’Defender of the Faith’ is a 1962 story by Philip Roth about a Jewish Sergeant, Marx, who is a combat Veteran just back from the war in Europe and his manipulative Jewish draftee Grossbart.
Without going into the story in depth, the apocryphal fable told about Jewish soldiers in the U.S. Army at the tail end of WWII, is one that sadly, I’ve seen before.
My distant family, three of them, the first born in America, all joined the Army to fight in the Spanish-American War. Somewhere a faded sepia-toned photograph ala Butch Cassidy may show them in their super-slick SAW uniforms with their slouch hats, slung pack and Krag rifle. Man, they looked muy macho.
Long story short, our family tradition has literally extended to every war from 1898 to this day. So the topic is very sensitive to me.
American Jews, post-Korean War, rightly or wrongly, had a reputation as draft dodgers. They served in solid numbers through the Korean War, but Vietnam and the college deferment was a huge blot on our reputation as Americans.
Even worse, by the epoch of the War on Terror (I served until 2011) the percentage of Jews in the Army had fallen to a level so minuscule that it equaled the number of Muslims. 3,400 souls in the entire Army. I was stunned. A higher percentage actually served in Theatre in Vietnam. It’s a statistical fact.
I don’t think there were more than five Jews in my Brigade in Iraq. Out of 3,500 soldiers… Unfathomable… Then, when I got back, only two Jews in my Battalion… me included. WTF?
Who pulled the charred remains of our brethren out of the ovens in 1945? The same U.S. Army. The same U.S. Army that wasn’t good enough for us by 1965?
When I first joined, early in my long unillustrious career, we had Passover services at Ft. Benning where 44 Jews showed up. 44! That’s a lot for anywhere.
I remember a Jewish recruit whining to me about how his sergeant treated him because he couldn’t do enough pushups. He wanted me, a Jewish Lieutenant to stand up for him. I refused and I made him do more pushups until his spindly arms fell off. I was furious. He was an embarrassment to my people.
Maybe Roth’s Sergeant Marx and I were more like the vicious Sergeant Waters from ‘A Soldiers’s Story’ who thought that by brutalizing the weak links he would bring up the image of black Soldiers in the Army.
This was exactly the story of Defender of the Faith. Grossbart plays on Marx’ emotions as Marx just returned from the front: 1945 Germany. Grossbart weasels his way out of orders to the Pacific. Grossbart whines for special privileges on account of being Jewish, then takes advantage when he gets them. Like me, Marx was furious and embarrassed for his people.
Marx gets Grossbart’s orders changed back to the Pacific. He does it not to defend Grossbart whom he views as a bad example, but to defend the reputation of American Jews in the Army.
I originally hated Roth. I thought he was ‘too Jewish’ and he made our people look like self-indulgent perverts. Sure, the Psychiatrist’s couch in Portnoy may be a veiled reference to Kafka’s cockroach, but Roth’s story is much harder-edged than Neil Simon’s rose-colored Biloxi Blues, where the snarky Jewish wise-ass brats put one over on the over-matched, shell-shocked combat Veteran Sergeant Toomey.
Where was Toomey’s thanks for saving those two brat’s people? Simon never gets the point, does he? Contrast Wouk’s Caine Mutiny where the mutineers’ Jewish Navy JAG lawyer, Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, has sympathy for Queeg, because Queeg stood up to serve long before many others did and help keep Greenwald’s mother from being made into ‘soap’.
In Roth’s ‘Defender’, the wise-ass Jewish brat doesn’t get away with it. Marx knows what the stakes are: he saw it in the liberated concentration camps and he knows who liberated them.
Roth, with an unblinking gaze, speaks an ugly but unsaid universal truth about the wise-ass Jewish kid who thinks he’s too special and too smart for the Army. Yes, I’ve seen them first hand trying to game the system more than once: don’t any of my soul brothers dare tell me that I haven’t seen it.
Roth was excoriated by the Jewish community for telling this story and he stood his ground. This is who we are, warts and all, Roth instructs us. This story is a triumph of truth over self-deceit.
Some of us, in the end are Sergeant Marx, the patriot, and some of us are Grossbart, the shirker, who makes a mockery of his own faith.
Call me what you will, but given my family history: from The Spanish-American War through Iraq, we jealousy guarded the reputation of the Jewish soldier in the U.S. Army until apparently there was no-one left to care.
Being it the case, that I have been long ago declared dangerously insane by the Court of Quarter Sessions of the County of Somerset, in the ancient and indomitable Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, whereupon I was committed to the Laurel View State Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane for an indeterminate time, it is my fervent belief that my unfortunate circumstances may yet be of some pedagogical utility.
