Doris was always be called “the bad girl”, for she had once, when she was little, put her tongue out at the postman. She lived alone with her grandmother and her three brothers in the cottage beyond the field, and other girls in the village took no notice of her.
This “bad girl” Doris did not mind this, her full attention was always on the cuckoo clock. The clock stood in one corner of the cottage, and every hour a door would open at the top, and a little cuckoo came out and sang, just the same number of times that the clock ought to have struck, and sang it so loudly and in so much haste that seems the clock was afraid to strike at all.
Doris was always wondering whether it was worse for the clock to have a cupboard in its forehead, and a bird that was always hopping in and out, or for the poor cuckoo to spend so much time in a dark little prison. “If it could only getaway to the woods,” she said to herself, “who knows but its voice might grow sweet, and even life itself might come to it!”
“She thought of the clock so much.” grandmother used to say.
“Ah, lassie, if you would only think of me sometimes! ” But the bad girl would answer, “You are not in prison, granny dear, and you have not even a bee in your bonnet, let alone a bird in your head. Why should I think of you?”
One day, close by the farm, Doris saw the big girls from the school gathering flowers.
“Give me one,” she said; “perhaps the cuckoo would like it.” But they all cried, “No, no!” and tried to frighten her away. “They are for the little one’s birthday. Tomorrow she will be seven years old,” the big girls said,” and she will have a crown of flowers and a cake, and all the afternoon we shall play merry games with her.”
“Is she unhappy, that you are taking so much trouble for her?” asked the bad girl.
“Oh, no, she is very happy, and it will be her birthday, and we want to make her happier.”
“Because we love her,” said one.
“Because she is so little,” said another girl.
“Because she is alive,” said the third.
“Are all things that live should be loved and cared for? ” Doris asked, but those girls were too busy to listen, so she went on her way thinking, and it seemed as if all things around the birds, and bees, and the rustling leaves, and the little tender wildflowers, half-hidden in the grass answered, as she went along.
“Yes, they are all to be cared for and made happier, if it is possible.” “But the cuckoo clock is not alive,” she realized.
“Oh, no, it is not alive,” those trees answered; “but many things that do not live have voices, and many others are just signposts, pointing the way.”
“The way! The way to what, and where?”
“We find out for ourselves; we must all find out for ourselves,” those trees sighed and whispered to each other.
As Doris entered the cottage, the cuckoo clock sang eleven times, but she did not even look up. She walked straight across the living room, to the chair by the fireplace and kneeled down, kissed her granny’s hands.