The Gold-bug

What ho! what ho! this fellow is dancing mad!

He hath been bitten by the Tarantula.

--All in the Wrong.

Many years ago, I contracted an intimacy with a Mr. William

Legrand. He was of an ancient Huguenot family, and had once been

wealthy: but a series of misfortunes had reduced him to want. To

avoid the mortification consequent upon his disasters, he left New

Orleans, the city of his forefathers, and took up his residence at

Sullivan's Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.

This island is a very singular one. It consists of little else

than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at

no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the

mainland by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a

wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh hen.

The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least

dwarfish. No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. Near the

western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands, and where are some

miserable frame buildings, tenanted, during summer, by the

fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found, indeed, the

bristly palmetto; but the whole island, with the exception of this

western point, and a line of hard, white beach on the seacoast, is

covered with a dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle so much prized

by the horticulturists of England. The shrub here often attains

the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and forms an almost

impenetrable coppice, burdening the air with its fragrance.

In the inmost recesses of this coppice, not far from the eastern or

more remote end of the island, Legrand had built himself a small

hut, which he occupied when I first, by mere accident, made his

acquaintance. This soon ripened into friendship--for there was

much in the recluse to excite interest and esteem. I found him

well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but infected with

misanthropy, and subject to perverse moods of alternate enthusiasm

and melancholy. He had with him many books, but rarely employed

them. His chief amusements were gunning and fishing, or sauntering

along the beach and through the myrtles, in quest of shells or

entomological specimens--his collection of the latter might have

been envied by a Swammerdamm. In these excursions he was usually

accompanied by an old negro, called Jupiter, who had been

manumitted before the reverses of the family, but who could be

induced, neither by threats nor by promises, to abandon what he

considered his right of attendance upon the footsteps of his young

"Massa Will." It is not improbable that the relatives of Legrand,

conceiving him to be somewhat unsettled in intellect, had contrived

to instill this obstinacy into Jupiter, with a view to the

supervision and guardianship of the wanderer.

The winters in the latitude of Sullivan's Island are seldom very

severe, and in the fall of the year it is a rare event indeed when

a fire is considered necessary. About the middle of October, 18--,

there occurred, however, a day of remarkable chilliness. Just

before sunset I scrambled my way through the evergreens to the hut

of my friend, whom I had not visited for several weeks--my

residence being, at that time, in Charleston, a distance of nine

miles from the island, while the facilities of passage and

repassage were very far behind those of the present day. Upon

reaching the hut I rapped, as was my custom, and getting no reply,

sought for the key where I knew it was secreted, unlocked the door,

and went in. A fine fire was blazing upon the hearth. It was a

novelty, and by no means an ungrateful one. I threw off an

overcoat, took an armchair by the crackling logs, and awaited

patiently the arrival of my hosts.

Soon after dark they arrived, and gave me a most cordial welcome.

Jupiter, grinning from ear to ear, bustled about to prepare some

marsh hens for supper. Legrand was in one of his fits--how else

shall I term them?--of enthusiasm. He had found an unknown

bivalve, forming a new genus, and, more than this, he had hunted

down and secured, with Jupiter's assistance, a scarabaeus which he

believed to be totally new, but in respect to which he wished to

have my opinion on the morrow.

"And why not to-night?" I asked, rubbing my hands over the blaze,

and wishing the whole tribe of scarabaei at the devil.

"Ah, if I had only known you were here!" said Legrand, "but it's so

long since I saw you; and how could I foresee that you would pay me

a visit this very night of all others? As I was coming home I met

Lieutenant G----, from the fort, and, very foolishly, I lent him

the bug; so it will be impossible for you to see it until the

morning. Stay here to-night, and I will send Jup down for it at

sunrise. It is the loveliest thing in creation!"


"Nonsense! no!--the bug. It is of a brilliant gold color--about

the size of a large hickory nut--with two jet black spots near one

extremity of the back, and another, somewhat longer, at the other.

The antennae are--"

"Dey ain't NO tin in him, Massa Will, I keep a tellin' on you,"

here interrupted Jupiter; "de bug is a goole-bug, solid, ebery bit

of him, inside and all, sep him wing--neber feel half so hebby a

bug in my life."

"Well, suppose it is, Jup," replied Legrand, somewhat more

earnestly, it seemed to me, than the case demanded; "is that any

reason for your letting the birds burn? The color"--here he turned

to me--"is really almost enough to warrant Jupiter's idea. You

never saw a more brilliant metallic luster than the scales emit--

but of this you cannot judge till to-morrow. In the meantime I can

give you some idea of the shape." Saying this, he seated himself

at a small table, on which were a pen and ink, but no paper. He

looked for some in a drawer, but found none.

"Never mind," he said at length, "this will answer;" and he drew

from his waistcoat pocket a scrap of what I took to be very dirty

foolscap, and made upon it a rough drawing with the pen. While he

did this, I retained my seat by the fire, for I was still chilly.

When the design was complete, he handed it to me without rising.

As I received it, a loud growl was heard, succeeded by a scratching

at the door. Jupiter opened it, and a large Newfoundland,

belonging to Legrand, rushed in, leaped upon my shoulders, and

loaded me with caresses; for I had shown him much attention during

previous visits. When his gambols were over, I looked at the

paper, and, to speak the truth, found myself not a little puzzled

at what my friend had depicted.

"Well!" I said, after contemplating it for some minutes, "this IS a

strange scarabaeus, I must confess; new to me; never saw anything

like it before--unless it was a skull, or a death's head, which it

more nearly resembles than anything else that has come under MY


"A death's head!" echoed Legrand. "Oh--yes--well, it has something

of that appearance upon paper, no doubt. The two upper black spots

look like eyes, eh? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth--

and then the shape of the whole is oval."

"Perhaps so," said I; "but, Legrand, I fear you are no artist. I

must wait until I see the beetle itself, if I am to form any idea

of its personal appearance."

"Well, I don't know," said he, a little nettled, "I draw tolerably--

SHOULD do it at least--have had good masters, and flatter myself

that I am not quite a blockhead."

"But, my dear fellow, you are joking then," said I, "this is a very

passable SKULL--indeed, I may say that it is a very EXCELLENT

skull, according to the vulgar notions about such specimens of

physiology--and your scarabaeus must be the queerest scarabaeus in

the world if it resembles it. Why, we may get up a very thrilling

bit of superstition upon this hint. I presume you will call the

bug Scarabaeus caput hominis, or something of that kind--there are

many similar titles in the Natural Histories. But where are the

antennae you spoke of?"

"The antennae!" said Legrand, who seemed to be getting

unaccountably warm upon the subject; "I am sure you must see the

antennae. I made them as distinct as they are in the original

insect, and I presume that is sufficient."

