Part 1 out of 4
Transcribed by David Price, email email@example.com
THE WATER BABIES
"I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined;
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
"To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think,
What man has made of man."
Once upon a time there was a little chimney-sweep, and his name was
Tom. That is a short name, and you have heard it before, so you
will not have much trouble in remembering it. He lived in a great
town in the North country, where there were plenty of chimneys to
sweep, and plenty of money for Tom to earn and his master to spend.
He could not read nor write, and did not care to do either; and he
never washed himself, for there was no water up the court where he
lived. He had never been taught to say his prayers. He never had
heard of God, or of Christ, except in words which you never have
heard, and which it would have been well if he had never heard. He
cried half his time, and laughed the other half. He cried when he
had to climb the dark flues, rubbing his poor knees and elbows raw;
and when the soot got into his eyes, which it did every day in the
week; and when his master beat him, which he did every day in the
week; and when he had not enough to eat, which happened every day
in the week likewise. And he laughed the other half of the day,
when he was tossing halfpennies with the other boys, or playing
leap-frog over the posts, or bowling stones at the horses' legs as
they trotted by, which last was excellent fun, when there was a
wall at hand behind which to hide. As for chimney-sweeping, and
being hungry, and being beaten, he took all that for the way of the
world, like the rain and snow and thunder, and stood manfully with
his back to it till it was over, as his old donkey did to a hail-
storm; and then shook his ears and was as jolly as ever; and
thought of the fine times coming, when he would be a man, and a
master sweep, and sit in the public-house with a quart of beer and
a long pipe, and play cards for silver money, and wear velveteens
and ankle-jacks, and keep a white bull-dog with one gray ear, and
carry her puppies in his pocket, just like a man. And he would
have apprentices, one, two, three, if he could. How he would bully
them, and knock them about, just as his master did to him; and make
them carry home the soot sacks, while he rode before them on his
donkey, with a pipe in his mouth and a flower in his button-hole,
like a king at the head of his army. Yes, there were good times
coming; and, when his master let him have a pull at the leavings of
his beer, Tom was the jolliest boy in the whole town.
One day a smart little groom rode into the court where Tom lived.
Tom was just hiding behind a wall, to heave half a brick at his
horse's legs, as is the custom of that country when they welcome
strangers; but the groom saw him, and halloed to him to know where
Mr. Grimes, the chimney-sweep, lived. Now, Mr. Grimes was Tom's
own master, and Tom was a good man of business, and always civil to
customers, so he put the half-brick down quietly behind the wall,
and proceeded to take orders.
Mr. Grimes was to come up next morning to Sir John Harthover's, at
the Place, for his old chimney-sweep was gone to prison, and the
chimneys wanted sweeping. And so he rode away, not giving Tom time
to ask what the sweep had gone to prison for, which was a matter of
interest to Tom, as he had been in prison once or twice himself.
Moreover, the groom looked so very neat and clean, with his drab
gaiters, drab breeches, drab jacket, snow-white tie with a smart
pin in it, and clean round ruddy face, that Tom was offended and
disgusted at his appearance, and considered him a stuck-up fellow,
who gave himself airs because he wore smart clothes, and other
people paid for them; and went behind the wall to fetch the half-
brick after all; but did not, remembering that he had come in the
way of business, and was, as it were, under a flag of truce.
His master was so delighted at his new customer that he knocked Tom
down out of hand, and drank more beer that night than he usually
did in two, in order to be sure of getting up in time next morning;
for the more a man's head aches when he wakes, the more glad he is
to turn out, and have a breath of fresh air. And, when he did get
up at four the next morning, he knocked Tom down again, in order to
teach him (as young gentlemen used to be taught at public schools)
that he must be an extra good boy that day, as they were going to a
very great house, and might make a very good thing of it, if they
could but give satisfaction.
And Tom thought so likewise, and, indeed, would have done and
behaved his best, even without being knocked down. For, of all
places upon earth, Harthover Place (which he had never seen) was
the most wonderful, and, of all men on earth, Sir John (whom he had
seen, having been sent to gaol by him twice) was the most awful.
Harthover Place was really a grand place, even for the rich North
country; with a house so large that in the frame-breaking riots,
which Tom could just remember, the Duke of Wellington, and ten
thousand soldiers to match, were easily housed therein; at least,
so Tom believed; with a park full of deer, which Tom believed to be
monsters who were in the habit of eating children; with miles of
game-preserves, in which Mr. Grimes and the collier lads poached at
times, on which occasions Tom saw pheasants, and wondered what they
tasted like; with a noble salmon-river, in which Mr. Grimes and his
friends would have liked to poach; but then they must have got into
cold water, and that they did not like at all. In short, Harthover
was a grand place, and Sir John a grand old man, whom even Mr.
Grimes respected; for not only could he send Mr. Grimes to prison
when he deserved it, as he did once or twice a week; not only did
he own all the land about for miles; not only was he a jolly,
honest, sensible squire, as ever kept a pack of hounds, who would
do what he thought right by his neighbours, as well as get what he
thought right for himself; but, what was more, he weighed full
fifteen stone, was nobody knew how many inches round the chest, and
could have thrashed Mr. Grimes himself in fair fight, which very
few folk round there could do, and which, my dear little boy, would
not have been right for him to do, as a great many things are not
which one both can do, and would like very much to do. So Mr.
Grimes touched his hat to him when he rode through the town, and
called him a "buirdly awd chap," and his young ladies "gradely
lasses," which are two high compliments in the North country; and
thought that that made up for his poaching Sir John's pheasants;
whereby you may perceive that Mr. Grimes had not been to a
properly-inspected Government National School.
Now, I dare say, you never got up at three o'clock on a midsummer
morning. Some people get up then because they want to catch
salmon; and some because they want to climb Alps; and a great many
more because they must, like Tom. But, I assure you, that three
o'clock on a midsummer morning is the pleasantest time of all the
twenty-four hours, and all the three hundred and sixty-five days;
and why every one does not get up then, I never could tell, save
that they are all determined to spoil their nerves and their
complexions by doing all night what they might just as well do all
day. But Tom, instead of going out to dinner at half-past eight at
night, and to a ball at ten, and finishing off somewhere between
twelve and four, went to bed at seven, when his master went to the
public-house, and slept like a dead pig; for which reason he was as
piert as a game-cock (who always gets up early to wake the maids),
and just ready to get up when the fine gentlemen and ladies were
just ready to go to bed.
So he and his master set out; Grimes rode the donkey in front, and
Tom and the brushes walked behind; out of the court, and up the
street, past the closed window-shutters, and the winking weary
policemen, and the roofs all shining gray in the gray dawn.
They passed through the pitmen's village, all shut up and silent
now, and through the turnpike; and then the were out in the real
country, and plodding along the black dusty road, between black
slag walls, with no sound but the groaning and thumping of the pit-
engine in the next field. But soon the road grew white, and the
walls likewise; and at the wall's foot grew long grass and gay
flowers, all drenched with dew; and instead of the groaning of the
pit-engine, they heard the skylark saying his matins high up in the
air, and the pit-bird warbling in the sedges, as he had warbled all
All else was silent. For old Mrs. Earth was still fast asleep;
and, like many pretty people, she looked still prettier asleep than
awake. The great elm-trees in the gold-green meadows were fast
asleep above, and the cows fast asleep beneath them; nay, the few
clouds which were about were fast asleep likewise, and so tired
that they had lain down on the earth to rest, in long white flakes
and bars, among the stems of the elm-trees, and along the tops of
the alders by the stream, waiting for the sun to bid them rise and
go about their day's business in the clear blue overhead.
On they went; and Tom looked, and looked, for he never had been so
far into the country before; and longed to get over a gate, and
pick buttercups, and look for birds' nests in the hedge; but Mr.
Grimes was a man of business, and would not have heard of that.
Soon they came up with a poor Irishwoman, trudging along with a
bundle at her back. She had a gray shawl over her head, and a
crimson madder petticoat; so you may be sure she came from Galway.
She had neither shoes nor stockings, and limped along as if she
were tired and footsore; but she was a very tall handsome woman,
with bright gray eyes, and heavy black hair hanging about her
cheeks. And she took Mr. Grimes' fancy so much, that when he came
alongside he called out to her:
"This is a hard road for a gradely foot like that. Will ye up,
lass, and ride behind me?"
But, perhaps, she did not admire Mr. Grimes' look and voice; for
she answered quietly:
"No, thank you: I'd sooner walk with your little lad here."
"You may please yourself," growled Grimes, and went on smoking.
So she walked beside Tom, and talked to him, and asked him where he
lived, and what he knew, and all about himself, till Tom thought he
had never met such a pleasant-spoken woman. And she asked him, at
last, whether he said his prayers! and seemed sad when he told her
that he knew no prayers to say.
Then he asked her where she lived, and she said far away by the
sea. And Tom asked her about the sea; and she told him how it
rolled and roared over the rocks in winter nights, and lay still in
the bright summer days, for the children to bathe and play in it;
and many a story more, till Tom longed to go and see the sea, and
bathe in it likewise.
At last, at the bottom of a hill, they came to a spring; not such a
spring as you see here, which soaks up out of a white gravel in the
bog, among red fly-catchers, and pink bottle-heath, and sweet white
orchis; nor such a one as you may see, too, here, which bubbles up
under the warm sandbank in the hollow lane by the great tuft of
lady ferns, and makes the sand dance reels at the bottom, day and
night, all the year round; not such a spring as either of those;
but a real North country limestone fountain, like one of those in
Sicily or Greece, where the old heathen fancied the nymphs sat
cooling themselves the hot summer's day, while the shepherds peeped
at them from behind the bushes. Out of a low cave of rock, at the
foot of a limestone crag, the great fountain rose, quelling, and
bubbling, and gurgling, so clear that you could not tell where the
water ended and the air began; and ran away under the road, a
stream large enough to turn a mill; among blue geranium, and golden
globe-flower, and wild raspberry, and the bird-cherry with its
tassels of snow.
And there Grimes stopped, and looked; and Tom looked too. Tom was
wondering whether anything lived in that dark cave, and came out at
night to fly in the meadows. But Grimes was not wondering at all.
