TIME: the day before Christmas.
PLACE: Inge’s Mother’s home.


The MOTHER stands at the kitchen window, watching for Inge.
MOTHER. Ah, here she comes at last!
(Short pause. Enter INGE.)
I have waited long for you, my child. Where have you been?
(Inge is silent.)
Have you been to the Elf Hill? Tell me.
INGE (hesitating). Just for a little while, mother.
MOTHER. Inge! Inge! What have I ever told you?
INGE. I thought I’d go just this once.
MOTHER (showing sorrow). Ah, Inge, that’s what you always say.
INGE. There’s no harm talking with the elves.
MOTHER. And I, your mother, say there is harm.
INGE. But, mother,–they talk so prettily.
MOTHER (nodding). Aye! and that’s the harm. They’ve put such silly ideas into your head.
INGE. They say ‘t is friendship makes them talk as they do.
MOTHER (indignantly). Friendship! ‘T is friendship, is it, to tell you not to fetch the wood?
INGE. They say ‘t will spoil my hands.
MOTHER. Out upon them and their pretty talk! You shall go there no more. Do you hear me, Inge?
INGE (pouting). I hear.
MOTHER. Now take this loaf of bread to your sick aunt. Say to her ‘t is her Christmas gift.
INGE. But, mother, I must cross the muddy road to go there.
MOTHER. Well, you are neither sugar nor salt.
INGE. I’ll spoil my shoes!
MOTHER. You think of your shoes, and your aunt lies ill?
INGE. Wait till spring and the mud will be gone.
MOTHER. Wait till spring and your aunt will be gone! Here is the loaf—now off with you!
Inge takes the loaf and goes, but not willingly.