“Thou little child, yet glorious in the night
Of heaven-born freedom on thy Being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The Years to bring the inevitable yoke —
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life.”
I come to the very saddest part of all my story. I know some people will only laugh at it, and call it much ado about nothing. But I know one man who would not; and he was an officer with a pair of gray moustaches as long as your arm, who said once in company that two of the most heart-rending sights in the world, which moved him most to tears, which he would do anything to prevent or remedy, were a child over a broken toy and a child stealing sweets.
The company did not laugh at him; his moustaches were too long and too gray for that: but, after he was gone, they called him sentimental and so forth, all but one dear little old Quaker lady with a soul as white as her cap, who was not, of course, generally partial to soldiers; and she said very quietly, like a Quaker:
“Friends, it is borne upon my mind that that is a truly brave man.”
Now you may fancy that Tom was quite good, when he had everything that he could want or wish: but you would be very much mistaken. Being quite comfortable is a very good thing; but it does not make people good. Indeed, it sometimes makes them naughty, as it has made the people in America; and as it made the people in the Bible, who waxed fat and kicked, like horses overfed and underworked. And I am very sorry to say that this happened to little Tom. For he grew so fond of the sea-bullseyes and sea-lollipops that his foolish little head could think of nothing else: and he was always longing for more, and wondering when the strange lady would come again and give him some, and what she would give him, and how much, and whether she would give him more than the others. And he thought of nothing but lollipops by day, and dreamt of nothing else by night — and what happened then?
That he began to watch the lady to see where she kept the sweet things: and began hiding, and sneaking, and following her about, and pretending to be looking the other way, or going after something else, till he found out that she kept them in a beautiful mother-of-pearl cabinet away in a deep crack of the rocks.
And he longed to go to the cabinet, and yet he was afraid; and then he longed again, and was less afraid; and at last, by continual thinking about it, he longed so violently that he was not afraid at all. And one night, when all the other children were asleep, and he could not sleep for thinking of lollipops, he crept away among the rocks, and got to the cabinet, and behold! it was open.
But, when he saw all the nice things inside, instead of being delighted, he was quite frightened, and wished he had never come there. And then he would only touch them, and he did; and then he would only taste one, and he did; and then he would only eat one, and he did; and then he would only eat two, and then three, and so on; and then he was terrified lest she should come and catch him, and began gobbling them down so fast that he did not taste them, or have any pleasure in them; and then he felt sick, and would have only one more; and then only one more again; and so on till he had eaten them all up.
And all the while, close behind him, stood Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.
Some people may say, But why did she not keep her cupboard locked? Well, I know. — It may seem a very strange thing, but she never does keep her cupboard locked; every one may go and taste for themselves, and fare accordingly. It is very odd, but so it is; and I am quite sure that she knows best. Perhaps she wishes people to keep their fingers out of the fire, by having them burned.
She took off her spectacles, because she did not like to see too much; and in her pity she arched up her eyebrows into her very hair, and her eyes grew so wide that they would have taken in all the sorrows of the world, and filled with great big tears, as they too often do.
But all she said was:
“Ah, you poor little dear! you are just like all the rest.”
But she said it to herself, and Tom neither heard nor saw her. Now, you must not fancy that she was sentimental at all. If you do, and think that she is going to let off you, or me, or any human being when we do wrong, because she is too tender-hearted to punish us, then you will find yourself very much mistaken, as many a man does every year and every day.
But what did the strange fairy do when she saw all her lollipops eaten?
Did she fly at Tom, catch him by the scruff of the neck, hold him, howk him, hump him, hurry him, hit him, poke him, pull him, pinch him, pound him, put him in the corner, shake him, slap him, set him on a cold stone to reconsider himself, and so forth?
Not a bit. You may watch her at work if you know where to find her. But you will never see her do that. For, if she had, she knew quite well Tom would have fought, and kicked, and bit, and said bad words, and turned again that moment into a naughty little heathen chimney-sweep, with his hand, like Ishmael’s of old, against every man, and every man’s hand against him.
