TALES OF ENCHANTED OCTOBER: The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

The Birthmark

In the latter part of the last century there lived a man of science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy, who not long before our story opens had made experience of a spiritual affinity more attractive than any chemical one. He had left his laboratory to the care of an assistant, cleared his fine countenance from the furnace smoke, washed the stain of acids from his fingers, and persuaded a beautiful woman to become his wife. In those days when the comparatively recent discovery of electricity and other kindred mysteries of Nature seemed to open paths into the region of miracle, it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy. The higher intellect, the imagination, the spirit, and even the heart might all find their congenial aliment in pursuits which, as some of their ardent votaries believed, would ascend from one step of powerful intelligence to another, until the philosopher should lay his hand on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new worlds for himself. We know not whether Aylmer possessed this degree of faith in man’s ultimate control over Nature. He had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion. His love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and uniting the strength of the latter to his own.

Such a union accordingly took place, and was attended with truly remarkable consequences and a deeply impressive moral. One day, very soon after their marriage, Aylmer sat gazing at his wife with a trouble in his countenance that grew stronger until he spoke.

“Georgiana,” said he, “has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?”

“No, indeed,” said she, smiling; but perceiving the seriousness of his manner, she blushed deeply. “To tell you the truth it has been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.”

“Ah, upon another face perhaps it might,” replied her husband; “but never on yours. No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.”

“Shocks you, my husband!” cried Georgiana, deeply hurt; at first reddening with momentary anger, but then bursting into tears. “Then why did you take me from my mother’s side? You cannot love what shocks you!”

To explain this conversation it must be mentioned that in the centre of Georgiana’s left cheek there was a singular mark, deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face. In the usual state of her complexion–a healthy though delicate bloom–the mark wore a tint of deeper crimson, which imperfectly defined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness. When she blushed it gradually became more indistinct, and finally vanished amid the triumphant rush of blood that bathed the whole cheek with its brilliant glow. But if any shifting motion caused her to turn pale there was the mark again, a crimson stain upon the snow, in what Aylmer sometimes deemed an almost fearful distinctness. Its shape bore not a little similarity to the human hand, though of the smallest pygmy size. Georgiana’s lovers were wont to say that some fairy at her birth hour had laid her tiny hand upon the infant’s cheek, and left this impress there in token of the magic endowments that were to give her such sway over all hearts. Many a desperate swain would have risked life for the privilege of pressing his lips to the mysterious hand. It must not be concealed, however, that the impression wrought by this fairy sign manual varied exceedingly, according to the difference of temperament in the beholders. Some fastidious persons–but they were exclusively of her own sex–affirmed that the bloody hand, as they chose to call it, quite destroyed the effect of Georgiana’s beauty, and rendered her countenance even hideous. But it would be as reasonable to say that one of those small blue stains which sometimes occur in the purest statuary marble would convert the Eve of Powers to a monster. Masculine observers, if the birthmark did not heighten their admiration, contented themselves with wishing it away, that the world might possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness without the semblance of a flaw. After his marriage,–for he thought little or nothing of the matter before,–Aylmer discovered that this was the case with himself.

Had she been less beautiful,–if Envy’s self could have found aught else to sneer at,–he might have felt his affection heightened by the prettiness of this mimic hand, now vaguely portrayed, now lost, now stealing forth again and glimmering to and fro with every pulse of emotion that throbbed within her heart; but seeing her otherwise so perfect, he found this one defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their united lives. It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain. The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred with the lowest, and even with the very brutes, like whom their visible frames return to dust. In this manner, selecting it as the symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death, Aylmer’s sombre imagination was not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object, causing him more trouble and horror than ever Georgiana’s beauty, whether of soul or sense, had given him delight.

At all the seasons which should have been their happiest, he invariably and without intending it, nay, in spite of a purpose to the contrary, reverted to this one disastrous topic. Trifling as it at first appeared, it so connected itself with innumerable trains of thought and modes of feeling that it became the central point of all. With the morning twilight Aylmer opened his eyes upon his wife’s face and recognized the symbol of imperfection; and when they sat together at the evening hearth his eyes wandered stealthily to her cheek, and beheld, flickering with the blaze of the wood fire, the spectral hand that wrote mortality where he would fain have worshipped. Georgiana soon learned to shudder at his gaze. It needed but a glance with the peculiar expression that his face often wore to change the roses of her cheek into a deathlike paleness, amid which the crimson hand was brought strongly out, like a bass-relief of ruby on the whitest marble.

 

 

Late one night when the lights were growing dim, so as hardly to betray the stain on the poor wife’s cheek, she herself, for the first time, voluntarily took up the subject.

“Do you remember, my dear Aylmer,” said she, with a feeble attempt at a smile, “have you any recollection of a dream last night about this odious hand?”

“None! none whatever!” replied Aylmer, starting; but then he added, in a dry, cold tone, affected for the sake of concealing the real depth of his emotion, “I might well dream of it; for before I fell asleep it had taken a pretty firm hold of my fancy.”

“And you did dream of it?” continued Georgiana, hastily; for she dreaded lest a gush of tears should interrupt what she had to say. “A terrible dream! I wonder that you can forget it. Is it possible to forget this one expression?–‘It is in her heart now; we must have it out!’ Reflect, my husband; for by all means I would have you recall that dream.”

The mind is in a sad state when Sleep, the all-involving, cannot confine her spectres within the dim region of her sway, but suffers them to break forth, affrighting this actual life with secrets that perchance belong to a deeper one. Aylmer now remembered his dream. He had fancied himself with his servant Aminadab, attempting an operation for the removal of the birthmark; but the deeper went the knife, the deeper sank the hand, until at length its tiny grasp appeared to have caught hold of Georgiana’s heart; whence, however, her husband was inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it away.

When the dream had shaped itself perfectly in his memory, Aylmer sat in his wife’s presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often finds its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep, and then speaks with uncompromising directness of matters in regard to which we practise an unconscious self-deception during our waking moments. Until now he had not been aware of the tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind, and of the lengths which he might find in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace.

“Aylmer,” resumed Georgiana, solemnly, “I know not what may be the cost to both of us to rid me of this fatal birthmark. Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself. Again: do we know that there is a possibility, on any terms, of unclasping the firm gripe of this little hand which was laid upon me before I came into the world?”

“Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject,” hastily interrupted Aylmer. “I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its removal.”

“If there be the remotest possibility of it,” continued Georgiana, “let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust,–life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life! You have deep science. All the world bears witness of it. You have achieved great wonders. Cannot you remove this little, little mark, which I cover with the tips of two small fingers? Is this beyond your power, for the sake of your own peace, and to save your poor wife from madness?”

“Noblest, dearest, tenderest wife,” cried Aylmer, rapturously, “doubt not my power. I have already given this matter the deepest thought–thought which might almost have enlightened me to create a being less perfect than yourself. Georgiana, you have led me deeper than ever into the heart of science. I feel myself fully competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as its fellow; and then, most beloved, what will be my triumph when I shall have corrected what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work! Even Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not greater ecstasy than mine will be.”

“It is resolved, then,” said Georgiana, faintly smiling. “And, Aylmer, spare me not, though you should find the birthmark take refuge in my heart at last.”

Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek–her right cheek–not that which bore the impress of the crimson hand.

The next day Aylmer apprised his wife of a plan that he had formed whereby he might have opportunity for the intense thought and constant watchfulness which the proposed operation would require; while Georgiana, likewise, would enjoy the perfect repose essential to its success. They were to seclude themselves in the extensive apartments occupied by Aylmer as a laboratory, and where, during his toilsome youth, he had made discoveries in the elemental powers of Nature that had roused the admiration of all the learned societies in Europe. Seated calmly in this laboratory, the pale philosopher had investigated the secrets of the highest cloud region and of the profoundest mines; he had satisfied himself of the causes that kindled and kept alive the fires of the volcano; and had explained the mystery of fountains, and how it is that they gush forth, some so bright and pure, and others with such rich medicinal virtues, from the dark bosom of the earth. Here, too, at an earlier period, he had studied the wonders of the human frame, and attempted to fathom the very process by which Nature assimilates all her precious influences from earth and air, and from the spiritual world, to create and foster man, her masterpiece. The latter pursuit, however, Aylmer had long laid aside in unwilling recognition of the truth–against which all seekers sooner or later stumble–that our great creative Mother, while she amuses us with apparently working in the broadest sunshine, is yet severely careful to keep her own secrets, and, in spite of her pretended openness, shows us nothing but results. She permits us, indeed, to mar, but seldom to mend, and, like a jealous patentee, on no account to make. Now, however, Aylmer resumed these half-forgotten investigations; not, of course, with such hopes or wishes as first suggested them; but because they involved much physiological truth and lay in the path of his proposed scheme for the treatment of Georgiana.

As he led her over the threshold of the laboratory, Georgiana was cold and tremulous. Aylmer looked cheerfully into her face, with intent to reassure her, but was so startled with the intense glow of the birthmark upon the whiteness of her cheek that he could not restrain a strong convulsive shudder. His wife fainted.

“Aminadab! Aminadab!” shouted Aylmer, stamping violently on the floor.

Forthwith there issued from an inner apartment a man of low stature, but bulky frame, with shaggy hair hanging about his visage, which was grimed with the vapors of the furnace. This personage had been Aylmer’s underworker during his whole scientific career, and was admirably fitted for that office by his great mechanical readiness, and the skill with which, while incapable of comprehending a single principle, he executed all the details of his master’s experiments. With his vast strength, his shaggy hair, his smoky aspect, and the indescribable earthiness that incrusted him, he seemed to represent man’s physical nature; while Aylmer’s slender figure, and pale, intellectual face, were no less apt a type of the spiritual element.

“Throw open the door of the boudoir, Aminadab,” said Aylmer, “and burn a pastil.”

“Yes, master,” answered Aminadab, looking intently at the lifeless form of Georgiana; and then he muttered to himself, “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birthmark.”

