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Chapter 3 The Ork

  • The eyes that regarded them, as the creature stood dripping before them, wer_right and mild in expression, and the queer addition to their party made n_ttempt to attack them and seemed quite as surprised by the meeting as the_ere.
  • "I wonder," whispered Trot, "what it is."
  • "Who, me?" exclaimed the creature in a shrill, high- pitched voice. "Why, I'_n Ork."
  • "Oh!" said the girl. "But what is an Ork?"
  • "I am," he repeated, a little proudly, as he shook the water from his funn_ings; "and if ever an Ork was glad to be out of the water and on dry lan_gain, you can be mighty sure that I'm that especial, individual Ork!"
  • "Have you been in the water long?" inquired Cap'n Bill, thinking it onl_olite to show an interest in the strange creature.
  • "why, this last ducking was about ten minutes, I believe, and that's abou_ine minutes and sixty seconds too long for comfort," was the reply. "But las_ight I was in an awful pickle, I assure you. The whirlpool caught me, and —"
  • "Oh, were you in the whirlpool, too?" asked Trot eagerly
  • He gave her a glance that was somewhat reproachful.
  • "I believe I was mentioning the fact, young lady, when your desire to tal_nterrupted me," said the Ork. "I am not usually careless in my actions, bu_hat whirlpool was so busy yesterday that I thought I'd see what mischief i_as up to. So I flew a little too near it and the suction of the air drew m_own into the depths of the ocean. Water and I are natural enemies, and i_ould have conquered me this time had not a bevy of pretty mermaids come to m_ssistance and dragged me away from the whirling water and far up into _avern, where they deserted me."
  • "Why, that's about the same thing that happened to us," cried Trot. "Was you_avern like this one?"
  • "I haven't examined this one yet," answered the Ork; "but if they happen to b_like I shudder at our fate, for the other one was a prison, with no outle_xcept by means of the water. I stayed there all night, however, and thi_orning I plunged into the pool, as far down as I could go, and then swam a_ard and as far as I could. The rocks scraped my back, now and then, and _arely escaped the clutches of an ugly sea- monster; but by and by I came t_he surface to catch my breath, and found myself here. That's the whole story, and as I see you have something to eat I entreat you to give me a share of it.
  • The truth is, I'm half starved."
  • With these words the Ork squatted down beside them. Very reluctantly Cap'_ill drew another biscuit from his pocket and held it out. The Ork promptl_eized it in one of its front claws and began to nibble the biscuit in muc_he same manner a parrot might have done.
  • "We haven't much grub," said the sailor-man, "but we're willin' to share i_ith a comrade in distress."
  • "That's right," returned the Ork, cocking its head sidewise in a cheerfu_anner, and then for a few minutes there was silence while they all ate of th_iscuits. After a while Trot said:
  • "I've never seen or heard of an Ork before. Are there many of you?"
  • "We are rather few and exclusive, I believe," was the reply. "In the countr_here I was born we are the absolute rulers of all living things, from ants t_lephants."
  • "What country is that?" asked Cap'n Bill.
  • "Orkland."
  • "Where does it lie?"
  • "I don't know, exactly. You see, I have a restless nature, for some reason, while all the rest of my race are quiet and contented Orks and seldom stra_ar from home. From childhood days I loved to fly long distances away, although father often warned me that I would get into trouble by so doing.
  • "'It's a big world, Flipper, my son,' he would say, 'and I've heard that i_arts of it live queer two- legged creatures called Men, who war upon al_ther living things and would have little respect for even an Ork.'
  • "This naturally aroused my curiosity and after I had completed my educatio_nd left school I decided to fly out into the world and try to get a glimps_f the creatures called Men. So I left home without saying good-bye, an act _hall always regret. Adventures were many, I found. I sighted men severa_imes, but have never before been so close to them as now. Also I had to figh_y way through the air, for I met gigantic birds, with fluffy feathers al_ver them, which attacked me fiercely. Besides, it kept me busy escaping fro_loating airships. In my rambling I had lost all track of distance o_irection, so that when I wanted to go home I had no idea where my country wa_ocated. I've now been trying to find it for several months and it was durin_ne of my flights over the ocean that I met the whirlpool and became it_ictim."
  • Trot and Cap'n Bill listened to this recital with much interest, and from th_riendly tone and harmless appearance of the Ork they judged he was not likel_o prove so disagreeable a companion as at first they had feared he might be.
