« PreviousContinue »
not only speak after death, but will remain some frightful disaster-relieved because
There can be no question but that moves, and by what aspects and impulses Edgar Poe possessed much subtlety of it claims to resemble the large brotherthought; an acute reasoning faculty; hood of man, he possessed nothing. The imagination of a gloomy character, and a ordinary incidents of life-the domestic remarkable power of analysis. This last affections, the passions, the intermixture quality, which from its frequent use almost of good and evil, of strength and weakverges upon disease, pervades nearly all ness, in the great human family who pass his stories, and is in effect his main cha- by our doors every day, and who sit beracteristic. Other persons have drawn as side us, love us, serve us, maltreat us (as unreservedly from the depths of horror. the varying mood prompts) were unknown But few others, with the exception of to him, or disregarded. Yet these things Browne and Godwin, have devoted them- constitute the staple—the best and most selves to that curious persevering analysis essential parts of the modern novel. They of worldly mysteries by which ”Poe has intrude themselves, in fact, into our acearned so large a portion of his reputa- quaintance, so frequently, so intimately, tion. The impression made upon the that we can not ignore their existence. mind of the reader by the apparently won. In the present case, we are at a loss to derful solutions of the most difficult pro- understand how a person so acute as our blems will not easily be forgotten. Yet, author could have neglected to place on examining the marvel more attentive- upon record what must have so incessantly, he will divest himself of a good deal ly forced itself upon his observation; nay, of his admiration, by reflecting as Dr. what must have met and jostled him so freGriswold justly observes) that the inge- quently in his rough journey through life. nuity is displayed “in unraveling a web Of the tales in which the analytical which has been woven for the express power of the author is more obviously purpose of unraveling.” Every man, in exerted, the least unpleasant are “The fact, is able readily to explain the riddle Purloined Letter,” and “The Golden which he himself has fabricated, however Bug." “ The Murders in the Rue laborious the process of manufacturing it Morgue,” and “The Mystery of Marie may have been.
Roget,” are, like too many of his other How far the thrilling interest which fictions, saturated with blood. In order Poe infused into his stories may be traced that the reader may satisfy his curiosity to the acute sensations which he himself as to the construction of these plots, the endured in a state of excitement or de- stories themselves must be read. It is spondency, we have no means of know- quite impossible, in the space at present ing. But we think that no writer would at our command, to transcribe either of have resorted so incessantly to the violent these stories and without such complete measures and extreme distresses which transcription the mysterious minute deconstitute the subject of his narratives, in tails, in which and in the tracing and solua good sound condition of health. His tion of which the merit resides, can not imagination appears to have been abso- be explained. We elect, therefore, to lutely embarrassed by a profusion of take our extract from a sketch in which visionary alarms and horrors. We rise another quality of the author's mind can up from his pages as from the spectacle of be shown.
A youth is supposed to be sitting on " "This,' said I at length, to the old manthe top of a cliff or mountain overlooking 'this can be nothing else than the great whirlthe sea.
It is called “Helseggen the pool of the Maleström.' cloudy,” and arose, a " sheer unobstructed Norwegians call it the Moskoe-strom, from the
“'So it is sometimes termed,' said he. “We precipice of black shining rock, some island of Moskoe in the midway."'"_Vol. i. fifteen or sixteen hundred feet high.” pp. 163, 164. The youth's companion, an old fisherman, bids him look out towards the Norway
“ You have had a good look at the coast –“ beyond the belt of vapor be- whirl,” says the old man, " and now I'll neath us, into the sea.”
