Story 14 - the Murders in the Rue M by Spitoufs
Story 14 - the Murders in the Rue M by Spitoufs
The mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in
themselves, but little susceptible of analysis.
We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among
other things, that they are always to their possessor, when
inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment.
As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting
in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the
analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He derives
pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his
talent into play.
He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics
exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of acumen which
appears to the ordinary apprehension preternatural.
His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of
method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.
The faculty of re-solution is possibly much invigorated by
mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it
which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrograde
operations, has been called, as if par excellence , analysis.
Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyse.
A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at
the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects
upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood.
I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a
somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random
I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher
powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more
usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by
a the elaborate frivolity of chess.
In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre
motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex
is mistaken a not unusual error for what is profound.
The attention is here called powerfully into play.
If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed resulting
in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold
but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied
and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative
rather than the more acute player who conquers.
In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have
but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are
diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively
unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are
obtained by superior acumen.
To be less abstract - Let us suppose a game of draughts where
the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course,
no oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the
victory can be decided the players being at all equal only by
some recherche movement, the result of some strong exertion of
the intellect. Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws
himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself
therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance,
the sole methods sometime indeed absurdly simple ones
by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation.
Whist has long been noted for its influence upon what is termed
the calculating power and men of the highest order of
intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable
delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous.
Beyond doubt there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly
tasking the faculty of analysis. The best chess-player in
Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess
but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all
those more important undertakings where mind struggles with
mind. When I say proficiency, I mean that perfection in the
game which includes a comprehension of all the sources whence
legitimate advantage may be derived. These are not only manifold
but multiform, and lie frequently among recesses of thought
altogether inaccessible to the ordinary understanding.
To observe attentively is to remember distinctly and, so far,
the concentrative chess-player will do very well at whist
while the rules of Hoyle themselves based upon the mere
mechanism of the game are sufficiently and generally
comprehensible. Thus to have a retentive memory, and to
proceed by the book, are points commonly regarded as the sum
total of good playing. But it is in matters beyond the limits
of mere rule that the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes,
in silence, a host of observations and inferences. So, perhaps,
do his companions and the difference in the extent of the
information obtained, lies not so much in the validity of the
inference as in the quality of the observation.
The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe.
Our player confines himself not at all nor, because the game
is the object, does he reject deductions from things external
to the game. He examines the countenance of his partner, comparing
it carefully with that of each of his opponents.
He considers the mode of assorting the cards in each hand often
counting trump by trump, and honor by honor, through the
glances bestowed by their holders upon each. He notes every
variation of face as the play progresses, gathering a fund of
thought from the differences in the expression of certainty,
of surprise, of triumph, or of chagrin. From the manner of
gathering up a trick he judges whether the person taking it
can make another in the suit. He recognises what is played
through feint, by the air with which it is thrown upon the
table. A casual or inadvertent word the accidental dropping or
turning of a card, with the accompanying anxiety or carelessness
in regard to its concealment the counting of the tricks,
with the order of their arrangement embarrassment, hesitation,
eagerness or trepidation - all afford, to his apparently
intuitive perception, indications of the true state of affairs.
The first two or three rounds having been played, he is in
full possession of the contents of each hand, and thenceforward
puts down his cards with as absolute a precision of purpose as
if the rest of the party had turned outward the faces of their own.
The analytical power should not be confounded with ample ingenuity
for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the ingenious
man is often remarkably incapable of analysis. The constructive or
combining power, by which ingenuity is usually manifested, and to
which the phrenologists I believe erroneously have assigned a
separate organ, supposing it a primitive faculty, has been so
frequently seen in those whose intellect bordered otherwise
upon idiocy, as to have attracted general observation among
writers on morals. Between ingenuity and the analytic ability
there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that
between the fancy and the imagination, but of a character very
strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the
ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never
otherwise than analytic.
The narrative which follows will appear to the reader somewhat
in the light of a commentary upon the propositions just advanced.
Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18--,
I there became acquainted with a Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin.
This young gentleman was of an excellent - indeed of an
illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had
been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character
succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the
world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy
of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a small
remnant of his patrimony and, upon the income arising from this,
he managed, by means of a rigorous economy, to procure the
necessaries of life, without troubling himself about its
superfluities. Books, indeed, were his sole luxuries, and in
Paris these are easily obtained.
Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the Rue Montmartre,
where the accident of our both being in search of the same very
rare and very remarkable volume, brought us into closer communion.
We saw each other again and again. I was deeply interested in
the little family history which he detailed to me with all that
candor which a Frenchman indulges whenever mere self is his theme.
I was astonished, too, at the vast extent of his reading and,
above all, I felt my soul enkindled within me by the wild fervor,
and the vivid freshness of his imagination.
Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society
of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price and this
feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that
we should live together during my stay in the city and as my
worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own,
I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in
a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common
temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through
superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its
fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world,
we should have been regarded as madmen - although, perhaps, as
madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted
no visitors. Indeed the locality of our retirement had been
carefully kept a secret from my own former associates and it had
been many years since Dupin had ceased to know or be known in Paris.
We existed within ourselves alone.
It was a freak of fancy in my friend for what else shall I
call it? to be enamored of the Night for her own sake and into
this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell giving
myself up to his wild whims with a perfect abandon.
The sable divinity would not herself dwell with us always but we
could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning
we closed all the messy shutters of our old building lighting a
couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the
ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then
busied our souls in dreams - reading, writing, or conversing,
until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness.
Then we sallied forth into the streets arm in arm, continuing the
topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour,
seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city,
that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can
At such times I could not help remarking and admiring although
from his rich ideality I had been prepared to expect it a peculiar
analytic ability in Dupin. He seemed, too, to take an eager delight
in its exercise - if not exactly in its display - and did not
hesitate to confess the pleasure thus derived. He boastedto me,
with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to himself,
wore windows in their bosoms, and was wont to follow up such
assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his intimate
knowledge of my own. His manner at these moments was frigid and
abstract his eyes were vacant in expression while his voice,
usually a rich tenor, rose into a treble which would have sounded
petulantly but for the deliberateness and entire distinctness of
the enunciation. Observing him in these moods, I often dwelt
meditatively upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and
amused myself with the fancy of a double Dupin - the creative
and the resolvent.
Let it not be supposed, from what I have just said, that I am
detailing any mystery, or penning any romance. What I have described
in the Frenchman, was merely the result of an excited, or perhaps
of a diseased intelligence. But of the character of his remarks at
the periods in question an example will best convey the idea.
We were strolling one night down a long dirty street in the
vicinity of the Palais Royal. Being both, apparently, occupied
with thought, neither of us had spoken a syllable for fifteen
minutes at least. All at once Dupin broke forth with these words:
He is a very little fellow, thats true, and would do better for
the Theatre des Varietes .
There can be no doubt of that, I replied unwittingly, and not
at first observing so much had I been absorbed in reflection
the extraordinary manner in which the speaker had chimed in with
my meditations. In an instant afterward I recollected myself,
and my astonishment was profound.
Dupin, said I, gravely, this is beyond my comprehension.
I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed, and can scarcely credit
my senses. How was it possible you should know I was thinking
of ----- ? Here I paused, to ascertain beyond a doubt whether
he really knew of whom I thought.
- of Chantilly, said he, why do you pause? You were remarking
to yourself that his diminutive figure unfitted him for tragedy.
This was precisely what had formed the subject of my reflections.
Chantilly was a quondam cobbler of the Rue St. Denis, who, becoming
stage-mad, had attempted the role of Xerxes, in Crebillons
tragedy so called, and been notoriously Pasquinaded for his pains.
