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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

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[Redactor's Note--There are some Greek letters in this volume
(_Silence--A Fable_, the introduction, and two words in _The
Assignation_) which may not display correctly in the ISO character
set. Use of a word processor with the WP Greek character set may
restore the Greek original. Some endotes are by Poe and some were
added by Griswold. In this volume the notes are at the end.]



The Purloined Letter
The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherezade
A Descent into the Maelström
Von Kempelen and his Discovery
Mesmeric Revelation
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Black Cat
The Fall of the House of Usher
Silence -- a Fable
The Masque of the Red Death
The Cask of Amontillado
The Imp of the Perverse
The Island of the Fay
The Assignation
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Premature Burial
The Domain of Arnheim
Landor's Cottage
William Wilson
The Tell-Tale Heart




Nil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio.


At Paris, just after dark one gusty evening in the autumn of 18-,
I was enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and a meerschaum, in
company with my friend C. Auguste Dupin, in his little back library,
or book-closet, au troisięme, No. 33, Rue Dunôt, Faubourg St.
Germain. For one hour at least we had maintained a profound silence;
while each, to any casual observer, might have seemed intently and
exclusively occupied with the curling eddies of smoke that oppressed
the atmosphere of the chamber. For myself, however, I was mentally
discussing certain topics which had formed matter for conversation
between us at an earlier period of the evening; I mean the affair of
the Rue Morgue, and the mystery attending the murder of Marie Rogęt.
I looked upon it, therefore, as something of a coincidence, when the
door of our apartment was thrown open and admitted our old
acquaintance, Monsieur G--, the Prefect of the Parisian police.

We gave him a hearty welcome; for there was nearly half as much of
the entertaining as of the contemptible about the man, and we had not
seen him for several years. We had been sitting in the dark, and
Dupin now arose for the purpose of lighting a lamp, but sat down
again, without doing so, upon G.'s saying that he had called to
consult us, or rather to ask the opinion of my friend, about some
official business which had occasioned a great deal of trouble.

"If it is any point requiring reflection," observed Dupin, as he
forebore to enkindle the wick, "we shall examine it to better purpose
in the dark."

"That is another of your odd notions," said the Prefect, who had a
fashion of calling every thing

"odd" that was beyond his comprehension, and thus lived amid an
absolute legion of "oddities."

"Very true," said Dupin, as he supplied his visiter with a pipe, and
rolled towards him a comfortable chair.

"And what is the difficulty now?" I asked. "Nothing more in the
assassination way, I hope?"

"Oh no; nothing of that nature. The fact is, the business is very
simple indeed, and I make no doubt that we can manage it sufficiently
well ourselves; but then I thought Dupin would like to hear the
details of it, because it is so excessively odd."

"Simple and odd," said Dupin.

"Why, yes; and not exactly that, either. The fact is, we have all
been a good deal puzzled because the affair is so simple, and yet
baffles us altogether."

"Perhaps it is the very simplicity of the thing which puts you at
fault," said my friend.

"What nonsense you do talk!" replied the Prefect, laughing heartily.

"Perhaps the mystery is a little too plain," said Dupin.

"Oh, good heavens! who ever heard of such an idea?"

"A little too self-evident."

"Ha! ha! ha - ha! ha! ha! - ho! ho! ho!" roared our visiter,
profoundly amused, "oh, Dupin, you will be the death of me yet!"

"And what, after all, is the matter on hand?" I asked.

"Why, I will tell you," replied the Prefect, as he gave a long,
steady and contemplative puff, and settled himself in his chair. "I
will tell you in a few words; but, before I begin, let me caution you
that this is an affair demanding the greatest secrecy, and that I
should most probably lose the position I now hold, were it known that
I confided it to any one."

"Proceed," said I.

"Or not," said Dupin.

"Well, then; I have received personal information, from a very high
quarter, that a certain document of the last importance, has been
purloined from the royal apartments. The individual who purloined it
is known; this beyond a doubt; he was seen to take it. It is known,
also, that it still remains in his possession."

"How is this known?" asked Dupin.

"It is clearly inferred," replied the Prefect, "from the nature of
the document, and from the non-appearance of certain results which
would at once arise from its passing out of the robber's possession;
that is to say, from his employing it as he must design in the end to
employ it."

"Be a little more explicit," I said.

"Well, I may venture so far as to say that the paper gives its holder
a certain power in a certain quarter where such power is immensely
valuable." The Prefect was fond of the cant of diplomacy.

"Still I do not quite understand," said Dupin.

"No? Well; the disclosure of the document to a third person, who
shall be nameless, would bring in question the honor of a personage
of most exalted station; and this fact gives the holder of the
document an ascendancy over the illustrious personage whose honor and
peace are so jeopardized."

"But this ascendancy," I interposed, "would depend upon the robber's
knowledge of the loser's knowledge of the robber. Who would dare -"

"The thief," said G., "is the Minister D--, who dares all things,
those unbecoming as well as those becoming a man. The method of the
theft was not less ingenious than bold. The document in question - a
letter, to be frank - had been received by the personage robbed while
alone in the royal boudoir. During its perusal she was suddenly
interrupted by the entrance of the other exalted personage from whom
especially it was her wish to conceal it. After a hurried and vain
endeavor to thrust it in a drawer, she was forced to place it, open
as it was, upon a table. The address, however, was uppermost, and,
the contents thus unexposed, the letter escaped notice. At this
juncture enters the Minister D--. His lynx eye immediately perceives

the paper, recognises the handwriting of the address, observes the
confusion of the personage addressed, and fathoms her secret. After
some business transactions, hurried through in his ordinary manner,
he produces a letter somewhat similar to the one in question, opens
it, pretends to read it, and then places it in close juxtaposition to
the other. Again he converses, for some fifteen minutes, upon the
public affairs. At length, in taking leave, he takes also from the
table the letter to which he had no claim. Its rightful owner saw,
but, of course, dared not call attention to the act, in the presence
of the third personage who stood at her elbow. The minister decamped;
leaving his own letter - one of no importance - upon the table."

"Here, then," said Dupin to me, "you have precisely what you demand
to make the ascendancy complete - the robber's knowledge of the
loser's knowledge of the robber."

"Yes," replied the Prefect; "and the power thus attained has, for
some months past, been wielded, for political purposes, to a very
dangerous extent. The personage robbed is more thoroughly convinced,
every day, of the necessity of reclaiming her letter. But this, of
course, cannot be done openly. In fine, driven to despair, she has
committed the matter to me."

"Than whom," said Dupin, amid a perfect whirlwind of smoke, "no more
sagacious agent could, I suppose, be desired, or even imagined."

"You flatter me," replied the Prefect; "but it is possible that some
such opinion may have been entertained."

"It is clear," said I, "as you observe, that the letter is still in
possession of the minister; since it is this possession, and not any
employment of the letter, which bestows the power. With the
employment the power departs."

"True," said G.; "and upon this conviction I proceeded. My first care
was to make thorough search of the minister's hotel; and here my
chief embarrassment lay in the necessity of searching without his
knowledge. Beyond all things, I have been warned of the danger which
would result from giving him reason to suspect our design."

"But," said I, "you are quite au fait in these investigations. The
Parisian police have done this thing often before."

"O yes; and for this reason I did not despair. The habits of the
minister gave me, too, a great advantage. He is frequently absent
from home all night. His servants are by no means numerous. They
sleep at a distance from their master's apartment, and, being chiefly
Neapolitans, are readily made drunk. I have keys, as you know, with
which I can open any chamber or cabinet in Paris. For three months a
night has not passed, during the greater part of which I have not
been engaged, personally, in ransacking the D-- Hotel. My honor is
interested, and, to mention a great secret, the reward is enormous.
So I did not abandon the search until I had become fully satisfied
that the thief is a more astute man than myself. I fancy that I have
investigated every nook and corner of the premises in which it is
possible that the paper can be concealed."

"But is it not possible," I suggested, "that although the letter may
be in possession of the minister, as it unquestionably is, he may
have concealed it elsewhere than upon his own premises?"

"This is barely possible," said Dupin. "The present peculiar
condition of affairs at court, and especially of those intrigues in
which D-- is known to be involved, would render the instant
availability of the document - its susceptibility of being produced
at a moment's notice - a point of nearly equal importance with its

"Its susceptibility of being produced?" said I.

"That is to say, of being destroyed," said Dupin.

"True," I observed; "the paper is clearly then upon the premises. As
for its being upon the person of the minister, we may consider that
as out of the question."

"Entirely," said the Prefect. "He has been twice waylaid, as if by
footpads, and his person rigorously searched under my own

"You might have spared yourself this trouble," said Dupin. "D--, I
presume, is not altogether a fool, and, if not, must have anticipated
these waylayings, as a matter of course."

"Not altogether a fool," said G., "but then he's a poet, which I take
to be only one remove from a fool."

"True," said Dupin, after a long and thoughtful whiff from

his meerschaum, "although I have been guilty of certain doggrel

"Suppose you detail," said I, "the particulars of your search."

"Why the fact is, we took our time, and we searched every where. I
have had long experience in these affairs. I took the entire
building, room by room; devoting the nights of a whole week to each.
We examined, first, the furniture of each apartment. We opened every
possible drawer; and I presume you know that, to a properly trained
police agent, such a thing as a secret drawer is impossible. Any man
is a dolt who permits a 'secret' drawer to escape him in a search of
this kind. The thing is so plain. There is a certain amount of bulk -
of space - to be accounted for in every cabinet. Then we have
accurate rules. The fiftieth part of a line could not escape us.
After the cabinets we took the chairs. The cushions we probed with
the fine long needles you have seen me employ. From the tables we
removed the tops."

"Why so?"

"Sometimes the top of a table, or other similarly arranged piece of
furniture, is removed by the person wishing to conceal an article;
then the leg is excavated, the article deposited within the cavity,
and the top replaced. The bottoms and tops of bedposts are employed
in the same way."

"But could not the cavity be detected by sounding?" I asked.

"By no means, if, when the article is deposited, a sufficient wadding
of cotton be placed around it. Besides, in our case, we were obliged
to proceed without noise."

"But you could not have removed - you could not have taken to pieces
all articles of furniture in which it would have been possible to
make a deposit in the manner you mention. A letter may be compressed
into a thin spiral roll, not differing much in shape or bulk from a
large knitting-needle, and in this form it might be inserted into the
rung of a chair, for example. You did not take to pieces all the

"Certainly not; but we did better - we examined the rungs of every
chair in the hotel, and, indeed the jointings of every description of
furniture, by the aid of a most powerful microscope. Had there been
any traces of recent disturbance we should not

have failed to detect it instantly. A single grain of gimlet-dust,
for example, would have been as obvious as an apple. Any disorder in
the glueing - any unusual gaping in the joints - would have sufficed
to insure detection."

