The Stolen Letter
Tradução de Brenno Silveira e outros. POE, Edgar Allan. Histórias Extraordinárias. —————: Victor Civita, 1981.
Nil sapientiae odiosus accumine nimio.
The Stolen Letter
In Paris, just after a dark and stormy night, in the autumn of the year 18 …, I enjoyed the double luxury of meditation and a pipe made of sea foam, in the company of my friend Auguste Dupin, in his little one. library, or reading office, located on the third floor of 33 rue Dunôt, Faubourg Saint-Germain. For an hour, at least, we remained profoundly silent; each of us, in the eyes of some casual observer, would have seemed intensely and exclusively occupied with the swirls of smoke that made the room’s atmosphere dense. As for me, however, I mentally discussed certain topics that had been the subject of the conversation between us in the first part of the night. I withdraw to the case of Rua Morgue and the mystery surrounding the murder of Marie Rogêt. It seemed, therefore, almost a coincidence, when the door to our apartment opened and our old acquaintance, Monsieur G …, Paris police chief, entered.
We received him warmly, as there was both contemptible and fun in him, and we hadn’t seen him in several years. We had been sitting in the dark and, at the visitor’s entrance, Dupin stood up to turn on the light, but sat down again without doing so after G … told us he was visiting us to consult us, or rather, to to ask my friend’s opinion on some official cases that had caused him great inconvenience.
“If this is a case that requires reflection,” said Dupin, “giving up on lighting the fuse will be better examined in the dark.”
- This is another one of his strange ideas – commented the delegate, who had the habit of ‘calling “strange” all the things that were beyond his comprehension and that, in this way, he lived among a whole legion of “oddities”.
“Exactly,” said Dupiu, as he offered a pipe to the visitor and pushed a comfortable armchair to him.
- And what is the difficulty now? – I asked. – I hope it is nothing that refers to murders.
- Oh no! Nothing like that! It is, in fact, a very simple case, and have no doubt that we can solve it satisfactorily. But then I thought that Dupin might like to know some of his details, which are quite strange.
“A simple and strange case,” said Dupin.
- Yes really; but on the other hand, it is neither. The fact is that we are all very intrigued, because, although it is so simple, the case entirely escapes our understanding.
“Perhaps it is your own simplicity that disorients you,” said my friend.
“Why, what nonsense,” exclaimed the chief, laughing heartily.
“Perhaps the mystery is a little too simple,” said Dupin.
- Oh, God in heaven! Who has heard such a thing?
- A little too evident.
The police chief burst out laughing loudly, enjoying himself:
- Oh, Dupin, you still end up killing me with laughter!
- And what, after all, is the case at hand? – I asked.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” replied the deputy, lounging in his chair, taking a long, meditative puff of his pipe. – I will say everything in a few words; but before I begin, let me recommend that this case requires the utmost secrecy. I would probably lose the place I occupy today if they knew that I entrusted it to someone.
“Go on,” I said.
“Or don’t say anything,” added Dupin.
- Well. I received personal information, from a very high source, that a certain document of the utmost importance was stolen from the royal apartments. It is known who was the person who stole it. There is no doubt about it; they saw her take it. It is also known that the document remains in the possession of that person.
- How do you know that? Asked Dupin.
- It is something that is clearly deduced – replied the delegate – by the nature of such document and by the fact that certain consequences had not arisen that would have appeared incontinently, if the document was not yet in the thief’s possession, that is, if it had already been used with the end that the latter proposes.
“Be a little more explicit,” I asked.
- Well, I dare say that this document gives those who possess it a certain power, in a medium in which such power is immensely valuable.
The delegate was very fond of diplomatic strips.
“I still don’t quite understand,” said Dupin.
- Not? Good. The display of this document to a third person, whose name I will not mention, would compromise the honor of a person of the highest position, and this fact grants to the person who possesses the ancestry document over that illustrious personality, whose honor and tranquility are found, thus, threatened.
