"Wake up — wake up!" called the voice of the Bumpy Man. "Didn't I tell yo_inter was coming? I could hear it coming with my left ear, and the proof i_hat it is now snowing hard outside."
"Is it?" said Trot, rubbing her eyes and creeping out of her blanket. "Where _ive, in California, I have never seen snow, except far away on the tops o_igh mountains."
"Well, this is the top of a high mountain," returned the bumpy one, "and fo_hat reason we get our heaviest snowfalls right here."
The little girl went to the window and looked out. The air was filled wit_alling white flakes, so large in size and so queer in form that she wa_uzzled.
"Are you certain this is snow?" she asked.
"To be sure. I must get my snow-shovel and turn out to shovel a path. Woul_ou like to come with me?"
"Yes," she said, and followed the Bumpy Man out when he opened the door. The_he exclaimed: "Why, it isn't cold a bit!"
"Of course not," replied the man. "It was cold last night, before th_nowstorm; but snow, when it falls, is always crisp and warm."
Trot gathered a handful of it.
"Why, it's popcorn?" she cried.
"Certainly; all snow is popcorn. What did you expect it to be?"
"Popcorn is not snow in my country."
"Well, it is the only snow we have in the Land of Mo, so you may as well mak_he best of it," said he, a little impatiently. "I'm not responsible for th_bsurd things that happen in your country, and when you're in Mo you must d_s the Momen do. Eat some of our snow, and you will find it is good. The onl_ault I find with our snow is that we get too much of it at times."
With this the Bumpy Man set to work shoveling a path and he was so quick an_ndustrious that he piled up the popcorn in great banks on either side of th_rail that led to the mountain-top from the plains below. While he worked, Trot ate popcorn and found it crisp and slightly warm, as well as nicel_alted and buttered. Presently Cap'n Bill came out of the house and joine_er.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Mo snow," said she. "But it isn't real snow, although it falls from the sky.
Cap'n Bill tasted it; then he sat down in the path and began to eat. The Or_ame out and pecked away with its bill as fast as it could. They all like_opcorn and they all were hungry this morning.
Meantime the flakes of "Mo snow" came down so fast that the number of the_lmost darkened the air. The Bumpy Man was now shoveling quite a distance dow_he mountain- side, while the path behind him rapidly filled up with fresh- fallen popcorn. Suddenly Trot heard him call out:
"Goodness gracious — mince pie and pancakes! — here is some one buried in th_now."
She ran toward him at once and the others followed, wading through the cor_nd crunching it underneath their feet. The Mo snow was pretty deep where th_umpy Man was shoveling and from beneath a great bank of it he had uncovered _air of feet.
"Dear me! Someone has been lost in the storm," said Cap'n Bill. "I hope he i_till alive. Let's pull him out and see."
He took hold of one foot and the Bumpy Man took hold of the other. Then the_oth pulled and out from the heap of popcorn came a little boy. He was dresse_n a brown velvet jacket and knickerbockers, with brown stockings, buckle_hoes and a blue shirt-waist that had frills down its front. When drawn fro_he heap the boy was chewing a mouthful of popcorn and both his hands wer_ull of it. So at first he couldn't speak to his rescuers but lay quite stil_nd eyed them calmly until he had swallowed his mouthful. Then he said:
"Get my cap," and stuffed more popcorn into his mouth.
While the Bumpy Man began shoveling into the corn-bank to find the boy's cap, Trot was laughing joyfully and Cap'n Bill had a broad grin on his face. Th_rk looked from one to another and asked:
"Who is this stranger?"
"Why, it's Button-Bright, of course," answered Trot. "If anyone ever finds _ost boy, he can make up his mind it's Button-Bright. But how he ever came t_e lost in this far-away country is more'n I can make out."
"Where does he belong?" inquired the Ork.
"His home used to be in Philadelphia, I think; but I'm quite sure Button- Bright doesn't belong anywhere."
"That's right," said the boy, nodding his head as he swallowed the secon_outhful.
"Everyone belongs somewhere," remarked the Ork.
"Not me," insisted Button-Bright. "I'm half way round the world fro_hiladelphia, and I've lost my Magic Umbrella, that used to carry me anywhere.
Stands to reason that if I can't get back I haven't any home. But I don't car_uch. This is a pretty good country, Trot. I've had lots of fun here."
By this time the Mountain Ear had secured the boy's cap and was listening t_he conversation with much interest.
"It seems you know this poor, snow-covered cast- away," he said.
"Yes, indeed," answered Trot. "We made a journey together to Sky Island, once, and were good friends."
"Well, then I'm glad I saved his life," said the Bumpy Man.
"Much obliged, Mr. Knobs," said Button-Bright, sitting up and staring at him,
"but I don't believe you've saved anything except some popcorn that I migh_ave eaten had you not disturbed me. It was nice and warm in that bank o_opcorn, and there was plenty to eat. What made you dig me out? And what make_ou so bumpy everywhere?"
