A few great Lizards race nimbly about in the clefts of an old tree ; they could understand each other very well, for they spoke the lizards' language.
1 How it grumbles and growls in the old elf-hill!' said one Lizard. ' I've not been able to close my eyes for two nights, because of the noise; I might just as well lie and have the toothache, for then I can't sleep either.'
* There's something going on in there/ said the other Lizard. ' They let the hill stand on four red posts till the cock crows at morn. It is regularly aired, and the elf girls have learned new dances. There 's something going on.'
* Yes, I have spoken with an earthworm of my acquaintance,' said the third Lizard. ' The earthworm came straight out of the hill, where he had been grubbing in the ground night and day : he had heard much. He can't see, the miserable creature, but he understands how to feel his way about and listen. They expect some friends in the elf-hill—grand strangers ; but who they are the earthworm would not tell, or perhaps, indeed, he did not know. All the Will-o'-the-wisps are ordered to hold a torchlight procession, as it is called ; and silver and gold, of which there is enough in the elf-hill, is being polished and put out in the moonshine.'
: Who may these strangers be ? ' asked all the Lizards. ' What can be going on there ? Hark, how it hums ! Hark, how it murmurs !'
At the same moment the elf-hill opened, and an old elf maid,1 hollow behind, but otherwise very respectably dressed, came tripping out. She was the old Elf King's housekeeper. She was a distant relative of the royal family, and wore an amber heart on her forehead. Her legs moved so rapidly—trip, trip ! Gracious ! how she could trip ! straight down to the moss, to the night Raven.
1 You are invited to the elf-hill for this evening,' said she ; 1 but will you not first do us a great service and undertake
1 A prevailing superstition regarding the elf maid, or ette maid, is, that she is fair to look at in front, but behind she is hollow, like a mask.