Tell me, for Heavens sake, I exclaimed, the method -
if method there is - by which you have been enabled to fathom
my soul in this matter. In fact I was even more startled than
I would have been willing to express.
It was the fruiterer, replied my friend, who brought you to the
conclusion that the mender of soles was not of sufficient height
for Xerxes et id genus omne .
The fruiterer! - you astonish me - I know no fruiterer whomsoever.
The man who ran up against you as we entered the street - it may
have been fifteen minutes ago.
I now remembered that, in fact, a fruiterer, carrying upon his head
a large basket of apples, had nearly thrown me down, by accident,
as we passed from the Rue C ---- into the thoroughfare where we
stood but what this had to do with Chantilly I could not
possibly understand.
There was not a particle of charlatanerie about Dupin.
I will explain, he said, and that you may comprehend all clearly,
we will first retrace the course of your meditations, from the
moment in which I spoke to you until that of the rencontre with
the fruiterer in question. The larger links of the chain run thus
- Chantilly, Orion, Dr. Nichols, Epicurus, Stereotomy, the street
stones, the fruiterer.
There are few persons who have not, at some period of their lives,
amused themselves in retracing the steps by which particular
conclusions of their own minds have been attained.
The occupation is often full of interest and he who attempts it for
the first time is astonished by the apparently illimitable distance
and incoherence between the starting-point and the goal.
What, then, must have been my amazement when I heard the Frenchman
speak what he had just spoken, and when I could not help
acknowledging that he had spoken the truth.
He continued:
We had been talking of horses, if I remember aright, just before
leaving the Rue C ---- . This was the last subject we discussed.
As we crossed into this street, a fruiterer, with a large basket
upon his head, brushing quickly past us, thrust you upon a pile
of paving stones collected at a spot where the causeway is
undergoing repair. You stepped upon one of the loose fragments,
slipped, slightly strained your ankle, appeared vexed or sulky,
muttered a few words, turned to look at the pile, and then
proceeded in silence. I was not particularly attentive to what
you did but observation has become with me, of late, a species
of necessity.
You kept your eyes upon the ground - glancing, with a petulant
expression, at the holes and ruts in the pavement, so that I saw
you were still thinking of the stones, until we reached the
little alley called Lamartine, which has been paved, by way of
experiment, with the overlapping and riveted blocks.
Here your countenance brightened up, and, perceiving your lips move,
I could not doubt that you murmured the word stereotomy, a term
very affectedly applied to this species of pavement. I knew that
you could not say to yourself stereotomy without being brought to
think of atomies, and thus of the theories of Epicurus
and since, when we discussed this subject not very long ago,
I mentioned to you how singularly, yet with how little notice,
the vague guesses of that noble Greek had met with confirmation
in the late nebular cosmogony, I felt that you could not avoid
casting your eyes upward to the great nebula in Orion, and I
certainly expected that you would do so. You did look up
and I was now assured that I had correctly followed your steps.
But in that bitter tirade upon Chantilly, which appeared in
yesterdays Musee , the satirist, making some disgraceful
allusions to the cobbler s change of name upon assuming the
buskin, quoted a Latin line about which we have often conversed.
I mean the line -
Perdidit antiquum litera sonum.
I had told you that this was in reference to Orion, formerly
written Urion and, from certain pungencies connected with this
explanation, I was aware that you could not have forgotten it.
It was clear, therefore, that you would not fail to combine the
two ideas of Orion and Chantilly. That you did combine them I saw
by the character of the smile which passed over your lips.
You thought of the poor cobblers immolation. So far, you had been
stooping in your gait but now I saw you draw yourself up to your
full height. I was then sure that you reflected upon the
diminutive figure of Chantilly. At this point I interrupted your
meditations to remark that as, in fact, be was a very little
fellow - that Chantilly - he would do better at the
Theatre des Varietes .
Not long after this, we were looking over an evening edition of
the Gazette des Tribunaux, when the following paragraphs arrested
our attention.
EXTRAORDINARY MURDERS. - This morning, about three oclock,
inhabitants of the Quartier St. Roch were aroused from the
sleep by a succession of terrific shrieks, issuing, apparently,
from the fourth story of a house in the Rue Morgue, known to be
in the sole occupancy of one Madame LEspanaye, and her daughter
Mademoiselle Camille LEspanaye. After some delay, occasioned
by a fruitless attempt to procure admission in the usual manner,
the gateway was broken in with a crowbar, and eight or ten of the
neighbors entered accompanied by two gendarmes.
By this time the cries had ceased but, as the party rushed up
the first flight of stairs, two or more rough voices in angry
contention were distinguished and seemed to proceed from the
upper part of the house. As the second landing was reached,
these sounds, also, had ceased and everything remained perfectly
quiet. The party spread themselves and hurried from room to
room. Upon arriving at a large back chamber in the fourth story,
the door of which, being found locked, with the key inside, was
forced open, a spectacle presented itself which struck every one
present not less with horror than with astonishment.
The apartment was in the wildest disorder - the furniture broken
and thrown about in all directions. There was only one bedstead
and from this the bed had been removed, and thrown into the
middle of the floor. On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with
blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses
of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have
been pulled out by the roots. Upon the floor were found four
Napoleons, an ear-ring of topaz, three large silver spoons,
three smaller of metal dAlger , and two bags, containing nearly
four thousand francs in gold.
The drawers of a bureau, which stood in one corner were open,
and had been, apparently, rifled, although many articles still
remained in them. A small iron safe was discovered under the
bed not under the bedstead. It was open, with the key still
in the door. It had no contents beyond a few old letters, and
other papers of little consequence.
Of Madame LEspanaye no traces were here seen but an unusual
quantity of soot being observed in the fire-place, a search was
made in the chimney, and horrible to relate! the corpse of
the daughter, head downward, was dragged therefrom it having
been thus forced up the narrow aperture for a considerable
distance. The body was quite warm. Upon examining it, many
excoriations were perceived, no doubt occasioned by the
violence with which it had been thrust up and disengaged.
Upon the face were many severe scratches, and, upon the throat,
dark bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails, as if the
deceased had been throttled to death.
After a thorough investigation of every portion of the house,
without farther discovery, the party made its way into a small
paved yard in the rear of the building, where lay the corpse of
the old lady, with her throat so entirely cut that, upon an
attempt to raise her, the head fell off.
The body, as well as the head, was fearfully mutilated -
the former so much so as scarcely to retain any semblance of
To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe,
the slightest clew.
The next days paper had these additional particulars.
The Tragedy in the Rue Morgue. Many individuals have been
examined in relation to this most extraordinary and frightful
affair. The word affaire has not yet, in France, that levity
of import which it conveys with us, but nothing whatever has
transpired to throw light upon it. We give below all the
material testimony elicited.
Pauline Dubourg , laundress, deposes that she has known both
the deceased for three years, having washed for them during
that period. The old lady and her daughter seemed on good
terms - very affectionate towards each other. They were excellent
pay. Could not speak in regard to their mode or means of living.
Believed that Madame L. told fortunes for a living.
Was reputed to have money put by. Never met any persons in the
house when she called for the clothes or took them home.
Was sure that they had no servant in employ.
There appeared to be no furniture in any part of the building
except in the fourth story.
Pierre Moreau , tobacconist, deposes that he has been in the
habit of selling small quantities of tobacco and snuff to
Madame LEspanaye for nearly four years. Was born in the
neighborhood, and has always resided there. The deceased and her
daughter had occupied the house in which the corpses were
found, for more than six years. It was formerly occupied by a
jeweller, who under-let the upper rooms to various persons.
