I'm telling thee there's an elf about,"" warns Mrs. Surrel's gardener when her monkey puzzle tree dies suddenly. And when a medieval forest springs up overnight the gardener makes some converts to his obsolete beliefs. What's more, four children have disappeared, and they were last seen with a very short, oddly dressed man whose shape left a strange blank on the photo that schoolteacher Miss Elmfield's aunt snapped of the five with her new camera. The story begins with the children, who follow the ""luchorpan,"" as he describes himself, for the music of his pipe; switches to other villagers' reactions to his distressing return after 200 years; and ends when Miss Elmfield and fellow teacher Mr. Colly, after round-the-clock research in old books, persuade the devil himself (he's the Old One to his followers) to send the mischief maker back to the very limbo-like land he's been scheming to reach. As is often the case, the luchorpan's motivation isn't nearly as solid as the events he precipitates, but Price plays off his charm and his wickedness with high polish and a sure sense of story, and her observer's tone of amused interest gives readers something to identify with in the absence of the usual protagonist.