Chapter 7 - The Bumpy Man
The mountain on which they had alighted was not a barren waste, but had on its sides patches of green grass, some bushes, a few slender trees and here and there masses of tumbled rocks. The sides of the slope seemed rather steep, but with care one could climb up or down them with ease and safety. The view from where they now stood showed pleasant valleys and fertile hills lying below the heights. Trot thought she saw some houses of queer shapes scattered about the lower landscape, and there were moving dots that might be people or animals, yet were too far away for her to see them clearly.
Not far from the place where they stood was the top of the mountain, which seemed to be flat, so the Ork proposed to his companions that he would fly up and see what was there.
"That's a good idea," said Trot, "'cause it's getting toward evening and we'll have to find a place to sleep."
The Ork had not been gone more than a few minutes when they saw him appear on the edge of the top which was nearest them.
"Come on up!" he called.
So Trot and Cap'n Bill began to ascend the steep slope and it did not take them long to reach the place where the Ork awaited them.
Their first view of the mountain top pleased them very much. It was a level space of wider extent than they had guessed and upon it grew grass of a brilliant green color. In the very center stood a house built of stone and very neatly constructed. No one was in sight, but smoke was coming from the chimney, so with one accord all three began walking toward the house.
"I wonder," said Trot, "in what country we are, and if it's very far from my home in California." "Can't say as to that, partner," answered Cap'n Bill, "but I'm mighty certain we've come a long way since we struck that whirlpool."
"Yes," she agreed, with a sigh, "it must be miles and miles!"
"Distance means nothing," said the Ork. "I have flown pretty much all over the world, trying to find my home, and it is astonishing how many little countries there are, hidden away in the cracks and corners of this big globe of Earth. If one travels, he may find some new country at every turn, and a good many of them have never yet been put upon the maps."
"P'raps this is one of them," suggested Trot.
They reached the house after a brisk walk and Cap'n Bill knocked upon the door. It was at once opened by a rugged looking man who had "bumps all over him," as Trot afterward declared. There were bumps on his head, bumps on his body and bumps on his arms and legs and hands. Even his fingers had bumps on the ends of them. For dress he wore an old gray suit of fantastic design, which fitted him very badly because of the bumps it covered but could not conceal.
But the Bumpy Man's eyes were kind and twinkling in expression and as soon as he saw his visitors he bowed low and said in a rather bumpy voice:
"Happy day! Come in and shut the door, for it grows cool when the sun goes down. Winter is now upon us."
"Why, it isn't cold a bit, outside," said Trot, "so it can't be winter yet."
"You will change your mind about that in a little while," declared the Bumpy Man. "My bumps always tell me the state of the weather, and they feel just now as if a snowstorm was coming this way. But make yourselves at home, strangers. Supper is nearly ready and there is food enough for all."
Inside the house there was but one large room, simply but comfortably furnished. It had benches, a table and a fireplace, all made of stone. On the hearth a pot was bubbling and steaming, and Trot thought it had a rather nice smell. The visitors seated themselves upon the benches -- except the Ork. which squatted by the fireplace -- and the Bumpy Man began stirring the kettle briskly.
"May I ask what country this is, sir?" inquired Cap'n Bill.
"Goodness me -- fruit-cake and apple-sauce! --don't you know where you are?" asked the Bumpy Man, as he stopped stirring and looked at the speaker in surprise.
"No," admitted Cap'n Bill. "We've just arrived."
"Lost your way?" questioned the Bumpy Man.
"Not exactly," said Cap'n Bill. "We didn't have any way to lose."
"Ah!" said the Bumpy Man, nodding his bumpy head. "This," he announced, in a solemn, impressive voice, "is the famous Land of Mo."
"Oh!" exclaimed the sailor and the girl, both in one breath. But, never having heard of the Land of Mo, they were no wiser than before.
"I thought that would startle you," remarked the Bumpy Man, well pleased, as he resumed his stirring. The Ork watched him a while in silence and then asked:
"Who may you be?"
"Me?" answered the Bumpy Man. "Haven't you heard of me? Gingerbread and lemon-juice! I'm known, far and wide, as the Mountain Ear."
