Globalization Poverty Development Sustainability
It seems to me that imagination and reasoning have reached magnificent heights with some writers, especially poets. Among them, I strongly believe, the highest ever was Edgar Allan Poe. With Baudelaire I state that "le poete est souverainement intelligent, qu'il est l'intelligence par excellence, -et que l'imagination est la plus scientifique des facultes, parce que seule elle comprend l'analogie universelle...". One of those poets was Edgar Allan Poe. I reproduce here "The Works of Edgar Allan Poe" as a gesture against what Baudelaire called "la ferocite de l'hypocrisie bourgeoise", and what I personally call mediocrity, imbecility, and comprehensive intellectual dishonesty, all of which is presented as "realistic thinking". And, as we know, contemporary development studies are full of  "realistic thinking". So, let us learn something from Edgar Allan Poe!.  (Róbinson Rojas)
The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe V. 1
Volume 1 of the Raven Edition  #6 in our series by Edgar Allan Poe

VOLUME II  Contents
The Purloined Letter
The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherezade
A Descent into the Maelström
Von Kempelen and his Discovery
Mesmeric Revelation
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
The Black Cat
The Fall of the House of Usher
Silence -- a Fable
The Masque of the Red Death
The Cask of Amontillado
The Imp of the Perverse
The Island of the Fay
The Assignation
The Pit and the Pendulum
The Premature Burial
The Domain of Arnheim
Landor's Cottage
William Wilson
The Tell-Tale Heart
Eleonora                                       BACK TO MAIN INDEX
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
toil. After this I call to mind flatness and dampness; and then all
is madness -- the madness of a memory which busies itself among
forbidden things.
Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion and sound -- the
tumultuous motion of the heart, and, in my ears, the sound of its
beating. Then a pause in which all is blank. Then again sound, and
motion, and touch -- a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then
the mere consciousness of existence, without thought -- a condition
which lasted long. Then, very suddenly, thought, and shuddering
terror, and earnest endeavor to comprehend my true state. Then a
strong desire to lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of
soul and a successful effort to move. And now a full memory of the
trial, of the judges, of the sable draperies, of the sentence, of the
sickness, of the swoon. Then entire forgetfulness of all that
followed; of all that a later day and much earnestness of endeavor
have enabled me vaguely to recall.
So far, I had not opened my eyes. I felt that I lay upon my back,
unbound. I reached out my hand, and it fell heavily upon something
damp and hard. There I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while
I strove to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet dared
not to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around
me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I
grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see. At length, with a
wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst
thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness of eternal night
encompassed me. I struggled for breath. The intensity of the darkness
seemed to oppress and stifle me. The atmosphere was intolerably
close. I still lay quietly, and made effort to exercise my reason. I
brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and attempted from
that point to deduce my real condition. The sentence had passed; and
it appeared to me that a very long interval of time had since
elapsed. Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead.
Such a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, is
altogether inconsistent with real existence; -- but where and in what
state was I? The condemned to death, I knew, perished usually at the
autos-da-fe, and one of these had been held on the very night of the
day of my trial. Had I been remanded to my dungeon, to await the next
sacrifice, which would not take place for many months? This I at once
saw could not be. Victims had been in immediate demand. Moreover, my
dungeon, as well as all the condemned cells at Toledo, had stone
floors, and light was not altogether excluded.
A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in torrents upon my
heart, and for a brief period, I once more relapsed into
insensibility. Upon recovering, I at once started to my feet,
trembling convulsively in every fibre. I thrust my arms wildly above
and around me in all directions. I felt nothing; yet dreaded to move
a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls of a tomb. Perspiration
burst from every pore, and stood in cold big beads upon my forehead.
The agony of suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously
moved forward, with my arms extended, and my eyes straining from
their sockets, in the hope of catching some faint ray of light. I
proceeded for many paces; but still all was blackness and vacancy. I
breathed more freely. It seemed evident that mine was not, at least,
the most hideous of fates.
