The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles to my length. I saw that the crescent was designed to cross the region of the heart. It would fray the serge of my robe; it would return and repeat its operations -- again -- and again. Notwithstanding its terrifically wide sweep (some thirty feet or more) and the hissing vigour of its descent, sufficient to sunder these very walls of iron, still the fraying of my robe would be all that, for several minutes, it would accomplish; and at this thought I paused. I dared not go farther than this reflection. I dwelt upon it with a pertinacity of attention -- as if, in so dwelling, I could arrest HERE the descent of the steel. I forced myself to ponder upon the sound of the crescent as it should pass across the garment -- upon the peculiar thrilling sensation which the friction of cloth produces on the nerves. I pondered upon all this frivolity until my teeth were on edge. Down -- steadily down it crept. I took a frenzied pleasure in contrasting its downward with its lateral velocity. To the right -- to the left -- far and wide -- with the shriek of a damned spirit! to my heart with the stealthy pace of the tiger! I alternately laughed and howled, as the one or the other idea grew predominant. Down -- certainly, relentlessly down! It vibrated within three inches of my bosom! I struggled violently -- furiously -- to free my left arm. This was free only from the elbow to the hand. I could reach the latter, from the platter beside me to my mouth with great effort, but no farther. Could I have broken the fastenings above the elbow, I would have seized and attempted to arrest the pendulum. I might as well have attempted to arrest an avalanche! Down -- still unceasingly -- still inevitably down! I gasped and struggled at each vibration. I shrunk convulsively at its very sweep. My eyes followed its outward or upward whirls with the eagerness of the most unmeaning despair; they closed them- selves spasmodically at the descent, although death would have been a relief, O, how unspeakable! Still I quivered in every nerve to think how slight a sinking of the machinery would precipitate that keen glistening axe upon my bosom. It was hope that prompted the nerve to quiver -- the frame to shrink. It was HOPE -- the hope that triumphs on the rack -- that whispers to the death-condemned even in the dungeons of the Inquisition. I saw that some ten or twelve vibrations would bring the steel in actual contact with my robe, and with this observation there suddenly came over my spirit all the keen, collected calmness of despair. For the first time during many hours, or perhaps days, I THOUGHT. It now occurred to me that the bandage or surcingle which enveloped me was UNIQUE. I was tied by no separate cord. The first stroke of the razor-like crescent athwart any portion of the band would so detach it that it might be un- wound from my person by means of my left hand. But how fearful, in that case, the proximity of the steel! The result of the slightest struggle, how deadly! Was it likely, moreover, that the minions of the torturer had not foreseen and provided for this possibility! Was it probable that the bandage crossed my bosom in the track of the pendulum? Dreading to find my faint, and, as it seemed, my last hope frustrated, I so far elevated my head as to obtain a distinct view of my breast. The surcingle enveloped my limbs and body close in all directions save SAVE IN THE PATH OF THE DESTROYING CRESCENT. Scarcely had I dropped my head back into its original position when there flashed upon my mind what I cannot better describe than as the unformed half of that idea of deliverance to which I have pre- viously alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeterminately through my brain when I raised food to my burning lips. The whole thought was now present -- feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite, but still entire. I proceeded at once, with the nervous energy of despair, to attempt its execution. For many hours the immediate vicinity of the low framework upon which I lay had been literally swarming with rats. They were wild, bold, raven- ous, their red eyes glaring upon me as if they waited but for motionlessness on my part to make me their prey. "To what food," I thought, "have they been accustomed in the well?" They had devoured, in spite of all my efforts to prevent them, all but a small remnant of the con- tents of the dish. I had fallen into an habitual see-saw or wave of the hand about the platter; and at length the unconscious uniformity of the move- ment deprived it of effect. In their voracity the vermin frequently fastened their sharp fangs in my fingers. With the particles of the oily and spicy viand which now remained, I thoroughly rubbed the bandage wherever I could reach it; then, rais- ing my hand from the floor, I lay breathlessly still. At first the ravenous animals were startled and terrified at the change -- at the cessation of move- ment. They shrank alarmedly back; many sought the well. But this was only for a moment. I had not counted in vain upon their voracity. Observ- ing that I remained without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon the frame-work and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed the signal for a general rush. Forth from the well they hurried in fresh troops. They clung to the wood, they overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person. The measured movement of the pendulum disturbed them not at all. Avoiding its strokes, they busied themselves with the annointed bandage. They pressed, they swarmed upon me in ever accumu- lating heaps. They writhed upon my throat; their cold lips sought my own; I was half stifled by their thronging pressure; disgust, for which the world has no name, swelled my bosom, and chilled with heavy clamminess my heart. Yet one minute and I felt that the struggle would be over. Plainly I perceived the loosening of the bandage. I knew that in more than one place it must be already severed. With a more than human resolution I lay STILL. Nor had I erred in my calculations, nor had I en- dured in vain. I at length felt that I was FREE. The surcingle hung in ribands from my body. But the stroke of the pendulum already pressed upon my bosom. It had divided the serge of the robe. It had cut through the linen beneath. Twice again it swung, and a sharp sense of pain shot through every nerve. But the moment of escape had arrived. At a wave of my hand my deliverers hurried tumul- tously away. With a steady movement, cautious, sidelong, shrinking, and slow, I slid from the em- brace of the bandage and beyond the reach of the scimitar. For the moment, at least I WAS FREE. Free! and in the grasp of the Inquisition! I had scarcely stepped from my wooden bed of horror upon the stone floor of the prison, when the motion of the hellish machine ceased and I beheld it drawn up by some invisible force through the ceiling. This was a lesson which I took desperately to heart. My every motion was undoubtedly watched. Free! I had but escaped death in one form of agony to be delivered unto worse than death in some other. With that thought I rolled my eyes nervously around on the barriers of iron that hemmed me in. Something unusual -- some change which at first I could not appreciate distinctly -- it was obvious had taken place in the apartment. For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling abstraction I busied my- self in vain, unconnected conjecture. During this period I became aware, for the first time, of the origin of the sulphurous light which illumined the cell. It proceeded from a fissure about half-an-inch in width extending entirely around the prison at the base of the walls which thus appeared, and were completely separated from the floor. I endeavoured, but of course in vain, to look through the aperture. As I arose from the attempt, the mystery of the alteration in the chamber broke at once upon my understanding. I have observed that although the outlines of the figures upon the walls were sufficiently distinct, yet the colours seemed blurred and in- definite. These colours had now assumed, and were momentarily assuming, a startling and most intense brilliancy, that give to the spectral and fiendish por- traitures an aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves than my own. Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon me in a thousand directions where none had been visible before, and gleamed with the lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal. UNREAL! -- Even while I breathed there came to my nostrils the breath of the vapour of heated iron! A suffocating odour pervaded the prison! A deeper glow settled each moment in the eyes that glared at my agonies! A richer tint of crimson diffused it- self over the pictured horrors of blood. I panted ' I gasped for breath! There could be no doubt of the design of my tormentors -- oh most unrelenting! oh, most demoniac of men! I shrank from the glowing metal to the centre of the cell. Amid the thought of the fiery destruction that impended, the idea of the coolness of the well came over my soul like balm. I rushed to its deadly brink. I threw my straining vision below. The glare from the en- kindled roof illumined its inmost recesses. Yet, for a wild moment, did my spirit refuse to comprehend the meaning of what I saw. At length it forced -- it wrestled its way into my soul -- it burned itself in upon my shuddering reason. O for a voice to speak! -- oh, horror! -- oh, any horror but this! With a shriek I rushed from the margin and buried my face in my hands -- weeping bitterly. The heat rapidly increased, and once again I looked up, shuddering as if with a fit of the ague. There had been a second change in the cell -- and now the change was obviously in the FORM. As be- fore, it was in vain that I at first endeavoured to appreciate or understand what was taking place. But not long was I left in doubt. The inquisi- torial vengeance had been hurried by my two-fold escape, and there was to be no more dallying with the King of Terrors. The room had been square. I saw that two of its iron angles were now acute -- two consequently, obtuse. The fearful difference quickly increased with a low rumbling or moaning sound. In an instant the apartment had shifted its form into that of a lozenge. But the alteration stopped not here -- I neither hoped nor desired it to stop. I could have clasped the red walls to my bosom as a garment of eternal peace. "Death," I said "any death but that of the pit!" Fool! might I not have known that INTO THE PIT it was the object of the burning iron to urge me? Could I resist its glow? or if even that, could I withstand its pres- sure? And now, flatter and flatter grew the lozenge, with a rapidity that left me no time for contempla- tion. Its centre, and of course, its greatest width, came just over the yawning gulf. I shrank back -- but the closing walls pressed me resistlessly on- ward. At length for my seared and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foothold on the firm floor of the prison. I struggled no more, but the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, long, and final scream of despair. I felt that I tottered upon the brink -- I averted my eyes -- There was a discordant hum of human voices! There was a loud blast as of many trumpets! There was a harsh grating as of a thousand thunders! The fiery walls rushed back! An outstretched arm caught my own as I fell fainting into the abyss. It was that of General Lasalle. The French army had entered Toledo. The Inquisition was in the hands of its enemies.
THE RAVEN, by: Edgar Allan Poe Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,- While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door; "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door; Only this, and nothing more." Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, And each seperate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow,-sorrow for the lost Lenore,- For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore,- Nameless here forevermore. And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me,-filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating, "'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,- Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; That it is, and nothing more." Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, "Sir," said I,"or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly tou came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you."--Here I opened wide the door; Darkness there, and nothing more. Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams, no mortal ever dared to dream before, But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token, And the only word there was spoken was the whispered word "Lenore!" This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word "Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more. Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before: "Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window-lattice; Let me see then what thereat is, and this mystery explore,- Let my heart be stil a moment, and this mystery explore;- 'Tis the wind, and nothing more." Open then I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore. Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door,- Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,- Perched, and sat, and nothing more. Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, "Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven; Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore, Tell me what thy lordly name is on night's Plutonian shore?" Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!" Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door, Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such a name as "Nevermore!" But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing further then he uttered,-not a feather then he fluttered,- 'Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before,- On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before." Then the bird said, "Nevermore!" Startled at the stillness, broken by reply so aptly spoken, "Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store, Caught from some unhappy master, whom unmerciful disaster Followed fast and followed faster, till his song one burden bore, Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore,- Of 'Nevermore,-nevermore!'" But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door, Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore- What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore- Meant in croaking "Nevermore!" This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core; This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er, But whose velvet violet lining, with the lamplight gloating o'er, She shall press-ah! nevermore! Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an useen censer, Swung by seraphim, whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor. "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee,-by these angels he has sent thee Respite,-respite and nepenthe from the memories of Lenore! Quaff, O, quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!" Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!" "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!-prophet still, if bird or devil! Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted,- On this home by horror haunted,-tell me truly, I implore!" Is there-is there balm in Gilead?-tell me,-tell me, I implore!" Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!" "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!-prophet still, if bird or devil! By that heaven that bends above us,-by that God we both adore, Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore, Clasp a fair and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore!" Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!" "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting,- "Get thee back into the tempest and the night's Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as token of that lie thy soul has spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!-quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!" And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming, And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out the shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted-nevermore!