The Purloined Letter, Part 3

by Edgar Allan Poe

Adapted to chat story format by Captivated Chat

Monsieur G
I shall sign you this check for fifty thousand francs, then! Here!
Dupin
I shall just unlock my desk and hand over the letter. Here is the Purloined Letter, Monsieur.
Me
You had it in the escritoire? Look! He has run off with it already! But tell me how you uncovered it, please!
Dupin
The Parisian police are exceedingly able in their way. They are persevering, ingenious, cunning, and thoroughly versed in the knowledge which their duties seem chiefly to demand.
Me
They are certainly tireless and doggedly determined.
Dupin
Yes, thus, when G— detailed to us his mode of searching the premises at the Hotel D—, I felt entire confidence in his having made a satisfactory investigation—so far as his labors extended.
Me
So far as his labors extended?
Dupin
Yes. Certainly the police had adopted not only the best measures of their kind, but they carried them out to absolute perfection. Had the letter been within the range of their search, they’d have found it.
Me
Ha! Heh-heh.
Dupin
The measures, then, were good in their kind, and well executed; but they were inapplicable to the case, and the man.
Me
Can you please explain where the Prefect erred?
Dupin
A certain set of highly ingenious resources are, with the Prefect, a sort of Procrustean bed, to which he forcibly adapts his designs.
Me
Yet he is a successful man and highly  regarded in police circles.
Dupin
But he perpetually errs by being too deep or too shallow for the case; and many a schoolboy is a better reasoner.
Me
But how can you say such things, Dupin? Principle of guessing
Dupin
Consider this example: I knew one boy about age eight, whose success at ‘even and odd’ attracted much admiration.
Me
Children play the game with marbles, yes? I played it as a child. One player holds a number in his hand, and demands an opponent guess even or odd.
Dupin
Correct. If the guess is right, the guesser wins one; if wrong, he loses one. The boy won all the marbles of the school.
Me
But how?
Dupin
Of course he had some principle of guessing; and this lay in mere observation and assessment of the astuteness of his opponents.
Me
It is merely an identification of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent.
Dupin
It is, and, upon inquiring of the boy how he effected the thorough identification in which his success consisted, he replied: “I fashion the expression of my face, to exactly match his, and wait to see what arises in my mind or heart.”
Dupin
This lies at the bottom of all the spurious profundity which has been attributed to Rochefoucault, to La Bougive, to Machiavelli, and to Campanella.
Me
And the identification of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent depends, if I understand you aright, upon the accuracy with which the opponent’s intellect is admeasured.
Dupin
Certainly, for its practical value it depends upon this, and the Prefect and his cohort fail so frequently, first, by default of this identification. They fail secondly, by ill-admeasurement, or rather through non-admeasurement, of the foe’s intellect.
Me
But how so?
Dupin
They consider only their own ideas of ingenuity; and, in searching for anything hidden, advert only to the modes in which they would have hidden it. Variation of principle
Me
So what?
Dupin
They are right in this much—that their own ingenuity is a faithful representative of that of the mass; but when the cunning of the individual felon is diverse in character from their own, the felon foils them, of course.
Me
The felon is sometimes the smarter? That is where the Prefect goes wrong!
Dupin
Well, this always happens when the felon’s intellect is above their own, and very usually when it is below.
Me
You mean even the simpleton may sometimes elude our Prefect’s police force?
Dupin
They have no variation of principle in their investigations; at best, in an unusual emergency—spurred by some extraordinary reward—they extend or exaggerate their practice, without touching their principles.
Me
I see. In this case
Dupin
What, for example, in this case of D—, has been done to vary the principle of action? In this case it was an exaggeration of the application of the one set of search principles.
Me
Yes, but…
Dupin
Do you not see he has taken it for granted that all men conceal a letter in some out-of-the-way hole or corner suggested by the same tenor of thought that would urge a man to such action?
Me
Yes, but…
Dupin
And do you not see also, that such recherchés nooks for concealment are adapted only for ordinary occasions, and would be adopted only by ordinary intellects.
Me
Yes, but he catches almost all of the felon’s he pursues, and finds their loot!
Dupin
Yes, but only because most felons are ordinary, and conceal in ordinary ways. For in all cases of concealment, a disposal of the article concealed—a disposal of it in this rote manner,—is presumable and presumed.
Look for Part 4 to learn how and where the Purloined Letter is to be found!