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داستان گربه سیاه نوشته ی ادگار آلن پو با ترجمه ی فارسی

The Black Cat

Edgar Allen Poe

FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not - and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified - have tortured - have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror - to many they will seem less terrible than barroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place - some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.

From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man .

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat .


This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point - and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.

Pluto - this was the cat's name - was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.

Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character - through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance - had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me - for what disease is like Alcohol! - and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish - even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.

One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.

When reason returned with the morning - when I had slept off the fumes of the night's debauch - I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.

In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart - one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law , merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself - to offer violence to its own nature - to do wrong for the wrong's sake only - that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; - hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; - hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; - hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin - a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it - if such a thing wore possible - even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.

I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts - and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in.

This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire - a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words "strange!" "singular!" and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal's neck.

When I first beheld this apparition - for I could scarcely regard it as less - my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd - by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.

Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.

One night as I sat, half stupified, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat - a very large one - fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast. Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it - knew nothing of it - had never seen it before.

I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.

For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but - I know not how or why it was - its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually - very gradually - I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.

What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures.

With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly - let me confess it at once - by absolute dread of the beast.

This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil - and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own - yes, even in this felon's cell, I am almost ashamed to own - that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees - degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful - it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name - and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared - it was now, I say, the image of a hideous - of a ghastly thing - of the GALLOWS ! - oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime - of Agony and of Death !

And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere Humanity. And a brute beast - whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed - a brute beast to work out for me - for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God - so much of insufferable wo! Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of Rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight - an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off - incumbent eternally upon my heart!

Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates - the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.

One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.

This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard - about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar - as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims.

For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the red of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect any thing suspicious. And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brickwork. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself - "Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain."

My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night - and thus for one night at least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul!

The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted - but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured.

Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.

"Gentlemen," I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, "I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this - this is a very well constructed house." [In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.] - "I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls are you going, gentlemen? - these walls are solidly put together;" and here, through the mere phrenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom.

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend ! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! - by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman - a howl - a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the dammed in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.
Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb



گربه سیاه

ادگار آلن پو
برگردان: محمود سلطانیه

داستانی را که میخواهم به روی کاغذ بیاورم هم بس حیرتانگیز است و هم بسیار متداول. انتظار باور آن را ندارم. انتظار باوری که حتی حواس خود من نیز حاضر به گواهی آن نباشد، تنها یک دیوانگیست، و من دیوانه نیستم. بیگمان خواب هم نمیبینم. من فردا خواهم مرد و امروز میخواهم روح خود را آرامش بخشم. میخواهم وقایع را بدون تفسیر و چکیده بازگو کنم. وقایعی که با گذشت هر لحظهاش به خود لرزیدم، عذاب دیدم و گامی به سوی نابودی برداشتم. با این همه کوشش نخواهم کرد همه چیز را بیپرده بیان کنم. وقایعی که جز نفرت و بیزاری برنمیانگیزد. البته ممکن است به نظر پارهای بیش از آنکه وحشتآور باشد، شگرف بنماید. شاید هم بعدها ذهنیتی پیدا شود و توهمات مرا پیش پا افتاده ارزیابی کند. ذهنیتی آرامتر، منطقیتر و بسیار ملایمتر از ذهنیت من. ذهنیتی که چنین رویدادهایی را دهشتبار نیابد و آنرا تنها ثمره یک سلسله علیتهای معمولی و طبیعی ارزیابی کند.

از همان دوران کودکی به خاطر شخصیت فرمانبردار و انسان دوستم از دیگران متمایز بودم. رقت قلب بیش از اندازه سبب شده بود تا رفقا تحقیرم کنند. شیفتگی ویژهام به حیوانات، پدر و مادرم را برآن داشت تا اجازه دهند انواع گوناگون آنها را داشته باشم و تقریباً تمام وقت خود را با آنها بگذرانم. خوشترین لحظاتم هنگامی بود که به آنها غذا میدادم یا نوازششان میکردم. این ویژهگی در شخصیت با رشد سنی فزونی میگرفت و زمانی که مرد شدم نیز تنها وسیله سرگرمیام شد.

