The Search of Kobboltozo and Hammawhaxo.

From: Kobboltozo: A Sequel to the Last of the Huggermuggers (1869)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Lee and Shepard 1869 Boston



  THE great room was no sooner cleared of the frightened dwarfs, than Kobboltozo and Hammawhaxo each lit a candle, and approached the secret closet in which the ancient Hugger manuscript had been discovered. What their object was I will tell you.

  When Hammawhaxo first saw this old manuscript, (the Huggermuggers were living in their house then, you may remember,) he had no time to peruse it thoroughly, but only got a hasty look into it, for he was afraid of being detected by the giant and his wife. But he read enough to learn the fatal secret, the divulging of which is supposed to have been the cause of the misfortunes which befell them. He read, you remember, that the Huggermugger race had become great by eating of a particular kind of shellfish, while the dwarfs stopped growing at a certain period, and began to grow crooked. Also, that if this secret were told to more than one person out of the Huggermugger family, some great calamity would befall the last survivor of the race. This secret the carpenter, (who perhaps did not bear any positive malice towards the giant,) in a heedless hour, imparted to the shoemaker.

  But it was not enough for Kobboltozo that he had ruined the giant’s happiness. He imagined that it was a possible thing to become a giant himself. He could not bear to live and die a dwarf. He would have given all that he owned, and all the little heart and soul that he had, to boot, to be able to stand in Huggermugger’s shoes, to put on Huggermugger’s boots and stride as he did across the country. To be Huggermugger’s equal—to be able to thunder in a voice like his, and sit in his great arm-chair—to make the other dwarfs bow down like slaves before him to rule in the island by fear, and not as the good giant did, by justice and kindness, was his constant ambition and dream. Now, since the giant was gone, it became his darling hope.

  “That manuscript,” he said to himself, “at which the carpenter got but a glimpse, must contain more secrets worth knowing. Where is this mysterious shell-fish—what is it? Why should not I profit by it? And how long would it take to grow out of my dwarfish limits into strong exulting gianthood?” Such thoughts burned in the cobbler’s heart day and night, and gave him no rest. He did not see that true greatness is far from consisting in size or the possession of power.

  “And now, at last,” he thought, “my way is clear. I shall obtain the old manuscript and shall know all. If my fate condemns me to be no bigger, no handsomer than I am, I must submit; but if this manuscript holds out any hope, be sure I shall not be slow in availing myself of it.”

  So Kobboltozo was not sorry that his companions had been frightened away, for the night and solitude were favorable to his schemes. He would have preferred, perhaps, to be entirely alone, and that none should know the full contents of the manuscript but himself. But he could do nothing without Hammawhaxo; first in finding the sliding panel in the wall, and secondly in helping him to decipher the ancient Hugger writing. So it was previously agreed that the carpenter should remain.

  With eager steps they hastened to the door of the secret closet, and with trembling hands pushed back the sliding panel. But to their great surprise and vexation they found nothing there. For it will be remembered that the giant had taken it out before his departure, and sunk it in a deep well under the rocks. At first Kobboltozo was disposed to think that his friend had deceived him with a false story, but this idea soon passed, and on reflection he concluded that the giant had concealed it somewhere else. He was almost certain that Huggermugger had not taken it with him, for he had seen him carry scarcely any thing to the ship.

  Swallowing down his disappointment then as well as he could, he proposed to Hammawhaxo that they should commence searching the whole house. Hammawhaxo, though not so solicitous about the matter as his friend, consented to help him. So they went first round and round the room, tapping on the walls, poking into all the closets, and cracks, and corners. Then they went into all the other rooms, peeping into drawers, and boxes, and chests—turning things upside down and inside out—ransacking from garret to cellar. Sometimes they would light on some old scrap of parchment, yellow with age, and from which the writing was almost faded. But they could make out nothing. As near as could be guessed, they were only fragments of old love-letters that had passed between the giant and his wife—how many years ago, who knows?

  In fine, the dwarfs looked everywhere except down the well, where the Hugger manuscript was soaking; and which, if they could ever have succeeded in fishing up, would have been so faded and blurred, that they could never have read a line of it.

  Meanwhile, the thunder, which had rolled heavily in the distance, came nearer and nearer. Through the great windows the lightning blazed, almost extinguishing the light of their feeble candles. The carpenter became uneasy, and proposed that they should abandon their search for that night, as it was evident a storm was fast coming on.

  “We had better go,” said he, “we can come again to-morrow. It is more comfortable at home than in this dreary great castle. The rain will be pouring down soon. Hark! how the wind roars in the trees and on the roof. Come! “

  “Presently,” said Kobboltozo. “There is one place we have not yet thoroughly explored. I thought I noticed a little door at one end of the cellar. It may be that the manuscript is hid there. Let us take one look; we shan’t be but a moment. It would be a pity not to look. To-morrow we may not have so good a chance; for the dwarfs will be again here, lounging about, and we must conceal our purposes from them.”

  So, much to the carpenter’s reluctance, they descended the steps to the cellar, each with a blazing torch in his hand. They went along till they came to a corner, where Kobboltozo fancied he had seen the little door. And, sure enough, there was a door, just large enough for them to creep through. They easily drew back the bolt, and after a few stout tugs, the door, which from the cobwebs about it appeared to have been long closed, opened, and they peeped in. It seemed to be a low vaulted cell of some length. They entered, and crept cautiously along. The floor soon began to slope downwards; but they still groped along till they came to steps. Descending these, they were stopped by another door, much larger than the first. They deliberated some time whether they should open it. Hammawhaxo was for returning; Kobboltozo for going on.

  “Just this door,” he said; “we will just peep in, and if we don’t find what we want, we will return.” So he slid back the bolt of this door also, and with a push it yielded. They entered, and found themselves in a very large cave, hewn out of the solid rock. There seemed to be nothing in it—but on the walls, as well as they could see by the light of their flickering torches, were inscriptions in huge letters, of the ancient Hugger language, cut in the walls. These excited their curiosity. “Perhaps,” said Kobboltozo, “these inscriptions will tell us something about the mysterious shell-fish.” So they went round and round, trying to decipher them. But the letters were so large, and reached up so high in the darkness, and their torches threw so dim a light, that they could not make out a single word.

  “Come,” said Kobboltozo, at last, “let’s go now; we shall discover nothing to-night. We can return to this place to-morrow and continue our search. Why, really, the storm is coming. I can hear the wind and the thunder even through these thick walls.” They turned to retrace their steps, but ·a sudden gust of wind from some door or crevice blew violently against them, and in an instant both their torches were extinguished.

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