Recently I've been re-reading H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness for the umpty-ninth time. It's one of my favorite stories, and like many great stories one keeps finding new bits in it. This time around I noticed something subtle, so subtle I can't make up my mind if Lovecraft meant it deliberately or not.
It's about one of the minor characters: Professor of Engineering Frank Pabodie (pronounced "Peabody" according to HPL). Pabodie doesn't get any real scenes in the story, and I don't think we ever hear any lines of dialog from him. But at the same time, he's a key figure. He invents the drilling machinery, made of a unique aluminum alloy, which lets the Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition search beneath the icecap for fossils. Pabodie also comes up with some modifications to the expedition's airplanes, improving their function in the polar environment. He even comes along on the trip to Antarctica, and accompanies Professor Lake on his scouting trip which turns up important fossils and inspires Lake to redirect the entire expedition in order to locate their source.
Awfully helpful, isn't Professor Pabodie? He turns up everywhere — except on Lake's doomed exploration which takes him to the vast mountain range at the heart of the continent.
In fact, one starts to wonder about Pabodie. He's one of the prime movers of the whole expedition — Why? He's not a geologist, nor a biologist. He could whip up his amazing devices and stay comfortably home in Arkham. He's present at some key discoveries, but manages to miss the trip which ends in a massacre by Elder Things. (Almost as if he suspected something like that might happen.)
As it happens, there's another Lovecraft character who's a master of super-science, knows much more than he tells about Earth's prehistory, and could well have personal reasons for poking around Antarctica. Did he perhaps spend a few years teaching at Miskatonic in order to push the Antarctic expedition along? (Or did he just put on the real Professor Pabodie's skin after he no longer needed it?)
Professor Nyarlathotep, I presume?