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.