NOT LOST, BUT GONE BEFORE *
"WHERE do you suppose he went?" inquired the Dragon-fly Grub as he watched the Frog swim to the top of the pond and suddenly disappear.
"I don't know and I don't care," replied a saucy Minnow whose whole object in life was getting enough to eat and having a good time.
The poor little Grub looked crest-fallen. He had spent a great deal of time pondering on this subject and he could not understand why his companions were not equally curious.
"Why don't you ask him when he comes back?" suggested an elderly Eel who had been listening to the conversation.
Now in the pond world the Frog is a very important and dignified personage and the little Grub had never been able to muster up courage to speak to him. But today, he determined to be very brave. He waited patiently until splash there was a great disturbance and the Frog came swimming back.
"Mr. Frog, please, Mr. Frog," called the Grub, "there is something I must ask you."
The Frog stopped swimming and turned his great goggle eyes in the direction of the Grub. "Indeed," said he, "Proceed!"
"Mr. Frog, what is there beyond the world?" stammered the Grub, so scared he could scarcely speak.
"What world do you mean?" inquired the Frog.
"This world, of course our world," answered the Grub.
"This pond, you mean," sneered the Frog.
"I mean the place we live in, whatever you may choose to call it," cried the Grub. "I call it the world."
"Oh, do you?" rejoined the Frog. "Well, then, what do you call the place you don't live in, up there beyond your world, eh?"
"That's just what I'm asking you," retorted the Grub.
"Well, I'll tell you," said the Frog in his most pompous manner. "It's dry land."
"But what's dry land?"
The poor Frog was really nonplussed, for he did not know how to answer. So he said in a very condescending manner, "Of all the inquisitive creatures I ever met, you certainly are the most troublesome. Dry land is something like the mud at the bottom of this pond, only it isn't wet, because there isn't any water."
"No water!" interrupted the Grub. "Well, what is there then?"
"They call it air," said the Frog, "and if you've never been there, I can't make you understand what it's like. It's more like nothing than anything else."
The poor little Grub was more confused than ever and he looked so downcast that the Frog took pity on him and said, "You are a very silly fellow not to be satisfied with the experience of others. But as I rather admire your spirit, 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 let you see for yourself what it's like."
The Grub climbed joyfully on the Frog's back and the Frog swam gently upward till he reached the bulrushes by the water's side.
"Hold fast," cried the Frog as he clambered up on the bank and got upon the grass.
"Now, then, here we are!" exclaimed he. "What do you think of dry land?"
But no one spoke in reply.
"Halloo! gone?" he continued; "that's just what I was afraid of. Perhaps he'll climb up by himself. I'll wait here and see."
But the Grub, meanwhile? The moment he reached the surface of the water a terrible sensation had come over him and he reeled off the Frog's back, panting and struggling for life. It was several seconds before he recovered himself.
"Horrible," cried he when he got his wits together. "Beyond this world there is nothing but Death. Mr. Frog has deceived me."
He contented himself for the present therefore, with telling his friends what he had done, and where he had been. Now that he had really had a thrilling experience he found a great many eager to hear about it.
That evening, as the Grub was returning from a ramble among the water plants, he suddenly encountered his friend, the yellow Frog.
"You here!" cried the startled Grub, and was about to tell the Frog what he thought of him for deceiving him about the World Beyond when the Frog interrupted with, "Why didn't you sit fast as I told you?"
They would soon have had a serious quarrel if the Frog had not suggested that the Grub tell his story and show why he had been so clumsy as to fall off.
The story was soon told. "And, now," said the Grub in conclusion, "as it is certain there is nothing beyond this world but Death, all of your stories, about going there were not true. You evidently don't care to say where you do go. I will, therefore, bid you a very good evening."
"You will do no such thing till you have listened as patiently to my story as I have to yours," exclaimed the Frog.
Then the Frog told how he had waited for the Grub and "At last," he continued, "though I didn't see you, I saw a sight which will interest you more than any creature that lives. Up the stalk of one of those bulrushes, I saw a Grub just like you slowly climbing until he had left the water, and was clinging to the stem in the full glare of the sun. I must say I was surprised, knowing how fond you all are of the shady bottom of the pond. So I stayed and watched and then a very wonderful thing happened a rent seemed to come in your friend's body and gradually after much squirming and struggling there came out from it a glorious Dragon-fly. Oh, little Grub, you who have never seen the sunshine and who have lived here in the ugly mud of this dark pond can not imagine what a beautiful creature a Dragon-fly is. It has wonderful, gauzy wings and its body gives out rays of glittering blue and green. I watched it fly in great circles and then I plunged below to tell you the splendid news."
"It is a wonderful story," said the Grub "but" and, then, he began to wonder whether it could really be true and whether perhaps it might some day happen to him.
Weeks passed and the Grub often thought of what the Frog had told him. Finally one day he felt sick and weak and had an overwhelming desire to go upwards. The other grubs gathered around him and made him promise that if indeed the wonderful change should happen to him, he would return and tell them so. He promised and then slowly climbed up the bulrush stalk. A few of his friends and relatives went near the surface of the water hoping to see what happened but alas! their eyes were made to see only in the water, and as soon as the Grub reached the air, he was lost to their sight.
And then the wonderful change did take place. The Grub burst his shell and became a beautiful Dragon-fly. At last his hopes had come true.
Did he forget his promise to go back and tell his comrades? No, indeed, he did not forget, but when he tried to descend into the water he had the same sensation as before, when a Grub, he had tried to come out into the air. But although he could not go back to them, he often flew close to the surface of the pond, longing to be able to tell his comrades of the great joy that was in store for them.