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Monday, October 16, 2017
EDGAR ALLEN POE’S / MYSTERY OF MARIE ROGET, Part Two
Daguerreotype of Paris, 1840s near Notre Dame and bridges across the Seine.
A SEQUEL TO “THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE.”
By Edgar Allen Poe
Editor’s note: Readers of this Poe
short story might compare it with the structure and style of the Sherlock
Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle albeit Poe wrote this half a century
before Sherlock’s remarkable debut. Poe’s lengthy introduction comes off as an
obvious precursor to Doyle’s character John Watson. For the convenience of modern readers, this blog has
divided the work into seven daily installments.
Enter Dupin et al
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 researches,
which absorbed our whole attention, it had been nearly a month since either of
us had gone abroad, or received a visitor, 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
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 certainly 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; of which latter we were not yet in
He discoursed much, and
beyond doubt, learnedly; while I hazarded an occasional suggestion as the night
wore drowsily away. Dupin, sitting steadily in his accustomed armchair, was the
embodiment of respectful attention. He wore spectacles, during the whole
interview; and an occasional signal 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 published any decisive information in regard to this sad affair. Freed
from all that was positively disproved, this mass of information stood thus:
Early facts at hand.
Marie Rogêt left the residence of her mother, in the Rue Pavée St.
Andrée, about nine o’clock in the morning of Sunday June 22, 18—. In going out,
she gave notice to a Monsieur Jacques St. Eustache, and to him only, of her
intent intention to spend the day with an aunt who resided in the Rue des
The Rue des Drâmes is a
short and narrow but populous 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 Rogêt.
St. Eustache was the
accepted 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
Rogêt (who was an infirm old lady, 70 years of age,) was heard to express a
fear “that she should never see Marie again;” but this observation attracted
little attention at the time.
On Monday, it was
ascertained that the girl had not been to the Rue des Drâmes; 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 disappearance that any thing satisfactory was ascertained
respecting her. On this day, (Wednesday, the 25th of June,) a Monsieur
Beauvais, who, with a friend, had been
making inquiries for Marie near the Barrière du Roule, on the shore of the
Seine which is opposite the Rue Pavée St.
Andrée, 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 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 volition. 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 this
had effected none of the excoriations. 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 fasted 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 by friends.
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 18
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 interred 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 before any public
emotion resulted. A weekly paper, however, at length took up the theme; the
corpse was disinterred, and a re-examination instituted; but nothing was
elicited beyond what has been already noted. The clothes, however, were now
submitted to the mother and friends of the deceased, and fully identified as
those worn by the girl upon leaving home.
Meantime, the excitement
increased hourly. Several individuals 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 Rogêt still lived—that the
corpse found in the Seine was that of some other unfortunate. It will be proper
that I submit to the reader some passages, which embody the suggestion alluded
to. These passages are literal translations from L’Etoile, a paper conducted,
in general, with much ability.
“Mademoiselle Rogêt left her mother’s house on Sunday
morning, June the 22, 18—, with the ostensible purpose of going to see her
aunt, or some other connexion, in the Rue des Drâmes. 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
Rogêt was in the land of the living after nine o’clock on Sunday, June the 22,
we have proof that, up to that hour, she was alive. On Wednesday noon, at
twelve, a female body was discovered afloat on the shore of the Barrière de
Roule. This was, even if we presume that Marie Rogêt 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 the light.... Thus we see that if the body found in the river was that
of Marie Rogêt, 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
days for 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 cave 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 exceedingly 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 Rogêt? He ripped up the gown
sleeve, and says he found marks which satisfied him of the identity. The public
generally 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 Rogêt, at seven
o’clock, on Wednesday evening, that an investigation was still in progress
respecting her daughter. If we allow that Madame Rogêt, from her age and grief,
could not go over, (which is allowing a great deal,) there certainly 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 Pavée St. Andrée,
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 chamber and told him of it. For an
item of news like this, it strikes us it was very coolly received.”
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
involving a charge against her chastity; and that these friends, upon the
discovery of a corpse in the Seine, somewhat resembling that of the girl, had
availed themselves of the opportunity to impress 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 distracted with grief,
and bore himself so frantically, that M. Beauvais 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
sculpture 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 says:
“Now, then, a change comes over the matter. We are
told that on one occasion, while a Madame B—— was at Madame Rogêt’s house, M.
Beauvais, who was going out, told her that a gendarme was expected there, and
she, Madame B., must not say anything to the gendarme until he returned, 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 visitor 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 hand.
The general impression, so
far as we were enabled to glean it from the newspapers, seemed to be, that
Marie had been the victim 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 Barrière 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 Barrière du Roule, or to the Rue des
Drâmes, 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 Barrière du Roule,
there would have been no necessity for any such arrangement. The fact that the
body was found floating near the Barrière, is no proof as to where it was
thrown into the water..... A piece of one of the unfortunate 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.”