And now, as I still continued to step cautiously onward, there came
thronging upon my recollection a thousand vague rumors of the horrors
of Toledo. Of the dungeons there had been strange things narrated --
fables I had always deemed them -- but yet strange, and too ghastly
to repeat, save in a whisper. Was I left to perish of starvation in
this subterranean world of darkness; or what fate, perhaps even more
fearful, awaited me? That the result would be death, and a death of
more than customary bitterness, I knew too well the character of my
judges to doubt. The mode and the hour were all that occupied or
distracted me.
My outstretched hands at length encountered some solid obstruction.
It was a wall, seemingly of stone masonry -- very smooth, slimy, and
cold. I followed it up; stepping with all the careful distrust with
which certain antique narratives had inspired me. This process,
however, afforded me no means of ascertaining the dimensions of my
dungeon; as I might make its circuit, and return to the point whence
I set out, without being aware of the fact; so perfectly uniform
seemed the wall. I therefore sought the knife which had been in my
pocket, when led into the inquisitorial chamber; but it was gone; my
clothes had been exchanged for a wrapper of coarse serge. I had
thought of forcing the blade in some minute crevice of the masonry,
so as to identify my point of departure. The difficulty,
nevertheless, was but trivial; although, in the disorder of my fancy,
it seemed at first insuperable. I tore a part of the hem from the
robe and placed the fragment at full length, and at right angles to
the wall. In groping my way around the prison, I could not fail to
encounter this rag upon completing the circuit. So, at least I
thought: but I had not counted upon the extent of the dungeon, or
upon my own weakness. The ground was moist and slippery. I staggered
onward for some time, when I stumbled and fell. My excessive fatigue
induced me to remain prostrate; and sleep soon overtook me as I lay.
Upon awaking, and stretching forth an arm, I found beside me a loaf
and a pitcher with water. I was too much exhausted to reflect upon
this circumstance, but ate and drank with avidity. Shortly afterward,
I resumed my tour around the prison, and with much toil came at last
upon the fragment of the serge. Up to the period when I fell I had
counted fifty-two paces, and upon resuming my walk, I had counted
forty-eight more; -- when I arrived at the rag. There were in all,
then, a hundred paces; and, admitting two paces to the yard, I
presumed the dungeon to be fifty yards in circuit. I had met,
however, with many angles in the wall, and thus I could form no guess
at the shape of the vault; for vault I could not help supposing it to
I had little object -- certainly no hope these researches; but a
vague curiosity prompted me to continue them. Quitting the wall, I
resolved to cross the area of the enclosure. At first I proceeded
with extreme caution, for the floor, although seemingly of solid
material, was treacherous with slime. At length, however, I took
courage, and did not hesitate to step firmly; endeavoring to cross in
as direct a line as possible. I had advanced some ten or twelve paces
in this manner, when the remnant of the torn hem of my robe became
entangled between my legs. I stepped on it, and fell violently on my
In the confusion attending my fall, I did not immediately apprehend a
somewhat startling circumstance, which yet, in a few seconds
afterward, and while I still lay prostrate, arrested my attention. It
was this -- my chin rested upon the floor of the prison, but my lips
and the upper portion of my head, although seemingly at a less
elevation than the chin, touched nothing. At the same time my
forehead seemed bathed in a clammy vapor, and the peculiar smell of
decayed fungus arose to my nostrils. I put forward my arm, and
shuddered to find that I had fallen at the very brink of a circular
pit, whose extent, of course, I had no means of ascertaining at the
moment. Groping about the masonry just below the margin, I succeeded
in dislodging a small fragment, and let it fall into the abyss. For
many seconds I hearkened to its reverberations as it dashed against
the sides of the chasm in its descent; at length there was a sullen
plunge into water, succeeded by loud echoes. At the same moment there
came a sound resembling the quick opening, and as rapid closing of a
door overhead, while a faint gleam of light flashed suddenly through
the gloom, and as suddenly faded away.
I saw clearly the doom which had been prepared for me, and
congratulated myself upon the timely accident by which I had escaped.
Another step before my fall, and the world had seen me no more. And
the death just avoided, was of that very character which I had
regarded as fabulous and frivolous in the tales respecting the
Inquisition. To the victims of its tyranny, there was the choice of
death with its direst physical agonies, or death with its most
hideous moral horrors. I had been reserved for the latter. By long
suffering my nerves had been unstrung, until I trembled at the sound
of my own voice, and had become in every respect a fitting subject
for the species of torture which awaited me.
