The Engineer And The Dwarfs

: Fairy Tales From The German Forests

A tunnel had been dug through a crag which had hitherto been considered

as a serious obstacle in the railway route; the light now shone through

at the farther end. There was a shout of joy from the tired workmen. The

air had been stifling in the tunnel; the work was hard and dangerous;

several men had been killed in detaching portions of rock that had been

loosened by dynamite. It was a great relief to have got through. Now
r /> the walls would have to be made smooth with cement--indeed the men had

already begun this work at the other end--and the tunnel tested for

greater security. Then the express train could run through directly,

instead of being obliged to shunt backwards and forwards in a way that

made it very uncomfortable for people who did not like sitting with

their backs to the engine.

The young engineer, Karl Hammerstein, who had been supervising the

men's work, was glad enough to find himself in the fresh air. His head

ached violently, the oppression of the atmosphere had well-nigh

overpowered him.

The mountain was clothed on this side with tall forest trees; the

drooping firs offered an inviting shade. It was seven o'clock in the

evening, the men were packing up their tools to go home. They would be

obliged to march back through the tunnel; for there was no way round,

except through the wildest forest with a tangled undergrowth of brambles

and ferns. But they had their lamps, and did not mind the tunnel; it was

familiar enough to them, who had worked in it for months.

Meanwhile Karl, who was dead-beat, stretched himself out under the

trees, covered himself with his cloak, and fell fast asleep, meaning

only to rest a minute or two, before he also set off home.

It was late when he awoke; the full moon was shining. He felt quite

dazed. Where could he be?

He had slept in many queer little rooms when he was travelling; but they

always had a window and a door. Where was the window? Ugh--he

shivered--it was cold. Then an unreasoning terror took hold of him: he

was only half-awake as yet. What could that dreadful gap be in the wall

of his room, blacker than the darkness? Surely it was a bogey hole

leading down to the bottomless pit? The next minute he laughed at his

fears, as we usually do when we come safely out of nightmare land and

feel the earth--or bed beneath us again.

He saw that it was the mouth of the tunnel, and glancing up he saw the

giant fir-tree under which he had been sleeping with outstretched arms

above him in the light of the moon.

"Well--I never! what a dunderhead I am!" he said to himself--"fancy

sleeping like that, why such a thing has never happened to me before! I

had meant to go to have supper and stay the night at the new hotel in

Elm. I have heard the landlord's daughter is an uncommonly pretty girl!"

"Heigho!" he went on, stretching himself, "there's nothing for it, but

to walk home. I might wait a long time before a motor-car came to pick

me up here!"

Then he remembered with a sudden start that there was only one possible

way back to Elm, and that was through the tunnel. It was not a very

pleasant idea to walk back alone through the dark, oppressive tunnel at

midnight; luckily he had his lantern with him.

"How could I have been such an idiot!" he muttered to himself again. He

found some bread and cheese in his pocket, which he ate with a good

appetite. His headache had gone, and he felt much refreshed after his

sleep. Then he put on his cloak, lighted the lantern, and set out

cheerfully to walk through the tunnel.

He had not gone far into the black darkness, when he thought he heard

voices whispering and talking not far away from him; then he distinctly

felt something or somebody brush past him.

"Hullo, who's there?" he called out. Complete silence. He was not easily

frightened; but his heart began to beat quicker than usual. "Well, if

it's robbers or tramps, they won't find much to rob on me," he thought;

for he had only a few shillings in his pocket for his night's lodging.

It was probably a bat that had strayed in at the opening, he decided.

Suddenly he came to a standstill. Right across the way was a mass of

freshly fallen earth and rock that quite obstructed his further

progress. "Well this is a pretty fix to be in. How aggravating!" he said

to himself, and leant for a moment against the wall of the tunnel, to

consider what would be best to do. The wall instantly gave way, he

stumbled, bruised his arm against a sharp corner of the rock, and his

lantern went out. At the same time he heard a sound resembling the

slamming of a door. "Donnerwetter!" he exclaimed--a mild German swear

which means literally "thunder-weather!"--"whatever shall I do now?" He

had a box of matches in his pocket and soon succeeded in relighting the


"There is nothing for it, but to go back again to where I started from,

and wait for daybreak," he thought.

By this time he had become confused, and had lost the sense of

direction; but there could be only one way back. So he tramped along a

long winding passage that he took to be the excavated tunnel. "How

curious, I could have been certain that the tunnel was much wider, and

more direct than this. Can I be still dreaming?" he thought.

Suddenly he was startled and astonished to come on a flight of steps

leading downwards. There had certainly been no stairs in the tunnel! He

saw too that the walls were painted in a decorative way like some of the

Catacombs in Rome; only these were far more elaborate. "I'm in for an

adventure, I must be lost in the heart of the mountain," he thought.

