The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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Tom had got his answer, and had no more to say, till they came up to the great iron door of the prison. And there the truncheon knocked twice, with its own head.
A wicket in the door opened, and out looked a tremendous old brass blunderbuss charged up to the muzzle with slugs, who was the porter; and Tom started back a little at the sight of him.
“What case is this?” he asked in a deep voice, out of his broad bell mouth.
“If you please, sir, it is no case; only a young gentleman from her ladyship, who wants to see Grimes, the master-sweep.”
“Grimes?” said the blunderbuss. And he pulled in his muzzle, perhaps to look over his prison-lists.
“Grimes is up chimney No. 345,” he said from inside. “So the young gentleman had better go on to the roof.”
Tom looked up at the enormous wall, which seemed at least ninety miles high, and wondered how he should ever get up: but, when he hinted that to the truncheon, it settled the matter in a moment. For it whisked round, and gave him such a shove behind as sent him up to the roof in no time, with his little dog under his arm.
And there he walked along the leads, till he met another truncheon, and told him his errand.
“Very good,” it said. “Come along: but it will be of no use. He is the most unremorseful, hard-hearted, foul-mouthed fellow I have in charge; and thinks about nothing but beer and pipes, which are not allowed here, of course.”
So they walked along over the leads, and very sooty they were, and Tom thought the chimneys must want sweeping very much. But he was surprised to see that the soot did not stick to his feet, or dirty them in the least. Neither did the live coals, which were lying about in plenty, burn him; for, being a water-baby, his radical humours were of a moist and cold nature, as you may read at large in Lemnius, Cardan, Van Helmont, and other gentlemen, who knew as much as they could, and no man can know more.
And at last they came to chimney No. 345. Out of the top of it, his head and shoulders just showing, stuck poor Mr. Grimes, so sooty, and bleared, and ugly, that Tom could hardly bear to look at him. And in his mouth was a pipe; but it was not a-light; though he was pulling at it with all his might.
“Attention, Mr. Grimes,” said the truncheon; “here is a gentleman come to see you.”
But Mr. Grimes only said bad words; and kept grumbling, “My pipe won’t draw. My pipe won’t draw.”
“Keep a civil tongue, and attend!” said the truncheon; and popped up just like Punch, hitting Grimes such a crack over the head with itself, that his brains rattled inside like a dried walnut in its shell. He tried to get his hands out, and rub the place: but he could not, for they were stuck fast in the chimney. Now he was forced to attend.