Did she question him, hurry him, frighten him, threaten him, to make him confess? Not a bit. You may see her, as I said, at her work often enough if you know where to look for her: but you will never see her do that. For, if she had, she would have tempted him to tell lies in his fright; and that would have been worse for him, if possible, than even becoming a heathen chimney-sweep again.
No. She leaves that for anxious parents and teachers (lazy ones, some call them), who, instead of giving children a fair trial, such as they would expect and demand for themselves, force them by fright to confess their own faults — which is so cruel and unfair that no judge on the bench dare do it to the wickedest thief or murderer, for the good British law forbids it — ay, and even punish them to make them confess, which is so detestable a crime that it is never committed now, save by Inquisitors, and Kings of Naples, and a few other wretched people of whom the world is weary. And then they say, “We have trained up the child in the way he should go, and when he grew up he has departed from it. Why then did Solomon say that he would not depart from it?” But perhaps the way of beating, and hurrying and frightening, and questioning, was not the way that the child should go; for it is not even the way in which a colt should go if you want to break it in and make it a quiet serviceable horse.
Some folks may say, “Ah! but the Fairy does not need to do that if she knows everything already.” True. But, if she did not know, she would not surely behave worse than a British judge and jury; and no more should parents and teachers either.
So she just said nothing at all about the matter, not even when Tom came next day with the rest for sweet things. He was horribly afraid of coming: but he was still more afraid of staying away, lest any one should suspect him. He was dreadfully afraid, too, lest there should be no sweets — as was to be expected, he having eaten them all — and lest then the fairy should inquire who had taken them. But, behold! she pulled out just as many as ever, which astonished Tom, and frightened him still more.
And, when the fairy looked him full in the face, he shook from head to foot: however she gave him his share like the rest, and he thought within himself that she could not have found him out.
But, when he put the sweets into his mouth, he hated the taste of them; and they made him so sick that he had to get away as fast as he could; and terribly sick he was, and very cross and unhappy, all the week after.
Then, when next week came, he had his share again; and again the fairy looked him full in the face; but more sadly than she had ever looked. And he could not bear the sweets: but took them again in spite of himself.
And when Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby came, he wanted to be cuddled like the rest; but she said very seriously:
“I should like to cuddle you; but I cannot, you are so horny and prickly.”
And Tom looked at himself: and he was all over prickles, just like a sea-egg.
Which was quite natural; for you must know and believe that people’s souls make their bodies just as a snail makes its shell (I am not joking, my little man; I am in serious, solemn earnest). And therefore, when Tom’s soul grew all prickly with naughty tempers, his body could not help growing prickly, too, so that nobody would cuddle him, or play with him, or even like to look at him.
What could Tom do now but go away and hide in a corner and cry? For nobody would play with him, and he knew full well why.
And he was so miserable all that week that when the ugly fairy came and looked at him once more full in the face, more seriously and sadly than ever, he could stand it no longer, and thrust the sweetmeats away, saying, “No, I don’t want any: I can’t bear them now,” and then burst out crying, poor little man, and told Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid every word as it happened.
He was horribly frightened when he had done so; for he expected her to punish him very severely. But, instead, she only took him up and kissed him, which was not quite pleasant, for her chin was very bristly indeed; but he was so lonely-hearted, he thought that rough kissing was better than none.
“I will forgive you, little man,” she said. “I always forgive every one the moment they tell me the truth of their own accord.”
“Then you will take away all these nasty prickles?”
“That is a very different matter. You put them there yourself, and only you can take them away.”
“But how can I do that?” asked Tom, crying afresh.
“Well, I think it is time for you to go to school; so I shall fetch you a schoolmistress, who will teach you how to get rid of your prickles.” And so she went away.
Tom was frightened at the notion of a school-mistress; for he thought she would certainly come with a birch-rod or a cane; but he comforted himself, at last, that she might be something like the old woman in Vendale — which she was not in the least; for, when the fairy brought her, she was the most beautiful little girl that ever was seen, with long curls floating behind her like a golden cloud, and long robes floating all round her like a silver one.
“There he is,” said the fairy; “and you must teach him to be good, whether you like or not.”