- But that ancestry – I intervened – depends on the thief knowing that the stolen person knows him. Who would dare.
- The thief – said G … – is Minister D …, who dares everything, both what is worthy and what is unworthy of a man.
The theft was committed not only ingeniously but boldly. The document in question … a letter, to be frank, was received by the stolen personality when she was alone in her rooms. When he read it, he was suddenly interrupted by the entry of another high-ranking personality, from whom he particularly wished to hide the letter. After trying in haste and in vain to put it in a drawer, she was forced to place it, open as it was, on a table. The envelope, however, was on top and the contents were therefore kept safe. At that moment, Minister D enters … His lynx eyes immediately perceive the letter, and he recognizes the letter of the envelope, observes the recipient’s confusion and penetrates its secret. After dealing with some matters, in his usual hurried manner, he takes a letter similar to the one in question from his pocket, opens it, pretends to read it, and then places it right next to the first. He talks again, for about fifteen minutes, about public affairs. Finally, when he leaves, he removes the letter that did not belong to him from the table. Its true owner saw everything, certainly, but he did not dare to call his attention in the presence of the third character, who was at his side. The minister withdrew, leaving his letter – an unimportant letter – on the table.
“There you have it,” said Dupin, “exactly what it would take to make such an ancestry complete: the thief knows that the stolen person knows him.
- Yes – confirmed the delegate – and the power obtained in this way has been used, for several months, for political purposes, up to a very dangerous point. The robbed person is more and more convinced that it is necessary to recover the letter. But this, of course, cannot be done openly. Finally, driven to despair, I was entrusted with this task.
“It would not have been possible, I believe,” said Dupin, amid a perfect spiral of
smoke – choose or even imagine a more shrewd agent.
“You flatter me,” replied the deputy, “but it is possible that you may have thought more or less.
“It is clear, as you have just observed,” I said, “that the letter is still in the hands of the minister, since it is the possession of the letter, and not any use thereof, that gives it power. If he uses it, the power dissipates.
- Okay – agreed G … – and it was based on this conviction that I started to act. My first care was to conduct a thorough search at the hotel where the minister lives. The main difficulty lies in the fact that it is necessary to carry out such an investigation without him knowing it. Furthermore, they prevented me from danger if he suspects our purpose.
“But,” I said, “you are perfectly aware of these investigations.” Parisian police have done this many times before.
- It is true. For that reason, I didn’t despair. The minister’s habits give me, above all, a great advantage. He often spends the night away from home. His servants are not numerous. They sleep away from their master’s apartment and, since almost all of them are Neapolitans, it is not difficult to get them drunk. As you know, I have keys that can open any room or office in Paris. For three months, there was not a single night that I did not personally strive to search Hotel D … My honor is at stake and, to mention a big secret, the reward is enormous. So I will not abandon research until I am fully convinced that the thief is more astute than I am. I believe I have investigated every corner and hiding place where the paper could be hidden.
“But wouldn’t it be possible,” I remembered, “that although the letter may be in the minister’s possession, as it indisputably is, he hid it elsewhere than in his own home?”
“It is unlikely,” said Dupin. – The current situation, very particular, of the affairs of the court and especially the intrigues in which, as is known, D … is involved, make the immediate effectiveness of the document – the possibility of being presented at any time – an almost as important point as to its possession.
- The possibility of being introduced? – I asked.
“Which is to say, to be destroyed,” said Dupin.
“That’s right,” I observed. – There is no doubt that the document is in the minister’s quarters. As for being with yourself, kept in your pockets, it is something that we can consider out of the question.
“Okay,” said the deputy. Twice, I’ve had it checked, by my own eyes, by pickpockets.
“I could have avoided all that work,” said Dupin. – D …, I believe, he is not entirely stupid and, therefore, he must have foreseen, as a common thing, these “magazines”.
- He is not entirely foolish – said G … – but he is a poet, which puts him not far from a fool.
