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The Elf Mound

Several lizards darted briskly in and out of the cracks of a hollow tree. They understood each other perfectly, for they all spoke lizard language.

"My! How it rumbles and buzzes in the old elf mound," said one lizard. "It rumbles and bumbles so that I haven't had a wink of sleep for the past two nights. I might as well have a toothache, for that also prevents me from sleeping."

"There's something afoot," said another lizard. "Until the cock crowed for dawn, they had the mound propped up on four red poles to give it a thoroughgoing airing. And the elf maidens are learning to stamp out some new dances. Something is surely afoot."

"Yes, I was just talking about it with an earthworm I know," said a third lizard. "He came straight from the mound, where he has been nosing around night and day. He overheard a good deal. For he can't see, poor thing, but he knows his way around and makes an uncommonly good eavesdropper. They expect company in the elf mound, distinguished visitors, but the earthworm wouldn't say who they are. Or maybe he didn't know. All the will-o'-the-wisps have been told to parade with their torches, as they are called, and all of the flat silver and gold plate with which the hill is well stocked is being polished and put out in the moonlight."

"Who can the visitors be?" the lizards all wanted to know. "What in the world is going on? Listen to the hustle! listen to the bustle!"

Just at that moment the elf mound opened, and an old-maid elf minced out of it. The woman had no back, but otherwise she was quite properly dressed, with her amber jewelry in the shape of a heart. She kept house for her distant cousin, the old king of the elves, and she was very spry in the legs. Trip, trot, away she went. How she hurried and scurried off to see the night raven down in the marsh.

"You are hereby invited to the elf mound, this very night," she told him. "But may I ask you to do us a great favor first? Please deliver the other invitations for us. As you have no place of your own where you can entertain, you must make yourself generally useful.

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