Edgar Poe’s story “The Gold Bug” (advanced)

The Gold Bug Edgar Poe read online with dictionary

Edgar Poe’s story “The Gold Bug” is for those who like adventurous stories. It is adapted for the advanced level, which means that it is a little shortened and some obsolete words have been replaced for synonyms. There are lists of English words for better understanding.
Also the dictionary on the website can be turned on by clicking on the word twice. It makes reading online fast and enjoyable. Besides, you can rack your brain solving the riddle of the famous pirate, Captain Kidd!
You are welcome to read online the adventurous story by Edgar Poe — The Gold Bug (advanced).

Edgar Poe. The Gold Bug (in English, adapted for upper-intermediate/ advanced)

The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe is adapted for englishstory by Nabeeva T.V. © Englishstory, 2021

The Contents:

  1. Part 1. Mr. Legran’s Finding
  2. Part 2. The Strange Drawing
  3. Part 3.  The Scarabaeus
  4. Part 4. The Expedition into the Hills
  5. Part 5. The Excavation
  6. Part 6. The Treasure
  7. Part 7. The Cipher
  8. Part 8. Solving the Riddle

* * *

Part 1. Mr. Legrand’s Finding

Words to understand:
1. misfortunes – невзгоды, лишения
2. forefathers – предки
3. wilderness of reeds – заросли тростника
4. myrtle – мирт
5. dwarfish vegetation – карликовая растительность
6. subject to — склонный к
7. cordial welcome – сердечный прием
8. grin – скалить зубы
9. scarabaeus – скарабей
10. extremity – конечность
11. gambols — прыжки

I made friends with Mr. William Legrand many years ago. He was from an ancient wealthy family, but a series of misfortunes made him left New Orleans, the city of his forefathers, and settled at Sullivan’s Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.

This island is about three miles long and a quarter of a mile wide and separated from the main land by a small creek, running through a wilderness of reeds. It consists of little else than the sea sand and the sweet myrtle, except its western point where there is some dwarfish vegetation and a few tall trees.

Legrand had built himself a small hut in the eastern part of the island and there I made his acquaintance. We became close friends soon. I found him well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but subject to alternate enthusiasm and melancholy. He had many books, but rarely read them. His favourite pastime was gunning and fishing, or walking along the beach and through the myrtles, looking for shells or other entomological specimens. In these excursions he was usually accompanied by an old negro, called Jupiter.

Once in winter in the middle of October, 18—, it was very cold. I came to my friend Legrand from the place where I lived, a distance of nine miles from the Island. When I reached the hut, I knocked on the door and getting no reply, took the key from the secret place, unlocked the door and went in. A fine fire was blazing upon the hearth. I took off an overcoat and sat in an armchair by the fire, awaiting patiently the arrival of the hosts.

Soon after dark they arrived and gave me a most cordial welcome. Jupiter, grinning from ear to ear, hurried to prepare some chicken for supper. Legrand was in one of his fits of enthusiasm. He had found a scarabaeus, a huge bug, which he wished to have my opinion in the morning.

«And why not tonight?» I asked, rubbing my hands over the fire, and wishing the whole tribe of scarabaei at the devil.

«Ah, if I had only known you were here!» said Legrand, «but it’s so long since I 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 lent him the bug; so it will be impossible for you to see it until morning. Stay here tonight, and I will send Jupiter down for it at sunrise. It is the loveliest thing!»

«What? —sunrise?»

«Nonsense! no! —the bug. It is of a brilliant gold color —about the size of a large hickory-nut —with two jet black spots near one extremity of the back, and another, somewhat longer, at the other. The color» —here he turned to me —«You never saw so brilliant metallic colour —but of this you cannot judge till tomorrow. And now I am going to give you some idea of the shape.» Saying this, he sat at a small table, on which were a pen and ink, but no paper. He looked for some in a drawer, but found none.

«Never mind, this will do,» he said and he drew from his waistcoat pocket a scrap of paper and made upon it a rough drawing with the pen. While he did this, I was sitting by the fire, for I was still cold. When the drawing was finished, he handed it to me without rising. As I received it, a loud growl was heard and a large Newfoundland, Legrand`s dog, rushed in and leaped upon my shoulders, looking for my attention. When his gambols were over, I looked at the paper, and found myself a little puzzled at what my friend had drawn.

