Part 4 out of 4
world, that neither hopped nor skipped, but only dawdled and
yawned, and would not get out of his way. The dog snapped at them
till his jaws were tired; but Tom hardly minded them at all, he was
so eager to get to the top of the water, and see the pool where the
good whales go.
And a very large pool it was, miles and miles across, though the
air was so clear that the ice cliffs on the opposite side looked as
if they were close at hand. All round it the ice cliffs rose, in
walls and spires and battlements, and caves and bridges, and
stories and galleries, in which the ice-fairies live, and drive
away the storms and clouds, that Mother Carey's pool may lie calm
from year's end to year's end. And the sun acted policeman, and
walked round outside every day, peeping just over the top of the
ice wall, to see that all went right; and now and then he played
conjuring tricks, or had an exhibition of fireworks, to amuse the
ice-fairies. For he would make himself into four or five suns at
once, or paint the sky with rings and crosses and crescents of
white fire, and stick himself in the middle of them, and wink at
the fairies; and I daresay they were very much amused; for
anything's fun in the country.
And there the good whales lay, the happy sleepy beasts, upon the
still oily sea. They were all right whales, you must know, and
finners, and razor-backs, and bottle-noses, and spotted sea-
unicorns with long ivory horns. But the sperm whales are such
raging, ramping, roaring, rumbustious fellows, that, if Mother
Carey let them in, there would be no more peace in Peacepool. So
she packs them away in a great pond by themselves at the South
Pole, two hundred and sixty-three miles south-south-east of Mount
Erebus, the great volcano in the ice; and there they butt each
other with their ugly noses, day and night from year's end to
But here there were only good quiet beasts, lying about like the
black hulls of sloops, and blowing every now and then jets of white
steam, or sculling round with their huge mouths open, for the sea-
moths to swim down their throats. There were no threshers there to
thresh their poor old backs, or sword-fish to stab their stomachs,
or saw-fish to rip them up, or ice-sharks to bite lumps out of
their sides, or whalers to harpoon and lance them. They were quite
safe and happy there; and all they had to do was to wait quietly in
Peacepool, till Mother Carey sent for them to make them out of old
beasts into new.
Tom swam up to the nearest whale, and asked the way to Mother
"There she sits in the middle," said the whale.
Tom looked; but he could see nothing in the middle of the pool, but
one peaked iceberg: and he said so.
"That's Mother Carey," said the whale, "as you will find when you
get to her. There she sits making old beasts into new all the year
"How does she do that?"
"That's her concern, not mine," said the old whale; and yawned so
wide (for he was very large) that there swam into his mouth 943
sea-moths, 13,846 jelly-fish no bigger than pins' heads, a string
of salpae nine yards long, and forty-three little ice-crabs, who
gave each other a parting pinch all round, tucked their legs under
their stomachs, and determined to die decently, like Julius Caesar.
"I suppose," said Tom, "she cuts up a great whale like you into a
whole shoal of porpoises?"
At which the old whale laughed so violently that he coughed up all
the creatures; who swam away again very thankful at having escaped
out of that terrible whalebone net of his, from which bourne no
traveller returns; and Tom went on to the iceberg, wondering.
And, when he came near it, it took the form of the grandest old
lady he had ever seen--a white marble lady, sitting on a white
marble throne. And from the foot of the throne there swum away,
out and out into the sea, millions of new-born creatures, of more
shapes and colours than man ever dreamed. And they were Mother
Carey's children, whom she makes out of the sea-water all day long.
He expected, of course--like some grown people who ought to know
better--to find her snipping, piecing, fitting, stitching,
cobbling, basting, filing, planing, hammering, turning, polishing,
moulding, measuring, chiselling, clipping, and so forth, as men do
when they go to work to make anything.
But, instead of that, she sat quite still with her chin upon her
hand, looking down into the sea with two great grand blue eyes, as
blue as the sea itself. Her hair was as white as the snow--for she
was very very old--in fact, as old as anything which you are likely
to come across, except the difference between right and wrong.
And, when she saw Tom, she looked at him very kindly.
"What do you want, my little man? It is long since I have seen a
Tom told her his errand, and asked the way to the Other-end-of-
"You ought to know yourself, for you have been there already."
"Have I, ma'am? I'm sure I forget all about it."
"Then look at me."
And, as Tom looked into her great blue eyes, he recollected the way
Now, was not that strange?
"Thank you, ma'am," said Tom. "Then I won't trouble your ladyship
any more; I hear you are very busy."
"I am never more busy than I am now," she said, without stirring a
"I heard, ma'am, that you were always making new beasts out of
"So people fancy. But I am not going to trouble myself to make
things, my little dear. I sit here and make them make themselves."
"You are a clever fairy, indeed," thought Tom. And he was quite
That is a grand trick of good old Mother Carey's, and a grand
answer, which she has had occasion to make several times to
There was once, for instance, a fairy who was so clever that she
found out how to make butterflies. I don't mean sham ones; no:
but real live ones, which would fly, and eat, and lay eggs, and do
everything that they ought; and she was so proud of her skill that
she went flying straight off to the North Pole, to boast to Mother
Carey how she could make butterflies.
But Mother Carey laughed.
"Know, silly child," she said, "that any one can make things, if
they will take time and trouble enough: but it is not every one
who, like me, can make things make themselves."
But people do not yet believe that Mother Carey is as clever as all
that comes to; and they will not till they, too, go the journey to
"And now, my pretty little man," said Mother Carey, "you are sure
you know the way to the Other-end-of-Nowhere?"
Tom thought; and behold, he had forgotten it utterly.
"That is because you took your eyes off me."
Tom looked at her again, and recollected; and then looked away, and
forgot in an instant.
"But what am I to do, ma'am? For I can't keep looking at you when
I am somewhere else."
"You must do without me, as most people have to do, for nine
hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of their lives; and look at the
dog instead; for he knows the way well enough, and will not forget
it. Besides, you may meet some very queer-tempered people there,
who will not let you pass without this passport of mine, which you
must hang round your neck and take care of; and, of course, as the
dog will always go behind you, you must go the whole way backward."
"Backward!" cried Tom. "Then I shall not be able to see my way."
"On the contrary, if you look forward, you will not see a step
before you, and be certain to go wrong; but, if you look behind
you, and watch carefully whatever you have passed, and especially
keep your eye on the dog, who goes by instinct, and therefore can't
go wrong, then you will know what is coming next, as plainly as if
you saw it in a looking-glass."
Tom was very much astonished: but he obeyed her, for he had learnt
always to believe what the fairies told him.
"So it is, my dear child," said Mother Carey; "and I will tell you
a story, which will show you that I am perfectly right, as it is my
custom to be.
"Once on a time, there were two brothers. One was called
Prometheus, because he always looked before him, and boasted that
he was wise beforehand. The other was called Epimetheus, because
he always looked behind him, and did not boast at all; but said
humbly, like the Irishman, that he had sooner prophesy after the
"Well, Prometheus was a very clever fellow, of course, and invented
all sorts of wonderful things. But, unfortunately, when they were
set to work, to work was just what they would not do: wherefore
very little has come of them, and very little is left of them; and
now nobody knows what they were, save a few archaeological old
gentlemen who scratch in queer corners, and find little there save
Ptinum Furem, Blaptem Mortisagam, Acarum Horridum, and Tineam
"But Epimetheus was a very slow fellow, certainly, and went among
men for a clod, and a muff, and a milksop, and a slowcoach, and a
bloke, and a boodle, and so forth. And very little he did, for
many years: but what he did, he never had to do over again.