"Well, well," I said, "perhaps you have--still I don't see them;"

and I handed him the paper without additional remark, not wishing

to ruffle his temper; but I was much surprised at the turn affairs

had taken; his ill humor puzzled me--and, as for the drawing of the

beetle, there were positively NO antennae visible, and the whole

DID bear a very close resemblance to the ordinary cuts of a death's


He received the paper very peevishly, and was about to crumple it,

apparently to throw it in the fire, when a casual glance at the

design seemed suddenly to rivet his attention. In an instant his

face grew violently red--in another excessively pale. For some

minutes he continued to scrutinize the drawing minutely where he

sat. At length he arose, took a candle from the table, and

proceeded to seat himself upon a sea chest in the farthest corner

of the room. Here again he made an anxious examination of the

paper, turning it in all directions. He said nothing, however, and

his conduct greatly astonished me; yet I thought it prudent not to

exacerbate the growing moodiness of his temper by any comment.

Presently he took from his coat pocket a wallet, placed the paper

carefully in it, and deposited both in a writing desk, which he

locked. He now grew more composed in his demeanor; but his

original air of enthusiasm had quite disappeared. Yet he seemed

not so much sulky as abstracted. As the evening wore away he

became more and more absorbed in reverie, from which no sallies of

mine could arouse him. It had been my intention to pass the night

at the hut, as I had frequently done before, but, seeing my host in

this mood, I deemed it proper to take leave. He did not press me

to remain, but, as I departed, he shook my hand with even more than

his usual cordiality.

It was about a month after this (and during the interval I had seen

nothing of Legrand) when I received a visit, at Charleston, from

his man, Jupiter. I had never seen the good old negro look so

dispirited, and I feared that some serious disaster had befallen my


"Well, Jup," said I, "what is the matter now?--how is your master?"

"Why, to speak the troof, massa, him not so berry well as mought


"Not well! I am truly sorry to hear it. What does he complain


"Dar! dot's it!--him neber 'plain of notin'--but him berry sick for

all dat."

"VERY sick, Jupiter!--why didn't you say so at once? Is he

confined to bed?"

"No, dat he aint!--he aint 'fin'd nowhar--dat's just whar de shoe

pinch--my mind is got to be berry hebby 'bout poor Massa Will."

"Jupiter, I should like to understand what it is you are talking

about. You say your master is sick. Hasn't he told you what ails


"Why, massa, 'taint worf while for to git mad about de matter--

Massa Will say noffin at all aint de matter wid him--but den what

make him go about looking dis here way, wid he head down and he

soldiers up, and as white as a goose? And den he keep a syphon all

de time--"

"Keeps a what, Jupiter?"

"Keeps a syphon wid de figgurs on de slate--de queerest figgurs I

ebber did see. Ise gittin' to be skeered, I tell you. Hab for to

keep mighty tight eye 'pon him 'noovers. Todder day he gib me slip

'fore de sun up and was gone de whole ob de blessed day. I had a

big stick ready cut for to gib him deuced good beating when he did

come--but Ise sich a fool dat I hadn't de heart arter all--he

looked so berry poorly."

"Eh?--what?--ah yes!--upon the whole I think you had better not be

too severe with the poor fellow--don't flog him, Jupiter--he can't

very well stand it--but can you form no idea of what has occasioned

this illness, or rather this change of conduct? Has anything

unpleasant happened since I saw you?"

"No, massa, dey aint bin noffin onpleasant SINCE den--'twas 'FORE

den I'm feared--'twas de berry day you was dare."

"How? what do you mean."

"Why, massa, I mean de bug--dare now."

"The what?"

"De bug--I'm berry sartin dat Massa Will bin bit somewhere 'bout de

head by dat goole-bug."

"And what cause have you, Jupiter, for such a supposition?"

"Claws enuff, massa, and mouff, too. I nebber did see sich a

deuced bug--he kick and he bite eberyting what cum near him. Massa

Will cotch him fuss, but had for to let him go 'gin mighty quick, I

tell you--den was de time he must ha' got de bite. I didn't like

de look ob de bug mouff, myself, nohow, so I wouldn't take hold oh

him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid a piece oh paper dat I

found. I rap him up in de paper and stuff a piece of it in he

mouff--dat was de way."

"And you think, then, that your master was really bitten by the

beetle, and that the bite made him sick?"

"I don't think noffin about it--I nose it. What make him dream

'bout de goole so much, if 'taint cause he bit by the goole-bug?

Ise heered 'bout dem goole-bugs 'fore dis."

"But how do you know he dreams about gold?"

"How I know? why, 'cause he talk about it in he sleep--dat's how I


"Well, Jup, perhaps you are right; but to what fortunate

circumstance am I to attribute the honor of a visit from you to-


"What de matter, massa?"

"Did you bring any message from Mr. Legrand?"

"No, massa, I bring dis here pissel;" and here Jupiter handed me a

note which ran thus:

"MY DEAR ----

"Why have I not seen you for so long a time? I hope you have not

been so foolish as to take offense at any little brusquerie of

mine; but no, that is improbable.

"Since I saw you I have had great cause for anxiety. I have

something to tell you, yet scarcely know how to tell it, or whether

I should tell it at all.

"I have not been quite well for some days past, and poor old Jup

annoys me, almost beyond endurance, by his well-meant attentions.

Would you believe it?--he had prepared a huge stick, the other day,

with which to chastise me for giving him the slip, and spending the

day, solus, among the hills on the mainland. I verily believe that

my ill looks alone saved me a flogging.

"I have made no addition to my cabinet since we met. "If you can,

in any way, make it convenient, come over with Jupiter. DO come.

I wish to see you TO-NIGHT, upon business of importance. I assure

you that it is of the HIGHEST importance.

"Ever yours,


There was something in the tone of this note which gave me great

uneasiness. Its whole style differed materially from that of

Legrand. What could he be dreaming of? What new crotchet

possessed his excitable brain? What "business of the highest

importance" could HE possibly have to transact? Jupiter's account

of him boded no good. I dreaded lest the continued pressure of

misfortune had, at length, fairly unsettled the reason of my

friend. Without a moment's hesitation, therefore, I prepared to

accompany the negro.

Upon reaching the wharf, I noticed a scythe and three spades, all

apparently new, lying in the bottom of the boat in which we were to


"What is the meaning of all this, Jup?" I inquired.

"Him syfe, massa, and spade."

"Very true; but what are they doing here?"

"Him de syfe and de spade what Massa Will sis 'pon my buying for

him in de town, and de debbil's own lot of money I had to gib for


"But what, in the name of all that is mysterious, is your 'Massa

Will' going to do with scythes and spades?"

"Dat's more dan I know, and debbil take me if I don't b'lieve 'tis

more dan he know too. But it's all cum ob de bug."

