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The Murders in the Rue Morgue

During the spring and part of the summer of 18—, my friend C. Auguste Dupin and I shared a house in Paris, in a quiet part of the Faubourg St-Germain. It was our habit, at this time, to stay indoors for most of the day, and to take long walks after dark through the wild lights and shadows of the busy city. We gained a good deal of quiet enjoyment from this simple pleasure. It was in darkness (as I have noted in a previous story) that Dupin found his mind most active, his power of reasoning at its best, and his ability to notice things around him extremely sharp.

We were walking one night down a long dirty street on the east side of the city. We were both, it seemed, deep in thought; neither of us had spoken a word for at least fifteen minutes. Then suddenly Dupin broke the silence with these words: ‘He is a very little man, that’s true, and would be more suited to a lighter or more humorous play.’

‘There is no doubt about that,’ I replied, not at first noticing the strange way in which Dupin had followed my thoughts. But a moment later I realized and felt most surprised.

‘Dupin,’ I said, seriously, I do not understand this at all. I can hardly believe my ears. How did you know that I was thinking about… ?’ Here I paused, to see if he could complete my question.

‘… about the actor, Chantilly,’ he said. ‘You were thinking that he is too physically small for a serious play.’

I must admit that that was exactly the subject of my thoughts.

Chantilly was a shoemaker, who had suddenly become interested in acting. He had attempted the part of King Xerxes in the play of that name and the papers had criticized him severely.

‘Tell me,’ I cried, ‘how you have been able to reach into my mind like this.’

‘It was the fruit seller,’ replied my friend, ‘who made you feel sure that Chantilly was not tall enough for Xerxes.’

‘The fruit seller! — you surprise me — I know of no fruit seller.’

‘The man who nearly pushed you over as we entered the street — it may have been fifteen minutes ago.’

I now remembered that, in fact, a tradesman who was carrying a large basket of apples on his head had struck against me by accident, as we passed into the street where we now were. But I could not possibly understand how this was connected with Chantilly.

‘I will explain,’ said Dupin, ‘so that you will understand it all clearly. We had been talking of horses, I believe, just before turning the corner. This was our last subject of discussion. As we turned into this street, the fruit seller pushed you onto a pile of stones, which stood at a place where the road is being repaired.

You stepped on a broken piece, slipped, and twisted your foot slightly. You turned to look at the pile, appeared to be a little annoyed, and then continued in silence. I was not paying particular attention to what you did, but I happened to notice some of your actions.

‘You kept your eyes on the ground, and soon we came to a part of the road where the new stones had already been laid in a rather strange pattern. This pattern reminded me of an old Greek idea of the positions of certain stars in the heavens. And, as we discussed this subject not very long ago, I thought that you would be reminded of it too. I felt that you could not avoid looking up at the stars. You did look up; and I was now quite sure that I had followed your thoughts. But in that bitter attack on Chantilly, which appeared in yesterday’s newspaper, the writer said that he was “a falling star which shines for a moment, and is then gone for ever”. Just then, as you were looking up, a star moved quickly across the sky. It was clear, therefore, that you would connect the star with Chantilly. I saw a little smile pass over your lips, as you thought of the poor shoemaker’s failure. Until then you had bent forward as you walked; but now I saw you straighten yourself to your full height. And I was certain that you were thinking of the shortness of Chantilly. At that moment I said that, as he was a very little man, he would do better in a lighter play.’

Not long after this conversation, we were reading an evening newspaper, when the following paragraph caught our attention: MYSTERIOUS MURDERS

At about three o’clock this morning, people living in the rue Morgue were woken by terrible cries which came from the fourth-floor flat of Madame L’Espanaye and her

daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye. After breaking open the street door, which was locked, eight or ten of the neighbours entered, with two policemen. By this time the cries had stopped. As the party rushed up the stairs, two or more rough voices were heard, arguing angrily. The sounds seemed to come from the upper part of the house. As the second floor was reached, these sounds also stopped, and everything remained quiet. The party hurried from room to room. They had to force the door of a large back room on the third floor, which was found locked with the key on the inside. A terrible sight then met their eyes.

The room was in great disorder; the furniture broken and thrown about in all directions. On one of the chairs lay an open razor, covered with blood. Two or three handfuls of thick grey human hair lay near the fireplace. This hair seemed to have been pulled out by the roots, since small pieces of flesh were sticking to it. On the floor the party found four gold coins, an earring, three large silver spoons, and two bags, containing nearly 4,000 gold coins. The drawers of a desk were open and seemed to have been

searched, although many things still remained in them.

