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THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO
EDGAR ALLAN POE Whether it be true or not that Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is inventor of the short story, it is certain that he was the first to contribute any considerable criticism to that form, and to make conscious use of its technique. Poe was fond of the horrible, the pathetic, the gruesome, and the mysterious. His stories are laid in an eerie realm of imagination which is independent of time and place. Much of their tremendous effectiveness is due to the genius which enabled him to grip his readers by producing a single vivid impression in each tale. He asserted that he decided first upon the climax of his story and then arranged every event carefully to lead up to and never to overshadow the desired end. “The Cask of Amontillado" (1846) shows Poe's diabolic ingenuity in portraying insanity.
The thousand injuries of Fortunato | the supreme madness of the carnival seaI had borne as I best could, but when he son, that I encountered my friend. He ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. accosted me with excessive warmth, for You, who so well know the nature of my he had been drinking much. The man soul, will not suppose, however, that I wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting gave utterance to a threat. At length I parti-striped dress, and his head was surwould be avenged; this was a point mounted by the conical cap and bells. I was definitely settled—but the very definite so pleased to see him, that I thought I ness with which it was resolved precluded should never have done wringing his hand. the idea of risk. I must not only pun I said to him-“My dear Fortunato, ish, but punish with impunity. A wrong you are luckily met. How remarkably is unredressed when retribution overtakes well you are looking to-day! But I have its redresser. It is equally unredressed received a pipe of what passes for Amonwhen the avenger fails to make himself tillado, and I have my doubts." felt as such to him who has done the “How?” said he, "Amontillado? A wrong.
pipe? Impossible! And in the middle It must be understood that neither by of the carnival ?" word nor deed had I given Fortunato “I have my doubts," I replied; "and I cause to doubt my good will. I con | was. silly enough to pay the full Amontinued, as was my wont, to smile in his tillado price without consulting you in face, and he did not perceive that my the matter. You were not to be found, smile now was at the thought of his im and I was fearful of losing a bargain." molation.
"Amontillado!” He had a weak point-this Fortunato “I have my doubts." -although in other regards he was a man "Amontillado!" to be respected and even feared. He “And I must satisfy them." prided himself on his connoisseurship in “Amontillado!" wine. Few Italians have the true vir "As you are engaged, I am on my way tuoso spirit. For the most part their to Luchesi. If any one has a critical enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and turn, it is he. He will tell me " opportunity to practice imposture upon “Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from the British and Austrian millionaires. In Sherry." painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his “And yet some fools will have it that countrymen, was a quack, but in the mat his taste is a match for your own." ter of old wines he was sincere. In this “Come, let us go." respect I did not differ from him materi “Whither?” ally; I was skillful in the Italian vintages “To your vaults.” myself, and bought largely whenever I "My friend, no; I will not impose could.
upon your good nature. I perceive you It was about dusk, one evening during | have an engagement. Luchesi
“I have no engagement; come.”
ugh! ugh! ugh!-ugh! ugh! ugh! “My friend, no. It is not the engage ugh! ugh! ugh!” ment, but the severe cold with which I My poor friend found it impossible to perceive you are afflicted. The vaults reply for many minutes. are insufferably damp. They are en-| "It is nothing,” he said, at last. crusted with nitre."
"Come," I said, with decision, "we will "Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is go back; your health is precious. You nothing. Amontillado! You have been are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you imposed upon; and as for Luchesi, he are happy, as once I was. You are a cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontil man to be missed. For me it is no matlado.”
ter. We will go back; you will be ill, Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed and I cannot be responsible. Besides, himself of my arm. Putting on a mask there is Luchesi ” of black silk, and drawing a roquelaurel | "Enough,” he said ; "the cough is a closely about my person, I suffered him to mere nothing: it will not kill me. I shall hurry me to my palazzo.
not die of a cough.” There were no attendants at home; "True-true," I replied; "and, indeed, they had absconded to make merry in I had no intention of alarming you unnehonor of the time. I had told them that cessarily—but you should use all proper I should not return until the morning, caution. A draught of this Medoc will and had given them explicit orders not to defend us from the damps." stir from the house. These orders were Here I knocked off the neck of a botsufficient, I well knew, to insure their tle which I drew from a long row of its immediate disappearance, one and all, as fellows that lay upon the mould. soon as my back was turned.
“Drink," I said, presenting him the I took from their sconces two flam | wine. beaux, and giving one to Fortunato, He raised it to his lips with a leer. He bowed him through several suites of rooms | paused and nodded to me familiarly, to the archway that led into the vaults. while his bells jingled. I passed down a long and winding stair | “I drink,” he said, “to the buried that case, requesting him to be cautious as he | repose around us." followed. We came at length to the foot "And I to your long life.” of the descent, and stood together on the | He again took my arm, and we prodamp ground of the catacombs of the ceeded. Montresors.
