The Gold Insect
Being the "Gold Bug" put into Basic English
Put into Basic English by A. P. Rossiter
Psyche Miniatures, General Series No. 45

To the reader by Ogden
Notes from the translator
    the Insect
    the Answers



    I was very troubled by something in the wording of this letter. The prose seemed quite different from Legrand's. What had he got on his mind ? What strange impulse had taken a grip of his unbalanced brain ? What "very important business" was it possible for him to have ? Jupiter's account of him gave me a feeling that all was not well. My chief fear was that a chain of unhappy events had sent my friend off his head. So I got ready to go with Jupiter without loss of time.
    At the landing—stage I saw a long grass-knife and three spades, all seeming quite new, in the boat in which we were going.
    " What's all this for, Jupiter ?" I said.
    " Grass—cutter and spades, sir."
    " Quite true; but what're they here for ?"
    " They're the grass—cutter and spade that Master Will made me get for him in the town. And very dear they were !"
    " But what is your Master Will going to do with them ?"


    " I haven't any idea, and what's more, it seems to me he hasn't any. But it's all because of that insect."
    When I saw that no clear answer was to be got out of Jupiter, whose mind was completely fixed on " that insect", I got into the boat and put up the sail. There was a strong wind in the right direction, and we quickly got to the small inlet to the north of Fort Moultrie, and after a walk of about two miles we came to the house. It was about three when we got there. Legrand had been waiting for us, looking forward to our coming for a long time.
    He took my hand in a sudden grip which came as a shock to me, and made my earlier fears stronger. His face was very white, almost like a dead man's, and his deep eyes were unnaturally bright.
    After putting some questions about his condition, I was at a loss for something to say and so I went on "Have you got the scarabaeus back from Lieutenant G. ?"
    " Oh yes", was his answer. He went very red. " I got it back the morning after. No offer would get that scarabaeus from me. Jupiter is quite right about it."
    " In what way? " I said, with a sad feeling of coming trouble.


    " In his suggestion that it was an insect of solid gold."
    He said this in a very serious way, and it gave me a great shock.
    " This insect is going to make me a new man", he went on, with the smile of one consciously right; "it is going to give me back the family property. Is it surprising that I put a great value on it ? Chance has been kind enough to give it to me, and I have only to make the right use of it, and I will get to the gold, of which it is the sign. Jupiter, get me that scarabaeus ".
    " That insect, Master Will? I've had enough of that insect. You'll have to get him for yourself."
    Legrand then got up looking serious and important, and got me the scarabaeus from a glass-fronted box in which it was kept. It was a beautiful scarabaeus, and at that time quite new to men of science -- and naturally a great discovery from their point of view. There were two round black marks near one end of the back, and a long one near the other end. The wing-covers were very hard and bright, and seemed completely like polished gold. The weight of the insect was surprising, and, taking all the facts together, Jupiter's opinion about it did not seem so very strange ; but I had no idea what to make of Legrand's agreement with that opinion.


    " I sent for you", he said, in a self—important voice, after I had had a good look at the insect, " I sent for you so that I would be able to have your opinion and help in making clear the views of Chance and this insect about. . ."
    " My dear Legrand", I put in, "you are certainly ill, and had better take some care of yourself. You'd better go to bed, and I'll be here with you for some days till you get over this. You're overheated, and. . ."
    " See if my heart is going very quickly ", he said, putting out his hand.
    I took it, and there was no doubt that the rate was quite normal.
    " But you may be ill without your heart giving any sign. Let me give you your orders. First, go to bed. Second. . ."
    " You're wrong", he put in. "I'm as healthy as it is possible for me to be with my feelings so worked up. If you have any desire to do me good, you will put those feelings at rest."
    " But how is that to be done? "


    " Quite simply. Jupiter and I are going on a journey over into the mountains, and on this journey we have need of some true friend. You are the one person who we are quite certain of. It will put my mind at rest if we get anything out of the journey, and equally if we don't."
    " I'm quite ready to give you any possible help", I said, " but are you saying that this insect has any connection with your journey ?"
    " It has."
    " Then, Legrand, it is not possible for me to have anything to do with such a foolish business."
    "Then -- with all possible regret -- we'11 have to do it by ourselves."
    " By yourselves ? The man is off his head ! But stop ! How long will you be away ?"
    " All night, probably. We're going to make a start now, and be back by morning, certainly."
    " And are you ready to give me your word that when this foolish amusement is ended and you have had your way about this insect-business, you will come back here and do what I say is good for you, as if I were your medical man? "
    " Yes, I give you my word. And now let's go. There's no time to be wasted."


