The Infernal Star (Fragment)

Clark Ashton Smith

Accursed forevermore is Yamil Zacra, star of perdition, who sitteth apart and weaveth the web of his rays like a spider spinning in a garden. Even as far as the light of Yamil Zacra falleth among the worlds, so goeth forth the bane and the bale thereof. And the seed of Yamil Zacra, like a fiery tare, is sown in planets that know him only as the least of the stars ....
     —Fragment of a Hyperborean tablet.


From a somewhat prolonged acquaintance with Oliver Woadley, I can avow my belief that the story he told me, in explanation of the dire embarrassment from which I had rescued him, was absolutely beyond his powers of invention.

Returning on the train at 2 A.M., after a month in Chicago, to the large Mid-western city of which we were both denizens of long standing, I had gone to bed immediately with the hope that no one would interrupt my slumber for many hours to come. However, I was awakened at earliest dawn by a telephone call from Woadley, who, in a voice rendered virtually unrecognizable by agitation and distress, implored me to come at once and identify him at the local police station. He also begged me to loan him whatever clothing I could spare.

Hastening to comply with the twofold request, I found a pitifully dazed and bewildered Woadley, garbed only in the blanket with which the police had decorously provided him. Piecing together his own vague and half-coherent account with the story of the officer who had arrested him, I learned that he had been trying to reach his suburban home a little before daybreak, via one of the main avenues, in a state of what may be termed Adamic starkness. At the time, he seemed unable to provide any clear explanation of his plight. Concealing my astonishment, I bore witness to the sanity and respectability of my friend, and succeeded in persuading the forces of the law that his singular promenade in puris naturabilis was merely a case of noctambulism. Though I had never known him to be thus afflicted, I believed sincerely that this was the only conceivable explanation; though, it was quite staggering that he should have appeared in public or anywhere else without pajamas or night-gown. His evident confusion of mind, I thought, was such as would be shown by a rudely awakened sleepwalker.

After he had dressed himself in the somewhat roomily fitting suit which I had brought along for that purpose, I took Woadley to my apartments and fortified him with cognac, hot coffee and a generous breakfast, all of which he manifestly needed. Afterwards he became vociferously grateful and explanatory. I learned that he had summoned me to his assistance because he deemed me the only one of his friends sufficiently broad-minded and unconventional to make allowance for the plight into which he had fallen. Especially, he had feared to call upon his own valet and housekeeper; and he had hoped to reach his home and enter it unobserved. Also, for the first time, he began to hint at a strange series of happenings which had preceded his arrest; and finally, with some reluctance, he told me the entire tale.

This story I have re-shaped hereunder in my own words. Unfortunately, I made no notes at the time; and I fear that some of the details are more impressionistic than precise in my memory. It is now impossible for Woadley to clarify them, since he forgot the whole experience shortly after unburdening himself, and denied positively that he had ever told me anything of the sort. This forgetfulness, however, must now be regarded as a tacit confirmation of his tale, since it merely fulfills the doom declared against him by Tisaina.

Chapter I: The Finding of the Amulet

Woadley, it would seem, was the last person likely to undergo a translation in which the familiar laws of time and place were abrogated. For one thing, his faith in these laws was so implicit. Least of all, in the beginning, was he aware of any nascent impulse or aspiration toward things beyond the natural scope of mundane effort. The strange and the far-away had always bored him. His interest in astronomy and other orthodox but abstract sciences was very mild indeed; and sorcery was a theme that he had never even considered, except with the random superciliousness of the well-entrenched materialist. Evil, for him, was not the profound reverse ascension of the mind and soul, but was wholly synonymous with crime and social wrong-doing; and his own life had been blameless. A middle-aged bibliophile, with the means and leisure to indulge his proclivities, he asked nothing of life, other than a plenitude of Elzevirs and fine editions.

The strange process, which was to melt the solid world about him into less than shadow, began with the irritating error made by a book-dealer on whom he had always relied for infallible service. He had ordered from this dealer the well-known Hampshire edition of the novels of Jane Austen; and, opening the box, found immediately that Volume X of the set was missing. In its place was a book that resembled the other volumes only through the general form and black leather binding. The cover of this book was conspicuously worn and dull, and without lettering of any sort. Even before he had examined its contents, the substitution impressed Woadley as being an unpardonable piece of carelessness.

"I should never have believed it of Calvin," he thought. "The man must be in his dotage."

He lifted the lid of the unattractive volume, and discovered to his further surprise that it was a bound manuscript, written in a clear but spidery hand, with ink that showed a variety of discolorations, on paper brown and slightly charred at the edges. Apparently it had been saved from a conflagration; or perhaps someone had started to burn it and changed his mind. After reading a few sentences here and there, Woadley was inclined to the latter supposition, but could not imagine why the burning had been prevented.

The manuscript was untitled, unsigned, and appeared to be a collection of miscellaneous notes and jottings, made by some eccentrically minded person who had lived in New England toward the latter end of the era of witchcraft. References were made in the present tense to certain notorious witches of the time. Most of the entries, however, bore on matters that were fantastically varied and remote, and which had no patent relationship to each other aside from their common queerness and extravagance. The erudition of the unknown writer was remarkable even if misguided: as he turned the leaves impatiently, the attention of Woadley was caught by unheard-of names and terms wholly obscure to him. He frowned over casual mentionings of Lomar, Eibon, Zemargad, the Ghooric Zone, Zothique, the Table of Mordiggian, Thilil, Psollantha, Vermazbor, and the Black Flame of Yuzh. A little further on, he came to the following passage, which was equally holocryptic:

"The star Yamil Zacra, which shines but faintly on Earth, was clearly distinguished by the Hyperboreans, who knew it as the fountainhead of all evil. They knew, moreover, that in every peopled world to which the beams of Yamil Zacra have penetrated, there are beings who bear in their flesh the fierie particles diffused by this star thorughout time and space. Such beings may pass their days without knowledge of the perilous kinship and the awefull powers acquired by virtue of these particles; but in others the evill declares itself variously. All who are witches or wizards or necromancers, or seekers of any forbidden lore or domination, have in them more or less of the seed of Yamil Zacra. Most mightily do the fires awaken, it is said, in him that wears on his person one of the black amulets which were brought to Earth in elder time from the great planetary world that circles eternally about Yamil Zacra and its dark companion, Yuzh. These amulets are made of a strange mineral, and upon each of them, as upon a seal, is graved the head of an unknown creature. They were once five in number, but now there are only two of them left on Earth, since the other three have been translated with their wearers back to the parent world. The manner of such translation is hard to comprehend; and the thing can occur only to one who has in himself the highest and most potent of the severall kinds of atomies emitted by Yamil Zacra. These, if he wear the amulet, may master within him in their fierie flowering the seeds of all other suns; and, being brought by virtue of this change beneath the full magneticall sway of the parent star, he will see the walls of time and place dissolve about him, and will walk in the flesh on the planet that is near to Yamil Zacra. Howbeit, there are other mysteries concerned, of which nothing is known latterly: for this lore was mainly lost with the eider continents; and lost likewise are the very names of the three men who were transported formerly from Earth. But Carnamagos, in his Testaments, prophecied that a fourth transportation would occur during the present cycle of terrene time; and the fifth would not occur till the final cycle, and the lifting of the last continent, Zothique."

