92 SEASONS FOR PEARL-FISHING book ii
while the small eggs remain inside to complete their formation ; so the
largest pearl advances first, and the other smaller ones, not having
arrived at their full perfection, remain under the oyster at the bottom
of the shell until they have attained the size which nature gives them.1 But it cannot be said that there are pearls in all oysters, and many may be opened in which none are found.
it should not be supposed that a great profit is earned by those who
fish for pearls ; for if the poor people who engage in it had anything
else to do they would leave the fishing, which merely saves them from
dying of hunger.2 I have remarked in my account of Persia, that from Bassora up to Cape Jasque,3
on both coasts of the Gulf of Persia, the land produces nothing. The
people there are so poor, and live in so miserable a way, that they
never have any bread or rice, and only dates and salt fish for their
food, and you must travel nearly 20 leagues inland before finding grass.
fishing in the Eastern seas takes place twice in the year, the first
being in March and April, and the second in August and September, and
the sale lasts from the month of June till November, but this fishing
does not take place every year. For those who fish like to know
beforehand whether it will pay. In order not to be deceived they send
to the fisheries seven or eight boats, each of which brings back about
1,000 oysters, which are opened, and if there is not found in every
thousand oysters the value of 5 fanos of pearls—that is to say a half
ecu of our money4—it is accepted as a proof that the fishing
will not be good, and that these poor people will not recover the
outlay which they have had
1 This physiological explanation will hardly receive acceptance at the present time. (Cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist., ix. 55, 57.)
2 Diamond and gold washing have always, likewise, been the most miserably requited trades in India.
Cape Jask, or the Ras Jashak of the Arabs, is ' a point on the eastern
side of the Gulf of ' Oman near the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and 6
miles south of a port of the same name. The latter was frequented by
the vessels of the English Company whilst the Portuguese held Hormuz.
After the Portuguese were driven out of Hormuz (1622) the English trade
was moved €o Gombroon' (Yule, Hobson-Jobson, 453).
1 Or 2s. 3d. The ecu being worth 2 rupees, or 4s. 6d.., therefore these fanos were worth 5.4d. each.