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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.

“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, beause 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 cook 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 elfhill----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, 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.

“You are invited to the elf-hill for this evening,”said she;“but will you not first do us a great service and undertake the invitations? You must do something, as you don't keep any house yourself. We shall have some very distinguished friends, magicians who have something to say; and so the old Elf King wants to make a display.”

“Who's to be invited?”asked the night Raven.

“To the great ball the world may come, even men, if they can talk in their sleep, or do something that falls in our line. But at the first feast there's to be a strict selection; we will have only the most distinguished. I have had a dispute with the Elf King, for I declared that we could not even admit ghosts. The merman and his daughters must be inited first. They may not be very well pleased to come on the dry land, but they shall have a wet stone to sit upon, or something still better, and then I think they won't refuse for this time. All the old demons of the first class, with tails, and the river man and the goblins we must have; and then I think we may not leave out the grave pig, the death horse, and the church lamb; they certainly belong to the clergy, and are not reckoned among our people. But that's only their office: they are closely related to us, and visit us diligently.

“Bravo!”said the night Raven, and flew away to give the invitations.

The elf girls were already dancing on the elf-hill, and they danced with shawls which were woven of mist and moonshine; and that looks very pretty for those who like that sort of thing. In the midst, below the elf-hill, the great hall was splendidly decorated; the floor had been washed with moonshine, and the walls rubbed with witches salve, so that they glowed like tulips in the light. In the kitchen, plenty of frogs were turning on the spit, snake skins with children's fingers in them and salads of mushroom spawn, damp mouse muzzles, and hemlock; beer brewed by the marsh witch, gleaming saltpetre wine from grave cellars: everything very grand; and rusty nails and church window glass among the sweets.

The old Elf King had one of his crowns polished with powdered slate pencil; it was slate pencil from the first form, and it's very difficult for the Elf King to get first form slate pencil! In the bedroom, curtains were hung up, and fastened with snail slime. Yes, there was a humming and murmuring there!

“Now we must burn horse-hair and pig's bristles as incense here,”said the Elf King,“and then I think I shall have done my part.”

“Father dear! said the youngest of the daughters, “shall I hear now who the distinguished strangers are?”

“Well,” said he,“I suppose I must tell it now. Two of my daughters must hold themselves prepared to be married; two will certainly be married. The old gnome from Norway yonder, he who lives in the Dovre mountain, and possesses many rock castles of granite, and a gold mine which is better than one thinks, is coming with his two sons, who want each to select a wife. The old gnome is a true old honest Norwegian veteran, merry and straightforward. I know him from old days, when we drank brotherhood with one another. He was down here to fetch his wife; now she is dead,----she was a daughter of the King of the Chalk-rocks of M en. He took his wife upon chalk, as the saying is. Oh, how I long to see the old Norwegian gnome! The lads, they say, are rather rude, forward lads; but perhaps they are belied, and they'll be right enough when they grow older. Let me see that you can teach them manners.”

“And when will they come?”asked one of the daughters.

“That depends on wind and weather,”said the Elf King.“They travel economically: they come when there's a chance by a ship. I wanted them to go across Sweden, but the old one would not incline to that wish. He does not advance with the times, and I don't like that.”

Then two Will-o'-the-wisps came hopping up, one quicker than the other, and so one of them arrived first.

“They're coming! they're coming!”they cried.

“Give me my crown, and let me stand in the moonshine,” add the Elf King.

And the daughters lifted up their shawls and bowed down to the earth.

There stood the old gnome of Dovre, with the crown of hardened ice and polished fir cones; moreover, 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 th............

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