The Gold Bug - Chapter 1
Many years ago I became friends with a Mr. William Legrand. He was of an old French family and had once been very rich. But through circumstances which were beyond his control, he lost all his money and came to be very poor. A rather proud man, he then moved away from New Orleans where his family had always lived, in order not to feel tf disgrace of this great change in his fortunes. He went to live Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.
This island is a very unusual one. It is about three miles long and is made up of little more than sea sand. At no point is it wider than a half a mile. It lies very close to the shore line, being separated from this by a very narrow river, which moves slowly past it. Few things grow on the island; those that do are small in size and badly formed. No large trees of any kind are to be seen. Near the west end of the island, however, there are a few small buildings of wood, used during the summer by those who wish to escape the Charleston dust and fever. Here too a few trees of ordinary size grow. But the whole island, excepting this west end and a line of hard, white beach, is covered with a special kind of low bush, ugly but very sweetsmelling (Sweet Myrtle). This bush grows sometimes as high as fifteen or twenty feet and is so thick in most places that it is impossible to walk through it.
Deep within this bush and not far from the east or far end of the island, Legrand had built himself a small house. It was here that he lived when, by accident, I first came to know him. We soon became good friends, for there was much in the character of this strange fellow to excite my interest. I found him to be a man of wide education, with unusual powers of mind. His thinking, however, was rather colored by his past experiences, and he seemed at times a little angry at the world in general. Also his manner would often change very suddenly. While at one minute he would be happy and pleasant to talk with, at the next moment he would grow silent and seem to be very sad. He had with him many books, which he had brought from his home in New Orleans, but he seldom used them. He now spent his time chiefly in hunting and fishing. He also liked to walk along the beach or through the bush looking for strange bugs, of which he already had a very large collection. On these trips he usually went in the company of an old black man called Jupiter. Jupiter had been with Legrand’s family for years, and when the family lost its money, he was set free. But nothing, neither warnings nor promises, would cause him to give up what he considered his right to follow and take care of young “Master Will.” It is probable that the family of Legrand, seeing Jupiter to be a little weak in mind, succeeded in planting
this idea in his head in order that he might follow Legrand wherever he went and look after him.
The winters in this part of the country are not generally very cold, and in the fall of the year it is seldom that a fire is considered necessary. But toward the end of October 18—, there came a day when it was much less warm than usual. Just before evening, 1 struggled through the bushes near the house of my friend, whom I had not seen for several weeks. I lived at that time in Charleston, a distance of only nine miles from the island, but the means of going there and getting back were far more difficult than those of the present day. Upon reaching the house of my friend, I knocked, as was my custom, and getting no answer, looked for the key where I knew it was hidden. I then unlocked the door and went in. A fire was burning in the fireplace. This was something unusual but by no means, under the circumstances, unpleasant. I threw off my heavy coat, took an armchair alongside the warm fire, and waited for my friend to arrive.
He came soon after dark and gave me a very friendly welcome, as though most happy to see me. Jupiter, smiling from ear to ear, ran about the room, getting something for us to eat. Legrand happened to be in one of his good moods that day. He was particularly excited because he had hunted down and found that afternoon, with Jupiter’s help, a certain bug which he believed to be completely new. Yet he said he first wanted to have my opinion about it on the following morning.
“And why not tonight?” I asked, rubbing my hands together over the fire and feeling, in truth, no interest at all in the bug in question.
“Ah, if I had only known you were here,” said Legrand.
“But it’s been so long since I last saw you; and how could I know 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 let him borrow the bug; so it will be impossible for you to see it until the morning. Remain here tonight with me and I will send Jupiter down for it the first thing in the morning. It is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.”
“In that case, I should really like to see it.”
“It is deep gold in color—and about two inches long and an inch wide. It has two very black spots near one end of its back and another black spot, somewhat longer, at the other end.”
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. What was the history of Mr. William Legrand?
2. Describe the island where he lived.
3. Where had Legrand built himself a house?
4. What did the author think of Legrand?
5. Why didn’t Legrand use the books he had with him?
6. Who went with Legrand when he went looking for bugs?
7. What idea had .Legrand’s family planted in Jupiter’s head?
8. What did the author do one day in October?
9. Why was Legrand particularly excited?
10. Why couldn’t he show the author the bug until the following morning?
11. What did the bug look like?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
education in order to
collection made up of
warning by accident
“The bug is a gold bug all right,” broke in Jupiter excitedly, “every part of him, inside and out. I never felt half so heavy a bug in all my life.”
