The Three Pearls . . .

a children's story

by Toni Donelow Stewart 1961-2004

 

 

Illustration intended for The Three Pearls by Toni Donelow Stewart

 

computer graphic and lettering above done by Shirl A. Steward

 

Written by

Toni Donelow Stewart 1961-2004

© Feb 2, 2004

 

  

         

f mice and Men, there was only one of us. 

I will dare to say that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning, but maybe not.  I don’t think I did.

I stood on the rail overlooking what had to be the most curious sight I had ever seen – it was the railing of an old sailing ship, from a century before this, made with care during those times before the telephone was an ordinary household utility, so you know I was a bit taken aback when I looked at her.  It was definitely a ‘she,’ this ship.  Her wooden deck gleamed brightly with golden sunlight and her sails were flying high in all their glory, as if ready to go at any moment.  I was just stunned, as I had not expected to find myself here when I read that note on the step at home.

            It had simply read:

            Pearls, ninth slip.

            How curious!  I knew where the harbor was, it was a block away, and it took me an hour to arrive.  Previously, I had also overheard the master of the house talking to someone on the phone saying that his pearls were missing.  Those precious, beautiful pearls he had bought for the Lady’s birthday! Gone! Someone had stolen them! I had to try and get them back for him, even if he didn’t have the slightest idea of whom his benefactor was.  I would just leave them somewhere maybe, somewhere he would see them….maybe on his desk.

            I could feel the soft warm breeze blowing my fur a little as I stood there with wide eyes, I’m sure. The golden ship, was what I thought, as I stood there looking at the exquisite woodwork and solid brass fittings – showing off great human brilliance in craftsmanship from days gone by. She was well cared for, too, I noted.  How wonderful a place she was!  But in fact, I was here on a mission and I would be done with it quickly…or so I hoped.

            If I had just gotten on the ship and found the pearls immediately and returned home with them, perhaps there would be no real story to tell, I suppose.  But when I got there, I was already amazed at the ship herself, and engaged in much pondering about where those pearls might be, if in fact they were actually here.  But that’s what the note said, did it not? This was the ninth dock or slip as they call it – not knowing my sea-faring words you know.  Not much use for those inside a grandfather clock, I’m afraid.  But that was how clean and perfect this sailing ship really was.

            I felt almost giddy as I jumped down off the rail and headed toward the door, where I hoped I would find the captain’s quarters, perhaps below.  But one problem: CAT.  I spotted the monster as soon as I was on the deck and scrambled under a neatly wrapped line of hemp rope.  It smelled like fresh lacquer on the deck, so I assumed it had been polished of late, but it wasn’t sticky.  Perhaps that was why the giddiness! The lacquer was making me feel funny! Yes that was it!

            I decided that I should wait awhile and regain my proper composure before trying to out-wit the cat but I noticed that he wasn’t watching me, perhaps he was a bit rushed by the fresh lacquer fumes too.  He simply stretched out his grey paws and fell asleep in the sunlight – lucky beast!

            So it was then that I made my way toward (under it, mind you) the door on the far end from where I had been stationing myself.  There were no humans in sight yet at least.  I figured they were busy elsewhere or not on the ship at all, or even sleeping.  It was still morning after all.

            I then ran very swiftly along the outer edge of the deck until I got there and slid under the door, hoping no human would suddenly pass through and bash me into flatness with a foot.  But I was fortunate, nobody came through at that moment, and I was now inside, going down the small stairs below.

            There seemed no end to my amazement at this ship’s beauty – below deck was just as well cared for and polished as it was above, where all the world could see her magnificence.  I almost envied the mice that lived here in this lavish home, and wished to stay and live there too, but no -- this was not my place, my place was home on dry land, and right now, it was finding those pearls for the master of my house.

            Still no sign of humans.  Puzzling! I heard an old, old restored mariner’s clock ring out eleven times and knew it was now eleven o’clock so maybe they were all at lunch? Curious.  Seems they could have lunch here in this beautiful place?

            Oh well! I darted into the next room and found myself listening to every tick of that marvelous clock, as I shimmied up the base of the captain’s chair and onto his grand desk.  What did I expect to find there? I didn’t know.  But I saw the same handwriting as the note on the stairway, a sort of educated sprawl that lacked character – no doubt it was the handiwork of the captain of this ship! The ship’s captain must be the thief of the pearls!