"Perhaps I shall come upon a robber's cave, or gipsies may be hiding in

these rocks; it is a good thing that I have this pretty little fellow

with me," and he touched the revolver in his breast pocket. He then

observed in front of him a faint light, other than that of his lantern

and whistled softly with astonishment, as he saw that the way opened out

into a cave or vault. A few steps more, and he found himself in an

exquisite, though tiny hall, with an arched ceiling supported by pillars

of red granite. The walls and ceiling were beautifully inlaid with

mosaic work in gold and coloured stones, like the interior of St Mark's,

Venice, and seemed to be of great antiquity, though of this he could not

be certain.

The light was so dim that what might have been the brilliant effect of

the whole, was lost, and the young engineer thought to himself

involuntarily: "This ought to be lit up by electric light--it would look

quite different then!" As he was deliberating how electric light might

be laid on, a door in the wall opened, and a number of little dwarf men

trooped in. They did not see him at first; for he was standing behind a

pillar. They settled themselves down on benches that were arranged in a

semicircle, and one of them with an important air mounted a raised dais

facing them. He was just beginning to speak with the words: "Gentlemen

of the Committee," when they caught sight of the stranger standing in

the centre of the hall, lantern in hand. They gave a cry of alarm, and

were just going to scuttle away like frightened rabbits, when Karl

called out, "Hi--Ho there--Gentlemen of the Committee--good Sirs--don't

run away. I won't harm you--Christmas Tree."

Now Christmas Tree is the most solemn oath among the dwarfs--it is

equivalent to swearing on the Bible with us. How Karl knew this, he did

not know; it came to him on the inspiration of the minute. Perhaps his

grandmother had told him stories in his childhood about the dwarf men,

in which it occurred.

It had an instantaneous effect on the dwarfs who stood still at once.

"But you are one of the bad men who are building the tunnel," they cried

out. "Aha--we can spoil your little game, my good fellow, we can smash

you and your snorting old dragon who is coming here to devour us, into

pieces. We can throw rocks on the line--Aha!"

"We have often watched you--though you were not aware of our presence,"

said the chairman. "We had just called a committee meeting to decide

what is to be done about this matter of the tunnel."

"Now you know it is all nonsense about the dragon," said Karl

persuasively, as if he were talking to children. "You have heard of

trains, haven't you? You are not so behind the times as all that!"

"Some of us have seen the dragon and even ridden in him," said Mr

Chairman. "There is a famous story about that; but the majority still

look upon the railway with suspicion and even distrust. We only ask to

be let alone, and not be interfered with by meddling mortals," he said

in a gruff voice. "What do we need with you? Our civilization and our

history are more ancient even than that of India or Egypt, and from us

the human race is descended."

"I tell you what," said Karl, "I could put you up to a thing or two for

all that. We live in Modern Europe, you know, and not in ancient Egypt.

Now, for instance, why is this beautiful hall, a perfect work of art in

its way, so badly illuminated!"

"Badly illuminated! Why, what do you mean?" cried the little men

indignantly. "Do you not see our glow-worms hanging in festoons on the


"O, I say, glow-worms! in the twentieth century, that's rather strong,

you know! what you want, is electric light."

"What's that?" said the dwarfs curiously.

"You have only to press a little button on the wall, like this," he

pressed his thumb on the wall--"and the whole place is lit up almost as

if it were day."

"We don't believe it--we don't believe it," said the little men.

"But it's true, I assure you, Christmas Tree," said Karl.

"Wouldn't it make our eyes blink?" said one thin little fellow.

Karl noticed that the dwarfs' eyes were small and their faces pale. Most

of them had quite white beards and hair.

"That comes of living so long underground, it is a loss of pigment,"

thought Karl. "Like a geranium that has been kept in the cellar! Now I

could fix it up for you," said the young engineer, always keenly on the

look-out for a job. "We are going to have it laid on in the tunnel."

"How much would it cost?" inquired the dwarfs.

"O, a thousand pounds or so!" said Karl carelessly. He had heard that

dwarfs were very rich, and he was a good man of business, and had his

eyes open to his interests.

"That's a great deal of money, a great deal of money!" said the little

men in chorus.

"O, as for that I am sure we could come to an agreement," said Karl. "By

the way," he went on--"do you happen to have a telephone here? I should

like to 'phone to a friend of mine and tell him where I am. It would be

such a joke."

"What's a telephone?" asked the dwarfs.

"You don't know what a telephone is! Himmel! you are old-fashioned

down here--you are only half civilised!"

"Half civilised, half civilised!" repeated the dwarfs angrily, "let us

repeat our civilisation----"

"I'll tell you what a telephone is," said Karl, interrupting this burst

of eloquence. "It is a little tube connected with a wire, you put one

part of it to your ear, and then you put your mouth to the tube and say:

'No. 1280,' and then listen, and your friend will speak to you from

miles and miles away, and you can answer him."

"We don't believe it, we don't believe it!" said the unbelieving dwarfs.

"It's true for all that, Christmas Tree," said Karl. "I could fix that

up for you too, if you have any connection with the outer air. You must

have," he continued, sniffing, "for the air is nice and fresh here,

quite different to that in the tunnel. Have you a ventilating shaft?"

