“The mill pond, at midnight, by moonlight,” thought Tommy. What could the old owl mean? It was midnight then, and moonlight, too; and there he was right down by the water. “Silly old thing,” said Tommy, “brownies don’t live in the water.” But for all that Tommy went to the bank and peeped in. The moon was shining as bright as day; and what do you suppose he saw? Why, just a picture of himself in the water, and that was all. “Humph! I’m no brownie,” said he to himself; but the longer he looked the harder he thought. At last he said:
“Am I a brownie? Perhaps I am one, after all. Grandmother said they are about as large as I, and the old owl said that I would see a very lazy one if I looked in the water. Am I lazy? That must be what she meant. I am the brownie myself.” The longer he thought about it the surer he was that he must be a brownie. “Why,” he said, “if I am one, Johnnie must be another; then there are two of us. I’ll go home and tell Johnnie all about it.”
Off he ran as fast as his legs could carry him, and just as he was calling, “Johnnie, Johnnie! We are brownies! The old owl told me!” he found himself wide awake, sitting up in bed, rubbing his eyes, while Johnnie lay fast asleep by his side. The first faint rays of morning light were just creeping in at their chamber window. “Johnnie, Johnnie, wake up! I have something to tell you!”
After telling his brother all about his strange dream, Tommy said: “Let us play we really are brownies, John, even if we are not; it will be such fun for once to surprise father and grandmother. We will keep out of sight and tell about it afterwards. Oh, do come! It will be such fun!”
So these two brownies put on their clothes in a great hurry and crept softly down to the kitchen, where at first there seemed enough work for a dozen brownies to do. Tommy built up a blazing fire, and, while the kettle was boiling, swept the untidy floor, while Johnnie dusted, placed his grandmother’s chair, got the cradle ready for the baby and spread the table. Just as everything was in order they heard their father’s footstep on the stairs. “Run!” whispered Tommy, “or he will see us.” So the boys scampered away to their bed in the loft and pretended to be fast asleep when their father called them to breakfast.
The poor tailor was fairly beside himself with delight and astonishment, and believed that the brownie he had heard so much about in his childhood had really come back again. The old grandmother was delighted, too, and said: “What did I tell you, son Thomas? I always knew there were real brownies.”
Although being brownies was fun for the boys, it was hard work, too, and they sometimes thought they would leave off; but then they would think of their hard-working father and would grow quite ashamed. Things were so much better at home than they used to be. The tailor never scolded now, the grandmother was more cheerful than of old, the baby was less fretful, the house was always tidy; and because the tailor had more time for his work, now that the brownies helped, he could make more coats and could get more money, and the boys did not go hungry to bed as they used to do; but there was always bread and milk enough, and a great bowlful to spare that they set each night for the brownie.