“I know,” said the little girl; but she did not seem quite to like, for she put her finger in her mouth, and looked at Tom under her brows; and Tom put his finger in his mouth, and looked at her under his brows, for he was horribly ashamed of himself.
The little girl seemed hardly to know how to begin; and perhaps she would never have begun at all if poor Tom had not burst out crying, and begged her to teach him to be good and help him to cure his prickles; and at that she grew so tender-hearted that she began teaching him as prettily as ever child was taught in the world.
And what did the little girl teach Tom? She taught him, first, what you have been taught ever since you said your first prayers at your mother’s knees; but she taught him much more simply. For the lessons in that world, my child, have no such hard words in them as the lessons in this, and therefore the water-babies like them better than you like your lessons, and long to learn them more and more; and grown men cannot puzzle nor quarrel over their meaning, as they do here on land; for those lessons all rise clear and pure, like the Test out of Overton Pool, out of the everlasting ground of all life and truth.
So she taught Tom every day in the week; only on Sundays she always went away home, and the kind fairy took her place. And before she had taught Tom many Sundays, his prickles had vanished quite away, and his skin was smooth and clean again.
“Dear me!” said the little girl; “why, I know you now. You are the very same little chimney-sweep who came into my bedroom.”
“Dear me!” cried Tom. “And I know you, too, now. You are the very little white lady whom I saw in bed.” And he jumped at her, and longed to hug and kiss her; but did not, remembering that she was a lady born; so he only jumped round and round her till he was quite tired.
And then they began telling each other all their story — how he had got into the water, and she had fallen over the rock; and how he had swum down to the sea, and how she had flown out of the window; and how this, that, and the other, till it was all talked out: and then they both began over again, and I can’t say which of the two talked fastest.
And then they set to work at their lessons again, and both liked them so well that they went on well till seven full years were past and gone.
You may fancy that Tom was quite content and happy all those seven years; but the truth is, he was not. He had always one thing on his mind, and that was — where little Ellie went, when she went home on Sundays.
To a very beautiful place, she said.
But what was the beautiful place like, and where was it?
Ah! that is just what she could not say. And it is strange, but true, that no one can say; and that those who have been oftenest in it, or even nearest to it, can say least about it, and make people understand least what it is like. There are a good many folks about the Other-end-of-Nowhere (where Tom went afterwards), who pretend to know it from north to south as well as if they had been penny postmen there; but, as they are safe at the Other-end-of-Nowhere, nine hundred and ninety-nine million miles away, what they say cannot concern us.
But the dear, sweet, loving, wise, good, self-sacrificing people, who really go there, can never tell you anything about it, save that it is the most beautiful place in all the world; and, if you ask them more, they grow modest, and hold their peace, for fear of being laughed at; and quite right they are.
So all that good little Ellie could say was, that it was worth all the rest of the world put together. And of course that only made Tom the more anxious to go likewise.
“Miss Ellie,” he said at last, “I will know why I cannot go with you when you go home on Sundays, or I shall have no peace, and give you none either.”
“You must ask the fairies that.”
So when the fairy, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, came next, Tom asked her.
“Little boys who are only fit to play with sea-beasts cannot go there,” she said. “Those who go there must go first where they do not like, and do what they do not like, and help somebody they do not like.”
“Why, did Ellie do that?”
And Ellie blushed, and said, “Yes, Tom; I did not like coming here at first; I was so much happier at home, where it is always Sunday. And I was afraid of you, Tom, at first, because — because —”
“Because I was all over prickles? But I am not prickly now, am I, Miss Ellie?”
“No,” said Ellie. “I like you very much now; and I like coming here, too.”
“And perhaps,” said the fairy, “you will learn to like going where you don’t like, and helping some one that you don’t like, as Ellie has.”
But Tom put his finger in his mouth, and hung his head down; for he did not see that at all.
So when Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby came, Tom asked her; for he thought in his little head, She is not so strict as her sister, and perhaps she may let me off more easily.
Ah, Tom, Tom, silly fellow! and yet I don’t know why I should blame you, while so many grown people have got the very same notion in their heads.
