Monster Hunter Siege by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series has been a fun experience for me.  His stories feature heroic monster hunters battling the unalloyed evil of the world’s varied monster population.  The Shacklefords and their associates have turned wholesale slaughter of the undead into a lucrative enterprise but one that has taken its toll on the family.  Included in this attrition are three recent victims who have been turned respectively, into a werewolf and two master vampires.  But what makes it a pleasure is that none of the monsters and none of the hunters ever seem tempted to wax poetic on the need to increase the world quotient of social justice.  The diversity of the characters is measured in species of monsters dispatched or the variety of allied supernatural creatures such as trailer-park dwelling elves, death-metal loving orcs and gangsta gnomes who get featured in a story.  Correia never once discusses the need to ascertain the correct gender fluid pronouns of any zombies before blowing their heads off with a rocket propelled grenade.  So, the books are very much action oriented.  Shooting monsters is their forte.

But I am happy to relate that Larry’s storytelling abilities are definitely becoming more nuanced.  In Siege one of the highlights of the book is a sustained dialog between the protagonist (Owen Pitt) and his nemesis.  In this scene Correia gives the devil his due.  In fact, I think his evil character may actually seal the show.  Of course, there is still plenty of combat and monsters being blown up.  And Larry further clarifies the mythology of his universe.  So never fear, there’s plenty of explosions to warm the heart of all Monster Hunter fans.  But Larry is definitely steering the series into a more complicated plot.  Larry has shown that he is not averse to killing off some of his characters.  And some of that goes on in Siege.  But what is also clarified is that he is braiding at least five separate strands of supernatural intervention and even some of the “good guys” may not get along together.  So, we shouldn’t expect any imminent resolution of the larger threat that has been growing in the background.  If anything, the details at the end of Siege further complicate the future for Owen and his family.  But that’s alright.  Larry seems in control of his material and expanding the scope of the story to epic proportions.

So, if you are already a Monster Hunter fan then the good news is that Siege is a very worthy successor to the series.  And if you are new to the series then rest assured that your investment will pay off with an already good number of sequels to satisfy your monster killing quota and with every indication that Larry will continue to expand the Monster Hunter saga into an urban fantasy franchise comparable in size and quality to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files.  The only shortcoming to the story is that the only mention of Agent Franks is retrospective to the previous book.  We’ll have to wait for the next book to see his smiling face.

11MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Xenophon was a practical man.  That must have frustrated his mentor Socrates.  The thought of that pleases me immensely for some reason.  I guess it’s my hate for Plato.  Here’s more of an observation than a quote.

 

When the interests of mankind are at stake, they will obey with joy the man whom they believe to be wiser than themselves. You may prove this on all sides: you may see how the sick man will beg the doctor to tell him what he ought to do, how a whole ship’s company will listen to the pilot.

 

Xenophon

10MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Ray Bradbury turned Americana into fantasy (and sometimes horror).  But Dandelion Wine is his love song to small town America circa 1928.  And one of the lessons he tries to teach is that progress doesn’t always mean improvement.  Too bad the family is one of the things that doesn’t look like it will survive 21st Century America.

You want to see the real happiness machine? The one they patented a couple thousand years ago. It still runs; not good all the time, no! but it runs. It’s been here all along.

Hesitantly, Grandfather, Douglas and Tom peered through the large windowpane.

And there in the small warm pools of lamplight, you could see what Leo Auffman wanted you to see.  There sat Saul and Marshall, playing chess at the coffee table.  In the dining room Rebecca was laying out the silver.  Naomi was cutting out paper-doll dresses.  Ruth was painting water colors.  Joseph was running his electric train.  Through the kitchen door, Lena Auffman was sliding a pot roast from the steaming oven.  Every hand, every head, every mouth made a big or little motion.  You could hear their far away voices under glass.  You could hear someone singing in a high sweet voice.  You could smell bread baking, too, and you knew it was real bread that would soon be covered with real butter.  Everything was there and it was working.

Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine (1957)

08MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

I grew up on this guy’s stuff.  We don’t see eye to eye on everything but he did get a lot of stuff right.  Plus he definitely was an American original.  In his novel “Friday” he represented the balkanization of North America.  I wonder whether he would be surprised by where we are today.  My guess, probably not.

