How Old Mr. Toad Learned to Sing
Old Mr. Toad paid no attention to Peter, not even when he was spoken to. He was so absorbed in his singing that he just didn’t hear. Peter sat there a while to listen; then he called out to Jimmy Skunk and Billy Possum, who were also listening to the music, and they were just as surprised as Peter. Then he spied Jerry Muskrat at the other end of the Smiling Pool and hurried over there. Peter was so full of the discovery he had made that he could think of nothing else and he fairly ached to share this with others.
“Jerry!” he cried. “Oh, Jerry Muskrat! Do you know that Old Mr. Toad can sing?”
Jerry looked surprised that Peter should ask such a question. “Of course I know it,” he said. “It would be mighty funny if I didn’t know it, seeing that he is the sweetest singer in the Smiling Pool and has sung here every spring since I can remember.”
Peter looked very much chagrined. “I didn’t know it until just now,” he confessed. “I didn’t believe him when he told me that he could sing. I wonder how he ever learned.”
He didn’t learn any more than you learned how to jump,” replied Jerry. “It just came to him naturally. His father sang, and his grandfather, and his great grandfather, way back to the beginning of things. I’m surprised you do not know about this.”
“I don’t actually. Oh, please do tell me more about it Jerry,” pleaded Peter.
“All right, I will,” replied Jerry good-naturedly. “In the first place, Old Mr. Toad belongs to a very old and honorable family, one of the very oldest. I’ve heard say that it goes way back almost to the very beginning of things when there wasn’t much land. Anyway, the first Toad, the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Old Mr. Toad and own cousin to the great-great-ever-so-great-grandfather of Grandfather Frog, was one of the first to leave the water for dry land.
“Old Mother Nature met him hopping along and making hard work of it because, of course, it was so new. ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked. ‘Are you not content with the water where you were born?’”
“Mr. Toad bowed very low. ‘Yes,’ he said humbly. ‘I’ll go right back there if you say so. I thought there must be some things worth finding out on the land, and that I might be of some use in the Great World.’”
“His answer pleased Old Mother Nature. She was worried. She had planted all kinds of things on the land, and they were springing up everywhere, and she had discovered that bugs of many kinds liked the tender green things and were increasing so fast that they threatened to strip the land of all that she had planted. She had so many things to tend to that she hadn’t the time to take care of the bugs. ‘If you truly want to be of some use,’ she said, ‘you can tend to some of those bugs.’”
“Mr. Toad went right to work, and Old Mother Nature went about some of her other business. Having so many things to look after, she quite forgot about Mr. Toad, and it was several weeks before she came that way again. Right in the middle of a great bare place where the bugs had eaten everything was now a beautiful green spot, and patiently hopping from plant to plant was Mr. Toad, snapping up every bug he could see. He didn’t notice Old Mother Nature and he kept right on working. She watched him for a while as he hopped from plant to plant catching bugs as fast and he could, and then she spoke.
“’Have you stayed right here since I last saw you?’ she asked.”
“Mr. Toad gave a start of surprise. ‘Yes, I have,’ he said.”
“’I thought you wanted to see the Great World and learn things,’ she said.”
“Mr. Toad looked a little embarrassed. ‘So I did,’ he replied, ‘and I wanted to be of some use, and the bugs have kept me so busy there was not time to travel. Besides, I have learned a great deal right here. I couldn’t get around fast enough to save all the plants, I’ve just saved what I could.’”
“At that Old Mother Nature’s face lit up with one of her most beautiful smiles. ‘Mr. Toad,’ she said, ‘if you could have just one wish what would it be?’”
“Mr. Toad hesitated a few minutes and then said quietly, ‘A beautiful voice.’”
“It was Old Mother Nature’s turn to look surprised. ‘A beautiful voice!’ she exclaimed. “Why would you want a beautiful voice?’”
“So that I can express my happiness in the most beautiful way I know of, by singing,’ replied Mr. Toad.”
“’Then you shall have it,’ declared Old Mother Nature, ‘although not all the time lest you be tempted to forget your work, which , you know, when you are of service is a real source of true happiness. In the spring of each year you shall go back to your home in the water and there for a time you shall sing to your heart’s content, and there shall be no sweeter voice than yours.’”
“Sure enough, when the next spring came, Mr. Toad was filled with a great longing to go home. When he got there, he found that in his throat was a little music bag; and when he swelled it out, he had one of the sweetest voices in the world. And so it has been ever since with the Toad Family. Old Mr. Toad is one of the sweetest singers in the Smiling Pool, and when it is time to go back to work he is most diligent in Mother Nature’s garden,” concluded Jerry Muskrat.