tell you a story that will convince you “We had now been about ten minutes upon Moskoe-ström." And he accordingly tells
that I ought to know something of the the top of Helseggen, to which we had as
” cended from the interior of Lofoden, so that him how he and his brothers, having been we had caught no glimpse of the sea until it out fishing one day, three years ago, and had burst upon us from the summit. As the being about to return home, but having old man spoke, I became aware of a loud and mistaken the hour, were met by an gradually increasing sound, like the moaning of adverse wind. It was fresh on their å vast ħerd of buffaloes upon an American starboard quarter, and favorable when prairie; and at the same moment I perceived that what seamen term the chopping character they set out, but all at once they were of the ocean beneath us was rapidly changing taken aback by an unusual breeze from into a current which set to the eastward. Even over Helseggen. They could not make while I gazed, this current acquired a mon- way, and one of them was proposing to strous velocity: Each moment added to its return to their anchorage, when they obspeed—to its headlong impetuosity. In five served the whole of the horizon covered minutes the whole sea, as far as Vurrgh, was with a singular copper-colored cloud, that lashed into ungovernable fury; but it was
“rose with the most amazing velocity." between Moskoe and the coast that the main uproar held its sway. Here the vast bed of the In a minute the storm was upon them. waters, seamed and scarred into a thousand The masts went by the board, taking with conflicting channels, burst suddenly into fren- them the narrator's younger brother. He sied convulsion-heaving, boiling, hissing- and his elder brother, however, cling to gyrating in gigantic and innumerable vortices, the bark. and all whirling and plunging on to the eastward with a rapidity which water never else- " • For some moments we were completely where assumes, except in precipitous descents. deluged, as I say, and all this time I held my
“In a few minutes more, there came over breath, and clung to the bolt. When I could the scene another radical alteration. The gen- stand it no longer I raised myself upon my eral surface grew somewhat more smooth, and knees, still keeping hold with my hands, and the whirlpools, one by one, disappeared, while thus got my head clear. Presently our little prodigious streaks of foam became apparent boat gave herself a shake, just as a dog does where none had been seen before. These in coming out of the water, and thus rid herself, streaks, at length, spreading out to a great in some measure, of the seas. I was now trydistance, and entering into combination, took ing to get the better of the stupor that had unto themselves the gyratory motion of the come over me, and to collect my senses so as to subsided vortices, and seemed to form the germ see what was to be done, when I felt somebody of another more vast. Suddenly-very sudden- grasp my arm. It was my elder brother, and ly—this assumed a distinct and definite exist- my heart leaped for joy, for I had made sure ence, in a circle of more than a mile in diameter. that he was overboard—but the next moment The edge of the whirl was represented by a all this joy was turned into horror-for he put broad belt of gleaming spray; but no particle his mouth close to my ear, and screamed out of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific the word, “Moskoe-ström !" funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could “No one ever will know what my feelings fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black were at that moment. I shook from head to foot wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an as if I had had the most violent fit of the ague. angle of some forty-five degrees, speeding diz- I knew what he meant by that one word well zily round and round with a swaying and enough-I knew what he wished to make me sweltering motion, and sending forth to the understand. With the wind that now drove us winds an appalling voice, half shriek, half roar, on, we were bound for the whirl of the Strom, such as not even the mighty cataract of and nothing could save us ! Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven. “You perceive that in crossing the Ström
"The mountain trembled to its very base, channel, we always went a long way up above and the rock rocked. I threw myself upon my the whirl, even in the calmest weather, and face, and clung to the scant herbage in an then bad wait and tch carefully for the excess of nervous agitation.
slack-but now we were driving right upon the
pool itself, and in such a hurricane as this ! | tion, when we gave a wild lurch to starboard' "To be sure," I thought, "we shall get there and rushed headlong into the abyss. I muttero just about the slack—there is some little hope ed a hurried prayer to God, and thought al in that”_but in the next moment I cursed was over. myself for being so great a fool as to dream of " "As I felt the sickening sweep of the hope at all. I knew very well that we were descent, I had instinctively tightened my hold doomed, had we been ten times a ninety-gun upon the barrel, and closed my eyes. For some ship.' "-Vol. i., pp. 169, 170.
seconds I dared not open them--while I ex
pected instant destruction, and wondered that They are now within a quarter of a I was not already in my death-struggles with mile of the Moskoe-Ström. They recog- I still lived. The sense of falling had ceased;
the water. But moment after moment elapsed. nize the place, but it is no more like the and the motion of the vessel seemed much as it erery-day whirlpool than the whirlpool it- had been before, while in the belt of foam, with self is like a mill-race.