There was no sign of Madame L’Espanaye. But, as the

fireplace was unusually dirty and much disturbed, the chimney was examined. The body of the daughter, head downwards, was dragged from it. It had been forced up the narrow opening for several feet. The body was quite warm.

The skin had broken, probably by the violence with which it had been pushed up and pulled down. There were deep cuts on the face, and clear marks of fingernails around the neck. It looked as if the girl had been killed by the pressure of human hands around her throat.

After a thorough search of every part of the flat, the party went downstairs and into a small yard at the back of the building. There they found the body of the old lady, with her throat cut. In fact, it was so completely cut that the head fell off as soon as they tried to lift her.

So far nothing has been found which might help to solve this terrible mystery.

The next day’s papers gave this further information.


Many people have now been questioned about this crime, but the police have discovered nothing which might help them to solve it. We give below information from

statements that have been made by witnesses.

Pauline Dubourg said that she had known Madame

L’Espanaye and her daughter for three years, during which time she had done their washing. The two ladies seemed to be very close and loving companions. Paid well. Seemed to have money in the bank. Never met anyone in the house when she called for the clothes or took them back. Was sure that they had no servant. The lower floors of the building appeared not to be used.

Pierre Moreau, tobacconist, said that he had sold small quantities of tobacco to Madame L’Espanaye for nearly four years. The two ladies had lived in the house, where the bodies were found, for more than six years. The house was the property of Madame L., whose mind was not strong. Witness had seen the daughter five or six times during the six years.

The two lived a very quiet life, but were said to have money.

Had never seen any person enter the house, except the old lady and her daughter, a tradesman once or twice, and a doctor about eight or ten times. The house was a good house — not very old. The windows were always closed, except those of the large back room on the third floor.

Isidore Musèt, policeman, said that he was called to the house at about three o’clock in the morning, and found twenty or thirty people trying to get in. Forced open the door with an iron bar. The cries continued until the door was opened — and then suddenly stopped. They seemed to be the cries of some person (or persons) in great pain — were loud and long, not short and quick. Witness led the way upstairs. On reaching the first floor, heard two voices in angry argument — one a low, rough voice, the other much higher — a very strange voice. The first voice was that of a Frenchman. Was certain that it was not a woman’s voice.

Could recognize several French words. The second voice — the high one — was that of a foreigner. Could not be sure whether it was the voice of a man or of a woman. Could not properly hear what was said, but believed that the language was Spanish. The state of the room and of the bodies was described by this witness as we described them yesterday.

Henri Duval, a neighbour, and by trade a metalworker, said that he was one of the party who first entered the house. Agreed with the witness, Musèt, in general. Knew Madame L. and her daughter. Had spoken to both frequently. Was sure that the high voice was not that of either of the dead women. Thinks that it was the voice of an Italian. Was certain that it was not French. It might have been a woman’s voice. Witness had no knowledge of the Italian language, but believed, by the sound, that the speaker was an Italian.

Odenheimer, restaurant keeper, a native of Holland. Not a French speaker - the following is a translation of his statement. Was passing the house at the time of the cries.

They lasted for several minutes — probably ten. They were long and loud — terrible and frightening. Was one of those who entered the building. Was sure that the high voice was that of a man — of a Frenchman. Could not recognize the words spoken. They were loud and quick and spoken, it seemed, in fear as well as in anger.

Jules Mignaud, bank manager, said that Madame

L’Espanaye had some property. Had opened an account at his bank eight years before. The old lady frequently paid small amounts into her account. On the third day before her death, had taken out a large sum in gold. A clerk had carried the money home for her.

Adolphe Le Bon, bank clerk, said that at midday three days before the murders, he went with Madame L’Espanaye to her house with the money from her account, contained in two bags. Mademoiselle L. opened the street door and took one of the bags from his hands. The old lady took the other.

He then left. Witness did not see any person in the street at the time. It is a quiet street.

William Bird, maker of men’s suits, said that he was one of the party who entered the house. Is an Englishman. Has lived in Paris for two years. Was one of the first to go up the stairs. Heard the voices in argument. The rough voice was that of a Frenchman. The high voice was very loud — louder than the other. Is sure that it was not the voice of an Englishman. Seemed to be that of a German. Might have been a woman’s voice. Witness does not understand

German. Also heard the sounds of a struggle.

