The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 4 Read online
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THE WORKS OF EDGAR ALLAN POE
IN FIVE VOLUMES
The Raven Edition
The Devil in the Belfry Lionizing X-ing a Paragraph Metzengerstein The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq. How to Write a Blackwood article A Predicament Mystification Diddling The Angel of the Odd Mellonia Tauta The Duc de l'Omlette The Oblong Box Loss of Breath The Man That Was Used Up The Business Man The Landscape Garden Maelzel's Chess-Player The Power of Words The Colloquy of Monas and Una The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion Shadow.--A Parable
THE DEVIL IN THE BELFRY
What o'clock is it?--_Old Saying_.
EVERYBODY knows, in a general way, that the finest place in the worldis--or, alas, was--the Dutch borough of Vondervotteimittiss. Yet asit lies some distance from any of the main roads, being in a somewhatout-of-the-way situation, there are perhaps very few of my readerswho have ever paid it a visit. For the benefit of those who have not,therefore, it will be only proper that I should enter into some accountof it. And this is indeed the more necessary, as with the hope ofenlisting public sympathy in behalf of the inhabitants, I design hereto give a history of the calamitous events which have so lately occurredwithin its limits. No one who knows me will doubt that the duty thusself-imposed will be executed to the best of my ability, with allthat rigid impartiality, all that cautious examination into facts, anddiligent collation of authorities, which should ever distinguish him whoaspires to the title of historian.
By the united aid of medals, manuscripts, and inscriptions, I am enabledto say, positively, that the borough of Vondervotteimittiss has existed,from its origin, in precisely the same condition which it at presentpreserves. Of the date of this origin, however, I grieve that I can onlyspeak with that species of indefinite definiteness which mathematiciansare, at times, forced to put up with in certain algebraic formulae.The date, I may thus say, in regard to the remoteness of its antiquity,cannot be less than any assignable quantity whatsoever.
Touching the derivation of the name Vondervotteimittiss, I confessmyself, with sorrow, equally at fault. Among a multitude of opinionsupon this delicate point--some acute, some learned, some sufficientlythe reverse--I am able to select nothing which ought to be consideredsatisfactory. Perhaps the idea of Grogswigg--nearly coincident withthat of Kroutaplenttey--is to be cautiously preferred.--Itruns:--"Vondervotteimittis--Vonder, lege Donder--Votteimittis, quasiund Bleitziz--Bleitziz obsol:--pro Blitzen." This derivative, to saythe truth, is still countenanced by some traces of the electric fluidevident on the summit of the steeple of the House of the Town-Council. Ido not choose, however, to commit myself on a theme of such importance,and must refer the reader desirous of information to the "Oratiunculaede Rebus Praeter-Veteris," of Dundergutz. See, also, Blunderbuzzard"De Derivationibus," pp. 27 to 5010, Folio, Gothic edit., Red and Blackcharacter, Catch-word and No Cypher; wherein consult, also, marginalnotes in the autograph of Stuffundpuff, with the Sub-Commentaries ofGruntundguzzell.
Notwithstanding the obscurity which thus envelops the date of thefoundation of Vondervotteimittis, and the derivation of its name, therecan be no doubt, as I said before, that it has always existed as we findit at this epoch. The oldest man in the borough can remember not theslightest difference in the appearance of any portion of it; and,indeed, the very suggestion of such a possibility is considered aninsult. The site of the village is in a perfectly circular valley, abouta quarter of a mile in circumference, and entirely surrounded by gentlehills, over whose summit the people have never yet ventured to pass. Forthis they assign the very good reason that they do not believe there isanything at all on the other side.
Round the skirts of the valley (which is quite level, and pavedthroughout with flat tiles), extends a continuous row of sixty littlehouses. These, having their backs on the hills, must look, of course, tothe centre of the plain, which is just sixty yards from the front doorof each dwelling. Every house has a small garden before it, with acircular path, a sun-dial, and twenty-four cabbages. The buildingsthemselves are so precisely alike, that one can in no manner bedistinguished from the other. Owing to the vast antiquity, the styleof architecture is somewhat odd, but it is not for that reason the lessstrikingly picturesque. They are fashioned of hard-burned little bricks,red, with black ends, so that the walls look like a chess-board upon agreat scale. The gables are turned to the front, and there are cornices,as big as all the rest of the house, over the eaves and over the maindoors. The windows are narrow and deep, with very tiny panes and a greatdeal of sash. On the roof is a vast quantity of tiles with long curlyears. The woodwork, throughout, is of a dark hue and there is muchcarving about it, with but a trifling variety of pattern for, time outof mind, the carvers of Vondervotteimittiss have never been able tocarve more than two objects--a time-piece and a cabbage. But these theydo exceedingly well, and intersperse them, with singular ingenuity,wherever they find room for the chisel.
The dwellings are as much alike inside as out, and the furniture is allupon one plan. The floors are of square tiles, the chairs and tablesof black-looking wood with thin crooked legs and puppy feet. Themantelpieces are wide and high, and have not only time-pieces andcabbages sculptured over the front, but a real time-piece, which makesa prodigious ticking, on the top in the middle, with a flower-potcontaining a cabbage standing on each extremity by way of outrider.Between each cabbage and the time-piece, again, is a little China manhaving a large stomach with a great round hole in it, through which isseen the dial-plate of a watch.
The fireplaces are large and deep, with fierce crooked-lookingfire-dogs. There is constantly a rousing fire, and a huge pot over it,full of sauer-kraut and pork, to which the good woman of the house isalways busy in attending. She is a little fat old lady, with blue eyesand a red face, and wears a huge cap like a sugar-loaf, ornamentedwith purple and yellow ribbons. Her dress is of orange-coloredlinsey-woolsey, made very full behind and very short in the waist--andindeed very short in other respects, not reaching below the middle ofher leg. This is somewhat thick, and so are her ankles, but she hasa fine pair of green stockings to cover them. Her shoes--of pinkleather--are fastened each with a bunch of yellow ribbons puckered upin the shape of a cabbage. In her left hand she has a little heavy Dutchwatch; in her right she wields a ladle for the sauerkraut and pork. Byher side there stands a fat tabby cat, with a gilt toy-repeater tied toits tail, which "the boys" have there fastened by way of a quiz.
The boys themselves are, all three of them, in the garden attending thepig. They are each two feet in height. They have three-corneredcocked hats, purple waistcoats reaching down to their thighs, buckskinknee-breeches, red stockings, heavy shoes with big silver buckles, longsurtout coats with large buttons of mother-of-pearl. Each, too, has apipe in his mouth, and a little dumpy watch in his right hand. Hetakes a puff and a look, and then a look and a puff. The pig--which iscorpulent and lazy--is occupied now in picking up the stray leaves thatfall from the cabbages, and now in giving a kick behind at the giltrepeater, which the urchins have also tied to his tail in order to makehim look as handsome as the cat.
Right at the front door, in a high-backed leather-bottomed armed chair,with crooked legs and puppy feet like the tables, is seated the old manof the house himself. He is an exceedingly puffy little old gentleman,with big circular eyes and a huge double chin. His dress resembles thatof the boys--and I need say nothing farther about it. All the differenceis, that his pipe is somewhat bigger than theirs and he can m