Without a word, he got off his donkey, and clambered over the low
road wall, and knelt down, and began dipping his ugly head into the
spring--and very dirty he made it.
Tom was picking the flowers as fast as he could. The Irishwoman
helped him, and showed him how to tie them up; and a very pretty
nosegay they had made between them. But when he saw Grimes
actually wash, he stopped, quite astonished; and when Grimes had
finished, and began shaking his ears to dry them, he said:
"Why, master, I never saw you do that before."
"Nor will again, most likely. 'Twasn't for cleanliness I did it,
but for coolness. I'd be ashamed to want washing every week or so,
like any smutty collier lad."
"I wish I might go and dip my head in," said poor little Tom. "It
must be as good as putting it under the town-pump; and there is no
beadle here to drive a chap away."
"Thou come along," said Grimes; "what dost want with washing
thyself? Thou did not drink half a gallon of beer last night, like
"I don't care for you," said naughty Tom, and ran down to the
stream, and began washing his face.
Grimes was very sulky, because the woman preferred Tom's company to
his; so he dashed at him with horrid words, and tore him up from
his knees, and began beating him. But Tom was accustomed to that,
and got his head safe between Mr. Grimes' legs, and kicked his
shins with all his might.
"Are you not ashamed of yourself, Thomas Grimes?" cried the
Irishwoman over the wall.
Grimes looked up, startled at her knowing his name; but all he
answered was, "No, nor never was yet;" and went on beating Tom.
"True for you. If you ever had been ashamed of yourself, you would
have gone over into Vendale long ago."
"What do you know about Vendale?" shouted Grimes; but he left off
"I know about Vendale, and about you, too. I know, for instance,
what happened in Aldermire Copse, by night, two years ago come
"You do?" shouted Grimes; and leaving Tom, he climbed up over the
wall, and faced the woman. Tom thought he was going to strike her;
but she looked him too full and fierce in the face for that.
"Yes; I was there," said the Irishwoman quietly.
"You are no Irishwoman, by your speech," said Grimes, after many
"Never mind who I am. I saw what I saw; and if you strike that boy
again, I can tell what I know."
Grimes seemed quite cowed, and got on his donkey without another
"Stop!" said the Irishwoman. "I have one more word for you both;
for you will both see me again before all is over. Those that wish
to be clean, clean they will be; and those that wish to be foul,
foul they will be. Remember."
And she turned away, and through a gate into the meadow. Grimes
stood still a moment, like a man who had been stunned. Then he
rushed after her, shouting, "You come back." But when he got into
the meadow, the woman was not there.
Had she hidden away? There was no place to hide in. But Grimes
looked about, and Tom also, for he was as puzzled as Grimes himself
at her disappearing so suddenly; but look where they would, she was
Grimes came back again, as silent as a post, for he was a little
frightened; and, getting on his donkey, filled a fresh pipe, and
smoked away, leaving Tom in peace.
And now they had gone three miles and more, and came to Sir John's
Very grand lodges they were, with very grand iron gates and stone
gate-posts, and on the top of each a most dreadful bogy, all teeth,
horns, and tail, which was the crest which Sir John's ancestors
wore in the Wars of the Roses; and very prudent men they were to
wear it, for all their enemies must have run for their lives at the
very first sight of them.
Grimes rang at the gate, and out came a keeper on the spot, and
"I was told to expect thee," he said. "Now thou'lt be so good as
to keep to the main avenue, and not let me find a hare or a rabbit
on thee when thou comest back. I shall look sharp for one, I tell
"Not if it's in the bottom of the soot-bag," quoth Grimes, and at
that he laughed; and the keeper laughed and said:
"If that's thy sort, I may as well walk up with thee to the hall."
"I think thou best had. It's thy business to see after thy game,
man, and not mine."
So the keeper went with them; and, to Tom's surprise, he and Grimes
chatted together all the way quite pleasantly. He did not know
that a keeper is only a poacher turned outside in, and a poacher a
keeper turned inside out.
They walked up a great lime avenue, a full mile long, and between
their stems Tom peeped trembling at the horns of the sleeping deer,
which stood up among the ferns. Tom had never seen such enormous
trees, and as he looked up he fancied that the blue sky rested on
their heads. But he was puzzled very much by a strange murmuring
noise, which followed them all the way. So much puzzled, that at
last he took courage to ask the keeper what it was.
He spoke very civilly, and called him Sir, for he was horribly
afraid of him, which pleased the keeper, and he told him that they
were the bees about the lime flowers.
"What are bees?" asked Tom.
"What make honey."
"What is honey?" asked Tom.
"Thou hold thy noise," said Grimes.
"Let the boy be," said the keeper. "He's a civil young chap now,
and that's more than he'll be long if he bides with thee."
Grimes laughed, for he took that for a compliment.
"I wish I were a keeper," said Tom, "to live in such a beautiful
place, and wear green velveteens, and have a real dog-whistle at my
button, like you."
The keeper laughed; he was a kind-hearted fellow enough.
"Let well alone, lad, and ill too at times. Thy life's safer than
mine at all events, eh, Mr. Grimes?"
And Grimes laughed again, and then the two men began talking, quite
low. Tom could hear, though, that it was about some poaching
fight; and at last Grimes said surlily, "Hast thou anything against
"Then don't ask me any questions till thou hast, for I am a man of
And at that they both laughed again, and thought it a very good
And by this time they were come up to the great iron gates in front
of the house; and Tom stared through them at the rhododendrons and
azaleas, which were all in flower; and then at the house itself,
and wondered how many chimneys there were in it, and how long ago
it was built, and what was the man's name that built it, and
whether he got much money for his job?
These last were very difficult questions to answer. For Harthover
had been built at ninety different times, and in nineteen different
styles, and looked as if somebody had built a whole street of
houses of every imaginable shape, and then stirred them together
with a spoon.
For the attics were Anglo-Saxon.
The third door Norman.
The second Cinque-cento.
The first-floor Elizabethan.
The right wing Pure Doric.
The centre Early English, with a huge portico copied from the
The left wing pure Boeotian, which the country folk admired most of
all, became it was just like the new barracks in the town, only
three times as big.
The grand staircase was copied from the Catacombs at Rome.
The back staircase from the Tajmahal at Agra. This was built by
Sir John's great-great-great-uncle, who won, in Lord Clive's Indian
Wars, plenty of money, plenty of wounds, and no more taste than his
The cellars were copied from the caves of Elephanta.
The offices from the Pavilion at Brighton.
And the rest from nothing in heaven, or earth, or under the earth.
So that Harthover House was a great puzzle to antiquarians, and a
thorough Naboth's vineyard to critics, and architects, and all
persons who like meddling with other men's business, and spending
other men's money. So they were all setting upon poor Sir John,
year after year, and trying to talk him into spending a hundred
thousand pounds or so, in building, to please them and not himself.
But he always put them off, like a canny North-countryman as he
was. One wanted him to build a Gothic house, but he said he was no
Goth; and another to build an Elizabethan, but he said he lived
under good Queen Victoria, and not good Queen Bess; and another was
bold enough to tell him that his house was ugly, but he said he
lived inside it, and not outside; and another, that there was no
unity in it, but he said that that was just why he liked the old
place. For he liked to see how each Sir John, and Sir Hugh, and
Sir Ralph, and Sir Randal, had left his mark upon the place, each
after his own taste; and he had no more notion of disturbing his
ancestors' work than of disturbing their graves. For now the house
looked like a real live house, that had a history, and had grown
and grown as the world grew; and that it was only an upstart fellow
who did not know who his own grandfather was, who would change it
for some spick and span new Gothic or Elizabethan thing, which
looked as if it bad been all spawned in a night, as mushrooms are.
From which you may collect (if you have wit enough) that Sir John
was a very sound-headed, sound-hearted squire, and just the man to
keep the country side in order, and show good sport with his
But Tom and his master did not go in through the great iron gates,
as if they had been Dukes or Bishops, but round the back way, and a
very long way round it was; and into a little back-door, where the
ash-boy let them in, yawning horribly; and then in a passage the
housekeeper met them, in such a flowered chintz dressing-gown, that
Tom mistook her for My Lady herself, and she gave Grimes solemn
orders about "You will take care of this, and take care of that,"
as if he was going up the chimneys, and not Tom. And Grimes
listened, and said every now and then, under his voice, "You'll
mind that, you little beggar?" and Tom did mind, all at least that
he could. And then the housekeeper turned them into a grand room,
all covered up in sheets of brown paper, and bade them begin, in a
lofty and tremendous voice; and so after a whimper or two, and a
kick from his master, into the grate Tom went, and up the chimney,
while a housemaid stayed in the room to watch the furniture; to
whom Mr. Grimes paid many playful and chivalrous compliments, but
met with very slight encouragement in return.
How many chimneys Tom swept I cannot say; but he swept so many that
he got quite tired, and puzzled too, for they were not like the
town flues to which he was accustomed, but such as you would find--
if you would only get up them and look, which perhaps you would not
like to do--in old country-houses, large and crooked chimneys,
which had been altered again and again, till they ran one into
another, anastomosing (as Professor Owen would say) considerably.
So Tom fairly lost his way in them; not that he cared much for
that, though he was in pitchy darkness, for he was as much at home
in a chimney as a mole is underground; but at last, coming down as
he thought the right chimney, he came down the wrong one, and found
himself standing on the hearthrug in a room the like of which he
had never seen before.
Tom had never seen the like. He had never been in gentlefolks'
rooms but when the carpets were all up, and the curtains down, and
the furniture huddled together under a cloth, and the pictures
covered with aprons and dusters; and he had often enough wondered
what the rooms were like when they were all ready for the quality
to sit in. And now he saw, and he thought the sight very pretty.
The room was all dressed in white,--white window-curtains, white
bed-curtains, white furniture, and white walls, with just a few
lines of pink here and there. The carpet was all over gay little
flowers; and the walls were hung with pictures in gilt frames,
which amused Tom very much. There were pictures of ladies and
gentlemen, and pictures of horses and dogs. The horses he liked;
but the dogs he did not care for much, for there were no bull-dogs
among them, not even a terrier. But the two pictures which took
his fancy most were, one a man in long garments, with little
children and their mothers round him, who was laying his hand upon
the children's heads. That was a very pretty picture, Tom thought,
to hang in a lady's room. For he could see that it was a lady's
room by the dresses which lay about.
