« AnteriorContinuar »
oon uncovered a quantity of building- tier. I had finished a portion of the last tone and mortar. With these materials and the eleventh; there remained but a ind with the aid of my trowel, I began single stone to be fitted and plastered in. rigorously to wall up the entrance of the I struggled with its weight; I placed it iiche.
partially in its destined position. But I had scarcely laid the first tier of the now there came from out the niche a low nasonry when I discovered that the in- laugh that erected the hairs upon my oxication of Fortunato had in a great head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, neasure 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.
"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! he! 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! hehe! he! he!-yes, 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 again lently back. For a brief moment I hesi- "Fortunato!” tated-1 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
1“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 Alected; "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 from 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 1 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 fin Company.
any word uttered by the escort. Only,
vhen the gulch which marked the utter- Oakhurst knew that scarcely half the nost limit of Poker Flat was reached, the journey to Sandy Bar was accomplished, eader spoke briefly and to the point. The and the party were not equipped or proxiles were forbidden to return at the visioned for delay. This fact he pointed Jeril of their lives.
out to his companions curtly, with a As the escort disappeared, their pent philosophic commentary on the folly of ip feelings found vent in a few hysterical "throwing up their hand before the game tears from the Duchess, some bad lan- was played out.” But they were furzuage from Mother Shipton, and a Par- nished with liquor, which in this emerthian volley of expletives from Uncle gency stood them in place of food, fuel, Billy. The philosophic Oakhurst alone rest, and prescience. In spite of his reremained silent. He listened calmly to monstrances, it was not long before they Mother Shipton's desire to cut somebody's were more or less under its influence. heart out, to the repeated statements of Uncle Billy passed rapidly from a bellithe Duchess that she would die in the cose state into one of stupor, the Duchess road, and to the alarming oaths that became maudlin, and Mother Shipton seemed to be bumped out of Uncle Billy snored. Mr. Oakhurst alone remained as he rode forward. With the easy good- erect, leaning against a rock, calmly surhumor characteristic of his class, he in- veying them. sisted upon exchanging his own riding- Mr. Oakhurst did not drink. It interhorse, “Five Spot," for the sorry mule fered with a profession which required which the Duchess rode. But even this coolness, impassiveness, and presence of act did not draw the party into any closer mind, and, in his own language, he sympathy. The young,
read- "couldn't afford it.” As he gazed at his justed her somewhat draggled plumes recumbent fellow-exiles, the loneliness bewith a feeble, faded coquetry; Mother gotten of his pariah-trade, his habits of Shipton eyed the possessor of "Five Spot" life, his very vices, for the first time seriwith malevolence, and Uncle Billy in- ously oppressed him. He bestirred himcluded the whole party in one sweeping self in dusting his black clothes, washing anathema.
his hands and face, and other acts charThe road to Sandy Bar-a camp that, acteristic of his studiously neat habits, not having as yet experienced the regen- and for a moment forgot his annoyance. erating influences of Poker Flat, conse- The thought of deserting his weaker and quently seemed to offer some invitation more pitiable companions never perhaps to the emigrants—lay over a steep moun- occurred to him. Yet he could not help tain range.
It was distant a day's severe feeling the want of that excitement which, travel. In that advanced season, the singularly enough, was most conducive to party soon passed out of the moist, tem- that calm equanimity for which he was perate regions of the foot-hills into the notorious. He looked at the gloomy dry, cold, bracing air of the Sierras. The walls that rose a thousand feet sheer trail was narrow and difficult. At noon above the circling pines around him; at the Duchess, rolling out of her saddle the sky, ominously clouded; at the valley upon the ground, declared her intention below, already deepening into shadow. of going no farther, and the party halted. And, doing so, suddenly he heard his own
The spot was singularly wild and impressive. A wooded amphitheatre, sur- A horseman slowly ascended the trail. rounded on three sides by precipitous In the fresh, open face of the newcliffs of naked granite, sloped gently comer Mr. Oakhurst recognized Tom toward the crest of another precipice that Simson, otherwise known as "The Innooverlooked the valley. It was, undoubt- cent" of Sandy Bar. He had met him edly, the most suitable spot for a camp, some months before over a "little game, had camping been advisable. But Mr. I and had, with perfect equanimity, won
the entire fortune-amounting to some pointing to the Duchess, "and I can shift forty dollars--of that guileless youth. for myself." After the game was finished, Mr. Oak- Nothing but Mr. Oakhurst's admonhurst drew the youthful speculator be-ishing foot saved Uncle Billy from bursthind the door and thus addressed him: ing into a roar of laughter. As it was, "Tommy, you're a good little man, but he felt compelled to retire up the cañon you can't gamble worth a cent. Don't until he could recover his gravity. There try it over again.” He then handed him he confided the joke to the tall pinehis money back, pushed him gently from trees, with many slaps of his leg, contorthe room, and so made a devoted slave of tions of his face, and the usual profanity. Tom Simson.