The house was the property of Madame L. She became dissatisfied
with the abuse of the premises by her tenant, and moved into
them herself, refusing to let any portion. The old lady was
childish. Witness had seen the daughter some five or six times
during the six years. The two lived an exceedingly retired life
- were reputed to have money. Had heard it said among the
neighbors that Madame L. told fortunes - did not believe it.
Had never seen any person enter the door except the old lady
and her daughter, a porter once or twice, and a physician
some eight or ten times.
Many other persons, neighbors, gave evidence to the same effect.
No one was spoken of as frequenting the house. It was not known
whether there were any living connexions of Madame L. and her
daughter. The shutters of the front windows were seldom opened.
Those in the rear were always closed, with the exception of the
large back room, fourth story. The house was a good house - not
very old.
Isidore Muset , gendarme, deposes that he was called to the
house about three oclock in the morning, and found some twenty
or thirty persons at the gateway, endeavoring to gain admittance.
Forced it open, at length, with a bayonet - not with a crowbar.
Had but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its
being a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at bottom not
top. The shrieks were continued until the gate was forced -
and then suddenly ceased. They seemed to be screams of some
person or persons in great agony - were loud and drawn out,
not short and quick. Witness led the way up stairs.
Upon reaching the first landing, heard two voices in loud and
angry contention - the one a gruff voice, the other much
shriller - a very strange voice. Could distinguish some words
of the former, which was that of a Frenchman. Was positive that
it was not a womans voice. Could distinguish the words -
sacre and diable. The shrill voice was that of a foreigner.
Could not be sure whether it was the voice of a man or of a
woman. Could not make out what was said, but believed the
language to be Spanish. The state of the room and of the bodies
was described by this witness as we described them yesterday.
Henri Duval , a neighbor, and by trade a silver-smith, deposes
that he was one of the party who first entered the house.
Corroborates the testimony of Muset in general. As soon as they
forced an entrance, they reclosed the door, to keep out the
crowd, which collected very fast, notwithstanding the lateness
of the hour. The shrill voice, this witness thinks, was that
of an Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could not be sure
that it was a mans voice. It might have been a womans.
Was not acquainted with the Italian language. Could not
distinguish the words, but was convinced by the intonation that
the speaker was an Italian. Knew Madame L. and her daughter.
Had conversed with both frequently. Was sure that the shrill
voice was not that of either of the deceased.
- Odenheimer, restaurateur. This witness volunteered his
testimony. Not speaking French, was examined through an
interpreter. Is a native of Amsterdam. Was passing the house
at the time of the shrieks. They lasted for several minutes -
probably ten. They were long and loud - very awful and
distressing. Was one of those who entered the building.
Corroborated the previous evidence in every respect but one.
Was sure that the shrill voice was that of a man - of a
Frenchman. Could not distinguish the words uttered. They were
loud and quick - unequal - spoken apparently in fear as well as
in anger. The voice was harsh - not so much shrill as harsh.
Could not call it a shrill voice. The gruff voice said
repeatedly sacre , diable, and once mon Dieu.
Jules Mignaud , banker, of the firm of Mignaud et Fils,
Rue Deloraine. Is the elder Mignaud. Madame LEspanaye had some
property. Had opened an account with his banking house in the
spring of the year - eight years previously. Made frequent
deposits in small sums. Had checked for nothing until the third
day before her death, when she took out in person the sum of
4000 francs. This sum was paid in gold, and a clerk went home
with the money.
Adolphe Le Bon , clerk to Mignaud et Fils, deposes that on the
day in question, about noon, he accompanied Madame LEspanaye
to her residence with the 4000 francs, put up in two bags.
Upon the door being opened, Mademoiselle L. appeared and took
from his hands one of the bags, while the old lady relieved him
of the other. He then bowed and departed. Did not see any person
in the street at the time. It is a bye-street - very lonely.
William Bird , tailor deposes that he was one of the party who
entered the house. Is an Englishman. Has lived in Paris two
years. Was one of the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the
voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman.
Could make out several words, but cannot now remember all.
Heard distinctly sacre and mon Dieu.
There was a sound at the moment as if of several persons
struggling - a scraping and scuffling sound. The shrill voice
was very loud - louder than the gruff one. Is sure that it was
not the voice of an Englishman. Appeared to be that of a German.
Might have been a womans voice. Does not understand German.
Four of the above-named witnesses, being recalled, deposed
that the door of the chamber in which was found the body of
Mademoiselle L. was locked on the inside when the party
reached it. Every thing was perfectly silent - no groans or
noises of any kind. Upon forcing the door no person was seen.
The windows, both of the back and front room, were down and
firmly fastened from within. A door between the two rooms
was closed, but not locked. The door leading from the front
room into the passage was locked, with the key on the inside.
A small room in the front of the house, on the fourth story,
at the head of the passage was open, the door being ajar.
This room was crowded with old beds, boxes, and so forth.
These were carefully removed and searched. There was not
an inch of any portion of the house which was not carefully
searched. Sweeps were sent up and down the chimneys.
The house was a four story one, with garrets mansardes.
A trap-door on the roof was nailed down very securely - did
not appear to have been opened for years. The time elapsing
between the hearing of the voices in contention and the
breaking open of the room door, was variously stated by the
witnesses. Some made it as short as three minutes - some as
long as five. The door was opened with difficulty.
Alfonzo Garcio , undertaker, deposes that he resides in the
Rue Morgue. Is a native of Spain. Was one of the party who
entered the house. Did not proceed up stairs. Is nervous, and
was apprehensive of the consequences of agitation.
Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of
a Frenchman. Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill
voice was that of an Englishman - is sure of this.
Does not understand the English language, but judges by the
Alberto Montani , confectioner, deposes that he was among the
first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in question.
The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Distinguished several
words. The speaker appeared to be expostulating.
Could not make out the words of the shrill voice. Spoke quick
and unevenly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. Corroborates the
general testimony. Is an Italian. Never conversed with a native
of Russia.
Several witnesses, recalled, here testified that the chimneys
of all the rooms on the fourth story were too narrow to admit
the passage of a human being. By sweeps were meant cylindrical
sweeping brushes, such as are employed by those who clean
chimneys. These brushes were passed up and down every flue in
the house. There is no back passage by which any one could have
descended while the party proceeded up stairs.
The body of Mademoiselle LEspanaye was so firmly wedged in the
chimney that it could not be got down until four or five of the
party united their strength.
Paul Dumas , physician, deposes that he was called to view the
bodies about day-break. They were both then lying on the sacking
of the bedstead in the chamber where Mademoiselle L. was found.
The corpse of the young lady was much bruised and excoriated.
The fact that it had been thrust up the chimney would
sufficiently account for these appearances.
The throat was greatly chafed. There were several deep scratches
just below the chin, together with a series of livid spots which
were evidently the impression of fingers.
The face was fearfully discolored, and the eye-balls protruded.
The tongue had been partially bitten through. A large bruise was
discovered upon the pit of the stomach, produced, apparently, by
the pressure of a knee. In the opinion of M. Dumas, Mademoiselle
LEspanaye had been throttled to death by some person or
persons unknown.
The corpse of the mother was horribly mutilated. All the bones
of the right leg and arm were more or less shattered. The left
tibia much splintered, as well as all the ribs of the left side.
