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Chapter 5

  • It was in the night-after that second evening - that stark, utter horror burs_ver me and weighted my spirit with a black, clutching panic from which it ca_ever shake free. It began with a telephone call just before midnight. I wa_he only one up, and sleepily took down the receiver in the library. No on_eemed to be on the wire, and I was about to hang up and go to bed when my ea_aught a very faint suspicion of sound at the other end. Was someone tryin_nder great difficulties to talk? As I listened I thought I heard a sort o_alf-liquid bubbling noise - "glub… glub… glub" - which had an odd suggestio_f inarticulate, unintelligible word and syllable divisions. I called "Who i_t?" But the only answer was "glub… glub… glub-glub." I could only assume tha_he noise was mechanical; but fancying that it might be a case of a broke_nstrument able to receive but not to send, I added, "I can't hear you. Bette_ang up and try Information." Immediately I heard the receiver go on the hoo_t the other end.
  • This, I say, was just about midnight. When the call was traced afterward i_as found to come from the old Crowninshield house, though it was fully half _eek from the housemaid's day to be there. I shall only hint what was found a_hat house - the upheaval in a remote cellar storeroom, the tracks, the dirt,
  • the hastily rifled wardrobe, the baffling marks on the telephone, the clumsil_sed stationery, and the detestable stench lingering over everything. Th_olice, poor fools, have their smug little theories, and are still searchin_or those sinister discharged servants - who have dropped out of sight amids_he present furore. They speak of a ghoulish revenge for things that wer_one, and say I was included because I 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 th_hanges in that body that was Edward's? As for me, I now believe all tha_dward Derby ever told me. There are horrors beyond life's edge that we do no_uspect, and once in a while man's evil prying calls them just within ou_ange. Ephraim \- Asenat - that devil called them in, and they engulfed Edwar_s they are engulfing me.
  • Can I be sure that I am safe? Those powers survive the life of the physica_orm. The next day - in the afternoon, when I pulled out of my prostration an_as able to walk and talk coherently - I went to the madhouse and shot hi_ead for Edward's and the world's sake, but can I be sure till he is cremated?
  • They are keeping the body for some silly autopsies by different doctors - bu_ say he must be cremated. He must be cremated - he who was not Edward Derb_hen I shot him. I shall go mad if he is not, for I may be the next. But m_ill is not weak - and I shall not let it be undermined by the terrors I kno_re seething around it. One life - Ephraim, Asenath, and Edward - who now? _ill not be driven out of my body… I will not change souls with that bullet-
  • ridden lich in the madhouse!
  • But let me try to tell coherently of that final horror. I will not speak o_hat the police persistently ignored - the tales of that dwarfed, grotesque,
  • malodorous thing met by at least three wayfarers in High Street just befor_wo o'clock, and the nature of the single footprints in certain places. I wil_ay only that just about two the doorbell and knocker waked me - doorbell an_nocker both, aplied alternately and uncertainly in a kind of wea_esperation, and each trying to keep Edward's old signal of three-and-tw_trokes.
  • Roused from sound sleep, my mind leaped into a turmoil. Derby at the door -
  • and remembering the old code! That new personality had not remembered it… wa_dward suddenly back in his rightful state? Why was he here in such eviden_tress and haste? Had he been released ahead of time, or had he escaped?
  • Perhaps, I thought as I flung on a robe and bounded downstairs, his return t_is own self had brought raving and violence, revoking his discharge an_riving him to a desperate dash for freedom. Whatever had happened, he wa_ood old Edward again, and I would help him!
  • When I opened the door into the elm-arched blackness a gust of insufferabl_oetid wind almost flung me prostrate. I choked in nausea, and for a secon_carcely saw the dwarfed, humped figure on the steps. The summons had bee_dward's, but who was this foul, stunted parody? Where had Edward had time t_o? His ring had sounded only a second before the door opened.
  • The caller had on one of Edward's overcoats - its bottom almost touching th_round, and its sleeves rolled back yet still covering the hands. On the hea_as a slouch hat pulled low, while a black silk muffler concealed the face. A_ stepped unsteadily forward, the figure made a semi-liquid sound like that _ad heard over the telephone - "glub… glub… " - and thrust at me a large,
  • closely written paper impaled on the end of a long pencil. Still reeling fro_he morbid and unaccountable foetor, I seized the paper and tried to read i_n the light from the doorway.
  • Beyond question, it was in Edward's script. But why had he written when he wa_lose enough to ring - and why was the script so awkward, coarse and shaky? _ould make out nothing in the dim half light, so edged back into the hall, th_warf figure clumping mechanically after but pausing on the inner door'_hreshold. The odour of this singular messenger was really appalling, and _oped (not in vain, thank God!) that my wife would not wake and confront it.
  • Then, as I read the paper, I felt my knees give under me and my vision g_lack. I was lying on the floor when I came to, that accursed sheet stil_lutched in my fear-rigid hand. This is what it said.
  • "Dan - go to the sanitarium and kill it. Exterminate it. It isn't Edward Derb_ny more. She got me - it's Asenath - and she has been dead three months and _alf. I lied when I said she had gone away. I killed her. I had to. It wa_udden, but we were alone and I was in my right body. I saw a candlestick an_mashed her head in. She would have got me for good at Hallowmass.
  • "I buried her in the farther cellar storeroom under some old boxes and cleane_p all the traces. The servants suspected next morning, but they have suc_ecrets that they dare not tell the police. I sent them off, but God know_hat they - and others of the cult - will do.
  • "I thought for a while I was all right, and then I felt the tugging at m_rain. I knew what it was - I ought to have remembered. A soul like hers - o_phraim's - is half detached, and keeps right on after death as long as th_ody lasts. She was getting me - making me change bodies with her-seizing m_ody and purting me in that corpse of hers buried in the cellar.
  • "I knew what was coming - that's why I snapped and had to go to the asylum.
  • Then it came - I found myself choked in the dark - in Asenath's rottin_arcass down there in the cellar under the boxes where I put it. And I kne_he must be in my body at the sanitarium \- permanently, for it was afte_allowmass, and the sacrifice would work even without her being there - sane,
  • and ready for release as a menace to the world. I was desperate, and in spit_f everything I clawed my way out.
  • "I'm too far gone to talk - I couldn't manage to telephone - but I can stil_rite. I'll get fixed up somehow and bring this last word and warning. Kil_hat fiend if you value the peace and comfort of the world. See that it i_remated. If you don't, it will live on and on, body to body forever, and _an't tell you what it will do. Keep clear of black magic, Dan, it's th_evil's business. Goodbye - you've been a great friend. Tell the polic_hatever they'll believe - and I'm damnably sorry to drag all this on you.
  • I'll be at peace before long - this thing won't hold together much more. Hop_ou can read this. And kill that thing - kill it.
  • Yours - Ed."
  • It was only afterward that I read the last half of this paper, for I ha_ainted at the end of the third paragraph. I fainted again when I saw an_melled what cluttered up the threshold where the warm air had struck it. Th_essenger would not move or have consciousness any more.
  • The butler, tougher-fibred than I, did not faint at what met him in the hal_n the morning. Instead, he telephoned the police. When they came I had bee_aken upstairs to bed, but the - other mass - lay where it had collapsed i_he night. The men put handkerchiefs to their noses.
  • What they finally found inside Edward's oddly-assorted clothes was mostl_iquescent horror. There were bones, to - and a crushed-in skull. Some denta_ork positively identified the skull as Asenath's.