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The Gold Bug - Chapter 6

The Gold Bug - Chapter 6

 
PARTI
 
“Ha! ha!” said I, “to be sure I have no right to laugh at you —a million and a half dollars is too serious a matter for laugh­ing—but surely you are not about to establish a third part in your chain. You will not find any special connection between your pirates and a goat—pirates, you know, have nothing to do with goats; goats are found on farms.”
 
“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 exactly,” said Legrand. “You may have heard of one Captain Kidd, who was probably the most famous of all pirates. It seemed to me that the figure of the animal was a kind of play on words upon his name. Instead of signing his name at the usual place at the bottom of the docu­ment Kidd had drawn the figure of this animal to represent his name—a kid for Kidd. Do you follow me? Then, too, the death’s- head in the opposite corner, as I mentioned before, is the usual sign of all pirates and has always appeared on pirate flags. Yet one thing still bothered me seriously. Though these two signs existed, one in each of the opposite corners of the document, I could find nothing written between them. There was still no body to my document.”
 
“I suppose you expected to find a letter between the death’s- head and the figure of the kid.”
 
“Something of the kind. The fact is that I felt strongly im­pressed with the idea that some great fortune was waiting for me. I can hardly say why. Perhaps, after all, it was a wish more than something I really btlieved. Do you know that Jupiter’s foolish words, about the bug being of solid gold, had a great effect upon my imagination? And then the series of accidents, or coincidences, were so very unusual. Have you noticed how simple an accident it was that these happenings should have taken place on the one day of all the year in which it was cold enough to have a fire? Without the fire and without the appear­ance of the dog at the particular moment when he came into the room, I should never have known of the death’s-head and never have found the treasure.” ■
 
“But go on, I am very curious.”
 
“Well, you have heard, of course, the many stories about money being buried somewhere along the Atlantic shore by Kidd and his companions. I feel that these stories must have some truth in them. The fact that the stories have been told for so many years, and so continuously, could have resulted, it appeared to me, only from the circumstance that the treasure still remained buried. If Kidd had hidden his treasure for a time and later carried it away, the stories would hardly have continued to reach us in their present form.
 
“You will also notice that the stories are all about those who have looked for the money, not about anyone who succeeded in finding it. If the pirate had later removed the money, there the whole matter would surely have stopped. It seemed to me, therefore, that some accident—perhaps the document showing where the money was hidden got lost—had kept Kidd from going back and getting the treasure. The accident later became known by Kidd’s followers, who might otherwise never have heard at all that the treasure had been hidden. These men tried to find the money themselves, but without success. In this way the stories have grown and become so well known. Have you ever heard of any important treasure being found along the Atlantic coast?”
 
“Never.”
 
“But that Kidd’s treasure was of great value was very well known. I took it for granted, therefore, that the earth still held
 
this treasure, and you will hardly be surprised when I tell you that I felt a hope, in fact, I was almost certain, that the parchment which I had found was really the lost record of where this treasure was buried.”
 
“But what did you do next?”
 
“I held the parchment to the fire, after increasing the heat, but nothing appeared. I now thought it possible that the dirt which covered the parchment might have something to do with this. So I carefully washed the parchment by pouring warm water over it, and, having done this, I placed it in a pan, with the skull facing down, and held the pan over the fire. In a few minutes, the pan having become well heated, I removed the parchment, and to my great pleasure found it spotted in several places with what appeared to be figures arranged in lines. Again I placed it in the pan and let it remain there for another minute. Upon taking it from the pan again, the whole was just as you see it now.”
 
Here Legrand, having heated the parchment again for me, handed it to me to examine. Between the death’s-head at the top and the figure of the young goat at the bottom there now appeared on the document some eight or ten lines of strange signs and figures. I give here, so that the reader may have some idea of what these characters looked like, one line of this curious message:
 
“54U/305)))6*; 4826) 4ff)43);806*; 48*8’60)) 85;1#(::-#*8H83(88)
 
“But,” said I, handing him back the parchment, “I am still as much in the dark as ever. If all the jewels in the world were waiting for me upon my solving a message of this kind, I am quite sure that I would be unable to do it.”
 
“And yet,” said Legrand, “it is not nearly so difficult to solve such messages as you might be led to suppose. As you may readily guess, the different characters which form the message all have a meaning. From what is known of Captain Kidd, who was a man without education, I could not suppose that he was able to make up anything very difficult. I felt sure, therefore, that this must be a message of a simple kind, such as would appear, to the mind of a rough sailor like Kidd, very difficult to solve without a key.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. How did Legrand make the connection between the parch­
ment and Captain Kidd?
2. Who was Captain Kidd?
3. What still bothered Legrand?
4. What stories were told about Kidd and his companions?
5. Why did Legrand think that a treasure might still remain buried somewhere?
6. What did Legrand believe his parchment to be?
7. When nothing further appeared on the parchment, what did Legrand do?
8. What could be seen on the parchment?
9. Why did Legrand feel sure that he could solve the message?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your
own:
 
famous                             take for granted
solid                                  laugh at
effect                                 have nothing to do with
otherwise                         have an effect upon
earth                                 carry away
solve                                 look for
dirt                                     get lost
 
PART II
 
“And you really solved it?”
 
“Easily. I have solved others which have been ten thousand times more difficult. Circumstances, and a certain turn of mind, have led me to take an interest in such secret messages. It may well be doubted whether the human mind can make up a secret message which another human mind cannot solve. In fact, hav­ing once established a connection between certain characters in this particular message, I hardly gave a thought as to the possible difficulty of finding their true meaning.
   