* * *

Part 2. The Strange Drawing

Words to understand:

  1. the queerest — самый необычный
  2. antennae — усы
  3. ail — беспокоить (болеть)
  4. take offence — обижаться
  5. anxiety — беспокойство

«Well!» I said, after looking at the drawing for some minutes, «this is a strange scarabaeus, I must confess: never saw anything like it before —unless it was a skull, or a death’s-head —which it more resembles than anything else.»

«A death’s-head!» exclaimed Legrand —«Oh —yes —well, it has something of that appearance upon paper, no doubt. The two upper black spots look like eyes, eh? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth —and then the shape of the whole is oval.»

«Perhaps so,» said I; «but, Legrand, I fear you are no artist. I must wait until I see the beetle itself to get an idea of its appearance.»

«Well, I don’t know,» said he, a little irritated, «I draw rather well.»

«But, my dear fellow, you are joking then,» said I, «I may say that it is a very excellent skull, —and your scarabaeus must be the queerest scarabaeus in the world if it resembles it. But where are the antennae

«The antennae! I am sure you must see the antennae. I made them as distinct as they are in the original insect.»

«Well, well,» I said, «perhaps you have —still I don’t see them;» and I handed him the paper without any remark, as there were positively no antennae visible, and the whole thing did look very much like a death’s-head.

He took the paper and was about to crumple it and throw it in the fire, when a casual glance at the drawing seemed suddenly attracted his attention. In a moment his face grew violently red —in another excessively pale. For some minutes he continued to study the drawing, then he stood up, took a candle from the table, and again made a close examination of the paper; turning it in all directions. He said nothing, however, and his behavior greatly astonished me. Presently he took from his coat pocket a wallet, placed the paper carefully in it, and put both in a writing-desk, which he locked. Now he was calm but his enthusiasm had quite disappeared. During the evening he became more and more absorbed in thought. Seeing him in this mood, I thought it was better for me to leave. He did not insist on my staying so I departed.

It was about a month after this (and during the interval I had seen nothing of Legrand) when I received a visit, at my place at Charleston, from his man, Jupiter. I had never seen the good old negro look so worried, and I feared that some serious disaster had happened to my friend.

«Well, Jup,» said I, «what is the matter now? —how is your master?»

«Why, to speak the truth, massa, him not so very well.»

«Not well! I am sorry to hear it. What does he complain of?»

» He never complains of nothing —but him very sick.»

«Very sick, Jupiter! —why didn’t you say so at once? Is he in bed?»

«No, he ain’t! — that’s just what the shoe pinch —my poor Massa Will.»

«Jupiter, I should like to understand what you are talking about. You say your master is sick. Hasn’t he told you what ails him?»

But the poor servant couldn’t explain properly what had happened to his master, except that the whole thing was about the bug and at first I thought that Legrand had been beaten by the beetle and that made him sick. Luckily, he brought a message from my friend.

It says


Why have I not seen you for a long time? I hope you have not been so foolish as to take offence at me last time.

Since I saw you I have had great cause for anxiety. I have something to tell you, yet don’t know how to tell it, or whether I should tell it at all.

I have not been quite well for some days, and poor old Jup annoys me by his well-meant attentions.
If you can, come over with Jupiter. Do come. I wish to see you tonight, upon business of importance, highest importance.

Ever yours,


* * *

Part 3. The Scarabaeus

Words to know:

  1. uneasiness — беспокойство
  2. scythe — коса
  3. spade — лопата
  4. embark — отправиться
  5. grasp — схватить
  6. luster — блеск
  7. triumphant- торжествующий
  8. index — указатель
  9. be feverish — лихорадить
  10. be all ears — весь внимание
  11. artificial — искусственный

There was something in the tone of this note, which gave me great uneasiness. Its whole style was different from that of Legrand. What «business of the highest importance» could he possibly have to talk to? Without a moment’s hesitation, therefore, I prepared to accompany the negro.

We went in the direction of the coastline. Upon reaching the shore, I noticed a scythe and three spades, all apparently new, lying in the bottom of the boat in which we were to embark.

«What is the meaning of all this, Jup?» I asked.

