Traveling on, the shaft of his light reached now a great, dully shining oblong, and he stopped, surprised. Then, through the glass sides, he saw bright shapes of fish wheel in schools down the opaque water, startled by the illumination. Coming at last, and so suddenly, on life like his own, Mr. Lecky moved closer. The fixed flood of his light enveloped these small fish dimly, glowed back on him. They came sliding, drifting, mouths in motion, gills rippling, up the light, against the glass. Their senseless round eyes stared at Mr. Lecky. Idling with great grace, the extravagant products of selective breeding - fringetails, Korean, calico - passed, swayed about, came languidly back. Moving faster, stub-finned, crop-tailed danios from the Malabar coast appeared, hovered, taking the light on their fat flanks, now spotted, now iridescent pearl or opal.Seeing so many of them, so eager and attentive, Mr. Lecky felt an unexpected compunction. He was their only proprietor; and soon, trapped unnaturally here in the big tank, they would starve to death. His light went back to a counter he had just passed, showing him again the half-noticed packages - food for birds and pet animals, food, too, for fish. Returning to the tank, his light found many of the fish still waiting, the rest rushing back. He went and took a package, tore the top off, and poured the contents onto the rectangle of open water. It would perhaps postpone the time when, having eaten each other, the sick remainder must die anyway.
When I was a child I had a fishless aquarium. My father set it up for me with gravel and plants and pebbles before he'd got the fish and I asked him to leave it as it was for a while. The pump kept up a charming burble, the green-gold light was wondrous when the room was dark. I put in a china mermaid and a tin horseman who maintained a relationship like that of the figures on Keat's Grecian urn except that the horseman grew rusty. Eventually fish were pressed upon me and they seemed an intrusion, I gave them to a friend. All that aquarium wanted was the sound of the pump, the gently waving plants, the mysterious pebbles and the silent horseman forever galloping to the mermaid smiling in the green-gold light. I used to sit and look at them for hours. The mermaid and the horseman were from my father. I have them in a box somewhere here, I'm not yet ready to take them out and look at them again.