Finding that no satisfaction was to be obtained of Jupiter, whose

whole intellect seemed to be absorbed by "de bug," I now stepped

into the boat, and made sail. With a fair and strong breeze we

soon ran into the little cove to the northward of Fort Moultrie,

and a walk of some two miles brought us to the hut. It was about

three in the afternoon when we arrived. Legrand had been awaiting

us in eager expectation. He grasped my hand with a nervous

empressement which alarmed me and strengthened the suspicions

already entertained. His countenance was pale even to ghastliness,

and his deep-set eyes glared with unnatural luster. After some

inquiries respecting his health, I asked him, not knowing what

better to say, if he had yet obtained the scarabaeus from

Lieutenant G----.

"Oh, yes," he replied, coloring violently, "I got it from him the

next morning. Nothing should tempt me to part with that

scarabaeus. Do you know that Jupiter is quite right about it?"

"In what way?" I asked, with a sad foreboding at heart.

"In supposing it to be a bug of REAL GOLD." He said this with an

air of profound seriousness, and I felt inexpressibly shocked.

"This bug is to make my fortune," he continued, with a triumphant

smile; "to reinstate me in my family possessions. Is it any

wonder, then, that I prize it? Since Fortune has thought fit to

bestow it upon me, I have only to use it properly, and I shall

arrive at the gold of which it is the index. Jupiter, bring me

that scarabaeus!"

"What! de bug, massa? I'd rudder not go fer trubble dat bug; you

mus' git him for your own self." Hereupon Legrand arose, with a

grave and stately air, and brought me the beetle from a glass case

in which it was enclosed. It was a beautiful scarabaeus, and, at

that time, unknown to naturalists--of course a great prize in a

scientific point of view. There were two round black spots near

one extremity of the back, and a long one near the other. The

scales were exceedingly hard and glossy, with all the appearance of

burnished gold. The weight of the insect was very remarkable, and,

taking all things into consideration, I could hardly blame Jupiter

for his opinion respecting it; but what to make of Legrand's

concordance with that opinion, I could not, for the life of me,


"I sent for you," said he, in a grandiloquent tone, when I had

completed my examination of the beetle, "I sent for you that I

might have your counsel and assistance in furthering the views of

Fate and of the bug--"

"My dear Legrand," I cried, interrupting him, "you are certainly

unwell, and had better use some little precautions. You shall go

to bed, and I will remain with you a few days, until you get over

this. You are feverish and--"

"Feel my pulse," said he.

I felt it, and, to say the truth, found not the slightest

indication of fever.

"But you may be ill and yet have no fever. Allow me this once to

prescribe for you. In the first place go to bed. In the next--"

"You are mistaken," he interposed, "I am as well as I can expect to

be under the excitement which I suffer. If you really wish me

well, you will relieve this excitement."

"And how is this to be done?"

"Very easily. Jupiter and myself are going upon an expedition into

the hills, upon the mainland, and, in this expedition, we shall

need the aid of some person in whom we can confide. You are the

only one we can trust. Whether we succeed or fail, the excitement

which you now perceive in me will be equally allayed."

"I am anxious to oblige you in any way," I replied; "but do you

mean to say that this infernal beetle has any connection with your

expedition into the hills?"

"It has."

"Then, Legrand, I can become a party to no such absurd proceeding."

"I am sorry--very sorry--for we shall have to try it by ourselves."

"Try it by yourselves! The man is surely mad!--but stay!--how long

do you propose to be absent?"

"Probably all night. We shall start immediately, and be back, at

all events, by sunrise."

"And will you promise me, upon your honor, that when this freak of

yours is over, and the bug business (good God!) settled to your

satisfaction, you will then return home and follow my advice

implicitly, as that of your physician?"

"Yes; I promise; and now let us be off, for we have no time to


With a heavy heart I accompanied my friend. We started about four

o'clock--Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, and myself. Jupiter had with

him the scythe and spades--the whole of which he insisted upon

carrying--more through fear, it seemed to me, of trusting either of

the implements within reach of his master, than from any excess of

industry or complaisance. His demeanor was dogged in the extreme,

and "dat deuced bug" were the sole words which escaped his lips

during the journey. For my own part, I had charge of a couple of

dark lanterns, while Legrand contented himself with the scarabaeus,

which he carried attached to the end of a bit of whipcord; twirling

it to and fro, with the air of a conjurer, as he went. When I

observed this last, plain evidence of my friend's aberration of

mind, I could scarcely refrain from tears. I thought it best,

however, to humor his fancy, at least for the present, or until I

could adopt some more energetic measures with a chance of success.

In the meantime I endeavored, but all in vain, to sound him in

regard to the object of the expedition. Having succeeded in

inducing me to accompany him, he seemed unwilling to hold

conversation upon any topic of minor importance, and to all my

questions vouchsafed no other reply than "we shall see!"

We crossed the creek at the head of the island by means of a skiff,

and, ascending the high grounds on the shore of the mainland,

proceeded in a northwesterly direction, through a tract of country

excessively wild and desolate, where no trace of a human footstep

was to be seen. Legrand led the way with decision; pausing only

for an instant, here and there, to consult what appeared to be

certain landmarks of his own contrivance upon a former occasion.

In this manner we journeyed for about two hours, and the sun was

just setting when we entered a region infinitely more dreary than

any yet seen. It was a species of table-land, near the summit of

an almost inaccessible hill, densely wooded from base to pinnacle,

and interspersed with huge crags that appeared to lie loosely upon

the soil, and in many cases were prevented from precipitating

themselves into the valleys below, merely by the support of the

trees against which they reclined. Deep ravines, in various

directions, gave an air of still sterner solemnity to the scene.

The natural platform to which we had clambered was thickly

overgrown with brambles, through which we soon discovered that it

would have been impossible to force our way but for the scythe; and

Jupiter, by direction of his master, proceeded to clear for us a

path to the foot of an enormously tall tulip tree, which stood,

with some eight or ten oaks, upon the level, and far surpassed them

all, and all other trees which I had then ever seen, in the beauty

of its foliage and form, in the wide spread of its branches, and in

the general majesty of its appearance. When we reached this tree,

Legrand turned to Jupiter, and asked him if he thought he could

climb it. The old man seemed a little staggered by the question,

and for some moments made no reply. At length he approached the

huge trunk, walked slowly around it, and examined it with minute

attention. When he had completed his scrutiny, he merely said:

"Yes, massa, Jup climb any tree he ebber see in he life."

"Then up with you as soon as possible, for it will soon be too dark

to see what we are about."

"How far mus' go up, massa?" inquired Jupiter.

"Get up the main trunk first, and then I will tell you which way to

go--and here--stop! take this beetle with you."

"De bug, Massa Will!--de goole-bug!" cried the negro, drawing back

in dismay--"what for mus' tote de bug way up de tree?--d--n if I


"If you are afraid, Jup, a great big negro like you, to take hold

of a harmless little dead beetle, why you can carry it up by this

string--but, if you do not take it up with you in some way, I shall

be under the necessity of breaking your head with this shovel."

