We begin in New Hampshire, in 1916, as an elderly woman and her friend are fondly examining the antics of a member of the family Bufonidae, which is hopping in a somewhat laboured manner about the former's front garden. The latter female enquires about the nature and provenance of this creature, and receives the explanation that it was purchased from a local pet store, whose owner was able to offer a choice between this and one other such animal. The present owner's eye, however, was attracted to the animal in question by said creature's exhibition of a somewhat forlorn and awkward demeanour, almost, one might have said, as if it had been suffering from the after-effects of some inebriative experience. On pressing the proprietor for more information, our lady had it explained to her that the animal had, somehow, appeared on the lectern at a local auction house at precisely the moment when the hammer of the presiding official, one Elizabeth Bickford, was descending upon the identical spot with not unformidable force and speed. Miss Bickford was renowned locally for the gusto with which she delivered the blows regularly required of her by her profession, displaying a vigour in this respect which caused many a male counterpart to hang his head in awe and shame. The poor creature had no time to engage in flight, and so received the full force of Miss Bickford's action upon its crown, whereupon it stared ahead through a glazed expression for a brief instant, before emitting a plaintive and feeble 'croak' and falling gracefully to the floor. Its predicament was perceived by many a concerned auction-goer, among whom, as fortune would have it, was a gentlemen of the veterinary persuasion, who was able to resuscitate the stricken animal and hurry it away to his nearby practice. The victim having responded well to a day's rest, although still sufficiently afflicted to preclude its survival in its natural milieu, our medical Samaritan thought it best to convey it to the nearest pet store, which was how its eventual owner came to make its acquaintance.
'Yes -' explained this lady to her companion, 'I had long hankered for such a creature, and on being confronted with a pair of them, I was not at first convinced of which to choose. However, on hearing its surprising story and knowing its plight - my mind was made up.'
At this point, a poet in his early forties was wandering past, at a distance which did not quite permit the clear audibility of the woman's concluding phrase:
'I took the toad Bess gavelled.'