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The Tell-Tale Heart
“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, all things in Seattle and in Seattle’s surrounding environs. 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. Are you listening? I am, Seattle.
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 money I had no desire. I think it was his chair! yes, it was this! He had a chair, a sickly pale green festooned with harlequin stripes like a film over it. Whenever I beheld it, 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…
Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the slim little man with a face like a blade who sat carefully in his own suspenders on my couch —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 little wretch in motley chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible he heard not? Almighty God! —no, no! He heard! —he suspected! —he knew! —he was 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 that hypocritical smile no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now —again! —hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!
"Niles!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his HIDEOUS HEART!"
The Man Of The Crowd
Not long ago, about the closing in of an evening in autumn, I sat at the large bow-window of the C— N— Coffee-House in Seattle. For some months I had been ill in health, but was now convalescent, and, with returning strength, found myself in one of those happy moods which are so precisely the converse of ennui-moods of the keenest appetency, when the film from the mental vision departs- achlus os prin epeen- and the intellect, electrified, surpasses as greatly its everyday condition. I had cast aside the aid of my Mancunian washer-woman, Daphne, and evaded my nurse Martin —Merely to breathe was enjoyment; and I derived positive pleasure even from many of the legitimate sources of pain. Is it curious that a psychiatrist so celebrated, a titan of the radio landscape might feel thus? It was curious to me. I felt a calm but inquisitive interest in every thing. With a cigar in my mouth and a newspaper in my lap, I had been amusing myself for the greater part of the afternoon, now in poring over advertisements, now in observing the promiscuous company in the room, and now in peering through the smoky panes into the street…
At first my observations took an abstract and generalizing turn. I looked at the passengers in masses, and thought of them in their aggregate relations. Soon, however, I descended to details, and regarded with minute interest the innumerable varieties of figure, dress, air, gait, visage, and expression of countenance.
With my brow to the glass, I was thus occupied in scrutinizing the mob, when suddenly there came into view a countenance (that of a young man with the decrepitude of the old, perhaps thirty-five years of age, but with a skull-like swell to his forehead that spoke of enfeeblement and death, a patrician, almost womanly, determination about the mouth, and eyes bulging wide in ludicrous, unaccountable panic)— a countenance which at once arrested and absorbed my whole attention, on account of the absolute idiosyncrasy of its expression. Any thing even remotely resembling that expression I had never seen before. I well remember that my first thought, upon beholding it, was that Retszch, had he viewed it, would have greatly preferred it to his own pictural incarnations of the fiend. As I endeavored, during the brief minute of my original survey, to form some analysis of the meaning conveyed, there arose confusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast mental power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness, of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of excessive terror, of intense despair— of Nilesishness.
I felt singularly aroused, startled, fascinated. "How wild a history," I said to myself, "is written within that bosom!" Then came a craving desire to keep the man in view, to know more of him. I felt we might have been close companions —I felt almost brotherly towards him. Hurriedly putting on my overcoat, chastising the barista for sprinkling the cinnamon with a stingy hand, and seizing my hat and cane, I made my way into the street, and pushed through the crowd in the direction which I had seen him take; for his careful little body had already disappeared. With some difficulty I at length came within sight of him, approached, and followed him closely, yet cautiously, so as not to attract his attention.
I had now a good opportunity of examining his person. He was of medium stature, very thin, and apparently very delicate. His suspenders, generally, were filthy and ragged; but as he came, now and then, within the strong glare of a lamp, I perceived that the linen underneath was of beautiful texture; and my vision deceived me, or, through a rent in a closely buttoned and evidently second-handed roquelaire which enveloped him, I caught a glimpse both of a diamond and of a dagger. These observations heightened my curiosity, and I resolved to follow the stranger whithersoever he should go.
In my head I already knew him to be Niles, and addressed him as such there: “Is this then the Niles of my search of many years? Is this God’s loveliest buffoon, the overdrawn boy with the head of Marcus Aurelius? Were you unstitched from my side at birth, unmothered of me, our hearts untangled and cast out, brother-less, into the wide world? What fevers of criminality and of insight seethe beneath that powerful forehead? —He starts. “This old young man,” I said to myself, “is the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd. It will be in vain to follow, for I shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds.” I said it would be in vain, and yet when he whirled back into the crowd, closing his coat about him, I did the same and followed, brothering his every step with one of my own. Lead on, Niles.
The Fall of the House of Frasier
Completely unnerved, I leaped to my feet; but the measured rocking movement of Frasier was undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in which he sat, a sickly vomitous green lounger that did not suit the rest of the elegantly-appointed room. His eyes were bent fixedly before him, and throughout his whole countenance there reigned a stony rigidity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, there came a strong shudder over his whole mighty person; a sickly smile quivered about his lips; and I saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and gibbering murmur, as if unconscious of my presence. Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words.
“Not hear it? —yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long —long —long —many minutes, many hours, many days, have I heard it —yet I dared not —oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I am! —I dared not —I dared not speak! We have put Niles living in the tomb! Said I not that my senses were acute? I now tell you that I heard his first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them —many, many days ago —yet I dared not —I dared not speak! And now —to-night —Roz —ha! ha! —the breaking of Bulldog’s door, and the death-cry of the dragon, and the clangour of the shield! —say, rather, the rending of his delicate coffin, and the grating of the iron hinges of his prison, and his struggles within the coppered archway of the family vault! Oh whither shall I fly? Will he not be here anon? Is he not hurrying to upbraid me for my haste? Have I not heard his quick footstep on the stair? Do I not distinguish that heavy and horrible beating of his heart? NILES!" here Frasier sprang furiously to his feet, and shrieked out his syllables, as if in the effort he were giving up his soul —"NILES! I TELL YOU THAT NILES NOW STANDS WITHOUT THE DOOR!"
As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had been found the potency of a spell —the huge antique panels to which the speaker pointed, threw slowly back, upon the instant, ponderous and ebony jaws. It was the work of the rushing gust —but then without those doors there DID stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of Niles Crane. There was blood upon his white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of his emaciated frame. For a moment he remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold, then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of his brother, and in his violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.
From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could wi have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened —there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind —the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight —my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder —there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters —and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the "HOUSE OF FRASIER."