They all received this information in silence at first, for they were trying to think what he could mean. Finally Trot mustered up courage to ask:
"What is a Mountain Ear, please?"
For answer the man turned around and faced them, waving the spoon with which he had been stirring the kettle, as he recited the following verses in a singsong tone of voice:
"Here's a mountain, hard of hearing,
That's sad-hearted and needs cheering, So my duty is to listen to all sounds that Nature makes,
So the hill won't get uneasy --
Get to coughing, or get sneezy -- For this monster bump, when frightened, is quite liable to quakes.
"You can hear a bell that's ringing;
I can feel some people's singing; But a mountain isn't sensible of what goes on, and so
When I hear a blizzard blowing
Or it's raining hard, or snowing, I tell it to the mountain and the mountain seems to know.
"Thus I benefit all people
While I'm living on this steeple, For I keep the mountain steady so my neighbors all may thrive.
With my list'ning and my shouting
I prevent this mount from spouting, And that makes me so important that I'm glad that I'm alive."
When he had finished these lines of verse the Bumpy Man turned again to resume his stirring. The Ork laughed softly and Cap'n Bill whistled to himself and Trot made up her mind that the Mountain Ear must be a little crazy. But the Bumpy Man seemed satisfied that he had explained his position fully and presently he placed four stone plates upon the table and then lifted the kettle from the fire and poured some of its contents on each of the plates. Cap'n Bill and Trot at once approached the table, for they were hungry, but when she examined her plate the little girl exclaimed:
"Why, it's molasses candy!"
"To be sure," returned the Bumpy Man, with a pleasant smile. "Eat it quick, while it's hot, for it cools very quickly this winter weather."
With this he seized a stone spoon and began putting the hot molasses candy into his mouth, while the others watched him in astonishment.
"Doesn't it burn you?" asked the girl.
"No indeed," said he. "Why don't you eat? Aren't you hungry?"
"Yes," she replied, "I am hungry. But we usually eat our candy when it is cold and hard. We always pull molasses candy before we eat it."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Mountain Ear. "What a funny idea! Where in the world did you come from?"
"California," she said.
"California! Pooh! there isn't any such place. I've heard of every place in the Land of Mo, but I never before heard of California."
"It isn't in the Land of Mo," she explained.
"Then it isn't worth talking about," declared the Bumpy Man, helping himself again from the steaming kettle, for he had been eating all the time he talked.
"For my part," sighed Cap'n Bill, "I'd like a decent square meal, once more, just by way of variety. In the last place there was nothing but fruit to eat, and here it's worse, for there's nothing but candy."
"Molasses candy isn't so bad," said Trot. "Mine's nearly cool enough to pull, already. Wait a bit, Cap'n, and you can eat it."
A little later she was able to gather the candy from the stone plate and begin to work it back and forth with her hands. The Mountain Ear was greatly amazed at this and watched her closely. It was really good candy and pulled beautifully, so that Trot was soon ready to cut it into chunks for eating.
Cap'n Bill condescended to eat one or two pieces and the Ork ate several, but the Bumpy Man refused to try it. Trot finished the plate of candy herself and then asked for a drink of water.
"Water?" said the Mountain Ear wonderingly. "What is that?"
"Something to drink. Don't you have water in Mo?"
"None that ever I heard of," said he. "But I can give you some fresh lemonade. I caught it in a jar the last time it rained, which was only day before yesterday."
"Oh, does it rain lemonade here?" she inquired.
"Always; and it is very refreshing and healthful."
With this he brought from a cupboard a stone jar and a dipper, and the girl found it very nice lemonade, indeed. Cap'n Bill liked it, too; but the Ork would not touch it.
"If there is no water in this country, I cannot stay here for long," the creature declared. "Water means life to man and beast and bird."
"There must be water in lemonade," said Trot.
"Yes," answered the Ork, "I suppose so; but there are other things in it, too, and they spoil the good water."
The day's adventures had made our wanderers tired, so the Bumpy Man brought them some blankets in which they rolled themselves and then lay down before the fire, which their host kept alive with fuel all through the night. Trot wakened several times and found the Mountain Ear always alert and listening intently for the slightest sound. But the little girl could hear no sound at all except the snores of Cap'n Bill.