Appended to this passage, in the form of a footnote, was another entry: "The star Yamil Zacra is unnamed by astronomers, and is seldom noted, being insignificant to the eye because of the brighter orbs that surround it. He would find it must look midway between Algol and Polaris."

Woadley was unable to account for the patience he had shown in perusing this ineffable farrago.

"What stuff" he exclaimed aloud, as he closed the volume and dropped it on the library table with a vehemence that bespoke his indignation. "I had no idea that Calvin went in for astrology and such rot. I must give him a piece of my mind about this damnable mistake."

His eye returned to the volume, noting with fresh displeasure that the somewhat shabby binding, which was plainly the work of an amateur, had cracked a little at the back from the violence with which he had let it fall. Gingerly he picked it up again, to examine the damage. Behind the rent in the shoddy leather, which ran diagonally down from the book's top, he discerned the rim of a small flat article, dark but scintillant, that was lodged in the interstices of the binding. Moved by a half-unwilling curiosity, he pried the thing very carefully from its hiding-place with a thin paper-cutter, without lengthening the rift.

"Well, I'll be damned," he said to himself, aloud. The profanity was almost without precedent for Woadley, but, in justification, the object that lay in the palm of his hand was nothing less than unique. It was a kind of miniature plaque or seal-like carving, little larger or thicker than an Attic mina, made of a carbon-black material which seemed to emit phosphorescent sparklings and was impossibly heavy, being at least double the weight of lead. Its outlines were unearthly, but, in the absence of any data to enlighten him, he assumed that the thing represented a sort of profile. This profile possessed a sickle-like beak and a semi-batrachian mouth whose underlip curved down obscurely and divided into swollen wattles. Far back in the corrugated face, there was a round, protuberant eye that gave the uncomfortable illusion of revolving in its socket beneath the least change of light. Above this eye, the head arose in a series of bosses, each of which was armed with a formidable upward-jutting spike. The monster was neither bird, beast nor insect, and it seemed to express a diabolism beyond anything in nature or human art. A medieval gargoyle, or an Aztec god, would have been mild and benignant in comparison. Shimmering as if with black hell-fire, it appeared to twist and writh in malign fury as it lay in Woadley's hand. He turned it over rather hastily, but found that the obverse side repeated the figure in every hideous detail, like the other half of a face. [^He noticed also, for the first time, that certain worm-like characters or symbols were repeated in the clear space between the profile and the rim.^]

Owning himself utterly at a loss, he put this thing in his coat-pocket, with the intention of showing it to the curator of a local museum. This curator, with whom he was on friendly terms, would no doubt be able to identify it. Later, he would return it to the book-seller, together with the offensively substituted volume.

He looked at the clock, and saw that the closing time of the museum was nearly at hand. The curator seldom lingered after hours, and he lived in a remote suburb; so Woadley decided to defer his visit till the following day. It still lacked an hour of his customary dinner-time; and a curious languor, a disinclination toward any effort, either mental or physical, had come upon him all at once. The annoyance of the book-dealer's error, the bothersome riddle of the carving, began to slip from his mind. He sat down to peruse the evening paper, which his manservant had brought in a little while before.

Amid the heavier headlines of crime and politics, his eye was drawn almost immediately to an unobtrusive item relating to a new scientific discovery. It was headed: INFRA-MICROSCOPIC SUNS IN LIVING BODY-TISSUE. Woadley seldom read anything of the sort; but for some reason his interest was inveigled. He found that the gist of the article was in the following paragraph:

"It has now been proved that the human body contains atoms which burn like infinitesimal suns at a temperature of 1500° Centigrade. They stimulate vital activity, and many of their functions and properties are not yet wholly comprehended. In the most literal sense, they are identical with sun-fire and star-fire. Their arrangement in the tissue is like the spacing of constellations."

"How queer!" thought Woadley. "Bless me, but that's like the stuff in the astrological manuscript—the 'fierie particles,' etc. What are we coming to anyway?"

After dining with the moderation that marked all of his habits, Oliver Woadley was overcome by an unwonted and excessive drowsiness, which he could hardly attribute to his single glass of port. Being a respectable bachelor, he commonly spent his evenings in his own home, or else at one of the ultra-conservative clubs to which he belonged. In either case, with an unfailing punctuality, he was in bed by 10:30 P.M. This time, however, to the mild scandalization of his valet and housekeeper, he fell asleep in an easy chair among his books, after vainly trying to keep himself awake with Volume I of Sense and Sensibility from the new and strangely incomplete set of Jane Austen. There was a feeling of insidious narcotic luxury, a dim and indolent drifting as if upon Lethean clouds or vapors or exotic perfumes. At moments he was vaguely troubled by this infinite relaxation, which seemed to have in it something of decadent sensuality and sybaritism. However, he quickly resigned himself, and slumber bore him away on a tide softer than drifted poppy petals.

His sleep was soon troubled by a feeling of vast subliminal unrest and activity. In a state midway between oblivion and coherent dream, he seemed to apprehend the muttering of myriad voices, the opening of many doors, the lighting of myriad lamps and furnaces in the secret subterranes of his mind, that had lain dark and stirless heretofore. The muffled tumult rose and grew louder, the flames brightened, as if a resurrection of dead things were taking place. Then, like an ever-streaming pageant called up by necromancy, the dreams began.

His dreams, as a rule, were no less ordinary, no less innocuous, than the doings and reveries of the daytime. But now, with no violation of congruity, and no sense of strangeness or revulsion, he found himself playing the chief role in dramas from which the waking Woadley would have recoiled with horror.

