spoken, he fell
heavily to the floor.
For some moments all were paralyzed with awe--but the urgency of the
case soon restored them their presence of mind. It was seen that Mr.
Stapleton was alive, although in a swoon. Upon exhibition of ether he
revived and was rapidly restored to health, and to the society of his
friends--from whom, however, all knowledge of his resuscitation was
withheld, until a relapse was no longer to be apprehended. Their
wonder--their rapturous astonishment--may be conceived.
The most thrilling peculiarity of this incident, nevertheless, is
involved in what Mr. S. himself asserts. He declares that at no period
was he altogether insensible--that, dully and confusedly, he was aware
of everything which happened to him, from the moment in which he was
pronounced dead by his physicians, to that in which he fell swooning to
the floor of the hospital. "I am alive," were the uncomprehended words
which, upon recognizing the locality of the dissecting-room, he had
endeavored, in his extremity, to utter.
It were an easy matter to multiply such histories as these--but I
forbear--for, indeed, we have no need of such to establish the fact that
premature interments occur. When we reflect how very rarely, from the
nature of the case, we have it in our power to detect them, we must
admit that they may frequently occur without our cognizance. Scarcely,
in truth, is a graveyard ever encroached upon, for any purpose, to any
great extent, that skeletons are not found in postures which suggest the
most fearful of suspicions.
Fearful indeed the suspicion--but more fearful the doom! It may be
asserted, without hesitation, that no event is so terribly well adapted
to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress, as is
burial before death. The unendurable oppression of the lungs--the
stifling fumes from the damp earth--the clinging to the death
garments--the rigid embrace of the narrow house--the blackness of the
absolute Night--the silence like a sea that overwhelms--the unseen but
palpable presence of the Conqueror Worm--these things, with the thoughts
of the air and grass above, with memory of dear friends who would fly to
save us if but informed of our fate, and with consciousness that of this
fate they can never be informed--that our hopeless portion is that of
the really dead--these considerations, I say, carry into the heart,
which still palpitates, a degree of appalling and intolerable horror
from which the most daring imagination must recoil. We know of nothing
so agonizing upon Earth--we can dream of nothing half so hideous in the
realms of the nethermost Hell. And thus all narratives upon this topic
Blood was its Avatar and its seal--the redness and the horror of blood.Page 1
But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.Page 2
There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm--much of what has been since seen in "Hernani".Page 3
The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand.Page 4
At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker.Page 5
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death.