The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Part 4

by Edgar Allan Poe

Adapted to chat story format by captivated chat

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. The man kept his face, greatly sunburnt, more than half hidden beneath whisker and mustachio. He carried a huge oaken cudgel under one arm. At once he bowed awkwardly, and bade us “good evening,” in French accents, which, although somewhat Neufchatelish, were still sufficiently indicative of a Parisian origin.

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Dupin
Sit down, my friend. 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?
Sailor
Eh?-Ahhh! It is such a relief to know that you have him! Well, I have no way of telling his age—but he can’t be more than four or five years old. Have you got him here?
Dupin
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?”
Sailor
To be sure I am, sir.
Dupin
I shall be sorry to part with him.
Sailor
I don’t mean that you should be at all this trouble for nothing, sir. Couldn’t expect it. I will pay a reward for the finding of the animal—that is to say, anything in reason.
Dupin
Well, 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
I shall first just lock this door and pocket the key. There, and have a good look at my pistol! I am placing it upon the table, where your cards belong.
Sailor
Why you! I should. . . ! Oh, why fight over it. My inability to stop these killings will ruin me, ruin me!
Dupin
My friend 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.
Dupin
You must admit, however, you are complicit. From what I have already said, you must know that I have had means of obtaining information about this matter—means of which you could never have dreamed.
Sailor
Yes but…
Dupin
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. Clearly you have nothing to conceal, and you have no reason for concealment. On the other hand, you are bound by every principle of honor to confess all you know. By keeping silent you have allowed an innocent man to remain imprisoned and charged with that crime. But you can point out the perpetrator.”
Sailor
Certainly sir, though it ruins me. I never wished to be such a villain. So help me God, 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.
Dupin
That’s a good man, then!
Sailor
I have lately made a voyage to the Indian Archipelago. A party, of us landed at Borneo, and passed into the interior on an excursion of pleasure. Myself and a companion captured the Ourang-Outang. My companion dying from a fever, the animal fell into my own exclusive possession.
Sailor
After great trouble, and grievous wounds, occasioned by the intractable ferocity of my captive L’grande orange, on the home voyage, I at length succeeded in lodging it safely at my own residence here in Paris. I brought him from the docks at four in the morning on a cart, disguised as an injured sailor.
Sailor
Once established, not to attract any unpleasant nosiness of my noisy neighbors, I kept it carefully secluded in a windowless attic room, just until it could recover from an infected wound in one foot, resulting from a splinter on board ship. My ultimate design was to sell it, of course.
Dupin
Do go on.
Sailor
Returning home from a frolic with some of my old shipmates one night, or rather one morning, the day of the murder, I found the beast occupying my own bedroom. It had broken in from the small room adjoining, where it had been, as I thought, securely confined.
Sailor
Razor in hand, and fully lathered, it was sitting before a looking-glass, attempting to shave, an operation it had no doubt previously watched me perform through the key-hole. I confess I was never more terrified than at the sight of that dangerous steel in the possession of an animal so ferocious, and so well able to use it. So for some moments I was at a loss what to do.
Dupin
That is when he escaped, eh?
Sailor
I hesitated a little too long, you see. I had been accustomed, however, to quiet the creature, even in its fiercest moods, by the use of a whip, and so I went for it a little too directly, if you know what I mean. Upon sight of it, the Ourang-Outang sprang through the door of my bedchamber, down the stairs, through a window, accursedly left open, and out into the street.
Me
I begin to see how this outrage unfolded.
Sailor
I followed as best I could. The razor-waving ape at times stopped to look back and gesture at me, until I had nearly caught up with him. He then again took off at speed. In such-wise manner I kept chasing him for what seemed like forever. The streets were dead quiet, as it was nearly three o’clock in the morning.
Sailor