When Georgiana recovered consciousness she found herself breathing an atmosphere of penetrating fragrance, the gentle potency of which had recalled her from her deathlike faintness. The scene around her looked like enchantment. Aylmer had converted those smoky, dingy, sombre rooms, where he had spent his brightest years in recondite pursuits, into a series of beautiful apartments not unfit to be the secluded abode of a lovely woman. The walls were hung with gorgeous curtains, which imparted the combination of grandeur and grace that no other species of adornment can achieve; and as they fell from the ceiling to the floor, their rich and ponderous folds, concealing all angles and straight lines, appeared to shut in the scene from infinite space. For aught Georgiana knew, it might be a pavilion among the clouds. And Aylmer, excluding the sunshine, which would have interfered with his chemical processes, had supplied its place with perfumed lamps, emitting flames of various hue, but all uniting in a soft, impurpled radiance. He now knelt by his wife’s side, watching her earnestly, but without alarm; for he was confident in his science, and felt that he could draw a magic circle round her within which no evil might intrude.

“Where am I? Ah, I remember,” said Georgiana, faintly; and she placed her hand over her cheek to hide the terrible mark from her husband’s eyes.

“Fear not, dearest!” exclaimed he. “Do not shrink from me! Believe me, Georgiana, I even rejoice in this single imperfection, since it will be such a rapture to remove it.”

“Oh, spare me!” sadly replied his wife. “Pray do not look at it again. I never can forget that convulsive shudder.”

In order to soothe Georgiana, and, as it were, to release her mind from the burden of actual things, Aylmer now put in practice some of the light and playful secrets which science had taught him among its profounder lore. Airy figures, absolutely bodiless ideas, and forms of unsubstantial beauty came and danced before her, imprinting their momentary footsteps on beams of light. Though she had some indistinct idea of the method of these optical phenomena, still the illusion was almost perfect enough to warrant the belief that her husband possessed sway over the spiritual world. Then again, when she felt a wish to look forth from her seclusion, immediately, as if her thoughts were answered, the procession of external existence flitted across a screen. The scenery and the figures of actual life were perfectly represented, but with that bewitching, yet indescribable difference which always makes a picture, an image, or a shadow so much more attractive than the original. When wearied of this, Aylmer bade her cast her eyes upon a vessel containing a quantity of earth. She did so, with little interest at first; but was soon startled to perceive the germ of a plant shooting upward from the soil. Then came the slender stalk; the leaves gradually unfolded themselves; and amid them was a perfect and lovely flower.

“It is magical!” cried Georgiana. “I dare not touch it.”

“Nay, pluck it,” answered Aylmer,–“pluck it, and inhale its brief perfume while you may. The flower will wither in a few moments and leave nothing save its brown seed vessels; but thence may be perpetuated a race as ephemeral as itself.”

But Georgiana had no sooner touched the flower than the whole plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of fire.

“There was too powerful a stimulus,” said Aylmer, thoughtfully.

To make up for this abortive experiment, he proposed to take her portrait by a scientific process of his own invention. It was to be effected by rays of light striking upon a polished plate of metal. Georgiana assented; but, on looking at the result, was affrighted to find the features of the portrait blurred and indefinable; while the minute figure of a hand appeared where the cheek should have been. Aylmer snatched the metallic plate and threw it into a jar of corrosive acid.

Soon, however, he forgot these mortifying failures. In the intervals of study and chemical experiment he came to her flushed and exhausted, but seemed invigorated by her presence, and spoke in glowing language of the resources of his art. He gave a history of the long dynasty of the alchemists, who spent so many ages in quest of the universal solvent by which the golden principle might be elicited from all things vile and base. Aylmer appeared to believe that, by the plainest scientific logic, it was altogether within the limits of possibility to discover this long-sought medium; “but,” he added, “a philosopher who should go deep enough to acquire the power would attain too lofty a wisdom to stoop to the exercise of it.” Not less singular were his opinions in regard to the elixir vitae. He more than intimated that it was at his option to concoct a liquid that should prolong life for years, perhaps interminably; but that it would produce a discord in Nature which all the world, and chiefly the quaffer of the immortal nostrum, would find cause to curse.

“Aylmer, are you in earnest?” asked Georgiana, looking at him with amazement and fear. “It is terrible to possess such power, or even to dream of possessing it.”

“Oh, do not tremble, my love,” said her husband. “I would not wrong either you or myself by working such inharmonious effects upon our lives; but I would have you consider how trifling, in comparison, is the skill requisite to remove this little hand.”

At the mention of the birthmark, Georgiana, as usual, shrank as if a redhot iron had touched her cheek.

Again Aylmer applied himself to his labors. She could hear his voice in the distant furnace room giving directions to Aminadab, whose harsh, uncouth, misshapen tones were audible in response, more like the grunt or growl of a brute than human speech. After hours of absence, Aylmer reappeared and proposed that she should now examine his cabinet of chemical products and natural treasures of the earth. Among the former he showed her a small vial, in which, he remarked, was contained a gentle yet most powerful fragrance, capable of impregnating all the breezes that blow across a kingdom. They were of inestimable value, the contents of that little vial; and, as he said so, he threw some of the perfume into the air and filled the room with piercing and invigorating delight.

“And what is this?” asked Georgiana, pointing to a small crystal globe containing a gold-colored liquid. “It is so beautiful to the eye that I could imagine it the elixir of life.”

 

 

“In one sense it is,” replied Aylmer; “or, rather, the elixir of immortality. It is the most precious poison that ever was concocted in this world. By its aid I could apportion the lifetime of any mortal at whom you might point your finger. The strength of the dose would determine whether he were to linger out years, or drop dead in the midst of a breath. No king on his guarded throne could keep his life if I, in my private station, should deem that the welfare of millions justified me in depriving him of it.”

“Why do you keep such a terrific drug?” inquired Georgiana in horror.

“Do not mistrust me, dearest,” said her husband, smiling; “its virtuous potency is yet greater than its harmful one. But see! here is a powerful cosmetic. With a few drops of this in a vase of water, freckles may be washed away as easily as the hands are cleansed. A stronger infusion would take the blood out of the cheek, and leave the rosiest beauty a pale ghost.”

“Is it with this lotion that you intend to bathe my cheek?” asked Georgiana, anxiously.

“Oh, no,” hastily replied her husband; “this is merely superficial. Your case demands a remedy that shall go deeper.”

In his interviews with Georgiana, Aylmer generally made minute inquiries as to her sensations and whether the confinement of the rooms and the temperature of the atmosphere agreed with her. These questions had such a particular drift that Georgiana began to conjecture that she was already subjected to certain physical influences, either breathed in with the fragrant air or taken with her food. She fancied likewise, but it might be altogether fancy, that there was a stirring up of her system–a strange, indefinite sensation creeping through her veins, and tingling, half painfully, half pleasurably, at her heart. Still, whenever she dared to look into the mirror, there she beheld herself pale as a white rose and with the crimson birthmark stamped upon her cheek. Not even Aylmer now hated it so much as she.

To dispel the tedium of the hours which her husband found it necessary to devote to the processes of combination and analysis, Georgiana turned over the volumes of his scientific library. In many dark old tomes she met with chapters full of romance and poetry. They were the works of philosophers of the middle ages, such as Albertus Magnus, Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and the famous friar who created the prophetic Brazen Head. All these antique naturalists stood in advance of their centuries, yet were imbued with some of their credulity, and therefore were believed, and perhaps imagined themselves to have acquired from the investigation of Nature a power above Nature, and from physics a sway over the spiritual world. Hardly less curious and imaginative were the early volumes of the Transactions of the Royal Society, in which the members, knowing little of the limits of natural possibility, were continually recording wonders or proposing methods whereby wonders might be wrought.

But to Georgiana the most engrossing volume was a large folio from her husband’s own hand, in which he had recorded every experiment of his scientific career, its original aim, the methods adopted for its development, and its final success or failure, with the circumstances to which either event was attributable. The book, in truth, was both the history and emblem of his ardent, ambitious, imaginative, yet practical and laborious life. He handled physical details as if there were nothing beyond them; yet spiritualized them all, and redeemed himself from materialism by his strong and eager aspiration towards the infinite. In his grasp the veriest clod of earth assumed a soul. Georgiana, as she read, reverenced Aylmer and loved him more profoundly than ever, but with a less entire dependence on his judgment than heretofore. Much as he had accomplished, she could not but observe that his most splendid successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the ideal at which he aimed. His brightest diamonds were the merest pebbles, and felt to be so by himself, in comparison with the inestimable gems which lay hidden beyond his reach. The volume, rich with achievements that had won renown for its author, was yet as melancholy a record as ever mortal hand had penned. It was the sad confession and continual exemplification of the shortcomings of the composite man, the spirit burdened with clay and working in matter, and of the despair that assails the higher nature at finding itself so miserably thwarted by the earthly part. Perhaps every man of genius in whatever sphere might recognize the image of his own experience in Aylmer’s journal.

So deeply did these reflections affect Georgiana that she laid her face upon the open volume and burst into tears. In this situation she was found by her husband.

 

 

“It is dangerous to read in a sorcerer’s books,” said he with a smile, though his countenance was uneasy and displeased. “Georgiana, there are pages in that volume which I can scarcely glance over and keep my senses. Take heed lest it prove as detrimental to you.”

“It has made me worship you more than ever,” said she.

“Ah, wait for this one success,” rejoined he, “then worship me if you will. I shall deem myself hardly unworthy of it. But come, I have sought you for the luxury of your voice. Sing to me, dearest.”

So she poured out the liquid music of her voice to quench the thirst of his spirit. He then took his leave with a boyish exuberance of gayety, assuring her that her seclusion would endure but a little longer, and that the result was already certain. Scarcely had he departed when Georgiana felt irresistibly impelled to follow him. She had forgotten to inform Aylmer of a symptom which for two or three hours past had begun to excite her attention. It was a sensation in the fatal birthmark, not painful, but which induced a restlessness throughout her system. Hastening after her husband, she intruded for the first time into the laboratory.

The first thing that struck her eye was the furnace, that hot and feverish worker, with the intense glow of its fire, which by the quantities of soot clustered above it seemed to have been burning for ages. There was a distilling apparatus in full operation. Around the room were retorts, tubes, cylinders, crucibles, and other apparatus of chemical research. An electrical machine stood ready for immediate use. The atmosphere felt oppressively close, and was tainted with gaseous odors which had been tormented forth by the processes of science. The severe and homely simplicity of the apartment, with its naked walls and brick pavement, looked strange, accustomed as Georgiana had become to the fantastic elegance of her boudoir. But what chiefly, indeed almost solely, drew her attention, was the aspect of Aylmer himself.

