By Birdsall Otis Edey

Gnomes were teddy’s favorites. He had no brothers and sisters, so was obliged to make up games for himself, and invent people to play with him, and the people were almost always gnomes.

At the foot of the lawn which stretched before the house where he lived, stood an oak-tree. This tree was so old that the trunk was quite hollow, and teddy could squeeze inside it by making himself small. It was here that all his wonderful adventures began. He always went to the oak every morning, vaguely hoping at some time to catch sight of a belated elf, who might be lurking about after the day had really begun.

It had been raining for two days, and teddy had been kept indoors with a cold, which he hated very much, so on the third morning, when mamma allowed him to run out for a little while he made all haste to the oak-tree, because he felt that something would be changed and he was quite disappointed to find everything looking just as usual. But when he went inside, however, there was a difference; a small trap door, with a brass ring in it, had appeared in the bottom of the tree.

Teddy was delighted, as he was sure the door had not been there two days ago, and he couldn’t imagine what it was for. In a minute he was trying to get it open, tugging at the brass ring as hard as he could. It was a tough struggle, but the door yielded at last, and so suddenly that teddy fell over backward out through the opening of the tree. He didn’t mind that, and was up in a jiffy, looking down the black hole which he had uncovered.

At first he couldn’t see anything, then gradually made out some steps, at the bottom of which it seemed to be lighter. Ted hesitated, it was dark at the top, and he didn’t know how far away the light might be, but he made up his mind to go down, and he went cautiously, backward, as on a ladder. It was a long flight. When he reached the bottom step at last, he saw that the light came from an opening at the end of the passage, and was much farther off than it looked, but he kept on and when at last he arrived where it was brighter, he found himself in a new and strange country.

To his surprise everything was blue,—grass, leaves on the trees, flowers, all a deep, lovely blue, like the sea. Teddy stared about in much astonishment. There was no one in sight, but he heard a sort of soft, humming sound, like people singing. It seemed to come from the left, so he ran off in that direction, and on turning a corner, saw a hill in front of him, up which he climbed, and there the funniest sight met his eyes.

Below, in a round clearing, was an open-air workshop. Tools of all kinds stood about, and in the center of a furnace in full blast, and hard at work were hundreds of little, blue gnomes. They were all hammering, sawing, and planing, making wooden tables and chairs of a very curious kind that teddy had never seen before. They kept up an odd, chanting song, as they worked, and this was what teddy had heard. The words were something like these:

“let us sing as we work,
as hard as we’re able,
let us sing as we finish
each chair, and each table.

The giants will come,
if we cease from our song,
and eat us all up,
so sing, sing along.”

Another curious thing teddy noticed, was the presence of about a hundred blue elephants. They walked in solemn procession around the outskirts of the open space, each one holding with his trunk the tail of the one in front of him. Occasionally, the largest would put up his trunk and trumpet, and then they all would do the same, solemnly turn around, and walk the other way.

While teddy stood watching these strange sights one of the gnomes, who seemed to be an overseer, looked up and saw him. He gave a cry, which was echoed by the others, then with one accord they stopped working, ran up the hill, and threw themselves on the ground before teddy, shouting.

“He has come, he has come, our preserver, our preserver!” teddy was a good deal embarrassed at this reception, and didn’t know exactly what to say, so he took off his hat, and bowed very politely, and said nothing. The gnomes, on the contrary, talked all the time, and all together, which made a great deal of noise, and was pretty confusing. Teddy heard the word “giant,” again and again, also the word “kill,” and he wondered if he were to kill a giant, and if so, with what. After a while, they seemed to realize that he didn’t understand so they all fell back a little way, and the leader, the one who had given notice of teddy’s arrival, stepped forward and said:

“teddy, we are glad to see you. We have watched you for a long, long time, and always hoped to have a visit from you, but we were obliged to wait before putting up the steps and the trap door, until you yourself had expressed a desire to help us, which you did last saturday. Perhaps you remember saving one of my people from being killed by a cat on saturday.”

Teddy looked puzzled. “it was a frog i saved,” he said. “topsy was going to eat it, and i was afraid she would get sick.”

“it was not a frog,” said the gnome with much displeasure, “you may have thought it was a frog, but it was not.” he seemed so put out that teddy felt himself growing very red and embarrassed.

“i am sure i am very sorry,” he said, “and i am glad i was able to help you.”

The gnome continued, but with much severity, “you then said, after you had driven away the savage animal,——”

“topsy is not a savage animal,” interrupted ted, “she is a very nice cat.”

“she is a savage animal to us,” said the gnome, and all the other gnomes repeated, “savage animal,” in a sort of a growl.

“as i was saying,” the gnome went on, “after having driven away the savage animal, you said you wished you could be like the celebrated “jack the giant-killer,” and then we decided you would help us, and we put up the steps and door.”

“what am i to do, now that i am here?” asked teddy, much perplexed, “am i to kill a giant?”

“you are to kill six,” replied the gnome, calmly, while a joyful chorus of “six” came from the hundreds of little gnomes standing by.

