h of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of lowarches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deepcrypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather toglow than flame.
Produced by Levent Kurnaz. HTML version by Al Haines.
The Cask of Amontillado
Edgar Allan Poe
The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, butwhen he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well knowthe nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utteranceto a threat. _At length_ I would be avenged; this was a point definitelysettled--but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved,precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish withimpunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes itsredresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to makehimself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I givenFortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, tosmile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile _now_ was atthe thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point--this Fortunato--although in other regards he was aman to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on hisconnoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit.For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time andopportunity--to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian_millionaires_. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen,was a quack--but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In thisrespect I did not differ from him materially: I was skillful in theItalian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.
It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of thecarnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me withexcessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley.He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head wassurmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him,that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.
I said to him--"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkablywell you are looking to-day! But I have received a pipe of what passesfor Amontillado, and I have my doubts."
"How?" said he. "Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middleof the carnival!"
"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the fullAmontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not tobe found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."
"I have my doubts."
"And I must satisfy them."
"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If any one has acritical turn, it is he. He will tell me--"
"Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."
"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for yourown."
"Come, let us go."
"To your vaults."
"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceiveyou have an engagement. Luchesi--"
"I have no engagement;--come."
"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold withwhich I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp.They are encrusted with nitre."
"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado!You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguishSherry from Amontillado."
Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a maskof black silk, and drawing a _roquelaire_ closely about my person, Isuffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry inhonour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until themorning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house.These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediatedisappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.
I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato,bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led intothe vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting himto be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of thedescent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs of theMontresors.
The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingledas he strode.
"The pipe," said he.
"It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white web-work whichgleams from these cavern walls."
He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs thatdistilled the rheum of intoxication.
"Nitre?" he asked, at length.
"Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that cough?"
"Ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh! ugh! ugh!--ugh!ugh! ugh!"
My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.
"It is nothing," he said, at last.
"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health isprecious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, asonce I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. Wewill go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides,there is Luchesi--"
"Enough," he said; "the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me.I shall not die of a cough."
"True--true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarmingyou unnecessarily--but you should use all proper caution. A draught ofthis Medoc will defend us from the damps."
Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row ofits fellows that lay upon the mould.
"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.
He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to mefamiliarly, while his bells jingled.
"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us."
"And I to your long life."
He again took my arm, and we proceeded.
"These vaults," he said, "are extensive."
"The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family."
"I forget your arms."
"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpentrampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."
"And the motto?"
"_Nemo me impune lacessit_."
"Good!" he said.
The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grewwarm with the Medoc. We had passed through walls of piled bones, withcasks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses ofcatacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seizeFortunato by an arm above the elbow.
"The nitre!" I said; "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon thevaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickleamong the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Yourcough--"
"It is nothing," he said; "let us go on. But first, another draught ofthe Medoc."
I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. He emptied it at abreath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threwthe bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement--a grotesque one.
"You do not comprehend?" he said.
"Not I," I replied.
"Then you are not of the brotherhood."
"You are not of the masons."
"Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes."
"You? Impossible! A mason?"
"A mason," I replied.
"A sign," he said, "a sign."
"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds ofmy _roquelaire_.
"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceedto the Amontillado."
"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and againoffering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued ourroute in searc
At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another lessspacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to thevault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Threesides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner.From the fourth side the bones had been thrown down, and laypromiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of somesize. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, weperceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet in widththree, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed forno especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval betweentwo of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and wasbacked by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.
It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured topry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light didnot enable us to see.
"Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchesi--"
"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadilyforward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an instant hehad reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progressarrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and Ihad fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples,distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one ofthese depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing thelinks about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secureit. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key Istepped back from the recess.
"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall; you cannot help feeling thenitre. Indeed, it is _very_ damp. Once more let me _implore_ you toreturn. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must firstrender you all the little attentions in my power."
"The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from hisastonishment.
"True," I replied; "the Amontillado."
As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of whichI have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantityof building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the aid ofmy trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.
I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discoveredthat the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. Theearliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depthof the recess. It was _not_ the cry of a drunken man. There was then along and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, andthe fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. Thenoise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken toit with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down uponthe bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel,and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventhtier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I againpaused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a fewfeeble rays upon the figure within.
A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from thethroat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For abrief moment I hesitated--I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I beganto grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instantreassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs,and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells ofhim who clamoured. I re-echoed--I aided--I surpassed them in volumeand in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.
It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I hadcompleted the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished aportion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stoneto be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placedit partially in its destined position. But now there came from out theniche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It wassucceeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as thatof the noble Fortunato. The voice said--
"Ha! ha! ha!--he! he! he!--a very good joke indeed--an excellent jest.We shall have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo--he! he!he!--over our wine--he! he! he!"
"The Amontillado!" I said.
"He! he! he!--he! he! he!--yes, the Amontillado. But is it not gettinglate? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunatoand the rest? Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."
"_For the love of God, Montresor!_"
"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient.I called aloud--
No answer. I called again--
No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture andlet it fall within. There came forth in reply only a jingling of thebells. My heart grew sick on account of the dampness of the catacombs.I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone intoits position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erectedthe old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal hasdisturbed them. _In pace requiescat!_