The negro didn’t give a satisfactory answer and we stepped into the boat and made sail. It was about three in the afternoon when we arrived. Legrand had been awaiting us in eager expectation. He grasped my hand nervously. He was very pale and his deep-set eyes glared with unnatural luster, which alarmed me greatly. After some questions about his health, I asked him, not knowing what better to say, if he had yet got the scarabaeus from Lieutenant G—.

«Oh, yes,» he replied, «I got it from him the next morning. Nothing could make me part with that scarabaeus. This bug is to make my fortune,» he continued, with a triumphant smile, «it will make me rich again. Since Fortune has given the chance to me, I have only to use it properly and I shall get the gold of which it is the index. Jupiter, bring me that scarabaeus!»

«What! the bug, massa? I can’t take this terrible bug!» Hereupon Legrand stood up and brought me the beetle from a glass case in which it was kept. It was a beautiful scarabaeus. There were two round, black spots near one extremity of the back, and a long one near the other. The scales were exceedingly hard and glossy, with all the appearance of burnished gold. The weight of the insect was very remarkable, and it looked like an artificial thing, made of gold.

«I sent for you,» said he, in a serious tone, when I had completed my examination of the beetle, «I sent for you, that I might have your advice and assistance in search of gold»—

«My dear Legrand,» I cried, «you are certainly unwell, and had better go to bed, and I will remain with you a few days, until you get over this. You are feverish and»—

«You are mistaken. I am as well as I can expect to be under the excitement which I suffer. Let me explain to you the whole thing.»

«I am all ears

«Well, Jupiter and myself are going upon an expedition into the hills, upon the main land, and, in this expedition, we shall need the help of some person. You are the only one we can trust.»

«I am glad to help you in any way,» I said; «but do you mean to say that this beetle has any connection with your expedition into the hills?»

«It has. And now let us be off, for we have no time to lose.»

* * *

Part 4. The Expedition into the Hills

Words to understand:

  1. lantern — фонарь
  2. twirl — вертеть
  3. evidence — свидетельство
  4. in vain — тщетно
  5. desolate — пустынный, безлюдный
  6. landmark  — ориентир
  7. stern solemnity — суровое величие

With a heavy heart I accompanied my friend. We started about four o’clock —Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, and myself. Jupiter had with him the scythe and spades. For my own part, I carried a couple of dark lanterns. As for Legrand, he had only the scarabaeus , which he tied to the end of a whip-cord; twirling it to and fro, as he went. When I watched this, which was the plain evidence of my friend’s madness, I could scarcely refrain from tears. I thought it best, however, to say nothing about his strange behavior at least for the present. In the mean time I tried, but all in vain, to get him explain the object of the expedition. But to all my questions he gave no other reply than «we shall see!»

We crossed the creek at the head of the island, and continued our way on the mainland in a northwestern direction, through a wild and desolate country , where no trace of a human footstep was to be seen. Legrand led the way with decision; pausing only for a moment, here and there, to consult what appeared to be certain landmarks.

In this manner we went for about two hours, and the sun was just setting when we entered a region more dreary than any yet seen. It was a flat land, near the summit of a high hill, densely covered with thick vegetation. Deep canyons intersected it in various directions, giving the place an air of stern solemnity.

The natural platform was so thickly overgrown that it would have been impossible to force our way but for the scythe. So Jupiter led the way, clearing for us a path to the foot of a tall tulip-tree, which stood in the distance and was the tallest and the widest tree among the others. When we reached this tree, Legrand turned to Jupiter, and asked him if he thought he could climb it. The old man seemed a little surprised by the question, and for some moments made no reply. At lengh he came to the huge trunk, walked slowly around it, and examined it with minute attention. Then said,

«Yes, massa, Jup can climb any tree.»

«Then go up as soon as possible, for it will soon be too dark to see what we are about.»

«How far must I go up, massa?» asked Jupiter.

«Get up the main trunk first, and then I will tell you which way to go —and here —stop! take this beetle with you.»

«The bug, Massa Will! —the gold bug!» cried the negro, in fear —«what for must I do with the bug way up the tree?!»

«If you are afraid, Jup, a great big negro like you, to take hold of a harmless little dead beetle… if you do not take it up with you, I shall break your head with this shovel.»

Jupiter took cautiously hold of the end of the string and prepared to climb up the tree.

