The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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“I suppose,” said Tom, “she cuts up a great whale like you into a whole shoal of porpoises?”
At which the old whale laughed so violently that he coughed up all the creatures; who swam away again very thankful at having escaped out of that terrible whalebone net of his, from which bourne no traveller returns; and Tom went on to the iceberg, wondering.
And, when he came near it, it took the form of the grandest old lady he had ever seen—a white marble lady, sitting on a white marble throne. And from the foot of the throne there swum away, out and out into the sea, millions of new-born creatures, of more shapes and colours than man ever dreamed. And they were Mother Carey’s children, whom she makes out of the sea-water all day long.
He expected, of course—like some grown people who ought to know better—to find her snipping, piecing, fitting, stitching, cobbling, basting, filing, planing, hammering, turning, polishing, moulding, measuring, chiselling, clipping, and so forth, as men do when they go to work to make anything.
But, instead of that, she sat quite still with her chin upon her hand, looking down into the sea with two great grand blue eyes, as blue as the sea itself. Her hair was as white as the snow—for she was very very old—in fact, as old as anything which you are likely to come across, except the difference between right and wrong.
And, when she saw Tom, she looked at him very kindly.
“What do you want, my little man? It is long since I have seen a water-baby here.”
Tom told her his errand, and asked the way to the Other-end-of-Nowhere.
“You ought to know yourself, for you have been there already.”
“Have I, ma’am? I’m sure I forget all about it.”
“Then look at me.”
And, as Tom looked into her great blue eyes, he recollected the way perfectly.
Now, was not that strange?
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Tom. “Then I won’t trouble your ladyship any more; I hear you are very busy.”
“I am never more busy than I am now,” she said, without stirring a finger.
“I heard, ma’am, that you were always making new beasts out of old.”
“So people fancy. But I am not going to trouble myself to make things, my little dear. I sit here and make them make themselves.”
“You are a clever fairy, indeed,” thought Tom. And he was quite right.