The Angel of the odd - an Extravaganza
THE ANGEL OF THE ODD- AN EXTRAVAGANZA
by Edgar Allan Poe, 1850
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,
when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph which
This folio of four pages, happy work
Which not even poets criticise,
"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
"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 do."
"Can't do!" said I, "what do you mean?- can't do what?"
"Ring de pell," he replied, attempting a grin with his little
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-
"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 eyes.
"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
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
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 then!"
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 with
it 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 arm.
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 elite 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 relief.
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 dare?"
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
"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 Angel.
"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 again.
"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 Odd."
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.