(An old nursery tale told from memory.)
ONCE there lived a widow, whose only child was a pretty girl named Peggy. Peggy loved to play by the water-side with her young companions, and one day a large frog hopped out of the water and sat gazing at her with a loving smile.
"What a queer frog!" cried Peggy.
"I am a queer frog," he remarked, to her surprise. "Go back, Miss Peggy, and tell your mother that I want to marry you."
Peggy ran to fetch her mother to see the talking frog. When the mother came, the frog dived down into the water and brought up in his mouth a rich gold chain and a jewelled ring.
"This will I give the mother, and much beside," he said, laying the chain at the mother's feet; "and this ring with many like it is for my bride, if Peggy will marry me."
"Say yes, Peggy," whispered the mother, who was a covetous woman. "Of course you can't marry a frog, but you may get the gold and jewels all the same."
Peggy burst out crying, but her mother nudged and poked her in the side till she said "yes," in a very sobbing voice.
The frog bowed politely, laid the gold chain and the ring at their feet, dived down, and immediately brought up gold cups and silver dishes, with many rare jewels set into them. Peggy's mother gasped for joy as he heaped all these riches on the grassy bank. She ran up to the house, and found a basket which would hold them. While she was gone, the frog said nothing, but stood looking at Peggy and sighing from time to time. Peggy sat under a tree, and cried and sobbed. At last the frog spoke:
"Don't forget your bridegroom, Miss Peggy. This day year I shall come to fetch you," and he hopped into the water with a splash.
Peggy's mother sold one of the cups for a large sum of money, and furnished their house all new. She bought gay clothes for herself and Peggy, and went to church quite regularly, since she had so much finery to show. Peggy forgot all about her promise to the frog, and the year passed by rapidly.
On the appointed day, however, the widow and Peggy were sitting at the table when they heard a knock at the door. They peeped out, and saw, to their dismay, the frog, dressed in a green and gold suit, and carrying a jewelled sword. Peggy gave a scream, and ran and hid in the cupboard, while the mother tripped to the door, and bade her strange guest good morning.
"I am sorry, but Peggy is from home to-day," she said.
"Oh! never mind. I will come in and wait awhile," answered the frog; and in he hopped cheerfully, and took a seat at the table. Peggy's mother was too angry to offer him food, but the frog helped himself and ate out of Peggy's plate. He stayed and he stayed, and all the time Peggy crouched in the cupboard, cramped and hungry. He stayed till night came; and at last poor Peggy, falling asleep, burst open the cupboard door, and tumbled out upon the floor.
The frog ran to pick her up, before her mother could get there.
"You are a little late, my dear," he said politely. "But I can see very well in the dark, so we may set out at once, for my palace in the pond."
In vain did the widow beg and plead. The frog would not give Peggy up, until the poor girl herself went down on her knees and implored him to let her off for another year. At length he promised to go, if she would be ready to marry him that day year. Peggy said "yes," and off went her suitor, after having laid a purse of gold in the widow's lap.
"It might have been worse, Peggy, so cheer up," said the woman, clapping the purse in her pocket. "A year is a long time, and perhaps he will forget you."
Vain hope! That day year, Peggy was spinning beside her mother, when the frog knocked at the door. This time, he was dressed in blue and silver, and his hat had a waving plume; but he looked more hideous than before.
Peggy gave a jump, and ran up the garret stairs, and thence out upon the roof of the cottage, where she clung to the chimney in despair. The mother opened the door, and said she was sorry Peggy was from home. The frog replied that he did not mind, but would wait for Miss Peggy to return.
He sat in Peggy's chair; and this time he would not eat, but only sighed and sighed. Presently it began to rain and hail, and thunder and lighten dreadfully; and poor Peggy on the roof was frightened out of her life. She crept into the chimney, and soon a great clap of thunder sent her flying down into the room where her frog-lover sat.
"You have an odd way of coming into the house, my dear," the frog said; "but I don't mind, if you are ready to go now. It rains hard, but I am used to water, and you must become so; so come along."
He offered her his arm, but Peggy cried and implored to be let off. She went down on her knees to him, and at last he went away, giving her another purse and another year of freedom.
Next year, the widow and Peggy barred and double-locked their doors. The frog appeared, dressed in white and gold, but it was of no use for him to knock and call. No answer came, and he went off sadly. Peggy and her mother rejoiced at getting rid of the persistent suitor, and sat down to supper merrily, without, however, unlocking their door.
Presently, they heard a noise, and looking out saw a great army of frogs coming up the hill, The frogs formed themselves into a column and, aiming for the window, jumped through the glass, and landed on the floor. They seized Peggy, and very gently carried her out of the door and down the hill. Peggy fainted, and knew nothing till they stopped on the edge of the pond. The widow came running down the hill just in time to see the frogs plunge into the water with her child.
Peggy sank—down, down—until she reached a beautiful grotto, where, on a throne of coral and shells, sat her frog-lover. He looked at her reproachfully, and said:
"If you had not three times deceived me, Peggy, I should not have carried you off in this way. Now that you are here, try to be resigned to me, and say that you will be my wife."
"Never, never," screamed Peggy; "you are so horrible to look at with your goggle eyes."
The goggle eyes filled with tears as Peggy spoke, and the frog shook his head mournfully.
"I see that it is of no use," he said sorrowfully, and ordered Peggy to be taken to a beautiful sea-garden, where she lived and amused herself for a long time, gradually forgetting all about her home on land. Every evening the frog came and talked to Peggy through a wall of white coral; and in time, she grew so fond of listening to his voice, that if he was a minute late she would cry for him to come.
Once when it was rather dark, the frog asked Peggy if she could bear to look at him again. Peggy said yes, and he appeared before her. Somehow he did not seem so ugly as before, and when, in a trembling voice, he invited her to sit upon his knee, she at once did so. Instantly his leg broke with a loud snap; and, as poor Peggy sprang to her feet in great remorse, she beheld, instead of her frog suitor, a beautiful young prince, holding out his arms to her!
The prince told her he had been bewitched by a frog godmother, who condemned him to remain in that horrid shape until a young girl could be found who would either consent to marry him or sit upon his knee. Peggy was very glad to have such an ending of her adventure. So they were married at once, and were then very happy. When they went back for a wedding visit to Peggy's mother, they found she had taken all the gold and silver and moved away to a distant country; and they never saw the wicked woman more.