The Story of a Frog, edited by Andrew Lang
Everyone knows what excitement the approach of the
shooting season causes to a certain class of people in
Paris. One is perpetually meeting some of them on their
way back from the canal where they have been ‘getting
their hands in’ by popping at larks and sparrows, dragging
a dog after them, and stopping each acquaintance to
ask: ‘Do you like quails and partridges?’ ‘Certainly.’
‘Ah, well, I’ll send you some about the second or third of
next month.’ ‘Many thanks.’ ‘By the way I hit five
sparrows out of eight shots just now. Not bad, was it?’
‘First rate indeed!’
Well, towards the end of August, 1830, one of these
sportsmen called at No. 109, in the Faubourg St.-Denis,
and on being told that Décamps was at home, climbed to
the fifth floor, dragging his dog up step by step, and
knocking his gun against every corner till he reached
the studio of that eminent painter. However, he only
found his brother Alexandre, one of those brilliant
and original persons whose inherent laziness alone
prevented his bringing his great natural gifts to
He was universally voted a very good fellow, for his
easy good nature made him ready to do or give whatever
anyone asked. It was not surprising, therefore, that the
new comer soon managed to persuade Alexandre that
nothing could be more delightful than to attend the
opening of the shooting season on the plains of St.-Denis,
where, according to general report, there were swarms of
quails, clouds of partridges, and troops of hares.
As a result of this visit, Alexandre Décamps ordered a
shooting coat from his tailor, a gun from the first gun-maker’s
in Paris, and a pair of gaiters from an equally
celebrated firm; all of which cost him 660 francs, not to
mention the price of his licence.
On August 31 Alexandre discovered that one important
item was still wanting to his outfit—a dog. He went at
once to a man who had supplied various models to his
brother Eugène’s well-known picture of ‘performing
dogs,’ and asked if he happened to have any sporting
The man declared he had the very thing, and going to
the kennel promptly whipped off the three-cornered hat
and little coat worn by a black and white mongrel whom
he hastened to present to his customer as a dog of the
purest breed. Alexandre hinted that it was not usual for
a pointer to have such sharp-pointed ears, but the dealer
replied that ‘Love’ was an English dog, and that it was
considered the very best form for English dogs to have
pointed ears. As this statement might be true, Alexandre
made no further objections, but paid for the dog and took
Love home with him.
At five o’clock next morning Alexandre was roused up
by his sporting friend, who, scolding him well for not
being ready earlier, hurried him off as fast as possible,
declaring the whole plain would be shot before they could
It was certainly a curious sight; not a swallow, not
even the meanest little sparrow, could rise without a
volley of shots after it, and everyone was anxiously on the
look-out for any and every sort of bird that could possibly
be called game.
Alexandre’s friend was soon bitten by the general
fever and threw himself energetically amidst the excited
crowd, whilst Alexandre strolled along more calmly,
dutifully followed by Love. Now everyone knows that
the first duty of any sporting dog is to scour the field and
not to count the nails in his master’s boots. This thought
naturally occurred to Alexandre, and he accordingly made
a sign to Love and said: ‘Seek!’
LOVE’S DISGRACEFUL BEHAVIOUR OUT SHOOTING
Love promptly stood up on his hind legs and began
‘Dear me,’ said Alexandre, as he lowered his gun and
contemplated his dog: ‘It appears that Love unites the
lighter accomplishments to his more serious education.
I seem to have made rather a good bargain.’ However,
having bought Love to point and not to dance, he waited
till the dance was over and repeated in firm tones:
Love stretched himself out at full length and appeared
to be dead.
Alexandre put his glass into his eye and inspected
Love. The intelligent creature was perfectly immovable;
not a hair on his body stirred, he might have been dead
for twenty-four hours.
‘This is all very pretty,’ said Alexandre, ‘but, my
friend, this is not the time for these jokes. We are here
to shoot—let us shoot. Come! get up.’
Love did not stir an inch.
‘Wait a bit,’ remarked Alexandre, as he picked up a
stick from the ground and took a step towards Love,
intending to stir him up with it: ‘Wait a bit.’ But no
sooner did Love see the stick in his master’s hand than
he sprang to his feet and eagerly watched his movements.
Alexandre thinking the dog was at last going to obey, held
the stick towards him, and for the third time ordered him
Love took a run and sprang gracefully over the stick.
Love could do three things to perfection—dance on
his hind legs, sham dead, and jump for the king!
Alexandre, however, who did not appreciate the third
accomplishment any more than he had done the two
others, broke the stick over Love’s back, which sent him
off howling to his master’s friend.
As fate would have it the friend fired at that very
moment, and an unfortunate lark fell right into Love’s
jaws. Love thankfully accepted this windfall, and made
but one mouthful of the lark. The infuriated sportsman
threw himself on the dog, and seizing him by the throat
to force open his jaws, thrust in his hand and drew out—three
tail feathers: the bird itself was not to be thought
Bestowing a vicious kick on the unhappy Love, he
turned on Alexandre, exclaiming: ‘Never again do you
catch me shooting with you. Your brute of a dog has
just devoured a superb quail. Ah! come here if you
dare, you rascal!’
Poor Love had not the least wish to go near him. He
ran as fast as he could to his master, a sure proof that he
preferred blows to kicks.
However, the lark seemed to have whetted Love’s
appetite: and perceiving creatures of apparently the same
kind rise now and then from the ground, he took to
scampering about in hopes of some second piece of good
Alexandre had some difficulty in keeping up with him,
for Love hunted his game after a fashion of his own, that
is to say with his head up and his tail down. This would
seem to prove that his sight was better than his scent,
but it was particularly objectionable to his master, for he
put up the birds before they were within reach, and then
ran barking after them. This went on nearly all day.
Towards five o’clock Alexandre had walked about
fifteen miles and Love at least fifty; the former was
exhausted with calling and the latter with barking, when,
all of a sudden Love began to point, so firmly and steadily
that he seemed changed to stone.
At this surprising sight Alexandre, forgetful of all his
fatigues and disappointments, hurried up, trembling lest
Love should break off before he could get within reach.
No fear; Love might have been glued to the spot. Alexandre
came up to him, noted the direction of his eyes
and saw that they were fixed on a tuft of grass, and that
under this grass there appeared to be some greyish object.
Thinking it must be a young bird which had strayed from
its covey, he laid down his gun, took his cap in his hand,
and cautiously creeping near, like a child about to catch
a butterfly, he flung the cap over the unknown object, put
in his hand and drew out—a frog!
Anyone else would have flung the frog away, but
Alexandre philosophically reflected that there must certainly
be some great future in store for this, the sole result
of his day’s sport; so he accordingly put the frog carefully
into his game bag and brought it home, where he
transferred it to an empty glass jam jar and poured the
contents of his water-bottle on its head.
THE SOLE RESULT OF HIS DAY’S SPORT
So much care and trouble for a frog may appear
excessive; but Alexandre knew what this particular frog
had cost him, and he treated it accordingly.
It had cost him 660 francs, without counting his
‘Ah, ah!’ cried Dr. Thierry as he entered the studio
next day, ‘so you’ve got a new inmate.’ And without
paying any attention to Tom’s friendly growls or to
Jacko’s engaging grimaces, he walked straight up to the
jar which contained Mademoiselle Camargo—as she had
already been named.
Mademoiselle Camargo, unaware that Thierry was not
only a learned doctor, but also a most intellectual and
delightful person, fell to swimming round and round her
jar as fast as she could go, which however did not prevent
her being seized by one of her hind legs.
MADEMOISELLE CAMARGO BECOMES A BAROMETER
‘Dear me,’ said Thierry, as he turned the little creature
about, ‘a specimen of the Rana temporaria. See,
there are the two black spots near the eyes which give it
the name. Now if you only had a few dozens of this
species, I should advise you to have a fricassée made of
their hind legs, to send for a couple of bottles of good
claret, and to ask me to dinner. But as you only happen
to have one, we will, with your leave, content ourselves
with making a barometer.
‘Now,’ said Thierry, opening a drawer, ‘let us attend
to the prisoner’s furniture.’ Saying which he took out
two cartridges, a gimlet, a penknife, two paint-brushes,
and four matches. Décamps watched him without in the
least understanding the object of all these preparations,
which the doctor was making with as much care as though
for some surgical operation.
First he emptied the powder out of the cartridges into
a tray and kept the bullets. Then he threw the brushes
and ties to Jacko and kept the handles.
‘What the deuce are you about?’ cried Décamps,
snatching his two best paint-brushes from Jacko. ‘Why
you’re ruining my establishment!’
‘I’m making a ladder,’ gravely replied Thierry.
And true enough, having bored holes in the bullets,
he fixed the brush handles into them so as to form the
sides of the ladder, using the matches to make the rungs.
Five minutes later the ladder was completed and placed
in the jar, where the weight of the bullets kept it firmly
No sooner did Mademoiselle Camargo find herself the
owner of this article of furniture than she prepared to test
it by climbing up to the top rung.
‘We shall have rain,’ said Thierry.
‘You don’t say so,’ replied Décamps, ‘and there’s my
brother who wanted to go out shooting again to-day.’
‘Mademoiselle Camargo does not advise his doing so,’
remarked the doctor.
‘My dear friend, I have been providing you with an
inexpensive but reliable barometer. Each time you see
Mademoiselle Camargo climb to the top of her ladder it’s
a sure sign of rain; when she remains at the bottom you
may count on fine weather, and if she goes up half-way,
don’t venture out without your umbrella; changeable,
‘Dear me, dear me,’ said Décamps.
During the next six months Mademoiselle Camargo
continued to foretell the weather with perfect and unerring
regularity. But for painful reasons into which we
need not inquire too closely, Mademoiselle’s useful career
soon closed, and she left a blank in the ménagerie.