He was pale as death, anxious and absorbed, and hung over the furnace as if it depended upon his utmost watchfulness whether the liquid which it was distilling should be the draught of immortal happiness or misery. How different from the sanguine and joyous mien that he had assumed for Georgiana’s encouragement!

“Carefully now, Aminadab; carefully, thou human machine; carefully, thou man of clay!” muttered Aylmer, more to himself than his assistant. “Now, if there be a thought too much or too little, it is all over.”

“Ho! ho!” mumbled Aminadab. “Look, master! look!”

Aylmer raised his eyes hastily, and at first reddened, then grew paler than ever, on beholding Georgiana. He rushed towards her and seized her arm with a gripe that left the print of his fingers upon it.

“Why do you come hither? Have you no trust in your husband?” cried he, impetuously. “Would you throw the blight of that fatal birthmark over my labors? It is not well done. Go, prying woman, go!”

“Nay, Aylmer,” said Georgiana with the firmness of which she possessed no stinted endowment, “it is not you that have a right to complain. You mistrust your wife; you have concealed the anxiety with which you watch the development of this experiment. Think not so unworthily of me, my husband. Tell me all the risk we run, and fear not that I shall shrink; for my share in it is far less than your own.”

“No, no, Georgiana!” said Aylmer, impatiently; “it must not be.”

“I submit,” replied she calmly. “And, Aylmer, I shall quaff whatever draught you bring me; but it will be on the same principle that would induce me to take a dose of poison if offered by your hand.”

“My noble wife,” said Aylmer, deeply moved, “I knew not the height and depth of your nature until now. Nothing shall be concealed. Know, then, that this crimson hand, superficial as it seems, has clutched its grasp into your being with a strength of which I had no previous conception. I have already administered agents powerful enough to do aught except to change your entire physical system. Only one thing remains to be tried. If that fail us we are ruined.”

“Why did you hesitate to tell me this?” asked she.

“Because, Georgiana,” said Aylmer, in a low voice, “there is danger.”

“Danger? There is but one danger–that this horrible stigma shall be left upon my cheek!” cried Georgiana. “Remove it, remove it, whatever be the cost, or we shall both go mad!”

“Heaven knows your words are too true,” said Aylmer, sadly. “And now, dearest, return to your boudoir. In a little while all will be tested.”

He conducted her back and took leave of her with a solemn tenderness which spoke far more than his words how much was now at stake. After his departure Georgiana became rapt in musings. She considered the character of Aylmer, and did it completer justice than at any previous moment. Her heart exulted, while it trembled, at his honorable love–so pure and lofty that it would accept nothing less than perfection nor miserably make itself contented with an earthlier nature than he had dreamed of. She felt how much more precious was such a sentiment than that meaner kind which would have borne with the imperfection for her sake, and have been guilty of treason to holy love by degrading its perfect idea to the level of the actual; and with her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy his highest and deepest conception. Longer than one moment she well knew it could not be; for his spirit was ever on the march, ever ascending, and each instant required something that was beyond the scope of the instant before.

The sound of her husband’s footsteps aroused her. He bore a crystal goblet containing a liquor colorless as water, but bright enough to be the draught of immortality. Aylmer was pale; but it seemed rather the consequence of a highly-wrought state of mind and tension of spirit than of fear or doubt.

“The concoction of the draught has been perfect,” said he, in answer to Georgiana’s look. “Unless all my science have deceived me, it cannot fail.”

“Save on your account, my dearest Aylmer,” observed his wife, “I might wish to put off this birthmark of mortality by relinquishing mortality itself in preference to any other mode. Life is but a sad possession to those who have attained precisely the degree of moral advancement at which I stand. Were I weaker and blinder it might be happiness. Were I stronger, it might be endured hopefully. But, being what I find myself, methinks I am of all mortals the most fit to die.”

“You are fit for heaven without tasting death!” replied her husband “But why do we speak of dying? The draught cannot fail. Behold its effect upon this plant.”

On the window seat there stood a geranium diseased with yellow blotches, which had overspread all its leaves. Aylmer poured a small quantity of the liquid upon the soil in which it grew. In a little time, when the roots of the plant had taken up the moisture, the unsightly blotches began to be extinguished in a living verdure.

“There needed no proof,” said Georgiana, quietly. “Give me the goblet I joyfully stake all upon your word.”

“Drink, then, thou lofty creature!” exclaimed Aylmer, with fervid admiration. “There is no taint of imperfection on thy spirit. Thy sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect.”

She quaffed the liquid and returned the goblet to his hand.

“It is grateful,” said she with a placid smile. “Methinks it is like water from a heavenly fountain; for it contains I know not what of unobtrusive fragrance and deliciousness. It allays a feverish thirst that had parched me for many days. Now, dearest, let me sleep. My earthly senses are closing over my spirit like the leaves around the heart of a rose at sunset.”

She spoke the last words with a gentle reluctance, as if it required almost more energy than she could command to pronounce the faint and lingering syllables. Scarcely had they loitered through her lips ere she was lost in slumber. Aylmer sat by her side, watching her aspect with the emotions proper to a man the whole value of whose existence was involved in the process now to be tested. Mingled with this mood, however, was the philosophic investigation characteristic of the man of science. Not the minutest symptom escaped him. A heightened flush of the cheek, a slight irregularity of breath, a quiver of the eyelid, a hardly perceptible tremor through the frame,–such were the details which, as the moments passed, he wrote down in his folio volume. Intense thought had set its stamp upon every previous page of that volume, but the thoughts of years were all concentrated upon the last.

While thus employed, he failed not to gaze often at the fatal hand, and not without a shudder. Yet once, by a strange and unaccountable impulse he pressed it with his lips. His spirit recoiled, however, in the very act, and Georgiana, out of the midst of her deep sleep, moved uneasily and murmured as if in remonstrance. Again Aylmer resumed his watch. Nor was it without avail. The crimson hand, which at first had been strongly visible upon the marble paleness of Georgiana’s cheek, now grew more faintly outlined. She remained not less pale than ever; but the birthmark with every breath that came and went, lost somewhat of its former distinctness. Its presence had been awful; its departure was more awful still. Watch the stain of the rainbow fading out the sky, and you will know how that mysterious symbol passed away.

“By Heaven! it is well-nigh gone!” said Aylmer to himself, in almost irrepressible ecstasy. “I can scarcely trace it now. Success! success! And now it is like the faintest rose color. The lightest flush of blood across her cheek would overcome it. But she is so pale!”

He drew aside the window curtain and suffered the light of natural day to fall into the room and rest upon her cheek. At the same time he heard a gross, hoarse chuckle, which he had long known as his servant Aminadab’s expression of delight.

“Ah, clod! ah, earthly mass!” cried Aylmer, laughing in a sort of frenzy, “you have served me well! Matter and spirit–earth and heaven –have both done their part in this! Laugh, thing of the senses! You have earned the right to laugh.”

These exclamations broke Georgiana’s sleep. She slowly unclosed her eyes and gazed into the mirror which her husband had arranged for that purpose. A faint smile flitted over her lips when she recognized how barely perceptible was now that crimson hand which had once blazed forth with such disastrous brilliancy as to scare away all their happiness. But then her eyes sought Aylmer’s face with a trouble and anxiety that he could by no means account for.

“My poor Aylmer!” murmured she.

“Poor? Nay, richest, happiest, most favored!” exclaimed he. “My peerless bride, it is successful! You are perfect!”

“My poor Aylmer,” she repeated, with a more than human tenderness, “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer. Aylmer, dearest Aylmer, I am dying!”

Alas! it was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself in union with a mortal frame. As the last crimson tint of the birthmark–that sole token of human imperfection–faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenward flight. Then a hoarse, chuckling laugh was heard again! Thus ever does the gross fatality of earth exult in its invariable triumph over the immortal essence which, in this dim sphere of half development, demands the completeness of a higher state. Yet, had Alymer reached a profounder wisdom, he need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture with the celestial. The momentary circumstance was too strong for him; he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present.

 

 

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TALES OF ENCHANTED OCTOBER: The Minister’s Black Veil

 

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

 

The Minister’s Black Veil

A Parable

 

THE SEXTON stood in the porch of Milford meeting-house, pulling busily at the bell-rope. The old people of the village came stooping along the street. Children, with bright faces, tripped merrily beside their parents, or mimicked a graver gait, in the conscious dignity of their Sunday clothes. Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the pretty maidens, and fancied that the Sabbath sunshine made them prettier than on week days. When the throng had mostly streamed into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the Reverend Mr. Hooper’s door. The first glimpse of the clergyman’s figure was the signal for the bell to cease its summons.

“But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?” cried the sexton in astonishment.

All within hearing immediately turned about, and beheld the semblance of Mr. Hooper, pacing slowly his meditative way towards the meeting-house. With one accord they started, expressing more wonder than if some strange minister were coming to dust the cushions of Mr. Hooper’s pulpit.

“Are you sure it is our parson?” inquired Goodman Gray of the sexton.

“Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper,” replied the sexton. “He was to have exchanged pulpits with Parson Shute, of Westbury; but Parson Shute sent to excuse himself yesterday, being to preach a funeral sermon.”

The cause of so much amazement may appear sufficiently slight. Mr. Hooper, a gentlemanly person, of about thirty, though still a bachelor, was dressed with due clerical neatness, as if a careful wife had starched his band, and brushed the weekly dust from his Sunday’s garb. There was but one thing remarkable in his appearance. Swathed about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, so low as to be shaken by his breath, Mr. Hooper had on a black veil. On a nearer view it seemed to consist of two folds of crape, which entirely concealed his features, except the mouth and chin, but probably did not intercept his sight, further than to give a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate things. With this gloomy shade before him, good Mr. Hooper walked onward, at a slow and quiet pace, stooping somewhat, and looking on the ground, as is customary with abstracted men, yet nodding kindly to those of his parishioners who still waited on the meeting-house steps. But so wonder-struck were they that his greeting hardly met with a return.

