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I opened it eagerly. To my surprise and
disappointment, it began with an apology warning
me to expect no news of any importance.
In the next sentence the everlasting Ezra
Jennings appeared again! He had stopped
Betteredge on the way out of the station, and
had asked who I was. Informed on this point,
he had mentioned having seen me to his master,
Mr. Candy. Mr. Candy hearing of this, had
himself driven over to Betteredge, to express
his regret at our having missed each other. He
had a reason for wishing particularly to speak to
me; and when I was next in the neighbourhood
of Frizinghall, he begged I would let him
know. Apart from a few characteristic utterances
of the Betteredge philosophy, this was
the sum and substance of my correspondent's
letter. The warm-hearted, faithful old man
acknowledged that he had written "mainly for
the pleasure of writing to me."

I crumpled up the letter in my pocket, and
forgot it the moment after, in the all-absorbing
interest of my coming interview with Rachel.

As the clock of Hampstead church struck
three, I put Mr. Bruff's key into the lock of
the door in the wall. When I first stepped into
the garden, and while I was securing the door
again on the inner side, I own to having felt a
certain guilty doubtfulness about what might
happen next. I looked furtively on either side
of me, suspicious of the presence of some
unexpected witness in some unknown corner of
the garden. Nothing appeared, to justify my
apprehensions. The walks were, one and all,
solitudes; and the birds and the bees were the
only witnesses.

I passed through the garden; entered the
conservatory; and crossed the small drawing-
room. As I laid my hand on the door opposite,
I heard a few plaintive chords struck on the
piano in the room within. She had often idled
over the instrument in this way, when I was
staying at her mother's house. I was obliged
to wait a little, to steady myself. The past and
present rose, side by side, at that supreme
momentand the contrast shook me.

After the lapse of a few moments, I roused
my manhood, and opened the door.


THE Land World is wide, but the Ocean World
is wider. To cut short all embarrassment of
choice and the difficulty of knowing where to
begin, suppose we take our familiar friend the
oyster; first reproaching him with getting
dearer and dearer every season. Time wasa
very long while agowhen nobody would look
at him, much less take him up and open him.
Now, he is fought for by ungentle dames whose
oyster-knives strike their rivals with terror,
while epicures denominate the oyster the key to
the paradise called appetite. But who first ate
an oyster? The individual's name is not
recorded, but tradition says that he did it not
through hunger, but in consequence of
accident. Being of an inquiring turn of mind, he
poked his finger into a half-open oyster, which
resented the intrusion with a nip. When your
finger is hurt, you put it into your mouth; so
did he. "Delicious!" he exclaimed, sucking
his finger again. The idea flashed upon him
that he had discovered a new delight, and
oyster eating became henceforth an institution.

That event, however, must have occurred in
a very remote and dim antiquity. Among the
débris which precede the epoch of written
history, oyster-shells are found. In the "midden
heaps" of Northern Europe, they are mingled
with other rubbish, and with stone implements,
evidently the refuse of very ancient feasts.
We have all read of Roman feasts which
began, as now in Paris, with oysters brought
from considerable distances. Oyster parks or
ponds are of Roman origin. Vitellius ate
oysters all day long. Seneca the wise could
swallow his hundred, while Cicero the eloquent
could take in his dozens. Louis the Eleventh
annually gave the doctors of the Sorbonne an
oyster treat. Napoleon the First ate oysters,
when he could get them, on the eve of
fighting an important battle. In short, we
may hold it a gastronomic axiom that no feast
is worthy of a connoisseur, in which oysters,
during their season, do not come to the front;
and fortunately no oysters are better than the
English. On the oyster's anatomy we will not
dwell, except to remark that, having no head,
it can have no brain;—in spite of which, it has
a beard.

From oysters we naturally proceed to pearls.
Some few pearls, from their size and beauty,
have become historical. A pearl from Panama,
in shape like a pear and about the size of a
pigeon's egg, presented in 1579 to Philip the
Second of Spain, was valued at four thousand
pounds. In 1605 a Madrid lady possessed an
American pearl valued at thirty-one thousand
ducats. Pope Leo the Tenth paid a Venetian
jeweller, fourteen thousand pounds for a single
pearl. He had never heard of the class of
persons who and their money are soon parted.
Another pearl was purchased at Califa by the
traveller Tavernier, and is said to have been
sold by him to the Shah of Persia for the
enormous price of one hundred and eighty
thousand pounds. If the saying be true, Tavernier
was lucky in getting out of Persia with
his head on his shoulders. A prince of Muscat
possessed a pearl so valuablenot on account
of its size, for it weighed only twelve carats,
but because it was so clear and transparent
that daylight was seen through itthat he
refused four thousand pounds for it. Perhaps a
better proof of its value would have been that
he had taken four thousand pounds for it. The
pearl in the crown of Rudolph the Second (it
is said) was as large as a pear. Which pear?
A jargonell, or a Duchesse d'Augoulême? And
how big was the oyster from which it was
taken? The Shah of Persia actually possesses
a string of pearls, each individual of which is
nearly the size of a hazel nutan inestimable