FictionForest

Chapter 21 – Hip Hopper the Champion

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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They must have had good courage to climb all those
rocks, for after getting out of the canyon they
encountered more rock hills to he surmounted. Toto
could jump from one rock to another quite easily,
but the others had to creep and climb with care,
so that after a whole day of such work Dorothy and
Ojo found themselves very tired.

As they gazed upward at the great mass of
tumbled rocks that covered the steep incline,
Dorothy gave a little groan and said:

“That’s going to be a ter’ble hard climb,
Scarecrow. I wish we could find the dark well
without so much trouble.”

“Suppose,” said Ojo, “you wait here and let
me do the climbing, for it’s on my account
we’re searching for the dark well. Then, if I
don’t find anything, I’ll come back and join
you.

“No,” replied the little girl, shaking her head
positively, “we’ll all go together, for that way
we can help each other. If you went alone,
something might happen to you, Ojo.”

So they began the climb and found it indeed
difficult, for a way. But presently, in creeping
over the big crags, they found a path at their
feet which wound in and out among the masses of
rock and was quite smooth and easy to walk upon.
As the path gradually ascended the mountain,
although in a roundabout way, they decided to
follow it.

“This must be the road to the Country of
the Hoppers,” said the Scarecrow.

“Who are the Hoppers?” asked Dorothy.

“Some people Jack Pumpkinhead told me about,” he
replied.

“I didn’t hear him,” replied the girl.

“No; you were asleep,” explained the Scarecrow.
“But he told Scraps and me that the hoppers
and the Horners live on this mountain.”

“He said in the mountain,” declared Scraps;
“but of course he meant on it.”

“Didn’t he say what the Hoppers and Horners were
like?” inquired Dorothy.

“No; he only said they were two separate
nations, and that the Horners were the most
important.”

“Well, if we go to their country we’ll find out
all about ’em,” said the girl. “But I’ve never
heard Ozma mention those people, so they can’t
be very important.”

“Is this mountain in the Land of Oz?” asked
Scraps.

“Course it is,” answered Dorothy. “It’s in the
South Country of the Quadlings. When one comes to
the edge of Oz, in any direction, there is nothing
more to be seen at all. Once you could see sandy
desert all around Oz; but now it’s diff’rent, and
no other people can see us, any more than we can
see them.”

“If the mountain is under Ozma’s rule, why
doesn’t she know about the Hoppers and the
Horners?” Ojo asked.

“Why, it’s a fairyland,” explained Dorothy, “and
lots of queer people live in places so tucked away
that those in the Emerald City never even hear of
’em. In the middle of the country it’s diff’rent,
but when you get around the edges you’re sure to
run into strange little corners that surprise you.
I know, for I’ve traveled in Oz a good deal, and
os has the Scarecrow.”

“Yes,” admitted the straw man, “I’ve been
considerable of a traveler, in my time, and I like
to explore strange places. I find I learn much
more by traveling than by staying at home.”

During this conversation they had been walking
up the steep pathway and now found themselves well
up on the mountain. They could see nothing around
them, for the rocks beside their path were higher
than their heads. Nor could they see far in front
of them, because the path was so crooked. But
suddenly they stopped, because the path ended and
there was no place to go. Ahead was a big rock
lying against the side of the mountain, and this
blocked the way completely.

“There wouldn’t be a path, though, if it
didn’t go somewhere,” said the Scarecrow,
wrinkling his forehead in deep thought.

“This is somewhere, isn’t it?” asked the
Patchwork Girl, laughing at the bewildered
looks of the others.

“The path is locked, the way is blocked,
Yet here we’ve innocently flocked;
And now we’re here it’s rather queer
There’s no front door that can be knocked.”

“Please don’t, Scraps,” said Ojo. “You make me nervous.

“Well,” said Dorothy, “I’m glad of a little
rest, for that’s a drea’ful steep path.”

As she spoke she leaned against the edge of
the big rock that stood in their way. To her
surprise it slowly swung backward and showed
behind it a dark hole that looked like the mouth
of a tunnel.

“Why, here’s where the path goes to!” she
exclaimed.

“So it is,” answered the Scarecrow. “But the
question is, do we want to go where the path
does?”

“It’s underground; right inside the mountain,”
said Ojo, peering into the dark hole. “perhaps
there’s a well there; and, if there is, it’s sure
to be a dark one.”

“Why, that’s true enough!” cried Dorothy
with eagerness. “Let’s go in, Scarecrow; ’cause,
if others have gone, we’re pretty safe to go, too.”

