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I could not help, however, repeatedly observing, through the mingled tone of levity and solemnity with which he rapidly descanted upon matters of little importance, a certain air of trepidation-a degree of nervous unction in action and in speech--an unquiet excitability of manner which appeared to me at all times unaccountable, and upon some occasions even filled me with alarm. Frequently, too, pausing in the middle of a sentence whose commencement he had apparently forgotten, he seemed to be listening in the deepest attention, as if either in momentary expectation of - a visiter, or to sounds which must have had existence in his imagination alone.
It was during one of these reveries or pauses of apparent abstraction, that, in turning over a page of the poet and scholar Politian's beautiful tragedy, "The Orfeo," (the first native Italian tragedy,) which lay near me upon an ottoman, I discovered a passage underlined in pencil. It was a passage towards the end of the third act—a passage of the most heart-stirring excitementa passage which, although tainted with impurity, no man shall read without a thrill of novel emotion—no woman without a sigh. The whole page was blotted with fresh tears; and, upon
oppo site interleaf, were the following English lines, written in a hand so very different from the peculiar characters of my acquaintance, that I had some difficulty in recognising it as his own :
Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine-
A fountain and a shrine,
And all the flowers were mine.
Ah, starry Hope, that didst arise
A voice from out the Future cries,
(Dim gulf !) my spirit hovering lies,
The light of life is o'er.
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore,)
Or the stricken eagle soar !
Now all my hours are trances;
And all my nightly dreams
And where thy footstep gleams,
By what Italian streams.
Alas! for that accursed time
They bore thee o'er the billow,
And an unholy pillow ! -
Where weeps the silver willow!
That these lines were written in English-a language with which I had not believed their author acquainted-afforded me little matter for surprise. I was too well aware of the extent of his acquirements, and of the singular pleasure he took in concealing them from observation, to be astonished at any similar discovery; but the place of date, I must confess, occasioned me no little amazement. It had been originally written London, and afterwards carefully overscored-not, however, so effectually as to conceal the word from a scrutinizing eye. I say, this occasioned me no little amazement; for I well remember that, in a former conversation with my friend, I particularly inquired if he had at any
time met in London the Marchesa di Mentoni, (who for some years previous to her marriage had resided in that city,) when his
answer, if I mistake not, gave me to understand that he had never visited the metropolis of Great Britain. I might as well here mention, that I have more than once heard, (without, of course, giving credit to a report involving so many improbabilities,) that the person of whom I speak, was not only by birth, but in education, an Englishman.
“ There is one painting,” said he, without being aware of my notice of the tragedy—“there is still one painting which you have not seen.” And throwing aside a drapery, he discovered a fulllength portrait of the Marchesa Aphrodite.
Human art could have done no more in the delineation of her superhuman beauty. The same ethereal figure which stood before me the preceding night upon the steps of the Ducal Palace, stood before me once again. But in the expression of the countenance, which was beaming all over with smiles, there still lurked (incomprehensible anomaly !) that fitful stain of melancholy which will ever be found inseparable from the perfection of the beautiful. Her right arm lay folded over her bosom. With her left she pointed downward to a curiously fashioned vase. One small, fairy foot, alone visible, barely touched the earth; and, scarcely discernible in the brilliant atmosphere which seemed to encircle and enshrine her loveliness, floated a pair of the most delicately imagined wings. My glance fell from the painting to the figure of my friend, and the vigorous words of Chapman's Bussy D'Ambois, quivered instinctively upon my lips :
“Come,” he said at length, turning towards a table of richly enamelled and massive silver, upon which were a few goblets fantastically stained, together with two large Etruscan vases, fashioned in the same extraordinary model as that in the foreground of the portrait, and filled with what I supposed to be Johannisberger. “Come,” he said, abruptly, “let us drink! It is early-but let us drink. It is indeed early," he continued, musingly, as a cherub with a heavy golden hammer made the apartment ring with the first hour after sunrise : "it is indeed early—but what matters it? let us drink! Let us pour out an offering to yon solemn sun which these gaudy lamps and censers are so eager to subdue !" And, having made me pledge him in a bumper, he swallowed in rapid succession several goblets of the wine.
“To dream,” he continued, resuming the tone of his desultory conversation, as he held up to the rich light of a censer one of the magnificent vases- -“ to dream has been the business of my life. I have therefore framed for myself, as you see, a bower of dreams,
In the heart of Venice could I have erected a better? You behold around you, it is true, a medley of architectural embellishments. The chastity of Ionia is offended by antediluvian devices, and the sphynxes of Egypt are outstretched upon carpets of gold. Yet the effect is incongruous to the timid alone. Proprieties of place, and especially of time, are the bugbears which terrify mankind from the contemplation of the magnificent. Once I was myself a decorist; but that sublimation of folly has palled upon my soul. All this is now the fitter for my purpose. Like these arabesque censers, my spirit is writhing in fire, and the delirium of this scene is fashioning me for the wilder visions of that land of real dreams whither I am now rapidly departing." He here paused abruptly, bent his head to his bosom, and seemed to listen to a sound which I could not hear. At length, erecting his frame, he looked upwards, and ejaculated the lines of the Bishop of Chichester:
In the next instant, confessing the power of the wine, he threw himself at full-length upon an ottoman.
A quick step was now heard upon the staircase, and a loud knock at the door rapidly succeeded. I was hastening to anticipate a second disturbance, when a page of Mentoni's household burst into the room, and faltered out, in a voice choking with emotion, the incoherent words, “My mistress !—my mistress ! Poisoned !-poisoned! Oh, beautiful-oh, beautiful Aphrodite !"
Bewildered, I flew to the ottoman, and endeavored to arouse the sleeper to a sense of the startling intelligence. But his limbs were rigid-his lips were livid-his lately beaming eyes were riveted in death. I staggered back towards the table--my hand fell upon a cracked and blackened goblet-and a consciousness of the entire and terrible truth flashed suddenly over my soul.
THE TELL TALE HEART.
True !--nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses--not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily-how calmly I can tell
the whole story. It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain ; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was
Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this ! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture-a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees-very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye
for Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But
should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded-with what caution-with what foresight with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it-oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly-very, very slowly, so that I might not