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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Part 3 out of 5

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Eymeric de Gironne; and there were passages in Pomponius Mela, about
the old African Satyrs and Œgipans, over which Usher would sit
dreaming for hours. His chief delight, however, was found in the
perusal of an exceedingly rare and curious book in quarto Gothic -
the manual of a forgotten church - the _Vigiliae Mortuorum secundum
Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae_.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~ End of Text ~~~



ALCMAN. The mountain pinnacles slumber; valleys, crags and caves are

"LISTEN to me," said the Demon as he placed his hand upon my head.
"The region of which I speak is a dreary region in Libya, by the
borders of the river Zaire. And there is no quiet there, nor silence.

"The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue; and they flow
not onwards to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever beneath the
red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive motion. For many
miles on either side of the river's oozy bed is a pale desert of
gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the other in that solitude,
and stretch towards the heaven their long and ghastly necks, and nod
to and fro their everlasting heads. And there is an indistinct murmur
which cometh out from among them like the rushing of subterrene
water. And they sigh one unto the other.

"But there is a boundary to their realm -- the boundary of the dark,
horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides, the
low underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind
throughout the heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally
hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their
high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots
strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber. And
overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the gray clouds rush
westwardly forever, until they roll, a cataract, over the fiery wall
of the horizon. But there is no wind throughout the heaven. And by
the shores of the river Zaire there is neither quiet nor silence.

"It was night, and the rain fell; and falling, it was rain, but,
having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the tall
and the rain fell upon my head -- and the lilies sighed one unto the
other in the solemnity of their desolation.

"And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly mist, and
was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a huge gray rock which
stood by the shore of the river, and was lighted by the light of the
moon. And the rock was gray, and ghastly, and tall, -- and the rock
was gray. Upon its front were characters engraven in the stone; and I
walked through the morass of water-lilies, until I came close unto
the shore, that I might read the characters upon the stone. But I
could not decypher them. And I was going back into the morass, when
the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and looked again upon
the rock, and upon the characters; -- and the characters were

"And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit of the
rock; and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I might discover
the actions of the man. And the man was tall and stately in form, and
was wrapped up from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of old
Rome. And the outlines of his figure were indistinct -- but his
features were the features of a deity; for the mantle of the night,
and of the mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered
the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with thought, and
his eye wild with care; and, in the few furrows upon his cheek I read
the fables of sorrow, and weariness, and disgust with mankind, and a
longing after solitude.

"And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand,
and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low
unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up higher
at the rustling heaven, and into the crimson moon. And I lay close
within shelter of the lilies, and observed the actions of the man.
And the man trembled in the solitude; -- but the night waned, and he
sat upon the rock.

"And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out
upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and
upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to
the sighs of the water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up from
among them. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions
of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude; -- but the night
waned and he sat upon the rock.

"Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar in
among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotami
which dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And the
hippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the foot
of the rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I
lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And
the man trembled in the solitude; -- but the night waned and he sat
upon the rock.

"Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a frightful
tempest gathered in the heaven where, before, there had been no wind.
And the heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest -- and
the rain beat upon the head of the man -- and the floods of the river
came down -- and the river was tormented into foam -- and the
water-lilies shrieked within their beds -- and the forest crumbled
before the wind -- and the thunder rolled -- and the lightning fell
-- and the rock rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my
covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in
the solitude; -- but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

"Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river,
and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and the
thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed,
and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its pathway to
heaven -- and the thunder died away -- and the lightning did not
flash -- and the clouds hung motionless -- and the waters sunk to
their level and remained -- and the trees ceased to rock -- and the
water-lilies sighed no more -- and the murmur was heard no longer
from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast
illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock, and
they were changed; -- and the characters were SILENCE.

"And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his
countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head
from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and listened. But there
was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the
characters upon the rock were SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and
turned his face away, and fled afar off, in haste, so that I beheld
him no more."

Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi -- in the
iron-bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi. Therein, I say, are
glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the Earth, and of the mighty
sea -- and of the Genii that over-ruled the sea, and the earth, and
the lofty heaven. There was much lore too in the sayings which were
said by the Sybils; and holy, holy things were heard of old by the
dim leaves that trembled around Dodona -- but, as Allah liveth, that
fable which the Demon told me as he sat by my side in the shadow of
the tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all! And as the Demon
made an end of his story, he fell back within the cavity of the tomb
and laughed. And I could not laugh with the Demon, and he cursed me
because I could not laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth forever in the
tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down at the feet of the Demon, and
looked at him steadily in the face.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had
ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal
-- the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and
sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with
dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the
face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid
and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure,
progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half
an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When
his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a
thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and
dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of
one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent
structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august
taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of
iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy
hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of
ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from
within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the
courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could
take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to
think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There
were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers,
there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and
security were within. Without was the "Red Death."

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion,
and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince
Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the
most unusual magnificence.

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of
the rooms in which it was held. There were seven -- an imperial
suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight
vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on
either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely
impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been
expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were so
irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than
one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty
yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the
middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon
a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These
windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with
the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it
opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue
-- and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple
in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The
third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was
furnished and lighted with orange -- the fifth with white -- the
sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in
black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the
walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and
hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to
correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet -- a
deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any
lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay
scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of
any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers.
But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite
to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that
protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly
illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and
fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect
of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the
blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild
a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were
few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at

It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western
wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a
dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the
circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from
the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and
deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis
that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were
constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken
to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions;
and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while
the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest
grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their
brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes
had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the
musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own
nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other,
that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar
emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace
three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there
came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same
disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.

But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel.
The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors
and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans
were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre.
There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt
that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be
sure that he was not.

He had directed, in great part, the moveable embellishments of the
seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own
guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure
they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy
and phantasm -- much of what has been since seen in "Hernani." There
were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There
were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There was much of
the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of
the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited
disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a
multitude of dreams. And these -- the dreams -- writhed in and about,
taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the
orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there
strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And
then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of
the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes
of the chime die away -- they have endured but an instant -- and a
light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And
now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and
fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows
through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber
which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the
maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a
ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of
the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable
carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more
solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in
the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.

But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat
feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until
at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock.
And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the
waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all
things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by
the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of
thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the
thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened,
perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly
sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had
found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure
which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And
the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly
around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or
murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise -- then, finally,
of terror, of horror, and of disgust.

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be
supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such
sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly
unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone
beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum. There are
chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched
without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death
are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.
The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the
costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety
existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to
foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the
visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened
corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in
detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not
approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far
as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in
blood -- and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was
besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which
with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its
role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be
convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror
or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.

"Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him
-- "who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and
unmask him -- that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from
the battlements!"

It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince
Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven
rooms loudly and clearly -- for the prince was a bold and robust man,
and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.