    I went with my friend with a sad heart. We made a start about four -- Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, and myself. Jupiter had with him the grass—knife and spades, all of which he said he would take himself. It seemed to me that he did this more from fear of letting the things get into Legrand's hands than from any desire to do all the work. He had the look of a man who has much to put up with, and some bad language about the insect was all that came from his lips on the journey. I had two shaded lights, while the scarabaeus was enough for Legrand, who had it fixed to the end of a bit of whip-cord, and sent it forward and back in the air as he went, as if he were doing a trick with it. When I saw this last certain sign of my friend's sad condition of mind, it was hard for me to keep my feelings under control. But it seemed best to give way to him for the present, till there was a chance that some stronger way of controlling him might have some effect. For the present I only made attempts to get him to say what was the purpose of the journey ; but I got nothing for my trouble. He had got me to come with him, and he seemed to have no desire for talk about any less important things. To all my questions he gave no other answer than " We'll see".


    We went across the inlet at the head of the island in a small boat, and then up the slope of the high land on the other side, going north-west through a rough and waste country without a sign of living men. Legrand went first, as if he was certain of the way, and only made a stop here and there to have a look for what seemed to be landmarks from his earlier journey there. In this way we went on for about two hours, and the sun was about to go down, when we got into a waste country that was very much more unfertile than any we had seen before. It was a sort of table-land near the top of a slope which was thickly covered with trees all the way and almost impossible to get up. Here and there were great stones that seemed to be resting loosely on the earth, and numbers of them were only kept from falling into the low lands down the slope by the trees. Wide cracks in the earth in different directions made the place seem even more dark and strange.


    The level place we had got up to was covered with a thick undergrowth of low trees, and we quickly saw that we would not have been able to get through without some cutting instrument. Jupiter, taking orders from Legrand, went on and made a way for us to the foot of a very tall Tulip-tree1 which was there on the level, with eight or ten others of a different sort. It was far greater in size and more beautiful than the others, and because of its masses of leaves, its general form, the wide stretch of its branches, and a certain air by which it was marked off from the others, it seemed the greatest and most beautiful tree I had ever seen.
    When we came to it, Legrand, turning to Jupiter, said, " Are you able to get up that ?"
    The old man seemed a little surprised by the question, and for some minutes he made no answer. At last he went up to the foot of the tree, and went slowly round it, looking at it with great care ; when he had done this , all he said was, " Yes, Master Will, Jupiter gets up any tree he's ever seen ".
    " Then get up as quickly as possible, for in a short time it'll be so dark that we won't be able to see what we're doing."
    " How far have I got to go? " said Jupiter.


    " Straight up at first, and then I'l1 say which way you are to go. And here ! Stop ! Take this insect with you."
    " Insect, Master Will ? That gold-insect ?" he said loudly, with every sign of fear. " What have I got to take that up the tree for ? No, not me !"
    " If it's your fear that makes a great fat black man like you say you'll not take a small dead insect in your hand, then you'll have to take it up on this cord. But if you don't take it in some way, you'll get your head broken with this spade."
    Jupiter seemed shamed now, and ready to do it. " What's wrong now, Master Will ?" he said. " You're ready to make trouble with a poor old black man all the time, I was only laughing anyway. That insect put fear into me ? Not it."
    Then he took the end of the cord in his hand with great care, and, keeping the insect as far as possible from his body, he got ready to go up the tree.
    When it is young, the tulip—tree, the most beautiful of American trees, has an uncommonly smooth stem, and frequently goes up a long way without any side-branches ; but as it gets older the outside becomes rough and knotted, and great numbers of short branches come out from the body of the tree. Because of this, it was not so hard to get up the tree as it seemed.


