SOUP ON A SAUSAGE PEG 557
was the reason why the wood smelt so strongly, and why the herbs were so fragrant, and the lakeshso clear and yet so dark, with the white swans on them.
' On the margin of the wood, among three or four houses, a pole as tall as the mainmast of a ship had been erected, and from its summit hung wreaths and ribbons : this was called a maypole. Men and maids danced round the tree, and sang as loudly as they could, to the violin of the fiddler. There were merry doings at sundown and in the moonlight, but I took no part in them—what has a little mouse to do with a May dance ? I sat in the soft moss and held my sausage-peg fast. The moon shone especially upon one spot, where a tree stood, covered with moss so fine that I may almost venture to say it was as fine as the skin of the Mouse King ; but it was of a green colour, so that it was a great relief to the eye.
' All at once, the most charming little people came marching forth. They were only tall enough to reach to my knee. They looked like men, but were better proportioned : they called themselves elves, and had delicate clothes on, of flower leaves trimmed with the wings of flies and gnats, which had a very good appearance. Directly they appeared, they seemed to be seeking for something— I knew not what; but at last some of them came towards me, and the chief pointed to my sausage-peg, and said, " That is just such a one as we want—it is pointed—it is capital! " and the longer he looked at my pilgrim's staff the more delighted he became.
' " I will lend it," I said, " but not to keep."
* " Not to keep ! " they all repeated ; and they seized the sausage-peg, which I gave up to them, and danced away to the spot where the fine moss grew ; and here they set up the peg in the midst of the green. They wanted to have a maypole of their own, and the one they now had, seemed cut out for them ; and they decorated it so that it was beautiful to behold.
' First, little spiders spun it round with gold thread, and hung it all over with fluttering veils and flags, so finely woven, bleached so snowy white in the moonshine, that they dazzled my eyes. They took colours from the butterfly's wing, and strewed these over the white linen, and