Part 5 out of 8
higher, and fouler and fouler, full of beetles, and sticks, and straws,
and worms, and addle-eggs, and wood lice, and leeches, and odds and
ends, and this, that, and the other, enough to fill nine museums.
Tom could hardly stand against the stream, and hid behind a rock. But
the trout did not; for out they rushed from among the stones, and began
gobbling the beetles and leeches in the most greedy and quarrelsome way,
and swimming about with great worms hanging out of their mouths, tugging
and kicking to get them away from each other.
And now, by the flashes of the lightning, Tom saw a new sight--all the
bottom of the stream alive with great eels, turning and twisting along,
all down stream and away. They had been hiding for weeks past in the
cracks of the rocks, and in burrows in the mud; and Tom had hardly even
seen them, except now and then at night; but now they were all out, and
went hurrying past him so fiercely and wildly that he was quite
frightened. And as they hurried past he could hear them say to each
other, "We must run, we must run. What a jolly thunderstorm! Down to the
sea, down to the sea!"
And then the otter came by with all her brood, twining and sweeping
along as fast as the eels themselves; and she spied Tom as she came by,
"Now is your time, eft, if you want to see the world. Come along,
children, never mind those nasty eels; we shall breakfast on salmon to-
morrow. Down to the sea, down to the sea!"
Then came a flash brighter than all the rest, and by the light of it--in
the thousandth part of a second they were gone again--but he had seen
them, he was certain of it--three beautiful little white girls, with
their arms twined round each other's necks, floating down the torrent,
as they sang, "Down to the sea, down to the sea!"
"Oh, stay! Wait for me!" cried Tom; but they were gone; yet he could
hear their voices clear and sweet through the roar of thunder and water
and wind, singing as they died away, "Down to the sea!"
"Down to the sea!" said Tom; "everything is going to the sea, and I will
go too. Good-bye, trout." But the trout were so busy gobbling worms that
they never turned to answer him; so that Tom was spared the pain of
bidding them farewell.
And now, down the rushing stream, guided by the bright flashes of the
storm; past tall birch-fringed rocks, which shone out one moment as
clear as day, and the next were dark as night; past dark hovers under
swirling banks, from which great trout rushed out on Tom, thinking him
to be good to eat, and turned back sulkily, for the fairies sent them
home again with a tremendous scolding, for daring to meddle with a water
baby; on through narrow strids [Footnote: strid (rare) means a place the
length of a stride] and roaring cataracts, where Tom was deafened and
blinded for a moment by the rushing waters; along deep reaches, where
the white water lilies tossed and flapped beneath the wind and hail;
past sleeping villages; under dark bridge arches, and away and away to
the sea. And Tom could not stop, and did not care to stop; he would see
the great world below, and the salmon, and the breakers, and the wide,
And when the daylight came, Tom found himself out in the salmon river.
A full hundred yards broad it was, sliding on from broad pool to broad
shallow, and broad shallow to broad pool, over great fields of shingle,
under oak and ash coverts, past low cliffs of sandstone, past green
meadows, and fair parks, and a great house of gray stone, and brown
moors above, and here and there against the sky the smoking chimney of a
[Illustration: THE SALMON, KING OF ALL THE FISH]
But Tom thought nothing about what the river was like. All his fancy
was, to get down to the wide, wide sea.
And after a while he came to a place where the river spread out into
broad, still, shallow reaches, so wide that little Tom, as he put his
head out of the water, could hardly see across.
And there he stopped. He got a little frightened. "This must be the
sea," he thought. "What a wide place it is! If I go on into it I shall
surely lose my way, or some strange thing will bite me. I will stop here
and look out for the otter, or the eels, or some one to tell me where I
So he went back a little way, and crept into a crack of the rock, just
where the river opened out into the wide shallows, and watched for some
one to tell him his way; but the otter and the eels were gone on miles
and miles down the stream.
There he waited, and slept, too, for he was quite tired with his night's
journey; and, when he woke, the stream was clearing to a beautiful amber
hue, though it was still very high. And after a while, he saw a sight
which made him jump up; for he knew in a moment it was one of the things
which he had come to look for.
Such a fish! ten times as big as the biggest trout, and a hundred times
as big as Tom, sculling up the stream past him, as easily as Tom had
Such a fish! shining silver from head to tail, and here and there a
crimson dot; with a grand hooked nose and grand curling lip, and a grand
bright eye, looking round him as proudly as a king, and surveying the
water right and left as if all belonged to him. Surely he must be the
salmon, the king of all the fish.
Tom was so frightened that he longed to creep into a hole; but he need
not have been; for salmon are all true gentlemen, and, like true
gentlemen, they look noble and proud enough, and yet, like true
gentlemen, they never harm or quarrel with any one, but go about their
own business, and leave rude fellows to themselves.
The salmon looked at him full in the face, and then went on without
minding him, with a swish or two of his tail which made the stream boil
again. And in a few minutes came another, and then four or five, and so
on; and all passed Tom, rushing and plunging up the cataract with strong
strokes of their silver tails, now and then leaping clean out of water
and up over a rock, shining gloriously for a moment in the bright sun;
while Tom was so delighted that he could have watched them all day long.
And at last one came up bigger than all the rest; but he came slowly,
and stopped, and looked back, and seemed very anxious and busy. And Tom
saw that he was helping another salmon, an especially handsome one, who
had not a single spot upon it, but was clothed in pure silver from nose
"My dear," said the great fish to his companion, "you really look
dreadfuly tired, and you must not overexert yourself at first. Do rest
yourself behind this rock;" and he shoved her gently with his nose, to
the rock were Tom sat.
You must know that this was the salmon's wife. For salmon, like other
true gentlemen, always choose their lady, and love her, and are true to
her, and take care of her and work for her, and fight for her, as every
true gentleman ought; and are not like vulgar chub and roach and pike,
who have no high feelings, and take no care of their wives.
Then he saw Tom, and looked at him very fiercely one moment, as if he
was going to bite him.
"What do you want here?" he said, very fiercely.
"Oh, don't hurt me!" cried Tom. "I only want to look at you; you are so
"Ah?" said the salmon, very stately but very civilly. "I really beg your
pardon; I see what you are, my little dear. I have met one or two
creatures like you before, and found them very agreeable and well
behaved. Indeed, one of them showed me a great kindness lately, which I
hope to be able to repay. I hope we shall not be in your way here. As
soon as this lady is rested, we shall proceed on our journey."
What a well-bred old salmon he was!
"So you have seen things like me before?" asked Tom.
"Several times, my dear. Indeed, it was only last night that one at the
river's mouth came and warned me and my wife of some new stake-nets
which had got into the stream, I cannot tell how, since last winter, and
showed us the way round them, in the most charmingly obliging way."
"So there are babies in the sea?" cried Tom, and clapped his little
hands. "Then I shall have some one to play with there? How delightful!"
"Were there no babies up this stream?" asked the lady salmon.
"No! and I grew so lonely. I thought I saw three last night; but they
were gone in an instant, down to the sea. So I went, too; for I had
nothing to play with but caddises and dragon flies and trout,"
"Ugh!" cried the lady, "what low company!"
"My dear, if he has been in low company, he has certainly not learnt
their low manners," said the salmon.
"No indeed, poor little dear; but how sad for him to live among such
people as caddises, who have actually six legs, the nasty things; and
dragon flies, too! why they are not even good to eat; for I tried them
once, and they are all hard and empty; and as for trout, every one knows
what they are." Whereon she curled up her lip, and looked dreadfully
scornful, while her husband curled up his, too, till he looked as proud
as Alcibiades. [Footnote: Alcibiades was a particularly handsome and
particularly proud Greek, who lived in the time of the great wars
between the two Greek states of Athens and Sparta. He took part in these
wars, first on the side of Athens, then on the side of Sparta, and
finally succeeded in gaining the hatred of both states by his treachery
and unscrupulousness. He went into exile, but was finally put to death
by the Persians at the command of the Athenians and Spartans (404 B.
"Why do you dislike the trout so?" asked Tom.
"My dear, we do not even mention them, if we can help it; for I am sorry
to say they are relations of ours who do us no credit. A great many
years ago they were just like us; but they were so lazy, and cowardly,
and greedy, that instead of going down to the sea every year to see the
world and grow strong and fat, they chose to stay and poke about in the
little streams and eat worms and grubs; and they are very properly
punished for it; for they have grown ugly and brown and spotted and
small; and are actually so degraded in their tastes that they will eat
So the salmon went up, after Tom had warned them of the wicked old
otter; and Tom went down, but slowly and cautiously, coasting along the
shore. He was many days about it, for it was many miles down to the sea;
and perhaps he would never have found his way, if the fairies had not
guided him, without his seeing their faces, or feeling their gentle
And as he went, he had a very strange adventure. It was a clear, still
September night, and the moon shone so brightly down through the water
that he could not sleep, though he shut his eyes as tight as possible.
So at last he came up to the top, and sat upon a little point of rock,
and looked up at the broad yellow moon, and wondered what she was, and
thought that she looked at him. And he watched the moonlight on the
rippling river, and the black heads of the firs, and the silver-frosted
lawns, and listened to the owl's hoot, and the snipe's bleat, and the
fox's bark, and the otter's laugh; and smelt the soft perfume of the
birches, and the wafts of heather honey off the grouse moor far above;
and felt very happy. You, of course, would have been very cold sitting
there on a September night, without the least bit of clothes on your wet
back; but Tom was a water baby, and therefore felt cold no more than a
Suddenly he saw a beautiful sight. A bright red light moved along the
riverside, and threw down into the water a long taproot of flame. Tom,
curious little rogue that he was, must needs go and see what it was; so
he swam to the shore, and met the light as it stopped over a shallow run
at the edge of a low rock.
And there, underneath the light, lay five or six great salmon, looking
up at the flame with their great goggle eyes, and wagging their tails,
as if they were very much pleased at it.
Tom came to the top, to look at this wonderful light nearer, and made a
And he heard a voice say:
"There was a fish rose."
He did not know what the words meant; but he seemed to know the sound of
them, and to know the voice which spoke them; and he saw on the bank
three great two-legged creatures, one of whom held the light, flaring
and sputtering, and another a long pole. And he knew that they were men,
and was frightened, and crept into a hole in the rock, from which he
could see what went on.
