Old Mr. Toad’s Queer Tongue
Old Mother Nature doth provide
For all her children, large or small.
Her wisdom foresees all their needs
And makes provision for them all.
If you don’t believe it, just you go ask Old Mr. Toad, as Peter Rabbit did, how such a slow-moving fellow as he is can catch enough bugs and insects to keep him alive. Perhaps you’ll learn something just as Peter did. Peter and Old Mr. Toad sat in the rain watching the tiny Toads, who, you know, were Mr. Toad’s children, leaving their kindergarten in the Smiling Pool and starting out to see the Great World. When the last little Toad had passed them, Old Mr. Toad suddenly remembered that he was hungry, very hungry indeed.
“Didn’t have time to eat much while I was in the Smiling Pool,” he explained. “Couldn’t eat and sing too, and while I was down there, I was supposed to sing. Now that it is time to quit singing, I begin to realize that I’ve got a stomach to look out for as well as a voice. See that bug over there on that leaf? Watch him.”
Peter looked, and sure enough there was a fat bug crawling along on an old leaf. He was about two inches from Old Mr. Toad, and he was crawling very fast. And right while Peter was looking at him he disappeared. Peter turned to look at Old Mr. Toad. He hadn’t budged. He was sitting exactly where he had been sitting all the time, but he was smacking his lips, and there was a twinkle of satisfaction in his eyes. Peter opened his eyes very wide.
“Wha what ” he began.
“Nice bug,” interrupted Old Mr. Toad. “Nicest bug I’ve eaten for a longtime.”
“But I didn’t see you catch him!” protested Peter, looking at Old Mr. Toad as if he suspected him of joking.
“Anything wrong with your eyes?” inquired Old Mr. Toad.
“No,” replied Peter just a wee bit crossly. “My eyes are just as good as ever.”
“Then watch me catch that fly over yonder,” said Old Mr. Toad. He hopped towards a fly which had lighted on a blade of grass just ahead. About two inches from it he stopped, and so far as Peter could see, he sat perfectly still. But the fly disappeared, and it wasn’t because it flew away, either. Peter was sure of that. As he told Mrs. Peter about it afterwards, “It was there, and then it wasn’t, and that was all there was to it.”
Old Mr. Toad chuckled. “Didn’t you see that one go, Peter?” he asked.
Peter shook his head. “I wish you Would stop fooling me,” said Peter. “The joke is on me, but now you’ve had your laugh at my expense, I wish you would tell me how you do it. Please, Mr. Toad.”
Now when Peter said please that way, of course Old Mr. Toad couldn’t resist him. Nobody could.
“Here comes an ant this way. Now you watch my mouth instead of the ant and see what happens,” said Old Mr. Toad.
Peter looked and saw a big black ant coming. Then he kept his eyes on Old Mr. Toad’s mouth. Suddenly there was a little flash of red from it, so tiny and so quick that Peter couldn’t be absolutely sure that he saw it. But when he looked for the ant, it was nowhere to be seen. Peter looked at Old Mr. Toad very hard.
“Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Toad, that you’ve got a tongue long enough to reach way over to where that ant was?” he asked.
Old Mr. Toad chuckled again. With every insect swallowed he felt better natured. “You’ve guessed it, Peter,” said he. “Handy tongue, isn’t it?”
“I think it’s a very queer tongue,” retorted Peter, “and I don’t understand it at all. If it’s so long as all that, where do you keep it when it isn’t in use? I should think you’d have to swallow it to get it out of the way, or else leave it hanging out of your mouth.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” laughed Old Mr. Toad. “My tongue never is in the way, and it’s the handiest tongue in the world. I’ll show it to you.”