It was with great relief, I must admit, that I received this sentence. I myself have opposed my release from this confinement for reasons which I shall endeavor to explain to you in great detail.
The tale I am about to relate to you is so terrifying in its macabre spectacle, that the basest level of decorum prevents me from describing the hideous events that transpired in the old house at 5 Uniontowne Pike in the haunted Towneshippe of Markleysburg, Pennsylvania in October in the year of our martyred Lord, 1978. It is most kind of you, my dearly beloved readers, to relieve me of this burden, as I have been yearning to expose this unfortunate history for over 30 years.
O’ elegant beauty who walked with me!
Sleeps in sepulcher by the sea!
We transited life for too few years.
We wished forever, but met dark fears.
Seized by a rheum one October eve.
O fates! O furies!, must I e’er grieve?
Up savage path to cliff’s edge I wander.
I wait by thy tomb, fate left to ponder.
Cold Saturnian bird with savage croak.
In shrouded grief, ‘Aeschylus!’ I Shroake.
I awaitest the day whence we meet once more.
I, melancholy, on night’s savage shore.
The story as it goes, my dear friends, may I pour you a Chablis? You are correct! It is an O’Hara Township, 1946 Kauffman vintage. Yes, I shall continue. Do you like the wine? The body is robust, yet with an oaken bouquet. You find the wine delectable? Why thank you, it is my pleasure. Yes, it is that I had found myself in the southwestern region of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to seek an education on behalf of an unknown benefactor. However, the tale begins earlier that year.
Needless to say, I was quite surprised, even mesmerized when I opened a mysterious brown envelope in my barren one-room fourth floor walk-up in the Brownsville section of old Breuklynne, New York in July of 1978. It so happened that in the Year of the Risen Christ, 1977 that I came to be the last of my family line, with the exception of an older brother who had gone to pursue his studies in OldeAllegheny City. He had gone off to matriculate at University, leaving me alone in the decrepit apartment in April of 1978.
Although suffering from a rheum, possibly caused by my gloomy surroundings, I set about placing the most valuable and uncommon of the family heirlooms and legacies into a single large wooden and leather chest of unknown origin. I knew only that it had come into the possession of my Great-Grandfather at an auction in East St. Louis Illinois in 1891. I had planned to put it into storage when the time was right. I had since disposed of all other household goods except for the barest necessities so I could relocate my place of habitation to a new milieu with minimal difficulty.
The envelope was painstakingly hand-addressed in fountain pen with a rich blue ink which indicated to even the most untrained observer that the pen and ink were of great value and rarity. I held the letter underneath a curious electric lamp that I had discovered at a garage sale on Nostrand Avenue on the 5th of July, that past summer.
The lamp was engraved with the name a M. Perez Rochibauld Utonic, Esquire of Markleysburg, Pennsylvania. There was also a strange birthday poster on canvas.
The lamp was stamped with a date of manufacture in 1921. The cord was wrapped in a curious thickly-woven electrician’s cloth. I had almost passed it by, but it was marked ‘One Dollare’ and it had a curious immense weight to it. It appeared to be made of an unusual darkened copper or brass. But it was the moniker that interested me the most. I had seen it before but I could not recall where.
It was only when I moved the chest into storage in Valley Stream, New York later that summer, that I noticed it. It was on the jitney ride across the island. I sat in the front seat as the chest took up the entire back seat. On the side of the chest there was a metal plate engraved in cursive script with the name: “M. Perez Rochibauld Utonic, Esquire of Markleysburg, Pennsylvania.” A curious chill ran through me. How was it possible that this chest, this family heirloom could spring from the same owner? A pallor of overwhelming melancholy and trepidation swept over me. It was if I felt the horrible musty grip of my hoary ancestors upon my very soul. It was with no lack of joy that I deposited the chest into the storage compartment.
It was precisely one week to the day after I had placed the ancient chest into the storage locker that I received the letter. I was returning from the local Bodega when I opened the mailbox using the small brass key. I had since forwarded all of my mail to my brother’s address in Olde Allegheny, so I found it somewhat curious that a letter had found its way through to my abode. For some reason, long since forgotten to memory, I placed the letter under my savage nostril. The letter had not a dry odor, but more of a musty smell of ancient mould.
I sat at the old pedagogical desk and chair that were the sole items of furniture remaining in the near-barren apartment. The old lamp put out a surprising amount of lumens in the somber abode. Yet the light was an old one, a focused one. The bulb had no markings, it seemed rather very old and browned a bit around the base, yet had an incredible power to illuminate. I opened the letter carefully with an ancient bronze letter opener. The paper was onion-skinned and engraved with the same unique blue fountain-pen script. The letter was embossed in the 1901 Copperplate Gothic typeface in the style of Mr. Frederic W. Goudy.
