The Cask of Amontillado Read online

  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