An adult toad buries himself in the mud by a dry pond, and gets coated with a hard solid coat of sun-baked clay. His nodule is broken open with a spade, and the toad himself is found inside, almost exactly filling the space within the cavity. He has only been there for a few months at the outside; but the clay is as hard as a stone, and to the bucolic mind looks as if it might have been there ever since the Deluge. Good blue lias clay, which dries as solid as limestone, would perform this trick to perfection; and the toad might easily be relegated accordingly to the secondary ages of geology. Observe, however, that the actual toads so found are not the geological toads we should naturally expect under such remarkable circumstances, but the common everyday toads of modern England. This shows a want of accurate scientific knowledge on the part of the toads which is truly lamentable. A toad who really wished to qualify himself for the post ought at least to avoid presenting himself before a critical eye in the foolish guise of an embodied anachronism. He reminds one of the Roman mother in a popular burlesque, who suspects her son of smoking, and vehemently declares that she smells tobacco, but, after a moment, recollects the historical proprieties, and mutters to herself, apologetically, ‘No, not tobacco; that’s not yet invented.’ A would-be silurian or triassic toad ought, in like manner, to remember that in the ages to whose honours he aspires his own amphibian kind was not yet developed. He ought rather to come out in the character of a ceratodus or a labyrinthodon.
Again, another adult toad crawls into the hollow of a tree, and there hibernates. The bark partially closes over the slit by which he entered, but leaves a little crack by which air can enter freely. The grubs in the bark and other insects supply him from time to time with a frugal repast. There is no good reason why, under such circumstances, a placid and contented toad might not manage to prolong his existence for several consecutive seasons.
Once more, the spawn of toads is very small, as regards the size of the individual eggs, compared with the size of the full-grown animal. Nothing would be easier than for a piece of spawn or a tiny tadpole to be washed into some hole in a mine or cave, where there was sufficient water for its developement, and where the trickling drops brought down minute objects of food, enough to keep up its simple existence. A toad brought up under such peculiar circumstances might pass almost its entire life in a state of torpidity, and yet might grow and thrive in its own sleepy vegetative fashion.