Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/210

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181
PERSIA.

second it appears thicker and stagnant, in a third quite black, and in its last stage white like hoar-frost. Indeed, a petrified pond looks like frozen water; and before the operation is quite finished, a stone slightly thrown upon it breaks the outer coating, and causes the black water underneath to exude. Where the operation is complete, a stone makes no impression, and a man may walk on it without wetting his shoes.

Wherever the petrifaction has been hewn into, the curious progress of the concretion is clearly seen, and shows itself like sheets of rough paper placed one over the other in accumulated layers. Such is the constant tendency of this water to become stone, that where it exudes from the ground in bubbles, the petrifaction assumes a globular shape, as if the bubbles of a spring, by a stroke of magic, had been arrested in their play and metamorphosed into marble. These stony bubbles, which form the most curious specimens of this extraordinary quarry, frequently contain portions of the earth through which the water has oozed. The substance thus produced is brittle, transparent, and sometimes very richly streaked with green, red, and copper-coloured veins. It admits of being cut into immense slabs, and takes a good polish.

The present royal family of Persia, whose princes do not spend large sums in building, have not carried away much of this stone; but some immense slabs, cut for Nadir Shah, and now lying neglected among innumerable fragments, show the object that he had in view. None but the king, his sons, and persons privileged by special firman, are permitted to excavate; and such is the ascendancy of pride over avarice, that the scheme of farming it to the highest bidder does not seem to have ever come within the calculation of its present possessors.


THE END.