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Tale by Poe, published as a prize story in the Philadelphia Dollar Magazine (1843) and reprinted in Tales (1845). The cryptograph on which the story depends is a development of the interest that prompted Poe's essay “Cryptography” (Graham's Magazine, 1841).

William Legrand, an impoverished Southern gentleman, lives in seclusion on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, his only companion being the black servant Jupiter. One day, when they capture a rare golden scarab beetle, marked with a sort of death's-head, they come upon a curious piece of parchment, which when heated proves to contain a secret cipher and a drawing of a death's-head. Legrand ingeniously decodes the cipher, which directs them to the buried treasure of Captain Kidd. With the aid of a friend and the superstitious Jupiter, both of whom he deliberately mystifies, Legrand locates an indicated tree, in which a skull is nailed, and, by dropping the beetle through an eye of the skull, they are able to establish a line on the position of the cache. Besides several skeletons, they exhume a fortune in old coins and jewels, with which Legrand reestablishes himself in society.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Edgar Allan Poe (1809—1849) American short-story writer, poet, and critic