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Selections From Poe by J. Montgomery Gambrill

Part 2 out of 5

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Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow)
That bade me pause before that garden-gate
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
No footsteps stirred: the hated world all slept, 25
Save only thee and me--O Heaven! O God!
How my heart beats in coupling those two words!--
Save only thee and me. I paused, I looked,
And in an instant all things disappeared.
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!) 30
The pearly lustre of the moon went out:

The mossy banks and the meandering paths,
The happy flowers and the repining trees,
Were seen no more: the very roses' odors
Died in the arms of the adoring airs. 35
All, all expired save thee--save less than thou:
Save only the divine light in thine eyes,
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes:
I saw but them--they were the world to me:
I saw but them, saw only them for hours, 40
Saw only them until the moon went down.
What wild heart-histories seem to lie enwritten
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres;
How dark a woe, yet how sublime a hope;
How silently serene a sea of pride; 45
How daring an ambition; yet how deep,
How fathomless a capacity for love!

But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,
Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees 50
Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained:
They would not go--they never yet have gone;
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,
They have not left me (as my hopes have) since;
They follow me--they lead me through the years; 55
They are my ministers--yet I their slave;
Their office is to illumine and enkindle--
My duty, to be saved by their bright light,
And purified in their electric fire,
And sanctified in their elysian fire, 60
They fill my soul with beauty (which is hope),
And are, far up in heaven, the stars I kneel to
In the sad, silent watches of my night;
While even in the meridian glare of day
I see them still--two sweetly scintillant 65
Venuses, unextinguished by the sun.


For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines! they hold a treasure 5
Divine, a talisman, an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure--
The word--the syllables. Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor:
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot 10
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie _perdus_
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing 15
Of poets, by poets--as the name is a poet's, too.
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto, Mendez Ferdinando,
Still form a synonym for Truth.--Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do. 20


Thank Heaven! the crisis,
The danger, is past,
And the lingering illness
Is over at last,
And the fever called "Living" 5
Is conquered at last.

Sadly I know
I am shorn of my strength,
And no muscle I move
As I lie at full length: 10
But no matter!--I feel
I am better at length.

And I rest so composedly
Now, in my bed,
That any beholder 15
Might fancy me dead,
Might start at beholding me,
Thinking me dead.

The moaning and groaning,
The sighing and sobbing, 20
Are quieted now,
With that horrible throbbing
At heart:--ah, that horrible,
Horrible throbbing!

The sickness, the nausea, 25
The pitiless pain,
Have ceased, with the fever
That maddened my brain,
With the fever called "Living"
That burned in my brain. 30

And oh! of all tortures,
That torture the worst
Has abated--the terrible
Torture of thirst
For the naphthaline river 35
Of Passion accurst:
I have drank of a water
That quenches all thirst:

Of a water that flows,
With a lullaby sound, 40
From a spring but a very few
Feet under ground,
From a cavern not very far
Down under ground.

And ah! let it never 45
Be foolishly said
That my room it is gloomy,
And narrow my bed;
For man never slept
In a different bed: 50
And, _to sleep_, you must slumber
In just such a bed.

My tantalized spirit
Here blandly reposes,
Forgetting, or never 55
Regretting, its roses:
Its old agitations
Of myrtles and roses;

For now, while so quietly
Lying, it fancies 60
A holier odor
About it, of pansies:
A rosemary odor,
Commingled with pansies,
With rue and the beautiful 65
Puritan pansies.

And so it lies happily,
Bathing in many
A dream of the truth
And the beauty of Annie, 70
Drowned in a bath
Of the tresses of Annie.

She tenderly kissed me,
She fondly caressed,
And then I fell gently 75
To sleep on her breast,
Deeply to sleep
From the heaven of her breast.

When the light was extinguished,
She covered me warm, 80
And she prayed to the angels
To keep me from harm,
To the queen of the angels
To shield me from harm.

And I lie so composedly 85
Now, in my bed,
(Knowing her love)
That you fancy me dead;
And I rest so contentedly
Now, in my bed, 90
(With her love at my breast)
That you fancy me dead,
That you shudder to look at me,
Thinking me dead.

But my heart it is brighter 95
Than all of the many
Stars in the sky,
For it sparkles with Annie:
It glows with the light
Of the love of my Annie, 100
With the thought of the light
Of the eyes of my Annie.



Hear the sledges with the bells,
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night! 5
While the stars, that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline deligit;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme, 10
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells, 15
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes, 20
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells, 25
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels 30
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells! 35


Hear the loud alarum bells,
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright! 40
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire, 45
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor
Now--now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon. 50
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour 55
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows; 60
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,--
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells, 65
Of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!


Hear the tolling of the bells, 70
Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone! 75
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people--ah, the people,
They that dwell up in the steeple, 80
All alone,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-- 85
They are neither man nor woman,
They are neither brute nor human,
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls, 90
A paean from the bells;
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells,
And he dances, and he yells: 95
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells,
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time, 100
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells--
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time, 105
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells, 110
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells--
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.


It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought 5
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Annabel Lee; 10
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling 15
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea. 20

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me;
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night, 25
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we,
Of many far wiser than we;
And neither the angels in heaven above, 30
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 35
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea, 40
In her tomb by the sounding sea.


Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find among their burning terms of love--
None so devotional as that of "Mother,"
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you-- 5
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia's spirit free.
My mother, my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you 10
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.


Gayly bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song, 5
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old,
This knight so bold,
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found 10
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow: 15
"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon, 20
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"



Son coeur est un luth suspendu;
Sitot qu'on le touche il resonne.

During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of
the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had
been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of
country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew
on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it
was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of
insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the
feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because
poetic, sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the
sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon
the scene before me--upon the mere house, and the simple landscape
features of the domain, upon the bleak walls, upon the vacant eye-like
windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon a few white trunks of
decayed trees--with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to
no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the
reveller upon opium: the bitter lapse into everyday life, the hideous
dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a
sickening of the heart, an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no
goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the
sublime. What was it--I paused to think--what was it that so unnerved
me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all
insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded
upon me as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the
unsatisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there _are_
combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of
thus affecting us, still the analysis of this power lies among
considerations beyond our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a
mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the
details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to
annihilate, its capacity for sorrowful impression; and acting upon
this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and
lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed
down--but with a shudder even more thrilling than before--upon the
remodelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly
tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to myself a
sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher, had been one of
my boon companions in boyhood; but many years had elapsed since our
last meeting. A letter, however, had lately reached me in a distant
part of the country--a letter from him--which in its wildly
inportunate nature had admitted of no other than a personal reply.
The MS. gave evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute
bodily illness, of a mental disorder which oppressed him, and of an
earnest desire to see me, as his best and indeed his only personal
friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society,
some alleviation of his malady. It was the manner in which all this,
and much more, was said--it was the apparent _heart_ that went
with his request--which allowed me no room for hesitation; and I
accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singular

Although as boys we had been even intimate associates, yet I really
knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and
habitual. I was aware, however, that his very ancient family had been
noted, time out of mind, for a peculiar sensibility of temperament,
displaying itself, through long ages, in many works of exalted art,
and manifested of late in repeated deeds of munificent yet unobtrusive
charity, as well as in a passionate devotion to the intricacies,
perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily recognizable
beauties, of musical science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable
fact that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had
put forth at no period any enduring branch; in other words, that the
entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always, with
very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain. It was this
deficiency, I considered, while running over in thought the perfect
keeping of the character of the premises with the accredited character
of the people, and while speculating upon the possible influence which
the one, in the long lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the
other--it was this deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and the
consequent undeviating transmission from sire to son of the patrimony
with the name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge
the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal
appellation of the "House of Usher"--an appellation which seemed to
include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family
and the family mansion.

I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish experiment,
that of looking down within the tarn, had been to deepen the first
singular impression. There can be no doubt that the consciousness of
the rapid increase of my superstition--for why should I not so term
it?--served mainly to accelerate the increase itself. Such, I have
long known, is the paradoxical law of all sentiments having terror as
a basis. And it might have been for this reason only, that, when I
again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the
pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy--a fancy so ridiculous,
indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the
sensations which oppressed me. I had so worked upon my imagination as
really to believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung
an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity: an
atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had
reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent
tarn: a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly
discernible, and leaden-hued.

Shaking off from my spirit what _must_ have been a dream, I
scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal
feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The
discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi overspread the
whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet
all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of
the masonry had fallen; and there appeared to be a wild inconsistency
between its still perfect adaptation of parts and the crumbling
condition of the individual stones. In this there was much that
reminded one of the specious totality of old wood-work which has
rotted for long years in some neglected vault, with no disturbance
from the breath of the external air. Beyond this indication of
extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little token of
instability. Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have
discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the
roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag
direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.

Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the house. A
servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the Gothic archway of
the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence,
through many dark and intricate passages in my progress to the studio
of his master. Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know
not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already
spoken. While the objects around me--while the carvings of the
ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of
the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as
I strode, were but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been
accustomed from my infancy--while I hesitated not to acknowledge how
familiar was all this--I still wondered to find how unfamiliar were
the fancies which ordinary images were stirring up. On one of the
staircases, I met the physician of the family. His countenance, I
thought, wore a mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity. He
accosted me with trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open
a door and ushered me into the presence of his master.

The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty. The
windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from
the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from
within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the
trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more
prominent objects around; the eye, however, struggled in vain to reach
the remoter angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and
fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the walls. The general
furniture was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books
and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any
vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of
sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and
pervaded all.

Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on which he had been lying
at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which had much
in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality--of the
constrained effort of the _ennuye_ man of the world. A glance,
however, at his countenance, convinced me of his perfect sincerity. We
sat down; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon him
with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely man had never before
so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher! It
was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of
the wan being before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet
the character of his face had been at all times remarkable. A
cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large, liquid, and luminous
beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a
surpassingly beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but
with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely
moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral
energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity; these
features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the
temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten.

And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these
features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much
of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of
the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things
startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to
grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated
rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort,
connect its arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity.

In the manner of my friend I was at once struck with an incoherence,
an inconsistency; and I soon found this to arise from a series of
feeble and futile struggles to overcome an habitual trepidancy, an
excessive nervous agitation. For something of this nature I had indeed
been prepared, no less by his letter than by reminiscences of certain
boyish traits, and by conclusions deduced from his peculiar physical
conformation and temperament. His action was alternately vivacious and
sullen. His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision (when the
animal spirits seemed utterly in abeyance) to that species of
energetic concision--that abrupt, weighty, unhurried, and
hollow-sounding enunciation--that leaden, self-balanced and perfectly
modulated guttural utterance--which may be observed in the lost
drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of opium, during the periods of
his most intense excitement.

It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his earnest
desire to see me, and of the solace he expected me to afford him. He
entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be the nature of
his malady. It was, he said, a constitutional and a family evil, and
one for which he despaired to find a remedy--a mere nervous affection,
he immediately added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off. It
displayed itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Some of these, as
he detailed them, interested and bewildered me; although, perhaps, the
terms and the general manner of the narration had their weight. He
suffered much from a morbid acuteness of the senses; the most insipid
food was alone endurable; he could wear only garments of certain
texture; the odors of all flowers were oppressive; his eyes were
tortured by even a faint light; and there were but peculiar sounds,
and these from stringed instruments, which did not inspire him with

To an anomalous species of terror I found him a bounden slave. "I
shall perish," said he, "I _must_ perish in this deplorable
folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost. I dread the
events of the future, not in themselves, but in their results. I
shudder at the thought of any, even the most trivial, incident, which
may operate upon this intolerable agitation of soul. I have, indeed,
no abhorrence of danger, except in its absolute effect--in terror. In
this unnerved--in this pitiable condition, I feel that the period will
sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together,
in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR."

I learned moreover at intervals, and through broken and equivocal
hints, another singular feature of his mental condition. He was
enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the
dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never
ventured forth--in regard to an influence whose supposititious force
was conveyed in terms too shadowy here to be re-stated--an influence
which some peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family
mansion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his
spirit--an effect which the physique of the gray walls and turrets,
and of the dim tarn into which they all looked down, had, at length,
brought about upon the morale of his existence.

He admitted, however, although with hesitation, that much of the
peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced to a more
natural and far more palpable origin--to the severe and long-continued
illness, indeed to the evidently approaching dissolution, of a
tenderly beloved sister--his sole companion for long years, his last
and only relative on earth. "Her decease," he said, with a bitterness
which I can never forget, "would leave him (him the hopeless and the
frail) the last of the ancient race of the Ushers." While he spoke,
the lady Madeline (for so was she called) passed slowly through a
remote portion of the apartment, and, without having noticed my
presence, disappeared. I regarded her with an utter astonishment not
unmingled with dread, and yet I found it impossible to account for
such feelings. A sensation of stupor oppressed me, as my eyes followed
her retreating steps. When a door, at length, closed upon her, my
glance sought instinctively and eagerly the countenance of the
brother; but he had buried his face in his hands, and I could only
perceive that a far more than ordinary wanness had overspread the
emaciated fingers through which trickled many passionate tears.

The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of her
physicians. A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person,
and frequent although transient affections of a partially cataleptical
character, were the unusual diagnosis. Hitherto she had steadily
borne up against the pressure of her malady, and had not betaken
herself finally to bed; but, on the closing in of the evening of my
arrival at the house, she succumbed (as her brother told me at night
with inexpressible agitation) to the prostrating power of the
destroyer; and I learned that the glimpse I had obtained of her person
would thus probably be the last I should obtain--that the lady, at
least while living, would be seen by me no more.

For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned by either Usher or
myself; and during this period I was busied in earnest endeavors to
alleviate the melancholy of my friend. We painted and read together;
or I listened, as if in a dream, to the wild improvisations of his
speaking guitar. And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy
admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the
more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a
mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured
forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe, in one
unceasing radiation of gloom.

I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn hours I thus
spent alone with the master of the House of Usher. Yet I should fail
in any attempt to convey an idea of the exact character of the
studies, or of the occupations, in which he involved me, or led me the
way. An excited and highly distempered ideality threw a sulphureous
lustre over all. His long improvised dirges will ring forever in my
ears. Among other things, I hold painfully in mind a certain singular
perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von
Weber. From the paintings over which his elaborate fancy brooded, and
which grew, touch by touch, into vaguenesses at which I shuddered the
more thrillingly because I shuddered knowing not why;--from these
paintings (vivid as their images now are before me) I would in vain
endeavor to educe more than a small portion which should lie within
the compass of merely written words. By the utter simplicity, by the
nakedness of his designs, he arrested and overawed attention. If ever
mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher. For me at
least, in the circumstances then surrounding me, there arose, out of
the pure abstractions which the hypochondriac contrived to throw upon
his canvas, an intensity of intolerable awe, no shadow of which felt I
ever yet in the contemplation of the certainly glowing yet too
concrete reveries of Fuseli.

One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my friend, partaking not so
rigidly of the spirit of abstraction, may be shadowed forth, although
feebly, in words. A small picture presented the interior of an
immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls,
smooth, white, and without interruption or device. Certain accessory
points of the design served well to convey the idea that this
excavation lay at an exceeding depth below the surface of the
earth. No outlet was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and
no torch or other artificial source of light was discernible; yet a
flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a
ghastly and inappropriate splendor.

I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the auditory nerve
which rendered all music intolerable to the sufferer, with the
exception of certain effects of stringed instruments. It was, perhaps,
the narrow limits to which he thus confined himself upon the guitar,
which gave birth, in great measure, to the fantastic character of his
performances. But the fervid _facility_ of his impromptus could
not be so accounted for. They must have been, and were, in the notes,
as well as in the words of his wild fantasias (for he not unfrequently
accompanied himself with rhymed verbal improvisations), the result of
that intense mental collectedness and concentration to which I have
previously alluded as observable only in particular moments of the
highest artificial excitement. The words of one of these rhapsodies I
have easily remembered. I was, perhaps, the more forcibly impressed
with it, as he gave it, because, in the under or mystic current of its
meaning, I fancied that I perceived, and for the first time, a full
consciousness, on the part of Usher, of the tottering of his lofty
reason upon her throne. The verses, which were entitled "The Haunted
Palace," ran very nearly, if not accurately, thus:--


In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace--
Radiant palace--reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion,
It stood there;
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.


Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This--all this--was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.


Wanderers in that happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute's well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.


And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.


But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.


And travellers now within that valley
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh--but smile no more.

I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad led us into
a train of thought, wherein there became manifest an opinion of
Usher's which I mention not so much on account of its novelty, (for
other men[1] haye thought thus,) as on account of the pertinacity with
which he maintained it. This opinion, in its general form, was that of
the sentience of all vegetable things. But in his disordered fancy the
idea had assumed a more daring character, and trespassed, under
certain conditions, upon the kingdom of inorganization. I lack words
to express the full extent, or the earnest _abandon_ of his
persuasion. The belief, however, was connected (as I have previously
hinted) with the gray stones of the home of his fore-fathers. The
conditions of the sentience had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in
the method of collocation of these stones--in the order of their
arrangement, as well as in that of the many fungi which overspread
them, and of the decayed trees which stood around--above all, in the
long undisturbed endurance of this arrangement, and in its
reduplication in the still waters of the tarn. Its evidence--the
evidence of the sentience--was to be seen, he said (and I here started
as he spoke), in the gradual yet certain condensation of an atmosphere
of their own about the waters and the walls. The result was
discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet importunate and terrible
influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family,
and which made _him_ what I now saw him--what he was. Such
opinions need no comment, and I will make none.

