Jules Verne

But there is nothing--not a single break!--not one word by itself! One word of two hundred and seventy-six letters! I hope the wretch may be blessed two hundred and seventy-six times for complicating his system in this way! He ought to be hanged two hundred and seventy-six times!"

And a violent thump with his fist on the document emphasized this charitable wish.

"But," continued the magistrate, "if I cannot find one of the words in the body of the document, I might at least try my hand at the beginning and end of each paragraph. There may be a chance there that I ought not to miss."

And impressed with this idea Judge Jarriquez successively tried if the letters which commenced or finished the different paragraphs could be made to correspond with those which formed the most important word, which was sure to be found somewhre, that of _Dacosta_.

He could do nothing of the kind.

In fact, to take only the last paragraph with which he began, the formula was:

                        P  =  D                         h  =  a                         y  =  c                         f  =  o                         s  =  s                         l  =  t                         y  =  a

Now, at the very first letter Jarriquez was stopped in his calculations, for the difference in alphabetical position between the _d_ and the _p_ gave him not one cipher, but two, namely, 12, and in this kind of cryptograph only one letter can take the place of another.

It was the same for the seven last letters of the paragraph, _p s u v j h d,_ of which the series also commences with a _p,_ and which in no case could stand for the _d_ in _Dacosta,_ because these letters were in like manner twelve spaces apart.

So it was not his name that figured here.

The same observation applies to the words _arrayal_ and _Tijuco,_ which were successively tried, but whose construction did not correspond with the cryptographic series.

After he had got so far, Judge Jarriquez, with his head nearly splitting, arose and paced his office, went for fresh air to the window, and gave utterance to a growl, at the noise of which a flock of hummingbirds, murmuring among the foliage of a mimosa tree, betook themselves to flight. Then he returned to the document.

He picked it up and turned it over and over.

"The humbig! the rascal!" he hissed; "it will end by driving me mad! But steady! Be calm! Don't let our spirits go down! This is not the time!"

And then, having refreshed himself by giving his head a thorough sluicing with cold water:

"Let us try another way," he said, "and as I cannot hit upon the number from the arrangement of the letters, let us see what number the author of the document would have chosen in confessing that he was the author of the crime at Tijuco."

This was another method for the magistrate to enter upon, and maybe he was right, for there was a certain amount of logic about it.

"And first let us try a date! Why should not the culprit have taken the date of the year in which Dacosta, the innocent man he allowed to be sentenced in his own place, was born? Was he likely to forget a number which was so important to him? Then Joam Dacosta was born in 1804. Let us see what 1804 will give us as a cryptographical number."

And Judge Jarriquez wrote the first letters of the paragraph, and putting over them the number 1804 repeated thrice, he obtained

1804    1804    1804 _phyj    slyd    dqfd_

Then in counting up the spaced in alphabetical order, he obtained

_s.yf    rdy.    cif._

And this was meaningless! And he wanted three letters which he had to replace by points, because the ciphers, 8, 4, and 4, which command the three letters, _h, d,_ and _d,_ do not give corresponding letters in ascending the series.

"That is not it again!" exclaimed Jarriques. "Let us try another number."

And he asked himself, if instead of this first date the author of the document had not rather selected the date of the year in which the crime was committed.