In one of the dreams he was a medieval sorcerer taking part in the gross abominations of the Sabbat, amid the hysterical laughter of witches, the moaning of succubi, and the leaping of flames that flung their bloody gules on the black, enormous Creature presiding over all. In a second dream, he was an alchemist who sought the elixir of immortal life. He breathed the vapors of poisonous chemicals, he delved in volumes of unholy lore and madness, he tampered with the secrets of death and mortality, in the effort to reach his goal. Then he became an Atlantean scientist who had mastered the creation of living protoplasm and the disintegration of the atom, and who, by virtue of this knowledge, had attained tyrannic empire over the peoples of the crumbling continent. He made war on rebel cities with armies of artificial monsters; till, threatened in his citadel by the deadly [sub-atomic] fungi sent against him by a rival savant, he loosed the cataclysmic forces that would shatter the last foundations of Atlantis and bring upon it the engulfing sea. Subsequently, by turns, he was a Shaman of some Tartar tribe, performing rude sacrifice to barbarous gods; a Yezidee devil-worshipper, serving the baleful Peacock; and a witch of Salem who called upon demons and hurled venomous maledictions at the bystanders as she was led to the stake.

Centuries, cycles of wild and various visions followed, with no other thread of unity than the lust for unlawful knowledge and power, or pleasure beyond the natural limits of the senses, which was common to all the selves of the dreamer. Then, with casual suddenness, the phantasmagoria took an even stranger turn.

The scene of these latter dreams was not the Earth, but an immense planet revolving around the sun Yamil Zacra and its dark companion, Yuzh. The name of the world was Pnidleethon. It was a place of exuberant evil life, and its very poles were tropically fertile; and the lowliest of its people was more learned in wizardry, and mightier in necromancy, than the greatest of terrene sorcerers. How he had arrived there, the dreamer did not know, for he was faint and blinded with the glory of Yamil Zacra, burning in mid-heaven with insupportable whiteness beside the blackly flaming orb of Yuzh. He knew, however, that in Pnidleethon he was no longer the master of evil he had been on Earth, but was an humble neophyte who sought admission to a dark hierarchy. As a proof of his fitness, he was to undergo tremendous ordeals, and tests of unimaginable fire and night.

There was, he thought, a terrible terraced mountain, lifting in the air for a hundred miles between the suns; and he must climb from terrace to terrace on stairs guarded by a million larvae of alien horror, a million chimeras of the further cosmos. Death, in a form hideous beyond the dooms of Earth, would be the price of the least failure of courage or any momentary relaxation of vigilance. On each of the lower terraces, when he had attained it after incalculable jeopardy, there were veiled sphinxes and hooded colossi of ill to whose interrogations he must give infallible answer. And having answered them correctly, thus evading the special doom assigned for the ignorant or forgetful, he must commit himself to the care of those Gardeners whose task was the temporary grafting of human life on the life of certain monstrous plants. And after the floral transmigration, in which he must abide for a stated term of time, there were other transmigrations for the acolyte to undergo on his way to the mountain-summit, so that no order of life and sentience should be foreign to his understanding ....

In another dream, he had nearly gained the summit, and the rays of Yamil Zacra were upon him like ever-falling sheets of levin-flame in the cloudless air. He had passed all of the mountain's guardians, except Vermazbor, who warded the apex, and was the most terrible of all. Vermazbor, who had no visible form, other than that derived from the acolyte's profoundest and most secret fear, was taking shape before him; and all the pain and peril and travail he had endured in his ascent would be as nothing, unless he could vanquish Vermazbor ....

Chapter II: The Wearing of the Amulet

When Woadley awakened, all of these monstrous and outré dreams were like memories of actual happenings in his mind. With bewilderment that deepened into consternation, he found that he could not dissociate himself from the strange avatars through which he had lived. Like the victim of some absurd obsession, who, knowing well the absurdity, is nevertheless without power to free himself, he tried vainly for some time to disinvolve the thoughts and actions of his diurnal life from those of the seekers after illicit things with whom he had been identified.

Physically, his sensations were those of preternatural vigor, of indomitable strength and boundless resilience. This, however, contributed to his alarm and mental dislocation. Almost immediately, when he awakened, he became aware of the heavy carving, pressing against him like a live and radiant thing in his pocket. It thrilled him, terrified him inexpressibly. An excitement such as he had never known, and bordering on hysteria, mounted within him. In a sort of visual hallucination, it seemed that the early morning room was filled with the lambence of some larger and more ardent orb than the sun.

He wondered if he were going mad: for suddenly, with a sense of mystic illumination, he remembered the passage in the old manuscript regarding Yamil Zacra and the dark amulets; and it came to him that the thing in his pocket was one of these amulets, and that he himself was the fleshly tenement of certain of the fiery particles from Yami! Zacra. His reason, of course, tried to dismiss the idea as being more than preposterous. The information on which he had stumbled was, he told himself, a fragment of obscure folklore; and like all such lore, was crass superstition. In spite of this argument, which could have seemed incontrovertible to any sane modernist, Woadley drew the carving from his pocket with a fumbling haste that was perilously near to frenzy, and laid it on the library table beside the dilapidated volume that had been its repository.

To his infinite relief, his sensations quickly began to approximate their normal calmness and sanity. It was like the fading of some inveterately possessive nightmare; and Woadley decided that the whole phenomenon had been merely a shadowy prolongation of his dreams into a state between sleeping and waking. The removal of the plaque from his person had served to dissipate the lingering films of slumber. Reiterating to himself this comfortable assurance, he sat down at once and wrote a letter of protest to the dealer who had mistakenly supplied him with the volume of ungodly and outrageous ana. Still further relieved by this vindication of his natural, everyday self, he repaired to the bathroom. T he homely acts of shaving and bathing contributed even more to the recovery of his equanimity; and after eating an extra egg and drinking two cups of strong coffee at breakfast, he felt that the recovery was complete.

He was now able to re-approach the engravure with the courage and complacency of one who has laid a phantom or destroyed a formidable bogy. The malignant profile, jetty and phosphorescent, seemed to turn upon him like a furious gargoyle. But he conquered his revulsion, and, wrapping it carefully in several thicknesses of manila paper, he sallied forth toward the local museum, whose curator, he thought, would be able to resolve the mystery of the carving's nature and origin.

