Once Round the Sun

It All Has to be Washed

For quite a long time Peter followed the brook. It wound through forests and plains and fields until it became a big river. On the way he met Violet and gave her Snowdrop's message.

Violet blew him a puff of perfume and thanked him.

"Give my love to Rose, when you see her," she said.

After a long time the big river came down to the ocean. Peter had never met Ocean before.

"It's awfully big," he whispered to himself. "How can there be that much water?"

"You don't see very much of it," roared Ocean, and splashed huge waves on the shore with a scatter of spray. "There's much more underneath."

"How far does it go?" Peter asked.

"Well, you see where the edge seems to be?" said Ocean. "That's just the beginning. It looks like an edge because that's where the earth turns over. Wherever you go on my surface, you'll still keep seeing the edge all around. Like an ant on a baseball."

Peter laughed. He could imagine an ant on a baseball thinking the edge of the world was where he couldn't see any farther. It would look just like a plate. Like the ocean, in fact.

Peter picked up a pebble and threw it at a big wave. Then he remembered that Ocean was alive too, and he hastened to apologize.

"Oh, that's all right," said Ocean. "People do that all the time. I don't mind at all. It saves me the trouble of inching the stones down one by one."

"Do you have to do that?"

"Oh, yes. Sooner or later every grain of sand comes down to the bottom, and all those that are on the bottom come up on the beach. It's a regular turning over all the time."

"Why?" asked Peter.

"It all has to be washed. You wouldn't wear the same clothes forever without washing them, would you?"

"There must be an awful lot of stones on the bottom, then."

"Sure there are. Some of them come down from high mountains and get smaller and smaller on the way."

"But how do they get down?" asked Peter.

Suddenly Uncle Peppercorn appeared, crawling out of Peter's pocket.

"Ouch!" said Peter. "That tickles."

"Nonsense!" said Uncle Peppercorn. "I'm too little to tickle anybody."

He assumed his best schoolmaster manner and pointed his tiny finger at Peter, as he balanced on a button of Peter's shirt.

"You wanted to know how the pebbles get down. What do you think Brook was doing? Eh?"

"Carrying water," said Peter. "What else?"

"You'd be surprised how much else goes along with the water, said Uncle Peppercorn. "Stones and seeds and rubbish and weeds. All kinds of things."

Suddenly he laughed. "You're a funny boy. 'Don't you want to play in the water?"

"Oh!" cried Peter. "May I? Won't Ocean mind?"

"Of course not!" Ocean burst into a broad laugh all along the edge, and all the little waves broke into a thousand ripples of laughter. "Come on in, the water's fine!"

Peter rushed down to the edge and began to play in the water. Big white horses came racing along the surface and broke into galloping foam that turned into smaller and smaller ripples. But they were all careful to soften down near Peter. They can be rather rough sometimes, and Peter was so small and helpless, when they tumbled all over him and rolled him round and round.

At last he sat down on the beach, quite tired, and he found

that Uncle Peppercorn was still clinging to his buttonhole, drenched and miserable.

"Why, Uncle Peppercorn!" he cried in dismay. "You're all wet! Why didn't you disappear and keep dry?"

"Well," grumbled Uncle Peppercorn, shaking the water out

of his hat, a little water won't hurt me, but a lot of it might hurt you. Got to look after you, you know."

With that he vanished.

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