            I felt my blood boil! How could anyone with this beautiful ship be a thief? Perhaps it was a hobby of his, collecting things that didn’t belong to him? I had no idea, but I stood there thinking for the longest time, hearing the clock ticking and the waves beating softly on the sides of the vessel. Slap! Slap! Slap! Interrupting the quiet, it seemed.  But here, the waves were part of the quiet weren’t they?

            There were certainly no other clues on this desk! And I couldn’t open the drawers, that is a common shortcoming of being a mouse, there is no way a mouse can open a heavy oak desk drawer, that’s all there is to it.

            Just then I heard voices, and scurried over to the shadows where no one could see me.

            “The new Captain and his wife and daughter will be aboard at three o’clock, Sir.” Stated a gravelly voice.  It was accented, just like in the movies, but still distant from where I was, so slightly muffled, though I could hear it plainly enough.

            “Very well then, I shall be gone until two then.” I assumed this was the voice of the captain, but of course, I had no real idea, being that this was the first I’d heard them speaking and I’d not seen them yet.  “It’s all set, correct?”

            “Oh yes, it’s all set Sir.”

            “Good, then two o’clock will be my farewell.” Replied the man I assumed to be the captain, the thief, that is.

            “Yes, Sir.” The gravelly one agreed.

            After that, there was a silence and I started feeling hunger pangs.  There must be something I could scrap up around here? I hoped so!  And I hoped that fat old cat was still snoozing on the deck, but of course I couldn’t be sure.  I poked my head out of the little corner I was hiding in and noted where I might find food, and surely enough, I wasn’t far from the little ship’s kitchen.  And yes, there was one human in there, an older woman preparing hors d'oeuvres. (They were certainly not justappetizers,’ here!) My stomach rumbled even more loudly I think about then.

            I found enough strength left in me to skitter over near her feet because most of the humans I’ve ever seen working on food, usually lose something on the floor….and sure enough, a mousely-sized piece of cheese awaited my hungry belly! Wonderful! It was Port Wine cheese, my favorite!

            I gulped the last bit of it down and found the sink very quickly, running up the sideboard of the counter, unnoticed by the woman, and drank a luxurious drink of the cool water that was still running.  Very quickly mind you, so as not to be beaten to death by a broom or something.  I surely liked it here.

            But, again, I was on a mission and wouldn’t be here long.  I merely left the kitchen and returned to the captain’s quarters to continue my search for the missing pearls for the master of the house.  Plus, not only that but if they were expecting someone to arrive at three o’clock, then, that must mean this ship was prepared to sail, did it not? I must find the pearls and take my leave before three o’clock! This is certainly an adventure!  I thought.  I might even tell it to my grandchildren! I’d never felt a rush inside me quite like this, even when running from a cat.

            I was suddenly filled with self importance and self- confidence; I was going to find those pearls come heck or high water (most likely high waters considering I was on a boat…err ship).

I returned to the top of the captain’s desk and looked around more closely, since my stomach was now full and I wasn’t skipping brain cells from lacquer fumes now.  There were official looking papers lying on the top of the pile but I didn’t take the time to read them. I simply looked around and around, at the pencils and the pens and the paperweight with a tiny sailing ship inside the thick glass that held down another piece of paper with that same handwriting on it.  It certainly had to be the ship’s captain’s handwriting, surely it was.

            Then I looked into the shadowy area of the desk, not far from where I had hidden previously – there was a silvery purple box among some wrappings, just sitting there, I hadn’t noticed it before.  I looked around me and then took both limbs and paws and opened the lid…

The pearls!!! All three of them, sat there gleaming, nested in the cottony soft sculptured interior, in a row, cradled there, beautiful and perfect.  I could almost imagine the interesting  place in the bottom of the ocean where they had originated from.  Somewhere in the sea, I thought.  Somewhere far from here.

            I pulled each one gently from its place and slipped them into my pockets, which were now bulging and heavy for me.  But I was thinking how happy the master would be to be able to give those to his lovely wife for her birthday, so the awkwardness didn’t matter one bit. I think I was probably ‘happy as a clam’ or maybe an oyster… at that moment!