The man with the torch bent down over the water and looked earnestly in;
and then he said:
"Tak' that muckle fellow, lad; he's ower fifteen punds; and haud your
hand steady." [Footnote: MUCKLE is an old English word meaning LARGE.]
Tom felt that there was some danger coming, and longed to warn the
foolish salmon, who kept staring up at the light as if he was bewitched.
But before he could make up his mind, down came the pole through the
water; there was a fearful splash and struggle, and Tom saw that the
poor salmon was speared right through, and was lifted out of the water.
And then, from behind, there sprang on these three men three other men;
and there were shouts, and blows, and words which Tom recollected to
have heard before; and he shuddered and turned sick at them now, for he
felt somehow that they were strange, and ugly, and wrong, and horrible.
And it all began to come back to him. They were men; and they were
fighting; savage, desperate, up-and-down fighting, such as Tom had seen
too many times before.
And he stopped his little ears, and longed to swim away; and was very
glad that he was a water baby, and had nothing to do any more with
horrid dirty men, with foul clothes on their backs, and foul words on
their lips; but he dared not stir out of his hole, while the rock shook
over his head with the trampling and struggling of the keepers and the
All of a sudden there was a tremendous splash, and a frightful flash,
and a hissing, and all was still.
For into the water, close to Tom, fell one of the men--he who held the
light in his hand. Into the swift river he sank, and rolled over and
over in the current. Tom heard the men above run along, seemingly
looking for him; but he drifted down into the deep hole below, and there
lay quite still, and they could not find him.
Tom waited a long time, till all was quiet; and then he peeped out, and
saw the man lying. At last he screwed up his courage and swam down to
him. "Perhaps," he thought, "the water has made him fall asleep, as it
Then he went nearer. He grew more and more curious, he could not tell
why. He must go and look at him. He would go very quietly, of course; so
he swam round and round him, closer and closer; and, as he did not stir,
at last, he came quite close and looked him in the face.
The moon shone so bright that Tom could see every feature; and, as he
saw, he recollected, bit by bit; it was his old master, Grimes.
Tom turned tail, and swam away as fast as he could,
"Oh dear me!" he thought, "now he will turn into a water baby. What a
nasty, troublesome one he will be! And perhaps he will find me out, and
beat me again."
So he went up the river again a little way, and lay there the rest of
the night under an alder root; but when morning came, he longed to go
down again to the big pool, and see whether Mr. Grimes had turned into a
water baby yet.
So he went very carefully, peeping round all the rocks, and hiding under
all the roots. Mr. Grimes lay there still; he had not turned into a
water baby. In the afternoon Tom went back again. He could not rest till
he had found out what had become of Mr. Grimes. But this time Mr. Grimes
was gone; and Tom made up his mind that he was turned into a water baby.
He might have made himself easy, poor little man; Mr. Grimes did not
turn into a water baby, or anything like one at all. But he did not make
himself easy; and a long time he was fearful lest he should meet Grimes
suddenly in some deep pool. He could not know that the fairies had
carried him away, and put him, where they put everything which falls
into the water, exactly where it ought to be.
Then Tom went on down, for he was afraid of staying near Grimes; and as
he went, all the vale looked sad. The red and yellow leaves showered
down into the river; the flies and beetles were all dead and gone; the
chill autumn fog lay low upon the hills, and sometimes spread itself so
thickly on the river that he could not see his way. But he felt his way
instead, following the flow of the stream, day after day, past great
bridges, past boats and barges, past the great town, with its wharfs,
and mills, and tall smoking chimneys, and ships which rode at anchor in
the stream; and now and then he ran against their hawsers, and wondered
what they were, and peeped out, and saw the sailors lolling on board
smoking their pipes; and ducked under again, for he was terribly afraid
of being caught by man and turned into a chimney-sweep once more. He did
not know that the fairies were close to him always, shutting the
sailors' eyes lest they should see him, and turning him aside from
millraces, and sewer mouths, and all foul and dangerous things. Poor
little fellow, it was a dreary journey for him; and more than once he
longed to be back in Vendale, playing with the trout in the bright
summer sun. But it could not be. What has been once can never come over
again. And people can be little babies, even water babies, only once in
Besides, people who make up their minds to go and see the world, as Tom
did, must needs find it a weary journey. Lucky for them if they do not
lose heart and stop halfway, instead of going on bravely to the end as
Tom did. For then they will remain neither boys nor men, neither fish,
flesh, nor good red herring; having learnt a great deal too much, and
yet not enough; and sown their wild oats, without having the advantage
of reaping them.
But Tom was always a brave, determined little English bulldog, who never
knew when he was beaten; and on and on he held, till he saw a long way
off the red buoy through the fog. And then he found, to his surprise,
the stream turned round, and running up inland.
It was the tide, of course; but Tom knew nothing of the tide. He only
knew that in a minute more the water, which had been fresh, turned salt
all round him. And then there came a change over him. He felt as strong,
and light, and fresh, as if his veins had run champagne; and gave, he
did not know why, three skips out of the water, a yard high, and head
over heels, just as the salmon do when they first touch the noble, rich
salt water, which, as some wise men tell us, is the mother of all living
He did not care now for the tide being against him. The red buoy was in
sight, dancing in the open sea; and to the buoy he would go, and to it
he went. He passed great shoals of bass and mullet, leaping and rushing
in after the shrimps, but he never heeded them, or they him; and once he
passed a great, black, shining seal, who was coming in after the mullet.
The seal put his head and shoulders out of water, and stared at him,
looking exactly like a fat old greasy negro with a gray pate. And Tom,
instead of being frightened, said, "How d'ye do, sir; what a beautiful
place the sea is!" And the old seal, instead of trying to bite him,
looked at him with his soft, sleepy, wink-eyes, and said, "Good tide to
you, my little man; are you looking for your brothers and sisters? I
passed them all at play outside."
"Oh, then," said Tom, "I shall have play-fellows at last," and he swam
on to the buoy, and got upon it (for he was quite out of breath) and sat
there, and looked round for water babies; but there were none to be
The sea breeze came in freshly with the tide and blew the fog away; and
the little waves danced for joy around the buoy, and the old buoy danced
with them. The shadows of the clouds ran races over the bright blue sky,
and yet never caught each other up; and the breakers plunged merrily
upon the wide white sands, and jumped up over the rocks, to see what the
green fields inside were like, and tumbled down and broke themselves all
to pieces, and never minded it a bit, but mended themselves and jumped
up again. And the terns hovered over Tom like huge white dragon flies
with black heads, and the gulls laughed like girls at play, and the sea
pies, with their red bills and legs, flew to and fro from shore to
shore, and whistled sweet and wild. And Tom looked and looked, and
listened; and he would have been very happy, if he could only have seen
the water babies. Then when the tide turned, he left the buoy, and swam
round and round in search of them; but in vain. Sometimes he thought he
heard them laughing, but it was only the laughter of the ripples. And
sometimes he thought he saw them at the bottom, but it was only white
and pink shells. And once he was sure he had found one, for he saw two
bright eyes peeping out of the sand. So he dived down, and began
scraping the sand away, and cried, "Don't hide; I do want some one to
play with so much!" And out jumped a great turbot with his ugly eyes and
mouth all awry, and flopped away along the bottom, knocking poor Tom
over. And he sat down at the bottom of the sea, and cried salt tears
from sheer disappointment.
To have come all this way, and faced so many dangers, and yet to find no
water babies! How hard! Well, it did seem hard; but people, even little
babies, cannot have all they want without waiting for it, and working
for it too.
And Tom sat upon the buoy long days, long weeks, looking out to sea, and
wondering when the water babies would come back; and yet they never
Then he began to ask all the strange things which came in out of the sea
if they had seen any; and some said "Yes," and some said nothing at all.
He asked the bass and the pollock; but they were so greedy after the
shrimps that they did not care to answer him a word.
Then there came in a whole fleet of purple sea snails, floating along,
each on a sponge full of foam; and Tom said, "Where do you come from,
you pretty creatures? and have you seen the water babies?"
And the sea snails answered, "Whence we come we know not; and whither we
are going, who can tell? We float out our life in the mid-ocean, with
the warm sunshine above our heads, and the warm gulf stream below; and
that is enough for us. Yes; perhaps we have seen the water babies. We
have seen many strange things as we sailed along." And they floated
away, the happy, stupid things, and all went ashore upon the sands.
Then there came by a shoal of porpoises, rolling as they went--papas,
and mammas, and little children--and all quite smooth and shiny, because
the fairies French-polish them every morning; and they sighed so softly
as they came by, that Tom took courage to speak to them; but all they
answered was, "Hush, hush, hush;" for that was all they had learnt to
And then there came by a beautiful creature, like a ribbon of pure
silver, with a sharp head and very long teeth; but it seemed very sick
and sad. Sometimes it rolled helpless on its side; and then it
dashed away, glittering like white fire; and then it lay sick again, and
"Where do you come from?" asked Tom. "And why are YOU so sick and sad?"
"I come from the warm Carolinas, and the sand-banks fringed with pines;
where the great owl-rays leap and flap, like giant bats, upon the tide.
But I wandered north and north, upon the treacherous warm gulf stream,
till I met with the cold icebergs, afloat in the mid-ocean. So I got
tangled among the icebergs, and chilled with the frozen breath. But the
water babies helped me from among them, and set me free again. And now I
am mending every day; but I am very sick and sad; and perhaps I shall
never get home again to play with the owl-rays any more."
"Oh!" cried Tom. "And you have seen water babies! Have you seen any near
"Yes; they helped me again last night, or I should have been eaten by a
great black porpoise."
How vexatious! The water babies close to him, and yet he could not find
And then he left the buoy, and used to go along the sands and round the
rocks, and come out in the night--like the forsaken Merman [Footnote:
This beautiful poem which Kingsley speaks of here is Matthew Arnold's
The Forsaken Merman, which you will find in Volume VII of these books.]
in Mr. Arnold's beautiful, beautiful poem, which you must learn by heart
some day--and sit upon a point of rock, among the shining sea weeds, in
the low October tides, and cry and call for the water babies; but he
never heard a voice call in return. And at last, with his fretting and
crying, he grew quite lean and thin.
