The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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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 two.
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 donkey’s.
“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.
When, hey presto; all the thing’s donkey-face came off in a moment, and out popped a long arm with a pair of pincers at the end of it, and caught Tom by the nose. It did not hurt him much; but it held him quite tight.
“Yah, ah! Oh, let me go!” cried Tom.
“Then let me go,” said the creature. “I want to be quiet. I want to split.”