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The Gold Bug - Chapter 3

The Gold Bug - Chapter 3

 

PARTI

 
With a heavy heart I went along with my friend. We started about an hour later—at four o’clock—Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, and myself. Jupiter had with him the axe and the three shovels, all of which he insisted on carrying—mainly because he was afraid, it seemed to me, of leaving them within the reach of his master. His manner was that of the silent but faithful servant, and “that devil of a bug” were the only words which escaped from him during the whole trip. For my part, I had to carry
 
several dark lanterns, while Legrand brought with him only the bug itself; he carried it tied to the end of a long piece of heavy cord, and he swung it around through the air, as he went, like some man of mystery. When I saw my friend doing this, I could only think that he was completely out of his mind. I almost burst into tears.
 
Yet I thought it best not to let him see how I felt. I also reasoned that it was better to go along with all his ideas, at least for the present, or until I could take some definite steps that might have some chance of success. Meanwhile, I tried to find out something about the purpose of this strange trip. But having succeeded in getting me to go along with him, Legrand seemed to have no intention of telling me anything more about his plans. To any direct question of mine, he would simply answer “we shall see!”
 
We crossed the narrow river which separated the island from the mainland in a small boat. Going up the high ground on the shore of the mainland, we then went on toward the west, through a part of the country which was very wild and where no human footsteps were to be seen. Legrand led the way as though he knew the direction very well. Now and then, how­ever, he would stop to examine certain of his own guide marks which he had ap
parently made on some earlier visit here.
 
In this manner we traveled on for about two hours. The sun was just setting when we entered a section even more un­pleasant looking than any yet seen. It was a kind of flat table­land, near the top of a hill which had very sharp sides. It had been most difficult to climb this hill. The trees and bushes grew very thick on its sides. There were also large stones lying everywhere. These were held from rolling down the hill by the thick bushes and heavy trees against which they leaned.
 
The natural, flat place to which we had traveled at the top of this hill was covered with bushes through which it would have been impossible to force our way except with the axe. Jupiter, as directed by his master, now began to clear a path for us, using this axe. This path led to a particularly large tree which stood among a group of eight or ten others but which rose well above these, and was one of the largest and most beautiful trees I had ever seen in my life. It was very well formed
 
and, in the wide spread of its branches, was a tree which would readily have attracted attention anywhere. When we reached this tree, Legrand turned to Jupiter and asked him whether he thought he could climb it. The old man seemed so surprised by the question that for a moment he did not know how to answer. Finally, he came close to the great trunk of the tree, walked around it, and examined it carefully. When he had finished, he said:
 
“Yes, Master, Jupiter can climb any tree he ever saw in his life.”
 
“Then up with you as soon as possible,” said Legrand, “for it will soon be too dark to see what we are about.”
 
How far up must I go, Master?” asked Jupiter.
 
“Go up the main trunk first and then I will tell you which way to go—and here—stop! Take the bug with you!”
 
“The bug, Master Will? The gold bug?” cried Jupiter, draw­ing back and clearly, a little frightened. “Why must I carry the bug up with me?”
 
“If you are afraid, Jup—a great big man like you—to take hold of a little bug like this, which is dead now and can’t hurt even a fly, then you can carry it up by this cord, but if you do not take it up with you in some way, then I shall be forced to break your head with this shovel.”
 
“What’s the matter now, Master?” said Jup. “You’re always getting mad right away with me. I was only fooling anyway. Me afraid of that bug? What do I care for the bug?” Here he took careful hold of the end of the cord and, keeping the bug as fâr away from himself as the circumstance would permit, prepared to go up the tree.
The tree was not hard to climb. Though the trunk was large in size, it was very rough in certain spots, giving Jupiter a chance to take hold with his hands or rest his naked feet in these places. After one or two narrow escapes from falling, he succeeded at last in getting part way up. He was, in fact, now some sixty or seventy feet from the ground, and seemed to think that his work was well completed.
 
“Which way must I go now, Master Will?” he asked. “Or is this far enough?”
 
“Keep going up the largest branch, the one on this side,”
 
said Legrand. Jupiter followed his orders at once and appar­ently with little trouble. He continued going higher and higher until he could no longer be seen through the thick branches and heavy leaves of the tree. Soon, however, his voice was heard calling to us.
“How much farther do I have to go?”
“How high up are you?” asked Legrand.
“Very high. I can see the sky through the top of the tree.” “Never mind the sky, but listen to what I say. Look down the trunk and count the main branches below you on this side. How many such branches have you passed?”
“One, two, three, four, five, six—I have passed six big branches, Master, on this side.”
“Then go up one branch higher.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. Why did Jupiter carry the axe and shovels?
2. What did the author take with him?
3. How did Legrand carry the bug?
4. How did Legrand answer any questions about the trip?
5. Where did they go?
6. What did Legrand now and then stop to examine?
7. How long did they travel this way?
8. Describe the hill they climbed.
9. What was at the top of the hill?
10. What did Legrand direct Jupiter to do?
11. To what did the path that Jupiter cleared lead?
12. What did Legrand ask Jupiter if he could do?
13. What did Legrand want Jupiter to take with him?
14. Why was the tree easy to climb?
15. How high up in the tree did J upiter climb?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
own:                  
 
faithful                                  trunk
intention                                naked
ground                                   leaf
 path                                       now and then 
branch                                    right away
 
PART II
 
In a few minutes Jupiter’s voice was heard again, saying that he had reached the seventh branch.
 
