The engineer and the dwarfs
"Well, there is something in what you say," said Karl to whom this idea had already occurred, "but we could avoid that catastrophe!"
"As for you," continued the dwarf turning to Norah, "we have discovered that you are a human being also, and no fairy; therefore we shall not require your services any longer."
"What a horrid way to give me notice, as if I could help not being a fairy!" said poor Norah weeping bitterly.
The little fellow was much distressed; he could not make out what was the matter with her.
"Don't cry, little Fräuleinchen," he said, "I am sure we never thought you were so fond of us as all that; it is very gratifying, but it is too late now to alter our decision; the way down into our kingdom is sealed for ever!"
"I could soon open it again," said Karl wrathfully.
"As for that, it would not be quite such an easy matter as you think," said Mr Query mockingly. "However we are willing to offer you terms," he continued, "if you will leave us alone and protect our secrets."
"What terms?" said Karl and Norah eagerly.
"You shall see," said the dwarf, "follow me to the fir-trees." So saying he sprang down from the stone on which he had been sitting and came up and shook hands with them.
"We are going to be married! what do you think of that?" they informed him.
"Humph! Your taste, not mine," said Mr Query. "However Norah will be able to clean your gold and silver dishes capitally; that's a comfort for you."
"We haven't got any gold and silver dishes to clean, alas!" said Norah.
"Poor things," said Mr Query, "well we'll see." He proceeded to the fir-trees where the Gentlemen of the Committee were again assembled, standing in a solemn semicircle. "If you will sign this contract, we are willing to give you a reward. I speak in the name of the Gentlemen of the Committee," said Mr Query, and the little men nodded their heads in assent. He drew out a roll of parchment from a bag he carried with him and handed it to Karl. Norah looked over his shoulder.