The museum was only a few blocks away, and he decided that a leisurely saunter through the spring air would serve as a beneficial supplement to the hygiene of the morning. However, as he walked along the sun-bright avenue into the city, there occurred a gradual resumption of the dream-like alienage, the nervous unease and derangement, that had pursued him on awakening from that night of prodigious cacodemons. Again there was the weird quickening of his vital energies, the feeling that the flat image was a radiant burden against his flesh through raiment and wrapping-paper. The phantoms of foundered and unholy selves appeared to rise within him like a sea that obeyed the summoning of some occult black moon.

Abhorrent thoughts, having the clearness of recollections, occurred to him again and again. At moments he forgot his destination .... He was going forth on darker business, was faring to some sorcerers' rendezvous. In an effort to dispel such ridiculous fantasies, he began to tell over the treasures of his library... but the list was somehow confused with dreadful and outlandish volumes, of which the normal Woadley was altogether ignorant or had heard but vaguely. Yet it seemed that he was familiar with their contents, had summarized their evil formulas, their invocations, their histories and hierarchies of demons.

Suddenly, as he walked along with half-hallucinated eyes and brain, a man jostled him clumsily, and Woadley turned upon the offender in a blaze of arrogant fury, the words of an awful ancient curse, in a rarely studied language, pouring sonorously from his lips. The man, who was about to apologize, fell back from him with ashen face and quaking limbs, and then started to run as if a devil had reached out and clawed him. He limped strangely as he ran, and somehow Woadley understood the specific application of the curse he had just fulminated in an unknown tongue. His unnatural anger fell away from him, he became aware that several bystanders were eyeing him with embarrassing curiosity, and he hurried on, little less shaken and terrified than the victim of the malediction.

How he reached the museum, he was never quite able to remember afterwards. His inward distraction prevented him from noticing, except as a vague, unfeatured shadow, the man who descended the museum steps as he himself began to climb them. Then, as if in some dream of darkness, he realized that the man had spoken to him in passing, and had said to him in a clear voice, with an elusively foreign accent: "O bearer of the fourth amulet, O favored kinsman of Yamil Zacra, I salute thee."

Needless to say, Woadley was more than astonished by this incredible greeting. And yet, in some furtive, unacknowledged way, his astonishment was not altogether surprise. Recalled by the voice to a more distinct awareness of outward things, he turned to stare at the person who had accosted him, and saw only the back of a tall, gaunt figure, wearing a formal morning coat and a high-piled purplish turban. Apparently the man was some kind of Oriental, who had compromised between his native garb and that of the Occident. Without turning his head, so that Woadley could have seen his face or even the salient portions of his profile, he went on with an agile gait that appeared to betoken immense muscular vigor. Woadley stood peering after him, as the man strode quickly along the avenue toward the low-hanging matutinal sun; and, dazzled by the brilliant light, he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, the stranger had disappeared in a most unaccountable fashion, as if he had dissolved like a vapor. It was impossible that he could have rounded the corner of the long block in that brief instant; and the nearby buildings were all private residences, a little withdrawn from the pavement, and with open lawns that could hardly have offered concealment for a figure so conspicuous.

Two hypotheses occurred to Woadley. Either he was still dreaming in his arm-chair, or else the man who had spoken to him on the steps was an hallucinatory figment of the aberration that had begun to submerge his normal consciousness. As he climbed the remaining stairs and entered the hall, it seemed that circles of fire were woven about him, and his brain whirled with the vertigo of one who walks on a knife-edge wall over cataracts of terror and splendor pouring from gulf to gulf of an unknown cosmos. He fought to maintain corporeal equilibrium as well as to regain sanity.

Somehow, he found himself in the curator's office. Through films of dizzying, radiant unreality, he was conscious of himself as a separate entity who received and returned the greeting of his friend Arthur Collins, the plump and business-like curator. It was the same separate entity who removed the carving from his pocket, unfolded it from the quadruple wrapping of brown paper, laid it on the desk before Collins, and asked Collins to identify the object.

Almost immediately, there was a reunion of his weirdly sundered selves. The floor became solid beneath him, the webs of alien glory receded from the air. He realized that Collins was peering from the carving to himself, and back again to the carving, with a look of ludicrous puzzlement on his rosy features.

"Where on earth did you find this curio?" said Collins, a note of faint exasperation mingling with the almost infantile perplexity in his voice. The fresh color of his face deepened to an apoplectic ruby when he held up the carving in his hand and perceived its unnatural weight.

Woadley explained the circumstances of his finding of the object. "Well, I'll be everlastingly hornswoggled if I can place the thing," opined Collins. "It's not Aztec, Minoan, Toltec, Pompeiian, Hindu, Babylonian, Chinese, Graeco-Bactrian, Cro-Magnon, Mound-Builder, Carthaginian, or anything else in the whole range of archaeology. It must be the work of some crazy modern artist—though how in perdition he obtained the material is beyond me. No mineral of such weight and specific gravity has been discovered [—at least not on our planet. If such an idea were tenable, I'd say that this thing had come from an alien world]. If you don't mind leaving it here for a few hours, I'll call in some expert mineralogists and archaeologists. Maybe someone can throw a little light on it." ["After all, there must be some explanation that a sane mind could accept," he concluded hopefully.]

"Surely, keep the thing as long as you like," assented Woadley. There was a blessed feeling of relief in the thought that he would not have to carry the carving on his person when he returned home. It was as if he had rid himself of some noxious incubus.

"You don't even need to return it to me," he told Collins. "Send it directly to Peter Calvin, the book-dealer. It belongs to him if to anyone. You know his address, I dare say."

Collins nodded rather absently. He was staring with open, semi-mesmeric horror at the baleful gravure. "I wouldn't care to meet the original of this creature," he observed. "The mind of its creator was hardly imbued with Matthew Arnold's 'sweetness and light.' [And if it came from another world, I must say that the world was far from pretty.]"

Toward evening of that day, Woadley had convinced himself that his morning experiences, as well as the dreams of the previous night, were due to some obscure digestive complaint. It was, he told himself again and again, preposterous to imagine that they were connected in any way with the star Yamil Zacra or a dark amulet from Yamil Zacra or any other place. By some kind of sophistry, the vague, elastic explanation had somehow included the disturbing incident of the curse; and he was willing to admit the possibility of an element of auto-suggestion in the strange greeting he had heard, or seemed to hear, from the man on the museum stairs. The foundations of his being, the fortified ramparts of his small but comfortable world, which had been sorely shaken in that hour of tremendous malaise, were now safely re-established.

