The Masque of the Red Death

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 2

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 harken 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 revery 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 colours 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 movable 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 were 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.

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