"And what happened at last? There came to the two brothers the
most beautiful creature that ever was seen, Pandora by name; which
means, All the gifts of the Gods. But because she had a strange
box in her hand, this fanciful, forecasting, suspicious,
prudential, theoretical, deductive, prophesying Prometheus, who was
always settling what was going to happen, would have nothing to do
with pretty Pandora and her box.
"But Epimetheus took her and it, as he took everything that came;
and married her for better for worse, as every man ought, whenever
he has even the chance of a good wife. And they opened the box
between them, of course, to see what was inside: for, else, of
what possible use could it have been to them?
"And out flew all the ills which flesh is heir to; all the children
of the four great bogies, Self-will, Ignorance, Fear, and Dirt--for
Scarlatina, Unpaid bills,
Idols, Tight stays,
Popes, Bad Wine,
And, worst of all, Naughty Boys and Girls.
But one thing remained at the bottom of the box, and that was,
"So Epimetheus got a great deal of trouble, as most men do in this
world: but he got the three best things in the world into the
bargain--a good wife, and experience, and hope: while Prometheus
had just as much trouble, and a great deal more (as you will hear),
of his own making; with nothing beside, save fancies spun out of
his own brain, as a spider spins her web out of her stomach.
"And Prometheus kept on looking before him so far ahead, that as he
was running about with a box of lucifers (which were the only
useful things he ever invented, and do as much harm as good), he
trod on his own nose, and tumbled down (as most deductive
philosophers do), whereby he set the Thames on fire; and they have
hardly put it out again yet. So he had to be chained to the top of
a mountain, with a vulture by him to give him a peck whenever he
stirred, lest he should turn the whole world upside down with his
prophecies and his theories.
"But stupid old Epimetheus went working and grubbing on, with the
help of his wife Pandora, always looking behind him to see what had
happened, till he really learnt to know now and then what would
happen next; and understood so well which side his bread was
buttered, and which way the cat jumped, that he began to make
things which would work, and go on working, too; to till and drain
the ground, and to make looms, and ships, and railroads, and steam
ploughs, and electric telegraphs, and all the things which you see
in the Great Exhibition; and to foretell famine, and bad weather,
and the price of stocks and (what is hardest of all) the next
vagary of the great idol Whirligig, which some call Public Opinion;
till at last he grew as rich as a Jew, and as fat as a farmer, and
people thought twice before they meddled with him, but only once
before they asked him to help them; for, because he earned his
money well, he could afford to spend it well likewise.
"And his children are the men of science, who get good lasting work
done in the world; but the children of Prometheus are the fanatics,
and the theorists, and the bigots, and the bores, and the noisy
windy people, who go telling silly folk what will happen, instead
of looking to see what has happened already."
Now, was not Mother Carey's a wonderful story? And, I am happy to
say, Tom believed it every word.
For so it happened to Tom likewise. He was very sorely tried; for
though, by keeping the dog to heels (or rather to toes, for he had
to walk backward), he could see pretty well which way the dog was
hunting, yet it was much slower work to go backwards than to go
forwards. But, what was more trying still, no sooner had he got
out of Peacepool, than there came running to him all the conjurors,
fortune-tellers, astrologers, prophesiers, projectors,
prestigiators, as many as were in those parts (and there are too
many of them everywhere), Old Mother Shipton on her broomstick,
with Merlin, Thomas the Rhymer, Gerbertus, Rabanus Maurus,
Nostradamus, Zadkiel, Raphael, Moore, Old Nixon, and a good many in
black coats and white ties who might have known better, considering
in what century they were born, all bawling and screaming at him,
"Look a-head, only look a-head; and we will show you what man never
saw before, and right away to the end of the world!"
But I am proud to say that, though Tom had not been to Cambridge--
for, if he had, he would have certainly been senior wrangler--he
was such a little dogged, hard, gnarly, foursquare brick of an
English boy, that he never turned his head round once all the way
from Peacepool to the Other-end-of-Nowhere: but kept his eye on
the dog, and let him pick out the scent, hot or cold, straight or
crooked, wet or dry, up hill or down dale; by which means he never
made a single mistake, and saw all the wonderful and hitherto by-
no-mortal-man-imagined things, which it is my duty to relate to you
in the next chapter.
CHAPTER VIII AND LAST
"Come to me, O ye children!
For I hear you at your play;
And the questions that perplexed me
Have vanished quite away.
"Ye open the Eastern windows,
That look towards the sun,
Where thoughts are singing swallows,
And the brooks of morning run.
* * * * *
"For what are all our contrivings
And the wisdom of our books,
When compared with your caresses,
And the gladness of your looks?
"Ye are better than all the ballads
That ever were sung or said;
For ye are living poems,
And all the rest are dead."
Here begins the never-to-be-too-much-studied account of the nine-
hundred-and-ninety-ninth part of the wonderful things which Tom saw
on his journey to the Other-end-of-Nowhere; which all good little
children are requested to read; that, if ever they get to the
Other-end-of-Nowhere, as they may very probably do, they may not
burst out laughing, or try to run away, or do any other silly
vulgar thing which may offend Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.
Now, as soon as Tom had left Peacepool, he came to the white lap of
the great sea-mother, ten thousand fathoms deep; where she makes
world-pap all day long, for the steam-giants to knead, and the
fire-giants to bake, till it has risen and hardened into mountain-
loaves and island-cakes.
And there Tom was very near being kneaded up in the world-pap, and
turned into a fossil water-baby; which would have astonished the
Geological Society of New Zealand some hundreds of thousands of
For, as he walked along in the silence of the sea-twilight, on the
soft white ocean floor, he was aware of a hissing, and a roaring,
and a thumping, and a pumping, as of all the steam-engines in the
world at once. And, when he came near, the water grew boiling-hot;
not that that hurt him in the least: but it also grew as foul as
gruel; and every moment he stumbled over dead shells, and fish, and
sharks, and seals, and whales, which had been killed by the hot
And at last he came to the great sea-serpent himself, lying dead at
the bottom; and as he was too thick to scramble over, Tom had to
walk round him three-quarters of a mile and more, which put him out
of his path sadly; and, when he had got round, he came to the place
called Stop. And there he stopped, and just in time.
For he was on the edge of a vast hole in the bottom of the sea, up
which was rushing and roaring clear steam enough to work all the
engines in the world at once; so clear, indeed, that it was quite
light at moments; and Tom could see almost up to the top of the
water above, and down below into the pit for nobody knows how far.
But, as soon as he bent his head over the edge, he got such a rap
on the nose from pebbles, that he jumped back again; for the steam,
as it rushed up, rasped away the sides of the hole, and hurled it
up into the sea in a shower of mud and gravel and ashes; and then
it spread all around, and sank again, and covered in the dead fish
so fast, that before Tom had stood there five minutes he was buried
in silt up to his ankles, and began to be afraid that he should
have been buried alive.
And perhaps he would have been, but that while he was thinking, the
whole piece of ground on which he stood was torn off and blown
upwards, and away flew Tom a mile up through the sea, wondering
what was coming next.
At last he stopped--thump! and found himself tight in the legs of
the most wonderful bogy which he had ever seen.
It had I don't know how many wings, as big as the sails of a
windmill, and spread out in a ring like them; and with them it
hovered over the steam which rushed up, as a ball hovers over the
top of a fountain. And for every wing above it had a leg below,
with a claw like a comb at the tip, and a nostril at the root; and
in the middle it had no stomach and one eye; and as for its mouth,
that was all on one side, as the madreporiform tubercle in a star-
fish is. Well, it was a very strange beast; but no stranger than
some dozens which you may see.
"What do you want here," it cried quite peevishly, "getting in my
way?" and it tried to drop Tom: but he held on tight to its claws,
thinking himself safer where he was.
So Tom told him who he was, and what his errand was. And the thing
winked its one eye, and sneered:
"I am too old to be taken in in that way. You are come after gold-
-I know you are."