"What de matter now, massa?" said Jup, evidently shamed into

compliance; "always want for to raise fuss wid old nigger. Was

only funnin anyhow. ME feered de bug! what I keer for de bug?"

Here he took cautiously hold of the extreme end of the string, and,

maintaining the insect as far from his person as circumstances

would permit, prepared to ascend the tree.

In youth, the tulip tree, or Liriodendron tulipiferum, the most

magnificent of American foresters, has a trunk peculiarly smooth,

and often rises to a great height without lateral branches; but, in

its riper age, the bark becomes gnarled and uneven, while many

short limbs make their appearance on the stem. Thus the difficulty

of ascension, in the present case, lay more in semblance than in

reality. Embracing the huge cylinder, as closely as possible, with

his arms and knees, seizing with his hands some projections, and

resting his naked toes upon others, Jupiter, after one or two

narrow escapes from falling, at length wriggled himself into the

first great fork, and seemed to consider the whole business as

virtually accomplished. The RISK of the achievement was, in fact,

now over, although the climber was some sixty or seventy feet from

the ground.

"Which way mus' go now, Massa Will?" he asked.

"Keep up the largest branch--the one on this side," said Legrand.

The negro obeyed him promptly, and apparently with but little

trouble; ascending higher and higher, until no glimpse of his squat

figure could be obtained through the dense foliage which enveloped

it. Presently his voice was heard in a sort of halloo.

"How much fudder is got to go?"

"How high up are you?" asked Legrand.

"Ebber so fur," replied the negro; "can see de sky fru de top oh de


"Never mind the sky, but attend to what I say. Look down the trunk

and count the limbs below you on this side. How many limbs have

you passed?"

"One, two, tree, four, fibe--I done pass fibe big limb, massa, 'pon

dis side."

"Then go one limb higher."

In a few minutes the voice was heard again, announcing that the

seventh limb was attained.

"Now, Jup," cried Legrand, evidently much excited, "I want you to

work your way out upon that limb as far as you can. If you see

anything strange let me know."

By this time what little doubt I might have entertained of my poor

friend's insanity was put finally at rest. I had no alternative

but to conclude him stricken with lunacy, and I became seriously

anxious about getting him home. While I was pondering upon what

was best to be done, Jupiter's voice was again heard.

"Mos feered for to ventur pon dis limb berry far--'tis dead limb

putty much all de way."

"Did you say it was a DEAD limb, Jupiter?" cried Legrand in a

quavering voice.

"Yes, massa, him dead as de door-nail--done up for sartin--done

departed dis here life."

"What in the name of heaven shall I do?" asked Legrand, seemingly

in the greatest distress.

"Do!" said I, glad of an opportunity to interpose a word, "why come

home and go to bed. Come now!--that's a fine fellow. It's getting

late, and, besides, you remember your promise."

"Jupiter," cried he, without heeding me in the least, "do you hear


"Yes, Massa Will, hear you ebber so plain."

"Try the wood well, then, with your knife, and see if you think it

VERY rotten."

"Him rotten, massa, sure nuff," replied the negro in a few moments,

"but not so berry rotten as mought be. Mought venture out leetle

way pon de limb by myself, dat's true."

"By yourself!--what do you mean?"

"Why, I mean de bug. 'Tis BERRY hebby bug. Spose I drop him down

fuss, an den de limb won't break wid just de weight of one nigger."

"You infernal scoundrel!" cried Legrand, apparently much relieved,

"what do you mean by telling me such nonsense as that? As sure as

you drop that beetle I'll break your neck. Look here, Jupiter, do

you hear me?"

"Yes, massa, needn't hollo at poor nigger dat style."

"Well! now listen!--if you will venture out on the limb as far as

you think safe, and not let go the beetle, I'll make you a present

of a silver dollar as soon as you get down."

"I'm gwine, Massa Will--deed I is," replied the negro very

promptly--"mos out to the eend now."

"OUT TO THE END!" here fairly screamed Legrand; "do you say you are

out to the end of that limb?"

"Soon be to de eend, massa--o-o-o-o-oh! Lor-gol-a-marcy! what IS

dis here pon de tree?"

"Well!" cried Legrand, highly delighted, "what is it?"

"Why 'taint noffin but a skull--somebody bin lef him head up de

tree, and de crows done gobble ebery bit ob de meat off."

"A skull, you say!--very well,--how is it fastened to the limb?--

what holds it on?"

"Sure nuff, massa; mus look. Why dis berry curious sarcumstance,

pon my word--dare's a great big nail in de skull, what fastens ob

it on to de tree."

"Well now, Jupiter, do exactly as I tell you--do you hear?"

"Yes, massa."

"Pay attention, then--find the left eye of the skull."

"Hum! hoo! dat's good! why dey ain't no eye lef at all."

"Curse your stupidity! do you know your right hand from your left?"

"Yes, I knows dat--knows all about dat--'tis my lef hand what I

chops de wood wid."

"To be sure! you are left-handed; and your left eye is on the same

side as your left hand. Now, I suppose, you can find the left eye

of the skull, or the place where the left eye has been. Have you

found it?"

Here was a long pause. At length the negro asked:

"Is de lef eye of de skull pon de same side as de lef hand of de

skull too?--cause de skull aint got not a bit oh a hand at all--

nebber mind! I got de lef eye now--here de lef eye! what mus do

wid it?"

Let the beetle drop through it, as far as the string will reach--

but be careful and not let go your hold of the string."

"All dat done, Massa Will; mighty easy ting for to put de bug fru

de hole--look out for him dare below!"

During this colloquy no portion of Jupiter's person could be seen;

but the beetle, which he had suffered to descend, was now visible

at the end of the string, and glistened, like a globe of burnished

gold, in the last rays of the setting sun, some of which still

faintly illumined the eminence upon which we stood. The scarabaeus

hung quite clear of any branches, and, if allowed to fall, would

have fallen at our feet. Legrand immediately took the scythe, and

cleared with it a circular space, three or four yards in diameter,

just beneath the insect, and, having accomplished this, ordered

Jupiter to let go the string and come down from the tree.

Driving a peg, with great nicety, into the ground, at the precise

spot where the beetle fell, my friend now produced from his pocket

a tape measure. Fastening one end of this at that point of the

trunk of the tree which was nearest the peg, he unrolled it till it

reached the peg and thence further unrolled it, in the direction

already established by the two points of the tree and the peg, for

the distance of fifty feet--Jupiter clearing away the brambles with

the scythe. At the spot thus attained a second peg was driven, and

about this, as a center, a rude circle, about four feet in

diameter, described. Taking now a spade himself, and giving one to

Jupiter and one to me, Legrand begged us to set about digging as

quickly as possible.