“six,” echoed teddy, faintly, “i—i don’t think i could kill six, i’m not sure i could kill one, alone.”

not kill the six giants,” said the gnome, in a voice of anger and surprise, “then why did you come?”

“i don’t know,” and teddy began to wish heartily that he had never found the trap door, and never visited gnome-land.

There was a long silence, in which teddy shifted his feet, twisted his cap into a string, and felt very unhappy and awkward. Then the silence was broken by the biggest gnome, who came a little closer to teddy, and said, calmly, but firmly;

“you expressed a wish to kill a giant, here there are six, who come every night, when we are asleep and cannot sing, and when our elephants are obliged to leave us to attend to their other duties. When we wake in the morning, we find our work all undone and broken, our tools made useless, and often many of our number killed. You must rid us of these pests, and if you cannot think of a way now, you must remain here in captivity until you do.” so speaking he led teddy to a cave in the side of the hill, and pushed him in.

“when you are ready,” he said, “you have only to blow this whistle loudly, twice, and you will be released,” then the door closed, and teddy found himself alone.

For a few minutes all he heard was the pattering of hundreds of little feet, going down the hill, then the chanting song commenced again, and he knew that they had gone back to their work.

Teddy was thoroughly frightened; he had no idea how to kill giants, though he had often thought about it, but now that the chance had come he couldn’t think of a single way to accomplish it, and after a while he began to cry. While he was crying very hard, he heard a scratchy sound, and looking up, saw a little red squirrel, coming in through a crack in the cave. The squirrel winked very solemnly with one bright eye, and then remarked,

“i wouldn’t cry if i were you.”

“what would you do?” said ted, rather put out by the squirrel’s tone.

“i’d go to work,” was the answer, delivered with another wink.

“i don’t know how to,” said teddy, “and i can’t get out if i did know.”

“you must find mamma know-all,” said the squirrel whisking his tail, “she will help you, she knows you well, she is in your house a lot of the time.”

“at my house?” said teddy, much surprised, “whereabouts?”

“that would be telling,” and the squirrel winked again.

Teddy rose to his feet, “let us go and find her at once,” he said, “if i have to do this thing there is no use in waiting any longer.”

“now you are acting with some sense,” said the squirrel, “blow your whistle and tell them you must be let out any way, that you can’t think locked up, and then start to your left, thro’ the woods and i will join you,” with that he scurried into the darkness, and disappeared.

Teddy then blew his whistle twice, loudly, and instantly the door opened, and he walked out. No one was in sight, so he obeyed the squirrel’s instructions, and ran to the woods, where the squirrel joined him. He walked quite a long way with little “red-tail” sitting on his shoulder, and at last arrived at a house, on the side of a steep hill. Here “red-tail” got down from teddy’s shoulder, and hid in a tree.

“i don’t like mamma know-all,” he said, “you can talk to her.”

So teddy knocked at the door, and a funny, little old woman came out. Teddy told her his troubles, and she agreed to help him.

“i’ve known for a long time how to kill the giants,” she said, “but nobody has ever thought to ask me to help, and i can’t think why they supposed a little boy like you could do it without me. I’m going to give you three oranges, which you must peel as you need them. The looking-glass sea is at the top of this hill, and the giants live on the other side of the sea. Do not use the oranges unless you have to, and above all things, do not step on the peel.”

Teddy thanked her very much, took the oranges, and began promptly to climb the hill, where the squirrel was waiting for him.

They soon reached the top, and before them, stretched the looking-glass sea. Directly opposite stood the gray castle belonging to the six giants. It had six enormous doors, six enormous windows, one over each door, and also six chimneys. It stood so close to the edge of the sea, that teddy saw its reflection quite clearly, which made it seem twice its real size. He stared at the castle in hopeless despair.

“they must be large giants,” he said.

“they are,” answered the squirrel, “the very largest.”

“i suppose i’d better cross the sea,” remarked teddy.

“i suppose you’d better try to cross the sea,” said the squirrel.

So teddy put one foot on the edge, then the other foot and then he took one step, and then he landed flat on his back with a most awful thump. This both surprised and hurt him, and he crawled on his hands and knees to the bank, feeling discouraged.

“i think i had better peel an orange,” he said, ” i’ll never be able to walk over.”

The squirrel agreed to this, and they did it together, being very careful to throw the peel behind them, so that they should not step on it.

Just as they finished, the orange slipped from teddy’s hand, skipped off on the sea, and turned into a pair of beautiful big wheels, all nicely rubber tired, like bicycle wheels, and with a little seat swung in between them. Teddy was much delighted, and lost no time in taking the seat. The wheels instantly began to roll over the sea, and when he was very nearly across he saw to his horror, looming up on the opposite bank, a very large bright green griffin, with a long scaly tail, and very big claws. The wheels seemed to be as frightened as teddy, for they stopped short, and teddy and the griffin looked at each other. Finally the griffin roared at him.

