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 so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head.
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?
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?"
Was it possible we did not hear? Almighty God!— no, no! We heard!—We suspected!—We knew! —We were making a mockery of his horror!
In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him.
I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings.
Yes, he was stone, stone dead.
There 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?
I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber.
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.
Villains!, dissemble no more! I admit the deed!— tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!