Gateway to the Classics: Dwellers of the Marsh Realm by Archie P. McKishnie
 
Dwellers of the Marsh Realm by  Archie P. McKishnie

Goggle Eyes, the Bull Frog

M R. BULLFROG, seated on a green pond-lily pad, was practising a new song. So bright was the big moon above him that while he sang he could watch his reflection in the clear water, and glory in the way his white throat swelled out like a huge water-bubble every time he voiced a note. Mr. Bullfrog prided himself on being the best singer in Marsh Realm. True, not all his neighbours shared his opinion, but that didn't disturb him any. Miss Marsh-wren, for instance, who was something of a singer, claimed that his notes were too deep and gruff; but she had a soprano voice, and naturally she would harbor a little of that jealousy which one artist usually has for another. Mr. Bullfrog's was a deep, mellow, bass voice, so strong that on a still night it might be heard from one end of Marsh Realm to the other.

Tonight he sang with the very best of expression, because, having dined well on May-flies, he was full, and consequently, happy.

But Mrs. Muskrat, trying to hush her babies to sleep in the domelike house of dead grass and twigs which stood not far away from Mr. Bullfrog's concert-hall, was not happy. She was angry, angry with Mr. Bullfrog. Those babies, instead of closing their eyes and going to sleep as good little rat-children should, simply sprawled on their fat backs, kicked their four wee feet in the air and laughed till their little sides ached at old Bullfrog's funny song.

"Zizzizza-BOOM, tanga BOOM, BOOM, BOOM," sang Mr. Bullfrog, which meant, in the language of the wild folk of Marsh Realm, simply this:

"Old Missa Loon, he larfs at de moon,

But he's gwine ter wish he hadn't, soon,

Fer de man in de moon will wink his eye,

And dat loon will shorely have ter fly."

"Oh," howled the little muskrats, "isn't that the funniest song!" And they rolled about on their bed of cat-tail down and laughed harder than ever.

"Funny!" snorted Mammy Muskrat, untying her apron and snatching up her bonnet. "I'll show that old disturber of the peace how funny I think it is." And she flounced out of the house and over to where Mr. Bullfrog sat, proud and dignified, singing his evening song.


[Illustration]

Goggle-Eyes the Bullfrog and Mammy Muskrat

"See here, Goggle Eyes," said Mammy Muskrat, poking him in the fat side with her sharp nose, "what do you mean by howling like that and keeping decent folks awake?"

Mr. Bullfrog, who had just puffed out his throat to give another rolling "Zizzizza BOOM," turned slowly about on the lily pad.

"My dear Mammy Muskrat," he said politely, bowing and smoothing his white vest with his webbed forefoot, "is not this the time that all decent folk in Marsh Realm should be awake? Look at the moon. Why, Madam, it's a moon to love by, and hunt by, that. Then who would sleep when they can enjoy all this; and this—?" he added, taking a full breath and blowing up his throat.

"Stop!" commanded Mrs. Muskrat, sharply. "We've had enough of that song. I can't get my children to go to sleep at all. They just roll over and over and laugh at your foolishness."

"Foolishness!" repeated Mr. Bullfrog indignantly. "I don't sing foolish songs, I'd have you know. Mine are all classical songs. Now I'll just sing you one entitled, 'How the Marsh Grass Cut the Marsh Snake's Leg.' "

"Oh dear me," groaned Mrs. Muskrat, "you must surely know that snakes don't have legs?"

"I don't remember having said that they did, do you?" returned Mr. Bullfrog. "If I did, I—"

"But your song. You said it's about how the marsh grass cut a snake's leg, didn't you?"

"Oh, perhaps so. But you see that's very different," explained Goggle Eyes. "I didn't compose that song, you know."

"Well, whoever composed it must have been very silly," retorted Mrs. Muskrat. She was more than eager to keep Mr. Bullfrog conversing, because so long as he was talking, he couldn't sing. "Who wrote it, Goggle Eyes?" she asked.

"Why, I understand no body wrote it, exactly—" began Mr. Bullfrog, when Mrs. Muskrat gave him another sharp punch that made him gasp painfully.

"Do be sensible," she cried indignantly. "Somebody must have composed that song."

"No, Madam, I believe not," persisted Goggle Eyes.

"But if there is such a song," cried Mrs. Muskrat, "somebody—"

"That's just it," nodded Goggle Eyes, speaking as though to himself. "There isn't."

"What?" Mrs. Muskrat stood back and surveyed the bass singer askance. "You just told me there was such a song."

"Oh no, Ma'am, not I," denied Mr. Bullfrog. "What I said was, I would sing you a song by that title. That's a whole lot different, you must realize."

"But how could you hope to sing a song you have never heard?" she asked incredulously.

"It's quite simple," he bowed. "The thing to do is not attempt it."

"Well, I declare!" exclaimed Mrs. Muskrat, "if you aren't the most contradictory frog that ever croaked. One minute you say you'll sing me a certain song, and the next minute you say the simplest way to sing it is not to sing it."

"Did I really say that?" asked Mr. Bullfrog in surprise. "I'm sorry then, although you must know it's not my fault I say foolish things; it's the fault of the moon. I get confused when she's shining full in my eyes, the way she is to‑night."

"Why don't you turn your back on her, then?" asked Mrs. Muskrat.

"It wouldn't be gentlemanly to turn my back on a lady, that's why," said Goggle Eyes. "Now, just to show you that I'm a better singer than I am a conversationalist—"

"Dear me," sighed Mrs. Muskrat, "he's going to sing again. I must stop him long enough to get my children to sleep. "Goggle Eyes," she said aloud, poking Mr. Bullfrog again with her nose, "if I ask you a question I can't answer, I'll let you sing; and if you ask me one you can't answer, will you agree to keep still?"

Mr. Bullfrog deliberated. "Yes," he agreed at length. "That's fair enough. Now ask your question."

"All right, here it is: How does a fishworm dig a hole without piling around it the earth he digs up?"

Goggle Eyes pursed up his lips, closed one eye and thought, and thought.

"Well," he sighed, "maybe you can answer your question. I'm sure I can't."

"Why, it's because he digs from the bottom up," laughed Mrs. Muskrat.

"You don't say!" exclaimed Mr. Bullfrog. "But how does he get down there?" he cried.

"Oh," said Mrs. Muskrat, "that's your question, and you'll have to answer it yourself."

Plunk! Mr. Bullfrog had leaped from the lily pad into the clear water. Not until he had swum all the way across the pond did he poke up his head, and then it was to hear Mrs. Muskrat's voice crooning to her children:

"Hush, my little babies brown,

Go to sleep in the cat-tail down;

Old bullfrog has promised me,

Silent as a fish he'll be;

Old Man Turtle and old Swamp‑Coon

Will be hunting in the light of the moon—

Hush, my little babies brown,

Snuggle deep in your cat‑tail down."


[Illustration]


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