“I can’t really feel as if good Mr. Hooper’s face was behind that piece of crape,” said the sexton.

“I don’t like it,” muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the meeting-house. “He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.”

“Our parson has gone mad!” cried Goodman Gray, following him across the threshold.

rumor of some unaccountable phenomenon had preceded Mr. Hooper into the meeting-house, and set all the congregation astir. Few could refrain from twisting their heads towards the door; many stood upright, and turned directly about; while several little boys clambered upon the seats, and came down again with a terrible racket. There was a general bustle, a rustling of the women’s gowns and shuffling of the men’s feet, greatly at variance with that hushed repose which should attend the entrance of the minister. But Mr. Hooper appeared not to notice the perturbation of his people. He entered with an almost noiseless step, bent his head mildly to the pews on each side, and bowed as he passed his oldest parishioner, a white-haired great-grandsire, who occupied an arm-chair in the centre of the aisle. It was strange to observe how slowly this venerable man became conscious of something singular in the appearance of his pastor. He seemed not fully to partake of the prevailing wonder, till Mr. Hooper had ascended the stairs, and showed himself in the pulpit, face to face with his congregation, except for the black veil. That mysterious emblem was never once withdrawn. It shook with his measured breath, as he gave out the psalm; it threw its obscurity between him and the holy page, as he read the Scriptures; and while he prayed, the veil lay heavily on his uplifted countenance. Did he seek to hide it from the dread Being whom he was addressing?

Such was the effect of this simple piece of crape, that more than one woman of delicate nerves was forced to leave the meeting-house. Yet perhaps the pale-faced congregation was almost as fearful a sight to the minister, as his black veil to them.

Mr. Hooper had the reputation of a good preacher, but not an energetic one: he strove to win his people heavenward by mild, persuasive influences, rather than to drive them thither by the thunders of the Word. The sermon which he now delivered was marked by the same characteristics of style and manner as the general series of his pulpit oratory. But there was something, either in the sentiment of the discourse itself, or in the imagination of the auditors, which made it greatly the most powerful effort that they had ever heard from their pastor’s lips. It was tinged, rather more darkly than usual, with the gentle gloom of Mr. Hooper’s temperament. The subject had reference to secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them. A subtle power was breathed into his words. Each member of the congregation, the most innocent girl, and the man of hardened breast, felt as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought. Many spread their clasped hands on their bosoms. There was nothing terrible in what Mr. Hooper said, at least, no violence; and yet, with every tremor of his melancholy voice, the hearers quaked. An unsought pathos came hand in hand with awe. So sensible were the audience of some unwonted attribute in their minister, that they longed for a breath of wind to blow aside the veil, almost believing that a stranger’s visage would be discovered, though the form, gesture, and voice were those of Mr. Hooper.

At the close of the services, the people hurried out with indecorous confusion, eager to communicate their pent-up amazement, and conscious of lighter spirits the moment they lost sight of the black veil. Some gathered in little circles, huddled closely together, with their mouths all whispering in the centre; some went homeward alone, wrapt in silent meditation; some talked loudly, and profaned the Sabbath day with ostentatious laughter. A few shook their sagacious heads, intimating that they could penetrate the mystery; while one or two affirmed that there was no mystery at all, but only that Mr. Hooper’s eyes were so weakened by the midnight lamp, as to require a shade. After a brief interval, forth came good Mr. Hooper also, in the rear of his flock. Turning his veiled face from one group to another, he paid due reverence to the hoary heads, saluted the middle aged with kind dignity as their friend and spiritual guide, greeted the young with mingled authority and love, and laid his hands on the little children’s heads to bless them. Such was always his custom on the Sabbath day. Strange and bewildered looks repaid him for his courtesy. None, as on former occasions, aspired to the honor of walking by their pastor’s side. Old Squire Saunders, doubtless by an accidental lapse of memory, neglected to invite Mr. Hooper to his table, where the good clergyman had been wont to bless the food, almost every Sunday since his settlement. He returned, therefore, to the parsonage, and, at the moment of closing the door, was observed to look back upon the people, all of whom had their eyes fixed upon the minister. A sad smile gleamed faintly from beneath the black veil, and flickered about his mouth, glimmering as he disappeared.

“How strange,” said a lady, “that a simple black veil, such as any woman might wear on her bonnet, should become such a terrible thing on Mr. Hooper’s face!”

“Something must surely be amiss with Mr. Hooper’s intellects,” observed her husband, the physician of the village. “But the strangest part of the affair is the effect of this vagary, even on a sober-minded man like myself. The black veil, though it covers only our pastor’s face, throws its influence over his whole person, and makes him ghostlike from head to foot. Do you not feel it so?”

“Truly do I,” replied the lady; “and I would not be alone with him for the world. I wonder he is not afraid to be alone with himself!”

“Men sometimes are so,” said her husband.

The afternoon service was attended with similar circumstances. At its conclusion, the bell tolled for the funeral of a young lady. The relatives and friends were assembled in the house, and the more distant acquaintances stood about the door, speaking of the good qualities of the deceased, when their talk was interrupted by the appearance of Mr. Hooper, still covered with his black veil. It was now an appropriate emblem. The clergyman stepped into the room where the corpse was laid, and bent over the coffin, to take a last farewell of his deceased parishioner. As he stooped, the veil hung straight down from his forehead, so that, if her eyelids had not been closed forever, the dead maiden might have seen his face. Could Mr. Hooper be fearful of her glance, that he so hastily caught back the black veil? A person who watched the interview between the dead and living, scrupled not to affirm, that, at the instant when the clergyman’s features were disclosed, the corpse had slightly shuddered, rustling the shroud and muslin cap, though the countenance retained the composure of death. A superstitious old woman was the only witness of this prodigy. From the coffin Mr. Hooper passed into the chamber of the mourners, and thence to the head of the staircase, to make the funeral prayer. It was a tender and heart-dissolving prayer, full of sorrow, yet so imbued with celestial hopes, that the music of a heavenly harp, swept by the fingers of the dead, seemed faintly to be heard among the saddest accents of the minister. The people trembled, though they but darkly understood him when he prayed that they, and himself, and all of mortal race, might be ready, as he trusted this young maiden had been, for the dreadful hour that should snatch the veil from their faces. The bearers went heavily forth, and the mourners followed, saddening all the street, with the dead before them, and Mr. Hooper in his black veil behind.

“Why do you look back?” said one in the procession to his partner.

had a fancy,” replied she, “that the minister and the maiden’s spirit were walking hand in hand.”

“And so had I, at the same moment,” said the other.

That night, the handsomest couple in Milford village were to be joined in wedlock. Though reckoned a melancholy man, Mr. Hooper had a placid cheerfulness for such occasions, which often excited a sympathetic smile where livelier merriment would have been thrown away. There was no quality of his disposition which made him more beloved than this. The company at the wedding awaited his arrival with impatience, trusting that the strange awe, which had gathered over him throughout the day, would now be dispelled. But such was not the result. When Mr. Hooper came, the first thing that their eyes rested on was the same horrible black veil, which had added deeper gloom to the funeral, and could portend nothing but evil to the wedding. Such was its immediate effect on the guests that a cloud seemed to have rolled duskily from beneath the black crape, and dimmed the light of the candles. The bridal pair stood up before the minister. But the bride’s cold fingers quivered in the tremulous hand of the bridegroom, and her deathlike paleness caused a whisper that the maiden who had been buried a few hours before was come from her grave to be married. If ever another wedding were so dismal, it was that famous one where they tolled the wedding knell. After performing the ceremony, Mr. Hooper raised a glass of wine to his lips, wishing happiness to the new-married couple in a strain of mild pleasantry that ought to have brightened the features of the guests, like a cheerful gleam from the hearth. At that instant, catching a glimpse of his figure in the looking-glass, the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others. His frame shuddered, his lips grew white, he spilt the untasted wine upon the carpet, and rushed forth into the darkness. For the Earth, too, had on her Black Veil.

The next day, the whole village of Milford talked of little else than Parson Hooper’s black veil. That, and the mystery concealed behind it, supplied a topic for discussion between acquaintances meeting in the street, and good women gossiping at their open windows. It was the first item of news that the tavern-keeper told to his guests. The children babbled of it on their way to school. One imitative little imp covered his face with an old black handkerchief, thereby so affrighting his playmates that the panic seized himself, and he well-nigh lost his wits by his own waggery.

It was remarkable that of all the busybodies and impertinent people in the parish, not one ventured to put the plain question to Mr. Hooper, wherefore he did this thing. Hitherto, whenever there appeared the slightest call for such interference, he had never lacked advisers, nor shown himself adverse to be guided by their judgment. If he erred at all, it was by so painful a degree of self-distrust, that even the mildest censure would lead him to consider an indifferent action as a crime. Yet, though so well acquainted with this amiable weakness, no individual among his parishioners chose to make the black veil a subject of friendly remonstrance. There was a feeling of dread, neither plainly confessed nor carefully concealed, which caused each to shift the responsibility upon another, till at length it was found expedient to send a deputation of the church, in order to deal with Mr. Hooper about the mystery, before it should grow into a scandal. Never did an embassy so ill discharge its duties. The minister received them with friendly courtesy, but became silent, after they were seated, leaving to his visitors the whole burden of introducing their important business. The topic, it might be supposed, was obvious enough. There was the black veil swathed round Mr. Hooper’s forehead, and concealing every feature above his placid mouth, on which, at times, they could perceive the glimmering of a melancholy smile. But that piece of crape, to their imagination, seemed to hang down before his heart, the symbol of a fearful secret between him and them. Were the veil but cast aside, they might speak freely of it, but not till then. Thus they sat a considerable time, speechless, confused, and shrinking uneasily from Mr. Hooper’s eye, which they felt to be fixed upon them with an invisible glance. Finally, the deputies returned abashed to their constituents, pronouncing the matter too weighty to be handled, except by a council of the churches, if, indeed, it might not require a general synod.

