The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 174

out a gobletful,
which I held to the lips of the fainting lady. She had now partially
recovered, however, and took the vessel herself, while I sank upon an
ottoman near me, with my eyes fastened upon her person. It was then that
I became distinctly aware of a gentle footfall upon the carpet, and
near the couch; and in a second thereafter, as Rowena was in the act
of raising the wine to her lips, I saw, or may have dreamed that I
saw, fall within the goblet, as if from some invisible spring in the
atmosphere of the room, three or four large drops of a brilliant and
ruby colored fluid. If this I saw--not so Rowena. She swallowed the wine
unhesitatingly, and I forbore to speak to her of a circumstance which
must, after all, I considered, have been but the suggestion of a vivid
imagination, rendered morbidly active by the terror of the lady, by the
opium, and by the hour.

Yet I cannot conceal it from my own perception that, immediately
subsequent to the fall of the ruby-drops, a rapid change for the worse
took place in the disorder of my wife; so that, on the third subsequent
night, the hands of her menials prepared her for the tomb, and on the
fourth, I sat alone, with her shrouded body, in that fantastic chamber
which had received her as my bride.--Wild visions, opium-engendered,
flitted, shadow-like, before me. I gazed with unquiet eye upon the
sarcophagi in the angles of the room, upon the varying figures of the
drapery, and upon the writhing of the parti-colored fires in the censer
overhead. My eyes then fell, as I called to mind the circumstances of
a former night, to the spot beneath the glare of the censer where I had
seen the faint traces of the shadow. It was there, however, no longer;
and breathing with greater freedom, I turned my glances to the pallid
and rigid figure upon the bed. Then rushed upon me a thousand memories
of Ligeia--and then came back upon my heart, with the turbulent violence
of a flood, the whole of that unutterable wo with which I had regarded
her thus enshrouded. The night waned; and still, with a bosom full of
bitter thoughts of the one only and supremely beloved, I remained gazing
upon the body of Rowena.

It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or later, for I had
taken no note of time, when a sob, low, gentle, but very distinct,
startled me from my revery.--I felt that it came from the bed of

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