The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 15

It was clear to me that the letter
had been turned, as a glove, inside out, re-directed, and re-sealed. I
bade the Minister good morning, and took my departure at once, leaving a
gold snuff-box upon the table.

"The next morning I called for the snuff-box, when we resumed, quite
eagerly, the conversation of the preceding day. While thus engaged,
however, a loud report, as if of a pistol, was heard immediately beneath
the windows of the hotel, and was succeeded by a series of fearful
screams, and the shoutings of a terrified mob. D-- rushed to a casement,
threw it open, and looked out. In the meantime, I stepped to the
card-rack, took the letter, put it in my pocket, and replaced it by
a fac-simile, (so far as regards externals,) which I had carefully
prepared at my lodgings--imitating the D-- cipher, very readily, by
means of a seal formed of bread.

"The disturbance in the street had been occasioned by the frantic
behavior of a man with a musket. He had fired it among a crowd of women
and children. It proved, however, to have been without ball, and the
fellow was suffered to go his way as a lunatic or a drunkard. When
he had gone, D-- came from the window, whither I had followed him
immediately upon securing the object in view. Soon afterwards I bade him
farewell. The pretended lunatic was a man in my own pay."

"But what purpose had you," I asked, "in replacing the letter by a
fac-simile? Would it not have been better, at the first visit, to have
seized it openly, and departed?"

"D--," replied Dupin, "is a desperate man, and a man of nerve. His
hotel, too, is not without attendants devoted to his interests. Had
I made the wild attempt you suggest, I might never have left the
Ministerial presence alive. The good people of Paris might have heard
of me no more. But I had an object apart from these considerations. You
know my political prepossessions. In this matter, I act as a partisan of
the lady concerned. For eighteen months the Minister has had her in his
power. She has now him in hers--since, being unaware that the letter is
not in his possession, he will proceed with his exactions as if it
was. Thus will he inevitably commit himself, at once, to his political
destruction. His downfall, too, will not be more precipitate than
awkward. It is all very well to talk about the facilis descensus Averni;
but in all kinds of climbing, as Catalani said of singing, it is far

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Text Comparison with The Fall of the House of Usher

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I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasureable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible.
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Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend.
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Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.
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He accosted me with trepidation and passed on.
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beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely-moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity; these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten.
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He admitted, however, although with hesitation, that much of the peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced to a more natural and far more palpable origin--to the severe and long-continued illness--indeed to the evidently approaching dissolution--of a tenderly beloved sister--his sole companion for long years--his last and only relative on earth.
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A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person, and frequent although transient affections of a partially cataleptical character, were the unusual diagnosis.
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I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the auditory nerve which rendered all music intolerable to the sufferer, with the exception of certain effects of stringed instruments.
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I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad, led us into a train of thought wherein there became manifest an opinion of Usher's which I mention not so much on account of its novelty (for other men* have thought thus,) as on account of the pertinacity with which he maintained it.
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I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its probable influence upon the hypochondriac, when, one evening, having informed me abruptly that the lady Madeline was no more, he stated his intention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight, (previously to its final interment), in one of the numerous vaults within the main walls of the building.
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Its immense weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges.
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An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame; and, at length, there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm.
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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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From a position fronting my own, he had gradually brought round his chair, so as to sit with his face to the door of the chamber; and thus I could but partially perceive his features, although I saw that his lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly.
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"Not hear it?--yes, I hear it, and have heard it.
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Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me.