The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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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 true.
“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.