The other picture was that of a man nailed to a cross, which
surprised Tom much. He fancied that he had seen something like it
in a shop-window. But why was it there? "Poor man," thought Tom,
"and he looks so kind and quiet. But why should the lady have such
a sad picture as that in her room? Perhaps it was some kinsman of
hers, who had been murdered by the savages in foreign parts, and
she kept it there for a remembrance." And Tom felt sad, and awed,
and turned to look at something else.
The next thing he saw, and that too puzzled him, was a washing-
stand, with ewers and basins, and soap and brushes, and towels, and
a large bath full of clean water--what a heap of things all for
washing! "She must be a very dirty lady," thought Tom, "by my
master's rule, to want as much scrubbing as all that. But she must
be very cunning to put the dirt out of the way so well afterwards,
for I don't see a speck about the room, not even on the very
And then, looking toward the bed, he saw that dirty lady, and held
his breath with astonishment.
Under the snow-white coverlet, upon the snow-white pillow, lay the
most beautiful little girl that Tom had ever seen. Her cheeks were
almost as white as the pillow, and her hair was like threads of
gold spread all about over the bed. She might have been as old as
Tom, or maybe a year or two older; but Tom did not think of that.
He thought only of her delicate skin and golden hair, and wondered
whether she was a real live person, or one of the wax dolls he had
seen in the shops. But when he saw her breathe, he made up his
mind that she was alive, and stood staring at her, as if she had
been an angel out of heaven.
No. She cannot be dirty. She never could have been dirty, thought
Tom to himself. And then he thought, "And are all people like that
when they are washed?" And he looked at his own wrist, and tried
to rub the soot off, and wondered whether it ever would come off.
"Certainly I should look much prettier then, if I grew at all like
And looking round, he suddenly saw, standing close to him, a little
ugly, black, ragged figure, with bleared eyes and grinning white
teeth. He turned on it angrily. What did such a little black ape
want in that sweet young lady's room? And behold, it was himself,
reflected in a great mirror, the like of which Tom had never seen
And Tom, for the first time in his life, found out that he was
dirty; and burst into tears with shame and anger; and turned to
sneak up the chimney again and hide; and upset the fender and threw
the fire-irons down, with a noise as of ten thousand tin kettles
tied to ten thousand mad dogs' tails.
Up jumped the little white lady in her bed, and, seeing Tom,
screamed as shrill as any peacock. In rushed a stout old nurse
from the next room, and seeing Tom likewise, made up her mind that
he had come to rob, plunder, destroy, and burn; and dashed at him,
as he lay over the fender, so fast that she caught him by the
But she did not hold him. Tom had been in a policeman's hands many
a time, and out of them too, what is more; and he would have been
ashamed to face his friends for ever if he had been stupid enough
to be caught by an old woman; so he doubled under the good lady's
arm, across the room, and out of the window in a moment.
He did not need to drop out, though he would have done so bravely
enough. Nor even to let himself down a spout, which would have
been an old game to him; for once he got up by a spout to the
church roof, he said to take jackdaws' eggs, but the policeman said
to steal lead; and, when he was seen on high, sat there till the
sun got too hot, and came down by another spout, leaving the
policemen to go back to the stationhouse and eat their dinners.
But all under the window spread a tree, with great leaves and sweet
white flowers, almost as big as his head. It was magnolia, I
suppose; but Tom knew nothing about that, and cared less; for down
the tree he went, like a cat, and across the garden lawn, and over
the iron railings and up the park towards the wood, leaving the old
nurse to scream murder and fire at the window.
The under gardener, mowing, saw Tom, and threw down his scythe;
caught his leg in it, and cut his shin open, whereby he kept his
bed for a week; but in his hurry he never knew it, and gave chase
to poor Tom. The dairymaid heard the noise, got the churn between
her knees, and tumbled over it, spilling all the cream; and yet she
jumped up, and gave chase to Tom. A groom cleaning Sir John's hack
at the stables let him go loose, whereby he kicked himself lame in
five minutes; but he ran out and gave chase to Tom. Grimes upset
the soot-sack in the new-gravelled yard, and spoilt it all utterly;
but he ran out and gave chase to Tom. The old steward opened the
park-gate in such a hurry, that he hung up his pony's chin upon the
spikes, and, for aught I know, it hangs there still; but he jumped
off, and gave chase to Tom. The ploughman left his horses at the
headland, and one jumped over the fence, and pulled the other into
the ditch, plough and all; but he ran on, and gave chase to Tom.
The keeper, who was taking a stoat out of a trap, let the stoat go,
and caught his own finger; but he jumped up, and ran after Tom; and
considering what he said, and how he looked, I should have been
sorry for Tom if he had caught him. Sir John looked out of his
study window (for he was an early old gentleman) and up at the
nurse, and a marten dropped mud in his eye, so that he had at last
to send for the doctor; and yet he ran out, and gave chase to Tom.
The Irishwoman, too, was walking up to the house to beg,--she must
have got round by some byway--but she threw away her bundle, and
gave chase to Tom likewise. Only my Lady did not give chase; for
when she had put her head out of the window, her night-wig fell
into the garden, and she had to ring up her lady's-maid, and send
her down for it privately, which quite put her out of the running,
so that she came in nowhere, and is consequently not placed.
In a word, never was there heard at Hall Place--not even when the
fox was killed in the conservatory, among acres of broken glass,
and tons of smashed flower-pots--such a noise, row, hubbub, babel,
shindy, hullabaloo, stramash, charivari, and total contempt of
dignity, repose, and order, as that day, when Grimes, gardener, the
groom, the dairymaid, Sir John, the steward, the ploughman, the
keeper, and the Irishwoman, all ran up the park, shouting, "Stop
thief," in the belief that Tom had at least a thousand pounds'
worth of jewels in his empty pockets; and the very magpies and jays
followed Tom up, screaking and screaming, as if he were a hunted
fox, beginning to droop his brush.
And all the while poor Tom paddled up the park with his little bare
feet, like a small black gorilla fleeing to the forest. Alas for
him! there was no big father gorilla therein to take his part--to
scratch out the gardener's inside with one paw, toss the dairymaid
into a tree with another, and wrench off Sir John's head with a
third, while he cracked the keeper's skull with his teeth as easily
as if it had been a cocoa-nut or a paving-stone.
However, Tom did not remember ever having had a father; so he did
not look for one, and expected to have to take care of himself;
while as for running, he could keep up for a couple of miles with
any stage-coach, if there was the chance of a copper or a cigar-
end, and turn coach-wheels on his hands and feet ten times
following, which is more than you can do. Wherefore his pursuers
found it very difficult to catch him; and we will hope that they
did not catch him at all.
Tom, of course, made for the woods. He had never been in a wood in
his life; but he was sharp enough to know that he might hide in a
bush, or swarm up a tree, and, altogether, had more chance there
than in the open. If he had not known that, he would have been
foolisher than a mouse or a minnow.
But when he got into the wood, he found it a very different sort of
place from what he had fancied. He pushed into a thick cover of
rhododendrons, and found himself at once caught in a trap. The
boughs laid hold of his legs and arms, poked him in his face and
his stomach, made him shut his eyes tight (though that was no great
loss, for he could not see at best a yard before his nose); and
when he got through the rhododendrons, the hassock-grass and sedges
tumbled him over, and cut his poor little fingers afterwards most
spitefully; the birches birched him as soundly as if he had been a
nobleman at Eton, and over the face too (which is not fair swishing
as all brave boys will agree); and the lawyers tripped him up, and
tore his shins as if they had sharks' teeth--which lawyers are
likely enough to have.
"I must get out of this," thought Tom, "or I shall stay here till
somebody comes to help me--which is just what I don't want."
But how to get out was the difficult matter. And indeed I don't
think he would ever have got out at all, but have stayed there till
the cock-robins covered him with leaves, if he had not suddenly run
his head against a wall.
Now running your head against a wall is not pleasant, especially if
it is a loose wall, with the stones all set on edge, and a sharp
cornered one hits you between the eyes and makes you see all manner
of beautiful stars. The stars are very beautiful, certainly; but
unfortunately they go in the twenty-thousandth part of a split
second, and the pain which comes after them does not. And so Tom
hurt his head; but he was a brave boy, and did not mind that a
penny. He guessed that over the wall the cover would end; and up
it he went, and over like a squirrel.
And there he was, out on the great grouse-moors, which the country
folk called Harthover Fell--heather and bog and rock, stretching
away and up, up to the very sky.
Now, Tom was a cunning little fellow--as cunning as an old Exmoor
stag. Why not? Though he was but ten years old, he had lived
longer than most stags, and had more wits to start with into the
He knew as well as a stag, that if he backed he might throw the
hounds out. So the first thing he did when he was over the wall
was to make the neatest double sharp to his right, and run along
under the wall for nearly half a mile.
Whereby Sir John, and the keeper, and the steward, and the
gardener, and the ploughman, and the dairymaid, and all the hue-
and-cry together, went on ahead half a mile in the very opposite
direction, and inside the wall, leaving him a mile off on the
outside; while Tom heard their shouts die away in the woods and
chuckled to himself merrily.
At last he came to a dip in the land, and went to the bottom of it,
and then he turned bravely away from the wall and up the moor; for
he knew that he had put a hill between him and his enemies, and
could go on without their seeing him.
But the Irishwoman, alone of them all, had seen which way Tom went.
She had kept ahead of every one the whole time; and yet she neither
walked nor ran. She went along quite smoothly and gracefully,
while her feet twinkled past each other so fast that you could not
see which was foremost; till every one asked the other who the
strange woman was; and all agreed, for want of anything better to
say, that she must be in league with Tom.
But when she came to the plantation, they lost sight of her; and
they could do no less. For she went quietly over the wall after
Tom, and followed him wherever he went. Sir John and the rest saw
no more of her; and out of sight was out of mind.
