THE STORY OF LITTLE KING LOG 61
her from the power of the gnomes. The duchess then told him that she had sent out men in all directions to look for the children directly they were found to be missing, and that one of them had noticed a troop of little men far away on the mountains, evidently carrying a litter. He was hastening after them, when, at his feet, he beheld a tiny satin slipper, which he stooped to pick up. But as he did so a dozen of the gnomes had swarmed upon him like flies, and beat him about the head till he dropped the slipper, which they took away with them, leaving the poor man dizzy with pain. When he recovered his senses the group on the mountain had disappeared.
That night, when everyone was asleep, Youri and his old servant Francoeur stole softly down into the armoury, and dressed themselves in light suits of chain armour, with helmets and short swords, all complete. Then they mounted two horses that Francoeur had tied up in the forest, and set forth for the kingdom of the gnomes. At the end of an hour's hard riding, they came to the cavern which Francoeur had heard from childhood led into the centre of the earth. Here they dismounted, and entered cautiously, expecting to find darkness as thick as what they had left outside. But they had only gone a few steps when they were nearly blinded by a sudden blaze of light, which seemed to proceed from a sort of portcullis door which barred the way in front of them.
' Who are you ?' asked a voice. And the count answered:
' Youri de Blanchelande, who has come to rescue Abeille des Clarides.' And at these words the gate slowly swung open, and closed behind the two strangers.
Youri listened to the clang with a spasm of fear in his heart; then the desperate position he was in gave him courage. There was no retreat for him now, and in front was drawn up a large force of gnomes, whose