"I presume you looked to the mirrors, between the boards and the
plates, and you probed the beds and the bed-clothes, as well as the
curtains and carpets."

"That of course; and when we had absolutely completed every particle
of the furniture in this way, then we examined the house itself. We
divided its entire surface into compartments, which we numbered, so
that none might be missed; then we scrutinized each individual square
inch throughout the premises, including the two houses immediately
adjoining, with the microscope, as before."

"The two houses adjoining!" I exclaimed; "you must have had a great
deal of trouble."

"We had; but the reward offered is prodigious!"

"You include the grounds about the houses?"

"All the grounds are paved with brick. They gave us comparatively
little trouble. We examined the moss between the bricks, and found it

"You looked among D--'s papers, of course, and into the books of the

"Certainly; we opened every package and parcel; we not only opened
every book, but we turned over every leaf in each volume, not
contenting ourselves with a mere shake, according to the fashion of
some of our police officers. We also measured the thickness of every
book-cover, with the most accurate admeasurement, and applied to each
the most jealous scrutiny of the microscope. Had any of the bindings
been recently meddled with, it would have been utterly impossible
that the fact should have escaped observation. Some five or six
volumes, just from the hands of the binder, we carefully probed,
longitudinally, with the needles."

"You explored the floors beneath the carpets?"

"Beyond doubt. We removed every carpet, and examined the boards with
the microscope."

"And the paper on the walls?"


"You looked into the cellars?"

"We did."

"Then," I said, "you have been making a miscalculation, and the
letter is not upon the premises, as you suppose."

"I fear you are right there," said the Prefect. "And now, Dupin, what
would you advise me to do?"

"To make a thorough re-search of the premises."

"That is absolutely needless," replied G--. "I am not more sure that
I breathe than I am that the letter is not at the Hotel."

"I have no better advice to give you," said Dupin. "You have, of
course, an accurate description of the letter?"

"Oh yes!" - And here the Prefect, producing a memorandum-book
proceeded to read aloud a minute account of the internal, and
especially of the external appearance of the missing document. Soon
after finishing the perusal of this description, he took his
departure, more entirely depressed in spirits than I had ever known
the good gentleman before. In about a month afterwards he paid us
another visit, and found us occupied very nearly as before. He took a
pipe and a chair and entered into some ordinary conversation. At
length I said, -

"Well, but G--, what of the purloined letter? I presume you have at
last made up your mind that there is no such thing as overreaching
the Minister?"

"Confound him, say I - yes; I made the re-examination, however, as
Dupin suggested - but it was all labor lost, as I knew it would be."

"How much was the reward offered, did you say?" asked Dupin.

"Why, a very great deal - a very liberal reward - I don't like to say
how much, precisely; but one thing I will say, that I wouldn't mind
giving my individual check for fifty thousand francs to any one who
could obtain me that letter. The fact is, it is becoming of more and
more importance every day; and the reward has been lately doubled. If
it were trebled, however, I could do no more than I have done."

"Why, yes," said Dupin, drawlingly, between the whiffs of his
meerschaum, "I really - think, G--, you have not exerted yourself -
to the utmost in this matter. You might - do a little more, I think,

"How? - in what way?'

"Why - puff, puff - you might - puff, puff - employ counsel in the
matter, eh? - puff, puff, puff. Do you remember the story they tell
of Abernethy?"

"No; hang Abernethy!"

"To be sure! hang him and welcome. But, once upon a time, a certain
rich miser conceived the design of spunging upon this Abernethy for a
medical opinion. Getting up, for this purpose, an ordinary
conversation in a private company, he insinuated his case to the
physician, as that of an imaginary individual.

" 'We will suppose,' said the miser, 'that his symptoms are such and
such; now, doctor, what would you have directed him to take?'

" 'Take!' said Abernethy, 'why, take advice, to be sure.' "

"But," said the Prefect, a little discomposed, "I am perfectly
willing to take advice, and to pay for it. I would really give fifty
thousand francs to any one who would aid me in the matter."

"In that case," replied Dupin, opening a drawer, and producing a
check-book, "you may as well fill me up a check for the amount
mentioned. When you have signed it, I will hand you the letter."

I was astounded. The Prefect appeared absolutely thunder-stricken.
For some minutes he remained speechless and motionless, looking
incredulously at my friend with open mouth, and eyes that seemed
starting from their sockets; then, apparently recovering himself in
some measure, he seized a pen, and after several pauses and vacant
stares, finally filled up and signed a check for fifty thousand
francs, and handed it across the table to Dupin. The latter examined
it carefully and deposited it in his pocket-book; then, unlocking an
escritoire, took thence a letter and gave it to the Prefect. This
functionary grasped it in a perfect agony of joy, opened it with a
trembling hand, cast a rapid glance at its contents, and then,
scrambling and struggling to the door, rushed at length
unceremoniously from the room and from the house, without having
uttered a syllable since Dupin had requested him to fill up the

When he had gone, my friend entered into some explanations.

"The Parisian police," he said, "are exceedingly able in their way.
They are persevering, ingenious, cunning, and thoroughly versed in
the knowledge which their duties seem chiefly to demand. Thus, when
G-- detailed to us his made of searching the premises at the Hotel
D--, I felt entire confidence in his having made a satisfactory
investigation - so far as his labors extended."

"So far as his labors extended?" said I.

"Yes," said Dupin. "The measures adopted were not only the best of
their kind, but carried out to absolute perfection. Had the letter
been deposited within the range of their search, these fellows would,
beyond a question, have found it."

I merely laughed - but he seemed quite serious in all that he said.

"The measures, then," he continued, " were good in their kind, and
well executed; their defect lay in their being inapplicable to the
case, and to the man. A certain set of highly ingenious resources
are, with the Prefect, a sort of Procrustean bed, to which he
forcibly adapts his designs. But he perpetually errs by being too
deep or too shallow, for the matter in hand; and many a schoolboy is
a better reasoner than he. I knew one about eight years of age, whose
success at guessing in the game of 'even and odd' attracted universal
admiration. This game is simple, and is played with marbles. One
player holds in his hand a number of these toys, and demands of
another whether that number is even or odd. If the guess is right,
the guesser wins one; if wrong, he loses one. The boy to whom I
allude won all the marbles of the school. Of course he had some
principle of guessing; and this lay in mere observation and
admeasurement of the astuteness of his opponents. For example, an
arrant simpleton is his opponent, and, holding up his closed hand,
asks, 'are they even or odd?' Our schoolboy replies, 'odd,' and
loses; but upon the second trial he wins, for he then says to
himself, 'the simpleton had them even upon the first trial, and his
amount of cunning is just sufficient to make him have them odd upon
the second; I will therefore guess odd;' - he guesses odd, and wins.
Now, with a simpleton a degree above the first, he would have
reasoned thus: 'This fellow finds that in the first instance I
guessed odd, and, in the second, he will propose to himself, upon the
first impulse, a simple variation from even to odd, as did the first
simpleton; but then a second thought will suggest that this is too
simple a variation, and finally he will decide upon putting it even
as before. I will therefore guess even;' - he guesses even, and wins.
Now this mode of reasoning in the schoolboy, whom his fellows termed
'lucky,' - what, in its last analysis, is it?"

"It is merely," I said, "an identification of the reasoner's
intellect with that of his opponent."

"It is," said Dupin; "and, upon inquiring, of the boy by what means
he effected the thorough identification in which his success
consisted, I received answer as follows: 'When I wish to find out how
wise, or how stupid, or how good, or how wicked is any one, or what
are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face,
as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his,
and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my mind or
heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression.' This
response of the schoolboy lies at the bottom of all the spurious
profundity which has been attributed to Rochefoucault, to La Bougive,
to Machiavelli, and to Campanella."

"And the identification," I said, "of the reasoner's intellect with
that of his opponent, depends, if I understand you aright, upon the
accuracy with which the opponent's intellect is admeasured."

"For its practical value it depends upon this," replied Dupin; "and
the Prefect and his cohort fail so frequently, first, by default of
this identification, and, secondly, by ill-admeasurement, or rather
through non-admeasurement, of the intellect with which they are
engaged. They consider only their own ideas of ingenuity; and, in
searching for anything hidden, advert only to the modes in which they
would have hidden it. They are right in this much - that their own
ingenuity is a faithful representative of that of the mass; but when
the cunning of the individual felon is diverse in character from
their own, the felon foils them, of course. This always happens when
it is above their own, and very usually when it is below. They have
no variation of principle in their investigations; at best, when
urged by some unusual emergency - by some extraordinary reward - they
extend or exaggerate their old modes of practice, without touching
their principles. What, for example, in this case of D--, has been
done to vary the principle of action? What is all this boring, and
probing, and sounding, and scrutinizing with the microscope and
dividing the surface of the building into registered square inches -
what is it all but an exaggeration of the application of the one
principle or set of principles of search, which are based upon the
one set of notions regarding human ingenuity, to which the Prefect,
in the long routine of his duty, has been accustomed? Do you not see
he has taken it for granted that all men proceed to conceal a letter,
- not exactly in a gimlet hole bored in a chair-leg - but, at least,
in some out-of-the-way hole or corner suggested by the same tenor of
thought which would urge a man to secrete a letter in a gimlet-hole
bored in a chair-leg? And do you not see also, that such recherchés
nooks for concealment are adapted only for ordinary occasions, and
would be adopted only by ordinary intellects; for, in all cases of
concealment, a disposal of the article concealed - a disposal of it
in this recherché manner, - is, in the very first instance,
presumable and presumed; and thus its discovery depends, not at all
upon the acumen, but altogether upon the mere care, patience, and
determination of the seekers; and where the case is of importance -
or, what amounts to the same thing in the policial eyes, when the
reward is of magnitude, - the qualities in question have never been
known to fail. You will now understand what I meant in suggesting
that, had the purloined letter been hidden any where within the
limits of the Prefect's examination - in other words, had the
principle of its concealment been comprehended within the principles
of the Prefect - its discovery would have been a matter altogether
beyond question. This functionary, however, has been thoroughly
mystified; and the remote source of his defeat lies in the
supposition that the Minister is a fool, because he has acquired
renown as a poet. All fools are poets; this the Prefect feels; and he
is merely guilty of a non distributio medii in thence inferring that
all poets are fools."