“Okay,” said Dupin, after a long, thoughtful puff of his pipe, “although I’m also guilty of certain lines.”
- How about telling us, with details. how did the search proceed? – I suggested.
- Well then. We examined, at length, every corner. I have long experience of these things. We scanned the entire building, room by room, dedicating the nights of an entire week to each of them. We first examined the furniture in each room. We have opened all possible drawers, and I assume that you know that for a properly qualified police officer, there are no secret drawers. It would be a fool to allow a “secret” drawer to escape your observation in research like this. The thing is too simple. There is a certain size – a certain space – that you must take
into account on each desk. In addition, we have precise rules. Not even the fiftieth part of a line would go unnoticed. After the desks, we examined the chairs. The pads were subjected to the needle test. that you have seen me employ. We removed the top of the tables.
- For what?
- Sometimes, the top of a table, or similar furniture, is removed by the person who wants to hide an object; then, the leg is excavated, the object is deposited inside the cavity and the upper part is replaced. The feet and the upper part of the bed columns are used for the same purpose.
- But couldn’t you discover the hollow part by sound? – I asked.
- Not at all, if when the object placed there is wrapped by cotton. In addition, in our case, we are obliged to act without making a noise.
- But you couldn’t have removed it. . . he could not have examined, piece by piece, all the furniture in which it would have been possible to hide something in the manner to which he referred. A letter can be transformed into a tiny spiral, not very different, in shape and volume, from a large sewing needle and, in this way, it can be inserted into the cross of a chair, for example. Naturally, you didn’t take apart all the chairs, did you?
- Of course not. But we did better: we examined the sleepers of all the chairs in the hotel and also the joints of all kinds of furniture. We did it with the help of a powerful microscope. If there were signs of recent changes, we would not have missed it immediately. A simple grain of auger powder, for example, would have been as evident as an apple. Any change in the glue – anything unusual in the joints – would be enough to get our attention.
- I assume they examined the mirrors, between the boards and the glass, as well as the beds, bedding, curtains and rugs.
- Naturally! And after examining all the furniture in this way, we proceed to examine the house itself. We divided its entire surface into compartments, which were numbered by us, so that none could be forgotten. Then we searched the rooms inch by inch, including the two adjoining houses. And that with the help of the microscope, as before.
- The two adjoining houses ?! I exclaimed. – They must have had a lot of work!
- We did. But the reward offered is, as I said, very large.
- Did they also include the land of those houses?
- All land is covered with bricks. They gave us relatively little work. We examined the moss between the bricks, found that there was no change.
- Naturally, they also looked at the papers of D.. . What about the library books?
- No doubt. We opened all the packages and packages, and not only did we open all the volumes, but we leafed through them page by page, without contenting ourselves with a simple shake, as is customary among some of our policemen. We also measure the thickness of each binding, subjecting each one to the most scrupulous microscopic examination. If any bookbinding showed signs that it had recently changed, that fact would not have gone unnoticed. As for about five or six volumes, which had just arrived from the bookbinder’s hands, they were carefully examined by us, longitudinally, by means of a needle.
- Did you check the floors under the rugs?
- No doubt. We removed all the carpets and examined the floorboards with the microscope.
- And the role of the walls?
- Did they search the basement?
“So,” I said, “you were wrong, because the letter is not in the house, as you suppose.”
- I am afraid that you are right about that, agreed the delegate. And now, Dupin, what would you advise to do?
- A complete new investigation in the house.
“That is entirely useless,” replied G.. . – I am not so sure that I breathe as that the letter is not in the hotel.
“I have no better advice to give you,” said Dupin. – You, of course, have an accurate description of the letter, don’t you?
And here, taking a memo out of his pocket, the police chief began to read aloud a detailed description of the internal and, mainly, external aspect of the stolen document. Soon after he finished reading, he left much more depressed than I had ever seen him before.