"Gold! What is gold?" And really Tom did not know; but the
suspicious old bogy would not believe him.
But after a while Tom began to understand a little. For, as the
vapours came up out of the hole, the bogy smelt them with his
nostrils, and combed them and sorted them with his combs; and then,
when they steamed up through them against his wings, they were
changed into showers and streams of metal. From one wing fell
gold-dust, and from another silver, and from another copper, and
from another tin, and from another lead, and so on, and sank into
the soft mud, into veins and cracks, and hardened there. Whereby
it comes to pass that the rocks are full of metal.
But, all of a sudden, somebody shut off the steam below, and the
hole was left empty in an instant: and then down rushed the water
into the hole, in such a whirlpool that the bogy spun round and
round as fast as a teetotum. But that was all in his day's work,
like a fair fall with the hounds; so all he did was to say to Tom -
"Now is your time, youngster, to get down, if you are in earnest,
which I don't believe."
"You'll soon see," said Tom; and away he went, as bold as Baron
Munchausen, and shot down the rushing cataract like a salmon at
And, when he got to the bottom, he swam till he was washed on shore
safe upon the Other-end-of-Nowhere; and he found it, to his
surprise, as most other people do, much more like This-End-of-
Somewhere than he had been in the habit of expecting
And first he went through Waste-paper-land, where all the stupid
books lie in heaps, up hill and down dale, like leaves in a winter
wood; and there he saw people digging and grubbing among them, to
make worse books out of bad ones, and thrashing chaff to save the
dust of it; and a very good trade they drove thereby, especially
Then he went by the sea of slops, to the mountain of messes, and
the territory of tuck, where the ground was very sticky, for it was
all made of bad toffee (not Everton toffee, of course), and full of
deep cracks and holes choked with wind-fallen fruit, and green
goose-berries, and sloes, and crabs, and whinberries, and hips and
haws, and all the nasty things which little children will eat, if
they can get them. But the fairies hide them out of the way in
that country as fast as they can, and very hard work they have, and
of very little use it is. For as fast as they hide away the old
trash, foolish and wicked people make fresh trash full of lime and
poisonous paints, and actually go and steal receipts out of old
Madame Science's big book to invent poisons for little children,
and sell them at wakes and fairs and tuck-shops. Very well. Let
them go on. Dr. Letheby and Dr. Hassall cannot catch them, though
they are setting traps for them all day long. But the Fairy with
the birch-rod will catch them all in time, and make them begin at
one corner of their shops, and eat their way out at the other: by
which time they will have got such stomach-aches as will cure them
of poisoning little children.
Next he saw all the little people in the world, writing all the
little books in the world, about all the other little people in the
world; probably because they had no great people to write about:
and if the names of the books were not Squeeky, nor the Pump-
lighter, nor the Narrow Narrow World, nor the Hills of the
Chattermuch, nor the Children's Twaddeday, why then they were
something else. And, all the rest of the little people in the
world read the books, and thought themselves each as good as the
President; and perhaps they were right, for every one knows his own
business best. But Tom thought he would sooner have a jolly good
fairy tale, about Jack the Giant-killer or Beauty and the Beast,
which taught him something that he didn't know already.
And next he came to the centre of Creation (the hub, they call it
there), which lies in latitude 42.21 degrees south, and longitude
108.56 degrees east.
And there he found all the wise people instructing mankind in the
science of spirit-rapping, while their house was burning over their
heads: and when Tom told them of the fire, they held an
indignation meeting forthwith, and unanimously determined to hang
Tom's dog for coming into their country with gunpowder in his
mouth. Tom couldn't help saying that though they did fancy they
had carried all the wit away with them out of Lincolnshire two
hundred years ago, yet if they had had one such Lincolnshire
nobleman among them as good old Lord Yarborough, he would have
called for the fire-engines before he hanged other people's dogs.
But it was of no use, and the dog was hanged: and Tom couldn't
even have his carcase; for they had abolished the have-his-carcase
act in that country, for fear lest when rogues fell out, honest men
should come by their own. And so they would have succeeded
perfectly, as they always do, only that (as they also always do)
they failed in one little particular, viz. that the dog would not
die, being a water-dog, but bit their fingers so abominably that
they were forced to let him go, and Tom likewise, as British
subjects. Whereon they recommenced rapping for the spirits of
their fathers; and very much astonished the poor old spirits were
when they came, and saw how, according to the laws of Mrs.
Bedonebyasyoudid, their descendants had weakened their constitution
by hard living.
Then came Tom to the Island of Polupragmosyne (which some call
Rogues' Harbour; but they are wrong; for that is in the middle of
Bramshill Bushes, and the county police have cleared it out long
ago). There every one knows his neighbour's business better than
his own; and a very noisy place it is, as might be expected,
considering that all the inhabitants are ex officio on the wrong
side of the house in the "Parliament of Man, and the Federation of
the World;" and are always making wry mouths, and crying that the
fairies' grapes were sour.
There Tom saw ploughs drawing horses, nails driving hammers, birds'
nests taking boys, books making authors, bulls keeping china-shops,
monkeys shaving cats, dead dogs drilling live lions, blind
brigadiers shelfed as principals of colleges, play-actors not in
the least shelfed as popular preachers; and, in short, every one
set to do something which he had not learnt, because in what he had
learnt, or pretended to learn, he had failed.
There stands the Pantheon of the Great Unsuccessful, from the
builders of the Tower of Babel to those of the Trafalgar Fountains;
in which politicians lecture on the constitutions which ought to
have marched, conspirators on the revolutions which ought to have
succeeded, economists on the schemes which ought to have made every
one's fortune, and projectors on the discoveries which ought to
have set the Thames on fire. There cobblers lecture on orthopedy
(whatsoever that may be) because they cannot sell their shoes; and
poets on AEsthetics (whatsoever that may be) because they cannot
sell their poetry. There philosophers demonstrate that England
would be the freest and richest country in the world, if she would
only turn Papist again; penny-a-liners abuse the Times, because
they have not wit enough to get on its staff; and young ladies walk
about with lockets of Charles the First's hair (or of somebody
else's, when the Jews' genuine stock is used up), inscribed with
the neat and appropriate legend--which indeed is popular through
all that land, and which, I hope, you will learn to translate in
due time and to perpend likewise:-
"Victrix causa diis placuit, sed victa puellis."
When he got into the middle of the town, they all set on him at
once, to show him his way; or rather, to show him that he did not
know his way; for as for asking him what way he wanted to go, no
one ever thought of that.
But one pulled him hither, and another poked him thither, and a
third cried -
"You mustn't go west, I tell you; it is destruction to go west."
"But I am not going west, as you may see," said Tom.
And another, "The east lies here, my dear; I assure you this is the
"But I don't want to go east," said Tom.
"Well, then, at all events, whichever way you are going, you are
going wrong," cried they all with one voice--which was the only
thing which they ever agreed about; and all pointed at once to all
the thirty-and-two points of the compass, till Tom thought all the
sign-posts in England had got together, and fallen fighting.
And whether he would have ever escaped out of the town, it is hard
to say, if the dog had not taken it into his head that they were
going to pull his master in pieces, and tackled them so sharply
about the gastrocnemius muscle, that he gave them some business of
their own to think of at last; and while they were rubbing their
bitten calves, Tom and the dog got safe away.
On the borders of that island he found Gotham, where the wise men
live; the same who dragged the pond because the moon had fallen
into it, and planted a hedge round the cuckoo, to keep spring all
the year. And he found them bricking up the town gate, because it
was so wide that little folks could not get through. And, when he
asked why, they told him they were expanding their liturgy. So he
went on; for it was no business of his: only he could not help
saying that in his country, if the kitten could not get in at the
same hole as the cat, she might stay outside and mew.
