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These four stories of murder and mystery will frighten you! Edgar Allan Poe wri tes about terrible people with strange lives. Do you have a black cat...? The Black Cat and Other Stories EDGAR ALLAN POE Retold by David Wharry Introduction How can I explain this fear? It was not really a fear of something evil.... but then how else can I possibly describe it? Slowly, this strange fear grew into ho rror. Yes, horror. If I tell you why, you will not believe me. You will think I am mad. 'The Black Ca
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  These four stories of murder and mystery will frighten you! Edgar Allan Poe writes about terrible people with strange lives. Do you have a black cat...?The Black Cat and Other StoriesEDGAR ALLAN POERetold by David WharryIntroductionHow can I explain this fear? It was not really a fear of something evil.... but then how else can I possibly describe it? Slowly, this strange fear grew into horror. Yes, horror. If I tell you why, you will not believe me. You will think I am mad.'The Black Cat' is one of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous stories. Why is the man in the story afraid of his own black cat? Why does he kill it? And how does the cat punish him for his evil ways?In 'The Oval Portrait' a man finds a portrait of a beautiful young woman in a lonely house. Who is this woman? Who painted her? And why is the man so frightened of her picture? What terrible secret does it hold?In 'Berenice', a madman wants to marry his sick cousin with the beautiful teeth. He cannot stop thinking about those teeth! What really happens to Berenice in the end?In 'The Mask of the Red Death', Prince Prospero tries to shut his door against the face of Death. How does the 'Red Death' get into his large and beautiful house? What will happen to him and all his friends when they meet the stranger with the death mask?Four horror stories from the strange and terrible mind of Edgar Allan Poe. Four stories that will stop you sleeping at night. Four stories that you will never, never forget......No writer knew more about pain and horror than Edgar Allan Poe. He lived most of his life afraid of the things in his own mind. And he wrote some of the most frightening horror stories ever written.He was born Edgar Poe on 19 January 1809 in Boston, USA.When he was two years old his mother died and his father died or left the family (nobody knows exactly what happened to him). Poe went to live with a rich family called the Allans in Richmond, Virginia. Mrs Allan loved him like a real son, but her husband never understood Poe and was unkind to him. The family moved to England for five years from 1815 to 1820, and Poe went to one of the best schools in the country. In 1826 he went back to Virginia and went to university there. But when he was a student there his life started to go badly wrong. John Allan refused to pay for his university education because the boy was spending too much money. This hurt Poe very deeply. The dislike between him and John Allan grew and in 1827 he left the Allans' home for ever.Poe became a successful soldier for a few years, and then went to Baltimore to earn money by writing for newspapers and magazines. He also worked on a magazine in Richmond, Virginia but he didn't go back to his old home. In 1835, when Poe was twenty-six, he married his young cousin, Virginia Clemm, who was fourteen years old. Their married life together was difficult. Poe worked hard but he didn't earn much money and never stayed long in one job. He was a nervous man, he drank too much all his life, and he believed that he was mad.In 1847, Virginia died after a long illness. Poe's home life ended and he began to drink more than before. In September 1849, he disappeared and was later found in a street in Baltimore. He was taken to hospital, where he died on 7 October 1849. He was buried in Baltimore, next to his wife....Poe had a very unhappy life, and when he died he was still a poor man. But by the end of his life he was beginning to be a very popular and successful writer. Many people were starting to read and enjoy his stories and poems   stories like The Raven (1845).However, he never made any money from his writing when he was alive. Since his d  eath, Poe has become one of the most famous of all American writers. His stories and poems are now read by people all over the world.Poe's stories, like the four in this book, are frightening stories of horror and imagination. People read them in American magazines from 1831, and in books called Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) and Tales (1845). Some of his most famous stories are in this Penguin reader. Other famous stories are 'The Fall of the House of Usher', 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue', and 'The Pit and the Pendulum'....Poe had a strange imagination and one of the saddest lives in all of literature. His terrible stories touch our deepest human fears and are difficult to forget.THE BLACK CATYou are not going to believe this story. But it is a true story, as true as I sit here writing it   as true as I will die in the morning. Yes, this story ends with my end, with my death tomorrow.I have always been a kind and loving person   everyone will tell you this. They will also tell you that I have always loved animals more than anything. When I was a little boy, my family always had many different animals round the house. As I grew up, I spent most of my time with them, giving them their food and cleaning them.I married when I was very