Continued from "The Premature Burial
And now, amid all my infinite miseries, came sweetly the cherub Hope- for I thought of my precautions.
I writhed, and made spasmodic exertions to force open the lid: it would not move. I felt my wrists for
the bell-rope: it was not to be found. And now the Comforter fled for ever, and a still sterner Despair
reigned triumphant; for I could not help perceiving the absence of the paddings which I had so carefully
prepared- and then, too, there came suddenly to my nostrils the strong peculiar odor of moist earth. The
conclusion was irresistible. I was not within the vault. I had fallen into a trance while absent from
home-while among strangers- when, or how, I could not remember- and it was they who had buried me as a
dog- nailed up in some common coffin- and thrust deep, deep, and for ever, into some ordinary and nameless
As this awful conviction forced itself, thus, into the innermost chambers of my soul, I once again
struggled to cry aloud. And in this second endeavor I succeeded. A long, wild, and continuous shriek,
or yell of agony, resounded through the realms of the subterranean Night.
"Hillo! hillo, there!" said a gruff voice, in reply.
"What the devil's the matter now!" said a second.
"Get out o' that!" said a third.
"What do you mean by yowling in that ere kind of style, like a cattymount?" said a fourth; and hereupon
I was seized and shaken without ceremony, for several minutes, by a junto of very rough-looking individuals.
They did not arouse me from my slumber- for I was wide awake when I screamed- but they restored me to the
full possession of my memory.
This adventure occurred near Richmond, in Virginia. Accompanied by a friend, I had proceeded, upon a
gunning expedition, some miles down the banks of the James River. Night approached, and we were
overtaken by a storm. The cabin of a small sloop lying at anchor in the stream, and laden with garden
mould, afforded us the only available shelter. We made the best of it, and passed the night onboard. I
slept in one of the only two berths in the vessel- and the berths of a sloop of sixty or twenty tons
need scarcely be described. That which I occupied had no bedding of any kind. Its extreme width was
eighteen inches. The distance of its bottom from the deck overhead was precisely the same. I found it
a matter of exceeding difficulty to squeeze myself in. Nevertheless, I slept soundly, and the whole
of my vision- for it was no dream, and no nightmare- arose naturally from the circumstances of my
position- from my ordinary bias of thought- and from the difficulty, to which I have alluded, of
collecting my senses, and especially of regaining my memory, for along time after awaking from slumber.
The men who shook me were the crew of the sloop, and some laborers engaged to unload it. From the load
itself came the earthly smell. The bandage about the jaws was a silk handkerchief in which I had bound
up my head, in default of my customary nightcap.
The tortures endured, however, were indubitably quite equal for the time, to those of actual sepulture.
They were fearfully- they were inconceivably hideous; but out of Evil proceeded Good; for their very
excess wrought in my spirit an inevitable revulsion. My soul acquired tone- acquired temper. I went
abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I breathed the free air of Heaven. I thought upon other subjects
than Death. I discarded my medical books. "Buchan" I burned. I read no "Night Thoughts"- no fustian
about churchyards- no bugaboo tales- such as this. In short, I became a new man, and lived a man's life.
From that memorable night, I dismissed forever my charnel apprehensions, and with them vanished the
cataleptic disorder, of which, perhaps, they had been less the consequence than the cause.
There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad Humanity may assume the
semblance of a Hell- but the imagination of man is no Carathis, to explore with impunity its every cavern.
Alas! the grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful- but, like the
Demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or they will devour us-
they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish.