The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 70

as if to my final and
irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit
philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives,
than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the
human heart--one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments,
which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred
times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other
reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual
inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which
is _Law_, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit
of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this
unfathomable longing of the soul _to vex itself_--to offer violence to
its own nature--to do wrong for the wrong's sake only--that urged me to
continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the
unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about
its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree;--hung it with the
tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my
heart;--hung it _because_ I knew that it had loved me, and _because_
I felt it had given me no reason of offence;--hung it _because_ I knew
that in so doing I was committing a sin--a deadly sin that would
so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it--if such a thing wore
possible--even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most
Merciful and Most Terrible God.

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused
from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames.
The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife,
a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The
destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and
I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.

I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause
and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a
chain of facts--and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect.
On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with
one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment
wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and
against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here,
in great measure, resisted the action of

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