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— 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! He had the eye 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 forever.
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, 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 has 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 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.
I could imagine the look on the old man’s face —his trembling visage, his frightened gaze—, as he tried to decide whether he had really heard the noise or if it was just a figment of his imagination. And in that moment, for some reason, the pathetic image of the defenseless old man made me uncomfortable. There was nothing wrong with the plan, of course, or with my manner of proceeding, which was astute and meticulous to the extreme. It was a rather a feeling of compassion —my advantage was so great! —that made me falter. Compassion, Oh God! Hadn’t I been forced to suffer, day after day, the weight of that vulture eye on the back of my neck? But the fact is that, for one reason or another, in those moments my resolve faltered.
You will surely think I acted hastily, risking being discovered in a hurried escape. Allow me to disappoint you: nothing could be further from the truth. I knew that the old man, frightened as he was of thieves, would take a long while in getting to sleep again. But, no matter. I could wait as long as was needed without moving, without making the least noise. So I waited. I let a long time elapse, during which I heard not a word from the old man; so I delicately removed the lantern and then my head. I proceeded with great care and a show of diligence; I succeeded in shutting the door without a single creak emerging from the old and battered hinges.
I went back to my room and tried to rest. Not to sleep: the rage I harbored toward the vulture eye would hinder that, I knew it from the outset. Lying still for a few hours would have to suffice. I extinguished the lamp and pulled the blanket over me. I adopted a comfortable position and set about relaxing, filling my mind with thoughts that would carry me away from the old man and his malevolent eye.
Imagine how I managed to calm my nerves that I even fell asleep. What’s more, I dreamt—something unheard of in my case. In my imagination, I walked along a golden beach, under a radiant sun that transformed the warm breeze into a caress. Everything was perfect when, without warning, the sea began to roar with unusual fury and I spied a terrible storm on the horizon. The wind intensified moment by moment and the faint rumble became a razor-sharp knife. I knew I should leave; the furious tides were growing by leaps and bounds and would soon cry out for my body. In an attempt to recover the heat that was slipping away, I knelt to bury my hand in the sand. I could feel the heat that still held fast in the belly of the beach. In the palm of my clutching hand I grasped a fistful of that golden sand. I knew that as long as I could hold onto it, I would be safe, because each little grain of sand enclosed the spirit of infinite calm inside it. And yet, the sand kept slipping from my hand and I was powerless to stop it. I clutched at it, but in vain! Then I understood that it was impossible to hold onto that golden peace and that I couldn’t escape from the fury of nature. The waves rose and rose; in seconds they were so high that I was buried beneath their doleful shadow, and I knew that I could never escape my fate. Then I awoke, gripped by an intense restlessness.
Drenched in sweat and my heart racing, I sat up in bed, but the darkness around me engulfed the space, causing me to see —very clearly, despite the depths of the blackness—a formless figure, a terrible idea stationed in my mind: the face of absolute terror! I jumped to my feet, trembling like a leaf in a storm, and I leapt for the lantern. I lit the wick and, for some time, all of my efforts were dedicated to verifying that there was no one else in the room but me. Still agitated, but recovering my presence of mind little by little, I resolved to put on my coat and walk around the house, to calm my spirits.
And then, as I walked past the old man’s room, it hit me! I saw clearly that, once again, everything had been his fault. It was the eye that held me in suspense; every time it was aimed at me I could see the depths of the abyss of that pale blue eye with the film over it. I shudder just to think of it. What a terrible mistake I had made, leaving his room before I had finished the job! The old man had to die that very night, there was no doubt! So I took it upon myself to take up the operation from where I had left it. I repeated, nearly from memory, the ritual that I knew so well: I stood before his door and my arm slid stealthily through the crevice, the lantern in my hand, taking all the time I needed.
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 bed, crying out
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 bed, crying out
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.
Presently 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 had 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 simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, 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 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 have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense? —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 into courage.