Four of the above-named witnesses were later questioned again. They agreed that the door of the room where the body of Mademoiselle L. was found was locked from the inside when the party reached it. Everything was perfectly silent. When the door was forced open, no person was seen.

The windows, both of the back and front room, were closed and firmly locked from the inside. A door between the two rooms was shut but not locked. Another door leading from the front room into the passage was locked, with the key on the inside. A small room in the front of the house, on the third floor, at the end of the passage, was unlocked; it was full of old beds, boxes and so on. These were carefully searched. The whole house was very carefully examined.

Brushes were pushed up and down the chimneys. A small door leading to the roof was nailed very firmly shut, and had clearly not been opened for years.

Alfonzo Garcio, wood worker, said that he lives in the rue Morgue. Is from Spain. Was one of the party who entered the house. Did not go upstairs. Does not like excitement.

Heard the voices in argument. The low voice was that of a Frenchman. The high voice was that of an Englishman — is sure of this. Does not understand English, but judges by the rise and fall of the language.

Alberto Montani, shopkeeper, said that he was among the first to go upstairs. Heard the two voices. Recognized several words. One of the speakers was a Frenchman. The other voice spoke quickly and not clearly. Thinks it was the voice of a Russian. Witness is an Italian. Has never spoken to anyone from Russia.

Several witnesses were examined twice. They all said that the chimneys of all the rooms on the third floor were too narrow for a human being to pass through. There is no back entrance or staircase by which anybody could have left the building while the party went up the front stairs. The body of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye was so firmly stuck in the chimney that it could not be got down until four or five of the party pulled together.

Paul Dumas, doctor, said that he was called to examine the bodies at about five o’clock in the morning. They were both then lying in the room where Mademoiselle L. was found. The body of the young lady was badly marked and cut. Witness believed that these marks and cuts, except those around the neck, were caused when the body was pushed by force up the chimney. There were clear marks of fingers on the throat. The face was pale blue in colour. The eyeballs stood out from the head. The tongue had been bitten. The stomach was discoloured. This may have been caused by the pressure of a knee. In the opinion of Monsieur Dumas, Mademoiselle L’Espanaye had been killed by pressure on the throat, which prevented her from breathing. The body of the mother was very badly damaged. All the bones on the right side of the chest were broken. A heavy bar of iron, the leg of a table, or any large, heavy weapon would have produced these results if it had been used, with great force, to attack the woman. The head of Madame L’Espanaye,

when it was seen by the witness, was completely separated from the body. The throat had certainly been cut with a very sharp instrument — probably with a razor.

Nothing more of importance was discovered, although

several other persons were questioned. Such a mysterious murder has never happened in Paris before — if this is a murder. The police have no idea at all where to begin.

The evening paper said that the police were holding the bank clerk, Adolphe Le Bon; but there was nothing new to report about the crime.

Dupin seemed very interested in this affair, and later that evening he spoke to me about it.

‘The Paris police,’ he said, ‘are reasonably clever, but they do not work with a variety of methods. They search, and examine, and question as if there is only one kind of crime — and one kind of criminal — in the world. They are active and patient for a while, but when these qualities bring no results, their inquiries fail. Vidocq, for example, who used to be the Chief of Police, was a good guesser and a hard-working man. But he had never trained himself to think clearly. He believed that by having many thoughts about a problem, he was certain to arrive at the correct one. He examined a thing too closely. He would then see one or two points very clearly, but he would lose sight of the matter as a whole. Vidocq never knew when to examine a problem in a general way and when to make detailed enquiries.

‘Let us look at these murders for ourselves. You will find that it can be very interesting. Besides, I know this man Le Bon. He was once very helpful to me, and I would like to help him if I can. Let us go and see this house in the rue Morgue; I would like to see it with my own eyes. We both know G—, who is still the head of the police. We shall have no difficulty in getting the necessary permission.’

When we had arranged the matter with the Chief of Police, it was still light enough for us to go immediately to the rue Morgue. We found the house easily, as there were many people looking up at it from the opposite side of the street. Before going in, we walked up the street and round to the back of the house.

Dupin examined the whole neighbourhood, as well as the building itself, with the closest attention.

At last we came again to the front of the building, where we showed our letter of permission to the police officer in charge.

