The brook we sought was gone. Stolen in the night by brook-thieves, I assumed. More likely hiding in the undergrowth, you suggested.
You bent to look. “It must be here.”
I looked too. “Unless it’s dry. But we’ve had rain. It must be here.”
We walked farther into the forest shadows, stepping over logs and watching for ground wasps, which are easily stirred to anger by an ill-placed foot. Still no sign of a brook.
“Maybe we should whittle a water-witching stick.” I nearly tripped up my tongue trying to say that.
“There’s no hazel here,” you replied. “A witching wand should be hazel. Do you know how to use one?”
No. All that schooling and we never learned how to wave and dip a forked stick to feel for water underground. We’d have to use our natural senses instead. Typical.
You noticed the slithering sound first. I listened closer where you looked, and nodded. Water slid beneath the tangled green, still coyly hiding, so we followed as it whispered, “Come this way.”
It began to sing a rippling song as infant streams merged to join the chorus. Soon we saw glints of silver where thin rays of sunlight squeezed through the bushes and glanced off the water, revealing the brook to our searching eyes.
“There it is!” Our prey was in the open.
It ran and we chased with quickened steps, pressing on where it led, heedless of perils ahead. That was a mistake.
Our eyes on the ground, we didn’t notice the silent trees that moved to block our way. The brook by then had grown to a rush of cold churning water. And fish! Did you see them?
You grabbed my arm. “What’s this?”
“Where did those come from? They don’t seem friendly.”
Trees with dark looks crowded around us, wielding branches of menacing sweep. We were trapped. Had this been the brook’s scheme all along? Unlikely. It gurgled and laughed by our feet, unaware of the danger we faced.
It’s times like these I depend on you to devise a quick plan. Perhaps I helped by saying I had hoped we could see how far the brook went.
“Jump in!” you cried.
“Now?” Of course, how foolish, when else? I followed your lead.
Branches swung and thrashed the surface as we struggled to escape. We grabbed onto rocks to pull ourselves to the bottom, barely out of reach of our attackers. Holding our breaths, we flowed past the trees until we saw daylight and blue sky above.
It took only a minute but seemed much longer. We crawled up the slippery bank and lay in a meadow, then looked at each other — “Another close call” — and laughed like the water that saved us from the grip of shadowy woods.
After drying off in the sun, we continued our journey along the brook until it dropped into a rocky gully, where it joined a river that joined another, and so on to the sea.
We had found what we came to find, and didn’t need to go farther.
We wished the brook well, though we knew its travels through populous lands allowed for no more free running. Flow-stopping dams and farm-water pumps would be as fearsome to it as the threatening trees had been to us. Such is the symmetry of the world.
“Why were those trees so unfriendly?”
“I don’t know that I want to find out.”
We took a different way home.