We know we are asking a great favor, but it's the only way we can think of -- excep' walkin', an' I'm not much good at that because I've a wooden leg. Besides, Trot an' Button-Bright are too small to undertake a long and tiresome journey. Now, tell me: Which three of you birds will consent to carry us?"
The birds looked at one another as if greatly astonished. Then one of them replied: "You must be crazy, old man. Not one of us is big enough to fly with even the smallest of your party."
"I'll fix the matter of size," promised Cap'n Bill. "If three of you will agree to carry us, I'll make you big an' strong enough to do it, so it won't worry you a bit."
The birds considered this gravely. Living in a magic country, they had no doubt but that the strange one- legged man could do what he said. After a little, 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 first spoken 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 they all longed to be bigger than they were; but three were enough for Cap'n Bill's purpose and so he promptly released all the others, who immediately flew away.
The three that remained were cousins, and all were of the same brilliant plumage and in size about as large as eagles. When Trot questioned them she found they were quite young, having only abandoned their nests a few weeks before. They were strong young birds, with clear, brave eyes, and the little girl decided they were the most beautiful of all the feathered creatures she had ever seen.
Cap'n Bill now took from his pocket the wooden box with the sliding cover and removed the three purple berries, which were still in good condition.
"Eat these," he said, and gave one to each of the birds. They obeyed, finding the fruit very pleasant to taste. In a few seconds they began to grow in size and grew so fast that Trot feared they would never stop. But they finally did stop growing, and then they were much larger than the Ork, and nearly the size of 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 their backs without falling off."
"We're not going to ride on their backs," answered Cap'n Bill. "I'm going to make 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 strong as rope. With this material he attached to each bird a swing that dangled below its feet, and Button- Bright made a trial flight in one of them to prove that it was safe and comfortable. When all this had been arranged one of the birds asked:
"Where do you wish us to take you?"
"Why, just follow the Ork," said Cap'n Bill. "He will be our leader, and wherever the Ork flies you are to fly, and wherever the Ork lands you are to land. Is that satisfactory?"
The birds declared it was quite satisfactory, so Cap'n Bill took counsel with the Ork.
"On our way here," said that peculiar creature, "I noticed a broad, sandy desert 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 most pleasant countries often lie in the midst of deserts; so I think it would be wise for us to fly over this desert and discover what lies beyond it. For in the direction we came from lies the ocean, as we well know, and beyond here is this strange Land of Mo, which we do not care to explore. On one side, as we can see from this mountain, is a broad expanse of plain, and on the other the desert.