High Water


In a remote part of Ireland, Brid Harrington lived with her father and mother in a thatched cottage covered with ivy. A low stone wall surrounded the yard and yellow primroses, daffodils, and roses filled the summer air with perfume.

One morning as the sun rose over Wicklow Mountain, Brid yawned and stretched and wiped her clenched fingers across her eyes. Getting out of bed, she swung her window open wide and leaned on the windowsill. A song thrush was singing in a nearby tree, and the sheep were grazing down by the lake beyond.

“Brid!” Mother called. “Breakfast’s on, luv!”

She quickly splashed her face with water from the basin, made her bed, and dressed. Her mouth was watering for honey and biscuits as she hurried toward the kitchen.

“The road’s up,” Father explained as they ate. “I don’t know how we’ll get the sugar beets to market,” he sighed, “and we surely need the money.”

“Can you go by way of Woodenbridge?” Mother asked hopefully.

“The bridge would never hold my weight and the beets at the same time,” Father explained.

“Can’t I pull them?” Brid asked brightly.

“No, lass, you might not have the strength to pull the cart.”

“But I’m strong, Father. I could pull the sugar beets, I’m sure. The bridge could certainly hold me,” Brid pleaded, “and I did help with the planting.”

“If we don’t get the beets to market,” Mother added, “we’ll lose the crop, that’s sure, and all our work for nothing.”

Brid’s father was thoughtful for a few minutes. Mother’s look showed her mixed feelings. Finally, he spoke. “You’d have to stay to the middle of the bridge then, and be very careful. Still, it’s a worry.”

Brid ran around the table and hugged him. “I’ll be ever so careful,” she promised happily.

“Well then, that’s settled,” Father said, sighing with relief. “Will you keep the sheep in pasture, Mother, and not forget them while you do your chores?”

“Sean Harrington! I’ve kept sheep in pasture for years! Now off with the two of you and be careful!” Mother said, smiling.

Brid helped her father load the wooden cart and, waving a kiss to her mother, they followed the path through the fields of yellow gorse to Woodenbridge. When they came to the river, the swollen stream was lapping at the planking. Beyond the bridge and farther downstream, a small waterfall churned and splashed.

“Mind you stay to the middle, and don’t look down!” Father shouted over the roar of the water. “I’ll wait right here for you!” he added assuringly.

Brid stepped carefully onto the bridge but, when she reached the halfway point, a wheel wedged between the planks and she glanced down. Between the boards, she could see the white swirling water. Suddenly she felt dizzy. Closing her eyes a moment to steady her balance, Brid glanced back at her father who gave an encouraging smile and then waved her on. She returned the motion with a smile. Then tugging at the wheel with all her strength, she worked it free. Brid glanced over the side of the bridge. Her legs felt wobbly and she couldn’t move!

“Look up! Look up, lass!” Father called.

Brid looked at the sky. A lone songbird circled slowly overhead. The sky was blue and the sun shone brightly. She started to sing to herself, “Look up, look up.” Then with her eyes straight ahead, she pulled the cart safely to the other side.

“I made it! I made it!” she called jubilantly to her father.

He waved back. “Good lass! I’ll be with you in a minute!” And he stepped lightly across the bridge. Then together they continued to market.

“I hear the road is up,” Mr. Molloy said while counting out their pay for the beets. “Do you know how long they’ll be working on it?”

“No,” answered Father, putting his arm around Brid. “We had to come by way of Woodenbridge, and Brid had to pull the cart over by herself.”

“That was a brave thing to do, lass,” Mr. Molloy said. “By tomorrow the price for sugar beets will be going down, I’m afraid. It was a good thing you made it today.”

Brid and her father hurried back to the bridge. Father crossed with the empty cart first to see if it would still hold and then waited for Brid.

“Keep your eyes on me, lass,” Father called.

Brid took a deep breath and stared straight ahead, keeping her eyes on her father. Slowly she crossed Woodenbridge for the second time that day.

“Good girl!” her father cried, and hugged her tightly. “You are a brave one.”

“I was afraid I would fall,” Brid confessed, smiling nervously.

“But you did as you were asked and you did just fine.”

“Was I a help, Father?”

“The best little helper I could ever have had. I’m very proud of you. Your mother will be proud too,” he added. “You saved our crop, young lady!”

Brid climbed into the cart and dangled her legs over the sides. And while Father pulled her along, their happy singing echoed throughout the countryside.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Arlene Braithwaite