Embracing the huge trunk, as closely as possible, with his arms and knees, Jupiter wriggled himself into the first great branch, and stopped.

«Which way must I go now, Massa Will?» he asked.

Keep up the largest branch —the one on this side,» said Legrand. The negro obeyed him; ascending higher and higher, until he was not seen through the dense foliage. Presently his voice was heard from above.

«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 limbs below you on this side. How many limbs have you passed?»

«One, two, three, four, five —I passed five big limbs, massa, on this side.»

«Then go one limb higher.»

In a few minutes the voice was heard again, announcing about the seventh limb.

«Now, Jup,» cried Legrand, much excited, «I want you to go upon that limb as far as you can. If you see anything strange, let me know.»

By this time I was completely sure of my poor friend’s insanity and became seriously anxious about getting him home. While I was thinking about what was best to be done, Jupiter’s voice was again heard.

«Soon be to the end, massa, —o-o-o-o-oh! Lord! what is this upon the tree?»

«Well!» cried Legrand, highly delighted, «what is it?»

«Nothing but a skull —somebody left him head up the tree, and the crows bit all the meat off.»

«A skull, you say! —very well! —how is it fastened to the limb? —what holds it on?»

«I must look. There is a great big nail in de skull, what fastens it on to the tree.»

«Well now, Jupiter, do exactly as I tell you —do you hear?»

«Yes, massa.»

«Pay attention, then! —find the left eye of the skull.»

«Hum! What eye is the left?»

«Curse your stupidity! do you know your right hand from your left?»

«Yes, I chop the wood with my left hand.»

«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?»

Here was a long pause. At length the negro asked,

«Is the left eye of the skull on the same side as the left hand of the skull, too? — the skull ain’t got hands at all —never mind! I got de left eye now —here is the left eye! what must I do with it?»

«Let the beetle drop through it, as far as the string will reach —but be careful and do not lose of the string.»

«All that done, Massa Will; —look out for him below!»

* * *

Part 5. The Excavation

Words to understand:

  1. string — бечевка
  2. dig — копать
  3. be infected with — заразиться
  4. excavate — выкопать
  5. scoundrel — мерзавец
  6. anxiety — волнение
  7. farce — фарс

The beetle was now visible at the end of the string, and glistened, like a globe of gold, in the last rays of the setting sun. It hung quite clear of any branches, and, if allowed to fall, would have fallen at our feet. Legrand immediately took the scythe, and cleared with it a circular space, three or four yards in diameter, just beneath the insect, and, having done this, ordered Jupiter to let the string go and come down from the tree.

Driving a peg into the ground at the spot where the beetle fell, my friend now took from his pocket a tape-measure. Fastening one end of it at that point of the trunk which was nearest to the peg, he unrolled it till it reached the peg, and thence farther, in the direction already established by the two points of the tree and the peg, for the distance of fifty feet. At the spot he put a second peg and about this, as a centre, he marked a circle, about four feet in diameter. Taking now a spade himself, and giving one to Jupiter and one to me, Legrand asked us to start digging as quickly as possible.

The night was coming on, and I felt much tired with the exercise already taken; but I saw no way of escape. Now I was sure that my friend had been infected with some of the innumerable Southern superstitions about money buried, and that his idea had got confirmation by the finding of the scarabaeus.» I remembered the poor fellow’s words about the beetle’s being «the index of his fortune.» Upon the whole, I was sadly annoyed and puzzled, but, then, I decided that I have nothing to do but dig.

The lanterns were lit and we started working hard. We dug steadily for two hours in complete silence. When we had reached a depth of five feet, and yet no signs of any treasure became seen. Legrand said nothing and I began to hope that the farce was at an end. However, my friend although evidently much upset, wiped his brow thoughtfully and continued. We had already excavated the entire circle of four feet diameter, and now we went to the farther depth of two feet. Still nothing appeared. Legrand clambered from the pit, with the bitterest disappointment shown on his face and started slowly to put on his coat. I made no remark. Jupiter, at a signal from his master, began to gather up his tools. This done, we turned in profound silence towards home.

We had taken, perhaps, a dozen steps in this direction, when, suddenly, Legrand strode up to Jupiter, and seized him by the collar. The astonished negro opened his eyes and mouth, let fall the spades, and fell upon his knees.