5 July, 1978
TELEPHONE: (412) MArkleysburg5-2368
Dearest M. Claude Deblois Charlevoix,
I hope this correspondence finds you in the best of health.
As you may be curious why you have received an unsolicited correspondence from person thus unfamiliar, allow me to elucidate.
It is my custom to choose, every four years, a young man of great promise to receive a grant of scholarship to Laurel Highlands University.
The promise is not necessarily in the achievement of grades-yours to a degree are unspectacular, minimo cum fructu in the way of the Europeans, nor to your performance on The New York State Regents Exams-where you excelled. But rather, the promise is in other innate talents that you possess, which in the parlance of the day, are unique.
Your remarkable abilities as a linguist have not gone unnoticed, and I suspect it derives from the familial line of descent. It is as it were, in the bloodline. The acumen seems to grow with every generation. It is curious that as the bloodline dies out, the talent seems to pool in the remaining progeny and may in some respect peak when only one remains.
Please await my driver who will transport you and your belongings to a private cottage on the grounds of the University. I trust you will find these accommodations pleasing. You will see a Madame Belleriviere who will tend to your registration and studies.
I only ask in return that you pursue the Baccalaureate Degree offering in Ancient Interpretive Linguistics.
If you accept, please be ready on the 25th of August of this year at 4:00 AM in front of your building at curbside with any belongings you wish to transport.
Please Agree to Accept this, my purest Expression of my Most Profound Gratitude,
M. Perez Rochibauld Utonic, Esquire
It was my custom upon reading written correspondence to return the letter to its envelope and place it into a small leather folder. The folder was of an unusually soft, yet strong leather. It was in the possession of my father, the late Doctor, M. Louis Deblois Charlevoix of Otsego, upon his untimely passing in 1977.
As I recall, it was in that very dimly lit flat where my father handed me the folder before he entered the hospital on the 1st of December of 1977.
“Claude, as you know I am quite ill. I regret that I will not see you live to marry and have children, but I take great joy in the fact that I have had the privilege of watching you grow to this age. Of all the many things I have done, in my life they pale compared to the time I have spent with my sons. Do not mourn my passing unduly, you may mourn but let us just mourn that our time together cannot continue in this world. If you need me, I will always be present in spiritu. You only need remember my words and my wisdom and this will yet be of exceptional value to you. The truth is that the wisdom is within you and if you would like to take succor in believing that it is I, then attribute it my spirit.”
“Father, this is a unfortunate circumstance. I am not going to know what to do without you.”
“If you will be amenable to my suggestion, then kindly heed: make a plan, no matter what it is, something you wish to do, some voyage you desire to take, some learning you yearn to seek. Just find some end and pursue it. Then find another object of your interest and pursue that. As for my part, my affairs are tidied up. There will be little work for you to do, I have made sure of that. You will receive some correspondence from my counsel and my accountant.”
My father turned to me for a moment, his eyes were obscured by the murky flickering of an old incandescent bulb.
“Be wary of the Dictionary of Ancient Tongues, a Tome by Rochibauld. Professor Emmaeus Artemis Rochibauld was an Alsatian, quite mad, who was in the employ of the Department of Antiquities at the University of Diekirch, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg until he was found dead in his bureau, a bloodied candlestick found beside him. It was clearly murther, but by whom?”
“Our family, young Claude, has but one skill, one art. It is more of a curse. We have an innate acumen in linguistic science. We can learn any language, any tongue, living or extinct with little effort. Surely you have noticed this about yourself. Our skill is so profound, that even ancient forgotten tongues and runic carvings reveal themselves to us. But beware, there are those who wish to translate works which are of such ancient and musty evil that must never be translated, lest the evil they possess borne from the very bowels of awful Hades rise again!”
Charlevoix the elder sat in a wooden chair on the opposite side of the room in a state of unusual repose. He possessed a grey pallor. He was staring off into the distance in complete silence. His demeanor was calm, even blithe given his prognosis. It is that portrait of him that is embedded in my soul to this day. It is worthy of note that we appear in the same room in the same posture in an occasional nocturnal reverie to this day.
It was a dark, humid morning as I sat upon the banister of the stoop in a pose reminiscent of an ancient Grecian Statue. A long black limousine arrived in total ghastly silence. The auto was a vintage of an earlier age, spotless and spectacular, yet tasteful in its lines. A very large man alit from the machine. He was dressed as the finest chaffeur from a house of exquisite wealth and manner. He bowed low with a sweep of his gloved hand.
