The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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And a well-fed, ill-favoured gentleman he was, as ever served Her Majesty at Portland. Tom was a little frightened at first; for he thought it was Grimes. But he soon saw his mistake: for Grimes always looked a man in the face; and this fellow never did. And when he spoke, it was fire and smoke; and when he sneezed, it was squibs and crackers; and when he cried (which he did whenever it paid him), it was boiling pitch; and some of it was sure to stick.
“Here we are again!” cried he, like the clown in a pantomime. “So you can’t feel frightened, my little dear—eh? I’ll do that for you. I’ll make an impression on you! Yah! Boo! Whirroo! Hullabaloo!”
And he rattled, thumped, brandished his thunder-box, yelled, shouted, raved, roared, stamped, and danced corrobory like any black fellow; and then he touched a spring in the thunderbox, and out popped turnip-ghosts and magic-lanthorns and pasteboard bogies and spring-heeled Jacks, and sallaballas, with such a horrid din, clatter, clank, roll, rattle, and roar, that the little boy turned up the whites of his eyes, and fainted right away.
And at that his poor heathen papa and mamma were as much delighted as if they had found a gold mine; and fell down upon their knees before the Powwow man, and gave him a palanquin with a pole of solid silver and curtains of cloth of gold; and carried him about in it on their own backs: but as soon as they had taken him up, the pole stuck to their shoulders, and they could not set him down any more, but carried him on willynilly, as Sinbad carried the old man of the sea: which was a pitiable sight to see; for the father was a very brave officer, and wore two swords and a blue button; and the mother was as pretty a lady as ever had pinched feet like a Chinese. But you see, they had chosen to do a foolish thing just once too often; so, by the laws of Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, they had to go on doing it whether they chose or not, till the coming of the Cocqcigrues.
Ah! don’t you wish that some one would go and convert those poor heathens, and teach them not to frighten their little children into fits?
“Now, then,” said the Powwow man to Tom, “wouldn’t you like to be frightened, my little dear? For I can see plainly that you are a very wicked, naughty, graceless, reprobate boy.”
“You’re another,” quoth Tom, very sturdily. And when the man ran at him, and cried “Boo!” Tom ran at him in return, and cried “Boo!” likewise, right in his face, and set the little dog upon him; and at his legs the dog went.
At which, if you will believe it, the fellow turned tail, thunderbox and all, with a “Woof!” like an old sow on the common; and ran for his life, screaming, “Help! thieves! murder! fire! He is going to kill me! I am a ruined man! He will murder me; and break, burn, and destroy my precious and invaluable thunderbox; and then you will have no more thunder-showers in the land. Help! help! help!”
At which the papa and mamma and all the people of Oldwivesfabledom flew at Tom, shouting, “Oh, the wicked, impudent, hard-hearted, graceless boy! Beat him, kick him, shoot him, drown him, hang him, burn him!” and so forth: but luckily they had nothing to shoot, hang, or burn him with, for the fairies had hid all the killing-tackle out of the way a little while before; so they could only pelt him with stones; and some of the stones went clean through him, and came out the other side. But he did not mind that a bit; for the holes closed up again as fast as they were made, because he was a water-baby. However, he was very glad when he was safe out of the country, for the noise there made him all but deaf.