The Smiling Pool Kindergarten
Play a little, learn a little, grow a little too;
That’s what every pollywoggy tries his best to do.
Of course. That’s what a kindergarten is for. And you may be sure that the babies of Grandfather Frog and Old Mr. Toad and Stickytoes the Tree Toad did all of these things in the kindergarten of the Smiling Pool. They looked considerably alike, did these little cousins, for they were all pollywogs to begin with. Peter Rabbit came over every day to watch them. Always he had thought pollywogs just homely, wriggling things, not the least bit interesting, but since he had discovered how proud of them were Grandfather Frog and Old Mr. Toad, he had begun to wonder about them and then to watch them.
“There’s one thing about them, and that is they are not in danger the way any babies are,” said Peter, talking to himself as is his way when there is no one else to talk to. Just then a funny little black pollywog wriggled into sight, and while Peter was watching him, a stout-jawed water-beetle suddenly rushed from among the water grass, seized the pollywog by his tail, and dragged him down. Peter stared. Could it be that that ugly-looking bug was as dangerous an enemy to the baby Toad as Reddy Fox is to a baby Rabbit? He began to suspect so, and a little later he knew so, for there was that same little pollywog trying hard to swim and making bad work of it, because he had lost half of his long tail.
That set Peter to watching sharper than ever, and presently he discovered that pollywogs have to keep their eyes open quite as much as do baby Rabbits, if they would live to grow up. There were several kinds of queer, ugly-looking bugs forever darting out at the wriggling pollywogs. Hungry-looking fish lay in wait for them, and Longlegs the Blue Heron seemed to have a special liking for them. But the pollywogs were spry, and seemed to have learned to watch out. They seemed to Peter to spend all their time swimming and eating and growing. They grew so fast that it seemed to him that he could almost see them grow. And just imagine how surprised Peter was to discover one day that that very pollywog which he had seen lose his tail had grown a new one. That puzzled Peter more than anything he had seen in a long time.
“Why, I couldn’t do that!” he exclaimed right out loud.
“Do what?” demanded Jerry Muskrat, who happened along just then.
“Why, grow a new tail like that pollywog,” replied Peter, and told Jerry all that he had seen. Jerry laughed.
“You’ll see queerer things than that if you watch those pollywogs long enough,” said he. “They are a queer lot of babies, and very interesting to watch if you’ve got the time for it. I haven’t. This Smiling Pool is a great kindergarten, and there’s something happening here every minute. There’s no place like it.”
“Are those great big fat pollywogs Grandfather Frog’s children, or Old Mr. Toad’s?” asked Peter.
“Grandfather Frog’s last year’s children,” replied Jerry. “They’ll grow into real Frogs this summer, if nothing happens to them.”
“Where are Old Mr. Toad’s last year’s children?” asked Peter.
“Don’t ask me,” replied Jerry. “They hopped away last summer. Never saw anything like the way those Toad youngsters grow. Those Toad pollywogs you see now will turn into real Toads, and be leaving the Smiling Pool in a few weeks. People think Old Mr. Toad is slow, but there is nothing slow about his children. Look at that little fellow over there; he’s begun to grow legs already.”
Peter looked, and sure enough there was a pollywog with a pair of legs sprouting out. They were his fore legs, and they certainly did make him look funny. And only a few days before there hadn’t been a sign of legs.
“My gracious!” exclaimed Peter. “What a funny sight! I thought my babies grew fast, but these beat them.”