Story 7 - The Cask of Amontillado by Spitoufs
Story 7 - The Cask of Amontillado by Spitoufs
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 Fortunato, 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.
Amontillado !
I have my doubts.
Amontillado !
And I must satisfy them.
Amontillado !
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.
Whither ?
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 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 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 !
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 not
kill 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 dor, 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 rivers 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 Medoc.
I broke and reached him a flaon of De Grve. 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.
How ?
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
At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another
less spacious. 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 solid granite.
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 Luchesi -
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 the niche.
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 -
Fortunato !
No answer. I called again -
Fortunato !
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 !