THE LEAP-FROG by Hans Christian Andersen

leaping frog with orange feet, jumping from a green branch or leaf

A Flea, a Grasshopper, and a Leap-frog once wanted to see which could jump highest; and they invited the whole world, and everybody else besides who chose to come to see the festival. Three famous jumpers were they, as everyone would say, when they all met together in the room.

“I will give my daughter to him who jumps highest,” exclaimed the King; “for it is not so amusing where there is no prize to jump for.”

The Flea was the first to step forward. He had exquisite manners, and bowed to the company on all sides; for he had noble blood, and was, moreover, accustomed to the society of man alone; and that makes a great difference.

Then came the Grasshopper. He was considerably heavier, but he was well-mannered, and wore a green uniform, which he had by right of birth; he said, moreover, that he belonged to a very ancient Egyptian family, and that in the house where he then was, he was thought much of. The fact was, he had been just brought out of the fields, and put in a pasteboard house, three stories high, all made of court-cards, with the colored side inwards; and doors and windows cut out of the body of the Queen of Hearts. “I sing so well,” said he, “that sixteen native grasshoppers who have chirped from infancy, and yet got no house built of cards to live in, grew thinner than they were before for sheer vexation when they heard me.”

It was thus that the Flea and the Grasshopper gave an account of themselves, and thought they were quite good enough to marry a Princess.

The Leap-frog said nothing; but people gave it as their opinion, that he therefore thought the more; and when the housedog snuffed at him with his nose, he confessed the Leap-frog was of good family. The old councillor, who had had three orders given him to make him hold his tongue, asserted that the Leap-frog was a prophet; for that one could see on his back, if there would be a severe or mild winter, and that was what one could not see even on the back of the man who writes the almanac.

“I say nothing, it is true,” exclaimed the King; “but I have my own opinion, notwithstanding.”

Now the trial was to take place. The Flea jumped so high that nobody could see where he went to; so they all asserted he had not jumped at all; and that was dishonorable.

The Grasshopper jumped only half as high; but he leaped into the King’s face, who said that was ill-mannered.

The Leap-frog stood still for a long time lost in thought; it was believed at last he would not jump at all.

“I only hope he is not unwell,” said the house-dog; when, pop! he made a jump all on one side into the lap of the Princess, who was sitting on a little golden stool close by.

Hereupon the King said, “There is nothing above my daughter; therefore to bound up to her is the highest jump that can be made; but for this, one must possess understanding, and the Leap-frog has shown that he has understanding. He is brave and intellectual.”

And so he won the Princess.

“It’s all the same to me,” said the Flea. “She may have the old Leap-frog, for all I care. I jumped the highest; but in this world merit seldom meets its reward. A fine exterior is what people look at now-a-days.”

The Flea then went into foreign service, where, it is said, he was killed.

The Grasshopper sat without on a green bank, and reflected on worldly things; and he said too, “Yes, a fine exterior is everything—a fine exterior is what people care about.” And then he began chirping his peculiar melancholy song, from which we have taken this history; and which may, very possibly, be all untrue, although it does stand here printed in black and white.

[from Andersen's Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen]

PUSSY WILLOW’S FURS by Abbie Phillips Walker

flowers and ladybug

Miss Pussy Willow put on her furs one day in March and stepped out into the sunshine; but, while the sun was warm, March’s breath was cold, so she hugged her furs closer about her and sat on a swaying bough.

It was early and Miss Pussy knew it, but what cared she, dressed in her furs; she knew that her silver-gray dress was very much admired, and while she was modest she was not above caring for admiration.

Pussy Willow had no trouble until all the spring and summer flowers arrived in their gayly colored gowns and then, though she did not in the least envy them, she did not like to hear the scornful remarks about her furs, and sometimes she wished that under her fur coat she had a pretty colored gown.

“It is really too bad,” said one Red Flower. “Poor Pussy Willow! I do feel so sorry for her; she wears that fur coat all the year round.”

