|The Poe Cottage
Author: DezzieWinter PM
A new take on The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. A more kid friendly version.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Family/Adventure - Words: 4,064 - Published: 01-30-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3096965
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Poe Cottage
By: Carmen D. Shook
This book is dedicated to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, the man who taught me to 'dream, dreams no mortal has ever dared to dream before.' The man whose books I read as a child, and helped to foster my love of reading. This story is for him in the hopes that another generation of children will not only love Poe, but to cherish the beautiful gift of reading.
Chase was sure that this was a very bad idea. The boys from his class wanted him to enter into the old Poe Cottage that was rumored to be haunted. He didn't want to enter, but he had his pride to keep. He wouldn't chicken out and let them call him a baby for the rest of the year. So he took a gulp of air and walked up the front steps. Really, how did he get himself into these things? Couldn't he just keep his mouth shut about his love of Ghost stories? Just because he loved to read them, didn't mean he wanted to actually live them. He wondered what would be waiting for him on the other side of that innocent looking white door. Would it be a haint-a ghost- or would it perhaps it would be a huge nest of cobwebs or masks.
It was dark and dusty in the house and it was full of old and forgotten things. There was an antique writing desk pushed up against a boarded up window that he found old account ledgers in along with leather bound books full of odd words and tiny print. In another corner, was a rocking chair with a small side table that held a tarnished silver tea set. In the bookshelf against the back wall was what he later learned to be a Venetian Mask from Italy during Carnival, an old dusty wine bottle and several broken wine glasses, and a few crumbling bricks. He most especially loved the old shuttered lantern that hung from another window. It reminded him of Paul Revere and his midnight ride. He startled when he heard the boys shout from outside. He grabbed a book titled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque that was leather bound and cracked. He thought it might contain ghost stories he hadn't read before.
The door swung shut behind him as he ran out the house and down the steps following the other boys as they ran down the street. He vowed that he would come back, by himself, and see what else that creepy old house had hidden in its innards. If he was lucky, he would find tons of ghost stories to read. Chase would do just about anything for a good ghost story. He would just have to see what his prize held and get back home for Sunday Dinner. He'd be in trouble if he was late seeing as it was at his house today. He yelled goodbye to the others and turned down the road to his house. He bound up the stairs just as the first loll of thunder struck and the heavens opened up on the Earth below.
It was a few hours later and the storm was wailing outside like a demented haint. Pounding hail struck the roof and window panes with abandon. Outside it was cold and dark, but inside it was warm and cozy. The kitchen was stifling and crowded as rosy checked women bustled around. The dining table was laden with dishes and pitchers of steaming food and sweet tea. Men sat around the table smoking as children weaved between the standing men and climbed over the men that were sitting. Laughter, chatter, and the croon of the old record player filled the space with happy sounds of a family tradition. Chase looked around and found his cousins, twins, Mary and Virginia, and grabbed a basket of cornbread from Mary as he asked them,
"What's Grotesque mean Ginny? Mary, what's Arabesque mean?" The twins fiddled with the cutlery and walked with him into the dining room. As Chase placed the cornbread on the table and then helped the twins put out the plates they answered,
"Well," started Ginny.
"Arabesque is meant to mean a work," continued Mary,
"Poetry or story more specifically, that uses a lot of fancy unnecessary language." interrupted Ginny. "Also Grotesque means looking scary or being scary."
"Why?" Both twins questioned. They were giving him their 'what are you up too' looks. Chase just shrugged and answered,
"I read it in one of my stories and I was confused. You're quicker than a dictionary." Both twins chuckled at that as it was well known that they loved words and history of any kind. The twins glanced to each other and then went and whispered into Grandpa Maxwell's ear. He smiled and nodded to the twins. They walked back to Chase and ushered him into a chair in-between them. Dinner was a loud affair full of the sounds of a happy family eating together. It was one of those old Southern traditions that his family still held onto strongly. While the place changed every week, the whole family always ate Sunday dinner together. They might go over and eat lunch with another member of the family during the week, but they never missed a Sunday meal together.
The basket of cornbread was passed around, followed by the green beans, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken. Sweet Southern Tea was poured and napkins passed around the table. Chase's Great Uncle Uriel cleared his throat and the whole table went silent. Uncle Uriel said the blessing and after "Amen" the noise burst outward and the orchestra of clinking plates, cutlery being dropped, and the thunk of glasses being sat down filled the space louder that before. Ringing caught his attention so he said 'excuse me' to the twins and waited for them to nod and then he got up. He padded into the kitchen and picked up the phone.
