|One evening in
Paris, during the autumn of eighteen forty-five, I went to visit a
friend, Auguste Dupin. We were smoking our pipes and talking when the
door of his apartment opened. Mr. Germont, the head of the Paris police
force, came into the room.
"I came to ask your advice," Germont said to my friend Dupin. "I am
trying to solve a very important case. It is also a very simple case, so
I really need your help. But I thought you would like to hear about it,
because it is so strange.
"My men and I have worked on this case for three months," Germont said.
"It is a very simple case of robbery. But we still cannot solve it."
Dupin took the pipe out of his mouth. "Perhaps the mystery is too
simple," he said.
Germont began to laugh. "Too simple?" he said. "Who ever heard of such a
I looked at Germont. "Why don't you tell us the problem?" I said.
Germont stopped laughing and sat down.
"All right," he said. "But you must never tell anyone I told you this."
"The wife of a very important person needs help. I cannot tell you her
name, because her husband is a powerful man in the French government.
Let us just call her Madame X. Three months ago, someone stole a letter
from Madame X. She is offering a large amount of money to anyone who can
return the letter to her.
"We know that her husband's political enemy, Mr. D'Arcy, stole the
letter. We also know it is somewhere in his apartment. D'Arcy plans to
use the letter to embarrass Madame X's husband and destroy his political
"As you know, I have keys which can open any lock in Paris. For the last
three months, my men and I have spent every evening looking for the
letter in his apartment. But we cannot find it."
Dupin stopped smoking. "Tell me how you looked for it," he said. Germont
moved forward in his chair.
"We took our time," he said. "First, we examined the furniture in every
room. We opened all the drawers. We looked under the rugs. We searched
behind all the paintings on the walls.
"We opened every book. We removed the boards of the floor. We even took
the tops off the tables to see if he had hidden the letter in the table
legs. But we cannot find it. What do you advise me to do?"
Dupin puffed on his pipe. "What does the letter look like?" he asked.
"It is in a white envelope with a red stamp," Germont said. "The address
is written in large black letters."
Dupin puffed on his pipe again. "I advise you to go back and search the
apartment again," he said.
About one month later, Germont came back to see us.
"I followed your advice," he said. "But I still have not found the
Dupin smiled. "I knew you would not find it," he said. Germont became
very red in the face. "Then why did you make me search the apartment
again?" he shouted.
"My dear Germont," Dupin said. "Let me tell you a little story. Do you
remember the famous doctor, Louis Abernathy?"
"No!" Germont shouted. "Get to the point, Dupin!"
"Of course! Of course," Dupin said. "Once, a rich old man met Abernathy
at a party. The old man was not feeling very well. He decided he would
get a medical opinion from the doctor without paying for it. So he
described his problems to Abernathy. 'Now doctor,' the old man said, 'suppose
you had a patient like that. What would you tell him to take?'"
"'Oh, that is quite simple,' said Abernathy. 'I would tell him to take
Germont looked embarrassed. "Look here, Dupin. I am perfectly willing to
pay for advice."
Dupin smiled at Germont. "How much money did you say the reward was?" he
asked. Germont sighed. "I do not want to tell you the exact amount. But
I would give fifty thousand francs to the person who helps me find that
"In that case," Dupin said, "take out your checkbook and write me a
check for fifty thousand francs. When you have signed the check, I will
give you the letter."
Germont looked at Dupin with his mouth open. His eyes seemed to jump out
of his head. Then he took out his checkbook and pen, and wrote a check
for fifty thousand francs. He gave it to Dupin.
My friend examined the check carefully and put it in his pocket. Then he
unlocked a drawer of his desk, took out the letter, and gave it to
The policeman's hands shook as he opened the letter. He read it quickly.
Then he put it in his pocket and ran out of the room without saying a
"Dupin!" I said, as I turned to my friend. "How did you solve the
"It was simple, my friend," he said. "Germont and his policemen could
not find the letter, because they did not try to understand the mind of
the man who stole it. Instead, they looked for the letter where they
would have hidden it.
"Mr. D'Arcy is not a policeman. He is, however, very intelligent. He
knew the police would search his apartment. He also knew how police
think. So, he did not hide the letter where he knew they would look for
"Do you remember how Germont laughed when I said the mystery was
difficult for him to solve because it was so simple?"
Dupin filled his pipe with tobacco and lit it. "Well, the more I thought
about it, the more I realized the police could not find the letter
because D'Arcy had not hidden it at all.
"So I went to visit D'Arcy in his apartment. I took a pair of dark green
eyeglasses with me. I explained to him that I was having trouble with my
eyes and needed to wear the dark glasses at all times. He believed me.
The glasses permitted me to look around the apartment while I seemed
only to be talking to him.
"I paid special attention to a large desk where there were a lot of
papers and books. However, I saw nothing suspicious there. After a few
minutes, however, I noticed a small shelf over the fireplace. A few
postcards and a letter were lying on the shelf. The letter looked very
old and dirty.
"As soon as I saw this letter, I decided it must be the one I was
looking for. It must be, even though it was completely different from
the one Germont had described.
"This letter had a large green stamp on it. The address was written in
small letters in blue ink. I memorized every detail of the letter while
I talked to D'Arcy. Then when he was not looking, I dropped one of my
gloves on the floor under my chair.
"The next morning, I stopped at his apartment to look for my glove.
While we were talking, we heard people shouting in the street. D'Arcy
went to the window and looked out. Quickly, I stepped to the shelf and
put the letter in my pocket. Then I replaced it with a letter that
looked exactly like it, which I had taken with me. I had made it the
"The trouble in the street was caused by a man who had almost been run
over by a horse and carriage. He was not hurt. And soon the crowd of
people went away. When it was over, D'Arcy came away from the window. I
said good-bye and left.
"The man who almost had an accident was one of my servants. I had paid
him to create the incident."
Dupin stopped talking to light his pipe. I did not understand. "But,
Dupin," I said, "why did you go to the trouble of replacing the letter?
Why not just take it and leave?"
Dupin smiled. "D'Arcy is a dangerous man," he said. "And he has many
loyal servants. If I had taken the letter, I might never have left his