"But is this really the poet?" I asked. "There are two brothers, I
know; and both have attained reputation in letters. The Minister I
believe has written learnedly on the Differential Calculus. He is a
mathematician, and no poet."

"You are mistaken; I know him well; he is both. As poet and
mathematician, he would reason well; as mere mathematician, he could
not have reasoned at all, and thus would have been at the mercy of
the Prefect."

"You surprise me," I said, "by these opinions, which have been
contradicted by the voice of the world. You do not mean to set at
naught the well-digested idea of centuries. The mathematical reason
has long been regarded as the reason par excellence."

" 'Il y a ā paričr,' " replied Dupin, quoting from Chamfort, " 'que
toute idée publique, toute convention reįue est une sottise, car elle
a convenue au plus grand nombre.' The mathematicians, I grant you,
have done their best to promulgate the popular error to which you
allude, and which is none the less an error for its promulgation as
truth. With an art worthy a better cause, for example, they have
insinuated the term 'analysis' into application to algebra. The
French are the originators of this particular deception; but if a
term is of any importance - if words derive any value from
applicability - then 'analysis' conveys 'algebra' about as much as,
in Latin, 'ambitus' implies 'ambition,' 'religio' 'religion,' or
'homines honesti,' a set of honorablemen."

"You have a quarrel on hand, I see," said I, "with some of the
algebraists of Paris; but proceed."

"I dispute the availability, and thus the value, of that reason which
is cultivated in any especial form other than the abstractly logical.
I dispute, in particular, the reason educed by mathematical study.
The mathematics are the science of form and quantity; mathematical
reasoning is merely logic applied to observation upon form and
quantity. The great error lies in supposing that even the truths of
what is called pure algebra, are abstract or general truths. And this
error is so egregious that I am confounded at the universality with
which it has been received. Mathematical axioms are notaxioms of
general truth. What is true of relation - of form and quantity - is
often grossly false in regard to morals, for example. In this latter
science it is very usually untrue that the aggregated parts are equal
to the whole. In chemistry also the axiom fails. In the consideration
of motive it fails; for two motives, each of a given value, have not,
necessarily, a value when united, equal to the sum of their values
apart. There are numerous other mathematical truths which are only
truths within the limits of relation. But the mathematician argues,
from his finite truths, through habit, as if they were of an
absolutely general applicability - as the world indeed imagines them
to be. Bryant, in his very learned 'Mythology,' mentions an analogous
source of error, when he says that 'although the Pagan fables are not
believed, yet we forget ourselves continually, and make inferences
from them as existing realities.' With the algebraists, however, who
are Pagans themselves, the 'Pagan fables' are believed, and the
inferences are made, not so much through lapse of memory, as through
an unaccountable addling of the brains. In short, I never yet
encountered the mere mathematician who could be trusted out of equal
roots, or one who did not clandestinely hold it as a point of his
faith that x2+px was absolutely and unconditionally equal to q. Say
to one of these gentlemen, by way of experiment, if you please, that
you believe occasions may occur where x2+px is not altogether equal
to q, and, having made him understand what you mean, get out of his
reach as speedily as convenient, for, beyond doubt, he will endeavor
to knock you down.

"I mean to say," continued Dupin, while I merely laughed at his last
observations, "that if the Minister had been no more than a
mathematician, the Prefect would have been under no necessity of
giving me this check. I know him, however, as both mathematician and
poet, and my measures were adapted to his capacity, with reference to
the circumstances by which he was surrounded. I knew him as a
courtier, too, and as a bold intriguant. Such a man, I considered,
could not fail to be aware of the ordinary policial modes of action.
He could not have failed to anticipate - and events have proved that
he did not fail to anticipate - the waylayings to which he was
subjected. He must have foreseen, I reflected, the secret
investigations of his premises. His frequent absences from home at
night, which were hailed by the Prefect as certain aids to his
success, I regarded only as ruses, to afford opportunity for thorough
search to the police, and thus the sooner to impress them with the
conviction to which G--, in fact, did finally arrive - the conviction
that the letter was not upon the premises. I felt, also, that the
whole train of thought, which I was at some pains in detailing to you
just now, concerning the invariable principle of policial action in
searches for articles concealed - I felt that this whole train of
thought would necessarily pass through the mind of the Minister. It
would imperatively lead him to despise all the ordinary nooks of
concealment. He could not, I reflected, be so weak as not to see that
the most intricate and remote recess of his hotel would be as open as
his commonest closets to the eyes, to the probes, to the gimlets, and
to the microscopes of the Prefect. I saw, in fine, that he would be
driven, as a matter of course, to simplicity, if not deliberately
induced to it as a matter of choice. You will remember, perhaps, how
desperately the Prefect laughed when I suggested, upon our first
interview, that it was just possible this mystery troubled him so
much on account of its being so very self-evident."

"Yes," said I, "I remember his merriment well. I really thought he
would have fallen into convulsions."

"The material world," continued Dupin, "abounds with very strict
analogies to the immaterial; and thus some color of truth has been
given to the rhetorical dogma, that metaphor, or simile, may be made
to strengthen an argument, as well as to embellish a description. The
principle of the vis inertiæ, for example, seems to be identical in
physics and metaphysics. It is not more true in the former, that a
large body is with more difficulty set in motion than a smaller one,
and that its subsequent momentum is commensurate with this
difficulty, than it is, in the latter, that intellects of the vaster
capacity, while more forcible, more constant, and more eventful in
their movements than those of inferior grade, are yet the less
readily moved, and more embarrassed and full of hesitation in the
first few steps of their progress. Again: have you ever noticed which
of the street signs, over the shop- doors, are the most attractive of

"I have never given the matter a thought," I said.

"There is a game of puzzles," he resumed, "which is played upon a
map. One party playing requires another to find a given word - the
name of town, river, state or empire - any word, in short, upon the
motley and perplexed surface of the chart. A novice in the game
generally seeks to embarrass his opponents by giving them the most
minutely lettered names; but the adept selects such words as stretch,
in large characters, from one end of the chart to the other. These,
like the over-largely lettered signs and placards of the street,
escape observation by dint of being excessively obvious; and here the
physical oversight is precisely analogous with the moral
inapprehension by which the intellect suffers to pass unnoticed those
considerations which are too obtrusively and too palpably
self-evident. But this is a point, it appears, somewhat above or
beneath the understanding of the Prefect. He never once thought it
probable, or possible, that the Minister had deposited the letter
immediately beneath the nose of the whole world, by way of best
preventing any portion of that world from perceiving it.

"But the more I reflected upon the daring, dashing, and
discriminating ingenuity of D--; upon the fact that the document must
always have been at hand, if he intended to use it to good purpose;
and upon the decisive evidence, obtained by the Prefect, that it was
not hidden within the limits of that dignitary's ordinary search -
the more satisfied I became that, to conceal this letter, the
Minister had resorted to the comprehensive and sagacious expedient of
not attempting to conceal it at all.

"Full of these ideas, I prepared myself with a pair of green
spectacles, and called one fine morning, quite by accident, at the
Ministerial hotel. I found D-- at home, yawning, lounging, and
dawdling, as usual, and pretending to be in the last extremity of
ennui. He is, perhaps, the most really energetic human being now
alive - but that is only when nobody sees him.

"To be even with him, I complained of my weak eyes, and lamented the
necessity of the spectacles, under cover of which I cautiously and
thoroughly surveyed the whole apartment, while seemingly intent only
upon the conversation of my host.

"I paid especial attention to a large writing-table near which he
sat, and upon which lay confusedly, some miscellaneous letters and
other papers, with one or two musical instruments and a few books.
Here, however, after a long and very deliberate scrutiny, I saw
nothing to excite particular suspicion.

"At length my eyes, in going the circuit of the room, fell upon a
trumpery fillagree card-rack of pasteboard, that hung dangling by a
dirty blue ribbon, from a little brass knob just beneath the middle
of the mantel-piece. In this rack, which had three or four
compartments, were five or six visiting cards and a solitary letter.
This last was much soiled and crumpled. It was torn nearly in two,
across the middle - as if a design, in the first instance, to tear it
entirely up as worthless, had been altered, or stayed, in the second.
It had a large black seal, bearing the D-- cipher very conspicuously,
and was addressed, in a diminutive female hand, to D--, the minister,
himself. It was thrust carelessly, and even, as it seemed,
contemptuously, into one of the uppermost divisions of the rack.

"No sooner had I glanced at this letter, than I concluded it to be
that of which I was in search. To be sure, it was, to all appearance,
radically different from the one of which the Prefect had read us so
minute a description. Here the seal was large and black, with the D--
cipher; there it was small and red, with the ducal arms of the S--
family. Here, the address, to the Minister, diminutive and feminine;
there the superscription, to a certain royal personage, was markedly
bold and decided; the size alone formed a point of correspondence.
But, then, the radicalness of these differences, which was excessive;
the dirt; the soiled and torn condition of the paper, so inconsistent
with the true methodical habits of D--, and so suggestive of a design
to delude the beholder into an idea of the worthlessness of the
document; these things, together with the hyper-obtrusive situation
of this document, full in the view of every visiter, and thus exactly
in accordance with the conclusions to which I had previously arrived;
these things, I say, were strongly corroborative of suspicion, in one
who came with the intention to suspect.

"I protracted my visit as long as possible, and, while I maintained a
most animated discussion with the Minister upon a topic which I knew
well had never failed to interest and excite him, I kept my attention
really riveted upon the letter. In this examination, I committed to
memory its external appearance and arrangement in the rack; and also
fell, at length, upon a discovery which set at rest whatever trivial
doubt I might have entertained. In scrutinizing the edges of the
paper, I observed them to be more chafed than seemed necessary. They
presented the broken appearance which is manifested when a stiff
paper, having been once folded and pressed with a folder, is refolded
in a reversed direction, in the same creases or edges which had
formed the original fold. This discovery was sufficient. It was clear
to me that the letter had been turned, as a glove, inside out,
re-directed, and re-sealed. I bade the Minister good morning, and
took my departure at once, leaving a gold snuff-box upon the table.

"The next morning I called for the snuff-box, when we resumed, quite
eagerly, the conversation of the preceding day. While thus engaged,
however, a loud report, as if of a pistol, was heard immediately
beneath the windows of the hotel, and was succeeded by a series of
fearful screams, and the shoutings of a terrified mob. D-- rushed to
a casement, threw it open, and looked out. In the meantime, I stepped
to the card-rack took the letter, put it in my pocket, and replaced
it by a fac-simile, (so far as regards externals,) which I had
carefully prepared at my lodgings - imitating the D-- cipher, very
readily, by means of a seal formed of bread.

