Full text of "Tales"
University of California Berkeley
From the Collection of
EDWARD HELLMAN HELLER
ELINOR RAAS HELLER
WILEY AND PUTNAM'S
T A L E S
EDGAR A. POE,
WILEY & PUTNAM, 6, WATERLOO PLACE.
[ENTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL.]
THE GOLD-BUG 1
THE BLACK CAT . 37
MESMERIC REVELATION <* 47
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER ...... 64
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 83
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA . . . 100
THE CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION , . .110
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 119
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET t 151
THE PURLOINED LETTER .... .... 200
THE MAN IN THE CROWD 219
EDGAR A. POE.
THE GOLD- BUG.
What ho ! what ho ! this fellow is dancing mad !
He hath been bitten by the Tarantula.
All in the Wrong,
MANY years ago, I contracted an intimacy with a Mr. William
Legrand. He was of an ancient Huguenot family, and had once
been wealthy ; but a series of misfortunes had reduced him to
want. To avoid the mortification consequent upon his disasters,
he left New Orleans, the city of his forefathers, and took up his
residence at Sullivan's Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.
This Island is a very singular one. It consists of little else
than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at
no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the
main land by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through
a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-
hen. The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least
dwarfish. No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. Near the
western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands, and where are
some miserable frame buildings, tenanted, during summer, by the
fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found, indeed,
the bristly palmetto ; but the whole island, with the exception of
this western point, and a line of hard, white beach on the sea-
coast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle,
so much prized by the horticulturists of England. The shrub
here often attains the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and forms
an almost impenetrable coppice, burthening the air with its fra
In the inmost recesses of this coppice, not far from the eastern
or more remote end of the island, Legrand had built himself a
small hut, which he occupied when I first, by mere accident,
made his acquaintance. This soon ripened into friendship for
there was much in the recluse to excite interest and esteem. I
found him well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but in
fected with misanthropy, and subject to perverse moods of alter
nate enthusiasm and melancholy. He had with him many books,
but rarely employed them. His chief amusements were gun
ning and fishing, or sauntering along the beach and through the
myrtles, in quest of shells or entomological specimens ; his col
lection of the latter might have been envied by a Swammerdamm.
In these excursions he was usually accompanied by an old negro,
called Jupiter, who had been manumitted before the reverses of
the family, but who could be induced, neither by threats nor by
promises, to abandon what he considered his right of attendance
upon the footsteps of his young " Massa Will." It is not improb
able that the relatives of Legrand, conceiving him to be some
what unsettled in intellect, had contrived to instil this obstinacy
into Jupiter, with a view to the supervision and guardianship of
The winters in the latitude of Sullivan's Island are seldom
very severe, and in the fall of the year it is a rare event indeed
when a fire is considered necessary. About the middle of Octo
ber, 18 , there occurred, however, a day of remarkable chilli
ness. Just before sunset I scrambled my way through the ever
greens to the hut of my friend, whom I had not visited for several
weeks my residence being, at that time, in Charleston, a dis
tance of nine miles from the Island, while the facilities of passage
and re-passage were very far behind those of the present day.
Upon reaching the hut I rapped, as was my custom, and getting
no reply, sought for the key where I knew it was secreted, un
locked the door and went in. A fine fire was blazing upon the
hearth. It was a novelty, and by no means an ungrateful one. I
threw off an overcoat, took an arm-chair by the crackling logs,
and awaited patiently the arrival of my hosts.
Soon after dark they arrived, and gave me a most cordial wel
come. Jupiter, grinning from ear tp ear, bustled about to pre
pare some marsh-hens for supper. Legrand was in one of his
fits how else shall I term them ?-r-of enthusiasm. He had
found an unknown bivalve, forming a new genus, and, more than
this, he had hunted down and secured, with Jupiter's assistance,
a scarab&us which he believed to be totally new, but in respect
to which he wished to have my opinion on the morrow.
" And why not to-night ?" I asked, rubbing my hands over
the blaze, and wishing the whole tribe of scarab&i at the devil.
" Ah, if I had only known you were here !" said Legrand,
" but it's so long since I saw you ; and how could I foresee that
you would pay me a visit this very night of all others ? As I
was coming home I met Lieutenant G , from the fort, and,
very foolishly, I lent him the bug ; so it will be impossible for
you to see it until the morning. Stay here to-night, and I will sen$
Jup down for it at sunrise. It is the loveliest thing in creation !"
" What ? sunrise ?"
" Nonsense ! no ! the bug. It is of a brilliant gold color
about the size of a large hickory r nut with two jet black spots
near one extremity of the back, and another, somewhat longer, at
the other. The antenna are "
" Dey aint no tin in him, Massa Will, I keep a tel|in on you,"
here interrupted Jupiter ; " de bug is a goole bug, sqljd, et)ery
bit of him, inside and all, sep him wing neber feel half so hebby
a bug in my life."
" Well, suppose it is, Jup," replied Legrand, somewhat more
earnestly, it seemed to me, than the case demanded, " is that any
reason for your letting the birds burn ? The color" here he
turned to me " is really almost enough to warrant Jupiter's
idea. You never saw a more brilliant metallic lustre than the
scales emit but of this you cannot judge till to-morrow. In the
mean time I can give you some idea of the shape." Saying this,
he seated himself at a small table, on which were a pen and ink,
but no paper. He looked for some in a drawer, but found none.
"Never mind," said he at length, "this will answer ;" and he
drew from his waistcoat pocket a scrap of what I took to be very
dirty foolscap, and made upon it a rough drawing with the pen.
While he did this, I retained my seat by the fire, for I was still
chilly. When the design was complete, he handed it to me with-
out rising. As I received it, a loud growl was heard, succeeded
by a scratching at the door. Jupiter opened it, and a large New
foundland, belonging to Legrand, rushed in, leaped upon my
shoulders, and loaded me with caresses ; for I had shown him
much attention during previous visits. When his gambols were
over, I looked at the paper, and, to speak the truth, found myself
not a little puzzled at what my friend had depicted.
" Well !" I said, after contemplating it for some minutes, " this
is a strange scarabaus, I must confess : new to me : never saw
anything like it before unless it was a skull, or a death's-head
which it more nearly resembles than anything else that has come
under my observation/'
" A death's-head I" echoed Legrand " Oh yes well, it hag
something of that appearance upon paper, no doubt. The two
upper black spots look like eyes, eh ? and the longer one at the
bottom like a mouth and then the shape of the whole is ovaL"
" Perhaps so," said I ; " but, Legrand, I fear you are no artist.
I must wait until I see the beetle itself, if I am to form any idea
of its personal appearance."
" Well, I don't know," said he, a little nettled, " I draw tolera
bly should do it at least have had good masters, and flatter
myself that I am not quite a blockhead."
" But, my dear fellow, you are joking then/* said I, " this is a
very passable skull indeed, I may say that it is a very excellent
skull, according to the vulgar notions about such specimens of
physiology and your scarabaus must be the queerest scardb&us
in the world if it resembles it. Why, we may get up a very
thrilling bit of superstition upon this hint. I presume you will
call the bug scarabaus caput hominis, or something of that kind
there are many similar titles in the Natural Histories. But where
are the antenna you spoke of?"
" The antenna /" said Legrand, who seemed to be getting un
accountably warm upon the subject ; " I am sure you must see
the antenna. I made them as distinct as they are in the original
insect, and I presume that is sufficient."
" Well, well," I said, " perhaps you have still I don't see
them ;" and I handed him the paper without additional remark,
not wishing to ruffle his temper ; but I was much surprised at
the turn affairs had taken ; his ill humor puzzled me and, as for
the drawing of the beetle, there were positively no antenna visible,
and the whole did bear a very close resemblance to the ordinary
cuts of a death's-head.
He received the paper very peevishly, and was about to crum
ple it, apparently to throw it in the fire, when a casual glance at
the design seemed suddenly to rivet his attention. In an instant
his face grew violently red^-in another as excessively pale. For
some minutes he continued to scrutinize the drawing minutely
where he sat. At length he arose, took a candle from the table,
and proceeded to seat himself upon a sea-chest in the farthest
corner of the room. Here again he made an anxious examina
tion of the paper turning it in all directions. He said nothing,
however, and his conduct greatly astonished me ; yet I thought
it prudent not to exacerbate the growing moodiness of his temper
by any comment. Presently he took from his coat pocket a wal
let, placed the paper carefully in it, and deposited both in a wri
ting-desk, which he locked. He now grew more composed in his
demeanor ; but his original air of enthusiasm had quite disap
peared. Yet he seemed not so much sulky as abstracted. As
the evening wore away he became more and more absorbed in
reverie, from which no sallies of mine could arouse him. It had
been my intention to pass the night at the hut, as I had frequently
done before, but, seeing my host in this mood, I deemed it proper
to take leave. He did not press me to remain, but, as I departed,
he shook my hand with even more than his usual cordiality.
It was about a month after this (and during the interval I had
seen nothing of Legrand) when I received a visit, at Charleston,
from his man, Jupiter. I had never seen the good old negro look
so dispirited, and I feared that some serious disaster had befallen
" Well, Jup," said I, " what is the matter now ? how is your
" Why, to speak de troof, massa, him not so berry well as
" Not well ! I am truly sorry to hear it. What does he com
" Dar ! dat's it != him neber plain of notin but him berry
sick for all dat."
" Very sick, Jupiter I why didn't you say so at once ? Is he
confined to bed ?"
" No, dat he aint ! he aint find nowhar dat's just whar de shoe
pinch my mind is got to be berry hebby bout poor Massa Will."
" Jupiter, I should like to understand what it is you are talking
about. You say your master is sick. Hasn't he told you what
ails him ?"
" Why, massa, taint worf while for to git mad about de mat
ter Massa Will say noffin at all aint de matter wid him but
den what make him go about looking dis here way, wid he head
down and he soldiers up, and as white as a gose ? And den he
keep a syphon all de time "
" Keeps a what, Jupiter ?"
" Keeps a syphon wid de figgurs on de slate de queerest figgurs
I ebber did see. Ise gittin to be skeered, I tell you. Hab for
to keep mighty tight eye pon him noovers. Todder day he gib
me slip fore de sun up and was gone de whole ob de blessed day.
I had a big stick ready cut for to gib him deuced good beating
when he did come but Ise sich a fool dat I hadn't de heart ar-
ter all he look so berry poorly."
" Eh ? what 1 ah yes ! upon the whole I think you had bet
ter not be too severe with the poor fellow don't flog him, Jupiter
he can't very well stand it but can you form no idea of what
has occasioned this illness, or rather this change of conduct ?
Has anything unpleasant happened since I saw you ?"
" No, massa, dey aint bin noffin onpleasant since den 'twas
fore den I'm feared 'twas de berry day you was dare."
" How ? what do you mean ?"
" Why, massa, I mean de bug dare now."
" The what ?"
" De bug I'm berry sartain dat Massa Will bin bit somewhere
bout de head by dat goole-bug."
"And what cause have you, Jupiter, for such a supposition?"
" Claws enuff, massa, and mouff too. I nebber did see sich a
deuced bug he lack and he bite ebery ting what cum near
him. Massa Will cotch him fuss, but had for to let him go gin
mighty quick, I tell you den was de time he must ha got de
bite. I did n't like de look ob de bug mouff, myself, no how, sol
would n't take hold ob him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid
a piece ob paper dat I found. I rap him up in de paper and
stuff piece ob it in he mouff dat was de way."
" And you think, then, that your master was really bitten by
the beetle, and that the bite made him sick ?"
" I do n't tink noffin about it I nose it. What make him
dream bout de goole so much, if taint cause he bit by de goole-
bug ? Ise heerd bout dem goole-bugs fore dis."
" But how do you know he dreams about gold ?"
" How I know ? why cause he talk about it in he sleep dat's
how I nose."
" Well, Jup, perhaps you are right > but to what fortunate cir
cumstance am I to attribute the honor of a visit from you to-day ?"
" What de matter, massa ?"
" Did you bring any message from Mr. Legrand ?"
" No, massa, I bring dis here pissel ;" and here Jupiter handed
me a note which ran thus :
Why have I not seen you for so long a time ? I hope you have
not been so foolish as to take offence at any little brusquerie of
mine ; but no, that is improbable.
Since I saw you I have had great cause for anxiety. I have
something to tell you, yet scarcely know how to tell it, or whether
I should tell it at all.
I have not been quite well for some days past, and poor old
Jup annoys me, almost beyond endurance, by his well-meant at
tentions. Would you believe it ? he had prepared a huge stick,
the other day, with which to chastise me for giving him the slip,
and spending the day, solus, among the hills on the main land.
I verily believe that my ill looks alone saved me a flogging.
I have made no addition to my cabinet since we met.
If you can, in any way, make it convenient, come over with
Jupiter. Do come. I wish to see you to-night, upon business of
importance. I assure you that it is of the highest importance.
Ever yours, WILLIAM LEGRAND.
There was something in the tone of this note which gave me
great uneasiness. Its whole style differed materially from that
ofLegrand. What could he be dreaming of? What new crotch
et possessed his excitable brain ? What " business of the high
est importance" could he possibly have to transact ? Jupiter's
account of him boded no good. I dreaded lest the continued
pressure of misfortune had, at length, fairly unsettled the reason
of my friend. Without a moment's hesitation, therefore, I pre
pared to accompany the negro.
Upon reaching the wharf, I noticed a scythe and three spades,
all apparently new, lying in the bottom of the boat in which we
were to embark.
" What is the meaning of all this, Jup ?" I inquired.
" Him syfe, massa, and spade."
" Very true ; but what are they doing here ?"
" Him de syfe and de spade what Massa Will sis pon my buy
ing for him in de town, and de debbils own lot of money I had to
gib for em."
" But what, in the name of all that is mysterious, is your
* Massa Will' going to do with scythes and spades ?"
" Dat's more dan / know, and debbil take me if I don't blieve
'tis more dan he know, too. But it's all cum ob de bug."
Finding that no satisfaction was to be obtained of Jupiter,
whose whole intellect seemed to be absorbed by " de bug," I now
stepped into the boat and made sail. With a fair and strong
breeze we soon ran into the little cove to the northward of Fort
Moultrie, and a walk of some two miles brought us to the hut.
It was about three in the afternoon when we arrived. Legrand
had been awaiting us in eager expectation. He grasped my hand
with a nervous empressement which alarmed me and strengthened
the suspicions already entertained. His countenance was pale
even to ghastliness, and his deep-set eyes glared with unnatural
lustre. After some inquiries respecting his health, I asked him,
THE GOLD-BUG. 9
not knowing what better to say, if he had yet obtained the scara-
bceus from Lieutenant G .
" Oh, yes," he replied, coloring violently, " I got it from him
the next morning. Nothing should tempt me to part with that
scarab&us. Do you know that Jupiter is quite right about it ?"
"In what way ?" I asked, with a sad foreboding at heart.
" In supposing it to be a bug of real gold ." He said this with
an air of profound seriousness, and I felt inexpressibly shocked.
" This bug is to make my fortune," he continued, with a tri
umphant smile, " to reinstate me in my family possessions. Is it
any wonder, then, that I prize it ? Since Fortune has thought fit
to bestow it upon me, I have only to use it properly and I shall
^arrive at the gold of which it is the index. Jupiter, bring me
that scarab&us /"
" What ! de bug, massa ? I'd rudder not go fer trubble dat
bug you rnus git him for your own self." Hereupon Legrand
arose, with a grave and stately air, and brought me the beetle
from a glass case in which it was enclosed. It was a beautiful
scarab&us, and, at that time, unknown to naturalists of course a
great prize in a scientific point of view. There were two round,
black spots near one extremity of the back, and a long one near
the other. The scales were exceedingly hard and glossy, with
all the appearance of burnished gold. The weight of the insect
was very remarkable, and, taking all things into consideration, I
could hardly blame Jupiter for his opinion respecting it; but
what to make of Legrand 's concordance with that opinion, I could
not, for the life of me, tell.
" I sent for you," said he, in a grandiloquent tone, when I had
completed my examination of the beetle, " I sent for you, that I
might have your counsel and assistance in furthering the views
of Fate and of the bug",
" My dear Legrand," I cried, interrupting him, " you are cer
tainly unwell, and had better use some little precautions. You
shall go to bed, and I will remain with you a few days, until you
get over this. You are feverish and"
" Feel my pulse," said he.
I felt it, and, to say the truth, found not the slightest indication
10 POE'S TALES.
" But you may be ill and yet have no fever. Allow me this
once to prescribe for you. In the first place, go to bed. In the
" You are mistaken," he interposed, " I am as well as I can
expect to be under the excitement which I suffer. If you really
wish me well, you will relieve this excitement."
" And how is this to be done ?"
" Very easily. Jupiter and myself are going upon an expe
dition into the hills, upon the main land, and, in this expedition,
we shall need the aid of some person in whom we can confide.
You are the only one we can trust. Whether we succeed or fail,
the excitement which you now perceive in me will be equally al
" I am anxious to oblige you in any way," I replied ; " but do
you mean to say that this infernal beetle has any connection with
your expedition into the hills ?"
" It has."
" Then, Legrand, I can become a party to no such absurd pro^
" I am sorry very sorry for we shall have to try it by our
" Try it by yourselves ! The man is surely mad ! but stay !
how long do you propose to be absent ?"
" Probably all night. We shall start immediately, and be
back, at all events, by sunrise."
" And will you promise me, upon your honor, that when this
freak of yours is over, and the bug business (good God !) settled
to your satisfaction, you will then return home and follow my ad
vice implicitly, as that of your physician ?"
" Yes ; I promise ; and now let us be off, for we have no time
With a heavy heart I accompanied my friend. We started
about four o'clock Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, and myself. Ju
piter had with him the scythe and spades the whole of which
he insisted upon carrying more through fear, it seemed to me,
of trusting either of the implements within reach of his master,
than from any excess of industry or complaisance. His demeanor
was dogged in the extreme, and" dat deuced bug "were the sole
THE GOLD-BUG. 11
words which escaped his lips during the journey. For my own
part, I had charge of a couple of dark lanterns, while Legrand
contented himself with the scarabaus, which he carried attached
to the end of a bit of whip-cord ; twirling it to and fro, with the
air of a conjuror, as he went. When I observed this last, plain
evidence of my friend's aberration of mind, I could scarcely re
frain from tears. I thought it best, however, to humor his fancy,
at least for the present, or until I could adopt some more energetic
measures with a chance of success. In the mean time I en
deavored, but all in vain, to sound him in regard to the object of
the expedition. Having succeeded in inducing me to accompany
him, he seemed unwilling to hold conversation upon any topic of
minor importance, arid to all my questions vouchsafed no other
reply than " we shall see !"
We crossed the creek at the head of the island by means of a
skiff, and, ascending the high grounds on the shore of the main land,
proceeded in a northwesterly direction, through a tract of country
excessively wild and desolate, where no trace of a human foot
step was to be seen. Legrand led the way with decision ; paus
ing only for an instant, here and there, to consult what appeared
to be certain landmarks of his own contrivance upon a former
In this manner we journeyed for about two hours, and the sun
was just setHng when we entered a region infinitely more dreary
than any yet seen. It was a species of table land, near the sum
mit of an almost inaccessible hill, densely wooded from base to
pinnacle, and interspersed with huge crags that appeared to lie
loosely upon the soil, and in many cases were prevented from
precipitating themselves into the valleys below, merely by the
support of the trees against which they reclined. Deep ravines,
in various directions, gave an air of still sterner solemnity to the
The natural platform to which we had clambered was thickly
overgrown with brambles, through which we soon discovered that it
would have been impossible to force our way but for the scythe ;
and Jupiter, by direction of his master, proceeded to clear for us
a path to the foot of an enormously tall tulip-tree, which stood,
with some eight or ten oaks, upon the level, and far surpassed them
12 FOE'S TALES.
all, and all other trees which I had then ever seen, in the beauty
of its foliage and form, in the wide spread of its branches, and in
the general majesty of its appearance. When we reached this
tree, Legrand turned to Jupiter, and asked him if he thought he
could climb it. The old man seemed a little staggered by the
question, and for some moments made no reply. At length he
approached the huge trunk, walked slowly around it, and exam
ined it with minute attention. When he had completed his scru
tiny, he merely said,
" Yes, massa, Jup climb any tree he ebber see in he life."
" Then up with you as soon as possible, for it will soon be too
dark to see what we are about."
" How far mus go up, massa ?" inquired Jupiter.
" Get up the main trunk first, and then I will tell you which
way to go and here stop ! take this beetle with you."
" De bug, Massa Will ! de goole bug !" cried the negro, draw
ing back in dismay " what for mus tote de bug way up de
tree ? d n if I do !"
" If you are afraid, Jup, a great big negro like you, to take
hold of a harmless little dead beetle, why you can carry it up by
this string but, if you do not take it up with you in some way,
I shall be under the necessity of breaking your head with this
" What de matter now, massa ?" said Jup, evidently shamed
into compliance ; " always want for to raise fuss wid old nigger.
Was only funnin any how. Me feered de bug ! what I keer for
de bug ?" Here he took cautiously hold of the extreme end of
the string, and, maintaining the insect as far from his person as
circumstances would permit, prepared to ascend the tree.
In youth, the tulip-tree, or Liriodendron Tutipiferum, the most
magnificent of American foresters, has a trunk peculiarly smooth,
and often rises to a great height without lateral branches ; but, in
its riper age, the bark becomes gnarled and uneven, while many
short limbs make their appearance on the stem. Thus the diffi
culty of ascension, in the present case, lay more in semblance
than in reality. Embracing the huge cylinder, as closely as pos
sible, with his arms and knees, seizing with his hands some pro
jections, and resting his naked toes upon others, Jupiter, after one
THE GOLD-BUG. 13
or two narrow escapes from falling, at length wriggled himself
into the first great fork, and seemed to consider the whole business
as virtually accomplished. The risk of the achievement was, in
fact, now over, although the climber was some sixty or seventy
feet from the ground.
" Which way mus go now, Massa Will ?" he asked.
" Keep up the largest branch the one on this side," said Le-
grand. The negro obeyed him promptly, and apparently with
but little trouble ; ascending higher and higher, until no glimpse
of bis squat figure could be obtained through the dense foliage
which enveloped it. Presently his voice was heard in a sort of
" How much fudder is got for go ?"
" How high up are you ?" asked Legrand.
" Ebber so fur," replied the negro ; " can see de sky fru de top
ob de tree*"
" Never mind the sky, but attend to what I say. Look down
the trunk and count the limbs below you on this side. How
many limbs have you passed ?"
" One, two, tree, four, fibe-*-I done pass fibe big limb, massa,
pon dis side."
" Then go one limb higher."
In a few minutes the voice was heard again, announcing that
the seventh limb was attained.
" Now, Jup," cried Legrand, evidently much excited, " I want
you to work your way out upon that limb as far as you can. If
you see anything strange, let me know."
By this time what little doubt I might have entertained of my
poor friend's insanity, was put finally at rest. I had no alterna
tive but to conclude him stricken with lunacy, and I became se
riously anxious about getting him home. While I was pondering
upon what was best to be done, Jupiter's voice was again heard.
" Mos feerd for to ventur pon dis limb befry far 'tis dead
limb putty much all de way."
" Did you say it was a dead limb, Jupiter ?" cried Legrand in
a quavering voice.
" Yes, massa, him dead as de door-nail done up for sartain
done departed dis here life."
14 POE'S TALES.
" What in the name of heaven shall I do ?" asked Legrand,
seemingly in the greatest distress.
" Do !" said I, glad of an opportunity to interpose a word,
"why come home and go to bed. Come now ! that's a fine fel
low. It's getting late, and, besides, you remember your promise."
" Jupiter," cried he, without heeding me in the least, " do you
hear me ?"
" Yes, Massa Will, hear you ebber so plain."
" Try the wood well, then, with your knife, and see if you
think it very rotten."
" Him rotten, massa, sure nuff," replied the negro in a few
moments, " but not so berry rotten as mought be. Mought ven-
tur out leetle way pon de limb by myself, dat's true,"
"By yourself! what do you mean ?"
" Why I mean de bug. 'Tis berry hebby bug. Spose I drop
him down fuss, and den de limb won't break wid just de weight
ob one nigger."
" You infernal scoundrel !" cried Legrand, apparently much
relieved, " what do you mean by telling me such nonsense as
that ? As sure as you drop that beetle I'll break your neck.
Look here, Jupiter, do you hear me ?"
" Yes, massa, needn't hollo at poor nigger dat style."
" Well ! now listen ! if you will venture out on the limb as
far as you think safe, and not let go the beetle, I'll make^ you
a present of a silver dollar as soon as you get down."
" I'm gwine, Massa Will^-deed I is," replied the negro very
promptly " mos out to the eend now."
" Out to the end /" here fairly screamed Legrand, " do you
say you are out to the end of that limb ?"
" Soon be to de eend, massa, o-o-o-o-oh ! Lor-gol-a-marcy !
what is dis here pon de tree ?"
" Well !" cried Legrand, highly delighted, " what is it ?"
" Why taint noffin but a skull somebody bin lef him head up
de tree, and de crows done gobble ebery bit ob de meat off."
" A skull, you say ! very well ! how is it fastened to the
limb ? what holds it on ?"
" Sure nuff, massa j mus look. Why dis berry curous sar-
THE GOLD-BUG. 15
cumstance, pon my word dare's a great big nail in de skull,
what fastens ob it on to de tree."
" Well now, Jupiter, do exactly as I tell you do you hear ?"
" Pay attention, then! find the left eye of the skull."
" Hum ! hoo ! dat's good ! why dare aint no eye lef at all."
" Curse your stupidity ! do you know your right hand from
your left ?"
" Yes, I nose dat nose all bout dat rtis my lef hand what I
chops de wood wid."
" To be sure ! you are left-handed ; and your left eye is on
the same side as your left hand. Now, I suppose, you can find
the left eye of the skull, or the place where the left eye has been.
Have you found it ?"
Here was a long pause. At length the negro asked,
" Is de lef eye of de skull pon de same side as de lef hand of
de skull, too ? cause de skull aint got not a bit ob a hand at
all nebber mind ! I got de lef eye now here de lef eye ! what
mus do wid it ?"
" Let the beetle drop through it, as far as the string will
reach but be careful and not let go your hold of the string."
" All dat done, Massa Will ; mighty easy ting for to put de bug
fru de hole look out for him dare below !"
During this colloquy no portion of Jupiter's perspn could be
seen ; but the beetle, which he had suffered to descend, was now
visible at the end of the string, and glistened, like a globe of bur
nished gold, in the last rays of the setting sun, some pf which
still faintly illumined the eminence upon which we stood. The
scarab(us hung quite clear of any branches^ and, if allowed to
fall, would have fallen at our feet. Legrand immediately took
the scythe, and cleared with it a circular space, three or four
yards in diameter, just beneath the insect, and, having accom
plished this, ordered Jupiter to let go the string and come down
from the tree.
Driving a peg, with great nicety, into the ground, at the precise
spot where the beetle fell, my friend now produced from his pocket
a tape-measure. Fastening one end of this at that point of the
trunk of the tree which was nearest the peg, he unrolled it till it
16 FOE'S TALES.
reached the peg, and thence farther unrolled it, in the direction
already established by the two points of the tree and the peg, for
the distance of fifty feet Jupiter clearing away the brambles
with the scythe. At the spot thus attained a second peg was
driven, and about this, as a centre, a rude circle, about four feet
in diameter, described. Taking now a spade himself, and giving
one to Jupiter and one to me,-Legrand begged us to set about dig
ging as quickly as possible.
To speak the truth, I had no especial relish for such amuse
ment at any time, and, at that particular moment, would most
willingly have declined it ; for the night was coming on, and I
felt much fatigued with the exercise already taken ; but I saw no
mode of escape, and was fearful of disturbing my poor friend's
equanimity by a refusal. Could I have depended, indeed, upon
Jupiter's aid, I would have had no hesitation in attempting to get
the lunatic home by force ; but I was too well assured of the old
negro's disposition, to hope that he would assist me, under any
circumstances, in a personal contest with his master. I made no
doubt that the latter had been infected with some of the innumer
able Southern superstitions about money buried, and that his
phantasy had received confirmation by the finding of the scara-
laus, or, perhaps, by Jupiter's obstinacy in maintaining it to be
" a bug of real gold." A mind disposed to lunacy would readily
be led away by such suggestions especially if chiming in with
favorite preconceived ideas -and then I called to mind the poor
fellow's speech about the beetle's being " the index of his fortune."
Upon the whole, I was sadly vexed and puzzled, but, at length, I
concluded to make a virtue of necessity to dig with a good will,
and thus the sooner to convince the visionary, by ocular demon
stration, of the fallacy of the opinions he entertained.
The lanterns having been lit, we all fell to work with a zeal
worthy a more rational cause ; and, as the glare fell upon our
persons and implements, I could not help thinking how pictu
resque a group we composed, and how strange and suspicious our
labors must have appeared to any interloper who, by chance,
might have stumbled upon our whereabouts.
We dug very steadily for two hours. Little was said ; and
our chief embarrassment lay in the yelpings of the dog, who took
THE GOLD-BUG. 17
exceeding interest in our proceedings. He, at length, became so
obstreperous that we grew fearful of his giving the alarm to some
stragglers in the vicinity ; or, rather, this was the apprehension
of Legrand ; for myself, I should have rejoiced at any interrup
tion which might have enabled me to get the wanderer home.
The noise was, at length, very effectually silenced by Jupiter,
who, getting out of the hole with a dogged air of deliberation, tied
the brute's mouth up with one of his suspenders, and then return
ed, with a grave chuckle, to his task.
When the time mentioned had expired, we had reached a depth
of five feet, and yet no signs of any treasure became manifest.
A general pause ensued, and I began to hope that the farce was
at an end. Legrand, however, although evidently much discon
certed, wiped his brow thoughtfully and recommenced. We had
excavated the entire circle of four feet diameter, and now we
slightly enlarged the limit, and went to the farther depth of two
feet. Still nothing appeared. The gold-seeker, whom I sincere
ly pitied, at length clambered from the pit, with the bitterest dis
appointment imprinted upon every feature, and proceeded, slowly
and reluctantly, to put on his coat, which he had thrown off at
the beginning of his labor. In the mean time I made no remark.
Jupiter, at a signal from his master, began to gather up his tools.
This done, and the dog having been unmuzzled, we turned in
profound silence towards home.
We had taken, perhaps, a dozen steps in this direction, when,
with a loud oath, Legrand strode up to Jupiter, and seized him by
the collar. The astonished negro opened his eyes and mouth to
the fullest extent, let fall the spades, and fell upon his knees.
"You scoundrel," said Legrand, hissing out the syllables from
between his clenched teeth " you infernal black villain ! speak,
I tell you ! answer me this instant, without prevarication !
which which is your left eye ?"
" Oh, my golly, Massa Will ! aint dis here my lef eye for sar-
tain ?" roared the terrified Jupiter, placing his hand upon his right
organ of vision, and holding it there with a desperate pertinacity,
as if in immediate dread of his master's attempt at a gouge.
" I thought so ! I knew it ! hurrah !" vociferated Legrand,
letting the negro go, and executing a series of curvets and cara.
]8 POE'S TALES.
cols, much to the astonishment of his valet, who, arising from his
knees, looked, mutely, from his master to myself, and then from
myself to his master.
" Come ! we must go back," said the latter, " the game 's not
up yet ;" and he again led the way to the tulip-tree.
" Jupiter," said he, when we reached its foot, " come here !
was the skull nailed to the limb with the face outwards, or with
the face to the limb ?"
" De face was out, massa, so dat de crows could get at de eyes
good, widout any trouble."
" Well, then, was it this eye or that through which you drop
ped the beetle ?" here Legrand touched each of Jupiter's eyes.
" Twas dis eye, massa de lef eye jis as you tell me," and
here it was his right eye that the negro indicated.
" That will do we must try it again."
Here my friend, about whose madness I now saw, or fancied
that I saw, certain indications of method, removed the peg which
marked the spot where the beetle fell, to a spot about three inches
to the westward of its former position. Taking, now, the tape-
measure from the nearest point of the trunk to the peg, as before,
and continuing the extension in a straight line to the distance of
fifty feet, a spot was indicated, removed, by several yards, from
the point at which we had been digging.
Around the new position a circle, somewhat larger than in the
former instance, was now described, and we again set to work
with the spades. I was dreadfully weary, but, scarcely under
standing what had occasioned the change in my thoughts, I felt
no longer any great aversion from the labor imposed. I had be
come most unaccountably interested nay, even excited. Per
haps there was something, amid all the extravagant demeanor of
Legrand some air of forethought, or of deliberation, which im
pressed me. I dug eagerly, and now and then caught myself
actually looking, with something that very much resembled ex
pectation, for the fancied treasure, the vision of which had de
mented my unfortunate companion. At a period when such va
garies of thought most fully possessed me, and when we had been
at work perhaps an hour and a half, we were again interrupted
by the violent bowlings of the dog. His uneasiness, in the first
THE GOLD-BUG. 19
instance, had been, evidently, but the result of playfulness or ca
price, but he now assumed a bitter and serious tone. Upon Ju
piter's again attempting to muzzle him, he made furious resistance,
and, leaping into the hole, tore up the mould frantically with his
claws. In a few seconds he had uncovered a mass of human
bones, forming two complete skeletons, intermingled with sev
eral buttons of metal, and what appeared to be the dust of decayed
woollen. One or two strokes of a spade upturned the blade of a
large Spanish knife, and, as we dug farther, three or four loose
pieces of gold and silver coin came to light.
At sight of these the joy of Jupiter could scarcely be restrained,
but the countenance of his master wore an air of extreme disap
pointment. He urged us, however, to continue our exertions, and
the words were hardly uttered when I stumbled and fell forward,
having caught the toe of my boot in a large ring of iron that lay
half buried in the loose earth.
We now worked in earnest, and never did I pass ten minutes
of more intense excitement. During this interval we had fairly
unearthed an oblong chest of wood, which, from its perfect pres
ervation and wonderful hardness, had plainly been subjected to
some mineralizing process perhaps that of the Bi-chloride of
Mercury. This box was three feet and a half long, three feet
broad, and two and a half feet deep. It was firmly secured by
bands of wrought iron, riveted, and forming a kind of open trellis-
work over the whole. On each side of the chest, near the top,
were three rings of iron six in all by means of which a firm
hold could be obtained by six persons. Our utmost united en
deavors served only to disturb the coffer very slightly in its bed.
We at once saw the impossibility of removing so great a weight.
Luckily, the sole fastenings of the lid consisted of two sliding bolts.
These we drew back trembling and panting with anxiety. In
an instant, a treasure of incalculable value lay gleaming before
us. As the rays of the lanterns fell within the pit, there Hashed
upwards a glow and a glare, from a confused heap of gold and of
jewels, that absolutely dazzled our eyes.
I shall not pretend to describe the feelings with which I gazed.
Amazement was, of course, predominant. Legrand appeared ex
hausted with excitement, and spoke very few words. Jupiter's
20 FOE'S TALES.
countenance wore, for some minutes, as deadly a pallor as it is
possible, in the nature of things, for any negro's visage to assume.
He seemed stupified thunderstricken. Presently he fell upon
his knees in the pit, and, burying his naked arms up to the
elbows in gold, let them there remain, as if enjoying the luxury of a
bath. At length, with a deep sigh, he exclaimed, as if in a solil
" And dis all cum ob de goole-bug ! de putty goole-bug ! de
poor little goole-bug, what I boosed in dat sabage kind ob style !
Aint you shamed ob yourself, nigger ? answer me dat !"
It became necessary, at last, that I should arouse both master
and valet to the expediency of removing the treasure. It was
growing late, and it behooved us to make exertion, that we might
get every thing housed before daylight. It was difficult to say
what should be done, and much time was spent in deliberation
so confused were the ideas of all. We, finally, lightened the box
by removing two thirds of its contents, when we were enabled,
with some trouble, to raise it from the hole. The articles taken
out were deposited among the brambles, and the dog left to guard
them, with strict orders from Jupiter neither, upon any pretence,
to stir from the spot, nor to open his mouth until our return. We
then hurriedly made for home with the chest ; reaching the hut
in safety, but after excessive toil, at one o'clock in the morning.
Worn out as we were, it was not in human nature to do more im
mediately. We rested until two, and had supper ; starting for
the hills immediately afterwards, armed with three stout sacks,
which, by good luck, were upon the premises. A little before
four we arrived at the pit, divided the remainder of the booty, as
equally as might be, among us, and, leaving the holes unfilled,
again set out for the hut, at which, for the second time, we de
posited our golden burthens, just as the first faint streaks of the
dawn gleamed from over the tree-tops in the East.
We were now thoroughly broken down ; but the intense ex
citement of the time denied us repose. After an unquiet slumber
of some three or four hours' duration, we arose, as if by precon
cert, to make examination of our treasure.
The chest had been full to the brim, and we spent the whole
day, and the greater part of the next night, in a scrutiny of its
THE GOLD-BUG. 21
contents. There had been nothing like order or arrangement.
Every thing had been heaped in promiscuously. Having assorted
all with care, we found ourselves possessed of even vaster wealth
than we had at first supposed. In coin there was rather more
than four hundred and fifty thousand dollars estimating the
value of the pieces, as accurately as we could, by the tables of
the period. There was not a particle of silver. All was gold
of antique date and of great variety French, Spanish, and Ger
man money, with a few English guineas, and some counters, of
which we had never seen specimens before. There were several
very large and heavy coins, so worn that we could make nothing
of their inscriptions. There was no American money. The
value of the jewels we found more difficulty in estimating. There
were diamonds some of them exceedingly large and fine a
hundred and ten in all, and not one of them small ; eighteen ru
bies of remarkable brilliancy ; three hundred and ten emeralds,
all very beautiful ; and twenty-one sapphires, with an opal.
These stones had all been broken from their settings and thrown
loose in the chest. The settings themselves, which we picked out
from among the other gold, appeared to have been beaten up with
hammers, as if to prevent identification. Besides all this, there
was a vast quantity of solid gold ornaments ; nearly two hun
dred massive finger and ear rings ; rich chains thirty of these,
if I remember ; eighty-three very large and heavy crucifixes ;
five gold censers of great value ; a prodigious golden punch
bowl, ornamented with richly chased vine-leaves and Bacchana
lian figures ; with two sword-handles exquisitely embossed, and
many other smaller articles which I cannot recollect. The
weight of these valuables exceeded three hundred and fifty pounds
avoirdupois ; and in this estimate I have not included one hun
dred and ninety-seven superb gold watches ; three of the number
being worth each five hundred dollars, if one. Many of them
were very old, and as time keepers valueless ; the works having
suffered, more or less, from corrosion but all were richly jewel
led and in cases of great worth. We estimated the entire con
tents of the chest, that night, at a million and a half of dollars ;
and, upon the subsequent disposal of the trinkets and jewels (a
22 FOE'S TALES.
few being retained for our own use), it was found that we had
greatly undervalued the treasure.
When, at length, we had concluded our examination, and the
intense excitement of the time had, in some measure, subsided,
Legrand, who saw that I was dying with impatience for a solu
tion of this most extraordinary riddle, entered into a full detail
of all the circumstances connected with it.
" You remember," said he, " the night when I handed you the
rough sketch I had made of the scarab&us. You recollect also,
that I became quite vexed at you for insisting that my drawing
resembled a death's-head. When you first made this assertion I
thought you were jesting ; but afterwards I called to mind the
peculiar spots on the back of the insect, and admitted to myself
that your remark had some little foundation in fact. Still, the
sneer at my graphic powers irritated me for I am considered a
good artist and, therefore, when you handed me the scrap of
parchment, I was about to crumple it up and throw it angrily
into the fire."
" The scrap of paper, you mean," said I.
" No ; it had much of the appearance of paper, and at first I
supposed it to be such, but when I came to draw upon it, I dis
covered it, at once, to be a piece of very thin parchment. It was
quite dirty, you remember. Well, as I was in the very act of
crumpling it up, my glance fell upon the sketch at which you had
been looking, and you may imagine my astonishment when I
perceived, in fact, the figure of a death's-head just where, it
seemed to me, I had made the drawing of the beetle. For a mo
ment I was too much amazed to think with accuracy. I knew that
my design was very different in detail from this although there
was a certain similarity in general outline. Presently I took a
candle, and seating myself at the other end of the room, proceed
ed to scrutinize the parchment more closely. Upon turning it
over, I saw my own sketch upon the reverse, just as I had made
it. My first idea, now, was mere surprise at the really remark
able similarity of outline at the singular coincidence involved iti
the fact, that unknown to me, there should have been a skull upon
the other side of the parchment, immediately beneath my figure of
the scaralaus, and that this skull, not only in outline, but in size,
THE GOLD-BUG. 23
should so closely resemble my drawing. I say the singularity of
this coincidence absolutely stupified me for a time. This is the
usual effect of such coincidences. The mind struggles to estab
lish a connexion a sequence of cause and effect and, being
unable to do so, suffers a species of temporary paralysis. But,
when I recovered from this stupor, there dawned upon me grad
ually a conviction which startled me even far more than the coinci
dence. I began distinctly, positively, to remember that there had
been no drawing upon the parchment when I made my sketch of
the scarabaus. I became perfectly certain of this ; for I recol
lected turning up first one side and then the other, in search of
the cleanest spot. Had the skull been then there, of course I
could not have failed to notice it. Here was indeed a mystery
which I felt it impossible to explain ; but, even at that early mo
ment, there seemed to glimmer, faintly, within the most remote
and secret chambers of my intellect, a glow-worm-like concep
tion of that truth which last night's adventure brought to so mag
nificent a demonstration. I arose at once, and putting the parch
ment securely away, dismissed all farther reflection until I should
" When you had gone, and when Jupiter was fast asleep, I be
took myself to a more methodical investigation of the affair. In
the first place I considered the manner in which the parchment
had come into my possession. The spot where we discovered the
scarab&us was on the coast of the main land, about a mile east
ward of the island, and but a short distance above high water
mark. Upon my taking hold of it, it gave me a sharp bite, which
caused me to let it drop. Jupiter, with his accustomed caution, be
fore seizing the insect, which had flown towards him, looked about
him for a leaf, or something of that nature, by which to take hold
of it. It was at this moment that his eyes, and mine also, fell
upon the scrap of parchment, which I then supposed to be paper.
It was lying half buried in the sand, a corner sticking up. Near
the spot where we found it, I observed the remnants of the hull of
what appeared to have been a ship's long boat. The wreck
seemed to have been there for a very great while ; for the resem
blance to boat timbers could scarcely be traced.
" Well, Jupiter picked up the parchment, wrapped the beetle
24 FOE'S TALES.
in it, and gave it to me. Soon afterwards we turned to go home,
and on the way met Lieutenant G . I showed him the insect,
and he begged me to let him take it to the fort. Upon my con
senting, he thrust it forthwith into his waistcoat pocket, without
the parchment in which it had been wrapped, and which I had
continued to hold in my hand during his inspection. Perhaps he
dreaded my changing my mind, and thought it best to make sure
of the prize at once you know how enthusiastic he is on all sub
jects connected with Natural History. At the same time, with
out being conscious of it, I must have deposited the parchment in
my own pocket.
" You remember that when I went to the table, for the purpose
of making a sketch of the beetle, I found no paper where it was
usually kept. I looked in the drawer, and found none there. I
searched my pockets, hoping to find an old letter, when my hand
fell upon the parchment. I thus detail the precise mode in which
it came into my possession ; for the circumstances impressed me
with peculiar force.
" No doubt you will think me fanciful but I had already es
tablished a kind of connexion. I had put together two links of a
great chain. There was a boat lying upon a sea-coast, and not
far from the boat was a parchment not a paper with a skull
depicted upon it. You will, of course, ask ' where is the connec
tion ?' I reply that the skull, or death's-head, is the well-known
emblem of the pirate. The flag of the death's-head is hoisted in
" I have said that the scrap was parchment, and not paper.
Parchment is durable almost imperishable. Matters of little
moment are rarely consigned to parchment ; since, for the mere
ordinary purposes of drawing or writing, it is not nearly so well
adapted as paper. This reflection suggested some meaning
some relevancy in the death's-head. I did not fail to observe,
also, the form of the parchment. Although one of its corners had
been, by some accident, destroyed, it could be seen that the origi
nal form was oblong. It was just such a slip, indeed, as might
have been chosen for a memorandum for a record of something
to be long remembered and carefully preserved."
" But," I interposed, " you say that the skull was not upon the
THE GOLD-BUG. 25
parchment when you made the drawing of the beetle. How then
do you trace any connexion between the boat and the skull
since this latter, according to your own admission, must have
been designed (God only knows how or by whom) at some period
subsequent to your sketching the scarab&us ?"
" Ah, hereupon turns the whole mystery ; although the secret,
at this point, I had comparatively little difficulty in solving. My
steps were sure, and could afford but a single result. I reasoned,
for example, thus : When I drew the scarabceus, there was no
skull apparent upon the parchment. When I had completed the
drawing I gave it to you, and observed you narrowly until you
returned it. You, therefore, did not design the skull, and no one
else was present to do it. Then it was not done by human agen
cy. And nevertheless it was done.