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

Robert A. Heinlein

07MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Holmes again! Jeremy Brett starred in a BBC series which encompassed a large number of the Holmes canon.  The scene I highlight here was memorable so I decided to include this for today’s quote.

 

“When you combine the ideas of whistles at night, the presence of

a band of gipsies who are on intimate terms with this old doctor,

the fact that we have every reason to believe that the doctor has

an interest in preventing his stepdaughter’s marriage, the dying

allusion to a band, and, finally, the fact that Miss Helen Stoner

heard a metallic clang, which might have been caused by one of

those metal bars that secured the shutters falling back into its

place, I think that there is good ground to think that the

mystery may be cleared along those lines.”

 

“But what, then, did the gipsies do?”

 

“I cannot imagine.”

 

“I see many objections to any such theory.”

 

“And so do I. It is precisely for that reason that we are going

to Stoke Moran this day. I want to see whether the objections are

fatal, or if they may be explained away. But what in the name of

the devil!”

 

The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that

our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man had

framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar

mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a

black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters,

with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his

hat actually brushed the cross bar of the doorway, and his

breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face,

seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and

marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other

of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high, thin,

fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old

bird of prey.

 

“Which of you is Holmes?” asked this apparition.

 

“My name, sir; but you have the advantage of me,” said my

companion quietly.

 

“I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran.”

 

“Indeed, Doctor,” said Holmes blandly. “Pray take a seat.”

 

“I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter has been here. I

have traced her. What has she been saying to you?”

 

“It is a little cold for the time of the year,” said Holmes.

 

“What has she been saying to you?” screamed the old man

furiously.

 

“But I have heard that the crocuses promise well,” continued my

companion imperturbably.

 

“Ha! You put me off, do you?” said our new visitor, taking a step

forward and shaking his hunting-crop. “I know you, you scoundrel!

I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the meddler.”

 

My friend smiled.

 

“Holmes, the busybody!”

 

His smile broadened.

 

“Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!”

 

Holmes chuckled heartily. “Your conversation is most

entertaining,” said he. “When you go out close the door, for

there is a decided draught.”

 

“I will go when I have said my say. Don’t you dare to meddle with

my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced her!

I am a dangerous man to fall foul of! See here.” He stepped

swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into a curve with

his huge brown hands.

 

“See that you keep yourself out of my grip,” he snarled, and

hurling the twisted poker into the fireplace he strode out of the

room.

 

“He seems a very amiable person,” said Holmes, laughing. “I am

not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him

that my grip was not much more feeble than his own.” As he spoke

he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort,

straightened it out again.

 

“Fancy his having the insolence to confound me with the official

detective force! This incident gives zest to our investigation,

however, and I only trust that our little friend will not suffer

from her imprudence in allowing this brute to trace her. And now,

Watson, we shall order breakfast, and afterwards I shall walk

down to Doctors’ Commons, where I hope to get some data which may

help us in this matter.”

06MAY2018 – OCF Update

This week I’ll finish up reading Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunter Seige” and post a review.  The hard cover version came out back in July but I buy the paperback for convenience and that version just got issued.  The site has been a little slow because I’m putting together a sort of “best of” post on my southwest landscape trip for a link that Captain Capitalism is providing me and it’s a time-consuming endeavor.  It’s like eleven hundred files and I’m still learning how to use Capture One.  So bear with me.  That post should be pretty interesting for the photo enthusiasts.  As I mentioned earlier I’ll get those rental lenses on Friday the 11th and that will spawn some interesting posts on the viability of using Sigma lenses with Canon mount on the Sony A7 cameras.  That may be interesting to Canon shooters with Sigma glass who have been interested in switching to Sony and anyone who is still constrained by Sony’s telephoto and macro lens choices.

