The Toad in the Hole by Amy Walton
"When is she coming?"
"Are you glad?"
"No. Are you?"
"I don't care. I wonder how long she will
stay. I know Mother said a week, but I dare
say she'll ask her to stay longer as she did last
"Well, I know she'll be tiresome, and I shall
be glad when she goes away."
"I'm going to sleep now."
"Oh, Martha, how soon you always do go to
sleep! I'm not a bit sleepy yet."
A snore from the other little bed soon showed
Betty that further talk was hopeless. She
would have liked to chatter longer, but Martha
had a way of falling asleep at the most interesting
points, and Betty knew it would be
useless to try and rouse her now.
So she resigned herself to her own thoughts
with a sigh. Kitty was coming to-morrow!
Coming before Martha and she had had any
enjoyment of their country life together, for
the children had only just left London. Coming
to spoil all their plans and games with her
tiresome ways, just as she had done last year.
Of course she would insist on being first in
everything, on ruling everyone, and would be
as pushing and disagreeable as possible. It
was all very well to say that she was a visitor
and must do as she wished, but that did not
make it any the less provoking.
And then Martha took it all so quietly. It
was almost impossible to rouse her to be angry,
and that was annoying too in its way. "I
suppose," thought Betty, very sleepily now,
"that I ought to try to be patient too, but
sometimes I really can't." She fell asleep
here, and dreamed that Kitty was an immense
"daddy-long-legs" flapping and buzzing about
in her hair.
The next afternoon Kitty arrived, full of
excitement, and ready to be more than delighted
She was eleven years old, just Martha's age,
and Betty was two years younger. Fresh from
her life in London, where there always were
so many lessons to be learned and so little
"fun" of any kind, this beautiful country
home was a sort of paradise to her. To have
no one to scold her, no lessons to learn, no
tiresome straight walks with her governess, and
above all, to have two playfellows always ready
to join in pleasures and games! Kitty was an
only child, and her life was often dull for
want of companionship. Everything went on
very well at first, for there was so much to
do and see that there was no time for disputes.
True, Kitty commanded as much as
ever, and had a way of setting people to rights
which was distinctly trying; but she and Betty
did not come to any open disagreement until
she had been at Holmwood for nearly a week.
Nevertheless there had been many small occasions
on which Betty had felt fretted and
irritated; for Kitty, without the least intending
it, seemed often to choose just the wrong thing
to say and do.
And then she always wished to do exactly
the same as Martha and herself, and that was
For instance, all the children were very fond
of dear Miss Grey. But now it was always
Kitty who must sit next to her, Kitty who
rushed to supply her with roses to wear and
strawberries to eat, Kitty who kissed her repeatedly
at the most awkward moments. Martha
and Betty, who naturally felt that Miss Grey
was their own dear Miss Grey, could hardly get
near her at all, and Betty resented this very
much. In fact, she gradually got to dwell so
entirely on these annoyances that she could not
think of Kitty's good qualities at all, and was
quite unable to remember that she was generous
and affectionate, and that her faults, though
tiresome, were partly the result of a longing to
At last, the clouds having gathered, the storm
One morning, almost as soon as she got up,
Betty felt that every single thing Kitty did or
said was silly. It did not occur to her that
perhaps she was a little bit cross herself, which
was the real explanation.
After breakfast they all three went down to
the pond, and, dividing the water into shares,
began to fish for frogs and newts.
"In a minute," said Betty to herself as she
watched Kitty, "she'll say Martha and I have
the best places."
It happened just so.
"I say," said Kitty, throwing down her net
and coming close up to Betty, "I've got the
worst place of all, there's nothing to catch in
"You haven't tried long enough," said
"Let's change," was Kitty's next suggestion
as she stood looking eagerly over Betty's
"All right," said Betty moodily, and she went
round to the part of the pond Kitty had left,
where she almost immediately caught two tadpoles
and a newt.
"Look there!" she cried, holding up her net
"Oh!" screamed Kitty, "you are lucky. Do
let me try," and she rushed up to Betty's side
and seized hold of the net. But this was too
much. Betty let go of the handle and said
indignantly, "I shan't fish any more. You're
so unfair; you always are!" And she walked
away in a rage. "Kitty is more tiresome than
ever," she said to herself. "She spoils everything.
I wish she would go away!"
All that day she preserved an attitude of
dignified sulkiness in spite of Kitty's frequent
attempts to make it up. When she came and
threw her arm round her, Betty shook it off
That evening the three little girls were in
the woods with dear Miss Grey and baby Susie,
who was just three years old. Betty was walking
a little behind the others with her eyes fixed
on the ground. It was damp and mossy, and
there was a thick growth of ferns and underwood
at the side of the path. Suddenly she
saw something move quickly through this, and
disappear down a hole. She stopped and
moved aside the ferns and moss. What do
you think she saw sitting comfortably in the
hole and staring at her with its moist bright
A large speckled toad!
"Look, look, Miss Grey!" she cried, and
everyone gathered round to see what she had
found. Even Susie peered into the hole, and
poked a bit of fern gently at the toad, which
sat there gazing quietly at them.
"What a jolly little home he's made for himself!"
said Martha. "All soft and moist, and
just exactly to fit him."
"He can't see out much," said Betty as she
put back the moss gently over the top.
"I don't think he wants to," said Miss Grey.
"He is quite satisfied, like many other people
who live in holes."
The children ran on through the wood,
except Betty, who kept back and took hold of
Miss Grey's hand.
"What do you mean about living in holes?"
she asked presently.
"Well, you know, we all live in holes of one
kind or another. Some are rough and some
smooth, some fit us exactly, and some don't fit
us at all. Some are softly lined with all sorts
of comforts, and some are full of pricks and
troubles. And it is always very difficult to see
out of them."
"Why?" asked Betty.
"Because, like the toad's hole we saw just
now, our own lives are so near us and surround
us so closely, that it is only by making an
effort that we can get out of them and understand
other people's lives at all. The only
thing that can really make us do that is sympathy."
"What does that mean?"
"It is that which makes us able to put ourselves
in thought into other people's holes, and
feel what it is like to live there. When we do
that it makes us remember to be patient and
gentle with our friends and companions, for if
they live in uncomfortable holes it must be
difficult for them to be unselfish and amiable.
If we had their troubles and vexations we might
not be half so pleasant as they are."
Betty was silent.
"Do you think Martha's hole and mine is
nicer than Kitty's?" she said at last.
"Well, I think in some ways it may be. At
any rate you know Kitty has no sisters to play
with, and very little of this country life you
all enjoy so much. While her holiday lasts I
should try to make it as pleasant as possible
for her, if I were you."
"I do," said Betty, "generally. Only sometimes
she makes me feel so cross."
At this moment up rushed Kitty, and elbowed
Betty away from Miss Grey's side.
"You've had her long enough!" she shouted.
"It's my turn now!"
And Betty was thinking so much about the
toad in the hole, that she did not even frown.