"These vaults,” he said, "are extenThe gait of my friend was unsteady, sive.” and the bells upon his cap jingled as he “The Montresors," I replied, "were strode.
a great and numerous family.” "The pipe ?” said he.
"I forget your arms." "It is farther on," said I ; "but observe "A huge human foot d'or, in a field the white web-work which gleams from azure; the foot crushes a serpent ramthese cavern walls."
pant whose fangs are imbedded in the He turned towards me, and looked | heel.” into my eyes with two filmy orbs that dis "And the motto?" tilled the rheum of intoxication.
“Nemio me impune lacessit.'4 “Nitre?” he asked, at length.
"Good !” he said. “Nitre," I replied. “How long have The wine sparkled in his eyes and the you had that cough?”
bells jingled. My own fancy grew "Ugh! ugh! ugh!-ugh! ugh! ugh! warm with the Medoc. We had passed
1A kind of cloak.
through walls of piled bones, with casks | sides of this interior crypt were still ornaand puncheons intermingling, into the mented in this manner. From the fourth inmost recesses of the catacombs. I the bones had been thrown down, and lay paused again, and this time I made bold promiscuously upon the earth, forming to seize Fortunato by an arm above the at one point a mound of some size. elbow.
Within the wall thus exposed by the dis"The nitre!" I said ; "see, it increases. placing of the bones, we perceived a still It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We interior recess, in depth about four feet, are below the river's bed. The drops of in width three, in height six or seven. It moisture trickled among the bones. Come, seemed to have been constructed for no we will go back ere it is too late. Your especial use within itself, but formed cough "
merely the interval between two of the "It is nothing," he said; “let us go on. colossal supports of the roof of the cataBut first, another draught of the Medoc." | combs, and was backed by one of their
I broke and reached him a flagon of De circumscribing walls of solid granite. Grave. He emptied it at a breath. His It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifteyes flashed with a fierce light. He ing his dull torch, endeavored to pry into laughed and threw the bottle upwards the depths of the recess. Its termination with a gesticulation I did not understand. the feeble light did not enable us to see.
I looked at him in surprise. He re “Proceed," I cried; "herein is the peated the movement-a grotesque one. Amontillado. As for Luchesi "
"You do not comprehend ?” he said. | “He is an ignoramus," interrupted my : "Not I," I replied.
friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, "Then you are not of the brother while I followed immediately at his heels. hood."
In an instant he had reached the ex“How?"
tremity of the niche, and finding his "You are not of the masons."
progress arrested by the rock, stood "Yes, yes," I said, "yes, yes."
stupidly bewildered. A moment more "You? Impossible! A mason?” and I had fettered him to the granite. In “A mason," I replied.
its surface were two iron staples, distant "A sign," he said.
from each other about two feet, hori“It is this,” I answered, producing a |zontally. From one of these depended a trowel from beneath the folds of my short chain, from the other a padlock. roquelaure.
Throwing the links about his waist, it "You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a was but the work of a few seconds to sefew paces. “But let us proceed to the cure it. He was too much astounded to Amontillado.”
resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped "Be it so," I said, replacing the tool back from the recess. beneath my cloak, and again offering him "Pass your hand,” I said, "over the my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. We continued our route in search of the Indeed it is very damp. Once more let Amontillado. We passed through a me implore you to return. No? Then range of low arches, descended, passed on, I must positively leave you. But I must and descending again, arrived at a deep first render you all the little attentions in crypt, in which the foulness of the air my power.” caused our flambeaux rather to glow than "The Amontillado!" ejaculated my flame.
friend, not yet recovered from his astonAt the most remote end of the crypt | ishment. there appeared another less spacious. Its "True," I replied; "the Amontillado.” walls had been lined with human remains As I said these words I busied myself piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion among the pile of bones of which I have of the great catacombs of Paris. Three before spoken. Throwing them aside, I
soon uncovered a quantity of building-| tier. I had finished a portion of the last stone and mortar. With these materials and the eleventh; there remained but a and with the aid of my trowel, I began single stone to be fitted and plastered in. vigorously to wall up the entrance of the I struggled with its weight; I placed it niche.
