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Chapter 4

  • Derby had been married more than three years on that August day when I go_hat telegram from Maine. I had not seen him for two months, but had heard h_as away "on business." Asenath was supposed to be with him, though watchfu_ossip declared there was someone upstairs in the house behind the doubl_urtained windows. They had watched the purchases made by the servants. An_ow the town marshal of Chesuncook had wired of the draggled madman wh_tumbled out of the woods with delirious ravings and screamed to me fo_rotection. It was Edward - and he had been just able to recall his own nam_nd address.
  • Chesuncook is close to the wildest, deepest, and least explored forest belt i_aine, and it took a whole day of feverish jolting through fantastic an_orbidding scenery to get there in a car. I found Derby in a cell at the tow_arm, vacillating between frenzy and apathy. He knew me at once, and bega_ouring out a meaningless, half-incoherent torrent of words in my direction.
  • "Dan, for God's sake! The pit of the shoggoths! Down the six thousand steps… the abomination of abominations… I never would let her take me, and then _ound myself there - Ia! Shub-Niggurath! - The shape rose up from the altar, and there were five hundred that howled - The Hooded Thing bleated 'Kamog!
  • Kamog!' - that was old Ephraim's secret name in the coven - I was there, wher_he promised she wouldn't take me - A minute before I was locked in th_ibrary, and then I was there where she had gone with my body - in the plac_f utter blasphemy, the unholy pit where the black realm begins and th_atcher guards the gate - I saw a shoggoth - it changed shape - I can't stan_t - I'll kill her if she ever sends me there again - I'll kill that entity - her, him, it - I'll kill 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 go_im decent clothes in the village, and set out with him for Arkham. His fur_f hysteria was spent, and he was inclined to be silent, though he bega_uttering darkly to himself when the car passed through Augusta - as if th_ight of a city aroused unpleasant memories. It was clear that he did not wis_o go home; and considering the fantastic delusions he seemed to have abou_is wife - delusions undoubtedly springing from some actual hypnotic ordeal t_hich he had been subjected - I thought it would be better if he did not. _ould, I resolved, put him up myself for a time; no matter what unpleasantnes_t would make with Asenath. Later I would help him get a divorce, for mos_ssuredly there were mental factors which made this marriage suicidal for him.
  • When we struck open country again Derby's muttering faded away, and I let hi_od and drowse on the seat beside me as I drove.
  • During our sunset dash through Portland the muttering commenced again, mor_istinctly than before, and as I listened I caught a stream of utterly insan_rivel about Asenath. The extent to which she had preyed on Edward's nerve_as plain, for he had woven a whole set of hallucinations around her. Hi_resent predicament, he mumbled furtively, was only one of a long series. Sh_as getting hold of him, and he knew that some day she would never let go.
  • Even now she probably let him go only when she had to, because she couldn'_old on long at a time. She constantly took his body and went to nameles_laces for nameless rites, leaving him in her body and locking him upstairs - but sometimes she couldn't hold on, and he would find himself suddenly in hi_wn body again in some far-off, horrible, and perhaps unknown place. Sometime_he'd get hold of him again and sometimes she couldn't. Often he was lef_tranded somewhere as I had found him - time and again he had to find his wa_ome from frightful distances, getting somebody to drive the car after h_ound it.
  • The worst thing was that she was holding on to him longer and longer at _ime. She wanted to be a man - to be fully human - that was why she got hol_f him. She had sensed the mixture of fine-wrought brain and weak will in him.
  • Some day she would crowd him out and disappear with his body - disappear t_ecome a great magician like her father and leave him marooned in that femal_hell that wasn't even quite human. Yes, he knew about the Innsmouth bloo_ow. There had been traffick with things from the sea - it was horrible… An_ld Ephraim - he had known the secret, and when he grew old did a hideou_hing to keep alive - he wanted to live forever - Asenath would succeed - on_uccessful demonstration had taken place already.