He was perturbed and irritated, however, when a messenger came from the museum about sunset, with a note from Collins and a package containing the little plaque. He had thought himself permanently rid of the thing; but evidently Collins had forgotten or misunderstood his instructions. The note merely stated, in a fashion almost curt, that no one had been able to place either the material or the art-period of the carving.

Leaving the package unopened on his library table, he dined early and went out to spend the evening at one of his clubs. Returning home at the usual hour of 10:30, he retired very properly to his bedroom with the hope that his unholy nightmares would not be repeated.

Sleep, however, betrayed him again to forgotten worlds of blasphemy, of diabolism and necromancy. Through eternal dreams, through peril, wonder, foulness, ghastliness and glory, he sought once more the empire barred by a wise God to finite man. Again he was alchemist and magician, witch and wizard. Reviling and scorn, and the casting of sharp stones, and the dooms of thumbscrew and rack and auto-da-fé, he endured in that quest of the absolute. He dabbled in the blood of children, in the filth and feculence unspeakable, and the ultimate putrefaction of the grave. He held parley with the Dwellers in pits beyond geometric space, he gave homage to hideous demons seen by the aid of Avernian drugs that blasted the user. From sea-corroded Atlantean columns, he gleaned a lore that seared his very soul in the gleaning; on lost papyri of prehistoric Egypt, and tablets of green brass from Eighur tombs, he found the wisdom that was henceforth as a mordant charnel-worm in his brain. And great, by virtue of all this, was the reward that he won and the masterdom he achieved.

His stupendous dreams of Pnidleethon were not resumed on that night; but with certain other dreams the pristine tradition of Yamil Zacra and the five amulets was interwoven. He sought to acquire one of the fabled amulets, seeking it throughout his avatar as a Hyperborean wizard, in archetypal cities and amid subhuman tribes. A lord of earthly science and evil, he had aspired madly to that supreme evolution possible only through the amulet, by which he would return through the riven veils of time and place to Yamil Zacra. It seemed that he pursued the quest in vain through life after life, till the great ice-sheet rolled upon Hyperborea; and the night of nescience came upon him, and he was swept away from his antique wisdom by other lives and deaths. Then there came darker visions, and more aimless seekings unlit by the legend of Yamil Zacra, in ages when all wizards had forgotten the true source of their wizardry; and after these, he dreamed that he was Oliver Woadley, and that somehow he had come into possession of the longed-for talisman, and was about to recover all that he had lost amid the dust and ruining of cycles.

From his final dream, he awakened suddenly and sat bolt upright in bed, clutching at the pocket of his old-fashioned nightgown. There was a glowing weight against his heart, and the grey morning twilight about him was filled with an illumination of infernal splendor. In an exaltation of rapturous triumph, no longer mingled with any fear or doubting or confusion, he knew that he wore the amulet and would continue to wear it thereafter.

Early in his sleep, he must have risen like a noctambulist to untie the thing from the parcel on the library table, where, later, he found the small cardboard box and crumpled paper in which Collins had returned it to him.

Chapter III: "I am Avalzant, the Warden of the Fiery Change."

In telling me his story, Woadley was somewhat vague and reticent about his psychological condition on the day following the second night of necromantic dreams. I infer, though, that there were partial relapses into normality, fluctuations of alarm and horror, moments in which he again mistrusted his own sanity. The complete reversal of his wonted habits of thought, the flight of his strait horizons upon vertiginous gulfs and far worlds, was not to be accomplished without intervals of chaos or conflict. And, yet, from that time on, he seems to have accepted his incredible destiny. He wore the amulet continually, and his initial sensations of vertigo and semi-delirium were not repeated. But under its influence, he became literally another person than the mild bibliophile, Oliver Woadley ....

His outward life, however, went on pretty much as usual. In answer to the vehement epistle of complaint he had written to Peter Calvin, he received an explanatory and profusely apologetic letter. The untitled manuscript had belonged to the library of a deceased and eccentric collector, which Calvin had purchased in toto. A new and near-sighted clerk had been responsible for the misplacing of the dark volume amid the set of Jane Austen, and the same clerk had packed the set for shipment to Woadley without detecting his error. Calvin was very sorry indeed and he was sending Volume X by express prepaid. Woadley could do whatever he pleased with the old manuscript, which was more curious than valuable.

Woadley smiled over this letter, not without irony; for the manuscript of obscure ana, which had outraged him on his first cursory perusal of its contents, was now of far more interest to him than Jane Austen. Living umbrageously, and avoiding his friends and acquaintances, he had already begun the study of certain excessively rare tomes, such as The Necronomicon and the writings of Hali. These he collated carefully with The Testaments of Carnamagos, that Cimmerian seer whose records of ultimate blasphemies, both past and future, were found in Graeco-Bactrian tombs. Also, he perused several works of more recent date, such as Vertnain's Pandemonium. How Woadley acquired these virtually unheard-of volumes, I never understood; but apparently they came to his hand with the same coincidental ease as the black amulet: an ease in which it is possible to suspect an almost infinitely remote provenance.

To these books, the darkest cabbala of human and demoniac knowledge, he applied himself like an old student who wishes to refresh his memory, rather than as a beginner. Their appalling lore, it seemed, was a thing that he remembered from pre-existent lives, together with the lost words, the primal arcanic symbols that had baffled their translators. The memory had been revived within him by the talisman. It was the flowering of the monads of Yamil Zacra, the eternal, unforgetting atoms which, before entering his body at birth, had been incarnate in a thousand sorcerers and masters of unpermitted wisdom. This esoteric truth, so difficult to believe or understand, he knew with a simple certainty.

His servants, it would appear, were not cognizant of any change in Woadley, and thought nothing of his studies, doubtless taking the tomes he perused so assiduously for quaint incunabula. A general impression that he was out of town seems to have been created in the small social circle to which he belonged; and, by a coincidence that suited well enough with his own inclination, no one came to call upon him for a whole fortnight.

At the end of that fortnight, in the late evening, he received an unexpected visitor. His servants had gone to bed, and he was memorizing a certain ghastly incantation from The Testaments of Carnamagos: an incantation which, if uttered aloud, would cause the complete annihilation and vanishment of a dead human body, either before or after the onset of rigor mortis and the beginning of corruption.

