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1 Internet Wiretap Edition of
5 From "The Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Tales Vol I",
6 J. B. Lippincott Co, Copyright 1895.
8 This text is placed into the Public Domain (May 1993).
11 The Cask of Amontillado.
13 THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had
14 borne as I best could, but when he ven-
15 tured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You,
16 who so well know the nature of my soul, will not
17 suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat.
18 AT LENGTH I would be avenged; this was a point de-
19 finitively settled -- but the very definitiveness with
20 which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk.
21 I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.
22 A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes
23 its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the
24 avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him
25 who has done the wrong.
27 It must be understood that neither by word nor
28 deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good
29 will. I continued as was my wont, to smile in his
30 face, and he did not perceive that my smile NOW was
31 at the thought of his immolation.
33 He had a weak point -- this Fortunato -- although
34 in other regards he was a man to be respected and
35 even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseur-
36 ship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso
37 spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted
38 to suit the time and opportunity to practise impos-
39 ture upon the British and Austrian MILLIONAIRES. In
40 painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his country-
41 men, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he
42 was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from
43 him materially; I was skilful in the Italian vintages
44 myself, and bought largely whenever I could.
46 It was about dusk, one evening during the su-
47 preme madness of the carnival season, that I encoun-
48 tered my friend. He accosted me with excessive
49 warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man
50 wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped
51 dress and his head was surmounted by the conical
52 cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him, that I
53 thought I should never have done wringing his
54 hand.
56 I said to him -- "My dear Fortunato, you are
57 luckily met. How remarkably well you are look-
58 ing to-day! But I have received a pipe of what
59 passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."
61 "How?" said he, "Amontillado? A pipe? Im-
62 possible? And in the middle of the carnival?"
64 "I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly
65 enough to pay the full Amontillado price without
66 consulting you in the matter. You were not to be
67 found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."
69 "Amontillado!"
71 "I have my doubts."
73 "Amontillado!"
75 "And I must satisfy them."
77 "Amontillado!"
79 "As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi.
80 If any one has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell
81 me" --
83 "Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."
85 "And yet some fools will have it that his taste is
86 a match for your own."
88 "Come let us go."
90 "Whither?"
92 "To your vaults."
94 "My friend, no; I will not impose upon your
95 good nature. I perceive you have an engagement
96 Luchesi" --
98 "I have no engagement; come."
100 "My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but
101 the severe cold with which I perceive you are af-
102 flicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They
103 are encrusted with nitre."
105 "Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely
106 nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed
107 upon; and as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish
108 Sherry from Amontillado."
110 Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my
111 arm. Putting on a mask of black silk and drawing
112 a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him
113 to hurry me to my palazzo.
115 There were no attendants at home; they had
116 absconded to make merry in honour of the time.
117 I had told them that I should not return until the
118 morning and had given them explicit orders not
119 to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient,
120 I well knew, to insure their immediate disappear-
121 ance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.
123 I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giv-
124 ing one to Fortunato bowed him through several
125 suites of rooms to the archway that led into the
126 vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase,
127 requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We
128 came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood
129 together on the damp ground of the catacombs of
130 the Montresors.
132 The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells
133 upon his cap jingled as he strode.
135 "The pipe," said he.
137 "It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white
138 webwork which gleams from these cavern walls."
140 He turned towards me and looked into my eyes
141 with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of in-
142 toxication.
144 "Nitre?" he asked, at length
146 "Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that
147 cough!"
149 "Ugh! ugh! ugh! -- ugh! ugh! ugh! -- ugh!
150 ugh! ugh! -- ugh! ugh! ugh! -- ugh! ugh! ugh!
152 My poor friend found it impossible to reply for
153 many minutes.
155 "It is nothing," he said, at last.
157 "Come," I said, with decision, we will go back;
158 your health is precious. You are rich, respected,
159 admired, beloved; you are happy as once I was.
160 You are a man to be missed. For me it is no
161 matter. We will go back; you will be ill and I
162 cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi" --
164 "Enough," he said; "the cough is a mere nothing;
165 it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."
167 "True -- true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no
168 intention of alarming you unnecessarily -- but you
169 should use all proper caution. A draught of this
170 Medoc will defend us from the damps."
172 Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I
173 drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon
174 the mould.
176 "Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.
178 He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused
179 and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.
181 "I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose
182 around us."
184 "And I to your long life."
186 He again took my arm and we proceeded.
188 "These vaults," he said, are extensive."
190 "The Montresors," I replied, "were a great
191 numerous family."
193 "I forget your arms."
195 "A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the
196 foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are im-
197 bedded in the heel."
199 "And the motto?"
201 "Nemo me impune lacessit."
203 "Good!" he said.
205 The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells
206 jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc.
207 We had passed through walls of piled bones, with
208 casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost
209 recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this
210 time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm
211 above the elbow.
