Imágenes de páginas

spoken when a wagon rattled along the so pure that it might blossom in Paradise, road, and stopped a moment before the since it could not be matured on earth; door. It appeared to contain two or for women worship such gentle dignity three men, who were cheering their as his; and the proud, contemplative, yet hearts with the rough chorus of a song, kindly soul is oftenest captivated by simwhich resounded, in broken notes, be- plicity like hers. But while they spoke tween the cliffs, while the singers hesi- softly, and he was watching the happy tated whether to continue their journey sadness, the lightsome shadows, the shy or put up here for the night.

yearnings of a maiden's nature, the wind "Father," said the girl, “they are calls through the Notch took a deeper and ing you by name."

drearier sound. It seemed, as the fanBut the good man doubted whether ciful stranger said, like the choral strain they had really called him, and was un- of the spirits of the blast, who in old willing to show himself too solicitous of Indian times had their dwelling among gain by inviting people to patronize his these mountains, and made their heights house. He therefore did not hurry to and recesses a sacred region. There was the door; and the lash being soon applied, a wail along the road, as if a funeral were the travelers plunged into the Notch, still passing. To chase away the gloom, the singing and laughing, though their music family threw pine branches on their fire, and mirth came back drearily from the till the dry leaves crackled and the flame heart of the mountain.

arose, discovering once again a scene of “There, mother!” cried the boy, again. peace and humble happiness. The light "They'd have given us a ride to the hovered about them fondly, and caressed Flume."

them all. There were the little faces of Again they laughed at the child's perti- the children, peeping from their bed nacious fancy for a night ramble. But it apart, and here the father's frame of happened that a light cloud passed over strength, the mother's subdued and carethe daughter's spirit; she looked gravely ful mien, the high-browed youth, the into the fire, and drew a breath that was budding girl, and the good old grandam, almost a sigh. It forced its way, in spite still knitting in the warmest place. The of a little struggle to repress it. Then aged woman looked up from her task, starting and blushing, she looked quickly and, with fingers ever busy, was the next round the circle, as if they had caught a to speak glimpse into her bosom. The stranger "Old folks have their notions," said asked what she had been thinking of. she, “as well as young ones.

You've "Nothing," answered she, with a down- been wishing and planning; and letting cast smile. "Only I felt lonesome just your heads run on one thing and another. then."

till you've set my mind a-wandering, too. "Oh, I have always had a gift of feel- Now what should an old woman wish ing what is in other people's hearts,” said for, when she can go but a step or two behe, half seriously. "Shall I tell the fore she comes to her grave? Children, secrets of yours? For I know what to it will haunt me night and day till I tell think when a young girl shivers by a you.' warm hearth, and complains of lonesome- "What is it, mother?" cried the husness at her mother's side. Shall I put band and wife at once. these feelings into words?"

Then the old woman, with an air of “They would not be a girl's feelings mystery which drew the circle closer any longer if they could be put into round the fire, informed them that she words," replied the mountain nymph, had provided her grave-clothes some years laughing, but avoiding his eye.

before,-a nice linen shroud, a cap with All this was said apart. Perhaps a a muslin ruff, and everything of a finer germ of love was springing in their hearts, sort than she had worn since her wedding


day. But this evening an old superstition they deemed a safer spot-where, in conhad strangely recurred to her. It used templation of such an emergency, a sort to be said in her younger days, that if of barrier had been reared. Alas! they anything were amiss with a corpse, if only had quitted their security, and fled right the ruff were not smooth, or the cap did into the pathway of destruction. Down not set right, the corpse in the coffin and came the whole side of the mountain, in a beneath the clods would strive to put up cataract of ruin. Just before it reached its cold hands and arrange it. The bare the house, the stream broke into two thought made her nervous.

branches-shivered not a window there, Don't talk so, grandmother!" said the but overwhelmed the whole vicinity, girl, shuddering.

blocked up the road, and annihilated “Now,"-continued the old woman, everything in its dreadful course. Long with singular earnestness, yet smiling ere the thunder of the great Slide had strangely at her own folly, "I want one ceased to roar among the mountains, the of you, my children--when your mother mortal agony had been endured, and the is dressed and in the coffin want one victims were at peace. Their bodies were of you to hold a looking-glass over my never found. face. Who knows but I take The next morning, the light smoke was glimpse at myself, and see whether all's seen stealing from the cottage chimney up right?"

the mountain side. Within, the fire was "Old and young, we dream of graves yet smouldering on the hearth, and the and monuments,” murmured the stranger chairs in a circle round it, as if the inyouth. "I wonder how mariners feel habitants had but gone forth to view the when the ship is sinking, and they, un- devastation of the Slide, and would known and undistinguished, are to be shortly return, to thank Heaven for their buried together in the ocean—that wide miraculous escape. All had left separate and nameless sepulcher ?”

tokens, by which those who had known For a moment, the old woman's ghastly the family were made to shed a tear for conception so engrossed the minds of her each. Who has not heard their name? hearers that a sound abroad in the night, The story has been told far and wide, rising like the roar of a blast, had grown and will forever be a legend of these broad, deep, and terrible, before the fated mountains. Poets have


their group were conscious of it. The house fate. and all within it trembled; the founda- There were circumstances which led tions of the earth seemed to be shaken, as some to suppose that a stranger had been if this awful sound were the peal of the received into the cottage on this awful last trump. Young and old exchanged night, and had shared the catastrophe of one wild glance, and remained an instant, all its inmates. Others denied that there pale, affrighted, without utterance, or were sufficient grounds for such a conpower to move. Then the same cry burst jecture. Woe for the high-souled youth, simultaneously from all their lips. with his dream of Earthly Immortality! "The Slide! The Slide!"

His name and person utterly unknown; The simplest words must intimate, but his history, his way of life, his plans, a not portray, the unutterable horror of the mystery never to be solved, his death and catastrophe. The victims rushed from his existence equally a doubt! Whose their cottage, and sought refuge in what was the agony of that death moment?



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, tha 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!" nent, but the severe cold with which I My poor friend found it impossible to verceive you are afflicted. The vaults reply for many minutes. ire insufferably damp. They are "It is nothing," he said, at last. :rusted 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 mposed upon; and as for Luchesi, he are happy, as once I was.

You are a annot distinguish Sherry from Amontil- man to be missed. For me it is no matado.”

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 Luchesiof black silk, and drawing a roquelaure! "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

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.

"Nemo 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.
A palatial residence.

3Of gold.
4"No one provokes me with impunity.”

through walls of piled bones, with casks sides of this interior crypt were still ornaand puncheons intermingling, into the mented in this manner.

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

« AnteriorContinuar »