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.