And now Tom was right away into the heather, over just such a moor
as those in which you have been bred, except that there were rocks
and stones lying about everywhere, and that, instead of the moor
growing flat as he went upwards, it grew more and more broken and
hilly, but not so rough but that little Tom could jog along well
enough, and find time, too, to stare about at the strange place,
which was like a new world to him.
He saw great spiders there, with crowns and crosses marked on their
backs, who sat in the middle of their webs, and when they saw Tom
coming, shook them so fast that they became invisible. Then he saw
lizards, brown and gray and green, and thought they were snakes,
and would sting him; but they were as much frightened as he, and
shot away into the heath. And then, under a rock, he saw a pretty
sight--a great brown, sharp-nosed creature, with a white tag to her
brush, and round her four or five smutty little cubs, the funniest
fellows Tom ever saw. She lay on her back, rolling about, and
stretching out her legs and head and tail in the bright sunshine;
and the cubs jumped over her, and ran round her, and nibbled her
paws, and lugged her about by the tail; and she seemed to enjoy it
mightily. But one selfish little fellow stole away from the rest
to a dead crow close by, and dragged it off to hide it, though it
was nearly as big as he was. Whereat all his little brothers set
off after him in full cry, and saw Tom; and then all ran back, and
up jumped Mrs. Vixen, and caught one up in her mouth, and the rest
toddled after her, and into a dark crack in the rocks; and there
was an end of the show.
And next he had a fright; for, as he scrambled up a sandy brow--
whirr-poof-poof-cock-cock-kick--something went off in his face,
with a most horrid noise. He thought the ground had blown up, and
the end of the world come.
And when he opened his eyes (for he shut them very tight) it was
only an old cock-grouse, who had been washing himself in sand, like
an Arab, for want of water; and who, when Tom had all but trodden
on him, jumped up with a noise like the express train, leaving his
wife and children to shift for themselves, like an old coward, and
went off, screaming "Cur-ru-u-uck, cur-ru-u-uck--murder, thieves,
fire--cur-u-uck-cock-kick--the end of the world is come--kick-kick-
cock-kick." He was always fancying that the end of the world was
come, when anything happened which was farther off than the end of
his own nose. But the end of the world was not come, any more than
the twelfth of August was; though the old grouse-cock was quite
certain of it.
So the old grouse came back to his wife and family an hour
afterwards, and said solemnly, "Cock-cock-kick; my dears, the end
of the world is not quite come; but I assure you it is coming the
day after to-morrow--cock." But his wife had heard that so often
that she knew all about it, and a little more. And, besides, she
was the mother of a family, and had seven little poults to wash and
feed every day; and that made her very practical, and a little
sharp-tempered; so all she answered was: "Kick-kick-kick--go and
catch spiders, go and catch spiders--kick."
So Tom went on and on, he hardly knew why; but he liked the great
wide strange place, and the cool fresh bracing air. But he went
more and more slowly as he got higher up the hill; for now the
ground grew very bad indeed. Instead of soft turf and springy
heather, he met great patches of flat limestone rock, just like
ill-made pavements, with deep cracks between the stones and ledges,
filled with ferns; so he had to hop from stone to stone, and now
and then he slipped in between, and hurt his little bare toes,
though they were tolerably tough ones; but still he would go on and
up, he could not tell why.
What would Tom have said if he had seen, walking over the moor
behind him, the very same Irishwoman who had taken his part upon
the road? But whether it was that he looked too little behind him,
or whether it was that she kept out of sight behind the rocks and
knolls, he never saw her, though she saw him.
And now he began to get a little hungry, and very thirsty; for he
had run a long way, and the sun had risen high in heaven, and the
rock was as hot as an oven, and the air danced reels over it, as it
does over a limekiln, till everything round seemed quivering and
melting in the glare.
But he could see nothing to eat anywhere, and still less to drink.
The heath was full of bilberries and whimberries; but they were
only in flower yet, for it was June. And as for water; who can
find that on the top of a limestone rock? Now and then he passed
by a deep dark swallow-hole, going down into the earth, as if it
was the chimney of some dwarfs house underground; and more than
once, as he passed, he could hear water falling, trickling,
tinkling, many many feet below. How he longed to get down to it,
and cool his poor baked lips! But, brave little chimney-sweep as
he was, he dared not climb down such chimneys as those.
So he went on and on, till his head spun round with the heat, and
he thought he heard church-bells ringing a long way off.
"Ah!" he thought, "where there is a church there will be houses and
people; and, perhaps, some one will give me a bit and a sup." So
he set off again, to look for the church; for he was sure that he
heard the bells quite plain.
And in a minute more, when he looked round, he stopped again, and
said, "Why, what a big place the world is!"
And so it was; for, from the top of the mountain he could see--what
could he not see?
Behind him, far below, was Harthover, and the dark woods, and the
shining salmon river; and on his left, far below, was the town, and
the smoking chimneys of the collieries; and far, far away, the
river widened to the shining sea; and little white specks, which
were ships, lay on its bosom. Before him lay, spread out like a
map, great plains, and farms, and villages, amid dark knots of
trees. They all seemed at his very feet; but he had sense to see
that they were long miles away.
And to his right rose moor after moor, hill after hill, till they
faded away, blue into blue sky. But between him and those moors,
and really at his very feet, lay something, to which, as soon as
Tom saw it, he determined to go, for that was the place for him.
A deep, deep green and rocky valley, very narrow, and filled with
wood; but through the wood, hundreds of feet below him, he could
see a clear stream glance. Oh, if he could but get down to that
stream! Then, by the stream, he saw the roof of a little cottage,
and a little garden set out in squares and beds. And there was a
tiny little red thing moving in the garden, no bigger than a fly.
As Tom looked down, he saw that it was a woman in a red petticoat.
Ah! perhaps she would give him something to eat. And there were
the church-bells ringing again. Surely there must be a village
down there. Well, nobody would know him, or what had happened at
the Place. The news could not have got there yet, even if Sir John
had set all the policemen in the county after him; and he could get
down there in five minutes.
Tom was quite right about the hue-and-cry not having got thither;
for he had come without knowing it, the best part of ten miles from
Harthover; but he was wrong about getting down in five minutes, for
the cottage was more than a mile off, and a good thousand feet
However, down he went; like a brave little man as he was, though he
was very footsore, and tired, and hungry, and thirsty; while the
church-bells rang so loud, he began to think that they must be
inside his own head, and the river chimed and tinkled far below;
and this was the song which it sang:-
Clear and cool, clear and cool,
By laughing shallow, and dreaming pool;
Cool and clear, cool and clear,
By shining shingle, and foaming wear;
Under the crag where the ouzel sings,
And the ivied wall where the church-bell rings,
Undefiled, for the undefiled;
Play by me, bathe in me, mother and child.
Dank and foul, dank and foul,
By the smoky town in its murky cowl;
Foul and dank, foul and dank,
By wharf and sewer and slimy bank;
Darker and darker the farther I go,
Baser and baser the richer I grow;
Who dares sport with the sin-defiled?
Shrink from me, turn from me, mother and child.
Strong and free, strong and free,
The floodgates are open, away to the sea,
Free and strong, free and strong,
Cleansing my streams as I hurry along,
To the golden sands, and the leaping bar,
And the taintless tide that awaits me afar.
As I lose myself in the infinite main,
Like a soul that has sinned and is pardoned again.
Undefiled, for the undefiled;
Play by me, bathe in me, mother and child.
So Tom went down; and all the while he never saw the Irishwoman
going down behind him.
"And is there care in heaven? and is there love
In heavenly spirits to these creatures base
That may compassion of their evils move?
There is:- else much more wretched were the case
Of men than beasts: But oh! the exceeding grace
Of Highest God that loves His creatures so,
And all His works with mercy doth embrace,
That blessed Angels He sends to and fro,
To serve to wicked man, to serve His wicked foe!"
A mile off, and a thousand feet down.
So Tom found it; though it seemed as if he could have chucked a
pebble on to the back of the woman in the red petticoat who was
weeding in the garden, or even across the dale to the rocks beyond.
For the bottom of the valley was just one field broad, and on the
other side ran the stream; and above it, gray crag, gray down, gray
stair, gray moor walled up to heaven.
A quiet, silent, rich, happy place; a narrow crack cut deep into
the earth; so deep, and so out of the way, that the bad bogies can
hardly find it out. The name of the place is Vendale; and if you
want to see it for yourself, you must go up into the High Craven,
and search from Bolland Forest north by Ingleborough, to the Nine
Standards and Cross Fell; and if you have not found it, you must
turn south, and search the Lake Mountains, down to Scaw Fell and
the sea; and then, if you have not found it, you must go northward
again by merry Carlisle, and search the Cheviots all across, from
Annan Water to Berwick Law; and then, whether you have found
Vendale or not, you will have found such a country, and such a
people, as ought to make you proud of being a British boy.
So Tom went to go down; and first he went down three hundred feet
of steep heather, mixed up with loose brown grindstone, as rough as
a file; which was not pleasant to his poor little heels, as he came
bump, stump, jump, down the steep. And still he thought he could
throw a stone into the garden.
Then he went down three hundred feet of lime-stone terraces, one
below the other, as straight as if a carpenter had ruled them with
his ruler and then cut them out with his chisel. There was no
heath there, but -
First, a little grass slope, covered with the prettiest flowers,
rockrose and saxifrage, and thyme and basil, and all sorts of sweet
Then bump down a two-foot step of limestone.
Then another bit of grass and flowers.
Then bump down a one-foot step.
Then another bit of grass and flowers for fifty yards, as steep as
the house-roof, where he had to slide down on his dear little tail.
Then another step of stone, ten feet high; and there he had to stop
himself, and crawl along the edge to find a crack; for if he had
rolled over, he would have rolled right into the old woman's
garden, and frightened her out of her wits.
Then, when he had found a dark narrow crack, full of green-stalked
fern, such as hangs in the basket in the drawing-room, and had
crawled down through it, with knees and elbows, as he would down a
chimney, there was another grass slope, and another step, and so
on, till--oh, dear me! I wish it was all over; and so did he. And
yet he thought he could throw a stone into the old woman's garden.