"As for the bumps," replied the man, looking at himself with much pride, "_as born with them and I suspect they were a gift from the fairies. They mak_e look rugged and big, like the mountain I serve."
"All right," said Button-Bright and began eating popcorn again.
It had stopped snowing, now, and great flocks of birds were gathering aroun_he mountain-side, eating the popcorn with much eagerness and scarcel_oticing the people at all. There were birds of every size and color, most o_hem having gorgeous feathers and plumes.
"Just look at them!" exclaimed the Ork scornfully. "Aren't they dreadfu_reatures, all covered with feathers?"
"I think they're beautiful," said Trot, and this made the Ork so indignan_hat he went back into the house and sulked.
Button-Bright reached out his hand and caught a big bird by the leg. At onc_t rose into the air and it was so strong that it nearly carried the littl_oy with it. He let go the leg in a hurry and the bird flew down again an_egan to eat of the popcorn, not being frightened in the least.
This gave Cap'n Bill an idea. He felt in his pocket and drew out severa_ieces of stout string. Moving very quietly, so as to not alarm the birds, h_rept up to several of the biggest ones and tied cords around their legs, thu_aking them prisoners. The birds were so intent on their eating that they di_ot notice what had happened to them, and when about twenty had been capture_n this manner Cap'n Bill tied the ends of all the strings together an_astened them to a huge stone, so they could not escape.
The Bumpy Man watched the old sailor's actions with much curiosity
"The birds will be quiet until they've eaten up all the snow," he said, "bu_hen they will want to fly away to their homes. Tell me, sir, what will th_oor things do when they find they can't fly?"
"It may worry 'em a little," replied Cap'n Bill, "but they're not going to b_urt if they take it easy and behave themselves."
Our friends had all made a good breakfast of the delicious popcorn and no_hey walked toward the house again. Button-Bright walked beside Trot and hel_er hand in his, because they were old friends and he liked the little gir_ery much. The boy was not so old as Trot, and small as she was he was half _ead shorter in height. The most remarkable thing about Button-Bright was tha_e was always quiet and composed, whatever happened, and nothing was ever abl_o astonish him. Trot liked him because he was not rude and never tried t_lague her. Cap'n Bill liked him because he had found the boy cheerful an_rave at all times, and willing to do anything he was asked to do.
When they came to the house Trot sniffed the air and asked "Don't I smel_erfume?"
"I think you do," said the Bumpy Man. "You smell violets, and that prove_here is a breeze springing up from the south. All our winds and breezes ar_erfumed and for that reason we are glad to have them blow in our direction.
The south breeze always has a violet odor; the north breeze has the fragranc_f wild roses; the east breeze is perfumed with lilies-of-the-valley and th_est wind with lilac blossoms. So we need no weathervane to tell us which wa_he wind is blowing. We have only to smell the perfume and it informs us a_nce."
Inside the house they found the Ork, and Button-Bright regarded the strange, birdlike creature with curious interest. After examining it closely for a tim_e asked:
"Which way does your tail whirl?"
"Either way," said the Ork.
Button-Bright put out his hand and tried to spin it.
"Don't do that!" exclaimed the Ork.
"Why not? " inquired the boy.
"Because it happens to be my tail, and I reserve the right to whirl i_yself," explained the Ork.
"Let's go out and fly somewhere," proposed Button- Bright. "I want to see ho_he tail works."
"Not now," said the Ork. "I appreciate your interest in me, which I full_eserve; but I only fly when I am going somewhere, and if I got started _ight not stop."
"That reminds me," remarked Cap'n Bill, "to ask you, friend Ork, how we ar_oing to get away from here?"
"Get away!" exclaimed the Bumpy Man. "Why don't you stay here? You won't fin_ny nicer place than Mo."
"Have you been anywhere else, sir?"
"No; I can't say that I have," admitted the Mountain Ear.
"Then permit me to say you're no judge," declared Cap'n Bill. "But you haven'_nswered my question, friend Ork. How are we to get away from this mountain?"
The Ork reflected a while before he answered.
"I might carry one of you — the boy or the girl —upon my back," said he, "bu_hree big people are more than I can manage, although I have carried two o_ou for a short distance. You ought not to have eaten those purple berries s_oon."
"P'r'aps we did make a mistake," Cap'n Bill acknowledged.
"Or we might have brought some of those lavender berries with us, instead o_o many purple ones," suggested Trot regretfully.
Cap'n Bill made no reply to this statement, which showed he did not full_gree with the little girl; but he fell into deep thought, with wrinkle_rows, and finally he said:
"If those purple berries would make anything grow bigger, whether it'd eate_he lavender ones or not, I could find a way out of our troubles."
They did not understand this speech and looked at the old sailor as i_xpecting him to explain what he meant. But just then a chorus of shrill crie_ose from outside.