"O yes," said the little men, "we can show you that!" And they led him

out of the hall. In the passage outside was a great cleft or crevice in

the rocks such as we call in England a chine. Above it the moon shone

full and bright. A waterfall rushed down on one side; he saw ferns and

dear little plants leaning over the water, growing between the cracks of

the rocks. There were also glow-worms cunningly arranged in groups that

looked like fairy stars. On the other side, he observed to his joy rough

steps leading upwards cut in the solid rock. He sighed a sigh of relief,

here at least was the way out.

He regarded the pretty sight with the eye of the professional engineer,

rather than that of the artist. "That must be a stiff climb for you

little men up there," he said. "Now if you had a lift!"

"What's that?" asked the dwarfs eagerly.

"It's a little room that goes up and down when you pull a wire rope."

"We don't believe it, we don't believe it," said the sceptical gnomes


"It's true nevertheless; now wouldn't it be fun to have a ride in it? I

could fix that up too, you know, if you gave me time and helped a bit

yourselves," said Karl.

"Really you poor things," he went on, "You do not seem to have heard

much of modern technical progress down here in this rabbit-burrow. I beg

your pardon I'm sure"--as they looked displeased again--"Now I am really

curious to know--have you heard of Zeppelin?"

"Zeppelin, no!--is he the King of Germany?" said the dwarf who had been

in the chair.

"Ha! ha!--King of Germany--well he is nearly, in some people's eyes,"

said Karl. "He has built an airship; it is the most wonderful of all new

inventions, it floats in the air like a boat does in the water."

"Close by it passes, by soft breezes fanned,

Like a great steamboat straight from fairyland."

he went on in an enthusiastic way. "You can go for a ride in it any day

in Frankfurt, providing the weather is fine and you can afford to pay


"Just listen to him, just listen to him!" said the dwarfs. "We don't

believe a word you have said. You are imposing on our credulity, you bad

man," and thereupon they flew at him and began to beat him with their

clubs, which were heavily weighted, and to pinch him with their long


It might have gone hardly with him, but quick as thought Karl flashed

out the little revolver from his pocket. They seemed to know the meaning

of that modern toy; for they crouched back trembling, and not daring to


"Now stop it, will you," he said, "or I shall have to shoot you, and

take you home with me to be stuffed or put into the National

Anthropological Museum. They would give me a good price for you," he

said musingly--"they would think you were The Missing Link."

"O please, Mr Hammerstein, don't shoot us--("however did the little

chaps find out my name!" thought Karl) we will believe all you say, even

if it seems the greatest nonsense to us. After all birds fly, bats fly

and fairies fly, why should not ships and trains fly?" said the

spokesman, who, I must tell you, was a relation of King Reinhold in the

Taunus Mountains and was proud of belonging to a royal family.

Karl called him Mr Query, because he was so fond of asking questions,

but so slow to take in a new fact, as indeed were all the dwarfs.

"You promised us Christmas Tree not to harm us," said Mr Query,


"Well, I didn't hurt anyone, did I, but how about your treatment of me?

That wasn't in the contract either," said Karl.

Meanwhile Karl looked about him curiously. He had never been to

dwarfland before, and might never have the chance of visiting it again,

and he did not wish to lose the opportunity of seeing all he could.

"Are there any more of you?" he asked the dwarfs.

"I should think so," they answered. "Hundreds and thousands of us live

under this mountain."

Karl noticed passages running in all directions, and low caves which

seemed to be dwellings, many of them richly ornamented and furnished. In

one of these caves he observed a looking-glass, and wondered which of

the dwarf men trimmed his beard before it. He met a great many little

men scurrying about, who cast anxious glances at the giant who had

strayed among them. Karl had frequently to stoop; the ceilings seemed

very low to him, although they were high enough compared to the dwarf


"Where are the female dwarfs?" he asked abruptly.

"Dwarfs have no womenfolk," Mr Query replied. "We did away with them

long, long ago!"

"That was rather rough on them, eh?" said Karl.

"Well it happened so many centuries ago that we have forgotten all about

it, and so are unable to gratify your curiosity. Perhaps if you care for

antiquities and were to study the pictures on the walls, you might find


"Not my line," said Karl shortly.

"As we have no women," Mr Query continued, "we never quarrel and have no

differences of opinion."

"I expect no lady would care to live down here with you in this dark

hole," said Karl, thoughtfully. "But to whom does the looking-glass


"A fairy comes to visit us occasionally; she makes herself useful and

tidies up the place a bit for us," said the dwarf. "She's here

now--would you like to see her?"

"Of course I should," said Karl, his heart beating fast at the thought

of meeting a real fairy--perhaps she was a princess in disguise, and he

might be chosen to win her.

