"What-a-BUTTER! What-a-BUTTER!" High and clear above the peaks of Mt. Mern floated the voice of the Goat Girl calling the finest, fattest but most troublesome of her flock. All the other goats were winding obediently down toward the village that perched precariously on the edge of the mountain. But of What-a-butter there was not a single sign nor whisker.
"Serves me right for spoiling the contrary creature," panted Mandy, pushing back her thick yellow braids with her second best hand. "Always wants her own way, that goat-so she does. What-a-butter, I say WHAT-A-BUTTER-come down here this instant." But only the tantalizing tinkle of the goat's silver bell came to answer her, for What-a-butter was climbing up, not down, and there was nothing for Mandy to do but go after her.
Muttering dire threats which she was much too soft hearted ever to carry out, the rosy cheeked mountain lass scrambled over crags and stones, pulling herself up steep precipices, the goat always managing to keep a few jumps ahead, till soon they were almost at the top of the mountain!
Here, stopping on a jutting rock to catch her breath and remove the burrs from her stockings, Mandy heard a dreadful roar and felt an ominous rumbling beneath her feet. What-a-butter on a narrow ledge just above heard it too, and cocked her head anxiously on one side. Perhaps she had best jump down to Mandy. After all, the great silly girl did feed and pet her, and from the sound of things a storm was brewing. If there was one thing the goat feared more than another, it was a thunder-storm, so, rolling her eyes as innocently as if she had not dragged Mandy all over the mountain she stretched her nose down toward her weary mistress.
"Bah-ah-ah-ahhhhhhhhhh!" bleated What-a-butter affectionately.
"Oh 'Bah' yourself!" fumed Mandy, making an angry snatch for the Nanny Goat's beard. "Pets and children are all alike-never appreciate a body till they have a stomach ache, or a thunder-storm is coming. Now then, m'lass, be quick with you!"
Holding out her strong arms, Mandy made ready to catch the goat as it jumped off the ledge. But before What-a-butter could stir, there was a perfectly awful crash and explosion and up shot the slab of rock on which Mandy was standing, up-UP and out of sight entirely. Where the mountain girl had been, a crystal column of water spurted viciously into the air, so high the bulging eyes of the goat could see no end to it. Rearing up on her hind legs, What-a-butter turned round and round in a frantic effort to catch a glimpse of her vanishing Mistress. Then thinking suddenly what would happen should the torrent turn and fall upon her, the goat sprang off the ledge and ran madly down the mountain, bleating like a whole herd of Banshees.
And Mandy, as you can well believe, was as frightened as What-a-butter and with twice as much reason. The first upheaval, as the rock left the earth, flung her flat on her nose. Grasping the edges of the slab with all hands, Mandy hung on for dear life and as a stinging shower of icy water sprayed her from head to foot, wondered what under the earth was happening to her. Thorns and thistles! Could the thunder-storm really have come UP instead of down? Certainly it was raining up, and what ever was carrying her aloft with such terrible force and relentlessness?How could the Goat Girl know that a turbulent spring pent up for thousands of years in the center of Mt. Mern had suddenly burst its way to freedom! And you have no idea of the tremendous power in a mountain spring once it uncoils and lets itself go. Mandy's rock might just as well have been shot into the air by a magic cannon. First it tore upward as if it meant to knock a hole in the sky, then, still travelling at incalculable speed, began to arch and take a horizontal course over the mountains, hills and valleys west of Mern. All poor Mandy knew was that she was hurtling through space at break-neck speed with nothing to save or stop her. The long yellow braids of the Goat Girl streamed out like pennants, while her striped skirt and voluminous petticoats snapped and fluttered like banners in the wind.
"What-a-butter! Oh What-a-butter!" moaned Mandy, gazing wildly over the edge of the rock. But pshaw, what was the use of calling? What-a-butter, even if she heard, could not fly after her through the air, and when she herself came down not even her own goat would recognize her. At this depressing thought, Mandy dropped her head on her arms and began to weep bitterly, for she was quite sure she would never see her friends-her home-or her goats again.
But the rough and frugal life on Mt. Mern had made the Goat Girl both brave and resourceful, so she soon dried her tears and as the rock still showed no signs of slowing up nor dashing down, she began to take heart and even a desperate sort of interest in her experience. Slowly and cautiously she pulled herself to a sitting position and still clutching the edges of the rock, dared to look down at the countries and towns flashing away below."After all," sniffed the reckless maiden, "nothing very dreadful has happened yet. I've always wanted to travel and now I AM travelling. Not many people have flown through the air on a rock-why it's really a rocket!" decided Mandy, with a nervous giggle. "And that, I suppose, makes me the first rocket rider in the country, and the LAST, too," she finished soberly as she measured with her eye the distance she would plunge when her rock started earthward. "Now if we'd just come down in that blue lake, below, I might have a chance. Perhaps I should jump?"
But by the time Mandy made up her mind to jump the lake was far behind and nothing but a great desert of smoking sand stretched beneath her.