  • As Derby muttered on I turned to look at him closely, verifying the impressio_f change which an earlier scrutiny had given me. Paradoxically, he seemed i_etter shape than usual - harder, more normally developed, and without th_race of sickly flabbiness caused by his indolent habits. It was as if he ha_een really active and properly exercised for the first time in his coddle_ife, and I judged that Asenath's force must have pushed him into unwonte_hannels of motion and alertness. But just now his mind was in a pitiabl_tate; for he was mumbling wild extravagances about his wife, about blac_agic, about old Ephraim, and about some revelation which would convince eve_e. He repeated names which I recognized from bygone browsings in forbidde_olumes, and at times made me shudder with a certain thread of mythologica_onsistency - or convincing coherence - which ran through his maundering.
  • Again and again he would pause, as if to gather courage for some final an_errible disclosure.
  • "Dan, Dan, don't you remember him - wild eyes and the unkempt beard that neve_urned white? He glared at me once, and I never forgot it. Now she glares tha_ay. And I know why! He found it in the Necronomicon - the formula. I don'_are tell you the page yet, but when I do you can read and understand. The_ou will know what has engulfed me. On, on, on, on - body to body to body - h_eans never to die. The life-glow - he knows how to break the link… it ca_licker on a while even when the body is dead. I'll give you hints and mayb_ou'll guess. Listen, Dan - do you know why my wife always takes such pain_ith that silly backhand writing? Have you ever seen a manuscript of ol_phraim's? Do you want to know why I shivered when I saw some hasty note_senath had jotted down?
  • "Asenath - is there such a person? Why did they half-think there was poison i_ld Ephraim's stomach? Why do the Gilmans whisper about the way he shrieked - like a frightened child - when he went mad and Asenath locked him up in th_added attic room where - the other - had been? Was it old Ephraim's soul tha_as locked in? Who locked in whom? Why had he been looking for months fo_omeone with a fine mind and a weak will? - Why did he curse that his daughte_asn't a son? Tell me? Daniel Upton - what devilish exchange was perpetrate_n the house of horror where that blasphemous monster had his trusting, weak- willed half-human child at his mercy? Didn't he make it permanent - as she'l_o in the end with me? Tell me why that thing that calls itself Asenath write_ifferently off guard, so that you can't tell its script from - "
  • Then the thing happened. Derby's voice was rising to a thin treble scream a_e raved, when suddenly it was shut off with an almost mechanical click. _hought of those other occasions at my home when his confidences had abruptl_eased - when I had half-fancied that some obscure telepathic wave o_senath's mental force was intervening to keep him silent. This, though, wa_omething altogether different - and, I felt, infinitely more horrible. Th_ace beside me was twisted almost unrecognizably for a moment, while throug_he whole body there passed a shivering motion - as if all the bones, organs, muscles, nerves, and glands were adjusting themselves to a radically differen_osture, set of stresses, and general personality.
  • Just where the supreme horror lay, I could not for my life tell; yet ther_wept over me such a swamping wave of sickness and repulsion - such _reezing, petrifying sense of utter alienage and abnormality - that my gras_f the wheel grew feeble and uncertain. The figure beside me seemed less lik_ lifelong friend than like some monstrous intrusion from outer space - som_amnable, utterly accursed focus of unknown and malign cosmic forces.
  • I had faltered only a moment, but before another moment was over my companio_ad seized the wheel and forced me to change places with him. The dusk was no_ery thick, and the lights of Portland far behind, so I could not see much o_is face. The blaze of his eyes, though, was phenomenal; and I knew that h_ust now be in that queerly energized state - so unlike his usual self - whic_o many people had noticed. It seemed odd and incredible that listless Edwar_erby - he who could never assert himself, and who had never learned to drive - should be ordering me about and taking the wheel of my own car, yet that wa_recisely what had happened. He did not speak for some time, and in m_nexplicable horror I was glad he did not.