After about a month, he paid us another visit, and found us delivered to the same occupation as the previous time. He took a pipe and an armchair and began to talk about everyday matters. Finally, I asked:
- So, Monsieur G.. . , what about the stolen letter? I suppose you were convinced, after all, that it is no simple thing to be more astute than the minister.
- May the devil carry the minister! He exclaimed.
Yes, in spite of everything, I underwent a new examination, as Dupin suggested. But work lost, as I knew it would be.
- What was the reward offered, to which you referred? Asked Dupin.
- Well, a very big reward. . . very generous. . . But I don’t like to say how much, precisely. I will say, however, that I would not mind giving my check for fifty thousand francs to anyone who managed to obtain this letter. The truth is that it becomes, with each passing day, more important. . . and the reward has been doubled lately. But even if it was tripled, I couldn’t do more than I already did.
“Yes,” said Dupin, dragging his words between the puffs of his foam pipe, “really.” It seems to me. . . However. . . G.. . who didn’t do his best on this issue. . . I think you could do a little more, well?
- As? In what way?
- Now (puff), you could (puff) make an appointment on this subject, huh? (puff). Remember the story about Abernethy?
- No. Go to the devil Abernethy!
- Yes, go to the devil and be welcomed! But once, a wealthy miser came up with the idea of getting a free consultation from Ahernethy. To this end, during a conversation between a group of friends, he insinuated his case to the doctor, as if it were the case of an imaginary individual.
“” Suppose, “said the miser,” that your symptoms are such and such. In that case, what would the doctor advise you to take? “
- “To take! I would, of course, advise you to take advice. “
- But – said the deputy, somewhat disconcerted – I am entirely willing to listen to an advice and pay for it. I would really give fifty thousand francs to anyone who helped me in this matter.
“In that case,” said Dupin, opening a drawer and pulling out a checkbook.
- you can write a check for that amount. When I signed it, I will give it to you
I was perplexed. The deputy looked like he was struck by lightning. For a few minutes he remained silent and immobile, looking at my friend, incredulous and gaping, with his eyes almost jumping out of his sockets. Then, seeming to return, in a way, to himself, he picked up a pen and, after several pauses and vague looks, finally wrote a check for fifty thousand francs, handing it over the table to Dupin. He examined it carefully and put it in his wallet; then, opening a desk, he took a letter from it and handed it to the police chief. The clerk caught her with a spasm of joy. he opened it with trembling hands, cast a quick glance at its contents, and then, grabbing the door and struggling to open it, at last he rushed unceremoniously out of the apartment and the house, without uttering a single word since the moment Dupin asked him to write the check.
After his departure, my friend went into some explanations.
“The Parisian police,” he said, “are extremely skillful in their own way. Its agents are persevering, resourceful, cunning and perfectly versed in the knowledge that their duties seem to require in a special way. So when G. . . told us, in detail, the way in which he conducted his research at Hotel D. . ., I had no doubt that I had carried out a satisfactory investigation. . . to the point where your work has reached.
- How far has your work gone? – I asked.
“Yes,” said Dupin. – The measures adopted were not only the best that could be taken, but were carried out with absolute perfection. If the letter had been deposited within the radius of their investigation, these boys would undoubtedly have found it.
I just laughed – but he seemed to have said all that with the utmost seriousness.
