The Devil in Manuscript


  • Narrator

    On a bitter evening of December, I arrived by mail in a large town, which was then the residence of an intimate friend, one of those gifted youths who cultivate poetry and the belles-lettres, and call themselves students at law.

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  • My first business, after supper, was to visit him at the office of his distinguished instructor.

  • As I have said, it was a bitter night, clear starlight, but cold as Nova Zembla,--

  • the shop-windows along the street being frosted, so as almost to hide the lights, while the wheels of coaches thundered equally loud over frozen earth and pavements of stone.

  • There was no snow, either on the ground or the roofs of the houses.

  • The wind blew so violently, that I had but to spread my cloak like a main-sail, and scud along the street at the rate of ten knots, greatly envied by other navigators, who were beating slowly up, with the gale right in their teeth.

  • One of these I capsized, but was gone on the wings of the wind before he could even vociferate an oath.

  • After this picture of an inclement night, behold us seated by a great blazing fire, which looked so comfortable and delicious that I felt inclined to lie down and roll among the hot coals.

  • The usual furniture of a lawyer's office was around us,-- and rows of volumes inΒ a multitude of writs, summonses, and other legal papers, scattered over sheepskin and the desks and tables.

  • But there were certain objects which seemed to intimate that we had little dread of the intrusion of clients, or of the learned counsellor himself, who, indeed, was attending court in a distant town.

  • A tall, decanter-shaped bottle stood on the table,

  • between two tumblers, and beside a pile of blotted manuscripts, altogether dissimilar to any law documents recognized in our courts.

  • My friend, whom I shall call Oberon,--it was a name of fancy and friendship between him and me,--my friend Oberon looked at these papers with a peculiar expression of disquietude.

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    β€œI do believe,”

  • Narrator

    said he, soberly,

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  • Profile Picture of Oberon in The Devil in Manuscript


    β€œor, at least, I could believe, if I chose, that there is a devil in this pile of blotted papers.

  • You have read them, and know what I mean,--that conception in which I endeavored to embody the character of a fiend, as represented in our traditions and the written records of witchcraft.

  • Oh, I have a horror of what was created in my own brain, and shudder at the manuscripts in which I gave that dark idea a sort of material existence!

  • Would they were out of my sight!”