how do the townspeople taking a stroll in the quays interpret the flickering light at the northern end of the lake
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From the text:
Suddenly it flickered back to view; a brief glow touched it and faded.
"Look!" said one. "The lights again! Last night the watchmen saw them start and fade from midnight until dawn. Something is happening up there."
"Perhaps the King under the Mountain is forging gold," said another. "It is long since he went north. It is time the songs began to prove themselves again."
"Which king?" said another with a grim voice. "As like as not it is the marauding fire of the Dragon, the only king under the Mountain we have ever known."
"You are always foreboding gloomy things!" said the others. "Anything from floods to poisoned fish. Think of something cheerful!"
Then suddenly a great light appeared in the low place in the hills and the northern end of the lake turned golden.
"The King beneath the Mountain!" they shouted. "His wealth is like the Sun, his silver like a fountain, his rivers golden run! The river is running gold from the Mountain!" they cried, and everywhere windows were opening and feet were hurrying.
There was once more a tremendous excitement and enthusiasm. But the grim-voiced fellow ran hotfoot to the Master. "The dragon is coming or I am a fool!" he cried. "Cut the bridges! To arms! To arms!"