But when he returned to the party, he There was a remembrance of this in his found them seated by a fire-for the air boyish and enthusiastic greeting of Mr. had grown strangely chill and the sky Oakhurst. He had started, he said, to overcast-in apparently amicable convergo to Poker Flat to seek his fortune. sation. Piney was actually talking in an *Alone?" No, not exactly alone; in fact impulsive, girlish fashion to the Duchess, (a giggle), he had run away with Piney who was listening with an interest and Woods. Didn't Mr. Oakhurst remem- animation she had not shown for many ber Piney? She that used to wait on the days. The Innocent was holding forth, table at the Temperance House? They apparently with equal effect, to Mr. Oakhad been engaged a long time, but old hurst and Mother Shipton, who was Jake Woods had objected, and so they actually relaxing into amiability. "Is had run away, and were going to Poker this yer a dd picnic?" said Uncle Flat to be married, and here they were. Billy, with inward scorn, as he surveyed And they were tired out, and how lucky the sylvan group, the glancing firelight, it was they had found a place to camp and the tethered animals in the foreand company. All this the Innocent de- ground. Suddenly an idea mingled with livered rapidly, while Piney, a stout, the alcoholic fumes that disturbed his comely damsel of fifteen, emerged from brain. It was apparently of a jocular behind the pine-tree, where she had been nature, for he felt impelled to slap his blushing unseen, and rode to the side of leg again and cram his fist into her lover.
his mouth. Mr. Oakhurst seldom troubled himself As the shadows crept slowly up the with sentiment, still less with propriety; mountain, a slight breeze rocked the tops but he had a vague idea that the situa- of the pine-trees, and moaned through tion was not fortunate. He retained, their long and gloomy aisles. The ruined however, his presence of mind sufficiently cabin, patched and covered with pineto kick Uncle Billy, who was about to say boughs, was set apart for the ladies. As something, and Uncle Billy was sober the lovers parted, they unaffectedly exenough to recognize in Mr. Oakhurst's changed a kiss, so honest and sincere that kick a superior power that would not bear it might have been heard above the swaytrifling. He then endeavored to dissuade ing pines. The frail Duchess and the Tom Simson from delaying further, but malevolent Mother Shipton were probain vain. He even pointed out the fact bly too stunned to remark upon this last that there was no provision, nor means of evidence of simplicity, and so turned making a camp. But, unluckily, the In- without a word to the hut. The fire was nocent met this objection by assuring the replenished, the men lay down before the party that he was provided with an extra door, and in a few minutes were mule loaded with provisions, and by the asleep. discovery of a rude attempt at a log- Mr. Oakhurst was a light sleeper. house near the trail. “Piney can stay Toward morning he awoke benumbed and with Mrs. Oakhurst," said the Innocent, cold. As he stirred the dying fire, the
wind, which was now blowing strongly, when they find out anything," he added, brought to his cheek that which caused significantly, "and there's no good frightthe blood to leave it,-snow!
ening them now.” He started to his feet with the inten- Tom Simson not only put all his tion of awakening the sleepers, for there worldly store at the disposal of Mr. Oakwas no time to lose. But turning to hurst, but seemed to enjoy the prospect where Uncle Billy had been lying, he of their enforced seclusion. “We'll have found him gone. A suspicion leaped to a good camp for a week, and then the his brain and a curse to his lips. He ran snow'll melt, and we'll all go back toto the spot where the mules had been gether.” The cheerful
gether.” The cheerful gayety of the tethered; they were no longer there. The young man, and Mr. Oakhurst's calm tracks were already rapidly disappearing infected the others. The Innocent, with in the snow.
the aid of pine-boughs, extemporized a The momentary excitement brought thatch for the roofless cabin, and the Mr. Oakhurst back to the fire with his Duchess directed Piney in the rearrangeusual calm. He did not waken the ment of the interior with a taste and tact sleepers. The Innocent slumbered peace- that opened the blue eyes of that provinfully, with a smile on his good-humored, cial maiden to their fullest extent. “I freckled face; the virgin Piney slept be- reckon now you're used to fine things at side her frailer sisters as sweetly as Poker Flat," said Piney. The Duchess though attended by celestial guardians, turned away sharply to conceal something and Mr. Oakhurst, drawing his blanket that reddened her cheeks through its proover his shoulders, stroked his mustaches fessional tint, and Mother Shipton reand waited for the dawn. It came slowly quested Piney not to "chatter.” But in a whirling mist of snow-flakes, that when Mr. Oakhurst returned from a dazzled and confused the eye. What weary search for the trail, he heard the could be seen of the landscape appeared sound of happy laughter echoed from the magically changed. He looked over the rocks. He stopped in some alarm, and valley, and summoned up the present and his thoughts first naturally reverted to future in two words, - snowed in!" the whiskey, which he had prudently
A careful inventory of the provisions, cached. “And yet it don't somehow which, fortunately for the party, had been sound like whiskey,” said the gambler. stored within the hut, and so escaped the It was not until he caught sight of the felonious fingers of Uncle Billy, disclosed blazing fire through the still blinding the fact that with care and prudence they storm and the group around it that he might last ten days longer. “That is, settled to the conviction that it was said Mr. Oakhurst, sotto voce to the "square fun." Innocent, "if you're willing to board us. Whether Mr. Oakhurst had cachéd his If you ain't-and perhaps you'd better cards with the whiskey as something denot-you can wait till Uncle Billy gets barred the free access of the community, back with provisions." For some occult reason, Mr. Oakhurst could not bring Mother Shipton's words, he "didn't say himself to disclose Uncle Billy's rascality, cards once" during that evening. Haply and so offered the hypothesis that he had the time was beguiled by an accordion, wandered from the camp and had acci- produced somewhat ostentatiously by dentally stampeded the animals. He Tom Simson from his pack. Notwithdropped a warning to the Duchess and standing some difficulties attending the Mother Shipton, who of course knew the manipulation of this instrument, Piney facts of their associate's defection. | Woods managed to pluck several reluct"They'll find out the truth about us all ant melodies from its keys, to an accom
1“In an undertone."