Mary Rogers

The Pretty Cigar Girl of New York

The puzzle presented by the tangled webs of the Burdell and Nathan murders is in a way exceeded by the hopeless blank in which the investigation of the Mary Rogers case ended. The story was elevated into a cause célèbre by the use made of it by Edgar Allan Poe in The Mystery of Marie Roget, which, together with The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter, laid the foundation of a line of fiction which has since been pursued with unceasing industry and ingenuity by numberless writers and still retains its fascination.

Almost every New York man about town in the year 1841 knew or had heard of Mary Cecilia Rogers, who had made herself famous as the “pretty cigar girl.” Her extraordinary beauty justified the name bestowed upon her, and John Anderson, who kept a tobacco store in the Broadway near Thomas Street, had to thank his handsome assistant for the amazing increase in his trade after he engaged her in 1840. Attractive as she was, her reputation was unblemished, and she had nothing to say to the hosts of men who haunted the shop more with the idea of winning her favours than of the purchase of John Anderson’s tobacco. Mary’s mother was a woman of excellent character, who ran a boarding house for clerks in Nassau Street. The girl was twenty years of age when Anderson met her and offered her an appointment in his shop, which she accepted.

The mystery in which the death of Mary Rogers is plunged began during her life. One day, in the early summer of 1841, she was absent from the tobacco store and was not seen again there for a week. A good deal of curiosity was in consequence aroused, and it was whispered that she had been seen more than once in the company of a tall, well-dressed, dark-complexioned man. When she returned to the store she said she had been visiting friends in the country, and her statement was accepted. A fresh surprise came about when it was announced that she had resigned her position in the Broadway shop and had determined to go home and assist her mother. Soon after, it was said that she was engaged to be married to one of her mother’s boarders, a young clerk named Daniel Payne.

On Sunday morning, July 25th, she knocked at Payne’s door and called out that she intended to pass the day with Mrs. Downing, her cousin, who lived in Bleecker Street. Payne promised to call for her in the evening and bring her home. This was the last time she was seen alive by anyone who knew her.

The morning was fine, but the weather changed during the day and a violent thunderstorm with torrents of rain broke out in the afternoon and prevented Payne from keeping his word. He did not, however, trouble, as he assumed Mary would be safe at her cousin’s house, where she could sleep. He went to his duties as usual and Mrs. Rogers thought nothing of her daughter’s absence until dinner time, when she became very uneasy. Payne presented himself at dinner and, finding Mary had not returned, he set out for Mrs. Downing’s house, where he was met by the alarming information that the girl had not been there.

The news spread, greatest disquietude prevailed, and the police, being informed, started upon a search which for several days was fruitless. On Monday, August 2nd, the first public notice of the mystery appeared in the New York Tribune as follows:

“A Horrible Murder. On Sunday morning week, Miss Cecilia Rogers (who formerly attended John Anderson’s Tobacco Store in Broadway, and was known as ‘The Beautiful Cigar Girl’) left her home in Nassau Street for a walk, and at the corner of Theatre Alley she was met and accosted by a young man, apparently an acquaintance, with whom she proceeded toward Barclay Street as if for an excursion to Hoboken. Nothing further was heard of her that day by her friends, and alarmed by her non-appearance, they advertised for her in Tuesday’s papers. Still nothing was seen or heard of her till Wednesday, when Mr. H. G. Luther and two other gentlemen, who were passing the Sybil’s Cave near Castle Point, Hoboken, in a sail-boat, were shocked by the sight of the body of a young female in the water. They brought it ashore. A coroner’s inquest was summoned and it was proved to be the body of Miss Rogers, and it was evident that she had been horribly outraged and murdered! The inquest returned a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown. We understand that the deceased was a young woman of good character and was soon to have been married to a worthy young man of this city. It is said that suspicion rests on a young man who has absented himself from the city since the murder was committed.”

