| Among the Pond People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
|Presents the adventures of Mother Eel, the Playful Muskrat, the Snappy Snapping Turtle, and the other Pond People. These stories are full of humor, yet cleverly convey information about the frogs, minnows, and other pond residents and often suggest a moral in a delicate manner which no child could resist. Ages 5-7 |
THE TADPOLE WHO WANTED TO BE GROWN-UP
T was a bright, warm April day when the First Tadpole of
the season ate his way out of the jelly-covered egg in
which he had come to life. He was a very tiny, dark
brown fellow. It would be hard to tell just what he
did look like, for there is nothing in the world that
one Tadpole looks like unless it is another Tadpole.
He had a very small head with a busy little mouth
opening on the front side of it: just above each end
of this mouth was a shining black eye, and on the lower
side of his head was a very wiggly tail. Somewhere
between his head and the tip of this were his small
stomach and places for legs, but one could not see all
that in looking at
 him. It seemed as if what was not head was tail, and
what was not tail was head.
When the First Tadpole found himself free in the water,
he swam along by the great green floating jelly-mass of
Frogs' eggs, and pressed his face up close to first one
egg and then another. He saw other Tadpoles almost as
large as he, and they were wriggling inside their egg
homes. He couldn't talk to them through the
jelly-mass—he could only look at them, and they looked
greenish because he saw them through green jelly. They
were really dark brown, like him. He wanted them to
come out to play with him and he tried to show them
that it was more interesting where he was, so he opened
and shut his hard little jaws very fast and took big
Tadpole-mouthfuls of green jelly.
Perhaps it was seeing this, and perhaps it was because
the warm sunshine made them restless—but for some
reason the shut-in Tadpoles nibbled busily at the
 egg-covering and before long were in the water with
their brother. They all looked alike, and nobody
except that one particular Tadpole knew who had been
the first to hatch. He never forgot it, and indeed why
should he? If one has been the First Tadpole, he is
quite sure to remember the loneliness of it all his
Soon they dropped to the bottom of the pond and met
their neighbors. They were such little fellows that
nobody paid much attention to them. The older pond
people often seemed to forget that the Tadpoles heard
what they said, and cared too. The Minnows swam in and
out among them, and hit them with their fins, and
slapped them with their tails, and called them
"little-big-mouths," and the Tadpoles couldn't hit
back because they were so little. The Minnows
the Tadpoles, but they made fun of them, and even
the smallest Minnow would swim
 away if a Tadpole tried to play with him.
Then the Eels talked among themselves about them. "I
shall be glad," said one old Father Eel, "when these
youngsters hide their breathing-gills and go to the top
of the water."
"So shall I," exclaimed a Mother Eel. "They keep their
tails wiggling so that it hurts my eyes to look at
them. Why can't they lie still and be good?"
Now the Tadpoles looked at each other with their
shining black eyes. "What are our breathing-gills?"
they asked. "They must be these little things on the
sides of our heads."
"They are!" cried the First Tadpole. "The Biggest Frog
said so. But I don't see where we can hide them,
because they won't come off. And how could we ever
breathe water without them?"
"Hear the children talk," exclaimed the Green Brown
Frog, who had come
 down to look the Tadpoles over and decide which were
hers. "Why, you won't always want to breathe water.
Before long you will have to breathe air by swallowing
it, and then you cannot stay long under water. I must
go now. I am quite out of breath. Good-bye!"
Then the Tadpoles looked again at each other. "She
didn't tell us what to do with our breathing-gills," they
said. One of the Tadpoles who had hatched last, swam
up to the First Tadpole. "Your breathing-gills are not
so large as mine," she said.
"They surely are!" he exclaimed, for he felt very big
indeed, having been the first to hatch.
"Oh, but they are not!" cried all his friends. "They
don't stick out as they used to." And that was true,
for his breathing-gills were sinking into his head, and
they found that this was happening to all the older
 The next day they began going to the top to breathe
air, the oldest ones first, and so on until they were
all there. They thought it much pleasanter than the
bottom of the pond, but it was not so safe. There were
more dangers to be watched for here, and some of the
careless young Tadpoles never lived to be Frogs. It is
sad, yet it is always so.
Sometimes the Frogs came to see them, and once—once,
after the Tadpoles had gotten their hindlegs, the
Biggest Frog sat in the marsh near by and told them
stories of his Tadpolehood. He said that he was always
a very good little Tadpole, and always did as the Frogs
told him to do; and that he was such a promising little
fellow that every Mother Frog in the pond was sure that
he had been hatched from one of her eggs.
THE BIGGEST FROG TOLD THEM STORIES.
"And were you?" asked one Tadpole, who never listened
carefully, and so was always asking stupid questions.
 The Biggest Frog looked at him very sternly. "No,"
said he, "I was not. Each wanted me as her son, but I
never knew to which I belonged. I never knew! Still,"
he added, "it does not so much matter who a Frog's
mother is, if the Frog is truly great." Then he filled
the sacs on each side of his neck with air, and croaked
loudly. His sister afterward told the Tadpoles that he
was thinking of one of the forest people, the Ground
Hog, who was very proud because he could remember his
The Green Brown Frog came often to look at them and see
how they were growing. She was very fond of the First
Tadpole. "Why, you have your forelegs!" she exclaimed
one morning. "How you do grow!"
