The Tell-Tale Heart, Part 2

By Edgar Allan Poe

Click arrow above to play a carefully selected musical accompaniment while you read, it’s a creepy, cinema-style tune titled Lurking, by Silent Partner.

Click arrow to hear the story read aloud.
Me
What did you do then, you clever intruder?
Suspect
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. 
Suspect
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. 
Me
And yet you remain steadfast in denying that you are mad! Who kills over an eye? 
Suspect
But if you had seen the vulture eye.
Me
I have seen it. I knew the victim and his eye. But what did you do when after seven days the eye was always closed?
Suspect
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.
Me
Indeed, I know that! Go on, please.
Suspect
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. 
Me
That didn’t strike you as odd behavior on your part? Hadn’t you always been more free in your movement?
Suspect
Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. 
Me
Yet it looks to me that you are shaking with nerves. Why?
Suspect
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. 
Me
We both know that he had heard you.
Suspect
Perhaps. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. 
Me
No, and you no doubt recall how quickly you thought and reacted, and that it was a very clever response.
Suspect
True! His room was black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers). So I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.
Me
Yes. But your next move was what?
Suspect
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?”
Suspect
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.
Me
Naturally you were well practiced then. But continue, for we can come back to that last comment.
Suspect
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.
Me
Perhaps I can appreciate your understanding of his emotions, but is it logical to confess all this to a policeman? Some may wonder how you understood him so well. Pray explain, for the record.
Suspect
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. 
Me
I know, I know.
Suspect
I repeat that 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. 
Me
No doubt. One remembers such a groan!
Suspect
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.” 
Me
Yes, I suppose he would be trying to comfort himself with these suppositions.
Suspect
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. 
Me
You have already admitted that it was you who stalked him!
Suspect
But 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.
Me
Perhaps. So then what did you do? 
Suspect
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. 
Me
Then what did he do?
Suspect
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.
Me
I disliked that eye myself. I suppose it vexed you to see a spotlight shone upon it!
Suspect
It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. 
Me
Odd reaction, but no doubt you feel it scarcely can be called mad under the circumstances.



*************

Look for the next segment, Part 3!