To speak the truth, I had no especial relish for such amusement at

any time, and, at that particular moment, would willingly have

declined it; for the night was coming on, and I felt much fatigued

with the exercise already taken; but I saw no mode of escape, and

was fearful of disturbing my poor friend's equanimity by a refusal.

Could I have depended, indeed, upon Jupiter's aid, I would have had

no hesitation in attempting to get the lunatic home by force; but I

was too well assured of the old negro's disposition, to hope that

he would assist me, under any circumstances, in a personal contest

with his master. I made no doubt that the latter had been infected

with some of the innumerable Southern superstitions about money

buried, and that his fantasy had received confirmation by the

finding of the scarabaeus, or, perhaps, by Jupiter's obstinacy in

maintaining it to be "a bug of real gold." A mind disposed to

lunacy would readily be led away by such suggestions--especially if

chiming in with favorite preconceived ideas--and then I called to

mind the poor fellow's speech about the beetle's being "the index

of his fortune." Upon the whole, I was sadly vexed and puzzled,

but, at length, I concluded to make a virtue of necessity--to dig

with a good will, and thus the sooner to convince the visionary, by

ocular demonstration, of the fallacy of the opinion he entertained.

The lanterns having been lit, we all fell to work with a zeal

worthy a more rational cause; and, as the glare fell upon our

persons and implements, I could not help thinking how picturesque a

group we composed, and how strange and suspicious our labors must

have appeared to any interloper who, by chance, might have stumbled

upon our whereabouts.

We dug very steadily for two hours. Little was said; and our chief

embarrassment lay in the yelpings of the dog, who took exceeding

interest in our proceedings. He, at length, became so obstreperous

that we grew fearful of his giving the alarm to some stragglers in

the vicinity,--or, rather, this was the apprehension of Legrand;--

for myself, I should have rejoiced at any interruption which might

have enabled me to get the wanderer home. The noise was, at

length, very effectually silenced by Jupiter, who, getting out of

the hole with a dogged air of deliberation, tied the brute's mouth

up with one of his suspenders, and then returned, with a grave

chuckle, to his task.

When the time mentioned had expired, we had reached a depth of five

feet, and yet no signs of any treasure became manifest. A general

pause ensued, and I began to hope that the farce was at an end.

Legrand, however, although evidently much disconcerted, wiped his

brow thoughtfully and recommenced. We had excavated the entire

circle of four feet diameter, and now we slightly enlarged the

limit, and went to the farther depth of two feet. Still nothing

appeared. The gold-seeker, whom I sincerely pitied, at length

clambered from the pit, with the bitterest disappointment imprinted

upon every feature, and proceeded, slowly and reluctantly, to put

on his coat, which he had thrown off at the beginning of his labor.

In the meantime I made no remark. Jupiter, at a signal from his

master, began to gather up his tools. This done, and the dog

having been unmuzzled, we turned in profound silence toward home.

We had taken, perhaps, a dozen steps in this direction, when, with

a loud oath, Legrand strode up to Jupiter, and seized him by the

collar. The astonished negro opened his eyes and mouth to the

fullest extent, let fall the spades, and fell upon his knees.

"You scoundrel!" said Legrand, hissing out the syllables from

between his clenched teeth--"you infernal black villain!--speak, I

tell you!--answer me this instant, without prevarication!--which--

which is your left eye?"

"Oh, my golly, Massa Will! aint dis here my lef eye for sartain?"

roared the terrified Jupiter, placing his hand upon his RIGHT organ

of vision, and holding it there with a desperate pertinacity, as if

in immediate, dread of his master's attempt at a gouge.

"I thought so!--I knew it! hurrah!" vociferated Legrand, letting

the negro go and executing a series of curvets and caracols, much

to the astonishment of his valet, who, arising from his knees,

looked, mutely, from his master to myself, and then from myself to

his master.

"Come! we must go back," said the latter, "the game's not up yet;"

and he again led the way to the tulip tree.

"Jupiter," said he, when we reached its foot, "come here! was the

skull nailed to the limb with the face outward, or with the face to

the limb?"

"De face was out, massa, so dat de crows could get at de eyes good,

widout any trouble."

"Well, then, was it this eye or that through which you dropped the

beetle?" here Legrand touched each of Jupiter's eyes.

"'Twas dis eye, massa--de lef eye--jis as you tell me," and here it

was his right eye that the negro indicated.

"That will do--we must try it again."

Here my friend, about whose madness I now saw, or fancied that I

saw, certain indications of method, removed the peg which marked

the spot where the beetle fell, to a spot about three inches to the

westward of its former position. Taking, now, the tape measure

from the nearest point of the trunk to the peg, as before, and

continuing the extension in a straight line to the distance of

fifty feet, a spot was indicated, removed, by several yards, from

the point at which we had been digging.

Around the new position a circle, somewhat larger than in the

former instance, was now described, and we again set to work with

the spade. I was dreadfully weary, but, scarcely understanding

what had occasioned the change in my thoughts, I felt no longer any

great aversion from the labor imposed. I had become most

unaccountably interested--nay, even excited. Perhaps there was

something, amid all the extravagant demeanor of Legrand--some air

of forethought, or of deliberation, which impressed me. I dug

eagerly, and now and then caught myself actually looking, with

something that very much resembled expectation, for the fancied

treasure, the vision of which had demented my unfortunate

companion. At a period when such vagaries of thought most fully

possessed me, and when we had been at work perhaps an hour and a

half, we were again interrupted by the violent howlings of the dog.

His uneasiness, in the first instance, had been, evidently, but the

result of playfulness or caprice, but he now assumed a bitter and

serious tone. Upon Jupiter's again attempting to muzzle him, he

made furious resistance, and, leaping into the hole, tore up the

mold frantically with his claws. In a few seconds he had uncovered

a mass of human bones, forming two complete skeletons, intermingled

with several buttons of metal, and what appeared to be the dust of

decayed woolen. One or two strokes of a spade upturned the blade

of a large Spanish knife, and, as we dug farther, three or four

loose pieces of gold and silver coin came to light.

At sight of these the joy of Jupiter could scarcely be restrained,

but the countenance of his master wore an air of extreme

disappointment. He urged us, however, to continue our exertions,

and the words were hardly uttered when I stumbled and fell forward,

having caught the toe of my boot in a large ring of iron that lay

half buried in the loose earth.

