Happy Halloween

Boo! (k) s

Happy Halloween, everyone.  The Bookshelf Battle month of Halloween literature has cruised along non-stop but alas, it must come to an end, for the Fall/Winter tradition of America is as follows:

  • October – Celebrate Death
  • November – Stuff face with game bird
  • December – Celebrate Jesus’ Birthday by Asking a Fat Man to Bring Us High-End Electronics that will be obsolete by Valentine’s Day

Seventeen days of Halloween literature posts – bringing you discussions of horror classics, zombie fiction, vampires, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and more!

Plus, I tweeted Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” in its entirety!  No one has ever been that a) awesome or b) stupid or c) had a desire to waste time in such a ridiculous manner before.  Check it out at #tweettheraven and as always feel free to follow me @bookshelfbattle

Alas, starting tomorrow I’ll have to leave the horror fiction fest behind but – is there really any good Thanksgiving fiction?  Hmmm…maybe I’ll have to divebomb straight into Christmas fiction.

After all, this is that odd time of year where you walk into the store to find a) half-off clearance on psycho zombie masks next to b) Rudolph and Santa Claus paraphernalia, wrapping paper, candy canes and so on.

Thanks for reading, fellow bookshelf battlers.  Until next time, this is the proprietor of an underappreciated book blog signing off.

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Double Double Toil and Trouble – The Witches of MacBeth

Happy Halloween!

Have you ever wondered how witches obtained their witchy personality traits?

***Crickets chirp***

Ahem.  This is your cue.

“Hey!  Bookshelf Battle Guy!  How did witches obtain their witchy personality traits?”

Oh thank you, Reader.  I thought you’d never ask.

Well, the common conception of a witch is a nasty old hag throwing all kinds of weird ingredients (usually animals or parts of animals) into a boiling cauldron.

We could discuss all day witch-tastic imagery from all sorts of literature but to me, Act 4, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth stands out.

So park your broomstick and grab your eye of newt, because here are some excerpts and quotes:

SCENE 1 – A cavern – in the middle is a boiling cauldron.

Thunder.  Enter the three witches.

FIRST WITCH

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d

SECOND WITCH

Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined

BOOKSHELFBATTLE – So, four then?  The pig in your hedges whined four times?  Why are you hags making this so difficult?

THIRD WITCH

Harpier cries, ‘Tis time, ’tis time.

FIRST WITCH

Round about the cauldron go;

In the poison’d entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone

Days and nights has thirty-one

Swelter’d venom, sleeping got,

Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot

BOOKSHELF BATTLE GUY: Pot of poisoned entrails?  That doesn’t sound charming at all.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

SECOND WITCH

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog

Wool of bat and tongue of dog

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

BOOKSHELFBATTLE GUY – My condolences, amputated animals.  Apparently witches used to think your parts were magical.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble

THIRD WITCH

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf

Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,

Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Gall of goat, and slips of yew

Silver’d in the moon’s eclips,

Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips

Finger of birth-strangled babe

Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,

Make the gruel thick and slab:

Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron

For the ingredients of our cauldron.

BOOKSHELF BATTLE GUY – OK, now they’re getting ridiculous.  I don’t even know where to begin.  First of all, allow me to apologize for the racial insensitivity.  What can I say?  This is an excerpt taking from a 1500’s era writer who was writing about ancient witches so it is not like you can really expect a lot of political correctness.  Also, how many babies were getting strangled in those days that their fingers were just apparently readily available to be tossed into witches’ brews?  Those were dark times, my friends, dark times indeed.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

SECOND WITCH

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.

BOOKSHELFBATTLE GUY: – This took place in Scotland, didn’t it?   Where would they have even found a baboon?

ENTER HECTATE to the other three Witches.

HECTATE

O well done!  I commend your pains;

And every one shall share i’ the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

MUSIC AND A SONG: Black spirits…

HECTATE retires

SECOND WITCH

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, locks,

Whoever knocks!

ENTER MACBETH

MACBETH

How now, you secret, black and midnight hags!

What is’t you do?

BOOKSHELF BATTLE GUY:  I have no comment, other than I think it is funny that MacBeth openly refers to them as hags.  “Hello, hags!”

Well folks, that concludes my discussion of MacBeth’s witches.  Grab your wolf teeth and dragon scales and toss them into the comment section.

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Readers, if there’s one lesson you ever learn from this humble book blog, I hope it is this one:

Never make a deal with something or someone evil.

You scoff but you know it is true.  Ask a source of evil to make you win the lottery and you will…only to get hit by a bus on the way to cash in the ticket.  Evil has one of the twisted view of irony ever known.

So tonight, in bookshelfbattle.com ‘s ongoing Public Domain Horror Fiction Series, check out the short story, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, first published in the early 1900’s.  Short summary – A couple and their adult son find a Monkey’s Paw from India.  Supposedly, it has the power to grant wishes.  Sadly, they learn the hard way that with their wishes comes evil irony.

