THE AFTERNOON HILLARY FIRST
saw the elf village,she couldn’t believe her eyes.“Are you sure it isn’t mice?” she asked Sara-Kate, who stood beside her, thin and nervous. “Thehouses are small enough for mice.”“No, it isn’t,” Sara-Kate said. “Mice don’t makevillages in people’s backyards.”Hillary got down on her hands and knees to look more closely. She counted the tiny houses. Therewere nine, each made of sticks bound delicatelytogether with bits of string and wire.“And there’s a well,” she whispered, “with a bucket that winds down on a string to pull the water out.”“Not a bucket. A bottlecap!” snorted Sara-Kate,twitching her long, shaggy hair away from her face.She was eleven, two years older than Hillary, and shehad never spoken to the younger girl before. She hadhardly looked at her before.“Can I try drawing some water?” Hillary asked.Sara-Kate said, “No.”The roofs of the houses were maple leavesattached to the sticks at jaunty angles. And because itwas autumn, the leaves were lovely colors, orange-red, reddish-orange, deep yellow. Each house had asmall yard in front neatly bordered with stones thatappeared to have come from the driveway.