[Footnote 1: Watson, Dr. Percival, Spallanzani, and especially the
Bishop of Landaff.--See "Chemical Essays," Vol. V.]

Our books--the books which, for years, had formed no small portion of
the mental existence of the invalid--were, as might be supposed, in
strict keeping with this character of phantasm. We pored together over
such works as the Ververt and Chartreuse of Gresset; the Belphegor of
Machiavelli; the Heaven and Hell of Swedenborg; the Subterranean
Voyage of Nicholas Klimm by Holberg; the Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of
Jean D'Indagine, and of De la Chambre; the Journey into the Blue
Distance of Tieck; and the City of the Sun of Campanella. One favorite
volume was a small octavo edition of the _Directorium
Inquisitorum_, by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne; and there were
passages in Pomponius Mela, about the old African Satyrs and Aegipans,
over which Usher would sit dreaming for hours. His chief delight,
however, was found in the perusal of an exceedingly rare and curious
book in quarto Gothic--the manual of a forgotten church--the
_Vigilice Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae_.

I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its
probable influence upon the hypochondriac, when one evening, having
informed me abruptly that the lady Madeline was no more, he stated his
intention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight, (previously to its
final interment,) in one of the numerous vaults within the main walls
of the building. The worldly reason, however, assigned for this
singular proceeding, was one which I did not feel at liberty to
dispute. The brother had been led to his resolution (so he told me)
by consideration of the unusual character of the malady of the
deceased, of certain obtrusive and eager inquiries on the part of her
medical men, and of the remote and exposed situation of the
burial-ground of the family. I will not deny that when I called to
mind the sinister countenance of the person whom I met upon the
staircase, on the day of my arrival at the house, I had no desire to
oppose what I regarded as at best but a harmless, and by no means an
unnatural, precaution.

At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements
for the temporary entombment. The body having been encoffined, we two
alone bore it to its rest. The vault in which we placed it (and which
had been so long unopened that our torches, half smothered in its
oppressive atmosphere, gave us little opportunity for investigation)
was small, damp, and entirely without means of admission for light;
lying, at great depth, immediately beneath that portion of the
building in which was my own sleeping apartment. It had been used,
apparently, in remote feudal times, for the worst purposes of a
donjon-keep, and in later days as a place of deposit for powder, or
some other highly combustible substance, as a portion of its floor,
and the whole interior of a long archway through which we reached it,
were carefully sheathed with copper. The door, of massive iron, had
been, also, similarly protected. Its immense weight caused an
unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges.

Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels within this region
of horror, we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid of the
coffin, and looked upon the face of the tenant. A striking similitude
between the brother and sister now first arrested my attention; and
Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured out some few words
from which I learned that the deceased and himself had been twins, and
that sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed
between them. Our glances, however, rested not long upon the dead--for
we could not regard her unawed. The disease which had thus entombed
the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies
of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush
upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile
upon the lip which is so terrible in death. We replaced and screwed
down the lid, and, having secured the door of iron, made our way, with
toil, into the scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper portion of
the house.

And now, some days of bitter grief having elapsed, an observable
change came over the features of the mental disorder of my friend. His
ordinary manner had vanished. His ordinary occupations were neglected
or forgotten. He roamed from chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal,
and objectless step. The pallor of his countenance had assumed, if
possible, a more ghastly hue--but the luminousness of his eye had
utterly gone out. The once occasional huskiness of his tone was heard
no more; and a tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, habitually
characterized his utterance. There were times, indeed, when I thought
his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with some oppressive
secret, to divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage. At
times, again, I was obliged to resolve all into the mere inexplicable
vagaries of madness, for I beheld him gazing upon vacancy for long
hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to
some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that his condition
terrified--that it infected me. I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet
certain degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet
impressive superstitions.

It was, especially, upon retiring to bed late in the night of the
seventh or eighth day after the placing of the lady Madeline within
the donjon, that I experienced the full power of such feelings. Sleep
came not near my couch, while the hours waned and waned away. I
struggled to reason off the nervousness which had dominion over me. I
endeavored to believe that much, if not all, of what I felt was due to
the bewildering influence of the gloomy furniture of the room--of the
dark and tattered draperies which, tortured into motion by the breath
of a rising tempest, swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and
rustled uneasily about the decorations of the bed. But my efforts were
fruitless. An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame; and at
length there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless
alarm. Shaking this off with a gasp and a struggle, I uplifted myself
upon the pillows, and, peering earnestly within the intense darkness
of the chamber, hearkened--I know not why, except that an instinctive
spirit prompted me--to certain low and indefinite sounds which came,
through the pauses of the storm, at long intervals, I knew not
whence. Overpowered by an intense sentiment of horror, unaccountable
yet unendurable, I threw on my clothes with haste, (for I felt that I
should sleep no more during the night,) and endeavored to arouse
myself from the pitiable condition into which I had fallen, by pacing
rapidly to and fro through the apartment.

I had taken but few turns in this manner, when a light step on an
adjoining staircase arrested my attention. I presently recognized it
as that of Usher. In an instant afterward he rapped with a gentle
touch at my door, and entered, bearing a lamp. His countenance was, as
usual, cadaverously wan--but, moreover, there was a species of mad
hilarity in his eyes--an evidently restrained hysteria in his whole
demeanor. His air appalled me--but anything was preferable to the
solitude which I had so long endured, and I even welcomed his presence
as a relief.

"And you have not seen it?" he said abruptly, after having stared
about him for some moments in silence--"you have not then seen
it?--but, stay! you shall." Thus speaking, and having carefully shaded
his lamp, he hurried to one of the casements, and threw it freely open
to the storm.

The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from our
feet. It was, indeed, a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful night, and
one wildly singular in its terror and its beauty. A whirlwind had
apparently collected its force in our vicinity; for there were
frequent and violent alterations in the direction of the wind; and the
exceeding density of the clouds (which hung so low as to press upon
the turrets of the house) did not prevent our perceiving the life-like
velocity with which they flew careering from all points against each
other, without passing away into the distance. I say that even their
exceeding density did not prevent our perceiving this; yet we had no
glimpse of the moon or stars, nor was there any flashing forth of the
lightning. But the under surfaces of the huge masses of agitated
vapor, as well as all terrestrial objects immediately around us, were
glowing in the unnatural light of a faintly luminous and distinctly
visible gaseous exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the

"You must not--you shall not behold this!" said I, shudderingly, to
Usher, as I led him with a gentle violence from the window to a
seat. "These appearances, which bewilder you, are merely electrical
phenomena not uncommon--or it may be that they have their ghastly
origin in the rank miasma of the tarn. Let us close this casement; the
air is chilling and dangerous to your frame. Here is one of your
favorite romances. I will read, and you shall listen;--and so we will
pass away this terrible night together."

The antique volume which I had taken up was the "Mad Trist" of Sir
Launcelot Canning; but I had called it a favorite of Usher's more in
sad jest than in earnest; for, in truth, there is little in its
uncouth and unimaginative prolixity which could have had interest for
the lofty and spiritual ideality of my friend. It was, however, the
only book immediately at hand; and I indulged a vague hope that the
excitement which now agitated the hypochondriac might find relief (for
the history of mental disorder is full of similar anomalies) even in
the extremeness of the folly which I should read. Could I have judged,
indeed, by the wild overstrained air of vivacity with which he
hearkened, or apparently hearkened, to the words of the tale, I might
well have congratulated myself upon the success of my design.

I had arrived at that well-known portion of the story where Ethelred,
the hero of the Trist, having sought in vain for peaceable admission
into the dwelling of the hermit, proceeds to make good an entrance by
force. Here, it will be remembered, the words of the narrative run

"And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty heart, and who was now
mighty withal, on account of the powerfulness of the wine which he had
drunken, waited no longer to hold parley with the hermit, who, in
sooth, was of an obstinate and maliceful turn, but, feeling the rain
upon his shoulders, and fearing the rising of the tempest, uplifted
his mace outright, and with blows made quickly room in the plankings
of the door for his gauntleted hand; and now pulling therewith
sturdily, he so cracked, and ripped, and tore all asunder, that the
noise of the dry and hollow-sounding wood alarumed and reverberated
throughout the forest."

