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The Elves and the Shoemaker

  • There was once a shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest: but
  • still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he had in the
  • world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair of shoes.
  • Then he cut his leather out, all ready to make up the next day, meaning to
  • rise early in the morning to his work. His conscience was clear and his heart
  • light amidst all his troubles; so he went peaceably to bed, left all his cares
  • to Heaven, and soon fell asleep. In the morning after he had said his prayers,
  • he sat himself down to his work; when, to his great wonder, there stood the
  • shoes all ready made, upon the table. The good man knew not what to say or
  • think at such an odd thing happening. He looked at the workmanship; there was
  • not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true, that it was
  • quite a masterpiece.
  • The same day a customer came in, and the shoes suited him so well that he
  • willingly paid a price higher than usual for them; and the poor shoemaker,
  • with the money, bought leather enough to make two pairs more. In the evening
  • he cut out the work, and went to bed early, that he might get up and begin
  • betimes next day; but he was saved all the trouble, for when he got up in the
  • morning the work was done ready to his hand. Soon in came buyers, who paid him
  • handsomely for his goods, so that he bought leather enough for four pair more.
  • He cut out the work again overnight and found it done in the morning, as
  • before; and so it went on for some time: what was got ready in the evening was
  • always done by daybreak, and the good man soon became thriving and well off
  • again.
  • One evening, about Christmas-time, as he and his wife were sitting over the
  • fire chatting together, he said to her, 'I should like to sit up and watch
  • tonight, that we may see who it is that comes and does my work for me.' The
  • wife liked the thought; so they left a light burning, and hid themselves in a
  • corner of the room, behind a curtain that was hung up there, and watched what
  • would happen.
  • As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little naked dwarfs; and they
  • sat themselves upon the shoemaker's bench, took up all the work that was cut
  • out, and began to ply with their little fingers, stitching and rapping and
  • tapping away at such a rate, that the shoemaker was all wonder, and could not
  • take his eyes off them. And on they went, till the job was quite done, and the
  • shoes stood ready for use upon the table. This was long before daybreak; and
  • then they bustled away as quick as lightning.
  • The next day the wife said to the shoemaker. 'These little wights have made us
  • rich, and we ought to be thankful to them, and do them a good turn if we can.
  • I am quite sorry to see them run about as they do; and indeed it is not very
  • decent, for they have nothing upon their backs to keep off the cold. I'll tell
  • you what, I will make each of them a shirt, and a coat and waistcoat, and a
  • pair of pantaloons into the bargain; and do you make each of them a little
  • pair of shoes.'
  • The thought pleased the good cobbler very much; and one evening, when all the
  • things were ready, they laid them on the table, instead of the work that they
  • used to cut out, and then went and hid themselves, to watch what the little
  • elves would do.
  • About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and
  • then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they saw the clothes
  • lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.
  • Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and
  • capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out
  • at the door, and away over the green.
  • The good couple saw them no more; but everything went well with them from that
  • time forward, as long as they lived.