young, and I was happy to find that my wife loved all of our animal friends as much as I did. She bought us the most beautiful animals. We had all sorts of birds, gold fish, a fine dog and a cat.The cat was a very large and beautiful animal. He was black, black all over, and very intelligent. He was so intelligent that my wife often laughed about what some people believe; some people believe that all black cats are evil, enemies in a cat's body.Pluto   this was the cat's name   was my favourite. It was always I who gave him his food, and he followed me everywhere. I often had to stop him from following me through the streets! For years, he and I lived happily together, the best of friends.But during those years I was slowly changing. It was that evil enemy of Man called Drink who was changing me. I was not the kind, loving person people knew before. I grew more and more selfish. I was often suddenly angry about unimportant things. I began to use bad language, most of all with my wife. I even hit her sometimes. And by that time, of course, I was often doing horrible things to our animals. I hit all of them   but never Pluto. But, my illness was getting worse   oh yes, drink is an illness! Soon I began to hurt my dear Pluto too.I remember that night very well. I came home late, full of drink again. I could not understand why Pluto was not pleased to see me. The cat was staying away from me. My Pluto did not want to come near me! I caught him and picked him up, holding him strongly. He was afraid of me and bit my hand.Suddenly, I was not myself any more. Someone else was in my body: someone evil, and mad with drink! I took my knife from my pocket, held the poor animal by his neck and cut out one of his eyes.The next morning, my mind was full of pain and horror when I woke up. I was deeply sorry. I could not understand how I could do such an evil thing. But drink soon helped me to forget.Slowly the cat got better. Soon he felt no more pain. There was now only an ugly dry hole where the eye once was. He began to go round the house as usual again. He never came near me now, of course, and he ran away when I went too close.I knew he didn't love me any more. At first I was sad. Then, slowly, I started to feel angry, and I did another terrible thing . . .I had to do it   I could not stop myself. I did it with a terrible sadness in my heart   because I knew it was evil. And that was why I did it   yes! I did it because I knew it was evil. What did I do? I caught the cat and hung him by his neck from a tree until he was dead.That night I woke up suddenly   my bed was on fire. I heard people outside shoutin  g, 'Fire! Fire!' Our house was burning! I, my wife and our servant were lucky to escape. We stood and watched as the house burned down to the ground.There was nothing left of the building the next morning. All the walls fell down during the night, except one   a wall in the middle of the house. I realized why this wall did not burn: because there was new plaster on it. The plaster was still quite wet.I was surprised to see a crowd of people next to the wall. They were talking, and seemed to be quite excited. I went closer and looked over their shoulders. I saw a black shape in the new white plaster. It was the shape of large cat, hanging by us neck.I looked at the shape with complete horror. Several minutes passed before I could think clearly again. I knew I had to try to think clearly, I had to know why it was there.I remembered hanging the cat in the garden of the house next door. During the fire the garden was full of people. Probably, someone cut the dead cat from the tree and threw it through the window - to try and wake me. The falling walls pressed the animal's body into the fresh plaster. The cat burned completely, leaving the black shape in the new plaster. Yes, I was sure that was what happened.But I could not forget that black shape for months. I even saw it in my dreams. I began to feel sad about losing the animal. So I began to look for another one. I looked mostly in the poor parts of our town where I went drinking. I searched for another black cat, of the same size and type as Pluto.One night, as I sat in a dark and dirty drinking-house, I noticed a black object on top of a cupboard, near some bottles of wine. I was surprised when I saw it. 'I looked at those bottles a few minutes ago,' I thought, 'and I am sure that object was not there before I got up, and went to see what it was. I put my hand up, touched it, and found that it was a black cat   a very large one, as large as Pluto. He looked like Pluto too   in every way but one: Pluto did not have a white hair anywhere on his body; this cat had a large white shape on his front.He got up when I touched him, and pressed the side of his head against my hand several times. He liked me. This was the animal I was looking for! He continued to be very friendly and Liter, when I left, he followed me into the street. He came all the way home with me   we now had another house   and came inside. He immediately jumped up on to the most comfortable chair and went to sleep. He stayed with us, of course. He loved both of us and very soon he became my wife's favourite animal.But, as the weeks passed, I began to dislike the animal more and more. I do not know why, but I hated the way he loved me. Soon, I began to hate him   but I was never unkind to him. Yes, I was very careful about that. I kept away from him because I remembered what I did to my poor Pluto. I also hated the animal because he only had one eye. I noticed this the morning after he came home with me. Of