“The Egyptian Beetle.” Peterson’s Magazine 42 (Nov. 1862): 355-61.

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“The Egyptian Beetle.” Peterson’s Magazine 42 (Nov. 1862): 355-61.





The story I am going to tell you has but little law in it; however, I notice that the less the dry bones of legality enter into my narrations, the better the figure of it is liked, so shall not disturb myself on that score.

The facts I shall give you (I give only facts—no solution) trench upon deeper laws than any in codes Napoleon or English, the mysterious connection between matter and spirit. I am, as you may have guessed from my manner of expressing thought, no psychologist, nor am I even naturalist enough to give the technical terms necessary to clear my story to a scientific reader. I only tell it in a loose, gossiping way, leaving those who comprehend the subtle influences it treats of, to question or believe it as they choose.

Near the close of a hot field-day in the Richmond Court of Appeals, I was steadily jotting down notes for my junior counsel in the great case of Knote vs. Clarkson, when a slip of paper was placed on my desk by Flint, one of my pupils. Glancing at it, after awhile, I saw the words in a scrawling hand,

"Let me see you at your office immediately. It is worse than life or death."

"Pish !" I growled, pushing the tragical summons aside. "I've lost that point of Brady's, Flint, with your eternal meddling."

Flint was used to my growls, shook himself under it like a Newfoundland in a shower. Much he knew, or ever would know, of the case of Knote vs. Clarkson, or any other!

"Mr. Page," he persisted, "if you do not send some message to that old cove in the office, he'll be here presently, and—well, you'll wish he hadn't!"

I sent no message, however, and forgot the note in my junior Hoyt's sharp-shooting with Brady, until (there being a turtle dinner at Storm's that evening) the judge adjourned court, and Knote vs. Clarkson was laid over to make turbulent another day.

Going down the court-house steps, I was joined by Flint.

"Are those deeds copied?" I asked, perceiving the smell of the neighboring restaurant about him

"Well, no, sir. Fact is, I couldn't trust' myself back to old Sancho Panza[1] yonder without you. Regular ourang-outang that!"[2]

"Who is it?" I said, stopping.

"Think he puts up at the Hospital; stranger to me. Made his appearance in a yellow dressing-gown, one boot and one slipper. Fact, Mr. Page," Flint added, gravely.

"Professor Lewis! May Providence grants you sense, Thomas Flint."

There was no use to go any farther, or to expound to Flint that Professor Lewis deserved to be called the most profound and thorough scholar in Virginia. He sauntered off, muttering that, "If gentlemen chose to go unshared in dressing-gowns about the streets," etc., etc.

I was a little of Flint's opinion, having small patience for eccentricity that manifests itself' in untied shoes and a dirty face. However, this man was no sham affecter of oddity, I knew that. There lived no man in Virginia for whose knowledge and understanding I had a more thorough veneration. I hurried to my office, therefore, and found the little doctor, as Flint said, unshaven, unkempt, pacing to and fro like some wild beast.

"You are late, Mr. Page. I regret to have troubled you." (The man's voice was as gentle as a woman's.) "Can I see you alone a moment?"

I led the way into the inner office. Professor, or Dr. Lewis was, let me premise, occupant of a chair in the university at Charlotteville, but was spending the summer vacation in Richmond. While I placed a chair for him, he went limping uneasily about the room, rubbing his rough beard, or stooping to pull up his gray woolen sock when it got quite under his heel.

"Don't heed a chair, only give me your attention, Mr. Page," coming close, and speaking breathlessly. "There's a man to be tried for murder, nest week. His name is Lehr: do you know ?"

"I have heard. Yes."

The old man caught my shoulder in his eagerness. "Next week the trial is. Who defends him?"

"A man named Sholter, I believe, the judge appointed. Lehr is poor, unable to employ counsel."

"Poor!" he laughed. "Mr. Page, I want you to take the case, and try to get him through. You must do it. Life and death hang on it."

