|thanks freevintageillustrations.com pd|
I had heard a little about this story, but I'm pleased to have found more details. It seems that the Duke of Wellington (born Arthur Wellesley, 1769-1852) did indeed once serve as a kind caretaker to a toad, in order to keep a promise made to a servant's son. Here's the story:
Touching a Tender Chord
His grace, it appears, while walking on his estate, observed a boy, the son of one of his farm or garden servants, on his knees, before a small hole in the earth, and in tears. On being asked the cause of his grief, the boy replied that the hole was the dwelling place of a tame toad, to which he every day brought food, but that, as he was to be sent off to school shortly, he was afraid his strange pet would die of hunger. "Never mind, never mind," said the duke; "you go to school and I'll take care of the toad." And so, according to the story, he did, visiting from time to time the hole, and depositing therein a handful of crumbs. The duke, it is added, was fond of exhibiting this strange charge to visitors at Strathfieldsaye and after some time wrote one of his characteristic notes to the boy, assuring him of his favorite's continued health and vigor. — London Morning Chronicle, November 19, 1852.
-- from Shriner, C. A. 1853-1945. (1918). Wit, wisdom and foibles of the great, together with numerous anecdotes illustrative of the characters of people and their rulers. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls company. 652.