It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale
courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight
rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who
at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and
stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain
nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had
inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to
seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the
prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one
impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made
his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step
which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber
to the purple -- through the purple to the green -- through the green
to the orange -- through this again to the white -- and even thence
to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It
was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and
the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through
the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly
terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and
had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of
the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity
of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer.
There was a sharp cry -- and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the
sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in
death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of
despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the
black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood
erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in
unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like
mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any
tangible form.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come
like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in
the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the
despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went
out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods
expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable
dominion over all.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could ;
but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well
know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave
utterance to a threat. _At length_ I would be avenged ; this was a
point definitively settled - but the very definitiveness with which
it was resolved, precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish,
but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution
overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger
fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given
Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont,
to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile _now_ was
at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point - this Fortunato - although in other regards
he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on
his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso
spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the
time and opportunity - to practise imposture upon the British and
Austrian _millionaires_. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like
his countrymen , was a quack - but in the matter of old wines he was
sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially : I
was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely
whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the
carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with
excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore
motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head
was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see
him, that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him - "My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How
remarkably well you are looking to-day ! But I have received a pipe
of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."

"How ?" said he. "Amontillado ? A pipe ? Impossible ! And in
the middle of the carnival !"

"I have my doubts," I replied ; "and I was silly enough to pay
the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You
were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."

"Amontillado !"

"I have my doubts."

"Amontillado !"

"And I must satisfy them."

"Amontillado !"

"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any one has a
critical turn, it is he. He will tell me --"

"Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."

"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for
your own."

"Come, let us go."

"Whither ?"

"To your vaults."

"My friend, no ; I will not impose upon your good nature. I
perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi --"

"I have no engagement ; - come."

"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold
with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably
damp. They are encrusted with nitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing.
Amontillado ! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi, he
cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on
a mask of black silk, and drawing a _roquelaire_ closely about my
person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home ; they had absconded to make
merry in honor of the time. I had told them that I should not return
until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir
from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure
their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to
Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway
that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding
staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at
length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp
ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap
jingled as he strode.

"The pipe," said he.

"It is farther on," said I ; "but observe the white web-work
which gleams from these cavern walls."

He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs
that distilled the rheum of intoxication .

"Nitre ?" he asked, at length.

"Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that cough ?"

"Ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! - ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! - ugh ! ugh ! ugh !
- ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! - ugh ! ugh ! ugh !"

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.

"It is nothing," he said, at last.

"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back ; your health is
precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved ; you are
happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no
matter. We will go back ; you will be ill, and I cannot be
responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi --"

"Enough," he said ; "the cough is a mere nothing; it will not
kill me. I shall not die of a cough."

"True - true," I replied ; "and, indeed, I had no intention of
alarming you unnecessarily - but you should use all proper caution.
A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps."

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long
row of its fellows that lay upon the mould.

"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.

He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me
familiarly, while his bells jingled.

"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us."

"And I to your long life."

He again took my arm, and we proceeded.

"These vaults," he said, "are extensive."

"The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family."

"I forget your arms."

"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure ; the foot crushes a
serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."

"And the motto ?"

"_Nemo me impune lacessit_."

"Good !" he said.

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own
fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through walls of piled
bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost
recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold
to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.

"The nitre !" I said : "see, it increases. It hangs like moss
upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of
moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is
too late. Your cough --"

"It is nothing," he said ; "let us go on. But first, another
draught of the Medoc."

I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grâve. He emptied it at a
breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw
the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.

I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement - a
grotesque one.

"You do not comprehend ?" he said.

"Not I," I replied.

"Then you are not of the brotherhood."

"How ?"

"You are not of the masons."

"Yes, yes," I said, "yes, yes."

"You ? Impossible ! A mason ?"

"A mason," I replied.

"A sign," he said.

"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the
folds of my _roquelaire_.

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us
proceed to the Amontillado."

"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak, and
again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued
our route in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of
low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a
deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux
rather to glow than flame.

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less
spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the
vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.
Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this
manner. From the fourth the bones had been thrown down, and lay
promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some
size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones,
we perceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet, in
width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been
constructed for no especial use in itself, but formed merely the
interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the
catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of
solid granite.

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch,
endeavored to pry into the depths of the recess. Its termination the
feeble light did not enable us to see.

"Proceed," I said ; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchesi

"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped
unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an
instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his
progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment
more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two
iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally.
From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock.
Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few
seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist.
Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.

"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall ; you cannot help
feeling the nitre. Indeed it is _very_ damp. Once more let me
_implore_ you to return. No ? Then I must positively leave you.
But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power."

"The Amontillado !" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from
his astonishment.

"True," I replied ; "the Amontillado."

As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of
which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a
quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with
the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of
the niche.

I had scarcely laid the first tier of my masonry when I
discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure
worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning
cry from the depth of the recess. It was _not_ the cry of a drunken
man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second
tier, and the third, and the fourth ; and then I heard the furious
vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes,
during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction,
I ceased my labors and sat down upon the bones. When at last the
clanking subsided , I resumed the trowel, and finished without
interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall
was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and
holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays
upon the figure within.

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from
the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back.
For a brief moment I hesitated - I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier,
I began to grope with it about the recess : but the thought of an
instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the
catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall. I replied
to the yells of him who clamored. I re-echoed - I aided - I
surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the
clamorer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had
completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished
a portion of the last and the eleventh ; there remained but a
single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its
weight ; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now
there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon
my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in
recognising as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said -

"Ha ! ha ! ha ! - he ! he ! - a very good joke indeed - an
excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the
palazzo - he ! he ! he ! - over our wine - he ! he ! he !"

"The Amontillado !" I said.

"He ! he ! he ! - he ! he ! he ! - yes, the Amontillado. But
is it not getting late ? Will not they be awaiting us at the
palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest ? Let us be gone."

"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."

"_For the love of God, Montressor !_"

"Yes," I said, "for the love of God !"

But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew
impatient. I called aloud -

"Fortunato !"

No answer. I called again -

"Fortunato !"