    Jupiter put his arms and knees about the great round stem as tightly as possible, got a grip of some knots with his hands and put his toes on others, and in the end he got himself into the first great fork. Two or three times on the way he almost had a fall, but when he got there he seemed to have ` the idea that the work was almost done. The danger of the attempt was now past, though he was sixty or seventy feet up.
    " Which way do I go now, Master Will? " he said.
    " Keep on up the thickest branch, the one on this side", said Legrand.
    Jupiter did it quickly, and it seemed to be quite a simple business. He went on higher and higher, till his short thick body was no longer to be seen among the leaves. In a short time his voice came to our ears in a sort of long cry.
    " How much farther have I got to go ?"
    " How high up are you ?" said Legrand.
    " Very high up ", was the answer. "Seeing the sky through the top of the tree."


    " The sky isn't your business. Now, give attention to this ! Have a look down : See what branches there are under you on this side. What's the number ?" "One, two, three, four, five, -- I've gone past five thick branches, Master Will, this side."
    " Then go one branch higher."
    In a short time the voice came again, saying that he had got to the seventh branch.
    " Now, Jupiter", said Legrand, worked up by this time, " You're to get out on that branch slowly, as far as possible. If you see anything strange, say so".
    By this time, I no longer had the smallest doubt that my poor friend was off his head. It was quite clear that he was completely unbalanced, and I became seriously troubled about getting him back to his house. While I was turning over in my mind what to do, Jupiter's voice came to our ears again.
    " 'Tisn't safe to go very far out on this branch -- it's dead almost all the way."
    " Did you say it was a dead branch, Jupiter? " said Legrand in a shaking voice.
    " Yes, Master Will, he's dead as a doornail. That's certain -- it's dead and gone."


    " What ever am I going to do now ?" said Legrand, greatly troubled.
    " Do ? " I said, happy to be able to get a word in, "Why, come back and go to bed. Come on, my dear boy. It's getting late, and you gave me your word".
    " Jupiter", he said, in a loud voice, giving not the smallest attention to me. " Is my voice quite clear ?"
    " Yes, Master Will, very clear."
    " Put your knife into the wood, and see if it's very bad."
    " It's gone bad, Master Will, right enough", said Jupiter in a minute or two, " but it might be worse. Might go out a bit more by myself, that's true ".
    " How -- by yourself? "
    " Why, the insect. He's such a weight. If I let him down first, then the branch will not get broken with only the weight of one black man."
    " You dirty dog !" said Legrand, a weight now off his mind. " Why do you say such foolish things ? If that insect gets dropped, you'll get your neck broken. Do you see, Jupiter ?"
    " Yes, Master Will, no need to make all that noise at a poor old black man."


    " Well, see here, then. If you'll go out on that branch as far as seems safe and not let the insect go, I'll give you a silver dollar the very minute you come down."
    " I'm going, Master Will, yes, I am", said Jupiter very quickly. "Almost out to the end now."
    " Out to the end ?" said Legrand in a sharp high voice, as if in pain. " Do you say you are out to the and of that branch ?"
    "Get to the end in a minute. Oo ! -- What is this here on the tree ?"
    " Well", said Legrand, very pleased, " What is it? "
    " Nothing but a dead man's head. Somebody's come down without his head, and the birds have come and had all the meat off it."
    " A head, you say ? Very well, how is it fixed to the branch ? What keeps it there ?"
    " All right, Master Will. Got to have a look ! Why, this is a very strange thing. There's a great nail through the head keeping it on the tree."

    " Well, now, Jupiter, do all that I say. See ?"
    " Yes, Master Will."
    " Give attention, then. Get the left eye."
    "Mm, Mm, —- that's good. Why, there's no left eye at all."


