It was a clear, sunshiny day, and out on the great, wide, open sea there sparkled thousands and thousands of water-drops. One of these was a merry little fellow who danced on the silver backs of the fishes as they plunged up and down in the waves, and, no matter how high he sprung, always came down again plump into his mother’s lap.
His mother, you know, was the Ocean, and she looked very beautiful that summer day in her dark blue dress and white ruffles.
After a while the happy water-drop tired of his play, and looking up to the clear sky above him thought he would like to have a sail on one of the white floating clouds; so, giving a jump from the Ocean’s arms, he begged the Sun to catch him up and let him go on a journey to see the earth.
The Sun said “Yes,” and took many other drops, too, so that Aqua might not be lonesome on the way. Aqua did not know this, however, for they all had been changed into fine mist or vapor. Do you know what vapor is? If you breathe into the air, when it is cold enough, you will see it coming out of your mouth like steam, and you may also see very hot steam coming from the nose of a kettle of boiling water. When it is quite near to the earth, where we can see it, we call it “fog.” The water-drops had been changed into vapor because in their own shape they were too heavy for the sunbeams to carry.
Higher and higher they sailed, so fast that they grew quite dizzy; why, in an hour they had gone over a hundred miles! and how grand it was, to be looking down on the world below, and sailing faster than fish can swim or birds can fly!
But after a while it grew nearly time for the Sun to go to bed; he became very red in the face, and began to sink lower and lower, until suddenly he went clear out of sight!
Poor little Aqua could not help being frightened, for every minute it grew darker and colder. At last he thought he would try to get back to the earth again, so he slipped away, and as he fell lower and lower he grew heavier, until he was a little round, bright drop again, and landed on a rosebush. A lovely velvet bud opened its leaves, and in he slipped among the crimson cushions, to sleep until morning. Then the leaves opened, and rolling over in his bed he called out, “Please, dear Sun, take me with you again.” So the sunbeams caught him up a second time, and they flew through the air till the noon-time, when it grew warmer and warmer, and there was no red rose to hide him, not even a blade of grass to shade his tired head; but just as he was crying out, “Please, dear Sun, let me go back to the dear mother Ocean,” the wind took pity on him, and came with its cool breath and fanned him, and all his brothers, into a heavy gray cloud, after which he blew them apart and told them to join hands and hurry away to the earth. Hurriedly down they went, rolling over each other pell-mell, till with a patter and clatter and spatter they touched the ground, and all the people cried, “It’s raining.”
Some of the drops fell on a mountain side, Aqua among them, and down the rocky cliff he ran, leading the way for his brothers. Soon, together they plunged into a mountain brook, which came foaming and dashing along, leaping over rocks and rushing down the hillside, till in the valley below they heard the strangest clattering noise.
On the bank stood a flour-mill, and at the door a man whose hat and clothes were gray with dust. Inside the mill were two great stones, which kept whizzing round and round, faster than a boy’s top could spin, worked by the big wheel outside; and these stones ground the wheat into flour and the corn into golden meal.
But what giant do you suppose it was who could turn and swing that tremendous wheel, together with those heavy stones? No giant at all. No one but our tiny little water-drops themselves, who sprang on it by hundreds and thousands, and whirled it over and over.
The brook emptied into a quiet pond where ducks and geese were swimming. Such a still, beautiful place it was, with the fuzzy, brown cat-tails lifting their heads above the water, and the yellow cow lilies, with their leaves like green platters, floating on the top. On the edge lived the fat green bullfrogs, and in the water were spotted trout, silver shiners, cunning minnows, and other fish.
Aqua liked this place so much that he stayed a good while, sailing up and down, taking the ducks’ backs for ships and the frogs for horses; but after a time he tired of the dull life, and he and his brothers floated out over a waterfall and under a bridge for a long, long distance, until they saw another brook tumbling down a hillside.
“Come, let’s join hands!” cried Aqua; and so they all dashed on together till they came to a broad river which opened its arms to them.
With the help of Aqua and his brothers the beautiful river was able to float heavy ships, though not so long ago it was only a little stream, through which a child could wade or over which he could step. Here a vessel loaded with lumber was carried just as easily as if it had been a paper boat; there a steamer, piled with boxes and barrels, and crowded with people, passed by, it’s great wheel crashing through the water and leaving a long trail, as of foamy soapsuds, behind it. On and ever on the river went, seeking the ocean, and whether it hurried round a corner or glided smoothly on its way to the sea, there was always something new and strange to be seen—busy cities, quiet little towns, buzzing sawmills, stone bridges, and harbors full of all sorts of vessels, large and small, with flags of all colors floating from the masts and sailors of all countries working on the decks. But Aqua did not stay long in any place, for as the river grew wider and wider, and nearer and nearer its end, he could almost see the mother Ocean into whose arms he was joyfully running. She reached out to gather all her children, the water-drops, into her heart, and closer than all the others nestled our little Aqua.
His travels were over, his pleasures and dangers past; and he was folded again to the dear mother heart, the safest, sweetest place in all the whole wide world. In warm, still summer evenings, if you will take a walk on the sea-beach, you will hear the gentle rippling swash of the waves; and some very wise people think it must be the gurgling voices of Aqua and his brother water-drops telling each other about their wonderful journey round the world.