"Of course. Death, most probably, for there is but little chance for him; his guilt is patent. I cannot take the case, Dr. Lewis. Impossible."

"Why? I am a poor man, and I know your charges are heavy; but I will give anything—double the usual—"

"You mistake me," I said, drily. "My time, is thoroughly occupied. The cases this term are unusually important—"

"Important!" he cried, agitated out of his good-breeding, turning away and pacing again rapidly through the room.

I was startled, for the first lime, into attention. The man's face was pale; big drops of sweat wet his forehead clammily his mouth worked. What interest could he have in this wretch? An odd suspicion rose in my mind. Professor Lewis was self-made: had risen from the dregs of the people—could Lehr be a relative of his? More unlikely things had occurred in my practice. Be that as it might, the man's disappointment touched me.

"I could be of no use, doctor," I urged. "I fear the case is hopeless."

"I know that," he interrupted. "It is not that I care for. One man's life—the life of I such a degraded creature as that weighs little, compared to the great stake."

I was completely puzzled, groping at his meaning.

"Listen," he said, pausing abruptly, "you called Lehr poor. In money he is, I grant you. However, he owns that which I would pledge every rag I own to gain." (Despite the seriousness of the moment, my eyes fell on the dressing-gown.) "He has no money to employ counsel; but promised me that if I would secure you, I should have the loan of—I should have—should be gratified in my wish."

My curiosity was roused. What could Lehr own, the loan of which he weighed against his chances for life? I asked no questions, of course.

"Let it be as you say then. Dr. Lewis. You must permit me, however, to defend Lehr as a favor to you. Put money out of the question."

I need not dwell on the poor little doctor's gratitude. He was a poor man. Shylock[3] himself would not have taken ducats from such a single-hearted, simple-minded enthusiast.

"You will not fail of your reward, Mr. Page," he said, as he rose to go, "here in this world. You shall be honorably mentioned when the great discovery is known. Why, sir, naturalists have been on the brink of it since the time of Coildeau. I have it! In my clutch, sir, through that man Lehr." He limped and rubbed his beard, and tugged at his sock like a man demented. "When Champollion[4] cleared away the obstacles to Egyptian civilization, there it was! The great secret that we had been stumbling against, needing only actual proof. Proof! I'll bring it—I thank God," he said, suddenly, pulling off his old cap, "that I am the man!" This was all worse than Greek to me.

When I had finally shut the door on the ecstasies of the professor, I sent to Sholter for the papers, and glanced over Lehr's case. A desperate one. The man was a vagabond, prowling in the negro purlieus for some months stated by one witness to be a half-breed Choctaw, by another an Italian. The murder was a coldblooded assassination of a small planter, on the high road, for the purpose of robbery. The proof was ample. I saw no shadow of foundation for defence. Yet curiously enough, the case engrossed my time and interest more than even Knote vs. Clarkson. The man Lehr was jumbled up in my mind with Champollion, and Ninevite bulls[5], and the great secret of Egyptian civilization, until I was as near demented as the doctor himself.

Having shaken off Sholter from the brief with a fee, I satisfied Lewis that I would do the best I could with the worst cause I ever had defended.

"I must go with you," he said, in his impetuous way, "when you visit Lehr. He has no secrets from me," seeing dissent on my face.

"He'll speak more openly if I am there. I have a power over him."

My interview with the prisoner mattered little: I knew his guilt as well as he did himself. I consented, therefore, to the doctor's presence with a latent curiosity as to the connection between the men. The old doubt would not be choked off that they were kinsmen.

Lehr was in the county jail. It was late the evening when we went. I am not impressible, yet the strange excitement of my companion, the evident awe and disgust with which he regarded the man we were going to see, gave my blood a chilly shudder. I never, at any time, could pass without a shiver through the low tunnels of stone halls, with the solitary lamp creaking on its chain, the perpetual drip of water falling through mouldy pipes, the unnumbered black doors on either side gaping into dens where every demon that wrings the human heart hides. Now, it seemed to me the very arched way, going down to the mouth of the pit, that John Bunyan[6] saw.