"The disturbance in the street had been occasioned by the frantic
behavior of a man with a musket. He had fired it among a crowd of
women and children. It proved, however, to have been without ball,
and the fellow was suffered to go his way as a lunatic or a drunkard.
When he had gone, D-- came from the window, whither I had followed
him immediately upon securing the object in view. Soon afterwards I
bade him farewell. The pretended lunatic was a man in my own pay."

"But what purpose had you," I asked, "in replacing the letter by a
fac-simile? Would it not have been better, at the first visit, to
have seized it openly, and departed?"

"D--," replied Dupin, "is a desperate man, and a man of nerve. His
hotel, too, is not without attendants devoted to his interests. Had I
made the wild attempt you suggest, I might never have left the
Ministerial presence alive. The good people of Paris might have heard
of me no more. But I had an object apart from these considerations.
You know my political prepossessions. In this matter, I act as a
partisan of the lady concerned. For eighteen months the Minister has
had her in his power. She has now him in hers - since, being unaware
that the letter is not in his possession, he will proceed with his
exactions as if it was. Thus will he inevitably commit himself, at
once, to his political destruction. His downfall, too, will not be
more precipitate than awkward. It is all very well to talk about the
facilis descensus Averni; but in all kinds of climbing, as Catalani
said of singing, it is far more easy to get up than to come down. In
the present instance I have no sympathy - at least no pity - for him
who descends. He is that monstrum horrendum, an unprincipled man of
genius. I confess, however, that I should like very well to know the
precise character of his thoughts, when, being defied by her whom the
Prefect terms 'a certain personage' he is reduced to opening the
letter which I left for him in the card-rack."

"How? did you put any thing particular in it?"

"Why - it did not seem altogether right to leave the interior blank -
that would have been insulting. D--, at Vienna once, did me an evil
turn, which I told him, quite good-humoredly, that I should remember.
So, as I knew he would feel some curiosity in regard to the identity
of the person who had outwitted him, I thought it a pity not to give
him a clue. He is well acquainted with my MS., and I just copied into
the middle of the blank sheet the words -

" '-- -- Un dessein si funeste, S'il n'est digne d'Atrée, est digne
de Thyeste.