But there was one person in the village unappalled by the awe with which the black veil had impressed all beside herself. When the deputies returned without an explanation, or even venturing to demand one, she, with the calm energy of her character, determined to chase away the strange cloud that appeared to be settling round Mr. Hooper, every moment more darkly than before. As his plighted wife, it should be her privilege to know what the black veil concealed. At the minister’s first visit, therefore, she entered upon the subject with a direct simplicity, which made the task easier both for him and her. After he had seated himself, she fixed her eyes steadfastly upon the veil, but could discern nothing of the dreadful gloom that had so overawed the multitude: it was but a double fold of crape, hanging down from his forehead to his mouth, and slightly stirring with his breath.

“No,” said she aloud, and smiling, “there is nothing terrible in this piece of crape, except that it hides a face which I am always glad to look upon. Come, good sir, let the sun shine from behind the cloud. First lay aside your black veil: then tell me why you put it on.”

Mr. Hooper’s smile glimmered faintly.

“There is an hour to come,” said he, “when all of us shall cast aside our veils. Take it not amiss, beloved friend, if I wear this piece of crape till then.”

“Your words are a mystery, too,” returned the young lady. “Take away the veil from them, at least.”

“Elizabeth, I will,” said he, “so far as my vow may suffer me. Know, then, this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it ever, both in light and darkness, in solitude and before the gaze of multitudes, and as with strangers, so with my familiar friends. No mortal eye will see it withdrawn. This dismal shade must separate me from the world: even you, Elizabeth, can never come behind it!”

 

 

“What grievous affliction hath befallen you,” she earnestly inquired, “that you should thus darken your eyes forever?”

“If it be a sign of mourning,” replied Mr. Hooper, “I, perhaps, like most other mortals, have sorrows dark enough to be typified by a black veil.”

“But what if the world will not believe that it is the type of an innocent sorrow?” urged Elizabeth. “Beloved and respected as you are, there may be whispers that you hide your face under the consciousness of secret sin. For the sake of your holy office, do away this scandal!”

The color rose into her cheeks as she intimated the nature of the rumors that were already abroad in the village. But Mr. Hooper’s mildness did not forsake him. He even smiled again–that same sad smile, which always appeared like a faint glimmering of light, proceeding from the obscurity beneath the veil.

“If I hide my face for sorrow, there is cause enough,” he merely replied; “and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the same?”

And with this gentle, but unconquerable obstinacy did he resist all her entreaties. At length Elizabeth sat silent. For a few moments she appeared lost in thought, considering, probably, what new methods might be tried to withdraw her lover from so dark a fantasy, which, if it had no other meaning, was perhaps a symptom of mental disease. Though of a firmer character than his own, the tears rolled down her cheeks. But, in an instant, as it were, a new feeling took the place of sorrow: her eyes were fixed insensibly on the black veil, when, like a sudden twilight in the air, its terrors fell around her. She arose, and stood trembling before him.

“And do you feel it then, at last?” said he mournfully.

She made no reply, but covered her eyes with her hand, and turned to leave the room. He rushed forward and caught her arm.

“Have patience with me, Elizabeth!” cried he, passionately. “Do not desert me, though this veil must be between us here on earth. Be mine, and hereafter there shall be no veil over my face, no darkness between our souls! It is but a mortal veil–it is not for eternity! O! you know not how lonely I am, and how frightened, to be alone behind my black veil. Do not leave me in this miserable obscurity forever!”

“Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face,” said she.

“Never! It cannot be!” replied Mr. Hooper.

“Then farewell!” said Elizabeth.

She withdrew her arm from his grasp, and slowly departed, pausing at the door, to give one long shuddering gaze, that seemed almost to penetrate the mystery of the black veil. But, even amid his grief, Mr. Hooper smiled to think that only a material emblem had separated him from happiness, though the horrors, which it shadowed forth, must be drawn darkly between the fondest of lovers.

From that time no attempts were made to remove Mr. Hooper’s black veil, or, by a direct appeal, to discover the secret which it was supposed to hide. By persons who claimed a superiority to popular prejudice, it was reckoned merely an eccentric whim, such as often mingles with the sober actions of men otherwise rational, and tinges them all with its own semblance of insanity. But with the multitude, good Mr. Hooper was irreparably a bugbear. He could not walk the street with any peace of mind, so conscious was he that the gentle and timid would turn aside to avoid him, and that others would make it a point of hardihood to throw themselves in his way. The impertinence of the latter class compelled him to give up his customary walk at sunset to the burial ground; for when he leaned pensively over the gate, there would always be faces behind the gravestones, peeping at his black veil. A fable went the rounds that the stare of the dead people drove him thence. It grieved him, to the very depth of his kind heart, to observe how the children fled from his approach, breaking up their merriest sports, while his melancholy figure was yet afar off. Their instinctive dread caused him to feel more strongly than aught else, that a preternatural horror was interwoven with the threads of the black crape. In truth, his own antipathy to the veil was known to be so great, that he never willingly passed before a mirror, nor stooped to drink at a still fountain, lest, in its peaceful bosom, he should be affrighted by himself. This was what gave plausibility to the whispers, that Mr. Hooper’s conscience tortured him for some great crime too horrible to be entirely concealed, or otherwise than so obscurely intimated. Thus, from beneath the black veil, there rolled a cloud into the sunshine, an ambiguity of sin or sorrow, which enveloped the poor minister, so that love or sympathy could never reach him. It was said that ghost and fiend consorted with him there. With self-shudderings and outward terrors, he walked continually in its shadow, groping darkly within his own soul, or gazing through a medium that saddened the whole world. Even the lawless wind, it was believed, respected his dreadful secret, and never blew aside the veil. But still good Mr. Hooper sadly smiled at the pale visages of the worldly throng as he passed by.

Among all its bad influences, the black veil had the one desirable effect, of making its wearer a very efficient clergyman. By the aid of his mysterious emblem–for there was no other apparent cause–he became a man of awful power over souls that were in agony for sin. His converts always regarded him with a dread peculiar to themselves, affirming, though but figuratively, that, before he brought them to celestial light, they had been with him behind the black veil. Its gloom, indeed, enabled him to sympathize with all dark affections. Dying sinners cried aloud for Mr. Hooper, and would not yield their breath till he appeared; though ever, as he stooped to whisper consolation, they shuddered at the veiled face so near their own. Such were the terrors of the black veil, even when Death had bared his visage! Strangers came long distances to attend service at his church, with the mere idle purpose of gazing at his figure, because it was forbidden them to behold his face. But many were made to quake ere they departed! Once, during Governor Belcher’s administration, Mr. Hooper was appointed to preach the election sermon. Covered with his black veil, he stood before the chief magistrate, the council, and the representatives, and wrought so deep an impression that the legislative measures of that year were characterized by all the gloom and piety of our earliest ancestral sway.

In this manner Mr. Hooper spent a long life, irreproachable in outward act, yet shrouded in dismal suspicions; kind and loving, though unloved, and dimly feared; a man apart from men, shunned in their health and joy, but ever summoned to their aid in mortal anguish. As years wore on, shedding their snows above his sable veil, he acquired a name throughout the New England churches, and they called him Father Hooper. Nearly all his parishioners, who were of mature age when he was settled, had been borne away by many a funeral: he had one congregation in the church, and a more crowded one in the churchyard; and having wrought so late into the evening, and done his work so well, it was now good Father Hooper’s turn to rest.

Several persons were visible by the shaded candle-light, in the death chamber of the old clergyman. Natural connections he had none. But there was the decorously grave, though unmoved physician, seeking only to mitigate the last pangs of the patient whom he could not save. There were the deacons, and other eminently pious members of his church. There, also, was the Reverend Mr. Clark, of Westbury, a young and zealous divine, who had ridden in haste to pray by the bedside of the expiring minister. There was the nurse, no hired handmaiden of death, but one whose calm affection had endured thus long in secrecy, in solitude, amid the chill of age, and would not perish, even at the dying hour. Who, but Elizabeth! And there lay the hoary head of good Father Hooper upon the death pillow, with the black veil still swathed about his brow, and reaching down over his face, so that each more difficult gasp of his faint breath caused it to stir. All through life that piece of crape had hung between him and the world: it had separated him from cheerful brotherhood and woman’s love, and kept him in that saddest of all prisons, his own heart; and still it lay upon his face, as if to deepen the gloom of his darksome chamber, and shade him from the sunshine of eternity.

For some time previous, his mind had been confused, wavering doubtfully between the past and the present, and hovering forward, as it were, at intervals, into the indistinctness of the world to come. There had been feverish turns, which tossed him from side to side, and wore away what little strength he had. But in his most convulsive struggles, and in the wildest vagaries of his intellect, when no other thought retained its sober influence, he still showed an awful solicitude lest the black veil should slip aside. Even if his bewildered soul could have forgotten, there was a faithful woman at his pillow, who, with averted eyes, would have covered that aged face, which she had last beheld in the comeliness of manhood. At length the death-stricken old man lay quietly in the torpor of mental and bodily exhaustion, with an imperceptible pulse, and breath that grew fainter and fainter, except when a long, deep, and irregular inspiration seemed to prelude the flight of his spirit.

The minister of Westbury approached the bedside.

“Venerable Father Hooper,” said he, “the moment of your release is at hand. Are you ready for the lifting of the veil that shuts in time from eternity?”

Father Hooper at first replied merely by a feeble motion of his head; then, apprehensive, perhaps, that his meaning might be doubtful, he exerted himself to speak.

“Yea,” said he, in faint accents, “my soul hath a patient weariness until that veil be lifted.”

“And is it fitting,” resumed the Reverend Mr. Clark, “that a man so given to prayer, of such a blameless example, holy in deed and thought, so far as mortal judgment may pronounce; is it fitting that a father in the church should leave a shadow on his memory, that may seem to blacken a life so pure? I pray you, my venerable brother, let not this thing be! Suffer us to be gladdened by your triumphant aspect as you go to your reward. Before the veil of eternity be lifted, let me cast aside this black veil from your face!”

And thus speaking, the Reverend Mr. Clark bent forward to reveal the mystery of so many years. But, exerting a sudden energy, that made all the beholders stand aghast, Father Hooper snatched both his hands from beneath the bedclothes, and pressed them strongly on the black veil, resolute to struggle, if the minister of Westbury would contend with a dying man.

“Never!” cried the veiled clergyman. “On earth, never!”

