The Water Babies

Illustrated Online Children's Book by Charles Kingsley

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Tom was very nearly saying, “I don’t care if she does;” but he stopped himself in time.
“I know what she wants me to do,” he said, whining most dolefully. “She wants me to go after that horrid old Grimes. I don’t like him, that’s certain. And if I find him, he will turn me into a chimney-sweep again, I know. That’s what I have been afraid of all along.”
“No, he won’t—I know as much as that. Nobody can turn water-babies into sweeps, or hurt them at all, as long as they are good.”
“Ah,” said naughty Tom, “I see what you want; you are persuading me all along to go, because you are tired of me, and want to get rid of me.”
Little Ellie opened her eyes very wide at that, and they were all brimming over with tears.
“Oh, Tom, Tom!” she said, very mournfully—and then she cried, “Oh, Tom! where are you?”
And Tom cried, “Oh, Ellie, where are you?”
For neither of them could see each other—not the least. Little Ellie vanished quite away, and Tom heard her voice calling him, and growing smaller and smaller, and fainter and fainter, till all was silent.
Who was frightened then but Tom? He swam up and down among the rocks, into all the halls and chambers, faster than ever he swam before, but could not find her. He shouted after her, but she did not answer; he asked all the other children, but they had not seen her; and at last he went up to the top of the water and began crying and screaming for Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid—which perhaps was the best thing to do—for she came in a moment.
“Oh!” said Tom. “Oh dear, oh dear! I have been naughty to Ellie, and I have killed her—I know I have killed her.”
“Not quite that,” said the fairy; “but I have sent her away home, and she will not come back again for I do not know how long.”
And at that Tom cried so bitterly that the salt sea was swelled with his tears, and the tide was .3,954,620,819 of an inch higher than it had been the day before: but perhaps that was owing to the waxing of the moon. It may have been so; but it is considered right in the new philosophy, you know, to give spiritual causes for physical phenomena—especially in parlour-tables; and, of course, physical causes for spiritual ones, like thinking, and praying, and knowing right from wrong. And so they odds it till it comes even, as folks say down in Berkshire.
“How cruel of you to send Ellie away!” sobbed Tom. “However, I will find her again, if I go to the world’s end to look for her.”
The fairy did not slap Tom, and tell him to hold his tongue: but she took him on her lap very kindly, just as her sister would have done; and put him in mind how it was not her fault, because she was wound up inside, like watches, and could not help doing things whether she liked or not. And then she told him how he had been in the nursery long enough, and must go out now and see the world, if he intended ever to be a man; and how he must go all alone by himself, as every one else