The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 82

must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the
grim phantasm, FEAR."

I learned, moreover, at intervals, and through broken and equivocal
hints, another singular feature of his mental condition. He was
enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling
which he tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never ventured
forth--in regard to an influence whose supposititious force was conveyed
in terms too shadowy here to be re-stated--an influence which some
peculiarities in the mere form and substance of his family mansion, had,
by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit--an effect
which the _physique_ of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn
into which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon the
_morale_ of his existence.

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. "Her decease," he said, with a bitterness which I can
never forget, "would leave him (him the hopeless and the frail) the last
of the ancient race of the Ushers." While he spoke, the lady Madeline
(for so was she called) passed slowly through a remote portion of the
apartment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. I
regarded her with an utter astonishment not unmingled with dread--and
yet I found it impossible to account for such feelings. A sensation of
stupor oppressed me, as my eyes followed her retreating steps. When a
door, at length, closed upon her, my glance sought instinctively and
eagerly the countenance of the brother--but he had buried his face
in his hands, and I could only perceive that a far more than ordinary
wanness had overspread the emaciated fingers through which trickled many
passionate tears.

The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of her
physicians. A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of the person,
and frequent although transient affections of a partially cataleptical
character, were the unusual diagnosis. Hitherto she had steadily borne
up against the pressure of her malady, and had not betaken herself
finally to bed; but, on the closing in of the evening of my arrival
at the house, she succumbed (as her brother told me at night with
inexpressible agitation) to the prostrating power of the destroyer;
and I learned that the glimpse I had obtained of her person would thus
probably be the last I should obtain--that the lady,

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