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!”