    " You are a thick-head ! Have you got any idea which is your right hand and which is your left ?"
    " Yes, I'm certain about that. Quite certain. The left hand is the one for cutting wood."
    " Quite so. You're left-handed. And your left eye is on the same side as your left hand. Now you'll be able to get the left eye of the head, or the place where it was. Have you got it ?"
    We were kept waiting a long time after this. In the end, Jupiter said, " Is the dead man's left eye on the same side as the left-hand side of the head ? Because the dead man hasn't got any hand at all. That's all right -- I got the left eye now. Here's the left eye. What've I got to do with it ?"
    " Let the insect down through it as far as the cord will go. But take care to keep the end of it in your hand."
    " All that's done, Master Will. It wasn't hard to put the insect through the hole. Keep your eyes open down there."
    While we were talking Jupiter was completely out of view ; but the insect he had let down might now be seen at the end of the cord, bright like a polished ball of gold in the last rays of the sun, which still came


across to the high place where we were. The scarabaeus was hanging away from any branches, and if he had let it go, would have come down at our feet. Legrand quickly took the cutter and got a space clear of undergrowth, straight under the insect. When he had done this, he gave Jupiter orders to let the cord go and come down from the tree.
    Legrand put in a wood pin with great care at the place where the insect had come to earth, and then he took a measuring-line from his pocket. When one end of this had been fixed at the point of the tree-stem nearest to the pin, the line was stretched out as far as the pin, and then taken on in the same direction, till the complete distance was fifty feet from the tree. All the time, Jupiter was cutting away the undergrowth. At the point we had got to by this process, a second pin was put in, and round this a rough circle about four feet across was made. Legrand now took a spade and gave one to Jupiter and another to me, requesting us to get to work at making a hole as quickly as possible. I make no secret of the fact that I have no great taste for such amusements at any time, and on this occasion I had a great desire to say


so. The night was coming on, and I was very tired with the walking we had done. But I saw no way of getting out of it, and I had a fear that Legrand might give more trouble if I said no. If I had been certain of Jupiter's help, I would have made an attempt to get the poor man back without loss of time ; but I had enough knowledge of the old servant to be certain that I had no hope of his help in a fight against his Master Will, whatever might take place. I had no doubt that Legrand had got into his head some of the strange beliefs which are so common in the South, about money in secret places, and these had become stronger after the discovery of the scarabaeus, or possibly because Jupiter kept on saying that it was an insect of " solid gold ". Such suggestions would quickly have an effect on a mind with a tendency to disease, and even more so if they were in agreement with its fixed ideas. And then the poor man's talk about the scarabaeus being " the sign of gold" came back to my mind.
    Taking all these things together, I was a little angry, and quite uncertain what to do, but in the end, as there was no way out, it seemed best to get on with the work quickly, and in this way to make it quite clear to the foolish man that his ideas were completely false.


    When we had got the lights burning we all went to work at a great rate, as if we were certain that it was of value ; and seeing the strong light on our bodies and instruments, it came to my mind that we were like a group in some old picture, and that our work would seem very strange and secret to anyone who might come across us by chance.
    For two hours without a stop we went on making the hole. Little was said ; and our chief trouble was the noise made by the dog, who took a very great interest in our doings. In the end he made such a noise that we were in some fear that if anyone was about he might come to see what was wrong. It would be truer to say that the fears were Legrand's : I would have been pleased if someone had come to give me help in getting him back to his house. At last Jupiter put a complete stop to the noise. He got out of the hole, and, with an air of great attention to business, he got one of his trouser—supports fixed round the dog's mouth, and then came back to his work laughing softly.


    At the end of two hours we had got five feet down, and still there were no signs of gold. We all had a rest, and I was hoping that the foolish business was at an end. But Legrand, though much troubled, put his hand slowly across his wet face and then made another start. We had made a hole covering the complete circle of four feet, and now we made it a little wider, and then went down two feet deeper. Still nothing came to light. Legrand, poor man, at last got out of the hole, and, with a bitterly unhappy look on his face, slowly and sadly put on the coat he had taken off at the start. I said nothing while he was doing this. Legrand made a sign to Jupiter who then got the things together. When this was done, and when the dog had been let loose, we made a start on the journey back, without a word.
    We had taken about twelve steps in this direction, when Legrand let out some bad language in a loud voice, took one step across to Jupiter, and got him by the collar. The surprised black man, with his eyes and mouth as wide open as possible, let all the things go and went down on his knees.
    " You dog !" said Legrand in a forced voice from between his shut teeth. "Come on, I say ! Give me a straight answer ! Which -- which is your left eye ?"


