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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 2
Upon leaving him on the night of our adventure, he solicited me, in what I thought an urgent manner, to call upon him _very_ early the next morning. Shortly after sunrise, I found myself accordingly at his Palazzo, one of those huge structures of gloomy, yet fantastic pomp, which tower above the waters of the Grand Canal in the vicinity of the Rialto. I was shown up a broad winding staircase of mosaics, into an apartment whose unparalleled splendor burst through the opening door with an actual glare, making me blind and dizzy with luxuriousness.
I knew my acquaintance to be wealthy. Report had spoken of his possessions in terms which I had even ventured to call terms of ridiculous exaggeration. But as I gazed about me, I could not bring myself to believe that the wealth of any subject in Europe could have supplied the princely magnificence which burned and blazed around.
Although, as I say, the sun had arisen, yet the room was still brilliantly lighted up. I judge from this circumstance, as well as from an air of exhaustion in the countenance of my friend, that he had not retired to bed during the whole of the preceding night. In the architecture and embellishments of the chamber, the evident design had been to dazzle and astound. Little attention had been paid to the _decora_ of what is technically called _keeping_, or to the proprieties of nationality. The eye wandered from object to object, and rested upon none - neither the _grotesques_ of the Greek painters, nor the sculptures of the best Italian days, nor the huge carvings of untutored Egypt. Rich draperies in every part of the room trembled to the vibration of low, melancholy music, whose origin was not to be discovered. The senses were oppressed by mingled and conflicting perfumes, reeking up from strange convolute censers, together with multitudinous flaring and flickering tongues of emerald and violet fire. The rays of the newly risen sun poured in upon the whole, through windows, formed each of a single pane of crimson-tinted glass. Glancing to and fro, in a thousand reflections, from curtains which rolled from their cornices like cataracts of molten silver, the beams of natural glory mingled at length fitfully with the artificial light, and lay weltering in subdued masses upon a carpet of rich, liquid-looking cloth of Chili gold.
"Ha! ha! ha! - ha! ha! ha! " - laughed the proprietor, motioning me to a seat as I entered the room, and throwing himself back at full-length upon an ottoman. "I see," said he, perceiving that I could not immediately reconcile myself to the _bienseance_ of so singular a welcome - "I see you are astonished at my apartment - at my statues - my pictures - my originality of conception in architecture and upholstery! absolutely drunk, eh, with my magnificence? But pardon me, my dear sir, (here his tone of voice dropped to the very spirit of cordiality,) pardon me for my uncharitable laughter. You appeared so _utterly_ astonished. Besides, some things are so completely ludicrous, that a man _must_ laugh or die. To die laughing, must be the most glorious of all glorious deaths! Sir Thomas More - a very fine man was Sir Thomas More - Sir Thomas More died laughing, you remember. Also in the _Absurdities_ of Ravisius Textor, there is a long list of characters who came to the same magnificent end. Do you know, however," continued he musingly, "that at Sparta (which is now PalŠ; ochori,) at Sparta, I say, to the west of the citadel, among a chaos of scarcely visible ruins, is a kind of _socle_, upon which are still legible the letters 7!=9 . They are undoubtedly part of '+7!=9! . Now, at Sparta were a thousand temples and shrines to a thousand different divinities. How exceedingly strange that the altar of Laughter should have survived all the others! But in the present instance," he resumed, with a singular alteration of voice and manner, "I have no right to be merry at your expense. You might well have been amazed. Europe cannot produce anything so fine as this, my little regal cabinet. My other apartments are by no means of the same order - mere _ultras_ of fashionable insipidity. This is better than fashion - is it not? Yet this has but to be seen to become the rage - that is, with those who could afford it at the cost of their entire patrimony. I have guarded, however, against any such profanation. With one exception, you are the only human being besides myself and my _valet_, who has been admitted within the mysteries of these imperial precincts, since they have been bedizzened as you see!"