"She's really quite intelligent and good natured for a human," said Taffy, unconsciously echoing my own comments about herself. "I'm sure she would help if she could."
"I'm not sure she can," replied the elf softly. Her name was Cleome, for elves love botanical names and usually name their daughters after flowers. She was sitting on the windowsill with her knees drawn up under her chin, staring out at the moonlit garden. It was ten o'clock and the tree frogs were making a tremendous racket in the humid air, as if they had been waiting all day for the sun to go down so they could catch up on their socializing. Cleome's hair was combed down her back and she was dressed in a white nightdress that her hostess had sewn from a soft cotton hankerchief. The seams were too large and the garment billowed out from her awkwardly, but she had tied a blue ribbon around her waist and it didn't look half bad. At least it wasn't ripped. She would have to do something about mending her own clothes in the morning. She would be picked off at once in the forest in garments as brightly colored as the ones she had been presented with that afternoon, though she was deeply moved by the generosity that prompted them. She wondered briefly if the woman didn't think of her as a kind of pet, like the cat, and would try to keep her there permanently. She didn't think so, and Taffy had quickly quelled that idea once it was expressed.
"Why not?" pressed Taffy, a defensive light in her amber eyes. "Why couldn't she help?"
"Well, you know how it is," replied Cleome soothingly. "Humans are just so... well... big. And they don't have the senses we do. They blunder around so. It's not their fault at all, but they just can't move quietly or quickly the way we do. It's just.... difficult."
Taffy didn't reply to this, but jumped up suddenly to bat a moth that had fluttered against the window, attracted by the reflected moon. As it was on the other side of the glass, all she could do was play pat-a-cake with it through the pane until it fluttered away. She settled down again with a dissatisfied twitch of her ears.
"Well, I'll help you," she said. "You know I will. I may look like a comfortably flabby tabby but I assure you, I am quite the fighter when roused. My teeth and claws are as sharp as knives and I'm not afraid to use them." She hissed and displayed her front claws proudly as if to prove it, catching them on the sofa. A few embarassing moments followed as she tried to extricate herself; when she had done so she began to wash the offending paw in an offhand manner, avoiding the elf's gaze.
Cleome had the courtesy not to laugh at her new friend. Instead, she puckered her brows thoughtfully. "I've got to find a way to save him. I simply must. And the longer I wait the harder it will be." Suddenly she stopped and lifted her head. "There is one thing. I'd almost forgotten. I've never tried it before. I wonder if it would work?"
Taffy stopped her washing and jerked her head up. "If what would work?"
"A potion. It's a very old recipe, one that hasn't been used in a long, long time. But quite simple." Cleome glanced into the garden at the flowers growing there. "I think I could find the ingredients, if you help me."
"Of course," said Taffy. "But what would the potion do?"
"I'm afraid to tell you," said the elf, "in case it doesn't work. But let me ride on your back, would you? It will be quicker."
"Of course," said Taffy proudly. "Anything you say."
Cleome scrambled up on Taffy's back, then lifted the latch on the window and held on as Taffy jumped lightly down. Some time later they returned with two bunches of leaves and flowers - one in Cleome's arms and another in Taffy's mouth. Then then took all this into the dollhouse and Cleome spent some time separating and pounding the juices of the ingredients. She then lit a fire in the little fireplace. If you had seen it you would have been alarmed, for the dollhouse is not a real house and the bricks in the fireplace are only made of sand and paste painted onto cardboard. However, this was a magical fire that didn't actually burn. It gave off a queer greenish glow like sunlight sparkling through leaves on a summer's day. The juices in the little copper saucepan began to glow with a golden light, giving off a wonderful flowery scent. When it was ready, she poured it all into the blue teapot.
"Now," said Cleome. "Can you wake her up? She needs to drink it."
Taffy sat straight up and puffed out her chest. "Can I wake her up? My goodness, that is my specialty. Just leave it to me." She sprang away, running lightly out of the room, along the hall and up the stairs. Cleome sighed and curled up tensely in her chair, waiting and watching while the magical green light flickered in the fireplace.