The jailer, going before, unlocked a cell-door, and, putting his tin lantern down on the floor, so that its yellow light shone into the narrow room, left us. The doctor pressed past me, carrying the lantern with him. The cell was a stone closet, with a slit in the heavy wall for a window; green mould clung to the walls; the floor was slimy with damp, a low iron range ran along one side covered with a mattress, on which the prisoner was stretched, manacled. A heavy-built man with limbs lithe and stealthy in movement as a tiger's; and a tigerish glare in the glazed blue eye. He turned with a sullen grunt as we entered. The doctor placed the lantern on the window-ledge and bent over him, speaking some words, sharp and eager, in a foreign tone that at first I did not recognize.

The man sat up and began to talk to me about his case. He had no secrets from the doctor, that was plain spoke openly of the crime how he had done it calculated, in his dull way, the chances of escape. The man's nature was thoroughly brutalized—bestial by birth, in thought and deed. Used, as I was, to contact with crime, I shrank from him. The doctor did not. There was a mysterious understanding between the two, as between members of some secret order. Yet the poor old professor was a purer man than I. Lehr talked of his death as certain, laughing the moment after, stupidly. It was a stupid courage. There was nothing game about the man his very thick lips were cowardly, cruel. I was baffled in my attempt to understand him.

"He did not mind the hanging, though he had thought maybe I could get him off, and I bad been willing to pay a price to—" calling the doctor a name I never had heard given him before—Jose, I think it was. "He's one of us, you know," nodding to me, with a curious gesture.

I turned away, unwilling to pry into their secrets. The professor, with his eager face, and gentle voice, began to speak earnest to the wretch, gaining for answer only a coarse jeer. The language they used had once been familiar to me, I was sure of that it sounded like some old ghost-tale heard in childhood, with a dull presence in it of something unnatural, uncanny. The professor, except in the natural sciences, I knew, was unlearned, master of no modern tongue other than his own.

Standing back, leaning against the iron door, looking at the men by the yellow glare of the lantern, I felt myself on the verge of some terrible discovery. I knew not why. The tongue they spoke had in it something that touched a dark mystery, old as the world, underlying all nations and all times. I tried in vain to shake off the morbid fancy. It haunted me the cell grew darker, the floor more slimy, the filthy muscles of the prisoner more disgusting but, strangest of all, my distorted brain began to see a likeness between him and the simple old man bending over him. No likeness in feature and expression, but in a singular glaze upon the eyes peculiar to both.

The old man was urging Lehr, I could see, to fulfill his share of the compact. At first he refused, with a half-idiotic laugh. The earnestness of the doctor startled me. If life itself had depended on success, he could not have plead more vehemently.

The man consented finally, adding, in English, that the other must swear to return the loan in two days. He did swear, to my astonishment, an oath that his voice trembled in uttering. The other sneered.

"Swear by—" he said, lowering his tone.

"I cannot, Lopez." The doctor shuddered. "I am a Christian."

The man grunted, and turned his back, as he lay on the bed, as if the colloquy was ended. I pitied the professor. The very currents of his life were stirred. He came at last to Lehr, his face bloodless, and, stooping over him, whispered some words in the unknown dialect. The man nodded without speaking, and, half rising, loosened from his neck a thick cord to which was attached a steel case about two inches in length, of a tubular form. He looked at it, with the expression a heathen might give to his fetich[7], and then placed it in the doctor's hands, which shook as the old man took it.

I confess I am practical, and began to weary of the mystery, the fetid air, the glaring light. I turned away, and the doctor followed me slowly.


The trial of Lehr excited little notice in Richmond. The murdered man had but few friends; the murderer's guilt was clear he and his accomplices were of the vilest class. When the case was called, the court-room was sparsely filled. There was the usual number of local editors and reporters lounging in the galleries, with hot-pressed copies of the morning papers there was a crowd of bar-room loafers and blacks near the door. Inside the bar, the lawyers cracked hickory-nuts, and talked lazily of the luck of Allen Knote in gaining the suit.

