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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 7 (December 1, 1930)

Living Bells of Scented Twilight

page 61

Living Bells of Scented Twilight

One of the smallest, most beautiful, interesting, and musical of Batra-chians (Toads and Frogs), is the bell-chiming toad of France; conspicuously evident during the month of July, the season of courtship. Nearer home, in Queensland, Australia, is a small frog—not toad—possessed of a similar bell note; a greenish creature frequently discovered during the day in most peculiar and seemingly inaccessible places, such as empty and almost closed tins, boxes and other such receptacles.

Let us make the acquaintance of the bell-toad of France, conjuring ourselves, as by means of the magic of Aladdin's lamp, to a garden in that land.

It is a calm and deliciously scented evening in July. The twilight fades as homing night swiftly approaches. Overhead, Cigale (Cicada) pours forth her delirious fantasy in the sheer joy of living; lower down, the green grasshoppers—hideous cannibals, ruthless vivisectors of Cigale, from whose quivering body they ravish her honey-bag, despising the other parts—are loudly stridulating. It is an orgy of sound; not entirely unmusical to the listening ear. Then, strangely through, punctuating the cicadean symphony, rings a pure, clear tinkle of bells—“clink, clank, clonk—clink, clank, clonk” chimes a fairy peal! The garden is flooded with melodiously tinkling joy-bells from the throats of a myriad miniature, invisible bell-ringers!

You proceed along a path, a tiny object rolls over and over, flutteringly, out of your way—a fallen leaf, perchance, caught in a wind eddy! You are wrong, it is one of these pretty bell-ringers, disturbed at his questing love promenade! The object disappears miraculously—a tuft of grass, a small stone; anywhere, nowhere—the bell silenced! Next moment the ringer has regained his lost composure, and is tintinnabulating lovechimes of discreet invitation to a hidden inamorata.

The mysterious living bells are all about you in their myriads, tinkling merrily, musically, incessantly! They are hidden amongst the flower-beds, crouched around the flower-pots, beneath the stones, indulging a matrimonial obligato! Each has an individual note of wondrous clarity—“clink, clank, clonk; clink, clank, clonk!” bells the invisible orchestra—a litany of jumbled chords at first, gradually acquiring a rhythm of musical symphony as the ear gets attuned to the harmony.

The matrimonial finale is peculiar, reversing the more general state of domesticity, turning it topsy-turvy! The father—not the mother—devotedly assumes family responsibilities and cares. Later he crawls forth—when the eggs deposited by the female are sufficiently matured—from his sequestered retreat, loaded with egg-clusters that completely cover his back and legs. Thus heavily laden, incapable of springing, he arduously toils his weary way to the nearest pond, whose warm, still waters are necessary to incubate his burden—posterity!

The journey is long and distressing, fraught with dire dangers; made during the daytime when many dreaded enemies are ever on the watch, ready to pounce upon him!

At last, wearied and lung congested, his goal is achieved—how he abhors the water—yet—! Like a flash he dives unhesitatingly into the pond—swiftly he disencumbers his body of its family burden by rubbing his legs carefully one against the other—his obligations to posterity are speedily fulfilled—the future will adjust and accomplish for itself—he issues from the pond—returns at full speed to his cool, damp and sheltered retreat!

Scarcely has he emerged, after his dive, than thousands of tiny tadpoles are hatched out, and swimming about contentedly; they only needed contact with the water to burst the imprisoning shells and emerge.

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