They are to be found in Crebillon's 'Atrée.' "

~~~ End of Text ~~~



Truth is stranger than fiction.


HAVING had occasion, lately, in the course of some Oriental
investigations, to consult the Tellmenow Isitsoornot, a work which
(like the Zohar of Simeon Jochaides) is scarcely known at all, even
in Europe; and which has never been quoted, to my knowledge, by any
American -- if we except, perhaps, the author of the "Curiosities of
American Literature"; -- having had occasion, I say, to turn over
some pages of the first -- mentioned very remarkable work, I was not
a little astonished to discover that the literary world has hitherto
been strangely in error respecting the fate of the vizier's daughter,
Scheherazade, as that fate is depicted in the "Arabian Nights"; and
that the denouement there given, if not altogether inaccurate, as far
as it goes, is at least to blame in not having gone very much

For full information on this interesting topic, I must refer the
inquisitive reader to the "Isitsoornot" itself, but in the meantime,
I shall be pardoned for giving a summary of what I there discovered.

It will be remembered, that, in the usual version of the tales, a
certain monarch having good cause to be jealous of his queen, not
only puts her to death, but makes a vow, by his beard and the
prophet, to espouse each night the most beautiful maiden in his
dominions, and the next morning to deliver her up to the executioner.

Having fulfilled this vow for many years to the letter, and with a
religious punctuality and method that conferred great credit upon him
as a man of devout feeling and excellent sense, he was interrupted
one afternoon (no doubt at his prayers) by a visit from his grand
vizier, to whose daughter, it appears, there had occurred an idea.

Her name was Scheherazade, and her idea was, that she would either
redeem the land from the depopulating tax upon its beauty, or perish,
after the approved fashion of all heroines, in the attempt.

Accordingly, and although we do not find it to be leap-year (which
makes the sacrifice more meritorious), she deputes her father, the
grand vizier, to make an offer to the king of her hand. This hand the
king eagerly accepts -- (he had intended to take it at all events,
and had put off the matter from day to day, only through fear of the
vizier), -- but, in accepting it now, he gives all parties very
distinctly to understand, that, grand vizier or no grand vizier, he
has not the slightest design of giving up one iota of his vow or of
his privileges. When, therefore, the fair Scheherazade insisted upon
marrying the king, and did actually marry him despite her father's
excellent advice not to do any thing of the kind -- when she would
and did marry him, I say, will I, nill I, it was with her beautiful
black eyes as thoroughly open as the nature of the case would allow.

It seems, however, that this politic damsel (who had been reading
Machiavelli, beyond doubt), had a very ingenious little plot in her
mind. On the night of the wedding, she contrived, upon I forget what
specious pretence, to have her sister occupy a couch sufficiently
near that of the royal pair to admit of easy conversation from bed to
bed; and, a little before cock-crowing, she took care to awaken the
good monarch, her husband (who bore her none the worse will because
he intended to wring her neck on the morrow), -- she managed to
awaken him, I say, (although on account of a capital conscience and
an easy digestion, he slept well) by the profound interest of a story
(about a rat and a black cat, I think) which she was narrating (all
in an undertone, of course) to her sister. When the day broke, it so
happened that this history was not altogether finished, and that
Scheherazade, in the nature of things could not finish it just then,
since it was high time for her to get up and be bowstrung -- a thing
very little more pleasant than hanging, only a trifle more genteel.

The king's curiosity, however, prevailing, I am sorry to say, even
over his sound religious principles, induced him for this once to
postpone the fulfilment of his vow until next morning, for the
purpose and with the hope of hearing that night how it fared in the
end with the black cat (a black cat, I think it was) and the rat.

The night having arrived, however, the lady Scheherazade not only put
the finishing stroke to the black cat and the rat (the rat was blue)
but before she well knew what she was about, found herself deep in
the intricacies of a narration, having reference (if I am not
altogether mistaken) to a pink horse (with green wings) that went, in
a violent manner, by clockwork, and was wound up with an indigo key.
With this history the king was even more profoundly interested than
with the other -- and, as the day broke before its conclusion
(notwithstanding all the queen's endeavors to get through with it in
time for the bowstringing), there was again no resource but to
postpone that ceremony as before, for twenty-four hours. The next
night there happened a similar accident with a similar result; and
then the next -- and then again the next; so that, in the end, the
good monarch, having been unavoidably deprived of all opportunity to
keep his vow during a period of no less than one thousand and one
nights, either forgets it altogether by the expiration of this time,
or gets himself absolved of it in the regular way, or (what is more
probable) breaks it outright, as well as the head of his father
confessor. At all events, Scheherazade, who, being lineally descended
from Eve, fell heir, perhaps, to the whole seven baskets of talk,
which the latter lady, we all know, picked up from under the trees in
the garden of Eden-Scheherazade, I say, finally triumphed, and the
tariff upon beauty was repealed.

Now, this conclusion (which is that of the story as we have it upon
record) is, no doubt, excessively proper and pleasant -- but alas!
like a great many pleasant things, is more pleasant than true, and I
am indebted altogether to the "Isitsoornot" for the means of
correcting the error. "Le mieux," says a French proverb, "est
l'ennemi du bien," and, in mentioning that Scheherazade had inherited
the seven baskets of talk, I should have added that she put them out
at compound interest until they amounted to seventy-seven.

"My dear sister," said she, on the thousand-and-second night, (I
quote the language of the "Isitsoornot" at this point, verbatim) "my
dear sister," said she, "now that all this little difficulty about
the bowstring has blown over, and that this odious tax is so happily
repealed, I feel that I have been guilty of great indiscretion in
withholding from you and the king (who I am sorry to say, snores -- a
thing no gentleman would do) the full conclusion of Sinbad the
sailor. This person went through numerous other and more interesting
adventures than those which I related; but the truth is, I felt
sleepy on the particular night of their narration, and so was seduced
into cutting them short -- a grievous piece of misconduct, for which
I only trust that Allah will forgive me. But even yet it is not too
late to remedy my great neglect -- and as soon as I have given the
king a pinch or two in order to wake him up so far that he may stop
making that horrible noise, I will forthwith entertain you (and him
if he pleases) with the sequel of this very remarkable story.

Hereupon the sister of Scheherazade, as I have it from the
"Isitsoornot," expressed no very particular intensity of
gratification; but the king, having been sufficiently pinched, at
length ceased snoring, and finally said, "hum!" and then "hoo!" when
the queen, understanding these words (which are no doubt Arabic) to
signify that he was all attention, and would do his best not to snore
any more -- the queen, I say, having arranged these matters to her
satisfaction, re-entered thus, at once, into the history of Sinbad
the sailor:

"'At length, in my old age, [these are the words of Sinbad himself,
as retailed by Scheherazade] -- 'at length, in my old age, and after
enjoying many years of tranquillity at home, I became once more
possessed of a desire of visiting foreign countries; and one day,
without acquainting any of my family with my design, I packed up some
bundles of such merchandise as was most precious and least bulky,
and, engaged a porter to carry them, went with him down to the
sea-shore, to await the arrival of any chance vessel that might
convey me out of the kingdom into some region which I had not as yet

"'Having deposited the packages upon the sands, we sat down beneath
some trees, and looked out into the ocean in the hope of perceiving a
ship, but during several hours we saw none whatever. At length I
fancied that I could hear a singular buzzing or humming sound; and
the porter, after listening awhile, declared that he also could
distinguish it. Presently it grew louder, and then still louder, so
that we could have no doubt that the object which caused it was
approaching us. At length, on the edge of the horizon, we discovered
a black speck, which rapidly increased in size until we made it out
to be a vast monster, swimming with a great part of its body above
the surface of the sea. It came toward us with inconceivable
swiftness, throwing up huge waves of foam around its breast, and
illuminating all that part of the sea through which it passed, with a
long line of fire that extended far off into the distance.

"'As the thing drew near we saw it very distinctly. Its length was
equal to that of three of the loftiest trees that grow, and it was as
wide as the great hall of audience in your palace, O most sublime and
munificent of the Caliphs. Its body, which was unlike that of
ordinary fishes, was as solid as a rock, and of a jetty blackness
throughout all that portion of it which floated above the water, with
the exception of a narrow blood-red streak that completely begirdled
it. The belly, which floated beneath the surface, and of which we
could get only a glimpse now and then as the monster rose and fell
with the billows, was entirely covered with metallic scales, of a
color like that of the moon in misty weather. The back was flat and
nearly white, and from it there extended upwards of six spines, about
half the length of the whole body.

"'The horrible creature had no mouth that we could perceive, but, as
if to make up for this deficiency, it was provided with at least four
score of eyes, that protruded from their sockets like those of the
green dragon-fly, and were arranged all around the body in two rows,
one above the other, and parallel to the blood-red streak, which
seemed to answer the purpose of an eyebrow. Two or three of these
dreadful eyes were much larger than the others, and had the
appearance of solid gold.

"'Although this beast approached us, as I have before said, with the
greatest rapidity, it must have been moved altogether by necromancy-
for it had neither fins like a fish nor web-feet like a duck, nor
wings like the seashell which is blown along in the manner of a
vessel; nor yet did it writhe itself forward as do the eels. Its head
and its tail were shaped precisely alike, only, not far from the
latter, were two small holes that served for nostrils, and through
which the monster puffed out its thick breath with prodigious
violence, and with a shrieking, disagreeable noise.

"'Our terror at beholding this hideous thing was very great, but it
was even surpassed by our astonishment, when upon getting a nearer
look, we perceived upon the creature's back a vast number of animals
about the size and shape of men, and altogether much resembling them,
except that they wore no garments (as men do), being supplied (by
nature, no doubt) with an ugly uncomfortable covering, a good deal
like cloth, but fitting so tight to the skin, as to render the poor
wretches laughably awkward, and put them apparently to severe pain.
On the very tips of their heads were certain square-looking boxes,
which, at first sight, I thought might have been intended to answer
as turbans, but I soon discovered that they were excessively heavy
and solid, and I therefore concluded they were contrivances designed,
by their great weight, to keep the heads of the animals steady and
safe upon their shoulders. Around the necks of the creatures were
fastened black collars, (badges of servitude, no doubt,) such as we
keep on our dogs, only much wider and infinitely stiffer, so that it
was quite impossible for these poor victims to move their heads in
any direction without moving the body at the same time; and thus they
were doomed to perpetual contemplation of their noses -- a view
puggish and snubby in a wonderful, if not positively in an awful

"'When the monster had nearly reached the shore where we stood, it
suddenly pushed out one of its eyes to a great extent, and emitted
from it a terrible flash of fire, accompanied by a dense cloud of
smoke, and a noise that I can compare to nothing but thunder. As the
smoke cleared away, we saw one of the odd man-animals standing near
the head of the large beast with a trumpet in his hand, through which
(putting it to his mouth) he presently addressed us in loud, harsh,
and disagreeable accents, that, perhaps, we should have mistaken for
language, had they not come altogether through the nose.

"'Being thus evidently spoken to, I was at a loss how to reply, as I
could in no manner understand what was said; and in this difficulty I
turned to the porter, who was near swooning through affright, and
demanded of him his opinion as to what species of monster it was,
what it wanted, and what kind of creatures those were that so swarmed
upon its back. To this the porter replied, as well as he could for
trepidation, that he had once before heard of this sea-beast; that it
was a cruel demon, with bowels of sulphur and blood of fire, created
by evil genii as the means of inflicting misery upon mankind; that
the things upon its back were vermin, such as sometimes infest cats
and dogs, only a little larger and more savage; and that these vermin
had their uses, however evil -- for, through the torture they caused
the beast by their nibbling and stingings, it was goaded into that
degree of wrath which was requisite to make it roar and commit ill,
and so fulfil the vengeful and malicious designs of the wicked genii.

"This account determined me to take to my heels, and, without once
even looking behind me, I ran at full speed up into the hills, while
the porter ran equally fast, although nearly in an opposite
direction, so that, by these means, he finally made his escape with
my bundles, of which I have no doubt he took excellent care --
although this is a point I cannot determine, as I do not remember
that I ever beheld him again.

"'For myself, I was so hotly pursued by a swarm of the men-vermin
(who had come to the shore in boats) that I was very soon overtaken,
bound hand and foot, and conveyed to the beast, which immediately
swam out again into the middle of the sea.

"'I now bitterly repented my folly in quitting a comfortable home to
peril my life in such adventures as this; but regret being useless, I
made the best of my condition, and exerted myself to secure the
goodwill of the man-animal that owned the trumpet, and who appeared
to exercise authority over his fellows. I succeeded so well in this
endeavor that, in a few days, the creature bestowed upon me various
tokens of his favor, and in the end even went to the trouble of
teaching me the rudiments of what it was vain enough to denominate
its language; so that, at length, I was enabled to converse with it
readily, and came to make it comprehend the ardent desire I had of
seeing the world.

"'Washish squashish squeak, Sinbad, hey-diddle diddle, grunt unt
grumble, hiss, fiss, whiss,' said he to me, one day after dinner- but