“M. Charlevoix. I am Portelquieaux, I am in the employ of M. Rochibauld. I am at your service.”
The giant man bowed low, then he picked up my valises, even the heaviest, with no effort. He placed them into the ample trunk of the auto. He opened the door for me.
The interior of this marvelous vehicle is worthy of mention here. It was empaneled with genuine dark chestnut wood. The seats were composed of the finest leather. The carpets on the floor were notable. They had a Persian pattern as if cut from a genuine Persian rug of an epoch contemporary to the car.
The space in the rear of the car was enormous, enough to seat six people facing each other in two rows of three. In the middle was a platter replete with the finest cheeses, various craquelins of blé, and a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rôthschildspirits Vintage 1870.
“My compliments to Monsieur Rochibauld for the refreshments Portelquieaux, and my most profound gratitude for your service in this endeavor.”
“Right then, M. Charlevoix, I am at your service in every regard.”
The day proved to be gloomy and dark, an early portent of Autumn. At times, the wind and driving rain played a spectacular symphony on the elder trees of rural Pennsylvania. The wine, in perfidious conspiracy with the rhythmic patter of the rain on the car, lulled me into a profound but unsettled state of torpor.
Another dream befell me. I awoke to find myself in a musty chamber entombed deep in the bowels of the earth beneath some great chateau. I was seated at a table engrossed in some work. In front of me, by the torchlight, was a great and hoary book of some forgotten age. The book was remarkable in that it was bound in thick, well-worn embossed leather with metal bindings. The pages were inscribed in some ancient script that was unfamiliar, yet for some reason comprehensible by way of some innate linguistic reason.
I awoke on a rural mountain road somewhere in the mysterious and melancholy Laurel Highlands of the ancient Countie of Somerset Southwestern Pennsylvania. The car eventually turned onto a secluded road, which was covered by an exquisite arcade of perfectly aligned and spaced great, dense oaks. The vehicle came to a stop in the circular cart-way of an enormous mansion. There was a brass plate on the stone staircase at the entrance etched with the name “VTONIC” in Roman-style engraveur.
“Young Master, please accompany me. You may bathe and there will be suitable clothing. Your room has been prepared. All of your belongings will be taken to the room and anything you need for your studies or diversion will be provided.”
I did not ask from what fountainhead sprang this opulence of which I was the beneficiary, but it gave me a sense that this Monsieur Rôchibauld sought something of great value in return.
I was escorted to a spectacular room on the third floor of the great house.
Allow me to take a moment, dear readers, to provide as accurate as possible of a description of the surroundings as is necessary for you, the reader to comprehend my state of mind at that particular moment. Everything in the room in the way of paneling and furnishings was composed of the finest woods–chestnut, cherry, oak and other woods of a grandeur I cannot describe in sufficient detail to allow the reader a proper appreciation of the spectacle.
I walked about the room, inspecting and examining ephemera as was my wont. I found it unusual, that parts of an exquisitely rare and valuable collection of coins were in open presentation on various velvet-lined, varnished wooden boxes. There were gold coins and silver coins of the earliest periods of American coinage, along with various colonial coins in the finest condition I had ever seen. There were also books of exceedingly rare stamps and other collections of drawings and woodcuts. The bookshelves contained a wide collection of books in several languages. Each was quite ancient and I was surprised to discover that each was a first edition.
I noticed a small desk that was unremarkable except for the fact that it bore neatly stacked embossed onion skin paper and luxurious fountain pens encased in mother of pearl or pure ivory. On the desk was another letter in the manner described heretofore.
25 August, 1978
TELEPHONE: (412) MArkleysburg5-2368
Dearest M. Claude Deblois Charlevoix,
I trust your voyage was satisfactory.
I hope that you will in no way be offended that I have taken the liberty of providing you with every accoutrement necessary to your enjoyment of your time spent at The Utonic. As I understand you appreciate the finest in rare numismata, philatela and ancient tomes, I have provided these for your enjoyment. Everything you find in the room is a gift from my personal collection, to show the deepest regards and affection for your willingness to accept this scholarship and internship in letters.
If you would join me for dinner at 6:00 sharp, I would be in your utmost debt. Portelquieaux will provide you with suitable dining attire.
Please Kindly Agree, to Accept This, My Sincerest Expression of my Most Profound Respect,
M. Perez Rochibauld Utonic, Esquire
It was to my greatest surprise when I descended the large Oak staircase to arrive at the dinner table to find only the Butler and a sublimely attractive yet melancholy young woman. She was dressed in a dinner gown of the most exquisite detail. I was attired in a full gentleman’s dining regalia of the epoch 1890. I held the mysterious lady’s chair for her as she was seated. We then sat at opposite ends of the table.