Shaking in every limb, I groped my way back to the wall; resolving
there to perish rather than risk the terrors of the wells, of which
my imagination now pictured many in various positions about the
dungeon. In other conditions of mind I might have had courage to end
my misery at once by a plunge into one of these abysses; but now I
was the veriest of cowards. Neither could I forget what I had read of
these pits -- that the sudden extinction of life formed no part of
their most horrible plan.
Agitation of spirit kept me awake for many long hours; but at length
I again slumbered. Upon arousing, I found by my side, as before, a
loaf and a pitcher of water. A burning thirst consumed me, and I
emptied the vessel at a draught. It must have been drugged; for
scarcely had I drunk, before I became irresistibly drowsy. A deep
sleep fell upon me -- a sleep like that of death. How long it lasted
of course, I know not; but when, once again, I unclosed my eyes, the
objects around me were visible. By a wild sulphurous lustre, the
origin of which I could not at first determine, I was enabled to see
the extent and aspect of the prison.
In its size I had been greatly mistaken. The whole circuit of its
walls did not exceed twenty-five yards. For some minutes this fact
occasioned me a world of vain trouble; vain indeed! for what could be
of less importance, under the terrible circumstances which environed
me, then the mere dimensions of my dungeon? But my soul took a wild
interest in trifles, and I busied myself in endeavors to account for
the error I had committed in my measurement. The truth at length
flashed upon me. In my first attempt at exploration I had counted
fifty-two paces, up to the period when I fell; I must then have been
within a pace or two of the fragment of serge; in fact, I had nearly
performed the circuit of the vault. I then slept, and upon awaking, I
must have returned upon my steps -- thus supposing the circuit nearly
double what it actually was. My confusion of mind prevented me from
observing that I began my tour with the wall to the left, and ended
it with the wall to the right.
I had been deceived, too, in respect to the shape of the enclosure.
In feeling my way I had found many angles, and thus deduced an idea
of great irregularity; so potent is the effect of total darkness upon
one arousing from lethargy or sleep! The angles were simply those of
a few slight depressions, or niches, at odd intervals. The general
shape of the prison was square. What I had taken for masonry seemed
now to be iron, or some other metal, in huge plates, whose sutures or
joints occasioned the depression. The entire surface of this metallic
enclosure was rudely daubed in all the hideous and repulsive devices
to which the charnel superstition of the monks has given rise. The
figures of fiends in aspects of menace, with skeleton forms, and
other more really fearful images, overspread and disfigured the
walls. I observed that the outlines of these monstrosities were
sufficiently distinct, but that the colors seemed faded and blurred,
as if from the effects of a damp atmosphere. I now noticed the floor,
too, which was of stone. In the centre yawned the circular pit from
whose jaws I had escaped; but it was the only one in the dungeon.
All this I saw indistinctly and by much effort: for my personal
condition had been greatly changed during slumber. I now lay upon my
back, and at full length, on a species of low framework of wood. To
this I was securely bound by a long strap resembling a surcingle. It
passed in many convolutions about my limbs and body, leaving at
liberty only my head, and my left arm to such extent that I could, by
dint of much exertion, supply myself with food from an earthen dish
which lay by my side on the floor. I saw, to my horror, that the
pitcher had been removed. I say to my horror; for I was consumed with
intolerable thirst. This thirst it appeared to be the design of my
persecutors to stimulate: for the food in the dish was meat pungently
Looking upward, I surveyed the ceiling of my prison. It was some
thirty or forty feet overhead, and constructed much as the side
walls. In one of its panels a very singular figure riveted my whole
attention. It was the painted figure of Time as he is commonly
represented, save that, in lieu of a scythe, he held what, at a
casual glance, I supposed to be the pictured image of a huge pendulum
such as we see on antique clocks. There was something, however, in
the appearance of this machine which caused me to regard it more
attentively. While I gazed directly upward at it (for its position
was immediately over my own) I fancied that I saw it in motion. In an
instant afterward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, and
of course slow. I watched it for some minutes, somewhat in fear, but
more in wonder. Wearied at length with observing its dull movement, I
turned my eyes upon the other objects in the cell.
