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              THE MOONSTONE


       (Extracted from a Family Paper)

I ADDRESS these lineswritten in India
to my relatives in England.

My object is to explain the motive which has
induced me to refuse the right hand of friendship
to my cousin, John Herncastle. The reserve
which I have hitherto maintained in this
matter has been misinterpreted by members of
my family whose good opinion I cannot consent
to forfeit. I request them to suspend their decision
until they have read my narrative. And
I declare, on my word of honour, that what I
am now about to write is, strictly and literally,
the truth.

The private difference between my cousin
and me took its rise in a great public event in
which we were both concernedthe storming
of Seringapatam, under General Baird, on the 4th
of May, 1799.

In order that the circumstances may be clearly
understood, I must revert for a moment to the
period before the assault, and to the stories
current in our camp of the treasure in jewels
and gold stored up in the Palace of Seringapatam.


One of the wildest of these stories related to
a Yellow Diamonda famous gem in the native
annals of India.

The earliest known traditions describe the
stone as having been set in the forehead of the
four-handed Indian god who typifies the Moon.
Partly from its peculiar colour, partly from a
superstition which represented it as feeling the
influence of the deity whom it adorned, and
growing and lessening in lustre with the waxing and
waning of the moon, it first gained the name by
which it continues to be known in India to this
daythe name of THE MOONSTONE. A similar
superstition was once prevalent, as I have heard,
in ancient Greece and Rome; not applying,
however (as in India), to a diamond devoted to
the service of a god, but to a semi-transparent
stone of the inferior order of gems, supposed
to be affected by the lunar influencesthe
moon, in this latter case also, giving the name
by which the stone is still known to collectors
in our own time.

The adventures of the Yellow Diamond begin
with the eleventh century of the Christian era.

At that date, the Mohammedan conqueror,
Mahmoud of Ghizni, crossed India; seized on
the holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of
its treasures the famous temple, which had
stood for centuriesthe shrine of Hindoo
pilgrimage, and the wonder of the Eastern world.

Of all the deities worshipped in the temple,
the moon-god alone escaped the rapacity of the
conquering Mohammedans. Preserved by three
Brahmins, the inviolate deity, bearing the Yellow
Diamond in its forehead, was removed by night,
and was transported to the second of the sacred
cities of Indiathe city of Benares.

Here, in a new shrinein a hall inlaid with
precious stones, under a roof supported by
pillars of goldthe moon-god was set up and
worshipped. Here, on the night when the
shrine was completed, Vishnu the Preserver
appeared to the three Brahmins in a dream.

The deity breathed the breath of his divinity
on the Diamond in the forehead of the god.
And the Brahmins knelt and hid their faces in
their robes. The deity commanded that the
Moonstone should be watched, from that time
forth, by three priests in turn, night and day, to
the end of the generations of men. And the
Brahmins heard, and bowed before his will.
The deity predicted certain disaster to the
presumptuous mortal who laid hands on the
sacred gem, and to all of his house and name
who received it after him. And the Brahmins
caused the prophecy to be written over the
gates of the shrine in letters of gold.

One age followed anotherand still, generation
after generation, the successors of the three
Brahmins watched their priceless Moonstone,
night and day. One age followed another, until
the first years of the eighteenth Christian
century saw the reign of Aurungzebe, Emperor of
the Moguls. At his command, havoc and
rapine were let loose once more among the
temples of the worship of Brahmah. The shrine
of the four-handed god was polluted by the
slaughter of sacred animals; the images of the
deities were broken in pieces; and the
Moonstone was seized by an officer of rank in the
army of Aurungzebe.

Powerless to recover their lost treasure by