“Dark old man!” exclaimed the affrighted minister, “with what horrible crime upon your soul are you now passing to the judgment?”

Father Hooper’s breath heaved; it rattled in his throat; but, with a mighty effort, grasping forward with his hands, he caught hold of life, and held it back till he should speak. He even raised himself in bed; and there he sat, shivering with the arms of death around him, while the black veil hung down, awful at that last moment, in the gathered terrors of a lifetime. And yet the faint, sad smile, so often there, now seemed to glimmer from its obscurity, and linger on Father Hooper’s lips.

“Why do you tremble at me alone?” cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators. “Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!”

While his auditors shrank from one another, in mutual affright, Father Hooper fell back upon his pillow, a veiled corpse, with a faint smile lingering on the lips. Still veiled, they laid him in his coffin, and a veiled corpse they bore him to the grave. The grass of many years has sprung up and withered on that grave, the burial stone is moss-grown, and good Mr. Hooper’s face is dust; but awful is still the thought that it mouldered beneath the Black Veil!

NOTE. Another clergyman in New England, Mr. Joseph Moody, of York, Maine, who died about eighty years since, made himself remarkable by the same eccentricity that is here related of the Reverend Mr. Hooper. In his case, however, the symbol had a different import. In early life he had accidentally killed a beloved friend; and from that day till the hour of his own death, he hid his face from men.

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back soon with another creepy October tale .  .  .

 

Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart

 

By Edgar Allan Poe

 

TRUE!-NERVOUS–very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses–not destroyed–not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily–how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to tell how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture–a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees–very gradually–I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

 

 

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded–with what caution–with what foresight–with what dissimulation I went to work!

I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it–oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly–very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha!–would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously–oh, so cautiously–cautiously (for the hinges creaked)–I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights–every night just at midnight–but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers–of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the 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. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on 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 bed, crying out: “Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;–just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or grief–oh no!–it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself: “It is nothing but the wind in the chimney–it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “it is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions; but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him. had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel–although he neither saw nor heard–to feel the presence of my head within the room.

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 full 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 damned spot.

And now–have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?–now, I say, 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. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!–do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me–the sound would 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 gaily, 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. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

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. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then 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. There was nothing to wash out–no stain of any kind–no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all–ha! ha!

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? There 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 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. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted familiar things. But, ere long, 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 became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but 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. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observation of the men–but the noise steadily increased. Oh, 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? Almighty God!–no, no! They heard!–they suspected–they knew!–they were making a mockery of my horror!–this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!–and now–again!–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!”

 

Thanks so reading. Goodnight, and Happy Nightmares  .  .  .

 

A Rant: We Are Not OK

 

 

WARNING: THIS IS A POLITICAL POST AND MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME PEOPLE. CAUTION IS ADVISED.  

 

      A very interesting article by internationally respected journalist Yoichi Shimatsu, for those who may still be interested in the truth. I expect that NOTHING at this point is going to alter the official FBI narrative, but it’s still nice to see it all properly laid out. I have been repeatedly told in the past week that I am a ghoul for not passively accepting the official version of events. I have been told that I “dishonor” the dead, and should be ashamed of myself. I have been told to just shut-up, out of respect for the families of the slain. I reject that. And I believe, that if those poor victims could speak, they would reject it too. God bless every last one of them. May their loss not be for nothing . . . although I think that will be exactly what happens. I love my country and I want to be able to believe my leaders. Sadly, Las Vegas has proven that is no longer possible. It is a sad day for America, and does not bode well for the future of our Republic . . .

 

WE ARE NOT OK.

 

 

     By Yoichi Shimatsu

 

     Yoichi Shimatsu, who is Editor at Large at the 4th Media is a free-lance journalist based in Hong Kong. He is former Editor of the Japan Times Weekly. Mr. Simatsu is a former Tsinghua University lecturer. He’s been regularly writing to several global media outlets including US, China and so on. He’s been frequently sitting on CCTV News, Blue Ocean Network TV and other global media outlets in China, Hong Kong and other countries.

 

Official cover-ups of crimes that implicate the national-security establishment, as the Vegas massacre surely has done, must be handled with patience learned from prior investigative experience in order to spot disinformation and assemble credible evidence into a reconstruction of the totality of the crime, including the sequence of events, role of other participants, relationship to the government, background and motive.

In pathetic contrast, the compliant news media portrays alleged gunman Stephen Paddock as a lone gunman and man of mystery without making any serious effort at uncovering his connections to the intelligence services, which happens to be the key to comprehending the reasons behind this puzzling mass murder. Then there is the planted single gunman claim like the FBI tip to Info wars that suspect Paddock was killed in the Bureau’s assault and that Antifa (anti-fascist, anti-racist anarchism) literature was found in the 32nd floor room at the Mandalay. (Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo countered that falsehood from the FBI by stating forthrightly that more than one shooter was involved.) Here it will be shown that Paddock was anything but a radical anarchist and instead worked as a contract agent for the Defense Department and CIA.

The FBI-Las Vegas police feud was discussed at the 4chan thread, which was soon closed down for new comments:

According to a source in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: “The LVMPD knows the motive behind the attack, but the FBI will not allow us to release the motive because it implicates the FBI in illegal arms deals and supplying arms to ISIS terrorists within U.S. borders. Stephen Paddock was an undercover FBI agent who participated in multiple illegal arms deals in the Las Vegas area in a gun-running entrapment scheme similar to Fast and Furious. Paddock thought he was engaging in another routine arms transfer, but ISIS had learned about the entrapment scheme and Paddock’s true identity. They killed him and carried out the massacre, and then fled the scene.

“Everything is being kept under extreme wraps because 1) armed ISIS terrorists are still at large and 2) this is very embarrassing to the FBI and they don’t want their scheme to become public knowledge . . . People within LVMP are disgusted and are pushing for this information to be released to the public.”

Arguably more grotesque are the online snipers who falsely insist that the Vegas massacre never happened but was a stage-play faked by crisis actors. (There are crisis actors, but they are hired by public relations firms after a calamity to divert public attention from the actual trauma victims.)

Citizen journalism defies online censorship and trolls

In contrast to the paucity of information from the mainstream media, rense.com has posted eyewitness accounts and revelations from hotel staffers. Despite the shutdown of new comments under management pressure, the online boards reddit, 4chan and VOAT have done a fast and worthy job of separating out some nuggets of information from the chatter and planted disinformation. Unofficial citizen journalism has assembled the pieces needed for a cohesive picture of the alleged perpetrator and his connections with the intelligence establishment and to the radical Muslim ISIS.

From these informal sources, three salient issues have surfaced:

– indisputable evidence that a squad of multiple shooters were involved rather than just a lone gunman

– the relocation of one of Paddock’s airplanes between Virginia airports after an ATF agent was killed in the cover-up of Eric Holder’s Fast and Furious gun-peddling operation

– the visits of Paddock and companion Marilou Danley to the UAE, Jordan and Israel while President Barack Obama was starting to turn against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Paddock as Agency Spy against ISIS

Those morsels of vital information indicate that Paddock served for a long-time as contract agent for CIA-FBI gun-running and as a possible trained assassin.

The Mandalay Bay affair was likely part of a covert program to transfer weapons from the vaults of the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency of Homeland Security), fitted with hidden RFID tracking chips, to ISIS militants inside the USA. Suspecting a sting operation, the ISIS team in Las Vegas shot him to death in his room at the Mandalay immediately before proceeding to fire at the crowd of revelers attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday night, October 1.

Police radio chatter and initial reports, especially in cases of politically sensitive crimes against public security, are often the most accurate, and therefore invariably followed by disinformation under a politicized cover-up. For an investigative journalist like myself, who led the probe into the Tokyo Subway gassing, consideration of early-on eyewitness reports and initial police comments is a rule of thumb. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) scanner (police-band radio) messages to and from the front-line cops is the indelible first draft, and what comes later is censorship.

The earliest time-sequence report out of Vegas was posted at reddit under “Gunshots Downtown Right Now?” by Caram2, who was alerted to the gunfire by his sister, an employee at the MGM Grand who escaped the concert by running to the nearby airport. The timeline is fresher and more revealing than his post-event introduction, which already by then was influenced by Fox News’ knee-jerk response of a lone gunman narrative from the FBI.

The comments below are his transcript from the LVMPD scanner. Here are a few notable excerpts of the salient points:

(The first gunshots were at 10:08)

10:11 Sister saying gunshots have slowed/stopped

10:29 2-4 shooters – some officers pinned down

10:38 Police say no shots fired 10-15 minutes

10:47 Scanner says two scenes, injured personnel

10:49 Reno and Trop(icana)

(note: Reno Avenue East is the location of the Tropicana, Excalibur and New York New York Hotels)

11:00 2 locations confirmed at Mandalay Bay and Ali Baba

(note: Henderson’s Ali Baba is a posh Lebanese restaurant.)

11:05 Scanner says 3 shooters unconfirmed. Hacienda and Trop/Vegas?? Has bodies / shooters. Not sure when last shots were fired. Tropicana offramp is closed.

(note: The Mandalay Bay is built on the site of the demolished Hacienda.

11:06 Scanner says multiple 419s?? Scanner: do not worry about injured, Neutralize Threat.

(note: 419 stands for “Dead Body”)

11:17 Officers outside the alleged shooter room at the Mandalay . . .

11:18 NYNY shooter is heading to the Excalibur.

(note: NYNY is the New York New York Hotel two blocks north on Las Vegas Boulevard S)

1:34 Metro (police) press conference: 2 suspects dead/1 detained. One POC.

(note – POC: police officer casualty? Or person of color?)

Making Sense of the Chatter

The sister, who was near the stage, escaped the gunfire after a truck tore down a section of fence and she managed to reach safety at the nearby airport. Her mobile calls from the scene and the airport indicated the firing had slowed within the first 3 minutes. Therefore, most of 1,000-2,000 bullets were fired in that short space of time, while the revelers were trying to disperse or find cover.

