Collected Stories – Part 1 – Day 107 of 276

It was I who fled frantically out of Innsmouth in the early morning hours of July 16, 1927, and whose frightened appeals for government inquiry and action brought on the whole reported episode. I was willing enough to stay mute while the affair was fresh and uncertain; but now that it is an old story, with public interest and curiosity gone, I have an odd craving to whisper about those few frightful hours in that ill-rumored and evilly-shadowed seaport of death and blasphemous abnormality. The mere telling helps me to restore confidence in my own faculties; to reassure myself that I was not the first to succumb to a contagious nightmare hallucination. It helps me, too, in making up my mind regarding a certain terrible step which lies ahead of me.

I never heard of Innsmouth till the day before I saw it for the first and–so far–last time. I was celebrating my coming of age by a tour of New England–sightseeing, antiquarian, and genealogical–and had planned to go directly from ancient Newburyport to Arkham, whence my mother’s family was derived. I had no car, but was travelling by train, trolley and motor-coach, always seeking the cheapest possible route. In Newburyport they told me that the steam train was the thing to take to Arkham; and it was only at the station ticket-office, when I demurred at the high fare, that I learned about Innsmouth. The stout, shrewd-faced agent, whose speech shewed him to be no local man, seemed sympathetic toward my efforts at economy, and made a suggestion that none of my other informants had offered.

“You could take that old bus, I suppose,” he said with a certain hesitation, “but it ain’t thought much of hereabouts. It goes through Innsmouth–you may have heard about that–and so the people don’t like it. Run by an Innsmouth fellow–Joe Sargent–but never gets any custom from here, or Arkham either, I guess. Wonder it keeps running at all. I s’pose it’s cheap enough, but I never see mor’n two or three people in it–nobody but those Innsmouth folk. Leaves the square–front of Hammond’s Drug Store–at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. unless they’ve changed lately. Looks like a terrible rattletrap–I’ve never been on it.”

That was the first I ever heard of shadowed Innsmouth. Any reference to a town not shown on common maps or listed in recent guidebooks would have interested me, and the agent’s odd manner of allusion roused something like real curiosity. A town able to inspire such dislike in it its neighbors, I thought, must be at least rather unusual, and worthy of a tourist’s attention. If it came before Arkham I would stop off there and so I asked the agent to tell me something about it. He was very deliberate, and spoke with an air of feeling slightly superior to what he said.

“Innsmouth? Well, it’s a queer kind of a town down at the mouth of the Manuxet. Used to be almost a city–quite a port before the War of 1812–but all gone to pieces in the last hundred years or so. No railroad now–B. and M. never went through, and the branch line from Rowley was given up years ago.

“More empty houses than there are people, I guess, and no business to speak of except fishing and lobstering. Everybody trades mostly either here or in Arkham or Ipswich. Once they had quite a few mills, but nothing’s left now except one gold refinery running on the leanest kind of part time.

“That refinery, though, used to be a big thing, and old man Marsh, who owns it, must be richer’n Croesus. Queer old duck, though, and sticks mighty close in his home. He’s supposed to have developed some skin disease or deformity late in life that makes him keep out of sight. Grandson of Captain Obed Marsh, who founded the business. His mother seems to’ve been some kind of foreigner–they say a South Sea islander–so everybody raised Cain when he married an Ipswich girl fifty years ago. They always do that about Innsmouth people, and folks here and hereabouts always try to cover up any Innsmouth blood they have in ’em. But Marsh’s children and grandchildren look just like anyone else far’s I can see. I’ve had ’em pointed out to me here–though, come to think of it, the elder children don’t seem to be around lately. Never saw the old man.

Comments

  1. TurtleReader Identicon Icon

    TurtleReader wrote:

    Croesus
    Died c. 546 b.c.
    Last king of Lydia (560-546) whose kingdom, which had prospered during his reign, fell to the Persians under Cyrus.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)