The first part of this statement appears to have had no foundation. There was no evidence that she had met anybody and the assertion was never repeated. It was probably one of the rumours which are invariably floated in cases of murder mysteries. Very few details were given in the newspapers. The police and the coroner kept their inquiries to themselves, and the reporters were faced by a blank in every direction. Inspector Byrnes, who deals with the affair in his Professional Criminals of America and who probably had access to official records, states that the girl’s face was frightfully disfigured, and round the waist a heavy stone was attached by a short cord. She had been strangled by a piece of lace torn from her dress, and the marks of cords round the wrists were to be seen plainly. Light-coloured kid gloves were on the hands, her bonnet was hanging from the neck by its ribbons and the clothing was disordered and torn.

The next allusion to the murder in the Tribune was on August 6th. It ran:

“The terrible murder of Miss Rogers excites daily a deeper and wider interest in our city.… A week has passed and no clue to the perpetrator of the awful crime been found. The police are on the alert, but we fear too late. What has the Mayor been doing? We hear that he waits the offer of a reward from the Governor of New jersey before offering one himself. This is wrong … who saw Miss Rogers at Hoboken on Sunday week? Will anyone who did and hesitates to go before the police, please address a note stating the facts to this office?”

Nothing came of this appeal, and on August 12th it was announced that on August 11th Daniel Payne went to the police office “at the request of Justice Parker and was subjected to a long and tedious examination, in the course of which nothing was elicited likely to lead to the detection of the murderer.” His version as to what happened on the occasion when he last saw her alive tallied with the story that she left the house to go to Mrs. Downing. The Tribune, in reporting Payne’s examination, observed that there was one point worthy of remark. It appeared that he had been searching for Miss Rogers two or three days, yet when he was informed on Wednesday evening that her body had been found at Hoboken, he did not go to see it or enquire into the matter​—​in fact, it seems he never went at all, though he had been there enquiring for her before. “This is odd,” said the Tribune, “and should have been explained.”

If the authorities failed to probe deeply into the mystery it was not for want of endeavour. The examination at the police office on August 11th lasted from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and resulted in little more than the identification of the body as that of Mary Cecilia Rogers. This was established beyond a doubt by various witnesses, among whom was Alfred Crommelin, at one time a boarder at Mrs. Rogers’ house and a suitor of Mary, who it is said had favoured his attentions but had subsequently discarded him for Daniel Payne.

Crommelin, it appears; had told Mrs. Rogers and her daughter that should they ever be in trouble they were to send for him. A note from Mrs. Rogers (in Mary’s handwriting) asking him to call had been left for him on the Friday before the day of the murder, but he did not go as he had been coldly received when last there. On Saturday, however, the name of Miss Rogers was written on Crommelin’s slate outside his door and a rose was left in the keyhole. Crommelin went over to Hoboken on the Wednesday after the discovery Of the body, stayed till late at night, during which time, the weather being oppressively hot, the inquest was hurried on and the body, buried. When Crommelin started to come home the boats had ceased running. He then walked to Jersey City, found the boats there had also stopped and was obliged to stay overnight. This accounted for the burial without the body having been seen either by Mrs. Rogers or Daniel Payne. The identification was subsequently fixed by the poor girl’s clothing.

Henry Maltine and James M. Boullard, who found the body floating on the water, swore that no jewellery or rings were to be seen, though it was known that Miss Rogers wore such trinkets. Neither was there any rope or fastening about the body as mentioned by Mr. Byrnes in his version of the story. This discrepancy must be left as it is; no explanation is possible.

Then came a new sensation. Greatly to the relief of the public mind it was announced that an arrest had been made. The suspected man proved to be a wood engraver named Joseph M. Morse, late of 129 Nassau Street. He was apprehended at West Boylston, seven miles from Worcester, Massachusetts, on Sunday, August 9th, having been loitering about there for several days under an assumed name. Prior to his arrest a letter was found in the post office at Worcester directed to him and written from New York, informing him of the examination and advising him to shave off his whiskers, change his dress and alter his appearance so as to escape detection and arrest. When he was arrested he asked what the charge was and, on being told for assault and battery of his wife, he replied, “Oh, is that all?” His story when questioned as to his whereabouts on July 25th was somewhat contradictory. At first he said he was at Hoboken, afterwards altering this to Staten Island.

