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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 4


page 5 of 6 | page 1 | Table of Contents

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

"But here," -- said I -- "here" -- and I dragged spitefully from its receptacle a gaunt, tall and peculiar-looking form, whose remarkable appearance struck me with a sense of unwelcome familiarity -- "here is a wretch entitled to no earthly commiseration." Thus saying, in order to obtain a more distinct view of my subject, I applied my thumb and forefinger to its nose, and causing it to assume a sitting position upon the ground, held it thus, at the length of my arm, while I continued my soliloquy.

-"Entitled," I repeated, "to no earthly commiseration. Who indeed would think of compassioning a shadow? Besides, has he not had his full share of the blessings of mortality? He was the originator of tall monuments -- shot-towers -- lightning-rods -- Lombardy poplars. His treatise upon "Shades and Shadows" has immortalized him. He edited with distinguished ability the last edition of "South on the Bones." He went early to college and studied pneumatics. He then came home, talked eternally, and played upon the French-horn. He patronized the bagpipes. Captain Barclay, who walked against Time, would not walk against him. Windham and Allbreath were his favorite writers, -- his favorite artist, Phiz. He died gloriously while inhaling gas -- levique flatu corrupitur, like the fama pudicitae in Hieronymus. {*1} He was indubitably a"--

"How can you? -- how -- can -- you?" -- interrupted the object of my animadversions, gasping for breath, and tearing off, with a desperate exertion, the bandage around its jaws -- "how can you, Mr. Lackobreath, be so infernally cruel as to pinch me in that manner by the nose? Did you not see how they had fastened up my mouth -- and you must know -- if you know any thing -- how vast a superfluity of breath I have to dispose of! If you do not know, however, sit down and you shall see. In my situation it is really a great relief to be able to open ones mouth -- to be able to expatiate -- to be able to communicate with a person like yourself, who do not think yourself called upon at every period to interrupt the thread of a gentleman's discourse. Interruptions are annoying and should undoubtedly be abolished -- don't you think so? -- no reply, I beg you, -- one person is enough to be speaking at a time. -- I shall be done by and by, and then you may begin. -- How the devil sir, did you get into this place? -- not a word I beseech you -- been here some time myself -- terrible accident! -- heard of it, I suppose? -- awful calamity! -- walking under your windows -- some short while ago -- about the time you were stage-struck -- horrible occurrence! -- heard of "catching one's breath," eh? -- hold your tongue I tell you! -- I caught somebody elses! -- had always too much of my own -- met Blab at the corner of the street -- wouldn't give me a chance for a word -- couldn't get in a syllable edgeways -- attacked, consequently, with epilepsis -- Blab made his escape -- damn all fools! -- they took me up for dead, and put me in this place -- pretty doings all of them! -- heard all you said about me -- every word a lie -- horrible! -- wonderful -- outrageous! -- hideous! -- incomprehensible! -- et cetera -- et cetera -- et cetera -- et cetera-"

It is impossible to conceive my astonishment at so unexpected a discourse, or the joy with which I became gradually convinced that the breath so fortunately caught by the gentleman (whom I soon recognized as my neighbor Windenough) was, in fact, the identical expiration mislaid by myself in the conversation with my wife. Time, place, and circumstances rendered it a matter beyond question. I did not at least during the long period in which the inventor of Lombardy poplars continued to favor me with his explanations.

In this respect I was actuated by that habitual prudence which has ever been my predominating trait. I reflected that many difficulties might still lie in the path of my preservation which only extreme exertion on my part would be able to surmount. Many persons, I considered, are prone to estimate commodities in their possession -- however valueless to the then proprietor -- however troublesome, or distressing -- in direct ratio with the advantages to be derived by others from their attainment, or by themselves from their abandonment. Might not this be the case with Mr. Windenough? In displaying anxiety for the breath of which he was at present so willing to get rid, might I not lay myself open to the exactions of his avarice? There are scoundrels in this world, I remembered with a sigh, who will not scruple to take unfair opportunities with even a next door neighbor, and (this remark is from Epictetus) it is precisely at that time when men are most anxious to throw off the burden of their own calamities that they feel the least desirous of relieving them in others.