'THE BIRD ROSE' in its nest of fire, stretched its wings, and flew out into the room. It flew round and round, and round again, and where it passed the air was warm. Then it perched on the fender. The children looked at each other. Then Cyril put out a hand towards the bird. It put its head on one side and looked up at him, as you may have seen a parrot do when it is just going to speak, so that the children were hardly astonished at all when it said, ‘Be careful; I am not nearly cool yet.’
They were not astonished, but they were very, very much interested.
They looked at the bird, and it was certainly worth looking at. Its feathers were like gold. It was about as large as a bantam, only its beak was not at all bantam-shaped. ‘I believe I know what it is,’ said Robert. ‘I’ve seen a picture.’
He hurried away. A hasty dash and scramble among the papers on father’s study table yielded, as the sum-books say, ‘the desired result’. But when he came back into the room holding out a paper, and crying, ‘I say, look here,’ the others all said ‘Hush!’ and he hushed obediently and instantly, for the bird was speaking.
‘Which of you,’ it was saying, ‘put the egg into the fire?’
‘He did,’ said three voices, and three fingers pointed at Robert.
The bird bowed; at least it was more like that than anything else.
‘I am your grateful debtor,’ it said with a highbred air.
The children were all choking with wonder and curiosity—all except Robert. He held the paper in his hand, and he KNEW. He said so. He said—
‘I know who you are.’
And he opened and displayed a printed paper, at the head of which was a little picture of a bird sitting in a nest of flames.
‘You are the PHOENIX,’
said Robert; and the bird was quite pleased.
‘My fame has lived then for two thousand years,’ it said. ‘Allow me to look at my portrait.’ It looked at the page which Robert, kneeling down, spread out in the fender, and said—
‘It’s not a flattering likeness...
And what are these characters?’ it asked, pointing to the printed part.