Collected Stories – Part 2 – Day 236 of 274


The next two months were full of rumours. People spoke of seeing Derby more and more in his new energized state, and Asenath was scarcely ever in to her callers. I had only one visit from Edward, when he called briefly in Asenath’s car–duly reclaimed from wherever he had left it in Maine–to get some books he had lent me. He was in his new state, and paused only long enough for some evasively polite remarks. It was plain that he had nothing to discuss with me when in this condition–and I noticed that he did not even trouble to give the old three-and-two signal when ringing the doorbell. As on that evening in the car, I felt a faint, infinitely deep horror which I could not explain; so that his swift departure was a prodigious relief.

In mid-September Derby was away for a week, and some of the decadent college set talked knowingly of the matter–hinting at a meeting with a notorious cult-leader, lately expelled from England, who had established headquarters in New York. For my part I could not get that strange ride from Maine out of my head. The transformation I had witnessed had affected me profoundly, and I caught myself again and again trying to account for the thing–and for the extreme horror it had inspired in me.

But the oddest rumours were those about the sobbing in the old Crowninshield house. The voice seemed to be a woman’s, and some of the younger people thought it sounded like Asenath’s. It was heard only at rare intervals, and would sometimes be choked off as if by force. There was talk of an investigation, but this was dispelled one day when Asenath appeared in the streets and chatted in a sprightly way with a large number of acquaintances–apologizing for her recent absence and speaking incidentally about the nervous breakdown and hysteria of a guest from Boston. The guest was never seen, but Asenath’s appearance left nothing to be said. And then someone complicated matters 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 the front door. Answering it myself, I found Edward on the steps, and saw in a moment that his personality was the old one which I had not encountered since the day of his ravings on that terrible ride from Chesuncook. His face was twitching with a mixture of odd emotions in which fear and triumph seemed to share dominion, and he looked furtively over his shoulder as I closed the door behind him.

Following me clumsily to the study, he asked for some whiskey to steady his nerves. I forbore to question him, but waited till he felt like beginning whatever he wanted to say. At length he ventured some information in a choking voice.

“Asenath has gone, Dan. We had a long talk last night while the servants were out, 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 got frightfully angry. Just packed up and started for New York–walked right out to catch the eight-twenty in to Boston. I suppose people will talk, but I can’t help that. You needn’t mention that there was any trouble–just say she’s gone on a long research trip.

“She’s probably going to stay with one of her horrible groups of devotees. I hope she’ll go west and get a divorce–anyhow, I’ve made her promise to keep away 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 her do it, but I had to be on the watch. I could plan if I was careful, for she can’t read my mind literally, or in detail. All she could read of my planning was a sort of general mood of rebellion–and she always thought I was helpless. Never thought I could get the best of her…but I had a spell or two that worked.”

Derby looked over his shoulder and took some more whiskey.

“I paid off those damned servants this morning when they got back. They were ugly about it, and asked questions, but they went. They’re her kin–Innsmouth people–and were hand and glove with her. I hope they’ll let me alone–I didn’t like the way they laughed when they walked away. I must get as many of Dad’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 at things 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 about Asenath that day coming home from Maine. That was when she got me–drove me out of my body. The last thing I remember was when I was all worked up trying to tell you what that she-devil is. Then she got me, and in a flash I was back at 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 you must have ridden home with–that preying wolf in my body–You ought to have known the difference!”

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