We went upstairs — into the room where the body of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye had been found, and where both bodies still lay. Everything was as the newspaper had described it.

Dupin carefully examined the room, the furniture and even the bodies. He paid particular attention to the doors and windows.

We then went into the other rooms, and into the yard, and a policeman stayed with us through the whole visit. Dupin’s examination lasted until it was quite dark, when we left the house. On the way home my companion called in for a moment at the office of one of the daily papers.

Typically, my friend said nothing further about the murder until midday the next day. He then asked me, suddenly, if I had noticed anything unusual at the scene of the deaths.

‘No, not really,’ I said;’nothing more, that is, than we both read in the newspaper.’

‘The paper,’ he replied, ‘has simply reported what everyone knows. It seems to me that this mystery should be easy to solve because it is extremely unusual; it is so very different from any ordinary crime. The police are confused because they can find no reason - not for the murder itself- but for the unnecessary force that was used in the murder. They are confused, too, about the voices that were heard in argument. No one was found upstairs, except the murdered woman - and there was no way of escape, except by the stairs. Then there was the body, pushed up the chimney; and the old lady’s head - almost completely cut off. The police think that the unusual is necessarily a problem. But it is not. It is because many of the facts are so strange that the murder can easily be solved. The question we must ask is not “What has happened?”, but “What has happened that has never happened before?”

‘I am now waiting,’ Dupin went on,’for a person who knows a great deal about these deaths, although he may not be responsible for them himself. I do not think that he is guilty of any crime.

Because I believe this, I have great hopes of solving the whole problem.’

I looked at my friend in silent surprise.

‘I expect to see the man here,’ said Dupin,’in this room, at any moment. If he comes, we shall have to keep him here. Take this gun; I have one too, and we both know how to use them, I think.’

I took the weapon, hardly knowing what I was doing, and Dupin continued his explanation.

‘It was the voices, of course — the voices heard in argument — that gave me my first idea. All the witnesses agreed about the rough voice: it was the voice of a Frenchman. But the high voice — the high, quick one — must have been a very strange voice. An Italian, an Englishman, a Dutchman, a Spaniard and a Frenchman tried to describe it; and each one said that it sounded like the voice of a foreigner. The Italian thought it was the voice of a Russian, although he had never spoken to a Russian. The Englishman believed it to be the voice of a German, and “does not understand German”. The Dutchman was sure that it was a Frenchman who spoke, but this witness needed a translator to take his statement. The Spaniard “is sure” that it was the voice of an Englishman, but “judges by the rise and fall of the language”, as he “does not understand English”. Our Frenchman believed that the language spoken was Spanish. Another thought that the speaker was Italian. How strange that people from five countries in Europe could recognize nothing familiar in that voice! It was unusual, too, that only sounds seem to have been made by that strange speaker; no words were recognized.

‘Even before we went to the house,’ said Dupin,’I had a strong suspicion about that voice; it showed me quite clearly what I ought to look for. The next question was how the killer escaped from the building. Madame and Mademoiselle L’Espanaye were not murdered by spirits. They were murdered by beings of flesh and blood, who had somehow escaped. How? Fortunately, there is only one way of thinking about this; and it must lead us to the right answer. Let us consider, one by one, the possible means of escape. We must look only in the large back room, where the body of the daughter was found, or in the room joined to it. If the murderer had tried to escape from the third room, or from the passage, they would have been seen by the party on the stairs.

The police have broken up the floors, the ceilings, and part of the walls, and have found no secret doorways. I do not trust their eyes; so I searched with my own. There was, then, no secret way out. Both doors leading to the passage were locked, with the keys on the inside. Let us consider the chimneys. These are of ordinary width for eight or ten feet above the fireplaces. But they become very narrow at the roof, and would not allow the body of a large cat to pass through. Only the windows remain. No one could have escaped through the windows of the front room without being seen by the crowd in the street. The killer must have left, then, through the windows of the back room. The police believe that this is impossible, because the windows were found closed on the inside. We know, though, that those windows are the only possible way of escape.

‘There are two windows in the room. The lower part of one of them is hidden by the bed, which is pushed closely up against it.

The other one is clear of all furniture, and this window was found tightly locked on the inside. Even the combined strength of several policemen failed to open it. A large hole had been made in its frame, and a thick nail was found fixed in this hole, nearly to the head. The other window showed the same sort of nail in the same sort of hole; and a determined attempt to open this window also failed. The police were now satisfied that the killer had not escaped through the windows. They therefore considered it unnecessary to take out the nails and open the windows.

