My Pet from the Clouds

by Grace Greenwood

How odd it was! Such a funny little event! I have often told the story to my one little chick, but it has always seemed to me too absurd to put into print; yet you see I have finally made up my mind to tell you all about it.

I was seven years old that summer,—seven, "going on" eight, as we country children used to say. It was the term during which I commenced the study of geography,—dear old Peter Parley's charming little book, which first formally introduced me to the great world we live in, or rather on, and first made me realize that it was round, and all that. It was on an afternoon in the early part of July, I am not sure, though, that it was n't in the latter part of June, that it happened,—the singular event I am going to tell you about. It had been dreadfully hot all day,—so hot that the very hillsides seemed to pant, like the sides of the poor cattle, in the parched pastures. I thought it extremely lucky that my geography lesson that day was in Greenland. I don't believe I could have been equal to a lesson in Mesopotamia. I remember saying to Bob Linn, at recess, that I wished I was a seal, riding on an iceberg; and he said he wished he was a white bear, climbing the North Pole and sliding down backwards. That was so like Bob Linn. He used to climb the lightning-rod of the meeting-house, and ring the bell at very improper hours, till Deacon Jones tarred it,—the rod, not the bell. I wonder where he is now,—Bob, not the Deacon. He was the first schoolmate to whom I told what had happened that July, or June afternoon. As I think I have said, it was a very hot day; but, just before school was dismissed, there came up a refreshing thunder-shower. How we revived, in the cool, moist air, like the poor wilted field-flowers! The shrunken stream in the glen grew, and took heart, and went tumbling down the rocks, in its old, headlong spring-fashion. The cattle stopped panting and whisking off flies, and stood dripping and chewing, while a smile of brightening greenness ran over the faded face of the pasture.

I had a half-mile walk home. One of the girls who lived nearer the school-house invited me to stay all night with her; but I thought that I, who was old enough to study about oceans, avalanches, earthquakes, and volcanoes, ought not to be afraid of such rain, thunder, and lightning as we had in our free, enlightened, and Christian country. So I thanked her "no," which was very well; for, if I had stayed, that wouldn't have happened that did happen,—or, at least, I would n't have seen it. Well, I set out for home, bravely breasting the wind, and really enjoying the rain, in spite of my new sun-bonnet getting every minute more limp and flappy. I remember wondering if it was raining at that very time in China, right under my feet. If so, study on it as I would, I could n't make it seem any other way than that it rained upwards there. I was thinking of such things, and not expecting anything particular to happen, till I got in sight of home, past the old Phillips place, where it did happen. It was here I first noticed over my head the blackest of black clouds, big with barrels of rain. I started into a run, to get out of the way, when—now it is coming, what I was going to relate! No, I must first tell you that there was near me then no house, nor tree, nor even bush, that it could have dropped or jumped off from. Now it really is coming! Well, right down before my eyes, straight out of that cloud, fell—a little frog!! There, it is out! I like to take people by surprise, and not, like some story-tellers, drag my listeners all "round Robin Hood's barn" before I get at a thing.

I stood stock still for a moment, in wonder and astonishment. Then, half afraid, I picked the little creature up out of the sand. He was of a greenish-brown, brightening to gold in the sun. His limbs were extremely delicate, and his eyes were as bright as diamonds. I carried him gently home, and ran with him in the greatest excitement to my mother, exclaiming, "O mamma! do look at this lovely little frog! It is n't human! It came right down to me out of the sky. I do believe it is an angel-frog!"

My mother laughed, but, on being told the story of Froggy's descent from the clouds, said it was a great marvel and mystery where he came from, and how he got there. Glad of a chance to display my learning, I said, "Why, mamma, you know the stars are round balls, like our earth, swinging in the air; and may be he was whirled off one of them, or maybe he jumped off the horn of the moon last night, and has been travelling ever since. Poor little fellow! how tired he must be!"

When my father came in, he gave it as his opinion that the frog had been carried up by a waterspout, from a lake about twenty miles distant, kept up and borne along by currents of air. At all events, he was a hero and an adventurer, and I resolved to keep him as a curiosity. So I put him in a large rain-water trough, at the back of the house, where he lived in apparent content, the monarch of all he surveyed. During dry times, I kept him well supplied with fresh water from the well, and I frequently threw in broad dock-leaves, for him to take shelter under from the heat. He soon grew to know me, and would actually come at my call from the farthest end of the trough. He was very shy of others, and I was not sorry, for I wanted all his affection, and was proud of his discernment. This was thought so singular that I was often sent out with visitors, to show off my pet. I don't believe that the keeper of the hippopotamus can be prouder of his mud-loving monster than I was of my lively little friend.

