There are three parts to my tale. The first began when I was working in my tailor shop. My father had opened it long before I was born. By the time I was seven, he began to apprentice me into the trade. When I reached the age of 19, he claimed that I had mastered the trade and, in fact, had transformed it into an art, an art that would do our family, the Montresors, proud.
Father died three months before I wed my beloved Lady Montresor.
It was a tiresome Monday afternoon until a stranger entered the shop. The man was young and rather tall, with dark hair, a frail mustache, and very brown eyes. He was quite handsome. And wealthy. He was dressed in some of the finest garments I had ever seen. Silk and cashmere flowed from his extravagant shirt and coat. The clothes accentuated his build and gold jewelry encircled his fingers and wrists. A large jeweled cross dangled from his neck and rested on the middle of his broad chest.
“Good afternoon,” he said bowing his head slightly and not extending his hand, though I had extended mine. After a few painful seconds, I let it drop and buried my hands in my threadbare pockets. “I am Fortunato. I have heard about your talent as a tailor. Lent is soon upon us and I would like a new wardrobe for the occasion, including an extravagant jester’s costume for the upcoming carnival. You may ship them to my palazzo near the monetary.”
“Oh! What a coincidence,” I began. “My mother in law lives close by. In fact, my wife is heading there this afternoon for a short stay.”
However, this Fortunato did not care, for he turned to leave, as a servant held the door open, but just then my wife entered the shop from the back.
“Oh my, who do we have here?” Fortunato asked as he paused, one step from the exit.
In fact, the two had almost collided. In haste, hoping he wouldn’t take insult and withdraw his request, I apologized for my wife’s lack of awareness, for which he explained that there was no need to apologize.
I introduced Lady Montresor to him. He politely leaned forward and kissed her dark hand and said that a woman so beautiful could never lack anything. He then entered into a conversation with her while I busied myself with the task of reading the fabric for the garments.
My wife called to the back of the shop and asked if I would join her for dinner before she had to leave for her mother’s. I responded that I had to get started on the outfits as soon as possible, for April had just begun.
The man immediately called back and inquired if I had any objections to his taking Lady Montresor out to dinner.
“Surely not,” I said as an after thought as I began to cut some of my finest silk into sections.
Several hours went by and I assumed that my wife simply left for her mother’s after lunch with Mr. Fortunato. But as I finished the man’s second outfit, he entered my shop with Lady Montresor.
They were laughing and sounded in high spirits, obviously having sampled quite a few over lunch.
Fortunato began to explain that after lunch, they began sampling wine from his personal stock.
“When will you be leaving for you mother’s then?” I asked since it was rather late in the afternoon and her ride had wished to leave before dark.
Fortunato quickly said that he would be all too happy to drop her off at her mother’s on the way back to his palazzo. I quickly thought of not having to pay for her original ride and quickly consented.
The man peered at my work and picked up the garment I had just finished.
“Very nice indeed. You are a man of skill. These are incredible. I will return in a week for the collection,” he said.
Then I kissed my wife and the two ventured out.
This is where the second part of my tale beings.
Lady Montresor was to spend four days with her ailing mother. The time without her went quickly, for I poured all of my time into finishing Fortunato's collection.
When I finally emerged from my shop, I realized that I finished half a day early.
With this unexpected free time and a large profit ensured, I decided to close shop and venture into the city.
When I reached my mother-in-law’s home, it was dark.
I knocked on the door. My wife’s mother slowly opened the door. She was the picture of death. Her eyes were sunken and her voice was more than a groan . . . “Where is Alonza?”
“She isn’t here?’
“No . . . and I need her so!”
The old woman, after hearing the first part of my tale, suggested that there must have been some trouble with the coach.”
I agreed and left for home.
On my way back, I grew hungry and – with the large sum from Fortunato assured – I decided to treat myself to a meal. A local inn that Alonza and I frequented was just ahead.
However, as I tied my horse to the post, I noticed a familiar coach in the adjacent stable . . . it was Fortunato’s.
I ran to it and tore open the door. My heart sank when I saw Alonza’s scarf there on the seat.
I returned to my shop in a fury. There I found a small amount of solace down in the catacombs where I stored my own selection.
I woke in a pool of wasted Medoc and spilled tears. I immediately returned to my shop and ripped Fortunato’s collection to shreds. Then I drank more wine.
The thoughts that took form in my mind were products of my anger and hate, but they didn’t shock me. This insult could not be tolerated. I grabbed another cask of wine, and finding it empty, shattered it against the back wall of my shop.
It disintegrated against a tapestry of my family’s coat of arms. Staring at the tapestry, I began to read the family motto, “nemo me impune lacessit” over and over. No one can provoke me and get away with it.
I could see my father and grandfather laughing at my cuckoldry.
Then my mind returned to its violent thoughts, which soon began to please me.
Later that night, Lady Montresor returned as I manned the front of the shop.
“How is your mother?”
“Oh, she is getting worse by the day. I fear that I shall have to stay with her indefinitely.”
“Of course, my dear.”
“Maybe when you are staying with her, you could inquire as to how Fortunato likes his collection.”
“Oh, it is done then? She inquired, and any hint of melancholy vanished.
I told her that I had indeed finished the collection.
She begged to see them and remarked how perfect she thought the first garments were.
I ushered her to the work area in back of our shop.
When Alonza saw the wreckage, she shrieked at the mess. I feigned surprise.
“Someone must have broke in over the night,” I said.
“I hope the garments aren’t damaged,” she said, rushing over to my worktable.
“Here is what is left of them,” I said and held up the tattered silk.
“Oh God. Can you possibly make a new one for the carnival?”
“I think so. . . But, dear, only with your help.”
“Of course. I was hoping to attend the carnival to see the reaction to Fortunato’s outfit.”
“I bet you were my dear. I bet you were,” I said as a smile struck my face and an empty bottle of Medoc struck the back of
When she woke, I longed to se kaleidoscope of emotions in my wife’s eyes. Fear would be prominent, as would shock, disbelief, pain, and finally, beautiful terror, which I had become an apprentice of.
However, Alonza never opened her eyes. She couldn’t. I sewed them shut . . . along with other openings. Never would
Fortunato have my wife again. Nor would Alonza speak his name again. Nor would she be able to scream.
I did, though, leave her ears untouched. I wanted her to hear what I had in store for my final masterpiece.
“Now, dear, I must cut some fabric for Fortunato’s new costume,” I said as I walked toward the table where I had her bound.
“In fact,” I said, patting the inside of her thigh, “I just so happen to have his favorite kind right here.”
Lady Montresor began to writhe.
“Please, my dear, hold still.”
And I reached for my scissors.
The third part of my tale began at the carnival before Lent when I began contemplating, “The thousands injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best I could . . .”