But, when they try it, they get just the same answer as Tom did. For, when he asked the second fairy, she told him just what the first did, and in the very same words.
Tom was very unhappy at that. And, when Ellie went home on Sunday, he fretted and cried all day, and did not care to listen to the fairy’s stories about good children, though they were prettier than ever. Indeed, the more he overheard of them, the less he liked to listen, because they were all about children who did what they did not like, and took trouble for other people, and worked to feed their little brothers and sisters instead of caring only for their play. And, when she began to tell a story about a holy child in old times, who was martyred by the heathen because it would not worship idols, Tom could bear no more, and ran away and hid among the rocks.
And, when Ellie came back, he was shy with her, because he fancied she looked down on him, and thought him a coward. And then he grew quite cross with her, because she was superior to him, and did what he could not do. And poor Ellie was quite surprised and sad; and at last Tom burst out crying; but he would not tell her what was really in his mind.
And all the while he was eaten up with curiosity to know where Ellie went to; so that he began not to care for his playmates, or for the sea-palace or anything else. But perhaps that made matters all the easier for him; for he grew so discontented with everything round him that he did not care to stay, and did not care where he went.
“Well,” he said, at last, “I am so miserable here, I’ll go; if only you will go with me?”
“Ah!” said Ellie, “I wish I might; but the worst of it is, that the fairy says that you must go alone if you go at all. Now don’t poke that poor crab about, Tom” (for he was feeling very naughty and mischievous), “or the fairy will have to punish you.”
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 that ever was born has to go, and see with his own eyes, and smell with his own nose, and make his own bed and lie on it, and burn his own fingers if he put them into the fire. And then she told him how many fine things there were to be seen in the world, and what an odd, curious, pleasant, orderly, respectable, well-managed, and, on the whole, successful (as, indeed, might have been expected) sort of a place it was, if people would only be tolerably brave and honest and good in it; and then she told him not to be afraid of anything he met, for nothing would harm him if he remembered all his lessons, and did what he knew was right. And at last she comforted poor little Tom so much that he was quite eager to go, and wanted to set out that minute. “Only,” he said, “if I might see Ellie once before I went!”
“Why do you want that?”
“Because — because I should be so much happier if I thought she had forgiven me.”
And in the twinkling of an eye there stood Ellie, smiling, and looking so happy that Tom longed to kiss her; but was still afraid it would not be respectful, because she was a lady born.
“I am going, Ellie!” said Tom. “I am going, if it is to the world’s end. But I don’t like going at all, and that’s the truth.”
“Pooh! pooh! pooh!” said the fairy. “You will like it very well indeed, you little rogue, and you know that at the bottom of your heart. But if you don’t, I will make you like it. Come here, and see what happens to people who do only what is pleasant.”
And she took out of one of her cupboards (she had all sorts of mysterious cupboards in the cracks of the rocks) the most wonderful waterproof book, full of such photographs as never were seen. For she had found out photography (and this is a fact) more than 13,598,000 years before anybody was born; and, what is more, her photographs did not merely represent light and shade, as ours do, but colour also, and all colours, as you may see if you look at a black-cock’s tail, or a butterfly’s wing, or indeed most things that are or can be, so to speak. And therefore her photographs were very curious and famous, and the children looked with great delight for the opening of the book.
And on the title-page was written, “The History of the great and famous nation of the Doasyoulikes, who came away from the country of Hardwork, because they wanted to play on the Jews’ harp all day long.”
In the first picture they saw these Doasyoulikes living in the land of Readymade, at the foot of the Happy-go-lucky Mountains, where flapdoodle grows wild; and if you want to know what that is, you must read Peter Simple.
They lived very much such a life as those jolly old Greeks in Sicily, whom you may see painted on the ancient vases, and really there seemed to be great excuses for them, for they had no need to work.
Instead of houses they lived in the beautiful caves of tufa, and bathed in the warm springs three times a day; and, as for clothes, it was so warm there that the gentlemen walked about in little beside a cocked hat and a pair of straps, or some light summer tackle of that kind; and the ladies all gathered gossamer in autumn (when they were not too lazy) to make their winter dresses.
