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 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 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 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, 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–
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 reply 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 re-erected
the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has