We now worked in earnest, and never did I pass ten minutes of more

intense excitement. During this interval we had fairly unearthed

an oblong chest of wood, which, from its perfect preservation and

wonderful hardness, had plainly been subjected to some mineralizing

process--perhaps that of the bichloride of mercury. This box was

three feet and a half long, three feet broad, and two and a half

feet deep. It was firmly secured by bands of wrought iron,

riveted, and forming a kind of open trelliswork over the whole. On

each side of the chest, near the top, were three rings of iron--six

in all--by means of which a firm hold could be obtained by six

persons. Our utmost united endeavors served only to disturb the

coffer very slightly in its bed. We at once saw the impossibility

of removing so great a weight. Luckily, the sole fastenings of the

lid consisted of two sliding bolts. These we drew back--trembling

and panting with anxiety. In an instant, a treasure of

incalculable value lay gleaming before us. As the rays of the

lanterns fell within the pit, there flashed upward a glow and a

glare, from a confused heap of gold and of jewels, that absolutely

dazzled our eyes.

I shall not pretend to describe the feelings with which I gazed.

Amazement was, of course, predominant. Legrand appeared exhausted

with excitement, and spoke very few words. Jupiter's countenance

wore, for some minutes, as deadly a pallor as it is possible, in

the nature of things, for any negro's visage to assume. He seemed

stupefied--thunderstricken. Presently he fell upon his knees in

the pit, and burying his naked arms up to the elbows in gold, let

them there remain, as if enjoying the luxury of a bath. At length,

with a deep sigh, he exclaimed, as if in a soliloquy:

"And dis all cum of de goole-bug! de putty goole-bug! de poor

little goole-bug, what I boosed in that sabage kind oh style!

Ain't you shamed oh yourself, nigger?--answer me dat!"

It became necessary, at last, that I should arouse both master and

valet to the expediency of removing the treasure. It was growing

late, and it behooved us to make exertion, that we might get

everything housed before daylight. It was difficult to say what

should he done, and much time was spent in deliberation--so

confused were the ideas of all. We, finally, lightened the box by

removing two thirds of its contents, when we were enabled, with

some trouble, to raise it from the hole. The articles taken out

were deposited among the brambles, and the dog left to guard them,

with strict orders from Jupiter neither, upon any pretense, to stir

from the spot, nor to open his mouth until our return. We then

hurriedly made for home with the chest; reaching the hut in safety,

but after excessive toil, at one o'clock in the morning. Worn out

as we were, it was not in human nature to do more immediately. We

rested until two, and had supper; starting for the hills

immediately afterwards, armed with three stout sacks, which, by

good luck, were upon the premises. A little before four we arrived

at the pit, divided the remainder of the booty, as equally as might

be, among us, and, leaving the holes unfilled, again set out for

the hut, at which, for the second time, we deposited our golden

burdens, just as the first faint streaks of the dawn gleamed from

over the treetops in the east.

We were now thoroughly broken down; but the intense excitement of

the time denied us repose. After an unquiet slumber of some three

or four hours' duration, we arose, as if by preconcert, to make

examination of our treasure.

The chest had been full to the brim, and we spent the whole day,

and the greater part of the next night, in a scrutiny of its

contents. There had been nothing like order or arrangement.

Everything had been heaped in promiscuously. Having assorted all

with care, we found ourselves possessed of even vaster wealth than

we had at first supposed. In coin there was rather more than four

hundred and fifty thousand dollars--estimating the value of the

pieces, as accurately as we could, by the tables of the period.

There was not a particle of silver. All was gold of antique date

and of great variety--French, Spanish, and German money, with a few

English guineas, and some counters, of which we had never seen

specimens before. There were several very large and heavy coins,

so worn that we could make nothing of their inscriptions. There

was no American money. The value of the jewels we found more

difficulty in estimating. There were diamonds--some of them

exceedingly large and fine--a hundred and ten in all, and not one

of them small; eighteen rubies of remarkable brilliancy;--three

hundred and ten emeralds, all very beautiful; and twenty-one

sapphires, with an opal. These stones had all been broken from

their settings and thrown loose in the chest. The settings

themselves, which we picked out from among the other gold, appeared

to have been beaten up with hammers, as if to prevent

identification. Besides all this, there was a vast quantity of

solid gold ornaments; nearly two hundred massive finger and ears

rings; rich chains--thirty of these, if I remember; eighty-three

very large and heavy crucifixes; five gold censers of great value;

a prodigious golden punch bowl, ornamented with richly chased vine

leaves and Bacchanalian figures; with two sword handles exquisitely

embossed, and many other smaller articles which I cannot recollect.

The weight of these valuables exceeded three hundred and fifty

pounds avoirdupois; and in this estimate I have not included one

hundred and ninety-seven superb gold watches; three of the number

being worth each five hundred dollars, if one. Many of them were

very old, and as timekeepers valueless; the works having suffered,

more or less, from corrosion--but all were richly jeweled and in

cases of great worth. We estimated the entire contents of the

chest, that night, at a million and a half of dollars; and upon the

subsequent disposal of the trinkets and jewels (a few being

retained for our own use), it was found that we had greatly

undervalued the treasure.

When, at length, we had concluded our examination, and the intense

excitement of the time had, in some measure, subsided, Legrand, who

saw that I was dying with impatience for a solution of this most

extraordinary riddle, entered into a full detail of all the

circumstances connected with it.

"You remember," said he, "the night when I handed you the rough

sketch I had made of the scarabaeus. You recollect, also, that I

became quite vexed at you for insisting that my drawing resembled a

death's head. When you first made this assertion I thought you

were jesting; but afterwards I called to mind the peculiar spots on

the back of the insect, and admitted to myself that your remark had

some little foundation in fact. Still, the sneer at my graphic

powers irritated me--for I am considered a good artist--and,

therefore, when you handed me the scrap of parchment, I was about

to crumple it up and throw it angrily into the fire."

"The scrap of paper, you mean," said I.

"No; it had much of the appearance of paper, and at first I

supposed it to be such, but when I came to draw upon it, I

discovered it at once to be a piece of very thin parchment. It was

quite dirty, you remember. Well, as I was in the very act of

crumpling it up, my glance fell upon the sketch at which you had

been looking, and you may imagine my astonishment when I perceived,

in fact, the figure of a death's head just where, it seemed to me,

I had made the drawing of the beetle. For a moment I was too much

amazed to think with accuracy. I knew that my design was very

different in detail from this--although there was a certain

similarity in general outline. Presently I took a candle, and

seating myself at the other end of the room, proceeded to

scrutinize the parchment more closely. Upon turning it over, I saw

my own sketch upon the reverse, just as I had made it. My first

idea, now, was mere surprise at the really remarkable similarity of

outline--at the singular coincidence involved in the fact that,

unknown to me, there should have been a skull upon the other side

of the parchment, immediately beneath my figure of the scarabaeus,

and that this skull, not only in outline, but in size, should so

closely resemble my drawing. I say the singularity of this

coincidence absolutely stupefied me for a time. This is the usual

effect of such coincidences. The mind struggles to establish a

connection--a sequence of cause and effect--and, being unable to do

so, suffers a species of temporary paralysis. But, when I

recovered from this stupor, there dawned upon me gradually a

conviction which startled me even far more than the coincidence. I

began distinctly, positively, to remember that there had been NO

drawing upon the parchment, when I made my sketch of the

scarabaeus. I became perfectly certain of this; for I recollected

turning up first one side and then the other, in search of the

cleanest spot. Had the skull been then there, of course I could

not have failed to notice it. Here was indeed a mystery which I

felt it impossible to explain; but, even at that early moment,

there seemed to glimmer, faintly, within the most remote and secret

chambers of my intellect, a glow-wormlike conception of that truth

which last night's adventure brought to so magnificent a

demonstration. I arose at once, and putting the parchment securely

away, dismissed all further reflection until I should be alone.

