The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

“Little boys must take the trouble to find out things for themselves, or they will never grow to be men; so that you must ask all the beasts in the sea and the birds in the air, and if you have been good to them, some of them will tell you the way to Shiny Wall.”
“Well,” said Tom, “it will be a long journey, so I had better start at once. Good-bye, Miss Ellie; you know I am getting a big boy, and I must go out and see the world.”
“I know you must,” said Ellie; “but you will not forget me, Tom. I shall wait here till you come.”
And she shook hands with him, and bade him good-bye. Tom longed very much again to kiss her; but he thought it would not be respectful, considering she was a lady born; so he promised not to forget her: but his little whirl-about of a head was so full of the notion of going out to see the world, that it forgot her in five minutes: however, though his head forgot her, I am glad to say his heart did not.
So he asked all the beasts in the sea, and all the birds in the air, but none of them knew the way to Shiny Wall. For why? He was still too far down south.
Then he met a ship, far larger than he had ever seen—a gallant ocean-steamer, with a long cloud of smoke trailing behind; and he wondered how she went on without sails, and swam up to her to see. A school of dolphins were running races round and round her, going three feet for her one, and Tom asked them the way to Shiny Wall: but they did not know. Then he tried to find out how she moved, and at last he saw her screw, and was so delighted with it that he played under her quarter all day, till he nearly had his nose knocked off by the fans, and thought it time to move. Then he watched the sailors upon deck, and the ladies, with their bonnets and parasols: but none of them could see him, because their eyes were not opened,—as, indeed, most people’s eyes are not.
At last there came out into the quarter-gallery a very pretty lady, in deep black widow’s weeds, and in her arms a baby. She leaned over the quarter-gallery, and looked back and back toward England far away; and as she looked she sang:
“Soft soft wind, from out the sweet south sliding, Waft thy silver cloud-webs athwart the summer sea; Thin thin threads of mist on dewy fingers twining Weave a veil of dappled gauze to shade my babe and me.
“Deep deep Love, within thine own abyss abiding, Pour Thyself abroad, O Lord, on earth and air and sea; Worn weary hearts within Thy holy temple hiding, Shield from sorrow, sin, and shame my helpless babe and me.”