The dwarf drew back the curtain that hung before a beautifully furnished

cave, and there Karl saw a young girl who was busy dusting and arranging

handsome gold vases on a carved bracket. Even by the pale light of the

glow-worms and the lantern which he had not yet extinguished, he could

see that she was very beautiful. She had a mass of red-brown hair, that

waved in tiny curls about her forehead, and hazel eyes with dark

eyelashes. As to her figure, she was small and slight, so that she did

not look quite so monstrous in that little world as Karl did. She had a

big holland apron on, with a gaily embroidered border. When she saw

Karl, she laughed. "To think of meeting a young man in this old

hole--how funny," she exclaimed.

"Are you a fairy?" said Karl, bewildered by her beauty.

"Do I look like one?" she answered with a toss of her bronze curls.

"Not exactly," said Karl, "but then I have never seen a fairy; you are

pretty enough for one!"

She made a little curtsy in acknowledgment of the compliment. "I'll have

finished my work soon," she said, "and then we will go home together."

"That will be delightful," said Karl.

The dwarfs were looking on.

"You may go," said Mr Query. "You have worked enough for to-day." He

handed her several pieces of gold. Her eyes sparkled with glee as she

pocketed the coins; she was proud of having earned some money.

"Follow me," she said to Karl, "and I will show you the way home. You

would never be able to find it alone."

"The dwarfs have burrowed here like moles," said Karl aside to the girl,

"and I believe they are almost as blind and ignorant."

"Do not speak disrespectfully of moles," said a dwarf who had overheard

the last part of this remark. "They belong to the most intelligent of

all creatures; who can build a fortress like the mole?"

"Norah," said the dwarfs, "Norah, when are you coming again?"

"Very soon," she said, "I'll bring some metal polish with me, and make

your vases shine!"

"Norah," thought Karl, "so that is her name. I wonder where she lives?"

Norah led the way back through intricate passages until they came to the

open space where there was the staircase leading up to the outside

world. "Good morning," she said to the dwarfs.

Karl pulled out his watch--yes--the night was already past, it was four


"I'll drop in again soon, and see about your little commissions," he

said to the dwarfs. "Electric light you want, telephone and lift, it

will be rather a big job."

"And what about the airship?" asked Mr Query.

"O I can't rig that up for you; you must go to Frankfurt and see that

for yourselves. Good morning," and he turned to follow Norah, who was

already some way up the stone staircase. From a distance she really

looked like a fairy. The light of dawn shone on her wonderful hair; she

had taken off her apron, and had on a white dress trimmed with gold,

that fluttered as she mounted the steps. At the top she waited to take

breath, and Karl easily caught her up. They gazed down into the depths

beneath them, but no trace of dwarfland could they see. Even the

glow-worms had vanished, and the rough steps looked like natural niches

in the rock. They were on the top of the mountain. Near by stood a grove

of firs, the trees were so gnarled and stunted from their exposed

position that they looked like a dwarf forest, and seemed appropriate

growing there.

"Your name is 'Norah'," said Karl boldly, "but that is all I know about


"I am no fairy princess, alas," said Norah, "but only a poor landlord's

daughter. My father and I have the new hotel in Elm!"

"O you must be the pretty innkeeper's daughter then of whom I have heard

so much," said Karl. "Now isn't it funny, I had meant to stay the night

at your hotel on the chance of seeing you, and now we meet under the

earth in dwarfland--romantic I call that! Why do you work for those

little beggars?" he continued.

"For the same reason that you have proposed doing so," she answered, "to

earn money. I was picking bilberries on the mountains and strayed into

their land by chance one day. I found them busy at work spring cleaning,

and helped them a bit, and that was my first introduction to the dwarfs.

They pay me well for little work, and starting an hotel costs a great

deal of money you must know. I am glad to be able to help my father."

"You do not come from this part of Germany, you speak quite differently

to us," said the young man inquiringly.

"My home is over the seas," said Norah. "My father is an Irishman; but

we found it hard to get on there, and meant to emigrate to America. Then

father changed his mind, and we came to Germany. My mother died some

years ago," she said sadly.

"Poor child," said Karl in a deep, sympathetic voice, "there must be a

good deal of responsibility on your young shoulders."

"I should just think so," said Norah with a sigh, "but our hotel is

going to be a tremendous success!" As she spoke, she led the way

through a little narrow path, that crossed a heath where heather grew,

and great masses of yellow starred ragwort. "Ah! me beloved golden

flower," she cried, pointing the plant out to Karl, who had passed it by

a thousand times as a common weed, but to whom it seemed from this day

forth to be alive and full of meaning. "We call it fairy-horses in

Ireland," she said, with a rapt look on her face, "sure and I can see my

native mountains when I pluck it"--and her eyes filled with tears.

She wanted no consoling however, her mood changed quickly enough. "Do

come here," she called out to Karl, "and see what I've found now!" She

showed him a clump of pure white heather; "it is tremendously lucky,"

she said, "and you shall have a bit too." So saying she stuck a piece of

white heather in his buttonhole--real white heather, not the faded

flowers which children sometimes mistake for it. Karl treasured the

spray carefully.

