A Tale of the Ragged Mountains Notes from Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

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Stories of Edgar Allan Poe A Tale of the Ragged Mountains

An unnamed narrator from Charlottesville, Virginia introduces an interesting acquaintance from a wealthy family named Augustus Bedloe, whom he had met in 1827. Although this man claims to be young in age, his body has been aged and oddly transformed due to some illness, causing him to appear at times to be one hundred years of age, "He was singularly tall and thin. He stooped much. His limbs were exceedingly long and emaciated. His forehead was broad and low. His complexion was absolutely bloodless. His mouth was large and flexible, and his teeth were more wildly uneven...His eyes were abnormally large and round like those of a cat...their ordinary condition was so totally vapid, filmy and dull, as to convey the idea of the eyes of a long-interred corpse" 85-86. Augustus' skin is very pale, his teeth are set apart, his eyes appear to be dead at times, and the bone structure in his limbs is disproportionate to his body. Although initially discomforted to see the weird appearance of Augustus' body, the narrator adjusts to this over time, and he learns that this is due to "neuralgic attacks," or diseases that attack his nervous system, thus causing his body to transform far beyond its actual age.

To assist him, Augustus hired Doctor Templeton to be his full-time private physician after they had met up in Saratoga many years ago. Templeton is not the traditional sort of doctor, since he follows the teachings of Mesmerism, or hypnosis, which believes in the mind's ability to control the body. Augustus had at first been resistant to Mesmerism as well, and Templeton accordingly insisted that he experiment on this young man in an attempt to convince him otherwise. At first there were few results, and Bedloe showed little reaction to Templeton's experiments using the power of his mind and magnets to control Bedloe's body. However, as time went on Bedloe became more and more repsonsive, until eventually the two developed an interdependence, a "magnetic relation" that was extremely powerful. According to the narrator, Templeton can put Augustus to sleep at a moment's notice without warning, even when the doctor was not within Bedloe's sight. He adds that in his present year of 1845, such events are more well known than when he had first met Bedloe and Templeton nearly twenty years before, when this story takes place.

Augustus also takes lots of morphine on a daily basis in order to alleviate some of the pain he experiences from his illness, and each morning he likes to go out walking in the Ragged Mountains that are outside of Charlottesville. On one particularly warm day in November, he leaves for his usual walk but does not return until nearly eight o'clock in the evening. The narrator and Templeton were very worried about Augustus Bedloe and had even gotten ready to go out searching for this sickly man. However, Augustus has a fascinating story to tell; after leaving his home he walked for awhile and decided to take a new path he discovered along the way that led through a gorge. The area there was very pure, with the "green sods and grey rocks" that had never been walked upon before by any other human. Walking onwards, Augustus followed a winding path for several hours, and "In the quivering of a leaf -- in the hue of a blade of grass -- in the shape of a trefoil -- in the humming of a bee -- in the gleaming of a dewdrop -- in the breathing of the wind -- in the faint odors that came from the forest -- there came a whole new universe of suggestion -- a gay and motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought" Poe, pg. 88. Possibly influenced by the morphine, Augustus' senses were enhanced and he imagined that the world around him was suddenly so much more alive there than it has ever been before. The leaves, the trees, and in the bugs around him, everything seemed to suddenly be transformed than how it was before.

At this point Bedloe recalled that the Ragged Mountains have a reputation for being mystical, and that a dangerous race of mountain men supposedly lives there. At that moment, a drum beat rang out through the air to his surprise, and a strange half-naked man ran up and abruptly thrust an object with many steel rings upon it into Augustus' hand. Continuing to run ahead, a large hyena followed this man without giving Bedloe a moment's notice. Stunned, Bedloe pinched himself to make sure that it wasn't a dream and found a stream where he could get some water, sitting nearby under a palm tree. Noting that pine trees don't grow in the Virginia woods, Bedloe stood up, confused at where he was. Walking ahead, the air became very hot, and reaching an open space he found himself at the bottom of a huge mountain. Below there was a large exotic city, designed as if from The Arabian Takes, filled with minarets, busy bazaars, beards, turbans, mosques, and "Beyond the limits of the city arose, in frequent majestic groups, the palm and the cocoa, with other gigantic and weird trees of vast age and here and there might be seen a field of rice, the thatched hut of a peasant, a tank, a stray temple, a gypsy camp, or a solitary graceful maiden taking her way, with a pitcher upon her head to the banks of the majestic river" Poe, pg. 91.