“In the present case, in fact, in all cases of secret writing, the first question is always concerned with the languagein which the message is written; for the method of solving any such writing depends greatly upon, and changes greatly with,
 
the particular language used. In general, there is no other way to go ahead except by trying various languages until the correct one is finally found. This sometimes takes a great deal of time. But, with the secret now before us, all difficulty of this kind was immediately removed by the way in which the message was signed. The play upon the word ‘Kidd’ would be understood in no other language except English. If it had not been for this fact, I would probably have begun by using Spanish or French, since these were the languages generally spoken by pirates of that period who did most of their sailing along the Spanish Main. As it was, I felt sure that the message was written in English.
 
“You will notice that the characters are not divided and that they all run together. If they had been divided into words, the work would have been even easier. In such a case I would have begun by examining the shorter words, and, if a single letter had existed (a or I, for example), I should have considered the matter already half solved. But since the words were not divided, my first step was to pick out those letters which appeared most often as well as those which appeared least often. Counting all the characters, I arrived at a table such as this:
 
                                      Of the character 8 there were 33
 
                                       ”      ”        ”        ;     ”      ”     26
 
                                      ”       ”        ”     4    ”       ”    19
 
                                      ”       ”       ”        #      ”      ”   16    
 
                                      ”        ”       ”       *     ”       ”   13
 
                                      ”       ”       ”        5     ”     ”     12
 
                                     ”       ”       ”        6    ”     ”      11      
 
                                     ”       ”       ”        1     ”     ”      8
 
                                     ”       ”       ”        0     ”      ”     6      
 
                                     ”       ”       ”        92     ”     ”    5
 
                                     ”       ”       ”         :       ”      ”    3
 
                                     ”       ”       ”         ?      ”      ”    3
                                                         etc.
 
    “Now in English the letter which is used most often is e. After this, the other most-used letters follow in this order: a o I d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z. The letter e is so often used that seldom can there be found more than two or
 
three words together without one or more e’s appearing among them.
 
   “Here, then, we have in the very beginning material for something more than a simple guess as to the meaning of the message. The general use which may be made of the table is clear but, in this particular secret writing, we shall need its help only in part. Since the character which most often appears is 8, we will begin by supposing that it represents the letter e of the natural English alphabet. To prove that we are correct in supposing this, let us see now whether the e can often be found doubled—for e is very often doubled in English, in such words, for example, as meet, speed, see, been, agree, feel, etc. In the present case, we see it doubled no less than five times, although the message is fairly short.
 
“Let us suppose, then, that 8 represents e. Now, of all the words in the English language, ‘the’ is the most usual. Let us see, therefore, whether we can find any groups of the same three characters, the last of which is 8. If we find several groups of such characters, so arranged, they will probably represent the word ‘the.’ Upon examining the message, we find no less than seven such groups, the characters being ;48. We may therefore suppose that; represents t, 4 represents h, and 8 represents e, the last having been already established. A great step has now been taken.
 
“But, having established a single word, we are now able to establish a very important point: that is to say, the beginnings and endings of other words. Let us look, for example, toward the last part of the message where we find the following group of characters ;(88;4. We already know that; represents t, that 8 represents e, and that 4 stands for the letter h. If we now set down the characters of this group which we already know, we arrive at the following:
                                                                                 t eeth
 
   “Here we can set aside the final th as forming no part of the word which we are looking for, since no word such as this, having six letters, exists in English. The final th must, there­fore, form part of the following word, so we drop it and are left with this:
                                                                                  tee
 
and going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, we arrive at the word ‘tree,” as the only possible reading. In this way we get another letter, r, represented by the character (.
 
“Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, we again see the familiar group ;48, and this time we use it as the ending of a possible word. We already have the words ‘the’ and ‘tree’ to help us in this case, so that the whole group reads as follows: 
                                                                    the tree ;4(#?34 the 
 
or, using the natural letters which we already know, it reads like this:
                                                                       the tree thr #?3 h the
 
“Now, if in place of the unknown characters, we leave open spaces, we have the following:
                                                                      the tree thr—h the
 
when the word ‘through’ makes itself clear at once. And this fact also gives us now three new letters o, u, and g, represented by the characters #, ?, and 3.”
 
Legrand stopped for a moment at this point as though to see whether I was following him clearly or not.
 
“Go on,” I said. “I find it most interesting.”
 
“Good!” he said. “Still, I question whether it is necessary for me to give you all of the particulars or to carry you along through each of the several steps which I had to take before solving the whole message. I have already said enough, I be­lieve, to show you the general method by which secret writing of this kind is usually solved. As you see, the work is not so difficult as it appears. One simply goes ahead, step by step, until all the important letters of the alphabet are found. Then the few letters which remain readily fall into place. You are more interested, I am sure, in the complete message as I finally worked it out. It reads as follows:
 
“ ‘A good glass in the King’s house in the devil’s chair forty- one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north seventh main branch east side shoot from the left eye of the death’s-head a line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.’ ”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What is the first question in solving a secret message?
2. Why was Legrand sure that the message was in English?
3. Why would he have tried French or Spanish if he hadn’t been sure that the message was in English?
4. Why would it have been easier if the message had been divided into words?
5. What was his first step in solving the message?
6. What is the most used letter in English? In what order do the others follow?
7. What was one test that he used to find out if 8 represented el
8. How did he work out that; was t and 4 was hi
9. How did he work out what some of the other signs rep­resented?
10.What was the message that Legrand finally worked out?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
single                     make up
alphabet                depend upon
double                    in part
degree                   set down
north                      arrive at
concern                 work it out