"And everywhere he looked, there were countless eyes, blazing yellow eyes all leveled balefully at him," the elderly resident said. "His voice froze in his throat, and he sat motionless unable to move. As the Englishman gazed transfixed, he suddenly felt a sharp tugging on his jacket sleeve, and slowly glanced down."
It was in the summer of 1964 when I first heard the story of The Silent Audience. I was a youth of about seventeen, and the teller was an incredibly old man who sat on a rickety porch spitting tobacco juice at a rusty coffee can. Never once did I see him hit his target, but that didn't seem to faze him one bit.
It happened in the old mining town of Boulderville, sixteen miles east of Hogan's Gap, west of Weaverton, tucked away in the Nye Alps.
In the spring of 1922 an Englishman by the name of Alex Tuttle arrived at this former boomtown turned tourist resort. He was a professor who taught at the University of Oxford, lecturing on the world's ancient legends and mythology. A prodigious writer, as well as a meticulous observer and researcher, Tuttle had published more than 30 books, on a wide range of topics from the religious beliefs among the Ainu to the superstitions of the Finns and Lapps. Often times his scholarly research took him to the most remote corners of the world, the strangest the location the better. Both his office-study and stately townhouse were filled to the brim with not only books and research papers, but with curious mementoes—collected from his years of traveling abroad.
Looking at Alex Tuttle, one would have thought he neither had the means nor the energy to go traveling from place to place. He was a small, skinny, scraggly-haired man, shabbily dressed with thick-lensed spectacles. Add to that a very pale and unhealthy pallor, and he came across looking like a starving bohemian poet rather than a methodical investigator of antiquarian pursuits.
It was business of a surprisingly different sort that brought Professor Tuttle to Boulderville. While engaged in research for a book about the mysterious Lontaqas people of Northern California, it had come to his knowledge that the Boulderville Library contained extensive historical information on this weird race of humanoids. Since the library had refused several written requests to loan him the documents, he had decided to set out in person to see if he could be granted access to this valuable collection.
Accompanying the Professor on his journey were two other Oxford men—Thomas Shelton and Ralph Adkins. Both were archeologists and were keen on studying the strange megalithic sites recently uncovered.
It was early in the morning when Professor Tuttle arrived; he had left his two friends back in their hotel at Weaverton, under the promise to join him in two weeks time. He had hoped to meet Sam Branson, the museum's proprietor and "Herb the Prospector," one of the ancient residents who knew a lot of the old legends of the Nonhuman indigenous people. Unfortunately for the Professor, the library's entire document collection, just days before, had been eaten by bottle ants, Sam Branson had hanged himself, and as for Ole Herb, according to one resident, "he went lookin' fer gold last year and never came back."
However, local gossip directed the Professor to a Gerdin hermit woman named Anna Crabtree. Perhaps she could tell him all that he wanted to know about those "Strange Ghastly Folk."
When he arrived at her cabin on the outskirts of town, he found it empty. Neighbors there informed him that she went hunting and probably wouldn't be back for a fortnight. Disappointed, though slightly hopeful, he settled into an inn to await her arrival. He didn't have to wait for very long though. A few days later when Professor Tuttle was browsing at the general store combination coffee shop, a small, brown-skinned woman in buckskins strolled inside. He gawked; she looked quite out of place among the sturdy, weathered-looking locals.
He tapped the shoulder of the nearest rugged gentleman.
"Pardon me, sir," said the Professor, pointing, "but who is that young lady over there?"
"Oh, that'll be Miss Crabtree," the grizzled patron nodded over his large cup of coffee. "She's a Gerdin woman, y' know? Got 'ere quite by accident, 'leven years ago. Somethin' went wrong with th' two-way door between this world and 'ers, and it spat 'er out 'ere. Well, we're quite used to 'er, seein' as there're other faerie folk livin' around 'ere. Lots more nicer compared with them dern stuck-up Elves with their all "oh, we ain't good enough for the likes of them mere mortals" attitude. Beautiful singer too, like a bird. Bit shy though, doesn't date or go to parties; just keeps to 'erself. Makes no trouble. Maybe she's waitin' for that Door to git fixed so she ken go on 'ome."
Professor Tuttle gawked some more. He had expected a frizzy-haired, leathery-skinned, corncob pipe smoking harridan, not some delicate nonhuman girl with long white hair and amber cat's eyes.
Walking up to her, he said abruptly, "Good afternoon."
Miss Crabtree leapt high into the air and then wheeled around with hair bristling and claws unsheathed. Staring at him with wide saucer eyes, she hissed like a little steam engine.
"Oh, did I ferget to mention she startles easily!" the patron called out