THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO
by Edgar Allan Poe
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."
"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
"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; and putting on
a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaure 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 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 upon 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 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 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 long walls
of piled skeletons, 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 Medoc."
I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. 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
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement -- a
"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 from beneath the
folds of my roquelaire a trowel.
"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 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 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 side 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 crypt or recess, in depth about four
feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been
constructed for no especial use within 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
"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! 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 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; it was the dampness of the catacombs
that made it so. 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!
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~