No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture
and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling
of the bells. My heart grew sick - on account of the dampness of the
catacombs. I hastened to make an end of my labor. I forced the last
stone into its position ; I plastered it up. Against the new
masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a
century no mortal has disturbed them. _In pace requiescat !_

~~~ End of Text ~~~



IN THE consideration of the faculties and impulses -- of the prima
mobilia of the human soul, the phrenologists have failed to make room
for a propensity which, although obviously existing as a radical,
primitive, irreducible sentiment, has been equally overlooked by all
the moralists who have preceded them. In the pure arrogance of the
reason, we have all overlooked it. We have suffered its existence to
escape our senses, solely through want of belief -- of faith; --
whether it be faith in Revelation, or faith in the Kabbala. The idea
of it has never occurred to us, simply because of its supererogation.
We saw no need of the impulse -- for the propensity. We could not
perceive its necessity. We could not understand, that is to say, we
could not have understood, had the notion of this primum mobile ever
obtruded itself; -- we could not have understood in what manner it
might be made to further the objects of humanity, either temporal or
eternal. It cannot be denied that phrenology and, in great measure,
all metaphysicianism have been concocted a priori. The intellectual
or logical man, rather than the understanding or observant man, set
himself to imagine designs -- to dictate purposes to God. Having thus
fathomed, to his satisfaction, the intentions of Jehovah, out of
these intentions he built his innumerable systems of mind. In the
matter of phrenology, for example, we first determined, naturally
enough, that it was the design of the Deity that man should eat. We
then assigned to man an organ of alimentiveness, and this organ is
the scourge with which the Deity compels man, will-I nill-I, into
eating. Secondly, having settled it to be God's will that man should
continue his species, we discovered an organ of amativeness,
forthwith. And so with combativeness, with ideality, with causality,
with constructiveness, -- so, in short, with every organ, whether
representing a propensity, a moral sentiment, or a faculty of the
pure intellect. And in these arrangements of the Principia of human
action, the Spurzheimites, whether right or wrong, in part, or upon
the whole, have but followed, in principle, the footsteps of their
predecessors: deducing and establishing every thing from the
preconceived destiny of man, and upon the ground of the objects of
his Creator.

It would have been wiser, it would have been safer, to classify (if
classify we must) upon the basis of what man usually or occasionally
did, and was always occasionally doing, rather than upon the basis of
what we took it for granted the Deity intended him to do. If we
cannot comprehend God in his visible works, how then in his
inconceivable thoughts, that call the works into being? If we cannot
understand him in his objective creatures, how then in his
substantive moods and phases of creation?

Induction, a posteriori, would have brought phrenology to admit, as
an innate and primitive principle of human action, a paradoxical
something, which we may call perverseness, for want of a more
characteristic term. In the sense I intend, it is, in fact, a mobile
without motive, a motive not motivirt. Through its promptings we act
without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a
contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to
say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we
should not. In theory, no reason can be more unreasonable, but, in
fact, there is none more strong. With certain minds, under certain
conditions, it becomes absolutely irresistible. I am not more certain
that I breathe, than that the assurance of the wrong or error of any
action is often the one unconquerable force which impels us, and
alone impels us to its prosecution. Nor will this overwhelming
tendency to do wrong for the wrong's sake, admit of analysis, or
resolution into ulterior elements. It is a radical, a primitive
impulse-elementary. It will be said, I am aware, that when we persist
in acts because we feel we should not persist in them, our conduct is
but a modification of that which ordinarily springs from the
combativeness of phrenology. But a glance will show the fallacy of
this idea. The phrenological combativeness has for its essence, the
necessity of self-defence. It is our safeguard against injury. Its
principle regards our well-being; and thus the desire to be well is
excited simultaneously with its development. It follows, that the
desire to be well must be excited simultaneously with any principle
which shall be merely a modification of combativeness, but in the
case of that something which I term perverseness, the desire to be
well is not only not aroused, but a strongly antagonistical sentiment

An appeal to one's own heart is, after all, the best reply to the
sophistry just noticed. No one who trustingly consults and thoroughly
questions his own soul, will be disposed to deny the entire
radicalness of the propensity in question. It is not more
incomprehensible than distinctive. There lives no man who at some
period has not been tormented, for example, by an earnest desire to
tantalize a listener by circumlocution. The speaker is aware that he
displeases; he has every intention to please, he is usually curt,
precise, and clear, the most laconic and luminous language is
struggling for utterance upon his tongue, it is only with difficulty
that he restrains himself from giving it flow; he dreads and
deprecates the anger of him whom he addresses; yet, the thought
strikes him, that by certain involutions and parentheses this anger
may be engendered. That single thought is enough. The impulse
increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an
uncontrollable longing, and the longing (to the deep regret and
mortification of the speaker, and in defiance of all consequences) is

We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know
that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of
our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We
glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the
anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It
must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until
to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse,
using the word with no comprehension of the principle. To-morrow
arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but
with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a
positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This
craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action
is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the conflict within us,
-- of the definite with the indefinite -- of the substance with the
shadow. But, if the contest have proceeded thus far, it is the shadow
which prevails, -- we struggle in vain. The clock strikes, and is the
knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer -- note
to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies -- it disappears
-- we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it
is too late!

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss -- we
grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger.
Unaccountably we remain. By slow degrees our sickness and dizziness
and horror become merged in a cloud of unnamable feeling. By
gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as
did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the
Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice's edge,
there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any
genius or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although
a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with
the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of
what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a
fall from such a height. And this fall -- this rushing annihilation
-- for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and
loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and
suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination --
for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it. And because
our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore do we the
most impetuously approach it. There is no passion in nature so
demoniacally impatient, as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge
of a precipice, thus meditates a Plunge. To indulge, for a moment, in
any attempt at thought, is to be inevitably lost; for reflection but
urges us to forbear, and therefore it is, I say, that we cannot. If
there be no friendly arm to check us, or if we fail in a sudden
effort to prostrate ourselves backward from the abyss, we plunge, and
are destroyed.

Examine these similar actions as we will, we shall find them
resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them
because we feel that we should not. Beyond or behind this there is no
intelligible principle; and we might, indeed, deem this perverseness
a direct instigation of the Arch-Fiend, were it not occasionally
known to operate in furtherance of good.

I have said thus much, that in some measure I may answer your
question, that I may explain to you why I am here, that I may assign
to you something that shall have at least the faint aspect of a cause
for my wearing these fetters, and for my tenanting this cell of the
condemned. Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have
misunderstood me altogether, or, with the rabble, have fancied me
mad. As it is, you will easily perceive that I am one of the many
uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.

It is impossible that any deed could have been wrought with a more
thorough deliberation. For weeks, for months, I pondered upon the
means of the murder. I rejected a thousand schemes, because their
accomplishment involved a chance of detection. At length, in reading
some French Memoirs, I found an account of a nearly fatal illness
that occurred to Madame Pilau, through the agency of a candle
accidentally poisoned. The idea struck my fancy at once. I knew my
victim's habit of reading in bed. I knew, too, that his apartment was
narrow and ill-ventilated. But I need not vex you with impertinent
details. I need not describe the easy artifices by which I
substituted, in his bed-room candle-stand, a wax-light of my own
making for the one which I there found. The next morning he was
discovered dead in his bed, and the Coroner's verdict was -- "Death
by the visitation of God."

Having inherited his estate, all went well with me for years. The
idea of detection never once entered my brain. Of the remains of the
fatal taper I had myself carefully disposed. I had left no shadow of
a clew by which it would be possible to convict, or even to suspect
me of the crime. It is inconceivable how rich a sentiment of
satisfaction arose in my bosom as I reflected upon my absolute
security. For a very long period of time I was accustomed to revel in
this sentiment. It afforded me more real delight than all the mere
worldly advantages accruing from my sin. But there arrived at length
an epoch, from which the pleasurable feeling grew, by scarcely
perceptible gradations, into a haunting and harassing thought. It
harassed because it haunted. I could scarcely get rid of it for an
instant. It is quite a common thing to be thus annoyed with the
ringing in our ears, or rather in our memories, of the burthen of
some ordinary song, or some unimpressive snatches from an opera. Nor
will we be the less tormented if the song in itself be good, or the
opera air meritorious. In this manner, at last, I would perpetually
catch myself pondering upon my security, and repeating, in a low
undertone, the phrase, "I am safe."

One day, whilst sauntering along the streets, I arrested myself in
the act of murmuring, half aloud, these customary syllables. In a fit
of petulance, I remodelled them thus; "I am safe -- I am safe -- yes
-- if I be not fool enough to make open confession!"

No sooner had I spoken these words, than I felt an icy chill creep to
my heart. I had had some experience in these fits of perversity,
(whose nature I have been at some trouble to explain), and I
remembered well that in no instance I had successfully resisted their
attacks. And now my own casual self-suggestion that I might possibly
be fool enough to confess the murder of which I had been guilty,
confronted me, as if the very ghost of him whom I had murdered -- and
beckoned me on to death.

At first, I made an effort to shake off this nightmare of the soul. I
walked vigorously -- faster -- still faster -- at length I ran. I
felt a maddening desire to shriek aloud. Every succeeding wave of
thought overwhelmed me with new terror, for, alas! I well, too well
understood that to think, in my situation, was to be lost. I still
quickened my pace. I bounded like a madman through the crowded
thoroughfares. At length, the populace took the alarm, and pursued
me. I felt then the consummation of my fate. Could I have torn out my
tongue, I would have done it, but a rough voice resounded in my ears
-- a rougher grasp seized me by the shoulder. I turned -- I gasped
for breath. For a moment I experienced all the pangs of suffocation;
I became blind, and deaf, and giddy; and then some invisible fiend, I
thought, struck me with his broad palm upon the back. The long
imprisoned secret burst forth from my soul.

They say that I spoke with a distinct enunciation, but with marked
emphasis and passionate hurry, as if in dread of interruption before
concluding the brief, but pregnant sentences that consigned me to the
hangman and to hell.

Having related all that was necessary for the fullest judicial
conviction, I fell prostrate in a swoon.

But why shall I say more? To-day I wear these chains, and am here!
To-morrow I shall be fetterless! -- but where?

~~~ End of Text ~~~



Nullus enim locus sine genio est. -- _Servius_.

"LA MUSIQUE," says Marmontel, in those "Contes Moraux" {*1} which in
all our translations, we have insisted upon calling "Moral Tales," as
if in mockery of their spirit -- "la musique est le seul des talents
qui jouissent de lui-meme; tous les autres veulent des temoins." He
here confounds the pleasure derivable from sweet sounds with the
capacity for creating them. No more than any other talent, is that
for music susceptible of complete enjoyment, where there is no second
party to appreciate its exercise. And it is only in common with other
talents that it produces effects which may be fully enjoyed in
solitude. The idea which the raconteur has either failed to entertain
clearly, or has sacrificed in its expression to his national love of
point, is, doubtless, the very tenable one that the higher order of
music is the most thoroughly estimated when we are exclusively alone.
The proposition, in this form, will be admitted at once by those who
love the lyre for its own sake, and for its spiritual uses. But there
is one pleasure still within the reach of fallen mortality and
perhaps only one -- which owes even more than does music to the
accessory sentiment of seclusion. I mean the happiness experienced in
the contemplation of natural scenery. In truth, the man who would
behold aright the glory of God upon earth must in solitude behold
that glory. To me, at least, the presence -- not of human life only,
but of life in any other form than that of the green things which
grow upon the soil and are voiceless -- is a stain upon the landscape
-- is at war with the genius of the scene. I love, indeed, to regard
the dark valleys, and the gray rocks, and the waters that silently
smile, and the forests that sigh in uneasy slumbers, and the proud
watchful mountains that look down upon all, -- I love to regard these
as themselves but the colossal members of one vast animate and
sentient whole -- a whole whose form (that of the sphere) is the most
perfect and most inclusive of all; whose path is among associate
planets; whose meek handmaiden is the moon, whose mediate sovereign
is the sun; whose life is eternity, whose thought is that of a God;
whose enjoyment is knowledge; whose destinies are lost in immensity,
whose cognizance of ourselves is akin with our own cognizance of the
animalculae which infest the brain -- a being which we, in
consequence, regard as purely inanimate and material much in the same
manner as these animalculae must thus regard us.

Our telescopes and our mathematical investigations assure us on every
hand -- notwithstanding the cant of the more ignorant of the
priesthood -- that space, and therefore that bulk, is an important
consideration in the eyes of the Almighty. The cycles in which the
stars move are those best adapted for the evolution, without
collision, of the greatest possible number of bodies. The forms of
those bodies are accurately such as, within a given surface, to
include the greatest possible amount of matter; -- while the surfaces
themselves are so disposed as to accommodate a denser population than
could be accommodated on the same surfaces otherwise arranged. Nor is
it any argument against bulk being an object with God, that space
itself is infinite; for there may be an infinity of matter to fill
it. And since we see clearly that the endowment of matter with
vitality is a principle -- indeed, as far as our judgments extend,
the leading principle in the operations of Deity, -- it is scarcely
logical to imagine it confined to the regions of the minute, where we
daily trace it, and not extending to those of the august. As we find
cycle within cycle without end, -- yet all revolving around one
far-distant centre which is the God-head, may we not analogically
suppose in the same manner, life within life, the less within the
greater, and all within the Spirit Divine? In short, we are madly
erring, through self-esteem, in believing man, in either his temporal
or future destinies, to be of more moment in the universe than that
vast "clod of the valley" which he tills and contemns, and to which
he denies a soul for no more profound reason than that he does not
behold it in operation. {*2}

These fancies, and such as these, have always given to my meditations
among the mountains and the forests, by the rivers and the ocean, a
tinge of what the everyday world would not fail to term fantastic. My
wanderings amid such scenes have been many, and far-searching, and
often solitary; and the interest with which I have strayed through
many a dim, deep valley, or gazed into the reflected Heaven of many a
bright lake, has been an interest greatly deepened by the thought
that I have strayed and gazed alone. What flippant Frenchman was it
who said in allusion to the well-known work of Zimmerman, that, "la
solitude est une belle chose; mais il faut quelqu'un pour vous dire
que la solitude est une belle chose?" The epigram cannot be
gainsayed; but the necessity is a thing that does not exist.

It was during one of my lonely journeyings, amid a far distant region
of mountain locked within mountain, and sad rivers and melancholy
tarn writhing or sleeping within all -- that I chanced upon a certain
rivulet and island. I came upon them suddenly in the leafy June, and
threw myself upon the turf, beneath the branches of an unknown
odorous shrub, that I might doze as I contemplated the scene. I felt
that thus only should I look upon it -- such was the character of
phantasm which it wore.

On all sides -- save to the west, where the sun was about sinking --
arose the verdant walls of the forest. The little river which turned
sharply in its course, and was thus immediately lost to sight, seemed
to have no exit from its prison, but to be absorbed by the deep green
foliage of the trees to the east -- while in the opposite quarter (so
it appeared to me as I lay at length and glanced upward) there poured
down noiselessly and continuously into the valley, a rich golden and
crimson waterfall from the sunset fountains of the sky.

About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took in, one
small circular island, profusely verdured, reposed upon the bosom of
the stream.

So blended bank and shadow there

That each seemed pendulous in air -- so mirror-like was the glassy
water, that it was scarcely possible to say at what point upon the
slope of the emerald turf its crystal dominion began.

My position enabled me to include in a single view both the eastern
and western extremities of the islet; and I observed a
singularly-marked difference in their aspects. The latter was all one
radiant harem of garden beauties. It glowed and blushed beneath the
eyes of the slant sunlight, and fairly laughed with flowers. The
grass was short, springy, sweet-scented, and Asphodel-interspersed.
The trees were lithe, mirthful, erect -- bright, slender, and
graceful, -- of eastern figure and foliage, with bark smooth, glossy,
and parti-colored. There seemed a deep sense of life and joy about
all; and although no airs blew from out the heavens, yet every thing
had motion through the gentle sweepings to and fro of innumerable
butterflies, that might have been mistaken for tulips with wings.

