The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 119

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 woe 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

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Text Comparison with The Masque of the Red Death

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There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution.
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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.
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But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel.
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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-coloured 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 indulged in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.
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The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave.
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He had come like a thief in the night.