At last he came to a bank of beautiful shrubs; white-beam with its
great silver-backed leaves, and mountain-ash, and oak; and below
them cliff and crag, cliff and crag, with great beds of crown-ferns
and wood-sedge; while through the shrubs he could see the stream
sparkling, and hear it murmur on the white pebbles. He did not
know that it was three hundred feet below.
You would have been giddy, perhaps, at looking down: but Tom was
not. He was a brave little chimney-sweep; and when he found
himself on the top of a high cliff, instead of sitting down and
crying for his baba (though he never had had any baba to cry for),
he said, "Ah, this will just suit me!" though he was very tired;
and down he went, by stock and stone, sedge and ledge, bush and
rush, as if he had been born a jolly little black ape, with four
hands instead of two.
And all the while he never saw the Irishwoman coming down behind
But he was getting terribly tired now. The burning sun on the
fells had sucked him up; but the damp heat of the woody crag sucked
him up still more; and the perspiration ran out of the ends of his
fingers and toes, and washed him cleaner than he had been for a
whole year. But, of course, he dirtied everything, terribly as he
went. There has been a great black smudge all down the crag ever
since. And there have been more black beetles in Vendale since
than ever were known before; all, of course, owing to Tom's having
blacked the original papa of them all, just as he was setting off
to be married, with a sky-blue coat and scarlet leggins, as smart
as a gardener's dog with a polyanthus in his mouth.
At last he got to the bottom. But, behold, it was not the bottom--
as people usually find when they are coming down a mountain. For
at the foot of the crag were heaps and heaps of fallen limestone of
every size from that of your head to that of a stage-waggon, with
holes between them full of sweet heath-fern; and before Tom got
through them, he was out in the bright sunshine again; and then he
felt, once for all and suddenly, as people generally do, that he
was b-e-a-t, beat.
You must expect to be beat a few times in your life, little man, if
you live such a life as a man ought to live, let you be as strong
and healthy as you may: and when you are, you will find it a very
ugly feeling. I hope that that day you may have a stout staunch
friend by you who is not beat; for, if you have not, you had best
lie where you are, and wait for better times, as poor Tom did.
He could not get on. The sun was burning, and yet he felt chill
all over. He was quite empty, and yet he felt quite sick. There
was but two hundred yards of smooth pasture between him and the
cottage, and yet he could not walk down it. He could hear the
stream murmuring only one field beyond it, and yet it seemed to him
as if it was a hundred miles off.
He lay down on the grass till the beetles ran over him, and the
flies settled on his nose. I don't know when he would have got up
again, if the gnats and the midges had not taken compassion on him.
But the gnats blew their trumpets so loud in his ear, and the
midges nibbled so at his hands and face wherever they could find a
place free from soot, that at last he woke up, and stumbled away,
down over a low wall, and into a narrow road, and up to the
And a neat pretty cottage it was, with clipped yew hedges all round
the garden, and yews inside too, cut into peacocks and trumpets and
teapots and all kinds of queer shapes. And out of the open door
came a noise like that of the frogs on the Great-A, when they know
that it is going to be scorching hot to-morrow--and how they know
that I don't know, and you don't know, and nobody knows.
He came slowly up to the open door, which was all hung round with
clematis and roses; and then peeped in, half afraid.
And there sat by the empty fireplace, which was filled with a pot
of sweet herbs, the nicest old woman that ever was seen, in her red
petticoat, and short dimity bedgown, and clean white cap, with a
black silk handkerchief over it, tied under her chin. At her feet
sat the grandfather of all the cats; and opposite her sat, on two
benches, twelve or fourteen neat, rosy, chubby little children,
learning their Chris-cross-row; and gabble enough they made about
Such a pleasant cottage it was, with a shiny clean stone floor, and
curious old prints on the walls, and an old black oak sideboard
full of bright pewter and brass dishes, and a cuckoo clock in the
corner, which began shouting as soon as Tom appeared: not that it
was frightened at Tom, but that it was just eleven o'clock.
All the children started at Tom's dirty black figure,--the girls
began to cry, and the boys began to laugh, and all pointed at him
rudely enough; but Tom was too tired to care for that.
"What art thou, and what dost want?" cried the old dame. "A
chimney-sweep! Away with thee! I'll have no sweeps here."
"Water," said poor little Tom, quite faint.
"Water? There's plenty i' the beck," she said, quite sharply.
"But I can't get there; I'm most clemmed with hunger and drought."
And Tom sank down upon the door-step, and laid his head against the
And the old dame looked at him through her spectacles one minute,
and two, and three; and then she said, "He's sick; and a bairn's a
bairn, sweep or none."
"Water," said Tom.
"God forgive me!" and she put by her spectacles, and rose, and came
to Tom. "Water's bad for thee; I'll give thee milk." And she
toddled off into the next room, and brought a cup of milk and a bit
Tom drank the milk off at one draught, and then looked up, revived.
"Where didst come from?" said the dame.
"Over Fell, there," said Tom, and pointed up into the sky.
"Over Harthover? and down Lewthwaite Crag? Art sure thou art not
"Why should I?" said Tom, and leant his head against the post.
"And how got ye up there?"
"I came over from the Place;" and Tom was so tired and desperate he
had no heart or time to think of a story, so he told all the truth
in a few words.
"Bless thy little heart! And thou hast not been stealing, then?"
"Bless thy little heart! and I'll warrant not. Why, God's guided
the bairn, because he was innocent! Away from the Place, and over
Harthover Fell, and down Lewthwaite Crag! Who ever heard the like,
if God hadn't led him? Why dost not eat thy bread?"
"It's good enough, for I made it myself."
"I can't," said Tom, and he laid his head on his knees, and then
"Is it Sunday?"
"No, then; why should it be?"
"Because I hear the church-bells ringing so."
"Bless thy pretty heart! The bairn's sick. Come wi' me, and I'll
hap thee up somewhere. If thou wert a bit cleaner I'd put thee in
my own bed, for the Lord's sake. But come along here."
But when Tom tried to get up, he was so tired and giddy that she
had to help him and lead him.
She put him in an outhouse upon soft sweet hay and an old rug, and
bade him sleep off his walk, and she would come to him when school
was over, in an hour's time.
And so she went in again, expecting Tom to fall fast asleep at
But Tom did not fall asleep.
Instead of it he turned and tossed and kicked about in the
strangest way, and felt so hot all over that he longed to get into
the river and cool himself; and then he fell half asleep, and
dreamt that he heard the little white lady crying to him, "Oh,
you're so dirty; go and be washed;" and then that he heard the
Irishwoman saying, "Those that wish to be clean, clean they will
be." And then he heard the church-bells ring so loud, close to him
too, that he was sure it must be Sunday, in spite of what the old
dame had said; and he would go to church, and see what a church was
like inside, for he had never been in one, poor little fellow, in
all his life. But the people would never let him come in, all over
soot and dirt like that. He must go to the river and wash first.
And he said out loud again and again, though being half asleep he
did not know it, "I must be clean, I must be clean."
And all of a sudden he found himself, not in the outhouse on the
hay, but in the middle of a meadow, over the road, with the stream
just before him, saying continually, "I must be clean, I must be
clean." He had got there on his own legs, between sleep and awake,
as children will often get out of bed, and go about the room, when
they are not quite well. But he was not a bit surprised, and went
on to the bank of the brook, and lay down on the grass, and looked
into the clear, clear limestone water, with every pebble at the
bottom bright and clean, while the little silver trout dashed about
in fright at the sight of his black face; and he dipped his hand in
and found it so cool, cool, cool; and he said, "I will be a fish; I
will swim in the water; I must be clean, I must be clean."
So he pulled off all his clothes in such haste that he tore some of
them, which was easy enough with such ragged old things. And he
put his poor hot sore feet into the water; and then his legs; and
the farther he went in, the more the church-bells rang in his head.
"Ah," said Tom, "I must be quick and wash myself; the bells are
ringing quite loud now; and they will stop soon, and then the door
will be shut, and I shall never be able to get in at all."
Tom was mistaken: for in England the church doors are left open
all service time, for everybody who likes to come in, Churchman or
Dissenter; ay, even if he were a Turk or a Heathen; and if any man
dared to turn him out, as long as he behaved quietly, the good old
English law would punish that man, as he deserved, for ordering any
peaceable person out of God's house, which belongs to all alike.
But Tom did not know that, any more than he knew a great deal more
which people ought to know.
And all the while he never saw the Irishwoman, not behind him this
time, but before.
For just before he came to the river side, she had stept down into
the cool clear water; and her shawl and her petticoat floated off
her, and the green water-weeds floated round her sides, and the
white water-lilies floated round her head, and the fairies of the
stream came up from the bottom and bore her away and down upon
their arms; for she was the Queen of them all; and perhaps of more
"Where have you been?" they asked her.
"I have been smoothing sick folks' pillows, and whispering sweet
dreams into their ears; opening cottage casements, to let out the
stifling air; coaxing little children away from gutters, and foul
pools where fever breeds; turning women from the gin-shop door, and
staying men's hands as they were going to strike their wives; doing
all I can to help those who will not help themselves: and little
enough that is, and weary work for me. But I have brought you a
new little brother, and watched him safe all the way here."
Then all the fairies laughed for joy at the thought that they had a
little brother coming.
"But mind, maidens, he must not see you, or know that you are here.
He is but a savage now, and like the beasts which perish; and from
the beasts which perish he must learn. So you must not play with
him, or speak to him, or let him see you: but only keep him from
Then the fairies were sad, because they could not play with their
new brother, but they always did what they were told.
And their Queen floated away down the river; and whither she went,
thither she came. But all this Tom, of course, never saw or heard:
and perhaps if he had it would have made little difference in the
story; for was so hot and thirsty, and longed so to be clean for
once, that he tumbled himself as quick as he could into the clear
And he had not been in it two minutes before he fell fast asleep,
into the quietest, sunniest, cosiest sleep that ever he had in his
life; and he dreamt about the green meadows by which he had walked
that morning, and the tall elm-trees, and the sleeping cows; and
after that he dreamt of nothing at all.
The reason of his falling into such a delightful sleep is very
simple; and yet hardly any one has found it out. It was merely
that the fairies took him.
