Page:The fairy tales of science.djvu/307

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The grotto is filled with active little beings, all busily employed in different operations connected with mining and metallurgy. On every side there are miniature forges, and the ceaseless clatter of innumerable tiny hammers is absolutely deafening. Each little smith wields his sledge with a superhuman energy, and never seems to require rest. Some of the gnomes are digging holes in the marble floor, and others are carrying away the excavated material in little wheelbarrows, the like of which would make a toyman's fortune. In one part of the cave a crowd of miners are very hard at work with spade and pickaxe, while others near them are turning a windlass, by the action of which a little tram is drawn up from the floor of the cavern to the roof, and probably much higher, as it passes through a fissure and remains out of sight for some time. When it descends, it is either empty or freighted with gnomes who come to relieve their brethren at the windlass. Some of these underground people are chipping shapeless minerals into regular geometric crystals; others are polishing fragments of spar; others are casting metals into beautiful arborescent forms. To describe all the various occupations of these elves would take up too much time, and we are therefore compelled to leave much to the reader's imagination.

The poet tells us that "dazzling light annoys" the gnomes, but this statement is far from being true. The cavern is illuminated not by torches or