The other or eastern end of the isle was whelmed in the blackest
shade. A sombre, yet beautiful and peaceful gloom here pervaded all
things. The trees were dark in color, and mournful in form and
attitude, wreathing themselves into sad, solemn, and spectral shapes
that conveyed ideas of mortal sorrow and untimely death. The grass
wore the deep tint of the cypress, and the heads of its blades hung
droopingly, and hither and thither among it were many small unsightly
hillocks, low and narrow, and not very long, that had the aspect of
graves, but were not; although over and all about them the rue and
the rosemary clambered. The shade of the trees fell heavily upon the
water, and seemed to bury itself therein, impregnating the depths of
the element with darkness. I fancied that each shadow, as the sun
descended lower and lower, separated itself sullenly from the trunk
that gave it birth, and thus became absorbed by the stream; while
other shadows issued momently from the trees, taking the place of
their predecessors thus entombed.

This idea, having once seized upon my fancy, greatly excited it, and
I lost myself forthwith in revery. "If ever island were enchanted,"
said I to myself, "this is it. This is the haunt of the few gentle
Fays who remain from the wreck of the race. Are these green tombs
theirs? -- or do they yield up their sweet lives as mankind yield up
their own? In dying, do they not rather waste away mournfully,
rendering unto God, little by little, their existence, as these trees
render up shadow after shadow, exhausting their substance unto
dissolution? What the wasting tree is to the water that imbibes its
shade, growing thus blacker by what it preys upon, may not the life
of the Fay be to the death which engulfs it?"

As I thus mused, with half-shut eyes, while the sun sank rapidly to
rest, and eddying currents careered round and round the island,
bearing upon their bosom large, dazzling, white flakes of the bark of
the sycamore-flakes which, in their multiform positions upon the
water, a quick imagination might have converted into any thing it
pleased, while I thus mused, it appeared to me that the form of one
of those very Fays about whom I had been pondering made its way
slowly into the darkness from out the light at the western end of the
island. She stood erect in a singularly fragile canoe, and urged it
with the mere phantom of an oar. While within the influence of the
lingering sunbeams, her attitude seemed indicative of joy -- but
sorrow deformed it as she passed within the shade. Slowly she glided
along, and at length rounded the islet and re-entered the region of
light. "The revolution which has just been made by the Fay,"
continued I, musingly, "is the cycle of the brief year of her life.
She has floated through her winter and through her summer. She is a
year nearer unto Death; for I did not fail to see that, as she came
into the shade, her shadow fell from her, and was swallowed up in the
dark water, making its blackness more black."

