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    Chapter 9

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    Chapter 10
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    Wherein we shall see how Honey-Bee was taken to the dwarfs

    The moon had risen over the lake and the water now only showed broken reflections of its disc. Honey-Bee still slept. The dwarf who had watched her came back again on his raven followed this time by a crowd of little men. They were very little men. Their white beards hung down to their knees. They looked like old men with the figures of children. By their leathern aprons and the hammers which hung from their belts one could see that they were workers in metals. They had a curious gait, for they leaped to amazing heights and turned the most extraordinary somersaults, and showed the most inconceivable agility that made them seem more like spirits than human beings.

    Yet while cutting their most foolhardy capers they preserved an unalterable gravity of demeanour, to such a degree that it was quite impossible to make out their real characters.

    They placed themselves in a circle about the sleeping child.

    "Now then," said the smallest of the dwarfs from the heights of his plumed charger; "now then, did I deceive you when I said that the loveliest of princesses was lying asleep on the borders of the lake, and do you not thank me for bringing you here?"

    "We thank you, Bob," replied one of the dwarfs who looked like an elderly poet, "indeed there is nothing lovelier in the world than this young damsel. She is more rosy than the dawn which rises on the mountains, and the gold we forge is not so bright as the gold of her tresses."

    "Very good, Pic, nothing can be truer," cried the dwarfs, "but what shall we do with this lovely little lady?"

    Pic, who looked like a very elderly poet, did not reply to this question, probably because he knew no better than they what to do with this pretty lady.

    "Let us build a large cage and put her in," a dwarf by the name of Rug suggested.

    Against this another dwarf called Dig vehemently protested. It was Dig's opinion that only wild beasts were ever put into cages, and there was nothing yet to prove that the pretty lady was one of these.

    But Rug clung to his idea for the reason possibly that he had no other. He defended it with much subtlety. Said he:

    "If this person is not savage she will certainly become so as a result of the cage, which will be therefore not only useful but indispensable."

    This reasoning displeased the dwarfs, and one of them named Tad denounced it with much indignation. He was such a good dwarf. He proposed to take the beautiful child back to her kindred who must be great nobles.

    But this advice was rejected as being contrary to the custom of the dwarfs.

    "We ought to follow the ways of justice not custom," said Tad.

    But no one paid any further attention to him and the assembly broke into a tumult as a dwarf named Pau, a simple soul but just, gave his advice in these terms:

    "We must begin by awakening this young lady, seeing she declines to awake of herself; if she spends the night here her eyelids will be swollen to-morrow and her beauty will be much impaired, for it is very unhealthy to sleep in a wood on the borders of a lake."

    This opinion met with general approval as it did not clash with any other.

    Pic, who looked like an elderly poet burdened with care, approached the young girl and looked at her very intently, under the impression that a single one of his glances would be quite sufficient to rouse the dreamer out of the deepest sleep. But Pic was quite mistaken as to the power of his glance, for Honey-Bee continued to sleep with folded hands.

    Seeing this the good Tad pulled her gently by her sleeve. Thereupon she partly opened her eyes and raised herself on her elbow. When she found herself lying on a bed of moss surrounded by dwarfs she thought what she saw was nothing but a dream, and she rubbed her eyes to open them, so that instead of this fantastic vision she should see the pure light of morning as it entered her little blue room in which she thought she was. For her mind, heavy with sleep, did not recall to her the adventure of the lake. But indeed, it was useless to rub her eyes, the dwarfs did not vanish, and so she was obliged to believe that they were real.

    Then she looked about with frightened eyes and saw the forest and remembered.

    "George! my brother George!" she cried in anguish. The dwarfs crowded about her, and for fear of seeing them she hid her face in her hands.

    "George! George! Where is my brother George?" she sobbed.

    The dwarfs could not tell her, for the good reason that they did not know. And she wept hot tears and cried aloud for her mother and brother.

    Pau longed to weep with her, and in his efforts to console, he addressed her with rather vague remarks.

    "Do not distress yourself so much," he urged, "it would be a pity for so lovely a young damsel to spoil her eyes with weeping. Rather tell us your story, which cannot fail to be very amusing. We should be so pleased."

    She did not listen. She rose and tried to escape. But her bare and swollen feet caused her such pain that she fell on her knees, sobbing most pitifully. Tad held her in his arms, and Pau tenderly kissed her hand. It was this that gave her the courage to look at them, and she saw that they seemed full of compassion.

    Pic looked to her like one inspired, and yet very innocent, and perceiving that all these little men were full of compassion for her, she said:

    "Little men, it is a pity you are so ugly; but I will love you all the same if you will only give me something to eat, for I am so hungry."

    "Bob," all the dwarfs cried at once, "go and fetch some supper."

    And Bob flew off on his raven. All the same, the dwarfs resented this small girl's injustice in finding them ugly. Rug was very angry. Pic said to himself, "She is only a child, and she does not see the light of genius which shines in my eyes, and which gives them the power which crushes as well as the grace which charms."

    As for Pau, he thought to himself: "Perhaps it would have been better if I had not awakened this young lady who finds us ugly." But Tad said smiling:

    "You will find us less ugly, dear young lady, when you love us more."

    As he spoke Bob re-appeared on his raven. He held a dish of gold on which were a roast pheasant, an oatmeal cake, and a bottle of claret. He cut innumerable capers as he laid this supper at the feet of Honey-Bee.

    "Little men," Honey-Bee said as she ate, "your supper is very good. My name is Honey-Bee; let us go in search of my brother, and then we will all go together to Clarides where mama is waiting for us in great anxiety."

    But Dig, who was a kind dwarf, represented to Honey-Bee that she was not able to walk; that her brother was big enough to find his own way; that no misfortune could come to him in a country in which all the wild beasts had been destroyed.

    "We will make a litter," he added, "and cover it with leaves and moss, and we will put you on it, and in this way we will carry you to the mountain and present you to the King of the Dwarfs, according to the custom of our people."

    All the dwarfs applauded. Honey-Bee looked at her aching feet and remained silent. She was glad to learn that there were no wild beasts in the country. And on the whole she was willing to trust herself to the kindness of the dwarfs.

    They were already busy constructing the litter. Those with hatchets were felling two young fir trees with resounding blows. This brought back to Rug his original suggestion.

    "If instead of a litter we made a cage," he urged.

    But he aroused a unanimous protest. Tad looked at him scornfully.

    "You are more like a human being than a dwarf, Rug," he said. "But at least it is to the honour of our race that the most wicked dwarf is also the most stupid."

    In the meantime the task had been accomplished. The dwarfs leaped into the air and in a bound seized and cut the branches, out of which they deftly wove a basket chair. Having covered it with moss and leaves, they placed Honey-Bee upon it, then they seized the two poles, placed them on their shoulders and, then! off they went to the mountain.
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