«You scoundrel,» said Legrand, hissing out the syllables from between his clenched teeth —«you infernal black villain! —speak, I tell you! —answer me this instant, —which is your left eye?»

«Oh, Massa Will! ain’t this here my left eye?» roared the terrified Jupiter, placing his hand upon his right eye, and holding it there.

«I thought so! —I knew it! —hurrah!» cried Legrand, letting the negro go, and started dancing like a madman.

«Come! we must go back,» said he at last, «the game’s not over yet;» and he again led the way to the tulip-tree.

My friend Legrand moved the mark from the spot where the beetle fell, to a spot three inches to the west. Then he measured the distance of fifty feet and showed us a new point for digging. We took spades and started working. I was tired but excited. We dug eagerly looking for the treasure and soon our spades stroke at human bones of two skeletons. Then a chest came to light. Trembling with anxiety we drew back two bolts on the lid and stood still in amazement. A heap of gold and jewels were before us.

When we recovered from stupor, we thought about removing the treasure. The night was coming to an end and we had to bring the treasure home before daylight. With some difficulty we raised the chest from the hole and hurriedly went home. We were completely exhausted but after some unquiet sleep we arose to make a close examination of our treasure.

The story by Edgar Allan Poe is adapted by Nabeeva T.V. © Englishstory, 2021

* * *

Part 6. The Treasure

Words to understand:

  1. brim — край
  2. wealth — состояние
  3. estimate — оценивать
  4. setting — оправа
  5. crucifix — распятие
  6. sneer — насмешка
  7. the reverse — обратной стороне
  8. conviction — заключение
  9. remnants — остатки
  10. fanciful — чудаковатый, с причудами
  11. depicted — изображенный
  12. durable — долговечный
  13. imperishable — непортящийся
  14. connexion — взаимосвязь

The chest had been full to the brim, and we spent the whole day arranging its contents. When we did it, we found ourselves possessed of wealth more than four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It was gold antique French, Spanish, German and English money. The value of the jewels we found more difficulty in estimating. There were large diamonds — a hundred and ten in all; eighteen rubies of remarkable brilliancy; three hundred and ten emeralds, all very beautiful; and twenty-one sapphires, with an opal. These stones had all been broken from their settings and thrown loose in the chest. The settings themselves appeared to have been beaten up with hammers, as if to prevent identification. Besides all this, there was a vast quantity of solid gold ornaments: earrings, chains, crucifixes, bowls, gold watches, sword-handles and many other articles, which I cannot recollect. We estimated all the contents of the chest at a million and a half of dollars. When, at last, we had finished our examination, Legrand entered into a detailed explanation of how he had found a solution of this extraordinary riddle.

«You remember;» said he, «the night when I handed you the drawing I had made of the scarabaus. You remember also, that I became angry with you when you said that my drawing resembled a death’s-head. I thought you were joking; but then I called to mind the strange spots on the back of the insect, and agreed that your remark had some little foundation in fact. Still, the sneer at my graphic powers irritated me — for I am considered a good artist — and, therefore, when you handed me the scrap of parchment, I was about to crumple it up and throw it angrily into the fire.»

«The scrap of paper, you mean,» said I.
«No; it was a piece of very thin parchment. It was quite dirty, you remember. Well, my glance fell upon the sketch and you may imagine my astonishment when I saw a death’s-head just where, it seemed to me, I had made the drawing of the beetle.

I took a candle, and started to look at the parchment more closely. Upon turning it over, I saw my own drawing upon the reverse, just as I had made it. My first idea was that there was a skull upon the other side of the parchment. But the strange thing was that this skull, not only in outline, but in size, closely resembled my drawing. This coincidence absolutely puzzled me for a time.  I distinctly remembered that there had been no drawing upon the parchment when I made my sketch of the scarabaus. I was sure of this; for I recollected turning up first one side and then the other, in search of the cleanest spot. Here was indeed a mystery which I found impossible to explain at the moment.

«When you had gone, I started to recollect the moment when the parchment had come into my possession. The spot where we discovered the scarabaeus was on the coast of the main land, about a mile eastward of the island, and but a short distance above high water mark. When I took the beetle, it gave me a sharp bite, which caused me to let it drop. Jupiter (my servant) looked about him for a leaf or something by which to take hold of it. It was at this moment that his eyes, and mine also, fell upon the scrap of parchment, which I then supposed to be paper. It was lying half buried in the sand. Near the spot where we found it, I saw the remnants of what appeared to have been a ship’s long boat. The wreck seemed to have been there for a very great while.

