofMadness” illustrate Lovecraft’s unique blend of science fiction, horror, and mythology. The Mythos also includes a vast array of forbidden texts,such as the infamous Necronomicon, which serve as grim repositories of eldritch knowledge. Lovecraft’s influence extends beyond his own writings,inspiring a myriad of authors who have expanded upon his universe, creating a shared mythos that continues to evolve. Through these interconnectednarratives, Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos explores the limits of human understanding and the chilling reality that some mysteries are better leftundiscovered.

    List of stories in the Cthulhu Mythos

    The stories in the Cthulhu Mythos are not typically ordered by their internal chronology, as Lovecraft’s works do not form a single continuousnarrative. Instead, they are usually listed by their publication date or grouped by thematic relevance.For your reading convenience, the stories in this book are ordered in a way that is more-or-less consistent with the main events in the LovecraftMythos. This ordering places the stories in a sequence that emphasizes their mythos connections and development of key themes and elements withinLovecraft’s universe.

    TitlePublishedDescription
    Azathoth1922A brief, poetic depiction of the mindless, chaos entity Azathoth at the center of the universe.
    Nyarlathotep1920The enigmatic Nyarlathotep roams the Earth, spreading madness and chaos.
    The Nameless City1921An explorer discovers a forgotten, ancient city in the Arabian desert with a horrifying secret.
    The Festival1923A man attends a grotesque, ancient festival in a decaying New England town.
    The Hound1922Grave robbers unleash a vengeful, supernatural hound after stealing a cursed artifact.
    The Unnamable1925Two friends encounter a horrifying creature in an old cemetery.
    The Outsider1926A solitary individual escapes from an underground dwelling only to discover a shocking truth about himself.
    The Lurking Fear1923An investigation into mysterious deaths in the Catskill Mountains reveals a monstrous family secret.
    The Rats in the Walls1924A man uncovers the horrifying secret of his ancestral home, linking it to ancient and malevolent beings.
    The Shunned House1937A man investigates an old house with a history of mysterious deaths and encounters a vampiric entity.
    The Call of Cthulhu1928A man uncovers evidence of the terrifying, dormant sea god Cthulhu and its cult.
    Dagon1919A war veteran encounters a monstrous sea deity after drifting to an uncharted island.
    The Colour out of Space1927A meteorite crashes on a farm, releasing a color that drains life and sanity.
    The Curse of Yig1928A pioneer encounters the snake god Yig and faces a dreadful curse.
    The Dunwich Horror1928A rural community is terrorized by an otherworldly being summoned by a degenerate family.
    The Whisperer in Darkness1930A scholar investigates reports of extraterrestrial creatures in rural Vermont.
    The Shadow over Innsmouth1936A man learns of his disturbing heritage linked to the aquatic Deep Ones in a decaying town.
    The Dreams in the Witch House1933A student rents a room in a witch-haunted house, leading to nightmarish experiences.
    The Evil Clergyman1939A man experiences a terrifying encounter with an otherworldly being after inspecting a haunted room.
    The Haunter of the Dark1936An artist becomes obsessed with an abandoned church and the dark entity within.
    The Thing on the Doorstep1937A man confronts his best friend’s disturbing possession by a sorceress.
    The Man of Stone1932(with Hazel Heald) Two men discover petrified human figures and uncover a supernatural cause.
    The Horror in the Museum1933(with Hazel Heald) A curator’s sinister exhibits in a wax museum come to terrifying life.
    Out of the Aeons1935(with Hazel Heald) An ancient mummy in a museum holds a dark and otherworldly secret.
    The Tree on the Hill1934(with Duane W. Rimel) Two friends explore a hill with a mysterious, otherworldly tree linked to cosmic horror.
    The Mound1940(with Zealia Bishop) Explorers uncover a subterranean civilization linked to a cursed Native American mound.
    The Shadow out of Time1936A professor experiences a strange amnesia and uncovers his mind’s journey through time and space.
    At the Mountains of Madness1931Antarctic explorers discover an ancient, alien city and its horrifying secrets.
    History of the Necronomicon1927A fictional history of the infamous, cursed book of forbidden knowledge.
    The Case of Charles Dexter Ward1941A young man from Providence, Rhode Island, becomes obsessed with his ancestor, Joseph Curwen, an alleged wizard and necromancer.

    When age fell upon the world, and wonder went out of the minds of men; when grey cities rearedto smoky skies tall towers grim and ugly, in whose shadow none might dream of the sun or ofspring’s flowering meads; when learning stripped earth of her mantle of beauty, and poetssang no more save of twisted phantoms seen with bleared and inward-looking eyes; when thesethings had come to pass, and childish hopes had gone away forever, there was a man who travelledout of life on a quest into the spaces whither the world’s dreams had fled.

    Of the name and abode of this man but little is written, for they were of thewaking world only; yet it is said that both were obscure. It is enough to know that he dweltin a city of high walls where sterile twilight reigned, and that he toiled all day among shadowand turmoil, coming home at evening to a room whose one window opened not on the fields andgroves but on a dim court where other windows stared in dull despair. From that casem*nt onemight see only walls and windows, except sometimes when one leaned far out and peered aloftat the small stars that passed. And because mere walls and windows must soon drive to madnessa man who dreams and reads much, the dweller in that room used night after night to lean outand peer aloft to glimpse some fragment of things beyond the waking world and the greyness oftall cities. After years he began to call the slow-sailing stars by name, and to follow themin fancy when they glided regretfully out of sight; till at length his vision opened to manysecret vistas whose existence no common eye suspects. And one night a mighty gulf was bridged,and the dream-haunted skies swelled down to the lonely watcher’s window to merge withthe close air of his room and make him a part of their fabulous wonder.

    There came to that room wild streams of violet midnight glittering with dustof gold; vortices of dust and fire, swirling out of the ultimate spaces and heavy with perfumesfrom beyond the worlds. Opiate oceans poured there, litten by suns that the eye may never beholdand having in their whirlpools strange dolphins and sea-nymphs of unrememberable deeps. Noiselessinfinity eddied around the dreamer and wafted him away without even touching the body that leanedstiffly from the lonely window; and for days not counted in men’s calendars the tidesof far spheres bare him gently to join the dreams for which he longed; the dreams that men havelost. And in the course of many cycles they tenderly left him sleeping on a green sunrise shore;a green shore fragrant with lotus-blossoms and starred by red camalotes.

    Nyarlathotep . . . the crawling chaos . . . I am the last . . . I will tell the audient void. . . .

    I do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago. The generaltension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and broodingapprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a dangeras may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the peoplewent about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one daredconsciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt wasupon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiverin dark and lonely places. There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons—theautumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe hadpassed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.

    And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none couldtell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin knelt whenthey saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-sevencenturies, and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands ofcivilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instrumentsof glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences—ofelectricity and psychology—and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators awayspeechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude. Men advised one another to seeNyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hourswere rent with the screams of nightmare. Never before had the screams of nightmare been sucha public problem; now the wise men almost wished they could forbid sleep in the small hours,that the shrieks of cities might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon as it glimmeredon green waters gliding under bridges, and old steeples crumbling against a sickly sky.

    I remember when Nyarlathotep came to my city—the great, the old, theterrible city of unnumbered crimes. My friend had told me of him, and of the impelling fascinationand allurement of his revelations, and I burned with eagerness to explore his uttermost mysteries.My friend said they were horrible and impressive beyond my most fevered imaginings; that whatwas thrown on a screen in the darkened room prophesied things none but Nyarlathotep dared prophesy,and that in the sputter of his sparks there was taken from men that which had never been takenbefore yet which shewed only in the eyes. And I heard it hinted abroad that those who knew Nyarlathoteplooked on sights which others saw not.

    It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the restless crowdsto see Nyarlathotep; through the stifling night and up the endless stairs into the choking room.And shadowed on a screen, I saw hooded forms amidst ruins, and yellow evil faces peering frombehind fallen monuments. And I saw the world battling against blackness; against the waves ofdestruction from ultimate space; whirling, churning; struggling around the dimming, coolingsun. Then the sparks played amazingly around the heads of the spectators, and hair stood upon end whilst shadows more grotesque than I can tell came out and squatted on the heads. Andwhen I, who was colder and more scientific than the rest, mumbled a trembling protest about“imposture “ and “static electricity”, Nyarlathotep drave us all out,down the dizzy stairs into the damp, hot, deserted midnight streets. I screamed aloud that Iwas not afraid; that I never could be afraid; and others screamed with me for solace.We sware to one another that the city was exactly the same, and still alive; and whenthe electric lights began to fade we cursed the company over and over again, and laughed atthe queer faces we made.

    I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon, for when webegan to depend on its light we drifted into curious involuntary formations and seemed to knowour destinations though we dared not think of them. Once we looked at the pavement and foundthe blocks loose and displaced by grass, with scarce a line of rusted metal to shew where thetramways had run. And again we saw a tram-car, lone, windowless, dilapidated, and almost onits side. When we gazed around the horizon, we could not find the third tower by the river,and noticed that the silhouette of the second tower was ragged at the top. Then we split upinto narrow columns, each of which seemed drawn in a different direction. One disappeared ina narrow alley to the left, leaving only the echo of a shocking moan. Another filed down a weed-chokedsubway entrance, howling with a laughter that was mad. My own column was sucked toward the opencountry, and presently felt a chill which was not of the hot autumn; for as we stalked out onthe dark moor, we beheld around us the hellish moon-glitter of evil snows. Trackless, inexplicablesnows, swept asunder in one direction only, where lay a gulf all the blacker for its glitteringwalls. The column seemed very thin indeed as it plodded dreamily into the gulf. I lingered behind,for the black rift in the green-litten snow was frightful, and I thought I had heard the reverberationsof a disquieting wail as my companions vanished; but my power to linger was slight. As if beckonedby those who had gone before, I half floated between the titanic snowdrifts, quivering and afraid,into the sightless vortex of the unimaginable.

    Screamingly sentient, dumbly delirious, only the gods that were can tell. Asickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastlymidnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel windsthat brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low. Beyond the worlds vague ghosts of monstrousthings; half-seen columns of unsanctified temples that rest on nameless rocks beneath spaceand reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and darkness. And through this revoltinggraveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whineof blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable poundingand piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimategods—the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.

    When I drew nigh the nameless city I knew it was accursed. I was travellingin a parched and terrible valley under the moon, and afar I saw it protruding uncannily abovethe sands as parts of a corpse may protrude from an ill-made grave. Fear spoke from the age-wornstones of this hoary survivor of the deluge, this great-grandmother of the eldest pyramid; anda viewless aura repelled me and bade me retreat from antique and sinister secrets that no manshould see, and no man else had ever dared to see.

    Remote in the desert of Araby lies the nameless city, crumbling and inarticulate,its low walls nearly hidden by the sands of uncounted ages. It must have been thus before thefirst stones of Memphis were laid, and while the bricks of Babylon were yet unbaked. There isno legend so old as to give it a name, or to recall that it was ever alive; but it is told ofin whispers around campfires and muttered about by grandams in the tents of sheiks, so thatall the tribes shun it without wholly knowing why. It was of this place that Abdul Alhazredthe mad poet dreamed on the night before he sang his unexplainable couplet:

    That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

    I should have known that the Arabs had good reason for shunning the namelesscity, the city told of in strange tales but seen by no living man, yet I defied them and wentinto the untrodden waste with my camel. I alone have seen it, and that is why no other facebears such hideous lines of fear as mine; why no other man shivers so horribly when the night-windrattles the windows. When I came upon it in the ghastly stillness of unending sleep it lookedat me, chilly from the rays of a cold moon amidst the desert’s heat. And as I returnedits look I forgot my triumph at finding it, and stopped still with my camel to wait for thedawn.

    For hours I waited, till the east grew grey and the stars faded, and the greyturned to roseal light edged with gold. I heard a moaning and saw a storm of sand stirring amongthe antique stones though the sky was clear and the vast reaches of the desert still. Then suddenlyabove the desert’s far rim came the blazing edge of the sun, seen through the tiny sandstormwhich was passing away, and in my fevered state I fancied that from some remote depth therecame a crash of musical metal to hail the fiery disc as Memnon hails it from the banks of theNile. My ears rang and my imagination seethed as I led my camel slowly across the sand to thatunvocal stone place; that place too old for Egypt and Meroë to remember; that place whichI alone of living men had seen.

    In and out amongst the shapeless foundations of houses and palaces I wandered,finding never a carving or inscription to tell of those men, if men they were, who built thecity and dwelt therein so long ago. The antiquity of the spot was unwholesome, and I longedto encounter some sign or device to prove that the city was indeed fashioned by mankind. Therewere certain proportions and dimensions in the ruins which I did not like. I hadwith me many tools, and dug much within the walls of the obliterated edifices; but progresswas slow, and nothing significant was revealed. When night and the moon returned I felt a chillwind which brought new fear, so that I did not dare to remain in the city. And as I went outsidethe antique walls to sleep, a small sighing sandstorm gathered behind me, blowing over the greystones though the moon was bright and most of the desert still.

    I awaked just at dawn from a pageant of horrible dreams, my ears ringing asfrom some metallic peal. I saw the sun peering redly through the last gusts of a little sandstormthat hovered over the nameless city, and marked the quietness of the rest of the landscape.Once more I ventured within those brooding ruins that swelled beneath the sand like an ogreunder a coverlet, and again dug vainly for relics of the forgotten race. At noon I rested, andin the afternoon I spent much time tracing the walls, and the bygone streets, and the outlinesof the nearly vanished buildings. I saw that the city had been mighty indeed, and wondered atthe sources of its greatness. To myself I pictured all the splendours of an age so distant thatChaldaea could not recall it, and thought of Sarnath the Doomed, that stood in the land of Mnarwhen mankind was young, and of Ib, that was carven of grey stone before mankind existed.

    All at once I came upon a place where the bed-rock rose stark through the sandand formed a low cliff; and here I saw with joy what seemed to promise further traces of theantediluvian people. Hewn rudely on the face of the cliff were the unmistakable facades of severalsmall, squat rock houses or temples; whose interiors might preserve many secrets of ages tooremote for calculation, though sandstorms had long since effaced any carvings which may havebeen outside.

    Very low and sand-choked were all of the dark apertures near me, but I clearedone with my spade and crawled through it, carrying a torch to reveal whatever mysteries it mighthold. When I was inside I saw that the cavern was indeed a temple, and beheld plain signs ofthe race that had lived and worshipped before the desert was a desert. Primitive altars, pillars,and niches, all curiously low, were not absent; and though I saw no sculptures nor frescoes,there were many singular stones clearly shaped into symbols by artificial means. The lownessof the chiselled chamber was very strange, for I could hardly more than kneel upright; but thearea was so great that my torch shewed only part at a time. I shuddered oddly in some of thefar corners; for certain altars and stones suggested forgotten rites of terrible, revolting,and inexplicable nature, and made me wonder what manner of men could have made and frequentedsuch a temple. When I had seen all that the place contained, I crawled out again, avid to findwhat the other temples might yield.

    Night had now approached, yet the tangible things I had seen made curiositystronger than fear, so that I did not flee from the long moon-cast shadows that had dauntedme when first I saw the nameless city. In the twilight I cleared another aperture and with anew torch crawled into it, finding more vague stones and symbols, though nothing more definitethan the other temple had contained. The room was just as low, but much less broad, ending ina very narrow passage crowded with obscure and cryptical shrines. About these shrines I wasprying when the noise of a wind and of my camel outside broke through the stillness and drewme forth to see what could have frightened the beast.

    The moon was gleaming vividly over the primeval ruins, lighting a dense cloudof sand that seemed blown by a strong but decreasing wind from some point along the cliff aheadof me. I knew it was this chilly, sandy wind which had disturbed the camel, and was about tolead him to a place of better shelter when I chanced to glance up and saw that there was nowind atop the cliff. This astonished me and made me fearful again, but I immediately recalledthe sudden local winds I had seen and heard before at sunrise and sunset, and judged it wasa normal thing. I decided that it came from some rock fissure leading to a cave, and watchedthe troubled sand to trace it to its source; soon perceiving that it came from the black orificeof a temple a long distance south of me, almost out of sight. Against the choking sand-cloudI plodded toward this temple, which as I neared it loomed larger than the rest, and shewed adoorway far less clogged with caked sand. I would have entered had not the terrific force ofthe icy wind almost quenched my torch. It poured madly out of the dark door, sighing uncannilyas it ruffled the sand and spread about the weird ruins. Soon it grew fainter and the sand grewmore and more still, till finally all was at rest again; but a presence seemed stalking amongthe spectral stones of the city, and when I glanced at the moon it seemed to quiver as thoughmirrored in unquiet waters. I was more afraid than I could explain, but not enough to dull mythirst for wonder; so as soon as the wind was quite gone I crossed into the dark chamber fromwhich it had come.

    This temple, as I had fancied from the outside, was larger than either of thoseI had visited before; and was presumably a natural cavern, since it bore winds from some regionbeyond. Here I could stand quite upright, but saw that the stones and altars were as low asthose in the other temples. On the walls and roof I beheld for the first time some traces ofthe pictorial art of the ancient race, curious curling streaks of paint that had almost fadedor crumbled away; and on two of the altars I saw with rising excitement a maze of well-fashionedcurvilinear carvings. As I held my torch aloft it seemed to me that the shape of the roof wastoo regular to be natural, and I wondered what the prehistoric cutters of stone had first workedupon. Their engineering skill must have been vast.

    Then a brighter flare of the fantastic flame shewed me that for which I hadbeen seeking, the opening to those remoter abysses whence the sudden wind had blown; and I grewfaint when I saw that it was a small and plainly artificial door chiselled in the solidrock. I thrust my torch within, beholding a black tunnel with the roof arching low over a roughflight of very small, numerous, and steeply descending steps. I shall always see those stepsin my dreams, for I came to learn what they meant. At the time I hardly knew whether to callthem steps or mere foot-holds in a precipitous descent. My mind was whirling with mad thoughts,and the words and warnings of Arab prophets seemed to float across the desert from the landsthat men know to the nameless city that men dare not know. Yet I hesitated only a moment beforeadvancing through the portal and commencing to climb cautiously down the steep passage, feetfirst, as though on a ladder.

    It is only in the terrible phantasms of drugs or delirium that any other mancan have had such a descent as mine. The narrow passage led infinitely down like some hideoushaunted well, and the torch I held above my head could not light the unknown depths toward whichI was crawling. I lost track of the hours and forgot to consult my watch, though I was frightenedwhen I thought of the distance I must be traversing. There were changes of direction and ofsteepness, and once I came to a long, low, level passage where I had to wriggle feet first alongthe rocky floor, holding my torch at arm’s length beyond my head. The place was not highenough for kneeling. After that were more of the steep steps, and I was still scrambling downinterminably when my failing torch died out. I do not think I noticed it at the time, for whenI did notice it I was still holding it high above me as if it were ablaze. I was quite unbalancedwith that instinct for the strange and the unknown which has made me a wanderer upon earth anda haunter of far, ancient, and forbidden places.

    In the darkness there flashed before my mind fragments of my cherished treasuryof daemoniac lore; sentences from Alhazred the mad Arab, paragraphs from the apocryphal nightmaresof Damascius, and infamous lines from the delirious Image du Monde of Gauthier de Metz.I repeated queer extracts, and muttered of Afrasiab and the daemons that floated with him downthe Oxus; later chanting over and over again a phrase from one of Lord Dunsany’s tales— “theunreverberate blackness of the abyss “. Once when the descent grew amazingly steep I recitedsomething in sing-song from Thomas Moore until I feared to recite more:

    “A reservoir of darkness, blackAs witches’ cauldrons are, when fill’dWith moon-drugs in th’ eclipse distill’d.Leaning to look if foot might passDown thro’ that chasm, I saw, beneath,As far as vision could explore,The jetty sides as smooth as glass,Looking as if just varnish’d o’erWith that dark pitch the Sea of DeathThrows out upon its slimy shore. “

    Time had quite ceased to exist when my feet again felt a level floor, and Ifound myself in a place slightly higher than the rooms in the two smaller temples now so incalculablyfar above my head. I could not quite stand, but could kneel upright, and in the dark I shuffledand crept hither and thither at random. I soon knew that I was in a narrow passage whose wallswere lined with cases of wood having glass fronts. As in that Palaeozoic and abysmal place Ifelt of such things as polished wood and glass I shuddered at the possible implications. Thecases were apparently ranged along each side of the passage at regular intervals, and were oblongand horizontal, hideously like coffins in shape and size. When I tried to move two or threefor further examination, I found they were firmly fastened.

    I saw that the passage was a long one, so floundered ahead rapidly in a creepingrun that would have seemed horrible had any eye watched me in the blackness; crossing from sideto side occasionally to feel of my surroundings and be sure the walls and rows of cases stillstretched on. Man is so used to thinking visually that I almost forgot the darkness and picturedthe endless corridor of wood and glass in its low-studded monotony as though I saw it. And thenin a moment of indescribable emotion I did see it.

    Just when my fancy merged into real sight I cannot tell; but there came a gradualglow ahead, and all at once I knew that I saw the dim outlines of the corridor and the cases,revealed by some unknown subterranean phosphorescence. For a little while all was exactly asI had imagined it, since the glow was very faint; but as I mechanically kept on stumbling aheadinto the stronger light I realised that my fancy had been but feeble. This hall was no relicof crudity like the temples in the city above, but a monument of the most magnificent and exoticart. Rich, vivid, and daringly fantastic designs and pictures formed a continuous scheme ofmural painting whose lines and colours were beyond description. The cases were of a strangegolden wood, with fronts of exquisite glass, and contained the mummified forms of creaturesoutreaching in grotesqueness the most chaotic dreams of man.

    To convey any idea of these monstrosities is impossible. They were of the reptilekind, with body lines suggesting sometimes the crocodile, sometimes the seal, but more oftennothing of which either the naturalist or the palaeontologist ever heard. In size they approximateda small man, and their fore legs bore delicate and evidently flexible feet curiously like humanhands and fingers. But strangest of all were their heads, which presented a contour violatingall known biological principles. To nothing can such things be well compared—in one flashI thought of comparisons as varied as the cat, the bulldog, the mythic Satyr, and the humanbeing. Not Jove himself had so colossal and protuberant a forehead, yet the horns and the noselessnessand the alligator-like jaw placed the things outside all established categories. I debated fora time on the reality of the mummies, half suspecting they were artificial idols; but soon decidedthey were indeed some palaeogean species which had lived when the nameless city was alive. Tocrown their grotesqueness, most of them were gorgeously enrobed in the costliest of fabrics,and lavishly laden with ornaments of gold, jewels, and unknown shining metals.

    The importance of these crawling creatures must have been vast, for they heldfirst place among the wild designs on the frescoed walls and ceiling. With matchless skill hadthe artist drawn them in a world of their own, wherein they had cities and gardens fashionedto suit their dimensions; and I could not but think that their pictured history was allegorical,perhaps shewing the progress of the race that worshipped them. These creatures, I said to myself,were to the men of the nameless city what the she-wolf was to Rome, or some totem-beast is toa tribe of Indians.

    Holding this view, I thought I could trace roughly a wonderful epic of thenameless city; the tale of a mighty sea-coast metropolis that ruled the world before Africarose out of the waves, and of its struggles as the sea shrank away, and the desert crept intothe fertile valley that held it. I saw its wars and triumphs, its troubles and defeats, andafterward its terrible fight against the desert when thousands of its people—here representedin allegory by the grotesque reptiles—were driven to chisel their way down through therocks in some marvellous manner to another world whereof their prophets had told them. It wasall vividly weird and realistic, and its connexion with the awesome descent I had made was unmistakable.I even recognised the passages.

    As I crept along the corridor toward the brighter light I saw later stagesof the painted epic—the leave-taking of the race that had dwelt in the nameless city andthe valley around for ten million years; the race whose souls shrank from quitting scenes theirbodies had known so long, where they had settled as nomads in the earth’s youth, hewingin the virgin rock those primal shrines at which they never ceased to worship. Now that thelight was better I studied the pictures more closely, and, remembering that the strange reptilesmust represent the unknown men, pondered upon the customs of the nameless city. Many thingswere peculiar and inexplicable. The civilisation, which included a written alphabet, had seeminglyrisen to a higher order than those immeasurably later civilisations of Egypt and Chaldaea, yetthere were curious omissions. I could, for example, find no pictures to represent deaths orfuneral customs, save such as were related to wars, violence, and plagues; and I wondered atthe reticence shewn concerning natural death. It was as though an ideal of earthly immortalityhad been fostered as a cheering illusion.

    Still nearer the end of the passage were painted scenes of the utmost picturesquenessand extravagance; contrasted views of the nameless city in its desertion and growing ruin, andof the strange new realm or paradise to which the race had hewed its way through the stone.In these views the city and the desert valley were shewn always by moonlight, a golden nimbushovering over the fallen walls and half revealing the splendid perfection of former times, shewnspectrally and elusively by the artist. The paradisal scenes were almost too extravagant tobe believed; portraying a hidden world of eternal day filled with glorious cities and etherealhills and valleys. At the very last I thought I saw signs of an artistic anti-climax. The paintingswere less skilful, and much more bizarre than even the wildest of the earlier scenes. They seemedto record a slow decadence of the ancient stock, coupled with a growing ferocity toward theoutside world from which it was driven by the desert. The forms of the people—always representedby the sacred reptiles—appeared to be gradually wasting away, though their spirit as shewnhovering about the ruins by moonlight gained in proportion. Emaciated priests, displayed asreptiles in ornate robes, cursed the upper air and all who breathed it; and one terrible finalscene shewed a primitive-looking man, perhaps a pioneer of ancient Irem, the City of Pillars,torn to pieces by members of the elder race. I remembered how the Arabs fear the nameless city,and was glad that beyond this place the grey walls and ceiling were bare.

    As I viewed the pageant of mural history I had approached very closely theend of the low-ceiled hall, and was aware of a great gate through which came all of the illuminatingphosphorescence. Creeping up to it, I cried aloud in transcendent amazement at what lay beyond;for instead of other and brighter chambers there was only an illimitable void of uniform radiance,such as one might fancy when gazing down from the peak of Mount Everest upon a sea of sunlitmist. Behind me was a passage so cramped that I could not stand upright in it; before me wasan infinity of subterranean effulgence.

    Reaching down from the passage into the abyss was the head of a steep flightof steps—small numerous steps like those of the black passages I had traversed—butafter a few feet the glowing vapours concealed everything. Swung back open against the left-handwall of the passage was a massive door of brass, incredibly thick and decorated with fantasticbas-reliefs, which could if closed shut the whole inner world of light away from the vaultsand passages of rock. I looked at the steps, and for the nonce dared not try them. I touchedthe open brass door, and could not move it. Then I sank prone to the stone floor, my mind aflamewith prodigious reflections which not even a death-like exhaustion could banish.

    As I lay still with closed eyes, free to ponder, many things I had lightlynoted in the frescoes came back to me with new and terrible significance—scenes representingthe nameless city in its heyday, the vegetation of the valley around it, and the distant landswith which its merchants traded. The allegory of the crawling creatures puzzled me by its universalprominence, and I wondered that it should be so closely followed in a pictured history of suchimportance. In the frescoes the nameless city had been shewn in proportions fitted to the reptiles.I wondered what its real proportions and magnificence had been, and reflected a moment on certainoddities I had noticed in the ruins. I thought curiously of the lowness of the primal templesand of the underground corridor, which were doubtless hewn thus out of deference to the reptiledeities there honoured; though it perforce reduced the worshippers to crawling. Perhaps thevery rites had involved a crawling in imitation of the creatures. No religious theory, however,could easily explain why the level passage in that awesome descent should be as low as the temples—orlower, since one could not even kneel in it. As I thought of the crawling creatures, whose hideousmummified forms were so close to me, I felt a new throb of fear. Mental associations are curious,and I shrank from the idea that except for the poor primitive man torn to pieces in the lastpainting, mine was the only human form amidst the many relics and symbols of primordial life.

    But as always in my strange and roving existence, wonder soon drove out fear;for the luminous abyss and what it might contain presented a problem worthy of the greatestexplorer. That a weird world of mystery lay far down that flight of peculiarly small steps Icould not doubt, and I hoped to find there those human memorials which the painted corridorhad failed to give. The frescoes had pictured unbelievable cities, hills, and valleys in thislower realm, and my fancy dwelt on the rich and colossal ruins that awaited me.

    My fears, indeed, concerned the past rather than the future. Not even the physicalhorror of my position in that cramped corridor of dead reptiles and antediluvian frescoes, milesbelow the world I knew and faced by another world of eerie light and mist, could match the lethaldread I felt at the abysmal antiquity of the scene and its soul. An ancientness so vast thatmeasurement is feeble seemed to leer down from the primal stones and rock-hewn temples in thenameless city, while the very latest of the astounding maps in the frescoes shewed oceans andcontinents that man has forgotten, with only here and there some vaguely familiar outline. Ofwhat could have happened in the geological aeons since the paintings ceased and the death-hatingrace resentfully succumbed to decay, no man might say. Life had once teemed in these cavernsand in the luminous realm beyond; now I was alone with vivid relics, and I trembled to thinkof the countless ages through which these relics had kept a silent and deserted vigil.

    Suddenly there came another burst of that acute fear which had intermittentlyseized me ever since I first saw the terrible valley and the nameless city under a cold moon,and despite my exhaustion I found myself starting frantically to a sitting posture and gazingback along the black corridor toward the tunnels that rose to the outer world. My sensationswere much like those which had made me shun the nameless city at night, and were as inexplicableas they were poignant. In another moment, however, I received a still greater shock in the formof a definite sound—the first which had broken the utter silence of these tomb-like depths.It was a deep, low moaning, as of a distant throng of condemned spirits, and came from the directionin which I was staring. Its volume rapidly grew, till soon it reverberated frightfully throughthe low passage, and at the same time I became conscious of an increasing draught of cold air,likewise flowing from the tunnels and the city above. The touch of this air seemed to restoremy balance, for I instantly recalled the sudden gusts which had risen around the mouth of theabyss each sunset and sunrise, one of which had indeed served to reveal the hidden tunnels tome. I looked at my watch and saw that sunrise was near, so braced myself to resist the galewhich was sweeping down to its cavern home as it had swept forth at evening. My fear again wanedlow, since a natural phenomenon tends to dispel broodings over the unknown.

    More and more madly poured the shrieking, moaning night-wind into that gulfof the inner earth. I dropped prone again and clutched vainly at the floor for fear of beingswept bodily through the open gate into the phosphorescent abyss. Such fury I had not expected,and as I grew aware of an actual slipping of my form toward the abyss I was beset by a thousandnew terrors of apprehension and imagination. The malignancy of the blast awakened incrediblefancies; once more I compared myself shudderingly to the only other human image in that frightfulcorridor, the man who was torn to pieces by the nameless race, for in the fiendish clawing ofthe swirling currents there seemed to abide a vindictive rage all the stronger because it waslargely impotent. I think I screamed frantically near the last—I was almost mad—butif I did so my cries were lost in the hell-born babel of the howling wind-wraiths. I tried tocrawl against the murderous invisible torrent, but I could not even hold my own as I was pushedslowly and inexorably toward the unknown world. Finally reason must have wholly snapped, forI fell to babbling over and over that unexplainable couplet of the mad Arab Alhazred, who dreamedof the nameless city:

    That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

    Only the grim brooding desert gods know what really took place—what indescribablestruggles and scrambles in the dark I endured or what Abaddon guided me back to life, whereI must always remember and shiver in the night-wind till oblivion—or worse—claimsme. Monstrous, unnatural, colossal, was the thing—too far beyond all the ideas of manto be believed except in the silent damnable small hours when one cannot sleep.

    I have said that the fury of the rushing blast was infernal—cacodaemoniacal—andthat its voices were hideous with the pent-up viciousness of desolate eternities. Presentlythose voices, while still chaotic before me, seemed to my beating brain to take articulate formbehind me; and down there in the grave of unnumbered aeon-dead antiquities, leagues below thedawn-lit world of men, I heard the ghastly cursing and snarling of strange-tongued fiends. Turning,I saw outlined against the luminous aether of the abyss what could not be seen against the duskof the corridor—a nightmare horde of rushing devils; hate-distorted, grotesquely panoplied,half-transparent; devils of a race no man might mistake—the crawling reptiles of the namelesscity.

    And as the wind died away I was plunged into the ghoul-peopled blackness ofearth’s bowels; for behind the last of the creatures the great brazen door clanged shutwith a deafening peal of metallic music whose reverberations swelled out to the distant worldto hail the rising sun as Memnon hails it from the banks of the Nile.

    “Efficiunt Daemones, ut quae non sunt, sic tamen quasi sint, conspicienda hominibus exhibeant.”

    —Lactantius.

    I was far from home, and the spell of the eastern sea was upon me. In the twilight I heard itpounding on the rocks, and I knew it lay just over the hill where the twisting willows writhedagainst the clearing sky and the first stars of evening. And because my fathers had called meto the old town beyond, I pushed on through the shallow, new-fallen snow along the road thatsoared lonely up to where Aldebaran twinkled among the trees; on toward the very ancient townI had never seen but often dreamed of.

    It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas though they know in their heartsit is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and mankind. It was the Yuletide,and I had come at last to the ancient sea town where my people had dwelt and kept festival inthe elder time when festival was forbidden; where also they had commanded their sons to keepfestival once every century, that the memory of primal secrets might not be forgotten. Minewere an old people, and were old even when this land was settled three hundred years before.And they were strange, because they had come as dark furtive folk from opiate southern gardensof orchids, and spoken another tongue before they learnt the tongue of the blue-eyed fishers.And now they were scattered, and shared only the rituals of mysteries that none living couldunderstand. I was the only one who came back that night to the old fishing town as legend bade,for only the poor and the lonely remember.

    Then beyond the hill’s crest I saw Kingsport outspread frostily in thegloaming; snowy Kingsport with its ancient vanes and steeples, ridgepoles and chimney-pots,wharves and small bridges, willow-trees and graveyards; endless labyrinths of steep, narrow,crooked streets, and dizzy church-crowned central peak that time durst not touch; ceaselessmazes of colonial houses piled and scattered at all angles and levels like a child’s disorderedblocks; antiquity hovering on grey wings over winter-whitened gables and gambrel roofs; fanlightsand small-paned windows one by one gleaming out in the cold dusk to join Orion and the archaicstars. And against the rotting wharves the sea pounded; the secretive, immemorial sea out ofwhich the people had come in the elder time.

    Beside the road at its crest a still higher summit rose, bleak and windswept,and I saw that it was a burying-ground where black gravestones stuck ghoulishly through thesnow like the decayed fingernails of a gigantic corpse. The printless road was very lonely,and sometimes I thought I heard a distant horrible creaking as of a gibbet in the wind. Theyhad hanged four kinsmen of mine for witchcraft in 1692, but I did not know just where.

    As the road wound down the seaward slope I listened for the merry sounds ofa village at evening, but did not hear them. Then I thought of the season, and felt that theseold Puritan folk might well have Christmas customs strange to me, and full of silent hearthsideprayer. So after that I did not listen for merriment or look for wayfarers, but kept on downpast the hushed lighted farmhouses and shadowy stone walls to where the signs of ancient shopsand sea-taverns creaked in the salt breeze, and the grotesque knockers of pillared doorwaysglistened along deserted, unpaved lanes in the light of little, curtained windows.

    I had seen maps of the town, and knew where to find the home of my people.It was told that I should be known and welcomed, for village legend lives long; so I hastenedthrough Back Street to Circle Court, and across the fresh snow on the one full flagstone pavementin the town, to where Green Lane leads off behind the Market house. The old maps still heldgood, and I had no trouble; though at Arkham they must have lied when they said the trolleysran to this place, since I saw not a wire overhead. Snow would have hid the rails in any case.I was glad I had chosen to walk, for the white village had seemed very beautiful from the hill;and now I was eager to knock at the door of my people, the seventh house on the left in GreenLane, with an ancient peaked roof and jutting second story, all built before 1650.

    There were lights inside the house when I came upon it, and I saw from thediamond window-panes that it must have been kept very close to its antique state. The upperpart overhung the narrow grass-grown street and nearly met the overhanging part of the houseopposite, so that I was almost in a tunnel, with the low stone doorstep wholly free from snow.There was no sidewalk, but many houses had high doors reached by double flights of steps withiron railings. It was an odd scene, and because I was strange to New England I had never knownits like before. Though it pleased me, I would have relished it better if there had been footprintsin the snow, and people in the streets, and a few windows without drawn curtains.

    When I sounded the archaic iron knocker I was half afraid. Some fear had beengathering in me, perhaps because of the strangeness of my heritage, and the bleakness of theevening, and the queerness of the silence in that aged town of curious customs. And when myknock was answered I was fully afraid, because I had not heard any footsteps before the doorcreaked open. But I was not afraid long, for the gowned, slippered old man in the doorway hada bland face that reassured me; and though he made signs that he was dumb, he wrote a quaintand ancient welcome with the stylus and wax tablet he carried.

    He beckoned me into a low, candle-lit room with massive exposed rafters anddark, stiff, sparse furniture of the seventeenth century. The past was vivid there, for notan attribute was missing. There was a cavernous fireplace and a spinning-wheel at which a bentold woman in loose wrapper and deep poke-bonnet sat back toward me, silently spinning despitethe festive season. An indefinite dampness seemed upon the place, and I marvelled that no fireshould be blazing. The high-backed settle faced the row of curtained windows at the left, andseemed to be occupied, though I was not sure. I did not like everything about what I saw, andfelt again the fear I had had. This fear grew stronger from what had before lessened it, forthe more I looked at the old man’s bland face the more its very blandness terrified me.The eyes never moved, and the skin was too like wax. Finally I was sure it was not a face atall, but a fiendishly cunning mask. But the flabby hands, curiously gloved, wrote genially onthe tablet and told me I must wait a while before I could be led to the place of festival.

    Pointing to a chair, table, and pile of books, the old man now left the room;and when I sat down to read I saw that the books were hoary and mouldy, and that they includedold Morryster’s wild Marvells of Science, the terrible Saducismus Triumphatusof Joseph Glanvill, published in 1681, the shocking Daemonolatreia of Remigius, printedin 1595 at Lyons, and worst of all, the unmentionable Necronomicon of the mad Arab AbdulAlhazred, in Olaus Wormius’ forbidden Latin translation; a book which I had never seen,but of which I had heard monstrous things whispered. No one spoke to me, but I could hear thecreaking of signs in the wind outside, and the whir of the wheel as the bonneted old woman continuedher silent spinning, spinning. I thought the room and the books and the people very morbid anddisquieting, but because an old tradition of my fathers had summoned me to strange feastings,I resolved to expect queer things. So I tried to read, and soon became tremblingly absorbedby something I found in that accursed Necronomicon; a thought and a legend too hideousfor sanity or consciousness. But I disliked it when I fancied I heard the closing of one ofthe windows that the settle faced, as if it had been stealthily opened. It had seemed to followa whirring that was not of the old woman’s spinning-wheel. This was not much, though,for the old woman was spinning very hard, and the aged clock had been striking. After that Ilost the feeling that there were persons on the settle, and was reading intently and shudderinglywhen the old man came back booted and dressed in a loose antique costume, and sat down on thatvery bench, so that I could not see him. It was certainly nervous waiting, and the blasphemousbook in my hands made it doubly so. When eleven struck, however, the old man stood up, glidedto a massive carved chest in a corner, and got two hooded cloaks; one of which he donned, andthe other of which he draped round the old woman, who was ceasing her monotonous spinning. Thenthey both started for the outer door; the woman lamely creeping, and the old man, after pickingup the very book I had been reading, beckoning me as he drew his hood over that unmoving faceor mask.

    We went out into the moonless and tortuous network of that incredibly ancienttown; went out as the lights in the curtained windows disappeared one by one, and the Dog Starleered at the throng of cowled, cloaked figures that poured silently from every doorway andformed monstrous processions up this street and that, past the creaking signs and antediluviangables, the thatched roofs and diamond-paned windows; threading precipitous lanes where decayinghouses overlapped and crumbled together, gliding across open courts and churchyards where thebobbing lanthorns made eldritch drunken constellations.

    Amid these hushed throngs I followed my voiceless guides; jostled by elbowsthat seemed preternaturally soft, and pressed by chests and stomachs that seemed abnormallypulpy; but seeing never a face and hearing never a word. Up, up, up the eerie columns slithered,and I saw that all the travellers were converging as they flowed near a sort of focus of crazyalleys at the top of a high hill in the centre of the town, where perched a great white church.I had seen it from the road’s crest when I looked at Kingsport in the new dusk, and ithad made me shiver because Aldebaran had seemed to balance itself a moment on the ghostly spire.

    There was an open space around the church; partly a churchyard with spectralshafts, and partly a half-paved square swept nearly bare of snow by the wind, and lined withunwholesomely archaic houses having peaked roofs and overhanging gables. Death-fires dancedover the tombs, revealing gruesome vistas, though queerly failing to cast any shadows. Pastthe churchyard, where there were no houses, I could see over the hill’s summit and watchthe glimmer of stars on the harbour, though the town was invisible in the dark. Only once ina while a lanthorn bobbed horribly through serpentine alleys on its way to overtake the throngthat was now slipping speechlessly into the church. I waited till the crowd had oozed into theblack doorway, and till all the stragglers had followed. The old man was pulling at my sleeve,but I was determined to be the last. Then I finally went, the sinister man and the old spinningwoman before me. Crossing the threshold into that swarming temple of unknown darkness, I turnedonce to look at the outside world as the churchyard phosphorescence cast a sickly glow on thehill-top pavement. And as I did so I shuddered. For though the wind had not left much snow,a few patches did remain on the path near the door; and in that fleeting backward look it seemedto my troubled eyes that they bore no mark of passing feet, not even mine.

    The church was scarce lighted by all the lanthorns that had entered it, formost of the throng had already vanished. They had streamed up the aisle between the high whitepews to the trap-door of the vaults which yawned loathsomely open just before the pulpit, andwere now squirming noiselessly in. I followed dumbly down the footworn steps and into the dank,suffocating crypt. The tail of that sinuous line of night-marchers seemed very horrible, andas I saw them wriggling into a venerable tomb they seemed more horrible still. Then I noticedthat the tomb’s floor had an aperture down which the throng was sliding, and in a momentwe were all descending an ominous staircase of rough-hewn stone; a narrow spiral staircase dampand peculiarly odorous, that wound endlessly down into the bowels of the hill past monotonouswalls of dripping stone blocks and crumbling mortar. It was a silent, shocking descent, andI observed after a horrible interval that the walls and steps were changing in nature, as ifchiselled out of the solid rock. What mainly troubled me was that the myriad footfalls madeno sound and set up no echoes. After more aeons of descent I saw some side passages or burrowsleading from unknown recesses of blackness to this shaft of nighted mystery. Soon they becameexcessively numerous, like impious catacombs of nameless menace; and their pungent odour ofdecay grew quite unbearable. I knew we must have passed down through the mountain and beneaththe earth of Kingsport itself, and I shivered that a town should be so aged and maggoty withsubterraneous evil.

    Then I saw the lurid shimmering of pale light, and heard the insidious lappingof sunless waters. Again I shivered, for I did not like the things that the night had brought,and wished bitterly that no forefather had summoned me to this primal rite. As the steps andthe passage grew broader, I heard another sound, the thin, whining mockery of a feeble flute;and suddenly there spread out before me the boundless vista of an inner world—a vast fungousshore litten by a belching column of sick greenish flame and washed by a wide oily river thatflowed from abysses frightful and unsuspected to join the blackest gulfs of immemorial ocean.

    Fainting and gasping, I looked at that unhallowed Erebus of titan toadstools,leprous fire, and slimy water, and saw the cloaked throngs forming a semicircle around the blazingpillar. It was the Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him; the primal rite of thesolstice and of spring’s promise beyond the snows; the rite of fire and evergreen, lightand music. And in the Stygian grotto I saw them do the rite, and adore the sick pillar of flame,and throw into the water handfuls gouged out of the viscous vegetation which glittered greenin the chlorotic glare. I saw this, and I saw something amorphously squatted far away from thelight, piping noisomely on a flute; and as the thing piped I thought I heard noxious muffledflutterings in the foetid darkness where I could not see. But what frightened me most was thatflaming column; spouting volcanically from depths profound and inconceivable, casting no shadowsas healthy flame should, and coating the nitrous stone above with a nasty, venomous verdigris.For in all that seething combustion no warmth lay, but only the clamminess of death and corruption.

    The man who had brought me now squirmed to a point directly beside the hideousflame, and made stiff ceremonial motions to the semicircle he faced. At certain stages of theritual they did grovelling obeisance, especially when he held above his head that abhorrentNecronomicon he had taken with him; and I shared all the obeisances because I had beensummoned to this festival by the writings of my forefathers. Then the old man made a signalto the half-seen flute-player in the darkness, which player thereupon changed its feeble droneto a scarce louder drone in another key; precipitating as it did so a horror unthinkable andunexpected. At this horror I sank nearly to the lichened earth, transfixed with a dread notof this nor any world, but only of the mad spaces between the stars.

    Out of the unimaginable blackness beyond the gangrenous glare of that coldflame, out of the Tartarean leagues through which that oily river rolled uncanny, unheard, andunsuspected, there flopped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things thatno sound eye could ever wholly grasp, or sound brain ever wholly remember. They were not altogethercrows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings; butsomething I cannot and must not recall. They flopped limply along, half with their webbed feetand half with their membraneous wings; and as they reached the throng of celebrants the cowledfigures seized and mounted them, and rode off one by one along the reaches of that unlightedriver, into pits and galleries of panic where poison springs feed frightful and undiscoverablecataracts.

    The old spinning woman had gone with the throng, and the old man remained onlybecause I had refused when he motioned me to seize an animal and ride like the rest. I saw whenI staggered to my feet that the amorphous flute-player had rolled out of sight, but that twoof the beasts were patiently standing by. As I hung back, the old man produced his stylus andtablet and wrote that he was the true deputy of my fathers who had founded the Yule worshipin this ancient place; that it had been decreed I should come back, and that the most secretmysteries were yet to be performed. He wrote this in a very ancient hand, and when I still hesitatedhe pulled from his loose robe a seal ring and a watch, both with my family arms, to prove thathe was what he said. But it was a hideous proof, because I knew from old papers that that watchhad been buried with my great-great-great-great-grandfather in 1698.

    Presently the old man drew back his hood and pointed to the family resemblancein his face, but I only shuddered, because I was sure that the face was merely a devilish waxenmask. The flopping animals were now scratching restlessly at the lichens, and I saw that theold man was nearly as restless himself. When one of the things began to waddle and edge away,he turned quickly to stop it; so that the suddenness of his motion dislodged the waxen maskfrom what should have been his head. And then, because that nightmare’s position barredme from the stone staircase down which we had come, I flung myself into the oily undergroundriver that bubbled somewhere to the caves of the sea; flung myself into that putrescent juiceof earth’s inner horrors before the madness of my screams could bring down upon me allthe charnel legions these pest-gulfs might conceal.

    At the hospital they told me I had been found half frozen in Kingsport Harbourat dawn, clinging to the drifting spar that accident sent to save me. They told me I had takenthe wrong fork of the hill road the night before, and fallen over the cliffs at Orange Point;a thing they deduced from prints found in the snow. There was nothing I could say, because everythingwas wrong. Everything was wrong, with the broad window shewing a sea of roofs in which onlyabout one in five was ancient, and the sound of trolleys and motors in the streets below. Theyinsisted that this was Kingsport, and I could not deny it. When I went delirious at hearingthat the hospital stood near the old churchyard on Central Hill, they sent me to St. Mary’sHospital in Arkham, where I could have better care. I liked it there, for the doctors were broad-minded,and even lent me their influence in obtaining the carefully sheltered copy of Alhazred’sobjectionable Necronomicon from the library of Miskatonic University. They said somethingabout a “psychosis”, and agreed I had better get any harassing obsessions off mymind.

    So I read again that hideous chapter, and shuddered doubly because it was indeednot new to me. I had seen it before, let footprints tell what they might; and where it was Ihad seen it were best forgotten. There was no one—in waking hours—who could remindme of it; but my dreams are filled with terror, because of phrases I dare not quote. I darequote only one paragraph, put into such English as I can make from the awkward Low Latin.

    “The nethermost caverns, “ wrote the mad Arab, “are not for the fathoming ofeyes that see; for their marvels are strange and terrific. Cursed the ground where dead thoughtslive new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabaosay, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizardsare all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from hischarnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruptionhorrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrousto plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, andthings have learnt to walk that ought to crawl. “

    I.

    In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint,distant baying as of some gigantic hound. It is not dream—it is not, I fear, even madness—fortoo much has already happened to give me these merciful doubts. St. John is a mangled corpse;I alone know why, and such is my knowledge that I am about to blow out my brains for fear Ishall be mangled in the same way. Down unlit and illimitable corridors of eldritch phantasysweeps the black, shapeless Nemesis that drives me to self-annihilation.

    May heaven forgive the folly and morbidity which led us both to so monstrousa fate! Wearied with the commonplaces of a prosaic world, where even the joys of romance andadventure soon grow stale, St. John and I had followed enthusiastically every aesthetic andintellectual movement which promised respite from our devastating ennui. The enigmas of theSymbolists and the ecstasies of the pre-Raphaelites all were ours in their time, but each newmood was drained too soon of its diverting novelty and appeal. Only the sombre philosophy ofthe Decadents could hold us, and this we found potent only by increasing gradually the depthand diabolism of our penetrations. Baudelaire and Huysmans were soon exhausted of thrills, tillfinally there remained for us only the more direct stimuli of unnatural personal experiencesand adventures. It was this frightful emotional need which led us eventually to that detestablecourse which even in my present fear I mention with shame and timidity—that hideous extremityof human outrage, the abhorred practice of grave-robbing.

    I cannot reveal the details of our shocking expeditions, or catalogue evenpartly the worst of the trophies adorning the nameless museum we prepared in the great stonehouse where we jointly dwelt, alone and servantless. Our museum was a blasphemous, unthinkableplace, where with the satanic taste of neurotic virtuosi we had assembled an universe of terrorand decay to excite our jaded sensibilities. It was a secret room, far, far underground; wherehuge winged daemons carven of basalt and onyx vomited from wide grinning mouths weird greenand orange light, and hidden pneumatic pipes ruffled into kaleidoscopic dances of death thelines of red charnel things hand in hand woven in voluminous black hangings. Through these pipescame at will the odours our moods most craved; sometimes the scent of pale funeral lilies, sometimesthe narcotic incense of imagined Eastern shrines of the kingly dead, and sometimes—howI shudder to recall it!—the frightful, soul-upheaving stenches of the uncovered grave.

    Around the walls of this repellent chamber were cases of antique mummies alternatingwith comely, life-like bodies perfectly stuffed and cured by the taxidermist’s art, andwith headstones snatched from the oldest churchyards of the world. Niches here and there containedskulls of all shapes, and heads preserved in various stages of dissolution. There one mightfind the rotting, bald pates of famous noblemen, and the fresh and radiantly golden heads ofnew-buried children. Statues and paintings there were, all of fiendish subjects and some executedby St. John and myself. A locked portfolio, bound in tanned human skin, held certain unknownand unnamable drawings which it was rumoured Goya had perpetrated but dared not acknowledge.There were nauseous musical instruments, stringed, brass, and wood-wind, on which St. John andI sometimes produced dissonances of exquisite morbidity and cacodaemoniacal ghastliness; whilstin a multitude of inlaid ebony cabinets reposed the most incredible and unimaginable varietyof tomb-loot ever assembled by human madness and perversity. It is of this loot in particularthat I must not speak—thank God I had the courage to destroy it long before I thoughtof destroying myself.

    The predatory excursions on which we collected our unmentionable treasureswere always artistically memorable events. We were no vulgar ghouls, but worked only under certainconditions of mood, landscape, environment, weather, season, and moonlight. These pastimes wereto us the most exquisite form of aesthetic expression, and we gave their details a fastidioustechnical care. An inappropriate hour, a jarring lighting effect, or a clumsy manipulation ofthe damp sod, would almost totally destroy for us that ecstatic titillation which followed theexhumation of some ominous, grinning secret of the earth. Our quest for novel scenes and piquantconditions was feverish and insatiate—St. John was always the leader, and he it was wholed the way at last to that mocking, that accursed spot which brought us our hideous and inevitabledoom.

    By what malign fatality were we lured to that terrible Holland churchyard?I think it was the dark rumour and legendry, the tales of one buried for five centuries, whohad himself been a ghoul in his time and had stolen a potent thing from a mighty sepulchre.I can recall the scene in these final moments—the pale autumnal moon over the graves,casting long horrible shadows; the grotesque trees, drooping sullenly to meet the neglectedgrass and the crumbling slabs; the vast legions of strangely colossal bats that flew againstthe moon; the antique ivied church pointing a huge spectral finger at the livid sky; the phosphorescentinsects that danced like death-fires under the yews in a distant corner; the odours of mould,vegetation, and less explicable things that mingled feebly with the night-wind from over farswamps and seas; and worst of all, the faint deep-toned baying of some gigantic hound whichwe could neither see nor definitely place. As we heard this suggestion of baying we shuddered,remembering the tales of the peasantry; for he whom we sought had centuries before been foundin this selfsame spot, torn and mangled by the claws and teeth of some unspeakable beast.

    I remembered how we delved in this ghoul’s grave with our spades, andhow we thrilled at the picture of ourselves, the grave, the pale watching moon, the horribleshadows, the grotesque trees, the titanic bats, the antique church, the dancing death-fires,the sickening odours, the gently moaning night-wind, and the strange, half-heard, directionlessbaying, of whose objective existence we could scarcely be sure. Then we struck a substance harderthan the damp mould, and beheld a rotting oblong box crusted with mineral deposits from thelong undisturbed ground. It was incredibly tough and thick, but so old that we finally priedit open and feasted our eyes on what it held.

    Much—amazingly much—was left of the object despite the lapse offive hundred years. The skeleton, though crushed in places by the jaws of the thing that hadkilled it, held together with surprising firmness, and we gloated over the clean white skulland its long, firm teeth and its eyeless sockets that once had glowed with a charnel fever likeour own. In the coffin lay an amulet of curious and exotic design, which had apparently beenworn around the sleeper’s neck. It was the oddly conventionalised figure of a crouchingwinged hound, or sphinx with a semi-canine face, and was exquisitely carved in antique Orientalfashion from a small piece of green jade. The expression on its features was repellent in theextreme, savouring at once of death, bestial*ty, and malevolence. Around the base was an inscriptionin characters which neither St. John nor I could identify; and on the bottom, like a maker’sseal, was graven a grotesque and formidable skull.

    Immediately upon beholding this amulet we knew that we must possess it; thatthis treasure alone was our logical pelf from the centuried grave. Even had its outlines beenunfamiliar we would have desired it, but as we looked more closely we saw that it was not whollyunfamiliar. Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know,but we recognised it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the madArab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng,in Central Asia. All too well did we trace the sinister lineaments described by the old Arabdaemonologist; lineaments, he wrote, drawn from some obscure supernatural manifestation of thesouls of those who vexed and gnawed at the dead.

    Seizing the green jade object, we gave a last glance at the bleached and cavern-eyedface of its owner and closed up the grave as we found it. As we hastened from that abhorrentspot, the stolen amulet in St. John’s pocket, we thought we saw the bats descend in abody to the earth we had so lately rifled, as if seeking for some cursed and unholy nourishment.But the autumn moon shone weak and pale, and we could not be sure. So, too, as we sailed thenext day away from Holland to our home, we thought we heard the faint distant baying of somegigantic hound in the background. But the autumn wind moaned sad and wan, and we could not besure.

    II.

    Less than a week after our return to England, strange things began to happen.We lived as recluses; devoid of friends, alone, and without servants in a few rooms of an ancientmanor-house on a bleak and unfrequented moor; so that our doors were seldom disturbed by theknock of the visitor. Now, however, we were troubled by what seemed to be frequent fumblingsin the night, not only around the doors but around the windows also, upper as well as lower.Once we fancied that a large, opaque body darkened the library window when the moon was shiningagainst it, and another time we thought we heard a whirring or flapping sound not far off. Oneach occasion investigation revealed nothing, and we began to ascribe the occurrences to imaginationalone—that same curiously disturbed imagination which still prolonged in our ears thefaint far baying we thought we had heard in the Holland churchyard. The jade amulet now reposedin a niche in our museum, and sometimes we burned strangely scented candles before it. We readmuch in Alhazred’s Necronomicon about its properties, and about the relation ofghouls’ souls to the objects it symbolised; and were disturbed by what we read. Then terrorcame.

    On the night of September 24, 19—, I heard a knock at my chamberdoor. Fancying it St. John’s, I bade the knocker enter, but was answered only by a shrilllaugh. There was no one in the corridor. When I aroused St. John from his sleep, he professedentire ignorance of the event, and became as worried as I. It was that night that the faint,distant baying over the moor became to us a certain and dreaded reality. Four days later, whilstwe were both in the hidden museum, there came a low, cautious scratching at the single doorwhich led to the secret library staircase. Our alarm was now divided, for besides our fear ofthe unknown, we had always entertained a dread that our grisly collection might be discovered.Extinguishing all lights, we proceeded to the door and threw it suddenly open; whereupon wefelt an unaccountable rush of air, and heard as if receding far away a queer combination ofrustling, tittering, and articulate chatter. Whether we were mad, dreaming, or in our senses,we did not try to determine. We only realised, with the blackest of apprehensions, that theapparently disembodied chatter was beyond a doubt in the Dutch language.

    After that we lived in growing horror and fascination. Mostly we held to thetheory that we were jointly going mad from our life of unnatural excitements, but sometimesit pleased us more to dramatise ourselves as the victims of some creeping and appalling doom.Bizarre manifestations were now too frequent to count. Our lonely house was seemingly alivewith the presence of some malign being whose nature we could not guess, and every night thatdaemoniac baying rolled over the windswept moor, always louder and louder. On October 29 wefound in the soft earth underneath the library window a series of footprints utterly impossibleto describe. They were as baffling as the hordes of great bats which haunted the old manor-housein unprecedented and increasing numbers.

    The horror reached a culmination on November 18, when St. John, walking homeafter dark from the distant railway station, was seized by some frightful carnivorous thingand torn to ribbons. His screams had reached the house, and I had hastened to the terrible scenein time to hear a whir of wings and see a vague black cloudy thing silhouetted against the risingmoon. My friend was dying when I spoke to him, and he could not answer coherently. All he coulddo was to whisper, “The amulet—that damned thing—. “ Then he collapsed,an inert mass of mangled flesh.

    I buried him the next midnight in one of our neglected gardens, and mumbledover his body one of the devilish rituals he had loved in life. And as I pronounced the lastdaemoniac sentence I heard afar on the moor the faint baying of some gigantic hound. The moonwas up, but I dared not look at it. And when I saw on the dim-litten moor a wide nebulous shadowsweeping from mound to mound, I shut my eyes and threw myself face down upon the ground. WhenI arose trembling, I know not how much later, I staggered into the house and made shocking obeisancesbefore the enshrined amulet of green jade.

    Being now afraid to live alone in the ancient house on the moor, I departedon the following day for London, taking with me the amulet after destroying by fire and burialthe rest of the impious collection in the museum. But after three nights I heard the bayingagain, and before a week was over felt strange eyes upon me whenever it was dark. One eveningas I strolled on Victoria Embankment for some needed air, I saw a black shape obscure one ofthe reflections of the lamps in the water. A wind stronger than the night-wind rushed by, andI knew that what had befallen St. John must soon befall me.

    The next day I carefully wrapped the green jade amulet and sailed for Holland.What mercy I might gain by returning the thing to its silent, sleeping owner I knew not; butI felt that I must at least try any step conceivably logical. What the hound was, and why itpursued me, were questions still vague; but I had first heard the baying in that ancient churchyard,and every subsequent event including St. John’s dying whisper had served to connect thecurse with the stealing of the amulet. Accordingly I sank into the nethermost abysses of despairwhen, at an inn in Rotterdam, I discovered that thieves had despoiled me of this sole meansof salvation.

    The baying was loud that evening, and in the morning I read of a nameless deedin the vilest quarter of the city. The rabble were in terror, for upon an evil tenement hadfallen a red death beyond the foulest previous crime of the neighbourhood. In a squalid thieves’den an entire family had been torn to shreds by an unknown thing which left no trace, and thosearound had heard all night above the usual clamour of drunken voices a faint, deep, insistentnote as of a gigantic hound.

    So at last I stood again in that unwholesome churchyard where a pale wintermoon cast hideous shadows, and leafless trees drooped sullenly to meet the withered, frostygrass and cracking slabs, and the ivied church pointed a jeering finger at the unfriendly sky,and the night-wind howled maniacally from over frozen swamps and frigid seas. The baying wasvery faint now, and it ceased altogether as I approached the ancient grave I had once violated,and frightened away an abnormally large horde of bats which had been hovering curiously aroundit.

    I know not why I went thither unless to pray, or gibber out insane pleas andapologies to the calm white thing that lay within; but, whatever my reason, I attacked the half-frozensod with a desperation partly mine and partly that of a dominating will outside myself. Excavationwas much easier than I expected, though at one point I encountered a queer interruption; whena lean vulture darted down out of the cold sky and pecked frantically at the grave-earth untilI killed him with a blow of my spade. Finally I reached the rotting oblong box and removed thedamp nitrous cover. This is the last rational act I ever performed.

    For crouched within that centuried coffin, embraced by a close-packed nightmareretinue of huge, sinewy, sleeping bats, was the bony thing my friend and I had robbed; not cleanand placid as we had seen it then, but covered with caked blood and shreds of alien flesh andhair, and leering sentiently at me with phosphorescent sockets and sharp ensanguined fangs yawningtwistedly in mockery of my inevitable doom. And when it gave from those grinning jaws a deep,sardonic bay as of some gigantic hound, and I saw that it held in its gory, filthy claw thelost and fateful amulet of green jade, I merely screamed and ran away idiotically, my screamssoon dissolving into peals of hysterical laughter.

    Madness rides the star-wind . . . claws and teeth sharpenedon centuries of corpses . . . dripping death astride a Bacchanale of bats fromnight-black ruins of buried temples of Belial. . . . Now, as the baying of thatdead, fleshless monstrosity grows louder and louder, and the stealthy whirring and flappingof those accursed web-wings circles closer and closer, I shall seek with my revolver the oblivionwhich is my only refuge from the unnamed and unnamable.

    We were sitting on a dilapidated seventeenth-century tomb in the late afternoon of an autumnday at the old burying-ground in Arkham, and speculating about the unnamable. Looking towardthe giant willow in the centre of the cemetery, whose trunk has nearly engulfed an ancient,illegible slab, I had made a fantastic remark about the spectral and unmentionable nourishmentwhich the colossal roots must be sucking in from that hoary, charnel earth; when my friend chidedme for such nonsense and told me that since no interments had occurred there for over a century,nothing could possibly exist to nourish the tree in other than an ordinary manner. Besides,he added, my constant talk about “unnamable” and “unmentionable” thingswas a very puerile device, quite in keeping with my lowly standing as an author. I was too fondof ending my stories with sights or sounds which paralysed my heroes’ faculties and leftthem without courage, words, or associations to tell what they had experienced. We know things,he said, only through our five senses or our religious intuitions; wherefore it is quite impossibleto refer to any object or spectacle which cannot be clearly depicted by the solid definitionsof fact or the correct doctrines of theology—preferably those of the Congregationalists,with whatever modifications tradition and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may supply.

    With this friend, Joel Manton, I had often languidly disputed. He was principalof the East High School, born and bred in Boston and sharing New England’s self-satisfieddeafness to the delicate overtones of life. It was his view that only our normal, objectiveexperiences possess any aesthetic significance, and that it is the province of the artist notso much to rouse strong emotion by action, ecstasy, and astonishment, as to maintain a placidinterest and appreciation by accurate, detailed transcripts of every-day affairs. Especiallydid he object to my preoccupation with the mystical and the unexplained; for although believingin the supernatural much more fully than I, he would not admit that it is sufficiently commonplacefor literary treatment. That a mind can find its greatest pleasure in escapes from the dailytreadmill, and in original and dramatic recombinations of images usually thrown by habit andfatigue into the hackneyed patterns of actual existence, was something virtually incredibleto his clear, practical, and logical intellect. With him all things and feelings had fixed dimensions,properties, causes, and effects; and although he vaguely knew that the mind sometimes holdsvisions and sensations of far less geometrical, classifiable, and workable nature, he believedhimself justified in drawing an arbitrary line and ruling out of court all that cannot be experiencedand understood by the average citizen. Besides, he was almost sure that nothing can be really“unnamable”. It didn’t sound sensible to him.

    Though I well realised the futility of imaginative and metaphysical argumentsagainst the complacency of an orthodox sun-dweller, something in the scene of this afternooncolloquy moved me to more than usual contentiousness. The crumbling slate slabs, the patriarchaltrees, and the centuried gambrel roofs of the witch-haunted old town that stretched around,all combined to rouse my spirit in defence of my work; and I was soon carrying my thrusts intothe enemy’s own country. It was not, indeed, difficult to begin a counter-attack, forI knew that Joel Manton actually half clung to many old-wives’ superstitions which sophisticatedpeople had long outgrown; beliefs in the appearance of dying persons at distant places, andin the impressions left by old faces on the windows through which they had gazed all their lives.To credit these whisperings of rural grandmothers, I now insisted, argued a faith in the existenceof spectral substances on the earth apart from and subsequent to their material counterparts.It argued a capability of believing in phenomena beyond all normal notions; for if a dead mancan transmit his visible or tangible image half across the world, or down the stretch of thecenturies, how can it be absurd to suppose that deserted houses are full of queer sentient things,or that old graveyards teem with the terrible, unbodied intelligence of generations? And sincespirit, in order to cause all the manifestations attributed to it, cannot be limited by anyof the laws of matter; why is it extravagant to imagine psychically living dead things in shapes—orabsences of shapes—which must for human spectators be utterly and appallingly “unnamable”?“Common sense” in reflecting on these subjects, I assured my friend with some warmth,is merely a stupid absence of imagination and mental flexibility.

    Twilight had now approached, but neither of us felt any wish to cease speaking.Manton seemed unimpressed by my arguments, and eager to refute them, having that confidencein his own opinions which had doubtless caused his success as a teacher; whilst I was too sureof my ground to fear defeat. The dusk fell, and lights faintly gleamed in some of the distantwindows, but we did not move. Our seat on the tomb was very comfortable, and I knew that myprosaic friend would not mind the cavernous rift in the ancient, root-disturbed brickwork closebehind us, or the utter blackness of the spot brought by the intervention of a tottering, desertedseventeenth-century house between us and the nearest lighted road. There in the dark, upon thatriven tomb by the deserted house, we talked on about the “unnamable”, and aftermy friend had finished his scoffing I told him of the awful evidence behind the story at whichhe had scoffed the most.

    My tale had been called “The Attic Window”, and appeared in theJanuary, 1922, issue of Whispers. In a good many places, especially the South and thePacific coast, they took the magazines off the stands at the complaints of silly milksops; butNew England didn’t get the thrill and merely shrugged its shoulders at my extravagance.The thing, it was averred, was biologically impossible to start with; merely another of thosecrazy country mutterings which Cotton Mather had been gullible enough to dump into his chaoticMagnalia Christi Americana, and so poorly authenticated that even he had not venturedto name the locality where the horror occurred. And as to the way I amplified the bare jottingof the old mystic—that was quite impossible, and characteristic of a flighty and notionalscribbler! Mather had indeed told of the thing as being born, but nobody but a cheap sensationalistwould think of having it grow up, look into people’s windows at night, and be hidden inthe attic of a house, in flesh and in spirit, till someone saw it at the window centuries laterand couldn’t describe what it was that turned his hair grey. All this was flagrant trashiness,and my friend Manton was not slow to insist on that fact. Then I told him what I had found inan old diary kept between 1706 and 1723, unearthed among family papers not a mile from wherewe were sitting; that, and the certain reality of the scars on my ancestor’s chest andback which the diary described. I told him, too, of the fears of others in that region, andhow they were whispered down for generations; and how no mythical madness came to the boy whoin 1793 entered an abandoned house to examine certain traces suspected to be there.

    It had been an eldritch thing—no wonder sensitive students shudder atthe Puritan age in Massachusetts. So little is known of what went on beneath the surface—solittle, yet such a ghastly festering as it bubbles up putrescently in occasional ghoulish glimpses.The witchcraft terror is a horrible ray of light on what was stewing in men’s crushedbrains, but even that is a trifle. There was no beauty; no freedom—we can see that fromthe architectural and household remains, and the poisonous sermons of the cramped divines. Andinside that rusted iron strait-jacket lurked gibbering hideousness, perversion, and diabolism.Here, truly, was the apotheosis of the unnamable.

    Cotton Mather, in that daemoniac sixth book which no one should read afterdark, minced no words as he flung forth his anathema. Stern as a Jewish prophet, and laconicallyunamazed as none since his day could be, he told of the beast that had brought forth what wasmore than beast but less than man—the thing with the blemished eye—and of the screamingdrunken wretch that they hanged for having such an eye. This much he baldly told, yet withouta hint of what came after. Perhaps he did not know, or perhaps he knew and did not dare to tell.Others knew, but did not dare to tell—there is no public hint of why they whispered aboutthe lock on the door to the attic stairs in the house of a childless, broken, embittered oldman who had put up a blank slate slab by an avoided grave, although one may trace enough evasivelegends to curdle the thinnest blood.

    It is all in that ancestral diary I found; all the hushed innuendoes and furtivetales of things with a blemished eye seen at windows in the night or in deserted meadows nearthe woods. Something had caught my ancestor on a dark valley road, leaving him with marks ofhorns on his chest and of ape-like claws on his back; and when they looked for prints in thetrampled dust they found the mixed marks of split hooves and vaguely anthropoid paws. Once apost-rider said he saw an old man chasing and calling to a frightful loping, nameless thingon Meadow Hill in the thinly moonlit hours before dawn, and many believed him. Certainly, therewas strange talk one night in 1710 when the childless, broken old man was buried in the cryptbehind his own house in sight of the blank slate slab. They never unlocked that attic door,but left the whole house as it was, dreaded and deserted. When noises came from it, they whisperedand shivered; and hoped that the lock on that attic door was strong. Then they stopped hopingwhen the horror occurred at the parsonage, leaving not a soul alive or in one piece. With theyears the legends take on a spectral character—I suppose the thing, if it was a livingthing, must have died. The memory had lingered hideously—all the more hideous becauseit was so secret.

    During this narration my friend Manton had become very silent, and I saw thatmy words had impressed him. He did not laugh as I paused, but asked quite seriously about theboy who went mad in 1793, and who had presumably been the hero of my fiction. I told him whythe boy had gone to that shunned, deserted house, and remarked that he ought to be interested,since he believed that windows retained latent images of those who had sat at them. The boyhad gone to look at the windows of that horrible attic, because of tales of things seen behindthem, and had come back screaming maniacally.

    Manton remained thoughtful as I said this, but gradually reverted to his analyticalmood. He granted for the sake of argument that some unnatural monster had really existed, butreminded me that even the most morbid perversion of Nature need not be unnamable or scientificallyindescribable. I admired his clearness and persistence, and added some further revelations Ihad collected among the old people. Those later spectral legends, I made plain, related to monstrousapparitions more frightful than anything organic could be; apparitions of gigantic bestial formssometimes visible and sometimes only tangible, which floated about on moonless nights and hauntedthe old house, the crypt behind it, and the grave where a sapling had sprouted beside an illegibleslab. Whether or not such apparitions had ever gored or smothered people to death, as told inuncorroborated traditions, they had produced a strong and consistent impression; and were yetdarkly feared by very aged natives, though largely forgotten by the last two generations—perhapsdying for lack of being thought about. Moreover, so far as aesthetic theory was involved, ifthe psychic emanations of human creatures be grotesque distortions, what coherent representationcould express or portray so gibbous and infamous a nebulosity as the spectre of a malign, chaoticperversion, itself a morbid blasphemy against Nature? Moulded by the dead brain of a hybridnightmare, would not such a vaporous terror constitute in all loathsome truth the exquisitely,the shriekingly unnamable?

    The hour must now have grown very late. A singularly noiseless bat brushedby me, and I believe it touched Manton also, for although I could not see him I felt him raisehis arm. Presently he spoke.

    “But is that house with the attic window still standing and deserted?”

    “Yes”, I answered. “I have seen it.”

    “And did you find anything there—in the attic or anywhere else?”

    “There were some bones up under the eaves. They may have been what thatboy saw—if he was sensitive he wouldn’t have needed anything in the window-glassto unhinge him. If they all came from the same object it must have been an hysterical, deliriousmonstrosity. It would have been blasphemous to leave such bones in the world, so I went backwith a sack and took them to the tomb behind the house. There was an opening where I could dumpthem in. Don’t think I was a fool—you ought to have seen that skull. It had four-inchhorns, but a face and jaw something like yours and mine.”

    At last I could feel a real shiver run through Manton, who had moved very near.But his curiosity was undeterred.

    “And what about the window-panes?”

    “They were all gone. One window had lost its entire frame, and in theother there was not a trace of glass in the little diamond apertures. They were that kind—theold lattice windows that went out of use before 1700. I don’t believe they’ve hadany glass for an hundred years or more—maybe the boy broke ’em if he got that far;the legend doesn’t say.”

    Manton was reflecting again.

    “I’d like to see that house, Carter. Where is it? Glass or no glass,I must explore it a little. And the tomb where you put those bones, and the other grave withoutan inscription—the whole thing must be a bit terrible.”

    “You did see it—until it got dark.”

    My friend was more wrought upon than I had suspected, for at this touch ofharmless theatricalism he started neurotically away from me and actually cried out with a sortof gulping gasp which released a strain of previous repression. It was an odd cry, and all themore terrible because it was answered. For as it was still echoing, I heard a creaking soundthrough the pitchy blackness, and knew that a lattice window was opening in that accursed oldhouse beside us. And because all the other frames were long since fallen, I knew that it wasthe grisly glassless frame of that daemoniac attic window.

    Then came a noxious rush of noisome, frigid air from that same dreaded direction,followed by a piercing shriek just beside me on that shocking rifted tomb of man and monster.In another instant I was knocked from my gruesome bench by the devilish threshing of some unseenentity of titanic size but undetermined nature; knocked sprawling on the root-clutched mouldof that abhorrent graveyard, while from the tomb came such a stifled uproar of gasping and whirringthat my fancy peopled the rayless gloom with Miltonic legions of the misshapen damned. Therewas a vortex of withering, ice-cold wind, and then the rattle of loose bricks and plaster; butI had mercifully fainted before I could learn what it meant.

    Manton, though smaller than I, is more resilient; for we opened our eyes atalmost the same instant, despite his greater injuries. Our couches were side by side, and weknew in a few seconds that we were in St. Mary’s Hospital. Attendants were grouped aboutin tense curiosity, eager to aid our memory by telling us how we came there, and we soon heardof the farmer who had found us at noon in a lonely field beyond Meadow Hill, a mile from theold burying-ground, on a spot where an ancient slaughterhouse is reputed to have stood. Mantonhad two malignant wounds in the chest, and some less severe cuts or gougings in the back. Iwas not so seriously hurt, but was covered with welts and contusions of the most bewilderingcharacter, including the print of a split hoof. It was plain that Manton knew more than I, buthe told nothing to the puzzled and interested physicians till he had learned what our injurieswere. Then he said we were the victims of a vicious bull—though the animal was a difficultthing to place and account for.

    After the doctors and nurses had left, I whispered an awestruck question:

    “Good God, Manton, but what was it? Those scars— was it like that?”

    And I was too dazed to exult when he whispered back a thing I had half expected—

    “No—it wasn’t that way at all. It was everywhere—agelatin—a slime—yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory.There were eyes—and a blemish. It was the pit—the maelstrom—the ultimate abomination.Carter, it was the unnamable!”

    That night the Baron dreamt of many a woe;And all his warrior-guests, with shade and formOf witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,Were long be-nightmared.—Keats.

    Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is hewho looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddeningrows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumberedtrees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me—tome, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content, andcling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyondto the other.

    I know not where I was born, save that the castle was infinitely old and infinitely horrible;full of dark passages and having high ceilings where the eye could find only cobwebs and shadows.The stones in the crumbling corridors seemed always hideously damp, and there was an accursedsmell everywhere, as of the piled-up corpses of dead generations. It was never light, so thatI used sometimes to light candles and gaze steadily at them for relief; nor was there any sunoutdoors, since the terrible trees grew high above the topmost accessible tower. There was oneblack tower which reached above the trees into the unknown outer sky, but that was partly ruinedand could not be ascended save by a well-nigh impossible climb up the sheer wall, stone by stone.

    I must have lived years in this place, but I cannot measure the time. Beings must have caredfor my needs, yet I cannot recall any person except myself; or anything alive but the noiselessrats and bats and spiders. I think that whoever nursed me must have been shockingly aged, sincemy first conception of a living person was that of something mockingly like myself, yet distorted,shrivelled, and decaying like the castle. To me there was nothing grotesque in the bones andskeletons that strowed some of the stone crypts deep down among the foundations. I fantasticallyassociated these things with every-day events, and thought them more natural than the colouredpictures of living beings which I found in many of the mouldy books. From such books I learnedall that I know. No teacher urged or guided me, and I do not recall hearing any human voicein all those years—not even my own; for although I had read of speech, I had never thoughtto try to speak aloud. My aspect was a matter equally unthought of, for there were no mirrorsin the castle, and I merely regarded myself by instinct as akin to the youthful figures I sawdrawn and painted in the books. I felt conscious of youth because I remembered so little.

    Outside, across the putrid moat and under the dark mute trees, I would often lie and dream forhours about what I read in the books; and would longingly picture myself amidst gay crowds inthe sunny world beyond the endless forest. Once I tried to escape from the forest, but as Iwent farther from the castle the shade grew denser and the air more filled with brooding fear;so that I ran frantically back lest I lose my way in a labyrinth of nighted silence.

    So through endless twilights I dreamed and waited, though I knew not what I waited for. Thenin the shadowy solitude my longing for light grew so frantic that I could rest no more, andI lifted entreating hands to the single black ruined tower that reached above the forest intothe unknown outer sky. And at last I resolved to scale that tower, fall though I might; sinceit were better to glimpse the sky and perish, than to live without ever beholding day.

    In the dank twilight I climbed the worn and aged stone stairs till I reached the level wherethey ceased, and thereafter clung perilously to small footholds leading upward. Ghastly andterrible was that dead, stairless cylinder of rock; black, ruined, and deserted, and sinisterwith startled bats whose wings made no noise. But more ghastly and terrible still was the slownessof my progress; for climb as I might, the darkness overhead grew no thinner, and a new chillas of haunted and venerable mould assailed me. I shivered as I wondered why I did not reachthe light, and would have looked down had I dared. I fancied that night had come suddenly uponme, and vainly groped with one free hand for a window embrasure, that I might peer out and above,and try to judge the height I had attained.

    All at once, after an infinity of awesome, sightless crawling up that concave and desperateprecipice, I felt my head touch a solid thing, and I knew I must have gained the roof, or atleast some kind of floor. In the darkness I raised my free hand and tested the barrier, findingit stone and immovable. Then came a deadly circuit of the tower, clinging to whatever holdsthe slimy wall could give; till finally my testing hand found the barrier yielding, and I turnedupward again, pushing the slab or door with my head as I used both hands in my fearful ascent.There was no light revealed above, and as my hands went higher I knew that my climb was forthe nonce ended; since the slab was the trap-door of an aperture leading to a level stone surfaceof greater circumference than the lower tower, no doubt the floor of some lofty and capaciousobservation chamber. I crawled through carefully, and tried to prevent the heavy slab from fallingback into place; but failed in the latter attempt. As I lay exhausted on the stone floor I heardthe eerie echoes of its fall, but hoped when necessary to pry it open again.

    Believing I was now at a prodigious height, far above the accursed branches of the wood, I draggedmyself up from the floor and fumbled about for windows, that I might look for the first timeupon the sky, and the moon and stars of which I had read. But on every hand I was disappointed;since all that I found were vast shelves of marble, bearing odious oblong boxes of disturbingsize. More and more I reflected, and wondered what hoary secrets might abide in this high apartmentso many aeons cut off from the castle below. Then unexpectedly my hands came upon a doorway,where hung a portal of stone, rough with strange chiselling. Trying it, I found it locked; butwith a supreme burst of strength I overcame all obstacles and dragged it open inward. As I didso there came to me the purest ecstasy I have ever known; for shining tranquilly through anornate grating of iron, and down a short stone passageway of steps that ascended from the newlyfound doorway, was the radiant full moon, which I had never before seen save in dreams and invague visions I dared not call memories.

    Fancying now that I had attained the very pinnacle of the castle, I commenced to rush up thefew steps beyond the door; but the sudden veiling of the moon by a cloud caused me to stumble,and I felt my way more slowly in the dark. It was still very dark when I reached the grating—whichI tried carefully and found unlocked, but which I did not open for fear of falling from theamazing height to which I had climbed. Then the moon came out.

    Most daemoniacal of all shocks is that of the abysmally unexpected and grotesquely unbelievable.Nothing I had before undergone could compare in terror with what I now saw; with the bizarremarvels that sight implied. The sight itself was as simple as it was stupefying, for it wasmerely this: instead of a dizzying prospect of treetops seen from a lofty eminence, there stretchedaround me on a level through the grating nothing less than the solid ground, decked anddiversified by marble slabs and columns, and overshadowed by an ancient stone church, whoseruined spire gleamed spectrally in the moonlight.

    Half unconscious, I opened the grating and staggered out upon the white gravel path that stretchedaway in two directions. My mind, stunned and chaotic as it was, still held the frantic cravingfor light; and not even the fantastic wonder which had happened could stay my course. I neitherknew nor cared whether my experience was insanity, dreaming, or magic; but was determined togaze on brilliance and gaiety at any cost. I knew not who I was or what I was, or what my surroundingsmight be; though as I continued to stumble along I became conscious of a kind of fearsome latentmemory that made my progress not wholly fortuitous. I passed under an arch out of that regionof slabs and columns, and wandered through the open country; sometimes following the visibleroad, but sometimes leaving it curiously to tread across meadows where only occasional ruinsbespoke the ancient presence of a forgotten road. Once I swam across a swift river where crumbling,mossy masonry told of a bridge long vanished.

    Over two hours must have passed before I reached what seemed to be my goal, a venerable iviedcastle in a thickly wooded park; maddeningly familiar, yet full of perplexing strangeness tome. I saw that the moat was filled in, and that some of the well-known towers were demolished;whilst new wings existed to confuse the beholder. But what I observed with chief interest anddelight were the open windows—gorgeously ablaze with light and sending forth sound ofthe gayest revelry. Advancing to one of these I looked in and saw an oddly dressed company,indeed; making merry, and speaking brightly to one another. I had never, seemingly, heard humanspeech before; and could guess only vaguely what was said. Some of the faces seemed to holdexpressions that brought up incredibly remote recollections; others were utterly alien.

    I now stepped through the low window into the brilliantly lighted room, stepping as I did sofrom my single bright moment of hope to my blackest convulsion of despair and realisation. Thenightmare was quick to come; for as I entered, there occurred immediately one of the most terrifyingdemonstrations I had ever conceived. Scarcely had I crossed the sill when there descended uponthe whole company a sudden and unheralded fear of hideous intensity, distorting every face andevoking the most horrible screams from nearly every throat. Flight was universal, and in theclamour and panic several fell in a swoon and were dragged away by their madly fleeing companions.Many covered their eyes with their hands, and plunged blindly and awkwardly in their race toescape; overturning furniture and stumbling against the walls before they managed to reach oneof the many doors.

    The cries were shocking; and as I stood in the brilliant apartment alone and dazed, listeningto their vanishing echoes, I trembled at the thought of what might be lurking near me unseen.At a casual inspection the room seemed deserted, but when I moved toward one of the alcovesI thought I detected a presence there—a hint of motion beyond the golden-arched doorwayleading to another and somewhat similar room. As I approached the arch I began to perceive thepresence more clearly; and then, with the first and last sound I ever uttered—a ghastlyululation that revolted me almost as poignantly as its noxious cause—I beheld in full,frightful vividness the inconceivable, indescribable, and unmentionable monstrosity which hadby its simple appearance changed a merry company to a herd of delirious fugitives.

    I cannot even hint what it was like, for it was a compound of all that is unclean, uncanny,unwelcome, abnormal, and detestable. It was the ghoulish shade of decay, antiquity, and desolation;the putrid, dripping eidolon of unwholesome revelation; the awful baring of that which the mercifulearth should always hide. God knows it was not of this world—or no longer of this world—yetto my horror I saw in its eaten-away and bone-revealing outlines a leering, abhorrent travestyon the human shape; and in its mouldy, disintegrating apparel an unspeakable quality that chilledme even more.

    I was almost paralysed, but not too much so to make a feeble effort toward flight; a backwardstumble which failed to break the spell in which the nameless, voiceless monster held me. Myeyes, bewitched by the glassy orbs which stared loathsomely into them, refused to close; thoughthey were mercifully blurred, and shewed the terrible object but indistinctly after the firstshock. I tried to raise my hand to shut out the sight, yet so stunned were my nerves that myarm could not fully obey my will. The attempt, however, was enough to disturb my balance; sothat I had to stagger forward several steps to avoid falling. As I did so I became suddenlyand agonisingly aware of the nearness of the carrion thing, whose hideous hollow breathingI half fancied I could hear. Nearly mad, I found myself yet able to throw out a hand to wardoff the foetid apparition which pressed so close; when in one cataclysmic second of cosmic nightmarishnessand hellish accident my fingers touched the rotting outstretched paw of the monster beneaththe golden arch.

    I did not shriek, but all the fiendish ghouls that ride the night-wind shrieked for me as inthat same second there crashed down upon my mind a single and fleeting avalanche of soul-annihilatingmemory. I knew in that second all that had been; I remembered beyond the frightful castle andthe trees, and recognised the altered edifice in which I now stood; I recognised, most terribleof all, the unholy abomination that stood leering before me as I withdrew my sullied fingersfrom its own.

    But in the cosmos there is balm as well as bitterness, and that balm is nepenthe. In the supremehorror of that second I forgot what had horrified me, and the burst of black memory vanishedin a chaos of echoing images. In a dream I fled from that haunted and accursed pile, and ranswiftly and silently in the moonlight. When I returned to the churchyard place of marble andwent down the steps I found the stone trap-door immovable; but I was not sorry, for I had hatedthe antique castle and the trees. Now I ride with the mocking and friendly ghouls on the night-wind,and play by day amongst the catacombs of Nephren-Ka in the sealed and unknown valley of Hadothby the Nile. I know that light is not for me, save that of the moon over the rock tombs of Neb,nor any gaiety save the unnamed feasts of Nitokris beneath the Great Pyramid; yet in my newwildness and freedom I almost welcome the bitterness of alienage.

    For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in thiscentury and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingersto the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched acold and unyielding surface of polished glass.

    I. The Shadow on the Chimney

    There was thunder in the air on the night I went to the deserted mansion atop Tempest Mountainto find the lurking fear. I was not alone, for foolhardiness was not then mixed with that loveof the grotesque and the terrible which has made my career a series of quests for strange horrorsin literature and in life. With me were two faithful and muscular men for whom I had sent whenthe time came; men long associated with me in my ghastly explorations because of their peculiarfitness.

    We had started quietly from the village because of the reporters who stilllingered about after the eldritch panic of a month before—the nightmare creeping death.Later, I thought, they might aid me; but I did not want them then. Would to God I had let themshare the search, that I might not have had to bear the secret alone so long; to bear it alonefor fear the world would call me mad or go mad itself at the daemon implications of the thing.Now that I am telling it anyway, lest the brooding make me a maniac, I wish I had never concealedit. For I, and I only, know what manner of fear lurked on that spectral and desolate mountain.

    In a small motor-car we covered the miles of primeval forest and hill untilthe wooded ascent checked it. The country bore an aspect more than usually sinister as we viewedit by night and without the accustomed crowds of investigators, so that we were often temptedto use the acetylene headlight despite the attention it might attract. It was not a wholesomelandscape after dark, and I believe I would have noticed its morbidity even had I been ignorantof the terror that stalked there. Of wild creatures there were none—they are wise whendeath leers close. The ancient lightning-scarred trees seemed unnaturally large and twisted,and the other vegetation unnaturally thick and feverish, while curious mounds and hummocks inthe weedy, fulgurite-pitted earth reminded me of snakes and dead men’s skulls swelledto gigantic proportions.

    Fear had lurked on Tempest Mountain for more than a century. This I learnedat once from newspaper accounts of the catastrophe which first brought the region to the world’snotice. The place is a remote, lonely elevation in that part of the Catskills where Dutch civilisationonce feebly and transiently penetrated, leaving behind as it receded only a few ruined mansionsand a degenerate squatter population inhabiting pitiful hamlets on isolated slopes. Normal beingsseldom visited the locality till the state police were formed, and even now only infrequenttroopers patrol it. The fear, however, is an old tradition throughout the neighbouring villages;since it is a prime topic in the simple discourse of the poor mongrels who sometimes leave theirvalleys to trade hand-woven baskets for such primitive necessities as they cannot shoot, raise,or make.

    The lurking fear dwelt in the shunned and deserted Martense mansion, whichcrowned the high but gradual eminence whose liability to frequent thunderstorms gave it thename of Tempest Mountain. For over a hundred years the antique, grove-circled stone house hadbeen the subject of stories incredibly wild and monstrously hideous; stories of a silent colossalcreeping death which stalked abroad in summer. With whimpering insistence the squatters toldtales of a daemon which seized lone wayfarers after dark, either carrying them off or leavingthem in a frightful state of gnawed dismemberment; while sometimes they whispered of blood-trailstoward the distant mansion. Some said the thunder called the lurking fear out of its habitation,while others said the thunder was its voice.

    No one outside the backwoods had believed these varying and conflicting stories,with their incoherent, extravagant descriptions of the half-glimpsed fiend; yet not a farmeror villager doubted that the Martense mansion was ghoulishly haunted. Local history forbadesuch a doubt, although no ghostly evidence was ever found by such investigators as had visitedthe building after some especially vivid tale of the squatters. Grandmothers told strange mythsof the Martense spectre; myths concerning the Martense family itself, its queer hereditary dissimilarityof eyes, its long, unnatural annals, and the murder which had cursed it.

    The terror which brought me to the scene was a sudden and portentous confirmationof the mountaineers’ wildest legends. One summer night, after a thunderstorm of unprecedentedviolence, the countryside was aroused by a squatter stampede which no mere delusion could create.The pitiful throngs of natives shrieked and whined of the unnamable horror which had descendedupon them, and they were not doubted. They had not seen it, but had heard such cries from oneof their hamlets that they knew a creeping death had come.

    In the morning citizens and state troopers followed the shuddering mountaineersto the place where they said the death had come. Death was indeed there. The ground under oneof the squatters’ villages had caved in after a lightning stroke, destroying several ofthe malodorous shanties; but upon this property damage was superimposed an organic devastationwhich paled it to insignificance. Of a possible 75 natives who had inhabited this spot, notone living specimen was visible. The disordered earth was covered with blood and human debrisbespeaking too vividly the ravages of daemon teeth and talons; yet no visible trail led awayfrom the carnage. That some hideous animal must be the cause, everyone quickly agreed; nor didany tongue now revive the charge that such cryptic deaths formed merely the sordid murders commonin decadent communities. That charge was revived only when about 25 of the estimated populationwere found missing from the dead; and even then it was hard to explain the murder of fifty byhalf that number. But the fact remained that on a summer night a bolt had come out of the heavensand left a dead village whose corpses were horribly mangled, chewed, and clawed.

    The excited countryside immediately connected the horror with the haunted Martensemansion, though the localities were over three miles apart. The troopers were more sceptical;including the mansion only casually in their investigations, and dropping it altogether whenthey found it thoroughly deserted. Country and village people, however, canvassed the placewith infinite care; overturning everything in the house, sounding ponds and brooks, beatingdown bushes, and ransacking the nearby forests. All was in vain; the death that had come hadleft no trace save destruction itself.

    By the second day of the search the affair was fully treated by the newspapers,whose reporters overran Tempest Mountain. They described it in much detail, and with many interviewsto elucidate the horror’s history as told by local grandams. I followed the accounts languidlyat first, for I am a connoisseur in horrors; but after a week I detected an atmosphere whichstirred me oddly, so that on August 5th, 1921, I registered among the reporters who crowdedthe hotel at Lefferts Corners, nearest village to Tempest Mountain and acknowledged headquartersof the searchers. Three weeks more, and the dispersal of the reporters left me free to begina terrible exploration based on the minute inquiries and surveying with which I had meanwhilebusied myself.

    So on this summer night, while distant thunder rumbled, I left a silent motor-carand tramped with two armed companions up the last mound-covered reaches of Tempest Mountain,casting the beams of an electric torch on the spectral grey walls that began to appear throughgiant oaks ahead. In this morbid night solitude and feeble shifting illumination, the vast box-likepile displayed obscure hints of terror which day could not uncover; yet I did not hesitate,since I had come with fierce resolution to test an idea. I believed that the thunder calledthe death-daemon out of some fearsome secret place; and be that daemon solid entity or vaporouspestilence, I meant to see it.

    I had thoroughly searched the ruin before, hence knew my plan well; choosingas the seat of my vigil the old room of Jan Martense, whose murder looms so great in the rurallegends. I felt subtly that the apartment of this ancient victim was best for my purposes. Thechamber, measuring about twenty feet square, contained like the other rooms some rubbish whichhad once been furniture. It lay on the second story, on the southeast corner of the house, andhad an immense east window and narrow south window, both devoid of panes or shutters. Oppositethe large window was an enormous Dutch fireplace with scriptural tiles representing the prodigalson, and opposite the narrow window was a spacious bed built into the wall.

    As the tree-muffled thunder grew louder, I arranged my plan’s details.First I fastened side by side to the ledge of the large window three rope ladders which I hadbrought with me. I knew they reached a suitable spot on the grass outside, for I had testedthem. Then the three of us dragged from another room a wide four-poster bedstead, crowding itlaterally against the window. Having strown it with fir boughs, all now rested on it with drawnautomatics, two relaxing while the third watched. From whatever direction the daemon might come,our potential escape was provided. If it came from within the house, we had the window ladders;if from outside, the door and the stairs. We did not think, judging from precedent, that itwould pursue us far even at worst.

    I watched from midnight to one o’clock, when in spite of the sinisterhouse, the unprotected window, and the approaching thunder and lightning, I felt singularlydrowsy. I was between my two companions, George Bennett being toward the window and WilliamTobey toward the fireplace. Bennett was asleep, having apparently felt the same anomalous drowsinesswhich affected me, so I designated Tobey for the next watch although even he was nodding. Itis curious how intently I had been watching that fireplace.

    The increasing thunder must have affected my dreams, for in the brief timeI slept there came to me apocalyptic visions. Once I partly awaked, probably because the sleepertoward the window had restlessly flung an arm across my chest. I was not sufficiently awaketo see whether Tobey was attending to his duties as sentinel, but felt a distinct anxiety onthat score. Never before had the presence of evil so poignantly oppressed me. Later I must havedropped asleep again, for it was out of a phantasmal chaos that my mind leaped when the nightgrew hideous with shrieks beyond anything in my former experience or imagination.

    In that shrieking the inmost soul of human fear and agony clawed hopelesslyand insanely at the ebony gates of oblivion. I awoke to red madness and the mockery of diabolism,as farther and farther down inconceivable vistas that phobic and crystalline anguish retreatedand reverberated. There was no light, but I knew from the empty space at my right that Tobeywas gone, God alone knew whither. Across my chest still lay the heavy arm of the sleeper atmy left.

    Then came the devastating stroke of lightning which shook the whole mountain,lit the darkest crypts of the hoary grove, and splintered the patriarch of the twisted trees.In the daemon flash of a monstrous fireball the sleeper started up suddenly while the glarefrom beyond the window threw his shadow vividly upon the chimney above the fireplace from whichmy eyes had never strayed. That I am still alive and sane, is a marvel I cannot fathom. I cannotfathom it, for the shadow on that chimney was not that of George Bennett or of any other humancreature, but a blasphemous abnormality from hell’s nethermost craters; a nameless, shapelessabomination which no mind could fully grasp and no pen even partly describe. In another secondI was alone in the accursed mansion, shivering and gibbering. George Bennett and William Tobeyhad left no trace, not even of a struggle. They were never heard of again.

    II. A Passer in the Storm

    For days after that hideous experience in the forest-swathed mansion I lay nervously exhaustedin my hotel room at Lefferts Corners. I do not remember exactly how I managed to reach the motor-car,start it, and slip unobserved back to the village; for I retain no distinct impression saveof wild-armed titan trees, daemoniac mutterings of thunder, and Charonian shadows athwart thelow mounds that dotted and streaked the region.

    As I shivered and brooded on the casting of that brain-blasting shadow, I knewthat I had at last pried out one of earth’s supreme horrors—one of those namelessblights of outer voids whose faint daemon scratchings we sometimes hear on the farthest rimof space, yet from which our own finite vision has given us a merciful immunity. The shadowI had seen, I hardly dared to analyse or identify. Something had lain between me and the windowthat night, but I shuddered whenever I could not cast off the instinct to classify it. If ithad only snarled, or bayed, or laughed titteringly—even that would have relieved the abysmalhideousness. But it was so silent. It had rested a heavy arm or fore leg on my chest. . . .Obviously it was organic, or had once been organic. . . . Jan Martense, whoseroom I had invaded, was buried in the graveyard near the mansion. . . . I mustfind Bennett and Tobey, if they lived . . . why had it picked them, and leftme for the last? . . . Drowsiness is so stifling, and dreams are so horrible. . . .

    In a short time I realised that I must tell my story to someone or break downcompletely. I had already decided not to abandon the quest for the lurking fear, for in my rashignorance it seemed to me that uncertainty was worse than enlightenment, however terrible thelatter might prove to be. Accordingly I resolved in my mind the best course to pursue; whomto select for my confidences, and how to track down the thing which had obliterated two menand cast a nightmare shadow.

    My chief acquaintances at Lefferts Corners had been the affable reporters,of whom several still remained to collect final echoes of the tragedy. It was from these thatI determined to choose a colleague, and the more I reflected the more my preference inclinedtoward one Arthur Munroe, a dark, lean man of about thirty-five, whose education, taste, intelligence,and temperament all seemed to mark him as one not bound to conventional ideas and experiences.

    On an afternoon in early September Arthur Munroe listened to my story. I sawfrom the beginning that he was both interested and sympathetic, and when I had finished he analysedand discussed the thing with the greatest shrewdness and judgment. His advice, moreover, waseminently practical; for he recommended a postponement of operations at the Martense mansionuntil we might become fortified with more detailed historical and geographical data. On hisinitiative we combed the countryside for information regarding the terrible Martense family,and discovered a man who possessed a marvellously illuminating ancestral diary. We also talkedat length with such of the mountain mongrels as had not fled from the terror and confusion toremoter slopes, and arranged to precede our culminating task—the exhaustive and definitiveexamination of the mansion in the light of its detailed history—with an equally exhaustiveand definitive examination of spots associated with the various tragedies of squatter legend.

