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|The Water-Babies||Charles Kingsley|
|Page 4 of 15||
All the children started at Tom's dirty black figure, - the girls began to cry, and the boys began to laugh, and all pointed at him rudely enough; but Tom was too tired to care for that.
"What art thou, and what dost want?" cried the old dame. "A chimney-sweep! Away with thee! I'll have no sweeps here."
"Water," said poor little Tom, quite faint.
"Water? There's plenty i' the beck," she said, quite sharply.
"But I can't get there; I'm most clemmed with hunger and drought." And Tom sank down upon the door-step, and laid his head against the post.
And the old dame looked at him through her spectacles one minute, and two, and three; and then she said, "He's sick; and a bairn's a bairn, sweep or none."
"Water," said Tom.
"God forgive me!" and she put by her spectacles, and rose, and came to Tom. "Water's bad for thee; I'll give thee milk." And she toddled off into the next room, and brought a cup of milk and a bit of bread.
Tom drank the milk off at one draught, and then looked up, revived.
"Where didst come from?" said the dame.
"Over Fell, there," said Tom, and pointed up into the sky.
"Over Harthover? and down Lewthwaite Crag? Art sure thou art not lying?"
"Why should I?" said Tom, and leant his head against the post.
"And how got ye up there?"
"I came over from the Place;" and Tom was so tired and desperate he had no heart or time to think of a story, so he told all the truth in a few words.
"Bless thy little heart! And thou hast not been stealing, then?"
"Bless thy little heart! and I'll warrant not. Why, God's guided the bairn, because he was innocent! Away from the Place, and over Harthover Fell, and down Lewthwaite Crag! Who ever heard the like, if God hadn't led him? Why dost not eat thy bread?"
"It's good enough, for I made it myself."
"I can't," said Tom, and he laid his head on his knees, and then asked -
"Is it Sunday?"
"No, then; why should it be?"
"Because I hear the church-bells ringing so."
"Bless thy pretty heart! The bairn's sick. Come wi' me, and I'll hap thee up somewhere. If thou wert a bit cleaner I'd put thee in my own bed, for the Lord's sake. But come along here."
But when Tom tried to get up, he was so tired and giddy that she had to help him and lead him.
She put him in an outhouse upon soft sweet hay and an old rug, and bade him sleep off his walk, and she would come to him when school was over, in an hour's time.
And so she went in again, expecting Tom to fall fast asleep at once.
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