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|The Water-Babies||Charles Kingsley|
|Page 11 of 12||
"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.
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