Only when the gray dawn stole in through the small window of his room did the boy fall asleep.
Not only Kennedy Square, but Moorlands, rang with accounts of the dinner and its consequences. Most of those who were present and who witnessed the distressing spectacle had only words of sympathy for the unfortunate man—his reverent manner, his contrite tones, and abject humiliation disarming their criticism. They felt that some sudden breaking down of the barriers of his will, either physical or mental, had led to the catastrophe. Richard Horn voiced the sentiments of Poe’s sympathizers when, in rehearsing the episode the next afternoon at the club, he had said:
“His pitiable condition, gentlemen, was not the result of debauchery. Poe neither spoke nor acted like a drunken man; he spoke and acted like a man whom a devil had overcome. It was pathetic, gentlemen, and it was heart-rending—really the most pitiful sight I ever remember witnessing. His anguish, his struggle, and his surrender I shall never forget; nor will his God—for the prayer came straight from his heart.”
“I don’t agree with you, Horn,” interrupted Clayton. “Poe was plumb drunk! It is the infernal corn whiskey he drinks that puts the devil in him. It may be he can’t get anything else, but it’s a damnable concoction all the same. Kennedy has about given him up—told me so yesterday, and when Kennedy gives a fellow up that’s the last of him.”
“Then I’m ashamed of Kennedy,” retorted Horn. “Any man who can write as Poe does should be forgiven, no matter what he does—if he be honest. There’s nothing so rare as genius in this world, and even if his flame does burn from a vile-smelling wick it’s a flame, remember!—and one that will yet light the ages. If I know anything of the literature of our time Poe will live when these rhymers like Mr. Martin Farquhar Tupper, whom everybody is talking about, will be forgotten. Poe’s possessed of a devil, I tell you, who gets the better of him once in a while—it did the night of St. George’s dinner.”