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When the Cock Crows
Mr Pig has slept in Tilly Mint's bed, just under her head, for about six years. No wonder he's a bit squashed. Tilly doesn't very often take him out with her in case she loses him, but yesterday Mrs Hardcastle told Tilly to bring Mr Pig to her house, and to bring her wellies too.
"Are we going out somewhere?" Tilly asked.
"No," said Mrs Hardcastle. "I'm going to make some coconut buns."
Tilly loved Mrs Hardcastle's coconut buns. They were all crunchy on the outside, and
chewy in the middle, and sometimes they had a red-and--sticky cherry on the top.
"Why did I have to bring my wellies then?" asked Tilly, as Mrs Hardcastle hunted for her mixing bowl.
Mrs Hardcastle shook her head. "Can't remember, Tilly," she said. "I just thought they might come in useful."
"And why did I have to bring Mr Pig?" asked Tilly. "He'd be much better off in bed, where it's warm."
"I can't remember that either," said Mrs Hardcastle. "But I'm sure we'll find out. Look Tilly, I thought you might like to do some making, while I do my baking.
I've put out some boxes, and some plasticine, and some paints. I should think you can make something with that lot."
Tilly was a bit fed up. She wasn't keen on making. She liked doing. And she'd rather go out somewhere than stay in, any day.
"Silly boxes!" she grumbled, as she cut a hole in the biggest one and stuck some paper over it for a door. "Stupid green paint!" she complained, as she painted three sheets of paper. "Smelly plasticine!" she moaned, as she rolled and moulded fifteen coloured shapes.
"Look, Mrs Hardcastle!" she said at last. "I've made a farm!"
Mrs Hardcastle came to have a look. She sat down on the floor with Tilly, and looked at the green paper fields, and the cardboard farmhouse, and the barn, with its black-and-white blobby sheepdog.
She helped Tilly to stand the five plasticine cows up, as if they were waiting to be milked. She put the three pink, piggy blobs in a little carton, for a pig-sty. Then
Tilly put five white sheep in the green field behind the barn. Mrs Hardcastle picked up the biggest plasticine shape.
"What's this?" she asked. "It looks like a half-eaten sausage, Tilly Mint."
"It's the farmer," said Tilly. "I can't do farmers."
Mrs Hardcastle shaped the sausage till it had two legs with black wellies on, and a white handkerchief hanging out of his pocket, and a smiling face.
"That's Farmer Heyday!" she said.
"Is it?" asked Tilly.
"Here's some matchsticks to make a gate," said Mrs Hardcastle. "It's nearly ready, Tilly."
"Is it?" asked Tilly.
"Pull me up," said Mrs Hardcastle. "I'm feeling right dozey. I'd better sit at the table and get this mixing done. Oh, don't forget the cock!
When the cock crows,
Day has begun
Bring out the sun!
Good job I remembered that, Tilly Mint."
She sat herself down at the table, and, with the last of the black plasticine, Tilly made a little black cock, and with a tiny bit of the red plasticine she made a little cresty comb for his head. She balanced the cock very carefully on its matchstick post, and as she was drawing her fingers away,
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" He crowed!
"What?" said Tilly. She nearly dropped him, she was so surprised. She looked round for Mrs Hardcastle, but she was fast asleep and snoring, with her arms all covered in flour, and her hands in a bowl of coconut and sugar.
"I might have known!" said Tilly. "She's off again!"
The cock crowed again, and this time Tilly saw him
right stretch his neck and lift up the red comb on his head
xing and open his beak as wide as it would go. He seemed to swell up with pride at the wonderful sound he was making.
"When the cock crows,
Day has begun
Bring out the sun!"
whispered Tilly Mint.
"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" The paper door that Tilly had
stuck over the hole in the cardboard-box-farmhouse
opened, and out came Farmer Heyday. He stretched his
brown plasticine arms, and whistled.
"Hey Sheppa! Come on, Sheppa!" he called.
The black-and-white collie came out, stretching,
from the barn, and barked hello to the farmer.
Tilly hardly dared breathe! She lay on her tummy
with her nose pressed up against the matchstick gate,
Mr Pig snuggled up beside her. The farmer saw her
though. He strode across the paper yard, with his
plasticine knees bending just above the top of his black wellies, and Sheppa bounced on plasticine legs beside him.