Some people think that there are no fairies. Cousin Cramchild
tells little folks so in his Conversations. Well, perhaps there
are none--in Boston, U.S., where he was raised. There are only a
clumsy lot of spirits there, who can't make people hear without
thumping on the table: but they get their living thereby, and I
suppose that is all they want. And Aunt Agitate, in her Arguments
on political economy, says there are none. Well, perhaps there are
none--in her political economy. But it is a wide world, my little
man--and thank Heaven for it, for else, between crinolines and
theories, some of us would get squashed--and plenty of room in it
for fairies, without people seeing them; unless, of course, they
look in the right place. The most wonderful and the strongest
things in the world, you know, are just the things which no one can
see. There is life in you; and it is the life in you which makes
you grow, and move, and think: and yet you can't see it. And
there is steam in a steam-engine; and that is what makes it move:
and yet you can't see it; and so there may be fairies in the world,
and they may be just what makes the world go round to the old tune
"C'est l'amour, l'amour, l'amour
Qui fait la monde a la ronde:"
and yet no one may be able to see them except those whose hearts
are going round to that same tune. At all events, we will make
believe that there are fairies in the world. It will not be the
last time by many a one that we shall have to make believe. And
yet, after all, there is no need for that. There must be fairies;
for this is a fairy tale: and how can one have a fairy tale if
there are no fairies?
You don't see the logic of that? Perhaps not. Then please not to
see the logic of a great many arguments exactly like it, which you
will hear before your beard is gray.
The kind old dame came back at twelve, when school was over, to
look at Tom: but there was no Tom there. She looked about for his
footprints; but the ground was so hard that there was no slot, as
they say in dear old North Devon. And if you grow up to be a brave
healthy man, you may know some day what no slot means, and know
too, I hope, what a slot does mean--a broad slot, with blunt claws,
which makes a man put out his cigar, and set his teeth, and tighten
his girths, when he sees it; and what his rights mean, if he has
them, brow, bay, tray, and points; and see something worth seeing
between Haddon Wood and Countisbury Cliff, with good Mr. Palk
Collyns to show you the way, and mend your bones as fast as you
smash them. Only when that jolly day comes, please don't break
your neck; stogged in a mire you never will be, I trust; for you
are a heath-cropper bred and born.
So the old dame went in again quite sulky, thinking that little Tom
had tricked her with a false story, and shammed ill, and then run
But she altered her mind the next day. For, when Sir John and the
rest of them had run themselves out of breath, and lost Tom, they
went back again, looking very foolish.
And they looked more foolish still when Sir John heard more of the
story from the nurse; and more foolish still, again, when they
heard the whole story from Miss Ellie, the little lady in white.
All she had seen was a poor little black chimney-sweep, crying and
sobbing, and going to get up the chimney again. Of course, she was
very much frightened: and no wonder. But that was all. The boy
had taken nothing in the room; by the mark of his little sooty
feet, they could see that he had never been off the hearthrug till
the nurse caught hold of him. It was all a mistake.
So Sir John told Grimes to go home, and promised him five shillings
if he would bring the boy quietly up to him, without beating him,
that he might be sure of the truth. For he took for granted, and
Grimes too, that Tom had made his way home.
But no Tom came back to Mr. Grimes that evening; and he went to the
police-office, to tell them to look out for the boy. But no Tom
was heard of. As for his having gone over those great fells to
Vendale, they no more dreamed of that than of his having gone to
So Mr. Grimes came up to Harthover next day with a very sour face;
but when he got there, Sir John was over the hills and far away;
and Mr. Grimes had to sit in the outer servants' hall all day, and
drink strong ale to wash away his sorrows; and they were washed
away long before Sir John came back.
For good Sir John had slept very badly that night; and he said to
his lady, "My dear, the boy must have got over into the grouse-
moors, and lost himself; and he lies very heavily on my conscience,
poor little lad. But I know what I will do."
So, at five the next morning up he got, and into his bath, and into
his shooting-jacket and gaiters, and into the stableyard, like a
fine old English gentleman, with a face as red as a rose, and a
hand as hard as a table, and a back as broad as a bullock's; and
bade them bring his shooting pony, and the keeper to come on his
pony, and the huntsman, and the first whip, and the second whip,
and the under-keeper with the bloodhound in a leash--a great dog as
tall as a calf, of the colour of a gravel-walk, with mahogany ears
and nose, and a throat like a church-bell. They took him up to the
place where Tom had gone into the wood; and there the hound lifted
up his mighty voice, and told them all he knew.
Then he took them to the place where Tom had climbed the wall; and
they shoved it down, and all got through.
And then the wise dog took them over the moor, and over the fells,
step by step, very slowly; for the scent was a day old, you know,
and very light from the heat and drought. But that was why cunning
old Sir John started at five in the morning.
And at last he came to the top of Lewthwaite Crag, and there he
bayed, and looked up in their faces, as much as to say, "I tell you
he is gone down here!"
They could hardly believe that Tom would have gone so far; and when
they looked at that awful cliff, they could never believe that he
would have dared to face it. But if the dog said so, it must be
"Heaven forgive us!" said Sir John. "If we find him at all, we
shall find him lying at the bottom." And he slapped his great hand
upon his great thigh, and said -
"Who will go down over Lewthwaite Crag, and see if that boy is
alive? Oh that I were twenty years younger, and I would go down
myself!" And so he would have done, as well as any sweep in the
county. Then he said -
"Twenty pounds to the man who brings me that boy alive!" and as was
his way, what he said he meant.
Now among the lot was a little groom-boy, a very little groom
indeed; and he was the same who had ridden up the court, and told
Tom to come to the Hall; and he said -
"Twenty pounds or none, I will go down over Lewthwaite Crag, if
it's only for the poor boy's sake. For he was as civil a spoken
little chap as ever climbed a flue."
So down over Lewthwaite Crag he went: a very smart groom he was at
the top, and a very shabby one at the bottom; for he tore his
gaiters, and he tore his breeches, and he tore his jacket, and he
burst his braces, and he burst his boots, and he lost his hat, and
what was worst of all, he lost his shirt pin, which he prized very
much, for it was gold, and he had won it in a raffle at Malton, and
there was a figure at the top of it, of t'ould mare, noble old
Beeswing herself, as natural as life; so it was a really severe
loss: but he never saw anything of Tom.
And all the while Sir John and the rest were riding round, full
three miles to the right, and back again, to get into Vendale, and
to the foot of the crag.
When they came to the old dame's school, all the children came out
to see. And the old dame came out too; and when she saw Sir John,
she curtsied very low, for she was a tenant of his.
"Well, dame, and how are you?" said Sir John.
"Blessings on you as broad as your back, Harthover," says she--she
didn't call him Sir John, but only Harthover, for that is the
fashion in the North country--"and welcome into Vendale: but
you're no hunting the fox this time of the year?"
"I am hunting, and strange game too," said he.
"Blessings on your heart, and what makes you look so sad the morn?"
"I'm looking for a lost child, a chimney-sweep, that is run away."
"Oh, Harthover, Harthover," says she, "ye were always a just man
and a merciful; and ye'll no harm the poor little lad if I give you
tidings of him?"
"Not I, not I, dame. I'm afraid we hunted him out of the house all
on a miserable mistake, and the hound has brought him to the top of
Lewthwaite Crag, and--"
Whereat the old dame broke out crying, without letting him finish
"So he told me the truth after all, poor little dear! Ah, first
thoughts are best, and a body's heart'll guide them right, if they
will but hearken to it." And then she told Sir John all.
"Bring the dog here, and lay him on," said Sir John, without
another word, and he set his teeth very hard.
And the dog opened at once; and went away at the back of the
cottage, over the road, and over the meadow, and through a bit of
alder copse; and there, upon an alder stump, they saw Tom's clothes
lying. And then they knew as much about it all as there was any
need to know.
Ah, now comes the most wonderful part of this wonderful story.
Tom, when he woke, for of course he woke--children always wake
after they have slept exactly as long as is good for them--found
himself swimming about in the stream, being about four inches, or--
that I may be accurate--3.87902 inches long and having round the
parotid region of his fauces a set of external gills (I hope you
understand all the big words) just like those of a sucking eft,
which he mistook for a lace frill, till he pulled at them, found he
hurt himself, and made up his mind that they were part of himself,
and best left alone.
In fact, the fairies had turned him into a water-baby.
A water-baby? You never heard of a water-baby. Perhaps not. That
is the very reason why this story was written. There are a great
many things in the world which you never heard of; and a great many
more which nobody ever heard of; and a great many things, too,
which nobody will ever hear of, at least until the coming of the
Cocqcigrues, when man shall be the measure of all things.
"But there are no such things as water-babies."
How do you know that? Have you been there to see? And if you had
been there to see, and had seen none, that would not prove that
there were none. If Mr. Garth does not find a fox in Eversley
Wood--as folks sometimes fear he never will--that does not prove
that there are no such things as foxes. And as is Eversley Wood to
all the woods in England, so are the waters we know to all the
waters in the world. And no one has a right to say that no water-
babies exist, till they have seen no water-babies existing; which
is quite a different thing, mind, from not seeing water-babies; and
a thing which nobody ever did, or perhaps ever will do.
"But surely if there were water-babies, somebody would have caught
one at least?"
Well. How do you know that somebody has not?
"But they would have put it into spirits, or into the Illustrated
News, or perhaps cut it into two halves, poor dear little thing,
and sent one to Professor Owen, and one to Professor Huxley, to see
what they would each say about it."
Ah, my dear little man! that does not follow at all, as you will
see before the end of the story.
"But a water-baby is contrary to nature."
Well, but, my dear little man, you must learn to talk about such
things, when you grow older, in a very different way from that.
