When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it --for what had I now to fear? There entered three men -- officers of the police.
I bade the gentlemen welcome . . .
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 the officers had been deputed to search the premises.
"The shriek was my own in a dream. The old man is 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, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.
They sat while I answered cheerily. Ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached; I fancied a ringing in my ears. I found that the noise was not within my ears.
I now grew very pale; the sound increased --and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound --yet they heard it not. I argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; It grew louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly. Was it possible they heard not?
--no, no! --they were making a mockery of my horror! But anything was better than this agony! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! --and now --again! --hark! louder!
Villains! dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! --here, here! --it is the beating of his hideous heart!