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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

sea-coast, 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, burthening 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 instil 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

re-passage 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 arm-chair 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 aint 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--meber 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 you 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 lustre than the scales

emit--but of this you cannot judge till tomorrow. 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 any

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

which it more nearly resembles than any thing else that has come

under my observation."

"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-head.

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 as 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 adsorbed in revery,

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 friend.

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


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


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


"Dar! dat'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 barry 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 gose? 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

any thing 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 sartain 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 ebery ting 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 ob him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid a piece ob

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 you 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 de goole-bug?

Ise heerd '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


"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 offence 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 main land. 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,

                                        "William Legrand"

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 embark.

"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 me 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 waiting

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 lustre.

After some enquiries 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, tell.

"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 main land, 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


"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 whip-cord; twirling it to and fro, with the air of a

conjuror, 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 main

land, 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 journed 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


"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 for go?"

"How high up are you?" asked Legrand.

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

de tree."

"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

any thing 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' feerd for to venture '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 sartain--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 me?"

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

"Try the wood well, then, with you 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 the 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, and den de limb won't break wid just de weight ob one


"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 that 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 left 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 curous 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 aint no eye lef' at all."

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


"Yes, I knows dat--know all bout 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 ob de skull 'pon de same side as de lef' hand ob

de skull too?--cause de skull aint got not a bit ob 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 not to let go your hold of the string."

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

fru de hole--look out for him dar below!"

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

seen; but the beetle, which he had suffered to descend, was not

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 centre, 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 most 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 phantasy 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 opinions he


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

worth 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 extend, 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 again."

Here my friend, about whose madness I now saw, or fancied 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 moust 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 mound 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 wollen. One or two

strokes of the spade up-turned 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 the 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 bi-chloride 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

trellis-work 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 ob de goole-bug! de putty goole-bug! the poor

little goole-bug, what I boosed in tat sabage kind ob style! Aint

you shamed ob 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 every thing housed before daylight. It was difficult to say

what should be 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 pretence,

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.

Wore 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 afterward, armed with three stout sacks,

which, by good lick, 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 wholes unfilled,

again set out for the hut, at which, for the second time, we

deposited our gold burthens, just as the first faint streaks of

the dawn gleamed from over the tree-tops 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 of arrangement. Every

thing 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

ear-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 jewelled and in cases of great

worth. We estimated the entire contents of the chest, that night,

as 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 under-valued the


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 afterward 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 causes 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-worm-like

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 main-land, 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 long-boat. 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 the sea-coast, and not

far from the boat was a parchment--not a paper--with a skull

depicted on 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 engagements.

"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 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 nitre, gives a red. These colors disappear at longer

or shorter intervals after the material written upon cools, but

again become apparent upon the re-application 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 to 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 signature."

"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 coincidences--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 treasure?"

"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 treasure

still remaining entombed. Had Kidd concealed his plunder for a

time, and afterward reclaimed it, the rumors would scarcely have

reached us in their presently 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

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 re-heated 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 them."

"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 any one 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 import.

"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.

                     +I       "     8.

                      0       "     6.

                     92       "     5.

                     :3       "     4.

                      ?       "     3.

                      P       "     2.

                     --.       "     1.

"Now, in English, the letter which most frequently occurs is e.

Afterward, 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 it

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 brief.

"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 a

repetition 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, of the

six characters succeeding this `the,' we are cognizant of no less

than five. Let us set these characters down, thus, by the letters

we know them to represent, leaving a space for the unknown--

                           t eeth.

"Here we are enabled, at once, to discard the `th,' as forming no

portion of the word commencing with the first t; since, by

experiment of the entire alphabet for a letter adapted to the

vacancy, we perceive that no word can be formed of which this th

can be a part. We are thus narrowed into

                            t ee,

and, going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, we

arrive at the word `tree,' as the sole possible reading. We thus

gain another letter, r, represented by (, with the words `the

tree' in juxtaposition.

"Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, we again see

the combination ;48, and employ it by way of termination to what

immediately precedes. We have thus this arrangement:

                    the tree ;4(#?34 the,

or substituting the natural letters, where known, it reads thus:

                    the tree thr#?3h the,

"Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, we leave blank

spaces, or substitute dots, we read thus:

                    the tree thr...h the,

when the word `through' makes itself evident at once. But this

discovery gives us three new letters, o, u, and g, represented by

#, ?, and 3.