"And how did you come to be among the dwarfs?" said Norah. But their

further conversation was checked by a little brook that ran straight

across the path. Now Norah usually took off her shoes and stockings and

waded over this stream; but she did not like to do so with Karl looking

on. Karl would have liked to pick her up in his arms and carry her

across like a true hero of romance; but he was shy of proposing it. So

he fetched some large flat stones, placed them dexterously in the

stream, and sprang across himself, then he held out a hand to Norah who

stepped over as quickly and gracefully as a young deer.

"Now I will tell you how it was you found me in dwarfland," said Karl as

they walked on together. "I was at work on the new tunnel----"

"You'll not be telling me that you are a working man?" said Norah.

"No I am an engineer. I was on duty looking after the men, then, somehow

or other I fell against the wall of the tunnel and hurt my arm"; he

showed her his torn coat as a proof of the story.

"Poor thing," she interrupted, "did you bind it up properly?"

"O, it was a mere nothing," said Karl. "Well--I found myself in a

strange winding passage that led right down into the central hall of the

dwarfs." He did not wish to say that he had been asleep; he thought that

would sound so silly. "Queer little fellows they are, those dwarfs," he

continued, "awfully ignorant too. Now will you believe it they had never

heard of the Zeppelin airship?"

"We'll really have to give them lessons," said Norah, laughing, "but

perhaps they are not so stupid as they make themselves out to be!"

Climbing over boulders and stones, laughing and talking the while like

two children just out of school, they reached the bottom of the mountain

and saw the village. It could hardly be called a town as yet, though

Norah's father hoped that the new railway station would speedily convert

it into one.

"Do you know where our hotel is?" said Norah. "It is at the other end of

the village; we will go round through the fields; the village folk stare

so; they are up at five o'clock to do their field-work.

"There it is!" she called out proudly, pointing to a large white house

with green shutters on which the words "Hotel Fancy" were written in

large gold letters.

"What a queer name for an hotel!" said Karl.

"Yes, don't you think it is original and attractive?" said Norah. "There

are so many hotels called Hotel Hohenzollern'--or 'The German Emperor'

and so I thought we would have a change."

"It is a splendid idea," said Karl, who was over head and ears in love

with Norah by this time and thought that everything she did and said,

was perfect. Still, like a prudent German, he wondered to himself if she

would make a good housewife. He knew she must be good at cleaning or

the dwarfs would hardly have employed her, but her dainty little hands

did not look like cooking.

"What would it matter, if the dinner were burnt sometimes," he thought,

"if I could have such a pretty, fascinating little girl to marry me?"

"Will you come in and have some breakfast?" said Norah as they

approached Hotel Fancy.

"Rather," he said, "I must own that I am famished. I only had a dry bit

of bread and cheese for supper, and that is a long while ago."

It was early still, Norah's father was not yet up; so she set to work

and lit the fire, and soon had the water boiling for coffee. She set a

fine breakfast before him, ham and eggs and sausage and rolls. I am

bound in strict veracity to say that love did not prevent his consuming

a large amount. He changed his mind about her cooking, and thought that

she could do everything well and was a model of perfection.

"Do have some, too, yourself," he said, and Norah soon joined him with a

hearty appetite.

Mr O'Brian, for that was the name of Norah's father, was astonished to

find them at breakfast when he entered the comfortably furnished


"An early guest, father," said Norah. "He is going to put up here for

the present; he is an engineer at work on the tunnel; good thing for

us"; she whispered the last sentence. "I will see about getting your

room ready," she said, turning to Karl.

"Please do not trouble," said he. "I'm due at the tunnel again at 7 a.m.

and it is 6 o'clock now. I hope to return to-night about 8 o'clock; then

I shall be glad of a room," he said, with a hardly suppressed yawn.

"Pray excuse me, I had rather a bad night," he added with a twinkle in

his eyes that only Norah perceived.

As soon as he was gone, Norah handed some gold pieces to her father.

"And do you think that I am doing right in taking this money from you,

Norah?" he asked.

"Why of course father! I'm telling you that it's fairy gold, and will

bring us luck," she replied.

The Irish have a great respect for luck and omens; many of them still

believe in the good folk, and Mr O'Brian, who was of a very easygoing

disposition, was quite satisfied with this explanation.

* * * * *

Some weeks passed. Karl and Norah became better friends every day. All

Karl's previous notions of the universe had been knocked on the head by

his visit to dwarfland. He had thought that he knew almost everything

that there was to be known, but now he was always on the look-out for

surprises. Moreover his love for Norah had opened his eyes. Every bush

seemed ablaze with fire, and the roses and pinks in the gardens smelt as

they had never smelt before.

Norah was like a fairy princess; she was not easy to win, she loved her

freedom, and wished to call no man lord and master. Because she was such

a wild bird and of a poetic and dreamy temperament, Karl's practical

mind appealed to her. He possessed that which she and her father lacked.

