The Toad lived under one of the large, flat stones, that made the garden wall.
It was not a very pleasant place in which to live. The sun was never able to creep in. The rain and the frost did not dry out of the ground. There was no room underneath the stone to have company. But no one visited the Toad. No one wanted to visit him. He was the most despised creature in the whole garden.
Every one liked the garden cat who sat in the warm gravel path. She had a beautiful yellow and white coat. She could purr when she was stroked. Every one liked the cricket. He came to the garden in the evening and chirped a good-night song. Every one liked the butterfly who flew from one garden bed to another. Her wings were orange and brown, and she was very pretty.
But the Toad was dressed in a suit of dull green. He could not sing and he could not fly.
"Step on him; he's only a toad," said the little children who came to play in the garden. So the Toad came from under his stone only very early in the morning and toward evening. He did not want to be stepped upon.
It was a very hard season for the gardens. The buds on the cherry and peach trees were eaten. There were not as many red cherries and pink peaches as there should have been. The buds on the rose bushes were eaten, too. The vegetables were eaten through and through by nibbling insects. But this was not true in the garden in which the Toad lived.
Here, the trees were loaded with bright cherries and large peaches. Their branches almost touched the ground. The rose bushes were covered with red, and pink, and white, and yellow roses. Every one who passed said:
"The garden was never so lovely before. Just see how much prettier it is than the gardens across the road."
That was just what the gardener thought, too.
"Who has been helping me to take care of my garden?" asked the gardener.
The cat sat and basked in the path and purred. She had, done nothing to help the gardener. The cricket chirped as if he were playing a little fiddle. But he had done nothing to help the gardener. The butterfly flew from one part of the garden to another. Her orange and brown wings were bright in the sunlight. She was very pretty to look at. But she had done nothing to help the gardener.
From his dark hole beneath the large flat stone in the garden wall, the Toad peered. He wanted to see if any one who would step on him were near. No, he saw that it would be safe. Out he hopped. A tiny, black insect was flying toward the red rose tree. The Toad opened his great, ugly mouth wide. Snap! He closed it again and that was the end of the insect.
"My good little friend!" said the gardener. "It is you who have helped to make my garden beautiful." This was quite true. Very early in the morning and toward evening each day the Toad had been busy and useful. He had eaten the insects that would have hurt the garden.
"You are the most useful one in the garden," said the gardener, and the Toad was very happy.
The children watched him beside his dark little house. "Our friend, the Toad," they called him now.