nervous, very, very dreadfully
nervous I had been and am; but
you say that
I am mad? The disease had sharpened
my senses, not destroyed, not
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. Passion there was none.
I loved the old man. He had never
wronged me. He had never given
me insult. For his gold I had
no desire. I think it was his
eye! Yes, it was this! One of
his eyes resembled that of a
vulture -- a 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 thus
rid myself of the eye for ever.
Now this is the point. You
fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing.
But you should have seen me.
You should have seen how wisely
I proceeded -- with what caution
-- with what foresight, with
what dissimulation, I went to
work! I was never kinder to the
old man than during the whole
week before I killed him. And
every night about midnight I
turned the latch of his door
and opened it oh, so gently!
And then, when I had made an
opening sufficient for my head,
I put in a dark lantern all closed,
closed so that no light shone
out, and then I 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 have been so wise as
this? And then when my head was
well in the room I undid the
lantern cautiously -- oh, so
cautiously -- cautiously (for
the hinges creaked), I undid
it just so much that a single
thin ray fell upon the vulture
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 had
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
Upon the eighth night I was
more than usually cautious in
opening the door. A watch's minute
hand moves more quickly than
did mine. Never before that night
had I felt the extent of my own
powers, of my sagacity. I could
scarcely contain my feelings
of triumph. To think that there
I was opening the door little
by little, and he not even to
dream of my secret deeds or 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
that I drew back -- but no. His
room was as black as pitch with
the thick darkness (for the shutters
were close fastened through fear
of robbers), and so I knew that
he could 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
the bed, crying out, "Who's there?"
I kept quite still and said
nothing. For a whole hour I did
not move a muscle, and in the
meantime I did not hear him lie
down. He was still sitting up
in the bed, listening; just as
I have done night after night
hearkening to the death watches
in the wall.
I heard a slight groan, and
I knew it was the
groan of mortal terror. It was
not a groan 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 well.
Many a night, just at midnight,
when all the world slept, it
has welled up from my own bosom,
deepening, with its dreadful
echo, the terrors that distracted
me. I say I knew it well. I knew
what the old man felt, and pitied
him although I chuckled at heart.
I knew that he had been lying
awake ever since the first slight
noise when he had turned in the
bed. His fears had been ever
since growing upon him. He had
been trying to fancy them causeless,
but could not. He had been saying
to himself, "It is nothing but
the wind in the chimney, it is
only a mouse crossing the floor," or, "It
is merely a cricket which has
made a single chirp." Yes he
has been trying to comfort himself
with these suppositions ; but
he had found all in vain. ALL
IN VAIN, because Death in approaching
him had stalked with his black
shadow before him and enveloped
the victim. And it was the mournful
influence of the unperceived
shadow that caused him to feel,
although he neither saw nor heard,
to feel 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 single dim
ray like the thread of the spider
shot out from the crevice and
fell 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 a hideous veil over it that
chilled the very marrow in 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 now have I not told you
that what you mistake for madness
is but over-acuteness of the
senses? now, I say, 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 as the beating
of a drum stimulates the soldier
But even yet I refrained and
kept still. I scarcely breathed.
I held the lantern motionless.
I tried how steadily I could
maintain the ray upon the eye.
Meantime the hellish tattoo of
the heart increased. It grew
quicker and quicker, and louder
and louder, every instant. The
old man's terror must have been
extreme! It grew louder, I say,
louder every moment! -- do you
mark me well? I have told you
that I am nervous: so I am. And
now at the dead hour of the 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 grew louder,
louder! I thought the heart must
burst. And now a new anxiety
seized me -- the sound would
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 once -- once only.
In an instant I dragged him to
the floor, and pulled the heavy
bed over him. I then smiled 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.
The old man was dead. I removed
the bed and examined the corpse.
Yes, he was stone, stone dead.
I placed my hand upon the heart
and held it there many minutes.
There was no pulsation. He was
stone dead. His eye would trouble
me no more.
If still you think me mad,
you will think so no longer when
I describe the wise precautions
I took for the concealment of
the body. The night waned, and
I worked hastily, but in silence.
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
his -- could have detected anything
wrong. There was nothing to wash
out -- no stain of any kind --
no blood-spot whatever. I had
been too wary for that.
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
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. I bade them
search -- search well. I led
them, at length, to his chamber.
I showed them his treasures,
secure, 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, ere 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 still chatted.
The ringing became more distinct
: I talked more freely to get
rid of the feeling: but it continued
and gained definitiveness --
until, at length, I found that
the noise was NOT within my ears.
No doubt I now grew VERY pale;
but I talked more fluently, and
with a heightened voice. Yet
the sound increased -- and what
could I do? It was A LOW, DULL,
QUICK SOUND -- MUCH SUCH A SOUND
AS 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. 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. O God! what COULD
I do? I foamed -- I raved --
I swore! I 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 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! Anything 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!"