Morse was described as a rather short but somewhat strongly built man with “handsome black whiskers.” He was neatly and fashionably dressed. His character was not particularly good, he being the companion of gamblers and sometimes a gambler himself. He had been a frequenter of Anderson’s tobacco stores and knew Miss Rogers well. The evidence against him was that he was seen with her the evening of her death​—​that he was absent from home during the night, and that the day after he had his trunks secretly removed from his home to his office, that he fled from New York the day after the murder, that he changed his name while away. Finally, there was the compromising letter of advice.

The American reporter of 1841 was a very different being from his successors of twenty years later. He had not then developed his “detective instincts” which led to such confusion in the cases of Dr. Harvey Burdell and Benjamin Nathan. Probably it was Poe’s masterly treatment of The Mystery of Marie Roget which stimulated their imaginations in murder cases subsequent to that of Mary Rogers. At any rate, the Tribune was exceedingly discreet, as will be seen from the following editorial comment:

“There are various out-of-door rumours in relation to Morse which we cannot trace to any authentic source and therefore withhold them from our readers. All facts we will be careful to present, but cannot descend to fiction to gratify even a laudable anxiety for news.”

This discretion was justified, for it turned out that Morse really was at Staten Island with a young lady, but that the lady in question was not Mary Rogers, leading the Tribune to remark that “it is pretty clearly established that the police have again been deceived​—​that Morse is not the man who was seen at Hoboken with Miss Rogers and that he is not guilty of that charge whatever else may be his sins.…” The Tribune went on to say: “The enquiry has been thus far confined to evidence relative to the commission of the crime on Sunday evening. Might it not, we ask, have been committed on Monday or Monday evening, or even as early as Sunday before noon? We submit these questions for the authorities to consider.”

The authorities, however, had their own methods and one of these, as already pointed out, was extreme secrecy. All the examinations were conducted in private and information reached the newspapers only by a sidewind. It was not on an official basis that the Tribune told its readers that Morse stated that he was not acquainted with Miss Rogers, but that he firmly believed the young lady who went with him to Staten Island was none other than Mary Rogers herself, that after hearing of her death and the discovery of her body he thought she had destroyed herself on account of the treatment she had received from him, and that he fled for fear of being accused; that he did not discover his mistake until the young lady with whom he was at Staten Island was brought to him by the police.

Morse accordingly was set at liberty and so also were other suspected persons, and the Tribune was compelled to announce that “no one has been found who saw the young lady after she left her mother’s residence on the fatal day, notwithstanding the searching enquiries that have been made.”

Then, in despair at not finding out anything by their own unaided efforts, the authorities fell back upon the time-honoured plan of offering a reward, and on September 10th Mr. W. H. Seward, Governor of the State of New York, issued a proclamation to the effect that the efforts of the police to discover the murderer of Mary Rogers having proved unsuccessful, he offered a reward of 750 dollars “to be paid to whosoever shall give information resulting in the conviction of any person guilty of the said crime.” But this effort, like all the others, proved fruitless.

It will be noticed in the foregoing that only the New York Tribune has been quoted. Without a doubt, the Tribune’s contemporaries published all they could discover concerning the mystery and maybe a good deal in addition which was purely conjectural, but, unfortunately, access to the New York journals of 1841, other than the Tribune, is not to be obtained in this country. They may exist in the journalistic archives of the United States, but not one is to be found in the newspaper catalogue of the British Museum. The solitary exception is the Tribune. A fair assumption is that if the authorities refused to give reporting facilities to the Tribune this refusal extended to other newspapers. The Tribune, although but in the year of its birth, had established itself as a reliable and well-conducted journal, and as such would be in possession of every available fact. Yet all that it could gather of so outstanding a mystery is contained in the meagre story that we have pieced together. A sort of sequel is given by Inspector Byrnes, but of this sequel not one word is to be found in the Tribune outside the following quotation from the New York Courier of September 14th:

“A Mrs. Loss, who keeps a small tavern on the embankment near Wukawken, has been examined before the Mayor, and testified that Mary Rogers, with several young men, was at her house on the evening of July 25th and that she drank some lemonade offered by one of them. The clothes found were also identified by Mrs. Loss.”

