Edgar Allan Poe

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 main land 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, 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 my 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 morning. Stay here to-night, and I will send Jup down for it at sunrise. 
It is the loveliest thing in creation!"

"What? --sunrise?"

"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 --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 lustre than the scales 
emit --but of this you cannot judge till tomorrow. In the mean time 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," said he 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 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 

"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 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 absorbed in reverie, from which no sallies of mine 
could arouse him. It had been my 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 befAllan my friend.

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

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

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

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 ain't! --he ain't find 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 him?"

"Why, massa, taint worf while for to git mad bout de matter --Massa Will say 
noffin at all ain't 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 d--d good beating 
when he did come --but Ise sich a fool dat I hadn't de heart arter all --he look 
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 ain't bin noffin onpleasant since den --'t was fore den I'm 
feared --'t was 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 

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

"Claws enoff, massa, and mouff too. I nabber did see sich a d--d 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, no how, 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 piece ob 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 tink noffin about it --I nose it. What make him dream bout de goole so 
much, if tain't cause he bit by de goole-bug? Ise heerd bout dem goole-bugs fore 

"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 nose."

"Well, Jup, perhaps you are right; but to what fortunate circumstance am I to 
attribute the honor of a visit from you to-day?"

"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 tonight, 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 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 my buying for him in de town, 
and de debbil's own lot of money I had to gib for em."

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 blieve '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 
lustre. 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 agreement 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 

"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 

"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 

"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 lose."

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 d--d 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 mean time 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 do!"

"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 

"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 

"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 

"Mos' feerd 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 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 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 ventur 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, and den de 
limb won't break wid just de weight ob 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 let that beetle fall! -
-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 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 dar ain't no eye lef' at all."

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

"Yes, I nose dat --nose all bout dat --'tis my left hand what I chops de wood 

"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 ain't 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 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 dar 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 fAllan 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 farther 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 
one to 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 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 mean time 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 towards 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! ain't 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 

"Well, then, was it this eye or that through which you let the beetle fall?" --
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 spades. 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 
mould 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 woollen. 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 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 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 upwards, from a confused heap 
of gold and of jewels, a glow and a glare 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 --thunder-stricken. 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! de poor little goole-bug, 
what I boosed in dat sabage kind ob style! Ain't 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. Worn out as we were, it was not 
in human nature to do more just then. 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 burthens, just as the first 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 or 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 time keepers 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, 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 on 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 it 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 farther 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 
towards 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. On 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 --and then 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 
connexion. I had put together two links of a great chain. There was a boat lying 
on a 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 connexion?' 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 connexion 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 on 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 on 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, on the parchment, the skull 
which I saw designed on 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 on 
either paper or vellum, so that the characters shall become visible only when 
subjected to the action of fire. Zaire, 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 on 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, on 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 

"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 connexion 
between your pirates and 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 on the figure of the animal as a kind of punning 
or hieroglyphical signature. I say signature; because its position on 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 

"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 on 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 on 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 on 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 continuously 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 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 is 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 

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

Here Legrand, having re-heated the parchment, submitted It my inspection. The 
following characters were rudely traced, in a red tint, between the death's-head 
and the goat:


46(;88*96*?;8)*+(;485);5*!2:*+(;4956*2(5*-4)8`8*; 4069285);)6



"But," said I, returning him the slip, "I am as much in the dark as ever. Were 
all the jewels of Golconda awaiting me on 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 

"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 on, 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 is removed by the signature. The pun on 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 case 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.

9 2 " 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 however 
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,' &c. In 
the present instance we see it doubled 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 the 
most usual; let us see, therefore, whether they 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.' On inspection, we find no less than seven such 
arrangements, the characters being ;48. We may, therefore, assume that the 
semicolon represents t, that 4 represents h, and that 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 
semicolon 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 arrangement,

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 combination


"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 combination,


"Translating, as before, we obtain


which assures us that the first letter is A, and that the first two words are 'A 

"To avoid confusion, it is now time that we arrange our key, as far as 
discovered, in a tabular form. It will stand thus:

5 represents a

! " d

8 " e

3 " g

4 " h

6 " i

* " n

+ " o

( " r

; " t

"We have, therefore, no less than ten 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 twenty-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.'"

"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 hostel'?"

"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 
overacute 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 on this hint, I made the 
division thus:

'A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's --twenty-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 reinstituted 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 on 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, 
'twenty-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 on it unless in one particular position. This fact confirmed my 
preconceived idea. I proceeded to use the glass. Of course, the 'twenty-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 
twenty-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.

"On 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 on 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 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 homewards. The 
instant that I left 'the devil's seat,' however, the circular rift vanished; nor 
could I get a glimpse of it afterwards, 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 on 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 
the left 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 convictions that treasure was here somewhere actually buried, we 
might have had all our labor in vain."

"I presume the fancy of the skull, of letting fall a bullet through the skull's 
eye --was suggested to Kidd by the piratical flag. No doubt he felt a kind of 
poetical consistency in recovering his money through this ominous insignium."

"Perhaps so; still I cannot help thinking that common-sense had quite as much to 
do with the matter as poetical consistency. To be visible from the devil's-seat, 
it was necessary that the object, if small, should be white; and there is 
nothing like your human skull for retaining and even increasing its whiteness 
under exposure to all vicissitudes of weather."

"But your grandiloquence, and your conduct in swinging the beetle --how 
excessively odd! I was sure you were mad. And why did you insist on 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, the worst of 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?"