You must not talk about "ain't" and "can't" when you speak of this
great wonderful world round you, of which the wisest man knows only
the very smallest corner, and is, as the great Sir Isaac Newton
said, only a child picking up pebbles on the shore of a boundless
You must not say that this cannot be, or that that is contrary to
nature. You do not know what Nature is, or what she can do; and
nobody knows; not even Sir Roderick Murchison, or Professor Owen,
or Professor Sedgwick, or Professor Huxley, or Mr. Darwin, or
Professor Faraday, or Mr. Grove, or any other of the great men whom
good boys are taught to respect. They are very wise men; and you
must listen respectfully to all they say: but even if they should
say, which I am sure they never would, "That cannot exist. That is
contrary to nature," you must wait a little, and see; for perhaps
even they may be wrong. It is only children who read Aunt
Agitate's Arguments, or Cousin Cramchild's Conversations; or lads
who go to popular lectures, and see a man pointing at a few big
ugly pictures on the wall, or making nasty smells with bottles and
squirts, for an hour or two, and calling that anatomy or chemistry-
-who talk about "cannot exist," and "contrary to nature." Wise men
are afraid to say that there is anything contrary to nature, except
what is contrary to mathematical truth; for two and two cannot make
five, and two straight lines cannot join twice, and a part cannot
be as great as the whole, and so on (at least, so it seems at
present): but the wiser men are, the less they talk about
"cannot." That is a very rash, dangerous word, that "cannot"; and
if people use it too often, the Queen of all the Fairies, who makes
the clouds thunder and the fleas bite, and takes just as much
trouble about one as about the other, is apt to astonish them
suddenly by showing them, that though they say she cannot, yet she
can, and what is more, will, whether they approve or not.
And therefore it is, that there are dozens and hundreds of things
in the world which we should certainly have said were contrary to
nature, if we did not see them going on under our eyes all day
long. If people had never seen little seeds grow into great plants
and trees, of quite different shape from themselves, and these
trees again produce fresh seeds, to grow into fresh trees, they
would have said, "The thing cannot be; it is contrary to nature."
And they would have been quite as right in saying so, as in saying
that most other things cannot be.
Or suppose again, that you had come, like M. Du Chaillu, a
traveller from unknown parts; and that no human being had ever seen
or heard of an elephant. And suppose that you described him to
people, and said, "This is the shape, and plan, and anatomy of the
beast, and of his feet, and of his trunk, and of his grinders, and
of his tusks, though they are not tusks at all, but two fore teeth
run mad; and this is the section of his skull, more like a mushroom
than a reasonable skull of a reasonable or unreasonable beast; and
so forth, and so forth; and though the beast (which I assure you I
have seen and shot) is first cousin to the little hairy coney of
Scripture, second cousin to a pig, and (I suspect) thirteenth or
fourteenth cousin to a rabbit, yet he is the wisest of all beasts,
and can do everything save read, write, and cast accounts." People
would surely have said, "Nonsense; your elephant is contrary to
nature;" and have thought you were telling stories--as the French
thought of Le Vaillant when he came back to Paris and said that he
had shot a giraffe; and as the king of the Cannibal Islands thought
of the English sailor, when he said that in his country water
turned to marble, and rain fell as feathers. They would tell you,
the more they knew of science, "Your elephant is an impossible
monster, contrary to the laws of comparative anatomy, as far as yet
known." To which you would answer the less, the more you thought.
Did not learned men, too, hold, till within the last twenty-five
years, that a flying dragon was an impossible monster? And do we
not now know that there are hundreds of them found fossil up and
down the world? People call them Pterodactyles: but that is only
because they are ashamed to call them flying dragons, after denying
so long that flying dragons could exist.
The truth is, that folks' fancy that such and such things cannot
be, simply because they have not seen them, is worth no more than a
savage's fancy that there cannot be such a thing as a locomotive,
because he never saw one running wild in the forest. Wise men know
that their business is to examine what is, and not to settle what
is not. They know that there are elephants; they know that there
have been flying dragons; and the wiser they are, the less inclined
they will be to say positively that there are no water-babies.
No water-babies, indeed? Why, wise men of old said that everything
on earth had its double in the water; and you may see that that is,
if not quite true, still quite as true as most other theories which
you are likely to hear for many a day. There are land-babies--then
why not water-babies? Are there not water-rats, water-flies,
water-crickets, water-crabs, water-tortoises, water-scorpions,
water-tigers and water-hogs, water-cats and water-dogs, sea-lions
and sea-bears, sea-horses and sea-elephants, sea-mice and sea-
urchins, sea-razors and sea-pens, sea-combs and sea-fans; and of
plants, are there not water-grass, and water-crowfoot, water-
milfoil, and so on, without end?
"But all these things are only nicknames; the water things are not
really akin to the land things."
That's not always true. They are, in millions of cases, not only
of the same family, but actually the same individual creatures. Do
not even you know that a green drake, and an alder-fly, and a
dragon-fly, live under water till they change their skins, just as
Tom changed his? And if a water animal can continually change into
a land animal, why should not a land animal sometimes change into a
water animal? Don't be put down by any of Cousin Cramchild's
arguments, but stand up to him like a man, and answer him (quite
respectfully, of course) thus:-
If Cousin Cramchild says, that if there are water-babies, they must
grow into water-men, ask him how he knows that they do not? and
then, how he knows that they must, any more than the Proteus of the
Adelsberg caverns grows into a perfect newt.
If he says that it is too strange a transformation for a land-baby
to turn into a water-baby, ask him if he ever heard of the
transformation of Syllis, or the Distomas, or the common jelly-
fish, of which M. Quatrefages says excellently well--"Who would not
exclaim that a miracle had come to pass, if he saw a reptile come
out of the egg dropped by the hen in his poultry-yard, and the
reptile give birth at once to an indefinite number of fishes and
birds? Yet the history of the jelly-fish is quite as wonderful as
that would be." Ask him if he knows about all this; and if he does
not, tell him to go and look for himself; and advise him (very
respectfully, of course) to settle no more what strange things
cannot happen, till he has seen what strange things do happen every
If he says that things cannot degrade, that is, change downwards
into lower forms, ask him, who told him that water-babies were
lower than land-babies? But even if they were, does he know about
the strange degradation of the common goose-barnacles, which one
finds sticking on ships' bottoms; or the still stranger degradation
of some cousins of theirs, of which one hardly likes to talk, so
shocking and ugly it is?
And, lastly, if he says (as he most certainly will) that these
transformations only take place in the lower animals, and not in
the higher, say that that seems to little boys, and to some grown
people, a very strange fancy. For if the changes of the lower
animals are so wonderful, and so difficult to discover, why should
not there be changes in the higher animals far more wonderful, and
far more difficult to discover? And may not man, the crown and
flower of all things, undergo some change as much more wonderful
than all the rest, as the Great Exhibition is more wonderful than a
rabbit-burrow? Let him answer that. And if he says (as he will)
that not having seen such a change in his experience, he is not
bound to believe it, ask him respectfully, where his microscope has
been? Does not each of us, in coming into this world, go through a
transformation just as wonderful as that of a sea-egg, or a
butterfly? and do not reason and analogy, as well as Scripture,
tell us that that transformation is not the last? and that, though
what we shall be, we know not, yet we are here but as the crawling
caterpillar, and shall be hereafter as the perfect fly. The old
Greeks, heathens as they were, saw as much as that two thousand
years ago; and I care very little for Cousin Cramchild, if he sees
even less than they. And so forth, and so forth, till he is quite
cross. And then tell him that if there are no water-babies, at
least there ought to be; and that, at least, he cannot answer.
And meanwhile, my dear little man, till you know a great deal more
about nature than Professor Owen and Professor Huxley put together,
don't tell me about what cannot be, or fancy that anything is too
wonderful to be true. "We are fearfully and wonderfully made,"
said old David; and so we are; and so is everything around us, down
to the very deal table. Yes; much more fearfully and wonderfully
made, already, is the table, as it stands now, nothing but a piece
of dead deal wood, than if, as foxes say, and geese believe,
spirits could make it dance, or talk to you by rapping on it.
Am I in earnest? Oh dear no! Don't you know that this is a fairy
tale, and all fun and pretence; and that you are not to believe one
word of it, even if it is true?
But at all events, so it happened to Tom. And, therefore, the
keeper, and the groom, and Sir John made a great mistake, and were
very unhappy (Sir John at least) without any reason, when they
found a black thing in the water, and said it was Tom's body, and
that he had been drowned. They were utterly mistaken. Tom was
quite alive; and cleaner, and merrier, than he ever had been. The
fairies had washed him, you see, in the swift river, so thoroughly,
that not only his dirt, but his whole husk and shell had been
washed quite off him, and the pretty little real Tom was washed out
of the inside of it, and swam away, as a caddis does when its case
of stones and silk is bored through, and away it goes on its back,
paddling to the shore, there to split its skin, and fly away as a
caperer, on four fawn-coloured wings, with long legs and horns.
They are foolish fellows, the caperers, and fly into the candle at
night, if you leave the door open. We will hope Tom will be wiser,
now he has got safe out of his sooty old shell.
But good Sir John did not understand all this, not being a fellow
of the Linnaean Society; and he took it into his head that Tom was
drowned. When they looked into the empty pockets of his shell, and
found no jewels there, nor money--nothing but three marbles, and a
brass button with a string to it--then Sir John did something as
like crying as ever he did in his life, and blamed himself more
bitterly than he need have done. So he cried, and the groom-boy
cried, and the huntsman cried, and the dame cried, and the little
girl cried, and the dairymaid cried, and the old nurse cried (for
it was somewhat her fault), and my lady cried, for though people
have wigs, that is no reason why they should not have hearts; but
the keeper did not cry, though he had been so good-natured to Tom
the morning before; for he was so dried up with running after
poachers, that you could no more get tears out of him than milk out
of leather: and Grimes did not cry, for Sir John gave him ten
pounds, and he drank it all in a week. Sir John sent, far and
wide, to find Tom's father and mother: but he might have looked
till Doomsday for them, for one was dead, and the other was in
Botany Bay. And the little girl would not play with her dolls for
a whole week, and never forgot poor little Tom. And soon my lady
put a pretty little tombstone over Tom's shell in the little
churchyard in Vendale, where the old dalesmen all sleep side by
side between the lime-stone crags. And the dame decked it with
garlands every Sunday, till she grew so old that she could not stir
abroad; then the little children decked it, for her. And always
she sang an old old song, as she sat spinning what she called her
wedding-dress. The children could not understand it, but they
liked it none the less for that; for it was very sweet, and very
sad; and that was enough for them. And these are the words of it:-
When all the world is young, lad,
And all the trees are green;
And every goose a swan, lad,
And every lass a queen;
Then hey for boot and horse, lad,
And round the world away;
Young blood must have its course, lad,
And every dog his day.
