"What did Edgar Poe do?" he repeated. "First of all he began by finding out the sign--here there are only letters, let us say the letter--which was reproduced the oftenest. I see that that is _h,_ for it is met with twenty-three times. This enormous proportion shows, to begin with, that _h_ does not stand for _h,_ but, on the contrary, that it represents the letter which recurs most frequently in our language, for I suppose the document is written in Portuguese. In English or French it would certainly be _e,_ in Italian it would be _i_ or _a,_ in Portuguese it will be _a_ or _o_. Now let us say that it signifies _a_ or _o."_
After this was done, the judge found out the letter which recurred most frequently after _h,_ and so on, and he formed the following table:
_h_ = 23 times _y_ = 19 -- _u_ = 17 -- _d p q_ = 16 -- _g v_ = 13 -- _o r x z_ = 12 -- _f s_ = 10 -- _e k l m n_ = 9 -- _j t_ = 8 -- _b i_ = 8 -- _a c_ = 8 --
"Now the letter _a_ only occurs thrice!" exclaimed the judge, "and it ought to occur the oftenest. Ah! that clearly proves that the meaning had been changed. And now, after _a_ or _o,_ what are the letters which figure oftenest in our language? Let us see," and Judge Jarriquez, with truly remarkable sagacity, which denoted a very observant mind, started on this new quest. In this he was only imitating the American romancer, who, great analyst as he was, had, by simple induction, been able to construct an alphabet corresponding to the signs of the cryptogram and by means of it to eventually read the pirate's parchment note with ease.
The magistrate set to work in the same way, and we may affirm that he was no whit inferior to his illustrious master. Thanks to his previous work at logogryphs and squares, rectangular arrangements and other enigmas, which depend only on an arbitrary disposition of the letters, he was already pretty strong in such mental pastimes. On this occasion he sought to establish the order in which the letters were reproduced--vowels first, consonants afterward.
Three hours had elapsed since he began. He had before his eyes an alphabet which, if his procedure were right, would give him the right meaning of the letters in the document. He had only to successively apply the letters of his alphabet to those of his paragraph. But before making this application some slight emotion seized upon the judge. He fully experienced the intellectual gratification--much greater than, perhaps, would be thought--of the man who, after hours of obstinate endeavor, saw the impatiently sought-for sense of the logogryph coming into view.
"Now let us try," he said; "and I shall be very much surprised if I have not got the solution of the enigma!"
Judge Jarriquez took off his spectacles and wiped the glasses; then he put them back again and bent over the table. His special alphabet was in one hand, the cryptogram in the other. He commenced to write under the first line of the paragraph the true letters, which, according to him, ought to correspond exactly with each of the cryptographic letters. As with the first line so did he with the second, and the third, and the fourth, until he reached the end of the paragraph.
Oddity as he was, he did not stop to see as he wrote if the assemblage of letters made intelligible words. No; during the first stage his mind refused all verification of that sort. What he desired was to give himself the ecstasy of reading it all straight off at once.
And now he had done.
"Let us read!" he exclaimed.
And he read. Good heavens! what cacophony! The lines he had formed with the letters of his alphabet had no more sense in them that those of the document! It was another series of letters, and that was all. They formed no word; they had no value. In short, they were just as hieroglyphic.
"Confound the thing!" exclaimed Judge Jarriquez.
IS IT A MATTER OF FIGURES?
IT WAS SEVEN o'clock in the evening.