Whole body dreadfully bruised and discolored. It was not possible
to say how the injuries had been inflicted. A heavy club of wood,
or a broad bar of iron - a chair - any large, heavy, and obtuse
weapon would have produced such results, if wielded by the hands
of a very powerful man. No woman could have inflicted the blows
with any weapon. The head of the deceased, when seen by witness,
was entirely separated from the body, and was also greatly
shattered. The throat had evidently been cut with some very
sharp instrument - probably with a razor.
Alexandre Etienne , surgeon, was called with M. Dumas to view
the bodies. Corroborated the testimony, and the opinions of
M. Dumas.
Nothing farther of importance was elicited, although several
other persons were examined. A murder so mysterious, and so
perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed
in Paris - if indeed a murder has been committed at all.
The police are entirely at fault - an unusual occurrence in
affairs of this nature. There is not, however, the shadow of
a clew apparent.
The evening edition of the paper stated that the greatest
excitement still continued in the Quartier St. Roch - that the
premises in question had been carefully re-searched, and fresh
examinations of witnesses instituted, but all to no purpose.
A postscript, however, mentioned that Adolphe Le Bon had been
arrested and imprisoned - although nothing appeared to criminate
him, beyond the facts already detailed.
Dupin seemed singularly interested in the progress of this affair -
at least so I judged from his manner, for he made no comments.
It was only after the announcement that Le Bon had been imprisoned,
that he asked me my opinion respecting the murders.
I could merely agree with all Paris in considering them an insoluble
mystery. I saw no means by which it would be possible to trace
the murderer.
We must not judge of the means, said Dupin, by this shell of an
examination. The Parisian police, so much extolled for acumen,
are cunning, but no more. There is no method in their proceedings,
beyond the method of the moment. They make a vast parade of
measures but, not unfrequently, these are so ill adapted to the
objects proposed, as to put us in mind of Monsieur Jourdains
calling for his robe-de-chambre - pour mieux entendre la musique.
The results attained by them are not unfrequently surprising, but,
for the most part, are brought about by simple diligence and
activity. When these qualities are unavailing, their schemes fail.
Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser and a persevering man.
But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very
intensity of his investigations. He impaired his vision by holding
the object too close. He might see, perhaps, one or two points with
unusual clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of
the matter as a whole. Thus there is such a thing as being too
profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the
more important knowledge, do believe that she is invariably
superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and
not upon the mountain-tops where she is found.
The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in
the contemplation of the heavenly bodies.
To look at a star by glances- to view it in a side-long way,
by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina
more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior,
is to behold the star distinctly - is to have the best appreciation
of its lustre - a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we
turn our vision fully upon it.
A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter
case, but, in the former, there is the more refined capacity for
comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought
and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the
firmanent by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, or
too direct.
As for these murders, let us enter into some examinations for
ourselves, before we make up an opinion respecting them.
An inquiry will afford us amusement, I thought this an odd term,
so applied, but said nothing and, besides, Le Bon once rendered
me a service for which I am not ungrateful. We will go and see the
premises with our own eyes.
I know G----, the Prefect of Police, and shall have no difficulty
in obtaining the necessary permission.
The permission was obtained, and we proceeded at once to the
Rue Morgue. This is one of those miserable thoroughfares which
intervene between the Rue Richelieu and the Rue St. Roch.
It was late in the afternoon when we reached it as this quarter
is at a great distance from that in which we resided.
The house was readily found for there were still many persons
gazing up at the closed shutters, with an objectless curiosity,
from the opposite side of the way. It was an ordinary Parisian
house, with a gateway, on one side of which was a glazed watch-box,
with a sliding panel in the window, indicating a loge de concierge.
Before going in we walked up the street, turned down an alley,
and then, again turning, passed in the rear of the building -
Dupin, meanwhile examining the whole neighborhood, as well as the
house, with a minuteness of attention for which I could see no
possible object.
Retracing our steps, we came again to the front of the dwelling,
rang, and, having shown our credentials, were admitted by the
agents in charge. We went up stairs - into the chamber where
the body of Mademoiselle LEspanaye had been found, and where
both the deceased still lay. The disorders of the room had, as
usual, been suffered to exist. I saw nothing beyond what had
been stated in the Gazette des Tribunaux. Dupin scrutinized
every thing - not excepting the bodies of the victims. We then
went into the other rooms, and into the yard a gendarme
accompanying us throughout. The examination occupied us until
dark, when we took our departure. On our way home my companion
stepped in for a moment at the office of one of the daily papers.
I have said that the whims of my friend were manifold, and that
Je les menagais : - for this phrase there is no English equivalent.
It was his humor, now, to decline all conversation on the subject
of the murder, until about noon the next day. He then asked me,
suddenly, if I had observed any thing peculiar at the scene of
the atrocity.
There was something in his manner of emphasizing the word
peculiar, which caused me to shudder, without knowing why.
No, nothing peculiar, I said nothing more, at least, than
we both saw stated in the paper.
The Gazette, he replied, has not entered, I fear, into
the unusual horror of the thing. But dismiss the idle opinions
of this print. It appears to me that this mystery is considered
insoluble, for the very reason which should cause it to be
regarded as easy of solution - I mean for the outre character of
its features. The police are confounded by the seeming absence
of motive - not for the murder itself - but for the atrocity of
the murder. They are puzzled, too, by the seeming impossibility
of reconciling the voices heard in contention, with the facts that
no one was discovered up stairs but the assassinated Mademoiselle
LEspanaye, and that there were no means of egress without the
notice of the party ascending.
The wild disorder of the room the corpse thrust, with the head
downward, up the chimney the frightful mutilation of the body of
the old lady these considerations, with those just mentioned,
and others which I need not mention, have sufficed to paralyze
the powers, by putting completely at fault the boasted acumen,
of the government agents. They have fallen into the gross but
common error of confounding the unusual with the abstruse.
But it is by these deviations from the plane of the ordinary,
that reason feels its way, if at all, in its search for the true.
In investigations such as we are now pursuing, it should not be
so much asked what has occurred, as what has occurred that
has never occurred before. In fact, the facility with which I
shall arrive, or have arrived, at the solution of this mystery,
is in the direct ratio of its apparent insolubility in the eyes
of the police.
I stared at the speaker in mute astonishment.
I am now awaiting, continued he, looking toward the door of
our apartment - I am now awaiting a person who, although perhaps
not the perpetrator of these butcheries, must have been in some
measure implicated in their perpetration. Of the worst portion of
the crimes committed, it is probable that he is innocent.
I hope that I am right in this supposition for upon it I build
my expectation of reading the entire riddle. I look for the man
here- in this room - every moment. It is true that he may not
arrive but the probability is that he will.
Should he come, it will be necessary to detain him. Here are
pistols and we both know how to use them when occasion demands
their use.
I took the pistols, scarcely knowing what I did, or believing
what I heard, while Dupin went on, very much as if in a soliloquy.
I have already spoken of his abstract manner at such times.
His discourse was addressed to myself but his voice, although by
no means loud, had that intonation which is commonly employed in
speaking to some one at a great distance. His eyes, vacant in
expression, regarded only the wall.
That the voices heard in contention, he said, by the party
upon the stairs, were not the voices of the women themselves,
was fully proved by the evidence. This relieves us of all doubt
upon the question whether the old lady could have first destroyed
the daughter and afterward have committed suicide. I speak of this
point chiefly for the sake of method for the strength of Madame
LEspanaye would have been utterly unequal to the task of thrusting
her daughters corpse up the chimney as it was found and the
nature of the wounds upon her own person entirely preclude the
idea of self-destruction. Murder, then, has been committed by
some third party and the voices of this third party were those
heard in contention. Let me now advert - not to the whole
testimony respecting these voices - but to what was peculiar in
that testimony. Did you observe any thing peculiar about it?
