The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 131

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 to 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
birds’ nests, which are properly made up of the gelatinous matter picked
up by a species of swallow from the body of these molluscae. 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 eighteen
inches in length; and I have seen a few that were not less than two feet
long. They were nearly round, a little flattish on one side, which lies
next to the bottom of the sea; and they are from one to

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Text Comparison with The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven Edition Table Of Contents And Index Of The Five Volumes

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SONNET—TO SCIENCE AL AARAAF TAMERLANE TO HELEN THE VALLEY OF UNREST ISRAFEL TO —— TO —— TO THE RIVER—— SONG SPIRITS OF THE DEAD A DREAM ROMANCE FAIRY-LAND THE LAKE —— TO—— EVENING STAR "THE HAPPIEST DAY.
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TO FRANCES S.