Written by Mrs. Alfred Gatty
“I wonder what becomes of the Frog when he climbs up out of this world, and disappears so that we do not see even his shadow; till, plop! he is among us again. Does anybody know where he goes to?”
Thus chattered the grub of a Dragonfly as he darted about with his companions in and out among the plants at the bottom of a beautiful pond in the centre of a wood.
“Who cares what the Frog does?” answered one who overheard the Grub’s question, “what is it to us?”
“Look out for food for yourself and let the other people’s business alone,” cried another. “But I would like to know,” said the grub. “I can see all of you when you pass by me among the plants in the water here, and when I don’t see you any longer I wonder where you have gone. I followed the Frog just now as he went upwards, and all at once he went to the side of the water, then he began to disappear and presently he was gone. Did he leave this world? And where did he go?”
“You silly fellow,” cried another. “See what a good bite you have missed with your wonderings about nothing.” So saying he seized an insect which was flitting right in front of the Grub.
Suddenly there was a heavy splash in the water and a large yellow Frog swam down to the bottom among the grubs.
“Ask the Frog himself,” suggested a minnow as he darted by overhead.
Such a chance of satisfying himself was not to be lost, and after taking two or three turns round the roots of a water-lily, the grub gathered up his courage and, approaching the Frog, asked, “Is it permitted to a very unhappy creature to speak?”
The Frog turned his gold edged eyes upon him in surprise and answered, “Very unhappy creatures had better be silent. I never talk but when I’m happy.”
“But I shall be happy if I may talk,” said the Grub.
“Talk away then,” said the Frog.
“But it is something I want to ask you.”
“Ask away,” exclaimed the Frog.
“What is there beyond the world?” inquired the Grub in a very quiet way.
“What world do you mean—this pond?” asked the Frog, rolling his goggle eyes round and round.
“I mean the place we live in whatever way you may choose to call it. I call it the world,” said the Grub.
“Do you, sharp little fellow? Then what is the place you don’t live in?”
“That’s just what I want you to tell me,” replied the little Grub.
“Oh, indeed, little one. I shall tell you, then. It is dry land.”
“Can one swim about there?” inquired the Grub.
“I should think not,” chuckled the Frog.
“Dry land is not water. That is just what it is not. Dry land is something like the sludge at the bottom of this pond, only it is not wet because there’s no water.”
“Really! What is there then?”
“That’s the difficulty,” exclaimed Froggy.
“There is something, of course, they call it air, but how to explain it I don’t know. Now just take my advice and ask no more silly questions. I tell you the thing is not worth your troubling yourself about. But I admire your spirit,” continued the Frog. “I will make you an offer. If you choose to take a seat on my back I will carry you up to dry land and you can judge for yourself what is there and how you like it.”
“I accept with gratitude, honoured Frog,” said the little Grub.
“Drop yourself down on my back, then, and cling to me as well as you can. Come now, hold fast.”
The little Grub obeyed and the Frog, swimming gently upwards, soon reached the bulrushes by the water’s side.
“Hold fast,” repeated the Frog, and then, raising his head out of the pond, he clambered up the bank and got upon the grass.
“Now, then, here we are,” exclaimed the Frog. “What do you think of dry land?”
But no one answered.
“Hello! Gone? That’s just what I was afraid of. He has floated off my back, silly fellow. But perhaps he has made his way to the water’s edge here after all, and then I can help him out. I’ll wait about and see.”
And away went Froggy with a leap along the grass by the edge of the pond glancing every now and then among the bulrushes to see if he could spy his little friend, the dragonfly grub.
But what had become of the little grub? He had really clung to the Frog’s back with all his might; but the moment the mask of his face began to issue from the water, a shock seemed to strike his frame and he reeled from his resting place back into the pond panting and struggling for life.
“Terrible,” he cried as soon as he came to himself. “The Frog has deceived me. He cannot go there, at any rate.” And with these words, the little Grub moved away to his old companions to talk over with them what he had done and where he had been.
“It was terrible, terrible. But the sun is beginning to set and I must take a turn around the pond in search for food.” And away went the little dragon fly grub for a ramble among the water plants.
On his return who should he see sitting calmly on a stone at the bottom of the pond but his friend the yellow Frog.
“You here!” cried the startled Grub. “You never left this world at all then. How you deceived me, Frog!”
“Clumsy fellow,” replied the Frog. “Why did you not sit fast as I told you?”
The little Grub soon told his story while the Frog sat staring at him in silence out of his great goggley eyes.
“And now,” said the Grub, “since there is nothing beyond this world, all your stories of going there must be mere inventions. As I have no wish to be fooled by any more of your tales, I will bid you a very good evening.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” said the Frog, “until you have heard my story.”
“As you wish,” answered the Grub.
Then the Frog told him how he had lingered by the edge of the pond in hope of seeing the little Grub again, how he had hopped about in the grass, how he had peeked among the bulrushes.
“And at last,” he continued, “though I did not see you yourself, I saw a sight which has more interest for you than for any other creature that lives,” and then the Frog stopped speaking.
“What was it?” asked the inquisitive little Grub.
“Up the polished green stalk of one of those bulrushes I saw a little dragon-fly grub slowly and gradually climb till he had left the water behind him. As I continued to look, I noticed that a small hole seemed to come in your friend’s body. I cannot tell you in what way the thing happened, but after many struggles, there came from it one of those beautiful creatures who float through the air and dazzle the eyes of all who catch glimpses of them as they pass—a glorious Dragon-fly!
“As if just waking from a dream he lifted his wings out of the covering. Though shrivelled and damp at first they stretched and expanded in the sunshine till they glistened as if with fire. I saw the beautiful creature at last hold himself for a second or two in the air before he took flight. I saw the four gauzy wings flash back the sunshine that was poured on them. I heard the clash with which they struck the air and I saw his body give out rays of glittering blue and green as he darted along and away over the water in circles that seemed to know no end. Then I plunged below to find you out and tell you the good news.”
“It’s a wonderful story,” said the little Grub.
“A wonderful story, indeed,” repeated the Frog.
“And you really think, then, that the glorious creature you saw was once a—”
“Silence,” cried the Frog. “All your questions have been answered. It is getting dark here in your world. I must return to my grassy home on dry land. Go to rest, little fellow, and awake in hopes.”
The Frog swam close to the bank and clambered up its side while the little Grub returned to his companions to wait and hope.