"Hello, this is the Peterson household, this is Chase speaking. How may I help you?" There was a huff of laughter and an older woman's voice answered,
"Hullo Chase. This is Great Aunt Ellen sweetie. I'm runnin a little bit late. The cookies and pie just came out of the oven so I'll be over there in about 45 minutes. Save me some grubb from them vultures, k hun?"
He smiled and replied,
"I'll keep you some food warm Aunt Ellen. Be safe on your way over here, hear?"
A boisterous laugh and,
"Always am sweetie, always am." He hung up the phone and made his way to the table with a clean plate. He loaded it up with all of Aunt Ellen's favorite foods and then made his way back into the kitchen to wrap the plate in tinfoil. After that was done he finished making the sweet tea somebody had started and then joined the twins at the table again. Everything was noisy and loud and just the way he liked Sunday dinners. Once the meal was over the women went to the living room and took out their sewing, knitting, and crocheting, while the men went to the kitchen to wash the dishes, since the ladies had cooked today. Chase's family always switched off on who got to cook and who did the cleanup, though most times the women liked to do everything. They would have, too, if dinner had been at Aunt Ellen's. She refused to have a man in her kitchen. She said just to ask Grandpa Maxwell, Uncle Uriel, and Uncle Zack why. They never answered Chase's questions about why.
Just as the men finished the dishes and had retired to the living room to watch the race, a loud BOOM sounded and the power flickered out and stayed out. Groans from the men and shrieks from the children echoed around the crowed room. Chase's dad, Levi, Grandpa Maxwell, and Chase went around setting out candles and lighting them. Grandpa Maxwell sat down in a chair and Chase climbed onto the arm of the chair while the twins grabbed their knitting and sat at Grandpa Maxwell's feet. Grandpa Maxwell cleared his throat and began to speak.
"Our family has a rich history, since we come from the South. As in all Southern families we too have ghost stories. This is a true southern ghost story I like to call The Raven.
"It was back when I was a lad just out of school. I had managed to get myself a job with the old town scholar. A scholar is a man that is devoted to studying things. In this case the town scholar studied the science of Alchemy and various cultures beliefs about Life after Death. The old scholar had just lost his wife Lenore, who had helped him with his research before I came along. He had taken to studying into the wee hours of the night, which displeased my Mam, but it paid good money for back then. I took notes and fetched books or quills and ink or paper. All in all, not a bad job despite the hours or the fact that the old man talked like the books he read.
One night, way past the witching hour-midnight by the way- we were still working hard. Both of us were tired, but I couldn't quit till he told me I could, so on I worked with without saying anything. I valued my job and didn't want to risk losing it. My employer had not been eating his vitals- food- or drinking anything, so I was worried about the old man. Still onward we worked, pouring through forgotten lore of old, Greek if memory serves me well, when we were startled out of the quiet we had settled into.
There was a tapping sound and we both were blinking at the other. We both realized that it had to be someone at the door trying to gain entrance. We were both trying to calm back down as our hearts were beating wildly, when the old man muttered,
"Tis some visitor tapping at my chamber door—Only this and nothing more." I rose and responded trying to calm down the sickly old man,
"Probably just me Ma or Pa coming to see what's kept me here so long." It was dark as it was a day towards the end of December, meaning the sun set earlier than normal. I wasn't much of a superstitious man, but the same could not be said about the old man. He saw ghosts in every shadow cast by the dying embers of the fireplace. The old man was lost in sorrows of Lady Lenore and tried to be rid of them by his work. It just made him more paranoid.
I distinctly remember how the old man twitched at each rustling of his purple curtains from an unseen breeze like there was a haint waiting to snatch his soul should he walk past them. The old man had still been standing when he whispered once again, trying to convince himself it seemed,
"Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door. This it is, and nothing more." Suddenly the old man roused into action and crying out spoke,
"Sir, or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you!" He then threw open wide the door;- Darkness was there and nothing else. Deep into the darkness peering, long he stood there, wondering, but the silence was unbroken, and the only word there spoken was his whispered word,
"Lenore!" Merely this, and nothing more. Back into the chamber he turned, and soon again we heard a tapping, louder than before.