Why he was so intent on learning this formula, he hardly knew; but he found himself conning it over and repeating it silently with a feeling of actual haste and urgency, as if it were a lesson important for him to master. Even as he came to the end, and made sure that the last abhorrent rune was fixed firmly in his mind, he heard the loud and vicious buzzing of the doorbell. No doubt the bell was like any other in its tonal vibrations; it had never impressed his ear unusually before; but he was startled as if by the clashing of sinister sistra, or the rattling of a crotalus. The electric warning of a deadly anger tingled through all his nerves as he went to open the door.

As if he had already begun to exercise the clairvoyant powers proper to his new state of entity, he was not {at} all surprised by the extraordinary figure that stood before him. The figure was that of a Tibetan lama, garbed in monastic robe and cap. He was both tall and portly, seeming to fill the entire doorway with his presence. His level, heavy brows, his large eyes that flamed with the cruel brilliance of black diamonds, and the high aquiline cast of his features, bore witness to some obscure strain of non-Mongolian blood. He spoke in a voice that somehow suggested the purring of a tiger; and Woadley was never sure afterwards as to the language employed: for it seemed then that all languages were an implicit part of his weirdly resurrected knowledge.

"Bearer of the fourth amulet," said the lama, "I crave an audience. Permit me to enter thy lordly abode." The tone was respectful, even obsequious; but behind it, Woadley was aware of a black blaze of animosity toward himself, and a swollen venom as of coiled cobras.

"Enter," he assented curtly, and without turning his back, allowed the lama to pass by him into the hall and precede him to the library. As if to impress Woadley with his subservient attitude, this lama remained standing, till Woadley pointed to a chair beneath the full illumination of a floor-lamp. Woadley then seated himself in a more shadowy position from which he could watch the visitor continually without appearing to do so. He was close to the oaken library table, on which The Testaments of Carnamagos lay open at the lich-destroying formula, with the leaves weighted by a small Florentine dagger which he often used as a paper-knife. Before going to answer the bell, he had switched off the light that shone directly on the table; and the floor-lamp was now the only light burning in the room.

"Well, who are you, and what do you want?" he demanded, in an arrogant, peremptory tone of which he would scarcely have been capable a fortnight previous.

"O master," replied the lama. "I am Nong Thun, a most humble neophyte of the elder sciences. My degree of illumination is as darkness compared to thine. Yet has it enabled me to recognize the wearer of the all-powerful amulet from Pnidleethon. I have seen thee in passing; and I come now to request a great boon. Permit thy servile slave to behold the amulet with his unworthy eyes."

"I know nothing of any amulet," said Woadley. "What nonsense is this that you prate?"

"It pleases thee to jest. But again I beg the boon." The lama had lowered his eyes like a devotee in the presence of deity, and his hands were clasped together as if in supplication on his knees.

"I have nothing to show you." The finality of Woadley's voice was like a barrier of flint.

As if resigning himself to this denial, the lama bowed his head in silence. Apart from this, there was no visible movement or quiver in all his body; but at that moment the floor-lamp above him was extinguished, as though he had risen to his feet and had turned it off. The room was choked with sudden sooty darkness; there was no glimmer through the bay-window from the street-light opposite; nor was there even the least glow or flicker from the table-lamp when Woadley reached out to switch it on. The night that enveloped him, it seemed, was a positive thing, an element older and stronger than light; and it closed upon him like strangling hands. But, groping quickly, he found the Florentine dagger, and held it in readiness as he rose silently to his feet and stood between the table and the arm-chair he had just vacated. As if from deep vaults of his brain, a low minatory voice appeared to speak, and supplied him with an ancient word of protective power; and he uttered the word aloud and kept repeating it in a sonorous, unbroken muttering as he waited.

Apart from that sorcerous incantation, there was silence in the room; and no lightest rustle or creaking to indicate the presence of the lama. The unnatural night drew closer, it smothered Woadley like the gloom of a mausoleum; and upon it there hung a faint fetor as of bygone corruption. There came to Woadley the weird thought that no one lived in the room, other than himself; that the lama was gone; that there had never been any such person. But he knew this thought for a wile of the shrouded enemy, seeking to delude him into carelessness; and he did not relax his vigil or cease the reiteration of the protective word. A monstrous and mortal peril was watching him in the nighted chamber, biding its time to spring; but he felt no fear, only a great and preternormal alterness.

Then, a little beyond arm's-length before him, a leprous glimmering slowly dawned in the darkness, like a phosphor of decay. Bone by fleshless bone, beginning with the stalwart ribs, and creeping upward and downward simultaneously, it illumed the tall skeleton to which it clung; and finally it brought out the skull, in whose eye-pits burned like malignant gems the living eyes of the lama. Then, from between the rows of yellowish vampire teeth, which had parted in a gaping as of Death himself, a dry and rustling voice appeared to issue: the voice of some articulate serpent coiled amid the ruins of mortality.

"Pusillanimous weakling, unworthy fool, give me the black amulet of Yamil Zacra ere it slay thee," hissed the voice.

Like a feinting swordsman who lowers his guard, Woadley ceased for a second his muttering of the word of power which held the horror at bay as if a wizard circle had been drawn about him. In that instant, a long curved knife appeared from empty air in the fleshless hand, seen dimly by the phosphorescent glowing of the finger-bones, and the thing leapt forward, avoiding the chair, and struck at Woadley with a sidelong motion in which its arm-bones and the blade were like the parts of a sweeping scythe.

Woadley, however, had prepared himself for this, and he stooped to the very floor beneath the knife, and slashed upward slantingly with his own weapon at the seeming voidness of thoracic space below the ribs of the phosphor-litten Death. Even as he had expected, his dagger plunged into something that yielded with the soft resistance of living flesh, and the rotten glimmering of the bones was erased in a momentaneous darkness. Then the flames returned in the electric bulbs; and beneath their steady burning he saw at his feet the fallen body of the lama, with a long tear in the robe across the abdomen, from which blood was welling like a spring. With a twisting movement like that of some heavy snake, the body writhed a little, and then became quiescent.

Briefly, while he stood staring at the man he had slain, Woadley felt the nausea, horror and weakness that his former self would have known under such circumstances.

["My God! I am a murderer!" he thought. ] The whole sinister episode through which he had just lived, together with his new self and its preoccupations, became temporarily remote and fantastic. He could realize only that he had killed a man with his own hand, and that the loathsomely inconvenient proof of his crime was lying at his feet with its blood beginning to darken the roses and arabesques of the Oriental carpet.

