The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 135

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 seasoned.

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

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Page 0
What was it--I paused to think--what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluble; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered.
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I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish experiment--that of looking down within the tarn--had been to deepen.
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Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the vague sentiments.
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The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within.
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For something of this nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his letter, than by reminiscences of certain boyish traits, and by conclusions deduced from his peculiar physical conformation and temperament.
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I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in their results.
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From the paintings over which his elaborate fancy brooded, and which grew, touch by touch, into vagueness at which I shuddered the more thrillingly, because I shuddered knowing not why;--from these paintings (vivid as their images now are before me) I would in vain endeavour to educe more than a small portion which should lie within the compass of merely written words.
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Wanderers in that happy valley .
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But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch's high estate; (Ah,.
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I felt creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions.
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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 lifelike velocity with which they flew careering from all points against each other, without passing away into the distance.
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a favourite 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.
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Oppressed, as I certainly was, upon the occurrence of the 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.
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Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words.
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