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door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea ; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now, you may think that I drew back-but no. I kept pushing the door open steadily, steadily.
I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, “Who's there?”
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and meantime I did not hear him lie down.
When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.
It was open-wide, wide open-and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person; for I had directed the ray, as if by instinct, precisely upon the eye.
Now, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. I scarcely breathed; I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Mean
. time the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. I thought the heart must burst.
And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound could be heard by a neighbor! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once-once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him I then smiled gayly to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead.
If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence
I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye-not even his—could have detected anything wrong.
When I had made an end of these labors it was four o'clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart—for what had I now to fear? Then entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.
I smiled-for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took
I my visitors all over the house. I bade them search-search well. I led them at length to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.
The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. But erelong I felt myself getting pale, and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct; it continued and gained definiteness-until at length I found that the noise was not within my ears.
No doubt I now grew very pale; but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key, and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro, with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men-but the noise steadily increased. O God! what could I do? I foamed-I raved I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder-louder-louder. And still the men chatted pleasantly and smiled. Was it possible they heard not?
They heard they suspected !—they knew !—they were making a mockery of my horror! I felt that I must scream or die —and now—again I-hark !- louder louder! louder!
“Villains !” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed—tear up the planks! here! here! it is the beating of his
— hideous heart !"
ATMOSPHERE. [Atmosphere is the feeling or spirit which pervades the thing seen or done. It is that something which seems to the speaker to envelop all, as the mist envelops a house or the sunshine a landscape. Atmosphere has no distinctive tone. It frequently demands the tone of Awe, or of Uproar.]
The Field of Waterloo Today.
The field of Waterloo to-day has that calm which belongs to the earth, impassive support of man; it resembles any other plain.
At night, however, a sort of visionary mist arises from it; and if some traveller be walking there, if he looks, if he listens, if he dreams like Virgil in the fatal plain of Philippi, he becomes possessed by the hallucination of the disaster. The terrible 18th of June is again before him; the artificial hill of the monument fades away, this lion, whatever it be, is dispelled; the field of battle resumes its reality; the lines of infantry undulate in the plain, furious gallops traverse the horizon; the bewildered dreamer sees the flash of sabres, the glistening of bayonets, the bursting of shells, the awful intermingling of the thunders; he hears, like a death-rattle from the depths of a tomb, the vague clamor of the phantom battle; these shadows are grenadiers; these gleams are cuirassiers; this skeleton is Napoleon; that skeleton is Wellington; all this is unreal, and yet it clashes and combats; and the ravines run red, and the trees shiver, and there is fury even in the clouds, and, in the darkness, all those savage heights, Mont Saint Jean, Hougomont, Frischemont, Papelotte, Planchenoit, appear confusedly crowned with whirlwinds of spectres exterminating each other.
Atmosphere of Macbeth.
ARTHUR E. PHILLIPS.
Thus understood, the atmosphere of this play of Macbeth is the most awful, and, withal, majestic, in literature. With a sweep of his titanic genius Shakespeare snatches from the universe a segment of Chaos, and charms it into a wild symphony for human ears—a symphony terrible and bloodybut yet a symphony. Listen to its awful music. The roaring and flashing of nature's artillery: in its midst strange, weird creatures, foul and filthy. Hell's unkenneled whelps, moaning and crooning. Blood on every side from war's awful conflict. Blasted and blackened meeting grounds; caverns hollow and hideous; cauldrons reeking with foul vapors of paddock and bat and toad; smoke tainted with the breath of hell; blood lettings of every kind,-executions, murders, carousals; things shrieking in their drunken dreams, animals gnawing at each other's entrails; the moon spirited away, the sun stopped in its course, darkness on the face of all! Owls shrieking, crickets crying, lamentations and screams of death—accents terrible—a universal roaring and shouting-chaos physical !
Aye, and chaos intellectual! The brain, peopled with strange and direful creatures and hideous, all in one horrid foment of insurrection. The good warring with the bad, hell struggling with heaven in the mind. The terrific clamor of Sin knocking at the door of Conscience, and laughing and shrieking in his triumph as he tortures his victim with visions of murderous daggers, gouts of blood, gory locks, sightless eyes, marrowless bones, graves and charnel houses ! Matter physical and matter intellectual in one terrific upheaval—in a word, Chaos itself, mastered by our immortal Shakespeare and set to a mighty and majestic and awful dramatic symphony. Such is Macbeth.