From this passing consternation, he was startled by a preternatural brightening of the light, as if an untimely dawn had filled the chamber. Looking up, he saw that the lamps themselves were oddly wan and dim. The light came from something that he could define only as a congeries of glowing motes, that had appeared in mid-air at the opposite side of the room, before his longest and highest book-case.

It was as if the thickly teeming suns of a great galaxy had dwarfed themselves to molecules and had entered the chamber. The congeries appeared to have the vague outlines of a colossal semi-human form, wavering slightly, spinning, contracting and expanding through the ceaseless gyrations of the separate particles. These atomies were unsufferably brilliant, and the eyes of Woadley soon became dazzled as he regarded them. They seemed to multiply in myriads, till he beheld only a blazing, fulgurating blur. Miraculously, his vision cleared, and the blur resolved itself into a figure that was still luminous but which had now assumed the character of what is known as solid matter. With reverential awe and wonder, wholly forgetful of the corpse at his feet, he saw before him a creature that might have been some ultra-cosmic angel of ill. The giant stature of this being, in the last phase of his epiphany, had lessened till he was little taller than an extremely tall man; but it seemed that the lessening was a mere accommodation to the scale of his terrene environment.

The quasi-human torso of the being was clad in laminated armor like plates of ruby. His four arms, supple and sinuous as great cobras, were bare; and the two legs, powerful and tapering like the rear volumes of pythons standing erect, were also bare except for short greaves of a golden material about the calves. The four-clawed feet, like those of some mythic salamander, were shod with sapphire sandals. In one of his seven-fingered hands, he carried a short-handled spear with a sword-long blade of blue metal from whose point there streamed an incessant torrent of electric sparks.

The head of this being was cuneiform, and its massively flaring lines were prolonged by a miter-shaped helmet with outward-curving horns. His chin sharpened unbelievably, terminating in a dart-like prong, semi-translucent. The ears, conforming to the head, were pierced and fluted shells of shining flesh. The strangely carven nostrils palpitated with a ceaseless motion as of valves that shut and opened. The eyes, far apart beneath the smooth, enormous brow, were beryl-colored orbs that fouldered and darkened as if with the changing of internal fires in the semi-eclipse of their drooping lids. The mouth, turning abruptly down at the corners, was like a symbol of unearthly mysteries and cruelties.

It was impossible to assign a definite complexion to the face and body of this entity, for the whole epidermis, wherever bare to sight, turned momently from a marmoreal pallor to an ebon blackness or a red as of mingled blood and flame.

Rapt and marvelling, Woadley heard a voice that seemed to emanate from the visitant: though the seal-like quietude of the lips remained unbroken. The voice thundered softly in his brain, like the fire and sweetness of a great wine transmuted into sound.

"Again I salute thee, O bearer of the fourth amulet, O favored kinsman of Yamil Zacra. I am Avalzant, the Warden of the Fiery Change, and envoy from Pnidleethon to the sorcerers of outer worlds. The hour of the Change is now at hand, if thy heart be firm to endure it. But first I beg thee to dispose of this carrion." He pointed with his coruscating weapon at the lama's body.

Chapter IV: The Passage to pnidleethon

Woadley's brain was filled with a strange dazzlement. Recalling at that moment the half-seen Oriental who had addressed him on the steps of the museum, he stared uncomprehending from his visitor to the corpse.

"Why this hesitation?" said the being, in the tone of a patient monitor. "Were you not conning the necessary spell for the annihilation of such offal when the lama came? You have only to read it aloud from the book if you have already forgotten."

The runes of the lich-destroying formula returned to Woadley, and his doubt and bemusement passed in a flood of ilumination. In a voice that was firm and orotund as that of some elder sorcerer, he recited the incantation of Carnamagos, prolonging and accentuating certain word,' with the required semi-tones and quavers of vowel-pitch. As the last words vibrated in the lamplit air, the clothing and features of the lama became mantled with a still, hueless flame that burned without sound or palpable heat, rising aloft in a smokeless column, and including even the puddled blood on the Persian carpet. At the same instant, flame clothed the blade of the bloody dagger in Woadley's hand. The body melted away like so much tallow, and was quickly consumed, leaving neither ash or charred bone nor any odor of burning to indicate that the eerie cremation had ever occurred. The flame sank, flattened, and died out on the empty floor, and Woadley saw that there was no trace of fire, no stain of blood, to mar the intricate design of the carpet. The stain had also vanished from the dagger, leaving the metal clean and bright. With the pride and complacency of a past-master of such gramaries, he found himself reflecting that this was quite as it should be.

Again he heard the voice of his visitor. "Nong Thun was not the least of the terrestrial children of Yamil Zacra; and if he had slain thee and had won the amulet, it would have been my task to attend him later, even as I must now attend thee. For he lacked only the talisman to assure the ultimate burgeoning of his powers and the supreme flowering of his wisdom. But in this contest thou has proven thyself the stronger, by virtue of those illuminated monads within thee, each of which has retained the cycle-old knowledge of many sorcerers. Now, by the aid that I bring, that which was effluent from Yamil Zacra in the beginning may return toward Yamil Zacra. This, if thou art firm to endure the passage, will be the reward of thy perilous seekings and thy painful dooms in a thousand earthy pre-existences. Before thee, from this world, three wizards only have been transported to Pnidleethon; and seldom therefore is my advent here, who serve as the angel of transition to those wizards of ulterior systems, whom the wandering amulets have sought out and have chosen. For know that the amulet thou wearest is a thing endued with its own life and its own intelligence; and not idly has it come to thee in the temporary nescience to which thou wert sunken ...."

"Now let us hasten with the deeds that must be done: since I like not the frore, unfriendly air of this Earth, where the seed of Yamil Zacra has indeed fallen upon sterile soil, and where evil blossoms as a poor and stunted thing. Not soon shall I come again; for the fifth and last amulet slumbers beneath the southern sea in long-unknown Moaria, and waits the final resurgence of that continent under a new name when all the others have sunken leaving but ocean-scattered isles."

