"The Break-Up Of A Great Drought."
By William Hale White
For three months there had been hardly a drop of rain. The wind had been almost continuously north-west, and from that to east. Occasionally there were light airs from the south-west, and vapour rose, but there was nothing in it; there was no true south-westerly breeze, and in a few hours the weather-cock returned to the old quarter. Not infrequently the clouds began to gather, and there was every sign that a change was at hand. The barometer at these times fell gradually day after day until at last it reached a point which generally brought drenching storms, but none appeared, and then it began slowly to rise again and we knew that our hopes were vain, and that a week at least must elapse before it would regain its usual height and there might be a chance of declining. At last the disappointment was so keen that the instrument was removed. It was better not to watch it, but to hope for a surprise. The grass became brown, and in many places was killed down to the roots; there was no hay; myriads of swarming caterpillars devoured the fruit trees; the brooks were all dry; water for cattle had to be fetched from ponds and springs miles away; the roads were broken up; the air was loaded with grit; and the beautiful green of the hedges was choked with dust. Birds like the rook, which fed upon worms, were nearly starved, and were driven far and wide for strange food. It was pitiable to see them trying to pick the soil of the meadow as hard as a rock. The everlasting glare was worse than the gloom of winter, and the sense of universal parching thirst became so distressing that the house was preferred to the fields. We were close to a water famine! The Atlantic, the source of all alike, was asleep, and what if it should never wake! We know not its ways, it mocks all our science. Close to us lies this great mystery, incomprehensible, and yet our very breath depends upon it. Why should not the sweet tides of soft moist air cease to stream in upon us? No reason could be given why every green herb and living thing should not perish; no reason, save a faith which was blind. For aught we knew, the ocean- begotten aerial current might forsake the land and it might become a desert.
One night grey bars appeared in the western sky, but they had too often deluded us, and we did not believe in them. On this particular evening they were a little heavier, and the window-cords were damp. The air which came across the cliff was cool, and if we had dared to hope we should have said it had a scent of the sea in it. At four o'clock in the morning there was a noise of something beating against the panes - they were streaming! It was impossible to lie still, and I rose and went out of doors. No creature was stirring, there was no sound save that of the rain, but a busier time there had not been for many a long month. Thousands of millions of blades of grass and corn were eagerly drinking. For sixteen hours the downpour continued, and when it was dusk I again went out. The watercourses by the side of the roads had a little water in them, but not a drop had reached those at the edge of the fields, so thirsty was the earth. The drought, thank God, was at an end!
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