THE WATER-RAT, OR WATER-VOLE
HAVE you ever seen a water-rat? I do not mean a
land-rat swimming in the water, but a water-rat,
 or water vole, as he ought to be called, for he is
not a true rat. I saw one once when he did not see me.
What do you think he was doing? He was sitting up on
his hind legs, and in his front paws he held a piece of
the leaf of the sweet yellow flag, which grows so
thickly by the river. It was that part of the leaf near
the root which is thick and juicy. He was gnawing it so
busily that he did not see me at first.
He was a stout little fellow, not quite so big as a
rat. He feeds on plants. When he cannot get pieces of
yellow flag he eats duckweed, or even the bark of young
willows. I could see that he had a short, thick neck
and round head, with a short snout. His eyes were small
and I could scarcely see his ears, they were so thickly
covered with fur. His round tail was not very long and
had short hairs on it.
I sat down very quietly on the bank, not far from him.
And presently he looked round and saw me. But as I did
not move perhaps he did not think I was alive, for he
went on munching his leaf.
At last I touched a dead leaf with my foot. His ears
heard quickly enough. He turned his little bright eyes
to me, and in a second he was in the water and swam
away. I was too late to see him go into his hole, but I
found one not far from the flags, just under the water.
 I knew I should not find his home; for the
water-voles make long burrows. I went for several days
to the same place, and took some bread to leave there.
At last one day, as I sat watching, out came my little
friend and ate the bread. After that we met several
times, and he became quite tame. But I had to be very
careful. The least thing frightened him, and plop he
went, into the water!
If you go often to a pond or river, when all is very
quiet in the evening or early morning, you may
sometimes see a water-vole swimming in the water, or
feeding on the bank. He has beautiful yellow teeth. The
lower ones are large and show very clearly above his
short lower lip.
The young water-voles are such pretty little creatures.
They are born in a nest of dry grass, which the old
voles make in the burrow, and when they come out they
swim about with the old ones, and feed on the duckweed.
But though the water-vole lives mostly in the water, he
can come on land to gather his winter store. He is
often a great trouble to the farmer, for he likes the
carrots and potatoes and even the broad beans, which
grow in the fields, and he comes in the evening to eat
them and to carry pieces back to his home.
A farmer once dug out a water-vole's burrow and found
enough pieces of potato and mangold-wurzel to fill a