‘My own examination of these things was more careful because the impossible had, in this case, to be possible. I said to myself, “The murderer did escape from one of these windows.

But he could not have locked them again, as they were found locked from the inside. But they were locked. They must, then, be able to lock themselves; there is no other explanation.” I went to the window that was clear of all furniture, and took out the nail.

I tried to raise the window, but, as I had expected, it would not move. There must be, then, a hidden spring. After a careful search, I found it, and pressed it. There was now no need for me actually to open the window.

‘I put the nail back into the hole, and looked at it carefully. A person going out through this window might have closed it after him, and the spring would have held it shut; but the nail could not have been put back. It was certain, therefore, that the killer had escaped through the other window. I climbed on the bed and examined the second window. The spring, as I had expected, was exactly the same as the first one. Then I looked at the nail. It was as thick as the other, and seemed to be fixed in the same way — driven in nearly up to the head.

‘You will say that I was confused; but if you think so, you have not understood my reasoning. I could not be confused. There was no weakness anywhere in my argument. I had followed the secret to its end — and that end was the nail. It looked exactly the same as the first nail, as I say; but this fact was not at all important. The main thing was that the mystery ended here. “There must be something wrong,” I said, “with the nail.” I touched it; the head came off in my fingers. The rest of the nail was in the hole, where it had at some time been broken off. I put the head back in its place, and it looked exactly like a perfect nail; the broken part could not be seen. Pressing the spring, I gently raised the window slightly. The head of the nail went up with it. I closed the window, and the appearance of the whole nail was again perfect.

‘The mystery, so far, was now solved. The killer had escaped through the window behind the bed. He had shut the window after him, or allowed it to shut itself, and it had locked itself. The police thought that it was the nail which held the window shut.

‘The next question was how the murderer had reached the ground. Now I am sure that he entered and left the room in the same way; so let us first find out how he entered. When we walked around the building, I noticed a pipe which carries rainwater from the roof. It is about five and a half feet from the window. No one could have reached the window from the top of this pipe. But the shutter is as wide as the window — about three and a half feet - and made in the form of a single door. If this shutter were swung wide open, right back to the wall, it would reach to within two feet of the pipe. An active and courageous robber might have stretched across from the pipe and taken a firm hold of the shutter. He could then let go his hold of the pipe, and he would be hanging on the inside face of the shutter.

Then, pushing with his feet against the wall, he might have swung the shutter closed. If the window was open, he could then have swung himself into the room.

‘Of course a very unusual skill and courage would be needed to enter the room in this way. I have shown that it is possible, but I know that it is hardly a human possibility, Now consider carefully the very unusual activity and the very strange voice.

These two features really solve the mystery for’ us.’

When Dupin said this, I began to understand what his idea might be; but before I could say anything, he went on with his explanation.

‘It is a waste of time to look for a reason for this crime. The police are confused by the gold which was delivered to the house three days before the murders. This money was not touched by the killer; but the bank clerk who delivered it has been put in prison! It is an accident — a simple chance - that these two events happened at about the same time. Do not let the gold confuse us.

Because it was not taken, we need not give it further thought.

‘Now, bearing in mind the main points — the strange voice, the unusual activity and the complete absence of any reason for murder — let us consider the actual killing. Here is a woman killed by the pressure of two hands around her neck; she was then pushed up a chimney, head downwards. You must agree that this is a very strange way of hiding a body. Has anyone ever before tried to hide a body in this way? Think, too, how great must have been the strength of the killer! The body had been pushed up the chimney so firmly that the combined efforts of several people were needed to drag it down).

‘Turn now to the hair — to the handfuls of thick hair which had been pulled out by the roots, and which lay in the fireplace.

Great force must be used to pull out even thirty or forty hairs together; but these handfuls contained, perhaps, half a million hairs. Immense power would be necessary to pull them all out at the same time. The body of the old lady shows again what terrible strength the killer used. Her throat was not simply cut, but the head was, with one blow, almost completely cut off and the weapon was an ordinary razor.

‘Of course the doctor was wrong when he said that a heavy instrument had been used on Madame L’Espanaye. Her bones were certainly broken as a result of her fall from the window on to the stone floor of the yard. The police did not think of this, because to them it is impossible that the windows were ever opened at all.

