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An essay by Elizabeth Brightwen

Sancho The Toad

Title:     Sancho The Toad
Author: Elizabeth Brightwen [More Titles by Brightwen]

About four years ago I began to feed a toad that had found its way into the conservatory. He sat daily in one place expecting his meal-worms, and when he had snapped them up with his curious sticky tongue he would retire to some hidden nook and be invisible until the next day. Each winter he has hibernated as soon as cold weather began, and reappeared with the spring sunshine. Sancho is now a very portly, and most amusing pet.

Few people would guess how much character can be shown by even this poor, despised reptile when treated with real kindness, regularly fed, and never frightened or abused. I will describe what happens when Sancho is "shown to the public."

Some meal-worms are thrown on the pavement near him. He sits for a time gazing at them with his gold-rimmed eyes; then slowly creeps towards them, fixes his eyes on one of the worms bends his head a little towards it, then one hears a snap and the prey is taken. The act is so rapid that one can never see the tongue that has picked up the meal-worm--simply it is gone! The toad's eyes are tightly shut whilst he swallows the morsel, and then he turns to pick up a second. Now is the time to approach him from behind and begin to stroke his leathery, warty skin. In a few seconds he is in a state of perfect ecstasy, his front legs are stretched out, he leans first to one side, then to the other, to guide the hand where he wishes to be stroked, and at last uplifts his ponderous body until he is an inch or more from the ground, supported on the tips of his toes. No description can do justice to the absurdity of the attitude, and the rapture seems so intense that food is forgotten, and so long as Sancho can get any one to stroke him, he is quite oblivious to all around him, although at other times he will hop away as soon as any stranger approaches.

Sancho will not, as yet, take anything from my hand, but I hope to bring him to that state of tameness in course of time.

[The end]
Elizabeth Brightwen's essay: Sancho The Toad