  • The Ork sat upon its haunches much as a cat does, but used the finger-lik_laws of its front legs almost as cleverly as if they were hands. Perhaps th_ost curious thing about the creature was its tail, or what ought to have bee_ts tail. This queer arrangement of skin, bones and muscle was shaped like th_ropellers used on boats and airships, having fan-like surfaces and bein_ivoted to its body. Cap'n Bill knew something of mechanics, and observing th_ropeller- like tail of the Ork he said:
  • "I s'pose you're a pretty swift flyer?"
  • "Yes, indeed; the Orks are admitted to be Kings of the Air."
  • "Your wings don't seem to amount to much," remarked Trot.
  • "Well, they are not very big," admitted the Ork, waving the four hollow skin_ently to and fro, "but they serve to support my body in the air while I spee_long by means of my tail. Still, taken altogether, I'm very handsomel_ormed, don't you think?"
  • Trot did not like to reply, but Cap'n Bill nodded gravely. "For an Ork," sai_e, "you're a wonder. I've never seen one afore, but I can imagine you're a_ood as any."
  • That seemed to please the creature and it began walking around the cavern, making its way easily up the slope. while it was gone, Trot and Cap'n Bil_ach took another sip from the water-flask, to wash down their breakfast.
  • "Why, here's a hole — an exit — an outlet!" exclaimed the Ork from above.
  • "We know," said Trot. "We found it last night."
  • "Well, then, let's be off," continued the Ork, after sticking its head int_he black hole and sniffing once or twice. "The air seems fresh and sweet, an_t can't lead us to any worse place than this."
  • The girl and the sailor-man got up and climbed to the side of the Ork.
  • "We'd about decided to explore this hole before you came," explained Cap'_ill; "but it's a dangerous place to navigate in the dark, so wait till _ight a candle."
  • "What is a candle?" inquired the Ork.
  • "You'll see in a minute," said Trot.
  • The old sailor drew one of the candles from his right-side pocket and the ti_atchbox from his left- side pocket. When he lighted the match the Ork gave _tartled jump and eyed the flame suspiciously; but Cap'n Bill proceeded t_ight the candle and the action interested the Ork very much.
  • "Light," it said, somewhat nervously, "is valuable in a hole of this sort. Th_andle is not dangerous, I hope?"
  • "Sometimes it burns your fingers," answered Trot, "but that's about the wors_t can do — 'cept to blow out when you don't want it to."
  • Cap'n Bill shielded the flame with his hand and crept into the hole. It wasn'_ny too big for a grown man, but after he had crawled a few feet it gre_arger. Trot came close behind him and then the Ork followed.
  • "Seems like a reg'lar tunnel," muttered the sailor- man, who was creepin_long awkwardly because of his wooden leg. The rocks, too, hurt his knees.
  • For nearly half an hour the three moved slowly along the tunnel, which mad_any twists and turns and sometimes slanted downward and sometimes upward.
  • Finally Cap'n Bill stopped short, with an exclamation of disappointment, an_eld the flickering candle far ahead to light the scene.
  • "What's wrong?" demanded Trot, who could see nothing because the sailor's for_ompletely filled the hole.
  • "Why, we've come to the end of our travels, I guess," he replied.
  • "Is the hole blocked?" inquired the Ork.
  • "No; it's wuss nor that," replied Cap'n Bill sadly. "I'm on the edge of _recipice. Wait a minute an' I'll move along and let you see for yourselves.
  • Be careful, Trot, not to fall."
  • Then he crept forward a little and moved to one side, holding the candle s_hat the girl could see to follow him. The Ork came next and now all thre_nelt on a narrow ledge of rock which dropped straight away and left a hug_lack space which the tiny flame of the candle could not illuminate.
  • "H-m!" said the Ork, peering over the edge; "this doesn't look very promising, I'll admit. But let me take your candle, and I'll fly down and see what'_elow us."
  • "Aren't you afraid?" asked Trot.
  • "Certainly I'm afraid," responded the Ork. "But if we intend to escape w_an't stay on this shelf forever. So, as I notice you poor creatures canno_ly, it is my duty to explore the place for you."
  • Cap'n Bill handed the Ork the candle, which had now burned to about half it_ength. The Ork took it in one claw rather cautiously and then tipped its bod_orward and slipped over the edge. They heard a queer buzzing sound, as th_ail revolved, and a brisk flapping of the peculiar wings, but they were mor_nterested just then in following with their eyes the tiny speck of ligh_hich marked the location of the candle. This light first made a great circle, then dropped slowly downward and suddenly was extinguished, leaving everythin_efore them black as ink.
  • "Hi, there! How did that happen?" cried the Ork.
  • "It blew out, I guess," shouted Cap'n Bill. "Fetch it here."
  • "I can't see where you are," said the Ork.
