THE COCKALORUM BIRD
"I say! " said Benny, rather alarmed. "What's happened to this egg? Is it magic, do you think? "
" Don't be silly," said Sarah. " You know we don't believe in fairies or magic or anything like that. Go on, blow the egg, Benny, and make it nice and hollow so that we can put it with our collection."
Benny took up the egg— but he at once let it drop with a loud howl.
" It's boiling hot! " he cried. " It's burnt my hand! "
" Yes, and you've broken the egg, you silly stupid boy! " shouted Sarah, in dismay. She gave Benny a slap, and he hit her back. Then they stopped quarrelling in a hurry—for something very strange was happening!
The egg had broken, certainly—but no yellow yolk had come out. Instead a very small and brightly coloured bird appeared in the broken shell, opened its beak and gave a piercing whistle, like a railway train!
The children stared at it in astonishment and alarm. Whatever bird could it be?
As they looked, it began to grow and soon it was as big as a magpie. It was a very curious-looking creature, for it had a yellow head with a curved beak, bright blue eyes, and striped orange and green feathers with a long tail made of one black feather.
" I don't like it! " said Benny, in a fright. " Come on, Sarah, let's go indoors! Perhaps the nasty thing will fly away."
They left the old summer-house and ran indoors—but that bird followed them. It spread its strange, striped wings and flew after them. It landed on Benny's shoulder and gave his ear a sharp peck. Then it whistled loudly and piercingly and both children jumped in alarm.
" Stop that dreadful whistling! " called their mother, crossly.
The children didn't like to say that it was the bird making that noise for they were afraid of having to own up that they had been bird-nesting. Benny tried to slap the bird, but it flew quickly to Sarah's shoulder, bent round and nipped her nose. Then it gave another loud screeching whistle.
" Didn't your mother tell you to stop that noise? " suddenly shouted their father's angry voice, and out he came. The bird at once disappeared into Benny's pocket, grew very small and kept perfectly still and quiet.
" You can both go up to bed at once and stay there for the rest of the day! " said their father, crossly.