"Looking now, narrowly, through the cipher for combinations of

known characters, we find, not very far from the beginning, this


                      83(88, or egree,

which, plainly, is the conclusion of the word `degree,' and gives

us another letter, d, represented by +.

"Four letters beyond the word `degree,' we perceive the



"Translating the known characters, and representing the unknown

by dots, as before, we read thus:


an arrangement immediately suggestive of the word `thirteen,' and

again furnishing us with two new characters, i and n, represented

by 6 and *.

"Referring, now, to the beginning of the cryptograph, we find the



"Translating as before, we obtain


which assures us that the first letter is A, and that the first

two words are `A good.'

"It is now time that we arrange our key, as far as discovered, in

a tabular form, to avoid confusion. It will stand thus:

                       5 represents a

                       +      "      d

                       8      "      e

                       3      "      g

                       4      "      h

                       6      "      i

                       *      "      n

                       #      "      o

                       (      "      r

                       ;      "      t

                       ?      "      u

"We have, therefore, no less than eleven of the most important

letters represented, and it will be unnecessary to proceed with

the details of the solution. I have said enough to convince you

that ciphers of this nature are readily soluble, and to give you

some insight into the rationale of their development. But be

assured that the specimen before us appertains to the very

simplest species of cryptograph. It now only remains to give you

the full translation of the characters upon the parchment, as

unriddled. Here it is:

"`A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat

forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north

main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the

death's-head a bee-line from the tree through the shot fifty feet


"But," said I, "the enigma seems still in as bad a condition as

ever. How is it possible to extort a meaning from all this jargon

about `devil's seats,' `death's-heads,' and `bishop's hostels'?"

"I confess," replied Legrand, "that the matter still wears a

serious aspect, when regarded with a casual glance. My first

endeavor was to divide the sentence into the natural division

intended by the cryptographist."

"You mean, to punctuate it?"

"Something of that kind."

"But how was it possible to effect this?"

"I reflected that it had been a point with the writer to run his

words together without division, so as to increase the difficulty

of solution. Now, a not over-acute man, in pursuing such an

object, would be nearly certain to overdo the matter. When, in

the course of his composition, he arrived at a break in his

subject which would naturally require a pause, or a point, he

would be exceedingly apt to run his characters, at this place,

more than usually close together. If you will observe the MS., in

the present instance, you will easily detect five such cases of

unusual crowding. Acting upon this hint, I made the division


"`A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's

seat--forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes--northeast and by

north--main branch seventh limb east side--shoot from the left eye

of the death's-head--a bee-line from the tree through the shot

fifty feet out.'"

"Even this division," said I, "leaves me still in the dark."

"It left me also in the dark," replied Legrand, "for a few days;

during which I made diligent inquiry, in the neighborhood of

Sullivan's Island, for any building which went by the name of the

`Bishop's Hotel'; for, of course, I dropped the obsolete word

`hostel.' Gaining no information on the subject, I was on the

point of extending my sphere of search, and proceeding in a more

systematic manner, when, one morning, it entered into my head,

quite suddenly, that this `Bishop's Hostel' might have some

reference to an old family, of the name of Bessop, which, time

out of mind, had held possession of an ancient manor-house, about

four miles to the northward of the island. I accordingly went

over to the plantation, and re-instituted my inquiries among the

older negroes of the place. At length one of the most aged of the

women said that she had heard of such a place as Bessop's Castle,

and thought that she could guide me to it, but that it was not a

castle, nor a tavern, but a high rock.

"I offered to pay her well for her trouble, and, after some

demur, she consented to accompany me to the spot. We found it

without much difficulty, when, dismissing her, I proceeded to

examine the place. The `castle' consisted of an irregular

assemblage of cliffs and rocks--one of the latter being quite

remarkable for its height as well as for its insulated and

artificial appearance. I clambered to its apex, and then felt

much at a loss as to what should be next done.

"While I was busied in reflection, my eyes fell upon a narrow

ledge in the eastern face of the rock, perhaps a yard below the

summit upon which I stood. This ledge projected about eighteen

inches, and was not more than a foot wide, while a niche in the

cliff just above it gave it a rude resemblance to one of the

hollow-backed chairs used by our ancestors. I made no doubt that

here was the `devil's-seat' alluded to  in the MS., and now I

seemed to grasp the full secret of the riddle.