My brother Will built for him a neat little ship, on which he sailed about, being captain, crew, cabin-boy, and all. One morning, while I was playing with him, he hopped down the hatchway. I shut him into the little cabin, and was careless enough to forget to let him out before going to school. When I came home, I found him lying on the cabin floor, still and lifeless! He had been suffocated in the close, hot air. I am not ashamed to own that I cried heartily over the poor limp little body. I wrapped it tenderly in a plantain-leaf, and laid it beside my last lost kitty.

In the evening, when I told my father of my loss, he by no means made light of it, knowing my pet was no common frog.

"Poor fellow!" he said, "it was as bad for him as the 'Black Hole of Calcutta.'" I did n't know what that meant then; I know now, but haven't time to tell you. Besides it is n't a pleasant story. Then papa added, "Perhaps, after all, it is only a case of suspended animation. Your little frog may have only been in a swoon. If you open his grave in the morning, you may find that he has come to."

That was a pleasant hope to go to bed on, and you may believe I rose bright and early in the morning, to run with my shingle-spade to the cemetery of all my dead pets. With an anxious heart, I removed the earth, and unfolded the plantain-leaf. Sure enough, there was my pet, "alive and kicking!" He hopped out on to a full-blown dandelion, and looked about him as pert and knowing as ever. I caught him up, and ran with him into the house, crying, "Froggy is resurrected!—Froggy is resurrected!"

After this, nothing especial happened to him for some months. He grew in intelligence and lively graces, but not in size, remaining precisely the same pretty, tiny creature as at the first. This fairy-like, unchangeable youthfulness, and his little, piping note, "most musical, most melancholy," made me still half believe that he was a frog of another and a higher race than ours,—star-born, or a native of cloud-land. After the frosty nights of November, I used to remove the thin ice from his tank, so that he could swim freely, and he did not seem to suffer much from the rigors of the season. But, on the first morning in December, I found to my grief that the shallow water in the trough was frozen solid, and—Froggy with it! I could see him tightly imprisoned in the clear ice, about midway from the surface. His limbs were extended, showing that he had bravely kicked against his hard fate to the last. I gave him up, then, and went into the house disconsolate. But my mother was still hopeful. Under her directions I heated the kitchen shovel, and with it thawed out a block of ice some inches square, with Froggy in the centre. This I placed on the hearth before the fire. You see I did not dare to break the ice, for fear of breaking with it the frozen limbs of my pet. I watched the melting of the block with affectionate interest. It was slow work, but it came to an end at last, and Froggy was free. Still, for a time he lay motionless, and I feared he was dead. Then, one limb twitched, then another, and then he was alive all over, and began to hop away from the fire. I rejoiced over him with great joy, put him in a tub of water, with a piece of bark to sail on, and began laying plans for keeping him in-doors all winter. But my mother said it was impossible,—that there was but one way to save the life of my pet, and that was to take him down to the millstream and fling him in. There the water was deep, and the frogs lived under the ice, cosey and comfortable all winter.

"O mamma," I said, "I can't make up my mind to do that. He would miss me so, and I don't believe that the other frogs would treat him well. He is n't of their kind, you know."

"I think it more likely," she answered, "that they will have sense enough to perceive his superiority, and will treat him accordingly,—perhaps make a Prince or President of him. He will come among them as a distinguished stranger,—a travelled adventurer."

This consoled and determined me. I put on my cloak and hood, and set out at once, for fear I should lose courage. I ran all the way, talking to my funny little pet, and saying, I doubt not, many silly things, but which, I am sure, went no further.

When I came to the bank of the stream, I thought perhaps he would hop in of his own accord. I bade him farewell, and held him out over the water. But I suppose it looked big and dreary to him, for he did not stir. I even fancied that he looked at me reproachfully for thinking that he would be so willing to leave me. I was obliged to give him a toss, and the next instant he disappeared forever under the dark, wintry waters, among the reeds and rushes.

So now you know all I know about My Pet from the Clouds.