“You better watch the dinner, Jupiter,” said Legrand, just a little sharply, “and don’t let burn whatever it is that you are cooking. The color”—here he turned to me—“is really almost as Jupiter says. You never saw a more beautiful gold than is given off by the body of the bug—but of this you cannot judge until tomorrow. Meanwhile, I can give you some idea of its general form.” Saying this, he sat down at a small table, on which were a pen and ink but no paper.
“Never mind,” he said at last, “this will answer the purpose.” And he drew from his coat pocket what seemed to be a piece of old, dirty paper. On this he then made a rough drawing with the pen. While he did this, I remained sitting near the fire, for I still felt a little cold. When the drawing had been completed, he handed it to me without rising. As I received it, a loud noise was heard, followed by heavy scratching at the door. Jupiter opened it, and a large Newfoundland dog, belonging to Le- grand, rushed in and threw himself upon me in a friendly manner. He put his front feet up on my shoulders and, with a great show of affection, began to kiss me all over, for I had paid him a great deal of attention on earlier visits. When he finally tired of this and got down, I again looked at the paper—but, to tell the truth, I found myself not a little confused at what my friend had drawn.
“Well,” I said, after looking at the drawing for some minutes. “This is a strange bug. I must say it’s new to me. I never saw anything like it before—unless it’s a skull or death’s-head, for it is more like that than anything else I have ever seen.”
“A death’s-head!” cried Legrand. “Oh, yes—well, it may have something of that appearance on paper. The two upper black spots look like eyes, eh? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth—and then the general form is rather like that of a human head.”
“Perhaps so,” said I, “but, Legrand, I fear that you do not draw very well. I must wait until I see the bug (beetle) itself if I am to form any clear idea as to its exact appearance.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said he just a little sharply, as though not at all pleased with my opinion of his work. “I draw rather well—I should do so at least. I have studied drawing under some of the very best teachers and I also like to think that I am at least fairly intelligent.”
“But, my dear fellow, in that case you are fooling me,” I said, “because this drawing is certainly that of a skull. In fact, I might say that it is almost a perfect skull—not, perhaps, as a doctor might draw it, but as the ordinary person thinks of the human head. Also, if your bug looks just like this, it must be the strangest looking bug in the world. Have you a name for
it yet? I’m sure you will have to hunt a long time to find the correct one for this kind of thing. In the first place, this bug doesn’t seem to have any head.”
“But,” said Legrand, who now seemed to be getting a little excited, “I am sure you must see the head. I made it as clear as it is in the original bug, and I suppose that is clear enough.”
“Well, well,” I said, “perhaps you did draw it clearly—still I don’t see it.” At this point, I handed him back the paper with the drawing on it without saying anything more. I was much surprised at the turn the matter had taken. His rather angry manner confused me and as for the drawing of the bug—there was definitely no head to be seen. The whole thing did bring to mind at once the ordinary skull or death’s-head.
He received the paper a little angrily and was about to tear it up and throw it into the fire, when he himself happened to take a look at the drawing he had made. For a moment he examined it closely. Then his face became suddenly very red and at the next moment pale as death. For some minutes he sat there with his eyes fixed on the drawing, as though studying it from every angle. At last he rose, took a lamp from the table, and went and sat down on a sea-chest in the farthest corner of the room. Here again he examined the paper closely a second time, turning it now in all directions. He said nothing, however —and his actions surprised me greatly. I thought it best, however, not to say anything to him or to bother him in any way at such a time. Soon he took from his pocket some other papers, placed the drawing among them, and then placed all of these papers together in a drawer of the table, closed this drawer and locked it. He now became somewhat more calm in manner, but his original air of excitement had not yet completely disappeared. Still he seemed not so much angry now, as deep in thought. As the evening wore on he became more and more lost in whatever it was he was thinking about, and nothing I said seemed to wake him from these thoughts. I had planned to pass the night with him, as I had often done in the past, but seeing my friend in such a condition of mind I thought it better to leave. He did not insist that I remain, but as I left he shook my hand in a more friendly manner.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Why did Legrand take a piece of paper from his pocket?
2. What did the dog do when it entered the room?
3. Why was the dog so friendly to the author?
4. What did Legrand’s drawing look like to the author?
5. Why did Legrand think that he drew well?
6. What did the author and Legrand say about the bug’s
7. What did Legrand do when he was about to throw away the drawing?
8. Where did he take the drawing to look at it more closely?
9. What did he finally do with the drawing?
10. Why didn’t the author spend the night with Legrand?
B. What is the difference in meaning between tear up, tear down, and tear off? Use each of these expressions in a sentence of your own.
C.Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
ink hand back
Insist get down
break in wear away
answer the purpose shake hands