Songs for November
The Purple Cow
Tom Becomes a Man
Tom was delighted with the home of the water-babies, which was on an island full of caves. There were blue caves and white caves draped with seaweed, purple and crimson, green and brown; and there was soft white sand where the water-babies slept every night. The rocks were covered with ten thousand anemones and corals, which kept the water clean and pure. The fairies dressed them in the most beautiful colors and patterns, till they looked like great flower-beds.
But Tom did not give up teasing the sea creatures. He frightened the crabs to make them hide in the sand and peep out at him. He put stones into the anemones' mouths to make them think their dinner was coming. The other children warned him and said, "Take care what you do. Mrs. Be-done-by-as-you-did is coming." But Tom never heeded them. One Friday morning Mrs. Be-done-by-as-you-did came. She had on a black bonnet and a black shawl, and a pair of large green spectacles. She had a hooked nose, and under her arm she carried a birch rod. She was so ugly that Tom wanted to make faces at her, but he was afraid of the birch rod under her arm.
When the children saw her, they stood in a row, and put their hands behind them. She looked at them one by one and gave them all sorts of nice sea things—sea-cakes, sea-apples and sea-oranges.
Little Tom watched all these sweet things till his mouth watered, and his eyes grew as round as an owl's. He hoped that his turn would come soon, and so it did. The lady called Tom up and held something in her fingers, and popped it into his mouth. But lo and behold, it was a cold, hard pebble!
"You are a cruel woman," said Tom, and he began to cry.
"And you are a cruel boy to put pebbles into the sea-anemones' mouths. As you did to them, so I must do to you."
"Who told you that?" said Tom.
"You did yourself, this very minute."
Tom had never opened his lips, so he was very much surprised.
"Yes, every one tells me exactly what he has done, and that without knowing it. There is no use trying to hide anything from me. Now go, and be a good boy, and I will put no more pebbles into your mouth."
"I did not know there was any harm in it," said Tom.
"Then you know now," said she. "The lobster did not know there was any harm in the lobster pot, but it caught him all the same."
"Dear me," thought Tom, "she knows everything!" And so she did. "Well, you are a little hard on a poor lad," he said.
"Not at all. I am the best friend you ever had in all your life. I only punish people when they do wrong. I like it no more than they do. I am often sorry for them, poor things!" And the strange fairy smiled at Tom and said, "You thought me very ugly just now, did you not?"
Tom hung down his head, and grew very red about the ears.
"I am ugly. I am the ugliest fairy in the world and I shall be, till people behave themselves. Then I shall grow as handsome as my sister, who is the loveliest fairy in the world. Her name is Mrs. Do-as-you-would-be-done-by. She begins where I end and I begin where she ends. Those who will not listen to her, must listen to me, as you will see. And now be a good boy, and do as you would be done by. And when my sister, Mrs. Do-as-you-would-be-done-by, comes, she will take notice of you," and the fairy went away.
One morning Mrs. Do-as-you-would-be-done-by came. All the little children began dancing and clapping their hands, and Tom danced too with all his might. As for the pretty lady, Tom could not tell the color of her hair or her eyes. When he looked at her, he thought she had the sweetest, kindest face he had ever seen. She understood babies and she loved to play with them. When the children saw her, they all caught hold of her, and pulled her till she sat down on a stone. Then they climbed into her lap, and clung round her neck, and caught hold of her hands. Those who could get no nearer, sat on the sand at her feet. Tom stood staring at them, for he could not understand what it was all about.
"Who are you, my little darling?" she asked.
"Oh, this is the new baby!" they all cried, "and he never had any mother."
"Then I will be his mother, and he shall have the best place." So she took Tom into her arms and kissed him, and patted him, and talked to him, and Tom looked up and loved her. Then he fell fast asleep. When he awoke she was telling the children a story.
"Now," said the fairy to Tom, "will you be a good boy and torment no more beasts?"
Tom promised to be a good boy, and he did not tease the sea-beasts after that.
So this fairy taught Tom to do as he would be done by. She taught him to go where he did not like to go, and to help someone that he did not like. This was hard for Tom, and he said, "You want me to go after that horrid old Grimes. I don't like him and, if I find him, he will turn me into a chimney-sweep again."
"Come here, and see what happens to people who do only what is pleasant," said the fairy. She showed a book full of pictures of Do-as-you-likes. They had left the country of Hardwork because they wanted to play all day long, and do only what they liked.
When Tom came to the end of the book he looked sad. The fairy turned to him and said, "My dear, they should have behaved like men, and they should have done what they did not like. The longer they waited and behaved like beasts, the more like them they grew. You came very near being turned into a beast once or twice, little Tom. Indeed, if you had not made up your mind to go to see the world like a man, you might have ended as an elf in a pond."
"Oh, dear me!" said Tom, "sooner than that, I'll go to the end of the world to find Grimes."