But he saw the end of such fellows, when he came to the island of
the Golden Asses, where nothing but thistles grow. For there they
were all turned into mokes with ears a yard long, for meddling with
matters which they do not understand, as Lucius did in the story.
And like him, mokes they must remain, till, by the laws of
development, the thistles develop into roses. Till then, they must
comfort themselves with the thought, that the longer their ears
are, the thicker their hides; and so a good beating don't hurt
Then came Tom to the great land of Hearsay, in which are no less
than thirty and odd kings, beside half a dozen Republics, and
perhaps more by next mail.
And there he fell in with a deep, dark, deadly, and destructive
war, waged by the princes and potentates of those parts, both
spiritual and temporal, against what do you think? One thing I am
sure of. That unless I told you, you would never know; nor how
they waged that war either; for all their strategy and art military
consisted in the safe and easy process of stopping their ears and
screaming, "Oh, don't tell us!" and then running away.
So when Tom came into that land, he found them all, high and low,
man, woman, and child, running for their lives day and night
continually, and entreating not to be told they didn't know what:
only the land being an island, and they having a dislike to the
water (being a musty lot for the most part), they ran round and
round the shore for ever, which (as the island was exactly of the
same circumference as the planet on which we have the honour of
living) was hard work, especially to those who had business to look
after. But before them, as bandmaster and fugleman, ran a
gentleman shearing a pig; the melodious strains of which animal led
them for ever, if not to conquest, still to flight; and kept up
their spirits mightily with the thought that they would at least
have the pig's wool for their pains.
And running after them, day and night, came such a poor, lean,
seedy, hard-worked old giant, as ought to have been cockered up,
and had a good dinner given him, and a good wife found him, and
been set to play with little children; and then he would have been
a very presentable old fellow after all; for he had a heart, though
it was considerably overgrown with brains.
He was made up principally of fish bones and parchment, put
together with wire and Canada balsam; and smelt strongly of
spirits, though he never drank anything but water: but spirits he
used somehow, there was no denying. He had a great pair of
spectacles on his nose, and a butterfly-net in one hand, and a
geological hammer in the other; and was hung all over with pockets,
full of collecting boxes, bottles, microscopes, telescopes,
barometers, ordnance maps, scalpels, forceps, photographic
apparatus, and all other tackle for finding out everything about
everything, and a little more too. And, most strange of all, he
was running not forwards but backwards, as fast as he could.
Away all the good folks ran from him, except Tom, who stood his
ground and dodged between his legs; and the giant, when he had
passed him, looked down, and cried, as if he was quite pleased and
"What? who are you? And you actually don't run away, like all the
rest?" But he had to take his spectacles off, Tom remarked, in
order to see him plainly.
Tom told him who he was; and the giant pulled out a bottle and a
cork instantly, to collect him with.
But Tom was too sharp for that, and dodged between his legs and in
front of him; and then the giant could not see him at all.
"No, no, no!" said Tom, "I've not been round the world, and through
the world, and up to Mother Carey's haven, beside being caught in a
net and called a Holothurian and a Cephalopod, to be bottled up by
any old giant like you."
And when the giant understood what a great traveller Tom had been,
he made a truce with him at once, and would have kept him there to
this day to pick his brains, so delighted was he at finding any one
to tell him what he did not know before.
"Ah, you lucky little dog!" said he at last, quite simply--for he
was the simplest, pleasantest, honestest, kindliest old Dominie
Sampson of a giant that ever turned the world upside down without
intending it--"ah, you lucky little dog! If I had only been where
you have been, to see what you have seen!"
"Well," said Tom, "if you want to do that, you had best put your
head under water for a few hours, as I did, and turn into a water-
baby, or some other baby, and then you might have a chance."
"Turn into a baby, eh? If I could do that, and know what was
happening to me for but one hour, I should know everything then,
and be at rest. But I can't; I can't be a little child again; and
I suppose if I could, it would be no use, because then I should
then know nothing about what was happening to me. Ah, you lucky
little dog!" said the poor old giant.
"But why do you run after all these poor people?" said Tom, who
liked the giant very much.
"My dear, it's they that have been running after me, father and
son, for hundreds and hundreds of years, throwing stones at me till
they have knocked off my spectacles fifty times, and calling me a
malignant and a turbaned Turk, who beat a Venetian and traduced the
State--goodness only knows what they mean, for I never read poetry-
-and hunting me round and round--though catch me they can't, for
every time I go over the same ground, I go the faster, and grow the
bigger. While all I want is to be friends with them, and to tell
them something to their advantage, like Mr. Joseph Ady: only
somehow they are so strangely afraid of hearing it. But, I suppose
I am not a man of the world, and have no tact."
"But why don't you turn round and tell them so?"
"Because I can't. You see, I am one of the sons of Epimetheus, and
must go backwards, if I am to go at all."
"But why don't you stop, and let them come up to you?"
"Why, my dear, only think. If I did, all the butterflies and
cockyolybirds would fly past me, and then I should catch no more
new species, and should grow rusty and mouldy, and die. And I
don't intend to do that, my dear; for I have a destiny before me,
they say: though what it is I don't know, and don't care."
"Don't care?" said Tom.
"No. Do the duty which lies nearest you, and catch the first
beetle you come across, is my motto; and I have thriven by it for
some hundred years. Now I must go on. Dear me, while I have been
talking to you, at least nine new species have escaped me."
And on went the giant, behind before, like a bull in a china-shop,
till he ran into the steeple of the great idol temple (for they are
all idolaters in those parts, of course, else they would never be
afraid of giants), and knocked the upper half clean off, hurting
himself horribly about the small of the back.
But little he cared; for as soon as the ruins of the steeple were
well between his legs, he poked and peered among the falling
stones, and shifted his spectacles, and pulled out his pocket-
magnifier, and cried -
"An entirely new Oniscus, and three obscure Podurellae! Besides a
moth which M. le Roi des Papillons (though he, like all Frenchmen,
is given to hasty inductions) says is confined to the limits of the
Glacial Drift. This is most important!"
And down he sat on the nave of the temple (not being a man of the
world) to examine his Podurellae. Whereon (as was to be expected)
the roof caved in bodily, smashing the idols, and sending the
priests flying out of doors and windows, like rabbits out of a
burrow when a ferret goes in.
But he never heeded; for out of the dust flew a bat, and the giant
had him in a moment.
"Dear me! This is even more important! Here is a cognate species
to that which Macgilliwaukie Brown insists is confined to the
Buddhist temples of Little Thibet; and now when I look at it, it
may be only a variety produced by difference of climate!"
And having bagged his bat, up he got, and on he went; while all the
people ran, being in none the better humour for having their temple
smashed for the sake of three obscure species of Podurella, and a
"Well," thought Tom, "this is a very pretty quarrel, with a good
deal to be said on both sides. But it is no business of mine."
And no more it was, because he was a water-baby, and had the
original sow by the right ear; which you will never have, unless
you be a baby, whether of the water, the land, or the air, matters
not, provided you can only keep on continually being a baby.
So the giant ran round after the people, and the people ran round
after the giant, and they are running, unto this day for aught I
know, or do not know; and will run till either he, or they, or
both, turn into little children. And then, as Shakespeare says
(and therefore it must be true) -
"Jack shall have Gill
Nought shall go ill
The man shall have his mare again, and all go well."
Then Tom came to a very famous island, which was called, in the
days of the great traveller Captain Gulliver, the Isle of Laputa.
But Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid has named it over again the Isle of
Tomtoddies, all heads and no bodies.
