THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO.
THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well
know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave
utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged ; this was a
point definitively settled - but the very definitiveness with which
it was resolved, precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish,
but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution
overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger
fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont,
to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was
at the thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point - this Fortunato - although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on
his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso
spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the
time and opportunity - 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 this respect I did not differ from him materially : I
was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely
whenever I could.
It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with
excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore
motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head
was surmounted 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 Fortunado, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day ! But I have received a pipe
of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."
"How?" said he. "Amontillado? A Pipe? Impossible!
And in the middle of the carnival !"
"I have my doubts, " I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay
the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You
were not to be 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 a critical 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 your own."
"Come, let us go."
"To your vaults."
"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi --"
"I have no engagement ; - come."
"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which 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 distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."
Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm. Putting on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire closely about my
person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
There were no attendants at home ; they had absconded to make merry in honor of the time. I had told them that I should not return
until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir
from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure
their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was
I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway
that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding
staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at
length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp
ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.
The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.
"The pipe," said he.
"It is farther on," said I ; "but observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls."
He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with two filmy orbs that distilled 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 is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved ; you are
happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no
matter. We will 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 notkill me. I shall not die of a cough."
"True - true," I replied ; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily - but you should use all proper caution.
A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps."
Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its 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 me familiarly, 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 serpent rampant 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 grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through walls of piled
bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost
recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold
to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.
"The nitre !" I said : "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of
moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is
too late. Your cough --"
"It is nothing," he said ; "let us go on. But first, another draught of the
I broke and reached him a flaçon of De Grâve. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw
the 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.
"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaire.
"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."
"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak, and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued
our route in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of
low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a
deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux
rather to glow than flame.
At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another lessspacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the
vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.
Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this
manner. From the fourth the bones had been thrown down, and lay
promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some
size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones,
we perceived a still interior recess, in depth about four feet, in
width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been
constructed for no especial use in itself, but formed merely the
interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the
catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of
It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavored to pry into the depths of the recess. Its termination the
feeble light did not enable us to see.
"Proceed," I said ; "herein is the Amontillado. As for
"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In an
instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his
progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment
more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two
iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally.
From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock.
Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few
seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist.
Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.
"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall ; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed it is very damp. Once more let me
implore you to return. No ? Then I must positively leave you.
But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power."
"The Amontillado !" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.
"True," I replied ; "the Amontillado."
As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a
quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with
the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of
I had scarcely laid the first tier of my masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure
worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning
cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken
man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second
tier, and the third, and the fourth ; and then I heard the furious
vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes,
during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction,
I ceased my labors and sat down upon the bones. When at last the
clanking subsided , I resumed the trowel, and finished without
interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall
was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and
holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays
upon the figure within.
A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back.
For a brief moment I hesitated - I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier,
I began to grope with it about the recess : but the thought of an
instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the
catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall. I replied
to the yells of him who clamored. I re-echoed - I aided - I
surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the
clamorer grew still.
It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished
a portion of the last and the eleventh ; there remained but a
single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its
weight ; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now
there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon
my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in
recognising as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said -
"Ha ! ha ! ha ! - he ! he ! - a very good joke indeed - an excellent jest. We will 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 getting late ? Will not they be awaiting us at the
palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest ? Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."
"_For the love of God, Montressor !_"
"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 and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick - on account of the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened to make an end of my labor. I forced the last stone into its position ; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat !