Parthagica Directory 09

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Parthagica Directory 09

Frogs and other amphibians stand higher in the scale of life than fish; they have acquired legs in place of fins, and lungs instead of gills; they can hop about on shore with perfect freedom. Now, frogs still produce a great deal of spawn, as every one knows: but the eggs in each brood are numbered in their case by hundreds, or at most by a thousand or two, not by millions as with many fishes. The spawn hatches out as a rule in ponds, and we have all seen the little black tadpoles crowding the edges of the water in such innumerable masses that one would suppose the frogs to be developed from them must cover the length and breadth of England. Yet what becomes of them all? Hundreds are destroyed in the early tadpole stage--eaten up or starved, or crowded out for want of air and space and water: a few alone survive or develop four legs, and absorb their tails and hop on shore as tiny froglings. Even then the massacre of the innocents continues. Only a tithe of those which succeeded in quitting their native pond ever return to it full grown, to spawn in due time, and become the parents of further generations.

Often in former years the twitter of the birds glittering in the morning sun was the first sound that met my ear during the wakeful hours which frequently accompany illness after the worst crisis has passed, and you are recovering by degrees. The gutters ran beneath my bedroom windows, and I could see the steel-blue backs of the swallows as they sat on the rims of the gutter, twisting their little heads, opening their yellow-lined beaks, singing to their hearts' content. Whole families would perch there together, or the young would rest in rows of four or five, according to the nest-broods of each. How delightful to see them fed by their agile parents! how tantalizing to have them almost within reach of my hands, yet not to be able to catch them or give them a kiss, as they would cower in my hollow hands if I only could have got them in there!

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