"When you had gone, and when Jupiter was fast asleep, I betook

myself to a more methodical investigation of the affair. In the

first place I considered the manner in which the parchment had come

into my possession. The spot where we discovered the scarabaeus

was on the coast of the mainland, about a mile eastward of the

island, and but a short distance above high-water mark. Upon my

taking hold of it, it gave me a sharp bite, which caused me to let

it drop. Jupiter, with his accustomed caution, before seizing the

insect, which had flown toward him, looked about him for a leaf, or

something of that nature, by which to take hold of it. It was at

this moment that his eyes, and mine also, fell upon the scrap of

parchment, which I then supposed to be paper. It was lying half

buried in the sand, a corner sticking up. Near the spot where we

found it, I observed the remnants of the hull of what appeared to

have been a ship's longboat. The wreck seemed to have been there

for a very great while, for the resemblance to boat timbers could

scarcely be traced.

"Well, Jupiter picked up the parchment, wrapped the beetle in it,

and gave it to me. Soon afterwards we turned to go home, and on

the way met Lieutenant G----. I showed him the insect, and he

begged me to let him take it to the fort. Upon my consenting, he

thrust it forthwith into his waistcoat pocket, without the

parchment in which it had been wrapped, and which I had continued

to hold in my hand during his inspection. Perhaps he dreaded my

changing my mind, and thought it best to make sure of the prize at

once--you know how enthusiastic he is on all subjects connected

with Natural History. At the same time, without being conscious of

it, I must have deposited the parchment in my own pocket.

"You remember that when I went to the table, for the purpose of

making a sketch of the beetle, I found no paper where it was

usually kept. I looked in the drawer, and found none there. I

searched my pockets, hoping to find an old letter, when my hand

fell upon the parchment. I thus detail the precise mode in which

it came into my possession, for the circumstances impressed me with

peculiar force.

"No doubt you will think me fanciful--but I had already established

a kind of CONNECTION. I had put together two links of a great

chain. There was a boat lying upon a seacoast, and not far from

the boat was a parchment--NOT A PAPER--with a skull depicted upon

it. You will, of course, ask 'where is the connection?' I reply

that the skull, or death's head, is the well-known emblem of the

pirate. The flag of the death's head is hoisted in all


"I have said that the scrap was parchment, and not paper.

Parchment is durable--almost imperishable. Matters of little

moment are rarely consigned to parchment; since, for the mere

ordinary purposes of drawing or writing, it is not nearly so well

adapted as paper. This reflection suggested some meaning--some

relevancy--in the death's head. I did not fail to observe, also,

the FORM of the parchment. Although one of its corners had been,

by some accident, destroyed, it could be seen that the original

form was oblong. It was just such a slip, indeed, as might have

been chosen for a memorandum--for a record of something to be long

remembered, and carefully preserved."

"But," I interposed, "you say that the skull was NOT upon the

parchment when you made the drawing of the beetle. How then do you

trace any connection between the boat and the skull--since this

latter, according to your own admission, must have been designed

(God only knows how or by whom) at some period subsequent to your

sketching the scarabaeus?"

"Ah, hereupon turns the whole mystery; although the secret, at this

point, I had comparatively little difficulty in solving. My steps

were sure, and could afford but a single result. I reasoned, for

example, thus: When I drew the scarabaeus, there was no skull

apparent upon the parchment. When I had completed the drawing I

gave it to you, and observed you narrowly until you returned it.

YOU, therefore, did not design the skull, and no one else was

present to do it. Then it was not done by human agency. And

nevertheless it was done.

"At this stage of my reflections I endeavored to remember, and DID

remember, with entire distinctness, every incident which occurred

about the period in question. The weather was chilly (oh, rare and

happy accident!), and a fire was blazing upon the hearth. I was

heated with exercise and sat near the table. You, however, had

drawn a chair close to the chimney. Just as I placed the parchment

in your hand, and as you were in the act of inspecting it, Wolf,

the Newfoundland, entered, and leaped upon your shoulders. With

your left hand you caressed him and kept him off, while your right,

holding the parchment, was permitted to fall listlessly between

your knees, and in close proximity to the fire. At one moment I

thought the blaze had caught it, and was about to caution you, but,

before I could speak, you had withdrawn it, and were engaged in its

examination. When I considered all these particulars, I doubted

not for a moment that HEAT had been the agent in bringing to light,

upon the parchment, the skull which I saw designed upon it. You

are well aware that chemical preparations exist, and have existed

time out of mind, by means of which it is possible to write upon

either paper or vellum, so that the characters shall become visible

only when subjected to the action of fire. Zaffre, digested in

aqua regia, and diluted with four times its weight of water, is

sometimes employed; a green tint results. The regulus of cobalt,

dissolved in spirit of niter, gives a red. These colors disappear

at longer or shorter intervals after the material written upon

cools, but again become apparent upon the reapplication of heat.

"I now scrutinized the death's head with care. Its outer edges--

the edges of the drawing nearest the edge of the vellum--were far

more DISTINCT than the others. It was clear that the action of the

caloric had been imperfect or unequal. I immediately kindled a

fire, and subjected every portion of the parchment to a glowing

heat. At first, the only effect was the strengthening of the faint

lines in the skull; but, upon persevering in the experiment, there

became visible, at the corner of the slip, diagonally opposite to

the spot in which the death's head was delineated, the figure of

what I at first supposed to be a goat. A closer scrutiny, however,

satisfied me that it was intended for a kid."

"Ha! ha!" said I, "to be sure I have no right to laugh at you--a

million and a half of money is too serious a matter for mirth--but

you are not about to establish a third link in your chain--you will

not find any especial connection between your pirates and a goat--

pirates, you know, have nothing to do with goats; they appertain to

the farming interest."

"But I have just said that the figure was NOT that of a goat."

"Well, a kid then--pretty much the same thing."

"Pretty much, but not altogether," said Legrand. "You may have

heard of one CAPTAIN Kidd. I at once looked upon the figure of the

animal as a kind of punning or hieroglyphical signature. I say

signature; because its position upon the vellum suggested this

idea. The death's head at the corner diagonally opposite, had, in

the same manner, the air of a stamp, or seal. But I was sorely put

out by the absence of all else--of the body to my imagined

instrument--of the text for my context."

