Gateway to the Classics: A Child's Book of Stories by Penrhyn W. Coussens
A Child's Book of Stories by  Penrhyn W. Coussens

The Foolhardy Frogs and the Stork

T HERE was once a pond full of young frogs. These frogs peeped up out of the water, and made a great noise, each trying to cry louder than the rest. Why they did this, I don't know; but then, many children make a noise, too, and don't know why they do it. Only one old frog sat quite silent, moving his head and eyes anxiously, first on one side and then on the other. Suddenly he called out,—

"Silence! Duck your heads; the stork's coming!"

Then in a moment there was a dead silence, and all the round heads and goggle-eyes disappeared under the water. For, although they had not seen the stork until now, the old frog had often told them about him—how he was a terrible fellow, with long legs, long neck, and long beak; and how he could make a hideous clappering with the said beak, which he used, moreover, to drag out of the water all the frogs he could snap up, and whom he subsequently devoured. But the stork who came that day, and of whose arrival the old frog had warned his comrades, had already eaten as much as he wanted in some other pond; consequently, he walked gravely to and fro by the side of the water, without looking round to seek for a frog; and then, establishing himself by the shore, he drew up one leg, and bent down his head and beak, as it is the custom of storks to do when about to go to sleep. And, standing thus, he looked exactly like a bag of feathers on a long stick.

For a time there was perfect silence in the pond; but then the young frog-people began to find the time hang heavy on their paws, so they opened their eyes, which they had at first closed in great terror, and began to look round them. And one of them whispered to another,—

"Just look and see if the stork is still there."

"Yes," said the other, "there he stands."

"That's not the stork," cried two or three together; "for they say the stork has a long neck and a long beak."

But the old frog said, in a warning voice,—

"Don't wake the stork, for frogs he doth kill:

The danger that sleeps is a danger still."

Now, most of the frogs listened to these words of warning. But one of them, named Cax, a forward fellow, who liked to hear himself croak, exclaimed,—

"Nonsense! the old chap only wants to make us afraid, because he does not like to hear the sound of our voices. That thing by the water's edge looks much more like a scarecrow than a bird."

"It may frighten sparrows, but no valiant frog will be afraid of it," croaked another frog, whose name was Kix, and who liked to say and do whatever Cax said and did.

"Whoever has courage, follow me!" cried Cax. "We'll have a close look at the thing yonder, and, as sure as my name's Cax, I'll jump upon it!" The old frog raised his voice in these warning words,—

"Foolhardy frogs, foolhardy pack,

Listen to me! quack, quack! quack, quack!

Beware, beware! for danger is near,

And those must feel who will not hear!"

But those who would not hear were, in this case, Kix and Cax. Cax hopped away in advance, and Kix followed after him, till they came to the place where the stork stood. The affair now began to seem a little formidable to them, as generally happens to boasters when danger is near.

"After all," they thought, "it looks very much like the stork."

But they felt ashamed to turn back, so Cax said, "You jump first, Kix; you're the younger of us two."

"No," replied Kix; "you should jump first, for you're the elder of us two. I'm in no hurry."

"No more am I," said Cax.

And so, for a time, they both sat quite still.

The stork, meanwhile, was fast asleep, dreaming of the nest he had built the year before far away in Africa, and of the young he had brought up there, and of the wife who had helped him to feed and educate them. When Kix and Cax saw that he did not move at all, they began to take courage. Cax stuck up his head out of the water, and quacked at the stork in a low voice. Kix followed his comrade's example. The stork never moved. Now they began to quack in a louder tone, and at last to dabble about in the water, and to splash the stork with their legs. When the other frogs, who had been watching these proceedings at a distance, saw that the sport seemed a safe one, they came hopping up to take part in it; only the wary old frog remained behind.

At last the increasing noise woke up the stork, but as he was somewhat drowsy with sleep and with the meal he had lately made, he let the frogs cry out to their hearts' content for a time, and splash about just as they liked, for he thought, "Wait a little—I'll have you presently!" At last Cax said to the rest,—

"Look at me now! I'll jump upon the thing, as I told you I would."

And Kix added, "And so will I, as I told you I would."

But when they both jumped up at the stork, he suddenly thrust out his bill, with a snap to the left and a snap to the right, and in a twinkling Kix and Cax were eaten up and swallowed down. Then the stork turned round three times in the pond, clapped his beak, as a man might clap his hands, and said,—

"Klipp, clap! klipp, clap!

Fish and frog, snail and crab!

I hope you all will act like these,

That I may eat you at my ease."

Then the other frogs scampered away as fast as ever they could, and there was a great silence in the pond for a long time. The stork went to sleep again, seeing that nothing more seemed inclined to jump into his mouth; but the old frog repeated his warning to his young friends, and they all listened, with very grave faces indeed, while he sang,—

"Fool-hardy frogs, foolhardy pack,

Listen to me! quack, quack! quack, quack!

Beware, beware! for danger is near,

And those must feel who will not hear!"

And then, wishing to improve the terrible disaster which had just taken place, he added a new verse, which was considered by all the other frogs to be a masterpiece. It ran thus,—

"My dear young friends, my dear young friends,

You've seen, quack, quack! how boasting ends;

If one of you discretion lacks,

Let him think of the fate of Kix and Cax."

And the young frogs listened to these words of wisdom and were so thoroughly determined to profit by the sage advice they had received, that not one head poked up over the water during the whole evening, and early next morning the stork went away in disgust, wondering what had become of all the frogs in the pond. But the old frog, to the last day of his life, looked upon himself as the preserver of all the frogs in the pond, and was very proud when he thought what a beautiful talent it was to be able to make such verses as those he had recited to his friends.

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