Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE BIGGEST FROG AWAKENS
HE Biggest Frog stretched the four toes of his right
forefoot. Then he stretched the four toes of his left
forefoot. Next he stretched the five toes of his right
hindfoot. And last of all he stretched the four toes
of his left hindfoot. Then he stretched all seventeen
toes at once. He should have had eighteen toes to
stretch, like his friends and neighbors, but something
had happened to the eighteenth one a great many years
before. None of the pond people knew what had happened
to it, but something had, and when the Tadpoles
teased him to tell them what, he only stared at them
with his great eyes and said, "My children, that story
is too sad to tell."
 After the Biggest Frog had stretched all his toes, he
stretched his legs and twitched his lips. He poked his
head out of the mud a very, very little way, and saw a
Minnow swimming past. "Good day!" said he. "Is it
time to get up?"
"Time!" exclaimed the Minnow, looking at him with her
mouth open. "I should say it was. Why, the watercress
Now every one who lives in a pond knows that when the
watercress begins to grow, it is time for all the
winter sleepers to awaken. The Biggest Frog crawled
out of the mud and poked this way and that all around
the spot where he had spent the cold weather. "Wake
up!" he said. "Wake up! Wake up!" The water grew
dark and cloudy because he kicked up so much mud, but
when it began to clear again he saw the heads of his
friends peeping up everywhere out of that part of the
pond bottom. Seven of them had
 huddled close to him all winter. "Come out!" he cried.
"The spring is here, and it is no time for Frogs to be
"Asleep! No indeed!" exclaimed his sister, an elderly
and hard-working Frog, as she swam to the shore and
crawled out on it. She ate every bit of food that she
found on the way, for neither she nor any of the others
had taken a mouthful since the fall before.
The younger Frogs followed through the warmer shallow
water until they were partly out of it. There is
always a Biggest Frog in every pond. All the young
Frogs thought how fine it would be to become the
Biggest Frog of even a very small puddle, for then they
could tell the others what to do. Now they looked at
their leader and each said to himself, "Perhaps some
day I shall begin the concert."
The Biggest Frog found a comfortable place and sat
down. He toed in with his
 eight front toes, as well-bred frogs do, and all his
friends toed in with their eight front toes. He toed
out with his nine back toes, and all his friends toed
out with their ten back toes. One young Yellow Brown
Frog said, "How I wish I did not have that bothersome
fifth toe on my left hindfoot! It is so in the way!
Besides, there is such a style about having one's hind
feet different." He spoke just loud enough for the
Biggest Frog to hear. Any one would know from this
remark that he was young and foolish, for when people
are wise they know that the most beautiful feet and
ears and bodies are just the way that they were first
made to be.
Now the Biggest Frog swallowed a great deal of air,
filled the sacs on each side of his neck with it,
opened his big mouth, and sang croakily, "Frogs!
Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!"
And all the others sang, "Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!" as
long as he.
 The Gulls heard it, and the Muskrats heard it, and all
were happy because spring had come.
A beautiful young Green Brown Frog, who had never felt
grown-up until now, tried to sing with the others, but
she had not a strong voice, and was glad enough to stop
and visit with the Biggest Frog's Sister. "Don't you
wish we could sing as loudly as they can?" said she.
"No," answered the Biggest Frog's Sister. "I would
rather sit on the bank and think about my spring work.
Work first, you know, and pleasure afterward!"
"Oh!" said the Green Brown Frog. "Then you don't want
to sing until your work is done?"
"You may be very sure I don't want to sing then,"
answered the older Frog. "I am too tired. Besides,
after the eggs are laid, there is no reason for wanting
"Why not?" asked the Green Brown
 Frog. "I don't see what difference that makes."
"That," said the older Frog wisely, "is because you are
young and have never laid eggs. The great time for
singing is before the eggs are laid. There is some
singing afterward, but that is only because people
expect it of us, and not because we have the same wish
to sing." After she had said all this, which was a
great deal for a Frog to say at once, she shut her big
mouth and slid her eyelids over her eyes.
