by Edgar Allan Poe
I am about to write the strangest story although I do not expect anybody to believe it. I would be mad if I expected so, for even I doubt of my senses. But I know that I am not mad and I am sure it is not a dream. Tomorrow I must die and I would like to clean my soul today. I will simply bring here, without any comment, a series of events whose consequences have terrified me, have tortured, have destroyed me. Maybe some of you, more intelligent and logical than me, will find a satisfactory explanation for these facts.
Since I was a child, I was always a kind and tender person and very fond of animals. My parents gave me many pets and I was happy feeding and caressing them.
Being young, I married a woman who also liked animals. We had birds, gold fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.
The cat was a large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and very clever. My wife was not a superstitious woman, but she frequently mentioned the ancient belief that black cats are witches in disguise.
Pluto -this was the cat's name -was my favorite pet. I alone fed him, and he followed me everywhere.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years. But then, I have to confess it, my character started to change due to alcohol. Day by day, I grew more irritable and I did not care for the feelings of others. I started speaking rudely to my wife and I even used violence with her. Of course, my pets too were victims of my change. All except Pluto, who I did not maltreat. But my disease went worse and even Pluto started to experience my bad temper.
One night, I noticed that the cat avoided me. I caught him violently and the cat, frightened, bit me slightly in the hand. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I took a pen-knife and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I am ashamed when I write the damnable atrocity.
In the morning I felt sorry but soon, wine made me forget everything. The cat recovered slowly. The socket of the lost eye looked horrible, but, apparently, he was not suffering any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, when I was near, the cat ran away terrified. At first I was grieved, but this feeling soon changed into irritation and finally into PERVERSITY.
One morning, in cool blood, I put a rope around its neck and hung it from a tree. In the bottom of my heart I felt remorse because there had been a time when the cat had loved me, and because I knew I had no reason to kill it. I hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin.
That night I woke up and saw fire. The whole house was in fire. With great difficulty, my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape, but the destruction was complete.
I am not trying to establish any relation of cause and effect between the fire and my sin. I am just detailing a chain of facts.
The day after the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. It was the wall of my bedroom. A lot of people had congregated there and they were examining the wall and exclaiming things like “strange!” and “singular!” I approached and saw the figure of a gigantic cat on the wall and there was a rope about the animal's neck.
My first reaction was of extreme terror but then I started thinking and convinced myself that there was a logical explanation for that apparition. However, it had made a deep impression on my imagination and, for months, I could not stop thinking of the phantasm of the animal. I regretted the loss of Pluto and started to look for a substitute.
One night I found a very big black, as big as Pluto used to be and very much like him except for one thing. It had a large indefinite white spot on the breast.
I took it home with me and it soon became the favourite of my wife. It was very evident that the cat was very fond of me and followed me to every single place. But, little by little, a sense of dislike for the animal was growing inside me. The discovery that, like Pluto, it had lost one of its eyes, was one more reason to hate it.
Now that I am in this cell, I must admit that the cat scared me. The terror that the animal inspired me was based on some change that gradually operated in the cat. My wife often remarked the white spot that was the only visible difference between this animal and Pluto. Well, the reader will remember that, at first, this mark was very indefinite but, by slow degrees, it had taken a very definite shape and very clearly showed the GALLOWS!
From that day on, I could not rest any more. Before that, the cat left me no moment alone; now it also tormented me in my dreams and I could do nothing to get rid of him. My bad temper increased and I came to hate all things and my wife frequently suffered my violence in silence.
One night, as I was walking down the stairs, the cat ran between my legs and nearly made me fall. Taking an axe, I aimed a blow at the animal that surely would have killed it, but my wife stopped my arm. That made me so furious that I lifted the axe again and, with all my might, I crushed it into my wife’s head. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.
I thought of many ways to get rid of the corpse without being noticed and finally came to the conclusion that the best way was to wall it up in the cellar. Without great difficulty I removed some bricks from the wall, put the corpse in the hole and walled it up in a way that no one could detect anything suspicious.
My next step was to look for the cat which had been the cause of everything, for I had decided to kill it too. But much as I tried, I could not find it. It is impossible to describe the feeling of relief that the absence of the animal caused in my soul and that night, for the first time long, I slept soundly.
The second and the third day passed and there was no trace of the cat. My happiness was supreme! The feeling of guilt did not disturb me much. There were some inquires but I had no problem to answer in a convincing manner.
On the fourth day after the assassination, some policemen came to search the house. They left no corner unexplored. Finally they came down to the cellar and I accompanied them quite convinced that they would not find anything.
They searched the place thoroughly and were ready to leave the place. A feeling of triumph possessed me then. “Gentlemen,” I said at last, “I was delighted to help you in your inquires. Not knowing well what to say, I rapped on the wall where the corpse of my wife laid and most immediately I was answered by a voice behind the wall. It was a cry, like the cry of a child.
For a moment the policemen remained still listening to the voice crying. The next second, a dozen arms were pulling down the wall. The corpse, covered with gore, stood there and upon its head was the cat whose voice had taken me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!