"Here! Let me go — let me go!" the voices seemed to say. "Why are we insulte_n this way? Mountain Ear, come and help us!"
Trot ran to the window and looked out.
"It's the birds you caught, Cap'n," she said. "I didn't know they could talk."
"Oh, yes; all the birds in Mo are educated to talk," said the Bumpy Man. The_e looked at Cap'n Bill uneasily and added: "Won't you let the poor thing_o?"
"I'll see," replied the sailor, and walked out to where the birds wer_luttering and complaining because the strings would not allow them to fl_way.
"Listen to me!" he cried, and at once they became still. "We three people wh_re strangers in your land want to go to some other country, and we want thre_f you birds to carry us there. We know we are asking a great favor, but it'_he only way we can think of — excep' walkin', an' I'm not much good at tha_ecause I've a wooden leg. Besides, Trot an' Button-Bright are too small t_ndertake a long and tiresome journey. Now, tell me: Which three of you bird_ill consent to carry us?"
The birds looked at one another as if greatly astonished. Then one of the_eplied: "You must be crazy, old man. Not one of us is big enough to fly wit_ven the smallest of your party."
"I'll fix the matter of size," promised Cap'n Bill. "If three of you wil_gree to carry us, I'll make you big an' strong enough to do it, so it won'_orry you a bit."
The birds considered this gravely. Living in a magic country, they had n_oubt but that the strange one- legged man could do what he said. After _ittle, one of them asked:
"If you make us big, would we stay big always?"
"I think so," replied Cap'n Bill.
They chattered a while among themselves and then the bird that had firs_poken said: "I'll go, for one."
"So will I," said another; and after a pause a third said: "I'll go, too."
Perhaps more would have volunteered, for it seemed that for some reason the_ll longed to be bigger than they were; but three were enough for Cap'n Bill'_urpose and so he promptly released all the others, who immediately flew away.
The three that remained were cousins, and all were of the same brillian_lumage and in size about as large as eagles. When Trot questioned them sh_ound they were quite young, having only abandoned their nests a few week_efore. They were strong young birds, with clear, brave eyes, and the littl_irl decided they were the most beautiful of all the feathered creatures sh_ad ever seen.
Cap'n Bill now took from his pocket the wooden box with the sliding cover an_emoved the three purple berries, which were still in good condition.
"Eat these," he said, and gave one to each of the birds. They obeyed, findin_he fruit very pleasant to taste. In a few seconds they began to grow in siz_nd grew so fast that Trot feared they would never stop. But they finally di_top growing, and then they were much larger than the Ork, and nearly the siz_f full-grown ostriches.
Cap'n Bill was much pleased by this result.
"You can carry us now, all right," said he.
The birds strutted around with pride, highly pleased with their immense size.
"I don't see, though," said Trot doubtfully, "how we're going to ride on thei_acks without falling off."
"We're not going to ride on their backs," answered Cap'n Bill. "I'm going t_ake swings for us to ride in."
He then asked the Bumpy Man for some rope, but the man had no rope. He had, however, an old suit of gray clothes which he gladly presented to Cap'n Bill, who cut the cloth into strips and twisted it so that it was almost as stron_s rope. With this material he attached to each bird a swing that dangle_elow its feet, and Button- Bright made a trial flight in one of them to prov_hat it was safe and comfortable. When all this had been arranged one of th_irds asked:
"Where do you wish us to take you?"
"Why, just follow the Ork," said Cap'n Bill. "He will be our leader, an_herever the Ork flies you are to fly, and wherever the Ork lands you are t_and. Is that satisfactory?"
The birds declared it was quite satisfactory, so Cap'n Bill took counsel wit_he Ork.
"On our way here," said that peculiar creature, "I noticed a broad, sand_esert at the left of me, on which was no living thing."
"Then we'd better keep away from it," replied the sailor.
"Not so," insisted the Ork. "I have found, on my travels, that the mos_leasant countries often lie in the midst of deserts; so I think it would b_ise for us to fly over this desert and discover what lies beyond it. For i_he direction we came from lies the ocean, as we well know, and beyond here i_his strange Land of Mo, which we do not care to explore. On one side, as w_an see from this mountain, is a broad expanse of plain, and on the other th_esert. For my part, I vote for the desert."
"What do you say, Trot?" inquired Cap'n Bill.
"It's all the same to me," she replied.
No one thought of asking Button-Bright's opinion, so it was decided to fl_ver the desert. They bade good-bye to the Bumpy Man and thanked him for hi_indness and hospitality. Then they seated themselves in the swings — one fo_ach bird — and told the Ork to start away and they would follow.
The whirl of the Ork's tail astonished the birds at first, but after he ha_one a short distance they rose in the air, carrying their passengers easily, and flew with strong, regular strokes of their great wings in the wake o_heir leader.