    The results of this examination were not at first very enlightening, thoughour tabulation of them seemed to reveal a fairly significant trend; namely, that the numberof reported horrors was by far the greatest in areas either comparatively near the avoided houseor connected with it by stretches of the morbidly overnourished forest. There were, it is true,exceptions; indeed, the horror which had caught the world’s ear had happened in a treelessspace remote alike from the mansion and from any connecting woods.

    As to the nature and appearance of the lurking fear, nothing could be gainedfrom the scared and witless shanty-dwellers. In the same breath they called it a snake and agiant, a thunder-devil and a bat, a vulture and a walking tree. We did, however, deem ourselvesjustified in assuming that it was a living organism highly susceptible to electrical storms;and although certain of the stories suggested wings, we believed that its aversion for openspaces made land locomotion a more probable theory. The only thing really incompatible withthe latter view was the rapidity with which the creature must have travelled in order to performall the deeds attributed to it.

    When we came to know the squatters better, we found them curiously likeablein many ways. Simple animals they were, gently descending the evolutionary scale because oftheir unfortunate ancestry and stultifying isolation. They feared outsiders, but slowly grewaccustomed to us; finally helping vastly when we beat down all the thickets and tore out allthe partitions of the mansion in our search for the lurking fear. When we asked them to helpus find Bennett and Tobey they were truly distressed; for they wanted to help us, yet knew thatthese victims had gone as wholly out of the world as their own missing people. That great numbersof them had actually been killed and removed, just as the wild animals had long been exterminated,we were of course thoroughly convinced; and we waited apprehensively for further tragedies tooccur.

    By the middle of October we were puzzled by our lack of progress. Owing tothe clear nights no daemoniac aggressions had taken place, and the completeness of our vainsearches of house and country almost drove us to regard the lurking fear as a non-material agency.We feared that the cold weather would come on and halt our explorations, for all agreed thatthe daemon was generally quiet in winter. Thus there was a kind of haste and desperation inour last daylight canvass of the horror-visited hamlet; a hamlet now deserted because of thesquatters’ fears.

    The ill-fated squatter hamlet had borne no name, but had long stood in a shelteredthough treeless cleft between two elevations called respectively Cone Mountain and Maple Hill.It was closer to Maple Hill than to Cone Mountain, some of the crude abodes indeed being dugoutson the side of the former eminence. Geographically it lay about two miles northwest of the baseof Tempest Mountain, and three miles from the oak-girt mansion. Of the distance between thehamlet and the mansion, fully two miles and a quarter on the hamlet’s side was entirelyopen country; the plain being of fairly level character save for some of the low snake-likemounds, and having as vegetation only grass and scattered weeds. Considering this topography,we had finally concluded that the daemon must have come by way of Cone Mountain, a wooded southernprolongation of which ran to within a short distance of the westernmost spur of Tempest Mountain.The upheaval of ground we traced conclusively to a landslide from Maple Hill, a tall lone splinteredtree on whose side had been the striking point of the thunderbolt which summoned the fiend.

    As for the twentieth time or more Arthur Munroe and I went minutely over everyinch of the violated village, we were filled with a certain discouragement coupled with vagueand novel fears. It was acutely uncanny, even when frightful and uncanny things were common,to encounter so blankly clueless a scene after such overwhelming occurrences; and we moved aboutbeneath the leaden, darkening sky with that tragic directionless zeal which results from a combinedsense of futility and necessity of action. Our care was gravely minute; every cottage was againentered, every hillside dugout again searched for bodies, every thorny foot of adjacent slopeagain scanned for dens and caves, but all without result. And yet, as I have said, vague newfears hovered menacingly over us; as if giant bat-winged gryphons squatted invisibly on themountain-tops and leered with Abaddon-eyes that had looked on trans-cosmic gulfs.

    As the afternoon advanced, it became increasingly difficult to see; and weheard the rumble of a thunderstorm gathering over Tempest Mountain. This sound in such a localitynaturally stirred us, though less than it would have done at night. As it was, we hoped desperatelythat the storm would last until well after dark; and with that hope turned from our aimlesshillside searching toward the nearest inhabited hamlet to gather a body of squatters as helpersin the investigation. Timid as they were, a few of the younger men were sufficiently inspiredby our protective leadership to promise such help.

    We had hardly more than turned, however, when there descended such a blindingsheet of torrential rain that shelter became imperative. The extreme, almost nocturnal darknessof the sky caused us to stumble sadly, but guided by the frequent flashes of lightning and byour minute knowledge of the hamlet we soon reached the least porous cabin of the lot; an heterogeneouscombination of logs and boards whose still existing door and single tiny window both faced MapleHill. Barring the door after us against the fury of the wind and rain, we put in place the crudewindow shutter which our frequent searches had taught us where to find. It was dismal sittingthere on rickety boxes in the pitchy darkness, but we smoked pipes and occasionally flashedour pocket lamps about. Now and then we could see the lightning through the cracks in the wall;the afternoon was so incredibly dark that each flash was extremely vivid.

    The stormy vigil reminded me shudderingly of my ghastly night on Tempest Mountain.My mind turned to that odd question which had kept recurring ever since the nightmare thinghad happened; and again I wondered why the daemon, approaching the three watchers either fromthe window or the interior, had begun with the men on each side and left the middle man tillthe last, when the titan fireball had scared it away. Why had it not taken its victims in naturalorder, with myself second, from whichever direction it had approached? With what manner of far-reachingtentacles did it prey? Or did it know that I was the leader, and save me for a fate worse thanthat of my companions?

    In the midst of these reflections, as if dramatically arranged to intensifythem, there fell near by a terrific bolt of lightning followed by the sound of sliding earth.At the same time the wolfish wind rose to daemoniac crescendoes of ululation. We were sure thatthe lone tree on Maple Hill had been struck again, and Munroe rose from his box and went tothe tiny window to ascertain the damage. When he took down the shutter the wind and rain howleddeafeningly in, so that I could not hear what he said; but I waited while he leaned out andtried to fathom Nature’s pandemonium.

    Gradually a calming of the wind and dispersal of the unusual darkness toldof the storm’s passing. I had hoped it would last into the night to help our quest, buta furtive sunbeam from a knothole behind me removed the likelihood of such a thing. Suggestingto Munroe that we had better get some light even if more showers came, I unbarred and openedthe crude door. The ground outside was a singular mass of mud and pools, with fresh heaps ofearth from the slight landslide; but I saw nothing to justify the interest which kept my companionsilently leaning out the window. Crossing to where he leaned, I touched his shoulder; but hedid not move. Then, as I playfully shook him and turned him around, I felt the strangling tendrilsof a cancerous horror whose roots reached into illimitable pasts and fathomless abysms of thenight that broods beyond time.

    For Arthur Munroe was dead. And on what remained of his chewed and gouged headthere was no longer a face.

    III. What the Red Glare Meant

    On the tempest-racked night of November 8, 1921, with a lantern which cast charnel shadows,I stood digging alone and idiotically in the grave of Jan Martense. I had begun to dig in theafternoon, because a thunderstorm was brewing, and now that it was dark and the storm had burstabove the maniacally thick foliage I was glad.

    I believe that my mind was partly unhinged by events since August 5th; thedaemon shadow in the mansion, the general strain and disappointment, and the thing that occurredat the hamlet in an October storm. After that thing I had dug a grave for one whose death Icould not understand. I knew that others could not understand either, so let them think ArthurMunroe had wandered away. They searched, but found nothing. The squatters might have understood,but I dared not frighten them more. I myself seemed strangely callous. That shock at the mansionhad done something to my brain, and I could think only of the quest for a horror now grown tocataclysmic stature in my imagination; a quest which the fate of Arthur Munroe made me vow tokeep silent and solitary.

    The scene of my excavations would alone have been enough to unnerve any ordinaryman. Baleful primal trees of unholy size, age, and grotesqueness leered above me like the pillarsof some hellish Druidic temple; muffling the thunder, hushing the clawing wind, and admittingbut little rain. Beyond the scarred trunks in the background, illumined by faint flashes offiltered lightning, rose the damp ivied stones of the deserted mansion, while somewhat nearerwas the abandoned Dutch garden whose walks and beds were polluted by a white, fungous, foetid,overnourished vegetation that never saw full daylight. And nearest of all was the graveyard,where deformed trees tossed insane branches as their roots displaced unhallowed slabs and suckedvenom from what lay below. Now and then, beneath the brown pall of leaves that rotted and festeredin the antediluvian forest darkness, I could trace the sinister outlines of some of those lowmounds which characterised the lightning-pierced region.

    History had led me to this archaic grave. History, indeed, was all I had aftereverything else ended in mocking Satanism. I now believed that the lurking fear was no materialthing, but a wolf-fanged ghost that rode the midnight lightning. And I believed, because ofthe masses of local tradition I had unearthed in my search with Arthur Munroe, that the ghostwas that of Jan Martense, who died in 1762. That is why I was digging idiotically in his grave.

    The Martense mansion was built in 1670 by Gerrit Martense, a wealthy New-Amsterdammerchant who disliked the changing order under British rule, and had constructed this magnificentdomicile on a remote woodland summit whose untrodden solitude and unusual scenery pleased him.The only substantial disappointment encountered in this site was that which concerned the prevalenceof violent thunderstorms in summer. When selecting the hill and building his mansion, MynheerMartense had laid these frequent natural outbursts to some peculiarity of the year; but in timehe perceived that the locality was especially liable to such phenomena. At length, having foundthese storms injurious to his health, he fitted up a cellar into which he could retreat fromtheir wildest pandemonium.

    Of Gerrit Martense’s descendants less is known than of himself; sincethey were all reared in hatred of the English civilisation, and trained to shun such of thecolonists as accepted it. Their life was exceedingly secluded, and people declared that theirisolation had made them heavy of speech and comprehension. In appearance all were marked bya peculiar inherited dissimilarity of eyes; one generally being blue and the other brown. Theirsocial contacts grew fewer and fewer, till at last they took to intermarrying with the numerousmenial class about the estate. Many of the crowded family degenerated, moved across the valley,and merged with the mongrel population which was later to produce the pitiful squatters. Therest had stuck sullenly to their ancestral mansion, becoming more and more clannish and taciturn,yet developing a nervous responsiveness to the frequent thunderstorms.

    Most of this information reached the outside world through young Jan Martense,who from some kind of restlessness joined the colonial army when news of the Albany Conventionreached Tempest Mountain. He was the first of Gerrit’s descendants to see much of theworld; and when he returned in 1760 after six years of campaigning, he was hated as an outsiderby his father, uncles, and brothers, in spite of his dissimilar Martense eyes. No longer couldhe share the peculiarities and prejudices of the Martenses, while the very mountain thunderstormsfailed to intoxicate him as they had before. Instead, his surroundings depressed him; and hefrequently wrote to a friend in Albany of plans to leave the paternal roof.

    In the spring of 1763 Jonathan Gifford, the Albany friend of Jan Martense,became worried by his correspondent’s silence; especially in view of the conditions andquarrels at the Martense mansion. Determined to visit Jan in person, he went into the mountainson horseback. His diary states that he reached Tempest Mountain on September 20, finding themansion in great decrepitude. The sullen, odd-eyed Martenses, whose unclean animal aspect shockedhim, told him in broken gutturals that Jan was dead. He had, they insisted, been struck by lightningthe autumn before; and now lay buried behind the neglected sunken gardens. They shewed the visitorthe grave, barren and devoid of markers. Something in the Martenses’ manner gave Gifforda feeling of repulsion and suspicion, and a week later he returned with spade and mattock toexplore the sepulchral spot. He found what he expected—a skull crushed cruelly as if bysavage blows—so returning to Albany he openly charged the Martenses with the murder oftheir kinsman.

    Legal evidence was lacking, but the story spread rapidly round the countryside;and from that time the Martenses were ostracised by the world. No one would deal with them,and their distant manor was shunned as an accursed place. Somehow they managed to live on independentlyby the products of their estate, for occasional lights glimpsed from far-away hills attestedtheir continued presence. These lights were seen as late as 1810, but toward the last they becamevery infrequent.

    Meanwhile there grew up about the mansion and the mountain a body of diaboliclegendry. The place was avoided with doubled assiduousness, and invested with every whisperedmyth tradition could supply. It remained unvisited till 1816, when the continued absence oflights was noticed by the squatters. At that time a party made investigations, finding the housedeserted and partly in ruins.

    There were no skeletons about, so that departure rather than death was inferred.The clan seemed to have left several years before, and improvised penthouses shewed how numerousit had grown prior to its migration. Its cultural level had fallen very low, as proved by decayingfurniture and scattered silverware which must have been long abandoned when its owners left.But though the dreaded Martenses were gone, the fear of the haunted house continued; and grewvery acute when new and strange stories arose among the mountain decadents. There it stood;deserted, feared, and linked with the vengeful ghost of Jan Martense. There it still stood onthe night I dug in Jan Martense’s grave.

    I have described my protracted digging as idiotic, and such it indeed was inobject and method. The coffin of Jan Martense had soon been unearthed—it now held onlydust and nitre—but in my fury to exhume his ghost I delved irrationally and clumsily downbeneath where he had lain. God knows what I expected to find—I only felt that I was diggingin the grave of a man whose ghost stalked by night.

    It is impossible to say what monstrous depth I had attained when my spade,and soon my feet, broke through the ground beneath. The event, under the circ*mstances, wastremendous; for in the existence of a subterranean space here, my mad theories had terribleconfirmation. My slight fall had extinguished the lantern, but I produced an electric pocketlamp and viewed the small horizontal tunnel which led away indefinitely in both directions.It was amply large enough for a man to wriggle through; and though no sane person would havetried it at that time, I forgot danger, reason, and cleanliness in my single-minded fever tounearth the lurking fear. Choosing the direction toward the house, I scrambled recklessly intothe narrow burrow; squirming ahead blindly and rapidly, and flashing but seldom the lamp I keptbefore me.

    What language can describe the spectacle of a man lost in infinitely abysmalearth; pawing, twisting, wheezing; scrambling madly through sunken convolutions of immemorialblackness without an idea of time, safety, direction, or definite object? There is somethinghideous in it, but that is what I did. I did it for so long that life faded to a far memory,and I became one with the moles and grubs of nighted depths. Indeed, it was only by accidentthat after interminable writhings I jarred my forgotten electric lamp alight, so that it shoneeerily along the burrow of caked loam that stretched and curved ahead.

    I had been scrambling in this way for some time, so that my battery had burnedvery low, when the passage suddenly inclined sharply upward, altering my mode of progress. Andas I raised my glance it was without preparation that I saw glistening in the distance two daemoniacreflections of my expiring lamp; two reflections glowing with a baneful and unmistakable effulgence,and provoking maddeningly nebulous memories. I stopped automatically, though lacking the brainto retreat. The eyes approached, yet of the thing that bore them I could distinguish only aclaw. But what a claw! Then far overhead I heard a faint crashing which I recognised. It wasthe wild thunder of the mountain, raised to hysteric fury—I must have been crawling upwardfor some time, so that the surface was now quite near. And as the muffled thunder clattered,those eyes still stared with vacuous viciousness.

    Thank God I did not then know what it was, else I should have died. But I wassaved by the very thunder that had summoned it, for after a hideous wait there burst from theunseen outside sky one of those frequent mountainward bolts whose aftermath I had noticed hereand there as gashes of disturbed earth and fulgurites of various sizes. With Cyclopean rageit tore through the soil above that damnable pit, blinding and deafening me, yet not whollyreducing me to a coma.

    In the chaos of sliding, shifting earth I clawed and floundered helplesslytill the rain on my head steadied me and I saw that I had come to the surface in a familiarspot; a steep unforested place on the southwest slope of the mountain. Recurrent sheet lightningsillumed the tumbled ground and the remains of the curious low hummock which had stretched downfrom the wooded higher slope, but there was nothing in the chaos to shew my place of egressfrom the lethal catacomb. My brain was as great a chaos as the earth, and as a distant red glareburst on the landscape from the south I hardly realised the horror I had been through.

    But when two days later the squatters told me what the red glare meant, I feltmore horror than that which the mould-burrow and the claw and eyes had given; more horror becauseof the overwhelming implications. In a hamlet twenty miles away an orgy of fear had followedthe bolt which brought me above ground, and a nameless thing had dropped from an overhangingtree into a weak-roofed cabin. It had done a deed, but the squatters had fired the cabin infrenzy before it could escape. It had been doing that deed at the very moment the earth cavedin on the thing with the claw and eyes.

    IV. The Horror in the Eyes

    There can be nothing normal in the mind of one who, knowing what I knew of the horrors of TempestMountain, would seek alone for the fear that lurked there. That at least two of the fear’sembodiments were destroyed, formed but a slight guarantee of mental and physical safety in thisAcheron of multiform diabolism; yet I continued my quest with even greater zeal as events andrevelations became more monstrous.

    When, two days after my frightful crawl through that crypt of the eyes andclaw, I learned that a thing had malignly hovered twenty miles away at the same instant theeyes were glaring at me, I experienced virtual convulsions of fright. But that fright was somixed with wonder and alluring grotesqueness, that it was almost a pleasant sensation. Sometimes,in the throes of a nightmare when unseen powers whirl one over the roofs of strange dead citiestoward the grinning chasm of Nis, it is a relief and even a delight to shriek wildly and throwoneself voluntarily along with the hideous vortex of dream-doom into whatever bottomless gulfmay yawn. And so it was with the waking nightmare of Tempest Mountain; the discovery that twomonsters had haunted the spot gave me ultimately a mad craving to plunge into the very earthof the accursed region, and with bare hands dig out the death that leered from every inch ofthe poisonous soil.

    As soon as possible I visited the grave of Jan Martense and dug vainly whereI had dug before. Some extensive cave-in had obliterated all trace of the underground passage,while the rain had washed so much earth back into the excavation that I could not tell how deeplyI had dug that other day. I likewise made a difficult trip to the distant hamlet where the death-creaturehad been burnt, and was little repaid for my trouble. In the ashes of the fateful cabin I foundseveral bones, but apparently none of the monster’s. The squatters said the thing hadhad only one victim; but in this I judged them inaccurate, since besides the complete skullof a human being, there was another bony fragment which seemed certainly to have belonged toa human skull at some time. Though the rapid drop of the monster had been seen, no one couldsay just what the creature was like; those who had glimpsed it called it simply a devil. Examiningthe great tree where it had lurked, I could discern no distinctive marks. I tried to find sometrail into the black forest, but on this occasion could not stand the sight of those morbidlylarge boles, or of those vast serpent-like roots that twisted so malevolently before they sankinto the earth.

    My next step was to re-examine with microscopic care the deserted hamlet wheredeath had come most abundantly, and where Arthur Munroe had seen something he never lived todescribe. Though my vain previous searches had been exceedingly minute, I now had new data totest; for my horrible grave-crawl convinced me that at least one of the phases of the monstrosityhad been an underground creature. This time, on the fourteenth of November, my quest concerneditself mostly with the slopes of Cone Mountain and Maple Hill where they overlook the unfortunatehamlet, and I gave particular attention to the loose earth of the landslide region on the lattereminence.

    The afternoon of my search brought nothing to light, and dusk came as I stoodon Maple Hill looking down at the hamlet and across the valley to Tempest Mountain. There hadbeen a gorgeous sunset, and now the moon came up, nearly full and shedding a silver flood overthe plain, the distant mountainside, and the curious low mounds that rose here and there. Itwas a peaceful Arcadian scene, but knowing what it hid I hated it. I hated the mocking moon,the hypocritical plain, the festering mountain, and those sinister mounds. Everything seemedto me tainted with a loathsome contagion, and inspired by a noxious alliance with distortedhidden powers.

    Presently, as I gazed abstractedly at the moonlit panorama, my eye became attractedby something singular in the nature and arrangement of a certain topographical element. Withouthaving any exact knowledge of geology, I had from the first been interested in the odd moundsand hummocks of the region. I had noticed that they were pretty widely distributed around TempestMountain, though less numerous on the plain than near the hill-top itself, where prehistoricglaciation had doubtless found feebler opposition to its striking and fantastic caprices. Now,in the light of that low moon which cast long weird shadows, it struck me forcibly that thevarious points and lines of the mound system had a peculiar relation to the summit of TempestMountain. That summit was undeniably a centre from which the lines or rows of points radiatedindefinitely and irregularly, as if the unwholesome Martense mansion had thrown visible tentaclesof terror. The idea of such tentacles gave me an unexplained thrill, and I stopped to analysemy reason for believing these mounds glacial phenomena.

    The more I analysed the less I believed, and against my newly opened mind therebegan to beat grotesque and horrible analogies based on superficial aspects and upon my experiencebeneath the earth. Before I knew it I was uttering frenzied and disjointed words to myself:“My God! . . . Molehills . . . the damned place must be honeycombed . . . how many . . . that night at the mansion . . . they took Bennett andTobey first . . . on each side of us. . . .”.Then I was digging frantically into the mound which had stretched nearest me; digging desperately,shiveringly, but almost jubilantly; digging and at last shrieking aloud with some unplaced emotionas I came upon a tunnel or burrow just like the one through which I had crawled on that otherdaemoniac night.

    After that I recall running, spade in hand; a hideous run across moon-litten,mound-marked meadows and through diseased, precipitous abysses of haunted hillside forest; leaping,screaming, panting, bounding toward the terrible Martense mansion. I recall digging unreasoninglyin all parts of the brier-choked cellar; digging to find the core and centre of that malignantuniverse of mounds. And then I recall how I laughed when I stumbled on the passageway; the holeat the base of the old chimney, where the thick weeds grew and cast queer shadows in the lightof the lone candle I had happened to have with me. What still remained down in that hell-hive,lurking and waiting for the thunder to arouse it, I did not know. Two had been killed; perhapsthat had finished it. But still there remained that burning determination to reach the innermostsecret of the fear, which I had once more come to deem definite, material, and organic.

    My indecisive speculation whether to explore the passage alone and immediatelywith my pocket-light or to try to assemble a band of squatters for the quest, was interruptedafter a time by a sudden rush of wind from outside which blew out the candle and left me instark blackness. The moon no longer shone through the chinks and apertures above me, and witha sense of fateful alarm I heard the sinister and significant rumble of approaching thunder.A confusion of associated ideas possessed my brain, leading me to grope back toward the farthestcorner of the cellar. My eyes, however, never turned away from the horrible opening at the baseof the chimney; and I began to get glimpses of the crumbling bricks and unhealthy weeds as faintglows of lightning penetrated the woods outside and illumined the chinks in the upper wall.Every second I was consumed with a mixture of fear and curiosity. What would the storm callforth—or was there anything left for it to call? Guided by a lightning flash I settledmyself down behind a dense clump of vegetation, through which I could see the opening withoutbeing seen.

    If heaven is merciful, it will some day efface from my consciousness the sightthat I saw, and let me live my last years in peace. I cannot sleep at night now, and have totake opiates when it thunders. The thing came abruptly and unannounced; a daemon, rat-like scurryingfrom pits remote and unimaginable, a hellish panting and stifled grunting, and then from thatopening beneath the chimney a burst of multitudinous and leprous life—a loathsome night-spawnedflood of organic corruption more devastatingly hideous than the blackest conjurations of mortalmadness and morbidity. Seething, stewing, surging, bubbling like serpents’ slime it rolledup and out of that yawning hole, spreading like a septic contagion and streaming from the cellarat every point of egress—streaming out to scatter through the accursed midnight forestsand strew fear, madness, and death.

    God knows how many there were—there must have been thousands. To seethe stream of them in that faint, intermittent lightning was shocking. When they had thinnedout enough to be glimpsed as separate organisms, I saw that they were dwarfed, deformed hairydevils or apes—monstrous and diabolic caricatures of the monkey tribe. They were so hideouslysilent; there was hardly a squeal when one of the last stragglers turned with the skill of longpractice to make a meal in accustomed fashion on a weaker companion. Others snapped up whatit left and ate with slavering relish. Then, in spite of my daze of fright and disgust, my morbidcuriosity triumphed; and as the last of the monstrosities oozed up alone from that nether worldof unknown nightmare, I drew my automatic pistol and shot it under cover of the thunder.

    Shrieking, slithering, torrential shadows of red viscous madness chasing oneanother through endless, ensanguined corridors of purple fulgurous sky . . .formless phantasms and kaleidoscopic mutations of a ghoulish, remembered scene; forests of monstrousovernourished oaks with serpent roots twisting and sucking unnamable juices from an earth verminouswith millions of cannibal devils; mound-like tentacles groping from underground nuclei of polypousperversion . . . insane lightning over malignant ivied walls and daemon arcadeschoked with fungous vegetation. . . . Heaven be thanked for the instinct whichled me unconscious to places where men dwell; to the peaceful village that slept under the calmstars of clearing skies.

    I had recovered enough in a week to send to Albany for a gang of men to blowup the Martense mansion and the entire top of Tempest Mountain with dynamite, stop up all thediscoverable mound-burrows, and destroy certain overnourished trees whose very existence seemedan insult to sanity. I could sleep a little after they had done this, but true rest will nevercome as long as I remember that nameless secret of the lurking fear. The thing will haunt me,for who can say the extermination is complete, and that analogous phenomena do not exist allover the world? Who can, with my knowledge, think of the earth’s unknown caverns withouta nightmare dread of future possibilities? I cannot see a well or a subway entrance withoutshuddering . . . why cannot the doctors give me something to make me sleep, ortruly calm my brain when it thunders?

    What I saw in the glow of my flashlight after I shot the unspeakable stragglingobject was so simple that almost a minute elapsed before I understood and went delirious. Theobject was nauseous; a filthy whitish gorilla thing with sharp yellow fangs and matted fur.It was the ultimate product of mammalian degeneration; the frightful outcome of isolated spawning,multiplication, and cannibal nutrition above and below the ground; the embodiment of all thesnarling chaos and grinning fear that lurk behind life. It had looked at me as it died, andits eyes had the same odd quality that marked those other eyes which had stared at me undergroundand excited cloudy recollections. One eye was blue, the other brown. They were the dissimilarMartense eyes of the old legends, and I knew in one inundating cataclysm of voiceless horrorwhat had become of that vanished family; the terrible and thunder-crazed house of Martense.

    I.

    From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent. Sometimes it enters directly intothe composition of the events, while sometimes it relates only to their fortuitous positionamong persons and places. The latter sort is splendidly exemplified by a case in the ancientcity of Providence, where in the late forties Edgar Allan Poe used to sojourn often during hisunsuccessful wooing of the gifted poetess, Mrs. Whitman. Poe generally stopped at the MansionHouse in Benefit Street—the renamed Golden Ball Inn whose roof has sheltered Washington,Jefferson, and Lafayette—and his favourite walk led northward along the same street toMrs. Whitman’s home and the neighbouring hillside churchyard of St. John’s, whosehidden expanse of eighteenth-century gravestones had for him a peculiar fascination.

    Now the irony is this. In this walk, so many times repeated, the world’sgreatest master of the terrible and the bizarre was obliged to pass a particular house on theeastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side-hill,with a great unkempt yard dating from a time when the region was partly open country. It doesnot appear that he ever wrote or spoke of it, nor is there any evidence that he even noticedit. And yet that house, to the two persons in possession of certain information, equals or outranksin horror the wildest phantasy of the genius who so often passed it unknowingly, and standsstarkly leering as a symbol of all that is unutterably hideous.

    The house was—and for that matter still is—of a kind to attractthe attention of the curious. Originally a farm or semi-farm building, it followed the averageNew England colonial lines of the middle eighteenth century—the prosperous peaked-roofsort, with two stories and dormerless attic, and with the Georgian doorway and interior panellingdictated by the progress of taste at that time. It faced south, with one gable end buried tothe lower windows in the eastward rising hill, and the other exposed to the foundations towardthe street. Its construction, over a century and a half ago, had followed the grading and straighteningof the road in that especial vicinity; for Benefit Street—at first called Back Street—waslaid out as a lane winding amongst the graveyards of the first settlers, and straightened onlywhen the removal of the bodies to the North Burial Ground made it decently possible to cut throughthe old family plots.

    At the start, the western wall had lain some twenty feet up a precipitous lawnfrom the roadway; but a widening of the street at about the time of the Revolution sheared offmost of the intervening space, exposing the foundations so that a brick basem*nt wall had tobe made, giving the deep cellar a street frontage with door and two windows above ground, closeto the new line of public travel. When the sidewalk was laid out a century ago the last of theintervening space was removed; and Poe in his walks must have seen only a sheer ascent of dullgrey brick flush with the sidewalk and surmounted at a height of ten feet by the antique shingledbulk of the house proper.

    The farm-like grounds extended back very deeply up the hill, almost to WheatonStreet. The space south of the house, abutting on Benefit Street, was of course greatly abovethe existing sidewalk level, forming a terrace bounded by a high bank wall of damp, mossy stonepierced by a steep flight of narrow steps which led inward between canyon-like surfaces to theupper region of mangy lawn, rheumy brick walls, and neglected gardens whose dismantled cementurns, rusted kettles fallen from tripods of knotty sticks, and similar paraphernalia set offthe weather-beaten front door with its broken fanlight, rotting Ionic pilasters, and wormy triangularpediment.

    What I heard in my youth about the shunned house was merely that people diedthere in alarmingly great numbers. That, I was told, was why the original owners had moved outsome twenty years after building the place. It was plainly unhealthy, perhaps because of thedampness and fungous growth in the cellar, the general sickish smell, the draughts of the hallways,or the quality of the well and pump water. These things were bad enough, and these were allthat gained belief among the persons whom I knew. Only the notebooks of my antiquarian uncle,Dr. Elihu Whipple, revealed to me at length the darker, vaguer surmises which formed an undercurrentof folklore among old-time servants and humble folk; surmises which never travelled far, andwhich were largely forgotten when Providence grew to be a metropolis with a shifting modernpopulation.

    The general fact is, that the house was never regarded by the solid part ofthe community as in any real sense “haunted”. There were no widespread tales ofrattling chains, cold currents of air, extinguished lights, or faces at the window. Extremistssometimes said the house was “unlucky”, but that is as far as even they went. Whatwas really beyond dispute is that a frightful proportion of persons died there; or more accurately,had died there, since after some peculiar happenings over sixty years ago the buildinghad become deserted through the sheer impossibility of renting it. These persons were not allcut off suddenly by any one cause; rather did it seem that their vitality was insidiously sapped,so that each one died the sooner from whatever tendency to weakness he may have naturally had.And those who did not die displayed in varying degree a type of anaemia or consumption, andsometimes a decline of the mental faculties, which spoke ill for the salubriousness of the building.Neighbouring houses, it must be added, seemed entirely free from the noxious quality.

    This much I knew before my insistent questioning led my uncle to shew me thenotes which finally embarked us both on our hideous investigation. In my childhood the shunnedhouse was vacant, with barren, gnarled, and terrible old trees, long, queerly pale grass, andnightmarishly misshapen weeds in the high terraced yard where birds never lingered. We boysused to overrun the place, and I can still recall my youthful terror not only at the morbidstrangeness of this sinister vegetation, but at the eldritch atmosphere and odour of the dilapidatedhouse, whose unlocked front door was often entered in quest of shudders. The small-paned windowswere largely broken, and a nameless air of desolation hung round the precarious panelling, shakyinterior shutters, peeling wall-paper, falling plaster, rickety staircases, and such fragmentsof battered furniture as still remained. The dust and cobwebs added their touch of the fearful;and brave indeed was the boy who would voluntarily ascend the ladder to the attic, a vast rafteredlength lighted only by small blinking windows in the gable ends, and filled with a massed wreckageof chests, chairs, and spinning-wheels which infinite years of deposit had shrouded and festoonedinto monstrous and hellish shapes.

    But after all, the attic was not the most terrible part of the house. It wasthe dank, humid cellar which somehow exerted the strongest repulsion on us, even though it waswholly above ground on the street side, with only a thin door and window-pierced brick wallto separate it from the busy sidewalk. We scarcely knew whether to haunt it in spectral fascination,or to shun it for the sake of our souls and our sanity. For one thing, the bad odour of thehouse was strongest there; and for another thing, we did not like the white fungous growthswhich occasionally sprang up in rainy summer weather from the hard earth floor. Those fungi,grotesquely like the vegetation in the yard outside, were truly horrible in their outlines;detestable parodies of toadstools and Indian pipes, whose like we had never seen in any othersituation. They rotted quickly, and at one stage became slightly phosphorescent; so that nocturnalpassers-by sometimes spoke of witch-fires glowing behind the broken panes of the foetor-spreadingwindows.

    We never—even in our wildest Hallowe’en moods—visited thiscellar by night, but in some of our daytime visits could detect the phosphorescence, especiallywhen the day was dark and wet. There was also a subtler thing we often thought we detected—avery strange thing which was, however, merely suggestive at most. I refer to a sort of cloudywhitish pattern on the dirt floor—a vague, shifting deposit of mould or nitre which wesometimes thought we could trace amidst the sparse fungous growths near the huge fireplace ofthe basem*nt kitchen. Once in a while it struck us that this patch bore an uncanny resemblanceto a doubled-up human figure, though generally no such kinship existed, and often there wasno whitish deposit whatever. On a certain rainy afternoon when this illusion seemed phenomenallystrong, and when, in addition, I had fancied I glimpsed a kind of thin, yellowish, shimmeringexhalation rising from the nitrous pattern toward the yawning fireplace, I spoke to my uncleabout the matter. He smiled at this odd conceit, but it seemed that his smile was tinged withreminiscence. Later I heard that a similar notion entered into some of the wild ancient talesof the common folk—a notion likewise alluding to ghoulish, wolfish shapes taken by smokefrom the great chimney, and queer contours assumed by certain of the sinuous tree-roots thatthrust their way into the cellar through the loose foundation-stones.

    II.

    Not till my adult years did my uncle set before me the notes and data which he had collectedconcerning the shunned house. Dr. Whipple was a sane, conservative physician of the old school,and for all his interest in the place was not eager to encourage young thoughts toward the abnormal.His own view, postulating simply a building and location of markedly unsanitary qualities, hadnothing to do with abnormality; but he realised that the very picturesqueness which arousedhis own interest would in a boy’s fanciful mind take on all manner of gruesome imaginativeassociations.

    The doctor was a bachelor; a white-haired, clean-shaven, old-fashioned gentleman,and a local historian of note, who had often broken a lance with such controversial guardiansof tradition as Sidney S. Rider and Thomas W. Bicknell. He lived with one manservant in a Georgianhomestead with knocker and iron-railed steps, balanced eerily on a steep ascent of North CourtStreet beside the ancient brick court and colony house where his grandfather—a cousinof that celebrated privateersman, Capt. Whipple, who burnt His Majesty’s armed schoonerGaspee in 1772—had voted in the legislature on May 4, 1776, for the independenceof the Rhode Island Colony. Around him in the damp, low-ceiled library with the musty whitepanelling, heavy carved overmantel, and small-paned, vine-shaded windows, were the relics andrecords of his ancient family, among which were many dubious allusions to the shunned housein Benefit Street. That pest spot lies not far distant—for Benefit runs ledgewise justabove the court-house along the precipitous hill up which the first settlement climbed.

    When, in the end, my insistent pestering and maturing years evoked from myuncle the hoarded lore I sought, there lay before me a strange enough chronicle. Long-winded,statistical, and drearily genealogical as some of the matter was, there ran through it a continuousthread of brooding, tenacious horror and preternatural malevolence which impressed me even morethan it had impressed the good doctor. Separate events fitted together uncannily, and seeminglyirrelevant details held mines of hideous possibilities. A new and burning curiosity grew inme, compared to which my boyish curiosity was feeble and inchoate. The first revelation ledto an exhaustive research, and finally to that shuddering quest which proved so disastrous tomyself and mine. For at last my uncle insisted on joining the search I had commenced, and aftera certain night in that house he did not come away with me. I am lonely without that gentlesoul whose long years were filled only with honour, virtue, good taste, benevolence, and learning.I have reared a marble urn to his memory in St. John’s churchyard—the place thatPoe loved—the hidden grove of giant willows on the hill, where tombs and headstones huddlequietly between the hoary bulk of the church and the houses and bank walls of Benefit Street.

    The history of the house, opening amidst a maze of dates, revealed no traceof the sinister either about its construction or about the prosperous and honourable familywho built it. Yet from the first a taint of calamity, soon increased to boding significance,was apparent. My uncle’s carefully compiled record began with the building of the structurein 1763, and followed the theme with an unusual amount of detail. The shunned house, it seems,was first inhabited by William Harris and his wife Rhoby Dexter, with their children, Elkanah,born in 1755, Abigail, born in 1757, William, Jr., born in 1759, and Ruth, born in 1761. Harriswas a substantial merchant and seaman in the West India trade, connected with the firm of ObadiahBrown and his nephews. After Brown’s death in 1761, the new firm of Nicholas Brown &Co. made him master of the brig Prudence, Providence-built, of 120 tons, thus enablinghim to erect the new homestead he had desired ever since his marriage.

    The site he had chosen—a recently straightened part of the new and fashionableBack Street, which ran along the side of the hill above crowded Cheapside—was all thatcould be wished, and the building did justice to the location. It was the best that moderatemeans could afford, and Harris hastened to move in before the birth of a fifth child which thefamily expected. That child, a boy, came in December; but was still-born. Nor was any childto be born alive in that house for a century and a half.

    The next April sickness occurred among the children, and Abigail and Ruth diedbefore the month was over. Dr. Job Ives diagnosed the trouble as some infantile fever, thoughothers declared it was more of a mere wasting-away or decline. It seemed, in any event, to becontagious; for Hannah Bowen, one of the two servants, died of it in the following June. EliLiddeason, the other servant, constantly complained of weakness; and would have returned tohis father’s farm in Rehoboth but for a sudden attachment for Mehitabel Pierce, who washired to succeed Hannah. He died the next year—a sad year indeed, since it marked thedeath of William Harris himself, enfeebled as he was by the climate of Martinique, where hisoccupation had kept him for considerable periods during the preceding decade.

    The widowed Rhoby Harris never recovered from the shock of her husband’sdeath, and the passing of her first-born Elkanah two years later was the final blow to her reason.In 1768 she fell victim to a mild form of insanity, and was thereafter confined to the upperpart of the house; her elder maiden sister, Mercy Dexter, having moved in to take charge ofthe family. Mercy was a plain, raw-boned woman of great strength; but her health visibly declinedfrom the time of her advent. She was greatly devoted to her unfortunate sister, and had an especialaffection for her only surviving nephew William, who from a sturdy infant had become a sickly,spindling lad. In this year the servant Mehitabel died, and the other servant, Preserved Smith,left without coherent explanation—or at least, with only some wild tales and a complaintthat he disliked the smell of the place. For a time Mercy could secure no more help, since theseven deaths and case of madness, all occurring within five years’ space, had begun toset in motion the body of fireside rumour which later became so bizarre. Ultimately, however,she obtained new servants from out of town; Ann White, a morose woman from that part of NorthKingstown now set off as the township of Exeter, and a capable Boston man named Zenas Low.

    It was Ann White who first gave definite shape to the sinister idle talk. Mercyshould have known better than to hire anyone from the Nooseneck Hill country, for that remotebit of backwoods was then, as now, a seat of the most uncomfortable superstitions. As latelyas 1892 an Exeter community exhumed a dead body and ceremoniously burnt its heart in order toprevent certain alleged visitations injurious to the public health and peace, and one may imaginethe point of view of the same section in 1768. Ann’s tongue was perniciously active, andwithin a few months Mercy discharged her, filling her place with a faithful and amiable Amazonfrom Newport, Maria Robbins.

    Meanwhile poor Rhoby Harris, in her madness, gave voice to dreams and imaginingsof the most hideous sort. At times her screams became insupportable, and for long periods shewould utter shrieking horrors which necessitated her son’s temporary residence with hiscousin, Peleg Harris, in Presbyterian-Lane near the new college building. The boy would seemto improve after these visits, and had Mercy been as wise as she was well-meaning, she wouldhave let him live permanently with Peleg. Just what Mrs. Harris cried out in her fits of violence,tradition hesitates to say; or rather, presents such extravagant accounts that they nullifythemselves through sheer absurdity. Certainly it sounds absurd to hear that a woman educatedonly in the rudiments of French often shouted for hours in a coarse and idiomatic form of thatlanguage, or that the same person, alone and guarded, complained wildly of a staring thing whichbit and chewed at her. In 1772 the servant Zenas died, and when Mrs. Harris heard of it shelaughed with a shocking delight utterly foreign to her. The next year she herself died, andwas laid to rest in the North Burial Ground beside her husband.

    Upon the outbreak of trouble with Great Britain in 1775, William Harris, despitehis scant sixteen years and feeble constitution, managed to enlist in the Army of Observationunder General Greene; and from that time on enjoyed a steady rise in health and prestige. In1780, as a Captain in Rhode Island forces in New Jersey under Colonel Angell, he met and marriedPhebe Hetfield of Elizabethtown, whom he brought to Providence upon his honourable dischargein the following year.

    The young soldier’s return was not a thing of unmitigated happiness.The house, it is true, was still in good condition; and the street had been widened and changedin name from Back Street to Benefit Street. But Mercy Dexter’s once robust frame had undergonea sad and curious decay, so that she was now a stooped and pathetic figure with hollow voiceand disconcerting pallor—qualities shared to a singular degree by the one remaining servantMaria. In the autumn of 1782 Phebe Harris gave birth to a still-born daughter, and on the fifteenthof the next May Mercy Dexter took leave of a useful, austere, and virtuous life.

    William Harris, at last thoroughly convinced of the radically unhealthful natureof his abode, now took steps toward quitting it and closing it forever. Securing temporary quartersfor himself and his wife at the newly opened Golden Ball Inn, he arranged for the building ofa new and finer house in Westminster Street, in the growing part of the town across the GreatBridge. There, in 1785, his son Dutee was born; and there the family dwelt till the encroachmentsof commerce drove them back across the river and over the hill to Angell Street, in the newerEast Side residence district, where the late Archer Harris built his sumptuous but hideous French-roofedmansion in 1876. William and Phebe both succumbed to the yellow fever epidemic of 1797, butDutee was brought up by his cousin Rathbone Harris, Peleg’s son.

    Rathbone was a practical man, and rented the Benefit Street house despite William’swish to keep it vacant. He considered it an obligation to his ward to make the most of all theboy’s property, nor did he concern himself with the deaths and illnesses which causedso many changes of tenants, or the steadily growing aversion with which the house was generallyregarded. It is likely that he felt only vexation when, in 1804, the town council ordered himto fumigate the place with sulphur, tar, and gum camphor on account of the much-discussed deathsof four persons, presumably caused by the then diminishing fever epidemic. They said the placehad a febrile smell.

    Dutee himself thought little of the house, for he grew up to be a privateersman,and served with distinction on the Vigilant under Capt. Cahoone in the War of 1812. Hereturned unharmed, married in 1814, and became a father on that memorable night of September23, 1815, when a great gale drove the waters of the bay over half the town, and floated a tallsloop well up Westminster Street so that its masts almost tapped the Harris windows in symbolicaffirmation that the new boy, Welcome, was a seaman’s son.

    Welcome did not survive his father, but lived to perish gloriously at Fredericksburgin 1862. Neither he nor his son Archer knew of the shunned house as other than a nuisance almostimpossible to rent—perhaps on account of the mustiness and sickly odour of unkempt oldage. Indeed, it never was rented after a series of deaths culminating in 1861, which the excitementof the war tended to throw into obscurity. Carrington Harris, last of the male line, knew itonly as a deserted and somewhat picturesque centre of legend until I told him my experience.He had meant to tear it down and build an apartment house on the site, but after my accountdecided to let it stand, install plumbing, and rent it. Nor has he yet had any difficulty inobtaining tenants. The horror has gone.

    III.

    It may well be imagined how powerfully I was affected by the annals of the Harrises. In thiscontinuous record there seemed to me to brood a persistent evil beyond anything in Nature asI had known it; an evil clearly connected with the house and not with the family. This impressionwas confirmed by my uncle’s less systematic array of miscellaneous data—legendstranscribed from servant gossip, cuttings from the papers, copies of death-certificates by fellow-physicians,and the like. All of this material I cannot hope to give, for my uncle was a tireless antiquarianand very deeply interested in the shunned house; but I may refer to several dominant pointswhich earn notice by their recurrence through many reports from diverse sources. For example,the servant gossip was practically unanimous in attributing to the fungous and malodorous
    cellar of the house a vast supremacy in evil influence. There had been servants—AnnWhite especially—who would not use the cellar kitchen, and at least three well-definedlegends bore upon the queer quasi-human or diabolic outlines assumed by tree-roots and patchesof mould in that region. These latter narratives interested me profoundly, on account of whatI had seen in my boyhood, but I felt that most of the significance had in each case been largelyobscured by additions from the common stock of local ghost lore.

    Ann White, with her Exeter superstition, had promulgated the most extravagantand at the same time most consistent tale; alleging that there must lie buried beneath the houseone of those vampires—the dead who retain their bodily form and live on the blood or breathof the living—whose hideous legions send their preying shapes or spirits abroad by night.To destroy a vampire one must, the grandmothers say, exhume it and burn its heart, or at leastdrive a stake through that organ; and Ann’s dogged insistence on a search under the cellarhad been prominent in bringing about her discharge.

    Her tales, however, commanded a wide audience, and were the more readily acceptedbecause the house indeed stood on land once used for burial purposes. To me their interest dependedless on this circ*mstance than on the peculiarly appropriate way in which they dovetailed withcertain other things—the complaint of the departing servant Preserved Smith, who had precededAnn and never heard of her, that something “sucked his breath” at night; the death-certificatesof fever victims of 1804, issued by Dr. Chad Hopkins, and shewing the four deceased personsall unaccountably lacking in blood; and the obscure passages of poor Rhoby Harris’s ravings,where she complained of the sharp teeth of a glassy-eyed, half-visible presence.

    Free from unwarranted superstition though I am, these things produced in mean odd sensation, which was intensified by a pair of widely separated newspaper cuttings relatingto deaths in the shunned house—one from the Providence Gazette and Country-Journalof April 12, 1815, and the other from the Daily Transcript and Chronicle of October 27,1845—each of which detailed an appallingly grisly circ*mstance whose duplication was remarkable.It seems that in both instances the dying person, in 1815 a gentle old lady named Stafford andin 1845 a school-teacher of middle age named Eleazar Durfee, became transfigured in a horribleway; glaring glassily and attempting to bite the throat of the attending physician. Even morepuzzling, though, was the final case which put an end to the renting of the house—a seriesof anaemia deaths preceded by progressive madnesses wherein the patient would craftily attemptthe lives of his relatives by incisions in the neck or wrist.

    This was in 1860 and 1861, when my uncle had just begun his medical practice;and before leaving for the front he heard much of it from his elder professional colleagues.The really inexplicable thing was the way in which the victims—ignorant people, for theill-smelling and widely shunned house could now be rented to no others—would babble maledictionsin French, a language they could not possibly have studied to any extent. It made one thinkof poor Rhoby Harris nearly a century before, and so moved my uncle that he commenced collectinghistorical data on the house after listening, some time subsequent to his return from the war,to the first-hand account of Drs. Chase and Whitmarsh. Indeed, I could see that my uncle hadthought deeply on the subject, and that he was glad of my own interest—an open-mindedand sympathetic interest which enabled him to discuss with me matters at which others wouldmerely have laughed. His fancy had not gone so far as mine, but he felt that the place was rarein its imaginative potentialities, and worthy of note as an inspiration in the field of thegrotesque and macabre.

    For my part, I was disposed to take the whole subject with profound seriousness,and began at once not only to review the evidence, but to accumulate as much more as I could.I talked with the elderly Archer Harris, then owner of the house, many times before his deathin 1916; and obtained from him and his still surviving maiden sister Alice an authentic corroborationof all the family data my uncle had collected. When, however, I asked them what connexion withFrance or its language the house could have, they confessed themselves as frankly baffled andignorant as I. Archer knew nothing, and all that Miss Harris could say was that an old allusionher grandfather, Dutee Harris, had heard of might have shed a little light. The old seaman,who had survived his son Welcome’s death in battle by two years, had not himself knownthe legend; but recalled that his earliest nurse, the ancient Maria Robbins, seemed darkly awareof something that might have lent a weird significance to the French ravings of Rhoby Harris,which she had so often heard during the last days of that hapless woman. Maria had been at theshunned house from 1769 till the removal of the family in 1783, and had seen Mercy Dexter die.Once she hinted to the child Dutee of a somewhat peculiar circ*mstance in Mercy’s lastmoments, but he had soon forgotten all about it save that it was something peculiar. The granddaughter,moreover, recalled even this much with difficulty. She and her brother were not so much interestedin the house as was Archer’s son Carrington, the present owner, with whom I talked aftermy experience.

    Having exhausted the Harris family of all the information it could furnish,I turned my attention to early town records and deeds with a zeal more penetrating than thatwhich my uncle had occasionally shewn in the same work. What I wished was a comprehensive historyof the site from its very settlement in 1636—or even before, if any Narragansett Indianlegend could be unearthed to supply the data. I found, at the start, that the land had beenpart of the long strip of home lot granted originally to John Throckmorton; one of many similarstrips beginning at the Town Street beside the river and extending up over the hill to a lineroughly corresponding with the modern Hope Street. The Throckmorton lot had later, of course,been much subdivided; and I became very assiduous in tracing that section through which Backor Benefit Street was later run. It had, a rumour indeed said, been the Throckmorton graveyard;but as I examined the records more carefully, I found that the graves had all been transferredat an early date to the North Burial Ground on the Pawtucket West Road.

    Then suddenly I came—by a rare piece of chance, since it was not in themain body of records and might easily have been missed—upon something which aroused mykeenest eagerness, fitting in as it did with several of the queerest phases of the affair. Itwas the record of a lease, in 1697, of a small tract of ground to an Etienne Roulet and wife.At last the French element had appeared—that, and another deeper element of horror whichthe name conjured up from the darkest recesses of my weird and heterogeneous reading—andI feverishly studied the platting of the locality as it had been before the cutting throughand partial straightening of Back Street between 1747 and 1758. I found what I had half expected,that where the shunned house now stood the Roulets had laid out their graveyard behind a one-storyand attic cottage, and that no record of any transfer of graves existed. The document, indeed,ended in much confusion; and I was forced to ransack both the Rhode Island Historical Societyand Shepley Library before I could find a local door which the name Etienne Roulet would unlock.In the end I did find something; something of such vague but monstrous import that I set aboutat once to examine the cellar of the shunned house itself with a new and excited minuteness.

    The Roulets, it seemed, had come in 1696 from East Greenwich, down the westshore of Narragansett Bay. They were Huguenots from Caude, and had encountered much oppositionbefore the Providence selectmen allowed them to settle in the town. Unpopularity had doggedthem in East Greenwich, whither they had come in 1686, after the revocation of the Edict ofNantes, and rumour said that the cause of dislike extended beyond mere racial and national prejudice,or the land disputes which involved other French settlers with the English in rivalries whichnot even Governor Andros could quell. But their ardent Protestantism—too ardent, somewhispered—and their evident distress when virtually driven from the village down the bay,had moved the sympathy of the town fathers. Here the strangers had been granted a haven; andthe swarthy Etienne Roulet, less apt at agriculture than at reading queer books and drawingqueer diagrams, was given a clerical post in the warehouse at Pardon Tillinghast’s wharf,far south in Town Street. There had, however, been a riot of some sort later on—perhapsforty years later, after old Roulet’s death—and no one seemed to hear of the familyafter that.

    For a century and more, it appeared, the Roulets had been well remembered andfrequently discussed as vivid incidents in the quiet life of a New England seaport. Etienne’sson Paul, a surly fellow whose erratic conduct had probably provoked the riot which wiped outthe family, was particularly a source of speculation; and though Providence never shared thewitchcraft panics of her Puritan neighbours, it was freely intimated by old wives that his prayerswere neither uttered at the proper time nor directed toward the proper object. All this hadundoubtedly formed the basis of the legend known by old Maria Robbins. What relation it hadto the French ravings of Rhoby Harris and other inhabitants of the shunned house, imaginationor future discovery alone could determine. I wondered how many of those who had known the legendsrealised that additional link with the terrible which my wide reading had given me; that ominousitem in the annals of morbid horror which tells of the creature Jacques Roulet, of Caude,who in 1598 was condemned to death as a daemoniac but afterward saved from the stake by theParis parliament and shut in a madhouse. He had been found covered with blood and shreds offlesh in a wood, shortly after the killing and rending of a boy by a pair of wolves. One wolfwas seen to lope away unhurt. Surely a pretty hearthside tale, with a queer significance asto name and place; but I decided that the Providence gossips could not have generally knownof it. Had they known, the coincidence of names would have brought some drastic and frightenedaction—indeed, might not its limited whispering have precipitated the final riot whicherased the Roulets from the town?

    I now visited the accursed place with increased frequency; studying the unwholesomevegetation of the garden, examining all the walls of the building, and poring over every inchof the earthen cellar floor. Finally, with Carrington Harris’s permission, I fitted akey to the disused door opening from the cellar directly upon Benefit Street, preferring tohave a more immediate access to the outside world than the dark stairs, ground floor hall, andfront door could give. There, where morbidity lurked most thickly, I searched and poked duringlong afternoons when the sunlight filtered in through the cobwebbed above-ground windows, anda sense of security glowed from the unlocked door which placed me only a few feet from the placidsidewalk outside. Nothing new rewarded my efforts—only the same depressing mustiness andfaint suggestions of noxious odours and nitrous outlines on the floor—and I fancy thatmany pedestrians must have watched me curiously through the broken panes.

    At length, upon a suggestion of my uncle’s, I decided to try the spotnocturnally; and one stormy midnight ran the beams of an electric torch over the mouldy floorwith its uncanny shapes and distorted, half-phosphorescent fungi. The place had dispirited mecuriously that evening, and I was almost prepared when I saw—or thought I saw—amidstthe whitish deposits a particularly sharp definition of the “huddled form” I hadsuspected from boyhood. Its clearness was astonishing and unprecedented—and as I watchedI seemed to see again the thin, yellowish, shimmering exhalation which had startled me on thatrainy afternoon so many years before.

    Above the anthropomorphic patch of mould by the fireplace it rose; a subtle,sickish, almost luminous vapour which as it hung trembling in the dampness seemed to developvague and shocking suggestions of form, gradually trailing off into nebulous decay and passingup into the blackness of the great chimney with a foetor in its wake. It was truly horrible,and the more so to me because of what I knew of the spot. Refusing to flee, I watched it fade—andas I watched I felt that it was in turn watching me greedily with eyes more imaginable thanvisible. When I told my uncle about it he was greatly aroused; and after a tense hour of reflection,arrived at a definite and drastic decision. Weighing in his mind the importance of the matter,and the significance of our relation to it, he insisted that we both test—and if possibledestroy—the horror of the house by a joint night or nights of aggressive vigil in thatmusty and fungus-cursed cellar.

    IV.

    On Wednesday, June 25, 1919, after a proper notification of Carrington Harris which did notinclude surmises as to what we expected to find, my uncle and I conveyed to the shunned housetwo camp chairs and a folding camp cot, together with some scientific mechanism of greater weightand intricacy. These we placed in the cellar during the day, screening the windows with paperand planning to return in the evening for our first vigil. We had locked the door from the cellarto the ground floor; and having a key to the outside cellar door, we were prepared to leaveour expensive and delicate apparatus—which we had obtained secretly and at great cost—asmany days as our vigils might need to be protracted. It was our design to sit up together tillvery late, and then watch singly till dawn in two-hour stretches, myself first and then my companion;the inactive member resting on the cot.

    The natural leadership with which my uncle procured the instruments from thelaboratories of Brown University and the Cranston Street Armoury, and instinctively assumeddirection of our venture, was a marvellous commentary on the potential vitality and resilienceof a man of eighty-one. Elihu Whipple had lived according to the hygienic laws he had preachedas a physician, and but for what happened later would be here in full vigour today. Only twopersons suspect what did happen—Carrington Harris and myself. I had to tell Harris becausehe owned the house and deserved to know what had gone out of it. Then too, we had spoken tohim in advance of our quest; and I felt after my uncle’s going that he would understandand assist me in some vitally necessary public explanations. He turned very pale, but agreedto help me, and decided that it would now be safe to rent the house.

    To declare that we were not nervous on that rainy night of watching would bean exaggeration both gross and ridiculous. We were not, as I have said, in any sense childishlysuperstitious, but scientific study and reflection had taught us that the known universe ofthree dimensions embraces the merest fraction of the whole cosmos of substance and energy. Inthis case an overwhelming preponderance of evidence from numerous authentic sources pointedto the tenacious existence of certain forces of great power and, so far as the human point ofview is concerned, exceptional malignancy. To say that we actually believed in vampires or werewolveswould be a carelessly inclusive statement. Rather must it be said that we were not preparedto deny the possibility of certain unfamiliar and unclassified modifications of vital forceand attenuated matter; existing very infrequently in three-dimensional space because of itsmore intimate connexion with other spatial units, yet close enough to the boundary of our ownto furnish us occasional manifestations which we, for lack of a proper vantage-point, may neverhope to understand.

    In short, it seemed to my uncle and me that an incontrovertible array of factspointed to some lingering influence in the shunned house; traceable to one or another of theill-favoured French settlers of two centuries before, and still operative through rare and unknownlaws of atomic and electronic motion. That the family of Roulet had possessed an abnormal affinityfor outer circles of entity—dark spheres which for normal folk hold only repulsion andterror—their recorded history seemed to prove. Had not, then, the riots of those bygoneseventeen-thirties set moving certain kinetic patterns in the morbid brain of one or more ofthem—notably the sinister Paul Roulet—which obscurely survived the bodies murderedand buried by the mob, and continued to function in some multiple-dimensioned space along theoriginal lines of force determined by a frantic hatred of the encroaching community?

    Such a thing was surely not a physical or biochemical impossibility in thelight of a newer science which includes the theories of relativity and intra-atomic action.One might easily imagine an alien nucleus of substance or energy, formless or otherwise, keptalive by imperceptible or immaterial subtractions from the life-force or bodily tissues andfluids of other and more palpably living things into which it penetrates and with whose fabricit sometimes completely merges itself. It might be actively hostile, or it might be dictatedmerely by blind motives of self-preservation. In any case such a monster must of necessity bein our scheme of things an anomaly and an intruder, whose extirpation forms a primary duty withevery man not an enemy to the world’s life, health, and sanity.

    What baffled us was our utter ignorance of the aspect in which we might encounterthe thing. No sane person had even seen it, and few had ever felt it definitely. It might bepure energy—a form ethereal and outside the realm of substance—or it might be partlymaterial; some unknown and equivocal mass of plasticity, capable of changing at will to nebulousapproximations of the solid, liquid, gaseous, or tenuously unparticled states. The anthropomorphicpatch of mould on the floor, the form of the yellowish vapour, and the curvature of the tree-rootsin some of the old tales, all argued at least a remote and reminiscent connexion with the humanshape; but how representative or permanent that similarity might be, none could say with anykind of certainty.

    We had devised two weapons to fight it; a large and specially fitted Crookestube operated by powerful storage batteries and provided with peculiar screens and reflectors,in case it proved intangible and opposable only by vigorously destructive ether radiations,and a pair of military flame-throwers of the sort used in the world-war, in case it proved partlymaterial and susceptible of mechanical destruction—for like the superstitious Exeter rustics,we were prepared to burn the thing’s heart out if heart existed to burn. All this aggressivemechanism we set in the cellar in positions carefully arranged with reference to the cot andchairs, and to the spot before the fireplace where the mould had taken strange shapes. Thatsuggestive patch, by the way, was only faintly visible when we placed our furniture and instruments,and when we returned that evening for the actual vigil. For a moment I half doubted that I hadever seen it in the more definitely limned form—but then I thought of the legends.

    Our cellar vigil began at 10 p.m., daylight saving time, and as it continuedwe found no promise of pertinent developments. A weak, filtered glow from the rain-harassedstreet-lamps outside, and a feeble phosphorescence from the detestable fungi within, shewedthe dripping stone of the walls, from which all traces of whitewash had vanished; the dank,foetid, and mildew-tainted hard earth floor with its obscene fungi; the rotting remains of whathad been stools, chairs, and tables, and other more shapeless furniture; the heavy planks andmassive beams of the ground floor overhead; the decrepit plank door leading to bins and chambersbeneath other parts of the house; the crumbling stone staircase with ruined wooden hand-rail;and the crude and cavernous fireplace of blackened brick where rusted iron fragments revealedthe past presence of hooks, andirons, spit, crane, and a door to the Dutch oven—thesethings, and our austere cot and camp chairs, and the heavy and intricate destructive machinerywe had brought.

    We had, as in my own former explorations, left the door to the street unlocked;so that a direct and practical path of escape might lie open in case of manifestations beyondour power to deal with. It was our idea that our continued nocturnal presence would call forthwhatever malign entity lurked there; and that being prepared, we could dispose of the thingwith one or the other of our provided means as soon as we had recognised and observed it sufficiently.How long it might require to evoke and extinguish the thing, we had no notion. It occurred tous, too, that our venture was far from safe; for in what strength the thing might appear noone could tell. But we deemed the game worth the hazard, and embarked on it alone and unhesitatingly;conscious that the seeking of outside aid would only expose us to ridicule and perhaps defeatour entire purpose. Such was our frame of mind as we talked—far into the night, till myuncle’s growing drowsiness made me remind him to lie down for his two-hour sleep.

    Something like fear chilled me as I sat there in the small hours alone—Isay alone, for one who sits by a sleeper is indeed alone; perhaps more alone than he can realise.My uncle breathed heavily, his deep inhalations and exhalations accompanied by the rain outside,and punctuated by another nerve-racking sound of distant dripping water within—for thehouse was repulsively damp even in dry weather, and in this storm positively swamp-like. I studiedthe loose, antique masonry of the walls in the fungus-light and the feeble rays which stolein from the street through the screened windows; and once, when the noisome atmosphere of theplace seemed about to sicken me, I opened the door and looked up and down the street, feastingmy eyes on familiar sights and my nostrils on the wholesome air. Still nothing occurred to rewardmy watching; and I yawned repeatedly, fatigue getting the better of apprehension.

    Then the stirring of my uncle in his sleep attracted my notice. He had turnedrestlessly on the cot several times during the latter half of the first hour, but now he wasbreathing with unusual irregularity, occasionally heaving a sigh which held more than a fewof the qualities of a choking moan. I turned my electric flashlight on him and found his faceaverted, so rising and crossing to the other side of the cot, I again flashed the light to seeif he seemed in any pain. What I saw unnerved me most surprisingly, considering its relativetriviality. It must have been merely the association of any odd circ*mstance with the sinisternature of our location and mission, for surely the circ*mstance was not in itself frightfulor unnatural. It was merely that my uncle’s facial expression, disturbed no doubt by thestrange dreams which our situation prompted, betrayed considerable agitation, and seemed notat all characteristic of him. His habitual expression was one of kindly and well-bred calm,whereas now a variety of emotions seemed struggling within him. I think, on the whole, thatit was this variety which chiefly disturbed me. My uncle, as he gasped and tossed inincreasing perturbation and with eyes that had now started open, seemed not one but many men,and suggested a curious quality of alienage from himself.

    All at once he commenced to mutter, and I did not like the look of his mouthand teeth as he spoke. The words were at first indistinguishable, and then—with a tremendousstart—I recognised something about them which filled me with icy fear till I recalledthe breadth of my uncle’s education and the interminable translations he had made fromanthropological and antiquarian articles in the Revue des Deux Mondes. For the venerableElihu Whipple was muttering in French, and the few phrases I could distinguish seemedconnected with the darkest myths he had ever adapted from the famous Paris magazine.

    Suddenly a perspiration broke out on the sleeper’s forehead, and he leapedabruptly up, half awake. The jumble of French changed to a cry in English, and the hoarse voiceshouted excitedly, “My breath, my breath!” Then the awakening became complete, andwith a subsidence of facial expression to the normal state my uncle seized my hand and beganto relate a dream whose nucleus of significance I could only surmise with a kind of awe.

    He had, he said, floated off from a very ordinary series of dream-picturesinto a scene whose strangeness was related to nothing he had ever read. It was of this world,and yet not of it—a shadowy geometrical confusion in which could be seen elements of familiarthings in most unfamiliar and perturbing combinations. There was a suggestion of queerly disorderedpictures superimposed one upon another; an arrangement in which the essentials of time as wellas of space seemed dissolved and mixed in the most illogical fashion. In this kaleidoscopicvortex of phantasmal images were occasional snapshots, if one might use the term, of singularclearness but unaccountable heterogeneity.

    Once my uncle thought he lay in a carelessly dug open pit, with a crowd ofangry faces framed by straggling locks and three-cornered hats frowning down on him. Again heseemed to be in the interior of a house—an old house, apparently—but the detailsand inhabitants were constantly changing, and he could never be certain of the faces or thefurniture, or even of the room itself, since doors and windows seemed in just as great a stateof flux as the more presumably mobile objects. It was queer—damnably queer—and myuncle spoke almost sheepishly, as if half expecting not to be believed, when he declared thatof the strange faces many had unmistakably borne the features of the Harris family. And allthe while there was a personal sensation of choking, as if some pervasive presence had spreaditself through his body and sought to possess itself of his vital processes. I shuddered atthe thought of those vital processes, worn as they were by eighty-one years of continuous functioning,in conflict with unknown forces of which the youngest and strongest system might well be afraid;but in another moment reflected that dreams are only dreams, and that these uncomfortable visionscould be, at most, no more than my uncle’s reaction to the investigations and expectationswhich had lately filled our minds to the exclusion of all else.

    Conversation, also, soon tended to dispel my sense of strangeness; and in timeI yielded to my yawns and took my turn at slumber. My uncle seemed now very wakeful, and welcomedhis period of watching even though the nightmare had aroused him far ahead of his allotted twohours. Sleep seized me quickly, and I was at once haunted with dreams of the most disturbingkind. I felt, in my visions, a cosmic and abysmal loneness; with hostility surging from allsides upon some prison where I lay confined. I seemed bound and gagged, and taunted by the echoingyells of distant multitudes who thirsted for my blood. My uncle’s face came to me withless pleasant associations than in waking hours, and I recall many futile struggles and attemptsto scream. It was not a pleasant sleep, and for a second I was not sorry for the echoing shriekwhich clove through the barriers of dream and flung me to a sharp and startled awakeness inwhich every actual object before my eyes stood out with more than natural clearness and reality.

    V.

    I had been lying with my face away from my uncle’s chair, so that in this sudden flashof awakening I saw only the door to the street, the more northerly window, and the wall andfloor and ceiling toward the north of the room, all photographed with morbid vividness on mybrain in a light brighter than the glow of the fungi or the rays from the street outside. Itwas not a strong or even a fairly strong light; certainly not nearly strong enough to read anaverage book by. But it cast a shadow of myself and the cot on the floor, and had a yellowish,penetrating force that hinted at things more potent than luminosity. This I perceived with unhealthysharpness despite the fact that two of my other senses were violently assailed. For on my earsrang the reverberations of that shocking scream, while my nostrils revolted at the stench whichfilled the place. My mind, as alert as my senses, recognised the gravely unusual; and almostautomatically I leaped up and turned about to grasp the destructive instruments which we hadleft trained on the mouldy spot before the fireplace. As I turned, I dreaded what I was to see;for the scream had been in my uncle’s voice, and I knew not against what menace I shouldhave to defend him and myself.

    Yet after all, the sight was worse than I had dreaded. There are horrors beyondhorrors, and this was one of those nuclei of all dreamable hideousness which the cosmos savesto blast an accursed and unhappy few. Out of the fungus-ridden earth steamed up a vaporous corpse-light,yellow and diseased, which bubbled and lapped to a gigantic height in vague outlines half-humanand half-monstrous, through which I could see the chimney and fireplace beyond. It was all eyes—wolfishand mocking—and the rugose insect-like head dissolved at the top to a thin stream of mistwhich curled putridly about and finally vanished up the chimney. I say that I saw this thing,but it is only in conscious retrospection that I ever definitely traced its damnable approachto form. At the time it was to me only a seething, dimly phosphorescent cloud of fungous loathsomeness,enveloping and dissolving to an abhorrent plasticity the one object to which all my attentionwas focussed. That object was my uncle—the venerable Elihu Whipple—who with blackeningand decaying features leered and gibbered at me, and reached out dripping claws to rend me inthe fury which this horror had brought.

    It was a sense of routine which kept me from going mad. I had drilled myselfin preparation for the crucial moment, and blind training saved me. Recognising the bubblingevil as no substance reachable by matter or material chemistry, and therefore ignoring the flame-throwerwhich loomed on my left, I threw on the current of the Crookes tube apparatus, and focussedtoward that scene of immortal blasphemousness the strongest ether radiations which man’sart can arouse from the spaces and fluids of Nature. There was a bluish haze and a frenziedsputtering, and the yellowish phosphorescence grew dimmer to my eyes. But I saw the dimnesswas only that of contrast, and that the waves from the machine had no effect whatever.

    Then, in the midst of that daemoniac spectacle, I saw a fresh horror whichbrought cries to my lips and sent me fumbling and staggering toward that unlocked door to thequiet street, careless of what abnormal terrors I loosed upon the world, or what thoughts orjudgments of men I brought down upon my head. In that dim blend of blue and yellow the formof my uncle had commenced a nauseous liquefaction whose essence eludes all description, andin which there played across his vanishing face such changes of identity as only madness canconceive. He was at once a devil and a multitude, a charnel-house and a pageant. Lit by themixed and uncertain beams, that gelatinous face assumed a dozen—a score—a hundred—aspects;grinning, as it sank to the ground on a body that melted like tallow, in the caricatured likenessof legions strange and yet not strange.

    I saw the features of the Harris line, masculine and feminine, adult and infantile,and other features old and young, coarse and refined, familiar and unfamiliar. For a secondthere flashed a degraded counterfeit of a miniature of poor mad Rhoby Harris that I had seenin the School of Design Museum, and another time I thought I caught the raw-boned image of MercyDexter as I recalled her from a painting in Carrington Harris’s house. It was frightfulbeyond conception; toward the last, when a curious blend of servant and baby visages flickeredclose to the fungous floor where a pool of greenish grease was spreading, it seemed as thoughthe shifting features fought against themselves, and strove to form contours like those of myuncle’s kindly face. I like to think that he existed at that moment, and that he triedto bid me farewell. It seems to me I hiccoughed a farewell from my own parched throat as I lurchedout into the street; a thin stream of grease following me through the door to the rain-drenchedsidewalk.

    The rest is shadowy and monstrous. There was no one in the soaking street,and in all the world there was no one I dared tell. I walked aimlessly south past College Hilland the Athenaeum, down Hopkins Street, and over the bridge to the business section where tallbuildings seemed to guard me as modern material things guard the world from ancient and unwholesomewonder. Then grey dawn unfolded wetly from the east, silhouetting the archaic hill and its venerablesteeples, and beckoning me to the place where my terrible work was still unfinished. And inthe end I went, wet, hatless, and dazed in the morning light, and entered that awful door inBenefit Street which I had left ajar, and which still swung cryptically in full sight of theearly householders to whom I dared not speak.

    The grease was gone, for the mouldy floor was porous. And in front of the fireplacewas no vestige of the giant doubled-up form in nitre. I looked at the cot, the chairs, the instruments,my neglected hat, and the yellowed straw hat of my uncle. Dazedness was uppermost, and I couldscarcely recall what was dream and what was reality. Then thought trickled back, and I knewthat I had witnessed things more horrible than I had dreamed. Sitting down, I tried to conjectureas nearly as sanity would let me just what had happened, and how I might end the horror, ifindeed it had been real. Matter it seemed not to be, nor ether, nor anything else conceivableby mortal mind. What, then, but some exotic emanation; some vampirish vapour such asExeter rustics tell of as lurking over certain churchyards? This I felt was the clue, and againI looked at the floor before the fireplace where the mould and nitre had taken strange forms.In ten minutes my mind was made up, and taking my hat I set out for home, where I bathed, ate,and gave by telephone an order for a pickaxe, a spade, a military gas-mask, and six carboysof sulphuric acid, all to be delivered the next morning at the cellar door of the shunned housein Benefit Street. After that I tried to sleep; and failing, passed the hours in reading andin the composition of inane verses to counteract my mood.

    At 11 a.m. the next day I commenced digging. It was sunny weather, and I wasglad of that. I was still alone, for as much as I feared the unknown horror I sought, therewas more fear in the thought of telling anybody. Later I told Harris only through sheer necessity,and because he had heard odd tales from old people which disposed him ever so little towardbelief. As I turned up the stinking black earth in front of the fireplace, my spade causinga viscous yellow ichor to ooze from the white fungi which it severed, I trembled at the dubiousthoughts of what I might uncover. Some secrets of inner earth are not good for mankind, andthis seemed to me one of them.

    My hand shook perceptibly, but still I delved; after a while standing in thelarge hole I had made. With the deepening of the hole, which was about six feet square, theevil smell increased; and I lost all doubt of my imminent contact with the hellish thing whoseemanations had cursed the house for over a century and a half. I wondered what it would looklike—what its form and substance would be, and how big it might have waxed through longages of life-sucking. At length I climbed out of the hole and dispersed the heaped-up dirt,then arranging the great carboys of acid around and near two sides, so that when necessary Imight empty them all down the aperture in quick succession. After that I dumped earth only alongthe other two sides; working more slowly and donning my gas-mask as the smell grew. I was nearlyunnerved at my proximity to a nameless thing at the bottom of a pit.

    Suddenly my spade struck something softer than earth. I shuddered, and madea motion as if to climb out of the hole, which was now as deep as my neck. Then courage returned,and I scraped away more dirt in the light of the electric torch I had provided. The surfaceI uncovered was fishy and glassy—a kind of semi-putrid congealed jelly with suggestionsof translucency. I scraped further, and saw that it had form. There was a rift where a partof the substance was folded over. The exposed area was huge and roughly cylindrical; like amammoth soft blue-white stovepipe doubled in two, its largest part some two feet in diameter.Still more I scraped, and then abruptly I leaped out of the hole and away from the filthy thing;frantically unstopping and tilting the heavy carboys, and precipitating their corrosive contentsone after another down that charnel gulf and upon the unthinkable abnormality whose titan
    elbow I had seen.

    The blinding maelstrom of greenish-yellow vapour which surged tempestuouslyup from that hole as the floods of acid descended, will never leave my memory. All along thehill people tell of the yellow day, when virulent and horrible fumes arose from the factorywaste dumped in the Providence River, but I know how mistaken they are as to the source. Theytell, too, of the hideous roar which at the same time came from some disordered water-pipe orgas main underground—but again I could correct them if I dared. It was unspeakably shocking,and I do not see how I lived through it. I did faint after emptying the fourth carboy, whichI had to handle after the fumes had begun to penetrate my mask; but when I recovered I saw thatthe hole was emitting no fresh vapours.

    The two remaining carboys I emptied down without particular result, and aftera time I felt it safe to shovel the earth back into the pit. It was twilight before I was done,but fear had gone out of the place. The dampness was less foetid, and all the strange fungihad withered to a kind of harmless greyish powder which blew ash-like along the floor. One ofearth’s nethermost terrors had perished forever; and if there be a hell, it had receivedat last the daemon soul of an unhallowed thing. And as I patted down the last spadeful of mould,I shed the first of the many tears with which I have paid unaffected tribute to my beloved uncle’smemory.

    The next spring no more pale grass and strange weeds came up in the shunnedhouse’s terraced garden, and shortly afterward Carrington Harris rented the place. Itis still spectral, but its strangeness fascinates me, and I shall find mixed with my reliefa queer regret when it is torn down to make way for a tawdry shop or vulgar apartment building.The barren old trees in the yard have begun to bear small, sweet apples, and last year the birdsnested in their gnarled boughs.

    (Found Among the Papers of the Late Francis Wayland Thurston, of Boston)

    “Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival . . .a survival of a hugely remote period when . . . consciousness was manifested,perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity . . .forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters,mythical beings of all sorts and kinds. . . . “

    —Algernon Blackwood.

    I. The Horror in Clay.

    The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlateall its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity,and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction,have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge willopen up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shalleither go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety ofa new dark age.

    Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle whereinour world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals interms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from themthat there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it andmaddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out froman accidental piecing together of separated things—in this case an old newspaper itemand the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out;certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think thatthe professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would havedestroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.

    My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926-27 with the deathof my grand-uncle George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown University,Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Angell was widely known as an authority on ancient inscriptions,and had frequently been resorted to by the heads of prominent museums; so that his passing atthe age of ninety-two may be recalled by many. Locally, interest was intensified by the obscurityof the cause of death. The professor had been stricken whilst returning from the Newport boat;falling suddenly, as witnesses said, after having been jostled by a nautical-looking negro whohad come from one of the queer dark courts on the precipitous hillside which formed a shortcut from the waterfront to the deceased’s home in Williams Street. Physicians were unableto find any visible disorder, but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure lesionof the heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a hill by so elderly a man, was responsiblefor the end. At the time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly I am inclinedto wonder—and more than wonder.

    As my grand-uncle’s heir and executor, for he died a childless widower,I was expected to go over his papers with some thoroughness; and for that purpose moved hisentire set of files and boxes to my quarters in Boston. Much of the material which I correlatedwill be later published by the American Archaeological Society, but there was one box whichI found exceedingly puzzling, and which I felt much averse from shewing to other eyes. It hadbeen locked, and I did not find the key till it occurred to me to examine the personal ringwhich the professor carried always in his pocket. Then indeed I succeeded in opening it, butwhen I did so seemed only to be confronted by a greater and more closely locked barrier. Forwhat could be the meaning of the queer clay bas-relief and the disjointed jottings, ramblings,and cuttings which I found? Had my uncle, in his latter years, become credulous of the mostsuperficial impostures? I resolved to search out the eccentric sculptor responsible for thisapparent disturbance of an old man’s peace of mind.

    The bas-relief was a rough rectangle less than an inch thick and about fiveby six inches in area; obviously of modern origin. Its designs, however, were far from modernin atmosphere and suggestion; for although the vagaries of cubism and futurism are many andwild, they do not often reproduce that cryptic regularity which lurks in prehistoric writing.And writing of some kind the bulk of these designs seemed certainly to be; though my memory,despite much familiarity with the papers and collections of my uncle, failed in any way to identifythis particular species, or even to hint at its remotest affiliations.

    Above these apparent hieroglyphics was a figure of evidently pictorial intent,though its impressionistic execution forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to bea sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy couldconceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures ofan octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of thething. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings;but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful.Behind the figure was a vague suggestion of a Cyclopean architectural background.

    The writing accompanying this oddity was, aside from a stack of press cuttings,in Professor Angell’s most recent hand; and made no pretence to literary style. What seemedto be the main document was headed “CTHULHU CULT “ in characters painstakingly printedto avoid the erroneous reading of a word so unheard-of. The manuscript was divided into twosections, the first of which was headed “1925—Dream and Dream Work of H. A. Wilcox,7 Thomas St., Providence, R.I.”, and the second, “Narrative of Inspector John R.Legrasse, 121 Bienville St., New Orleans, La., at 1908 A. A. S. Mtg.—Notes on Same, &Prof. Webb’s Acct. “ The other manuscript papers were all brief notes, some of themaccounts of the queer dreams of different persons, some of them citations from theosophicalbooks and magazines (notably W. Scott-Elliot’s Atlantis and the Lost Lemuria ),and the rest comments on long-surviving secret societies and hidden cults, with references topassages in such mythological and anthropological source-books as Frazer’s Golden Boughand Miss Murray’s Witch-Cult in Western Europe. The cuttings largely alluded tooutré mental illnesses and outbreaks of group folly or mania in the spring of 1925.

    The first half of the principal manuscript told a very peculiar tale. It appearsthat on March 1st, 1925, a thin, dark young man of neurotic and excited aspect had called uponProfessor Angell bearing the singular clay bas-relief, which was then exceedingly damp and fresh.His card bore the name of Henry Anthony Wilcox, and my uncle had recognised him as the youngestson of an excellent family slightly known to him, who had latterly been studying sculpture atthe Rhode Island School of Design and living alone at the Fleur-de-Lys Building near that institution.Wilcox was a precocious youth of known genius but great eccentricity, and had from childhoodexcited attention through the strange stories and odd dreams he was in the habit of relating.He called himself “psychically hypersensitive”, but the staid folk of the ancientcommercial city dismissed him as merely “queer “. Never mingling much with his kind,he had dropped gradually from social visibility, and was now known only to a small group ofaesthetes from other towns. Even the Providence Art Club, anxious to preserve its conservatism,had found him quite hopeless.

    On the occasion of the visit, ran the professor’s manuscript, the sculptorabruptly asked for the benefit of his host’s archaeological knowledge in identifying thehieroglyphics on the bas-relief. He spoke in a dreamy, stilted manner which suggested pose andalienated sympathy; and my uncle shewed some sharpness in replying, for the conspicuous freshnessof the tablet implied kinship with anything but archaeology. Young Wilcox’s rejoinder,which impressed my uncle enough to make him recall and record it verbatim, was of a fantasticallypoetic cast which must have typified his whole conversation, and which I have since found highlycharacteristic of him. He said, “It is new, indeed, for I made it last night in a dreamof strange cities; and dreams are older than brooding Tyre, or the contemplative Sphinx, orgarden-girdled Babylon. “

    It was then that he began that rambling tale which suddenly played upon a sleepingmemory and won the fevered interest of my uncle. There had been a slight earthquake tremor thenight before, the most considerable felt in New England for some years; and Wilcox’s imaginationhad been keenly affected. Upon retiring, he had had an unprecedented dream of great Cyclopeancities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with green ooze and sinister withlatent horror. Hieroglyphics had covered the walls and pillars, and from some undetermined pointbelow had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmuteinto sound, but which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters,“ Cthulhu fhtagn “.

    This verbal jumble was the key to the recollection which excited and disturbedProfessor Angell. He questioned the sculptor with scientific minuteness; and studied with almostfrantic intensity the bas-relief on which the youth had found himself working, chilled and cladonly in his night-clothes, when waking had stolen bewilderingly over him. My uncle blamed hisold age, Wilcox afterward said, for his slowness in recognising both hieroglyphics and pictorialdesign. Many of his questions seemed highly out-of-place to his visitor, especially those whichtried to connect the latter with strange cults or societies; and Wilcox could not understandthe repeated promises of silence which he was offered in exchange for an admission of membershipin some widespread mystical or paganly religious body. When Professor Angell became convincedthat the sculptor was indeed ignorant of any cult or system of cryptic lore, he besieged hisvisitor with demands for future reports of dreams. This bore regular fruit, for after the firstinterview the manuscript records daily calls of the young man, during which he related startlingfragments of nocturnal imagery whose burden was always some terrible Cyclopean vista of darkand dripping stone, with a subterrene voice or intelligence shouting monotonously in enigmaticalsense-impacts uninscribable save as gibberish. The two sounds most frequently repeated are thoserendered by the letters“ Cthulhu “and “ R’lyeh “.

    On March 23d, the manuscript continued, Wilcox failed to appear; and inquiriesat his quarters revealed that he had been stricken with an obscure sort of fever and taken tothe home of his family in Waterman Street. He had cried out in the night, arousing several otherartists in the building, and had manifested since then only alternations of unconsciousnessand delirium. My uncle at once telephoned the family, and from that time forward kept closewatch of the case; calling often at the Thayer Street office of Dr. Tobey, whom he learned tobe in charge. The youth’s febrile mind, apparently, was dwelling on strange things; andthe doctor shuddered now and then as he spoke of them. They included not only a repetition ofwhat he had formerly dreamed, but touched wildly on a gigantic thing “miles high “which walked or lumbered about. He at no time fully described this object, but occasional franticwords, as repeated by Dr. Tobey, convinced the professor that it must be identical with thenameless monstrosity he had sought to depict in his dream-sculpture. Reference to this object,the doctor added, was invariably a prelude to the young man’s subsidence into lethargy.His temperature, oddly enough, was not greatly above normal; but his whole condition was otherwisesuch as to suggest true fever rather than mental disorder.

    On April 2nd at about 3 p.m. every trace of Wilcox’s malady suddenlyceased. He sat upright in bed, astonished to find himself at home and completely ignorant ofwhat had happened in dream or reality since the night of March 22nd. Pronounced well by hisphysician, he returned to his quarters in three days; but to Professor Angell he was of no furtherassistance. All traces of strange dreaming had vanished with his recovery, and my uncle keptno record of his night-thoughts after a week of pointless and irrelevant accounts of thoroughlyusual visions.

    Here the first part of the manuscript ended, but references to certain of thescattered notes gave me much material for thought—so much, in fact, that only the ingrainedscepticism then forming my philosophy can account for my continued distrust of the artist. Thenotes in question were those descriptive of the dreams of various persons covering the sameperiod as that in which young Wilcox had had his strange visitations. My uncle, it seems, hadquickly instituted a prodigiously far-flung body of inquiries amongst nearly all the friendswhom he could question without impertinence, asking for nightly reports of their dreams, andthe dates of any notable visions for some time past. The reception of his request seems to havebeen varied; but he must, at the very least, have received more responses than any ordinaryman could have handled without a secretary. This original correspondence was not preserved,but his notes formed a thorough and really significant digest. Average people in society andbusiness—New England’s traditional “salt of the earth “—gave analmost completely negative result, though scattered cases of uneasy but formless nocturnal impressionsappear here and there, always between March 23d and April 2nd—the period of young Wilcox’sdelirium. Scientific men were little more affected, though four cases of vague description suggestfugitive glimpses of strange landscapes, and in one case there is mentioned a dread of somethingabnormal.

    It was from the artists and poets that the pertinent answers came, and I knowthat panic would have broken loose had they been able to compare notes. As it was, lacking theiroriginal letters, I half suspected the compiler of having asked leading questions, or of havingedited the correspondence in corroboration of what he had latently resolved to see. That iswhy I continued to feel that Wilcox, somehow cognisant of the old data which my uncle had possessed,had been imposing on the veteran scientist. These responses from aesthetes told a disturbingtale. From February 28th to April 2nd a large proportion of them had dreamed very bizarre things,the intensity of the dreams being immeasurably the stronger during the period of the sculptor’sdelirium. Over a fourth of those who reported anything, reported scenes and half-sounds notunlike those which Wilcox had described; and some of the dreamers confessed acute fear of thegigantic nameless thing visible toward the last. One case, which the note describes with emphasis,was very sad. The subject, a widely known architect with leanings toward theosophy and occultism,went violently insane on the date of young Wilcox’s seizure, and expired several monthslater after incessant screamings to be saved from some escaped denizen of hell. Had my unclereferred to these cases by name instead of merely by number, I should have attempted some corroborationand personal investigation; but as it was, I succeeded in tracing down only a few. All of these,however, bore out the notes in full. I have often wondered if all the objects of the professor’squestioning felt as puzzled as did this fraction. It is well that no explanation shall everreach them.

    The press cuttings, as I have intimated, touched on cases of panic, mania,and eccentricity during the given period. Professor Angell must have employed a cutting bureau,for the number of extracts was tremendous and the sources scattered throughout the globe. Herewas a nocturnal suicide in London, where a lone sleeper had leaped from a window after a shockingcry. Here likewise a rambling letter to the editor of a paper in South America, where a fanaticdeduces a dire future from visions he has seen. A despatch from California describes a theosophistcolony as donning white robes en masse for some “glorious fulfilment “ which neverarrives, whilst items from India speak guardedly of serious native unrest toward the end ofMarch. Voodoo orgies multiply in Hayti, and African outposts report ominous mutterings. Americanofficers in the Philippines find certain tribes bothersome about this time, and New York policemenare mobbed by hysterical Levantines on the night of March 22-23. The west of Ireland,too, is full of wild rumour and legendry, and a fantastic painter named Ardois-Bonnot hangsa blasphemous “Dream Landscape “ in the Paris spring salon of 1926. And so numerousare the recorded troubles in insane asylums, that only a miracle can have stopped the medicalfraternity from noting strange parallelisms and drawing mystified conclusions. A weird bunchof cuttings, all told; and I can at this date scarcely envisage the callous rationalism withwhich I set them aside. But I was then convinced that young Wilcox had known of the older mattersmentioned by the professor.

    II. The Tale of Inspector Legrasse.

    The older matters which had made the sculptor’s dream and bas-relief so significant tomy uncle formed the subject of the second half of his long manuscript. Once before, it appears,Professor Angell had seen the hellish outlines of the nameless monstrosity, puzzled over theunknown hieroglyphics, and heard the ominous syllables which can be rendered only as “ Cthulhu “;and all this in so stirring and horrible a connexion that it is small wonder he pursued youngWilcox with queries and demands for data.

    The earlier experience had come in 1908, seventeen years before, when the AmericanArchaeological Society held its annual meeting in St. Louis. Professor Angell, as befitted oneof his authority and attainments, had had a prominent part in all the deliberations; and wasone of the first to be approached by the several outsiders who took advantage of the convocationto offer questions for correct answering and problems for expert solution.

    The chief of these outsiders, and in a short time the focus of interest forthe entire meeting, was a commonplace-looking middle-aged man who had travelled all the wayfrom New Orleans for certain special information unobtainable from any local source. His namewas John Raymond Legrasse, and he was by profession an Inspector of Police. With him he borethe subject of his visit, a grotesque, repulsive, and apparently very ancient stone statuettewhose origin he was at a loss to determine. It must not be fancied that Inspector Legrasse hadthe least interest in archaeology. On the contrary, his wish for enlightenment was promptedby purely professional considerations. The statuette, idol, fetish, or whatever it was, hadbeen captured some months before in the wooded swamps south of New Orleans during a raid ona supposed voodoo meeting; and so singular and hideous were the rites connected with it, thatthe police could not but realise that they had stumbled on a dark cult totally unknown to them,and infinitely more diabolic than even the blackest of the African voodoo circles. Of its origin,apart from the erratic and unbelievable tales extorted from the captured members, absolutelynothing was to be discovered; hence the anxiety of the police for any antiquarian lore whichmight help them to place the frightful symbol, and through it track down the cult to its fountain-head.

    Inspector Legrasse was scarcely prepared for the sensation which his offeringcreated. One sight of the thing had been enough to throw the assembled men of science into astate of tense excitement, and they lost no time in crowding around him to gaze at the diminutivefigure whose utter strangeness and air of genuinely abysmal antiquity hinted so potently atunopened and archaic vistas. No recognised school of sculpture had animated this terrible object,yet centuries and even thousands of years seemed recorded in its dim and greenish surface ofunplaceable stone.

    The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to man for close and carefulstudy, was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship.It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whoseface was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and forefeet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnaturalmalignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular blockor pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edgeof the block, the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up,crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward thebottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facialfeelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher’s elevated knees.The aspect of the whole was abnormally life-like, and the more subtly fearful because its sourcewas so totally unknown. Its vast, awesome, and incalculable age was unmistakable; yet not onelink did it shew with any known type of art belonging to civilisation’s youth—orindeed to any other time. Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for thesoapy, greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothingfamiliar to geology or mineralogy. The characters along the base were equally baffling; andno member present, despite a representation of half the world’s expert learning in thisfield, could form the least notion of even their remotest linguistic kinship. They, like thesubject and material, belonged to something horribly remote and distinct from mankind as weknow it; something frightfully suggestive of old and unhallowed cycles of life in which ourworld and our conceptions have no part.

    And yet, as the members severally shook their heads and confessed defeat atthe Inspector’s problem, there was one man in that gathering who suspected a touch ofbizarre familiarity in the monstrous shape and writing, and who presently told with some diffidenceof the odd trifle he knew. This person was the late William Channing Webb, Professor of Anthropologyin Princeton University, and an explorer of no slight note. Professor Webb had been engaged,forty-eight years before, in a tour of Greenland and Iceland in search of some Runic inscriptionswhich he failed to unearth; and whilst high up on the West Greenland coast had encountered asingular tribe or cult of degenerate Esquimaux whose religion, a curious form of devil-worship,chilled him with its deliberate bloodthirstiness and repulsiveness. It was a faith of whichother Esquimaux knew little, and which they mentioned only with shudders, saying that it hadcome down from horribly ancient aeons before ever the world was made. Besides nameless ritesand human sacrifices there were certain queer hereditary rituals addressed to a supreme elderdevil or tornasuk; and of this Professor Webb had taken a careful phonetic copy froman aged angekok or wizard-priest, expressing the sounds in Roman letters as best he knewhow. But just now of prime significance was the fetish which this cult had cherished, and aroundwhich they danced when the aurora leaped high over the ice cliffs. It was, the professor stated,a very crude bas-relief of stone, comprising a hideous picture and some cryptic writing. Andso far as he could tell, it was a rough parallel in all essential features of the bestial thingnow lying before the meeting.This data, received with suspense and astonishment by the assembled members,proved doubly exciting to Inspector Legrasse; and he began at once to ply his informant withquestions. Having noted and copied an oral ritual among the swamp cult-worshippers his men hadarrested, he besought the professor to remember as best he might the syllables taken down amongstthe diabolist Esquimaux. There then followed an exhaustive comparison of details, and a momentof really awed silence when both detective and scientist agreed on the virtual identity of thephrase common to two hellish rituals so many worlds of distance apart. What, in substance, boththe Esquimau wizards and the Louisiana swamp-priests had chanted to their kindred idols wassomething very like this—the word-divisions being guessed at from traditional breaks inthe phrase as chanted aloud:

    “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. “

    Legrasse had one point in advance of Professor Webb, for several among hismongrel prisoners had repeated to him what older celebrants had told them the words meant. Thistext, as given, ran something like this:

    “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”

    And now, in response to a general and urgent demand, Inspector Legrasse relatedas fully as possible his experience with the swamp worshippers; telling a story to which I couldsee my uncle attached profound significance. It savoured of the wildest dreams of myth-makerand theosophist, and disclosed an astonishing degree of cosmic imagination among such half-castesand pariahs as might be least expected to possess it.

    On November 1st, 1907, there had come to the New Orleans police a frantic summonsfrom the swamp and lagoon country to the south. The squatters there, mostly primitive but good-natureddescendants of Lafitte’s men, were in the grip of stark terror from an unknown thing whichhad stolen upon them in the night. It was voodoo, apparently, but voodoo of a more terriblesort than they had ever known; and some of their women and children had disappeared since themalevolent tom-tom had begun its incessant beating far within the black haunted woods whereno dweller ventured. There were insane shouts and harrowing screams, soul-chilling chants anddancing devil-flames; and, the frightened messenger added, the people could stand it no more.

    So a body of twenty police, filling two carriages and an automobile, had setout in the late afternoon with the shivering squatter as a guide. At the end of the passableroad they alighted, and for miles splashed on in silence through the terrible cypress woodswhere day never came. Ugly roots and malignant hanging nooses of Spanish moss beset them, andnow and then a pile of dank stones or fragment of a rotting wall intensified by its hint ofmorbid habitation a depression which every malformed tree and every fungous islet combined tocreate. At length the squatter settlement, a miserable huddle of huts, hove in sight; and hystericaldwellers ran out to cluster around the group of bobbing lanterns. The muffled beat of tom-tomswas now faintly audible far, far ahead; and a curdling shriek came at infrequent intervals whenthe wind shifted. A reddish glare, too, seemed to filter through the pale undergrowth beyondendless avenues of forest night. Reluctant even to be left alone again, each one of the cowedsquatters refused point-blank to advance another inch toward the scene of unholy worship, soInspector Legrasse and his nineteen colleagues plunged on unguided into black arcades of horrorthat none of them had ever trod before.

    The region now entered by the police was one of traditionally evil repute,substantially unknown and untraversed by white men. There were legends of a hidden lake unglimpsedby mortal sight, in which dwelt a huge, formless white polypous thing with luminous eyes; andsquatters whispered that bat-winged devils flew up out of caverns in inner earth to worshipit at midnight. They said it had been there before D’Iberville, before La Salle, beforethe Indians, and before even the wholesome beasts and birds of the woods. It was nightmare itself,and to see it was to die. But it made men dream, and so they knew enough to keep away. The presentvoodoo orgy was, indeed, on the merest fringe of this abhorred area, but that location was badenough; hence perhaps the very place of the worship had terrified the squatters more than theshocking sounds and incidents.

    Only poetry or madness could do justice to the noises heard by Legrasse’smen as they ploughed on through the black morass toward the red glare and the muffled tom-toms.There are vocal qualities peculiar to men, and vocal qualities peculiar to beasts; and it isterrible to hear the one when the source should yield the other. Animal fury and orgiastic licencehere whipped themselves to daemoniac heights by howls and squawking ecstasies that tore andreverberated through those nighted woods like pestilential tempests from the gulfs of hell.Now and then the less organised ululation would cease, and from what seemed a well-drilled chorusof hoarse voices would rise in sing-song chant that hideous phrase or ritual:

    “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. “

    Then the men, having reached a spot where the trees were thinner, came suddenly in sight ofthe spectacle itself. Four of them reeled, one fainted, and two were shaken into a frantic crywhich the mad cacophony of the orgy fortunately deadened. Legrasse dashed swamp water on theface of the fainting man, and all stood trembling and nearly hypnotised with horror.

    In a natural glade of the swamp stood a grassy island of perhaps an acre’sextent, clear of trees and tolerably dry. On this now leaped and twisted a more indescribablehorde of human abnormality than any but a Sime or an Angarola could paint. Void of clothing,this hybrid spawn were braying, bellowing, and writhing about a monstrous ring-shaped bonfire;in the centre of which, revealed by occasional rifts in the curtain of flame, stood a greatgranite monolith some eight feet in height; on top of which, incongruous with its diminutiveness,rested the noxious carven statuette. From a wide circle of ten scaffolds set up at regular intervalswith the flame-girt monolith as a centre hung, head downward, the oddly marred bodies of thehelpless squatters who had disappeared. It was inside this circle that the ring of worshippersjumped and roared, the general direction of the mass motion being from left to right in endlessBacchanal between the ring of bodies and the ring of fire.

    It may have been only imagination and it may have been only echoes which inducedone of the men, an excitable Spaniard, to fancy he heard antiphonal responses to the ritualfrom some far and unillumined spot deeper within the wood of ancient legendry and horror. Thisman, Joseph D. Galvez, I later met and questioned; and he proved distractingly imaginative.He indeed went so far as to hint of the faint beating of great wings, and of a glimpse of shiningeyes and a mountainous white bulk beyond the remotest trees—but I suppose he had beenhearing too much native superstition.

    Actually, the horrified pause of the men was of comparatively brief duration.Duty came first; and although there must have been nearly a hundred mongrel celebrants in thethrong, the police relied on their firearms and plunged determinedly into the nauseous rout.For five minutes the resultant din and chaos were beyond description. Wild blows were struck,shots were fired, and escapes were made; but in the end Legrasse was able to count some forty-sevensullen prisoners, whom he forced to dress in haste and fall into line between two rows of policemen.Five of the worshippers lay dead, and two severely wounded ones were carried away on improvisedstretchers by their fellow-prisoners. The image on the monolith, of course, was carefully removedand carried back by Legrasse.