“You know why, my dear, do you not?” asked a tall Blue Flower growing near.

“I suppose she has no other,” said the Red Flower.

“I think it is because she has on an old dress,” answered tall Blue Flower; “she never takes off that fur coat, you notice, and, of course, these hot days she would if she had a new dress. Don’t you think I am right?”

“I should not wonder if you were,” was the reply, “but let us ask Mr. Poppy what he thinks.”

“Oh, what is the use of asking him. He is asleep half the time. I do believe he never sees our pretty frocks at all,” replied Blue Flower. “Let us ask Miss Thistle; she sees everything and she may have asked Miss Willow before this why she never takes off her coat; you know Thistle cares nothing for the feelings of others.”

Miss Thistle said she did not know, but that she would ask Miss Willow right away, “for why in the world she wears that fur coat all summer I cannot think. She really is the only one around here who does not give attention to her clothes. I think style means more than color,” said Miss Thistle, with a toss of her head.

“I can tell you what you wish to know,” said Lady Bug, alighting on a bush near the gossips.

“Oh, do, dear Lady Bug!” said Blue Flower. “You travel and know the styles. Now don’t you think blue is ever so much better style for summer than any other color?”

“Yes, I do travel,” replied Miss Lady Bug, without replying to Blue Flower’s question, “and I see the styles, as you said, and that is the reason I can tell you the truth about Pussy Willow. She is the only one among you who really is in style.”

“In style with that fur on!” said Thistle, all prickly with anger. “Why, where have you been, Lady Bug? Up to the North Pole?”

“No,” calmly replied Miss Lady Bug. “I have been everywhere that fashionable folks go, and everybody is wearing furs, no matter how hot the weather; and so I tell you again that the only one who is in style is Miss Pussy Willow with her silvery fur.”

Miss Pussy Willow did not let the flowers around her know that she heard what Lady Bug had said, but she felt very happy and no longer did she wish that under her fur she had a dainty colored gown.

She behaved in a modest manner and put on no airs, for did she not know that she was dressed in the latest fashion?

REVENGE OF THE FIREFLIES by Abbie Phillips Walker

goblin sitting on a water-lily

The Fireflies and the Goblins had always been good friends, just as they were with the Fairies, until one night when the Goblins held a frolic in the woods and did not invite the Fireflies to come.

It was a bright moonlight night, and the Goblins, who did not think much about anyone or anything if it did not in some way help them, knew they would not need the Fireflies’ lanterns, so they did not bother to send them an invitation.

When the moon was high up in the sky so it shone down on all the trees in the woods, making it almost like daylight, the Goblins came tumbling out of their rocks and began their frolic.

They tumbled and they played such antics in the moonlight that anyone who did not know who they were and had seen them would surely have thought them a lot of crazy little creatures.

Of course, the Fireflies came flying along, and when they saw what was going on they began asking one another if anyone had received an invitation.

“It is plain to be seen why they did not invite us,” said one old Firefly. “They did not need us because the moon is shining.”

“That shows us what their friendship is worth,” said another. “If they need our lights, they invite us; if not, we are forgotten.”

For a few minutes all the Fireflies flashed with anger and then the old Firefly said. “I think we can have revenge if all of you will do as I tell you, and if I am not much mistaken those Goblin fellows will remember us the next time they have a frolic, even if they do not need us.”

All the Fireflies wanted to know what the old Firefly had in his mind, but not a word would he tell them about his plan until they ran about and called together all the Fireflies for miles and miles around.

Of course, it did not take those sprightly little creatures long to fly miles and miles, and pretty soon in one corner of the woods were gathered together thousands of Fireflies.

“My plan is this,” said the old Firefly when they were all there, “the Goblins are to go sailing on the lily pads after the frolic and we will go around to all the rocks and alight on all of them, for that is where they live, and when they return from their sail they will think their homes are on fire.