As part of the politicized gun-control debate, opponents of the Second Amendment have falsely claimed that a bump stock device (which uses recoil to re-engage the trigger) can enable a semiautomatic weapon, like the one found with Paddock, to fire 400 rounds per minute. This is a deliberate deceit, since 400 Rpm, take note here, is the “rate of fire” (as in highest firing rate during bursts) and not the number of bullets that can actually be shot within a minute. 400 shots would require 14 reloads and re-aiming, each requiring about 10 seconds, for a total down time of more than 2 minutes.

The FBI photo taken in Paddock’s hotel room showed a stack of curved AK-47 magazines, each holding 30 bullets; there was no bandolier-type machine-gun belt in sight. Therefore, the lone gunman narrative is preposterous, and anyone who put this sort of nonsense forward, especially from law enforcement, is a knowing liar. For that reason alone, the bump stock ban proposed in Congress should be voted down, at least until the proponents admit their deception and agree to stick to facts.

Multiple shooters, 5 or more sites

Aside from the Mandalay Bay, the police-radio intercept discloses two other nearby shooting scenes: the Tropicana and New York New York hotels. The Tropicana hotel-casino is located across Las Vegas Boulevard South (aka The Strip) about a half block from the Mandalay Bay (the southernmost on The Strip). It directly adjoins the site of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, opposite the Mandalay.

The rapid-fire shooting from the Tropicana is, therefore, consistent with eyewitness reports of a “crossfire” by the second shooter, who was likely killed by the police, as reported at the first Metropolitan Police news conference.

A third shooter, firing from New York New York hotel, is reportedly in detention, presumably captured while trying to flee in a car across the boulevard to the Excalibur. The NYNY is across the boulevard from the Tropicana, or the same side of the street as Mandalay Bay (and the Luxor). It is at a catty-corner across from the open-air concert venue.

There were three firing points in a deadly triangle, just like the trio at the Paris Bataclan (only 2 gunmen were killed, and one escaped) and Orlando Pulse (1 killed, 2 escaped). Triangulation is intended to keep the crowd confined rather than making a quick escape. (In a shooting situation, every couple of seconds feels like minute, when perception time slows to a crawl, and therefore within 20 seconds targeted individuals should be able to dash to escape or find cover, that is, in the case of a single gunman.) Even with those three shooters, at least one of them must have used a belt-loading machine gun, probably similar to a 7.62mm NATO standard, to account for the intense firepower within three minutes, along with the basso boom from the muzzle blast.

Guests and staff at another separate cluster of two or three hotels also heard nearby low-caliber small-arms fire, shootings which so far can be interpreted as diversionary actions intended to confuse the police. These secondary incidents were at the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, and probably the Aria, at the corner of Flamingo Avenue, two blocks north of the Harvest Festival. Later that night a local civilian resident with a rifle tried to enter Caesar’s after having heard about gunshots fired inside.

Gunfire at the Ali Baba Lebanese restaurant was later denied, although it may have been a misfired weapon kept ready by a back-up team to assist the escape of the hotel gunmen.

Therefore, the hit squad in Las Vegas included a minimum of 5 gunmen, although more likely 6-7 shooters, with a contingent of support personnel for communications, logistics and transport as well as to trip up hotel security. Hotel staff at the Mandalay saw an assailant in a hotel security uniform being chased down a hall by police officers.

The attack on Las Vegas was a small-scale paramilitary operation, probably involving a squad of radical Muslim ISIS supporters to avenge Obama’s betrayal of the Caliphate. The “one POC” code word heard on police radio scanner likely refers to a “person of color”, likely from Africa, perhaps Somalia or Sudan, implying the two other suspects were light-skinned, perhaps Arabs or even white American recruits.

A most difficult problem in this incident is the code of silence among the hundreds of Muslim hotel workers and chauffeurs along The Strip, whose ultimate loyalties are with shariah law and not the U.S. Constitution. Vegas was a classic case study of the absolute failure and delusions about Muslim integration under the democratic traditions of American society. That is an undeniable fact that contributed enormously to the murder and mayhem, politically incorrect though it may sound.

On the side of caution, one cannot discount the possibility of an Israeli Mossad deep-cover false-flag operation aimed at ensuring more military aid from the U.S. against Iran and other foes. As for the professional sad clowns called “crisis actors”, the online bloggers who spread this sort of chum for fools are cogs in the repressive machinery of state working for the Feds or the Mossad.

 

 

For Paddock, to balk was a death sentence

The only remotely honest law-enforcement official with public presence, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, stated that suspect Paddock intended to survive the massacre. His assessment was based on the presence of a precursor chemical for explosives and more guns inside his car, which was left in the parking level of the Metropolitan. In other words, Paddock did not commit suicide, and there was no reason for him to wait for SWAT to arrive.

Since the firing had ceased by around 10:20 p.m., and the SWAT team did not storm his room until after 11:00, Paddock had 40 minutes to make his escape in the crowd of panicked guests down the elevators to the parking level. Why did he not exfiltrate?

The only possible answer is: Because he was already dead, killed before the shooting spree started. Who would have murdered Paddock just prior to the gunfire on the crowd below? One of the gunmen, of course.

Why? Because the would-be “buyers” of his stash of guns (none of them were legally purchased from registered firearms dealers, as implied by media fakery) had long suspected that his offer of weapons for sale was bait in an FBI-CIA trap. The ISIS knew very well that his disingenuous conversion to Islam was a ploy hatched by his bosses at the CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency).

So, the jihadists offered him one last test of faith before his “martyrdom”. At every terror site, at least one dead martyr must be left behind for the sake of the lone gunman myth, which benefits both the political class to appease public anger and also the terrorists trying to conserve manpower for their next strike. Paddock was more useful as a fall guy than as a fighter.

To flush out informers, crime groups will often order a new member to murder an undercover police informant or a friend in a rival gang, as depicted in the Johnny Depp movie “Donnie Brasco”. In real life and in the movie, Joe Pistone aka Brasco was shrewd enough not to flinch and shot his pal Tony Mirra, to the satisfaction of the Bonnano mob, and no further questions were asked of the rookie who had earned their trust as an unquestioning obedient henchman.

During the meeting to transfer the traceable guns to the ISIS men in his 32nd floor room, his client(s) would order him to start shooting at the concert-goers below as a test of faith. Caught totally off-guard by this demand to kill fellow Americans, Paddock would have balked. Instead of giving a straight answer, he probably requested a moment of prayer in the bathroom to think it over, allowing him to message his FBI support team.

His prayer was answered with a gunshot to the back of the head. That bloody head is edited out the FBI photo of his body, if indeed that was his actual corpse. (Since he was laid out with a Kevlar vest, why wouldn’t he also have worn a helmet to deflect bullets?) That’s when the ISIS team leader would text-message his gunman to commence the slaughter. They had no need for Paddock’s dodgy cache of weapons; they brought their own heavier machine-guns to the fatwa fiesta.

Now, boys and girls, if you want to be a secret agent for the Feds or the Agency, whenever the bad guys tell you to mow down your teammates, just do as they say and make sure there are no wounded survivors who might recognize you as one of their own and moan to you. “Jeez, good to see you again, hey, how come you’re not wearing a badge?” Kill everyone, even your loved ones, or you too will soon join the dead. That’s what it takes to be a first-class Fed, utter ruthlessness arising from the will to survive with no space for regrets or chance of redemption. It’s a lonely life that exits in hell.

Every Breath You Take

The sting operation known as Fast and Furious, initiated in 2009 by Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder turned into a self-inflicted disaster for law enforcement and national security. Supposedly traceable guns, embedded with RFID chips, were sold to the Mexican drug mafia. The concept was to track the homing devices inside the guns along the supply chain of felons up the ladder to the big bosses in Cuidad Juarez, Sinaloa state, the capital and other major smuggling hubs and money-laundering centers.

Since mobile-phone service and hotspots can be spotty in those backwaters, the FBI lost track of those firearms. It’s likely that the Mexican smugglers knew Fast and Furious was too good to be true, and took apart a gun to locate the tracking device. An estimated 10,000 civilian fatalities are attributed to those rapid-fire weapons, including American law-enforcement officials along the border, a blowback which led to an abrupt end of gun-walking. (The term means letting the criminals walk into a gun shop for an illegal purchase and walk out with firearms, in that case across the borderline.)

The killings of Americans with Holder’s guns resulted in an internal-affairs probe into the source of those firearms, which was the arsenals of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau (ATF, under the Department of Homeland Security). The Obama White House responded with a self-protective cover-up, and ATF bosses were under heat to perjure themselves before Congress. So, this is when Stephen Paddock’s airplane and his inexplicable wealth enter the dark picture show.

Homicide or Suicide?

That’s how one headline described the 2013 deaths of 20-year veteran ATF agent Paul Parisi and his wife Janine inside their home in Chantilly, Virginia. As an arson and explosives expert, Parisi was stationed at the local ATF field office, near the top-level forensic laboratory at Quantico, the FBI Academy, which also serves the scientific requests of Pentagon’s investigative unit called the Defense Security Service (DSS).

One of the questions related to Fast and Furious was the possible role of a suspected mafia mole inside U.S. law enforcement, so DNA testing and chemical analysis were meticulously done on recovered Fast and Furious guns, putting Paul Parisi on the wrong side in the eyes of certain higher-up circles who were not eager to see his forensic findings reach Congress.

A Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace

In that same area of Virginia, starting in 2006, one Stephen C. Paddock (the Las Vegas suspect’s middle name is Craig), who was a resident of Henderson, Texas, and Mesquite, Nevada, based his Cirrus SR20, tail number N5343M, at Chantilly airfield. But then, just months after the Parisi deaths, he relocated the home field of that single-engine propeller plane 22 miles away to an airstrip at Roanoke.

Parked at Roanoke for the next three years, the same-model Cirrus with identical tail number N5343M was registered as belonging to Volant LLC, which conducts top-secret assignments in intelligence and defense operations, something like the Mission Impossible team. Three weeks prior to the Vegas massacre, however, the Cirrus made its first recent flight, presumably by Paddock or another Agency pilot to deliver his consignment of guns to Las Vegas.

