Part 4 out of 4
ADDRESS . . . BY TOAD
SYNOPSIS--Our Prison System--the Waterways of Old England--
Horse-dealing, and how to deal--Property, its rights and its duties--
Back to the Land--A Typical English Squire.
SONG . . . . BY TOAD. (Composed by himself.) OTHER COMPOSITIONS .
will be sung in the course of the evening by the . . . COMPOSER.
The idea pleased him mightily, and he worked very hard and got all the
letters finished by noon, at which hour it was reported to him that
there was a small and rather bedraggled weasel at the door, inquiring
timidly whether he could be of any service to the gentlemen. Toad
swaggered out and found it was one of the prisoners of the previous
evening, very respectful and anxious to please. He patted him on the
head, shoved the bundle of invitations into his paw, and told him to
cut along quick and deliver them as fast as he could, and if he liked
to come back again in the evening, perhaps there might be a shilling
for him, or, again, perhaps there mightn't; and the poor weasel seemed
really quite grateful, and hurried off eagerly to do his mission.
When the other animals came back to luncheon, very boisterous and
breezy after a morning on the river, the Mole, whose conscience had
been pricking him, looked doubtfully at Toad, expecting to find him
sulky or depressed. Instead, he was so uppish and inflated that the
Mole began to suspect something; while the Rat and the Badger
exchanged significant glances.
As soon as the meal was over, Toad thrust his paws deep into his
trouser-pockets, remarked casually, 'Well, look after yourselves, you
fellows! Ask for anything you want!' and was swaggering off in the
direction of the garden, where he wanted to think out an idea or two
for his coming speeches, when the Rat caught him by the arm.
Toad rather suspected what he was after, and did his best to get away;
but when the Badger took him firmly by the other arm he began to see
that the game was up. The two animals conducted him between them into
the small smoking-room that opened out of the entrance-hall, shut the
door, and put him into a chair. Then they both stood in front of him,
while Toad sat silent and regarded them with much suspicion and
'Now, look here, Toad,' said the Rat. 'It's about this Banquet, and
very sorry I am to have to speak to you like this. But we want you to
understand clearly, once and for all, that there are going to be no
speeches and no songs. Try and grasp the fact that on this occasion
we're not arguing with you; we're just telling you.'
Toad saw that he was trapped. They understood him, they saw through
him, they had got ahead of him. His pleasant dream was shattered.
'Mayn't I sing them just one LITTLE song?' he pleaded piteously.
'No, not ONE little song,' replied the Rat firmly, though his heart
bled as he noticed the trembling lip of the poor disappointed Toad.
'It's no good, Toady; you know well that your songs are all conceit
and boasting and vanity; and your speeches are all self-praise and--
and--well, and gross exaggeration and--and----'
'And gas,' put in the Badger, in his common way.
'It's for your own good, Toady,' went on the Rat. 'You know you MUST
turn over a new leaf sooner or later, and now seems a splendid time to
begin; a sort of turning-point in your career. Please don't think that
saying all this doesn't hurt me more than it hurts you.'
Toad remained a long while plunged in thought. At last he raised his
head, and the traces of strong emotion were visible on his features.
'You have conquered, my friends,' he said in broken accents. 'It was,
to be sure, but a small thing that I asked--merely leave to blossom
and expand for yet one more evening, to let myself go and hear the
tumultuous applause that always seems to me--somehow--to bring out my
best qualities. However, you are right, I know, and I am wrong.
Hence forth I will be a very different Toad. My friends, you shall
never have occasion to blush for me again. But, O dear, O dear, this
is a hard world!'
And, pressing his handkerchief to his face, he left the room, with
'Badger,' said the Rat, '_I_ feel like a brute; I wonder what YOU feel
'O, I know, I know,' said the Badger gloomily. 'But the thing had to
be done. This good fellow has got to live here, and hold his own, and
be respected. Would you have him a common laughing-stock, mocked and
jeered at by stoats and weasels?'
'Of course not,' said the Rat. 'And, talking of weasels, it's lucky
we came upon that little weasel, just as he was setting out with
Toad's invitations. I suspected something from what you told me, and
had a look at one or two; they were simply disgraceful. I confiscated
the lot, and the good Mole is now sitting in the blue boudoir, filling
up plain, simple invitation cards.'
* * * * *
At last the hour for the banquet began to draw near, and Toad, who on
leaving the others had retired to his bedroom, was still sitting
there, melancholy and thoughtful. His brow resting on his paw, he
pondered long and deeply. Gradually his countenance cleared, and he
began to smile long, slow smiles. Then he took to giggling in a shy,
self-conscious manner. At last he got up, locked the door, drew the
curtains across the windows, collected all the chairs in the room and
arranged them in a semicircle, and took up his position in front of
them, swelling visibly. Then he bowed, coughed twice, and, letting
himself go, with uplifted voice he sang, to the enraptured audience
that his imagination so clearly saw.