    "Oh, oh Master Will, isn't this here my left eye, certain ?" said Jupiter, now shaking with fear ; and he put his hand on his right eye, and kept it tightly fixed there as if in great fear that Legrand was going to have it out.
    " There you are ! -- I was certain of it ! Hurrah !" said Legrand loudly. He let the black man go and went off running round and jumping in the air in a strange sort of dance. Jupiter, completely surprised, got up from his knees and had a look first at Legrand and then at me, and then back again at Legrand, without saying a word. " Come on, we'll have to go back", said Legrand. " There's still hope." And he went back again to the tulip-tree.
    " Jupiter," he said, when we got to the foot, "Come here. Was the head nailed to the tree with the face away from the branch, or against it ?"
    " The face was away from it, Master Will, so that the birds'ld be able to get at the eyes without any trouble."
    " Well, then, was it this eye or that which you put the insect through ?" Here Legrand put his finger first on one of Jupiter's eyes and then on the other.


    " T'was this eye, sir, the left eye, same as you said." And here it was again his right eye he was pointing to.
    " That'll do. We've got to make another attempt ?
    My friend (whose strange acts now seemed to me based on some system), took out the pin marking the place where the insect came down, and put it at a point about three inches to the left of its earlier position. Then he took the measuring-line from the nearest point of the stem out to the pin, as he had done before, and when he had gone fifty feet, a new point was marked, some yards from the place where we had been making the hole. A circle was made round this new point, a little wider than the other, and we again got to work with the spades. I was very tired, but I no longer had any strong feeling against doing the work, though I was not conscious of any reason for the change. I had become strangely interested -- I even had some hope. There may have been something in all Legrand's strange doings -- some suggestion of design or reasoned purpose, which had had an effect on my mind. I was working now with pleasure, and at times was conscious of looking, almost with hope, for the secret gold the idea of which had sent my poor friend off his head. At a time when my mind was full of such strange thoughts, and when we had been at work about an hour and a half, we were again stopped by the violent cries of the dog. The noise he made before had clearly been in play ; but now there was a bitter and serious note in his crying. He made a fight against Jupiter's attempts to put something round his mouth again ; and then suddenly, with a jump, he was in the hole, and sending the earth in all directions with his feet.
    In a very short time he got to a mass of bones -- the bones of two bodies -- mixed with some metal buttons, and what seemed to be the dust of very old wool material. One or two turns of the spade got out the blade of a long Spanish knife, and as we went deeper, three or four loose bits of gold and silver money came to light.
    Jupiter was almost overcome with pleasure when he saw these, but Legrand's face made it clear that they did not come up to his hopes. He said we would have to go on with the work, and the very minute he said these words, I put the toe of my boot into a great iron ring almost covered by the loose earth, and went falling forward.


    We were now working as hard as possible, and at no time have I ever been through ten more gripping minutes. In this time we had almost got out a long narrow chest made of wood, which, judging from its undamaged and surprisingly hard condition, had clearly been put through some chemical process. Possibly HgCl2 was used. This box was three and a half feet long, three feet wide, and two and a half feet deep. It had been made stronger with bands of worked iron, fixed with metal pins, and making a sort of net over all the out- side. On the sides near the top were rings of iron -- six in all -- by which six porters might get a good grip. All our united attempts only got the box moved a little way from its place. We quickly saw that it was impossible to take away such a great weight. Happily, the top was only fixed with two rods. We got these moved back. We were shaking all over and breathing deeply, fearing that our hopes would not come true. In a second, we saw our reward in front of us, bright as the sun, a reward so great that it took our breath away. As the rays of our lights came down into the hole, warm flames of light seemed to be sent up from the mass of gold and jewels, so bright that for a minute we were unable to see.