A slight noise attracted my notice, and, looking to the floor, I saw
several enormous rats traversing it. They had issued from the well,
which lay just within view to my right. Even then, while I gazed,
they came up in troops, hurriedly, with ravenous eyes, allured by the
scent of the meat. From this it required much effort and attention to
scare them away.
It might have been half an hour, perhaps even an hour, (for in cast
my I could take but imperfect note of time) before I again cast my
eyes upward. What I then saw confounded and amazed me. The sweep of
the pendulum had increased in extent by nearly a yard. As a natural
consequence, its velocity was also much greater. But what mainly
disturbed me was the idea that had perceptibly descended. I now
observed -- with what horror it is needless to say -- that its nether
extremity was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a foot
in length from horn to horn; the horns upward, and the under edge
evidently as keen as that of a razor. Like a razor also, it seemed
massy and heavy, tapering from the edge into a solid and broad
structure above. It was appended to a weighty rod of brass, and the
whole hissed as it swung through the air.
I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me by monkish ingenuity
in torture. My cognizance of the pit had become known to the
inquisitorial agents -- the pit whose horrors had been destined for
so bold a recusant as myself -- the pit, typical of hell, and
regarded by rumor as the Ultima Thule of all their punishments. The
plunge into this pit I had avoided by the merest of accidents, I knew
that surprise, or entrapment into torment, formed an important
portion of all the grotesquerie of these dungeon deaths. Having
failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl me into the
abyss; and thus (there being no alternative) a different and a milder
destruction awaited me. Milder! I half smiled in my agony as I
thought of such application of such a term.
What boots it to tell of the long, long hours of horror more than
mortal, during which I counted the rushing vibrations of the steel!
Inch by inch -- line by line -- with a descent only appreciable at
intervals that seemed ages -- down and still down it came! Days
passed -- it might have been that many days passed -- ere it swept so
closely over me as to fan me with its acrid breath. The odor of the
sharp steel forced itself into my nostrils. I prayed -- I wearied
heaven with my prayer for its more speedy descent. I grew frantically
mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the sweep of the
fearful scimitar. And then I fell suddenly calm, and lay smiling at
the glittering death, as a child at some rare bauble.
There was another interval of utter insensibility; it was brief; for,
upon again lapsing into life there had been no perceptible descent in
the pendulum. But it might have been long; for I knew there were
demons who took note of my swoon, and who could have arrested the
vibration at pleasure. Upon my recovery, too, I felt very -- oh,
inexpressibly sick and weak, as if through long inanition. Even amid
the agonies of that period, the human nature craved food. With
painful effort I outstretched my left arm as far as my bonds
permitted, and took possession of the small remnant which had been
spared me by the rats. As I put a portion of it within my lips, there
rushed to my mind a half formed thought of joy -- of hope. Yet what
business had I with hope? It was, as I say, a half formed thought --
man has many such which are never completed. I felt that it was of
joy -- of hope; but felt also that it had perished in its formation.
In vain I struggled to perfect -- to regain it. Long suffering had
nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. I was an imbecile
-- an idiot.
The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length. I saw
that the crescent was designed to cross the region of the heart. It
would fray the serge of my robe -- it would return and repeat its
operations -- again -- and again. Notwithstanding terrifically wide
sweep (some thirty feet or more) and the its hissing vigor of its
descent, sufficient to sunder these very walls of iron, still the
fraying of my robe would be all that, for several minutes, it would
accomplish. And at this thought I paused. I dared not go farther than
this reflection. I dwelt upon it with a pertinacity of attention --
as if, in so dwelling, I could arrest here the descent of the steel.
I forced myself to ponder upon the sound of the crescent as it should
pass across the garment -- upon the peculiar thrilling sensation
which the friction of cloth produces on the nerves. I pondered upon
all this frivolity until my teeth were on edge.
Down -- steadily down it crept. I took a frenzied pleasure in
contrasting its downward with its lateral velocity. To the right --
to the left -- far and wide -- with the shriek of a damned spirit; to
my heart with the stealthy pace of the tiger! I alternately laughed
and howled as the one or the other idea grew predominant.
