THE GOLD INSECT
15near the west end, where there are some poor-looking wood buildings to which some go in summer, to get away from the dust and disease in Charleston, and all the island (but for this west point and a line of hard white sand by the sea, is covered with a thick undergrowth of the sweet myrtle,1 which is so much to the taste of English gardeners. It is frequently fifteen or twenty feet high here, and makes a growth which is almost impossible to get through. The air is full of its sweet smell.
16He had a very good library, but he made little use of it. His chief amusements were going out with a gun, or walking slowly by the sea and among the trees, looking for small animals, insects, and so on, of which he had got together a number of first-rate examples. An old black man named Jupiter generally went with him on these walks. He had been made free before the family losses, but nothing, not even the suggestion of reward or punishment, would make him give up what he took to be his right position as the servant of young "Master Will". The family had an idea that Legrand was a little off his head, so it is not improbable that they had put this into Jupiter's mind, so that he would be able to take care of him.
17There was no answer, so I took the key from the place where it was kept, got the door unlocked, and went in. A good bright fire was burning in the fire place ; it was a new experience, and a pleasing one. I took my overcoat off, and went to a seat by the flames, waiting quietly till my friends came back.
20When it got tired of playing, I had a look at the paper, and truly it was very hard to make out what my friend's design was.
22In a second his face got violently red ; the second after, it was equally white. He went on looking at the paper with great care for some minutes, without moving from his seat. At last he got up, took a light from the table, and went to a sea—chest in the far part of the room. Here he went over the paper again with all possible care, turning it in all directions. He said nothing all the time, and I was very surprised by his behaviour ; but it seemed wise not to make his increasing bad humour worse by saying anything. A short time later he took a pocketbook from his coat, and after placing the paper in it with great care, he put it in the locked drawer of a writing-table. After this he became quieter ; but he no longer seemed so happy about the insect. He did not seem to be angry, but to have something on his mind. As time went on, he gave himself up to his thoughts more and more, and no laughing attempts of mine were able to get him away from them. I had come with the idea of sleeping at the house that night, as I had frequently done before ; but when I saw him in this condition, it seemed better to go. He made no attempt to keep me, but when I was going away he took my hand even more warmly than he generally did.
23It was about a month after this (and in this time I hadn't seen Legrand) when Jupiter, his servant, came to see me in Charleston. The good old black man was looking more unhappy than I had ever seen him and my first fear was that something serious had taken pace,
" Well, now, Jupiter, do all that I say.
" Yes, Master Will."
" Give attention, then. Get the left eye."
"Mm, Mm, —- that's good. Why, there's no left eye at all."
41across 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.
42so. 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.
45"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.
46" T'was this eye, sir, the left eye, same as you said." And here it was again his right eye he was pointing to.
48We 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.
49I 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 ?"
50In 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.
51The 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.
52It 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
53of 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.
55" This fact seemed so strange that, as I said, clear ideas were impossible for a time. This is the common effect of such workings of chance. The mind keeps attempting to make connections -- to make an adjustment of cause to effect -- and as it is unable to do so, a complete loss of power takes place for a time. When I got over this feeling, an idea came to me which by degrees became clearer and clearer in my mind, and gave me an even greater surprise than the fact that there were two designs.
56" When you had gone, and when Jupiter was sleeping, I came back to the question and went over the events with more care. First, I took into account the way in which the bit of skin had come into my hands.
57" Jupiter took up the bit of skin, put the insect inside it, and gave it to me. We came back not long after, and on the way we saw Lieutenant G. I let him see the insect, and was requested by him to let him take it to Fort Moultrie. When I said he might have it, he quickly put it into an inside pocket, without the skin which had been round it, and which I had kept in my hand all the time he was looking at the insect. Possibly he had fears that I might take it back, and so it seemed best to him to make quite certain of his chance : he puts his zoology before everything. At the same time it seems that I put the bit of skin into my pocket quite unconsciously.
58" No doubt this will seem strange to you -- but even in this short time I had got a sort of connection. I had put together two parts of a great chain. There was a boat upon the sand, and not far from the boat was a bit of sheep-skin, not paper -- with a design on it : the design of a death's-head. You will naturally say, " Where is the connection ?" My answer is : that the death's-head is the common sign of the pirate.1 They put up the death's-head flag in all their fights.
59" I made a note in my mind of what the skin was like in form. A bit at the edge had I somehow been broken off, but I was able to see that at one time it had been like the page of a book. In fact it was the very thing for someone desiring to make a note -- for a record of something which would be needed later and had to be kept safe."
60" At this stage of the argument, I did my best to get clear in my mind everything that had taken place about the time in question -- and I got it all quite clear. The weather was cold -- (What an uncommonly happy chance !) -- and a fire was burning in the fire-place. I had been walking and was warm, so I took a seat near the table. But you were by the fire. I had put the skin in your hand and you were going to have a look at it, when the dog came in and put his feet up on your arms. You were playing with him and keeping him off with your left hand, while your right hand, which had the bit of skin in it, was hanging loosely against your knees, and so was quite near the fire. At one minute the skin seemed to be on fire and I was going to say 'Take care' ; but before I was able to do anything, you had taken it away and were looking at it. In view of all these details, I had not the smallest doubt that heat had made the death's-head come out on the skin. It's no news to you that there are chemicals in existence (the invention is a very old one) which may be used for writing on skin or paper, so that the letters will only be seen when heated.
61" CoO put into mixed HCl and HNO3 and then taken with four times its weight of water is sometimes used : that gives a blue1 colour when heated. In the same way Co(NO3)2 in alcohol gives a bluel colour. These colours take a longer or shorter time to go after the material gets cold, but come back when it is heated again.
