The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 79

upon my imagination as really to believe that
about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar
to themselves and their immediate vicinity--an atmosphere which had
no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the
decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn--a pestilent and
mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.

Shaking off from my spirit what _must_ have been a dream, I scanned more
narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principal feature seemed
to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been
great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine
tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any
extraordinary dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen; and
there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect
adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual
stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious totality
of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some neglected
vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. Beyond
this indication of extensive decay, however, the fabric gave little
token of instability. 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.

Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the house. A
servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the Gothic archway of
the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence,
through many dark and intricate passages in my progress to the _studio_
of his master. Much that I encountered on the way contributed, I know
not how, to heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already
spoken. While the objects around me--while the carvings of the ceilings,
the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors,
and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I strode, were
but matters to which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed from my
infancy--while I hesitated not to acknowledge how familiar was all
this--I still wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which
ordinary images were stirring up. On one of the staircases, I met the
physician of the family. His countenance, I thought, wore a mingled
expression of low cunning and perplexity. He accosted me with
trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open

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