On The Water Parting
( Originally Published 1891 )
"Behold the rocky wall
"Yon stream, whose sources run,
" The slender rill had strayed,
"HERE you are, little squirrels, bright and Pearly," babbled the brook, next morning. " But where is our pretty friend Bunny ?
" Ah, there he comes, hopping along. And here .comes Robin Redbreast, too."
The little wild-flower nodded its round head, and the squirrels shook their bushy tails. That is the way they said good morning to Bunny and Redbreast.
"Did all the raindrops sink into the dark soil? " asked Chip, as soon as they were ready for the story.
" O no ! " rippled the brook. " Shall I tell you what became of the others, and what they saw on the hillside ? "
" Please do!" chimed the whole party, and so the brooklet began.
" We all felt very sad when we parted from our brother raindrops on the hilltop. But some were on one side of a low ridge, and some on the other. We could not climb over, for raindrops can only run down hill.
" Good by ! ' cried our tiny brothers.
" ' Good by ! ' we answered sadly, and we have not seen them since. Perhaps we shall all meet again when we go back to the sea, — but who can tell?"
Just then, two silver bubbles came wriggling up from the bed of the brook. They looked like tear-drops, and we thought the pretty pebbles must be weeping at the sad story. But the brooklet chattered on.
" The same day that we fell on the hill, a teacher came with a class of happy children to visit our valley home. She did not know that raindrops could hear, and we did not tell her.
"They all climbed to the top of the ridge, just where we had fallen. Then they could look into the valley on either side.
"'When the rain falls on the very top of the ridge, which way will the drops flow ?' asked the teacher.
"Every little raindrop on the hillside knew the answer ; but we all kept still.
"Many pupils said that the water would flow into our valley, but others thought that it would run down the slope on the other side of the ridge. One bright little girl said that it might flow either way.
"Then the teacher asked them to find other spots where the raindrops might turn either way. She gave them sharp sticks to set up all along the very top of the ridge.
"'Here's a place !' 'Here's another !' rang their merry voices. What sport they had ! One little boy hit his bare toe against a stump, and away he rolled down the steep hillside. It didn't hurt him, and he ran back laughing.
"Soon there was a long row of tiny stakes all around the valley, — up by the spring, and on both sides. Then the teacher told her little folks that the very top of the ridge, on which the poles stood, was called a ' water-parting.' We all thought it a good name, for that was just where we parted from our raindrop brothers last spring.
"The little children found only one water-parting around our valley, but my tiny rills know that there are two. Many of the drops that soak into the soil settle till they reach a layer of clay or rock on which they can flow. The highest part of this clay-bed or ledge forms a parting or ' divide ' for the underground streams, just as the top of our ridge does for the surface-water.
"But we must not lose sight of the teacher yet. Her next question was a queer one : ' To which valley does the water-parting belong ?'
"Do you think that you can tell, pretty rabbit?" " I think that it belongs to both," was Bunny's answer.
" It isn't in either," piped Redbreast.
" It comes just between the valleys," said Chip. "I don't know," sighed the little wild-flower, " for I have never moved from this spot."
The old gray squirrel gave a knowing wink, and said, " That water-parting is on the edge of both valleys. The slopes meet there."
Which was right ?
The silver brook only bubbled softly, as it went on with its story.
" That ridge is the boundary of our valley home. All the raindrops that fall on this side belong in our family. All that fall on the other side run away to other streams. But here comes a shower ! If Bunny and Dick will go up to the ridge, they can see just what happens."
Away they jumped, and reached the top as the drops began to fall.
"Come under this old stump, Bunny," said. Dick, "and the rain will not wet your soft fur."
How pretty they looked, sitting there together ! Two pairs of bright eyes peeped out at the rain. Two pairs of sharp ears listened to the patter on the old stump.
" 0 look, Bunny ! we are on the water-parting. Here is just where the raindrops are parting. Many are also sinking into the ground. Here go some down this slope, and there go the others into our valley. See ! they are forming two little rills."