" At this stage of my reflections I endeavored to remember,
and did remember, with entire distinctness, every incident which
occurred about the period in question. The weather was chilly
(oh rare and happy accident !), and a fire was blazing upon the
hearth. I was heated with exercise and sat near the table. You,
however, had drawn a chair close to the chimney. Just as I placed
the parchment in your hand, and as you were in the act of in
specting it, Wolf, the Newfoundland, entered, and leaped upon your
shoulders. With your left hand you caressed him and kept him
off, while your right, holding the parchment, was permitted to fall
listlessly between your knees, and in close proximity to the fire. At
one moment I thought the blaze had caught it, and was about to
caution you, but, before I could speak, you had withdrawn it, and
were engaged in its examination. When I considered all these
particulars, I doubted not for a moment that heat had been the agent
in bringing to light, upon the parchment, the skull which I saw de
signed upon it. You are well aware that chemical preparations
exist, and have existed time out of mind, by means of which it is
possible to write upon either paper or vellum, so that the characters
shall become visible only when subjected to the action of fire.
Z afire, digested in aqua rcgia, and diluted with four times its weight
of water, is sometimes employed ; a green tint results. The reg-
ulus of cobalt, dissolved in spirit of nitre, gives a red. These
colors disappear at longer or shorter intervals after the material
26 FOE'S TALES.
written upon cools, but again become apparent upon the re-ap
plication of heat.
" I now scrutinized the death's-head with care. Its outer
edges the edges of the drawing nearest the edge of the vellum
were far more distinct than the others. It was clear that the ac
tion of the caloric had been imperfect or unequal. I immediately
kindled a fire, and subjected every portion of the parchment to a
glowing heat. At first, the only effect was the strengthening of
the faint lines in the skull ; but, upon persevering in the experi
ment, there became visible, at the corner of the slip, diagonally
opposite to the spot in which the death's-head was delineated, the
figure of what I at first supposed to be a goat. A closer scrutiny,
however, satisfied me that it was intended for a kid."
" Ha ! ha !" said I, "to be sure I have no right to laugh at you
a million and a half of money is too serious a matter for mirth
but you are not about to establish a third link in your chain -
you will not find any especial connexion between your pirates
and a goat pirates, you know; have nothing to do with goats ,
they appertain to the farming interest."
" But I have just said that the figure was not that of a goat."
" Well, a kid then pretty much the same thing."
" Pretty much, but not altogether," said Legrand. " You may
have heard of one Captain Kidd. I at once looked upon the
figure of the animal as a kind of punning or hieroglyphical sig
nature. I say signature ; because its position upon the vellum
suggested this idea. The death's-head at the corner diagonally
opposite, had, in the same manner, the air of a stamp, or seal.
But I was sorely put out by the absence of all else of the body
to my imagined instrument of the text for my context."
" I presume you expected to find a letter between the stamp
and the signature."
" Something of that kind. The fact is, I felt irresistibly im
pressed with a presentiment of some vast good fortune impending.
I can scarcely say why. Perhaps, after all, it was rather a de
sire than an actual belief; but do you know that Jupiter's
silly words, about the bug being of solid gold, had a remarkable
effect upon my fancy ? And then the series of accidents and
coincidences these were so very extraordinary. Do you ob-
THE GOLD-BUG. 27
serve how mere an accident it was that these events should have
occurred upon the sole day of all the year in which it has been,
or may be, sufficiently cool for fire, and that without the fire, or
without the intervention of the dog at the precise moment in which
he appeared, I should never have become aware of the death's-
head, and so never the possessor of the treasure ?"
" But proceed I am all impatience."
" Well ; you have heard, of course, the many stories current
the thousand vague rumors afloat about money buried, some
where upon the Atlantic coast, by Kidd and his associates. These
rumors must have had some foundation in fact. And that the
rumors have existed so long and so continuous, could have re
sulted, it appeared to me, only from the circumstance of the
buried treasure still remaining entombed. Had Kidd concealed
his plunder for a time, and afterwards reclaimed it, the rumors
would scarcely have reached us in their present unvarying form.
You will observe that the stories told are all about money-seekers,
not about money-finders. Had the pirate recovered his money,
there the affair would have dropped. It seemed to me that some
accident say the loss of a memorandum indicating its locality
had deprived him of the means of recovering it, and that this ac
cident had become known to his followers, who otherwise might
never have heard that treasure had been concealed at all, and
who, busying themselves in vain, because unguided attempts, to
regain it, had given first birth, and then universal currency, to
the reports which are now so common. Have you ever heard
of any important treasure being unearthed along the coast ?"
" But that Kidd's accumulations were immense, is well known.
I took it for granted, therefore, that the earth still held them ; and
you will scarcely be surprised when I tell you that I felt a hope,
nearly amounting to certainty, that the parchment so strangely
found, involved a lost record of the place of deposit."
" But how did you proceed ?"
" I held the vellum again to the fire, after increasing the heat ;
but nothing appeared. I now thought it possible that the coating
of dirt might have something to do with the failure ; so I care
fully rinsed the parchment by pouring warm water over it, and,
28 FOE'S TALES.
having done this, I placed it in a tin pan, with the skull downwards,
and put the pan upon a furnace of lighted charcoal. In a few
minutes, the pan having become thoroughly heated, I removed
the slip, and, to my inexpressible joy, found it spotted, in several
places, with what appeared to be figures arranged in lines. Again
I placed it in the pan, and suffered it to remain another minute.
Upon taking it off, the whole was just as you see it now."
Here Legrand, having re-heated the parchment, submitted it to
my inspection. The following characters were rudely traced, in
a red tint, between the death's-head and the goat :
" But," said I, returning him the slip, " I am as much in the
dark as ever. Were all the jewels of Golconda awaiting me
upon my solution of this enigma, I am quite sure that I should be
unable to earn them."
" And yet," said Legrand, " the solution is by no means so
difficult as you might be lead to imagine from the first hasty in
spection of the characters. These characters, as any one might
readily guess, form a cipher that is to say, they convey a mean
ing ; but then, from what is known of Kidd, I could not suppose
him capable of constructing any of the more abstruse crypto
graphs. I made up my mind, at once, that this was of a simple
species such, however, as would appear, to the crude intellect
of the sailor, absolutely insoluble without the key."
" And you really solved it ?"
" Readily ; I have solved others of an abstruseness ten thou
sand times greater. Circumstances, and a certain bias of mind,
have led me to take interest in such riddles, and it may well be
doubted whether human ingenuity can construct an enigma of the
kind which human ingenuity may not, by proper application, re
solve. In fact, having once established connected and legible
characters, I scarcely gave a thought to the mere difficulty of de
veloping their import.
" In the present case indeed in all cases of secret writing
the first question regards the language of the cipher ; for the prin
ciples of solution, so far, especially, as the more simple ciphers
are concerned, depend upon, and arc varied by, the genius of the
particular idiom. In general, there is no alternative but experi
ment (directed by probabilities) of every tongue known to him
who attempts the solution, until the true one be attained. But,
with the cipher now before us, all difficulty was removed by the
signature. The pun upon the word ' Kidd' is appreciable in no
other language than the English. But for this consideration I
should have begun my attempts with the Spanish and French, as
the tongues in which a secret of this kind would most naturally
have been written by a pirate of the Spanish main. As it was, I
assumed the cryptograph to be English.
" You observe there are no divisions between the words. Had
there been divisions, the task would have been comparatively
easy. In such case I should have commenced with a collation
and analysis of the shorter words, and, had a word of a single let
ter occurred, as is most likely, (a or I, for example,) I should
have considered the solution as assured. But, there being no di
vision, my first step was to ascertain the predominant letters, as
well as the least frequent. Counting all, I constructed a table,
" Now, in English, the letter w
hich most frequently occurs is
e. Afterwards, the succession runs thus : aoidhnrstuyc
fgtmwbkpqxz. E predominates so remarkably that an
individual sentence of any length is rarely seen, in which it is not
the prevailing character.
" Here, then, we have, in the very beginning, the groundwork
for something more than a mere guess. The general use which
may be made of the table is obvious but, in this particular
cipher, we shall only very partially require its aid. As our pre
dominant character is 8, we will commence by assuming it as the
e of the natural alphabet. To verify the supposition, let us ob
serve if the 8 be seen often in couples for e is doubled with great
frequency in English in such words, for example, as ' meet,'
1 fleet/ ' speed,' ' seen, 3 been,' * agree,' &c. In the present in
stance we see it doubled no less than five times, although the
cryptograph is brief.
" Let us assume 8, then, as e. Now, of all words in the lan
guage, ' the' is most usual ; let us see, therefore, whether there
are not repetitions of any three characters, in the same order of
collocation, the last of them being 8. If we discover repetitions
of such letters, so arranged, they will most probably represent
the word ' the.' Upon inspection, we find no less than seven such
arrangements, the characters being ;48. We may, therefore, as
sume that ; represents t, 4 represents /i, and 8 represents e the
last being now well confirmed. Thus a great step has been
" But, having established a single word, we are enabled to es
tablish a vastly important point ; that is to say, several com
mencements and terminations of other words. Let us refer, for
example, to the last instance but one, in which the combination
;48 occurs not far from the end of the cipher. We know that
the ; immediately ensuing is the commencement of a word, and,
of the six characters succeeding this ' the,' we are cognizant of
no less than five. Let us set these characters down, thus, by the
letters we know them to represent, leaving a space for the un
" Here we are enabled, at once, to discard the < th, 'as forming
no portion of the word commencing with the first t ; since, by ex-
THE GOLD-BUG. 31
periment of the entire alphabet for a letter adapted to the vacancy,
we perceive that no word can be formed of which this th can be
a part. We are thus narrowed into
and, going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, we
arrive at the word ' tree,' as the sole possible reading. We thus
gain another letter, r, represented by (, with the words ' the tree'
" Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, we again
see the combination ;48, and employ it by way of termination to
what immediately precedes. We have thus this arrangement :
the tree ;4(^?34 the,
or, substituting the natural letters, where known, it reads thus :
the tree thrj?3h the.
" Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, we leave blank
spaces, or substitute dots, we read thus :
the tree thr...h the,
when the word ' through' makes itself evident at once. But this
discovery gives us three new letters, o, u and g, represented by
$ ? and 3.
" Looking now, narrowly, through the cipher for combinations
of known characters, we find, not very far from the beginning,
83(88, or egree,
which, plainly, is the conclusion of the word f degree,' and gives
us another letter, d, represented by f.
" Four letters beyond the word ' degree,' we perceive the com
" Translating the known characters, and representing the un
known by dots, as before, we read thus :
an arrangement immediately suggestive of the word ( thirteen,'
and again furnishing us with two new characters, i and w, repre
sented by 6 and *.
" Referring, now, to the beginning of the cryptograph, we find
" Translating, as before, we obtain
which assures us that the first letter is A, and that the first two
words are ( A good.'
" It is now time that we arrange our key, as far as discovered,
in a tabular form, to avoid confusion. It will stand thus :
5 represents a
f " d
8 " e
4 " h
* " n
t " o
" We have, therefore, no less than ten of the most important
letters represented, and it will be unnecessary to proceed with the
details of the solution. I have said enough to convince you that
ciphers of this nature are readily soluble, and to give you some
insight into the rationale of their development. But be assured
that the specimen before us appertains to the very simplest spe
cies of cryptograph. It now only remains to give you the full
translation of the characters upon the parchment, as unriddled.
Here it is :
' A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat forty-one
degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north main branch
seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death's-head a
bee line from the tree through the shot ffty feet out.' "
" But," said I, " the enigma seems still in as bad a condition
as ever. How is it possible to extort a meaning from all this jar
gon about ' devil's seats,' ' death's-heads,' and bishop's hotels ?' "
" I confess," replied Legrand, " that the matter still wears a
serious aspect, when regarded' with a casual glance. My first
endeavor was to divide the sentence into the natural division in.
tended by the cryptographist."
" You mean, to punctuate it ?"
" Something of that kind."
THE GOLD-BUG. 33
" But how was it possible to effect this ?"
" I reflected that it had been a point with the writer to run his
words together without division, so as to increase the difficulty of
solution. Now, a not over-acute man, in pursuing such an object,
would be nearly certain to overdo the matter. When, in the
course of his composition, he arrived at a break in his subject
which would naturally require a pause, or a point, he would be
exceedingly apt to run his characters, at this place, more than
usually close together. If you will observe the MS., in the pres-
ent instance, you will easily detect five such cases of unusual
crowding. Acting upon this hint, I made the division thus :
' A good glass in the Bishop's hostel in the Devil's seat forty-
one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north main
branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the
death's-head a bee-line from the tree through the shot fifty feet
" Even this division," said I, " leaves me still in the dark."
" It left me also in the dark," replied Legrand, " for a few
days ; during which I made diligent inquiry, in the neighborhood
of Sullivan's Island, for any building which went by the name of
the ' Bishop's Hotel ;' for, of course, I dropped the obsolete word
* hostel.' Gaining no information on the subject, I was on the
point of extending my sphere of search, and proceeding in a more
systematic manner, when, one morning, it entered into my head,
quite suddenly, that this ' Bishop's Hostel ' might have some refer
ence to an old family, of th name of Bessop, which, time out of
mind, had held possession of an ancient manor-house, about four
miles to the northward of the Island. I accordingly went over to
the plantation, and re-instituted my inquiries among the older ne
groes of the place. At length one of the most aged of the women
said that she had heard of such a place as Bessop's Castle, and
thought that she could guide me to it, but that it was not a castle,
nor a tavern, but a high rock.
" I offered to pay her well for her trouble, and, after some de
mur, she consented to accompany me to the spot. We found it
without much difficulty, when, dismissing her, I proceeded to ex
amine the place. The < castle' consisted of an irregular assem
blage of cliffs and rocks one of the latter being quite remark-
34 FOE'S TALES.
able for its height as well as for its insulated and artificial ap
pearance. I clambered to its apex, and then felt much at a loss
as to what should be next done.
" While I was busied in reflection, my eyes fell upon a narrow
ledge in the eastern face of the rock, perhaps a yard below. the sum
mit upon which I stood. This ledge projected about eighteen
inches, and was not more than a foot wide, while a niphe in the
cliff just above it, gave it a rude resemblance to one of the hol
low-backed chairs used by our ancestors. I made no doubt that
here was the < devil's-seat' alluded to in the MS., and now I seem
ed to grasp the full secret of the riddle.
" The ' good glass,' I knew, could have reference to nothing
but a telescope ; for the word ' glass' is rarely employed in any
other sense by seamen. Now here, I at once saw, was a tele
scope to be used, and a definite point of view, admitting no varia
tion, from which to use it. Nor did I hesitate to believe that the
phrases, " forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes,' and ' northeast
and by north,' were intended as directions for the levelling of the
glass. Greatly excited by these discoveries, I hurried home, pro
cured a telescope, and returned to the rock..
" I let myself down to the ledge, and found that it was impos
sible to retain a seat upon it except in one particular position.
This fact confirmed my preconceived idea. I proceeded to use
the glass. Of course, the ' forty-one degrees and thirteen minr
utes' could allude to nothing but elevation above the visible hori
zon, since the horizontal direction was clearly indicated by the
words, 'northeast and by north.' This latter direction I at once
established by means of a pocket-compass ; then, pointing the
glass as nearly at an angle of forty-one degrees of elevation as I
could do it by guess, I moved it cautiously up or down, until my
attention was arrested by a circular rift or opening in the foliage
of a large tree that overtopped its fellows in the distance. In the
centre of this rift \ perceived a white spot, but could not, at first,
distinguish what it was. Adjusting the focus of the telescope, I
again looked, and now made it out to be a human skull.
" Upon this discovery I was so sanguine as to consider the
enigma solved ; for the phrase ' main branch, seventh limb, east
side,' could refer only to the position of the skull upon the tree,
THE GOLD-BUG. 35
while shoot from the left eye of the death's-head' admitted, also,
of but one interpretation, in regard to a search for buried treas
ure. I perceived that the design was to drop a bullet from the
left eye of the skull, and that a bee-line, or, in other words, a
straight -line, drawn from the nearest point of the trunk through
' the shot,' (or the spot where the bullet fell,) and thence extended
to a distance of fifty feet, would indicate a definite point and be
neath this point I thought it at least possible that a deposit of
value lay concealed."
" All this," I said, " is exceedingly clear, and, although in
genious, still simple and explicit. When you left the Bishop's
Hotel, what then ?"
" Why, having carefully taken the bearings of the tree, I
turned homewards. The instant that I left ' the devil's seat,' how
ever, the circular rift vanished ; nor could I get a glimpse of it
afterwards, turn as I would. What seems to me the chjef inge
nuity in this whole business, is the fact (for repeated experiment
has convinced me it is a fact) that the circular opening in ques
tion is visible from no other attainable point of view than that af
forded by the narrow ledge upon the face of the rock.
" In this expedition to the ' Bishop's Hotel' I had been attended
by Jupiter, who had, no doubt, observed, for some weeks past, the
abstraction of my demeanor, and took especial care not to leave
me alone. But, on the next day, getting up very early, I con
trived to give him the slip, and went into the hills in search of
the tree. After much toil I found it. When I came home at
night my valet proposed to give me a flogging. With the rest of
the adventure I believe you are as well acquainted as myself."
" I suppose," said I, " you missed the spot, in the first attempt
at digging, through Jupiter's stupidity in letting the bug fall
through the right instead of through the left eye of the skull."
" Precisely. This mistake made a difference of about two
inches and a half in the ' shot' that is to say, in the position of
the peg nearest the tree ; and had the treasure been beneath the
' shot,' the error would have been of little moment ; but ' the shot, 5
together with the nearest point of the tree, were merely two
points tor the establishment of a line of direction j of course the
error, however trivial in the beginning, increased as we proceed-
36 POE'S TALES.
ed with the line, and by the time we had gone fifty feet, threw us
quite off the scent. But for my deep-seated impressions that
treasure was. here somewhere actually buried, we might have had
all our labor in vain.'*
" But your grandiloquence, and your conduct in swinging the
beetle how excessively odd ! I was sure you were mad. And
why did you insist upon letting fall the bug, instead of a bullet,
from the skull ?"
" Why, to be frank, I felt somewhat annoyed by your evident
suspicions touching my sanity, and so resolved to punish you
quietly, in my own way, by a little bit of sober mystification.
For this reason I swung the beetle, and for this reason I let it fall
it from the tree. An observation of yours about its great weight
suggested the latter idea."
" Yes, I perceive ; and now there is only one point which puzzles
me. What are we to make of the skeletons found in the hole ?"
" That is a question I am no more able to answer than yourself.
There seems, however, only one plausible way of accounting
for them and yet it is dreadful to believe in such atrocity as my
suggestion would imply. It is clear that Kidd if Kidd indeed se
creted this treasure, which I doubt not it is clear that he must
have had assistance in the labor. But this labor concluded, he
may have thought it expedient to remove all participants in his
secret. Perhaps a couple of blows with a mattock were suffi
cient, while his coadjutors were busy in the pit ; perhaps it requi
red a dozen who shall tell ?"
THE BLACK CAT. 3?
THE BLACK CAT.
FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about
to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I
be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own
evidence. Yet, mad am I not and very surely do I not dream.
But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My
immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, suc
cinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events.
In their consequences, these events have terrified have tor
tured have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound
them. To me, they have presented little but Horror to many
they will seem less terrible than /barroques. Hereafter, perhaps,
some intellect may be found which will redupe my phantasm to
the common-place some intellect more calm, more logical, and
far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the cir
cumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary suc
cession of very natural causes and effects.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of
my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous
as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond
of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety
of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so
happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of
character grew with my growth, and, in my manhood, I derived
from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who
have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I
need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the in
tensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in
the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes di
rectly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test
the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man.
38 FOE'S TALES.
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition
not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for do
mestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most
agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a
small monkey, and a cat.
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, en
tirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking
of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinc
tured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient
popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in dis
guise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point and I
mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it hap
pens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto this was the cat's namewas my favorite pet and play
mate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went
about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent
him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during
which my general temperament and character through the in
strumentality of the Fiend Intemperance had (I blush to confess
it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day
by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feel
ings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to
my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My
pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition.
I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I
still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating
him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey,
or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they
came in my way. But my disease grew upon me for what dis
ease is like Alcohol ! ^and at length even Pluto, who was now be
coming old, and consequently somewhat peevish even Pluto be
gan to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my
haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence.
I seized him ; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a
slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a de
mon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My
THE BLACK CAT. 39
original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body ;
and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled
every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a
pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and de
liberately cut one of its eyes from the socket ! I blush, I burn, I
shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning when I had slept off
the fumes of the night's debauch I experienced a sentiment half
of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been
guilty ; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and
the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and
soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the
lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no
longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as
usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my ap
proach. I had iso much of my old heart left, as to be at first
grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which
had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irri
tation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable over
throw, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy
takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives,
than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of
the human heart one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sen
timents, which give direction to the character of Man. Who
has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a
silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should
not ? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our
best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we
understand it to be such ? This spirit of perverseness, I say,
came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing
of the soul to vex itself to offer violence to its own nature- to do
wrong for the wrong's sake only that urged me to continue and
finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffend
ing brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about
its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree ; hung it with the
tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at
my heart ; hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and le-
40 FOE'S TALES.
cause I felt it had given me no reason of offence ; hung it be
cause I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin a deadly
sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it if
such a thing were possible even beyond the reach of the infinite
mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.
On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I
was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my
bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was
with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made
our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was com
plete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I re
signed myself thenceforward to despair.
I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of
cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I
am detailing a chain of facts and wish not to leave even a possi
ble link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the
ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallSi in. This ex
ception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which
stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested
the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure,
resisted the action of the fire a fact which I attributed to its hav
ing been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were
collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular
portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words
" strange !" " singular !" and other similar expressions, excited
my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief
upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The im
pression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There
was a rope about the animal's neck.
When I first beheld this apparition for I could scarcely re
gard it as less my wonder and my terror were extreme. But
at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had
been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of
fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd by
some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree
and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This
had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep.
The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruel-
THE BLACK CAT. 41
ty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster ; the lime of
which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had
then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.
Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not alto
gether to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did
not the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For
months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat ; and,
during this period, there came back into my spirit a half-senti
ment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to re
gret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile
haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the
same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to
supply its place.
One night as I sat, half stupified, in a den of more than infa
my, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, re
posing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or
of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment.
I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for sc&ne
minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I
had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it,
and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat a very large
one fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every
respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of
his body but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of
white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast.
Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly,
rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice.
This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I
at once offered to purchase it of the landlord ; but this person
made no claim to it knew nothing of it had never seen it be
I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home,
the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted
it to do so ; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded.
When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and be
came immediately a great favorite with my wife.
For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within
me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated ; but
42 FOE'S TALES.
I know not how or why it was its evident fondness for myself
rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings
of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I
avoided the creature ; a certain sense of shame, and the remem
brance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physi
cally abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise
violently ill use it ; but gradually very gradually I came to
look upon it with unutterable loathing, and 10 flee silently from
its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.
What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the dis
covery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto,
it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance,
however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already
said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which
had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of
my simplest and purest pleasures. ^
With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself
seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity
which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend.
Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring
upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I
arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw
me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress,
clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although
I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so do
ing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly let me
confess it at once by absolute dread of the beast.
This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil and yet
I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost
ashamed to own yes, even in this felon's cell, I am almost
ashamed to own that the terror and horror with which the ani
mal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chi-
mseras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my
attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white
hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visi
ble difference between the strange beast and the one I had de
stroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although
large, had been originally very indefinite ; but, by slow degrees
THE BLACK CAT. 43
degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason
struggled to reject as fanciful it had, at length, assumed a rigor-
ous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an
object that I shudder to name and for this, above all, I loathed,
and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had 1
dared it was now, I say, the image of a hideous of a ghastly
thing of the GALLOWS ! oh, mournful and terrible engine of
Horror and of Crime of Agony and of Death !
And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of
mere Humanity. And a brute beast whose fellow I had con
temptuously destroyed a brute beast to work out for me for me
a man, fashioned in the image of the High God so much of in
sufferable wo ! Alas ! neither by day nor by night knew I the
blessing of Rest any more ! During the former the creature left
me no moment alone ; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from
dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon
my face, and its vast weight an incarnate Night-Mare that I
had no power to shake off incumbent eternally upon my heart !
Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble rem
nant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became
my sole intimates the darkest and most evil of thoughts.
The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all
things and of all mankkid ; while, from the sudden, frequent, and
ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly aban
doned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas ! was the most usual
and the most patient of sufferers.
One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand,
into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us
to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and,
nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Up
lifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread
which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal
which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it de
scended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of
my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than
demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the
axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.
This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and
44 FOE'S TALES.
with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I
knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or
by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors.
Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cut
ting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by
fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of
the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in
the yard about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the
usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the
house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expe
dient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cel
lar as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled
up their victims.
For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its
walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered
throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the
atmosphere had prevented from hardening. ]V^5reover, in one of
the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fire
place, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the rest of
the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the
bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as
before, so that no eye could detect any thing suspicious.
And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a
crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully de
posited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that posi
tion, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it
originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with
every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not
be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went
over the new brick-work. When I had finished, I felt satisfied
that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest ap
pearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor
was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around trium
phantly, and said to myself" Here at least, then, my labor has
not been in vain."
My next step was to look for the beast which had been the
cause of so much wretchedness ; for I had, at length, firmly re
solved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the
THE BLACK CAT. 45
moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate ; but it ap
peared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of
my previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present
mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the
blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature
occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during
the night and thus for one night at least, since its introduction
into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept ; aye, slept even
with the burden of murder upon my soul !
The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor
came not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster,
in terror, had fled the premises forever ! I should behold it no
more ! My happiness was supreme ! The guilt of my dark
deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made,
but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been
instituted but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked
upon my future felicity as secured.
Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police
came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to
make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however,
in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embar
rassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in
their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At
length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the eel-
lar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that
of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end
to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to
and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to
depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained.
I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to ren
der doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.
" Gentlemen," I said at last, as the party ascended the steps;
"I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all
health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this
this is a very well constructed house." [In the rabid desire to
say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.]
" I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls
are you going, gentlemen ? these walls are solidly put togeth-
46 POE'S TALES.
er ;" and here, through the mere phrenzy of bravado, I rapped
heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very
portion of the brick- work behind which stood the corpse of the
wife of my bosom.
But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the
Arch-Fiend ! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk
into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the
tomb ! by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of
a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and con
tinuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman a howl a
wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might
have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the
damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the dam
Of my own thoughts it is folly to, speak. Swooning, I stagger
ed to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs
remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In
the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell
bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with
gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its
head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the
hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose
informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled
the monster up within the tomb !
MESMERIC REVELATION. 47
WHATEVER doubt may still envelop the rationale of mesmerism,
its startling facts are now almost universally admitted. Of these
latter, those who doubt, are your mere doubters by profession
an unprofitable and disreputable tribe. There can be no more
absolute waste of time than the attempt to prove, at the present
day, that man, by mere exercise of will, can so impress his fel
low, as to cast him into an abnormal condition, of which the
phenomena resemble very closely those of death, or at least re
semble them more nearly than they do the phenomena of any
other normal condition within our cognizance ; that, while in this
state, the person so impressed employs only with effort, and then
feebly, the external organs of sense, yet perceives, with keenly
refined perception, and through channels supposed unknown, mat
ters beyond the scope of the physical organs ; that, moreover,
his intellectual faculties are wonderfully exalted and invigorated ;
that his sympathies with the person so impressing him are pro
found ; and, finally, that his susceptibility tq the impression in
creases with its frequency, while, in the same proportion, the pe
culiar phenomena elicited are more extended and more pronounced.
I say that these which are the laws of mesmerism in its gen
eral features it would be supererogation to demonstrate ; nor shall
I inflict upon my readers so needless a demonstration to-day. My
purpose at present is a very different one indeed. I am impelled,
even in the teeth of a world of prejudice, to detail without com.
ment the very remarkable substance of a colloquy, occurring be
tween a sleep- waker and myself.
I had been long in the habit of mesmerizing the person in
48 FOE'S TALES.
question, (Mr. Vankirk,) and the usual acute susceptibility and
exaltation of the mesmeric perception had supervened. For many
months he had been laboring under confirmed phthisis, the more
distressing effects of which had been relieved by my manipula
tions ; and on the night of Wednesday, the fifteenth instant, I
was summoned to his bedside.
The invalid was suffering with acute pain in the region of the
heart, and breathed with great difficulty, having all the ordinary
symptoms of asthma. In spasms such as these he had usually
found relief from the application of mustard to the nervous cen
tres, but to-night this had been attempted in vain.
As I entered his room he greeted me with a cheerful smile, and
although evidently in much bodily pain, appeared to be, mentally,
quite at ease.
" I sent for you to-night," he said, " not so much to administer
to my bodily ailment, as to satisfy me concerning certain psychal
impressions which, of late, have occasioned me much anxiety
and surprise. I need not tell you how sceptical I have hitherto
been on the topic of the soul's immortality. I cannot deny that
there has always existed, as if in that very soul which I have
been denying, a vague half-sentiment of its own existence. But
this half-sentiment at no time amounted to conviction. With it
my reason had nothing to do. All attempts at logical inquiry re-
suited, indeed, in leaving me more sceptical than before. I had
been advised to study Cousin. I studied him in his own works
as well as in those of his European and American echoes. The
' Charles Elwood ' of Mr. Brownson, for example, was placed in
my hands. I read it with profound attention. Throughout I
found it logical, but the portions which were not merely logical
were unhappily the initial arguments of the disbelieving hero of
the book. In his summing up it seemed evident to me that the
reasoner had not even succeeded in convincing himself. His end
had plainly forgotten his beginning, like the government of Trin-
culo. In short, I was not long in perceiving that if man is to be
intellectually convinced of his own immortality, he will never be
so convinced by the mere abstractions which have been so long
the fashion of the moralists of England, of France, and of Ger
many. Abstractions may amuse and exercise, but take no hold
MESMERIC REVELATION. 49
on the mind. Here upon earth, at least, philosophy, I am per
suaded, will always in vain call upon us to look upon qualities as
things. The will may assent the soul the intellect, never.
" I repeat, then, that I only half felt, and never intellectually
believed, But latterly there has been a certain deepening of the
feeling, until it has come so nearly to resemble the acquiescence
of reason, that I find it difficult to distinguish between the two.
I am enabled, too, plainly to trace this effect to the mesmeric in
fluence. I cannot better explain my meaning than by the hy
pothesis that the mesmeric exaltation enables me to perceive a
train of ratiocination which, in my abnormal existence, convinces,
but which, in full accordance with the mesmeric phenomena,
does not extend, except through its effect, into my normal condition.
In sleep- waking, the reasoning and its conclusion the cause and
its effect are present together. In my natural state, the cause
vanishing, the effect only, and perhaps only partially, remains.
" These considerations have led me to think that some good re
sults might ensue from a series of well-directed questions pro
pounded to me while mesmerized. You have often observed the
profound self-cognizance evinced by the sleep-waker the exten
sive knowledge he displays upon all points relating to the mes
meric condition itself; and from this self-cognizance may be de
duced hints for the proper conduct of a catechism."
I consented of course to make this experiment. A few passes
threw Mr. Vankirk into the mesmeric sleep. His breathing be
came immediately more easy, and he seemed to suffer no physical
uneasiness. The following conversation then ensued : V. in the
dialogue representing the patient, and P. myself.
P. Are you asleep ?
V. Yes no ; I would rather sleep more soundly.
P. [After a few more passes.'] Do you sleep now ?
P. How do you think your present illness will result ?
V. [After a long hesitation and speaking as if with effort.'] I
P. Does the idea of death afflict you ?
F. [ Very quickly,] No no !
P. Are you pleased with the prospect ?
50 FOE'S TALES.
V. If I were awake I should like to die, but now it is no mat
ter. The mesmeric condition is so near death as to content me.
P. I wish you would explain yourself, Mr. Vankirk.
V. I am willing to do so, but it requires more effort than I feel
able to make. You do not question me properly.
P. What then shall I ask ?
V. You must begin at the beginning.
P. The beginning ! but where is the beginning ?
V. You know that the beginning is GOD. [This was said in a
tow, fluctuating tone, and with every sign of the most profound
P. What then is God ?
V. [Hesitating for many minutes.'] I cannot tell.
P. Is not God spirit ?
V. While I was awake I knew what you meant by " spirit,"
but now it seems only a word such for instance as truth ; beauty
a quality, I mean.
P. Is not God immaterial ?
V. There is no immateriality it is a mere word. That which
is not matter, is not at all unless qualities are things.
P. Is God, then, material ?
V. No. [This reply startled me very much.]
P. What then is he ?
V. [After a long pause, and mutteringly.~] I see but it is a
thing difficult to tell. [Another long pause.] He is not spirit,
for he exists. Nor is he matter, as you understand it. But there
are gradations of matter of which man knows nothing ; the grosser
impelling the finer, the finer pervading the grosser. The atmos
phere, for example, impels the electric principle, while the elec
tric principle permeates the atmosphere. These gradations of
matter increase in rarity or fineness, until we arrive at a matter
unparticled without particles indivisible one; and here the
law of impulsion and permeation is modified. The ultimate, or
unparticled matter, not only permeates all things but impels all
things and thus is all things within itself. This matter is God.
What men attempt ,o embody in the word " thought," is this mat
ter in motion.
P. The metaphysicians maintain that all action is reducible
MESMERIC REVELATION. 51
to motion and thinking, and that the latter is the origin of the
T. Yes ; and I now see the confusion of idea. Motion is the
action of mind not of thinking. The unparticled matter, or God,
in quiescence, is (as nearly as we can conceive it) what men call
mind. And the power of self-movement (equivalent in effect to
human volition) is, in the unparticled matter, the result of its
unity and omniprevalence ; how I know not, and now clearly see
that I shall never know. But the unparticled matter, set in mo
tion by a law, or quality, existing within itself, is thinking.
P. Can you give me no more precise idea of what you term
the unparticled matter ?
V. The matters of which man is cognizant, escape the sepses
in gradation. We have, for example, a metal, a piece of wood,
a drop of water, the atmosphere, a gas, caloric, electricity, the lu-
miniferous ether. Now we call all these things matter, and em
brace all matter in one general definition ; but in spite of this,
there can be no two ideas more essentially distinct than that
which we attach to a metal, and that which we attach to the lu-
miniferous ether. When we reach the latter, we feel an almost
irresistible inclination to class it with spirit, or with nihility. The
only consideration which restrains us is our conception of its
atomic constitution ; and here, even, we have to seek aid from
our notion of an atom, as something possessing in infinite minute
ness, solidity, palpability, weight. Destroy the idea of the atomic
constitution and we should no longer be able to regard the ether
as an entity, or at least as matter. For want of a better word
we might term it spirit. Take, now, a step beyond the luminifer-
ous ether conceive a matter as much more rare than the ether,
as this ether is more rare than the metal, and we arrive at once
(in spite of all the school dogmas) at a unique mass an unparti
cled matter. For although we may admit infinite littleness in the
atoms themselves, the infinitude of littleness, in the spaces between
them is an absurdity. There will be a point there will be a de
gree of rarity, at which, if the atoms are sufficiently numerous,
the interspaces must vanish, and the mass absolutely coalesce.
But the consideration of the atomic constitution being now taken
away, the nature of the mass inevitably glides into what we con-
52 FOE'S TALES.
ceive of spirit. It is clear, however, that it is as fully matter as
before. The truth is, it is impossible to conceive spirit, since it
is impossible to imagine what is not. When we flatter ourselves
that we have formed its conception, we have merely deceived our
understanding by the consideration of infinitely rarified matter.
P. There seems to me an insurmountable objection to the idea
of absolute coalescence ; and that is the Very slight resistance
experienced by the heavenly bodies in their revolutions through
space a resistance now ascertained, it is true, to exist in some
degree, but which is, nevertheless, so slight as to have been quite
overlooked by the sagacity even of Newton. We know that the
resistance of bodies is, chiefly, in proportion to their density.
Absolute coalescence is absolute density. Where there are no
interspaces, there can be no yielding. An ether, absolutely
dense, would put an infinitely more effectual stop to the progress
of a star than would an ether of adamant or of iron.
V. Your objection is answered with an ease which is nearly in
the ratio of its apparent unanswerabilityj As regards the prog*
ress of the star, it can make no difference whether the star passes
through the ether or the ether through it. There is no astro
nomical error more unaccountable than that which reconciles the
known retardation of the comets with the idea of their passage
through an ether : for, however rare this ether be supposed, it
would put a stop to all sidereal revolution in a very far briefer
period than has been admitted by those astronomers who have en
deavored to slur over a point which they found it impossible to
comprehend. The retardation actually experienced is, on the
other hand, about that which might be expected from the friction
of the ether in the instantaneous passage through the orb. In
the one case, the retarding force is momentary and complete
within itself in the other it is endlessly accumulative.
P. But in all this in this identification of mere matter with
God is there nothing of irreverence ? [ I was forced to repeat
this question before the sleep-waker fully comprehended my mean
V. Can you say why matter should be less reverenced than
mind ? But you forget that the matter of which I speak is, in
all respects, the very " mind" or " spirit" of the schools, so far as
MESMERIC REVELATION. 53
regards its high capacities, and is, moreover, the " matter" of these
schools at the same time. God, with all the powers attributed to
spirit, is but the perfection of matter.
P. You assert, then, that the unparticled matter, in motion, is
V. In general, this motion is the universal thought of the uni
versal mind. This thought creates. All created things are
but the thoughts of God.
P. You say, " in general."
V. Yes. The universal mind is God. For new individual,
ities, matter is necessary.
P. But you now speak of " mind" and " matter" as do the
V. Yes to avoid confusion. When I say " mind," I mean the
unparticled or ultimate matter ; by " matter," I intend all else.
P. You were saying that " for new individualities matter is
V. Yes ; for mind, existing unincorporate, is merely God.
To create individual, thinking beings, it was necessary to incar
nate portions of the divine mind. Thus man is individualized.
Divested of corporate investiture, he were God. Now, the par
ticular motion of the incarnated portions of the unparticled mat
ter is the thought of man ; as the motion of the whole is that of
P. You say that divested of the body man will be God ?
V. [After much hesitation.'] I could not have said this ; it is
P. [Referring to my notes.] You did say that f f divested of
corporate investiture man were God."
V. And this is true. Man thus divested would be God would
be unindividualized. But he can never be thus divested at
least never will be else we must imagine an action of God re
turning upon itself a purposeless and futile action. Man is a
creature. Creatures are thoughts of God. It is the nature of
thought to be irrevocable.
P. I do not comprehend. You say that man will never put
off the body ?
V. I say that he will never be bodiless.
54 FOE'S TALES.
V. There are two bodies the rudimental and the complete ;
corresponding with the two conditions of the worm and the butter
fly. What we call " death," is but the painful metamorphosis.
Our present incarnation is progressive, preparatory, temporary.
Our future is perfected, ultimate, immortal. The ultimate life is
the full design.
P. But of the worm's metamorphosis we are palpably cog
V. We, certainly but not the worm. The matter of which
our rudimental body is composed, is within the ken of the organs
of that body ; or, more distinctly, our rudimental organs are
adapted to the matter of which is formed the rudimental body ;
but not to that of which the ultimate is composed. The ultimate
body thus escapes our rudimental senses, and we perceive only
the shell which falls, in decaying, from the inner form ; not that
inner form itself; but this inner form, as well as the shell, is ap
preciable by those who have already acquired the ultimate life.
P. You have often said that the mesmeric state very nearly
resembles death. How is this ?
V. When I say that it resembles death, I mean that it resem
bles the ultimate life ; for when I am entranced the senses of my
rudimental life are in abeyance, and I perceive external things
directly, without organs, through a medium which I shall employ
in the ultimate, unorganized life*
P. Unorganized ?
V. Yes ; organs are contrivances by which the individual is
brought into sensible relation with particular classes and forms of
matter, to the exclusion of other classes and forms. The organs
of man are adapted to his rudimental condition, and to that only ;
his ultimate condition, being unorganized, is of unlimited com
prehension in all points but one the nature of the volition of God
that is to say, the motion of the unparticled matter. You will
have a distinct idea of the ultimate body by conceiving it to be
entire brain. This it is not ; but a conception of this nature will
bring you near a comprehension of what it is. A luminous body
imparts vibration to the luminiferous ether. The vibrations gen
erate similar ones within the retina ; these again communicate
MESMERIC REVELATION. 55
similar ones to the optic nerve. The nerve conveys similar ones
to the brain ; the brain, also, similar ones to the unparticled mat
ter which permeates it. The motion of this latter is thought, of
which perception is the first undulation. This is the mode by
which the mind of the rudimental life communicates with the ex
ternal world ; and this external world is, to the rudimental life,
limited, through the idiosyncrasy of its organs. But in the ul
timate, unorganized life, the external world reaches the whole
body, (which is of a substance having affinity to brain, as I
have said,) with no other intervention than that of an infinitely
rarer ether than even the luminiferous ; and to this ether in
unison with it the whole body vibrates, setting in motion the
unparticled matter which permeates it. It is to the absence of
idiosyncratic organs, therefore, that we must attribute the nearly
unlimited perception of the ultimate life. To rudimental beings,
organs are the cages necessary to confine them until fledged.
P. You speak of rudimental " beings." Are there other rudi
mental thinking beings than man ?
V. The multitudinous conglomeration of rare matter into
nebulae, planets, suns, and other bodies which are neither nebulae,
suns, nor planets, is for the sole purpose of supplying pabulum
for the idiosyncrasy of the organs of an infinity of rudimental
beings. But for the necessity of the rudimental, prior to the ul
timate life, there would have been no bodies such as these. Each
of these is tenanted by a distinct variety of organic, rudimental,
thinking creatures. In all, the organs vary with the features of
the place tenanted. At death, or metamorphosis, these creatures,
enjoying the ultimate life immortality and cognizant of all
secrets but the one, act all things and pass everywhere by mere
volition : indwelling, not the stars, which to us seem the sole
palpabilities, and for the accommodation of which we blindly deem
space created but that SPACE itself that infinity of which the
truly substantive vastness swallows up the star-shadows blotting
them out as non-entities from the perception of the angels.
P. You say that " but for the necessity of the rudimental life"
there would have been no stars. But why this necessity ?
V. In the inorganic life, as well as in the inorganic matter
generally, there is nothing to impede the action of one simple
56 FOE'S TALES.
unique law the Divine Volition. With the view of producing
impediment, the organic life and matter, (complex, substantial,
and law-encumbered,) were contrived.
P. But again why need this impediment have been produced ?
V. The result of law inviolate is perfection right negative
happiness. The result of law violate is imperfection, wrong,
positive pain. Through the impediments afforded by the num
ber, complexity, and substantiality of the laws of organic life
and matter, the violation of law is rendered, to a certain extent,
practicable. Thus pain, which in the inorganic life is impossible,
is possible in the organic.
P. But to what good end is pain thus rendered possible ?
V. All things are either good or bad by comparison. A suffi
cient analysis will show that pleasure, in all cases, is but the
contrast of pain. Positive pleasure is a mere idea. To be
happy at any one point we must have suffered at the same.
Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed.
But it has been shown that, in the inorganic life, pain cannot be ;
thus the necessity for the organic. The pain of the primitive
life of Earth, is the sole basis of the bliss of the ultimate life in
P. Still, there is one of your expressions which I find it impos
sible to comprehend " the truly substantive vastness of infinity."
V. This, probably, is because you have no sufficiently generic
conception of the term " substance" itself. We must not regard
it as a quality, but as a sentiment : it is the perception, in think
ing beings, of the adaptation of matter to their organization.
There are many things on the Earth, which would be nihility to
the inhabitants of Venus many things visible and tangible in
Venus, which we could not be brought to appreciate as exist
ing at all. But to the inorganic beings to the angels the whole
of the unparticled matter is substance ; that is to say, the whole
of what we term " space" is to them the truest substantiality ;
the stars, meantime, through what we consider their materiality,
escaping the angelic sense, just in proportion as the unparticled
matter, through what we consider its immateriality, eludes the
As the sleep-waker pronounced these latter words, in a feeble
MESMERIC REVELATION. 57
tone, I observed on his countenance a singular expression,
which somewhat alarmed me, and induced me to awake him at
once. No sooner had I done this, than, with a bright smile irra
diating all his features, he fell back upon his pillow and expired.
I noticed that in less than a minute afterward his corpse had all
the stern rigidity of stone. His brow was of the coldness of ice.
Thus, ordinarily, should it have appeared, only after long pres
sure from Azrael's hand. Had the sleep-waker, indeed, during
the latter portion of his discourse, been addressing me from out
the region of the shadows ?
58 POE'S TALES.
all people went
Upon their ten toes in wild wonderment.
Bishop HaWs Satires.
I AM that is to say I was a great man ; but I am neither the
author of Junius nor the man in the mask ; for my name, I be
lieve, is Robert Jones, and I was born somewhere in the city of
The first action of my life was the taking hold of my nose with
both hands. My mother saw this and called me a genius : my
father wept for joy and presented me with a treatise on Nosology.
This I mastered before I was breeched.
I now began to feel my way in the science, and soon came to
understand that, provided a man had a nose sufficiently conspic
uous, he might, by merely following it, arrive at a Lionship.
But my attention was not confined to theories alone. Every
morning I gave my proboscis a couple of pulls and swallowed a
half dozen of drams.
When I came of age my father asked me, one day, if I would
step with him into his study.
"My son," said he, when we were seated, "what is the chief
end of your existence ?"
" My father," I answered, " it is the study of Nosology."
"And what, Robert," he inquired, " is Nosology ?"
"Sir," I said, " it is the Science of Noses."
" And can you tell me," he demanded, " what is the meaning
of a nose?"