Lehr himself appeared indifferent as the others—as if the trial and death to follow were only forms of but little meaning. I could not help glancing at his brawny neck, and saw there the cord. The doctor, the only interested face in the room, bent eagerly over the gallery, intent on every word. Brady came up to me as the trial was nearly over, and the judge was charging—against the prisoner, of course.

"I did not think to find you on this business, Mr. Page," he said.

"A chance, merely."

"Your client will be hung, I hope. He looks as if it were indifferent to him, so I can hope it. By-the-way, what is he? Italian?"

"I do not know," I said, looking over at the swarthy face.

"Something odd about the drooping mouth and eyes. I heard a story about him just now."

I turned quickly.

"You see," Brady proceeded, lazily, "that, woman yonder in the far gallery?"

I caught a glimpse of a young girl's face, deathly pale, behind a pillar a dark, young face, as pure and womanly in its expression as I ever saw. There was a man standing near her a sturdy, honest country fellow, one could tell at a glance.

"Who are they?" I said.

"They?" Brady smiled. "You see the connection? The girl is the daughter of this Lehr, and as innocent as she looks, they say. She came here, some months ago, and went into service the man followed her—a Yorkshire-man, I believe—and they were married. A case of old love, which this client of yours had hindered from running smooth. Odd part of the story is, that, when he came, by some strange power over her, he forced her to leave her husband, and go to the den where he and his gang hide, out of town in a tent, they say. I hope, for the girl's sake, he'll get his deserts. She looks heart-broken."

Brady's wish was gratified. Lehr was found guilty and condemned to death in a month from that time. He had not uttered a word during the trial, nor even seemed to heed its progress, until he was summoned, according to form, to show cause why sentence of death should not be pronounced against him. I have heard very strange replies to that awful question—words wrung out of the heart's blood; but one like this I never heard.

He got up slowly, holding the bar with his hands, and stretching his brawny head and, chest to the judge, with a low, slow laugh of stolid defiance.

"Do you know who I am?" he asked "Look here!" baring his thick arm, and pointing to the corded veins. "It's the Zingaro[8] blood there. It's older than that hill yonder. The Rommany[9] is free. You cannot keep him in your stone walls, nor kill him. The Rommany blood laughs at the death you talk of."

He sat down again. The words went through the room with a thrill. There was a silence for a moment. Then the judge rose and read the sentence. It did not rouse the shudder that the man's words had done. Men stood silent, staring at him as he passed out.

The Rommany! Why had I not seen it before? In Spain, years ago, I had learned fragments of the strange speech of that mysterious people, who pass, "like a shade," from land to land—an unsolved problem, the only relic of a century dead ages before Christ. I knew, that, be they where they might, in whatever disguise, peers or robbers, they held the same secret, were bound by the same tie, worshiped a God unknown to Christians. I glanced at the professor's face, as he hurried past roe, intent, blind to all about him. The Rommany eye, with its glaze like a veil, to hide its intolerable secrets. I gathered up my papers and went to my office, thinking how dark a current underlies our commonplace lives, had we but the power to see it.

About a month after this time, and the day before the one appointed for Lehr's execution, I was alone in my library, after dinner, when a stranger on business was ushered in. I recognized him instantly: it was the man I had seen in the gallery—the husband of the gipsy's daughter. I shook hands with him. One of those straightforward, kindly-faced men, with ' whom it is natural to shake hands. He told me his name, and who he was, in a strong Yorkshire dialect, whose flavor I liked, coloring as he named Lehr as his father-in-law.

"God forgive me, sir, if I am well satisfied he'll worried us no more, nor shame my Leah. While he lives, she dare not bide with me."

"Why?" I demanded.

"The law of their people's strong, not to marry with the stranger. My wife's a Christian she's no drop of the Rommany in her heart."