They were very fond of music, but it was too much trouble to learn the piano or the violin; and as for dancing, that would have been too great an exertion. So they sat on ant-hills all day long, and played on the Jews’ harp; and, if the ants bit them, why they just got up and went to the next ant-hill, till they were bitten there likewise.
And they sat under the flapdoodle-trees, and let the flapdoodle drop into their mouths; and under the vines, and squeezed the grape-juice down their throats; and, if any little pigs ran about ready roasted, crying, “Come and eat me,” as was their fashion in that country, they waited till the pigs ran against their mouths, and then took a bite, and were content, just as so many oysters would have been.
They needed no weapons, for no enemies ever came near their land; and no tools, for everything was readymade to their hand; and the stern old fairy Necessity never came near them to hunt them up, and make them use their wits, or die.
And so on, and so on, and so on, till there were never such comfortable, easy-going, happy-go-lucky people in the world.
“Well, that is a jolly life,” said Tom.
“You think so?” said the fairy. “Do you see that great peaked mountain there behind,” said the fairy, “with smoke coming out of its top?”
“And do you see all those ashes, and slag, and cinders lying about?”
“Then turn over the next five hundred years, and you will see what happens next.”
And behold the mountain had blown up like a barrel of gunpowder, and then boiled over like a kettle; whereby one-third of the Doasyoulikes were blown into the air, and another third were smothered in ashes; so that there was only one-third left.
“You see,” said the fairy, “what comes of living on a burning mountain.”
“Oh, why did you not warn them?” said little Ellie.
“I did warn them all that I could. I let the smoke come out of the mountain; and wherever there is smoke there is fire. And I laid the ashes and cinders all about; and wherever there are cinders, cinders may be again. But they did not like to face facts, my dears, as very few people do; and so they invented a cock-and-bull story, which, I am sure, I never told them, that the smoke was the breath of a giant, whom some gods or other had buried under the mountain; and that the cinders were what the dwarfs roasted the little pigs whole with; and other nonsense of that kind. And, when folks are in that humour, I cannot teach them, save by the good old birch-rod.”
And then she turned over the next five hundred years: and there were the remnant of the Doasyoulikes, doing as they liked, as before. They were too lazy to move away from the mountain; so they said, If it has blown up once, that is all the more reason that it should not blow up again. And they were few in number: but they only said, The more the merrier, but the fewer the better fare. However, that was not quite true; for all the flapdoodle-trees were killed by the volcano, and they had eaten all the roast pigs, who, of course, could not be expected to have little ones. So they had to live very hard, on nuts and roots which they scratched out of the ground with sticks. Some of them talked of sowing corn, as their ancestors used to do, before they came into the land of Readymade; but they had forgotten how to make ploughs (they had forgotten even how to make Jews’ harps by this time), and had eaten all the seed-corn which they brought out of the land of Hardwork years since; and of course it was too much trouble to go away and find more. So they lived miserably on roots and nuts, and all the weakly little children had great stomachs, and then died.
“Why,” said Tom, “they are growing no better than savages.”
“And look how ugly they are all getting,” said Ellie.
“Yes; when people live on poor vegetables instead of roast beef and plum-pudding, their jaws grow large, and their lips grow coarse, like the poor Paddies who eat potatoes.”
And she turned over the next five hundred years. And there they were all living up in trees, and making nests to keep off the rain. And underneath the trees lions were prowling about.
“Why,” said Ellie, “the lions seem to have eaten a good many of them, for there are very few left now.”
“Yes,” said the fairy; “you see it was only the strongest and most active ones who could climb the trees, and so escape.”
“But what great, hulking, broad-shouldered chaps they are,” said Tom; “they are a rough lot as ever I saw.”
“Yes, they are getting very strong now; for the ladies will not marry any but the very strongest and fiercest gentlemen, who can help them up the trees out of the lions’ way.”
And she turned over the next five hundred years. And in that they were fewer still, and stronger, and fiercer; but their feet had changed shape very oddly, for they laid hold of the branches with their great toes, as if they had been thumbs, just as a Hindoo tailor uses his toes to thread his needle.
