The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad – Chapter 8

Old Mr. Toad’s Babies

The Smiling Pool’s a nursery
Where all the sunny day
A thousand funny babies
Are taught while at their play.

Really the Smiling Pool is a sort of kindergarten, one of the most interesting kindergartens in the world.  Little Joe Otter’s children learn to swim there.  So do Jerry Muskrat’s babies and those of Billy Mink, the Trout and Minnow babies, and a lot more.  And there you will find the children and grandchildren of Grandfather Frog and Old Mr. Toad.

Peter Rabbit had known for a long time about the Frog babies, but though he knew that Old Mr. Toad was own cousin to Grandfather Frog, he hadn’t known anything about Toad babies, except that at a certain time in the year he was forever running across tiny Toads, especially on rainy days, and each little Toad was just like Old Mr. Toad, except for his size.  Peter had heard it said that Toads rain down from the sky, and sometimes it seems as if this must be so.  Of course he knew it couldn’t be, but it puzzled him a great deal.  There wouldn’t be a Toad in sight.  Then it would begin to rain, and right away there would be so many tiny Toads that it was hard work to jump without stepping on some.

He remembered this as he went to pay his daily call on Old Mr. Toad in the Smiling Pool and listen to his sweet song.  He hadn’t seen any little Toads this year, but he remembered his experiences with them in other years, and he meant to ask about them.

Old Mr. Toad was sitting in his usual place, but he wasn’t singing.  He was staring at something in the water.  When Peter said “Good morning,” Old Mr. Toad didn’t seem to hear him.  He was too much interested in what he was watching.  Peter stared down into the water to see what was interesting Old Mr. Toad so much, but he saw nothing but a lot of wriggling tadpoles.

“What are you staring at so, Mr. Sobersides?” asked Peter, speaking a little louder than before.

Old Mr. Toad turned and looked at Peter, and there was a look of great pride in his face.  “I’m just watching my babies.  Aren’t they lovely?” said he.

Peter stared harder than ever, but he couldn’t see anything that looked like a baby Toad.

“Where are they?” asked he.  “I don’t see any babies but those of Grandfather Frog, and if you ask me, I always did think tadpoles about the homeliest things in th’ world.”

Old Mr. Toad grew indignant.  “Those are not Grandfather Frog’s children; they’re mine!” he sputtered.  “And I’ll have you know that they are the most beautiful babies in th’ world!”

Peter drew a hand across his mouth to hide a smile.  “I beg your pardon, Mr. Toad,” said he.  “I- ­I thought all tadpoles were Frog babies.  They all look alike to me.”

“Well, they’re not,” declared Old Mr. Toad.  “How any one can mistake my babies for their cousins I cannot understand.  Now mine are beautiful, while ”

“Chug-arum!” interrupted the great deep voice of Grandfather Frog.  “What are you talking about?  Why, your babies are no more to be compared with my babies for real beauty than nothing at all!  I’ll leave it to Peter if they are.”

But Peter wisely held his tongue.  To tell the truth, he couldn’t see beauty in any of them.  To him they were all just wriggling pollywogs.  They were more interesting now, because he had found out that some of them were Toads and some were Frogs, and he hadn’t known before that baby Toads begin life as tadpoles, but he had no intention of being drawn into the dispute now waxing furious between Grandfather Frog and Old Mr. Toad.

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