A Collection of Stories (Tor Classics)

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9780812504552: A Collection of Stories (Tor Classics)

Tor Classics are affordably-priced editions designed to attract the young reader. Original dynamic cover art enthusiastically represents the excitement of each story. Appropriate "reader friendly" type sizes have been chosen for each title―offering clear, accurate, and readable text. All editions are complete and unabridged, and feature Introductions and Afterwords.

This edition of Edgar Allan Poe includes a Foreword, Biographical Note, and Afterword by S. T. Joshi.

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About the Author:

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author and poet; his short stories include "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Tell-Tale Heart."

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A Collection of Stories
Metzengerstein A Tale in Imitation of the German Pestis eram vivus--moriens tua mors ero. --MARTIN LUTHER  
 
 
 
HORROR AND FATALITY have been stalking aboard in all ages. Why then give a date to the story I have to tell? I will not. Besides, I have other reasons for concealment. Let it suffice to say, that at the period of which I speak, there existed, in the interior of Hungary, a settled although hidden belief in the doctrines of Metempsychosis. Of the doctrines themselves--that is, of their falsity, or of their probability--I say nothing. I assert, however, that much of our incredulity--as La Bruyére says of all our unhappiness-- "vient de ne pouvoir etre seuls." But there were some points in the Hungarian superstition which were fast verging to absurdity. They--the Hungarians--differed very essentially from their Eastern authorities. For example. "The soul," said the former--I give the words of an acute and intelligent Parisian-- ne demeure qu'un seul fois dans un corps sensible: au reste--un cheval, un chien, un homme meme n' est que la ressemblance peu tangible de ces animaux."  
The families of Berlifitzing and Metzengerstein had been at variance for centuries. Never before were two houses so illustrious mutually embittered by hostility so deadly. Indeed, at the era of this history, it was observedby an old crone of haggard and sinister appearance, that "fire and water might sooner mingle than a Berlifitzing clasp the hand of a Metzengerstein." The origin of this enmity seems to be found in the words of an ancient prophecy--"A lofty name shall have a fearful fall when, like the rider over his horse, the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the immortality of Berlifitzing." To be sure the words themselves had little or no meaning. But more trivial causes have given rise--and that no long while ago--to consequences equally eventful. Besides, the estates, which were contiguous, had long exercised a rival influence in the affairs of a busy government. Moreover, near neighbors are seldom friends --and the inhabitants of the Castle Berlifitzing might look, from their lofty buttresses, into the very windows of the Chateau Metzengerstein. Least of all was the more than feudal magnificence thus discovered calculated to allay the irritable feelings of the less ancient and less wealthy Berlifitzings. What wonder, then, that the words, however silly, of that prediction, should have succeeded in setting and keeping at variance two families already predisposed to quarrel by every instigation of hereditary jealousy? The prophecy seemed to imply--if it implied any thing--a final triumph on the part of the already more powerful house; and was of course remembered with the more bitter animosity on the side of the weaker and less influential.  
Wilhelm, Count Berlifitzing, although honorably and loftily descended, was, at the epoch of this narrative, an infirm and doting old man, remarkable for nothing but an inordinate and inveterate personal antipathy to the family of his rival, and so passionate a love of horses, and of hunting, that neither bodily infirmity, great age, nor mental incapacity, prevented his daily participation in the dangers of the chase. Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, was, on the other hand, not yet of age. His father, the Minister G----, died young. His mother, the Lady Mary, followed quicklyafter. Frederick was, at that time, in his fifteenth year. In a city fifteen years are no long period--a child may be still a child in his third lustrum: but in a wilderness--in so magnificent a wilderness as that old principality, fifteen years have a far deeper meaning. The beautiful Lady Mary! How could she die?--and of consumption! But it is a path I have prayed to follow. I would wish all I love to perish of that gentle disease. How glorious! to depart in the hey-day of the young blood--the heart all passion--the imagination all fire--amid the remembrances of happier days--in the fall of the year--and so be buried up forever in the gorgeous autumnal leaves! Thus died the Lady Mary. The young Baron Frederick stood without a living relative by the coffin of his dead mother. He placed his hand upon her placid forehead. No shudder came over his delicate frame--no sigh from his flinty bosom. Heartless, self-willed, and impetuous from his childhood, he had reached the age of which I speak through a career of unfeeling, wanton, and reckless dissipation; and a barrier had long since arisen the channel of all holy thoughts and gentle recollections.  
