They had just moved into the Cape Cod house near the seashore. The house needed some work but it was beautiful and cozy just the same. Because of the cool fall air, the agent had lit the fire in the great room. Boxes were piled everywhere. Sari sat on one of these boxes and played with her favorite doll. It would be a while before her parents would bring her upstairs to her bedroom once it was settled.
Sari was a beautiful child, just eight years old. Her hair was straight as an arrow, long and pitch black to match her big dark brown eyes surrounded with long black lashes. Her skin was fair and she always had rosy check and pale pink lips. Her smile could light up a room. She was ever so polite and accepted everything given to her, without a complaint. She was a special child.
The unpacking went on for a while and several days but finally Sari’s room was ready. The pink bed with the matching ruffled canopy looked wonderful and all of her dolls and stuffed animals adorned it lovingly. Sari sat in her little rocking chair by the window inhaling enthusiastically the sea air which drifted in.
“Mama,” it’s beautiful outside.
“So it is sweetheart. Now don’t overdo it. You know how tired you get if you do.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t.”
Sari’s father came into the room and remarked, “Now I wonder what that beautiful bird cage is for.”
It hung from the ceiling and swung gently in the Cape Cod breezes. The door was open. Obviously the previous owners had owned a bird of some kind.
Days went by and the family settled in.
Being a special sort of child, Sari was homeschooled. Her mother had already unpacked all of her books and arranged them according to subject so Sari could find them easily when she needed a book on a given subject. Her mother spent the mornings teaching her and in the afternoons, they would wander outside to the shore, walking barefoot on the sand. Sari would reach down and find seashells here and there. Then she would bring them back to her room and place them in a Mason jar her mother had bought her. She would empty the jar on her desk and feel all the different shells and ruffles they had. She had even found a sand dollar.
“Sari,” her mother admonished, “”you’re getting sand everywhere!”
“I’m sorry Mama, I’ll try to be more careful. It’s just that they’re still filled with sand and I can’t seem to play with them without getting the sand on my desk.”
She sounded so forlorn, her mother couldn’t help but feel sorry for what she said.
“Never mind,” she cajoled, “I’ll clean it up for you.”
So Sari continued to play with her shells until it was bedtime.
“Okay little lady,” her father said, “It’s time for bed. Both mother and father tucked her in snuggly and left her to fall asleep.
Just as she was drifting off to sleep, she heard a strange sound. It was a song, a bird song.
“Who’s there?” Sari asked, strangely enough unafraid.
And the bird continued its serenade. It went on for a while until Sari fell asleep.
The next morning, Sari asked her parents if they had heard a bird singing in the night.
“No dear,” they replied. “You must have been dreaming. But Sari knew what she had heard.
The next night, once her parents had put her to sleep, the bird came in and began to sing again. It sat in its cage and sang the most enchanting song ever known.
“Who are you little bird and why are you singing to me?”
“I am known as the silver Nightingale. I am enchanted and my spell is to sing to a deserving child every night until they fall asleep. I must return to my enchanted cage every night until the sun comes up and then I must go until the next evening.”
“How long does your enchantment last?”
“Until I find the right child who can release me from my emperor’s spell. I have been searching for this child for a very long time and I am hoping that perhaps this time I have found the right child.’
“How will you know if it is me?”
“Time will tell my child, time will tell.” And she started to sing until Sari fell asleep.
The next morning, Sari again asked her parents if they had heard the bird’s singing, but they still denied hearing anything.
“You must have a vivid imagination,” her mother signed and looked at her husband, a bit worried.
When her parents were alone, they expressed some concern about their daughter’s tale.
“I hope this has nothing to do with her trying to make up for something lost from the old house.” Her mother said.
“No, Honey,” he replied. “I’m sure it’s just the novelty of the new house and that beautiful bird cage hanging in her room.”
“Perhaps we should take it down.”
“No dear,” he assured her, “It would make her upset and we don’t want to do that after all she has been through.”
“Well, all right then.”
And so no more mention was made of it. And every night, Sari was serenaded to sleep. Feeling her parents’ displeasure, however, she felt it unwise to mention it again.
The silver Nightingale came again that night, but instead of beginning her nightly song, she spoke to Sari.
“Sari, tonight I bring you a special gift. You must agree to accept it. I ask you this because if you agree I will be released from the emperor’s spell and you won’t hear me again.”
“Never hear you again? I don’t think I can agree to such a thing. How will I exist without your beautiful song to sing me to sleep?”
“Because the gift I have for you is worth so much more and you will see that I promise. You will thank me forever.”
Sari thought about it a few minutes and being the giving child she was she decided she wanted to help the Nightingale more than anything else in the world break the emperor’s spell.
“I agree then. I want you, too, to be happy like I am. It would be unfair to keep you bound to me out of my selfishness. Tell me what I have to do.”
“You don’t have to do anything. Just look at the birdcage and watch.”
Sari knew where the birdcage was because she had bumped into it once while exploring her room, so she fixed her gaze at it.
Suddenly, she saw the beautiful silver Nightingale inside the cage. The door was open.
“I can’t believe it! She exclaimed. “I can see you.”
The Nightingale flew from the cage where it had been all these many days and flew to Sari’s open-stretched hand. Sari gently pet it and they two of them rubbed noses.
“To think you have been there all this time.”
“Yes and in order to break the emperor’s enchantment I had to do a special deed to help a child. And now I have done so. You can see.”
Sari was beside herself. She looked all around her room. Holding the Nightingale she ran here and there; she threw all of her seashells on her desk and studied them, one by one. She saw each grain of sand that she knew her mother would yell at her for making such a mess, but she didn’t care. She could see!
Her parents had often prayed that her sight would return after the accident she was in and now their prayers had been answered.
“Sari, I must leave you know and return to the land of my ancestry, free at last. I leave you with the gift of sight and with the hope you will never forget me.”
“But before you go, you must tell me your name, please,” she begged.
“My name is Emeralda, after the great jewel in the emperor’s crown.”
“Emeralda. I shall never forget it.”
“And now I must go. But before I do, go over and close the door of the birdcage because I no longer need to come back. Keep it as a reminder but tell no one about me or how your sight was returned or the spell of your sight will be broken.”
“I promise Emeralda. I will never tell anyone and I won’t let anyone near the cage. I will hide it.”
“That would be wise for the emperor must never find it or I will be enchanted again.”
Sari took down the cage and placed it in a safe place with its door tied shut so no one could ever open it again.
Sari wasn’t sure how to break the news to her parents so she went downstairs and sat at the breakfast table. Her parents paid her no particular mind as her actions were customary, nothing strange.
When she reached for the jam for her toast, they still took no notice. Only when she got up and went to get the milk, did her mother do a double take.
“How did you do that?”
Simple Mama, I just went and got it.”
“Got it? How did you see it?”
By then her father had stood up, a look of utter surprise on his face. “Sari,” he ventured carefully, “You saw it?”
“You can see,” her mother yelled, “You can see?” She was beside herself. “How is that possible?”
“I don’t know Mama, I just woke up and I could see everything, my room, the seashore, my shells, everything.”
“Our prayers have been answered, both parents exclaimed. “The doctors were right. They said there was always the possibility she would regain her sight and so she has.”
The group held each other and outside the kitchen window Sari saw Emeralda fly away.