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There is no doubt at all that when young Frank Willoughby brought out his book with him, and seated himself on the trunk of the old fallen tree, he meant to read it; but this intention had soon been abandoned, and, at the moment our tale commences, the book lay on the grass at his feet, and Frank was dreaming. He was not asleep, not a bit of it; his eyes were as wide open as yours or mine are at this moment; but there was a far-away look in them, and you could tell by the cloud that seemed to hang on his lowered brow that his thoughts were none of the pleasantest. He was not alone, at least not quite, for, not a yard away from his feet, there sat gazing up into his face—why, what do you think? A great toad! Do not start; men in solitude have taken up with stranger companions than this. And Frank was solitary, or at least he conceived himself to be so; and day after day he left his home on the borders of the great forest of Epping, and wandered down here into the depths of the wood, and seated himself idly on that log as we see him now. The toad had come to know him, and he to know the toad. He even brought crumbs for him, which the batrachian never failed to discuss, and seemed to enjoy. So the two took a kindly interest in each other’s welfare. On this particular forenoon the summer sun was very bright; it shimmered down through the trees like a shower of gold, it glittered on the grass-stems, it brightened the petals of the wild flowers, and burnished the backs of myriads of beetles, as they opened their cloaks and tried to fly in it. No wonder that on this glorious morning the birds sang in every tree, and that the happy hum of insect life was everywhere around.

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