"I know that. I have seen her."

"I come, sir, to see if I can get the body of this man, when the law's had its fill. It's different in this country and England about the burial of such as he. I'm glad of it. When I know that his body is laid safe in the earth, I'll think his poor soul has more chance of rest, somehow."

"I understand," I said. But I hesitated.

"You will use your word for us?" he said, rising.

"I am sorry. By Virginia law you are entitled to the body but the man himself has made another disposition of it. For some reason, of which I know nothing, he has given it to Professor Lewis—to be used for scientific purposes, I suppose."

The man was enraged, and, naturally, he looked on it as a scheme to shame his wife still more after his death. If the law, he declared, would aid him in the recovery of the body, he would have it, and so left me.

Other business, I confess, drove the matter out of my mind that night, or I would have remonstrated with Lewis, believing that a few words would have induced him to regard the honest pride of the poor Yorkshireman and his wife. However, I neglected it. The professor I had never met since the day of the trial. I knew he had been constant in his visit to the jail, secluding himself the remainder of the time in a room of the hospital which he had fitted up as a laboratory.

The execution was to take place at ten o'clock the ensuing morning. I congratulated myself that business called me out of town, and would detain me all the day. My horse was brought to the door, and I was preparing to buckle on my spurs, when the library-door opened, and the old doctor entered, his wrinkled face on fire with excitement. He closed the door, and locked it.

"For God's sake, look here!" he whispered, drawing me across the floor. "I have it. The truth shall be made known now!" taking a package from his breast and opening it.

"What truth?" I asked, impatiently.

"The connection between matter and mind. The secret of life!" he said, in a voice full of awe. "You know how we have come, terror stricken, to this innermost soul of natural science; paltered about it, drawn back, when, by means of magnetism, and the occult influence of the force called od, we had almost grasped it. I need to palter no longer. Tonight I shall call back life to a dead body!"

Was he mad? I peered into his feverish, skinny face. He looked up, coolly; then proceeded to unfold the package. It was the steel case that had hung around Lehr's neck. It opened with a spring, and disclosed a roll of what seemed to be fine ash-colored threads or hair. He put some of it in my hand. In my younger days I too had been a naturalist.

"Moss," I said, looking closely. "Where did you find this? It is a rare specimen. It looks like the gray indoles hypaticse that covers the Nile banks."

"Your eyes are keen," he said. "It is of that species is only found in the Nile region."

Without a word, as a Hindoo might touch his deity, he laid the substance that the moss had wrapped on the table: it was a scarabaeus[10] of immense size, dun-colored. My first glance convinced me that it must be artificial, belonging, as I knew it did, to no known species.

"A curious work of art," I said, indifferently.

"Of what is it made?" taking it up to examine it nearer.

I saw my mistake instantly. The creature had once lived. I had once, in France, seen insects preserved by a mixture of cassia and myrrh, in a process similar to embalming. No such means had been used with this. The infusion in the veins was natural as in life.

"This scarabecus belongs to some species long extinct," I said at last. "What preserves it?"

"The same cause that gives it its power. A perfect equalization of the elements in its frame and blood combining to produce magnetic force in the highest degree possible. The Egyptians had strange secrets," he said, folding it up again; "and their descendants have retained them in a dim way." He turned to go away, and then halted as if he had forgotten his errand. "You will come, to-night, to my laboratory? I shall prove the theory I have been evolving for years that life is mesmerism, magnetism—that subtle force whose right name we have not yet found, but which we can control. I will be first to control it. It is not,” he said, looking out dreamily into the clear sky, "that I shall become immortal I shall have power then power to raise my race, and bring them back to their own place." He spoke to himself and went muttering down the street. Clearly, the man was mad.


It was late in the evening when I returned to the city. The streets wore an unusual air of excitement groups stood at every gas-lit door, crowds of chattering blacks swarmed under the lamp-posts.

The morning's awful sight had made the city shudder, and it had not yet sunk down into its customary quiet. I rode rapidly down the street to my own door, and was met by my hostler, Otho.