And when Tom came near it, he heard such a grumbling and grunting
and growling and wailing and weeping and whining that he thought
people must be ringing little pigs, or cropping puppies' ears, or
drowning kittens: but when he came nearer still, he began to hear
words among the noise; which was the Tomtoddies' song which they
sing morning and evening, and all night too, to their great idol
"I can't learn my lesson: the examiner's coming!"
And that was the only song which they knew.
And when Tom got on shore the first thing he saw was a great
pillar, on one side of which was inscribed, "Playthings not allowed
here;" at which he was so shocked that he would not stay to see
what was written on the other side. Then he looked round for the
people of the island: but instead of men, women, and children, he
found nothing but turnips and radishes, beet and mangold wurzel,
without a single green leaf among them, and half of them burst and
decayed, with toad-stools growing out of them. Those which were
left began crying to Tom, in half a dozen different languages at
once, and all of them badly spoken, "I can't learn my lesson; do
come and help me!" And one cried, "Can you show me how to extract
this square root?"
And another, "Can you tell me the distance between [alpha] Lyrae
and [beta] Camelopardis?"
And another, "What is the latitude and longitude of Snooksville, in
Noman's County, Oregon, U.S.?"
And another, "What was the name of Mutius Scaevola's thirteenth
cousin's grandmother's maid's cat?"
And another, "How long would it take a school-inspector of average
activity to tumble head over heels from London to York?"
And another, "Can you tell me the name of a place that nobody ever
heard of, where nothing ever happened, in a country which has not
been discovered yet?"
And another, "Can you show me how to correct this hopelessly
corrupt passage of Graidiocolosyrtus Tabenniticus, on the cause why
crocodiles have no tongues?"
And so on, and so on, and so on, till one would have thought they
were all trying for tide-waiters' places, or cornetcies in the
"And what good on earth will it do you if I did tell you?" quoth
Well, they didn't know that: all they knew was the examiner was
Then Tom stumbled on the hugest and softest nimblecomequick turnip
you ever saw filling a hole in a crop of swedes, and it cried to
him, "Can you tell me anything at all about anything you like?"
"About what?" says Tom.
"About anything you like; for as fast as I learn things I forget
them again. So my mamma says that my intellect is not adapted for
methodic science, and says that I must go in for general
Tom told him that he did not know general information, nor any
officers in the army; only he had a friend once that went for a
drummer: but he could tell him a great many strange things which
he had seen in his travels.
So he told him prettily enough, while the poor turnip listened very
carefully; and the more he listened, the more he forgot, and the
more water ran out of him.
Tom thought he was crying: but it was only his poor brains running
away, from being worked so hard; and as Tom talked, the unhappy
turnip streamed down all over with juice, and split and shrank till
nothing was left of him but rind and water; whereat Tom ran away in
a fright, for he thought he might be taken up for killing the
But, on the contrary, the turnip's parents were highly delighted,
and considered him a saint and a martyr, and put up a long
inscription over his tomb about his wonderful talents, early
development, and unparalleled precocity. Were they not a foolish
couple? But there was a still more foolish couple next to them,
who were beating a wretched little radish, no bigger than my thumb,
for sullenness and obstinacy and wilful stupidity, and never knew
that the reason why it couldn't learn or hardly even speak was,
that there was a great worm inside it eating out all its brains.
But even they are no foolisher than some hundred score of papas and
mammas, who fetch the rod when they ought to fetch a new toy, and
send to the dark cupboard instead of to the doctor.
Tom was so puzzled and frightened with all he saw, that he was
longing to ask the meaning of it; and at last he stumbled over a
respectable old stick lying half covered with earth. But a very
stout and worthy stick it was, for it belonged to good Roger Ascham
in old time, and had carved on its head King Edward the Sixth, with
the Bible in his hand.
"You see," said the stick, "there were as pretty little children
once as you could wish to see, and might have been so still if they
had been only left to grow up like human beings, and then handed
over to me; but their foolish fathers and mothers, instead of
letting them pick flowers, and make dirt-pies, and get birds'
nests, and dance round the gooseberry bush, as little children
should, kept them always at lessons, working, working, working,
learning week-day lessons all week-days, and Sunday lessons all
Sunday, and weekly examinations every Saturday, and monthly
examinations every month, and yearly examinations every year,
everything seven times over, as if once was not enough, and enough
as good as a feast--till their brains grew big, and their bodies
grew small, and they were all changed into turnips, with little but
water inside; and still their foolish parents actually pick the
leaves off them as fast as they grow, lest they should have
anything green about them."
"Ah!" said Tom, "if dear Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby knew of it she
would send them a lot of tops, and balls, and marbles, and
ninepins, and make them all as jolly as sand-boys."
"It would be no use," said the stick. "They can't play now, if
they tried. Don't you see how their legs have turned to roots and
grown into the ground, by never taking any exercise, but sapping
and moping always in the same place? But here comes the Examiner-
of-all-Examiners. So you had better get away, I warn you, or he
will examine you and your dog into the bargain, and set him to
examine all the other dogs, and you to examine all the other water-
babies. There is no escaping out of his hands, for his nose is
nine thousand miles long, and can go down chimneys, and through
keyholes, upstairs, downstairs, in my lady's chamber, examining all
little boys, and the little boys' tutors likewise. But when he is
thrashed--so Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid has promised me--I shall have
the thrashing of him: and if I don't lay it on with a will it's a
Tom went off: but rather slowly and surlily; for he was somewhat
minded to face this same Examiner-of-all-Examiners, who came
striding among the poor turnips, binding heavy burdens and grievous
to be borne, and laying them on little children's shoulders, like
the Scribes and Pharisees of old, and not touching the same with
one of his fingers; for he had plenty of money, and a fine house to
live in, and so forth; which was more than the poor little turnips
But when he got near, he looked so big and burly and dictatorial,
and shouted so loud to Tom, to come and be examined, that Tom ran
for his life, and the dog too. And really it was time; for the
poor turnips, in their hurry and fright, crammed themselves so fast
to be ready for the Examiner, that they burst and popped by dozens
all round him, till the place sounded like Aldershot on a field-
day, and Tom thought he should be blown into the air, dog and all.
As he went down to the shore he passed the poor turnip's new tomb.
But Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid had taken away the epitaph about talents
and precocity and development, and put up one of her own instead
which Tom thought much more sensible:-
"Instruction sore long time I bore,
And cramming was in vain;
Till heaven did please my woes to ease
With water on the brain."
So Tom jumped into the sea, and swam on his way, singing:-
"Farewell, Tomtoddies all; I thank my stars
That nought I know save those three royal r's:
Reading and riting sure, with rithmetick,
Will help a lad of sense through thin and thick."
Whereby you may see that Tom was no poet: but no more was John
Bunyan, though he was as wise a man as you will meet in a month of
And next he came to Oldwivesfabledom, where the folks were all
heathens, and worshipped a howling ape. And there he found a
little boy sitting in the middle of the road, and crying bitterly.
"What are you crying for?" said Tom.
"Because I am not as frightened as I could wish to be."
"Not frightened? You are a queer little chap: but, if you want to
be frightened, here goes--Boo!"
"Ah," said the little boy, "that is very kind of you; but I don't
feel that it has made any impression."
Tom offered to upset him, punch him, stamp on him, fettle him over
the head with a brick, or anything else whatsoever which would give
him the slightest comfort.
But he only thanked Tom very civilly, in fine long words which he
had heard other folk use, and which therefore, he thought were fit
and proper to use himself; and cried on till his papa and mamma
came, and sent off for the Powwow man immediately. And a very
good-natured gentleman and lady they were, though they were
heathens; and talked quite pleasantly to Tom about his travels,
till the Powwow man arrived, with his thunderbox under his arm.