I beg a thousand pardons, I had forgotten that your majesty is not
conversant with the dialect of the Cock-neighs (so the man-animals
were called; I presume because their language formed the connecting
link between that of the horse and that of the rooster). With your
permission, I will translate. 'Washish squashish,' and so forth: --
that is to say, 'I am happy to find, my dear Sinbad, that you are
really a very excellent fellow; we are now about doing a thing which
is called circumnavigating the globe; and since you are so desirous
of seeing the world, I will strain a point and give you a free
passage upon back of the beast.'"

When the Lady Scheherazade had proceeded thus far, relates the
"Isitsoornot," the king turned over from his left side to his right,
and said:

"It is, in fact, very surprising, my dear queen, that you omitted,
hitherto, these latter adventures of Sinbad. Do you know I think them
exceedingly entertaining and strange?"

The king having thus expressed himself, we are told, the fair
Scheherazade resumed her history in the following words:

"Sinbad went on in this manner with his narrative to the caliph- 'I
thanked the man-animal for its kindness, and soon found myself very
much at home on the beast, which swam at a prodigious rate through
the ocean; although the surface of the latter is, in that part of the
world, by no means flat, but round like a pomegranate, so that we
went -- so to say -- either up hill or down hill all the time.'

"That I think, was very singular," interrupted the king.

"Nevertheless, it is quite true," replied Scheherazade.

"I have my doubts," rejoined the king; "but, pray, be so good as to
go on with the story."

"I will," said the queen. "'The beast,' continued Sinbad to the
caliph, 'swam, as I have related, up hill and down hill until, at
length, we arrived at an island, many hundreds of miles in
circumference, but which, nevertheless, had been built in the middle
of the sea by a colony of little things like caterpillars'" {*1}

"Hum!" said the king.

"'Leaving this island,' said Sinbad -- (for Scheherazade, it must be
understood, took no notice of her husband's ill-mannered ejaculation)
'leaving this island, we came to another where the forests were of
solid stone, and so hard that they shivered to pieces the
finest-tempered axes with which we endeavoured to cut them down."'

"Hum!" said the king, again; but Scheherazade, paying him no
attention, continued in the language of Sinbad.

"'Passing beyond this last island, we reached a country where there
was a cave that ran to the distance of thirty or forty miles within
the bowels of the earth, and that contained a greater number of far
more spacious and more magnificent palaces than are to be found in
all Damascus and Bagdad. From the roofs of these palaces there hung
myriads of gems, liked diamonds, but larger than men; and in among
the streets of towers and pyramids and temples, there flowed immense
rivers as black as ebony, and swarming with fish that had no eyes.'"

"Hum!" said the king. "'We then swam into a region of the sea where
we found a lofty mountain, down whose sides there streamed torrents
of melted metal, some of which were twelve miles wide and sixty miles
long {*4}; while from an abyss on the summit, issued so vast a
quantity of ashes that the sun was entirely blotted out from the
heavens, and it became darker than the darkest midnight; so that when
we were even at the distance of a hundred and fifty miles from the
mountain, it was impossible to see the whitest object, however close
we held it to our eyes.'" {*5}

"Hum!" said the king.

"'After quitting this coast, the beast continued his voyage until we
met with a land in which the nature of things seemed reversed -- for
we here saw a great lake, at the bottom of which, more than a hundred
feet beneath the surface of the water, there flourished in full leaf
a forest of tall and luxuriant trees.'" {*6}

"Hoo!" said the king.

"Some hundred miles farther on brought us to a climate where the
atmosphere was so dense as to sustain iron or steel, just as our own
does feather.'" {*7)

"Fiddle de dee," said the king.

"Proceeding still in the same direction, we presently arrived at the
most magnificent region in the whole world. Through it there
meandered a glorious river for several thousands of miles. This river
was of unspeakable depth, and of a transparency richer than that of
amber. It was from three to six miles in width; and its banks which
arose on either side to twelve hundred feet in perpendicular height,
were crowned with ever-blossoming trees and perpetual sweet-scented
flowers, that made the whole territory one gorgeous garden; but the
name of this luxuriant land was the Kingdom of Horror, and to enter
it was inevitable death'" {*8}

"Humph!" said the king.

"'We left this kingdom in great haste, and, after some days, came to
another, where we were astonished to perceive myriads of monstrous
animals with horns resembling scythes upon their heads. These hideous
beasts dig for themselves vast caverns in the soil, of a funnel
shape, and line the sides of them with, rocks, so disposed one upon
the other that they fall instantly, when trodden upon by other
animals, thus precipitating them into the monster's dens, where their
blood is immediately sucked, and their carcasses afterwards hurled
contemptuously out to an immense distance from "the caverns of
death."'" {*9}

"Pooh!" said the king.

"'Continuing our progress, we perceived a district with vegetables
that grew not upon any soil but in the air. {*10} There were others
that sprang from the substance of other vegetables; {*11} others that
derived their substance from the bodies of living animals; {*12} and
then again, there were others that glowed all over with intense fire;
{*13} others that moved from place to place at pleasure, {*14} and
what was still more wonderful, we discovered flowers that lived and
breathed and moved their limbs at will and had, moreover, the
detestable passion of mankind for enslaving other creatures, and
confining them in horrid and solitary prisons until the fulfillment
of appointed tasks.'" {*15}

"Pshaw!" said the king.

"'Quitting this land, we soon arrived at another in which the bees
and the birds are mathematicians of such genius and erudition, that
they give daily instructions in the science of geometry to the wise
men of the empire. The king of the place having offered a reward for
the solution of two very difficult problems, they were solved upon
the spot -- the one by the bees, and the other by the birds; but the
king keeping their solution a secret, it was only after the most
profound researches and labor, and the writing of an infinity of big
books, during a long series of years, that the men-mathematicians at
length arrived at the identical solutions which had been given upon
the spot by the bees and by the birds.'" {*16}

"Oh my!" said the king.

"'We had scarcely lost sight of this empire when we found ourselves
close upon another, from whose shores there flew over our heads a
flock of fowls a mile in breadth, and two hundred and forty miles
long; so that, although they flew a mile during every minute, it
required no less than four hours for the whole flock to pass over us
-- in which there were several millions of millions of fowl.'" {*17}

"Oh fy!" said the king.

"'No sooner had we got rid of these birds, which occasioned us great
annoyance, than we were terrified by the appearance of a fowl of
another kind, and infinitely larger than even the rocs which I met in
my former voyages; for it was bigger than the biggest of the domes on
your seraglio, oh, most Munificent of Caliphs. This terrible fowl had
no head that we could perceive, but was fashioned entirely of belly,
which was of a prodigious fatness and roundness, of a soft-looking
substance, smooth, shining and striped with various colors. In its
talons, the monster was bearing away to his eyrie in the heavens, a
house from which it had knocked off the roof, and in the interior of
which we distinctly saw human beings, who, beyond doubt, were in a
state of frightful despair at the horrible fate which awaited them.
We shouted with all our might, in the hope of frightening the bird
into letting go of its prey, but it merely gave a snort or puff, as
if of rage and then let fall upon our heads a heavy sack which proved
to be filled with sand!'"

"Stuff!" said the king.

"'It was just after this adventure that we encountered a continent of
immense extent and prodigious solidity, but which, nevertheless, was
supported entirely upon the back of a sky-blue cow that had no fewer
than four hundred horns.'" {*18}

"That, now, I believe," said the king, "because I have read something
of the kind before, in a book."

"'We passed immediately beneath this continent, (swimming in between
the legs of the cow, and, after some hours, found ourselves in a
wonderful country indeed, which, I was informed by the man-animal,
was his own native land, inhabited by things of his own species. This
elevated the man-animal very much in my esteem, and in fact, I now
began to feel ashamed of the contemptuous familiarity with which I
had treated him; for I found that the man-animals in general were a
nation of the most powerful magicians, who lived with worms in their
brain, {*19} which, no doubt, served to stimulate them by their
painful writhings and wrigglings to the most miraculous efforts of

"Nonsense!" said the king.

"'Among the magicians, were domesticated several animals of very
singular kinds; for example, there was a huge horse whose bones were
iron and whose blood was boiling water. In place of corn, he had
black stones for his usual food; and yet, in spite of so hard a diet,
he was so strong and swift that he would drag a load more weighty
than the grandest temple in this city, at a rate surpassing that of
the flight of most birds.'" {*20}

"Twattle!" said the king.

"'I saw, also, among these people a hen without feathers, but bigger
than a camel; instead of flesh and bone she had iron and brick; her
blood, like that of the horse, (to whom, in fact, she was nearly
related,) was boiling water; and like him she ate nothing but wood or
black stones. This hen brought forth very frequently, a hundred
chickens in the day; and, after birth, they took up their residence
for several weeks within the stomach of their mother.'" {*21}

"Fa! lal!" said the king.

"'One of this nation of mighty conjurors created a man out of brass
and wood, and leather, and endowed him with such ingenuity that he
would have beaten at chess, all the race of mankind with the
exception of the great Caliph, Haroun Alraschid. {*22} Another of
these magi constructed (of like material) a creature that put to
shame even the genius of him who made it; for so great were its
reasoning powers that, in a second, it performed calculations of so
vast an extent that they would have required the united labor of
fifty thousand fleshy men for a year. (*23} But a still more
wonderful conjuror fashioned for himself a mighty thing that was
neither man nor beast, but which had brains of lead, intermixed with
a black matter like pitch, and fingers that it employed with such
incredible speed and dexterity that it would have had no trouble in
writing out twenty thousand copies of the Koran in an hour, and this
with so exquisite a precision, that in all the copies there should
not be found one to vary from another by the breadth of the finest
hair. This thing was of prodigious strength, so that it erected or
overthrew the mightiest empires at a breath; but its powers were
exercised equally for evil and for good.'"

"Ridiculous!" said the king.

"'Among this nation of necromancers there was also one who had in his
veins the blood of the salamanders; for he made no scruple of sitting
down to smoke his chibouc in a red-hot oven until his dinner was
thoroughly roasted upon its floor. {*24} Another had the faculty of
converting the common metals into gold, without even looking at them
during the process. {*25} Another had such a delicacy of touch that
he made a wire so fine as to be invisible. {*26} Another had such
quickness of perception that he counted all the separate motions of
an elastic body, while it was springing backward and forward at the
rate of nine hundred millions of times in a second.'" {*27}

"Absurd!" said the king.

"'Another of these magicians, by means of a fluid that nobody ever
yet saw, could make the corpses of his friends brandish their arms,
kick out their legs, fight, or even get up and dance at his will.
{*28} Another had cultivated his voice to so great an extent that he
could have made himself heard from one end of the world to the other.
{*29} Another had so long an arm that he could sit down in Damascus
and indite a letter at Bagdad -- or indeed at any distance
whatsoever. {*30} Another commanded the lightning to come down to him
out of the heavens, and it came at his call; and served him for a
plaything when it came. Another took two loud sounds and out of them
made a silence. Another constructed a deep darkness out of two
brilliant lights. {*31} Another made ice in a red-hot furnace. {*32}
Another directed the sun to paint his portrait, and the sun did.
{*33} Another took this luminary with the moon and the planets, and
having first weighed them with scrupulous accuracy, probed into their
depths and found out the solidity of the substance of which they were
made. But the whole nation is, indeed, of so surprising a necromantic
ability, that not even their infants, nor their commonest cats and
dogs have any difficulty in seeing objects that do not exist at all,
or that for twenty millions of years before the birth of the nation
itself had been blotted out from the face of creation."' {*34}

Analogous experiments in respect to sound produce analogous results.

"Preposterous!" said the king.

"'The wives and daughters of these incomparably great and wise
magi,'" continued Scheherazade, without being in any manner disturbed
by these frequent and most ungentlemanly interruptions on the part of
her husband -- "'the wives and daughters of these eminent conjurers
are every thing that is accomplished and refined; and would be every
thing that is interesting and beautiful, but for an unhappy fatality
that besets them, and from which not even the miraculous powers of
their husbands and fathers has, hitherto, been adequate to save. Some
fatalities come in certain shapes, and some in others -- but this of
which I speak has come in the shape of a crotchet.'"

"A what?" said the king.

"'A crotchet'" said Scheherazade. "'One of the evil genii, who are
perpetually upon the watch to inflict ill, has put it into the heads
of these accomplished ladies that the thing which we describe as
personal beauty consists altogether in the protuberance of the region
which lies not very far below the small of the back. Perfection of
loveliness, they say, is in the direct ratio of the extent of this
lump. Having been long possessed of this idea, and bolsters being
cheap in that country, the days have long gone by since it was
possible to distinguish a woman from a dromedary-'"

"Stop!" said the king -- "I can't stand that, and I won't. You have
already given me a dreadful headache with your lies. The day, too, I
perceive, is beginning to break. How long have we been married? -- my
conscience is getting to be troublesome again. And then that
dromedary touch -- do you take me for a fool? Upon the whole, you
might as well get up and be throttled."

These words, as I learn from the "Isitsoornot," both grieved and
astonished Scheherazade; but, as she knew the king to be a man of
scrupulous integrity, and quite unlikely to forfeit his word, she