"Well, are you coming in, or not?" Farmer Heyday shouted, peering through the bars of the matchstick gate. "You, and that daft woolly pig?"
Tilly jumped. "Yes. No. If I can. I can't though. I'm too big."
Farmer Heyday snorted. "Suit yourself. But if you do come, put your wellies on!"
He strode off to the barn, and led Tilly's cows in, one by one, to be milked. Tilly could hear their low, dark voices as they talked to each other in the shadows.
How she wanted to follow them! Suddenly, she took her slippers off and put on her wellies, and when she bent down to pick up Mr Pig again, she felt a strange rushing in her tummy, as if she was going down a slide, very fast, and she stood up . . . to find that her head was no higher than the gate of the farm! She could smell the farm – the hot, sweet, sharp smell of the dung the cows had dropped! She could smell the grass! She could feel it under her feet, springy and oozing with mud as she pushed open the gate. As soon as she was inside the farmyard, Mr Pig started behaving like a pig! He snorted and squealed in her arms, he wriggled and kicked, till she had to drop him, and he ran to the wall of the pig-sty, jumped in, and there he rolled over on his back in the mud with the three other pigs, and lay there, kicking his legs in the air, and snorting with utter happiness.
"Mr Pig! You'll be filthy!" said Tilly. "You needn't think you're getting in my bed tonight, looking like that!"
"Aren't they beautiful!" said Farmer Heyday, leaning over the pig-sty fondly. "Prettier than babies, pigs are. Give me pigs any day."
"Can I play in that field by the barn?" Tilly asked him. "I painted it myself!"
"Off you go then," said Farmer Heyday, a bit puzzled. "But don't be long – you're wanted in the kitchen. And there's new lambs in that field – fresh as daisies, mind!"
Lambs! Tilly could hear them, even as she was running to the stile, and she could see them, all her
little white plasticine blobs, all turned into real, woolly, skippy, scuttery, chewing, wobbly, bouncing, shouting, coughing lambs. What a wonderful racket!
But the smell coming from the kitchen was even more wonderful. It was the warm, sweet, eggy smell of baking.
Mrs Heyday had her back turned as Tilly went in; she was bringing a tray of new buns from the oven.
"You'll have to have one of these before you go," she said, turning round. Tilly stared. She couldn't help it. Mrs Heyday looked just like . . . but she couldn't be. She had the same sort of remembery blue eyes as .. . but she couldn't have.
"You're like somebody I know," Tilly said at last. "Am I?" Mrs Heyday smiled. "Have a coconut bun, Tilly Mint."
As Tilly was biting into her third coconut bun, that was all crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, with a red-and-sticky cherry on the top, she heard a jostling, rumbling, tumbling noise outside the window; a snorting, snuffling, scuffling sort of noise, full of squeaks and feet.
"What's that?" she whispered, in a coconutty voice.
Mrs Heyday wiped her eyes on her pinny. "It's the pigs," she said sadly. "Poor Mr Heyday! He hates market day. He has to take all his lovely pigs to market today, and sell them, every one!"
"Oh no!" gasped Tilly. She dropped the cherry bit of her bun that she'd been saving for last, and ran out into the farmyard.
Farmer Heyday was standing by a cart, blowing his nose unhappily. Sheppa was leaping about and barking, and the pigs were running up a plank and into the cart that would take them off to market.
And right in the middle of them, covered in mud, was Mr Pig!
"Come back, Mr Pig!" Tilly shouted. "Don't go to market! You're not that sort of pig!"
She climbed into the cart, snatched up Mr Pig in both her arms, and ran out of the farmyard, through the gate and on to Mrs Hardcastle's carpet.
And there she was, as high as the table again, and looking down at the little cardboard farmhouse, and the painted paper fields, and the plasticine animals, as still and silent as statues.
"Come on, Mr Pig," she whispered. "I'd better get these wellies off, and brush your mud away, before Mrs Hardcastle sees us."
And as she tiptoed out of the kitchen to do just that, Mrs Hardcastle opened her eyes, and smiled, and carried on making her coconut buns.