The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Part 3

by Edgar Allan Poe

Adapted to chat story format by captivated chat

Me
Adolphe Le Bon had been arrested and imprisoned!”
Dupin
But the newspaper’s PostScript is continued on page nine.
Me
Yes, yes, it says:”Nothing appears to incriminate the incarcerated man beyond the facts already detailed.”
Dupin
Hmm. What is your opinion respecting the murders?
Me
I consider them an insoluble mystery! I see no means by which it would be possible to trace the murderer.
Dupin
We must not judge of the means by this shell of an examination. The Parisian police are cunning, but no more. There is no real method there. They make a vast parade of measures; but, not unfrequently, these are ill adapted to the objects proposed.
Me
Really? To me it seems otherwise!
Dupin
The results attained by them are not infrequently surprising, but, for the most part, are brought about by simple diligence and activity. When these qualities are unavailing, their schemes fail.
Me
So you have said, my friend. You even said some such thing once of Vidocq, the famous.
Dupin
I said Vidocq 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.
Dupin
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, she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found.
Me
Again, so you have often remarked. But why, if the results are largely so good?
Dupin
Surely the results are poor if any murderers remain at large?
Dupin
No, this is akin to 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—and to have the best appreciation of its lustre—which grows dimmer as we turn our vision fully upon it. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought.
Me
So, will you see something more by looking side-wise?
Dupin
Indeed, let us enter into some examinations for ourselves, before we make up an opinion respecting them. An inquiry will afford us amusement.
Me
All right.
Dupin
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.”
Me
Let us proceed to the police station in the morning and then at once to the Rue Morgue. ***********************
Me
This is one of the most miserable thoroughfares in Paris. But look, there are still many persons gazing up at those closed shutters, so that must be the house.
Dupin
They gaze with an objectless curiosity.
Me
It looks an ordinary Parisian house!
Dupin
Before going in let us walk up the street, turn down an alley, and then, again turning, pass in the rear of the building.
Me
 Meanwhile you shall be examining the entire neighborhood, eh, as well as the house, all with that  minuteness of attention for which most would see no possible object. ***********
Dupin
Ah, here we are again at the front doorstep.
Me
Shall I ring?
Dupin
You may. And please ready your credentials. (Ten minutes later)
Me
I am rather uncomfortable to be in this chamber where both the deceased still lie.
Dupin
Of course the room looks as if it has not been touched, all except the policeman stationed at the door.
Me
But how terrible! Do you see anything beyond what has been stated in the “Gazette des Tribunaux?”
Dupin
I must scrutinize everything—not excepting the bodies of the victims. We then may proceed into the other rooms, and into the yard; please ask the gendarme to accompany us throughout. ********
Me
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. But my friend did not say a word about the murder until about noon the next day.)
Dupin
Did you observe anything peculiar at the scene of the atrocity?
Me
You make me shudder to suddenly ask that! What do you mean by peculiar?
Dupin
Well, did you observe something odd or no?
Me
No, nothing peculiar, nothing more, at least, than we both saw stated in the paper.
Dupin
“The ‘Gazette” 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.
Me
But those grotesque particulars defy explanation!
Dupin
The police are confounded by the seeming absence of motive—not for the murder itself—but for the atrocity of the murder.
Me
So many other particulars as well!
Dupin
Yes. They are puzzled, too, by the impossibility of reconciling the voices heard in contention with the facts that no one was discovered upstairs, and that there was no means of egress without encountering the rescue party.
Me
And no doubt they are puzzled by the disarray of the room!
Dupin
Yes, the room’s wild disorder; the corpse thrust up the chimney; the mutilation of the body of the old lady; these considerations, with those just mentioned, and others I need not mention, have sufficed to paralyze the powers. These items are putting completely at fault the boasted acumen of the government agents.
Me
Have you any theory as to why that is so?
Dupin
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.
Dupin
In investigations such as this, it should not be so much asked ‘what has occurred,’ as ‘what has occurred that has never occurred before.’ In fact, my facility in arriving at the solution is in the direct ratio of its apparent insolubility in the eyes of the police.
Me
Ha-ha! But I must confess, I too am dumbfounded!
Dupin
I am now awaiting, my eyes upon the door, a person who, although perhaps not the perpetrator of these butcheries, must have been in some measure implicated in their perpetration.
Me
He surely will not come here! The monster cannot know us!
Dupin
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.
Me
My God, no!
Dupin
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.
Me
I’m grateful you’re making us ready, Dupin!
Dupin
Well then let us reconsider some facts. That the voices heard in contention 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 committed suicide.
