Chapter Thirteen: The Flying Fish
“That is capital!” I cried, sitting up to look across at Arthur. “I believe you really live the character of Jimmy and forget all about Arthur for the time being.”
“I am afraid I do,” he confessed, looking a little shamefaced. “I always get absorbed in a story like that.”
“A good thing you do, or you would not be able to absorb your hearers either.”
“You really think so? You think it will please the kiddies?”
“It certainly will, if I know anything about them. I like your original treatment, in giving an ‘insect’s eye-view’ of common-place things. Will Jimmy appear in the other stories?”
“No, he only introduces the stories.” Arthur was sitting up, now, clasping his knees. “Each story is going to be told from the point of view of an animal, fish or bird; each must be authentic—for it is amazing how ‘well up’ many children are in these matters—and each will teach a little lesson.”
“What kind of lesson?”
“Well, something to help in their education, you know—only of course they must not be allowed to suspect it! Sometimes it will be a lesson in charity; in others, patience, generosity or humility. So all the time they will be growing, and being fitted to occupy a higher place in Heaven.”
“You’re going to delight the kiddies and do a great work for the Master, too.”
“Oh, I do hope so,” Arthur said fervently; “but I cannot start my work on the second story until I have acquired some information. That is why I was so glad to see you, for none of the others could help me.”
“I thought a man could ‘reach out’ for any information he wanted with his mind.”
“Yes, but this is earth information. As no one learned this while on earth, they could not give it to me, and I do want to get all my facts just right. In fact, they must be perfect in the end.” I looked at his serious face and could not help comparing him with Stephen and Marie. These were both so light-hearted in their individual ways, but Arthur was exceedingly solemn! And then I reflected on the harm I had done him on earth, and how a sensitive type like this would suffer far more than any other. “Yet the Master has need of all,” I mused, “and despite his gravity he is undoubtedly very happy.”
“Well, tell me what you want to know,” I invited at last. I must confess my heart faltered a little at the thought that I might have to fail him, for I had never been very ‘good’ at ‘general information’ on earth. And then I could have laughed with relief at the anti-climax, for Arthur leant toward me and asked: “Do flying fish move their wings to get along in the air?”
“Now that is something I really can tell you, for I was reading an article about them only the other day—at least, I suppose it was only the other day? One cannot be sure of time here. The article went into the whole question and even had photographs to prove it.”
“Good. I thought you were the one to help me.” Then eagerly: “Now tell me all about it—every detail!” I screwed up my eyes in an effort to collect my thoughts. It seemed so strange to be thinking back to earth again—like looking into deep shadow while standing in strong sunlight.
“The flying fish,” I began at last, “lashes its tail three or four times while under the water. This gives it its motive power, and then it instantly rises into the air and ‘coasts’ along. It does not move its wings to progress in mid-air, but drops to the surface of the water, lashes its tail again without submerging, and then rises on the wing. Eventually, of course, it drops below the surface and continues swimming.”
“Good, good!” Arthur was quite excited and I could not help smiling. We sat for quite a long while talking, after that, and even made arrangements to meet later on in the Hall of Children. I felt very light-hearted and relieved, too, at the thought of the ugly mark cleansed from my robe. The remembrance made me start to my feet and bid my friend goodbye. He clasped my shoulder, and I his. The dear fellow was radiant, with the dreamy look in his eyes which assured me that he would not even miss me when I had gone!
“Goodbye, and many, many thanks, Bernard!” I turned and strode down the winding path.