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. My pulse was racing too, from fury, and the dim lantern swung slightly. No doubt I should have paid more attention to my nerves, for the beam of light moved and fortune bade that it should stray from the old man and his eye. He did not realize; he could hardly guess what was happening. But I knew it, —oh!, of course I did—, so fearing that the lamp might betray my movements I closed up the slit again and chose to wait for as long my contained fury would permit.
The darkness must have caused the old man to believe that the danger had passed, because the rhythm of his heartbeat began to slow. I fairly chuckled at the idea, —poor devil! He must have surmised that all else —the noises, the beam of light— had been the product of a nightmare, and he relaxed. The ticking like a watch enveloped in cotton soon became a barely noticeable hum, that held out for a few instants before disappearing entirely. I could not see, but my ears did not deceive me: the old man had fallen asleep once again. My hour had come! With renewed confidence that everything would turn out as planned I opened the shutter once more and pointed the beam of light toward the vulture eye. But, curses! the old man had shut it once again. Looking at him thus awoke no emotion in me; my rage flagged and I was no longer capable of killing the old man. I would have to come back another night to try again.
The next morning I was fatigued. I went to see the old man as usual, greeting him with great cordiality and affection, so that he would suspect nothing. He confided in me that he had spent a dreadful night. He said it as though he was sharing a secret! I fairly chuckled at the idea. I could hardly wait for the moment when, in the darkest of my tormented nights, the ray of light would fall onto the vulture eye. And everything would be over!
However, the nights went by and the accursed eye did not appear. Three more times I visited the old man as he slept, and all three I was forced to leave without following through with my intentions. I suspect that it was at that moment that my nerves began to play tricks on me, because with every new attempt my astuteness —theretofore unquestionable!— diminished, as did my patience. It was increasingly harder for me to remain in the old man’s room for long periods and my movements were more awkward every day, which put my purpose at risk. One night I nearly woke the old man when I slipped as I opened the door. Another time my hand was unsteady and the light quivered out of control for a few instants, which could have easily alerted the old man.
The feebleness of my aptitudes produced a devastating effect on me. If I had not been assured that one day I would kill the old man, I could not have lived on peacefully; and the longer I took to perpetrate my crime, the more my strength faltered. It was then that everything took a turn and something strange happened. At certain times of the night, even in my own room, I could hear a sound —irritating like a fishbone stuck in your throat!— the roll of a muffled drum. The buzz of the old man’s heart, that visited me in dreams upon returning from my failed endeavors. Oh, how horrible it was to hear its rhythm growing in my ears, taking shape little by little, then increasing until it overtook all of my attention! What horrible nights I lived through then...
That strange phenomenon had turned me into the hunted hunter. If the nights were already hell, the days also became disastrous. My spirits failed, a whirlwind of nefarious thoughts shut down my understanding. I knew not how to end it: I could not kill, yet I could not go on living,—What would you have me do? —I was finished!
Then something occurred. One morning, as I went into the old man’s chamber to inquire how he had passed the night I got no response from him. Surprised, I drew closer to his bed. Gaunt beneath the blanket, the body of the old man was motionless. It made me so suspicious that I decided to shake him, delicately at first, then harder. Even thus, he did not stir. Then I understood, —fortune had come to release me! The old man had been taken by a natural death.
The next day, after a frugal burial —the poor devil only had a few distant relatives left— I returned to the house and prepared to delight in its tranquility. The fury-filled nights watching in the dark of the old man’s room were over: in the end, the peace I had longed for had finally come.
However, some days later, just after I lay down to sleep, a noise woke me. It was deep night —I could hear the church bells tolling midnight. A familiar sound, that I initially confused with the far-off paces of a passer-by. Little by little, it became louder and stronger. Impossible! But how? As it grew I could recognize it —curses!— a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. It was the beating of the old man's heart.
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 neighbor! 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. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs. I then 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. A tub had caught all —ha! ha!
