THE ELF-HILL 319
There stood the old gnome of Dovre, with the crown of hardened ice and polished fir cones ; «ioreover, he wore a bear-skin and great warm boots. His sons, on the contrary, went bare-necked, and with trousers without braces, for they were strong men.
' Is that a hillock ? ' asked the youngest of the lads ; and he pointed to the elf-hill. ' In Norway yonder we should call it a hole.'
' Boys ! ' said the old man, ' holes go down, mounds go up. Have you no eyes in your heads ? '
The only thing they wondered at down here, they said, was that they could understand the language without difficulty.
' Don't give yourselves airs,' said the old man. ' One would think you were home-nurtured.'
And then they went into the elf-hill, where the really grand company were assembled, and that in such haste that one might almost say they had been blown together. But for each it was nicely and prettily arranged. The sea folks sat at table in great washing tubs : they said it was just as if they were at home. All observed the ceremonies of the table except the two young Northern gnomes, and they put their legs up on the table ; but they thought all that suited them well.
' Your feet off the table-cloth ! ' cried the old gnome.
And they obeyed, but not immediately. Their ladies they tickled with pine cones that they had brought with them, and then took off their boots for their own convenience, and gave them to the ladies to hold. But the father, the old Bovre gnome, was quite different from them : he told such fine stories of the proud Norwegian rocks, and of the waterfalls which rushed down with white foam and with a noise like thunder and the sound of organs ; he told of the salmon that leaps up against the falling waters when Necken plays upon the golden harp ; he told of shining winter nights, when the sledge bells sound, and the lads run with burning torches over the ice, which is so transparent that they see the fishes start beneath their feet. Yes ! he could tell it so finely that one saw what he described : it was just as if the sawmills were going, as if the servants and maids were singing songs and dancing