Origin: http://members.xoom.com/plam/library/poe/tell_tale.html

     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! 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 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. 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,
     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.
     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 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 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. 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 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
     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
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!"

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