  • In the lights of Biddeford and Saco I saw his firmly set mouth, and shivere_t the blaze of his eyes. The people were right - he did look damnably lik_is wife and like old Ephraim when in these moods. I did not wonder that th_oods were disliked - there was certainly something unnatural in them, and _elt the sinister element all the more because of the wild ravings I had bee_earing. This man, for all my lifelong knowledge of Edward Pickman Derby, wa_ 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 hi_oice seemed utterly unfamiliar. It was deeper, firmer, and more decisive tha_ had ever known it to be; while its accent and pronunciation were altogethe_hanged - though vaguely, remotely, and rather disturbingly recallin_omething I could not quite place. There was, I thought, a trace of ver_rofound and very genuine irony in the timbre - not the flashy, meaninglessl_aunty pseudo-irony of the callow "sophisticate," which Derby had habituall_ffected, but something grim, basic, pervasive, and potentially evil. _arvelled at the self-possession so soon following the spell of panic-struc_uttering.
  • "I hope you'll forget my attack back there, Upton," he was saying. "You kno_hat my nerves are, and I guess you can excuse such things. I'm enormousl_rateful, of course, for this lift home.
  • "And you must forget, too, any crazy things I may have been saying about m_ife - and about things in general. That's what comes from overstudy in _ield like mine. My philosophy is full of bizarre concepts, and when the min_ets worn out it cooks up all sorts of imaginary concrete applications. _hall take a rest from now on - you probably won't see me for some time, an_ou needn't blame Asenath for it.
  • "This trip was a bit queer, but it's really very simple. There are certai_ndian relics in the north wood - standing stones, and all that - which mean _ood deal in folklore, and Asenath and I are following that stuff up. It was _ard search, so I seem to have gone off my head. I must send somebody for th_ar when I get home. A month's relaxation will put me on my feet."
  • I do not recall just what my own part of the conversation was, for th_affling alienage of my seatmate filled all my consciousness. With ever_oment my feeling of elusive cosmic horror increased, till at length I was i_ virtual delirium of longing for the end of the drive. Derby did not offer t_elinquish the wheel, and I was glad of the speed with which Portsmouth an_ewburyport flashed by.
  • At the junction where the main highway runs inland and avoids Innsmouth, I wa_alf-afraid my driver would take the bleak shore road that goes through tha_amnable place. He did not, however, but darted rapidly past Rowley an_pswich toward our destination. We reached Arkham before midnight, and foun_he lights still on at the old Crowninshield house. Derby left the car with _asty repetition of his thanks, and I drove home alone with a curious feelin_f relief. It had been a terrible drive - all the more terrible because _ould not quite tell why - and I did not regret Derby's forecast of a lon_bsence from my company.
  • The next two months were full of rumours. People spoke of seeing Derby mor_nd more in his new energized state, and Asenath was scarcely ever in to he_allers. I had only one visit from Edward, when he called briefly in Asenath'_ar - duly reclaimed from wherever he had left it in Maine - to get some book_e had lent me. He was in his new state, and paused only long enough for som_vasively polite remarks. It was plain that he had nothing to discuss with m_hen in this condition - and I noticed that he did not even trouble to giv_he old three-and-two signal when ringing the doorbell. As on that evening i_he car, I felt a faint, infinitely deep horror which I could not explain; s_hat his swift departure was a prodigious relief.
  • In mid-September Derby was away for a week, and some of the decadent colleg_et talked knowingly of the matter - hinting at a meeting with a notoriou_ult-leader, lately expelled from England, who had established headquarters i_ew York. For my part I could not get that strange ride from Maine out of m_ead. The transformation I had witnessed had affected me profoundly, and _aught myself again and again trying to account for the thing - and for th_xtreme horror it had inspired in me.
  • But the oddest rumours were those about the sobbing in the old Crowninshiel_ouse. The voice seemed to be a woman's, and some of the younger peopl_hought it sounded like Asenath's. It was heard only at rare intervals, an_ould sometimes be choked off as if by force. There was talk of a_nvestigation, but this was dispelled one day when Asenath appeared in th_treets and chatted in a sprightly way with a large number of acquaintances - apologizing for her recent absence and speaking incidentally about the nervou_reakdown and hysteria of a guest from Boston. The guest was never seen, bu_senath's appearance left nothing to be said. And then someone complicate_atters by whispering that the sobs had once or twice been in a man's voice.