"Pine's searchin' you, Mars' John, and Mars' Flint. Tink do debbifs to pay somewheres."

Pine came down the steps. "Dar's two messagers fur you, Mars', frum de Hospital—tink."

I did not stop to hear, went in and contented I myself with a glass of wine for supper, to strengthen me for what might follow.

A few moments brought me to the Hospital, and, passing through the long, wide corridors, I turned into an unfrequented part of the building, to the passage into which I knew the laboratory opened. Entering, I found a large, white-washed room, unfurnished save by a long pine table that stood in the center. About this table stood some half-dozen men, wearing an anxious look of dread and suspense. I knew them all, men of the first standing in Richmond for integrity and acuteness of perception in their several professions. No company of men would be less likely to become the victims of deception, had it been the poor professor's object to deceive.

That such was no object of his, it needed only a glance into his face to determine. It was pale, worn, tense with a terrible purpose. Upon the table, lighted by a chandelier, that hung, above, lay the body of the man, Lehr. A massive bulk, knotted with tendons and nerves. Over the face and neck, with its purple line, some by-stander had thrown a handkerchief. A low fire burned in an iron stove near the table.

My eye took in these details as I opened the door. I left it ajar, and drew near the table.

The old man had been speaking. Whatever explanation he had given was over now, and he came close, standing beside the head of the body.

"Is the man dead?" whispered Judge C—, to his neighbor, one of the most skillful surgeons in the city.

Dr. Lowe nodded. "Dead enough never to live again!"

A slight smile flickered over the professor's pale face.

"Attend!" he said, unfolding the scarabceus. A profound silence followed, as we crowded around the table. He bared the man's chest, and, lifting the brutal-looking head, placed the scarabceus at that point of the spinal column where the nerves are concentred, holding it Steadily. Every man held his breath, every eye strained watching the gigantic sinews of the dead man. The quick ticking of the watches struck painfully loud on the silence.

"It is useless, professor," said Judge C—, gravely. "I doubt the feeling that brought us to witness so sacrilegious a—"

He stopped, awe-struck for the body moved. The brawny chest heaved—once, twice. Even in that moment I saw the old man's face livid, the sweat oozing from his forehead.

"With a fearful struggle as though in agony, another convulsion passed over the dead man's frame. The hands clenched, the eyelids quivered.

"Great God!" said Judge C—, turning away. A sudden, hurried trampling sounded through the corridor but no one heeded it. The right arm of Lehr was jerked upward, when a hand thrust it down, and the professor was flung back against the wall.

"What deviltry is this?" shouted a rough voice, and the Yorkshire farmer swept Dr. Lowe aside, and bent over the body, protecting it. He was accompanied by one or two policemen. The body lay stiff and stark now. The Yorkshireman waited a moment, his eyes flashing. "Cannot the dead rest? What did you with it?" In his groping, straightening the discomposed limbs, he clutched the scarabceus and flung it in the open stove. The professor sprang forward like a tiger when its young are stolen, with a yell but it was too late. There was a momentary flicker on the red coals, and the secret of the dead Rommany had perished forever.

I did not see Professor Lewis again for years, and then I did not allude to his life-failure. The meek, earnest face of the old man would have forbidden a touch that could pain him. The whole affair remained in my mind a confused perplexity. I cannot affirm that it is quite clear to me yet. No greater effect was I produced upon the body of Lehr than could have been done by a powerful battery. By what means, however, such effect was induced by the scarabceus, or how far that effect would have extended, if it had suffered no interruption, are matters for the curious to determine.

Some seven years after the occurrence, traveling on the National Road through Pennsylvania, an accident obliged me to seek shelter in a farm-house, whose complete, snug surroundings proved its occupant to be a native of Old or New England. I found there the daughter of Lehr and her husband, with some two or three rosy children. I remained over night. It was a homely house, and a farm that needed steady work to make it profitable but inside there were as happy faces and honest hearts as ever cheered an old traveler through life. The black eyes of the children were brilliant enough, but bore no other trace of the Zingaro blood. On questioning, I found the daughter of Lehr was aware that her father possessed the scarabceus, but supposed it to be a powerful charm, held in his tribe as an heir-loom, and of whose uses she was ignorant.

