I am the center of gravity, hold a capital situation in Vienna, and as I am foremost in every victory, am allowed by all to be invaluable. Though I am invisible, I am clearly seen in the midst of a river. I could name three who are in love with me an... Read more of I am the center of gravity, at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
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The Marvels At Froda {273}
During that summer in which Christianity was adopted by...

The Hammersmith Ghost
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Miscellaneous Supernormal Experiences
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Extraordinary Double Dream Without Any Corresponding Event
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The Arrears Of Teind
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Prefatory
This work owes its appearance to the absence of any che...

The Female Sprites
In September 1764, the following extraordinary incide...

The Rattlesnake
Dr. Kinsolving, of the Church of the Epiphany in Philad...





Vi






And travellers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While, like a rapid ghastly river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh--but smile no more.

I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad, led us into a
train of thought wherein there became manifest an opinion of Usher's
which I mention not so much on account of its novelty (for other men[1]
have thought thus), as on account of the pertinacity with which he
maintained it. This opinion, in its general form, was that of the
sentience of all vegetable things. But, in his disordered fancy, the
idea had assumed a more daring character, and trespassed, under certain
conditions, upon the kingdom of inorganisation. I lack words to express
the full extent, or the earnest _abandon_ of his persuasion. The belief,
however, was connected (as I have previously hinted) with the grey
stones of the home of his forefathers. The conditions of the sentience
had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in the method of collocation of
these stones--in the order of their arrangement, as well as in that of
the many _fungi_ which overspread them, and of the decayed trees which
stood around--above all, in the long undisturbed endurance of this
arrangement, and in its reduplication in the still waters of the tarn.
Its evidence--the evidence of the sentience--was to be seen, he said
(and I here started as he spoke), in the gradual yet certain
condensation of an atmosphere of their own about the waters and the
walls. The result was discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet
importunate and terrible influence which for centuries had moulded the
destinies of his family, and which made _him_ what I now saw him--what
he was. Such opinions need no comment, and I will make none.

Our books--the books which, for years, had formed no small portion of
the mental existence of the invalid--were, as might be supposed, in
strict keeping with this character of phantasm. We pored together over
such works as the _Ververt et Chartreuse_ of Gresset; the _Belphegor_
of Machiavelli; the _Heaven and Hell_ of Swedenborg; the _Subterranean
Voyage of Nicholas Klimm_ by Holberg; the _Chiromancy_ of Robert Flud,
of Jean D'Indagine, and of De la Chambre; the _Journey into the Blue
Distance_ of Tieck; and the _City of the Sun_ of Campanella. One
favourite volume was a small octavo edition of the _Directorium
Inquisitorum_, by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne; and there were
passages in _Pomponius Mela_, about the old African Satyrs and AEgipans,
over which Usher would sit dreaming for hours. His chief delight,
however, was found in the perusal of an exceedingly rare and curious
book in quarto Gothic--the manual of a forgotten church--the _Vigiliae
Mortuorum Chorum Ecclesiae Maguntinae_.

I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of its
probable influence upon the hypochondriac, when, one evening, having
informed me abruptly that the Lady Madeline was no more, he stated his
intention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight (previously to its
final interment), in one of the numerous vaults within the main walls of
the building. The worldly reason, however, assigned for this singular
proceeding, was one which I did not feel at liberty to dispute. The
brother had been led to his resolution (so he told me) by consideration
of the unusual character of the malady of the deceased, of certain
obtrusive and eager inquiries on the part of her medical men, and of the
remote and exposed situation of the burial-ground of the family. I will
not deny that when I called to mind the sinister countenance of the
person whom I met upon the staircase, on the day of my arrival at the
house, I had no desire to oppose what I regarded as at best but a
harmless, and by no means an unnatural, precaution.

At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements for
the temporary entombment. The body having been encoffined, we two alone
bore it to its rest. The vault in which we placed it (and which had
been so long unopened that our torches, half smothered in its oppressive
atmosphere, gave us little opportunity for investigation) was small,
damp, and entirely without means of admission for light; lying, at great
depth, immediately beneath that portion of the building in which was my
own sleeping apartment. It had been used, apparently, in remote feudal
times, for the worst purpose of a donjon-keep, and, in later days, as a
place of deposit for powder, or some other highly combustible substance,
as a portion of its floor, and the whole interior of a long archway
through which we reached it, were carefully sheathed with copper. The
door, of massive iron, had been, also, similarly protected. Its immense
weight caused an unusually sharp grating sound as it moved upon its
hinges.

Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels within this region of
horror, we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid of the coffin,
and looked upon the face of the tenant. A striking similitude between
the brother and sister now first arrested my attention; and Usher,
divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured out some few words from which I
learned that the deceased and himself had been twins, and that
sympathies of a scarcely intelligible nature had always existed between
them. Our glances, however, rested not long upon the dead--for we could
not regard her unawed. The disease which had thus entombed the lady in
the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly
cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and
the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so
terrible in death. We replaced and screwed down the lid, and, having
secured the door of iron, made our way, with toil, into the scarcely
less gloomy apartments of the upper portion of the house.

