Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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by me."

" Done like a sportsman, Geordy ; one dead deer is worth a
dozen crippled ones. I remember once your powder was too
weak ; and next, your shot were too small ; and next, your aim
was somewhat wild ; and one went off bored of an ear, and
another nicked of a tail. You are bound to set up an infirmary
across the river for the dismembered deer you have dispatched
there ! You have done well to kill let it grow into a habit.
Nimrod to the southwest, said you ? That rascal is a born
economist ; and not a foot will he budge in pursuit of a living
deer after your horn has told him there is venison in the rear !
Ruler will drive his deer across the river ; Rouser, to the
marshes. Nimrod s quarry is the only one likely to halt and
give us another chance."

And sure enough, there came Nimrod trotting back on his
track, his nose cocked up in air as if to indorse and verify the
inferences of his ear, his tail curled and standing out from his
body at an angle of forty-five degrees.

"This is the safe play hang up the deer sound your horn
till the hounds come in from their several chases and then


for Nimrod s lead ! to Chapman s bays, I think ! there are
some sheltered nooks in which they will stop and bask when
they find themselves unpursued."

" I 11 go in with the boys," says Loveleap, with an uncon
cerned air, but a sly twinkle of the eye, which did not escape
his comrades.

" As you like. Geordy and I will mind the stands."

Some time was lost before the hounds could be drawn from
their several chases ; yet, as emulation did not " prick them
on," they came the sooner for being scattered. Loveleap heads
the drivers, and it was just what we had anticipated, when,
before a single dog had given tongue, we heard him fire ; then
came a burst, and then a second barrel ; but to our great
surprise no horn announced the expected success. The report
of that gun went unquestioned in our sporting circle ; it was
in a manner axiomatic in woodcraft mysteries, and passed
current with all who heard it for thus much "a deer is
killed." Loveleap did an extraordinary thing that day he
missed \ But the drivers could not understand and the hounds
would not believe it ; so they rushed madly away in pursuit, as
if it was not possible for the quarry long to escape.

" Push on," says Geordy, " they make for the river ! " and
away we went. We reined in for a minute at the ford ; and
finding that they had already outstripped us and were bearing
down for Chapman s fort, a mile to the west of our position,
we struck across for the marshes south of us, where we
might, if he was a young deer, intercept him on his return to
his accustomed haunts. In an old buck we had no chance ; he
is sure to set a proper value on his life, and seldom stops until
he has put a river between his pursuer and himself.

Taking advantage of a road that lay in our way, we soon
cleared the woods and entered an old field that skirted the
marsh. It was a large waving plain of rank broom grass,


chequered here and there by strips of myrtle and marsh

" So far, Geordy," said I, " we have kept one track ; now
let us separate. The hounds are out of hearing, and we have
little chance of any game but such as we may rouse without
their help. How delightfully sheltered is this spot! how com
pletely is it shut- in by that semicircle of woods from the sweep
of the northwest winds ! How genially the sun pours down
upon it ! Depend upon it, we shall find some luxurious rogues
basking in this warm nook, for, next to your Englishman, a
deer is the greatest epicure alive ! Now, then, by separate
tracks let us make across the old field ; a blast of the horn will
bring us together when we reach the marsh."

By separate tracks then we moved, and had not advanced
two hundred yards, when crack went Geordy s gun. I looked
in the direction of the report, and his head only was visible
above the sea of marsh mallows. The direction of his face I
could see, and that was pointed toward me. Toward me, then,
thought I, runs the deer. I reined in my horse and turned his
head in that direction. It was such a thickly woven mass of
mallows and myrtle high as my shoulders as I sat in the
saddle that there was little hope of being able to see the
game. I trusted to my ear to warn me of his approach, and
soon heard the rustling of the leaves and the sharp, quick leap
which mark the movement of a deer at speed. I saw him not
until he appeared directly under my horse s nose, in act to leap ;
he vaulted, and would have dropped upon my saddle had he
not seen the horse while yet poised in air, and, by an effort
like that of the tumbler who throws a somersault, twisted him
self suddenly to my right. He grazed my knee in his descent ;
and as he touched the earth I brought my gun down, pistol-
fashion, with a rapid twitch, and sent the whole charge through
his backbone. It was so instantaneous so like a flash of


