The Girl, The House and Gumblebump
By Paul A.T. Wilson
Many of you have probably heard of the Brownies and I am not talking about the delicious chocolate treats. I am talking about the helpful spirits who frequent your home: the little creatures who, when treated well will serve you and your household loyally. These spirits, though shy, are known to dwell in every home where love and affection is shown; you may not see them, but they will let you know they’re there.
This story, is about one such creature and the house that he lived in. The house was old, no one could rightly say how old, but it surely was. The roof was made of thatch, the walls of wattle-and-daub and the floor was made of handsome stones of all sizes.
These stones were expertly fitted together to form patterns that were simultaneously of nothing and everything. One could sit and look at these stones for hours and get lost in their intricately woven patterns as easily as can get lost in an oil painting.
To enter the house a visitor would have to first pass through the all wooden porch with bunches of drying flowers hanging from the eves and smelling heavily of lavender. Then into the dining room with its wooden table lovingly scrubbed and wooden bowls and spoons ready of the evening meal. And finally into the kitchen. Oh, the kitchen with its gleaming pots and pans hanging from hooks on the walls and reflecting the light in innumerable magical ways. The crowning glory of this well stocked kitchen were the smells of stews and freshly baked bread. Between this house's four walls love was freely given and always gratefully received.
The house was the perfect place for Gumblebump to live, in fact he had lived in this house form the day it was born. What? Houses aren’t born you say? Well, I think you'll find that all houses are born and each one has their own personality. However, I digress, I can already hear you asking, "Who is Gumblebump?"
Gumblebump was a Brownie; he was about this tall and about that wide, he had a long red nose, and a mop of brown woolly hair. His face was ruddy and bright, with laugher lines around his eyes like he had never stopped smiling in all his life. Quite often the little fellow would have soot on his nose or cheek, but those were the hazards of sleeping so close to a fireplace. If you asked him, he would say wasn't entirely sure where he came from, but he knew he was here and that was good enough for him.
The little chap would hide away under the hearth where it was warm during the day. He'd sleep soundly in his tiny bed, happy in the knowledge that the House was there to protect him. At night though, he would spring into action. He would get up and survey the house, make a note of anything that needed doing and get to work. If someone had left a mug out, then Gumblebump would clean it and put it away. Maybe one of the children had kicked off their covers doing the night, and you guessed it Gumblebump would pull them back over and tuck the child in. Maybe the cream would need churning (of which he would always have taste as it was his favourite), or the beer might need some help with its brewing and each time the House’s little friend would be there to help.
Quite often, without thinking the family would leave out little treats for their Brownie helper. You see, when you have a Brownie, quite without you knowing it, the magic will give you a little nudge in the right direction. The children would leave half a biscuit or a sugar plumb by the hearth at night and Gumblebump would sit down on a clump of coal and happily eat his feast.
The years went by and the House and Gumblebump would love and care for each new family that came to live there. The house would shelter the family and Gumblebump would do his best to make sure their lives were just that little bit better.
One night, as the little Brownie went about his business he heard a sound behind him. He looked around and there staring at him was a little girl with long red hair, bright green eyes and a very curious expression on her face. Gumblebump froze, he knew that humans generally couldn’t see his kind, so he figured if he did nothing then she might just go away.
“Hello,” the girl said without pause “I’m Jemima, who are you and why are you in our kitchen?”
Gumblebump just stood there and said nothing.
“Do you understand English? Can you understand me?” Jemima continued after a moment.
“Yyes, oh, um, I’m Gumblebump.. You err, you can see me?” The little man stammered.
“Of course, I can see you, I’m not blind. Why are you in our kitchen?” the young girl demanded (quite matter of factly, mind you).
“I live here, the House and I, we err, live here.” Gumblebump replied.
The girl, satisfied with the vague answer for the moment eyed the little Brownie with an air of suspicion. It seemed to her that he wouldn't do her any harm and beside if he tried to, she would just pick him up and put him in a box.
The Brownie just stood and looked back at Jemima and considered his options, but before he could do anything the little girl crouched down and asked, “And while we’re at it, what sort of name is ‘Grumplehump’ anyway?”
“Gumblebump!” said the Brownie with more than a little bit of indignity in his voice. “And I’ll have you know it’s a very fine name and I would appreciate if you get it right!” His little foot stamping on the ground.
Taken aback and feeling somewhat ashamed of her rude behaviour, Jemima said. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.” She continued after a moment “Would you mind awfully if I asked… What are you?”
Gumblebump explained what he was and why was there (to the best of his recollection). He then recounted the jobs he does when everyone was asleep and told her how surprised he was that Jemima could see him. He also made a rather elaborate point that he quite liked treats and fresh cream was his favourite.
Both Jemima and Gumblebump decided that they would be good friend forthwith. They spent the rest of the night talking until they heard the wood pigeons call from the trees and the sun breaking through the curtains.
The two friends would send many evenings talking and playing games. Jemima would confide her inner most thoughts and often tell Gumblebump of her loneliness. The young girl was painfully shy and found it hard to make friends, but her evenings with the little fellow where the highlights of her day.
In return for keeping him company, Gumblebump regaled her with stories from long ago, songs of people and places long since passed and tales of strange beasts in far off lands.
One story that Jemima quite liked, was the adventure that Gumblebump went on to find a lost ring that belonged to a young woman who once lived in the House. The young women had recently been betrothed to a young man from the village. The man had given her his grandmother's ring as a token of his affection and it meant to world to the young woman.
Gumblebump had never left the House before, and why would he? The House was his best friend, his home and gave him everything he needed. However, the ring meant so much to the young woman that he just had to try.