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/12122/12122-h/12122-h.htm

“The other two wishes,” she replied rapidly. “We’ve only had one.”
“Was not that enough?” he demanded fiercely.
“No,” she cried, triumphantly; “we’ll have one more. Go down and get it quickly, and wish our boy alive again.”

- W.W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw

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The Cask of Amontillado – Thoughts, Review, Analysis

If you are one of the 3-5 people who read this blog on a regular basis (make that 6 whenever my Aunt Gertie can figure out how to turn her computer on) then you have probably become exhausted by the virtual Poe fest it has become around here as of late.

What can I say? ‘Tis the season for spookyness.  And few authors are as spooky as Edgar Allan Poe.  Don’t worry.  By Saturday it will be the season of stuffing your face full of game bird and arm twisting your loved ones into purchasing you high end electronics that will coincidentaly become outdated by next Christmas when a slightly modified version arrives.

“Buy the iPad.  No, buy the iPad 2.  No, buy the iPad 3, now with flavor crystals!”

So let’s talk about The Cask of Amontillado, Poe’s 1846 short story.  I’ve posted the full text.  If you haven’t read it yet, you should.  It’s ok.  We’ll wait.

You’re back?  OK good.  For starters, we have Montresor, a character that you might refer to as “an unreliable narrator.”  He introduces the story by informing the reader that Fortunato has irreparably insulted him.  Montresor does not describe in detail what exactly happened, so have no idea if Fortunato did indeed engage in an unspeakable, unforgivable act upon Montresor, or if Fortunato just doled out one of those insignificant slights that we all have to deal with on a daily basis.  Someone accidentally bumps into you on the street and doesn’t say excuse me, someone eats the last slice of pizza you were saving – these things just happen, and most normal people just let them go.

But most people are not Montresor.

For purposes of this blog, let’s just assume that Fortunato erased Montresor’s DVR, on which had been stored an entire season’s worth of Dancing with the Stars.  Montresor will now have to face a life where he not only a) does not know which star danced with who but also b) which stars were judged to in fact be, the better dancers.  Truly, a gruesome fate I would not wish on my worst enemy.

At a carnival in Italy, Montresor meets up with Fortunato and informs him that he has purchased a pricey wine – Amontillado.  Montresor worries that he may have been ripped off, that the wine may only be an Amontillado knock-off.  (And hey, if you ask me, if you’re buying your Amontillado off the back of a truck or from a shady character on some dark street corner instead of from a reputable, licensed and bonded Amontillado dealer, well then frankly sir, you takes your chances).

Fortunato fancies himself a wine aficionado and Montresor takes advantage of this.  Montresor drops hints that he’d love it if Fortunato would accompany him to his family catacombs (because apparently in the Europe of yesteryear, people would just have an underground area where they would store a) the bones of their dead relatives and b) booze because it stays cooler underground) to taste the wine and confirm whether or not it is actually Amontillado.  Montresor furthers adds he’ll get Luchresi to taste the Amontillado instead.  This infuriates Fortunato, as he considers Luchresi to be a rival to his own wine tasting abilities.

It’s basically the equivalent of telling Superman, “Oh no, Superman, you take a rest.  I’ll call Batman to come get the bad guy.”  Superman would totally kick the bad guy’s ass rather than be one-upped by the Caped Crusader.

Montresor leads Fortunato deep into the catacombs.  Now, all this time, Fortunato has been wearing a jingle belled jester’s hat (Poe’s heavy handed way of letting you know that you should consider Fortunato to be a fool).  Fortunato is also three sheets to the wind and drunk off his behind having spent the day at the carnival drinking anything not nailed down.  So in other words, Fortunato is in a very vulnerable state and Montresor takes advantage of this.

At one point, Fortunato does reveal his condescending side by poking fun at Montresor for not being a mason.  Fortunato says he is a mason and shows Fortunato a trowel – an ominous sign of things to come.  However, Fortunato meant the Mason organization, not an actual person that works with brick and mortar.

Montresor chains Fortunato to a wall in a small area and then walls it up with bricks.  As he does so, Fortunato states a hope that this is just a joke and then eventually says the famous line, “For the love of God, Montresor!”  In other words, he’s essentially telling Montresor to show him some pity and let him go, that this whole idea of bricking him up in a wall is pretty dang unreasonable (the understatement of the year).

When Montresor is about to put in the last brick, he calls Fortunato’s name.  Fortunato does not answer?  Why?  Who knows?  It could be Fortunato did not want to give Montresor the satisfaction, could be that he just gave up and did not want to talk anymore, could be that the exhaustion of the whole experience wore him out and he died.  The real question  – did Montresor care that Fortunato did not answer?