At the termination of this sentence I started, and for a moment
paused; for it appeared to me (although I at once concluded that my
excited fancy had deceived me)--it appeared to me that from some very
remote portion of the mansion there came, indistinctly, to my ears,
what might have been, in its exact similarity of character, the echo
(but a stifled and dull one certainly) of the very cracking and
ripping sound which Sir Launcelot had so particularly described. It
was, beyond doubt, the coincidence alone which had arrested my
attention; for, amid the rattling of the sashes of the casements, and
the ordinary commingled noises of the still increasing storm, the
sound, in itself, had nothing, surely, which should have interested or
disturbed me. I continued the story:--

"But the good champion Ethelred, now entering within the door, was
sore enraged and amazed to perceive no signal of the maliceful hermit;
but, in the stead thereof, a dragon of a scaly and prodigious
demeanor, and of a fiery tongue, which sate in guard before a palace
of gold, with a floor of silver; and upon the wall there hung a shield
of shining brass with this legend enwritten--

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin;
Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win.

And Ethelred uplifted his mace, and struck upon the head of the
dragon, which fell before him, and gave up his pesty breath, with a
shriek so horrid and harsh, and withal so piercing, that Ethelred had
fain to close his ears with his hands against the dreadful noise of
it, the like whereof was never before heard."

Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a feeling of wild
amazement; for there could be no doubt whatever that, in this
instance, I did actually hear (although from what direction it
proceeded I found it impossible to say) a low and apparently distant,
but harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or grating
sound--the exact counterpart of what my fancy had already conjured up
for the dragon's unnatural shriek as described by the romancer.

Oppressed, as I certainly was, upon the occurrence of this second and
most extraordinary coincidence, by a thousand conflicting sensations,
in which wonder and extreme terror were predominant, I still retained
sufficient presence of mind to avoid exciting, by any observation, the
sensitive nervousness of my companion. I was by no means certain that
he had noticed the sounds in question; although, assuredly, a strange
alteration had during the last few minutes taken place in his
demeanor. From a position fronting my own, he had gradually brought
round his chair, so as to sit with his face to the door of the
chamber; and thus I could but partially perceive his features,
although I saw that his lips trembled as if he were murmuring
inaudibly. His head had dropped upon his breast--yet I knew that he
was not asleep, from the wide and rigid opening of the eye as I caught
a glance of it in profile. The motion of his body, too, was at
variance with this idea--for he rocked from side to side with a gentle
yet constant and uniform sway. Having rapidly taken notice of all
this, I resumed the narrative of Sir Launcelot, which thus

"And now, the champion, having escaped from the terrible fury of the
dragon, bethinking himself of the brazen shield, and of the breaking
up of the enchantment which was upon it, removed the carcass from out
of the way before him, and approached valorously over the silver
pavement of the castle to where the shield was upon the wall; which in
sooth tarried not for his full coming, but fell down at his feet upon
the silver floor, with a mighty great and terrible ringing sound."

No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than--as if a shield of
brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of
silver--I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic and clangorous,
yet apparently muffled reverberation. Completely unnerved, I leaped
to my feet; but the measured rocking movement of Usher was
undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in which he sat. His eyes were bent
fixedly before him, and throughout his whole countenance there reigned
a stony rigidity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, there
came a strong shudder over his whole person; a sickly smile quivered
about his lips; and I saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and
gibbering murmur, as if unconscious of my presence. Bending closely
over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words.

"Not hear it?--yes, I hear it, and _have_ heard it.
Long--long--long--many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard
it--yet I dared not--oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am!--I dared
not--I _dared_ not speak! _We have put her living in the
tomb!_ Said I not that my senses were acute? I _now_ tell you
that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard
them--many, many days ago--yet I dared not--_I dared not speak!_
And now--to-night--Ethelred--ha! ha!--the breaking of the hermit's
door, and the death-cry of the dragon, and the clangor of the
shield!--say, rather, the rending of her coffin, and the grating of
the iron hinges of her prison, and her struggles within the coppered
archway of the vault! Oh, whither shall I fly? Will she not be here
anon? Is she not hurrying to upbraid me for my haste? Have I not heard
her footstep on the stair? Do I not distinguish that heavy and
horrible beating of her heart? Madman!"--here he sprang furiously to
his feet, and shrieked out his syllables, as if in the effort he were
giving up his soul--"_Madman! I tell you that she now stands without
the door!_"

As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had been found
the potency of a spell, the huge antique panels to hich the speaker
pointed threw slowly back, upon the instant, their ponderous and ebony
jaws. It was the work of the rushing gust--but then without those
doors there _did_ stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of the
lady Madeline of Usher. There was blood upon her white robes, and the
evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated
frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon
the threshold--then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon
the person of her brother, and, in her violent and now final
death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the
terrors he had anticipated.

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm
was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old
causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I
turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the
vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that
of the full, setting, and blood-red moon, which now shone vividly
through that once barely-discernible fissure, of which I have before
spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag
direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly
widened--there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind--the entire orb
of the satellite burst at once upon my sight--my brain reeled as I saw
the mighty walls rushing asunder--there was a long tumultuous shouting
sound like the voice of a thousand waters--and the deep and dank tarn
at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the
"_House of Usher_."


What say of it? what say of CONSCIENCE grim,
That spectre in my path?
CHAMBERLAYNE: _Pharronida_

Let me call myself, for the present, William Wilson. The fair page now
lying before me need not be sullied with my real appellation. This has
been already too much an object for the scorn--for the horror--for the
detestation of my race. To the uttermost regions of the globe have not
the indignant winds bruited its unparalleled infamy? Oh, outcast of
all outcasts most abandoned!--to the earth art thou not forever dead?
to its honors, to its flowers, to its golden aspirations?--and a
cloud, dense, dismal, and limitless, does it not hang eternally
between thy hopes and heaven?

I would not, if I could, here or to-day, embody a record of my later
years of unspeakable misery and unpardonable crime. This epoch, these
later years, took unto themselves a sudden elevation in turpitude,
whose origin alone it is my present purpose to assign. Men usually
grow base by degrees. From me, in an instant, all virtue dropped
bodily as a mantle. From comparatively trivial wickedness I passed,
with the stride of a giant, into more than the enormities of an
Elah-Gabalus. What chance--what one event brought this evil thing to
pass, bear with me while I relate. Death approaches; and the shadow
which foreruns him has thrown a softening influence over my spirit. I
long, in passing through the dim valley, for the sympathy--I had
nearly said for the pity--of my fellow-men. I would fain have them
believe that I have been, in some measure, the slave of circumstances
beyond human control. I would wish them to seek out for me, in the
details I am about to give, some little oasis of _fatality_ amid a
wilderness of error. I would have them allow--what they cannot refrain
from allowing--that, although temptation may have erewhile existed as
great, man was never _thus_, at least, tempted before--certainly,
never _thus_ fell. And is it therefore that he has never thus
suffered? Have I not indeed been living in a dream? And am I not now
dying a victim to the horror and the mystery of the wildest of all
sublunary visions?

I am the descendant of a race whose imaginative and easily excitable
temperament has at all times rendered them remarkable; and, in my
earliest infancy, I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family
character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly developed;
becoming, for many reasons, a cause of serious disquietude to my
friends, and of positive injury to myself. I grew self-willed,
addicted to the wildest caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable
passions. Weak-minded, and beset with constitutional infirmities akin
to my own, my parents could do but little to check the evil
propensities which distinguished me. Some feeble and ill-directed
efforts resulted in complete failure on their part, and, of course, in
total triumph on mine. Thenceforward my voice was a household law; and
at an age when few children have abandoned their leading-strings I was
left to the guidance of my own will, and became, in all but name, the
master of my own actions.

My earliest recollections of a school-life are connected with a large,
rambling, Elizabethan house, in a misty-looking village of England,
where were a vast number of gigantic and gnarled trees, and where all
the houses were excessively ancient. In truth, it was a dream-like and
spirit-soothing place, that venerable old town. At this moment, in
fancy, I feel the refreshing chilliness of its deeply-shadowed
avenues, inhale the fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill
anew with undefinable delight at the deep hollow note of the
church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and sudden roar, upon
the stillness of the dusky atmosphere in which the fretted Gothic
steeple lay imbedded and asleep.

It gives me, perhaps, as much of pleasure as I can now in any manner
experience to dwell upon minute recollections of the school and its
concerns. Steeped in misery as I am--misery, alas! only too real--I
shall be pardoned for seeking relief, however slight and temporary, in
the weakness of a few rambling details. These, moreover, utterly
trivial, and even ridiculous in themselves, assume to my fancy
adventitious importance, as connected with a period and a locality
when and where I recognize the first ambiguous monitions of the
destiny which afterwards so fully overshadowed me. Let me then

The house, I have said, was old and irregular. The grounds were
extensive, and a high and solid brick wall, topped with a bed of
mortar and broken glass, encompassed the whole. This prison-like
rampart formed the limit of our domain; beyond it we saw but thrice a
week--once every Saturday afternoon, when, attended by two ushers, we
were permitted to take brief walks in a body through some of the
neighboring fields--and twice during Sunday, when we were paraded in
the same formal manner to the morning and evening service in the one
church of the village. Of this church the principal of our school was
pastor. With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was I wont to
regard him from our remote pew in the gallery, as, with step solemn
and slow, he ascended the pulpit! This reverend man, with countenance
so demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically flowing,
with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and so vast,--could this be he
who, of late, with sour visage, and in snuffy habiliments,
administered, ferule in hand, the Draconian Laws of the academy? Oh,
gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution!