course, this only made my dear wife love him more!But the more I hated the cat, the more he seemed to love me. He followed me everywhere, getting under my feet all the time. When I sat down, he always sat under my chair. Often he tried to jump up on my knees. I wanted to murder him when he did this, but I did not. I stopped myself because I remembered Pluto, but also because I was afraid of the animal.How can I explain this fear? It was not really a fear of something evil . . . but then how else can I possibly describe it? Slowly, this strange fear grew into horror. Yes, horror. If I tell you why, you will not believe me. You will think I am mad.Several times, my wife took the cat and showed me the white shape on his chest. She said the shape was slowly changing. For a long time I did not believe her, but slowly, after many weeks, I began to see that she was right. The shape was changing. Its sides were becoming straighter and straighter. It was beginning to look more and more like an object . . . After a few more weeks, I saw what the shape was. It was impossible not to see! There, on his front, was the shape of an object I am almost too afraid to name ... It was that terrible machine of pain and death - yes, the GALLOWS!  note: gallows. The place where criminals are hanged.I no longer knew the meaning of happiness, or rest. During the day, the animal never left me. At night he woke me up nearly every hour. I remember waking from terrible dreams and feeling him sitting next to my face, his heavy body pressing down on my heart!I was now a very different man. There was not the smallest piece of good left in me. I now had only evil thoughts   the darkest and the most evil thoughts. I hated everyone and everything, my dear wife too.One day she came down into the cellar with me to cut some wood (we were now too poor to have a servant). Of course, the cat followed me down the stairs and nearly made me fall. This made me so angry, that I took the axe and tried to cut the animal in two. But as I brought the axe down, my wife stopped my arm with her hand. This made me even more angry, and I pulled her hand away from my wrist, lifted the tool again, brought it down hard and buried it in the top of her head.I had to hide the body. I knew I could not take it out of the house. The neighbours noticed everything. I thought of cutting it into pieces and burning it. I thought of burying it in the floor of the cellar. I thought of throwing it into the river at the end of the garden. I thought of putting it into a wooden box and taking it out of the house that way. In the end, I decided to hide the body in one of the walls of the cellar.It was quite an old building, near the river, so the walls of the cellar were quite wet and the plaster was soft. There was new plaster on one of the walls, and I knew that underneath it the wall was not very strong. I also knew that this wall was very thick. I could hide the body in the middle of it.It was not difficult. I took off some plaster, took out a few stones and made a hole in the earth that filled the middle of the wall. I put my wife there, put back the stones, made some new plaster and put it on the wall. Then I cleaned the floor, and looked carefully round. Everything looked just as it did before. Nobody would ever know.Next, I went upstairs to kill the cat. The animal was bringing me bad luck. I had to kill it. I searched everywhere, but I could not find him. I was sure it was because of my wife's murder; he was too clever to come near me now.I waited all evening, but I did not see the evil animal. He did not come back during the night either. And so, for the first time in a long time, I slept well. When I woke up the next morning, I was surprised to see that the cat still was not there. Two, three days passed, and there was still no cat. I cannot tell you how happy I began to feel. I felt so much better without the cat. Yes, it was he who brought me all my unhappiness. And now, without him, I began to feel like a free man again. It was wonderful   no more cat! Never again!Several people came and asked about my wife, but I answered their questions easily. Then, on the fourth day, the police came. I was not worried when they searched the house. They asked me to come with them as they searched. They looked everywhere, several times. Then they went down into the cellar. I went down with them, of course. I was not a bit afraid. I walked calmly up and down, watching them search.They found nothing, of course, and soon they were ready to go. I was so happy that I could not stop talking as they went up the stairs. I did not really know what I was saying. 'Good day to you all, dear sirs,' I said. 'Yes, this is a well-built old house, isn't it? Yes, a very well-built old house. These walls   are you going, gentlemen? - these walls are strong, aren't they?' I knocked hard on the part of the wall where my wife was.A voice came from inside the wall, in answer to my knock. It was a cry, like a child's. Quickly, it grew into a long scream of pain and horror. I saw the policemen standing on the stairs with their mouths open. Suddenly, they all ran down in a great hurry and began breaking down the wall. It fell quickly, and there was my wife, standing inside. There she was, with dried blood all over her head, looking at them. And there was the cat, standing on her head, his red mouth wide open in a scream, and his one gold eye shining like fire. The clever animal! My wife was dead because of him, and now his evil voice was sending me to the gallow
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