برای آنهایی که به سگی مهربان و باهوش دل بستهاند، نیازی به توضیح درباره کیفیت و میزان لذت انسان از این کار نیست. فداکاری حیوان برای جلب رضایت بر قلب کسی مینشیند که فرصت کافی جهت تعمق پیرامون دوستی ناپایدار و وفای بسیار اندک انسانهای معمولی را دارد.

من زود ازدواج کردم و از داشتن همسری مهربان احساس خوشبختی میکردم. او با درک علاقهام به حیوانات خانگی برای گرد آوری بهترین آنها هیچ فرصتی را از دست نمیداد. ما تعدادی پرنده داشتیم. یک ماهی طلایی. سگی زیبا. چندتایی خرگوش. میمونی کوچک و یک گربه.

این آخری حیوانی بسیار قوی و زیبا بود. یکدست سیاه و بسیار با هوش. اما وقتی گفتوگو به هوش وی کشیده میشد همسرم که باطناً خرافاتی بود بیدرنگ به همان اعتقادات قدیمی عوام اشاره میکرد و میگفت: گربههای سیاه جادوگرانی هستند با ظاهر تغییر یافته. البته نه اینکه همواره این قضیه را جدی بگیرد. و اگر من اشارهای گذرا میکنم تنها بدین سبب است که هم اکنون به خاطرم رسید. من پلوتن را –نام گربه پلوتن بود- به دیگر حیوانات ترجیح میدادم. او دوست من بود و تنها از دست من غذا میخورد. به هر کجای خانه میرفتم او نیز دنبالم بود و به سختی میتوانستم مانع وی شوم تا دیگر در خیابان به دنبالم راه نیفتد.

دوستی ما سالها به همین گونه ادامه یافت. سالهایی که با گذشتشان اندک اندک مجموعه شخصیت و خوی من –بهخاطر زیاده روی بیحد در پارهای کارهای شرم آور- تغییر کرد. هر روز بیش از پیش گوشهگیرتر، زود رنجتر و نسبت به احساسات دیگران بیتوجهتر میشدم. به خودم اجازه دادم تا با همسرم تندخویی کنم و خود خواهیهای مبالغه آمیزم را به وی تحمیل کنم. حیوانات بیچاره هم طبیعتاً چنین تغییر شخصیتی را احساس میکردند. من نه تنها به آنها اعتنایی نمیکردم بلکه با آنها به خشونت هم رفتار میکردم. با این وجود تعلق خاطر به پلوتن هنوز مانع میشد تا با او رفتار بدی داشته باشم. دیگر هیچ گونه احساس ترحمی نسبت به خرگوشها، میمون، و حتی سگمان نداشتم و اگر از روی دوستی یا تصادفاً در مسیر حرکتم قرار میگرفتند، وجودم انباشته از شرارت و بدجنسی میشد –و چه شرارتی میتواند با شرارت ناشی از نوشیدن الکل قابل قیاس باشد؟_ و سرانجام پلوتن، که دیگر پیر و بنابر این کمی تندخو شده بود، به شخصیت بد نهاد من پی برد.

یک شب هنگامی که مستِ مست از پاتوق شبانهام به خانه بازگشتم، احساس کردم گربه از نزدیک شدن به من پرهیز میکند. او را که گرفتم از ترس خشونتم، دستم را گاز گرفت و خراشی جزئی ایجاد کرد. به یکباره خشمی اهریمنی بر وجودم استیلا یافت و از خود بیخود شدم.

گویی روح انسانی از کالبدم پر کشیده بود. به سبب زیاده روی در شرابخواری کینهای شیطانی تار و پود وجودم را انباشت. از جیب جلیقه چاقویی بیرون آورد، بازش کردم، گلوی حیوان درمانده را گرفتم و در یک آن، یکی از چشمهایش را از کاسه بیرون آوردم!

