Tell Me About Toad Hall

Tell Me About Toad Hall

Writings about residential real estate and all things home, by Cynthia Cummins of Kindred SF Homes.

Reading time: 2 minutes 

One of my favorite read-again-and-again books is The Wind in the Willows. Written by Kenneth Grahame and published in 1908, it’s a children’s novel that recounts the adventures of a group of small animals living in the English countryside. Disney, of course, made a movie out of it (not recommended) and it’s been excerpted all over the place and illustrated by nearly 100 artists. I’m partial to the version with images by E. H. Shepard (who also illustrated Winnie the Pooh).

It’s loosely (and somewhat awkwardly) constructed, derived from bedtime stories the author told his son. Yet every vignette is full of sly humor and sincere sentiment. Grahame has a clever lot to say about friendship, compassion, tolerance and staying in the present. And – via the vainglorious character Mr. Toad – there’s a good chunk about real estate and bad decision-making.

I hope you’ll indulge me (and maybe even enjoy) the following real-estate-ish excerpt concerning Mr. Toad, owner of Toad Hall, an impressive riverfront estate. In this scene, Toad has gotten himself into trouble (by stealing a car) and into jail, where the gaoler’s daughter takes pity on him:

When the girl returned, some hours later, she carried a tray, with a cup of fragrant tea steaming on it; and a plate piled up with very hot buttered toast, cut thick, very brown on both sides, with the butter running through the holes in it in great golden drops, like honey from the honeycomb. The smell of that buttered toast simply talked to Toad, and with no uncertain voice; talked of warm kitchens, of breakfasts on bright frosty mornings, of cosy parlour firesides on winter evenings, when one's ramble was over and slippered feet were propped on the fender; of the purring of contented cats, and the twitter of sleepy canaries. Toad sat up on end once more, dried his eyes, sipped his tea and munched his toast, and soon began talking freely about himself, and the house he lived in, and his doings there, and how important he was, and what a lot his friends thought of him.

The gaoler's daughter saw that the topic was doing him as much good as the tea, as indeed it was, and encouraged him to go on.

'Tell me about Toad Hall,' said she. 'It sounds beautiful.'

'Toad Hall,' said the Toad proudly, 'is an eligible self-contained gentleman's residence very unique; dating in part from the fourteenth century, but replete with every modern convenience. Up-to-date sanitation. Five minutes from church, post-office, and golf-links, Suitable for——'

'Bless the animal,' said the girl, laughing, 'I don't want to TAKE it. Tell me something REAL about it. But first wait till I fetch you some more tea and toast.'

She tripped away, and presently returned with a fresh trayful; and Toad, pitching into the toast with avidity, his spirits quite restored to their usual level, told her about the boathouse, and the fish-pond, and the old walled kitchen-garden; and about the pig-styes, and the stables, and the pigeon-house, and the hen-house; and about the dairy, and the wash-house, and the china- cupboards, and the linen-presses (she liked that bit especially); and about the banqueting-hall, and the fun they had there when the other animals were gathered round the table and Toad was at his best, singing songs, telling stories, carrying on generally...When she said good night, having filled his water-jug and shaken up his straw for him, Toad was very much the same sanguine, self-satisfied animal that he had been of old. He sang a little song or two, of the sort he used to sing at his dinner-parties, curled himself up in the straw, and had an excellent night's rest and the pleasantest of dreams.

This holiday season, I hope you can make time to curl up in the proverbial straw, have an excellent night’s rest and dream the pleasantest of dreams!

Photo Credit: Carrie Le

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