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The Murders in the Rue Morgue - Chapter 3

The Murders in the Rue Morgue - Chapter 3

 
                                                       My companion stopped in for a moment at one 
                                                                             of the newspapers
PART I
 
A later paper the same day stated that the greatest excite­ment still continued in the Quartier de Roch—that the house in question had again been examined carefully by the police and several witnesses called back and questioned a second and third time—but all to the same end. In conclusion, how­ever, the newspaper stated that Le Bon, the bank worker who had helped Madame L’Espanaye carry the money from the bank to her home, was being held by the police and was now in prison, though nothing beyond the facts already known had
 
 appeared to make the police feel that Le Bon, rather than someone else, had murdered the old lady and her daughter.
 
Dupin seemed very much interested in the day-to-day history of the case—at least so I judged from his manner, for at first he did not speak to me about it. It was only after the newspaper stated that Le Bon had been put in prison that he asked for my opinion about the murders.
 
I could only agree with all Paris in considering them to be part of a very great mystery. I saw no means by which it would be possible to follow the course of any murderer in the case.
 
“We must not judge of the means,” said Dupin, “by this examination of the surface facts only. The Paris police, who are supposed to be very able men, are clever, but no more. There is no clear plan or method in what they do—except the plan of the moment. They make a great show of means and method—but very often they are guided simply by their ex­periences of the past. When any completely new situation pre­sents itself to them, they are lost. True, the results of their work are sometimes surprising, but for the most part such results are brought about by the most simple methods and by hard work. When something more is necessary, they are seldom successful. Vidocq, the head of the police, is a hard worker and, by good fortune, usually is able to find what he is looking for. But he has made many mistakes in the past by reason of the fact that he has little imagination and sees only the things that are directly in front of him. Also, he often looks at these things so closely that he loses sight of the matter as a whole, There is such a thing as being too deep in one’s method of thinking. Truth does not always lie at the bottom of the well. In fact, I really believe that the important facts are just as often to b^ found on the surface. The method as well as the reason­ing in this kind of mistaken thinking are well shown in the way one looks at the stars and other bodies in the heavens. When looked at directly and for some period of time, a par­ticular star seems to disappear or to lose itself among other groups of stars—yet if looked at from the side, or less directly, it becomes more clear to the eye, more exact in form. In this same way, by paying too close attention to a thing, we often cause our minds to become tired and our thinking to grow weak.
 
It is possible to make even Venus herself disappear from the heavens by too direct an observation of her every line and position.
 
“As for these murders, let us examine some of the facts ourselves before we make up an opinion about them. I think we will find it interesting to do this. Also, Le Bon once did me a small favor, and I should like to be able to help him if I can. I know the head of the Paris police and I am sure he will permit us to visit the place.”
 
Accordingly, Dupin saw the police chief and he agreed to let us examine the house in question. We went at once to the Rue Morgue. This is one of the poorest streets to be found between the Rue Richelieu and the Rue St. Roch. It was late in the afternoon when we reached there, as this section is a long distance from where we lived. The house was easily found; for there were still many curious people looking up at the closed shutters from both sides of the street. The house was the usual Paris house, little different from hundreds and hundreds of similar homes of this general style. Before going in, we walked up the street, turned into one of the small side streets, and then, again turning, passed along the back of the building—Dupin, meanwhile, examining the whole section, as well as the house, in a manner so exact and careful that I saw little reason for it.
 
Going back over our course, we came again to the front of the building, rang the bell, and having shown the pass which the police chief had given us, were permitted to enter by the officer at the door. We went upstairs—into the room where the body of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye had been found and where both the dead persons still lay. Nothing in the room had been touched or changed. Everything was just as the police had found it. I saw nothing except what had been stated in the Gazette des Tribunaux. Dupin looked at everything closely, including the dead bodies of the two women. We went into the other rooms, and into the garden; a police officer followed us everywhere. We remained in the house, while Dupin ex­amined everything, until after dark; then we left. On our way home my companion stepped in for a moment at the office of one of the newspapers, though without explaining to me his reason for doing this.
 
I have said that at times my friend acted a little strangely. Now, for example, he refused to enter into any
conversation about the murders until the afternoon of the following day. He then asked me suddenly if I had observed anything unusual at the scene of the murders.
 
There was something in his manner of placing importance on the word unusual that caused me to shake a little, without knowing why.
 
“No, nothing unusual,” I said; “nothing more, at least, than what we both saw stated in the newspaper.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. Who was being held by the police?
2. Did there seem to be any special reason why Le Bon was being held?
3. What was the author’s opinion about the murders?
4. What did Dupin say about the Paris police?
5. Why did Dupin want to help Le Bon?
6. What kind of street was the Rue Morgue? What was the house like?
7. What did they show to get permission to enter the house?
8. How had the room where the body was found been changed?
9. What did Dupin do in the house?
10. When did Dupin next say something about the murders?
11. WTiat did he ask the author?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
method                call back
guide                    supposed to
favor                      look for
ring                        lose sight of
office                     go back over
chief                      on the way home
at least                  at times
 
PART II
 
“The Gazette,” he answered, “has not entered into the really awful and seemingly cruel side of the murders. But forget about the opinions of this newspaper. It seems to me that the mystery appears to be a very deep one for the very reason that should cause it to be easily explained—I mean by the clear or surface character of many of its points. The police remain very much in the dark because there does not seem to exist any clear reason—not for the murder itself—but for its bloody character. They are also very much confused by the fact that voices were heard upstairs, yet when the party arrived there was no one in any of the rooms, despite the fact that there are no back stairs or hall by which a person could have escaped from the building. The wild state of the room, the body pushed up so tightly into the chimney, the awful condition of the dead body of the old lady—these facts, with those mentioned before, as well as others which I need not mention, have made of the whole thing a mystery so deep that the police are completely unable to explain it. They don’t even know where to start, for they have fallen into the usual mistake of confusing that which is unusual with that which is deep and difficult. But in cases such as this what should be asked is not so much ‘what has happened?’ as ‘what has happened that has never happened before?’ In fact, it has often seemed that the deeper the mystery of something to the police, the more clear and easy it is for me to explain. At least that is what has happened in the present case.”
 
