The well was deep, and so the rope was long ; the windlass had barely room to turn, when one came to lift the bucket full of water over the edge of the well. The sun could never get down to reflect itself in the water, however clear it was ; but so far as it managed to shine down, green plants grew between the stones.
A family of the toad-race lived there. They were immigrants, who had really come down there head-foremost with the old mother-toad, who still lived. The green frogs, who swarm in the water, and had been there much earlier, acknowledged relationship and called them ' the well-guests '. These quite intended to remain there ; they lived very comfortably on the dry land, as they called the wet stones.
The mother-frog had once travelled, had been in the bucket when it went up, but the light became too strong for her, and she got a pain in her eyes ; luckily she got out of the bucket. She fell with a frightful splash into the water, and lay three days afterwards with a pain in her back. She could not tell very much about the world up above, but she knew, and they all knew, that the well was not the whole world. Mother Toad should have been able to tell one or two things, but she never answered when she was asked, and so one did not ask.
1 Thick and ugly, horrid and fat she is ! ' said the young green frogs. ' Her children will be just as ugly ! '
1 That may be so,' said Mother Toad, ' but one of them has a jewel in its head, or I have it myself ! '
And the green frogs heard, and they stared ; and as they didn't like it, they made faces, and went to the bottom. But the young toads stretched their hind legs with sheer pride; each of them believed that he had the jewel, and so they sat and kept their heads very still, but finally they asked what they were so proud of, and what a jewel really was.
' It is something so splendid and precious,' said Mother Toad, ' that I cannot describe it! it is something that