The Moonstone (Chapter 1, page 1 of 2)


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Chapter 1

One of the wildest of these stories related to a Yellow Diamond--a
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 day--the 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 influences--the 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 centuries--the 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 India--the city of Benares.

Here, in a new shrine--in a hall inlaid with precious stones, under
a roof supported by pillars of gold--the 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.

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