MOTHER. Inge! Inge! What have I ever told you?
INGE. I thought I’d go just this once.
MOTHER (showing sorrow). Ah, Inge, that’s what you always say.
INGE. There’s no harm talking with the elves.
MOTHER. And I, your mother, say there is harm.
INGE. But, mother,—they talk so prettily.
MOTHER (nodding). Aye! and that’s the harm. They’ve put such silly ideas into your head.
INGE. They say ’t is friendship makes them talk as they do.
MOTHER (indignantly). Friendship! ’T is friendship, is it, to tell you not to fetch the wood?
INGE. They say ’t will spoil my hands.
MOTHER. Out upon them and their pretty talk! You shall go there no more. Do you hear me, Inge?
INGE (pouting). I hear.
MOTHER. Now take this loaf of bread to your sick
aunt. Say to her ’t is her
INGE. But, mother, I must cross the muddy road to go there.
MOTHER. Well, you are neither sugar nor salt.
INGE. I’ll spoil my shoes!
MOTHER. You think of your shoes, and your aunt lies ill?
INGE. Wait till spring and the mud will be gone.
MOTHER. Wait till spring and your aunt will be gone! Here is the loaf—now off with you!
[Inge takes the loaf and goes, but not willingly.]
TIME: a few minutes later.
PLACE: the muddy road.
* * * * *
THE WICKED ELF.
* * * * *
[INGE is seen stopping at the muddy road.]
INGE. ’T is too wide to leap!
[The WICKED ELF suddenly appears on the opposite side of the road.]
WICKED ELF. Good day to you, pretty maid!
INGE. Good day to you, dear Elf!
WICKED ELF. Wilt cross this muddy road?
INGE. I must.
WICKED ELF. Then I’ll tell you how to do it and not so much as wet your shoe.
INGE. Oh, thank you, dear Elf!
WICKED ELF. Throw down your loaf and—
INGE. (showing surprise; interrupting). Throw down the loaf?
WICKED ELF. Why, yes,—to use it for a stepping-stone.
INGE. But ’t will spoil the bread!
WICKED ELF. But ’t will save your shoes!
INGE. Well, that’s true—
WICKED ELF. A pretty maid ne’er wears a muddy shoe.
INGE. That’s true, too—
WICKED ELF. Come, then, throw down the loaf!
INGE. Well, I’ll do it!
(She throws the loaf and steps upon it.)
’T is sinking! What shall I do?
WICKED ELF. Why, then, jump off!
INGE (trying to jump). I can’t! Don’t you see I can’t?