lightning that I could scarcely credit it when I saw the deer
twirling and turning over at my horse s heels. Dismounting
to secure him, it was some time before his muscular action
was sufficiently overcome to allow me to use my knife. He
struggled and kicked ; I set down my gun, the better to master
him. In the midst of my employment, crack went Geordy s
second barrel, nearer than the first, and " mind\ mind\"
followed the discharge. Before I could drop my knife and gain
my feet another deer was upon me ! He followed directly in
the track of the former and passed between my horse and me,
so near that I might have bayoneted him ! Where was my gun ?
Lost in the broom grass ! What a trial ! I looked all around in
an instant, and spying it where it lay, caught it eagerly up
the deer had disappeared ! It flashed across me that underneath
these myrtles the limbs excluded from the sun had decayed,
and that in the vistas thus formed a glimpse of the deer might
yet be gained. In an instant I am on my knees, darting the
most anxious glances along the vista ; the flash of a tail is seen
I fire a struggle is heard I press forward through the
interlacing branches and to my joy and surprise, another deer
is mine \ Taking him by the legs, I drag him to the spot where
the other lay. Then it was my turn to sound a "vaunty" peal!
Geordy pealed in answer, and soon appeared dragging a deer
of his own (having missed one of those that I had killed).
Three deer were started they were all at our feet and
that without the aid of a dog \ It was the work of five minutes !
We piled them in a heap, covered them with branches and
myrtle bushes, and tasked our horns to the uttermost to recall
the field. One by one the hounds came in, smelt at the myrtle
bushes, seemed satisfied, though puzzled, wagged their tails,
and coiling themselves each in his proper bed, lay down to
sleep. Yet had any stranger approached that myrtle-covered
mound every back would have bristled, and a fierce cry of


defiance would have broken forth from ever} tongue, then
so mute.

At last came Loveleap, fagged, and somewhat fretted by his
ill success.

" I have been blowing till I ve split my wind, and not a dog
has come to my horn. How came you thrown out ? and why
have you kept such an incessant braying of horns ? Why, how
is this ? the dogs are here ? "

" Yes ! they have shown their sense in coming to us ; there "s
been butchery hereabouts ! "

"One of P s cattle killed by the runaways, I suppose."

" Will you lend us your boy to bring a cart ? " I said.

" Certainly, says Loveleap ; " it will make such a feast for
the dogs ; but where is the COW T ?

"Here/" says Geordy, kicking off the myrtle screen and
revealing to the sight of his astonished comrade our three layers
of venison \ Oh, you should have seen Loveleap s face !

The cart is brought, and our four deer are soon on their way
home. Do you think we accompanied them ? No ! We were so
merciless as to meditate still further havoc. The day was so
little spent and as our hands were in, and there was just
in the next drive an overgrown old buck who often had the
insolence to baffle us no ! we must take a drive at him !
Again the hounds are thrown into cover, headed by our remain
ing driver ; but in the special object of our move we failed
the buck had decamped. Still, the fortune of the day attended
us; and an inquisitive old turkey gobbler, having ventured to
peep at Geordy where he lay in ambush, was sprawled by a
shot from his gun and was soon seen dangling from his

This closed our hunt. And now that we have a moment s
breathing time, tell me, brother sportsmen who may chance to
read this veritable history, has it ever been your fortune, in a


single day s hunt and as the spoils of two gunners only, to
bring home four deer and a wild turkey ? Ye gastronomes !
who relish the proceeds of a hunt better than its toils and
perils a glance at that larder, if you please ! Look at that
fine bird, so carefully hung up by the neck ; his spurs are an
inch and a half in length, his beard eight inches ; what an
ample chest ! what glossy plumage ! his weight is twenty-five
pounds ! And see that brave array of haunches ! that is a buck
of two years, juicy, -tender, but not fat, capital for steaks !
But your eye finds something yet more attractive the saddle
of a four-year-old doe, kidney covered, as you see ; a morsel
more savoury smokes not upon a monarch s board. How
pleasant to eat! Shall I say it? how much pleasanter to
give away ! Ah, how such things do win their way to hearts
men s and women s too ! My young sporting friends, a word
in your ear: the worst use you can make rf y^ir gnmp ;c ^
eat it yourselves.



