It was about a month after this (and during the interval I had seen nothing of Legrand) when I received a visit, at Charleston, from his man, Jupiter. I had never seen the good old negro look so dispirited, and I feared that some serious disaster had befallen my friend.
"Well, Jup," said I, "what is the matter now? - how is your master?"
"Why, to speak de troof, massa, him not so berry well as mought be."
"Not well! I am truly sorry to hear it. What does he complain of?" Dar! dat's it! - him neber plain of notin - but him berry sick for all dat."
"Very sick, Jupiter! - why didn't you say so at once? Is he confined to bed?"
"No, dat he ain't! - he ain't find nowhar - dat's just whar de shoe pinch - my mind is got to be berry hebby bout poor Massa Will."
"Jupiter, I should like to understand what it is you are talking about. You say your master is sick. Hasn't he told you what ails him?"
"Why, massa, taint worf while for to git mad bout de matter - Massa Will say noffin at all ain't de matter wid him - but den what make him go about looking dis here way, wid he head down and he soldiers up, and as white as a gose? And den he keep a syphon all de time - "
"Keeps a what, Jupiter?"
"Keeps a syphon wid de figgurs on de slate - de queerest figgurs I ebber did see. Ise gittin to be skeered, I tell you. Hab for to keep mighty tight eye pon him noovers. Todder day he gib me slip fore de sun up and was gone de whole ob de blessed day. I had a big stick ready cut for to gib him d-d good beating when he did come - but Ise sich a fool dat I hadn't de heart arter all - he look so berry poorly."
"Eh? - what? - ah yes! - upon the whole I think you had better not be too severe with the poor fellow - don't flog him, Jupiter - he can't very well stand it - but can you form no idea of what has occasioned this illness, or rather this change of conduct? Has anything unpleasant happened since I saw you?"
"No, massa, dey ain't bin noffin onpleasant since den - 't was 'fore den I'm feared - 't was de berry day you was dare."
"How? what do you mean?"
"Why, massa, I mean de bug - dare now."
"De bug - I'm berry sartain dat Massa Will bin bit somewhere bout de head by dat goole-bug."
"And what cause have you, Jupiter, for such a supposition?"
"Claws enoff, massa, and mouff too. I nabber did see sich a d-d bug - he kick and he bite ebery ting what cum near him. Massa Will cotch him fuss, but had for to let him go gin mighty quick, I tell you - den was de time he must ha got de bite. I didn't like de look ob de bug mouff, myself, no how, so I wouldn't take hold ob him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid a piece ob paper dat I found. I rap him up in de paper and stuff piece ob it in he mouff - dat was de way."
"And you think, then, that your master was really bitten by the beetle, and that the bite made him sick?"
"I don't tink noffin about it - I nose it. What make him dream bout de goole so much, if tain't cause he bit by de goole-bug? Ise heerd bout dem goole-bugs fore dis."
"But how do you know he dreams about gold?"
"How I know? why cause he talk about it in he sleep - dat's how I nose."
"Well, Jup, perhaps you are right; but to what fortunate circumstance am I to attribute the honor of a visit from you to-day?"
"What de matter, massa?"
"Did you bring any message from Mr. Legrand?"
"No, massa, I bring dis here pissel;" and here Jupiter handed me a note which ran thus:
My DEAR -
There was something in the tone of this note which gave me great uneasiness. Its whole style differed materially from that of Legrand. What could he be dreaming of? What new crotchet possessed his excitable brain? What "business of the highest importance" could he possibly have to transact? Jupiter's account of him boded no good. I dreaded lest the continued pressure of misfortune had, at length, fairly unsettled the reason of my friend. Without a moment's hesitation, therefore, I prepared to accompany the negro. Upon reaching the wharf, 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 inquired.
"Him syfe, massa, and spade."
"Very true; but what are they doing here?"
"Him de syfe and de spade what Massa Will sis pon my buying for him in de town, and de debbil's own lot of money I had to gib for em." But what, in the name of all that is mysterious, is your'Massa Will' going to do with scythes and spades?"
"Dat's more dan I know, and debbil take me if I don't blieve'tis more dan he know, too. But it's all cum ob de bug."
Finding that no satisfaction was to be obtained of Jupiter, whose whole intellect seemed to be absorbed by "de bug," I now stepped into the boat and made sail. With a fair and strong breeze we soon ran into the little cove to the northward of Fort Moultrie, and a walk of some two miles brought us to the hut. It was about three in the afternoon when we arrived. Legrand had been awaiting us in eager expectation. He grasped my hand with a nervous empressement which alarmed me and strengthened the suspicions already entertained. His countenance was pale even to ghastliness, and his deep-set eyes glared with unnatural lustre. After some inquiries respecting his health, I asked him, not knowing what better to say, if he had yet obtained the scarabaeus from Lieutenant G-.
"Oh, yes," he replied, coloring violently, "I got it from him the next morning. Nothing should tempt me to part with that scarabaeus. Do you know that Jupiter is quite right about it?"
"In what way?" I asked, with a sad foreboding at heart. "In supposing it to be a bug of real gold." He said this with an air of profound seriousness, and I felt inexpressibly shocked. "This bug is to make my fortune," he continued, with a triumphant smile, "to reinstate me in my family possessions. Is it any wonder, then, that I prize it? Since Fortune has thought fit to bestow it upon me, I have only to use it properly and I shall arrive at the gold of which it is the index. Jupiter, bring me that scarabaeus!"
"What! de bug, massa? I'd rudder not go fer trubble dat bug - you mus git him for your own self." Hereupon Legrand arose, with a grave and stately air, and brought me the beetle from a glass case in which it was enclosed. It was a beautiful scarabaeus, and, at that time, unknown to naturalists - of course a great prize in a scientific point of view. 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, taking all things into consideration, I could hardly blame Jupiter for his opinion respecting it; but what to make of Legrand's agreement with that opinion, I could not, for the life of me, tell.
"I sent for you," said he, in a grandiloquent tone, when I had completed my examination of the beetle, "I sent for you, that I might have your counsel and assistance in furthering the views of Fate and of the bug" -
"My dear Legrand," I cried, interrupting him, "you are certainly unwell, and had better use some little precautions. You shall go to bed, and I will remain with you a few days, until you get over this. You are feverish and" -
"Feel my pulse," said he.
I felt it, and, to say the truth, found not the slightest indication of fever.
"But you may be ill and yet have no fever. Allow me this once to prescribe for you. In the first place, go to bed. In the next" -
"You are mistaken," he interposed, "I am as well as I can expect to be under the excitement which I suffer. If you really wish me well, you will relieve this excitement."
"And how is this to be done?"
"Very easily. Jupiter and myself are going upon an expedition into the hills, upon the main land, and, in this expedition, we shall need the aid of some person in whom we can confide. You are the only one we can trust. Whether we succeed or fail, the excitement which you now perceive in me will be equally allayed."
"I am anxious to oblige you in any way," I replied; "but do you mean to say that this infernal beetle has any connection with your expedition into the hills?"
"Then, Legrand, I can become a party to no such absurd proceeding. "I am sorry - very sorry - for we shall have to try it by ourselves."
"Try it by yourselves! The man is surely mad! - but stay! - how long do you propose to be absent?"
"Probably all night. We shall start immediately, and be back, at all events, by sunrise."