The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 219

human skeleton, by means of a
rope tied round one of the legs and fastened to a ring in the ceiling.
The other limb, confined by no such fetter, stuck off from the body at
right angles, causing the whole loose and rattling frame to dangle and
twirl about at the caprice of every occasional puff of wind which found
its way into the apartment. In the cranium of this hideous thing lay
quantity of ignited charcoal, which threw a fitful but vivid light over
the entire scene; while coffins, and other wares appertaining to the
shop of an undertaker, were piled high up around the room, and against
the windows, preventing any ray from escaping into the street.

At sight of this extraordinary assembly, and of their still more
extraordinary paraphernalia, our two seamen did not conduct themselves
with that degree of decorum which might have been expected. Legs,
leaning against the wall near which he happened to be standing, dropped
his lower jaw still lower than usual, and spread open his eyes to their
fullest extent: while Hugh Tarpaulin, stooping down so as to bring his
nose upon a level with the table, and spreading out a palm upon either
knee, burst into a long, loud, and obstreperous roar of very ill-timed
and immoderate laughter.

Without, however, taking offence at behaviour so excessively rude, the
tall president smiled very graciously upon the intruders--nodded to them
in a dignified manner with his head of sable plumes--and, arising, took
each by an arm, and led him to a seat which some others of the company
had placed in the meantime for his accommodation. Legs to all this
offered not the slightest resistance, but sat down as he was directed;
while the gallant Hugh, removing his coffin tressel from its station
near the head of the table, to the vicinity of the little consumptive
lady in the winding sheet, plumped down by her side in high glee,
and pouring out a skull of red wine, quaffed it to their better
acquaintance. But at this presumption the stiff gentleman in the coffin
seemed exceedingly nettled; and serious consequences might have ensued,
had not the president, rapping upon the table with his truncheon,
diverted the attention of all present to the following speech:

“It becomes our duty upon the present happy occasion”--

“Avast there!” interrupted Legs, looking very serious, “avast there a
bit, I say, and tell us who the devil ye all are, and what business ye
have here, rigged off like the foul fiends, and swilling the snug blue
ruin stowed away for the winter by my honest

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