952 THE TOAD
their necks with that. I get shivers in my bill, when I think of it ; the world can exist without men. We can do without them. Let us only keep frogs and rain-worms ! '
* That was a grand speech ! ' thought the little toad. * What a big man he is, and how high he sits, higher than I have ever seen any one before ! and how he can swim ! ' it exclaimed, when the stork with outspread wings flew through the air.
And the mother-stork spoke in the nest, and told about the land of Egypt, about the water of the Nile, and about all the splendid mud which was in foreign lands ; it sounded quite new and charming to the little toad.
* I must go to Egypt,' it said, ' if only the stork would take me with it ; or one of the young ones. I would do it a service in return on its wedding-day. Yes, I am sure I shall get to Egypt, for I am so lucky. All the longing and desire which I have is much better than having a jewel in one's head.'
And it just had the jewel; the eternal longing and desire, upwards, always upwards ! it shone within it, shone in gladness, and beamed with desire.
At that moment came the stork ; it had seen the toad in the grass, and he swooped down, and took hold of the little creature, not altogether gently. The bill pinched, the wind whistled; it was not pleasant, but upwards it went—up to Egypt, it knew; and so its eyes shone, as if a spark flew out of them. ' Quack ! ack ! '
The body was dead, the toad was killed. But the spark from his eyes, what became of it ?
The sunbeam took it, the sunbeam bore the jewel from the head of the toad. Whither ?
You must not ask the naturalist, rather ask the poet; he will tell it you as a story ; and the caterpillar is in it, and the stork-family is in it. Think ! the caterpillar is transformed, and becomes a lovely butterfly ! The stork-family flies over mountains and seas, to distant Africa, and yet finds the shortest way home again to Denmark, to the same place, the same roof ! Yes, it is really almost too like a fairy tale, and yet it is true ! You may quite well ask the naturalist about it; he must admit it, and you yourself know it too, for you have seen it.