At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more ponderous gate. It
was riveted and studded with iron bolts, and surmounted with jagged
iron spikes. What impressions of deep awe did it inspire! It was never
opened save for the three periodical egressions and ingressions
already mentioned; then, in every creak of its mighty hinges, we found
a plenitude of mystery--a world of matter for solemn remark, or for
more solemn meditation.

The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having many capacious
recesses. Of these, three or four of the largest constituted the
play-ground. It was level, and covered with fine hard gravel. I well
remember it had no trees, nor benches, nor anything similar within
it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front lay a small
parterre, planted with box and other shrubs; but through this sacred
division we passed only upon rare occasions indeed--such as a first
advent to school or final departure thence, or perhaps when, a parent
or friend having called for us, we joyfully took our way home for the
Christmas or Midsummer holidays.

But the house--how quaint an old building was this!--to me how
veritably a palace of enchantment! There was really no end to its
windings--to its incomprehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at
any given time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories
one happened to be. From each room to every other there were sure to
be found three or four steps either in ascent or descent. Then the
lateral branches were innumerable, inconceivable, and so returning in
upon themselves that our most exact ideas in regard to the whole
mansion were not very far different from those with which we pondered
upon infinity. During the five years of my residence here I was never
able to ascertain, with precision, in what remote locality lay the
little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and some eighteen or
twenty other scholars.

The school-room was the largest in the house--I could not help
thinking, in the world. It was very long, narrow, and dismally low,
with pointed Gothic windows and a ceiling of oak. In a remote and
terror-inspiring angle was a square enclosure of eight or ten feet,
comprising the _sanctum_, "during hours," of our principal, the
Reverend Dr. Bransby. It was a solid structure, with massy door,
sooner than open which in the absence of the "Dominie" we would all
have willingly perished by the _peine forte et dure._ In other angles
were two other similar boxes, far less reverenced, indeed, but still
greatly matters of awe. One of these was the pulpit of the "classical"
usher; one, of the "English and mathematical." Interspersed about the
room, crossing and recrossing in endless irregularity, were
innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, and time-worn, piled
desperately with much-be-thumbed books, and so beseamed with initial
letters, names at full length, grotesque figures, and other multiplied
efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little of original
form might have been their portion in days long departed. A huge
bucket with water stood at one extremity of the room, and a clock of
stupendous dimensions at the other.

Encompassed by the massy walls of this venerable academy, I passed,
yet not in tedium or disgust, the years of the third lustrum of my
life. The teeming brain of childhood requires no external world of
incident to occupy or amuse it; and the apparently dismal monotony of
a school was replete with more intense excitement than my riper youth
has derived from luxury, or my full manhood from crime. Yet I must
believe that my first mental development had in it much of the
uncommon--even much of the _outre_. Upon mankind at large the events
of very early existence rarely leave in mature age any definite
impression. All is gray shadow--a weak and irregular remembrance--an
indistinct regathering of feeble pleasures and phantasmagoric
pains. With me this is not so. In childhood I must have felt, with the
energy of a man, what I now find stamped upon memory in lines as
vivid, as deep, and as durable as the _exergues_ of the Carthaginian

Yet in fact--in the fact of the world's view--how little was there to
remember! The morning's awakening, the nightly summons to bed; the
connings, the recitations; the periodical half-holidays, and
perambulations; the play-ground, with its broils, its pastimes, its
intrigues;--these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, were made to
involve a wilderness of sensation, a world of rich incident, an
universe of varied emotion, of excitement the most passionate and
spirit-stirring. "_Oh, le bon temps, que ce siecle de fer!_"

In truth, the ardor, the enthusiasm, and the imperiousness of my
disposition, soon rendered me a marked character among my schoolmates,
and by slow but natural gradations gave me an ascendancy over all not
greatly older than myself: over all with a single exception. This
exception was found in the person of a scholar who, although no
relation, bore the same Christian and surname as myself,--a
circumstance, in fact, little remarkable; for, notwithstanding a noble
descent, mine was one of those every-day appellations which seem by
prescriptive right to have been, time out of mind, the common property
of the mob. In this narrative I have therefore designated myself as
William Wilson,--a fictitious title not very dissimilar to the
real. My namesake alone, of those who in school-phraseology
constituted "our set," presumed to compete with me in the studies of
the class--in the sports and broils of the play-ground--to refuse
implicit belief in my assertions, and submission to my will--indeed,
to interfere with my arbitrary dictation in any respect whatsoever.
If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the
despotism of a master-mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits
of its companions.

Wilson's rebellion was to me a source of the greatest embarrassment;
the more so as, in spite of the bravado with which in public I made a
point of treating him and his pretensions, I secretly felt that I
feared him, and could not help thinking the equality, which he
maintained so easily with myself, a proof of his true superiority;
since not to be overcome cost me a perpetual struggle. Yet this
superiority, even this equality, was in truth acknowledged by no one
but myself; our associates, by some unaccountable blindness, seemed
not even to suspect it. Indeed, his competition, his resistance, and
especially his impertinent and dogged interference with my purposes,
were not more pointed than private. He appeared to be destitute alike
of the ambition which urged, and of the passionate energy of mind
which enabled, me to excel. In his rivalry he might have been supposed
actuated solely by a whimsical desire to thwart, astonish, or mortify
myself; although there were times when I could not help observing,
with a feeling made up of wonder, abasement, and pique, that he
mingled with his injuries, his insults, or his contradictions, a
certain most inappropriate, and assuredly most unwelcome,
_affectionateness_ of manner. I could only conceive this singular
behavior to arise from a consummate self-conceit assuming the vulgar
airs of patronage and protection.

Perhaps it was this latter trait in Wilson's conduct, conjoined with
our identity of name, and the mere accident of our having entered the
school upon the same day, which set afloat the notion that we were
brothers, among the senior classes in the academy. These do not
usually inquire with much strictness into the affairs of their
juniors. I have before said, or should have said, that Wilson was not
in the most remote degree connected with my family. But assuredly if
we _had_ been brothers we must have been twins; for, after leaving
Dr. Bransby's, I cassually learned that my namesake was born on the
nineteenth of January, 1813; and this is a somewhat remarkable
coincidence; for the day is precisely that of my own nativity.

It may seem strange that in spite of the continual anxiety occasioned
me by the rivalry of Wilson, and his intolerable spirit of
contradiction, I could not bring myself to hate him altogether. We
had, to be sure, nearly every day a quarrel in which, yielding me
publicly the palm of victory, he, in some manner, contrieved to make
me feel that it was he who had deserved it; yet a sense of pride on my
part, and a veritable dignity on his own, kept us always upon what are
called "speaking terms," while there were many points of strong
congeniality in our tempers, operating to awake in me a sentiment
which our position alone, perhaps, prevented from ripening into
friendship. It is difficult, indeed, to define, or even to describe,
my real feelings towards him. They formed a motley and heterogeneous
admixture: some petulant animosity, which was not yet hatred, some
esteem, more respect, much fear, with a world of uneasy curiosity. To
the moralist it will be unnecessary to say, in addition, that Wilson
and myself were the most inseparable of companions.

It was no doubt the anomalous state of affairs existing between us
which turned all my attacks upon him (and they were many, either open
or covert) into the channel of banter or practical joke (giving pain
while assuming the aspect of mere fun) rather than into a more serious
and determined hostility. But my endeavors on this head were by no
means uniformly successful, even when my plans were the most wittily
concocted; for my namesake had much about him, in character, of that
unassuming and quiet austerity which, while enjoying the poignancy of
its own jokes, has no heel of Achilles in itself, and absolutely
refuses to be laughed at. I could find, indeed, but one vulnerable
point, and that lying in a personal peculiarity arising, perhaps, from
constitutional disease, would have been spared by any antagonist less
at his wit's end than myself:--my rival had a weakness in the faucial
or guttural organs, which precluded him from raising his voice at any
time _above a very low whisper_. Of this defect I did not fail to take
what poor advantage lay in my power.

Wilson's retaliations in kind were many; and there was one form of his
practical wit that disturbed me beyond measure. How his sagacity
first discovered at all that so petty a thing would vex me, is a
question I never could solve; but having discovered, he habitually
practised the annoyance. I had always felt aversion to my uncourtly
patronymic, and its very common, if not plebeian praenomen. The words
were venom in my ears; and when, upon the day of my arrival, a second
William Wilson came also to the academy, I felt angry with him for
bearing the name, and doubly disgusted with the name because a
stranger bore it, who would be the cause of its twofold repetition,
who would be constantly in my presence, and whose concerns, in the
ordinary routine of the school business, must inevitably, on account
of the detestable coincidence, be often confounded with my own.

