Old Mr. Toad Visits Grandfather Frog by Thornton W. Burgess

Trouble in the pond in this short story for kids by famous environmentalist Thornton W. Burgess.

Grandfather Frog and old Mr. Toad are cousins. Of course you know that without being told. Everybody does. But not everybody knows that they were born in the same place. They were. Yes, Sir, they were. They were born in the Smiling Pool. Both had long tails and for a while no legs, and they played and swam together without ever going on shore. In fact, when they were babies, they couldn’t live out of the water. And people who saw them didn’t know the difference between them and called them by the same names—tadpoles or pollywogs. But when they grew old enough to have legs and get along without tails, they parted company.

You see, it was this way: Grandfather Frog (of course he wasn’t grandfather then) loved the Smiling Pool so well that he couldn’t think of leaving it. He heard all about the Great World and what a wonderful place it was, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that there could be any nicer place than the Smiling Pool, and so he made up his mind that he would live there always.

But Mr. Toad could hardly wait to get rid of his tail before turning his back on the Smiling Pool and starting out to see the Great World. Nothing that Grandfather Frog could say would stop him, and away Mr. Toad went, when he was so small that he could hide under a clover leaf. Grandfather Frog didn’t expect ever to see him again. But he did, though it wasn’t for a long, long time. And when he did come back, he had grown so that Grandfather Frog hardly knew him at first. And right then and there began a dispute which they have kept up ever since: whether it was best to go out into the Great World or remain in the home of childhood. Each was sure that what he had done was best, and each is sure of it to this day.

So whenever old Mr. Toad visits Grandfather Frog, as he does every once in a while, they are sure to argue and argue on this same old subject. It was so on the day that Grandfather Frog had so nearly choked to death. Old Mr. Toad had heard about it from one of the Merry Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind and right away had started for the Smiling Pool to pay his respects to Grandfather Frog, and to tell him how glad he was that Spotty the Turtle had come along just in time to pull the fish out of Grandfather Frog’s throat.

Now all day long Grandfather Frog had had to listen to unpleasant remarks about his greediness. It was such a splendid chance to tease him that everybody around the Smiling Pool took advantage of it. Grandfather Frog took it good-naturedly at first, but after a while it made him cross, and by the time his cousin, old Mr. Toad, arrived, he was sulky and just grunted when Mr. Toad told him how glad he was to find Grandfather Frog quite recovered.

Old Mr. Toad pretended not to notice how out of sorts Grandfather Frog was but kept right on talking.

“If you had been out in the Great World as much as I have been, you would have known that Little Joe Otter wasn’t giving you that fish for nothing,” said he.

Grandfather Frog swelled right out with anger. “Chugarum!” he exclaimed in his deepest, gruffest voice. “Chugarum! Go back to your Great World and learn to mind your own affairs, Mr. Toad.”

Right away old Mr. Toad began to swell with anger too. For a whole minute he glared at Grandfather Frog, so indignant he couldn’t find his tongue. When he did find it, he said some very unpleasant things, and right away they began to dispute.

“What good are you to anybody but yourself, never seeing anything of the Great World and not knowing anything about what is going on or what other people are doing?” asked old Mr. Toad.

“I’m minding my own affairs and not meddling with things that don’t concern me, as seems to be the way out in the Great World you are so fond of talking about,” retorted Grandfather Frog. “Wise people know enough to be content with what they have. You’ve been out in the Great World ever since you could hop, and what good has it done you? Tell me that! You haven’t even a decent suit of clothes to your back.” Grandfather Frog patted his white and yellow waistcoat as he spoke and looked admiringly at the reflection of his handsome green coat in the Smiling Pool.

Old Mr. Toad’s eyes snapped, for you know his suit is very plain and rough.

“People who do honest work for their living have no time to sit about in fine clothes admiring themselves,” he replied sharply. “I’ve learned this much out in the Great World, that lazy people come to no good end, and I know enough not to choke myself to death.”

Grandfather Frog almost choked again, he was so angry. You see old Mr. Toad’s remarks were very personal, and nobody likes personal remarks when they are unpleasant, especially if they happen to be true. Grandfather Frog was trying his best to think of something sharp to say in reply, when Mr. Redwing, sitting

in the top of the big hickory-tree, shouted: “Here comes Farmer Brown’s boy!”

Grandfather Frog forgot his anger and began to look anxious. He moved about uneasily on his big green lily-pad and got ready to dive into the Smiling Pool, for he was afraid that Farmer Brown’s boy had a pocketful of stones as he usually did have when he came over to the Smiling Pool.

Old Mr. Toad didn’t look troubled the least bit. He didn’t even look around for a hiding-place. He just sat still and grinned.

“You’d better watch out, or you’ll never visit the Smiling Pool again,” called Grandfather Frog.

“Oh,” replied old Mr. Toad, “I’m not afraid. Farmer Brown’s boy is a friend of mine. I help him in his garden. How to make friends is one of the things the Great World has taught me.”

“Chugarum!” said Grandfather Frog. “I’d have you to know that—”

But what it was that he was to know old Mr. Toad never found out, for just then Grandfather Frog caught sight of Farmer Brown’s boy and without waiting even to say good-by he dived into the Smiling Pool.