The Purloined Letter, Part 1

by Edgar Allan Poe

An interactive story for kids and everyone else

Interactive stories for kids: find a letter stolen from the Royals!

Dupin
Welcome Monsieur Prefect!
Me
Welcome! It has been too long!
Monsieur G
Pardon my interrupting, but I must consult with you. That is, I need your opinion on some official business, Dupin.
Dupin
I won’t bother with lighting the lamp. If it is any point requiring reflection, we shall examine it to better purpose in the dark.
Monsieur G
That is another of your odd notions.
Dupin
True. Here, have a pipe of tobacco, and a chair.
Me
And what is the difficulty facing the Paris police now? Nothing more in the assassination way, I hope?
Monsieur G
Oh no; nothing of that nature. The business is very simple. No doubt we can manage it ourselves.
Me
No doubt.
Monsieur G
But I thought Dupin would like to hear the details, because it is so odd.
Dupin
Simple and odd. A little too plain
Monsieur G
Why, yes; the affair has puzzled us all because it is so simple, and yet baffles us altogether.
Dupin
Perhaps it is the very simplicity of the thing which puts you at fault.
Monsieur G
Ha! ha! Ha—ha! What nonsense!
Dupin
Perhaps the mystery is a little too plain.
Monsieur G
Ha! ha! ha—ha! ha!—ho!” Dupin, you’ll be the death of me!
Me
But what, after all, is the matter at hand?
Monsieur G
Why, I will tell you briefly. But first let me caution you that this is an affair demanding secrecy.
Me
Yes?
Monsieur G
I should probably lose my position were it known I confided it to anyone.
Me
Proceed.
Dupin
Or not.
Monsieur G
I have received information from a very high quarter that a document of the last importance has been purloined from the royal apartments.
Me
What?
Monsieur G
We know the individual who purloined it. The victim saw him take it. Also, he still has it.
Dupin
How is this known?
Monsieur G
I infer it from the nature of the document, and from the results that I anticipate if the thief releases it.
Me
What do you mean?
Monsieur G
I mean that the paper gives its holder power in a certain quarter where such power is immensely valuable.
Me
You are too fond of diplomatic phrases. The scoundrel
Dupin
Still I do not quite understand.
Monsieur G
No? Well; the disclosure of the document to a third person, who shall be nameless, would call in question the honor of a luminary.
Monsieur G
The thief is the Minister D—, who dares all things, both becoming and unbecoming.
Me
The scoundrel!
Monsieur G
The theft was as bold as it was ingenious. The thief actually robbed the royal personage of the letter in the family boudoir.
Me
My God!
Monsieur G
She was suddenly interrupted by the person from whom she most wished to conceal the letter.
Me
What did she do?
Monsieur G
She was not able to shove it in a drawer. So she placed it, open, on a table, address-side up. It thus escaped notice.
Monsieur G
Unfortunately D— entered. His eye immediately perceived the paper, recognized the handwriting, observed the addressee’s confusion, and fathomed her secret. After some routine business, he opened a similar letter, scanned it, and dropped it beside hers.
Me
This was a gambit?
Monsieur G
Yes. Again he converses. He grabs up the wrong letter. Its rightful owner sees but dares not protest, what with the third personage now at her side. The minister absconds, leaving his own letter.
Dupin
As a result you have what you demand to make the ascendancy complete—the robber’s knowledge of the loser’s knowledge of the robber.
Monsieur G
Yes, and with the power thus attained he has been wielded it for months politically, and to a dangerous extent. The lady must reclaim her letter, but how? Driven to despair, she has committed the matter to me.
Me
Clearly, the minister still possesses the letter, since possession, and not any employment of it, bestows his new power. With its employment his power would depart. Done often before
Monsieur G
True, and upon this conviction I’ve proceeded, first making a thorough search of the minister’s hotel without his knowledge. A delicate search, for I have been warned of the dangers of giving him reason to suspect our design.
Me
But you are quite au fait in these investigations. The Parisian police have done this thing often before.
Monsieur G
Oh yes; and for this reason I did not despair. Furthermore the habits of the minister offer a great advantage. In addition, his servants are few, and they sleep at a great distance from his apartment, and are readily made drunk.
Me
By your agents, eh!
Monsieur G
I have keys, as you know, with which I can open any chamber or cabinet in Paris. For three months a night has not passed, during most of which I have been engaged, personally, in ransacking the D— Hotel. My honor is interested, and, to mention a great secret, the reward is enormous.
Me
I am sure you will find it soon.
Monsieur G
Well, I did not abandon the search until I had become fully satisfied that the thief is a more astute man than myself. I have searched everywhere. Not altogether a fool
Me
But is it not possible that, although the letter is in possession of the minister, he may have concealed it elsewhere?
Dupin
Barely possible. It is nearly as important that document may be produced at a moment’s notice as that the scoundrel keeps control of it.
Me
It really needs to be ready to be produced at any moment?
Dupin
Yes, but wouldn’t that also mean that it may be readily destroyed?
Me
True; therefore the paper is clearly on the premises. As for its being on the person of the minister, we may consider that as out of the question.
Monsieur G
Entirely, after all he has been waylaid twice as if by footpads, and his person rigorously searched under my own inspection.
Dupin
I presume the minister is not altogether a fool and must have anticipated these waylayings.
Monsieur G
Not altogether a fool, but then he’s a poet, which I take to be only one remove from a fool.
Dupin
True, perhaps, although I have been guilty of writing doggrel myself.
Me
Suppose you detail the particulars of your search.
Monsieur G
We took our time and searched everywhere, the entire building, room by room; devoting the nights of a whole week to each. We examined, first, the furniture of each apartment. We opened every possible drawer; and I presume you know that, to a properly trained police agent, such a thing as a secret drawer is impossible. Even more impossible than hiding anything from the police.
Dupin
Impossible?

Look for Part 2!