“The measures, therefore,” he continued, “were good in their kind, and were well executed: their defect lay in being inapplicable to the case and the man in question. A certain set of highly ingenious resources is, for the delegate, a kind of Procusto bed, to which he seeks to adapt all his plans by force. But, in the present case, he made a series of mistakes, being too deep or too superficial, and many schoolchildren reason better than him. I met an eight-year-old boy whose success as a diviner, in the “even or odd” game, aroused everyone’s admiration. This game is simple and is played with glass balls. One of the participants closes some balls in his hand and asks the other if the number is even or odd. If the partner gets it right, he gets a ball; if you miss, you lose one. The boy I am referring to won all the glass balls at school. Naturally, he had a divination system that consisted of simple observation and calculation of his opponents’ cunning. Suppose, for example, that your opponent was a fool who, closing his hand, asked him: “Even or odd?” Our boy would answer “odd”, and lose; but, the second time, he would win, as he would say with his buttons: “This bouncer got even the first time, and his cunning is just enough to have an odd number the second time. I will say, therefore, odd”. Say odd and win. Now, with a simpleton a little less foolish than the first, he would have reasoned like this: “This guy saw that, the first time, I said odd and, the second, he will propose to himself, driven by an impulse to vary from odd to pair, as the first simpleton did, but, on second thought, he thinks that this variation is too simple, and finally resolves itself in favor of the pair, as before. I will therefore say pair. ”And he says pair, and Well, that system of reasoning in our high school, which his teammates called luck, what was it ultimately?
- Simply – I replied – an identification of the intellect of our reasoner with that of his opponent.
“Indeed,” said Dupin, “and when I asked the boy how he made that perfect identification, in which your success lay, I received the following answer:
“When I want to know how smart, stupid, good or bad someone is, or what their thoughts are at the moment, I model the expression on my face, as exactly as possible, according to that person’s expression and then I wait to see what feelings or thoughts arise in my brain or in my heart, to match or match the expression. ”This little schoolboy’s response far outweighs all
spurious depth attributed to Rochefoucauld, La Bougive, Machiavelli and Campanella.
- And the identification – I added – of the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent depends, if I understand him correctly, on the accuracy with which the latter’s intellect is measured.
“On your practical assessment, it depends on it,” confirmed Dupin. – And if the delegate and his entire court have made so many mistakes, this is due, first, to a failure in that identification and, second, to an inaccurate assessment, or better, to a non-assessment of the intelligence of those with whom they are involved. . They only consider their own ideas ingenious and, when looking for something that is hidden, they think only of the means that they themselves would have used to hide it. They are only right on one point: that where their ingenuity faithfully represents that of the mass; but when the evildoer’s cunning is different from theirs, the evildoer naturally deceives them. This always happens when the cunning of the latter is above theirs and, very often, when it is below. Their investigation system does not vary; at best, when they are instigated by some unusual case, or by some extraordinary reward, they expand or exaggerate their usual ways of acting, without, however, departing from their principles. In the case of D.. ., for example, what did they do to change the way they act? What are all these perforations, these searches, these probes, these microscope exams, this division of the building’s surface into square inches, properly noted? What is all this if not an exaggeration in the application of one of these principles of investigation based on an order of ideas related to human cleverness, to which the delegate got used during the long years of exercising his functions? Do you not see that he takes it for granted that all men who seek to hide a letter use, if not precisely a hole made by a gimlet in the leg of a chair, at least some cavity, some dark corner suggested by the same order of ideas that would lead a man to pierce the leg of a chair? And do you not also see that such hiding places are only used on ordinary occasions and by common intelligences? Because, in all cases of hidden objects, this recherché way of hiding an object is, from the first moment, presumed and presumed – and, therefore, its discovery does not depend, in any way, on the perspicacity, but on the simple care, patience and determination of those who seek. But, when it comes to an important case – or one that, for the reward offered, is thus seen by the police – these qualities have never ceased to be put into action. You will now understand what I meant by stating that if the stolen letter had been hidden within the radius of our delegate’s investigation – or, in other words, if the inspiring principle was understood in the delegate’s principles – your discovery it would be a question entirely beyond doubt. This official, however, was completely wrong, and the remote source of his failure lies in the assumption that the minister is an idiot, as he has acquired the reputation of a poet. According to the delegate, all poets are idiots – and, in this case, he is only guilty of a non distributio medii, by inferring that all poets are idiots.
- But is he really a poet? – I asked. – I know they are two brothers, and that both have acquired a reputation in the lyrics. The minister, I believe, wrote eruditically about differential calculus. He is a mathematician, not a poet.