Toto looked in and barked, but he did not
venture to enter until the Scarecrow had bravely
gone first. Scraps followed closely after the
straw man and then Ojo and Dorothy timidly stepped
inside the tunnel. As soon as all of them had
passed the big rock, it slowly turned and filled
up the opening again; but now they were no longer
in the dark, for a soft, rosy light enabled them
to see around them quite distinctly.

It was only a passage, wide enough for two
of them to walk abreast–with Toto in between
them–and it had a high, arched roof. They
could not see where the light which flooded the
place so pleasantly came from, for there were
no lamps anywhere visible. The passage ran
straight for a little way and then made a bend
to the right and another sharp turn to the left,
after which it went straight again. But there
were no side passages, so they could not lose
their way.

After proceeding some distance, Toto, who
had gone on ahead, began to bark loudly. They
ran around a bend to see what was the matter
and found a man sitting on the floor of the
passage and leaning his back against the wall.
He had probably been asleep before Toto’s barks
aroused him, for he was now rubbing his eyes
and staring at the little dog with all his might.

There was something about this man that Toto
objected to, and when he slowly rose to his foot
they saw what it was. He had but one leg, set just
below the middle of his round, fat body; but it
was a stout leg and had a broad, flat foot at the
bottom of it, on which the man seemed to stand
very well. He had never had but this one leg,
which looked something like a pedestal, and when
Toto ran up and made a grab at the man’s ankle he
hopped first one way and then another in a very
active manner, looking so frightened that Scraps
laughed aloud.

Toto was usually a well behaved dog, but this
time he was angry and snapped at the man’s leg
again and again. This filled the poor fellow with
fear, and in hopping out of Toto’s reach he
suddenly lost his balance and tumbled heel over
head upon the floor. When he sat up he kicked Toto
on the nose and made the dog howl angrily, but
Dorothy now ran forward and caught Toto’s collar,
holding him back.

“Do you surrender?” she asked the man.

“Who? Me?” asked the Hopper.

“Yes; you,” said the little girl.

“Am I captured?” he inquired.

“Of course. My dog has captured you,” she said.

“Well,” replied the man, “if I’m captured I must
surrender, for it’s the proper thing to do. I like
to do everything proper, for it saves one a lot of
trouble.”

“It does, indeed,” said Dorothy. “Please tell us
who you are.

“I’m Hip Hopper–Hip Hopper, the Champion.”

“Champion what?” she asked in surprise.

“Champion wrestler. I’m a very strong man,
and that ferocious animal which you are so
kindly holding is the first living thing that has
ever conquered me.”

“And you are a Hopper?” she continued.

“Yes. My people live in a great city not far
from here. Would you like to visit it?”

“I’m not sure,” she said with hesitation. “Have
you any dark wells in your city?”

“I think not. We have wells, you know, hut
they’re all well lighted, and a well lighted well
cannot well be a dark well. But there may be
such a thing as a very dark well in the Horner
Country, which is a black spot on the face of
the earth.”

“Where is the Horner Country?” Ojo inquired.

“The other side of the mountain. There’s a
fence between the Hopper Country and the
Horner Country, and a gate in the fence; but
you can’t pass through just now, because we
are at war with the Horners.”

“That’s too bad,” said the Scarecrow. “What
seems to be the trouble?”

“Why, one of them made a very insulting remark
about my people. He said we were lacking in
understanding, because we had only one leg to a
person. I can’t see that legs have anything to do
with understanding things. The Homers each have
two legs, just as you have. That’s one leg too
many, it seems to me.”

“No,” declared Dorothy, “it’s just the right
number.”

“You don’t need them,” argued the Hopper,
obstinately. “You’ve only one head, and one
body, and one nose and mouth. Two legs are
quite unnecessary, and they spoil one’s shape.”

“But how can you walk, with only one leg?” asked
Ojo.

“Walk! Who wants to walk?” exclaimed the man.
“Walking is a terribly awkward way to travel. I
hop, and so do all my people. It’s so much more
graceful and agreeable than walking.”

“I don’t agree with you,” said the Scarecrow.
“But tell me, is there any way to get to the
Horner Country without going through the city of
the Hoppers?”

“Yes; there is another path from the rocky
lowlands, outside the mountain, that leads
straight to the entrance of the Horner Country.
But it’s a long way around, so you’d better come
with me. Perhaps they will allow you to go
through the gate; but we expect to conquer
them this afternoon, if we get time, and then
you may go and come as you please.”

They thought it best to take the Hopper’s
advice, and asked him to lead the way. This he
did in a series of hops, and he moved so swiftly
in this strange manner that those with two legs
had to run to keep up with him.

 

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