"The Cask of Amontillado"
By Edgar Allan Poe

Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by by Students and Staff of The University of Virginia, Veronica Scott
    Page Images    

Sources

Philadelphia : Open Court Publishing Co, 1846Text for this digital edition drawn from The University of Virginia's etext center and checked against the first edition text using The Internet Archive. Page images are drawn from The Internet Archive's copy of Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book

Editorial Statements

Research informing these annotations draws on publicly-accessible resources, with links provided where possible. Annotations have also included common knowledge, defined as information that can be found in multiple reliable sources. If you notice an error in these annotations, please contact lic.open.anthology@gmail.com.

Original spelling and capitalization is retained, though the long s has been silently modernized and ligatured forms are not encoded.

Hyphenation has not been retained, except where necessary for the sense of the word.

Page breaks have been retained. Catchwords, signatures, and running headers have not.

Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section for more information.


Citation

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Cask of Amontillado". Godey's Lady's Book, Open Court Publishing Co, 1846 , Volume XXXIII, Issue 5 pp 216-218 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Poe/poe-cask. Accessed: 2024-03-02T09:23:35.619Z

Linked Data: Places related to this work.

216 THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO.

BY EDGAR A. 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 definitely, 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 unredressedunredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who had done 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 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 virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practice imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmarygemmary, 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 motleymotley. 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 bargin."

"Amontillado!"

"I have my doubts."

"Amontillado!"

"And I must satisfy them."

"Amontillado!"

"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me--"

"Luchresi 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. Luchresi--"

"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 nitrenitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, 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 roquelaireroquelaire closely around my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzopalazzo.

There were not attendants at home; they had abscondedabsconded to make merry in honour 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. The 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 flambeauxflambeaux, 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," he said.

"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 rheumrheum of intoxication.

"Nitre?" he asked, at length.

"Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that cough?"

217

"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 I once 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 Luchresi--"

"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 Medocmedoc 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 lacessitnemo."

"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 puncheonspuncheons 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 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."

"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, "a sign."

"It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaireroquelaire 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 him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our rout 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, endeavoured to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable use to see.

"Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchresi--"

"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 nicheniche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fetteredfettered 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 resit. 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 will first render you all the little attentions in my power."

"The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.

218

"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 the 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 obstinateobstinate 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, duing which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours 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 clamoured. I re-echoed, I aided, I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eight, the ninth, and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it 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 recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said--

"Ha! ha! ha!--he! 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, Montresor!"

"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; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into 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!requiesat

unredressedNot redressed; not set right; uncorrected; unrecompensed. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] gemmaryOf or pertaining to gems; concerned with or skilled in gems. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] motleyCloth woven from threads of two or more colours; a piece of this cloth. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] nitreOriginally: †natron, native sodium carbonate (obsolete). In later use: sodium or potassium nitrate; spec. potassium nitrate (saltpetre). Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] roquelaireA man's knee-length cloak with a cape collar, fashionable during the 18th cent. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] roquelaireA man's knee-length cloak with a cape collar, fashionable during the 18th cent. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] palazzoA palatial mansion, esp. in Italy; (in extended use) any large and imposing building or residence. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] abscondedTo hide, conceal; to obscure. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] flambeauxA torch; esp. one made of several thick wicks dipped in wax; a lighted torch. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] rheumWatery or mucous secretions, esp. as collecting in or dripping from the eyes, nose, or mouth, originally believed to originate in the brain or head and to be capable of causing disease; †a secretion of this nature (obsolete). In early use also: †a flow or flux (of humours) (obsolete). Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] medocRed wine produced in Médoc; (as a count noun) a wine produced in this region. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] puncheonOriginally: a large barrel or cask, esp. one of definite capacity, varying for different liquids and commodities (now historical). Now: spec. a cask used for fermenting or ageing wine. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] roquelaireA man's knee-length cloak with a cape collar, fashionable during the 18th cent. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] nicheA shallow ornamental recess or hollow set into a wall, usually for the purpose of containing a statue or other decorative object. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] fetteredTo bind with or as with fetters; to chain, fasten, shackle. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] obstinateFirmly adhering to an opinion or chosen course of action despite argument, persuasion, or entreaty; inflexible, resolute, stubborn, self-willed; indicative of or characterized by inflexibility or stubbornness. Usually with pejorative connotation. Source: Oxford English Dictionary. - [VBS] requiesatLatin for "Rest in peace". - [VBS] nemoLatin for "No one attacks me with impunity". - [VBS]

Footnotes

unredressed_Not redressed; not set right; uncorrected; unrecompensed. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
gemmary_Of or pertaining to gems; concerned with or skilled in gems. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
motley_Cloth woven from threads of two or more colours; a piece of this cloth. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
nitre_Originally: †natron, native sodium carbonate (obsolete). In later use: sodium or potassium nitrate; spec. potassium nitrate (saltpetre). Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
roquelaire_A man's knee-length cloak with a cape collar, fashionable during the 18th cent. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
roquelaire_A man's knee-length cloak with a cape collar, fashionable during the 18th cent. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
palazzo_A palatial mansion, esp. in Italy; (in extended use) any large and imposing building or residence. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
absconded_To hide, conceal; to obscure. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
flambeaux_A torch; esp. one made of several thick wicks dipped in wax; a lighted torch. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
rheum_Watery or mucous secretions, esp. as collecting in or dripping from the eyes, nose, or mouth, originally believed to originate in the brain or head and to be capable of causing disease; †a secretion of this nature (obsolete). In early use also: †a flow or flux (of humours) (obsolete). Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
medoc_Red wine produced in Médoc; (as a count noun) a wine produced in this region. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
puncheon_Originally: a large barrel or cask, esp. one of definite capacity, varying for different liquids and commodities (now historical). Now: spec. a cask used for fermenting or ageing wine. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
roquelaire_A man's knee-length cloak with a cape collar, fashionable during the 18th cent. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
niche_A shallow ornamental recess or hollow set into a wall, usually for the purpose of containing a statue or other decorative object. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
fettered_To bind with or as with fetters; to chain, fasten, shackle. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
obstinate_Firmly adhering to an opinion or chosen course of action despite argument, persuasion, or entreaty; inflexible, resolute, stubborn, self-willed; indicative of or characterized by inflexibility or stubbornness. Usually with pejorative connotation. Source: Oxford English Dictionary.
requiesat_Latin for "Rest in peace".
nemo_Latin for "No one attacks me with impunity".