من از نوشتن این بیرحمی ابلیس گونهام سرخ میشوم، میسوزم و میلرزم!

صبح، با از میان رفتن نشانههای الکل شب پیش، منطقم بازگشت. به سبب جنایتی که مرتکب شده بودم احساس پشیمانی و نفرتی نیم بند وجودم را فرا گرفت. اما این احساس بسیار مبهم و ضعیف بود و به روحم لطمه چندانی وارد نیاورد. باز به زیاده روی در میگساری ادامه دادم و به زودی خاطره جنایتم در پس گیلاسهای شراب گم شد.

گربه آرام آرام بهبود مییافت و گرچه قیافهای ترسناک پیدا کره بود اما به نظر میرسید زجر چندانی نمیکشد. به عادت گذشته در خانه میگشت اما همواره وحشت زده از نزدیک شدن به من پرهیز میکرد. ابتدا ته مانده احساس عاطفیام از گریز آشکار موجودی که پیش از آن، آن همه مرا دوست میداشت، جریحه دار میشد؛ اما این احساس هم به زودی جای خود را به کینه داد و ذهنیت تبهکارم در سراشیبی غیر قابل بازگشت افتاد. در چنان ذهنیتی دیگر جایی برای فلسفه وجود ندارد. من ایمان دارم تبهکاری یکی از اولین تمایلات جبری بشری است. یکی از اولین کششها یا احساساتی که به شخصیت آدمی جهت میدهد. چه کسی از ارتکاب صد باره کار احمقانه یا رذیلانة خود در شگفت نمانده؟ کاری که میدانسته نباید مرتکب شود. آیا ما علیرغم قوه تمیز عالی خود، باز تمایل به تجاوز به آن چه قانون نامیده میشود و ما نیز آن را به عنوان قانون پذیرفتهایم، نداریم؟ من این ذهنیت تبهکار را سبب انحراف نهایی خود میدانم. انحرافی که مرا به سوی آزار و سرانجام ارتکاب جنایت نسبت به آن حیوان بی آزار کشاند. عشق به شرارت، عطش بی پایان روح است برای خود آزاری.

یک صبح، خونسرد گرهی بر گردنش زدم و از شاخه درختی آویزانش کردم. لحظهای بعد اشک جانکاه ندامت چشمانم را پوشانده بود. او را دار زدم چون میدانستم پیش از آن دوستم میداشته. چون میدانستم هیچ کاری که سبب خشم من شود انجام نداده. دارش زدم چون میدانستم به این ترتیب مرتکب گناه میشوم. گناهی نابخشودنی که روحم را برای همیشه به رسوایی میکشاند. گناهی آن چنان عظیم که حتی رحمت بی پایان خداوندی هم –اگر چنین چیزی ممکن باشد- شامل حالش نمیشود.

شب همان روز جنایت، به دنبال فریاد «آتش!» از خواب پریدم. پردههای تخت خوابم در میان زبانههای آتش میسوخت. تمام خانه میسوخت. بالاخره به هر ترتیب بود من، همسرم و پیشخدمتمان توانستیم جان سالم به در بریم. همهجا ویران شده بود. همه چیزم از کف رفته بود. از همان زمان، دیگر در نومیدی غلتیدم. گرچه آنقدر ضعیف نیستم تا در پی رابطهای میان سفاکی خود با آن فاجعه باشم اما وقایع زنجیروار بعدی را هم نمیتوان نادیده انگاشت.

