he requested that I whisper my offer. When I asked for an explanation,
I was told that as most certainly my first bid would fall very far
short of their true worth, the feelings of the pearls would be hurt if
they heard it.
these professions of superstitious belief are not always quite
guileless, I think. At Sandakan, in British North Borneo, a Dyak once
sold me a pickle bottle full of fancy-colored pearls. After I had
counted out the requisite number of crumpled dollar notes, he begged me
to make him a present of one of his own pearls, never mind how small.
"What is that for?" I asked the go-between.
he wants it as a decoy. It will make other pearls come to him. How else
do you think he could ever hope to get together another lot?"
"I know of a better way," I said, looking mysteriously wise.
The two natives looked at me.
"Silver hook!" I said. "Gold hook! Even a crumpled paper hook like this," and I held up a dollar bill, "will do the trick."
all Malays believe that small seed-pearls placed among grains of rice
will turn the lot into pearls of size, provided always that they have
been closeted in a box with a close-fitting lid for a certain length of
time—governed by the moon—and fed at stated times with the right kind
of nourishment. It is the last item that is always blamed for failure.
Nobody, to my knowledge, has yet discovered the sort of ambrosia upon
which pearls thrive.
certain Joloano (of Sulu), a Dato or prince, confided to me at the
outset of our acquaintance that every pearl he had ever sold always
came back to him, no matter whither their new owner had carried them.
was a practical sort of superstition, which I respected. I used to
steer clear of the most tempting specimens he could show me, not
because I shared his superstition, but because I had a deep respect for
the long blade in his belt, which I suspected played a part in his
pearls' emulation of the carrier pigeon.
In certain parts of China, when a man of even moderate