The statement of the Courier is amplified by Inspector Byrnes to the effect that the day after the proclamation of the reward the coroner had an anonymous letter, the writer stating that on Sunday, the presumed day of the murder, he had seen, while walking near the river, a boat containing six rough-looking men and a girl pull out from the New York side. The girl was well dressed and he immediately recognised her as Mary Rogers. The party landed on the Hoboken side and went into the woods, the girl going willingly with them and laughing as she went. Hardly had they disappeared when another boat put out from the New York bank, the occupants being three well-dressed men. One of them landed at Hoboken and, meeting two other men on the shore, asked if they had seen a young woman and six men land from a boat a few minutes before. The reply was in the affirmative, whereupon they wanted to know whether any force had been used to get her to go. He was told that she had apparently gone with them willingly. Upon this the questioner returned to the boat, which went back to New York.

This letter was published in the newspapers​—​but not, we may point out, in the Tribune​—​and the next day Byrnes says the gentlemen, who had been questioned, corroborated the story. They also knew Mary Rogers by sight, but they were not able to say positively the girl they saw was she. Shortly after, came another statement which appeared to have reference to the same story. This was made by a stage driver named Adams, who said that on the fatal Sunday he had seen Mary Rogers at the Bull’s Ferry in Hoboken in the company of a tall, well-dressed, dark-complexioned man, and the two went to a refreshment house in the Elysian Fields known as “Nick Mullin’s.” At this point the paragraph from the New York Courier, quoted above, comes into view. Mrs. Loss, the manageress, is said to have remembered that a man resembling the one described visited her house on the day in question, and after having some refreshment, went into the woods. Shortly after, a sound like a woman’s scream was heard coming from the woods, but Mrs. Loss paid no attention to it as such noises were common.

This narrative somehow does not wear the aspect of truth, and as the identity of the girl was never established it is not worthy of serious consideration. Poe, however, utilises it, as will be seen, in his summing-up of the case of Marie Roget. Byrnes goes on with the final scene of the drama and with such circumstantiality that it is advisable to quote his words. He says:

“The exact spot, on which there is no doubt the hapless girl was brutally ill-treated and then butchered, was discovered by Mrs. Loss’s little children on September 25th, exactly two months after the murder. While playing in the woods they found, in a dense thicket, a white petticoat, a silk scarf, a parasol, and a linen handkerchief marked with the initials ‘M .R.’ The ground all round was torn up and the shrubbery trampled as if the spot had been the scene of a terrific struggle. Leading out of the thicket was a broad track such as might have been made by dragging a body through the bushes. It led in the direction of the river, but was soon lost in the woods. All the articles were identified as having been worn by Mary on the day of her disappearance.”

Not the slightest allusion to any part of this story is to be met with in the Tribune, nor is there any record of the statement that Daniel Payne committed suicide in consequence of the terrible death of his betrothed. Poe, however, adopts both stories, and on the episode of the alleged struggle in the woods founds his conclusion as to the fate of Marie Roget.

Unfortunately, Inspector Byrnes has omitted to give his authority for his details. Where did he get them? Is it possible that they, rest upon Poe’s Mystery of Marie Roget, for how much of Poe’s narrative depended upon facts and how much upon his weird imagination it is, impossible to decide. Poe’s aim was to impress the reader with a sense of veracity. He dealt with the materials after the manner of Defoe. There is not the slightest ornamentation, no attempt at “thrilling” writing. The effect he desired would have been weakened thereby. Apparently he is engaged upon a dispassionate and critical examination of certain facts, and these facts he purports to have taken from the newspapers. He places the scene of the murder in Paris, gives French names to the various characters in the tragedy and turns the New York newspapers into Parisian ones. Nevertheless, the real story, which he avowed from the first, was that of Mary Cecilia Rogers, “the pretty cigar girl.” Thus Mary Rogers becomes Marie Roget; Daniel Payne, Jacques St. Eustache; Crommelin, Beauvais; Morse, Mennais; and Mrs. Loss, Madame Dulac. The American newspapers from which alleged extracts are given and on which Poe, in the character of the astute Dupin, formulates his argument include the New York Mercury, the New York Brother Jonathan, the New York Journal of Commerce, the Philadelphia Saturday Evening Post, and the New York Commercial Advertiser. Oddly enough, the New York Tribune is not in the list. Was this omission intentional? Whether or not, it is not without significance that the Tribune contains two statements which none of the papers quoted by Poe seem to have noticed and which, if true, would have affected his argument materially.