I remarked that, while all the witnesses agreed in supposing the
gruff voice to be that of a Frenchman, there was much disagreement
in regard to the shrill, or, as one individual termed it, the
harsh voice.
That was the evidence itself, said Dupin, but it was not the
peculiarity of the evidence. You have observed nothing distinctive.
Yet there was something to be observed. The witnesses, as you
remark, agreed about the gruff voice they were here unanimous.
But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiarity is - not that
they disagreed - but that, while an Italian, an Englishman,
a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman attempted to describe it,
each one spoke of it as that of a foreigner. Each is sure that
it was not the voice of one of his own countrymen. Each likens it -
not to the voice of an individual of any nation with whose
language he is conversant - but the converse. The Frenchman supposes
it the voice of a Spaniard, and might have distinguished some
words had he been acquainted with the Spanish. The Dutchman
maintains it to have been that of a Frenchman but we find it
stated that not understanding French this witness was examined
through an interpreter. The Englishman thinks it the voice of a
German, and does not understand German. The Spaniard is sure
that it was that of an Englishman, but judges by the intonation
altogether, as he has no knowledge of the English. The Italian
believes it the voice of a Russian, but has never conversed with
a native of Russia.
A second Frenchman differs, moreover, with the first, and is
positive that the voice was that of an Italian but, not being
cognizant of that tongue , is, like the Spaniard, convinced by
the intonation. Now, how strangely unusual must that voice have
really been, about which such testimony as this could have been
elicited! - in whose tones, even, denizens of the five great
divisions of Europe could recognise nothing familiar! You will say
that it might have been the voice of an Asiatic - of an African.
Neither Asiatics nor Africans abound in Paris but, without
denying the inference, I will now merely call your attention to
three points. The voice is termed by one witness harsh rather
than shrill. It is represented by two others to have been
quick and unequal. No words - no sounds resembling words -
were by any witness mentioned as distinguishable.
I know not, continued Dupin, what impression I may have made,
so far, upon your own understanding but I do not hesitate to say
that legitimate deductions even from this portion of the testimony
- the portion respecting the gruff and shrill voices - are in
themselves sufficient to engender a suspicion which should give
direction to all farther progress in the investigation of the
mystery. I said legitimate deductions but my meaning is not
thus fully expressed. I designed to imply that the deductions are
the sole proper ones, and that the suspicion arises inevitably
from them as the single result. What the suspicion is, however,
I will not say just yet. I merely wish you to bear in mind that,
with myself, it was sufficiently forcible to give a definite form
- a certain tendency - to my inquiries in the chamber.
Let us now transport ourselves, in fancy, to this chamber.
What shall we first seek here? The means of egress employed by the
murderers. It is not too much to say that neither of us believe
in preternatural events. Madame and Mademoiselle LEspanaye were
not destroyed by spirits. The doers of the deed were material, and
escaped materially. Then how? Fortunately, there is but one mode
of reasoning upon the point, and that mode must lead us to a
definite decision. - Let us examine, each by each, the possible
means of egress. It is clear that the assassins were in the room
where Mademoiselle LEspanaye was found, or at least in the room
adjoining, when the party ascended the stairs. It is then only
from these two apartments that we have to seek issues.
The police have laid bare the floors, the ceilings, and the masonry
of the walls, in every direction. No secret issues could have
escaped their vigilance. But, not trusting to their eyes, I
examined with my own. There were, then, no secret issues.
Both doors leading from the rooms into the passage were securely
locked, with the keys inside. Let us turn to the chimneys.
These, although of ordinary width for some eight or ten feet
above the hearths, will not admit, throughout their extent, the
body of a large cat. The impossibility of egress, by means already
stated, being thus absolute, we are reduced to the windows.
Through those of the front room no one could have escaped without
notice from the crowd in the street. The murderers must have
passed, then, through those of the back room. Now, brought to this
conclusion in so unequivocal a manner as we are, it is not our
part, as reasoners, to reject it on account of apparent
impossibilities. It is only left for us to prove that these
apparent impossibilities are, in reality, not such.
There are two windows in the chamber. One of them is unobstructed
by furniture, and is wholly visible. The lower portion of the
other is hidden from view by the head of the unwieldy bedstead
which is thrust close up against it. The former was found securely
fastened from within. It resisted the utmost force of those who
endeavored to raise it. A large gimlet-hole had been pierced in
its frame to the left, and a very stout nail was found fitted
therein, nearly to the head. Upon examining the other window,
a similar nail was seen similarly fitted in it and a vigorous
attempt to raise this sash, failed also. The police were now
entirely satisfied that egress had not been in these directions.
And, therefore, it was thought a matter of supererogation to
withdraw the nails and open the windows.
My own examination was somewhat more particular, and was so for
the reason I have just given - because here it was, I knew, that
all apparent impossibilities must be proved to be not such in
I proceeded to think thus - a posteriori . The murderers did
escape from one of these windows. This being so, they could not
have refastened the sashes from the inside, as they were found
fastened - the consideration which put a stop, through its
obviousness, to the scrutiny of the police in this quarter.
Yet the sashes were fastened. They must, then, have the power of
fastening themselves. There was no escape from this conclusion.
I stepped to the unobstructed casement, withdrew the nail with
some difficulty and attempted to raise the sash. It resisted all
my efforts, as I had anticipated. A concealed spring must, I now
know, exist and this corroboration of my idea convinced me that
my premises at least, were correct, however mysterious still
appeared the circumstances attending the nails. A careful search
soon brought to light the hidden spring. I pressed it, and,
satisfied with the discovery, forbore to upraise the sash.
I now replaced the nail and regarded it attentively. A person
passing out through this window might have reclosed it, and the
spring would have caught - but the nail could not have been
replaced. The conclusion was plain, and again narrowed in the
field of my investigations. The assassins must have escaped
through the other window. Supposing, then, the springs upon each
sash to be the same, as was probable, there must be found a
difference between the nails, or at least between the modes of
their fixture. Getting upon the sacking of the bedstead, I looked
over the head-board minutely at the second casement. Passing my
hand down behind the board, I readily discovered and pressed the
spring, which was, as I had supposed, identical in character
with its neighbor. I now looked at the nail. It was as stout as the
other, and apparently fitted in the same manner - driven in
nearly up to the head.
You will say that I was puzzled but, if you think so, you must
have misunderstood the nature of the inductions. To use a sporting
phrase, I had not been once at fault. The scent had never for an
instant been lost. There was no flaw in any link of the chain.
I had traced the secret to its ultimate result, - and that result
was the nail. It had, I say, in every respect, the appearance of its
fellow in the other window but this fact was an absolute nullity
conclusive us it might seem to be when compared with the
consideration that here, at this point, terminated the clew.
There must be something wrong, I said, about the nail.
I touched it and the head, with about a quarter of an inch of the
shank, came off in my fingers. The rest of the shank was in the
gimlet-hole where it had been broken off. The fracture was an old
one for its edges were incrusted with rust, and had apparently
been accomplished by the blow of a hammer, which had partially
imbedded, in the top of the bottom sash, the head portion of the
nail. I now carefully replaced this head portion in the indentation
whence I had taken it, and the resemblance to a perfect nail was
complete - the fissure was invisible. Pressing the spring, I gently
raised the sash for a few inches the head went up with it,
remaining firm in its bed. I closed the window, and the semblance
of the whole nail was again perfect.