She was tired of her father's promises and castles in the air, which

usually ended in bitter disappointment. How many guests had they had

since Hotel Fancy had been opened? She could almost count them on her

fingers. The peasants frequented the old inn that they were accustomed

to in the village, and very few strangers came their way.

"I will play waiter on Sunday and help you," said Karl one Saturday

evening when he had returned from his work.

"Indeed and you'll not need to," said Norah with a pretty Irish lilt in

her voice, "it's not many people that will be coming! It will be

different of course when the new station is built; then we shall be

flourishing," she continued.

* * * * *

It was a fine Sunday afternoon. Karl and Norah sat in the garden under

the plane-trees which made a chequered pattern in shadow on the ground,

and sipped glasses of Apfelwein or cider in German fashion.

"It was a queer thing that we two should meet in the little people's

land. It seems as if we were meant to pull together, doesn't it?" said

Karl with an effort.

Norah jumped up immediately, saying that she must see if the water was

boiling for coffee.

"No, no," said Karl catching her by the hand; "you are not going to run

away like that; you've just got to listen to me, Norah; for I can't keep

it in any longer. You are my fairy princess--I love you with all my

heart, and I want you to promise me to be my little wife--will you?"

"You don't know me yet," said Norah blushing like a rose. "I've got a

most awful temper!"

"I'll risk it," said Karl laughing, and they plighted their troth under

the trees in the garden with no one but the empty chairs and tables

looking on, that were spread in anticipation of the guests who had not


So Karl and Norah were engaged to be married and were as happy as ever

it is possible to be in this world! They did not celebrate the event in

the usual ceremonious German fashion; for Norah's friends and relations

were in Ireland and she had only a few acquaintances in Germany as yet.

Karl's mother was a widow, and lived with her married daughter in

Pomerania; so she could not come so far south for anything less than a

wedding or a funeral.

Now Karl began to consider the material side of the question. "Will the

love that we are rich in, light the fire in the kitchen, and the little

god of love turn the spit O!" What had they to live on? He was a young

man, and his income was very small; it takes many years in Germany to

make a career as engineer, unless you are exceptionally lucky and have

influential friends.

Hotel Fancy was rather like its name and did not pay at all as yet. Now

Karl had not forgotten the dwarfs, and Norah began to miss the gold

pieces which had disappeared fast enough in the last few weeks.

"I tell you what," she said, "we will go together to dwarfland. You can

arrange about the electric light, and I will do some metal polishing; we

will meet afterwards and come home again together, it will be splendid


"How can we get there?" asked Karl somewhat dubiously.

"Why, the same way as we came out--through the rocky gap; I know the way

as well as anything, I have been there frequently," said Norah.

It was early autumn; the evenings had begun to close in. Karl had

managed to get off earlier than usual; still it was almost dusk as the

two set out to go to dwarfland. The sun was setting and threw a

wonderful golden glow over the world that was reflected in the hearts of

the young lovers.

"My stones must be there still," said Karl as they came to the little

brook, "for who could have taken them away?" Yet to his surprise there

were no stones there; neither were any to be found in the neighbourhood.

There was nothing for it, but to carry Norah over. He did not feel so

shy and embarrassed this time, as he picked up his little sweetheart

laughing and struggling in his arms.

"You are as light as a feather," he said as he set her down again.

"A feather bed, you mean," she said, "and they are a pretty fair weight.

I shall never get used to German feather beds," she continued. "I can't

even get them to look right when I make them and shake them!"

"You need to be born and brought up to them to appreciate them," he

replied, "but never mind, what does it matter, what is a feather bed in

comparison with our love?" They laughed for pure joy and good humour as

they walked along; ah how quickly time passes when one is so happy! The

sunlight gilded the rocks before them, till they looked as if they

contained streaks of gold ore. They crossed the little moor, and

clambered over the rocks till they reached the stunted fir-grove.

Looking back they saw that the sky had become a glowing red as it often

does just before the light dies out; seen through the dark, twisted

trees the wood appeared to be on fire. The lovers sat down and gazed for

a few moments in silence till the glory faded from the sky.

"Now for it, Norah," said Karl getting up and offering her a hand, "the

way down into dwarfland must be quite near here!"

"Of course I know, I can find it at once," she answered.

They searched carefully around for the great crack in the rocks, but

could find nothing in the least resembling it.

"How absurd; how can we miss it when it is certainly not more than a

yard or two away," said Norah.

"The steps were not so easily recognisable, if I remember rightly," said

Karl, "but we are sure to find them in a minute."

It grew darker and darker; the mountain was covered with boulders of

stone, juniper bushes and stunted trees; but no trace of the great rent

in the mountain-side could they discover.

"Did we dream it all?" said Karl.

"Impossible, why I have been down there many times," said Norah

beginning to feel bitterly disappointed.

