“What in all the world is this?” said the boy. “I believe the elf has bewitched both the armchair and the table—and the whole cottage.”
The Commentary lay on the table and, to all appearances, it was not changed; but there must have been something queer about that too, for he could not manage to read a single word of it, without actually standing right in the book itself.
He read a couple of lines, and then he chanced to look up. With that, his glance fell on the looking-glass; and then he cried aloud: “Look! There’s another one!”
For in the glass he saw plainly a little, little creature who was dressed in a hood and leather breeches.
“Why, that one is dressed exactly like me!” said the boy, and clasped his hands in astonishment. But then he saw that the thing in the mirror did the same thing. Then he began to pull his hair and pinch his arms and swing round; and instantly he did the same thing after him; he, who was seen in the mirror.
The boy ran around the glass several times, to see if there wasn’t a little man hidden behind it, but he found no one there; and then he began to shake with terror. For now he understood that the elf had bewitched him, and that the creature whose image he saw in the glass—was he, himself.
THE WILD GEESE
The boy simply could not make himself believe that he had been transformed into an elf. “It can’t be anything but a dream—a queer fancy,” thought he. “If I wait a few moments, I’ll surely be turned back into a human being again.”
He placed himself before the glass and closed his eyes. He opened them again after a couple of minutes, and then expected to find that it had all passed over—but it hadn’t. He was—and remained—just as little. In other respects, he was the same as before. The thin, straw-coloured hair; the freckles across his nose; the patches on his leather breeches and the darns on his stockings, were all like themselves, with this exception—that they had become diminished.
No, it would do no good for him to stand still and wait, of this he was certain. He must try something else. And he thought the wisest thing that he could do was to try and find the elf, and make his peace with him.
And while he sought, he cried and prayed and promised everything he could think of. Nevermore would he break his word to anyone; never again would he be naughty; and never, never would he fall asleep again over the sermon. If he might only be a human being once more, he would be such a good and helpful and obedient boy. But no matter how much he promised—it did not help him the least little bit.
Suddenly he remembered that he had heard his mother say, all the tiny folk made their home in the cowsheds; and, at once, he concluded to go there, and see if he couldn’t find the elf. It was a lucky thing that the cottage-door stood partly open, for he never could have reached the bolt and opened it; but now he slipped through without any difficulty.