I looked at him with great surprise.
 
“I am now waiting,” he continued, looking toward the door, “for a person who, while perhaps not the person who did the ‘butchering’ of the two women, must in some way have played a part in it. It is possible that this person had little to do with the worst part of the murders. At least I hope that I am right in supposing this—for upon it I plan to go ahead and explain the whole mystery. I look for the man here—in this room—any moment. It is true that he may not come at all—but it is prob­able that he will. If he does come, it will be necessary to keep
 
him here for a while. Here are pistols and we both know how to use them if we have to.”
 
I took the pistols, hardly knowing what to do with them, while Dupin went on very much as though talking to himself. I have already spoken of his far-away manner at such times. His talk was directed toward me, but his voice, although by no means loud, was changed, as though he were talking to some­one at a great distance. His eyes had little expression in them as he looked straight at the wall.
 
“That the voices heard arguing,” he said, “by the party upon the stairs were not the voices of the women themselves was fully proved by what all the witnesses said. This removes any doubt about the question whether the old lady could have first killed her daughter and later killed herself. I speak of this point chiefly for reasons of method; for the strength of Madame L’Espanaye was not great enough to push her daughter’s body up the chimney where it was found, while the condition of her own body showed clearly that she could not have killed herself. The murder, therefore, was done by some third party; and the voice of this third party was that heard in the argument. Let me now turn—not to all the facts given by the witnesses— but to what was unusual in these facts. Did you observe any­thing unusual in the stories of the witnesses?”
 
I answered that, while all the witnesses agreed in supposing the heavy voice to be that of a Frenchman, they did not agree at all as to the high, sharp voice.
 
“Those were the facts themselves as given by the witnesses,” said Dupin, “but it was not the unusual part of what they said. You have observed nothing particularly strange? Yet there was something to be observed. The witnesses, as you say, agreed about the heavy voice; here they all said the same thing. But as to the high sharp voice, the strange fact is—not that they did not agree as to its character—but that while an Italian, an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Dutchman, and a Frenchman tried to describe it, each one spoke of it as being that of a foreign person. Each is sure that it was not the voice of someone from his own country. Each described it—not as the voice of a person from a country with whose language he is familiar—but just the
 
opposite. The Frenchman supposes it to be the voice of a Spaniard and might have recognized some of the words if he had known Spanish. The Dutchman believes it to have been the voice of a Frenchman; but we find it stated that ‘not speak­ing French, he was examined through another person knowing the Dutch language.’ 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 man­ner of speaking’ since he ‘does not understand the English language.’ The Italian believes it the voice of a Russian but ‘has never talked with anyone from Russia.’ A second French­man does not agree with the first and is sure that the voice was that of an Italian but ‘does not know the Italian language’ and, like the Spaniard, judges by the manner of speaking. Now this voice must surely have been very unusual if all of these people had such different ideas about it. Persons from five of the great language groups of Europe could recognize nothing familiar in it nor understand any of the words spoken. You will say that it might have been the voice of someone from Asia—or from Africa. But very few people from either of these places live here in Paris. I will also call your attention to three other points of importance in this connection. The voice was described by one witness as ‘unpleasant—not so much sharp as unpleasant.’ The witness also said the words were ‘loud and quick.’ Another person mentioned the fact that the voice came ‘quick and nerv­ously.’ No words—no sounds similar to words—were recognized by any of the witnesses, according to the stories which they told.
 
“I do not know,” continued Dupin, “what impression I may have made so far upon your understanding, but I can say very definitely that from what the various witnesses have said it is very easy to arrive at certain facts which give direction to all the rest of one’s thinking in the matter. I will not mention these facts at this point, but I will say that, after considering them carefully, the conclusions to be reached are the only possible ones in these circumstances. Again, what these conclusions are I will not say as yet. I simply want you to bear in mind that, with myself, these ideas were strong enough, even before we visited the rooms where Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter lay, to give form to everything I did there. Nor was it long be-
 
fore I knew that what I had suspected from the very beginning was correct.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. Why did Dupin think that the police were confused about the murders?
2. What question did he think the police should ask?
3. For whom was Dupin now waiting?
4. Why did he give pistols to the author?
5. How did Dupin’s voice and eyes seem to the author?
6. Why was Dupin sure that the murders had been done by a third party?
7. What did the author say was unusual in what the witnesses had said?
8. What was unusual in what the witnesses said about the high, sharp voice?
9. How did the witnesses describe the second voice?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
onfuse                                     have little to do with
definite                                    at all
various                                   for a while
suspect                                   to be familiar with
pistol                                       call your attention to
remain in the dark                as yet