From some peculiar circumstances attending the administration of his father, the young Baron, at the decease of the former, entered immediately upon his vast possessions. Such estates were seldom held before by a nobleman of Hungary. His castles were without number--of these the chief in point of splendor and extent was the "Chateau Metzengerstein." The boundary line of his dominions was never clearly defined--but his principal park embraced a circuit of fifty miles. Upon the succession of a proprietor so young--with a character so well known--to a fortune so unparalleled--little speculation was afloat in regard to his probable course of conduct. And, indeed, for the space of three days the behavior of the heir out-heroded Herod, and fairly surpassed the expectations of his most enthusiastic admirers. Shameful debaucheries--flagrant treacheries--unheard-of atrocities--gave his trembling vassals quickly to understand that no servile submission on their part--no punctilios of conscience on his own--were thenceforward to prove any security against the remorseless and bloody fangs of a petty Caligula. On the night of the fourth day, the stables of the Castle Berlifitzing were discovered to be on fire: and the unanimous opinion of the neighborhood instantaneously added the crime of the incendiary to that already hideous list of the Baron's misdemeanors and enormities. But during the tumult occasioned by this occurrence, the young nobleman himself sat, apparently buried in meditation, in a vast and desolate upper apartment of the family palace of Metzengerstein. The rich although faded tapestry-hangings which swung gloomily upon the walls, represented the shadowy and majestic forms of a thousand illustrious ancestors. Here, rich-ermined priests, and pontifical dignitaries, familiarly seated with the autocrat and the sovereign, put a veto on the wishes of a temporal king--or restrained with the fiat of papal supremacy the rebellious sceptre of the Arch-Enemy. There, the dark, tall statures of the Princes Metzengerstein--their muscular war-courses plunging over the carcass of a fallen foe-startled the steadiest nerves with their vigorous expression: and here, again, the voluptuous and swan-like figures of the dames of days gone by, floated away in the mazes of an unreal dance to the strains of imaginary melody. But as the Baron listened, or affected to listen to the gradually increasing uproar in the stables of Berlifitzing--or perhaps pondered upon some more novel--some more decided act of audacity--his eyes became unwittingly rivetted to the figure of an enormous, and unnaturally colored horse, represented in the tapestry as belonging to a Saracen ancestor of the family of his rival. The horse itself, in the background of the design, stood motionless and statue-like--while farther back its discomfitted rider perished by the dagger of a Metzengerstein. On Frederick's lip arose a fiendish expression, as hebecame aware of the direction his glance had, without his consciousness, assumed. Yet he did not remove it. On the contrary he could by no means account for the singular, intense, and overwhelming anxiety which appeared falling like a shroud upon his senses. It was with difficulty that he reconciled his dreamy and incoherent feelings with the certainty of being awake. The longer he gazed, the more absorbing became the spell--the more impossible did it appear that he could ever withdraw his glance from the fascination of that tapestry. But the tumult without becoming suddenly more violent, with a kind of compulsory and desperate exertion he diverted his attention to the glare of ruddy light thrown full by the flaming stables upon the windows of the apartment. The action, however, was but momentary--his gaze returned mechanically to the wall. To his extreme horror and astonishment the head of the gigantic steed had, in the meantime, altered its position. The neck of the animal, before arched, as if in compassion, over the prostrate body of its lord, was now extended, at full length, in the direction of the Baron. The eyes, before invisible, now wore an energetic and human expression, while they gleamed with a fiery and unusual red: and the distended lips of the apparently enraged horse left in full view his sepulchral and disgusting teeth. Stupified with terror the young nobleman tottered to the door. As he threw it open, a flash of red light streaming far into the chamber, flung his shadow with a clear outline against the quivering tapestry; and he shuddered to perceive that shadow--as he staggered awhile upon the threshold--assuming the exact position, and precisely filling up the contour of the relentless and triumphant murderer of the Saracen Berlifitzing. To lighten the depression of his spirits the Baron hurried into the open air. At the principal gate of the Chateau he encountered three equerries. With much difficulty, and at the imminent peril of their lives, they were restraining the unnatural and convulsive plunges of a gigantic and fiery-colored horse. "Whose horse? Where did you get him?" demanded the youth in a querulous and husky tone of voice, as he became instantly aware that the mysterious steed in the tapestried chamber was the counterpart of the furious animal before his eyes. "He is your own property, Sire"--replied one of the equerries--"at least he is claimed by no other owner. We caught him flying, all smoking and foaming