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in Paris. For three months a night has not passed, during the greater part of which I have not been engaged, personally, in ransacking the D-Hôtel. My honor is interested, 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 peculiar condition of affairs at court, and especially of those intrigues in which D— is known to be involved, would render the instant availability of the document its susceptibility of being produced at a moment's notice - a point of nearly equal importance with its possession."
"Its susceptibility of being produced ?” said I.
“ 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 own inspection.”
“ You might have spared yourself the 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 his meerschaum, "although I have been guilty of certain doggerel myself."
“Suppose you detail," said I, “the particulars of your search.”
'Why, the fact is, we took our time, and we searched everywhere. 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 apartment. We opened every possible drawer; 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 so 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.”
Why so ?” “ 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 might be inserted into the rung of a chair, for example. You did not take to pieces all the chairs ?”
Certainly not ; but we did better - we examined the rungs of every chair in the hôtel, and indeed, the jointings of every description of furniture, by the aid of a most powerful microscope. Had there been any traces of recent disturbance we should not have failed to detect it instantly. A single grain of gimlet-dust, for example, would have been as obvious as an apple.
Any disorder in the gluing, 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 article of 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 microscope, 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
comparatively 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
bookcover, with the most accurate admeasurement, 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 the needles.” “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 ? "
“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 hôtel.”
" 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 document. 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 afterward 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 said :
“Well, but — 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, however, as Dupin suggested; but it was all labor lost, as I knew it would be.”
“How much was the reward offered, did you say ?” asked Dupin.
“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 obtains 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."
“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?”