‘I have in my hand the last, and perhaps the best, proof of my argument. I took these loose hairs from the tightly closed fingers of Madame L’Espanaye. Tell me what you think about them.’

‘Dupin!’ I said. ‘This hair is most unusual — this is not human hair.’

‘I did not say it was,’ he replied. ‘And the finger marks on the throat of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye were also not human. Look here: I have copied them in this drawing, exactly as they appear on her throat. No human fingers could reach this distance from the thumb.’

I looked at the drawing, and was forced to agree with Dupin.

‘Read now,’ he said,’this page from Cuvier’s book on the wild animals of the East Indian Islands.’

It was a full description of a creature known as the orangutang.

The great size, the strength and the behaviour of this animal, including its tendency to copy others, are well known. I understood immediately how the crime took place.

‘This description of the fingers,’ I said, after I had read the page, ‘agrees exactly with your drawing. And the hair which you found seems to be the same as that of Cuvier’s animal. An orangutang must have killed the women. But how do you explain the two voices that were heard?’

‘At present I do not know who the rough voice — which was said to be the voice of a Frenchman — belongs to. But I have strong hopes of a solution. A Frenchman saw the murders; his voice was heard upstairs. If you remember, the two voices were said to be “arguing angrily”. It is, I believe, very probable that the Frenchman was angry because the animal had attacked the women. The animal may have escaped from him. He may have followed it to the house, but, for some reason, could not, or did not, catch it. It may still be free — in fact, I feel sure that it is, although I cannot explain this feeling. If the Frenchman is not really guilty of these murders, he will come to this house in answer to my advertisement. You remember that I called at the office of a certain newspaper on our way home last night; I left an advertisement there. This particular newspaper prints news about the movement of ships, and it is always read by seamen.

Dupin handed me a paper, and I read this:

CAUGHT In a Paris park, early in the morning of the — (the morning of the murder), a very large orangutang from Borneo. The owner (who is a sailor, belonging to a Maltese ship), may have the animal again if he can describe it correctly. A few small costs must be paid. Call at —, third floor.

‘How do you know,’ I said, ‘that the man is from a Maltese ship?’

‘I do not know,’ replied Dupin. I am not sure of it. Look at this small piece of cloth which I found at the bottom of the pipe behind Madame L’Espanaye’s house. It is a little dirty, and I think it has been used for tying hair up in one of those long tails which sailors are so fond of. Also, this knot is one which few people besides sailors can tie; and it is most common in Malta. Now, if I am wrong about this piece of cloth, no great harm has been done. The man will think that I have made a mistake in some detail about the animal, and it will not trouble him. But if I am right, a great advantage will be gained. The man will probably say to himself. “I am not guilty of this murder. I am poor. My orangutang is a valuable animal — to me it is worth a fortune.

Why should I lose it through a foolish fear of danger? It was found in a park, and there are no parks near the scene of the crime. How can anyone know that an animal killed those women? The police have failed to solve the case. Even if they suspect an animal, there is nothing to prove that I saw the murder; there is nothing to prove me guilty. Above all, I am known. The person who advertised describes me as the owner of the animal. I am not sure how much he knows. If I do not claim this valuable animal, people may begin to suspect something. I do not want to call attention either to myself or to the animal. I will visit the man, get the orangutang, and keep it shut up until this matter has been forgotten.’”

At this moment we heard a step on the stairs.

‘Be ready,’ said Dupin, ‘with your gun, but do not use it or show it until I give a signal.’

There was a knock at the door of our room.

‘Come in,’ said Dupin, in a cheerful voice.

A man entered. He was a sailor, clearly — a tall, strong person, with a happy, honest expression. His face, greatly sunburnt, was more than half hidden by a beard. He had with him a heavy stick, but seemed to carry no other weapon. He wished us ‘good evening’ in a voice which showed that he was from Paris.

‘Sit down, my friend,’ said Dupin. I suppose you have called about the orangutang. He is a very fine animal, and no doubt a valuable one. How old do you say he is?’

The sailor smiled, and then replied calmly: ‘I have no way of knowing — but he can’t be more than four or five years old. Have you got him here?’

‘Oh no; we have no place to keep him here. He is near here at a stable. You can get him in the morning. Of course, you can describe him for us — to prove that you are the owner?’