When I had made an end of these labors, 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 neighbor 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. 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: —It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness —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? —now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath —and yet the officers heard it not.
Seized by panic, I threw off the blanket and leapt out of bed. The heart was beating ceaselessly, at a constant, unrelenting pace. But how could it be? Could this be a mistake? The old man was dead and buried; I had helped to cover over his grave. However, I knew that sound well; my senses could not deceive me. Feeling my way around, I searched the room for the lamp until I found it. I turned it on and I looked around, rapidly, alert. There was no one there. Now that I knew for sure —my eyes couldn’t lie!— that the old man was not there, even the heartbeats seemed to lose intensity, increasingly dull and weak.
I gathered my strength to leave the room and face the dark demons of the night. I walked through the cold house wrapped in the blanket, the lantern in my hand, looking for the source of the noise, but with no success. The heartbeat weakened slowly and at every moment it was more difficult to hear them. The dim percussion became a low buzz and every time I thought I had detected the origin, it became distant and vague. Finally the noise ceased.
You can imagine the disruption that experience caused me. All the more when I tell you it was not the only time, but the first of many, that I would be visited by the spectral hammering that came —it had to be! I knew it well!— from the old man’s heart, there in the depth of his grave. Even dead, he launched his percussive weapon against me, cleverly, since he did not visit me every night, or every other night: it appeared without a pattern, when I least expected it. But how? No doubt you will still fancy me mad; but in no way did I proceed as such. Anyone else would have fled terrified, leaving the house behind. But not I. I held fast. I knew that the old man was dead, so he could do me no harm. I must admit that it was not easy, but I resisted. I went out to exercise my legs every day, in order to keep up my strength and to clear my mind. I took to visiting the tavern more than I would have liked, especially on the worst nights. And so I held out, as I say, a good long while.
However, one night, after returning from the tavern at a late hour, something happened. I was already lying in bed and I was just falling off to sleep when suddenly the image of the old man appeared before me. I swear to you that I saw him! And I am as sane as any of you... He was there; indeed, pacing in time to the hammering of his heart. My fright was such that I leapt from the bed and lunged clumsily toward the other side of the room. I had seen him quite clearly for a few seconds: his white hair, his hunched back, and the eye, —that eye!— which seemed to embody absolute evil. However, the image disappeared suddenly, leaving behind only the heartbeat... That godforsaken noise! I could hear it louder than ever, rhythmical and increasing in volume. With the lantern in my hand, I searched the whole room and then the rest of the house from top to bottom in search of the old man; but he had disappeared. Yet heartbeat had not ceased; it was driving me mad! Each beat was a new shock to all my senses, and in the end I had to cover my ears with the palms of my hands. Oh! As much detail as I put into my tale, you will never imagine the onslaught that my ears were suffering. I could do nothing to drown out the uproar of that fateful percussion.
I could stand it no longer; I went out into the street. It was the depths of night and there was not a soul out. Why did no one else seem to hear the piercing noise? And if they did hear it, how it was possible that others could resist it when I could not? I ran through the streets with my hands over my ears, trying to escape though I could not. Only the moon lit my way, white and radiant. I ran and ran, and the old man’s heart pursued me tirelessly. I thought —I must admit— about putting an end to my suffering in the most terrible way. But, how could I? How could I leave such a terrible revenge unpunished? —I could not! I had to seek out the origin of my torment, the source —the old man’s grave!
I ran desperately through the streets, hunched over with my hands on my ears, toward the cemetery. I can understand how anyone who might have seen me then could have though that I was not in my right mind. But I knew very well what I was doing. Promptly I left behind the last streets of the town and came upon the cemetery. No one was around, except for some distracted cats that fled like lightning when they caught sight of my restless figure. It was easy to gain entrance even though the gate was closed: the walls were low, and a lively jump was enough to cross them. Once inside, I went directly to the old man’s tomb; I remembered its location perfectly.