“Now, Jup,” cried Legrand, clearly greatly excited. “I want you to work your way out along that branch as far as you can. If you see anything strange, let me know.”
 
By this time what little doubt I had about the condition of my friend’s mind was put to rest. There was nothing else to believe except that he had gone completely mad. I began to worry about how to get him home. While I was thinking of the best way to do this, Jupiter’s voice was heard again.
 
“I’m afraid to go out very far on this branch. This branch is dead pretty much all the way.”
 
“Did you say it was a dead branch, Jupiter?” cried Legrand, his voice shaking.
 
“Yes, Master, it’s dead—dead as a doornail. There’s no life left in it.”
 
“What in the name of heaven shall I do?” asked Legrand, seeming to be very greatly worried.
 
“Do!” said I, glad of the chance to put in a word. “You can come home and go to bed. Come, now, be a good fellow. It’s getting late, and, besides, you remember your promise.” “Jupiter,” he cried, without paying the least attention to me, “do you hear me?”
 
“Yes, Master Will. I hear you clearly.”
 
“Try the wood, then, with your knife, and see if you think it is too dead to hold your weight.”
 
“It’s dead, sure enough,” answered Jupiter in a few minutes, “but not so dead as it might be. Maybe I could go out a little ways on the branch by myself, that’s true.”
 
“By yourself—what do you mean?”
 
“Why, I mean the bug. That is a very heavy bug. Suppose I drop him down first, and then the branch won’t break with the weight of one old man.”
 
“You devil!” cried Legrand, who seemed to feel suddenly much better. “What do you mean by saying such foolish things? As sure as you drop that bug, I’ll break your neck. Look here, Jupiter, do you hear me?”
 
“Yes, Master, but you needn’t talk to an old man that way.”
 
 “Well, now listen—if you go out on that branch as far as you Ihink safe, and not let go the bug, I’ll make you a present of a five-dollar gold piece as soon as you get down.”
 
“I’m going, Master Will, I surely am,” answered the old man at once. “I’m almost out to the end now.”
“Out to the end?” here cried out Legrand nervously. “Do you say you are out to the very end of that branch?”
 
“I’ll soon be to the end, Master—o-o-o-o-oh! God in His heavens! What is this here upon this tree?”
 
“Well,” cried Legrand, highly pleased. “What is it?”
 
“Well, it’s only a skull—somebody must have left his head up here in this tree—but the birds have picked it all clean.”
 
“A skull, you say! Very well. How is it fastened to the branch? What holds it on?”
 
“I must look, Master. This is a very curious circumstance. There’s a great big nail in the skull, and it fastens it to the tree.”
 
“Well now, Jupiter, do exactly as I tell you—do you hear?” “Yes, Master!”
 
“Pay attention, then. Find the left eye of the skull.”
 
“Hum! Hoo! That’s a good one. There isn’t any left eye at all.”
 
“Don’t be so stupid. Do you know your right hand from your left?”
 
“Yes, I know that. I know all about that—it’s my left hand that I always cut the firewood with.”
 
“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?”
There was a long silence. Finally the old man asked:
 
“Is the left eye of the skull on the same side as the left hand of the skull too?—because this skull doesn’t have any left hand. Never mind, I got the left eye now—here’s the left eye. What must I do with it?”
 
“Let the bug drop through it as far as the cord will reach— but be careful not to let go of your hold on the cord.”
 
“All that is done, Master Will; it’s an easy thing to put the bug through the hole—look out for him there below.”
During this conversation Jupiter was completely hidden from us by the leaves and branches of the tree; but the bug, which he had let drop, was now to be seen hanging at the end of the cord. The gold of its body shone in the setting sun. The bug hung quite clear of any branches, and, if permitted to fall, would have fallen at our feet. Legrand immediately took the axe and with it cleared a space, in the form of a circle, about three or four feet across, just below the place where the bug hung. Then, having done this, he ordered Jupiter to let go the cord and to come down from the tree.
 
Driving a stick of wood into the ground with great care, at the exact spot where the bug fell, my friend now took from his pocket a measuring cord. Fastening one end of this measuring cord at the point of the tree nearest to the stick, he unrolled it until it reached the stick. Then he went on to unroll it still further, in the direction already established by the two points of the tree and the stick, for a distance of fifty feet. Jupiter, meanwhile, cleared away the bushes with the axe. At the spot reached in this way, a second stick was driven into the ground, and about this stick, as a center, a rough circle was drawn— about four feet across. Taking a shovel himself and giving one to Jupiter and the third one to me, Legrand asked us: to set about digging as quickly as possible.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. After Jupiter had reached the seventh branch, what did Legrand tell him to do?
2. Why was Jupiter afraid to go so far out on this branch?
3. What did the author then say that Legrand should do?
4. What did Jupiter find when he tried the wood with his knife?
5. What did Jupiter suggest that he drop?
6. What did Legrand promise him if he went out on the branch?
7. What did Jupiter find at the end of the branch?
8. How was the skull fastened to the tree?
9. How did Legrand tell Jupiter to find the left eye of the skull?
10.What did Legrand tell him to do with the bug?
11.What did Legrand do when the bug was hanging clear of the branches?
12.What did he then order J upiter to do?
13Describe what Legrand and Jupiter did next.
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
own:
 
weight             go mad
space             worry about
measure pay       attention to
establish by yourself
dig              let go
let know set about