  • One evening in mid-October, I heard the familiar three-and-two ring at th_ront door. Answering it myself, I found Edward on the steps, and saw in _oment that his personality was the old one which I had not encountered sinc_he day of his ravings on that terrible ride from Chesuncook. His face wa_witching with a mixture of odd emotions in which fear and triumph seemed t_hare dominion, and he looked furtively over his shoulder as I closed the doo_ehind him.
  • Following me clumsily to the study, he asked for some whiskey to steady hi_erves. I forbore to question him, but waited till he felt like beginnin_hatever he wanted to say. At length he ventured some information in a chokin_oice.
  • "Asenath has gone, Dan. We had a long talk last night while the servants wer_ut, and I made her promise to stop preying on me. Of course I had certain - certain occult defences I never told you about. She had to give in, but go_rightfully angry. Just packed up and started for New York - walked right ou_o catch the eight-twenty in to Boston. I suppose people will talk, but _an't help that. You needn't mention that there was any trouble - just sa_he's gone on a long research trip.
  • "She's probably going to stay with one of her horrible groups of devotees. _ope she'll go west and get a divorce - anyhow, I've made her promise to kee_way and let me alone. It was horrible, Dan - she was stealing my body - crowding me out - making a prisoner of me. I lay low and pretended to let he_o it, but I had to be on the watch. I could plan if I was careful, for sh_an't read my mind literally, or in detail. All she could read of my plannin_as a sort of general mood of rebellion - and she always thought I wa_elpless. Never thought I could get the best of her… but I had a spell or tw_hat worked."
  • Derby looked over his shoulder and took some more whiskey.
  • "I paid off those damned servants this morning when they got back. They wer_gly about it, and asked questions, but they went. They're her kin - Innsmout_eople - and were hand and glove with her. I hope they'll let me alone - _idn't like the way they laughed when they walked away. I must get as many o_ad's old servants again as I can. I'll move back home now.
  • "I suppose you think I'm crazy, Dan - but Arkham history ought to hint a_hings that back up what I've told you - and what I'm going to tell you.
  • You've seen one of the changes, too - in your car after I told you abou_senath that day coming home from Maine. That was when she got me - drove m_ut of my body. The last thing I remember was when I was all worked up tryin_o tell you what that she-devil is. Then she got me, and in a flash I was bac_t the house - in the library where those damned servants had me locked up - and in that cursed fiend's body that isn't even human… You know it was she yo_ust have ridden home with - that preying wolf in my body - You ought to hav_nown the difference!"
  • I shuddered as Derby paused. Surely, I had known the difference \- yet could _ccept an explanation as insane as this? But my distracted caller was growin_ven wilder.
  • "I had to save myself - I had to, Dan! She'd have got me for good a_allowmass - they hold a Sabbat up there beyond Chesuncook, and the sacrific_ould have clinched things. She'd have got me for good - she'd have been I, and I'd have been she - forever - too late - My body'd have been hers for good - She'd have been a man, and fully human, just as she wanted to be - I suppos_he'd have put me out of the way - killed her own ex-body with me in it, dam_er, just as she did before - just as she did, or it did before - " Edward'_ace was now atrociously distorted, and he bent it uncomfortably close to min_s his voice fell to a whisper.
  • "You must know what I hinted in the car - that she isn't Asenath at all, bu_eally old Ephraim himself. I suspected it a year and a half ago, and I kno_t now. Her handwriting shows it when she goes off guard - sometimes she jot_own a note in writing that's just like her father's manuscripts, stroke fo_troke - and sometimes she says things that nobody but an old man like Ephrai_ould say. He changed forms with her when he felt death coming - she was th_nly one he could find with the right kind of brain and a weak enough will - he got her body permanently, just as she almost got mine, and then poisone_he old body he'd put her into. Haven't you seen old Ephraim's soul glarin_ut of that she-devil's eyes dozens of times - and out of mine when she ha_ontrol of my body?"
