The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 136

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 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

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