the erection of suitable
houses in which to cure the article, and for the services of himself
and tribe in gathering as much as possible, while he himself took
advantage of the fine weather to prosecute his voyage to the southward.
Upon mentioning this project to the chief he seemed very willing to
enter into an agreement. A bargain was accordingly struck, perfectly
satisfactory to both parties, by which it was arranged that, after
making the necessary preparations, such as laying off the proper
grounds, erecting a portion of the buildings, and doing some other work
in which the whole of our crew would be required, the schooner should
proceed on her route, leaving three of her men on the island to
superintend the fulfilment of the project, and instruct the natives in
drying the _biche de mer_. In regard to terms, these were made to
depend upon the exertions of the savages in our absence. They were to
receive a stipulated quantity of blue beads, knives, red cloth, and so
forth, for every certain number of piculs of the _biche de mer_ which
should be ready on our return.
A description of the nature of this important article of commerce, and
the method of preparing it, may prove of some interest to my readers,
and I can find no more suitable place than this for introducing an
account of it. The following comprehensive notice of the substance is
taken from a modern history of a voyage to the South Seas.
"It is that _mollusca_ from the Indian Seas which is known in commerce
by the French name _bouche de mer_ (a nice morsel from the sea). If I
am not much mistaken, the celebrated Cuvier calls it _gasteropeda
pulmonifera_. It is abundantly gathered in the coasts of the Pacific
Islands, and gathered especially for the Chinese market, where it
commands a great price, perhaps as much as their much-talked of edible
bird's nests, which are probably made up of the gelatinous matter
picked up by a species of swallow from the body of these molluscæ. They
have no shell, no legs, nor any prominent part, except an _absorbing_
and an _excretory_, opposite organs; but, by their elastic wings, like
caterpillars or worms, they creep in shallow waters, in which, when
low, they can be seen by a kind of swallow, the sharp bill of which,
inserted in the soft animal, draws a gummy and filamentous substance,
which, by drying, can be wrought into the solid walls of their nest.
Hence the name of _gasteropeda pulmonifera_.
"This mollusca is oblong, and of different sizes, from three to
VON KEMPELEN AND HIS DISCOVERY MESMERIC REVELATION THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M.Page 1
THE OVAL PORTRAIT PHILOSOPHY OF FURNITURE.