[Arange] Сложные для перевода конструкции Complex Subject с Перфектным инфинитивом:

  • the remnants of what appeared to have been — останки того, что, по всей видимости, было 
  • The wreck seemed to have been  — кораблекрушение, казалось, произошло

Изучить конструкцию Complex Subject с глаголами appear, seem, happen to, turn out [/Aorange]

«Well, Jupiter picked up the parchment, wrapped the beetle in it, and gave it to me. Soon afterwards we turned to go home, and on the way met Lieutenant G-. I showed him the insect, and he begged me to let him take it to the fort. I gave him the beetle and he thrust it into his waistcoat pocket, without the parchment in which it had been wrapped. So, I must have put the parchment in my own pocket.

«You remember that when I went to the table to make a sketch of the beetle, I found no paper where it was usually kept. I looked in the drawer, and found none there. I searched my pockets and my hand fell upon the parchment.”
«No doubt you will think me fanciful — but I had already established a kind of connexion. I had put together two links of a great chain. There was a boat lying upon a sea-coast, and not far from the boat was a parchment — not a paper — with a skull depicted upon it. You will ask ‘where is the connexion?’ I reply that the skull, or death’s-head, is the well-known emblem of the pirate.”

«I have said that the scrap was parchment, and not paper. Parchment is durable — almost imperishable. Matters of little moment are rarely written on parchment; paper is used for it. The parchment might have been chosen for a record of something to be long remembered and carefully preserved.»

«But,» I said, «you mentioned that the skull was not upon the parchment when you made the drawing of the beetle. How then do you trace any connexion between the boat and the skull?»

«Ah, here starts the whole mystery, although the secret, at this point, I had comparatively little difficulty in solving. My steps were sure, and could afford but a single result. I reasoned, for example, thus: When I drew the scarabaus, there was no skull upon the parchment. When I had finished the drawing I gave it to you. You didn’t see the skull at that time too. It appeared later and this is how it happened.”

* * *

Part 7. The Cipher

Words to understand:

  1. chemical substance — химическое вещество
  2. chemical substance — повторное воздействие
  3. entombed — погребенный
  4. memorandum — памятка
  5. cipher — шифр
  6. pun — каламбур
  7. divisions — разделители
  8. frequent — встречающийся

«As you remember the weather was chilly and a fire was blazing upon the hearth. I was heated with exercise and sat near the table. You, however, had drawn a chair close to the chimney. Just when you were holding parchment in your hand and inspecting it, Wolf, the Newfoundland, came to you and with your left hand you caressed him, while your right hand with the parchment came very close to the fire. At one moment I thought the blaze had caught it, and was about to warn you. Now I had no doubts that the heat had brought the skull to light. You know that there is chemical substance by means of which it is possible to write upon paper, so that the characters shall become visible only when heated. When the paper cools, the writing disappears at some interval but again become visible upon the reapplication of heat.

«I started a close examination of the death’s-head. The part of the drawing near the edge of the parchment were far more distinct than the others. I kindled a fire, and started to heat it. At first, there was no effect but soon there became visible, at the corner of the slip, diagonally opposite to the spot in which the death’s-head was, the figure of a kid.»

«Ha!» said I, «but you are not about to establish a third link in your chain — you will not find any connexion between your pirates and a kid — pirates, you know, have nothing to do with goats.»
«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 altogether,» said Legrand. «You may have heard of one Captain Kidd. I at once looked upon the figure of the animal as a kind of signature. I say signature; because its position upon the parchment suggested this idea. The death’s-head at the corner diagonally opposite looked like a stamp, or seal. But there was nothing else.»
«I suppose you expected to find a letter between the stamp and the signature.»

«Something of that kind. The fact is, I felt impressed with the series of accidents and coincidences. You see, these events happened on the day which was sufficiently cool for fire, and that without the fire, or without the intervention of the dog at the precise moment, we should never have seen the death’s-head, and so never have possessed the treasure?»

