The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 140

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!--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

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Text Comparison with The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 1

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