There was another question which the Green Brown Frog
wanted very much to ask, but she had good manners and
knew that it was impolite to speak to any Frog whose
eyes were not open. So she closed her own eyes and
tried to think what the answer would be. When she
opened them again, the Biggest Frog's Sister had hopped
away, and in her place sat the Yellow Brown Frog, the
 handsome young fellow who had found one of his toes in
the way. It quite startled her to find him sitting so
close to her and she couldn't think of anything to
say, so she just looked at him with her great beautiful
eyes and toed in a little more with her front feet.
That made him look at them and see how pretty they
were, although of course this was not the reason why
she had moved them.
The Yellow Brown Frog hopped a little nearer and sang
as loudly as he could, "Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!
Frogs! Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!" Then she knew that he
was singing just for her, and she was exceedingly
happy. She swallowed air very fast because she seemed
to be out of breath from thinking what she should
answer. She wanted to ask the Biggest Frog's Sister
what she should say if any one sang to her alone. She
knew that if she wanted to get away from him,
 all she had to do was to give a great jump and splash
into the water. She didn't want to go away, yet she
made believe that she did, for she hopped a little
farther from him.
He knew she was only pretending, though, for she
hadn't hopped more than the length of a grass-blade. So
he followed her and kept on singing. Because she knew
that she must say something, she just opened her mouth
and sang the first words that she could think of; and
what she sang was, "Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!
Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!" As it happened, this was exactly
what she should have sung, so he knew that she liked
him. They stayed together for a long, long time, and
he sang a great deal and very loudly, and she sang a
little and very softly.
After a while she remembered that she was now a fully
grown Frog and had spring work to do, and she said to
 "I really must lay some eggs. I am going into the
"Then I will go too," said he. And they gave two great
leaps and came down with two great splashes.
"THEN I WILL GO TO," SAID HE.
The Green Brown Frog laid eggs for four days, and the
Yellow Brown Frog stayed with her all that time and
took care of the eggs after she had laid them. They
were covered with a sort of green jelly which made them
stick to each other as they floated in little heaps on
the water. The Frogs thought that a good thing, for
then, when the Tadpoles hatched, each would have
One day, after the eggs were all laid and were growing
finely (for Frogs' eggs grow until the Tadpoles are
ready to eat their way out), the Green Brown Frog sat
alone on the bank of the pond and the Biggest Frog's
Sister came to her. She had a queer smile around the
cor-  ners of her mouth.
Frogs have excellent mouths for smiling, but it
takes a very broad smile to go way across, so when
they smile a little it is only at the corners.
"How are your eggs growing?" she asked.
"Oh," answered the Green Brown Frog sadly, "I can't
tell which ones they are."
"That's just like a young Frog," said the Biggest
Frog's Sister. "Is there any reason why you should
know which ones they are? It
isn't as though you were
a bird and had to keep them warm, or as though you were
a Mink and had to feed your children. The sun will
hatch them and they will feed themselves all they
"I think," said the Green Brown Frog, "that my eggs
were a little better than the rest."
"Yes," croaked the Biggest Frog's Sister, "every Frog
 "And I wanted to have my own Tadpoles to look after,"
sighed the Green Brown Frog.
"Why?" asked the Biggest Frog's Sister. "Can't you
take any comfort with a Tadpole unless you laid the egg
from which he was hatched? I never know one of my own
eggs a day after it is laid. There are such a lot
floating around that they are sure to get mixed. But I
just make the best of it."
"How?" asked the Green Brown Frog, looking a little
"Oh, I swim around and look at all the eggs, and
whenever I see any Tadpoles moving in them I think,
'Those may be mine!' As they are hatched I help any
one who needs it. Poor sort of Frog it would be who
couldn't like other people's Tadpoles!"
"I believe I'll do that way," said the Green Brown
frog. "And then," she added, "what a comfort it will
be if any
 of them are cross or rude, to think, 'I'm glad I don't
know that they are mine.' "
"Yes," said the Biggest Frog's Sister. "I often tell my
brother that I pity people who have to bring up their
own children. It is much pleasanter to let them grow
up as they do and then adopt the best ones. Do you
know, I have almost decided that you are my daughter?
My brother said this morning that he thought you looked