WICKED ELF. Ha, ha! You’re fastened to it!
INGE. ’T is drawing me down! Help me! Help me!
WICKED ELF. There’s no help for you.
INGE. No help? What do you mean?
WICKED ELF. You must go down with the loaf.
INGE. I pray you help me! See how I’m sinking! The mud will soon be over my shoes!
WICKED ELF. The mud will soon be over your head!
INGE (weeping). Save me! Save me!
WICKED ELF. Will you be saved by magic?
INGE. Yes, yes!
WICKED ELF. Listen, then—I’ll change you into a bird. Are you willing?
INGE. Yes, yes! Quick now, before I sink deeper!
WICKED ELF (nodding head three times). A sparrow shall you be! Change, now change!
[Inge changes into a SPARROW, with a tuft of white feathers, just the shape of a loaf of bread, upon its head. The Sparrow flies from the mud.]
SPARROW. Now change me back into Inge.
WICKED ELF. You shall remain as you are.
SPARROW (showing surprise). Remain as I am?
WICKED ELF (nodding). Until you can change yourself back.
SPARROW. And when will that be?
WICKED ELF. When the loaf has gone from your head.
SPARROW. The loaf from my head? What do you mean?
WICKED ELF (going). Fly away to the brook and see! Ha, ha, ha!
(She runs away, calling back.)
Fly away to the brook and see! Ha, ha, ha!
[Illustration: “’T IS SINKING! WHAT SHALL I DO?”]
TIME: the day following Christmas Day.
PLACE: an old stone wall by a brook.
* * * * *
* * * * *
[The SPARROW sits in a hole in the wall.]
FIRST STONE. Come, come, be not so sad, little Sparrow!
SECOND STONE. Come, lift up your head and sing!
THIRD STONE. Come, sing us your Christmas song!
SPARROW. Sing! I have nothing to sing about.
FIRST STONE. Sing of your friends.
SECOND STONE. Sing of their love for you.
THIRD STONE. Sing of their kindness to you.
SPARROW. Talk not to me of friends, or love, or kindness! There’s none in the world.
[Enter a PEASANT with his little GRETEL. The Peasant carries two ears of corn.]
PEASANT. Now, my Gretel, we’ll place the corn here on the old wall.
GRETEL. Mother thought you brought too much.
PEASANT. Well, ’t is true there are only three ears left at home, but the birds must have their Christmas dinner.