The engineer and the dwarfs
The walls and ceiling were beautifully inlaid with mosaic work in gold and coloured stones, like the interior of St Mark's, Venice, and seemed to be of great antiquity, though of this he could not be certain.
The light was so dim that what might have been the brilliant effect of the whole, was lost, and the young engineer thought to himself involuntarily: "This ought to be lit up by electric light—it would look quite different then!" As he was deliberating how electric light might be laid on, a door in the wall opened, and a number of little dwarf men trooped in. They did not see him at first; for he was standing behind a pillar. They settled themselves down on benches that were arranged in a semicircle, and one of them with an important air mounted a raised dais facing them. He was just beginning to speak with the words: "Gentlemen of the Committee," when they caught sight of the stranger standing in the centre of the hall, lantern in hand. They gave a cry of alarm, and were just going to scuttle away like frightened rabbits, when Karl called out, "Hi—Ho there—Gentlemen of the Committee—good Sirs—don't run away. I won't harm you—Christmas Tree."
Now Christmas Tree is the most solemn oath among the dwarfs—it is equivalent to swearing on the Bible with us. How Karl knew this, he did not know; it came to him on the inspiration of the minute. Perhaps his grandmother had told him stories in his childhood about the dwarf men, in which it occurred.
It had an instantaneous effect on the dwarfs who stood still at once. "But you are one of the bad men who are building the tunnel," they cried out. "Aha—we can spoil your little game, my good fellow, we can smash you and your snorting old dragon who is coming here to devour us, into pieces. We can throw rocks on the line—Aha!"
"We have often watched you—though you were not aware of our presence," said the chairman. "We had just called a committee meeting to decide what is to be done about this matter of the tunnel."
"Now you know it is all nonsense about the dragon," said Karl persuasively, as if he were talking to children.