One of the statements refers to the important question of identification. In Poe’s adaptation, Beauvais (Crommelin), in consequence of Marie’s disappearance is making enquiries on the river’s bank and chances to see a body which has just been towed ashore by some fisherman. This body he, “after some hesitation,” identifies as that of the missing girl. But in the actual sequence of events Crommelin does not go to Hoboken until after the discovery and presumably while the hastily called inquest is proceeding. It is not certain whether he saw the body, but it may be presumed that he did, though there is no mention of it in the Tribune. Anyway, no one else had a chance of so doing, as in consequence of the hot weather the burial took place the same night as already related. Byrnes, it should be remarked, does not refer to Crommelin at all​—​a somewhat curious omission having regard to the important part he played in the tragedy.

Poe is very precise in regard to the injuries to the face and body. “The face was diffused with dark blood.… About the throat were bruises and impressions of fingers. The arms were bent over 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.… The flesh of the neck was much swollen. There were no cuts apparent or bruises which appeared to be 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.”

Poe had a perfect right to go into these particulars. Anything which assisted his imagination and which added to the vraisemblance of his invention was legitimate. He was dealing with fiction built on a basis of fact, and so long as his readers were made to believe he was telling them the truth, nothing else mattered. But with Inspector Byrnes the case was different. He was not entitled to go beyond ascertained facts. He, of course, could be allowed to give his opinion, but this opinion and the presentment of these facts ought not to overlap. What he has to say in regard to the injuries corresponds in certain details to Poe’s account. So much so that one is tempted to suggest that what Poe wrote in 1843 was made use of by Byrnes in 1881 “The corpse,” wrote the inspector, “was frightfully disfigured, the face having been entirely destroyed … round the waist was fastened a stout cord, to the other end of which a stone was attached. Encircling her neck was a piece of lace torn from her dress, tied tightly enough to produce strangulation. Sunk deeply into the flesh of both wrists were the marks of cords. The hands were covered with light kid gloves, and a light bonnet hung by its ribbons around the neck.” Now the extraordinary thing is that the two men who found the girl in the river swore that there was no rope or fastening about the body, nor does it appear that Crommelin when identifying the corpse​—​if he did identify it​—​saw anything of the kind. But what Crommelin really saw and did is a matter of uncertainty, and speculation in this direction is useless. The greatest mystery of all is that the doctor’s evidence, which would have settled everything, is not alluded to in any shape or form by the Tribune. That a doctor did not see the body and report upon it to the coroner is unthinkable. If his evidence was put on record the newspapers had no access to it.

Poe could only rely upon newspaper reports, and one of his self-imposed tasks was to rebut the hypothesis put forward by L’Etoile (his French equivalent of the New York Brother Jonathan) that the body found was not that of Marie Roget, because it was only in the water three days at the outside, “since 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 sufficient decomposition to take place to bring them to the top of the water.… 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.” Clearly, had it been made known that a stone was attached to it, as Byrnes states, there would have been no necessity for the paper’s elaborate arguments. Poe opposes these arguments at great length, but neither one side nor the other of the controversy is material to the present issue, especially as it may be that the ingenious writer set up his puppet in order to knock it down, a method now fully recognised by all writers of detective stories.