But one day among the rocks he found a playfellow. It was not a water
baby, alas! but it was a lobster; and a very distinguished lobster he
was; for he had live barnacles on his claws, which is a great mark of
distinction in lobsterdom, and no more to be bought for money than a
good conscience or the Victoria Cross. [Footnote: The Victoria Cross is
a decoration awarded British soldiers or sailors for distinguished
bravery. The crosses are made from cannon captured in the Crimean War,
and bear, under the crowned lion which is the British royal crest, the
words "For Valour". No other military decoration is so prized.]
Tom had never seen a lobster before; and he was mightily taken with this
one; for he thought him the most curious, odd, ridiculous creature he
had ever seen; and there he was not far wrong; for all the ingenious
men, and all the scientific men, and all the fanciful men in the world,
with all the old German bogy-painters into the bargain, could never
invent, if all their wits were boiled into one, anything so curious, and
so ridiculous, as a lobster.
[Illustration: A LOBSTER]
He had one claw knobbed and the other jagged; and Tom delighted in
watching him hold on to the seaweed with his knobbed claw, while he cut
up salads with his jagged one, and then put them into his mouth, after
smelling at them, like a monkey. And always the little barnacles threw
out their casting-nets and swept the water, and came in for their share
of whatever there was for dinner.
But Tom was most astonished to see how he fired himself off--snap! like
the leapfrogs which you make out of a goose's breastbone. Certainly he
took the most wonderful shots, and backwards, too. For, if he wanted to
go into a narrow crack ten yards off, what do you think he did? If he
had gone in head foremost, of course he could not have turned round. So
he used to turn his tail to it, and lay his long horns, which carry his
sixth sense in their tips (and nobody knows what that sixth sense is),
straight down his back to guide him, and twist his eyes back till they
almost came out of their sockets, and then made ready, present, fire,
snap!--and away he went, pop into the hole; and peeped out and twiddled
his whiskers, as much as to say, "You couldn't do that."
Tom asked him about water babies. "Yes," he said. He had seen them
often. But he did not think much of them. They were meddlesome little
creatures, and went about helping fish and shells which got into
scrapes. Well, for his part, he should be ashamed to be helped by little
soft creatures that had not even a shell on their backs. He had lived
quite long enough in the world to take care of himself.
He was a conceited fellow, the old lobster, and not very civil to Tom;
and you will hear how he had to alter his mind before he was done, as
conceited people generally have. But he was so funny, and Tom so lonely,
that he could not quarrel with him; and they used to sit in holes in the
rocks, and chat for hours.
And about this time there happened to Tom a very strange and important
adventure--so important, indeed, that he was very near never finding the
water babies at all; and I am sure you would have been sorry for that.
I hope that you have not forgotten the little white lady all this while.
At least, here she comes, looking like a clean, white, good little
darling, as she always was and always will be. For it befell in the
pleasant short December days, when the wind always blows from the
southwest, till Old Father Christmas comes and spreads the great white
tablecloth, ready for little boys and girls to give the birds their
Christmas dinner of crumbs--it befell (to go on) in the pleasant
December days, that Sir John was so busy hunting that nobody at home
could get a word out of him. Four days a week he hunted, and very good
sport he had; and the other two he went to the bench and the board of
guardians, and very good justice he did; and when he got home in time,
he dined at five.
It befell (to go on a second time), that Sir John, hunting all day and
dining at five, fell asleep every evening, and snored so terribly that
all the windows in Harthover shook, and the soot fell down the chimneys.
Whereon my Lady, being no more able to get conversation out of him than
a song out of a dead nightingale, determined to go off and leave him and
the doctor and Captain Swinger, the agent, to snore in concert every
evening to their hearts' content. So she started for the seaside with
all the children, in order to put herself and them into condition by
mild applications of iodine.
Now, it befell that, on the very shore and over the very rocks where Tom
was sitting with his friend the lobster, there walked one day the little
white lady, Ellie herself, and with her a very wise man indeed--
He was a very worthy, kind, good-natured little old gentleman; and very
fond of children, and very good to all the world as long as it was good
to him. Only one fault he had, which cock-robins have likewise, as you
may see if you look out of the nursery window--that when any one else
found a curious worm, he would hop round them, and peck them, and
bristle up his feathers, just as a cock-robin would; and declare that he
found the worm first; and that it was his worm; and, if not, that then
it was not a worm at all.
So Ellie and he were walking on the rocks, and he was showing her about
one in ten thousand of all the beautiful and curious things which are to
be seen there. But little Ellie was not satisfied with them at all. She
liked much better to play with live children, or even with dolls, which
she could pretend were alive; and at last she said honestly, "I don't
care about all these things, because they can't play with me, or talk
with me. If there were little children now in the water, as there used
to be, and I could see them, I should like that."
"Children in the water, you strange little duck?" said the professor.
"Yes," said Ellie. "I know there used to be children in the water, and
mermaids too, and mermen. I saw them all in a picture at home, of a
beautiful lady sailing in a car drawn by dolphins, and babies flying
round her, and one sitting in her lap; and the mermaids swimming and
playing, and the mermen trumpeting on conch-shells; and it is called
'The Triumph of Galatea;' [Footnote: This picture which little Ellie
loved so was a copy of a famous painting by the great Raphael.] and
there is a burning mountain in the picture behind. It hangs on the great
staircase, and I have looked at it ever since I was a baby, and dreamt
about it a hundred times; and it is so beautiful that it must be true."
The professor, however, was not the least of little Ellie's opinion.
"But why are there not water babies?" asked Ellie.
I trust and hope that it was because the professor trod at that moment
on the edge of a very sharp mussel, and hurt one of his corns sadly,
that he answered quite sharply, forgetting that he was a scientific man,
"Because there ain't."
Which was not even good English, my dear little boy; for, as you must
know, the professor ought to have said, if he was so angry as to say
anything of the kind--Because there are not: or are none: or are none of
them. And he groped with his net under the weeds so violently, that he
caught poor little Tom. He felt the net very heavy; lifted it out
quickly, with Tom all entangled in the meshes.
"Dear me!" he cried. "What a large pink Holothurian; [Footnote: The
Holothurians are curious creatures, such as the sea cucumbers or the sea
slugs. One genus or class of them is known as the Synapta. These
creatures are quite rudimentary, and have, as the professor's next
remark will tell you, no eyes. A Cephalopod is higher in the scale, and
has well-developed eyes.] with hands, too! It must be connected with
Synapta." And he took him out.
"It has actually eyes;" he cried. "Why, it must be a Cephalopod! This is
"No, I ain't," cried Tom, as loud as he could; for he did not like to be
called bad names.
"It is a water baby!" cried Ellie; and of course it was.
"Water-fiddlesticks, my dear!" said the professor; and he turned away
Now, if the professor had said to Ellie, "Yes, my darling, it is a water
baby, and a very wonderful thing it is; and it shows how little I know
of the wonders of nature in spite of forty years of honest labour;"--I
think that, if the professor had said that, little Ellie would have
believed him more firmly, and respected him more deeply, and loved him
better, than ever she had done before. But he was of a different
opinion. He hesitated a moment. He longed to keep Tom, and yet he half
wished he never had caught him; and at last he quite longed to get rid
of him. So he turned away and poked Tom with his finger, for want of
anything better to do; and said carelessly, "My dear little maid, you
must have dreamt of water babies last night, your head is so full of
[Illustration: ELLIE AND THE PROFESSOR]
Now Tom had been in the most horrible and unspeakable fright all the
while; for it was fixed in his little head that if a man with clothes on
caught him, he might put clothes on him too, and make a dirty black
chimney-sweep of him again. But when the professor poked him, it was
more than he could bear; and, between fright and rage, he turned to bay
valiantly, and bit the professor's finger till it bled.
"Oh! ah! yah!" cried he; and glad of an excuse to be rid of Tom, dropped
him on to the seaweed, and thence he dived into the water and was gone
in a moment. "But it was a water baby, and I heard it speak!" cried
Ellie. "Ah, it is gone!" And she jumped off the rock to try and catch
Too late! and what was worse, as she sprang down, she slipped, and fell
some six feet with her head on a sharp rock, and lay quite still. The
professor picked her up, and tried to waken her, and called to her, and
cried over her, for he loved her very much; but she would not waken at
all. So he took her up in his arms and carried her to her governess, and
they all went home; and little Ellie was put to bed, and lay there quite
still; only now and then she woke up and called out about the water
baby; but no one knew what she meant, and the professor did not tell,
for he was ashamed to tell.
And after a week, one moonlight night, the fairies came flying in at the
window and brought her such a pretty pair of wings that she could not
help putting them on; and she flew with them out of the window, and over
the land, and over the sea, and up through the clouds, and nobody heard
or saw anything of her for a very long while.
But what became of little Tom?
He slipped away off the rocks into the water, as I said before. But he
could not help thinking of little Ellie. He did not remember who she
was; but he knew that she was a little girl, though she was larger than
he was now. That is not surprising; size has nothing to do with kindred.
A tiny weed may be first cousin to a great tree; and a little dog like
Vick knows that Lioness is a dog too, though she is twenty times larger
So Tom knew that Ellie was a little girl, and thought about her all that
day, and longed to have had her to play with; but he had soon to think
of something else.
And here is the account of what happened to him, as it was published
next morning in the Waterproof Gazette, on the finest watered paper, for
the use of the great fairy, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, who reads the news
very carefully every morning, and especially the police cases.
He was going along the rocks in three-fathom water, watching the pollock
catch prawns, and the wrasses nibble barnacles off the rocks, shells and
all, when he saw a round cage of green withes; and inside it, looking
very much ashamed of himself, sat his friend the lobster, twiddling his
horns, instead of thumbs.
"What, have you been naughty, and have they put you in the lockup?"
The lobster felt a little indignant at such a notion, but he was too
much depressed in spirits to argue; so he only said, "I can't get out."
"Why did you get in?"
"After that nasty piece of dead fish." He had thought it looked and
smelt very nice when he was outside, and so it did, for a lobster; but
now he turned round and abused it because he was angry with himself.
"Where did you get in?"
"Through that round hole at the top."
"Then why don't you get out through it?"
"Because I can't;" and the lobster twiddled his horns more fiercely than
ever, but he was forced to confess.
"I have jumped upwards, downwards, backwards, and sideways, at least
four thousand times; and I can't get out. I always get up underneath
there, and can't find the hole."