    Examined at headquarters after a trip of intense strain and weariness, theprisoners all proved to be men of a very low, mixed-blooded, and mentally aberrant type. Mostwere seamen, and a sprinkling of negroes and mulattoes, largely West Indians or Brava Portuguesefrom the Cape Verde Islands, gave a colouring of voodooism to the heterogeneous cult. But beforemany questions were asked, it became manifest that something far deeper and older than negrofetichism was involved. Degraded and ignorant as they were, the creatures held with surprisingconsistency to the central idea of their loathsome faith.

    They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before therewere any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now,inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams tothe first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisonerssaid it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark placesall over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in themighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneathhis sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would alwaysbe waiting to liberate him.

    Meanwhile no more must be told. There was a secret which even torture couldnot extract. Mankind was not absolutely alone among the conscious things of earth, for shapescame out of the dark to visit the faithful few. But these were not the Great Old Ones. No manhad ever seen the Old Ones. The carven idol was great Cthulhu, but none might say whether ornot the others were precisely like him. No one could read the old writing now, but things weretold by word of mouth. The chanted ritual was not the secret—that was never spoken aloud,only whispered. The chant meant only this: “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhuwaits dreaming. “

    Only two of the prisoners were found sane enough to be hanged, and the restwere committed to various institutions. All denied a part in the ritual murders, and averredthat the killing had been done by Black Winged Ones which had come to them from their immemorialmeeting-place in the haunted wood. But of those mysterious allies no coherent account couldever be gained. What the police did extract, came mainly from an immensely aged mestizo namedCastro, who claimed to have sailed to strange ports and talked with undying leaders of the cultin the mountains of China.

    Old Castro remembered bits of hideous legend that paled the speculations oftheosophists and made man and the world seem recent and transient indeed. There had been aeonswhen other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he saidthe deathless Chinamen had told him, were still to be found as Cyclopean stones on islands inthe Pacific. They all died vast epochs of time before men came, but there were arts which couldrevive Them when the stars had come round again to the right positions in the cycle of eternity.They had, indeed, come themselves from the stars, and brought Their images with Them.

    These Great Old Ones, Castro continued, were not composed altogether of fleshand blood. They had shape—for did not this star-fashioned image prove it?—but thatshape was not made of matter. When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to worldthrough the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live. But although They no longerlived, They would never really die. They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R’lyeh,preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and theearth might once more be ready for Them. But at that time some force from outside must serveto liberate Their bodies. The spells that preserved Them intact likewise prevented Them frommaking an initial move, and They could only lie awake in the dark and think whilst uncountedmillions of years rolled by. They knew all that was occurring in the universe, but Their modeof speech was transmitted thought. Even now They talked in Their tombs. When, after infinitiesof chaos, the first men came, the Great Old Ones spoke to the sensitive among them by mouldingtheir dreams; for only thus could Their language reach the fleshly minds of mammals.

    Then, whispered Castro, those first men formed the cult around small idolswhich the Great Ones shewed them; idols brought in dim aeras from dark stars. That cult wouldnever die till the stars came right again, and the secret priests would take great Cthulhu fromHis tomb to revive His subjects and resume His rule of earth. The time would be easy to know,for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good andevil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy.Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoythemselves, and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom. Meanwhilethe cult, by appropriate rites, must keep alive the memory of those ancient ways and shadowforth the prophecy of their return.

    In the elder time chosen men had talked with the entombed Old Ones in dreams,but then something had happened. The great stone city R’lyeh, with its monoliths and sepulchres,had sunk beneath the waves; and the deep waters, full of the one primal mystery through whichnot even thought can pass, had cut off the spectral intercourse. But memory never died, andhigh-priests said that the city would rise again when the stars were right. Then came out ofthe earth the black spirits of earth, mouldy and shadowy, and full of dim rumours picked upin caverns beneath forgotten sea-bottoms. But of them old Castro dared not speak much. He cuthimself off hurriedly, and no amount of persuasion or subtlety could elicit more in this direction.The size of the Old Ones, too, he curiously declined to mention. Of the cult, he saidthat he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City ofPillars, dreams hidden and untouched. It was not allied to the European witch-cult, and wasvirtually unknown beyond its members. No book had ever really hinted of it, though the deathlessChinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab AbdulAlhazred which the initiated might read as they chose, especially the much-discussed couplet:

    That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

    Legrasse, deeply impressed and not a little bewildered, had inquired in vainconcerning the historic affiliations of the cult. Castro, apparently, had told the truth whenhe said that it was wholly secret. The authorities at Tulane University could shed no lightupon either cult or image, and now the detective had come to the highest authorities in thecountry and met with no more than the Greenland tale of Professor Webb.

    The feverish interest aroused at the meeting by Legrasse’s tale, corroboratedas it was by the statuette, is echoed in the subsequent correspondence of those who attended;although scant mention occurs in the formal publications of the society. Caution is the firstcare of those accustomed to face occasional charlatanry and imposture. Legrasse for some timelent the image to Professor Webb, but at the latter’s death it was returned to him andremains in his possession, where I viewed it not long ago. It is truly a terrible thing, andunmistakably akin to the dream-sculpture of young Wilcox.

    That my uncle was excited by the tale of the sculptor I did not wonder, forwhat thoughts must arise upon hearing, after a knowledge of what Legrasse had learned of thecult, of a sensitive young man who had dreamed not only the figure and exact hieroglyphicsof the swamp-found image and the Greenland devil tablet, but had come in his dreams uponat least three of the precise words of the formula uttered alike by Esquimau diabolists andmongrel Louisianans? Professor Angell’s instant start on an investigation of the utmostthoroughness was eminently natural; though privately I suspected young Wilcox of having heardof the cult in some indirect way, and of having invented a series of dreams to heighten andcontinue the mystery at my uncle’s expense. The dream-narratives and cuttings collectedby the professor were, of course, strong corroboration; but the rationalism of my mind and theextravagance of the whole subject led me to adopt what I thought the most sensible conclusions.So, after thoroughly studying the manuscript again and correlating the theosophical and anthropologicalnotes with the cult narrative of Legrasse, I made a trip to Providence to see the sculptor andgive him the rebuke I thought proper for so boldly imposing upon a learned and aged man.

    Wilcox still lived alone in the Fleur-de-Lys Building in Thomas Street, a hideousVictorian imitation of seventeenth-century Breton architecture which flaunts its stuccoed frontamidst the lovely colonial houses on the ancient hill, and under the very shadow of the finestGeorgian steeple in America. I found him at work in his rooms, and at once conceded from thespecimens scattered about that his genius is indeed profound and authentic. He will, I believe,some time be heard from as one of the great decadents; for he has crystallised in clay and willone day mirror in marble those nightmares and phantasies which Arthur Machen evokes in prose,and Clark Ashton Smith makes visible in verse and in painting.

    Dark, frail, and somewhat unkempt in aspect, he turned languidly at my knockand asked me my business without rising. When I told him who I was, he displayed some interest;for my uncle had excited his curiosity in probing his strange dreams, yet had never explainedthe reason for the study. I did not enlarge his knowledge in this regard, but sought with somesubtlety to draw him out. In a short time I became convinced of his absolute sincerity, forhe spoke of the dreams in a manner none could mistake. They and their subconscious residuumhad influenced his art profoundly, and he shewed me a morbid statue whose contours almost mademe shake with the potency of its black suggestion. He could not recall having seen the originalof this thing except in his own dream bas-relief, but the outlines had formed themselves insensiblyunder his hands. It was, no doubt, the giant shape he had raved of in delirium. That he reallyknew nothing of the hidden cult, save from what my uncle’s relentless catechism had letfall, he soon made clear; and again I strove to think of some way in which he could possiblyhave received the weird impressions.

    He talked of his dreams in a strangely poetic fashion; making me see with terriblevividness the damp Cyclopean city of slimy green stone—whose geometry, he oddlysaid, was all wrong —and hear with frightened expectancy the ceaseless, half-mentalcalling from underground: “ Cthulhu fhtagn “, “ Cthulhu fhtagn “.These words had formed part of that dread ritual which told of dead Cthulhu’s dream-vigilin his stone vault at R’lyeh, and I felt deeply moved despite my rational beliefs. Wilcox,I was sure, had heard of the cult in some casual way, and had soon forgotten it amidst the massof his equally weird reading and imagining. Later, by virtue of its sheer impressiveness, ithad found subconscious expression in dreams, in the bas-relief, and in the terrible statue Inow beheld; so that his imposture upon my uncle had been a very innocent one. The youth wasof a type, at once slightly affected and slightly ill-mannered, which I could never like; butI was willing enough now to admit both his genius and his honesty. I took leave of him amicably,and wish him all the success his talent promises.

    The matter of the cult still remained to fascinate me, and at times I had visionsof personal fame from researches into its origin and connexions. I visited New Orleans, talkedwith Legrasse and others of that old-time raiding-party, saw the frightful image, and even questionedsuch of the mongrel prisoners as still survived. Old Castro, unfortunately, had been dead forsome years. What I now heard so graphically at first-hand, though it was really no more thana detailed confirmation of what my uncle had written, excited me afresh; for I felt sure thatI was on the track of a very real, very secret, and very ancient religion whose discovery wouldmake me an anthropologist of note. My attitude was still one of absolute materialism, asI wish it still were, and I discounted with almost inexplicable perversity the coincidenceof the dream notes and odd cuttings collected by Professor Angell.

    One thing I began to suspect, and which I now fear I know, is that myuncle’s death was far from natural. He fell on a narrow hill street leading up from anancient waterfront swarming with foreign mongrels, after a careless push from a negro sailor.I did not forget the mixed blood and marine pursuits of the cult-members in Louisiana, and wouldnot be surprised to learn of secret methods and poison needles as ruthless and as ancientlyknown as the cryptic rites and beliefs. Legrasse and his men, it is true, have been let alone;but in Norway a certain seaman who saw things is dead. Might not the deeper inquiries of myuncle after encountering the sculptor’s data have come to sinister ears? I think ProfessorAngell died because he knew too much, or because he was likely to learn too much. Whether Ishall go as he did remains to be seen, for I have learned much now.

    III. The Madness from the Sea.

    If heaven ever wishes to grant me a boon, it will be a total effacing of the results of a merechance which fixed my eye on a certain stray piece of shelf-paper. It was nothing on which Iwould naturally have stumbled in the course of my daily round, for it was an old number of anAustralian journal, the Sydney Bulletin for April 18, 1925. It had escaped even the cuttingbureau which had at the time of its issuance been avidly collecting material for my uncle’sresearch.

    I had largely given over my inquiries into what Professor Angell called the“Cthulhu Cult”, and was visiting a learned friend in Paterson, New Jersey; the curatorof a local museum and a mineralogist of note. Examining one day the reserve specimens roughlyset on the storage shelves in a rear room of the museum, my eye was caught by an odd picturein one of the old papers spread beneath the stones. It was the Sydney Bulletin I havementioned, for my friend has wide affiliations in all conceivable foreign parts; and the picturewas a half-tone cut of a hideous stone image almost identical with that which Legrasse had foundin the swamp.

    Eagerly clearing the sheet of its precious contents, I scanned the item indetail; and was disappointed to find it of only moderate length. What it suggested, however,was of portentous significance to my flagging quest; and I carefully tore it out for immediateaction. It read as follows:

    MYSTERY DERELICT FOUND AT SEA

    Vigilant Arrives With Helpless Armed New Zealand Yacht in Tow.One Survivor and Dead Man Found Aboard. Tale ofDesperate Battle and Deaths at Sea.Rescued Seaman RefusesParticulars of Strange Experience.Odd Idol Found in His Possession.Inquiry to Follow.

    The Morrison Co.‘s freighter Vigilant, bound from Valparaiso, arrived this morningat its wharf in Darling Harbour, having in tow the battled and disabled but heavily armed steamyacht Alert of Dunedin, N. Z., which was sighted April 12th in S. Latitude 34° 21’,W. Longitude 152° 17’ with one living and one dead man aboard.

    The Vigilant left Valparaiso March 25th, and on April 2nd was drivenconsiderably south of her course by exceptionally heavy storms and monster waves. On April 12ththe derelict was sighted; and though apparently deserted, was found upon boarding to containone survivor in a half-delirious condition and one man who had evidently been dead for morethan a week. The living man was clutching a horrible stone idol of unknown origin, about a footin height, regarding whose nature authorities at Sydney University, the Royal Society, and theMuseum in College Street all profess complete bafflement, and which the survivor says he foundin the cabin of the yacht, in a small carved shrine of common pattern.

    This man, after recovering his senses, told an exceedingly strange story ofpiracy and slaughter. He is Gustaf Johansen, a Norwegian of some intelligence, and had beensecond mate of the two-masted schooner Emma of Auckland, which sailed for Callao February20th with a complement of eleven men. The Emma, he says, was delayed and thrown widelysouth of her course by the great storm of March 1st, and on March 22nd, in S. Latitude 49°51’, W. Longitude 128° 34’, encountered the Alert, manned by a queer and evil-lookingcrew of Kanakas and half-castes. Being ordered peremptorily to turn back, Capt. Collins refused;whereupon the strange crew began to fire savagely and without warning upon the schooner witha peculiarly heavy battery of brass cannon forming part of the yacht’s equipment. TheEmma’s men shewed fight, says the survivor, and though the schooner began to sinkfrom shots beneath the waterline they managed to heave alongside their enemy and board her,grappling with the savage crew on the yacht’s deck, and being forced to kill them all,the number being slightly superior, because of their particularly abhorrent and desperate thoughrather clumsy mode of fighting.

    Three of the Emma’s men, including Capt. Collins and First MateGreen, were killed; and the remaining eight under Second Mate Johansen proceeded to navigatethe captured yacht, going ahead in their original direction to see if any reason for their orderingback had existed. The next day, it appears, they raised and landed on a small island, althoughnone is known to exist in that part of the ocean; and six of the men somehow died ashore, thoughJohansen is queerly reticent about this part of his story, and speaks only of their fallinginto a rock chasm. Later, it seems, he and one companion boarded the yacht and tried to manageher, but were beaten about by the storm of April 2nd. From that time till his rescue on the12th the man remembers little, and he does not even recall when William Briden, his companion,died. Briden’s death reveals no apparent cause, and was probably due to excitement orexposure. Cable advices from Dunedin report that the Alert was well known there as anisland trader, and bore an evil reputation along the waterfront. It was owned by a curious groupof half-castes whose frequent meetings and night trips to the woods attracted no little curiosity;and it had set sail in great haste just after the storm and earth tremors of March 1st. OurAuckland correspondent gives the Emma and her crew an excellent reputation, and Johansenis described as a sober and worthy man. The admiralty will institute an inquiry on the wholematter beginning tomorrow, at which every effort will be made to induce Johansen to speak morefreely than he has done hitherto.

    This was all, together with the picture of the hellish image; but what a trainof ideas it started in my mind! Here were new treasuries of data on the Cthulhu Cult, and evidencethat it had strange interests at sea as well as on land. What motive prompted the hybrid crewto order back the Emma as they sailed about with their hideous idol? What was the unknownisland on which six of the Emma’s crew had died, and about which the mate Johansenwas so secretive? What had the vice-admiralty’s investigation brought out, and what wasknown of the noxious cult in Dunedin? And most marvellous of all, what deep and more than naturallinkage of dates was this which gave a malign and now undeniable significance to the variousturns of events so carefully noted by my uncle?

    March 1st—our February 28th according to the International Date Line—theearthquake and storm had come. From Dunedin the Alert and her noisome crew had dartedeagerly forth as if imperiously summoned, and on the other side of the earth poets and artistshad begun to dream of a strange, dank Cyclopean city whilst a young sculptor had moulded inhis sleep the form of the dreaded Cthulhu. March 23d the crew of the Emma landed on anunknown island and left six men dead; and on that date the dreams of sensitive men assumed aheightened vividness and darkened with dread of a giant monster’s malign pursuit, whilstan architect had gone mad and a sculptor had lapsed suddenly into delirium! And what of thisstorm of April 2nd—the date on which all dreams of the dank city ceased, and Wilcox emergedunharmed from the bondage of strange fever? What of all this—and of those hints of oldCastro about the sunken, star-born Old Ones and their coming reign; their faithful cult andtheir mastery of dreams? Was I tottering on the brink of cosmic horrors beyond man’spower to bear? If so, they must be horrors of the mind alone, for in some way the second ofApril had put a stop to whatever monstrous menace had begun its siege of mankind’s soul.

    That evening, after a day of hurried cabling and arranging, I bade my hostadieu and took a train for San Francisco. In less than a month I was in Dunedin; where, however,I found that little was known of the strange cult-members who had lingered in the old sea-taverns.Waterfront scum was far too common for special mention; though there was vague talk about oneinland trip these mongrels had made, during which faint drumming and red flame were noted onthe distant hills. In Auckland I learned that Johansen had returned with yellow hair turnedwhite after a perfunctory and inconclusive questioning at Sydney, and had thereafter soldhis cottage in West Street and sailed with his wife to his old home in Oslo. Of his stirringexperience he would tell his friends no more than he had told the admiralty officials, and allthey could do was to give me his Oslo address.

    After that I went to Sydney and talked profitlessly with seamen and membersof the vice-admiralty court. I saw the Alert, now sold and in commercial use, at CircularQuay in Sydney Cove, but gained nothing from its non-committal bulk. The crouching image withits cuttlefish head, dragon body, scaly wings, and hieroglyphed pedestal, was preserved in theMuseum at Hyde Park; and I studied it long and well, finding it a thing of balefully exquisiteworkmanship, and with the same utter mystery, terrible antiquity, and unearthly strangenessof material which I had noted in Legrasse’s smaller specimen. Geologists, the curatortold me, had found it a monstrous puzzle; for they vowed that the world held no rock like it.Then I thought with a shudder of what old Castro had told Legrasse about the primal Great Ones:“They had come from the stars, and had brought Their images with Them. “

    Shaken with such a mental revolution as I had never before known, I now resolvedto visit Mate Johansen in Oslo. Sailing for London, I reëmbarked at once for the Norwegiancapital; and one autumn day landed at the trim wharves in the shadow of the Egeberg. Johansen’saddress, I discovered, lay in the Old Town of King Harold Haardrada, which kept alive the nameof Oslo during all the centuries that the greater city masqueraded as “Christiana “.I made the brief trip by taxicab, and knocked with palpitant heart at the door of a neat andancient building with plastered front. A sad-faced woman in black answered my summons, and Iwas stung with disappointment when she told me in halting English that Gustaf Johansen was nomore.

    He had not survived his return, said his wife, for the doings at sea in 1925had broken him. He had told her no more than he had told the public, but had left a long manuscript—of“technical matters “ as he said—written in English, evidently in order to safeguardher from the peril of casual perusal. During a walk through a narrow lane near the Gothenburgdock, a bundle of papers falling from an attic window had knocked him down. Two Lascar sailorsat once helped him to his feet, but before the ambulance could reach him he was dead. Physiciansfound no adequate cause for the end, and laid it to heart trouble and a weakened constitution.

    I now felt gnawing at my vitals that dark terror which will never leave metill I, too, am at rest; “accidentally “ or otherwise. Persuading the widow thatmy connexion with her husband’s “technical matters “ was sufficient to entitleme to his manuscript, I bore the document away and began to read it on the London boat. It wasa simple, rambling thing—a naive sailor’s effort at a post-facto diary—andstrove to recall day by day that last awful voyage. I cannot attempt to transcribe it verbatimin all its cloudiness and redundance, but I will tell its gist enough to shew why the soundof the water against the vessel’s sides became so unendurable to me that I stopped myears with cotton.

    Johansen, thank God, did not know quite all, even though he saw the city andthe Thing, but I shall never sleep calmly again when I think of the horrors that lurk ceaselesslybehind life in time and in space, and of those unhallowed blasphemies from elder stars whichdream beneath the sea, known and favoured by a nightmare cult ready and eager to loose themon the world whenever another earthquake shall heave their monstrous stone city again to thesun and air.

    Johansen’s voyage had begun just as he told it to the vice-admiralty.The Emma, in ballast, had cleared Auckland on February 20th, and had felt the full forceof that earthquake-born tempest which must have heaved up from the sea-bottom the horrors thatfilled men’s dreams. Once more under control, the ship was making good progress when heldup by the Alert on March 22nd, and I could feel the mate’s regret as he wrote ofher bombardment and sinking. Of the swarthy cult-fiends on the Alert he speaks with significanthorror. There was some peculiarly abominable quality about them which made their destructionseem almost a duty, and Johansen shews ingenuous wonder at the charge of ruthlessness broughtagainst his party during the proceedings of the court of inquiry. Then, driven ahead by curiosityin their captured yacht under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar stickingout of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47° 9’, W. Longitude 126° 43’ come upon a coast-lineof mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangiblesubstance of earth’s supreme terror—the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, thatwas built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped downfrom the dark stars. There lay great Cthulhu and his hordes, hidden in green slimy vaults andsending out at last, after cycles incalculable, the thoughts that spread fear to the dreamsof the sensitive and called imperiously to the faithful to come on a pilgrimage of liberationand restoration. All this Johansen did not suspect, but God knows he soon saw enough!

    I suppose that only a single mountain-top, the hideous monolith-crowned citadelwhereon great Cthulhu was buried, actually emerged from the waters. When I think of the extentof all that may be brooding down there I almost wish to kill myself forthwith. Johansen andhis men were awed by the cosmic majesty of this dripping Babylon of elder daemons, and musthave guessed without guidance that it was nothing of this or of any sane planet. Awe at theunbelievable size of the greenish stone blocks, at the dizzying height of the great carven monolith,and at the stupefying identity of the colossal statues and bas-reliefs with the queer imagefound in the shrine on the Alert, is poignantly visible in every line of the mate’sfrightened description.

    Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very closeto it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building,he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces—surfaces too greatto belong to any thing right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images andhieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox hadtold me of his awful dreams. He had said that the geometry of the dream-place he sawwas abnormal, non-Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours.Now an unlettered seaman felt the same thing whilst gazing at the terrible reality.

    Johansen and his men landed at a sloping mud-bank on this monstrous Acropolis,and clambered slipperily up over titan oozy blocks which could have been no mortal staircase.The very sun of heaven seemed distorted when viewed through the polarising miasma welling outfrom this sea-soaked perversion, and twisted menace and suspense lurked leeringly in those crazilyelusive angles of carven rock where a second glance shewed concavity after the first shewedconvexity.

    Something very like fright had come over all the explorers before anythingmore definite than rock and ooze and weed was seen. Each would have fled had he not feared thescorn of the others, and it was only half-heartedly that they searched—vainly, as it proved—forsome portable souvenir to bear away.

    It was Rodriguez the Portuguese who climbed up the foot of the monolith andshouted of what he had found. The rest followed him, and looked curiously at the immense carveddoor with the now familiar squid-dragon bas-relief. It was, Johansen said, like a great barn-door;and they all felt that it was a door because of the ornate lintel, threshold, and jambs aroundit, though they could not decide whether it lay flat like a trap-door or slantwise like an outsidecellar-door. As Wilcox would have said, the geometry of the place was all wrong. One could notbe sure that the sea and the ground were horizontal, hence the relative position of everythingelse seemed phantasmally variable.

    Briden pushed at the stone in several places without result. Then Donovan feltover it delicately around the edge, pressing each point separately as he went. He climbed interminablyalong the grotesque stone moulding—that is, one would call it climbing if the thing wasnot after all horizontal—and the men wondered how any door in the universe could be sovast. Then, very softly and slowly, the acre-great panel began to give inward at the top; andthey saw that it was balanced. Donovan slid or somehow propelled himself down or along the jamband rejoined his fellows, and everyone watched the queer recession of the monstrously carvenportal. In this phantasy of prismatic distortion it moved anomalously in a diagonal way, sothat all the rules of matter and perspective seemed upset.

    The aperture was black with a darkness almost material. That tenebrousnesswas indeed a positive quality; for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as oughtto have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment,visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneouswings. The odour arising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and at length the quick-earedHawkins thought he heard a nasty, slopping sound down there. Everyone listened, and everyonewas listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its gelatinousgreen immensity through the black doorway into the tainted outside air of that poison city ofmadness.

    Poor Johansen’s handwriting almost gave out when he wrote of this. Ofthe six men who never reached the ship, he thinks two perished of pure fright in that accursedinstant. The Thing cannot be described—there is no language for such abysms of shriekingand immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order.A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect wentmad, and poor Wilcox raved with fever in that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, thegreen, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. The stars were right again, andwhat an age-old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident.After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight.

    Three men were swept up by the flabby claws before anybody turned. God restthem, if there be any rest in the universe. They were Donovan, Guerrera, and Ångstrom.Parker slipped as the other three were plunging frenziedly over endless vistas of green-crustedrock to the boat, and Johansen swears he was swallowed up by an angle of masonry which shouldn’thave been there; an angle which was acute, but behaved as if it were obtuse. So only Bridenand Johansen reached the boat, and pulled desperately for the Alert as the mountainousmonstrosity flopped down the slimy stones and hesitated floundering at the edge of the water.

    Steam had not been suffered to go down entirely, despite the departure of allhands for the shore; and it was the work of only a few moments of feverish rushing up and downbetween wheel and engines to get the Alert under way. Slowly, amidst the distorted horrorsof that indescribable scene, she began to churn the lethal waters; whilst on the masonry ofthat charnel shore that was not of earth the titan Thing from the stars slavered and gibberedlike Polypheme cursing the fleeing ship of Odysseus. Then, bolder than the storied Cyclops,great Cthulhu slid greasily into the water and began to pursue with vast wave-raising strokesof cosmic potency. Briden looked back and went mad, laughing shrilly as he kept on laughingat intervals till death found him one night in the cabin whilst Johansen was wandering deliriously.

    But Johansen had not given out yet. Knowing that the Thing could surely overtakethe Alert until steam was fully up, he resolved on a desperate chance; and, setting theengine for full speed, ran lightning-like on deck and reversed the wheel. There was a mightyeddying and foaming in the noisome brine, and as the steam mounted higher and higher the braveNorwegian drove his vessel head on against the pursuing jelly which rose above the unclean frothlike the stern of a daemon galleon. The awful squid-head with writhing feelers came nearly upto the bowsprit of the sturdy yacht, but Johansen drove on relentlessly. There was a burstingas of an exploding bladder, a slushy nastiness as of a cloven sunfish, a stench as of a thousandopened graves, and a sound that the chronicler would not put on paper. For an instant the shipwas befouled by an acrid and blinding green cloud, and then there was only a venomous seethingastern; where—God in heaven!—the scattered plasticity of that nameless sky-spawnwas nebulously recombining in its hateful original form, whilst its distance widenedevery second as the Alert gained impetus from its mounting steam.

    That was all. After that Johansen only brooded over the idol in the cabin andattended to a few matters of food for himself and the laughing maniac by his side. He did nottry to navigate after the first bold flight, for the reaction had taken something out of hissoul. Then came the storm of April 2nd, and a gathering of the clouds about his consciousness.There is a sense of spectral whirling through liquid gulfs of infinity, of dizzying rides throughreeling universes on a comet’s tail, and of hysterical plunges from the pit to the moonand from the moon back again to the pit, all livened by a cachinnating chorus of the distorted,hilarious elder gods and the green, bat-winged mocking imps of Tartarus.

    Out of that dream came rescue—the Vigilant, the vice-admiraltycourt, the streets of Dunedin, and the long voyage back home to the old house by the Egeberg.He could not tell—they would think him mad. He would write of what he knew before deathcame, but his wife must not guess. Death would be a boon if only it could blot out the memories.

    That was the document I read, and now I have placed it in the tin box besidethe bas-relief and the papers of Professor Angell. With it shall go this record of mine—thistest of my own sanity, wherein is pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced togetheragain. I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies ofspring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. But I do not think mylife will be long. As my uncle went, as poor Johansen went, so I shall go. I know too much,and the cult still lives.Cthulhu still lives, too, I suppose, again in that chasm of stone which hasshielded him since the sun was young. His accursed city is sunken once more, for the Vigilantsailed over the spot after the April storm; but his ministers on earth still bellow and pranceand slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must have been trapped by the sinkingwhilst within his black abyss, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy.Who knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waitsand dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come—butI must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executorsmay put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.

    I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless,and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone makes life endurable, I can bear the tortureno longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid street below. Do notthink from my slavery to morphine that I am a weakling or a degenerate. When you have read thesehastily scrawled pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is that I must haveforgetfulness or death.

    It was in one of the most open and least frequented parts of the broad Pacificthat the packet of which I was supercargo fell a victim to the German sea-raider. The greatwar was then at its very beginning, and the ocean forces of the Hun had not completely sunkto their later degradation; so that our vessel was made a legitimate prize, whilst we of hercrew were treated with all the fairness and consideration due us as naval prisoners. So liberal,indeed, was the discipline of our captors, that five days after we were taken I managed to escapealone in a small boat with water and provisions for a good length of time.

    When I finally found myself adrift and free, I had but little idea of my surroundings.Never a competent navigator, I could only guess vaguely by the sun and stars that I was somewhatsouth of the equator. Of the longitude I knew nothing, and no island or coast-line was in sight.The weather kept fair, and for uncounted days I drifted aimlessly beneath the scorching sun;waiting either for some passing ship, or to be cast on the shores of some habitable land. Butneither ship nor land appeared, and I began to despair in my solitude upon the heaving vastnessesof unbroken blue.

    The change happened whilst I slept. Its details I shall never know; for myslumber, though troubled and dream-infested, was continuous. When at last I awaked, it was todiscover myself half sucked into a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended aboutme in monotonous undulations as far as I could see, and in which my boat lay grounded some distanceaway.

    Though one might well imagine that my first sensation would be of wonder atso prodigious and unexpected a transformation of scenery, I was in reality more horrified thanastonished; for there was in the air and in the rotting soil a sinister quality which chilledme to the very core. The region was putrid with the carcasses of decaying fish, and of otherless describable things which I saw protruding from the nasty mud of the unending plain. PerhapsI should not hope to convey in mere words the unutterable hideousness that can dwell in absolutesilence and barren immensity. There was nothing within hearing, and nothing in sight save avast reach of black slime; yet the very completeness of the stillness and the hom*ogeneity ofthe landscape oppressed me with a nauseating fear.

    The sun was blazing down from a sky which seemed to me almost black in itscloudless cruelty; as though reflecting the inky marsh beneath my feet. As I crawled into thestranded boat I realised that only one theory could explain my position. Through some unprecedentedvolcanic upheaval, a portion of the ocean floor must have been thrown to the surface, exposingregions which for innumerable millions of years had lain hidden under unfathomable watery depths.So great was the extent of the new land which had risen beneath me, that I could not detectthe faintest noise of the surging ocean, strain my ears as I might. Nor were there any sea-fowlto prey upon the dead things.

    For several hours I sat thinking or brooding in the boat, which lay upon itsside and afforded a slight shade as the sun moved across the heavens. As the day progressed,the ground lost some of its stickiness, and seemed likely to dry sufficiently for travellingpurposes in a short time. That night I slept but little, and the next day I made for myselfa pack containing food and water, preparatory to an overland journey in search of the vanishedsea and possible rescue.

    On the third morning I found the soil dry enough to walk upon with ease. Theodour of the fish was maddening; but I was too much concerned with graver things to mind soslight an evil, and set out boldly for an unknown goal. All day I forged steadily westward,guided by a far-away hummock which rose higher than any other elevation on the rolling desert.That night I encamped, and on the following day still travelled toward the hummock, though thatobject seemed scarcely nearer than when I had first espied it. By the fourth evening I attainedthe base of the mound, which turned out to be much higher than it had appeared from a distance;an intervening valley setting it out in sharper relief from the general surface. Too weary toascend, I slept in the shadow of the hill.

    I know not why my dreams were so wild that night; but ere the waning and fantasticallygibbous moon had risen far above the eastern plain, I was awake in a cold perspiration, determinedto sleep no more. Such visions as I had experienced were too much for me to endure again. Andin the glow of the moon I saw how unwise I had been to travel by day. Without the glare of theparching sun, my journey would have cost me less energy; indeed, I now felt quite able to performthe ascent which had deterred me at sunset. Picking up my pack, I started for the crest of theeminence.

    I have said that the unbroken monotony of the rolling plain was a source ofvague horror to me; but I think my horror was greater when I gained the summit of the moundand looked down the other side into an immeasurable pit or canyon, whose black recesses themoon had not yet soared high enough to illumine. I felt myself on the edge of the world; peeringover the rim into a fathomless chaos of eternal night. Through my terror ran curious reminiscencesof Paradise Lost, and of Satan’s hideous climb through the unfashioned realms ofdarkness.

    As the moon climbed higher in the sky, I began to see that the slopes of thevalley were not quite so perpendicular as I had imagined. Ledges and outcroppings of rock affordedfairly easy foot-holds for a descent, whilst after a drop of a few hundred feet, the declivitybecame very gradual. Urged on by an impulse which I cannot definitely analyse, I scrambled withdifficulty down the rocks and stood on the gentler slope beneath, gazing into the Stygian deepswhere no light had yet penetrated.

    All at once my attention was captured by a vast and singular object on theopposite slope, which rose steeply about an hundred yards ahead of me; an object that gleamedwhitely in the newly bestowed rays of the ascending moon. That it was merely a gigantic pieceof stone, I soon assured myself; but I was conscious of a distinct impression that its contourand position were not altogether the work of Nature. A closer scrutiny filled me with sensationsI cannot express; for despite its enormous magnitude, and its position in an abyss which hadyawned at the bottom of the sea since the world was young, I perceived beyond a doubt that thestrange object was a well-shaped monolith whose massive bulk had known the workmanship and perhapsthe worship of living and thinking creatures.

    Dazed and frightened, yet not without a certain thrill of the scientist’sor archaeologist’s delight, I examined my surroundings more closely. The moon, now nearthe zenith, shone weirdly and vividly above the towering steeps that hemmed in the chasm, andrevealed the fact that a far-flung body of water flowed at the bottom, winding out of sightin both directions, and almost lapping my feet as I stood on the slope. Across the chasm, thewavelets washed the base of the Cyclopean monolith; on whose surface I could now trace bothinscriptions and crude sculptures. The writing was in a system of hieroglyphics unknown to me,and unlike anything I had ever seen in books; consisting for the most part of conventionalisedaquatic symbols such as fishes, eels, octopi, crustaceans, molluscs, whales, and the like. Severalcharacters obviously represented marine things which are unknown to the modern world, but whosedecomposing forms I had observed on the ocean-risen plain.

    It was the pictorial carving, however, that did most to hold me spellbound.Plainly visible across the intervening water on account of their enormous size, were an arrayof bas-reliefs whose subjects would have excited the envy of a Doré. I think that thesethings were supposed to depict men—at least, a certain sort of men; though the creatureswere shewn disporting like fishes in the waters of some marine grotto, or paying homage at somemonolithic shrine which appeared to be under the waves as well. Of their faces and forms I darenot speak in detail; for the mere remembrance makes me grow faint. Grotesque beyond the imaginationof a Poe or a Bulwer, they were damnably human in general outline despite webbed hands and feet,shockingly wide and flabby lips, glassy, bulging eyes, and other features less pleasant to recall.Curiously enough, they seemed to have been chiselled badly out of proportion with their scenicbackground; for one of the creatures was shewn in the act of killing a whale represented asbut little larger than himself. I remarked, as I say, their grotesqueness and strange size;but in a moment decided that they were merely the imaginary gods of some primitive fishing orseafaring tribe; some tribe whose last descendant had perished eras before the first ancestorof the Piltdown or Neanderthal Man was born. Awestruck at this unexpected glimpse into a pastbeyond the conception of the most daring anthropologist, I stood musing whilst the moon castqueer reflections on the silent channel before me.

    Then suddenly I saw it. With only a slight churning to mark its rise to thesurface, the thing slid into view above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome,it darted like a stupendous monster of nightmares to the monolith, about which it flung itsgigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous head and gave vent to certain measured sounds.I think I went mad then.

    Of my frantic ascent of the slope and cliff, and of my delirious journey backto the stranded boat, I remember little. I believe I sang a great deal, and laughed oddly whenI was unable to sing. I have indistinct recollections of a great storm some time after I reachedthe boat; at any rate, I know that I heard peals of thunder and other tones which Nature uttersonly in her wildest moods.

    When I came out of the shadows I was in a San Francisco hospital; brought thitherby the captain of the American ship which had picked up my boat in mid-ocean. In my deliriumI had said much, but found that my words had been given scant attention. Of any land upheavalin the Pacific, my rescuers knew nothing; nor did I deem it necessary to insist upon a thingwhich I knew they could not believe. Once I sought out a celebrated ethnologist, and amusedhim with peculiar questions regarding the ancient Philistine legend of Dagon, the Fish-God;but soon perceiving that he was hopelessly conventional, I did not press my inquiries.

    It is at night, especially when the moon is gibbous and waning, that I seethe thing. I tried morphine; but the drug has given only transient surcease, and has drawn meinto its clutches as a hopeless slave. So now I am to end it all, having written a full accountfor the information or the contemptuous amusem*nt of my fellow-men. Often I ask myself if itcould not all have been a pure phantasm–a mere freak of fever as I lay sun-stricken andraving in the open boat after my escape from the German man-of-war. This I ask myself, but everdoes there come before me a hideously vivid vision in reply. I cannot think of the deep seawithout shuddering at the nameless things that may at this very moment be crawling and flounderingon its slimy bed, worshipping their ancient stone idols and carving their own detestable likenesseson submarine obelisks of water-soaked granite. I dream of a day when they may rise above thebillows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind–ofa day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.

    The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery bodylumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!

    West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has evercut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brookletstrickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms,ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New Englandsecrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumblingand the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.

    The old folk have gone away, and foreigners do not like to live there. French-Canadianshave tried it, Italians have tried it, and the Poles have come and departed. It is not becauseof anything that can be seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined.The place is not good for the imagination, and does not bring restful dreams at night. It mustbe this which keeps the foreigners away, for old Ammi Pierce has never told them of anythinghe recalls from the strange days. Ammi, whose head has been a little queer for years, is theonly one who still remains, or who ever talks of the strange days; and he dares to do this becausehis house is so near the open fields and the travelled roads around Arkham.

    There was once a road over the hills and through the valleys, that ran straightwhere the blasted heath is now; but people ceased to use it and a new road was laid curvingfar toward the south. Traces of the old one can still be found amidst the weeds of a returningwilderness, and some of them will doubtless linger even when half the hollows are flooded forthe new reservoir. Then the dark woods will be cut down and the blasted heath will slumber farbelow blue waters whose surface will mirror the sky and ripple in the sun. And the secrets ofthe strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of oldocean, and all the mystery of primal earth.

    When I went into the hills and vales to survey for the new reservoir they toldme the place was evil. They told me this in Arkham, and because that is a very old town fullof witch legends I thought the evil must be something which grandams had whispered to childrenthrough centuries. The name “blasted heath” seemed to me very odd and theatrical,and I wondered how it had come into the folklore of a Puritan people. Then I saw that dark westwardtangle of glens and slopes for myself, and ceased to wonder at anything besides its own eldermystery. It was morning when I saw it, but shadow lurked always there. The trees grew too thickly,and their trunks were too big for any healthy New England wood. There was too much silence inthe dim alleys between them, and the floor was too soft with the dank moss and mattings of infiniteyears of decay.

    In the open spaces, mostly along the line of the old road, there were littlehillside farms; sometimes with all the buildings standing, sometimes with only one or two, andsometimes with only a lone chimney or fast-filling cellar. Weeds and briers reigned, and furtivewild things rustled in the undergrowth. Upon everything was a haze of restlessness and oppression;a touch of the unreal and the grotesque, as if some vital element of perspective or chiaroscurowere awry. I did not wonder that the foreigners would not stay, for this was no region to sleepin. It was too much like a landscape of Salvator Rosa; too much like some forbidden woodcutin a tale of terror.

    But even all this was not so bad as the blasted heath. I knew it the momentI came upon it at the bottom of a spacious valley; for no other name could fit such a thing,or any other thing fit such a name. It was as if the poet had coined the phrase from havingseen this one particular region. It must, I thought as I viewed it, be the outcome of a fire;but why had nothing new ever grown over those five acres of grey desolation that sprawled opento the sky like a great spot eaten by acid in the woods and fields? It lay largely to the northof the ancient road line, but encroached a little on the other side. I felt an odd reluctanceabout approaching, and did so at last only because my business took me through and past it.There was no vegetation of any kind on that broad expanse, but only a fine grey dust or ashwhich no wind seemed ever to blow about. The trees near it were sickly and stunted, and manydead trunks stood or lay rotting at the rim. As I walked hurriedly by I saw the tumbled bricksand stones of an old chimney and cellar on my right, and the yawning black maw of an abandonedwell whose stagnant vapours played strange tricks with the hues of the sunlight. Even the long,dark woodland climb beyond seemed welcome in contrast, and I marvelled no more at the frightenedwhispers of Arkham people. There had been no house or ruin near; even in the old days the placemust have been lonely and remote. And at twilight, dreading to repass that ominous spot, I walkedcircuitously back to the town by the curving road on the south. I vaguely wished some cloudswould gather, for an odd timidity about the deep skyey voids above had crept into my soul.

    In the evening I asked old people in Arkham about the blasted heath, and whatwas meant by that phrase “strange days” which so many evasively muttered. I couldnot, however, get any good answers, except that all the mystery was much more recent than Ihad dreamed. It was not a matter of old legendry at all, but something within the lifetime ofthose who spoke. It had happened in the ’eighties, and a family had disappeared or waskilled. Speakers would not be exact; and because they all told me to pay no attention to oldAmmi Pierce’s crazy tales, I sought him out the next morning, having heard that he livedalone in the ancient tottering cottage where the trees first begin to get very thick. It wasa fearsomely archaic place, and had begun to exude the faint miasmal odour which clings abouthouses that have stood too long. Only with persistent knocking could I rouse the aged man, andwhen he shuffled timidly to the door I could tell he was not glad to see me. He was not so feebleas I had expected; but his eyes drooped in a curious way, and his unkempt clothing and whitebeard made him seem very worn and dismal. Not knowing just how he could best be launched onhis tales, I feigned a matter of business; told him of my surveying, and asked vague questionsabout the district. He was far brighter and more educated than I had been led to think, andbefore I knew it had grasped quite as much of the subject as any man I had talked with in Arkham.He was not like other rustics I had known in the sections where reservoirs were to be. Fromhim there were no protests at the miles of old wood and farmland to be blotted out, though perhapsthere would have been had not his home lain outside the bounds of the future lake. Relief wasall that he shewed; relief at the doom of the dark ancient valleys through which he had roamedall his life. They were better under water now—better under water since the strange days.And with this opening his husky voice sank low, while his body leaned forward and his rightforefinger began to point shakily and impressively.

    It was then that I heard the story, and as the rambling voice scraped and whisperedon I shivered again and again despite the summer day. Often I had to recall the speaker fromramblings, piece out scientific points which he knew only by a fading parrot memory of professors’talk, or bridge over gaps where his sense of logic and continuity broke down. When he was doneI did not wonder that his mind had snapped a trifle, or that the folk of Arkham would not speakmuch of the blasted heath. I hurried back before sunset to my hotel, unwilling to have the starscome out above me in the open; and the next day returned to Boston to give up my position. Icould not go into that dim chaos of old forest and slope again, or face another time that greyblasted heath where the black well yawned deep beside the tumbled bricks and stones. The reservoirwill soon be built now, and all those elder secrets will be safe forever under watery fathoms.But even then I do not believe I would like to visit that country by night—at least, notwhen the sinister stars are out; and nothing could bribe me to drink the new city water of Arkham.

    It all began, old Ammi said, with the meteorite. Before that time there hadbeen no wild legends at all since the witch trials, and even then these western woods were notfeared half so much as the small island in the Miskatonic where the devil held court besidea curious stone altar older than the Indians. These were not haunted woods, and their fantasticdusk was never terrible till the strange days. Then there had come that white noontide cloud,that string of explosions in the air, and that pillar of smoke from the valley far in the wood.And by night all Arkham had heard of the great rock that fell out of the sky and bedded itselfin the ground beside the well at the Nahum Gardner place. That was the house which had stoodwhere the blasted heath was to come—the trim white Nahum Gardner house amidst its fertilegardens and orchards.

    Nahum had come to town to tell people about the stone, and had dropped in atAmmi Pierce’s on the way. Ammi was forty then, and all the queer things were fixed verystrongly in his mind. He and his wife had gone with the three professors from Miskatonic Universitywho hastened out the next morning to see the weird visitor from unknown stellar space, and hadwondered why Nahum had called it so large the day before. It had shrunk, Nahum said as he pointedout the big brownish mound above the ripped earth and charred grass near the archaic well-sweepin his front yard; but the wise men answered that stones do not shrink. Its heat lingered persistently,and Nahum declared it had glowed faintly in the night. The professors tried it with a geologist’shammer and found it was oddly soft. It was, in truth, so soft as to be almost plastic; and theygouged rather than chipped a specimen to take back to the college for testing. They took itin an old pail borrowed from Nahum’s kitchen, for even the small piece refused to growcool. On the trip back they stopped at Ammi’s to rest, and seemed thoughtful when Mrs.Pierce remarked that the fragment was growing smaller and burning the bottom of the pail. Truly,it was not large, but perhaps they had taken less than they thought.

    The day after that—all this was in June of ’82—the professorshad trooped out again in a great excitement. As they passed Ammi’s they told him whatqueer things the specimen had done, and how it had faded wholly away when they put it in a glassbeaker. The beaker had gone, too, and the wise men talked of the strange stone’s affinityfor silicon. It had acted quite unbelievably in that well-ordered laboratory; doing nothingat all and shewing no occluded gases when heated on charcoal, being wholly negative in the boraxbead, and soon proving itself absolutely non-volatile at any producible temperature, includingthat of the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe. On an anvil it appeared highly malleable, and in the darkits luminosity was very marked. Stubbornly refusing to grow cool, it soon had the college ina state of real excitement; and when upon heating before the spectroscope it displayed shiningbands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum there was much breathless talk of newelements, bizarre optical properties, and other things which puzzled men of science are wontto say when faced by the unknown.

    Hot as it was, they tested it in a crucible with all the proper reagents. Waterdid nothing. Hydrochloric acid was the same. Nitric acid and even aqua regia merely hissed andspattered against its torrid invulnerability. Ammi had difficulty in recalling all these things,but recognised some solvents as I mentioned them in the usual order of use. There were ammoniaand caustic soda, alcohol and ether, nauseous carbon disulphide and a dozen others; but althoughthe weight grew steadily less as time passed, and the fragment seemed to be slightly cooling,there was no change in the solvents to shew that they had attacked the substance at all. Itwas a metal, though, beyond a doubt. It was magnetic, for one thing; and after its immersionin the acid solvents there seemed to be faint traces of the Widmannstätten figures foundon meteoric iron. When the cooling had grown very considerable, the testing was carried on inglass; and it was in a glass beaker that they left all the chips made of the original fragmentduring the work. The next morning both chips and beaker were gone without trace, and only acharred spot marked the place on the wooden shelf where they had been.

    All this the professors told Ammi as they paused at his door, and once morehe went with them to see the stony messenger from the stars, though this time his wife did notaccompany him. It had now most certainly shrunk, and even the sober professors could not doubtthe truth of what they saw. All around the dwindling brown lump near the well was a vacant space,except where the earth had caved in; and whereas it had been a good seven feet across the daybefore, it was now scarcely five. It was still hot, and the sages studied its surface curiouslyas they detached another and larger piece with hammer and chisel. They gouged deeply this time,and as they pried away the smaller mass they saw that the core of the thing was not quite hom*ogeneous.

    They had uncovered what seemed to be the side of a large coloured globule imbeddedin the substance. The colour, which resembled some of the bands in the meteor’s strangespectrum, was almost impossible to describe; and it was only by analogy that they called itcolour at all. Its texture was glossy, and upon tapping it appeared to promise both brittlenessand hollowness. One of the professors gave it a smart blow with a hammer, and it burst witha nervous little pop. Nothing was emitted, and all trace of the thing vanished with the puncturing.It left behind a hollow spherical space about three inches across, and all thought it probablethat others would be discovered as the enclosing substance wasted away.

    Conjecture was vain; so after a futile attempt to find additional globulesby drilling, the seekers left again with their new specimen—which proved, however, asbaffling in the laboratory as its predecessor had been. Aside from being almost plastic, havingheat, magnetism, and slight luminosity, cooling slightly in powerful acids, possessing an unknownspectrum, wasting away in air, and attacking silicon compounds with mutual destruction as aresult, it presented no identifying features whatsoever; and at the end of the tests the collegescientists were forced to own that they could not place it. It was nothing of this earth, buta piece of the great outside; and as such dowered with outside properties and obedient to outsidelaws.

    That night there was a thunderstorm, and when the professors went out to Nahum’sthe next day they met with a bitter disappointment. The stone, magnetic as it had been, musthave had some peculiar electrical property; for it had “drawn the lightning”, asNahum said, with a singular persistence. Six times within an hour the farmer saw the lightningstrike the furrow in the front yard, and when the storm was over nothing remained but a raggedpit by the ancient well-sweep, half-choked with caved-in earth. Digging had borne no fruit,and the scientists verified the fact of the utter vanishment. The failure was total; so thatnothing was left to do but go back to the laboratory and test again the disappearing fragmentleft carefully cased in lead. That fragment lasted a week, at the end of which nothing ofvalue had been learned of it. When it had gone, no residue was left behind, and in time theprofessors felt scarcely sure they had indeed seen with waking eyes that cryptic vestige ofthe fathomless gulfs outside; that lone, weird message from other universes and other realmsof matter, force, and entity.

    As was natural, the Arkham papers made much of the incident with its collegiatesponsoring, and sent reporters to talk with Nahum Gardner and his family. At least one Bostondaily also sent a scribe, and Nahum quickly became a kind of local celebrity. He was a lean,genial person of about fifty, living with his wife and three sons on the pleasant farmsteadin the valley. He and Ammi exchanged visits frequently, as did their wives; and Ammi had nothingbut praise for him after all these years. He seemed slightly proud of the notice his place hadattracted, and talked often of the meteorite in the succeeding weeks. That July and August werehot, and Nahum worked hard at his haying in the ten-acre pasture across Chapman’s Brook;his rattling wain wearing deep ruts in the shadowy lanes between. The labour tired him morethan it had in other years, and he felt that age was beginning to tell on him.

    Then fell the time of fruit and harvest. The pears and apples slowly ripened,and Nahum vowed that his orchards were prospering as never before. The fruit was growing tophenomenal size and unwonted gloss, and in such abundance that extra barrels were ordered tohandle the future crop. But with the ripening came sore disappointment; for of all that gorgeousarray of specious lusciousness not one single jot was fit to eat. Into the fine flavour of thepears and apples had crept a stealthy bitterness and sickishness, so that even the smallestof bites induced a lasting disgust. It was the same with the melons and tomatoes, and Nahumsadly saw that his entire crop was lost. Quick to connect events, he declared that the meteoritehad poisoned the soil, and thanked heaven that most of the other crops were in the upland lotalong the road.

    Winter came early, and was very cold. Ammi saw Nahum less often than usual,and observed that he had begun to look worried. The rest of his family, too, seemed to havegrown taciturn; and were far from steady in their churchgoing or their attendance at the varioussocial events of the countryside. For this reserve or melancholy no cause could be found, thoughall the household confessed now and then to poorer health and a feeling of vague disquiet. Nahumhimself gave the most definite statement of anyone when he said he was disturbed about certainfootprints in the snow. They were the usual winter prints of red squirrels, white rabbits, andfoxes, but the brooding farmer professed to see something not quite right about their natureand arrangement. He was never specific, but appeared to think that they were not as characteristicof the anatomy and habits of squirrels and rabbits and foxes as they ought to be. Ammi listenedwithout interest to this talk until one night when he drove past Nahum’s house in hissleigh on the way back from Clark’s Corners. There had been a moon, and a rabbit had runacross the road, and the leaps of that rabbit were longer than either Ammi or his horse liked.The latter, indeed, had almost run away when brought up by a firm rein. Thereafter Ammi gaveNahum’s tales more respect, and wondered why the Gardner dogs seemed so cowed and quiveringevery morning. They had, it developed, nearly lost the spirit to bark.

    In February the McGregor boys from Meadow Hill were out shooting woodchucks,and not far from the Gardner place bagged a very peculiar specimen. The proportions of its bodyseemed slightly altered in a queer way impossible to describe, while its face had taken on anexpression which no one ever saw in a woodchuck before. The boys were genuinely frightened,and threw the thing away at once, so that only their grotesque tales of it ever reached thepeople of the countryside. But the shying of the horses near Nahum’s house had nowbecome an acknowledged thing, and all the basis for a cycle of whispered legend was fast takingform.

    People vowed that the snow melted faster around Nahum’s than it did anywhereelse, and early in March there was an awed discussion in Potter’s general store at Clark’sCorners. Stephen Rice had driven past Gardner’s in the morning, and had noticed the skunk-cabbagescoming up through the mud by the woods across the road. Never were things of such size seenbefore, and they held strange colours that could not be put into any words. Their shapes weremonstrous, and the horse had snorted at an odour which struck Stephen as wholly unprecedented.That afternoon several persons drove past to see the abnormal growth, and all agreed that plantsof that kind ought never to sprout in a healthy world. The bad fruit of the fall before wasfreely mentioned, and it went from mouth to mouth that there was poison in Nahum’s ground.Of course it was the meteorite; and remembering how strange the men from the college had foundthat stone to be, several farmers spoke about the matter to them.

    One day they paid Nahum a visit; but having no love of wild tales and folklorewere very conservative in what they inferred. The plants were certainly odd, but all skunk-cabbagesare more or less odd in shape and odour and hue. Perhaps some mineral element from the stonehad entered the soil, but it would soon be washed away. And as for the footprints and frightenedhorses—of course this was mere country talk which such a phenomenon as the aërolitewould be certain to start. There was really nothing for serious men to do in cases of wild gossip,for superstitious rustics will say and believe anything. And so all through the strange daysthe professors stayed away in contempt. Only one of them, when given two phials of dust foranalysis in a police job over a year and a half later, recalled that the queer colour of thatskunk-cabbage had been very like one of the anomalous bands of light shewn by the meteor fragmentin the college spectroscope, and like the brittle globule found imbedded in the stone from theabyss. The samples in this analysis case gave the same odd bands at first, though later theylost the property.

    The trees budded prematurely around Nahum’s, and at night they swayedominously in the wind. Nahum’s second son Thaddeus, a lad of fifteen, swore that theyswayed also when there was no wind; but even the gossips would not credit this. Certainly, however,restlessness was in the air. The entire Gardner family developed the habit of stealthy listening,though not for any sound which they could consciously name. The listening was, indeed, rathera product of moments when consciousness seemed half to slip away. Unfortunately such momentsincreased week by week, till it became common speech that “something was wrong with allNahum’s folks “. When the early saxifrage came out it had another strange colour;not quite like that of the skunk-cabbage, but plainly related and equally unknown to anyonewho saw it. Nahum took some blossoms to Arkham and shewed them to the editor of the Gazette,but that dignitary did no more than write a humorous article about them, in which the dark fearsof rustics were held up to polite ridicule. It was a mistake of Nahum’s to tell a stolidcity man about the way the great, overgrown mourning-cloak butterflies behaved in connexionwith these saxifrages.

    April brought a kind of madness to the country folk, and began that disuseof the road past Nahum’s which led to its ultimate abandonment. It was the vegetation.All the orchard trees blossomed forth in strange colours, and through the stony soil of theyard and adjacent pasturage there sprang up a bizarre growth which only a botanist could connectwith the proper flora of the region. No sane wholesome colours were anywhere to be seen exceptin the green grass and leafa*ge; but everywhere those hectic and prismatic variants of some diseased,underlying primary tone without a place among the known tints of earth. The Dutchman’sbreeches became a thing of sinister menace, and the bloodroots grew insolent in their chromaticperversion. Ammi and the Gardners thought that most of the colours had a sort of haunting familiarity,and decided that they reminded one of the brittle globule in the meteor. Nahum ploughed andsowed the ten-acre pasture and the upland lot, but did nothing with the land around the house.He knew it would be of no use, and hoped that the summer’s strange growths would drawall the poison from the soil. He was prepared for almost anything now, and had grown used tothe sense of something near him waiting to be heard. The shunning of his house by neighbourstold on him, of course; but it told on his wife more. The boys were better off, being at schooleach day; but they could not help being frightened by the gossip. Thaddeus, an especially sensitiveyouth, suffered the most.

    In May the insects came, and Nahum’s place became a nightmare of buzzingand crawling. Most of the creatures seemed not quite usual in their aspects and motions, andtheir nocturnal habits contradicted all former experience. The Gardners took to watching atnight—watching in all directions at random for something . . . they couldnot tell what. It was then that they all owned that Thaddeus had been right about the trees.Mrs. Gardner was the next to see it from the window as she watched the swollen boughs of a mapleagainst a moonlit sky. The boughs surely moved, and there was no wind. It must be the sap. Strangenesshad come into everything growing now. Yet it was none of Nahum’s family at all who madethe next discovery. Familiarity had dulled them, and what they could not see was glimpsed bya timid windmill salesman from Bolton who drove by one night in ignorance of the country legends.What he told in Arkham was given a short paragraph in the Gazette; and it was there thatall the farmers, Nahum included, saw it first. The night had been dark and the buggy-lamps faint,but around a farm in the valley which everyone knew from the account must be Nahum’s thedarkness had been less thick. A dim though distinct luminosity seemed to inhere in all the vegetation,grass, leaves, and blossoms alike, while at one moment a detached piece of the phosphorescenceappeared to stir furtively in the yard near the barn.

    The grass had so far seemed untouched, and the cows were freely pastured inthe lot near the house, but toward the end of May the milk began to be bad. Then Nahum had thecows driven to the uplands, after which the trouble ceased. Not long after this the change ingrass and leaves became apparent to the eye. All the verdure was going grey, and was developinga highly singular quality of brittleness. Ammi was now the only person who ever visited theplace, and his visits were becoming fewer and fewer. When school closed the Gardners were virtuallycut off from the world, and sometimes let Ammi do their errands in town. They were failing curiouslyboth physically and mentally, and no one was surprised when the news of Mrs. Gardner’smadness stole around.

    It happened in June, about the anniversary of the meteor’s fall, andthe poor woman screamed about things in the air which she could not describe. In her ravingthere was not a single specific noun, but only verbs and pronouns. Things moved and changedand fluttered, and ears tingled to impulses which were not wholly sounds. Something was takenaway—she was being drained of something—something was fastening itself on her thatought not to be—someone must make it keep off—nothing was ever still in the night—thewalls and windows shifted. Nahum did not send her to the county asylum, but let her wander aboutthe house as long as she was harmless to herself and others. Even when her expression changedhe did nothing. But when the boys grew afraid of her, and Thaddeus nearly fainted at the wayshe made faces at him, he decided to keep her locked in the attic. By July she had ceased tospeak and crawled on all fours, and before that month was over Nahum got the mad notion thatshe was slightly luminous in the dark, as he now clearly saw was the case with the nearby vegetation.

    It was a little before this that the horses had stampeded. Something had arousedthem in the night, and their neighing and kicking in their stalls had been terrible. There seemedvirtually nothing to do to calm them, and when Nahum opened the stable door they all boltedout like frightened woodland deer. It took a week to track all four, and when found they wereseen to be quite useless and unmanageable. Something had snapped in their brains, and each onehad to be shot for its own good. Nahum borrowed a horse from Ammi for his haying, but foundit would not approach the barn. It shied, balked, and whinnied, and in the end he could do nothingbut drive it into the yard while the men used their own strength to get the heavy wagon nearenough the hayloft for convenient pitching. And all the while the vegetation was turning greyand brittle. Even the flowers whose hues had been so strange were greying now, and the fruitwas coming out grey and dwarfed and tasteless. The asters and goldenrod bloomed grey and distorted,and the roses and zinneas and hollyhocks in the front yard were such blasphemous-looking thingsthat Nahum’s oldest boy Zenas cut them down. The strangely puffed insects died about thattime, even the bees that had left their hives and taken to the woods.

    By September all the vegetation was fast crumbling to a greyish powder, andNahum feared that the trees would die before the poison was out of the soil. His wife now hadspells of terrific screaming, and he and the boys were in a constant state of nervous tension.They shunned people now, and when school opened the boys did not go. But it was Ammi, on oneof his rare visits, who first realised that the well water was no longer good. It had an eviltaste that was not exactly foetid nor exactly salty, and Ammi advised his friend to dig anotherwell on higher ground to use till the soil was good again. Nahum, however, ignored the warning,for he had by that time become calloused to strange and unpleasant things. He and the boys continuedto use the tainted supply, drinking it as listlessly and mechanically as they ate their meagreand ill-cooked meals and did their thankless and monotonous chores through the aimless days.There was something of stolid resignation about them all, as if they walked half in anotherworld between lines of nameless guards to a certain and familiar doom.

    Thaddeus went mad in September after a visit to the well. He had gone witha pail and had come back empty-handed, shrieking and waving his arms, and sometimes lapsinginto an inane titter or a whisper about “the moving colours down there “. Two inone family was pretty bad, but Nahum was very brave about it. He let the boy run about for aweek until he began stumbling and hurting himself, and then he shut him in an attic room acrossthe hall from his mother’s. The way they screamed at each other from behind their lockeddoors was very terrible, especially to little Merwin, who fancied they talked in some terriblelanguage that was not of earth. Merwin was getting frightfully imaginative, and his restlessnesswas worse after the shutting away of the brother who had been his greatest playmate.

    Almost at the same time the mortality among the livestock commenced. Poultryturned greyish and died very quickly, their meat being found dry and noisome upon cutting. Hogsgrew inordinately fat, then suddenly began to undergo loathsome changes which no one could explain.Their meat was of course useless, and Nahum was at his wit’s end. No rural veterinarywould approach his place, and the city veterinary from Arkham was openly baffled. The swinebegan growing grey and brittle and falling to pieces before they died, and their eyes and muzzlesdeveloped singular alterations. It was very inexplicable, for they had never been fed from thetainted vegetation. Then something struck the cows. Certain areas or sometimes the whole bodywould be uncannily shrivelled or compressed, and atrocious collapses or disintegrations werecommon. In the last stages—and death was always the result—there would be a greyingand turning brittle like that which beset the hogs. There could be no question of poison, forall the cases occurred in a locked and undisturbed barn. No bites of prowling things could havebrought the virus, for what live beast of earth can pass through solid obstacles? It must beonly natural disease—yet what disease could wreak such results was beyond any mind’sguessing. When the harvest came there was not an animal surviving on the place, for the stockand poultry were dead and the dogs had run away. These dogs, three in number, had all vanishedone night and were never heard of again. The five cats had left some time before, but theirgoing was scarcely noticed since there now seemed to be no mice, and only Mrs. Gardner had madepets of the graceful felines.

    On the nineteenth of October Nahum staggered into Ammi’s house with hideousnews. The death had come to poor Thaddeus in his attic room, and it had come in a way whichcould not be told. Nahum had dug a grave in the railed family plot behind the farm, and hadput therein what he found. There could have been nothing from outside, for the small barredwindow and locked door were intact; but it was much as it had been in the barn. Ammi and hiswife consoled the stricken man as best they could, but shuddered as they did so. Stark terrorseemed to cling round the Gardners and all they touched, and the very presence of one in thehouse was a breath from regions unnamed and unnamable. Ammi accompanied Nahum home with thegreatest reluctance, and did what he might to calm the hysterical sobbing of little Merwin.Zenas needed no calming. He had come of late to do nothing but stare into space and obey whathis father told him; and Ammi thought that his fate was very merciful. Now and then Merwin’sscreams were answered faintly from the attic, and in response to an inquiring look Nahum saidthat his wife was getting very feeble. When night approached, Ammi managed to get away; fornot even friendship could make him stay in that spot when the faint glow of the vegetation beganand the trees may or may not have swayed without wind. It was really lucky for Ammi that hewas not more imaginative. Even as things were, his mind was bent ever so slightly; but had hebeen able to connect and reflect upon all the portents around him he must inevitably have turneda total maniac. In the twilight he hastened home, the screams of the mad woman and the nervouschild ringing horribly in his ears.

    Three days later Nahum lurched into Ammi’s kitchen in the early morning,and in the absence of his host stammered out a desperate tale once more, while Mrs. Pierce listenedin a clutching fright. It was little Merwin this time. He was gone. He had gone out late atnight with a lantern and pail for water, and had never come back. He’d been going to piecesfor days, and hardly knew what he was about. Screamed at everything. There had been a franticshriek from the yard then, but before the father could get to the door, the boy was gone. Therewas no glow from the lantern he had taken, and of the child himself no trace. At the time Nahumthought the lantern and pail were gone too; but when dawn came, and the man had plodded backfrom his all-night search of the woods and fields, he had found some very curious things nearthe well. There was a crushed and apparently somewhat melted mass of iron which had certainlybeen the lantern; while a bent bail and twisted iron hoops beside it, both half-fused, seemedto hint at the remnants of the pail. That was all. Nahum was past imagining, Mrs. Pierce wasblank, and Ammi, when he had reached home and heard the tale, could give no guess. Merwin wasgone, and there would be no use in telling the people around, who shunned all Gardners now.No use, either, in telling the city people at Arkham who laughed at everything. Thad was gone,and now Merwin was gone. Something was creeping and creeping and waiting to be seen and feltand heard. Nahum would go soon, and he wanted Ammi to look after his wife and Zenas if theysurvived him. It must all be a judgment of some sort; though he could not fancy what for, sincehe had always walked uprightly in the Lord’s ways so far as he knew.

    For over two weeks Ammi saw nothing of Nahum; and then, worried about whatmight have happened, he overcame his fears and paid the Gardner place a visit. There was nosmoke from the great chimney, and for a moment the visitor was apprehensive of the worst. Theaspect of the whole farm was shocking—greyish withered grass and leaves on the ground,vines falling in brittle wreckage from archaic walls and gables, and great bare trees clawingup at the grey November sky with a studied malevolence which Ammi could not but feel had comefrom some subtle change in the tilt of the branches. But Nahum was alive, after all. He wasweak, and lying on a couch in the low-ceiled kitchen, but perfectly conscious and able to givesimple orders to Zenas. The room was deadly cold; and as Ammi visibly shivered, the host shoutedhuskily to Zenas for more wood. Wood, indeed, was sorely needed; since the cavernous fireplacewas unlit and empty, with a cloud of soot blowing about in the chill wind that came down thechimney. Presently Nahum asked him if the extra wood had made him any more comfortable, andthen Ammi saw what had happened. The stoutest cord had broken at last, and the hapless farmer’smind was proof against more sorrow.

    Questioning tactfully, Ammi could get no clear data at all about the missingZenas. “In the well—he lives in the well— “ was all that the cloudedfather would say. Then there flashed across the visitor’s mind a sudden thought of themad wife, and he changed his line of inquiry. “Nabby? Why, here she is! “ was thesurprised response of poor Nahum, and Ammi soon saw that he must search for himself. Leavingthe harmless babbler on the couch, he took the keys from their nail beside the door and climbedthe creaking stairs to the attic. It was very close and noisome up there, and no sound couldbe heard from any direction. Of the four doors in sight, only one was locked, and on this hetried various keys on the ring he had taken. The third key proved the right one, and after somefumbling Ammi threw open the low white door.

    It was quite dark inside, for the window was small and half-obscured by thecrude wooden bars; and Ammi could see nothing at all on the wide-planked floor. The stench wasbeyond enduring, and before proceeding further he had to retreat to another room and returnwith his lungs filled with breathable air. When he did enter he saw something dark in the corner,and upon seeing it more clearly he screamed outright. While he screamed he thought a momentarycloud eclipsed the window, and a second later he felt himself brushed as if by some hatefulcurrent of vapour. Strange colours danced before his eyes; and had not a present horror numbedhim he would have thought of the globule in the meteor that the geologist’s hammer hadshattered, and of the morbid vegetation that had sprouted in the spring. As it was he thoughtonly of the blasphemous monstrosity which confronted him, and which all too clearly had sharedthe nameless fate of young Thaddeus and the livestock. But the terrible thing about this horrorwas that it very slowly and perceptibly moved as it continued to crumble.

    Ammi would give me no added particulars to this scene, but the shape in thecorner does not reappear in his tale as a moving object. There are things which cannot be mentioned,and what is done in common humanity is sometimes cruelly judged by the law. I gathered thatno moving thing was left in that attic room, and that to leave anything capable of motion therewould have been a deed so monstrous as to damn any accountable being to eternal torment. Anyonebut a stolid farmer would have fainted or gone mad, but Ammi walked conscious through that lowdoorway and locked the accursed secret behind him. There would be Nahum to deal with now; hemust be fed and tended, and removed to some place where he could be cared for.

    Commencing his descent of the dark stairs, Ammi heard a thud below him. Heeven thought a scream had been suddenly choked off, and recalled nervously the clammy vapourwhich had brushed by him in that frightful room above. What presence had his cry and entry startedup? Halted by some vague fear, he heard still further sounds below. Indubitably there was asort of heavy dragging, and a most detestably sticky noise as of some fiendish and unclean speciesof suction. With an associative sense goaded to feverish heights, he thought unaccountably ofwhat he had seen upstairs. Good God! What eldritch dream-world was this into which he had blundered?He dared move neither backward nor forward, but stood there trembling at the black curve ofthe boxed-in staircase. Every trifle of the scene burned itself into his brain. The sounds,the sense of dread expectancy, the darkness, the steepness of the narrow steps—and mercifulheaven! . . . the faint but unmistakable luminosity of all the woodwork in sight;steps, sides, exposed laths, and beams alike!

    Then there burst forth a frantic whinny from Ammi’s horse outside, followedat once by a clatter which told of a frenzied runaway. In another moment horse and buggy hadgone beyond earshot, leaving the frightened man on the dark stairs to guess what had sent them.But that was not all. There had been another sound out there. A sort of liquid splash—water—itmust have been the well. He had left Hero untied near it, and a buggy-wheel must have brushedthe coping and knocked in a stone. And still the pale phosphorescence glowed in that detestablyancient woodwork. God! how old the house was! Most of it built before 1670, and the gambrelroof not later than 1730.

    A feeble scratching on the floor downstairs now sounded distinctly, and Ammi’sgrip tightened on a heavy stick he had picked up in the attic for some purpose. Slowly nervinghimself, he finished his descent and walked boldly toward the kitchen. But he did not completethe walk, because what he sought was no longer there. It had come to meet him, and it was stillalive after a fashion. Whether it had crawled or whether it had been dragged by any externalforce, Ammi could not say; but the death had been at it. Everything had happened in the lasthalf-hour, but collapse, greying, and disintegration were already far advanced. There was ahorrible brittleness, and dry fragments were scaling off. Ammi could not touch it, but lookedhorrifiedly into the distorted parody that had been a face. “What was it, Nahum—whatwas it? “ he whispered, and the cleft, bulging lips were just able to crackle out a finalanswer.

    “Nothin’ . . . nothin’ . . . thecolour . . . it burns . . . cold an’ wet . . .but it burns . . . it lived in the well . . . I seen it . . .a kind o’ smoke . . . jest like the flowers last spring . . .the well shone at night . . . Thad an’ Mernie an’ Zenas . . .everything alive . . . suckin’ the life out of everything . . .in that stone . . . it must a’ come in that stone . . .pizened the whole place . . . dun’t know what it wants . . .that round thing them men from the college dug outen the stone . . . they smashedit . . . it was that same colour . . . jest the same, like theflowers an’ plants . . . must a’ ben more of ‘em . . .seeds . . . seeds . . . they growed . . . I seenit the fust time this week . . . must a’ got strong on Zenas . . .he was a big boy, full o’ life . . . it beats down your mind an’then gits ye . . . burns ye up . . . in the well water . . .you was right about that . . . evil water . . . Zenas never comeback from the well . . . can’t git away . . . draws ye . . .ye know summ’at’s comin’, but ‘tain’t no use . . . Iseen it time an’ agin senct Zenas was took . . . whar’s Nabby,Ammi? . . . my head’s no good . . . dun’t know how long senctI fed her . . . it’ll git her ef we ain’t keerful . . .jest a colour . . . her face is gettin’ to hev that colour sometimes towardsnight . . . an’ it burns an’ sucks . . . it come fromsome place whar things ain’t as they is here . . . one o’ them professorssaid so . . . he was right . . . look out, Ammi, it’ll dosuthin’ more . . . sucks the life out. . . . “

    But that was all. That which spoke could speak no more because it had completelycaved in. Ammi laid a red checked tablecloth over what was left and reeled out the back doorinto the fields. He climbed the slope to the ten-acre pasture and stumbled home by the northroad and the woods. He could not pass that well from which his horse had run away. He had lookedat it through the window, and had seen that no stone was missing from the rim. Then the lurchingbuggy had not dislodged anything after all—the splash had been something else—somethingwhich went into the well after it had done with poor Nahum. . . .

    When Ammi reached his house the horse and buggy had arrived before him andthrown his wife into fits of anxiety. Reassuring her without explanations, he set out at oncefor Arkham and notified the authorities that the Gardner family was no more. He indulged inno details, but merely told of the deaths of Nahum and Nabby, that of Thaddeus being alreadyknown, and mentioned that the cause seemed to be the same strange ailment which had killed thelivestock. He also stated that Merwin and Zenas had disappeared. There was considerable questioningat the police station, and in the end Ammi was compelled to take three officers to the Gardnerfarm, together with the coroner, the medical examiner, and the veterinary who had treated thediseased animals. He went much against his will, for the afternoon was advancing and he fearedthe fall of night over that accursed place, but it was some comfort to have so many people withhim.

    The six men drove out in a democrat-wagon, following Ammi’s buggy, andarrived at the pest-ridden farmhouse about four o’clock. Used as the officers were togruesome experiences, not one remained unmoved at what was found in the attic and under thered checked tablecloth on the floor below. The whole aspect of the farm with its grey desolationwas terrible enough, but those two crumbling objects were beyond all bounds. No one could looklong at them, and even the medical examiner admitted that there was very little to examine.Specimens could be analysed, of course, so he busied himself in obtaining them—and hereit develops that a very puzzling aftermath occurred at the college laboratory where the twophials of dust were finally taken. Under the spectroscope both samples gave off an unknown spectrum,in which many of the baffling bands were precisely like those which the strange meteor had yieldedin the previous year. The property of emitting this spectrum vanished in a month, the dust thereafterconsisting mainly of alkaline phosphates and carbonates.

    Ammi would not have told the men about the well if he had thought they meantto do anything then and there. It was getting toward sunset, and he was anxious to be away.But he could not help glancing nervously at the stony curb by the great sweep, and when a detectivequestioned him he admitted that Nahum had feared something down there—so much so thathe had never even thought of searching it for Merwin or Zenas. After that nothing would do butthat they empty and explore the well immediately, so Ammi had to wait trembling while pail afterpail of rank water was hauled up and splashed on the soaking ground outside. The men sniffedin disgust at the fluid, and toward the last held their noses against the foetor they were uncovering.It was not so long a job as they had feared it would be, since the water was phenomenally low.There is no need to speak too exactly of what they found. Merwin and Zenas were both there,in part, though the vestiges were mainly skeletal. There were also a small deer and a largedog in about the same state, and a number of bones of smaller animals. The ooze and slime atthe bottom seemed inexplicably porous and bubbling, and a man who descended on hand-holds witha long pole found that he could sink the wooden shaft to any depth in the mud of the floor withoutmeeting any solid obstruction.

    Twilight had now fallen, and lanterns were brought from the house. Then, whenit was seen that nothing further could be gained from the well, everyone went indoors and conferredin the ancient sitting-room while the intermittent light of a spectral half-moon played wanlyon the grey desolation outside. The men were frankly nonplussed by the entire case, and couldfind no convincing common element to link the strange vegetable conditions, the unknown diseaseof livestock and humans, and the unaccountable deaths of Merwin and Zenas in the tainted well.They had heard the common country talk, it is true; but could not believe that anything contraryto natural law had occurred. No doubt the meteor had poisoned the soil, but the illness of personsand animals who had eaten nothing grown in that soil was another matter. Was it the well water?Very possibly. It might be a good idea to analyse it. But what peculiar madness could have madeboth boys jump into the well? Their deeds were so similar—and the fragments shewed thatthey had both suffered from the grey brittle death. Why was everything so grey and brittle?

    It was the coroner, seated near a window overlooking the yard, who first noticedthe glow about the well. Night had fully set in, and all the abhorrent grounds seemed faintlyluminous with more than the fitful moonbeams; but this new glow was something definite and distinct,and appeared to shoot up from the black pit like a softened ray from a searchlight, giving dullreflections in the little ground pools where the water had been emptied. It had a very queercolour, and as all the men clustered round the window Ammi gave a violent start. For this strangebeam of ghastly miasma was to him of no unfamiliar hue. He had seen that colour before, andfeared to think what it might mean. He had seen it in the nasty brittle globule in that aërolitetwo summers ago, had seen it in the crazy vegetation of the springtime, and had thought he hadseen it for an instant that very morning against the small barred window of that terrible atticroom where nameless things had happened. It had flashed there a second, and a clammy and hatefulcurrent of vapour had brushed past him—and then poor Nahum had been taken by somethingof that colour. He had said so at the last—said it was the globule and the plants. Afterthat had come the runaway in the yard and the splash in the well—and now that well wasbelching forth to the night a pale insidious beam of the same daemoniac tint.

    It does credit to the alertness of Ammi’s mind that he puzzled even atthat tense moment over a point which was essentially scientific. He could not but wonder athis gleaning of the same impression from a vapour glimpsed in the daytime, against a windowopening on the morning sky, and from a nocturnal exhalation seen as a phosphorescent mist againstthe black and blasted landscape. It wasn’t right—it was against Nature—andhe thought of those terrible last words of his stricken friend, “It come from some placewhar things ain’t as they is here . . . one o’ them professors saidso. . . . “

    All three horses outside, tied to a pair of shrivelled saplings by the road,were now neighing and pawing frantically. The wagon driver started for the door to do something,but Ammi laid a shaky hand on his shoulder. “Dun’t go out thar, “ he whispered.“They’s more to this nor what we know. Nahum said somethin’ lived in the wellthat sucks your life out. He said it must be some’at growed from a round ball like onewe all seen in the meteor stone that fell a year ago June. Sucks an’ burns, he said, an’is jest a cloud of colour like that light out thar now, that ye can hardly see an’ can’ttell what it is. Nahum thought it feeds on everything livin’ an’ gits stronger allthe time. He said he seen it this last week. It must be somethin’ from away off in thesky like the men from the college last year says the meteor stone was. The way it’s madean’ the way it works ain’t like no way o’ God’s world. It’s some’atfrom beyond.”

    So the men paused indecisively as the light from the well grew stronger andthe hitched horses pawed and whinnied in increasing frenzy. It was truly an awful moment; withterror in that ancient and accursed house itself, four monstrous sets of fragments—twofrom the house and two from the well—in the woodshed behind, and that shaft of unknownand unholy iridescence from the slimy depths in front. Ammi had restrained the driver on impulse,forgetting how uninjured he himself was after the clammy brushing of that coloured vapour inthe attic room, but perhaps it is just as well that he acted as he did. No one will ever knowwhat was abroad that night; and though the blasphemy from beyond had not so far hurt any humanof unweakened mind, there is no telling what it might not have done at that last moment, andwith its seemingly increased strength and the special signs of purpose it was soon to displaybeneath the half-clouded moonlit sky.

    All at once one of the detectives at the window gave a short, sharp gasp. Theothers looked at him, and then quickly followed his own gaze upward to the point at which itsidle straying had been suddenly arrested. There was no need for words. What had been disputedin country gossip was disputable no longer, and it is because of the thing which every man ofthat party agreed in whispering later on that the strange days are never talked about in Arkham.It is necessary to premise that there was no wind at that hour of the evening. One did arisenot long afterward, but there was absolutely none then. Even the dry tips of the lingering hedge-mustard,grey and blighted, and the fringe on the roof of the standing democrat-wagon were unstirred.And yet amid that tense, godless calm the high bare boughs of all the trees in the yard weremoving. They were twitching morbidly and spasmodically, clawing in convulsive and epilepticmadness at the moonlit clouds; scratching impotently in the noxious air as if jerked by somealien and bodiless line of linkage with subterrene horrors writhing and struggling below theblack roots.

    Not a man breathed for several seconds. Then a cloud of darker depth passedover the moon, and the silhouette of clutching branches faded out momentarily. At this therewas a general cry; muffled with awe, but husky and almost identical from every throat. For theterror had not faded with the silhouette, and in a fearsome instant of deeper darkness the watcherssaw wriggling at that treetop height a thousand tiny points of faint and unhallowed radiance,tipping each bough like the fire of St. Elmo or the flames that came down on the apostles’heads at Pentecost. It was a monstrous constellation of unnatural light, like a glutted swarmof corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an accursed marsh; and its colour wasthat same nameless intrusion which Ammi had come to recognise and dread. All the while the shaftof phosphorescence from the well was getting brighter and brighter, bringing to the minds ofthe huddled men a sense of doom and abnormality which far outraced any image their consciousminds could form. It was no longer shining out, it was pouring out; and as theshapeless stream of unplaceable colour left the well it seemed to flow directly into the sky.

    The veterinary shivered, and walked to the front door to drop the heavy extrabar across it. Ammi shook no less, and had to tug and point for lack of a controllable voicewhen he wished to draw notice to the growing luminosity of the trees. The neighing and stampingof the horses had become utterly frightful, but not a soul of that group in the old house wouldhave ventured forth for any earthly reward. With the moments the shining of the trees increased,while their restless branches seemed to strain more and more toward verticality. The wood ofthe well-sweep was shining now, and presently a policeman dumbly pointed to some wooden shedsand bee-hives near the stone wall on the west. They were commencing to shine, too, though thetethered vehicles of the visitors seemed so far unaffected. Then there was a wild commotionand clopping in the road, and as Ammi quenched the lamp for better seeing they realised thatthe span of frantic greys had broke their sapling and run off with the democrat-wagon.

    The shock served to loosen several tongues, and embarrassed whispers were exchanged.“It spreads on everything organic that’s been around here, “ muttered the medicalexaminer. No one replied, but the man who had been in the well gave a hint that his long polemust have stirred up something intangible. “It was awful, “ he added. “Therewas no bottom at all. Just ooze and bubbles and the feeling of something lurking under there.”Ammi’s horse still pawed and screamed deafeningly in the road outside, and nearly drownedits owner’s faint quaver as he mumbled his formless reflections. “It come from thatstone . . . it growed down thar . . . it got everything livin’ . . . it fed itself on ‘em, mind and body . . . Thad an’Mernie, Zenas an’ Nabby . . . Nahum was the last . . . they all drunk the water . . . it got strong on ‘em . . . it come from beyond, whar thingsain’t like they be here . . . now it’s goin’ home. . . . “

    At this point, as the column of unknown colour flared suddenly stronger andbegan to weave itself into fantastic suggestions of shape which each spectator later describeddifferently, there came from poor tethered Hero such a sound as no man before or since everheard from a horse. Every person in that low-pitched sitting room stopped his ears, and Ammiturned away from the window in horror and nausea. Words could not convey it—when Ammilooked out again the hapless beast lay huddled inert on the moonlit ground between the splinteredshafts of the buggy. That was the last of Hero till they buried him next day. But the presentwas no time to mourn, for almost at this instant a detective silently called attention to somethingterrible in the very room with them. In the absence of the lamplight it was clear that a faintphosphorescence had begun to pervade the entire apartment. It glowed on the broad-planked floorand the fragment of rag carpet, and shimmered over the sashes of the small-paned windows. Itran up and down the exposed corner-posts, coruscated about the shelf and mantel, and infectedthe very doors and furniture. Each minute saw it strengthen, and at last it was very plain thathealthy living things must leave that house.

    Ammi shewed them the back door and the path up through the fields to the ten-acrepasture. They walked and stumbled as in a dream, and did not dare look back till they were faraway on the high ground. They were glad of the path, for they could not have gone the frontway, by that well. It was bad enough passing the glowing barn and sheds, and those shining orchardtrees with their gnarled, fiendish contours; but thank heaven the branches did their worst twistinghigh up. The moon went under some very black clouds as they crossed the rustic bridge over Chapman’sBrook, and it was blind groping from there to the open meadows.

    When they looked back toward the valley and the distant Gardner place at thebottom they saw a fearsome sight. All the farm was shining with the hideous unknown blend ofcolour; trees, buildings, and even such grass and herbage as had not been wholly changed tolethal grey brittleness. The boughs were all straining skyward, tipped with tongues of foulflame, and lambent tricklings of the same monstrous fire were creeping about the ridgepolesof the house, barn, and sheds. It was a scene from a vision of Fuseli, and over all the restreigned that riot of luminous amorphousness, that alien and undimensioned rainbow of crypticpoison from the well—seething, feeling, lapping, reaching, scintillating, straining, andmalignly bubbling in its cosmic and unrecognisable chromaticism.

    Then without warning the hideous thing shot vertically up toward the sky likea rocket or meteor, leaving behind no trail and disappearing through a round and curiously regularhole in the clouds before any man could gasp or cry out. No watcher can ever forget that sight,and Ammi stared blankly at the stars of Cygnus, Deneb twinkling above the others, where theunknown colour had melted into the Milky Way. But his gaze was the next moment called swiftlyto earth by the crackling in the valley. It was just that. Only a wooden ripping and crackling,and not an explosion, as so many others of the party vowed. Yet the outcome was the same, forin one feverish, kaleidoscopic instant there burst up from that doomed and accursed farm a gleaminglyeruptive cataclysm of unnatural sparks and substance; blurring the glance of the few who sawit, and sending forth to the zenith a bombarding cloudburst of such coloured and fantastic fragmentsas our universe must needs disown. Through quickly re-closing vapours they followed the greatmorbidity that had vanished, and in another second they had vanished too. Behind and below wasonly a darkness to which the men dared not return, and all about was a mounting wind which seemedto sweep down in black, frore gusts from interstellar space. It shrieked and howled, and lashedthe fields and distorted woods in a mad cosmic frenzy, till soon the trembling party realisedit would be no use waiting for the moon to shew what was left down there at Nahum’s.

    Too awed even to hint theories, the seven shaking men trudged back toward Arkhamby the north road. Ammi was worse than his fellows, and begged them to see him inside his ownkitchen, instead of keeping straight on to town. He did not wish to cross the nighted, wind-whippedwoods alone to his home on the main road. For he had had an added shock that the others werespared, and was crushed forever with a brooding fear he dared not even mention for many yearsto come. As the rest of the watchers on that tempestuous hill had stolidly set their faces towardthe road, Ammi had looked back an instant at the shadowed valley of desolation so lately shelteringhis ill-starred friend. And from that stricken, far-away spot he had seen something feebly rise,only to sink down again upon the place from which the great shapeless horror had shot into thesky. It was just a colour—but not any colour of our earth or heavens. And because Ammirecognised that colour, and knew that this last faint remnant must still lurk down there inthe well, he has never been quite right since.

    Ammi would never go near the place again. It is over half a century now sincethe horror happened, but he has never been there, and will be glad when the new reservoir blotsit out. I shall be glad, too, for I do not like the way the sunlight changed colour around themouth of that abandoned well I passed. I hope the water will always be very deep—but evenso, I shall never drink it. I do not think I shall visit the Arkham country hereafter. Threeof the men who had been with Ammi returned the next morning to see the ruins by daylight, butthere were not any real ruins. Only the bricks of the chimney, the stones of the cellar, somemineral and metallic litter here and there, and the rim of that nefandous well. Save for Ammi’sdead horse, which they towed away and buried, and the buggy which they shortly returned to him,everything that had ever been living had gone. Five eldritch acres of dusty grey desert remained,nor has anything ever grown there since. To this day it sprawls open to the sky like a greatspot eaten by acid in the woods and fields, and the few who have ever dared glimpse it in spiteof the rural tales have named it “the blasted heath”.

    The rural tales are queer. They might be even queerer if city men and collegechemists could be interested enough to analyse the water from that disused well, or the greydust that no wind seems ever to disperse. Botanists, too, ought to study the stunted flora onthe borders of that spot, for they might shed light on the country notion that the blight isspreading—little by little, perhaps an inch a year. People say the colour of the neighbouringherbage is not quite right in the spring, and that wild things leave queer prints in the lightwinter snow. Snow never seems quite so heavy on the blasted heath as it is elsewhere. Horses—thefew that are left in this motor age—grow skittish in the silent valley; and hunters cannotdepend on their dogs too near the splotch of greyish dust.

    They say the mental influences are very bad, too. Numbers went queer in theyears after Nahum’s taking, and always they lacked the power to get away. Then the stronger-mindedfolk all left the region, and only the foreigners tried to live in the crumbling old homesteads.They could not stay, though; and one sometimes wonders what insight beyond ours their wild,weird stores of whispered magic have given them. Their dreams at night, they protest, are veryhorrible in that grotesque country; and surely the very look of the dark realm is enough tostir a morbid fancy. No traveller has ever escaped a sense of strangeness in those deep ravines,and artists shiver as they paint thick woods whose mystery is as much of the spirit as of theeye. I myself am curious about the sensation I derived from my one lone walk before Ammi toldme his tale. When twilight came I had vaguely wished some clouds would gather, for an odd timidityabout the deep skyey voids above had crept into my soul.

    Do not ask me for my opinion. I do not know—that is all. There was noone but Ammi to question; for Arkham people will not talk about the strange days, and all threeprofessors who saw the aërolite and its coloured globule are dead. There were other globules—dependupon that. One must have fed itself and escaped, and probably there was another which was toolate. No doubt it is still down the well—I know there was something wrong with the sunlightI saw above that miasmal brink. The rustics say the blight creeps an inch a year, so perhapsthere is a kind of growth or nourishment even now. But whatever daemon hatchling is there, itmust be tethered to something or else it would quickly spread. Is it fastened to the roots ofthose trees that claw the air? One of the current Arkham tales is about fat oaks that shineand move as they ought not to do at night.

    What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi describedwould be called a gas, but this gas obeyed laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruitof such worlds and suns as shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observatories.This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deemtoo vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformedrealms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns thebrain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.

    I doubt very much if Ammi consciously lied to me, and I do not think his talewas all a freak of madness as the townfolk had forewarned. Something terrible came to the hillsand valleys on that meteor, and something terrible—though I know not in what proportion—stillremains. I shall be glad to see the water come. Meanwhile I hope nothing will happen to Ammi.He saw so much of the thing—and its influence was so insidious. Why has he never beenable to move away? How clearly he recalled those dying words of Nahum’s— “can’t git away . . . draws ye . . . ye know summ’at’s comin’, but ’tain’t no use. . . . “ Ammi is such a good old man—when the reservoir gang gets to work I must write the chief engineer to keep a sharp watch onhim. I would hate to think of him as the grey, twisted, brittle monstrosity which persists more andmore in troubling my sleep.

    The Curse of Yig

    In 1925 I went into Oklahoma looking for snake lore, and I came out with a fear of snakes thatwill last me the rest of my life. I admit it is foolish, since there are natural explanationsfor everything I saw and heard, but it masters me none the less. If the old story had been allthere was to it, I would not have been so badly shaken. My work as an American Indian ethnologisthas hardened me to all kinds of extravagant legendry, and I know that simple white people canbeat the redskins at their own game when it comes to fanciful inventions. But I can’t forgetwhat I saw with my own eyes at the insane asylum in Guthrie.

    I called at that asylum because a few of the oldest settlers told me I wouldfind something important there. Neither Indians nor white men would discuss the snake-god legendsI had come to trace. The oil-boom newcomers, of course, knew nothing of such matters, and thered men and old pioneers were plainly frightened when I spoke of them. Not more than six orseven people mentioned the asylum, and those who did were careful to talk in whispers. But thewhisperers said that Dr. McNeill could shew me a very terrible relic and tell me all I wantedto know. He could explain why Yig, the half-human father of serpents, is a shunned and fearedobject in central Oklahoma, and why old settlers shiver at the secret Indian orgies which makethe autumn days and nights hideous with the ceaseless beating of tom-toms in lonely places.

    It was with the scent of a hound on the trail that I went to Guthrie, for Ihad spent many years collecting data on the evolution of serpent-worship among the Indians.I had always felt, from well-defined undertones of legend and archaeology, that great Quetzalcoatl—benignsnake-god of the Mexicans—had had an older and darker prototype; and during recent monthsI had well-nigh proved it in a series of researches stretching from Guatemala to the Oklahomaplains. But everything was tantalising and incomplete, for above the border the cult of thesnake was hedged about by fear and furtiveness.

    Now it appeared that a new and copious source of data was about to dawn, andI sought the head of the asylum with an eagerness I did not try to cloak. Dr. McNeill was asmall, clean-shaven man of somewhat advanced years, and I saw at once from his speech and mannerthat he was a scholar of no mean attainments in many branches outside his profession. Graveand doubtful when I first made known my errand, his face grew thoughtful as he carefully scannedmy credentials and the letter of introduction which a kindly old ex-Indian agent had givenme.

    “So you’ve been studying the Yig legend, eh?” he reflected sententiously.“I know that many of our Oklahoma ethnologists have tried to connect it with Quetzalcoatl,but I don’t think any of them have traced the intermediate steps so well. You’ve doneremarkable work for a man as young as you seem to be, and you certainly deserve all the datawe can give.”

    “I don’t suppose old Major Moore or any of the others told you whatit is I have here. They don’t like to talk about it, and neither do I. It is very tragicand very horrible, but that is all. I refuse to consider it anything supernatural. There’sa story about it that I’ll tell you after you see it—a devilish sad story, but onethat I won’t call magic. It merely shews the potency that belief has over some people.I’ll admit there are times when I feel a shiver that’s more than physical, but indaylight I set all that down to nerves. I’m not a young fellow any more, alas!”

    “To come to the point, the thing I have is what you might call a victimof Yig’s curse—a physically living victim. We don’t let the bulk of the nursessee it, although most of them know it’s here. There are just two steady old chaps whomI let feed it and clean out its quarters—used to be three, but good old Stevens passedon a few years ago. I suppose I’ll have to break in a new group pretty soon; for the thingdoesn’t seem to age or change much, and we old boys can’t last forever. Maybe theethics of the near future will let us give it a merciful release, but it’s hard to tell.”

    “Did you see that single ground-glass basem*nt window over in the eastwing when you came up the drive? That’s where it is. I’ll take you there myself now.You needn’t make any comment. Just look through the moveable panel in the door and thankGod the light isn’t any stronger. Then I’ll tell you the story—or as much asI’ve been able to piece together.”

    We walked downstairs very quietly, and did not talk as we threaded the corridorsof the seemingly deserted basem*nt. Dr. McNeill unlocked a grey-painted steel door, but it wasonly a bulkhead leading to a further stretch of hallway. At length he paused before a door markedB 116, opened a small observation panel which he could use only by standing on tiptoe, and poundedseveral times upon the painted metal, as if to arouse the occupant, whatever it might be.

    A faint stench came from the aperture as the doctor unclosed it, and I fanciedhis pounding elicited a kind of low, hissing response. Finally he motioned me to replace himat the peep-hole, and I did so with a causeless and increasing tremor. The barred, ground-glasswindow, close to the earth outside, admitted only a feeble and uncertain pallor; and I had tolook into the malodorous den for several seconds before I could see what was crawling and wrigglingabout on the straw-covered floor, emitting every now and then a weak and vacuous hiss. Thenthe shadowed outlines began to take shape, and I perceived that the squirming entity bore someremote resemblance to a human form laid flat on its belly. I clutched at the door-handle forsupport as I tried to keep from fainting.

    The moving object was almost of human size, and entirely devoid of clothing.It was absolutely hairless, and its tawny-looking back seemed subtly squamous in the dim, ghoulishlight. Around the shoulders it was rather speckled and brownish, and the head was very curiouslyflat. As it looked up to hiss at me I saw that the beady little black eyes were damnably anthropoid,but I could not bear to study them long. They fastened themselves on me with a horrible persistence,so that I closed the panel gaspingly and left the creature to wriggle about unseen in its mattedstraw and spectral twilight. I must have reeled a bit, for I saw that the doctor was gentlyholding my arm as he guided me away. I was stuttering over and over again: “B-but for God’s sake, what is it?”

    Dr. McNeill told me the story in his private office as I sprawled oppositehim in an easy-chair. The gold and crimson of late afternoon changed to the violet of earlydusk, but still I sat awed and motionless. I resented every ring of the telephone and everywhir of the buzzer, and I could have cursed the nurses and internes whose knocks now and thensummoned the doctor briefly to the outer office. Night came, and I was glad my host switchedon all the lights. Scientist though I was, my zeal for research was half forgotten amidst suchbreathless ecstasies of fright as a small boy might feel when whispered witch-tales go the roundsof the chimney-corner.

    It seems that Yig, the snake-god of the central plains tribes—presumablythe primal source of the more southerly Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan—was an odd, half-anthropomorphicdevil of highly arbitrary and capricious nature. He was not wholly evil, and was usually quitewell-disposed toward those who gave proper respect to him and his children, the serpents; butin the autumn he became abnormally ravenous, and had to be driven away by means of suitablerites. That was why the tom-toms in the Pawnee, Wichita, and Caddo country pounded ceaselesslyweek in and week out in August, September, and October; and why the medicine-men made strangenoises with rattles and whistles curiously like those of the Aztecs and Mayas.

    Yig’s chief trait was a relentless devotion to his children—a devotionso great that the redskins almost feared to protect themselves from the venomous rattlesnakeswhich thronged the region. Frightful clandestine tales hinted of his vengeance upon mortalswho flouted him or wreaked harm upon his wriggling progeny; his chosen method being to turnhis victim, after suitable tortures, to a spotted snake.

    In the old days of the Indian Territory, the doctor went on, there was notquite so much secrecy about Yig. The plains tribes, less cautious than the desert nomads andPueblos, talked quite freely of their legends and autumn ceremonies with the first Indian agents,and let considerable of the lore spread out through the neighbouring regions of white settlement.The great fear came in the land-rush days of ’89, when some extraordinary incidents hadbeen rumoured, and the rumours sustained, by what seemed to be hideously tangible proofs. Indianssaid that the new white men did not know how to get on with Yig, and afterward the settlerscame to take that theory at face value. Now no old-timer in middle Oklahoma, white or red, couldbe induced to breathe a word about the snake-god except in vague hints. Yet after all, the doctoradded with almost needless emphasis, the only truly authenticated horror had been a thing ofpitiful tragedy rather than of bewitchment. It was all very material and cruel—even thatlast phase which had caused so much dispute.

