TOM, THE WATER BABY
C. S. B. Adapted from Chas. Kingsley's "Water Babies."
ONCE upon a time there was a little chimney sweep, and
his name was Tom. He lived in a great town in the
North Country, where there were plenty of chimneys to
sweep, and plenty of money for Tom to earn and his
master to spend. Tom could not read, nor write; and he
never washed himself. He cried half the time when he
climbed the dark flues, and the soot got in his eyes,
and his master beat him, and he had not enough to eat;
he laughed the other half, when he was playing with the
boys, or jumping over the posts at leap-frog.
One day a smart little groom drove into the court where
Tom lived, and he said that Mr. Grimes, Tom's master,
was to come up the next morning to a big house where
the chimneys needed sweeping. Then he rode away again.
I dare say you never got up at three o'clock of a
midsummer morning. But it is the pleasantest time of
the twenty-four hours, and that was the time Tom and
his master set out for the big house. Mr. Grimes rode
the donkey in front, and Tom with the brushes
 walked behind, out of the court, and up the street,
past the closed window shutters, past the roofs all
shining gray in the gray dawn.
On and on they went, and Tom looked and looked, for he
had never been so far in the country before. And now
they had gone three miles or more, and they came to the
lodge gates before the big house.
Grimes rang at the gate, and out came the keeper and
opened it. Then the keeper went with them, around the
back way, and into a little back door. In a passage
the housekeeper met them, and she gave Grimes solemn
orders about the chimneys. And Grimes listened, and
said, under his breath, to Tom: "Mind that, you little
Then they came to a big room and, after a whimper, and
a kick or two from his master, into the grate went Tom
with his brushes, and up the chimney.
I don't know how many chimneys he swept, but he got
quite tired and puzzled, too. They were crooked
chimneys, and, somehow, Tom lost his way in them. At
last, what did he do but come down the wrong one, and
found himself standing in a room—the like he had never
The room was all dressed in white—white window
curtains, white bed curtains, white furniture, and
white walls. The carpet was all over gay little
flowers, and the walls were hung with pictures. He saw
a washing-stand, with soap, and brushes, and towels;
all for washing. "She must be a very dirty lady,"
Then, looking toward the bed, he saw the "dirty lady."
Under a snow-white coverlet, upon a snow-white pillow,
lay the most beautiful little girl Tom had ever seen.
Her cheeks were as white as the
pil-  low, and her
hair, like threads of gold, was spread all over the
bed. Tom wondered if she could be one of the wax dolls
he had seen in the shops; but, no—she could breathe.
"Are all people like that when they are washed?"
He looked at his hands, and tried to rub off the soot.
Then he saw, standing close to him, a little, ragged,
ugly, black dwarf. It was himself, reflected in a
mirror; and Tom found out that he was dirty!
He burst into tears, and tried to climb up the chimney
again, but the fender upset with a terrible noise. Up
jumped the little lady, and, seeing Tom, began
screaming. In ran her nurse from the next room, and
Tom jumped out of the window and down to the garden
below. The gardener, and the groom, and the
dairy-maid, and Mr. Grimes all ran after Tom, but he
made for the woods, and they could not catch him.
But when he got into the woods, the boughs laid hold of
his legs, and poked into his face, and scratched him.
Still, he pushed bravely on through it all. On and on
he went—over a great moor, where there were huge
spiders, and green lizards, and little foxes; higher
and higher, up a hill and then down the other side,
until he was a long way off from Mr. Grimes.
He was tired and hungry, for the sun was high now, but
on he went like the brave little man he was—a mile off,
and a thousand feet down. Of course, he dirtied
everything as he went. There has been a black smudge
all down the crag ever since; and there have been more
black beetles, for Tom dirtied the papa of them all.
On and on! He was so thirsty and footsore! But, at
last, he came to a neat, pretty little cottage, with
 clipped yew hedges all around the garden, and
yews inside, too, cut into peacocks, and trumpets, and
teapots, and all sorts of queer shapes. He came slowly
up to the open door; and then peeped in, half afraid.
And there, by the fireplace, sat the nicest old woman
that ever was seen, in her red petticoat, and short
dimity gown, and clean white cap, with a black silk
handkerchief over it, tied under her chin. At her feet
sat the grandfather of all the cats.
"What art thou, and what dost thou want?" she cried, as
she saw Tom. "A dirty chimney sweep! Away with thee!"
"Water!" said poor little Tom, quite faint.
The old woman looked at him through her spectacles.
"The bairn's ill," she said. So she gave Tom a cup of
milk and a bit of bread, and put him in an outhouse on
sweet, soft hay, and bade him sleep. Then she went in
again, but Tom did not fall asleep.
He turned and tossed. He seemed to hear the little
lady crying to him: "Oh, you're so dirty!" And he
kept saying, though he was half asleep: "I must be
clean. I must be clean."
All of a sudden he found himself, not in the outhouse
upon the hay, but in the middle of a meadow, with a
stream of water just before him. He had come there on
his own legs, between sleep and awake, and he was not a
bit surprised. He lay down in the grass and looked at
the clear, clear water. He dipped his hands in and
found it cool, so cool!
"I will be a fish," he said. "I will swim in the
water. I must be clean!"
So he pulled off his poor, ragged clothes, and he put
his little hot, sore feet in the water, and then his
legs—and he suddenly saw a beautiful fairy rising up
 of the water reaching her hands to him.
Green water weeds floated around her sides, and white
water lilies around her head. The fairies of the
stream came up from the bottom and circled around her,
for she was their queen; and she said to them, as she
took Tom in her strong arms: "I have brought you a new
Then Tom fell asleep—the sunniest, coziest, quietest
sleep that ever he had in his life, because the fairies
had taken him. And now comes the most wonderful part
of the story. When Tom awoke he was swimming about in
the stream, as white, and clean, and happy as possible.
He was not a poor little chimney sweep any longer. The
fairies had turned him into a water-baby.