‘Oh yes, sir. And I’m very happy to pay you a reward for finding the animal — that is to say, anything reasonable.’

‘Well,’ replied my friend, ‘that is very good of you. Let me think! - what should I have? Oh! I will tell you. You must give me all the information you can about these murders in the rue Morgue.’

Dupin said the last words very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked towards the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket.

He then took the gun from his coat, and laid it slowly on the table.

The sailor’s face grew red; he got up quickly, and took hold of his stick. The next moment he fell back into his seat, trembling violently. He said nothing. I felt very sorry for him.

‘My friend,’ said Dupin, in a kind voice, ‘do not be afraid. We shall not harm you. I give you my word, as a gentleman, and as a Frenchman, that we do not intend to harm you. I know quite well that you are not responsible for the deaths of the two women, but it would be foolish of you to say that you know nothing about them. The position at present is this: you have done nothing which you could have avoided — nothing to bring suspicion on yourself. You did not even rob them, when you could have done so easily enough. You have nothing to hide. At the same time, you are a man of honour and so you must tell us all that you know. There is a man in prison at this moment, charged with the crime of murder; he should be set free.’

The sailor looked less anxious as Dupin said these words, although his cheerful expression had completely gone.

‘With God’s help,’ he said after a pause, ‘I will tell you all I know about this affair; but I do not expect you to believe even a half of what I say — I would be a fool if I did.’

What he told us was this. He had caught the orangutang in Borneo while he was on a journey to the East Indian Islands.

With great difficulty he had brought it back to France, with the intention of selling it. He had locked it safely, as he thought, in a room at his house in Paris.

Very early on the morning of the murder, he had returned from a party to find that the animal had broken out of its room.

It was sitting in front of a mirror, playing with a razor. When he saw such a dangerous weapon in the hands of such a wild animal, the man picked up a whip, which he often used to control the creature. The animal immediately rushed out of the room, down the stairs, and through an open window into the street. It was still holding the razor.

The Frenchman followed. The streets were very quiet, as it was nearly three o’clock in the morning. The man had nearly caught up with the animal, when it turned into a narrow street behind the rue Morgue. There its attention was attracted by a light shining from the open window of Madame L’Espanaye’s flat. The orangutang ran to the house, saw the pipe, and climbed up with unbelievable speed. When it reached the top of the pipe, it seized the shutter, swung across to the open window and landed inside on the bed. The animal kicked the shutter open again as it entered the room. The whole movement — from the ground to the bed — did not take a minute.

The sailor had strong hopes now of catching the animal, as it could hardly escape from the building, except by the pipe. At the same time, he was troubled by what it might do in the house.

After a moment he decided to follow it. Being a sailor, he had no difficulty in climbing the pipe. But when he arrived as high as the window, which was far over to his left, he could go no further. All he could do was to lean out, and watch what was happening inside the room. What he saw gave him such a shock that he nearly fell from the pipe. Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter had been sorting out some clothes from a drawer when the animal jumped on them.

The orangutang seized Madame L’Espanaye by her hair and put the razor to her face. She fought hard, and angered the creature. With one determined stroke of the razor, it nearly cut off her head. The sight of blood made the animal wild, and it fell next on the girl. Making fearful noises, it pressed its terrible fingers round her throat, and kept its hold until she died. Then the orangutang turned and saw the face of its master outside the window. Immediately its anger changed to fear - fear of the whip. It rushed around, breaking the furniture as it moved. It searched crazily for a hiding place for the bodies. First it seized the body of the girl, and pushed it up the chimney, where it was found. Then it picked up that of the old lady, and threw it straight through the open window.

The sailor, shocked beyond belief, had tried to calm the animal. His words, and the angry sounds of the animal, were heard by the people who entered the house. But he failed completely. Shaking with fear, he slid down the pipe and hurried home. He hoped that he would see no more of his orangutang.

I have hardly anything to add. The animal must have escaped from Madame L’Espanaye’s flat in the way that Dupin described.

It must have closed the window after it had passed through. It was later caught by the seaman himself, and sold for a large amount of money to the Paris zoo. The clerk, Le Bon, was set free at once, as soon as Dupin had explained the facts to the Chief of Police. That official found it difficult to hide his anger and shame at the result of the case. As we left his office, we heard him say that he hoped the police would, in future, be allowed to do their job without others involving themselves in police business.

Dupin did not think that a reply was necessary.

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