روز بعد از آتش سوزی، به ارزیابی ویرانی پرداختم. دیوارها به جز یکی، درهم فرو ریخته بودند. دیوار پا بر جا به خلاف آنهای دیگر تیغهای بیش نبود و حدوداً میان عمارت، درست مماس با تختخواب قرار داشت. قسمتی از این بخش عمارت در برابر آتش سوزی مقاومت کرده بود –سبب آن هم دوباره سازی اخیر بود- نزدیک دیوار عده زیادی گرد آمده بودند. چندین نفر هم به دقت و با توجهی خاص گوشه و کنار را بازرسی میکردند. عبارات، شگفتآور است! عجیب است! و نظایر آن کنجکاویم را برانگیخت. نزدیک دیوار رفتم. تصویری برجسته برسطح هنوز سفید دیوار حک شده بود. تصویر غول آسای یک گربه. دقت تصویر حیرت آور بود. حیوان با رسیمانی بلند به دار آویخته شده بود. از دیدن آن هیئت شبح گونه –بیگمان جز شبح چیز دیگری نبود- بر جای میخکوب شدم. برای چند لحظه وحشت سرتاپایم را فرا گرفت. اما بلافاصله به کمک منطق، قضیه را برای خود حل کردم: من گربه را در باغ دار زده بودم و به دنبال فریاد کمک، جمعیت زیادی وارد باغ شده بود. بنابراین بی شک کسی ریسمان حیوان را باز کرده و از پنجره اتاق به درون پرتاب کرده بود تا مرا از خواب بیدار کند و حیوان بیچاره در همان حال پرواز میان دیوار دیگر اتاق که در حال فرو ریختن بود و دیوار سالم له شده بود. ترکیب گچ تازه دیوار و آمونیاک جسد و گرمای آتش هم سبب ثبات تصویر شده بود.

هر چند بدین ترتیب به سادگی، خودم –اگر نگویم وجدانم- را مجاب کردم، اما به هر رو موضوع تاثیر عمیقی بر ذهنیتم باقی گذاشت. مدت چند ماه شبح گربه رهایم نمیکرد. به نظر میآمد گونهای احساس عاطفی به روحم بازگشته باشد. هر چند بیتردید احساس ندامت نبود. گاه به خاطر از دست دادن حیوان حس دلسوزی نیمبندی بر وجودم چیره میشد و حتی تصمیم گرفتم به دنبال حیوانی با همان هیئت بگردم تا جانشین او کنم.

یک شب که سرگشته و ملول در یکی از فضاحت خانههای همیشگی خود نشسته بودم، ناگهان توجهم به سوی جسمی سیاه جلب شد. جسم روی چلیک بزرگ شراب قرار داشت. چند لحظه خیره نگاهش کردم و حیران ماندم، چون هنوز برایم قابل تشخیص نشده بود. نزدیک رفتم و با دست آن را لمس کردم، یک گربه سیاه بود –گربه ای فربه و سیاه- درست مانند پلوتن. تنها با یک تفاوت: پلوتن حتی یک موی سفید در تمام بدن نداشت. اما این یکی روی سینه خود سفیدی نامشخص و مبهمی داشت. هنوز به درستی او را نوازش نکرده بودم که از جای برخاست و خرناسی کشید و خود را بدستم مالید. گویی مفتون توجهم شده بود. پس موجودی که مدتها در جستجویش بودم یافته بودم. بلافاصله نزد صاحبش رفتم و پیشنهاد خریدش را دادم. پولی نگرفت، گفت پیش از آن هرگز گربه را ندیده است. یکبار دیگر نزدیک گربه رفتم و او را نوازش کردم. به هنگام بازگشت، او نیز به دنبالم آمد و من هم اجازه این کار را به او دادم. در راه، گهگاه خم میشدم و نوازشش میکردم. وقتی به خانه رسید، انگار به خانه خود آمده است و خیلی زود دوست وفادار همسرم شد.

