THE DRAMA OF THE PEARL
MUST have proved a
troublesome child in those far-off boyhood days in Vienna with my
interminable questions. "Why?" and "What?" were ever on my lips. "What
are pearls?" I would ask. "Who makes them? What do they make them of?
Where do they come from? Why do we buy them just to sell them again?
Why are some crooked and others round? Who makes the holes in them, and
why are so many of them blind?"
kind of a reply did not satisfy me, but I was soon forced to realize
that my elders knew little more than I myself about the pearls they
handled every day. It never ceased to seem strange to me that they did
not care, and that, like all their rivals in the trade, they never
tormented themselves with idle questions but were content to
concentrate on the main chance and the profits to be made from the
small bales of merchandise in which they dealt.
of my curiosity was of the childish sort. I had vaguely heard that
there were "real" and "imitation" pearls, and in my own mind I had at
last worked out a satisfactory explanation of the difference between
them. If one paid for pearls with paper money, they were imitations,
and if with silver, real. Frequently, however, my parents paid for a
batch with both paper and silver. Were these pearls real imitations?
And again my father would sell real pearls to the Neapolitans for paper
money, and I would think it very stupid of him.
on the whole my wonderings were legitimate enough, and in later years I
have often been heartily sorry that there was no one then to tell me
stories of the oyster, laved by the ocean, deep in her marine groves of
sea-pink, sea-anemone and coral, producing beauty in her breast. That
is a story to enthrall a child as a fairy tale might.