Whatever city that Augustus Bedloe saw, it certainly was not any place in Virginia; this city had men who wear robes and turbans, and the weather has even become extremely hot as well. It seems as if he had walked to India or some far off land in the Middle East, rather than remaining in America. At this moment, Bedloe pauses from his story to affirm that he was not dreaming at all whether from the morphine, or from fatigue. He strongly asserts that everything he is describing actually occurred, and that he is not mistaken or disillusioned, in an attempt to seek validation from the narrator and Doctor Templeton, who are patiently listening to this tale. Templeton merely urges Bedloe to continue his story, declaring that he does not doubt Bedloe, and suggesting next that Bedloe went down into the city to explore. Augustus confirms this, adding that he walked down into the city, where an extraordinary event was occurring, as a huge mob of native people were attacking a small group "officered by gentlemen in a uniform partly British." Diving in to assist, Bedloe picked up some weapons from a fallen soldier and joined the pack, fleeing away as the mob pursued them. They finally found safety for a bit in a small building, observed an "effeminate-looking person" crawl out of the window of a nearby palace, jump into a boat, and run away across the river.

Next Bedloe's group dashed out of their hiding place, running down the street while the mob still pursued at full force, tossing spears and poisoned arrows. One of these arrows hit Bedloe in his head and he fell down, dying. The narrator interrupts at this point, declaring that it must have all been a dream because Bedloe obviously is not dead. Augustus does not reply, and Templeton, who is now visibly shaken, shouts out "Proceed" without regard to the narrator's comment. Bedloe recalled that he laid there for awhile in the dark, dead, until all of the crowd had departed. Bedloe merely feels as if this has occurred, for he cannot see it because he is dead. Then he rises up and feels that his body is lying dead there with an arrow through his brain, and then he climbed up the hill again overlooking the city, and he walked back the entire route whence he had come, until he arrived at the strange gorge again, at which point his body was violently jolted and he could see again and became his old self. He then returned to his home in Charlottesville, where he met Templeton and the narrator. Augustus declares once again that this experience, although very strange, was not a dream at all.

With the conclusion of Bedloe's story, Templeton agrees that this was not in fact a dream at all, taking out an old picture that exactly resembled the fact of Augustus Bedloe. The narrator still isn't sure what this means. Templeton now tells a tale of his own; the picture was taken of an old friend named Mr. Oldeb, in 1780, whom he had known in Calcutta, India when Warren Hastings was in charge of that country. Templeton adds that Bedloe's experience in the Ragged Mountains is exactly what he and Mr. Oldeb had endured in Bedares, India, when a group of natives led by Cheyte Sing had tried to overthrow the colonial British government. Sing was the man fleeing from the palace by boat; Hastings led the smaller group of which Templeton and Mr. Oldeb were a part, and of which Bedloe was a part during his experience. Oldeb was shot and killed by a poisoned arrow while fleeing the natives, much to Templeton's dismay. In fact, it was because of Augustus Bedloe's keen resemblance to Oldeb that Templeton had befriended him in the first place at Saratoga; Templeton was in the process of writing this memory down upon paper, while Bedloe was walking in the mountains. Certainly, the presence of a mesmeric connection between these two men is even clearer after hearing this revelation. Somehow Bedloe lived through the events in Templeton's mind as he was himself recalling them.

Several days after these events occurred, the narrator read Augustus Bedloe's obituary in the newspaper, learning that this man had a bad fever and a buildup of blood in his head as a result. Templeton had applied leeches to his head to relieve some of this pressure, although Templeton accidentally applied a poisonous leech to Bedloe's head, which poisoned his blood and killed the poor man. The article notes that the poisonous and friendly leeches of Charlottesville is different because the poisonous one is darker, and its body looks like a snake. The narrator is stunned to read this article, but he is even more concerned to observe that Augustus Bedloe's name is spelled "Bedlo" in the obituary. Arriving at the newspaper's office to ask for an explanation from the editor, the man responds merely that it is just a mistake that the "e" was omitted from his last name. Dissatisfied with this response, the narrator mutters aloud that "Bedlo" spelled backwards is "Oldeb," the very same name as the young friend of Doctor Templeton who had been slain in India by the poisoned arrow while fighting the rebellion. The narrator remains confused and baffled as he walks away from the newspaper's office, still trying to understand exactly what exactly the relationship is between Bedloe, Oldeb, and Doctor Templeton. However, the answers he receives only provoke more questions.

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