Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/273

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261
MUSSELS.

who buys them up, that knows what becomes of them afterwards. It has been earned on in this manner for many years, and as such a thing, if made public, might prove more beneficial to the neighbouring poor, by causing a higher price to be given for the pearls, it would be more so if any of your numerous correspondents could throw some light on this interesting subject. There have been some curious and fanciful surmises, which may not be thought worth mentioning. Some suppose that the pearls are sent abroad to be manufactured into seed pearls; others, more gravely, that they are exported to India to be dissolved in the sherbet of the nabobs! However, at present it is a mystery; and, notwithstanding the pains taken and the expense incurred by some liberal gentlemen in endeavouring to find out the secret, it is as great a mystery as ever. The huts which have been erected for the convenience of boiling the fish, are on the extremity of the marsh, about a mile north of the town of Conway. The pearls are seldom found here much larger than the enclosed specimens, though about twelve miles up the river they have been found occasionally as large as a moderate-sized pea, and have been sold for a guinea the couple, but they are very rarely met with. When I say that the price varies from eighteenpence to four shillings, I do not mean to say that they are valued according to their size, for the large and small pearls are all sold together: but some years ago they were as high as four shillings, now they are only two shillings per ounce."

The ill effects produced by eating the mussel, at least at certain times, and on certain constitutions,