The Phoenix and the Carpet
'You young duffer,' said Cyril, 'fireworks are like postage-stamps. You
can only use them once.'
'What do you suppose it means by "Carter's tested seeds" in the
There was a blank silence. Then Cyril touched his forehead with his
finger and shook his head.
'A little wrong here,' he said. 'I was always afraid of that with poor
Robert. All that cleverness, you know, and being top in algebra so of-
tenÑit's bound to tellÑ'
'Dry up,' said Robert, fiercely. 'Don't you see? You can't TEST seeds if
you do them ALL. You just take a few here and there, and if those grow
you can feel pretty sure the others will beÑwhat do you call it?ÑFather
told meÑ"up to sample". Don't you think we ought to sample the fire-
works? Just shut our eyes and each draw one out, and then try them.'
'But it's raining cats and dogs,' said Jane.
'And Queen Anne is dead,' rejoined Robert. No one was in a very good
temper. 'We needn't go out to do them; we can just move back the table,
and let them off on the old tea-tray we play toboggans with. I don't
know what YOU think, but I think it's time we did something, and that
would be really useful; because then we shouldn't just HOPE the fire-
works would make those Prossers sit upÑwe should KNOW.'
'It WOULD be something to do,' Cyril owned with languid approval.
So the table was moved back. And then the hole in the carpet, that had
been near the window till the carpet was turned round, showed most
awfully. But Anthea stole out on tip-toe, and got the tray when cook
wasn't looking, and brought it in and put it over the hole.
Then all the fireworks were put on the table, and each of the four chil-
dren shut its eyes very tight and put out its hand and grasped
something. Robert took a cracker, Cyril and Anthea had Roman candles;
but Jane's fat paw closed on the gem of the whole collection, the Jack-in-
the-box that had cost two shillings, and one at least of the partyÑI will
not say which, because it was sorry afterwardsÑdeclared that Jane had
done it on purpose. Nobody was pleased. For the worst of it was that
these four children, with a very proper dislike of anything even faintly
bordering on the sneakish, had a law, unalterable as those of the Medes
and Persians, that one had to stand by the results of a toss-up, or a draw-
ing of lots, or any other appeal to chance, however much one might hap-
pen to dislike the way things were turning out.
'I didn't mean to,' said Jane, near tears. 'I don't care, I'll draw