Adapted from Mrs. Ewing.
Such wonderful stories as grandmother told Johnnie and Tommy! Stories of ghosts and hob-goblins, of dwarfs and fairies; and once she told them about a brownie that was said to have lived in their own family, long ago,—a brownie who did all manner of wonderful and useful things. He was a little fellow no larger than Tommy, she said, but very active and very shy. He slept by the kitchen fire, and no one ever saw him; but, early in the morning, when all the family were in their beds, this brownie would get up, sweep the room, build the fire, spread the table, milk the cow, churn the cream, bring the water, scrub and dust, until there was not a speck of dirt anywhere to be seen.
The children liked this story very much, and oh! how they did wish such a brownie would come to live in their house now! Over and over again they said: “Was there really and truly a brownie, grandmother, and did he really help all the people as you say? How we wish he would come back again! Why, he could mind the baby and tidy the room and bring in the wood and wait on you, grandmother! Can’t we do something to get him back again?”
“I don’t know, my dears,” said the grandmother; “but they used to say, in my young days, that if one set a bowl of bread and milk or even a pan of clear water for him over night he would be sure to come, and would do all the work just for that.”
“Oh! let us try it!” said both the boys; and one ran to get a pan, and the other to fetch fresh water from the well, for they knew, poor hungry lads, that there was no bread or milk in the house. Their father, who was a poor tailor, could scarcely earn money enough to buy food for them all. His wife had died when the baby was born and he could not make as many coats as before, for he must now do all the work of the house. Johnnie and Tommy were idle and lazy and too thoughtless to help their father, although they were fine grown lads of five and seven.
One night Tommy had a wonderful dream. He thought he went down in the meadow by the old mill pond, and there he saw an owl who shook her feathers, rolled her great eyes, and called: “Tuwhit, tuwhoo! Tuwhoo, whoo-o-o-o! Tommy, what are you doing way down here this time of night?”
“Please, I came to find the brownies,” said Tommy; “can you tell me where they live, ma’am?”
“Tuwhoo, tuwhoo!” screamed the old owl; “so it’s the brownies you are after, is it? Tuwhoo, tuwhoo! Go look in the mill pond. Tuwhoo, tuwhoo! Go look in the water at midnight, and you’ll see one. By the light of the moon a brownie you’ll see, to be sure, but such a lazy one! Tuwhoo, tuwhoo!” screamed the old owl; and, flapping her wings, she went sailing away in the moonlight.