Part 1

Impia tortorum longos  hic turba furores
Sanguinis innocui, non satiata, aluit.
Sospite nunc  patria, fracto nunc  funeris antro,  Mors ubi dira fuit vita salusque patent.

I was  sick—sick  unto  death with  that  long  agony;  and  when they  at length  unbound me, and  I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses  were leaving me. The sentence—the dread sentence of death—was the  last  of distinct accentuation which  reached my ears. After that,  the sound of the inquisitorial voices seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum.  It conveyed to my soul the idea of revolution—perhaps from its association in  fancy  with  the  burr  of a mill  wheel.  This  only  for  a brief  period; for presently I heard no more.  Yet, for a while,  I saw;  but  with  how  terrible an exaggeration! I saw  the lips of the black-robed judges.  They appeared to        me       white—whiter             than    the   sheet    upon   which    I    trace    these words—and thin  even  to grotesqueness; thin  with  the  intensity of their expression of firmness—of immoveable resolution—of stern  contempt of human torture. I saw  that  the decrees  of what  to me was  Fate, were  still issuing from  those  lips. I saw  them  writhe with  a deadly locution. I saw them fashion   the  syllables  of  my  name;  and  I shuddered  because no sound succeeded. I saw,  too, for a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and  nearly  imperceptible waving of the  sable  draperies which  en- wrapped the walls of the  apartment. And  then  my  vision  fell upon the seven  tall candles upon the table. At first they wore  the aspect  of charity, and  seemed white  and  slender angels  who  would save  me; but  then, all at once, there  came a most  deadly nausea over my spirit,  and  I felt every fibre in my frame  thrill  as if I had  touched the wire  of a galvanic battery, while the angel  forms  became  meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, and  I saw  that  from  them  there  would be no help.  And  then  there  stole into  my  fancy,  like a rich musical note,  the thought of what  sweet  rest there  must  be in the grave.  

The thought came gently  and stealthily, and it seemed long  before  it attained full  appreciation; but  just  as my  spirit  came  at length  properly to feel and  entertain it, the figures of the judges  vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness;  their  flames  went  out  utterly; the blackness of darkness super- vened;  all sensations appeared swallowed up  in a mad  rushing descent as of the  soul  into  Hades. Then  silence,  and  stillness, night  were  the universe.

I had  swooned; but  still will not say that  all of consciousness was  lost. What   of  it  there  remained  I  will  not  attempt  to  define,   or  even   to describe;  yet  all  was  not  lost.  In  the  deepest  slumber—no! In  delirium—no!  In a swoon—no! In death—no! even  in the grave  all is not lost. Else there  is no immortality for man. Arousing from  the  most  profound of slumbers, we break  the gossamer web of some  dream. Yet in a second afterward, (so frail  may  that  web  have  been)  we  remember not  that  we have dreamed. In the return to life from  the swoon there  are two  stages; first, that of the sense of mental or spiritual; secondly, that of the sense of physical, existence.  It seems  probable that  if, upon reaching the second stage,  we  could  recall  the  impressions of the  first,  we  should find  these impressions eloquent  in  memories of  the  gulf  beyond. And  that  gulf is—what? 

How  at least  shall  we distinguish its  shadows from  those  of the tomb?  But if the impressions of what  I have termed the first stage, are not, at will, recalled, yet, after long interval, do they  not come unbidden, while  we marvel whence they come?  He who  has never  swooned, is not he who finds  strange palaces  and  wildly familiar faces in coals that glow; is not  he who  beholds floating in mid-air the  sad  visions  that  the  many  may  not  view;  is not he who  ponders over  the perfume of some  novel flower—is  not  he whose brain  grows  bewildered with  the  meaning of some musical cadence which  has never  before arrested his attention.

