Collected Stories – Part 1 – Day 276 of 276
‘They would become you very well,’ came the even and studied response, ‘as indeed they seem to have done.’
As Willett said this, it almost seemed as though a cloud passed over the sun; though there was no change in the shadows on the floor. Then Ward ventured:
‘And is this what asks so hotly for a reckoning? Suppose a man does find it now and then useful to be twofold?’
‘No’, said Willett gravely, ‘again you are wrong. It is no business of mine if any man seeks duality; provided he has any right to exist at all, and provided he does not destroy what called him out of space.’
Ward now started violently. ‘Well, Sir, what have ye found, and what d’ye want of me?’
The doctor let a little time elapse before replying, as if choosing his words for an effective answer.
‘I have found’, he finally intoned, ‘something in a cupboard behind an ancient overmantel where a picture once was, and I have burned it and buried the ashes where the grave of Charles Dexter Ward ought to be.’
The madman choked and sprang from the chair in which he had been sitting:
‘Damn ye, who did ye tell–and who’ll believe it was he after these two full months, with me alive? What d’ye mean to do?’
Willett, though a small man, actually took on a kind of judicial majesty as he calmed the patient with a gesture.
‘I have told no one. This is no common case–it is a madness out of time and a horror from beyond the spheres which no police or lawyers or courts or alienists could ever fathom or grapple with. Thank God some chance has left inside me the spark of imagination, that I might not go astray in thinking out this thing. You cannot deceive me, Joseph Curwen, for I know that your accursed magic is true!
‘I know how you wove the spell that brooded outside the years and fastened on your double and descendant; I know how you drew him into the past and got him to raise you up from your detestable grave; I know how he kept you hidden in his laboratory while you studied modern things and roved abroad as a vampire by night, and how you later shewed yourself in beard and glasses that no one might wonder at your godless likeness to him; I know what you resolved to do when he balked at your monstrous rifling of the world’s tombs, and at what you planned afterward , and I know how you did it.
‘You left off your beard and glasses and fooled the guards around the house. They thought it was he who went in, and they thought it was he who came out when you had strangled and hidden him. But you hadn’t reckoned on the different contents of two minds. You were a fool, Joseph Curwen, to fancy that a mere visual identity would be enough. Why didn’t you think of the speech and the voice and the handwriting? It hasn’t worked, you see, after all. You know better than I who or what wrote that message in minuscules, but I will warn you it was not written in vain. There are abominations and blasphemies which must be stamped out, and I believe that the writer of those words will attend to Orne and Hutchinson. One of those creatures wrote you once, “do not call up any that you can not put down”. You were undone once before, perhaps in that very way, and it may be that your own evil magic will undo you all again. Curwen, a man can’t tamper with Nature beyond certain limits, and every horror you have woven will rise up to wipe you out.’
But here the doctor was cut short by a convulsive cry from the creature before him. Hopelessly at bay, weaponless, and knowing that any show of physical violence would bring a score of attendants to the doctor’s rescue, Joseph Curwen had recourse to his one ancient ally, and began a series of cabbalistic motions with his forefingers as his deep, hollow voice, now unconcealed by feigned hoarseness, bellowed out the opening words of a terrible formula.
‘PER ADONAI ELOIM, ADONAI JEHOVA, ADONAI SABAOTH, METRATON …’
But Willett was too quick for him. Even as the dogs in the yard outside began to howl, and even as a chill wind sprang suddenly up from the bay, the doctor commenced the solemn and measured intonation of that which he had meant all along to recite. An eye for an eye–magic for magic–let the outcome shew how well the lesson of the abyss had been learned! So in a clear voice Marinus Bicknell Willett began the second of that pair of formulae whose first had raised the writer of those minuscules–the cryptic invocation whose heading was the Dragon’s Tail, sign of the descending node–
OGTHROD AI’F GEB’L-EE’H YOG-SOTHOTH ‘NGAH’NG AI’Y ZHRO!
At the very first word from Willett’s mouth the previously commenced formula of the patient stopped short. Unable to speak, the monster made wild motions with his arms until they too were arrested. When the awful name of Yog-Sothoth was uttered, the hideous change began. It was not merely a dissolution, but rather a transformation or recapitulation; and Willett shut his eyes lest he faint before the rest of the incantation could be pronounced.
But he did not faint, and that man of unholy centuries and forbidden secrets never troubled the world again. The madness out of time had subsided, and the case of Charles Dexter Ward was closed. Opening his eyes before staggering out of that room of horror, Dr. Willett saw that what he had kept in memory had not been kept amiss. There had, as he had predicted, been no need for acids. For like his accursed picture a year before, Joseph Curwen now lay scattered on the floor as a thin coating of fine bluish-grey dust.