THE WIZARD IN THE TREE
Long years spent stuck inside an old oak tree haven't petrified the wizard Arbican's tongue. On the contrary, he is glad to escape the boredom ("It's the same slow, vegetable sort of business over and over again. One tends to lose interest") and he is positively scathing when Mallory, the girl who rescues him, demands her three wishes ("No enchanter in his right mind would grant one wish to a mortal, let alone three"). However it seems his wizard powers have gone rusty and he soon needs Mallory's help to escape the persecution of Squire Scrupnor, the villain who has already murdered his employer, saddled Mallory's guardians with a ruinous "hypothecation" (mortgage) and plotted to turn the whole village into a coal field. Arbican survives a number of aborted spells, including one that turns him into a talking pig (to the delight of a dim-witted rustic who dubs him a "poll-piggy"). But of course in the end we have our cake and eat it too; after being warned against reliance on wishful thinking, we are given a wonderfully efficient magical solution. The period is the beginning of the industrial revolution, but the tempo is reminiscent of the Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian--quick-witted melodrama and nimble-tongued romanticism.