به زودی احساس نوعی نفرت از او در وجودم زبانه کشید و این دقیقاً خلاف امیدواریم بود. نمیدانم چگونه این حالت به وجود آمد و چرا ملایمت و بردباری او حالم را دگرگون میکرد. نرم نرمک احساس دلزدگی و ملال به نفرتی آشکار تبدیل شد. دیگر از او همانند یک طاعونی میگریختم و شاید احساس شرم گونه از خاطره سفاکیم مانع میشد تا با او هم بدرفتاری کنم. چند هفته از آزار و بد رفتاری با وی پرهیز کردم. اما به تدریج و آرام آرام به جایی رسیدم که نفرتی بیان نکردنی نسبت به او وجودم را فرا گرفت و از او همچون دم طاعونی میگریختم.

بیگمان یکی از دلایل نفرتم یک چشم بودن او بود. زیرا درست فردای آوردنش متوجه شدم او نیز مانند پلوتن از داشتن یک چشم محروم است و شاید همین مساله سبب شد تا او به همسرم نزدیکتر شود و الفتی ناگفتنی میان آنها برقرار شود. میان او همسرم با آن احساسات لطیفش که پیش از آن سرچشمه سادهترین و نابترین لذات من بود. هرچه نفرت من از گربه بیشتر میشد، علاقه او به من بیشتر میشد و با لجاجتی عجیب که درک آن برای خواننده مشکل است قدم به قدم همراهیام میکرد. هرگاه مینشستم یا زیر صندلیام چمباتمه میزد، یا روی زانوانم مینشست و نوازشم میکرد و اگر از جای بر میخواستم تا قدمی بزنم میان پاهایم میلولید و گاه تقریباً سبب میشد سکندری بخورم. و یا با فرو بردن پنجههای بلند و تیز خود در لباسهایم خود را به سینهام میرساند. در چنین لحظاتی آرزو میکردم میتوانستم با ضربه مشتی هلاکش کنم. اما هم یاد اولین جنایت و هم باید اعتراف کنم که وحشت بیاندازه از حیوان مانع این کار میشد. این وحشت، وحشت جسمانی نبود بازگویی این هم فراوان رنجم میدهد و شاید این به دلیل شرم از اعتراف باشد. آری حتی در سلول مجرمین نیز اعتراف به سبب وحشت و نفرتی که حیوان در من بر میانگیخت و نشان از خیالات واهی داشت شرمآور است.

همسرم بارها توجه مرا به لکه سفید روی سینه حیوان جلب کرده بود. همان لکهای که تنها تفاوت میان او بود با گربهای که کشته بودم. بدون تردید خواننده به یاد دارد که ابتدا گنگ و نامشخص بود اما آهسته آهسته و به مرور، علیرغم کوشش بسیار برای واهی دانستن آن، مشخص و مشخصتر میشد. اکنون دیگر آن را آشکارا میدیدم و از دیدن آن برخود میلرزیدم. انگیزه نفرت و وحشتم و این که خود را از شر او هم خلاص کنم، درست همین بود. –البته اگر شهامتش را میداشتم- لکه تصویر کریه و شوم چوبة دار! آوخ چوبه وحشتناک دار! چوبة نفرت و جنایت! چوبة عذاب و مرگ!

من دیگر بدبختترین موجود بشری بودم و سبب این بدبختی، حیوانی وحشتناک بود! که من با نفرت تمام برادر او را کشته بودم. من، مرد تربیت شده و انسانی به تمام معنی، گرفتار بدبختی غیر قابل تحملی شده بودم! افسوس! دیگر خوشبختی برایم مفهومی نداشت. نه شب و نه روز! در تمام طول روز، آن موجود وحشتناک که یک لحظه تنهایم نمیگذاشت و در خلال شب هم هر لحظه که کابوس هراسناک مرگ رهایم میکرد، نفس مرطوب و وزن سنگین وی را روی سینهام احساس میکردم! فشار روحی آن چنان در تنگنایم قرار داد که خوی محزون و ته مانده انسانیت خود را نیز از دست دادم و خبث طینت و نفرت، تنها اندیشه درونیام شد. با این همه، همسرم هرگز لب به شکایت نمیگشود و ستمهای روز افزون مرا با شکیبایی دهشتباری تحمل میکرد. از شکیبایی تحمل ناپذیر وی روح سرکشم گرفتار خشمی توفانزا میشد.