I was certain of what I must do; no sooner did I reach the old man’s grave that I dropped to my knees and I began to dig with all my strength, using my hands. I thought my ears were going to burst, such was the intensity of the heartbeat at that point. But I did not stop; I kept digging. The same confusion that directed my steps afforded me the courage to continue, and yet I felt that I was making no progress. After a long while I realized that I had only managed to dig down half a meter, and I had to stop because my hands had begun to bleed, such was the vigor of my digging! I stood up to look around for some tool that would allow me to continue the task. A wrought iron chisel that someone had left next to an unfinished headstone would do nicely.
Thus, digging relentlessly, slashing the earth and uttering cries of rage and pain, I reached the old man’s coffin. The wood did not stand up long to my attacks, which I launched with a momentum that could be called insane. In those final moments, the ticking of the watch enveloped in cotton was so loud that it had clouded my senses and the cries I uttered unremittingly were not enough to chase away its nearly corporeal presence. At last I could see the body —the night was clear and star-lit— and I was surprised that I could hardly recognize the corpse’s face. A horrible stench had taken over the place. The decomposition of the corpse, however, did nothing to dampen my purposes. With a steady arm, I stabbed the body with the chisel in the very place where the heart had to be. I did it eagerly, beside myself, screaming ceaselessly. I stabbed it again and again, without compassion, until the noise of the accursed heart had ceased forever. And nothing would disturb my peace, ever again.
You fancy me mad, I know. But you are wrong; I will not stop repeating it. I am somewhat nervous, true! —you will have noticed, but not mad. Admittedly, that night I was not as cautious and serene as I could have been, but put yourself in my place. Is there any sane person capable of suffering such an abomination? In those final moments, my rage was so great and the pain in my ears was so intense, that I could not control myself. It was simply impossible. The heartbeat echoed so strongly in my head that I could think of nothing else but destroying the source of that terrible sound. That is why I did not notice that a number of people had come into the cemetery, alerted by my cries. And for the same reason, I did not see the agents of the law, called by someone who was distraught by the harshness of the scene —and I do not blame him. Even at the moment they took me prisoner, held by the straitjacket, I could not keep from cursing and foaming with rage. And I laughed —oh!, how I laughed... Now the old man will never bother me again... Never!
Seized by panic, I threw off the blanket and leapt out of bed. The old man’s heart was beating all the time, at a constant, relentless rhythm. It grew ever louder, beating ever stronger. My ears could hardly bear it; each new beat was like a hammer blow. I fell to my knees, covering my ears with both hands. The darkness blinded me, but I could see through it, —Yes!, I could see the horror it held. I felt the presence of death, backed by an infinite blackness, approaching relentlessly. I felt around for the lamp, but terror had taken over me entirely and I was unable to reach it, although I searched around me persistently.
I understood then that my fate was sealed. Although I couldn’t see him, I knew that the old man had come back to carry me away, —the accursed devil!— He had always been wise to my intentions. In the mornings he had feigned his happiness in seeing me in his room and he had humored me. —He was clever! — Because he knew that as soon as he died, he would come for me. And so he did, —curse him! — But, what would you have had me do? Should I have stood idly by while he exacted his revenge? Should I have remained unaffected, suffering as that terrible vulture eye turned its evil gaze on me as my life expired. —Never! Ha, ha, ha, ha! The old man had to learn that —even dead— I would always be more clever than he. So, it was decided.
I gathered the strength that I had left and pulled myself together as best I could, although the racket of the beating slowed my movements. And then I ran. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, toward the window. It was closed, but I knew the frame was weak. I could not see, but I knew the place well. And so, as I was telling you, I gathered as much momentum as I could and hurled myself against the wood. As I had calculated, the thin boards yielded to the thrust and I fell like a dead weight into the road. And so, —once and for all,— I could rest. Forever...