    Dr. McNeill paused and cleared his throat before getting down to his specialstory, and I felt a tingling sensation as when a theatre curtain rises. The thing had begunwhen Walker Davis and his wife Audrey left Arkansas to settle in the newly opened public landsin the spring of 1889, and the end had come in the country of the Wichitas—north of theWichita River, in what is at present Caddo County. There is a small village called Binger therenow, and the railway goes through; but otherwise the place is less changed than other partsof Oklahoma. It is still a section of farms and ranches—quite productive in these days—sincethe great oil-fields do not come very close.

    Walker and Audrey had come from Franklin County in the Ozarks with a canvas-toppedwagon, two mules, an ancient and useless dog called “Wolf”, and all their householdgoods. They were typical hill-folk, youngish and perhaps a little more ambitious than most,and looked forward to a life of better returns for their hard work than they had had in Arkansas.Both were lean, raw-boned specimens; the man tall, sandy, and grey-eyed, and the woman shortand rather dark, with a black straightness of hair suggesting a slight Indian admixture.

    In general, there was very little of distinction about them, and but for onething their annals might not have differed from those of thousands of other pioneers who flockedinto the new country at that time. That thing was Walker’s almost epileptic fear of snakes,which some laid to prenatal causes, and some said came from a dark prophecy about his end withwhich an old Indian squaw had tried to scare him when he was small. Whatever the cause, theeffect was marked indeed; for despite his strong general courage the very mention of a snakewould cause him to grow faint and pale, while the sight of even a tiny specimen would producea shock sometimes bordering on a convulsion seizure.

    The Davises started out early in the year, in the hope of being on their newland for the spring ploughing. Travel was slow; for the roads were bad in Arkansas, while inthe Territory there were great stretches of rolling hills and red, sandy barrens without anyroads whatever. As the terrain grew flatter, the change from their native mountains depressedthem more, perhaps, than they realised; but they found the people at the Indian agencies veryaffable, while most of the settled Indians seemed friendly and civil. Now and then they encountereda fellow-pioneer, with whom crude pleasantries and expressions of amiable rivalry were generallyexchanged.

    Owing to the season, there were not many snakes in evidence, so Walker didnot suffer from his special temperamental weakness. In the earlier stages of the journey, too,there were no Indian snake-legends to trouble him; for the transplanted tribes from the southeastdo not share the wilder beliefs of their western neighbours. As fate would have it, it was awhite man at Okmulgee in the Creek country who gave the Davises the first hint of Yig beliefs;a hint which had a curiously fascinating effect on Walker, and caused him to ask questions veryfreely after that.

    Before long Walker’s fascination had developed into a bad case of fright.He took the most extraordinary precautions at each of the nightly camps, always clearing awaywhatever vegetation he found, and avoiding stony places whenever he could. Every clump of stuntedbushes and every cleft in the great, slab-like rocks seemed to him now to hide malevolent serpents,while every human figure not obviously part of a settlement or emigrant train seemed to hima potential snake-god till nearness had proved the contrary. Fortunately no troublesome encounterscame at this stage to shake his nerves still further.

    As they approached the Kickapoo country they found it harder and harder toavoid camping near rocks. Finally it was no longer possible, and poor Walker was reduced tothe puerile expedient of droning some of the rustic anti-snake charms he had learned in hisboyhood. Two or three times a snake was really glimpsed, and these sights did not help the suffererin his efforts to preserve composure.

    On the twenty-second evening of the journey a savage wind made it imperative,for the sake of the mules, to camp in as sheltered a spot as possible; and Audrey persuadedher husband to take advantage of a cliff which rose uncommonly high above the dried bed of aformer tributary of the Canadian River. He did not like the rocky cast of the place, but allowedhimself to be overruled this once; leading the animals sullenly toward the protecting slope,which the nature of the ground would not allow the wagon to approach.

    Audrey, examining the rocks near the wagon, meanwhile noticed a singular sniffingon the part of the feeble old dog. Seizing a rifle, she followed his lead, and presently thankedher stars that she had forestalled Walker in her discovery. For there, snugly nested in thegap between two boulders, was a sight it would have done him no good to see. Visible only asone convoluted expanse, but perhaps comprising as many as three or four separate units, wasa mass of lazy wriggling which could not be other than a brood of new-born rattlesnakes.

    Anxious to save Walker from a trying shock, Audrey did not hesitate to act,but took the gun firmly by the barrel and brought the butt down again and again upon the writhingobjects. Her own sense of loathing was great, but it did not amount to a real fear. Finallyshe saw that her task was done, and turned to cleanse the improvised bludgeon in the red sandand dry, dead grass near by. She must, she reflected, cover the nest up before Walker got backfrom tethering the mules. Old Wolf, tottering relic of mixed shepherd and coyote ancestry thathe was, had vanished, and she feared he had gone to fetch his master.

    Footsteps at that instant proved her fear well founded. A second more, andWalker had seen everything. Audrey made a move to catch him if he should faint, but he did nomore than sway. Then the look of pure fright on his bloodless face turned slowly to somethinglike mingled awe and anger, and he began to upbraid his wife in trembling tones.

    “Gawd’s sake, Aud, but why’d ye go for to do that? Hain’tye heerd all the things they’ve been tellin’ about this snake-devil Yig? Ye’dought to a told me, and we’d a moved on. Don’t ye know they’s a devil-god whatgets even if ye hurts his children? What for d’ye think the Injuns all dances and beatstheir drums in the fall about? This land’s under a curse, I tell ye—nigh every soulwe’ve a-talked to sence we come in’s said the same. Yig rules here, an’ he comesout every fall for to git his victims and turn ’em into snakes. Why, Aud, they won’tnone of them Injuns acrost the Canayjin kill a snake for love nor money!”

    “Gawd knows what ye done to yourself, gal, a-stompin’ out a hullbrood o’ Yig’s chillen. He’ll git ye, sure, sooner or later, unlessen I kin buya charm offen some o’ the Injun medicine-men. He’ll git ye, Aud, as sure’s they’sa Gawd in heaven—he’ll come outa the night and turn ye into a crawlin’ spottedsnake!”

    All the rest of the journey Walker kept up the frightened reproofs and prophecies.They crossed the Canadian near Newcastle, and soon afterward met with the first of the realplains Indians they had seen—a party of blanketed Wichitas, whose leader talked freelyunder the spell of the whiskey offered him, and taught poor Walker a long-winded protectivecharm against Yig in exchange for a quart bottle of the same inspiring fluid. By the end ofthe week the chosen site in the Wichita country was reached, and the Davises made haste to tracetheir boundaries and perform the spring ploughing before even beginning the construction ofa cabin.

    The region was flat, drearily windy, and sparse of natural vegetation, butpromised great fertility under cultivation. Occasional outcroppings of granite diversified asoil of decomposed red sandstone, and here and there a great flat rock would stretch along thesurface of the ground like a man-made floor. There seemed to be a very few snakes, or possibledens for them; so Audrey at last persuaded Walker to build the one-room cabin over a vast, smoothslab of exposed stone. With such a flooring and with a good-sized fireplace the wettest weathermight be defied—though it soon became evident that dampness was no salient quality of thedistrict. Logs were hauled in the wagon from the nearest belt of woods, many miles toward theWichita Mountains.

    Walker built his wide-chimneyed cabin and crude barn with the aid of some ofthe other settlers, though the nearest one was over a mile away. In turn, he helped his helpersat similar house-raisings, so that many ties of friendship sprang up between the new neighbours.There was no town worthy the name nearer than El Reno, on the railway thirty miles or more tothe northeast; and before many weeks had passed, the people of the section had become very cohesivedespite the wideness of their scattering. The Indians, a few of whom had begun to settle downon ranches, were for the most part harmless, though somewhat quarrelsome when fired by the liquidstimulation which found its way to them despite all government bans.

    Of all the neighbours the Davises found Joe and Sally Compton, who likewisehailed from Arkansas, the most helpful and congenial. Sally is still alive, known now as GrandmaCompton; and her son Clyde, then an infant in arms, has become one of the leading men of thestate. Sally and Audrey used to visit each other often, for their cabins were only two milesapart; and in the long spring and summer afternoons they exchanged many a tale of old Arkansasand many a rumour about the new country.

    Sally was very sympathetic about Walker’s weakness regarding snakes, butperhaps did more to aggravate than cure the parallel nervousness which Audrey was acquiringthrough his incessant praying and prophesying about the curse of Yig. She was uncommonly fullof gruesome snake stories, and produced a direfully strong impression with her acknowledgedmasterpiece—the tale of a man in Scott County who had been bitten by a whole horde of rattlersat once, and had swelled so monstrously from poison that his body had finally burst with a pop.Needless to say, Audrey did not repeat this anecdote to her husband, and she implored the Comptonsto beware of starting it on the rounds of the countryside. It is to Joe’s and Sally’scredit that they heeded this plea with the utmost fidelity.

    Walker did his corn-planting early, and in midsummer improved his time by harvestinga fair crop of the native grass of the region. With the help of Joe Compton he dug a well whichgave a moderate supply of very good water, though he planned to sink an artesian later on. Hedid not run into many serious snake scares, and made his land as inhospitable as possible forwriggling visitors. Every now and then he rode over to the cluster of thatched, conical hutswhich formed the main village of the Wichitas, and talked long with the old men and shamansabout the snake-god and how to nullify his wrath. Charms were always ready in exchange for whiskey,but much of the information he got was far from reassuring.

    Yig was a great god. He was bad medicine. He did not forget things. In theautumn his children were hungry and wild, and Yig was hungry and wild, too. All the tribes mademedicine against Yig when the corn harvest came. They gave him some corn, and danced in properregalia to the sound of whistle, rattle, and drum. They kept the drums pounding to drive Yigaway, and called down the aid of Tiráwa, whose children men are, even as the snakes areYig’s children. It was bad that the squaw of Davis killed the children of Yig. Let Davissay the charms many times when the corn harvest comes. Yig is Yig. Yig is a great god.

    By the time the corn harvest did come, Walker had succeeded in getting hiswife into a deplorably jumpy state. His prayers and borrowed incantations came to be a nuisance;and when the autumn rites of the Indians began, there was always a distant wind-borne poundingof tom-toms to lend an added background of the sinister. It was maddening to have the muffledclatter always stealing over the wide red plains. Why would it never stop? Day and night, weekon week, it was always going in exhaustless relays, as persistently as the red dusty winds thatcarried it. Audrey loathed it more than her husband did, for he saw in it a compensating elementof protection. It was with this sense of a mighty, intangible bulwark against evil that he gotin his corn crop and prepared cabin and stable for the coming winter.

    The autumn was abnormally warm, and except for their primitive cookery theDavises found scant use for the stone fireplace Walker had built with such care. Something inthe unnaturalness of the hot dust-clouds preyed on the nerves of all the settlers, but mostof all on Audrey’s and Walker’s. The notions of a hovering snake-curse and the weird,endless rhythm of the distant Indian drums formed a bad combination which any added elementof the bizarre went far to render utterly unendurable.

    Notwithstanding this strain, several festive gatherings were held at one oranother of the cabins after the crops were reaped; keeping naively alive in modernity thosecurious rites of the harvest-home which are as old as human agriculture itself. Lafayette Smith,who came from southern Missouri and had a cabin about three miles east of Walker’s, wasa very passable fiddler; and his tunes did much to make the celebrants forget the monotonousbeating of the distant tom-toms. Then Hallowe’en drew near, and the settlers planned anotherfrolic—this time, had they but known it, of a lineage older than even agriculture; thedread Witch-Sabbath of the primal pre-Aryans, kept alive through ages in the midnight blacknessof secret woods, and still hinting at vague terrors under its latter-day mask of comedy andlightness. Hallowe’en was to fall on a Thursday, and the neighbours agreed to gather fortheir first revel at the Davis cabin.

    It was on that thirty-first of October that the warm spell broke. The morningwas grey and leaden, and by noon the incessant winds had changed from searingness to rawness.People shivered all the more because they were not prepared for the chill, and Walker Davis’old dog Wolf dragged himself wearily indoors to a place beside the hearth. But the distant drumsstill thumped on, nor were the white citizenry less inclined to pursue their chosen rites. Asearly as four in the afternoon the wagons began to arrive at Walker’s cabin; and in theevening, after a memorable barbecue, Lafayette Smith’s fiddle inspired a very fair-sizedcompany to great feats of saltatory grotesqueness in the one good-sized but crowded room. Theyounger folk indulged in the amiable inanities proper to the season, and now and then old Wolfwould howl with doleful and spine-tickling ominousness at some especially spectral strain fromLafayette’s squeaky violin—a device he had never heard before. Mostly, though, thisbattered veteran slept through the merriment; for he was past the age of active interests andlived largely in his dreams. Tom and Jennie Rigby had brought their collie Zeke along, but thecanines did not fraternise. Zeke seemed strangely uneasy over something, and nosed around curiouslyall the evening.

    Audrey and Walker made a fine couple on the floor, and Grandma Compton stilllikes to recall her impression of their dancing that night. Their worries seemed forgotten forthe nonce, and Walker was shaved and trimmed into a surprising degree of spruceness. By teno’clock all hands were healthily tired, and the guests began to depart family by familywith many handshakings and bluff assurances of what a fine time everybody had had. Tom and Jenniethought Zeke’s eerie howls as he followed them to their wagon were marks of regret at havingto go home; though Audrey said it must be the far-away tom-toms which annoyed him, for the distantthumping was surely ghastly enough after the merriment within.

    The night was bitterly cold, and for the first time Walker put a great login the fireplace and banked it with ashes to keep it smouldering till morning. Old Wolf draggedhimself within the ruddy glow and lapsed into his customary coma. Audrey and Walker, too tiredto think of charms or curses, tumbled into the rough pine bed and were asleep before the cheapalarm-clock on the mantel had ticked out three minutes. And from far away, the rhythmic poundingof those hellish tom-toms still pulsed on the chill night-wind.

    Dr. McNeill paused here and removed his glasses, as if a blurring of the objectiveworld might make the reminiscent vision clearer.

    “You’ll soon appreciate,” he said, “that I had a greatdeal of difficulty in piecing out all that happened after the guests left. There were times,though—at first—when I was able to make a try at it.” After a moment of silencehe went on with the tale.

    Audrey had terrible dreams of Yig, who appeared to her in the guise of Satanas depicted in cheap engravings she had seen. It was, indeed, from an absolute ecstasy of nightmarethat she started suddenly awake to find Walker already conscious and sitting up in bed. He seemedto be listening intently to something, and silenced her with a whisper when she began to askwhat had roused him.

    “Hark, Aud!” he breathed. “Don’t ye hear somethin’a-singin’ and buzzin’ and rustlin’? D’ye reckon it’s the fall crickets?”

    Certainly, there was distinctly audible within the cabin such a sound as hehad described. Audrey tried to analyse it, and was impressed with some element at once horribleand familiar, which hovered just outside the rim of her memory. And beyond it all, waking ahideous thought, the monotonous beating of the distant tom-toms came incessantly across theblack plains on which a cloudy half-moon had set.

    “Walker—s’pose it’s—the—the—curse o’ Yig? “

    She could feel him tremble.

    “No, gal, I don’t reckon he comes that away. He’s shapen likea man, except ye look at him clost. That’s what Chief Grey Eagle says. This here’ssome varmints come in outen the cold—not crickets, I calc’late, but summat like ’em.I’d orter git up and stomp ’em out afore they make much headway or git at the cupboard.”

    He rose, felt for the lantern that hung within easy reach, and rattled thetin match-box nailed to the wall beside it. Audrey sat up in bed and watched the flare of thematch grow into the steady glow of the lantern. Then, as their eyes began to take in the wholeof the room, the crude rafters shook with the frenzy of their simultaneous shriek. For the flat,rocky floor, revealed in the new-born illumination, was one seething, brown-speckled mass ofwriggling rattlesnakes, slithering toward the fire, and even now turning their loathsome headsto menace the fright-blasted lantern-bearer.

    It was only for an instant that Audrey saw the things. The reptiles were ofevery size, of uncountable numbers, and apparently of several varieties; and even as she looked,two or three of them reared their heads as if to strike at Walker. She did not faint—itwas Walker’s crash to the floor that extinguished the lantern and plunged her into blackness.He had not screamed a second time—fright had paralysed him, and he fell as if shot bya silent arrow from no mortal’s bow. To Audrey the entire world seemed to whirl about fantastically,mingling with the nightmare from which she had started.

    Voluntary motion of any sort was impossible, for will and the sense of realityhad left her. She fell back inertly on her pillow, hoping that she would wake soon. No actualsense of what had happened penetrated her mind for some time. Then, little by little, the suspicionthat she was really awake began to dawn on her; and she was convulsed with a mounting blendof panic and grief which made her long to shriek out despite the inhibiting spell which kepther mute.

    Walker was gone, and she had not been able to help him. He had died of snakes,just as the old witch-woman had predicted when he was a little boy. Poor Wolf had not been ableto help, either—probably he had not even awaked from his senile stupor. And now the crawlingthings must be coming for her, writhing closer and closer every moment in the dark, perhapseven now twining slipperily about the bedposts and oozing up over the coarse woollen blankets.Unconsciously she crept under the clothes and trembled.

    It must be the curse of Yig. He had sent his monstrous children on All-Hallows’Night, and they had taken Walker first. Why was that—wasn’t he innocent enough? Whynot come straight for her—hadn’t she killed those little rattlers alone? Then shethought of the curse’s form as told by the Indians. She wouldn’t be killed—justturned to a spotted snake. Ugh! So she would be like those things she had glimpsed on the floor—thosethings which Yig had sent to get her and enroll her among their number! She tried to mumblea charm that Walker had taught her, but found she could not utter a single sound.

    The noisy ticking of the alarm-clock sounded above the maddening beat of thedistant tom-toms. The snakes were taking a long time—did they mean to delay on purposeto play on her nerves? Every now and then she thought she felt a steady, insidious pressureon the bedclothes, but each time it turned out to be only the automatic twitchings of her overwroughtnerves. The clock ticked on in the dark, and a change came slowly over her thoughts.

    Those snakes couldn’t have taken so long! They couldn’t beYig’s messengers after all, but just natural rattlers that were nested below the rock andhad been drawn there by the fire. They weren’t coming for her, perhaps—perhaps theyhad sated themselves on poor Walker. Where were they now? Gone? Coiled by the fire? Still crawlingover the prone corpse of their victim? The clock ticked, and the distant drums throbbed on.

    At the thought of her husband’s body lying there in the pitch blacknessa thrill of purely physical horror passed over Audrey. That story of Sally Compton’s aboutthe man back in Scott County! He, too, had been bitten by a whole bunch of rattlesnakes, andwhat had happened to him? The poison had rotted the flesh and swelled the whole corpse, andin the end the bloated thing had burst horribly—burst horribly with a detestablepopping noise. Was that what was happening to Walker down there on the rock floor? Instinctivelyshe felt she had begun to listen for something too terrible even to name to herself.

    The clock ticked on, keeping a kind of mocking, sardonic time with the far-offdrumming that the night-wind brought. She wished it were a striking clock, so that she couldknow how long this eldritch vigil must last. She cursed the toughness of fibre that kept herfrom fainting, and wondered what sort of relief the dawn could bring, after all. Probably neighbourswould pass—no doubt somebody would call—would they find her still sane? Was she stillsane now?

    Morbidly listening, Audrey all at once became aware of something which shehad to verify with every effort of her will before she could believe it; and which, once verified,she did not know whether to welcome or dread. The distant beating of the Indian tom-tomshad ceased. They had always maddened her—but had not Walker regarded them as a bulwarkagainst nameless evil from outside the universe? What were some of those things he had repeatedto her in whispers after talking with Grey Eagle and the Wichita medicine-men?

    She did not relish this new and sudden silence, after all! There was somethingsinister about it. The loud-ticking clock seemed abnormal in its new loneliness. Capable atlast of conscious motion, she shook the covers from her face and looked into the darkness towardthe window. It must have cleared after the moon set, for she saw the square aperture distinctlyagainst the background of stars.

    Then without warning came that shocking, unutterable sound—ugh!—thatdull, putrid pop of cleft skin and escaping poison in the dark. God!—Sally’sstory—that obscene stench, and this gnawing, clawing silence! It was too much. The bondsof muteness snapped, and the black night waxed reverberant with Audrey’s screams of stark,unbridled frenzy.

    Consciousness did not pass away with the shock. How merciful if only it had!Amidst the echoes of her shrieking Audrey still saw the star-sprinkled square of window ahead,and heard the doom-boding ticking of that frightful clock. Did she hear another sound? Was thatsquare window still a perfect square? She was in no condition to weigh the evidence of her sensesor distinguish between fact and hallucination.

    No—that window was not a perfect square. Something had encroached onthe lower edge. Nor was the ticking of the clock the only sound in the room. There was,beyond dispute, a heavy breathing neither her own nor poor Wolf’s. Wolf slept very silently,and his wakeful wheezing was unmistakable. Then Audrey saw against the stars the black, daemoniacsilhouette of something anthropoid—the undulant bulk of a gigantic head and shoulders fumblingslowly toward her.

    “Y’aaaah! Y’aaaah! Go away! Go away! Go away, snake-devil! Go’way, Yig! I didn’t mean to kill ’em—I was feared he’d be scairt of’em. Don’t, Yig, don’t! I didn’t go for to hurt yore chillen—don’tcome nigh me—don’t change me into no spotted snake!”

    But the half-formless head and shoulders only lurched onward toward the bed,very silently.

    Everything snapped at once inside Audrey’s head, and in a second she hadturned from a cowering child to a raging madwoman. She knew where the axe was—hung againstthe wall on those pegs near the lantern. It was within easy reach, and she could find it inthe dark. Before she was conscious of anything further it was in her hands, and she was creepingtoward the foot of the bed—toward the monstrous head and shoulders that every moment gropedtheir way nearer. Had there been any light, the look on her face would not have been pleasantto see.

    “Take that, you! And that, and that, and that!”

    She was laughing shrilly now, and her cackles mounted higher as she saw thatthe starlight beyond the window was yielding to the dim prophetic pallor of coming dawn.

    Dr. McNeill wiped the perspiration from his forehead and put on his glassesagain. I waited for him to resume, and as he kept silent I spoke softly.

    “She lived? She was found? Was it ever explained?”

    The doctor cleared his throat.

    “Yes—she lived, in a way. And it was explained. I told you therewas no bewitchment—only cruel, pitiful, material horror.”

    It was Sally Compton who had made the discovery. She had ridden over to theDavis cabin the next afternoon to talk over the party with Audrey, and had seen no smoke fromthe chimney. That was queer. It had turned very warm again, yet Audrey was usually cooking somethingat that hour. The mules were making hungry-sounding noises in the barn, and there was no signof old Wolf sunning himself in the accustomed spot by the door.

    Altogether, Sally did not like the look of the place, so was very timid andhesitant as she dismounted and knocked. She got no answer but waited some time before tryingthe crude door of split logs. The lock, it appeared, was unfastened; and she slowly pushed herway in. Then, perceiving what was there, she reeled back, gasped, and clung to the jamb to preserveher balance.

    A terrible odour had welled out as she opened the door, but that was not whathad stunned her. It was what she had seen. For within that shadowy cabin monstrous things hadhappened and three shocking objects remained on the floor to awe and baffle the beholder.

    Near the burned-out fireplace was the great dog—purple decay on the skinleft bare by mange and old age, and the whole carcass burst by the puffing effect of rattlesnakepoison. It must have been bitten by a veritable legion of the reptiles.

    To the right of the door was the axe-hacked remnant of what had been a man—cladin a nightshirt, and with the shattered bulk of a lantern clenched in one hand. He was totallyfree from any sign of snake-bite. Near him lay the ensanguined axe, carelessly discarded.

    And wriggling flat on the floor was a loathsome, vacant-eyed thing that hadbeen a woman, but was now only a mute mad caricature. All that this thing could do was to hiss,and hiss, and hiss.

    Both the doctor and I were brushing cold drops from our foreheads by this time.He poured something from a flask on his desk, took a nip, and handed another glass to me. Icould only suggest tremulously and stupidly:

    “So Walker had only fainted that first time—the screams roused him,and the axe did the rest?”

    “Yes.” Dr. McNeill’s voice was low. “But he met his deathfrom snakes just the same. It was his fear working in two ways—it made him faint, and itmade him fill his wife with the wild stories that caused her to strike out when she thoughtshe saw the snake-devil.”

    I thought for a moment.

    “And Audrey—wasn’t it queer how the curse of Yig seemed to workitself out on her? I suppose the impression of hissing snakes had been fairly ground into her.”

    “Yes. There were lucid spells at first, but they got to be fewer and fewer.Her hair came white at the roots as it grew, and later began to fall out. The skin grew blotchy,and when she died— “

    I interrupted with a start.

    “Died? Then what was that—that thing downstairs?”

    McNeill spoke gravely.

    “That is what was born to her three-quarters of a year afterward.There were three more of them—two were even worse—but this is the only one that lived.”

    Part I.

    When a traveller in north central Massachusetts takes the wrong fork at the junction of theAylesbury pike just beyond Dean’s Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country.The ground gets higher, and the brier-bordered stone walls press closer and closer against theruts of the dusty, curving road. The trees of the frequent forest belts seem too large, andthe wild weeds, brambles, and grasses attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions.At the same time the planted fields appear singularly few and barren; while the sparsely scatteredhouses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation. Without knowingwhy, one hesitates to ask directions from the gnarled, solitary figures spied now and then oncrumbling doorsteps or on the sloping, rock-strown meadows. Those figures are so silent andfurtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be betterto have nothing to do. When a rise in the road brings the mountains in view above the deep woods,the feeling of strange uneasiness is increased. The summits are too rounded and symmetricalto give a sense of comfort and naturalness, and sometimes the sky silhouettes with especialclearness the queer circles of tall stone pillars with which most of them are crowned.

    Gorges and ravines of problematical depth intersect the way, and the crudewooden bridges always seem of dubious safety. When the road dips again there are stretches ofmarshland that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when unseen whippoorwillschatter and the fireflies come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistentrhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. The thin, shining line of the Miskatonic’s upperreaches has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hillsamong which it rises.

    As the hills draw nearer, one heeds their wooded sides more than their stone-crownedtops. Those sides loom up so darkly and precipitously that one wishes they would keep theirdistance, but there is no road by which to escape them. Across a covered bridge one sees a smallvillage huddled between the stream and the vertical slope of Round Mountain, and wonders atthe cluster of rotting gambrel roofs bespeaking an earlier architectural period than that ofthe neighbouring region. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the housesare deserted and falling to ruin, and that the broken-steepled church now harbours the one slovenlymercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous tunnel of the bridge,yet there is no way to avoid it. Once across, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint,malign odour about the village street, as of the massed mould and decay of centuries. It isalways a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the base ofthe hills and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the Aylesbury pike. Afterwardone sometimes learns that one has been through Dunwich.

    Outsiders visit Dunwich as seldom as possible, and since a certain season ofhorror all the signboards pointing toward it have been taken down. The scenery, judged by anyordinary aesthetic canon, is more than commonly beautiful; yet there is no influx of artistsor summer tourists. Two centuries ago, when talk of witch-blood, Satan-worship, and strangeforest presences was not laughed at, it was the custom to give reasons for avoiding the locality.In our sensible age—since the Dunwich horror of 1928 was hushed up by those who had thetown’s and the world’s welfare at heart—people shun it without knowing exactlywhy. Perhaps one reason—though it cannot apply to uninformed strangers—is that thenatives are now repellently decadent, having gone far along that path of retrogression so commonin many New England backwaters. They have come to form a race by themselves, with the well-definedmental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligenceis woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests,and deeds of almost unnamable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the twoor three armigerous families which came from Salem in 1692, have kept somewhat above the generallevel of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only theirnames remain as a key to the origin they disgrace. Some of the Whateleys and Bishops still sendtheir eldest sons to Harvard and Miskatonic, though those sons seldom return to the moulderinggambrel roofs under which they and their ancestors were born.

    No one, even those who have the facts concerning the recent horror, can sayjust what is the matter with Dunwich; though old legends speak of unhallowed rites and conclavesof the Indians, amidst which they called forbidden shapes of shadow out of the great roundedhills, and made wild orgiastic prayers that were answered by loud crackings and rumblings fromthe ground below. In 1747 the Reverend Abijah Hoadley, newly come to the Congregational Churchat Dunwich Village, preached a memorable sermon on the close presence of Satan and his imps;in which he said:

    “It must be allow’d, that these Blasphemies of an infernall Trainof Daemons are Matters of too common Knowledge to be deny’d; the cursed Voices of Azazel and Buzrael, of Beelzebub and Belial, being heard now fromunder Ground by above a Score of credible Witnesses now living. I my self did not more than a Fortnight agocatch a very plain Discourse of evill Powers in the Hill behind my House; wherein there werea Rattling and Rolling, Groaning, Screeching, and Hissing, such as no Things of this Earth cou’draise up, and which must needs have come from those Caves that only black Magick can discover,and only the Divell unlock.”

    Mr. Hoadley disappeared soon after delivering this sermon; but the text, printedin Springfield, is still extant. Noises in the hills continued to be reported from year to year,and still form a puzzle to geologists and physiographers.

    Other traditions tell of foul odours near the hill-crowning circles of stonepillars, and of rushing airy presences to be heard faintly at certain hours from stated pointsat the bottom of the great ravines; while still others try to explain the Devil’s HopYard—a bleak, blasted hillside where no tree, shrub, or grass-blade will grow. Then too,the natives are mortally afraid of the numerous whippoorwills which grow vocal on warm nights.It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and thatthey time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer’s struggling breath. If they cancatch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body, they instantly flutter away chittering in daemoniaclaughter; but if they fail, they subside gradually into a disappointed silence.

    These tales, of course, are obsolete and ridiculous; because they come downfrom very old times. Dunwich is indeed ridiculously old—older by far than any of the communitieswithin thirty miles of it. South of the village one may still spy the cellar walls and chimneyof the ancient Bishop house, which was built before 1700; whilst the ruins of the mill at thefalls, built in 1806, form the most modern piece of architecture to be seen. Industry did notflourish here, and the nineteenth-century factory movement proved short-lived. Oldest of allare the great rings of rough-hewn stone columns on the hill-tops, but these are more generallyattributed to the Indians than to the settlers. Deposits of skulls and bones, found within thesecircles and around the sizeable table-like rock on Sentinel Hill, sustain the popular beliefthat such spots were once the burial-places of the Pocumtucks; even though many ethnologists,disregarding the absurd improbability of such a theory, persist in believing the remains Caucasian.

    Part II.

    It was in the township of Dunwich, in a large and partly inhabited farmhouse set against a hillsidefour miles from the village and a mile and a half from any other dwelling, that Wilbur Whateleywas born at 5 A.M. on Sunday, the second of February, 1913. This date was recalled because itwas Candlemas, which people in Dunwich curiously observe under another name; and because thenoises in the hills had sounded, and all the dogs of the countryside had barked persistently,throughout the night before. Less worthy of notice was the fact that the mother was one of thedecadent Whateleys, a somewhat deformed, unattractive albino woman of thirty-five, living withan aged and half-insane father about whom the most frightful tales of wizardry had been whisperedin his youth. Lavinia Whateley had no known husband, but according to the custom of the regionmade no attempt to disavow the child; concerning the other side of whose ancestry the countryfolk might—and did—speculate as widely as they chose. On the contrary, she seemedstrangely proud of the dark, goatish-looking infant who formed such a contrast to her own sicklyand pink-eyed albinism, and was heard to mutter many curious prophecies about its unusual powersand tremendous future.

    Lavinia was one who would be apt to mutter such things, for she was a lonecreature given to wandering amidst thunderstorms in the hills and trying to read the great odorousbooks which her father had inherited through two centuries of Whateleys, and which were fastfalling to pieces with age and worm-holes. She had never been to school, but was filled withdisjointed scraps of ancient lore that Old Whateley had taught her. The remote farmhouse hadalways been feared because of Old Whateley’s reputation for black magic, and the unexplaineddeath by violence of Mrs. Whateley when Lavinia was twelve years old had not helped to makethe place popular. Isolated among strange influences, Lavinia was fond of wild and grandioseday-dreams and singular occupations; nor was her leisure much taken up by household cares ina home from which all standards of order and cleanliness had long since disappeared.

    There was a hideous screaming which echoed above even the hill noises and thedogs’ barking on the night Wilbur was born, but no known doctor or midwife presided athis coming. Neighbours knew nothing of him till a week afterward, when Old Whateley drove hissleigh through the snow into Dunwich Village and discoursed incoherently to the group of loungersat Osborn’s general store. There seemed to be a change in the old man—an added elementof furtiveness in the clouded brain which subtly transformed him from an object to a subjectof fear—though he was not one to be perturbed by any common family event. Amidst it allhe shewed some trace of the pride later noticed in his daughter, and what he said of the child’spaternity was remembered by many of his hearers years afterward.

    “I dun’t keer what folks think—ef Lavinny’s boy lookedlike his pa, he wouldn’t look like nothin’ ye expeck. Ye needn’t think theonly folks is the folks hereabaouts. Lavinny’s read some, an’ has seed some thingsthe most o’ ye only tell abaout. I calc’late her man is as good a husban’as ye kin find this side of Aylesbury; an’ ef ye knowed as much abaout the hills as Idew, ye wouldn’t ast no better church weddin’ nor her’n. Let me tell ye suthin’— someday yew folks’ll hear a child o’ Lavinny’s a-callin’ its father’sname on the top o’ Sentinel Hill! “

    The only persons who saw Wilbur during the first month of his life were oldZechariah Whateley, of the undecayed Whateleys, and Earl Sawyer’s common-law wife, MamieBishop. Mamie’s visit was frankly one of curiosity, and her subsequent tales did justiceto her observations; but Zechariah came to lead a pair of Alderney cows which Old Whateley hadbought of his son Curtis. This marked the beginning of a course of cattle-buying on the partof small Wilbur’s family which ended only in 1928, when the Dunwich horror came and went;yet at no time did the ramshackle Whateley barn seem overcrowded with livestock. There camea period when people were curious enough to steal up and count the herd that grazed precariouslyon the steep hillside above the old farmhouse, and they could never find more than ten or twelveanaemic, bloodless-looking specimens. Evidently some blight or distemper, perhaps sprung fromthe unwholesome pasturage or the diseased fungi and timbers of the filthy barn, caused a heavymortality amongst the Whateley animals. Odd wounds or sores, having something of the aspectof incisions, seemed to afflict the visible cattle; and once or twice during the earlier monthscertain callers fancied they could discern similar sores about the throats of the grey, unshavenold man and his slatternly, crinkly-haired albino daughter.

    In the spring after Wilbur’s birth Lavinia resumed her customary ramblesin the hills, bearing in her misproportioned arms the swarthy child. Public interest in theWhateleys subsided after most of the country folk had seen the baby, and no one bothered tocomment on the swift development which that newcomer seemed every day to exhibit. Wilbur’sgrowth was indeed phenomenal, for within three months of his birth he had attained a size andmuscular power not usually found in infants under a full year of age. His motions and even hisvocal sounds shewed a restraint and deliberateness highly peculiar in an infant, and no onewas really unprepared when, at seven months, he began to walk unassisted, with falterings whichanother month was sufficient to remove.

    It was somewhat after this time—on Hallowe’en—that a greatblaze was seen at midnight on the top of Sentinel Hill where the old table-like stone standsamidst its tumulus of ancient bones. Considerable talk was started when Silas Bishop—ofthe undecayed Bishops—mentioned having seen the boy running sturdily up that hill aheadof his mother about an hour before the blaze was remarked. Silas was rounding up a stray heifer,but he nearly forgot his mission when he fleetingly spied the two figures in the dim light ofhis lantern. They darted almost noiselessly through the underbrush, and the astonished watcherseemed to think they were entirely unclothed. Afterward he could not be sure about the boy,who may have had some kind of a fringed belt and a pair of dark trunks or trousers on. Wilburwas never subsequently seen alive and conscious without complete and tightly buttoned attire,the disarrangement or threatened disarrangement of which always seemed to fill him with angerand alarm. His contrast with his squalid mother and grandfather in this respect was thoughtvery notable until the horror of 1928 suggested the most valid of reasons.

    The next January gossips were mildly interested in the fact that “Lavinny’sblack brat “ had commenced to talk, and at the age of only eleven months. His speech wassomewhat remarkable both because of its difference from the ordinary accents of the region,and because it displayed a freedom from infantile lisping of which many children of three orfour might well be proud. The boy was not talkative, yet when he spoke he seemed to reflectsome elusive element wholly unpossessed by Dunwich and its denizens. The strangeness did notreside in what he said, or even in the simple idioms he used; but seemed vaguely linked withhis intonation or with the internal organs that produced the spoken sounds. His facial aspect,too, was remarkable for its maturity; for though he shared his mother’s and grandfather’schinlessness, his firm and precociously shaped nose united with the expression of his large,dark, almost Latin eyes to give him an air of quasi-adulthood and well-nigh preternatural intelligence.He was, however, exceedingly ugly despite his appearance of brilliancy; there being somethingalmost goatish or animalistic about his thick lips, large-pored, yellowish skin, coarse crinklyhair, and oddly elongated ears. He was soon disliked even more decidedly than his mother andgrandsire, and all conjectures about him were spiced with references to the bygone magic ofOld Whateley, and how the hills once shook when he shrieked the dreadful name of Yog-Sothothin the midst of a circle of stones with a great book open in his arms before him. Dogs abhorredthe boy, and he was always obliged to take various defensive measures against their barkingmenace.

    Part III.

    Meanwhile Old Whateley continued to buy cattle without measurably increasing the size of hisherd. He also cut timber and began to repair the unused parts of his house—a spacious,peaked-roofed affair whose rear end was buried entirely in the rocky hillside, and whose threeleast-ruined ground-floor rooms had always been sufficient for himself and his daughter. Theremust have been prodigious reserves of strength in the old man to enable him to accomplish somuch hard labour; and though he still babbled dementedly at times, his carpentry seemed to shewthe effects of sound calculation. It had already begun as soon as Wilbur was born, when oneof the many tool-sheds had been put suddenly in order, clapboarded, and fitted with a stoutfresh lock. Now, in restoring the abandoned upper story of the house, he was a no less thoroughcraftsman. His mania shewed itself only in his tight boarding-up of all the windows in the reclaimedsection—though many declared that it was a crazy thing to bother with the reclamationat all. Less inexplicable was his fitting up of another downstairs room for his new grandson—aroom which several callers saw, though no one was ever admitted to the closely boarded upperstory. This chamber he lined with tall, firm shelving; along which he began gradually to arrange,in apparently careful order, all the rotting ancient books and parts of books which during hisown day had been heaped promiscuously in odd corners of the various rooms.

    “I made some use of ’em, “ he would say as he tried to menda torn black-letter page with paste prepared on the rusty kitchen stove, “but the boy’sfitten to make better use of ‘em. He’d orter hev ‘em as well sot as he kin,for they’re goin’ to be all of his larnin’. “

    When Wilbur was a year and seven months old—in September of 1914—hissize and accomplishments were almost alarming. He had grown as large as a child of four, andwas a fluent and incredibly intelligent talker. He ran freely about the fields and hills, andaccompanied his mother on all her wanderings. At home he would pore diligently over the queerpictures and charts in his grandfather’s books, while Old Whateley would instruct andcatechise him through long, hushed afternoons. By this time the restoration of the house wasfinished, and those who watched it wondered why one of the upper windows had been made intoa solid plank door. It was a window in the rear of the east gable end, close against the hill;and no one could imagine why a cleated wooden runway was built up to it from the ground. Aboutthe period of this work’s completion people noticed that the old tool-house, tightly lockedand windowlessly clapboarded since Wilbur’s birth, had been abandoned again. The doorswung listlessly open, and when Earl Sawyer once stepped within after a cattle-selling callon Old Whateley he was quite discomposed by the singular odour he encountered—such a stench,he averred, as he had never before smelt in all his life except near the Indian circles on thehills, and which could not come from anything sane or of this earth. But then, the homes andsheds of Dunwich folk have never been remarkable for olfactory immaculateness.

    The following months were void of visible events, save that everyone sworeto a slow but steady increase in the mysterious hill noises. On May-Eve of 1915 there were tremorswhich even the Aylesbury people felt, whilst the following Hallowe’en produced an undergroundrumbling queerly synchronised with bursts of flame— “them witch Whateleys’doin’s “—from the summit of Sentinel Hill. Wilbur was growing up uncannily,so that he looked like a boy of ten as he entered his fourth year. He read avidly by himselfnow; but talked much less than formerly. A settled taciturnity was absorbing him, and for thefirst time people began to speak specifically of the dawning look of evil in his goatish face.He would sometimes mutter an unfamiliar jargon, and chant in bizarre rhythms which chilled thelistener with a sense of unexplainable terror. The aversion displayed toward him by dogs hadnow become a matter of wide remark, and he was obliged to carry a pistol in order to traversethe countryside in safety. His occasional use of the weapon did not enhance his popularity amongstthe owners of canine guardians.

    The few callers at the house would often find Lavinia alone on the ground floor,while odd cries and footsteps resounded in the boarded-up second story. She would never tellwhat her father and the boy were doing up there, though once she turned pale and displayed anabnormal degree of fear when a jocose fish-peddler tried the locked door leading to the stairway.That peddler told the store loungers at Dunwich Village that he thought he heard a horse stampingon that floor above. The loungers reflected, thinking of the door and runway, and of the cattlethat so swiftly disappeared. Then they shuddered as they recalled tales of Old Whateley’syouth, and of the strange things that are called out of the earth when a bullock is sacrificedat the proper time to certain heathen gods. It had for some time been noticed that dogs hadbegun to hate and fear the whole Whateley place as violently as they hated and feared youngWilbur personally.

    In 1917 the war came, and Squire Sawyer Whateley, as chairman of the localdraft board, had hard work finding a quota of young Dunwich men fit even to be sent to a developmentcamp. The government, alarmed at such signs of wholesale regional decadence, sent several officersand medical experts to investigate; conducting a survey which New England newspaper readersmay still recall. It was the publicity attending this investigation which set reporters on thetrack of the Whateleys, and caused the Boston Globe and Arkham Advertiser to printflamboyant Sunday stories of young Wilbur’s precociousness, Old Whateley’s blackmagic, the shelves of strange books, the sealed second story of the ancient farmhouse, and theweirdness of the whole region and its hill noises. Wilbur was four and a half then, and lookedlike a lad of fifteen. His lips and cheeks were fuzzy with a coarse dark down, and his voicehad begun to break.

    Earl Sawyer went out to the Whateley place with both sets of reporters andcamera men, and called their attention to the queer stench which now seemed to trickle downfrom the sealed upper spaces. It was, he said, exactly like a smell he had found in the tool-shedabandoned when the house was finally repaired; and like the faint odours which he sometimesthought he caught near the stone circles on the mountains. Dunwich folk read the stories whenthey appeared, and grinned over the obvious mistakes. They wondered, too, why the writers madeso much of the fact that Old Whateley always paid for his cattle in gold pieces of extremelyancient date. The Whateleys had received their visitors with ill-concealed distaste, thoughthey did not dare court further publicity by a violent resistance or refusal to talk.

    Part IV.

    For a decade the annals of the Whateleys sink indistinguishably into the general life of a morbidcommunity used to their queer ways and hardened to their May-Eve and All-Hallows orgies. Twicea year they would light fires on the top of Sentinel Hill, at which times the mountain rumblingswould recur with greater and greater violence; while at all seasons there were strange and portentousdoings at the lonely farmhouse. In the course of time callers professed to hear sounds in thesealed upper story even when all the family were downstairs, and they wondered how swiftly orhow lingeringly a cow or bullock was usually sacrificed. There was talk of a complaint to theSociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; but nothing ever came of it, since Dunwichfolk are never anxious to call the outside world’s attention to themselves.

    About 1923, when Wilbur was a boy of ten whose mind, voice, stature, and beardedface gave all the impressions of maturity, a second great siege of carpentry went on at theold house. It was all inside the sealed upper part, and from bits of discarded lumber peopleconcluded that the youth and his grandfather had knocked out all the partitions and even removedthe attic floor, leaving only one vast open void between the ground story and the peaked roof.They had torn down the great central chimney, too, and fitted the rusty range with a flimsyoutside tin stovepipe.

    In the spring after this event Old Whateley noticed the growing number of whippoorwillsthat would come out of Cold Spring Glen to chirp under his window at night. He seemed to regardthe circ*mstance as one of great significance, and told the loungers at Osborn’s thathe thought his time had almost come.

    “They whistle jest in tune with my breathin’ naow, “ he said,“an’ I guess they’re gittin’ ready to ketch my soul. They know it’sa-goin’ aout, an’ dun’t calc’late to miss it. Yew’ll know, boys,arter I’m gone, whether they git me er not. Ef they dew, they’ll keep up a-singin’an’ laffin’ till break o’ day. Ef they dun’t they’ll kinder quietdaown like. I expeck them an’ the souls they hunts fer hev some pretty tough tussles sometimes. “

    On Lammas Night, 1924, Dr. Houghton of Aylesbury was hastily summoned by WilburWhateley, who had lashed his one remaining horse through the darkness and telephoned from Osborn’sin the village. He found Old Whateley in a very grave state, with a cardiac action and stertorousbreathing that told of an end not far off. The shapeless albino daughter and oddly bearded grandsonstood by the bedside, whilst from the vacant abyss overhead there came a disquieting suggestionof rhythmical surging or lapping, as of the waves on some level beach. The doctor, though, waschiefly disturbed by the chattering night birds outside; a seemingly limitless legion of whippoorwillsthat cried their endless message in repetitions timed diabolically to the wheezing gasps ofthe dying man. It was uncanny and unnatural—too much, thought Dr. Houghton, like the wholeof the region he had entered so reluctantly in response to the urgent call.

    Toward one o’clock Old Whateley gained consciousness, and interruptedhis wheezing to choke out a few words to his grandson.

    “More space, Willy, more space soon. Yew grows—an’ thatgrows faster. It’ll be ready to sarve ye soon, boy. Open up the gates to Yog-Sothoth withthe long chant that ye’ll find on page 751 of the complete edition, an’
    then put a match to the prison. Fire from airth can’t burn it nohaow. “

    He was obviously quite mad. After a pause, during which the flock of whippoorwillsoutside adjusted their cries to the altered tempo while some indications of the strange hillnoises came from afar off, he added another sentence or two.

    “Feed it reg’lar, Willy, an’ mind the quantity; but dun’tlet it grow too fast fer the place, fer ef it busts quarters or gits aout afore ye opens toYog-Sothoth, it’s all over an’ no use. Only them from beyont kin make it multiplyan’ work. . . . Only them, the old uns as wants to come back. . . . “

    But speech gave place to gasps again, and Lavinia screamed at the way the whippoorwillsfollowed the change. It was the same for more than an hour, when the final throaty rattle came.Dr. Houghton drew shrunken lids over the glazing grey eyes as the tumult of birds faded imperceptiblyto silence. Lavinia sobbed, but Wilbur only chuckled whilst the hill noises rumbled faintly.

    “They didn’t git him, “ he muttered in his heavy bass voice.

    Wilbur was by this time a scholar of really tremendous erudition in his one-sidedway, and was quietly known by correspondence to many librarians in distant places where rareand forbidden books of old days are kept. He was more and more hated and dreaded around Dunwichbecause of certain youthful disappearances which suspicion laid vaguely at his door; but wasalways able to silence inquiry through fear or through use of that fund of old-time gold whichstill, as in his grandfather’s time, went forth regularly and increasingly for cattle-buying.He was now tremendously mature of aspect, and his height, having reached the normal adult limit,seemed inclined to wax beyond that figure. In 1925, when a scholarly correspondent from MiskatonicUniversity called upon him one day and departed pale and puzzled, he was fully six and three-quartersfeet tall.

    Through all the years Wilbur had treated his half-deformed albino mother witha growing contempt, finally forbidding her to go to the hills with him on May-Eve and Hallowmass;and in 1926 the poor creature complained to Mamie Bishop of being afraid of him.

    “They’s more abaout him as I knows than I kin tell ye, Mamie, “she said, “an’ naowadays they’s more nor what I know myself. I vaow afur Gawd,I dun’t know what he wants nor what he’s a-tryin’ to dew. “

    That Hallowe’en the hill noises sounded louder than ever, and fire burnedon Sentinel Hill as usual; but people paid more attention to the rhythmical screaming of vastflocks of unnaturally belated whippoorwills which seemed to be assembled near the unlightedWhateley farmhouse. After midnight their shrill notes burst into a kind of pandaemoniac cachinnationwhich filled all the countryside, and not until dawn did they finally quiet down. Then theyvanished, hurrying southward where they were fully a month overdue. What this meant, no onecould quite be certain till later. None of the country folk seemed to have died—but poorLavinia Whateley, the twisted albino, was never seen again.

    In the summer of 1927 Wilbur repaired two sheds in the farmyard and began movinghis books and effects out to them. Soon afterward Earl Sawyer told the loungers at Osborn’sthat more carpentry was going on in the Whateley farmhouse. Wilbur was closing all the doorsand windows on the ground floor, and seemed to be taking out partitions as he and his grandfatherhad done upstairs four years before. He was living in one of the sheds, and Sawyer thought heseemed unusually worried and tremulous. People generally suspected him of knowing somethingabout his mother’s disappearance, and very few ever approached his neighbourhood now.His height had increased to more than seven feet, and shewed no signs of ceasing its development.

    Part V.

    The following winter brought an event no less strange than Wilbur’s first trip outsidethe Dunwich region. Correspondence with the Widener Library at Harvard, the Bibliothèque Nationalein Paris, the British Museum, the University of Buenos Ayres, and the Library of MiskatonicUniversity of Arkham had failed to get him the loan of a book he desperately wanted; so at lengthhe set out in person, shabby, dirty, bearded, and uncouth of dialect, to consult the copy atMiskatonic, which was the nearest to him geographically. Almost eight feet tall, and carryinga cheap new valise from Osborn’s general store, this dark and goatish gargoyle appearedone day in Arkham in quest of the dreaded volume kept under lock and key at the college library—thehideous Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred in Olaus Wormius’ Latin version,as printed in Spain in the seventeenth century. He had never seen a city before, but had nothought save to find his way to the university grounds; where, indeed, he passed heedlesslyby the great white-fanged watchdog that barked with unnatural fury and enmity, and tugged franticallyat its stout chain.

    Wilbur had with him the priceless but imperfect copy of Dr. Dee’s Englishversion which his grandfather had bequeathed him, and upon receiving access to the Latin copyhe at once began to collate the two texts with the aim of discovering a certain passage whichwould have come on the 751st page of his own defective volume. This much he could not civillyrefrain from telling the librarian—the same erudite Henry Armitage (A.M. Miskatonic, Ph.D. Princeton, Litt. D. Johns Hopkins) who had once called at the farm, and who now politelyplied him with questions. He was looking, he had to admit, for a kind of formula or incantationcontaining the frightful name Yog-Sothoth, and it puzzled him to find discrepancies,duplications, and ambiguities which made the matter of determination far from easy. As he copiedthe formula he finally chose, Dr. Armitage looked involuntarily over his shoulder at the openpages; the left-hand one of which, in the Latin version, contained such monstrous threats tothe peace and sanity of the world.

    “Nor is it to be thought”, ran the text as Armitage mentally translatedit, “that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the commonbulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Onesshall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensionedand to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothothis the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth.He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again.He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and whyno one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but ofTheir semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begottenon mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truesteidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen andfoul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at theirSeasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness.They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites.Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the Southand the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraven, but who hath seenthe deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhuis Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulnessshall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitationis even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, wherebythe spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rulesnow. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for hereshall They reign again.”

    Dr. Armitage, associating what he was reading with what he had heard of Dunwichand its brooding presences, and of Wilbur Whateley and his dim, hideous aura that stretchedfrom a dubious birth to a cloud of probable matricide, felt a wave of fright as tangible asa draught of the tomb’s cold clamminess. The bent, goatish giant before him seemed likethe spawn of another planet or dimension; like something only partly of mankind, and linkedto black gulfs of essence and entity that stretch like titan phantasms beyond all spheres offorce and matter, space and time. Presently Wilbur raised his head and began speaking in thatstrange, resonant fashion which hinted at sound-producing organs unlike the run of mankind’s.

    “Mr. Armitage”, he said, “I calc’late I’ve gotto take that book home. They’s things in it I’ve got to try under sarten conditionsthat I can’t git here, an’ it ‘ud be a mortal sin to let a red-tape rule holdme up. Let me take it along, Sir, an’ I’ll swar they wun’t nobody know thedifference. I dun’t need to tell ye I’ll take good keer of it. It wa’n’tme that put this Dee copy in the shape it is. . . .”

    He stopped as he saw firm denial on the librarian’s face, and his owngoatish features grew crafty. Armitage, half-ready to tell him he might make a copy of whatparts he needed, thought suddenly of the possible consequences and checked himself. There wastoo much responsiblity in giving such a being the key to such blasphemous outer spheres. Whateleysaw how things stood, and tried to answer lightly.

    “Wal, all right, ef ye feel that way abaout it. Maybe Harvard wun’tbe so fussy as yew be.” And without saying more he rose and strode out of the building,stooping at each doorway.

    Armitage heard the savage yelping of the great watchdog, and studied Whateley’sgorilla-like lope as he crossed the bit of campus visible from the window. He thought of thewild tales he had heard, and recalled the old Sunday stories in the Advertiser; thesethings, and the lore he had picked up from Dunwich rustics and villagers during his one visitthere. Unseen things not of earth—or at least not of tri-dimensional earth—rushedfoetid and horrible through New England’s glens, and brooded obscenely on the mountain-tops.Of this he had long felt certain. Now he seemed to sense the close presence of some terriblepart of the intruding horror, and to glimpse a hellish advance in the black dominion of theancient and once passive nightmare. He locked away the Necronomicon with a shudder ofdisgust, but the room still reeked with an unholy and unidentifiable stench. “As a foulnessshall ye know them, “ he quoted. Yes—the odour was the same as that which had sickenedhim at the Whateley farmhouse less than three years before. He thought of Wilbur, goatish andominous, once again, and laughed mockingly at the village rumours of his parentage.

    “Inbreeding?” Armitage muttered half-aloud to himself. “GreatGod, what simpletons! Shew them Arthur Machen’s Great God Pan and they’ll thinkit a common Dunwich scandal! But what thing—what cursed shapeless influence on or offthis three-dimensioned earth—was Wilbur Whateley’s father? Born on Candlemas—ninemonths after May-Eve of 1912, when the talk about the queer earth noises reached clear to Arkham—What walked on the mountains that May-Night? What Roodmas horror fastened itself on the worldin half-human flesh and blood?”

    During the ensuing weeks Dr. Armitage set about to collect all possible dataon Wilbur Whateley and the formless presences around Dunwich. He got in communication with Dr.Houghton of Aylesbury, who had attended Old Whateley in his last illness, and found much toponder over in the grandfather’s last words as quoted by the physician. A visit to DunwichVillage failed to bring out much that was new; but a close survey of the Necronomicon,in those parts which Wilbur had sought so avidly, seemed to supply new and terrible clues tothe nature, methods, and desires of the strange evil so vaguely threatening this planet. Talkswith several students of archaic lore in Boston, and letters to many others elsewhere, gavehim a growing amazement which passed slowly through varied degrees of alarm to a state of reallyacute spiritual fear. As the summer drew on he felt dimly that something ought to be done aboutthe lurking terrors of the upper Miskatonic valley, and about the monstrous being known to thehuman world as Wilbur Whateley.

    Part VI.

    The Dunwich horror itself came between Lammas and the equinox in 1928, and Dr. Armitage wasamong those who witnessed its monstrous prologue. He had heard, meanwhile, of Whateley’sgrotesque trip to Cambridge, and of his frantic efforts to borrow or copy from the Necronomiconat the Widener Library. Those efforts had been in vain, since Armitage had issued warnings ofthe keenest intensity to all librarians having charge of the dreaded volume. Wilbur had beenshockingly nervous at Cambridge; anxious for the book, yet almost equally anxious to get homeagain, as if he feared the results of being away long.

    Early in August the half-expected outcome developed, and in the small hoursof the 3d Dr. Armitage was awakened suddenly by the wild, fierce cries of the savage watchdogon the college campus. Deep and terrible, the snarling, half-mad growls and barks continued;always in mounting volume, but with hideously significant pauses. Then there rang out a screamfrom a wholly different throat—such a scream as roused half the sleepers of Arkham andhaunted their dreams ever afterward—such a scream as could come from no being born ofearth, or wholly of earth.

    Armitage, hastening into some clothing and rushing across the street and lawnto the college buildings, saw that others were ahead of him; and heard the echoes of a burglar-alarmstill shrilling from the library. An open window shewed black and gaping in the moonlight. Whathad come had indeed completed its entrance; for the barking and the screaming, now fast fadinginto a mixed low growling and moaning, proceeded unmistakably from within. Some instinct warnedArmitage that what was taking place was not a thing for unfortified eyes to see, so he brushedback the crowd with authority as he unlocked the vestibule door. Among the others he saw ProfessorWarren Rice and Dr. Francis Morgan, men to whom he had told some of his conjectures and misgivings;and these two he motioned to accompany him inside. The inward sounds, except for a watchful,droning whine from the dog, had by this time quite subsided; but Armitage now perceived witha sudden start that a loud chorus of whippoorwills among the shrubbery had commenced a damnablyrhythmical piping, as if in unison with the last breaths of a dying man.

    The building was full of a frightful stench which Dr. Armitage knew too well,and the three men rushed across the hall to the small genealogical reading-room whence the lowwhining came. For a second nobody dared to turn on the light, then Armitage summoned up hiscourage and snapped the switch. One of the three—it is not certain which—shriekedaloud at what sprawled before them among disordered tables and overturned chairs. ProfessorRice declares that he wholly lost consciousness for an instant, though he did not stumble orfall.

    The thing that lay half-bent on its side in a foetid pool of greenish-yellowichor and tarry stickiness was almost nine feet tall, and the dog had torn off all the clothingand some of the skin. It was not quite dead, but twitched silently and spasmodically while itschest heaved in monstrous unison with the mad piping of the expectant whippoorwills outside.Bits of shoe-leather and fragments of apparel were scattered about the room, and just insidethe window an empty canvas sack lay where it had evidently been thrown. Near the central deska revolver had fallen, a dented but undischarged cartridge later explaining why it had not beenfired. The thing itself, however, crowded out all other images at the time. It would be triteand not wholly accurate to say that no human pen could describe it, but one may properly saythat it could not be vividly visualised by anyone whose ideas of aspect and contour are tooclosely bound up with the common life-forms of this planet and of the three known dimensions.It was partly human, beyond a doubt, with very man-like hands and head, and the goatish, chinlessface had the stamp of the Whateleys upon it. But the torso and lower parts of the body wereteratologically fabulous, so that only generous clothing could ever have enabled it to walkon earth unchallenged or uneradicated.

    Above the waist it was semi-anthropomorphic; though its chest, where the dog’srending paws still rested watchfully, had the leathery, reticulated hide of a crocodile or alligator.The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certainsnakes. Below the waist, though, it was the worst; for here all human resemblance left off andsheer phantasy began. The skin was thickly covered with coarse black fur, and from the abdomena score of long greenish-grey tentacles with red sucking mouths protruded limply. Their arrangementwas odd, and seemed to follow the symmetries of some cosmic geometry unknown to earth or thesolar system. On each of the hips, deep set in a kind of pinkish, ciliated orbit, was what seemedto be a rudimentary eye; whilst in lieu of a tail there depended a kind of trunk or feeler withpurple annular markings, and with many evidences of being an undeveloped mouth or throat. Thelimbs, save for their black fur, roughly resembled the hind legs of prehistoric earth’sgiant saurians; and terminated in ridgy-veined pads that were neither hooves nor claws. Whenthe thing breathed, its tail and tentacles rhythmically changed colour, as if from some circulatorycause normal to the non-human side of its ancestry. In the tentacles this was observable asa deepening of the greenish tinge, whilst in the tail it was manifest as a yellowish appearancewhich alternated with a sickly greyish-white in the spaces between the purple rings. Of genuineblood there was none; only the foetid greenish-yellow ichor which trickled along the paintedfloor beyond the radius of the stickiness, and left a curious discolouration behind it.

    As the presence of the three men seemed to rouse the dying thing, it beganto mumble without turning or raising its head. Dr. Armitage made no written record of its mouthings,but asserts confidently that nothing in English was uttered. At first the syllables defied allcorrelation with any speech of earth, but toward the last there came some disjointed fragmentsevidently taken from the Necronomicon, that monstrous blasphemy in quest of which thething had perished. These fragments, as Armitage recalls them, ran something like “N’gai,n’gha’ghaa, bugg-shoggog, y’hah; Yog-Sothoth, Yog-Sothoth. . . . “They trailed off into nothingness as the whippoorwills shrieked in rhythmical crescendoes ofunholy anticipation.

    Then came a halt in the gasping, and the dog raised its head in a long, lugubrioushowl. A change came over the yellow, goatish face of the prostrate thing, and the great blackeyes fell in appallingly. Outside the window the shrilling of the whippoorwills had suddenlyceased, and above the murmurs of the gathering crowd there came the sound of a panic-struckwhirring and fluttering. Against the moon vast clouds of feathery watchers rose and raced fromsight, frantic at that which they had sought for prey.

    All at once the dog started up abruptly, gave a frightened bark, and leapednervously out of the window by which it had entered. A cry rose from the crowd, and Dr. Armitageshouted to the men outside that no one must be admitted till the police or medical examinercame. He was thankful that the windows were just too high to permit of peering in, and drewthe dark curtains carefully down over each one. By this time two policemen had arrived; andDr. Morgan, meeting them in the vestibule, was urging them for their own sakes to postpone entranceto the stench-filled reading-room till the examiner came and the prostrate thing could be coveredup.

    Meanwhile frightful changes were taking place on the floor. One need not describethe kind and rate of shrinkage and disintegration that occurred before the eyesof Dr. Armitage and Professor Rice; but it is permissible to say that, aside from the externalappearance of face and hands, the really human element in Wilbur Whateley must have been verysmall. When the medical examiner came, there was only a sticky whitish mass on the painted boards,and the monstrous odour had nearly disappeared. Apparently Whateley had had no skull or bonyskeleton; at least, in any true or stable sense. He had taken somewhat after his unknown father.

    Part VII.

    Yet all this was only the prologue of the actual Dunwich horror. Formalities were gone throughby bewildered officials, abnormal details were duly kept from press and public, and men weresent to Dunwich and Aylesbury to look up property and notify any who might be heirs of the lateWilbur Whateley. They found the countryside in great agitation, both because of the growingrumblings beneath the domed hills, and because of the unwonted stench and the surging, lappingsounds which came increasingly from the great empty shell formed by Whateley’s boarded-upfarmhouse. Earl Sawyer, who tended the horse and cattle during Wilbur’s absence, had developeda woefully acute case of nerves. The officials devised excuses not to enter the noisome boardedplace; and were glad to confine their survey of the deceased’s living quarters, the newlymended sheds, to a single visit. They filed a ponderous report at the court-house in Aylesbury,and litigations concerning heirship are said to be still in progress amongst the innumerableWhateleys, decayed and undecayed, of the upper Miskatonic valley.

    An almost interminable manuscript in strange characters, written in a hugeledger and adjudged a sort of diary because of the spacing and the variations in ink and penmanship,presented a baffling puzzle to those who found it on the old bureau which served as its owner’sdesk. After a week of debate it was sent to Miskatonic University, together with the deceased’scollection of strange books, for study and possible translation; but even the best linguistssoon saw that it was not likely to be unriddled with ease. No trace of the ancient gold withwhich Wilbur and Old Whateley always paid their debts has yet been discovered.

    It was in the dark of September 9th that the horror broke loose. The hill noiseshad been very pronounced during the evening, and dogs barked frantically all night. Early riserson the 10th noticed a peculiar stench in the air. About seven o’clock Luther Brown, thehired boy at George Corey’s, between Cold Spring Glen and the village, rushed frenziedlyback from his morning trip to Ten-Acre Meadow with the cows. He was almost convulsed with frightas he stumbled into the kitchen; and in the yard outside the no less frightened herd were pawingand lowing pitifully, having followed the boy back in the panic they shared with him. Betweengasps Luther tried to stammer out his tale to Mrs. Corey.

    “Up thar in the rud beyont the glen, Mis’ Corey—they’ssuthin’ ben thar! It smells like thunder, an’ all the bushes an’ little treesis pushed back from the rud like they’d a haouse ben moved along of it. An’ thatain’t the wust, nuther. They’s prints in the rud, Mis’ Corey—greatraound prints as big as barrel-heads, all sunk daown deep like a elephant had ben along,
    only they’s a sight more nor four feet could make! I looked at one or two afore Irun, an’ I see every one was covered with lines spreadin’ aout from one place, likeas if big palm-leaf fans—twict or three times as big as any they is—hed of ben paoundeddaown into the rud. An’ the smell was awful, like what it is araound Wizard Whateley’sol’ haouse. . . . “

    Here he faltered, and seemed to shiver afresh with the fright that had senthim flying home. Mrs. Corey, unable to extract more information, began telephoning the neighbours;thus starting on its rounds the overture of panic that heralded the major terrors. When she gotSally Sawyer, housekeeper at Seth Bishop’s, the nearest place to Whateley’s, itbecame her turn to listen instead of transmit; for Sally’s boy Chauncey, who slept poorly,had been up on the hill toward Whateley’s, and had dashed back in terror after one lookat the place, and at the pasturage where Mr. Bishop’s cows had been left out all night.

    “Yes, Mis’ Corey”*, came Sally’s tremulous voice overthe party wire, “Cha’ncey he just come back a-postin’, and couldn’thaff talk fer bein’ scairt! He says Ol’ Whateley’s haouse is all blowed up,with the timbers scattered raound like they’d ben dynamite inside; only the bottom floorain’t through, but is all covered with a kind o’ tar-like stuff that smells awfulan’ drips daown offen the aidges onto the graoun’ whar the side timbers is blownaway. An’ they’s awful kinder marks in the yard, tew—great raound marks biggerraound than a hogshead, an’ all sticky with stuff like is on the blowed-up haouse. Cha’nceyhe says they leads off into the medders, whar a great swath wider’n a barn is matted daown,an’ all the stun walls tumbled every whichway wherever it goes.”

    “An’ he says, says he, Mis’ Corey, as haow he sot to lookfer Seth’s caows, frighted ez he was; an’ faound ‘em in the upper pasturenigh the Devil’s Hop Yard in an awful shape. Haff on ‘em’s clean gone, an’nigh haff o’ them that’s left is sucked most dry o’ blood, with sores on ’emlike they’s ben on Whateley’s cattle ever senct Lavinny’s black brat was born.Seth he’s gone aout naow to look at ’em, though I’ll vaow he wun’t keerter git very nigh Wizard Whateley’s! Cha’ncey didn’t look keerful ter seewhar the big matted-daown swath led arter it leff the pasturage, but he says he thinks it p’intedtowards the glen rud to the village.”

    “I tell ye, Mis’ Corey, they’s suthin’ abroad as hadn’torter be abroad, an’ I for one think that black Wilbur Whateley, as come to the bad eendhe desarved, is at the bottom of the breedin’ of it. He wa’n’t all human hisself,I allus says to everybody; an’ I think he an’ Ol’ Whateley must a raised suthin’in that there nailed-up haouse as ain’t even so human as he was. They’s allus benunseen things araound Dunwich—livin’ things—as ain’t human an’ain’t good fer human folks.”

    “The graoun’ was a-talkin’ lass night, an’ towardsmornin’ Cha’ncey he heerd the whippoorwills so laoud in Col’ Spring Glen hecouldn’t sleep nun. Then he thought he heerd another faint-like saound over towards WizardWhateley’s—a kinder rippin’ or tearin’ o’ wood, like some bigbox er crate was bein’ opened fur off. What with this an’ that, he didn’tgit to sleep at all till sunup, an’ no sooner was he up this mornin’, but he’sgot to go over to Whateley’s an’ see what’s the matter. He see enough, I tellye, Mis’ Corey! This dun’t mean no good, an’ I think as all the men-folksought to git up a party an’ do suthin’. I know suthin’ awful’s abaout,an’ feel my time is nigh, though only Gawd knows jest what it is.”

    “Did your Luther take accaount o’ whar them big tracks led tew?No? Wal, Mis’ Corey, ef they was on the glen rud this side o’ the glen, an’ain’t got to your haouse yet, I calc’late they must go into the glen itself. Theywould do that. I allus says Col’ Spring Glen ain’t no healthy nor decent place.The whippoorwills an’ fireflies there never did act like they was creaters o’ Gawd,an’ they’s them as says ye kin hear strange things a-rushin’ an’ a-talkin’in the air daown thar ef ye stand in the right place, atween the rock falls an’ Bear’sDen.”

    By that noon fully three-quarters of the men and boys of Dunwich were troopingover the roads and meadows between the new-made Whateley ruins and Cold Spring Glen, examiningin horror the vast, monstrous prints, the maimed Bishop cattle, the strange, noisome wreck ofthe farmhouse, and the bruised, matted vegetation of the fields and roadsides. Whatever hadburst loose upon the world had assuredly gone down into the great sinister ravine; for all thetrees on the banks were bent and broken, and a great avenue had been gouged in the precipice-hangingunderbrush. It was as though a house, launched by an avalanche, had slid down through the tangledgrowths of the almost vertical slope. From below no sound came, but only a distant, undefinablefoetor; and it is not to be wondered at that the men preferred to stay on the edge and argue,rather than descend and beard the unknown Cyclopean horror in its lair. Three dogs that werewith the party had barked furiously at first, but seemed cowed and reluctant when near the glen.Someone telephoned the news to the Aylesbury Transcript; but the editor, accustomed towild tales from Dunwich, did no more than concoct a humorous paragraph about it; an item soonafterward reproduced by the Associated Press.

    That night everyone went home, and every house and barn was barricaded as stoutlyas possible. Needless to say, no cattle were allowed to remain in open pasturage. About twoin the morning a frightful stench and the savage barking of the dogs awakened the householdat Elmer Frye’s, on the eastern edge of Cold Spring Glen, and all agreed that they couldhear a sort of muffled swishing or lapping sound from somewhere outside. Mrs. Frye proposedtelephoning the neighbours, and Elmer was about to agree when the noise of splintering woodburst in upon their deliberations. It came, apparently, from the barn; and was quickly followedby a hideous screaming and stamping amongst the cattle. The dogs slavered and crouched closeto the feet of the fear-numbed family. Frye lit a lantern through force of habit, but knew itwould be death to go out into that black farmyard. The children and the womenfolk whimpered,kept from screaming by some obscure, vestigial instinct of defence which told them their livesdepended on silence. At last the noise of the cattle subsided to a pitiful moaning, and a greatsnapping, crashing, and crackling ensued. The Fryes, huddled together in the sitting-room, didnot dare to move until the last echoes died away far down in Cold Spring Glen. Then, amidstthe dismal moans from the stable and the daemoniac piping of late whippoorwills in the glen,Selina Frye tottered to the telephone and spread what news she could of the second phase ofthe horror.

    The next day all the countryside was in a panic; and cowed, uncommunicativegroups came and went where the fiendish thing had occurred. Two titan swaths of destructionstretched from the glen to the Frye farmyard, monstrous prints covered the bare patches of ground,and one side of the old red barn had completely caved in. Of the cattle, only a quarter couldbe found and identified. Some of these were in curious fragments, and all that survived hadto be shot. Earl Sawyer suggested that help be asked from Aylesbury or Arkham, but others maintainedit would be of no use. Old Zebulon Whateley, of a branch that hovered about half way betweensoundness and decadence, made darkly wild suggestions about rites that ought to be practicedon the hill-tops. He came of a line where tradition ran strong, and his memories of chantingsin the great stone circles were not altogether connected with Wilbur and his grandfather.

    Darkness fell upon a stricken countryside too passive to organise for realdefence. In a few cases closely related families would band together and watch in the gloomunder one roof; but in general there was only a repetition of the barricading of the night before,and a futile, ineffective gesture of loading muskets and setting pitchforks handily about. Nothing,however, occurred except some hill noises; and when the day came there were many who hoped thatthe new horror had gone as swiftly as it had come. There were even bold souls who proposed anoffensive expedition down in the glen, though they did not venture to set an actual exampleto the still reluctant majority.

    When night came again the barricading was repeated, though there was less huddlingtogether of families. In the morning both the Frye and the Seth Bishop households reported excitementamong the dogs and vague sounds and stenches from afar, while early explorers noted with horrora fresh set of the monstrous tracks in the road skirting Sentinel Hill. As before, the sidesof the road shewed a bruising indicative of the blasphemously stupendous bulk of the horror;whilst the conformation of the tracks seemed to argue a passage in two directions, as if themoving mountain had come from Cold Spring Glen and returned to it along the same path. At thebase of the hill a thirty-foot swath of crushed shrubbery saplings led steeply upward, and theseekers gasped when they saw that even the most perpendicular places did not deflect the inexorabletrail. Whatever the horror was, it could scale a sheer stony cliff of almost complete verticality;and as the investigators climbed around to the hill’s summit by safer routes they sawthat the trail ended—or rather, reversed—there.

    It was here that the Whateleys used to build their hellish fires and chanttheir hellish rituals by the table-like stone on May-Eve and Hallowmass. Now that very stoneformed the centre of a vast space thrashed around by the mountainous horror, whilst upon itsslightly concave surface was a thick and foetid deposit of the same tarry stickiness observedon the floor of the ruined Whateley farmhouse when the horror escaped. Men looked at one anotherand muttered. Then they looked down the hill. Apparently the horror had descended by a routemuch the same as that of its ascent. To speculate was futile. Reason, logic, and normal ideasof motivation stood confounded. Only old Zebulon, who was not with the group, could have donejustice to the situation or suggested a plausible explanation.

    Thursday night began much like the others, but it ended less happily. The whippoorwillsin the glen had screamed with such unusual persistence that many could not sleep, and about3 A.M. all the party telephones rang tremulously. Those who took down their receivers hearda fright-mad voice shriek out, “Help, oh, my Gawd! . . .” and some thoughta crashing sound followed the breaking off of the exclamation. There was nothing more. No onedared do anything, and no one knew till morning whence the call came. Then those who had heardit called everyone on the line, and found that only the Fryes did not reply. The truth appearedan hour later, when a hastily assembled group of armed men trudged out to the Frye place atthe head of the glen. It was horrible, yet hardly a surprise. There were more swaths and monstrousprints, but there was no longer any house. It had caved in like an egg-shell, and amongst theruins nothing living or dead could be discovered. Only a stench and a tarry stickiness. TheElmer Fryes had been erased from Dunwich.

    Part VIII.

    In the meantime a quieter yet even more spiritually poignant phase of the horror had been blacklyunwinding itself behind the closed door of a shelf-lined room in Arkham. The curious manuscriptrecord or diary of Wilbur Whateley, delivered to Miskatonic University for translation, hadcaused much worry and bafflement among the experts in languages both ancient and modern; itsvery alphabet, notwithstanding a general resemblance to the heavily shaded Arabic used in Mesopotamia,being absolutely unknown to any available authority. The final conclusion of the linguists wasthat the text represented an artificial alphabet, giving the effect of a cipher; though noneof the usual methods of cryptographic solution seemed to furnish any clue, even when appliedon the basis of every tongue the writer might conceivably have used. The ancient books takenfrom Whateley’s quarters, while absorbingly interesting and in several cases promisingto open up new and terrible lines of research among philosophers and men of science, were ofno assistance whatever in this matter. One of them, a heavy tome with an iron clasp, was inanother unknown alphabet—this one of a very different cast, and resembling Sanscrit morethan anything else. The old ledger was at length given wholly into the charge of Dr. Armitage,both because of his peculiar interest in the Whateley matter, and because of his wide linguisticlearning and skill in the mystical formulae of antiquity and the Middle Ages.

    Armitage had an idea that the alphabet might be something esoterically usedby certain forbidden cults which have come down from old times, and which have inherited manyforms and traditions from the wizards of the Saracenic world. That question, however, he didnot deem vital; since it would be unnecessary to know the origin of the symbols if, as he suspected,they were used as a cipher in a modern language. It was his belief that, considering the greatamount of text involved, the writer would scarcely have wished the trouble of using anotherspeech than his own, save perhaps in certain special formulae and incantations. Accordinglyhe attacked the manuscript with the preliminary assumption that the bulk of it was in English.

    Dr. Armitage knew, from the repeated failures of his colleagues, that the riddlewas a deep and complex one; and that no simple mode of solution could merit even a trial. Allthrough late August he fortified himself with the massed lore of cryptography; drawing uponthe fullest resources of his own library, and wading night after night amidst the arcana ofTrithemius’ Poligraphia, Giambattista Porta’s De Furtivis Literarum Notis,De Vigenère’s Traité des Chiffres, Falconer’s CryptomenysisPatefacta, Davys’ and Thicknesse’s eighteenth-century treatises, and such fairlymodern authorities as Blair, von Marten, and Klüber’s Kryptographik. He interspersedhis study of the books with attacks on the manuscript itself, and in time became convinced thathe had to deal with one of those subtlest and most ingenious of cryptograms, in which many separatelists of corresponding letters are arranged like the multiplication table, and the message builtup with arbitrary key-words known only to the initiated. The older authorities seemed rathermore helpful than the newer ones, and Armitage concluded that the code of the manuscript wasone of great antiquity, no doubt handed down through a long line of mystical experimenters.Several times he seemed near daylight, only to be set back by some unforeseen obstacle. Then,as September approached, the clouds began to clear. Certain letters, as used in certain partsof the manuscript, emerged definitely and unmistakably; and it became obvious that the textwas indeed in English.

    On the evening of September 2nd the last major barrier gave way, and Dr. Armitageread for the first time a continuous passage of Wilbur Whateley’s annals. It was in trutha diary, as all had thought; and it was couched in a style clearly shewing the mixed occulterudition and general illiteracy of the strange being who wrote it. Almost the first long passagethat Armitage deciphered, an entry dated November 26, 1916, proved highly startling and disquieting.It was written, he remembered, by a child of three and a half who looked like a lad of twelveor thirteen.

    “Today learned the Aklo for the Sabaoth” it ran, “whichdid not like, it being answerable from the hill and not from the air. That upstairs more aheadof me than I had thought it would be, and is not like to have much earth brain. Shot Elam Hutchins’collie Jack when he went to bite me, and Elam says he would kill me if he dast. I guess he won’t.Grandfather kept me saying the Dho formula last night, and I think I saw the inner city at the2 magnetic poles. I shall go to those poles when the earth is cleared off, if I can’tbreak through with the Dho-Hna formula when I commit it. They from the air told me at Sabbatthat it will be years before I can clear off the earth, and I guess grandfather will be deadthen, so I shall have to learn all the angles of the planes and all the formulas between theYr and the Nhhngr. They from outside will help, but they cannot take body without human blood.That upstairs looks it will have the right cast. I can see it a little when I make the Voorishsign or blow the powder of Ibn Ghazi at it, and it is near like them at May-Eve on the Hill.The other face may wear off some. I wonder how I shall look when the earth is cleared and thereare no earth beings on it. He that came with the Aklo Sabaoth said I may be transfigured, therebeing much of outside to work on.”

    Morning found Dr. Armitage in a cold sweat of terror and a frenzy of wakefulconcentration. He had not left the manuscript all night, but sat at his table under the electriclight turning page after page with shaking hands as fast as he could decipher the cryptic text.He had nervously telephoned his wife he would not be home, and when she brought him a breakfastfrom the house he could scarcely dispose of a mouthful. All that day he read on, now and thenhalted maddeningly as a reapplication of the complex key became necessary. Lunch and dinnerwere brought him, but he ate only the smallest fraction of either. Toward the middle of thenext night he drowsed off in his chair, but soon woke out of a tangle of nightmares almost ashideous as the truths and menaces to man’s existence that he had uncovered.

    On the morning of September 4th Professor Rice and Dr. Morgan insisted on seeinghim for a while, and departed trembling and ashen-grey. That evening he went to bed, but sleptonly fitfully. Wednesday—the next day—he was back at the manuscript, and began totake copious notes both from the current sections and from those he had already deciphered.In the small hours of that night he slept a little in an easy-chair in his office, but was atthe manuscript again before dawn. Some time before noon his physician, Dr. Hartwell, calledto see him and insisted that he cease work. He refused; intimating that it was of the most vitalimportance for him to complete the reading of the diary, and promising an explanation in duecourse of time.

    That evening, just as twilight fell, he finished his terrible perusal and sankback exhausted. His wife, bringing his dinner, found him in a half-comatose state; but he wasconscious enough to warn her off with a sharp cry when he saw her eyes wander toward the noteshe had taken. Weakly rising, he gathered up the scribbled papers and sealed them all in a greatenvelope, which he immediately placed in his inside coat pocket. He had sufficient strengthto get home, but was so clearly in need of medical aid that Dr. Hartwell was summoned at once.As the doctor put him to bed he could only mutter over and over again, “But what, inGod’s name, can we do?”

    Dr. Armitage slept, but was partly delirious the next day. He made no explanationsto Hartwell, but in his calmer moments spoke of the imperative need of a long conference withRice and Morgan. His wilder wanderings were very startling indeed, including frantic appealsthat something in a boarded-up farmhouse be destroyed, and fantastic references to some planfor the extirpation of the entire human race and all animal and vegetable life from the earthby some terrible elder race of beings from another dimension. He would shout that the worldwas in danger, since the Elder Things wished to strip it and drag it away from the solar systemand cosmos of matter into some other plane or phase of entity from which it had once fallen,vigintillions of aeons ago. At other times he would call for the dreaded Necronomiconand the Daemonolatreia of Remigius, in which he seemed hopeful of finding some formulato check the peril he conjured up.

    “Stop them, stop them! “ he would shout. “Those Whateleysmeant to let them in, and the worst of all is left! Tell Rice and Morgan we must do something—it’sa blind business, but I know how to make the powder. . . . It hasn’t beenfed since the second of August, when Wilbur came here to his death, and at that rate. . . . “

    But Armitage had a sound physique despite his seventy-three years, and sleptoff his disorder that night without developing any real fever. He woke late Friday, clear ofhead, though sober with a gnawing fear and tremendous sense of responsibility. Saturday afternoonhe felt able to go over to the library and summon Rice and Morgan for a conference, and therest of that day and evening the three men tortured their brains in the wildest speculationand the most desperate debate. Strange and terrible books were drawn voluminously from the stackshelves and from secure places of storage; and diagrams and formulae were copied with feverishhaste and in bewildering abundance. Of scepticism there was none. All three had seen the bodyof Wilbur Whateley as it lay on the floor in a room of that very building, and after that notone of them could feel even slightly inclined to treat the diary as a madman’s raving.

    Opinions were divided as to notifying the Massachusetts State Police, and thenegative finally won. There were things involved which simply could not be believed by thosewho had not seen a sample, as indeed was made clear during certain subsequent investigations.Late at night the conference disbanded without having developed a definite plan, but all daySunday Armitage was busy comparing formulae and mixing chemicals obtained from the college laboratory.The more he reflected on the hellish diary, the more he was inclined to doubt the efficacy ofany material agent in stamping out the entity which Wilbur Whateley had left behind him—theearth-threatening entity which, unknown to him, was to burst forth in a few hours and becomethe memorable Dunwich horror.

    Monday was a repetition of Sunday with Dr. Armitage, for the task in hand requiredan infinity of research and experiment. Further consultations of the monstrous diary broughtabout various changes of plan, and he knew that even in the end a large amount of uncertaintymust remain. By Tuesday he had a definite line of action mapped out, and believed he would trya trip to Dunwich within a week. Then, on Wednesday, the great shock came. Tucked obscurelyaway in a corner of the Arkham Advertiser was a facetious little item from the AssociatedPress, telling what a record-breaking monster the bootleg whiskey of Dunwich had raised up.Armitage, half stunned, could only telephone for Rice and Morgan. Far into the night they discussed,and the next day was a whirlwind of preparation on the part of them all. Armitage knew he wouldbe meddling with terrible powers, yet saw that there was no other way to annul the deeper andmore malign meddling which others had done before him.

    Part IX.

    Friday morning Armitage, Rice, and Morgan set out by motor for Dunwich, arriving at the villageabout one in the afternoon. The day was pleasant, but even in the brightest sunlight a kindof quiet dread and portent seemed to hover about the strangely domed hills and the deep, shadowyravines of the stricken region. Now and then on some mountain-top a gaunt circle of stones couldbe glimpsed against the sky. From the air of hushed fright at Osborn’s store they knewsomething hideous had happened, and soon learned of the annihilation of the Elmer Frye houseand family. Throughout that afternoon they rode around Dunwich; questioning the natives concerningall that had occurred, and seeing for themselves with rising pangs of horror the drear Fryeruins with their lingering traces of the tarry stickiness, the blasphemous tracks in the Fryeyard, the wounded Seth Bishop cattle, and the enormous swaths of disturbed vegetation in variousplaces. The trail up and down Sentinel Hill seemed to Armitage of almost cataclysmic significance,and he looked long at the sinister altar-like stone on the summit.

    At length the visitors, apprised of a party of State Police which had comefrom Aylesbury that morning in response to the first telephone reports of the Frye tragedy,decided to seek out the officers and compare notes as far as practicable. This, however, theyfound more easily planned than performed; since no sign of the party could be found in any direction.There had been five of them in a car, but now the car stood empty near the ruins in the Fryeyard. The natives, all of whom had talked with the policemen, seemed at first as perplexed asArmitage and his companions. Then old Sam Hutchins thought of something and turned pale, nudgingFred Farr and pointing to the dank, deep hollow that yawned close by.

    “Gawd”, he gasped, “I telled ‘em not ter go daown intothe glen, an’ I never thought nobody’d dew it with them tracks an’ that smellan’ the whippoorwills a-screechin’ daown thar in the dark o’ noonday. . . . “

    A cold shudder ran through natives and visitors alike, and every ear seemedstrained in a kind of instinctive, unconscious listening. Armitage, now that he had actuallycome upon the horror and its monstrous work, trembled with the responsibility he felt to behis. Night would soon fall, and it was then that the mountainous blasphemy lumbered upon itseldritch course. Negotium perambulans in tenebris. . . . The old librarianrehearsed the formulae he had memorised, and clutched the paper containing the alternative onehe had not memorised. He saw that his electric flashlight was in working order. Rice, besidehim, took from a valise a metal sprayer of the sort used in combating insects; whilst Morganuncased the big-game rifle on which he relied despite his colleague’s warnings that nomaterial weapon would be of help.

    Armitage, having read the hideous diary, knew painfully well what kind of amanifestation to expect; but he did not add to the fright of the Dunwich people by giving anyhints or clues. He hoped that it might be conquered without any revelation to the world of themonstrous thing it had escaped. As the shadows gathered, the natives commenced to disperse homeward,anxious to bar themselves indoors despite the present evidence that all human locks and boltswere useless before a force that could bend trees and crush houses when it chose. They shooktheir heads at the visitors’ plan to stand guard at the Frye ruins near the glen; andas they left, had little expectancy of ever seeing the watchers again.

    There were rumblings under the hills that night, and the whippoorwills pipedthreateningly. Once in a while a wind, sweeping up out of Cold Spring Glen, would bring a touchof ineffable foetor to the heavy night air; such a foetor as all three of the watchers had smelledonce before, when they stood above a dying thing that had passed for fifteen years and a halfas a human being. But the looked-for terror did not appear. Whatever was down there in the glenwas biding its time, and Armitage told his colleagues it would be suicidal to try to attackit in the dark.

    Morning came wanly, and the night-sounds ceased. It was a grey, bleak day,with now and then a drizzle of rain; and heavier and heavier clouds seemed to be piling themselvesup beyond the hills to the northwest. The men from Arkham were undecided what to do. Seekingshelter from the increasing rainfall beneath one of the few undestroyed Frye outbuildings, theydebated the wisdom of waiting, or of taking the aggressive and going down into the glen in questof their nameless, monstrous quarry. The downpour waxed in heaviness, and distant peals of thundersounded from far horizons. Sheet lightning shimmered, and then a forky bolt flashed near at hand,as if descending into the accursed glen itself. The sky grew very dark, and the watchers hopedthat the storm would prove a short, sharp one followed by clear weather.

    It was still gruesomely dark when, not much over an hour later, a confusedbabel of voices sounded down the road. Another moment brought to view a frightened group ofmore than a dozen men, running, shouting, and even whimpering hysterically. Someone in the leadbegan sobbing out words, and the Arkham men started violently when those words developed a coherentform.

    “Oh, my Gawd, my Gawd”, the voice choked out. “It’sa-goin’ agin, an’ this time by day! It’s aout—it’s aoutan’ a-movin’ this very minute, an’ only the Lord knows when it’ll beon us all!”

    The speaker panted into silence, but another took up his message.

    “Nigh on a haour ago Zeb Whateley here heerd the ‘phone a-ringin’,an’ it was Mis’ Corey, George’s wife, that lives daown by the junction. Shesays the hired boy Luther was aout drivin’ in the caows from the storm arter the big bolt,when he see all the trees a-bendin’ at the maouth o’ the glen—opposite sideter this—an’ smelt the same awful smell like he smelt when he faound the big trackslas’ Monday mornin’. An’ she says he says they was a swishin’, lappin’saound, more nor what the bendin’ trees an’ bushes could make, an’ all ona suddent the trees along the rud begun ter git pushed one side, an’ they was a awfulstompin’ an’ splashin’ in the mud. But mind ye, Luther he didn’t seenothin’ at all, only just the bendin’ trees an’ underbrush.

    “Then fur ahead where Bishop’s Brook goes under the rud he heerda awful creakin’ an’ strainin’ on the bridge, an’ says he could tellthe saound o’ wood a-startin’ to crack an’ split. An’ all the whileshe never see a thing, only them trees an’ bushes a-bendin’. An’ when the swishin’saound got very fur off—on the rud towards Wizard Whateley’s an’ SentinelHill—Luther he had the guts ter step up whar he’d heerd it furst an’ lookat the graound. It was all mud an’ water, an’ the sky was dark, an’ the rainwas wipin’ aout all tracks abaout as fast as could be; but beginnin’ at the glenmaouth, whar the trees had moved, they was still some o’ them awful prints big as bar’lslike he seen Monday. “

    At this point the first excited speaker interrupted.

    “But that ain’t the trouble naow—that was only thestart. Zeb here was callin’ folks up an’ everybody was a-listenin’ in whena call from Seth Bishop’s cut in. His haousekeeper Sally was carryin’ on fit terkill—she’d jest seed the trees a-bendin’ beside the rud, an’ says theywas a kind o’ mushy saound, like a elephant puffin’ an’ treadin’, a-headin’fer the haouse. Then she up an’ spoke suddent of a fearful smell, an’ says her boyCha’ncey was a-screamin’ as haow it was jest like what he smelt up to the Whateleyrewins Monday mornin’. An’ the dogs was all barkin’ an’ whinin’awful.

    “An’ then she let aout a turrible yell, an’ says the sheddaown the rud had jest caved in like the storm hed blowed it over, only the wind wa’n’tstrong enough to dew that. Everybody was a-listenin’, an’ we could hear lots o’folks on the wire a-gaspin’. All to onct Sally she yelled agin, an’ says the frontyard picket fence hed just crumbled up, though they wa’n’t no sign o’ whatdone it. Then everybody on the line could hear Cha’ncey an’ ol’ Seth Bishopa-yellin’ tew, an’ Sally was shriekin’ aout that suthin’ heavy hed struckthe haouse—not lightnin’ nor nothin’, but suthin’ heavy agin the front,that kep’ a-launchin’ itself agin an’ agin, though ye couldn’t see nothin’aout the front winders. An’ then . . . an’ then . . . “

    Lines of fright deepened on every face; and Armitage, shaken as he was, hadbarely poise enough to prompt the speaker.

    “An’ then . . . Sally she yelled aout, O help, the haouse is a-cavin’ in’ . . . an’ on the wire we couldhear a turrible crashin’, an’ a hull flock o’ screamin’ . . .jest like when Elmer Frye’s place was took, only wuss. . . . “

    The man paused, and another of the crowd spoke.

    “That’s all—not a saound nor squeak over the ‘phonearter that. Jest still-like. We that heerd it got aout Fords an’ wagons an’ raoundedup as many able-bodied menfolks as we could git, at Corey’s place, an’ come up hereter see what yew thought best ter dew. Not but what I think it’s the Lord’s jedgmentfer our iniquities, that no mortal kin ever set aside.”

    Armitage saw that the time for positive action had come, and spoke decisivelyto the faltering group of frightened rustics.

    “We must follow it, boys.” He made his voice as reassuring as possible.“I believe there’s a chance of putting it out of business. You men know that thoseWhateleys were wizards—well, this thing is a thing of wizardry, and must be put down bythe same means. I’ve seen Wilbur Whateley’s diary and read some of the strange oldbooks he used to read; and I think I know the right kind of spell to recite to make the thingfade away. Of course, one can’t be sure, but we can always take a chance. It’s invisible—Iknew it would be—but there’s a powder in this long-distance sprayer that might makeit shew up for a second. Later on we’ll try it. It’s a frightful thing to have alive,but it isn’t as bad as what Wilbur would have let in if he’d lived longer. You’llnever know what the world has escaped. Now we’ve only this one thing to fight, and itcan’t multiply. It can, though, do a lot of harm; so we mustn’t hesitate to ridthe community of it.”

    “We must follow it—and the way to begin is to go to the place thathas just been wrecked. Let somebody lead the way—I don’t know your roads very well,but I’ve an idea there might be a shorter cut across lots. How about it?”

    The men shuffled about a moment, and then Earl Sawyer spoke softly, pointingwith a grimy finger through the steadily lessening rain.

    “I guess ye kin git to Seth Bishop’s quickest by cuttin’acrost the lower medder here, wadin’ the brook at the low place, an’ climbin’through Carrier’s mowin’ and the timber-lot beyont. That comes aout on the upperrud mighty nigh Seth’s—a leetle t’other side.”

    Armitage, with Rice and Morgan, started to walk in the direction indicated;and most of the natives followed slowly. The sky was growing lighter, and there were signs thatthe storm had worn itself away. When Armitage inadvertently took a wrong direction, Joe Osbornwarned him and walked ahead to shew the right one. Courage and confidence were mounting; thoughthe twilight of the almost perpendicular wooded hill which lay toward the end of their shortcut, and among whose fantastic ancient trees they had to scramble as if up a ladder, put thesequalities to a severe test.

    At length they emerged on a muddy road to find the sun coming out. They werea little beyond the Seth Bishop place, but bent trees and hideously unmistakable tracks shewedwhat had passed by. Only a few moments were consumed in surveying the ruins just around thebend. It was the Frye incident all over again, and nothing dead or living was found in eitherof the collapsed shells which had been the Bishop house and barn. No one cared to remain thereamidst the stench and tarry stickiness, but all turned instinctively to the line of horribleprints leading on toward the wrecked Whateley farmhouse and the altar-crowned slopes of SentinelHill.

    As the men passed the site of Wilbur Whateley’s abode they shudderedvisibly, and seemed again to mix hesitancy with their zeal. It was no joke tracking down somethingas big as a house that one could not see, but that had all the vicious malevolence of a daemon.Opposite the base of Sentinel Hill the tracks left the road, and there was a fresh bending andmatting visible along the broad swath marking the monster’s former route to and from thesummit.

    Armitage produced a pocket telescope of considerable power and scanned thesteep green side of the hill. Then he handed the instrument to Morgan, whose sight was keener.After a moment of gazing Morgan cried out sharply, passing the glass to Earl Sawyer and indicatinga certain spot on the slope with his finger. Sawyer, as clumsy as most non-users of opticaldevices are, fumbled a while; but eventually focussed the lenses with Armitage’s aid.When he did so his cry was less restrained than Morgan’s had been.

    “Gawd almighty, the grass an’ bushes is a-movin’! It’sa-goin’ up—slow-like—creepin’ up ter the top this minute, heaven onlyknows what fur!”

    Then the germ of panic seemed to spread among the seekers. It was one thingto chase the nameless entity, but quite another to find it. Spells might be all right—butsuppose they weren’t? Voices began questioning Armitage about what he knew of the thing,and no reply seemed quite to satisfy. Everyone seemed to feel himself in close proximity tophases of Nature and of being utterly forbidden, and wholly outside the sane experience of mankind.

    Part X.

    In the end the three men from Arkham—old, white-bearded Dr. Armitage, stocky, iron-greyProfessor Rice, and lean, youngish Dr. Morgan—ascended the mountain alone. After muchpatient instruction regarding its focussing and use, they left the telescope with the frightenedgroup that remained in the road; and as they climbed they were watched closely by those amongwhom the glass was passed around. It was hard going, and Armitage had to be helped more thanonce. High above the toiling group the great swath trembled as its hellish maker re-passed withsnail-like deliberateness. Then it was obvious that the pursuers were gaining.

    Curtis Whateley—of the undecayed branch—was holding the telescopewhen the Arkham party detoured radically from the swath. He told the crowd that the men wereevidently trying to get to a subordinate peak which overlooked the swath at a point considerablyahead of where the shrubbery was now bending. This, indeed, proved to be true; and the partywere seen to gain the minor elevation only a short time after the invisible blasphemy had passedit.

    Then Wesley Corey, who had taken the glass, cried out that Armitage was adjustingthe sprayer which Rice held, and that something must be about to happen. The crowd stirred uneasily,recalling that this sprayer was expected to give the unseen horror a moment of visibility. Twoor three men shut their eyes, but Curtis Whateley snatched back the telescope and strained hisvision to the utmost. He saw that Rice, from the party’s point of vantage above and behindthe entity, had an excellent chance of spreading the potent powder with marvellous effect.

    Those without the telescope saw only an instant’s flash of grey cloud—acloud about the size of a moderately large building—near the top of the mountain. Curtis,who had held the instrument, dropped it with a piercing shriek into the ankle-deep mud of theroad. He reeled, and would have crumpled to the ground had not two or three others seized andsteadied him. All he could do was moan half-inaudibly,

    “Oh, oh, great Gawd . . . that . . . that . . . “

    There was a pandemonium of questioning, and only Henry Wheeler thought to rescuethe fallen telescope and wipe it clean of mud. Curtis was past all coherence, and even isolatedreplies were almost too much for him.

    “Bigger’n a barn . . . all made o’ squirmin’ropes . . . hull thing sort o’ shaped like a hen’s egg bigger’nanything, with dozens o’ legs like hogsheads that haff shut up when they step . . .nothin’ solid abaout it—all like jelly, an’ made o’ sep’rit wrigglin’ropes pushed clost together . . . great bulgin’ eyes all over it . . .ten or twenty maouths or trunks a-stickin’ aout all along the sides, big as stovepipes,an’ all a-tossin’ an’ openin’ an’ shuttin’ . . .all grey, with kinder blue or purple rings . . . an’ Gawd in heaven—thathaff face on top! . . . “

    This final memory, whatever it was, proved too much for poor Curtis; and hecollapsed completely before he could say more. Fred Farr and Will Hutchins carried him to theroadside and laid him on the damp grass. Henry Wheeler, trembling, turned the rescued telescopeon the mountain to see what he might. Through the lenses were discernible three tiny figures,apparently running toward the summit as fast as the steep incline allowed. Only these—nothingmore. Then everyone noticed a strangely unseasonable noise in the deep valley behind, and evenin the underbrush of Sentinel Hill itself. It was the piping of unnumbered whippoorwills, andin their shrill chorus there seemed to lurk a note of tense and evil expectancy.