Tom looked at the trap, and having more wit than the lobster, he saw
plainly enough what was the matter; as you may if you will look at a
lobster-pot. [Footnote: You will understand from the lobster's
description of his attempt to get out of the "cage of green withes" in
which he found himself, that the lobster pot had hooks or spikes which
were bent in toward the center, so that the opening in the top was but
small.] "Stop a bit," said Tom. "Turn your tail up to me, and I'll pull
you through hindforemost, and then you won't stick in the spikes."
But the lobster was so stupid and clumsy that he couldn't hit the hole.
Like a great many fox hunters, he was very sharp as long as he was in
his own country; but as soon as they get out of it they lose their
heads; and so the lobster, so to speak, lost his tail.
Tom reached and clawed down the hole after him, till he caught hold of
him; and then, as was to be expected, the clumsy lobster pulled him in
"Hullo! here is a pretty business," said Tom. "Now take your great
claws, and break the points off those spikes, and then we shall both get
"Dear me, I never thought of that," said the lobster; "and after all the
experience of life that I have had!"
You see, experience is of very little good unless a man, or a lobster,
has wit enough to make use of it. For a good many people have seen all
the world, and yet remain little better than children after all.
But they had not got half the spikes away when they saw a great dark
cloud over them; and lo and behold, it was the otter.
How she did grin and grin when she saw Tom. "Yah!" said she, "you little
meddlesome wretch, I have you now! I will serve you out for telling the
salmon where I was!" And she crawled all over the pot to get in.
Tom was horribly frightened, and still more frightened when she found
the hole in the top, and squeezed herself right down through it, all
eyes and teeth. But no sooner was her head inside than valiant Mr.
Lobster caught her by the nose and held on.
And there they were all three in the pot, rolling over and over, and
very tight packing it was. And the lobster tore at the otter, and the
otter tore at the lobster, and both squeezed and thumped poor Tom till
he had no breath left in his body; and I don't know what would have
happened to him if he had not at last got on the otter's back, and safe
out of the hole.
He was right glad when he got out, but he would not desert his friend
who had saved him; and the first time he saw his tail uppermost he
caught hold of it, and pulled with all his might.
But the lobster would not let go.
"Come along," said Tom; "don't you see she is dead?" And so she was,
quite drowned and dead.
And that was the end of the wicked otter.
But the lobster would not let go.
"Come along, you stupid old stick-in-the-mud," cried Tom, "or the
fisherman will catch you!" And that was true, for Tom felt some one
above beginning to haul up the pot.
But the lobster would not let go.
Tom saw the fisherman haul him up to the boat side, and thought it was
all up with him. But when Mr. Lobster saw the fisherman, he gave such a
furious and tremendous snap, that he snapped out of his hand, and out of
the pot, and safe into the sea. But he left his knobbed claw behind him;
for it never came into his stupid head to let go after all, so he just
shook his claw off as the easier method.
Tom asked the lobster why he never thought of letting go. He said very
determinedly that it was a point of honour among lobsters.
And now happened to Tom a most wonderful thing; for he had not left the
lobster five minutes before he came upon a water baby.
A real, live water baby, sitting on the white sand, very busy about a
little point of rock. And when it saw Tom it looked up for a moment and
then cried, "Why, you are not one of us. You are a new baby! Oh, how
And it ran to Tom, and Tom ran to it, and they hugged and kissed each
other for ever so long, they did not know why. But they did not want any
introductions there under the water.
At last Tom said, "Oh, where have you been all this while? I have been
looking for you so long, and I have been so lonely."
"We have been here for days and days. There are hundreds of us about the
rocks. How was it you did not see us, or hear us when we sing and romp
every evening before we go home?"
Tom looked at the baby again, and then he said:
"Well, this is wonderful! I have seen things just like you again and
again, but I thought you were shells, or sea creatures. I never took you
for water babies like myself."
Now, was not that very odd? So odd, indeed, that you will, no doubt,
want to know how it happened, and why Tom could never find a water baby
till after he had got the lobster out of the pot. And, if you will read
this story nine times over, and then think for yourself, you will find
out why. It is not good for little boys to be told everything, and never
to be forced to use their own wits.
"Now," said the baby, "come and help me, or I shall not have finished
before my brothers and sisters come, and it is time to go home."
"What shall I help you at?"
"At this poor, dear little rock; a great clumsy boulder came rolling by
in the last storm, and knocked all its head off, and rubbed off all its
flowers. And now I must plant it again with seaweeds, and coraline, and
anemones, and I will make it the prettiest little rock-garden on all the
So they worked away at the rock, and planted it, and smoothed the sand
down round it, and capital fun they had till the tide began to turn. And
then Tom heard all the other babies coming, laughing and singing and
shouting and romping; and the noise they made was just like the noise of
the ripple. So he knew that he had been hearing and seeing the water
babies all along; only he did not know them, because his eyes and ears
were not opened.
And in they came, dozens and dozens of them, some bigger than Tom and
some smaller, all in the neatest little white bathing dresses; and when
they found that he was a new baby, they hugged and kissed him, and then
put him in the middle and danced around him on the sand, and there was
no one ever so happy as poor little Tom.
"Now then," they cried all at once, "we must come away home, we must
come away home, or the tide will leave us dry. We have mended all the
broken seaweed, and put all the rock-pools in order, and planted all the
shells again in the sand, and nobody will see where the ugly storm swept
And this is the reason why the rock-pools are always so neat and clean;
because the water babies come inshore after every storm to sweep them
out, and comb them down, and put them all to rights again.
Only where men are wasteful and dirty, and let sewers run into the sea
instead of putting the stuff upon the fields like thrifty, reasonable
souls; or throw herrings' heads and dead dog-fish, or any other refuse,
into the water; or in any way make a mess upon the clean shore--there
the water babies will not come, sometimes not for hundreds of years (for
they cannot abide anything smelly or foul), but leave the sea anemones
and the crabs to clear away everything till the good, tidy sea has
covered up all the dirt in soft mud and clean sand, where the water
babies can plant live cockles and whelks and razor shells and sea
cucumbers and golden combs, and make a pretty live garden again, after
man's dirt is cleared away. And that, I suppose, is the reason why there
are no water babies at any watering place which I have ever seen.
Now when Tom got to the home of the water babies, in Saint Brandan's
fairy isle, he found that the isle stood all on pillars, and that its
roots were full of caves. There were pillars of black basalt and pillars
of green and crimson serpentine; and pillars ribboned with red and white
and yellow sandstone; and there were blue grottoes and white grottoes,
all curtained and draped with seaweeds, purple and crimson, green and
brown; and strewn with soft white sand, on which the water babies sleep
every night. But, to keep the place clean and sweet, the crabs picked up
all the scraps off the floor and ate them like so many monkeys; while
the rocks were covered with ten thousand sea anemones, and corals and
madrepores, who scavenged the water all day long, and kept it nice and
pure. But, to make up to them for having to do such nasty work, they
were not left black and dirty, as poor chimney-sweeps and dustmen are.
No; the fairies are more considerate and just than that, and have
dressed them all in the most beautiful colours and patterns, till they
look like vast flower beds of gay blossoms.
And, instead of watchmen and policemen to keep out nasty things at
night, there were thousands and thousands of water snakes, and most
wonderful creatures they were.
They were dressed in green velvet, and black velvet, and purple velvet;
and were all jointed in rings; and some of them had three hundred brains
apiece, so that they must have been uncommonly shrewd detectives; and
some had eyes in their tails; and some had eyes in every joint, so that
they kept a very sharp lookout; and when they wanted a baby snake, they
just grew one at the end of their own tails, and when it was able to
take care of itself it dropped off; so that they brought up their
families very cheaply. But if any nasty thing came by, out they rushed
upon it; and then out of each of their hundreds of feet there sprang a
whole cutler's shop of
Billhooks, Ghoorka swords,
And so forth,
which stabbed, shot, poked, pricked, scratched, ripped, pinked, and
crimped those naughty beasts so terribly that they had to run for their
lives, or else be chopped into small pieces and be eaten afterwards.
And there were the water babies in thousands, more than Tom, or you
either, could count. All the little children whom the good fairies take
to, because their cruel mothers and fathers will not; all who are
untaught and brought up heathens, and all who come to grief by ill usage
or ignorance or neglect; all the little children in alleys and courts,
and tumble-down cottages, who die by fever, and cholera, and measles,
and scarlatina, and nasty complaints which no one has any business to
have, and which no one will have some day, when folks have common sense;
and all the little children who have been killed by cruel masters and
wicked soldiers; they were all there, except, of course, the babes of
Bethlehem who were killed by wicked King Herod; for they were taken
straight to heaven long ago, as everybody knows, and we call them the
[Illustration: MRS. BEDONEBYASYOUDID]
But I wish Tom had given up all his naughty tricks, and left off
tormenting dumb animals now that he had plenty of playfellows to amuse
him. Instead of that, I am sorry to say, he would meddle with the
creatures, all but the water snakes, for they would stand no nonsense.
So he tickled the madrepores, to make them shut up; and frightened the
crabs, to make them hide in the sand and peep out at him with the tips
of their eyes; and put stones into the anemones' [Footnote: The anemones
spoken of here are not to be confused with the flowers which grow on
land. The sea anemones are alive, but the circles of tentacles about
their mouths make them look like flowers of the most beautiful colors.
They have no eyes, and of course could not see what Tom was offering
them.] mouths, to make them fancy that their dinner was coming.
The other children warned him, and said, "Take care what you are at.
Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid is coming." But Tom never heeded them, being quite
riotous with high spirits and good luck, till, one Friday morning early,
Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid came indeed.
A very tremendous lady she was; and when the children saw her they all
stood in a row, very upright indeed, and smoothed down their bathing
dresses, and put their hands behind them, just as if they were going to
be examined by the inspector.
And she had on a black bonnet, and a black shawl, and no crinoline at
all, and a pair of large green spectacles, and a great hooked nose,
hooked so much that the bridge of it stood quite up above her eyebrows;
and under her arm she carried a great birch-rod. Indeed she was so ugly
that Tom was tempted to make faces at her, but did not, for he did not
admire the look of the birch-rod under her arm.
And she looked at the children one by one, and seemed very much pleased
with them, though she never asked them one question about how they were
behaving; and then began giving them all sorts of nice sea things--sea
cakes, sea apples, sea oranges, sea bullseyes, sea toffee; and to the
very best of all she gave sea ices, made out of sea-cows' cream, which
never melt under water.
