View Full Version : The Angel of the Odd, by Edgar Allen Poe

Sunday, December 5th, 2004, 07:14 PM
IT WAS a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated
an unusually hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic truffe
formed not the least important item, and was sitting alone
in the dining-room, with my feet upon the fender, and at my
elbow a small table which I had rolled up to the fire, and
upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some
miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit, and liqueur. In the
morning I had been reading Glover's "Leonidas," Wilkies
"Epigoniad," Lamartine's "Pilgrimage," Barlow's "Columbiad,"
Tuckermann's "Sicily," and Griswold's "Curiosities"; I am
willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little
stupid. I made effort to arouse myself by aid of frequent
Lafitte, and, all failing, I betook myself to a stray
newspaper in despair. Having carefully perused the column of
"houses to let," and the column of "dogs lost," and then the
two columns of "wives and apprentices runaway," I attacked
with great resolution the editorial matter, and, reading it
from beginning to end without understanding a syllable,
conceived the possibility of its being Chinese, and so
re-read it from the end to the beginning, but with no more
satisfactory result. I was about throwing away, in disgust,

This folio of four pages, happy work
Which not even poets criticise,

when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph
which follows: "The avenues to death are numerous and
strange. A London paper mentions the decease of a person
from a singular cause. He was playing at 'puff the dart,'
which is played with a long needle inserted in some worsted,
and blown at a target through a tin tube. He placed the
needle at the wrong end of the tube, and drawing his breath
strongly to puff the dart forward with force, drew the
needle into his throat. It entered the lungs, and in a few
days killed him."

Upon seeing this I fell into a great rage, without exactly
knowing why. "This thing," I exclaimed, "is a contemptible
falsehood- a poor hoax- the lees of the invention of some
pitiable penny-a-liner- of some wretched concoctor of
accidents in Cocaigne. These fellows, knowing the
extravagant gullibility of the age, set their wits to work
in the imagination of improbable possibilities- of odd
accidents, as they term them; but to a reflecting intellect
(like mine," I added, in parenthesis, putting my forefinger
unconsciously to the side of my nose), "to a contemplative
understanding such as I myself possess, it seems evident at
once that the marvelous increase of late in these 'odd
accidents' is by far the oddest accident of all. For my own
part, I intend to believe nothing henceforward that has
anything of the 'singular' about it.

"Mein Gott, den, vat a vool you bees for dat!" replied one
of the most remarkable voices I ever heard. At first I took
it for a rumbling in my ears- such as man sometimes
experiences when getting very drunk- but, upon second
thought, I considered the sound as more nearly resembling
that which proceeds from an empty barrel beaten with a big
stick; and, in fact, this I should have concluded it to be,
but for the articulation of the syllables and words. I am by
no means naturally nervous, and the very few glasses of
Lafitte which I had sipped served to embolden me a little,
so that I felt nothing of trepidation, but merely uplifted
my eyes with a leisurely movement, and looked carefully
around the room for the intruder. I could not, however,
perceive any one at all.

"Humph!" resumed the voice, as I continued my survey, "you
mus pe so dronk as de pig, den, for not zee me as I zit here
at your zide."

Hereupon I bethought me of looking immediately before my
nose, and there, sure enough, confronting me at the table
sat a personage nondescript, although not altogether
indescribable. His body was a wine-pipe, or a rum-puncheon,
or something of that character, and had a truly Falstaffian
air. In its nether extremity were inserted two kegs, which
seemed to answer all the purposes of legs. For arms there
dangled from the upper portion of the carcass two tolerably
long bottles, with the necks outward for hands. All the head
that I saw the monster possessed of was one of those Hessian
canteens which resemble a large snuff-box with a hole in the
middle of the lid. This canteen (with a funnel on its top,
like a cavalier cap slouched over the eyes) was set on edge
upon the puncheon, with the hole toward myself; and through
this hole, which seemed puckered up like the mouth of a very
precise old maid, the creature was emitting certain rumbling
and grumbling noises which he evidently intended for
intelligible talk.

"I zay," said he, "you mos pe dronk as de pig, vor zit dare
and not zee me zit ere; and I zay, doo, you most pe pigger
vool as de goose, vor to dispelief vat iz print in de print.
'Tiz de troof-dat it iz- eberry vord ob it."

"Who are you, pray?" said I, with much dignity, although
somewhat puzzled; "how did you get here? and what is it you
are talking about?"

"Az vor ow I com'd ere," replied the figure, "dat iz none of
your pizzness; and as vor vat I be talking apout, I be talk
apout vot I tink proper; and as vor who I be, vy dat is de
very ting I com'd here for to let you zee for yourzelf."