[Edgar Allan Poe was born, it is supposed, in Boston in 1809.
His mother and father having died when he was three years old, he
was adopted by Mrs. John Allan of Richmond, Virginia. He was
educated in England and at the University of Virginia and West
Point. In January, 1831, he
was dismissed from the Military
Academy on account of neglect
of duties, and went to New
York to embark upon a literary
career. His life from this time
was very erratic, being passed in
various cities Richmond and
Baltimore especially. Poe be
came connected with several
magazines, but on account of
the irregularities of his charac
ter especially drinking and
ill health, he was unable to hold
any of these positions for any
length of time. In May, 1836.
he was married to Miss Virginia
Clemm, his cousin, who at the time of the marriage was but fourteen
years old. In 1846, while the Poes were living in a small cottage at
Fordham, she died of consumption under distressing conditions of
poverty. This bereavement so affected Poe that it is hardly possible
to believe that he was himself mentally during the remaining few
years of his life. In the early part of October, 1849, he went to
Baltimore, and shortly aftenvards was found lying senseless in a
saloon which was being used as a voting place. He was removed to




a hospital where he died on the morning of the 7th of October.
The mystery surrounding the circumstances of his death has never
been unraveled.

Poe challenges attention in literature because of three notable
contributions critical essays, short stories, and poems. As the
critical essays are not represented in this volume, they may be dis
missed with the brief statement that in spite of personal bias and
jealousies, Foe s criticism is independent and suggestive, and his
judgments have in the main proved to be those of posterity. His
poetic contribution is discussed in another place in this book. Of his
short stories, or " tales," as he called them, it may be said that these
are among the best examples of this form of literature in the English
language. In range of subject matter Poe was narrow, but on the
constructive side of story writing he yields to few writers.]


During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the
autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in
the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through
a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found my
self, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the
melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was but
with the first glimpse of the building a sense of insufferable
gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable ; for the feeling
was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic,
sentiment with which the mind usually receives even the stern
est natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon
the scene before me upon the mere house and the simple
landscape features of the domain, upon the bleak walls, upon
the vacant eyelike windows, upon a few rank sedges, and upon
a few white trunks of decayed trees with an utter depression
of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more
properly than to the after-dream of the reveler upon opium :
the bitter lapse into everyday life, the hideous dropping off of


the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the
heart, an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading
of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.
What was it I paused to think what was it that so un
nerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It
was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could I grapple with the
shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered. I was
forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory conclusion that
while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple
natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us, still
the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond
our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different
arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of
the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to anni
hilate, its capacity for sorrowful impression ; and acting upon
this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black
and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled luster by the dwelling, and
gazed clown but with a shudder even more thrilling than
before upon the remodeled and inverted images of the gray
sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eyelike

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to
myself a sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick
Usher, had been one of my boon companions in boyhood ; but
many years had elapsed since our last meeting. A letter, how
ever, had lately reached me in a distant part of the country
a letter from him which in its wildly importunate nature had
admitted of no other than a personal reply. The MS. gave
evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily
illness, of a mental disorder which oppressed him, and of an
earnest desire to see me, as his best and indeed his only per
sonal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of
my society, some alleviation of his malady. It was the manner


in which all this, and much more, was said it was the
apparent heart that went with his request which allowed me
no room for hesitation ; and I accordingly obeyed forthwith
what I still considered a very singular summons.

Although as boys we had been even intimate associates, yet
I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always
excessive and habitual. I was aware, however, that his very
ancient family had been noted, time out of mind, for a peculiar
sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages,
in many works of exalted art, and manifested of late in repeated
deeds of munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a
passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more than
to the orthodox and easily recognizable beauties, of musical
science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact that the
stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put
forth at no period any enduring branch ; in other words, that
the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had
always, with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain.
It was this deficiency, I considered, while running over in
thought the perfect keeping of the character of the premises
with the accredited character of the people, and while speculat
ing upon the possible influence which the one, in the long lapse
of centuries, might have exercised -upon the other it was this
deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and the consequent un-
deviating transmission from sire to son of the patrimony with
the name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to
merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal
appellation of the " House of Usher," an appellation which
seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it,
both the family and the family mansion.