“I suppose you don’t fully know why you are here?” She asked blithely.
“I am to assist with the translation of some ancient tome, to the best of my understanding. But I beg you to pardon my most mild discomfort, Mademoiselle, but I do you a great disservice if I mention that we have not been formally introduced.
The Butler returned to the room.
“May I introduce to you M. Claude Deblois Charlevoix.”
I stood up and quickly arrived next to the young lady’s seat.
“Charmed” I said briskly, kissing her outstretched hand. I bowed low.
“May I present to you Mlle. Estelle Rochibauld Sachse-Heutélièr Utonic.”
“Enchanté, my dear sir.” She arose and smiled.
We resumed our seats. The dinner can only scarcely be described in a manner sufficient to explain the culinary délices arrayed in front of us.
Miss Utonic sipped on a glass of 1932 Château Lanéssan. “To resume our conversation, I must advise you that the purpose of this translation is a matter of great import. It is my father, Mr. Utonic for whom your assistance is sought. The letter you received is from him, but he is not present. I advise you that he was on the verge of passing away due to an illness, a sudden attack of the Belgian Grippe. It was at the precise moment prior to his passing into the netherworld that I so I mesmerized him so his spirit would remain. He can still communicate but not in a way I care to relate at this moment.”
“And how may I be of any real assistance?”
“There is an incantation. It was used by the ancient Sumerians to revive those who have passed in an untimely manner from the corporeal world. It was translated or transliterated into Sanskrit. The Sanskrit used is contemporary to the time of Alexander, and one portion of it is incomprehensible. It is in an unusual dialect. No-one has translated it correctly in over two thousand years.”
“My knowledge of Sanskrit is strong due to self-study, my Dear Mlle., however, I must point out that I scarcely…”
“You have a gift, if I may be so bold, it is language that you understand not a language. Your ancestors, all human languages descend through you. You are one of the last true littérati, it is your family tree. The voice of Charles you are called. The power is almost at its peak. I have everything necessary for the re-animation of the hideous corpse, excepting the missing portion of text. I will need the presence of your brother as well, so I took the liberty of inviting him to the House next week.”
I matriculated at the University of the Laurel Highlands. I presented my credentials to Madame Bellerivière. I registered for general classes, but also the course of study recommended by Perez R.U. Esquire. The university had the appearance of being in existence since the 18th Century. The buildings were old, in the colonial style and covered in an unusual ivy.
As I sat in class, I contemplated what she said that evening. But could any task be so hideous? To re-animate a hideous, rotting corpse of the dead? Despite this terror I set to work that night in earnest. As the days passed, I had come to the realization, by the close of September that I could not undertake this endeavor alone. I scribed the following correspondence to my brother.
30 September, 1978
TELEPHONE: (412) MArkleysburg5-2367
Dearest M. Berthold Sevigny Charlevoix (8 Pherson Street, Old Allegheny City),
I hope this correspondence finds you in the best of health, my dearest brother.
I trust your studies are proceeding as intended.
There is a matter worthy of discussion in which we have a mutual interest which may prove to be of benefit to you.
I have undertaken a difficult translation of a Sumerian tome of unknown origin. I have need of your knowledge of cuneiform. Please join me promptly this weekend at the hereinabove mentioned address.
Please agree to accept this, my sincerest and most profound expression of my most affectionate salutations,
Your most devoted and humble servant,
M. Claude Deblois Charlevoix
I received my brother that next Friday evening at Utonic house. He arrived in a black Limousine, Vintage 1934, Portelquieaux helped him with his trunks. Miss Utonic greeted him in the parlor and had Portelquieaux find him a suitable quarters. My brother accompanied us for dinner. He was dressed in the most sophisticated and stately formal dinner attire.
Miss Utonic addressed us in her gracious yet somber style.
“It is a pleasure to have both of you here. Utonic House has been most unbearable the past few years. The two of you have now brightened the otherwise gloomy atmosphere that pervades every seeming nook of this revered and hoary estate. You bring an aura of joyous renewal and hope to this ancient house.”
Portelquieaux ceremoniously offered a 1927 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port.
“This wine, I must say has an exquisitely delectable bouquet. The midpalate has delightful tannins and only a hint of the acidity that plagued the 1926.” Said my brother as he tasted the wine.
“How remarkable, this is precisely how I felt about the 1926. So tell me how do feel about the complexity of this 1927 vintage?”
