But toads, unlike frogs, can live all the time on the land; and they never visit the water except to lay their eggs there.
Now let us see what became of our two friends on the old mossy log.
Ah, well, they had not been sitting on the log very long, when they heard a loud noise that frightened them, and in an instant they were back in the water, and were lost to sight.
After awhile, they came up to the surface, and leaped upon the log as before.
Then the largest one said, in a harsh, croaking tone, Well, I wonder what will happen next? There seems to be no peace for us anywhere.
If we had only tried to be contented when we were tadpoles, how much happier we might have been; but young ones never know when they are well off.
For I remember well that I could hardly wait to see the last bit of my tail disappear,I was in such a hurry to put on this shining, spotted coat; and now that I have it on, see what trouble it brings me.
On each side of the frogs neck there was a large sac which filled with air every time that he spoke; and that is why his voice had such a croaking tone.
What you say is very true, replied his mate;
but it does seem good to have a tongue in ones head, after all.
There was no harsh, croaking sound in her voice, for a mother frog has no air sacs in the sides of her neck to produce it.
As she spoke, she darted her tongue out very swiftly, and caught a large fly that went buzzing past; and presently her mate did the same thing.
Now the tongue of these animals is large, flat, and fleshy, and is tied fast to the jaws in front, so that when it is at rest, it points backward, toward the throat.
But if an insect of any kind ventures too near, out flies this very nimble member, and glues it fast. For on the tongue of both the frog and the toad, there is always a thick fluid that is as sticky as glue.
But the poor frogs did not have a chance to enjoy their banquet very long; for not far away there was a group of boys with a fishing basket and a strongly woven net, and as soon as they spied the frogs, they crept very softly towards them.
I wonder what a frog would do without its head, said one of the boys.
Or without its brain, said another.
At this, both frogs held up their heads and listened.
Did you hear that? croaked the larger one.
What would I do without my brain, indeed! Why, it is my brain that sets me to thinking.
And as for my head, it is fully one third the size of my body, so how could I do without that?
Then he raised one of his short fore legs and pointed towards his head with his four small fingers; and at the same time, he stretched out his very long hind legs, spreading apart the five webbed toes on each foot as if getting ready for a leap.
But before he was aware of it, both he and his mate were caught in the fine meshes of a net, and were dragged from the log.
As the boys were walking along with their prize, they met their teacher on the way.
What are you going to do with those frogs? said he.
We shall broil their hind legs and have them for our dinner, they replied.
At this, the male frog opened his wide mouth, and gave such a loud croak that the boys dropped their basket on the ground.
If you will come with me, said the teacher, I will place a foot of one of your frogs under my microscope; then you can see the fine drops of blood in the thin web that holds its long toes together.
The boys were delighted; and very soon they had the pleasure of seeing this web through a glass that made even the smallest atoms look very large.
The little drops of blood followed one another in such a way that one of the boys said, Why, they look ever so much like the fine grains of red sand that fall from the upper part of an hourglass!
They were never weary of watching it; but the teacher said that it would be cruel to keep the animals out of the water too long, and that he thought they had earned their liberty, and ought to be carried back to the pond.
So they were placed in a tub of water, and covered up carefully, till after dinner.
But when the cover of the tub was removed, behold, the male frog was the only one to be found!
What could have become of the other? The cover was put on so securely that neither of the animals could leap out. But there sat the larger
frog, all alone, looking a good deal puffed up, and quite stupid, withal.
Now, inasmuch as these animals have no ribs at all, they sometimes look very lank, and at other times very full.
As the boys stood staring at him in amazement, one of them said, Where is your companion, my fat fellow? At this question, the frog drew a film over his eyes, and pretended to be asleep.
Now, toads, frogs, and other animals of this class have three eyelids; and this third eyelid that the frog drew over his eyes is a very thin film indeed.
But his pretense of being sound asleep did not aid him in the least; for the teacher said, Ah, Mr. Rana, I greatly fear that you wil never see the slimy waters of your native pond again. For we shall not permit you to get a second mate till we find out what you have done with the first one.
Then he caught him, and smothered him with a piece of soft cotton soaked in ether, so that he died quickly and without pain. And when his stout body was opened, there lay his lifeless mate, stretched out at full length in his stomach.
Now the truth is, that while we were all taking our dinner, this greedy fellow happened to think that it was about time for him to dine also.
And finding nothing nearer at hand, he seized
upon his helpless mate, and gulped her down, without the least scruple whatever; but it is no more then fair to say that had she been the larger and stronger of the two, she would have devoured him, instead of being eaten herself.
Ah, Mr. Rana, you no doubt greatly enjoyed that dinner; but it might possibly have taken away the keen edge of your appetite, had you known that it was to be your last meal!
A PLAIN STORY
Im a clumsy, awkward toad,
And I hop along the road
Tis the only way we toads can well meander;
While in yonder marshy bog,
Leaps my relative, the frog,
Very near my aunt, the water salamander.
And if you should ever stray
Near a slimy pool, some day,
And along its grassy margin chance to loiter,
Do not pass it lightly by,
For it is the spot where I
Was born, a lively little tadpole in the water.
And although I take no pride
In my ugly, warty hide,
Yet they say within my head there is a jewel;
But I hope you will not tell,
For you all know, very well,
That some boys (whom I could name) are very cruel.
Im a homely, harmless thing,
I catch insects on the wing,
And in this, I serve you all, it is my duty;
And now tell me, which is best
To be useless and well dressed,
Or be useful, even though I have no beauty?