" A nose, my father," I replied, greatly softened, " has been
variously defined by about a thousand different authors." [Here
I pulled out my watch.] " It is now noon or thereabouts we
shall have time enough to get through with them all before mid-
night. To commence then : The nose, according to Bartholi-
nus, is that protuberance that bump that excrescence
" Will do, Robert," interrupted the good old gentleman. " I
am thunderstruck at the extent of your information I am posi
tively upon my soul." [Here he closed his eyes and placed his
hand upon his heart.] " Come here !" [Here he took me by
the arm.] "Your education may now be considered as finished
it is high time you should scuffle for yourself- and you cannot
do a better thing than merely follow your nose so so so "
[Here he kicked me down stairs and out of the door] " so get
out of my house, and God bless you !"
As I felt within me the divine afflatus, I considered this accident
rather fortunate than otherwise. I resolved to be guided by the
paternal advice. I determined to follow my nose. I gave it a
pull or two upon the spot, and wrote a pamphlet on Nosology
All Fum-Fudge was in an uproar.
" Wonderful genius !" said the Quarterly.
" Superb physiologist !" said the Westminster.
" Clever fellow !" said the Foreign.
" Fine writer !" said the Edinburgh.
" Profound thinker !" said the Dublin.
" Great man !" said Bentley.
" Divine soul !" said Fraser.
" One of us !" said Black wood.
" Who can he be ?" said Mrs. Bas-Bleu.
" What can he be ?" said big Miss Bas-Bleu.
" Where can he be ?" said little Miss Bas-Bleu. But I paid
these people no attention whatever I just stepped into the shop
of an artist.
The Duchess of Bless-my-Soul was sitting for her portrait;
the Marquis of So-and-So was holding the Duchess' poodle ; the
Earl of This-and-That was flirting with her salts ; and his Royal
Highness of Touch-me-Not was leaning upon the back of her
60 FOE'S TALES.
I approached the artist and turned up my nose.
" Oh, beautiful !" sighed her Grace.
" Oh my !" lisped the Marquis.
" Oh, shocking !" groaned the Earl.
" Oh, abominable !" growled his Royal Highness.
" What will you take for it ?" asked the artist.
" For his nose /" shouted her Grace.
" A thousand pounds," said I, sitting down.
" A thousand pounds ?" inquired the artist, musingly.
" A thousand pounds," said I.
" Beautiful !" said he, entranced.
" A thousand pounds," said I.
" Do you warrant it ?" he asked, turning the nose to the light.
"I do," said I, blowing it well.
" Is it quite original ?" he inquired, touching it with reverence.
" Humph !" said I, twisting it to one side.
"Has ?io copy been taken?" he demanded, surveying it
through a microscope.
" None," said I, turning it up.
" Admirable /" he ejaculated, thrown qmte off his guard by
the beauty of the manoeuvre.
" A thousand pounds," said I.
"A thousand pounds?" said he.
" Precisely," said I.
" A thousand pounds . ? " said he.
" Just so," said I.
" You shall have them," said he. " What a piece of virtu /"
So he drew me a check upon the spot, and took a sketch of my
nose. I engaged rooms in Jermyn street, and sent her Majesty
the ninety -ninth edition of the " Nosology," with a portrait of the
proboscis. That sad little rake, the Prince of Wales, invited me
We were all lions and recherches.
There was a modern Platonist. He quoted Porphyry, lambli-
cus, Plotinus, Proclus, Hierocles, Maximus Tyrius, and Syria-
There was a human-perfectibility man. He quoted Turgot,
Price, Priestly, Condorcet, De Stael, and the " Ambitious Student
in 111 Health."
There was Sir Positive Paradox. He observed that all fools
were philosophers, and that all philosophers were fools.
There was ^Estheticus Ethix. He spoke of fire, unity, and
atoms ; bi-part and pre-existent soul ; affinity and discord ; prim
itive intelligence and homoomeria.
There was Theologos Theology. He talked of Eusebius and
Arianus ; heresy and the Council of Nice ; Puseyism and con-
substantialism ; Homousios and Homouioisios.
There was Fricassee from the Rocher de Cancale. He men-
tioned Muriton of red tongue ; cauliflowers with veloute sauce ;
veal a la St. Menehoult ; marinade a la St. Florentin ; and
orange jellies en mosdiques.
There was Bibulus O'Bumper. He touched upon Latour and
Markbrunnen ; upon Mousseux and Chambertin ; upon Rich-
bourg and St. George ; upon Haubrion, Leonville, and Medoc ;
upon Barac and Preignac ; upon Grave, upon Sauterne, upon
Lafitte, and upon St. Peray. He shook his head at Clos de Vou-
geot, and told, with his eyes shut, the difference between Sherry
There was Signer Tintontintino from Florence. He discoursed
of Cimabue, Arpino, Carpaccio, and Argostino of the gloom of
Caravaggio, of the amenity of Albano, of the colors of Titian, of
the frows of Rubens, and of the waggeries of Jan Steen.
There was the President of the Fum-Fudge University. He
was of opinion that the moon was called Bendis in Thrace, Bil-
bastis in Egypt, Dian in Rome, and Artemis in Greece.
There was a Grand Turk from Stamboul. He could not help
thinking that the angels were horses, cocks, and bulls ; that some
body in the sixth heaven had seventy thousand heads ; and that
the earth was supported by a sky-blue cow with an incalculable
number of green horns.
There was Delphinus Polygldtt. He told us what had become
of the eighty-three lost tragedies of jEschylus ; of the fifty-four
orations of Isoeus ; of the three hundred and ninety-one speeches of
Lysias ; of the hundred and eighty treatises of Theophrastus ; of
the eighth book of the conic sections of Apollonius ; of Pindar's
62 FOE'S TALES.
hymns and dithyrambics ; and of the five and forty tragedies of
There was Ferdinand Fitz-Fossillus Feltspar. He informed
us all about internal fires and tertiary formations ; about aeri-
forms, fluidiforms, and solidiforms ; about quartz and marl ;
about schist and schorl ; about gypsum and trap ; about talc and
calc ; about blende and horn-blende ; about mica-slate and pud
ding-stone ; about cyanite and lepidolite ; about haematite and
tremolite ; about antimony and calcedony ; about manganese and
whatever you please.
There was myself. I spoke of myself; of myself, of myself,
of myself; of Nosology, of my pamphlet, and of myself. I
turned up my nose, and I spoke of myself.
" Marvellous clever man !" said the Prince.
" Superb !" said his guests : and next morning her Grace of
Bless-my-Soul paid me a visit.
" Will you go to Almack's, pretty creature ?" she said, tap
ping me under the chin.
" Upon honor," said I.
" Nose and all ?" she asked.
" As I live," I replied.
"Here then is a card, my life. Shall I say you will be
" Dear Duchess, with all my heart."
" Pshaw, no ! but with all your nose ?"
" Every bit of it, my love," said I : so I gave it a twist or
two, and found myself at Almack's.
The rooms were crowded to suffocation.
" He is coming !" said somebody on the staircase.
" He is coming !" said somebody farther up.
" He is coming !" said somebody farther still.
" He is come !" exclaimed the Duchess. " He is come, the
little love !" and, seizing me firmly by both hands, she kissed
me thrice upon the nose.
A marked sensation immediately ensued.
" Diavolo /" cried Count Capricornutti.
" Dios guarda /" muttered Don Stiletto.
" Mille lonnerres /" ejaculated the Prince de Grenouille.
" Tousand teufel !" growled the Elector of Bluddennuff.
It was not to be borne. I grew angry. I turned short upon
" Sir !" said I to him, " you are a baboon."
" Sir," he replied, after a pause, " Donner und Blitzen /"
This was all that could be desired. We exchanged cards.
At Chalk-Farm, the next morning, I shot off his nose and then
called upon my friends.
" Bete /" said the first.
" Fool !" said the second.
" Dolt !" said the third.
" Ass !" said the fourth.
" Ninny !" said the fifth.
" Noodle !" said the sixth.
" Be off!" said the seventh.
At all this I felt mortified, and so called upon my father.
" Father," I asked, " what is the chief end of my existence ?"
" My son," he replied, " it is still the study of Nosology ; but
in hitting the Elector upon the nose you have overshot your mark.
You have a fine nose, it is true ; but then Bluddennuff has none.
You are damned, and he has become the hero of the day. I grant
you that in Fum-Fudge the greatness of a lion is in proportion to
the size of his proboscis but, good heavens ! there is no com
peting with a lion who has no proboscis at all."
64 POE'S TALES.
THE HOUSE OF USHER
Son coeur est un luth suspendu ;
Sitot qu'on le touche il rfesonne.
DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the
autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in
the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a
singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as
the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy
House of Usher. I know not how it was but, with the first
glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded
my spirit. I say insufferable ; for the feeling was unrelieved
by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with
which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images
of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me
upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the
domain upon the bleak walls upon the vacant eye-like win-
dows upon a few rank sedges and upon a few white trunks
of decayed treeswith an utter depression of soul which I can
compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-
dream of the reveller upon opium the bitter lapse into every
day life the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an
iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart an unredeemed
dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could
torture into aught of the sublime. What was it I paused to
think what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of
the House of Usher ? It was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could
I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 65
pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the unsatisfactory con
clusion, that while, beyond doubt, there are combinations of very
simple natural objects which have the power of thus affecting us,
still the analysis of this power lies among considerations beyond
our depth. It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different ar
rangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the
picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its
capacity for sorrowful impression ; and, acting upon this idea, I
reined my horse to the precipitous brink of a black and lurid tarn
that lay in unruffled lustre by the dwelling, and gazed down but
with a shudder even more thrilling than before upon the re
modelled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly
tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows.
Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now proposed to nry\
self a sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, Roderick Usher,
had been one of my boon companions in boyhood ; but many
years had elapsed since our last meeting. A letter, however,
had lately reached me in a distant part of the country a letter
from him which, in its wildly importunate nature, had admitted
of no other than a personal reply. The MS. gave evidence of
nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily illness of
a mental disorder which oppressed him and of an earnest desire
to see me, as his best, and indeed his only personal friend, with a
view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alle
viation of his malady. It was the manner in which all this, and
much more, was said it was the apparent heart that went with
his request which allowed me no room for hesitation ; and I ac
cordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singu-
Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet
I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always
excessive and habitual. I was aware, however, that his very
ancient family had been noted, time out of mind, for a pecu
liar sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long
ages, in many works of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in
repeated deeds of munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as
in a passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more
than to the orthodox and easily recognisable beauties, of musical
66 FOE'S TALES.
science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the
stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put
forth, at no period, any enduring branch ; in other words, that
the entire family lay in the direct line of descent, and had always,
with very trifling and very temporary variation, so lain. It was
this deficiency, I considered, while running over in thought the
perfect keeping of the character of the premises with the accred
ited character of the people, and while speculating upon the pos
sible influence which the one, in the long lapse of centuries, might
have exercised upon the other it was this deficiency, perhaps,
of collateral issue, and the consequent undeviating transmission,
from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name, which had, at
length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the
estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the " House of
Usher" an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds
of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family
I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat childish ex
periment that of looking down within the tarn had been to
deepen the first singular impression. There can be no doubt
that the consciousness of the rapid increase of my superstition
for why should I not so term it ? served mainly to accelerate the
increase itself. Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law
of all sentiments having terror as a basis. And it might have
been for this reason only, that, when I again uplifted my eyes to
the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew in my
mind a strange fancy a fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but
mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which op
pressed me. I had so worked upon my imagination as really to
believe that about the whole mansion and domain there hung an
atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity
an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven,
but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray
wall, and the silent tarn a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, slug
gish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hued.
Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I
scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its
principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity.
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 67
The discoloration of ages had been great. Minute fungi over-
spread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled web- work
from the eaves. Yet all this was apart from any extraordinary
dilapidation. No portion of the masonry had fallen ; and there
appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adap
tation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual
stones. In this there was much that reminded me of the specious
totality of old wood-work which has rotted for long years in some
neglected vault, with no disturbance from the breath of the ex
ternal air. Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however,
the fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of a
scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible
fissure, which, extending from the roof of the building in front,
made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became
lost in the sullen waters of the tarn.
Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway to the
house. A servant in waiting took my horse, and I entered the
Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of stealthy step, thence
conducted me, in silence, through many dark and intricate pas
sages in my progress to the studio of his master. Much that I
encountered on the way contributed, I know not how, to heighten
the vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. While
the objects around me while the carvings of the ceilings, the
sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon blackness of the floors,
and the phantasmagoric armorial trophies which rattled as I
strode, were but matters to which, or to such as whiph, I had
been accustomed from my infancy while I hesitated not to ac
knowledge how familiar was all this I still wondered to find how
unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary images were stirring
up. On one of the staircases, I met the physician of the family.
His countenance, I thought, wore a mingled expression of low
cunning and perplexity. He accosted me with trepidation and
passed on. The valet now threw open 3, door and ushered me
into the presence of his master.
The room in which \ found myself was very large and lofty.
The windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a
distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessi
ble from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their
way through the trellissed panes, and served to render sufficiently
distinct the more prominent objects around ; the eye, however,
struggled in vain to reach the remoter angles of the chamber, or
the recesses of the vaulted and fretted ceiling. Dark draperies
hung upon the walls. The general furniture was profuse, com
fortless, antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instru
ments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the
scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air
of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded
Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on which he had
been lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth
which had much in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality
of the constrained effort of the ennuy'e man of the world. A
glance, however, at his countenance, convinced me of his perfect
sincerity. We sat down ; and for some moments, while he spoke
not, I gazed upon him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe.
Surely, man had never before so terribly altered, in so brief a
period, as had Roderick Usher ! It was with difficulty that I
could bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being before
me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character
of his face had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness
of complexion; an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond com
parison ; lips somewhat thin and Very pallid, but of a surpassingly
beautiful curve ; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a
breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations ; a finely moulded
chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral
energy ; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity ; these
features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the
temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be for
gotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing char
acter of these features, and of the expression they were wont to
convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke.
The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lus
tre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me. The
silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as,
in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 69
face, I could not, even with effort, connect its Arabesque expres
sion with any idea of simple humanity.
In the manner of my friend I was at once struck with an inco
herence an inconsistency ; and I soon found this to arise from a
series of feeble and futile struggles to overcome an habitual trepi-
dancy an excessive nervous agitation. For something of this
nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his letter, than by
reminiscences of certain boyish traits, and by conclusions deduced
from his peculiar physical conformation and temperament. His
action was alternately vivacious and sullen. His voice varied
rapidly from a tremulous indecision (when the animal spirits
seemed utterly in abeyance) to that species of energetic concision
that abrupt, weighty, unhurried, and hollow-sounding enuncia
tion that leaden, self-balanced and perfectly modulated guttural
utterance, which may be observed in the lost drunkard, or the ir
reclaimable eater of opium, during the periods of his most intense
It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, of his ear
nest desire to see me, and of the solace he expected me to afford
him. He entered, at some length, into what he conceived to be
the nature of his malady. It was, he said, a constitutional and a
family evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy a
mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which would un
doubtedly soon pass off. It displayed itself in a host of unnatural
sensations. Some of these, as he detailed them, interested and
bewildered me ; although, perhaps, the terms, and the general
manner of the narration had their weight. He suffered much
from a morbid acuteness of the senses ; the most insipid food was
alone endurable ; he could wear only garments of certain texture j
the odors of all flowers were oppressive ; his eyes were tortured
by even a faint light ; and there were but peculiar sounds, and
these from stringed instruments, which did not inspire him with
To an anomalous species of terror I found him a bounden
slave. " I shall perish," said he, " I must perish in this deplo
rable folly. Thus, thus, and not otherwise, shall I be lost. I
dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in their re
sults. I shudder at the thought of any, even the most trivial, in-
70 FOE'S TALES.
cident, which may operate upon this intolerable agitation of soul.
I have, indeed, no abhorrence of danger, except in its absolute ef
fect in terror. In this unnerved in this pitiable condition I
feel that the period will sooner or later arrive when I must aban
don life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phan
I learned, moreover, at intervals, and through broken and
equivocal hints, another singular feature of his mental condition.
He was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard
to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence, for many years,
he had never ventured forth in regard to an influence whose
supposititious force was conveyed in terms too shadowy here to
be re-stated an influence which some peculiarities in the mere
form and substance of his family mansion, had, by dint of long
sufferance, he said, obtained over his spirit an effect which the
physique of the gray walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into
which they all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon
the morale of his existence.
He admitted, however, although with hesitation, that much of
the peculiar gloom which thus afflicted him could be traced to a
more natural and far more palpable origin to the severe and
long-continued illness indeed to the evidently approaching disso
lution of a tenderly beloved sister his sole companion for long
years his last and only relative on earth. " Her decease," he
said, with a bitterness which I can never forget, " would leave
him (him the hopeless and the frail) the last of the ancient race
of the Ushers." While he spoke, the lady Madeline (for so was
she called) passed slowly through a remote portion of the apart
ment, and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. I
regarded her with an utter astonishment not unmingled with
dread and yet I found it impossible to account for such feelings.
A sensation of stupor oppressed me, as my eyes followed her re
treating steps. When a door, at length, closed upon her, my
glance sought instinctively and eagerly the countenance of the
brother but he had buried his face in his hands, and I could only
perceive that a far more than ordinary wanness had overspread
the emaciated fingers through which trickled many passionate
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 71
The disease of the lady Madeline had long baffled the skill of
her physicians. A settled apathy, a gradual wasting away of
the person, and frequent although transient affections of a par
tially cataleptical character, were the unusual diagnosis. Hither,
to she had steadily borne up against the pressure of her malady,
and had not betaken herself finally to bed ; but, on the closing in
of the evening of my arrival at the house, she succumbed (as her
brother told me at night with inexpressible agitation) to the pros
trating power of the destroyer ; and I learned that the glimpse I
had obtained of her person would thus probably be the last I
should obtain that the lady, at least while living, would be seen
by me no more.
For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned by either
Usher or myself: and during this period I was busied in earnest
endeavors to alleviate the melancholy of my friend. We painted
and read together ; or I listened, as if in a dream, to the wild
improvisations of his speaking guitar. And thus, as a closer
and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into
the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the
futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as
if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects
of the moral and physical universe, in one unceasing radiation
I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many solemn
hours I thus spent alone with the master of the House of Usher.
Yet I should fail in any attempt to convey an idea of the exact
character of the studies, or of the occupations, in which he in
volved me, or led me the way. An excited and highly dis
tempered ideality threw a sulphureous lustre over all. His long
improvised dirges will ring forever in my ears. Among other
things, I hold painfully in mind a certain singular perversion and
amplification of the wild air of the last waltz of Von Weber,
from the paintings over which his elaborate fancy brooded, and
which grew, touch by touch, into vaguenesses at which I shud
dered the more thrillingly, because I shuddered knowing not
why ; from these paintings (vivid as their images now are be
fore me) I would in vain endeavor to educe more than a small
portion which should lie within the compass of merely written
72 FOE'S TALES.
words. By the utter simplicity, by the nakedness of his designs,
he arrested and overawed attention. If ever mortal painted an
idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher. For me at least in the
circumstances then surrounding me there arose out of the pure
abstractions which the hypochondriac contrived to throw upon
his canvass, an intensity of intolerable awe, no shadow of which
felt I ever yet in the contemplation of the certainly glowing yet
too concrete reveries of Fuseli.
One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my friend, parta
king not so rigidly of the spirit of abstraction, may be shadowed
forth, although feebly, in words. A small picture presented the
interior of an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel,
with low walls, smooth, white, and without interruption or device.
Certain accessory points of the design served well to convey the
idea that this excavation lay at an exceeding depth below the sur
face of the earth. No outlet was observed in any portion of its
vast extent, and no torch, or other artificial source of light was
discernible ; yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and
bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendor.
I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the auditory
nerve which rendered all music intolerable to the sufferer, with
the exception of certain effects of stringed instruments. It was,
perhaps, the narrow limits to which he thus confined himself upon
the guitar, which gave birth, in great measure, to the fantastic
character of his performances. But the fervid facility of his im
promptus could not be so accounted for. They must have been,
and were, in the notes, as well as in the words of his wild fan
tasias (for he not unfrequently accompanied himself with rhym
ed verbal improvisations), the result of that intense mental col-
lectedness and concentration to which I have previously alluded
as observable only in particular moments of the highest artificial
excitement. The words of one of these rhapsodies I have easily
remembered. I was, perhaps, the more forcibly impressed with
it, as he gave it, because, in the under or mystic current of its
meaning, I fancied that I perceived, and for the first time, a full
consciousness on the part of Usher, of the tottering of his lofty
reason upon her throne. The verses, which were entitled " The
Haunted Palace," ran very nearly, if not accurately, thus:
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 73
In the greenest of our valleys,
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace
Radiant palace reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.
Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow ;
(This all this was in the olden
Time long ago)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically
To a lute's well-tune'd law,
Round about a throne, where sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.
And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate ;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate !)
74 POE'S TALES.
And, round about his home, the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.
And travellers now within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows, see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody ;
While, like a rapid ghastly river,
Through the pale door,
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh but smile no more.
I well remember that suggestions arising from this ballad, led
us into a train of thought wherein there became manifest an
opinion of Usher's which I mention not so much on account of its
novelty, (for other men* have thought thus,) as on account of the
pertinacity with which he maintained it. This opinion, in its
general form, was that of the sentience of all vegetable things.
But, in his disordered fancy, the idea had assumed a more daring
character, and trespassed, under certain conditions, upon the
kingdom of inorganization. I lack words to express the full ex
tent, or the earnest abandon of his persuasion. The belief, how.
ever, was connected (as I have previously hinted) with the gray
stones of the home of his forefathers. The conditions of the sen
tience had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in the method of col
location of these stones in the order of their arrangement, as
well as in that of the many fungi which overspread them, and of
the decayed trees which stood around above all, in the long un
disturbed endurance of this arrangement, and in its reduplication
in the still waters of the tarn. Its evidence the evidence of the
sentience was to be seen, he said, (and I here started as he
spoke,) in the gradual yet certain condensation of an atmosphere
of their own about the waters and the walls. The result was
discoverable, he added, in that silent, yet importunate and terri
ble influence which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his
* Watson, Dr. Percival, Spallanzani, and especially the Bishop of Landaff.
See " Chemical Essays," vol v.
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 75
family, and which made him what I now saw him what he was.
Such opinions need no comment, and I will make none.
Our books the books which, for years, had formed no small
portion of the mental existence of the invalid were, as might be
supposed, in strict keeping with this character of phantasm. We
pored together over such works as the Ververt et Chartreuse of
Gresset ; the Belphegor of Machiavelli ; the Heaven and Hell of
Swedenborg ; the Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas Klimm by
Holberg the Chiromancy of Robert Flud, of Jean D'lndagine,
and of De la Chambre ; the Journey into the Blue Distance of
Tieck ; and the City of the Sun of Campanella. One favorite
volume was a small octavo edition of the Directorium Inquisito-
rium, by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne ; and there were
passages in Pomponius Mela, about the old African Satyrs and
(Egipans, over which Usher would sit dreaming for hours. His
chief delight, however, was found in the perusal of an exceed
ingly rare and curious book in quarto Gothic the manual of a
forgotten church the Vigiliae Mortuorum secundum Chorum Ec-
I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work, and of
its probable influence upon the hypochondriac, when, one even
ing, having informed me abruptly that the lady Madeline was no
more, he stated his intention of preserving her corpse for a fort
night, (previously to its final interment,) in one of the numerous
vaults within the main walls of the building. The worldly rea
son, however, assigned for this singular proceeding, was one
which I did not feel at liberty to dispute. The brother had been
led to his resolution (so he told me) by consideration of the unusual
character of the malady of the deceased, of certain obtrusive and
eager inquiries on the part of her medical men, and of the remote
and exposed situation of the burial-ground of the family. I will
not deny that when I called to mind the sinister countenance of
the person whom I met upon the staircase, on the day of my arri
val at the house, I had no desire to oppose what I regarded as at
best but a harmless, and by no means an unnatural, precaution.
At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrange
ments for the temporary entombment. The body having been
encoffined, we two alone bore it to its rest. The vault in which
76 FOE'S TALES.
we placed it (and which had been so long unopened that our
torches, half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere, gave us lit
tle opportunity for investigation) was small, damp, and entirely
without means of admission for light ; lying, at great depth, im
mediately beneath that portion of the building in which was my
own sleeping apartment. It had been used, apparently, in remote
feudal times, for the worst purposes of a donjon-keep, and, in
later days, as a place of deposit for powder, or some other highly
combustible substance, as a portion of its floor, and the whole
interior of a long archway through which we reached it, were
carefully sheathed with copper. The door, of massive iron, had
been, also, similarly protected. Its immense weight caused an
unusually sharp grating sound, as it moved upon its hinges.
Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels within this
region of horror, we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid
of the coffin, and looked upon the face of the tenant. A striking
similitude between the brother and sister now first arrested my
attention ; and Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured
out some few words from which I learned that the deceased and
himself had been twins, and that sympathies of a scarcely intelli
gible nature had always existed between them. Our glances,
however, rested not long upon the dead for we could not regard
her unawed. The disease which had thus entombed the lady in
the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a
strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon
the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon
the lip which is so terrible in death. We replaced and screwed
down the lid, and, having secured the door of iron, made our w~ay,
with toil, into the scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper
portion of the house.
And now, some days of bitter grief having elapsed, an observa-
ble change came over the features of the mental disorder of my
friend. His ordinary manner had vanished. His ordinary occu
pations were neglected or forgotten. He roamed from chamber
to chamber with hurried, unequal, and objectless step. The pal
lor of his countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly
hue but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out. The
once occasional huskiness of his tone was heard no more ; and a
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 77
tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, habitually character,
ized his utterance. There were times, indeed, when I thought
his unceasingly agitated mind was laboring with some oppressive
secret, to divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage.
At times, again, I was obliged to resolve all into the mere inex
plicable vagaries of madness, for I beheld him gazing upon va
cancy for long hours, in an attitude of the profoundest attention,
as if listening to some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that
his condition terrified that it infected me. I felt creeping upon
me, by slow yet certain degrees, the wild influences of his own
fantastic yet impressive superstitions.
It was, especially, upon retiring to bed late in the night of the
seventh or eighth day after the placing of the lady Madeline with
in the donjon, that I experienced the full power of such feelings.
Sleep came not near my couch while the hours waned and
waned away. I struggled to reason off the nervousness which
had dominion over me. I endeavored to believe that much, if not
all of what I felt, was due to the bewildering influence of the
gloomy furniture of the room of the dark and tattered draperies,
which, tortured into motion by the breath of a rising tempest,
swayed fitfully to and fro upon the walls, and rustled uneasily
about the decorations of the bed. But my efforts were fruitless.
An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame ; and, at
length, there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly cause
less alarm. Shaking this off with a gasp and a struggle, I up
lifted myself upon the pillows, and, peering earnestly within the
intense darkness of the chamber, barkened I know not why>
except that an instinctive spirit prompted me to certain low and
indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses of the storm, at
long intervals, I knew not whence. Overpowered by an intense
sentiment of horror, unaccountable yet unendurable, I threw on
my clothes with haste (for I felt that I should sleep no more du
ring the night), and endeavored to arouse myself from the pitiable
condition into which I had fallen, by pacing rapidly to and fro
through the apartment.
I had taken but few turns in this manner, when a light step on
an adjoining staircase arrested my attention. I presently recog
nised it as that of Usher. In an instant afterward he rapped,
78 POE'S TALES.
with a gentle touch, at my door, and entered, bearing a lamp.
His countenance was, as usual, cadaverously wan but, more
over, there was a species of mad hilarity in his eyes an evidently
restrained hysteria in his whole demeanor. His air appalled me
but anything was preferable to the solitude which I had so long
endured, and I even welcomed his presence as a relief.
" And you have not seen it ?" he said abruptly, after having
stared about him for some moments in silence " you have not
then seen it ? but, stay ! you shall." Thus speaking, and hav
ing carefully shaded his lamp, he hurried to one of the case
ments, and threw it freely open to the storm.
The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted us from
our feet. It was, indeed, a tempestuous yet sternly beautiful
night, and one wildly singular in its terror and its beauty. A
whirlwind had apparently collected its force in our vicinity ; for
there were frequent and violent alterations in the direction of the
wind ; and the exceeding density of the clouds (which hung so
low as to press upon the turrets of the house) did not prevent our
perceiving the life-like velocity with which they flew careering
from all points against each other, without passing away into the
distance. I say that even their exceeding density did not prevent
our perceiving this yet we had no glimpse of the moon or stars
nor was there any flashing forth of the lightning. But the un
der surfaces of the huge masses of agitated vapor, as well as all
terrestrial objects immediately around us, were glowing in the
unnatural light of a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous
exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the mansion.
" You must not you shall not behold this !" said I, shudder-
ingly, to Usher, as I led him, with a gentle violence, from the
window to a seat. " These appearances, which bewilder you,
are merely electrical phenomena not uncommon or it may be
that they have their ghastly origin in the rank miasma of the tarn,
Let us close this casement ; the air is chilling and dangerous to
your frame. Here is one of your favorite romances. I will read,
and you shall listen ; and so we will pass away this terrible
The antique volume which I had taken up was the "Mad
Trist" of Sir Launcelot Canning ; but I had called it a favorite
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 79
of Usher's more in sad jest than in earnest ; for, in truth, there is
little in its uncouth and unimaginative prolixity which could have
had interest for the lofty and spiritual ideality of my friend. It
was, however, the only book immediately at hand ; and I in
dulged a vague hope that the excitement which now agitated the
hypochondriac, might find relief (for the history of mental disor
der is full of similar anomalies) even in the extremeness of the
folly which I should read. Could I have judged, indeed, by the
wild overstrained air of vivacity with which he harkened, or ap
parently harkened, to the words of the tale, I might well have
congratulated myself upon the success of my design.
I had arrived at that well-known portion of the story where
Ethelred, the hero of the Trist, having sought in vain for peacea
ble admission into the dwelling of the hermit, proceeds to make
good an entrance by force. Here, it will be remembered, the
words of the narrative run thus :
" And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty heart, and
who was now mighty withal, on account of the powerfulness of
the wine which he had drunken, waited no longer to hold parley
with the hermit, who, in sooth, was of an obstinate and maliceful
turn, but, feeling the rain upon his shoulders, and fearing the ri
sing of the tempest, uplifted his mace outright, and, with blows,
made quickly room in the plankings of the door for his gauntleted
hand ; and now pulling therewith sturdily, he so cracked, and
ripped, and tore all asunder, that the noise of the dry and hollow-
sounding wood alarummed and reverberated throughout the for
At the termination of this sentence I started, and for a moment,
paused ; for it appeared to me (although I at once concluded that
my excited fancy had deceived me) it appeared to me that, from
some very remote portion of the mansion, there came, indistinct
ly, to my ears, what might have been, in its exact similarity of
character, the echo (but a stifled and dull one certainly) of the
V3ry cracking and ripping sound which Sir Launcelot had so
particularly described. It was, beyond doubt, the coincidence
alone which had arrested my attention ; for, amid the rattling of
the sashes of the casements, and the ordinary commingled noises
of the still increasing storm, the sound, in itself, had nothing,
80 POE'S TALES.
surely, which should have interested or disturbed me. I con-
tinued the story :
" But the good champion Ethelred, now entering within the
door, was sore enraged and amazed to perceive no signal of the
maliceful hermit ; but, in the stead thereof, a dragon of a scaly
and prodigious demeanor, and of a fiery tongue, which sate in
guard before a palace of gold, with a floor of silver ; and upon
the wall there hung a shield of shining brass with this legend en-
Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath bin ;
Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win ;
And Ethelred uplifted his mace, and struck upon the head of the
dragon, which fell before him, and gave up his pesty breath, with
a shriek so horrid and harsh, and withal so piercing, that Ethel-
red had fain to close his ears with his hands against the dread
ful noise of it, the like whereof was never before heard."
Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a feeling of wild
amazement for there could be no doubt whatever that, in this
instance, I did actually hear (although from what direction it
proceeded I found it impossible to say) a low and apparently dis
tant, but harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or gra
ting sound the exact counterpart of what my fancy had already
conjured up for the dragon's unnatural shriek as described by the
Oppressed, as I certainly was, upon the occurrence of this
second and most extraordinary coincidence, by a thousand con
flicting sensations, in which wonder and extreme terror were pre
dominant, I still retained sufficient presence of mind to avoid ex
citing, by any observation, the sensitive nervousness of my com.
panion. I was by no means certain that he had noticed the
sounds in question ; although, assuredly, a strange alteration had,
during the last few minutes, taken place in his demeanor. From
a position fronting my own, he had gradually brought round his
chair, so as to sit with his face to the door of the chamber ; and
thus I could but partially perceive his features, although I saw
that his lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly. His
head had dropped upon his breast yet I knew that he was not
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER. 81
asleep, from the wide and rigid opening of the eye as I caught a
glance of it in profile. The motion of his body, too, was at
variance with this idea for he rocked from side to side with a
gentle yet constant and uniform sway. Having rapidly taken
notice of all this, I resumed the narrative of Sir Launcelot,
which thus proceeded :
"And now, the champion, having escaped from the terrible
fury of the dragon, bethinking himself of the brazen shield, and
of the breaking up of the enchantment which was upon it, re
moved the carcass from out of the way before him, and ap
proached valorously over the silver pavement of the castle to
where the shield was upon the wall ; which in sooth tarried not
for his full coming, but fell down at his feet upon the silver floor,
with a mighty great and terrible ringing sound."
No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than as if a
shield of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a
floor of silver I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic,
and clangorous, yet apparently muffled reverberation. Com
pletely unnerved, I leaped to my feet ; but the measured rocking
movement of Usher was undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in
which he sat. His eyes were bent fixedly before him, and
throughout his whole countenance there reigned a stony rigid
ity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, there came a
strong shudder over his whole person ; a sickly smile quivered
about his lips ; and I saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and
gibbering murmur, as if unconscious of my presence. Bending
closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his
" Not hear it ? yes, I hear it, and have heard it. Long
long long many minutes, many hours, many days, have I
heard it yet I dared not oh, pity me, miserable wretch that I
am ! I dared not I dared not speak ! We have put her living
in the tomb ! Said I not that my senses were acute ? I now tell
you that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin.
I heard them many, many days ago yet I dared not / dared
not speak f And now to-night Ethelred ha ! ha ! the break
ing of the hermit's door, and the death-cry of the dragon, and
the clangor of the shield ! say, rather, the rending of her coffin,
82 POE'S TALES.
and the grating of the iron hinges of her prison, and her strug
gles within the coppered archway of the vault ! Oh whither shall I
fly ? Will she not be here anon ? Is she not hurrying to upbraid
me for my haste ? Have I not heard her footstep on the stair 1
Do I not distinguish that heavy and horrible beating of her heart ?
Madman !" here he sprang furiously to his feet, and shrieked
out his syllables, as if in the effort he were giving up his soul
" Madman I I tell you that she now stands without the door /"
As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance there had
been found the potency of a spell the huge antique pannels to
which the speaker pointed, threw slowly back, upon the instant,
their ponderous and ebony jaws. It was the work of the rushing
gust but then without those doors there did stand the lofty and
enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline of Usher. There was
blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter strug.
gle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment
she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold
then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the
person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-ago
nies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he
From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The
storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing
the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild
light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have
issued ; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me.
The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon,
which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fis
sure, of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of
the building, in a zigzag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this
fissure rapidly widened there came a fierce breath of the whirl
wind the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight
my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder
there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a
thousand waters and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed
sullenly and silently over the fragments of the " House of Usher."
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM.
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM
The ways of God in Nature, as in Providence, are not as our ways ; nor
are the models that we frame any way commensurate to the vastness, profun
dity, and unsearchableness of His works, which have a depth in them greater
than the well of Democritus.
WE had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag. For
some minutes the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak.
" Not long ago," said he at length, " and I could have guided
you on this route as well as the youngest of my sons ; but, about
three years past, there happened to me an event such as never
happened before to mortal man or at least such as no man ever
survived to tell of and the six hours of deadly terror which I
then endured have broken me up body and soul. You suppose me
a very old man but I am not. It took less than a single day to
change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my
limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I tremble at the least
exertion, and am frightened at a shadow. Do you know I can
scarcely look over this little cliff without getting giddy ?"
The " little cliff," upon whose edge he had so carelessly thrown
himself down to rest that the weightier portion of his body hung
over it, while he was only kept from falling by the tenure of his
elbow on its extreme and slippery edge this " little cliff" arose,
a sheer unobstructed precipice of black shining rock, some fifteen
or sixteen hundred feet from the world of crags beneath us. No
thing would have tempted me to within half a dozen yards of its
brink. In truth so deeply was I excited by the perilous position
of my companion, that I fell at full length upon the ground, clung
84 POE'S TALES.
to the shrubs around me, and dared not even glance upward at
the sky while I struggled in vain to divest myself of the idea
that the very foundations of the mountain were in danger from
the fury of the winds. It was long before I could reason myself
into sufficient courage to sit up and look out into the distance.
" You must get over these fancies," said the guide, " for I
have brought you here that you might have the best possible view
of the scene of that event I mentioned and to tell you the whole
story with the spot just under your eye."
" We are now," he continued, in that particularizing manner
which distinguished him " we are now close upon the Nor
wegian coast in the sixty-eighth degree of latitude in the great
province of Nordland and in the dreary district of Lofoden.
The mountain upon whose top we sit is Helseggen, the Cloudy.
Now raise yourself up a little higher hold on to the grass if you
feel giddy so and look out, beyond the belt of vapor beneath
us, into the sea."
I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, whose
waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to my mind the
Nubian geographer's account of the Mare Tenelrarum. A pan
orama more deplorably desolate no human imagination can con
ceive. To the right and left, as far as the eye could reach, there
lay outstretched, like ramparts of the world, lines of horridly
black and beetling cliff, whose character of gloom was but the
more forcibly illustrated by the surf which reared high up
against it its white and ghastly crest, howling and shrieking for
ever. Just opposite the promontory upon whose apex we were
placed, and at a distance of some five or six miles out at sea,
there was visible a small, bleak-looking island ; or, more proper
ly, its position was discernible through the wilderness of surge in
which it was enveloped. About two miles nearer the land, arose
another of smaller size, hideously craggy and barren, and en
compassed at various intervals by a cluster of dark rocks.
The appearance of the ocean, in the space between the more
distant island and the shore, had something very unusual about it.
Although, at the time, so strong a gale was blowing landward that
a brig in the remote offing lay to under a double-reefed trysail,
and constantly plunged her whole hull out of sight, still there was
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 85
here nothing like a regular swell, but only a short, quick, angry
cross dashing of water in every directiqn-^as well in the teeth
of the wind as otherwise* Of foam there was little except in the
immediate vicinity of the rocks.
" The island in the distance," resumed the old man, " is called
by the Norwegians Vurrgh. The one midway is Moskoe, That
a mile to the northward is Ambaaren. Yonder are Islesen, Ho-
tholm, Keildhelm, Suarven, and Buckholm. Farther off between
Moskoe and Vurrgh are Otterholm, Flimen, Sandflesen, and
Stockholm. These are the true names of the places but why
it has been thought necessary to name them at all, is more than
either you or I can understand. Do you hear any thing ? Do
you see any change in the water ?"
We had now been about ten minutes upon the top of Helseg-
gen, to which we had ascended from the interior of Lofoden, so
that we had caught no glimpse of the sea until it had burst upon
us from the summit. As the old man spoke, I became aware of
a loud and gradually increasing sound, like the moaning of a vast
herd of buffaloes upon an American prairie ; and at the same mo
ment I perceived that what seamen term the chopping character
of the ocean beneath us, was rapidly changing into a current
which set to the eastward. Even while I gazed, this current ac
quired a monstrous velocity. Each moment added to its speed
to its headlong impetuosity. In five minutes the whole sea, as
far as Vurrgh, was lashed into ungovernable fury ; but it was
between Moskoe and the coast that the main uproar held its sway.
Here the vast bed of the waters, seamed and scarred into a thou
sand conflicting channels, burst suddenly into phrensied convul
sion heaving, boiling, hissing gyrating in gigantic and innu
merable vortices, and all whirling and plunging on to the east
ward with a rapidity which water never elsewhere assumes ex
cept in precipitous descents.
In a few minutes more, there came over the scene another
radical alteration. The general surface grew somewhat more
smooth, and the whirlpools, one by one, disappeared, while pro
digious streaks of foam became apparent where none had been
seen before. These streaks, at length, spreading out to a great
distance, and entering into combination, took unto themselves the
86 POE'S TALES.
gyratory motion of the subsided vortices, and seemed to form the
germ of another more vast. Suddenly very suddenly this as
sumed a distinct and definite existence, in a circle of more than
a mile in diameter. The edge of the whirl was represented by a
broad belt of gleaming spray ; but no particle of this slipped into
the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye
could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of wa
ter, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five degrees,
speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying and sweltering
motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice, half
shriek, half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract of Niagara
ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven.
The mountain trembled to its very base, and the rock rocked.
I threw myself upon my face, and clung to the scant herbage in
an excess of nervous agitation.
" This," said I at length, to the old man " this can be nothing
else than the great whirlpool of the Maelstrom."
" So it is sometimes termed," said he. " We Norwegians call
it the Moskoe-strom, from the island of Moskoe in the midway."
The ordinary accounts of this vortex had by no means prepared
me for what I saw. That of Jonas Ramus, which is perhaps the
most circumstantial of any, cannot impart the faintest conception
either of the magnificence, or of the horror of the scene or of
the wild bewildering sense of the novel which confounds the be
holder. I am not sure from what point of view the writer in
question surveyed it, nor at what time ; but it could neither have
been from the summit of Helseggen, nor during a storm. There
are some passages of his description, nevertheless, which may be
quoted for their details, although their effect is exceedingly feeble
in conveying an impression of the spectacle.
" Between Lofoden and Moskoe," he says, " the depth of the wa
ter is between thirty-six and forty fathoms ; but on the other side,
toward Ver (Vurrgh) this depth decreases so as not to afford a
convenient passage for a vessel, without the risk of splitting on
the rocks, which happens even in the calmest weather. When it
is flood, the stream runs up the country between Lofoden and
Moskoe with a boisterous rapidity ; but the roar of its impetuous
ebb to the sea is scarce equalled by the loudest and most dreadful
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 87
cataracts ; the noise being heard several leagues off, and the vor
tices or pits are of such an extent and depth, that if a ship comes
within its attraction, it is inevitably absorbed and carried down to
the bottom, and there beat to pieces against the rocks ; and when
the water relaxes, the fragments thereof are thrown up again.
But these intervals of tranquillity are only at the turn of the ebb
and flood, and in calm weather, and last but a quarter of an hour,
its violence gradually returning. When the stream is most
boisterous, and its fury heightened by a storm, it is dangerous to
come within a Norway mile of it. Boats, yachts, and ships have
been carried away by not guarding against it before they were
within its rea*h. It likewise happens frequently, that whales
come too near the stream, and are overpowered by its violence ;
and then it is impossible to describe their bowlings and bellowings
in their fruitless struggles to disengage themselves. A bear
once, attempting to swim from Lofoden to Moskoe, was caught by
the stream and borne down, while he roared terribly, so as to
be heard on shore. Large stocks of firs and pine trees, after
being absorbed by the current, rise again broken and torn to such
a degree as if bristles grew upon them. This plainly shows the
bottom to consist of craggy rocks, among which they are whirled
to and fro. This stream is regulated by the flux and reflux of
the sea it being constantly high and low water every six hours.
In the year 1645, early in the morning of Sexagesima Sunday,
it raged with such noise and impetuosity that the very stones of
the houses on the coast fell to the ground."
In regard to the depth of the water, I could not see how this
could have been ascertained at all in the immediate vicinity of
the vortex. The " forty fathoms" must have reference only to
portions of the channel close upon the shore either of Moskoe or
Lofoden. The depth in the centre of the Moskoe-strom must be
immeasurably greater ; and no better proof of this fact is ne
cessary than can be obtained from even the sidelong glance into
the abyss of the whirl which may be had from the highest crag
of Helseggen. Looking down from this pinnacle upon the howl
ing Phlegethon below, I could not help smiling at the simplicity
with which the honest Jonas Ramus records, as a matter difficult
of belief, the anecdotes of the whales and the bears ; for it ap-
peared to me, in fact, a self-evident thing, that the largest ship of
the line in existence, coming within the influence of that deadly
attraction, could resist it as little as a feather the hurricane, and
must disappear bodily and at once.
The attempts to account for the phenomenon some of which, I
remember, seemed to me sufficiently plausible in perusal now
wore a very different and unsatisfactory aspect. The idea gen
erally received is that this, as well as three smaller vortices
among the Ferroe islands, " have no other cause than the collision
of waves rising and falling, at flux and reflux, against a ridge of
rocks and shelves, which confines the water so that it precipitates
itself like a cataract ; and thus the higher the flood rises, the
deeper must the fall be, and the natural result of all is a whirl
pool or vortex, the prodigious suction of which is sufficiently
known by lesser experiments." These are the words of the En
cyclopaedia Britannica. Kircher and others imagine that in the
centre of the channel of the Maelstrom is an abyss penetrating
the globe, and issuing in some very remote part the Gulf of
Bothnia being somewhat decidedly named in one instance. This
opinion, idle in itself, was the one to which, as I gazed, my ima
gination most readily assented ; and, mentioning it to the guide,
I was rather surprised to hear him say that, although it was the
view almost universally entertained of the subject by the Nor
wegians, it nevertheless was not his own. As to the former no
tion he confessed his inability to comprehend it ; and here I agreed
with him for, however conclusive on paper, it becomes altogether
unintelligible, and even absurd, amid the thunder of the abyss.