“I prefer to think of it as vertical experimentation so to speak having assayed the 1925, 26 and now ’27, I feel that I have a sense of the wine. This particular beauty represents the bold character of the 1927’s.”
“Aah the red port, if I may be so bold, the Red Port as it is called is typically blended using several varieties of grape. No-one is exactly certain of the which variety or proportion. In the Douro lowlands, often the Vintner themselves are not sure of the nature of each grape.”
“Absolutely. I am afraid your brother doesn’t have quite the flair for the art of tasting I am sorry to report.”
“He was always a bit like that, he prefers the Johnny Roaker Blue Label I am afraid.”
“Aah whiskey, I felt it in him.”
It was at this point that Miss Utonic revealed the nature of our labours. My brother, owing to his curiosity was not the least bit appalled by the ghastly object of our task. He retired from dinner, leaving Miss Utonic with the impression of his utmost devotion to the project.
My brother worked with me on the translation faithfully every weekend that fall.
We pored over every musty ancient Tome in the vast libraries of Utonic House.
While back at University during the weekdays, we painstakingly researched every word, every phrase. We unlocked every secret of ancient grammar and mysterious forgotten rime.
My brother became enamored with the Utonic House and with its most endearing resident, the lovely Miss Utonic. He fell under the hypnotic spell of her low tones and ancient hidden secrets.
They were prone to taking long walks in the garden discussing everything from wine to the matters of the day. But never once did she again broach the subject of the Master of the Estate, the ghastly M. Utonic.
My brother and Miss Utonic seemed to grow closer, while at the same time, I felt more and more distant from her. I began to suspect her of the most evil intent. I sensed that she was slowly drawing him closer. She always plied him with the rarest books, which he would twice refuse in the most gentlemanly manner, then accept with feigned grudging politesse.
I was prone to walk the grounds of the estate or explore the Utonic house alone when my brother and Miss Utonic would be attending in the drawing room enraptured in some deep discussion over some medieval writing. Upon my long strolls, I would take note of the curious state of the grounds, that the flora seemed impervious to the cold or the change of the season. The leaves of plants, though seemingly deciduous, held their color, yet the color while green was somewhat unnatural and waxen.
I also explored the inside of the estate. I did not want to appear overly curious, and thus be a guest or common manners, but my curiosity was piqued by the grandeur and complexity of the estate’s interior. Every room was paneled with woods of a remarkable hue, rich in both depth and clarity. Almost every room was filled with ancient books and a complex insets and curious shelves. There were innumerable passages and staircases. I often felt that I was being observed although I could see no-one. It was almost as if I was being encouraged to search the house by voices unheard and words unspoken.
In the evenings after dinner, I would locate for myself a quiet spot of repose in one of the ornate rooms, and I would examine a different book. These volumes were always quite old, quite well-preserved and always first editions. Not only wealth alone could allow one to amass such a collection of tomes. It also took a great expanse of time.
Often I would hear Miss Utonic descend to the always-locked basement of the estate, then I would hear her voice in rhythmic trance-like tones. I would feel, no verily sense, a hideous deep answer that seemed to come from the hideous bowels of hell itself. I did not know so much if I had heard it or if I imagined I heard it in some dark recess of my very soul, but I feared the speaker was not of this world, but of some ancient soul of another time and dimension.
My brother and I would work together faithfully every weekend. We pored over every ancient phrase and rime that we could glean from hoary books of myriad scholars of the Sumerian and Sanskrit tongues.
When I noted the names of the horrible, shocking Pal Yattar the ghastly master of the hideous other-world of which no one can speak and the terrible, fabulous Mathoth the ghoulish master of time and space unknown, I began to convey my suspicions about Miss Utonic’s intent to my brother. However, such is his faith in human nature, he would always say that he observed only the highest of feminine character in her conduct, which in his words, was always impeccable as if schooled by a race of the highest breeding that time had long since forgotten.
I believed in to be an obligation of the highest order to ensure that I knew how to counter-act this great evil with incantations that I learned and committed to memory from the hideous words of the very same shocking and malevolent texts. I am certain the Mlle. Utonic knew nothing of my plans.
My brother had gone to the pain of scribing a letter which he left in the leather pouch heretofore described. His only design could have been to secret the letter from the eyes our most gracious hostess, Mlle. Utonic.
OLDE ALLEGHENY CITY
23 November, 1978
TELEPHONE: (412) MArkleysburg5-2367
Dearest M. Claude Deblois Charlevoix (5 Uniontowne Pike, Markleysburg),
My dearest most beloved little brotherling,
In the hopes that this writing may find you in the highest spirits.