"It has stopped raining now, Dick. Let us follow these tiny streams both ways. I will go to the right, and you to the left. Then we will re-turn to the brookside, and tell what we have seen.
" Why, here comes the rabbit all alone ! " sighed the little wild-flower. "What has happened to Dick?"
"Ha! ha ! " laughed Bunny. "I played a joke on him. He will come back by and by. Shall I tell you what I saw?"
"0 yes, tell us your story. We have been waiting to hear it."
So Bunny told how they went to the top of the hill, and hid in the dry stump. How they watched the drops fall on the ridge. How he had agreed to follow the rill on one side, while Dick went down the other.
"It was such a joke ! Hal ha ! Poor Dick, he did not think ! His rill will lead him away over into the other valley." Then Bunny rolled in the sand, and laughed till tears ran down his soft cheeks.
"But what did you see, Bunny ? " asked Chip.
"0 yes, I forgot to tell my story. The tiny streams moved slowly at first, till they came to the place where the boy rolled down the hill. Then they pitched. headlong over and ran to the bottom as fast as I could jump.
" How pretty they looked as they went leaping over the stones. Many little rills flowed together, but there were low water-partings between the others that kept them from joining. They had a merry time. I heard one little fellow singing
"'One morn I ran away,
" Then the tiny streams wound slowly across the meadow, and where do you think they went ? " Here we are ! " rang a merry chorus.
Surely enough, all the little rills had run into our brook, and had just reached the place where Bunny was telling his story.
"Here comes Dick!" cried sharp-eyed Chip, as down the hillside tripped the graceful squirrel, hopping over the tufts and hollows.
His first words were, "That was a good joke, Bunny, but it turned out well. I found a big nut-tree over the ridge. As soon as the frost comes to open the burrs, I shall hide the nuts away under the old stump. I wish you could eat some, Bunny. Little Chip may have as many as he wants this winter."
" You are always kind to me," whispered Chip, as he rubbed his pretty cheek against Dick's soft fur.
"But what else did you see over the ridge?" rustled the wild-flower.
" I followed the rills on the other side till they all flowed into another brook just like ours. Now what do you think of this ? That little stream was telling the selfsame story that we heard yesterday. I wonder if all brooks work as hard as ours?" queried Dick.
Robin Redbreast was very quiet. He had been thinking. All at once he dipped his head, as robins often do, gave a few quick hops, flapped his wings, and chirped so loud that he scared poor Bunny half out of his wits.
What is the matter ?" asked Dick, as he stuck his tail straight out, ready to run.
"When I flew northward last spring," piped Redbreast, "I was caught by a strong wind that blew me far out of my course. I saw a great stream, wider than' this whole meadow. I cannot tell how long it was, for it reached farther than I could see.
"How the wind blew ! I flew over high hills, yet I could always see the river in the valley. But as I went higher and higher up the long slope, the stream became ever smaller and smaller.
"At length I saw a high mountain whose top was above the clouds. On its side, the stream looked very narrow. Over the great highland I flew, and saw only a little brook starting near its highest point.
Then, on the other side, I saw another stream, —yes, many little rills and brooklets. Down they ran, and flowed together in the lowlands. They made a river that was wide and deep. It was just like our brook, only many times larger. Away, as far as I could see, the dark-blue river wound across the plain.
"'So blue you winding river flows,
"At length the storm passed by. Then I flew north to my old apple-tree, just as fast as my wings could carry me.
Now I see it all ! The top of that high mountain is a water-parting like our low ridge. It parts the raindrops for those great rivers, as the ridge does for our brooks."
" You are right, little bird," rippled the brook. "But all water-partings are not high, or even like ours on the hill. Some are so low that you can scarcely see them. Yet they part great rivers.
" A parting may be on mountains, hills, or even low plains. Often it is on all three, for it must go around a valley. It need only be high enough to part the raindrops."
The pretty wild-flower nodded to Redbreast, and whispered, " What a wonderful bird you are ! " All the others thought so, too.