"Supposing I were to fetch some of my men here and blow up the rocks

with dynamite; we must be able to get in then, for the mountain is as

full of dwarfs as bees in a hive," said Karl, who was getting in a


"And do you think they would reward you handsomely for your services,"

said Norah sarcastically, "and O the poor little men, they always

treated me with the utmost kindness and politeness, and gave me far more

money than ever I bargained for!"

"They nearly pinched me black and blue, till I frightened them with my

revolver," said Karl.

"The wretches!" said Norah, "but why?"

"Because I was silly enough to tell them about the airship, and they

thought I was humbugging them."

"How absurd!" Norah exclaimed. "But what are we to do now, Karl?" she

continued in a doleful voice. "I must have some money; we are still in

debt for the greater part of our furniture; and the house is heavily


"If I could only get a good post!" said Karl sighing deeply. "I had

reckoned on those dwarf chaps!"

"We shall never be able to marry," said Norah, now in the depths of

despair; "our house will have to be given up, and our things sold by

auction, and I, O I shall have to marry a horrid, rich old peasant who

will treat me as a servant, and father will be obliged to work in the

fields." With this she burst into tears.

It was quite dark now save for the new moon whose pale crescent shone in

the sky. Norah observed it in spite of her tears.

"The new moon!" she exclaimed. "O do let us turn all the money that we

have in our pockets. How much have you got Karl?"

"About 10 shillings," he replied.

"O you are richer than I am; I have only 8d. in my purse; nevertheless

let us turn what we have, and it will be sure to bring us a fortune."

Karl laughed. "You little fairy," he said, and looked at her with

admiration; then involuntarily his eyes strayed in the direction of the

fir-grove. He thought he could see something moving there. Norah looked

too. "Karl," she said excitedly, "I do believe it is the dwarf men after

all; who else could it be?"

At the same moment they caught sight of a queer form with a turned-up

nose and peaked cap clearly outlined against the sky, and recognised Mr


"Hullo!" said Karl.

"[text missing in original] to you," he said in a droll manner.

"Now, Mr Dwarf," said Karl, anxious to proceed to business, "what about

our little agreement as to electric light, etc.?"

"The committee has decided against it," said Mr Query emphatically.

"What do we want with your new-fangled inventions; you would bring your

workmen with you; they would discover our treasures, and turn the whole

place into a mine, and of course we should be obliged to decamp."

"Well, there is something in what you say," said Karl to whom this idea

had already occurred, "but we could avoid that catastrophe!"

"As for you," continued the dwarf turning to Norah, "we have discovered

that you are a human being also, and no fairy; therefore we shall not

require your services any longer."

"What a horrid way to give me notice, as if I could help not being a

fairy!" said poor Norah weeping bitterly.

The little fellow was much distressed; he could not make out what was

the matter with her.

"Don't cry, little Fraeuleinchen," he said, "I am sure we never thought

you were so fond of us as all that; it is very gratifying, but it is

too late now to alter our decision; the way down into our kingdom is

sealed for ever!"

"I could soon open it again," said Karl wrathfully.

"As for that, it would not be quite such an easy matter as you think,"

said Mr Query mockingly. "However we are willing to offer you terms," he

continued, "if you will leave us alone and protect our secrets."

"What terms?" said Karl and Norah eagerly.

"You shall see," said the dwarf, "follow me to the fir-trees." So saying

he sprang down from the stone on which he had been sitting and came up

and shook hands with them.

"We are going to be married! what do you think of that?" they informed


"Humph! Your taste, not mine," said Mr Query. "However Norah will be

able to clean your gold and silver dishes capitally; that's a comfort

for you."

"We haven't got any gold and silver dishes to clean, alas!" said Norah.

"Poor things," said Mr Query, "well we'll see." He proceeded to the

fir-trees where the Gentlemen of the Committee were again assembled,

standing in a solemn semicircle. "If you will sign this contract, we are

willing to give you a reward. I speak in the name of the Gentlemen of

the Committee," said Mr Query, and the little men nodded their heads in

assent. He drew out a roll of parchment from a bag he carried with him

and handed it to Karl. Norah looked over his shoulder.

On the parchment was written the following:




pledge our solemn oath Christmas Tree, that we will not attempt

to visit dwarfland again, or molest the dwarfs in any way, by

offering them modern inventions for which they have no use, etc.,

etc., or by revealing their secret chambers to the glaring light

of day.



"We are willing enough to sign," said Karl, "but what are your terms,

old man; we want to know that first. You offered us a bribe, you know."

"All in good time," said Mr Query. "Gentlemen of the Committee, display

the treasure!" The dwarf men formed themselves into a ring, in the

centre of which Norah and Karl could see masses of what looked like

solid gold. "You may take as much of this as you like," they said, "and

we warrant you on our solemn word of honour Christmas Tree that it is

pure, unalloyed gold."

"We'll sign anything you like, dear little men," said Norah, joyfully,

"and I invite you all to my wedding!"

"Three weeks from to-day," said Karl.

But Norah was too excited to notice what he was saying.