And a well-fed, ill-favoured gentleman he was, as ever served Her
Majesty at Portland. Tom was a little frightened at first; for he
thought it was Grimes. But he soon saw his mistake: for Grimes
always looked a man in the face; and this fellow never did. And
when he spoke, it was fire and smoke; and when he sneezed, it was
squibs and crackers; and when he cried (which he did whenever it
paid him), it was boiling pitch; and some of it was sure to stick.
"Here we are again!" cried he, like the clown in a pantomime. "So
you can't feel frightened, my little dear--eh? I'll do that for
you. I'll make an impression on you! Yah! Boo! Whirroo!
And he rattled, thumped, brandished his thunder-box, yelled,
shouted, raved, roared, stamped, and danced corrobory like any
black fellow; and then he touched a spring in the thunderbox, and
out popped turnip-ghosts and magic-lanthorns and pasteboard bogies
and spring-heeled Jacks, and sallaballas, with such a horrid din,
clatter, clank, roll, rattle, and roar, that the little boy turned
up the whites of his eyes, and fainted right away.
And at that his poor heathen papa and mamma were as much delighted
as if they had found a gold mine; and fell down upon their knees
before the Powwow man, and gave him a palanquin with a pole of
solid silver and curtains of cloth of gold; and carried him about
in it on their own backs: but as soon as they had taken him up,
the pole stuck to their shoulders, and they could not set him down
any more, but carried him on willynilly, as Sinbad carried the old
man of the sea: which was a pitiable sight to see; for the father
was a very brave officer, and wore two swords and a blue button;
and the mother was as pretty a lady as ever had pinched feet like a
Chinese. But you see, they had chosen to do a foolish thing just
once too often; so, by the laws of Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, they had
to go on doing it whether they chose or not, till the coming of the
Ah! don't you wish that some one would go and convert those poor
heathens, and teach them not to frighten their little children into
"Now, then," said the Powwow man to Tom, "wouldn't you like to be
frightened, my little dear? For I can see plainly that you are a
very wicked, naughty, graceless, reprobate boy."
"You're another," quoth Tom, very sturdily. And when the man ran
at him, and cried "Boo!" Tom ran at him in return, and cried
"Boo!" likewise, right in his face, and set the little dog upon
him; and at his legs the dog went.
At which, if you will believe it, the fellow turned tail,
thunderbox and all, with a "Woof!" like an old sow on the common;
and ran for his life, screaming, "Help! thieves! murder! fire! He
is going to kill me! I am a ruined man! He will murder me; and
break, burn, and destroy my precious and invaluable thunderbox; and
then you will have no more thunder-showers in the land. Help!
At which the papa and mamma and all the people of Oldwivesfabledom
flew at Tom, shouting, "Oh, the wicked, impudent, hard-hearted,
graceless boy! Beat him, kick him, shoot him, drown him, hang him,
burn him!" and so forth: but luckily they had nothing to shoot,
hang, or burn him with, for the fairies had hid all the killing-
tackle out of the way a little while before; so they could only
pelt him with stones; and some of the stones went clean through
him, and came out the other side. But he did not mind that a bit;
for the holes closed up again as fast as they were made, because he
was a water-baby. However, he was very glad when he was safe out
of the country, for the noise there made him all but deaf.
Then he came to a very quiet place, called Leaveheavenalone. And
there the sun was drawing water out of the sea to make steam-
threads, and the wind was twisting them up to make cloud-patterns,
till they had worked between them the loveliest wedding veil of
Chantilly lace, and hung it up in their own Crystal Palace for any
one to buy who could afford it; while the good old sea never
grudged, for she knew they would pay her back honestly. So the sun
span, and the wind wove, and all went well with the great steam-
loom; as is likely, considering--and considering--and considering -
And at last, after innumerable adventures, each more wonderful than
the last, he saw before him a huge building, much bigger, and--what
is most surprising--a little uglier than a certain new lunatic
asylum, but not built quite of the same materials. None of it, at
least--or, indeed, for aught that I ever saw, any part of any other
building whatsoever--is cased with nine-inch brick inside and out,
and filled up with rubble between the walls, in order that any
gentleman who has been confined during Her Majesty's pleasure may
be unconfined during his own pleasure, and take a walk in the
neighbouring park to improve his spirits, after an hour's light and
wholesome labour with his dinner-fork or one of the legs of his
iron bedstead. No. The walls of this building were built on an
entirely different principle, which need not be described, as it
has not yet been discovered.
Tom walked towards this great building, wondering what it was, and
having a strange fancy that he might find Mr. Grimes inside it,
till he saw running toward him, and shouting "Stop!" three or four
people, who, when they came nearer, were nothing else than
policemen's truncheons, running along without legs or arms.
Tom was not astonished. He was long past that. Besides, he had
seen the naviculae in the water move nobody knows how, a hundred
times, without arms, or legs, or anything to stand in their stead.
Neither was he frightened for he had been doing no harm.
So he stopped; and, when the foremost truncheon came up and asked
his business, he showed Mother Carey's pass; and the truncheon
looked at it in the oddest fashion; for he had one eye in the
middle of his upper end, so that when he looked at anything, being
quite stiff, he had to slope himself, and poke himself, till it was
a wonder why he did not tumble over; but, being quite full of the
spirit of justice (as all policemen, and their truncheons, ought to
be), he was always in a position of stable equilibrium, whichever
way he put himself.
"All right--pass on," said he at last. And then he added: "I had
better go with you, young man." And Tom had no objection, for such
company was both respectable and safe; so the truncheon coiled its
thong neatly round its handle, to prevent tripping itself up--for
the thong had got loose in running--and marched on by Tom's side.
"Why have you no policeman to carry you?" asked Tom, after a while.
"Because we are not like those clumsy-made truncheons in the land-
world, which cannot go without having a whole man to carry them
about. We do our own work for ourselves; and do it very well,
though I say it who should not."
"Then why have you a thong to your handle?" asked Tom.
"To hang ourselves up by, of course, when we are off duty."
Tom had got his answer, and had no more to say, till they came up
to the great iron door of the prison. And there the truncheon
knocked twice, with its own head.
A wicket in the door opened, and out looked a tremendous old brass
blunderbuss charged up to the muzzle with slugs, who was the
porter; and Tom started back a little at the sight of him.
"What case is this?" he asked in a deep voice, out of his broad
"If you please, sir, it is no case; only a young gentleman from her
ladyship, who wants to see Grimes, the master-sweep."
"Grimes?" said the blunderbuss. And he pulled in his muzzle,
perhaps to look over his prison-lists.
"Grimes is up chimney No. 345," he said from inside. "So the young
gentleman had better go on to the roof."
Tom looked up at the enormous wall, which seemed at least ninety
miles high, and wondered how he should ever get up: but, when he
hinted that to the truncheon, it settled the matter in a moment.
For it whisked round, and gave him such a shove behind as sent him
up to the roof in no time, with his little dog under his arm.
And there he walked along the leads, till he met another truncheon,
and told him his errand.
"Very good," it said. "Come along: but it will be of no use. He
is the most unremorseful, hard-hearted, foul-mouthed fellow I have
in charge; and thinks about nothing but beer and pipes, which are
not allowed here, of course."
So they walked along over the leads, and very sooty they were, and
Tom thought the chimneys must want sweeping very much. But he was
surprised to see that the soot did not stick to his feet, or dirty
them in the least. Neither did the live coals, which were lying
about in plenty, burn him; for, being a water-baby, his radical
humours were of a moist and cold nature, as you may read at large
in Lemnius, Cardan, Van Helmont, and other gentlemen, who knew as
much as they could, and no man can know more.
And at last they came to chimney No. 345. Out of the top of it,
his head and shoulders just showing, stuck poor Mr. Grimes, so
sooty, and bleared, and ugly, that Tom could hardly bear to look at
him. And in his mouth was a pipe; but it was not a-light; though
he was pulling at it with all his might.
