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The Gold Bug - Chapter 7

The Gold Bug - Chapter 7

 
 
“But,” said I, “the mystery seems just as deep as ever. How is it possible to get any meaning out of such things as ‘devil’s seat, ‘death’s-head,’ and ‘king’s house’?”
 
“I agree,” said Legrand, “that the matter still seems very much confused if looked at only on the surface. Naturally, the first thing I had to do was to try to group the words in some kind of natural order.”
 
“But how was it possible to do this?”
 
“It seemed to me that it had been the point of the writer to run his words together so as to make the whole message even more difficult to solve. Now, a person who was not especially intelligent, in carrying out such a purpose, would be almost certain to go too far in this direction. When, in the course of his writing, he arrived at a break in his subject which naturally needed a full stop or point, he would run the characters, at this place, more than usually close together. If you examine the writing on the parchment you will notice five such cases of unusual crowding. Acting upon this idea, I divided the words 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—shot from the left eye of the death’s-head—a line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.’ ”
 
“But even dividing the message in this way still leaves me in the dark,” I said.
 
“It left me also in the dark,” said Legrand. “For a few days, I asked many questions around the whole section of Sullivan’s Island, for any building that went by the name of The King’s House. I could not find anything on the subject, and was on the point of going beyond Sullivan’s Island, when öne morning it entered my head quite suddenly that this ‘King’s House’ might be connected in some way with an old family by the name of King. This family, very long ago, had lived in one of the large homes about four miles to the north of the island. I went over to this place and began to question some of the old folks who lived around there. One very old woman said that she had heard of such a place as The King’s House and thought she could guide me to it, but it had no connection with any family of any kind. It was a high rock.
 
“I offered to pay her well for her trouble and she finally agreed to go with me to the spot. We found it without much difficulty. The old woman then left, and I began to examine the place.
 
"The King’s House was made up of a pile of great rocks, one of the rocks being higher than all the others and of a strange form and appearance. I climbed to its top, and then did not have any idea as to what to do next.
 
“While I was busy with such thoughts, my eye fell on a flat, table-like section in the east face of the rock, perhaps three feet below the point where I was standing. This section stuck out about eighteen inches, and was not more than a foot wide. A kind of hole in the rock just above it gave it the general appear­ance of one of those deep, low-backed chairs used in our grand­father’s day. I had no doubt that this was the- ‘devil’s chair’ spoken of in the message, and now I seemed to understand the full secret of what was written there.
 
“The ‘good glass,’ I knew could only mean a telescope, for the word ‘glass’ is seldom used in any other way by sailors. Now here, I saw at once, a telescope must be used and it also became clear to me that the words ‘forty one degrees and thirteen minutes’ concerned the direction in which the telescope was to be pointed. Greatly excited by what I had found out, I hurried home, got a telescope, and returned to the rock.
 
“I let myself down to the flat, table-like section and found
 
that it was impossible to sit there except in one single position. This fact seemed to bear out the ideas on the matter which I had already formed. I took up the telescope and prepared to use it. Of course, the ‘forty one degrees and thirteen minutes’ showed tf ; distance above the line of the sky at which the telescope should be pointed. The words ‘north-east and by north’ con­cerned its position in still another direction. This last direction I soon established by the use of my pocket compass. Then pointing the glass as nearly as I could guess to an angle of forty one degrees and thirteen minutes, I moved it slowly up and down until my attention was attracted by an opening in a particularly large tree in the distance. This tree rose many feet above the other trees around it. In the center of the open­ing I saw a small white spot, but I could not, at first, tell what this was. Later, however, after accustoming myself to the use of the telescope, I was able to make it out. It was a human skull.
 
