"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 heavens and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?"

"…Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded–with what caution–with what foresight–with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him."

It is impossible to say how the idea of murdering the old man first entered the mind of the narrator. There was no real motive as stated by the narrator: "Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me….For his gold I had no desire. I think that it was his eye!"

The narrator states that one of the old man’s eyes was a pale blue color with a film over it, which resembled the eye of a vulture. Just the sight of that eye made the narrator’s blood run cold, and as a result, the eye (and with it the old man) must be destroyed.

Every night at midnight, the narrator went to the old man’s room. Carefully, he turned the latch to the door, and opened it without making a sound. When a sufficient opening had been made, a covered lantern was thrust inside. "I undid the lantern cautiously…(for the hindges creaked)–I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights…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."

The old man suspected nothing. During the day, the narrator continued to perform his usual duties, and even dared to ask each morning how the old man had passed the night; however, at midnight, the nightly ritual continued.

Upon the eighth night, the narrator proceeded to the old man’s room as usual; however, on this night, something was different. "Never before that night had I felt the extent of my powers–of my sagacity….To think that 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. Now you may think that I drew back–but no. His room was as black as pitch…so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door….I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening…the old man sprang up in bed, crying out–’Who’s there?’"

The narrator kept quiet, and did not move for an entire hour. The old man did not lie back down; he was sitting up. Even in that darkness, "I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise….His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not."

"When I had waited a long time, very patiently…I resolved to open a little–a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it–you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily–until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of a spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye."

The eye was wide open. "I saw it with perfect distinctness–all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones….[N]othing else of the old man’s face or person [could be seen]."

"And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses?" For at that moment, the narrator heard the sound such as a watch would make when it is enveloped in cotton. "I knew that sound well too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart….It increased my fury….But even yet I refrained and kept still." The heartbeat grew "…quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme."

The time had come. "With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room." The old man shrieked once. The narrator "…dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him." He did not die at once, but in a short time, the hideous heartbeat stopped; then the narrator removed the bed, and examined the body. "I placed my hand upon [his] heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more."

Next came the concealment of the body. The narrator dismembered the corpse by cutting off the head, the arms and the legs. Three planks were removed from the floor of the chamber to deposit the remains of what once had been a harmless, elderly man. The boards were replaced so carefully that no one would have been able to detect any wrong doing or foul play. There was no mess or blood stains to clean up; the narrator had cut up the body in a tub.

It was 4 A.M. by the time this ghastly deed had been completed. A knocking was heard at the door, and when the narrator answered it, he found three men who quickly introduced themselves "…as officers of the police." They told the narrator that a neighbor had reported hearing a shriek in the night, and that they were there conducting an investigation to make sure that no foul play had occurred.

"I smiled–for what had I to fear? 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." The narrator escorted the officers as they searched the premises. Nothing was disturbed; everything was in order, even in the old man’s room. The narrator brought in chairs and insisted that the officers "…rest from their fatigues…." The narrator brought in another chair, and placed it upon "…the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim."

They sat and chatted at ease, while the narrator pleasantly answered their questions. However, the narrator soon wished them to be gone. "…I felt myself getting pale….My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears….The ringing became more distinct; I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling; but it continued…until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears….It was a low, dull, quick sound–much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton."

The narrator gasped for breath, and spoke "…more quickly–more vehemently." The sound steadily increased; yet the officers made no notice. The narrator "…arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor…with heavy strides….Oh, 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." Was it possible that the officers did not hear the sound ? "No, no! They heard!–they suspected!–they knew!–they were making a mockery of my horror!….I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!" All the while the sound grew "louder! louder! louder! louder!" "Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed!–tear up the planks!–here, here!–it is the beating of his hideous heart!"