یک روز برای کاری روزمره راهی زیر زمین عمارت قدیمی، که فقر وادارمان میکرد در آن زندگی کنیم، شدم. همسرم و گربه سیاه نیز همراهیام کردند. هنگامی که از پلههای با شیب تند پایین میرفتیم، گربه به عادت همیشگی پیشاپیش و تقریباً در میان پاهای من حرکت میکرد و در یک آن، چنان به پاهایم چسبید که نزدیک بود با سر از پلهها سقوط کنم.

خشمی جنون آسا وجودم را فرا گرفت. ترس کودکانه خود را فراموش کردم و با تبر به حیوان حمله بردم. اما پیش از آن که ضربه را فرود آورم، همسرم مانع شد و همین دخالت، به جنون من نیرویی اهریمنی بخشید. بازوی خود را از دستش رها ساختم و با تبر بر مغز خودش کوفتم. بیکمترین نالهای بر زمین افتاد و در دم جان داد. بیدرنگ تصمیم گرفتم جسد را پنهان کنم. میدانستم سربه نیست کردن آن در خارج از خانه چه در روز و چه در خلال شب خالی از خطر نخواهد بود. زیرا هر آن ممکن بود همسایهها متوجه شوند. نقشههای زیادی از ذهنم گذشت. لحظهای به این فکر افتادم تا جسد را تکه تکه کرده در آتش بسوزانم. بعد خواستم گودالی کف زیر زمین حفر کنم. دقایقی که گذشت تصمیم گرفتم آن را در چاه حیاط بیندازم. یک لحظه به فکر افتادم جسد را همانند کالایی در صندوق بسته بندی کرده و شخصی را مامور کنم تا آن را به خارج از منزل ببرد. سرانجام چارهای را مناسبتر از چارههای دیگر یافتم. تصمیم گرفتم او را مانند کشیشان دوران تفتیش عقاید قرون وسطی درون دیوار زیر زمین مدفون کنم.

گویی زیر زمین را برای همین کار ساخته بودند. دیوارها که بدون دقت ساخته شده بودند، به تازگی سفید کاری شده بودند و رطوبت مانع سخت شدن گچ آنها شده بود. افزون بر این در بخشی از دیوار برآمدگی مناسبی وجود داشت، شبیه بر آمدگی دودکش بخاری یا اجاق دیواری که ظاهر دیوار آن هم شبیه سایر قسمتهای زیر زمین بود. بیگمان میتوانستم به سادگی آجرهای آن قسمت را بردارم؛ جسد را پشت آجرها قرار دهم و دوباره آنها را به گونه نخست روی هم بچینم، بیآن که کوچکترین احتمالی برای کشف جسد وجود داشته باشد. آری در محاسبهام اشتباه نکرده بودم. به کمک میلهای آهنین آجرها را به راحتی یکی پس از دیگری بیرون کشیدم و پس از آن که جسد را به دقت درون دیوار قرار دادم دوباره آنها را در جای اول خود چیدم. مدتی زحمت کشیدم تا توانستم گچی درست با همان رنگ سابق تهیه کنم و سطح کنده شده را بپوشانم. نتیجه کار بسیار رضایت بخش بود و اوضاع بر وفق مراد. جای کوچکترین دستخوردگی به چشم نمیخورد. با وسواس فراوان پای کار و گوشه و کنار زیر زمین را تمیز کردم و نگاهی پیروزمندانه گرداگرد خود انداختم. دست کم برای یک بار زحماتم به ثمر نشسته بود! بیدرنگ به جستجوی حیوانی که سبب آن بدبختی بزرگ شده بود پرداختم. دیگر تصمیم گرفته بودم او را هم بکشم. اگر همان لحظه به چنگم میافتاد سرنوشتش روشن بود. اما گویی حیوان حیلهگر با احساس خطر از حمله اول، آب شده، به زمین فرو رفته بود و مراقب بود تا در چنان حالی پیش رویم آفتابی نشود. نبود آن موجود نفرتانگیز، آرامشی ژرف در من به وجود آوردم و آن شب اولین شبی بود که آسوده خیال به صبح رساندم. آری من با وجود سنگینی بار جنایت در دوشم، آسوده خفتم. دومین و سومین روز هم سپری شد بیآن که از جلاد خبری شود. دیگر مانند انسانی آزاد نفس میکشیدم و اهریمن وحشت آفرین برای همیشه خانه را ترک گفته بود! و من دیگر هرگز او را نمیدیدم. از احساس خوشبختی در پوست نمیگنجیدم و جنایت هولناک نرم نرمک به دست فراموشی سپرده میشد. مراستم تحقیقات اولیه به سادگی و به گونهای کاملاً رضایت بخش انجام گرفت و دستور کاوش خانه صادر شد. من با اطمینان از نتیجة روشن کاوش، به زندگی سعادت بار آیندهام میاندیشیدم.