    Earl Sawyer now took the telescope and reported the three figures as standingon the topmost ridge, virtually level with the altar-stone but at a considerable distance fromit. One figure, he said, seemed to be raising its hands above its head at rhythmic intervals;and as Sawyer mentioned the circ*mstance the crowd seemed to hear a faint, half-musical soundfrom the distance, as if a loud chant were accompanying the gestures. The weird silhouette onthat remote peak must have been a spectacle of infinite grotesqueness and impressiveness, butno observer was in a mood for aesthetic appreciation. “I guess he’s sayin’the spell, “ whispered Wheeler as he snatched back the telescope. The whippoorwills werepiping wildly, and in a singularly curious irregular rhythm quite unlike that of the visibleritual.

    Suddenly the sunshine seemed to lessen without the intervention of any discerniblecloud. It was a very peculiar phenomenon, and was plainly marked by all. A rumbling sound seemedbrewing beneath the hills, mixed strangely with a concordant rumbling which clearly came fromthe sky. Lightning flashed aloft, and the wondering crowd looked in vain for the portents ofstorm. The chanting of the men from Arkham now became unmistakable, and Wheeler saw throughthe glass that they were all raising their arms in the rhythmic incantation. From some farmhousefar away came the frantic barking of dogs.

    The change in the quality of the daylight increased, and the crowd gazed aboutthe horizon in wonder. A purplish darkness, born of nothing more than a spectral deepening ofthe sky’s blue, pressed down upon the rumbling hills. Then the lightning flashed again,somewhat brighter than before, and the crowd fancied that it had shewed a certain mistinessaround the altar-stone on the distant height. No one, however, had been using the telescopeat that instant. The whippoorwills continued their irregular pulsation, and the men of Dunwichbraced themselves tensely against some imponderable menace with which the atmosphere seemedsurcharged.

    Without warning came those deep, cracked, raucous vocal sounds which will neverleave the memory of the stricken group who heard them. Not from any human throat were they born,for the organs of man can yield no such acoustic perversions. Rather would one have said theycame from the pit itself, had not their source been so unmistakably the altar-stone on the peak.It is almost erroneous to call them sounds at all, since so much of their ghastly, infra-basstimbre spoke to dim seats of consciousness and terror far subtler than the ear; yet one mustdo so, since their form was indisputably though vaguely that of half-articulate words.They were loud—loud as the rumblings and the thunder above which they echoed—yetdid they come from no visible being. And because imagination might suggest a conjectural sourcein the world of non-visible beings, the huddled crowd at the mountain’s base huddled stillcloser, and winced as if in expectation of a blow.

    “Ygnaiih . . . ygnaiih . . . thflthkh’ngha . . .Yog-Sothoth . . . “ rang the hideous croaking out of space. “Y’bthnk . . .h’ehye—n’grkdl’lh. . . . “

    The speaking impulse seemed to falter here, as if some frightful psychic strugglewere going on. Henry Wheeler strained his eye at the telescope, but saw only the three grotesquelysilhouetted human figures on the peak, all moving their arms furiously in strange gestures astheir incantation drew near its culmination. From what black wells of Acherontic fear or feeling,from what unplumbed gulfs of extra-cosmic consciousness or obscure, long-latent heredity, werethose half-articulate thunder-croakings drawn? Presently they began to gather renewed forceand coherence as they grew in stark, utter, ultimate frenzy.

    “Eh-ya-ya-ya-yahaah—e’yayayayaaaa . . . ngh’aaaaa . . . ngh’aaaa . . . h’yuh . . .h’yuh . . . HELP! HELP! . . . ff—ff—ff —FATHER!FATHER! YOG-SOTHOTH! . . . “

    But that was all. The pallid group in the road, still reeling at the indisputablyEnglish syllables that had poured thickly and thunderously down from the frantic vacancybeside that shocking altar-stone, were never to hear such syllables again. Instead, they jumpedviolently at the terrific report which seemed to rend the hills; the deafening, cataclysmicpeal whose source, be it inner earth or sky, no hearer was ever able to place. A single lightning-boltshot from the purple zenith to the altar-stone, and a great tidal wave of viewless force andindescribable stench swept down from the hill to all the countryside. Trees, grass, and underbrushwere whipped into a fury; and the frightened crowd at the mountain’s base, weakened bythe lethal foetor that seemed about to asphyxiate them, were almost hurled off their feet. Dogshowled from the distance, green grass and foliage wilted to a curious, sickly yellow-grey, andover field and forest were scattered the bodies of dead whippoorwills.

    The stench left quickly, but the vegetation never came right again. To thisday there is something queer and unholy about the growths on and around that fearsome hill.Curtis Whateley was only just regaining consciousness when the Arkham men came slowly down themountain in the beams of a sunlight once more brilliant and untainted. They were grave and quiet,and seemed shaken by memories and reflections even more terrible than those which had reducedthe group of natives to a state of cowed quivering. In reply to a jumble of questions they onlyshook their heads and reaffirmed one vital fact.

    “The thing has gone forever, “ Armitage said. “It has beensplit up into what it was originally made of, and can never exist again. It was an impossibilityin a normal world. Only the least fraction was really matter in any sense we know. It was likeits father—and most of it has gone back to him in some vague realm or dimension outsideour material universe; some vague abyss out of which only the most accursed rites of human blasphemycould ever have called him for a moment on the hills. “

    There was a brief silence, and in that pause the scattered senses of poor CurtisWhateley began to knit back into a sort of continuity; so that he put his hands to his headwith a moan. Memory seemed to pick itself up where it had left off, and the horror of the sightthat had prostrated him burst in upon him again.

    “Oh, oh, my Gawd, that haff face—that haff face on top of it . . .that face with the red eyes an’ crinkly albino hair, an’ no chin, like the Whateleys . . .It was a octopus, centipede, spider kind o’ thing, but they was a haff-shaped man’sface on top of it, an’ it looked like Wizard Whateley’s, only it was yards an’yards acrost. . . .”

    He paused exhausted, as the whole group of natives stared in a bewildermentnot quite crystallised into fresh terror. Only old Zebulon Whateley, who wanderingly rememberedancient things but who had been silent heretofore, spoke aloud.

    “Fifteen year’ gone,” he rambled, “I heerd Ol’Whateley say as haow some day we’d hear a child o’ Lavinny’s a-callin’its father’s name on the top o’ Sentinel Hill. . . . “

    But Joe Osborn interrupted him to question the Arkham men anew.

    “What was it anyhaow, an’ haowever did young Wizard Whateley call it aout o’ the air it come from?”

    Armitage chose his words very carefully.

    “It was—well, it was mostly a kind of force that doesn’tbelong in our part of space; a kind of force that acts and grows and shapes itself by otherlaws than those of our sort of Nature. We have no business calling in such things from outside,and only very wicked people and very wicked cults ever try to. There was some of it in WilburWhateley himself—enough to make a devil and a precocious monster of him, and to make hispassing out a pretty terrible sight. I’m going to burn his accursed diary, and if youmen are wise you’ll dynamite that altar-stone up there, and pull down all the rings ofstanding stones on the other hills. Things like that brought down the beings those Whateleyswere so fond of—the beings they were going to let in tangibly to wipe out the human raceand drag the earth off to some nameless place for some nameless purpose.”

    “But as to this thing we’ve just sent back—the Whateleysraised it for a terrible part in the doings that were to come. It grew fast and big from thesame reason that Wilbur grew fast and big—but it beat him because it had a greater shareof the outsideness in it. You needn’t ask how Wilbur called it out of the air.He didn’t call it out. It was his twin brother, but it looked more like the fatherthan he did.”

    I.

    Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at the end. To say that a mentalshock was the cause of what I inferred—that last straw which sent me racing out of thelonely Akeley farmhouse and through the wild domed hills of Vermont in a commandeered motorat night—is to ignore the plainest facts of my final experience. Notwithstanding the deepextent to which I shared the information and speculations of Henry Akeley, the things I sawand heard, and the admitted vividness of the impression produced on me by these things, I cannotprove even now whether I was right or wrong in my hideous inference. For after all, Akeley’sdisappearance establishes nothing. People found nothing amiss in his house despite the bullet-markson the outside and inside. It was just as though he had walked out casually for a ramble inthe hills and failed to return. There was not even a sign that a guest had been there, or thatthose horrible cylinders and machines had been stored in the study. That he had mortally fearedthe crowded green hills and endless trickle of brooks among which he had been born and reared,means nothing at all, either; for thousands are subject to just such morbid fears. Eccentricity,moreover, could easily account for his strange acts and apprehensions toward the last.

    The whole matter began, so far as I am concerned, with the historic and unprecedentedVermont floods of November 3, 1927. I was then, as now, an instructor of literature at MiskatonicUniversity in Arkham, Massachusetts, and an enthusiastic amateur student of New England folklore.Shortly after the flood, amidst the varied reports of hardship, suffering, and organised reliefwhich filled the press, there appeared certain odd stories of things found floating in someof the swollen rivers; so that many of my friends embarked on curious discussions and appealedto me to shed what light I could on the subject. I felt flattered at having my folklore studytaken so seriously, and did what I could to belittle the wild, vague tales which seemed so clearlyan outgrowth of old rustic superstitions. It amused me to find several persons of educationwho insisted that some stratum of obscure, distorted fact might underlie the rumours.

    The tales thus brought to my notice came mostly through newspaper cuttings;though one yarn had an oral source and was repeated to a friend of mine in a letter from hismother in Hardwick, Vermont. The type of thing described was essentially the same in all cases,though there seemed to be three separate instances involved—one connected with the WinooskiRiver near Montpelier, another attached to the West River in Windham County beyond Newfane,and a third centring in the Passumpsic in Caledonia County above Lyndonville. Of course manyof the stray items mentioned other instances, but on analysis they all seemed to boil down tothese three. In each case country folk reported seeing one or more very bizarre and disturbingobjects in the surging waters that poured down from the unfrequented hills, and there was awidespread tendency to connect these sights with a primitive, half-forgotten cycle of whisperedlegend which old people resurrected for the occasion.

    What people thought they saw were organic shapes not quite like any they hadever seen before. Naturally, there were many human bodies washed along by the streams in thattragic period; but those who described these strange shapes felt quite sure that they were nothuman, despite some superficial resemblances in size and general outline. Nor, said the witnesses,could they have been any kind of animal known to Vermont. They were pinkish things about fivefeet long; with crustaceous bodies bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membraneous wings andseveral sets of articulated limbs, and with a sort of convoluted ellipsoid, covered with multitudesof very short antennae, where a head would ordinarily be. It was really remarkable how closelythe reports from different sources tended to coincide; though the wonder was lessened by thefact that the old legends, shared at one time throughout the hill country, furnished a morbidlyvivid picture which might well have coloured the imaginations of all the witnesses concerned.It was my conclusion that such witnesses—in every case naive and simple backwoods folk—hadglimpsed the battered and bloated bodies of human beings or farm animals in the whirling currents;and had allowed the half-remembered folklore to invest these pitiful objects with fantasticattributes.

    The ancient folklore, while cloudy, evasive, and largely forgotten by the presentgeneration, was of a highly singular character, and obviously reflected the influence of stillearlier Indian tales. I knew it well, though I had never been in Vermont, through the exceedinglyrare monograph of Eli Davenport, which embraces material orally obtained prior to 1839 amongthe oldest people of the state. This material, moreover, closely coincided with tales whichI had personally heard from elderly rustics in the mountains of New Hampshire. Briefly summarised,it hinted at a hidden race of monstrous beings which lurked somewhere among the remoter hills—inthe deep woods of the highest peaks, and the dark valleys where streams trickle from unknownsources. These beings were seldom glimpsed, but evidences of their presence were reported bythose who had ventured farther than usual up the slopes of certain mountains or into certaindeep, steep-sided gorges that even the wolves shunned.

    There were queer footprints or claw-prints in the mud of brook-margins andbarren patches, and curious circles of stones, with the grass around them worn away, which didnot seem to have been placed or entirely shaped by Nature. There were, too, certain caves ofproblematical depth in the sides of the hills; with mouths closed by boulders in a manner scarcelyaccidental, and with more than an average quota of the queer prints leading both toward andaway from them—if indeed the direction of these prints could be justly estimated. Andworst of all, there were the things which adventurous people had seen very rarely in the twilightof the remotest valleys and the dense perpendicular woods above the limits of normal hill-climbing.

    It would have been less uncomfortable if the stray accounts of these thingshad not agreed so well. As it was, nearly all the rumours had several points in common; averringthat the creatures were a sort of huge, light-red crab with many pairs of legs and with twogreat bat-like wings in the middle of the back. They sometimes walked on all their legs, andsometimes on the hindmost pair only, using the others to convey large objects of indeterminatenature. On one occasion they were spied in considerable numbers, a detachment of them wadingalong a shallow woodland watercourse three abreast in evidently disciplined formation. Oncea specimen was seen flying—launching itself from the top of a bald, lonely hill at nightand vanishing in the sky after its great flapping wings had been silhouetted an instant againstthe full moon.

    These things seemed content, on the whole, to let mankind alone; though theywere at times held responsible for the disappearance of venturesome individuals—especiallypersons who built houses too close to certain valleys or too high up on certain mountains. Manylocalities came to be known as inadvisable to settle in, the feeling persisting long after thecause was forgotten. People would look up at some of the neighbouring mountain-precipices witha shudder, even when not recalling how many settlers had been lost, and how many farmhousesburnt to ashes, on the lower slopes of those grim, green sentinels.

    But while according to the earliest legends the creatures would appear to haveharmed only those trespassing on their privacy; there were later accounts of their curiosityrespecting men, and of their attempts to establish secret outposts in the human world. Therewere tales of the queer claw-prints seen around farmhouse windows in the morning, and of occasionaldisappearances in regions outside the obviously haunted areas. Tales, besides, of buzzing voicesin imitation of human speech which made surprising offers to lone travellers on roads and cart-pathsin the deep woods, and of children frightened out of their wits by things seen or heard wherethe primal forest pressed close upon their dooryards. In the final layer of legends—thelayer just preceding the decline of superstition and the abandonment of close contact with thedreaded places—there are shocked references to hermits and remote farmers who at someperiod of life appeared to have undergone a repellent mental change, and who were shunned andwhispered about as mortals who had sold themselves to the strange beings. In one of the northeasterncounties it seemed to be a fashion about 1800 to accuse eccentric and unpopular recluses ofbeing allies or representatives of the abhorred things.

    As to what the things were—explanations naturally varied. The commonname applied to them was “those ones”, or “the old ones”, though otherterms had a local and transient use. Perhaps the bulk of the Puritan settlers set them downbluntly as familiars of the devil, and made them a basis of awed theological speculation. Thosewith Celtic legendry in their heritage—mainly the Scotch-Irish element of New Hampshire,and their kindred who had settled in Vermont on Governor Wentworth’s colonial grants—linkedthem vaguely with the malign fairies and “little people” of the bogs and raths,and protected themselves with scraps of incantation handed down through many generations. Butthe Indians had the most fantastic theories of all. While different tribal legends differed,there was a marked consensus of belief in certain vital particulars; it being unanimously agreedthat the creatures were not native to this earth.

    The Pennacook myths, which were the most consistent and picturesque, taughtthat the Winged Ones came from the Great Bear in the sky, and had mines in our earthly hillswhence they took a kind of stone they could not get on any other world. They did not live here,said the myths, but merely maintained outposts and flew back with vast cargoes of stone to theirown stars in the north. They harmed only those earth-people who got too near them or spied uponthem. Animals shunned them through instinctive hatred, not because of being hunted. They couldnot eat the things and animals of earth, but brought their own food from the stars. It was badto get near them, and sometimes young hunters who went into their hills never came back. Itwas not good, either, to listen to what they whispered at night in the forest with voices likea bee’s that tried to be like the voices of men. They knew the speech of all kinds ofmen—Pennacooks, Hurons, men of the Five Nations—but did not seem to have or needany speech of their own. They talked with their heads, which changed colour in different waysto mean different things.

    All the legendry, of course, white and Indian alike, died down during the nineteenthcentury, except for occasional atavistical flareups. The ways of the Vermonters became settled;and once their habitual paths and dwellings were established according to a certain fixed plan,they remembered less and less what fears and avoidances had determined that plan, and even thatthere had been any fears or avoidances. Most people simply knew that certain hilly regions wereconsidered as highly unhealthy, unprofitable, and generally unlucky to live in, and that thefarther one kept from them the better off one usually was. In time the ruts of custom and economicinterest became so deeply cut in approved places that there was no longer any reason for goingoutside them, and the haunted hills were left deserted by accident rather than by design. Saveduring infrequent local scares, only wonder-loving grandmothers and retrospective nonagenariansever whispered of beings dwelling in those hills; and even such whisperers admitted that therewas not much to fear from those things now that they were used to the presence of houses andsettlements, and now that human beings let their chosen territory severely alone.

    All this I had known from my reading, and from certain folk-tales picked upin New Hampshire; hence when the flood-time rumours began to appear, I could easily guess whatimaginative background had evolved them. I took great pains to explain this to my friends, andwas correspondingly amused when several contentious souls continued to insist on a possibleelement of truth in the reports. Such persons tried to point out that the early legends hada significant persistence and uniformity, and that the virtually unexplored nature of the Vermonthills made it unwise to be dogmatic about what might or might not dwell among them; nor couldthey be silenced by my assurance that all the myths were of a well-known pattern common to mostof mankind and determined by early phases of imaginative experience which always produced thesame type of delusion.

    It was of no use to demonstrate to such opponents that the Vermont myths differedbut little in essence from those universal legends of natural personification which filled theancient world with fauns and dryads and satyrs, suggested the kallikanzari of modernGreece, and gave to wild Wales and Ireland their dark hints of strange, small, and terriblehidden races of troglodytes and burrowers. No use, either, to point out the even more startlinglysimilar belief of the Nepalese hill tribes in the dreaded Mi-Go or “Abominable Snow-Men” who lurk hideously amidst the ice and rock pinnaclesof the Himalayan summits. When I brought up this evidence, my opponents turned it against me by claiming that it mustimply some actual historicity for the ancient tales; that it must argue the real existence ofsome queer elder earth-race, driven to hiding after the advent and dominance of mankind, whichmight very conceivably have survived in reduced numbers to relatively recent times—oreven to the present.

    The more I laughed at such theories, the more these stubborn friends asseveratedthem; adding that even without the heritage of legend the recent reports were too clear, consistent,detailed, and sanely prosaic in manner of telling, to be completely ignored. Two or three fanaticalextremists went so far as to hint at possible meanings in the ancient Indian tales which gavethe hidden beings a non-terrestrial origin; citing the extravagant books of Charles Fort withtheir claims that voyagers from other worlds and outer space have often visited earth. Mostof my foes, however, were merely romanticists who insisted on trying to transfer to real lifethe fantastic lore of lurking “little people” made popular by the magnificent horror-fictionof Arthur Machen.

    II.

    As was only natural under the circ*mstances, this piquant debating finallygot into print in the form of letters to the Arkham Advertiser; some of which were copiedin the press of those Vermont regions whence the flood-stories came. The Rutland Heraldgave half a page of extracts from the letters on both sides, while the Brattleboro Reformerreprinted one of my long historical and mythological summaries in full, with some accompanyingcomments in “The Pendrifter’s” thoughtful column which supported and applaudedmy sceptical conclusions. By the spring of 1928 I was almost a well-known figure in Vermont,notwithstanding the fact that I had never set foot in the state. Then came the challenging lettersfrom Henry Akeley which impressed me so profoundly, and which took me for the first and lasttime to that fascinating realm of crowded green precipices and muttering forest streams.

    Most of what I now know of Henry Wentworth Akeley was gathered by correspondencewith his neighbours, and with his only son in California, after my experience in his lonelyfarmhouse. He was, I discovered, the last representative on his home soil of a long, locallydistinguished line of jurists, administrators, and gentlemen-agriculturists. In him, however,the family mentally had veered away from practical affairs to pure scholarship; so that he hadbeen a notable student of mathematics, astronomy, biology, anthropology, and folklore at theUniversity of Vermont. I had never previously heard of him, and he did not give many autobiographicaldetails in his communications; but from the first I saw he was a man of character, education,and intelligence, albeit a recluse with very little worldly sophistication.

    Despite the incredible nature of what he claimed, I could not help at oncetaking Akeley more seriously than I had taken any of the other challengers of my views. Forone thing, he was really close to the actual phenomena—visible and tangible—thathe speculated so grotesquely about; and for another thing, he was amazingly willing to leavehis conclusions in a tentative state like a true man of science. He had no personal preferencesto advance, and was always guided by what he took to be solid evidence. Of course I began byconsidering him mistaken, but gave him credit for being intelligently mistaken; and at no timedid I emulate some of his friends in attributing his ideas, and his fear of the lonely greenhills, to insanity. I could see that there was a great deal to the man, and knew that what hereported must surely come from strange circ*mstances deserving investigation, however littleit might have to do with the fantastic causes he assigned. Later on I received from him certainmaterial proofs which placed the matter on a somewhat different and bewilderingly bizarre basis.

    I cannot do better than transcribe in full, so far as is possible, the longletter in which Akeley introduced himself, and which formed such an important landmark in myown intellectual history. It is no longer in my possession, but my memory holds almost everyword of its portentous message; and again I affirm my confidence in the sanity of the man whowrote it. Here is the text—a text which reached me in the cramped, archaic-looking scrawlof one who had obviously not mingled much with the world during his sedate, scholarly life.

    It would be difficult to describe my sentiments upon reading this strange documentfor the first time. By all ordinary rules, I ought to have laughed more loudly at these extravagancesthan at the far milder theories which had previously moved me to mirth; yet something in thetone of the letter made me take it with paradoxical seriousness. Not that I believed for a momentin the hidden race from the stars which my correspondent spoke of; but that, after some gravepreliminary doubts, I grew to feel oddly sure of his sanity and sincerity, and of his confrontationby some genuine though singular and abnormal phenomenon which he could not explain except inthis imaginative way. It could not be as he thought it, I reflected, yet on the other hand itcould not be otherwise than worthy of investigation. The man seemed unduly excited and alarmedabout something, but it was hard to think that all cause was lacking. He was so specific andlogical in certain ways—and after all, his yarn did fit in so perplexingly well with someof the old myths—even the wildest Indian legends.

    That he had really overheard disturbing voices in the hills, and had reallyfound the black stone he spoke about, was wholly possible despite the crazy inferences he hadmade—inferences probably suggested by the man who had claimed to be a spy of the outerbeings and had later killed himself. It was easy to deduce that this man must have been whollyinsane, but that he probably had a streak of perverse outward logic which made the naive Akeley—alreadyprepared for such things by his folklore studies—believe his tale. As for the latest developments—itappeared from his inability to keep hired help that Akeley’s humbler rustic neighbourswere as convinced as he that his house was besieged by uncanny things at night. The dogs reallybarked, too.

    And then the matter of that phonograph record, which I could not but believehe had obtained in the way he said. It must mean something; whether animal noises deceptivelylike human speech, or the speech of some hidden, night-haunting human being decayed to a statenot much above that of lower animals. From this my thoughts went back to the black hieroglyphedstone, and to speculations upon what it might mean. Then, too, what of the photographs whichAkeley said he was about to send, and which the old people had found so convincingly terrible?

    As I re-read the cramped handwriting I felt as never before that my credulousopponents might have more on their side than I had conceded. After all, there might be somequeer and perhaps hereditarily misshapen outcasts in those shunned hills, even though no suchrace of star-born monsters as folklore claimed. And if there were, then the presence of strangebodies in the flooded streams would not be wholly beyond belief. Was it too presumptuous tosuppose that both the old legends and the recent reports had this much of reality behind them?But even as I harboured these doubts I felt ashamed that so fantastic a piece of bizarrerieas Henry Akeley’s wild letter had brought them up.

    In the end I answered Akeley’s letter, adopting a tone of friendly interestand soliciting further particulars. His reply came almost by return mail; and contained, trueto promise, a number of kodak views of scenes and objects illustrating what he had to tell.Glancing at these pictures as I took them from the envelope, I felt a curious sense of frightand nearness to forbidden things; for in spite of the vagueness of most of them, they had adamnably suggestive power which was intensified by the fact of their being genuine photographs—actualoptical links with what they portrayed, and the product of an impersonal transmitting processwithout prejudice, fallibility, or mendacity.

    The more I looked at them, the more I saw that my serious estimate of Akeleyand his story had not been unjustified. Certainly, these pictures carried conclusive evidenceof something in the Vermont hills which was at least vastly outside the radius of our commonknowledge and belief. The worst thing of all was the footprint—a view taken where thesun shone on a mud patch somewhere in a deserted upland. This was no cheaply counterfeited thing,I could see at a glance; for the sharply defined pebbles and grass-blades in the field of visiongave a clear index of scale and left no possibility of a tricky double exposure. I have calledthe thing a “footprint”, but “claw-print” would be a better term. Evennow I can scarcely describe it save to say that it was hideously crab-like, and that there seemedto be some ambiguity about its direction. It was not a very deep or fresh print, but seemedto be about the size of an average man’s foot. From a central pad, pairs of saw-toothednippers projected in opposite directions—quite baffling as to function, if indeed thewhole object were exclusively an organ of locomotion.

    Another photograph—evidently a time-exposure taken in deep shadow—wasof the mouth of a woodland cave, with a boulder of rounded regularity choking the aperture.On the bare ground in front of it one could just discern a dense network of curious tracks,and when I studied the picture with a magnifier I felt uneasily sure that the tracks were likethe one in the other view. A third picture shewed a druid-like circle of standing stones onthe summit of a wild hill. Around the cryptic circle the grass was very much beaten down andworn away, though I could not detect any footprints even with the glass. The extreme remotenessof the place was apparent from the veritable sea of tenantless mountains which formed the backgroundand stretched away toward a misty horizon.

    But if the most disturbing of all the views was that of the footprint, themost curiously suggestive was that of the great black stone found in the Round Hill woods. Akeleyhad photographed it on what was evidently his study table, for I could see rows of books anda bust of Milton in the background. The thing, as nearly as one might guess, had faced the cameravertically with a somewhat irregularly curved surface of one by two feet; but to say anythingdefinite about that surface, or about the general shape of the whole mass, almost defies thepower of language. What outlandish geometrical principles had guided its cutting—for artificiallycut it surely was—I could not even begin to guess; and never before had I seen anythingwhich struck me as so strangely and unmistakably alien to this world. Of the hieroglyphics onthe surface I could discern very few, but one or two that I did see gave me rather a shock.Of course they might be fraudulent, for others besides myself had read the monstrous and abhorredNecronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; but it nevertheless made me shiver to recognisecertain ideographs which study had taught me to link with the most blood-curdling and blasphemouswhispers of things that had had a kind of mad half-existence before the earth and the otherinner worlds of the solar system were made.

    Of the five remaining pictures, three were of swamp and hill scenes which seemedto bear traces of hidden and unwholesome tenancy. Another was of a queer mark in the groundvery near Akeley’s house, which he said he had photographed the morning after a nighton which the dogs had barked more violently than usual. It was very blurred, and one could reallydraw no certain conclusions from it; but it did seem fiendishly like that other mark or claw-printphotographed on the deserted upland. The final picture was of the Akeley place itself; a trimwhite house of two stories and attic, about a century and a quarter old, and with a well-keptlawn and stone-bordered path leading up to a tastefully carved Georgian doorway. There wereseveral huge police dogs on the lawn, squatting near a pleasant-faced man with a close-croppedgrey beard whom I took to be Akeley himself—his own photographer, one might infer fromthe tube-connected bulb in his right hand.

    From the pictures I turned to the bulky, closely written letter itself; andfor the next three hours was immersed in a gulf of unutterable horror. Where Akeley had givenonly outlines before, he now entered into minute details; presenting long transcripts of wordsoverheard in the woods at night, long accounts of monstrous pinkish forms spied in thicketsat twilight on the hills, and a terrible cosmic narrative derived from the application of profoundand varied scholarship to the endless bygone discourses of the mad self-styled spy who had killedhimself. I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewhere in the most hideousof connexions—Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-Sothoth, R’lyeh, Nyarlathotep,Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, the Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign, L’mur-Kathulos,Bran, and the Magnum Innominandum—and was drawn back through nameless aeons and inconceivabledimensions to worlds of elder, outer entity at which the crazed author of the Necronomiconhad only guessed in the vaguest way. I was told of the pits of primal life, and of the streamsthat had trickled down therefrom; and finally, of the tiny rivulet from one of those streamswhich had become entangled with the destinies of our own earth.

    My brain whirled; and where before I had attempted to explain things away,I now began to believe in the most abnormal and incredible wonders. The array of vital evidencewas damnably vast and overwhelming; and the cool, scientific attitude of Akeley—an attituderemoved as far as imaginable from the demented, the fanatical, the hysterical, or even the extravagantlyspeculative—had a tremendous effect on my thought and judgment. By the time I laid thefrightful letter aside I could understand the fears he had come to entertain, and was readyto do anything in my power to keep people away from those wild, haunted hills. Even now, whentime has dulled the impression and made me half question my own experience and horrible doubts,there are things in that letter of Akeley’s which I would not quote, or even form intowords on paper. I am almost glad that the letter and record and photographs are gone now—andI wish, for reasons I shall soon make clear, that the new planet beyond Neptune had not beendiscovered.

    With the reading of that letter my public debating about the Vermont horrorpermanently ended. Arguments from opponents remained unanswered or put off with promises, andeventually the controversy petered out into oblivion. During late May and June I was in constantcorrespondence with Akeley; though once in a while a letter would be lost, so that we wouldhave to retrace our ground and perform considerable laborious copying. What we were trying todo, as a whole, was to compare notes in matters of obscure mythological scholarship and arriveat a clearer correlation of the Vermont horrors with the general body of primitive world legend.

    For one thing, we virtually decided that these morbidities and the hellishHimalayan Mi-Go were one and the same order of incarnated nightmare. There were alsoabsorbing zoölogical conjectures, which I would have referred to Professor Dexter in myown college but for Akeley’s imperative command to tell no one of the matter before us.If I seem to disobey that command now, it is only because I think that at this stage a warningabout those farther Vermont hills—and about those Himalayan peaks which bold explorersare more and more determined to ascend—is more conducive to public safety than silencewould be. One specific thing we were leading up to was a deciphering of the hieroglyphics onthat infamous black stone—a deciphering which might well place us in possession of secretsdeeper and more dizzying than any formerly known to man.

    III.

    Toward the end of June the phonograph record came—shipped from Brattleboro,since Akeley was unwilling to trust conditions on the branch line north of there. He had begunto feel an increased sense of espionage, aggravated by the loss of some of our letters; andsaid much about the insidious deeds of certain men whom he considered tools and agents of thehidden beings. Most of all he suspected the surly farmer Walter Brown, who lived alone on arun-down hillside place near the deep woods, and who was often seen loafing around corners inBrattleboro, Bellows Falls, Newfane, and South Londonderry in the most inexplicable and seeminglyunmotivated way. Brown’s voice, he felt convinced, was one of those he had overheard ona certain occasion in a very terrible conversation; and he had once found a footprint or claw-printnear Brown’s house which might possess the most ominous significance. It had been curiouslynear some of Brown’s own footprints—footprints that faced toward it.

    So the record was shipped from Brattleboro, whither Akeley drove in his Fordcar along the lonely Vermont back roads. He confessed in an accompanying note that he was beginningto be afraid of those roads, and that he would not even go into Townshend for supplies now exceptin broad daylight. It did not pay, he repeated again and again, to know too much unless onewere very remote from those silent and problematical hills. He would be going to Californiapretty soon to live with his son, though it was hard to leave a place where all one’smemories and ancestral feelings centred.

    Before trying the record on the commercial machine which I borrowed from thecollege administration building I carefully went over all the explanatory matter in Akeley’svarious letters. This record, he had said, was obtained about 1 a.m. on the first of May, 1915,near the closed mouth of a cave where the wooded west slope of Dark Mountain rises out of Lee’sSwamp. The place had always been unusually plagued with strange voices, this being the reasonhe had brought the phonograph, dictaphone, and blank in expectation of results. Former experiencehad told him that May-Eve—the hideous Sabbat-night of underground European legend—wouldprobably be more fruitful than any other date, and he was not disappointed. It was noteworthy,though, that he never again heard voices at that particular spot.

    Unlike most of the overheard forest voices, the substance of the record wasquasi-ritualistic, and included one palpably human voice which Akeley had never been able toplace. It was not Brown’s, but seemed to be that of a man of greater cultivation. Thesecond voice, however, was the real crux of the thing—for this was the accursed buzzingwhich had no likeness to humanity despite the human words which it uttered in good English grammarand a scholarly accent.

    The recording phonograph and dictaphone had not worked uniformly well, andhad of course been at a great disadvantage because of the remote and muffled nature of the overheardritual; so that the actual speech secured was very fragmentary. Akeley had given me a transcriptof what he believed the spoken words to be, and I glanced through this again as I prepared themachine for action. The text was darkly mysterious rather than openly horrible, though a knowledgeof its origin and manner of gathering gave it all the associative horror which any words couldwell possess. I will present it here in full as I remember it—and I am fairly confidentthat I know it correctly by heart, not only from reading the transcript, but from playing therecord itself over and over again. It is not a thing which one might readily forget!

    (INDISTINGUISHABLE SOUNDS)

    (A CULTIVATED MALE HUMAN VOICE)

    . . . is the Lord of the Woods, even to . . .and the gifts of the men of Leng . . . so from the wells of night to the gulfsof space, and from the gulfs of space to the wells of night, ever the praises of Great Cthulhu,of Tsathoggua, and of Him Who is not to be Named. Ever Their praises, and abundance to the BlackGoat of the Woods. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!

    (A BUZZING IMITATION OF HUMAN SPEECH)

    Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!

    (HUMAN VOICE)

    And it has come to pass that the Lord of the Woods, being . . .seven and nine, down the onyx steps . . . (tri)butes to Him in the Gulf, Azathoth,He of Whom Thou hast taught us marv(els) . . . on the wings of night out beyond space,out beyond th . . . to That whereof Yuggoth is the youngest child, rolling alonein black aether at the rim. . . .

    (BUZZING VOICE)

    . . . go out among men and find the ways thereof, that He inthe Gulf may know. To Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, must all things be told. And He shallput on the semblance of men, the waxen mask and the robe that hides, and come down from theworld of Seven Suns to mock. . . .

    (HUMAN VOICE)

    . . . (Nyarl)athotep, Great Messenger, bringer of strange joy to Yuggoth through thevoid, Father of the Million Favoured Ones, Stalker among. . . .

    (SPEECH CUT OFF BY END OF RECORD)

    Such were the words for which I was to listen when I started the phonograph.It was with a trace of genuine dread and reluctance that I pressed the lever and heard the preliminaryscratching of the sapphire point, and I was glad that the first faint, fragmentary words werein a human voice—a mellow, educated voice which seemed vaguely Bostonian in accent, andwhich was certainly not that of any native of the Vermont hills. As I listened to the tantalisinglyfeeble rendering, I seemed to find the speech identical with Akeley’s carefully preparedtranscript. On it chanted, in that mellow Bostonian voice . . . “Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young! . . . “

    And then I heard the other voice. To this hour I shudder retrospectivelywhen I think of how it struck me, prepared though I was by Akeley’s accounts. Those towhom I have since described the record profess to find nothing but cheap imposture or madnessin it; but could they have heard the accursed thing itself, or read the bulk of Akeley’scorrespondence (especially that terrible and encyclopaedic second letter), I know they wouldthink differently. It is, after all, a tremendous pity that I did not disobey Akeley and playthe record for others—a tremendous pity, too, that all of his letters were lost. To me,with my first-hand impression of the actual sounds, and with my knowledge of the backgroundand surrounding circ*mstances, the voice was a monstrous thing. It swiftly followed the humanvoice in ritualistic response, but in my imagination it was a morbid echo winging its way acrossunimaginable abysses from unimaginable outer hells. It is more than two years now since I lastran off that blasphemous waxen cylinder; but at this moment, and at all other moments, I canstill hear that feeble, fiendish buzzing as it reached me for the first time.

    “Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young! “

    But though that voice is always in my ears, I have not even yet been able toanalyse it well enough for a graphic description. It was like the drone of some loathsome, giganticinsect ponderously shaped into the articulate speech of an alien species, and I am perfectlycertain that the organs producing it can have no resemblance to the vocal organs of man, orindeed to those of any of the mammalia. There were singularities in timbre, range, and overtoneswhich placed this phenomenon wholly outside the sphere of humanity and earth-life. Its suddenadvent that first time almost stunned me, and I heard the rest of the record through in a sortof abstracted daze. When the longer passage of buzzing came, there was a sharp intensificationof that feeling of blasphemous infinity which had struck me during the shorter and earlier passage.At last the record ended abruptly, during an unusually clear speech of the human and Bostonianvoice; but I sat stupidly staring long after the machine had automatically stopped.

    I hardly need say that I gave that shocking record many another playing, andthat I made exhaustive attempts at analysis and comment in comparing notes with Akeley. It wouldbe both useless and disturbing to repeat here all that we concluded; but I may hint that weagreed in believing we had secured a clue to the source of some of the most repulsive primordialcustoms in the cryptic elder religions of mankind. It seemed plain to us, also, that there wereancient and elaborate alliances between the hidden outer creatures and certain members of thehuman race. How extensive these alliances were, and how their state today might compare withtheir state in earlier ages, we had no means of guessing; yet at best there was room for a limitlessamount of horrified speculation. There seemed to be an awful, immemorial linkage in severaldefinite stages betwixt man and nameless infinity. The blasphemies which appeared on earth,it was hinted, came from the dark planet Yuggoth, at the rim of the solar system; but this wasitself merely the populous outpost of a frightful interstellar race whose ultimate source mustlie far outside even the Einsteinian space-time continuum or greatest known cosmos.

    Meanwhile we continued to discuss the black stone and the best way of gettingit to Arkham—Akeley deeming it inadvisable to have me visit him at the scene of his nightmarestudies. For some reason or other, Akeley was afraid to trust the thing to any ordinary or expectedtransportation route. His final idea was to take it across county to Bellows Falls and shipit on the Boston and Maine system through Keene and Winchendon and Fitchburg, even though thiswould necessitate his driving along somewhat lonelier and more forest-traversing hill roadsthan the main highway to Brattleboro. He said he had noticed a man around the express officeat Brattleboro when he had sent the phonograph record, whose actions and expression had beenfar from reassuring. This man had seemed too anxious to talk with the clerks, and had takenthe train on which the record was shipped. Akeley confessed that he had not felt strictly atease about that record until he heard from me of its safe receipt.

    About this time—the second week in July—another letter of minewent astray, as I learned through an anxious communication from Akeley. After that he told meto address him no more at Townshend, but to send all mail in care of the General Delivery atBrattleboro; whither he would make frequent trips either in his car or on the motor-coach linewhich had lately replaced passenger service on the lagging branch railway. I could see thathe was getting more and more anxious, for he went into much detail about the increased barkingof the dogs on moonless nights, and about the fresh claw-prints he sometimes found in the roadand in the mud at the back of his farmyard when morning came. Once he told about a veritablearmy of prints drawn up in a line facing an equally thick and resolute line of dog-tracks, andsent a loathsomely disturbing kodak picture to prove it. That was after a night on which thedogs had outdone themselves in barking and howling.

    On the morning of Wednesday, July 18, I received a telegram from Bellows Falls,in which Akeley said he was expressing the black stone over the B. & M. on Train No. 5508,leaving Bellows Falls at 12:15 p.m., standard time, and due at the North Station in Boston at4:12 p.m. It ought, I calculated, to get up to Arkham at least by the next noon; and accordinglyI stayed in all Thursday morning to receive it. But noon came and went without its advent, andwhen I telephoned down to the express office I was informed that no shipment for me had arrived.My next act, performed amidst a growing alarm, was to give a long-distance call to the expressagent at the Boston North Station; and I was scarcely surprised to learn that my consignmenthad not appeared. Train No. 5508 had pulled in only 35 minutes late on the day before, but hadcontained no box addressed to me. The agent promised, however, to institute a searching inquiry;and I ended the day by sending Akeley a night-letter outlining the situation.

    With commendable promptness a report came from the Boston office on the followingafternoon, the agent telephoning as soon as he learned the facts. It seemed that the railwayexpress clerk on No. 5508 had been able to recall an incident which might have much bearingon my loss—an argument with a very curious-voiced man, lean, sandy, and rustic-looking,when the train was waiting at Keene, N.H., shortly after one o’clock standard time.

    The man, he said, was greatly excited about a heavy box which he claimed toexpect, but which was neither on the train nor entered on the company’s books. He hadgiven the name of Stanley Adams, and had had such a queerly thick droning voice, that it madethe clerk abnormally dizzy and sleepy to listen to him. The clerk could not remember quite howthe conversation had ended, but recalled starting into a fuller awakeness when the train beganto move. The Boston agent added that this clerk was a young man of wholly unquestioned veracityand reliability, of known antecedents and long with the company.

    That evening I went to Boston to interview the clerk in person, having obtainedhis name and address from the office. He was a frank, prepossessing fellow, but I saw that hecould add nothing to his original account. Oddly, he was scarcely sure that he could even recognisethe strange inquirer again. Realising that he had no more to tell, I returned to Arkham andsat up till morning writing letters to Akeley, to the express company, and to the police departmentand station agent in Keene. I felt that the strange-voiced man who had so queerly affected theclerk must have a pivotal place in the ominous business, and hoped that Keene station employeesand telegraph-office records might tell something about him and about how he happened to makehis inquiry when and where he did.

    I must admit, however, that all my investigations came to nothing. The queer-voicedman had indeed been noticed around the Keene station in the early afternoon of July 18, andone lounger seemed to couple him vaguely with a heavy box; but he was altogether unknown, andhad not been seen before or since. He had not visited the telegraph office or received any messageso far as could be learned, nor had any message which might justly be considered a notice ofthe black stone’s presence on No. 5508 come through the office for anyone. Naturally Akeleyjoined with me in conducting these inquiries, and even made a personal trip to Keene to questionthe people around the station; but his attitude toward the matter was more fatalistic than mine.He seemed to find the loss of the box a portentous and menacing fulfilment of inevitable tendencies,and had no real hope at all of its recovery. He spoke of the undoubted telepathic and hypnoticpowers of the hill creatures and their agents, and in one letter hinted that he did not believethe stone was on this earth any longer. For my part, I was duly enraged, for I had felt therewas at least a chance of learning profound and astonishing things from the old, blurred hieroglyphs.The matter would have rankled bitterly in my mind had not Akeley’s immediate subsequentletters brought up a new phase of the whole horrible hill problem which at once seized all myattention.

    IV.

    The unknown things, Akeley wrote in a script grown pitifully tremulous, hadbegun to close in on him with a wholly new degree of determination. The nocturnal barking ofthe dogs whenever the moon was dim or absent was hideous now, and there had been attempts tomolest him on the lonely roads he had to traverse by day. On the second of August, while boundfor the village in his car, he had found a tree-trunk laid in his path at a point where thehighway ran through a deep patch of woods; while the savage barking of the two great dogs hehad with him told all too well of the things which must have been lurking near. What would havehappened had the dogs not been there, he did not dare guess—but he never went out nowwithout at least two of his faithful and powerful pack. Other road experiences had occurredon August 5th and 6th; a shot grazing his car on one occasion, and the barking of the dogs tellingof unholy woodland presences on the other.

    On August 15th I received a frantic letter which disturbed me greatly, andwhich made me wish Akeley could put aside his lonely reticence and call in the aid of the law.There had been frightful happenings on the night of the 12-13th, bullets flying outside thefarmhouse, and three of the twelve great dogs being found shot dead in the morning. There weremyriads of claw-prints in the road, with the human prints of Walter Brown among them. Akeleyhad started to telephone to Brattleboro for more dogs, but the wire had gone dead before hehad a chance to say much. Later he went to Brattleboro in his car, and learned there that linemenhad found the main telephone cable neatly cut at a point where it ran through the deserted hillsnorth of Newfane. But he was about to start home with four fine new dogs, and several casesof ammunition for his big-game repeating rifle. The letter was written at the post office inBrattleboro, and came through to me without delay.

    My attitude toward the matter was by this time quickly slipping from a scientificto an alarmedly personal one. I was afraid for Akeley in his remote, lonely farmhouse, and halfafraid for myself because of my now definite connexion with the strange hill problem. The thingwas reaching out so. Would it suck me in and engulf me? In replying to his letter I urgedhim to seek help, and hinted that I might take action myself if he did not. I spoke of visitingVermont in person in spite of his wishes, and of helping him explain the situation to the properauthorities. In return, however, I received only a telegram from Bellows Falls which read thus:

    APPRECIATE YOUR POSITION BUT CAN DO NOTHING. TAKE NO ACTION YOURSELF FOR IT COULD ONLYHARM BOTH. WAIT FOR EXPLANATION.HENRY AKELY

    But the affair was steadily deepening. Upon my replying to the telegram I receiveda shaky note from Akeley with the astonishing news that he had not only never sent the wire,but had not received the letter from me to which it was an obvious reply. Hasty inquiries byhim at Bellows Falls had brought out that the message was deposited by a strange sandy-hairedman with a curiously thick, droning voice, though more than this he could not learn. The clerkshewed him the original text as scrawled in pencil by the sender, but the handwriting was whollyunfamiliar. It was noticeable that the signature was misspelled–A-K-E-L-Y, without thesecond “E”. Certain conjectures were inevitable, but amidst the obvious crisis hedid not stop to elaborate upon them.

    He spoke of the death of more dogs and the purchase of still others, and ofthe exchange of gunfire which had become a settled feature each moonless night. Brown’sprints, and the prints of at least one or two more shod human figures, were now found regularlyamong the claw-prints in the road, and at the back of the farmyard. It was, Akeley admitted,a pretty bad business; and before long he would probably have to go to live with his Californiason whether or not he could sell the old place. But it was not easy to leave the only spot onecould really think of as home. He must try to hang on a little longer; perhaps he could scareoff the intruders—especially if he openly gave up all further attempts to penetrate theirsecrets.

    Writing Akeley at once, I renewed my offers of aid, and spoke again of visitinghim and helping him convince the authorities of his dire peril. In his reply he seemed lessset against that plan than his past attitude would have led one to predict, but said he wouldlike to hold off a little while longer—long enough to get his things in order and reconcilehimself to the idea of leaving an almost morbidly cherished birthplace. People looked askanceat his studies and speculations, and it would be better to get quietly off without setting thecountryside in a turmoil and creating widespread doubts of his own sanity. He had had enough,he admitted, but he wanted to make a dignified exit if he could.

    This letter reached me on the twenty-eighth of August, and I prepared and mailedas encouraging a reply as I could. Apparently the encouragement had effect, for Akeley had fewerterrors to report when he acknowledged my note. He was not very optimistic, though, and expressedthe belief that it was only the full moon season which was holding the creatures off. He hopedthere would not be many densely cloudy nights, and talked vaguely of boarding in Brattleborowhen the moon waned. Again I wrote him encouragingly, but on September 5th there came a freshcommunication which had obviously crossed my letter in the mails; and to this I could not giveany such hopeful response. In view of its importance I believe I had better give it in full—asbest I can do from memory of the shaky script. It ran substantially as follows:

    But this was not the only letter from Akeley to cross mine. On the next morning—September6th—still another came; this time a frantic scrawl which utterly unnerved me and put meat a loss what to say or do next. Again I cannot do better than quote the text as faithfullyas memory will let me.

    I did not sleep at all the night after receiving this terrible thing, and wasutterly baffled as to Akeley’s remaining degree of sanity. The substance of the note waswholly insane, yet the manner of expression—in view of all that had gone before—hada grimly potent quality of convincingness. I made no attempt to answer it, thinking it betterto wait until Akeley might have time to reply to my latest communication. Such a reply indeedcame on the following day, though the fresh material in it quite overshadowed any of the pointsbrought up by the letter it nominally answered. Here is what I recall of the text, scrawledand blotted as it was in the course of a plainly frantic and hurried composition.

    The letter frankly plunged me into the blackest of terror. I did not know whatto say in answer, but scratched off some incoherent words of advice and encouragement and sentthem by registered mail. I recall urging Akeley to move to Brattleboro at once, and place himselfunder the protection of the authorities; adding that I would come to that town with the phonographrecord and help convince the courts of his sanity. It was time, too, I think I wrote, to alarmthe people generally against this thing in their midst. It will be observed that at this momentof stress my own belief in all Akeley had told and claimed was virtually complete, though Idid think his failure to get a picture of the dead monster was due not to any freak of Naturebut to some excited slip of his own.

    V.

    Then, apparently crossing my incoherent note and reaching me Saturday afternoon,September 8th, came that curiously different and calming letter neatly typed on a new machine;that strange letter of reassurance and invitation which must have marked so prodigious a transitionin the whole nightmare drama of the lonely hills. Again I will quote from memory—seekingfor special reasons to preserve as much of the flavour of the style as I can. It was postmarkedBellows Falls, and the signature as well as the body of the letter was typed—as is frequentwith beginners in typing. The text, though, was marvellously accurate for a tyro’s work;and I concluded that Akeley must have used a machine at some previous period—perhaps incollege. To say that the letter relieved me would be only fair, yet beneath my relief lay asubstratum of uneasiness. If Akeley had been sane in his terror, was he now sane in his deliverance?And the sort of “improved rapport” mentioned . . . what was it? Theentire thing implied such a diametrical reversal of Akeley’s previous attitude! But hereis the substance of the text, carefully transcribed from a memory in which I take some pride.

    The complexity of my emotions upon reading, re-reading, and pondering overthis strange and unlooked-for letter is past adequate description. I have said that I was atonce relieved and made uneasy, but this expresses only crudely the overtones of diverse andlargely subconscious feelings which comprised both the relief and the uneasiness. To begin with,the thing was so antipodally at variance with the whole chain of horrors preceding it—thechange of mood from stark terror to cool complacency and even exultation was so unheralded,lightning-like, and complete! I could scarcely believe that a single day could so alter thepsychological perspective of one who had written that final frenzied bulletin of Wednesday,no matter what relieving disclosures that day might have brought. At certain moments a senseof conflicting unrealities made me wonder whether this whole distantly reported drama of fantasticforces were not a kind of half-illusory dream created largely within my own mind. Then I thoughtof the phonograph record and gave way to still greater bewilderment.

    The letter seemed so unlike anything which could have been expected! As I analysedmy impression, I saw that it consisted of two distinct phases. First, granting that Akeley hadbeen sane before and was still sane, the indicated change in the situation itself was so swiftand unthinkable. And secondly, the change in Akeley’s own manner, attitude, and languagewas so vastly beyond the normal or the predictable. The man’s whole personality seemedto have undergone an insidious mutation—a mutation so deep that one could scarcely reconcilehis two aspects with the supposition that both represented equal sanity. Word-choice, spelling—allwere subtly different. And with my academic sensitiveness to prose style, I could trace profounddivergences in his commonest reactions and rhythm-responses. Certainly, the emotional cataclysmor revelation which could produce so radical an overturn must be an extreme one indeed! Yetin another way the letter seemed quite characteristic of Akeley. The same old passion for infinity—thesame old scholarly inquisitiveness. I could not a moment—or more than a moment—creditthe idea of spuriousness or malign substitution. Did not the invitation—the willingnessto have me test the truth of the letter in person—prove its genuineness?

    I did not retire Saturday night, but sat up thinking of the shadows and marvelsbehind the letter I had received. My mind, aching from the quick succession of monstrous conceptionsit had been forced to confront during the last four months, worked upon this startling new materialin a cycle of doubt and acceptance which repeated most of the steps experienced in facing theearlier wonders; till long before dawn a burning interest and curiosity had begun to replacethe original storm of perplexity and uneasiness. Mad or sane, metamorphosed or merely relieved,the chances were that Akeley had actually encountered some stupendous change of perspectivein his hazardous research; some change at once diminishing his danger—real or fancied—andopening dizzy new vistas of cosmic and superhuman knowledge. My own zeal for the unknown flaredup to meet his, and I felt myself touched by the contagion of the morbid barrier-breaking. Toshake off the maddening and wearying limitations of time and space and natural law—tobe linked with the vast outside —to come close to the nighted and abysmal secretsof the infinite and the ultimate—surely such a thing was worth the risk of one’slife, soul, and sanity! And Akeley had said there was no longer any peril—he had invitedme to visit him instead of warning me away as before. I tingled at the thought of what he mightnow have to tell me—there was an almost paralysing fascination in the thought of sittingin that lonely and lately beleaguered farmhouse with a man who had talked with actual emissariesfrom outer space; sitting there with the terrible record and the pile of letters in which Akeleyhad summarised his earlier conclusions.

    So late Sunday morning I telegraphed Akeley that I would meet him in Brattleboroon the following Wednesday—September 12th—if that date were convenient for him.In only one respect did I depart from his suggestions, and that concerned the choice of a train.Frankly, I did not feel like arriving in that haunted Vermont region late at night; so insteadof accepting the train he chose I telephoned the station and devised another arrangement. Byrising early and taking the 8:07 a.m. (standard) into Boston, I could catch the 9:25 for Greenfield;arriving there at 12:22 noon. This connected exactly with a train reaching Brattleboro at 1:08p.m.—a much more comfortable hour than 10:01 for meeting Akeley and riding with him intothe close-packed, secret-guarding hills.

    I mentioned this choice in my telegram, and was glad to learn in the replywhich came toward evening that it had met with my prospective host’s endorsem*nt. Hiswire ran thus:

    Receipt of this message in direct response to one sent to Akeley—andnecessarily delivered to his house from the Townshend station either by official messenger orby a restored telephone service—removed any lingering subconscious doubts I may have hadabout the authorship of the perplexing letter. My relief was marked—indeed, it was greaterthan I could account for at that time; since all such doubts had been rather deeply buried.But I slept soundly and long that night, and was eagerly busy with preparations during the ensuingtwo days.

    VI.

    On Wednesday I started as agreed, taking with me a valise full of simple necessitiesand scientific data, including the hideous phonograph record, the kodak prints, and the entirefile of Akeley’s correspondence. As requested, I had told no one where I was going; forI could see that the matter demanded utmost privacy, even allowing for its most favourable turns.The thought of actual mental contact with alien, outside entities was stupefying enough to mytrained and somewhat prepared mind; and this being so, what might one think of its effect onthe vast masses of uninformed laymen? I do not know whether dread or adventurous expectancywas uppermost in me as I changed trains in Boston and began the long westward run out of familiarregions into those I knew less thoroughly. Waltham—Concord—Ayer—Fitchburg—Gardner—Athol—

    My train reached Greenfield seven minutes late, but the northbound connectingexpress had been held. Transferring in haste, I felt a curious breathlessness as the cars rumbledon through the early afternoon sunlight into territories I had always read of but had neverbefore visited. I knew I was entering an altogether older-fashioned and more primitive New Englandthan the mechanised, urbanised coastal and southern areas where all my life had been spent;an unspoiled, ancestral New England without the foreigners and factory-smoke, billboards andconcrete roads, of the sections which modernity has touched. There would be odd survivals ofthat continuous native life whose deep roots make it the one authentic outgrowth of the landscape—thecontinuous native life which keeps alive strange ancient memories, and fertilises the soil forshadowy, marvellous, and seldom-mentioned beliefs.

    Now and then I saw the blue Connecticut River gleaming in the sun, and afterleaving Northfield we crossed it. Ahead loomed green and cryptical hills, and when the conductorcame around I learned that I was at last in Vermont. He told me to set my watch back an hour,since the northern hill country will have no dealings with new-fangled daylight time schemes.As I did so it seemed to me that I was likewise turning the calendar back a century.

    The train kept close to the river, and across in New Hampshire I could seethe approaching slope of steep Wantastiquet, about which singular old legends cluster. Thenstreets appeared on my left, and a green island shewed in the stream on my right. People roseand filed to the door, and I followed them. The car stopped, and I alighted beneath the longtrain-shed of the Brattleboro station.

    Looking over the line of waiting motors I hesitated a moment to see which onemight turn out to be the Akeley Ford, but my identity was divined before I could take the initiative.And yet it was clearly not Akeley himself who advanced to meet me with an outstretched handand a mellowly phrased query as to whether I was indeed Mr. Albert N. Wilmarth of Arkham. Thisman bore no resemblance to the bearded, grizzled Akeley of the snapshot; but was a younger andmore urban person, fashionably dressed, and wearing only a small, dark moustache. His cultivatedvoice held an odd and almost disturbing hint of vague familiarity, though I could not definitelyplace it in my memory.

    As I surveyed him I heard him explaining that he was a friend of my prospectivehost’s who had come down from Townshend in his stead. Akeley, he declared, had suffereda sudden attack of some asthmatic trouble, and did not feel equal to making a trip in the outdoorair. It was not serious, however, and there was to be no change in plans regarding my visit.I could not make out just how much this Mr. Noyes—as he announced himself—knew ofAkeley’s researches and discoveries, though it seemed to me that his casual manner stampedhim as a comparative outsider. Remembering what a hermit Akeley had been, I was a trifle surprisedat the ready availability of such a friend; but did not let my puzzlement deter me from enteringthe motor to which he gestured me. It was not the small ancient car I had expected from Akeley’sdescriptions, but a large and immaculate specimen of recent pattern—apparently Noyes’sown, and bearing Massachusetts licence plates with the amusing “sacred codfish”device of that year. My guide, I concluded, must be a summer transient in the Townshend region.

    Noyes climbed into the car beside me and started it at once. I was glad thathe did not overflow with conversation, for some peculiar atmospheric tensity made me feel disinclinedto talk. The town seemed very attractive in the afternoon sunlight as we swept up an inclineand turned to the right into the main street. It drowsed like the older New England cities whichone remembers from boyhood, and something in the collocation of roofs and steeples and chimneysand brick walls formed contours touching deep viol-strings of ancestral emotion. I could tellthat I was at the gateway of a region half-bewitched through the piling-up of unbroken time-accumulations;a region where old, strange things have had a chance to grow and linger because they have neverbeen stirred up.

    As we passed out of Brattleboro my sense of constraint and foreboding increased,for a vague quality in the hill-crowded countryside with its towering, threatening, close-pressinggreen and granite slopes hinted at obscure secrets and immemorial survivals which might or mightnot be hostile to mankind. For a time our course followed a broad, shallow river which floweddown from unknown hills in the north, and I shivered when my companion told me it was the WestRiver. It was in this stream, I recalled from newspaper items, that one of the morbid crab-likebeings had been seen floating after the floods.

    Gradually the country around us grew wilder and more deserted. Archaic coveredbridges lingered fearsomely out of the past in pockets of the hills, and the half-abandonedrailway track paralleling the river seemed to exhale a nebulously visible air of desolation.There were awesome sweeps of vivid valley where great cliffs rose, New England’s virgingranite shewing grey and austere through the verdure that scaled the crests. There were gorgeswhere untamed streams leaped, bearing down toward the river the unimagined secrets of a thousandpathless peaks. Branching away now and then were narrow, half-concealed roads that bored theirway through solid, luxuriant masses of forest among whose primal trees whole armies of elementalspirits might well lurk. As I saw these I thought of how Akeley had been molested by unseenagencies on his drives along this very route, and did not wonder that such things could be.

    The quaint, sightly village of Newfane, reached in less than an hour, was ourlast link with that world which man can definitely call his own by virtue of conquest and completeoccupancy. After that we cast off all allegiance to immediate, tangible, and time-touched things,and entered a fantastic world of hushed unreality in which the narrow, ribbon-like road roseand fell and curved with an almost sentient and purposeful caprice amidst the tenantless greenpeaks and half-deserted valleys. Except for the sound of the motor, and the faint stir of thefew lonely farms we passed at infrequent intervals, the only thing that reached my ears wasthe gurgling, insidious trickle of strange waters from numberless hidden fountains in the shadowywoods.

    The nearness and intimacy of the dwarfed, domed hills now became veritablybreath-taking. Their steepness and abruptness were even greater than I had imagined from hearsay,and suggested nothing in common with the prosaic objective world we know. The dense, unvisitedwoods on those inaccessible slopes seemed to harbour alien and incredible things, and I feltthat the very outline of the hills themselves held some strange and aeon-forgotten meaning,as if they were vast hieroglyphs left by a rumoured titan race whose glories live only in rare,deep dreams. All the legends of the past, and all the stupefying imputations of Henry Akeley’sletters and exhibits, welled up in my memory to heighten the atmosphere of tension and growingmenace. The purpose of my visit, and the frightful abnormalities it postulated, struck me allat once with a chill sensation that nearly overbalanced my ardour for strange delvings.

    My guide must have noticed my disturbed attitude; for as the road grew wilderand more irregular, and our motion slower and more jolting, his occasional pleasant commentsexpanded into a steadier flow of discourse. He spoke of the beauty and weirdness of the country,and revealed some acquaintance with the folklore studies of my prospective host. From his politequestions it was obvious that he knew I had come for a scientific purpose, and that I was bringingdata of some importance; but he gave no sign of appreciating the depth and awfulness of theknowledge which Akeley had finally reached.

    His manner was so cheerful, normal, and urbane that his remarks ought to havecalmed and reassured me; but oddly enough, I felt only the more disturbed as we bumped and veeredonward into the unknown wilderness of hills and woods. At times it seemed as if he were pumpingme to see what I knew of the monstrous secrets of the place, and with every fresh utterancethat vague, teasing, baffling familiarity in his voice increased. It was not an ordinaryor healthy familiarity despite the thoroughly wholesome and cultivated nature of the voice.I somehow linked it with forgotten nightmares, and felt that I might go mad if I recognisedit. If any good excuse had existed, I think I would have turned back from my visit. As it was,I could not well do so—and it occurred to me that a cool, scientific conversation withAkeley himself after my arrival would help greatly to pull me together.

    Besides, there was a strangely calming element of cosmic beauty in the hypnoticlandscape through which we climbed and plunged fantastically. Time had lost itself in the labyrinthsbehind, and around us stretched only the flowering waves of faery and the recaptured lovelinessof vanished centuries—the hoary groves, the untainted pastures edged with gay autumnalblossoms, and at vast intervals the small brown farmsteads nestling amidst huge trees beneathvertical precipices of fragrant brier and meadow-grass. Even the sunlight assumed a supernalglamour, as if some special atmosphere or exhalation mantled the whole region. I had seen nothinglike it before save in the magic vistas that sometimes form the backgrounds of Italian primitives.Sodoma and Leonardo conceived such expanses, but only in the distance, and through the vaultingsof Renaissance arcades. We were now burrowing bodily through the midst of the picture, and Iseemed to find in its necromancy a thing I had innately known or inherited, and for which Ihad always been vainly searching.

    Suddenly, after rounding an obtuse angle at the top of a sharp ascent, thecar came to a standstill. On my left, across a well-kept lawn which stretched to the road andflaunted a border of whitewashed stones, rose a white, two-and-a-half-story house of unusualsize and elegance for the region, with a congeries of contiguous or arcade-linked barns, sheds,and windmill behind and to the right. I recognised it at once from the snapshot I had received,and was not surprised to see the name of Henry Akeley on the galvanised-iron mail-box near theroad. For some distance back of the house a level stretch of marshy and sparsely wooded landextended, beyond which soared a steep, thickly forested hillside ending in a jagged leafy crest.This latter, I knew, was the summit of Dark Mountain, half way up which we must have climbedalready.

    Alighting from the car and taking my valise, Noyes asked me to wait while hewent in and notified Akeley of my advent. He himself, he added, had important business elsewhere,and could not stop for more than a moment. As he briskly walked up the path to the house I climbedout of the car myself, wishing to stretch my legs a little before settling down to a sedentaryconversation. My feeling of nervousness and tension had risen to a maximum again now that Iwas on the actual scene of the morbid beleaguering described so hauntingly in Akeley’sletters, and I honestly dreaded the coming discussions which were to link me with such alienand forbidden worlds.

    Close contact with the utterly bizarre is often more terrifying than inspiring,and it did not cheer me to think that this very bit of dusty road was the place where thosemonstrous tracks and that foetid green ichor had been found after moonless nights of fear anddeath. Idly I noticed that none of Akeley’s dogs seemed to be about. Had he sold themall as soon as the Outer Ones made peace with him? Try as I might, I could not have the sameconfidence in the depth and sincerity of that peace which appeared in Akeley’s final andqueerly different letter. After all, he was a man of much simplicity and with little worldlyexperience. Was there not, perhaps, some deep and sinister undercurrent beneath the surfaceof the new alliance?

    Led by my thoughts, my eyes turned downward to the powdery road surface whichhad held such hideous testimonies. The last few days had been dry, and tracks of all sorts clutteredthe rutted, irregular highway despite the unfrequented nature of the district. With a vaguecuriosity I began to trace the outline of some of the heterogeneous impressions, trying meanwhileto curb the flights of macabre fancy which the place and its memories suggested. There was somethingmenacing and uncomfortable in the funereal stillness, in the muffled, subtle trickle of distantbrooks, and in the crowding green peaks and black-wooded precipices that choked the narrow horizon.

    And then an image shot into my consciousness which made those vague menacesand flights of fancy seem mild and insignificant indeed. I have said that I was scanning themiscellaneous prints in the road with a kind of idle curiosity—but all at once that curiositywas shockingly snuffed out by a sudden and paralysing gust of active terror. For though thedust tracks were in general confused and overlapping, and unlikely to arrest any casual gaze,my restless vision had caught certain details near the spot where the path to the house joinedthe highway; and had recognised beyond doubt or hope the frightful significance of those details.It was not for nothing, alas, that I had pored for hours over the kodak views of the Outer Ones’claw-prints which Akeley had sent. Too well did I know the marks of those loathsome nippers,and that hint of ambiguous direction which stamped the horrors as no creatures of this planet.No chance had been left me for merciful mistake. Here, indeed, in objective form before my owneyes, and surely made not many hours ago, were at least three marks which stood out blasphemouslyamong the surprising plethora of blurred footprints leading to and from the Akeley farmhouse.They were the hellish tracks of the living fungi from Yuggoth.

    I pulled myself together in time to stifle a scream. After all, what more wasthere than I might have expected, assuming that I had really believed Akeley’s letters?He had spoken of making peace with the things. Why, then, was it strange that some of them hadvisited his house? But the terror was stronger than the reassurance. Could any man be expectedto look unmoved for the first time upon the claw-marks of animate beings from outer depths ofspace? Just then I saw Noyes emerge from the door and approach with a brisk step. I must, Ireflected, keep command of myself, for the chances were this genial friend knew nothing of Akeley’sprofoundest and most stupendous probings into the forbidden.

    Akeley, Noyes hastened to inform me, was glad and ready to see me; althoughhis sudden attack of asthma would prevent him from being a very competent host for a day ortwo. These spells hit him hard when they came, and were always accompanied by a debilitatingfever and general weakness. He never was good for much while they lasted—had to talk ina whisper, and was very clumsy and feeble in getting about. His feet and ankles swelled, too,so that he had to bandage them like a gouty old beef-eater. Today he was in rather bad shape,so that I would have to attend very largely to my own needs; but he was none the less eagerfor conversation. I would find him in the study at the left of the front hall—the roomwhere the blinds were shut. He had to keep the sunlight out when he was ill, for his eyes werevery sensitive.

    As Noyes bade me adieu and rode off northward in his car I began to walk slowlytoward the house. The door had been left ajar for me; but before approaching and entering Icast a searching glance around the whole place, trying to decide what had struck me as so intangiblyqueer about it. The barns and sheds looked trimly prosaic enough, and I noticed Akeley’sbattered Ford in its capacious, unguarded shelter. Then the secret of the queerness reachedme. It was the total silence. Ordinarily a farm is at least moderately murmurous from its variouskinds of livestock, but here all signs of life were missing. What of the hens and the hogs?The cows, of which Akeley had said he possessed several, might conceivably be out to pasture,and the dogs might possibly have been sold; but the absence of any trace of cackling or gruntingwas truly singular.

    I did not pause long on the path, but resolutely entered the open house doorand closed it behind me. It had cost me a distinct psychological effort to do so, and now thatI was shut inside I had a momentary longing for precipitate retreat. Not that the place wasin the least sinister in visual suggestion; on the contrary, I thought the graceful late-colonialhallway very tasteful and wholesome, and admired the evident breeding of the man who had furnishedit. What made me wish to flee was something very attenuated and indefinable. Perhaps it wasa certain odd odour which I thought I noticed—though I well knew how common musty odoursare in even the best of ancient farmhouses.

    VII.

    Refusing to let these cloudy qualms overmaster me, I recalled Noyes’sinstructions and pushed open the six-panelled, brass-latched white door on my left. The roombeyond was darkened, as I had known before; and as I entered it I noticed that the queer odourwas stronger there. There likewise appeared to be some faint, half-imaginary rhythm or vibrationin the air. For a moment the closed blinds allowed me to see very little, but then a kind ofapologetic hacking or whispering sound drew my attention to a great easy-chair in the farther,darker corner of the room. Within its shadowy depths I saw the white blur of a man’s faceand hands; and in a moment I had crossed to greet the figure who had tried to speak. Dim thoughthe light was, I perceived that this was indeed my host. I had studied the kodak picture repeatedly,and there could be no mistake about this firm, weather-beaten face with the cropped, grizzledbeard.

    But as I looked again my recognition was mixed with sadness and anxiety; forcertainly, this face was that of a very sick man. I felt that there must be something more thanasthma behind that strained, rigid, immobile expression and unwinking glassy stare; and realisedhow terribly the strain of his frightful experiences must have told on him. Was it not enoughto break any human being—even a younger man than this intrepid delver into the forbidden?The strange and sudden relief, I feared, had come too late to save him from something like ageneral breakdown. There was a touch of the pitiful in the limp, lifeless way his lean handsrested in his lap. He had on a loose dressing-gown, and was swathed around the head and higharound the neck with a vivid yellow scarf or hood.

    And then I saw that he was trying to talk in the same hacking whisper withwhich he had greeted me. It was a hard whisper to catch at first, since the grey moustache concealedall movements of the lips, and something in its timbre disturbed me greatly; but by concentratingmy attention I could soon make out its purport surprisingly well. The accent was by no meansa rustic one, and the language was even more polished than correspondence had led me to expect.

    “Mr. Wilmarth, I presume? You must pardon my not rising. I am quite ill,as Mr. Noyes must have told you; but I could not resist having you come just the same. You knowwhat I wrote in my last letter—there is so much to tell you tomorrow when I shall feelbetter. I can’t say how glad I am to see you in person after all our many letters. Youhave the file with you, of course? And the kodak prints and record? Noyes put your valise inthe hall—I suppose you saw it. For tonight I fear you’ll have to wait on yourselfto a great extent. Your room is upstairs—the one over this—and you’ll seethe bathroom door open at the head of the staircase. There’s a meal spread for you inthe dining-room—right through this door at your right—which you can take wheneveryou feel like it. I’ll be a better host tomorrow—but just now weakness leaves mehelpless.”

    “Make yourself at home—you might take out the letters and picturesand record and put them on the table here before you go upstairs with your bag. It is here thatwe shall discuss them—you can see my phonograph on that corner stand.”

    “No, thanks—there’s nothing you can do for me. I know thesespells of old. Just come back for a little quiet visiting before night, and then go to bed whenyou please. I’ll rest right here—perhaps sleep here all night as I often do. Inthe morning I’ll be far better able to go into the things we must go into. You realise,of course, the utterly stupendous nature of the matter before us. To us, as to only a few menon this earth, there will be opened up gulfs of time and space and knowledge beyond anythingwithin the conception of human science and philosophy.”

    “Do you know that Einstein is wrong, and that certain objects and forcescan move with a velocity greater than that of light? With proper aid I expect to go backwardand forward in time, and actually see and feel the earth of remote past and futureepochs. You can’t imagine the degree to which those beings have carried science. Thereis nothing they can’t do with the mind and body of living organisms. I expect to visitother planets, and even other stars and galaxies. The first trip will be to Yuggoth, the nearestworld fully peopled by the beings. It is a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system—unknownto earthly astronomers as yet. But I must have written you about this. At the proper time, youknow, the beings there will direct thought-currents toward us and cause it to be discovered—orperhaps let one of their human allies give the scientists a hint.”

    “There are mighty cities on Yuggoth—great tiers of terraced towersbuilt of black stone like the specimen I tried to send you. That came from Yuggoth. The sunshines there no brighter than a star, but the beings need no light. They have other, subtlersenses, and put no windows in their great houses and temples. Light even hurts and hampers andconfuses them, for it does not exist at all in the black cosmos outside time and space wherethey came from originally. To visit Yuggoth would drive any weak man mad—yet I am goingthere. The black rivers of pitch that flow under those mysterious Cyclopean bridges—thingsbuilt by some elder race extinct and forgotten before the things came to Yuggoth from the ultimatevoids—ought to be enough to make any man a Dante or Poe if he can keep sane long enoughto tell what he has seen.”

    “But remember—that dark world of fungoid gardens and windowlesscities isn’t really terrible. It is only to us that it would seem so. Probably this worldseemed just as terrible to the beings when they first explored it in the primal age. You knowthey were here long before the fabulous epoch of Cthulhu was over, and remember all about sunkenR’lyeh when it was above the waters. They’ve been inside the earth, too—thereare openings which human beings know nothing of—some of them in these very Vermont hills—andgreat worlds of unknown life down there; blue-litten K’n-yan, red-litten Yoth, and black,lightless N’kai. It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsathoggua came—youknow, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the
    Necronomicon and the Commoriom myth-cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton.”

    “But we will talk of all this later on. It must be four or five o’clockby this time. Better bring the stuff from your bag, take a bite, and then come back for a comfortablechat.”

    Very slowly I turned and began to obey my host; fetching my valise, extractingand depositing the desired articles, and finally ascending to the room designated as mine. Withthe memory of that roadside claw-print fresh in my mind, Akeley’s whispered paragraphshad affected me queerly; and the hints of familiarity with this unknown world of fungous life—forbiddenYuggoth—made my flesh creep more than I cared to own. I was tremendously sorry about Akeley’sillness, but had to confess that his hoarse whisper had a hateful as well as pitiful quality.If only he wouldn’t gloat so about Yuggoth and its black secrets!

    My room proved a very pleasant and well-furnished one, devoid alike of themusty odour and disturbing sense of vibration; and after leaving my valise there I descendedagain to greet Akeley and take the lunch he had set out for me. The dining-room was just beyondthe study, and I saw that a kitchen ell extended still farther in the same direction. On thedining-table an ample array of sandwiches, cake, and cheese awaited me, and a Thermos-bottlebeside a cup and saucer testified that hot coffee had not been forgotten. After a well-relishedmeal I poured myself a liberal cup of coffee, but found that the culinary standard had suffereda lapse in this one detail. My first spoonful revealed a faintly unpleasant acrid taste, sothat I did not take more. Throughout the lunch I thought of Akeley sitting silently in the greatchair in the darkened next room. Once I went in to beg him to share the repast, but he whisperedthat he could eat nothing as yet. Later on, just before he slept, he would take some maltedmilk—all he ought to have that day.

    After lunch I insisted on clearing the dishes away and washing them in thekitchen sink—incidentally emptying the coffee which I had not been able to appreciate.Then returning to the darkened study I drew up a chair near my host’s corner and preparedfor such conversation as he might feel inclined to conduct. The letters, pictures, and recordwere still on the large centre-table, but for the nonce we did not have to draw upon them. Beforelong I forgot even the bizarre odour and curious suggestions of vibration.

    I have said that there were things in some of Akeley’s letters—especiallythe second and most voluminous one—which I would not dare to quote or even form into wordson paper. This hesitancy applies with still greater force to the things I heard whispered thatevening in the darkened room among the lonely haunted hills. Of the extent of the cosmic horrorsunfolded by that raucous voice I cannot even hint. He had known hideous things before, but whathe had learned since making his pact with the Outside Things was almost too much for sanityto bear. Even now I absolutely refuse to believe what he implied about the constitution of ultimateinfinity, the juxtaposition of dimensions, and the frightful position of our known cosmos ofspace and time in the unending chain of linked cosmos-atoms which makes up the immediate super-cosmosof curves, angles, and material and semi-material electronic organisation.

    Never was a sane man more dangerously close to the arcana of basic entity—neverwas an organic brain nearer to utter annihilation in the chaos that transcends form and forceand symmetry. I learned whence Cthulhu first came, and why half the great temporary starsof history had flared forth. I guessed—from hints which made even my informant pause timidly—thesecret behind the Magellanic Clouds and globular nebulae, and the black truth veiled by theimmemorial allegory of Tao. The nature of the Doels was plainly revealed, and I was told theessence (though not the source) of the Hounds of Tindalos. The legend of Yig, Father of Serpents,remained figurative no longer, and I started with loathing when told of the monstrous nuclearchaos beyond angled space which the Necronomicon had mercifully cloaked under the nameof Azathoth. It was shocking to have the foulest nightmares of secret myth cleared up in concreteterms whose stark, morbid hatefulness exceeded the boldest hints of ancient and mediaeval mystics.Ineluctably I was led to believe that the first whisperers of these accursed tales must havehad discourse with Akeley’s Outer Ones, and perhaps have visited outer cosmic realms asAkeley now proposed visiting them.

    I was told of the Black Stone and what it implied, and was glad that it hadnot reached me. My guesses about those hieroglyphics had been all too correct! And yet Akeleynow seemed reconciled to the whole fiendish system he had stumbled upon; reconciled and eagerto probe farther into the monstrous abyss. I wondered what beings he had talked with since hislast letter to me, and whether many of them had been as human as that first emissary he hadmentioned. The tension in my head grew insufferable, and I built up all sorts of wild theoriesabout the queer, persistent odour and those insidious hints of vibration in the darkened room.

    Night was falling now, and as I recalled what Akeley had written me about thoseearlier nights I shuddered to think there would be no moon. Nor did I like the way the farmhousenestled in the lee of that colossal forested slope leading up to Dark Mountain’s unvisitedcrest. With Akeley’s permission I lighted a small oil lamp, turned it low, and set iton a distant bookcase beside the ghostly bust of Milton; but afterward I was sorry I had doneso, for it made my host’s strained, immobile face and listless hands look damnably abnormaland corpse-like. He seemed half-incapable of motion, though I saw him nod stiffly once in awhile.

    After what he had told, I could scarcely imagine what profounder secrets hewas saving for the morrow; but at last it developed that his trip to Yuggoth and beyond— andmy own possible participation in it —was to be the next day’s topic. He musthave been amused by the start of horror I gave at hearing a cosmic voyage on my part proposed,for his head wabbled violently when I shewed my fear. Subsequently he spoke very gently of howhuman beings might accomplish—and several times had accomplished—the seemingly impossibleflight across the interstellar void. It seemed that complete human bodies did not indeedmake the trip, but that the prodigious surgical, biological, chemical, and mechanical skillof the Outer Ones had found a way to convey human brains without their concomitant physicalstructure.

    There was a harmless way to extract a brain, and a way to keep the organicresidue alive during its absence. The bare, compact cerebral matter was then immersed in anoccasionally replenished fluid within an ether-tight cylinder of a metal mined in Yuggoth, certainelectrodes reaching through and connecting at will with elaborate instruments capable of duplicatingthe three vital faculties of sight, hearing, and speech. For the winged fungus-beings to carrythe brain-cylinders intact through space was an easy matter. Then, on every planet covered bytheir civilisation, they would find plenty of adjustable faculty-instruments capable of beingconnected with the encased brains; so that after a little fitting these travelling intelligencescould be given a full sensory and articulate life—albeit a bodiless and mechanical one—ateach stage of their journeying through and beyond the space-time continuum. It was as simpleas carrying a phonograph record about and playing it wherever a phonograph of the correspondingmake exists. Of its success there could be no question. Akeley was not afraid. Had it not beenbrilliantly accomplished again and again?

    For the first time one of the inert, wasted hands raised itself and pointedto a high shelf on the farther side of the room. There, in a neat row, stood more thana dozen cylinders of a metal I had never seen before—cylinders about a foot high and somewhatless in diameter, with three curious sockets set in an isosceles triangle over the front convexsurface of each. One of them was linked at two of the sockets to a pair of singular-lookingmachines that stood in the background. Of their purport I did not need to be told, and I shiveredas with ague. Then I saw the hand point to a much nearer corner where some intricate instrumentswith attached cords and plugs, several of them much like the two devices on the shelf behindthe cylinders, were huddled together.

    “There are four kinds of instruments here, Wilmarth”, whisperedthe voice. “Four kinds—three faculties each—makes twelve pieces in all. Yousee there are four different sorts of beings presented in those cylinders up there. Three humans,six fungoid beings who can’t navigate space corporeally, two beings from Neptune (God!if you could see the body this type has on its own planet!), and the rest entities from thecentral caverns of an especially interesting dark star beyond the galaxy. In the principal outpostinside Round Hill you’ll now and then find more cylinders and machines—cylindersof extra-cosmic brains with different senses from any we know—allies and explorers fromthe uttermost Outside—and special machines for giving them impressions and expressionin the several ways suited at once to them and to the comprehensions of different types of listeners.Round Hill, like most of the beings’ main outposts all through the various universes,is a very cosmopolitan place! Of course, only the more common types have been lent to me forexperiment.

    “Here—take the three machines I point to and set them on the table.That tall one with the two glass lenses in front—then the box with the vacuum tubes andsounding-board—and now the one with the metal disc on top. Now for the cylinder with thelabel “B-67’ pasted on it. Just stand in that Windsor chair to reach the shelf.Heavy? Never mind! Be sure of the number—B-67. Don’t bother that fresh, shiny cylinderjoined to the two testing instruments—the one with my name on it. Set B-67 on the tablenear where you’ve put the machines—and see that the dial switch on all three machinesis jammed over to the extreme left.”

    “Now connect the cord of the lens machine with the upper socket on thecylinder—there! Join the tube machine to the lower left-hand socket, and the disc apparatusto the outer socket. Now move all the dial switches on the machines over to the extreme right—firstthe lens one, then the disc one, and then the tube one. That’s right. I might as welltell you that this is a human being—just like any of us. I’ll give you a taste ofsome of the others tomorrow.”

    To this day I do not know why I obeyed those whispers so slavishly, or whetherI thought Akeley was mad or sane. After what had gone before, I ought to have been preparedfor anything; but this mechanical mummery seemed so like the typical vagaries of crazed inventorsand scientists that it struck a chord of doubt which even the preceding discourse had not excited.What the whisperer implied was beyond all human belief—yet were not the other things stillfarther beyond, and less preposterous only because of their remoteness from tangible concreteproof?

    As my mind reeled amidst this chaos, I became conscious of a mixed gratingand whirring from all three machines lately linked to the cylinder—a grating andwhirring which soon subsided into a virtual noiselessness. What was about to happen? Was I tohear a voice? And if so, what proof would I have that it was not some cleverly concocted radiodevice talked into by a concealed but closely watching speaker? Even now I am unwilling to swearjust what I heard, or just what phenomenon really took place before me. But something certainlyseemed to take place.

    To be brief and plain, the machine with the tubes and sound-box began to speak,and with a point and intelligence which left no doubt that the speaker was actually presentand observing us. The voice was loud, metallic, lifeless, and plainly mechanical in every detailof its production. It was incapable of inflection or expressiveness, but scraped and rattledon with a deadly precision and deliberation.

    “Mr. Wilmarth”, it said, “I hope I do not startle you. Iam a human being like yourself, though my body is now resting safely under proper vitalisingtreatment inside Round Hill, about a mile and a half east of here. I myself am here with you—mybrain is in that cylinder and I see, hear, and speak through these electronic vibrators. Ina week I am going across the void as I have been many times before, and I expect to have thepleasure of Mr. Akeley’s company. I wish I might have yours as well; for I know you bysight and reputation, and have kept close track of your correspondence with our friend. I am,of course, one of the men who have become allied with the outside beings visiting our planet.I met them first in the Himalayas, and have helped them in various ways. In return they havegiven me experiences such as few men have ever had.”

    “Do you realise what it means when I say I have been on thirty-sevendifferent celestial bodies—planets, dark stars, and less definable objects—includingeight outside our galaxy and two outside the curved cosmos of space and time? All this has notharmed me in the least. My brain has been removed from my body by fissions so adroit that itwould be crude to call the operation surgery. The visiting beings have methods which make theseextractions easy and almost normal—and one’s body never ages when the brain is outof it. The brain, I may add, is virtually immortal with its mechanical faculties and a limitednourishment supplied by occasional changes of the preserving fluid.”

    “Altogether, I hope most heartily that you will decide to come with Mr.Akeley and me. The visitors are eager to know men of knowledge like yourself, and to shew themthe great abysses that most of us have had to dream about in fanciful ignorance. It may seemstrange at first to meet them, but I know you will be above minding that. I think Mr. Noyeswill go along, too—the man who doubtless brought you up here in his car. He has been oneof us for years—I suppose you recognised his voice as one of those on the record Mr. Akeleysent you.”

    At my violent start the speaker paused a moment before concluding.

    “So, Mr. Wilmarth, I will leave the matter to you; merely adding thata man with your love of strangeness and folklore ought never to miss such a chance as this.There is nothing to fear. All transitions are painless, and there is much to enjoy in a whollymechanised state of sensation. When the electrodes are disconnected, one merely drops off intoa sleep of especially vivid and fantastic dreams.”

    “And now, if you don’t mind, we might adjourn our session tilltomorrow. Good night—just turn all the switches back to the left; never mind the exactorder, though you might let the lens machine be last. Good night, Mr. Akeley—treat ourguest well! Ready now with those switches?”

    That was all. I obeyed mechanically and shut off all three switches, thoughdazed with doubt of everything that had occurred. My head was still reeling as I heard Akeley’swhispering voice telling me that I might leave all the apparatus on the table just as it was.He did not essay any comment on what had happened, and indeed no comment could have conveyedmuch to my burdened faculties. I heard him telling me I could take the lamp to use in my room,and deduced that he wished to rest alone in the dark. It was surely time he rested, for hisdiscourse of the afternoon and evening had been such as to exhaust even a vigorous man. Stilldazed, I bade my host good night and went upstairs with the lamp, although I had an excellentpocket flashlight with me.

    I was glad to be out of that downstairs study with the queer odour and vaguesuggestions of vibration, yet could not of course escape a hideous sense of dread and periland cosmic abnormality as I thought of the place I was in and the forces I was meeting. Thewild, lonely region, the black, mysteriously forested slope towering so close behind the house,the footprints in the road, the sick, motionless whisperer in the dark, the hellish cylindersand machines, and above all the invitations to strange surgery and stranger voyagings—thesethings, all so new and in such sudden succession, rushed in on me with a cumulative force whichsapped my will and almost undermined my physical strength.

    To discover that my guide Noyes was the human celebrant in that monstrous bygoneSabbat-ritual on the phonograph record was a particular shock, though I had previously senseda dim, repellent familiarity in his voice. Another special shock came from my own attitude towardmy host whenever I paused to analyse it; for much as I had instinctively liked Akeley as revealedin his correspondence, I now found that he filled me with a distinct repulsion. His illnessought to have excited my pity; but instead, it gave me a kind of shudder. He was so rigid andinert and corpse-like—and that incessant whispering was so hateful and unhuman!

    It occurred to me that this whispering was different from anything else ofthe kind I had ever heard; that, despite the curious motionlessness of the speaker’s moustache-screenedlips, it had a latent strength and carrying-power remarkable for the wheezings of an asthmatic.I had been able to understand the speaker when wholly across the room, and once or twice ithad seemed to me that the faint but penetrant sounds represented not so much weakness as deliberaterepression—for what reason I could not guess. From the first I had felt a disturbing qualityin their timbre. Now, when I tried to weigh the matter, I thought I could trace this impressionto a kind of subconscious familiarity like that which had made Noyes’s voice so hazilyominous. But when or where I had encountered the thing it hinted at, was more than I could tell.

    One thing was certain—I would not spend another night here. My scientificzeal had vanished amidst fear and loathing, and I felt nothing now but a wish to escape fromthis net of morbidity and unnatural revelation. I knew enough now. It must indeed be true thatcosmic linkages do exist—but such things are surely not meant for normal human beingsto meddle with.

    Blasphemous influences seemed to surround me and press chokingly upon my senses.Sleep, I decided, would be out of the question; so I merely extinguished the lamp and threwmyself on the bed fully dressed. No doubt it was absurd, but I kept ready for some unknown emergency;gripping in my right hand the revolver I had brought along, and holding the pocket flashlightin my left. Not a sound came from below, and I could imagine how my host was sitting there withcadaverous stiffness in the dark.

    Somewhere I heard a clock ticking, and was vaguely grateful for the normalityof the sound. It reminded me, though, of another thing about the region which disturbed me—thetotal absence of animal life. There were certainly no farm beasts about, and now I realisedthat even the accustomed night-noises of wild living things were absent. Except for the sinistertrickle of distant unseen waters, that stillness was anomalous—interplanetary—andI wondered what star-spawned, intangible blight could be hanging over the region. I recalledfrom old legends that dogs and other beasts had always hated the Outer Ones, and thought ofwhat those tracks in the road might mean.

    VIII.

    Do not ask me how long my unexpected lapse into slumber lasted, or how muchof what ensued was sheer dream. If I tell you that I awaked at a certain time, and heard andsaw certain things, you will merely answer that I did not wake then; and that everything wasa dream until the moment when I rushed out of the house, stumbled to the shed where I had seenthe old Ford, and seized that ancient vehicle for a mad, aimless race over the haunted hillswhich at last landed me—after hours of jolting and winding through forest-threatened labyrinths—ina village which turned out to be Townshend.

    You will also, of course, discount everything else in my report; and declarethat all the pictures, record-sounds, cylinder-and-machine sounds, and kindred evidences werebits of pure deception practiced on me by the missing Henry Akeley. You will even hint thathe conspired with other eccentrics to carry out a silly and elaborate hoax—that he hadthe express shipment removed at Keene, and that he had Noyes make that terrifying wax record.It is odd, though, that Noyes has not even yet been identified; that he was unknown at any ofthe villages near Akeley’s place, though he must have been frequently in the region. Iwish I had stopped to memorise the licence-number of his car—or perhaps it is better afterall that I did not. For I, despite all you can say, and despite all I sometimes try to say tomyself, know that loathsome outside influences must be lurking there in the half-unknown hills—andthat those influences have spies and emissaries in the world of men. To keep as far as possiblefrom such influences and such emissaries is all that I ask of life in future.

    When my frantic story sent a sheriff’s posse out to the farmhouse, Akeleywas gone without leaving a trace. His loose dressing-gown, yellow scarf, and foot-bandages layon the study floor near his corner easy-chair, and it could not be decided whether any of hisother apparel had vanished with him. The dogs and livestock were indeed missing, and there weresome curious bullet-holes both on the house’s exterior and on some of the walls within;but beyond this nothing unusual could be detected. No cylinders or machines, none of the evidencesI had brought in my valise, no queer odour or vibration-sense, no footprints in the road, andnone of the problematical things I glimpsed at the very last.

    I stayed a week in Brattleboro after my escape, making inquiries among peopleof every kind who had known Akeley; and the results convince me that the matter is no figmentof dream or delusion. Akeley’s queer purchases of dogs and ammunition and chemicals, andthe cutting of his telephone wires, are matters of record; while all who knew him—includinghis son in California—concede that his occasional remarks on strange studies had a certainconsistency. Solid citizens believe he was mad, and unhesitatingly pronounce all reported evidencesmere hoaxes devised with insane cunning and perhaps abetted by eccentric associates; but thelowlier country folk sustain his statements in every detail. He had shewed some of these rusticshis photographs and black stone, and had played the hideous record for them; and they all saidthe footprints and buzzing voice were like those described in ancestral legends.

    They said, too, that suspicious sights and sounds had been noticed increasinglyaround Akeley’s house after he found the black stone, and that the place was now avoidedby everybody except the mail man and other casual, tough-minded people. Dark Mountain and RoundHill were both notoriously haunted spots, and I could find no one who had ever closely exploredeither. Occasional disappearances of natives throughout the district’s history were wellattested, and these now included the semi-vagabond Walter Brown, whom Akeley’s lettershad mentioned. I even came upon one farmer who thought he had personally glimpsed one of thequeer bodies at flood-time in the swollen West River, but his tale was too confused to be reallyvaluable.

    When I left Brattleboro I resolved never to go back to Vermont, and I feelquite certain I shall keep my resolution. Those wild hills are surely the outpost of a frightfulcosmic race—as I doubt all the less since reading that a new ninth planet has been glimpsedbeyond Neptune, just as those influences had said it would be glimpsed. Astronomers, with ahideous appropriateness they little suspect, have named this thing “Pluto”. I feel,beyond question, that it is nothing less than nighted Yuggoth—and I shiver when I tryto figure out the real reason why its monstrous denizens wish it to be known in thisway at this especial time. I vainly try to assure myself that these daemoniac creatures arenot gradually leading up to some new policy hurtful to the earth and its normal inhabitants.

    But I have still to tell of the ending of that terrible night in the farmhouse.As I have said, I did finally drop into a troubled doze; a doze filled with bits of dream whichinvolved monstrous landscape-glimpses. Just what awaked me I cannot yet say, but that I didindeed awake at this given point I feel very certain. My first confused impression was of stealthilycreaking floor-boards in the hall outside my door, and of a clumsy, muffled fumbling at thelatch. This, however, ceased almost at once; so that my really clear impressions began withthe voices heard from the study below. There seemed to be several speakers, and I judged thatthey were controversially engaged.

    By the time I had listened a few seconds I was broad awake, for the natureof the voices was such as to make all thought of sleep ridiculous. The tones were curiouslyvaried, and no one who had listened to that accursed phonograph record could harbour any doubtsabout the nature of at least two of them. Hideous though the idea was, I knew that I was underthe same roof with nameless things from abysmal space; for those two voices were unmistakablythe blasphemous buzzings which the Outside Beings used in their communication with men. Thetwo were individually different—different in pitch, accent, and tempo—but they wereboth of the same damnable general kind.

    A third voice was indubitably that of a mechanical utterance-machine connectedwith one of the detached brains in the cylinders. There was as little doubt about that as aboutthe buzzings; for the loud, metallic, lifeless voice of the previous evening, with its inflectionless,expressionless scraping and rattling, and its impersonal precision and deliberation, had beenutterly unforgettable. For a time I did not pause to question whether the intelligence behindthe scraping was the identical one which had formerly talked to me; but shortly afterward Ireflected that any brain would emit vocal sounds of the same quality if linked to thesame mechanical speech-producer; the only possible differences being in language, rhythm, speed,and pronunciation. To complete the eldritch colloquy there were two actually human voices—onethe crude speech of an unknown and evidently rustic man, and the other the suave Bostonian tonesof my erstwhile guide Noyes.

    As I tried to catch the words which the stoutly fashioned floor so bafflinglyintercepted, I was also conscious of a great deal of stirring and scratching and shuffling inthe room below; so that I could not escape the impression that it was full of living beings—manymore than the few whose speech I could single out. The exact nature of this stirring is extremelyhard to describe, for very few good bases of comparison exist. Objects seemed now and then tomove across the room like conscious entities; the sound of their footfalls having somethingabout it like a loose, hard-surfaced clattering—as of the contact of ill-coördinatedsurfaces of horn or hard rubber. It was, to use a more concrete but less accurate comparison,as if people with loose, splintery wooden shoes were shambling and rattling about on the polishedboard floor. On the nature and appearance of those responsible for the sounds, I did not careto speculate.

    Before long I saw that it would be impossible to distinguish any connecteddiscourse. Isolated words—including the names of Akeley and myself—now and thenfloated up, especially when uttered by the mechanical speech-producer; but their true significancewas lost for want of continuous context. Today I refuse to form any definite deductions fromthem, and even their frightful effect on me was one of suggestion rather than of revelation.A terrible and abnormal conclave, I felt certain, was assembled below me; but for what shockingdeliberations I could not tell. It was curious how this unquestioned sense of the malign andthe blasphemous pervaded me despite Akeley’s assurances of the Outsiders’ friendliness.

    With patient listening I began to distinguish clearly between voices, eventhough I could not grasp much of what any of the voices said. I seemed to catch certain typicalemotions behind some of the speakers. One of the buzzing voices, for example, held an unmistakablenote of authority; whilst the mechanical voice, notwithstanding its artificial loudness andregularity, seemed to be in a position of subordination and pleading. Noyes’s tones exudeda kind of conciliatory atmosphere. The others I could make no attempt to interpret. I did nothear the familiar whisper of Akeley, but well knew that such a sound could never penetrate thesolid flooring of my room.

    I will try to set down some of the few disjointed words and other sounds Icaught, labelling the speakers of the words as best I know how. It was from the speech-machinethat I first picked up a few recognisable phrases.

    (THE SPEECH-MACHINE)

    “. . . brought it on myself . . . sent backthe letters and the record . . . end on it . . . taken in . . .seeing and hearing . . . damn you . . . impersonal force, afterall . . . fresh, shiny cylinder . . . great God. . . . “

    (FIRST BUZZING VOICE)

    “. . . time we stopped . . . small and human . . . Akeley . . . brain . . . saying . . . “

    (SECOND BUZZING VOICE)

    . . . Nyarlathotep . . . Wilmarth . . . records and letters . . . cheap imposture. . . . “

    (NOYES)

    . . . (an unpronounceable word or name, possibly N’gah-Kthun ) . . . harmless . . . peace . . . couple of weeks . . . theatrical . . . told youthat before. . . . “

    (FIRST BUZZING VOICE)

    “. . . no reason . . . original plan . . . effects . . . Noyes can watch . . . Round Hill . . .fresh cylinder . . . Noyes’s car. . . . “

    (NOYES)

    “. . . well . . . all yours . . . down here . . . rest . . . place. . . . “

    (SEVERAL VOICES AT ONCE IN INDISTINGUISHABLE SPEECH)

    (MANY FOOTSTEPS, INCLUDING THE PECULIAR LOOSE STIRRING OR CLATTERING)

    (A CURIOUS SORT OF FLAPPING SOUND)

    (THE SOUND OF AN AUTOMOBILE STARTING AND RECEDING)

    (SILENCE)

    That is the substance of what my ears brought me as I lay rigid upon that strangeupstairs bed in the haunted farmhouse among the daemoniac hills—lay there fully dressed,with a revolver clenched in my right hand and a pocket flashlight gripped in my left. I became,as I have said, broad awake; but a kind of obscure paralysis nevertheless kept me inert tilllong after the last echoes of the sounds had died away. I heard the wooden, deliberate tickingof the ancient Connecticut clock somewhere far below, and at last made out the irregular snoringof a sleeper. Akeley must have dozed off after the strange session, and I could well believethat he needed to do so.

