True! Nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, nor dulled them! Above all was the sense of hearing acute! I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth! I heard many things in hell. How then, am I mad? Hearken! And observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the whole story!
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but once conceived, it haunted me day and night! Object there was none nor passion. I loved the old man! He had never wronged me, nor given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think now it was his *eye*! Yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture, pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold, and so by degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and rid myself of the *eye* forever!
Now this is the point. You think I'm mad, yet madmen know nothing! But you should have seen me, how wisely I proceeded, with what caution, and foresight, with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during that whole week before I killed him. And every night, around midnight, I turned the latch of his door, and opened it, ohhh so gently! And then, when I had made the opening sufficent for my head, I put a dark lantern, all closed, closed so that no light shone out, and then thrust in my head! Oh you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly, very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! Would a madman be so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously, ohh soo cautiously(for the hinges creaked) I undid it slowly and just so much that a single thin ray of light fell upon the *vultures eye*. And this I did for seven long nights, every night, just at midnight, but I found the *eye* always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he passed the night. So you see, he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.
Upon the eighth night, I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watches minute hand moves more quickly than did mine! Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers, of my own sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph, to think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he did not even know or dream of my secret thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think I drew back, but noo, his room was as black as pitch and the thick darkness,(for the shutters were closed and fastened for fear of robbers) and so I knew that he would not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily. I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out, "Who's There?!" I kept quite still, and said nothing. For a whole entire hour, I did not move a muscle! And, in the meantime, I did not hear him lie down. He was sitting up in his bed, listening, just as I have done, night after night, harkening to the death watches in the wall!
Presently, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror, not of pain or of grief, Oh No, it was the low, stifled sound, that arises from the bottom of the soul, when overcharged with awe! I knew the sound only too well! Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it had welled up from my bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me; I say I knew it well, I understood what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in his bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him, as he tried to convince himself there was nothing to fear, but could not. He had been saying to himself, "Its nothing but the wind in the chimney, or a mouse crossing the floor, or possibly a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions, but he had found it to be in vain, all in vain! Because Death, in approaching him, had stalked him with his *black shadow* before him, and enveloped the victim. And, it was this mournful influence of the unperceived shadow, that caused him to feel, (although he neither saw nor heard but felt) the presence of my head within the room!
When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little, a Very, Very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it! You cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily, until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spiders web, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the *Vulture Eye*! It was OPEN! Wide, wide Open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it! I saw it with perfect distinctness, all a dull blue, with that hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow of my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person! For I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot! And, have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? Now I say to you, there came to my ears, a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well too! It was the beating of the old man's heart! It increased my fury, much as the beating of a drum stimulates a soldier into courage!
But even yet, I refrained and kept still, scarcely breathing. I held the lantern motionless, trying to see how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the *eye*. In the meantime, the hellish thumping of the heart increased; It grew quicker, and quicker, and louder, and louder with every passing moment. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say louder every second! Do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous, so I am. And now at the dead hour of night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this, excited me to uncontrollable terror! Yet for some minutes longer, I refrained and stood still. But the beating of the heart grew louder and louder, till I thought the heart must burst soon! And, now a new anxiety seized me; the sound might be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked only once! And, In an instant, I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him, smiling gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound, this, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length, it ceased, and the old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Ahh yes! He was stone cold dead! I placed my hand upon the heart, and held it there many minutes, there was no pulsation, he was definitely DEAD! His *eye* would trouble me NO MORE!
If you still think me mad, you will no longer after I describe to you the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. As the night waned, I worked furiously. First of all, I dismembered the corpse, by cutting the head, arms and legs. Then I took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye, not even the old mans, could have detected anything wrong! There was nothing to wash out, no stain of any kind, no blood spot whatsoever. I had been too wary for that! A tub had caught it all! Ha Ha! When I had made an end of these labours, it was four o'clock, still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused. Information had been lodged at the police office, and they(the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.
I smiled, for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house, allowing them to search, and search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber, showing them his treasures, secure, and undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim! The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, before long, I felt myself getting pale, and wished them gone, my head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears; but still they sat and chatted. The ringing became more distinct. It continued and became more distinct, I talked more freely to get rid of the feelings, but it continued and gained in definiteness, until at length, I found that the noise was not within my own ears!
No doubt I now grew very pale, but I continued to talk more fluently, with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased, and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound, much like a sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not! I talked more quickly, more vehemently, but the noise steadily increased. But the noise steadily increased! I arose and argued about trifles in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased! Why would they not be GONE?? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased! Oh God, what could I do?? I foamed, raved, swore, swung the chair upon which I had been sitting and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased! It grew louder, Louder, LOUDER!! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled! Was it possible they heard it not? Almighty God! No No! They heard! They suspected! They KNEW!!They were making a mockery of my horror! This I thought and this I think! But anything was better than this agony! Antything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I MUST scream or die!! And now, AGAIN! Hark! louder, louder, Louder, LOUDER!!
"Villains!!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks, here! here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!"
Take Me Back!