with rage, from the burning stables of the Castle Berlifitzing. Supposing him to have belonged to the old Count's stud of foreign horses, he led him back as an estray. But the grooms there disclaim any title to the creature--which is strange, since he bears evident marks of having made a narrow escape from the flames." "The letters W.V.B. are also branded very distinctly on his forehead"--interrupted a second equerry--"I supposed them, of course, to be the initials of Wilhelm Von Berlifitzing--but all at the Castle are positive in denying any knowledge of the horse." "Extremely singular!" said the young Baron, with a musing air, and apparently unconscious of the meaning of his words--"He is, as you say, a remarkable horse--a prodigious horse! although, as you very justly observe, of a suspicious and untractable character----Let him be mine, however," he added, after a pause--"perhaps a rider like Frederick of Metzengerstein, may tame even the devil from the stables of Berlifitzing." "You are mistaken, my lord--the horse, as I think we mentioned, is not from the stables of the Count. If such were the case, we know our duty better than to bring him into the presence of a noble of your family." "True!" observed the Baron drily--and at that instant a page of the bed chamber came from the Chateau with a heightened color, and precipitate step. He whispered into his master's ear an account of the miraculous and sudden disappearance of a small portion of the tapestry, in an apartment which he designated: entering, at the same time, into particulars of a minute and circumstantial character--but from the low tone of voice in which theselatter were communicated, nothing escaped to gratify the excited curiosity of the equerries. The young Frederick, during the conference, seemed agitated by a variety of emotions. He soon, however, recovered his composure, and an expression of determined malignancy settled upon his countenance, as he gave peremptory orders that a certain chamber should be immediately locked up, and the key placed in his own possession.  
"Have you heard of the unhappy death of the old hunter Berlifitzing?" said one of his vassals to the Baron, as, after the affair of the page, the huge and mysterious steed which that nobleman had adopted as his own, plunged and curvetted, with redoubled and supernatural fury, down the long avenue which extended from the Chateau to the stables of Metzengerstein. "No!"--said the Baron, turning abruptly towards the speaker--"dead! say you?" "It is indeed true, my lord--and, to a noble of your name, will be, I imagine, no unwelcome intelligence." A rapid smile of a peculiar and unintelligible meaning shot over the beautiful countenance of the listener--"How died he?" "In his rash exertions to rescue a favorite portion of his hunting stud, he has himself perished miserably in the flames." "I--n--d--e--e--d--!"--ejaculated the Baron, as if slowly and deliberately impressed with the truth of some exciting idea. "Indeed"--repeated the vassal. "Shocking!" said the youth calmly, and turned quietly into the Chateau.  
From this date a marked alteration took place in the outward demeanor of the dissolute young Baron Frederick Von Metzengerstein. Indeed his behaviour disappointed every expectation, and proved little in accordance with the views of many a manœuvering mamma--while hishabits and manners, still less than formerly, offered any thing congenial with those of the neighboring aristocracy. He was never to be seen beyond the limits of his own domain, and, in this wide and social world, was utterly companionless--unless, indeed, that unnatural, impetuous, and fiery-colored horse, which he henceforward continually bestrode, had any mysterious right to the title of his friend. Numerous invitations on the part of the neighborhood for a long time, however, periodically came in--"Will the Baron honor our festivals with his presence?" "Will with Baron join us in a hunting of the boar?" "Metzengerstein does not hunt"--"Metzengerstein will not attend" --were the haughty and laconic answers. These repeated insults were not to be endured by an imperious nobility. Such invitations became less cordial--less frequent--in time they ceased altogether. The widow of the unfortunate Count Berlifitzing, was even heard to express a hope--"that the Baron might be at home when he did not wish to be at home, since he disdained the company of his equals: and ride when he did not wish to ride, since he preferred the society of a horse." This to be sure was a very silly explosion of hereditary pique; and merely proved how singularly unmeaning our sayings are apt to become, when we desire to be unusually energetic. The charitable, nevertheless, attributed the alteration in the conduct of the young nobleman to the natural sorrow of a son for the untimely loss of his parents--forgetting, however, his atrocious and reckless behavior during the short period immediately succeeding that bereavement. Some there were, indeed, who suggested a too haughty idea of self-consequence and dignity. Others again--among whom may be mentioned the family physician--did not hesitate in speaking of morbid melancholy, and hereditary ill-health: while dark hints, of a more equivocal nature, were current among the multitude. Indeed the Baron's perverse attachment to his lately-acquired charger--an attachment which seemed to attain new ...

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