روز چهارم، گروهی مامور بی آنکه انتظارشان را داشته باشم به خانه آمدند و به دقت سرگرم تجسس شدند. اما من با اطمینان کامل به پنهانگاه جسد، خم به ابرو نیاوردم و از دلهره خبری نبود. به درخواست ماموران، در تمام مدت تجسس، آنها را همراهی کردم. هر جای مظنون را کاویدند و هیچ گوشهای را نادیده نگذاشتند. سرانجام برای سومین یا چهارمین بار وارد زیر زمین شدند. کوچکترین ترسی به خود راه ندادم. قلبم با آرامش طبیعی کار میکرد. در تمام مدت، دست به سینه، آسوده خاطر، درازا و پهنای زیر زمین را میپیمودم. ماموران خشنود از جستجوی دقیق بساط خود را برچیدند و آماده رفتن شدند. دیگر یارای سرکوبی شادمانی خود را نداشتم. دست کم باید جملهای به نشانه پیروزی و اینکه آنها را از بیگناهی خود مطمئن سازم بر زبان میراندم. وقتی خواستند از پلهها بالا بروند تحمل از کف دادم و رو به آنها کردم:

- آقایان! خوشحالم از این که سوةظن شما برطرف شده. برای همه شما آرزوی سلامتی میکنم. امیدوارم از این پس رفتارتان کمی مودبانهتر باشد. آقایان! در ضمن لازم است یادآوری کنم که این خانه بسیار خوب ساخته شده...

دیوانهوار و گستاخانه صحبت میکردم. بیآن که به درستی دریابم چه میکنم:
- ...به جرات میتوانم بگویم قابل ستایش است. به ویژه دیوارها... دارید میروید، آقایان؟ این دیوارها عجیب محکم ساخته شدهاند.

و در آن لحظه، با گستاخی خشم آلودهای انتهای عصای خود را درست به همان قسمتی که جسد همسرم را قرار داده بودم، کوبیدم. آه خداوند مرا از چنگال اهریمن حفظ کند. هنوز بازتاب ضربه عصا به درستی سکوت را نشکسته بود که صدایی از دل دیوار پاسخ داد! صدا نخست نالهای گنگ و بریده بریده بود؛ همانند هقهق کودکی، و آنگاه آرام آرام بلند و پرطنین و غیر انسانی شد – زوزهوار. فریادی نیم نفرت نیمی پیروزی- صدایی که تنها از جهنم بر میخیزد. صدای موحشی که هم، دوزخیان زیر شکنجه سر میدهند و هم اهریمنان شاد از عذاب جاویدان. بیان احساساتم در آن لحظات، نشان نادانیست. داشتم بیهوش میشدم. کوشیدم با تکیه بر دیوار روی پا بایستم. ماموران بهت زده و هراسان برای یک لحظه بیحرکت ماندند؛ آن گاه دستان پولادینشان به دیوار حمله برد. تمام قسمت باز سازی شده، یکباره فرو ریخت و جسد بدهیبت آشکار شد. سر از میان چاک برداشته بود خون اطراف آن دلمه بسته بود و حیوان خبیث با تنها چشم شرربار خود روی جسد چمباتمه زده بود. حیوان حیلهگری که مرا به جنایت واداشت و زوزه نابهنگامش به چنگال جلادم افکند. من آن هیولا را نیز درون دیوار مدفون کرده بودم.