“Shine as brightly as you can, every one of you, and don’t wink or blink, so the Goblins will not suspect us. They will have a good fright, if nothing else.”

Away went the Fireflies in groups of thousands, and pretty soon all the rocks in the woods were covered; but not until the Goblins returned from their moonlight sail did the Fireflies let their bright lights be seen.

The Goblins stopped every one when they reached the woods, for all the rocks were a blaze of light. “Oh, our homes!” they all cried; “someone has set them on fire. What shall we do?”

Hither and thither like little bees they flew, but it was no use; they could not enter their homes. They were all on fire.

“Where shall we sleep?” they began to ask one another, for they were all very tired after the frolic.

“We can crawl under the leaves,” said one Goblin, “but we dare not sleep, for if the fairies should find us, no knowing what they would do to us with their wands. We will have to stay awake all night, and in the morning if the fire is out we can crawl into our homes, for, of course, the rocks cannot burn.”

“No, but they can be very hot and burn us,” said another. “Oh dear, I wish we had not gone sailing; perhaps we could have saved our homes.”

So under the leaves they crawled, but not a wink of sleep did those Goblins dare take, and when it was ‘most daylight time the Fireflies put out their lights and silently flew away.

When the Goblins went to their rocks they were surprised to find them all cool and not at all hot as they had expected, and one of the Goblins, putting a pointed little finger on the side of his pointed nose said to the others: “I have a thought, and it is this: The Fireflies were not invited to our frolic and I wonder if they alighted on our rocks for revenge?”

“I wonder,” said the others; but they were all so sleepy they could not think, so in they tumbled and were soon fast asleep; but the next time they gave a frolic the very first thing they did was to invite all the Fireflies, and not one did they forget.

THE PEACOCK BUTTERFLIES by Abbie Phillips Walker

butterfly on a flower

Plain little Miss Butterfly sat on a bush one day, when along came Mr. Peacock, with his tail full spread.

“Oh-oh!” sighed little Miss Butterfly. “How handsome he is! If only I could have a dress like the colors of Mr. Peacock’s tail all the other butterflies in the world would envy me.

“But here am I, only a plain little creature, with no color to boast of, while all my cousins have gorgeously colored gowns. Oh, how I do wish he would give me two feathers from his tail that I might have them made into a gown!”

And then this plain little Butterfly, because she was so plain and had no beauty to speak about, began to think about handsome Mr. Peacock. “I wonder if he is vain?” she said out loud.

“Vain! Of course he is. There is no one in the world so vain as he,” said a Bee, who was sipping honey near by.

Miss Butterfly did not ask any questions, and Mr. Bee was too busy to say more. But when he flew away Miss Butterfly began to think, and the more she thought the stronger became her intention to fly over to the Peacock and speak to him.

Over she went, alighting on a flower near him.

“Mr. Peacock,” she said, “I wonder you never have wished to see yourself, you are so handsome.”

“I have,” replied Mr. Peacock; “often I have gazed into the pond and beheld my handsome self.”

“Oh, that is not at all what I mean,” said Miss Butterfly. “Suppose you were to see the very pattern of your beautiful tail flying all about you. Then you could look at your beauty as it really is.”

“I do not see at all what you mean,” said Mr. Peacock, who was not very quick at thinking.

“I mean if you would give me two tips from your beautiful tail I could have a handsomer gown than any other butterfly in the world,” said the little flatterer, “and besides that, you would no longer hear the yellow-and-black and those brown-and-black butterflies say that they were the handsomest creatures in the garden. I should outshine them all.”

Mr. Peacock stood up and strutted about, and all the time little Miss Butterfly flew close to him and flattered him.

“Oh, how jealous they would be if I had a dress like your beautiful tail, for there are no colors in the world so gorgeous, and they would call me the Peacock Butterfly! Think of that! You would have the most beautiful butterfly in the world named for you, Mr. Peacock!”

