The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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conquest, still to flight; and kept up their spirits mightily with the thought that they would at least have the pig’s wool for their pains.
And running after them, day and night, came such a poor, lean, seedy, hard-worked old giant, as ought to have been cockered up, and had a good dinner given him, and a good wife found him, and been set to play with little children; and then he would have been a very presentable old fellow after all; for he had a heart, though it was considerably overgrown with brains.
He was made up principally of fish bones and parchment, put together with wire and Canada balsam; and smelt strongly of spirits, though he never drank anything but water: but spirits he used somehow, there was no denying. He had a great pair of spectacles on his nose, and a butterfly-net in one hand, and a geological hammer in the other; and was hung all over with pockets, full of collecting boxes, bottles, microscopes, telescopes, barometers, ordnance maps, scalpels, forceps, photographic apparatus, and all other tackle for finding out everything about everything, and a little more too. And, most strange of all, he was running not forwards but backwards, as fast as he could.
Away all the good folks ran from him, except Tom, who stood his ground and dodged between his legs; and the giant, when he had passed him, looked down, and cried, as if he was quite pleased and comforted, -
“What? who are you? And you actually don’t run away, like all the rest?” But he had to take his spectacles off, Tom remarked, in order to see him plainly.
Tom told him who he was; and the giant pulled out a bottle and a cork instantly, to collect him with.
But Tom was too sharp for that, and dodged between his legs and in front of him; and then the giant could not see him at all.
“No, no, no!” said Tom, “I’ve not been round the world, and through the world, and up to Mother Carey’s haven, beside being caught in a net and called a Holothurian and a Cephalopod, to be bottled up by any old giant like you.”
And when the giant understood what a great traveller Tom had been, he made a truce with him at once, and would have kept him there to this day to pick his brains, so delighted was he at finding any one to tell him what he did not know before.
“Ah, you lucky little dog!” said he at last, quite simply—for he was the simplest, pleasantest, honestest, kindliest old Dominie Sampson of a giant that ever turned the world upside down without intending it—“ah, you lucky little dog! If I had only been where you have been, to see what you have seen!”
“Well,” said Tom, “if you want to do that, you had best put your head under water for a few hours, as I did, and turn into a water-baby, or some other baby, and then you might have a chance.”
“Turn into a baby, eh? If I could do that, and know what was happening to me for but one hour, I should know everything then, and be at rest. But I can’t; I can’t be a little child again; and I suppose if I could, it would be no use, because then I should then know nothing about what was happening to me. Ah, you lucky little dog!” said the poor old giant.