“At this point I felt almost sure that the mystery was now solved. The words ‘seventh main branch east side’ must concern the position of the skull upon the tree, while ‘shoot from the left eye of the death’s-head’ could only have one meaning to anyone looking for a. buried treasure. I saw that the plan was to drop a bullet through the left eye of the skull, and that a straight line, drawn from the nearest point of the trunk through the ‘shot’ (or the spot where the bullet fell) to a distance of fifty feet, would show the exact place where, I imagined, a treasure of considerable value might lie buried.”
 
“All this,” I said, “is very clear and, although clever, very simple. When you left The King’s House, what then?”
 
“Why, having carefully noted the position of the tree, I turned toward home. The moment I left the ‘devil’s chair,’ how­ever, the opening in the tree disappeared; nor could I get a look at it from any other place, though I tried several times. What seems to be especially clever about the whole plan was the fact that this opening in the tree could be seen only from the one position ön the side of this particular rock.
 
“In this trip to The King’s House, Jupiter had gone along with me. For several weeks he had apparently noticed that I was deeply concerned about some matter, so he seldom left me alone even for a minute. But the next day. getting up very early,
 
I succeeded in slipping away from him and went into the hills alone to look for the tree. After a great deal of hard work, I found it. When I came home at night, Jupiter was ready to give me a beating. As to what happened later, I believe you know as much about it as I.”
 
“I suppose,” I said, “you missed the spot the first time we dug because Jupiter had stupidly let the bug fall through the right eye instead of through the left eye of the skull.”
 
“Exactly! This mistake made a difference of about two inches and a half in the ‘shot’—that is to say, in the position of the stick of wood which I drove into the ground. If the treasure had been buried below the ‘shot,’ this mistake would not have been of any importance; but the ‘shot,’ together with the nearest point of the tree, were simply two points by which to establish a line of direction. Of course, the mistake, though only a matter of a few inches at the beginning, increased as we went out with the line, and, by the time we had gone fifty feet, threw us off considerably. But for my deep impression that there was treas­ure buried somewhere near there, we might have gone to all this trouble without success.”
 
“But your strange manner in swinging the bug at the end of the cord—I was quite sure you were mad. And why did you insist on letting fall the bug, instead of a bullet, from the skull?” “Well, to be honest, I was somewhat annoyed by the fact that you did not believe in me and- really thought me to be crazy. I decided to punish you quietly, in my own way, by making the mystery appear even deeper than it really was. For this reason I swung the bug, and for this reason I let it fall from the tree. You had mentioned that the bug was very heavy in weight. This suggested the last idea to me.”
 
“Yes, I see—and now there is only one point which I still do not understand. What are we to make of the human bones which we found in the hole?”
 
“That is a question I am no more able to answer than your­self. There seems, however, one way of explaining them. It is probable that Kidd—if Kidd himself buried the treasure, and I feel sure that he did—must have had some men with him to help him. But the work being completed, he may have thought it best to remove all those who were part of the secret. Therefore, sev-
 
eral blows with a hammer or shovel were enough, while his companions were busy down in the hole, to silence them for all time. In this way he became the only one in the whole world who knew where the treasure was buried.”
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What still seemed confusing and mysterious about the
message?
2. What did Legrand decide was causing this confusion?
3. How did Legrand divide the message?
4. What was The King’s House? How did Legrand find out where it was?
5. What did Legrand see when he was at the top of The King’s House? What was he sure that this was?
6. What did the ‘good glass’ mean?
7. What did forty-one degrees thirteen minutes mean?
8. What did he see when he looked through the telescope?
9. What did the rest of the message mean?
10. What happened when he left the ‘devil’s chair’?
11. Why had Jupiter’s mistake about the eye made such a difference?
12. Why. had Legrand acted in such a strange way with the bug?'
13. Why had they found bones in the hole that they dug?
 
B. Use the following words in sentences of your own, first as a noun and then as a verb:
 
need crowd doubt
place question point
notice offer return
 
C. ^Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
rock                       leaves me in the dark
telescope         find out
compass         bear out
punish make out
run together        slip away from
carry out        go to the trouble of
made up of        feel sure of
stick out        a great deal of