Edgar Allan Poe- “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841)

[Source: Project Gutenberg]


  What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid
  himself among women, although puzzling questions, are not beyond
  _all_ conjecture.

                    --_Sir Thomas Browne._

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 præternatural. 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 all 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 _recherché_ 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

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 afford.

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 boasted to 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, that’s true, and would do better for the
_Théâtre des Variétés_.”

“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

“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 _rôle_ of Xerxes, in Crébillon’s tragedy so
called, and been notoriously Pasquinaded for his pains.

“Tell me, for Heaven’s 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

“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 yesterday’s ‘_Musée_,’ 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 cobbler’s 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, he was a very little
fellow--that Chantilly--he would do better at the _Théâtre des

Not long after this, we were looking over an evening edition of the
“Gazette des Tribunaux,” when the following paragraphs arrested our

“EXTRAORDINARY MURDERS.--This morning, about three o’clock, the
inhabitants of the Quartier St. Roch were aroused from 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 L’Espanaye, and her daughter Mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye.
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_ métal d’Alger_, 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 L’Espanaye 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 humanity.

“To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the slightest

The next day’s 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 L’Espanaye 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

“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 o’clock 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 woman’s voice. Could distinguish the words
‘_sacré_’ 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 man’s voice. It might have been a woman’s. 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
‘_sacré_,’ ‘_diable_,’ and once ‘_mon Dieu._’

“_Jules Mignaud_, banker, of the firm of Mignaud et Fils, Rue Deloraine.
Is the elder Mignaud. Madame L’Espanaye 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 L’Espanaye 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

“_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 ‘_sacré_’ 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 woman’s 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 intonation.

“_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

“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 L’Espanaye was so firmly wedged in the chimney that
it could not be got down until four or five of the party united their

“_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 L’Espanaye 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

“_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

“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 Jourdain’s 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, I 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 L’Espanaye 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
ménageais_:--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 _outré_ 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 L’Espanaye, 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 L’Espanaye would have been utterly unequal
to the task of thrusting her daughter’s 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

“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 præternatural events.
Madame and Mademoiselle L’Espanaye 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 L’Espanaye 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 reality.

“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

“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 Bordeaux.
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 room.

“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 præternatural 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
juxtaposition, 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 L’Espanaye 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
outré_--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 L’Espanaye 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 Santé._”

“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 L’Espanaye. 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 L’Espanaye, and in
another, (by Messrs. Dumas and Etienne,) as a ‘series of livid spots,
evidently the impression of fingers.’

“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

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 troisiême._

“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 friend,” 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 can’t 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 don’t mean that you should be at all this trouble for nothing, sir,”
 said the man. “Couldn’t 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 sailor’s 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

“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

“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 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

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 o’clock in the morning. In passing down
an alley in the rear of the Rue Morgue, the fugitive’s attention was
arrested by a light gleaming from the open window of Madame L’Espanaye’s
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 L’Espanaye 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
L’Espanaye 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
Frenchman’s 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 d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas._’” (*)

(*) Rousseau--Nouvelle Heloise.
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