  • So Cap'n Bill got out another candle and lighted it, and its flame enabled th_rk to fly back to them. It alighted on the edge and held out the bit o_andle.
  • "What made it stop burning?" asked the creature.
  • The wind," said Trot. "You must be more careful, this time."
  • "What's the place like?" inquired Cap'n Bill.
  • "I don't know, yet; but there must be a bottom to it, so I'll try to find it."
  • With this the Ork started out again and this time sank downward more slowly.
  • Down, down, down it went, till the candle was a mere spark, and then it heade_way to the left and Trot and Cap'n Bill lost all sight of it.
  • In a few minutes, however, they saw the spark of light again, and as th_ailor still held the second lighted candle the Ork made straight toward them.
  • It was only a few yards distant when suddenly it dropped the candle with a cr_f pain and next moment alighted, fluttering wildly, upon the rocky ledge.
  • "What's the matter?" asked Trot.
  • It bit me!" wailed the Ork. "I don't like your candles. The thing began t_isappear slowly as soon as I took it in my claw, and it grew smaller an_maller until just now it turned and bit me — a most unfriendly thing to do.
  • Oh — oh! Ouch, what a bite!"
  • "That's the nature of candles, I'm sorry to say," explained Cap'n Bill, with _rin. "You have to handle 'em mighty keerful. But tell us, what did you fin_own there?"
  • "I found a way to continue our journey," said the Ork, nursing tenderly th_law which had been burned. "Just below us is a great lake of black water, which looked so cold and wicked that it made me shudder; but away at the lef_here's a big tunnel, which we can easily walk through. I don't know where i_eads to, of course, but we must follow it and find out." "why, we can't ge_o it," protested the little girl. "We can't fly, as you do, you mus_emember."
  • "No, that's true," replied the Ork musingly. "Your bodies are built ver_oorly, it seems to me, since all you can do is crawl upon the earth'_urface. But you may ride upon my back, and in that way I can promise you _afe journey to the tunnel."
  • "Are you strong enough to carry us?" asked Cap'n Bill, doubtfully.
  • "Yes, indeed; I'm strong enough to carry a dozen of you, if you could find _lace to sit," was the reply; "but there's only room between my wings for on_t a time, so I'll have to make two trips."
  • "All right; I'll go first," decided Cap'n Bill.
  • He lit another candle for Trot to hold while they were gone and to light th_rk on his return to her, and then the old sailor got upon the Ork's back, where he sat with his wooden leg sticking straight out sidewise.
  • "If you start to fall, clasp your arms around my neck," advised the creature.
  • "If I start to fall, it's good night an' pleasant dreams," said Cap'n Bill.
  • "All ready?" asked the Ork.
  • "Start the buzz-tail," said Cap'n Bill, with a tremble in his voice. But th_rk flew away so gently that the old man never even tottered in his seat. Tro_atched the light of Cap'n Bill's candle till it disappeared in the fa_istance. She didn't like to be left alone on this dangerous ledge, with _ake of black water hundreds of feet below her; but she was a brave littl_irl and waited patiently for the return of the Ork. It came even sooner tha_he had expected and the creature said to her:
  • "Your friend is safe in the tunnel. Now, then, get aboard and I'll carry yo_o him in a jiffy."
  • I'm sure not many little girls would have cared to take that awful rid_hrough the huge black cavern on the back of a skinny Ork. Trot didn't car_or it, herself, but it just had to be done and so she did it as courageousl_s possible. Her heart beat fast and she was so nervous she could scarcel_old the candle in her fingers as the Ork sped swiftly through the darkness.
  • It seemed like a long ride to her, yet in reality the Ork covered the distanc_n a wonderfully brief period of time and soon Trot stood safely beside Cap'_ill on the level floor of a big arched tunnel. The sailor-man was very gla_o greet his little comrade again and both were grateful to the Ork for hi_ssistance.
  • "I dunno where this tunnel leads to," remarked Cap'n Bill, "but it surel_ooks more promisin' than that other hole we crept through."
  • "When the Ork is rested," said Trot, "we'll travel on and see what happens."
  • "Rested!" cried the Ork, as scornfully as his shrill voice would allow. "Tha_it of flying didn't tire me at all. I'm used to flying days at a time, without ever once stopping."
  • "Then let's move on," proposed Cap'n Bill. He still held in his hand on_ighted candle, so Trot blew out the other flame and placed her candle in th_ailor's big pocket. She knew it was not wise to burn two candles at once.
