The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 132

eight inches
thick. They crawl up into shallow water at particular seasons of the
year, probably for the purpose of gendering, as we often find them in
pairs. It is when the sun has the most power on the water, rendering it
tepid, that they approach the shore; and they often go up into places so
shallow that, on the tide’s receding, they are left dry, exposed to
the beat of the sun. But they do not bring forth their young in shallow
water, as we never see any of their progeny, and full-grown ones are
always observed coming in from deep water. They feed principally on that
class of zoophytes which produce the coral.

“The _biche de mer_ is generally taken in three or four feet of water;
after which they are brought on shore, and split at one end with a
knife, the incision being one inch or more, according to the size of the
mollusca. Through this opening the entrails are forced out by pressure,
and they are much like those of any other small tenant of the deep. The
article is then washed, and afterward boiled to a certain degree, which
must not be too much or too little. They are then buried in the ground
for four hours, then boiled again for a short time, after which they are
dried, either by the fire or the sun. Those cured by the sun are worth
the most; but where one picul (133 1/3 lbs.) can be cured that way, I
can cure thirty piculs by the fire. When once properly cured, they can
be kept in a dry place for two or three years without any risk; but they
should be examined once in every few months, say four times a year, to
see if any dampness is likely to affect them.

“The Chinese, as before stated, consider _biche de mer_ a very great
luxury, believing that it wonderfully strengthens and nourishes the
system, and renews the exhausted system of the immoderate voluptuary.
The first quality commands a high price in Canton, being worth ninety
dollars a picul; the second quality, seventy-five dollars; the third,
fifty dollars; the fourth, thirty dollars; the fifth, twenty dollars;
the sixth, twelve dollars; the seventh, eight dollars; and the eighth,
four dollars; small cargoes, however, will often bring more in Manilla,
Singapore, and Batavia.”

An agreement having been thus entered into, we proceeded immediately to
land everything necessary for preparing the buildings and clearing
the ground. A large flat space near the eastern shore of the bay was
selected, where there was plenty of both wood

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Text Comparison with The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 5

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Therefore, to thee this night I will no requiem raise, But waft thee on thy flight, With a Paean of old days.