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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

The Toad

THE well was deep, and therefore the rope had to be a long
one; it was heavy work turning the handle when any one had to
raise a bucketful of water over the edge of the well. Though
the water was clear, the sun never looked down far enough into
the well to mirror itself in the waters; but as far as its
beams could reach, green things grew forth between the stones
in the sides of the well.

Down below dwelt a family of the Toad race. They had, in
fact, come head-over-heels down the well, in the person of the
old Mother-Toad, who was still alive. The green Frogs, who had
been established there a long time, and swam about in the
water, called them 'well-guests.' But the new-comers seemed
determined to stay where they were, for they found it very
agreeable living 'in a dry place,' as they called the wet
stones.

The Mother-Frog had once been a traveller. She happened to
be in the water-bucket when it was drawn up, but the light
became too strong for her, and she got a pain in her eyes.
Fortunately she scrambled out of the bucket; but she fell into
the water with a terrible flop, and had to lie sick for three
days with pains in her back. She certainly had not much to
tell of the things up above, but she knew this, and all the
Frogs knew it, that the well was not all the world. The
Mother-Toad might have told this and that, if she had chosen,
but she never answered when they asked her anything, and so
they left off asking.

'She's thick, and fat and ugly,' said the young green
Frogs; 'and her children will be just as ugly as she is.'

'That may be,' retorted the mother-Toad, 'but one of them
has a jewel in his head, or else I have the jewel.'

The young frogs listened and stared; and as these words
did not please them, they made grimaces and dived down under
the water. But the little Toads kicked up their hind legs from
mere pride, for each of them thought that he must have the
jewel; and then they sat and held their heads quite still. But
at length they asked what it was that made them so proud, and
what kind of a thing a jewel might be.

'Oh, it is such a splendid and precious thing, that I
cannot describe it,' said the Mother-Toad. 'It's something
which one carries about for one's own pleasure, and that makes
other people angry. But don't ask me any questions, for I
shan't answer you.'

'Well, I haven't got the jewel,' said the smallest of the
Toads; she was as ugly as a toad can be. 'Why should I have
such a precious thing? And if it makes others angry, it can't
give me any pleasure. No, I only wish I could get to the edge
of the well, and look out; it must be beautiful up there.'

'You'd better stay where you are,' said the old
Mother-Toad, 'for you know everything here, and you can tell
what you have. Take care of the bucket, for it will crush you
to death; and even if you get into it safely, you may fall
out. And it's not every one who falls so cleverly as I did,
and gets away with whole legs and whole bones.

'Quack!' said the little Toad; and that's just as if one
of us were to say, 'Aha!'

She had an immense desire to get to the edge of the well,
and to look over; she felt such a longing for the green, up
there; and the next morning, when it chanced that the bucket
was being drawn up, filled with water, and stopped for a
moment just in front of the stone on which the Toad sat, the
little creature's heart moved within it, and our Toad jumped
into the filled bucket, which presently was drawn to the top,
and emptied out.

'Ugh, you beast!' said the farm laborer who emptied the
bucket, when he saw the toad. 'You're the ugliest thing I've
seen for one while.' And he made a kick with his wooden shoe
at the toad, which just escaped being crushed by managing to
scramble into the nettles which grew high by the well's brink.
Here she saw stem by stem, but she looked up also; the sun
shone through the leaves, which were quite transparent; and
she felt as a person would feel who steps suddenly into a
great forest, where the sun looks in between the branches and
leaves.

'It's much nicer here than down in the well! I should like
to stay here my whole life long!' said the little Toad. So she
lay there for an hour, yes, for two hours. 'I wonder what is
to be found up here? As I have come so far, I must try to go
still farther.' And so she crawled on as fast as she could
crawl, and got out upon the highway, where the sun shone upon
her, and the dust powdered her all over as she marched across
the way.

'I've got to a dry place. now, and no mistake,' said the
Toad. 'It's almost too much of a good thing here; it tickles
one so.'

She came to the ditch; and forget-me-nots were growing
there, and meadow-sweet; and a very little way off was a hedge
of whitethorn, and elder bushes grew there, too, and bindweed
with white flowers. Gay colors were to be seen here, and a
butterfly, too, was flitting by. The Toad thought it was a
flower which had broken loose that it might look about better
in the world, which was quite a natural thing to do.