The riddle, so far, was now unriddled. The assassin had escaped
through the window which looked upon the bed. Dropping of its own
accord upon his exit or perhaps purposely closed, it had become
fastened by the spring and it was the retention of this spring
which had been mistaken by the police for that of the nail,
- farther inquiry being thus considered unnecessary.
The next question is that of the mode of descent. Upon this point
I had been satisfied in my walk with you around the building. About
five feet and a half from the casement in question there runs a
lightning-rod. From this rod it would have been impossible for any
one to reach the window itself, to say nothing of entering it.
I observed, however, that the shutters of the fourth story were of
the peculiar kind called by Parisian carpenters ferrades - a kind
rarely employed at the present day, but frequently seen upon very
old mansions at Lyons and Bourdeaux. They are in the form of an
ordinary door, a single, not a folding door except that the
lower half is latticed or worked in open trellis - thus affording
an excellent hold for the hands. In the present instance these
shutters are fully three feet and a half broad. When we saw them
from the rear of the house, they were both about half open - that
is to say, they stood off at right angles from the wall.
It is probable that the police, as well as myself, examined the
back of the tenement but, if so, in looking at these ferrades in
the line of their breadth as they must have done, they did not
perceive this great breadth itself, or, at all events, failed to
take it into due consideration. In fact, having once satisfied
themselves that no egress could have been made in this quarter,
they would naturally bestow here a very cursory examination.
It was clear to me, however, that the shutter belonging to the
window at the head of the bed, would, if swung fully back to the
wall, reach to within two feet of the lightning-rod. It was also
evident that, by exertion of a very unusual degree of activity
and courage, an entrance into the window, from the rod, might
have been thus effected. - By reaching to the distance of two
feet and a half we now suppose the shutter open to its whole
extent a robber might have taken a firm grasp upon the trellis-
work. Letting go, then, his hold upon the rod, placing his feet
securely against the wall, and springing boldly from it, he might
have swung the shutter so as to close it, and, if we imagine the
window open at the time, might even have swung himself into the
I wish you to bear especially in mind that I have spoken of a
very unusual degree of activity as requisite to success in so
hazardous and so difficult a feat. It is my design to show you,
first, that the thing might possibly have been accomplished:
- but, secondly and chiefly, I wish to impress upon your
understanding the very extraordinary - the almost prternatural
character of that agility which could have accomplished it.
You will say, no doubt, using the language of the law, that
to make out my case, I should rather undervalue, than insist
upon a full estimation of the activity required in this matter.
This may be the practice in law, but it is not the usage of reason.
My ultimate object is only the truth. My immediate purpose is to
lead you to place in juxta-position, that very unusual activity of
which I have just spoken with that very peculiar shrill or harsh
and unequal voice, about whose nationality no two persons could
be found to agree, and in whose utterance no syllabification
could be detected.
At these words a vague and half-formed conception of the meaning
of Dupin flitted over my mind. I seemed to be upon the verge of
comprehension without power to comprehend - men, at times, find
themselves upon the brink of remembrance without being able, in
the end, to remember. My friend went on with his discourse.
You will see, he said, that I have shifted the question from
the mode of egress to that of ingress. It was my design to convey
the idea that both were effected in the same manner, at the same
point. Let us now revert to the interior of the room. Let us survey
the appearances here. The drawers of the bureau, it is said, had
been rifled, although many articles of apparel still remained
within them. The conclusion here is absurd. It is a mere guess -
a very silly one - and no more. How are we to know that the articles
found in the drawers were not all these drawers had originally
contained? Madame LEspanaye and her daughter lived an exceedingly
retired life - saw no company - seldom went out - had little use
for numerous changes of habiliment. Those found were at least of
as good quality as any likely to be possessed by these ladies.
If a thief had taken any, why did he not take the best - why did
he not take all? In a word, why did he abandon four thousand francs
in gold to encumber himself with a bundle of linen? The gold was
abandoned. Nearly the whole sum mentioned by Monsieur Mignaud,
the banker, was discovered, in bags, upon the floor. I wish you,
therefore, to discard from your thoughts the blundering idea of
motive, engendered in the brains of the police by that portion of
the evidence which speaks of money delivered at the door of the
house. Coincidences ten times as remarkable as this the delivery
of the money, and murder committed within three days upon the party
receiving it, happen to all of us every hour of our lives,
without attracting even momentary notice. Coincidences, in general,
are great stumbling-blocks in the way of that class of thinkers who
have been educated to know nothing of the theory of probabilities -
that theory to which the most glorious objects of human research
are indebted for the most glorious of illustration. In the present
instance, had the gold been gone, the fact of its delivery three
days before would have formed something more than a coincidence.
It would have been corroborative of this idea of motive.
But, under the real circumstances of the case, if we are to
suppose gold the motive of this outrage, we must also imagine the
perpetrator so vacillating an idiot as to have abandoned his gold
and his motive together.
Keeping now steadily in mind the points to which I have drawn
your attention - that peculiar voice, that unusual agility, and
that startling absence of motive in a murder so singularly atrocious
as this. Let us glance at the butchery itself.
Here is a woman strangled to death by manual strength, and thrust
up a chimney, head downward. Ordinary assassins employ no such
modes of murder as this. Least of all, do they thus dispose of
the murdered. In the manner of thrusting the corpse up the chimney,
you will admit that there was something excessively outre -
something altogether irreconcilable with our common notions of
human action, even when we suppose the actors the most depraved
of men. Think, too, how great must have been that strength which
could have thrust the body up such an aperture so forcibly that
the united vigor of several persons was found barely sufficient
to drag it down!
Turn, now, to other indications of the employment of a vigor
most marvellous. On the hearth were thick tresses - very thick
tresses - of grey human hair. These had been torn out by the
roots. You are aware of the great force necessary in tearing thus
from the head even twenty or thirty hairs together. You saw the
locks in question as well as myself. Their roots a hideous sight!
were clotted with fragments of the flesh of the scalp - sure
token of the prodigious power which had been exerted in uprooting
perhaps half a million of hairs at a time. The throat of the old
lady was not merely cut, but the head absolutely severed from the
body: the instrument was a mere razor. I wish you also to look at
the brutal ferocity of these deeds. Of the bruises upon the body
of Madame LEspanaye I do not speak. Monsieur Dumas, and his
worthy coadjutor Monsieur Etienne, have pronounced that they were
inflicted by some obtuse instrument and so far these gentlemen
are very correct. The obtuse instrument was clearly the stone
pavement in the yard, upon which the victim had fallen from the
window which looked in upon the bed. This idea, however simple it
may now seem, escaped the police for the same reason that the
breadth of the shutters escaped them - because, by the affair of
the nails, their perceptions had been hermetically sealed against
the possibility of the windows having ever been opened at all.
If now, in addition to all these things, you have properly
reflected upon the odd disorder of the chamber, we have gone so
far as to combine the ideas of an agility astounding, a strength
superhuman, a ferocity brutal, a butchery without motive, a
grotesquerie in horror absolutely alien from humanity, and a voice
foreign in tone to the ears of men of many nations, and devoid of
all distinct or intelligible syllabification. What result, then,
has ensued? What impression have I made upon your fancy?
I felt a creeping of the flesh as Dupin asked me the question.
A madman, I said, has done this deed - some raving maniac,
escaped from a neighboring Maison de Sante.
In some respects, he replied, your idea is not irrelevant.
But the voices of madmen, even in their wildest paroxysms,
are never found to tally with that peculiar voice heard upon
the stairs. Madmen are of some nation, and their language,
however incoherent in its words, has always the coherence of
syllabification. Besides, the hair of a madman is not such as
I now hold in my hand. I disentangled this little tuft from the
rigidly clutched fingers of Madame LEspanaye. Tell me what you
can make of it.