Now little Tom watched all these sweet things given away, till his mouth
watered, and his eyes grew as round as an owl's. For he hoped that his
turn would come at last; and so it did. For the lady called him up, and
held out her fingers with something in them, and popped it into his
mouth; and lo and behold, it was a nasty, cold, hard pebble.
"You are a very cruel woman," said he, and began to whimper.
"And you are a very cruel boy, who puts pebbles into the sea-anemones'
mouths, to take them in, and make them fancy that they have caught a
good dinner. As you did to them, so must I do to you."
"Who told you that?" said Tom.
"You did yourself, this very minute."
Tom had never opened his lips; so he was very much taken aback indeed.
"Yes; every one tells me exactly what they have done wrong; and that
without knowing it themselves, So there is no use trying to hide
anything from me. Now go, and be a good boy, and I will put no more
pebbles in your mouth, if you put none in other creatures'." "I did not
know there was any harm in it," said Tom.
"Then you know now. People continually say that to me; but I tell them,
if they don't know that fire burns, that is no reason that it should not
burn you; and if you don't know that dirt breeds fever, that is no
reason why the fevers should not kill you. The lobster did not know that
there was any harm in getting into the lobster-pot; but it caught him
all the same."
"Dear me," thought Tom, "she knows everything!" And so she did, indeed.
"And so, if you do not know that things are wrong, that is no reason why
you should not be punished for them; though not as much, not as much, my
little man" (and the lady looked very kindly, after all), "as if you did
"Well, you are a little hard on a poor lad," said Tom.
"Not at all; I am the best friend you ever had in all your life. But I
will tell you; I cannot help punishing people when they do wrong. I like
it no more than they do; I am often very, very sorry for them, poor
things; but I cannot help it. If I tried not to do it, I should do it
all the same. For I work by machinery, just like an engine; and am full
of wheels and springs inside; and am wound up very carefully, so that I
cannot help going."
"Was it long ago since they wound you up?" asked Tom. For he thought,
the cunning little fellow, "She will run down some day; or they may
forget to wind her up, as old Grimes used to forget to wind up his watch
when he came in from the public-house; and then I shall be safe."
"I was wound up once and for all, so long ago that I forgot all about
"Dear me," said Tom, "you must have been made a long time!"
"I never was made, my child; and I shall go for ever and ever; for I am
as old as Eternity, and yet as young as Time."
And there came over the lady's face a very curious expression--very
solemn, and very sad; and yet very, very sweet. And she looked up and
away, as if she were gazing through the sea, and through the sky, at
something far, far off; and as she did so, there came such a quiet,
tender, patient, hopeful smile over her face that Tom thought for the
moment that she did not look ugly at all. And no more she did; for she
was like a great many people who have not a pretty feature in their
faces, and yet are lovely to behold, and draw little children's hearts
to them at once; because though the house is plain enough, yet from the
windows a beautiful and good spirit is looking forth.
And Tom smiled in her face, she looked so pleasant for the moment. And
the strange fairy smiled too, and said:
"Yes. You thought me very ugly just now, did you not?"
Tom hung down his head, and got very red about the ears.
"And I am very ugly. I am the ugliest fairy in the world; and I shall
be, till people behave themselves as they ought to do. And then I shall
grow as handsome as my sister, who is the loveliest fairy in the world;
and her name is Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby. So she begins where I end,
and I begin where she ends; and those who will not listen to her must
listen to me, as you will see. Now, all of you run away, except Tom; and
he may stay and see what I am going to do. It will be a very good
warning for him to begin with, before he goes to school.
"Now, Tom, every Friday I come down here and call up all who have ill-
used little children, and serve them as they served the children."
And first she called up all the doctors who give little children so much
physic (they were most of them old ones; for the young ones have learnt
better), and she set them all in a row; and very rueful they looked; for
they knew what was coming.
And first she pulled all their teeth out; and then she bled them all
round; and then she dosed them with calomel, and jalap, and salts and
senna, and brimstone and treacle; and horrible faces they made; and then
she gave them a great emetic of mustard and water, and began all over
again; and that was the way she spent the morning.
And then she called up a whole troop of foolish ladies, who pinch their
children's waists and toes; and she laced them all up in tight stays, so
that they were choked and sick, and their noses grew red, and their
hands and feet swelled; and then she crammed their poor feet into the
most dreadfully tight boots, and made them all dance; and then she asked
them how they liked it; and when they said not at all, she let them go;
because they had only done it out of foolish fashion, fancying it was
for their children's good, as if wasps' waists and pigs' toes could be
pretty, or wholesome, or of any use to anybody.
Then she called up all the careless nursery-maids, and stuck pins into
them all over, and wheeled them about in perambulators with tight straps
across their stomachs and their heads and arms hanging over the side,
till they were quite sick and stupid, and would have had sunstrokes;
but, being under the water, they could only have water-strokes; which, I
assure you, are nearly as bad, as you will find if you try to sit under
a mill wheel. And mind--when you hear a rumbling at the bottom of the
sea, sailors will tell you that it is a ground swell; but now you know
better. It is the old lady wheeling the maids about in perambulators.
And by this time she was so tired, she had to go to luncheon.
And after luncheon she set to work again, and called up all the cruel
schoolmasters--whole regiments and brigades of them; and when she saw
them, she frowned most terribly, and set to work in earnest, as if the
best part of the day's work was to come. And she boxed their ears, and
thumped them over the head with rulers, and pandied their hands with
canes, and told them that they told stories, and were this and that bad
sort of people; and the more they were very indignant, and stood upon
their honour, and declared they told the truth, the more she declared
they were not, and that they were only telling lies; and at last she
birched them all round soundly with her great birch-rod and set them
each an imposition of three hundred thousand lines of Hebrew to learn by
heart before she came back next Friday. And at that they all cried and
howled so, that their breaths came all up through the sea like bubbles
out of soda water; and that is one reason of the bubbles in the sea.
There are others; but that is the one which principally concerns little
boys. And by that time she was so tired that she was glad to stop; and,
indeed, she had done a very good day's work.
Tom did not quite dislike the old lady; but he could not help thinking
her a little spiteful--and no wonder if she was, poor old soul; for if
she has to wait to grow handsome till people do as they would be done
by, she will have to wait a very long time.
Poor old Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid! she has a great deal of hard work before
her, and had better have been born a washerwoman, and stood over a tub
all day; but, you see, people cannot always choose their own profession.
But Tom longed to ask her one question; and, after all, whenever she
looked at him, she did not look cross at all; and now and then there was
a funny smile in her face, and she chuckled to herself in a way which
gave Tom courage, and at last he said:
"Pray, ma'am, may I ask you a question?"
"Certainly, my little dear."
"Why don't you bring all the bad masters here and serve them out, too?
The butties [Footnote: Butty, in the English coal-mining regions, is the
name given to a man who takes a contract to work out a certain area of
coal. He employs other people to work for him. A nailer is a man who
makes nails.] that knock about the poor collier-boys; and the nailers
that file off their lads' noses and hammer their fingers; and all the
master sweeps, like my master Grimes? I saw him fall into the water long
ago; so I surely expected he would have been here. I'm sure he was bad
enough to me."
Then the old lady looked so very stern that Tom was quite frightened,
and sorry that he had been so bold. But she was not angry with him. She
only answered, "I look after them all the week round; and they are in a
very different place from this, because they knew that they were doing
She spoke very quietly; but there was something in her voice which made
Tom tingle from head to foot, as if he had got into a shoal of sea
"But these people," she went on, "did not know that they were doing
wrong; they were only stupid and impatient; and therefore I only punish
them till they become patient, and learn to use their common sense like
reasonable beings. But as for chimney-sweeps, and collier-boys, and
nailer lads, my sister has set good people to stop all that sort of
thing; and very much obliged to her I am; for if she could only stop the
cruel masters from ill-using poor children, I should grow handsome at
least a thousand years sooner. And now do you be a good boy, and do as
you would be done by, which they did not; and then, when my sister,
Madame Doasyouwouldbedoneby, comes on Sunday, perhaps she will take
notice of you, and teach you how to behave. She understands that better
than I do." And so she went.
Tom was very glad to hear that there was no chance of meeting Grimes
again, though he was a little sorry for him, considering that he used
sometimes to give him the leavings of the beer; but he determined to be
a very good boy all Saturday; and he was; for he never frightened one
crab, nor tickled any live corals, nor put stones into the sea-anemones'
mouths, to make them fancy they had got a dinner; and when Sunday
morning came, sure enough, Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby came too. Whereat
all the little children began dancing and clapping their hands, and Tom
danced too with all his might.
And as for the pretty lady, I cannot tell you what the colour of her
hair was, or of her eyes; no more could Tom; for when people look at
her, all they can think of is, that she has the sweetest, kindest,
tenderest, funniest, merriest face they ever saw, or want to see. But
Tom saw that she was a very tall woman, as tall as her sister; but
instead of being gnarly, and horny, and scaly, and prickly, like her,
she was the most nice, soft, fat, smooth, pussy, cuddly, delicious
creature who ever nursed a baby; and she understood babies thoroughly,
for she had plenty of her own, whole rows and regiments of them, and has
to this day. And all her delight was, whenever she had a spare moment,
to play with babies, in which she showed herself a woman of sense; for
babies are the best company and the pleasantest playfellows in the
world; at least, so all the wise people in the world think. And
therefore when the children saw her, they naturally caught hold of her,
and pulled her till she sat down on a stone, and climbed into her lap,
and clung round her neck, and caught hold of her hands; and then they
all put their thumbs into their mouths, and began cuddling and purring
like so many kittens, as they ought to have done. While those who could
get nowhere else sat down on the sand, and cuddled her feet--for no one,
you know, wears shoes in the water, except horrid old bathing-women, who
are afraid of the water babies pinching their horny toes. And Tom stood
staring at them; for he could not understand what it was all about.
"And who are you, you little darling?" she said.
"Oh, that is the new baby!" they all cried, pulling their thumbs out of
their mouths, "and he never had any mother;" and they all put their
thumbs back again, for they did not wish to lose any time.
"Then I will be his mother, and he shall have the very best place; so
get out, all of you, this moment."
And she took up two great armfuls of babies--nine hundred under one arm
and thirteen hundred under the other--and threw them away, right and
left, into the water. But they did not even take their thumbs out of
their mouths, but came paddling and wriggling back to her like so many
tadpoles, till you could see nothing of her from head to foot for the
swarm of little babies.