'If one could only make such a journey as that!' said the
Toad. 'Croak! how capital that would be.'

Eight days and eight nights she stayed by the well, and
experienced no want of provisions. On the ninth day she
thought, 'Forward! onward!' But what could she find more
charming and beautiful? Perhaps a little toad or a few green
frogs. During the last night there had been a sound borne on
the breeze, as if there were cousins in the neighborhood.

'It's a glorious thing to live! glorious to get out of the
well, and to lie among the stinging-nettles, and to crawl
along the dusty road. But onward, onward! that we may find
frogs or a little toad. We can't do without that; nature alone
is not enough for one.' And so she went forward on her
journey.

She came out into the open field, to a great pond, round
about which grew reeds; and she walked into it.

'It will be too damp for you here,' said the Frogs; 'but
you are very welcome! Are you a he or a she? But it doesn't
matter; you are equally welcome.'

And she was invited to the concert in the evening- the
family concert; great enthusiasm and thin voices; we know the
sort of thing. No refreshments were given, only there was
plenty to drink, for the whole pond was free.

'Now I shall resume my journey,' said the little Toad; for
she always felt a longing for something better.

She saw the stars shining, so large and so bright, and she
saw the moon gleaming; and then she saw the sun rise, and
mount higher and higher.

'Perhaps after all, I am still in a well, only in a larger
well. I must get higher yet; I feel a great restlessness and
longing.' And when the moon became round and full, the poor
creature thought, 'I wonder if that is the bucket which will
be let down, and into which I must step to get higher up? Or
is the sun the great bucket? How great it is! how bright it
is! It can take up all. I must look out, that I may not miss
the opportunity. Oh, how it seems to shine in my head! I don't
think the jewel can shine brighter. But I haven't the jewel;
not that I cry about that- no, I must go higher up, into
splendor and joy! I feel so confident, and yet I am afraid.
It's a difficult step to take, and yet it must be taken.
Onward, therefore, straight onward!'

She took a few steps, such as a crawling animal may take,
and soon found herself on a road beside which people dwelt;
but there were flower gardens as well as kitchen gardens. And
she sat down to rest by a kitchen garden.

'What a number of different creatures there are that I
never knew! and how beautiful and great the world is! But one
must look round in it, and not stay in one spot.' And then she
hopped into the kitchen garden. 'How green it is here! how
beautiful it is here!'

'I know that,' said the Caterpillar, on the leaf, 'my leaf
is the largest here. It hides half the world from me, but I
don't care for the world.'

'Cluck, cluck!' And some fowls came. They tripped about in
the cabbage garden. The Fowl who marched at the head of them
had a long sight, and she spied the Caterpillar on the green
leaf, and pecked at it, so that the Caterpillar fell on the
ground, where it twisted and writhed.

The Fowl looked at it first with one eye and then with the
other, for she did not know what the end of this writhing
would be.

'It doesn't do that with a good will,' thought the Fowl,
and lifted up her head to peck at the Caterpillar.

The Toad was so horrified at this, that she came crawling
straight up towards the Fowl.

'Aha, it has allies,' quoth the Fowl. 'Just look at the
crawling thing!' And then the Fowl turned away. 'I don't care
for the little green morsel; it would only tickle my throat.'
The other fowls took the same view of it, and they all turned
away together.

'I writhed myself free,' said the Caterpillar. 'What a
good thing it is when one has presence of mind! But the
hardest thing remains to be done, and that is to get on my
leaf again. Where is it?'

And the little Toad came up and expressed her sympathy.
She was glad that in her ugliness she had frightened the
fowls.

'What do you mean by that?' cried the Caterpillar. 'I
wriggled myself free from the Fowl. You are very disagreeable
to look at. Cannot I be left in peace on my own property? Now
I smell cabbage; now I am near my leaf. Nothing is so
beautiful as property. But I must go higher up.'

'Yes, higher up,' said the little Toad; 'higher-up! She
feels just as I do; but she's not in a good humor to-day.
That's because of the fright. We all want to go higher up.'
And she looked up as high as ever she could.

The stork sat in his nest on the roof of the farm-house.
He clapped with his beak, and the Mother-stork clapped with
hers.

'How high up they live!' thought the Toad. 'If one could
only get as high as that!'