I am certain both your studies and your efforts at translation are proceeding to your highest expectations.
I have given a great deal of consideration to your concerns about the Mistress of Utonic House and they have not gone without notice. Although your impression of her character may be a trifle excessive, I do believe there is some merit to your unease.
Miss Utonic discussed with me at length the lineage of our family. While I attributed this to a fancy of the study of genealogy, I wonder if her motives were not entirely above the board. You see the power of language which descends to us from an ancient Basquiat family is strongest when only one survives. Thus, I fear for you living in that place.
I believe that her intention is to raise her father from beyond the eternal grave. My research has led me to believe that the incantation she seeks is the one to re-animate the deceased! I will tell you at length the next time I see you at Utonic, old fellow. Were, I you I would think of seeking suitable accommodation in other environs.
Would you kindly agree to accept this, my most profound expression of my most sincere greetings,
Your beloved servant,
M. Berthold Sevigny Charlevoix
I carried my labours through until December the 18th of the year our beloved risen saviour nineteen-hundred and seventy-eight.
I was focused on one book, on one passage in an ancient Sumerian scroll. All of our best efforts were fruitless in gaining a comprehension of its cryptic meaning.
After repeated efforts, the passage became as clear as day. I cross-referenced it to several known tomes including Thomsen’s shocking and hideous work on ancient Sumerian and MacDonell’s on Sanskrit. I not only knew through my intellectual capacities, but I felt, I saw the words! I saw the ancient high priest speaking the words! I saw the hideous visage of the mesmerized Mister Utonic!
As was her wont, Miss Utonic would often take me on long walks on the top of a high hill overlooking Olde Uniontowne. Her gait was stately and mysterious, like the elegant stroll of the spectre of an ancient priestess of a civilization forgotten by time.
There was a strange series of ancient stone ruins which resembled the foundation of some Phoenician house. Upon closer perusal, one could see savage carvings of some ghastly ancient people.
When one would ascend to this place, it had the unusual aspect in that it was always colder than the surrounding fields and woods. It was filled with a constant air of melancholy and gloom.
It was with no surprise that she invited me to appear at this place on the 21st day of December in the Year of our most horribly martyred Lord, being the 1,978th.
Miss Utonic claimed that there was an old family ritual to welcome the arrival of winter. It was curious that she made no preparation for, nor no mention of the arrival of Christmas. She gave me a long, hooded, brown robe to keep me warm. The robe bore the same marking I saw on the outside of the curious Sumerian scroll. We slowly ascended to the bluffs as if in a rhythmic trance, each step with growing purpose and ancient terror.
When we arrived at the pinnacle, the sight was shocking and filled me with a sense of unseemly paralytic horror. Miss Utonic had painstakingly prepared a savage altar!
The writings were now abundantly clear! The evil deed was to be performed at the precise moment of the winter solstice on the desolate bluffs overlooking old Uniontowne.
The bluffs were named Old Scratch’s Playground by the superstitious local denizens.
It seemed to the casual observer to be a series of ancient steps dating back far beyond Indian times to some unknown civilization.
I now knew that the steps led inevitably to this horrific and ghastly stone altar, stained black with the ghoulish blood of ancient ritual sacrifice to the horrible, fabulous Pal Mathoth!
We stood perched on ancient ruins by the edge of the cliff. Some unseen power prevented my escape, as if I were frozen to the spot. The place was grey and desolate and evoked a spirit of the most powerful melancholy.
I approached the altar at 11:00 in the AM on this, being the savage 21st of December, the Winter solstice! The sun had not quite leveled across the evil stones.
Miss Utonic was dressed in the garments of an ancient Sumerian High Priestess. The altar was decorated in shocking pictograms of unspeakable macabre evil.
On the altar lay the hideous shriveled ghastly body of her mesmerized father, writhing with the demonic spirits of an other-dimensional netherworld and next to his torpid corpse was my own brother! He too was shrieking ancient incantations in some state of trance.
Yattar! Mathoth! She uttered with her hands to her ears as if to summon and conjure the hideous Kaph himself!
An eerie whistling of the savage spirits of ancient hells were unleashed on the mountainside in a shrieking, swirling, demonic cacophony! She continued the incantation reading from my own translation!
My brother began to writhe rhythmically to the tempo of the incantations. At the same time, her father began to speak with a hideous voice from beyond the grave, verily from demonic hell itself! “Yattar! Mathoth! In the name of the hideous, fabulous Kaph, the Ancient One! I thus conjure thee!” I could see the horrible old man reviving and rising rigidly as one hellish demon! At the same time I could see life draining from my brother.