"What will I have next?" he asked, "more legs or
The Green Brown Frog smiled the while length of her
mouth, and that was a very
 broad smile indeed. "Look at me," she said. "What
change must come next to make you look like a Frog?"
"You haven't any tail," he said slowly. "Is that all
the difference between us Tadpoles and Frogs?"
"That is all the difference now," she answered, "but it
will take a long, long time for your tail to
disappear. It will happen with that quite as it did
with your breathing-gills. You will grow bigger and
bigger and bigger, and it will grow smaller and smaller
and smaller, until some day you will find yourself a
Frog." She shut her mouth to get her breath, because,
you know, Frogs can only breathe a little through their
skins, and then only when they are wet. Most of their
air they take in through their nose and swallow with
their mouths closed. That is why they cannot make long
speeches. When their mouths are open they cannot
After a while she spoke again. "It
 takes as many years to make a newly hatched Tadpole
into a fully grown Frog," she said, "as there are toes
on one of your hindfeet."
The First Tadpole did not know what a year was, but he
felt sure from the way in which she spoke that it was a
long, long time, and he was in a hurry to grow up. "I
want to be a Frog sooner!" he said, crossly,
"It isn't any
fun at all being a Tadpole." The Green Brown Frog
swam away, he was becoming so
The First Tadpole became crosser and crosser, and was
very unreasonable. He did not think of the pleasant
things which happened every day, but only of the trying
ones. He did not know that Frogs often wished
themselves Tadpoles again, and he sulked around in the
pondweed all day. Every time he looked at one of his
hind-feet it reminded him of what the Green Brown Frog
had said, and he even grew out of patience with his
 strong wiggly little tail of which he had been so
"Horrid old thing!" he said, giving it a jerk. "Won't
I be glad to get rid of you?" Then he thought of
something—foolish, vain little First Tadpole that he
was. He thought and he thought and he thought and he
thought, and when his playmates swam around him he
wouldn't chase them, and when they asked him what was
the matter, he just answered, "Oh nothing!" as
carelessly as could be.
The truth was that he wanted to be a Frog right away,
and he thought he knew how he could be.
He didn't want
to tell the other Tadpoles because he didn't want
any one else to become a Frog as soon as he. After a
while he swam off to see the Snapping Turtle. He was
very much afraid of the Snapping Turtle, and yet he
thought him the best one to see just now. "I came to
see if you would snap off my tail," said he.
 "Your what?" said the Snapping Turtle, in his most
"My tail," answered the First Tadpole, who had never
had a tail snapped off, and thought it could be easily
done. "I want to be a Frog to-day and not wait."
"Certainly," said the Snapping Turtle. "With pleasure!
No trouble at all! Anything else I can do for you?"
"No, thank you," said the First Tadpole, "only you
won't snap off too much, will you?"
"Not a bit," answered the Snapping Turtle, with a queer
look in his eyes. "And if any of your friends are in a
hurry to grow up, I shall be glad to help them." Then
he swam toward the First Tadpole and did as he had been
asked to do.
The next morning all the other Tadpoles crowded around
to look at the First Tadpole. "Why-ee!" they cried.
"Where is your tail?"
"I don't know," he answered, "but I
 think the Snapping Turtle could tell you."
"What is this?" asked the Green Brown Frog, swimming up
to them. "Did the Snapping Turtle try to catch you?
You poor little fellow! How did it happen?" She was
very fond of the First Tadpole, and had about decided
that he must be one of her sons.
"Well," he said slowly, for he didn't want the other
Tadpoles to do the same thing, "I met him last evening
"Snapped at you!" exclaimed the Green Brown Frog. "It
is lucky for you that he doesn't believe in eating
hearty suppers, that is all I have to say! But you are
a very foolish Tadpole not to keep out of his way, as
you have always been told you must."
Then the First Tadpole lost his temper. "I'm not
foolish, and I'm not a Tadpole," he said. "I asked
him to snap it off, and now I am a Frog!"
 "Oho!" said the voice of the Yellow Brown Frog behind
him. "You are a Frog, are you? Let's hear you croak
then. Come out on the bank and have a hopping match
"I—I don't croak yet," stammered the First Tadpole,
"a—and I don't care to hop."
"You are just a tailless Tadpole," said the Yellow
Brown Frog sternly. "Don't any more of you youngsters
try such a plan, or some of you will be Tadpole-less
tails and a good many of you won't be anything."
The old Snapping Turtle waited all morning for some
more Tadpoles who wanted to be made into Frogs, but
none came. The Biggest Frog croaked hoarsely when he
heard of it. "Tails! Tails! Tails! Tails! Tails!
Tails! Tails! Tails!" said he. "That youngster will
never be a strong Frog. Tadpoles must be tadpoles,
tails and all, for a long time,
 if they hope to ever be really fine Frogs like me."
And that is so, as any Frog will tell you.
The Green Brown Frog sighed as she crawled out on the
bank. "What a silly Tadpole," she said; "I'm glad he
isn't my child!"
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