That evening, Mother read to them from a book called The Phoenix and the Carpet
, which she had had since she was a little girl. Like all the best children's books, it was written to be read aloud; you immediately knew that Mrs. Nesbit had read it aloud to her own children, and every now and then she had put in a little joke for her husband, who was pretending to do something important but was really listening too.
Mrs. Nesbit had a wonderful imagination, and she also had a strong moral sense; so strong, in fact, that she knew, without even stopping to consider the question, that it is most inconsiderate to put improving thoughts into children's books without first making them amusing. Both the children and their parents thought she wrote very well. The children just said that her books weren't boring, like most of the old books that Mother sometimes tried to read to them, while the grown-ups explained it in a more complicated way, using words like Ironic Detachment and Economy of Phrase. It is very rare to find all these excellent qualities combined in one person: almost as rare as to find a Phoenix's egg hidden inside a magic carpet, but not quite.