On Frogmen And Toadies

We know, or we ought to know, that a frogman is not a hideous abomination of nature, a fusing in one being of frog and man, such as might come crawling out of the sea on to the shore at Innsmouth in a tale by H. P. Lovecraft. If that is what we were told, we were misled, possibly to frighten us. We have absolutely no need to be frightened of frogmen, unless, in the case of naval commando frogmen, we are the enemy, or, in the case of police frogmen, we are malefactors, ones who have perhaps tried to conceal the body of a murder victim in a deep lake. But generally speaking frogmen are to be admired and applauded. Even if we are standing on the shore at Innsmouth, and we see a frogman emerge from the sea, we should not shudder but clap. He will almost certainly have been engaged in some act of subaquatic heroism, such as affixing explosives to the underside of an enemy submarine. If we are lucky, even as we are clapping, we might see a plume of water rising in a tremendous burst from the sea, and hear a muffled bang. That will be the submarine exploding, a decisive blow against the enemy which brings us ever closer to the day of victory.

The frogman is not to be confused with the toadman. Just as some people have difficulty distinguishing a frog from a toad, so we will from time to time come across a person who thinks the frogman and the toadman are synonymous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed they are so different that the only reasonable explanation for such confusion is that we have been taken in by enemy propaganda. It is quite possible that the enemy submarine so heroically blown to smithereens by the frogman was carrying a cargo of teeming thousands of leaflets designed to muddle our heads with lies about frogmen and toadmen, and even about frogs and toads, so we have all the more reason to applaud the frogman who comes padding on to the shore at Innsmouth under cover of darkness, his heroic deed done.

Whereas the frogman is brave and admirable, the toadman is the opposite. So loathsome is the toadman that few of us can bear to utter his name, which is why it is usually shortened to ‘toady’. A toady is a servile parasite, a sycophant, a fawning flatterer. Standing on the shore at Innsmouth, clapping our hands at the frogman as he emerges from the sea upon completion of his heroic action against the enemy submarine, we run the risk of being taken for a toady. For this reason, we should not applaud him too long, nor overegg the pudding of our approbation. A brief flurry of clapping and a manly slap on his shoulder will suffice. Then we should turn away and return to the seafront hotel where we have taken a room, leaving the frogman to report to his superiors at a different seafront hotel which has been commandeered as operational headquarters for the duration of the war.

But not all admirers of our subaquatic commandos show such reserve and restraint. It is a sad fact that the very heroism displayed by frogmen attracts toadies. In Innsmouth alone, one study has shown that for every frogman billeted in the one seafront hotel, there is a corresponding toady renting a room in the other seafront hotel. These toadies are not only servile parasites, sycophants, and fawning flatterers, they are pestiferous and constitute a security risk. By tumbling out of their hotel every morning and thronging around the other hotel, the operational headquarters, which are meant to be top secret, with their cameras and autograph books and bouquets of posies, they draw undue and unwelcome attention to the frogmen. And heroic as they clearly are, it has to be admitted that some frogmen find themselves captivated by the attention of even the most loathsome and slimy of the toadies. They are happy to accept the bouquets, to scribble their autographs, and to pose for pictures, arms slung around the shoulders of the toadies, as if fast friends. Their superiors, hunched over maps in the converted ballroom of the seafront hotel, are too busy planning the next thrust against the enemy to distract themselves by bawling out the frogmen and urging them to shun the toadies. That is why we have taken a room in the other hotel, the one infested with toadies.

We had chanced upon an article in the Innsmouth Bugle in which one particularly heroic frogman, impervious to the fawning of the toadies, complained in the bitterest tones about their attentions. “We frogmen need no toadies,” he was reported as saying, “And they distract us from the important business of preparing ourselves, mind and body, fins and flippers, for the important work of affixing explosives to the underside of enemy submarines under cover of darkness.” Patriotic to a fault, we could not read those words without hurling our teacup across the room, smashing it upon the wainscot, and rushing at once out of the door to the railway station to catch the special train to Innsmouth, where, having identified which seafront hotel was which, we booked in to the one riddled with toadies.

Tonight, after our brief applause and manly slap on the shoulder of the frogman emerging from the sea, we return to the hotel. Clad all in black, and in stockinged feet, we pad from room to room, and in each room, silent and deadly, we smother the toadies with their pillows, one by one. This is our contribution to the war effort. And one by one, at dead of night, we drag the still-warm corpse of each toady to the charabanc we have hired and parked outside, and when all are aboard we put on our chauffeur’s cap and drive away from Innsmouth, through the dark, through the countryside, to a deep deep lake. We drag the bodies of the toadies one by one from the charabanc and weigh them down with stones and pebbles, and we toss them into the lake. And they sink, and are hidden, and will no longer fawn over our heroic frogmen.

Years pass before a new generation of frogmen, some the sons and nephews of the wartime frogmen, working, now in peacetime, for the police, dredge the lake. They are responding to persistent rumours put about by communists. The rumours, of course, are true, and one by one the police frogmen, no less heroic than their commando forebears, bring to the surface the skeletons of toady after toady. We read about their exploits, and see the photographs, in the Innsmouth Bugle, but we are far away from Innsmouth, and aged, and doddery, and nobody would ever guess what we did, in the war, in our own small way, to win victory.

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