"Attention, Mr. Grimes," said the truncheon; "here is a gentleman
come to see you."
But Mr. Grimes only said bad words; and kept grumbling, "My pipe
won't draw. My pipe won't draw."
"Keep a civil tongue, and attend!" said the truncheon; and popped
up just like Punch, hitting Grimes such a crack over the head with
itself, that his brains rattled inside like a dried walnut in its
shell. He tried to get his hands out, and rub the place: but he
could not, for they were stuck fast in the chimney. Now he was
forced to attend.
"Hey!" he said, "why, it's Tom! I suppose you have come here to
laugh at me, you spiteful little atomy?"
Tom assured him he had not, but only wanted to help him.
"I don't want anything except beer, and that I can't get; and a
light to this bothering pipe, and that I can't get either."
"I'll get you one," said Tom; and he took up a live coal (there
were plenty lying about) and put it to Grimes' pipe: but it went
"It's no use," said the truncheon, leaning itself up against the
chimney and looking on. "I tell you, it is no use. His heart is
so cold that it freezes everything that comes near him. You will
see that presently, plain enough."
"Oh, of course, it's my fault. Everything's always my fault," said
Grimes. "Now don't go to hit me again" (for the truncheon started
upright, and looked very wicked); "you know, if my arms were only
free, you daren't hit me then."
The truncheon leant back against the chimney, and took no notice of
the personal insult, like a well-trained policeman as it was,
though he was ready enough to avenge any transgression against
morality or order.
"But can't I help you in any other way? Can't I help you to get
out of this chimney?" said Tom.
"No," interposed the truncheon; "he has come to the place where
everybody must help themselves; and he will find it out, I hope,
before he has done with me."
"Oh, yes," said Grimes, "of course it's me. Did I ask to be
brought here into the prison? Did I ask to be set to sweep your
foul chimneys? Did I ask to have lighted straw put under me to
make me go up? Did I ask to stick fast in the very first chimney
of all, because it was so shamefully clogged up with soot? Did I
ask to stay here--I don't know how long--a hundred years, I do
believe, and never get my pipe, nor my beer, nor nothing fit for a
beast, let alone a man?"
"No," answered a solemn voice behind. "No more did Tom, when you
behaved to him in the very same way."
It was Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid. And, when the truncheon saw her, it
started bolt upright--Attention!--and made such a low bow, that if
it had not been full of the spirit of justice, it must have tumbled
on its end, and probably hurt its one eye. And Tom made his bow
"Oh, ma'am," he said, "don't think about me; that's all past and
gone, and good times and bad times and all times pass over. But
may not I help poor Mr. Grimes? Mayn't I try and get some of these
bricks away, that he may move his arms?"
"You may try, of course," she said.
So Tom pulled and tugged at the bricks: but he could not move one.
And then he tried to wipe Mr. Grimes' face: but the soot would not
"Oh, dear!" he said. "I have come all this way, through all these
terrible places, to help you, and now I am of no use at all."
"You had best leave me alone," said Grimes; "you are a good-natured
forgiving little chap, and that's truth; but you'd best be off.
The hail's coming on soon, and it will beat the eyes out of your
"Why, hail that falls every evening here; and, till it comes close
to me, it's like so much warm rain: but then it turns to hail over
my head, and knocks me about like small shot."
"That hail will never come any more," said the strange lady. "I
have told you before what it was. It was your mother's tears,
those which she shed when she prayed for you by her bedside; but
your cold heart froze it into hail. But she is gone to heaven now,
and will weep no more for her graceless son."
Then Grimes was silent awhile; and then he looked very sad.
"So my old mother's gone, and I never there to speak to her! Ah! a
good woman she was, and might have been a happy one, in her little
school there in Vendale, if it hadn't been for me and my bad ways."
"Did she keep the school in Vendale?" asked Tom. And then he told
Grimes all the story of his going to her house, and how she could
not abide the sight of a chimney-sweep, and then how kind she was,
and how he turned into a water-baby.
"Ah!" said Grimes, "good reason she had to hate the sight of a
chimney-sweep. I ran away from her and took up with the sweeps,
and never let her know where I was, nor sent her a penny to help
her, and now it's too late--too late!" said Mr. Grimes.
And he began crying and blubbering like a great baby, till his pipe
dropped out of his mouth, and broke all to bits.
"Oh, dear, if I was but a little chap in Vendale again, to see the
clear beck, and the apple-orchard, and the yew-hedge, how different
I would go on! But it's too late now. So you go along, you kind
little chap, and don't stand to look at a man crying, that's old
enough to be your father, and never feared the face of man, nor of
worse neither. But I'm beat now, and beat I must be. I've made my
bed, and I must lie on it. Foul I would be, and foul I am, as an
Irishwoman said to me once; and little I heeded it. It's all my
own fault: but it's too late." And he cried so bitterly that Tom
began crying too.
"Never too late," said the fairy, in such a strange soft new voice
that Tom looked up at her; and she was so beautiful for the moment,
that Tom half fancied she was her sister.
No more was it too late. For, as poor Grimes cried and blubbered
on, his own tears did what his mother's could not do, and Tom's
could not do, and nobody's on earth could do for him; for they
washed the soot off his face and off his clothes; and then they
washed the mortar away from between the bricks; and the chimney
crumbled down; and Grimes began to get out of it.
Up jumped the truncheon, and was going to hit him on the crown a
tremendous thump, and drive him down again like a cork into a
bottle. But the strange lady put it aside.
"Will you obey me if I give you a chance?"
"As you please, ma'am. You're stronger than me--that I know too
well, and wiser than me, I know too well also. And, as for being
my own master, I've fared ill enough with that as yet. So whatever
your ladyship pleases to order me; for I'm beat, and that's the
"Be it so then--you may come out. But remember, disobey me again,
and into a worse place still you go."
"I beg pardon ma'am, but I never disobeyed you that I know of. I
never had the honour of setting eyes upon you till I came to these
"Never saw me? Who said to you, Those that will be foul, foul they
Grimes looked up; and Tom looked up too; for the voice was that of
the Irishwoman who met them the day that they went out together to
Harthover. "I gave you your warning then: but you gave it
yourself a thousand times before and since. Every bad word that
you said--every cruel and mean thing that you did--every time that
you got tipsy--every day that you went dirty--you were disobeying
me, whether you knew it or not."
"If I'd only known, ma'am--"
"You knew well enough that you were disobeying something, though
you did not know it was me. But come out and take your chance.
Perhaps it may be your last."
So Grimes stepped out of the chimney, and really, if it had not
been for the scars on his face, he looked as clean and respectable
as a master-sweep need look.
"Take him away," said she to the truncheon, "and give him his
"And what is he to do, ma'am?"
"Get him to sweep out the crater of Etna; he will find some very
steady men working out their time there, who will teach him his
business: but mind, if that crater gets choked again, and there is
an earthquake in consequence, bring them all to me, and I shall
investigate the case very severely."
So the truncheon marched off Mr. Grimes, looking as meek as a
And for aught I know, or do not know, he is sweeping the crater of
Etna to this very day.
"And now," said the fairy to Tom, "your work here is done. You may
as well go back again."
"I should be glad enough to go," said Tom, "but how am I to get up
that great hole again, now the steam has stopped blowing?"
"I will take you up the backstairs: but I must bandage your eyes
first; for I never allow anybody to see those backstairs of mine."