  • The whisperer was panting, and paused for breath. I said nothing; and when h_esumed his voice was nearer normal. This, I reflected, was a case for th_sylum, but I would not be the one to send him there. Perhaps time and freedo_rom Asenath would do its work. I could see that he would never wish to dabbl_n morbid occultism again.
  • "I'll tell you more later - I must have a long rest now. I'll tell yo_omething of the forbidden horrors she led me into - something of the age-ol_orrors that even now are festering in out-of-the-way corners with a fe_onstrous priests to keep them alive. Some people know things about th_niverse that nobody ought to know, and can do things that nobody ought to b_ble to do. I've been in it up to my neck, but that's the end. Today I'd bur_hat damned Necronomicon and all the rest if I were librarian at Miskatonic.
  • "But she can't get me now. I must get out of that accursed house as soon as _an, and settle down at home. You'll help me, I know, if I need help. Thos_evilish servants, you know - and if people should get too inquisitive abou_senath. You see, I can't give them her address… Then there are certain group_f searchers - certain cults, you know - that might misunderstand our breakin_p… some of them have damnably curious ideas and methods. I know you'll stan_y me if anything happens - even if I have to tell you a lot that will shoc_ou… "
  • I had Edward stay and sleep in one of the guest-chambers that night, and i_he morning he seemed calmer. We discussed certain possible arrangements fo_is moving back into the Derby mansion, and I hoped he would lose no time i_aking the change. He did not call the next evening, but I saw him frequentl_uring the ensuing weeks. We talked as little as possible about strange an_npleasant things, but discussed the renovation of the old Derby house, an_he travels which Edward promised to take with my son and me the followin_ummer.
  • Of Asenath we said almost nothing, for I saw that the subject was a peculiarl_isturbing one. Gossip, of course, was rife; but that was no novelty i_onnection with the strange menage at the old Crowninshield house. One thing _id not like was what Derby's banker let fall in an over-expansive mood at th_iskatonic Club - about the cheques Edward was sending regularly to a Mose_nd Abigail Sargent and a Eunice Babson in Innsmouth. That looked as if thos_vil-faced servants were extorting some kind of tribute from him - yet he ha_ot mentioned the matter to me.
  • I wished that the summer - and my son's Harvard vacation - would come, so tha_e could get Edward to Europe. He was not, I soon saw, mending as rapidly as _ad hoped he would; for there was something a bit hysterical in his occasiona_xhilaration, while his moods of fright and depression were altogether to_requent. The old Derby house was ready by December, yet Edward constantly pu_ff moving. Though he hated and seemed to fear the Crowninshield place, he wa_t the same time queerly enslaved by it. He could not seem to begi_ismantling things, and invented every kind of excuse to postpone action. Whe_ pointed this out to him he appeared unaccountably frightened. His father'_ld butler - who was there with other reacquired servants - told me one da_hat Edward's occasional prowlings about the house, and especially dow_ellar, looked odd and unwholesome to him. I wondered if Asenath had bee_riting disturbing letters, but the butler said there was no mail which coul_ave come from her.
  • It was about Christmas that Derby broke down one evening while calling on me.
  • I was steering the conversation toward next summer's travels when he suddenl_hrieked and leaped up from his chair with a look of shocking, uncontrollabl_right - a cosmic panic and loathing such as only the nether gulfs o_ightmare could bring to any sane mind.
  • "My brain! My brain! God, Dan - it's tugging - from beyond - knocking - clawing - that she-devil - even now - Ephraim - Kamog! Kamog! - The pit of th_hoggoths - Ia! 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 hi_renzy sank to a dull apathy. He did not resist, but kept his lips moving a_f talking to himself. Presently I realized that he was trying to talk to me, and bent my ear to his mouth to catch the feeble words.
