The Murders in the Rue Morgue - Chapter 5
“Keeping now in mind,” continued Dupin, “the points to which I have drawn your attention—that strange voice, that unusual strength, and the surprising fact that there seems to be no purpose in a murder so cruel and bloody as this—let us look at the awful butchering of the bodies. Here is a woman choked to death by great strength and pushed up into the narrow chimney a great distance. The usual murderer does not use any such method as this. Least of all, does he get rid of the body in this way. In the manner of pushing the body up into the chimney, you will surely agree that there was something most unusual—something which we would not generally expect from a murderer, even when we suppose him to be the most cruel of human beings. Think, too, how great must have been the force necessary to push the girl’s body up through such an opening when the strength of several persons, all working together, was needed to pull it down.
“Turn now to other signs of the use of a strength greater than that of any ordinary person. On the floor in front of the chimney lay pieces of human hair. These had been tom from the head of one of the women. You surely know of the great force necessary in tearing out from the human head even twenty or thirty hairs together. You saw the pieces of hair in question as well as myself. Stuck to them were pieces of the skin of the
head—a sure sign of the great power which had been used in pulling out what must have been thousands and thousands of hairs at one time. Not only was the throat of the old lady cut, but the head was almost cut from the body; the thing which had been used to do the cutting was only a small razor.
“I wish you also to look at the cruel character of all of these acts. Of the marks upon the body of Madame L’Espanaye I do not speak. The doctors, Monsieur Dumas and Monsieur Etienne, said that they were caused by something very heavy in character—a heavy stick or piece of iron pipe. The doctors were only partly right. The heavy material was the stone floor of the garden, upon which the old woman had fallen from the window which looked in upon the bed. This idea, however, simple as it may seem, escaped the police for the same reason that the size of the shutters escaped them—because, having seen the nails driven into the windows, they gave up all thought of the possibility that the windows might have been opened, or that they played any part in the murders.
“If now, in addition to all of these things, you have kept in mind the wild state of the room itself, we have gone so far as to be able to consider together the various important facts— such as the unusual strength of the murderer, his daring jump from the lightning rod to the window, the almost savage attack upon the two women, the cruel butchering of the two bodies without purpose and, clearly, without human feeling—and finally, the voice, foreign in character to the ears of men of many countries, and expressing itself in sounds which no one could recognize.
What, then, is the result to which these various points bring us? What impression have I made so far upon your understanding?”
I felt a creeping of my skin as Dupin asked me this question. “A madman,” I said, “has done this thing—some crazy man who has escaped from some institution in this section of town.”
“In some way,” he answered, “your idea is not completely wrong. But the voices of madmen, even in their wildest state, are never heard to be the same as that strange voice heard upon the stairs. Madmen are of some country, and their language, no matter how confused their words, can be recognized. Besides, the hair of a madman is not such as I hold in my hand. I picked
up this small piece of hair from the tightly closed hand of Madame L’Espanaye. Tell me what you think of it.”
“Dupin,” I said, rather nervously, “this hair is most unusual —this is not human hair.”
“I have not said that it is,” said he, “but before we decide this point, I wish you to look at this little drawing I have made upon this paper. It is an exact drawing of what, in the first reports of the murders in the newspaper, were described as ‘dark marks which seemed to have been made by finger nails’ upon the throat of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye. In another report, Monsieur Dumas, the doctor, said ‘the neck also showed marks of someone’s fingers.’
“You will see,” said my friend, spreading out the paper on ..V the table before us, “that this drawing gives the idea of a strong and fixed hold. There is no slipping of the fingers apparent. Each finger has kept—possibly until the death of the girl—the awful hold which it first took upon her throat. Try now to place all your fingers, at the same time, in the exact impressions as you see them on this paper.” ,
I tried to do this but was unable to.
“We are possibly not doing this exactly as it should be done. The paper is lying on the table on a flat surface—but the human throat is round in form. Here is a round piece of wood, the size of which is about that of the human throat. Wrap the drawing around it, and try the same thing again.”
I did so, but the difficulty was even greater than before. “This,” I said, “is the mark of no human hand.”
“Read now,” answered Dupin, “this section of the writings of Cuvier.”
It was a very exact description of size, color, hair, and other particulars of the orang-utan, a large ape of the East Indian Islands. The great size and strength, the wild and cruel character of these animals are well known to everyone. I understood at once the reason for certain things which had taken place in the murders.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. What facts did Dupin think should be kept in mind?
2. What was unusual about the way in which the murderer got rid of the body of the younger woman?
3. What were other signs of the use of great strength?
4. What caused the marks on the body of the older woman?
5. Why had the reason for the marks on the older woman’s body escaped the police?
6. What facts did Dupin now think should be kept in mind?
7. Who did the author suggest might have been the murderer?
8. What evidence did Dupin have that the murderer was not a madman?
9. What did Dupin demonstrate to the author about the marks of the murderer’s fingers?
10.What did Dupin ask the author to read?
