The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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“Hey!” he said, “why, it’s Tom! I suppose you have come here to laugh at me, you spiteful little atomy?”
Tom assured him he had not, but only wanted to help him.
“I don’t want anything except beer, and that I can’t get; and a light to this bothering pipe, and that I can’t get either.”
“I’ll get you one,” said Tom; and he took up a live coal (there were plenty lying about) and put it to Grimes’ pipe: but it went out instantly.
“It’s no use,” said the truncheon, leaning itself up against the chimney and looking on. “I tell you, it is no use. His heart is so cold that it freezes everything that comes near him. You will see that presently, plain enough.”
“Oh, of course, it’s my fault. Everything’s always my fault,” said Grimes. “Now don’t go to hit me again” (for the truncheon started upright, and looked very wicked); “you know, if my arms were only free, you daren’t hit me then.”
The truncheon leant back against the chimney, and took no notice of the personal insult, like a well-trained policeman as it was, though he was ready enough to avenge any transgression against morality or order.
“But can’t I help you in any other way? Can’t I help you to get out of this chimney?” said Tom.
“No,” interposed the truncheon; “he has come to the place where everybody must help themselves; and he will find it out, I hope, before he has done with me.”
“Oh, yes,” said Grimes, “of course it’s me. Did I ask to be brought here into the prison? Did I ask to be set to sweep your foul chimneys? Did I ask to have lighted straw put under me to make me go up? Did I ask to stick fast in the very first chimney of all, because it was so shamefully clogged up with soot? Did I ask to stay here—I don’t know how long—a hundred years, I do believe, and never get my pipe, nor my beer, nor nothing fit for a beast, let alone a man?”
“No,” answered a solemn voice behind. “No more did Tom, when you behaved to him in the very same way.”
It was Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid. And, when the truncheon saw her, it started bolt upright— Attention!—and made such a low bow, that if it had not been full of the spirit of justice, it must have tumbled on its end, and probably hurt its one eye. And Tom made his bow too.
“Oh, ma’am,” he said, “don’t think about me; that’s all past and gone, and good times and bad times and all times pass over. But may not I help poor Mr. Grimes? Mayn’t I try and get some of these bricks away, that he may move his arms?”
“You may try, of course,” she said.
So Tom pulled and tugged at the bricks: but he could not move one. And then he tried to wipe Mr. Grimes’ face: but the soot would not come off.