"I shall always believe in the new moon," she repeated again and again.

"How shall we carry it?" she exclaimed suddenly. "I have not even got a

basket with me."

"My men shall trundle it along for you in wheelbarrows," said Mr Query.

"No please, do not say 'thank you.' I have a great objection to being


Karl and Norah now signed the document with joyful hearts. Norah

professed herself very sorry not to see her dwarf friends again. She had

a real affection for the droll little men.

"You may come across us sometime again, who knows," said Mr Query. "We

make excursions into your world from time to time. It is improbable but

not impossible that we may meet again. Good-bye!" A brilliant flash as

of lightning shot from under the ground; the earth trembled and shook.

Norah clung to Karl in terror; for she thought that the earth would

swallow them up too. Then Mr Query and the dwarfs disappeared

underground calling out as they did so: "You see we have our lift and

our electric light too, Mr Engineer--ha! ha!--we are not quite so behind

the times as you thought us--ha! ha!"

Norah and Karl stood still in speechless astonishment; then they looked

anxiously for their gold, fearing that the dwarfs might have played them

a trick after all. But no, there were two jolly strong-looking little

fellows with wheelbarrows. "We've got the gold all right," they said.

"Don't you be afraid. We've put some dirty old potatoes at the top,"

they continued with a cunning expression on their faces, "just in case

we meet anyone on the way you know--we should have to hop skip and

jump--one, two, three and off, and it might look awkward for you."

"I am sure it's very kind of you," said Norah, "and we can never thank

you enough," and off they all set down the mountain. It was a

troublesome job to get the heavy wheelbarrow over the stream. Norah

declared afterwards that some of the gold was lost there; but they found

no trace of it again if it were so. They did not feel safe until they

reached the gate of Hotel Fancy.

"Shall we put it in the back yard or in the stable?" said the little

fellows in a hoarse whisper.

"Put it in the corner of the stable," said Norah, "as we have not got a

horse no one goes in there. We will manage the rest, thank you so


"Please don't thank us," said the little men, "dwarfs are not used to

that, and it hurts their feelings."

"Well, here is something for your labours," said Karl, and he gave the

little men a handful of silver. They turned it over and over and seemed

to regard it as a great curiosity. Then they heard a movement in the

house, and quick as lightning they were off before Karl and Norah could

say good-bye.

Mr O'Brian was pacing up and down in a great state of agitation; it was

nearly midnight and he feared they might have met with an accident.

"There's no depending on the fairies," he said to himself, "and dwarfs

are said to be treacherous," so you see he knew something of what Norah

was up to.

His joy was the greater when Norah and Karl rushed in and dragging him

to the stables showed him the pile of gold. "I'll be for taking it to

the bank at once," he said, "you never know but what it may melt away,

or turn into a heap of leaves, I've read stories like that."

"Our wedding shall be next week," said Karl, joyfully.

"And aren't you going to give me any time to get my trousseau?" said

Norah with a dancing light in her eyes that made her look more

enchanting than ever. "Sure and I'll be wanting the finest trousseau

that ever a princess had."

"We'll turn Hotel Fancy into a palace," said Mr O'Brian.

The wedding was celebrated three weeks from this date, as they had

agreed. Norah wore an exquisitely soft cream silk gown, embroidered with

real gold; it was said that the embroidery was a present from the

dwarfs. Certain it is too that she wore an old pearl necklace of such

marvellous workmanship that the like was never seen before.

The tale was whispered that a little deformed man had been seen to slip

a parcel containing the necklace into the letter-box.

Norah's relations came over from Ireland to be present at the wedding,

and you may be sure that Karl's mother arrived too all the way from

Pomerania to share the festivities and the cake. Hotel Fancy was crammed

with guests; every available room was occupied; there was some talk

already of enlarging the house.

One of the presents that the bride had from her husband, was a

looking-glass, set with precious stones. People thought that it was a

curious wedding-present, and wondered if Norah were exceptionally vain.

But Karl declared that if it had not been for a looking-glass he might

never have known his wife, a remark which sounded more mysterious than


Many conjectures were made concerning it, but none of them were half so

strange as the truth. Another present was a brooch set in diamonds in

the shape of a crescent moon.

As they were now wealthy, Karl was able to indulge his passion for

mechanical inventions, and Hotel Fancy was full of the most delightful

surprises: fountains in unexpected places in the spray of which little

balls danced up and down, a rare gramophone that played the most soft

and pleasant music, every variety of electric light and so on.

Norah was a little disappointed that her friends the dwarfs did not come

to the wedding; but what could she expect if her mother-in-law and

uncles and aunts and cousins were all asked as well! Could she expect

that the dignified Mr Query would condescend to become an object of

general curiosity? I have heard that the little men called and left

their cards some days after the wedding, when Norah and Karl were away

on their honeymoon, and that Mr O'Brian treated them as royal visitors,

and that they left charmed with his hospitality, and astounded at the

many entertaining and marvellous things that were to be seen in Hotel