    Just what to think or what to do was more than I could decide. After all, whathad I heard beyond things which previous information might have led me to expect? HadI not known that the nameless Outsiders were now freely admitted to the farmhouse? No doubtAkeley had been surprised by an unexpected visit from them. Yet something in that fragmentarydiscourse had chilled me immeasurably, raised the most grotesque and horrible doubts, and mademe wish fervently that I might wake up and prove everything a dream. I think my subconsciousmind must have caught something which my consciousness has not yet recognised. But what of Akeley?Was he not my friend, and would he not have protested if any harm were meant me? The peacefulsnoring below seemed to cast ridicule on all my suddenly intensified fears.

    Was it possible that Akeley had been imposed upon and used as a lure to drawme into the hills with the letters and pictures and phonograph record? Did those beings meanto engulf us both in a common destruction because we had come to know too much? Again I thoughtof the abruptness and unnaturalness of that change in the situation which must have occurredbetween Akeley’s penultimate and final letters. Something, my instinct told me, was terriblywrong. All was not as it seemed. That acrid coffee which I refused—had there not beenan attempt by some hidden, unknown entity to drug it? I must talk to Akeley at once, and restorehis sense of proportion. They had hypnotised him with their promises of cosmic revelations,but now he must listen to reason. We must get out of this before it would be too late. If helacked the will power to make the break for liberty, I would supply it. Or if I could not persuadehim to go, I could at least go myself. Surely he would let me take his Ford and leave it ina garage at Brattleboro. I had noticed it in the shed—the door being left unlocked andopen now that peril was deemed past—and I believed there was a good chance of its beingready for instant use. That momentary dislike of Akeley which I had felt during and after theevening’s conversation was all gone now. He was in a position much like my own, and wemust stick together. Knowing his indisposed condition, I hated to wake him at this juncture,but I knew that I must. I could not stay in this place till morning as matters stood.

    At last I felt able to act, and stretched myself vigorously to regain commandof my muscles. Arising with a caution more impulsive than deliberate, I found and donned myhat, took my valise, and started downstairs with the flashlight’s aid. In my nervousnessI kept the revolver clutched in my right hand, being able to take care of both valise and flashlightwith my left. Why I exerted these precautions I do not really know, since I was even then onmy way to awaken the only other occupant of the house.

    As I half tiptoed down the creaking stairs to the lower hall I could hear thesleeper more plainly, and noticed that he must be in the room on my left—the living-roomI had not entered. On my right was the gaping blackness of the study in which I had heard thevoices. Pushing open the unlatched door of the living-room I traced a path with the flashlighttoward the source of the snoring, and finally turned the beams on the sleeper’s face.But in the next second I hastily turned them away and commenced a cat-like retreat to the hall,my caution this time springing from reason as well as from instinct. For the sleeper on thecouch was not Akeley at all, but my quondam guide Noyes.

    Just what the real situation was, I could not guess; but common sense toldme that the safest thing was to find out as much as possible before arousing anybody. Regainingthe hall, I silently closed and latched the living-room door after me; thereby lessening thechances of awaking Noyes. I now cautiously entered the dark study, where I expected to findAkeley, whether asleep or awake, in the great corner chair which was evidently his favouriteresting-place. As I advanced, the beams of my flashlight caught the great centre-table, revealingone of the hellish cylinders with sight and hearing machines attached, and with a speech-machinestanding close by, ready to be connected at any moment. This, I reflected, must be the encasedbrain I had heard talking during the frightful conference; and for a second I had a perverseimpulse to attach the speech-machine and see what it would say.

    It must, I thought, be conscious of my presence even now; since the sight andhearing attachments could not fail to disclose the rays of my flashlight and the faint creakingof the floor beneath my feet. But in the end I did not dare meddle with the thing. I idly sawthat it was the fresh, shiny cylinder with Akeley’s name on it, which I had noticed onthe shelf earlier in the evening and which my host had told me not to bother. Looking back atthat moment, I can only regret my timidity and wish that I had boldly caused the apparatus tospeak. God knows what mysteries and horrible doubts and questions of identity it might havecleared up! But then, it may be merciful that I let it alone.

    From the table I turned my flashlight to the corner where I thought Akeleywas, but found to my perplexity that the great easy-chair was empty of any human occupant asleepor awake. From the seat to the floor there trailed voluminously the familiar old dressing-gown,and near it on the floor lay the yellow scarf and the huge foot-bandages I had thought so odd.As I hesitated, striving to conjecture where Akeley might be, and why he had so suddenly discardedhis necessary sick-room garments, I observed that the queer odour and sense of vibration wereno longer in the room. What had been their cause? Curiously it occurred to me that I had noticedthem only in Akeley’s vicinity. They had been strongest where he sat, and wholly absentexcept in the room with him or just outside the doors of that room. I paused, letting the flashlightwander about the dark study and racking my brain for explanations of the turn affairs had taken.

    Would to heaven I had quietly left the place before allowing that light torest again on the vacant chair. As it turned out, I did not leave quietly; but with a muffledshriek which must have disturbed, though it did not quite awake, the sleeping sentinel acrossthe hall. That shriek, and Noyes’s still-unbroken snore, are the last sounds I ever heardin that morbidity-choked farmhouse beneath the black-wooded crest of a haunted mountain—thatfocus of trans-cosmic horror amidst the lonely green hills and curse-muttering brooks of a spectralrustic land.

    It is a wonder that I did not drop flashlight, valise, and revolver in my wildscramble, but somehow I failed to lose any of these. I actually managed to get out of that roomand that house without making any further noise, to drag myself and my belongings safely intothe old Ford in the shed, and to set that archaic vehicle in motion toward some unknown pointof safety in the black, moonless night. The ride that followed was a piece of delirium out ofPoe or Rimbaud or the drawings of Doré, but finally I reached Townshend. That is all.If my sanity is still unshaken, I am lucky. Sometimes I fear what the years will bring, especiallysince that new planet Pluto has been so curiously discovered.

    As I have implied, I let my flashlight return to the vacant easy-chair afterits circuit of the room; then noticing for the first time the presence of certain objects inthe seat, made inconspicuous by the adjacent loose folds of the empty dressing-gown. These arethe objects, three in number, which the investigators did not find when they came later on.As I said at the outset, there was nothing of actual visual horror about them. The trouble wasin what they led one to infer. Even now I have my moments of half-doubt—moments in whichI half accept the scepticism of those who attribute my whole experience to dream and nervesand delusion.

    The three things were damnably clever constructions of their kind, and werefurnished with ingenious metallic clamps to attach them to organic developments of which I darenot form any conjecture. I hope—devoutly hope—that they were the waxen productsof a master artist, despite what my inmost fears tell me. Great God! That whisperer in darknesswith its morbid odour and vibrations! Sorcerer, emissary, changeling, outsider . . .that hideous repressed buzzing . . . and all the time in that fresh, shiny cylinderon the shelf . . . poor devil . . . “prodigious surgical, biological, chemical, and mechanical skill”. . .

    For the things in the chair, perfect to the last, subtle detail of microscopicresemblance—or identity—were the face and hands of Henry Wentworth Akeley.

    I.

    During the winter of 1927-28 officials of the Federal government made a strange and secretinvestigation of certain conditions in the ancient Massachusetts seaport of Innsmouth. The publicfirst learned of it in February, when a vast series of raids and arrests occurred, followedby the deliberate burning and dynamiting—under suitable precautions—of an enormousnumber of crumbling, worm-eaten, and supposedly empty houses along the abandoned waterfront.Uninquiring souls let this occurrence pass as one of the major clashes in a spasmodic war onliquor.

    Keener news-followers, however, wondered at the prodigious number of arrests,the abnormally large force of men used in making them, and the secrecy surrounding the disposalof the prisoners. No trials, or even definite charges, were reported; nor were any of the captivesseen thereafter in the regular gaols of the nation. There were vague statements about diseaseand concentration camps, and later about dispersal in various naval and military prisons, butnothing positive ever developed. Innsmouth itself was left almost depopulated, and is even nowonly beginning to shew signs of a sluggishly revived existence.

    Complaints from many liberal organisations were met with long confidentialdiscussions, and representatives were taken on trips to certain camps and prisons. As a result,these societies became surprisingly passive and reticent. Newspaper men were harder to manage,but seemed largely to coöperate with the government in the end. Only one paper—atabloid always discounted because of its wild policy—mentioned the deep-diving submarinethat discharged torpedoes downward in the marine abyss just beyond Devil Reef. That item, gatheredby chance in a haunt of sailors, seemed indeed rather far-fetched; since the low, black reeflies a full mile and a half out from Innsmouth Harbour.

    People around the country and in the nearby towns muttered a great deal amongthemselves, but said very little to the outer world. They had talked about dying and half-desertedInnsmouth for nearly a century, and nothing new could be wilder or more hideous than what theyhad whispered and hinted years before. Many things had taught them secretiveness, and therewas now no need to exert pressure on them. Besides, they really knew very little; for wide saltmarshes, desolate and unpeopled, keep neighbours off from Innsmouth on the landward side.

    But at last I am going to defy the ban on speech about this thing. Results,I am certain, are so thorough that no public harm save a shock of repulsion could ever accruefrom a hinting of what was found by those horrified raiders at Innsmouth. Besides, what wasfound might possibly have more than one explanation. I do not know just how much of the wholetale has been told even to me, and I have many reasons for not wishing to probe deeper. Formy contact with this affair has been closer than that of any other layman, and I have carriedaway impressions which are yet to drive me to drastic measures.

    It was I who fled frantically out of Innsmouth in the early morning hours ofJuly 16, 1927, and whose frightened appeals for government inquiry and action brought on thewhole reported episode. I was willing enough to stay mute while the affair was fresh and uncertain;but now that it is an old story, with public interest and curiosity gone, I have an odd cravingto whisper about those few frightful hours in that ill-rumoured and evilly shadowed seaportof death and blasphemous abnormality. The mere telling helps me to restore confidence in myown faculties; to reassure myself that I was not simply the first to succumb to a contagiousnightmare hallucination. It helps me, too, in making up my mind regarding a certain terriblestep which lies ahead of me.

    I never heard of Innsmouth till the day before I saw it for the first and—sofar—last time. I was celebrating my coming of age by a tour of New England—sightseeing,antiquarian, and genealogical—and had planned to go directly from ancient Newburyportto Arkham, whence my mother’s family was derived. I had no car, but was travelling bytrain, trolley, and motor-coach, always seeking the cheapest possible route. In Newburyportthey told me that the steam train was the thing to take to Arkham; and it was only at the stationticket-office, when I demurred at the high fare, that I learned about Innsmouth. The stout,shrewd-faced agent, whose speech shewed him to be no local man, seemed sympathetic toward myefforts at economy, and made a suggestion that none of my other informants had offered.

    “You could take that old bus, I suppose”, he said with acertain hesitation, “but it ain’t thought much of hereabouts. It goes through Innsmouth—youmay have heard about that—and so the people don’t like it. Run by an Innsmouth fellow—JoeSargent—but never gets any custom from here, or Arkham either, I guess. Wonder it keepsrunning at all. I s’pose it’s cheap enough, but I never see more’n two orthree people in it—nobody but those Innsmouth folks. Leaves the Square—front ofHammond’s Drug Store—at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. unless they’ve changed lately.Looks like a terrible rattletrap—I’ve never ben on it.”

    That was the first I ever heard of shadowed Innsmouth. Any reference to a townnot shewn on common maps or listed in recent guide-books would have interested me, and the agent’sodd manner of allusion roused something like real curiosity. A town able to inspire such dislikein its neighbours, I thought, must be at least rather unusual, and worthy of a tourist’sattention. If it came before Arkham I would stop off there—and so I asked the agent totell me something about it. He was very deliberate, and spoke with an air of feeling slightlysuperior to what he said.

    “Innsmouth? Well, it’s a queer kind of a town down at the mouthof the Manuxet. Used to be almost a city—quite a port before the War of 1812—butall gone to pieces in the last hundred years or so. No railroad now—B. & M. neverwent through, and the branch line from Rowley was given up years ago.”

    “More empty houses than there are people, I guess, and no business tospeak of except fishing and lobstering. Everybody trades mostly here or in Arkham orIpswich. Once they had quite a few mills, but nothing’s left now except one gold refineryrunning on the leanest kind of part time.”

    “That refinery, though, used to be a big thing, and Old Man Marsh, whoowns it, must be richer’n Croesus. Queer old duck, though, and sticks mighty close inhis home. He’s supposed to have developed some skin disease or deformity late in lifethat makes him keep out of sight. Grandson of Captain Obed Marsh, who founded the business.His mother seems to’ve ben some kind of foreigner—they say a South Sea islander—soeverybody raised Cain when he married an Ipswich girl fifty years ago. They always do that aboutInnsmouth people, and folks here and hereabouts always try to cover up any Innsmouth blood theyhave in ’em. But Marsh’s children and grandchildren look just like anyone else sofar’s I can see. I’ve had ’em pointed out to me here—though, come tothink of it, the elder children don’t seem to be around lately. Never saw the old man.”

    “And why is everybody so down on Innsmouth? Well, young fellow, you mustn’ttake too much stock in what people around here say. They’re hard to get started, but oncethey do get started they never let up. They’ve ben telling things about Innsmouth—whispering’em, mostly—for the last hundred years, I guess, and I gather they’re morescared than anything else. Some of the stories would make you laugh—about old CaptainMarsh driving bargains with the devil and bringing imps out of hell to live in Innsmouth, orabout some kind of devil-worship and awful sacrifices in some place near the wharves that peoplestumbled on around 1845 or thereabouts—but I come from Panton, Vermont, and that kindof story don’t go down with me.”

    “You ought to hear, though, what some of the old-timers tell about theblack reef off the coast—Devil Reef, they call it. It’s well above water a goodpart of the time, and never much below it, but at that you could hardly call it an island. Thestory is that there’s a whole legion of devils seen sometimes on that reef—sprawledabout, or darting in and out of some kind of caves near the top. It’s a rugged, uneventhing, a good bit over a mile out, and toward the end of shipping days sailors used to makebig detours just to avoid it.”

    “That is, sailors that didn’t hail from Innsmouth. One of the thingsthey had against old Captain Marsh was that he was supposed to land on it sometimes at nightwhen the tide was right. Maybe he did, for I dare say the rock formation was interesting, andit’s just barely possible he was looking for pirate loot and maybe finding it; but therewas talk of his dealing with daemons there. Fact is, I guess on the whole it was really theCaptain that gave the bad reputation to the reef.”

    “That was before the big epidemic of 1846, when over half the folks inInnsmouth was carried off. They never did quite figure out what the trouble was, but it wasprobably some foreign kind of disease brought from China or somewhere by the shipping. It surelywas bad enough—there was riots over it, and all sorts of ghastly doings that I don’tbelieve ever got outside of town—and it left the place in awful shape. Never came back—therecan’t be more’n 300 or 400 people living there now.”

    “But the real thing behind the way folks feel is simply race prejudice—andI don’t say I’m blaming those that hold it. I hate those Innsmouth folks myself,and I wouldn’t care to go to their town. I s’pose you know—though I can seeyou’re a Westerner by your talk—what a lot our New England ships used to have todo with queer ports in Africa, Asia, the South Seas, and everywhere else, and what queer kindsof people they sometimes brought back with ’em. You’ve probably heard about theSalem man that came home with a Chinese wife, and maybe you know there’s still a bunchof Fiji Islanders somewhere around Cape Cod.”

    “Well, there must be something like that back of the Innsmouth people.The place always was badly cut off from the rest of the country by marshes and creeks, and wecan’t be sure about the ins and outs of the matter; but it’s pretty clear that oldCaptain Marsh must have brought home some odd specimens when he had all three of his ships incommission back in the twenties and thirties. There certainly is a strange kind of streak inthe Innsmouth folks today—I don’t know how to explain it, but it sort of makes youcrawl. You’ll notice a little in Sargent if you take his bus. Some of ’em have queernarrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, stary eyes that never seem to shut, and their skin ain’tquite right. Rough and scabby, and the sides of their necks are all shrivelled or creased up.Get bald, too, very young. The older fellows look the worst—fact is, I don’t believeI’ve ever seen a very old chap of that kind. Guess they must die of looking in the glass!Animals hate ’em—they used to have lots of horse trouble before autos came in.”

    “Nobody around here or in Arkham or Ipswich will have anything to dowith ’em, and they act kind of offish themselves when they come to town or when anyonetries to fish on their grounds. Queer how fish are always thick off Innsmouth Harbour when thereain’t any anywhere else around—but just try to fish there yourself and see how thefolks chase you off! Those people used to come here on the railroad—walking and takingthe train at Rowley after the branch was dropped—but now they use that bus.”

    “Yes, there’s a hotel in Innsmouth—called the Gilman House—butI don’t believe it can amount to much. I wouldn’t advise you to try it. Better stayover here and take the ten o’clock bus tomorrow morning; then you can get an evening busthere for Arkham at eight o’clock. There was a factory inspector who stopped at the Gilmana couple of years ago, and he had a lot of unpleasant hints about the place. Seems they geta queer crowd there, for this fellow heard voices in other rooms—though most of ’emwas empty—that gave him the shivers. It was foreign talk, he thought, but he said thebad thing about it was the kind of voice that sometimes spoke. It sounded so unnatural—slopping-like,he said—that he didn’t dare undress and go to sleep. Just waited up and lit outthe first thing in the morning. The talk went on most all night.”

    “This fellow—Casey, his name was—had a lot to say about howthe Innsmouth folks watched him and seemed kind of on guard. He found the Marsh refinery a queerplace—it’s in an old mill on the lower falls of the Manuxet. What he said talliedup with what I’d heard. Books in bad shape, and no clear account of any kind of dealings.You know it’s always ben a kind of mystery where the Marshes get the gold they refine.They’ve never seemed to do much buying in that line, but years ago they shipped out anenormous lot of ingots.”

    “Used to be talk of a queer foreign kind of jewellery that the sailorsand refinery men sometimes sold on the sly, or that was seen once or twice on some of the Marshwomenfolks. People allowed maybe old Captain Obed traded for it in some heathen port, especiallysince he was always ordering stacks of glass beads and trinkets such as seafaring men used toget for native trade. Others thought and still think he’d found an old pirate cache outon Devil Reef. But here’s a funny thing. The old Captain’s ben dead these sixtyyears, and there ain’t ben a good-sized ship out of the place since the Civil War; butjust the same the Marshes still keep on buying a few of those native trade things—mostlyglass and rubber gewgaws, they tell me. Maybe the Innsmouth folks like ’em to look atthemselves—Gawd knows they’ve gotten to be about as bad as South Sea cannibals andGuinea savages.”

    “That plague of ’46 must have taken off the best blood in the place.Anyway, they’re a doubtful lot now, and the Marshes and the other rich folks are as badas any. As I told you, there probably ain’t more’n 400 people in the whole townin spite of all the streets they say there are. I guess they’re what they call ‘white trash’ down South—lawless and sly, and full of secret doings.They get a lot of fish and lobsters and do exporting by truck. Queer how the fish swarm right there and nowhereelse. “

    “Nobody can ever keep track of these people, and state school officialsand census men have a devil of a time. You can bet that prying strangers ain’t welcomearound Innsmouth. I’ve heard personally of more’n one business or government manthat’s disappeared there, and there’s loose talk of one who went crazy and is outat Danvers now. They must have fixed up some awful scare for that fellow.”

    “That’s why I wouldn’t go at night if I was you. I’venever ben there and have no wish to go, but I guess a daytime trip couldn’t hurt you—eventhough the people hereabouts will advise you not to make it. If you’re just sightseeing,and looking for old-time stuff, Innsmouth ought to be quite a place for you.”

    And so I spent part of that evening at the Newburyport Public Library lookingup data about Innsmouth. When I had tried to question the natives in the shops, the lunch room,the garages, and the fire station, I had found them even harder to get started than the ticket-agenthad predicted; and realised that I could not spare the time to overcome their first instinctivereticences. They had a kind of obscure suspiciousness, as if there were something amiss withanyone too much interested in Innsmouth. At the Y.M.C.A., where I was stopping, the clerk merelydiscouraged my going to such a dismal, decadent place; and the people at the library shewedmuch the same attitude. Clearly, in the eyes of the educated, Innsmouth was merely an exaggeratedcase of civic degeneration.

    The Essex County histories on the library shelves had very little to say, exceptthat the town was founded in 1643, noted for shipbuilding before the Revolution, a seat of greatmarine prosperity in the early nineteenth century, and later a minor factory centre using theManuxet as power. The epidemic and riots of 1846 were very sparsely treated, as if they formeda discredit to the county.

    References to decline were few, though the significance of the later recordwas unmistakable. After the Civil War all industrial life was confined to the Marsh RefiningCompany, and the marketing of gold ingots formed the only remaining bit of major commerce asidefrom the eternal fishing. That fishing paid less and less as the price of the commodity felland large-scale corporations offered competition, but there was never a dearth of fish aroundInnsmouth Harbour. Foreigners seldom settled there, and there was some discreetly veiled evidencethat a number of Poles and Portuguese who had tried it had been scattered in a peculiarly drasticfashion.

    Most interesting of all was a glancing reference to the strange jewelleryvaguely associated with Innsmouth. It had evidently impressed the whole countryside more thana little, for mention was made of specimens in the museum of Miskatonic University at Arkham,and in the display room of the Newburyport Historical Society. The fragmentary descriptionsof these things were bald and prosaic, but they hinted to me an undercurrent of persistent strangeness.Something about them seemed so odd and provocative that I could not put them out of my mind,and despite the relative lateness of the hour I resolved to see the local sample—saidto be a large, queerly proportioned thing evidently meant for a tiara—if it could possiblybe arranged.

    The librarian gave me a note of introduction to the curator of the Society,a Miss Anna Tilton, who lived nearby, and after a brief explanation that ancient gentlewomanwas kind enough to pilot me into the closed building, since the hour was not outrageously late.The collection was a notable one indeed, but in my present mood I had eyes for nothing but thebizarre object which glistened in a corner cupboard under the electric lights.

    It took no excessive sensitiveness to beauty to make me literally gasp at thestrange, unearthly splendour of the alien, opulent phantasy that rested there on a purple velvetcushion. Even now I can hardly describe what I saw, though it was clearly enough a sort of tiara,as the description had said. It was tall in front, and with a very large and curiously irregularperiphery, as if designed for a head of almost freakishly elliptical outline. The material seemedto be predominantly gold, though a weird lighter lustrousness hinted at some strange alloy withan equally beautiful and scarcely identifiable metal. Its condition was almost perfect, andone could have spent hours in studying the striking and puzzlingly untraditional designs—somesimply geometrical, and some plainly marine—chased or moulded in high relief on its surfacewith a craftsmanship of incredible skill and grace.

    The longer I looked, the more the thing fascinated me; and in this fascinationthere was a curiously disturbing element hardly to be classified or accounted for. At firstI decided that it was the queer other-worldly quality of the art which made me uneasy. All otherart objects I had ever seen either belonged to some known racial or national stream, or elsewere consciously modernistic defiances of every recognised stream. This tiara was neither. Itclearly belonged to some settled technique of infinite maturity and perfection, yet that techniquewas utterly remote from any—Eastern or Western, ancient or modern—which I had everheard of or seen exemplified. It was as if the workmanship were that of another planet.

    However, I soon saw that my uneasiness had a second and perhaps equally potentsource residing in the pictorial and mathematical suggestions of the strange designs. The patternsall hinted of remote secrets and unimaginable abysses in time and space, and the monotonouslyaquatic nature of the reliefs became almost sinister. Among these reliefs were fabulous monstersof abhorrent grotesqueness and malignity—half ichthyic and half batrachian in suggestion—whichone could not dissociate from a certain haunting and uncomfortable sense of pseudo-memory, asif they called up some image from deep cells and tissues whose retentive functions are whollyprimal and awesomely ancestral. At times I fancied that every contour of these blasphemous fish-frogswas overflowing with the ultimate quintessence of unknown and inhuman evil.

    In odd contrast to the tiara’s aspect was its brief and prosy historyas related by Miss Tilton. It had been pawned for a ridiculous sum at a shop in State Streetin 1873, by a drunken Innsmouth man shortly afterward killed in a brawl. The Society had acquiredit directly from the pawnbroker, at once giving it a display worthy of its quality. It was labelledas of probable East-Indian or Indo-Chinese provenance, though the attribution was frankly tentative.

    Miss Tilton, comparing all possible hypotheses regarding its origin and itspresence in New England, was inclined to believe that it formed part of some exotic pirate hoarddiscovered by old Captain Obed Marsh. This view was surely not weakened by the insistent offersof purchase at a high price which the Marshes began to make as soon as they knew of its presence,and which they repeated to this day despite the Society’s unvarying determination notto sell.

    As the good lady shewed me out of the building she made it clear that the piratetheory of the Marsh fortune was a popular one among the intelligent people of the region. Herown attitude toward shadowed Innsmouth—which she had never seen—was one of disgustat a community slipping far down the cultural scale, and she assured me that the rumours ofdevil-worship were partly justified by a peculiar secret cult which had gained force there andengulfed all the orthodox churches.

    It was called, she said, “The Esoteric Order of Dagon”, and wasundoubtedly a debased, quasi-pagan thing imported from the East a century before, at a timewhen the Innsmouth fisheries seemed to be going barren. Its persistence among a simple peoplewas quite natural in view of the sudden and permanent return of abundantly fine fishing, andit soon came to be the greatest influence on the town, replacing Freemasonry altogether andtaking up headquarters in the old Masonic Hall on New Church Green.

    All this, to the pious Miss Tilton, formed an excellent reason for shunningthe ancient town of decay and desolation; but to me it was merely a fresh incentive. To my architecturaland historical anticipations was now added an acute anthropological zeal, and I could scarcelysleep in my small room at the “Y” as the night wore away.

    II.

    Shortly before ten the next morning I stood with one small valise in frontof Hammond’s Drug Store in old Market Square waiting for the Innsmouth bus. As the hourfor its arrival drew near I noticed a general drift of the loungers to other places up the street,or to the Ideal Lunch across the square. Evidently the ticket-agent had not exaggerated thedislike which local people bore toward Innsmouth and its denizens. In a few moments a smallmotor-coach of extreme decrepitude and dirty grey colour rattled down State Street, made a turn,and drew up at the curb beside me. I felt immediately that it was the right one; a guess whichthe half-illegible sign on the windshield— “Arkham-Innsmouth-Newb’port” —soonverified.

    There were only three passengers—dark, unkempt men of sullen visage andsomewhat youthful cast—and when the vehicle stopped they clumsily shambled out and beganwalking up State Street in a silent, almost furtive fashion. The driver also alighted, and Iwatched him as he went into the drug store to make some purchase. This, I reflected, must bethe Joe Sargent mentioned by the ticket-agent; and even before I noticed any details there spreadover me a wave of spontaneous aversion which could be neither checked nor explained. It suddenlystruck me as very natural that the local people should not wish to ride on a bus owned and drivenby this man, or to visit any oftener than possible the habitat of such a man and his kinsfolk.

    When the driver came out of the store I looked at him more carefully and triedto determine the source of my evil impression. He was a thin, stoop-shouldered man not muchunder six feet tall, dressed in shabby blue civilian clothes and wearing a frayed grey golfcap. His age was perhaps thirty-five, but the odd, deep creases in the sides of his neck madehim seem older when one did not study his dull, expressionless face. He had a narrow head, bulging,watery blue eyes that seemed never to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularlyundeveloped ears. His long, thick lip and coarse-pored, greyish cheeks seemed almost beardlessexcept for some sparse yellow hairs that straggled and curled in irregular patches; and in placesthe surface seemed queerly irregular, as if peeling from some cutaneous disease. His hands werelarge and heavily veined, and had a very unusual greyish-blue tinge. The fingers were strikinglyshort in proportion to the rest of the structure, and seemed to have a tendency to curl closelyinto the huge palm. As he walked toward the bus I observed his peculiarly shambling gait andsaw that his feet were inordinately immense. The more I studied them the more I wondered howhe could buy any shoes to fit them.

    A certain greasiness about the fellow increased my dislike. He was evidentlygiven to working or lounging around the fish docks, and carried with him much of their characteristicsmell. Just what foreign blood was in him I could not even guess. His oddities certainly didnot look Asiatic, Polynesian, Levantine, or negroid, yet I could see why the people found himalien. I myself would have thought of biological degeneration rather than alienage.

    I was sorry when I saw that there would be no other passengers on the bus.Somehow I did not like the idea of riding alone with this driver. But as leaving time obviouslyapproached I conquered my qualms and followed the man aboard, extending him a dollar bill andmurmuring the single word “Innsmouth”. He looked curiously at me for a second ashe returned forty cents change without speaking. I took a seat far behind him, but on the sameside of the bus, since I wished to watch the shore during the journey.

    At length the decrepit vehicle started with a jerk, and rattled noisily pastthe old brick buildings of State Street amidst a cloud of vapour from the exhaust. Glancingat the people on the sidewalks, I thought I detected in them a curious wish to avoid lookingat the bus—or at least a wish to avoid seeming to look at it. Then we turned to the leftinto High Street, where the going was smoother; flying by stately old mansions of the earlyrepublic and still older colonial farmhouses, passing the Lower Green and Parker River, andfinally emerging into a long, monotonous stretch of open shore country.

    The day was warm and sunny, but the landscape of sand, sedge-grass, and stuntedshrubbery became more and more desolate as we proceeded. Out the window I could see the bluewater and the sandy line of Plum Island, and we presently drew very near the beach as our narrowroad veered off from the main highway to Rowley and Ipswich. There were no visible houses, andI could tell by the state of the road that traffic was very light hereabouts. The small, weather-worntelephone poles carried only two wires. Now and then we crossed crude wooden bridges over tidalcreeks that wound far inland and promoted the general isolation of the region.

    Once in a while I noticed dead stumps and crumbling foundation-walls abovethe drifting sand, and recalled the old tradition quoted in one of the histories I had read,that this was once a fertile and thickly settled countryside. The change, it was said, camesimultaneously with the Innsmouth epidemic of 1846, and was thought by simple folk to have adark connexion with hidden forces of evil. Actually, it was caused by the unwise cutting ofwoodlands near the shore, which robbed the soil of its best protection and opened the way forwaves of wind-blown sand.

    At last we lost sight of Plum Island and saw the vast expanse of the open Atlanticon our left. Our narrow course began to climb steeply, and I felt a singular sense of disquietin looking at the lonely crest ahead where the rutted roadway met the sky. It was as if thebus were about to keep on in its ascent, leaving the sane earth altogether and merging withthe unknown arcana of upper air and cryptical sky. The smell of the sea took on ominous implications,and the silent driver’s bent, rigid back and narrow head became more and more hateful.As I looked at him I saw that the back of his head was almost as hairless as his face, havingonly a few straggling yellow strands upon a grey scabrous surface.

    Then we reached the crest and beheld the outspread valley beyond, where theManuxet joins the sea just north of the long line of cliffs that culminate in Kingsport Headand veer off toward Cape Ann. On the far, misty horizon I could just make out the dizzy profileof the Head, topped by the queer ancient house of which so many legends are told; but for themoment all my attention was captured by the nearer panorama just below me. I had, I realised,come face to face with rumour-shadowed Innsmouth.

    It was a town of wide extent and dense construction, yet one with a portentousdearth of visible life. From the tangle of chimney-pots scarcely a wisp of smoke came, and thethree tall steeples loomed stark and unpainted against the seaward horizon. One of them wascrumbling down at the top, and in that and another there were only black gaping holes whereclock-dials should have been. The vast huddle of sagging gambrel roofs and peaked gables conveyedwith offensive clearness the idea of wormy decay, and as we approached along the now descendingroad I could see that many roofs had wholly caved in. There were some large square Georgianhouses, too, with hipped roofs, cupolas, and railed “widow’s walks”. Thesewere mostly well back from the water, and one or two seemed to be in moderately sound condition.Stretching inland from among them I saw the rusted, grass-grown line of the abandoned railway,with leaning telegraph-poles now devoid of wires, and the half-obscured lines of the old carriageroads to Rowley and Ipswich.

    The decay was worst close to the waterfront, though in its very midst I couldspy the white belfry of a fairly well-preserved brick structure which looked like a small factory.The harbour, long clogged with sand, was enclosed by an ancient stone breakwater; on which Icould begin to discern the minute forms of a few seated fishermen, and at whose end were whatlooked like the foundations of a bygone lighthouse. A sandy tongue had formed inside this barrier,and upon it I saw a few decrepit cabins, moored dories, and scattered lobster-pots. The onlydeep water seemed to be where the river poured out past the belfried structure and turned southwardto join the ocean at the breakwater’s end.

    Here and there the ruins of wharves jutted out from the shore to end in indeterminaterottenness, those farthest south seeming the most decayed. And far out at sea, despite a hightide, I glimpsed a long, black line scarcely rising above the water yet carrying a suggestionof odd latent malignancy. This, I knew, must be Devil Reef. As I looked, a subtle, curious senseof beckoning seemed superadded to the grim repulsion; and oddly enough, I found this overtonemore disturbing than the primary impression.

    We met no one on the road, but presently began to pass deserted farms in varyingstages of ruin. Then I noticed a few inhabited houses with rags stuffed in the broken windowsand shells and dead fish lying about the littered yards. Once or twice I saw listless-lookingpeople working in barren gardens or digging clams on the fishy-smelling beach below, and groupsof dirty, simian-visaged children playing around weed-grown doorsteps. Somehow these peopleseemed more disquieting than the dismal buildings, for almost every one had certain peculiaritiesof face and motions which I instinctively disliked without being able to define or comprehendthem. For a second I thought this typical physique suggested some picture I had seen, perhapsin a book, under circ*mstances of particular horror or melancholy; but this pseudo-recollectionpassed very quickly.

    As the bus reached a lower level I began to catch the steady note of a waterfallthrough the unnatural stillness. The leaning, unpainted houses grew thicker, lined both sidesof the road, and displayed more urban tendencies than did those we were leaving behind. Thepanorama ahead had contracted to a street scene, and in spots I could see where a cobblestonepavement and stretches of brick sidewalk had formerly existed. All the houses were apparentlydeserted, and there were occasional gaps where tumbledown chimneys and cellar walls told ofbuildings that had collapsed. Pervading everything was the most nauseous fishy odour imaginable.

    Soon cross streets and junctions began to appear; those on the left leadingto shoreward realms of unpaved squalor and decay, while those on the right shewed vistas ofdeparted grandeur. So far I had seen no people in the town, but there now came signs of a sparsehabitation—curtained windows here and there, and an occasional battered motor-car at thecurb. Pavement and sidewalks were increasingly well defined, and though most of the houses werequite old—wood and brick structures of the early nineteenth century—they were obviouslykept fit for habitation. As an amateur antiquarian I almost lost my olfactory disgust and myfeeling of menace and repulsion amidst this rich, unaltered survival from the past.

    But I was not to reach my destination without one very strong impression ofpoignantly disagreeable quality. The bus had come to a sort of open concourse or radial pointwith churches on two sides and the bedraggled remains of a circular green in the centre, andI was looking at a large pillared hall on the right-hand junction ahead. The structure’sonce white paint was now grey and peeling, and the black and gold sign on the pediment was sofaded that I could only with difficulty make out the words “Esoteric Order of Dagon”.This, then, was the former Masonic Hall now given over to a degraded cult. As I strained todecipher this inscription my notice was distracted by the raucous tones of a cracked bell acrossthe street, and I quickly turned to look out the window on my side of the coach.

    The sound came from a squat-towered stone church of manifestly later date thanmost of the houses, built in a clumsy Gothic fashion and having a disproportionately high basem*ntwith shuttered windows. Though the hands of its clock were missing on the side I glimpsed, Iknew that those hoarse strokes were telling the hour of eleven. Then suddenly all thoughts oftime were blotted out by an onrushing image of sharp intensity and unaccountable horror whichhad seized me before I knew what it really was. The door of the church basem*nt was open, revealinga rectangle of blackness inside. And as I looked, a certain object crossed or seemed to crossthat dark rectangle; burning into my brain a momentary conception of nightmare which was allthe more maddening because analysis could not shew a single nightmarish quality in it.

    It was a living object—the first except the driver that I had seen sinceentering the compact part of the town—and had I been in a steadier mood I would have foundnothing whatever of terror in it. Clearly, as I realised a moment later, it was the pastor;clad in some peculiar vestments doubtless introduced since the Order of Dagon had modified theritual of the local churches. The thing which had probably caught my first subconscious glanceand supplied the touch of bizarre horror was the tall tiara he wore; an almost exact duplicateof the one Miss Tilton had shewn me the previous evening. This, acting on my imagination, hadsupplied namelessly sinister qualities to the indeterminate face and robed, shambling form beneathit. There was not, I soon decided, any reason why I should have felt that shuddering touch ofevil pseudo-memory. Was it not natural that a local mystery cult should adopt among its regimentalsan unique type of head-dress made familiar to the community in some strange way—perhapsas treasure-trove?

    A very thin sprinkling of repellent-looking youngish people now became visibleon the sidewalks—lone individuals, and silent knots of two or three. The lower floorsof the crumbling houses sometimes harboured small shops with dingy signs, and I noticed a parkedtruck or two as we rattled along. The sound of waterfalls became more and more distinct, andpresently I saw a fairly deep river-gorge ahead, spanned by a wide, iron-railed highway bridgebeyond which a large square opened out. As we clanked over the bridge I looked out on both sidesand observed some factory buildings on the edge of the grassy bluff or part way down. The waterfar below was very abundant, and I could see two vigorous sets of falls upstream on my rightand at least one downstream on my left. From this point the noise was quite deafening. Thenwe rolled into the large semicircular square across the river and drew up on the right-handside in front of a tall, cupola-crowned building with remnants of yellow paint and with a half-effacedsign proclaiming it to be the Gilman House.

    I was glad to get out of that bus, and at once proceeded to check my valisein the shabby hotel lobby. There was only one person in sight—an elderly man without whatI had come to call the “Innsmouth look” —and I decided not to ask him any ofthe questions which bothered me; remembering that odd things had been noticed in this hotel.Instead, I strolled out on the square, from which the bus had already gone, and studied thescene minutely and appraisingly.

    One side of the cobblestoned open space was the straight line of the river;the other was a semicircle of slant-roofed brick buildings of about the 1800 period, from whichseveral streets radiated away to the southeast, south, and southwest. Lamps were depressinglyfew and small—all low-powered incandescents—and I was glad that my plans calledfor departure before dark, even though I knew the moon would be bright. The buildings were allin fair condition, and included perhaps a dozen shops in current operation; of which one wasa grocery of the First National chain, others a dismal restaurant, a drug store, and a wholesalefish-dealer’s office, and still another, at the eastern extremity of the square near theriver, an office of the town’s only industry—the Marsh Refining Company. There wereperhaps ten people visible, and four or five automobiles and motor trucks stood scattered about.I did not need to be told that this was the civic centre of Innsmouth. Eastward I could catchblue glimpses of the harbour, against which rose the decaying remains of three once beautifulGeorgian steeples. And toward the shore on the opposite bank of the river I saw the white belfrysurmounting what I took to be the Marsh refinery.

    For some reason or other I chose to make my first inquiries at the chain grocery,whose personnel was not likely to be native to Innsmouth. I found a solitary boy of about seventeenin charge, and was pleased to note the brightness and affability which promised cheerful information.He seemed exceptionally eager to talk, and I soon gathered that he did not like the place, itsfishy smell, or its furtive people. A word with any outsider was a relief to him. He hailedfrom Arkham, boarded with a family who came from Ipswich, and went back home whenever he gota moment off. His family did not like him to work in Innsmouth, but the chain had transferredhim there and he did not wish to give up his job.

    There was, he said, no public library or chamber of commerce in Innsmouth,but I could probably find my way about. The street I had come down was Federal. West of thatwere the fine old residence streets—Broad, Washington, Lafayette, and Adams—andeast of it were the shoreward slums. It was in these slums—along Main Street—thatI would find the old Georgian churches, but they were all long abandoned. It would be well notto make oneself too conspicuous in such neighbourhoods—especially north of the river—sincethe people were sullen and hostile. Some strangers had even disappeared.

    Certain spots were almost forbidden territory, as he had learned at considerablecost. One must not, for example, linger much around the Marsh refinery, or around any of thestill used churches, or around the pillared Order of Dagon Hall at New Church Green. Those churcheswere very odd—all violently disavowed by their respective denominations elsewhere, andapparently using the queerest kind of ceremonials and clerical vestments. Their creeds wereheterodox and mysterious, involving hints of certain marvellous transformations leading to bodilyimmortality—of a sort—on this earth. The youth’s own pastor—Dr. Wallaceof Asbury M. E. Church in Arkham—had gravely urged him not to join any church in Innsmouth.

    As for the Innsmouth people—the youth hardly knew what to make of them.They were as furtive and seldom seen as animals that live in burrows, and one could hardly imaginehow they passed the time apart from their desultory fishing. Perhaps—judging from thequantities of bootleg liquor they consumed—they lay for most of the daylight hours inan alcoholic stupor. They seemed sullenly banded together in some sort of fellowship and understanding—despisingthe world as if they had access to other and preferable spheres of entity. Their appearance—especiallythose staring, unwinking eyes which one never saw shut—was certainly shocking enough;and their voices were disgusting. It was awful to hear them chanting in their churches at night,and especially during their main festivals or revivals, which fell twice a year on April 30thand October 31st.

    They were very fond of the water, and swam a great deal in both river and harbour.Swimming races out to Devil Reef were very common, and everyone in sight seemed well able toshare in this arduous sport. When one came to think of it, it was generally only rather youngpeople who were seen about in public, and of these the oldest were apt to be the most tainted-looking.When exceptions did occur, they were mostly persons with no trace of aberrancy, like the oldclerk at the hotel. One wondered what became of the bulk of the older folk, and whether the“Innsmouth look” were not a strange and insidious disease-phenomenon which increasedits hold as years advanced.

    Only a very rare affliction, of course, could bring about such vast and radicalanatomical changes in a single individual after maturity—changes involving osseous factorsas basic as the shape of the skull—but then, even this aspect was no more baffling andunheard-of than the visible features of the malady as a whole. It would be hard, the youth implied,to form any real conclusions regarding such a matter; since one never came to know the nativespersonally no matter how long one might live in Innsmouth.

    The youth was certain that many specimens even worse than the worst visibleones were kept locked indoors in some places. People sometimes heard the queerest kind of sounds.The tottering waterfront hovels north of the river were reputedly connected by hidden tunnels,being thus a veritable warren of unseen abnormalities. What kind of foreign blood—if any—thesebeings had, it was impossible to tell. They sometimes kept certain especially repulsive charactersout of sight when government agents and others from the outside world came to town.

    It would be of no use, my informant said, to ask the natives anything aboutthe place. The only one who would talk was a very aged but normal-looking man who lived at thepoorhouse on the north rim of the town and spent his time walking about or lounging around thefire station. This hoary character, Zadok Allen, was ninety-six years old and somewhat touchedin the head, besides being the town drunkard. He was a strange, furtive creature who constantlylooked over his shoulder as if afraid of something, and when sober could not be persuaded totalk at all with strangers. He was, however, unable to resist any offer of his favourite poison;and once drunk would furnish the most astonishing fragments of whispered reminiscence.

    After all, though, little useful data could be gained from him; since his storieswere all insane, incomplete hints of impossible marvels and horrors which could have no sourcesave in his own disordered fancy. Nobody ever believed him, but the natives did not like himto drink and talk with strangers; and it was not always safe to be seen questioning him. Itwas probably from him that some of the wildest popular whispers and delusions were derived.

    Several non-native residents had reported monstrous glimpses from time to time,but between old Zadok’s tales and the malformed denizens it was no wonder such illusionswere current. None of the non-natives ever stayed out late at night, there being a widespreadimpression that it was not wise to do so. Besides, the streets were loathsomely dark.

    As for business—the abundance of fish was certainly almost uncanny, butthe natives were taking less and less advantage of it. Moreover, prices were falling and competitionwas growing. Of course the town’s real business was the refinery, whose commercial officewas on the square only a few doors east of where we stood. Old Man Marsh was never seen, butsometimes went to the works in a closed, curtained car.

    There were all sorts of rumours about how Marsh had come to look. He had oncebeen a great dandy, and people said he still wore the frock-coated finery of the Edwardian age,curiously adapted to certain deformities. His sons had formerly conducted the office in thesquare, but latterly they had been keeping out of sight a good deal and leaving the brunt ofaffairs to the younger generation. The sons and their sisters had come to look very queer, especiallythe elder ones; and it was said that their health was failing.

    One of the Marsh daughters was a repellent, reptilian-looking woman who worean excess of weird jewellery clearly of the same exotic tradition as that to which the strangetiara belonged. My informant had noticed it many times, and had heard it spoken of as comingfrom some secret hoard, either of pirates or of daemons. The clergymen—or priests, orwhatever they were called nowadays—also wore this kind of ornament as a head-dress; butone seldom caught glimpses of them. Other specimens the youth had not seen, though many wererumoured to exist around Innsmouth.

    The Marshes, together with the other three gently bred families of the town—theWaites, the Gilmans, and the Eliots—were all very retiring. They lived in immense housesalong Washington Street, and several were reputed to harbour in concealment certain living kinsfolkwhose personal aspect forbade public view, and whose deaths had been reported and recorded.

    Warning me that many of the street signs were down, the youth drew for my benefita rough but ample and painstaking sketch map of the town’s salient features. After a moment’sstudy I felt sure that it would be of great help, and pocketed it with profuse thanks. Dislikingthe dinginess of the single restaurant I had seen, I bought a fair supply of cheese crackersand ginger wafers to serve as a lunch later on. My programme, I decided, would be to threadthe principal streets, talk with any non-natives I might encounter, and catch the eight o’clockcoach for Arkham. The town, I could see, formed a significant and exaggerated example of communaldecay; but being no sociologist I would limit my serious observations to the field of architecture.

    Thus I began my systematic though half-bewildered tour of Innsmouth’snarrow, shadow-blighted ways. Crossing the bridge and turning toward the roar of the lower falls,I passed close to the Marsh refinery, which seemed oddly free from the noise of industry. Thisbuilding stood on the steep river bluff near a bridge and an open confluence of streets whichI took to be the earliest civic centre, displaced after the Revolution by the present Town Square.

    Re-crossing the gorge on the Main Street bridge, I struck a region of utterdesertion which somehow made me shudder. Collapsing huddles of gambrel roofs formed a jaggedand fantastic skyline, above which rose the ghoulish, decapitated steeple of an ancient church.Some houses along Main Street were tenanted, but most were tightly boarded up. Down unpavedside streets I saw the black, gaping windows of deserted hovels, many of which leaned at perilousand incredible angles through the sinking of part of the foundations. Those windows stared sospectrally that it took courage to turn eastward toward the waterfront. Certainly, the terrorof a deserted house swells in geometrical rather than arithmetical progression as houses multiplyto form a city of stark desolation. The sight of such endless avenues of fishy-eyed vacancyand death, and the thought of such linked infinities of black, brooding compartments given overto cobwebs and memories and the conqueror worm, start up vestigial fears and aversions thatnot even the stoutest philosophy can disperse.

    Fish Street was as deserted as Main, though it differed in having many brickand stone warehouses still in excellent shape. Water Street was almost its duplicate, save thatthere were great seaward gaps where wharves had been. Not a living thing did I see, except forthe scattered fishermen on the distant breakwater, and not a sound did I hear save the lappingof the harbour tides and the roar of the falls in the Manuxet. The town was getting more andmore on my nerves, and I looked behind me furtively as I picked my way back over the totteringWater Street bridge. The Fish Street bridge, according to the sketch, was in ruins.

    North of the river there were traces of squalid life—active fish-packinghouses in Water Street, smoking chimneys and patched roofs here and there, occasional soundsfrom indeterminate sources, and infrequent shambling forms in the dismal streets and unpavedlanes—but I seemed to find this even more oppressive than the southerly desertion. Forone thing, the people were more hideous and abnormal than those near the centre of the town;so that I was several times evilly reminded of something utterly fantastic which I could notquite place. Undoubtedly the alien strain in the Innsmouth folk was stronger here than fartherinland—unless, indeed, the “Innsmouth look” were a disease rather than a bloodstrain, in which case this district might be held to harbour the more advanced cases.

    One detail that annoyed me was the distribution of the few faint soundsI heard. They ought naturally to have come wholly from the visibly inhabited houses, yet inreality were often strongest inside the most rigidly boarded-up facades. There were creakings,scurryings, and hoarse doubtful noises; and I thought uncomfortably about the hidden tunnelssuggested by the grocery boy. Suddenly I found myself wondering what the voices of those denizenswould be like. I had heard no speech so far in this quarter, and was unaccountably anxious notto do so.

    Pausing only long enough to look at two fine but ruinous old churches at Mainand Church Streets, I hastened out of that vile waterfront slum. My next logical goal was NewChurch Green, but somehow or other I could not bear to repass the church in whose basem*nt Ihad glimpsed the inexplicably frightening form of that strangely diademed priest or pastor.Besides, the grocery youth had told me that the churches, as well as the Order of Dagon Hall,were not advisable neighbourhoods for strangers.

    Accordingly I kept north along Main to Martin, then turning inland, crossingFederal Street safely north of the Green, and entering the decayed patrician neighbourhood ofnorthern Broad, Washington, Lafayette, and Adams Streets. Though these stately old avenues wereill-surfaced and unkempt, their elm-shaded dignity had not entirely departed. Mansion aftermansion claimed my gaze, most of them decrepit and boarded up amidst neglected grounds, butone or two in each street shewing signs of occupancy. In Washington Street there was a row offour or five in excellent repair and with finely tended lawns and gardens. The most sumptuousof these—with wide terraced parterres extending back the whole way to Lafayette Street—Itook to be the home of Old Man Marsh, the afflicted refinery owner.

    In all these streets no living thing was visible, and I wondered at the completeabsense of cats and dogs from Innsmouth. Another thing which puzzled and disturbed me, evenin some of the best-preserved mansions, was the tightly shuttered condition of many third-storyand attic windows. Furtiveness and secretiveness seemed universal in this hushed city of alienageand death, and I could not escape the sensation of being watched from ambush on every hand bysly, staring eyes that never shut.

    I shivered as the cracked stroke of three sounded from a belfry on my left.Too well did I recall the squat church from which those notes came. Following Washington Streettoward the river, I now faced a new zone of former industry and commerce; noting the ruins ofa factory ahead, and seeing others, with the traces of an old railway station and covered railwaybridge beyond, up the gorge on my right.

    The uncertain bridge now before me was posted with a warning sign, but I tookthe risk and crossed again to the south bank where traces of life reappeared. Furtive, shamblingcreatures stared cryptically in my direction, and more normal faces eyed me coldly and curiously.Innsmouth was rapidly becoming intolerable, and I turned down Paine Street toward the Squarein the hope of getting some vehicle to take me to Arkham before the still-distant starting-timeof that sinister bus.

    It was then that I saw the tumbledown fire station on my left, and noticedthe red-faced, bushy-bearded, watery-eyed old man in nondescript rags who sat on a bench infront of it talking with a pair of unkempt but not abnormal-looking firemen. This, of course,must be Zadok Allen, the half-crazed, liquorish nonagenarian whose tales of old Innsmouth andits shadow were so hideous and incredible.

    III.

    It must have been some imp of the perverse—or some sardonic pull fromdark, hidden sources—which made me change my plans as I did. I had long before resolvedto limit my observations to architecture alone, and I was even then hurrying toward the Squarein an effort to get quick transportation out of this festering city of death and decay; butthe sight of old Zadok Allen set up new currents in my mind and made me slacken my pace uncertainly.

    I had been assured that the old man could do nothing but hint at wild, disjointed,and incredible legends, and I had been warned that the natives made it unsafe to be seen talkingto him; yet the thought of this aged witness to the town’s decay, with memories goingback to the early days of ships and factories, was a lure that no amount of reason could makeme resist. After all, the strangest and maddest of myths are often merely symbols or allegoriesbased upon truth—and old Zadok must have seen everything which went on around Innsmouthfor the last ninety years. Curiosity flared up beyond sense and caution, and in my youthfulegotism I fancied I might be able to sift a nucleus of real history from the confused, extravagantoutpouring I would probably extract with the aid of raw whiskey.

    I knew that I could not accost him then and there, for the firemen would surelynotice and object. Instead, I reflected, I would prepare by getting some bootleg liquor at aplace where the grocery boy had told me it was plentiful. Then I would loaf near the fire stationin apparent casualness, and fall in with old Zadok after he had started on one of his frequentrambles. The youth said that he was very restless, seldom sitting around the station for morethan an hour or two at a time.

    A quart bottle of whiskey was easily, though not cheaply, obtained in the rearof a dingy variety-store just off the Square in Eliot Street. The dirty-looking fellow who waitedon me had a touch of the staring “Innsmouth look”, but was quite civil in his way;being perhaps used to the custom of such convivial strangers—truckmen, gold-buyers, andthe like—as were occasionally in town.

    Reëntering the Square I saw that luck was with me; for—shufflingout of Paine Street around the corner of the Gilman House—I glimpsed nothing less thanthe tall, lean, tattered form of old Zadok Allen himself. In accordance with my plan, I attractedhis attention by brandishing my newly purchased bottle; and soon realised that he had begunto shuffle wistfully after me as I turned into Waite Street on my way to the most deserted regionI could think of.

    I was steering my course by the map the grocery boy had prepared, and was aimingfor the wholly abandoned stretch of southern waterfront which I had previously visited. Theonly people in sight there had been the fishermen on the distant breakwater; and by going afew squares south I could get beyond the range of these, finding a pair of seats on some abandonedwharf and being free to question old Zadok unobserved for an indefinite time. Before I reachedMain Street I could hear a faint and wheezy “Hey, Mister!” behind me, and I presentlyallowed the old man to catch up and take copious pulls from the quart bottle.

    I began putting out feelers as we walked along to Water Street and turned southwardamidst the omnipresent desolation and crazily tilted ruins, but found that the aged tongue didnot loosen as quickly as I had expected. At length I saw a grass-grown opening toward the seabetween crumbling brick walls, with the weedy length of an earth-and-masonry wharf projectingbeyond. Piles of moss-covered stones near the water promised tolerable seats, and the scenewas sheltered from all possible view by a ruined warehouse on the north. Here, I thought, wasthe ideal place for a long secret colloquy; so I guided my companion down the lane and pickedout spots to sit in among the mossy stones. The air of death and desertion was ghoulish, andthe smell of fish almost insufferable; but I was resolved to let nothing deter me.

    About four hours remained for conversation if I were to catch the eight o’clockcoach for Arkham, and I began to dole out more liquor to the ancient tippler; meanwhile eatingmy own frugal lunch. In my donations I was careful not to overshoot the mark, for I did notwish Zadok’s vinous garrulousness to pass into a stupor. After an hour his furtive taciturnityshewed signs of disappearing, but much to my disappointment he still sidetracked my questionsabout Innsmouth and its shadow-haunted past. He would babble of current topics, revealing awide acquaintance with newspapers and a great tendency to philosophise in a sententious villagefashion.

    Toward the end of the second hour I feared my quart of whiskey would not beenough to produce results, and was wondering whether I had better leave old Zadok and go backfor more. Just then, however, chance made the opening which my questions had been unable tomake; and the wheezing ancient’s rambling took a turn that caused me to lean forward andlisten alertly. My back was toward the fishy-smelling sea, but he was facing it, and somethingor other had caused his wandering gaze to light on the low, distant line of Devil Reef, thenshewing plainly and almost fascinatingly above the waves. The sight seemed to displease him,for he began a series of weak curses which ended in a confidential whisper and a knowing leer.He bent toward me, took hold of my coat lapel, and hissed out some hints that could not be mistaken.

    “Thar’s whar it all begun—that cursed place of all wickednesswhar the deep water starts. Gate o’ hell—sheer drop daown to a bottom no saoundin’-linekin tech. Ol’ Cap’n Obed done it—him that faound aout more’n was goodfer him in the Saouth Sea islands.”

    “Everybody was in a bad way them days. Trade fallin’ off, millslosin’ business—even the new ones—an’ the best of our menfolks kilta-privateerin’ in the War of 1812 or lost with the Elizy brig an’ theRanger snow—both of ‘em Gilman venters. Obed Marsh he had three ships afloat—brigantineColumby, brig Hetty, an’ barque Sumatry Queen. He was the only oneas kep’ on with the East-Injy an’ Pacific trade, though Esdras Martin’s barkentineMalay Pride made a venter as late as ’twenty-eight.”

    “Never was nobody like Cap’n Obed—old limb o’ Satan!Heh, heh! I kin mind him a-tellin’ abaout furren parts, an’ callin’ all thefolks stupid fer goin’ to Christian meetin’ an’ bearin’ their burdensmeek an’ lowly. Says they’d orter git better gods like some o’ the folks inthe Injies—gods as ud bring ‘em good fishin’ in return for their sacrifices,an’ ud reely answer folks’s prayers.”

    “Matt Eliot, his fust mate, talked a lot, too, only he was agin’folks’s doin’ any heathen things. Told abaout an island east of Otaheitéwhar they was a lot o’ stone ruins older’n anybody knew anything abaout, kind o’like them on Ponape, in the Carolines, but with carvin’s of faces that looked like thebig statues on Easter Island. They was a little volcanic island near thar, too, whar they wasother ruins with diff’rent carvin’s—ruins all wore away like they’dben under the sea onct, an’ with picters of awful monsters all over ’em.”

    “Wal, Sir, Matt he says the natives araound thar had all the fish theycud ketch, an’ sported bracelets an’ armlets an’ head rigs made aout of aqueer kind o’ gold an’ covered with picters o’ monsters jest like the onescarved over the ruins on the little island—sorter fish-like frogs or frog-like fishesthat was drawed in all kinds o’ positions like they was human bein’s. Nobody cudgit aout o’ them whar they got all the stuff, an’ all the other natives wonderedhaow they managed to find fish in plenty even when the very next islands had lean pickin’s.Matt he got to wonderin’ too, an’ so did Cap’n Obed. Obed he notices, besides,that lots of the han’some young folks ud drop aout o’ sight fer good from year toyear, an’ that they wa’n’t many old folks araound. Also, he thinks some ofthe folks looks durned queer even fer Kanakys.”

    “It took Obed to git the truth aout o’ them heathen. I dun’tknow haow he done it, but he begun by tradin’ fer the gold-like things they wore. Ast‘em whar they come from, an’ ef they cud git more, an’ finally wormed thestory aout o’ the old chief—Walakea, they called him. Nobody but Obed ud ever abelieved the old yeller devil, but the Cap’n cud read folks like they was books. Heh,heh! Nobody never believes me naow when I tell ‘em, an’ I dun’t s’poseyou will, young feller—though come to look at ye, ye hev kind o’ got them sharp-readin’eyes like Obed had.”

    The old man’s whisper grew fainter, and I found myself shuddering atthe terrible and sincere portentousness of his intonation, even though I knew his tale couldbe nothing but drunken phantasy.

    “Wal, Sir, Obed he larnt that they’s things on this arth as mostfolks never heerd abaout—an’ wouldn’t believe ef they did hear. It seems theseKanakys was sacrificin’ heaps o’ their young men an’ maidens to some kindo’ god-things that lived under the sea, an’ gittin’ all kinds o’ favourin return. They met the things on the little islet with the queer ruins, an’ it seemsthem awful picters o’ frog-fish monsters was supposed to be picters o’ these things.Mebbe they was the kind o’ critters as got all the mermaid stories an’ sech started.They had all kinds o’ cities on the sea-bottom, an’ this island was heaved up fromthar. Seems they was some of the things alive in the stone buildin’s when the island comeup sudden to the surface. That’s haow the Kanakys got wind they was daown thar. Made sign-talkas soon as they got over bein’ skeert, an’ pieced up a bargain afore long.”

    “Them things liked human sacrifices. Had had ‘em ages afore, butlost track o’ the upper world arter a time. What they done to the victims it ain’tfer me to say, an’ I guess Obed wa’n’t none too sharp abaout askin’.But it was all right with the heathens, because they’d ben havin’ a hard time an’was desp’rate abaout everything. They give a sarten number o’ young folks to thesea-things twict every year—May-Eve an’ Hallowe’en—reg’lar ascud be. Also give some o’ the carved knick-knacks they made. What the things agreed togive in return was plenty o’ fish—they druv ‘em in from all over the sea—an’a few gold-like things naow an’ then.”

    “Wal, as I says, the natives met the things on the little volcanic islet—goin’thar in canoes with the sacrifices et cet’ry, and bringin’ back any of the gold-likejools as was comin’ to ‘em. At fust the things didn’t never go onto the mainisland, but arter a time they come to want to. Seems they hankered arter mixin’ with thefolks, an’ havin’ j’int ceremonies on the big days—May-Eve an’Hallowe’en. Ye see, they was able to live both in an’ aout o’ water—whatthey call amphibians, I guess. The Kanakys told ‘em as haow folks from the other islandsmight wanta wipe ‘em aout ef they got wind o’ their bein’ thar, but they saysthey dun’t keer much, because they cud wipe aout the hull brood o’ humans ef theywas willin’ to bother—that is, any as didn’t hev sarten signs sech as wasused onct by the lost Old Ones, whoever they was. But not wantin’ to bother, they’dlay low when anybody visited the island.”

    “When it come to matin’ with them toad-lookin’ fishes, theKanakys kind o’ balked, but finally they larnt something as put a new face on the matter.Seems that human folks has got a kind o’ relation to sech water-beasts—that everythingalive come aout o’ the water onct, an’ only needs a little change to go back agin.Them things told the Kanakys that ef they mixed bloods there’d be children as ud lookhuman at fust, but later turn more’n more like the things, till finally they’d taketo the water an’ jine the main lot o’ things daown thar. An’ this is the importantpart, young feller—them as turned into fish things an’ went into the water wouldn’tnever die. Them things never died excep’ they was kilt violent.”

    “Wal, Sir, it seems by the time Obed knowed them islanders they was allfull o’ fish blood from them deep-water things. When they got old an’ begun to shewit, they was kep’ hid until they felt like takin’ to the water an’ quittin’the place. Some was more teched than others, an’ some never did change quite enough totake to the water; but mostly they turned aout jest the way them things said. Them as was bornmore like the things changed arly, but them as was nearly human sometimes stayed on the islandtill they was past seventy, though they’d usually go daown under fer trial trips aforethat. Folks as had took to the water gen’rally come back a good deal to visit, so’sa man ud often be a-talkin’ to his own five-times-great-grandfather, who’d leftthe dry land a couple o’ hundred years or so afore.”

    “Everybody got aout o’ the idee o’ dyin’—excep’in canoe wars with the other islanders, or as sacrifices to the sea-gods daown below, or fromsnake-bite or plague or sharp gallopin’ ailments or somethin’ afore they cud taketo the water—but simply looked forrad to a kind o’ change that wa’n’ta bit horrible arter a while. They thought what they’d got was well wuth all they’dhad to give up—an’ I guess Obed kind o’ come to think the same hisself whenhe’d chewed over old Walakea’s story a bit. Walakea, though, was one of the fewas hadn’t got none of the fish blood—bein’ of a royal line that intermarriedwith royal lines on other islands.”

    “Walakea he shewed Obed a lot o’ rites an’ incantations ashad to do with the sea-things, an’ let him see some o’ the folks in the villageas had changed a lot from human shape. Somehaow or other, though, he never would let him seeone of the reg’lar things from right aout o’ the water. In the end he give him afunny kind o’ thingumajig made aout o’ lead or something, that he said ud bringup the fish things from any place in the water whar they might be a nest of ‘em. The ideewas to drop it daown with the right kind o’ prayers an’ sech. Walakea allaowed asthe things was scattered all over the world, so’s anybody that looked abaout cud finda nest an’ bring ’em up ef they was wanted.”

    “Matt he didn’t like this business at all, an’ wanted Obedshud keep away from the island; but the Cap’n was sharp fer gain, an’ faound hecud git them gold-like things so cheap it ud pay him to make a specialty of ‘em. Thingswent on that way fer years, an’ Obed got enough o’ that gold-like stuff to makehim start the refinery in Waite’s old run-daown fullin’ mill. He didn’t dasssell the pieces like they was, fer folks ud be all the time askin’ questions. All thesame his crews ud git a piece an’ dispose of it naow and then, even though they was sworeto keep quiet; an’ he let his women-folks wear some o’ the pieces as was more human-likethan most.”

    “Wal, come abaout ‘thutty-eight—when I was seven year’old—Obed he faound the island people all wiped aout between v’yages. Seems the otherislanders had got wind o’ what was goin’ on, an’ had took matters into theirown hands. S’pose they musta had, arter all, them old magic signs as the sea-things sayswas the only things they was afeard of. No tellin’ what any o’ them Kanakys willchance to git a holt of when the sea-bottom throws up some island with ruins older’n thedeluge. Pious cusses, these was—they didn’t leave nothin’ standin’ oneither the main island or the little volcanic islet excep’ what parts of the ruins wastoo big to knock daown. In some places they was little stones strewed abaout—like charms—withsomethin’ on ‘em like what ye call a swastika naowadays. Prob’ly them wasthe Old Ones’ signs. Folks all wiped aout, no trace o’ no gold-like things, an’none o’ the nearby Kanakys ud breathe a word abaout the matter. Wouldn’t even admitthey’d ever ben any people on that island.”

    “That naturally hit Obed pretty hard, seein’ as his normal tradewas doin’ very poor. It hit the whole of Innsmouth, too, because in seafarin’ dayswhat profited the master of a ship gen’lly profited the crew proportionate. Most o’the folks araound the taown took the hard times kind o’ sheep-like an’ resigned,but they was in bad shape because the fishin’ was peterin’ aout an’ the millswa’n’t doin’ none too well.”

    “Then’s the time Obed he begun a-cursin’ at the folks ferbein’ dull sheep an’ prayin’ to a Christian heaven as didn’t help ‘emnone. He told ‘em he’d knowed of folks as prayed to gods that give somethin’ye reely need, an’ says ef a good bunch o’ men ud stand by him, he cud mebbe gita holt o’ sarten paowers as ud bring plenty o’ fish an’ quite a bit o’gold. O’ course them as sarved on the Sumatry Queen an’ seed the island knowedwhat he meant, an’ wa’n’t none too anxious to git clost to sea-things likethey’d heerd tell on, but them as didn’t know what ‘twas all abaout got kindo’ swayed by what Obed had to say, an’ begun to ast him what he cud do to set ’emon the way to the faith as ud bring ’em results.”

    Here the old man faltered, mumbled, and lapsed into a moody and apprehensivesilence; glancing nervously over his shoulder and then turning back to stare fascinatedly atthe distant black reef. When I spoke to him he did not answer, so I knew I would have to lethim finish the bottle. The insane yarn I was hearing interested me profoundly, for I fanciedthere was contained within it a sort of crude allegory based upon the strangenesses of Innsmouthand elaborated by an imagination at once creative and full of scraps of exotic legend. Not fora moment did I believe that the tale had any really substantial foundation; but none the lessthe account held a hint of genuine terror, if only because it brought in references to strangejewels clearly akin to the malign tiara I had seen at Newburyport. Perhaps the ornaments had,after all, come from some strange island; and possibly the wild stories were lies of the bygoneObed himself rather than of this antique toper.

    I handed Zadok the bottle, and he drained it to the last drop. It was curioushow he could stand so much whiskey, for not even a trace of thickness had come into his high,wheezy voice. He licked the nose of the bottle and slipped it into his pocket, then beginningto nod and whisper softly to himself. I bent close to catch any articulate words he might utter,and thought I saw a sardonic smile behind the stained, bushy whiskers. Yes—he was reallyforming words, and I could grasp a fair proportion of them.

    “Poor Matt—Matt he allus was agin’ it—tried to lineup the folks on his side, an’ had long talks with the preachers—no use—theyrun the Congregational parson aout o’ taown, an’ the Methodist feller quit—neverdid see Resolved Babco*ck, the Baptist parson, agin—Wrath o’ Jehovy—I was amighty little critter, but I heerd what I heerd an’ seen what I seen—Dagon an’Ashtoreth—Belial an’ Beëlzebub—Golden Caff an’ the idols o’Canaan an’ the Philistines—Babylonish abominations— Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin—”

    He stopped again, and from the look in his watery blue eyes I feared he wasclose to a stupor after all. But when I gently shook his shoulder he turned on me with astonishingalertness and snapped out some more obscure phrases.

    “Dun’t believe me, hey? Heh, heh, heh—then jest tell me,young feller, why Cap’n Obed an’ twenty odd other folks used to row aout to DevilReef in the dead o’ night an’ chant things so laoud ye cud hear ‘em all overtaown when the wind was right? Tell me that, hey? An’ tell me why Obed was allus droppin’heavy things daown into the deep water t’other side o’ the reef whar the bottomshoots daown like a cliff lower’n ye kin saound? Tell me what he done with that funny-shapedlead thingumajig as Walakea give him? Hey, boy? An’ what did they all haowl on May-Eve,an’ agin the next Hallowe’en? An’ why’d the new church parsons—fellersas used to be sailors—wear them queer robes an’ cover theirselves with them gold-likethings Obed brung? Hey?”

    The watery blue eyes were almost savage and maniacal now, and the dirty whitebeard bristled electrically. Old Zadok probably saw me shrink back, for he had begun to cackle evilly.

    “Heh, heh, heh, heh! Beginnin’ to see, hey? Mebbe ye’d liketo a ben me in them days, when I seed things at night aout to sea from the cupalo top o’my haouse. Oh, I kin tell ye, little pitchers hev big ears, an’ I wa’n’t missin’nothin’ o’ what was gossiped abaout Cap’n Obed an’ the folks aout tothe reef! Heh, heh, heh! Haow abaout the night I took my pa’s ship’s glass up tothe cupalo an’ seed the reef a-bristlin’ thick with shapes that dove off quick soon’sthe moon riz? Obed an’ the folks was in a dory, but them shapes dove off the far sideinto the deep water an’ never come up. . . . Haow’d ye like to bea little shaver alone up in a cupalo a-watchin’ shapes as wa’n’t humanshapes? . . . Hey? . . . Heh, heh, heh, heh. . . .”

    The old man was getting hysterical, and I began to shiver with a nameless alarm.He laid a gnarled claw on my shoulder, and it seemed to me that its shaking was not altogetherthat of mirth.

    “S’pose one night ye seed somethin’ heavy heaved offen Obed’sdory beyond the reef, an’ then larned nex’ day a young feller was missin’from home? Hey? Did anybody ever see hide or hair o’ Hiram Gilman agin? Did they? An’Nick Pierce, an’ Luelly Waite, an’ Adoniram Saouthwick, an’ Henry Garrison?Hey? Heh, heh, heh, heh. . . . Shapes talkin’ sign language with theirhands . . . them as had reel hands. . . .”

    “Wal, Sir, that was the time Obed begun to git on his feet agin. Folkssee his three darters a-wearin’ gold-like things as nobody’d never see on ‘emafore, an’ smoke started comin’ aout o’ the refin’ry chimbly. Otherfolks were prosp’rin’, too—fish begun to swarm into the harbour fit to kill,an’ heaven knows what sized cargoes we begun to ship aout to Newb’ryport, Arkham,an’ Boston. ‘Twas then Obed got the ol’ branch railrud put through. Some Kingsportfishermen heerd abaout the ketch an’ come up in sloops, but they was all lost. Nobodynever see ‘em agin. An’ jest then our folks organised the Esoteric Order o’Dagon, an’ bought Masonic Hall offen Calvary Commandery for it . . . heh,heh, heh! Matt Eliot was a Mason an’ agin’ the sellin’, but he dropped aouto’ sight jest then.”

    “Remember, I ain’t sayin’ Obed was set on hevin’ thingsjest like they was on that Kanaky isle. I dun’t think he aimed at fust to do no mixin’,nor raise no younguns to take to the water an’ turn into fishes with eternal life. Hewanted them gold things, an’ was willin’ to pay heavy, an’ I guess theothers was satisfied fer a while. . . .”

    “Come in ‘forty-six the taown done some lookin’ an’thinkin’ fer itself. Too many folks missin’—too much wild preachin’at meetin’ of a Sunday—too much talk abaout that reef. I guess I done a bit by tellin’Selectman Mowry what I see from the cupalo. They was a party one night as follered Obed’scraowd aout to the reef, an’ I heerd shots betwixt the dories. Nex’ day Obed an’thutty-two others was in gaol, with everbody a-wonderin’ jest what was afoot an’jest what charge agin’ ‘em cud be got to holt. God, ef anybody’d look’dahead . . . a couple o’ weeks later, when nothin’ had ben throwedinto the sea fer that long. . . .”

    Zadok was shewing signs of fright and exhaustion, and I let him keep silencefor a while, though glancing apprehensively at my watch. The tide had turned and was comingin now, and the sound of the waves seemed to arouse him. I was glad of that tide, for at highwater the fishy smell might not be so bad. Again I strained to catch his whispers.

    “That awful night . . . I seed ‘em . . .I was up in the cupalo . . . hordes of ‘em . . . swarmsof ‘em . . . all over the reef an’ swimmin’ up the harbourinto the Manuxet. . . . God, what happened in the streets of Innsmouth that night . . .they rattled our door, but pa wouldn’t open . . . then he clumb aout thekitchen winder with his musket to find Selectman Mowry an’ see what he cud do. . . .Maounds o’ the dead an’ the dyin’ . . . shots an’ screams . . .shaoutin’ in Ol’ Squar an’ Taown Squar an’ New Church Green . . .gaol throwed open . . . proclamation . . . treason . . .called it the plague when folks come in an’ faound haff our people missin’ . . .nobody left but them as ud jine in with Obed an’ them things or else keep quiet . . .never heerd o’ my pa no more. . . .”

    The old man was panting, and perspiring profusely. His grip on my shoulder tightened.

    “Everything cleaned up in the mornin’—but they was traces. . . .Obed he kinder takes charge an’ says things is goin’ to be changed . . .others’ll worship with us at meetin’-time, an’ sarten haouses hez gotto entertain guests . . . they wanted to mix like they done with theKanakys, an’ he fer one didn’t feel baound to stop ‘em. Far gone, was Obed . . .jest like a crazy man on the subjeck. He says they brung us fish an’ treasure, an’shud hev what they hankered arter. . . .”

    “Nothin’ was to be diff’runt on the aoutside, only we wasto keep shy o’ strangers ef we knowed what was good fer us. We all hed to take the Oatho’ Dagon, an’ later on they was secon’ an’ third Oaths that some onus took. Them as ud help special, ud git special rewards—gold an’ sech— Nouse balkin’, fer they was millions of ‘em daown thar. They’d ruther not startrisin’ an’ wipin’ aout humankind, but ef they was gave away an’ forcedto, they cud do a lot toward jest that. We didn’t hev them old charms to cut ‘emoff like folks in the Saouth Sea did, an’ them Kanakys wudn’t never give away theirsecrets.”

    “Yield up enough sacrifices an’ savage knick-knacks an’ harbouragein the taown when they wanted it, an’ they’d let well enough alone. Wudn’tbother no strangers as might bear tales aoutside—that is, withaout they got pryin’.All in the band of the faithful—Order o’ Dagon—an’ the children shudnever die, but go back to the Mother Hydra an’ Father Dagon what we all come from onct— Iä!Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn—”

    Old Zadok was fast lapsing into stark raving, and I held my breath. Poor oldsoul—to what pitiful depths of hallucination had his liquor, plus his hatred of the decay,alienage, and disease around him, brought that fertile, imaginative brain! He began to moannow, and tears were coursing down his channelled cheeks into the depths of his beard.

    “God, what I seen senct I was fifteen year’ old— Mene,mene, tekel, upharsin! —the folks as was missin’, an’ them as kilt theirselves—themas told things in Arkham or Ipswich or sech places was all called crazy, like you’re a-callin’me right naow—but God, what I seen— They’d a kilt me long ago fer what I know,only I’d took the fust an’ secon’ Oaths o’ Dagon offen Obed, so waspertected unlessen a jury of ‘em proved I told things knowin’ an’ delib’rit . . .but I wudn’t take the third Oath—I’d a died ruther’n take that—”

    “It got wuss araound Civil War time, when children born senct ‘forty-sixbegun to grow up —some of ‘em, that is. I was afeard—never did no pryin’arter that awful night, an’ never see one of— them —clost to in all mylife. That is, never no full-blooded one. I went to the war, an’ ef I’d a had anyguts or sense I’d a never come back, but settled away from here. But folks wrote me thingswa’n’t so bad. That, I s’pose, was because gov’munt draft men was intaown arter ‘sixty-three. Arter the war it was jest as bad agin. People begun to falloff—mills an’ shops shet daown—shippin’ stopped an’ the harbourchoked up—railrud give up—but they . . . they never stoppedswimmin’ in an’ aout o’ the river from that cursed reef o’ Satan—an’more an’ more attic winders got a-boarded up, an’ more an’ more noises washeerd in haouses as wa’n’t s’posed to hev nobody in ’em. . . .”

    “Folks aoutside hev their stories abaout us—s’pose you’veheerd a plenty on ‘em, seein’ what questions ye ast—stories abaout thingsthey’ve seed naow an’ then, an’ abaout that queer joolry as still comes infrom somewhars an’ ain’t quite all melted up—but nothin’ never gitsdef’nite. Nobody’ll believe nothin’. They call them gold-like things pirateloot, an’ allaow the Innsmouth folks hez furren blood or is distempered or somethin’.Besides, them that lives here shoo off as many strangers as they kin, an’ encourage therest not to git very cur’ous, specially raound night time. Beasts balk at the critters—hosseswuss’n mules—but when they got autos that was all right.”

    “In ‘forty-six Cap’n Obed took a second wife that nobodyin the taown never see —some says he didn’t want to, but was made to by themas he’d called in—had three children by her—two as disappeared young, butone gal as looked like anybody else an’ was eddicated in Europe. Obed finally got hermarried off by a trick to an Arkham feller as didn’t suspect nothin’. But nobodyaoutside’ll hev nothin’ to do with Innsmouth folks naow. Barnabas Marsh that runsthe refin’ry naow is Obed’s grandson by his fust wife—son of Onesiphorus,his eldest son, but his mother was another o’ them as wa’n’t never seedaoutdoors.”

    “Right naow Barnabas is abaout changed. Can’t shet his eyes nomore, an’ is all aout o’ shape. They say he still wears clothes, but he’lltake to the water soon. Mebbe he’s tried it already—they do sometimes go daown ferlittle spells afore they go fer good. Ain’t ben seed abaout in public fer nigh on tenyear’. Dun’t know haow his poor wife kin feel—she come from Ipswich, an’they nigh lynched Barnabas when he courted her fifty odd year’ ago. Obed he died in ‘seventy-eight,an’ all the next gen’ration is gone naow—the fust wife’s children dead,an’ the rest . . . God knows. . . .”

    The sound of the incoming tide was now very insistent, and little by littleit seemed to change the old man’s mood from maudlin tearfulness to watchful fear. He wouldpause now and then to renew those nervous glances over his shoulder or out toward the reef,and despite the wild absurdity of his tale, I could not help beginning to share his vague apprehensiveness.Zadok now grew shriller, and seemed to be trying to whip up his courage with louder speech.

    “Hey, yew, why dun’t ye say somethin’? Haow’d ye liketo be livin’ in a taown like this, with everything a-rottin’ an’ a-dyin’,an’ boarded-up monsters crawlin’ an’ bleatin’ an’ barkin’an’ hoppin’ araoun’ black cellars an’ attics every way ye turn? Hey?Haow’d ye like to hear the haowlin’ night arter night from the churches an’Order o’ Dagon Hall, an’ know what’s doin’ part o’ the haowlin’?Haow’d ye like to hear what comes from that awful reef every May-Eve an’ Hallowmass?Hey? Think the old man’s crazy, eh? Wal, Sir, let me tell ye that ain’t the wust!”

    Zadok was really screaming now, and the mad frenzy of his voice disturbed me more than I care to own.

    “Curse ye, dun’t set thar a-starin’ at me with them eyes—Itell Obed Marsh he’s in hell, an’ hez got to stay thar! Heh, heh . . .in hell, I says! Can’t git me—I hain’t done nothin’ nor told nobodynothin’—”

    “Oh, you, young feller? Wal, even ef I hain’t told nobody nothin’yet, I’m a-goin’ to naow! You jest set still an’ listen to me, boy—thisis what I ain’t never told nobody. . . . I says I didn’t do no pryin’arter that night— but I faound things aout jest the same!”

    “Yew want to know what the reel horror is, hey? Wal, it’s this—itain’t what them fish devils hez done, but what they’re a-goin’ to do!They’re a-bringin’ things up aout o’ whar they come from into the taown—bendoin’ it fer years, an’ slackenin’ up lately. Them haouses north o’the river betwixt Water an’ Main Streets is full of ‘em—them devils an’what they brung —an’ when they git ready. . . . I say, whenthey git ready . . . ever hear tell of a shoggoth? . . .”

    “Hey, d’ye hear me? I tell ye I know what them things be–Iseen ’em one night when . . . EH—AHHHH—AH! E’YAAHHHH. . . .”

    The hideous suddenness and inhuman frightfulness of the old man’s shriekalmost made me faint. His eyes, looking past me toward the malodorous sea, were positively startingfrom his head; while his face was a mask of fear worthy of Greek tragedy. His bony claw dugmonstrously into my shoulder, and he made no motion as I turned my head to look at whateverhe had glimpsed.

    There was nothing that I could see. Only the incoming tide, with perhaps oneset of ripples more local than the long-flung line of breakers. But now Zadok was shaking me,and I turned back to watch the melting of that fear-frozen face into a chaos of twitching eyelidsand mumbling gums. Presently his voice came back—albeit as a trembling whisper.

    “Git aout o’ here! Git aout o’ here! They seenus —git aout fer your life! Dun’t wait fer nothin’— they know naow–Run fer it—quick— aout o’ this taown —”

    Another heavy wave dashed against the loosening masonry of the bygone wharf,and changed the mad ancient’s whisper to another inhuman and blood-curdling scream.

    “E—YAAHHHH! . . . YHAAAAAAA! . . .”

    Before I could recover my scattered wits he had relaxed his clutch on my shoulderand dashed wildly inland toward the street, reeling northward around the ruined warehouse wall.

    I glanced back at the sea, but there was nothing there. And when I reachedWater Street and looked along it toward the north there was no remaining trace of Zadok Allen.

    IV.

    I can hardly describe the mood in which I was left by this harrowing episode—anepisode at once mad and pitiful, grotesque and terrifying. The grocery boy had prepared me forit, yet the reality left me none the less bewildered and disturbed. Puerile though the storywas, old Zadok’s insane earnestness and horror had communicated to me a mounting unrestwhich joined with my earlier sense of loathing for the town and its blight of intangible shadow.

    Later I might sift the tale and extract some nucleus of historic allegory;just now I wished to put it out of my head. The hour had grown perilously late—my watchsaid 7:15, and the Arkham bus left Town Square at eight—so I tried to give my thoughtsas neutral and practical a cast as possible, meanwhile walking rapidly through the desertedstreets of gaping roofs and leaning houses toward the hotel where I had checked my valise andwould find my bus.

    Though the golden light of late afternoon gave the ancient roofs and decrepitchimneys an air of mystic loveliness and peace, I could not help glancing over my shoulder nowand then. I would surely be very glad to get out of malodorous and fear-shadowed Innsmouth,and wished there were some other vehicle than the bus driven by that sinister-looking fellowSargent. Yet I did not hurry too precipitately, for there were architectural details worth viewingat every silent corner; and I could easily, I calculated, cover the necessary distance in ahalf-hour.

    Studying the grocery youth’s map and seeking a route I had not traversedbefore, I chose Marsh Street instead of State for my approach to Town Square. Near the cornerof Fall Street I began to see scattered groups of furtive whisperers, and when I finally reachedthe Square I saw that almost all the loiterers were congregated around the door of the GilmanHouse. It seemed as if many bulging, watery, unwinking eyes looked oddly at me as I claimedmy valise in the lobby, and I hoped that none of these unpleasant creatures would be my fellow-passengerson the coach.

    The bus, rather early, rattled in with three passengers somewhat before eight,and an evil-looking fellow on the sidewalk muttered a few indistinguishable words to the driver.Sargent threw out a mail-bag and a roll of newspapers, and entered the hotel; while the passengers—thesame men whom I had seen arriving in Newburyport that morning—shambled to the sidewalkand exchanged some faint guttural words with a loafer in a language I could have sworn was notEnglish. I boarded the empty coach and took the same seat I had taken before, but was hardlysettled before Sargent reappeared and began mumbling in a throaty voice of peculiar repulsiveness.

    I was, it appeared, in very bad luck. There had been something wrong with theengine, despite the excellent time made from Newburyport, and the bus could not complete thejourney to Arkham. No, it could not possibly be repaired that night, nor was there any otherway of getting transportation out of Innsmouth, either to Arkham or elsewhere. Sargent was sorry,but I would have to stop over at the Gilman. Probably the clerk would make the price easy forme, but there was nothing else to do. Almost dazed by this sudden obstacle, and violently dreadingthe fall of night in this decaying and half-unlighted town, I left the bus and reënteredthe hotel lobby; where the sullen, queer-looking night clerk told me I could have Room 428 onnext the top floor—large, but without running water—for a dollar.

    Despite what I had heard of this hotel in Newburyport, I signed the register,paid my dollar, let the clerk take my valise, and followed that sour, solitary attendant upthree creaking flights of stairs past dusty corridors which seemed wholly devoid of life. Myroom, a dismal rear one with two windows and bare, cheap furnishings, overlooked a dingy courtyardotherwise hemmed in by low, deserted brick blocks, and commanded a view of decrepit westward-stretchingroofs with a marshy countryside beyond. At the end of the corridor was a bathroom—a discouragingrelique with ancient marble bowl, tin tub, faint electric light, and musty wooden panellingaround all the plumbing fixtures.

    It being still daylight, I descended to the Square and looked around for adinner of some sort; noticing as I did so the strange glances I received from the unwholesomeloafers. Since the grocery was closed, I was forced to patronise the restaurant I had shunnedbefore; a stooped, narrow-headed man with staring, unwinking eyes, and a flat-nosed wench withunbelievably thick, clumsy hands being in attendance. The service was of the counter type,and it relieved me to find that much was evidently served from cans and packages. A bowl ofvegetable soup with crackers was enough for me, and I soon headed back for my cheerless roomat the Gilman; getting an evening paper and a flyspecked magazine from the evil-visaged clerkat the rickety stand beside his desk.

    As twilight deepened I turned on the one feeble electric bulb over the cheap,iron-framed bed, and tried as best I could to continue the reading I had begun. I felt it advisableto keep my mind wholesomely occupied, for it would not do to brood over the abnormalities ofthis ancient, blight-shadowed town while I was still within its borders. The insane yarn I hadheard from the aged drunkard did not promise very pleasant dreams, and I felt I must keep theimage of his wild, watery eyes as far as possible from my imagination.

    Also, I must not dwell on what that factory inspector had told the Newburyportticket-agent about the Gilman House and the voices of its nocturnal tenants—not on that,nor on the face beneath the tiara in the black church doorway; the face for whose horror myconscious mind could not account. It would perhaps have been easier to keep my thoughts fromdisturbing topics had the room not been so gruesomely musty. As it was, the lethal mustinessblended hideously with the town’s general fishy odour and persistently focussed one’sfancy on death and decay.

    Another thing that disturbed me was the absence of a bolt on the door of myroom. One had been there, as marks clearly shewed, but there were signs of recent removal. Nodoubt it had become out of order, like so many other things in this decrepit edifice. In mynervousness I looked around and discovered a bolt on the clothes-press which seemed to be ofthe same size, judging from the marks, as the one formerly on the door. To gain a partial relieffrom the general tension I busied myself by transferring this hardware to the vacant place withthe aid of a handy three-in-one device including a screw-driver which I kept on my key-ring.The bolt fitted perfectly, and I was somewhat relieved when I knew that I could shoot it firmlyupon retiring. Not that I had any real apprehension of its need, but that any symbol of securitywas welcome in an environment of this kind. There were adequate bolts on the two lateral doorsto connecting rooms, and these I proceeded to fasten.

    I did not undress, but decided to read till I was sleepy and then lie downwith only my coat, collar, and shoes off. Taking a pocket flashlight from my valise, I placedit in my trousers, so that I could read my watch if I woke up later in the dark. Drowsiness,however, did not come; and when I stopped to analyse my thoughts I found to my disquiet thatI was really unconsciously listening for something—listening for something which I dreadedbut could not name. That inspector’s story must have worked on my imagination more deeplythan I had suspected. Again I tried to read, but found that I made no progress.

    After a time I seemed to hear the stairs and corridors creak at intervals asif with footsteps, and wondered if the other rooms were beginning to fill up. There were novoices, however, and it struck me that there was something subtly furtive about the creaking.I did not like it, and debated whether I had better try to sleep at all. This town had somequeer people, and there had undoubtedly been several disappearances. Was this one of those innswhere travellers were slain for their money? Surely I had no look of excessive prosperity. Orwere the townsfolk really so resentful about curious visitors? Had my obvious sightseeing, withits frequent map-consultations, aroused unfavourable notice? It occurred to me that I must bein a highly nervous state to let a few random creakings set me off speculating in this fashion—butI regretted none the less that I was unarmed.

    At length, feeling a fatigue which had nothing of drowsiness in it, I boltedthe newly outfitted hall door, turned off the light, and threw myself down on the hard, unevenbed—coat, collar, shoes, and all. In the darkness every faint noise of the night seemedmagnified, and a flood of doubly unpleasant thoughts swept over me. I was sorry I had put outthe light, yet was too tired to rise and turn it on again. Then, after a long, dreary interval,and prefaced by a fresh creaking of stairs and corridor, there came that soft, damnably unmistakablesound which seemed like a malign fulfilment of all my apprehensions. Without the least shadowof a doubt, the lock on my hall door was being tried—cautiously, furtively, tentatively—witha key.

    My sensations upon recognising this sign of actual peril were perhaps lessrather than more tumultuous because of my previous vague fears. I had been, albeit without definitereason, instinctively on my guard—and that was to my advantage in the new and real crisis,whatever it might turn out to be. Nevertheless the change in the menace from vague premonitionto immediate reality was a profound shock, and fell upon me with the force of a genuine blow.It never once occurred to me that the fumbling might be a mere mistake. Malign purpose was allI could think of, and I kept deathly quiet, awaiting the would-be intruder’s next move.

    After a time the cautious rattling ceased, and I heard the room to the northentered with a pass-key. Then the lock of the connecting door to my room was softly tried. Thebolt held, of course, and I heard the floor creak as the prowler left the room. After a momentthere came another soft rattling, and I knew that the room to the south of me was being entered.Again a furtive trying of a bolted connecting door, and again a receding creaking. This timethe creaking went along the hall and down the stairs, so I knew that the prowler had realisedthe bolted condition of my doors and was giving up his attempt for a greater or lesser time,as the future would shew.

    The readiness with which I fell into a plan of action proves that I must havebeen subconsciously fearing some menace and considering possible avenues of escape for hours.From the first I felt that the unseen fumbler meant a danger not to be met or dealt with, butonly to be fled from as precipitately as possible. The one thing to do was to get out of thathotel alive as quickly as I could, and through some channel other than the front stairs andlobby.

    Rising softly and throwing my flashlight on the switch, I sought to light thebulb over my bed in order to choose and pocket some belongings for a swift, valiseless flight.Nothing, however, happened; and I saw that the power had been cut off. Clearly, some cryptic,evil movement was afoot on a large scale—just what, I could not say. As I stood ponderingwith my hand on the now useless switch I heard a muffled creaking on the floor below, and thoughtI could barely distinguish voices in conversation. A moment later I felt less sure that thedeeper sounds were voices, since the apparent hoarse barkings and loose-syllabled croakingsbore so little resemblance to recognised human speech. Then I thought with renewed force ofwhat the factory inspector had heard in the night in this mouldering and pestilential building.

    Having filled my pockets with the flashlight’s aid, I put on my hat andtiptoed to the windows to consider chances of descent. Despite the state’s safety regulationsthere was no fire escape on this side of the hotel, and I saw that my windows commanded onlya sheer three-story drop to the cobbled courtyard. On the right and left, however, some ancientbrick business blocks abutted on the hotel; their slant roofs coming up to a reasonable jumpingdistance from my fourth-story level. To reach either of these lines of buildings I would haveto be in a room two doors from my own—in one case on the north and in the other case onthe south—and my mind instantly set to work calculating what chances I had of making thetransfer.

    I could not, I decided, risk an emergence into the corridor; where my footstepswould surely be heard, and where the difficulties of entering the desired room would be insuperable.My progress, if it was to be made at all, would have to be through the less solidly built connectingdoors of the rooms; the locks and bolts of which I would have to force violently, using my shoulderas a battering-ram whenever they were set against me. This, I thought, would be possible owingto the rickety nature of the house and its fixtures; but I realised I could not do it noiselessly.I would have to count on sheer speed, and the chance of getting to a window before any hostileforces became coördinated enough to open the right door toward me with a pass-key. Myown outer door I reinforced by pushing the bureau against it—little by little, in orderto make a minimum of sound.

    I perceived that my chances were very slender, and was fully prepared for anycalamity. Even getting to another roof would not solve the problem, for there would then remainthe task of reaching the ground and escaping from the town. One thing in my favour was the desertedand ruinous state of the abutting buildings, and the number of skylights gaping blackly openin each row.

    Gathering from the grocery boy’s map that the best route out of townwas southward, I glanced first at the connecting door on the south side of the room. It wasdesigned to open in my direction, hence I saw—after drawing the bolt and finding otherfastenings in place—it was not a favourable one for forcing. Accordingly abandoning itas a route, I cautiously moved the bedstead against it to hamper any attack which might be madeon it later from the next room. The door on the north was hung to open away from me, and this—thougha test proved it to be locked or bolted from the other side—I knew must be my route. IfI could gain the roofs of the buildings in Paine Street and descend successfully to the groundlevel, I might perhaps dart through the courtyard and the adjacent or opposite buildings toWashington or Bates—or else emerge in Paine and edge around southward into Washington.In any case, I would aim to strike Washington somehow and get quickly out of the Town Squareregion. My preference would be to avoid Paine, since the fire station there might be open allnight.

    As I thought of these things I looked out over the squalid sea of decayingroofs below me, now brightened by the beams of a moon not much past full. On the right the blackgash of the river-gorge clove the panorama; abandoned factories and railway station clingingbarnacle-like to its sides. Beyond it the rusted railway and the Rowley road led off througha flat, marshy terrain dotted with islets of higher and dryer scrub-grown land. On the leftthe creek-threaded countryside was nearer, the narrow road to Ipswich gleaming white in themoonlight. I could not see from my side of the hotel the southward route toward Arkham whichI had determined to take.

    I was irresolutely speculating on when I had better attack the northward door,and on how I could least audibly manage it, when I noticed that the vague noises underfoot hadgiven place to a fresh and heavier creaking of the stairs. A wavering flicker of light shewedthrough my transom, and the boards of the corridor began to groan with a ponderous load. Muffledsounds of possible vocal origin approached, and at length a firm knock came at my outer door.

    For a moment I simply held my breath and waited. Eternities seemed to elapse,and the nauseous fishy odour of my environment seemed to mount suddenly and spectacularly. Thenthe knocking was repeated—continuously, and with growing insistence. I knew that the timefor action had come, and forthwith drew the bolt of the northward connecting door, bracing myselffor the task of battering it open. The knocking waxed louder, and I hoped that its volume wouldcover the sound of my efforts. At last beginning my attempt, I lunged again and again at thethin panelling with my left shoulder, heedless of shock or pain. The door resisted even morethan I had expected, but I did not give in. And all the while the clamour at the outer doorincreased.

    Finally the connecting door gave, but with such a crash that I knew those outsidemust have heard. Instantly the outside knocking became a violent battering, while keys soundedominously in the hall doors of the rooms on both sides of me. Rushing through the newly openedconnexion, I succeeded in bolting the northerly hall door before the lock could be turned; buteven as I did so I heard the hall door of the third room—the one from whose window I hadhoped to reach the roof below—being tried with a pass-key.

    For an instant I felt absolute despair, since my trapping in a chamber withno window egress seemed complete. A wave of almost abnormal horror swept over me, and investedwith a terrible but unexplainable singularity the flashlight-glimpsed dust prints made by theintruder who had lately tried my door from this room. Then, with a dazed automatism which persisteddespite hopelessness, I made for the next connecting door and performed the blind motion ofpushing at it in an effort to get through and—granting that fastenings might be as providentiallyintact as in this second room—bolt the hall door beyond before the lock could be turnedfrom outside.

    Sheer fortunate chance gave me my reprieve—for the connecting door beforeme was not only unlocked but actually ajar. In a second I was through, and had my right kneeand shoulder against a hall door which was visibly opening inward. My pressure took the openeroff guard, for the thing shut as I pushed, so that I could slip the well-conditioned bolt asI had done with the other door. As I gained this respite I heard the battering at the two otherdoors abate, while a confused clatter came from the connecting door I had shielded with thebedstead. Evidently the bulk of my assailants had entered the southerly room and were massingin a lateral attack. But at the same moment a pass-key sounded in the next door to the north,and I knew that a nearer peril was at hand.

    The northward connecting door was wide open, but there was no time to thinkabout checking the already turning lock in the hall. All I could do was to shut and bolt theopen connecting door, as well as its mate on the opposite side—pushing a bedstead againstthe one and a bureau against the other, and moving a washstand in front of the hall door. Imust, I saw, trust to such makeshift barriers to shield me till I could get out the window andon the roof of the Paine Street block. But even in this acute moment my chief horror was somethingapart from the immediate weakness of my defences. I was shuddering because not one of my pursuers,despite some hideous pantings, gruntings, and subdued barkings at odd intervals, was utteringan unmuffled or intelligible vocal sound.

    As I moved the furniture and rushed toward the windows I heard a frightfulscurrying along the corridor toward the room north of me, and perceived that the southward batteringhad ceased. Plainly, most of my opponents were about to concentrate against the feeble connectingdoor which they knew must open directly on me. Outside, the moon played on the ridgepole ofthe block below, and I saw that the jump would be desperately hazardous because of the steepsurface on which I must land.

    Surveying the conditions, I chose the more southerly of the two windows asmy avenue of escape; planning to land on the inner slope of the roof and make for the nearestskylight. Once inside one of the decrepit brick structures I would have to reckon with pursuit;but I hoped to descend and dodge in and out of yawning doorways along the shadowed courtyard,eventually getting to Washington Street and slipping out of town toward the south.