"You are a drunken vagabond," said I, "and I shall ring the
bell and order my footman to kick you into the street."

"He! he! he!" said the fellow, "hu! hu! hu! dat you can't

"Can't do!" said I, "what do you mean?- can't do what?"

"Ring de pell," he replied, attempting a grin with his
little villainous mouth.

Upon this I made an effort to get up, in order to put my
threat into execution; but the ruffian just reached across
the table very deliberately, and hitting me a tap on the
forehead with the neck of one of the long bottles, knocked
me back into the arm-chair from which I had half arisen. I
was utterly astounded; and, for a moment, was quite at a
loss what to do. In the meantime, he continued his talk.

"You zee," said he, "it iz te bess vor zit still; and now
you shall know who I pe. Look at me! zee! I am te Angel ov
te Odd!"

"And odd enough, too," I ventured to reply; "but I was
always under the impression that an angel had wings."

"Te wing!" he cried, highly incensed, "vat I pe do mit te
wing? Mein Gott! do you take me vor a shicken?"

"No- oh, no!" I replied, much alarmed, "you are no chicken-
certainly not."

"Well, den, zit still and pehabe yourself, or I'll rap you
again mid me vist. It iz te shicken ab te wing, und te owl
ab te wing, und te imp ab te wing, und te headteuffel ab te
wing. Te angel ab not te wing, and I am te Angel ov te Odd."

"And your business with me at present is- is-"

"My pizzness!" ejaculated the thing, "vy vot a low bred
puppy you mos pe vor to ask a gentleman und an angel apout
his pizzness!"

This language was rather more than I could bear, even from
an angel; so, plucking up courage, I seized a salt-cellar
which lay within reach, and hurled it at the head of the
intruder. Either he dodged, however, or my aim was
inaccurate; for all I accomplished was the demolition of the
crystal which protected the dial of the clock upon the
mantelpiece. As for the Angel, he evinced his sense of my
assault by giving me two or three hard consecutive raps upon
the forehead as before. These reduced me at once to
submission, and I am almost ashamed to confess that, either
through pain or vexation, there came a few tears into my

"Mein Gott!" said the Angel of the Odd, apparently much
softened at my distress; "mein Gott, te man is eder ferry
dronck or ferry sorry. You mos not trink it so strong- you
mos put de water in te wine. Here, trink dis, like a goot
veller, und don't gry now- don't!"

Hereupon the Angel of the Odd replenished my goblet (which
was about a third full of Port) with a colorless fluid that
he poured from one of his hand bottles. I observed that
these bottles had labels about their necks, and that these
labels were inscribed "Kirschenwasser."

The considerate kindness of the Angel mollified me in no
little measure; and, aided by the water with which he
diluted my Port more than once, I at length regained
sufficient temper to listen to his very extraordinary
discourse. I cannot pretend to recount all that he told me,
but I gleaned from what he said that he was the genius who
presided over the contre temps of mankind, and whose
business it was to bring about the odd accidents which are
continually astonishing the skeptic. Once or twice, upon my
venturing to express my total incredulity in respect to his
pretensions, he grew very angry indeed, so that at length I
considered it the wiser policy to say nothing at all, and
let him have his own way. He talked on, therefore, at great
length, while I merely leaned back in my chair with my eyes
shut, and amused myself with munching raisins and flipping
the stems about the room. But, by and bye, the Angel
suddenly construed this behavior of mine into contempt. He
arose in a terrible passion, slouched his funnel down over
his eyes, swore a vast oath, uttered a threat of some
character which I did not precisely comprehend, and finally
made me a low bow and departed, wishing me, in the language
of the archbishop in Gil-Blas, "beaucoup de bonheur et un
peu plus de bon sens."

His departure afforded me relief. The very few glasses of
Lafitte that I had sipped had the effect of rendering me
drowsy, and I felt inclined to take a nap of some fifteen or
twenty minutes, as is my custom after dinner. At six I had
an appointment of consequence, which it was quite
indispensable that I should keep. The policy of insurance
for my dwelling house had expired the day before; and, some
dispute having arisen, it was agreed that, at six, I should
meet the board of directors of the company and settle the
terms of a renewal. Glancing upward at the clock on the
mantel-piece (for I felt too drowsy to take out my watch), I
had the pleasure to find that I had still twenty-five
minutes to spare. It was half past five; I could easily walk
to the insurance office in five minutes; and my usual post
prandian siestas had never been known to exceed five and
twenty. I felt sufficiently safe, therefore, and composed
myself to my slumbers forthwith.

