Black Plume by David Madsen

The Supposed Memoirs of Edgar Allan Poe

1980 by David Madsen

Published 1991 by Grafton Books UK


My cousin was deathly ill.

She had been consumed by fever since the night of our wedding. Our chamber, situated in the very heart of my ancestral home, had proven too hot for her. At first, we extinguished the nightly fires, but she still burned with an inexplicable sickness that could not be placated. The windows were then left open, despite the snow storms that raged out-of-doors--but to no avail. Still, the debilitating fever reigned, and the efforts of the country's most skilled physicians to contain it proved fruitless, and they finally stopped coming altogether. She changed in color from alabaster to blood-red. She would not eat cooked food, she would drink only ice water. Her weight diminished daily, until she was little more than a willowy ingot. Yet, from beneath the weight of the fever that now exerted immutable dominion over her once girlish, laughing personality, she was still able to summon love for me.

And it was out of this love that I relented and allowed my cousin to spend the nights, when the fever was always the most unendurable, in a cooler, damper part of the castle. As the anemic sun departed gratefully from the frozen, treeless landscape that surrounded our home, I and two servants, whose unrecognizable faces seemed to me different each day, carefully carried my beloved wife from her room of velvet, gold and porcelain to the soundless stone cavity whose frigidity offered her respite from the crippling fever.

Down cramped, spiraling staircases, whose rough-hewn stone walls still bore bloodstains from the wars that had for centuries afflicted my homeland, we transported my perspiring bride, in silent, mournful procession.