Dupin! I said, completely unnerved this hair is most unusual
- this is no human hair.
I have not asserted that it is, said he but, before we
decide this point, I wish you to glance at the little sketch I
have here traced upon this paper. It is a fac-simile drawing of what
has been described in one portion of the testimony as dark bruises,
and deep indentations of finger nails, upon the throat of
Mademoiselle LEspanaye, and in another, by Messrs. Dumas and
Etienne, as a series of livid spots, evidently the impression of
You will perceive, continued my friend, spreading out the paper
upon the table before us, that this drawing gives the idea of a
firm and fixed hold. There is no slipping apparent.
Each finger has retained - possibly until the death of the victim
- the fearful grasp by which it originally imbedded itself.
Attempt, now, to place all your fingers, at the same time, in the
respective impressions as you see them.
I made the attempt in vain.
We are possibly not giving this matter a fair trial, he said.
The paper is spread out upon a plane surface but the human throat
is cylindrical. Here is a billet of wood, the circumference of
which is about that of the throat. Wrap the drawing around it,
and try the experiment again.
I did so but the difficulty was even more obvious than before.
This, I said, is the mark of no human hand.
Read now, replied Dupin, this passage from Cuvier.
It was a minute anatomical and generally descriptive account of the
large fulvous Ourang-Outang of the East Indian Islands.
The gigantic stature, the prodigious strength and activity, the wild
ferocity, and the imitative propensities of these mammalia are
sufficiently well known to all. I understood the full horrors of
the murder at once.
The description of the digits, said I, as I made an end of
reading, is in exact accordance with this drawing. I see that
no animal but an Ourang-Outang, of the species here mentioned,
could have impressed the indentations as you have traced them.
This tuft of tawny hair, too, is identical in character with
that of the beast of Cuvier. But I cannot possibly comprehend
the particulars of this frightful mystery. Besides, there were
two voices heard in contention, and one of them was unquestionably
the voice of a Frenchman.
True and you will remember an expression attributed almost
unanimously, by the evidence, to this voice, - the expression,
mon Dieu! This, under the circumstances, has been justly
characterized by one of the witnesses Montani, the confectioner,
as an expression of remonstrance or expostulation. Upon these
two words, therefore, I have mainly built my hopes of a full
solution of the riddle. A Frenchman was cognizant of the murder.
It is possible - indeed it is far more than probable- that he was
innocent of all participation in the bloody transactions which
took place. The Ourang-Outang may have escaped from him. He may have
traced it to the chamber but, under the agitating circumstances
which ensued, he could never have re-captured it. It is still at
large. I will not pursue these guesses - for I have no right to
call them more - since the shades of reflection upon which they
are based are scarcely of sufficient depth to be appreciable by
my own intellect, and since I could not pretend to make them
intelligible to the understanding of another. We will call them
guesses then, and speak of them as such. If the Frenchman in
question is indeed, as I suppose, innocent of this atrocity, this
advertisement which I left last night, upon our return home, at
the office of Le Monde, a paper devoted to the shipping interest,
and much sought by sailors, will bring him to our residence.
He handed me a paper, and I read thus:
CAUGHT - In the Bois de Boulogne, early in the morning of
the - inst., the morning of the murder, a very large,
tawny Ourang-Outang of the Bornese species. The owner,
who is ascertained to be a sailor, belonging to a
Maltese vessel, may have the animal again, upon identifying
it satisfactorily, and paying a few charges arising from its
capture and keeping.
Call at No. ---- , Rue ----, Faubourg St. Germain
- au troisieme.
How was it possible, I asked, that you should know the man to be
a sailor, and belonging to a Maltese vessel?
I do not know it, said Dupin. I am not sure of it. Here,
however, is a small piece of ribbon, which from its form, and
from its greasy appearance, has evidently been used in tying
the hair in one of those long queues of which sailors are so
fond. Moreover, this knot is one which few besides sailors can
tie, and is peculiar to the Maltese. I picked the ribbon up at
the foot of the lightning-rod. It could not have belonged to
either of the deceased. Now if, after all, I am wrong in my
induction from this ribbon, that the Frenchman was a sailor
belonging to a Maltese vessel, still I can have done no harm in
saying what I did in the advertisement. If I am in error, he will
merely suppose that I have been misled by some circumstance into
which he will not take the trouble to inquire. But if I am right,
a great point is gained. Cognizant although innocent of the murder,
the Frenchman will naturally hesitate about replying to the
advertisement - about demanding the Ourang-Outang.
He will reason thus: - I am innocent I am poor my Ourang-Outang
is of great value - to one in my circumstances a fortune of itself
- why should I lose it through idle apprehensions of danger?
Here it is, within my grasp. It was found in the Bois de Boulogne
- at a vast distance from the scene of that butchery. How can it
ever be suspected that a brute beast should have done the deed?
The police are at fault - they have failed to procure the slightest
clew. Should they even trace the animal, it would be impossible to
prove me cognizant of the murder, or to implicate me in guilt on
account of that cognizance. Above all, I am known. The advertiser
designates me as the possessor of the beast. I am not sure to what
limit his knowledge may extend. Should I avoid claiming a property
of so great value, which it is known that I possess, I will render
the animal at least, liable to suspicion. It is not my policy to
attract attention either to myself or to the beast. I will answer
the advertisement, get the Ourang-Outang, and keep it close until
this matter has blown over.
At this moment we heard a step upon the stairs.
Be ready, said Dupin, with your pistols, but neither use them
nor show them until at a signal from myself.
The front door of the house had been left open, and the visiter
had entered, without ringing, and advanced several steps upon the
staircase. Now, however, he seemed to hesitate. Presently we heard
him descending. Dupin was moving quickly to the door, when we again
heard him coming up. He did not turn back a second time, but stepped
up with decision, and rapped at the door of our chamber.
Come in, said Dupin, in a cheerful and hearty tone.
A man entered. He was a sailor, evidently, - a tall, stout, and
muscular-looking person, with a certain dare-devil expression of
countenance, not altogether unprepossessing. His face, greatly
sunburnt, was more than half hidden by whisker and mustachio.
He had with him a huge oaken cudgel, but appeared to be otherwise
unarmed. He bowed awkwardly, and bade us good evening, in French
accents, which, although somewhat Neufchatelish, were still
sufficiently indicative of a Parisian origin.
Sit down, my freind, said Dupin. I suppose you have called
about the Ourang-Outang. Upon my word, I almost envy you the
possession of him a remarkably fine, and no doubt a very valuable
animal. How old do you suppose him to be?
The sailor drew a long breath, with the air of a man relieved of
some intolerable burden, and then replied, in an assured tone:
I have no way of telling - but he cant be more than four or
five years old. Have you got him here?
Oh no, we had no conveniences for keeping him here. He is at
a livery stable in the Rue Dubourg, just by. You can get him in
the morning. Of course you are prepared to identify the property?
To be sure I am, sir.
I shall be sorry to part with him, said Dupin.
I dont mean that you should be at all this trouble for
nothing, sir, said the man. Couldnt expect it. Am very willing
to pay a reward for the finding of the animal - that is to say,
any thing in reason.
Well, replied my friend, that is all very fair, to be sure.
Let me think! - what should I have? Oh! I will tell you. My reward
shall be this. You shall give me all the information in your power
about these murders in the Rue Morgue.
Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and very quietly.
Just as quietly, too, he walked toward the door, locked it and put
the key in his pocket. He then drew a pistol from his bosom and
placed it, without the least flurry, upon the table.