partially in its destined position. But I had scarcely laid the first tier of the now there came from out the niche a low masonry when I discovered that the in laugh that erected the hairs upon my toxication of Fortunato had in a great head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, measure worn off. The earliest indica- | which I had difficulty in recognizing as tion I had of this was a low moaning cry that of the noble Fortunato. The voice from the depth of the recess. It was not said the cry of a drunken man. There was “Ha! ha! ha!-he! he!-a very good then a long and obstinate silence. I laid joke indeed an excellent jest. We will the second tier, and the third, and the | have many a rich laugh about it at the fourth; and then I heard the furious. vi palazzo-he! he! hel-over our winebrations of the chain. The noise lasted he! he! he!" for several minutes, during which, that I | “The Amontillado!" I said. might hearken to it with the more satis "He! he! he!-he! he! helyes, the faction, I ceased my labors and sat down Amontillado. But is it not getting late? upon the bones. When at last the clank- Will not they be awaiting us at the paing subsided, I resumed the trowel, and lazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? finished without interruption the fifth, the Let us be gone." . sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall | “Yes,” I said, “let us be gone." was now nearly upon a level with my “For the love of God, Montresor!” breast. I again paused and holding the “Yes," I said, "for the love of God !” flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a But to these words I hearkened in vain few feeble rays upon the figure within. for a reply. I grew impatient. I called
A succession of loud and shrill screams, aloud bursting suddenly from the throat of the "Fortunato!” chained form, seemed to thrust me vio No answer. I called againlently back. For a brief moment I hesi "Fortunato!" tated-I trembled. Unsheathing my No answer still. I thrust a torch rapier, I began to grope with it about the through the remaining aperture and let recess; but the thought of an instant re it fall within. There came forth in reassured me. I placed my hand upon the turn only a jingling of the bells. My solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt heart grew sick-on account of the dampsatisfied. I reapproached the wall. I ness of the catacombs. I hastened to replied to the yells of him who clamored. make an end of my labor. I forced the I re-echoed—I aided-I surpassed them last stone into its position; I plastered it in volume and in strength. I did this, up. Against the new masonry I reand the clamorer grew still.
erected the old rampart of bones. For It was now midnight, and my task the half of a century no mortal has diswas drawing to a close. I had com- turbed them. In pace requiescat!! pleted the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth | "May he rest in peace.”
THE OUTCASTS OF POKER FLAT!
BRET HARTE Bret Harte (1839-1902) is the father of the American story of local color. To the advantage of a new and untried field, the gold-mining West of the mid-century, he added a Dickens-like ability to create character types which are true to life and which promise to preserve for the future a picturesque period in our history. His best stories are: "Luck of Roaring Camp," "Tennessee's Partner," and "Outcasts of Poker Flat" (1869). In the last the rich contrasts afforded by the juxtaposition of vice and virtue in a tragic situation have raised the story to the rank of a classic.
As Mr. John Oakhurst, gambler, ) is but due to the sex, however, to state stepped into the main street of Poker that their impropriety was professional, Flat on the morning of the twenty-third and it was only in such easily established of November, 1850, he was conscious of standards of evil that Poker Flat vena change in its moral atmosphere since the | tured to sit in judgment. preceding night. Two or three men, Mr. Oakhurst was right in supposing conversing earnestly together, ceased as that he was included in this category. A he approached, and exchanged significant few of the committee had urged hanging glances. There was a Sabbath lull in him as a possible example, and a sure the air, which, in a settlernent unused to method of reimbursing themselves from Sabbath influences, looked ominous. his pockets of the sums he had won from
Mr. Oakhurst's calm, handsome face them. “It's agin justice,” said Jim betrayed small concern in these indica- Wheeler, "to let this yer young man tions. Whether he was conscious of any from Roaring Camp-an entire stranger predisposing cause, was another question. -carry away our money.” But a crude "I reckon they're after somebody," he re sentiment of equity residing in the breasts flected; "likely it's me.” He returned to | of those who had been fortunate enough his pocket the handkerchief with which he to win from Mr. Oakhurst overruled this had been whipping away the red dust of narrower local prejudice. Poker Flat froin his neat boots, and Mr. Oakhurst received his sentence quietly discharged his mind of any fur with philosophic calmness, none the less ther conjecture.
coolly that he was aware of the hesitaIn point of fact, Poker Flat was “after | tion of his judges. He was too much of somebody.” It had lately suffered the a gambler not to accept Fate. With him loss of several thousand dollars, two valu life was at best an uncertain game, and able horses, and a prominent citizen. It he recognized the usual percentage in was experiencing a spasm of virtuous re favor of the dealer. action, quite as lawless and ungovernable A body of armed men accompanied the as any of the acts that had provoked it. deported wickedness of Poker Flat to the A secret committee had determined to rid outskirts of the settlement. Besides Mr. the town of all improper persons. This Oakhurst, who was known to be a coolly was done permanently in regard of two desperate man, and for whose intimidamen who were then hanging from the tion the armed escort was intended, the boughs of a sycamore in the gulch, and expatriated party consisted of a young temporarily in the banishment of certain woman familiarly known as “The Duchother objectionable characters. I regret ess"; another, who had won the title of to say that some of these were ladies. It “Mother Shipton”; and “Uncle Billy," a
suspected sluice-robber and confirmed From The Luck of Roaring Camp by
drunkard. The cavalcade provoked no Bret Harte. Reprinted by permission of, and by special arrangement with, Houghton Mif
comments from the spectators, nor was Alin Company.
any word uttered by the escort. Only,