The Brown Fairy Book HTML version

Over all the vast under-world the mountain Gnome Rubezahl was lord; and busy enough
the care of his dominions kept him. There were the endless treasure chambers to be gone
through, and the hosts of gnomes to be kept to their tasks. Some built strong barriers to
hold back the fiery vapours to change dull stones to precious metal, or were hard at work
filling every cranny of the rocks with diamonds and rubies; for Rubezahl loved all pretty
things. Sometimes the fancy would take him to leave those gloomy regions, and come out
upon the green earth for a while, and bask in the sunshine and hear the birds sing. And as
gnomes live many hundreds of years he saw strange things. For, the first time he came
up, the great hills were covered with thick forests, in which wild animals roamed, and
Rubezahl watched the fierce fights between bear and bison, or chased the grey wolves, or
amused himself by rolling great rocks down into the desolate valleys, to hear the thunder
of their fall echoing among the hills. But the next time he ventured above ground, what
was his surprise to find everything changed! The dark woods were hewn down, and in
their place appeared blossoming orchards surrounding cosy-looking thatched cottages;
for every chimney the blue smoke curled peacefully into the air, sheep and oxen fed in
the flowery meadows, while from the shade of the hedges came the music of the
shepherd's pipe. The strangeness and pleasantness of the sight so delighted the gnome
that he never thought of resenting the intrusion of these unexpected guests, who, without
saying 'by your leave' or 'with your leave,' had made themselves so very much at home
upon is hills; nor did he wish to interfere with their doings, but left them in quiet
possession of their homes, as a good householder leaves in peace the swallows who have
built their nests under his eaves. He was indeed greatly minded to make friends with this
being called 'man,' so, taking the form of an old field labourer, he entered the service of a
farmer. Under his care all the crops flourished exceedingly, but the master proved to be
wasteful and ungrateful, and Rubezahl soon left him, and went to be shepherd to his next
neighbour. He tended the flock so diligently, and knew so well where to lead the sheep to
the sweetest pastures, and where among the hills to look for any who strayed away, that
they too prospered under his care, and not one was lost or torn by wolves; but this new
master was a hard man, and begrudged him his well-earned wages. So he ran away and
went to serve the judge. Here he upheld the law with might and main, and was a terror to
thieves and evildoers; but the judge was a bad man, who took bribes, and despised the
law. Rubezahl would not be the tool of an unjust man, and so he told his master, who
thereupon ordered him to be thrown in prison. Of course that did not trouble the gnome at
all, he simply got out through the keyhole, and went away down to his underground
palace, very much disappointed by his first experience of mankind. But, as time went on,
he forgot the disagreeable things that had happened to him, and thought he would take
another look at the upper world.
So he stole into the valley, keeping himself carefully hidden in copse or hedgerow, and
very soon met with an adventure; for, peeping through a screen of leaves, he saw before
him a green lawn where stood a charming maiden, fresh as the spring, and beautiful to
look upon. Around her upon the grass lay her young companions, as if they had thrown