«But continue — I am all impatience.»
«Well; you have heard, of course, the many stories about money buried, somewhere upon the Atlantic coast, by Kidd and his pirates. The fact is that the stories are all about money-seekers, not about money-finders proves that the treasure still remained entombed. Had the pirate recovered his money, the affair would have dropped. It seemed to me that some accident — say the loss of a memorandum indicating its locality – made him unable to find the treasure. Have you ever heard of any important treasure being found along the coast?»
«I took it for granted, therefore, that the earth still held them; and you will scarcely be surprised when I tell you that I felt a hope that the parchment so strangely found may help to indicate the place of the buried treasure.»
«And what did you do?»

«I held the parchment again to the fire but nothing appeared. I thought it may happen because of the dirt so I carefully rinsed the parchment by pouring warm water over it. Then I placed it in a tin pan, with the skull downwards, and put the pan upon a fire. In a few minutes there appeared some spots in several places. I continued the heating and figures arranged in lines became clearly visible. Here Legrand took the parchment and gave it to me for inspection.

The Gold Bug Edgar Poe read online
The following characters were rudely traced between the death’s-head and the goat:

;46(;88*96*?;8)*‡(;485);5*†2:*‡(;4956*2(5*- 4)8¶8*;40692
;46(;88*96*?;8)*‡(;485);5*†2:*‡(;4956*2(5*- 4)8¶8*;40692

«But,» said I, returning him the slip, «I am as much in the dark as ever.»
«These characters,» said Legrand, «as anyone may guess, form a cipher — that is to say, they have a meaning. I could suppose that Kidd with his crude intellect of a sailor wasn’t capable of constructing any difficult kind of cipher. I made up my mind that this was of a simple species, which could be solved without the key.»

«And you really solved it?»
«I have solved many others ten thousand times greater. Circumstances, and a certain bias of mind, have led me to take interest in such riddles.
«In the present case — indeed in all cases of secret writing — the first question regards the language of the cipher. But, with the cipher now before us, all difficulty was removed by the signature. As the pun upon the word ‘Kidd’ could be possible only in English.

«You observe there are no divisions between the words. If there had been divisions, I should have found and studied the words consisted of a single letter such as “a” or “I”, for example. But in this case my first step was to find the predominant letters, as well as the least frequent. Counting all, I constructed a table. You can see how many times each character occurs in the text:
The cipher from the story "The Gold Bug"

«Now, in English, the letter «e» most frequently occurs. Then the frequency of letters runs like that:
a o i d h n r s t u y c f g l m w b k p q x z.

If we have a look at the cipher, the double “e” words occur 5 times and may correspond to such English words as “meet”, “fleet”, “speed”, “seen”, “been”, “agree”, etc.

So let us assume that “8” is “e”. Now let us remember that the article “the” is the most usual word in the English language and try to find the repetition of three characters, the last of them being “8”. And there are three of them – “;48”. So, we may assume that “;” represents “t”, “4” represents “h” and also the assumption that “8” is “e” is very well confirmed now.
These three characters may also be the part of a word, especially they are at the end of a sentence. Let us mark all the letters we guess not far from the end of the cipher: thet(eeth(‡?3hthe)h‡t161t:1eet‡?t»
Let us try to identify words. It may seem like this:

the t(eeth (‡?3h the )h‡t161t:1eet‡?t»

Analyzing the English words, I came to conclusion that in this case we should make one more space

the t(ee th (‡?3h the )h‡t161t:1eet‡?t»

Thus the word “tree” is very possible reading, besides we get one more letter “r” which is represented by “(“.

So we get:
the tree thr‡?3h the <…>

«Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, we put dots, we read thus: the tree thr…h the,
when the word ‘through’ makes itself evident at once. But this discovery gives us three new letters, o, u and g, represented by ‡ ? and 3.

“o” – “‡”
“u” – “?”
“g” – “3”
and we get <…> the tree through the <…>

* * *

Part 8. Solving the Riddle

Words to understand:

  1. enigma — загадка
  2. inquiry — расследование
  3. ancestors — предки
  4. ingenious — изобретательный
  5. entrust — доверять
  6. sanity — здравый рассудок
  7. latter — последний из двух

Now looking through the cipher for combinations of known characters, we find, not very far from the beginning, this arrangement,
83(88, or egree,
which, plainly, is the conclusion of the word ‘degree,’ and gives us another letter, d, represented by †.
“d” – “†”
«Four letters beyond the word ‘degree,’ we perceive the combination
So we get something like
th rtee
and may suggest the word ‘thirteen’, which gives us two more letters, i and n, represented by 6 and *.
“i” – “6”
“n” – “*”
«Referring, now, to the beginning of the cryptograph, we find the combination,
«Translating, as before, we obtain
which assures us that the first letter is A, and that the first two words are ‘A good.’