In the farm-house lived two young students; the one was a
poet and the other a scientific searcher into the secrets of
nature. The one sang and wrote joyously of everything that God
had created, and how it was mirrored in his heart. He sang it
out clearly, sweetly, richly, in well-sounding verses; while
the other investigated created matter itself, and even cut it
open where need was. He looked upon God's creation as a great
sum in arithmetic- subtracted, multiplied, and tried to know
it within and without, and to talk with understanding
concerning it; and that was a very sensible thing; and he
spoke joyously and cleverly of it. They were good, joyful men,
those two,

'There sits a good specimen of a toad,' said the
naturalist. 'I must have that fellow in a bottle of spirits.'

'You have two of them already,' replied the poet. 'Let the
thing sit there and enjoy its life.'

'But it's so wonderfully ugly,' persisted the first.

'Yes, if we could find the jewel in its head,' said the
poet, 'I too should be for cutting it open.'

'A jewel!' cried the naturalist. 'You seem to know a great
deal about natural history.'

'But is there not something beautiful in the popular
belief that just as the toad is the ugliest of animals, it
should often carry the most precious jewel in its head? Is it
not just the same thing with men? What a jewel that was that
Aesop had, and still more, Socrates!'

The Toad did not hear any more, nor did she understand
half of what she had heard. The two friends walked on, and
thus she escaped the fate of being bottled up in spirits.

'Those two also were speaking of the jewel,' said the Toad
to herself. 'What a good thing that I have not got it! I might
have been in a very disagreeable position.'

Now there was a clapping on the roof of the farm-house.
Father-Stork was making a speech to his family, and his family
was glancing down at the two young men in the kitchen garden.

'Man is the most conceited creature!' said the Stork.
'Listen how their jaws are wagging; and for all that they
can't clap properly. They boast of their gifts of eloquence
and their language! Yes, a fine language truly! Why, it
changes in every day's journey we make. One of them doesn't
understand another. Now, we can speak our language over the
whole earth- up in the North and in Egypt. And then men are
not able to fly, moreover. They rush along by means of an
invention they call 'railway;' but they often break their
necks over it. It makes my beak turn cold when I think of it.
The world could get on without men. We could do without them
very well, so long as we only keep frogs and earth-worms.'

'That was a powerful speech,' thought the little Toad.
'What a great man that is yonder! and how high he sits! Higher
than ever I saw any one sit yet; and how he can swim!' she
cried, as the Stork soared away through the air with outspread
pinions.

And the Mother-Stork began talking in the nest, and told
about Egypt and the waters of the Nile, and the incomparable
mud that was to be found in that strange land; and all this
sounded new and very charming to the little Toad.

'I must go to Egypt!' said she. 'If the Stork or one of
his young ones would only take me! I would oblige him in
return. Yes, I shall get to Egypt, for I feel so happy! All
the longing and all the pleasure that I feel is much better
than having a jewel in one's head.'

And it was just she who had the jewel. That jewel was the
continual striving and desire to go upward- ever upward. It
gleamed in her head, gleamed in joy, beamed brightly in her
longing.

Then, suddenly, up came the Stork. He had seen the Toad in
the grass, and stooped down and seized the little creature
anything but gently. The Stork's beak pinched her, and the
wind whistled; it was not exactly agreeable, but she was going
upward- upward towards Egypt- and she knew it; and that was
why her eyes gleamed, and a spark seemed to fly out of them.

'Quunk!- ah!'

The body was dead- the Toad was killed! But the spark that
had shot forth from her eyes; what became of that?

The sunbeam took it up; the sunbeam carried the jewel from
the head of the toad. Whither?

Ask not the naturalist; rather ask the poet. He will tell
it thee under the guise of a fairy tale; and the Caterpillar
on the cabbage, and the Stork family belong to the story.
Think! the Caterpillar is changed, and turns into a beautiful
butterfly; the Stork family flies over mountains and seas, to
the distant Africa, and yet finds the shortest way home to the
same country- to the same roof. Nay, that is almost too
improbable; and yet it is true. You may ask the naturalist, he
will confess it is so; and you know it yourself, for you have
seen it.

But the jewel in the head of the toad?

Seek it in the sun; see it there if you can.

The brightness is too dazzling there. We have not yet such
eyes as can see into the glories which God has created, but we
shall receive them by-and-by; and that will be the most
beautiful story of all, and we shall all have our share in it.



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