When all the world is old, lad,
And all the trees are brown;
And all the sport is stale, lad,
And all the wheels run down;
Creep home, and take your place there,
The spent and maimed among:
God grant you find one face there,
You loved when all was young.
Those are the words: but they are only the body of it: the soul
of the song was the dear old woman's sweet face, and sweet voice,
and the sweet old air to which she sang; and that, alas! one cannot
put on paper. And at last she grew so stiff and lame, that the
angels were forced to carry her; and they helped her on with her
wedding-dress, and carried her up over Harthover Fells, and a long
way beyond that too; and there was a new schoolmistress in Vendale,
and we will hope that she was not certificated.
And all the while Tom was swimming about in the river, with a
pretty little lace-collar of gills about his neck, as lively as a
grig, and as clean as a fresh-run salmon.
Now if you don't like my story, then go to the schoolroom and learn
your multiplication-table, and see if you like that better. Some
people, no doubt, would do so. So much the better for us, if not
for them. It takes all sorts, they say, to make a world.
"He prayeth well who loveth well
Both men and bird and beast;
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small:
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."
Tom was now quite amphibious. You do not know what that means?
You had better, then, ask the nearest Government pupil-teacher, who
may possibly answer you smartly enough, thus -
"Amphibious. Adjective, derived from two Greek words, amphi, a
fish, and bios, a beast. An animal supposed by our ignorant
ancestors to be compounded of a fish and a beast; which therefore,
like the hippopotamus, can't live on the land, and dies in the
However that may be, Tom was amphibious: and what is better still,
he was clean. For the first time in his life, he felt how
comfortable it was to have nothing on him but himself. But he only
enjoyed it: he did not know it, or think about it; just as you
enjoy life and health, and yet never think about being alive and
healthy; and may it be long before you have to think about it!
He did not remember having ever been dirty. Indeed, he did not
remember any of his old troubles, being tired, or hungry, or
beaten, or sent up dark chimneys. Since that sweet sleep, he had
forgotten all about his master, and Harthover Place, and the little
white girl, and in a word, all that had happened to him when he
lived before; and what was best of all, he had forgotten all the
bad words which he had learned from Grimes, and the rude boys with
whom he used to play.
That is not strange: for you know, when you came into this world,
and became a land-baby, you remembered nothing. So why should he,
when he became a water-baby?
Then have you lived before?
My dear child, who can tell? One can only tell that, by
remembering something which happened where we lived before; and as
we remember nothing, we know nothing about it; and no book, and no
man, can ever tell us certainly.
There was a wise man once, a very wise man, and a very good man,
who wrote a poem about the feelings which some children have about
having lived before; and this is what he said -
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath elsewhere had its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home."
There, you can know no more than that. But if I was you, I would
believe that. For then the great fairy Science, who is likely to
be queen of all the fairies for many a year to come, can only do
you good, and never do you harm; and instead of fancying with some
people, that your body makes your soul, as if a steam-engine could
make its own coke; or, with some people, that your soul has nothing
to do with your body, but is only stuck into it like a pin into a
pincushion, to fall out with the first shake;--you will believe the
doctrine of this wonderful fairy tale; which is, that your soul
makes your body, just as a snail makes his shell. For the rest, it
is enough for us to be sure that whether or not we lived before, we
shall live again; though not, I hope, as poor little heathen Tom
did. For he went downward into the water: but we, I hope, shall
go upward to a very different place.
But Tom was very happy in the water. He had been sadly overworked
in the land-world; and so now, to make up for that, he had nothing
but holidays in the water-world for a long, long time to come. He
had nothing to do now but enjoy himself, and look at all the pretty
things which are to be seen in the cool clear water-world, where
the sun is never too hot, and the frost is never too cold.
And what did he live on? Water-cresses, perhaps; or perhaps water-
gruel, and water-milk; too many land-babies do so likewise. But we
do not know what one-tenth of the water-things eat; so we are not
answerable for the water-babies.
Sometimes he went along the smooth gravel water-ways, looking at
the crickets which ran in and out among the stones, as rabbits do
on land; or he climbed over the ledges of rock, and saw the sand-
pipes hanging in thousands, with every one of them a pretty little
head and legs peeping out; or he went into a still corner, and
watched the caddises eating dead sticks as greedily as you would
eat plum-pudding, and building their houses with silk and glue.
Very fanciful ladies they were; none of them would keep to the same
materials for a day. One would begin with some pebbles; then she
would stick on a piece of green wood; then she found a shell, and
stuck it on too; and the poor shell was alive, and did not like at
all being taken to build houses with: but the caddis did not let
him have any voice in the matter, being rude and selfish, as vain
people are apt to be; then she stuck on a piece of rotten wood,
then a very smart pink stone, and so on, till she was patched all
over like an Irishman's coat. Then she found a long straw, five
times as long as herself, and said, "Hurrah! my sister has a tail,
and I'll have one too;" and she stuck it on her back, and marched
about with it quite proud, though it was very inconvenient indeed.
And, at that, tails became all the fashion among the caddis-baits
in that pool, as they were at the end of the Long Pond last May,
and they all toddled about with long straws sticking out behind,
getting between each other's legs, and tumbling over each other,
and looking so ridiculous, that Tom laughed at them till he cried,
as we did. But they were quite right, you know; for people must
always follow the fashion, even if it be spoon-bonnets.
Then sometimes he came to a deep still reach; and there he saw the
water-forests. They would have looked to you only little weeds:
but Tom, you must remember, was so little that everything looked a
hundred times as big to him as it does to you, just as things do to
a minnow, who sees and catches the little water-creatures which you
can only see in a microscope.
And in the water-forest he saw the water-monkeys and water-
squirrels (they had all six legs, though; everything almost has six
legs in the water, except efts and water-babies); and nimbly enough
they ran among the branches. There were water-flowers there too,
in thousands; and Tom tried to pick them: but as soon as he
touched them, they drew themselves in and turned into knots of
jelly; and then Tom saw that they were all alive--bells, and stars,
and wheels, and flowers, of all beautiful shapes and colours; and
all alive and busy, just as Tom was. So now he found that there
was a great deal more in the world than he had fancied at first
There was one wonderful little fellow, too, who peeped out of the
top of a house built of round bricks. He had two big wheels, and
one little one, all over teeth, spinning round and round like the
wheels in a thrashing-machine; and Tom stood and stared at him, to
see what he was going to make with his machinery. And what do you
think he was doing? Brick-making. With his two big wheels he
swept together all the mud which floated in the water: all that
was nice in it he put into his stomach and ate; and all the mud he
put into the little wheel on his breast, which really was a round
hole set with teeth; and there he spun it into a neat hard round
brick; and then he took it and stuck it on the top of his house-
wall, and set to work to make another. Now was not he a clever
Tom thought so: but when he wanted to talk to him the brick-maker
was much too busy and proud of his work to take notice of him.
Now you must know that all the things under the water talk; only
not such a language as ours; but such as horses, and dogs, and
cows, and birds talk to each other; and Tom soon learned to
understand them and talk to them; so that he might have had very
pleasant company if he had only been a good boy. But I am sorry to
say, he was too like some other little boys, very fond of hunting
and tormenting creatures for mere sport. Some people say that boys
cannot help it; that it is nature, and only a proof that we are all
originally descended from beasts of prey. But whether it is nature
or not, little boys can help it, and must help it. For if they
have naughty, low, mischievous tricks in their nature, as monkeys
have, that is no reason why they should give way to those tricks
like monkeys, who know no better. And therefore they must not
torment dumb creatures; for if they do, a certain old lady who is
coming will surely give them exactly what they deserve.
But Tom did not know that; and he pecked and howked the poor water-
things about sadly, till they were all afraid of him, and got out
of his way, or crept into their shells; so he had no one to speak
to or play with.
The water-fairies, of course, were very sorry to see him so
unhappy, and longed to take him, and tell him how naughty he was,
and teach him to be good, and to play and romp with him too: but
they had been forbidden to do that. Tom had to learn his lesson
for himself by sound and sharp experience, as many another foolish
person has to do, though there may be many a kind heart yearning
over them all the while, and longing to teach them what they can
only teach themselves.
At last one day he found a caddis, and wanted it to peep out of its
house: but its house-door was shut. He had never seen a caddis
with a house-door before: so what must he do, the meddlesome
little fellow, but pull it open, to see what the poor lady was
doing inside. What a shame! How should you like to have any one
breaking your bedroom-door in, to see how you looked when you where
in bed? So Tom broke to pieces the door, which was the prettiest
little grating of silk, stuck all over with shining bits of
crystal; and when he looked in, the caddis poked out her head, and
it had turned into just the shape of a bird's. But when Tom spoke
to her she could not answer; for her mouth and face were tight tied
up in a new night-cap of neat pink skin. However, if she didn't
answer, all the other caddises did; for they held up their hands
and shrieked like the cats in Struwelpeter: "Oh, you nasty horrid
boy; there you are at it again! And she had just laid herself up
for a fortnight's sleep, and then she would have come out with such
beautiful wings, and flown about, and laid such lots of eggs: and
now you have broken her door, and she can't mend it because her
mouth is tied up for a fortnight, and she will die. Who sent you
here to worry us out of our lives?"
So Tom swam away. He was very much ashamed of himself, and felt
all the naughtier; as little boys do when they have done wrong and
won't say so.
Then he came to a pool full of little trout, and began tormenting
them, and trying to catch them: but they slipped through his
fingers, and jumped clean out of water in their fright. But as Tom
chased them, he came close to a great dark hover under an alder
root, and out floushed a huge old brown trout ten times as big as
he was, and ran right against him, and knocked all the breath out
of his body; and I don't know which was the more frightened of the
Then he went on sulky and lonely, as he deserved to be; and under a
bank he saw a very ugly dirty creature sitting, about half as big
as himself; which had six legs, and a big stomach, and a most
ridiculous head with two great eyes and a face just like a
"Oh," said Tom, "you are an ugly fellow to be sure!" and he began
making faces at him; and put his nose close to him, and halloed at
him, like a very rude boy.
Back to Full Books