For the next two years I saw less and less of Derby. A fortnight woul_ometimes slip by without the familiar three-and-two strokes at the fron_oor; and when he did call - or when, as happened with increasing infrequency,
I called on him - he was very little disposed to converse on vital topics. H_ad become secretive about those occult studies which he used to describe an_iscuss so minutely, and preferred not to talk of his wife. She had age_remendously since her marriage, till now - oddly enough - she seemed th_lder of the two. Her face held the most concentratedly determined expressio_ had ever seen, and her whole aspect seemed to gain a vague, unplaceabl_epulsiveness. My wife and son noticed it as much as I, and we all cease_radually to call on her - for which, Edward admitted in one of his boyishl_actless moments, she was unmitigatedly grateful. Occasionally the Derby_ould go on long trips - ostensibly to Europe, though Edward sometimes hinte_t obscurer destinations.
It was after the first year that people began talking about the change i_dward Derby. It was very casual talk, for the change was purel_sychological; but it brought up some interesting points. Now and then, i_eemed Edward was observed to wear an expression and to do things wholl_ncompatible with his usual flabby nature. For example - although in the ol_ays he could not drive a car, he was now seen occasionally to dash into o_ut of the old Crowninshield driveway with Asenath's powerful Packard,
handling it like a master, and meeting traffic entanglements with a skill an_etermination utterly alien to his accustomed nature. In such cases he seeme_lways to be just back from some trip or just starting on one - what sort o_rip, no one could guess, although he mostly favoured the Innsmouth road.
Oddly, the metamorphosis did not seem altogether pleasing. People said h_ooked too much like his wife, or like old Ephraim Waite himself, in thes_oments - or perhaps these moments seemed unnatural because they were so rare.
Sometimes, hours after starting out in this way, he would return listlessl_prawled on the rear seat of the car while an obviously hired chauffeur o_echanic drove. Also, his preponderant aspect on the streets during hi_ecreasing round of social contacts (including, I may say, his calls on me)
was the old-time indecisive one - its irresponsible childishness even mor_arked than in the past. While Asenath's face aged, Edward - aside from thos_xceptional occasions - actually relaxed into a kind of exaggerate_mmaturity, save when a trace of the new sadness or understanding would flas_cross it. It was really very puzzling. Meanwhile the Derbys almost droppe_ut of the gay college circle - not through their own disgust, we heard, bu_ecause something about their present studies shocked even the most callous o_he other decadents.
It was in the third year of the marriage that Edward began to hint openly t_e of a certain fear and dissatisfaction. He would let fall remarks abou_hings "going too far," and would talk darkly about the need of "gaining hi_dentity." At first I ignored such references, but in time I began to questio_im guardedly, remembering what my friend's daughter had said about Asenath'_ypnotic influence over the other girls at school - the cases where student_ad thought they were in her body looking across the room at themselves. Thi_uestioning seemed to make him at once alarmed and grateful, and once h_umbled something about having a serious talk with me later. About this tim_ld Mr. Derby died, for which I was afterward very thankful. Edward was badl_pset, though by no means disorganized. He had seen astonishingly little o_is parent since his marriage, for Asenath had concentrated in herself all hi_ital sense of family linkage. Some called him callous in his loss \-
especially since those jaunty and confident moods in the car began t_ncrease. He now wished to move back into the old family mansion, but Asenat_nsisted on staying in the Crowninshield house to which she had become wel_djusted.
Not long afterward my wife heard a curious thing from a friend - one of th_ew who had not dropped the Derbys. She had been out to the end of High Stree_o call on the couple, and had seen a car shoot briskly out of the drive wit_dward's oddly confident and almost sneering face above the wheel. Ringing th_ell, she had been told by the repulsive wench that Asenath was also out; bu_ad chanced to look at the house in leaving. There, at one of Edward's librar_indows, she had glimpsed a hastily withdrawn face - a face whose expressio_f pain, defeat, and wistful hopelessness was poignant beyond description. I_as - incredibly enough in view of its usual domineering cast - Asenath's; ye_he caller had vowed that in that instant the sad, muddled eyes of poor Edwar_ere gazing out from it.
Edward's calls now grew a trifle more frequent, and his hints occasionall_ecame concrete. What he said was not to be believed, even in centuried an_egend-haunted Arkham; but he threw out his dark lore with a sincerity an_onvincingness which made one fear for his sanity. He talked about terribl_eetings in lonely places, of cyclopean ruins in the heart of the Maine wood_eneath which vast staircases led down to abysses of nighted secrets, o_omplex angles that led through invisible walls to other regions of space an_ime, and of hideous exchanges of personality that permitted explorations i_emote and forbidden places, on other worlds, and in different space-tim_ontinua.
He would now and then back up certain crazy hints by exhibiting objects whic_tterly nonplussed me - elusively coloured and bafflingly textured object_ike nothing ever heard of on earth, whose insane curves and surfaces answere_o conceivable purpose, and followed no conceivable geometry. These things, h_aid, came "from outside"; and his wife knew how to get them. Sometimes - bu_lways in frightened and ambiguous whisper - he would suggest things about ol_phraim Waite, whom he had seen occasionally at the college library in the ol_ays. These adumbrations were never specific, but seemed to revolve aroun_ome especially horrible doubt as to whether the old wizard were really dead -
in a spiritual as well as corporeal sense.
At times Derby would halt abruptly in his revelations, and I wondered whethe_senath could possibly have divined his speech at a distance and cut him of_hrough some unknown sort of telepathic mesmerism - some power of the kind sh_ad displayed at school. Certainly, she suspected that he told me things, fo_s the weeks passed she tried to stop his visits with words and glances of _ost inexplicable potency. Only with difficulty could he get to see me, fo_lthough he would pretend to be going somewhere else, some invisible forc_ould generally clog his motions or make him forget his destination for th_ime being. His visits usually came when Asenath was way - "away in her ow_ody," as he once oddly put it. She always found out later - the servant_atched his goings and coming - but evidently she thought it inexpedient to d_nything drastic.