The other thing I am interested in writing about is the direction of right wing movement.  I am trying to formulate my own particular spin on what makes sense going forward.  There is a lot of confusion and undirected anger that doesn’t seem to be producing much in the way of results.  And there seems to be a certain amount of opportunism and charlatanism that makes it difficult to know what is solid and worthwhile.  Sometimes it seems that several people have each latched onto a different piece of the puzzle needed to reform the current situation but like the blind men and the elephant they only “see” a small part of the reality and are missing the big picture.  And because of that, they diagnose that small part of the problem and their solution doesn’t address the broader situation.  And some of the “wise men” are too extreme.  They would throw out the baby with the bath water.  The more I think about solutions for the social disintegration the more I think that restoring the common-sense institutions we used to have is the solution.  Stopping unlimited immigration is neither impossible nor radical.  Restoring respect for the traditions and institutions of our forefathers is important and relatively straight forward.  And replacing social justice and reverse discrimination with actual justice is so rational that it shouldn’t even require explanation.  I think some of the emphasis on race reality is a response to the absurdity that occurs when racial and sexual protectionism and intersectionality tactics are used to attack the American white middle and working classes.  If you eliminate these irritants then the rules of American society should be competent to allow different types of people to function relatively harmoniously.  Anyway, that is what I’m starting to think.  I’m definitely interested in other opinions.  And I read around to hear what other people are coming up with.  For instance I’m going to read Gregory Cochran’s “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” and David Reich’s “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past” to see if there’s anything in biology that rules out my optimism for a functional multi-ethnic America.

And finally, I’d love to get more feedback from the readers.  Even if it’s negative.  It’s useful to know what you like and what you don’t.  Or even to just say hi.  It’s definitely appreciated and part of why I made this site.  I am interested in hearing other points of view.  And if you find something interesting on-line pass along the link.

05MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

A Study in Scarlet is where we first meet Mr. Sherlock Holmes.  And Watson is hardly a fan at first.

 

A Study in Scarlet

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It was upon the 4th of March, as I have good reason to remember, that I

rose somewhat earlier than usual, and found that Sherlock Holmes had not

yet finished his breakfast. The landlady had become so accustomed to my

late habits that my place had not been laid nor my coffee prepared. With

the unreasonable petulance of mankind I rang the bell and gave a curt

intimation that I was ready. Then I picked up a magazine from the table

and attempted to while away the time with it, while my companion munched

silently at his toast. One of the articles had a pencil mark at the

heading, and I naturally began to run my eye through it.

 

Its somewhat ambitious title was “The Book of Life,” and it attempted to

show how much an observant man might learn by an accurate and systematic

examination of all that came in his way. It struck me as being a

remarkable mixture of shrewdness and of absurdity. The reasoning was

close and intense, but the deductions appeared to me to be far-fetched

and exaggerated. The writer claimed by a momentary expression, a twitch

of a muscle or a glance of an eye, to fathom a man’s inmost thoughts.

Deceit, according to him, was an impossibility in the case of one

trained to observation and analysis. His conclusions were as infallible

as so many propositions of Euclid. So startling would his results appear

to the uninitiated that until they learned the processes by which he had

arrived at them they might well consider him as a necromancer.

 

“From a drop of water,” said the writer, “a logician could infer the

possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of

one or the other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is

known whenever we are shown a single link of it. Like all other arts,

the Science of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired

by long and patient study nor is life long enough to allow any mortal

to attain the highest possible perfection in it. Before turning to

those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest

difficulties, let the enquirer begin by mastering more elementary

problems. Let him, on meeting a fellow-mortal, learn at a glance to

distinguish the history of the man, and the trade or profession to

which he belongs. Puerile as such an exercise may seem, it sharpens the

faculties of observation, and teaches one where to look and what to look

for. By a man’s finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his

trouser knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his

expression, by his shirt cuffs–by each of these things a man’s calling

is plainly revealed. That all united should fail to enlighten the

competent enquirer in any case is almost inconceivable.”

 

“What ineffable twaddle!” I cried, slapping the magazine down on the

table, “I never read such rubbish in my life.”

 

“What is it?” asked Sherlock Holmes.

 

“Why, this article,” I said, pointing at it with my egg spoon as I sat

down to my breakfast. “I see that you have read it since you have marked

  1. I don’t deny that it is smartly written. It irritates me though. It

is evidently the theory of some arm-chair lounger who evolves all these

neat little paradoxes in the seclusion of his own study. It is not

practical. I should like to see him clapped down in a third class

carriage on the Underground, and asked to give the trades of all his

fellow-travellers. I would lay a thousand to one against him.”

 

“You would lose your money,” Sherlock Holmes remarked calmly. “As for

the article I wrote it myself.”

 

“You!”

