The Dunwich Horror – Part III

fiction

The Dunwich Horror – Part III

by H. P. LOVECRAFT

3

Meanwhile Old Whateley continued to buy cattle without measurably
increasing the size of his herd. He also cut timber and began to
repair the unused parts of his house--a spacious, peaked-roofed affair
whose rear end was buried entirely in the rocky hillside, and whose
three least-ruined ground-floor rooms had always been sufficient for
himself and his daughter. There must have been prodigious reserves
of strength in the old man to enable him to accomplish so much hard
labor; and though he still babbled dementedly at times, his carpentry
seemed to show the effects of sound calculation. It had really begun
as soon as Wilbur was born, when one of the many tool-sheds had been
put suddenly in order, clapboarded, and fitted with a stout fresh lock.
Now, in restoring the abandoned upper story of the house, he was a no
less thorough craftsman. His mania showed itself only in his tight
boarding-up of all the windows in the reclaimed section--though many
declared that it was a crazy thing to bother with the reclamation at
all. Less inexplicable was his fitting-up of another downstairs room
for his new grandson--a room which several callers saw, though no one
was ever admitted to the closely-boarded upper story. This chamber
he lined with tall, firm shelving; along which he began gradually to
arrange, in apparently careful order, all the rotting ancient books and
parts of books which during his own day had been heaped promiscuously
in odd corners of the various rooms.

"I made some use of 'em," he would say as he tried to mend a torn
black-letter page with paste prepared on the rusty kitchen stove, "but
the boy's fitten to make better use of 'em. He'd orter hev 'em as well
sot as he kin for they're goin' to be all of his larnin'."

When Wilbur was a year and seven months old--in September of 1914--his
size and accomplishments were almost alarming. He had grown as large as
a child of four, and was a fluent and incredibly intelligent talker.
He ran freely about the fields and hills, and accompanied his mother
on all her wanderings. At home he would pore diligently over the queer
pictures and charts in his grandfather's books, while Old Whateley
would instruct and catechize him through long, hushed afternoons. By
this time the restoration of the house was finished, and those who
watched it wondered why one of the upper windows had been made into a
solid plank door. It was a window in the rear of the east gable end,
close against the hill; and no one could imagine why a cleated wooden
runway was built up to it from the ground. About the period of this
work's completion people noticed that the old tool-house, tightly
locked and windowlessly clapboarded since Wilbur's birth, had been
abandoned again. The door swung listlessly open, and when Earl Sawyer
once stepped within after a cattle-selling call on Old Whateley he was
quite discomposed by the singular odor he encountered--such a stench,
he averred, as he had never before smelt in all his life except near
the Indian circles on the hills, and which could not come from anything
sane or of this earth. But then, the homes and sheds of Dunwich folk
have never been remarkable for olfactory immaculateness.

The following months were void of visible events, save that everyone
swore to a slow but steady increase in the mysterious hill noises. On
May Eve of 1915 there were tremors which even the Aylesbury people
felt, whilst the following Hallowe'en produced an underground rumbling
queerly synchronized with bursts of flame--"them witch Whateleys'
doin's"--from the summit of Sentinel Hill. Wilbur was growing up
uncannily, so that he looked like a boy of ten as he entered his
fourth year. He read avidly by himself now; but talked much less than
formerly. A settled taciturnity was absorbing him, and for the first
time people began to speak specifically of the dawning look of evil in
his goatish face. He would sometimes mutter an unfamiliar jargon, and
chant in bizarre rhythms which chilled the listener with a sense of
unexplainable terror. The aversion displayed toward him by dogs had now
become a matter of wide remark, and he was obliged to carry a pistol
in order to traverse the countryside in safety. His occasional use of
the weapon did not enhance his popularity amongst the owners of canine
guardians.

The few callers at the house would often find Lavinia alone on the
ground floor, while odd cries and footsteps resounded in the boarded-up
second story. She would never tell what her father and the boy were
doing up there, though once she turned pale and displayed an abnormal
degree of fear when a jocose fish-peddler tried the locked door leading
to the stairway. That peddler told the store loungers at Dunwich
Village that he thought he heard a horse stamping on that floor above.
The loungers reflected, thinking of the door and runway, and of
the cattle that so swiftly disappeared. Then they shuddered as they
recalled tales of Old Whateley's youth, and of the strange things that
are called out of the earth when a bullock is sacrificed at the proper
time to certain heathen gods. It had for some time been noticed that
dogs had begun to hate and fear the whole Whateley place as violently
as they hated and feared young Wilbur personally.

In 1917 the war came, and Squire Sawyer Whateley, as chairman of the
local draft board, had hard work finding a quota of young Dunwich men
fit even to be sent to a development camp. The government, alarmed at
such signs of wholesale regional decadence, sent several officers and
medical experts to investigate; conducting a survey which New England
newspaper readers may still recall. It was the publicity attending this
investigation which set reporters on the track of the Whateleys, and
caused the _Boston Globe_ and _Arkham Advertiser_ to print flamboyant
Sunday stories of young Wilbur's precociousness, Old Whateley's black
magic, the shelves of strange books, the sealed second story of the
ancient farmhouse, and the weirdness of the whole region and its hill
noises. Wilbur was four and a half then, and looked like a lad of
fifteen. His lip and cheek were fuzzy with a coarse dark down, and his
voice had begun to break. Earl Sawyer went out to the Whateley place
with both sets of reporters and camera men, and called their attention
to the queer stench which now seemed to trickle down from the sealed
upper spaces. It was, he said, exactly like a smell he had found in the
tool-shed abandoned when the house was finally repaired, and like the
faint odors which he sometimes thought he caught near the stone circles
on the mountains. Dunwich folk read the stories when they appeared, and
grinned over the obvious mistakes. They wondered, too, why the writers
made so much of the fact that Old Whateley always paid for his cattle
in gold pieces of extremely ancient date. The Whateleys had received
their visitors with ill-concealed distaste, though they did not dare
court further publicity by a violent resistance or refusal to talk.

>>>>>>>>For Part IV, please visit sparrow-publishing.ca on July 21 2020 <<<<<<<<<<

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