    I make no attempt to give any account of my feelings when I saw this. Naturally, great surprise was the strongest. Legrand seemed tired out by his feelings and said very little. For some minutes Jupiter's face was as near white as it is possible for a black man to become. He seemed completely at a loss -- unable to do anything. In a minute or two he got down on his knees in the hole, put his uncovered arms halfway into the gold, and kept them there as if they were in a beautiful bath. At last, with a deep breath, he said, as if he was talking to himself, " And all this came of the insect -- the beautiful gold-insect -- the poor little gold-insect I said such had things about in that rough way ! Aren't you shamed, Jupiter ? What's your answer to that ?"
    After a time it became clear that nothing would be done till I made them see that it was necessary to take away the gold. It was getting late, and it was very important for us to get the work done, so that every- thing might be housed before daylight. It was hard to say what was the best thing to do, and much time was wasted in discussion -- all our thoughts were so mixed.


    In the end we took out two-thirds of what was in the box, to make the weight less, and then we were able (with some trouble) to get it up out of the hole. The things we had taken out were placed among the undergrowth, and the dog was put to keep an eye on them, and given orders by Jupiter not to go from the place and not to let out a sound till we came back. Then we went off with the chest as quickly as possible. After much hard work, we got to the house quite safely, at one in the morning. We were so tired that it was impossible to do more without a rest. We did nothing till two, and then had a meal ; after which we made a new start for the mountains with three strong bags, which, by a happy chance, were in the house. It was not quite four when we got back to the place. We made as equal a division as possible of the other part of the gold and jewels, and went off to the house again, without putting the earth back into the holes. We got there with our weight of gold when the first thin rays of light came brightly across the tree-tops in the east.
    We were completely tired out by now, but still so worked-up that rest was almost impossible. After an unquiet sleep of three or four hours, we all got up at the same time, as if by agreement, to have a good look at our reward.


    The chest had been full to the top, and we took all the day and most of the night in going over the things with great care. They were in no sort of order. Everything had been put in as it came, all mixed together. When all was sorted with care, we saw that there was much more than we had had any idea of at first. In money there was something more than 450,000 dollars -- judging by the value of the money at the time when it was made. There was not a bit of silver. All the money was old, and it was of every possible sort. There was French, Spanish, and German money, with some English guineas,1 and some of a design which we now saw for the first time. Some of them were of great size and weight, and so rubbed that we were quite unable to make out the designs. There was no American money at all.


    It was harder for us to put a value on the jewels.2 There were diamonds2, some very great and beautiful -- a hundred and ten of them -- and not one was small : eighteen rubies,2 all surprisingly bright: three hundred and ten emeralds,2 all very beautiful : twenty-one sapphires:2 and one opal.2 These stones had all been taken out of ornaments, and put loose in the chest. The ornaments themselves, which we took out from among the other gold, seemed to have been broken up with hammers so that no-one would be able to say what they were. In addition to these, there was a great number of solid gold ornaments : almost two hundred finger- and ear-rings of great size : beautiful chains -- thirty of these, if my memory is right : eighty-three crucifixes3 of great size and weight : five thuribles,4 all of great value : a great gold basin for making drinks in, ornamented with a cut-in design of leaves and dancers : two sword-hilts5 beautifully worked ; and a number of smaller things of which I have no memory now. The weight


of these things was over three hundred and fifty pounds. I have not taken into account a hundred and ninety-seven of the most beautiful gold watches, of which three were quite certainly over 500 dollars in value. A number of them were very old, and no good as time-keepers, because the works had been damaged by the wet ; but all were well ornamented with jewels and the gold parts were of great value.
    In our opinion that night, the value of everything in the chest was one and a half million dollars; and when the ornaments and jewels were put on the market (keeping a small number for our use), we made the discovery that this was much less than the true value.
    At last, when we had gone through the things, and our feelings were a little more normal, Legrand, who saw that I was bursting with the desire to be let into the secret of this most surprising business, gave me full details of all the events in connection with it.


The Gold Insect