The feeling of vexation thus engendered grew stronger with every
circumstance tending to show resemblance, moral or physical, between
my rival and myself. I had not then discovered the remarkable fact
that we were of the same age; but I saw that we were of the same
height, and I perceived that we were even singularly alike in general
contour of person and outline of feature. I was galled, too, by the
rumor touching a relationship which had grown current in the upper
forms. In a word, nothing could more seriously disturb me (although I
scrupulously concealed such disturbance) than any allusion to a
similarity of mind, person, or condition existing between us. But, in
truth, I had no reason to believe that (with the exception of the
matter of relationship, and in the case of Wilson himself) this
similarity had ever been made a subject of comment, or even observed
at all by our schoolfellows. That _he_ observed it in all its
bearings, and as fixedly as I, was apparent; but that he could
discover in such circumstances so fruitful a field of annoyance can
only be attributed, as I said before, to his more than ordinary

His cue, which was to perfect an imitation of myself, lay both in
words and in actions; and most admirably did he play his part. My
dress it was an easy matter to copy; my gait and general manner were,
without difficulty, appropriated; in spite of his constitutional
defect, even my voice did not escape him. My louder tones were, of
course, unattempted, but then the key,--it was identical; _and his
singular whisper,--it grew the very echo of my own._

How greatly this most exquisite portraiture harassed me (for it could
not justly be termed a caricature) I will not now venture to describe.
I had but one consolation--in the fact that the imitation, apparently,
was noticed by myself alone, and that I had to endure only the knowing
and strangely sarcastic smiles of my namesake himself. Satisfied with
having produced in my bosom the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle
in secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was
uncharacteristically disregardful of the public applause which the
success of his witty endeavours might have so easily elicited. That
the school, indeed, did not feel his design, perceive its
accomplishment, and participate in his sneer, was, for many anxious
months, a riddle I could not resolve. Perhaps the _gradation_ of his
copy rendered it not so readily perceptible; or, more possibly, I owed
my security to the masterly air of the copyist, who, disdaining the
letter (which in a painting is all the obtuse can see) gave but the
full spirit of his original for my individual contemplation and

I have already more than once spoken of the disgusting air of
patronage which he assumed toward me, and of his frequent officious
interference with my will. This interference often took the ungracious
character of advice; advice not openly given, but hinted or
insinuated. I received it with a repugnance which gained strength as I
grew in years. Yet, at this distant day, let me do him the simple
justice to acknowledge that I can recall no occasion when the
suggestions of my rival were on the side of those errors or follies so
usual to his immature age and seeming inexperience; that his moral
sense, at least, if not his general talents and worldly wisdom, was
far keener than my own; and that I might, to-day, have been a better,
and thus a happier man, had I less frequently rejected the counsels
embodied in those meaning whispers which I then but too cordially
hated and too bitterly despised.

As it was, I at length grew restive in the extreme under his
distasteful supervision, and daily resented more and more openly what
I considered his intolerable arrogance. I have said that, in the first
years of our connection as schoolmates, my feelings in regard to him
might have been easily ripened into friendship; but, in the latter
months of my residence at the academy, although the intrusion of his
ordinary manner had, beyond doubt, in some measure abated, my
sentiments, in nearly similar proportion, partook very much of
positive hatred. Upon one occasion he saw this, I think, and
afterwards avoided or made a show of avoiding me.

It was about the same period, if I remember aright, that, in an
altercation of violence with him, in which he was more than usually
thrown off his guard, and spoke and acted with an openness of demeanor
rather foreign to his nature, I discovered, or fancied I discovered,
in his accent, his air and general appearance, a something which first
startled, and then deeply interested me, by bringing to mind dim
visions of my earliest infancy--wild, confused and thronging memories
of a time when memory herself was yet unborn. I cannot better describe
the sensation which oppressed me than by saying that I could with
difficulty shake off the belief of my having been acquainted with the
being who stood before me, at some epoch very long ago--some point of
the past even infinitely remote. The delusion, however, faded rapidly
as it came; and I mention it at all but to define the day of the last
conversation I there held with my singular namesake.

The huge old house, with its countless subdivisions, had several large
chambers communicating with each other, where slept the greater number
of the students. There were, however (as must necessarily happen in a
building so awkwardly planned) many little nooks or recesses, the odds
and ends of the structure; and these the economic ingenuity of Dr.
Bransby had also fitted up as dormitories; although, being the merest
closets, they were capable of accommodating but a single
individual. One of these small apartments was occupied by Wilson.

One night, about the close of my fifth year at the school, and
immediately after the altercation just mentioned, finding every one
wrapped in sleep, I arose from bed, and, lamp in hand, stole through a
wilderness of narrow passages from my own bedroom to that of my
rival. I had long been plotting one of those ill-natured pieces of
practical wit at his expense in which I had hitherto been so uniformly
unsuccessful. It was my intention, now, to put my scheme in operation,
and I resolved to make him feel the whole extent of the malice with
which I was imbued. Having reached his closet, I noiselessly entered,
leaving the lamp, with a shade over it, on the outside. I advanced a
step, and listened to the sound of his tranquil breathing. Assured of
his being asleep, I returned, took the light, and with it again
approached the bed. Close curtains were around it, which, in the
prosecution of my plan, I slowly and quietly withdrew, when the bright
rays fell vividly upon the sleeper, and my eyes at the same moment
upon his countenance. I looked,--and a numbness, an iciness of
feeling, instantly pervaded my frame. My breast heaved, my knees
tottered, my whole spirit became possessed with an objectless yet
intolerable horror. Gasping for breath, I lowered the lamp in still
nearer proximity to the face. Were these,--_these_ the lineaments of
William Wilson? I saw, indeed, that they were his, but I shook as if
with a fit of the ague, in fancying they were not. What _was_ there
about them to confound me in this manner? I gazed,--while my brain
reeled with a multitude of incoherent thoughts. Not thus he
appeared--assuredly not _thus_--in the vivacity of his waking
hours. The same name! the same contour of person! the same day of
arrival at the academy! And then his dogged and meaningless imitation
of my gait, my voice, my habits, and my manner! Was it, in truth,
within the bounds of human possibility, that _what I now saw_ was the
result, merely, of the habitual practice of this sarcastic imitation?
Awe-stricken, and with a creeping shudder, I extinguished the lamp,
passed silently from the chamber, and left, at once, the halls of that
old academy, never to enter them again.

After a lapse of some months, spent at home in mere idleness, I found
myself a student at Eton. The brief interval had been sufficient to
enfeeble my remembrance of the events at Dr. Bransby's, or at least to
effect a material change in the nature of the feelings with which I
remembered them. The truth--the tragedy--of the drama was no more. I
could now find room to doubt the evidence of my senses; and seldom
called up the subject at all but with wonder at the extent of human
credulity, and a smile at the vivid force of the imagination which I
hereditarily possessed. Neither was this species of scepticism likely
to be diminished by the character of the life I led at Eton. The
vortex of thoughtless folly, into which I there so immediately and so
recklessly plunged, washed away all but the froth of my past hours,
engulfed at once every solid or serious impression, and left to memory
only the veriest levities of a former existence.

I do not wish, however, to trace the course of my miserable profligacy
here--a profligacy which set at defiance the laws, while it eluded the
vigilance, of the institution. Three years of folly, passed without
profit, had but given me rooted habits of vice, and added, in a
somewhat unusual degree, to my bodily stature, when, after a week of
soulless dissipation, I invited a small party of the most dissolute
students to a secret carousal in my chambers. We met at a late hour of
the night; for our debaucheries were to be faithfully protracted until
morning. The wine flowed freely, and there were not wanting other and
perhaps more dangerous seductions; so that the gray dawn had already
faintly appeared in the east while our delirious extravagance was at
its height. Madly flushed with cards and intoxication, I was in the
act of insisting upon a toast of more than wonted profanity, when my
attention was suddenly diverted by the violent, although partial,
unclosing of the door of the apartment, and by the eager voice of a
servant from without. He said that some person, apparently in great
haste, demanded to speak with me in the hall.

Wildly excited with wine, the unexpected interruption rather delighted
than surprised me. I staggered forward at once, and a few steps
brought me to the vestibule of the building. In this low and small
room there hung no lamp; and now no light at all was admitted, save
that of the exceedingly feeble dawn which made its way through the
semicircular window. As I put my foot over the threshold, I became
aware of the figure of a youth about my own height, and habited in a
white kerseymere morning frock, cut in the novel fashion of the one I
myself wore at the moment. This the faint light enabled me to
perceive; but the features of his face I could not distinguish. Upon
my entering, he strode hurriedly up to me, and, seizing me by the arm
with a gesture of petulant impatience, whispered the words "William
Wilson!" in my ear.

I grew perfectly sober in an instant.