And now, some days of bitter grief having elapsed, an observable change
came over the features of the mental disorder of my friend. His
ordinary manner had vanished. His ordinary occupations were neglected or
forgotten. He roamed from chamber to chamber with hurried, unequal, and
objectless step. The pallor of his countenance had assumed, if possible,
a more ghastly hue--but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone
out. The once occasional huskiness of his tone was heard no more; and a
tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, habitually characterised his
utterance. There were times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly
agitated mind was labouring with some oppressive secret, to divulge
which he struggled for the necessary courage. At times, again, I was
obliged to resolve all into the mere inexplicable vagaries of madness,
for I beheld him gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an attitude of
the profoundest attention, as if listening to some imaginary sound. It
was no wonder that his condition terrified--that it infected me. I felt
creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of
his own fantastic yet impressive superstitions.

It was, especially, upon retiring to bed late in the night of the
seventh or eighth day after the placing of the Lady Madeline within the
donjon, that I experienced the full power of such feelings. Sleep came
not near my couch--while the hours waned and waned away. I struggled to
reason off the nervousness which had dominion over me. I endeavoured to
believe that much, if not all of what I felt, was due to the bewildering
influence of the gloomy furniture of the room--of the dark and tattered
draperies, which, tortured into motion by the breath of a rising
tempest, swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and rustled uneasily
about the decorations of the bed. But my efforts were fruitless. An
irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame; and, at length, there
sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm. Shaking
this off with a gasp and a struggle, I uplifted myself upon the pillows,
and, peering earnestly within the intense darkness of the chamber,
hearkened--I know not why, except that an instinctive spirit prompted
me--to certain low and indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses
of the storm, at long intervals, I knew not whence. Overpowered by an
intense sentiment of horror, unaccountable yet unendurable, I threw on
my clothes with haste (for I felt that I should sleep no more during the
night), and endeavoured to arouse myself from the pitiable condition
into which I had fallen, by pacing rapidly to and fro through the
apartment.

I had taken but a few turns in this manner, when a light step on an
adjoining staircase arrested my attention. I presently recognised it as
that of Usher. In an instant afterward he rapped, with a gentle touch,
at my door, and entered, bearing a lamp. His countenance was, as usual,
cadaverously wan--but, moreover, there was a species of mad hilarity in
his eyes--an evidently restrained _hysteria_ in his whole demeanour. His
air appalled me--but anything was preferable to the solitude which I had
so long endured, and I even welcomed his presence as a relief.

"And you have not seen it?" he said abruptly, after having stared about
him for some moments in silence--"you have not then seen it?--but, stay!
you shall." Thus speaking, and having carefully shaded his lamp, he
hurried to one of the casements, and threw it freely open to the storm.

The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from our feet.
It was, indeed, a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful night, and one
wildly singular in its terror and its beauty. A whirlwind had apparently
collected its force in our vicinity; for there were frequent and violent
alterations in the direction of the wind; and the exceeding density of
the clouds (which hung so low as to press upon the turrets of the house)
did not prevent our perceiving the lifelike velocity with which they
flew careering from all points against each other, without passing away
into the distance. I say that even their exceeding density did not
prevent our perceiving this--yet we had no glimpse of the moon or
stars--nor was there any flashing forth of the lightning. But the under
surfaces of the huge masses of agitated vapour, as well as all
terrestrial objects immediately around us, were glowing in the unnatural
light of a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous exhalation
which hung about and enshrouded the mansion.

"You must not--you shall not behold this!" said I, shudderingly, to
Usher, as I led him, with a gentle violence, from the window to a seat.
"These appearances, which bewilder you, are merely electrical phenomena
not uncommon--or it may be that they have their ghastly origin in the
rank miasma of the tarn. Let us close this casement;--the air is
chilling and dangerous to your frame. Here is one of your favourite
romances. I will read, and you shall listen;--and so we will pass away
this terrible night together."

The antique volume which I had taken up was the _Mad Trist_ of Sir
Launcelot Canning; but I had called it a favourite of Usher's more in
sad jest than in earnest; for, in truth, there is little in its uncouth
and unimaginative prolixity which could have had interest for the lofty
and spiritual ideality of my friend. It was, however, the only book
immediately at hand; and I indulged a vague hope that the excitement
which now agitated the hypochondriac, might find relief (for the history
of mental disorder is full of similar anomalies) even in the extremeness
of the folly which I should read. Could I have judged, indeed, by the
wild overstrained air of vivacity with which he hearkened, or apparently
hearkened, to the words of the tale, I might well have congratulated
myself upon the success of my design.

