FictionForest

Chapter 7 – The Bumpy Man

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

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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.

 

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