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The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit

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At the grocer's they bought all the spices they could remember the
names of--shell-like mace, cloves like blunt nails, peppercorns,
the long and the round kind; ginger, the dry sort, of course; and
the beautiful bloom-covered shells of fragrant cinnamon. Allspice
too, and caraway seeds (caraway seeds that smelt most deadly when
the time came for burning them).

Camphor and oil of lavender were bought at the chemist's, and also
a little scent sachet labelled 'Violettes de Parme'.

They took the things home and found Cyril still on guard. When
they had knocked and the golden voice of the Phoenix had said 'Come
in,' they went in.

There lay the carpet--or what was left of it--and on it lay an egg,
exactly like the one out of which the Phoenix had been hatched.

The Phoenix was walking round and round the egg, clucking with joy
and pride.

'I've laid it, you see,' it said, 'and as fine an egg as ever I
laid in all my born days.'

Every one said yes, it was indeed a beauty.

The things which the children had bought were now taken out of
their papers and arranged on the table, and when the Phoenix had
been persuaded to leave its egg for a moment and look at the
materials for its last fire it was quite overcome.

'Never, never have I had a finer pyre than this will be. You shall
not regret it,' it said, wiping away a golden tear. 'Write
quickly: "Go and tell the Psammead to fulfil the last wish of the
Phoenix, and return instantly".'

But Robert wished to be polite and he wrote--

'Please go and ask the Psammead to be so kind as to fulfil the
Phoenix's last wish, and come straight back, if you please.'
The paper was pinned to the carpet, which vanished and returned in
the flash of an eye.

Then another paper was written ordering the carpet to take the egg
somewhere where it wouldn't be hatched for another two thousand
years. The Phoenix tore itself away from its cherished egg, which
it watched with yearning tenderness till, the paper being pinned
on, the carpet hastily rolled itself up round the egg, and both
vanished for ever from the nursery of the house in Camden Town.

'Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!' said everybody.

'Bear up,' said the bird; 'do you think _I_ don't suffer, being
parted from my precious new-laid egg like this? Come, conquer your
emotions and build my fire.'

'OH!' cried Robert, suddenly, and wholly breaking down, 'I can't
BEAR you to go!'

The Phoenix perched on his shoulder and rubbed its beak softly
against his ear.

'The sorrows of youth soon appear but as dreams,' it said.
'Farewell, Robert of my heart. I have loved you well.'

The fire had burnt to a red glow. One by one the spices and sweet
woods were laid on it. Some smelt nice and some--the caraway seeds
and the Violettes de Parme sachet among them--smelt worse than you
would think possible.

'Farewell, farewell, farewell, farewell!' said the Phoenix, in a
far-away voice.

'Oh, GOOD-BYE,' said every one, and now all were in tears.

The bright bird fluttered seven times round the room and settled in
the hot heart of the fire. The sweet gums and spices and woods
flared and flickered around it, but its golden feathers did not
burn. It seemed to grow red-hot to the very inside heart of
it--and then before the eight eyes of its friends it fell together,
a heap of white ashes, and the flames of the cedar pencils and the
sandal-wood box met and joined above it.

'Whatever have you done with the carpet?' asked mother next day.

'We gave it to some one who wanted it very much. The name began
with a P,' said Jane.

The others instantly hushed her.

'Oh, well, it wasn't worth twopence,' said mother.

'The person who began with P said we shouldn't lose by it,' Jane
went on before she could be stopped.

'I daresay!' said mother, laughing.

But that very night a great box came, addressed to the children by
all their names. Eliza never could remember the name of the
carrier who brought it. It wasn't Carter Paterson or the Parcels

It was instantly opened. It was a big wooden box, and it had to be
opened with a hammer and the kitchen poker; the long nails came
squeaking out, and boards scrunched as they were wrenched off.
Inside the box was soft paper, with beautiful Chinese patterns on
it--blue and green and red and violet. And under the paper--well,
almost everything lovely that you can think of. Everything of
reasonable size, I mean; for, of course, there were no motors or
flying machines or thoroughbred chargers. But there really was
almost everything else. Everything that the children had always
wanted--toys and games and books, and chocolate and candied
cherries and paint-boxes and photographic cameras, and all the
presents they had always wanted to give to father and mother and
the Lamb, only they had never had the money for them. At the very
bottom of the box was a tiny golden feather. No one saw it but
Robert, and he picked it up and hid it in the breast of his jacket,
which had been so often the nesting-place of the golden bird. When
he went to bed the feather was gone. It was the last he ever saw
of the Phoenix.

Pinned to the lovely fur cloak that mother had always wanted was a
paper, and it said--

'In return for the carpet. With gratitude.--P.'

You may guess how father and mother talked it over. They decided
at last the person who had had the carpet, and whom, curiously
enough, the children were quite unable to describe, must be an
insane millionaire who amused himself by playing at being a
rag-and-bone man. But the children knew better.

They knew that this was the fulfilment, by the powerful Psammead,
of the last wish of the Phoenix, and that this glorious and
delightful boxful of treasures was really the very, very, very end
of the Phoenix and the Carpet.

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