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water is wanted, a man dives down, having under his arm a pitcher made of the tanned skin of a goat, which is the usual water vessel in this part of the world. The man fixes the mouth of this skin to that of the jar, and in a few seconds it is full. But at the bottom of the Persian Gulf there are things even still more precious than springs of fresh water.
F. Dear uncle, how precious you always seem to think water is !
U. O. It was in such countries as those which inclose the Gulf that I learnt that. You would feel this too-every one would feel so who has been in such a situation that he would, if it were in his power, have given all the riches of the Persian Gulf for a single cup of fresh water. I have found a beautiful bit of poetry about the Persian Gulf, which you shall read to us, Henry, if you please. It will please you not only for the beauty of the poetry, but because it touches on things most of which have already been described to you. It is only necessary to explain beforehand that the Gulf is called the “ Green Sea” by some Eastern writers, while others call it the Sea of Fars, of Oman, Bahrein, which, as well as other names, it obtains from the names
of provinces and remarkable places on its shores. Mama Selama is the true name of the Cape which in the maps is called Mussendom; and it is said to derive this name from a female saint who in former times lived on this spot, or in its neighbourhood.-Now, read away!
And o'er the Green Sea palely shines,
And lighting Kishma's amber vines.
And curl the shining flood beneath-
And cocoa-nut and flow'ry wreath,
She sung so sweet, with none to listen ;
Where thickets of pomegranate glisten
With dew, whose night drops would not stain.
That ever youthful sultan wore
* Lalla Rookh, “ The Fire Worshippers.”
Uncle Oliver. Now, then, we have to talk about pearls and the pearl-fishery in the Gulf. As the Gulf of Persia is one of the two principal places (the island of Ceylon is the other) where the pearl is found, I shall now tell you all I know on the subject generally, and, when we come to Ceylon, shall mention any difference which may be there in the way of obtaining the pearl.
The bottom of the Persian Gulf is probably in a great degree covered with the pearl-oyster.
Frank. Oyster, Sir! I thought a pearl was a stone.
U. O. So it is, Frank. Nevertheless, it is formed in an oyster. I cannot exactly tell you how, and there are different opinions on the subject. As stones are also formed sometimes in animals—even in man, a stone in whose bladder makes a well-known and painful disease
-the case of the pearl in the oyster is only more wonderful in this—that the stone formed
in the oyster is always a pearl, and that the oysters in particular places produce pearls so commonly, that it seems natural to them. Besides, it appears to me not much more wonderful that these animals should produce a pearl than that they should form a hard shell around their bodies; and I am disposed to agree with those who think that the substance of the pearl is formed by the overflow of that juice of which the animal makes its shell, and its fine lining of mother-of-pearl. Perhaps this overflow may proceed from disease, or the rupture of some vessels; or it may be that the animal takes in a bit of gravel, and to prevent the pain which its roughness occasions, covers it with this stony juice; this is confirmed by the fact, that when a pearl is cut through, a small grain of sand or other foreign matter is often found in the middle. Those pearls which are found fixed to the shell appear to have been formed in the same manner, to cover some rough points in the inside.
Henry. In what part of the oyster do they find the pearl, Sir ?
U. O. The large pearl is found about the middle part, in or under the skin of the back, where it is close to the shell. It is popularly
described as being nearly in the centre of the shell and in the middle of the fish. But besides the large pearl, there are others, of a small size, called “ seed, pearls,” which are ranged round the lips of the oyster. They are not of much value. It was, perhaps, the existence of these seed-pearls which made Pliny and other old Roman writers fancy that the pearls were formed of dew, which the fish comes up to the surface every morning and opens its shell to imbibe.
H. What a pretty idea! -U. O. Yes; but what we want and most admire in natural history is not pretty poetical fancies, but facts; and here the fact is, that the oysters are attached to the rock, and never rise to the surface.
F. Are these oysters fit to eat?
U. O. Yes; they are very fine eating; and, indeed, in this respect I know no difference between them and the common oyster; and I do not think there is any important difference at all. It is a vulgar error that only one peculiar species of oyster produces pearls. They have been found in our own Colchester oyster, and even in the shield of the sea-hare, and in some kinds of muscles. . In the Persian Gulf, the oysters which afford