The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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all-but-omnipotent backstairs, &c.
Save us from the consequences of our own actions, and from the cruel fairy, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid!’ Do not you think that you would be a little tempted then to tell what you know, laddie?”
Tom thought so certainly. “But why do they want so to know about the backstairs?” asked he, being a little frightened at the long words, and not understanding them the least; as, indeed, he was not meant to do, or you either.
“That I shall not tell you. I never put things into little folks’ heads which are but too likely to come there of themselves. So come—now I must bandage your eyes.” So she tied the bandage on his eyes with one hand, and with the other she took it off.
“Now,” she said, “you are safe up the stairs.” Tom opened his eyes very wide, and his mouth too; for he had not, as he thought, moved a single step. But, when he looked round him, there could be no doubt that he was safe up the backstairs, whatsoever they may be, which no man is going to tell you, for the plain reason that no man knows.
The first thing which Tom saw was the black cedars, high and sharp against the rosy dawn; and St. Brandan’s Isle reflected double in the still broad silver sea. The wind sang softly in the cedars, and the water sang among the eaves: the sea-birds sang as they streamed out into the ocean, and the land-birds as they built among the boughs; and the air was so full of song that it stirred St. Brandan and his hermits, as they slumbered in the shade; and they moved their good old lips, and sang their morning hymn amid their dreams. But among all the songs one came across the water more sweet and clear than all; for it was the song of a young girl’s voice.
And what was the song which she sang? Ah, my little man, I am too old to sing that song, and you too young to understand it. But have patience, and keep your eye single, and your hands clean, and you will learn some day to sing it yourself, without needing any man to teach you.
And as Tom neared the island, there sat upon a rock the most graceful creature that ever was seen, looking down, with her chin upon her hand, and paddling with her feet in the water. And when they came to her she looked up, and behold it was Ellie.
“Oh, Miss Ellie,” said he, “how you are grown!”
“Oh, Tom,” said she, “how you are grown too!”
And no wonder; they were both quite grown up—he into a tall man, and she into a beautiful woman.
“Perhaps I may be grown,” she said. “I have had time enough; for I have been sitting here waiting for you many a hundred years, till I thought you were never coming.”