Montresor ends the tale by noting that Fortunato has been in the wall for 50 years untouched.

All in all, a spooktacular piece of literature by one of the horror genre’s classic masters.

 

 

 

 

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Aliens!  Spaceships!  Intergalactic travel!  The most unbelievable part?  For me, it is that this novel was first published in 1898, a time of virtually little to none technology at all (at least compared to today’s standards) and yet the author was able to envision beings from outer space utilizing technology to attack Earth.

Thankfully, it still hasn’t happened, but it just amazes me that a person who grew up in a time of the horse and buggy could have had such a vivid imagination.

Check out Project Gutenberg’s free copy:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”  – H.H. Wells, The War of the Worlds

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Voter Lookup

Hi Diddly Doodly, Blogarinos.  Your friendly neighborhood book blogger here lending a helping hand to those fine folks at wordpress to help you, the reading masses to learn more about voting.  Quick!  Someone nominate me for sainthood.

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

When I first heard that FOX was going to put out a Sleepy Hollow TV show, I naturally assumed this would be yet another example of Hollywood hacks scraping the bottom of the barrel to bring us yet another overdone idea rather than go to drawing board and come up with something fresh and original.

I was wrong.  They came up with a fantastic spin on an old legend and I must admit it is one of those shows I now look forward to watching every week.  I particularly enjoy Ichabod’s observations of the modern world around him.

But before it was on FOX, or a Tim Burton movie (which was also excellent), it was a tale written by Washington Irving.

And like the Horseman’s knogan, Mr. Irving’s copyright protections are equally non-existent.

Thanks again Project Gutenberg for preserving classic stories like this one for the ages.

Check it out:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41

“I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access; while others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for a man must battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand common hearts, is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette, is indeed a hero.” – Washington Irving,  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Public Domain Horror Fiction – Hound of the Baskervilles

In case you didn’t hear, Sherlock Holmes is now in the public domain!

So if you are reading along with bookshelfbattle.com ‘s Halloween Literary Extravaganza, then head on over to Project Gutenberg and check out one of the scarier mysteries in Sherlock Holmes’ Case files.

A link to The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes)  by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2852

“Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill.” – Sherlock Holmes

An astute quote as it can not only be applied to the instant situation that Holmes and Watson found themselves in the middle of, but also to a variety of occasions that happen in life.  Change happens and we rarely know ahead of time whether or not said change will be for the better or worse until after it has already happened.

Happy Reading!

 

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The Raven in Four Easy Steps

I was hoping to do a whole verse-by-verse analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s, “The Raven” but honestly, who’s got the time?

I’ve been tweeting it all month, thus proving to the world a) my love of literature and/or b) my quintessential nerdyness.  Feel free to check it out at #tweettheraven or follow along @bookshelfbattle

Anyway, here are some thoughts:

1) Take out all the darkness and the poem’s construction in and of itself is beautiful.  The rhyme scheme, the positioning of the words – it is a very carefully crafted piece of art and the painstaking time it took to put it together shows.

2) What’s it about?  I suppose it could just be about a bird that flies in, parks its birdy butt on a bust above the narrator’s  chamber door and refuses to leave.  I don’t know about you but I hate it when that happens.

3)  But it is really more than that.  The narrator lost his love, the late Lenore (assumably the name was chosen because it rhymes with “nevermore.”  He interrogates the the feathered intruder – Will he ever find peace and forget Lenore?  Will he ever see her again in Heaven?  All his questions are met with a stern and absolute, “Nevermore!”

4)  So what’s the meaning?  The raven in this poem is a voice of an unrelenting, irrevocably unflinching, “No!”  Sometimes in life, a door closes and once shut, can never be opened again.  Whether it is the death of a loved one or a missed opportunity, no matter how much we sit around and try to distract ourselves with TV, movies, video games, iPads (or quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore) there is still that little voice in our heads, not unlike that of a pesky little raven, that reminds us, “No!  You can’t have X (whatever it is you miss).  Get over it!  Move on!  Not happening!  NEVERMORE!”

So that’s it.  Thank you fellow literature enthusiasts.  This has been The Raven in four easy steps.

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Full Text of “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe

More Public Domain Halloween Horror Fiction!  “For the love of God, Montresor!”  Yes, a classic quote from another of Poe’s timeless horror classic.  In this one, the narrator becomes so insulted by a slight levied at him by Fortunato that he, well…I don’t want to give it away.  Read on:

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO

BY: Edgar Allan Poe

1846

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 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 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 in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to 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.”

“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 nitre.”

“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 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 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 eves 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 Luchresi –“

“Enough,” he said; “the cough’s 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 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 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 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 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 us 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 niche, and finding 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 astonishment.

“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 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 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 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 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!

 

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