" You have had a good look at the whirl now," said the old
man, " and if you will creep round this crag, so as to get in its
lee, and deaden the roar of the water, I will tell you a story that
will convince you I ought to know something of the Moskoe-
I placed myself as desired, and he proceeded.
" Myself and my two brothers once owned a schooner-rigged
smack of about seventy tons burthen, with which we were in the
habit of fishing among the islands beyond Moskoe, nearly to
Vurrgh. In all violent eddies at sea there is good fishing, at
proper opportunities, if one has only the courage to attempt it j
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 89
but among the whole of the Lofoden coastmen, we three were the
only ones who made a regular business of going out to the is
lands, as I tell you. The usual grounds are a great way lower
down to the .southward. There fish can be got at all hours,
without much risk, and therefore these places are preferred.
The choice spots over here among the rocks, however, not only
yield the finest variety, but in far greater abundance ; so that we
often got in a single day, what the more timid of the craft could
not scrape together in a week. In fact, we made it a matter of
desperate speculation the risk of life standing instead of labor,
and courage answering for capital.
" We kept the smack in a cove about five miles higher up the
coast than this ; and it was our practice, in fine weather, to take
advantage of the fifteen minutes' slack to push across the main
channel of the Moskoe-strom, far above the pool, and then drop
down upon anchorage somewhere near Otterholm, or Sandflesen,
where the eddies are not so violent as elsewhere. Here we used
to remain until nearly time for slack-water again, when we
weighed and made for home. We never set out upon this expe
dition without a steady side wind for going and coming one that
we felt sure would not fail us before our return and we seldom
made a mis-calculation upon this point. Twice, during six years,
we were forced to stay all night at anchor on account of a dead
calm, which is a rare thing indeed just about here ; and once we
had to remain on the grounds nearly a week, starving to death,
owing to a gale which blew up shortly after our arrival, and made
the channel too boisterous to be thought of. Upon this occasion
we should have been driven out to sea in spite of everything, (for
the whirlpools threw us round and round so violently, that, at
length, we fouled our anchor and dragged it) if it had not been
that we drifted into one of the innumerable cross currents here
to-day and gone to-morrow which drove us under the lee of
Flimen, where, by good luck, we brought up.
" I could not tell you the twentieth part of the difficulties we
encountered ' on the grounds ' it is a bad spot to be in, even in
good weather but we made shift always to run the gauntlet of
the Moskoe-strom itself without accident ; although at times my
heart has been in my mouth when we happened to be a minute
90 POE'S TALES.
or so behind or before the slack. The wind sometimes was not
as strong as we thought it at starting, and then we made rather
less way than we could wish, while the current rendered the
smack unmanageable. My eldest brother had a son eighteen
years old, and I had two stout boys of my own. These would
have been of great assistance at such times, in using the sweeps,
as well as afterward in fishing but, somehow, although we ran the
risk ourselves, we had not the heart to let the young ones get into
the danger for, after all is said and done, it was a horrible
danger, and that is the truth.
" It is now within a few days of three years since what I am
going to tell you occurred. It was on the tenth day of July, 18 ,
a day which the people of this part of the world will never forget
for it was one in which blew the most terrible hurricane that
ever came out of the heavens. And yet all the morning, and in
deed until late in the afternoon, there was a gentle and steady
breeze from the south-west, while the sun shone brightly, so that
the oldest seaman among us could not have foreseen what was to
" The three of us my two brothers and myself had crossed
over to the islands about two o'clock P. M., and had soon nearly
loaded the smack with fine fish, which, we all remarked, were
more plenty that day than we had ever known them. It was
just seven, by my watch, when we weighed and started for home,
so as to make the worst of the Strom at slack water, which we
knew would be at eight.
" We set out with a fresh wind on our starboard quarter, and
for some time spanked along at a great rate, never dreaming of
danger, for indeed we saw not the slightest reason to apprehend it.
All at once we were taken aback by a breeze from over Helseg-
gen. This was most unusual something that had never hap
pened to us before and I began to feel a little uneasy, without
exactly knowing why. We put the boat on the wind, but could
make no headway at all for the eddies, and I was upon the point
of proposing to return to the anchorage, when, looking astern, we
saw the whole horizon covered with a singular copper-colored
cloud that rose with the most amazing velocity.
" In the meantime the breeze that had headed us off fell away,
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 91
and we were dead becalmed, drifting about in every direction.
This state of things, however, did not last long enough to give us
time to think about it. In less than a minute the storm was upon
us in less than two the sky was entirely overcast and what
with this and the driving spray, it became suddenly so dark that
we could not see each other in the smack.
" Such a hurricane as then blew it is folly to attempt describ
ing. The oldest seaman in Norway never experienced any thing
like it. We had let our sails go by the run before it cleverly
took us ; but, at the first puff, both our masts went by the board
as if they had been sawed off the mainmast taking with it my
youngest brother, who had lashed himself to it for safety.
" Our boat was the lightest feather of a thing that ever sat
upon water. It had a complete flush deck, with only a small
hatch near the bow, and this hatch it had always been our cus
tom to batten down when about to cross the Strom, by way of
precaution against the chopping seas. But for this circumstance
we should have foundered at once for we lay entirely buried
for some moments. How my elder brother escaped destruction
I cannot say, for I never had an opportunity of ascertaining. For
my part, as soon as I had let the foresail run, I threw myself flat
on deck, with my feet against the narrow gunwale of the bow,
and with my hands grasping a ring-bolt near the foot of the fore
mast. It was mere instinct that prompted me to do this which
was undoubtedly the very best thing I could have done for I was
too much flurried to think.
" For some moments we were completely deluged, as I say,
and all this time I held my breath, and clung to the bolt. When
I could stand it no longer I raised myself upon my knees, still
keeping hold with my hands, and thus got my head clear. Pres
ently our little boat gave herself a shake, just as a dog does in
coming out of the water, and thus rid herself, in some measure,
of the seas. I was now trying to get the better of the stupor that
had come over me, and to collect my senses so as to see what was
to be done, when I felt somebody grasp my arm. It was my elder
brother, and my heart leaped for joy, for I had made sure that he
was overboard but the next moment all this joy was turned into
92 FOE'S TALES.
for he put his mouth close to my ear, and screamed out
the word ' Moskoe-strom !'
" No one ever will know what my feelings were at that mo
ment. I shook from head to foot as if I had had the most violent
fit of the ague. I knew what he meant by that one word well
enough I knew what he wished to make me understand. With
the wind that now drove us on, we were bound for the whirl of
the Strom, and nothing could save us !
" You perceive that in crossing the Strom channel, we always
went a long way up above the whirl, even in the calmest weather,
and then had to wait and watch carefully for the slack but now
we were driving right upon the pool itself, and in such a hurricane
as this ! ' To be sure,' I thought, ' we shall get there just about
the slack there is some little hope in that ' but in the next mo
ment I cursed myself for being so great a fool as to dream of
hope at all. I knew very well that we were doomed, had we
been ten times a ninety-gun ship.
" By this time the first fury of the tempest had spent itself, or
perhaps we did not feel it so much, as we scudded before it, but
at all events the seas, which at first had been kept down by the
wind, and lay fiat and frothing, now got up into absolute moun
tains. A singular change, too, had come over the heavens.
Around in every direction it was still as black as pitch, but nearly
overhead there burst out, all at once, a circular rift of clear sky
as clear as I ever saw and of a deep bright blue and through
it there blazed forth the full moon with a lustre that I never before
knew her to wear. She lit. up every thing about us with the great
est distinctness but, oh God, what a scene it was to light up !
" I now made one or two attempts to speak to my brother but,
in some manner which I could not understand, the din had so in
creased that I could not make him hear a single word, although
I screamed at the top of my voice in his ear. Presently he shook
his head, looking as pale as death, and held up one of his fingers,
as if to say listen /'
" At first I could not make out what he meant but soon a
hideous thought flashed upon me. I dragged my watch from its
fob. It was not going. I glanced at its face by the moonlight,
and then burst into tears as I flung it far away into the ocean.
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 93
It had run down at seven o'clock ! We were behind the time of
the slack, and the whirl of the Strom was in full fury f
" When a boat is well built, properly trimmed, and not deep
laden, the waves in a strong gale, when she is going large, seem
always to slip from beneath her which appears very strange to
a landsman and this is what is called riding, in sea phrase.
Well, so far we had ridden the swells very cleverly ; but pres
ently a gigantic sea happened to take us right under the counter,
and bore us with it as it rose up up as if into the sky. I
would not have believed that any wave could rise so high. And
then down we came with a sweep, a slide, and a plunge, that
made me feel sick and dizzy, as if I was falling from some lofty
mountain-top in a dream. But while we were up I had thrown
a quick glance around and that one glance was all sufficient.
I saw our exact position in an instant. The Moskoe-strom whirl
pool was about a quarter of a mile dead ahead but no more like
the every-day Moskoe-strom, than the whirl as you now see it is
like a mill-race. If I had not known where we were, and what we
had to expect, I should not have recognised the place at all. As
it was, I involuntarily closed my eyes in horror. The lids clenched
themselves together as if in a spasm.
" It could not have been more than two minutes afterward until
we suddenly felt the waves subside, and were enveloped in foam.
The boat made a sharp half turn to larboard, and then shot off
in its new direction like a thunderbolt. At the same moment the
roaring noise of the water was completely drowned in a kind of
shrill shriek such a sound as you might imagine given out by
the waste-pipes of many thousand 'steam-vessels, letting off their
steam all together* We were now in the belt of surf that always
surrounds the whirl ; and I thought, of course, that another mo
ment would plunge us into the abyss down which we could only-
see indistinctly on account of the amazing velocity with which
we were borne along. The boat did not seem to sink into the
water at all, but to skim like an air-bubble upon the surface of
the surge. Her starboard side was next the whirl, and on the
larboard arose the world of ocean we had left. It stood like a
huge writhing wall between us and the horizon.
" It may appear strange, but now, when we were in the very
94 FOE'S TALES.
jaws of the gulf, I felt more composed than when we were only
approaching it. Having made up my mind to hope no more, I
got rid of a great deal of that terror which unmanned me at first.
I suppose it was despair that strung my nerves.
" It may look like boasting but what I tell you is truth I
began to reflect how magnificent a thing it was to die in such a
manner, and how foolish it was in me to think of so paltry a con
sideration as my own individual life, in view of so wonderful a
manifestation of God's power. I do believe that I blushed with
shame when this idea crossed my mind. After a little while I
became possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl
itself. I positively felt a wish to explore its depths, even at the
sacrifice I was going to make ; and my principal grief was that I
should never be able to tell my old companions on shore about the
mysteries I should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies
to occupy a man's mind in such extremity and I have often
thought since, that the revolutions of the boat around the pool
might have rendered me a little light-headed.
" There was another circumstance which tended to restore my
self-possession ; and this was the cessation of the wind, which
could not reach us in our present situation for, as you saw
yourself, the belt of surf is considerably lower than the general
bed of the ocean, and this latter now towered above us, a high,
black, mountainous ridge. If you have never been at sea in a
heavy gale, you can form no idea of the confusion of mind occa
sioned by the wind and spray together. They blind, deafen, and
strangle you, and take away all power of action or reflection.
But we were now, in a great measure, rid of these annoyances
just as death-condemned felons in prison are allowed petty indul
gences, forbidden them while their doom is yet uncertain.
" How often we made the circuit of the belt it is impossible to
say. We careered round and round for perhaps an hour, flying
rather than floating, getting gradually more and more into the
middle of the surge, and then nearer and nearer to its horrible
inner edge. All this time I had never let go of the ring-bolt.
My brother was at the stern, holding on to a small empty water-
cask which had been securely lashed under the coop of the coun
ter, and was the only thing on deck that h^d not been swept over-
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 95
board when the gale first took us. As we approached the brink
of the pit he let go his hold upon this, and made for the ring, from
which, in the agony of his terror, he endeavored to force my
hands, as it was not large enough to afford us both a secure
grasp. I never felt deeper grief than when I saw him attempt
this act although I knew he was a madman when he did it a
raving maniac through sheer fright. I did not care, however, to
contest the point with him.. I knew it could make no difference
whether either of us held on at all ; so I let him have the bolt,
and went astern to the cask. This there was no great difficulty
in doing ; for the smack flew round steadily enough, and upon an
even keel only swaying to and fro, with the immense sweeps
and swelters of the whirl. Scarcely had I secured myself in my
new position, when we gave a wild lurch to starboard, and rush
ed headlong into the abyss, I muttered a hurried prayer to God,
and thought all was over.
" As I felt the sickening sweep of the descent, I had instinc
tively tightened my hold upon the barrel, and closed my eyes.
For some seconds I dared not open them while I expected in
stant destruction, and wondered that I was not already in my
death-struggles with the water. But moment after moment
elapsed. I still lived. The sense of falling had ceased ; and
the motion of the vessel seemed much as it had been before, while
in the belt of foam, with the exception that she now lay more
along. I took courage, and looked once again upon the scene.
" Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and admi
ration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be
hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface
of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose
perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but
for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and
for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays
of the full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I
have already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along
the black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of
" At first I was too much confused to observe anything accu
rately. The general burst of terrific grandeur was all that 1 be-
96 FOE'S TALES.
held. When I recovered myself a little, however, my gaze fell
instinctively downward. In this direction I was able to obtain an
unobstructed view, from the manner in which the smack hung on
the inclined surface of the pool. She was quite upon an even keel
that is to say, her deck lay in a plane parallel with that of the
water but this latter sloped at an angle of more than forty-five de
grees, so that we seemed to be lying upon our beam-ends. I
could not help observing, nevertheless, that I had scarcely more
difficulty in maintaining my hold and footing in this situation,
than if we had been upon a dead level ; and this, I suppose, was
owing to the speed at which We revolved.
" The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of
the profound gulf; but still I could make out nothing distinctly,
on account of a thick mist in which everything there was en
veloped, and over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like
that narrow and tottering bridge which Mussulmen say is the
only pathway between Time and Eternity. This mist, or spray,
was no doubt occasioned by the clashing of the great walls of the
funnel, as they all met together at the bottom but the yell that
went up to the Heavens from out of that mist, I dare not attempt
" Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt of foam
above, had carried us a great distance down the slope ; but our
farther descent was by no means proportionate. Round and
round we swept not with any uniform movement but in dizzy
ing swings and jerks^ that sent us sometimes only a few hundred
yards sometimes nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. Our
progress downward, at each revolution, was slow, but very per
" Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on
which we were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the
only object in the embrace of the whirl. Both above and below
us were visible fragments of vessels, large masses of building tim
ber and trunks of trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces
of house furniture, broken boxes, barrels and staves. I have
already described the unnatural curiosity which had taken the
place of my original terrors. It appeared to grow upon me as I
drew nearer and nearer to my dreadful doom. I now began to
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 97
watch, with a strange interest, the numerous things that floated
in our company. I must have been delirious for I even soughl
amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their sev
eral descents toward the foam below. * This fir tree,' I found
myself at one time saying, ' will certainly be the next thing that
takes the awful plunge and disappears,' and then I was disap
pointed to find that the wreck of a Dutch merchant ship overtook
it and went down before. At length, after making several
guesses of this nature, and being deceived in all this fact the
fact of my invariable miscalculation set me upon a train of re
flection that made my limbs again tremble, and my heart beat
heavily once more.
" It was not a new terror that thus affected me, but the dawn of
a more exciting hope. This hope arose partly from memory,
and partly from present observation. I called to mind the great
variety of buoyant matter that strewed the coast of Lofoden, hav
ing been absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-strom.
By far the greater number of the articles were shattered in the
most extraordinary way so chafed and roughened as to have
the appearance of being stuck full of splinters but then I dis
tinctly recollected that there were some of them which were not
disfigured at all. Now I could not account for this difference ex
cept by supposing that the roughened fragments were the only
ones which had been completely absorbed that the others had
entered the whirl at so late a period of the tide, or, for some rea
son, had descended so slowly after entering, that they did not
reach the bottom before the turn of the flood came, or of the ebb,
as the case might be. I conceived it possible, in either instance,
that they might thus be whirled up again to the level of the
ocean, without undergoing the fate of those which had been
drawn in more early, or absorbed more rapidly. I made, also,
three important observations. The first was, that, as a general
rule, the larger the bodies were, the more rapid their descent
the second, that, between two masses of equal extent, the one
spherical, and the other of any other shape, the superiority in
speed of descent was with the sphere the third, that, between
two masses., of equal size, the one cylindrical, and the other of
any other shape, the cylinder was absorbed the more slowly.
8 FOE'S TALES.
Since my escape, I have had several conversations on this subject
with an old school-master of the district ; and it was from him
that I learned the use of the words ' cylinder' and ' sphere.' He
explained to me although I have forgotten the explanation
how what I observed was, in fact, the natural consequence of the
forms of the floating fragments and showed me how it happened
that a cylinder, swimming in a vortex, offered more resistance to
its suction, and was drawn in with greater difficulty than an
equally bulky body, of any form whatever.*
" There was one startling circumstance which went a great
way in enforcing these observations, and rendering me anxious to
turn them to account, and this was that, at every revolution, we
passed something like a barrel, or else the yard or the mast of a
vessel, while many of these things, which had been on our level
when I first opened my eyes upon the wonders of the whirlpool,
were now high up above us, and seemed to have moved but little
from their original station.
" I no longer hesitated what to do. I resolved to lash myself se
curely to the water cask upon which I now held, to cut it loose
from the counter, and to throw myself with it into the water. I at
tracted my brother's attention by signs, pointed to the floating barrels
that came near us, and did everything in my power to make him
understand what I was about to do. I thought at length that he
comprehended my design but, whether this was the case or not,
he shook his head despairingly, and refused to move from his sta
tion by the ring-bolt. It was impossible to reach him ; the emer
gency admitted of no delay ; and so, with a bitter struggle, I re
signed him to his fate, fastened myself to the cask by means of
the lashings which secured it to the counter, and precipitated my
self with it into the sea, without another moment's hesitation.
" The result was precisely what I had hoped it might be. As
it is myself who now tell you this tale as you see that I did
escape and as you are already in possession of the mode in
which this escape was effected, and must therefore anticipate all
that I have farther to say I will bring my story quickly to con
clusion. It might have been an hour, or thereabout, after my
* See Archimedes, " De Incidentibus in Fluido." lib. 2.
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM. 99
quitting the smack, when, having descended to a vast distance be
neath me, it made three or four wild gyrations in rapid succes
sion, and, bearing my loved brother with it, plunged headlong, at
once and forever, into the chaos of foam below. The barrel to
which I was attached sunk very little farther than half the dis
tance between the bottom of the gulf and the spot at which I leap
ed overboard, before a great change took place in the character
of the whirlpool. The slope of the sides of the vast funnel be
came momently less and less steep. The gyrations of the whirl
grew, gradually, less and less violent. By degrees, the froth and
the rainbow disappeared, and the bottom of the gulf seemed slowly
to uprise. The sky was clear, the winds had gone dqwn, and
the full moon was setting radiantly in the west, when I found
myself on the surface of the ocean, in full view of the shores of
Lofoden, and above the spot where the pool of the Moskoe-strom
had been. It was the hour of the slack but the sea still heaved
in mountainous waves from the effects of the hurricane. I was
borne violently into the channel of the Strom, and in a few min
utes was hurried down the coast into the ' grounds' of the fisher
men. A boat picked me up exhausted from fatigue and (now
that the danger was removed) speechless from the memory qf its
horror. Those who drew me on board were my old mates and
daily companions but they knew me no more than they wpuld
have known a traveller from the spirit-land. My hair which had
been raven-black the day before, was as white as you see it now.
They say too that the whole expression of my countenance had
changed. I told them my story they did not believe it. I now
tell it to you and I can scarcely expect you to put more faith
in it than did the merry fishermen of Lofoden."
100 FOE'S TALES.
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA.
Sophocles Antig :
These things are in the future.
Una. "Born again?"
Monos. Yes, fairest and best beloved Una, "born again."
These were the words upon whose mystical meaning I had so
long pondered, rejecting the explanations of the priesthood, until
Death himself resolved for me the secret.
Una. Death !
Monos. How strangely, sweet Una, you echo my words ! I
observe, too, a vacillation in your step a joyous inquietude in
your eyes. You are confused and oppressed by the majestic
novelty of the Life Eternal. Yes, it was of Death I spoke. And
here how singularly sounds that word which of old was wont to
bring terror to all hearts throwing a mildew upon all pleas
Una. Ah, Death, the spectre which sate at all feasts ! How
often, Monos, did we lose ourselves in speculations upon its na-
ture ! How mysteriously did it act as a check to human bliss
saying unto it " thus far, and no farther !" That earnest mutual
love, my own Monos, which burned within our bosoms how
vainly did we flatter ourselves, feeling happy in its first up-
springing, that our happiness would strengthen with its strength !
Alas ! as it grew, so grew in our hearts the dread of that evil
hour which was hurrying to separate us forever! Thus, in
time, it became painful to love. Hate would have been mercy
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA. 101
Monos. Speak not here of these griefs, dear Una mine,
mine forever now !
Una, But the memory of past sorrow -is it not present joy ?
I have much to say yet of the things which have been. Above
all, 1 burn to know the incidents of your own passage through
the dark Valley and Shadow.
Monos. And when did the radiant Una ask anything of her
Monos in vain ? I will be minute in relating all but at what
point shall the weird narrative begin ?
Una. At what point ?
Mono. You have said.
Una. Monos, I comprehend you. In Death we have both
learned the propensity of man to define the indefinable. I will
not say, then, commence with the moment of life's cessation
but commence with that sad, sad instant when, the fever having
abandoned you, you sank into a breathless and motionless torpor,
and I pressed down your pallid eyelids with the passionate fingers
Monos. One word first, my Una, in regard to man's general
condition at this epoch. You will remember that one or two of
the wise among our forefathers wise in fact, although not in the
world's esteem had ventured to doubt the propriety of the term
" improvement/' as applied to the progress of our civilization.
There were periods in each of the five or six centuries im
mediately preceding our dissolution, when arose some vigorous in
tellect, boldly contending for those principles whose truth appears
now, to our disenfranchised reason, so utterly obvious principles
which should have taught our race to submit to the guidance of
the natural laws, rather than attempt their control. At long in-
tervals some master-minds appeared, looking upon each advance
in practical science as a retro-gradation in the true utility. Oc
casionally the poetic intellect that intellect which we now feel to
have been the most exalted of all since those truths which to us
were of the most enduring importance could only be reached by
that analogy which speaks in proof-tones to the imagination alone,
and to the unaided reason bears no weight occasionally did this
poetic intellect proceed a step farther in the evolving of the vague
ide,a of the philosophic, and find in the mystic parable that tells
102 FOE'S TALES.
of the tree of knowledge, and of its forbidden fruit, death-pro
ducing, a distinct intimation that knowledge was not meet for
man in the infant condition of his soul. And these men the
poets- living and perishing amid the scorn of the " utilitarians"
of rough pedants, who arrogated to themselves a title which
could have been properly applied only to the scorned these men,
the poets, pondered piningly, yet not unwisely, upon the ancient
days when our wants were not more simple than our enjoyments
were keen days when mirth was a word unknown, so solemnly
deep-toned was happiness holy, august and blissful days, when
blue rivers ran undammed, between hills unhewn, into far forest
solitudes, primaeval; bdorous, and unexplored.
Yet these noble exceptions from the general misrule served but
to strengthen it by opposition. Alas! we had fallen upon the
most evil of all our evil days; The great " movement" that
was the cant term went on : a diseased commotion, moral and
physical. Art the Arts arose supreme, and, once enthroned,
cast chains upon the intellect which had elevated them to power.
Man, because he could not but acknowledge the majesty of Na
ture, fell into childish exultation at his acquired and still-in
creasing dominion over her elements. Even while he stalked
a God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over him.
As might be supposed from the origin of his disorder, he grew in
fected with system, and with abstraction. He enwrapped himself
in generalities. Among other odd ideas, that of universal equal
ity gained ground ; and in the face of analogy and of God in
despite of the loud warning voice of the laws of gradation so
visibly pervading all things in Earth and Heaven wild attempts
at an omni-prevalent Democracy were made. Yet this evil
sprang necessarily from the leading evil, Knowledge. Man
could not both know and succumb. Meantime huge smoking
cities arose, innumerable. Green leaves shrank before the hot
breath of furnaces. The fair face of Nature was deformed as
with the ravages of some loathsome disease. And methinks,
sweet Una, even our slumbering sense of the forced and of the-
far-fetched might have arrested us here. But now it appears
that we had worked out our own destruction in the perversion of
our taste, or rather in the blind neglect of its culture in the
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA. 103
schools. For, in truth, it was at this crisis that taste alone that
faculty which, holding a middle position between the pure intel
lect and the moral sense, could never safely have been disregard
ed it was now that taste alone could have led us gently back to
Beaut}r, to Nature, and to Life. But alas for the pure con
templative spirit and majestic intuition of Plato ! Alas for the
ftovfftur; which he justly regarded as an all-sufficient education for
the soul ! Alas for him and for it ! since both were most des
perately needed when both were most entirely forgotten or
Pascal, a philosopher whom we both love, has said, how truly !
" que tout notre raisonnement se reduit a ceder au sentiment;"
and it is not impossible that the sentiment of the natural, had time
permitted it, would have regained its old ascendancy over the
harsh mathematical reason of the schools. But this thing was
not to be. Prematurely induced by intemperance of knowledge,
.the old age of the world drew on. This the mass of mankind saw
not, or, living lustily although unhappily, affected not to see.
But, for myself, the Earth's records had taught me to look for
widest ruin as the price of highest civilization. I had imbibed a
prescience of our Fate from comparison of China the simple and
enduring, with Assyria the architect, with Egypt the astrologer,
with Nubia, more crafty than either, the turbulent mother of all
Arts. In historyf of these regions I met with a ray from the Fu-
* " It will be hard to discover a better [method of education] than that
which the experience of so many ages has already discovered ; and this may be
summed up as consisting in gymnastics for the body, and music for the soul."
Repub. lib. 2. " For this reason is a musical education most essential ; since
it causes Rhythm and Harmony to penetrate most intimately into the soul, ta
king the strongest hold upon it, filling it with beauty and making the man beau
tiful-minded He will praise and admire the beautiful; will receive it
with joy into his soul, will feed upon it, and assimilate his own condition with
it." Ibid. lib. 3. Music (novaiKrj) had, however, among the Athenians, a far
more comprehensive signification than with us. It included not only the har
monies of time and of tune, but the poetic diction, sentiment and creation,
each in its widest sense. The study of music was with them, in fact, the gen
eral cultivation of the taste of that which recognizes the beautiful in con-
tra-distinction from reason, whieh deals only with the true.
t " History," from taTopeiv, to contemplate.
104 FOE'S TALES.
ture. The individual artificialities of the three latter were local
diseases of the Earth, and in their individual overthrows we had
seen local remedies applied ; but for the infected world at large I
could anticipate no regeneration save in death. That man, as a
race, should not become extinct, I saw that he must be " born
And now it was, fairest and dearest, that we wrapped our spir
its, daily, in dreams. Now it \vas that, in twilight, we discoursed
of the clays to come, when the Art-scarred surface of the Earth,
having undergone that purification* which alone could efface its
rectangular obscenities, should clothe itself anew in the verdure
and the mountain-slopes and the smiling waters of Paradise, and
be rendered at length a fit dwelling-place for man : for man the
Death-purged for man to whose now exalted intellect there
should be poison in knowledge no more for the redeemed, regen
erated, blissful, and now immortal, but still for the material, man.
Una. Well do I remember these conversations, dear Monos ;
but the epoch of the fiery overthrow was not so near at hand as
we believed, and as the corruption you indicate did surely war
rant us in believing. Men lived ; and died individually. You
yourself sickened, and passed into the grave ; and thither your
constant Una speedily followed you. And though the century
which has since elapsed, and whose conclusion brings us thus to
gether once more, tortured our slumbering senses with no impa
tience of duration, yet, my Monos, it was a century still.
Monos. Say, rather, a point in the vague infinity. Unques
tionably, it was in the Earth's dotage that I died. Wearied at
neart with anxieties which had their origin in the general turmoil
and decay, I succumbed to the fierce fever. After some few days
of pain, and many of dreamy delirium replete with ecstasy, the
manifestations of which you mistook for pain, while I longed but
was impotent to undeceive you after some days there came upon
me, as you have said, a breathless and motionless torpor ; and
this was termed Death by those who stood around me.
Words are vague things. My condition did not deprive me of
* The word "purification" seems here to be used with reference to its root
in the Greek rrup, fire.
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA. 105
sentience. It appeared to me not greatly dissimilar to the ex-
treme quiescence of him, who, Having slumbered long and pro
foundly, lying motionless and fully prostrate in a midsummer
noon, begins to steal slowly back into consciousness, through the
mere sufficiency of his sleep, and without being awakened by ex
I breathed no longer. The pulses were still. The heart had
ceased to beat. Volition had not departed, but was powerless.
The senses were unusually active, although eccentrically so as
suming often each other's functions at random. The taste and
the smell were inextricably confounded, and became one senti
ment, abnormal and intense. The rose-water with which your
tenderness had moistened my lips to the last, affected me with
sweet fancies of flowers fantastic flowers, far more lovely than
any of the old Earth, but whose prototypes we have here bloom
ing* around us. The eyelids, transparent and bloodless, offered
no complete impediment to vision. As volition was in abeyance,
the balls could not roll in their sockets but all objects within the
range of the visual hemisphere were seen with more or less dis
tinctness ; the rays which fell upon the external retina, or into
the corner of the eye, producing a more vivid effect than those
which struck the front or interior surface. Yet, in the former
instance, this effect was so far anomalous that I appreciated it
only as sound sound sweet or discordant as the matters present
ing themselves at my side were light or dark in shade curved
or angular in outline. The hearing, at the same time, although
excited in degree, was not irregular in action estimating real
sounds with an extravagance of precision, not less than of sensi
bility. Touch had undergone a modification more peculiar. Its
impressions were tardily received, but pertinaciously retained,
and resulted always in the highest physical pleasure. Thus the
pressure of your sweet fingers upon my eyelids, at first only rec
ognised through vision, at length, long after their removal, filled
my whole being with a sensual delight immeasurable. I say
with a sensual delight. All my perceptions were purely sensual.
The materials furnished the passive brain by the senses were not
in the least degree wrought into shape by the deceased under
standing. Of pain there was some little ; of pleasure there was
106 POE'S TALES.
much ; but of moral pain or pleasure none at all. Thus your
wild sobs floated into my ear with all their mournful cadences,
and were appreciated in their every variation of sad tone ; but
they were soft musical sounds and no more ; they conveyed to
the extinct reason no intimation of the sorrows which gave them
birth ; while the large and constant tears which fell upon my
face, telling the bystanders of a heart which broke, thrilled every
fibre of my frame with ecstasy alone. And this was in truth the
Death of which these bystanders spoke reverently, in low whis
pers you, sweet Una, gaspingly, with loud cries.
They attired me for the coffin three or four dark figures
which flitted busily to and fro. As these crossed the direct line
of my vision they affected me as forms ; but upon passing to my
side their images impressed me with the idea of shrieks, groans,
and other dismal expressions of terror, of horror, or of wo. You
alone, habited in a white robe, passed in all directions musically
The day waned ; and, as its light faded away, I became pos
sessed by a vague uneasiness an anxiety such as the sleeper
feels when sad real sounds fall continuously within his ear low
distant bell-tones, solemn, at long but equal intervals, and com
mingling with melancholy dreams. Night arrived ; and with its
shadows a heavy discomfort. It oppressed my limbs with the op
pression of some dull weight, and was palpable. There was also
a moaning sound, not unlike the distant reverberation of surf, but
more continuous, which, beginning with the first twilight, had
grown in strength with the darkness. Suddenly lights were
brought into the room, and this reverberation became forthwith
interrupted into frequent unequal bursts of the same sound, but
less dreary and less distinct. The ponderous oppression was in
a great measure relieved ; and, issuing from the flame of each
lamp, (for there were many,) there flowed unbrokenly into my
ears a strain of melodious monotone. And when now, dear Una,
approaching the bed upon which I lay outstretched, you sat gently
by my side, breathing odor from your sweet lips, and pressing
them upon my brow, there arose tremulously within my bosom,
and mingling with the merely physical sensations which circum
stances had called forth, a something akin to sentiment itself a
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA. 107
feeling that, half appreciating, half responded to your earnest love
and sorrow ; but this feeling took no root in the pulseless heart,
and seemed indeed rather a shadow than a reality, and faded
quickly away, first into extreme quiescence, and then into a purely
sensual pleasure as before.
And now, from the wreck and the chaos of the usual senses,
there appeared to have arisen within me a sixth, all perfect. In
its exercise I found a wild delight yet a delight still physical, in
asmuch as the understanding had in it no part. Motion in the
animal frame had fully ceased. No muscle quivered ; no nerve
thrilled ; no artery throbbed. But there seemed to have sprung
up in the brain, that of which no words could convey to the merely
human intelligence even an indistinct conception. Let me term
it a mental pendulous pulsation. It was the moral embodiment
of man's abstract idea of Time. By the absolute equalization
of this movement or of such as this had the cycles of the fir-
mamental orbs themselves, been adjusted. By its aid I measured
the irregularities of the clock upon the mantel, and of the watches
of the attendants. Their tickings came sonorously to my ears.
The slightest deviations from the true proportion and these devi
ations were omni-prsevalent affected me just as violations of ab
stract truth were wont, on earth, to affect the moral sense. Al
though no two of the time-pieces in the chamber struck the indi
vidual seconds accurately together, yet I had no difficulty in hold
ing steadily in mind the tones, and the respective momentary
errors of each. And this this keen, perfect, self-existing senti
ment of duration this sentiment existing (as man could not pos
sibly have conceived it to exist) independently of any succession
of events this idea this sixth sense, upspringing from the ashes
of the rest, was the first obvious and certain step of the intempo-
ral soul upon the threshold of the temporal Eternity.
It was midnight ; and you still sat by my side. All others
had departed from the chamber of Death. They had deposited
me in the coffin. The lamps burned flickeringly ; for this I knew
by the tremulousness of the monotonous strains. But, suddenly
these strains diminished in distinctness and in volume. Finally
they ceased. The perfume in my nostrils died away. Forms
affected my vision no longer. The oppression of the Darkness
108 FOE'S TALES.
uplifted itself from my bosom. A dull shock like that of elec
tricity pervaded my frame, and was followed by total loss of the
idea of contact. All of what man has termed sense was merged
in the sole consciousness of entity, and in the one abiding senti
ment of duration. The mortal body had been at length stricken
with the hand of the deadly Decay.
Yet had not all of sentience departed ; for the consciousness
and the sentiment remaining supplied some of its functions by a
lethargic intuition. I appreciated the direful change now in ope
ration upon the flesh, and, as the dreamer is sometimes aware
of the bodily presence of one who leans over him, so, sweet Una,
I still dully felt that you sat by my side. So, too, when the
noon of the second day came, I was not unconscious of those
movements which displaced you from my side, which confined
me within the coffin, which deposited me within the hearse, which
bore me to the grave, which lowered me within it, which heaped
heavily the mould upon me, and which thus left me, in blackness
and corruption, to my sad and solemn slumbers with the worm.
And here, in the prison-house which has few secrets to disclose,
there rolled away days and weeks and months ; and the soul
watched narrowly each second as it flew, and, without effort,
took record of its flight without effort and without object.
A year passed. The consciousness of /being had grown hour
ly more indistinct, and that of mere locality had, in great meas
ure, usurped its position. The idea of entity was becoming
merged in that of place. The narrow space immediately sur
rounding what had been the body, was now growing to be the
body itself. At length, as often happens to the sleeper (by sleep
and its world alone is Death imaged) at length, as sometimes
happened on Earth to the deep slumberer, when some flitting
light half startled him into awaking, yet left him half enveloped
in dreams so to me, in the strict embrace of the Shadoiv, came
that light which alone might have had power to startle the light
of enduring Love. Men toiled at the grave in which I lay darkling.
They upthrew the damp earth. Upon my mouldering bones there
descended the coffin of Una.
And now again all was void. That nebulous light had 1>een
extinguished. That feeble thrill had vibrated itself into quies-
THE COLLOQUY OF MONOS AND UNA. 109
cence. Many lustra had supervened. Dust had returned to
dust. The worm had food no more. The sense of being had at
length utterly departed, and there reigned in its stead instead of
all things- dominant and perpetual the autocrats Place and
Time. For that which was not for that which had no form
for that which had no thought for that which had no sentience
for that which was soulless, yet of which matter formed no por
tion for all this nothingness, yet for all this immortality, the
grave was still a home, and the corrosive hours, co-mates.
HO POE'S TALES.
CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION.
I will bring fire to thee.
Euripides Androm :
WHY do you call me Eiros ?
So henceforward will you always be called. You must forget,
too, my earthly name, and speak to me as Charmion.
This is indeed no dream !
Dreams are with us no more ; but of these mysteries anon.
I rejoice to see you looking life-like and rational. The film of
the shadow has already passed from off your eyes. Be of heart,
and fear nothing. Your allotted days of stupor have expired ;
and, to-morrow, I will myself induct you into the full joys and
wonders of your novel existence.
True I feel no stupor none at all. The wild sickness and
the terrible darkness have left me, and I hear no longer that mad,
rushing, horrible sound, like the " voice of many waters." Yet
my senses are bewildered, Charmion, with the keenness of their
perception of the new.
A few days will remove all this ; but I fully understand you,
and feel for you. It is now ten earthly years since I underwent
THE CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION. Ill
what you undergo yet the remembrance of it hangs by me still.
You have now suffered all of pain, however, which you will
suffer in Aidenn.
In Aidenn ?
Oh God ! pity me, Charmion ! I am overburthened with the
majesty of all things of the unknown now known of the spec
ulative Future merged in the august and certain Present.
Grapple not now with such thoughts. To-morrow we will
speak of this. Your mind wavers, and its agitation will find re
lief in the exercise of simple memories. Look not around, nor
forward but back. I am burning with anxiety to hear the de
tails of that stupendous event which threw you among us. Tell
me of it. Let us converse of familiar things, in the old familiar
language of the world which has so fearfully perished.
Most fearfully, fearfully ! this is indeed no dream.
Dreams are no more. Was I much mourned, my Eiros ?
Mourned, Charmion ? oh deeply. To that last hour of all,
there hung a cloud of intense gloonxand devout sorrow over your
And that last hour speak of it. Remember that, beyond the
naked fact of the catastrophe itself, I know nothing. When,
coming out from among mankind, I passed into Night through
the Grave at that period, if I remember aright, the calamity
which overwhelmed you was utterly unanticipated. But, in
deed, I knew little of the speculative philosophy of the day,
The individual calamity was, as you say, entirely unantici-
J12 POE'S TALES.
pated ; but analogous misfortunes had been long a subject of dis
cussion with astronomers. I need scarce tell you, my friend,
that, even when you left us, men had agreed to understand those
passages in the most holy writings which speak of the final de
struction of all things by fire, as having reference to the orb of
the earth alone. But in regard to the immediate agency of the
ruin, speculation had been at fault from that epoch in astronom
ical knowledge in which the comets were divested of the terrors
of flame. The very moderate density of these bodies had been
well established. They had been observed to pass among the
satellites of Jupiter, without bringing about any sensible altera
tion either in the masses or in the orbits of these secondary
planets. We had long regarded the wanderers as vapory cre
ations of inconceivable tenuity, and as altogether incapable of
doing injury to our substantial globe, even in the event of con.
tact. But contact was not in any degree dreaded ; for the ele
ments of all the comets were accurately known. That among
them we should look for the agency of the threatened fiery de
struction had been for many years considered an inadmissible
idea. But wonders and wild fancies had been, of late days,
strangely rife among mankind * and, although it was only with a
few of the ignorant that actual apprehension prevailed, upon the
announcement by astronomers of a new comet, yet this announce
ment was generally received with I know not what of agitation
The elements of the strange orb were immediately calculated,
and it was at once conceded by all observers, that its path, at
perihelion, would bring it into very close proximity with the
earth. There were two or three astronomers, of secondary note,
who resolutely maintained that a contact was inevitable. I can
not very well express to you the effect of this intelligence upon
the people. For a few short days they would not believe an as
sertion which their intellect, so long employed among worldly con
siderations, could not in any manner grasp. But the truth of a
vitally important fact soon makes its way into the understanding
of even the most stolid. Finally, all men saw that astronomical
knowledge lied not, and they awaited the comet. Its approach
was not, at first, seemingly rapid ; nor was its appearance of
THE CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION. 113
very unusual character. It was of a dull red, and had little per
ceptible train. For seven or eight days we saw no material in
crease in its apparent diameter, and but a partial alteration in its
color. Meantime, the ordinary affairs of men were discarded,
and all interests absorbed in a growing discussion, instituted by
the philosophic, in respect to the cometary nature. Even the
grossly ignorant aroused their sluggish capacities to such con
siderations. The learned now gave their intellect their soul to
no such points as the allaying of fear, or to the sustenance of loved
theory. They sought they panted for right views. They groaned
for perfected knowledge. Truth arose in the purity of her strength
and exceeding majesty, and the wise bowed down and adored.
That material injury to our globe or to its inhabitants would
result from the apprehended contact, was an opinion which hour
ly lost ground among the wise j and the wise were now freely
permitted to rule the reason and the fancy of the crowd. It was
demonstrated, that the density of the comet's nucleus was far less
than that of our rarest gas j and the harmless passage of a similar
visitor among the satellites of Jupiter was a point strongly insisted
upon, and which served greatly to allay terror. Theologists, with
an earnestness fear-enkindled, dwelt upon the biblical prophecies,
and expounded them to the people with a directness and simplicity
of which no previous instance had been known. That the final
destruction of the earth must be brought about by the agency of
fire, was urged with a spirit that enforced every where conviction ;
and that the comets were of no fiery nature (as all men now
knew) was a truth which relieved all, in a great measure, from
the apprehension of the great calamity foretold. It is noticeable
that the popular prejudices and vulgar errors in regard to pesti
lences and wars errors which were wont to prevail upon every
appearance of a comet were now altogether unknown. As if
by some sudden convulsive exertion, reason had at once hurled
superstition from her throne. The feeblest intellect had derived
vigor from excessive interest.
What minor evils might arise from the contact were points of
elaborate question. The learned spoke of slight geological dis
turbances, of probable alterations in climate, and consequently in
vegetation ; of possible magnetic and electric influences. Many
114 FOE'S TALES.
held that no visible or perceptible effect would in any manner be
produced. While such discussions were going on, their subject
gradually approached, growing larger in apparent diameter, and
of a more brilliant lustre. Mankind grew paler as it came. All
human operations were suspended .
There was an epoch in the course of the general sentiment
when the comet had attained, at length, a size surpassing that of
any previously recorded visitation. The people now, dismissing
any lingering hope that the astronomers were wrong, experienced
all the certainty of evil. The chimerical aspect of their terror
was gone. The hearts of the stoutest of our race beat violently
within their bosoms. A very few days sufficed, however, to
merge even such feelings in sentiments more unendurable. We
could no longer apply to the strange orb any accustomed thoughts.
Its historical attributes had disappeared. It oppressed us with a
hideous novelty of emotion. We saw it not as an astronomical
phenomenon in the heavens, but as an incubus upon our hearts,
and a shadow upon our brains. It had taken, with inconceivable
rapidity, the character of a gigantic mantle of rare flame, extend
ing from horizon to horizon.
Yet a day, and men breathed with greater freedom. It was
clear that we were already within the influence of the comet ;
yet we lived. We even felt an unusual elasticity of frame and
vivacity of mind. The exceeding tenuity of the object of our
dread was apparent ; for all heavenly objects were plainly visible
through it. Meantime, our vegetation had perceptibly altered ;
and we gained faith, from this predicted circumstance, in the fore
sight of the wise. A wild luxuriance of foliage, utterly unknown
before, burst out upon every vegetable thing.
Yet another day and the evil was not altogether upon us. It
was now evident that its nucleus would first reach us. A wild
change had come over all men ; and the first sense of pain was
the wild signal for general lamentation and horror. This first
sense of pain lay in a rigorous constriction of the breast and
lungs, and an insufferable dryness of the skin. It could not be
denied that our atmosphere was radically affected ; the conforma
tion of this atmosphere and the possible modifications to which it
might be subjected, were now the topics of discussion. The re-
THE CONVERSATION OF EIROS AND CHARMION. 115
suit of investigation sent an electric thrill of the intensest terror
through the universal heart of man.
It had been long known that the air which encircled us was a
compound of oxygen and nitrogen gases, in the proportion of
twenty-one measures of oxygen, and seventy-nine of nitrogen, in
every one hundred of the atmosphere. Oxygen, which was the
principle of combustion, and the vehicle of heat, was absolutely
necessary to the support of animal life, and was the most power
ful and energetic agent in nature. Nitrogen, on the contrary,
was incapable of supporting either animal life or flame. An un
natural excess of oxygen would result, it had been ascertained,
in just such an elevation of the animal spirits as we had lat
terly experienced. It was the pursuit, the extension of the idea,
which had engendered awe. What would be the result of a to
tal exlraction of the nitrogen ? A combustion irresistible, all-
devouring, omni-prevalent, immediate ; the entire fulfilment, in
all their minute and terrible details, of the fiery and horror-in
spiring denunciations of the prophecies of the Holy Book.
