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Between two cliffs lay a deep ravine, with a full stream rolling heavily through it over boulders and rough ground. It was high and steep, and one side was bare, save at the foot, where clustered a thick, fresh wood, so close to the stream that the mist from the water lay upon the foliage in spring and autumn. The trees stood looking upwards and forwards, unable to move either way.
"What if we were to clothe the Cliff?" said the Juniper one day to the foreign Oak that stood next him. The Oak looked down to find out who was speaking, and then looked up again without answering a word. The Stream worked so hard that it grew white; the Northwind rushed through the ravine, and shrieked in the fissures; and the bare Cliff hung heavily over and felt cold. "What if we were to clothe the Cliff?" said the Juniper to the Fir on the other side. "Well, if anybody is to do it, I suppose we must," replied the Fir, stroking his beard; "what dost thou think?" he added, looking over to the Birch. "In God's name, let us clothe it," answered the Birch, glancing timidly towards the Cliff, which hung over her so heavily that she felt as if she could scarcely breathe. And thus, although they were but three, they agreed to clothe the Cliff. The Juniper went first.
When they had gone a little way they met the Heather. The Juniper seemed as though he meant to pass her by. "Nay, let us take the Heather with us," said the Fir. So on went the Heather. Soon the Juniper began to slip. "Lay hold on me," said the Heather. The Juniper did so, and where there was only a little crevice the Heather put in one finger, and where she had got in one finger the Juniper put in his whole hand. They crawled and climbed, the Fir heavily behind with the Birch. "It is a work of charity," said the Birch.
But the Cliff began to ponder what little things these could be that came clambering up it. And when it had thought over this a few hundred years, it sent down a little Brook to see about it. It was just spring flood, and the Brook rushed on till she met the Heather. "Dear, dear Heather, canst thou not let me pass? I am so little," said the Brook. The Heather, being very busy, only raised herself a little, and worked on. The Brook slipped under her, and ran onwards. "Dear, dear Juniper, canst thou not let me pass? I am so little," said the Brook. The Juniper glanced sharply at her; but as the Heather had let her pass, he thought he might do so as well. The Brook slipped under him, and ran on till she came where the Fir stood panting on a crag. "Dear, dear Fir, canst thou not let me pass? I am so little," the Brook said, fondly kissing the Fir on his foot. The Fir felt bashful and let her pass. But the Birch made way before the Brook asked. "He, he, he," laughed the Brook, as she grew larger. "Ha, ha, ha," laughed the Brook again, pushing Heather and Juniper, Fir and Birch, forwards and backwards, up and down on the great crags. The Cliff sat for many hundred years after, pondering whether it did not smile a little that day.