“what do you want here boy?” teddy didn’t wish to say what he really wanted, so he gave a pleasant smile, and said:

“i came to see you.” the griffin looked as if he didn’t believe that, and invited teddy ashore, but teddy was not to be caught so easily, and he invited the griffin to come out on the looking-glass sea. This the griffin refused to do, and teddy asked the wheels to wheel him as close to the bank as was safe, which they did, then the little seat lowered him to the ice, and the wheels disappeared.

Teddy sat there and looked at the griffin, and wondered what the next move should be, when it suddenly occurred to him that it was time to use another orange. There was no place to leave the peel except on the sea, but the squirrel managed to carry the pieces quite off to the right, so that they wouldn’t be in the way.

When teddy had finished peeling, the orange slipped out of his hand, just as the other had done, shot to the bank, and promptly turned into a dozen little cakes.

“have some cake,” said teddy.

“you come and hand them to me,” said the griffin.

“no, you reach them for yourself,” said teddy, “they are near the edge.”

Now the griffin liked cakes, very much indeed, and these had pink frosting on them, and looked very delicious, so he gingerly leaned over the edge, and took one, and finding it good, ate them all.

Just as he finished the last one, he began to bellow and roar, and made such a noise that the giants all woke up, and each one rushed to a window, and pushed out his head.

The Giants Awoke and rushed to their windows

Now these giants were very peculiar. Each had different colored hair, and a great deal of it,—the first one black, the second brown, the third white, the fourth yellow, the fifth red and the sixth bright green. As they stuck out their heads, each through his own window, they presented a very fascinating and yet, awful appearance. They seemed much upset at hearing the griffin roar and see him stagger around, and they shouted to him all together.

“what is the matter? What has happened?”

“i’m killed,” said the griffin, “and by that dreadful little boy. Come out and put an end to him,” and with that he exploded, and flew up into the sky, like a big green cloud.

The giants screamed with rage, and calling to teddy to wait till they came down, each drew in his head and disappeared: but they re-appeared in a minute, armed with enormous clubs, and were soon at the edge of the sea.

“come here,” they called, “come here, you young rascal,” and shook their sticks at him, but teddy sat where he was, and laughed, they looked so funny, all standing on the bank, with their different colored hair.

Finally the one with the red hair became so angry that he stepped on the looking-glass sea, and put his foot on the orange peel that the squirrel had laid in a nice heap. His feet flew out from under him just as teddy’s had done, and he came down with such an awful crash that he went right through and disappeared.

“there’s one gone,” said the squirrel, pleased “and easily too. Now how about the other five?”

“i don’t know,” said teddy doubtfully, “had i better peel the last orange?”

“i suppose you had,” said the squirrel, “it’s your last chance, and if it doesn’t work, we’re lost.”

Teddy nodded as he was too busy to answer. He was throwing the pieces of peel at the giants, and as he threw them they turned into little sharp stones, and hit them, and hurt them and that made them still more angry, and they called all the louder to him, but they didn’t dare step on the sea.

When teddy finished the orange he laid it carefully down beside him, and waited to see what would happen. For at least five minutes it stayed where he had put it, and then it disappeared and teddy began to be awfully frightened, when all of a sudden he heard a very strange sound, and turned to look in the direction from which it came. The sound continued drawing nearer and nearer. It was a funny noise, swishy and squashy, now faint, now loud, but surely coming closer all the time. The giants heard it, and grew uneasy; they pressed to the shore of the sea, and threatened teddy more and more with their clubs.

Suddenly, just as teddy had begun to think mammy-know-all had gone back on him altogether, a cloud of great white birds appeared, thousands of them, all flapping their wings together, till it sounded like the roll of drums. They descended upon the giants, pecking them with their bills, and smothering them with their wings, till the giants in desperation, ran out on the sea, and all fell through!

The very second the green one sank out of sight, the looking-glass sea turned into water, and teddy and the squirrel were glad enough to scramble into a piece of orange peel which had turned into a little yellow boat.

Just as they were wondering which way they ought to go they heard a great hullabaloo from the opposite shore, and there were all the gnomes, ranged along the bank, shouting and waving at teddy, begging him to make haste over, that they might crown him their king.

But teddy didn’t want to go over, he didn’t want to be a king, he was tired of the gnomes, and their blue elephants, and their hollow trees, and he didn’t propose to go back, and be told to kill anything more, so he asked the squirrel if he knew how he could get home some other way, and the squirrel said, “shut your eyes, and say:

One, two, three,
oak tree, oak tree.”

It was no sooner said than done, and immediately he found himself in the hollow oak, at the foot of the steps, and lost no time in climbing to the top. As he shut the trap door behind him, he heard the shouts of the gnomes, calling him to come back, and be their king, but he and the squirrel fastened the trap door in its place, quickly, and then a very funny thing happened.

The squirrel who had been so friendly just the minute before, suddenly became very wild, and ran chattering out of the oak-tree, and though teddy ran after him, called him, begged him to come back, reminded him of the lovely time they had just had, he only ran further away, and finally disappeared up a beech-tree leaving teddy standing disconsolately at the foot, wondering whether the thing had really happened, or whether it was all a dream!

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