"The `good glass,' I knew, could have reference to nothing but a

telescope; for the word `glass' is rarely employed in any other

sense by seamen. Now here, I at once saw, was a telescope to be

used, and a definite point of view, admitting no variation, from

which to use it. Nor did I hesitate to believe that the phrases,

`forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes,' and `northeast and by

north,' were intended as directions for the levelling of the

glass. Greatly excited by these discoveries, I hurried home,

procured a telescope, and returned to the rock.

"I let myself down to the ledge, and found that it was impossible

to retain a seat upon it except in one particular position. This

fact confirmed my preconceived idea. I proceeded to use the

glass. Of course, the `forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes'

could allude to nothing but elevation above the visible horizon,

since the horizontal direction was clearly indicated by the

words, `northeast and by north.' This latter direction I at once

established by means of a pocket-compass; then, pointing the

glass as nearly at an angle of forty-one degrees of elevation as

I could do it by guess, I moved it cautiously up or down, until

my attention was arrested by a circular rift or opening in the

foliage of a large tree that overtopped its fellows in the

distance. In the centre of this rift I perceived a white spot,

but could not, at first, distinguish what it was. Adjusting the

focus of the telescope, I again looked, and now made it out to be

a human skull.

"Upon this discovery I was so sanguine as to consider the enigma

solved; for the phrase `main branch, seventh limb, east side,'

could refer only to the position of the skull upon the tree,

while `shoot from the left eye of the death's-head' admitted,

also, of but one interpretation, in regard to a search for a

buried treasure. I perceived that the design was to drop a bullet

from the left eye of the skull, and that a bee-line, or, in other

words, a straight line, drawn from the nearest point of the trunk

through `the shot' (or the spot where the bullet fell), and

thence extended to a distance of fifty feet, would indicate a

definite point--and beneath this point I thought it at least

possible that a deposit of value lay concealed."

"All this," I said, "is exceedingly clear, and, although

ingenious, still simple and explicit. When you left the `Bishop's

Hotel,' what then?"

"Why, having carefully taken the bearings of the tree, I turned

homeward. The instant that I left `the devil's-seat,' however,

the circular rift vanished; nor could I get a glimpse of it

afterward, turn as I would. What seems to me the chief ingenuity

in this  whole business, is the fact (for repeated experiment has

convinced me it is a fact) that the circular opening in question

is visible from no other attainable point of view than that

afforded by the narrow ledge upon the face of the rock.

"In this expedition to the `Bishop's Hotel' I had been attended

by Jupiter, who had, no doubt, observed, for some weeks past, the

abstraction of my demeanor, and took especial care not to leave

me alone. But, on the next day, getting up very early, I

contrived to give him the slip, and went into the hills in search

of the tree. After much toil I found it. When I came home at

night my valet proposed to give me a flogging. With the rest of

the adventure I believe you  are as well acquainted as myself."

"I suppose," said I, "you missed the spot, in the first attempt

at digging, through Jupiter's stupidity in letting the bug fall

through the right instead of through the left eye of the skull."

"Precisely. This mistake made a difference of about two inches

and a half in the `shot'--that is to say, in the position of the

peg nearest the tree; and had the treasure been beneath the

`shot,' the error would have been of little moment; but `the

shot,' together with the nearest point of the tree, were merely

two points for the establishment of a line of direction; of

course the error, however trivial in the beginning, increased as

we proceeded with the line, and by the time we had gone fifty

feet threw us quite off the scent. But for my deep-seated

impressions that treasure was here somewhere actually buried, we

might have had all our labor in vain."

"But you grandiloquence, and your conduct in swinging the

beetle--how excessively odd! I was sure you were mad. And why did

you insist upon letting fall the bug, instead of a bullet, from

the skull?"

"Why, to be frank, I felt somewhat annoyed by your evident

suspicions touching my sanity, and so resolved to punish you

quietly, in my own way, by a little bit of sober mystification.

For this reason I swung the beetle, and for this reason I let it

fall from the tree. An observation of yours about its great

weight suggested the latter idea."

"Yes, I perceive; and now there is only one point which puzzles

me. What are we to make of the skeletons found in the hole?"

"That is a question I am no more able to answer than yourself.

There seems, however, only one plausible way of accounting for

them--and yet it is dreadful to believe in such atrocity as my

suggestion would imply. It is clear that Kidd--if Kidd indeed

secreted this treasure, which I doubt not--it is clear that he

must have had assistance in the labor. But this labor concluded,

he may have thought it expedient to remove all participants in

his secret. Perhaps a couple of blows with a mattock were

sufficient, while his coadjutors were busy in the pit; perhaps it

required a dozen--who shall tell?"