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And for aught I know, or do not know, he is sweeping the crater of Etna to this very day.
“And now," said the fairy to Tom, "your work here is done. You may as well go back again.”
“I should be glad enough to go,” said Tom, “but how am I to get up that great hole again, now the steam has stopped blowing?”
“I will take you up the back stairs, but I must bandage your eyes first; for I never allow anybody to see those back stairs of mine.”
“I am sure I shall not tell anybody about them, ma'am, if you bid me not.”
“Aha! So you think, my little man. But you would soon forget your promise if you got back into the land world. I never put things into little folks' heads which are but too likely to come there of themselves. So come—now I must bandage your eyes.”
So she tied the bandage on his eyes with one hand, and with the other she took it off.
“Now,” she said, “you are safe up the stairs." Tom opened his eyes very wide, and his mouth, too; for he had not, as he thought, moved a single step. But, when he looked round him, there could be no doubt that he was safe up the back stairs, whatsoever they may be, which no man is going to tell you, for the plain reason that no man knows.
The first thing which Tom saw was the black cedars, high and sharp against the rosy dawn; and Saint Brandan's Isle reflected double in the still, broad, silver sea. The wind sang softly in the cedars, and the water sang among the caves: the sea birds sang as they streamed out into the ocean, and the land birds as they built among the boughs;
and the air was so full of song that it stirred Saint Brandan and her hermits, as they slumbered in the shade; and they moved their good old lips, and sang their morning hymn amid their dreams. But among all the songs one came across the water more sweet and clear than all; for it was the song of a young girl's voice.
And what was the song which she sang? Ah, my little man, I am too old to sing that song, and you too young to understand it. But have patience, and keep your eye single, and your hands clean, and you will learn some day to sing it yourself, without needing any man to teach you.
And as Tom neared the island, there sat upon a
rock the most graceful creature that ever was seen, looking down, with her chin upon her hand, and paddling with her feet in the water. And when they came to her she looked up, and behold, it was Ellie.
“Oh, Miss Ellie,” said he, “how you are grown!” “Oh, Tom,” said she, “how you are grown, too!”
And no wonder; they were both quite grown up -he into a tall man, and she into a beautiful woman.
"Perhaps I may be grown,” she said. “I have had time enough; for I have been sitting here waiting for you many a hundred years, till I thought you were never coming.”
“Many a hundred years?” thought Tom; but he had seen so much in his travels that he had quite given up being astonished; and, indeed, he could think of nothing but Ellie. So he stood and looked at Ellie, and Ellie looked at him; and they liked the employment so much that they stood and looked for seven years more, and neither spoke nor stirred.
At last they heard the fairy say, “Attention, children. Are you never going to look at me again?”
“We have been looking at you all this while,” they said. And so they thought they had been. “Then look at me once more,” she said.
They looked—and both of them cried out at once, “Oh, who are you, after all?"
“You are our dear Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby.”
“No, you are good Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid; but you are grown quite beautiful now!”
“To you,” said the fairy. “But look again.”
“You are Mother Carey,” said Tom, in a very low, solemn voice; for he had found out something which made him very happy, and yet frightened him more than all that he had ever seen.
“But you are grown quite young again.”
“You are the Irishwoman who met me the day I went to Harthover!”
And when they looked she was neither of them, and yet all of them at once.
"My name is written in my eyes, if you have eyes to see it there."
And they looked into her great, deep, soft eyes, and they changed again and again into every hue, as the light changes in a diamond.
“Now read my name," said she, at last.
And her eyes flashed, for one moment, clear, white, blazing light; but the children could not read her name; for they were dazzled, and hid their faces in their hands.
“Not yet, young things, not yet,” said she, smiling; and then she turned to Ellie.
“You may take him home with you now on Sundays, Ellie. He has won his spurs in the great battle, and become fit to go with you and be a man, because he has done the thing he did not like.”
So Tom went home with Ellie on Sundays, and sometimes on week-days, too; and he is now a great man of science, and can plan railroads, and steam engines, and electric telegraphs, and rifled guns, and so forth; and knows everything about everything, except why a hen's egg doesn't turn into a crocodile, and two or three other little things. WATER BABY And all this from what he learnt when he was a water baby, underneath the sea.
“And of course Tom married Ellie?"
My dear child, what a silly notion! Don't you know that no one ever marries in a fairy tale, under the rank of a prince or a princess?
“And Tom's dog?”
Oh, you may see him any clear night in July; for the old dog star was so worn out by the last three hot summers that there have been no dog days since; so that they had to take him down and put Tom's dog up in his place. Therefore, as new brooms sweep clean, we may hope for some warm weather this year. And that is the end of my story.
MORAL And now, my dear little man, what should we learn from this parable?
We should learn thirty-seven or thirty-nine things, I am not exactly sure which; but one thing, at least, we may learn, and that is this—when we see efts in the pond, never to throw stones at them, or catch them with crooked pins. For these efts are nothing else but the water babies who are stupid and dirty, and will not learn their lessons and keep themselves clean; and therefore, their skulls grow flat, their jaws grow out, and their brains grow small, and their tails grow long, and their skins grow dirty and spotted, and they never get into the clear rivers, much less into the great wide sea, but hang about in dirty ponds, and live in the mud, and eat worms, as they deserve to do.
But that is no reason why you should ill-use them; but only why you should pity them, and be