The engineer and the dwarfs
"That's a great deal of money, a great deal of money!" said the little men in chorus.
"O, as for that I am sure we could come to an agreement," said Karl. "By the way," he went on—"do you happen to have a telephone here? I should like to 'phone to a friend of mine and tell him where I am. It would be such a joke."
"What's a telephone?" asked the dwarfs.
"You don't know what a telephone is! Himmel! you are old-fashioned down here—you are only half civilised!"
"Half civilised, half civilised!" repeated the dwarfs angrily, "let us repeat our civilisation——"
"I'll tell you what a telephone is," said Karl, interrupting this burst of eloquence. "It is a little tube connected with a wire, you put one part of it to your ear, and then you put your mouth to the tube and say: 'No. 1280,' and then listen, and your friend will speak to you from miles and miles away, and you can answer him."
"We don't believe it, we don't believe it!" said the unbelieving dwarfs.
"It's true for all that, Christmas Tree," said Karl. "I could fix that up for you too, if you have any connection with the outer air. You must have," he continued, sniffing, "for the air is nice and fresh here, quite different to that in the tunnel. Have you a ventilating shaft?"
"O yes," said the little men, "we can show you that!" And they led him out of the hall. In the passage outside was a great cleft or crevice in the rocks such as we call in England a chine. Above it the moon shone full and bright. A waterfall rushed down on one side; he saw ferns and dear little plants leaning over the water, growing between the cracks of the rocks. There were also glow-worms cunningly arranged in groups that looked like fairy stars. On the other side, he observed to his joy rough steps leading upwards cut in the solid rock. He sighed a sigh of relief, here at least was the way out.
He regarded the pretty sight with the eye of the professional engineer, rather than that of the artist. "That must be a stiff climb for you little men up there," he said.