Why need I paint, Charmion, the now disenchained frenzy of
mankind ? That tenuity in the comet which had previously in
spired us with hope, was now the source of the bitterness of de
spair. In its impalpable gaseous character we clearly perceived
the consummation of Fate. Meantime a day again passed
bearing away with it the last shadow of Hope. We gasped in
the rapid modification of the air. The red blood bounded tumul-
tuously through its strict channels. A furious delirium possessed
all men ; and, with arms rigidly outstretched towards the threat
ening heavens, they trembled and shrieked aloud. But the nu
cleus of the destroyer was now upon us ; even here in Aidenn,
I shudder while I speak. Let me be brief brief as the ruin that
overwhelmed. For a moment there was a wild lurid light alone,
visiting and penetrating all things. Then let us bow down,
Charmion, before the excessive majesty of the great God ! then,
there came a shouting and pervading sound, as if from the mouth
itself of HIM ; while the whole incumbent mass of ether in which
we existed, burst at once into a species of intense flame, for whose
surpassing brilliancy and all-fervid heat even the angels in the
high Heaven of pure knowledge have no name. Thus ended all.
116 FOE'S TALES.
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE.
What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid
himself among women, although puzzling questions, are not beyond all con
Sir TTiomas Browne.
THE mental features discoursed of as the analytical, are, in
themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate
them only in their effects. We know of them, among other
things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately
possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong
man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as
call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral
activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from even the
most trivial occupations bringing his talent into play. He is fond
of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics ; exhibiting in his
solutions of each a degree of acumen which appears to the ordi
nary apprehension preternatural. His results, brought about by
the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air
The faculty of re-solution is possibly much invigorated by
mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it
which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrograde opera
tions, has been called, as if par excellence, analysis. Yet to cal
culate is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for example,
does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game
of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misun
derstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing
a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations yery much at ran-
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 117
dom ; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher
powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more
usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all
the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces
have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable
values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error)
for what is profound. The attention is here called powerfully
into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed,
resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only
manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multi
plied ; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative
rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on
the contrary, where the moves are unique and have but little va
riation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the
mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advan
tages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen.
To be less abstract Let us suppose a game of draughts where
the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course, no
oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the victory can
be decided (the players being at all equal) only by some recher
che movement, the result of some strong exertion of the intellect.
Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws himself into
the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not un-
frequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes
indeed absurdly simple ones) by which he may seduce into error
or hurry into miscalculation.
Whist has long been noted for its influence upon what is
termed the calculating power ; and men of the highest order of
intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable
delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous. Beyond doubt
there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty
of analysis. The best chess-player in Christendom may be little
more than the best player of chess ; but proficiency in whist im
plies capacity for success in all those more important undertakings
where mind struggles with mind. When I say proficiency, I
mean that perfection in the game which includes a comprehension
of all the sources whence legitimate advantage may be derived.
These are not only manifold but multiform, and lie frequently
118 FOE'S TALES.
among recesses of thought altogether inaccessible to the ordinary
understanding. To observe attentively is to remember distinctly ;
and, so far, the concentrative chess-player will do very well at
whist; while the rules of Hoyle (themselves based upon the mere
mechanism of the game) are sufficiently and generally compre
hensible. Thus to have a retentive memory, and to proceed by
" the book," are points commonly regarded as the sum total of
good playing. But it is in matters beyond the limits of mere rule
that the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes, in silence, a
host of observations and inferences. So, perhaps, do his com
panions ; and the difference in the extent of the information ob
tained, lies not so much in the validity of the inference as in the
quality of the observation. The necessary knowledge is that of
what to observe. Our player confines himself not at all ; nor,
because the game is the object, does he reject deductions from
things external to the game. He examines the countenance of
his partner, comparing it carefully with that of each of his oppo
nents. He considers the mode of assorting the cards in each
hand ; often counting trump by trump, and honor by honor, through
the glances bestowed by their holders upon each. He notes every
variation of face as the play progresses, gathering a fund of
thought from the differences in the expression of certainty, of
surprise, of triumph, or of chagrin. From the manner of gather
ing up a trick he judges whether the person taking it can make
another in the suit. He recognises what is played through feint,
by the air with which it is thrown upon the table, A casual or
inadvertent word ; the accidental dropping or turning of a card,
with the accompanying anxiety or carelessness in regard to its
concealment ; the counting of the tricks, with the order of their
arrangement ; embarrassment, hesitation, eagerness or trepidation
all afford, to his apparently intuitive perception, indications of
the true state of affairs. The first two or three rounds having
been played, he is in full possession of the contents of each hand,
and thenceforward puts down his cards with as absolute a precision
of purpose as if the rest of the party had turned outward the
faces of their own.
The analytical power should not be confounded with simple in
genuity ; for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the inge-
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 119
nious man is often remarkably incapable of analysis. The con
structive or combining power, by which ingenuity is usually
manifested, and to which the phrenologists (I believe erroneously)
have assigned a separate organ, supposing it a primitive faculty,
has been so frequently seen in those whose intellect bordered other
wise upon idiocy, as to have attracted general observation among
writers on morals. Between ingenuity and the analytic ability
there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that between the
fancy and the imagination, but of a character very strictly anal
ogous. It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always
fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than ana
The narrative which follows will appear to the reader some
what in the light of a commentary upon the propositions just ad
Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of
18 , I there became acquainted with a Monsieur C. Auguste
Dupin. This young gentleman was of an excellent indeed of an
illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been
reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character suc
cumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world,
or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his
creditors, there still remained in his possession a small remnant
of his patrimony ; and, upon the income arising from this, he
managed, by means of a rigorous economy, to procure the neces
saries of life, without troubling himself about its superfluities.
Books, indeed, were his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are
Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the Rue Mont-
martre, where the accident of our both being in search of the
same very rare and very remarkable volume, brought us into
closer communion. We saw each other again and again. I was
deeply interested in the little family history which he detailed to
me with all that candor which a Frenchman indulges whenever
mere self is his theme. I was astonished, too, at the vast extent
of his reading ; and, above all, I felt my soul enkindled within
me by the wild fervor, and the vivid freshness of his imagination.
Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society
120 FOE'S TALES.
of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price ; and this
feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that
we should live together during my stay in the city ; and as my
worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his
own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnish,
ing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our
common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long de
serted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and
tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Fau
bourg St. Germain.
Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the
world, we should have been regarded as madmen although, per
haps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was per
fect. We admitted no visitors. Indeed the locality of our re
tirement had been carefully kept a secret from my own former
associates ; and it had been many years since Dupin had ceased
to know or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves
It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call
it ?) to be enamored of the Night for her own sake ; and into
this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell ; giving myself
up to his wild whims with a perfect abandon. The sable divinity
would not herself dwell with us always ; but we could counter
feit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed
all the massy shutters of our old building ; lighting a couple of
tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest
and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our
souls in dreams reading, writing, or conversing, until warned
by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we
sallied forth into the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of
the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid
the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of
mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.
At such times I could not help remarking and admiring (al
though from his rich ideality I had been prepared to expect it) a
peculiar analytic ability in Dupin. He seemed, too, to take an
eager delight in its exercise if not exactly in its display and
did not hesitate to confess the pleasure thus derived. He boasted
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 121
to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to
himself, wore windows in their bosoms, and was wont to follow
up such assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his in
timate knowledge of my own. His manner at these moments
was frigid and abstract ; his eyes were vacant in expression ;
while his voice, usually a rich tenor, rose into a treble which
would have sounded petulantly but for the deliberateness and en
tire distinctness of the enunciation. Observing hirn in these
moods, I often dwelt meditatively upon the old philosophy of the
Bi-Part Soul, and amused myself with the fancy of a double
Dupin the creative and the resolvent.
Let it not be supposed, from what I have just said, that I am
detailing any mystery, or penning any romance. What I have
described in the Frenchman, was merely the result of an ex
cited, or perhaps of a diseased intelligence. But of the charac
ter of his remarks at the periods in question an example will best
convey the idea.
We were strolling one night down a long dirty street, in the
vicinity of the Palais Royal. Being both, apparently, occupied
with thought, neither of us had spoken a syllable for fifteen min
utes at least. All at once Dupin broke forth with these words:
" He is a very little fellow, that's true, and would do better for
the Theatre des Varietes"
" There can be no doubt of that," I replied unwittingly, and
not at first observing (so much had I been absorbed in reflection)
the extraordinary manner in which the speaker had chimed in
with my meditations. In an instant afterward I recollected my
self, and my astonishment was profound.
" Dupin," said I, gravely, " this is beyond my comprehension.
I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed, and can scarcely
credit my senses. How was it possible you should know I was
thinking of ?'"' Here I paused, to ascertain beyond a
doubt whether he really knew of whom I thought.
" of Chantilly," said he, " why do you pause ? You
were remarking to yourself that his diminutive figure unfitted
him for tragedy."
This was precisely what had formed the subject of my reflec
tions. Chantilly was a quondam cobbler of the Rue St. Denis,
122 POE'S TALES.
who, becoming stage-mad, had attempted the role of Xerxes, in
Crebillon's tragedy so called, and been notoriously Pasquinaded
for his pains.
" Tell me, for Heaven's sake," I exclaimed, " the method if
method there is by which you have been enabled to fathom my
soul in this matter." In fact I was even more startled than I
would have been willing to express.
" It was the fruiterer," replied my friend, " who brought you
to the conclusion that the mender of soles was not of sufficient
height for Xerxes et id genus omne."
" The fruiterer ! you astonish me I know no fruiterer whom-
" The man who ran up against you as we entered the street
it may have been fifteen minutes ago."
I now remembered that, in fact, a fruiterer, carrying upon his
head a large basket of apples, had nearly thrown me down, by
accident, as we passed from the Rue C into the thorough
fare where we stood ; but what this had to do with Chantilly I
could not possibly understand.
There was not a particle of charlatanerie about Dupin. " I
will explain," he said, " and that you may comprehend all
clearly, we will first retrace the course of your meditations, from
the moment in which I spoke to you until that of the rencontre
with the fruiterer in question. The larger links of the chain run
thus Chantilly, Orion, Dr. Nichols, Epicurus, Stereotomy, the
street stones, the fruiterer."
There are few persons who have not, at some period of their
lives, amused themselves in retracing the steps by which particu
lar conclusions of their own minds have been attained. The oc
cupation is often full of interest ; and he who attempts it for the
first time is astonished by the apparently illimitable distance and
incoherence between the starting-point and the goal. What, then,
must have been my amazement when I heard the Frenchman
speak what he had just spoken, and when I could not help ac
knowledging that he had spoken the truth. He continued :
" We had been talking of horses, if I remember aright, just
before leaving the Rue C . This was the last subject we
discussed. As we crossed into this street, a fruiterer, with a
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 123
large basket upon his head, brushing quickly past us, thrust you
upon a pile of paving-stones collected at a spot where the cause
way is undergoing repair. You stepped upon one of the loose
fragments, slipped, slightly strained your ankle, appeared vexed
or sulky, muttered a few words, turned to look at the pile, and
then proceeded in silence. I was not particularly attentive to
what you did ; but observation has become with me, of late, a
species of necessity.
"You kept your eyes upon the ground glancing, with a petu
lant expression, at the holes and ruts in the pavement, (so that I
saw you were still thinking of the stones,) until we reached the
little alley called Lamartine, which has been paved, by way of
experiment, with the overlapping and riveted blocks. Here your
countenance brightened up, and, perceiving your lips move, I
could not doubt that you murmured the word ' stereotomy,' a
term very affectedly applied to this species of pavement. I knew
that you could not say to yourself ' stereotomy ' without being
brought to think of atomies, and thus of the theories of Epicurus ;
and since, when we discussed this subject not very long ago, I
mentioned to you how singularly, yet with how little notice, the
vague* guesses of that noble Greek had met with confirmation in
the late nebular cosmogony, I felt that you could not avoid cast
ing your eyes upward to the great nebula in Orion, and I cer
tainly expected that you would do so. You did look up ; and I
was now assured that I had correctly followed your steps. But
in that bitter tirade upon Chantilly, which appeared in yester
day's ' Musee,' the satirist, making some disgraceful allusions
to the cobbler's change of name upon assuming the buskin, quoted
a Latin line about which we have often conversed. I mean the
Perdidit antiquum litera prima sonum
I had told you that this was in reference to Orion, formerly writ
ten Urion ; and, from certain pungencies connected with this ex
planation, I was aware that you could not have forgotten it. It
was clear, therefore, that you would not fail to combine the two
ideas of Orion and Chantilly. That you did combine them I saw
by the character of the smile which passed over your lips. You
124 FOE'S TALES.
thought of the poor cobbler's immolation. So far, you had been
stooping in your gait j but now I saw you draw yourself up to
your full height. I was then sure that you reflected upon the
diminutive figure of Chantilly. At this point I interrupted your
meditations to remark that as, in fact, he was a very little fellow
that Chantilly he would do better at the Theatre des Va-
Not long after this, we were looking over an evening edition
of the " Gazette des Tribunaux," when the following paragraphs
arrested our attention.
" EXTRAORDINARY MURDERS. This morning, about three
o'clock, the inhabitants of the Quartier St. Roch were aroused
from sleep by a succession of terrific shrieks, issuing, apparently,
from the fourth story of a house in the Rue Morgue, known to be
in the sole occupancy of one Madame L'Espanaye, and her
daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L'Espanaye. After some delay,
occasioned by a fruitless attempt to procure admission in the
usual manner, the gateway was broken in with a crowbar, and
eight or ten of the neighbors entered, accompanied by two gen
darmes. By this time the cries had ceased ; but, as the party
rushed up the first flight of stairs, two or more rough voices, in
angry contention, were distinguished, and seemed to proceed from
the upper part of the house. As the second landing was reached,
these sounds, also, had ceased, and everything remained perfectly
quiet. The party spread themselves, and hurried from room to
room. Upon arriving at a large back chamber in the fourth
story, (the door of which, being found locked, with the key in
side, was forced open,) a spectacle presented itself which struck
every one present not less with horror than with astonishment.
" The apartment was in the wildest disorder the furniture
broken and thrown about in all directions. There was only one
bedstead ; and from this the bed had been removed, and thrown
into the middle of the floor. On a chair lay a razor, besmeared
with blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses
of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have
been pulled out by the roots. Upon the floor were found four
Napoleons, an ear-ring of topaz, three large silver spoons, three
smaller of metal d'Alger, and two bags, containing nearly four
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 125
thousand francs in gold. The drawers of a bureau, which stood
in one corner, were open, and had been, apparently, rifled, al
though many articles still remained in them. A small iron safe
was discovered under the bed (not under the bedstead). It was
open, with the key still in the door. It had no contents beyond
a few old letters, and other papers of little consequence.
" Of Madame L'Espanaye no traces were here seen ; but an
unusual quantity of soot being observed in the fire-place, a
search was made in the chimney, and (horrible to relate !) the
corpse of the daughter, head downward, was dragged therefrom ;
it having been thus forced up the narrow aperture for a consider
able distance. The body was quite warm. Upon examining
it, many excoriations were perceived, no doubt occasioned by the
violence with which it had been thrust up and disengaged. Upon
the face were many severe scratches, and, upon the throat, dark
bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails, as if the deceased
had been throttled to death.
" After a thorough investigation of every portion of the house,
without farther discovery, the party made its way into a small
paved yard in the rear of the building, where lay the corpse of
the old lady, with her throat so entirely cut that, upon an attempt
to raise her, the head fell off. The body, as well as the head, was
fearfully mutilated the former so much so as scarcely to retain
any semblance of humanity.
" To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the
The next day's paper had these additional particulars.
" The Tragedy in the Rue Morgue. Many individuals have
been examined in relation to this most extraordinary and frightful
affair." [The word i affaire' has not yet, in France, that levity
of import which it conveys with us,] " but nothing whatever has
transpired to throw light upon it. We give below all the mate-
rial testimony elicited.
"Pauline Dubourg, laundress, deposes that she has known
both the deceased for three years, having washed for them during
that period. The old lady and her daughter seemed on good
terms very affectionate towards each other. They were excel
lent pay. Could not speak in regard to their mode or means of
126 POE'S TALES.
living. Believed that Madame L. told fortunes for a living.
Was reputed to have money put by. Never met any persons 'in
the house when she called for the clothes or took them home.
Was sure that they had no servant in employ. There appeared
to be no furniture in any part of the building except in the fourth
" Pierre Moreau, tobacconist, deposes that he has been in the
habit of selling small quantities of tobacco and snuff to Madame
L'Espanaye for nearly four years. Was born in the neighbor
hood, and has always resided there. The deceased and her
daughter had occupied the house in which the corpses were found,
for more than six years. It was formerly occupied by a jeweller,
who under-let the upner rooms to various persons. The house
was the property of Madame L. She became dissatisfied with
the abuse of the premises by her tenant, and moved into them
herself, refusing to let any portion. The old lady was childish.
Witness had seen the daughter some five or six times during the
six years. The two lived an exceedingly retired life were reputed
to have money. Had heard it said among the neighbors that
Madame L. told fortunes did not believe it. Had never seen
any person enter the door except the old lady and her daugh
ter, a porter once or twice, and a physician some eight or ten
" Many other persons, neighbors, gave evidence to the same
effect. No one was spoken of as frequenting the house. It was
not known whether there were any living connexions of Madame
L. and her daughter. The shutters of the front windows were
seldom opened. Those in the rear were always closed, with the
exception of the large back room, fourth story. The house was
a good house not very old.
" Isidore Muset, gendarme, deposes that he was called to the
house about three o'clock in the morning, and found some twenty
or thirty persons at the gateway, endeavoring to gain admittance.
Forced it open, at length, with a bayonet not with a crowbar.
Had but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its being
a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at bottom nor top.
The shrieks were continued until the gate was forced and then
suddenly ceased. They seemed to be screams of some person
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 127
(or persons) in great agony were loud and drawn out, not short
and quick. Witness led the way up stairs. Upon reaching the
first landing, heard two voices in loud and angry contention the
one a gruff voice, the other much shriller a very strange voice.
Could distinguish some words of the former, which was that of a
Frenchman. Was positive that it was not a woman's voice.
Could distinguish the words ' sacre' and '(Liable.' The shrill
voice was that of a foreigner. Could not be sure whether it was
the voice of a man or of a woman. Could not make out what
was said, but believed the language to be Spanish. The state of
the room and of the bodies was described by this witness as we
described them yesterday.
" Henri Duval, a neighbor, and by trade a silver-smith, de
poses that he was one of the party who first entered the house.
Corroborates the testimony of Muset in general. As soon as
they forced an entrance, they reclosed the door, to keep out the
crowd, which collected very fast, notwithstanding the lateness of
the hour. The shrill voice, this witness thinks, was that of an
Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could not be sure that
it was a man's voice. It might have been a woman's. Was not
acquainted with the Italian language. Could not distinguish the
words, but was convinced by the intonation that the speaker was
an Italian. Knew Madame L. and her daughter. Had con
versed with both frequently. Was sure that the shrill voice was
not that of either of the deceased.
" Odenheimer, restaurateur. This witness volunteered
his testimony. Not speaking French, was examined through an
interpreter. Is a native of Amsterdam. Was passing the house
at the time of the shrieks. They lasted for several minutes
probably ten. They were long and loud very awful and dis
tressing. Was one of those who entered the building. Corrob
orated the previous evidence in every respect but one. Was sure
that the shrill voice was that of a man of a Frenchman. Could
not distinguish the words uttered. They were loud and quick
unequal spoken apparently in fear as well as in anger. The
voice was harsh not so much shrill as harsh. Could not call it
a shrill voice. The gruff voice said repeatedly ( sacre,' ' (liable, 9
and once ' mon DieuS
128 POE'S TALES.
" Jules Mignaud, banker, of the firm of Mignaud et Fils,
Rue Deloraine. Is the elder Mignaud. Madame L'Espanaye
had some property. Had opened an account with his banking
house in the spring of the year (eight years previously).
Made frequent deposits in small sums. Had checked for nothing
until the third day before her death, when she took out in person
the sum of 4000 francs. This sum was paid in gold, and a
clerk sent home with the money.
" Adolphe Le Bon, clerk to Mignaud et Fils, deposes that on the
day in question, about noon, he accompanied Madame L'Espanaye
to her residence with the 4000 francs, put up in two bags. Upon
the door being opened, Mademoiselle L. appeared and took from
his hands one of the bags, while the old lady relieved him of the
other. He then bowed and departed. Did not see any person
in the street at the time. It is a bye-street very lonely.
" William Bird, tailor, deposes that he was one of the party
who entered the house. Is an Englishman. Has lived in Paris
two years. Was one of the first to ascend the stairs. Heard
the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a French
man. Could make out several words, but cannot now remember
all. Heard distinctly ' sacre? and ' mon Dieu.' There was a
sound at the moment as if of several persons struggling a scra
ping and scuffling sound. The shrill voice was very loud louder
than the gruff one. Is sure that it was not the voice of an Eng
lishman. Appeared to be that of a German. Might have been
a woman's voice. Does not understand German.
" Four of the above-named witnesses, being recalled, deposed
that the door of the chamber in which was found the body of
Mademoiselle L. was locked on the inside when the party reach
ed it. Every thing was perfectly silent no groans or noises of
any kind. Upon forcing the door no person was seen. The
windows, both of the back and front room, were down and firmly
fastened from within. A door between the two rooms was closed,
but not locked. The 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 fourth story, at the head of the
passage, was open, the door being ajar. This room was crowded
with old beds, boxes, and so forth. These were carefully remov-
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 129
ed and searched. There was not an inch of any portion of the
house which was not carefully searched. Sweeps were sent up
and down the chimneys. The house was a four story one, with
garrets (inansardes.} A trap-door on the roof was nailed down
very securely did not appear to have been opened for years.
The time elapsing between the hearing of the voices in contention
and the breaking open of the room door, was variously stated by
the witnesses. Some made it as short as three minutes some as
long as five. The door was opened with difficulty.
" Alfonzo Gar do, undertaker, deposes that he resides in the
Rue Morgue. Is a native of Spain. Was one of the party who
entered the house. Did not proceed up stairs. Is nervous, and
was apprehensive of the consequences of agitation. Heard the
voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman.
Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill voice was that
of an Englishman is sure of this. Does not understand the
English language, but judges by the intonation.
" Alberto Montani, confectioner, deposes that he was among the
first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in question. The
gruff* voice was that of a Frenchman. Distinguished several
words. The speaker appeared to be expostulating. Could not
make out the words of the shrill voice. Spoke quick and une
venly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. Corroborates the
general testimony. Is an Italian. Never conversed with a na
tive of Russia.
" Several witnesses, recalled, here testified that the chimneys
of all the rooms on the fourth story were too narrow to admit the
passage of a human being. By ' sweeps' were meant cylindrical
sweeping-brushes, such as are employed by those who clean
chimneys. These brushes were passed up and down every flue
in the house. There is no back passage by which any one could
have descended while the party proceeded up stairs. The body
of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye was so firmly wedged in the chim
ney that it could not be got down until four or five of the party
united their strength.
" Paul Dumas, physician, deposes that he was called to view
the bodies about day-break. They were both then lying on the
sacking of the bedstead in the chamber where Mademoiselle L.
130 FOE'S TALES.
was found. The corpse of the young lady was much bruised
and excoriated. The fact that it had been thrust up the chimney
would sufficiently account for these appearances. The throat
was greatly chafed. There were several deep scratches just below
the chin, together with a series of livid spots which were evi.
dently the impression of fingers. The face was fearfully discol
ored, and the eye-balls protruded. The tongue had been partial
ly bitten through. A large bruise was discovered upon the pit
of the stomach, produced, apparently, by the pressure of a knee.
In the opinion of M. Dumas, Mademoiselle L'Espanaye had been
throttled to death by some person or persons unknown. The
corpse of the mother was horribly mutilated. All the bones of
the right leg and arm were more or less shattered. The left tibia
much splintered, as well as all the ribs of the left side. Whole
body dreadfully bruised and discolored. It was not possible to
say how the injuries had been inflicted. A heavy club of wood,
or a broad bar of iron a chair any large, heavy, and obtuse
weapon would have produced such results, if wielded by the hands
of a very powerful man. No woman could have inflicted the
blows with any weapon. The head of the deceased, when afcen
by witness, was entirely separated from the body, and was also
greatly shattered. The throat had evidently been cut with some
very sharp instrument probably with a razor.
" Alexandre Etienne, surgeon, was called with M. Dumas to
view the bodies. Corroborated the testimony, and the opinions
of M. Dumas.
" Nothing farther of importance was elicited, although several
other persons were examined. A murder so mysterious, and so
perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in
Paris if indeed a murder has been committed at all. The po
lice are entirely at fault an unusual occurrence in affairs of this
nature. There is not, however, the shadow of a clew apparent."
The evening edition of the paper stated that the greatest ex
citement still continued in the Quartier St. Roch that the prem
ises in question had been carefully re-searched, and fresh exam
inations of witnesses instituted, but all to no purpose. A post
script, however, mentioned that Adolphe Le Bon had been arrested
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 131
and imprisoned although nothing appeared to criminate him, be
yond the facts already detailed.
Dupin seemed singularly interested in the progress of this affair
at least so I judged from his manner, for he made no comments.
It was only after the announcement that Le Bon had been im
prisoned, that he asked me my opinion respecting the murders.
I could merely agree with all Paris in considering them an in
soluble mystery. I saw no means by which it would be possible
to trace the murderer.
" We must not judge of the means," said Dupin, " by this shell
of an examination. The Parisian police, so much extolled for
acumen, are cunning, but no more. There is no method in their
proceedings, beyond the method of the moment. They make a
vast parade of measures ; but, not unfrequently, these are so ill
adapted to the objects proposed, as to put us in mind of Monsieur
Jourdain's calling for his role-de-chambre pour mieux entendre
la musique. The results attained by them are not unfrequently
surprising, but, for the most part, are brought about by simple
diligence and activity. When these qualities are unavailing,
tKeir schemes fail. Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser,
and a persevering man. But, without educated thought, he erred
continually by the very intensity of his investigations. He im
paired his vision by holding the object too close. He might see,
perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so do
ing he, necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole. Thus
there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always
in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I
do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the
valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where
she is found. The modes and sources of this kind of error are
well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. To
look at a star by glances to view it in a side-long way, by turn
ing toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible
of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the
star distinctly is to have the best appreciation of its lustre a
lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision
fully upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the
eye in the latter case, but, in the former, there is the more refined
132 FOE'S TALES.
capacity for comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex
and enfeeble thought ; and it is possible to make even Venus her
self vanish from the firmament by a scrutiny too sustained, too
concentrated, or too direct.
" As for these murders, let us enter into some examinations for
ourselves, before we make up an opinion respecting them. An
inquiry will afford us amusement," [I thought this an odd term,
so applied, but said nothing] " and, besides, Le Bon once ren
dered me a service for which I am not ungrateful. We will go
and see the premises with our own eyes. I know G , the
Prefect of Police, and shall have no difficulty in obtaining the ne
The permission was obtained, and we proceeded at once to the
Rue Morgue. This is one of those miserable thoroughfares
which intervene between the Rue Richelieu and the Rue St.
Roch. It was late in the afternoon when we reached it ; as this
quarter is at a great distance from that in which we resided.
The house was readily found ; for there were still many persons
gazing up at the closed shutters, with an objectless curiosity, from
the opposite side of the way. It was an ordinary Parisian house,
with a gateway, on one side of which was a glazed watch-box,
with a sliding panel in the window, indicating a loge de concierge.
Before going in we walked up the street, turned down an alley,
and then, again turning, passed in the rear of the building Du-
pin, meanwhile, examining the whole neighborhood, as well as
the house, with a minuteness of attention for which I could see
no possible object.
Retracing our steps, we came again to the front of the dwell
ing, rang, and, having shown our credentials, were admitted by
the agents in charge. We went up stairs into the chamber
where the body of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye had been found,
and where both the deceased still lay. The disorders of the room
had, as usual, been suffered to exist. I saw nothing beyond what
had been stated in the " Gazette des Tribunaux." Dupin scru
tinized every thing not excepting the bodies of the victims. We
then went into the other rooms, and into the yard ; a gendarme
accompanying us throughout. The examination occupied us un
til dark, when we took our departure. On our way home my
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 133
companion stepped in for a moment at the office of one of the
I have said that the whims of my friend were manifold, and
that Je Us menagais : for this phrase there is no English equiv
alent. It was his humor, now, to decline all conversation on the
subject of the murder, until about noon the next day. He then
asked me, suddenly, if I had observed any thing peculiar at the
scene of the atrocity.
There was something in his manner of emphasizing the word
" peculiar," which caused me to shudder, without knowing why.
" No, nothing peculiar," I said ; " nothing more, at least, than
we both saw stated in the paper."
" The ' Gazette,' " he replied, " has not entered, I fear, into
the unusual horror of the thing. But dismiss the idle opinions of
this print. It appears to me that this mystery is considered in
soluble, for the very reason which should cause it to be regarded
as easy of solution I mean for the outre character of its features.
The police are confounded by the seeming absence of motive
not for the murder itself but for the atrocity of the murder.
They are puzzled, too, by the seeming impossibility of reconciling
the voices heard in contention, with the facts that no one was dis
covered up stairs but the assassinated Mademoiselle L'Espanaye,
and that there were no means of egress without the notice of the
party ascending. The wild disorder of the room j the corpse
thrust, with the head downward, up the chimney ; the frightful
mutilation of the body of the old lady ; these considerations, with
those just mentioned, and others which I need not mention, have
sufficed to paralyze the powers, by putting completely at fault the
boasted acumen, of the government agents. They have fallen
into the gross but common error of confounding the unusual with
the abstruse. But it is by these deviations from the plane of the
ordinary, that reason feels its way, if at all, in its search for the
true. In investigations such as we are now pursuing, it should
not be so much Loked l what has occurred,' as ' what has oc
curred that lias never occurred before.' In fact, the facility with
which I shall arrive, or have arrived, at the solution of this mys
tery, is in the direct ratio of its apparent insolubility in the eyes
of the police."
134 POE'S TALES.
I stared at the speaker in mute astonishment.
" I am now awaiting," continued he, looking toward the door
of our apartment " I am now awaiting a person who, although
perhaps not the perpetrator of these butcheries, must have been
in some measure implicated in their perpetration. Of the worst
portion of the crimes committed, it is probable that he is innocent.
I hope that I am right in this supposition ; for upon it I build my
expectation of reading the entire riddle. I look for the man here
in this room every moment. It is true that he may not ar
rive ; but the probability is that he will. Should he come, it
will be necessary to detain him. Here are pistols ; and we both
know how to use them when occasion demands their use."
I took the pistols, scarcely knowing what I did, or believing
what I heard, while Dupin went on, very much as if in a solilo
quy. 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 com-
monly employed in speaking to some one at a great distance.
His eyes, vacant in expression, regarded only the wall.
" 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 en
tirely 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 any thing peculiar
about it V
I remarked that, while all the witnesses agreed in supposing
the gruff voice to be that of a Frenchman, there was much dis
agreement in regard to the shrill, or, as one individual termed it,
the harsh voice.
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 135
" That was the evidence itself," said Dupin, " but it was not
the peculiarity of the evidence. You have observed nothing dis
tinctive. Yet there was something to be observed. The wit
nesses, as you remark, agreed about the gruff voice ; they were
here unanimous. But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiar
ity is not that they disagreed but that, while an Italian, an
Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman at
tempted 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 country
men. 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 j but we find it stated that * not understanding French
this witness was examined through an interpreter.' The Eng
lishman thinks it the voice of a German, and ' does not under
stand German.' The Spaniard c 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 posi
tive that the voice was that of an Italian ; but, not being cognizant
of that tongue, is, like the Spaniard, ' convinced by the intona
tion.' Now, how strangely unusual must that voice have really
been, about which such testimony as this could have been elicit
ed ! 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. Nei
ther 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 as distinguishable.
" 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
186 FOE'S TALES.
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 deduc
tions are the sole proper ones, and that the suspicion arises inevi
tably from them as the single result. What the suspicion is,
however, I will not say just yet. 1 merely wish you to bear in
mind that, with myself, it was sufficiently forcible to give a defi
nite form a certain tendency to rny inquiries in the chamber.
" 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 prseternatural events. Madame and Mademoiselle
L'Espanaye were not destroyed by spirits. The doers of the
deed were material, and escaped materially. Then how ? For
tunately, 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 trust
ing to their eyes, I examined with my own. There were, then,
no secret issues. Both doors leading from the rooms into the pas
sage 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 man
ner as we are, it is not our part, as reasoners, to reject it on ac-
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 137
count 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 un
obstructed by furniture, and is wholly visible. The lower por
tion 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 endeavored 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 superer
ogation 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
" 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, forbore to upraise the sash.
" I now replaced the nail and regarded it attentively. A per
son 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
138 POE'S TALES.
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 look
ed over the head-board minutely at the second casement. Pass
ing my hand down behind the board, I readily discovered and
pressed the spring, which was, as I had supposed, identical in
character with its neighbor. I now looked at the nail. It was
as stout as the other, and apparently fitted in the same manner
driven in nearly up to the head.
" 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 ap
pearance of its fellow in the other window ; but this fact was an
absolute nullity (conclusive as it might seem to be) when com
pared 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. I now carefully replaced this
head portion in the indentation whence I had taken it, and the re
semblance to a perfect nail was complete the fissure was in
visible. 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
" The riddle, so far, was now unriddled. The assassin had
escaped through the window which looked upon the bed. Drop-
ing of its own accord upon his exit (or perhaps purposely closed),
it had become fastened by the spring ; and it was the retention of
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 139
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 build
ing. 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 the shutters of the fourth
story were of the peculiar kind called by Parisian carpenters fer-
rades a kind rarely employed at the present day, but frequently
seen upon very old mansions at Lyons and Bourdeaux. They
are in the form of an ordinary door, (a single, not a folding door)
except that the lower half is latticed or worked in open trellis
1 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, ex
amined 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 exami
nation. 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 hav^
swung the shutter so as to close it, and, if we imagine the window
open at the time, might even have swung himself into the room.
" 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
140 FOE'S TALES.
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 under
standing the very extraordinary the almost preternatural char
acter 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 juxta-position, 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 con-
vey the idea 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 re
mained 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 habil
iment. 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 encum
ber himself with a bundle of linen ? The gold was abandoned.
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 141
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 de
livery 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. Coinci
dences, 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 corrob
orative 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 admit that there was something excessively
outre -something altogether irreconcilable with our common no
tions 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 vigor 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
142 POE'S TALES.
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 ex
erted in uprooting perhaps half a million of hairs at a time. The
throat of the old lady was not merely cut, but the head absolute
ly 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 instru
ment 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 her
metically sealed against the possibility of the windows having
ever been opened at all.
" If now, in addition to all these things, you have properly re
flected 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 gro-
tesquerie 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 neighboring 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, how.
ever incoherent in its words, has always the coherence of syllab
ification. Besides, the hair of a madman is not such as I now
hold in my hand. I disentangled this little tuft from the rigidly
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 143
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 de
cide this point, I wish you to glance at the little sketch I have
here traced upon this paper. It is a fac-simile 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
" 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 experiment again."
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 Ourang-Outang 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. 1 see that
no animal but an Ourang-Outang, of the species here mentioned,
could have impressed the indentations as you have traced them.
144 FOE'S TALES.
This tuft of tawny hair, too, is identical in character with that of
the beast of Cuvier. But I cannot possibly comprehend the par
ticulars 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 w r ill remember an expression attributed al
most unanimously, by the evidence, to this voice, the expression,
1 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 so
lution 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 cir
cumstances 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 appre
ciable 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 French
man 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 in
terest, and much sought by sailors,) will bring him to our resi
He handed me a paper, and I read thus :
CAUGHT In the Bois de Boulogne, early in the morning of
ithe inst., (the morning of the murder,) a very large, tawny
Ourang-Outang of the Bornese species. The owner, (who is as
certained 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 au troisieme.
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 145
" 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. More
over, this knot is one which few besides sailors can tie, and is pe
culiar to the Maltese. I picked the ribbon up at the foot of the
lightning-rod. It could not have belonged to either of the deceas
ed. 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 French
man 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 dis
tance from the scene of that butchery. How can it ever be sus
pected that a brute beast should have done the deed ? The po
lice 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 cognizance. Above all, / am known. The ad
vertiser 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."
146 POE'S TALES.
The front door of the house had been left open, and the visiter
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 dare-devil 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 other
wise unarmed. He bowed awkwardly, and bade us " good even
ing," in French accents, which, although somewhat Neufchatel-
ish, were still sufficiently indicative of a Parisian origin.
"Sit down, my freind," 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 1"
" 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
" 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 no
thing, sir," said the man. "Couldn't expect it. Am very will
ing to pay a reward for the finding of the animal that is to say,
any thing in reason."
"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."
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 147
Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and very qui
etly. 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 suf
focation. 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 honor 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 bold
ness 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 be
lieve 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 excur
sion of pleasure. Himself and a companion had captured the
Ourang-Outang. This companion dying, the animal fell into h'_
148 FOE'S TALES.
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 splin
ter 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, at
tempting the operation of shaving, in which it had no doubt pre
viously 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 accus
tomed, 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, unfor
tunately 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 per
ceived 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 room.
The sailor, in the meantime, was both rejoiced and perplexed.
He had strong hopes of now recapturing the brute, as it could
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. 149
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 diffi
culty, 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'Es-
panaye and her daughter, habited in their night clothes, had ap
parently been occupied in 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 immedi
ately perceived. The flapping-to of the shutter would naturally
have been attributed to the wind.
As the sailor looked in, the gigantic animal had seized Ma
dame L'Espanaye by the hair, (which was loose, as she had been
combing it,) and was flourishing the razor about her face, in im
itation 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 phrenzy. Gnashing
its teeth, and flashing fire from its .eyes, it flew upon the body of
the girl, and imbedded its fearful talons in her throat, retaining
its grasp until she expired. Jts wandering and wild glances fell
at this moment upon the head of the bed, oyer 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 dreade4 whip, was
instantly converted into fear. Conscious of having deserved pun.
150 FOE'S TALES.
ishment, 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 headlong.
As the ape approached the casement with its mutilated burden,
the sailor shrank aghast to the rod, and, rather gliding than clam
bering 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 break
ing 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 circum
stances (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 own business.
" Let him 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. Never
theless, 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'exptiquer ce quin'est pas.' "*
* Rousseau-^Nouvelle Heloise.
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 151
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET.'
A 8EQUEL TO " THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE.
Es giebt eine Reihe idealischer Begebenheiten, die der Wirklichkeit parallel
lauft. Selten fallen sie zusammen. Menschen und zufalle modificireri gewo-
hulich die idealische Begebenheit, so dass sie unvollkommen erscheint, und
ihre Folgen gleichfalls unvollkommen sind. So bei der Reformation ; statt
des Protestantismus kam das Lutherthum hervor.
There are ideal series o^ events which run parallel with the real ones. They
rarely coincide. Men and circumstances generally modify the ideal train of
events, so that it seems imperfect, and its consequences are equally imper
fect. Thus with the Reformation ; instead of Protestantism came Lutheran-
ism. Novalis.t Moral Ansichten.
THERE are few persons, even among the calmest thinkers, who
have not occasionally been startled into a vague yet thrilling half-
credence in the supernatural, by coincidences of so seemingly
marvellous a character that, as mere coincidences, the intellect
has been unable to receive them. Such sentiments for the half-
* Upon the original publication of " Marie Roget," the foot-notes now ap
pended were considered unnecessary ; but the lapse of several years since the
tragedy upon which the tale is based, renders it expedient to give them, and
also to say a few words in explanation of the general design. A young girl,
Mary Cecilia Rogers, was murdered in the vicinity of New York ; and, al
though her death occasioned an intense and long-enduring excitement, the
mystery attending it had remained unsolved at the period when the present
paper was written and published (November, 1842). Herein, under pretence
of relating the fate of a Parisian grisette, the author has followed, in minute
detail, the essential, while merely paralleling the inessential facts of the real
murder of Mary Rogers. Thus all argument founded upon the fiction is appli
cable to the truth : and the investigation of the truth was the object.
The " Mystery of Marie Roget" was composed at a distance from the scene
of the atrocity, and with no other means of investigation than the newspapers
t The nom de plume of Von Hardenburg.
152 FOE'S TALES.
credences of which I speak have never the full force of thought
such sentiments are seldom thoroughly stifled unless by reference
to the doctrine of chance, or, as it is technically termed, the Cal
culus of Probabilities. Now this Calculus is, in its essence,
purely mathematical ; and thus we have the anomaly of the
most rigidly exact in science applied to the shadow and spiritu
ality of the most intangible in speculation.
The extraordinary details which I am now called upon to
make public, will be found to form, as regards sequence of time,
the primary branch of a series of scarcely intelligible coinci
dences, whose secondary or concluding branch will be recognized
by all readers in the late murder of MARY CECILIA ROGERS, at
When, in an article entitled " The Murders in the Rue Mor
gue," I endeavored, about a year ago, to depict some very re
markable features in the mental character of my friend, the Chev
alier C. Auguste Dupin, it did not occur to me that I should ever
resume the subject. This depicting of character constituted my
design ; and this design was thoroughly fulfilled in the wild train
of circumstances brought to instance Dupin's idiosyncrasy. I
might have adduced other examples, but I should have proven
no more. Late events, however, in their surprising development,
have startled me into some farther details, which will carry with
them the air of extorted confession. Hearing what I have lately
heard, it would be indeed strange should I remain silent in regard
to what I both heard and saw so long ago.
Upon the winding up of the tragedy involved in the deaths of
Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter, the Chevalier dismissed
the affair at once from his attention, and relapsed into his old
habits of moody reverie. Prone, at all times, to abstraction, I
readily fell in with his humor ; and, continuing to occupy our
afforded. Thus much escaped the writer of which he could have availed him
self had he been upon the spot, and visited the localities. It may not be im
proper to record, nevertheless, that the confessions of two persons, (one of
them the Madame Deluc of the narrative) made, at different periods, long sub
sequent to the publication, confirmed, in full, not only the general conclusion,
but absolutely all the chief hypothetical details by which that conclusion was
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 153
chambers in the Faubourg Saint Germain, we gave the Future to
the winds, and slumbered tranquilly in the Present, weaving the
dull world around us into dreams.
But these dreams were not altogether uninterrupted. It may
readily be supposed that the part played by my friend, in the
drama at the Rue Morgue, had not failed of its impression upon
the fancies of the Parisian police. With its emissaries, the name
of Dupin had grown into a household word. The simple charac
ter of those inductions by which he had disentangled the mystery
never having been explained even to the Prefect, or to any other
individual than myself, of course it is not surprising that the affair
was regarded as little less than miraculous, or that the Cheva
lier's analytical abilities acquired for him the credit of intuition.
His frankness would have led him to disabuse every inquirer of
such prejudice ; but his indolent humor forbade all farther agita
tion of a topic whose interest to himself had long ceased. It thus
happened that he found himself the cynosure of the policial
eyes ; and the cases were not few in which attempt was made to
engage his services at the Prefecture. One of the most remark
able instances was that of the murder of a young girl named
This event occurred about two years after the atrocity in the
Rue Morgue. Marie, whose Christian and family name will at
once arrest attention from their resemblance to those of the unfor
tunate " cigar-girl," was the only daughter of the widow Estelle
Roget. The father had died during the child's infancy, and
from the period of his death, until within eighteen months before
the assassination which forms the subject of our narrative, the
mother and daughter had dwelt together in the Rue Pavee Saint
Andree ;* Madame there keeping a pension, assisted by Marie.
Affairs went on thus until the latter had attained her twenty-sec
ond year, when her great beauty attracted the notice of a perfu
mer, who occupied one of the shops in the basement of the Palais
Royal, and whose custom lay chiefly among the desperate adven
turers infesting that neighborhood. Monsieur Le Blancf was not
unaware of the advantages to be derived from the attendance of
the fair Marie in his perfumery ; and his liberal proposals were
* Nassau Street. t Anderson.
154 FOE'S TALES.
accepted eagerly by the girl, although with somewhat more of
hesitation by Madame.
The anticipations of the shopkeeper were realized, and his
rooms soon became notorious through the charms of the sprightly
grisette. She had been in his employ about a year, when her ad
mirers were thrown into confusion by her sudden disappearance
from the shop. Monsieur Le Blanc was unable to account for
her absence, and Madame Roget was distracted with anxiety and
terror. The public papers immediately took up the theme, and
the police were upon the point of making serious investigations,
when, one fine morning, after the lapse of a week, Marie, in good
health, but with a somewhat saddened air, made her re-appear
ance at her usual counter in the perfumery. All inquiry, except
that of a private character, was of course immediately hushed.
Monsieur Le Blanc professed total ignorance, as before. Marie,
with Madame, replied to all questions, that the last week had
been spent at the house of a relation in the country. Thus the
affair died away, and was generally forgotten ; for the girl, osten
sibly to relieve herself from the impertinence of curiosity, soon
bade a final adieu to the perfumer, and sought the shelter of her
mother's residence in the Rue Pavee Saint Andree.
It was about five months after this return home, that her friends
were alarmed by her sudden disappearance for the second time.