"What is your will, O Avalzant?" asked Woadley. His voice was clear and resolute; but inwardly he quaked a little before the presence of the Envoy, who seemed to bear with him as a vestment more than the vertigo-breeding glory and direness of Death. Behind Avalzant, the shelves of stodgy volumes, the wall itself, appeared to recede interminably, and were interspaced with sceneries lit by an evil, ardent luster. Pits yawned in livid crimson like the mouths of cosmic monsters. Black mountains beetled heaven-high from the brink of depths profounder than the seventh hell. Demonic Thrones and Principalities gathered in conclave beneath black Avernian vaults; and Luciferian Powers loomed and muttered in a sky of alternate darkness and levin.

"First," declared Avalzant, in reply to Woadley's question, "it will be needed for thee to doff this sorry raiment which thou wearest, and to stand before me carrying naught but the talisman; since the talisman alone among material objects may pass with thee to Pnidleethon. The passage is another thing for me, who fare at will through ultimate dimensions, who tread the intricate paths and hidden, folded crossways of gulfs unpermitted to lesser beings; who assume any form desired in the mere taking of thought, and appear simultaneously in more than one world if such be requisite .... It was I who spoke to thee on the stairs before the museum; and since then, I have journeyed to Polaris, and have walked on the colossean worlds of Achemar, and have fared to outermost stars of the galaxy whose light will wander still for a thousand ages in the deep ere it dawn on the eyes of thy astronomers .... But such ways are not for thee; nor without my aid is it possible for thee or for any inhabitant of Earth to enter Pnidleethon."

Submissively, while the Envoy was speaking, Woadley had begun to remove his garments. Hastily and with utter negligence, he flung the dark, conservative coat and trousers of tweed across an arm-chair, tossed his shirt, tie, socks and under-garments on the pile, and left his shoes lying where he had removed them. Trifling as it may have seemed, this negligence was a potent proof of the change he had undergone; for such disorder would have been unthinkable to the neat and somewhat fussy bibliophile.

Presently he stood naked from heel to head before Avalzant, the amulet glowing darkly in the palm of his right hand. Only with the utmost dimness was he able to prevision the ordeal before him; but he trembled with its imminence, as a man might tremble on the shore of uncrossed Acheron.

"Now," said Avalzant, "it is needful that I should wound thee deeply on the bosom with my spear. Art fearful of this wounding? If so, it were well to re-clothe thyself and remain amid these volumes of thine, and to let the talisman pass into hardier hands."

"Proceed." There was no quaver in Woadley's voice, though sudden-reaching talons of terror clawed at his brain and raked his spinal column like an icy harrow.

Avalzant uplifted the strange, blue-gleaming weapon he bore, till the stream of sparks that poured ceaselessly from its point was directed upon the bare bosom of Woadley. The neophyte was aware of an electric prickling that wandered over his chest as Avalzant drew the weapon in a slow arc from side to side. Then the spear was retracted and was poised aloft with a sinuous, coiling movement of the arm-like member that held it. Death seemed to dart like a levin-bolt upon Woadley; but the apparent lethal driving-power behind the thrust was in all likelihood merely one more test of his courage and resolution. He did not flinch nor even close his eyes. The terrible, blazing point entered his flesh above the fight lung, piercing and slashing deeply, but not deeply enough to inflict a dangerous wound. Then, while Woadley tottered and turned faint with the agony as of throbbing fires that filled his whole being, the weapon was swiftly withdrawn.

Dimly, through the million fold racking of his torment, he heard the solemn voice of Avalzant. "Even now, it is not too late, if thy heart misgive thee; for the wound will heal in time and leave thee none the worse. But the next thing needful is irrevocable and not to be undone. Holding the amulet firmly with thy fingers, thou must press the graven mouth of the monster into thy wound while it bleeds; and having begun this part of the process, thou hast said farewell to Earth and has forsworn the sun thereof and the light of the sister planets, and hast pledged thyself wholly to Pnidleethon, to Yamil Zacra—and Yuzh. Bethink thee well, whether or not thy resolution holds."

Woadley's agony began to diminish a little. A great wonder filled him, and beneath the wonder there was something of half-surmised horror at the strange injunction of the Envoy. But he obeyed the injunction, forcing the sickle beak and loathsome wattled mouth of the double-sided profile into the slash inflicted by Avalzant, from which blood was welling profusely on his bosom.

Now began the strangest part of his ordeal; for, having inserted the thin edge of the carving in the cut, he was immediately conscious of a gentle suction, as if the profile-mouth were somehow alive and had started to suck his blood. Then, looking down at the amulet, he saw to his amazement that it seemed to have thickened slightly, that the coin-flat surface was swelling and rounding into an unmistakable convexity. At the same time, his pain had altogether ceased, and the blood no longer flowed from his wound; but was evidently being absorbed through what he now knew to be the vampirism of the mineral monstrosity.

Now the black and shimmering horror had swollen like a glutted bat, filling his whole hand as he still held it firmly. But he felt no alarm, no weakness or revulsion whatever, only a vast surge of infernal life and power, as if the amulet, in some exchange that turned to demoniacal possession, were returning a thousand fold the draught it had made upon him. Even as the thing grew and greatened on his breast, so he in turn seemed to wax gigantic, and his blood roared like the flamy torrents of Phlegethon plunging from deep to deep. The walls of the library had fallen unheeded about him, and he and Avalzant were two colossi who stood alone in the night; and upon his bosom the vampire stone was still suckled, enormous as behemoth.

It seemed that he beheld the shrunken world beneath him, the rondure of its horizons curving far down in darkness against the abyss of stars, with a livid fringe of light where the sun hovered behind the eastern hemisphere. Higher and vaster still he towered, and his whole being seemed to melt with unsufferable heat, and he heard in himself a roar and tumult as if some peopled inferno, pouring upward with all its damned to overflow the fixed heavens. Then he was riven apart in a thousand selves, whose pale and ghastly faces streamed about him in the momentary flashing of strange suns. The sorcerers of Ur and Egypt, of Antillia and Moaria; necromancers of Mhu Thulan and shamans of Tartary; witch and enchantress of Averoigne, Hecatean hag, and sybil from doomed Poseidonis; alchemist and seer; the priests of evil fetiches from Niger; the adepts of Ahriman, of Eblis, of Taranis, of Set, of Lucifer-all these, resurgent from a thousand tombs in demonomaniacal triumph, were riding the night to some cosmic Sabbat. Among them, like a lost soul, was the being who had called himself Oliver Woadley. And upon the bosom of each separate self, as well as upon that of Woadley, a talismanic monster was suckled throughout the black, {... } flight on deeps forbidden save to the stars in their {... }

^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.
(early February 1933}

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