The girls just stood rooted to the spot, their feet firmly planted on the ground. Vinod turned back and ran towards the girl. “What are you standing here for? Get moving, girls!”
“We are not done yet. We have still not even glanced into the accessory stores, the perfume stores and jewel stores. “
“We have no time for all that. If we don’t leave immediately, we will be stuck in this land.”
“But we have so many coupons. All of them will go waste. Maybe we can go in quickly and use these coupons.” Ramya had a stubborn look and Navneeta had a pleading look on her face.
“No, we have exactly 5 minutes. If you are not coming, we are leaving without you,” Vinod said firmly and moved decisively towards the exit.
The girls looked at each other for a couple of minutes and came running to join the others. Soon they were back in the cave. It was pitch dark inside. It must be night already. What would they do now? As they stood thinking, suddenly the cave lit up. One of the little men held a lantern in his hands.
“It is an unearthly hour to stir outside. May we make you welcome in our humble abode till dawn?” It was the man with the glasses.
“We are already so cramped up in our burrow without inviting every gatecrasher in as well.”
“Come on, Grumpy. Where is your hospitability? Don’t mind him, kiddos. This will be good fun. Come along.”
“Achoo Achoo Achoo!” The kids neatly stepped out of harm’s way as the little fellow with the ruddy nose let loose a torrent.
Vinod hesitated a bit. “We don’t even know you. Would it be fair to accept your hospitality?”
“Let us remedy it then. We are the seven gnomes – I am Happy, this is Doc, this is Grumpy, that quiet one is Bashful, that confused one is Dopey, the one with drooping eyes is Sleepy and the one keeps sneezing is of course Sneezy.”
“Aren’t you those dwarves from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” Ramya exclaimed.
“Well, we may be from the line of those that you mention from that old legend. But we object to our noble race be called by the derogatory term that refers to stunted ones of your race. We are gnomes not dwarves“
The children introduced themselves and they walked up to gnomes’ dwelling place. Soon they were close to what looked like a large hole. The gnomes dropped in without much difficulty. The children were not too sure if they would fit into these holes. But on encouragement from Happy and Doc, Vinod lay on his stomach and crawled in. He was not at all prepared for the sight that greeted him. It was not at all cramped like Grumpy had mentioned. It was a proper home from medieval times, cozily furnished.
“Everyone come on inside. It is all right,” he called. Ramya emerged through the hole, followed by Navneeta and then Ajay.
The house was beautifully furnished. As they were looking around, Vinod heard a creaking sound. He turned around to see one of the chairs near the dining table collapsing under Ajay’s weight. “I am sorry. I didn’t realize it was so fragile.”
The gnome called Bashful looked like he was about to burst into tears. “See, Doc. This is what comes of inviting these unruly vermin into our home.” It was Grumpy again.
“We shall get you a new seat, Bashful. Our guests are unfamiliar with our abode. Let us not judge them to hastily, Grumpy. I am sorry, my dear guests. We do not have right furniture to entertain you today. We have to make do with what we have.”
The children had to have their meal on the floor. But then they were used to it as they often had food sitting on the floor in their homes as well. So they were surprised why the gnomes were being so apologetic. They did not know what the ingredients were but the food was just delicious. The gnomes had also assured them that it was all plant based food with no meat in it. Then they settled down to sleep on the mattresses the gnomes laid down for them in the floor.
Next morning, they set out to leave early in the morning. Though the gnomes wanted them to stay for breakfast, the children felt their parents may be getting worried and they wanted to get home as early as possible. Doc and Dopey accompanied them to show them the way. Dopey, a quiet gnome who always looked lost was apparently an expert in finding ways. To the children’s surprise and delight, they emerged out of the caves close to the bottom of the hillock. So they did not have to climb all the way down again.
“Do give us an opportunity to host you at our abode again. Also Sleepy has dreamt that the next land that will be coming is Kisanpur. I hope we can escort you that delghtful and delectable land.” said Doc as the children prepared to be on their way.
The children liked the sound of this new land. “Sure we will try to come,” said Ramya.
Dopey who had been quiet so far pointed to a small hole near the entrance. Then he put his mouth close to it and made a non-comprehensible noise.
“Thanks, my friend Dopey for reminding me of this, “said Doc and turned to the children. “Do you see yon hole? When thee shall come seeking our hospitality, all you have to do is to say these words at the hole: Abracadabra. Open the Sesame.”
Ramya looked excited, “Will the words open a magic door like the story of Alibaba and the forty thieves.”
“That it shalt not, my lady. But this hole can carry thine voice right up to our abode and it can bring one of us down there to make thee welcome.”
The children nodded understandingly. Their minds were filled with excitement as they walked towards civilization to catch the bus to Bangalore. They hoped their parents would not be too worried and they be able to plan an excursion the following weekend as well.
The Magical Cave I: A Cave in the Hills <<<< The Magical Cave II: The Land of Bargains << >> The Magical Cave IV: Welcome to Kissanpur
Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12567713@N00/234056186/