Amid  frequent and  thoughtful endeavors to  remember; amid  earnest struggles to regather some token  of the state of seeming nothingness into which   my  soul  had   lapsed, there   have   been  moments when  I  have dreamed of success;  there  have  been  brief,  very  brief  periods when I have conjured up  remembrances which  the lucid  reason of a later  epoch  assures me  could  have  had reference only  to  that  condition of seeming unconsciousness. These  shadows of memory tell, indistinctly, of tall figures  that  lifted  and  bore  me  in silence  down—down—still down—till a hideous dizziness oppressed me at the mere  idea of the interminableness of the descent. They tell also of a vague horror at my heart,  on account of that  heart's unnatural stillness. Then  comes  a sense  of  sudden motion- lessness  throughout all things;  as if those  who  bore  me (a ghastly train!) had  outrun, in their  descent, the limits  of the limitless,  and  paused from the  wearisomeness of their  toil.  After  this  I call  to  mind flatness and dampness; and  then  all is madness—the madness of a memory  which  busies itself among forbidden things.

Very suddenly there  came back to my soul motion and  sound—the tumultuous motion of the heart,  and,  in my  ears,  the  sound of its beating. Then  a pause in which  all is blank.  Then  again sound, and  motion, and touch—a tingling sensation pervading  my  frame.  Then  the  mere  consciousness of existence,  without thought—a condition which  lasted  long.

Then, very  suddenly, thought, and  shuddering terror,  and  earnest endeavor to comprehend my true  state.  Then  a strong desire  to lapse  into insensibility. Then  a rushing revival of soul  and  a  successful effort  to move.  And  now  a full memory of the  trial,  of the  judges,  of the  sable draperies, of the sentence, of the sickness,  of the swoon. Then  entire  forgetfulness of all that  followed; of all that  a later  day  and  much  earnestness of endeavor have enabled me vaguely to recall.

So far,  I had  not  opened my  eyes.  I felt that  I lay  upon my  back,  unbound. I reached out my hand, and  it fell heavily upon something damp and  hard. There  I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while  I strove  to imagine where and  what  I could  be. I longed, yet dared not to employ my vision.  I dreaded the first glance  at objects around me. It was not that I feared  to look  upon things  horrible, but  that  I grew  aghast lest there  should be nothing to see.  At  length, with  a wild desperation at  heart,  I quickly  unclosed my  eyes.  My  worst  thoughts, then,  were  confirmed. The blackness of eternal night  encompassed me.  I struggled for  breath. 

The intensity of the darkness seemed to oppress and  stifle me. The atmosphere was  intolerably close. I still lay  quietly, and made effort  to exercise my  reason. I brought to mind the  inquisitorial proceedings, and  at- tempted from  that  point  to deduce my  real  condition. The sentence had passed; and  it appeared to me that  a very  long interval of time had  since elapsed. Yet not for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead.  Such a supposition, notwithstanding what  we  read  in fiction,  is altogether inconsistent with  real  existence;—but where and  in what  state  was  I? The condemned to death, I knew,  perished  usually at the  autos-da-fe, and one of these had  been held  on the very night  of the day of my trial. Had  I been remanded to my dungeon, to await  the next sacrifice,  which  would not take place for many  months? This I at once saw could  not be. Victims had  been  in  immediate demand. Moreover, my  dungeon, as  well  as  all the  condemned cells at Toledo,  had  stone  floors,  and  light was  not  altogether  excluded.

A fearful  idea  now  suddenly drove the  blood  in  torrents upon my heart, and  for  a  brief  period, I once  more  relapsed into  insensibility. Upon  recovering, I at once  started to my  feet, trembling convulsively in every  fibre.  I thrust my  arms  wildly above  and  around me  in all directions. I felt nothing; yet dreaded to move  a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls  of a tomb. Perspiration burst  from  every  pore,  and  stood  in cold big beads  upon my forehead. The agony  of suspense grew  at length  intolerable, and  I cautiously moved forward, with  my  arms  extended, and my  eyes  straining from  their  sockets,  in the  hope  of catching some faint ray  of light.  I proceeded for many  paces;  but  still all was  blackness and  vacancy. I breathed  more  freely.  It seemed evident that  mine  was not, at least, the most hideous of fates.