The sailors face flushed up as if he were struggling with
suffocation. He started to his feet and grasped his cudgel, but
the next moment he fell back into his seat, trembling violently,
and with the countenance of death itself. He spoke not a word.
I pitied him from the bottom of my heart.
My friend, said Dupin, in a kind tone, you are alarming
yourself unnecessarily - you are indeed. We mean you no harm
whatever. I pledge you the honor of a gentleman, and of a
Frenchman, that we intend you no injury. I perfectly well know
that you are innocent of the atrocities in the Rue Morgue.
It will not do, however, to deny that you are in some measure
implicated in them. From what I have already said, you must know
that I have had means of information about this matter - means of
which you could never have dreamed. Now the thing stands thus.
You have done nothing which you could have avoided - nothing,
certainly, which renders you culpable.
You were not even guilty of robbery, when you might have robbed
with impunity. You have nothing to conceal. You have no reason
for concealment. On the other hand, you are bound by every
principle of honor to confess all you know.
An innocent man is now imprisoned, charged with that crime of
which you can point out the perpetrator.
The sailor had recovered his presence of mind, in a great measure,
while Dupin uttered these words but his original boldness of
bearing was all gone.
So help me God, said he, after a brief pause, I will tell you all
I know about this affair - but I do not expect you to believe one
half I say - I would be a fool indeed if I did. Still, I am
innocent, and I will make a clean breast if I die for it.
What he stated was, in substance, this. He had lately made a
voyage to the Indian Archipelago. A party, of which he formed
one, landed at Borneo, and passed into the interior on an
excursion of pleasure. Himself and a companion had captured the
Ourang- Outang. This companion dying, the animal fell into his
own exclusive possession. After great trouble, occasioned by the
the intractable ferocity of his captive during the home voyage,
he at length succeeded in lodging it safely at his own residence
in Paris, where, not to attract toward himself the unpleasant
curiosity of his neighbors, he kept it carefully secluded, until
such time as it should recover from a wound in the foot, received
from a splinter on board ship. His ultimate design was to sell it.
Returning home from some sailors frolic the night, or rather in
the morning of the murder, he found the beast occupying his own
bed-room, into which it had broken from a closet adjoining, where
it had been, as was thought, securely confined. Razor in hand,
and fully lathered, it was sitting before a looking-glass,
attempting the operation of shaving, in which it had no doubt
previously watched its master through the key-hole of the closet.
Terrified at the sight of so dangerous a weapon in the possession
of an animal so ferocious and so well able to use it, the man,
for some moments, was at a loss what to do. He had been accustomed,
however, to quiet the creature, even in its fiercest moods, by the
use of a whip, and to this he now resorted. Upon sight of it,
the Ourang-Outang sprang at once through the door of the chamber,
down the stairs, and thence, through a window, unfortunately open,
into the street.
The Frenchman followed in despair the ape, razor still in hand,
occasionally stopping to look back and gesticulate at its pursuer,
until the latter had nearly come up with it. It then again made off.
In this manner the chase continued for a long time. The streets
were profoundly quiet, as it was nearly three oclock in the
morning. In passing down an alley in the rear of the Rue Morgue,
the fugitives attention was arrested by a light gleaming from
the open window of Madame LEspanayes chamber, in the fourth
story of her house. Rushing to the building, it perceived the
lightning rod, clambered up with inconceivable agility, grasped
the shutter, which was thrown fully back against the wall, and,
by its means, swung itself directly upon the headboard of the bed.
The whole feat did not occupy a minute. The shutter was kicked open
again by the Ourang-Outang as it entered the room.
The sailor, in the meantime, was both rejoiced and perplexed.
He had strong hopes of now recapturing the brute, as it could
scarcely escape from the trap into which it had ventured, except
by the rod, where it might be intercepted as it came down. On the
other hand, there was much cause for anxiety as to what it might do
in the house. This latter reflection urged the man still to follow
the fugitive. A lightning rod is ascended without difficulty,
especially by a sailor but, when he had arrived as high as the
window, which lay far to his left, his career was stopped the
most that he could accomplish was to reach over so as to obtain
a glimpse of the interior of the room. At this glimpse he nearly
fell from his hold through excess of horror. Now it was that those
hideous shrieks arose upon the night, which had startled from
slumber the inmates of the Rue Morgue. Madame LEspanaye and her
daughter, habited in their night clothes, had apparently been
occupied in arranging some papers in the iron chest already
mentioned, which had been wheeled into the middle of the room.
It was open, and its contents lay beside it on the floor.
The victims must have been sitting with their backs toward the
window and, from the time elapsing between the ingress of the
beast and the screams, it seems probable that it was not immediately
perceived. The flapping-to of the shutter would naturally have been
attributed to the wind.
As the sailor looked in, the gigantic animal had seized Madame
LEspanaye by the hair, which was loose, as she had been combing
it, and was flourishing the razor about her face, in imitation of
the motions of a barber. The daughter lay prostrate and motionless
she had swooned. The screams and struggles of the old lady
during which the hair was torn from her head had the effect of
changing the probably pacific purposes of the Ourang-Outang into
those of wrath. With one determined sweep of its muscular arm it
nearly severed her head from her body. The sight of blood inflamed
its anger into phrenzy. Gnashing its teeth, and flashing fire from
its eyes, it flew upon the body of the girl, and imbedded its
fearful talons in her throat, retaining its grasp until she expired.
Its wandering and wild glances fell at this moment upon the head of
the bed, over which the face of its master, rigid with horror,
was just discernible. The fury of the beast, who no doubt bore still
in mind the dreaded whip, was instantly converted into fear.
Conscious of having deserved punishment, it seemed desirous of
concealing its bloody deeds, and skipped about the chamber in an
agony of nervous agitation throwing down and breaking the
furniture as it moved, and dragging the bed from the bedstead.
In conclusion, it seized first the corpse of the daughter, and
thrust it up the chimney, as it was found then that of the old
lady, which it immediately hurled through the window headlong.
As the ape approached the casement with its mutilated burden,
the sailor shrank aghast to the rod, and, rather gliding than
clambering down it, hurried at once home - dreading the
consequences of the butchery, and gladly abandoning, in his terror,
all solicitude about the fate of the Ourang-Outang. The words heard
by the party upon the staircase were the Frenchmans exclamations
of horror and affright, commingled with the fiendish jabberings of
the brute.
I have scarcely anything to add. The Ourang-Outang must have
escaped from the chamber, by the rod, just before the break of the
door. It must have closed the window as it passed through it.
It was subsequently caught by the owner himself, who obtained for
it a very large sum at the Jardin des Plantes. Le Don was instantly
released, upon our narration of the circumstances with some
comments from Dupin at the bureau of the Prefect of Police.
This functionary, however well disposed to my friend, could not
altogether conceal his chagrin at the turn which affairs had taken,
and was fain to indulge in a sarcasm or two, about the propriety of
every person minding his own business.
Let him talk, said Dupin,, who had not thought it necessary to
reply. Let him discourse it will ease his conscience, I am
satisfied with having defeated him in his own castle. Nevertheless,
that he failed in the solution of this mystery, is by no means
that matter for wonder which he supposes it for, in truth, our
friend the Prefect is somewhat too cunning to be profound. In his
wisdom is no stamen. It is all head and no body, like the pictures
of the Goddess Laverna, - or, at best, all head and shoulders,
like a codfish. But he is a good creature after all. I like him
especially for one master stroke of cant, by which he has attained
his reputation for ingenuity.
I mean the way he has de nier ce qui est, et dexpliquer ce
qui nest pas.