And again the boat appeared and the Fay, but about the attitude of
the latter there was more of care and uncertainty and less of elastic
joy. She floated again from out the light and into the gloom (which
deepened momently) and again her shadow fell from her into the ebony
water, and became absorbed into its blackness. And again and again
she made the circuit of the island, (while the sun rushed down to his
slumbers), and at each issuing into the light there was more sorrow
about her person, while it grew feebler and far fainter and more
indistinct, and at each passage into the gloom there fell from her a
darker shade, which became whelmed in a shadow more black. But at
length when the sun had utterly departed, the Fay, now the mere ghost
of her former self, went disconsolately with her boat into the region
of the ebony flood, and that she issued thence at all I cannot say,
for darkness fell over an things and I beheld her magical figure no

~~~ End of Text ~~~



Stay for me there ! I will not fail.
To meet thee in that hollow vale.

[_Exequy on the death of his wife, by Henry King, Bishop of

ILL-FATED and mysterious man ! - bewildered in the brilliancy of
thine own imagination, and fallen in the flames of thine own youth !
Again in fancy I behold thee ! Once more thy form hath risen before
me ! - not - oh not as thou art - in the cold valley and shadow -
but as thou _shouldst be_ - squandering away a life of magnificent
meditation in that city of dim visions, thine own Venice - which is a
star-beloved Elysium of the sea, and the wide windows of whose
Palladian palaces look down with a deep and bitter meaning upon the
secrets of her silent waters. Yes ! I repeat it - as thou _shouldst
be_. There are surely other worlds than this - other thoughts than
the thoughts of the multitude - other speculations than the
speculations of the sophist. Who then shall call thy conduct into
question ? who blame thee for thy visionary hours, or denounce
those occupations as a wasting away of life, which were but the
overflowings of thine everlasting energies ?

It was at Venice, beneath the covered archway there called the
_Ponte di Sospiri_, that I met for the third or fourth time the
person of whom I speak. It is with a confused recollection that I
bring to mind the circumstances of that meeting. Yet I remember - ah
! how should I forget ? - the deep midnight, the Bridge of Sighs,
the beauty of woman, and the Genius of Romance that stalked up and
down the narrow canal.

It was a night of unusual gloom. The great clock of the Piazza
had sounded the fifth hour of the Italian evening. The square of the
Campanile lay silent and deserted, and the lights in the old Ducal
Palace were dying fast away. I was returning home from the Piazetta,
by way of the Grand Canal. But as my gondola arrived opposite the
mouth of the canal San Marco, a female voice from its recesses broke
suddenly upon the night, in one wild, hysterical, and long continued
shriek. Startled at the sound, I sprang upon my feet : while the
gondolier, letting slip his single oar, lost it in the pitchy
darkness beyond a chance of recovery, and we were consequently left
to the guidance of the current which here sets from the greater into
the smaller channel. Like some huge and sable-feathered condor, we
were slowly drifting down towards the Bridge of Sighs, when a
thousand flambeaux flashing from the windows, and down the staircases
of the Ducal Palace, turned all at once that deep gloom into a livid
and preternatural day.

A child, slipping from the arms of its own mother, had fallen from
an upper window of the lofty structure into the deep and dim canal.
The quiet waters had closed placidly over their victim ; and,
although my own gondola was the only one in sight, many a stout
swimmer, already in the stream, was seeking in vain upon the surface,
the treasure which was to be found, alas ! only within the abyss.
Upon the broad black marble flagstones at the entrance of the palace,
and a few steps above the water, stood a figure which none who then
saw can have ever since forgotten. It was the Marchesa Aphrodite -
the adoration of all Venice - the gayest of the gay - the most lovely
where all were beautiful - but still the young wife of the old and
intriguing Mentoni, and the mother of that fair child, her first and
only one, who now, deep beneath the murky water, was thinking in
bitterness of heart upon her sweet caresses, and exhausting its
little life in struggles to call upon her name.

She stood alone. Her small, bare, and silvery feet gleamed in the
black mirror of marble beneath her. Her hair, not as yet more than
half loosened for the night from its ball-room array, clustered, amid
a shower of diamonds, round and round her classical head, in curls
like those of the young hyacinth. A snowy-white and gauze-like
drapery seemed to be nearly the sole covering to her delicate form ;
but the mid-summer and midnight air was hot, sullen, and still, and
no motion in the statue-like form itself, stirred even the folds of
that raiment of very vapor which hung around it as the heavy marble
hangs around the Niobe. Yet - strange to say ! - her large lustrous
eyes were not turned downwards upon that grave wherein her brightest
hope lay buried - but riveted in a widely different direction ! The
prison of the Old Republic is, I think, the stateliest building in
all Venice - but how could that lady gaze so fixedly upon it, when
beneath her lay stifling her only child ? Yon dark, gloomy niche,
too, yawns right opposite her chamber window - what, then, _could_
there be in its shadows - in its architecture - in its ivy-wreathed
and solemn cornices - that the Marchesa di Mentoni had not wondered
at a thousand times before ? Nonsense ! - Who does not remember
that, at such a time as this, the eye, like a shattered mirror,
multiplies the images of its sorrow, and sees in innumerable far-off
places, the wo which is close at hand ?

Many steps above the Marchesa, and within the arch of the
water-gate, stood, in full dress, the Satyr-like figure of Mentoni
himself. He was occasionally occupied in thrumming a guitar, and
seemed _ennuye_ to the very death, as at intervals he gave directions
for the recovery of his child. Stupified and aghast, I had myself no
power to move from the upright position I had assumed upon first
hearing the shriek, and must have presented to the eyes of the
agitated group a spectral and ominous appearance, as with pale
countenance and rigid limbs, I floated down among them in that
funereal gondola.

All efforts proved in vain. Many of the most energetic in the
search were relaxing their exertions, and yielding to a gloomy
sorrow. There seemed but little hope for the child ; (how much less
than for the mother ! ) but now, from the interior of that dark
niche which has been already mentioned as forming a part of the Old
Republican prison, and as fronting the lattice of the Marchesa, a
figure muffled in a cloak, stepped out within reach of the light,
and, pausing a moment upon the verge of the giddy descent, plunged
headlong into the canal. As, in an instant afterwards, he stood with
the still living and breathing child within his grasp, upon the
marble flagstones by the side of the Marchesa, his cloak, heavy with
the drenching water, became unfastened, and, falling in folds about
his feet, discovered to the wonder-stricken spectators the graceful
person of a very young man, with the sound of whose name the greater
part of Europe was then ringing.

No word spoke the deliverer. But the Marchesa ! She will now
receive her child - she will press it to her heart - she will cling
to its little form, and smother it with her caresses. Alas !
_another's_ arms have taken it from the stranger - _another's_ arms
have taken it away, and borne it afar off, unnoticed, into the palace
! And the Marchesa ! Her lip - her beautiful lip trembles : tears
are gathering in her eyes - those eyes which, like Pliny's acanthus,
are "soft and almost liquid." Yes ! tears are gathering in those
eyes - and see ! the entire woman thrills throughout the soul, and
the statue has started into life ! The pallor of the marble
countenance, the swelling of the marble bosom, the very purity of the
marble feet, we behold suddenly flushed over with a tide of
ungovernable crimson ; and a slight shudder quivers about her
delicate frame, as a gentle air at Napoli about the rich silver
lilies in the grass.

Why _should_ that lady blush ! To this demand there is no answer
- except that, having left, in the eager haste and terror of a
mother's heart, the privacy of her own _boudoir_, she has neglected
to enthral her tiny feet in their slippers, and utterly forgotten to
throw over her Venetian shoulders that drapery which is their due.
What other possible reason could there have been for her so blushing
? - for the glance of those wild appealing eyes ? for the unusual
tumult of that throbbing bosom ? - for the convulsive pressure of
that trembling hand ? - that hand which fell, as Mentoni turned into
the palace, accidentally, upon the hand of the stranger. What reason
could there have been for the low - the singularly low tone of those
unmeaning words which the lady uttered hurriedly in bidding him adieu
? "Thou hast conquered," she said, or the murmurs of the water
deceived me ; "thou hast conquered - one hour after sunrise - we
shall meet - so let it be !"

* * * * * * *

The tumult had subsided, the lights had died away within the
palace, and the stranger, whom I now recognized, stood alone upon the
flags. He shook with inconceivable agitation, and his eye glanced
around in search of a gondola. I could not do less than offer him
the service of my own ; and he accepted the civility. Having
obtained an oar at the water-gate, we proceeded together to his
residence, while he rapidly recovered his self-possession, and spoke
of our former slight acquaintance in terms of great apparent

There are some subjects upon which I take pleasure in being
minute. The person of the stranger - let me call him by this title,
who to all the world was still a stranger - the person of the
stranger is one of these subjects. In height he might have been
below rather than above the medium size : although there were
moments of intense passion when his frame actually _expanded_ and
belied the assertion. The light, almost slender symmetry of his
figure, promised more of that ready activity which he evinced at the
Bridge of Sighs, than of that Herculean strength which he has been
known to wield without an effort, upon occasions of more dangerous
emergency. With the mouth and chin of a deity - singular, wild,
full, liquid eyes, whose shadows varied from pure hazel to intense
and brilliant jet - and a profusion of curling, black hair, from
which a forehead of unusual breadth gleamed forth at intervals all
light and ivory - his were features than which I have seen none more
classically regular, except, perhaps, the marble ones of the Emperor
Commodus. Yet his countenance was, nevertheless, one of those which
all men have seen at some period of their lives, and have never
afterwards seen again. It had no peculiar - it had no settled
predominant expression to be fastened upon the memory ; a
countenance seen and instantly forgotten - but forgotten with a vague
and never-ceasing desire of recalling it to mind. Not that the
spirit of each rapid passion failed, at any time, to throw its own
distinct image upon the mirror of that face - but that the mirror,
mirror-like, retained no vestige of the passion, when the passion had

Upon leaving him on the night of our adventure, he solicited me,
in what I thought an urgent manner, to call upon him _very_ early the
next morning. Shortly after sunrise, I found myself accordingly at
his Palazzo, one of those huge structures of gloomy, yet fantastic
pomp, which tower above the waters of the Grand Canal in the vicinity
of the Rialto. I was shown up a broad winding staircase of mosaics,
into an apartment whose unparalleled splendor burst through the
opening door with an actual glare, making me blind and dizzy with

I knew my acquaintance to be wealthy. Report had spoken of his
possessions in terms which I had even ventured to call terms of
ridiculous exaggeration. But as I gazed about me, I could not bring
myself to believe that the wealth of any subject in Europe could have
supplied the princely magnificence which burned and blazed around.

Although, as I say, the sun had arisen, yet the room was still
brilliantly lighted up. I judge from this circumstance, as well as
from an air of exhaustion in the countenance of my friend, that he
had not retired to bed during the whole of the preceding night. In
the architecture and embellishments of the chamber, the evident
design had been to dazzle and astound. Little attention had been
paid to the _decora_ of what is technically called _keeping_, or to
the proprieties of nationality. The eye wandered from object to
object, and rested upon none - neither the _grotesques_ of the Greek
painters, nor the sculptures of the best Italian days, nor the huge
carvings of untutored Egypt. Rich draperies in every part of the
room trembled to the vibration of low, melancholy music, whose origin
was not to be discovered. The senses were oppressed by mingled and
conflicting perfumes, reeking up from strange convolute censers,