"Surely," he said, "surely, that is something at my window lattice. He walked towards the window and muttered,
"Tis the wind, and nothing more." Open he then flung the shutter. There, with much fuss landed a raven. The raven took off and flew up to a bust above the chamber door. The raven perched and sat and nothing more. The old man spoke,
"Who do you belong to raven?" The raven croaked and I noticed the old man had glassy eyes. The old man stood and stared at the raven and when I began to worry he muttered,
"Other friends have flown before; On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before." The raven croaked back and the old man startled and said,
"Doubtless what it utters is its only word, learned from some unhappy master, that he says only "Never-Nevermore." The old man grabbed a chair and pulled it in front of the raven, and then he sunk into the chair and thought about the bird.
"Fiend," he cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee forget this lost Lenore!" The raven startled and croaked in fear at the old man's yelling.
"Prophet!" he screamed, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil! Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore on this home horror haunted. Tell me truly, I implore: Is there—is there peace in Heaven?—tell me—tell me I implore!" The raven let out yet another shriek and the old man frothed,
"Prophet! Thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil! By that heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant realm, It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore. Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?" The raven let out a shrill sound and the old man jumped from his seat.
"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend! Get thee back into the tempest and the Underworld! Leave no black feather as a reminder of that lie thy soul has spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
As the bird once more croaked I ran out the door and down the streets to fetch the doctor at this late hour fearing for the old man's life. Surely talking as if the bird was speaking was not a good sign. I ran swiftly like the messenger god Hermes and darted down every alley shortcut I knew of to reach the doctor's door. Ringing the bell I jumped from foot to foot waiting for the door to swing open. I don't recall what I told the doctor, or the way we took to get back to the old man's house. Nor do I remember much of what happened the rest of that night. The next thing I was aware of was the fact that I woke up in bed hearing Ellen's worried voice talking to my Mam. I recall getting up and walking into the kitchen to hear Ellen say,
"They put the old scholar into the Insane Asylum? Whatever will happen to Maxwell?" And that is the story of the Raven children." A loud stroke of thunder and a tapping at the door startled loud shrieks of fear from everyone in the room. Slowly the door creaked open and a shadow flickered in the candle light. As one the group screamed out,
"Maxwell Peterson! Have you been telling that old story again? What have I told you about that?" Aunt Ellen came into the room and as she passed by Grandpa Maxwell's chair she smacked him on the back of the head, hard. Chase just stared at Aunt Ellen as she settled herself into the chair beside theirs. She pulled out her pipe and looked at Chase who smiled back at his Aunt. Aunt Ellen always told great stories; even better than Grandpa Maxwell. Hers were always about the South and history. She was a high-school history teacher and passed her love of history onto her granddaughters. The twin's stories weren't as good as Aunt Ellen's but they were close to being as good as Grandpa Maxwell's. Both of the twins snickered and Chase just rolled his eyes hoping for another story.
Chase settled down in his bed that night after everyone had gone home. He opened the old book he had found in the cottage and began to read. The stories were written in an old language similar to how the old man in Grandpa Maxwell's story had talked. They were all morbid-a word that means gloomy- and were scary; especially coupled with the old language that was hard to understand. Chase had to use his dictionary often as he read through the book. The stories and poems stayed with him even as he went to sleep that night.
It was Monday and Halloween that night. His father was getting ready for that night when all the trick or treaters came by. Chase heard his dad call his Grandpa Maxwell and ask him if he was still coming over that night. His dad said, "see you then", and hung up the phone.
"Dad, can I go out? Play around the neighborhood?" His dad looked up and nodded.
"Don't go past Uncle Zack's house. Be back by suppertime Chase." Chase nodded, pulled on his coat and headed out. He knew exactly where he was going. He was headed towards Old Poe Cottage to investigate and to see what he could find this time. The mystery of the place had been driving him up the wall since yesterday night when he had finished the book he had taken. He was also going to put it back where he got it from since he had finished it. He didn't need it anymore and someone else might like it too.