            I was feeling a bit sluggish from the weight but carried on, I was going to go home now, very quickly if possible, and it wouldn’t take me more than an hour I hoped.  I would then set the missing pearls on the master’s desk well within his sights and be done with them. Perhaps I would watch from afar the master’s happiness!

            But first things first…on my way up the steps, I encountered the cat….or I could see him, he could not see me, but he was sensing me, somehow.

            I stopped in place and froze for a moment’s time and pondered what to do.  My pockets were bulging with an unfamiliar weight and I felt heavy.  I glanced over into the shadows again and hid myself even better.

            “It’s nearly two o’clock; the captain should be returning, Mrs. Fine.” Announced the same gravelly voice from earlier.  His head was  sticking inside the door but didn’t walk fully in, so I couldn’t see his face or gather his scent but he was darkening the shadows that I hid within and I could feel his presence above me.

            “Thanks Sir! I’ll be ready!” The woman in the kitchen yelled back.

            The cat seemed mostly clueless, and I breathed more quietly than ever so as not to raise his instincts any more than they already were.  I felt my whiskers twitch when I saw his twitching; he could sense me but he was not getting it, thank goodness!  (My kind of kitty!)

            Time passed, probably just moments but the cat walked away and into the kitchen, and I was able to scurry again under the bottom of the door and make my way back out onto the deck. 

            The pearls were so heavy now! I didn’t know what to make of that, I felt weary and settled down not far beyond the doorway and thought about the whole thing. Hoping that the master of my home would be pleased when he saw his missing pearls again. That was the ultimate goal here! It must have been the lacquer fumes there on the wood, because I felt faint and then thought of nothing for a time.

            I suddenly felt myself ascending  upwards back into consciousness as I heard merrymaking on the ship’s deck not far from me.  There was music now and some humans aboard were dancing, though just a few of them, and I was again taken aback, by the time of day it seemed to be, as the sun was now beginning to set.  Oh my! I had passed out and lost time!

            The ship had set sail and I was still on it! I was gasping with upset! How would I get home again? Where were they going? Then I remembered the master’s pearls and I still had them! How could I return them to the master now? I nearly fainted again from my own internal devastation. How could this happen?  What would become of me now?

            I sat for awhile and tried to regain my personal composure, figuring that I was still fairly safe, since I hadn’t been eaten in my sleep or shuffled off into the ocean while unconscious.  Then I merely watched the festivities.

            “Soon I shall give you a special gift my lovely wife!” Announced a familiar voice.

            “Pardon me, Captain Sir, but I have something to tell you.”

            “What is it?”

            “The gift is missing from your desk, I just checked, Sir. I’m very sorry.”

            “Missing again? OH my!”

            I would have fell off my chair had I been in one…it was the master’s voice! Instead, I just stumbled a bit into the wall.

            The two men hurried passed and down into the captain’s quarters, and sure enough, it was the master from my home.  He was the new Ship’s Captain, as apparently he had longed to sail the seas with his wife and daughter, and I had taken his precious pearls!  I was the only “thief” here it seemed! I gasped for breath again and contemplated how I would return them quickly and unnoticed! 

The evidence of my crime bulged from my pockets and there was so much activity aboard the ship now that I had no idea if I would be squashed on the way to returning the precious pearls to their purplish box on the desk.  I shuddered, and noted I was also hungry again.

            In the meantime, the master came back through and announced to his wife that the special gift had been misplaced and that it would be found shortly, since he had already told her that there was in fact, a gift waiting for her. I assumed that life aboard this magnificent ship was also a gift but at this moment, the three pearls were all that mattered.

            I got under the door and rushed down the stairs, not caring if the clueless monster of a cat saw me or not – with all my bulges, he might have thought I was something other than a mouse anyway!

            Quickly, I found another way to conquer the climb up the desk, finding a side way to accommodate the extra weight I was handling, and emerged onto it, and just in the nick of time, replaced the beautiful pearls back in their precious box. I was no longer a ‘thief’, and now the master could stop sweating it out and finally gift his wife with those lovely pearls.

            Then I found myself a place inside the cabin near a porthole so I could watch the master giving them to his lady on her birthday.

            As of this writing, we have sailed under great white sails on open waters for days and endless starry nights unknown to me, and have been to many faraway places to which we may or may not return again, but I am alive and well and living on the Ship of Dreams known as “The Three Pearls.” Imagine that?

THE END

Castle by Toni Donelow Stewart

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