together with multitudinous flaring and flickering tongues of emerald
and violet fire. The rays of the newly risen sun poured in upon the
whole, through windows, formed each of a single pane of
crimson-tinted glass. Glancing to and fro, in a thousand
reflections, from curtains which rolled from their cornices like
cataracts of molten silver, the beams of natural glory mingled at
length fitfully with the artificial light, and lay weltering in
subdued masses upon a carpet of rich, liquid-looking cloth of Chili

"Ha ! ha ! ha ! - ha ! ha ! ha ! " - laughed the proprietor,
motioning me to a seat as I entered the room, and throwing himself
back at full-length upon an ottoman. "I see," said he, perceiving
that I could not immediately reconcile myself to the _bienseance_ of
so singular a welcome - "I see you are astonished at my apartment -
at my statues - my pictures - my originality of conception in
architecture and upholstery ! absolutely drunk, eh, with my
magnificence ? But pardon me, my dear sir, (here his tone of voice
dropped to the very spirit of cordiality,) pardon me for my
uncharitable laughter. You appeared so _utterly_ astonished.
Besides, some things are so completely ludicrous, that a man _must_
laugh or die. To die laughing, must be the most glorious of all
glorious deaths ! Sir Thomas More - a very fine man was Sir Thomas
More - Sir Thomas More died laughing, you remember. Also in the
_Absurdities_ of Ravisius Textor, there is a long list of characters
who came to the same magnificent end. Do you know, however,"
continued he musingly, "that at Sparta (which is now Palæ ; ochori,)
at Sparta, I say, to the west of the citadel, among a chaos of
scarcely visible ruins, is a kind of _socle_, upon which are still
legible the letters 7!=9 . They are undoubtedly part of '+7!=9! .
Now, at Sparta were a thousand temples and shrines to a thousand
different divinities. How exceedingly strange that the altar of
Laughter should have survived all the others ! But in the present
instance," he resumed, with a singular alteration of voice and
manner, "I have no right to be merry at your expense. You might well
have been amazed. Europe cannot produce anything so fine as this, my
little regal cabinet. My other apartments are by no means of the
same order - mere _ultras_ of fashionable insipidity. This is better
than fashion - is it not ? Yet this has but to be seen to become the
rage - that is, with those who could afford it at the cost of their
entire patrimony. I have guarded, however, against any such
profanation. With one exception, you are the only human being besides
myself and my _valet_, who has been admitted within the mysteries of
these imperial precincts, since they have been bedizzened as you see

I bowed in acknowledgment - for the overpowering sense of splendor
and perfume, and music, together with the unexpected eccentricity of
his address and manner, prevented me from expressing, in words, my
appreciation of what I might have construed into a compliment.

"Here," he resumed, arising and leaning on my arm as he sauntered
around the apartment, "here are paintings from the Greeks to Cimabue,
and from Cimabue to the present hour. Many are chosen, as you see,
with little deference to the opinions of Virtu. They are all,
however, fitting tapestry for a chamber such as this. Here, too, are
some _chefs d'œuvre_ of the unknown great ; and here, unfinished
designs by men, celebrated in their day, whose very names the
perspicacity of the academies has left to silence and to me. What
think you," said he, turning abruptly as he spoke - "what think you
of this Madonna della Pieta ?"

"It is Guido's own ! " I said, with all the enthusiasm of my
nature, for I had been poring intently over its surpassing
loveliness. "It is Guido's own ! - how _could_ you have obtained it
? - she is undoubtedly in painting what the Venus is in sculpture."

"Ha ! " said he thoughtfully, "the Venus - the beautiful Venus ?
- the Venus of the Medici ? - she of the diminutive head and the
gilded hair ? Part of the left arm (here his voice dropped so as to
be heard with difficulty,) and all the right, are restorations ; and
in the coquetry of that right arm lies, I think, the quintessence of
all affectation. Give _me_ the Canova ! The Apollo, too, is a copy
- there can be no doubt of it - blind fool that I am, who cannot
behold the boasted inspiration of the Apollo ! I cannot help - pity
me ! - I cannot help preferring the Antinous. Was it not Socrates
who said that the statuary found his statue in the block of marble ?
Then Michael Angelo was by no means original in his couplet -

'Non ha l'ottimo artista alcun concetto
Che un marmo solo in se non circunscriva.' "

It has been, or should be remarked, that, in the manner of the
true gentleman, we are always aware of a difference from the bearing
of the vulgar, without being at once precisely able to determine in
what such difference consists. Allowing the remark to have applied
in its full force to the outward demeanor of my acquaintance, I felt
it, on that eventful morning, still more fully applicable to his
moral temperament and character. Nor can I better define that
peculiarity of spirit which seemed to place him so essentially apart
from all other human beings, than by calling it a _habit_ of intense
and continual thought, pervading even his most trivial actions -
intruding upon his moments of dalliance - and interweaving itself
with his very flashes of merriment - like adders which writhe from
out the eyes of the grinning masks in the cornices around the temples
of Persepolis.

I could not help, however, repeatedly observing, through the
mingled tone of levity and solemnity with which he rapidly descanted
upon matters of little importance, a certain air of trepidation - a
degree of nervous _unction_ in action and in speech - an unquiet
excitability of manner which appeared to me at all times
unaccountable, and upon some occasions even filled me with alarm.
Frequently, too, pausing in the middle of a sentence whose
commencement he had apparently forgotten, he seemed to be listening
in the deepest attention, as if either in momentary expectation of a
visiter, or to sounds which must have had existence in his
imagination alone.

It was during one of these reveries or pauses of apparent
abstraction, that, in turning over a page of the poet and scholar
Politian's beautiful tragedy "The Orfeo," (the first native Italian
tragedy,) which lay near me upon an ottoman, I discovered a passage
underlined in pencil. It was a passage towards the end of the third
act - a passage of the most heart-stirring excitement - a passage
which, although tainted with impurity, no man shall read without a
thrill of novel emotion - no woman without a sigh. The whole page
was blotted with fresh tears ; and, upon the opposite interleaf,
were the following English lines, written in a hand so very different
from the peculiar characters of my acquaintance, that I had some
difficulty in recognising it as his own : -

Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine -
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers ;
And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, dream too bright to last !
Ah, starry Hope, that didst arise
But to be overcast !
A voice from out the Future cries,
"Onward ! " - but o'er the Past
(Dim gulf ! ) my spirit hovering lies,
Mute - motionless - aghast !
For alas ! alas ! with me
The light of life is o'er.
"No more - no more - no more,"
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore,)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree,
Or the stricken eagle soar !
Now all my hours are trances ;
And all my nightly dreams
Are where the dark eye glances,
And where thy footstep gleams,
In what ethereal dances,
By what Italian streams.
Alas ! for that accursed time
They bore thee o'er the billow,
From Love to titled age and crime,
And an unholy pillow ! -
From me, and from our misty clime,
Where weeps the silver willow !

That these lines were written in English - a language with which I
had not believed their author acquainted - afforded me little matter
for surprise. I was too well aware of the extent of his
acquirements, and of the singular pleasure he took in concealing them
from observation, to be astonished at any similar discovery ; but
the place of date, I must confess, occasioned me no little amazement.
It had been originally written _London_, and afterwards carefully
overscored - not, however, so effectually as to conceal the word from
a scrutinizing eye. I say, this occasioned me no little amazement ;
for I well remember that, in a former conversation with a friend, I
particularly inquired if he had at any time met in London the
Marchesa di Mentoni, (who for some years previous to her marriage had
resided in that city,) when his answer, if I mistake not, gave me to
understand that he had never visited the metropolis of Great Britain.
I might as well here mention, that I have more than once heard,
(without, of course, giving credit to a report involving so many
improbabilities,) that the person of whom I speak, was not only by
birth, but in education, an _Englishman_.

* * * * * * * * *

"There is one painting," said he, without being aware of my notice
of the tragedy - "there is still one painting which you have not
seen." And throwing aside a drapery, he discovered a full-length
portrait of the Marchesa Aphrodite.

Human art could have done no more in the delineation of her
superhuman beauty. The same ethereal figure which stood before me
the preceding night upon the steps of the Ducal Palace, stood before
me once again. But in the expression of the countenance, which was
beaming all over with smiles, there still lurked (incomprehensible
anomaly !) that fitful stain of melancholy which will ever be found
inseparable from the perfection of the beautiful. Her right arm lay
folded over her bosom. With her left she pointed downward to a
curiously fashioned vase. One small, fairy foot, alone visible,
barely touched the earth ; and, scarcely discernible in the
brilliant atmosphere which seemed to encircle and enshrine her
loveliness, floated a pair of the most delicately imagined wings. My
glance fell from the painting to the figure of my friend, and the
vigorous words of Chapman's _Bussy D'Ambois_, quivered instinctively
upon my lips :

"He is up
There like a Roman statue ! He will stand
Till Death hath made him marble !"

"Come," he said at length, turning towards a table of richly
enamelled and massive silver, upon which were a few goblets
fantastically stained, together with two large Etruscan vases,
fashioned in the same extraordinary model as that in the foreground
of the portrait, and filled with what I supposed to be
Johannisberger. "Come," he said, abruptly, "let us drink ! It is
early - but let us drink. It is _indeed_ early," he continued,
musingly, as a cherub with a heavy golden hammer made the apartment
ring with the first hour after sunrise : "It is _indeed_ early - but
what matters it ? let us drink ! Let us pour out an offering to yon
solemn sun which these gaudy lamps and censers are so eager to subdue
!" And, having made me pledge him in a bumper, he swallowed in rapid
succession several goblets of the wine.

"To dream," he continued, resuming the tone of his desultory
conversation, as he held up to the rich light of a censer one of the
magnificent vases - "to dream has been the business of my life. I
have therefore framed for myself, as you see, a bower of dreams. In
the heart of Venice could I have erected a better ? You behold
around you, it is true, a medley of architectural embellishments. The
chastity of Ionia is offended by antediluvian devices, and the
sphynxes of Egypt are outstretched upon carpets of gold. Yet the
effect is incongruous to the timid alone. Proprieties of place, and
especially of time, are the bugbears which terrify mankind from the
contemplation of the magnificent. Once I was myself a decorist ; but
that sublimation of folly has palled upon my soul. All this is now
the fitter for my purpose. Like these arabesque censers, my spirit
is writhing in fire, and the delirium of this scene is fashioning me
for the wilder visions of that land of real dreams whither I am now
rapidly departing." He here paused abruptly, bent his head to his
bosom, and seemed to listen to a sound which I could not hear. At
length, erecting his frame, he looked upwards, and ejaculated the
lines of the Bishop of Chichester :

_"Stay for me there ! I will not fail_
_To meet thee in that hollow vale."_

In the next instant, confessing the power of the wine, he threw
himself at full-length upon an ottoman.

A quick step was now heard upon the staircase, and a loud knock at
the door rapidly succeeded. I was hastening to anticipate a second
disturbance, when a page of Mentoni's household burst into the room,
and faltered out, in a voice choking with emotion, the incoherent
words, "My mistress ! - my mistress ! - Poisoned ! - poisoned !
Oh, beautiful - oh, beautiful Aphrodite !"

Bewildered, I flew to the ottoman, and endeavored to arouse the
sleeper to a sense of the startling intelligence. But his limbs were
rigid - his lips were livid - his lately beaming eyes were riveted in
_death_. I staggered back towards the table - my hand fell upon a
cracked and blackened goblet - and a consciousness of the entire and
terrible truth flashed suddenly over my soul.