"I presume you expected to find a letter between the stamp and the


"Something of that kind. The fact is, I felt irresistibly

impressed with a presentiment of some vast good fortune impending.

I can scarcely say why. Perhaps, after all, it was rather a desire

than an actual belief;--but do you know that Jupiter's silly words,

about the bug being of solid gold, had a remarkable effect upon my

fancy? And then the series of accidents and coincidents--these

were so VERY extraordinary. Do you observe how mere an accident it

was that these events should have occurred upon the SOLE day of all

the year in which it has been, or may be sufficiently cool for

fire, and that without the fire, or without the intervention of the

dog at the precise moment in which he appeared, I should never have

become aware of the death's head, and so never the possessor of the


"But proceed--I am all impatience."

"Well; you have heard, of course, the many stories current--the

thousand vague rumors afloat about money buried, somewhere upon the

Atlantic coast, by Kidd and his associates. These rumors must have

had some foundation in fact. And that the rumors have existed so

long and so continuous, could have resulted, it appeared to me,

only from the circumstance of the buried treasures still REMAINING

entombed. Had Kidd concealed his plunder for a time, and

afterwards reclaimed it, the rumors would scarcely have reached us

in their present unvarying form. You will observe that the stories

told are all about money-seekers, not about money-finders. Had the

pirate recovered his money, there the affair would have dropped.

It seemed to me that some accident--say the loss of a memorandum

indicating its locality--had deprived him of the means of

recovering it, and that this accident had become known to his

followers, who otherwise might never have heard that the treasure

had been concealed at all, and who, busying themselves in vain,

because unguided, attempts to regain it, had given first birth, and

then universal currency, to the reports which are now so common.

Have you ever heard of any important treasure being unearthed along

the coast?"


"But that Kidd's accumulations were immense, is well known. I took

it for granted, therefore, that the earth still held them; and you

will scarcely be surprised when I tell you that I felt a hope,

nearly amounting to certainty, that the parchment so strangely

found involved a lost record of the place of deposit."

"But how did you proceed?"

"I held the vellum again to the fire, after increasing the heat,

but nothing appeared. I now thought it possible that the coating

of dirt might have something to do with the failure: so I carefully

rinsed the parchment by pouring warm water over it, and, having

done this, I placed it in a tin pan, with the skull downward, and

put the pan upon a furnace of lighted charcoal. In a few minutes,

the pan having become thoroughly heated, I removed the slip, and,

to my inexpressible joy, found it spotted, in several places, with

what appeared to be figures arranged in lines. Again I placed it

in the pan, and suffered it to remain another minute. Upon taking

it off, the whole was just as you see it now."

Here Legrand, having reheated the parchment, submitted it to my

inspection. The following characters were rudely traced, in a red

tint, between the death's head and the goat:





"But," said I, returning him the slip, "I am as much in the dark as

ever. Were all the jewels of Golconda awaiting me upon my solution

of this enigma, I am quite sure that I should be unable to earn


"And yet," said Legrand, "the solution is by no means so difficult

as you might be led to imagine from the first hasty inspection of

the characters. These characters, as anyone might readily guess,

form a cipher--that is to say, they convey a meaning; but then from

what is known of Kidd, I could not suppose him capable of

constructing any of the more abstruse cryptographs. I made up my

mind, at once, that this was of a simple species--such, however, as

would appear, to the crude intellect of the sailor, absolutely

insoluble without the key."

"And you really solved it?"

"Readily; I have solved others of an abstruseness ten thousand

times greater. Circumstances, and a certain bias of mind, have led

me to take interest in such riddles, and it may well be doubted

whether human ingenuity can construct an enigma of the kind which

human ingenuity may not, by proper application, resolve. In fact,

having once established connected and legible characters, I

scarcely gave a thought to the mere difficulty of developing their


"In the present case--indeed in all cases of secret writing--the

first question regards the LANGUAGE of the cipher; for the

principles of solution, so far, especially, as the more simple

ciphers are concerned, depend upon, and are varied by, the genius

of the particular idiom. In general, there is no alternative but

experiment (directed by probabilities) of every tongue known to him

who attempts the solution, until the true one be attained. But,

with the cipher now before us, all difficulty was removed by the

signature. The pun upon the word 'Kidd' is appreciable in no other

language than the English. But for this consideration I should

have begun my attempts with the Spanish and French, as the tongues

in which a secret of this kind would most naturally have been

written by a pirate of the Spanish main. As it was, I assumed the

cryptograph to be English.

"You observe there are no divisions between the words. Had there

been divisions the task would have been comparatively easy. In

such cases I should have commenced with a collation and analysis of

the shorter words, and, had a word of a single letter occurred, as

is most likely, (a or I, for example,) I should have considered the

solution as assured. But, there being no division, my first step

was to ascertain the predominant letters, as well as the least

frequent. Counting all, I constructed a table thus:

Of the character 8 there are 33.

; " 26.

4 " 19.

+) " 16.

* " 13.

5 " 12.

6 " 11.

!1 " 8.

0 " 6.

92 " 5.

:3 " 4.

? " 3.

] " 2.

-. " 1.

"Now, in English, the letter which most frequently occurs is e.

Afterwards, the succession runs thus: a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l

m w b k p q x z. E predominates so remarkably, that an individual

sentence of any length is rarely seen, in which it is not the

prevailing character.

"Here, then, we have, in the very beginning, the groundwork for

something more than a mere guess. The general use which may be

made of the table is obvious--but, in this particular cipher, we

shall only very partially require its aid. As our predominant

character is 8, we will commence by assuming it as the e of the

natural alphabet. To verify the supposition, let us observe if the

8 be seen often in couples--for e is doubled with great frequency

in English--in such words, for example, as 'meet,' 'fleet,'

'speed,' 'seen,' 'been,' 'agree,' etc. In the present instance we

see it doubled no less than five times, although the cryptograph is


"Let us assume 8, then, as e. Now, of all WORDS in the language,

'the' is most usual; let us see, therefore, whether there are not

repetitions of any three characters, in the same order of

collocation, the last of them being 8. If we discover repetitions

of such letters, so arranged, they will most probably represent the

word 'the.' Upon inspection, we find no less than seven such

arrangements, the characters being ;48. We may, therefore, assume

that ; represents t, 4 represents h, and 8 represents e--the last

being now well confirmed. Thus a great step has been taken.

"But, having established a single word, we are enabled to establish

a vastly important point; that is to say, several commencements and

terminations of other words. Let us refer, for example, to the

last instance but one, in which the combination ;48 occurs--not far

from the end of the cipher. We know that the ; immediately ensuing

is the commencement of a word, and

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