Down -- certainly, relentlessly down! It vibrated within three inches
of my bosom! I struggled violently, furiously, to free my left arm.
This was free only from the elbow to the hand. I could reach the
latter, from the platter beside me, to my mouth, with great effort,
but no farther. Could I have broken the fastenings above the elbow, I
would have seized and attempted to arrest the pendulum. I might as
well have attempted to arrest an avalanche!
Down -- still unceasingly -- still inevitably down! I gasped and
struggled at each vibration. I shrunk convulsively at its every
sweep. My eyes followed its outward or upward whirls with the
eagerness of the most unmeaning despair; they closed themselves
spasmodically at the descent, although death would have been a
relief, oh! how unspeakable! Still I quivered in every nerve to think
how slight a sinking of the machinery would precipitate that keen,
glistening axe upon my bosom. It was hope that prompted the nerve to
quiver -- the frame to shrink. It was hope -- the hope that triumphs
on the rack -- that whispers to the death-condemned even in the
dungeons of the Inquisition.
I saw that some ten or twelve vibrations would bring the steel in
actual contact with my robe, and with this observation there suddenly
came over my spirit all the keen, collected calmness of despair. For
the first time during many hours -- or perhaps days -- I thought. It
now occurred to me that the bandage, or surcingle, which enveloped
me, was unique. I was tied by no separate cord. The first stroke of
the razorlike crescent athwart any portion of the band, would so
detach it that it might be unwound from my person by means of my left
hand. But how fearful, in that case, the proximity of the steel! The
result of the slightest struggle how deadly! Was it likely, moreover,
that the minions of the torturer had not foreseen and provided for
this possibility! Was it probable that the bandage crossed my bosom
in the track of the pendulum? Dreading to find my faint, and, as it
seemed, in last hope frustrated, I so far elevated my head as to
obtain a distinct view of my breast. The surcingle enveloped my limbs
and body close in all directions -- save in the path of the
destroying crescent.
Scarcely had I dropped my head back into its original position, when
there flashed upon my mind what I cannot better describe than as the
unformed half of that idea of deliverance to which I have previously
alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeterminately through
my brain when I raised food to my burning lips. The whole thought was
now present -- feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite, -- but still
entire. I proceeded at once, with the nervous energy of despair, to
attempt its execution.
For many hours the immediate vicinity of the low framework upon which
I lay, had been literally swarming with rats. They were wild, bold,
ravenous; their red eyes glaring upon me as if they waited but for
motionlessness on my part to make me their prey. "To what food," I
thought, "have they been accustomed in the well?"
They had devoured, in spite of all my efforts to prevent them, all
but a small remnant of the contents of the dish. I had fallen into an
habitual see-saw, or wave of the hand about the platter: and, at
length, the unconscious uniformity of the movement deprived it of
effect. In their voracity the vermin frequently fastened their sharp
fangs in my fingers. With the particles of the oily and spicy viand
which now remained, I thoroughly rubbed the bandage wherever I could
reach it; then, raising my hand from the floor, I lay breathlessly
At first the ravenous animals were startled and terrified at the
change -- at the cessation of movement. They shrank alarmedly back;
many sought the well. But this was only for a moment. I had not
counted in vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained
without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the frame-work,
and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general
rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to
the wood -- they overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person.
The measured movement of the pendulum disturbed them not at all.
Avoiding its strokes they busied themselves with the anointed
bandage. They pressed -- they swarmed upon me in ever accumulating
heaps. They writhed upon my throat; their cold lips sought my own; I
was half stifled by their thronging pressure; disgust, for which the
world has no name, swelled my bosom, and chilled, with a heavy
clamminess, my heart. Yet one minute, and I felt that the struggle
would be over. Plainly I perceived the loosening of the bandage. I
knew that in more than one place it must be already severed. With a
more than human resolution I lay still.
Nor had I erred in my calculations -- nor had I endured in vain. I at
length felt that I was free. The surcingle hung in ribands from my
body. But the stroke of the pendulum already pressed upon my bosom.