    The clatter at the northerly connecting door was now terrific, and I saw thatthe weak panelling was beginning to splinter. Obviously, the besiegers had brought some ponderousobject into play as a battering-ram. The bedstead, however, still held firm; so that I had atleast a faint chance of making good my escape. As I opened the window I noticed that it wasflanked by heavy velour draperies suspended from a pole by brass rings, and also that therewas a large projecting catch for the shutters on the exterior. Seeing a possible means of avoidingthe dangerous jump, I yanked at the hangings and brought them down, pole and all; then quicklyhooking two of the rings in the shutter catch and flinging the drapery outside. The heavy foldsreached fully to the abutting roof, and I saw that the rings and catch would be likely to bearmy weight. So, climbing out of the window and down the improvised rope ladder, I left behindme forever the morbid and horror-infested fabric of the Gilman House.

    I landed safely on the loose slates of the steep roof, and succeeded in gainingthe gaping black skylight without a slip. Glancing up at the window I had left, I observed itwas still dark, though far across the crumbling chimneys to the north I could see lights ominouslyblazing in the Order of Dagon Hall, the Baptist church, and the Congregational church whichI recalled so shiveringly. There had seemed to be no one in the courtyard below, and I hopedthere would be a chance to get away before the spreading of a general alarm. Flashing my pocketlamp into the skylight, I saw that there were no steps down. The distance was slight, however,so I clambered over the brink and dropped; striking a dusty floor littered with crumbling boxesand barrels.

    The place was ghoulish-looking, but I was past minding such impressions andmade at once for the staircase revealed by my flashlight—after a hasty glance at my watch,which shewed the hour to be 2 a.m. The steps creaked, but seemed tolerably sound; and I raceddown past a barn-like second story to the ground floor. The desolation was complete, and onlyechoes answered my footfalls. At length I reached the lower hall, at one end of which I sawa faint luminous rectangle marking the ruined Paine Street doorway. Heading the other way, Ifound the back door also open; and darted out and down five stone steps to the grass-grown cobblestonesof the courtyard.

    The moonbeams did not reach down here, but I could just see my way about withoutusing the flashlight. Some of the windows on the Gilman House side were faintly glowing, andI thought I heard confused sounds within. Walking softly over to the Washington Street sideI perceived several open doorways, and chose the nearest as my route out. The hallway insidewas black, and when I reached the opposite end I saw that the street door was wedged immovablyshut. Resolved to try another building, I groped my way back toward the courtyard, but stoppedshort when close to the doorway.

    For out of an opened door in the Gilman House a large crowd of doubtful shapeswas pouring—lanterns bobbing in the darkness, and horrible croaking voices exchanginglow cries in what was certainly not English. The figures moved uncertainly, and I realised tomy relief that they did not know where I had gone; but for all that they sent a shiver of horrorthrough my frame. Their features were indistinguishable, but their crouching, shambling gaitwas abominably repellent. And worst of all, I perceived that one figure was strangely robed,and unmistakably surmounted by a tall tiara of a design altogether too familiar. As the figuresspread throughout the courtyard, I felt my fears increase. Suppose I could find no egress fromthis building on the street side? The fishy odour was detestable, and I wondered I could standit without fainting. Again groping toward the street, I opened a door off the hall and cameupon an empty room with closely shuttered but sashless windows. Fumbling in the rays of my flashlight,I found I could open the shutters; and in another moment had climbed outside and was carefullyclosing the aperture in its original manner.

    I was now in Washington Street, and for the moment saw no living thing norany light save that of the moon. From several directions in the distance, however, I could hearthe sound of hoarse voices, of footsteps, and of a curious kind of pattering which did not soundquite like footsteps. Plainly I had no time to lose. The points of the compass were clear tome, and I was glad that all the street-lights were turned off, as is often the custom on stronglymoonlit nights in unprosperous rural regions. Some of the sounds came from the south, yet Iretained my design of escaping in that direction. There would, I knew, be plenty of deserteddoorways to shelter me in case I met any person or group who looked like pursuers.

    I walked rapidly, softly, and close to the ruined houses. While hatless anddishevelled after my arduous climb, I did not look especially noticeable; and stood a good chanceof passing unheeded if forced to encounter any casual wayfarer. At Bates Street I drew intoa yawning vestibule while two shambling figures crossed in front of me, but was soon on my wayagain and approaching the open space where Eliot Street obliquely crosses Washington at theintersection of South. Though I had never seen this space, it had looked dangerous to me onthe grocery youth’s map; since the moonlight would have free play there. There was nouse trying to evade it, for any alternative course would involve detours of possibly disastrousvisibility and delaying effect. The only thing to do was to cross it boldly and openly; imitatingthe typical shamble of the Innsmouth folk as best I could, and trusting that no one—orat least no pursuer of mine—would be there.

    Just how fully the pursuit was organised—and indeed, just what its purposemight be—I could form no idea. There seemed to be unusual activity in the town, but Ijudged that the news of my escape from the Gilman had not yet spread. I would, of course, soonhave to shift from Washington to some other southward street; for that party from the hotelwould doubtless be after me. I must have left dust prints in that last old building, revealinghow I had gained the street.

    The open space was, as I had expected, strongly moonlit; and I saw the remainsof a park-like, iron-railed green in its centre. Fortunately no one was about, though a curioussort of buzz or roar seemed to be increasing in the direction of Town Square. South Street wasvery wide, leading directly down a slight declivity to the waterfront and commanding a longview out at sea; and I hoped that no one would be glancing up it from afar as I crossed in thebright moonlight.

    My progress was unimpeded, and no fresh sound arose to hint that I had beenspied. Glancing about me, I involuntarily let my pace slacken for a second to take in the sightof the sea, gorgeous in the burning moonlight at the street’s end. Far out beyond thebreakwater was the dim, dark line of Devil Reef, and as I glimpsed it I could not help thinkingof all the hideous legends I had heard in the last thirty-four hours—legends which portrayedthis ragged rock as a veritable gateway to realms of unfathomed horror and inconceivable abnormality.

    Then, without warning, I saw the intermittent flashes of light on the distantreef. They were definite and unmistakable, and awaked in my mind a blind horror beyond all rationalproportion. My muscles tightened for panic flight, held in only by a certain unconscious cautionand half-hypnotic fascination. And to make matters worse, there now flashed forth from the loftycupola of the Gilman House, which loomed up to the northeast behind me, a series of analogousthough differently spaced gleams which could be nothing less than an answering signal.

    Controlling my muscles, and realising afresh how plainly visible I was, I resumedmy brisker and feignedly shambling pace; though keeping my eyes on that hellish and ominousreef as long as the opening of South Street gave me a seaward view. What the whole proceedingmeant, I could not imagine; unless it involved some strange rite connected with Devil Reef,or unless some party had landed from a ship on that sinister rock. I now bent to the left aroundthe ruinous green; still gazing toward the ocean as it blazed in the spectral summer moonlight,and watching the cryptical flashing of those nameless, unexplainable beacons.

    It was then that the most horrible impression of all was borne in upon me—theimpression which destroyed my last vestige of self-control and set me running frantically southwardpast the yawning black doorways and fishily staring windows of that deserted nightmare street.For at a closer glance I saw that the moonlit waters between the reef and the shore were farfrom empty. They were alive with a teeming horde of shapes swimming inward toward the town;and even at my vast distance and in my single moment of perception I could tell that the bobbingheads and flailing arms were alien and aberrant in a way scarcely to be expressed or consciouslyformulated.

    My frantic running ceased before I had covered a block, for at my left I beganto hear something like the hue and cry of organised pursuit. There were footsteps and gutturalsounds, and a rattling motor wheezed south along Federal Street. In a second all my plans wereutterly changed—for if the southward highway were blocked ahead of me, I must clearlyfind another egress from Innsmouth. I paused and drew into a gaping doorway, reflecting howlucky I was to have left the moonlit open space before these pursuers came down the parallelstreet.

    A second reflection was less comforting. Since the pursuit was down anotherstreet, it was plain that the party was not following me directly. It had not seen me, but wassimply obeying a general plan of cutting off my escape. This, however, implied that all roadsleading out of Innsmouth were similarly patrolled; for the denizens could not have known whatroute I intended to take. If this were so, I would have to make my retreat across country awayfrom any road; but how could I do that in view of the marshy and creek-riddled nature of allthe surrounding region? For a moment my brain reeled—both from sheer hopelessness andfrom a rapid increase in the omnipresent fishy odour.

    Then I thought of the abandoned railway to Rowley, whose solid line of ballasted,weed-grown earth still stretched off to the northwest from the crumbling station on the edgeof the river-gorge. There was just a chance that the townsfolk would not think of that; sinceits brier-choked desertion made it half-impassable, and the unlikeliest of all avenues for afugitive to choose. I had seen it clearly from my hotel window, and knew about how it lay. Mostof its earlier length was uncomfortably visible from the Rowley road, and from high places inthe town itself; but one could perhaps crawl inconspicuously through the undergrowth. At anyrate, it would form my only chance of deliverance, and there was nothing to do but try it.

    Drawing inside the hall of my deserted shelter, I once more consulted the groceryboy’s map with the aid of the flashlight. The immediate problem was how to reach the ancientrailway; and I now saw that the safest course was ahead to Babson Street, then west to Lafayette—thereedging around but not crossing an open space hom*ologous to the one I had traversed—andsubsequently back northward and westward in a zigzagging line through Lafayette, Bates, Adams,and Bank Streets—the latter skirting the river-gorge—to the abandoned and dilapidatedstation I had seen from my window. My reason for going ahead to Babson was that I wished neitherto re-cross the earlier open space nor to begin my westward course along a cross street as broadas South.

    Starting once more, I crossed the street to the right-hand side in order toedge around into Babson as inconspicuously as possible. Noises still continued in Federal Street,and as I glanced behind me I thought I saw a gleam of light near the building through whichI had escaped. Anxious to leave Washington Street, I broke into a quiet dog-trot, trusting toluck not to encounter any observing eye. Next the corner of Babson Street I saw to my alarmthat one of the houses was still inhabited, as attested by curtains at the window; but therewere no lights within, and I passed it without disaster.

    In Babson Street, which crossed Federal and might thus reveal me to the searchers,I clung as closely as possible to the sagging, uneven buildings; twice pausing in a doorwayas the noises behind me momentarily increased. The open space ahead shone wide and desolateunder the moon, but my route would not force me to cross it. During my second pause I beganto detect a fresh distribution of the vague sounds; and upon looking cautiously out from coverbeheld a motor-car darting across the open space, bound outward along Eliot Street, which thereintersects both Babson and Lafayette.

    As I watched—choked by a sudden rise in the fishy odour after a shortabatement—I saw a band of uncouth, crouching shapes loping and shambling in the same direction;and knew that this must be the party guarding the Ipswich road, since that highway forms anextension of Eliot Street. Two of the figures I glimpsed were in voluminous robes, and one worea peaked diadem which glistened whitely in the moonlight. The gait of this figure was so oddthat it sent a chill through me—for it seemed to me the creature was almost hopping.

    When the last of the band was out of sight I resumed my progress; darting aroundthe corner into Lafayette Street, and crossing Eliot very hurriedly lest stragglers of the partybe still advancing along that thoroughfare. I did hear some croaking and clattering sounds faroff toward Town Square, but accomplished the passage without disaster. My greatest dread wasin re-crossing broad and moonlit South Street—with its seaward view—and I had tonerve myself for the ordeal. Someone might easily be looking, and possible Eliot Street stragglerscould not fail to glimpse me from either of two points. At the last moment I decided I had betterslacken my trot and make the crossing as before in the shambling gait of an average Innsmouthnative.

    When the view of the water again opened out—this time on my right—Iwas half-determined not to look at it at all. I could not, however, resist; but cast a sidelongglance as I carefully and imitatively shambled toward the protecting shadows ahead. There wasno ship visible, as I had half expected there would be. Instead, the first thing which caughtmy eye was a small rowboat pulling in toward the abandoned wharves and laden with some bulky,tarpaulin-covered object. Its rowers, though distantly and indistinctly seen, were of an especiallyrepellent aspect. Several swimmers were still discernible; while on the far black reef I couldsee a faint, steady glow unlike the winking beacon visible before, and of a curious colour whichI could not precisely identify. Above the slant roofs ahead and to the right there loomed thetall cupola of the Gilman House, but it was completely dark. The fishy odour, dispelled fora moment by some merciful breeze, now closed in again with maddening intensity.

    I had not quite crossed the street when I heard a muttering band advancingalong Washington from the north. As they reached the broad open space where I had had my firstdisquieting glimpse of the moonlit water I could see them plainly only a block away—andwas horrified by the bestial abnormality of their faces and the dog-like sub-humanness of theircrouching gait. One man moved in a positively simian way, with long arms frequently touchingthe ground; while another figure—robed and tiaraed—seemed to progress in an almosthopping fashion. I judged this party to be the one I had seen in the Gilman’s courtyard—theone, therefore, most closely on my trail. As some of the figures turned to look in my directionI was transfixed with fright, yet managed to preserve the casual, shambling gait I had assumed.To this day I do not know whether they saw me or not. If they did, my stratagem must have deceivedthem, for they passed on across the moonlit space without varying their course—meanwhilecroaking and jabbering in some hateful guttural patois I could not identify.

    Once more in shadow, I resumed my former dog-trot past the leaning and decrepithouses that stared blankly into the night. Having crossed to the western sidewalk I roundedthe nearest corner into Bates Street, where I kept close to the buildings on the southern side.I passed two houses shewing signs of habitation, one of which had faint lights in upper rooms,yet met with no obstacle. As I turned into Adams Street I felt measurably safer, but receiveda shock when a man reeled out of a black doorway directly in front of me. He proved, however,too hopelessly drunk to be a menace; so that I reached the dismal ruins of the Bank Street warehousesin safety.

    No one was stirring in that dead street beside the river-gorge, and the roarof the waterfalls quite drowned my footsteps. It was a long dog-trot to the ruined station,and the great brick warehouse walls around me seemed somehow more terrifying than the frontsof private houses. At last I saw the ancient arcaded station—or what was left of it—andmade directly for the tracks that started from its farther end.

    The rails were rusty but mainly intact, and not more than half the ties hadrotted away. Walking or running on such a surface was very difficult; but I did my best, andon the whole made very fair time. For some distance the line kept on along the gorge’sbrink, but at length I reached the long covered bridge where it crossed the chasm at a dizzyheight. The condition of this bridge would determine my next step. If humanly possible, I woulduse it; if not, I would have to risk more street wandering and take the nearest intact highwaybridge.

    The vast, barn-like length of the old bridge gleamed spectrally in the moonlight,and I saw that the ties were safe for at least a few feet within. Entering, I began to use myflashlight, and was almost knocked down by the cloud of bats that flapped past me. About halfway across there was a perilous gap in the ties which I feared for a moment would halt me; butin the end I risked a desperate jump which fortunately succeeded.

    I was glad to see the moonlight again when I emerged from that macabre tunnel.The old tracks crossed River Street at grade, and at once veered off into a region increasinglyrural and with less and less of Innsmouth’s abhorrent fishy odour. Here the dense growthof weeds and briers hindered me and cruelly tore my clothes, but I was none the less glad thatthey were there to give me concealment in case of peril. I knew that much of my route must bevisible from the Rowley road.

    The marshy region began very shortly, with the single track on a low, grassyembankment where the weedy growth was somewhat thinner. Then came a sort of island of higherground, where the line passed through a shallow open cut choked with bushes and brambles. Iwas very glad of this partial shelter, since at this point the Rowley road was uncomfortablynear according to my window view. At the end of the cut it would cross the track and swerveoff to a safer distance; but meanwhile I must be exceedingly careful. I was by this time thankfullycertain that the railway itself was not patrolled.

    Just before entering the cut I glanced behind me, but saw no pursuer. The ancientspires and roofs of decaying Innsmouth gleamed lovely and ethereal in the magic yellow moonlight,and I thought of how they must have looked in the old days before the shadow fell. Then, asmy gaze circled inland from the town, something less tranquil arrested my notice and held meimmobile for a second.

    What I saw—or fancied I saw—was a disturbing suggestion of undulantmotion far to the south; a suggestion which made me conclude that a very large horde must bepouring out of the city along the level Ipswich road. The distance was great, and I could distinguishnothing in detail; but I did not at all like the look of that moving column. It undulated toomuch, and glistened too brightly in the rays of the now westering moon. There was a suggestionof sound, too, though the wind was blowing the other way—a suggestion of bestial scrapingand bellowing even worse than the muttering of the parties I had lately overheard.

    All sorts of unpleasant conjectures crossed my mind. I thought of those veryextreme Innsmouth types said to be hidden in crumbling, centuried warrens near the waterfront.I thought, too, of those nameless swimmers I had seen. Counting the parties so far glimpsed,as well as those presumably covering other roads, the number of my pursuers must be strangelylarge for a town as depopulated as Innsmouth.

    Whence could come the dense personnel of such a column as I now beheld? Didthose ancient, unplumbed warrens teem with a twisted, uncatalogued, and unsuspected life? Orhad some unseen ship indeed landed a legion of unknown outsiders on that hellish reef? Who werethey? Why were they there? And if such a column of them was scouring the Ipswich road, wouldthe patrols on the other roads be likewise augmented?

    I had entered the brush-grown cut and was struggling along at a very slow pacewhen that damnable fishy odour again waxed dominant. Had the wind suddenly changed eastward,so that it blew in from the sea and over the town? It must have, I concluded, since I now beganto hear shocking guttural murmurs from that hitherto silent direction. There was another sound,too—a kind of wholesale, colossal flopping or pattering which somehow called up imagesof the most detestable sort. It made me think illogically of that unpleasantly undulating columnon the far-off Ipswich road.

    And then both stench and sounds grew stronger, so that I paused shivering andgrateful for the cut’s protection. It was here, I recalled, that the Rowley road drewso close to the old railway before crossing westward and diverging. Something was coming alongthat road, and I must lie low till its passage and vanishment in the distance. Thank heaventhese creatures employed no dogs for tracking—though perhaps that would have been impossibleamidst the omnipresent regional odour. Crouched in the bushes of that sandy cleft I felt reasonablysafe, even though I knew the searchers would have to cross the track in front of me not muchmore than a hundred yards away. I would be able to see them, but they could not, except by amalign miracle, see me.

    All at once I began dreading to look at them as they passed. I saw the closemoonlit space where they would surge by, and had curious thoughts about the irredeemable pollutionof that space. They would perhaps be the worst of all Innsmouth types—something one wouldnot care to remember.

    The stench waxed overpowering, and the noises swelled to a bestial babel ofcroaking, baying, and barking without the least suggestion of human speech. Were these indeedthe voices of my pursuers? Did they have dogs after all? So far I had seen none of the loweranimals in Innsmouth. That flopping or pattering was monstrous—I could not look upon thedegenerate creatures responsible for it. I would keep my eyes shut till the sounds receded towardthe west. The horde was very close now—the air foul with their hoarse snarlings, and theground almost shaking with their alien-rhythmed footfalls. My breath nearly ceased to come,and I put every ounce of will power into the task of holding my eyelids down.

    I am not even yet willing to say whether what followed was a hideous actualityor only a nightmare hallucination. The later action of the government, after my frantic appeals,would tend to confirm it as a monstrous truth; but could not an hallucination have been repeatedunder the quasi-hypnotic spell of that ancient, haunted, and shadowed town? Such places havestrange properties, and the legacy of insane legend might well have acted on more than one humanimagination amidst those dead, stench-cursed streets and huddles of rotting roofs and crumblingsteeples. Is it not possible that the germ of an actual contagious madness lurks in the depthsof that shadow over Innsmouth? Who can be sure of reality after hearing things like the taleof old Zadok Allen? The government men never found poor Zadok, and have no conjectures to makeas to what became of him. Where does madness leave off and reality begin? Is it possible thateven my latest fear is sheer delusion?

    But I must try to tell what I thought I saw that night under the mocking yellowmoon—saw surging and hopping down the Rowley road in plain sight in front of me as I crouchedamong the wild brambles of that desolate railway cut. Of course my resolution to keep my eyesshut had failed. It was foredoomed to failure—for who could crouch blindly while a legionof croaking, baying entities of unknown source flopped noisomely past, scarcely more than ahundred yards away?

    I thought I was prepared for the worst, and I really ought to have been preparedconsidering what I had seen before. My other pursuers had been accursedly abnormal—soshould I not have been ready to face a strengthening of the abnormal element; to lookupon forms in which there was no mixture of the normal at all? I did not open my eyes untilthe raucous clamour came loudly from a point obviously straight ahead. Then I knew that a longsection of them must be plainly in sight where the sides of the cut flattened out and the roadcrossed the track—and I could no longer keep myself from sampling whatever horror thatleering yellow moon might have to shew.

    It was the end, for whatever remains to me of life on the surface of this earth,of every vestige of mental peace and confidence in the integrity of Nature and of the humanmind. Nothing that I could have imagined—nothing, even, that I could have gathered hadI credited old Zadok’s crazy tale in the most literal way—would be in any way comparableto the daemoniac, blasphemous reality that I saw—or believe I saw. I have tried to hintwhat it was in order to postpone the horror of writing it down baldly. Can it be possible thatthis planet has actually spawned such things; that human eyes have truly seen, as objectiveflesh, what man has hitherto known only in febrile phantasy and tenuous legend?

    And yet I saw them in a limitless stream—flopping, hopping, croaking,bleating—surging inhumanly through the spectral moonlight in a grotesque, malignant sarabandof fantastic nightmare. And some of them had tall tiaras of that nameless whitish-gold metal . . .and some were strangely robed . . . and one, who led the way, was clad in a ghoulishlyhumped black coat and striped trousers, and had a man’s felt hat perched on the shapelessthing that answered for a head. . . .

    I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had whitebellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Theirforms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigiousbulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and theirlong paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four.I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearlyused for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faceslacked.

    But for all of their monstrousness they were not unfamiliar to me. I knew toowell what they must be—for was not the memory of that evil tiara at Newburyport stillfresh? They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the nameless design—living and horrible—andas I saw them I knew also of what that humped, tiaraed priest in the black church basem*nt hadso fearsomely reminded me. Their number was past guessing. It seemed to me that there were limitlessswarms of them—and certainly my momentary glimpse could have shewn only the least fraction.In another instant everything was blotted out by a merciful fit of fainting; the first I hadever had.

    V.

    It was a gentle daylight rain that awaked me from my stupor in the brush-grownrailway cut, and when I staggered out to the roadway ahead I saw no trace of any prints in thefresh mud. The fishy odour, too, was gone. Innsmouth’s ruined roofs and toppling steeplesloomed up greyly toward the southeast, but not a living creature did I spy in all the desolatesalt marshes around. My watch was still going, and told me that the hour was past noon.

    The reality of what I had been through was highly uncertain in my mind, butI felt that something hideous lay in the background. I must get away from evil-shadowed Innsmouth—andaccordingly I began to test my cramped, wearied powers of locomotion. Despite weakness, hunger,horror, and bewilderment I found myself after a long time able to walk; so started slowly along themuddy road to Rowley. Before evening I was in the village, getting a meal and providing myselfwith presentable clothes. I caught the night train to Arkham, and the next day talked long andearnestly with government officials there; a process I later repeated in Boston. With the mainresult of these colloquies the public is now familiar—and I wish, for normality’ssake, there were nothing more to tell. Perhaps it is madness that is overtaking me—yetperhaps a greater horror—or a greater marvel—is reaching out.

    As may well be imagined, I gave up most of the foreplanned features of therest of my tour—the scenic, architectural, and antiquarian diversions on which I had countedso heavily. Nor did I dare look for that piece of strange jewellery said to be in the MiskatonicUniversity Museum. I did, however, improve my stay in Arkham by collecting some genealogicalnotes I had long wished to possess; very rough and hasty data, it is true, but capable of gooduse later on when I might have time to collate and codify them. The curator of the historicalsociety there—Mr. E. Lapham Peabody—was very courteous about assisting me, and expressedunusual interest when I told him I was a grandson of Eliza Orne of Arkham, who was born in 1867and had married James Williamson of Ohio at the age of seventeen.

    It seemed that a maternal uncle of mine had been there many years before ona quest much like my own; and that my grandmother’s family was a topic of some local curiosity.There had, Mr. Peabody said, been considerable discussion about the marriage of her father,Benjamin Orne, just after the Civil War; since the ancestry of the bride was peculiarly puzzling.That bride was understood to have been an orphaned Marsh of New Hampshire—a cousin ofthe Essex County Marshes—but her education had been in France and she knew very littleof her family. A guardian had deposited funds in a Boston bank to maintain her and her Frenchgoverness; but that guardian’s name was unfamiliar to Arkham people, and in time he droppedout of sight, so that the governess assumed his role by court appointment. The Frenchwoman—nowlong dead—was very taciturn, and there were those who said she could have told more thanshe did.

    But the most baffling thing was the inability of anyone to place the recordedparents of the young woman—Enoch and Lydia (Meserve) Marsh—among the known familiesof New Hampshire. Possibly, many suggested, she was the natural daughter of some Marsh of prominence—shecertainly had the true Marsh eyes. Most of the puzzling was done after her early death, whichtook place at the birth of my grandmother—her only child. Having formed some disagreeableimpressions connected with the name of Marsh, I did not welcome the news that it belonged onmy own ancestral tree; nor was I pleased by Mr. Peabody’s suggestion that I had the trueMarsh eyes myself. However, I was grateful for data which I knew would prove valuable; and tookcopious notes and lists of book references regarding the well-documented Orne family.

    I went directly home to Toledo from Boston, and later spent a month at Maumeerecuperating from my ordeal. In September I entered Oberlin for my final year, and from thentill the next June was busy with studies and other wholesome activities—reminded of thebygone terror only by occasional official visits from government men in connexion with the campaignwhich my pleas and evidence had started. Around the middle of July—just a year after theInnsmouth experience—I spent a week with my late mother’s family in Cleveland; checkingsome of my new genealogical data with the various notes, traditions, and bits of heirloom materialin existence there, and seeing what kind of connected chart I could construct.

    I did not exactly relish the task, for the atmosphere of the Williamson homehad always depressed me. There was a strain of morbidity there, and my mother had never encouragedmy visiting her parents as a child, although she always welcomed her father when he came toToledo. My Arkham-born grandmother had seemed strange and almost terrifying to me, and I donot think I grieved when she disappeared. I was eight years old then, and it was said that shehad wandered off in grief after the suicide of my uncle Douglas, her eldest son. He had shothimself after a trip to New England—the same trip, no doubt, which had caused him to berecalled at the Arkham Historical Society.

    This uncle had resembled her, and I had never liked him either. Something aboutthe staring, unwinking expression of both of them had given me a vague, unaccountable uneasiness.My mother and uncle Walter had not looked like that. They were like their father, though poorlittle cousin Lawrence—Walter’s son—had been an almost perfect duplicate ofhis grandmother before his condition took him to the permanent seclusion of a sanitarium atCanton. I had not seen him in four years, but my uncle once implied that his state, both mentaland physical, was very bad. This worry had probably been a major cause of his mother’sdeath two years before.

    My grandfather and his widowed son Walter now comprised the Cleveland household,but the memory of older times hung thickly over it. I still disliked the place, and tried toget my researches done as quickly as possible. Williamson records and traditions were suppliedin abundance by my grandfather; though for Orne material I had to depend on my uncle Walter,who put at my disposal the contents of all his files, including notes, letters, cuttings, heirlooms,photographs, and miniatures.

    It was in going over the letters and pictures on the Orne side that I beganto acquire a kind of terror of my own ancestry. As I have said, my grandmother and uncle Douglashad always disturbed me. Now, years after their passing, I gazed at their pictured faces witha measurably heightened feeling of repulsion and alienation. I could not at first understandthe change, but gradually a horrible sort of comparison began to obtrude itself on myunconscious mind despite the steady refusal of my consciousness to admit even the least suspicionof it. It was clear that the typical expression of these faces now suggested something it hadnot suggested before—something which would bring stark panic if too openly thought of.

    But the worst shock came when my uncle shewed me the Orne jewellery in a downtownsafe-deposit vault. Some of the items were delicate and inspiring enough, but there was onebox of strange old pieces descended from my mysterious great-grandmother which my uncle wasalmost reluctant to produce. They were, he said, of very grotesque and almost repulsive design,and had never to his knowledge been publicly worn; though my grandmother used to enjoy lookingat them. Vague legends of bad luck clustered around them, and my great-grandmother’s Frenchgoverness had said they ought not to be worn in New England, though it would be quite safe towear them in Europe.

    As my uncle began slowly and grudgingly to unwrap the things he urged me notto be shocked by the strangeness and frequent hideousness of the designs. Artists and archaeologistswho had seen them pronounced the workmanship superlatively and exotically exquisite, thoughno one seemed able to define their exact material or assign them to any specific art tradition.There were two armlets, a tiara, and a kind of pectoral; the latter having in high relief certainfigures of almost unbearable extravagance.

    During this description I had kept a tight rein on my emotions, but my facemust have betrayed my mounting fears. My uncle looked concerned, and paused in his unwrappingto study my countenance. I motioned to him to continue, which he did with renewed signs of reluctance.He seemed to expect some demonstration when the first piece—the tiara—became visible,but I doubt if he expected quite what actually happened. I did not expect it, either, for Ithought I was thoroughly forewarned regarding what the jewellery would turn out to be. WhatI did was to faint silently away, just as I had done in that brier-choked railway cut a yearbefore.

    From that day on my life has been a nightmare of brooding and apprehension,nor do I know how much is hideous truth and how much madness. My great-grandmother had beena Marsh of unknown source whose husband lived in Arkham—and did not old Zadok say thatthe daughter of Obed Marsh by a monstrous mother was married to an Arkham man through a trick?What was it the ancient toper had muttered about the likeness of my eyes to Captain Obed’s?In Arkham, too, the curator had told me I had the true Marsh eyes. Was Obed Marsh my own great-great-grandfather?Who—or what —then, was my great-great-grandmother? But perhaps this was allmadness. Those whitish-gold ornaments might easily have been bought from some Innsmouth sailorby the father of my great-grandmother, whoever he was. And that look in the staring-eyed facesof my grandmother and self-slain uncle might be sheer fancy on my part—sheer fancy, bolsteredup by the Innsmouth shadow which had so darkly coloured my imagination. But why had my unclekilled himself after an ancestral quest in New England?

    For more than two years I fought off these reflections with partial success.My father secured me a place in an insurance office, and I buried myself in routine as deeplyas possible. In the winter of 1930-31, however, the dreams began. They were very sparseand insidious at first, but increased in frequency and vividness as the weeks went by. Greatwatery spaces opened out before me, and I seemed to wander through titanic sunken porticos andlabyrinths of weedy Cyclopean walls with grotesque fishes as my companions. Then the othershapes began to appear, filling me with nameless horror the moment I awoke. But during thedreams they did not horrify me at all—I was one with them; wearing their unhuman trappings,treading their aqueous ways, and praying monstrously at their evil sea-bottom temples.

    There was much more than I could remember, but even what I did remember eachmorning would be enough to stamp me as a madman or a genius if ever I dared write it down. Somefrightful influence, I felt, was seeking gradually to drag me out of the sane world of wholesomelife into unnamable abysses of blackness and alienage; and the process told heavily on me. Myhealth and appearance grew steadily worse, till finally I was forced to give up my positionand adopt the static, secluded life of an invalid. Some odd nervous affliction had me in itsgrip, and I found myself at times almost unable to shut my eyes.

    It was then that I began to study the mirror with mounting alarm. The slowravages of disease are not pleasant to watch, but in my case there was something subtler andmore puzzling in the background. My father seemed to notice it, too, for he began looking atme curiously and almost affrightedly. What was taking place in me? Could it be that I was comingto resemble my grandmother and uncle Douglas?

    One night I had a frightful dream in which I met my grandmother under the sea.She lived in a phosphorescent palace of many terraces, with gardens of strange leprous coralsand grotesque brachiate efflorescences, and welcomed me with a warmth that may have been sardonic.She had changed—as those who take to the water change—and told me she had neverdied. Instead, she had gone to a spot her dead son had learned about, and had leaped to a realmwhose wonders—destined for him as well—he had spurned with a smoking pistol. Thiswas to be my realm, too—I could not escape it. I would never die, but would live withthose who had lived since before man ever walked the earth.

    I met also that which had been her grandmother. For eighty thousand years Pth’thya-l’yihad lived in Y’ha-nthlei, and thither she had gone back after Obed Marsh was dead. Y’ha-nthleiwas not destroyed when the upper-earth men shot death into the sea. It was hurt, but not destroyed.The Deep Ones could never be destroyed, even though the palaeogean magic of the forgotten OldOnes might sometimes check them. For the present they would rest; but some day, if they remembered,they would rise again for the tribute Great Cthulhu craved. It would be a city greater thanInnsmouth next time. They had planned to spread, and had brought up that which would help them,but now they must wait once more. For bringing the upper-earth men’s death I must do apenance, but that would not be heavy. This was the dream in which I saw a shoggoth forthe first time, and the sight set me awake in a frenzy of screaming. That morning the mirrordefinitely told me I had acquired the Innsmouth look.

    So far I have not shot myself as my uncle Douglas did. I bought an automaticand almost took the step, but certain dreams deterred me. The tense extremes of horror are lessening,and I feel queerly drawn toward the unknown sea-deeps instead of fearing them. I hear and dostrange things in sleep, and awake with a kind of exaltation instead of terror. I do not believeI need to wait for the full change as most have waited. If I did, my father would probably shutme up in a sanitarium as my poor little cousin is shut up. Stupendous and unheard-of splendoursawait me below, and I shall seek them soon. Iä-R’lyeh! Cthulhu fhtagn! Iä!Iä! No, I shall not shoot myself—I cannot be made to shoot myself!

    I shall plan my cousin’s escape from that Canton madhouse, and togetherwe shall go to marvel-shadowed Innsmouth. We shall swim out to that brooding reef in the seaand dive down through black abysses to Cyclopean and many-columned Y’ha-nthlei, and inthat lair of the Deep Ones we shall dwell amidst wonder and glory for ever.

    Whether the dreams brought on the fever or the fever brought on the dreamsWalter Gilman did not know. Behind everything crouched the brooding, festering horror of theancient town, and of the mouldy, unhallowed garret gable where he wrote and studied and wrestledwith figures and formulae when he was not tossing on the meagre iron bed. His ears were growingsensitive to a preternatural and intolerable degree, and he had long ago stopped the cheap mantelclock whose ticking had come to seem like a thunder of artillery. At night the subtle stirringof the black city outside, the sinister scurrying of rats in the wormy partitions, and the creakingof hidden timbers in the centuried house, were enough to give him a sense of strident pandemonium.The darkness always teemed with unexplained sound—and yet he sometimes shook with fearlest the noises he heard should subside and allow him to hear certain other, fainter, noiseswhich he suspected were lurking behind them.

    He was in the changeless, legend-haunted city of Arkham, with its clusteringgambrel roofs that sway and sag over attics where witches hid from the King’s men in thedark, olden days of the Province. Nor was any spot in that city more steeped in macabre memorythan the gable room which harboured him—for it was this house and this room which hadlikewise harboured old Keziah Mason, whose flight from Salem Gaol at the last no one was everable to explain. That was in 1692—the gaoler had gone mad and babbled of a small, white-fangedfurry thing which scuttled out of Keziah’s cell, and not even Cotton Mather could explainthe curves and angles smeared on the grey stone walls with some red, sticky fluid.

    Possibly Gilman ought not to have studied so hard. Non-Euclidean calculus andquantum physics are enough to stretch any brain; and when one mixes them with folklore, andtries to trace a strange background of multi-dimensional reality behind the ghoulish hints ofthe Gothic tales and the wild whispers of the chimney-corner, one can hardly expect to be whollyfree from mental tension. Gilman came from Haverhill, but it was only after he had entered collegein Arkham that he began to connect his mathematics with the fantastic legends of elder magic.Something in the air of the hoary town worked obscurely on his imagination. The professors atMiskatonic had urged him to slacken up, and had voluntarily cut down his course at several points.Moreover, they had stopped him from consulting the dubious old books on forbidden secrets thatwere kept under lock and key in a vault at the university library. But all these precautionscame late in the day, so that Gilman had some terrible hints from the dreaded Necronomiconof Abdul Alhazred, the fragmentary Book of Eibon, and the suppressed UnaussprechlichenKulten of von Junzt to correlate with his abstract formulae on the properties of space andthe linkage of dimensions known and unknown.

    He knew his room was in the old Witch House—that, indeed, was why hehad taken it. There was much in the Essex County records about Keziah Mason’s trial, andwhat she had admitted under pressure to the Court of Oyer and Terminer had fascinated Gilmanbeyond all reason. She had told Judge Hathorne of lines and curves that could be made to pointout directions leading through the walls of space to other spaces beyond, and had implied thatsuch lines and curves were frequently used at certain midnight meetings in the dark valley ofthe white stone beyond Meadow Hill and on the unpeopled island in the river. She had spokenalso of the Black Man, of her oath, and of her new secret name of Nahab. Then she had drawnthose devices on the walls of her cell and vanished.

    Gilman believed strange things about Keziah, and had felt a queer thrill onlearning that her dwelling was still standing after more than 235 years. When he heard the hushedArkham whispers about Keziah’s persistent presence in the old house and the narrow streets,about the irregular human tooth-marks left on certain sleepers in that and other houses, aboutthe childish cries heard near May-Eve, and Hallowmass, about the stench often noted in the oldhouse’s attic just after those dreaded seasons, and about the small, furry, sharp-toothedthing which haunted the mouldering structure and the town and nuzzled people curiously in theblack hours before dawn, he resolved to live in the place at any cost. A room was easy to secure;for the house was unpopular, hard to rent, and long given over to cheap lodgings. Gilman couldnot have told what he expected to find there, but he knew he wanted to be in the building wheresome circ*mstance had more or less suddenly given a mediocre old woman of the seventeenth centuryan insight into mathematical depths perhaps beyond the utmost modern delvings of Planck, Heisenberg,Einstein, and de Sitter.

    He studied the timber and plaster walls for traces of cryptic designs at everyaccessible spot where the paper had peeled, and within a week managed to get the eastern atticroom where Keziah was held to have practiced her spells. It had been vacant from the first—forno one had ever been willing to stay there long—but the Polish landlord had grown waryabout renting it. Yet nothing whatever happened to Gilman till about the time of the fever.No ghostly Keziah flitted through the sombre halls and chambers, no small furry thing creptinto his dismal eyrie to nuzzle him, and no record of the witch’s incantations rewardedhis constant search. Sometimes he would take walks through shadowy tangles of unpaved musty-smellinglanes where eldritch brown houses of unknown age leaned and tottered and leered mockingly throughnarrow, small-paned windows. Here he knew strange things had happened once, and there was afaint suggestion behind the surface that everything of that monstrous past might not—atleast in the darkest, narrowest, and most intricately crooked alleys—have utterly perished.He also rowed out twice to the ill-regarded island in the river, and made a sketch of the singularangles described by the moss-grown rows of grey standing stones whose origin was so obscureand immemorial.

    Gilman’s room was of good size but queerly irregular shape; the northwall slanting perceptibly inward from the outer to the inner end, while the low ceiling slantedgently downward in the same direction. Aside from an obvious rat-hole and the signs of otherstopped-up ones, there was no access—nor any appearance of a former avenue of access—tothe space which must have existed between the slanting wall and the straight outer wall on thehouse’s north side, though a view from the exterior shewed where a window had been boardedup at a very remote date. The loft above the ceiling—which must have had a slanting floor—waslikewise inaccessible. When Gilman climbed up a ladder to the cobwebbed level loft above therest of the attic he found vestiges of a bygone aperture tightly and heavily covered with ancientplanking and secured by the stout wooden pegs common in colonial carpentry. No amount of persuasion,however, could induce the stolid landlord to let him investigate either of these two closedspaces.

    As time wore along, his absorption in the irregular wall and ceiling of hisroom increased; for he began to read into the odd angles a mathematical significance which seemedto offer vague clues regarding their purpose. Old Keziah, he reflected, might have had excellentreasons for living in a room with peculiar angles; for was it not through certain angles thatshe claimed to have gone outside the boundaries of the world of space we know? His interestgradually veered away from the unplumbed voids beyond the slanting surfaces, since it now appearedthat the purpose of those surfaces concerned the side he was already on.

    The touch of brain-fever and the dreams began early in February. For some time,apparently, the curious angles of Gilman’s room had been having a strange, almost hypnoticeffect on him; and as the bleak winter advanced he had found himself staring more and more intentlyat the corner where the down-slanting ceiling met the inward-slanting wall. About this periodhis inability to concentrate on his formal studies worried him considerably, his apprehensionsabout the mid-year examinations being very acute. But the exaggerated sense of hearing was scarcelyless annoying. Life had become an insistent and almost unendurable cacophony, and there wasthat constant, terrifying impression of other sounds—perhaps from regions beyondlife—trembling on the very brink of audibility. So far as concrete noises went, the ratsin the ancient partitions were the worst. Sometimes their scratching seemed not only furtivebut deliberate. When it came from beyond the slanting north wall it was mixed with a sort ofdry rattling—and when it came from the century-closed loft above the slanting ceilingGilman always braced himself as if expecting some horror which only bided its time before descendingto engulf him utterly.

    The dreams were wholly beyond the pale of sanity, and Gilman felt that theymust be a result, jointly, of his studies in mathematics and in folklore. He had been thinkingtoo much about the vague regions which his formulae told him must lie beyond the three dimensionswe know, and about the possibility that old Keziah Mason—guided by some influence pastall conjecture—had actually found the gate to those regions. The yellowed county recordscontaining her testimony and that of her accusers were so damnably suggestive of things beyondhuman experience—and the descriptions of the darting little furry object which servedas her familiar were so painfully realistic despite their incredible details.

    That object —no larger than a good-sized rat and quaintly called by thetownspeople “Brown Jenkin”— seemed to have been the fruit of a remarkable caseof sympathetic herd-delusion, for in 1692 no less than eleven persons had testified to glimpsingit. There were recent rumours, too, with a baffling and disconcerting amount of agreement. Witnessessaid it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evillyhuman while its paws were like tiny human hands. It took messages betwixt old Keziah and thedevil, and was nursed on the witch’s blood—which it sucked like a vampire. Its voicewas a kind of loathsome titter, and it could speak all languages. Of all the bizarre monstrositiesin Gilman’s dreams, nothing filled him with greater panic and nausea than this blasphemousand diminutive hybrid, whose image flitted across his vision in a form a thousandfold more hatefulthan anything his waking mind had deduced from the ancient records and the modern whispers.

    Gilman’s dreams consisted largely in plunges through limitless abyssesof inexplicably coloured twilight and bafflingly disordered sound; abysses whose material andgravitational properties, and whose relation to his own entity, he could not even begin to explain.He did not walk or climb, fly or swim, crawl or wriggle; yet always experienced a mode of motionpartly voluntary and partly involuntary. Of his own condition he could not well judge, for sightof his arms, legs, and torso seemed always cut off by some odd disarrangement of perspective;but he felt that his physical organisation and faculties were somehow marvellously transmutedand obliquely projected—though not without a certain grotesque relationship to his normalproportions and properties.

    The abysses were by no means vacant, being crowded with indescribably angledmasses of alien-hued substance, some of which appeared to be organic while others seemed inorganic.A few of the organic objects tended to awake vague memories in the back of his mind, thoughhe could form no conscious idea of what they mockingly resembled or suggested. In the laterdreams he began to distinguish separate categories into which the organic objects appeared tobe divided, and which seemed to involve in each case a radically different species of conduct-patternand basic motivation. Of these categories one seemed to him to include objects slightly lessillogical and irrelevant in their motions than the members of the other categories.

    All the objects—organic and inorganic alike—were totally beyonddescription or even comprehension. Gilman sometimes compared the inorganic masses to prisms,labyrinths, clusters of cubes and planes, and Cyclopean buildings; and the organic things struckhim variously as groups of bubbles, octopi, centipedes, living Hindoo idols, and intricate Arabesquesroused into a kind of ophidian animation. Everything he saw was unspeakably menacing and horrible;and whenever one of the organic entities appeared by its motions to be noticing him, he felta stark, hideous fright which generally jolted him awake. Of how the organic entities moved,he could tell no more than of how he moved himself. In time he observed a further mystery—thetendency of certain entities to appear suddenly out of empty space, or to disappear totallywith equal suddenness. The shrieking, roaring confusion of sound which permeated the abysseswas past all analysis as to pitch, timbre, or rhythm; but seemed to be synchronous with vaguevisual changes in all the indefinite objects, organic and inorganic alike. Gilman had a constantsense of dread that it might rise to some unbearable degree of intensity during one or anotherof its obscure, relentlessly inevitable fluctuations.

    But it was not in these vortices of complete alienage that he saw Brown Jenkin.That shocking little horror was reserved for certain lighter, sharper dreams which assailedhim just before he dropped into the fullest depths of sleep. He would be lying in the dark fightingto keep awake when a faint lambent glow would seem to shimmer around the centuried room, shewingin a violet mist the convergence of angled planes which had seized his brain so insidiously.The horror would appear to pop out of the rat-hole in the corner and patter toward him overthe sagging, wide-planked floor with evil expectancy in its tiny, bearded human face—butmercifully, this dream always melted away before the object got close enough to nuzzle him.It had hellishly long, sharp, canine teeth. Gilman tried to stop up the rat-hole every day,but each night the real tenants of the partitions would gnaw away the obstruction, whateverit might be. Once he had the landlord nail tin over it, but the next night the rats gnawed afresh hole—in making which they pushed or dragged out into the room a curious little fragmentof bone.

    Gilman did not report his fever to the doctor, for he knew he could not passthe examinations if ordered to the college infirmary when every moment was needed for cramming.As it was, he failed in Calculus D and Advanced General Psychology, though not without hopeof making up lost ground before the end of the term. It was in March when the fresh elemententered his lighter preliminary dreaming, and the nightmare shape of Brown Jenkin began to becompanioned by the nebulous blur which grew more and more to resemble a bent old woman. Thisaddition disturbed him more than he could account for, but finally he decided that it was likean ancient crone whom he had twice actually encountered in the dark tangle of lanes near theabandoned wharves. On those occasions the evil, sardonic, and seemingly unmotivated stare ofthe beldame had set him almost shivering—especially the first time, when an overgrownrat darting across the shadowed mouth of a neighbouring alley had made him think irrationallyof Brown Jenkin. Now, he reflected, those nervous fears were being mirrored in his disordereddreams.

    That the influence of the old house was unwholesome, he could not deny; buttraces of his early morbid interest still held him there. He argued that the fever alone wasresponsible for his nightly phantasies, and that when the touch abated he would be free fromthe monstrous visions. Those visions, however, were of abhorrent vividness and convincingness,and whenever he awaked he retained a vague sense of having undergone much more than he remembered.He was hideously sure that in unrecalled dreams he had talked with both Brown Jenkin and theold woman, and that they had been urging him to go somewhere with them and to meet a third beingof greater potency.

    Toward the end of March he began to pick up in his mathematics, though otherstudies bothered him increasingly. He was getting an intuitive knack for solving Riemannianequations, and astonished Professor Upham by his comprehension of fourth-dimensional and otherproblems which had floored all the rest of the class. One afternoon there was a discussion ofpossible freakish curvatures in space, and of theoretical points of approach or even contactbetween our part of the cosmos and various other regions as distant as the farthest stars orthe trans-galactic gulfs themselves—or even as fabulously remote as the tentatively conceivablecosmic units beyond the whole Einsteinian space-time continuum. Gilman’s handling of thistheme filled everyone with admiration, even though some of his hypothetical illustrations causedan increase in the always plentiful gossip about his nervous and solitary eccentricity. Whatmade the students shake their heads was his sober theory that a man might—given mathematicalknowledge admittedly beyond all likelihood of human acquirement—step deliberately fromthe earth to any other celestial body which might lie at one of an infinity of specific pointsin the cosmic pattern.

    Such a step, he said, would require only two stages; first, a passage out ofthe three-dimensional sphere we know, and second, a passage back to the three-dimensional sphereat another point, perhaps one of infinite remoteness. That this could be accomplished withoutloss of life was in many cases conceivable. Any being from any part of three-dimensional spacecould probably survive in the fourth dimension; and its survival of the second stage would dependupon what alien part of three-dimensional space it might select for its re-entry. Denizens ofsome planets might be able to live on certain others—even planets belonging to other galaxies,or to similar-dimensional phases of other space-time continua—though of course there mustbe vast numbers of mutually uninhabitable even though mathematically juxtaposed bodies or zonesof space.

    It was also possible that the inhabitants of a given dimensional realm couldsurvive entry to many unknown and incomprehensible realms of additional or indefinitely multiplieddimensions—be they within or outside the given space-time continuum—and that theconverse would be likewise true. This was a matter for speculation, though one could be fairlycertain that the type of mutation involved in a passage from any given dimensional plane tothe next higher plane would not be destructive of biological integrity as we understand it.Gilman could not be very clear about his reasons for this last assumption, but his hazinesshere was more than overbalanced by his clearness on other complex points. Professor Upham especiallyliked his demonstration of the kinship of higher mathematics to certain phases of magical loretransmitted down the ages from an ineffable antiquity—human or pre-human—whose knowledgeof the cosmos and its laws was greater than ours.

    Around the first of April Gilman worried considerably because his slow feverdid not abate. He was also troubled by what some of his fellow-lodgers said about his sleep-walking.It seemed that he was often absent from his bed, and that the creaking of his floor at certainhours of the night was remarked by the man in the room below. This fellow also spoke of hearingthe tread of shod feet in the night; but Gilman was sure he must have been mistaken in this,since shoes as well as other apparel were always precisely in place in the morning. One coulddevelop all sorts of aural delusions in this morbid old house—for did not Gilman himself,even in daylight, now feel certain that noises other than rat-scratchings came from the blackvoids beyond the slanting wall and above the slanting ceiling? His pathologically sensitiveears began to listen for faint footfalls in the immemorially sealed loft overhead, and sometimesthe illusion of such things was agonisingly realistic.

    However, he knew that he had actually become a somnambulist; for twice at nighthis room had been found vacant, though with all his clothing in place. Of this he had been assuredby Frank Elwood, the one fellow-student whose poverty forced him to room in this squalid andunpopular house. Elwood had been studying in the small hours and had come up for help on a differentialequation, only to find Gilman absent. It had been rather presumptuous of him to open the unlockeddoor after knocking had failed to rouse a response, but he had needed the help very badly andthought that his host would not mind a gentle prodding awake. On neither occasion, though, hadGilman been there—and when told of the matter he wondered where he could have been wandering,barefoot and with only his night-clothes on. He resolved to investigate the matter if reportsof his sleep-walking continued, and thought of sprinkling flour on the floor of the corridorto see where his footsteps might lead. The door was the only conceivable egress, for there wasno possible foothold outside the narrow window.

    As April advanced Gilman’s fever-sharpened ears were disturbed by thewhining prayers of a superstitious loomfixer named Joe Mazurewicz, who had a room on the groundfloor. Mazurewicz had told long, rambling stories about the ghost of old Keziah and the furry,sharp-fanged, nuzzling thing, and had said he was so badly haunted at times that only his silvercrucifix—given him for the purpose by Father Iwanicki of St. Stanislaus’ Church—couldbring him relief. Now he was praying because the Witches’ Sabbath was drawing near. May-Evewas Walpurgis-Night, when hell’s blackest evil roamed the earth and all the slaves ofSatan gathered for nameless rites and deeds. It was always a very bad time in Arkham, even thoughthe fine folks up in Miskatonic Avenue and High and Saltonstall Streets pretended to know nothingabout it. There would be bad doings—and a child or two would probably be missing. Joeknew about such things, for his grandmother in the old country had heard tales from her grandmother.It was wise to pray and count one’s beads at this season. For three months Keziah andBrown Jenkin had not been near Joe’s room, nor near Paul Choynski’s room, nor anywhereelse—and it meant no good when they held off like that. They must be up to something.

    Gilman dropped in at a doctor’s office on the 16th of the month, andwas surprised to find his temperature was not as high as he had feared. The physician questionedhim sharply, and advised him to see a nerve specialist. On reflection, he was glad he had notconsulted the still more inquisitive college doctor. Old Waldron, who had curtailed his activitiesbefore, would have made him take a rest—an impossible thing now that he was so close togreat results in his equations. He was certainly near the boundary between the known universeand the fourth dimension, and who could say how much farther he might go?

    But even as these thoughts came to him he wondered at the source of his strangeconfidence. Did all of this perilous sense of imminence come from the formulae on the sheetshe covered day by day? The soft, stealthy, imaginary footsteps in the sealed loft above wereunnerving. And now, too, there was a growing feeling that somebody was constantly persuadinghim to do something terrible which he could not do. How about the somnambulism? Where did hego sometimes in the night? And what was that faint suggestion of sound which once in a whileseemed to trickle through the maddening confusion of identifiable sounds even in broad daylightand full wakefulness? Its rhythm did not correspond to anything on earth, unless perhaps tothe cadence of one or two unmentionable Sabbat-chants, and sometimes he feared it correspondedto certain attributes of the vague shrieking or roaring in those wholly alien abysses of dream.

    The dreams were meanwhile getting to be atrocious. In the lighter preliminaryphase the evil old woman was now of fiendish distinctness, and Gilman knew she was the one whohad frightened him in the slums. Her bent back, long nose, and shrivelled chin were unmistakable,and her shapeless brown garments were like those he remembered. The expression on her face wasone of hideous malevolence and exultation, and when he awaked he could recall a croaking voicethat persuaded and threatened. He must meet the Black Man, and go with them all to the throneof Azathoth at the centre of ultimate Chaos. That was what she said. He must sign in his ownblood the book of Azathoth and take a new secret name now that his independent delvings hadgone so far. What kept him from going with her and Brown Jenkin and the other to the throneof Chaos where the thin flutes pipe mindlessly was the fact that he had seen the name “Azathoth”in the Necronomicon, and knew it stood for a primal evil too horrible for description.

    The old woman always appeared out of thin air near the corner where the downwardslant met the inward slant. She seemed to crystallise at a point closer to the ceiling thanto the floor, and every night she was a little nearer and more distinct before the dream shifted.Brown Jenkin, too, was always a little nearer at the last, and its yellowish-white fangs glistenedshockingly in that unearthly violet phosphorescence. Its shrill loathsome tittering stuck moreand more in Gilman’s head, and he could remember in the morning how it had pronouncedthe words “Azathoth” and “Nyarlathotep”.

    In the deeper dreams everything was likewise more distinct, and Gilman feltthat the twilight abysses around him were those of the fourth dimension. Those organic entitieswhose motions seemed least flagrantly irrelevant and unmotivated were probably projections oflife-forms from our own planet, including human beings. What the others were in their own dimensionalsphere or spheres he dared not try to think. Two of the less irrelevantly moving things—arather large congeries of iridescent, prolately spheroidal bubbles and a very much smaller polyhedronof unknown colours and rapidly shifting surface angles—seemed to take notice of him andfollow him about or float ahead as he changed position among the titan prisms, labyrinths, cube-and-planeclusters, and quasi-buildings; and all the while the vague shrieking and roaring waxed louderand louder, as if approaching some monstrous climax of utterly unendurable intensity.

    During the night of April 19-20 the new development occurred. Gilmanwas half-involuntarily moving about in the twilight abysses with the bubble-mass and the smallpolyhedron floating ahead, when he noticed the peculiarly regular angles formed by the edgesof some gigantic neighbouring prism-clusters. In another second he was out of the abyss andstanding tremulously on a rocky hillside bathed in intense, diffused green light. He was barefootedand in his night-clothes, and when he tried to walk discovered that he could scarcely lift hisfeet. A swirling vapour hid everything but the immediate sloping terrain from sight, and heshrank from the thought of the sounds that might surge out of that vapour.

    Then he saw the two shapes laboriously crawling toward him—the old womanand the little furry thing. The crone strained up to her knees and managed to cross her armsin a singular fashion, while Brown Jenkin pointed in a certain direction with a horribly anthropoidfore paw which it raised with evident difficulty. Spurred by an impulse he did not originate,Gilman dragged himself forward along a course determined by the angle of the old woman’sarms and the direction of the small monstrosity’s paw, and before he had shuffled threesteps he was back in the twilight abysses. Geometrical shapes seethed around him, and he felldizzily and interminably. At last he woke in his bed in the crazily angled garret of the eldritchold house.

    He was good for nothing that morning, and stayed away from all his classes.Some unknown attraction was pulling his eyes in a seemingly irrelevant direction, for he couldnot help staring at a certain vacant spot on the floor. As the day advanced the focus of hisunseeing eyes changed position, and by noon he had conquered the impulse to stare at vacancy.About two o’clock he went out for lunch, and as he threaded the narrow lanes of the cityhe found himself turning always to the southeast. Only an effort halted him at a cafeteria inChurch Street, and after the meal he felt the unknown pull still more strongly.

    He would have to consult a nerve specialist after all—perhaps there wasa connexion with his somnambulism—but meanwhile he might at least try to break the morbidspell himself. Undoubtedly he could still manage to walk away from the pull; so with great resolutionhe headed against it and dragged himself deliberately north along Garrison Street. By the timehe had reached the bridge over the Miskatonic he was in a cold perspiration, and he clutchedat the iron railing as he gazed upstream at the ill-regarded island whose regular lines of ancientstanding stones brooded sullenly in the afternoon sunlight.

    Then he gave a start. For there was a clearly visible living figure on thatdesolate island, and a second glance told him it was certainly the strange old woman whose sinisteraspect had worked itself so disastrously into his dreams. The tall grass near her was moving,too, as if some other living thing were crawling close to the ground. When the old woman beganto turn toward him he fled precipitately off the bridge and into the shelter of the town’slabyrinthine waterfront alleys. Distant though the island was, he felt that a monstrous andinvincible evil could flow from the sardonic stare of that bent, ancient figure in brown.

    The southeastward pull still held, and only with tremendous resolution couldGilman drag himself into the old house and up the rickety stairs. For hours he sat silent andaimless, with his eyes shifting gradually westward. About six o’clock his sharpened earscaught the whining prayers of Joe Mazurewicz two floors below, and in desperation he seizedhis hat and walked out into the sunset-golden streets, letting the now directly southward pullcarry him where it might. An hour later darkness found him in the open fields beyond Hangman’sBrook, with the glimmering spring stars shining ahead. The urge to walk was gradually changingto an urge to leap mystically into space, and suddenly he realised just where the source ofthe pull lay.

    It was in the sky. A definite point among the stars had a claim on him andwas calling him. Apparently it was a point somewhere between Hydra and Argo Navis, and he knewthat he had been urged toward it ever since he had awaked soon after dawn. In the morning ithad been underfoot; afternoon found it rising in the southeast, and now it was roughly southbut wheeling toward the west. What was the meaning of this new thing? Was he going mad? Howlong would it last? Again mustering his resolution, Gilman turned and dragged himself back tothe sinister old house.

    Mazurewicz was waiting for him at the door, and seemed both anxious and reluctantto whisper some fresh bit of superstition. It was about the witch light. Joe had been out celebratingthe night before—it was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts—and had come home aftermidnight. Looking up at the house from outside, he had thought at first that Gilman’swindow was dark; but then he had seen the faint violet glow within. He wanted to warn the gentlemanabout that glow, for everybody in Arkham knew it was Keziah’s witch light which playednear Brown Jenkin and the ghost of the old crone herself. He had not mentioned this before,but now he must tell about it because it meant that Keziah and her long-toothed familiar werehaunting the young gentleman. Sometimes he and Paul Choynski and Landlord Dombrowski thoughtthey saw that light seeping out of cracks in the sealed loft above the young gentleman’sroom, but they had all agreed not to talk about that. However, it would be better for the gentlemanto take another room and get a crucifix from some good priest like Father Iwanicki.

    As the man rambled on Gilman felt a nameless panic clutch at his throat. Heknew that Joe must have been half drunk when he came home the night before, yet this mentionof a violet light in the garret window was of frightful import. It was a lambent glow of thissort which always played about the old woman and the small furry thing in those lighter, sharperdreams which prefaced his plunge into unknown abysses, and the thought that a wakeful secondperson could see the dream-luminance was utterly beyond sane harbourage. Yet where had the fellowgot such an odd notion? Had he himself talked as well as walked around the house in his sleep?No, Joe said, he had not—but he must check up on this. Perhaps Frank Elwood could tellhim something, though he hated to ask.

    Fever—wild dreams—somnambulism—illusions of sounds—apull toward a point in the sky—and now a suspicion of insane sleep-talking! He must stopstudying, see a nerve specialist, and take himself in hand. When he climbed to the second storyhe paused at Elwood’s door but saw that the other youth was out. Reluctantly he continuedup to his garret room and sat down in the dark. His gaze was still pulled to the southwest,but he also found himself listening intently for some sound in the closed loft above, and halfimagining that an evil violet light seeped down through an infinitesimal crack in the low, slantingceiling.

    That night as Gilman slept the violet light broke upon him with heightenedintensity, and the old witch and small furry thing—getting closer than ever before—mockedhim with inhuman squeals and devilish gestures. He was glad to sink into the vaguely roaringtwilight abysses, though the pursuit of that iridescent bubble-congeries and that kaleidoscopicl*ttle polyhedron was menacing and irritating. Then came the shift as vast converging planesof a slippery-looking substance loomed above and below him—a shift which ended in a flashof delirium and a blaze of unknown, alien light in which yellow, carmine, and indigo were madlyand inextricably blended.

    He was half lying on a high, fantastically balustraded terrace above a boundlessjungle of outlandish, incredible peaks, balanced planes, domes, minarets, horizontal discs poisedon pinnacles, and numberless forms of still greater wildness—some of stone and some ofmetal—which glittered gorgeously in the mixed, almost blistering glare from a polychromaticsky. Looking upward he saw three stupendous discs of flame, each of a different hue, and ata different height above an infinitely distant curving horizon of low mountains. Behind himtiers of higher terraces towered aloft as far as he could see. The city below stretched awayto the limits of vision, and he hoped that no sound would well up from it.

    The pavement from which he easily raised himself was of a veined, polishedstone beyond his power to identify, and the tiles were cut in bizarre-angled shapes which struckhim as less asymmetrical than based on some unearthly symmetry whose laws he could not comprehend.The balustrade was chest-high, delicate, and fantastically wrought, while along the rail wereranged at short intervals little figures of grotesque design and exquisite workmanship. They,like the whole balustrade, seemed to be made of some sort of shining metal whose colour couldnot be guessed in this chaos of mixed effulgences; and their nature utterly defied conjecture.They represented some ridged, barrel-shaped object with thin horizontal arms radiating spoke-likefrom a central ring, and with vertical knobs or bulbs projecting from the head and base of thebarrel. Each of these knobs was the hub of a system of five long, flat, triangularly taperingarms arranged around it like the arms of a starfish—nearly horizontal, but curving slightlyaway from the central barrel. The base of the bottom knob was fused to the long railing withso delicate a point of contact that several figures had been broken off and were missing. Thefigures were about four and a half inches in height, while the spiky arms gave them a maximumdiameter of about two and a half inches.

    When Gilman stood up the tiles felt hot to his bare feet. He was wholly alone,and his first act was to walk to the balustrade and look dizzily down at the endless, Cyclopeancity almost two thousand feet below. As he listened he thought a rhythmic confusion of faintmusical pipings covering a wide tonal range welled up from the narrow streets beneath, and hewished he might discern the denizens of the place. The sight turned him giddy after a while,so that he would have fallen to the pavement had he not clutched instinctively at the lustrousbalustrade. His right hand fell on one of the projecting figures, the touch seeming to steadyhim slightly. It was too much, however, for the exotic delicacy of the metal-work, and the spikyfigure snapped off under his grasp. Still half-dazed, he continued to clutch it as his otherhand seized a vacant space on the smooth railing.

    But now his oversensitive ears caught something behind him, and he looked backacross the level terrace. Approaching him softly though without apparent furtiveness were fivefigures, two of which were the sinister old woman and the fanged, furry little animal. The otherthree were what sent him unconscious—for they were living entities about eight feet high,shaped precisely like the spiky images on the balustrade, and propelling themselves by a spider-likewriggling of their lower set of starfish-arms.

    Gilman awakened in his bed, drenched by a cold perspiration and with a smartingsensation in his face, hands, and feet. Springing to the floor, he washed and dressed in frantichaste, as if it were necessary for him to get out of the house as quickly as possible. He didnot know where he wished to go, but felt that once more he would have to sacrifice his classes.The odd pull toward that spot in the sky between Hydra and Argo had abated, but another of evengreater strength had taken its place. Now he felt that he must go north—infinitely north.He dreaded to cross the bridge that gave a view of the desolate island in the Miskatonic, sowent over the Peabody Avenue bridge. Very often he stumbled, for his eyes and ears were chainedto an extremely lofty point in the blank blue sky.

    After about an hour he got himself under better control, and saw that he wasfar from the city. All around him stretched the bleak emptiness of salt marshes, while the narrowroad ahead led to Innsmouth—that ancient, half-deserted town which Arkham people wereso curiously unwilling to visit. Though the northward pull had not diminished, he resisted itas he had resisted the other pull, and finally found that he could almost balance the one againstthe other. Plodding back to town and getting some coffee at a soda fountain, he dragged himselfinto the public library and browsed aimlessly among the lighter magazines. Once he met somefriends who remarked how oddly sunburned he looked, but he did not tell them of his walk. Atthree o’clock he took some lunch at a restaurant, noting meanwhile that the pull had eitherlessened or divided itself. After that he killed the time at a cheap cinema show, seeing theinane performance over and over again without paying any attention to it.

    About nine at night he drifted homeward and stumbled into the ancient house.Joe Mazurewicz was whining unintelligible prayers, and Gilman hastened up to his own garretchamber without pausing to see if Elwood was in. It was when he turned on the feeble electriclight that the shock came. At once he saw there was something on the table which did not belongthere, and a second look left no room for doubt. Lying on its side—for it could not standup alone—was the exotic spiky figure which in his monstrous dream he had broken off thefantastic balustrade. No detail was missing. The ridged, barrel-shaped centre, the thin, radiatingarms, the knobs at each end, and the flat, slightly outward-curving starfish-arms spreadingfrom those knobs—all were there. In the electric light the colour seemed to be a kindof iridescent grey veined with green, and Gilman could see amidst his horror and bewildermentthat one of the knobs ended in a jagged break corresponding to its former point of attachmentto the dream-railing.

    Only his tendency toward a dazed stupor prevented him from screaming aloud.This fusion of dream and reality was too much to bear. Still dazed, he clutched at the spikything and staggered downstairs to Landlord Dombrowski’s quarters. The whining prayersof the superstitious loomfixer were still sounding through the mouldy halls, but Gilman didnot mind them now. The landlord was in, and greeted him pleasantly. No, he had not seen thatthing before and did not know anything about it. But his wife had said she found a funny tinthing in one of the beds when she fixed the rooms at noon, and maybe that was it. Dombrowskicalled her, and she waddled in. Yes, that was the thing. She had found it in the young gentleman’sbed—on the side next the wall. It had looked very queer to her, but of course the younggentleman had lots of queer things in his room—books and curios and pictures and markingson paper. She certainly knew nothing about it.

    So Gilman climbed upstairs again in a mental turmoil, convinced that he waseither still dreaming or that his somnambulism had run to incredible extremes and led him todepredations in unknown places. Where had he got this outré thing? He did not recall seeingit in any museum in Arkham. It must have been somewhere, though; and the sight of it as he snatchedit in his sleep must have caused the odd dream-picture of the balustraded terrace. Next dayhe would make some very guarded inquiries—and perhaps see the nerve specialist.

    Meanwhile he would try to keep track of his somnambulism. As he went upstairsand across the garret hall he sprinkled about some flour which he had borrowed—with afrank admission as to its purpose—from the landlord. He had stopped at Elwood’sdoor on the way, but had found all dark within. Entering his room, he placed the spiky thingon the table, and lay down in complete mental and physical exhaustion without pausing to undress.From the closed loft above the slanting ceiling he thought he heard a faint scratching and padding,but he was too disorganised even to mind it. That cryptical pull from the north was gettingvery strong again, though it seemed now to come from a lower place in the sky.

    In the dazzling violet light of dream the old woman and the fanged, furry thingcame again and with a greater distinctness than on any former occasion. This time they actuallyreached him, and he felt the crone’s withered claws clutching at him. He was pulled outof bed and into empty space, and for a moment he heard a rhythmic roaring and saw the twilightamorphousness of the vague abysses seething around him. But that moment was very brief, forpresently he was in a crude, windowless little space with rough beams and planks rising to apeak just above his head, and with a curious slanting floor underfoot. Propped level on thatfloor were low cases full of books of every degree of antiquity and disintegration, and in thecentre were a table and bench, both apparently fastened in place. Small objects of unknown shapeand nature were ranged on the tops of the cases, and in the flaming violet light Gilman thoughthe saw a counterpart of the spiky image which had puzzled him so horribly. On the left the floorfell abruptly away, leaving a black triangular gulf out of which, after a second’s dryrattling, there presently climbed the hateful little furry thing with the yellow fangs and beardedhuman face.

    The evilly grinning beldame still clutched him, and beyond the table stooda figure he had never seen before—a tall, lean man of dead black colouration but withoutthe slightest sign of negroid features; wholly devoid of either hair or beard, and wearing ashis only garment a shapeless robe of some heavy black fabric. His feet were indistinguishablebecause of the table and bench, but he must have been shod, since there was a clicking wheneverhe changed position. The man did not speak, and bore no trace of expression on his small, regularfeatures. He merely pointed to a book of prodigious size which lay open on the table, whilethe beldame thrust a huge grey quill into Gilman’s right hand. Over everything was a pallof intensely maddening fear, and the climax was reached when the furry thing ran up the dreamer’sclothing to his shoulders and then down his left arm, finally biting him sharply in the wristjust below his cuff. As the blood spurted from this wound Gilman lapsed into a faint.

    He awaked on the morning of the 22nd with a pain in his left wrist, and sawthat his cuff was brown with dried blood. His recollections were very confused, but the scenewith the black man in the unknown space stood out vividly. The rats must have bitten him ashe slept, giving rise to the climax of that frightful dream. Opening the door, he saw that theflour on the corridor floor was undisturbed except for the huge prints of the loutish fellowwho roomed at the other end of the garret. So he had not been sleep-walking this time. But somethingwould have to be done about those rats. He would speak to the landlord about them. Again hetried to stop up the hole at the base of the slanting wall, wedging in a candlestick which seemedof about the right size. His ears were ringing horribly, as if with the residual echoes of somehorrible noise heard in dreams.

    As he bathed and changed clothes he tried to recall what he had dreamed afterthe scene in the violet-litten space, but nothing definite would crystallise in his mind. Thatscene itself must have corresponded to the sealed loft overhead, which had begun to attack hisimagination so violently, but later impressions were faint and hazy. There were suggestionsof the vague, twilight abysses, and of still vaster, blacker abysses beyond them—abyssesin which all fixed suggestions of form were absent. He had been taken there by the bubble-congeriesand the little polyhedron which always dogged him; but they, like himself, had changed to wispsof milky, barely luminous mist in this farther void of ultimate blackness. Something else hadgone on ahead—a larger wisp which now and then condensed into nameless approximationsof form—and he thought that their progress had not been in a straight line, but ratheralong the alien curves and spirals of some ethereal vortex which obeyed laws unknown to thephysics and mathematics of any conceivable cosmos. Eventually there had been a hint of vast,leaping shadows, of a monstrous, half-acoustic pulsing, and of the thin, monotonous piping ofan unseen flute—but that was all. Gilman decided he had picked up that last conceptionfrom what he had read in the Necronomicon about the mindless entity Azathoth, which rulesall time and space from a curiously environed black throne at the centre of Chaos.

    When the blood was washed away the wrist wound proved very slight, and Gilmanpuzzled over the location of the two tiny punctures. It occurred to him that there was no bloodon the bedspread where he had lain—which was very curious in view of the amount on hisskin and cuff. Had he been sleep-walking within his room, and had the rat bitten him as he satin some chair or paused in some less rational position? He looked in every corner for brownishdrops or stains, but did not find any. He had better, he thought, sprinkle flour within theroom as well as outside the door—though after all no further proof of his sleep-walkingwas needed. He knew he did walk—and the thing to do now was to stop it. He must ask FrankElwood for help. This morning the strange pulls from space seemed lessened, though they werereplaced by another sensation even more inexplicable. It was a vague, insistent impulse to flyaway from his present situation, but held not a hint of the specific direction in which he wishedto fly. As he picked up the strange spiky image on the table he thought the older northwardpull grew a trifle stronger; but even so, it was wholly overruled by the newer and more bewilderingurge.

    He took the spiky image down to Elwood’s room, steeling himself againstthe whines of the loomfixer which welled up from the ground floor. Elwood was in, thank heaven,and appeared to be stirring about. There was time for a little conversation before leaving forbreakfast and college, so Gilman hurriedly poured forth an account of his recent dreams andfears. His host was very sympathetic, and agreed that something ought to be done. He was shockedby his guest’s drawn, haggard aspect, and noticed the queer, abnormal-looking sunburnwhich others had remarked during the past week. There was not much, though, that he could say.He had not seen Gilman on any sleep-walking expedition, and had no idea what the curious imagecould be. He had, though, heard the French-Canadian who lodged just under Gilman talking toMazurewicz one evening. They were telling each other how badly they dreaded the coming of Walpurgis-Night,now only a few days off; and were exchanging pitying comments about the poor, doomed young gentleman.Desrochers, the fellow under Gilman’s room, had spoken of nocturnal footsteps both shodand unshod, and of the violet light he saw one night when he had stolen fearfully up to peerthrough Gilman’s keyhole. He had not dared to peer, he told Mazurewicz, after he had glimpsedthat light through the cracks around the door. There had been soft talking, too—and ashe began to describe it his voice had sunk to an inaudible whisper.

    Elwood could not imagine what had set these superstitious creatures gossiping,but supposed their imaginations had been roused by Gilman’s late hours and somnolent walkingand talking on the one hand, and by the nearness of traditionally feared May-Eve on the otherhand. That Gilman talked in his sleep was plain, and it was obviously from Desrochers’keyhole-listenings that the delusive notion of the violet dream-light had got abroad. Thesesimple people were quick to imagine they had seen any odd thing they had heard about. As fora plan of action—Gilman had better move down to Elwood’s room and avoid sleepingalone. Elwood would, if awake, rouse him whenever he began to talk or rise in his sleep. Verysoon, too, he must see the specialist. Meanwhile they would take the spiky image around to thevarious museums and to certain professors; seeking identification and stating that it had beenfound in a public rubbish-can. Also, Dombrowski must attend to the poisoning of those rats inthe walls.

    Braced up by Elwood’s companionship, Gilman attended classes that day.Strange urges still tugged at him, but he could sidetrack them with considerable success. Duringa free period he shewed the queer image to several professors, all of whom were intensely interested,though none of them could shed any light upon its nature or origin. That night he slept on acouch which Elwood had had the landlord bring to the second-story room, and for the first timein weeks was wholly free from disquieting dreams. But the feverishness still hung on, and thewhines of the loomfixer were an unnerving influence.

    During the next few days Gilman enjoyed an almost perfect immunity from morbidmanifestations. He had, Elwood said, shewed no tendency to talk or rise in his sleep; and meanwhilethe landlord was putting rat-poison everywhere. The only disturbing element was the talk amongthe superstitious foreigners, whose imaginations had become highly excited. Mazurewicz was alwaystrying to make him get a crucifix, and finally forced one upon him which he said had been blessedby the good Father Iwanicki. Desrochers, too, had something to say—in fact, he insistedthat cautious steps had sounded in the now vacant room above him on the first and second nightsof Gilman’s absence from it. Paul Choynski thought he heard sounds in the halls and onthe stairs at night, and claimed that his door had been softly tried, while Mrs. Dombrowskivowed she had seen Brown Jenkin for the first time since All-Hallows. But such naive reportscould mean very little, and Gilman let the cheap metal crucifix hang idly from a knob on hishost’s dresser.

    For three days Gilman and Elwood canvassed the local museums in an effort toidentify the strange spiky image, but always without success. In every quarter, however, interestwas intense; for the utter alienage of the thing was a tremendous challenge to scientific curiosity.One of the small radiating arms was broken off and subjected to chemical analysis, and the resultis still talked about in college circles. Professor Ellery found platinum, iron, and telluriumin the strange alloy; but mixed with these were at least three other apparent elements of highatomic weight which chemistry was absolutely powerless to classify. Not only did they fail tocorrespond with any known element, but they did not even fit the vacant places reserved forprobable elements in the periodic system. The mystery remains unsolved to this day, though theimage is on exhibition at the museum of Miskatonic University.

    On the morning of April 27 a fresh rat-hole appeared in the room where Gilmanwas a guest, but Dombrowski tinned it up during the day. The poison was not having much effect,for scratchings and scurryings in the walls were virtually undiminished. Elwood was out latethat night, and Gilman waited up for him. He did not wish to go to sleep in a room alone—especiallysince he thought he had glimpsed in the evening twilight the repellent old woman whose imagehad become so horribly transferred to his dreams. He wondered who she was, and what had beennear her rattling the tin can in a rubbish-heap at the mouth of a squalid courtyard. The cronehad seemed to notice him and leer evilly at him—though perhaps this was merely his imagination.

    The next day both youths felt very tired, and knew they would sleep like logswhen night came. In the evening they drowsily discussed the mathematical studies which had socompletely and perhaps harmfully engrossed Gilman, and speculated about the linkage with ancientmagic and folklore which seemed so darkly probable. They spoke of old Keziah Mason, and Elwoodagreed that Gilman had good scientific grounds for thinking she might have stumbled on strangeand significant information. The hidden cults to which these witches belonged often guardedand handed down surprising secrets from elder, forgotten aeons; and it was by no means impossiblethat Keziah had actually mastered the art of passing through dimensional gates. Tradition emphasisesthe uselessness of material barriers in halting a witch’s motions; and who can say whatunderlies the old tales of broomstick rides through the night?

    Whether a modern student could ever gain similar powers from mathematical researchalone, was still to be seen. Success, Gilman added, might lead to dangerous and unthinkablesituations; for who could foretell the conditions pervading an adjacent but normally inaccessibledimension? On the other hand, the picturesque possibilities were enormous. Time could not existin certain belts of space, and by entering and remaining in such a belt one might preserve one’slife and age indefinitely; never suffering organic metabolism or deterioration except for slightamounts incurred during visits to one’s own or similar planes. One might, for example,pass into a timeless dimension and emerge at some remote period of the earth’s historyas young as before.

    Whether anybody had ever managed to do this, one could hardly conjecture withany degree of authority. Old legends are hazy and ambiguous, and in historic times all attemptsat crossing forbidden gaps seem complicated by strange and terrible alliances with beings andmessengers from outside. There was the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hiddenand terrible powers—the “Black Man” of the witch-cult, and the “Nyarlathotep”of the Necronomicon. There was, too, the baffling problem of the lesser messengers orintermediaries—the quasi-animals and queer hybrids which legend depicts as witches’familiars. As Gilman and Elwood retired, too sleepy to argue further, they heard Joe Mazurewiczreel into the house half-drunk, and shuddered at the desperate wildness of his whining prayers.

    That night Gilman saw the violet light again. In his dream he had heard a scratchingand gnawing in the partitions, and thought that someone fumbled clumsily at the latch. Thenhe saw the old woman and the small furry thing advancing toward him over the carpeted floor.The beldame’s face was alight with inhuman exultation, and the little yellow-toothed morbiditytittered mockingly as it pointed at the heavily sleeping form of Elwood on the other couch acrossthe room. A paralysis of fear stifled all attempts to cry out. As once before, the hideous croneseized Gilman by the shoulders, yanking him out of bed and into empty space. Again the infinitudeof the shrieking twilight abysses flashed past him, but in another second he thought he wasin a dark, muddy, unknown alley of foetid odours, with the rotting walls of ancient houses toweringup on every hand.

    Ahead was the robed black man he had seen in the peaked space in the otherdream, while from a lesser distance the old woman was beckoning and grimacing imperiously. BrownJenkin was rubbing itself with a kind of affectionate playfulness around the ankles of the blackman, which the deep mud largely concealed. There was a dark open doorway on the right, to whichthe black man silently pointed. Into this the grimacing crone started, dragging Gilman afterher by his pajama sleeve. There were evil-smelling staircases which creaked ominously, and onwhich the old woman seemed to radiate a faint violet light; and finally a door leading off alanding. The crone fumbled with the latch and pushed the door open, motioning to Gilman to waitand disappearing inside the black aperture.

    The youth’s oversensitive ears caught a hideous strangled cry, and presentlythe beldame came out of the room bearing a small, senseless form which she thrust at the dreameras if ordering him to carry it. The sight of this form, and the expression on its face, brokethe spell. Still too dazed to cry out, he plunged recklessly down the noisome staircase andinto the mud outside; halting only when seized and choked by the waiting black man. As consciousnessdeparted he heard the faint, shrill tittering of the fanged, rat-like abnormality.

    On the morning of the 29th Gilman awaked into a maelstrom of horror. The instanthe opened his eyes he knew something was terribly wrong, for he was back in his old garret roomwith the slanting wall and ceiling, sprawled on the now unmade bed. His throat was aching inexplicably,and as he struggled to a sitting posture he saw with growing fright that his feet and pajama-bottomswere brown with caked mud. For the moment his recollections were hopelessly hazy, but he knewat least that he must have been sleep-walking. Elwood had been lost too deeply in slumber tohear and stop him. On the floor were confused muddy prints, but oddly enough they did not extendall the way to the door. The more Gilman looked at them, the more peculiar they seemed; forin addition to those he could recognise as his there were some smaller, almost round markings—suchas the legs of a large chair or table might make, except that most of them tended to be dividedinto halves. There were also some curious muddy rat-tracks leading out of a fresh hole and backinto it again. Utter bewilderment and the fear of madness racked Gilman as he staggered to thedoor and saw that there were no muddy prints outside. The more he remembered of his hideousdream the more terrified he felt, and it added to his desperation to hear Joe Mazurewicz chantingmournfully two floors below.

    Descending to Elwood’s room he roused his still-sleeping host and begantelling of how he had found himself, but Elwood could form no idea of what might really havehappened. Where Gilman could have been, how he got back to his room without making tracks inthe hall, and how the muddy, furniture-like prints came to be mixed with his in the garret chamber,were wholly beyond conjecture. Then there were those dark, livid marks on his throat, as ifhe had tried to strangle himself. He put his hands up to them, but found that they did not evenapproximately fit. While they were talking Desrochers dropped in to say that he had heard aterrific clattering overhead in the dark small hours. No, there had been no one on the stairsafter midnight—though just before midnight he had heard faint footfalls in the garret,and cautiously descending steps he did not like. It was, he added, a very bad time of year forArkham. The young gentleman had better be sure to wear the crucifix Joe Mazurewicz had givenhim. Even the daytime was not safe, for after dawn there had been strange sounds in the house—especiallya thin, childish wail hastily choked off.

    Gilman mechanically attended classes that morning, but was wholly unable tofix his mind on his studies. A mood of hideous apprehension and expectancy had seized him, andhe seemed to be awaiting the fall of some annihilating blow. At noon he lunched at the UniversitySpa, picking up a paper from the next seat as he waited for dessert. But he never ate that dessert;for an item on the paper’s first page left him limp, wild-eyed, and able only to pay hischeck and stagger back to Elwood’s room.

    There had been a strange kidnapping the night before in Orne’s Gangway,and the two-year-old child of a clod-like laundry worker named Anastasia Wolejko had completelyvanished from sight. The mother, it appeared, had feared the event for some time; but the reasonsshe assigned for her fear were so grotesque that no one took them seriously. She had, she said,seen Brown Jenkin about the place now and then ever since early in March, and knew from itsgrimaces and titterings that little Ladislas must be marked for sacrifice at the awful Sabbaton Walpurgis-Night. She had asked her neighbour Mary Czanek to sleep in the room and try toprotect the child, but Mary had not dared. She could not tell the police, for they never believedsuch things. Children had been taken that way every year ever since she could remember. Andher friend Pete Stowacki would not help because he wanted the child out of the way anyhow.

    But what threw Gilman into a cold perspiration was the report of a pair ofrevellers who had been walking past the mouth of the gangway just after midnight. They admittedthey had been drunk, but both vowed they had seen a crazily dressed trio furtively enteringthe dark passageway. There had, they said, been a huge robed negro, a little old woman in rags,and a young white man in his night-clothes. The old woman had been dragging the youth, whilearound the feet of the negro a tame rat was rubbing and weaving in the brown mud.

    Gilman sat in a daze all the afternoon, and Elwood—who had meanwhileseen the papers and formed terrible conjectures from them—found him thus when he camehome. This time neither could doubt but that something hideously serious was closing in aroundthem. Between the phantasms of nightmare and the realities of the objective world a monstrousand unthinkable relationship was crystallising, and only stupendous vigilance could avert stillmore direful developments. Gilman must see a specialist sooner or later, but not just now, whenall the papers were full of this kidnapping business.

    Just what had really happened was maddeningly obscure, and for a moment bothGilman and Elwood exchanged whispered theories of the wildest kind. Had Gilman unconsciouslysucceeded better than he knew in his studies of space and its dimensions? Had he actually slippedoutside our sphere to points unguessed and unimaginable? Where—if anywhere—had hebeen on those nights of daemoniac alienage? The roaring twilight abysses—the green hillside—theblistering terrace—the pulls from the stars—the ultimate black vortex—theblack man—the muddy alley and the stairs—the old witch and the fanged, furry horror—thebubble-congeries and the little polyhedron—the strange sunburn—the wrist wound—theunexplained image—the muddy feet—the throat-marks—the tales and fears of thesuperstitious foreigners—what did all this mean? To what extent could the laws of sanityapply to such a case?

    There was no sleep for either of them that night, but next day they both cutclasses and drowsed. This was April 30th, and with the dusk would come the hellish Sabbat-timewhich all the foreigners and the superstitious old folk feared. Mazurewicz came home at sixo’clock and said people at the mill were whispering that the Walpurgis-revels would beheld in the dark ravine beyond Meadow Hill where the old white stone stands in a place queerlyvoid of all plant-life. Some of them had even told the police and advised them to look therefor the missing Wolejko child, but they did not believe anything would be done. Joe insistedthat the poor young gentleman wear his nickel-chained crucifix, and Gilman put it on and droppedit inside his shirt to humour the fellow.

    Late at night the two youths sat drowsing in their chairs, lulled by the rhythmicalpraying of the loomfixer on the floor below. Gilman listened as he nodded, his preternaturallysharpened hearing seeming to strain for some subtle, dreaded murmur beyond the noises in theancient house. Unwholesome recollections of things in the Necronomicon and the BlackBook welled up, and he found himself swaying to infandous rhythms said to pertain to the blackestceremonies of the Sabbat and to have an origin outside the time and space we comprehend.

    Presently he realised what he was listening for—the hellish chant ofthe celebrants in the distant black valley. How did he know so much about what they expected?How did he know the time when Nahab and her acolyte were due to bear the brimming bowl whichwould follow the black co*ck and the black goat? He saw that Elwood had dropped asleep, and triedto call out and waken him. Something, however, closed his throat. He was not his own master.Had he signed the black man’s book after all?

    Then his fevered, abnormal hearing caught the distant, windborne notes. Overmiles of hill and field and alley they came, but he recognised them none the less. The firesmust be lit, and the dancers must be starting in. How could he keep himself from going? Whatwas it that had enmeshed him? Mathematics—folklore—the house—old Keziah—BrownJenkin . . . and now he saw that there was a fresh rat-hole in the wall nearhis couch. Above the distant chanting and the nearer praying of Joe Mazurewicz came anothersound—a stealthy, determined scratching in the partitions. He hoped the electric lightswould not go out. Then he saw the fanged, bearded little face in the rat-hole—the accursedlittle face which he at last realised bore such a shocking, mocking resemblance to old Keziah’s—andheard the faint fumbling at the door.

    The screaming twilight abysses flashed before him, and he felt himself helplessin the formless grasp of the iridescent bubble-congeries. Ahead raced the small, kaleidoscopicpolyhedron, and all through the churning void there was a heightening and acceleration of thevague tonal pattern which seemed to foreshadow some unutterable and unendurable climax. He seemedto know what was coming—the monstrous burst of Walpurgis-rhythm in whose cosmic timbrewould be concentrated all the primal, ultimate space-time seethings which lie behind the massedspheres of matter and sometimes break forth in measured reverberations that penetrate faintlyto every layer of entity and give hideous significance throughout the worlds to certain dreadedperiods.

    But all this vanished in a second. He was again in the cramped, violet-littenpeaked space with the slanting floor, the low cases of ancient books, the bench and table, thequeer objects, and the triangular gulf at one side. On the table lay a small white figure—aninfant boy, unclothed and unconscious—while on the other side stood the monstrous, leeringold woman with a gleaming, grotesque-hafted knife in her right hand, and a queerly proportionedpale metal bowl covered with curiously chased designs and having delicate lateral handles inher left. She was intoning some croaking ritual in a language which Gilman could not understand,but which seemed like something guardedly quoted in the Necronomicon.

    As the scene grew clear he saw the ancient crone bend forward and extend theempty bowl across the table—and unable to control his own motions, he reached far forwardand took it in both hands, noticing as he did so its comparative lightness. At the same momentthe disgusting form of Brown Jenkin scrambled up over the brink of the triangular black gulfon his left. The crone now motioned him to hold the bowl in a certain position while she raisedthe huge, grotesque knife above the small white victim as high as her right hand could reach.The fanged, furry thing began tittering a continuation of the unknown ritual, while the witchcroaked loathsome responses. Gilman felt a gnawing, poignant abhorrence shoot through his mentaland emotional paralysis, and the light metal bowl shook in his grasp. A second later the downwardmotion of the knife broke the spell completely, and he dropped the bowl with a resounding bell-likeclangour while his hands darted out frantically to stop the monstrous deed.

    In an instant he had edged up the slanting floor around the end of the tableand wrenched the knife from the old woman’s claws; sending it clattering over the brinkof the narrow triangular gulf. In another instant, however, matters were reversed; for thosemurderous claws had locked themselves tightly around his own throat, while the wrinkled facewas twisted with insane fury. He felt the chain of the cheap crucifix grinding into his neck,and in his peril wondered how the sight of the object itself would affect the evil creature.Her strength was altogether superhuman, but as she continued her choking he reached feebly inhis shirt and drew out the metal symbol, snapping the chain and pulling it free.

    At sight of the device the witch seemed struck with panic, and her grip relaxedlong enough to give Gilman a chance to break it entirely. He pulled the steel-like claws fromhis neck, and would have dragged the beldame over the edge of the gulf had not the claws receiveda fresh access of strength and closed in again. This time he resolved to reply in kind, andhis own hands reached out for the creature’s throat. Before she saw what he was doinghe had the chain of the crucifix twisted about her neck, and a moment later he had tightenedit enough to cut off her breath. During her last struggle he felt something bite at his ankle,and saw that Brown Jenkin had come to her aid. With one savage kick he sent the morbidity overthe edge of the gulf and heard it whimper on some level far below.

    Whether he had killed the ancient crone he did not know, but he let her reston the floor where she had fallen. Then, as he turned away, he saw on the table a sight whichnearly snapped the last thread of his reason. Brown Jenkin, tough of sinew and with four tinyhands of daemoniac dexterity, had been busy while the witch was throttling him, and his effortshad been in vain. What he had prevented the knife from doing to the victim’s chest, theyellow fangs of the furry blasphemy had done to a wrist—and the bowl so lately on thefloor stood full beside the small lifeless body.

    In his dream-delirium Gilman heard the hellish, alien-rhythmed chant of theSabbat coming from an infinite distance, and knew the black man must be there. Confused memoriesmixed themselves with his mathematics, and he believed his subconscious mind held the angleswhich he needed to guide him back to the normal world—alone and unaided for the firsttime. He felt sure he was in the immemorially sealed loft above his own room, but whether hecould ever escape through the slanting floor or the long-stopped egress he doubted greatly.Besides, would not an escape from a dream-loft bring him merely into a dream-house—anabnormal projection of the actual place he sought? He was wholly bewildered as to the relationbetwixt dream and reality in all his experiences.

    The passage through the vague abysses would be frightful, for the Walpurgis-rhythmwould be vibrating, and at last he would have to hear that hitherto veiled cosmic pulsing whichhe so mortally dreaded. Even now he could detect a low, monstrous shaking whose tempo he suspectedall too well. At Sabbat-time it always mounted and reached through to the worlds to summon theinitiate to nameless rites. Half the chants of the Sabbat were patterned on this faintly overheardpulsing which no earthly ear could endure in its unveiled spatial fulness. Gilman wondered,too, whether he could trust his instinct to take him back to the right part of space. How couldhe be sure he would not land on that green-litten hillside of a far planet, on the tessellatedterrace above the city of tentacled monsters somewhere beyond the galaxy, or in the spiral blackvortices of that ultimate void of Chaos wherein reigns the mindless daemon-sultan Azathoth?

    Just before he made the plunge the violet light went out and left him in utterblackness. The witch—old Keziah—Nahab—that must have meant her death. Andmixed with the distant chant of the Sabbat and the whimpers of Brown Jenkin in the gulf belowhe thought he heard another and wilder whine from unknown depths. Joe Mazurewicz—the prayersagainst the Crawling Chaos now turning to an inexplicably triumphant shriek—worlds ofsardonic actuality impinging on vortices of febrile dream—Iä! Shub-Niggurath! TheGoat with a Thousand Young. . . .

    They found Gilman on the floor of his queerly angled old garret room long beforedawn, for the terrible cry had brought Desrochers and Choynski and Dombrowski and Mazurewiczat once, and had even wakened the soundly sleeping Elwood in his chair. He was alive, and withopen, staring eyes, but seemed largely unconscious. On his throat were the marks of murderoushands, and on his left ankle was a distressing rat-bite. His clothing was badly rumpled, andJoe’s crucifix was missing. Elwood trembled, afraid even to speculate on what new formhis friend’s sleep-walking had taken. Mazurewicz seemed half-dazed because of a “sign”he said he had had in response to his prayers, and he crossed himself frantically when the squealingand whimpering of a rat sounded from beyond the slanting partition.

    When the dreamer was settled on his couch in Elwood’s room they sentfor Dr. Malkowski—a local practitioner who would repeat no tales where they might proveembarrassing—and he gave Gilman two hypodermic injections which caused him to relax insomething like natural drowsiness. During the day the patient regained consciousness at timesand whispered his newest dream disjointedly to Elwood. It was a painful process, and at itsvery start brought out a fresh and disconcerting fact.

    Gilman—whose ears had so lately possessed an abnormal sensitiveness—wasnow stone deaf. Dr. Malkowski, summoned again in haste, told Elwood that both ear-drums wereruptured, as if by the impact of some stupendous sound intense beyond all human conception orendurance. How such a sound could have been heard in the last few hours without arousing allthe Miskatonic Valley was more than the honest physician could say.

    Elwood wrote his part of the colloquy on paper, so that a fairly easy communicationwas maintained. Neither knew what to make of the whole chaotic business, and decided it wouldbe better if they thought as little as possible about it. Both, though, agreed that they mustleave this ancient and accursed house as soon as it could be arranged. Evening papers spokeof a police raid on some curious revellers in a ravine beyond Meadow Hill just before dawn,and mentioned that the white stone there was an object of age-long superstitious regard. Nobodyhad been caught, but among the scattering fugitives had been glimpsed a huge negro. In anothercolumn it was stated that no trace of the missing child Ladislas Wolejko had been found.

    The crowning horror came that very night. Elwood will never forget it, andwas forced to stay out of college the rest of the term because of the resulting nervous breakdown.He had thought he heard rats in the partitions all the evening, but paid little attention tothem. Then, long after both he and Gilman had retired, the atrocious shrieking began. Elwoodjumped up, turned on the lights, and rushed over to his guest’s couch. The occupant wasemitting sounds of veritably inhuman nature, as if racked by some torment beyond description.He was writhing under the bedclothes, and a great red stain was beginning to appear on the blankets.

    Elwood scarcely dared to touch him, but gradually the screaming and writhingsubsided. By this time Dombrowski, Choynski, Desrochers, Mazurewicz, and the top-floor lodgerwere all crowding into the doorway, and the landlord had sent his wife back to telephone forDr. Malkowski. Everybody shrieked when a large rat-like form suddenly jumped out from beneaththe ensanguined bedclothes and scuttled across the floor to a fresh, open hole close by. Whenthe doctor arrived and began to pull down those frightful covers Walter Gilman was dead.

    It would be barbarous to do more than suggest what had killed Gilman. Therehad been virtually a tunnel through his body—something had eaten his heart out. Dombrowski,frantic at the failure of his constant rat-poisoning efforts, cast aside all thought of hislease and within a week had moved with all his older lodgers to a dingy but less ancient housein Walnut Street. The worst thing for a while was keeping Joe Mazurewicz quiet; for the broodingloomfixer would never stay sober, and was constantly whining and muttering about spectral andterrible things.

    It seems that on that last hideous night Joe had stooped to look at the crimsonrat-tracks which led from Gilman’s couch to the nearby hole. On the carpet they were veryindistinct, but a piece of open flooring intervened between the carpet’s edge and thebase-board. There Mazurewicz had found something monstrous—or thought he had, for no oneelse could quite agree with him despite the undeniable queerness of the prints. The tracks onthe flooring were certainly vastly unlike the average prints of a rat, but even Choynski andDesrochers would not admit that they were like the prints of four tiny human hands.

    The house was never rented again. As soon as Dombrowski left it the pall ofits final desolation began to descend, for people shunned it both on account of its old reputationand because of the new foetid odour. Perhaps the ex-landlord’s rat-poison had worked afterall, for not long after his departure the place became a neighbourhood nuisance. Health officialstraced the smell to the closed spaces above and beside the eastern garret room, and agreed thatthe number of dead rats must be enormous. They decided, however, that it was not worth theirwhile to hew open and disinfect the long-sealed spaces; for the foetor would soon be over, andthe locality was not one which encouraged fastidious standards. Indeed, there were always vaguelocal tales of unexplained stenches upstairs in the Witch House just after May-Eve and Hallowmass.The neighbours grumblingly acquiesced in the inertia—but the foetor none the less formedan additional count against the place. Toward the last the house was condemned as an habitationby the building inspector.

    Gilman’s dreams and their attendant circ*mstances have never been explained.Elwood, whose thoughts on the entire episode are sometimes almost maddening, came back to collegethe next autumn and graduated in the following June. He found the spectral gossip of the townmuch diminished, and it is indeed a fact that—notwithstanding certain reports of a ghostlytittering in the deserted house which lasted almost as long as that edifice itself—nofresh appearances either of old Keziah or of Brown Jenkin have been muttered of since Gilman’sdeath. It is rather fortunate that Elwood was not in Arkham in that later year when certainevents abruptly renewed the local whispers about elder horrors. Of course he heard about thematter afterward and suffered untold torments of black and bewildered speculation; but eventhat was not as bad as actual nearness and several possible sights would have been.