Three days elapsed, and nothing was heard of her. On the
fourth her corpse was found floating in the Seine,* near the shore
which is opposite the Quartier of the Rue Saint Andree, and at a
point not very far distant from the secluded neighborhood of the
Barriere du Roule.f
The atrocity of this murder, (for it was at once evident that
murder had been committed,) the youth and beauty of the victim,
and, above all, her previous notoriety, conspired to produce in
tense excitement in the minds of the sensitive Parisians. I can
call to mind no similar occurrence producing so general and so
intense an effect. For several weeks, in the discussion of this
one absorbing theme, even the momentous political topics of the
day were forgotten. The Prefect made unusual exertions ; and
* The Hudson. t Weehawken.
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 155
the powers of the whole Parisian police were, of course, tasked
to the utmost extent.
Upon the first discovery of the corpse, it was not supposed that
the murderer would be able to elude, for more than a very brief
period, the inquisition which was immediately set on foot. It
was not until the expiration of a week that it was deemed neces
sary to offer a reward ; and even then this reward was limited to
a thousand francs. In the mean time the investigation proceeded
with vigor, if not always with judgment, and numerous individu
als were examined to no purpose ; while, owing to the continual
absence of all clue to the mystery, the popular excitement greatly
increased. At the end of the tenth day it was thought advisable
to double the sum originally proposed ; and, at length, the second
week having elapsed without leading to any discoveries, and the
prejudice which always exists in Paris against the Police having
given vent to itself in several serious ententes, the Prefect took it
upon himself to offer the sum of twenty thousand francs " for the
conviction of the assassin," or, if more than one should prove to
have been implicated, " for the conviction of any one of the assas
sins." In the proclamation setting forth this reward, a full par
don was promised to any accomplice who should come forward in
evidence against his fellow ; and to the whole was appended,
wherever it appeared, the private placard of a committee of citi
zens, offering ten thousand francs, in addition to the amount pro
posed by the Prefecture. The entire reward thus stood at no less
than thirty thousand francs, which will be regarded as an extra
ordinary sum when we consider the humble condition of the girl,
and the great frequency, in large cities, of such atrocities as the
No one doubted now that the mystery of this murder would be
immediately brought to light. But although, in one or two in
stances, arrests were made which promised elucidation, yet no
thing was elicited which could implicate the parties suspected ;
and they were discharged forthwith. Strange as it may appear,
the third week from the discovery of the body had passed, and
passed without any light being thrown upon the subject, before
even a rumor of the events which had so agitated the public
mind, reached the ears of Dupin and myself. Engaged in re-
156 POE'S TALES.
searches which had absorbed our whole attention, it had been
nearly a month since either of us had gone abroad, or received a
visiter, or more than glanced at the leading political articles in
one of the daily papers. The first intelligence of the murder was
brought us by G , in person. He called upon us early in the
afternoon of the thirteenth of July, 18 , and remained with us
until late in the night. He had been piqued by the failure of all
his endeavors to ferret out the assassins. His reputation so he
said with a peculiarly Parisian air was at stake. Even his
honor was concerned. The eyes of the public were upon him ;
and there was really no sacrifice which he would not be willing
to make for the development of the mystery. He concluded a
somewhat droll speech with a compliment upon what he was
pleased to term the tact of Dupin, and made him a direct, and cer
tainly a liberal proposition, the precise nature of which I do not
feel myself at liberty to disclose, but which has no bearing upon
the proper subject of my narrative.
The compliment my friend rebutted as best he could, but the
proposition he accepted at once, although its advantages were
altogether provisional. This point being settled, the Prefect broke
forth at once into explanations of his own views, interspersing
them with long comments upon the evidence ; pf which latter we
were not yet in possession. He discoursed much, and beyond
doubt, learnedly ; while I hazarded an occasional suggestion as
the night wore drowsily away. Dupin, sitting steadily in his ac
customed arm-chair, was the embodiment of respectful attention.
He wore spectacles, during the whole interview ; and an occa
sional glance beneath their green glasses, sufficed to convince me
that he slept not the less soundly, because silently, throughout the
seven or eight leaden-footed hours which immediately preceded
the departure of the Prefect.
In the morning, I procured, at the Prefecture, a full report of
all the evidence elicited, and, at the various newspaper offices, a
copy of every paper in which, from first to last, had been pub
lished any decisive information in regard to this sad affair.
Freed from all that was positively disproved, this mass of infor
mation stood thus :
Marie Roget left the residence of her mother, in the Rue Pa-
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 157
vee St. Andree, about nine o'clock in the morning of Sunday,
June the twenty-second, 18 . In going out, she gave notice to
a Monsieur Jacques St. Eustache,* and to him only, of her inten
tion to spend the day with an aunt who resided in the Rue des
Dromes. The Rue des Dromes is a short and narrow but popu
lous thoroughfare, not far from the banks of the river, and at a
distance of some two miles, in the most direct course possible,
from the pension of Madame Roget. St. Eustache was the ac
cepted suitor of Marie, and lodged, as well as took his meals, at
the pension. He was to have gone for his betrothed at dusk, and
to have escorted her home. In the afternoon, however, it came
on to rain heavily; and, supposing that she would remain all
night at her aunt's, (as she had done under similar circumstances
before,) he did not think it necessary to keep his promise. As
night drew on, Madame Roget (who was an infirm old lady, sev
enty years of age,) was heard to express a fear "that she should
never see Marie again ;" but this observation attracted little at
tention at the time*
On Monday, it was ascertained that the girl had not been to
the Rue des Drdmes ; and when the day elapsed without tidings
of her, a tardy search was instituted at several points in the city,
and its environs. It was not, however, until the fourth day from
the period of her disappearance that arty thing satisfactory was
ascertained respecting her. On this day, (Wednesday, the twenty-
fifth of June,) a Monsieur Beauvais,f who, with a friend^ had been
making inquiries for Marie near the Barriere du Roule, on the
shore of the Seine which is opposite the Rue Pavee St. Andree,
was informed that a corpse had just been towed ashore by some
fishermen, who had found it floating in the river. Upon seeing
the body, Beauvais, after some hesitation, identified it as that of
the perfumery -girl. His friend recognized it more promptly.
The face was suffused with dark blood, some of which issued
from the mouth. No foam was seen, as in the case of the merely
drowned. There was no discoloration in the cellular tissue.
About the throat were bruises and impressions of fingers. The
arms were bent over on the chest and were rigid. The right
* Payne. t Crommelin.
158 FOE'S TALES.
hand was clenched ; the left partially open. On the left wrist
were two circular excoriations, apparently the effect of ropes, or
of a rope in more than one volution. A part of the right wrist,
also, was much chafed, as well as the back throughout its extent,
but more especially at the shoulder-blades. In bringing the body
to the shore the fishermen had attached to it a rope ; but none of
the excoriations had been effected by this. The flesh of the neck
was much swollen. There were no cuts apparent, or bruises
which appeared the effect of blows. A piece of lace was found
tied so tightly around the neck as to be hidden from sight ; it was
completely buried in the flesh, and was fastened by a knot which
lay just under the left ear. This alone would have sufficed to
produce death. The medical testimony spoke confidently of the
virtuous character of the deceased. She had been subjected, it
said, to brutal violence. The corpse was in such condition when
found, that there could have been no difficulty in its recognition
The dress was much torn and otherwise disordered. In the
outer garment, a slip, about a foot wide, had been torn upward
from the bottom hem to the waist, but not torn off. It was wound
three times around the waist, and secured by a sort of hitch in the
back. The dress immediately beneath the frock was of fine
muslin ; and from this a slip eighteen inches wide had been torn
entirely out torn very evenly and with great care. It was found
around her neck, fitting loosely, and secured with a hard knot.
Over this muslin slip and the slip of lace, the strings of a bonnet
were attached ; the bonnet being appended. The knot by which
the strings of the bonnet were fastened, was not a lady's, but a
slip or sailor's knot.
After the recognition of the corpse, it was not, as usual, taken
to the Morgue, (this formality being superfluous,) but hastily in
terred not far from the spot at which it was brought ashore.
Through the exertions of Beauvais, the matter was industriously
hushed up, as far as possible ; and several days had elapsed be
fore any public emotion resulted. A weekly paper,* however,
at length took up the theme ; the corpse was disinterred, and a
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 159
re-examination instituted ; but nothing was elicited beyond what
has been already noted. The clothes, however, were now sub
mitted to the mother and friends of the deceased, and fully identi
fied as those worn by the girl upon leaving home.
Meantime, the excitement increased hourly. Several individ
uals were arrested and discharged. St. Eustache fell especially
under suspicion ; and he failed, at first, to give an intelligible
account of his whereabouts during the Sunday on which Marie
left home. Subsequently, however, he submitted to Monsieur
G , affidavits, accounting satisfactorily for every hour of the
day in question. As time passed and no discovery ensued, a
thousand contradictory rumors were circulated, and journalists
busied themselves in suggestions. Among these, the one which
attracted the most notice, was the idea that Marie Roget still lived
that the corpse found in the Seine was that of some other un
fortunate. It will be proper that I submit to the reader some
passages which embody the suggestion alluded to. These pas
sages are literal translations from L'Etoile,* a paper conducted,
in general, with much ability.
" Mademoiselle Rogdt left her mother's house on Sunday morning, June
the twenty -second, 18 , with the ostensible purpose of going to see her aunt,
or some other connexion, in the Ruo des Dr&mes. From that hour, nobody is
proved to have seen her. There is no trace or tidings of her at all. * * *
* There has no person, whatever, come forward, so far, who saw her at all,
on that day, after she left her mother's door. * * * * Now, though we
have no evidence that Marie RogSt was in the land of the living after nine
o'clock on Sunday, June the twenty-second, we have proof that, up to that
hour, she was alive. On Wednesday noon, at twelve, a female body was dis
covered afloat on the shore of the Barriere du Roule. This was, even if we
presume that Marie Roget was thrown into the river within three hours after
she left her mother's house, only three days from the time she left her home
three days to an hour. But it is folly to suppose that the murder, if murder
was committed on her body, could have been consummated soon enough to
have enabled her murderers to throw the body into the river before midnight.
Those who are guilty of such horrid crimes, choose darkness rather than light*
* * * * Thus we see that if the body found in the river was that of
Marie Roget, it could only have been in the water two and a half days, or three
at the outside. All experience has shown that drowned bodies, or bodies thrown
into the water immediately after death by violence, require from six to ten
* The N. Y. Brother Jonathan," edited by II. Hastings Weld, Esq.
160 FOE'S TALES.
days for sufficient decomposition to take place to bring them to the top of the
water. Even where a cannon is fired over a corpse, and it rises before at least
five or six days' immersion, it sinks again, if let alone. Now, we ask, what
was there in this case to cause a departure from the ordinary course of nature ?
* * * * If the body had been kept in its mangled state on shore until
Tuesday night, some trace would be found on shore of the murderers. It is a
doubtful point, also, whether the body would be so soon afloat, even were it
thrown in after having been dead two days. And, furthermore, it is exceed
ingly improbable that any villains who had committed such a murder as is here
supposed, would have thrown the body in without weight to sink it, when such
a precaution could have so easily been taken."
The editor here proceeds to argue that the body must have
been in the water " not three days merely, but, at least, five times
three days," because it was so far decomposed that Beauvais had
great difficulty in recognizing it. This latter point, however, was
fully disproved. I continue the translation :
" What, then, are the facts on which M. Beauvais says that he has no
doubt the body was that of Marie Roget ? He ripped up the gown sleeve, and
says he found marks which satisfied him of the identity. The public general
ly supposed those marks to have consisted of some description of scars. He
rubbed the arm and found hair upon it something as indefinite, we think, as
can readily be imagined as little conclusive as finding an arm in the sleeve.
M. Beauvais did not return that night, but sent word to Madame Roget, at
seven o'clock, on Wednesday evening, that an investigation was still in pro
gress respecting her daughter. If We allow that Madame Roget, from her
age and grief, could not go over, (which is allowing a great deal,) there cer
tainly must have been some one who would have thought it worth while to go
over and attend the investigation, if they thought the body was that of Marie
Nobody Went over. There was nothing said or heard about the matter in the
Rue Pavee St. Andree, that reached even the occupants of the same building.
M. St. Eustache, the lover and intended husband of Marie, who boarded in
her mother's house, deposes that he did not hear of the discovery of the body
of his intended until the next morning, when M. Beauvais came into his cham
ber and told him of it. For an item of news like this, it strikes us it was very
In this way the journal endeavored to create the impression of
an apathy on the part of the relatives of Marie, inconsistent with
the supposition that these relatives believed the corpse to be hers.
Its insinuations amount to this : that Marie, with the connivance
of her friends, had absented herself from the city for reasons in
volving a charge against her chastity ; and that these friends,
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 161
upon the discovery of a corpse in the Seine, somewhat resembling
that of the girl, had availed themselves of the opportunity to im
press the public with the belief of her death. But L'Etoile was
again over- hasty. It was distinctly proved that no apathy, such
as was imagined, existed ; that the old lady was exceedingly
feeble, and so agitated as to be unable to attend to any duty ; that
St. Eustache, so far from receiving the news coolly, was dis
tracted with grief, and bore himself so frantically, that M. Beau-
vais prevailed upon a friend and relative to take charge of him,
and prevent his attending the examination at the disinterment.
Moreover, although it was stated by L'Etoile, that the corpse was
re-interred at the public expense that an advantageous offer of
private sepulture was absolutely declined by the family and
that no member of the family attended the ceremonial : although,
I say, all this was asserted by L'Etoile in furtherance of the
impression it designed to convey yet all this was satisfactorily
disproved. In a subsequent number of the paper, an attempt
was made to throw suspicion upon Beauvais himself. The editor
" Now, then, a change comes over the matter. We are told that, on one
occasion, while a Madame B was at Madame Roget's house, M. Beau
vais, who was going out, told her that a gendarme was expected there, sard
that she, Madame B., must not say anything to the gendarme until he re
turned, but let the matter be for him. * * * * In the present posture
of affairs, M. Beauvais appears to have the whole matter locked up in his
head. A single step cannot be taken without M. Beauvais ; for, go which
way you will, you run against him. ***** For some reason, he
determined that nobody shall have any thing to do with the proceedings but
himself, and he has elbowed the male relatives out of the way, according to
their representations, in a very singular manner. He seems to have been very
much averse to permitting the relatives to see the body."
By the following fact, some color was given to the suspicion
thus thrown upon Beauvais. A visiter at his office, a few days
prior to the girl's disappearance, and during the absence of its
occupant, had observed a rose in the key-hole of the door, and
the name " Marie " inscribed upon a slate which hung near at
The general impression, so far as we were enabled to glean it
from the newspapers, seemed to be, that Marie had been the vic-
162 FOE'S TALES.
tim of a gang of desperadoes that by these she had been borne
across the river, maltreated and murdered. Le Commerciel,*
however, a print of extensive influence, was earnest in combating
this popular idea. I quote a passage or two from its columns :
" We are persuaded that pursuit has hitherto been on a false scent, so far
as it has been directed to the Barriere du Roule. It is impossible that a person
so well known to thousands as this young woman was, should have passed
three blocks without some one having seen her ; and any one who saw her
would have remembered it, for she interested all who knew her. It was when
the streets were full of people, when she went out. * * * It is impossible
that she could have gone to the Barriere du Roule, or to the Rue des Dr&mes,
without being recognized by a dozen persons ; yet no one has come forward
who saw her outside of her mother's door, and there is no evidence, except the
testimony concerning her expressed intentions, that she did go out at all.
Her gown was torn, bound round her, and tied ; and by that the body was
carried as a bundle. If the murder had been committed at the Barriere da
Roule, there would have been no necessity for any such arrangement. The
fact that the body was found floating near the Barriere, is no proof as to where
it was thrown into the water. ***** A piece of one of the unfortu
nate girl's petticoats, two feet long and one foot wide, was torn out and tied
under her chin around the back of her head, probably to prevent screams. This
was done by fellows who had no pocket-handkerchief."
A day or two before the Prefect called upon us, however, some
important information reached the police, which seemed to over
throw, at least, the chief portion of Le Commerciel 's argument.
Two small boys, sons of a Madame Deluc, while roaming among
the woods near the Barriere du Roule, chanced to penetrate a
close thicket, within which were three or four large stones, form
ing a kind of seat, with a back and footstool. On the upper stone
lay a white petticoat ; on the second a silk scarf. A parasol,
gloves, and a pocket-handkerchief were also here found. The
handkerchief bore the name " Marie Roget." Fragments of
dress were discovered on the brambles around. The earth was
trampled, the bushes were broken, and there was every evidence
of a struggle. Between the thicket and the river, the fences were
found taken down, and the ground bore evidence of some heavy
burthen having been dragged along it.
* N Y. " Journal of Commerce."
THE MYSTERY TF MARIE ROGET 163
A weekly paper, Le Soleil,* had the following comments upon
this discovery comments which merely echoed the sentiment of
the whole Parisian press :
" The things had all evidently been there at least three or four weeks ; they
were all mildewed down hard with the action of the rain, and stuck together
from mildew. The grass had grown around and over some of them. The
silk on the parasol was strong, but the threads of it were run together within.
The upper part, where it had been double.d and folded, was all mildewed and
rotten, and tore on its being opened. * * * * The pieces of her frock
torn out by the bushes were about three inches wide and six inches long. One
part was the hem of the frock, and it had been mended ; the other piece was
part of the skirt, not the hem. They looked like strips torn off, and were on
the thorn bush, about a foot from the ground. ***** There can be
no doubt, therefore, that the spot of this appalling outrage has been discovered."
Consequent upon this discovery, new evidence appeared. Ma
dame Deluc testified that she keeps a roadside inn not far from
the bank of the river, opposite the Barriere du Roule. The
neighborhood is secluded particularly so. It is the usual Sun
day resort of blackguards from the city, who cross the river in
boats. About three o'clock, in the afternoon of the Sunday in
questiqn, a young girl arrived at the inn, accompanied by a
young man of dark complexion. The two remained here for
some time. On their departure, they took the road to some thick
woods in the vicinity. Madame Deluc's attention was called to.
the dress worn by the girl, on account of its resemblance to one
worn by a deceased relative. A scarf was particular^ noticed.
3oon after the departure of the couple, a gang qf miscreants
made their appearance, behaved boisterously, ate and drank with
out making payment, followed in the route of the young man
and girl, returned to the inn about dusk, and re-crossed the river
as if in great haste.
It was soon after dark, upon this same evening, that Madame
Deluc, as well as her eldest son, heard the screams of a female
in the vicinity of the inn. The screams were violent but brief.
Madame D. recognized not only the scarf which was found in
the thicket, but the dress which was discovered upon the corpse,
* Phil. " Sat. Evening Post," edited by C. I. Peterson, Esq.
164 FOE'S TALES.
An omnibus-driver, Valence,* now also testified that he saw
Marie Roget cross a ferry on the Seine, on the Sunday in ques
tion, in company with a young man of dark complexion. He,
Valence, knew Marie, and could not be mistaken in her identity.
The articles found in the thicket were fully identified by the rel
atives of Marie.
The items of evidence and information thus collected by my
self, from the newspapers, at the suggestion of Dupin, embraced
only one more point but this was a point of seemingly vast con
sequence. It appears that, immediately after the discovery of the
clothes as above described, the lifeless, or nearly lifeless body of
St. Eustache, Mane's betrothed, was found in the vicinity of
what all now supposed the scene of the outrage. A phial label
led " laudanum," and emptied, was found near him. His breath
gave evidence of the poison. He died without speaking. Upon
his person was found a letter, briefly stating his love for Marie,
with his design of self-destruction.
" I need scarcely tell you," said Dupin, as he finished the pe
f iisal of my notes, " that this is a far more intricate case thari
that of the Rue Morgue ; from which it differs in one important
respect. This is an ordinary, although an atrocious instance of
crime. There is nothing peculiarly outre about it. You will ob
serve that, for this reason, the mystery has been considered easy,
when, for this reason, it should have been considered difficult, of
solution. Thus, at first, it was thought unnecessary to offer a 1
reward. The myrmidons of G were able at once to com
prehend how and why such an atrocity might have been commit
ted. They could picture to their imaginations a mode many
modes' and a motive many motives ; and because it was not im
possible that either of these numerous modes and motives could have
been 1 the actual one, they have taken it for granted that one of
them must. But the ease with which these variable fancies were
entertained, and the very plausibility which each assumed, should
have been understood as indicative rather of the difficulties than
of the facilities which must attend elucidation. I have before
observed that it is by prominences above the plane of the ordi-
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 165
nary, that reason feels her way, if at all, in her search for the
true, and that the proper question in cases such as this, is not so
much ' what has occurred ?' as ' what has occurred that has
never occurred before ?' In the investigations at the house of
Madame L'Espanaye,* the agents of G were discouraged
and confounded by that very unusualness which, to a properly reg
ulated intellect, would have afforded the surest omen of success ;
while this same intellect might have been plunged in despair at
the ordinary character of all that met the eye in the case of the
perfumery-girl, and yet told of nothing but easy triumph to the
functionaries of the Prefecture.
" In the case of Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter, there
was, even at the beginning of our investigation, no doubt that
murder had been committed. The idea of suicide was excluded
at once. Here, too, we are freed, at the commencement, from
all supposition of self-murder. The body found at the Barriere
du Roule, was found under such circumstances as to leave us no
room for embarrassment upon this important point. But it has
been suggested that the corpse discovered, is not that of the Marie
Roget for the conviction of whose assassin, or assassins, the re
ward is offered, and respecting whom, solely, our agreement has
been arranged with the Prefect. We both know this gentleman
well. It will not do to trust him too far. If, dating our inqui
ries from the body found, and thence tracing a murderer, we yet
discover this body to be that of some other individual than Marie ;
or, if starting from the living Marie, we find her, yet find her
unassassinated in either case we lose our labor ; since it is Mon
sieur G with whom we have to deal. For our own purpose,
therefore, if not for the purpose of justice, it is indispensable that
our first step should be the determination of the identity of the
corpse with the Marie Roget who is missing.
" With the public the arguments of L'Etoile have had weight ;
and that the journal itself is convinced of their importance
would appear from the manner in which it commences one of its
essays upon the subject ' Several of the morning papers of the
day,' it says, 'speak of the conclusive article in Monday's Etoile.'
* See " Murders in the Rue Morgue."
166 POE'S TALES.
To me, this article appears conclusive of little beyond the zeal
of its inditer. We should bear in mind that, in general, it is the
object of our newspapers rather to create a sensation to make a
point than to further the cause of truth. The latter end is only
pursued when it seems coincident with the former. The print
which merely falls in with ordinary opinion (however well found
ed this opinion may be) earns for itself no credit with the mob.
The mass of the people regard as profound only him who sug
gests pungent contradictions of the general idea. In ratiocination,
not less than in literature, it is the epigram which is the most im
mediately and the most universally appreciated. In both, it is of
the lowest order of merit.
" What I mean to say is, that it is the mingled epigram and
melodrame of the idea, that Marie Roget still lives, rather than
any true plausibility in this idea, which have suggested it to
L'Etoile, and secured it a favorable reception with the public.
Let us examine the heads of this journal's argument ; endeavor
ing to avoid the incoherence with which it is originally set forth.
" The first aim of the writer is to show, from the brevity of
the interval between Marie's disappearance and the finding of the
floating corpse, that this corpse cannot be that of Marie. The
reduction of this interval to its smallest possible dimension, be
comes thus, at once, an object with the reasoner. In the rash
pursuit of this object, he rushes into mere assumption at the out
set. ' It is folly to suppose,' he says, ' that the murder, if murder
was committed on her body, could have been consummated soon
enough to have enabled her murderers to throw the body into the
river before midnight.' We demand at once, and very naturally,
why ? Why is it folly to suppose that the murder was com
mitted within jive minutes after the girl's quitting her moth
er's house ? Why is it folly to suppose that the murder was
committed at any given period of the day ? There have been as
sassinations at all hours. But, had the murder taken place at any
moment between nine o'clock in the morning of Sunday, and a
quarter before midnight, there would still have been time enough
' to throw the body into the river before midnight.' This assump
tion, then, amounts precisely to this that the murder was not
committed on Sunday at all and, if we allow L'Etoile to as-
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 167
sume this, we may permit it any liberties whatever. The par
agraph beginning ' It is folly to suppose that the murder, etc.,'
however it appears as printed in L'Etoile, may be imagined to
have existed actually thus in the brain of its inditer ' It is folly
to suppose that the murder, if murder was committed on the body,
could have been committed soon enough to have enabled her
murderers to throw the body into the river before midnight ; it is
folly, we say, to suppose all this, and to suppose at the same time,
(as we are resolved to suppose,) that the body was not thrown in
until after midnight' a sentence sufficiently inconsequential in
itself, but not so utterly preposterous as the one printed.
" Were it my purpose," continued Dupin, " merely to make out
a case against this passage of L'Etoile's argument, I might safe
ly leave it where it is. It is not, however, with L'Etoile that we
have to do, but with the truth. The sentence in question has but
one meaning, as it stands ; and this meaning I have fairly stated :
but it is material that we go behind the mere words, for an idea
which these words have obviously intended, and failed to convey.
It was the design of the journalist to say that, at whatever period
of the day or night of Sunday this murder was committed, it was
improbable that the assassins would have ventured to bear the
corpse to the river before midnight. And herein lies, really, the
assumption of which I complain. It is assumed that the murder
was committed at such a position, and under such circumstances,
that the bearing it to the river became necessary. Now, the as
sassination might have taken place upon the river's brink, or on
the river itself; and, thus, the throwing the corpse in the water
might have been resorted to, at any period of the day or night, as
the most obvious and most immediate mode of disposal. You will
understand that I suggest nothing here as probable, or as coin
cident with my own opinion. My design, so far, has no reference
to the facts of the case. I wish merely to caution you against
the whole tone of L'Etoile's suggestion, by calling your attention
to its ex parte character at the outset.
" Having prescribed thus a limit to suit its own preconceived
notions ; having assumed that, if this were the body of Marie, it
could have been in the water but a very brief time ; the journal
goes on to say :
168 FOE'S TALES.
' All experience has shown that drowned bodies, or bodies thrown into the
water immediately after death by violence, require from six to ten days for suf
ficient decomposition to take place to bring them to the top of the water. Even
when a cannon is fired over a corpse, and it rises before at least five or six
days' immersion, it sinks again if let alone.'
" These assertions have been tacitly received by every paper
in Paris, with the exception of Le Moniteur.* This latter print
endeavors to combat that portion of the paragraph which has ref
erence to ' drowned bodies' only, by citing some five or six in
stances in which the bodies of individuals known to be drowned
were found floating after the lapse of less time than is insisted
upon by L'Etoile. But there is something excessively unphilo-
sophical in the attempt on the part of Le Moniteur, to rebut the
general assertion of L'Etoile, by a citation of particular in
stances militating against that assertion. Had it been possible to
adduce fifty instead of^five examples of bodies found floating at
the end of two or three days, these fifty examples could still have
been properly regarded only as exceptions to L'Etoile's rule, un
til such time as the rule itself should be confuted. Admitting the
rule, (and this Le Moniteur does not deny, insisting merely upon
its exceptions,) the argument of L'Etoile is suffered to remain in
full force ; for this argument does not pretend to involve more
than a question of the probability of the body having risen to the
surface in less than three days ; and this probability will be in
favor of L'Etoile's position until the instances so childishly ad
duced shall be sufficient in number to establish an antagonistical
" You will see at once that all argument upon this head should
be urged, if at all, against the rule itself; and for this end we
must examine the rationale of the rule. Now the human body,
in general, is neither much lighter nor much heavier than the
water of the Seine ; that is to say, the specific gravity of the hu
man body, in its natural condition, is about equal to the bulk of
fresh water which it displaces. The bodies of fat and fleshy per
sons, with small bones, and of women generally, are lighter thau
those of the lean and large-boned, and of men ; and the specific
gravity of the water of a river is somewhat influenced by the
* The " N. Y. Commercial Advertiser," edited by Col. Stone.
THE MYSTERY" OF MARIE ROGET. 169
presence of the tide from sea. But, leaving this tide out of ques
tion, it may be said that very few human bodies will sink at all,
even in fresh water, of their own accord. Almost any one, fall
ing into a river, will be enabled to float, if he suffer the specific
gravity of the water fairly to be adduced in comparison with his
own that is to say, if he suffer his whole person to be immersed,
with as little exception as possible. The proper position for one
who cannot swim, is the upright position of the walker on land,
with the head thrown fully back, and immersed ; the mouth and
nostrils alone remaining above the surface. Thus circumstanced,
we shall find that we float without difficulty and without exertion.
It is evident, however, that the gravities of the body, and of the
bulk of water displaced, are very nicely balanced, and that a trifle
will cause either to preponderate. An arm, for instance, uplifted
from the water, and thus deprived of its support, is an additional
weight sufficient to immerse the whole head, while the accidental
aid of the smallest piece of timber will enable us to elevate the
head so as to look about. Now, in the struggles of one unused
to swimming, the arms are invariably thrown upwards, while an
attempt is made to keep the head in its usual perpendicular posi
tion. The result is the immersion of the mouth and nostrils, and
the inception, during efforts to breathe while beneath the surface,
of water into the lungs. Much is also received into the stomach,
and the whole body becomes heavier by the difference between
the weight of the air originally distending these cavities, and that
of the fluid which now fills them. This difference is sufficient to
cause the body to sink, as a general rule ; but is insufficient in
the cases of individuals with small bones and an abnormal quan
tity of flaccid or fatty matter. Such individuals float even after
" The corpse, being supposed at the bottom of the river, will
there remain until, by some means, its specific gravity a'gain be
comes less than that of the bulk of water which it displaces.
This effect is brought about by decomposition, or otherwise. The
result of decomposition is the generation of gas, distending the cel
lular tissues and all the cavities, and giving the puffed appear
ance which is to horrible. When this distension has so far pro
gressed that the bulk of the corpse is materially increased with-
170 FOE'S TALES.
out a corresponding increase of mass or weight, its specific gravity
becomes less than that of the water displaced, and it forthwith
makes its appearance at the surface. But decomposition is modi
fied by innumerable circumstances is hastened or retarded by
innumerable agencies ; for example, by the heat or cold of the
season, by the mineral impregnation or purity of the water, by its
depth or shallowness, by its currency or stagnation, by the tem
perament of the body, by its infection or freedom from disease be
fore death. Thus it is evident that we can assign no period, with
any thing like accuracy, at which the corpse shall rise through
decomposition. Under certain conditions this result would be
brought about within an hour ; under others, it might not take
place at all. There are chemical infusions by which the animal
frame can be preserved forever from corruption ; the Bi-chloride
of Mercury is one. But, apart from decomposition, there may
be, and very usually is, a generation of gas within the stomach,
from the acetous fermentation of vegetable matter (or within other
cavities from other causes) sufficient to induce a distension which
will bring the body to the surface. The effect produced by the
firing of a cannon is that of simple vibration. This may either
loosen the corpse from the soft mud or ooze in which it is imbed
ded, thus permitting it to rise when other agencies have already
prepared it for so doing ; or it may overcome the tenacity of some
putrescent portions of the cellular tissue ; allowing the cavities to
distend under the influence of the gas.
" Having thus before us the whole philosophy of this subject,
we can easily test by it the assertions of L'Etoile. ' All expe
rience shows,' says this paper, * that drowned bodies, or bodies
thrown into the water immediately after death by violence, re
quire from six to ten days for sufficient decomposition to take place
to bring them to the top of the water. Even when a cannon is
fired over a corpse, and it rises before at least five or six days'
immersion, it sinks again if let alone.'
" The whole of this paragraph must now appear a tissue of in
consequence and incoherence. All experience does not show that
1 drowned bodies ' require from six to ten days for sufficient de
composition to take place to bring them to the surface. Both
science and experience show that the period of their rising is, and
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 171
necessarily must be, indeterminate. If, moreover, a body ha*
risen to the surface through firing of cannon, it will not ' sink
again if let alone,' until decomposition has so far progressed as to
permit the escape of the generated gas. But I wish to call your
attention to the distinction which is made between ' drowned
bodies/ and ' bodies thrown into the water immediately after
death by violence.' Although the writer admits the distinction,
he yet includes them all in the same category. I have shown
how it is that the body of a drowning man becomes specifically
heavier than its bulk of water, and that he would not sink at all,
except for the struggles by which he elevates his arms above the
surface, and his gasps for breath while beneath the surface
gasps which supply by water the place of the original air in the
lungs. But these struggles and these gasps would not occur in
the body ' thrown into the water immediately after death by vio
lence.' Thus, in the latter instance, the body, as a general rule,
would not sink at all a fact of which L'Etoile is evidently igno
rant. When decomposition had proceeded to a very great extent
when the flesh had in a great measure left the bones then,
indeed, but not till then, should we lose sight of the corpse.
" And now what are we to make of the argument, that the body
found could not be that of Marie Roget, because, three days only
having elapsed, this body was found floating ? If drowned, being
a woman, she might never haVe sunk ; or having sunk, might
have re-appeared in twenty-four hours, or less. But no one sup
poses her to have been drowned and, dying before being thrown
into the river, she might have been found floating at any period
" ' But,' says L'Etoile, ' if the body had been kept in its man
gled state on shore until Tuesday night, some trace would be
found on shore of the murderers.' Here it is at first difficult to
perceive the intention of the reasoner. He means to anticipate
what he imagines would be an objection to his theory viz : that
the body was kept on shore two days, suffering rapid decomposi
tion more rapid than if immersed in water. He supposes that,
had this been the case, it might have appeared at the surface on
the Wednesday, and thinks that only under such circumstances it
could so have appeared. He is accordingly in haste to show that
172 POE'S TALES.
it was not kept on shore ; for, if so, ' some trace would be found
on shore of the murderers.' I presume you smile at the sequitur.
You cannot be made to see how the mere duration of the corpse
on the shore could operate to multiply traces of the assassins.
Nor can I.
" ' And furthermore it is exceedingly improbable,' continues our
journal, ' that any villains who had committed such a murder as
is here supposed, would have thrown the body in without weight
to sink it, when such a precaution could have so easily been
taken.' Observe, here, the laughable confusion of thought ! No
one not even L'Etoile disputes the murder committed on the
body found. The marks of violence are too obvious. It is our
reasoner's object merely to show that this body is not Marie's.
He wishes to prove that Marie is not assassinated not that the
corpse was not. Yet his observation proves only the latter point.
Here is a corpse without weight attached. Murderers, casting it
in, would not have failed to attach a weight. Therefore it was
not thrown in by murderers. This is all which is proved, if any
thing is. The question of identity is not even approached, and
L'Etoile has been at great pains merely to gainsay now what it
has admitted only a moment before. ' We are perfectly con
vinced,' it says, ' that the body found was that of a murdered fe
" Nor is this the sole instance, even in this division of his sub
ject, where our reasoner unwittingly reasons against himself.
His evident object, I have already said, is to reduce, as much as
possible, the interval between Marie's disappearance and the find
ing of the corpse. Yet we find him urging the point that no
person saw the girl from the moment of her leaving her mother's
house. ' We have no evidence,' he says, 'that Marie Roget was
in the land of the living after nine o'clock on Sunday, June the
twenty-second/ As his argument is obviously an ex parte one,
he should, at least, have left this matter out of sight ; for had any
one been known to see Marie, say on Monday, or on Tuesday,
the interval in question would have been much reduced, and, by
his own ratiocination, the probability much diminished of the
corpse being that of the grisette. It is, nevertheless, amusing to
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 173
observe that L'Etoile insists upon its point in the full belief of its
furthering its general argument.
" Reperuse now that portion of this argument which has refer
ence to the identification of the corpse by Beauvais. In regard
lo the hair upon the arm, L'Etoile has been obviously disingen
uous. M. Beauvais, not being an idiot, could never have urged,
in identification of the corpse, simply hair upon its arm. No arm
is ivitliout hair. The generality of the expression of L'Etoile is
a mere perversion of the witness' phraseology. He must have
spoken of some peculiarity in this hair. It must have been a
peculiarity of color, of quantity, of length, or of situation.
" ' Her foot, 3 says the journal, ; was smallso are thousands
of feet. Her garter is no proof whatever nor is her shoe for
shoes and garters are sold in packages. The same may be said
of the flowers in her hat. One thing upon which M. Beauvais
strongly insists is, that the clasp on the garter foundj had been
set back to take it in. This amounts to nothing ; for most women
find it proper to take a pair of garters home and fit them to the
size of the limbs they are to encircle, rather than to try them in
the store where they purchase.' Here it is difficult to suppose
the reasoner in earnest. Had M. Beauvais, in his search for the
body of Marie, discovered a corpse corresponding in general size
and appearance to the missing girl, he would have been warranted
(without reference to the question of habiliment at all) in forming
an opinion that his search had been successful. If, in addition
to the point of general size and contour, he had found upon the
arm a peculiar hairy appearance which he had observed upon
the living Marie, his opinion might have been justly strengthened;
and the increase of positiveness might well have been in the ratio
of the peculiarity, or unusualness, of the hairy mark. If, the
feet of Marie being small, those of the corpse were also small,
the increase of probability that the body was that of Marie would
not be an increase in a ratio merely arithmetical, but in one highly
geometrical, or accumulative. Add to all this shoes such as she
had been known to wear upon the day of her disappearance, and,
although these shoes may be ( sold in packages/ you so far aug
ment the probability as to verge upon the certain. What, of
174 FOE'S TALES.
itself, would be no evidence of identity, becomes through its cor
roborative position, proof most sure. Give us, then, flowers in
the hat corresponding to those worn by the missing girl, and we
seek for nothing farther. If only one flower, we seek for nothing
farther what then if two or three, or more ? Each successive
one is multiple evidence proof not added to proof, but multiplied
by hundreds or thousands. Let us now discover, upon the de
ceased, garters such as the living used, and it is almost folly to
proceed. But these garters are found to be tightened, by the
setting back of a clasp, in just such a manner as her own had
been tightened by Marie, shortly previous to her leaving home.
It is now madness or hypocrisy to doubt. What L'Etoile says
in respect to this abbreviation of the garter's being an usual oc
currence, shows nothing beyond its own pertinacity in error. The
elastic nature of the clasp-garter is self-demonstration of the un-
usualness of the abbreviation. What is made to adjust itself,
must of necessity require foreign adjustment but rarely. It must
have been by an accident, in its strictest sense, that these garters
of Marie needed the tightening described. They alone would
have amply established her identity. But it is not that the corpse
was found to have the garters of the missing girl, or found to have
her shoes, or her bonnet, or the flowers of her bonnet, or her feet,
or a peculiar mark upon the arm, or her general size and appear
ance it is that the corpse had each, and all collectively. Could
it be proved that the editor of L'Etoile really entertained a doubt,
under the circumstances, there would be no need, in his case, of
a commission de lunatico inq-uirendo. He has thought it sagacious
to echo the small talk of the lawyers, who, for the most part, con
tent themselves with echoing the rectangular precepts of the
courts. I would here observe that very much of what is rejected
as evidence by a court, is the best of evidence to the intellect.
For the court, guiding itself by the general principles of evidence
the recognized and looked principles is averse from swerving
at particular instances. And this steadfast adherence to principle,
with rigorous disregard of the conflicting exception, is a sure
mode of attaining the maximum of attainable truth, in any long
sequence of time. The practice, in mass, is therefore philosoph-
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 175
ical ; but it is not the less certain that it engenders vast individ
" In respect to the insinuations levelled at Beauvais, you will
be willing to dismiss them in a breath. You have already fa
thomed the true character of this good gentleman. He is a busy
body, with much of romance and little of wit. Any one so con
stituted will readily so conduct himself, upon occasion of real ex
citement, as to render himself liable to suspicion on the part of
the over-acute, or the ill-disposed. M. Beauvais (as it appears
from your notes) had some personal interviews with the editor of
L'Etoile, and offended him by venturing an opinion that the
corpse, notwithstanding the theory of the editor, was, in sober fact,
that of Marie. ' He persists,' says the paper, ' in asserting the
corpse to be that of Marie, but cannot give a circumstance, in
addition to those which we have commented upon, to make others
believe.' Now, without re-adverting to the fact that stronger evi
dence ' to make others believe,' could never have been adduced,
it may be remarked that a man may very well be understood to
believe, in a case of this kind, without the ability to advance a
single reason for the belief of a second party. Nothing is more
vague than impressions of individual identity. Each man recog
nizes his neighbor, yet there are few instances in which any one
is prepared to give a reason for his recognition. The editor of
L'Etoile had no right to be offended at M. Beauvais' unreasoning
" The suspicious circumstances which invest him, will be found
to tally much better with my hypothesis of romantic busy-body-
ism, than with the reasoner's suggestion of guilt. Once adopting
the more charitable interpretation, we shall find no difficulty in
comprehending the rose in the key-hole ; the * Marie' upon the
* " A theory based on the qualities of an object, will prevent its being un
folded according to its objects ; and he who arranges topics in reference to
their causes, will cease to value them according to their results. Thus the
jurisprudence of every nation will show that, when law becomes a science and
a system, it ceases to be justice. The errors into which a blind devotion to
principles of classification has led the common law, will be seen by observing
how often the legislature has been obliged to come forward to restore the
equity its scheme had lost." Landor.
176 FOE'S TALES.
slate; the 'ejbowing the male relatives out of the way;' the
1 aversion to permitting them to see the body ;' the caution given
to Madame B , that she must hold no conversation with the
gendarme until his return (Beauvais') ; and, lastly, his apparent
determination ' that nobody should have anything to do with the
proceedings except himself. 7 It seems to me unquestionable that
Beauvais was a suitor of Marie's ; that she coquetted with him ;
and that he was ambitious of being thought to enjoy her fullest
intimacy and confidence. I shall say nothing more upon this
point ; and, as the evidence fully rebuts the assertion of L'Etoile,
touching the matter of apathy on the part of the mother and other
relatives an apathy inconsistent with the supposition of their
believing the corpse to be that of the perfumery-girl we shal 1
now proceed as if the question of identity were settled to our per-
" And what," I here demanded, " do you think of the opinions
of Le Commerciel ?"
" That, in spirit, they are far more worthy of attention than
any which have been promulgated upon the subject. The de
ductions from the premises are philosophical and acute ; but the
premises, in two instances, at least, are founded in imperfect
observation. Le Commerciel wishes to intimate that Marie was
seized by some gang of low ruffians not far from her mother's
door. ' It is impossible,' it urges, * that a person so well known
to thousands as this young woman was, should have passed three
blocks without some one having seen her.' This is the idea of a
man long resident in Paris a public man '-and one whose walks
to and fro in the city, have been mostly limited to the vicinity of
the public offices. He is aware that lie seldom passes so far as
a dozen blocks from his own bureau, without being recognized
and accosted. And, knowing the extent of his personal acquaint
ance with others, and of others with him, he compares his notoriety
with that of the perfumery-girl, finds no great difference between
them, and reaches at once the conclusion that she, in her walks,
Would be equally liable to recognition with himself in his. This
could only be the case were her walks of the same unvarying,
methodical character, and within the same species of limited
region as are his own. He passes to and fro, at regular intervals,
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 177
within a confined periphery, abounding in individuals who are led
to observation of his person through interest in the kindred nature
of his occupation with their own. But the walks of Marie may,
in general, be supposed discursive. In this particular instance,
it will be understood as most probable, that she proceeded upon a
route of more than average diversity from her accustomed ones.
The parallel which we imagine to have existed in the mind of Le
Commerciel would only be sustained in the event of the two indi
viduals' traversing the whole city. In this case, granting the
personal acquaintances to be equal, the chances would be also
equal that an equal number of personal rencounters would be
made. For my own part, I should hold it not only as possible,
but as very far more than probable, that Marie might have pro
ceeded, at any given period, by any one of the many routes be
tween her own residence and that of her aunt, without meeting a
single individual whom she knew, or by whom she was known.
In viewing this question in its full and proper light, we must hold
steadily in mind the great disproportion between the personal ac
quaintances of even the most noted individual in Paris, and the
entire population of Paris itself.
" But whatever force there may still appear to be in the sug
gestion of Le Commerciel, will be much diminished when we take
into consideration the hour at which the girl went abroad. ' It
was when the streets were full of people/ says Le Commerciel,
1 that she went out.' But not so. It was at nine o'clock in the
morning. Now at nine o'clock of every morning in the week,
with the exception of Sunday, the streets of the city are, it is true,
thronged with people. At nine on Sunday, the populace are
chiefly within doors preparing for church. No observing person
can have failed to notice the peculiarly deserted air of the town,
from about eight until ten on the morning of every Sabbath. Be
tween ten and eleven the streets are thronged, but not at so early
a period as that designated.
" There is another point at which there seems a deficiency of
observation on the part of Le Commerciel. ' A piece,' it says,
' of one of the unfortunate girl's petticoats, two feet long, and one
foot wide, was torn out and tied under her chin, and around the
back of her head, probably to prevent screams. This was done
178 POE'S TALES
by fellows who had no pocket-handkerchiefs.' Whether this idea
is, or is not well founded, we will endeavor to see hereafter ; but
by ' fellows who have no pocket-handkerchiefs,' the editor intends
the lowest class of ruffians. These, however, are the very de
scription of people who will always be found to have handker
chiefs even when destitute of shirts. You must have had occasion
to observe how absolutely indispensable, of late years, to the
thorough blackguard, has become the pocket-handkerchief."
" And what are we to think," I asked, " of the article in Le
" That it is a vast pity its inditer was not born a parrot in
which case he would have been the most illustrious parrot of his
race. He has merely repeated the individual items of the alrea
dy published opinion ; collecting them, with a laudable industry,
from this paper and from that. ' The things had all evidently
been there,' he says, ' at least, three or four weeks, and there can
be no doubt that the spot of fhis appalling outrage has been dis
covered.' The facts here re-stated by Le Soleil, are very far
indeed from removing my own doubts upon this subject, and we
will examine them more particularly hereafter in connexion with
another division of the theme.