the exception that she now lay more along. I
took courage and looked once again upon the "It could not have been more than two scene. minutes afterwards when we suddenly felt the “Never shall I forget the sensation of awe, waves subside, and were enveloped in foam. horror, and admiration with which I gazed The boat made a sharp half turn to larboard, about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, and then shot off in its new direction like a as if by magic, midway down, upon the intethunderbolt. At the some moment the roaring rior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, noise of the water was completely drowned in prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly smooth a kind of shrill shriek—such a sound as you sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but might imagine given out by the water-pipes of for the bewildering rapidity with which they many thousand steam-vessels, letting off their spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly steam all together. We were now in the belt radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the full of surf that always surrounds the whirl; and I moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds thought, of course, that another moment would which I have already described, streamed in a plunge us into the abyss—down which we could flood of golden glory along the black walls and only see indistinctly on account of the amazing far away down into the inmost recesses of the velocity with which we were borne along. The abyss. boat did not seem to sink into the water at all, At first I was too much confused to obbut to skim like an air-bubble upon the surface serve any thing accurately. The general burst of the surge. Her starboard side was next the of terrific grandeur was all that I beheld. When whirl, and on the larboard arose the world of I recovered myself a little, however, my gaze fell ocean we had left. It stood like a huge writh- instinctively downwards. In this direction I was ing wall between us and the horizon.
able to obtain an unobstructed view, from the How often we made the circuit of the belt manner in which the smack hung on the inclined it is impossible to say. We careered round and surface of the pool. She was quite upon an round for perhaps an hour, flying rather than even keel—that is to say, her deck lay in a floating, getting gradually more and more into plane parallel with that of the water-but this the middle of the surge, and then nearer and latter sloped at an angle of more than forty-five nearer to its horrible inner edge. All this time degrees, so that we seemed to be lying upon our I had never left go of the ring-bolt. My brother beam-ends. I could not help observing, neverwas at the stern, holding on to a small empty theless, that I had scarcely more difficulty in water-cask which had been securely lashed maintaining my hold and footing in this situaunder the coop of the counter, and was the tion, than if we had been upon a dead level; and only thing on deck that had not been swept this, I suppose, was owing to the speed at which overboard when the gale first took us.
we revolved. approached the brink of the pit he let go his "" The rays of the moon seemed to search hold upon this, and made for the ring, from the very bottom of the profound gulf; but still which, in the agony of his terror, he endeavor- I could make out nothing distinctly, on account ed to force my hands, as it was not large enough of a thick mist in which every thing there was to afford us both secure grasp. I never felt enveloped, and over which there hung a magnideeper grief than when I saw him attempt this ficent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering act—although I knew he was a madman when bridge which Mussulmen say is the only pathhe did it-a raving maniac through sheer fright. way between Time and Eternity. This mist, I did not care, however, to contest the point or spray, was no doubt occasioned by the with him. I knew it could make no difference, clashing of the great walls of the funnel, as they whether either of us held on at all; so I let all met together at the bottom-but the yell him have the bolt, and went astern to the cask. that went up to the heavens from out of that This there was no great difficulty in doing; for mist, I dare not attempt to describe. the smack flew round steadily enough, and upon “Our first slide into the abyss itself, from an even keel-only swaying to and fro, with the the belt of foam above, had carried us to a immense sweeps and swelters of 'the whirl. great distance down the slope ; but our farther Scarcely had I secured myself in my new posi- / descent was by no means proportionate. Round
and round we swept-not with any uniform | gradual gyrations to the surface of the movement—but in dizzying swings and jerks, sea, and the man is saved ! that sent us sometimes only a few hundred
Although we can not, as we have said, yards—sometimes nearly the complete circuit afford space for the entire transcript of of the whirl. Our progress downward, at each
" The Purloined Letter,” we may venture revolution, was slow, but very perceptible.