    In March, 1931, a gale wrecked the roof and great chimney of the vacant WitchHouse, so that a chaos of crumbling bricks, blackened, moss-grown shingles, and rotting planksand timbers crashed down into the loft and broke through the floor beneath. The whole atticstory was choked with debris from above, but no one took the trouble to touch the mess beforethe inevitable razing of the decrepit structure. That ultimate step came in the following December,and it was when Gilman’s old room was cleared out by reluctant, apprehensive workmen thatthe gossip began.

    Among the rubbish which had crashed through the ancient slanting ceiling wereseveral things which made the workmen pause and call in the police. Later the police in turncalled in the coroner and several professors from the university. There were bones—badlycrushed and splintered, but clearly recognisable as human—whose manifestly modern dateconflicted puzzlingly with the remote period at which their only possible lurking-place, thelow, slant-floored loft overhead, had supposedly been sealed from all human access. The coroner’sphysician decided that some belonged to a small child, while certain others—found mixedwith shreds of rotten brownish cloth—belonged to a rather undersized, bent female of advancedyears. Careful sifting of debris also disclosed many tiny bones of rats caught in the collapse,as well as older rat-bones gnawed by small fangs in a fashion now and then highly productiveof controversy and reflection.

    Other objects found included the mingled fragments of many books and papers,together with a yellowish dust left from the total disintegration of still older books and papers.All, without exception, appeared to deal with black magic in its most advanced and horribleforms; and the evidently recent date of certain items is still a mystery as unsolved as thatof the modern human bones. An even greater mystery is the absolute hom*ogeneity of the crabbed,archaic writing found on a wide range of papers whose conditions and watermarks suggest agedifferences of at least 150 to 200 years. To some, though, the greatest mystery of all is thevariety of utterly inexplicable objects—objects whose shapes, materials, types of workmanship,and purposes baffle all conjecture—found scattered amidst the wreckage in evidently diversestates of injury. One of these things—which excited several Miskatonic professors profoundly—isa badly damaged monstrosity plainly resembling the strange image which Gilman gave to the collegemuseum, save that it is larger, wrought of some peculiar bluish stone instead of metal, andpossessed of a singularly angled pedestal with undecipherable hieroglyphics.

    Archaeologists and anthropologists are still trying to explain the bizarredesigns chased on a crushed bowl of light metal whose inner side bore ominous brownish stainswhen found. Foreigners and credulous grandmothers are equally garrulous about the modern nickelcrucifix with broken chain mixed in the rubbish and shiveringly identified by Joe Mazurewiczas that which he had given poor Gilman many years before. Some believe this crucifix was draggedup to the sealed loft by rats, while others think it must have been on the floor in some cornerof Gilman’s old room all the time. Still others, including Joe himself, have theoriestoo wild and fantastic for sober credence.

    When the slanting wall of Gilman’s room was torn out, the once sealedtriangular space between that partition and the house’s north wall was found to containmuch less structural debris, even in proportion to its size, than the room itself; though ithad a ghastly layer of older materials which paralysed the wreckers with horror. In brief, thefloor was a veritable ossuary of the bones of small children—some fairly modern, but othersextending back in infinite gradations to a period so remote that crumbling was almost complete.On this deep bony layer rested a knife of great size, obvious antiquity, and grotesque, ornate,and exotic design—above which the debris was piled.

    In the midst of this debris, wedged between a fallen plank and a cluster ofcemented bricks from the ruined chimney, was an object destined to cause more bafflement, veiledfright, and openly superstitious talk in Arkham than anything else discovered in the hauntedand accursed building. This object was the partly crushed skeleton of a huge, diseased rat,whose abnormalities of form are still a topic of debate and source of singular reticence amongthe members of Miskatonic’s department of comparative anatomy. Very little concerningthis skeleton has leaked out, but the workmen who found it whisper in shocked tones about thelong, brownish hairs with which it was associated.

    The bones of the tiny paws, it is rumoured, imply prehensile characteristicsmore typical of a diminutive monkey than of a rat; while the small skull with its savage yellowfangs is of the utmost anomalousness, appearing from certain angles like a miniature, monstrouslydegraded parody of a human skull. The workmen crossed themselves in fright when they came uponthis blasphemy, but later burned candles of gratitude in St. Stanislaus’ Church becauseof the shrill, ghostly tittering they felt they would never hear again.

    I was shewn into the attic chamber by a grave, intelligent-looking man with quiet clothes andan iron-grey beard, who spoke to me in this fashion:

    “Yes, he lived here—but I don’t advise your doinganything. Your curiosity makes you irresponsible. We never come here at night, and it’sonly because of his will that we keep it this way. You know what he did. Thatabominable society took charge at last, and we don’t know where he is buried. Therewas no way the law or anything else could reach the society.”

    “I hope you won’t stay till after dark. And I beg of you to letthat thing on the table—the thing that looks like a match box—alone. We don’tknow what it is, but we suspect it has something to do with what he did. We even avoidlooking at it very steadily.”

    After a time the man left me alone in the attic room. It was very dingy anddusty, and only primitively furnished, but it had a neatness which shewed it was not a slum-denizen’squarters. There were shelves full of theological and classical books, and another bookcase containingtreatises on magic—Paracelsus, Albertus Magnus, Trithemius, Hermes Trismegistus, Borellus,and others in strange alphabets whose titles I could not decipher. The furniture was very plain.There was a door, but it led only into a closet. The only egress was the aperture in the floorup to which the crude, steep staircase led. The windows were of bull’s-eye pattern, andthe black oak beams bespoke unbelievable antiquity. Plainly, this house was of the old world.I seemed to know where I was, but cannot recall what I then knew. Certainly the town was
    not London. My impression is of a small seaport.

    The small object on the table fascinated me intensely. I seemed to know whatto do with it, for I drew a pocket electric light—or what looked like one—out ofmy pocket and nervously tested its flashes. The light was not white but violet, and seemed lesslike true light than like some radio-active bombardment. I recall that I did not regard it asa common flashlight—indeed, I had a common flashlight in another pocket.

    It was getting dark, and the ancient roofs and chimney-pots outside lookedvery queer through the bull’s-eye window-panes. Finally I summoned up courage and proppedthe small object up on the table against a book—then turned the rays of the peculiar violetlight upon it. The light seemed now to be more like a rain or hail of small violet particlesthan like a continuous beam. As the particles struck the glassy surface at the centre of thestrange device, they seemed to produce a crackling noise like the sputtering of a vacuum tubethrough which sparks are passed. The dark glassy surface displayed a pinkish glow, and a vaguewhite shape seemed to be taking form at its centre. Then I noticed that I was not alone in theroom—and put the ray-projector back in my pocket.

    But the newcomer did not speak—nor did I hear any sound whatever duringall the immediately following moments. Everything was shadowy pantomime, as if seen at a vastdistance through some intervening haze—although on the other hand the newcomer and allsubsequent comers loomed large and close, as if both near and distant, according to some abnormalgeometry.

    The newcomer was a thin, dark man of medium height attired in the clericalgarb of the Anglican church. He was apparently about thirty years old, with a sallow, olivecomplexion and fairly good features, but an abnormally high forehead. His black hair was wellcut and neatly brushed, and he was clean-shaven though blue-chinned with a heavy growth of beard.He wore rimless spectacles with steel bows. His build and lower facial features were like otherclergymen I had seen, but he had a vastly higher forehead, and was darker and more intelligent-looking—alsomore subtly and concealedly evil- looking. At the present moment—having just lighteda faint oil lamp—he looked nervous, and before I knew it he was casting all his magicalbooks into a fireplace on the window side of the room (where the wall slanted sharply) whichI had not noticed before. The flames devoured the volumes greedily—leaping up in strangecolours and emitting indescribably hideous odours as the strangely hieroglyphed leaves and wormybindings succumbed to the devastating element. All at once I saw there were others in the room—grave-lookingmen in clerical costume, one of whom wore the bands and knee-breeches of a bishop. Though Icould hear nothing, I could see that they were bringing a decision of vast import to the first-comer.They seemed to hate and fear him at the same time, and he seemed to return these sentiments.His face set itself into a grim expression, but I could see his right hand shaking as he triedto grip the back of a chair. The bishop pointed to the empty case and to the fireplace (wherethe flames had died down amidst a charred, non-committal mass), and seemed filled with a peculiarloathing. The first-comer then gave a wry smile and reached out with his left hand toward thesmall object on the table. Everyone then seemed frightened. The procession of clerics beganfiling down the steep stairs through the trap-door in the floor, turning and making menacinggestures as they left. The bishop was last to go.

    The first-comer now went to a cupboard on the inner side of the room and extracteda coil of rope. Mounting a chair, he attached one end of the rope to a hook in the great exposedcentral beam of black oak, and began making a noose with the other end. Realising he was aboutto hang himself, I started forward to dissuade or save him. He saw me and ceased his preparations,looking at me with a kind of triumph which puzzled and disturbed me. He slowly steppeddown from the chair and began gliding toward me with a positively wolfish grin on his dark,thin-lipped face.

    I felt somehow in deadly peril, and drew out the peculiar ray-projector asa weapon of defence. Why I thought it could help me, I do not know. I turned it on—fullin his face, and saw the sallow features glow first with violet and then with pinkish light.His expression of wolfish exultation began to be crowded aside by a look of profound fear—whichdid not, however, wholly displace the exultation. He stopped in his tracks—then, flailinghis arms wildly in the air, began to stagger backward. I saw he was edging toward the open stair-wellin the floor, and tried to shout a warning, but he did not hear me. In another instant he hadlurched backward through the opening and was lost to view.

    I found difficulty in moving toward the stair-well, but when I did get thereI found no crushed body on the floor below. Instead there was a clatter of people coming upwith lanterns, for the spell of phantasmal silence had broken, and I once more heard soundsand saw figures as normally tri-dimensional. Something had evidently drawn a crowd to this place.Had there been a noise I had not heard? Presently the two people (simply villagers, apparently)farthest in the lead saw me—and stood paralysed. One of them shrieked loudly and reverberently:

    “Ahrrh! . . . It be ’ee, zur? Again? “

    Then they all turned and fled frantically. All, that is, but one. When thecrowd was gone I saw the grave-bearded man who had brought me to this place—standing alonewith a lantern. He was gazing at me gaspingly and fascinatedly, but did not seem afraid. Thenhe began to ascend the stairs, and joined me in the attic. He spoke:

    “So you didn’t let it alone! I’m sorry. I know whathas happened. It happened once before, but the man got frightened and shot himself. You oughtnot to have made him come back. You know what he wants. But you mustn’tget frightened like the other man he got. Something very strange and terrible has happened toyou, but it didn’t get far enough to hurt your mind and personality. If you’ll keepcool, and accept the need for making certain radical readjustments in your life, you can keepright on enjoying the world, and the fruits of your scholarship. But you can’t live here—andI don’t think you’ll wish to go back to London. I’d advise America.”

    “You mustn’t try anything more with that—thing. Nothing canbe put back now. It would only make matters worse to do—or summon—anything. Youare not as badly off as you might be—but you must get out of here at once and stay away.You’d better thank heaven it didn’t go further. . . .”

    “I’m going to prepare you as bluntly as I can. There’s beena certain change—in your personal appearance. He always causes that. But in a newcountry you can get used to it. There’s a mirror up at the other end of the room, andI’m going to take you to it. You’ll get a shock—though you will see nothingrepulsive.”

    I was now shaking with a deadly fear, and the bearded man almost had to holdme up as he walked me across the room to the mirror, the faint lamp (i.e., that formerly onthe table, not the still fainter lantern he had brought) in his free hand. This is what I sawin the glass:

    A thin, dark man of medium stature attired in the clerical garb of the Anglicanchurch, apparently about thirty, and with rimless, steel-bowed glasses glistening beneath asallow, olive forehead of abnormal height.

    It was the silent first-comer who had burned his books.

    For all the rest of my life, in outward form, I was to be that man!

    (Dedicated to Robert Bloch)

    I have seen the dark universe yawningWhere the black planets roll without aim—Where they roll in their horror unheeded,Without knowledge or lustre or name.—Nemesis.

    Cautious investigators will hesitate to challenge the common belief that Robert Blake was killedby lightning, or by some profound nervous shock derived from an electrical discharge. It istrue that the window he faced was unbroken, but Nature has shewn herself capable of many freakishperformances. The expression on his face may easily have arisen from some obscure muscular sourceunrelated to anything he saw, while the entries in his diary are clearly the result of a fantasticimagination aroused by certain local superstitions and by certain old matters he had uncovered.As for the anomalous conditions at the deserted church on Federal Hill—the shrewd analystis not slow in attributing them to some charlatanry, conscious or unconscious, with at leastsome of which Blake was secretly connected.

    For after all, the victim was a writer and painter wholly devoted to the fieldof myth, dream, terror, and superstition, and avid in his quest for scenes and effects of abizarre, spectral sort. His earlier stay in the city—a visit to a strange old man as deeplygiven to occult and forbidden lore as he—had ended amidst death and flame, and it musthave been some morbid instinct which drew him back from his home in Milwaukee. He may have knownof the old stories despite his statements to the contrary in the diary, and his death may havenipped in the bud some stupendous hoax destined to have a literary reflection.

    Among those, however, who have examined and correlated all this evidence, thereremain several who cling to less rational and commonplace theories. They are inclined to takemuch of Blake’s diary at its face value, and point significantly to certain facts suchas the undoubted genuineness of the old church record, the verified existence of the dislikedand unorthodox Starry Wisdom sect prior to 1877, the recorded disappearance of an inquisitivereporter named Edwin M. Lillibridge in 1893, and—above all—the look of monstrous,transfiguring fear on the face of the young writer when he died. It was one of these believerswho, moved to fanatical extremes, threw into the bay the curiously angled stone and its strangelyadorned metal box found in the old church steeple—the black windowless steeple, and notthe tower where Blake’s diary said those things originally were. Though widely censuredboth officially and unofficially, this man—a reputable physician with a taste for oddfolklore—averred that he had rid the earth of something too dangerous to rest upon it.

    Between these two schools of opinion the reader must judge for himself. Thepapers have given the tangible details from a sceptical angle, leaving for others the drawingof the picture as Robert Blake saw it—or thought he saw it—or pretended to see it.Now, studying the diary closely, dispassionately, and at leisure, let us summarise the darkchain of events from the expressed point of view of their chief actor.

    Young Blake returned to Providence in the winter of 1934-5, taking theupper floor of a venerable dwelling in a grassy court off College Street—on the crestof the great eastward hill near the Brown University campus and behind the marble John Hay Library.It was a cosy and fascinating place, in a little garden oasis of village-like antiquity wherehuge, friendly cats sunned themselves atop a convenient shed. The square Georgian house hada monitor roof, classic doorway with fan carving, small-paned windows, and all the other earmarksof early nineteenth-century workmanship. Inside were six-panelled doors, wide floor-boards,a curving colonial staircase, white Adam-period mantels, and a rear set of rooms three stepsbelow the general level.

    Blake’s study, a large southwest chamber, overlooked the front gardenon one side, while its west windows—before one of which he had his desk—faced offfrom the brow of the hill and commanded a splendid view of the lower town’s outspreadroofs and of the mystical sunsets that flamed behind them. On the far horizon were the opencountryside’s purple slopes. Against these, some two miles away, rose the spectral humpof Federal Hill, bristling with huddled roofs and steeples whose remote outlines wavered mysteriously,taking fantastic forms as the smoke of the city swirled up and enmeshed them. Blake had a curioussense that he was looking upon some unknown, ethereal world which might or might not vanishin dream if ever he tried to seek it out and enter it in person.

    Having sent home for most of his books, Blake bought some antique furnituresuitable to his quarters and settled down to write and paint—living alone, and attendingto the simple housework himself. His studio was in a north attic room, where the panes of themonitor roof furnished admirable lighting. During that first winter he produced five of hisbest-known short stories— “The Burrower Beneath”, “The Stairs in the Crypt”, “Shaggai”, “In the Vale of Pnath”, and “The Feasterfrom the Stars” —and painted seven canvases; studies of nameless, unhuman monsters,and profoundly alien, non-terrestrial landscapes.

    At sunset he would often sit at his desk and gaze dreamily off at the outspreadwest—the dark towers of Memorial Hall just below, the Georgian court-house belfry, thelofty pinnacles of the downtown section, and that shimmering, spire-crowned mound in the distancewhose unknown streets and labyrinthine gables so potently provoked his fancy. From his few localacquaintances he learned that the far-off slope was a vast Italian quarter, though most of thehouses were remnants of older Yankee and Irish days. Now and then he would train his field-glasseson that spectral, unreachable world beyond the curling smoke; picking out individual roofs andchimneys and steeples, and speculating upon the bizarre and curious mysteries they might house.Even with optical aid Federal Hill seemed somehow alien, half fabulous, and linked to the unreal,intangible marvels of Blake’s own tales and pictures. The feeling would persist long afterthe hill had faded into the violet, lamp-starred twilight, and the court-house floodlights andthe red Industrial Trust beacon had blazed up to make the night grotesque.

    Of all the distant objects on Federal Hill, a certain huge, dark church mostfascinated Blake. It stood out with especial distinctness at certain hours of the day, and atsunset the great tower and tapering steeple loomed blackly against the flaming sky. It seemedto rest on especially high ground; for the grimy facade, and the obliquely seen north side withsloping roof and the tops of great pointed windows, rose boldly above the tangle of surroundingridgepoles and chimney-pots. Peculiarly grim and austere, it appeared to be built of stone,stained and weathered with the smoke and storms of a century and more. The style, so far asthe glass could shew, was that earliest experimental form of Gothic revival which preceded thestately Upjohn period and held over some of the outlines and proportions of the Georgian age.Perhaps it was reared around 1810 or 1815.

    As months passed, Blake watched the far-off, forbidding structure with an oddlymounting interest. Since the vast windows were never lighted, he knew that it must be vacant.The longer he watched, the more his imagination worked, till at length he began to fancy curiousthings. He believed that a vague, singular aura of desolation hovered over the place, so thateven the pigeons and swallows shunned its smoky eaves. Around other towers and belfries hisglass would reveal great flocks of birds, but here they never rested. At least, that is whathe thought and set down in his diary. He pointed the place out to several friends, but noneof them had even been on Federal Hill or possessed the faintest notion of what the church wasor had been.

    In the spring a deep restlessness gripped Blake. He had begun his long-plannednovel—based on a supposed survival of the witch-cult in Maine—but was strangelyunable to make progress with it. More and more he would sit at his westward window and gazeat the distant hill and the black, frowning steeple shunned by the birds. When the delicateleaves came out on the garden boughs the world was filled with a new beauty, but Blake’srestlessness was merely increased. It was then that he first thought of crossing the city andclimbing bodily up that fabulous slope into the smoke-wreathed world of dream.

    Late in April, just before the aeon-shadowed Walpurgis time, Blake made hisfirst trip into the unknown. Plodding through the endless downtown streets and the bleak, decayedsquares beyond, he came finally upon the ascending avenue of century-worn steps, sagging Doricporches, and blear-paned cupolas which he felt must lead up to the long-known, unreachable worldbeyond the mists. There were dingy blue-and-white street signs which meant nothing to him, andpresently he noted the strange, dark faces of the drifting crowds, and the foreign signs overcurious shops in brown, decade-weathered buildings. Nowhere could he find any of the objectshe had seen from afar; so that once more he half fancied that the Federal Hill of that distantview was a dream-world never to be trod by living human feet.

    Now and then a battered church facade or crumbling spire came in sight, butnever the blackened pile that he sought. When he asked a shopkeeper about a great stone churchthe man smiled and shook his head, though he spoke English freely. As Blake climbed higher,the region seemed stranger and stranger, with bewildering mazes of brooding brown alleys leadingeternally off to the south. He crossed two or three broad avenues, and once thought he glimpseda familiar tower. Again he asked a merchant about the massive church of stone, and this timehe could have sworn that the plea of ignorance was feigned. The dark man’s face had alook of fear which he tried to hide, and Blake saw him make a curious sign with his right hand.

    Then suddenly a black spire stood out against the cloudy sky on his left, abovethe tiers of brown roofs lining the tangled southerly alleys. Blake knew at once what it was,and plunged toward it through the squalid, unpaved lanes that climbed from the avenue. Twicehe lost his way, but he somehow dared not ask any of the patriarchs or housewives who sat ontheir doorsteps, or any of the children who shouted and played in the mud of the shadowy lanes.

    At last he saw the tower plain against the southwest, and a huge stone bulkrose darkly at the end of an alley. Presently he stood in a windswept open square, quaintlycobblestoned, with a high bank wall on the farther side. This was the end of his quest; forupon the wide, iron-railed, weed-grown plateau which the wall supported—a separate, lesserworld raised fully six feet above the surrounding streets—there stood a grim, titan bulkwhose identity, despite Blake’s new perspective, was beyond dispute.

    The vacant church was in a state of great decrepitude. Some of the high stonebuttresses had fallen, and several delicate finials lay half lost among the brown, neglectedweeds and grasses. The sooty Gothic windows were largely unbroken, though many of the stonemullions were missing. Blake wondered how the obscurely painted panes could have survived sowell, in view of the known habits of small boys the world over. The massive doors were intactand tightly closed. Around the top of the bank wall, fully enclosing the grounds, was a rustyiron fence whose gate—at the head of a flight of steps from the square—was visiblypadlocked. The path from the gate to the building was completely overgrown. Desolation and decayhung like a pall above the place, and in the birdless eaves and black, ivyless walls Blake felta touch of the dimly sinister beyond his power to define.

    There were very few people in the square, but Blake saw a policeman at thenortherly end and approached him with questions about the church. He was a great wholesome Irishman,and it seemed odd that he would do little more than make the sign of the cross and mutter thatpeople never spoke of that building. When Blake pressed him he said very hurriedly that theItalian priests warned everybody against it, vowing that a monstrous evil had once dwelt thereand left its mark. He himself had heard dark whispers of it from his father, who recalled certainsounds and rumours from his boyhood.

    There had been a bad sect there in the ould days—an outlaw sect thatcalled up awful things from some unknown gulf of night. It had taken a good priest to exorcisewhat had come, though there did be those who said that merely the light could do it. If FatherO’Malley were alive there would be many the thing he could tell. But now there was nothingto do but let it alone. It hurt nobody now, and those that owned it were dead or far away. Theyhad run away like rats after the threatening talk in ’77, when people began to mind theway folks vanished now and then in the neighbourhood. Some day the city would step in and takethe property for lack of heirs, but little good would come of anybody’s touching it. Betterit be left alone for the years to topple, lest things be stirred that ought to rest foreverin their black abyss.

    After the policeman had gone Blake stood staring at the sullen steepled pile.It excited him to find that the structure seemed as sinister to others as to him, and he wonderedwhat grain of truth might lie behind the old tales the bluecoat had repeated. Probably theywere mere legends evoked by the evil look of the place, but even so, they were like a strangecoming to life of one of his own stories.

    The afternoon sun came out from behind dispersing clouds, but seemed unableto light up the stained, sooty walls of the old temple that towered on its high plateau. Itwas odd that the green of spring had not touched the brown, withered growths in the raised,iron-fenced yard. Blake found himself edging nearer the raised area and examining the bank walland rusted fence for possible avenues of ingress. There was a terrible lure about the blackenedfane which was not to be resisted. The fence had no opening near the steps, but around on thenorth side were some missing bars. He could go up the steps and walk around on the narrow copingoutside the fence till he came to the gap. If the people feared the place so wildly, he wouldencounter no interference.

    He was on the embankment and almost inside the fence before anyone noticedhim. Then, looking down, he saw the few people in the square edging away and making the samesign with their right hands that the shopkeeper in the avenue had made. Several windows wereslammed down, and a fat woman darted into the street and pulled some small children inside arickety, unpainted house. The gap in the fence was very easy to pass through, and before longBlake found himself wading amidst the rotting, tangled growths of the deserted yard. Here andthere the worn stump of a headstone told him that there had once been burials in this field;but that, he saw, must have been very long ago. The sheer bulk of the church was oppressivenow that he was close to it, but he conquered his mood and approached to try the three greatdoors in the facade. All were securely locked, so he began a circuit of the Cyclopean buildingin quest of some minor and more penetrable opening. Even then he could not be sure that he wishedto enter that haunt of desertion and shadow, yet the pull of its strangeness dragged him onautomatically.

    A yawning and unprotected cellar window in the rear furnished the needed aperture.Peering in, Blake saw a subterrene gulf of cobwebs and dust faintly litten by the western sun’sfiltered rays. Debris, old barrels, and ruined boxes and furniture of numerous sorts met hiseye, though over everything lay a shroud of dust which softened all sharp outlines. The rustedremains of a hot-air furnace shewed that the building had been used and kept in shape as lateas mid-Victorian times.

    Acting almost without conscious initiative, Blake crawled through the windowand let himself down to the dust-carpeted and debris-strown concrete floor. The vaulted cellarwas a vast one, without partitions; and in a corner far to the right, amid dense shadows, hesaw a black archway evidently leading upstairs. He felt a peculiar sense of oppression at beingactually within the great spectral building, but kept it in check as he cautiously scouted about—findinga still-intact barrel amid the dust, and rolling it over to the open window to provide for hisexit. Then, bracing himself, he crossed the wide, cobweb-festooned space toward the arch. Halfchoked with the omnipresent dust, and covered with ghostly gossamer fibres, he reached and beganto climb the worn stone steps which rose into the darkness. He had no light, but groped carefullywith his hands. After a sharp turn he felt a closed door ahead, and a little fumbling revealedits ancient latch. It opened inward, and beyond it he saw a dimly illumined corridor lined withworm-eaten panelling.

    Once on the ground floor, Blake began exploring in a rapid fashion. All theinner doors were unlocked, so that he freely passed from room to room. The colossal nave wasan almost eldritch place with its drifts and mountains of dust over box pews, altar, hourglasspulpit, and sounding-board, and its titanic ropes of cobweb stretching among the pointed archesof the gallery and entwining the clustered Gothic columns. Over all this hushed desolation playeda hideous leaden light as the declining afternoon sun sent its rays through the strange, half-blackenedpanes of the great apsidal windows.

    The paintings on those windows were so obscured by soot that Blake could scarcelydecipher what they had represented, but from the little he could make out he did not like them.The designs were largely conventional, and his knowledge of obscure symbolism told him muchconcerning some of the ancient patterns. The few saints depicted bore expressions distinctlyopen to criticism, while one of the windows seemed to shew merely a dark space with spiralsof curious luminosity scattered about in it. Turning away from the windows, Blake noticed thatthe cobwebbed cross above the altar was not of the ordinary kind, but resembled the primordialankh or crux ansata of shadowy Egypt.

    In a rear vestry room beside the apse Blake found a rotting desk and ceiling-highshelves of mildewed, disintegrating books. Here for the first time he received a positive shockof objective horror, for the titles of those books told him much. They were the black, forbiddenthings which most sane people have never even heard of, or have heard of only in furtive, timorouswhispers; the banned and dreaded repositories of equivocal secrets and immemorial formulae whichhave trickled down the stream of time from the days of man’s youth, and the dim, fabulousdays before man was. He had himself read many of them—a Latin version of the abhorredNecronomicon, the sinister Liber Ivonis, the infamous Cultes des Goulesof Comte d’Erlette, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and old Ludvig Prinn’shellish De Vermis Mysteriis. But there were others he had known merely by reputationor not at all—the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Book of Dzyan, and a crumbling volumein wholly unidentifiable characters yet with certain symbols and diagrams shudderingly recognisableto the occult student. Clearly, the lingering local rumours had not lied. This place had oncebeen the seat of an evil older than mankind and wider than the known universe.

    In the ruined desk was a small leather-bound record-book filled with entriesin some odd cryptographic medium. The manuscript writing consisted of the common traditionalsymbols used today in astronomy and anciently in alchemy, astrology, and other dubious arts—thedevices of the sun, moon, planets, aspects, and zodiacal signs—here massed in solid pagesof text, with divisions and paragraphings suggesting that each symbol answered to some alphabeticalletter.

    In the hope of later solving the cryptogram, Blake bore off this volume inhis coat pocket. Many of the great tomes on the shelves fascinated him unutterably, and he felttempted to borrow them at some later time. He wondered how they could have remained undisturbedso long. Was he the first to conquer the clutching, pervasive fear which had for nearly sixtyyears protected this deserted place from visitors?

    Having now thoroughly explored the ground floor, Blake ploughed again throughthe dust of the spectral nave to the front vestibule, where he had seen a door and staircasepresumably leading up to the blackened tower and steeple—objects so long familiar to himat a distance. The ascent was a choking experience, for dust lay thick, while the spiders haddone their worst in this constricted place. The staircase was a spiral with high, narrow woodentreads, and now and then Blake passed a clouded window looking dizzily out over the city. Thoughhe had seen no ropes below, he expected to find a bell or peal of bells in the tower whose narrow,louver-boarded lancet windows his field-glass had studied so often. Here he was doomed to disappointment;for when he attained the top of the stairs he found the tower chamber vacant of chimes, andclearly devoted to vastly different purposes.

    The room, about fifteen feet square, was faintly lighted by four lancet windows,one on each side, which were glazed within their screening of decayed louver-boards. These hadbeen further fitted with tight, opaque screens, but the latter were now largely rotted away.In the centre of the dust-laden floor rose a curiously angled stone pillar some four feet inheight and two in average diameter, covered on each side with bizarre, crudely incised, andwholly unrecognisable hieroglyphs. On this pillar rested a metal box of peculiarly asymmetricalform; its hinged lid thrown back, and its interior holding what looked beneath the decade-deepdust to be an egg-shaped or irregularly spherical object some four inches through. Around thepillar in a rough circle were seven high-backed Gothic chairs still largely intact, while behindthem, ranging along the dark-panelled walls, were seven colossal images of crumbling, black-paintedplaster, resembling more than anything else the cryptic carven megaliths of mysterious EasterIsland. In one corner of the cobwebbed chamber a ladder was built into the wall, leading upto the closed trap-door of the windowless steeple above.

    As Blake grew accustomed to the feeble light he noticed odd bas-reliefs onthe strange open box of yellowish metal. Approaching, he tried to clear the dust away with hishands and handkerchief, and saw that the figurings were of a monstrous and utterly alien kind;depicting entities which, though seemingly alive, resembled no known life-form ever evolvedon this planet. The four-inch seeming sphere turned out to be a nearly black, red-striated polyhedronwith many irregular flat surfaces; either a very remarkable crystal of some sort, or an artificialobject of carved and highly polished mineral matter. It did not touch the bottom of the box,but was held suspended by means of a metal band around its centre, with seven queerly designedsupports extending horizontally to angles of the box’s inner wall near the top. This stone,once exposed, exerted upon Blake an almost alarming fascination. He could scarcely tear hiseyes from it, and as he looked at its glistening surfaces he almost fancied it was transparent,with half-formed worlds of wonder within. Into his mind floated pictures of alien orbs withgreat stone towers, and other orbs with titan mountains and no mark of life, and still remoterspaces where only a stirring in vague blacknesses told of the presence of consciousness andwill.

    When he did look away, it was to notice a somewhat singular mound of dust inthe far corner near the ladder to the steeple. Just why it took his attention he could not tell,but something in its contours carried a message to his unconscious mind. Ploughing toward it,and brushing aside the hanging cobwebs as he went, he began to discern something grim aboutit. Hand and handkerchief soon revealed the truth, and Blake gasped with a baffling mixtureof emotions. It was a human skeleton, and it must have been there for a very long time. Theclothing was in shreds, but some buttons and fragments of cloth bespoke a man’s grey suit.There were other bits of evidence—shoes, metal clasps, huge buttons for round cuffs, astickpin of bygone pattern, a reporter’s badge with the name of the old ProvidenceTelegram, and a crumbling leather pocketbook. Blake examined the latter with care, findingwithin it several bills of antiquated issue, a celluloid advertising calendar for 1893, somecards with the name “Edwin M. Lillibridge”, and a paper covered with pencilled memoranda.

    This paper held much of a puzzling nature, and Blake read it carefully at thedim westward window. Its disjointed text included such phrases as the following:

    “Prof. Enoch Bowen home from Egypt May 1844—buys old Free-Will Church in July—his archaeological work & studies in occult well known.”

    “Dr. Drowne of 4th Baptist warns against Starry Wisdom in sermon Dec. 29, 1844.”

    “Congregation 97 by end of ’45.”

    “1846—3 disappearances—first mention of Shining Trapezohedron.”

    “7 disappearances 1848—stories of blood sacrifice begin.”

    “Investigation 1853 comes to nothing—stories of sounds.”

    “Fr. O’Malley tells of devil-worship with box found in great Egyptianruins—says they call up something that can’t exist in light. Flees a little light,and banished by strong light. Then has to be summoned again. Probably got this from deathbedconfession of Francis X. Feeney, who had joined Starry Wisdom in ’49. These people saythe Shining Trapezohedron shews them heaven & other worlds, & that the Haunter of theDark tells them secrets in some way.”

    “Story of Orrin B. Eddy 1857. They call it up by gazing at the crystal, & have a secret language of their own.”

    _“200 or more in cong. 1863, exclusive of men at front.”

    “Irish boys mob church in 1869 after Patrick Regan’s disappearance.”

    “Veiled article in J. March 14, ’72, but people don’t talk about it.”

    “6 disappearances 1876—secret committee calls on Mayor Doyle. “

    “Action promised Feb. 1877—church closes in April.”

    “Gang—Federal Hill Boys—threaten Dr. —— and vestrymen in May.”

    “181 persons leave city before end of ’77—mention no names.”

    “Ghost stories begin around 1880—try to ascertain truth of report that no human being has entered church since 1877. “

    “Ask Lanigan for photograph of place taken 1851.”

    . . .

    Restoring the paper to the pocketbook and placing the latter in his coat, Blaketurned to look down at the skeleton in the dust. The implications of the notes were clear, andthere could be no doubt but that this man had come to the deserted edifice forty-two years beforein quest of a newspaper sensation which no one else had been bold enough to attempt. Perhapsno one else had known of his plan—who could tell? But he had never returned to his paper.Had some bravely suppressed fear risen to overcome him and bring on sudden heart-failure? Blakestooped over the gleaming bones and noted their peculiar state. Some of them were badly scattered,and a few seemed oddly dissolved at the ends. Others were strangely yellowed, with vaguesuggestions of charring. This charring extended to some of the fragments of clothing. The skullwas in a very peculiar state—stained yellow, and with a charred aperture in the top asif some powerful acid had eaten through the solid bone. What had happened to the skeleton duringits four decades of silent entombment here Blake could not imagine.

    Before he realised it, he was looking at the stone again, and letting its curiousinfluence call up a nebulous pageantry in his mind. He saw processions of robed, hooded figureswhose outlines were not human, and looked on endless leagues of desert lined with carved, sky-reachingmonoliths. He saw towers and walls in nighted depths under the sea, and vortices of space wherewisps of black mist floated before thin shimmerings of cold purple haze. And beyond all elsehe glimpsed an infinite gulf of darkness, where solid and semi-solid forms were known only bytheir windy stirrings, and cloudy patterns of force seemed to superimpose order on chaos andhold forth a key to all the paradoxes and arcana of the worlds we know.

    Then all at once the spell was broken by an access of gnawing, indeterminatepanic fear. Blake choked and turned away from the stone, conscious of some formless alien presenceclose to him and watching him with horrible intentness. He felt entangled with something—somethingwhich was not in the stone, but which had looked through it at him—something which wouldceaselessly follow him with a cognition that was not physical sight. Plainly, the place wasgetting on his nerves—as well it might in view of his gruesome find. The light was waning,too, and since he had no illuminant with him he knew he would have to be leaving soon.

    It was then, in the gathering twilight, that he thought he saw a faint traceof luminosity in the crazily angled stone. He had tried to look away from it, but some obscurecompulsion drew his eyes back. Was there a subtle phosphorescence of radio-activity about thething? What was it that the dead man’s notes had said concerning a Shining Trapezohedron?What, anyway, was this abandoned lair of cosmic evil? What had been done here, and what mightstill be lurking in the bird-shunned shadows? It seemed now as if an elusive touch of foetorhad arisen somewhere close by, though its source was not apparent. Blake seized the cover ofthe long-open box and snapped it down. It moved easily on its alien hinges, and closed completelyover the unmistakably glowing stone.

    At the sharp click of that closing a soft stirring sound seemed to come fromthe steeple’s eternal blackness overhead, beyond the trap-door. Rats, without question—theonly living things to reveal their presence in this accursed pile since he had entered it. Andyet that stirring in the steeple frightened him horribly, so that he plunged almost wildly downthe spiral stairs, across the ghoulish nave, into the vaulted basem*nt, out amidst the gatheringdusk of the deserted square, and down through the teeming, fear-haunted alleys and avenues ofFederal Hill toward the sane central streets and the home-like brick sidewalks of the collegedistrict.

    During the days which followed, Blake told no one of his expedition. Instead,he read much in certain books, examined long years of newspaper files downtown, and worked feverishlyat the cryptogram in that leather volume from the cobwebbed vestry room. The cipher, he soonsaw, was no simple one; and after a long period of endeavour he felt sure that its languagecould not be English, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, or German. Evidently he wouldhave to draw upon the deepest wells of his strange erudition.

    Every evening the old impulse to gaze westward returned, and he saw the blacksteeple as of yore amongst the bristling roofs of a distant and half-fabulous world. But nowit held a fresh note of terror for him. He knew the heritage of evil lore it masked, and withthe knowledge his vision ran riot in queer new ways. The birds of spring were returning, andas he watched their sunset flights he fancied they avoided the gaunt, lone spire as never before.When a flock of them approached it, he thought, they would wheel and scatter in panic confusion—andhe could guess at the wild twitterings which failed to reach him across the intervening miles.

    It was in June that Blake’s diary told of his victory over the cryptogram.The text was, he found, in the dark Aklo language used by certain cults of evil antiquity, andknown to him in a halting way through previous researches. The diary is strangely reticent aboutwhat Blake deciphered, but he was patently awed and disconcerted by his results. There are referencesto a Haunter of the Dark awaked by gazing into the Shining Trapezohedron, and insane conjecturesabout the black gulfs of chaos from which it was called. The being is spoken of as holding allknowledge, and demanding monstrous sacrifices. Some of Blake’s entries shew fear lestthe thing, which he seemed to regard as summoned, stalk abroad; though he adds that the street-lightsform a bulwark which cannot be crossed.

    Of the Shining Trapezohedron he speaks often, calling it a window on all timeand space, and tracing its history from the days it was fashioned on dark Yuggoth, before everthe Old Ones brought it to earth. It was treasured and placed in its curious box by the crinoidthings of Antarctica, salvaged from their ruins by the serpent-men of Valusia, and peered ataeons later in Lemuria by the first human beings. It crossed strange lands and stranger seas,and sank with Atlantis before a Minoan fisher meshed it in his net and sold it to swarthy merchantsfrom nighted Khem. The Pharaoh Nephren-Ka built around it a temple with a windowless crypt,and did that which caused his name to be stricken from all monuments and records. Then it sleptin the ruins of that evil fane which the priests and the new Pharaoh destroyed, till the delver’sspade once more brought it forth to curse mankind.

    Early in July the newspapers oddly supplement Blake’s entries, thoughin so brief and casual a way that only the diary has called general attention to their contribution.It appears that a new fear had been growing on Federal Hill since a stranger had entered thedreaded church. The Italians whispered of unaccustomed stirrings and bumpings and scrapingsin the dark windowless steeple, and called on their priests to banish an entity which hauntedtheir dreams. Something, they said, was constantly watching at a door to see if it were darkenough to venture forth. Press items mentioned the long-standing local superstitions, but failedto shed much light on the earlier background of the horror. It was obvious that the young reportersof today are no antiquarians. In writing of these things in his diary, Blake expresses a curiouskind of remorse, and talks of the duty of burying the Shining Trapezohedron and of banishingwhat he had evoked by letting daylight into the hideous jutting spire. At the same time, however,he displays the dangerous extent of his fascination, and admits a morbid longing—pervadingeven his dreams—to visit the accursed tower and gaze again into the cosmic secrets ofthe glowing stone.

    Then something in the Journal on the morning of July 17 threw the diaristinto a veritable fever of horror. It was only a variant of the other half-humorous items aboutthe Federal Hill restlessness, but to Blake it was somehow very terrible indeed. In the nighta thunderstorm had put the city’s lighting-system out of commission for a full hour, andin that black interval the Italians had nearly gone mad with fright. Those living near the dreadedchurch had sworn that the thing in the steeple had taken advantage of the street-lamps’absence and gone down into the body of the church, flopping and bumping around in a viscous,altogether dreadful way. Toward the last it had bumped up to the tower, where there were soundsof the shattering of glass. It could go wherever the darkness reached, but light would alwayssend it fleeing.

    When the current blazed on again there had been a shocking commotion in thetower, for even the feeble light trickling through the grime-blackened, louver-boarded windowswas too much for the thing. It had bumped and slithered up into its tenebrous steeple just intime—for a long dose of light would have sent it back into the abyss whence the crazystranger had called it. During the dark hour praying crowds had clustered round the church inthe rain with lighted candles and lamps somehow shielded with folded paper and umbrellas—aguard of light to save the city from the nightmare that stalks in darkness. Once, those nearestthe church declared, the outer door had rattled hideously.

    But even this was not the worst. That evening in the Bulletin Blakeread of what the reporters had found. Aroused at last to the whimsical news value of the scare,a pair of them had defied the frantic crowds of Italians and crawled into the church throughthe cellar window after trying the doors in vain. They found the dust of the vestibule and ofthe spectral nave ploughed up in a singular way, with bits of rotted cushions and satin pew-liningsscattered curiously around. There was a bad odour everywhere, and here and there were bits ofyellow stain and patches of what looked like charring. Opening the door to the tower, and pausinga moment at the suspicion of a scraping sound above, they found the narrow spiral stairs wipedroughly clean.

    In the tower itself a similarly half-swept condition existed. They spoke ofthe heptagonal stone pillar, the overturned Gothic chairs, and the bizarre plaster images; thoughstrangely enough the metal box and the old mutilated skeleton were not mentioned. What disturbedBlake the most—except for the hints of stains and charring and bad odours—was thefinal detail that explained the crashing glass. Every one of the tower’s lancet windowswas broken, and two of them had been darkened in a crude and hurried way by the stuffing ofsatin pew-linings and cushion-horsehair into the spaces between the slanting exterior louver-boards.More satin fragments and bunches of horsehair lay scattered around the newly swept floor, asif someone had been interrupted in the act of restoring the tower to the absolute blacknessof its tightly curtained days.

    Yellowish stains and charred patches were found on the ladder to the windowlessspire, but when a reporter climbed up, opened the horizontally sliding trap-door, and shot afeeble flashlight beam into the black and strangely foetid space, he saw nothing but darkness,and an heterogeneous litter of shapeless fragments near the aperture. The verdict, of course,was charlatanry. Somebody had played a joke on the superstitious hill-dwellers, or else somefanatic had striven to bolster up their fears for their own supposed good. Or perhaps some ofthe younger and more sophisticated dwellers had staged an elaborate hoax on the outside world.There was an amusing aftermath when the police sent an officer to verify the reports. Threemen in succession found ways of evading the assignment, and the fourth went very reluctantlyand returned very soon without adding to the account given by the reporters.

    From this point onward Blake’s diary shews a mounting tide of insidioushorror and nervous apprehension. He upbraids himself for not doing something, and speculateswildly on the consequences of another electrical breakdown. It has been verified that on threeoccasions—during thunderstorms—he telephoned the electric light company in a franticvein and asked that desperate precautions against a lapse of power be taken. Now and then hisentries shew concern over the failure of the reporters to find the metal box and stone, andthe strangely marred old skeleton, when they explored the shadowy tower room. He assumed thatthese things had been removed—whither, and by whom or what, he could only guess. But hisworst fears concerned himself, and the kind of unholy rapport he felt to exist between his mindand that lurking horror in the distant steeple—that monstrous thing of night which hisrashness had called out of the ultimate black spaces. He seemed to feel a constant tugging athis will, and callers of that period remember how he would sit abstractedly at his desk andstare out of the west window at that far-off, spire-bristling mound beyond the swirling smokeof the city. His entries dwell monotonously on certain terrible dreams, and of a strengtheningof the unholy rapport in his sleep. There is mention of a night when he awaked to find himselffully dressed, outdoors, and headed automatically down College Hill toward the west. Again andagain he dwells on the fact that the thing in the steeple knows where to find him.

    The week following July 30 is recalled as the time of Blake’s partialbreakdown. He did not dress, and ordered all his food by telephone. Visitors remarked the cordshe kept near his bed, and he said that sleep-walking had forced him to bind his ankles everynight with knots which would probably hold or else waken him with the labour of untying.

    In his diary he told of the hideous experience which had brought the collapse.After retiring on the night of the 30th he had suddenly found himself groping about in an almostblack space. All he could see were short, faint, horizontal streaks of bluish light, but hecould smell an overpowering foetor and hear a curious jumble of soft, furtive sounds above him.Whenever he moved he stumbled over something, and at each noise there would come a sort of answeringsound from above—a vague stirring, mixed with the cautious sliding of wood on wood.

    Once his groping hands encountered a pillar of stone with a vacant top, whilstlater he found himself clutching the rungs of a ladder built into the wall, and fumbling hisuncertain way upward toward some region of intenser stench where a hot, searing blast beat downagainst him. Before his eyes a kaleidoscopic range of phantasmal images played, all of themdissolving at intervals into the picture of a vast, unplumbed abyss of night wherein whirledsuns and worlds of an even profounder blackness. He thought of the ancient legends of UltimateChaos, at whose centre sprawls the blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All Things, encircled byhis flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous pipingof a daemoniac flute held in nameless paws.

    Then a sharp report from the outer world broke through his stupor and rousedhim to the unutterable horror of his position. What it was, he never knew—perhaps it wassome belated peal from the fireworks heard all summer on Federal Hill as the dwellers hail theirvarious patron saints, or the saints of their native villages in Italy. In any event he shriekedaloud, dropped frantically from the ladder, and stumbled blindly across the obstructed floorof the almost lightless chamber that encompassed him.

    He knew instantly where he was, and plunged recklessly down the narrow spiralstaircase, tripping and bruising himself at every turn. There was a nightmare flight througha vast cobwebbed nave whose ghostly arches reached up to realms of leering shadow, a sightlessscramble through a littered basem*nt, a climb to regions of air and street-lights outside, anda mad racing down a spectral hill of gibbering gables, across a grim, silent city of tall blacktowers, and up the steep eastward precipice to his own ancient door.

    On regaining consciousness in the morning he found himself lying on his studyfloor fully dressed. Dirt and cobwebs covered him, and every inch of his body seemed sore andbruised. When he faced the mirror he saw that his hair was badly scorched, while a trace ofstrange, evil odour seemed to cling to his upper outer clothing. It was then that his nervesbroke down. Thereafter, lounging exhaustedly about in a dressing-gown, he did little but starefrom his west window, shiver at the threat of thunder, and make wild entries in his diary.

    The great storm broke just before midnight on August 8th. Lightning struckrepeatedly in all parts of the city, and two remarkable fireballs were reported. The rain wastorrential, while a constant fusillade of thunder brought sleeplessness to thousands. Blakewas utterly frantic in his fear for the lighting system, and tried to telephone the companyaround 1 a.m., though by that time service had been temporarily cut off in the interest of safety.He recorded everything in his diary—the large, nervous, and often undecipherable hieroglyphstelling their own story of growing frenzy and despair, and of entries scrawled blindly in thedark.

    He had to keep the house dark in order to see out the window, and it appearsthat most of his time was spent at his desk, peering anxiously through the rain across the glisteningmiles of downtown roofs at the constellation of distant lights marking Federal Hill. Now andthen he would fumblingly make an entry in his diary, so that detached phrases such as “Thelights must not go”; “It knows where I am”; “I must destroy it”;and “It is calling to me, but perhaps it means no injury this time”; are found scattereddown two of the pages.

    Then the lights went out all over the city. It happened at 2:12 a.m. accordingto power-house records, but Blake’s diary gives no indication of the time. The entry ismerely, “Lights out—God help me.” On Federal Hill there were watchers as anxiousas he, and rain-soaked knots of men paraded the square and alleys around the evil church withumbrella-shaded candles, electric flashlights, oil lanterns, crucifixes, and obscure charmsof the many sorts common to southern Italy. They blessed each flash of lightning, and made crypticalsigns of fear with their right hands when a turn in the storm caused the flashes to lessen andfinally to cease altogether. A rising wind blew out most of the candles, so that the scene grewthreateningly dark. Someone roused Father Merluzzo of Spirito Santo Church, and he hastenedto the dismal square to pronounce whatever helpful syllables he could. Of the restless and curioussounds in the blackened tower, there could be no doubt whatever.

    For what happened at 2:35 we have the testimony of the priest, a young, intelligent,and well-educated person; of Patrolman William J. Monahan of the Central Station, an officerof the highest reliability who had paused at that part of his beat to inspect the crowd; andof most of the seventy-eight men who had gathered around the church’s high bank wall—especiallythose in the square where the eastward facade was visible. Of course there was nothing whichcan be proved as being outside the order of Nature. The possible causes of such an event aremany. No one can speak with certainty of the obscure chemical processes arising in a vast, ancient,ill-aired, and long-deserted building of heterogeneous contents. Mephitic vapours—spontaneouscombustion—pressure of gases born of long decay—any one of numberless phenomenamight be responsible. And then, of course, the factor of conscious charlatanry can by no meansbe excluded. The thing was really quite simple in itself, and covered less than three minutesof actual time. Father Merluzzo, always a precise man, looked at his watch repeatedly.

    It started with a definite swelling of the dull fumbling sounds inside theblack tower. There had for some time been a vague exhalation of strange, evil odours from thechurch, and this had now become emphatic and offensive. Then at last there was a sound of splinteringwood, and a large, heavy object crashed down in the yard beneath the frowning easterly facade.The tower was invisible now that the candles would not burn, but as the object neared the groundthe people knew that it was the smoke-grimed louver-boarding of that tower’s east window.

    Immediately afterward an utterly unbearable foetor welled forth from the unseenheights, choking and sickening the trembling watchers, and almost prostrating those in the square.At the same time the air trembled with a vibration as of flapping wings, and a sudden east-blowingwind more violent than any previous blast snatched off the hats and wrenched the dripping umbrellasof the crowd. Nothing definite could be seen in the candleless night, though some upward-lookingspectators thought they glimpsed a great spreading blur of denser blackness against the inkysky—something like a formless cloud of smoke that shot with meteor-like speed toward theeast.

    That was all. The watchers were half numbed with fright, awe, and discomfort,and scarcely knew what to do, or whether to do anything at all. Not knowing what had happened,they did not relax their vigil; and a moment later they sent up a prayer as a sharp flash ofbelated lightning, followed by an earsplitting crash of sound, rent the flooded heavens. Halfan hour later the rain stopped, and in fifteen minutes more the street-lights sprang on again,sending the weary, bedraggled watchers relievedly back to their homes.

    The next day’s papers gave these matters minor mention in connexion withthe general storm reports. It seems that the great lightning flash and deafening explosion whichfollowed the Federal Hill occurrence were even more tremendous farther east, where a burst ofthe singular foetor was likewise noticed. The phenomenon was most marked over College Hill,where the crash awaked all the sleeping inhabitants and led to a bewildered round of speculations.Of those who were already awake only a few saw the anomalous blaze of light near the top ofthe hill, or noticed the inexplicable upward rush of air which almost stripped the leaves fromthe trees and blasted the plants in the gardens. It was agreed that the lone, sudden lightning-boltmust have struck somewhere in this neighbourhood, though no trace of its striking could afterwardbe found. A youth in the Tau Omega fraternity house thought he saw a grotesque and hideous massof smoke in the air just as the preliminary flash burst, but his observation has not been verified.All of the few observers, however, agree as to the violent gust from the west and the floodof intolerable stench which preceded the belated stroke; whilst evidence concerning the momentaryburned odour after the stroke is equally general.

    These points were discussed very carefully because of their probable connexionwith the death of Robert Blake. Students in the Psi Delta house, whose upper rear windows lookedinto Blake’s study, noticed the blurred white face at the westward window on the morningof the 9th, and wondered what was wrong with the expression. When they saw the same face inthe same position that evening, they felt worried, and watched for the lights to come up inhis apartment. Later they rang the bell of the darkened flat, and finally had a policeman forcethe door.

    The rigid body sat bolt upright at the desk by the window, and when the intruderssaw the glassy, bulging eyes, and the marks of stark, convulsive fright on the twisted features,they turned away in sickened dismay. Shortly afterward the coroner’s physician made anexamination, and despite the unbroken window reported electrical shock, or nervous tension inducedby electrical discharge, as the cause of death. The hideous expression he ignored altogether,deeming it a not improbable result of the profound shock as experienced by a person of suchabnormal imagination and unbalanced emotions. He deduced these latter qualities from the books,paintings, and manuscripts found in the apartment, and from the blindly scrawled entries inthe diary on the desk. Blake had prolonged his frenzied jottings to the last, and the broken-pointedpencil was found clutched in his spasmodically contracted right hand.

    The entries after the failure of the lights were highly disjointed, and legibleonly in part. From them certain investigators have drawn conclusions differing greatly fromthe materialistic official verdict, but such speculations have little chance for belief amongthe conservative. The case of these imaginative theorists has not been helped by the actionof superstitious Dr. Dexter, who threw the curious box and angled stone—an object certainlyself-luminous as seen in the black windowless steeple where it was found—into the deepestchannel of Narragansett Bay. Excessive imagination and neurotic unbalance on Blake’s part,aggravated by knowledge of the evil bygone cult whose startling traces he had uncovered, formthe dominant interpretation given those final frenzied jottings. These are the entries—orall that can be made of them.

    Lights still out—must be five minutes now. Everything dependson lightning. Yaddith grant it will keep up! . . . Some influence seems beating throughit. . . . Rain and thunder and wind deafen. . . . The thing istaking hold of my mind. . . .

    Trouble with memory. I see things I never knew before. Other worldsand other galaxies . . . Dark . . . The lightning seems dark andthe darkness seems light. . . .

    It cannot be the real hill and church that I see in the pitch-darkness.Must be retinal impression left by flashes. Heaven grant the Italians are out with their candlesif the lightning stops!

    What am I afraid of? Is it not an avatar of Nyarlathotep, who in antiqueand shadowy Khem even took the form of man? I remember Yuggoth, and more distant Shaggai, andthe ultimate void of the black planets. . . .

    The long, winging flight through the void . . . cannotcross the universe of light . . . re-created by the thoughts caught in the ShiningTrapezohedron . . . send it through the horrible abysses of radiance. . . .

    My name is Blake—Robert Harrison Blake of 620 East Knapp Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. . . . I am on this planet. . . .

    Azathoth have mercy!—the lightning no longer flashes—horrible—Ican see everything with a monstrous sense that is not sight—light is dark and dark islight . . . those people on the hill . . . guard . . .candles and charms . . . their priests. . . .

    Sense of distance gone—far is near and near is far. No light—noglass—see that steeple—that tower—window—can hear—Roderick Usher—ammad or going mad—the thing is stirring and fumbling in the tower—I am it and itis I—I want to get out . . . must get out and unify the forces. . . .It knows where I am. . . .

    I am Robert Blake, but I see the tower in the dark. There is a monstrousodour . . . senses transfigured . . . boarding at that tower windowcracking and giving way. . . . Iä . . . ngai . . .ygg. . . .

    I see it—coming here—hell-wind—titan blur—blackwings—Yog-Sothoth save me—the three-lobed burning eye. . . .

    I.

    It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope toshew by this statement that I am not his murderer. At first I shall be called a madman—madderthan the man I shot in his cell at the Arkham Sanitarium. Later some of my readers will weigheach statement, correlate it with the known facts, and ask themselves how I could have believedotherwise than as I did after facing the evidence of that horror—that thing on the doorstep.

    Until then I also saw nothing but madness in the wild tales I have acted on.Even now I ask myself whether I was misled—or whether I am not mad after all. I do notknow—but others have strange things to tell of Edward and Asenath Derby, and even thestolid police are at their wits’ ends to account for that last terrible visit. They havetried weakly to concoct a theory of a ghastly jest or warning by discharged servants, yet theyknow in their hearts that the truth is something infinitely more terrible and incredible.

    So I say that I have not murdered Edward Derby. Rather have I avenged him,and in so doing purged the earth of a horror whose survival might have loosed untold terrorson all mankind. There are black zones of shadow close to our daily paths, and now and then someevil soul breaks a passage through. When that happens, the man who knows must strike beforereckoning the consequences.

    I have known Edward Pickman Derby all his life. Eight years my junior, he wasso precocious that we had much in common from the time he was eight and I sixteen. He was themost phenomenal child scholar I have ever known, and at seven was writing verse of a sombre,fantastic, almost morbid cast which astonished the tutors surrounding him. Perhaps his privateeducation and coddled seclusion had something to do with his premature flowering. An only child,he had organic weaknesses which startled his doting parents and caused them to keep him closelychained to their side. He was never allowed out without his nurse, and seldom had a chance toplay unconstrainedly with other children. All this doubtless fostered a strange, secretive innerlife in the boy, with imagination as his one avenue of freedom.

    At any rate, his juvenile learning was prodigious and bizarre; and his facilewritings such as to captivate me despite my greater age. About that time I had leanings towardart of a somewhat grotesque cast, and I found in this younger child a rare kindred spirit. Whatlay behind our joint love of shadows and marvels was, no doubt, the ancient, mouldering, andsubtly fearsome town in which we lived—witch-cursed, legend-haunted Arkham, whose huddled,sagging gambrel roofs and crumbling Georgian balustrades brood out the centuries beside thedarkly muttering Miskatonic.

    As time went by I turned to architecture and gave up my design of illustratinga book of Edward’s daemoniac poems, yet our comradeship suffered no lessening. Young Derby’sodd genius developed remarkably, and in his eighteenth year his collected nightmare-lyrics madea real sensation when issued under the title Azathoth and Other Horrors. He was a closecorrespondent of the notorious Baudelairean poet Justin Geoffrey, who wrote The People ofthe Monolith and died screaming in a madhouse in 1926 after a visit to a sinister, ill-regardedvillage in Hungary.

    In self-reliance and practical affairs, however, Derby was greatly retardedbecause of his coddled existence. His health had improved, but his habits of childish dependencewere fostered by overcareful parents; so that he never travelled alone, made independent decisions,or assumed responsibilities. It was early seen that he would not be equal to a struggle in thebusiness or professional arena, but the family fortune was so ample that this formed no tragedy.As he grew to years of manhood he retained a deceptive aspect of boyishness. Blond and blue-eyed,he had the fresh complexion of a child; and his attempts to raise a moustache were discernibleonly with difficulty. His voice was soft and light, and his pampered, unexercised life gavehim a juvenile chubbiness rather than the paunchiness of premature middle age. He was of goodheight, and his handsome face would have made him a notable gallant had not his shyness heldhim to seclusion and bookishness.

    Derby’s parents took him abroad every summer, and he was quick to seizeon the surface aspects of European thought and expression. His Poe-like talents turned moreand more toward the decadent, and other artistic sensitivenesses and yearnings were half-arousedin him. We had great discussions in those days. I had been through Harvard, had studied in aBoston architect’s office, had married, and had finally returned to Arkham to practicemy profession—settling in the family homestead in Saltonstall St. since my father hadmoved to Florida for his health. Edward used to call almost every evening, till I came to regardhim as one of the household. He had a characteristic way of ringing the doorbell or soundingthe knocker that grew to be a veritable code signal, so that after dinner I always listenedfor the familiar three brisk strokes followed by two more after a pause. Less frequently I wouldvisit at his house and note with envy the obscure volumes in his constantly growing library.

    Derby went through Miskatonic University in Arkham, since his parents wouldnot let him board away from them. He entered at sixteen and completed his course in three years,majoring in English and French literature and receiving high marks in everything but mathematicsand the sciences. He mingled very little with the other students, though looking enviously atthe “daring” or “Bohemian” set—whose superficially “smart”language and meaninglessly ironic pose he aped, and whose dubious conduct he wished he daredadopt.

    What he did do was to become an almost fanatical devotee of subterranean magicallore, for which Miskatonic’s library was and is famous. Always a dweller on the surfaceof phantasy and strangeness, he now delved deep into the actual runes and riddles left by afabulous past for the guidance or puzzlement of posterity. He read things like the frightfulBook of Eibon, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and the forbiddenNecronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, though he did not tell his parents he had seenthem. Edward was twenty when my son and only child was born, and seemed pleased when I namedthe newcomer Edward Derby Upton, after him.

    By the time he was twenty-five Edward Derby was a prodigiously learned manand a fairly well-known poet and fantaisiste, though his lack of contacts and responsibilitieshad slowed down his literary growth by making his products derivative and overbookish. I wasperhaps his closest friend—finding him an inexhaustible mine of vital theoretical topics,while he relied on me for advice in whatever matters he did not wish to refer to his parents.He remained single—more through shyness, inertia, and parental protectiveness than throughinclination—and moved in society only to the slightest and most perfunctory extent. Whenthe war came both health and ingrained timidity kept him at home. I went to Plattsburg for acommission, but never got overseas.

    So the years wore on. Edward’s mother died when he was thirty-four, andfor months he was incapacitated by some odd psychological malady. His father took him to Europe,however, and he managed to pull out of his trouble without visible effects. Afterward he seemedto feel a sort of grotesque exhilaration, as if of partial escape from some unseen bondage.He began to mingle in the more “advanced” college set despite his middle age, andwas present at some extremely wild doings—on one occasion paying heavy blackmail (whichhe borrowed of me) to keep his presence at a certain affair from his father’s notice.Some of the whispered rumours about the wild Miskatonic set were extremely singular. There waseven talk of black magic and of happenings utterly beyond credibility.

    II.

    Edward was thirty-eight when he met Asenath Waite. She was, I judge, about twenty-three at thetime; and was taking a special course in mediaeval metaphysics at Miskatonic. The daughter ofa friend of mine had met her before—in the Hall School at Kingsport—and had beeninclined to shun her because of her odd reputation. She was dark, smallish, and very good-lookingexcept for overprotuberant eyes; but something in her expression alienated extremely sensitivepeople. It was, however, largely her origin and conversation which caused average folk to avoidher. She was one of the Innsmouth Waites, and dark legends have clustered for generations aboutcrumbling, half-deserted Innsmouth and its people. There are tales of horrible bargains aboutthe year 1850, and of a strange element “not quite human” in the ancient familiesof the run-down fishing port—tales such as only old-time Yankees can devise and repeatwith proper awesomeness.

    Asenath’s case was aggravated by the fact that she was Ephraim Waite’sdaughter—the child of his old age by an unknown wife who always went veiled. Ephraim livedin a half-decayed mansion in Washington Street, Innsmouth, and those who had seen the place(Arkham folk avoid going to Innsmouth whenever they can) declared that the attic windows werealways boarded, and that strange sounds sometimes floated from within as evening drew on. Theold man was known to have been a prodigious magical student in his day, and legend averred thathe could raise or quell storms at sea according to his whim. I had seen him once or twice inmy youth as he came to Arkham to consult forbidden tomes at the college library, and had hatedhis wolfish, saturnine face with its tangle of iron-grey beard. He had died insane—underrather queer circ*mstances—just before his daughter (by his will made a nominal ward ofthe principal) entered the Hall School, but she had been his morbidly avid pupil and lookedfiendishly like him at times.

    The friend whose daughter had gone to school with Asenath Waite repeated manycurious things when the news of Edward’s acquaintance with her began to spread about.Asenath, it seemed, had posed as a kind of magician at school; and had really seemed able toaccomplish some highly baffling marvels. She professed to be able to raise thunderstorms, thoughher seeming success was generally laid to some uncanny knack at prediction. All animals markedlydisliked her, and she could make any dog howl by certain motions of her right hand. There weretimes when she displayed snatches of knowledge and language very singular—and very shocking—fora young girl; when she would frighten her schoolmates with leers and winks of an inexplicablekind, and would seem to extract an obscene and zestful irony from her present situation.

    Most unusual, though, were the well-attested cases of her influence over otherpersons. She was, beyond question, a genuine hypnotist. By gazing peculiarly at a fellow-studentshe would often give the latter a distinct feeling of exchanged personality —asif the subject were placed momentarily in the magician’s body and able to stare half acrossthe room at her real body, whose eyes blazed and protruded with an alien expression. Asenathoften made wild claims about the nature of consciousness and about its independence of the physicalframe—or at least from the life-processes of the physical frame. Her crowning rage, however,was that she was not a man; since she believed a male brain had certain unique and far-reachingcosmic powers. Given a man’s brain, she declared, she could not only equal but surpassher father in mastery of unknown forces.

    Edward met Asenath at a gathering of “intelligentsia” held in oneof the students’ rooms, and could talk of nothing else when he came to see me the nextday. He had found her full of the interests and erudition which engrossed him most, and wasin addition wildly taken with her appearance. I had never seen the young woman, and recalledcasual references only faintly, but I knew who she was. It seemed rather regrettable that Derbyshould become so upheaved about her; but I said nothing to discourage him, since infatuationthrives on opposition. He was not, he said, mentioning her to his father.

    In the next few weeks I heard of very little but Asenath from young Derby.Others now remarked Edward’s autumnal gallantry, though they agreed that he did not lookeven nearly his actual age, or seem at all inappropriate as an escort for his bizarre divinity.He was only a trifle paunchy despite his indolence and self-indulgence, and his face was absolutelywithout lines. Asenath, on the other hand, had the premature crow’s feet which come fromthe exercise of an intense will.

    About this time Edward brought the girl to call on me, and I at once saw thathis interest was by no means one-sided. She eyed him continually with an almost predatory air,and I perceived that their intimacy was beyond untangling. Soon afterward I had a visit fromold Mr. Derby, whom I had always admired and respected. He had heard the tales of his son’snew friendship, and had wormed the whole truth out of “the boy”. Edward meant tomarry Asenath, and had even been looking at houses in the suburbs. Knowing my usually greatinfluence with his son, the father wondered if I could help to break the ill-advised affairoff; but I regretfully expressed my doubts. This time it was not a question of Edward’sweak will but of the woman’s strong will. The perennial child had transferred his dependencefrom the parental image to a new and stronger image, and nothing could be done about it.

    The wedding was performed a month later—by a justice of the peace, accordingto the bride’s request. Mr. Derby, at my advice, offered no opposition; and he, my wife,my son, and I attended the brief ceremony—the other guests being wild young people fromthe college. Asenath had bought the old Crowninshield place in the country at the end of HighStreet, and they proposed to settle there after a short trip to Innsmouth, whence three servantsand some books and household goods were to be brought. It was probably not so much considerationfor Edward and his father as a personal wish to be near the college, its library, and its crowdof “sophisticates”, that made Asenath settle in Arkham instead of returning permanentlyhome.

    When Edward called on me after the honeymoon I thought he looked slightly changed.Asenath had made him get rid of the undeveloped moustache, but there was more than that. Helooked soberer and more thoughtful, his habitual pout of childish rebelliousness being exchangedfor a look almost of genuine sadness. I was puzzled to decide whether I liked or disliked thechange. Certainly, he seemed for the moment more normally adult than ever before. Perhaps themarriage was a good thing—might not the change of dependence form a start towardactual neutralisation, leading ultimately to responsible independence? He came alone,for Asenath was very busy. She had brought a vast store of books and apparatus from Innsmouth(Derby shuddered as he spoke the name), and was finishing the restoration of the Crowninshieldhouse and grounds.

    Her home in—that town—was a rather disquieting place, but certainobjects in it had taught him some surprising things. He was progressing fast in esoteric lorenow that he had Asenath’s guidance. Some of the experiments she proposed were very daringand radical—he did not feel at liberty to describe them—but he had confidence inher powers and intentions. The three servants were very queer—an incredibly aged couplewho had been with old Ephraim and referred occasionally to him and to Asenath’s dead motherin a cryptic way, and a swarthy young wench who had marked anomalies of feature and seemed toexude a perpetual odour of fish.

    III.

    For the next two years I saw less and less of Derby. A fortnight would sometimes slip by withoutthe familiar three-and-two strokes at the front door; and when he did call—or when, ashappened with increasing infrequency, I called on him—he was very little disposed to converseon vital topics. He had become secretive about those occult studies which he used to describeand discuss so minutely, and preferred not to talk of his wife. She had aged tremendously sinceher marriage, till now—oddly enough—she seemed the elder of the two. Her face heldthe most concentratedly determined expression I had ever seen, and her whole aspect seemed togain a vague, unplaceable repulsiveness. My wife and son noticed it as much as I, and we allceased gradually to call on her—for which, Edward admitted in one of his boyishly tactlessmoments, she was unmitigatedly grateful. Occasionally the Derbys would go on long trips—ostensiblyto Europe, though Edward sometimes hinted at obscurer destinations.

    It was after the first year that people began talking about the change in EdwardDerby. It was very casual talk, for the change was purely psychological; but it brought up someinteresting points. Now and then, it seemed, Edward was observed to wear an expression and todo things wholly incompatible with his usual flabby nature. For example—although in theold days he could not drive a car, he was now seen occasionally to dash into or out of the oldCrowninshield driveway with Asenath’s powerful Packard, handling it like a master, andmeeting traffic entanglements with a skill and determination utterly alien to his accustomednature. In such cases he seemed always to be just back from some trip or just starting on one—whatsort of trip, no one could guess, although he mostly favoured the Innsmouth road.

    Oddly, the metamorphosis did not seem altogether pleasing. People said he lookedtoo much like his wife, or like old Ephraim Waite himself, in these moments—or perhapsthese moments seemed unnatural because they were so rare. Sometimes, hours after starting outin this way, he would return listlessly sprawled on the rear seat of the car while an obviouslyhired chauffeur or mechanic drove. Also, his preponderant aspect on the streets during his decreasinground of social contacts (including, I may say, his calls on me) was the old-time indecisiveone—its irresponsible childishness even more marked than in the past. While Asenath’sface aged, Edward’s—aside from those exceptional occasions—actually relaxedinto a kind of exaggerated immaturity, save when a trace of the new sadness or understandingwould flash across it. It was really very puzzling. Meanwhile the Derbys almost dropped outof the gay college circle—not through their own disgust, we heard, but because somethingabout their present studies shocked even the most callous of the other decadents.

    It was in the third year of the marriage that Edward began to hint openly tome of a certain fear and dissatisfaction. He would let fall remarks about things ‘goingtoo far’, and would talk darkly about the need of ‘saving his identity’. Atfirst I ignored such references, but in time I began to question him guardedly, rememberingwhat my friend’s daughter had said about Asenath’s hypnotic influence over the othergirls at school—the cases where students had thought they were in her body looking acrossthe room at themselves. This questioning seemed to make him at once alarmed and grateful, andonce he mumbled something about having a serious talk with me later.

    About this time old Mr. Derby died, for which I was afterward very thankful.Edward was badly upset, though by no means disorganised. He had seen astonishingly little ofhis parent since his marriage, for Asenath had concentrated in herself all his vital sense offamily linkage. Some called him callous in his loss—especially since those jaunty andconfident moods in the car began to increase. He now wished to move back into the old Derbymansion, but Asenath insisted on staying in the Crowninshield house, to which she had becomewell adjusted.

    Not long afterward my wife heard a curious thing from a friend—one ofthe few who had not dropped the Derbys. She had been out to the end of High St. to call on thecouple, and had seen a car shoot briskly out of the drive with Edward’s oddly confidentand almost sneering face above the wheel. Ringing the bell, she had been told by the repulsivewench that Asenath was also out; but had chanced to look up at the house in leaving. There,at one of Edward’s library windows, she had glimpsed a hastily withdrawn face—aface whose expression of pain, defeat, and wistful hopelessness was poignant beyond description.It was—incredibly enough in view of its usual domineering cast—Asenath’s;yet the caller had vowed that in that instant the sad, muddled eyes of poor Edward were gazingout from it.

    Edward’s calls now grew a trifle more frequent, and his hints occasionallybecame concrete. What he said was not to be believed, even in centuried and legend-haunted Arkham;but he threw out his dark lore with a sincerity and convincingness which made one fear for hissanity. He talked about terrible meetings in lonely places, of Cyclopean ruins in the heartof the Maine woods beneath which vast staircases lead down to abysses of nighted secrets, ofcomplex angles that lead through invisible walls to other regions of space and time, and ofhideous exchanges of personality that permitted explorations in remote and forbidden places,on other worlds, and in different space-time continua.

    He would now and then back up certain crazy hints by exhibiting objects whichutterly nonplussed me—elusively coloured and bafflingly textured objects like nothingever heard of on earth, whose insane curves and surfaces answered no conceivable purpose andfollowed no conceivable geometry. These things, he said, came ‘from outside’; andhis wife knew how to get them. Sometimes—but always in frightened and ambiguous whispers—hewould suggest things about old Ephraim Waite, whom he had seen occasionally at the college libraryin the old days. These adumbrations were never specific, but seemed to revolve around some especiallyhorrible doubt as to whether the old wizard were really dead—in a spiritual as well ascorporeal sense.

    At times Derby would halt abruptly in his revelations, and I wondered whetherAsenath could possibly have divined his speech at a distance and cut him off through some unknownsort of telepathic mesmerism—some power of the kind she had displayed at school. Certainly,she suspected that he told me things, for as the weeks passed she tried to stop his visits withwords and glances of a most inexplicable potency. Only with difficulty could he get to see me,for although he would pretend to be going somewhere else, some invisible force would generallyclog his motions or make him forget his destination for the time being. His visits usually camewhen Asenath was away— “away in her own body”, as he once oddly put it. Shealways found out later—the servants watched his goings and comings—but evidentlyshe thought it inexpedient to do anything drastic.

    IV.

    Derby had been married more than three years on that August day when I got the telegram fromMaine. I had not seen him for two months, but had heard he was away _“on business”.Asenath was supposed to be with him, though watchful gossips declared there was someone upstairsin the house behind the doubly curtained windows. They had watched the purchases made by theservants. And now the town marshal of Chesuncook had wired of the draggled madman who stumbledout of the woods with delirious ravings and screamed to me for protection. It was Edward—andhe had been just able to recall his own name and my name and address.

    Chesuncook is close to the wildest, deepest, and least explored forest beltin Maine, and it took a whole day of feverish jolting through fantastic and forbidding sceneryto get there in a car. I found Derby in a cell at the town farm, vacillating between frenzyand apathy. He knew me at once, and began pouring out a meaningless, half-incoherent torrentof words in my direction.

    “Dan—for God’s sake! The pit of the shoggoths! Down the sixthousand steps . . . the abomination of abominations . . . I neverwould let her take me, and then I found myself there. . . . Iä!Shub-Niggurath! . . . The shape rose up from the altar, and there were 500 that howled. . . .The Hooded Thing bleated “Kamog! Kamog!’—that was old Ephraim’s secretname in the coven. . . . I was there, where she promised she wouldn’t takeme. . . . A minute before I was locked in the library, and then I was there whereshe had gone with my body—in the place of utter blasphemy, the unholy pit where the blackrealm begins and the watcher guards the gate. . . . I saw a shoggoth—itchanged shape. . . . I can’t stand it. . . . I won’tstand it. . . . I’ll kill her if she ever sends me there again. . . .I’ll kill that entity . . . her, him, it . . . I’llkill it! I’ll kill it with my own hands!”

    It took me an hour to quiet him, but he subsided at last. The next day I gothim decent clothes in the village, and set out with him for Arkham. His fury of hysteria wasspent, and he was inclined to be silent; though he began muttering darkly to himself when thecar passed through Augusta—as if the sight of a city aroused unpleasant memories. It wasclear that he did not wish to go home; and considering the fantastic delusions he seemed tohave about his wife—delusions undoubtedly springing from some actual hypnotic ordeal towhich he had been subjected—I thought it would be better if he did not. I would, I resolved,put him up myself for a time; no matter what unpleasantness it would make with Asenath. LaterI would help him get a divorce, for most assuredly there were mental factors which made thismarriage suicidal for him. When we struck open country again Derby’s muttering faded away,and I let him nod and drowse on the seat beside me as I drove.

    During our sunset dash through Portland the muttering commenced again, moredistinctly than before, and as I listened I caught a stream of utterly insane drivel about Asenath.The extent to which she had preyed on Edward’s nerves was plain, for he had woven a wholeset of hallucinations around her. His present predicament, he mumbled furtively, was only oneof a long series. She was getting hold of him, and he knew that some day she would never letgo. Even now she probably let him go only when she had to, because she couldn’t hold onlong at a time. She constantly took his body and went to nameless places for nameless rites,leaving him in her body and locking him upstairs—but sometimes she couldn’t holdon, and he would find himself suddenly in his own body again in some far-off, horrible, andperhaps unknown place. Sometimes she’d get hold of him again and sometimes she couldn’t.Often he was left stranded somewhere as I had found him . . . time and againhe had to find his way home from frightful distances, getting somebody to drive the car afterhe found it.

    The worst thing was that she was holding on to him longer and longer at a time.She wanted to be a man—to be fully human—that was why she got hold of him. She hadsensed the mixture of fine-wrought brain and weak will in him. Some day she would crowd himout and disappear with his body—disappear to become a great magician like her father andleave him marooned in that female shell that wasn’t even quite human. Yes, he knew aboutthe Innsmouth blood now. There had been traffick with things from the sea—it washorrible. . . . And old Ephraim—he had known the secret, and when he grew olddid a hideous thing to keep alive . . . he wanted to liveforever . . . Asenath would succeed—one successful demonstration had takenplace already.

    As Derby muttered on I turned to look at him closely, verifying the impressionof change which an earlier scrutiny had given me. Paradoxically, he seemed in better shape thanusual—harder, more normally developed, and without the trace of sickly flabbiness causedby his indolent habits. It was as if he had been really active and properly exercised for thefirst time in his coddled life, and I judged that Asenath’s force must have pushed himinto unwonted channels of motion and alertness. But just now his mind was in a pitiable state;for he was mumbling wild extravagances about his wife, about black magic, about old Ephraim,and about some revelation which would convince even me. He repeated names which I recognisedfrom bygone browsings in forbidden volumes, and at times made me shudder with a certain threadof mythological consistency—of convincing coherence—which ran through his maundering.Again and again he would pause, as if to gather courage for some final and terrible disclosure.

    “Dan, Dan, don’t you remember him—the wild eyes and the unkemptbeard that never turned white? He glared at me once, and I never forgot it. Now she glaresthat way. And I know why! He found it in the Necronomicon —the formula. Idon’t dare tell you the page yet, but when I do you can read and understand. Then youwill know what has engulfed me. On, on, on, on—body to body to body—he means neverto die. The life-glow—he knows how to break the link . . . it can flickeron a while even when the body is dead. I’ll give you hints, and maybe you’ll guess.Listen, Dan—do you know why my wife always takes such pains with that silly backhand writing?Have you ever seen a manuscript of old Ephraim’s? Do you want to know why I shivered whenI saw some hasty notes Asenath had jotted down?”

    “Asenath . . . is there such a person? Why didthey half think there was poison in old Ephraim’s stomach? Why do the Gilmans whisperabout the way he shrieked—like a frightened child—when he went mad and Asenath lockedhim up in the padded attic room where—the other—had been? Was it old Ephraim’ssoul that was locked in? Who locked in whom? Why had he been looking for months for someonewith a fine mind and a weak will? Why did he curse that his daughter wasn’t a son? Tellme, Daniel Upton— what devilish exchange was perpetrated in the house of horror wherethat blasphemous monster had his trusting, weak-willed, half-human child at his mercy? Didn’the make it permanent—as she’ll do in the end with me? Tell me why that thing thatcalls itself Asenath writes differently when off guard, so that you can’t tell itsscript from . . . “

    Then the thing happened. Derby’s voice was rising to a thin treble screamas he raved, when suddenly it was shut off with an almost mechanical click. I thought of thoseother occasions at my home when his confidences had abruptly ceased—when I had half fanciedthat some obscure telepathic wave of Asenath’s mental force was intervening to keep himsilent. This, though, was something altogether different—and, I felt, infinitely morehorrible. The face beside me was twisted almost unrecognisably for a moment, while through thewhole body there passed a shivering motion—as if all the bones, organs, muscles, nerves,and glands were readjusting themselves to a radically different posture, set of stresses, andgeneral personality.

    Just where the supreme horror lay, I could not for my life tell; yet thereswept over me such a swamping wave of sickness and repulsion—such a freezing, petrifyingsense of utter alienage and abnormality—that my grasp of the wheel grew feeble and uncertain.The figure beside me seemed less like a lifelong friend than like some monstrous intrusion fromouter space—some damnable, utterly accursed focus of unknown and malign cosmic forces.

    I had faltered only a moment, but before another moment was over my companionhad seized the wheel and forced me to change places with him. The dusk was now very thick, andthe lights of Portland far behind, so I could not see much of his face. The blaze of his eyes,though, was phenomenal; and I knew that he must now be in that queerly energised state—sounlike his usual self—which so many people had noticed. It seemed odd and incredible thatlistless Edward Derby—he who could never assert himself, and who had never learned todrive—should be ordering me about and taking the wheel of my own car, yet that was preciselywhat had happened. He did not speak for some time, and in my inexplicable horror I was gladhe did not.

    In the lights of Biddeford and Saco I saw his firmly set mouth, and shiveredat the blaze of his eyes. The people were right—he did look damnably like his wife andlike old Ephraim when in these moods. I did not wonder that the moods were disliked—therewas certainly something unnatural and diabolic in them, and I felt the sinister element allthe more because of the wild ravings I had been hearing. This man, for all my lifelong knowledgeof Edward Pickman Derby, was a stranger—an intrusion of some sort from the black abyss.

    He did not speak until we were on a dark stretch of road, and when he did hisvoice seemed utterly unfamiliar. It was deeper, firmer, and more decisive than I had ever knownit to be; while its accent and pronunciation were altogether changed—though vaguely, remotely,and rather disturbingly recalling something I could not quite place. There was, I thought, atrace of very profound and very genuine irony in the timbre—not the flashy, meaninglesslyjaunty pseudo-irony of the callow “sophisticate”, which Derby had habitually affected,but something grim, basic, pervasive, and potentially evil. I marvelled at the self-possessionso soon following the spell of panic-struck muttering.

    “I hope you’ll forget my attack back there, Upton”, he wassaying. “You know what my nerves are, and I guess you can excuse such things. I’menormously grateful, of course, for this lift home.”

    “And you must forget, too, any crazy things I may have been saying aboutmy wife—and about things in general. That’s what comes from overstudy in a fieldlike mine. My philosophy is full of bizarre concepts, and when the mind gets worn out it cooksup all sorts of imaginary concrete applications. I shall take a rest from now on—you probablywon’t see me for some time, and you needn’t blame Asenath for it.”

    “This trip was a bit queer, but it’s really very simple. Thereare certain Indian relics in the north woods—standing stones, and all that—whichmean a good deal in folklore, and Asenath and I are following that stuff up. It was a hard search,so I seem to have gone off my head. I must send somebody for the car when I get home. A month’srelaxation will put me back on my feet.”

    I do not recall just what my own part of the conversation was, for the bafflingalienage of my seatmate filled all my consciousness. With every moment my feeling of elusivecosmic horror increased, till at length I was in a virtual delirium of longing for the end ofthe drive. Derby did not offer to relinquish the wheel, and I was glad of the speed with whichPortsmouth and Newburyport flashed by.

    At the junction where the main highway runs inland and avoids Innsmouth I washalf afraid my driver would take the bleak shore road that goes through that damnable place.He did not, however, but darted rapidly past Rowley and Ipswich toward our destination. We reachedArkham before midnight, and found the lights still on at the old Crowninshield house. Derbyleft the car with a hasty repetition of his thanks, and I drove home alone with a curious feelingof relief. It had been a terrible drive—all the more terrible because I could not quitetell why—and I did not regret Derby’s forecast of a long absence from my company.

    V.

    The next two months were full of rumours. People spoke of seeing Derby more and more in hisnew energised state, and Asenath was scarcely ever in to her few callers. I had only one visitfrom Edward, when he called briefly in Asenath’s car—duly reclaimed from whereverhe had left it in Maine—to get some books he had lent me. He was in his new state, andpaused only long enough for some evasively polite remarks. It was plain that he had nothingto discuss with me when in this condition—and I noticed that he did not even trouble togive the old three-and-two signal when ringing the doorbell. As on that evening in the car,I felt a faint, infinitely deep horror which I could not explain; so that his swift departurewas a prodigious relief.

    In mid-September Derby was away for a week, and some of the decadent collegeset talked knowingly of the matter—hinting at a meeting with a notorious cult-leader,lately expelled from England, who had established headquarters in New York. For my part I couldnot get that strange ride from Maine out of my head. The transformation I had witnessed hadaffected me profoundly, and I caught myself again and again trying to account for the thing—andfor the extreme horror it had inspired in me.

    But the oddest rumours were those about the sobbing in the old Crowninshieldhouse. The voice seemed to be a woman’s, and some of the younger people thought it soundedlike Asenath’s. It was heard only at rare intervals, and would sometimes be choked offas if by force. There was talk of an investigation, but this was dispelled one day when Asenathappeared in the streets and chatted in a sprightly way with a large number of acquaintances—apologisingfor her recent absences and speaking incidentally about the nervous breakdown and hysteria ofa guest from Boston. The guest was never seen, but Asenath’s appearance left nothing tobe said. And then someone complicated matters by whispering that the sobs had once or twicebeen in a man’s voice.

    One evening in mid-October I heard the familiar three-and-two ring at the frontdoor. Answering it myself, I found Edward on the steps, and saw in a moment that his personalitywas the old one which I had not encountered since the day of his ravings on that terrible ridefrom Chesuncook. His face was twitching with a mixture of odd emotions in which fear and triumphseemed to share dominion, and he looked furtively over his shoulder as I closed the door behindhim.

    Following me clumsily to the study, he asked for some whiskey to steady hisnerves. I forbore to question him, but waited till he felt like beginning whatever he wantedto say. At length he ventured some information in a choking voice.

    “Asenath has gone, Dan. We had a long talk last night while the servantswere out, and I made her promise to stop preying on me. Of course I had certain—certainoccult defences I never told you about. She had to give in, but got frightfully angry. Justpacked up and started for New York—walked right out to catch the 8:20 in to Boston. Isuppose people will talk, but I can’t help that. You needn’t mention that therewas any trouble—just say she’s gone on a long research trip.”

    “She’s probably going to stay with one of her horrible groups ofdevotees. I hope she’ll go west and get a divorce—anyhow, I’ve made her promiseto keep away and let me alone. It was horrible, Dan—she was stealing my body—crowdingme out—making a prisoner of me. I laid low and pretended to let her do it, but I had tobe on the watch. I could plan if I was careful, for she can’t read my mind literally,or in detail. All she could read of my planning was a sort of general mood of rebellion—andshe always thought I was helpless. Never thought I could get the best of her . . .but I had a spell or two that worked.”

    Derby looked over his shoulder and took some more whiskey.

    “I paid off those damned servants this morning when they got back. Theywere ugly about it, and asked questions, but they went. They’re her kind—Innsmouthpeople—and were hand and glove with her. I hope they’ll let me alone—I didn’tlike the way they laughed when they walked away. I must get as many of Dad’s old servantsagain as I can. I’ll move back home now.”

    “I suppose you think I’m crazy, Dan—but Arkham history oughtto hint at things that back up what I’ve told you—and what I’m going to tellyou. You’ve seen one of the changes, too—in your car after I told you about Asenaththat day coming home from Maine. That was when she got me—drove me out of my body. Thelast thing of the ride I remember was when I was all worked up trying to tell you what thatshe-devil is. Then she got me, and in a flash I was back at the house—in the librarywhere those damned servants had me locked up—and in that cursed fiend’s body . . .that isn’t even human. . . . You know, it was she you must have riddenhome with . . . that preying wolf in my body. . . . You oughtto have known the difference!”

    I shuddered as Derby paused. Surely, I had known the difference—yetcould I accept an explanation as insane as this? But my distracted caller was growing even wilder.

    “I had to save myself—I had to, Dan! She’d have got me forgood at Hallowmass—they hold a Sabbat up there beyond Chesuncook, and the sacrifice wouldhave clinched things. She’d have got me for good . . . she’d havebeen I, and I’d have been she . . . forever . . . too late. . . .My body’d have been hers for good. . . . She’d have been a man, andfully human, just as she wanted to be. . . . I suppose she’d have put meout of the way—killed her own ex-body with me in it, damn her, just as she did before —justas she, he, or it did before. . . .”

    Edward’s face was now atrociously distorted, and he bent it uncomfortablyclose to mine as his voice fell to a whisper.

    “You must know what I hinted in the car— that she isn’tAsenath at all, but really old Ephraim himself. I suspected it a year and a half ago, butI know it now. Her handwriting shews it when she’s off guard—sometimes she jotsdown a note in writing that’s just like her father’s manuscripts, stroke for stroke—andsometimes she says things that nobody but an old man like Ephraim could say. He changed formswith her when he felt death coming—she was the only one he could find with the right kindof brain and a weak enough will—he got her body permanently, just as she almost got mine,and then poisoned the old body he’d put her into. Haven’t you seen old Ephraim’ssoul glaring out of that she-devil’s eyes dozens of times . . . and outof mine when she had control of my body?”

    The whisperer was panting, and paused for breath. I said nothing, and whenhe resumed his voice was nearer normal. This, I reflected, was a case for the asylum, but Iwould not be the one to send him there. Perhaps time and freedom from Asenath would do its work.I could see that he would never wish to dabble in morbid occultism again.

    “I’ll tell you more later—I must have a long rest now. I’lltell you something of the forbidden horrors she led me into—something of the age-old horrorsthat even now are festering in out-of-the-way corners with a few monstrous priests to keep themalive. Some people know things about the universe that nobody ought to know, and can do thingsthat nobody ought to be able to do. I’ve been in it up to my neck, but that’s theend. Today I’d burn that damned Necronomicon and all the rest if I were librarianat Miskatonic.”

    “But she can’t get me now. I must get out of that accursed houseas soon as I can, and settle down at home. You’ll help me, I know, if I need help. Thosedevilish servants, you know . . . and if people should get too inquisitive aboutAsenath. You see, I can’t give them her address. . . . Then there are certaingroups of searchers—certain cults, you know—that might misunderstand our breakingup . . . some of them have damnably curious ideas and methods. I know you’llstand by me if anything happens—even if I have to tell you a lot that will shock you. . . .”

    I had Edward stay and sleep in one of the guest-chambers that night, and inthe morning he seemed calmer. We discussed certain possible arrangements for his moving backinto the Derby mansion, and I hoped he would lose no time in making the change. He did not callthe next evening, but I saw him frequently during the ensuing weeks. We talked as little aspossible about strange and unpleasant things, but discussed the renovation of the old Derbyhouse, and the travels which Edward promised to take with my son and me the following summer.

    Of Asenath we said almost nothing, for I saw that the subject was a peculiarlydisturbing one. Gossip, of course, was rife; but that was no novelty in connexion with the strangeménage at the old Crowninshield house. One thing I did not like was what Derby’sbanker let fall in an overexpansive mood at the Miskatonic Club—about the cheques Edwardwas sending regularly to a Moses and Abigail Sargent and a Eunice Babson in Innsmouth. Thatlooked as if those evil-faced servants were extorting some kind of tribute from him—yethe had not mentioned the matter to me.

    I wished that the summer—and my son’s Harvard vacation—wouldcome, so that we could get Edward to Europe. He was not, I soon saw, mending as rapidly as Ihad hoped he would; for there was something a bit hysterical in his occasional exhilaration,while his moods of fright and depression were altogether too frequent. The old Derby house wasready by December, yet Edward constantly put off moving. Though he hated and seemed to fearthe Crowninshield place, he was at the same time queerly enslaved by it. He could not seem tobegin dismantling things, and invented every kind of excuse to postpone action. When I pointedthis out to him he appeared unaccountably frightened. His father’s old butler—whowas there with other reacquired family servants—told me one day that Edward’s occasionalprowlings about the house, and especially down cellar, looked odd and unwholesome to him. Iwondered if Asenath had been writing disturbing letters, but the butler said there was no mailwhich could have come from her.

    VI.

    It was about Christmas that Derby broke down one evening while calling on me. I was steeringthe conversation toward next summer’s travels when he suddenly shrieked and leaped upfrom his chair with a look of shocking, uncontrollable fright—a cosmic panic and loathingsuch as only the nether gulfs of nightmare could bring to any sane mind.

    “My brain! My brain! God, Dan—it’s tugging—from beyond—knocking—clawing—thatshe-devil—even now—Ephraim—Kamog! Kamog!—The pit of the shoggoths—Iä!Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young! . . .”

    “The flame—the flame . . . beyond body, beyond life . . . in the earth . . . oh, God! . . .”

    I pulled him back to his chair and poured some wine down his throat as hisfrenzy sank to a dull apathy. He did not resist, but kept his lips moving as if talking to himself.Presently I realised that he was trying to talk to me, and bent my ear to his mouth to catchthe feeble words.

    “. . . again, again . . . she’strying . . . I might have known . . . nothing can stop that force;not distance, nor magic, nor death . . . it comes and comes, mostly in the night . . .I can’t leave . . . it’s horrible . . . oh, God, Dan,if you only knew as I do just how horrible it is. . . .”

    When he had slumped down into a stupor I propped him with pillows and let normalsleep overtake him. I did not call a doctor, for I knew what would be said of his sanity, andwished to give nature a chance if I possibly could. He waked at midnight, and I put him to bedupstairs, but he was gone by morning. He had let himself quietly out of the house—andhis butler, when called on the wire, said he was at home pacing restlessly about the library.

    Edward went to pieces rapidly after that. He did not call again, but I wentdaily to see him. He would always be sitting in his library, staring at nothing and having anair of abnormal listening. Sometimes he talked rationally, but always on trivial topics.Any mention of his trouble, of future plans, or of Asenath would send him into a frenzy. Hisbutler said he had frightful seizures at night, during which he might eventually do himselfharm.

    I had a long talk with his doctor, banker, and lawyer, and finally took thephysician with two specialist colleagues to visit him. The spasms that resulted from the firstquestions were violent and pitiable—and that evening a closed car took his poor strugglingbody to the Arkham Sanitarium. I was made his guardian and called on him twice weekly—almostweeping to hear his wild shrieks, awesome whispers, and dreadful, droning repetitions of suchphrases as “I had to do it—I had to do it . . . it’ll get me . . .it’ll get me . . . down there . . . down there in the dark. . . .Mother, mother! Dan! Save me . . . save me. . . .”

    How much hope of recovery there was, no one could say; but I tried my bestto be optimistic. Edward must have a home if he emerged, so I transferred his servants to theDerby mansion, which would surely be his sane choice. What to do about the Crowninshield placewith its complex arrangements and collections of utterly inexplicable objects I could not decide,so left it momentarily untouched—telling the Derby housemaid to go over and dust the chiefrooms once a week, and ordering the furnace man to have a fire on those days.

    The final nightmare came before Candlemas—heralded, in cruel irony, bya false gleam of hope. One morning late in January the sanitarium telephoned to report thatEdward’s reason had suddenly come back. His continuous memory, they said, was badly impaired;but sanity itself was certain. Of course he must remain some time for observation, but therecould be little doubt of the outcome. All going well, he would surely be free in a week.

    I hastened over in a flood of delight, but stood bewildered when a nurse tookme to Edward’s room. The patient rose to greet me, extending his hand with a polite smile;but I saw in an instant that he bore the strangely energised personality which had seemed soforeign to his own nature—the competent personality I had found so vaguely horrible, andwhich Edward himself had once vowed was the intruding soul of his wife. There was the same blazingvision—so like Asenath’s and old Ephraim’s—and the same firm mouth;and when he spoke I could sense the same grim, pervasive irony in his voice—the deep ironyso redolent of potential evil. This was the person who had driven my car through the night fivemonths before—the person I had not seen since that brief call when he had forgotten theold-time doorbell signal and stirred such nebulous fears in me—and now he filled me withthe same dim feeling of blasphemous alienage and ineffable cosmic hideousness.

    He spoke affably of arrangements for release—and there was nothing forme to do but assent, despite some remarkable gaps in his recent memories. Yet I felt that somethingwas terribly, inexplicably wrong and abnormal. There were horrors in this thing that I couldnot reach. This was a sane person—but was it indeed the Edward Derby I had known? If not,who or what was it— and where was Edward? Ought it to be free or confined . . .or ought it to be extirpated from the face of the earth? There was a hint of the abysmally sardonicin everything the creature said—the Asenath-like eyes lent a special and baffling mockeryto certain words about the “early liberty earned by an especially close confinement”.I must have behaved very awkwardly, and was glad to beat a retreat.

    All that day and the next I racked my brain over the problem. What had happened?What sort of mind looked out through those alien eyes in Edward’s face? I could thinkof nothing but this dimly terrible enigma, and gave up all efforts to perform my usual work.The second morning the hospital called up to say that the recovered patient was unchanged, andby evening I was close to a nervous collapse—a state I admit, though others will vow itcoloured my subsequent vision. I have nothing to say on this point except that no madness ofmine could account for all the evidence.

    VII.

    It was in the night—after that second evening—that stark, utter horror burst overme and weighted my spirit with a black, clutching panic from which it can never shake free.It began with a telephone call just before midnight. I was the only one up, and sleepily tookdown the receiver in the library. No one seemed to be on the wire, and I was about to hang upand go to bed when my ear caught a very faint suspicion of sound at the other end. Was someonetrying under great difficulties to talk? As I listened I thought I heard a sort of half-liquidbubbling noise— “glub . . . glub . . . glub” —whichhad an odd suggestion of inarticulate, unintelligible word and syllable divisions. I called,“Who is it?” But the only answer was “glub-glub . . . glub-glub.”I could only assume that the noise was mechanical; but fancying that it might be a case of abroken instrument able to receive but not to send, I added, “I can’t hear you. Betterhang up and try Information. “ Immediately I heard the receiver go on the hook at the otherend.

    This, I say, was just before midnight. When that call was traced afterwardit was found to come from the old Crowninshield house, though it was fully half a week fromthe housemaid’s day to be there. I shall only hint what was found at that house—theupheaval in a remote cellar storeroom, the tracks, the dirt, the hastily rifled wardrobe, thebaffling marks on the telephone, the clumsily used stationery, and the detestable stench lingeringover everything. The police, poor fools, have their smug little theories, and are still searchingfor those sinister discharged servants—who have dropped out of sight amidst the presentfurore. They speak of a ghoulish revenge for things that were done, and say I was included becauseI was Edward’s best friend and adviser.

    Idiots!—do they fancy those brutish clowns could have forged that handwriting?Do they fancy they could have brought what later came? Are they blind to the changes in thatbody that was Edward’s? As for me, I now believe all that Edward Derby ever told me.There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’sevil prying calls them just within our range. Ephraim—Asenath—that devil calledthem in, and they engulfed Edward as they are engulfing me.

    Can I be sure that I am safe? Those powers survive the life of the physicalform. The next day—in the afternoon, when I pulled out of my prostration and was ableto walk and talk coherently—I went to the madhouse and shot him dead