There was once a Goldfish who lived in the sea in the days when all fishes lived there. He was perfectly happy, and had only one care; and that was to avoid the net that floated about in the water now here, now there. But all the fish had been warned by King Neptune, their father, to avoid the net, and in those days they did as they were bid. So the Goldfish enjoyed a glorious life, swimming for days and days in the blue and green water: sometimes low down close to the sand and shells and pearls and coral, and the big rocks where the anemones grew like clusters of gay flowers, and the seaweed waved in frills and fans of red and green and yellow; and sometimes he swam high up near the surface of the sea, where the white caps chased each other, and the great waves rose like mountains of glass and tumbled over themselves with a crash. When the Goldfish was as near the top as this, he sometimes saw swimming in the bright blue water far, far above him a great Gold Fish, as golden as himself, but as round as a jelly-fish. And at other times, when that distant water was dark blue instead of bright, he saw a Silver Fish such as he had never met under the sea, and she too was often round in shape, though at times, when she seemed to swim sideways through the water, he could see her pointed silver fins. Our Goldfish felt a certain jealousy of the other Gold' Fish, but with the Silver Fish he fell in love at sight, and longed to be able to swim up to her. Whenever he tried to do this, something queer happened that made him lose his breath; and with a gasp, he sank down into the ocean, so deep that he could see the Silver Fish no longer. Then, hoping he might descend to swim in his own water, he swam for miles and miles in search of her; but he never had the luck to find her. One night as he was swimming about in very calm water, he saw overhead the motionless shadow of an enormous fish. One great long fin ran under its belly in the water, but all the rest of it was raised above the surface. The Goldfish knew every fish in the sea, but he had never before seen such a fish as this. It was bigger than the Whale, and as black as the ink of the Octopus. He swam all round it, touching it with his inquisitive little nose. At last he asked, "What sort of fish are you!" The big black shadow laughed. "I am not a fish at all, I am a ship." "What are you doing here if you are not a fish?"
"Just at present I am doing nothing, for I am becalmed. But when the wind blows I shall go on sailing round the world." "What is the world?"
"All that you see and even more."
"Am I in the world, then?" asked the Goldfish.
"Certainly you are."
The Goldfish gave a little jump of delight. "Good news! Good news!" he cried. A passing Porpoise paused to ask, "What are you shouting for?" "Because I am in the world!"
"Who says so?"
"The Ship-Fish!" said the Goldfish.
"Pooh!" said the Porpoise, "let him prove it!" and passed on. The Goldfish stopped jumping, because his joy had been damped by doubt. "How can the world be more than I can see?" he asked the Ship. "If I am really in the world I ought to be able to see it all — or how can I be sure?" "You must take my word for it," said the Ship. "A tiny fellow like you can never hope to see more than a scrap of the world. The world has a rim you can never see over; the world has foreign lands full of wonders that you can never look upon; the world is as round as an orange, but you will never see how round the world is." Then the Ship went on to tell of the parts of the world that lay beyond the rim of things, of men and women and children, of flowers and trees, of birds with eyes in their tails, blue, gold, and green, of white and black elephants and temples hung with tinkling bells. The Goldfish wept with longing because he could never see over the rim of things, because he could not see how round the world was, because he could not behold all at once all the wonders that were in...
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