The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

to stop; he would see the great world below, and the salmon, and the breakers, and the wide wide sea.
And when the daylight came, Tom found himself out in the salmon river.
And what sort of a river was it? Was it like an Irish stream, winding through the brown bogs, where the wild ducks squatter up from among the white water-lilies, and the curlews flit to and fro, crying “Tullie-wheep, mind your sheep;” and Dennis tells you strange stories of the Peishtamore, the great bogy-snake which lies in the black peat pools, among the old pine-stems, and puts his head out at night to snap at the cattle as they come down to drink?—But you must not believe all that Dennis tells you, mind; for if you ask him:
“Is there a salmon here, do you think, Dennis?”
“Is it salmon, thin, your honour manes? Salmon? Cartloads it is of thim, thin, an’ ridgmens, shouldthering ache out of water, av’ ye’d but the luck to see thim.”
Then you fish the pool all over, and never get a rise.
“But there can’t be a salmon here, Dennis! and, if you’ll but think, if one had come up last tide, he’d be gone to the higher pools by now.”
“Shure thin, and your honour’s the thrue fisherman, and understands it all like a book. Why, ye spake as if ye’d known the wather a thousand years! As I said, how could there be a fish here at all, just now?”
“But you said just now they were shouldering each other out of water?”
And then Dennis will look up at you with his handsome, sly, soft, sleepy, good-natured, untrustable, Irish gray eye, and answer with the prettiest smile:
“Shure, and didn’t I think your honour would like a pleasant answer?”
So you must not trust Dennis, because he is in the habit of giving pleasant answers: but, instead of being angry with him, you must remember that he is a poor Paddy, and knows no better; so you must just burst out laughing; and then he will burst out laughing too, and slave for you, and trot about after you, and show you good sport if he can—for he is an affectionate fellow, and as fond of sport as you are—and if he can’t, tell you fibs instead, a hundred an hour; and wonder all the while why poor ould Ireland does not prosper like England and Scotland, and some other places, where folk have taken up a ridiculous fancy that honesty is the best policy.
Or was it like a Welsh salmon river, which is remarkable chiefly (at least, till this last year) for containing no salmon, as they have been all poached out by the enlightened peasantry, to prevent the Cythrawl Sassenach (which means you, my little dear, your kith and kin, and signifies much the same as the Chinese Fan Quei) from coming bothering into Wales, with good tackle, and ready money, and civilisation, and common honesty, and other like things of which the Cymry stand in no need whatsoever?