As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the door. I went down to open it with a light heart-- for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves as officers of police. A shriek had been heard by the neighbours; and the officers had been deputed to search the premises.
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 bade them search-- search well. I showed them the old man's treasures, secure, undisturbed.
In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs in the room, and desired them to rest, while I myself, placed my own seat upon the very spot of the corpse of the victim. The officers were satisfied. I was at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things.
But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears. The ringing became more distinct: --it continued and became more distinct --until, at length, I found the noise was not within my ears.
No doubt I 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 as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. 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 all over continually increased. It grew louder, and still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I felt I must scream or die!
Villains! Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! --here, here! --it is the beating of his hideous heart!