Having completed them to my satisfaction, I again looked
toward the time-piece, and was half inclined to believe in
the possibility of odd accidents when I found that, instead
of my ordinary fifteen or twenty minutes, I had been dozing
only three; for it still wanted seven and twenty of the
appointed hour. I betook myself again to my nap, and at
length a second time awoke, when, to my utter amazement, it
still wanted twenty-seven minutes of six. I jumped up to
examine the clock, and found that it had ceased running. My
watch informed me that it was half past seven; and, of
course, having slept two hours, I was too late for my
appointment "It will make no difference," I said; "I can
call at the office in the morning and apologize; in the
meantime what can be the matter with the clock?" Upon
examining it I discovered that one of the raisin-stems which
I had been flipping about the room during the discourse of
the Angel of the Odd had flown through the fractured
crystal, and lodging, singularly enough, in the key-hole,
with an end projecting outward, had thus arrested the
revolution of the minute-hand.

"Ah!" said I; "I see how it is. This thing speaks for
itself. A natural accident, such as will happen now and

I gave the matter no further consideration, and at my usual
hour retired to bed. Here, having placed a candle upon a
reading-stand at the bed-head, and having made an attempt to
peruse some pages of the "Omnipresence of the Deity," I
unfortunately fell asleep in less than twenty seconds,
leaving the light burning as it was.

My dreams were terrifically disturbed by visions of the
Angel of the Odd. Methought he stood at the foot of the
couch, drew aside the curtains, and, in the hollow,
detestable tones of a rum-puncheon, menaced me with the
bitterest vengeance for the contempt with which I had
treated him. He concluded a long harrangue by taking off his
funnelcap, inserting the tube into my gullet, and thus
deluging me with an ocean of Kirschenwasser, which he
poured, in a continuous flood, from one of the long-necked
bottles that stood him instead of an arm. My agony was at
length insufferable, and I awoke just in time to perceive
that a rat had ran off with the lighted candle from the
stand, but not in season to prevent his making his escape
withit through the hole. Very soon, a strong suffocating
odor assailed my nostrils; the house, I clearly perceived,
was on fire. In a few minutes the blaze broke forth with
violence, and in an incredibly brief period the entire
building was wrapped in flames. All egress from my chamber,
except through a window, was cut off. The crowd, however,
quickly procured and raised a long ladder. By means of this
I was descending rapidly, and in apparent safety, when a
huge hog, about whose rotund stomach, and indeed about whose
whole air and physiognomy, there was something which
reminded me of the Angel of the Odd,- when this hog, I say,
which hitherto had been quietly slumbering in the mud, took
it suddenly into his head that his left shoulder needed
scratching, and could find no more convenient rubbing post
than that afforded by the foot of the ladder. In an instant
I was precipitated, and had the misfortune to fracture my

This accident, with the loss of my insurance, and with the
more serious loss of my hair, the whole of which had been
singed off by the fire, predisposed me to serious
impressions, so that, finally, I made up my mind to take a
wife. There was a rich widow disconsolate for the loss of
her seventh husband, and to her wounded spirit I offered the
balm of my vows. She yielded a reluctant consent to my
prayers. I knelt at her feet in gratitude and adoration. She
blushed, and bowed her luxuriant tresse into close contact
with those supplied me, temporarily, by Grandjean. I know
not how the entanglement took place, but so it was. I arose
with a shining pate, wigless, she in disdain and wrath, half
buried in alien hair. Thus ended my hopes of the widow by an
accident which could not have been anticipated, to be sure,
but which the natural sequence of events had brought about.

Without despairing, however, I undertook the siege of a less
implacable heart. The fates were again propitious for a
brief period; but again a trivial incident interfered.
Meeting my betrothed in an avenue thronged with the člite of
the city, I was hastening to greet her with one of my best
considered bows, when a small particle of some foreign
matter lodging in the corner of my eye, rendered me, for the
moment, completely blind. Before I could recover my sight,
the lady of my love had disappeared- irreparably affronted
at what she chose to consider my premeditated rudeness in
passing her by ungreeted. While I stood bewildered at the
suddenness of this accident (which might have happened,
nevertheless, to any one under the sun), and while I still
continued incapable of sight, I was accosted by the Angel of
the Odd, who proffered me his aid with a civility which I
had no reason to expect. He examined my disordered eye with
much gentleness and skill, informed me that I had a drop in
it, and (whatever a "drop" was) took it out, and afforded me