submitted to her fate with a good grace. She derived, however, great
consolation, (during the tightening of the bowstring,) from the
reflection that much of the history remained still untold, and that
the petulance of her brute of a husband had reaped for him a most
righteous reward, in depriving him of many inconceivable adventures.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



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_. _Joseph
Glanville. _ .
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 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 giddy ?"

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 distance.

"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."

I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, whose
waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to my mind the Nubian
geographer's account of the _Mare Tenebrarum_. A panorama more
deplorably desolate no human imagination can conceive. To the right
and left, as far as the eye could reach, there lay outstretched, like
ramparts of the world, lines of horridly black and beetling cliff,
whose character of gloom was but the more forcibly illustrated by the
surf which reared high up against its white and ghastly crest,
howling and shrieking forever. Just opposite the promontory upon
whose apex we were placed, and at a distance of some five or six
miles out at sea, there was visible a small, bleak-looking island ;
or, more properly, its position was discernible through the
wilderness of surge in which it was enveloped. About two miles nearer
the land, arose another of smaller size, hideously craggy and barren,
and encompassed at various intervals by a cluster of dark rocks.

The appearance of the ocean, in the space between the more
distant island and the shore, had something very unusual about it.
Although, at the time, so strong a gale was blowing landward that a
brig in the remote offing lay to under a double-reefed trysail, and
constantly plunged her whole hull out of sight, still there was here
nothing like a regular swell, but only a short, quick, angry cross
dashing of water in every direction - as well in the teeth of the
wind as otherwise. Of foam there was little except in the immediate
vicinity of the rocks.

"The island in the distance," resumed the old man, "is called by
the Norwegians Vurrgh. The one midway is Moskoe. That a mile to the
northward is Ambaaren. Yonder are Islesen, Hotholm, Keildhelm,
Suarven, and Buckholm. Farther off - between Moskoe and Vurrgh - are
Otterholm, Flimen, Sandflesen, and Stockholm. These are the true
names of the places - but why it has been thought necessary to name
them at all, is more than either you or I can understand. Do you hear
anything ? Do you see any change in the water ?"

We had now been about ten minutes upon the top of Helseggen, to
which we had ascended from the interior of Lofoden, so that we had
caught no glimpse of the sea until it had burst upon us from the
summit. As the old man spoke, I became aware of a loud and gradually
increasing sound, like the moaning of a vast herd of buffaloes upon
an American prairie; and at the same moment I perceived that what
seamen term the _chopping_ character of the ocean beneath us, was
rapidly changing into a current which set to the eastward. Even while
I gazed, this current acquired a monstrous velocity. Each moment
added to its speed - to its headlong impetuosity. In five minutes the
whole sea, as far as Vurrgh, was lashed into ungovernable fury ; but
it was between Moskoe and the coast that the main uproar held its
sway. Here the vast bed of the waters, seamed and scarred into a
thousand conflicting channels, burst suddenly into phrensied
convulsion - heaving, boiling, hissing - gyrating in gigantic and
innumerable vortices, and all whirling and plunging on to the
eastward with a rapidity which water never elsewhere assumes except
in precipitous descents.

In a few minutes more, there came over the scene another radical
alteration. The general surface grew somewhat more smooth, and the
whirlpools, one by one, disappeared, while prodigious streaks of foam
became apparent where none had been seen before. These streaks, at
length, spreading out to a great distance, and entering into
combination, took unto themselves the gyratory motion of the subsided
vortices, and seemed to form the germ of another more vast. Suddenly
- very suddenly - this assumed a distinct and definite existence, in
a circle of more than a mile in diameter. The edge of the whirl was
represented by a broad belt of gleaming spray ; but no particle of
this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior,
as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and
jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some
forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying
and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling
voice, half shriek, half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract
of Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven.

The mountain trembled to its very base, and the rock rocked. I
threw myself upon my face, and clung to the scant herbage in an
excess of nervous agitation.

"This," said I at length, to the old man - "this _can_ be nothing
else than the great whirlpool of the Maelström."

"So it is sometimes termed," said he. "We Norwegians call it the
Moskoe-ström, from the island of Moskoe in the midway."

The ordinary accounts of this vortex had by no means prepared me
for what I saw. That of Jonas Ramus, which is perhaps the most
circumstantial of any, cannot impart the faintest conception either
of the magnificence, or of the horror of the scene - or of the wild
bewildering sense of _the novel_ which confounds the beholder. I am
not sure from what point of view the writer in question surveyed it,
nor at what time ; but it could neither have been from the summit of
Helseggen, nor during a storm. There are some passages of his
description, nevertheless, which may be quoted for their details,
although their effect is exceedingly feeble in conveying an
impression of the spectacle.

"Between Lofoden and Moskoe," he says, "the depth of the water is
between thirty-six and forty fathoms ; but on the other side, toward
Ver (Vurrgh) this depth decreases so as not to afford a convenient
passage for a vessel, without the risk of splitting on the rocks,
which happens even in the calmest weather. When it is flood, the
stream runs up the country between Lofoden and Moskoe with a
boisterous rapidity ; but the roar of its impetuous ebb to the sea
is scarce equalled by the loudest and most dreadful cataracts ; the
noise being heard several leagues off, and the vortices or pits are
of such an extent and depth, that if a ship comes within its
attraction, it is inevitably absorbed and carried down to the bottom,
and there beat to pieces against the rocks ; and when the water
relaxes, the fragments thereof are thrown up again. But these
intervals of tranquility are only at the turn of the ebb and flood,
and in calm weather, and last but a quarter of an hour, its violence
gradually returning. When the stream is most boisterous, and its fury
heightened by a storm, it is dangerous to come within a Norway mile
of it. Boats, yachts, and ships have been carried away by not
guarding against it before they were within its reach. It likewise
happens frequently, that whales come too near the stream, and are
overpowered by its violence; and then it is impossible to describe
their howlings and bellowings in their fruitless struggles to
disengage themselves. A bear once, attempting to swim from Lofoden to
Moskoe, was caught by the stream and borne down, while he roared
terribly, so as to be heard on shore. Large stocks of firs and pine
trees, after being absorbed by the current, rise again broken and
torn to such a degree as if bristles grew upon them. This plainly
shows the bottom to consist of craggy rocks, among which they are
whirled to and fro. This stream is regulated by the flux and reflux
of the sea - it being constantly high and low water every six hours.
In the year 1645, early in the morning of Sexagesima Sunday, it raged
with such noise and impetuosity that the very stones of the houses on
the coast fell to the ground."

In regard to the depth of the water, I could not see how this
could have been ascertained at all in the immediate vicinity of the
vortex. The "forty fathoms" must have reference only to portions of
the channel close upon the shore either of Moskoe or Lofoden. The
depth in the centre of the Moskoe-ström must be immeasurably greater
; and no better proof of this fact is necessary than can be obtained
from even the sidelong glance into the abyss of the whirl which may
be had from the highest crag of Helseggen. Looking down from this
pinnacle upon the howling Phlegethon below, I could not help smiling
at the simplicity with which the honest Jonas Ramus records, as a
matter difficult of belief, the anecdotes of the whales and the
bears; for it appeared to me, in fact, a self-evident thing, that the
largest ship of the line in existence, coming within the influence of
that deadly attraction, could resist it as little as a feather the
hurricane, and must disappear bodily and at once.

The attempts to account for the phenomenon - some of which, I
remember, seemed to me sufficiently plausible in perusal - now wore a
very different and unsatisfactory aspect. The idea generally received
is that this, as well as three smaller vortices among the Ferroe
islands, "have no other cause than the collision of waves rising and
falling, at flux and reflux, against a ridge of rocks and shelves,
which confines the water so that it precipitates itself like a
cataract ; and thus the higher the flood rises, the deeper must the
fall be, and the natural result of all is a whirlpool or vortex, the
prodigious suction of which is sufficiently known by lesser
experiments." - These are the words of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Kircher and others imagine that in the centre of the channel of the
Maelström is an abyss penetrating the globe, and issuing in some very
remote part - the Gulf of Bothnia being somewhat decidedly named in
one instance. This opinion, idle in itself, was the one to which, as
I gazed, my imagination most readily assented ; and, mentioning it
to the guide, I was rather surprised to hear him say that, although
it was the view almost universally entertained of the subject by the
Norwegians, it nevertheless was not his own. As to the former notion
he confessed his inability to comprehend it ; and here I agreed with
him - for, however conclusive on paper, it becomes altogether
unintelligible, and even absurd, amid the thunder of the abyss.

"You have had a good look at the whirl now," said the old man,
"and if you will creep round this crag, so as to get in its lee, and
deaden the roar of the water, I will tell you a story that will
convince you I ought to know something of the Moskoe-ström."

I placed myself as desired, and he proceeded.

"Myself and my two brothers once owned a schooner-rigged smack of
about seventy tons burthen, with which we were in the habit of
fishing among the islands beyond Moskoe, nearly to Vurrgh. In all
violent eddies at sea there is good fishing, at proper opportunities,
if one has only the courage to attempt it ; but among the whole of
the Lofoden coastmen, we three were the only ones who made a regular
business of going out to the islands, as I tell you. The usual
grounds are a great way lower down to the southward. There fish can
be got at all hours, without much risk, and therefore these places
are preferred. The choice spots over here among the rocks, however,
not only yield the finest variety, but in far greater abundance ; so
that we often got in a single day, what the more timid of the craft
could not scrape together in a week. In fact, we made it a matter of
desperate speculation - the risk of life standing instead of labor,
and courage answering for capital.

"We kept the smack in a cove about five miles higher up the coast
than this ; and it was our practice, in fine weather, to take
advantage of the fifteen minutes' slack to push across the main
channel of the Moskoe-ström, far above the pool, and then drop down
upon anchorage somewhere near Otterholm, or Sandflesen, where the
eddies are not so violent as elsewhere. Here we used to remain until
nearly time for slack-water again, when we weighed and made for home.
We never set out upon this expedition without a steady side wind for
going and coming - one that we felt sure would not fail us before our
return - and we seldom made a mis-calculation upon this point. Twice,
during six years, we were forced to stay all night at anchor on
account of a dead calm, which is a rare thing indeed just about here
; and once we had to remain on the grounds nearly a week, starving
to death, owing to a gale which blew up shortly after our arrival,
and made the channel too boisterous to be thought of. Upon this
occasion we should have been driven out to sea in spite of
everything, (for the whirlpools threw us round and round so
violently, that, at length, we fouled our anchor and dragged it) if
it had not been that we drifted into one of the innumerable cross
currents - here to-day and gone to-morrow - which drove us under the
lee of Flimen, where, by good luck, we brought up.

"I could not tell you the twentieth part of the difficulties we
encountered 'on the grounds' - it is a bad spot to be in, even in
good weather - but we made shift always to run the gauntlet of the
Moskoe-ström itself without accident ; although at times my heart
has been in my mouth when we happened to be a minute or so behind or
before the slack. The wind sometimes was not as strong as we thought
it at starting, and then we made rather less way than we could wish,
while the current rendered the smack unmanageable. My eldest brother
had a son eighteen years old, and I had two stout boys of my own.
These would have been of great assistance at such times, in using the
sweeps, as well as afterward in fishing - but, somehow, although we
ran the risk ourselves, we had not the heart to let the young ones
get into the danger - for, after all is said and done, it _was_ a
horrible danger, and that is the truth.

"It is now within a few days of three years since what I am going
to tell you occurred. It was on the tenth day of July, 18-, a day
which the people of this part of the world will never forget - for it
was one in which blew the most terrible hurricane that ever came out
of the heavens. And yet all the morning, and indeed until late in the
afternoon, there was a gentle and steady breeze from the south-west,
while the sun shone brightly, so that the oldest seaman among us
could not have foreseen what was to follow.

"The three of us - my two brothers and myself - had crossed over
to the islands about two o'clock P. M., and had soon nearly loaded
the smack with fine fish, which, we all remarked, were more plenty
that day than we had ever known them. It was just seven, _by my
watch_, when we weighed and started for home, so as to make the worst
of the Ström at slack water, which we knew would be at eight.

"We set out with a fresh wind on our starboard quarter, and for
some time spanked along at a great rate, never dreaming of danger,
for indeed we saw not the slightest reason to apprehend it. All at
once we were taken aback by a breeze from over Helseggen. This was
most unusual - something that had never happened to us before - and I
began to feel a little uneasy, without exactly knowing why. We put
the boat on the wind, but could make no headway at all for the
eddies, and I was upon the point of proposing to return to the