  • "Again, again - she's trying - I might have known - nothing can stop tha_orce; not distance nor magic, nor death - it comes and comes, mostly in th_ight - I can't leave - it's horrible - oh, God, Dan, if you only knew as I d_ust how horrible it is… "
  • When he had slumped down into a stupor I propped him with pillows and le_ormal sleep overtake him. I did not call a doctor, for I knew what would b_aid of his sanity, and wished to give nature a chance if I possibly could. H_aked at midnight, and I put him to bed upstairs, but he was gone by morning.
  • He had let himself quietly out of the house - and his butler, when called o_he wire, said he was at home pacing about the library.
  • Edward went to pieces rapidly after that. He did not call again, but I wen_aily to see him. He would always be sitting in his library, staring a_othing and having an air of abnormal listening. Sometimes he talke_ationally, but always on trivial topics. Any mention of his trouble, o_uture plans, or of Asenath would send him into a frenzy. His butler said h_ad frightful seizures at night, during which he might eventually do himsel_arm.
  • I had a long talk with his doctor, banker, and lawyer, and finally took th_hysician with two specialist colleagues to visit him. The spasms tha_esulted from the first questions were violent and pitiable - and that evenin_ closed car took his poor struggling body to the Arkham Sanitarium. I wa_ade his guardian and called on him twice weekly - almost weeping to hear hi_ild shrieks, awesome whispers, and dreadful, droning repetitions of suc_hrases 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 best t_e optimistic. Edward must have a home if he emerged, so I transferred hi_ervants to the Derby mansion, which would surely be his sane choice. What t_o about the Crowninshield place with its complex arrangements and collection_f utterly inexplicable objects I could not decide, so left it momentaril_ntouched - telling the Derby household to go over and dust the chief room_nce a week, and ordering the furnace man to have a fire on those days.
  • The final nightmare came before Candlemas - heralded, in cruel irony, by _alse gleam of hope. One morning late in January the sanitarium telephoned t_eport that Edward's reason had suddenly come back. His continuous memory, they said, was badly impaired; but sanity itself was certain. Of course h_ust remain some time for observation, but there could be little doubt of th_utcome. 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 too_e to Edward's room. The patient rose to greet me, extending his hand with _olite smile; but I saw in an instant that he bore the strangely energize_ersonality which had seemed so foreign to his own nature - the competen_ersonality I had found so vaguely horrible, and which Edward himself had onc_owed was the intruding soul of his wife. There was the same blazing vision - so like Asenath's and old Ephraim's - and the same firm mouth; and when h_poke I could sense the same grim, pervasive irony in his voice - the dee_rony so redolent of potential evil. This was the person who had driven my ca_hrough the night five months before - the person I had not seen since tha_rief call when he had forgotten the oldtime doorbell signal and stirred suc_ebulous fears in me - and now he filled me with the same dim feeling o_lasphemous alienage and ineffable cosmic hideousness.
  • He spoke affably of arrangements for release - and there was nothing for me t_o but assent, despite some remarkable gaps in his recent memories. Yet I fel_hat something was terribly, inexplicably wrong and abnormal. There wer_orrors in this thing that I could not reach. This was a sane person - but wa_t indeed the Edward Derby I had known? If not, who or what was it - and wher_as Edward? Ought it to be free or confined - or ought it to be extirpate_rom the face of the earth? There was a hint of the abysmally sardonic i_verything the creature said - the Asenath-like eyes lent a special an_affling mockery to certain words about the early liberty earned by a_specially close confinement! I must have behaved very awkwardly, and was gla_o beat a retreat.
  • All that day and the next I racked my brain over the problem. What ha_appened? What sort of mind looked out through those alien eyes in Edward'_ace? I could think of nothing but this dimly terrible enigma, and gave up al_fforts to perform my usual work. The second morning the hospital called up t_ay that the recovered patient was unchanged, and by evening I was close to _ervous collapse-a state I admit, though others will vow it coloured m_ubsequent vision. I have nothing to say on this point except that no madnes_f mine could account for all the evidence.