“In the town they tell the story of the great pearl—how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man’s mind…If this story is a parable, perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it. In any case, they say in the town that…”
Juana sang softly an ancient song that had only three notes and yet endless variety of interval. And this was part of the family song too. It was all part. Sometimes it rose to an aching chord that caught the throat, saying this is safety, this is warmth, this is the Whole.
This doctor was of a race which for nearly four hundred years had beaten and starved and robbed and despised Kino’s race, and frightened it too, so that the indigene came humbly to the door.
Every year Kino refinished his canoe with the hard shell-like plaster by the secret method that had also come to him from his father. Now he came to the canoe and touched the bow tenderly as he always did.
She gathered some brown seaweed and made a flat damp poultice of it, and this she applied to the baby’s swollen shoulder, which was as good a remedy as any and probably better than the doctor could have done. But the remedy lacked his authority because it was simple and didn’t cost anything.
In the surface of the great pearl he could see dream forms. He picked the pearl from the dying flesh and held it in his palm, and he turned it over and saw that its curve was perfect.
The essence of pearl mixed with the essence of men and a curious dark residue was precipitated. Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes…of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man’s enemy.
It was the rifle that broke down the barriers. This was an impossibility, and if he could think of having a rifle whole horizons were burst and he could rush on. For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more.
“I hope thou wilt remember to give thanks, my son, to Him who has given thee this treasure, and to pray for guidance in the future.”
But now, by saying what his future was going to be like, he had created it. A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities—never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked…He knew that the gods take their revenge on a man if he be successful through his own efforts. Consequently Kino was afraid of plans, but having made one, he could never destroy it.
And he could not take the chance of pitting his certain ignorance against this man’s possible knowledge. He was trapped as his people were always trapped, and would be until, as he had said, they could be sure that the things in the books were really in the books.
[The doctor] held the eyelid down. “See—it is blue.” And Kino, looking anxiously, saw that indeed it was a little blue. And he didn’t know whether or not it was always a little blue. But the trap was set. He couldn’t take the chance.
“Who do you fear?” Kino searched for a true answer, and at last he said, “Everyone.” And he could feel a shell of hardness drawing over him.
All of the neighbors hoped that sudden wealth would not turn Kino’s head, would not make a rich man of him, would not graft onto him the evil limbs of greed and hatred and coldness. For Kino was a well-liked man; it would be a shame if the pearl destroyed him.
But there was no sign, no movement, the face did not change, but the secret hand behind the desk missed in its precision. The coin stumbled over a knuckle and slipped silently into the dealer’s lap.
“I am afraid. A man can be killed. Let us throw the pearl back into the sea.” “Hush,” he said fiercely. “I am a man. Hush.”
A dead man in the path and Kino’s knife, dark bladed beside him, convinced her. All of the time Juana had been trying to rescue something of the old peace, of the time before the pearl. But now it was gone, and there was no retrieving it.
The killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat. For a boat does not have sons, and a boat cannot protect itself, and a wounded boat does not heal.
And Kino ran for the high place, as nearly all animals do when they are pursued.
“Juana,” he said, “I will go and you will hide…if I can escape them, I will come to you. It is the only safe way.” She looked full into his eyes for a moment. “No,” she said. “We go with you.”
Everyone in La Paz remembers the return of the family; there may be some old ones who saw it, but those whose fathers and whose grandfathers told it to them remember it nevertheless. It is an event that happened to everyone.
The two came from the rutted country road into the city, and they were not walking in single file, Kino ahead and Juana behind, as usual, but side by side.
The people say that the two seemed to be removed from human experience; that they had gone through pain and had come out on the other side; that there was almost a magical protection about them.
And then Kino laid the rifle down, and he dug among his clothes, and then he held the great pearl in his hand. He looked into its surface and it was gray and ulcerous. Evil faces peered from it into his eyes, and he saw the light of burning.
And the pearl settled into the lovely green water and dropped toward the bottom. The waving branches of the algae called to it and beckoned to it.