" At present we must occupy ourselves with other investiga
tions. You cannot fail to have remarked the extreme laxity of
the examination of the corpse. To be sure, the question of iden
tity was readily determined, or should have been ; hut there were
other points to b3 ascertained. Had the body been in any respect
despoiled ? H id the deceased any articles of jewelry about her
person upon ' eaving home ? if so, ha4 she any when found ?
These are in portant questions utterly untouched by the evidence ;
and there are others of equal moment, which have met with no
attention. We must endeavor to satisfy ourselves by personal in
quiry. The case of St. Eustache must be re-examined. I have
no suspicion of this person ; but let us proceed methodically.
We will ascertain beyond a doubt the validity of the affidavits in
regard to his whereabouts on the Sunday. Affidavits of this
character are readily made matter of mystification. Should
there be nothing wrong here, however, we will dismiss St. Eu
stache from our investigations. His suicide, however corrobora-
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 170
live of suspicion, were there found to be deceit in the affidavits,
is, without such deceit, in no respect an unaccountable circum
stance, or one which need cause us to deflect from the line of or
" In that which I now propose, we will discard the interior points
of this tragedy, and concentrate our attention upon its outskirts.
Not the least usual error, in investigations such as this, is the
limiting of inquiry to the immediate, with total disregard of the
collateral or circumstantial events. It is the mal-practice of the
courts to confine evidence and discussion to the bounds of appa
rent relevancy. Yet experience has shown, and a true philoso
phy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of
truth, arises from the seemingly irrelevant. It is through the
spirit of this principle, if not precisely through its letter, that
modern science has resolved to calculate upon the unforeseen.
But perhaps you do not comprehend me. The history of human
knowledge has so uninterruptedly shown that to collateral, or in
cidental, or accidental events we are indebted for the most nume
rous and most valuable discoveries, that it has at length become
necessary, in any prospective view of improvement, to make not
only large, but the largest allowances for inventions that shall
arise by chance, and quite out of the range of ordinary expecta
tion. It is no longer philosophical to base, upon what has been,
a vision of what is to be. Accident is admitted as a portion of
the substructure. We make chance a matter of absolute calcu
lation. We subject the unlocked for and unimagined, to the
mathematical formulae of the schools.
" I repeat that it is no more than fact, that the larger portion of
all truth has sprung from the collateral ; and it is but in accord
ance with the spirit of the principle involved in this fact, that I
would divert inquiry, in the present case, from the trodden and
hitherto unfruitful ground of the event itself, to the cotemporary
circumstances which surround it. While you ascertain the va
lidity of the affidavits, I will examine the newspapers more gene
rally than you have as yet done. So far, we have only recon
noitred the field of investigation ; but it will be strange indeed if
a comprehensive survey, such as I propose, of the public prints,
180 POE'S TALES.
will not afford us some minute points which shall establish a di
rection for inquiry."
In pursuance of Dupin's suggestion, I made scrupulous exam
ination of the affair of the affidavits. The result was a firm con
viction of their validity, and of the consequent innocence of St.
Eustache. In the mean time my friend occupied himself, with
what seemed to me a minuteness altogether objectless, in a scru
tiny of the various newspaper files. At the end of a week he
placed before me the following extracts :
" About three years and a half ago, a disturbance very similar to the pres
ent, was caused by the disappearance of this same Marie Roget, from the
parfumerie of Monsieur Le Blanc, in the Palais Royal. At the end of a week,
however, she re-appeared at her customary comptoir, as well as ever, with the
exception of a slight paleness not altogether usual. It was given out by Mon
sieur Le Blanc and her mother, that she had merely been on a visit to some
friend in the country ; and the affair was speedily hushed up. We presume
that the present absence is a freak of the same nature, and that, at the expi
ration of a week, or perhaps of a month, we shall have her among us again."
Evening Paper Monday, June 23.*
" An evening journal of yesterday, refers to a former mysterious disappear
ance of Mademoiselle RogSt. It is well known that, during the week of her
absence from Le Blanc's parfumerie, she was in the company of a young
naval officer, much noted for his debaucheries. A quarrel, it is supposed^ provi
dentially led to her return home. We have the name of the Lothario in ques
tion, who is, at present, stationed in Paris, but, for obvious reasons, forbear to
make it public." Le Mercuric Tuesday Morning, June 24.t
" An outrage of the most atrocious character was perpetrated near this city
the day before yesterday. A gentleman, with his wife and daughter, engaged,
about dusk, the services of six young men, who were idly rowing a boat to and
fro near the banks of the Seine, to convey him across the river. Upon- reach
ing the opposite shore, the three passengers stepped out, and had proceeded so
far as to be beyond the view of the boat, when the daughter discovered that
she had left in it her parasol. She returned for it, was seized by the gang,
carried out into the stream, gagged, brutally treated, and finally taken to the
shore at a point not far from that at which she had originally entered the boat
with her parents. The villains have escaped for the time, but the police are
upon their trail, and some of them will soon be taken." Morning Paper June
" We have received one or two communications, the object of which is to
* N. Y. Express." t " N. Y. Herald."
t N. Y. Courier and Inquirer."
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 181
fasten the crime of the late atrocity upon Mennais ;* but as this gentleman
has been fully exonerated by a legal inquiry, and as the arguments of our sev
eral correspondents appear to be more zealous than profound, we do not think
it advisable to make them public." Morning Paper June 28.t
" We have received several forcibly written communications, apparently
from various sources, and which go far to render it a matter of certainty that
the unfortunate Marie Roget has become a victim of one of the numerous
bands of blackguards which infest the vicinity of the city upon Sunday. Our
own opinion is decidedly in favor of this supposition. We shall endeavor to
make room for some of these arguments hereafter." Evening Paper Tues
day, June 31.t
" On Monday, one of the bargemen connected with the revenue service,
saw an empty boat floating down the Seine. Sails were lying in the bottom
of the boat. The bargeman towed it under the barge office. The next morn
ing it was taken from thence, without the knowledge of any of the officers.
The rudder is now at the barge office." Le Diligence Thursday, June 26.
Upon reading these various extracts, they not only seemed to
me irrelevant, but I could perceive no mode in which any one of
them could be brought to bear upon the matter in hand. I wait
ed for some explanation from Dupin.
" It is not my present design," he said, " to dwell upon the first
and second of these extracts. I have copied them chiefly to show
you the extreme remissness of the police, who, as far as I can
understand from the Prefect, have not troubled themselves, in any
respect, with an examination of the naval officer alluded to. Yet
it is mere folly to say that between the first and second disap
pearance of Marie, there is no supposable connection. Let us
admit the first elopement to have resulted in a quarrel between
the lovers, and the return home of the betrayed. We are now
prepared to view a second elopement (if we know that an elope
ment has again taken place) as indicating a renewal of the be
trayer's advances, rather than as the result of new proposals by
a second individual we are prepared to regard it as a ' making
up ' of the old amour, rather than as the commencement of a new
one. The chances are ten to one, that he who had once eloped
* Mennais was one of the parties originally suspected and arrested, but dis
charged through total lack of evidence.
t " N. Y. Courier and Inquirer."
t " N. Y. Evening Post."
N, Y. Standard."
182 FOE'S TALES.
with Marie, would again propose an elopement, rather than that
she to whom proposals of elopement had been made by one indi
vidual, should have them made to her by another. And here let
me call your attention to the fact, that the time elapsing between
the first ascertained, and the second supposed elopement, is a few
months more than the general period of the cruises of our men-of-
war. Had the lover been interrupted in his first villany by the
necessity of departure to sea, and had he seized the first moment
of his return to renew the base designs not yet altogether accom
plished or not yet altogether accomplished by him ? Of all
these things we know nothing.
" You will say, however, that, in the second instance, there was
no elopement as imagined. Certainly not but are we prepared
to say that there was not the frustrated design ? Beyond St.
Eustache, and perhaps Beauvais, we find no recognized, no open,
no honorable suitors of Marie. Of none other is there any thing
said. Who, then, is the secret lover, of whom the relatives (at
least most of them) know nothing, but whom Marie meets upon
the morning of Sunday, and who is so deeply in her confidence,
that she hesitates not to remain with him until the shades of the
evening descend, amid the solitary groves of the Barriere du
Roule ? Who is that secret lover, I ask, of whom, at least, most
of the relatives know nothing ? And what means the singular
prophecy of Madame Roget on the morning of Marie's departure ?
' I fear that I shall never see Marie again.'
" But if we cannot imagine Madame Roget privy to the design
of elopement, may we not at least suppose this design entertained
by the girl ? Upon quitting home, she gave it to be understood
that she was about to visit her aunt in the Rue des- Dromes, and
St. Eustache was requested to call for her at dark. Now, at first
glance, this fact strongly militates against my suggestion ; but
let us reflect. That she did meet some companion, and proceed
with him across the river, reaching the Barriere du Roule at so
late an hour as three o'clock in the afternoon, is known. But in
consenting so to accompany this individual, (for whatever pur
pose to her mother known or unknown,) she must have thought
of her expressed intention when leaving home, and of the surprise
and suspicion aroused in the bosom of her affianced suitor, St.
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 183
Eustache, when, calling for her, at the hour appointed, in the
Rue des Dromes, he should find that she had not been there, and
when, moreover, upon returning to the pension with this alarming
intelligence, he should become aware of her continued absence
from home. She must have thought of these things, I say. She
must have foreseen the chagrin of St. Eustache, the suspicion of
all. She could not have thought of returning to brave this suspi
cion ; but the suspicion becomes a point of trivial importance to
her, if we suppose her not intending to return.
" We may imagine her thinking thus < I am to meet a certain
person for the purpose of elopement, or for certain other purposes
known only to myself. It is necessary that there be no chance of
interruption there must be sufficient time given us to elude pur
suit I will give it to be understood that I shall visit and spend
the day with my aunt at the Rue des Dromes I well tell St. Eu
stache not to call for me until dark in this way, my absence
from home for the longest possible period, without causing suspi
cion or anxiety, will be accounted for, and I shall gain more time
than in any other manner. If I bid St. Eustache call for me at
dark, he will be sure not to call before ; but, if I wholly neglect
to bid him call, my time for escape will be diminished, since it
will be expected that I return the earlier, and my absence will
the sooner excite anxiety. Now, if it were my design to return
at all if I had in contemplation merely a stroll with the individ
ual in question it would not be my policy to bid St. Eustache
call ; for, calling, he will be sure to ascertain that I have played
him false a fact of which I might keep him for ever in igno
rance, by leaving home without notifying him of my intention, by
returning before dark, and by then stating that I had been to visit
my aunt in the Rue des Dromes. But, as it is my design never
to return or not for some weeks or not until certain conceal
ments are effected the gaining of time is the only point about
which I need give myself any concern. 7
" You have observed, in your notes, that the most general opin
ion in relation to this sad affair is, and was from the first, that the
girl had been the victim of a gang of blackguards. Now, the
popular opinion, under certain conditions, is not to be disregarded.
When arising of itself when manifesting itself in a strictly
184 FOE'S TALES.
spontaneous manner we should look upon it as analogous with
that intuition which is the idiosyncrasy of the individual man of
genius. In ninety-nine cases from the hundred I would abide by
its decision. But it is important that we find no palpable traces
of suggestion. The opinion must be rigorously the public '5 own;
and the distinction is often exceedingly difficult to perceive and
to maintain. In the present instance, it appears to me that this
* public opinion,' in respect to a gang, has been superinduced by
the collateral event which is detailed in the third of my extracts.
All Paris is excited by the discovered corpse of Marie, a girl
young, beautiful and notorious. This corpse is found, bearing
marks of violence, and floating in the river. But it is now made
known that, at the very period, or about the very period, in which
it is supposed that the girl was assassinated, an outrage similar in
nature to that endured by the deceased, although less in extent,
was perpetrated, by a gang of young ruffians, upon the person of
a second young female. Is it wonderful that the one known atro
city should influence the popular judgment in regard to the other
unknown ? This judgment awaited direction, and the known out
rage seemed so opportunely to afford it ! Marie, too, was found
in the river ; and upon this very river was this known outrage
committed. The connexion of the two events had about it so
much of the palpable, that the true wonder would have been a
failure of the populace to appreciate and to seize it. But, in
fact, the one atrocity, known to be so committed, is, if any thing,
evidence that the other, committed at a time nearly coincident,
was not so committed. It would have been a miracle indeed, if,
while a gang of ruffians were perpetrating, at a given locality, a
most unheard-of wrong, there should have been another similar
gang, in a similar locality, in the same city, under the same cir
cumstances, with the same means and appliances, engaged in a
wrong of precisely the same aspect, at precisely the same period
of time ! Yet in what, if not in this marvellous train of coinci
dence, does the accidentally suggested opinion of the populace
call upon us to believe ?
" Before proceeding farther, let us consider the supposed scene
of the assassination, in the thicket at the Barriere du Roule. This
thicket, although dense, was in the close vicinity of a public road.
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 185
Within were three or four large stones, forming a kind of seat
with a back and footstool. On the upper stone was discovered a
white petticoat ; on the second, a silk scarf. A parasol, gloves,
and a pocket-handkerchief, were also here found. The hand
kerchief bore the name, ' Marie Roget.' Fragments of dress were
seen on the branches around. The earth was trampled, the
bushes were broken, and there was every evidence of a violent
" Notwithstanding the acclamation with which the discovery of
this thicket was received by the press, and the unanimity with
which it was supposed to indicate the precise scene of the outrage,
it must be admitted that there was some very good reason for
doubt. That it was the scene, I may or I may not believe but
there was excellent reason for doubt. Had the true scene been,
as Le Commerciel suggested, in the neighborhood of the Rue
Pavee St. Andree, the perpetrators of the crime, supposing them
still resident in Paris, would naturally have been stricken with
terror at the public attention thus acutely directed into the proper
channel ; and, in certain classes of minds, there would have
arisen, at once, a sense of the necessity of some exertion to re-
divert this attention. And thus, the thicket of the Barriere du
Roule having been already suspected, the idea of placing the arti
cles where they were found, might have been naturally enter
tained. There is no real evidence, although Le Soleil so supposes,
that the articles discovered had been more than a very few days
in the thicket ; while there is much circumstantial proof that they
could not have remained there, without attracting attention, during
the twenty days elapsing between the fatal Sunday and the after
noon upon which they were found by the boys. ' They were all
mildewed down hard,' says Le Soleil, adopting the opinions of its
predecessors, ' with the action of the rain, and stuck together from
mildew. The grass had grown around and over some of them.
The silk of the parasol was strong, but the threads of it were run
together within. The upper part, where it had been doubled and
folded, was all mildewed and rotten, and tore on being opened.'
In respect to the grass having 'grown around and over some of
them,' it is obvious that the fact could only have been ascertained
from the words, and thus from the recollections, of two small boys j
186 FOE'S TALES.
for these boys removed the articles and took them home before
they had been seen by a third party. But grass will grow, es
pecially in warm and damp weather, (such as was that of the
period of the murder,) as much as two or three inches in a single
day. A parasol lying upon a newly turfed ground, might, in a
single week, be entirely concealed from sight by the upspririging
grass. And touching that mildew upon which the editor of Le
Soleil so pertinaciously insists, that he employs the word no less
than three times in the brief paragraph just quoted, is he really
unaware of the nature of this mildew ? Is he to be told that it is
one of the many classes of fungus, of which the most ordinary
feature is its upspringing and decadence within twenty-four hours ?
" Thus we see, at a glance, that what has been most trium
phantly adduced in support of the idea that the articles had been
4 for at least three or four weeks' in the thicket, is most absurdly
null as regards any evidence of that fact. On the other hand, it
is exceedingly difficult to believe that these articles could have
remained in the thicket specified, for a longer period than a sin
gle week for a longer period than from one Sunday to the next.
Those who know any thing of the vicinity of Paris, know the ex
treme difficulty of finding seclusion, unless at a great distance
from its suburbs. Such a thing as an unexplored, or even an un-
frequently visited recess, amid its woods or groves, is not for a
moment to be imagined. Let any one who, being at heart a
lover of nature, is yet chained by duty to the dust and heat of this
great metropolis let any such one attempt, even during the week
days, to slake his thirst for solitude amid the scenes of natural
loveliness which immediately surround us. At every second step,
he will find the growing charm dispelled by the voice and per
sonal intrusion of some ruffian or party of carousing blackguards.
He will seek privacy amid the densest foliage, all in vain. Here
are the very nooks where the unwashed most abound here are
the temples most desecrate. With sickness of the heart the wan
derer will flee back to the polluted Paris as to a less odious because
less incongruous sink of pollution. But if the vicinity of the city
is so beset during the working days of the week, how much more
so on the Sabbath ! It is now especially that, released from the
claims of labor, or deprived of the customary opportunities of
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 187
crime, the town blackguard seeks the precincts of the town, not
through love of the rural, which in his heart he despises, but by
way of escape from the restraints and conventionalities of society.
He desires less the fresh air and the green trees, than the utter
license, of the country. Here, at the road-side inn, or beneath the
foliage of the woods, he indulges, unchecked by any eye except
those of his boon companions, in all the mad excess of a counter
feit hilarity the joint offspring of liberty and of rum. I say no
thing more than what must be obvious to every dispassionate ob
server, when I repeat that the circumstance of the articles in
question having remained undiscovered, for a longer period than
from one Sunday to another, in any thicket in the immediate
neighborhood of Paris, is to be looked upon as little less than
" But there are not wanting other grounds for the suspicion that
the articles were placed in the thicket with the view of diverting
attention from the real scene of the outrage. And, first, let me
direct your notice to the date of the discovery of the articles.
Collate this with the date of the fifth extract made by myself from
the newspapers. You will find that the discovery followed, al
most immediately, the urgent communications sent to the evening
paper. These communications, although various, and apparently
from various sources, tended all to the same point viz., the di
recting of attention to a gang as the perpetrators of the outrage,
and to the neighborhood of the Barriere du Roule as its scene.
Now here, of course, the suspicion is not that, in consequence of
these communications, or of the public attention by them directed,
the articles were found by the boys ; but the suspicion might and
may well have been, that the articles were not before found by
the boys, for the reason that the articles had not before been in
the thicket ; having been deposited there only at so late a period
as at the date, or shortly prior to the date of the communications 3
by the guilty authors of these communications themselves.
" This thicket was a singular an exceedingly singular one.
It was unusually dense. Within its naturally walled enclosure
were three extraordinary stones, forming a seat with a back and
footstool. And this thicket, so full of a natural art, was in the
immediate vicinity, within a few rods., of the dwelling of Madame
188 FOE'S TALES.
Deluc, whose boys were in the habit of closely examining the
shrubberies about them in search of the bark of the sassafras.
Would it be a rash wager a wager of one thousand to one that
a day never passed over the heads of these boys without finding
at least one of them ensconced in the umbrageous hall, and en-
throned upon its natural throne ? Those who would hesitate at
such a wager, have either never been boys themselves, or have
forgotten the boyish nature. I repeat it is exceedingly hard to
comprehend how the articles could have remained in this thicket
undiscovered, for a longer period than one or two days ; and that
thus there is good ground for suspicion, in spite of the dogmatic
ignorance of Le Soleil, that they were, at a comparatively late
date, deposited where found.
" But there are still other and stronger reasons for believing
them so deposited, than any which I have as yet urged. And,
now, let me beg your notice to the highly artificial arrangement
of the articles. On the upper stone lay a white petticoat ; on the
second a silk scarf; scattered around, were a parasol, gloves, and
a pocket-handkerchief bearing the name, ' Marie Roget.' Here is
just such an arrangement as would naturally be made by a not-
over-acute person wishing to dispose the articles naturally. But
it is by no means a really natural arrangement. I should rather
have looked to see the things all lying on the ground and tram
pled under foot. In the narrow limits of that bower, it would
have been scarcely possible that the petticoat and scarf should
have retained a position upon the stones, when subjected to the
brushing to and fro of many struggling persons. * There was
evidence,' it is said, ' of a struggle ; and the earth was trampled,
the bushes were broken,' but the petticoat and the scarf are
found deposited as if upon shelves. ' The pieces of the frock torn
out by the bushes were about three inches wide and six inches
long. One part was the hem of the frock and it had been mended.
They looked like strips torn off.' Here, inadvertently, Le Soleil
has employed an exceedingly suspicious phrase. The pieces, as
described, do indeed 'look like strips torn off;' but purposely and
by hand. It is one of the rarest of accidents that a piece is ' torn
off,' from any garment such as is now in question, by the agency
of a thorn. From the very nature of such fabrics, a thorn or
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 189
nail becoming entangled in them, tears them rectangularly di
vides them into two longitudinal rents, at right angles with each
other, and meeting at an apex where the thorn enters but it is
scarcely possible to conceive the piece ' torn off.' I never so
knew it, nor did you. To tear a piece off from such fabric, two
distinct forces, in different directions, will be, in almost every
case, required. If there be two edges to the fabric if, for ex
ample, it be a pocket-handkerchief, and it is desired to tear from
it a slip, then, and then only, will the one force serve the purpose.
But in the present case the question is of a dress, presenting but
one edge. To tear a piece from the interior, where no edge is
presented, could only be effected by a miracle through the agency
of thorns, and no one thorn could accomplish it. But, even where
an edge is presented, two thorns will be necessary, operating, the
one in two distinct directions, and the other in one. And this in
the supposition that the edge is unhemmed. If hemmed, the mat
ter is nearly out of the question. We thus see the numerous and
great obstacles in the way of pieces being ' torn off' through the
simple agency of ' thorns ;' yet we are required to believe not
only that one piece but that many have been so torn. ' And one
part,' too, ' was the hem of the frock /' Another piece was 'part
of the skirt, not the he?n,' that is to say, was torn completely out,
through the agency of thorns, from the unedged interior of the
dress ! These, I say, are things which one may well be pardoned
for disbelieving ; yet, taken collectedly, they form, perhaps, less
of reasonable ground for suspicion, than the one startling circum
stance of the articles' having been left in this thicket at all, by
any murderers who had enough precaution to think of removing
the corpse. You will not have apprehended me rightly, however,
if you suppose it my design to deny this thicket as the scene of
the outrage. There might have been a wrong here, or, more pos
sibly, an accident at Madame Deluc's. But, in fact, this is a
point of minor importance. We are not engaged in an attempt
to discover the scene, but to produce the perpetrators of the mur
der. What I have adduced, notwithstanding the minuteness with
which I have adduced it, has been with the view, first, to show
the folly of the positive and headlong assertions of Le Soleil, but
secondly and chiefly, to bring you, by the most natural route, to
190 FOE'S TALES.
a further contemplation of the doubt whether this assassination
has, or has not been, the work of a gang.
" We will resume this question by mere allusion to the revolt
ing details of the surgeon examined at the inquest. It is only
necessary to say that his published inferences, in regard to the
number of the ruffians, have been properly ridiculed as unjust
and totally baseless, by all the reputable anatomists of Paris.
Not that the matter might not have been as inferred, but that there
was no ground for the inference : was there not much for an
" Let us reflect now upon ' the traces of a struggle ;' and let
me ask what these traces have been supposed to demonstrate. A
gang. But do they not rather demonstrate the absence of a
gang? What struggle could have taken place what struggle
so violent and so enduring as to have left its ' traces' in all direc
tions between a weak and defenceless girl and the gang of ruffians
imagined ? The silent grasp of a few rough arms and all would
have been over. The victim must have been absolutely passive
at their will. You will here bear in mind that the arguments urg
ed against the thicket as the scene, are applicable, in chief part, only
against it as the scene of an outrage committed by more than a
single individual. If we imagine but one violator, we can con
ceive, and thus only conceive, the struggle of so violent and so
obstinate a nature as to have left the ' traces' apparent.
" And again. I have already mentioned the suspicion to be
excited by the fact that the articles in question were suffered to
remain at all in the thicket where discovered. It seems almost
impossible that these evidences of guilt should have been acciden
tally left where found. There was sufficient presence of mind (it
is supposed) to remove the corpse ; and yet a more positive
evidence than the corpse itself (whose features might have been
quickly obliterated by decay,) is allowed to lie conspicuously in
the scene of the outrage I allude to the handkerchief with the
name of the deceased. If this was accident, it was not the acci
dent of a gang. We can imagine it only the accident of an indi
vidual. Let us see. An individual has committed the murder.
He is alone with the ghost of the departed. He is appalled by
what lies motionless before him. The fury of his passion is over,
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 191
and there is abundant room in his heart for the natural awe of
the deed. His is none of that confidence which the presence of
numbers inevitably inspires. He is alone with the dead. He
trembles and is bewildered. Yet there is a necessity for disposing
of the corpse. He bears it to the river, but leaves behind him
the other evidences of guilt; for it is difficult, if not impossible to
carry all the burthen at once, and it will be easy to return for
what is left. But in his toilsome journey to the water his
fears redouble within him. The sounds of life encompass his
path. A dozen times he hears or fancies the step of an observer.
Even the very lights from the city bewilder him. Yet, in time,
and by long and frequent pauses of deep agony, he reaches the
river's brink, and disposes of his ghastly charge perhaps through
the medium of a boat. But now what treasure does the world
hold what threat of vengeance could it hold out which would
have power to urge the return of that lonely murderer over that
toilsome and perilous path, to the thicket and its blood-chilling
recollections 1 He returns not, let the consequences be what
they may. He could not return if he would. His sole thought
is immediate escape. He turns his back forever upon those
dreadful shrubberies, and flees as from the wrath to come.
" But how with a gang ? Their number would have inspired
them with confidence ; if, indeed, confidence is ever wanting in
the breast of the arrant blackguard ; and of arrant blackguards
alone are the supposed gangs ever constituted. Their number, I
say, would have prevented the bewildering and unreasoning terror
which I have imagined to paralyze the single man. Could we
suppose an oversight in one, or two, or three, this oversight would
have been remedied by a fourth. They would have left nothing
behind them ; for their number would have enabled them to carry
all at once. There would have been no need of return.
" Consider now the circumstance that, in the outer garment of
the corpse when found, ' a slip, about a foot wide, had been torn
upward from the bottom hem to the waist, wound three times round
the waist, and secured by a sort of hitch in the back.' This was
done with the obvious design of affording a handle by which to
carry the body. But would any number of men have dreamed
of resorting to such an expedient ? To three or four, the limbs of
192 FOE'S TALES.
the corpse would have afforded not only a sufficient, but the best
possible hold. The device is that of a single individual ; and this
brings us to the fact that ' between the thicket and the river, the
rails of the fences were found taken down, and the ground bore
evident traces of some heavy burden having been dragged along
it !' But would a number of men have put themselves to the su
perfluous trouble of taking down a fence, for the purpose of drag,
ging through it a corpse which they might have lifted over any
fence in an instant ? Would a number of men have so dragged,
a corpse at all as to have left evident traces of the dragging 1
" And here we must refer to an observation of Le Commerciel ;
an observation upon which I have already, in some measure, com
mented. 'A piece/ says this journal, 'of one of the unfortunate
girl's petticoats was torn out and tied under her chin, and around
the back of her head, probably to prevent screams. This was
done by fellows who had no pocket-handkerchiefs.'
" I have before suggested that a genuine blackguard is never
without a pocket-handkerchief. But it is not to this fact that I
now especially advert. That it was not through want of a hand
kerchief for the purpose imagined by Le Commerciel, that this
bandage was employed, is rendered apparent by the handker
chief left in the thicket ; and that the object was not ' to prevent
screams' appears, also, from the bandage having been employed
in preference to what would so much better have answered the
purpose. But the language of the evidence speaks of the strip in
question as ' found around the neck, fitting loosely, and secured
with a hard knot.' These words are sufficiently vague, but differ
Materially from those of Le Commerciel. The slip was eighteen
inches wide, and therefore, although of muslin, would form a
strong band when folded or rumpled longitudinally. And thus
rumpled it was discovered. My inference is this. The solitary
murderer, having borne the corpse, for some distance, (whether
from the thicket or elsewhere) by means of the bandage hitched
around its middle, found the weight, in this mode of procedure, too
much for his strength. He resolved to drag the burthen the evi
dence goes to show that it was dragged. With this object in view,
it became necessary to attach something like a rope to one of the
extremities* It could be best attached about the neck, where tht
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 193
head would prevent its slipping off. And, now, the murderer be
thought him, unquestionably, of the bandage about the loins. He
would have used this, but for its volution about the corpse, the
hitch which embarrassed it, and the reflection that it had not been
1 torn off' from the garment. It was easier to tear a new slip
from the petticoat. He tore it, made it fast about the neck, and
so dragged his victim to the brink of the river. That this ' ban
dage,' only attainable with trouble and delay, and but imperfectly
answering its purpose that this bandage was employed at all, de
monstrates that the necessity for its employment sprang from cir
cumstances arising at a period when the handkerchief was no
longer attainable that is to say, arising, as we have imagined,
after quitting the thicket, (if the thicket it was), and on the road
between the thicket and the river.
" But the evidence, you will say, of Madame Deluc, (!) points
especially to the presence of a gang, in the vicinity of the thicket,
at or about the epoch of the murder. This I grant. I doubt if
there were not a dozen gangs, such as described by Madame Deluc,
in and about the vicinity of the Barriere du Roule at or about the
period of this tragedy. But the gang which has drawn upon
itself the pointed animadversion, although the somewhat tardy
and very suspicious evidence of Madame Deluc, is the only gang
which is represented by that honest and scrupulous old lady as
having eaten her cakes and swallowed her brandy, without put
ting themselves to the trouble of making her payment. Et hinc
ill(R ir& ?
"But what is the precise evidence of Madame Deluc? 'A
gang of miscreants made their appearance, behaved boisterously,
ate and drank without making payment, followed in the route of
the young man and girl, returned to the inn about dusk, and re-
crossed the river as if in great haste.'
" Now this ' great haste' very possibly seemed greater haste in
the eyes of Madame Deluc, since she dwelt lingeringly and
lamentingly upon her violated cakes and ale cakes and ale for
which she might still have entertained a faint hope of compen
sation. Why, otherwise, since it was about dusk, should she
make a point of the haste ? It is no cause for wonder, surely,
that even a gang of blackguards should make haste to get home,
194 FOE'S TALES.
when a wide river is to be crossed in small boats, when storm im
pends, and when night approaches.
" I say approaches ; for the night had not yet arrived. It was
only about dusk that the indecent haste of these * miscreants'
offended the sober eyes of Madame Deluc. But we are told that
it was upon this very evening that Madame Deluc, as well as her
eldest son, * heard the screams of a female in the vicinity of the
inn.' And in what words does Madame Deluc designate the
period of the evening at which these screams were heard ? ' It
was soon after dark,' she says. But 'soon after dark,' is, at
least, dark ; and ' about dusk' is as certainly daylight. Thus it
is abundantly clear that the gang quitted the Barriere du Roule
prior to the screams overheard (?) by Madame Deluc. And
although, in all the many reports of the evidence, the relative ex
pressions in question are distinctly and invariably employed just
as I have employed them in this conversation with yourself, no
notice whatever of the gross discrepancy has, as yet, been taken
by any of the public journals, or by any of the Myrmidons of
" I shall add but one to the arguments against a gang ; but
this one has, to my own understanding at least, a weight alto
gether irresistible. Under the circumstances of large reward
offered, and full pardon to any King's evidence, it is not to be
imagined, for a moment, that some member of a gang of low
ruffians, or of any body of men, would not long ago have betray
ed his accomplices. Each one of a gang so placed, is not so
much greedy of reward, or anxious for escape, as fearful of be
trayal. He betrays eagerly and early that he may not himself be,
betrayed. That the secret has not been divulged, is the very best
of proof that it is, in fact, a secret. The horrors of this dark
deed are known only to one, or two, living human beings, and to
" Let us sum up now the meagre yet certain fruits of our long
analysis. We have attained the idea either of a fatal accident
under the roof of Madame Deluc, or of a murder perpetrated,
in the thicket at the Barriere du Roule, by a lover, or at least by
an intimate and secret associate of the deceased. This associate
is of swarthy complexion. This complexion, the ' hitch' in the
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 195
bandage, and the < sailor's knot,' with which the bonnet-ribbon is
tied, point to a seaman. His companionship with the deceased, a
gay, but not an abject young girl, designates him as above the
grade of the common sailor. Here the well written and urgent
communications to the journals are much in the way of cor-
roboration. The circumstance of the first elopement, as men
tioned by Le Mercuric, tends to blend the idea of this seaman
with that of the l naval officer' who is first known to have led the
unfortunate into crime.
" And here, most fitly, comes the consideration of the con-
tinued absence of him of the dark complexion. Let me pause
to observe that the complexion of this man is dark and swarthy ;
it was no common swarthiness which constituted the sole point
of remembrance, both as regards Valence and Madame Deluc.
But why is this man absent ? Was he murdered by the gang ?
If so, why are there only traces of the assassinated girl ? The
scene of the two outrages will naturally be supposed identical.
And where is his corpse ? The assassins would most probably
have disposed of both in the same way. But it may be said that
this man lives, and is deterred from making himself known,
through dread of being charged with the murder. This consider
ation might be supposed to operate upon him now at this late
period since it has been given in evidence that he was seen with
Marie but it would have had no force at the period of the deed.
The first impulse of an innocent man would have been to an
nounce the outrage, and to aid in identifying the ruffians. This,
policy would have suggested. He had been seen with the girl.
He had crossed the river with her in an open ferry-boat. The
denouncing of the assassins would have appeared, even to an
idiot, the surest and sole means of relieving himself from sus
picion. We cannot suppose him, on the night of the fatal Sun
day, both innocent himself and incognizant of an outrage com
mitted. Yet only under such circumstances is it possible to
imagine that he would have failed, if alive, in the denouncement
of the assassins.
" And what means are ours, of attaining the truth ? We
shall find these means multiplying and gathering distinctness as
we proceed. Let us sift to the bottom this affair of the first elope
196 FOE'S TALES
ment. Let us know the full history of l the officer,' with his
present circumstances, and his whereabouts at the precise period
of the murder. Let us carefully compare with each other the
various communications sent to the evening paper, in which the
object was to inculpate a gang. This done, let us compare these
communications, both as regards style and MS., with those sent
to the morning paper, at a previous period, and insisting so vehe
mently upon the guilt of Mennais. And, all this done, let us
again compare these various communications with the known
MSS. of the officer. Let us endeavor to ascertain, by repeated
questionings of Madame Deluc and her boys, as well as of the
omnibus-driver, Valence, something more of the personal appear
ance and bearing of the l man of dark complexion.' Queries,
skilfully directed, will not fail to elicit, from some of these par
ties, information on this particular point (or upon others) infor
mation which the parties themselves may not even be aware of
possessing. And let us now trace the boat picked up by the barge
man on the morning of Monday the twenty-third of June, and
which was removed from the barge-office, without the cognizance
of the officer in attendance, and without the- rudder, at some period
prior to the discovery of the corpse. With a proper caution and
perseverance we shall infallibly trace this boat ; for not only can
the bargeman who picked it up identify it, but the rudder is at
hand. The rudder of a sail-boat would not have been abandon
ed, without inquiry, by one altogether at ease in heart. And
here let me pause to insinuate a question. There was no adver
tisement of the picking up of this boat. It was silently taken to
the barge-office, and as silently removed. But its owner or
employer how happened he, at so early a period as Tuesday
morning, to be informed, without the agency of advertisement, of
the locality of the boat taken up on Monday, unless we imagine
some connexion with the navy some personal permanent n ^r.
nexion leading to cognizance of its minute in' ,iests its petty
local news ?
" In speaking of the lonely assassin dra f -ing his burden to the
shore, I have already suggested the p ^ability of his availing
himself of a boat. Now we are to ir uerstand that Marie Roget
was precipitated from a boat. Thi c< would naturally have been
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 197
the case. The corpse could not have been trusted to the shallow
waters of the shore. The peculiar marks on the back and
shoulders of the victim tell of the bottom ribs of a boat. That
the body was found without weight is also corroborative of the
idea. If thrown from the shore a weight would have been at
tached. We can only account for its absence by supposing the
murderer to have neglected the precaution of supplying himself
with it before pushing off. In the act of consigning the corpse to
the water, he would unquestionably have noticed his oversight ;
but then no remedy would have been at hand. Any risk would
have been preferred to a return to that accursed shore. Having
rid himself of his ghastly charge, the murderer would have
hastened to the city. There, at some obscure wharf, he would
have leaped on land. But the boat would he have secured it ?
He would have been in too great haste for such things as securing
a boat. Moreover, in fastening it to the wharf, he would have
felt as if securing evidence against himself. His natural thought
would have been to cast from him, as far as possible, all that had
held connection with his crime. He would not only have fled
from the wharf, but he would not have permitted the boat to re
main. Assuredly he would have cast it adrift. Let us pursue
our fancies. In the morning, the wretch is stricken with unutter
able horror at finding that the boat has been picked up and de
tained at a locality which he is in the daily habit of frequenting
at a locality, perhaps, which his duty compels him to frequent.
The next night, without daring to ask for the rudder, he removes
it. Now where is that rudderless boat ? Let it be one of our
first purposes to discover. With the first glimpse we obtain of it,
the dawn of our success shall begin. This boat shall guide us,
with a rapidity which will surprise even ourselves, to him who
employed it in the midnight of the fatal Sabbath. Corroboration
will rise upon corroboration, and the murderer will be traced."
[For reasons which we shall not specify, but which to many
readers will appear obvious, we have taken the liberty of here
omitting, from the MSS. placed in our hands, such portion as
details the following up of the apparently slight clew obtained by
Dupin. We feel it advisable only to state, in brief, that the re
sult desired was brought to pass ; and that the Prefect fulfilled
198 POE'S TALES.
punctually, although with reluctance, the terms of his compact
with the Chevalier. Mr. Poe's article concludes with the follow,
ing words. Eds.*]
It will be understood that I speak of coincidences and no more.
What I have said above upon this topic must suffice. In my
own heart there dwells no faith in prseter-nature. That Nature
and its God are two, no man who thinks, will deny. That the
latter, creating the former, can, at will, control or modify it, is
also unquestionable. I say " at will ;" for the question is of will,
and not, as the insanity of logic has assumed, of power. It is
not that the Deity cannot modify his laws, but that we insult him
in imagining a possible necessity for modification. In their origin
these laws were fashioned to embrace all contingencies which
could lie in the Future. With God all is Now.
I repeat, then, that I speak of these things only as of coincidences.
And farther : in what I relate it will be seen that between the
fate of the unhappy Mary Cecilia Rogers, so far as that fate is
known, and the fate of one Marie Roget up to a certain epoch in
her history, there has existed a parallel in the contemplation of
whose wonderful exactitude the reason becomes embarrassed. I
say all this will be seen. But let it not for a moment be sup
posed that, in proceeding with the sad narrative of Marie from the
epoch just mentioned, and in tracing to its denouement the myste
ry which enshrouded her, it is my covert design to hint at an ex
tension of the parallel, or even to suggest that the measures
adopted in Paris for the discovery of the assassin of a grisette, or
measures founded in any similar ratiocination, would produce any
For, in respect to the latter branch of the supposition, it should
be considered that the most trifling variation in the facts of the
two cases might give rise to the most important miscalculations,
by diverting thoroughly the two courses of events ; very much as,
in arithmetic, an error which, in its own individuality, may be in
appreciable, produces, at length, by dint of multiplication at all
points of the process, a result enormously at variance with truth.
And, in regard to the former branch, we must not fail to hold in
* Of the Magazine in which the article was originally published
THE MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET. 199
view that the very Calculus of Probabilities to which I have re
ferred, forbids all idea of the extension of the parallel : forbids it
with a positiveness strong and decided just in proportion as this
parallel has already been long-drawn and exact* This is one of
those anomalous propositions which^ seemingly appealing to
thought altogether apart from the mathematical, is yet one which
only the mathematician can fully entertain^ Nothing, for exam
ple, is more difficult than to convince the merely general reader
that the fact of sixes having been thrown twice in succession by
a player at dice, is sufficient cause for betting the largest odds
that sixes will not be thrown in the third attempt. A suggestion
to this effect is usually rejected by the intellect at once. It does
not appear that the two throws which have been completed, and
which lie now absolutely in the Past, can have influence upon the
throw which exists only in the Future. The chance for throw
ing sixes seems to be precisely as it was at any ordinary time
that is to say, subject only to the influence of the various other
throws which may be made by the dice. And this is a reflection
which appears so exceedingly obvious that attempts to controvert
it are received more frequently with a derisive smile than with
anything like respectful attention. The error here involved a
gross error redolent of mischief I cannot pretend to expose within
the limits assigned me at present ; and with the philosophical it
needs no exposure. It may be sufficient here to say that it forms
one of an infinite series of mistakes which arise in the path 01
Reason through her propensity for seeking truth in detail.
200 FOE'S TALES.
THE PURLOINED LETTER.
Nil sapient! ae odiosius acumine nimio.
AT Paris, just after dark one gusty evening in the autumn of
18 , I was enjoying the twofold luxury of meditation and a
meerschaum, in company with my friend C. Auguste Dupin, in
his little back library, or book-closet, au troisieme, No. 33, Rue
Dunot, Faubourg St. Germain. For one hour at least we had
maintained a profound silence ; while each, to any casual ob
server, might have seemed intently and exclusively occupied
with the curling eddies of smoke that oppressed the atmosphere
of the chamber. For myself, however, I was mentally discuss
ing certain topics which had formed matter for conversation
between us at an earlier period of the evening ; I mean the affair
of the Rue Morgue, and the mystery attending the murder of
Marie Roget. I looked upon it, therefore, as something of a
coincidence, when the door of our apartment was thrown open
and admitted our old acquaintance, Monsieur G , the Prefect
of the Parisian police.
We gave him a hearty welcome ; for there was nearly half as
much of the entertaining as of the contemptible about the man,
and we had not seen him for several years. We had been
sitting in the dark, and Dupin now arose for the purpose of
lighting a lamp, but sat down again, without doing so, upon G.'s
saying that he had called to consult us, or rather to ask the
opinion of my friend, about some official business which had oc
casioned a great deal of trouble.
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 201
" If it is any point requiring reflection," observed Dupin, as he
forebore to enkindle the wick, " we shall examine it to better pur
pose in the dark. 5 '
" That is another of your odd notions," said the Prefect, who
had a fashion of calling every thing " odd " that was beyond his
comprehension, and thus lived amid an absolute legion of " oddi
" Very true," said Dupin, as he supplied his visiter with a
pipe, and rolled towards him a comfortable chair.
" And what is the difficulty now ?" I asked. " Nothing more
in the assassination way, I hope ?"
" Oh no ; nothing of that nature. The fact is, the business is
very simple indeed, and I make no doubt that we can manage it
sufficiently well ourselves ; but then I thought Dupin would like
to hear the details of it, because it is so excessively odd."
11 Simple and odd," said Dupin.
" Why, yes ; and not exactly that, either. The fact is, we
have all been a good deal puzzled because the affair is so simple,
and yet baffles us altogether."
" Perhaps it is the very simplicity of the thing which puts you
at fault," said my friend.
" What nonsense you do talk !" replied the Prefect, laughing
" Perhaps the mystery is a little too plain," said Dupin.
" Oh, good heavens ! who ever heard of such an idea ?"
" A little too self-evident."
" Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ho ! ho ! ho !" roared our
visiter, profoundly amused, " oh, Dupin, you will be the death of
me yet !"
" And what, after all, is the matter on hand ?" I asked.
" Why, I will tell you," replied the Prefect, as he gave a long,
steady, and contemplative puff, and settled himself in his chair.
" I will tell you in a few words ; but, before I begin, let me
caution you that this is an affair demanding the greatest secrecy,
and that I should most probably lose the position I now hold,
were it known that I confided it to any one."
" Proceed," said I.
" Or not," said Dupin.
" Well, then ; I have received personal information, from a
very high quarter, that a certain document of the last importance,
has been purloined from the royal apartments. The individual
who purloined it is known ; this beyond a doubt ; he was seen
to take it. It is known, also, that it still remains in his posses
" How is this known ?" asked Dupin.
" It is clearly inferred," replied the Prefect, " from the nature
of the document, and from the non-appearance of certain results
which would at once arise from its passing out of the robber's
possession ; that is to say, from his employing it as he must
design in the end to employ it."
" Be a little more explicit," I said.
" Well, I may venture so far as to say that the paper gives its
holder a certain power in a certain quarter where such power is
immensely valuable." The Prefect was fond of the cant of
" Still I do not quite understand," said Dupin.
" No ? Well ; the disclosure of the document to a third person,
who shall be nameless, would bring in question the honor of a
personage of most exalted station ; and this fact gives the holder
of the document an ascendancy over the illustrious personage
whose honor and peace are so jeopardized."
" But this ascendancy," I interposed, " would depend upon
the robber's knowledge of the loser's knowledge of the robber.
Who would dare"
" The thief," said G., " is the Minister D , who dares
all things, those unbecoming as well as those becoming a man.
The method of the theft was not less ingenious than bold.
The document in question a letter, to be frank had been
received by the personage robbed while alone in the royal
"boudoir. During its perusal she was suddenly interrupted by
the entrance of the other exalted personage from whom especially
it was her wish to conceal it. After a hurried and vain endeavor
to thrust it in a drawer, she was forced to place it, open as it was,
upon a table. The address, however, was uppermost, and, the
contents thus unexposed, the letter escaped notice. At this junc
ture enters the Minister D . His lynx eye immediately per-
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 203
ceives the paper, recognises the handwriting of the address, ob
serves the confusion of the personage addressed, and fathoms her
secret. After some business transactions, hurried through in his
ordinary manner, he produces a letter somewhat similar to the
one in question, opens it, pretends to read it, and then places it in
close juxtaposition to the other. Again he converses, for some
fifteen minutes, upon the public affairs. At length, in taking
leave, he takes also from the table the letter to which he had no
claim. Its rightful owner saw, but, of course, dared not call at
tention to the act, in the presence of the third personage who
stood at her elbow. The minister decamped ; leaving his own
letter one of no importance upon the table."