62" Ha, ha," I said, "It's true I have no right to be laughing at you -- one and a half million dollars is a serious business -- but you are not going to get the third step in your argument. There's no special connection between pirates and a goat ? Pirates have no connection with goats : they are the business of farmers."
63" Something like that. I had a feeling that something very good was coming to me in the near future. It is hard to say why. It may have been more a desire than a true belief. And it may seem strange, but Jupiter's foolish words about the insect being of solid gold had a surprising effect on my mind. And then, the chain of strange events, the improbable connections -- that was so very surprising. Don't you see how very small the chance was that these events would take place on the one day of all the year on which it has been (or ever may be) cold enough to make a fire necessary ? And if there had been no fire, or if the dog had not come in at the very minute when he did, I wouldn't have seen the death's-head, and I wouldn't have got the gold."
64later, it is not probable that all the stories which have come down to us would be so much the same. All the stories are about persons looking for gold, aren't they ? -- not about persons who got gold. If the pirate had come back and taken away his money, then there would have been no stories. It seemed to me that some event -- it may have been the loss of a note about the place -- had made his designs for getting it back go wrong, and that news of this had got to his men. Without this knowledge they might have had no idea at all that there was any gold ; but because of it they made attempts to get the gold -- attempts which were unrewarded, because unguided -- and all this gave birth to the stories which are now so common. In your experience, has there ever been any important discovery of gold in these parts ? "
65" But what did you do after that?
66" But", I said,giving him back the note, " I am as much in the dark as I was before. If I was offered a mine of jewels for making out the sense of this, I am quite certain that I wouldn't get it."
67" In the present example -- in fact, in all secret writing, the first question is about the language used in the system ; because the process of discovery (specially in the simpler systems) is dependent on the structure of the language used. Generally the only way is to make tests, in every language of which you have any knowledge, (taking the most probable first), till you get the right one. But in this example, the sign for the name made that process unnecessary. The play on the word ' Kidd' has no sense in any language but English. But for this, my first attempts would have been with Spanish and French, because they were the languages in which a secret of this sort would naturally have been put by a pirate of the Spanish Main.1 As it was, I took the system to be in English.
68"You see that there are no divisions between the words. If there had been any, the work would have been much simpler. My first step then would have been to make comparisons between all the shorter words, in an attempt to get at their structure ; and if there had been a word of one letter -- as is very probable -- (' A' or ' I ', for example) -- discovery would have seemed quite certain. But as there were no divisions, my first step was to see which were the most frequent and which the least frequent signs in the writing. After I had done this, I put the numbers in a list like this :
71And if we put in letters where possible, we get:
72" It is now wise to put our key in the form of a list (as far as possible), to keep us from getting mixed. It goes like this:
73" But ", I said, " the answer seems as far off as ever. How is it possible to make any sense out of all this talk about ' seats', ' death's-heads ', and ' hotels' ?" " It's true ", said Legrand, "that it doesn't seem much clearer. My first attempt now was to get the words put into the natural sense-groups which would have been made by the writer."
75" I made her an offer of good payment for her trouble, and after saying ' no ' for some time she made up her mind to come with me. We got to it without much trouble, and when I had sent her away, I had a look at the place. The 'Hotel' was made up of a group of high sloping walls of earth and stone ; and one great stone mass, higher than the rest and in a position by itself, seemed not to be a natural structure. I got up to the top of it, and then was quite at a loss what to do. But while I was deep in thought, I suddenly saw a narrow shelf on the east face of the stone, about a yard or so under the place where I was. This shelf went out about eighteen inches from the face of the stone, and was not more than a foot across ; and a small hollow in the stone over it made it seem a little like one of those seats with curved backs used in the old days. I had no doubt that this was the ' seat' which came into Kidd's statement, and I now seemed to have the complete story in my hands. I was certain that the only possible sense of ' a good glass' was a seaman's glass, because the word is only used by seamen in this connection. I now saw that this was the place where a glass was to be used, and that there was a fixed and unchanging position in which to make use of it. And I had no doubt that the words 'forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes' and 'north-east and by north' were directions for putting the glass at the right level. These discoveries had a great effect on my feelings. I went to the house again quickly, got a glass and went back to the stone.
77" I was so pleased by this great discovery that it seemed to me that I had got the answer to the secret. It seemed certain that the words ' chief stem, seventh branch, east side' were about the position of the death's-head on the tree; and it seemed equally certain that ' drop from the left eye of the death's-head' had but one sense in connection with pirate's gold. I saw that the idea was to get a lead ball dropped through the left eye of the death's-head, and that a 'bee-line' (or, in other words, a straight-line) from the nearest point of the stem through the ' drop ' (or the point where the lead ball came down), taken out to a complete distance of fifty feet would automatically give a fixed point -- and under this point it seemed not impossible to me that something of value had been placed."
78" When I had got the position of the tree in relation to some other landmarks, I came back to the house. The minute I got out of the ' seat ', the round hole went from view, and after that I was unable to see even a part of it anywhere on my way back. What seemed to me the most delicate bit of adjustment in all the design is the fact (for a number of tests have made me certain that it is a fact) that it is not possible to get a view of the round hole from any point but that narrow shelf on the face of the stone.
79" Quite so. This error made the drop about two and a half inches different --that is, the position of the nearer pin was changed by that amount. If the gold had been under the 'drop', the error would have been unimportant. But the ' drop' and the nearest point of the tree—stem were only two points for getting a line of direction. Naturally, the error (though small at the start), got greater as we took out the line, till by the time we had gone fifty feet, we were quite off the mark. If I had not been quite -certain that gold was there somewhere, we might have had all our trouble for nothing."
80" Yes, I see. And now there is only one question that is troubling me. How did those bones get into the hole ?"