The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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“Why, did Ellie do that?”
“Ask her.”
And Ellie blushed, and said, “Yes, Tom; I did not like coming here at first; I was so much happier at home, where it is always Sunday. And I was afraid of you, Tom, at first, because—because—”
“Because I was all over prickles? But I am not prickly now, am I, Miss Ellie?”
“No,” said Ellie. “I like you very much now; and I like coming here, too.”
“And perhaps,” said the fairy, “you will learn to like going where you don’t like, and helping some one that you don’t like, as Ellie has.”
But Tom put his finger in his mouth, and hung his head down; for he did not see that at all.
So when Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby came, Tom asked her; for he thought in his little head, She is not so strict as her sister, and perhaps she may let me off more easily.
Ah, Tom, Tom, silly fellow! and yet I don’t know why I should blame you, while so many grown people have got the very same notion in their heads.
But, when they try it, they get just the same answer as Tom did. For, when he asked the second fairy, she told him just what the first did, and in the very same words.
Tom was very unhappy at that. And, when Ellie went home on Sunday, he fretted and cried all day, and did not care to listen to the fairy’s stories about good children, though they were prettier than ever. Indeed, the more he overheard of them, the less he liked to listen, because they were all about children who did what they did not like, and took trouble for other people, and worked to feed their little brothers and sisters instead of caring only for their play. And, when she began to tell a story about a holy child in old times, who was martyred by the heathen because it would not worship idols, Tom could bear no more, and ran away and hid among the rocks.
And, when Ellie came back, he was shy with her, because he fancied she looked down on him, and thought him a coward. And then he grew quite cross with her, because she was superior to him, and did what he could not do. And poor Ellie was quite surprised and sad; and at last Tom burst out crying; but he would not tell her what was really in his mind.
And all the while he was eaten up with curiosity to know where Ellie went to; so that he began not to care for his playmates, or for the sea-palace or anything else. But perhaps that made matters all the easier for him; for he grew so discontented with everything round him that he did not care to stay, and did not care where he went.
“Well,” he said, at last, “I am so miserable here, I’ll go; if only you will go with me?”
“Ah!” said Ellie, “I wish I might; but the worst of it is, that the fairy says that you must go alone if you go at all. Now don’t poke that poor crab about, Tom” (for he was feeling very naughty and mischievous), “or the fairy will have to punish you.”