But she took Tom in her arms, and laid him in the softest place of all, and
kissed him, and patted him, and talked to him, tenderly and low, such
things as he had never heard before in his life; and Tom looked up into
her eyes, and loved her, and loved, till he fell asleep from pure love.
[Illustration: SHE TOOK TOM IN HER ARMS]
And when he woke she was telling the children a story. And what story
did she tell them? One story she told them, which begins every Christmas
Eve, and yet never ends at all, for ever and ever; and as she went on,
the children took their thumbs out of their mouths and listened quite
seriously, but not sadly at all; for she never told them anything sad;
and Tom listened too, and never grew tired of listening. And he listened
so long that he fell fast asleep again, and when he awoke, the lady was
nursing him still.
"Now," said the fairy to Tom, "will you be a good boy for my sake, and
torment no more sea beasts till I come back?"
"And you will cuddle me again?" said poor little Tom.
"Of course I will, you little duck. I should like to take you with me
and cuddle you all the way, only I must not;" and away she went.
So Tom really tried to be a good boy, and tormented no sea beasts after
that as long as he lived; and he is quite alive, I assure you, still.
Here I come to the very saddest part of all my story.
Now you may fancy that Tom was quite good, when he had everything that
he could want or wish; but you would be very much mistaken. Being quite
comfortable is a very good thing; but it does not make people good.
Indeed, it sometimes makes them naughty, and I am very sorry to say that
this happened to little Tom. For he grew so fond of the sea bullseyes
and sea lollipops that his foolish little head could think of nothing
else; and he was always longing for more, and wondering when the strange
lady would come again and give him some, and what she would give him,
and how much, and whether she would give him more than the others. And
he thought of nothing but lollipops by day, and dreamt of nothing else
by night--and what happened then?
That he began to watch the lady to see where she kept the sweet things;
and began hiding, and sneaking, and following her about, and pretending
to be looking the other way, or going after something else, till he
found out that she kept them in a beautiful mother-of-pearl cabinet away
in a deep crack of the rocks.
And he longed to go to the cabinet, and yet he was afraid; and then he
longed again, and was less afraid; and at last, by continual thinking
about it, he longed so violently that he was not afraid at all. And one
night, when all the other children were asleep, and he could not sleep
for thinking of lollipops, he crept away among the rocks, and got to the
cabinet, and behold! it was open.
But when he saw all the nice things inside, instead of being delighted,
he was quite frightened, and wished he had never come there. And then he
would only touch them, and he did; and then he would only taste one, and
he did; and then he would only eat one, and he did; and then he would
only eat two, and then three, and so on; and then he was terrified lest
she should come and catch him, and began gobbling them down so fast that
he did not taste them, or have any pleasure in them; and then he felt
sick, and would have only one more; and then only one more again; and so
on till he had eaten them all up.
And all the while, close behind him, stood Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.
Some people may say, "But why did she not keep her cupboard locked?"
Well, I know. It may seem a very strange thing, but she never does keep
her cupboard locked; every one may go and taste for himself, and fare
accordingly. It is very odd, but so it is; and I am quite sure that she
knows best. Perhaps she wishes people to learn to keep their fingers out
of the fire by having them burned. She took off her spectacles, because
she did not like to see too much; and in her pity she arched up her
eyebrows into her very hair, and her eyes grew so wide that they would
have taken in all the sorrows of the world, and filled with great big
tears, as they too often do.
[Illustration: TOM FOUND THE CABINET]
But all she said was: "Ah, you poor little dear! you are just like all
But she said it to herself, and Tom neither heard nor saw her. Now, you
must not fancy that she was sentimental at all. If you do, and think
that she is going to let off you, or me, or any human being when we do
wrong, because she is too tender-hearted to punish us, then you will
find yourself very much mistaken, as many a man does every year and
But what did the strange fairy do when she saw all her lollipops eaten?
Did she fly at Tom, catch him by the scruff of the neck, hold him, hit
him, poke him, pull him, pinch him, pound him, put him in the corner,
shake him, slap him, set him on a cold stone to reconsider himself, and
Not a bit. You may watch her at work if you know where to find her. But
you will never see her do that. For, if she had, she knew quite well Tom
would have fought and kicked, and bit, and said bad words, and turned
again that moment into a naughty little heathen chimney-sweep, with his
hand, like Ishmael's of old, against every man, and every man's hand
Did she question him, hurry him, frighten him, threaten him, to make him
confess? Not a bit. You may see her, as I said, at her work often enough
if you know where to look for her; but you will never see her do that.
For if she had, she would have tempted him to tell lies in his fright;
and that would have been worse for him, if possible, than even becoming
a heathen chimney-sweep again.
No. She leaves that for anxious parents and teachers (lazy ones, some
call them), who, instead of giving children a fair trial, such as they
would expect and demand for themselves, force them by fright to confess
their own faults--which is so cruel and unfair that no judge on the
bench dare do it to the wickedest thief or murderer, for the good
British law forbids it--ay, and even punish them to make them confess,
which is so detestable a crime that it is never committed now.
So the fairy just said nothing at all about the matter, not even when
Tom came next day with the rest for sweet things. He was horribly afraid
of coming, but he was still more afraid of staying away, lest any one
should suspect him. He was dreadfully afraid, too, lest there should be
no sweets--as was to be expected, he having eaten them all--and lest
then the fairy should inquire who had taken them. But behold! she pulled
out just as many as ever, which astonished Tom, and frightened him still
And when the fairy looked him full in the face, he shook from head to
foot; however she gave him his share like the rest, and he thought
within himself that she could not have found him out.
But when he put the sweets into his mouth, he hated the taste of them;
and they made him so sick that he had to get away as fast as he could;
and terribly sick he was, and very cross and unhappy, all the week
after. Then, when next week came, he had his share again; and again the
fairy looked him full in the face; but more sadly than she had ever
looked. And he could not bear the sweets; but took them again in spite
And when Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby came, he wanted to be cuddled like
the rest; but she said very seriously: "I should like to cuddle you, but
I cannot; you are so horny and prickly."
And Tom looked at himself; and he was all over prickles, just like a sea
Which was quite natural; for you must know and believe that people's
souls make their bodies just as a snail makes its shell (I am not
joking, my little man; I am in serious, solemn earnest). And therefore,
when Tom's soul grew all prickly with naughty tempers, his body could
not help growing prickly too, so that nobody would cuddle him, or play
with him, or even like to look at him.
What could Tom do now but go away and hide in a corner and cry? For
nobody would play with him, and he knew full well why.
And he was so miserable all that week that when the ugly fairy came and
looked at him once more full in the face, more seriously and sadly than
ever, he could stand it no longer, and thrust the sweetmeats away,
saying, "No, I don't want any: I can't bear them now;" and then burst
out crying, poor little man, and told Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid every word
as it happened.
He was horribly frightened when he had done so; for he expected her to
punish him very severely. But instead, she only took him up and kissed
him, which was not quite pleasant, for her chin was very bristly indeed;
but he was so lonely-hearted, he thought that rough kissing was better
"I will forgive you, little man," she said. "I always forgive people the
moment they tell me the truth of their own accord."
"Then you will take away all these nasty prickles?"
"That is a very different matter. You put them there yourself, and only
you can take them away."
"But how can I do that?" asked Tom, crying afresh.
"Well, I think it is time for you to go to school; so I shall fetch you
a schoolmistress, who will teach you how to get rid of your prickles."
And so she went away.
Tom was frightened at the notion of a schoolmistress; for he thought she
would certainly come with a birch-rod or a cane; but he comforted
himself, at last, that she might be something like the old woman in
Vendale--which she was not in the least; for when the fairy brought her,
she was the most beautiful little girl that ever was seen, with long
curls floating behind her like a golden cloud, and long robes floating
all round her like a silver one.
"There he is," said the fairy; "and you must teach him to be good,
whether you like or not."
"I know," said the little girl; but she did not seem quite to like, for
she put her finger in her mouth, and looked at Tom under her brows; and
Tom put his finger in his mouth, and looked at her under his brows, for
he was horribly ashamed of himself.
The little girl seemed hardly to know how to begin; and perhaps she
would never have begun at all if poor Tom had not burst out crying, and
begged her to teach him to be good and help him to cure his prickles;
and at that she grew so tender-hearted that she began teaching him as
prettily as ever child was taught in the world.
And what did the little girl teach Tom? She taught him, first, what you
have been taught ever since you said your first prayers at your mother's
knees; but she taught him much more simply. For the lessons in that
world, my child, have no such hard words in them as the lessons in this,
and therefore the water babies like them better than you like your
lessons, and long to learn them more and more; and grown men cannot
puzzle nor quarrel over their meaning, as they do here on land; for
those lessons all rise clear and pure, out of the everlasting ground of
all life and truth.
So she taught Tom every day in the week; only on Sundays she always went
away home, and the kind fairy took her place. And before she had taught
Tom many Sundays, his prickles had vanished quite away, and his skin was
smooth and clean again.
"Dear me!" said the little girl; "why, I know you now. You are the very
same little chimney-sweep who came into my bedroom."
"Dear me!" cried Tom, "And I know you, too, now. You are the very little
white lady whom I saw in bed." And he jumped at her, and longed to hug
and kiss her; but did not, remembering that she was a lady born; so he
only jumped round and round her till he was quite tired.
And then they began telling each other all their story--how he had got
into the water, and she had fallen over the rock; and how he had swum
down to the sea, and how she had flown out of the window; and how this,
that, and the other, till it was all talked out. And then they both
began over again, and I can't say which of the two talked fastest.
And then they set to work at their lessons again, and both liked them so
well that they went on well till seven full years were past and gone.
You may fancy that Tom was quite content and happy all those seven
years; but the truth is, he was not. He had always one thing on his
mind, and that was--where little Ellie went, when she went home on
To a very beautiful place, she said.
But what was the beautiful place like, and where was it?
Ah! that is just what she could not say. And it is strange, but true,
that no one can say; and that those who have been oftenest in it, or
even nearest to it, can say least about it, and make people understand
least what it is like.
But the dear, sweet, loving, wise, good, self-sacrificing people, who
really go there, can never tell you anything about it, save that it is
the most beautiful place in all the world; and if you ask them more,
they grow modest, and hold their peace, for fear of being laughed at;
and quite right they are.