He told Jemima of the fierce creatures he encountered on his journey, the lashing rain and unkempt terrain and the strange lands that he walked through. Through all the hardships his sense of purpose always remained unwavering, his quest was clear and honourable. Gumblebump did all this so that he could make his way to the land called “Compost Heap” where the young woman had been when she last saw the ring.
Gumblebump would tell the trials and tribulations of searching though “Compost Heap” until, when he thought all hope was lost, he finally found his prize.
The epic tale would always finish with the Brownie exalting his own prowess and making his way back to the House triumphantly. Exhausted, he would stumble back into the House where it would dutifully creak in celebration of the Hero's return. Gumblebump would make his way up the stairs, slip the ring under the woman’s pillow and wait for the tears of joy coming from her room.
Jemima never had the heart to tell him that the compost heap, was only 100 yards from the back door and just behind the thicket at the end of the garden. The reality of such things didn’t make the story any less exciting and Gumblebump was so proud of his expedition that all she would do was smile to herself and congratulate him on a job well done.
The years came and went, Jemima grew and changed but her little friend was always there for her. He helped her through nights of loneliness and celebrated days of triumph. He loved to spend this time with her and as the sun would rise and he would slip back into his little bed beneath the hearth and would recount the night’s adventures with the House. The House would warmly creak back to him and lovingly protect him through his sleep.
As Jemima grew older and found her way in the world she started becoming more confident and found that, without even trying she had made friends at school. They would come to visit her in the afternoon and on weekends and she too would go visit them. Gumblebump noticed too and as his night time companion made friends in the outside world, the less frequent her nocturnal visits became.
She would still leave out treats for him from time-to-time, but even those were becoming something of a rarity and the little man found himself missing his playmate terribly.
One evening Gumblebump noticed the light was on in Jemima’s room so he decided to visit her. He tidied up his shirt and coat, tried to comb his shock of woolly hair and even washed the soot from his face. He made his way into her room and saw her sitting at her desk, writing furiously and reading from a book. The Brownie assumed, rightly, that she was studying, and he thought she might enjoy a little distraction, so he jumped up on her desk and waved at her.
Jemima didn’t even look up or respond so he decided to get her attention by calling her name and doing a summersault right over her paper. She didn’t even flinch, not a smile, not a smirk, not even a twitch of the mouth.
“Hey! Hey Jemima!” Gumblebump called with a huge grin on his face “Is this a new game? Come on, look at me!”
Jemima didn’t say a word, she just closed her book, put her papers in her bag and turned out the light.
It was at that moment that Gumblebump knew. The horrible realisation hit him like a ton of bricks and the weight of it would snap his very heart strings.
Jemima could no longer see him.
The little house spirit realised that the person in front of him was no longer that little girl from so long ago. That little girl who desperately needed a friend was now a grown woman who had her own life and didn’t need him.
The Brownie slowly went down the stairs with tears welling up in his eyes. The pain inside him was unbearable and all he could do was crawl into his little bed, close his eyes and try to go to sleep.
Time went by and the family left the House but this time no one moved in. Gumblebump continued his duties and did his best to look after the House, but the poor little Brownie found himself at a loss. The House tried it’s best to comfort his friend, but it had its own problems and being left empty for so long made it too lose heart. Eventually even the House found itself giving up.
The wind would blow around the chimney and up through the stairs. Some days it would blow so hard that the door of the bedrooms would bang and for a tiny moment Gumblebump would think Jemima was back. He would sit up in the bed and listen, but all he could hear was the howling of the breath of jack frost.
Sadness had filled the house; the air of emptiness and disuse had replaced the warmth that had once held the four walls together. The Brownie and the House just went to sleep and late one night, as the winds blew hard, the rain got in and the thatch started to rot. Gumblebump told the House that he was sorry for letting this happened to it. With tears in his little eyes he told his best friend that he would stay with it until the end. The House in kind groaned back and the two friends decided it was time to let nature take its course.
One evening, and it wasn’t a particularly remarkable evening by any stretch of the imagination, Gumblebump was woken up with a start. The Brownie noticed something about The House, it was awake, and it was warm and seemed to be singing.
Builders and workmen had been in the house and their tools were all around. They had been there fixing the walls, patching the plaster and most importantly of all, the hole in the roof has been mended. Gumblebump got up for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. He busied himself and started to sing to his old friend "A family is coming! A family is coming!"
Weeks passed and after the workmen had all left and the house seemed to have quietened down for the night, Gumblebump jumped up and made his way out from his little bed. He walked into the centre of the kitchen, looked around but was almost bowled over by something racing past. Something with red hair had definitely run past and nearly knocked him over.
“House, what is going on?”
The house warmly creaked its reply to Gumblebump which didn’t really give him an answer, but he knew something magical was happening.
The little man noticed that the fire was roaring and there was a deep and heady smell coming from the kitchen. The thing that nearly knocked him over ran past again and ran straight up the stairs.
The Brownie surveyed the house, walking from the kitchen into the dining room and back again. He waited for a time, trying to listen to the voices that were coming from upstairs but he couldn't hear clearly enough so he decided to investigate.
Gumblebump walked slowly into one of the rooms and noticed a little girl with red hair all tucked up in bed and her mother sitting by her side recounting a story. Mother had the same red hair as her daughter and beautiful green eyes. She was smiling a large wide smile as she finished her tale, “… and he called himself Gumblebump and he was my very best friend.”
“Good night Mummy.” Said the little girl as her mother turned to leave the room.
“Mummy?” the girl called out.
“Was he real?” asked the girl.
“He was to me, and if you’re a very good girl and leave him some cream, maybe one day he will come and visit you too.” And with that, the mother turned off the light and left the room.