There was that in the manner of the stranger, and in the tremulous
shake of his uplifted finger, as he held it between my eyes and the
light, which filled me with unqualified amazement; but it was not this
which had so violently moved me. It was the pregnancy of solemn
admonition in the singular, low, hissing utterance; and, above all, it
was the character, the tone, _the key_, of those few, simple, and
familiar, yet _whispered_ syllables, which came with a thousand
thronging memories of by-gone days, and struck upon my soul with the
shock of a galvanic battery. Ere I could recover the use of my senses
he was gone.

Although this event failed not of a vivid effect upon my disordered
imagination, yet was it evanescent as vivid. For some weeks, indeed, I
busied myself in earnest inquiry, or was wrapped in a cloud of morbid
speculation. I did not pretend to disguise from my perception the
identity of the singular individual who thus perseveringly interfered
with my affairs, and harassed me with his insinuated counsel. But who
and what was this Wilson?--and whence came he?--and what were his
purposes? Upon neither of these points could I be satisfied--merely
ascertaining, in regard to him, that a sudden accident in his family
had caused his removal from Dr. Bransby's academy on the afternoon of
the day in which I myself had eloped. But in a brief period I ceased
to think upon the subject, my attention being all absorbed in a
contemplated departure for Oxford. Thither I soon went, the
uncalculating vanity of my parents furnishing me with an outfit and
annual establishment which would enable me to indulge at will in the
luxury already so dear to my hear--to vie in profuseness of
expenditure with the haughtiest heirs of the wealthiest earldoms in
Great Britain.

Excited by such appliances to vice, my constitutional temperament
broke forth with redoubled ardor, and I spurned even the common
restraints of decency in the mad infatuation of my revels. But it were
absurd to pause in the detail of my extravagance. Let it suffice, that
among spendthrifts I out-Heroded Herod, and that, giving name to a
multitude of novel follies, I added no brief appendix to the long
catalogue of vices then usual in the most dissolute university of

It could hardly be credited, however, that I had even here, so utterly
fallen from the gentlemanly estate as to seek acquaintance with the
vilest arts of the gambler by profession, and, having become an adept
in his despicable science, to practise it habitually as a means of
increasing my already enormous income at the expense of the
weak-minded among my fellow-collegians. Such, nevertheless, was the
fact. And the very enormity of this offence against all manly and
honorable sentiment proved, beyond doubt, the main if not the sole
reason of the impunity with which it was committed. Who, indeed,
among my most abandoned associates, would not rather have disputed the
clearest evidence of his senses, than have suspected of such courses
the gay, the frank, the generous William Wilson--the noblest and most
liberal commoner at Oxford: him whose follies (said his parasites)
were but the follies of youth and unbridled fancy--whose errors but
inimitable whim--whose darkest vice but a careless and dashing

I had been now two years successfully busied in this way, when there
came to the university a young _parvenu_ nobleman, Glendinning--rich,
said report, as Herodes Atticus--his riches, too, as easily
acquired. I soon found him of weak intellect, and of course marked him
as a fitting subject for my skill. I frequently engaged him in play,
and contrived, with the gambler's usual art, to let him win
considerable sums, the more effectually to entangle him in my
snares. At length, my schemes being ripe, I met him (with the full
intention that this meeting should be final and decisive) at the
chambers of a fellow-commoner (Mr. Preston) equally intimate with
both, but who, to do him justice, entertained not even a remote
suspicion of my design. To give to this a better coloring, I had
contrived to have assembled a party of some eight or ten, and was
solicitously careful that the introduction of cards should appear
accidental, and originate in the proposal of my contemplated dupe
himself. To be brief upon a vile topic, none of the low finesse was
omitted, so customary upon similar occasions that it is a just matter
for wonder how any are still found so besotted as to fall its victim.

We had protracted our sitting far into the night, and I had at length
effected the manoeuvre of getting Glendinning as my sole
antagonist. The game, too, was my favorite _ecarte_. The rest of the
company, interested in the extent of our play, had abandoned their own
cards, and were standing around us as spectators. The _parvenu_, who
had been induced, by my artifices in the early part of the evening, to
drink deeply, now shuffled, dealt, or played, with a wild nervousness
of manner for which his intoxication, I thought, might partially but
could not altogether account. In a very short period he had become my
debtor to a large amount, when, having taken a long draught of port,
he did precisely what I had been coolly anticipating--he proposed to
double our already extravagant stakes. With a well-feigned show of
reluctance, and not until after my repeated refusal had seduced him
into some angry words which gave a color of pique to my compliance,
did I finally comply. The result, of course, did but prove how
entirely the prey was in my toils; in less than an hour he had
quadrupled his debt. For some time his countenance had been losing
the florid tinge lent it by the wine; but now, to my astonishment, I
perceived that it had grown to a pallor truly fearful. I say, to my
astonishment. Glendinning had been represented to my eager inquiries
as immeasurably wealthy; and the sums which he had as yet lost,
although in themselves vast, could not, I supposed, very seriously
annoy, much less so violently affect him. That he was overcome by the
wine just swallowed, was the idea which most readily presented itself;
and, rather with a view to the preservation of my own character in the
eyes of my associates, than from any less interested motive, I was
about to insist, peremptorily, upon a discontinuance of the play, when
some expressions at my elbow from among the company, and an
ejaculation evincing utter despair on the part of Glendinning, gave me
to understand that I had effected his total ruin under circumstances
which, rendering him an object for the pity of all, should have
protected him from the ill offices even of a fiend.

What now might have been my conduct it is difficult to say. The
pitiable condition of my dupe had thrown an air of embarrassed gloom
over all; and for some moments a profound silence was maintained,
during which I could not help feeling my cheeks tingle with the many
burning glances of scorn or reproach cast upon me by the less
abandoned of the party. I will even own that an intolerable weight of
anxiety was for a brief instant lifted from my bosom by the sudden and
extraordinary interruption which ensued. The wide, heavy folding-doors
of the apartment were all at once thrown open, to their full extent,
with a vigorous and rushing impetuosity that extinguished, as if by
magic, every candle in the room. Their light, in dying, enabled us
just to perceive that a stranger had entered, about my own height, and
closely muffled in a cloak. The darkness, however, was now total; and
we could only _feel_ that he was standing in our midst. Before any one
of us could recover from the extreme astonishment into which this
rudeness had thrown all, we heard the voice of the intruder.

"Gentlemen," he said, in a low, distinct, and never-to-be-forgotten
_whisper_ which thrilled to the very marrow of my bones, "gentlmen, I
make no apology for this behavior, because, in thus behaving, I am but
fulfilling a duty. You are, beyond doubt, uninformed of the true
character of the person who has to-night won at _ecarte_ a large sum
of money from Lord Glendinning. I will therefore put you upon an
expeditious and decisive plan of obtaining this very necessary
information. Please to examine, at your leisure, the inner linings of
the cuff of his left sleeve, and the several little packages which may
be found in the somewhat capacious pockets of his embroidered morning

While he spoke, so profound was the stillness that one might have
heard a pin drop upon the floor. In ceasing, he departed at once, and
as abruptly as he had entered. Can I--shall I describe my sensations?
Must I say that I felt all the horrors of the damned? Most assuredly I
had little time for reflection. Many hands roughly seized me upon the
spot, and lights were immediately re-procured. A search ensued. In the
lining of my sleeve were found all the court cards essential in
_ecarte_, and, in the pockets of my wrapper, a number of packs,
facsimiles of those used at our sittings, with the single exception
that mine were of the species called, technically, _arrondis_; the
honors being slightly convex at the ends, the lower cards slightly
convex at the sides. In this disposition, the dupe who cuts, as
customary, at the length of the pack, will invariably find that he
cuts his antagonist an honor; while the gambler, cutting at the
breadth, will, as certainly, cut nothing for his victim which may
count in the records of the game.

Any burst of indignation upon this discovery would have affected me
less than the silent contempt, or the sarcastic composure, with which
it was received.

"Mr. Wilson," said our host, stooping to remove from beneath his feet
an exceedingly luxurious cloak of rare furs, "Mr. Wilson, this is your
property." (The weather was cold; and, upon quitting my own room, I
had thrown a cloak over my dressing wrapper, putting it off upon
reaching the scene of play.) "I presume it is supererogatory to seek
here" (eying the folds of the garment with a bitter smile) "for any
farther evidence of your skill. Indeed, we have had enough. You will
see the necessity, I hope, of quitting Oxford--at all events, of
quitting instantly my chambers."