~~~ End of Text ~~~



Impia tortorum longos hic turba furores
Sanguinis innocui, non satiata, aluit.
Sospite nunc patria, fracto nunc funeris antro,
Mors ubi dira fuit vita salusque patent.

[_Quatrain composed for the gates of a market to he erected upon the
site of the Jacobin Club House at Paris_.]

I WAS sick -- sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at
length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses
were leaving me. The sentence -- the dread sentence of death -- was
the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears. After that,
the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy
indeterminate hum. It conveyed to my soul the idea of revolution --
perhaps from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill wheel.
This only for a brief period; for presently I heard no more. Yet, for
a while, I saw; but with how terrible an exaggeration! I saw the lips
of the black-robed judges. They appeared to me white -- whiter than
the sheet upon which I trace these words -- and thin even to
grotesqueness; thin with the intensity of their expression of
firmness -- of immoveable resolution -- of stern contempt of human
torture. I saw that the decrees of what to me was Fate, were still
issuing from those lips. I saw them writhe with a deadly locution. I
saw them fashion the syllables of my name; and I shuddered because no
sound succeeded. I saw, too, for a few moments of delirious horror,
the soft and nearly imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which
enwrapped the walls of the apartment. And then my vision fell upon
the seven tall candles upon the table. At first they wore the aspect
of charity, and seemed white and slender angels who would save me;
but then, all at once, there came a most deadly nausea over my
spirit, and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had touched
the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel forms became
meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and I saw that from them
there would be no help. And then there stole into my fancy, like a
rich musical note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in
the grave. The thought came gently and stealthily, and it seemed long
before it attained full appreciation; but just as my spirit came at
length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges
vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into
nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness
supervened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing
descent as of the soul into Hades. Then silence, and stillness, night
were the universe.

I had swooned; but still will not say that all of consciousness was
lost. What of it there remained I will not attempt to define, or even
to describe; yet all was not lost. In the deepest slumber -- no! In
delirium -- no! In a swoon -- no! In death -- no! even in the grave
all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for man. Arousing from
the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some
dream. Yet in a second afterward, (so frail may that web have been)
we remember not that we have dreamed. In the return to life from the
swoon there are two stages; first, that of the sense of mental or
spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical, existence. It
seems probable that if, upon reaching the second stage, we could
recall the impressions of the first, we should find these impressions
eloquent in memories of the gulf beyond. And that gulf is -- what?
How at least shall we distinguish its shadows from those of the tomb?
But if the impressions of what I have termed the first stage, are
not, at will, recalled, yet, after long interval, do they not come
unbidden, while we marvel whence they come? He who has never swooned,
is not he who finds strange palaces and wildly familiar faces in
coals that glow; is not he who beholds floating in mid-air the sad
visions that the many may not view; is not he who ponders over the
perfume of some novel flower -- is not he whose brain grows
bewildered with the meaning of some musical cadence which has never
before arrested his attention.

Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavors to remember; amid earnest
struggles to regather some token of the state of seeming nothingness
into which my soul had lapsed, there have been moments when I have
dreamed of success; there have been brief, very brief periods when I
have conjured up remembrances which the lucid reason of a later epoch
assures me could have had reference only to that condition of seeming
unconsciousness. These shadows of memory tell, indistinctly, of tall
figures that lifted and bore me in silence down -- down -- still down
-- till a hideous dizziness oppressed me at the mere idea of the
interminableness of the descent. They tell also of a vague horror at
my heart, on account of that heart's unnatural stillness. Then comes
a sense of sudden motionlessness throughout all things; as if those
who bore me (a ghastly train!) had outrun, in their descent, the
limits of the limitless, and paused from the wearisomeness of their

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