The Pearl, Part V
You might find it hard to imagine how surprised and amazed William and
Freddy were when Sally told them about her night out with Ollie and
about the piano. Freddy swam around and around William's tank, blowing
long streams of bubbles. "Whew", he thought. How could he explain this
to his friends down in the oyster bed? "It's a good
thing I'm a fish and a very flat one at that. There isn't much room
inside my tiny head to worry about things like pianos!"
William was thoughtful too. Perhaps for the first time in his life, he
realized that his world and his life as a bell buoy were very small. How
little he understood, chained to his rock, bobbing on the ocean in one
spot all the time. The world outside, the world 'inland', the world of
the 'human beings' was so big, so marvelous and mysterious! How could he
know about it? He felt very grateful to have Sally for a friend. He was
curious, certainly, and Sally could help him understand.
One thing William could understand was when Sally told him how the
human beings couldn't sing or fly. It occurred to him then that, unlike
Freddy and even himself, they couldn't swim very well either. Wasn't
that really the reason why he was there in the first place? Because
they couldn't swim, the human beings had made ships to carry them over the
water. William was there to make sure their ships didn't get into
trouble. If a ship was wrecked and the humans on it fell into the water
. . . that was bad. They often drowned.
William was quiet for a while. Then he said to Sally, "It seems to me
that the humans are very clever about inventing things. It's too bad,
isn't it, that they are so helpless to begin with?" It made William a
little sad to think of all the important things the humans couldn't do
very well. "It must," he said, "be very hard for them to be happy."
Sally said she thought so too. The sun was shining brightly now. There
was a gentle breeze and the sea was calm. Sally sat very still on
William's mast as they rocked in the low swells. Both of them were
thinking just how lucky they were to have a peaceful day with nothing
to worry about, and how special it felt to share that day with each
It was early November now and the days were growing shorter and the
weather more blustery. If William, Freddy, and Sally had been human
beings, they might have been counting the days now until Christmas, but
we can easily see that for a fish, a seagull, and a bell buoy, there
was no need to count the days at all. The three were happy with
each day, just as it came.
Still, something did change now as the days passed and that was because
Sally made many more trips that year to Providence with Oliver to visit
the little house with the piano, where Miranda lived with her father.
Because she did, she and her two friends learned many new things
together and by Christmas that year, there would be some very big
changes indeed, both for our three comrades and also for Miranda and
her father. Let's see what happened:
One day, shortly before Thanksgiving, the weather turned mild and warm.
There was misty rain for several days and then, for a week it was
almost like Summer again. One night during that week, Sally and Oliver
had, as they often did now, gone to the little house to listen to
Miranda play the piano. They had learned by now that it was Miranda,
because on several evenings they had flown down to look into the
windows of the house and seen for themselves that the human being who
pushed the keys on the magic 'machine' was, in fact, a small, curly-
haired, child human about eight years old and they guessed right away
that this was Miranda.
On the evening we're talking about here, Sally and Oliver had flown
down again to look into the window, just as Miranda's father came in to
tell her it was time for bed. But on this night, because it was so
warm, the windows of the house were open and Sally and Oliver, perched
outside on the branch of a tree, overheard the following conversation.
Miranda was saying, "Oh Daddy, when can I begin to take piano lessons?
I love my piano so much. When I grow up I want to be a real piano
player and play music for people, and make them as happy as I am.
There's so much I need to learn. If I had a teacher and studied hard, I
would soon be a much better piano player."
Miranda's father listened to his little girl speaking. The expression
on his face was quite serious, almost sad. When she finished, he
explained to her, as he had many times before, that he didn't have
'money' to pay for piano lessons. He worked very hard, all day long, in a
'factory' and the money he earned was just enough to pay for the little
house where they lived and for the food they ate each day. Miranda
listened. She was serious too. She took her father's hand in her little
one. Yes, she understood all that he was saying, but still, she
couldn't help wishing so hard that things could be different. Miranda
kissed her father good night. He gave her a big hug, holding her tight
for a long time. Then Miranda kissed him again and ran upstairs to bed.
After Miranda went to bed, Sally and Oliver watched for a while longer.
Miranda's father sat down in a big chair near the window. He didn't
watch TV or read a newspaper. He only sat very still. Then he leaned
forward and covered his face with his hands. His shoulders were
shaking. Sally heard him make a sound, a low moaning sound. Even though
she didn't know a great deal about the human beings, she recognized that
sound because once, a long time ago, she had made that sound herself.
It was the sound she had made when one of her eggs had accidentally
fallen out of her nest by the seashore and smashed on a rock. She
understood then how very, very sad Miranda's father was feeling.
Later that night, Oliver explained to Sally all about 'factories', where
men worked to make all the different things that humans use, even bell
buoys like William and the cruise ships and fishing boats she saw every
day. He explained about money; that 'money' meant the stacks of green
paper the humans used to exchange for everything they needed. He
explained about the 'piano teacher' Miranda had asked about; how some
people play the piano very well and can help a child like Miranda, but
to get their help, you had to give them a large stack of--that's
right--money, green paper.
When Sally flew back to the harbor very late, she sat on her black
piling for a long time before she fell asleep. She thought and thought.
She thought about Miranda and about her father sobbing in his chair by
the window. She made a little moaning noise herself, remembering how
sad she felt on the day when her egg had fallen out of the nest.