Why had I come to this lonely place? I knew Roderick Usher — the owner of the house. We were old friends, but we had not met for many years. A few weeks ago, I had received a letter from Roderick.
A large lake of black water surrounded the house. I stopped by the lake and looked at the house. Roderick Usher’s house was a large black building. Its many windows were like empty eyes. Suddenly, I felt cold … and a little afraid.
I knocked on the front door and a servant opened it. He took my horse to a stable. Then he led me inside the house.
We climbed many stairs to his master’s room. Lamps burned along the walls, but they gave little light. The long corridors and stairways were full of dark shadows.
At first, I did not recognise the man who was lying on a sofa. Then I saw that it was Roderick Usher. My friend had changed! He looked pale and ill. We were the same age, but he looked much older than me. His hair was silver-gray, and as soft as the web of a spider. I thought that Roderick was asleep because his eyes were closed. But as I entered the room, he sat up. Then he opened his eyes. They shone strangely in the weak light from the lamps.
“Welcome, my oldest and dearest friend!” he said.
But he did not shake my hand or come near me.
“Please excuse me,” he said. “I don’t wish to be rude. But I’m ill. I can’t touch another man’s hand. Please sit down. Rest a moment. A servant will take you to your room very soon. Then we shall have dinner and talk.”
“I’m glad that you have come,” he went on. “I have no one to talk to. My sister lives with me, but she is sick.”
Roderick Usher spoke to her.
“Madeline,” he said. “Madeline … this is my old friend … ”
Roderick Usher put his hands over his face.
“My sister has a strange illness. She is neither awake nor asleep. I fear that she’ll not live long.”
I felt more comfortable at dinner. Roderick asked me about my life. He looked happier. I forgot about his sister and the strange old house.
I did not see Madeline again. And I did not ask about her. Roderick had been alone for too long. He talked about happier days. We talked about the time when we were boys. But sometimes Roderick suddenly stopped talking. He stared in front of him. Then he turned his head to the left, then to the right. Was he listening to something? There was a look of sadness and fear on his face. I, too, felt afraid at these times.
As the days passed, Roderick became more quiet and sad. One evening, he suddenly came into my room.
“Madeline is dead,” he said.
“I need your help,” said Roderick Usher. “Madeline had been very ill. She was going to die. I knew this. But she mustn’t be buried near a church. She’ll lie in this house. I’ll keep her body in a room under the house. Will you help me?”
My friend’s words frightened me. But I did not ask any questions. I do not know why.
A wooden coffin was in the center of the room. I helped Roderick to put his sister’s body in the coffin. She wore a white dress. Her face was as white as her dress.
His face was pale and I saw the bones of his skull beneath the skin. He had not eaten for several days. Madeline was not breathing and her heart was not beating. But Madeline’s body was not cold. Then I knew, and I was afraid! She was dead, but she was not dead!
“No one will ever come here again,” he said. “Madeline is resting now. No one will wake her.”
But, from that moment, Roderick Usher never rested. He did not sleep. How long can a man live without sleep? He walked from room to room. He stared in front of him. He turned his head to the left, then to the right. Was he listening to something? Was Roderick Usher mad?
“Did you hear it?” he said. “Did you see it?”
“Hear what?” I asked. “See what?”
“You will understand soon,” he said.
A few seconds later, there was a crash of thunder. The wind blew into the room. It screamed as it blew around the room. The door crashed shut and the flame in the lamp went out. Suddenly there was a loud noise and the floor of the room moved.
“Who can you hear?” I asked loudly. I covered my face because the wind was blowing into my eyes.
“Madeline!” Roderick replied. “I can hear her! She’s coming here! She has opened her coffin. She’s coming up the stairs. She’s coming for me!”
Suddenly I saw Madeline Usher. She was standing in the doorway. She was wearing the white dress. But it was no longer white. Her dress was covered in blood.
Madeline’s eyes were open but she saw nothing. She stared in front of her. She held her hands out toward her brother.
I ran from the terrible House of Usher. I ran across the narrow bridge. When I reached the other side of the lake, I turned around.
Then a bright flash of lightning hit the house and the walls broke. Slowly, the house started to fall. With a great roar, the house fell into the lake. Then the water of the lake covered the House of Usher, and there was silence.