I now considered it time to die, (since fortune had so
determined to persecute me,) and accordingly made my way to
the nearest river. Here, divesting myself of my clothes,
(for there is no reason why we cannot die as we were born,)
I threw myself headlong into the current; the sole witness
of my fate being a solitary crow that had been seduced into
the eating of brandy-saturated corn, and so had staggered
away from his fellows. No sooner had I entered the water
than this bird took it into its head to fly away with the
most indispensable portion of my apparel. Postponing,
therefore, for the present, my suicidal design, I just
slipped my nether extremities into the sleeves of my coat,
and betook myself to a pursuit of the felon with all the
nimbleness which the case required and its circumstances
would admit. But my evil destiny attended me still. As I ran
at full speed, with my nose up in the atmosphere, and intent
only upon the purloiner of my property, I suddenly perceived
that my feet rested no longer upon terre firma; the fact is,
I had thrown myself over a precipice, and should inevitably
have been dashed to pieces, but for my good fortune in
grasping the end of a long guide-rope, which descended from
a passing balloon.

As soon as I sufficiently recovered my senses to comprehend
the terrific predicament in which I stood or rather hung, I
exerted all the power of my lungs to make that predicament
known to the aeronaut overhead. But for a long time I
exerted myself in vain. Either the fool could not, or the
villain would not perceive me. Meantime the machine rapidly
soared, while my strength even more rapidly failed. I was
soon upon the point of resigning myself to my fate, and
dropping quietly into the sea, when my spirits were suddenly
revived by hearing a hollow voice from above, which seemed
to be lazily humming an opera air. Looking up, I perceived
the Angel of the Odd. He was leaning with his arms folded,
over the rim of the car, and with a pipe in his mouth, at
which he puffed leisurely, seemed to be upon excellent terms
with himself and the universe. I was too much exhausted to
speak, so I merely regarded him with an imploring air. For
several minutes, although he looked me full in the face, he
said nothing. At length removing carefully his meerschaum
from the right to the left corner of his mouth, he
condescended to speak.

"Who pe you?" he asked, "und what der teuffel you pe do

To this piece of impudence, cruelty, and affectation, I
could reply only by ejaculating the monosyllable "Help!"

"Elp!" echoed the ruffian- "not I. Dare iz te pottle- elp
yourself, und pe tam'd!"

With these words he let fall a heavy bottle of
Kirschenwasser which, dropping precisely upon the crown of
my head, caused me to imagine that my brains were entirely
knocked out. Impressed with this idea, I was about to
relinquish my hold and give up the ghost with a good grace,
when I was arrested by the cry of the Angel, who bade me
hold on.

"Old on!" he said; "don't pe in te urry- don't. Will you pe
take de odder pottle, or ave you pe got zober yet and come
to your zenzes?"

I made haste, hereupon, to nod my head twice- once in the
negative, meaning thereby that I would prefer not taking the
other bottle at present- and once in the affirmative,
intending thus to imply that I was sober and had positively
come to my senses. By these means I somewhat softened the

"Und you pelief, ten," he inquired, "at te last? You pelief,
ten, in te possibilty of te odd?"

I again nodded my head in assent.

"Und you ave pelief in me, te Angel of te Odd?" I nodded

"Und you acknowledge tat you pe te blind dronk and te vool?"
I nodded once more.

"Put your right hand into your left hand preeches pocket,
ten, in token oy your vull zubmission unto te Angel ov te

This thing, for very obvious reasons, I found it quite
impossible to do. In the first place, my left arm had been
broken in my fall from the ladder, and, therefore, had I let
go my hold with the right hand, I must have let go
altogether. In the second place, I could have no breeches
until I came across the crow. I was therefore obliged, much
to my regret, to shake my head in the negative- intending
thus to give the Angel to understand that I found it
inconvenient, just at that moment, to comply with his very
reasonable demand! No sooner, however, had I ceased shaking
my head than-

"Go to der teuffel ten!" roared the Angel of the Odd.

In pronouncing these words, he drew a sharp knife across the
guide-rope by which I was suspended, and as we then happened
to be precisely over my own house, (which, during my
peregrinations, had been handsomely rebuilt,) it so occurred
that I tumbled headlong down the ample chimney and alit upon
the dining-room hearth.

Upon coming to my senses, (for the fall had very thoroughly
stunned me,) I found it about four o'clock in the morning. I
lay outstretched where I had fallen from the balloon. My
head grovelled in the ashes of an extinguished fire, while
my feet reposed upon the wreck of a small table, overthrown,
and amid the fragments of a miscellaneous dessert,
intermingled with a newspaper, some broken glass and
shattered bottles, and an empty jug of the Schiedam
Kirschenwasser. Thus revenged himself the Angel of the Odd.