I had arrived at that well-known portion of the story where Ethelred,
the hero of the Trist, having sought in vain for peaceable admission
into the dwelling of the hermit, proceeds to make good an entrance by
force. Here, it will be remembered, the words of the narrative run thus:

"And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty heart, and who was now
mighty withal, on account of the powerfulness of the wine which he had
drunken, waited no longer to hold parley with the hermit, who, in sooth,
was of an obstinate and maliceful turn, but, feeling the rain upon his
shoulders, and fearing the rising of the tempest, uplifted his mace
outright, and, with blows, made quickly room in the plankings of the
door for his gauntleted hand; and now pulling therewith sturdily, he so
cracked and ripped, and tore all asunder, that the noise of the dry and
hollow-sounding wood alarmed and reverberated throughout the forest."

At the termination of this sentence I started, and, for a moment,
paused; for it appeared to me (although I at once concluded that my
excited fancy had deceived me)--it appeared to me that, from some very
remote portion of the mansion, there came, indistinctly, to my ears,
what might have been, in its exact similarity of character, the echo
(but a stifled and dull one certainly) of the very cracking and ripping
sound which Sir Launcelot had so particularly described. It was, beyond
doubt, the coincidence alone which had arrested my attention; for, amid
the rattling of the sashes of the casements, and the ordinary commingled
noises of the still increasing storm, the sound, in itself, had nothing,
surely, which should have interested or disturbed me. I continued the
story:

"But the good champion Ethelred, now entering within the door, was sore
enraged and amazed to perceive no signal of the maliceful hermit; but,
in the stead thereof, a dragon of a scaly and prodigious demeanour, and
of a fiery tongue, which sate in guard before a palace of gold, with a
floor of silver; and upon the wall there hung a shield of shining brass
with this legend enwritten--

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin;
Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win;

and Ethelred uplifted his mace, and struck upon the head of the dragon,
which fell before him, and gave up his pesty breath, with a shriek so
horrid and harsh, and withal so piercing, that Ethelred had fain to
close his ears with his hands against the dreadful noise of it, the like
whereof was never before heard."

Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a feeling of wild
amazement--for there could be no doubt whatever that, in this instance,
I did actually hear (although from what direction it proceeded I found
it impossible to say) a low and apparently distant, but harsh,
protracted, and most unusual screaming or grating sound--the exact
counterpart of what my fancy had already conjured up for the dragon's
unnatural shriek as described by the romancer.

Oppressed, as I certainly was, upon the occurrence of the second and
most extraordinary coincidence, by a thousand conflicting sensations, in
which wonder and extreme terror were predominant, I still retained
sufficient presence of mind to avoid exciting, by any observation, the
sensitive nervousness of my companion. I was by no means certain that he
had noticed the sounds in question; although, assuredly, a strange
alteration had, during the last few minutes, taken place in his
demeanour. From a position fronting my own, he had gradually brought
round his chair, so as to sit with his face to the door of the chamber;
and thus I could but partially perceive his features, although I saw
that his lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly. His head had
dropped upon his breast--yet I knew that he was not asleep, from the
wide and rigid opening of the eye as I caught a glance of it in profile.
The motion of his body, too, was at variance with this idea--for he
rocked from side to side with a gentle yet constant and uniform sway.
Having rapidly taken notice of all this, I resumed the narrative of Sir
Launcelot, which thus proceeded:


"And now, the champion, having escaped from the terrible fury of the
dragon, bethinking himself of the brazen shield, and of the breaking up
of the enchantment which was upon it, removed the carcass from out of
the way before him, and approached valorously over the silver pavement
of the castle to where the shield was upon the wall; which in sooth
tarried not for his full coming, but fell down at his feet upon the
silver floor, with a mighty great and terrible ringing sound."

No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than--as if a shield of
brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of
silver--I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous,
yet apparently muffled reverberation. Completely unnerved, I leaped to
my feet; but the measured rocking movement of Usher was undisturbed. I
rushed to the chair on which he sat. His eyes were bent fixedly before
him, and throughout his whole countenance there reigned a stony
rigidity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, there came a
strong shudder over his whole person; a sickly smile quivered about his
lips; and I saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and gibbering murmur,
as if unconscious of my presence. Bending closely over him, I at length
drank in the hideous import of his words.

"Not hear it?--yes, I hear it, and _have_ heard it.
Long--long--long--many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard
it--yet I dared not---oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am!--I dared
not--I _dared_ not speak! _We have put her living in the tomb!_ Said I
not that my senses were acute? I _now_ tell you that I heard her first
feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them--many,
many days ago--yet I dared not--_I dared not speak!_ And
now--to-night--Ethelred--ha! ha!--the breaking of the hermit's door,
and the death-cry of the dragon, and the clangour of the shield!--say,
rather, the rending of her coffin, and the grating of the iron hinges of
her prison, and her struggles within the coppered archway of the vault!
Oh whither shall I fly? Will she not be here anon? Is she not hurrying
to upbraid me for my haste? Have I not heard her footstep on the stair?
Do I not distinguish that heavy and horrible beating of her heart?
MADMAN!" here he sprang furiously to his feet, and shrieked out
his syllables, as if in the effort he were giving up his
soul--"MADMAN! I TELL YOU THAT SHE NOW STANDS WITHOUT THE





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