The Pearl, Part II
a mysterious gift
One day, late in the year, William was bobbing in the rolling swells
above Big Tom, when Freddy popped up to the surface beside him as he
did every day. As usual, William looked down and rang out a
cheerful "Hello!" Today, though, something was different.
Freddy wasn't blowing
bubbles. William, a bit concerned, asked if Freddy was okay.
seemed to be wearing a rather serious expression on his flat face, if,
indeed a flounder can have an expression. Freddy didn't look
no bubbles? Did he have a secret? Why wasn't he saying
Instead of answering, Freddy rolled over once or twice, then he
his tail and swam around William's tank three or four times. "What can
he be doing?", William thought. Without answering, Freddy swam
round until he came to the small flat platform in William's base where
the battery was hidden. Then, with what seemed like a mighty
Freddy flipped his tail and lifted himself almost completely out of the
water. He opened his mouth, dropped something round and shiny
platform above William's tank, and sank back into the water.
amazed and bewildered. Now Freddy was swimming round and round
blowing a furious stream of bubbles all the while. Certainly, he
talking now and all excited as he poured out a long and complicated
story. Here was a mystery indeed. William looked down at
round thing. It was white, about half-an-inch across, and had a
glow coming from it. William tilted himself. The thing
the platform. When it caught the sunlight, it seemed to change
little bit. Sometimes it glowed pink, then it glowed blue.
"Amazing", William thought. "What is it?" It was
certainly very lovely and
like nothing he had ever seen.
Freddy was blowing so many bubbles now, William was afraid he might run
out of air. Of course, as always, William had no idea what Freddy was
trying to say. Best to pretend, he thought. He let his bell chime out.
"Thank you," he said. "Thank you for your beautiful gift." Two bubbles.
"You're welcome." Then Freddy was gone beneath the waves.
Many days passed now. It was getting on toward winter.
Mostly, at this
time of year, William was thinking about his job. There were
storms and bad weather now, and William had to keep a sharp lookout
for ships that might be in trouble. Most of the summer sailors
Nantucket Island were gone now, but fishing boats and big ocean
freighters worked all year round. It was William's job to keep
safe, but even as he worked, he had one extra thing to think about: the round, shiny marble that rolled back and forth
platform on his tank. He tried to remember to keep his balance
water so it wouldn't be washed overboard. Freddy still came
but said nothing more about his gift. If William
sometimes asked again
what it was, Freddy would blow just a single bubble. The bubble
went 'POP!' Was that a 'P'? POP! William didn't
know. He just smiled and gave
a little ding of his bell. "Okay", he said.
Then one evening, just at sunset, on a lovely, cold day in December,
William looked out toward the west and saw something high up above
where the setting sun lighted it from beneath; two wings and a small,
gliding shape in the air. Was it? Yes it was! It was a seagull.
William's heart leaped. He let out a furious chorus of dings and dongs
and clangs. He flashed his red light on and off a dozen times, very
quickly. "Over here! Over here!" He knew it was Sally, coming to pay him a
visit. Sally was excited too. She circled around William, beating the
air with her wings. She climbed high above him and then made sudden
dives, splashing the top of a wave before climbing up to do it again.
All the time, Sally cried out in answer to William,
"Scree--screech--hello, hello! I'm here! I'm back! I missed you!"
Finally, with one last swoop, she set herself down on William's mast and
folded her wings. Sally sat still for a while, making soft, cooing
sounds now, almost like a pigeon. William had never heard a seagull
make sounds like that, but he understood. Sally was saying, "I'm here.
I came back. I'm home." If William had ever been close to shore, he
might have recognized the sounds his bell was making now, very soft,
slow sounds, low peals, each one dying away in the sunset to be
followed by another. He didn't know it, of course, but he was making
the peaceful, chiming sound of a church bell at evening.
The next days were very happy ones for Sally and William. They talked
and talked. Sally told William all about her adventures inland and on
Nantucket Island, where she often went exploring. William told Sally
about fish trawlers, lost in the fog and stormy seas, that he helped
find their way into the harbor. Neither of them knew it yet, but their
conversation would have a very important meaning in the near future, and
not just for each other. William, of course, showed Sally the round
thing, rolling around on his deck plate, and Freddy came up too, making
that one mysterious bubble, the one that went 'Pop', like a 'P'.
Sally listened and smiled a curious seagull smile. Then she spoke. "I
know what this is," she said. "It's a pearl." Freddy made three popping
sounds in a row. "Yes, yes! Pop, pop, pop." William, if he had a mouth
and eyes, would have opened his mouth wide and stared in wide-eyed
wonderment. "A pearl? What's that?"
Now, Sally was all screeches and squawks as she explained the mystery.
Once, a long time ago, she had seen a pearl, just a little one.
been patrolling the beach on Nantucket. She had swooped down to
a shell, which she said was an 'oyster'. Oysters were food for
she explained, but to get the food, which was inside the shell, you had
to make the oyster open up so you could scoop it out. Sally had
the oyster shell high into the air, and then let it fall, so that it
landed on a big rock far below. When the oyster shell hit the
made a sickening, cracking sound and burst open. Sally dived
down to get
the food inside and that's when she saw the pearl. It was a tiny
but shiny, just like William's, and it rolled out on the sand beside
broken oyster. Sally ate the food, of course. She was
very hungry that
morning, but she didn't enjoy her meal very much. She felt sad.
sea gulls have feelings?" she wondered. She knew, because her
had taught her, that oysters were food for sea gulls. She knew
that. But today she felt sad, because she realized that for her
to eat, the
oyster had to die. Sally had never thought about anything dying
least of all an oyster. But now, looking down at the broken
the little shiny, round pearl, Sally felt a tear form at one corner of
her bright seagull eye. "Can a bird cry?" she wondered.
picked up the tiny pearl in her beak and carried it back to her nest.
She kept it for a long time and thought and thought.
Perhaps it was
from that day on that she began to dislike the taste of fish and
started instead to follow the big cruise ships out to sea, and to eat
the kitchen scraps they threw overboard.
While Sally and William pondered these strange new events, Freddy came
up again and swam around William's tank several times. He wasn't
blowing bubbles now. Instead, he stuck his head all the way out of the
water, opened his mouth to form a big, round circle, like an 'O', and
stayed there. You might be thinking now that it's too bad fish can't
speak, because right then it was so clear that Freddy wanted very, very
much to join in the talk between Sally and William. So, just this once,
let's pretend that Freddy can speak.
What Freddy wanted so much to say was that the big 'O' meant not just
any oyster, but stood for his special friend, Ozzie, who lived far below
on the sea floor, where Ozzie, like all his oyster friends, spent most
of his time in bed. An oyster bed, that is. One day while Freddy was
browsing down there keeping Ozzie company, Oz opened his shell and
rolled the big pearl out onto the sand, right in front of Freddy's
nose. Ozzie made a very sour face as he did this, as if to say "Whew!
Am I glad to get rid of this thing! It started out as a grain of sand,
but no matter how many coats of shiny stuff I wrapped around it, it
just kept scratching inside my shell and making me itch." Ozzie
sneezed. "Here, Freddy. You take it. Maybe someone else will know what
to do with it. I certainly don't need it."
There. Now we know what had been on Freddy's mind all these months! And
that's when Freddy had decided to take the pearl in his mouth and bring
it up to the surface as a present for William.
So today, on a clear day in early December, all three friends were
gathered around the spot where William was moored, looking at the
wonderful, giant pearl and thinking hard about what might be done with
it. The first mystery was solved and for the next part of our story, we
will have to trust very much in the worldly experience of Sally Seagull.