So all that good little Ellie could say was, that it was worth all the
rest of the world put together. And of course that only made Tom the
more anxious to go likewise.
"Miss Ellie," he said at last, "I will know why I cannot go with you
when you go home on Sundays, or I shall have no peace, and give you none
"You must ask the fairies that."
So when the fairy, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, came next, Tom asked her.
"Little boys who are only fit to play with sea beasts cannot go there,"
she said. "THOSE WHO GO THERE MUST GO FIRST WHERE THEY DO NOT LIKE, AND
DO WHAT THEY DO NOT LIKE, AND HELP SOMEBODY THEY DO NOT LIKE."
"Why, did Ellie do that?"
And Ellie blushed, and said, "Yes, Tom, I did not like coming here at
first; I was so much happier at home, where it is always Sunday. And I
was afraid of you, Tom, at first, because--because--"
"Because I was all over prickles? But I am not prickly now, am I, Miss
"No," said Ellie. "I like you very much now; and I like coming here,
"And perhaps," said the fairy, "you will learn to like going where you
don't like, and helping some one that you don't like, as Ellie has."
But Tom put his finger in his mouth, and hung his head down; for he did
not see that at all.
So when Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby came, Tom asked her; for he thought in
his little head, "She is not so strict as her sister, and perhaps she
may let me off more easily."
Ah, Tom, Tom, silly fellow! and yet I don't know why I should blame you,
while so many grown people have got the very same notion in their heads.
But when they try it, they just get the same answer as Tom did. For when
he asked the second fairy, she told him just what the first did, and in
the very same words.
Tom was very unhappy at that. And when Ellie went home on Sunday, he
fretted and cried all day, and did not care to listen to the fairy's
stories about good children, though they were prettier than ever.
Indeed, the more he overheard of them, the less he liked to listen,
because they were all about children who did what they did not like, and
took trouble for other people, and worked to feed their little brothers
and sisters instead of caring only for their play. And when she began to
tell a story about a holy child in old times, who was martyred by the
heathen because it would not worship idols, Tom could bear no more, and
ran away and hid among the rocks.
And when Ellie came back, he was shy with her, because he fancied she
looked down on him, and thought him a coward. And then he grew quite
cross with her, because she was superior to him, and did what he could
not do. And poor Ellie was quite surprised and sad; and at last Tom
burst out crying; but he would not tell her what was really in his mind.
And all the while he was eaten up with curiosity to know where Ellie
went to; so that he began not to care for his playmates, or for the sea
palace or anything else. But perhaps that made matters all the easier
for him; for he grew so discontented with everything round him that he
did not care to stay, and did not care where he went.
"Well," he said, at last, "I am so miserable here, I'll go, if only you
will go with me."
"Ah!" said Ellie, "I wish I might; but the worst of it is, that the
fairy says that you must go alone if you go at all. Now don't poke that
poor crab about, Tom" (for he was feeling very naughty and mischievous),
"or the fairy will have to punish you."
Tom was very near saying, "I don't care if she does;" but he stopped
himself in time.
"I know what she wants me to do," he said, whining most dolefully. "She
wants me to go after that horrid old Grimes. I don't like him, that's
certain. And if I find him, he will turn me into a chimney-sweep again,
I know. That's what I have been afraid of all along."
"No, he won't--I know as much as that. Nobody can turn water babies into
sweeps, or hurt them at all, as long as they are good."
"Ah," said naughty Tom, "I see what you want; you are persuading me all
along to go, because you are tired of me, and want to get rid of me."
Little Ellie opened her eyes very wide at that, and they were all
brimming over with tears.
"Oh, Tom, Tom!" she said, very mournfully--and then she cried, "Oh, Tom,
where are you?"
And Tom cried, "Oh, Ellie, where are you?"
For neither of them could see the other--not the least. Little Ellie
vanished quite away, and Tom heard her voice calling him, and growing
smaller and smaller, and fainter and fainter, till all was silent.
Who was frightened then but Tom? He swam up and down among the rocks,
into all the halls and chambers, faster than ever he swam before, but
could not find her. He shouted after her, but she did not answer; he
asked all the other children, but they had not seen her; and at last he
went up to the top of the water and began crying and screaming for Mrs.
Bedonebyasyoudid--which perhaps was the best thing to do, for she came
in a moment.
"Oh!" said Tom. "Oh dear, oh dear! I have been naughty to Ellie, and I
have killed her--I know I have killed her."
"Not quite that," said the fairy; "but I have sent her away home, and
she will not come back again for I do not know how long."
And at that Tom cried bitterly.
"How cruel of you to send Ellie away!" sobbed Tom. "However, I will find
her again, if I go to the world's end to look for her."
The fairy did not slap Tom, and tell him to hold his tongue; but she
took him on her lap very kindly, just as her sister would have done; and
put him in mind how it was not her fault, because she was wound up
inside, like watches, and could not help doing things whether she liked
or not. And then she told him how he had been in the nursery long
enough, and must go out now and see the world, if he intended ever to be
a man; and how he must go all alone by himself, as every one else that
ever was born has to go, and see with his own eyes, and smell with his
own nose, and make his own bed and lie on it, and burn his own fingers
if he put them into the fire. And then she told him how many fine things
there were to be seen in the world, and what an odd, curious, pleasant,
orderly, respectable, well-managed, and, on the whole, successful (as,
indeed, might have been expected) sort of a place it was, if people
would only be tolerably brave and honest and good in it; and then she
told him not to be afraid of anything he met, for nothing would harm him
if he remembered all his lessons, and did what he knew was right. And at
last she comforted poor little Tom so much that he was quite eager to
go, and wanted to set out that minute. "Only," he said, "if I might see
Ellie once before I went!"
"Why do you want that?"
"Because--because I should be so much happier if I thought she had
And in the twinkling of an eye there stood Ellie, smiling, and looking
so happy that Tom longed to kiss her; but was still afraid it would not
be respectful, because she was a lady born.
"I am going, Ellie!" said Tom. "I am going, if it is to the world's end.
But I don't like going at all, and that's the truth."
"Pooh! pooh! pooh!" said the fairy. "You will like it very well indeed,
you little rogue, and you know that at the bottom of your heart. But if
you don't I will make you like it. Come here, and see what happens to
people who do only what is pleasant."
And she took out of one of her cupboards (she had all sorts of
mysterious cupboards in the cracks of the rocks) the most wonderful
water-proof book, full of such photographs as never were seen. For she
had found out photography (and this is a fact) more than 13,598,000
years before anybody was born; and what is more, her photographs did not
merely represent light and shade, as ours do, but colour also. And
therefore her photographs were very curious and famous, and the children
looked with great delight at the opening of the book.
And on the title-page was written, "The History of the great and famous
nation of the Doasyoulikes, who came away from the country of Hardwork,
because they wanted to play on the Jew's-harp all day long."
In the first picture they saw these Doasyoulikes living in the land of
Readymade, at the foot of the Happy-go-lucky Mountains, where flapdoodle
[Footnote: Flapdoodle is the food on which fools are supposed to be
fed.] grows wild; and if you want to know what that is, you must read
Peter Simple. [Footnote: Peter Simple is a novel by Captain Marryat.]
They were very fond of music, but it was too much trouble to learn the
piano or the violin; and as for dancing, that would have been too great
an exertion. So they sat on ant-hills all day long, and played on the
Jew's-harp; and if the ants bit them, why they just got up and went to
the next anthill, till they were bitten there likewise.
And they sat under the flapdoodle trees, and let the flapdoodle drop
into their mouths; and under the vines, and squeezed the grape juice
down their throats; and if any little pigs ran about ready roasted,
crying, "Come and eat me," as was their fashion in that country, they
waited till the pigs ran against their mouths, and then took a bite, and
were content, just as so many oysters would have been.
They needed no weapons, for no enemies ever came near their land; and no
tools, for everything was ready-made to their hand; and the stern old
fairy Necessity never came near them to hunt them up, and make them use
their wits, or die.
"Well, that is a jolly life," said Tom.
"You think so?" said the fairy. "Do you see that great peaked mountain
there behind, with smoke coming out of its top?"
"And do you see all those ashes, and slag, and cinders lying about?"
"Then turn over the next five hundred years, and you will see what
And behold, the mountain had blown up like a barrel of gunpowder, and
then boiled over like a kettle; whereupon one-third of the Doasyoulikes
were blown into the air, and another third were smothered in ashes; so
that there was only one-third left.
And then she turned over the next five hundred years; and there were the
remnant of the Doasyoulikes, doing as they liked, as before. They were
too lazy to move away from the mountain; so they said, "If it has blown
up once, that is all the more reason that it should not blow up again."
And they were few in number; but they only said, "The more, the merrier,
but the fewer, the better fare." However, that was not quite true; for
all the flapdoodle trees were killed by the volcano, and they had eaten
all the roast pigs, who, of course, could not be expected to have little
ones. So they had to live very hard, on nuts and roots which they
scratched out of the ground with sticks. Some of them talked of sowing
corn, as their ancestors used to do, before they came into the land of
Readymade; but they had forgotten how to make ploughs (they had
forgotten even how to make Jew's-harps by this time), and had eaten all
the seed corn which they had brought out of the land of Hardwork years
since; and of course it was too much trouble to go away and find more.
So they lived miserably on roots and nuts, and all the weakly little
"Why," said Tom, "they are growing no better than savages."
And the fairy turned over the next five hundred years. And there they
were all living up in trees, and making nests to keep off the rain. And
underneath the trees lions were prowling about.
"Why," said Ellie, "the lions seem to have eaten a good many of them,
for there are very few left now."
"Yes," said the fairy; "you see, it was only the strongest and most
active ones who could climb the trees, and so escape."
"But what great, hulking, broad-shouldered chaps they are," said Tom;
"they are a rough lot as ever I saw."
"Yes, they are getting very strong now; for the ladies will not marry
any but the very strongest and fiercest gentlemen, who can help them up
the trees out of the lions' way."
And she turned over the next five hundred years. And in that they were
fewer still, and stronger, and fiercer; but their feet had changed shape
very oddly, for they laid hold of the branches with their great toes, as
if they had been thumbs, just as a Hindoo tailor uses his toes to thread
The children were very much surprised, and asked the fairy whether that
was her doing.
