The engineer and the dwarfs
"You have heard of trains, haven't you? You are not so behind the times as all that!"
"Some of us have seen the dragon and even ridden in him," said Mr Chairman. "There is a famous story about that; but the majority still look upon the railway with suspicion and even distrust. We only ask to be let alone, and not be interfered with by meddling mortals," he said in a gruff voice. "What do we need with you? Our civilization and our history are more ancient even than that of India or Egypt, and from us the human race is descended."
"I tell you what," said Karl, "I could put you up to a thing or two for all that. We live in Modern Europe, you know, and not in ancient Egypt. Now, for instance, why is this beautiful hall, a perfect work of art in its way, so badly illuminated!"
"Badly illuminated! Why, what do you mean?" cried the little men indignantly. "Do you not see our glow-worms hanging in festoons on the walls?"
"O, I say, glow-worms! in the twentieth century, that's rather strong, you know! what you want, is electric light."
"What's that?" said the dwarfs curiously.
"You have only to press a little button on the wall, like this," he pressed his thumb on the wall—"and the whole place is lit up almost as if it were day."
"We don't believe it—we don't believe it," said the little men.
"But it's true, I assure you, Christmas Tree," said Karl.
"Wouldn't it make our eyes blink?" said one thin little fellow.
Karl noticed that the dwarfs' eyes were small and their faces pale. Most of them had quite white beards and hair.
"That comes of living so long underground, it is a loss of pigment," thought Karl. "Like a geranium that has been kept in the cellar! Now I could fix it up for you," said the young engineer, always keenly on the look-out for a job. "We are going to have it laid on in the tunnel."
"How much would it cost?" inquired the dwarfs.
"O, a thousand pounds or so!" said Karl carelessly. He had heard that dwarfs were very rich, and he was a good man of business, and had his eyes open to his interests.