Loping down an alley in the rear of the home where the murders in the Rue Morgue had been perpetrated, the big fellow’s attention was arrested by a light. That light was in the open window of Madame L’Espanaye’s fourth-storey chamber. The rough beast scampered toward the manse, leapt over the front gate, apparently saw the lightning rod, clambered up it like a panther up a tree after a sleeping monkey, then grabbed onto the shutter, and swung on it like a child on a gate.
Me
Extraordinary thing!
Sailor
Yessir! He propelled that shutter back against the wall, he did, sir, and swung himself onto the headboard of that poor lady. The whole trapeze act was but one motion, as it were, and took less than ten seconds. I was happy to see he had kicked that shutter again as he pushed off it and leapt into that poor unfortunate old woman’s room.
Sailor
Well, my spirit soared to see him go indoors, and yet I also felt flummoxed and terrified. I finally saw some hope of recapturing the brute, as it could scarcely escape from the trap into which it had ventured, except by the rod, where I might intercept it as it slid down. On the other hand, I know there was much cause for anxiety as to what that beast might do in the mansion. That convinced me to follow the horrible beast.
Me
But how?
Sailor
As a sailor, I felt I could ascend the nearby lightning rod without difficulty, sir. Yet when I had arrived as high as the window, which lay far to my left, my career on the high wire was stopped; the most that I could do was to reach over so as to obtain a glimpse of the inside of that room. At that sight I nearly fell from my hold through sheer, mind-reeling horror. Then those shrieks began that awakened all the inmates of the quarter to the murders in the Rue Morgue.
Me
Poor Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter!
Sailor
The poor ladies had been arranging some papers in an iron chest. It was open, and its contents lay beside it on the floor. The brute’s victims must have been sitting with their backs to the window; and, from the moment the beast arrived until the screams began, they clearly never knew he was there. They may have attributed the flapping shutter to the wind.
Sailor
As I 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 one shaving. The daughter lay motionless. The screams and struggles of the lady (during which the hair was torn from her head) changed the expression of the Ourang-Outang from harmless curiosity to anger. With one determined sweep of its muscular arm it nearly severed her head from her body.
Sailor
The sight of blood or the struggle inflamed it into a frenzy. Gnashing its teeth, its eyes glowing, it flew upon the body of the girl, and imbedded its fearful talons in her throat, apparently retaining its grasp until she had expired. Its wild glances fell at this moment upon me outside near the head of the bed. The beast shifted its outlook from fury to fear. Perhaps conscious of deserving punishment, it sought to conceal its bloody deeds, and skipped about in an agony of agitation; thus throwing down and breaking the furniture, and dragging the bed from the bedstead. It seized the corpse of the daughter, and thrust it up the chimney; then the body of the old lady, it immediately hurled toward the window.
Me
Then it was hiding the bodies?
Sailor
Yes. As the ape approached me with its mutilated burden, I shrank back in terror to the rod, and, glided down it, and hurried at once home—dreading the consequences of the butchery, and gladly abandoning any solicitude about the fate of my Ourang-Outang. The words heard by the party on the stairs, which we have all read of in the newspapers, were my exclamations, as well as the fiendish jabberings of the brute.
Dupin
I have scarcely anything to add. The Ourang-Outang must have escaped from the chamber, by the lightning rod. It must have left just before the door was broken in, and must have closed the window as it passed through it.
Me
Then Le Bon will instantly be released upon our narration of the circumstances (with some few comments from you, Dupin) at the Bureau of the Prefect of Police. (An hour later.)
Dupin
My letter from the sailor notes that the beast has been captured by the owner himself, and says he gave it a very large sum at the Jardin des Plantes.
Me
That functionary the Prefect, however well disposed he must be to you, my friend, could not altogether conceal his chagrin at the turn affairs! I detected some sarcasm in his remarks about the propriety of every person minding his own business.
Dupin
Let him talk!
Me
I am just pleased you did not think it necessary to reply.
Dupin
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.
Me
Our Prefect too cunning?
Dupin
Yes. 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. This quotation means that he [the Prefect] ‘denies what is, and explains what is not.’

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