"Yes, and no," she said, smiling. "It was only those who could use their
feet as well as their hands who could get a good living; or, indeed, get
married; so that they got the best of everything, and starved out all
the rest; and those who are left keep up a regular breed of toe-thumb-
men, as a breed of shorthorns, or skye terriers, or fancy pigeons is
"But there is a hairy one among them," said Ellie.
"Ah!" said the fairy, "that will be a great man in his time, and chief
of all the tribe."
And when she turned over the next five hundred years, it was true.
For this hairy chief had had hairy children, and they hairier children
still; and every one wished to marry hairy husbands, and have hairy
children, too; for the climate was growing so damp that none but the
hairy ones could live; all the rest coughed and sneezed, and had sore
throats, and went into consumptions, before they could grow up to be men
Then the fairy turned over the next five hundred years. And they were
"Why, there is one on the ground picking up roots," said Ellie, "and he
cannot walk upright."
No more he could; for in the same way that the shape of their feet had
altered, the shape of their backs had altered also.
"Why," cried Tom, "I declare they are all apes."
"Something fearfully like it, poor foolish creatures," said the fairy.
"They are grown so stupid now, that they can hardly think; for none of
them have used their wits for many hundred years. They have almost
forgotten, too, how to talk. For each stupid child forgot some of the
words it heard from its stupid parents, and had not wits enough to make
fresh words for itself. Beside, they are grown so fierce and suspicious
and brutal that they keep out of each other's way, and mope and sulk in
the dark forests, never hearing each other's voice, till they have
forgotten almost what speech is like. I am afraid they will all be apes
very soon, and all by doing only what they liked."
And in the next five hundred years they were all dead and gone, by bad
food and wild beasts and hunters; all except one tremendous old fellow
with jaws like a jack, who stood full seven feet high; and M. Du Chaillu
[Footnote: Paul du Chaillu, who was born in 1835, in New Orleans,
Louisiana, made some very remarkable discoveries during his explorations
in Africa--so wonderful, in fact, that people refused to believe them.
He was the first man to observe the habits of gorillas, and to obtain
specimens.] came up to him, and shot him, as he stood roaring and
thumping his breast. And he remembered that his ancestors had once been
men, and tried to say, "Am I not a man and a brother?" but had forgotten
how to use his tongue; and then he tried to call for a doctor, but he
had forgotten the word for one, So all he said was "Ubboboo!" and died.
And that was the end of the great and jolly nation of the Doasyoulikes.
And when Tom and Ellie came to the end of the book, they looked very sad
and solemn; and they had good reason so to do, for they really fancied
that the men were apes.
"But could you not have saved them from becoming apes?" said little
Ellie, at last.
"At first, my dear, if only they would have behaved like men, and set to
work to do what they did not like. But the longer they waited, and
behaved like the dumb beasts, who only do what they like, the stupider
and clumsier they grew; till at last they were past all cure, for they
had thrown their own wits away. It is such things as this that help to
make me so ugly, that I know not when I shall grow fair."
"And where are they all now?" asked Ellie.
"Exactly where they ought to be, my dear."
"Now," said Tom, "I am ready to be off, if it's to the world's end."
"Ah!" said the fairy, "that is a brave, good boy. But you must go
farther than the world's end if you want to find Mr. Grimes; for he is
at the Other-end-of-Nowhere. You must go to Shiny Wall, and through the
white gate that never was opened; and then you will come to Peace-pool,
and Mother Carey's Haven, where the good whales go when they die. And
there Mother Carey will tell you the way to the Other-end-of-Nowhere,
and there you will find Mr. Grimes."
"Oh, dear!" said Tom. "But I do not know my way to Shiny Wall, or where
it is at all."
"Little boys must take the trouble to find out things for themselves, or
they will never grow to be men; so that you must ask all the beasts in
the sea and the birds in the air, and if you have been good to them,
some of them will tell you the way to Shiny Wall."
"Well," said Tom, "it will be a long journey, so I had better start at
once. Good-bye, Miss Ellie; you know I am getting a big boy, and I must
go out and see the world."
"I know you must," said Ellie; "but you will not forget me, Tom. I shall
wait here till you come."
And she shook hands with him, and bade him good-bye. Tom longed very
much again to kiss her; but he thought it would not be respectful,
considering she was a lady born. So he promised not to forget her; but
his little whirl-about of a head was so full of the notion of going out
to see the world, that it forgot her in five minutes; however, though
his head forgot her, I am glad to say his heart did not.
[Illustration: Tom looking up at a bird wearing glasses on a boulder.]
So he asked all the beasts in the sea, and all the birds in the air, but
none of them knew the way to Shiny Wall. For why? He was still too far
down south. But for that there was a remedy. And so he swam northward,
day after day, till at last he met the King of the Herrings, with a
currycomb growing out of his nose, and a sprat in his mouth for a cigar,
and asked him the way to Shiny Wall; so he bolted the sprat head
foremost, and said:
"If I were you, young gentleman, I should go to the Allalonestone, and
ask the last of the Gairfowl. [Footnote: Gairfoul, or garefowl, was
another name for the great auk. This bird was about thirty inches long,
and its wings were so small in proportion to its body that it could not
fly. There have been no great auks since about the middle of the
nineteenth century.] She is of a very ancient clan, very nearly as
ancient as my own; and knows a good deal which these modern upstarts
don't, as ladies of old houses are likely to do."
Tom asked his way to her, and the King of the Herrings told him very
kindly, for he was a courteous old gentleman of the old school, though
he was horribly ugly, and strangely bedizened too, like the old dandies
who lounge in clubhouse windows.
But just as Tom had thanked him and set off, he called after him, "Hi! I
say, can you fly?"
"I never tried," said Tom. "Why?"
"Because, if you can, I should advise you to say nothing to the old lady
about it. There; take a hint. Good-bye."
And away Tom went for seven days and seven nights due northwest, till he
came to a great cod-bank, the like of which he never saw before.
And there he saw the last of the Gairfowl, standing up on the
Allalonestone, all alone. And a very grand old lady she was, full three
feet high, and bolt upright, like some old Highland chieftainess. She
had on a black velvet gown, and a white pinner and apron, and a very
high bridge to her nose (which is a sure mark of high breeding), and a
large pair of white spectacles on it, which made her look rather odd;
[Footnote: The great auks were dark above and white beneath, and had
huge white spots about their eyes.] but it was the ancient fashion of
And instead of wings, she had two little feathery arms, with which she
fanned herself, and complained of the dreadful heat.
Tom came up to her very humbly, and made his bow; and the first thing
she said was:
"Have you wings? Can you fly?"
"Oh, dear, no, ma'am; I should not think of such a thing," said cunning
"Then I shall have great pleasure in talking to you, my dear. It is
quite refreshing nowadays to see anything without wings. They must all
have wings, forsooth, now, every new upstart sort of bird, and fly. What
can they want with flying, and raising themselves above their proper
station in life? In the days of my ancestors no birds ever thought of
having wings, and did very well without; and now they all laugh at me
because I keep to the good old fashion."
And so she was running on, while Tom tried to get in a word edgeways;
and at last he did, when the old lady got out of breath, and began
fanning herself again. And then he asked if she knew the way to Shiny
"Shiny Wall? Who should know better than I? We all came from Shiny Wall,
thousands of years ago, when it was decently cold, and the climate was
fit for gentlefolk; but now, we have quite gone down in the world, my
dear, and have nothing left but our honour. And I am the last of my
family. A friend of mine and I came and settled on this rock when we
were young, to be out of the way of low people. Once we were a great
nation, and spread over all the Northern Isles. But men shot us so, and
knocked us on the head and took our eggs--why, if you will believe it,
they say that on the coast of Labrador the sailors used to lay a plank
from the rock on board the thing called their ship, and drive us along
the plank by hundreds, till we tumbled down in the ship's waist in
heaps, and then, I suppose, they ate us, the nasty fellows! Well--but--
what was I saying? At last, there were none of us left, except on the
old Gairfowlskerry, just off the Iceland coast, up which no man could
climb. Even there we had no peace; for one day, when I was quite a young
girl, the land rocked, and the sea boiled, and the sky grew dark, and
all the air was filled with smoke and dust, and down tumbled the old
Gairfowlskerry into the sea. The dovekies and marrocks, [Footnote: The
dovekies and the marrocks, or marrots, are smaller birds belonging to
the auk family.] of course, all flew away; but we were too proud to do
that. Some of us were dashed to pieces, and the rest drowned, and so
here I am left alone. And soon I shall be gone, my little dear, and
nobody will miss me; and then the poor stone will be left all alone."
"But, please, which is the way to Shiny Wall?" said Tom.
"Oh, you must go, my little dear--you must go. Let me see--I am sure--
that is--really, my poor old brains are getting quite puzzled. Do you
know, my little dear, I am afraid, if you want to know, you must ask
some of these vulgar birds about, for I have quite forgotten."
And the poor old Gairfowl began to cry tears of pure oil; and Tom was
quite sorry for her, and for himself too, for he was at his wit's end
whom to ask.
But there came by a flock of petrels, who are Mother Carey's own
chickens; and Tom thought them much prettier than Lady Gairfowl, and so
perhaps they were; for Mother Carey had had a great deal of fresh
experience between the time that she invented the Gairfowl and the time
that she invented them. They flitted along like a flock of black
swallows, and hopped and skipped from wave to wave, lifting up their
little feet behind them so daintily, and whistling to each other so
tenderly, that Tom fell in love with them at once, and called to them to
know the way to Shiny Wall.
"Shiny Wall? Do you want Shiny Wall? Then come with us, and we will show
you. We are Mother Carey's own chickens, and she sends us out over all
the seas, to show the good birds the way home."
Tom was delighted, and swam off to them, after he had made his bow to
the Gairfowl. But she would not return his bow, but held herself bolt
upright, and wept tears of oil.
Then the petrels asked this bird and that whether they would take Tom to
Shiny Wall; but one set was going to Sutherland, and one to the
Shetlands, and one to Norway, and one to Spitzbergen, and one to
Iceland, and one to Greenland; but none would go to Shiny Wall. So the
good-natured petrels said that they would show him part of the way
themselves, but they were only going as far as Jan Mayen's Land; and
after that he must shift for himself.
On the way, in a wrecked ship Tom found a little black and tan terrier
dog, which began barking and snapping at him, and would not let him come
Tom knew the dog's teeth could not hurt him; but at least it could shove