Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask of Amontillado

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 

"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 your own."

"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 

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 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. 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 

"The pipe," said he.

"It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white webwork 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 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 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 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 

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 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.

"It is this," I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my 

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the 

"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 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 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 

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to pry into 
the depths of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to 

"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 

"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 
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 

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."


"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 -- on account of the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened to make an end 
of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. 
Against the new masonry I reerected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a 
century no mortal has disturbed them.

In pace requiescat!