 

“Yes, I have a turn both for observation and for deduction. The

theories which I have expressed there, and which appear to you to be so

chimerical are really extremely practical–so practical that I depend

upon them for my bread and cheese.”

 

“And how?” I asked involuntarily.

 

“Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am the only one in the

world. I’m a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is.

Here in London we have lots of Government detectives and lots of private

ones. When these fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to

put them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I

am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of

crime, to set them straight. There is a strong family resemblance about

misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger

ends, it is odd if you can’t unravel the thousand and first. Lestrade

is a well-known detective. He got himself into a fog recently over a

forgery case, and that was what brought him here.”

 

“And these other people?”

 

“They are mostly sent on by private inquiry agencies. They are

all people who are in trouble about something, and want a little

enlightening. I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and

then I pocket my fee.”

 

“But do you mean to say,” I said, “that without leaving your room you

can unravel some knot which other men can make nothing of, although they

have seen every detail for themselves?”

 

“Quite so. I have a kind of intuition that way. Now and again a case

turns up which is a little more complex. Then I have to bustle about and

see things with my own eyes. You see I have a lot of special knowledge

which I apply to the problem, and which facilitates matters wonderfully.

Those rules of deduction laid down in that article which aroused your

scorn, are invaluable to me in practical work. Observation with me is

second nature. You appeared to be surprised when I told you, on our

first meeting, that you had come from Afghanistan.”

 

“You were told, no doubt.”

 

“Nothing of the sort. I _knew_ you came from Afghanistan. From long

habit the train of thoughts ran so swiftly through my mind, that I

arrived at the conclusion without being conscious of intermediate steps.

There were such steps, however. The train of reasoning ran, ‘Here is a

gentleman of a medical type, but with the air of a military man. Clearly

an army doctor, then. He has just come from the tropics, for his face is

dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin, for his wrists are

fair. He has undergone hardship and sickness, as his haggard face says

clearly. His left arm has been injured. He holds it in a stiff and

unnatural manner. Where in the tropics could an English army doctor have

seen much hardship and got his arm wounded? Clearly in Afghanistan.’ The

whole train of thought did not occupy a second. I then remarked that you

came from Afghanistan, and you were astonished.”

 

“It is simple enough as you explain it,” I said, smiling. “You remind

me of Edgar Allen Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did

exist outside of stories.”

 

Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. “No doubt you think that you are

complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,” he observed. “Now, in my

opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking

in on his friends’ thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of

an hour’s silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some

analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as

Poe appeared to imagine.”

 

“Have you read Gaboriau’s works?” I asked. “Does Lecoq come up to your

idea of a detective?”

 

Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. “Lecoq was a miserable bungler,”

he said, in an angry voice; “he had only one thing to recommend him, and

that was his energy. That book made me positively ill. The question was

how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four

hours. Lecoq took six months or so. It might be made a text-book for

detectives to teach them what to avoid.”

 

I felt rather indignant at having two characters whom I had admired

treated in this cavalier style. I walked over to the window, and stood

looking out into the busy street. “This fellow may be very clever,” I

said to myself, “but he is certainly very conceited.”

 

“There are no crimes and no criminals in these days,” he said,

querulously. “What is the use of having brains in our profession. I know

well that I have it in me to make my name famous. No man lives or has

ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural

talent to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is the

result? There is no crime to detect, or, at most, some bungling villainy

with a motive so transparent that even a Scotland Yard official can see

through it.”

04MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Enter Joel Cairo, Hammett could draw a word picture.

 

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

Chapter 4 – The Black Bird

Spade returned to his office at ten minutes past five that evening. Effie Perine was sitting at his desk reading Time. Spade sat on the desk and asked: “Anything stirring?”

“Not here. You look like you’d swallowed the canary.”

He grinned contentedly. “I think we’ve got a future. I always had an idea that if Miles would go off and die somewhere we’d stand a better chance of thriving. Will you take care of sending flowers for me?”

“I did.”

“You’re an invaluable angel. How’s your woman’s intuition today?”

“Why?”

“What do you think of Wonderly?”

“I’m for her,” the girl replied without hesitation.

“She’s got too many names,” Spade mused, “Wonderly, Leblanc, and she says the right one’s O’Shaughnessy.”

“I don’t care if she’s got all the names in the phone-book. That girl is all right, and you know it.”