The children were very much surprised, and asked the fairy whether that was her doing.
“Yes, and no,” she said, smiling. “It was only those who could use their feet as well as their hands who could get a good living: or, indeed, get married; so that they got the best of everything, and starved out all the rest; and those who are left keep up a regular breed of toe-thumb-men, as a breed of short-horns, or are skye-terriers, or fancy pigeons is kept up.”
“But there is a hairy one among them,” said Ellie.
“Ah!” said the fairy, “that will be a great man in his time, and chief of all the tribe.”
And, when she turned over the next five hundred years, it was true.
For this hairy chief had had hairy children, and they hairier children still; and every one wished to marry hairy husbands, and have hairy children too; for the climate was growing so damp that none but the hairy ones could live: all the rest coughed and sneezed, and had sore throats, and went into consumptions, before they could grow up to be men and women.
Then the fairy turned over the next five hundred years. And they were fewer still.
“Why, there is one on the ground picking up roots,” said Ellie, “and he cannot walk upright.”
No more he could; for in the same way that the shape of their feet had altered, the shape of their backs had altered also.
“Why,” cried Tom, “I declare they are all apes.”
“Something fearfully like it, poor foolish creatures,” said the fairy. “They are grown so stupid now, that they can hardly think: for none of them have used their wits for many hundred years. They have almost forgotten, too, how to talk. For each stupid child forgot some of the words it heard from its stupid parents, and had not wits enough to make fresh words for itself. Beside, they are grown so fierce and suspicious and brutal that they keep out of each other’s way, and mope and sulk in the dark forests, never hearing each other’s voice, till they have forgotten almost what speech is like. I am afraid they will all be apes very soon, and all by doing only what they liked.”
And in the next five hundred years they were all dead and gone, by bad food and wild beasts and hunters; all except one tremendous old fellow with jaws like a jack, who stood full seven feet high; and M. Du Chaillu came up to him, and shot him, as he stood roaring and thumping his breast. And he remembered that his ancestors had once been men, and tried to say, “Am I not a man and a brother?” but had forgotten how to use his tongue; and then he had tried to call for a doctor, but he had forgotten the word for one. So all he said was “Ubboboo!” and died.
And that was the end of the great and jolly nation of the Doasyoulikes. And, when Tom and Ellie came to the end of the book, they looked very sad and solemn; and they had good reason so to do, for they really fancied that the men were apes, and never thought, in their simplicity, of asking whether the creatures had hippopotamus majors in their brains or not; in which case, as you have been told already, they could not possibly have been apes, though they were more apish than the apes of all aperies.
“But could you not have saved them from becoming apes?” said little Ellie, at last.
“At first, my dear; if only they would have behaved like men, and set to work to do what they did not like. But the longer they waited, and behaved like the dumb beasts, who only do what they like, the stupider and clumsier they grew; till at last they were past all cure, for they had thrown their own wits away. It is such things as this that help to make me so ugly, that I know not when I shall grow fair.”
“And where are they all now?” asked Ellie.
“Exactly where they ought to be, my dear.”
“Yes!” said the fairy, solemnly, half to herself, as she closed the wonderful book. “Folks say now that I can make beasts into men, by circumstance, and selection, and competition, and so forth. Well, perhaps they are right; and perhaps, again, they are wrong. That is one of the seven things which I am forbidden to tell, till the coming of the Cocqcigrues; and, at all events, it is no concern of theirs. Whatever their ancestors were, men they are; and I advise them to behave as such, and act accordingly. But let them recollect this, that there are two sides to every question, and a downhill as well as an uphill road; and, if I can turn beasts into men, I can, by the same laws of circumstance, and selection, and competition, turn men into beasts. You were very near being turned into a beast once or twice, little Tom. Indeed, if you had not made up your mind to go on this journey, and see the world, like an Englishman, I am not sure but that you would have ended as an eft in a pond.”
“Oh, dear me!” said Tom; “sooner than that, and be all over slime, I’ll go this minute, if it is to the world’s end.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56