After he had put the book back, Chase stared around at the inside of the house. It was in disrepair, but it was still once upon a time someone's home. He knew that it was called Poe's Cottage and that he had found a book by an Edgar Allan Poe. So he figured his next stop was to the library. First though he wanted to explore some more. He wondered around the old cottage and gazed at all the portraits on the wall. There was one of an E. that must have been the author of the book he had borrowed. Next to him was one of a V. , a lady that looked very like E. . There were more, but he couldn't figure out who they were supposed to be. He was very interested in the dusty books all over the house and was even surprised to see old newspapers and even some magazines. As Chase flipped through them all he noted that every single last one of them either mentioned Edgar Allan Poe or had Poe's various works in them. He wanted to spend more time on them, but knew that if he wanted to go to the library today, he would have to hurry. The cottage was pleasant; it had a calm atmosphere in it. As if the inhabitants had lived a happy life here at one point in time. After he had looked the whole house over he decided to go ahead and go to the library. It was hard to understand a place if you didn't know the history behind it after all. Chase wanted to appreciate the cottage more, but to do that he needed knowledge to back him up. And there was only one place he knew of to get that at the moment. So he trudged his way to the library and asked the librarian about the man called Edgar Allan Poe. She smiled at him and led him towards a child's biography book on the man. He figured it was a good place to start. He could find other books later if he needed them.
It turned out that the life of Edgar Poe started on the 19th of January in the year of 1809 in the bustling city of Boston. Edgar Allan Poe was born to a David and Elizabeth Poe, who were actors. David Poe left mother and son when Edgar was just a baby. Elizabeth Poe died when Edgar was three. After his mother's death he went to foster parents in 1812. His foster parents were Francis and John Allan. The Allan's had Poe educated at the best schools their money could afford in both England and Virginia. Even as a young child, Poe had the ability to write great poetry. Poe went to Boston and joined the army. Thinking that he would pursue a military career, Edgar Poe entered West Point with help from his adoptive father John Allan. In 1831, Poe published a work of poems and was expelled from West Point later that same year. He went and lived with Maria Clemm and married her daughter Virginia Clemm in 1836. Virginia died in 1847, but before that Poe wrote his critically acclaimed poem "The Raven" in 1845. In 1848, Poe was lecturing in Providence, Virginia. Lecturing allowed him to express his most influent views on poetry and he died a year later in 1849 (Bloom11-13).
Apparently, Poe wrote many short stories and poems during his life and the Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque was a book of some of them. Chase decided to read "The Raven" and found out it was similar to the story his Grandpa Maxwell had told, just a lot harder to understand. It had the same archaic language that the book he found had in it. Chase decided to ask his Grandpa Maxwell about it and Grandpa would be over tonight for Halloween. So he put the book back on the shelf where the Librarian had gotten it from and went home.
When Grandpa Maxwell got home he asked why he had told a story that wasn't his own. Grandpa Maxwell just smiled and said,
"Well son, we've always been a family that was great with words. We can write them, speak them, debate our way out of a cardboard box, and give the best Shakespeare monologues. I once had to do a project about my family history. Want to know what I found? I found that our family is related to Edgar Allan Poe through his father David Poe. David had a sister and the Petersons come from her. I was never as proud of my family or where I came from until I found that out. One of the South's great American Writer's came from our own family. To every generation I've told that story in the hopes that they too would be proud of their family. That they would look it up, or remember it when they got to English class and read it. The twins thought it was time for you to know our family history as well. And now you know Chase." Chase gazed at his Grandpa in disbelief. They couldn't be related to Edgar Allan Poe. Grandpa Maxwell just handed him a family tree and Chase traced it all the way back to Charity Poe Peterson. Apparently they were related.
Now he could say who he was. He knew his name, where he came from, and most importantly he knew his family. He knew why his family always ended up in a job or field where they could talk a lot or write a lot. Know he knew why he loved to read so much and why he was Chase Peterson, the Ghost expert. It was because way back since the 1800's his family had been using their love of the written word to make something of themselves.
He was Chase Peterson, a relative of the Southern Writer Edgar Allan Poe.
A special thanks to Merrium-Webster for definitions, and the Complete Tales and Works of Edgar Allan Poe. To my Grandmother, my English 126 classmates and teacher, and to my friends for helping me with this project and giving me a fresh perceptive when I had lost all hope of completing this short-story.
Bloom, Harold. Edgar Allan Poe. Broomall: Chelsea House Pub, 1999. Print.
Poe, Edgar. Complete Tales and Poems. Web Books, eBook.