- You are mistaken. I know him well. And both. As a poet and mathematician, he would reason well; as a mere mathematician, he would not reason at all, and would thus be at the mercy of the delegate.
- You surprise me – I replied – with these opinions, which have been denied by the voice of the world. Naturally, he will not want to destroy ideas that have matured for so many centuries in one stroke. Mathematical reason has long been regarded as the reason for excellence.
- “Il y a à parier” – replied Dupin, quoting Chamfort – “that toute idée publique, toute convention reçue, est une sottise, car elle a convu au plus grande nombre.” The mathematicians, I agree, did everything possible to propagate the popular error that you allude to, and that, because it was promulgated as truth, is still an error. As an art worthy of a better cause, they taught us to apply the term “analysis” to algebraic operations. The French are to blame for this particular deception, but if a term has any importance – if words derive its value from its applicability – then analysis may mean algebra, just as, in Latin, ambitus means ambition, religio, religion, or homines honesti a group of honorable men.
“I see you are going to clash with some algebras from Paris,” I told him. – But go ahead.
- I challenge the validity and, therefore, the value of a reason cultivated by any special form other than abstract logic. I particularly challenge the reasoning produced by the study of mathematics. Mathematics is the science of form and quantity; mathematical reasoning is nothing more than simple logic applied to the observation of form and quantity. The big mistake is to assume that even the truths of what is called pure algebra are abstract or general truths. And this error is so great, that I am perplexed by the unanimity with which it was received. Mathematical axioms are not axioms of a general truth. What is true with respect to the relationship – in form or quantity – is often largely false as regards morality, for example. In the latter science, it is often not true that the sum of the parts is equal to the whole. In chemistry, the axiom also fails. In the appreciation of the driving force, it also fails, since two engines, each of a given power, do not necessarily have, when associated, a power equal to the sum of their two powers turned separately. There are numerous other mathematical truths that are only truths within the limits of the relationship. But the mathematician argues, out of habit, starting from his finite truths, as if they were of an absolute and general applicability – as the world, in fact, imagines them to be. Bryant, in his scholarly Mythology, refers to a similar source of error, saying that, “although no one believes in the fables of paganism, we often forget this, to the point of making inference from them, as if they were living realities “. Among algebraists, however, who are also pagans, “pagan fables” deserve credit, and such inferences are made not so much because of memory lapses, but because of an incomprehensible disorder in their brains. In short, I have never met a pure mathematician who could be trusted, outside of his roots and equations; I did not know a single one who did not have as an article of faith that x2 + px is absolutely and unconditionally equal to q. If you want to do an experiment, tell one of these gentlemen that you believe that there may be cases in which x2 + px is not at all equal to q, and, right after I have made you understand what you mean by that, get out of your sight as soon as possible, as he will undoubtedly try to beat you up.
- “What I mean,” continued Dupin, while I was laughing only at these last remarks, “is that if the minister had been nothing more than a mathematician, the police chief would not have had to give me this check. I knew him, however, as a mathematician and poet, and I adapted the measures I took to suit his ability,
- taking into account the circumstances in which he was placed. He knew him, too, not only as a court man, but also as a bold intriguer. Such a man, I thought, could not ignore the police’s usual way of acting. He should have foreseen – and events showed that he had, in fact, predicted – the disguised harassment to which he would be subject. I should also have anticipated, I reflected, the secret investigations carried out in his apartment. His frequent absences from home, at night, considered by the police chief as something that would undoubtedly contribute to the success of his company, I saw them only as cunning, so that the police had the opportunity to conduct a thorough search of his apartment and to be convinced, as soon as possible, as it actually happened, that the letter was not there. It also seemed to me that this whole series of ideas regarding the invariable principles of police action in cases of hidden objects, and that I had some difficulty, a little while ago, to explain to you, it seemed to me that this whole series of ideas should, necessarily have passed through the spirit of the minister. That would take him, imperatively. disdain all the usual hiding places. He could not be so naive as to fail to see that the most intricate and remote places in his hotel would be as visible as a wardrobe for the eyes, research, drills and microscopes of the deputy. I realized, in short, that he would be instinctively driven to act with simplicity if he were not led to this by simple deliberation. You may recall with what desperate laughter the delegate welcomed, in our first interview, my suggestion that it was quite possible that this mystery disturbed him so much because it was too evident.