“I wonder.” Spade blinked sleepily at Effie Perine. He chuckled. “Anyway she’s given up seven hundred smacks in two days, and that’s all right.”

Effie Perine sat up straight and said: “Sam, if that girl’s in trouble and you let her down, or take advantage of it to bleed her, I’ll never forgive you, never have any respect for you, as long as I live.”

Spade smiled unnaturally. Then he frowned. The frown was unnatural. He opened his mouth to speak, but the sound of someone’s entrance through the corridor-door stopped him.

Effie Perine rose and went into the outer office. Spade took off his hat and sat in his chair. The girl returned with an engraved card–Mr. Joel Cairo.

“This guy is queer,” she said.

“In with him, then, darling,” said Spade.

Mr. Joel Cairo was a small-boned dark man of medium height. His hair was black and smooth and very glossy. His features were Levantine. A square-cut ruby, its sides paralleled by four baguette diamonds, gleamed against the deep green of his cravat. His black coat, cut tight to narrow shoulders, flared a little over slightly plump hips. His trousers fitted his round legs more snugly than was the current fashion. The uppers of his patent-leather shoes were hidden by fawn spats. He held a black derby hat in a chamois-gloved hand and came towards Spade with short, mincing, bobbing steps. The fragrance of chypre came with him.

Spade inclined his head at his visitor and then at a chair, saying: “Sit down, Mr. Cairo.”

Cairo bowed elaborately over his hat, said, “I thank you,” in a high-pitched thin voice and sat down. He sat down primly, crossing his ankles, placing his hat on his knees, and began to draw off his yellow gloves.

Spade rocked back in his chair and asked: “Now what can I do for you, Mr. Cairo?” The amiable negligence of his tone, his motion in the chair, were precisely as they had been when he had addressed the same question to Brigid O’Shaughnessy on the previous day.

Cairo turned his hat over, dropping his gloves into it, and placed it bottom-up on the corner of the desk nearest him. Diamonds twinkled on the second and fourth fingers of his left hand, a ruby that matched the one in his tie even to the surrounding diamonds on the third finger of his right hand. His hands were soft and well cared for. Though they were not large their flaccid bluntness made them seem clumsy. He rubbed his palms together and said over the whispering sound they made: “May a stranger offer condolences for your partner’s unfortunate death?”

“Thanks.”

“May I ask, Mr. Spade, if there was, as the newspapers inferred, a certain–ah–relationship between that unfortunate happening and the death a little later of the man Thursby?”

Spade said nothing in a blank-faced definite way.

Cairo rose and bowed. “I beg your pardon.” He sat down and placed his hands side by side, palms down, on the corner of the desk. “More than idle curiosity made me ask that, Mr. Spade. I am trying to recover an–ah–ornament that has been–shall we say?–mislaid. I thought, and hoped, you could assist me.”

Spade nodded with eyebrows lifted to indicate attentiveness.

“The ornament is a statuette,” Cairo went on, selecting and mouthing his words carefully, “the black figure of a bird.”

Spade nodded again, with courteous interest.

“I am prepared to pay, on behalf of the figure’s rightful owner, the sum of five thousand dollars for its recovery.” Cairo raised one hand from the desk-corner and touched a spot in the air with the broad-nailed tip of an ugly forefinger. “I am prepared to promise that–what is the phrase?–no questions will be asked.” He put his hand on the desk again beside the other and smiled blandly over them at the private detective.

“Five thousand is a lot of money,” Spade commented, looking thoughtfully at Cairo. “It–”

Fingers drummed lightly on the door.

When Spade had called, “Come in,” the door opened far enough to admit Effie Perine’s head and shoulders. She had put on a small dark felt hat and a dark coat with a grey fur collar.

“Is there anything else?” she asked.

“No. Good night. Lock the door when you go, will you?”

Spade turned in his chair to face Cairo again, saying: “It’s an interesting figure.”

The sound of the corridor-door’s closing behind Effie Perine came to them.

Cairo smiled and took a short compact flat black pistol out of an inner pocket. “You will please,” he said, “clasp your hands together at the back of your neck.”

03MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

It’s so short (and in the public domain!) how could I abridge this magnificent malignancy?

THE TELL-TALE HEART by Edgar Allan Poe
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.
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--“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 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 eve. 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. 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 any thing 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 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 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? 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. 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!”