It had divided the serge of the robe. It had cut through the linen
beneath. Twice again it swung, and a sharp sense of pain shot through
every nerve. But the moment of escape had arrived. At a wave of my
hand my deliverers hurried tumultuously away. With a steady movement
-- cautious, sidelong, shrinking, and slow -- I slid from the embrace
of the bandage and beyond the reach of the scimitar. For the moment,
at least, I was free.
Free! -- and in the grasp of the Inquisition! I had scarcely stepped
from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when
the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up, by
some invisible force, through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I
took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched.
Free! -- I had but escaped death in one form of agony, to be
delivered unto worse than death in some other. With that thought I
rolled my eves nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed
me in. Something unusual -- some change which, at first, I could not
appreciate distinctly -- it was obvious, had taken place in the
apartment. For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling abstraction, I
busied myself in vain, unconnected conjecture. During this period, I
became aware, for the first time, of the origin of the sulphurous
light which illumined the cell. It proceeded from a fissure, about
half an inch in width, extending entirely around the prison at the
base of the walls, which thus appeared, and were, completely
separated from the floor. I endeavored, but of course in vain, to
look through the aperture.
As I arose from the attempt, the mystery of the alteration in the
chamber broke at once upon my understanding. I have observed that,
although the outlines of the figures upon the walls were sufficiently
distinct, yet the colors seemed blurred and indefinite. These colors
had now assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most
intense brilliancy, that gave to the spectral and fiendish
portraitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves
than my own. Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon
me in a thousand directions, where none had been visible before, and
gleamed with the lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my
imagination to regard as unreal.
Unreal! -- Even while I breathed there came to my nostrils the breath
of the vapour of heated iron! A suffocating odour pervaded the
prison! A deeper glow settled each moment in the eyes that glared at
my agonies! A richer tint of crimson diffused itself over the
pictured horrors of blood. I panted! I gasped for breath! There could
be no doubt of the design of my tormentors -- oh! most unrelenting!
oh! most demoniac of men! I shrank from the glowing metal to the
centre of the cell. Amid the thought of the fiery destruction that
impended, the idea of the coolness of the well came over my soul like
balm. I rushed to its deadly brink. I threw my straining vision
below. The glare from the enkindled roof illumined its inmost
recesses. Yet, for a wild moment, did my spirit refuse to comprehend
the meaning of what I saw. At length it forced -- it wrestled its way
into my soul -- it burned itself in upon my shuddering reason. -- Oh!
for a voice to speak! -- oh! horror! -- oh! any horror but this! With
a shriek, I rushed from the margin, and buried my face in my hands --
weeping bitterly.
The heat rapidly increased, and once again I looked up, shuddering as
with a fit of the ague. There had been a second change in the cell --
and now the change was obviously in the form. As before, it was in
vain that I, at first, endeavoured to appreciate or understand what
was taking place. But not long was I left in doubt. The Inquisitorial
vengeance had been hurried by my two-fold escape, and there was to be
no more dallying with the King of Terrors. The room had been square.
I saw that two of its iron angles were now acute -- two,
consequently, obtuse. The fearful difference quickly increased with a
low rumbling or moaning sound. In an instant the apartment had
shifted its form into that of a lozenge. But the alteration stopped
not here-I neither hoped nor desired it to stop. I could have clasped
the red walls to my bosom as a garment of eternal peace. "Death," I
said, "any death but that of the pit!" Fool! might I have not known
that into the pit it was the object of the burning iron to urge me?
Could I resist its glow? or, if even that, could I withstand its
pressure And now, flatter and flatter grew the lozenge, with a
rapidity that left me no time for contemplation. Its centre, and of
course, its greatest width, came just over the yawning gulf. I shrank
back -- but the closing walls pressed me resistlessly onward. At
length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of
foothold on the firm floor of the prison. I struggled no more, but
the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long, and final scream
of despair. I felt that I tottered upon the brink -- I averted my
eyes --
There was a discordant hum of human voices! There was a loud blast as
of many trumpets! There was a harsh grating as of a thousand
thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my
own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss. It was that of General
Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo. The Inquisition was in
the hands of its enemies.
~~~ End of Text ~~~