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Uplifting bore them in their hands. Amaze,
-Paradise Lost, Book VI.
TONE OF CUNNING.
(See Tone Drills Nos. 96a, 37a, 204b.) [The tone of Cunning has in it Triumph, Exultation, and Carefulness; it manifests a subtle pride, bordering at times on fiendishness.]
The Telltale Heart.
EDGAR ALLAN POE.
True !-nervous—very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am 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 forever.
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. 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. 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 (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.
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. 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. I kept pushing the door open steadily, steadily.
I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, “Who's there?”
I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and meantime I did not hear him lie down.
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 from out 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 eye.
Now, 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. . I scarcely breathed; I held the lantern motio less. 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. I thought the heart must burst.
And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound could 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
He shrieked once once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him I then smiled gayly 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.
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.
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? Then 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. But erelong 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 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. 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?
They heard !—they suspected !—they knew !—they were making a mockery of my horror! I felt that I must scream or die!-and now—again !-hark !-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!"