anchorage, when, looking astern, we saw the whole horizon covered
with a singular copper-colored cloud that rose with the most amazing

"In the meantime the breeze that had headed us off fell away, and
we were dead becalmed, drifting about in every direction. This state
of things, however, did not last long enough to give us time to think
about it. In less than a minute the storm was upon us - in less than
two the sky was entirely overcast - and what with this and the
driving spray, it became suddenly so dark that we could not see each
other in the smack.

"Such a hurricane as then blew it is folly to attempt describing.
The oldest seaman in Norway never experienced any thing like it. We
had let our sails go by the run before it cleverly took us ; but, at
the first puff, both our masts went by the board as if they had been
sawed off - the mainmast taking with it my youngest brother, who had
lashed himself to it for safety.

"Our boat was the lightest feather of a thing that ever sat upon
water. It had a complete flush deck, with only a small hatch near the
bow, and this hatch it had always been our custom to batten down when
about to cross the Ström, by way of precaution against the chopping
seas. But for this circumstance we should have foundered at once -
for we lay entirely buried for some moments. How my elder brother
escaped destruction I cannot say, for I never had an opportunity of
ascertaining. For my part, as soon as I had let the foresail run, I
threw myself flat on deck, with my feet against the narrow gunwale of
the bow, and with my hands grasping a ring-bolt near the foot of the
fore-mast. It was mere instinct that prompted me to do this - which
was undoubtedly the very best thing I could have done - for I was too
much flurried to think.

"For some moments we were completely deluged, as I say, and all
this time I held my breath, and clung to the bolt. When I could stand
it no longer I raised myself upon my knees, still keeping hold with
my hands, and thus got my head clear. Presently our little boat gave
herself a shake, just as a dog does in coming out of the water, and
thus rid herself, in some measure, of the seas. I was now trying to
get the better of the stupor that had come over me, and to collect my
senses so as to see what was to be done, when I felt somebody grasp
my arm. It was my elder brother, and my heart leaped for joy, for I
had made sure that he was overboard - but the next moment all this
joy was turned into horror - for he put his mouth close to my ear,
and screamed out the word '_Moskoe-ström ! _'

"No one ever will know what my feelings were at that moment. I
shook from head to foot as if I had had the most violent fit of the
ague. I knew what he meant by that one word well enough - I knew what
he wished to make me understand. With the wind that now drove us on,
we were bound for the whirl of the Ström, and nothing could save us !

"You perceive that in crossing the Ström _channel_, we always
went a long way up above the whirl, even in the calmest weather, and
then had to wait and watch carefully for the slack - but now we were
driving right upon the pool itself, and in such a hurricane as this !
'To be sure,' I thought, 'we shall get there just about the slack -
there is some little hope in that' - but in the next moment I cursed
myself for being so great a fool as to dream of hope at all. I knew
very well that we were doomed, had we been ten times a ninety-gun

"By this time the first fury of the tempest had spent itself, or
perhaps we did not feel it so much, as we scudded before it, but at
all events the seas, which at first had been kept down by the wind,
and lay flat and frothing, now got up into absolute mountains. A
singular change, too, had come over the heavens. Around in every
direction it was still as black as pitch, but nearly overhead there
burst out, all at once, a circular rift of clear sky - as clear as I
ever saw - and of a deep bright blue - and through it there blazed
forth the full moon with a lustre that I never before knew her to
wear. She lit up every thing about us with the greatest distinctness
- but, oh God, what a scene it was to light up !

"I now made one or two attempts to speak to my brother - but, in
some manner which I could not understand, the din had so increased
that I could not make him hear a single word, although I screamed at
the top of my voice in his ear. Presently he shook his head, looking
as pale as death, and held up one of his finger, as if to say
_'listen ! '_

"At first I could not make out what he meant - but soon a hideous
thought flashed upon me. I dragged my watch from its fob. It was not
going. I glanced at its face by the moonlight, and then burst into
tears as I flung it far away into the ocean. _It had run down at
seven o'clock ! We were behind the time of the slack, and the whirl
of the Ström was in full fury !_

"When a boat is well built, properly trimmed, and not deep laden,
the waves in a strong gale, when she is going large, seem always to
slip from beneath her - which appears very strange to a landsman -
and this is what is called _riding_, in sea phrase. Well, so far we
had ridden the swells very cleverly ; but presently a gigantic sea
happened to take us right under the counter, and bore us with it as
it rose - up - up - as if into the sky. I would not have believed
that any wave could rise so high. And then down we came with a sweep,
a slide, and a plunge, that made me feel sick and dizzy, as if I was
falling from some lofty mountain-top in a dream. But while we were up
I had thrown a quick glance around - and that one glance was all
sufficient. I saw our exact position in an instant. The Moskoe-Ström
whirlpool was about a quarter of a mile dead ahead - but no more like
the every-day Moskoe-Ström, than the whirl as you now see it is like
a mill-race. If I had not known where we were, and what we had to
expect, I should not have recognised the place at all. As it was, I
involuntarily closed my eyes in horror. The lids clenched themselves
together as if in a spasm.

"It could not have been more than two minutes afterward until we
suddenly felt the waves subside, and were enveloped in foam. The boat
made a sharp half turn to larboard, and then shot off in its new
direction like a thunderbolt. At the same moment the roaring noise of
the water was completely drowned in a kind of shrill shriek - such a
sound as you might imagine given out by the waste-pipes of many
thousand steam-vessels, letting off their steam all together. We were
now in the belt of surf that always surrounds the whirl ; and I
thought, of course, that another moment would plunge us into the
abyss - down which we could only see indistinctly on account of the
amazing velocity with which we wore borne along. The boat did not
seem to sink into the water at all, but to skim like an air-bubble
upon the surface of the surge. Her starboard side was next the whirl,
and on the larboard arose the world of ocean we had left. It stood
like a huge writhing wall between us and the horizon.

"It may appear strange, but now, when we were in the very jaws of
the gulf, I felt more composed than when we were only approaching it.
Having made up my mind to hope no more, I got rid of a great deal of
that terror which unmanned me at first. I suppose it was despair that
strung my nerves.

"It may look like boasting - but what I tell you is truth - I
began to reflect how magnificent a thing it was to die in such a
manner, and how foolish it was in me to think of so paltry a
consideration as my own individual life, in view of so wonderful a
manifestation of God's power. I do believe that I blushed with shame
when this idea crossed my mind. After a little while I became
possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl itself. I
positively felt a _wish_ to explore its depths, even at the sacrifice
I was going to make ; and my principal grief was that I should never
be able to tell my old companions on shore about the mysteries I
should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies to occupy a man's
mind in such extremity - and I have often thought since, that the
revolutions of the boat around the pool might have rendered me a
little light-headed.

"There was another circumstance which tended to restore my
self-possession ; and this was the cessation of the wind, which
could not reach us in our present situation - for, as you saw
yourself, the belt of surf is considerably lower than the general bed
of the ocean, and this latter now towered above us, a high, black,
mountainous ridge. If you have never been at sea in a heavy gale, you
can form no idea of the confusion of mind occasioned by the wind and
spray together. They blind, deafen, and strangle you, and take away
all power of action or reflection. But we were now, in a great
measure, rid of these annoyances - just us death-condemned felons in
prison are allowed petty indulgences, forbidden them while their doom
is yet uncertain.

"How often we made the circuit of the belt it is impossible to
say. We careered round and round for perhaps an hour, flying rather
than floating, getting gradually more and more into the middle of the
surge, and then nearer and nearer to its horrible inner edge. All
this time I had never let go of the ring-bolt. My brother was at the
stern, holding on to a small empty water-cask which had been securely
lashed under the coop of the counter, and was the only thing on deck
that had not been swept overboard when the gale first took us. As we
approached the brink of the pit he let go his hold upon this, and
made for the ring, from which, in the agony of his terror, he
endeavored to force my hands, as it was not large enough to afford us
both a secure grasp. I never felt deeper grief than when I saw him
attempt this act - although I knew he was a madman when he did it - a
raving maniac through sheer fright. I did not care, however, to
contest the point with him. I knew it could make no difference
whether either of us held on at all ; so I let him have the bolt,
and went astern to the cask. This there was no great difficulty in
doing ; for the smack flew round steadily enough, and upon an even
keel - only swaying to and fro, with the immense sweeps and swelters
of the whirl. Scarcely had I secured myself in my new position, when
we gave a wild lurch to starboard, and rushed headlong into the
abyss. I muttered a hurried prayer to God, and thought all was over.

"As I felt the sickening sweep of the descent, I had
instinctively tightened my hold upon the barrel, and closed my eyes.
For some seconds I dared not open them - while I expected instant
destruction, and wondered that I was not already in my
death-struggles with the water. But moment after moment elapsed. I
still lived. The sense of falling had ceased ; and the motion of the
vessel seemed much as it had been before, while in the belt of foam,
with the exception that she now lay more along. I took courage, and
looked once again upon the scene.

"Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and
admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be
hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a
funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose
perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for
the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the
gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the
full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I have
already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the
black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss.

"At first I was too much confused to observe anything accurately.
The general burst of terrific grandeur was all that I beheld. When I
recovered myself a little, however, my gaze fell instinctively
downward. In this direction I was able to obtain an unobstructed
view, from the manner in which the smack hung on the inclined surface
of the pool. She was quite upon an even keel - that is to say, her
deck lay in a plane parallel with that of the water - but this latter
sloped at an angle of more than forty-five degrees, so that we seemed
to be lying upon our beam-ends. I could not help observing,
nevertheless, that I had scarcely more difficulty in maintaining my
hold and footing in this situation, than if we had been upon a dead
level ; and this, I suppose, was owing to the speed at which we

"The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the
profound gulf ; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on
account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and
over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and
tottering bridge which Mussulmen say is the only pathway between Time
and Eternity. This mist, or spray, was no doubt occasioned by the
clashing of the great walls of the funnel, as they all met together
at the bottom - but the yell that went up to the Heavens from out of
that mist, I dare not attempt to describe.

"Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt of foam
above, had carried us a great distance down the slope ; but our
farther descent was by no means proportionate. Round and round we
swept - not with any uniform movement - but in dizzying swings and
jerks, that sent us sometimes only a few hundred yards - sometimes
nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. Our progress downward, at
each revolution, was slow, but very perceptible.

"Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on which we
were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the only object in
the embrace of the whirl. Both above and below us were visible
fragments of vessels, large masses of building timber and trunks of
trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of house furniture,
broken boxes, barrels and staves. I have already described the
unnatural curiosity which had taken the place of my original terrors.
It appeared to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my
dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange interest, the
numerous things that floated in our company. I _must_ have been
delirious - for I even sought _amusement_ in speculating upon the
relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below.
'This fir tree,' I found myself at one time saying, 'will certainly
be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disappears,' - and
then I was disappointed to find that the wreck of a Dutch merchant
ship overtook it and went down before. At length, after making
several guesses of this nature, and being deceived in all - this fact
- the fact of my invariable miscalculation - set me upon a train of
reflection that made my limbs again tremble, and my heart beat
heavily once more.

"It was not a new terror that thus affected me, but the dawn of a
more exciting _hope_. This hope arose partly from memory, and partly
from present observation. I called to mind the great variety of
buoyant matter that strewed the coast of Lofoden, having been
absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-ström. By far the
greater number of the articles were shattered in the most
extraordinary way - so chafed and roughened as to have the appearance
of being stuck full of splinters - but then I distinctly recollected
that there were _some_ of them which were not disfigured at all. Now
I could not account for this difference except by supposing that the
roughened fragments were the only ones which had been _completely
absorbed_ - that the others had entered the whirl at so late a period
of the tide, or, for some reason, had descended so slowly after
entering, that they did not reach the bottom before the turn of the
flood came, or of the ebb, as the case might be. I conceived it

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