• Looking about me upon the wide waste of to present a passage or two, showing with liquid ebony on which we were thus borne, I what perseverance and care the Parisian perceived that our boat was not the only object police are supposed to carry on a search in the embrace of the whirl. Both above and when a large reward is in prospect. below us were visible fragments of vessels, large A lady of the highest rank, it seems, masses of building timber and trunks of trees, has lost a letter, which, if given up to her with many smaller articles, such as pieces of
husband, would compromise her reputahouse furniture, broken boxes, barrels and
tion. staves. I have already described the unnatural
The thief is the Minister D.,
who curiosity which had taken the place of my ori- holds the thing in terrorem over her. ginal terrors. It appeared to grow upon me as The prefect of police is employed to regain I drew nearer and nearer to my dreadful doom. it, and an enormous sum offered for its I now began to watch, with a strange interest, recovery. After failing in his efforts, he the numerous things that floated in our com- consults a certain M. Auguste Dupin, who pany. I must have been delirious—for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the re
requires to know the particulars of the lative velocities of their several descents towards
search already made. They were as the foam below. “This fir tree,” I found myself
follows: at one time saying, “ will certainly be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disap
“Wby, the fact is, we took our time, and pears”—and then I was disappointed to find we searched every where. I have had long exthat the wreck of a Dutch merchant ship over- perience in these affairs. I took the entire took it and went down before. At length, after building, room by room; devoting the nights making several guesses of this nature, and being of a whole week to each.' We examined, first
, deceived in all—this fact—the fact of my invar- the furniture of each apartment. We opened iable miscalculation-set me upon a train of every possible drawer; and I presume you know reflection that made my limbs again tremble, that, to a properly trained police agent, such a and my heart beat heavily once more.
thing as a secret drawer is impossible. Any “It was not a new terror that thus affected man is a dolt who permits a “secret” drawer to me, but the dawn of a more exciting hope. escape him in a search of this kind. The thing This hope arose partly from memory, and partly is 80 plain. There is a certain amount of bulk from present observation. I called to mind the -of space-to be accounted for in every cabgreat variety of buoyant matter that strewed inet. Then we have accurate rules. The fifthe coast of Lofoden, having been absorbed and tieth part of a line could not escape us. After then thrown forth by the Moskoe-ström. By the cabinets we took the chairs. The cushions far the greater number of the articles were we probed with the fine long needles you have shattered in the most extraordinary way-so
seen me employ. From the tables we removed chafed and roughened as to have the appearance of being stuck full of splinters—but then I
'Why so ?' distinctly recollected that there were some of " "Sometimes the top of a table, or other them which were not disfigured at all. Now I similarly arranged piece of furniture, is removed could not account for this difference except by by the person wishing to conceal an article; supposing that the roughened fragments were then the leg is excavated, the article deposited the only ones which had been completely absorb- within the cavity, and the top replaced. The od—that the others had entered the whirl at so bottoms and tops of bed-posts are employed in late a period of the tide, or, from some reason, the same way: had descended so slowly after entering, that ""But could not the cavity be detected by they did not reach the bottom before the turn sounding? I asked. of the flood came, or of the ebb, as the case “By no means, if, when the article is demight be. I conceived it possible, in either posited, a sufficient wadding of cotton be placed instance, that they might thus be whirled up around it. Besides, in our case, we were obagain to the level of the ocean, without under liged to proceed without noise.' going the fate of those which had been drawn “But you could not have removed-you in more early or absorbed more rapidly.' ”—Pp. could not have taken to pieces, all articles of 172-5.
furniture in which it would have been possible
to make a deposit in the manner you mention. He thereupon lashes himself to a water-roll
, not differing much in shape or bulk from a
A letter may be compressed into a thin spiral cask near him, cuts it from the counter, large knitting-needle, and in this form it might and precipitates himself into the sea. The be inserted into the rung of a chair, for example. barrel, with its occupant, is returned by You did not take to pieces all the chairs ?'
