“Not so fast, my dear,” said I. “What will you give me for it?”
“Anything,” he cried, as he arose and held out his small hand.
“Then listen to me,” continued I. “Can you help me to see things as they are? In that case I shall give you back your cap, but on no other condition.”
“See things as they are?” repeated the gnome, wonderingly.
“Yes, and not only as they seem,” rejoined I, with emphasis.
“Return here at midnight,” began he, after a long silence. “Upon the stone where you are sitting you shall find what you want. If you take it, leave my cap on the same spot.”
“That is a fair bargain,” said I. “I shall be here promptly at twelve. Good-night.”
I had extended my palm to shake hands with my new friend, but he seemed to resent my politeness; with a sort of snarl, he turned a somersault and rolled down the hill-side to where the rocks rise from the water.
I need not say that I kept my promise about returning. And what did I find? A pair of spectacles of the most exquisite workmanship; the glasses so clear as almost to deceive the sight, and the bows of gold spun into fine elastic threads.
“We shall soon see what they are good for,” thought I, as I put them into the silver case, the wonderful finish of which I could hardly distinguish by the misty light of the moon.
The little tarn-cap I, of course, left on the stone. As I wandered homeward through the woods, I thought, with a certain fierce triumph, that now the beauty of Mabel’s face should no more deceive me.
“Now, Mabel,” I murmured, “now I shall see you as you are.”
At three o’clock in the afternoon I knocked at the door of the professor’s study.
“Come in,” said the professor.
“Is—is Mabel at home?” asked I, when I had shaken hands with the professor and seated myself in one of his hard, straight-backed chairs.
“She will be down presently,” answered he “There is The Nation. You may amuse yourself with that until she comes.”
I took up the paper; but the spectacles seemed to be burning in my breast-pocket, and although I stared intently at the print, I could hardly distinguish a word. What if I tried the power of the spectacles on the professor? The idea appeared to me a happy one, and I immediately proceeded to put it into practice. With a loudly beating heart, I pulled the silver case from my pocket, rubbed the glasses with my handkerchief, put them on my nose, adjusted the bows behind my ears, and cast a stealthy glance at the professor over the edge of my paper. But what was my horror! It was no longer the professor at all. It was a huge parrot, a veritable parrot in slippers and dressing-gown! I dared hardly believe my senses. Was the professor really not a man, but a parrot? My dear trusted and honored teacher, whom I had always looked upon as the wisest and most learned of living men, could it be possible that he was a parrot? And still there he sat, grave and sedate, a pair of horn spectacles on his large, crooked beak, a few stiff feathers bristling around his bald crown, and his small eyes blinking with a sort of meaningless air of confidence, as I often had seen a parrot’s eyes doing.