  • The tunnel was straight and smooth and very easy to walk through, so they mad_ood progress. Trot thought that the tunnel began about two miles from th_avern where they had been cast by the whirlpool, but now it was impossible t_uess the miles traveled, for they walked steadily for hours and hours withou_ny change in their surroundings.
  • Finally Cap'n Bill stopped to rest.
  • "There's somethin' queer about this 'ere tunnel, I'm certain," he declared, wagging his head dolefully. "Here's three candles gone a'ready, an' only thre_ore left us, yet the tunnel's the same as it was when we started. An' ho_ong it's goin' to keep up, no one knows."
  • "Couldn't we walk without a light?" asked Trot. "The way seems safe enough."
  • "It does right now," was the reply, "but we can't tell when we are likely t_ome to another gulf, or somethin' jes' as dangerous. In that case we'd b_illed afore we knew it."
  • "Suppose I go ahead?" suggested the Ork. "I don't fear a fall, you know, an_f anything happens I'll call out and warn you."
  • "That's a good idea," declared Trot, and Cap'n Bill thought so, too. So th_rk started off ahead, quite in the dark, and hand in band the two followe_im.
  • When they had walked in this way for a good long time the Ork halted an_emanded food. Cap'n Bill had not mentioned food because there was so littl_eft — only three biscuits and a lump of cheese about as big as his tw_ingers — but he gave the Ork half of a biscuit, sighing as he did so. Th_reature didn't care for the cheese, so the sailor divided it between himsel_nd Trot. They lighted a candle and sat down in the tunnel while they ate.
  • "My feet hurt me," grumbled the Ork. "I'm not used to walking and this rock_assage is so uneven and lumpy that it hurts me to walk upon it."
  • "Can't you fly along?" asked Trot.
  • "No; the roof is too low," said the Ork.
  • After the meal they resumed their journey, which Trot began to fear woul_ever end. When Cap'n Bill noticed how tired the little girl was, he pause_nd lighted a match and looked at his big silver watch.
  • "Why, it's night!" he exclaimed. "We've tramped all day, an' still we're i_his awful passage, which mebbe goes straight through the middle of the world, an' mebbe is a circle — in which case we can keep walkin' till doomsday. No_nowin' what's before us so well as we know what's behind us, I propose w_ake a stop, now, an' try to sleep till mornin'."
  • "That will suit me," asserted the Ork, with a groan. "My feet are hurting m_readfully and for the last few miles I've been limping with pain."
  • "My foot hurts, too," said the sailor, looking for a smooth place on the rock_loor to sit down.
  • "Your foot!" cried the Ork. "why, you've only one to hurt you, while I hav_our. So I suffer four times as much as you possibly can. Here; hold th_andle while I look at the bottoms of my claws. I declare," he said, examinin_hem by the flickering light, "there are bunches of pain all over them!"
  • "P'r'aps," said Trot, who was very glad to sit down beside her companions,
  • "you've got corns."
  • "Corns? Nonsense! Orks never have corns," protested the creature, rubbing it_ore feet tenderly.
  • "Then mebbe they're - they're - What do you call 'em, Cap'n Bill? Something
  • 'bout the Pilgrim's Progress, you know."
  • "Bunions," said Cap'n Bill.
  • "Oh, yes; mebbe you've got bunions."
  • "It is possible," moaned the Ork. "But whatever they are, another day of suc_alking on them would drive me crazy."
  • "I'm sure they'll feel better by mornin'," said Cap'n Bill, encouragingly. "G_o sleep an' try to forget your sore feet."
  • The Ork cast a reproachful look at the sailor-man, who didn't see it. Then th_reature asked plaintively: "Do we eat now, or do we starve?"
  • "There's only half a biscuit left for you," answered Cap'n Bill. "No one know_ow long we'll have to stay in this dark tunnel, where there's nothin_hatever to eat; so I advise you to save that morsel o' food till later."
  • "Give it me now!" demanded the Ork. "If I'm going to starve, I'll do it all a_nce — not by degrees."
  • Cap'n Bill produced the biscuit and the creature ate it in a trice. Trot wa_ather hungry and whispered to Cap'n Bill that she'd take part of her share; but the old man secretly broke his own half-biscuit in two, saving Trot'_hare for a time of greater need.
  • He was beginning to be worried over the little girl's plight and long afte_he was asleep and the Ork was snoring in a rather disagreeable manner, Cap'_ill sat with his back to a rock and smoked his pipe and tried to think o_ome way to escape from this seemingly endless tunnel. But after a time h_lso slept, for hobbling on a wooden leg all day was tiresome, and there i_he dark slumbered the three adventurers for many hours, until the Ork rouse_tself and kicked the old sailor with one foot.
  • "It must be another day," said he.