I ran to the altar and I seized the sacred hideous cup of the fabulous, shocking demon Mathoth from her hands just as she had raised the evil decanter for the final horrible incantation!
“Do not stop me! It is prophesized! You must fulfill your portion!”
I summoned the words from the deep recesses of my memory. “Mattan! Attunah! Return to your evil world!”
Suddenly, the rotting corpse of the ghastly father decomposed into the most fabulous, shocking, hideous mass of horrid, evil putrescence, the description of which is so vulgar and terrifying to the good puritan soul, as to not admit of any proper expression by a man of the ancient Huguenot Christian faith.
The hideous corpse of the evil M. Utonic devolved into powdery dust, and a musty wind blew his ghoulish ashes from the altar.
Just at that very moment, the evil Miss Utonic burst into an fabulous purplish flame! And, she was hurled by an unseen force, shrieking her demonic death-cry, from Said very precipice.
No trace of her was ever found. I pulled my brother to safety and we descended back to Olde Markleysburg.
When we returned to the place of the House of Utonic, the entire house and estate was gone as if every tree, pathway and stone was swallowed by the hideous, writhing humus itself.
My brother was rendered amnesiac of the entire shocking series of events that Autumn, and he could, to his profound regret, recall nothing of merit to offer me any assistance with the authorities.
I was later detained and questioned by the authorities relative to the bizarre events and the large terrifying otherworldly flame that was observed on the bluffs by the good Christian population of the City of Uniontowne.
My answers to the Sherriffe were rambling and incoherent. Use of language escaped me. Language! The very ancient art of the house of Charlevoix! My very birthright had now failed me.
There was of course, a lengthy investigation by the local authorities, but with no witnesses other than myself, and there being no corporeal evidence left of the estate of the evil House Utonic, my words were given little merit despite my standing as a young gentleman.
I was thus placed under the intense study of a local psychologist who advised the Court of Quarter Sessions that I was indeed quite mad.
The hearing, in the ancient and honored Courthouse in the Towne of Olde Somerset proceeded as follows:
“Oyez, Oyez, Oyez all ye please rise, the Court of the Honorable Judge J. Macpherson MacTaggerty in Quarter Session for the Winter of the Year of the Risen Christ Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Nine in this Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is now in session. All ye who intend to speak today in this proceeding please rise and raise your right hand. Do you, before almighty God the searcher of all hearts and the only true Christian Faith, declare that the evidence you shall give in the cause now being heard is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as you shall answer to God on the last great day?”
“There shall be but one witness your honor, it is a Doctor Phenarious Q. Root of Somerset.”
The ancient professorial bespectacled wise Doctor arose.
“I am Doctor Phenarious Root, licensed by the Board of Medicine and Psychiatry of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 5 December 1933. I am 70 years of age. I need only submit to you this record of examination. After the most careful clinical assessment, I must with great sorrow state that one M. Claude DeBlois Charlevoix is quite insane. He speaks of an address that does not exist – there is not now, nor was there ever a 5 Uniontowne Pike. There is no personage by the name of a Mlle. Utonic and there was certainly never a vile scrivener, known as one M. Perez Rochibauld Utonic, Esquire. These are the products of a depraved, diseased, lunatic mind. This patient is an extreme danger to himself and the good Christian persons of the Commonwealth. He must be committed to a sanitarium for an indefinite period under the most rigorous and vicious medical treatments until he may be again examined and judged sane by the strictest of medical definitions.”
The judge slammed is gavel: “So ruled, in the name of our Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the charitable founder, the most honorable peaceable Quaker William Penn of the most ancient and revered fully Christian Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in this honored Court of Quarter Sessions.”
And thus, beloved readers, I was whisked away to my fate.
Alas, you may be made aware, that I sit here to this very day, locked securely within the confines of this sanitarium.
I am safe here from the visions.
I seek not to read any book, nor any journal, nay any written words. Though I turn my back on the ancient legacy of the House of Charlevoix, I fear and seek to avoid any perusal of written language itself! Lest, my dear friends, I recall the shocking and fabulous events of so many years ago.
It is only in this way, that I can achieve equilibrium and freedom from the hideous, macabre apparitions that haunt me to this day.
You will kindly accept this, my most profound and reverent expression of my most sincere gratitude, and I take your leave, being I, your most humble and gracious servant, Claude Deblois of the most ancient house of Charlevoix, late of Laurel View Sanitarium, in this, the Countie of Olde Somerset in the free and ancient fully and only Christian Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, this 31st day of October, being this, the 2009th year of the birth of our Martyred Saviour, the official and legal deity of Said beloved Quaker the Rt. Hon. Wm. Penn.