Very Short Stories (داستانهای خیلی کوتاه انگلیسی)

The Wait
by: Patrick Johanneson

She planted the seed and waited. After a while rain came down from the sky, pelting her skin, chilling her. She shivered but didn't leave, not yet.

The sun came out, warming the soil, driving the cold from her bones. She waited. Clouds scudded by overhead, in a hurry for some reason. The moon rose, stars wheeled, and then the sun rose again.

She didn't just wait, of course. She prayed, she sang, she read the old stories, the myths and the legends. On the seventh day she snoozed under a cloudless sky, waking only briefly when a dragonfly happened to touch down on her nose. She observed its cathedral-window wings, irridescent with refracted sunlight, and drowsed once more after it left her.

Rain, sun, moon, stars: she endured them all. The seedling broke the soil with a questing green curlicue, looking for all the world like a question mark in the Old Tongue. She sat on it and waited more: days, months, decades.

A boy came along and asked her why she'd climbed to the top of the tree.

"I didn't," she said.

source: ecclectica.ca


Eating Everything There Ever Was
by: Patrick Johanneson

It started with a local hot-dog eating contest. Lou Verbain took first place, and moved on to the provincials, where he placed second. But the first-place contestant bowed out when his stomach ruptured, and Lou was on to the nationals. At internationals he placed a distant third to a whip-thin Japanese girl.

Lou wasn't about to take that lying down, so he went into hard-core training. He ate all the hot dogs in town, then in the province, and eventually he caused a continent-wide shortage in meat-ish products.

He moved on. Hamburgers, pies, cookies, anything he could stuff down his gullet. He grew and grew, too, expanding like a weed, like a balloon. It was surreal.

The day he started eating cars was probably the point of no return. He started small, with a rusted-out Datsun, but by week's end he was devouring Hummers and limos.

At some point hydrogen fusion started up in his stomach, but he didn't notice.

Long story short, now he's a black hole, Verbain X-1, and the Universe is slowly falling into him.


Dancing
by: Patrick Johanneson

On a hilltop at sunset, they danced one last time. High clouds burned crimson and chromium, and she sang to him:

o this is the guillotine, and this is the knife
this is for murder, this is for life

He whirled her like a dervish, spinning her about and about, watching her dark hair mask her face like a funeral veil.

so come, hangman, tie up your noose
my lover is here, waiting for you

He dipped her low, kissed her, then lifted her into the sky. She laughed with delight, and he couldn't remember the last time she'd sounded so happy.

we dance on the hill, we prance through the heath
we eat, drink and are merry, till we're all out of breath

And the music ended, and the first stars appeared in the eastern firmament. He bowed to her, both of them dripping sweat from their hair. Her smile was inscrutable.

"It's time, isn't it," he said.

"It is," she said. "Time to wake up."

He woke, and the bed was empty, and once more he was a widower.

He put on his ring and faced the day.


source: ecclectica.ca

I didn't Recognize You

A 45 year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience. Seeing God she asked "Is my time up?" God said, "No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live.
"Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a Face-lift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair colour and brighten her teeth!
Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it. After her last operation, she was released from the hospital.
While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance. Arriving in front of God, she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 43 years? Why didn't you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?"
God replied: "I didn't recognize you".




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 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!
By Edgar Allen Poe
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