I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish
experiment, that of looking down within the tarn, had been to
deepen the first singular impression. There can be no doubt


that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition
for why should I not so term it ? served mainly to accel
erate the increase itself. Such, I have long known, is the para
doxical law of all sentiments having terror as a basis. And it
might have been for this reason only, that when I again uplifted
my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there
grew in my mind a strange fancy a fancy so ridiculous,
indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the
sensations which oppressed me. I had so worked upon my im
agination as really to believe that about the whole mansion and
domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and
their immediate vicinity an atmosphere which had no affinity
with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from decayed
trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn ; a pestilent and
mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.
Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I
scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its
principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity.
The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi over
spread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled webwork
from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary
dilapidation. Xo portion of the masonry had fallen ; and there
appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect
adaptation of parts and the crumbling condition of the individual
stones. In this there was much that reminded one of the spe
cious totality of old woodwork which has rotted for long years
in some neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath
of the external air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay,
however, the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the
eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely
perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of the build
ing in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction,
until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.


Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the
house. A servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the
Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence
conducted me, in silence, through many dark and intricate
passage in my progress to the studio of his master. Much
that I encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to
heighten the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken.
While the objects around me while the carvings of the ceil
ings, the somber tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of
the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which
rattled as I strode were but matters to which, or to such as
which, I had been accustomed from my infancy while I hesi
tated not to acknowledge how familiar was all this I still
wondered to find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordi
nary images were stirring up. On one of the staircases I met
the physician of the family. His countenance, I thought, wore a
mingled expression of low cunning and perplexity. He accosted
me with trepidation and passed on. The valet now threw open
a door and ushered me into the presence of his master.

The room in which I found myself was very large and lofty.
The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a
distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inacces
sible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made
their way through the trellised panes, and served to render
sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around ; the
eye, however, struggled in vain to reach the remoter angles of
the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted and fretted ceiling.
Dark draperies hung- upon the walls. The general furniture
was profuse, comfortless, antique, and tattered. Many books
and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give
any vitality to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere
of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung
over and pervaded all.


Upon my entrance, L sher arose from a sofa on which he
had been lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious
warmth which had much in it, I at first thought, of an over
done cordiality of the constrained effort of the ennuye man
of the world. A glance, however, at his countenance convinced
me of his perfect sincerity. \Ye sat down ; and for some
moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon him with a feeling
half of pity, half of awe. Surely man had never before so
terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Lusher !
It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the
identity of the wan being before me with the companion of my
early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all
times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion ; an eye
large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison ; lips somewhat
thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve ; a
nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril
unusual in similar formations ; a finely molded chin, speaking,
in its want of prominence, of a w*ant of moral energy ; hair of
a more than weblike softness and tenuity ; these features, with
an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made
up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And
now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of
these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey,
lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The
now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous luster of
the eye, above all things startled and even aw r ed me. The silken
hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its
wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face,
I could not, even with effort, connect its arabesque expression
with any idea of simple humanity.

In the manner of my friend I was at once struck with an
incoherence, an inconsistency ; and I soon found this to arise
from a series of feeble and futile struggles to overcome an


habitual trepidancy, an excessive nervous agitation. For some
thing of this nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his
letter than by reminiscences of certain boyish traits, and by
conclusions deduced from his peculiar physical conformation
and temperament. His action was alternately vivacious and
sullen. His voice varied rapidly from a tremulous indecision
(when the animal spirits seemed utterly in abeyance) to that
species of energetic concision that abrupt, weighty, unhurried,
and hollow-sounding enunciation that leaden, self-balanced
and perfectly modulated guttural utterance which may be
observed in the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable eater of
opium, during the periods of his most intense excitement.

It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his
earnest desire to see me, and of the solace he expected me to
afford him. He entered, at some length, into what he con
ceived to be the nature of his malady. It was, he said, a con
stitutional and a family evil, and one for which he despaired
to find a remedy a mere nervous affection, he immediately
added, which would undoubtedly soon pass off. It displayed
itself in a host of unnatural sensations. Some of these, as he

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 3 of 35)