"Here, then," said Dupin to me, "you have precisely what
you demand to make the ascendancy complete the robber's
knowledge of the loser's knowledge of the robber."
"Yes," replied the Prefect; "and the power thus attained has,
for some months past, been wielded, for political purposes, to a
very dangerous extent. The personage robbed is more thorough
ly convinced, every day, of the necessity of reclaiming her letter.
But this, of course, cannot be done openly. In fine, driven to
despair, she has committed the matter to me."
" Than whom," said Dupin, amid a perfect whirlwind of smoke,
" no more sagacious agent could, I suppose, be desired, or even
" You flatter me," replied the Prefect ; " but it is possible that
some such opinion may have been entertained."
" It is clear," said I, " as you observe, that the letter is still in
possession of the minister \ since it is this possession, and not any
employment of the letter, which bestows the power. With the
employment the power departs."
" True," said G. ; " and upon this conviction I proceeded.
My first care was to make thorough search of the minister's
hotel ; and here my chief embarrassment lay in the necessity of
searching without his knowledge. Beyond all things, I have
been warned of the danger which would result from giving him
reason to suspect our design."
"But," said I, "you are quite aufait in these investigations.
The Parisian police have done this thing often before."
204 FOE'S TALES.
" O yes ; and for this reason I did not despair. The habits of
the minister gave me, too, a great advantage. He is frequently
absent from home all night. His servants are by no means
numerous. They sleep at a distance from their master's apart
ment, and, being chiefly Neapolitans, are readily made drunk.
I have keys, as you know, with which I can open any chamber
or cabinet in Paris. For three months a night has not passed,
during the greater part of which I have not been engaged, per
sonally, in ransacking the D Hotel. My honor is interest
ed, and, to mention a great secret, the reward is enormous. So I
did not abandon the search until I had become fully satisfied that
the thief is a more astute man than myself. I fancy that I have
investigated every nook and corner of the premises in which it is
possible that the paper can be concealed."
" But is it not possible," I suggested, "that although the letter
may be in possession of the minister, as it unquestionably is, he
may have concealed it elsewhere than upon his own premises ?"
" This is barely possible," said Dupin. " The present pecu
liar condition of affairs at court, and especially of those intrigues
in which D is known to be involved, would render the in
stant availability of the document its susceptibility of being
produced at a moment's notice a point of nearly equal impor
tance with its possession."
" Its susceptibility of being produced ?" said I.
" That is to say, of being destroyed" said Dupin.
" True," I observed ; " the paper is clearly then upon the
premises. As for its being upon the person of the minister, we
may consider that as out of the question."
" Entirely," said the Prefect. " He has been twice waylaid,
as if by footpads, and his person rigorously searched under my
" You might have spared yourself this trouble," said Dupin.
" D , I presume, is not altogether a fool, and, if not, must
have anticipated these waylayings, as a matter of course."
" Not altogether a fool," said G., " but then he's a poet, which
I take to be only one remove from a fool."
" True," said Dupin, after a long and thoughtful whiff from
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 205
his meerschaum, " although I have been guilty of certain doggrel
" Suppose you detail," said I, "the particulars of your search."
" Why the fact is, we took our time, and we searched every
where. I have had long experience in these affairs. I took the
entire building, room by room ; devoting the nights of a whole
week to each. We examined, first, the furniture of each apart
ment. We opened every possible drawer j and I presume you
know that, to a properly trained police agent, such a thing as a
secret drawer is impossible. Any man is a dolt who permits a
' secret ' drawer to escape him in a search of this kind. The
thing is 50 plain. There is a certain amount of bulk of space
to be accounted for in every cabinet. Then we have accurate
rules. The fiftieth part of a line could not escape us. After
the cabinets we took the chairs. The cushions we probed with
the fine long needles you have seen me employ. From the tables
we removed the tops."
" Sometimes the top of a table, or other similarly arranged
piece of furniture, is removed by the person wishing to conceal
an article ; then the leg is excavated, the article deposited within
the cavity, and the top replaced. The bottoms and tops of bed
posts are employed in the same way."
" But could not the cavity be detected by sounding ?" I asked.
" By no means, if, when the article is deposited, a sufficient
wadding of cotton be placed around it. Besides, in our case, we
were obliged to proceed without noise."
" But you could not have removed you could not have taken
to pieces all articles of furniture in which it would have been
possible to make a deposit in the manner you mention. A letter
may be compressed into a thin spiral roll, not differing much in
shape or bulk from a large knitting-needle, and in this form it
iiii fe __. v = inserted into the rung of a chair, for example. You did
not take to pieuc. : 1] the chairs ?"
" Certainly not ; but We. /^ better we examined the rungs of
every chair in the hotel, and, iriuv- J -. the jointings of every de
scription of furniture, by the aid of a moo. "owerful microscope.
Had there been any traces of recent disturbance ~VQ should not
206 POE'S TALES.
have failed to detect it instantly. A single grain of gimlet-dust,
for example, would have been as obvious as an apple. Any dis
order in the glueing any unusual gaping in the joints would
have sufficed to insure detection."
" I presume you looked to the mirrors, between the boards and
the plates, and you probed the beds and the bed-clothes, as well
as the curtains and carpets."
" That of course ; and when we had absolutely completed
every particle of the furniture in this way, then we examined the
house itself. We divided its entire surface into compartments,
which we numbered, so that none might be missed ; then we
scrutinized each individual square inch throughout the premises,
including the two houses immediately adjoining, with the micro
scope, as before."
" The two houses adjoining !" I exclaimed ; " you must have
had a great deal of trouble."
" We had ; but the reward offered is prodigious."
" You include the grounds about the houses ?"
" All the grounds are paved with brick. They gave us com
paratively little trouble. We examined the moss between the
bricks, and found it undisturbed."
" You looked among D 's papers, of course, and into the
books of the library ?"
" Certainly ; we opened every package and parcel ; we not
only opened every book, but we turned over every leaf in each
volume, not contenting ourselves with a mere shake, according
to the fashion of some of our police officers. We also measured
the thickness of every book-cover, with the most accurate ad
measurement, and applied to each the most jealous scrutiny of
the microscope. Had any of the bindings been recently meddled
with, it would have been utterly impossible that the fact should
have escaped observation. Some five or six volumes, just from
the hands of the binder, we carefully probed, longitudinally, with
" You explored the floors beneath the carpets ?"
" Beyond doubt. We removed every carpet, and examined
the boards with the microscope."
" And the paper on the walls ?"
THE PURLOINED LETTER 207
" You looked into the cellars ?"
" We did."
" Then," I said, "you have been making a miscalculation, and
the letter is not upon the premises, as you suppose."
" I fear you are right there," said the Prefect. " And now,
Dupin, what would you advise me to do ?"
" To make a thorough re-search of the premises."
" That is absolutely needless," replied G . " I am not
more sure that I breathe than I am that the letter is not at the
" I have no better advice to give you," said Dupin. " You
have, of course, an accurate description of the letter ?"
" Oh yes !" And here the Prefect, producing a memorandum-
book, proceeded to read aloud a minute account of the internal,
and especially of the external appearance of the missing docu
ment. Soon after finishing the perusal of this description, he
took his departure, more entirely depressed in spirits than I had
ever known the good gentleman before.
In about a month afterwards he paid us another visit, and
found us occupied very nearly as before. He took a pipe and a
chair and entered into some ordinary conversation. At length I
" Well, but G , what of the purloined letter ? I presume
you have at last made up your mind that there is no such thing
as overreaching the Minister ?"
" Confound him, say I yes ; I made the re-examination, how
ever, as Dupin suggested but it was all labor lost, as I knew it
" How much was the reward offered, did you say ?" asked
" Why, a very great deal a very liberal reward I don't like
to say how much, precisely ; but one thing I will say, that I
wouldn't mind giving my individual check for fifty thousand
francs to any one who could obtain me that letter. The fact is,
it is becoming of more and more importance every day ; and the
reward has been lately doubled. If it were trebled, however, I
could do no more than I have done."
208 FOE'S TALES.
" Why, yes," said Dupin, drawlingly, between the whiffs of
his meerschaum, "I really think, G , you have not exerted
yourself to the utmost in this matter. You might do a little
more, I think, eh ?"
" How ? in what way ?'
" Why puff, puff you might puff, puff employ counsel
in the matter, eh ? puff, puff, puff. Do you remember the story
they tell of Abernethy ?"
" No ; hang Abernethy !"
" To be sure ! hang him and welcome. But, once upon a
time, a certain rich miser conceived the design of spunging upon
this Abernethy for a medical opinion. Getting up, for this pur-
pose, an ordinary conversation in a private company, he insinu
ated his case to the physician, as that of an imaginary individual.
" ' We will suppose,' said the miser, ' that his symptoms are
such and such ; now, doctor, what would you have directed him
to take V
" ' Take !' said Abernethy, ' why, take advice, to be sure.' '
" But," said the Prefect, a little discomposed, " I am perfectly
willing to take advice, and to pay for it. I would really give
fifty thousand francs to any one who would aid me in the matter."
"In that case," replied Dupin, opening a drawer, and pro-
ducing a check-book, " you may as well fill me up a check for
the amount mentioned. When you have signed it, I will hand
you the letter."
I was astounded. The Prefect appeared absolutely thunder-
stricken. For some minutes he remained speechless and mo
tionless, looking incredulously at my friend with open mouth,
and eyes that seemed starting from their sockets ; then, appa
rently recovering himself in some measure, he seized a pen, and
after several pauses and vacant stares, finally filled up and sign
ed a check for fifty thousand francs, and handed it across the
table to Dupin. The latter examined it carefully and deposited it
in his pocket-book ; then, unlocking an escritoire, took thence a
letter and gave it to the Prefect. This functionary grasped it in
a perfect agony of joy, opened it with a trembling hand, cast a
rapid glance at its contents, and then, scrambling and struggling
to the door, rushed at length unceremoniously from the room and
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 209
from the house, without having uttered a syllable since Dupin
had requested him to fill up the check.
When he had gone, my friend entered into some explanations.
" The Parisian police," he said, " are exceedingly able in
their way. They are persevering, ingenious, cunning, and thor
oughly versed in the knowledge which their duties seem chiefly
to demand. Thus, when G detailed to us his mode of
searching the premises at the Hotel D , I felt entire confi
dence in his having made a satisfactory investigation so far as
his labors extended."
" So far as his labors extended ?" said I.
" Yes," said Dupin. " The measures adopted were not only
the best of their kind, but carried out to absolute perfection.
Had the letter been deposited within the range of their search,
these fellows would, beyond a question, have found it."
I merely laughed but he seemed quite serious in all that he
" The measures, then," he continued, " were good in their
kind, and well executed ; their defect lay in their being inappli
cable to the case, and to the man. A certain set of highly inge
nious resources are, with the Prefect, a sort of Procrustean bed,
to which he forcibly adapts his designs. But he perpetually
errs by being too deep or too shallow, for the matter in hand ;
and many a schoolboy is a better reasoner than he. I knew
one about eight years of age, whose success at guessing in the
game of ' even and odd ' attracted universal admiration. This
game is simple, and is played with marbles. One player holds
in his hand a number of these toys, and demands of another
whether that number is even or odd. If the guess is right, the
guesser wins one ; if wrong, he loses one. The boy to Whom I
allude won all the marbles of the school. Of course he had some
principle of guessing ; and this lay in mere observation and ad
measurement of the astuteness of his opponents. For example, an
arrant simpleton is his opponent, and, holding up his closed hand,
asks, ' are they even or odd V Our schoolboy replies, odd,'
and loses ; but upon the second trial he wins, for he then says to
himself, ' the simpleton had them even upon the first trial, and
his amount of cunning is just sufficient to make him have them
210 POE'S TALES.
odd upon the second; I will therefore guess odd;' he guesses
odd, and wins. Now, with a simpleton a degree above the first,
he would have reasoned thus : ' This fellow finds that in the first
instance I guessed odd, and, in the second, he will propose to
himself, upon the first impulse, a simple variation from even to
odd, as did the first simpleton ; but then a second thought will
suggest that this is too simple a variation, and finally he will de
cide upon putting it even as before. I will therefore guess even;'
he guesses even, and wins. Now this mode of reasoning in the
schoolboy, whom his fellows termed ' lucky,' what, in its last
analysis, is it?"
" It is merely," I said, " an identification of the reasoners
intellect with that of his opponent."
" It is," said Dupin ; " and, upon inquiring of the boy by
what means he effected the thorough identification in which his
success consisted, I received answer as follows : ' When I wish
to find out how wise, or how stupid, or how good, or how wicked
is any one, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the
expression of rny face, as accurately as possible, in accordance
with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or
sentiments arise in my mind or heart, as if to match or corres
pond with the expression.' This reponse of the schoolboy lies
at the bottom of all the spurious profundity which has been at
tributed to Rochefoucault, to La Bougive, to Machiavelli, and to
" And the identification," I said, " of the reasoner's intellect
with that of his opponent, depends, if I understand you aright,
upon the accuracy with which the opponent's intellect is admeas
" For its practical value it depends upon this," replied Dupin ;
" and the Prefect and his cohort fail so frequently, first, by de
fault of this identification, and, secondly, by ill-admeasurement,
or rather through non-admeasurement, of the intellect with which
they are engaged. They consider only their awn ideas of inge
nuity ; and, in searching for anything hidden, advert only to the
modes in which they would have hidden it. They are right in
this much that their own ingenuity is a faithful representative
of that of the mass; but when the cunning of the individual felon
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 211
is diverse in character from their own, the felon foils them, of
course. This always happens when it is above their own, and
very usually when it is below. They have no variation of prin
ciple in their investigations ; at best, when urged by some un,
usual emergency by some extraordinary reward they extend
or exaggerate their old modes of practice,' without touching their
principles. What, for example, in this case of D , h'as been
done to vary the principle of action ? What is all this boring,
and probing, and sounding, and scrutinizing with the microscope,
and dividing the surface of the building into registered square
inches what is it all but an exaggeration of the application of
the one principle or set of principles of search, which are based
upon the one set of notions regarding human ingenuity, to which
the Prefect, in the long routine of his duty, has been accustomed ?
Do you not see he has taken it for granted that all men proceed
to conceal a letter, not exactly in a gimlet-hole bored in a chair-
leg-^but, at least, in some out-of-the-way hole or corner suggest
ed by the same tenor of thought which would urge a man 'to se
crete a letter in a gimlet-hole bored in a chair-leg ? And do you
not see also, that such recherches nooks for concealment are
adapted only for ordinary occasions, and would be adopted only
by ordinary intellects ; for, in all cases of concealment, a disposal
of the article concealed a disposal of it in this recherche manner,
is, in the very first instance, presumable and presumed ; and
thus its discovery depends, not at all upon the acumen, but alto
gether upon the mere care,, patience, and determination of the
seekers ; and where the case is of importanceor, what amounts
to the same thing in the policial eyes, when the reward is of mag
nitude, the qualities in question have never been known to fail.
You^will now understand what I meant in suggesting that, had
the purloined letter been hidden any where within the limits of the
Prefect's examination in other words, had the principle of its con
cealment been comprehended within the principles of the Prefect
its discovery would have been a matter altogether beyond ques
tion. This functionary, however, has been thoroughly mystified;
and the remote source of his defeat lies in the supposition that the
Minister is a fool, because he has acquired renown as a poet. All
212 FOE'S TALES.
fools are poets ; this the Prefect feels ; and he is merely guilty of
a non disiributio medii in thence inferring that all poets are fools."
" But is this really the poet ?" I asked. " There are two
brothers, I know ; and both have attained reputation in letters.
The Minister I believe has written learnedly on the Differential
Calculus. He is a mathematician, and no poet."
" You are mistaken ; 1 know him well ; he is both. As poet
and mathematician, he would reason well ; as mere mathemati
cian, he could not have reasoned at all, and thus would have been
at the mercy of the Prefect."
" You surprise me," I said, " by these opinions, which have
been contradicted by the voice of the world. You do not mean
to set at naught the well-digested idea of centuries. The mathe
matical reason has long been regarded as the reason par excel
" ' II y a a parier? " replied Dupin, quoting from Chamfort,
" ' que toute idee publique, toute convention re^ue, est une sot-
tise, car elle a convenue au plus grand nombre.' The mathema
ticians, I grant you, have done their best to promulgate the
popular error to which you allude, and which is none the less an
error for its promulgation as truth. With an art worthy a better
cause, for example, they have insinuated the term ' analysis' into
application to algebra. The French are the originators of this
particular deception ; but if a term is of any importance if
words derive any value from applicability then f analysis' con
veys ' algebra ' about as much as, in Latin, ' ambitus ' implies
' ambition,' ' religio ' ' religion/ or ' homines honesti,' a set of
" You have a quarrel on hand, I see," said I, " with some of
the algebraists of Paris ; but proceed."
" I dispute the availability, and thus the value, of that reason
which is cultivated in any especial form other than the abstractly
logical. I dispute, in particular, the reason educed by mathe
matical study. The mathematics are the science of form and
quantity ; mathematical reasoning is merely logic applied to ob
servation upon form and quantity. The great error lies in sup
posing that even the truths of what is called pure algebra, are
abstract or general truths. And this error is so egregious that I
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 213
am confounded at the universality with which it has been receiv
ed. Mathematical axioms are not axioms, of general truth.
What is true of relation of form and quantity is often grossly
false in regard to morals, for example. In this latter science it
is very usually tmtrue that the aggregated parts are equal to the
whole. In chemistry also the axiom fails. In the consideration
of motive it fails ; for two motives, each of a given value, have
not, necessarily, a value when united, equal to the sum of their
values apart. There are numerous other mathematical truths
which are only truths within the limits of relation. But the
mathematician argues, from his finite truths, through habit, as
if they were of an absolutely general applicability as the world
indeed imagines them to be. Bryant, in his very learned * My
thology,' mentions an analogous source of error, when he says
that * although the Pagan fables are not believed, yet we forget
ourselves continually, and make inferences from them as existing
realities. 5 With the algebraists, however, who are Pagans them
selves, the ' Pagan fables ' are believed, and the inferences are
made, not so much through lapse of memory, as through an
unaccountable addling of the brains. In short, I never yet
encountered the mere mathematician who could be trusted out of
equal roots, or one who did not clandestinely hold it as a point of
his faith that x z -\- px was absolutely and unconditionally equal to
q. Say to one of these gentlemen, by way of experiment, if you
please, that you believe occasions may occur where yP+px is not
altogether equal to q, and, having made him understand what you
mean, get out of his reach as speedily as convenient, for, beyond
doubt, he will endeavor to knock you down.
" I mean to say," continued Dupin, while I merely laughed at
his last observations, " that if the Minister had been no more than
a mathematician, the Prefect would have been under no necessity
of giving me this check. I knew him, however, as both mathe
matician and poet, and my measures were adapted to his capacity,
with reference to the circumstances by which he was surrounded.
I knew him as a courtier, too, and as a bold intriguant. Such a
man, I considered, could not fail to be aware of the ordinary po-
licial modes of action. He could not have failed to anticipate
and events have proved that he did not fail to anticipate the
214 POE'S TALES.
waylayings to which he was subjected. He must have foreseen,
I reflected, the secret investigations of his premises. His fre
quent absences from home at night, which were hailed by the
Prefect as certain aids to his success, I regarded only as ruses,
to afford opportunity for thorough search to the police, and thus
the sooner to impress them with the conviction to which G , in
fact, did finally arrive the conviction that the letter was not upon
the premises. I felt, also, that the whole train of thought, which
I was at some pains in detailing to you just now, concerning the
invariable principle of policial action in searches for articles con-
cealed I felt that this whole train of thought would necessarily
pass through the mind of the Minister. It would imperatively
lead him to despise all the ordinary nooks of concealment. He
could not, I reflected, be so weak as not to see that the most in
tricate and remote recess of his hotel would be as open as his
commonest closets to the eyes, to the probes, to the gimlets, and
to the microscopes of the Prefect. I saw, in fine, that he would
be driven, as a matter of course, to simplicity, if not deliberately
induced to it as a matter of choice. You will remember, per
haps, how desperately the Prefect laughed when I suggestedj
upon our first interview, that it was just possible this mystery
troubled him so much on account of its being so very self-ev-
" Yes," said I, " I remember his merriment well. I really
thought he would have fallen into convulsions."
" The material world," continued Dupin, " abounds with very
strict analogies to the immaterial ; and thus some color of truth
has been given to the rhetorical dogma, that metaphor, or simile^
may be made to strengthen an argument, as well as to embellish
a description. The principle of the vis inertia, for example,
seems to be identical in physics and metaphysics. It is not more
true in the former, that a large body is with more difficulty set
in motion than a smaller one, and that its subsequent momentum
is commensurate with this difficulty, than it is, in the latter, that
intellects of the vaster capacity, while more forcible, more con
stant, and more eventful in their movements than those of inferior
grade, are yet the less readily moved, and more embarrassed and
full of hesitation in the first few steps 9f their progress. Again :
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 215
have you ever noticed which of the street signs, over the shop-
doors, are the most attractive of attention ?"
" I have never given the matter a thought," I said.
" There is a game of puzzles," he resumed, " which is played
upon a map. One party playing requires another to find a given
word the name of town, river, state or empire any word, in
short, upon the motley and perplexed surface of the chart. A
novice in the game generally seeks to embarrass his opponents hy
giving them the most minutely lettered names ; but the adept
selects such words as stretch, in large characters, from one end
of the chart to the other. These, like the over-largely lettered
signs and placards of the street, escape observation by dint of be
ing excessively obvious ; and here the physical oversight is pre
cisely analogous with the moral inapprehension by which the in
tellect suffers to pass unnoticed those considerations which are too
obtrusively and too palpably self-evident. But this is a point, it
appears, somewhat above or beneath the understanding of the
Prefect. He never once thought it probable, or possible, that the
Minister had deposited the letter immediately beneath the nose of
the whole world, by way of best preventing any portion of that
world from perceiving it.
" But the more I reflected upon the daring, dashing, and dis
criminating ingenuity of D - ; upon the fact that the document
must always have been at hand, if he intended to use it to good
purpose ; and upon the decisive evidence, obtained by the Prefect,
that it was not hidden within the limits of that dignitary's ordi
nary search the more satisfied I became that, to conceal this
letter, the Minister had resorted to the comprehensive and saga
cious expedient of not attempting to conceal it at all.
" Full of these ideas, I prepared myself with, a pair of green
spectacles, and called one fine morning, quite by accident, at the
Ministerial hotel. I found D at home, yawning, lounging,
and dawdling, as usual, and pretending to be in the last extremity
of ennui. He is, perhaps, the most really energetic human being
now alive but that is only when nobody sees him.
" To be even with him, I complained of my weak eyes, and
lamented the necessity of the spectacles, under cover of which
216 POE'S TALES.
I cautiously and thoroughly surveyed the whole apartment, while
seemingly intent only upon the conversation of my host.
" I paid especial attention to a large writing-table near which
he sat, and upon which lay confusedly, some miscellaneous letters
and other papers, with one or two musical instruments and a few
books. Here, however, after a long and very deliberate scrutiny,
I saw nothing to excite particular suspicion.
" At length my eyes, in going the circuit of the room, fell upon
a trumpery fillagree card-rack of pasteboard, that hung dangling
by a dirty blue ribbon, from a little brass knob just beneath the
middle of the mantel-piece. In this rack, which had three or
four compartments, were five or six visiting cards and a solitary
letter. This last was much soiled and crumpled. It was torn
nearly in two, across the middle as if a design, in the first in-
stance, to tear it entirely up as worthless, had been altered, or
stayed, in the second. It had a large black seal, bearing the
D cipher very conspicuously, and was addressed, in a dimin
utive female hand, to D , the minister, himself. It was thrust
carelessly, and even, as it seemed, contemptuously, into one of
the uppermost divisions of the rack.
" No sooner had I glanced at this letter, than I concluded it
to be that of which I was in search. To be sure, it was, to all
appearance, radically different from the one of which the Prefect
had read us so minute a description. Here the seal was large
and black, with the D cipher ; there it was small and red,
with the ducal arms of the S family. Here, the address,
to the Minister, was diminutive and feminine ; there the super
scription, to a certain royal personage, was markedly bold and
decided ; the size alone formed a point of correspondence. But,
then, the radicalness of these differences, which was excessive ;
the dirt ; the soiled and torn condition of the paper, so inconsist
ent with the true methodical habits of D , and so suggestive
of a design to delude the beholder into an idea of the worthless-
ness of the document ; these things, together with the hyper-
obtrusive situation of this document, full in the view of every
visitor, and thus exactly in accordance with the conclusions to
which I had previously arrived ; these things, I say, were strongly
THE PURLOINED LETTER. 217
corroborative of suspicion, in one who came with the intention to
" I protracted my visit as long as possible, and, while I main
tained a most animated discussion with the Minister, upon a topic
whicli I knew well had never failed to interest and excite him, I
kept my attention really riveted upon the letter. In this exami
nation, I committed to memory its external appearance and ar
rangement in the rack ; and also fell, at length, upon a discovery
which set at rest whatever trivial doubt I might have entertained.
In scrutinizing the edges of the paper, I observed them to be more
chafed than seemed necessary. They presented the broken ap
pearance which is manifested when a stiff paper, having been
once folded and pressed with a folder, is refolded in a reversed
direction, in the same creases or edges which had formed the
original fold. This discovery was sufficient. It was clear to me
that the letter had been turned, as a glove, inside out, re-directed,
and re-sealed. I bade the Minister good morning, and took my
departure at once, leaving a gold snuff-box upon the table.
" The next morning I called for the snuff-box, when we
resumed, quite eagerly, the conversation of the preceding day,
While thus engaged, however, a loud report, as if of a pistol,
was heard immediately beneath the windows of the hotel, and
was succeeded by a series of fearful screams, and the shoutings
of a terrified mob. D rushed to a casement, threw it open,
and looked out. In the meantime, I stepped to the card-rack,
took the letter, put it in my pocket, and replaced it by a fac
simile, (so far as regards externals,) which I had carefully pre
pared at my lodgings imitating the D cipher, very readily,
by means of a seal formed of bread.
" The disturbance in the street had been occasioned by the
frantic behavior of a man with a musket. He had fired it
among a crowd of women and children. It proved, however, to
have been without ball, and the fellow was suffered to go his
way as a lunatic or a drunkard. When he had gone, D
came from the window, whither 1 had followed him immediately
upon securing the object in view. Soon afterwards I bade him
farewell. The pretended lunatic was a man in my own pay."
" But what purpose had you," I asked, " in replacing the letter
218 POE'S TALES.
by afac-simile ? Would it not have been better, at the first visit,
to have seized it openly, and departed ?"
" D ," replied Dupin, " is a desperate man, and a man of
nerve. His hotel, too, is not without attendants devoted to his
interests. Had I made the wild attempt you suggest, I might
never have left the Ministerial presence alive. The good people
of Paris might have heard of me no more. But I had an object
apart from these considerations. You know my political pre
possessions. In this matter, I act as a partisan of the lady con
cerned. For eighteen months the Minister has had her in his
power. She has now him in hers since, being unaware that
the letter is not in his possession, he will proceed with his ex
actions as if it was. Thus will he inevitably commit himself, at
once, to his political destruction. His downfall, too, will not be
more precipitate than awkward. It is all very well to talk about
the facilis descensus Averni ; but in all kinds of climbing, as
Catalani said of singing, it is far more easy to get up than to
come 'down. In the present instance I have no sympathy at
least no pity for him who descends. He is that monstrum
horrendum, an unprincipled man of genius. I confess, however,
that I should like very well to know the precise character of his
thoughts, when, being defied by her whom the Prefect terms ' a
certain personage,' he is reduced to opening the letter which I
left for him in the card-rack."
" How ? did you put any thing particular in it ?"
" Why it did not seem altogether right to leave the interior
blank that would have been insulting. D , at Vienna once,
did me an evil turn, which I told him, quite good-humoredly, that
I should remember. So, as I knew he would feel some curiosity
in regard to the identity of the person who had outwitted him, I
thought it a pity not to give him a clue. He is well acquainted
with my MS., and I just copied into the middle of the blank
^heet the words
" ' Un deseein si funeste,
S'il n'est digne d'Atr^e, est digne de Thyeste.
They are to be found in Crebillon's < Atree.' "
THE MAN OF THE CROWD. 219
THE MAN OF THE CROWD.
Ce grand malheur, de ne pouvoir etre seul.
IT was well said of a certain German book that " er lasst sich
niclit lesen" it does not permit itself to be read. There are
some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die
nightly in their beds, wringing the hands of ghostly confessors,
and looking them piteously in the eyes die with despair of heart
and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of myste
ries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and
then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burthen so heavy in
horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave. And thus
the essence of all crime is undivulged.
Not long ago, about the closing in of an evening in autumn, I
sat at the large bow window of the D Coffee-House in Lon
don. For some months I had been ill in health, but was now
convalescent, and, with returning strength, found myself in one
of those happy moods which are so precisely the converse of en
nui moods of the keenest appetency, when the film from the
mental vision departs the a^Xuj oj irpiv crrricv and the intellect,
electrified, surpasses as greatly its every-day condition, as does
the vivid yet candid reason of Leibnitz, the mad and flimsy
rhetoric of Gorgias. Merely to breathe was enjoyment; and I de
rived positive pleasure even from many of the legitimate sources of
pain. I felt a calm but inquisitive interest in every thing. With
a cigar in my mouth and a newspaper in my lap, I had beeu
amusing myself for the greater part of the afternoon, now in
220 FOE'S TALES.
poring over advertisements, now in observing the promiscuous
company in the room, and now in peering through the smoky
panes into the street.
This latter is one of the principal thoroughfares of the city,
and had been very much crowded during the whole day. But,
as the darkness came on, the throng momently increased ; and, by
the time the lamps were well lighted, two dense and continuous
tides of population were rushing past the door. At this particu
lar period of the evening I had never before been in a similar sit
uation, and the tumultuous sea of human heads filled me, there
fore, with a delicious novelty of emotion. I gave up, at length,
all care of things within the hotel, and became absorbed in con
templation of the scene without.
At first my observations took an abstract and generalizing
turn. I looked at the passengers in 'masses, and thought of them
in their aggregate relations. Soon, however, I descended to de
tails, and regarded with minute interest the innumerable varie
ties of figure, dress, air, gait, visage, and expression of counte
By far the greater number of those who went by had a satis
fied business-like demeanor, and seemed to be thinking only of
making their way through the press. Their brows were knit,
and their eyes rolled quickly ; when pushed against by fellow-
wayfarers they evinced no symptom of impatience, b.ut adjusted
their clothes and hurried on. Others, still a numerous class,
were restless in their movements, had flushed faces, and talked
and gesticulated to themselves, as if feeling in solitude on account
of the very denseness of the company around. When impeded
in their progress, these people suddenly ceased muttering, but re
doubled their gesticulations, and awaited, with an absent and
overdone smile upon the lips, the course of the persons impeding
them. If jostled, they bowed profusely to the jostlers, and ap
peared overwhelmed with confusion. There was nothing very
distinctive about these two large classes beyond what I have noted.
Their habiliments belonged to that order which is pointedly term
ed the decent. They were undoubtedly noblemen, merchants,
attorneys, tradesmen, stock-jobbers the Eupatrids and the com
mon-places of society men of leisure and men actively engaged
THE MAN OF THE CROWD. 221
in affairs of their own conducting business upon their own re
sponsibility. They did not greatly excite my attention.
The tribe of clerks was an obvious one and here I discerned
two remarkable divisions. There were the junior clerks of flash
houses young gentlemen with tight coats, bright boots, well-oiled
hair, and supercilious lips. Setting aside a certain dapperness of
carriage, which may be termed deskism for want of a better
word, the manner of these persons seemed to me an exact fac
simile of what had been the perfection of bon ton about twelve or
eighteen months before. They wore the cast-off graces of the
gentry ; and this, I believe, involves the best definition of the
The division of the upper clerks of staunch firms, or of the
" steady old fellows," it was not possible to mistake. These
were known by their coats and pantaloons of black or brown,
made to sit comfortably, with white cravats and waistcoats, broad
solid-looking shoes, and thick hose or gaiters. They had all
slightly bald heads, from which the right ears, long used to pen-
holding, had an odd habit of standing off on end. I observed
that they always removed or settled their hats with both hands,
and wore watches^ with short gold chains of a substantial and
ancient pattern. Theirs was the affectation of respectability ;
if indeed there be an affectation so honorable.
There were many individuals of dashing appearance, whom I
easily understood as belonging to the race of swell pick-pockets,
with which all great cities are infested. I watched these gentry
With much inquisitiveness, and found it difficult to imagine how
they should ever be mistaken for gentlemen by gentlemen them
selves. Their voluminousness of wristband, with an air of ex
cessive frankness, should betray them at once.
The gamblersj of whom I descried not a few, were still more
easily recognisable; They wore every variety of dress, from
that of the desperate thimble-rig bully, with velvet waistcoat,
fancy neckerchief, gilt chains, and filagreed buttons, to that of
'the scrupulously inornate clergyman, than which nothing could
be less liable to suspicion. Still all were distinguished by a cer
tain sodden swarthiness of complexion, a filmy dimness of eye,
and pallor and compression of lip* There were two other traits,
222 FOE'S TALES.
moreover, by which I could always detect them ; a guarded
lowness of tone in conversation, and a more than ordinary exten
sion of the thumb in a direction at right angles with the fingers.
Very often, in company with these sharpers, I observed an
order of men somewhat different in habits, but still birds of a
kindred feather. They may be defined as the gentlemen who
live by their wits. They seem to prey upon the public in two
battalions that of the dandies and that of the military men. Of
the first grade the leading features are long locks and smiles ; of
the second frogged coats and frowns.
Descending in the scale of what is termed gentility, I found
darker and deeper themes for speculation. I saw Jew pedlars,
with hawk eyes flashing from countenances whose every other
feature wore only an expression of abject humility ; sturdy pro
fessional street beggars scowling upon mendicants of a better
stamp, whom despair alone had driven forth into the night for
charity ; feeble and ghastly invalids, upon whom death had
placed a sure hand, and who sidled and tottered through the
mob, looking every one beseechingly in the face, as if in search
of some chance consolation, some lost hope ; modest young girls
returning from long and late labor to a cheerless home, and
shrinking more tearfully than indignantly from the glances of
ruffians, whose direct contact, even, could not be avoided ; wo
men of the town of all kinds and of all ages the unequivocal
beauty in the prime of her womanhood, putting one in mind of
the statue in Lucian, with the surface of Parian marble, and the
interior filled with filth the loathsome and utterly lost leper in
rags the wrinkled, bejewelled and paint-begrimed beldame, ma
king a last effort at youth the mere child of immature form, yet,
from long association, an adept in the dreadful coquetries of her
trade, and burning with a rabid ambition to be ranked the equal
of her elders in vice ; drunkards innumerable and indescribable
some in shreds and patches, reeling, inarticulate, with bruised
visage and lack-lustre eyes some in whole although filthy
garments, with a slightly unsteady swagger, thick sensual lips,
and hearty-looking rubicund faces others clothed in materials
which had once been good, and which even now were scrupu
lously well brushed men who walked with a more than natu-
THE MAN OF THE CROWD. 223
rally firm and springy step, but whose countenances were fearful
ly pale, whose eyes hideously wild and red, and who clutched
with quivering fingers, as they strode through the crowd, at every
object which came within their reach ; beside these, pie-men,
porters, coal-heavers, sweeps; organ-grinders, monkey-exhibiters
and ballad mongers, those who vended with those who sang ;
ragged artizans and exhausted laborers of every description, and
all full of a noisy and inordinate vivacity which jarred discord
antly upon the ear, and gave an aching sensation to the eye.
As the night deepened, so deepened to me the interest of the
scene ; for not only did the general character of the crowd ma
terially alter (its gentler features retiring in the gradual with
drawal of the more orderly portion of the people, and its harsher
ones coming out into bolder relief, as the late hour brought forth
every species of infamy from its den,) but the rays of the gas-
lamps, feeble at first in their struggle with the dying day, had now
at length gained ascendancy, and threw over every thing a fitful
and garish lustre. All was, dark yet splendid as that ebony to
which has been likened the style of Tertullian.
The wild effects of the light enchained me to an examination of
individual faces ; and although the rapidity with which the world
of light flitted before the window, prevented me from casting
more than a glance upon each visage, still it seemed that, in my
then peculiar mental state, I coined frequently read, even in that
brief interval of a glance, the history of long years.
With my brow, to the glass, I was thus occupied in scrutinizing
the mob, when suddenly there came into view a countenance
(that of a decrepid old man, some sixty-five or seventy years of
age,) a countenance which at once arrested and absorbed my
whole attention, on account of the absolute idiosyncracy of its
expression. Any thing even remotely resembling that expression
I had never seen before. I well remember that my first thought,
upon beholding it, was that Retzch, had he viewed it, would have
greatly preferred it to his own pictural incarnations of the fiend.
As I endeavored, during the brief minute of my original survey,
to form some analysis of the meaning conveyed, there arose con
fusedly and paradoxically within my mind, the ideas of vast men
tal power, of caution, of penuriousness, of avarice, of coolness,
224 FOE'S TALE
of malice, of blood-thirstiness, of triumph, of merriment, of ex
cessive terror, of intense of supreme despair. I felt singularly
aroused, startled, fascinated. " How wild a history," I said to
myself, " is written within that bosom !" Then came a craving
desire to keep the man in view to know more of him. Hurri
edly putting on an overcoat, and seizing my hat and cane, I
made my way into the street, and pushed through the crowd in
the direction which I had seen him take ; for he had already dis
appeared. With some little difficulty I at length came within
sight of him, approached, and followed him closely, yet cautious
ly, so as not to attract his attention.
I had now a good opportunity of examining his person. He
was short in stature, very thin, and apparently very feeble. His
clothes, generally, were filthy and ragged ; but as he came, now
and then, within the strong glare of a lamp, I perceived that his
linen, although dirty, was of beautiful texture ; and my vision de
ceived me, or, through a rent in a closely-buttoned and evidently
second-handed roquelaire which enveloped him, I caught a glimpse
both of a diamond and of a dagger. These observations height
ened my curiosity, and I resolved to follow the stranger whither
soever he should go.
It was now fully night-fall, and a thick humid fog Hung over
the city, soon ending in a settled and heavy rain. This change
of weather had an odd effect upon the crowd, the whole of which
was at once put into new commotion, and overshadowed by a
world of umbrellas. The waver, the jostle, and the hum in
creased in a tenfold degree. For my own part I did not much
regard the rain the lurking of an old fever in my system ren
dering the moisture somewhat too dangerously pleasant. Tying
a handkerchief about my mouth, I kept on. For half an hour
the old man held his way with difficulty along the great thor
oughfare ; and I here walked close at his elbow through fear of
losing sight of him. Never once turning his head to look back,
he did not observe me. By and bye he passed into a cross
street, which, although densely filled with people, was not quite
so much thronged as the main one he had quitted. Here a
change in his demeanor became evident. He walked more slowly
and v/ith less object than before more hesitatingly. He crossed
THE MAN OF THE CROWD. 225
and re-crossed the way repeatedly without apparent aim ; and the
press was still so thick that, at every such movement, I was obliged
to follow him closely. The street was a narrow and long one,
and his course lay within it for nearly an hour, during which the
passengers had gradually diminished to about that number which
is ordinarily seen at noon in Broadway near the Park so vast a
difference is there between a London populace and that of the
most frequented American city. A second turn brought us into
a square, brilliantly lighted, and overflowing with life. The old
manner of the stranger re-appeared. His chin fell upon his
breast, while his eyes rolled wildly from under his knit brows, in
every direction, upon those who hemmed him in. He urged his
way steadily and perseveringly. I was surprised, however, to
find, upon his having made the circuit of the square, that he turn
ed and retraced his steps. Still more was I astonished to see him
repeat the same walk several times once nearly detecting me as
he came round with a sudden movement.
In this exercise he spent another hour, at the end of which we
met with far less interruption from passengers than at first. The
rain fell fast ; the air grew cool ; and the people were retiring to
their homes. With a gesture of impatience, the wanderer passed
into a bye-street comparatively deserted. Down this, some quai-
ter of a mile long, he rushed with an activity I could not have
dreamed of seeing in one so aged, and which put me to much
trouble in pursuit. A few minutes brought us to a large and
busy bazaar, with the localities of which the stranger appeared
well acquainted, and where his original demeanor again became
apparent, as he forced his way to and fro, without aim, among
the host of buyers and sellers.
During the hour and a half, or thereabouts, which we passed in
this place, it required much caution on my part to keep him with
in reach without attracting his observation. Luckily I wore a
pair of caoutchouc over-shoes, and could move about in perfect
silence. At no moment did he see that I watched him. He en
tered shop after shop, priced nothing, spoke no word, and looked
at all objects with a wild and vacant stare. I was now utterly
amazed at his behaviour, and firmly resolved that we should not
part until I had satisfied myself in some measure respecting him.
A loud-toned clock struck eleven, and the company were fast
deserting the bazaar. A shop-keeper, in putting up a shutter,
jostled the old man, and at the instant I saw a strong shudder
come over his frame. He hurried into the street, looked anx
iously around him for an instant, and then ran with incredible
swiftness through many crooked and people-less lanes, until we
emerged once more upon the great thoroughfare whence we had
started the street of the D Hotel. It no longer wore, how
ever, the same aspect. It was still brilliant with gas ; but the
rain fell fiercely, and there were few persons to be seen. The
stranger grew pale. He walked moodily some paces up the once
populous avenue, then, with a heavy sigh, turned in the direction
of the river, and, plunging through a great variety of devious
ways, came out, at length, in view of one of the principal thea
tres. It was about being closed, and the audience were throng
ing from the doors. I saw the old man gasp as if for breath
while he threw himself amid the crowd ; but I thought that the
intense agony of his countenance had, in some measure, abated.
His head again fell upon his breast ; he appeared as I had seen
him at first. I observed that he now took the course in which
had gone the greater number of the audience but, upon the
whole, I was at a loss to comprehend the waywardness of his ac
As he proceeded, the company grew more scattered, and his
old uneasiness and vacillation were resumed. For some time he
followed closely a party of some ten or twelve roisterers ; but
from this number one by one dropped off, until three only remain
ed together, in a narrow and gloomy lane little frequented. The
stranger paused, and, for a moment, seemed lost in thought ; then,
with every mark of agitation, pursued rapidly a route which
brought us to the verge of the city, amid regions very different
from those we had hitherto traversed. It was the most noisome
quarter of London, where every thing wore the worst impress of
the most deplorable poverty, and of the most desperate crime.
By the dim light of an accidental lamp, tall, antique, worm-eaten,
wooden tenements were seen tottering to their fall, in directions
so many and capricious that scarce the semblance of a passage
was discernible between them. The paving-stones lay at ran-
THE MAN OF THE CROWD. 227
dom, displaced from their beds by the rankly-growing grass.
Horrible filth festered in the dammed-up gutters. The whole at
mosphere teemed with desolation. Yet, as we proceeded, the
sounds of human life revived by sure degrees, and at length large
bands of the most abandoned of a London populace were seen
reeling to and fro. The spirits of the old man again flickered up,
as a lamp which is near its death-hour. Once more he strode
onward with elastic tread. Suddenly a corner was turned, a
blaze of light burst upon our sight, and we stood before one of the
huge suburban temples of Intemperance one of the palaces of
the fiend, Gin.
It was now nearly day-break ; but a number of wretched ine
briates still pressed in and out of the flaunting entrance. With a
half shriek of joy the old man forced a passage within, resumed
at once his original bearing, and stalked backward and forward,
without apparent object, among the throng. He had not been
thus long occupied, however, before a rush to the doors gave to
ken that the host was closing them for the night. It was some
thing even more intense than despair that I then observed upon
the countenance of the singular being whom I had watched so
pertinaciously. Yet he did not hesitate in his career, but, with a
mad energy, retraced his steps at once, to the heart of the mighty
London. Long and swiftly he fled, while I followed him in the
wildest amazement, resolute not to abandon a scrutiny in which I
now felt an interest all-absorbing. The sun arose while we pro
ceeded, and, when we had once again reached that most thronged
mart of the populous town, the street of the D Hotel, it pre
sented an appearance of human bustle and activity scarcely infe
rior to what I had seen on the evening be. ,e. And here, long,
amid the momently increasing confusion, did I persist in my pur
suit of the stranger. But, as usual, he v/alked to and fro, and
during the day did not pass from out the turmoil of that street.
And, as the shades of the second evening came on, I grew wea
ried unto death, and, stopping fully in front of the wanderer,
gazed at him steadfastly in the face. He noticed me not, but re
sumed his solemn walk, while I, ceasing to follow, remained ab
sorbed in contemplation. " This old man," I said at length, " is
the type and the genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone.
228 FOE'S TALES.
He is the man of the crowd. It will be in vain to follow ; for I
shall learn no more of him, nor of his deeds. The worst heart of
the world is a grosser book than the 'Hortulus Animse/* and
perhaps it is but one of the great mercies of God that ' er lasst
sich nicht lesen.' "
* The " Hortulus Anima cum Oratiunculis Aliquibm Superadditis " of