«It is now time that we arrange our key, as far as discovered. It will be thus:

“5” represents “a”
“†” – “d”
“8” – “e”
“3” – “g”
“4” – “h”
“6” – “i”
“*” – “n”
“‡” – “o”
“(“ – “r”
“;” – “t”

«We have, therefore, no less than ten of the most important letters represented, and it will be unnecessary to give the details of the solution. I have said enough to convince you that ciphers of this nature are not so difficult. Now it only remains to give you the full translation of the characters upon the parchment, as unriddled.

Here it is:

» ‘A good glass in the bishop’s hostel in the devil’s seat forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death’s-head a bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.’ »

«But,» said I, «the enigma seems still in as bad a condition as ever. How is it possible to guess a meaning from all this jargon about ‘devil’s seats,’ ‘death’s heads,’ and ‘bishop’s hotels?’ »

For a few days I made an inquiry in the neighbourhood of Sullivan’s Island, for any building which went by the name of the ‘Bishop’s Hotel’ or ‘Hostel.’ I couldn’t find any information while one morning, it entered into my head that this ‘Bishop’s Hostel’ might have some reference to an old family, of the name of Bessop. I resumed my inquiries and at length one of the most aged of the women said that she had heard of such a place as Bessop’s Castle, and thought that she could guide me to it, but that it was not a castle nor a tavern, but a high rock.

«I offered to pay her well for her trouble, and she accompanied me to the spot. We found it without much difficulty, when she left I began to examine the place. The ‘castle’ consisted of an irregular cliffs and rocks — one of the them being quite remarkable for its height as well as for its appearance. I clambered to it and my eyes fell upon a narrow ledge in the eastern face of the rock, perhaps a yard below the summit upon which I stood. This ledge projected about eighteen inches, and was not more than a foot wide, while a niche in the cliff just above it, gave it a rude resemblance to one of the hollow-backed chairs used by our ancestors. I made no doubt that here was the ‘devil’s seat’ and now I seemed to grasp the full secret of the riddle.

«The ‘good glass,’ I knew, could be nothing else but a telescope. I hurried home, took a telescope, and returned to the rock.

«I let myself down to the ledge, and found that it was impossible to retain a seat upon it except in one particular position. I started to use the glass and my attention was arrested by an opening in the foliage of a large tree that was the tallest in the distance. In the centre of this opening I saw a white spot that looked like a human skull.

«Upon this discovery I was sure the enigma to be solved; for the phrase ‘main branch, seventh limb, east side,’ could refer only to the position of the skull upon the tree. As for the ‘shoot from the left eye of the death’s head’, it can be the indication of the location of the buried treasure made by a straight line from the nearest point of the trunk through ‘the shot,’ (or the spot where the bullet fell).

«All this,» I said, «is very clear, and, although ingenious. When you left the Bishop’s Hotel, what then?»

On the next day I got up very early and entrust my servant Jupiter to find that tree with a skull. Following my directions he managed to find it. As for the rest of the adventure, I believe you are as well acquainted as myself.»

«I suppose,» said I, «you missed the spot, in the first attempt at digging, because Jupiter let the bug fall through right instead of through the left eye of the skull.»

«Precisely. This mistake made a difference of about two inches and a half in the ‘shot’ but increased as we proceeded with the line, and by the time we had gone fifty feet, that threw us quite off the place.”
«But your conduct in swinging the beetle! I was sure you were mad. And why did you insist upon letting fall the bug, instead of a bullet, from the skull?»

«Why, to tell the truth, I felt somewhat annoyed by your evident suspicions about my sanity, and so decided to punish you quietly, in my own way. For this reason I swung the beetle, and for this reason I let it fall it from the tree. An observation of yours about its great weight suggested the latter idea.»

The End of the Story “Gold Bug”

The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe is adapted by Nabeeva T.V. © Englishstory, 2021

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