Thanks to a vigilant citizen online by name of Mike, that defense contractor is now in the spotlight. The limited liability company describes its team of experts as follows: “A Volant Associate proudly serves the needs of the nation’s Intelligence and Defense Community. Each associate matches a specific and rigorous profile and is the absolute best of his or her breed: a dedicated, driven, educated, broadly experienced leader who holds, at a minimum, an active Top-Secret SCI clearance”

To translate the alphabet soup: Top Secret (TS); SCI means Sensitive Compartmented Information, or high-level access to classified information on file. This lacework of acronyms can deadlier for one’s health than arsenic.

A notable feature of the Cirrus SR20 model is its rocket-opened parachute, which prevents a damaged aircraft from crashing into buildings while carry dangerous cargo, for example, explosives or ammunition. With seating for 4 passengers (which can be used for cargo space) and a range of 780 nautical miles, the Cirrus is an ideal plane for arms traffickers, involved in Fast and Furious and/or its successor program transporting spooked guns to Islamic radicals.

Online access to various employment agencies connected with Volant LLC have been blocked since recent revelations of Paddock’s long-time relationship to that defense contractor.

Dad was FBI’s Most Wanted

How could the eldest son of a bank robber, diagnosed as a psychopath, on the FBI Most Wanted List, become a government-trusted military contractor and a multimillionaire (with no visible means of support)?

A migrant from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to the Sunbelt, his father Benjamin Hoskins Paddock Jr. was arrested several times in the 1950s for automobile larceny, con games and passing bad checks, resulting in debts from which he tried to bounce back with two armed robberies at branches of the Valley Bank in Tucson, Arizona, in 1959 and ’60. While serving a prison sentence, Big Ben (6’2” tall) staged a prison break in 1969 and was on the lam for 7 years, operating under a false identity as a bingo parlor operator in Oregon. Although none of his sons admit to being in contact with him, the family somehow survived on the ill-gotten lucre despite the FBI watch on their Tucson home.

At the time of the prison escape and his posting on the Most Wanted list, Stephen Paddock was 15 years old, the eldest of four sons raised by their single mother. Contrary to the present-day media’s attempt to cast a “like father, like son” psychoanalysis on Stephen, in fact he managed to earn a business degree from Cal State Northridge, which qualified him to work as accountant and also gave him training in algorithms, later used to win big at video poker in casinos. Methodical, calm and low-key, his biography so far has showed no signs of his being a psychotic. His only deviance was the hiring of $6,000 per session hookers for bondage fake-rape sex, a dominance-subordination pastime that millions of otherwise straight-laced men and women also seem to enjoy, for whatever mournful reasons.

What is incongruous for the son of a fugitive bank robber, however, is that his entire working career, which lasted a mere 12 years, was entirely connected with the federal government, indicating the “protection” of the FBI over a potentially wayward youth. His first job was as a letter carrier, a mailman for the U.S. Postal Service, a routine that would prove useful later for his work as an intelligence contractor, if the mission required getting people to open their front doors and passing through neighborhoods unnoticed.

After a short stint as an IRS auditor, he worked from 1985-89 as an “in-house auditor” for an as-yet unidentified aircraft maintenance company, which was later merged into Lockheed. Just a mere one year into that better-paying job, Paddock plonked down $400,000 cash to purchase outright a large house in Northridge, California.

High Flier, High Times

What’s sticks in my craw is those dates of employment at the mystery company simultaneous with Air Cocaine flights into Mena Airfield, a major aircraft maintenance center in Arkansas while Bill Clinton was governor. It was one of few jobs in that era where an ordinary employee (pilot or ground crew and manager) could earn a tax-free million dollars a year. Perhaps not by accident, Stephen Paddock and the husband of Marilou Danley own homes in Fayetteville-Springdale in the northwest corner of Arkansas, where east-west US Highway 40 meets north-south state road 71 to Mena.

Whether or not his high times at Mena included helping Bill and the Hill roll up a carpet for Vince Foster, Paddock’s subsequent low-profile career was as a small-plane pilot, shuttling contraband or people on contract with intelligence agencies or the Pentagon. News reports indicate he often flew a small plane from Nevada to Alaska during the annual hunting season, a flight distance farther than Honduras to Arkansas. For the Alaskan hunt, he’s hauling a rifle of sufficient caliber to down a moose and maybe a few dollars more of extra hardware and ammo to offload in Idaho or Seattle.

OK, so the question begs an answer: Was Stephen Paddock a CIA assassin, as the ones in Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series? We have yet to locate the shallow unmarked graves, even if planes can also be used to dump bodies into lakes and oceans. Pity poor Joe Pesce in “Casino”, who had to use a shovel to dig holes in the desert.

ISIS Loyalty Pledge

The ISIS website boasts that Paddock was converted to Islam in April 2017, pledging allegiance to their jihad. He probably crossed the threshold on one of his cruise ship tours from Greece to the Middle East, which included stopovers in Dubai and Jordan, accompanied by his female companion Danley, who claims to have a niece in the UAE. Jordan is landlocked and the best method of entering that country is through the port of Aqaba.

Since it is by now certain that Paddock was a contract agent for U.S. intelligence, the Mideast cruise indicates:

– first, that he entered the region by cruise ship to avoid detection at region airports where he was probably a known commodity ever since the invasion of military contractors during and after the Iraq wars; and

– second, a CIA or DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) staffer, or a Mossad agent, would have escorted him for a quick briefing from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Jordanian border for his upcoming meetings with ISIS.

Both Dubai and Jordan are major hubs for the Muslim Brotherhood, which was involved in the Hillary-Obama fiasco known as the Arab Spring and financed by the jihadist Emirate of Qatar. Lest Americans have forgotten by now, the Brotherhood launched the first attempted attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 and its members were aboard the 911 jetliners. Presumably, many and perhaps most of the captains of ISIS came out of the Brotherhood, the “grandfather of modern jihad”.

Here again in the Paddock caper, the CIA-DIA revealed a basic lack of common sense, even after losing captured “aid workers” to ISIS decapitators. After all, who in their right mind would join ISIS when its barracks and arsenals were being pounded daily by Russian airstrikes? For Stephen Paddock, however, volunteering for this fool’s errand was perhaps his way of making up for the crimes of his father against American society. He was trying to redeem the family name, as hopeless and suicidal as that may have seemed. There’s nothing like Christian guilt to bring on Shariah law.

Gift from Heaven

The masterminds of ISIS must have interpreted Paddock’s oath of fealty as a gift from Above, a doorway into the American heartland, even though it was through the tiger’s den, a trap laid by the CIA. By then, ISIS had a grudge match with President Barack Obama after he reneged on the trans-Syrian pipeline from Qatar to the Mediterranean and onto Cyprus and Ukraine, meant to compete with the hated Russians who have a near-monopoly on European gas supply.

Despite the risks of entrapment, the ISIS chieftains had every reason to feel confident about the planned strikes on Orlando, Vegas and San Francisco, cities that represent to the Islamic community the sins of bestiality, gambling and homosexuality. (Animals that talk, as in the Disney menagerie are considered diabolical.) The Muslims were gaining the upper hand against their Satanic foe. The Awan brothers team had control of the computers in the House of Representatives, thanks to Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Tim Kaine along with the California Democrats were staunch in their support for open immigration and sanctuary cities, havens for ISIS sleeper cells; Obama’s Pizzagate team set up a transport network for DACA children, ensuring a bright future for Islam in the New World; and Khizer Khan was gaining influence in the DNC. The counterattack was proceeding way faster than Saladin’s slow meandering drive against the Crusaders.

While Stephen Paddock’s intelligence bosses were eager to put marked guns in the hands of jihadist supporters in America, ISIS was many steps ahead of the intel bureaucrats James Comey, John Brennan and Loretta Lynch. If the killings at the Orlando Pulse were an initial taste of glory, the assault on Las Vegas would surely be a bumper harvest, a fiesta for the fatwa.

While Paddock and his Agency superiors set the trap as neatly as he would fill an accounting ledger, the ISIS gunmen quietly took their stations at the Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, the Aria, New York New York, Tropicana and the Mandalay Bay, while an armed back-up team delicately nibbled on baklava with Turkish coffee, awaiting orders.

For Americans, a ghastly horrifying Halloween came early; but for ISIS the Autumn Moon glowed like honey dripping the sweet taste of revenge. In the Hijri calendar, the night of Oct. 1-2, 2017, marked the Islamic New Year, a blood sacrifice followed by a new dawn promising victory.

Where to Go from Here

What’s the prognosis? More of the same, because American society, including the self-serving political class, is much too narcissistic and divided to put up effective resistance to sustained attacks from fanatics who have no fear of dying and every reason to kill, in an era when citizens cannot even agree to stand up for the national anthem or celebrate Columbus Day, or even dare think of rallying around the commander in chief, all the while exulting in a frenzy of political correctness that prioritizes one’s private issues like sexual orientation over tough personal sacrifices for the common good.

The War on Terror and the Arab Spring, along with the absurd extremism of political correctness, as many of their critics like myself have repeatedly warned, have had devastating consequences for the United States and its democratic norms and cultural traditions. Until there is a minimal degree of unity as a nation, rising with a sea change among hearts and minds, the situation will deteriorate.

In contrast to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which united the country often to excessive zeal, the Las Vegas Massacre was a sharp blow that fragmented the USA into a million broken pieces that may possibly never be glued back together again. Regardless of the folly and disunity of all the sunshine soldiers and anti-social nationhood haters, those who struggle to revive America as a Good Nation, while accepting that greatness has probably been lost forever, will trudge through the approaching Valley Forge of our time toward the battles ahead.

 

 

Thanks for reading. May God help us all. And may God Bless the United States of America . . .

Annabelle Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

 

 

This night, on Apropos of Nothing, on this chill October evening . . . another gem of Gothic poetry from the master himself. A tale of lost youth and lost love . . . and a connection that lasts beyond the grave. Welcome to the world of Edgar Allan Poe.

     Welcome to . . . ANNABELLE LEE.

 

Annabel Lee

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me.

 

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

Coveted her and me.

 

And this was the reason that, long ago,

In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

In this kingdom by the sea.

 

 

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,

Went envying her and me—

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,

In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

 

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we—

Of many far wiser than we—

And neither the angels in Heaven above

Nor the demons down under the sea

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

 

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,

In her sepulchre there by the sea—

In her tomb by the sounding sea.

 

 

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back in a couple days with Chapter Five of INNOCENCE . . . 

 

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