"I am sure I shall not tell anybody about them, ma'am, if you bid
"Aha! So you think, my little man. But you would soon forget your
promise if you got back into the land-world. For, if people only
once found out that you had been up my backstairs, you would have
all the fine ladies kneeling to you, and the rich men emptying
their purses before you, and statesmen offering you place and
power; and young and old, rich and poor, crying to you, 'Only tell
us the great backstairs secret, and we will be your slaves; we will
make you lord, king, emperor, bishop, archbishop, pope, if you
like--only tell us the secret of the backstairs. For thousands of
years we have been paying, and petting, and obeying, and
worshipping quacks who told us they had the key of the backstairs,
and could smuggle us up them; and in spite of all our
disappointments, we will honour, and glorify, and adore, and
beatify, and translate, and apotheotise you likewise, on the chance
of your knowing something about the backstairs, that we may all go
on pilgrimage to it; and, even if we cannot get up it, lie at the
foot of it, and cry -
Save us from the consequences of our own actions, and from the
cruel fairy, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid!' Do not you think that you
would be a little tempted then to tell what you know, laddie?"
Tom thought so certainly. "But why do they want so to know about
the backstairs?" asked he, being a little frightened at the long
words, and not understanding them the least; as, indeed, he was not
meant to do, or you either.
"That I shall not tell you. I never put things into little folks'
heads which are but too likely to come there of themselves. So
come--now I must bandage your eyes." So she tied the bandage on
his eyes with one hand, and with the other she took it off.
"Now," she said, "you are safe up the stairs." Tom opened his eyes
very wide, and his mouth too; for he had not, as he thought, moved
a single step. But, when he looked round him, there could be no
doubt that he was safe up the backstairs, whatsoever they may be,
which no man is going to tell you, for the plain reason that no man
The first thing which Tom saw was the black cedars, high and sharp
against the rosy dawn; and St. Brandan's Isle reflected double in
the still broad silver sea. The wind sang softly in the cedars,
and the water sang among the eaves: the sea-birds sang as they
streamed out into the ocean, and the land-birds as they built among
the boughs; and the air was so full of song that it stirred St.
Brandan and his hermits, as they slumbered in the shade; and they
moved their good old lips, and sang their morning hymn amid their
dreams. But among all the songs one came across the water more
sweet and clear than all; for it was the song of a young girl's
And what was the song which she sang? Ah, my little man, I am too
old to sing that song, and you too young to understand it. But
have patience, and keep your eye single, and your hands clean, and
you will learn some day to sing it yourself, without needing any
man to teach you.
And as Tom neared the island, there sat upon a rock the most
graceful creature that ever was seen, looking down, with her chin
upon her hand, and paddling with her feet in the water. And when
they came to her she looked up, and behold it was Ellie.
"Oh, Miss Ellie," said he, "how you are grown!"
"Oh, Tom," said she, "how you are grown too!"
And no wonder; they were both quite grown up--he into a tall man,
and she into a beautiful woman.
"Perhaps I may be grown," she said. "I have had time enough; for I
have been sitting here waiting for you many a hundred years, till I
thought you were never coming."
"Many a hundred years?" thought Tom; but he had seen so much in his
travels that he had quite given up being astonished; and, indeed,
he could think of nothing but Ellie. So he stood and looked at
Ellie, and Ellie looked at him; and they liked the employment so
much that they stood and looked for seven years more, and neither
spoke nor stirred.
At last they heard the fairy say: "Attention, children. Are you
never going to look at me again?"
"We have been looking at you all this while," they said. And so
they thought they had been.
"Then look at me once more," said she.
They looked--and both of them cried out at once, "Oh, who are you,
"You are our dear Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby."
"No, you are good Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid; but you are grown quite
"To you," said the fairy. "But look again."
"You are Mother Carey," said Tom, in a very low, solemn voice; for
he had found out something which made him very happy, and yet
frightened him more than all that he had ever seen.
"But you are grown quite young again."
"To you," said the fairy. "Look again."
"You are the Irishwoman who met me the day I went to Harthover!"
And when they looked she was neither of them, and yet all of them
"My name is written in my eyes, if you have eyes to see it there."
And they looked into her great, deep, soft eyes, and they changed
again and again into every hue, as the light changes in a diamond.
"Now read my name," said she, at last.
And her eyes flashed, for one moment, clear, white, blazing light:
but the children could not read her name; for they were dazzled,
and hid their faces in their hands.
"Not yet, young things, not yet," said she, smiling; and then she
turned to Ellie.
"You may take him home with you now on Sundays, Ellie. He has won
his spurs in the great battle, and become fit to go with you and be
a man; because he has done the thing he did not like."
So Tom went home with Ellie on Sundays, and sometimes on week-days,
too; and he is now a great man of science, and can plan railroads,
and steam-engines, and electric telegraphs, and rifled guns, and so
forth; and knows everything about everything, except why a hen's
egg don't turn into a crocodile, and two or three other little
things which no one will know till the coming of the Cocqcigrues.
And all this from what he learnt when he was a water-baby,
underneath the sea.
"And of course Tom married Ellie?"
My dear child, what a silly notion! Don't you know that no one
ever marries in a fairy tale, under the rank of a prince or a
"And Tom's dog?"
Oh, you may see him any clear night in July; for the old dog-star
was so worn out by the last three hot summers that there have been
no dog-days since; so that they had to take him down and put Tom's
dog up in his place. Therefore, as new brooms sweep clean, we may
hope for some warm weather this year. And that is the end of my
And now, my dear little man, what should we learn from this
We should learn thirty-seven or thirty-nine things, I am not
exactly sure which: but one thing, at least, we may learn, and
that is this--when we see efts in the pond, never to throw stones
at them, or catch them with crooked pins, or put them into
vivariums with sticklebacks, that the sticklebacks may prick them
in their poor little stomachs, and make them jump out of the glass
into somebody's work-box, and so come to a bad end. For these efts
are nothing else but the water-babies who are stupid and dirty, and
will not learn their lessons and keep themselves clean; and,
therefore (as comparative anatomists will tell you fifty years
hence, though they are not learned enough to tell you now), their
skulls grow flat, their jaws grow out, and their brains grow small,
and their tails grow long, and they lose all their ribs (which I am
sure you would not like to do), and their skins grow dirty and
spotted, and they never get into the clear rivers, much less into
the great wide sea, but hang about in dirty ponds, and live in the
mud, and eat worms, as they deserve to do.
But that is no reason why you should ill-use them: but only why
you should pity them, and be kind to them, and hope that some day
they will wake up, and be ashamed of their nasty, dirty, lazy,
stupid life, and try to amend, and become something better once
more. For, perhaps, if they do so, then after 379,423 years, nine
months, thirteen days, two hours, and twenty-one minutes (for aught
that appears to the contrary), if they work very hard and wash very
hard all that time, their brains may grow bigger, and their jaws
grow smaller, and their ribs come back, and their tails wither off,
and they will turn into water-babies again, and perhaps after that
into land-babies; and after that perhaps into grown men.
You know they won't? Very well, I daresay you know best. But you
see, some folks have a great liking for those poor little efts.
They never did anybody any harm, or could if they tried; and their
only fault is, that they do no good--any more than some thousands
of their betters. But what with ducks, and what with pike, and
what with sticklebacks, and what with water-beetles, and what with
naughty boys, they are "sae sair hadden doun," as the Scotsmen say,
that it is a wonder how they live; and some folks can't help
hoping, with good Bishop Butler, that they may have another chance,
to make things fair and even, somewhere, somewhen, somehow.
Meanwhile, do you learn your lessons, and thank God that you have
plenty of cold water to wash in; and wash in it too, like a true
Englishman. And then, if my story is not true, something better
is; and if I am not quite right, still you will be, as long as you
stick to hard work and cold water.
But remember always, as I told you at first, that this is all a
fairy tale, and only fun and pretence: and, therefore, you are not
to believe a word of it, even if it is true.
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