THE COCKALORUM BIRD
In a fright Benny clutched at the bird, wrapped a towel round it so that it could not make a sound, or even struggle, and shook it angrily.
" Well, I'll just drown you now, you nasty, horrid creature! " he said. He climbed out of the window and slid down the pear tree outside. Then Sarah threw him down the bundle in which the Cockalorum Bird was closely wrapped. The little boy took it and ran off to the old well. He lifted up the lid that covered it, threw the wrapped-up bird quickly down the well, and clapped on the lid again. Then back he went.
" Well, we shan't see or hear that bird any more! " he said, pleased. He climbed into bed and it was not long before both children were asleep.
And then, just as had happened the night before, they were awakened by a tapping on the window-pane! " Let me in, let me in, I am wet and cold! " said the voice of the Cockalorum. " Quick, before I whistle and screech! "
There was nothing for it but to get out of bed and open the window. In flew the big bird, and made straight for the children's bed. It cuddled up to them and they couldn't bear it, for it was soaking wet and very cold. It was angry too, and kept pecking their legs with its sharp beak.
Sarah began to cry. " What can we do to get rid of this bird ? " she sobbed to Benny.
" You can't get rid of me," said the bird. " Once I find children like you, I live with them always. I don't get any fan living with kindly, good-natured children. I never get a chance of screeching or pecking them. But I shall get a dozen chances a day of teasing you. My, what fun! '
The children lay quiet. They were each thinking the same thing. Per≠haps if they stopped being thoughtless and unkind to other creatures, the Cockalorum Bird would find it so dull living with them that he would fly off, They would try it, anyhow!
So the next day they went out of their way to be kind and gentle. They took Rover for a walk. They stroked the surprised cat. They put out bread for the birds. And the Cockalorum Bird drooped its wings and never screeched a screech or pecked a peck. It yawned and waitedóbut the children didn't give it a chance to screech or tweak their ears!
And the strange thing was that both of them were very happy. They were pleased to see Rover's joy when he ran beside them on their walk. They were glad when the cat purred and rubbed itself against them. They laughed to see the sparrows squabbling over the bread they had put out.