Collected Stories – Part 1 – Day 127 of 276

Old Zadok was fast lapsing into stark raving, and I held my breath. Poor old soul–to what pitiful depths of hallucination had his liquor, plus his hatred of the decay, alienage, and disease around him, brought that fertile, imaginative brain? He began to moan now, and tears were coursing down his channelled checks into the depths of his beard.

“God, what I seen senct I was fifteen year’ old–Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!–the folks as was missin’, and them as kilt theirselves–them as told things in Arkham or Ipswich or sech places was all called crazy, like you’re callin’ me right naow–but God, what I seen–They’d a kilt me long ago fer’ what I know, only I’d took the fust an’ secon’ Oaths o’ Dago offen Obed, so was pertected unlessen a jury of ’em proved I told things knowin’ an’ delib’rit…but I wudn’t take the third Oath–I’d a died ruther’n take that–

“It got wuss araound Civil War time, when children born senct ’forty-six begun to grow up–some ’em, that is. I was afeared–never did no pryin’ arter that awful night, an’ never see one o’–them–clost to in all my life. That is, never no full-blooded one. I went to the war, an’ ef I’d a had any guts or sense I’d a never come back, but settled away from here. But folks wrote me things wa’n’t so bad. That, I s’pose, was because gov’munt draft men was in taown arter ‘sixty-three. Arter the war it was jest as bad agin. People begun to fall off–mills an’ shops shet daown–shippin’ stopped an’ the harbour choked up–railrud give up–but they…they never stopped swimmin’ in an’ aout o’ the river from that cursed reef o’ Satan–an’ more an’ more attic winders got a-boarded up, an’ more an’ more noises was heerd in haouses as wa’n’t s’posed to hev nobody in ’em…

“Folks aoutside hev their stories abaout us–s’pose you’ve heerd a plenty on ’em, seein’ what questions ye ast–stories abaout things they’ve seed naow an’ then, an’ abaout that queer joolry as still comes in from somewhars an’ ain’t quite all melted up–but nothin’ never gits def’nite. Nobody’ll believe nothin’. They call them gold-like things pirate loot, an’ allaow the Innsmouth folks hez furren blood or is dis-tempered or somethin’. Beside, them that lives here shoo off as many strangers as they kin, an’ encourage the rest not to git very cur’ous, specially raound night time. Beasts balk at the critters–hosses wuss’n mules–but when they got autos that was all right.

“In ’forty-six Cap’n Obed took a second wife that nobody in the taown never see–some says he didn’t want to, but was made to by them as he’d called in–had three children by her–two as disappeared young, but one gal as looked like anybody else an’ was eddicated in Europe. Obed finally got her married off by a trick to an Arkham feller as didn’t suspect nothin’. But nobody aoutside’ll hav nothin’ to do with Innsmouth folks naow. Barnabas Marsh that runs the refin’ry now is Obed’s grandson by his fust wife–son of Onesiphorus, his eldest son, but his mother was another o’ them as wa’n’t never seen aoutdoors.

“Right naow Barnabas is abaout changed. Can’t shet his eyes no more, an’ is all aout o’ shape. They say he still wears clothes, but he’ll take to the water soon. Mebbe he’s tried it already–they do sometimes go daown for little spells afore they go daown for good. Ain’t ben seed abaout in public fer nigh on ten year’. Dun’t know haow his poor wife kin feel–she come from Ipiwich, an’ they nigh lynched Barnabas when he courted her fifty odd year’ ago. Obed he died in ‘seventy-eight an’ all the next gen’ration is gone naow–the fust wife’s children dead, and the rest…God knows…”

The sound of the incoming tide was now very insistent, and little by little it seemed to change the old man’s mood from maudlin tearfulness to watchful fear. He would pause now and then to renew those nervous glances over his shoulder or out toward the reef, and despite the wild absurdity of his tale, I could not help beginning to share his apprehensiveness. Zadok now grew shriller, seemed to be trying to whip up his courage with louder speech.

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