In which the reader shall find little to do with the story, and may, therefore, skip
Is there anywhere in the world so damnable a place of torment as a bed? To lie awake through the slow, dragging hours, surrounded by a sombre quietude from whose stifling blackness thoughts, like demons, leap to catch us by the throat; or, like waves, come rolling in upon us, ceaselessly, remorselessly—burying us beneath their resistless flow, catching us up, whirling us dizzily aloft, dashing us down into depths infinite; now retreating, now advancing, from whose oncoming terror there is no escape, until we are once more buried beneath their stifling rush.
To lie awake, staring wide-eyed into a crowding darkness wherein move terrors unimagined; to bury our throbbing temples in pillows of fire; to roll and toss until the soul within us cries out in agony, and we reach out frantic hands into a void that mocks us by the contrast of its deep and awful quiet. At such times fair Reason runs affrighted to hide herself, and foaming Madness fills her throne; at such times our everyday sorrows, howsoever small and petty they be, grow and magnify themselves until they overflow the night, filling the universe above and around us; and of all the woes the human mind can bear—surely Suspicion gnaws deeper than them all!
So I lay beneath the incubus, my temples clasped tight between my burning palms to stay the maddening ring of the hammer in my brain. And suspicion grew into certainty, and with certainty came madness; imagination ran riot: she was a Messalina—a Julia —a Joan of Naples—a veritable Succuba—a thing polluted, degraded, and abominable; and, because of her beauty, I cursed all beautiful things, and because of her womanhood, I cursed all women. And ever the hammer beat upon my brain, and foul shapes danced before my eyes—shapes so insanely hideous and revolting that, of a sudden, I rose from my bed, groaning, and coming to the casement—leaned out.
Oh! the cool, sweet purity of the night! I heard the soft stir and rustle of leaves all about me, and down from heaven came a breath of wind, and in the wind a great raindrop that touched my burning brow like the finger of God. And, leaning there, with parted lips and closed eyes, gradually my madness left me, and the throbbing in my brain grew less.
How many poor mortals, since the world began, sleepless and anguish-torn—even as I—have looked up into that self-same sky and sorrowed for the dawn!
“For her love, in sleep I slake,
For her love, all night I wake,
For her love, I mourning make
More than any man!”
Poor fool! to think that thou couldst mourn more than thy kind!
Thou’rt but a little handful of gray dust, ages since, thy name and estate long out of mind; where’er thou art, thou shouldst have got you wisdom by now, perchance.