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very valuable pearl fishery, in which some of the most valuable ornaments of diadems have been found. You will be able to conceive what a prize one of these must be, when I tell you that the pearl which caps the crown of England was pledged to the Dutch, by Charles the Second, for 18,000l. Its real value cannot be estimated till there shall
be a market of such ; at present there are very few in the whole world like it. Julius Cæsar gave Servilia a Ceylon pearl worth 48,4577.; and Cleopatra's Ceylon pearl ear-rings were valued at 161,4587.
"This fishery is farmed out by the government. It yields a very large item of revenue. Sometimes, in a hundred oysters, one will not be found that has a pearl; so that, as it is such a lottery, they are made up into heaps, or lots, and sold by auction to the highest bidder. Superstition is blended with every thing in India. The divers think that the Brahmans, or idols, can save them from being devoured by ground sharks; and the purchasers believe that, by making offerings and prayers to the temples, they will get repaid in pearls, purchased with their fortunate lots. Such a place as the oyster auction market you never saw. To describe
it is impossible. There are as deep speculatorsas ardent a thirst for profit-as mad a risk of certainty on chance—as haggard-looking faces-as great a degree of bustle-as much noise and seeming confusion-and as much distraction, disappointment, and anguish in this trade, as you will behold on the Stock Exchange in London, if ever you stare into the private room, as I have done, with amazement. At the pearl auction you would hear fifty voices at once cry this!—a hundred roar that! You would see sharp, lean-faced, hollow-eyed, pale, shrivelled-up Hindoos, like roguish looking stockbrokers, running about, seemingly wild with anxiety, and not only at war with the world but at daggers-drawing with themselves. Such is the torture arising from the spirit of gaming, when it once takes possession of the human heart! The flames kindle there, and spread over the whole man, till he appears one fearful volume of perturbation; crackling and fretting, and wasting him, till at length he becomes a vapour of smoke, and deposits the grain of dust into which all his gold has changed under that great alkahest-that more certain destroyer than fire-Time.
"We easily believe what we wish; and readily think ourselves favoured by the gods, because we are inclined to credit the flattery that we deserve special marks of protection and grace. Chunda Gopal, therefore, eagerly drank the tale of his Luxana's vision-ate a mangoe with uncommon satisfaction—expressed his conviction, that somewhat of extraordinary good was about to happen to them; he felt so full of life, of hope, of joy, that he knew there was meaning in his wife's dream. How could the mangoes come into his apartment? No Brahman had been there. It was clear that they had been shaken out of Indranee's head, and gathered by Luxana in her sleep! Indra was smiling on his family. He would not now have to sell his beautiful daughters for dancing-girls, or his sons for slaves. No; he would part with his last cocoa-nut grove-go to the oyster auction, and purchase that lot in which Luxana should see the one with a black spot surrounded by an orange rim.
"Well, we need not describe the journey of Chunda Gopal and Luxana, with all their children,
to Condatchy Bay*. I shall leave you to conceive how they journeyed along, with their little ones riding on bullocks, or carried by father and mother. It is sufficient for me to state, that they arrived at the pearl auction mart in perfect safety; and that Luxana of course saw there, in a heap, the very oyster that Indra, or rather Hunnymaun, had shown her, which Chunda Gopal bought, after bidding up to his last rupee against a Brahman, who seemed to know that it was worth a Jew's eye.
"When the black-spotted, orange-rimmed oyster was opened, to be sure, out dropped one of the largest, purest, roundest pearls that had ever been seen. It was a gem of light. You could see through it as Luxana saw the transparency of Indra's air-fabricated form. A shout of astonishment was raised. Wonder stood gaping on every face. Thousands of thousands were instantly offered for the pearl; but the agent, or pearl merchant of the king of Candy bought it for two lacks of rupees, or about 25,000l. of our money. Chunda
* For an account of this fishery vide Wallace's Memoirs of India, page 338.
Gopal and Luxana travelled back to their home, mounted on a pair of elephants in shining howdahs. Their sons all became great men, and their daughters were happy. At length they died, full of years; and I tell you this latter particular, because the philosophers say that no one is blessed till dead.— Thus ends the story of The Oyster.
"You must know that it is only one of a hundred, which are made up to excite an avidity for gambling in auction speculations at the fishery.— You will of course, therefore, give it credit only so far as it amuses."