Before I close, I must tell you one incident which may throw some light on the professor's theory.

About a year ago, spending the winter vacation with Judge C— in Kentucky, we passed a week with Dr. Bardone, one of the most enthusiastic antiquarians in the South. One evening, as we had gathered about the fire, I noticed the judge's eyes intently fixed upon a bracelet on our hostess' arm.

"A singular ornament, Mrs. Bardone," he said, at last. "Pardon an old man's curiosity, but trust me with it a moment."

She unclasped the bracelet, and gave it to him. He looked at me significantly, and I crossed the room to examine it. It was a coil of golden wire, and in the center a beetle, exquisitely fashioned out of a composition which I did not recognize a copy, exact in the minutest point, of that of Lehr.

The judge and I exchanged looks of wonder. Dr. Bardone, glancing up from his chess-table, saw us, and came over.

"A curious bonny-dye for a lady, is it not?" he said. "My wife brought it with her from Egypt, last spring. You know that in the time of the Pharaohs a peculiar species of the scarabcci was worshiped by the Egyptians, on account of some occult properties it was said to possess. Images of this deity, manufactured from gold, chrysoprasus,[11] and this composition, were rolled in the folds of linen about the embalmed bodies of the royal family. When these images are found now, in the ransacking of the catacombs, they are sold at a high price to the English and American travelers. This is one."

"The species is extinct?" I asked.

“Went out with the children of Israel," he laughed, "or about that time. There is a tradition that one or two specimens were found in the Pyramids uninjured, but it must have been ages ago."

"For what occult properties were they worshiped?" I said, after a pause.

"The judge looks as sombre as though he meant to worship that," said the old doctor, laughing. "Here, I'll read you what Liguon says about them," taking down a book from the ease, and reading the description of the extinct scarabceus dietri, as it was called. The analysis tallied with the fetich of Lehr.

"This species," proceeded Liguon, "received divine honors from the Egyptians, being supposed by them to possess the power of restoring the dead to life, if applied in less than twelve hours after death was considered to have taken place. Whatever phenomena may have induced this superstition may be referred to the presence of a superior degree of magnetic power. Superior, probably, to that possessed by any animal of the present day."

"There may have lain a great mystery in Lehr's fetich," said Judge C— , in an undertone, gravely putting the old deity out of his touch.

"I know no greater than he himself," I answered “than the Rommany as he is.

[1] Sancho Panza is a character in Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605). Sancho Panza is Quixote’s squire who provides comic commentary on the events of the novel.

[2] Ourangutan

[3] Shylock here refers to a loan shark, after the character in William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (@1596-99) who demands a pound of flesh from a debtor who could not repay a loan.

[4] Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) was a French scholar known for deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs and one of the founders of Egyptology.

[5] Figures of ancient pottery from Nineveh depicting bulls. Nineveh being an ancient Assyrian city in Mesopotamia.

[6] John Bunyan (1626-1688) author of Pilgram’s Progress (1678)

[7] Archaic spelling of fetish. An object believed to have supernatural powers.

[8] Alternative term for gypsy

[9] Variant of Romany. Relating to gypsies or their language.

[10] A beetle, often fashioned as an amulet.

[11] Crysophrase is a green gemstone


Laney Jolley, Middle Tennessee State University


Alicia Mischa Renfroe, Middle Tennessee State University


Laney Jolley, Middle Tennessee State University, ““The Egyptian Beetle.” Peterson’s Magazine 42 (Nov. 1862): 355-61.,” Rebecca Harding Davis: Complete Works, accessed October 14, 2019, http://rebeccahardingdaviscompleteworks.com/items/show/201.

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