B. Use each of the following words first as a noun and then as a verb:
use cut escape
force look mind
need fall result
C. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
keep in mind play a part in
get rid of in addition
give up make an impression upon
“The description of the fingers,” I said, as I made an end of the reading, “agrees exactly with this drawing. I see that no animal but a large ape of the kind mentioned here could have made these impressions upon the throat as you have drawn them here. This piece of dark hair, too, is the same in character as that of the animal described by Cuvier. But I still cannot possibly understand the particulars of this ^wful murder. Besides, there were two voices heard arguing, and one of them, without question, was the voice of a Frenchman.”
“True—and you will remember that several of the witnesses heard this voice say, ‘Mon Dieu.’ This, under the circumstances,
has been very correctly described by one of the witnesses (Mon- tani, the shopkeeper) as an expression used by the speaker in arguing. Upon these two words, therefore, I have built my hopes of explaining the whole mystery. A Frenchman knew of the murders. It is possible—in fact it is more than probable— that he himself had no direct part in the bloody happenings which took place. The orang-utan may have escaped from him. He may have followed it to the bedroom, but under the exciting circumstances which followed he was not able to catch it again. It is still at large. I will not continue with these guesses—for I have no right to call them anything else—since the ideas from which they have grown are still not clear enough to be fully understood in my own mind. Therefore, I could not possibly make anyone else understand them. For this reason, then, we will call them guesses and speak of them as such. If the Frenchman in question is in fact innocent of these murders, this advertisement which I left last night, upon our return home, at the office of Le Monde (a newspaper having to do with shippit%' matters and read widely by sailors) will bring him here to our home to see us.”
He handed me a paper, and I read the following:
CAUGHT—In the Bois de Boulogne, early in the morning of the (the morning of the murder) a very large dark- colored orang-utan of the kind found in Borneo. The owner (who, it has been learned, is a sailor belonging to a Maltese ship) may have the animal again by proving that it is his. He must also pay some small costs connected with finding and keeping the animal. Call at No. Rue , Faubourg St. Germain—third floor.
“How was it possible,” I asked, “that you should know the man to be a sailor and belonging to a Maltese ship?”
“I do not know,” said Dupin. “I am not sure of it. Here, however, is a small piece of ribbon, which from its form and its dirty appearance, has apparently been used in tying the hair at the back of the head in one of those knots that French sailors often use. Also, the knot is one which few people besides sailors can tie, and it is a knot much used by the Maltese. I picked up the ribbon at the foot of the lightning rod in the back of the house. It could not have belonged to either one of the dead
women. Of course, I may be wrong in all this. As I have said, I am now more or less guessing. The ribbon may have belonged to someone else. But my reasoning leads me in this direction.
“Anyway, if I am wrong, I did nothing really bad in putting the advertisement in the newspaper or in saying what I said there. If I have made a mistake in saying, for example, that the sailor belonged to a Maltese ship, the man will simply think that certain circumstances connected with the matter led me to this conclusion. But if I am right, then a great point has been made in our favor.
“Knowing all about the murders, the sailor will naturally suspect that something is wrong and will think twice before answering the advertisement. He will reason in this way:
‘I am innocent. I am poor. My orang-utan is of great value —to one in my circumstances it is a fortune in itself.
Why should I lose it just because I am foolish enough to think that my position is dangerous? Here it is—within my reach. It was found in the Bois de Boulogne at a great distance from the scene of the murders. How can it ever be suspected that an animal did these things? The police are in the dark—they have none of the answers to the mystery. Even if they should connect the animal with the murders, it would be impossible to prove that I had any part in them or that I knew anything about them. Above all, I am known. The advertisement points me out as the owner of the ape. I am not sure how much the person who placed the advertisement in the newspaper knows about me. But if I don’t appear and say the animal is mine, then perhaps public attention will be drawn to the animal, which is a thing of great value, and which I am known to own. I do not wish to attract attention either to the animal or to myself. I will therefore answer the advertisement, get the orang-utan, and keep it out of sight until this matter has blown over.’ ”
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. With what did the description of the fingers of an orangutan agree?
2. What was the character of the hair?
3.Why was the author still confused about the murders?
4.Why had Dupin built his hopes of explaining the case on the words Mon Dieul
5.What was the advertisement that Dupin had placed in the newspaper?
6.Why had he placed this advertisement?
7.Why did he think the man was a sailor belonging to a Maltese ship?
8.Where had he picked up the ribbon?
9.How did Dupin think that the sailor would reason?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
guess under the circumstances
innocent have no part in
advertisement be at large
knot make a mistake
ribbon in the dark
without question point out