Collected Stories – Part 1 – Day 109 of 276

“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 we can’t be sure about the ins and outs of the matter; but it’s pretty clear that old Captain Marsh must have brought home some odd specimens when he had all three of his ships in commission back in the twenties and thirties. There certainly is a strange kind of streak in the Innsmouth folks today–I don’t know how to explain it but it sort of makes you crawl. You’ll notice a little in Sargent if you take his bus. Some of ’em have queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy, stary eyes that never seem to shut, and their skin ain’t quite right. Rough and scabby, and the sides of the necks are all shriveled or creased up. Get bald, too, very young. The older fellows look the worst–fact is, I don’t believe I’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 the autos came in.

“Nobody around here or in Arkham or Ipswich will have anything to do with ’em, and they act kind of offish themselves when they come to town or when anyone tries to fish on their grounds. Queer how fish are always thick off Innsmouth Harbour when there ain’t any anywhere else around–but just try to fish there yourself and see how the folks chase you off! Those people used to come here on the railroad–walking and taking the 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–but I don’t believe it can amount to much. I wouldn’t advise you to try it. Better stay over here and take the ten o’clock bus tomorrow morning; then you can get an evening bus there for Arkham at eight o’clock. There was a factory inspector who stopped at the Gilman a couple of years ago and he had a lot of unpleasant hints about the place. Seems they get a queer crowd there, for this fellow heard voices in other rooms–though most of ’em was empty–that gave him the shivers. It was foreign talk he thought, but he said the bad 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 out the first thing in the morning. The talk went on most all night.

“This fellow–Casey, his name was–had a lot to say about how the Innsmouth folk watched him and seemed kind of on guard. He found the Marsh refinery a queer place–it’s in an old mill on the lower falls of the Manuxet. What he said tallied up with what I’d heard. Books in bad shape, and no clear account of any kind of dealings. You know it’s always been 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 an enormous lot of ingots.

“Used to be talk of a queer foreign kind of jewelry that the sailors and refinery men sometimes sold on the sly, or that was seen once or twice on some of the Marsh women-folks. People allowed maybe old Captain Obed traded for it in some heathen port, especially since he always ordered stacks of glass beads and trinkets such as seafaring men used to get for native trade. Others thought and still think he’d found an old pirate cache out on Devil Reef. But here’s a funny thing. The old Captain’s been dead these sixty years, and there’s ain’t been a good-sized ship out of the place since the Civil War; but just the same the Marshes still keep on buying a few of those native trade things–mostly glass and rubber gewgaws, they tell me. Maybe the Innsmouth folks like ’em to look at themselves–Gawd knows they’ve gotten to be about as bad as South Sea cannibals and Guinea 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 other rich folks are as bad as any. As I told you, there probably ain’t more’n 400 people in the whole town in 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 things. They get a lot of fish and lobsters and do exporting by truck. Queer how the fish swarm right there and nowhere else.

“Nobody can ever keep track of these people, and state school officials and census men have a devil of a time. You can bet that prying strangers ain’t welcome around Innsmouth. I’ve heard personally of more’n one business or government man that’s disappeared there, and there’s loose talk of one who went crazy and is out at Danvers now. They must have fixed up some awful scare for that fellow.

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