Me
A point, yes.
Dupin
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.
Me
I agree.
Dupin
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 it. Did you observe anything peculiar about it?”
Me
While all the witnesses agreed in supposing the gruff voice to be a Frenchman’s, there was much disagreement in regard to the shrill, or, as one individual termed it, the harsh voice.
Dupin
That was the evidence, not the peculiarity of it. You have missed observing the distinctive point. Regarding the shrill voice, the peculiarity is not that the witnesses disagreed but that, while five nationalities attempted to describe it, each designated it a specific foreigner’s voice, not that of one of his own countrymen.
Dupin
Now, how strangely unusual must that voice have really been! I call your attention to three points. The voice is termed by one witness ‘harsh rather than shrill.’ It is represented by two others to have been ‘quick and unequal.’ No words—no sounds resembling words—were by any witness mentioned as distinguishable.
Me
Quite odd, I grant.
Dupin
I know not what impression I may have made; but I have made legitimate deductions from this testimony—on the gruff and shrill voices—which are sufficient to engender a suspicion that should give direction to all farther progress in this investigation. I said ‘legitimate deductions.’ I meant to imply that the deductions are the sole proper ones, and that the suspicion arises inevitably from them as the single result.
Me
What is your suspicion, then?
Dupin
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.
Dupin
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.
Me
No, not ghosts!
Dupin
Precisely! 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.
Dupin
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.
Me
Mastermind criminals to have eluded them! The police ruled out all the secret means of escape from that chamber of horrors!
Dupin
Yes. 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.
Dupin
 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.
Me
It sounds like pure reason, but practically speaking it is madness! Are these humans or flies? You have seen those windows!
Dupin
There are but two windows there. One is unobstructed, wholly visible. The lower portion of the other is hidden from view by the head of the unwieldy bedstead close against it. The obstructed window was found securely fastened from within. It resisted the utmost force. 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.
Dupin
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 egress had not been in these directions. And, therefore, it was thought a matter of supererogation to withdraw the nails and open the windows.
Me
Policemen are not carpenters. Where would they find a tool to pull the nail?
Dupin
My examination was somewhat more particular for the reason I have just given—because here it was, I knew, that all apparent impossibilities must be proved to be not such.
Me
You proceeded on strong facts that indicated that somehow those windows must afford an exit.
Dupin
Yes! I proceeded to think thus—a posteriori, or after the fact: The murderers did escape from one of these windows. Thus, they could not have refastened the sashes from the inside the room. That fact put a stop to the police scrutiny of these windows. Yet the sashes were fastened. They must, then, have the power of fastening themselves; there was no other possibility.
Me
I saw you step to the unobstructed casement, withdraw the nail with difficulty and attempt to raise the sash. It remained closed, as the police had anticipated.
Dupin
A concealed spring must, I knew, exist; and I remained convinced that my premises at least, were correct, however mysterious 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. Me: How the prefect did laugh at your ‘failure’ to open that window!
Dupin
Who shall laugh last? I replaced the nail and scrutinized it. A person passing out there 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 my investigations. The assassins must have escaped through the other window. Supposing, then, the springs upon each sash to be the same, there must be a difference between the nails, or how they were affixed.
Me
But how absurd you looked in seeking it out!
Dupin
 Getting up on the sacking of the bedstead in order to look over the headboard minutely. Passing my hand down behind it, I readily discovered and pressed the spring, which was, as I had supposed, identical in character to 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.
Me
The Prefect mocked you for standing up there so long.
Dupin
He will say that I was puzzled; but, to think so, he must have misunderstood the nature of the inductions. To use a sporting phrase, I had not been once ‘at fault.’ I had traced the secret to its ultimate result,—and that result was the nail.
Dupin
It had 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) considering 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.
Me
A brilliant search.
Dupin
A merely logical one. 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.
Dupin
Pressing the spring, I gently raised the sash a few inches; the head went up with it, remaining firmly in its bed. I closed the window, and the semblance of the whole nail was again perfect.
Dupin
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 on this point being thus considered unnecessary.
Me
Brilliant, but can we now catch the two fiends who departed through that window? Are we any closer to that unriddling?
Dupin
I could describe one of them now.