“Now, Jamie, that is not true,” responded Mabel, energetically; for she was a strong American at heart, and it didn’t take much to rouse her. “I believe, for instance, that you know a great deal although not as much as my father; but I can’t see your learning with my eyes, neither can I touch it with my hands—”
“But I hope I can sell it for money,” interrupted I, laughing.
“No, joking aside. I don’t think we are quite as bad as you would like to make us out.”
“And then you think, perhaps, that the gnomes and river-sprites would be as apt to thrive here as in the Old World?”
“Who knows?” said Mabel, with an expression that seemed to me half serious and half playful. “But I wish you would tell me something about your German sprites. I am so very ignorant in such things, you know.”
I stretched myself comfortably on the edge of the shawl at Mabel’s feet, and began to tell her the story about the German peasant who caught the gnome that had robbed his wheat-field.
“The gnomes wear tiny red caps,” I went on, “which make them invisible. They are called tarn-caps, or caps of darkness. The peasant that I am telling about had a suspicion that it was the gnomes who had been stealing his wheat. One evening, he went out after sunset (for the gnomes never venture out from their holes until the sun is down) and began to fight in the air with his cane about the borders of the field. Then suddenly he saw a very tiny man with knee-breeches and large frightened eyes, turning a somersault in the grass right at his feet. He had struck off his cap, and then, of course, the gnome was no longer invisible. The peasant immediately seized the cap and put it into his pocket; the gnome begged and implored to get it back, but instead of that, the peasant caught him up in his arms and carried him to his house, where he kept him as a captive until the other gnomes sent a herald to him and offered him a large ransom. Then the gnome was again set free and the peasant made his fortune by the transaction.”
“Wouldn’t it be delightful if such things could ever happen here?” exclaimed Mabel, while her beautiful eyes shone with pleasure at the very thought.
“I should think so,” said I. “It is said, too, that if there are gnomes and elves in the neighborhood, they always gather around you when you talk about them.”
“Really?” And Mabel sent a timid glance in among the large mossy trunks of the beeches and pines.
“Tell me something more, Jamie,” she demanded, eagerly.
Mabel had such a charming way of saying “Jamie,” that I could never have opposed a wish of hers, whatever it might be. The professor called me James, and among my friends I was Jim; but it was only Mabel who called me Jamie. So I told her all I knew about the nixies, who sang their strange songs at midnight in the water; about the elves, who lived in the roses and lilies, and danced in a ring around