"Certainly not; but we did better-We ex- | inquiry. “Yes, the reward offered was amined the rungs of every chair in the hotel, very liberal.” In fact, the object to be and, indeed, the jointings of every description attained was so great that the prefect of furniture, by the aid of a most powerful would himself give 50,000 francs for the microscope. Had there been any traces of re
letter. “In that case," replies Dupin, cent disturbance we should not have failed to detect it instantly. A single grain of gimlet- opening a drawer and producing his dust, for example, would have been as obvious check-book, “you may as well fill me up a as an apple. Any disorder in the glueing—any check, and I will hand you the letter;" unusual gaping in the joints — would have and the exchange is made between the sufficed to insure detection.'
"I presume you looked to the mirrors, be parties accordingly. tween the boards and the plates, and you probed
Dupin is asked, by the astonished prethe beds and the bed-clothes, as well as the cur
fect, to account for his success. In the tains and carpets.'
first instance, when consulted by the pre"That of course; and when we had abso- fect, he had suggested—“Perhaps it is lutely completed every particle of the furniture the very simplicity of the thing which in this way, then we examined the house itself. puts you at fault,” but he had been ridiWe divided its entire surface into compartments, culed for so absurd a supposition.
" What which we numbered, so that none might be missed; then we scrutinized each individual served. Yet Dupin proves to be right.
nonsense you talk ?” the prefect had obsquare inch throughout the premises, including the two houses immediately adjoining, with the
Knowing the Minister D-it apmicroscope, as before.'
peared that M. Dupin had called at his " " The two houses adjoining!' I exclaimed; hotel, and, upon the pretext of weak 'you must have had a great deal of trouble.' eyes, assumed a pair of green spectacles,
““We had; but the reward offered is pro- in order to conceal the inquisitive survey digious.'
which he proposed to make of the apart"You include the grounds about the houses?' " • All the grounds are paved with brick with letters and papers upon it, near which
ments. He first examined a writing-table, They gave us comparatively little trouble. We examined the moss between the bricks, and
the minister sate. found it undisturbed.'
“ “ You looked among D-'s papers, of “'At length my eyes, in going the circuit of course, and into the books of the library ? the room, fell upon a trumpery fillagree card
"• Certainly ; we opened every package and rack of pasteboard, that hung dangling by a parcel; we not only opened every book, we dirty blue ribbon, from a little brass knob just turned over every leaf in each volume, not con- beneath the middle of the mantel-piece. In this tenting ourselves with a mere shake, according rack, which had three or four compartments, to the fashion of some of our police officers were five or six visiting-cards and a solitary We also measured the thickness of every book- letter. This last was much soiled and crumpled. corer, with the most accurate admeasurement, It was torn nearly in two, across the middleand applied to each the most jealous scrutiny as if a design, in the first instance, to tear it of the microscope. Had any of the bindings entirely up as worthless, had been altered, or been recently meddled with, it would have staid, in the second. It had a large black scal, been utierly impossible that the fact should bearing the D- cipher very conspiciously, have escaped observation. Some five or six and was addressed, in a diminutive female hand, volumes, just from the hands of the binder, to D— the minister, himself
. It was thrust we carefully probed, longitudinally, with the carelessly, and even, as it seemed, contemptuneedles.'
ously, into one of the uppermost divisions of “You explored the floors beneath the car- the rack. pets ?'
No sooner had I glanced at this letter, than Beyond doubt. We removed every car. I concluded it to be that of which I was in pet, and examined the boards with the micro- search. To be sure, it was, to all appearance, scope.'
radically different from the one of which the " • And the paper on the walls ?'
prefect had read us so minute a description.
Here the seal was large and black, with the 16 • You looked into the cellars?'
D-cipher; there it was small and red, with We did.'”—Pp. 267–9.
the ducal arms of the S-family. Here, the
address, to the Minister, was diminutive and Dupin advises him to make a research feminine; there the superscription, to a certain of the premises, and at the same time royal personage, was markedly bold and decided; asks for an accurate description of the the size alone formed a point of correspondence. lost letter. The prefect makes the second which was excessive; the dirt; the soiled and
But then, the radicalness of these differences, search as advised, but returns unsuccess- torn condition of the paper, so inconsistent ful. “Did you offer a reward ?” is the / with the true methodical habits of D-, and