Just before he died the old oyster made out his last will.
As he lay on his stately bed, he strained to convey that his most treasured possession be left to his only son and heir. It was a simple testament. An open and shut case.
The old oyster had worked hard most of his life in the Oyster Bank and had steadily built up his famous fortune. It had become a part of him. A testimony of his efforts and success. His reason of being.
Even as he lay weakly sifting away the final moments of his life, he was loathed to part with it. But underneath his stubborn shell he was not totally unreasonable.
He just hoped his son would be worthy of this precious legacy, and be able to bear such a weighty responsibility.
The old oyster, gaping with effort, sighed more from regret than relief as his valuable pearl was solemnly removed by the venerable lobster trustee. Then weakly, barely managing to close his hoary, crusty shell, he emitted a last little bubble before peacefully passing away to the Ultimate Deep.
His son was a lazy oyster. In some ways he had been neglected, but in others he was spoilt. He never made his own bed or burrows. He considered this beneath his dignity. He would spend an entire day in the oyster park just blowing bubbles.
He always did his best to avoid working.
His shell was quite thin. Only those who knew him were not taken in by his show of sadness and humble gratitude as he accepted the huge pearl. But it meant no more to him than a means of living in greater ease and security, without ever having to work.
In some ways he even hated the pearl, because it represented the eminence and importance of his father, the prestigious stature which he thought he could never have.
But his father had gone. He was young and now rich. The world was his... as they say. At least enough of the marine world, so he thought.
His vanity was loathed to question the popularity he quickly enjoyed. And his many, new friends were most willing to carry out his every wish. All they required in exchange was a small 'loan' of the pearl.
The oyster was content with this arrangement. At first he never noticed that each time the pearl was returned it was a little smaller than before.
In this way the days lazily floated by with the tides peacefully ebbing and flowing.
Although the oyster gained weight, his shell was still flaky and thin. His features were not very rugged, but he had many hangers-on.
He puffed with self-importance as he lay on his bed.
But tides never wait, not even for the richest of oysters. And they were about to turn.
The time came when the pearl had become so small that it looked like a grain of sand. And as it had become smaller, so too had waned his popularity.
No longer able to count on his fortune, and very much over weight, the poor oyster seemed quite incapable of looking after himself, and there was no one willing to help him any more.
With great difficulty he left the oyster bed. He was lonely and depressed, but he still clutched the tiny pearl. He remembered his father's old associate, the lobster trustee. At a pinch, he might be able to help.
So the oyster made his way painfully to the home of the lobster who greeted him loftily. He listened to the oyster's lament, pouted disdainfully, then slowly shook his huge head. 'The hermit-crab might be able to help you. Follow the sea-horse,' he said at last.
The sea-horse was an unstable creature, but he had a mysteriously odd, duty-bound inclination to escort rare seekers of advice to the hermit-crab's humble home. So after finally managing to find the sea-horse hovering above his coral, the oyster puffed out his brief request then wearily followed him as best he could. The sea-horse had a curious habit of abruptly stopping, then going round in tight circles, which was just as well, for otherwise it would have been impossible to keep up with him.
When at last they arrived at the home of the hermit-crab, the sea-horse waited just outside the entrance, bowed graciously, then suddenly flittered away.
Strangely the hermit-crab seemed to have been expecting this visit. The oyster was exhausted and miserable, and hoped for some sympathy, but the hermit-crab was unimpressed. He accepted the tiny pearl the oyster offered him.
The hermit-crab looked after the oyster. With wisdom, patience and firm guidance he taught him many things. They were not easy lessons, but the oyster learnt them well enough. His shell took on a new, more solid appearance. He gained strength and lost much of his heaviness.
The time finally came when the hermit-crab knew that the oyster was ready to leave. He returned the tiny pearl. It seemed to shine more brightly than ever before.
'Keep this as part of you,' said the hermit-crab sternly. 'And when you have young ones, teach them what you now know.'
And the oyster returned to his old home.
From that time onwards the oyster worked hard and gradually won the respect of many other oysters. He made good friends.
When the time was right, he married and had a family. They loved their young ones very much, and he taught them many things. He never forgot the words of the hermit-crab.
The little pearl he kept as though it were part of his heart. And as his heart grew bigger, so did the pearl. But it grew not as one, but as several, and each one was tinged with blue.
When the young ones were of age, he gave them each a blue pearl. They were nowhere near as valuable as the large, grey pearl his father had left him, but they were treasured more than any other pearl could ever possibly have been.
|From the Rainbow Series|
Text and rainbow image © Mirino (PW). Sea-horse © Tilia Weevers. October, 2010