TOAD'S LAST LITTLE SONG!
The Toad--came--home! There was panic in the parlours and bowling in
the halls, There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the
stalls, When the Toad--came--home!
When the Toad--came--home! There was smashing in of window and
crashing in of door, There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on
the floor, When the Toad--came--home!
Bang! go the drums! The trumpeters are tooting and the soldiers are
saluting, And the cannon they are shooting and the motor-cars are
hooting, As the--Hero--comes!
Shout--Hoo-ray! And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very
loud, In honour of an animal of whom you're justly proud, For it's
He sang this very loud, with great unction and expression; and when he
had done, he sang it all over again.
Then he heaved a deep sigh; a long, long, long sigh.
Then he dipped his hairbrush in the water-jug, parted his hair in the
middle, and plastered it down very straight and sleek on each side of
his face; and, unlocking the door, went quietly down the stairs to
greet his guests, who he knew must be assembling in the drawing-room.
All the animals cheered when he entered, and crowded round to
congratulate him and say nice things about his courage, and his
cleverness, and his fighting qualities; but Toad only smiled faintly,
and murmured, 'Not at all!' Or, sometimes, for a change, 'On the
contrary!' Otter, who was standing on the hearthrug, describing to an
admiring circle of friends exactly how he would have managed things
had he been there, came forward with a shout, threw his arm round
Toad's neck, and tried to take him round the room in triumphal
progress; but Toad, in a mild way, was rather snubby to him, remarking
gently, as he disengaged himself, 'Badger's was the mastermind; the
Mole and the Water Rat bore the brunt of the fighting; I merely served
in the ranks and did little or nothing.' The animals were evidently
puzzled and taken aback by this unexpected attitude of his; and Toad
felt, as he moved from one guest to the other, making his modest
responses, that he was an object of absorbing interest to every one.
The Badger had ordered everything of the best, and the banquet was a
great success. There was much talking and laughter and chaff among
the animals, but through it all Toad, who of course was in the chair,
looked down his nose and murmured pleasant nothings to the animals on
either side of him. At intervals he stole a glance at the Badger and
the Rat, and always when he looked they were staring at each other
with their mouths open; and this gave him the greatest satisfaction.
Some of the younger and livelier animals, as the evening wore on, got
whispering to each other that things were not so amusing as they used
to be in the good old days; and there were some knockings on the table
and cries of 'Toad! Speech! Speech from Toad! Song! Mr. Toad's
song!' But Toad only shook his head gently, raised one paw in mild
protest, and, by pressing delicacies on his guests, by topical
small-talk, and by earnest inquiries after members of their families
not yet old enough to appear at social functions, managed to convey to
them that this dinner was being run on strictly conventional lines.
He was indeed an altered Toad!
* * * * *
After this climax, the four animals continued to lead their lives, so
rudely broken in upon by civil war, in great joy and contentment,
undisturbed by further risings or invasions. Toad, after due
consultation with his friends, selected a handsome gold chain and
locket set with pearls, which he dispatched to the gaoler's daughter
with a letter that even the Badger admitted to be modest, grateful,
and appreciative; and the engine-driver, in his turn, was properly
thanked and compensated for all his pains and trouble. Under severe
compulsion from the Badger, even the barge-woman was, with some
trouble, sought out and the value of her horse discreetly made good to
her; though Toad kicked terribly at this, holding himself to be an
instrument of Fate, sent to punish fat women with mottled arms who
couldn't tell a real gentleman when they saw one. The amount
involved, it was true, was not very burdensome, the gipsy's valuation
being admitted by local assessors to be approximately correct.
Sometimes, in the course of long summer evenings, the friends would
take a stroll together in the Wild Wood, now successfully tamed so far
as they were concerned; and it was pleasing to see how respectfully
they were greeted by the inhabitants, and how the mother-weasels would
bring their young ones to the mouths of their holes, and say,
pointing, 'Look, baby! There goes the great Mr. Toad! And that's the
gallant Water Rat, a terrible fighter, walking along o' him! And
yonder comes the famous Mr. Mole, of whom you so often have heard your
father tell!' But when their infants were fractious and quite beyond
control, they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn't hush
them and not fret them, the terrible grey Badger would up and get
them. This was a base libel on Badger, who, though he cared little
about Society, was rather fond of children; but it never failed to
have its full effect.