Abased, humbled to the dust as I then was, it is probable that I
should have resented this galling language by immediate personal
violence, had not my whole attention been at the moment arrested by a
fact of the most startling character. The cloak which I had worn was
of a rare description of fur; how rare, how extravagantly costly, I
shall not venture to say. Its fashion, too, was of my own fantastic
invention; for I was fastidious to an absurd degree of coxcombry, in
matters of this frivolous nature. When, therefore, Mr. Preston reached
me that which he had picked up upon the floor, and near the
folding-doors of the apartment, it was with an astonishment nearly
bordering upon terror, that I perceived my own already hanging on my
arm, (where I had no doubt unwittingly placed it) and that the one
presented me was but its exact counterpart in every, in even the
minutest possible particular. The singular being who had so
disastrously exposed me, had been muffled, I remembered, in a cloak;
and none had been worn at all by any of the members of our party, with
the exception of myself. Retaining some presence of mind, I took the
one offered me by Preston; placed it, unnoticed, over my own; left the
apartment with a resolute scowl of defiance; and, next morning ere
dawn of day, commenced a hurried journey from Oxford to the continent,
in a perfect agony of horror and of shame.

_I fled in vain._ My evil destiny pursued me as if in exultation, and
proved, indeed, that the exercise of its mysterious dominion had as
yet only begun. Scarcely had I set foot in Paris, ere I had fresh
evidence of the detestable interest taken by this Wilson in my
concerns. Years flew, while I experienced no relief. Villain!--at
Rome, with how untimely, yet with how spectral an officiousness,
stepped he in between me and my ambition! At Vienna, too--at
Berlin--and at Moscow! Where, in truth, had I _not_ bitter cause to
curse him within my heart? From his inscrutable tyranny did I at
length flee, panic-stricken, as from a pestilence; and to the very
ends of the earth _I fled in vain._

And again, and again, in secret communion with my own spirit, would I
demand the questions, "Who is he?--whence came he?--and what are his
objects?" But no answer was there found. And now I scrutinized, with a
minute scrutiny, the forms, and the methods, and the leading traits of
his impertinent supervision. But even here there was very little upon
which to base a conjecture. It was noticeable, indeed, that, in no one
of the multiplied instances in which he had of late crossed my path,
had he so crossed it except to frustrate those schemes, or to disturb
those actions, which, if fully carried out, might have resulted in
bitter mischief. Poor justification this, in truth, for an authority
so imperiously assumed! Poor indemnity for natural rights of
self-agency so pertinaciously, so insultingly denied!

I had also been forced to notice that my tormentor, for a very long
period of time (while scrupulously and with miraculous dexterity
maintaining his whim of an identity of apparel with myself) had so
contrived it, in the execution of his varied interference with my
will, that I saw not, at any moment, the features of his face. Be
Wilson what he might, _this_, at least, was but the veriest of
affectation, or of folly. Could he, for an instant, have supposed
that, in my admonisher at Eton--in the destroyer of my honor at
Oxford,--in him who thwarted my ambition at Rome, my revenge at Paris,
my passionate love at Naples, or what he falsely termed my avarice in
Egypt,--that in this, my arch-enemy and evil genius, I could fail to
recognize the William Wilson of my schoolboy days: the namesake, the
companion, the rival, the hated and dreaded rival at Dr. Bransby's?
Impossible!--but let me hasten to the last eventful scene of the

Thus far I had succumbed suginely to this imperious domination. The
sentiment of deep awe with which I habitually regarded the elevated
character, the majestic wisdom, the apparent omnipresence and
omnipotence of Wilson, added to a feeling of even terror, with which
certain other traits in his nature and assumptions inspired me, had
operated, hitherto, to impress me with an idea of my own utter
weakness and helplessness, and to suggest an implicit, although
bitterly reluctant submission to his arbitrary will. But, of late
days, I had given myself up entirely to wine; and its maddening
influence upon my hereditary temper rendered me more and more
impatient of control. I began to murmur, to hesitate, to resist. And
was it only fancy which induced me to believe that, with the increase
of my own firmness, that of my tormentor underwent a proportional
diminution? Be this as it may, I now began to feel the inspiration of
a burning hope, and at length nurtured in my secret thoughts a stern
and desperate resolution that I would submit no longer to be enslaved.

It was at Rome, during the Carnival of 18--, that I attended a
masquerade in the palazzo of the Neapolitan Duke Di Broglio. I had
indulged more freely than usual in the excesses of the wine-table; and
now the suffocating atmosphere of the crowded rooms irritated me
beyond endurance. The difficulty, too, of forcing my way through the
mazes of the company contributed not a little to the ruffling of my
temper; for I was anxiously seeking (let me not say with what unworthy
motive) the young, the gay, the beautiful wife of the aged and doting
Di Broglio. With a too unscrupulous confidence she had previously
communicated to me the secret of the costume in which she would be
habited, and now, having caught a glimpse of her person, I was
hurrying to make my way into her presence. At this moment I felt a
light hand placed upon my shoulder, and that ever-remembered, low,
damnable _whisper_ within my ear.

In an absolute frenzy of wrath, I turned at once upon him who had thus
interrupted me, and seized him violently by the collar. He was
attired, as I had expected, in a costume altogether similar to my own;
wearing a Spanish cloak of blue velvet, begirt about the waist with a
crimson belt sustaining a rapier. A mask of black silk entirely
covered his face.

"Scoundrel!" I said, in a voice husky with rage, while every syllable
I uttered seemed as new fuel to my fury; "scoundrel! impostor!
accursed villain! you shall not--you _shall not_ dog me unto death!
Follow me, or I stab you where you stand!"--and I broke my way from
the ball-room into a small ante-chamber adjoining, dragging him
unresistingly with me as I went.

Upon entering, I thrust him furiously from me. He staggered against
the wall, while I closed the door with an oath, and commanded him to
draw. He hesitated but for an instant; then, with a slight sigh, drew
in silence, and put himself upon his defence.

The contest was brief indeed. I was frantic with every species of wild
excitement, and felt within my single arm the energy and power of a
multitude. In a few seconds I forced him by sheer strength against the
wainscoting, and thus, getting him at mercy, plunged my sword, with
brute ferocity, repeatedly through and through his bosom.

At that instant some person tried the latch of the door. I hastened to
prevent an intrusion, and then immediately returned to my dying
antagonist. But what human language can adequately portray _that_
astonishment, _that_ horror which possessed me at the spectacle then
presented to view? The brief moment in which I averted my eyes had
been sufficient to produce, apparently, a material change in the
arrangements at the upper or farther end of the room. A large
mirror--so at first it seemed to me in my confusion--now stood where
none had been perceptible before; and, as I stepped up to it in
extremity of terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and
dabbled in blood, advanced to meet me with a feeble and tottering

Thus it appeared, I say, but was not. It was my antagonist--it was
Wilson, who then stood before me in the agonies of his dissolution.
His mask and cloak lay, where he had thrown them, upon the floor. Not
a thread in all his raiment--not a line in all the marked and singular
lineaments of his face which was not, even in the most absolute
identity, _mine own_!

It was Wilson; but he spoke no longer in a whisper, and I could have
fancied that I myself was speaking while he said:--

_"You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also
dead--dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou
exist--and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how
utterly thou hast murdered thyself."_


The ways of God in Nature, as in Providence, are not as _our_ ways;
nor are the models that we frame any way commensurate to the
vastness, profundity, and unsearchableness of His works, _which have
a depth in them greater than the well of Democritus_.

We had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag. For some minutes
the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak.

"Not long ago," said he at length, "and I could have guided you on
this route as well as the youngest of my sons; but, about three years
past, there happened to me an event such as never happened before to
mortal man--or at least such as no man ever survived to tell of--and
the six hours of deadly terror which I then endured have broken me up
body and soul. You suppose me a _very_ old man--but I am not. It took
less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to
white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I
tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at a shadow. Do you
know I can scarcely look over this little cliff without getting

The "little cliff," upon whose edge he had so carelessly thrown
himself down to rest that the weightier portion of his body hung over
it, while he was only kept from falling by the tenure of his elbow on
its extreme and slippery edge--this "little cliff" arose, a sheer
unobstructed precipice of black shining rock, some fifteen or sixteen
hundred feet from the world of crags beneath us. Nothing would have
tempted me to within half a dozen yards of its brink. In truth so
deeply was I excited by the perilous position of my companion, that I
fell at full length upon the ground, clung to the shrubs around me,
and dared not even glance upward at the sky--while I struggled in vain
to divest myself of the idea that the very foundations of the mountain
were in danger from the fury of the winds. It was long before I could
reason myself into sufficient courage to sit up and look out into the

"You must get over these fancies," said the guide, "for I have brought
you here that you might have the best possible view of the scene of
that event I mentioned--and to tell you the whole story with the spot
just under your eye.

"We are now," he continued, in that particularizing manner which
distinguished him--"we are now close upon the Norwegian coast--in the
sixty-eighth degree of latitude--in the great province of
Nordland--and in the dreary district of Lofoden. The mountain upon
whose top we sit is Helseggen, the Cloudy. Now raise yourself up a
little higher--hold on to the grass if you feel giddy--so--and look
out, beyond the belt of vapor beneath us, into the sea."

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