When I came out into the meadow I could see what the squalling was about. Those squeaky little wails came from a rather small woodsprite. He lay on the grass with a little cart the size of one of Pa’s boots upturned over the top of him. The rabbit that drew the cart lay on its side, kicking frantically but ineffectively.
“Poor little beastie,” I cooed, coming closer. I was a bit afraid the woodsprite would bite me, but it didn’t pay me much mind as it was too busy feeling sorry for itself. I could see it wasn’t strong enough to right the cart on its own. “Let me help you.”
Carefully, I knelt beside the cart, picked it up, and held it steady. The rabbit, frantic and terrified, tried to bolt, but its harness kept it back. At first the woodsprite kept wailing, but then it noticed me. For an instant it didn’t dare breathe. Then it let out an even louder cry, this one with an angry note in it, and leapt for my hands.
“I’m only trying to help you!” I snapped at it as I jumped back, not wanting the feel of woodsprite teeth in my fingers. The sprite leapt into the cart and held on tight as the rabbit charged forward. I noticed again how very small the sprite seemed. Full-grown ones could get to be about knee height, but this one was maybe half that tall. It seemed to be having a bit of trouble with the reins too. The rabbit bounded this way and that, back and forth across the meadow. The woodsprite didn’t seem to mind it too much, but whooped with excitement every time the rabbit made a crazy sharp turn.
I followed after, slowly, glancing down at my berry basket and my mind on picking enough for a pie. When I looked up again, I was just in time to see the woodsprite charge his rabbit cart straight into the river.
The little thing had a look of sheer terror on his odd, nut-brown face. The rabbit disappeared at once under the surging water, but the sprite stayed afloat, clinging to the cart, until the pale green hand of a river nymph reached up and snatched him down. He vanished with a gurgling squeak.
I stood and stared while a small troop of woodsprites came riding into the meadow, one astride a fawn and the rest in rabbit carts. They saw the cart in the river and set up a wailing and a moaning.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “He drove right into the river. I couldn’t stop him.”
But of course they didn’t speak my language. Sadly, I took my basket and left them there in the meadow.
Only as I walked away did I realize it. If I’d left the poor woodsprite alone, he wouldn’t have gone into the river. His clan would have come along to help him. I glanced back over my shoulder, but really, there was nothing I could do.