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Age Rating 8 Plus.

Imitation Fish.

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The sound of the waves came nearer and nearer, and on and on the child went, until at last he stopped at the end of a long pier, beneath which the water rushed and foamed. Then the child looked at the imitation fish again, and kissed it for the last time, while his tears fell upon its red-and-yellow sides. " Farewell, dear little fish," he said. " You shall never be lonely more, or live in a stupid little card- board box ; you shall go back to your home in the sea, and dwell among others like you. I love you, dear little fish farewell ! " and the child dropped it into the deep water beneath. For one moment the poor little imitation fish dimly saw out of one painted eye the sweet face above, and then the waves tossed it away and away, farther and farther out to sea. " Ah, dear child," it cried in terrible fear, " your purity has been the ruin of my false self. I was not made for things that were real ; now I am indeed lost." But no one took any notice of the poor toy, and the living fish swam past it with scarcely a glance ; even they knew it was a sham ; and when the fisher- man cast his line into the sea, the hook at the end did not touch or hurt the imitation fish ; all around it was heedless of its presence, only the waves went on tossing it day after day, week after week. Some- times the sunlight came, and the real fish swam about and were glad ; or the storms, and they crowded into the fisherman's net; but nothing pleased or hurt or harmed the imitation fish only the waves went on tossing and tossing.

At last, after a long, long time, the waves seemed to be going on and on, always in one direction, and the fish went with them, until at last it was thrown on the shore among the pebbles and seaweed, and the little pools of water that collected between great stones; and the little fish was thankful, for it had escaped from a great loneliness, and the quiet of the shore seemed a blessed thing after the ceaseless toss- ing of the waves. How long it lay there it never knew, but one day there was a sudden sound of a voice, and the little fish was lifted up by hands almost as tender as the child's. " It is so like a toy my darling loved ! " a voice said ; and a great happiness stole over the poor little fish, for he knew the voice of the child's mother. " He had a little fish that pleased him more than all his other toys, but he thought it was real, and threw it into the sea to make it happy," and she raised it to her lips, and kissed it passionately again and again, and bathed it in her tears. Then the little fish was sad, and yet thankful and glad to feel itself gcing back to the child. And the mother put it in a soft hiding-place, and looked at it many a time, kissing it tenderly; for the sound of the child's voice was hushed, and the blue eyes that had so lovingly watched the imitation fish watched it never again grave blue eyes that were closed for evermore.

The End.


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