- Yes, I remember how he had fun. I really thought he was going to have convulsions from laughing so hard.
- The material world – continued Dupin – contains many strict analogies with the immaterial and, thus, a certain shade of truth was given to rhetorical dogma, so that the metaphor, or simile, could give force to an argument, as well as embellish a description. The principle of vis inertiae, for example, appears to be identical in both physics and metaphysics. It is no less certain as regards the first, that a bulky body sets in motion with more difficulty than a small one, and that its subsequent momentum is in proportion to that difficulty, and that, as for the second, the intellects of greater capacity, although more powerful, more constant and more uneven in their movements than those of a lower degree, they are nevertheless slower, more embarrassed and full of hesitation when starting their steps. What’s more, have you noticed which ads, on the doors of stores, attract the most attention?
“I never thought about it,” I said.
“There is a puzzle game,” he replied, “which is made on a map. One of the players asks the other to find a certain word – a city, river, state or empire name – any word, in short, understood in the variegated and intricate extension of the map. A newcomer to the game usually seeks to embarrass his opponents by indicating names printed in the smallest letters; but those used to the game choose words that extend, in large characters, from one side of the map to the other. The latter, as with the excessively large posters on the streets, escape observation precisely because they are too evident, and here material oblivion is precisely analogous to the moral inattention that makes the intellect overlook too obvious, too obvious considerations. But this is a point, it seems, that is somewhat above or slightly below the understanding of the delegate. He even thought it likely, or possible, that the minister had deposited the letter right under everyone’s nose in order to prevent any of those people from discovering it.
- But the more I reflected on D.’s daring, bold and brilliant idea. . thinking of the fact that he should always have that document on hand, if he intended to use it successfully, and also of the decisive evidence obtained by the delegate that the letter was not hidden within the limits of an ordinary investigation, both I was more convinced that, in order to hide it, the minister had resorted to the understandable and sagacious expedient of not trying to hide it in any way.
“Convinced of that, I put on green glasses and, one morning, as if I did it by chance, I looked for the minister in his apartment. I found D. … at home, yawning, loitering and wasting time as usual, and intending to to be taken by the deepest ennui. He is, perhaps, the most energetic man there is, but that only when no one sees him.
“In order to comply with his state of mind, I complained of my weak eyesight and lamented the need to wear glasses, through which I examined the apartment with the utmost attention and thoroughness, while pretending to be attentive only to the conversation.
“I paid special attention to a large table, next to which he was sitting and where, in confusion, several letters and other papers as well as one or two musical instruments and some books were seen. After a long and meticulous examination, I saw that there was nothing there was a particular suspicion that aroused.
“Finally, my eyes, when looking around the room, came across a striking filigree cardboard letter holder, hanging from a faded blue ribbon, attached well to the mantelpiece. In that letter holder, which had three or four divisions, there were five or six business cards and a solitary letter, the latter was very dirty and crumpled and almost torn in half, as if someone, at first impulse, had thought of making it useless as something unimportant, but then changed It had a large black seal, with the initial “D” quite visible, and was addressed, in a small and feminine handwriting, to the minister himself. It was carelessly tucked in and, it seemed, even contemptuously, in one of the divisions. upper part of the card holder.