213 "The nitre!" I said: see it increases. It hangs
214 like moss upon the vaults. We are below the
215 river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among
216 the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late.
217 Your cough" --
219 "It is nothing" he said; "let us go on. But first,
220 another draught of the Medoc."
222 I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave.
223 He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a
224 fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle up-
225 wards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
227 I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the
228 movement -- a grotesque one.
230 "You do not comprehend?" he said.
232 "Not I," I replied.
234 "Then you are not of the brotherhood."
236 "How?"
238 "You are not of the masons."
240 "Yes, yes," I said "yes! yes."
242 "You? Impossible! A mason?"
244 "A mason," I replied.
246 "A sign," he said.
248 "It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from
249 beneath the folds of my roquelaire.
251 "You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces.
252 "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."
254 "Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the
255 cloak, and again offering him my arm. He leaned
256 upon it heavily. We continued our route in search
257 of the Amontillado. We passed through a range
258 of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending
259 again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness
260 of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than
261 flame.
263 At the most remote end of the crypt there ap-
264 peared another less spacious. Its walls had been
265 lined with human remains piled to the vault over-
266 head, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.
267 Three sides of this interior crypt were still orna-
268 mented in this manner. From the fourth the bones
269 had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon
270 the earth, forming at one point a mound of some
271 size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displac-
272 ing of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess,
273 in depth about four feet, in width three, in height
274 six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed
275 for no especial use in itself, but formed merely the
276 interval between two of the colossal supports of the
277 roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of
278 their circumscribing walls of solid granite.
280 It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull
281 torch, endeavoured to pry into the depths of the
282 recess. Its termination the feeble light did not
283 enable us to see.
285 "Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado.
286 As for Luchesi" --
288 "He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as
289 he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed
290 immediately at his heels. In an instant he had
291 reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his
292 progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly be-
293 wildered. A moment more and I had fettered him
294 to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples,
295 distant from each other about two feet, horizontally.
296 From one of these depended a short chain. from
297 the other a padlock. Throwing the links about
298 his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds
299 to secure it. He was too much astounded to re-
300 sist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from
301 the recess.
303 "Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall; you
304 cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed it is VERY
305 damp. Once more let me IMPLORE you to return.
306 No? Then I must positively leave you. But I
307 must first render you all the little attentions in my
308 power."
310 "The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not
311 yet recovered from his astonishment.
313 "True," I replied; "the Amontillado."
315 As I said these words I busied myself among the
316 pile of bones of which I have before spoken. Throw-
317 ing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of build-
318 ing stone and mortar. With these materials and
319 with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to
320 wall up the entrance of the niche.
322 I had scarcely laid the first tier of my masonry
323 when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato
324 had in a great measure worn off. The earliest in-
325 dication I had of this was a low moaning cry from
326 the depth of the recess. It was NOT the cry of a
327 drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate
328 silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and
329 the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations
330 of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes,
331 during which, that I might hearken to it with the
332 more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down
333 upon the bones. When at last the clanking sub-
334 sided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without
335 interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh
336 tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with
337 my breast. I again paused, and holding the flam-
338 beaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays
339 upon the figure within.
341 A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting
342 suddenly from the throat of the chained form,
343 seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief
344 moment I hesitated -- I trembled. Unsheathing my
345 rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess;
346 but the thought of an instant reassured me. I
347 placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the cata-
348 combs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall.
349 I replied to the yells of him who clamoured. I re-
350 echoed -- I aided -- I surpassed them in volume and
351 in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew
352 still.
354 It was now midnight, and my task was drawing
355 to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth,
356 and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the
357 last and the eleventh; there remained but a single
358 stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled
359 with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined
360 position. But now there came from out the niche
361 a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head.
362 It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty
363 in recognising as that of the noble Fortunato. The
364 voice said --
366 "Ha! ha! ha! -- he! he! -- a very good joke
367 indeed -- an excellent jest. We will have many a
368 rich laugh about it at the palazzo -- he! he! he! --
369 over our wine -- he! he! he!"
371 "The Amontillado!" I said.
373 "He! he! he! -- he! he! he! -- yes, the Amon-
374 tillado. But is it not getting late? Will not they
375 be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato
376 and the rest? Let us be gone."
378 "Yes," I said "let us be gone."
382 "Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
384 But to these words I hearkened in vain for a
385 reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud --
387 "Fortunato!"
389 No answer. I called again --
391 "Fortunato!"
393 No answer still. I thrust a torch through the
394 remaining aperture and let it fall within. There
395 came forth in return only a jingling of the bells.
396 My heart grew sick -- on account of the dampness of
397 the catacombs. I hastened to make an end of my
398 labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I
399 plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-
400 erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of
401 a century no mortal has disturbed them.
403 In pace requiescat!
405 END.

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