The “Mystery of Marie Roget” is only applicable to the Mystery of Mary Rogers in so far as it relates to ascertained facts. What extraneous matter Poe chose to put in to assist him in working out his thesis is interesting as showing his mastery of technique, but it has little direct bearing on the elucidation of the actual mystery. One, however, turns with some curiosity to the end of the story, not only to see the conclusion Poe arrives at as to the fate of Marie Roget, but to find out whether this conclusion throws any light on the fate of Mary Rogers. This can hardly be asserted. Poe begins by assuming that Mary’s first disappearance was in the company of a naval officer. That the lovers quarrel and Mary returns to her post in the tobacco shop. The quarrel is subsequently made up and she disappears a second time with “her secret lover” never to be seen again. When she goes out to meet him Poe puts these thoughts into the girl’s mind: “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 a sufficient time given us to elude pursuit​—​I will give it to be understood that I shall visit and spend the day with my aunt (cousin) at the Rue des Dromes (Bleecker Street)​—​I will tell St. Eustache (Daniel Payne) not to call for me until dark​—​in this way my absence from home for the longest possible period, without causing suspicion or anxiety, will be accounted for and I shall gain more time than in any other manner. If I bid St. Eustache (Payne) 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 individual in question​—​it would not be my policy to bid St. Eustache (Payne) 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 ignorance by leaving home without notifying hint of my intention of returning before dark and by then stating that I had been to visit my aunt (cousin) in the Rue des Dromes. But as it is my design never to return​—​or not for some weeks​—​or not until certain concealments are effected​—​the gaining of time is the only point about which I need give myself any concern.”

All plausible enough, but it does not touch the crime. It might be constructed as a theory to show that the girl was still alive and that the body found was not hers. Poe, however, leaves it at this point and goes on to argue that the murder was the work of one man and not of a gang. That the girl was attacked by a number was an opinion held by many, supported as they thought by the appearance of the ground near which it was alleged Mrs. Loss’s children discovered fragments of clothing. We have already pointed out that, so far as we can trace, this statement is only to be found in Inspector Byrnes’s book, and as he failed to give his authority we discard the story as unreliable. Poe, however, adopted (or perhaps originated) the tale and took the greatest trouble to prove his contention that the murderer was alone. He asks whether the traces of a struggle would 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 directions​—​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.” Poe then conjures up his powerful imagination as to the mental condition of the solitary murderer. “He is alone with the ghost of the departed,” we read. “He is appalled by what lies motionless before him. The fury of his passion is over and there is abundant room in his heart for the natural awe of the deed.… He trembles and is bewildered. Yet there is a necessity for disposing of the corpse.… Consider, now the circumstance that, in the outer garment of the corpse when found, a strip 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 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 superfluous trouble of taking down a fence for the purpose of dragging through it a corpse which they might have lifted over any fence in a moment?”

We need hardly say that there is not a particle of evidence in the Mary Rogers case to support this hypothesis, but it is good reasoning in favour of Poe’s argument, and something of the kind might have happened to Mary Rogers but for the positive statements of the two men who found the body that there was no rope or fastening about it.

Continuing the sequence of pictures conjured up by his active brain, Poe writes: “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 round its middle, found the weight in this mode of procedure too much for his strength. He resolved to drag the burden​—​the evidence 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 the head would prevent it slipping off. And now the murderer bethought 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 ‘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.” The next step was to sink the body in the river. “We are to understand that Marie Roget was precipitated from a boat. This would naturally have been the case. The corpse could not have been trusted to the shallow waters of the shore. The peculiar marks on the back and shoulders tell of the bottom ribs of a boat.… 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?… Assuredly he would have cast it adrift.”

Practically this ends the chain of investigations. Poe, indeed, argues for the benefit of the Paris police that all they have to do is to find this drifting boat​—​“corroboration will rise upon corroboration and the murderer will be traced.” Thus the Mystery of Marie Roget is rounded off in accordance with the demands of realistic fiction. But fiction does not help us to piece together the facts, and in this case the weak point is that the premises on which the imaginative Poe founded his argument are not to be accepted as sound. One other remark remains. A footnote to the Marie Roget story in the 1850 edition of Poe’s works, compiled by N. P. Willis, Russell Lowell and R. W. Griswold, runs as follows: “It may not be improper to record … that the confessions of two persons (one of them the Madame Dulac of the narrative) made at different periods long subsequent to the publication confessed, in full, not only the general conclusion but absolutely all the chief hypothetical details by which that conclusion was attained.” Two questions naturally arise out of this statement. Is it to be taken as part of the Defoe-ish effect aimed at by Poe, or is it to be regarded seriously as an established fact? A safe guess would be that the statement had to do with the “mystification” in which Poe delighted. Anyhow, the confessions do not appear in Snowden’s Ladies’ Companion for 1842 in which the Mystery of Marie Roget was first published. The footnote in the reprint of 1850 was probably one of Poe’s afterthoughts.