“As soon as I looked over the letter, I concluded that it was the one I was looking for. It was, in fact, in all respects, radically different from what the delegate had described to us in such a detailed way. The one that was there. The seal was black and the initial a “D” on the stolen letter, the seal was red and had the S family oral weapons …
Here, the minister’s address had been traced in very small feminine handwriting; in the other, the envelope, aimed at a certain royal personality, was markedly bold and incisive. Only in size was there a certain correspondence. But, on the other hand, the big difference between both letters, the dirt, the stained and torn paper, so at odds with D.’s true habits. ., and that revealed the purpose of giving to anyone who saw it the idea that it was a worthless document, all of this, allied to the very visible placement of the document, which put it in front of any visitor’s eyes, fitting perfectly – exactly to my previous conclusions, all this, I repeat, definitely corroborated the suspicions of someone who, like me, had gone there with the intention of suspecting.
“I extended my visit as much as possible and, while I had a lively conversation with the minister, on a topic that I knew had never ceased to interest and enthuse him, I kept my attention on the letter. During this examination, I kept in mind the aspect exterior and the disposition of the papers in the card holder, finally arriving at a discovery that completely dispelled any doubts that I might still have. By looking closely at the edges of the paper, I found that they were more damaged than seemed necessary , They had the irregular appearance that is noticed when a hard paper, after having been folded and pressed in a folder, is folded again in the opposite direction, although this is done on the same folds that constituted its previous format. It was evident to me that the letter had been folded upside down, like a glove that was turned inside out, overwritten again and sealed again. I said goodbye to the minister and left incontinently, attaching a gold tobacco box to the table.
“The next morning, I went back to look for my tobacco, when we restarted,
very vividly, the conversation from the previous day. As we spoke, we heard a loud firearm detonation right in front of the Hotel, followed by a series of horrible screams and the loudness of a crowd. D.. . he rushed towards the window, opened it and looked down. In the meantime, I approached the letter holder, took the document, put it in my pocket and replaced it with a facsimile (as far as the external aspect was concerned) carefully prepared in my house, easily imitating the initial “D” through a link made of bread crumbs.
“The uproar that had taken place on the street was caused by the foolish procedure of a man with a musket. He had fired it among a crowd of women and children. But, since the gun was loaded only with dry powder, the individual was taken by drunk. or lunatic, and allowed him to go on his way. After the man was gone, D. … retired from the window that I too had approached shortly after getting the letter. After a moment, I said goodbye to him. so-called lunatic was a man who was at my service. “
“But what did you intend,” I asked, “when replacing the letter with a facsimile?” Wouldn’t it have been better, on the first visit, to have picked her up at once and left?
- D.. . – replied Dupin – he is a determined man of great courage. In addition, there are servants in your hotel who are faithful to your interests. Had I done what you suggest, I might not be able to get out of your “ministerial” presence alive. The good people of Paris would not hear any more from me. But apart from these considerations, I had an end in mind. You know what my political sympathies are. In that matter, I act as a supporter of the lady in question. For eighteen months, the minister had her at his mercy. Now, it is she who has it, since he ignores that the letter is no longer in his possession and will continue to act as if he still has it. In this way, he inevitably heads, unknowingly, towards his own political ruin. Its fall will be as hasty as it will be disastrous. It is well to speak of the facilis descensus Averni, but in all kinds of ascension, as Catalani said in its corners, it is much easier to ascend than to descend. In the present case, I have no sympathy – or even pity – for the one who descends. You are that monstrum horrendum – the genius without principles. I confess, however, that I would like to know the exact character of your thoughts when, when challenged by the one the delegate refers to as “a certain person”, he decides to open the paper that I left in his letter-holder.
- As! Did you put anything in there?
- Now, it would not be entirely correct to leave the interior blank. . . It would be an offense. Once, in Vienna, D. . He played a trick on me, and I said good-naturedly that I would not forget that. So, since I knew he would be curious about the identity of the person who had so cunningly overcome him, I thought it would be a shame not to give him a clue. He knows my handwriting well, so I just copied the following in the middle of the blank sheet:
… a fun event,
s’il n’est digne d’Artrée, est worth Thyest.
These are words that can be found in Ar trée, by Crébillon.