"Ah!" said the fairy, "that is a brave, good boy. But you must go further than that if you want to find Mr. Grimes. He is at the Other-end-of-nowhere."
So away Tom went for days and months, asking all he met if they had seen Mr. Grimes. At last he came to the great iron door of a prison. Tom knocked at the door.
"Who is there?" asked a deep voice.
"If you please, sir, I want to see Mr. Grimes."
"Grimes? He is the most hard-hearted fellow I have in charge. He is up chimney number 345. You will have to go to the roof."
As Tom walked along the dirty roof, he was surprised to see that the soot did not stick to his feet or make them dirty. At last he came to chimney number 345. Out of the top of it stuck poor -Mr. Grimes. He was sooty and ugly, and in his mouth was a pipe.
Grimes looked up and said, "Why it's Tom! I suppose, Tom, you have come to laugh at me."
"No," said Tom, "I only want to help you."
"I do not want anything except a light to this pipe, and that, I can't get," said Grimes.
"I'll get you one," said Tom. He took up a live coal and put it to Grimes' pipe, but it went out instantly.
"But can't I help you in any other way? Can't I help you to get out of this chimney?" asked Tom.
"No, it is no use," said Grimes, "I get nothing I ask for. Did I ask to sweep these chimneys? Did I ask to stick fast in the very first chimney because it was so full of soot? Did I ask to stay here a hundred years and never get my pipe nor anything fit for a man?"
"No," answered a voice behind. "Neither did Tom ask it when you behaved to him in the same way."
It was Mrs. Be-done-by-as-you-did. Tom made a low bow.
"Oh, Ma'am," said Tom, "don't think about me. That is all past and gone, but may I not help poor Mr. Grimes? May I try to get some of these bricks away so that he can move his arms?"
"You may try, of course," said the fairy, and she disappeared.
For a long time Tom pulled and tugged at the bricks, but he could not move one. Then he tried to wipe Mr. Grimes' face, but the soot would not come off. "Oh, dear!" he said, "I have come all this way to help you, and now I am of no use after all."
"You had best leave me alone," said Grimes. "You are a forgiving little chap, and that's the truth; but you had better be off. The hail is coming soon and it will beat the eyes out of your little head."
"What hail?" said Tom.
"Hail that falls here every evening. Till it comes close to me it's like warm rain. Then it turns to hail over my head and hits me like small shot. So you go along, you kind little chap, and don't look at a man crying, that's old enough to be your father. I am beat now, and beat I must be. 'Foul I would be and foul I am,' as an Irishwoman said to me once. It is all my own fault, but it is too late." And he cried so bitterly that Tom began crying too.
As poor Grimes cried, his tears washed the soot off his face and off his clothes. Then they washed the mortar away from between the bricks. The chimney crumbled down, and Grimes began to get out of it.
"Will you obey me, if I give you a chance?" asked the fairy, returning suddenly.
"I beg pardon, Ma'am, but I never disobeyed you that I know of. I never had the honor of setting eyes upon you till I came to this place," said Grimes.
"Never saw me? Who said to you, 'Those that will be foul, foul they will be?'"
Grimes looked up, and Tom looked up too. It was the Irishwoman who met them the day they went into the country. "I gave you warning then," said she. "Every bad word that you said, every cruel and mean thing that you did, every time that you got tipsy, every day that you went dirty, you were disobeying me, whether you knew it or not."
"If I had only known, Ma'am!" said Grimes.
"You knew well enough that you were disobeying something. But, come out and take your chance."
So Grimes stepped out of the chimney, and looked as clean as a man need look.
"Take him away;" said she to the keeper, "and give him his ticket-of-leave."
"Now," said the fairy to Tom, "your work here is done. You may as well go back again."
"I should be glad to go," said Tom, "but how am I to get out of this place?"
"I will take you out, but first I must bandage your eyes," she said. So the fairy tied the bandage over his eyes with one hand, and with the other she took it off.
Tom opened his eyes very wide, for he thought he had not moved a single step. He looked around him and the first thing he saw was a lovely little creature looking down from a rock where she was sitting. When he came close to her, she looked up and said, "Why, I know you! You are the little chimney-sweep who came into my room."
"Dear me!" cried Tom, "I know you, too. You are the little lady of the white room. How you have grown!"
"And how you have grown, too!" said she.
Then they heard the fairy say, "Attention, children!" They looked up and there stood the Irishwoman. She looked so beautiful that Tom was delighted. She smiled and turned to the little girl and said, "You may take him home with you, Elsie. He has won his spurs in the great battle because he has done the thing he did not like to do." So Tom went home with Elsie.
Tom is now a great man of science. He can plan railroads, he can make steam engines, he can build electric telegraphs, and he knows everything about everything. All this he learned when he was a water-baby under the sea.