Mr. Peacock could not resist this flattery. He told her she could choose the two tips she best liked and have some one to pull them out.

It did not take Miss Butterfly a minute to fly to the tree near by where Mr. Woodpecker was at work and ask his help, for she knew he did not bother butterflies. His work was to find small insects.

Before the end of the summer the garden folk saw Miss Butterfly, but not plain little Butterfly now, for she wore the most gorgeous gown in the garden, of blue and black, and the next year all the other butterflies were jealous of the Peacock Butterflies, who wore the handsomest gowns in the world.

Mr. Peacock struts more than ever every time he sees one of the handsome creatures he helped to dress, but no one knows that it was due to the flattery of plain little Miss Butterfly that the family name was created.

DAME CRICKET by Abbie Phillips Walker

mother cricket and her children

“Come, children, it is time to get up,” said Dame Cricket to her ten little crickets.

“Hurry, now, and take your bath and put on your little black caps and your little brown suits. The sun has almost gone down over the hill and the birds will soon be asleep.”

But the little crickets snuggled under the bedclothes just as if they did not hear their mother’s words.

“Come, come,” she said, a few minutes later, “you will sleep all night if you don’t hurry. Some of our cousins are already singing, and it will soon be dark.”

“Oh dear! why do we have to get up?” said one little cricket, poking his head over the clothes. “Lots of bugs sleep all night.”

“Yes, but they are up all the daytime,” answered Dame Cricket, “and they run a great risk, I can assure you, my dear. Our family used to sing in the daytime, but if we had kept on there would be no cricket family. There is a reason for our sleeping days and singing at night.”

“Oh, mother, is it a story?” asked all the little crickets, jumping out of bed with a bound and gathering about their mother.

“Yes, there is a story about our family, and if you will all hurry and dress I will tell it to you,” she said.

Very quietly all the little crickets began to dress, and their mother began the story:

“Once, long, long ago,” she said, “our family sang in the daytime and slept at night; but one day the Great-grandfather Cricket noticed that our singing was not as loud as usual, so he called all the children, big and little, about him and looked at their throats.

“‘Strange, strange!’ he remarked. ‘You all have fine-looking throats, as fine as ever crickets had, and yet our singing is very faint; there is not as much volume to it as in the old days. I will call on Doctor Frog this very day, and see what he thinks about it.’

“Doctor Frog thought awhile and then he asked, ‘How many have you in your family, now, Mr. Cricket?’

“Great-grandfather called us all about him and began to count, and to his amazement he found our family was only about half the size it should be.

“‘Just as I thought,’ said Dr. Frog, ‘the voices are as good as ever, but there are not so many of you, and, of course, the singing is not so loud as it was once.

“‘Shall I tell you the reason for this?’ asked Dr. Frog.

“Great-grandfather said that was why he called on him, so Dr. Frog told him that the birds were eating our family, and if they kept it up we soon would be out of existence.

“‘Horrors! horrors!’ chirped Great-grandfather Cricket. ‘Whatever will we do to preserve the family?’

“‘Easy enough to do that,’ said Dr. Frog. ‘Sleep days and sing at night as our family do; little chance we would have if we came out and sang in the daytime.’

“So that is the reason we sleep days and sing nights, so the birds and chickens and bug-eating animals cannot catch us.

“Of course, sometimes they do get a cricket, but it is always one who has stayed out too late or gotten up too early, usually a very young cricket who thinks he knows more than his mother or father.

“But the good little crickets who mind and get up when they are called are pretty sure to live to a good old age.”

When Madam Cricket stopped talking all the little crickets stood looking at her with very curious expressions on their faces.

“We are good little crickets, aren’t we, mother?” they asked.

“Of course you are. Here you are all ready to go out and sing and the sun has just dropped behind the hill,” she said.

“Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp,” they sang as they scampered after their mother out into the night.