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
by Edgar Allan Poe
"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 anything peculiar
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
"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
"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
"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
preternatural 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 endeavoured 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
re-fastened 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 knew, 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, forebore to upraise the
"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 headboard 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 neighbour. 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 as
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. 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 perfect.
"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 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 upper 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 have swung himself into the
"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 praeternatural 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 --as 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 suggest
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 that there was something
excessively outre --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 vigour 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 have 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 neighbouring Maison de Sante."
"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 facsimile 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 them."
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
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 Orang-utan 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
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
"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 cognisance.
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 visitor
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 daredevil 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 Neufchatel-ish, 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
"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 heart.
"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 honour 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 gone.
"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 on 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 street.
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 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 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
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
frenzy. Gnashing its teeth, and flashing fire from its eves, 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
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 breaking 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 Bon 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
"Let them 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
* Rousseau, Nouvelle Heloise.
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