Perhaps some of you may find my solution excessive. Was it worth it; ending it all? you will ask yourselves. If you could have felt —as I did— the purest silence, the most complete calm, you would not have doubted a second. From the moment the old man’s heart ceased to beat, all of my pain, my fear, my suffering —all at once!— ended forever. I could finally have the peace that I had so longed for in life. And what is most important: the vulture eye, that accursed abomination from hell, will never torment me again. Is there anything I could desire more in this world? Think about it and then look for the answer, —answer that for yourselves, now that you have really begun to understand me.
It would have been easy to get carried away by my nervousness. The noise was persistent and monotonous, and never ceased to grow. But for some reason the men never heard it. Perhaps it was due to their damaged ears. It was not unreasonable: police officers are often involved in altercations, and fire weapons. No doubt, their ears had been battered by the ups and downs of their profession —all was not lost! From that moment on I was taciturn; I thought that if they kept talking it would be harder for them to hear the sound emerging from the floor. Meanwhile, I pondered how to end the visit; I no longer felt euphoric, or confident.
Luckily, before I had reached a solution, the heartbeat began to sound hollow, more distant. I listened carefully, as the agents chatted animatedly. There was no doubt: the noise was steadily fading. I yawned ostensibly, as though inadvertently, once or twice; one of the agents understood, and suggested that it was time to leave, —finally! I accompanied them to the door and bade them warmly goodbye. It must be admitted that, once more, my skill had saved me. I had to congratulate myself on my performance: the officers had not suspected anything in the least.
However, now I was possessed by a sickening doubt, —could the old man still be alive? But I had dismembered the corpse myself! Why had I heard his heart beating, then? I took the stairs two by two and ran to his room. I thrust aside the chair where I had been sitting and knelt right above the place where the infernal heartbeat had emerged shortly before. I pressed my ear to the floor. I could hear nothing at all. It had all been a terrible misunderstanding. There were any number of things that could have made that noise: a rat rooting around in the depths of the house, an insect that had been trapped under the boards and was trying to break free, a plank that had been poorly replaced and rubbed against the others... Why hadn’t I thought of it before? No doubt, it had all been my nerves. Nervous —very nervous I am. I have said it before...
I pulled up the planks and set to inspecting the pieces of the corpse one by one. There was the old man’s heart, cold and dull. The slightest flash of life could never have come from it, —how naïve I had been! Now that the danger had passed, I decided to take the old man’s remains and toss them in the river; in the end it would be the safest. It was not a difficult operation; though it was beginning to dawn, the darkness of night still protected me. The fish would finish the affair once and for all.
Now that I have told you the whole story, I understand that you will deem my acts somewhat frenzied — in the end, the old man had never wronged me. The problem was, plain and simple, that I was never sufficiently capable of calming my nerves. Moreover, I must confess to you that those events, perhaps because of their harshness —perhaps because they were so tense, have taken their toll. The calm after the storm has not been absolute, —no! I am often assaulted by nightmares, —yes! the panic that stalks in the night. And not just this —I must confess it. Sometimes, well after midnight, a murmur rises from the nothingness, monotonous and subdued; like the sound a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I know that sound well, too. It grows louder and louder, filling my ears; and wakes me, anguished and bathed in sweat, in the dark of night.
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. Oh 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!”
You have completed the itinerary
The Tell-Tale Heart (original story) A Premonitory Dream A Nearly Perfect Crime The Storm Before the Calm A Fatal Solution Once Again Among the Living A Bad Omen and a Worse Outcome The Designs of Fate
But then I began to feel strange and my mind clouded over. The room was spinning around me, and I felt my legs could no longer hold my weight. What on Earth was happening? If I hadn’t known the old man so well, known he was incapable of such a trick, I would have sworn that he had drugged me —or worse, poisoned me!
I collapsed like a dead weight onto the wooden floor. I tried to scream, yet nothing but a faint groan, hardly audible, passed my lips. I fought, I swear, —oh! how I fought!— with all my strength; but soon I understood the futility of resisting such a terrible fate. Darkness engulfed me and took me forever. Hardly a sigh, and it was all over.