The Dunwich Horror – Part II

fiction

The Dunwich Horror – Part II

by H. P. LOVECRAFT

2

It was in the township of Dunwich, in a large and partly inhabited
farmhouse set against a hillside four miles from the village and a mile
and a half from any other dwelling, that Wilbur Whateley was born at 5
a. m. on Sunday, the second of February, 1913. This date was recalled
because it was Candlemas, which people in Dunwich curiously observe
under another name; and because the noises in the hills had sounded,
and all the dogs of the countryside had barked persistently, throughout
the night before. Less worthy of notice was the fact that the mother
was one of the decadent Whateleys, a somewhat deformed, unattractive
albino woman of 35, living with an aged and half-insane father
about whom the most frightful tales of wizardry had been whispered
in his youth. Lavinia Whateley had no known husband, but according
to the custom of the region made no attempt to disavow the child;
concerning the other side of whose ancestry the country folk might--and
did--speculate as widely as they chose. On the contrary, she seemed
strangely proud of the dark, goatish-looking infant who formed such a
contrast to her own sickly and pink-eyed albinism, and was heard to
mutter many curious prophecies about its unusual powers and tremendous
future.

Lavinia was one who would be apt to mutter such things, for she was a
lone creature given to wandering amidst thunderstorms in the hills and
trying to read the great odorous books which her father had inherited
through two centuries of Whateleys, and which were fast falling to
pieces with age and worm-holes. She had never been to school, but was
filled with disjointed scraps of ancient lore that Old Whateley had
taught her. The remote farmhouse had always been feared because of Old
Whateley's reputation for black magic, and the unexplained death by
violence of Mrs. Whateley when Lavinia was twelve years old had not
helped to make the place popular. Isolated among strange influences,
Lavinia was fond of wild and grandiose daydreams and singular
occupations; nor was her leisure much taken up by household cares in a
home from which all standards of order and cleanliness had long since
disappeared.

There was a hideous screaming which echoed above even the hill noises
and the dogs' barking on the night Wilbur was born, but no known doctor
or midwife presided at his coming. Neighbors knew nothing of him till
a week afterward, when Old Whateley drove his sleigh through the snow
into Dunwich Village and discoursed incoherently to the group of
loungers at Osborn's general store. There seemed to be a change in the
old man--an added element of furtiveness in the clouded brain which
subtly transformed him from an object to a subject of fear--though he
was not one to be perturbed by any common family event. Amidst it all
he showed some trace of the pride later noticed in his daughter, and
what he said of the child's paternity was remembered by many of his
hearers years afterward.

"I dun't keer what folks think--ef Lavinny's boy looked like his pa, he
wouldn't look like nothin' ye expeck. Ye needn't think the only folks
is the folks hereabouts. Lavinny's read some, an' has seed some things
the most o' ye only tell abaout. I calc'late her man is as good a
husban' as ye kin find this side of Aylesbury; an' ef ye knowed as much
abaout the hills as I dew, ye wouldn't ast no better church weddin' nor
her'n. Let me tell ye suthin'--_some day yew folks'll hear a child o'
Lavinny's a-callin' its father's name on the top o' Sentinel Hill!_"

The only persons who saw Wilbur during the first month of his life
were old Zechariah Whateley, of the undecayed Whateleys, and Earl
Sawyer's common-law wife, Mamie Bishop. Mamie's visit was frankly one
of curiosity, and her subsequent tales did justice to her observations;
but Zechariah came to lead a pair of Alderney cows which Old Whateley
had bought of his son Curtis. This marked the beginning of a course of
cattle-buying on the part of small Wilbur's family which ended only
in 1928, when the Dunwich horror came and went; yet at no time did
the ramshackle Whateley barn seem over-crowded with livestock. There
came a period when people were curious enough to steal up and count
the herd that grazed precariously on the steep hillside above the old
farmhouse, and they could never find more than ten or twelve anemic,
bloodless-looking specimens. Evidently some blight or distemper,
perhaps sprung from the unwholesome pasturage or the diseased fungi
and timbers of the filthy barn, caused a heavy mortality amongst the
Whateley animals. Odd wounds or sores, having something of the aspect
of incisions, seemed to afflict the visible cattle; and once or twice
during the earlier months certain callers fancied they could discern
similar sores about the throats of the gray, unshaven old man and his
slatternly, crinkly-haired albino daughter.

In the spring after Wilbur's birth Lavinia resumed her customary
rambles in the hills, bearing in her misproportioned arms the swarthy
child. Public interest in the Whateleys subsided after most of the
country folk had seen the baby, and no one bothered to comment on the
swift development which that newcomer seemed every day to exhibit.
Wilbur's growth was indeed phenomenal, for within three months of his
birth he had attained a size and muscular power not usually found in
infants under a full year of age. His motions and even his vocal sounds
showed a restraint and deliberateness highly peculiar in an infant,
and no one was really unprepared when, at seven months, he began to
walk unassisted, with falterings which another month was sufficient to
remove.

It was somewhat after this time--on Hallowe'en--that a great blaze was
seen at midnight on the top of Sentinel Hill where the old table-like
stone stands amidst its tumulus of ancient bones. Considerable talk
was started when Silas Bishop--of the undecayed Bishops--mentioned
having seen the boy running sturdily up that hill ahead of his mother
about an hour before the blaze was remarked. Silas was rounding up a
stray heifer, but he nearly forgot his mission when he fleetingly spied
the two figures in the dim light of his lantern. They darted almost
noiselessly through the underbrush, and the astonished watcher seemed
to think they were entirely unclothed. Afterward he could not be sure
about the boy, who may have had some kind of a fringed belt and a pair
of dark blue trunks or trousers on. Wilbur was never subsequently seen
alive and conscious without complete and tightly buttoned attire, the
disarrangement or threatened disarrangement of which always seemed to
fill him with anger and alarm. His contrast with his squalid mother and
grandfather in this respect was thought very notable until the horror
of 1928 suggested the most valid of reasons.

The next January gossips were mildly interested in the fact that
"Lavinny's brat" had commenced to talk, and at the age of only
eleven months. His speech was somewhat remarkable both because of its
difference from the ordinary accents of the region, and because it
displayed a freedom from infantile lisping of which many children of
three or four might well be proud. The boy was not talkative, yet when
he spoke he seemed to reflect some elusive element wholly unpossessed
by Dunwich and its denizens. The strangeness did not reside in what he
said, or even in the simple idioms he used; but seemed vaguely linked
with his intonation or with the internal organs that produced the
spoken sounds. His facial aspect, too, was remarkable for its maturity;
for though he shared his mother's and grandfather's chinlessness, his
firm and precociously shaped nose united with the expression on his
large, dark, almost Latin eyes to give him an air of quasi-adulthood
and well-nigh preternatural intelligence. He was, however, exceedingly
ugly despite his appearance of brilliancy; there being something almost
goatish or animalistic about his thick lips, large-pored, yellowish
skin, coarse crinkly hair, and oddly elongated ears. He was soon
disliked even more decidedly than his mother and grandsire, and all
conjectures about him were spiced with references to the bygone magic
of Old Whateley, and how the hills once shook when he shrieked the
dreadful name of _Yog-Sothoth_ in the midst of a circle of stones with
a great book open in his arms before him. Dogs abhorred the boy, and
he was always obliged to take various defensive measures against their
barking menace.

>>>>>>>>For Part III, please visit sparrow-publishing.ca on July 07 2019 <<<<<<<<<<

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