THE ELVES AND THE SHOEMAKER





Once upon a time there was an honest shoemaker, who was very poor. He

worked as hard as he could, and still he could not earn enough to keep

himself and his wife. At last there came a day when he had nothing left

but one piece of leather, big enough to make one pair of shoes. He cut

out the shoes, ready to stitch, and left them on the bench; then he said

his prayers and went to bed, trusting that he could finish the shoes on

the next day and sell them.



Bright and early the next morning, he rose and went to his work bench.

There lay a pair of shoes, beautifully made, and the leather was gone!

There was no sign of anyone having been there. The shoemaker and his

wife did not know what to make of it. But the first customer who came

was so pleased with the beautiful shoes that he bought them, and paid so

much that the shoemaker was able to buy leather enough for two pairs.



Happily, he cut them out, and then, as it was late, he left the pieces

on the bench, ready to sew in the morning. But when morning came, two

pairs of shoes lay on the bench, most beautifully made, and no sign of

anyone who had been there. The shoemaker and his wife were quite at a

loss.



That day a customer came and bought both pairs, and paid so much for

them that the shoemaker bought leather for four pairs, with the money.



Once more he cut out the shoes and left them on the bench. And in the

morning all four pairs were made.



It went on like this until the shoemaker and his wife were prosperous

people. But they could not be satisfied to have so much done for them

and not know to whom they should be grateful. So one night, after the

shoemaker had left the pieces of leather on the bench, he and his wife

hid themselves behind a curtain, and left a light in the room.



Just as the clock struck twelve the door opened softly, and two tiny

elves came dancing into the room, hopped on to the bench, and began to

put the pieces together. They were quite naked, but they had wee little

scissors and hammers and thread. Tap! tap! went the little hammers;

stitch, stitch, went the thread, and the little elves were hard at work.

No one ever worked so fast as they. In almost no time all the shoes were

stitched and finished. Then the tiny elves took hold of each other's

hands and danced round the shoes on the bench, till the shoemaker and

his wife had hard work not to laugh aloud. But as the clock struck two,

the little creatures whisked away out of the window, and left the room

all as it was before.



The shoemaker and his wife looked at each other, and said, "How can we

thank the little elves who have made us happy and prosperous?"



"I should like to make them some pretty clothes," said the wife, "they

are quite naked."



"I will make the shoes if you will make the coats," said her husband.



That very day they commenced their task. The wife cut out two tiny, tiny

coats of green, two weeny, weeny waistcoats of yellow, two little pairs

of trousers, of white, two bits of caps, bright red (for every one knows

the elves love bright colours), and her husband made two little pairs of

shoes with long, pointed toes. They made the wee clothes as dainty as

could be, with nice little stitches and pretty buttons; and by Christmas

time, they were finished.



On Christmas eve, the shoemaker cleaned his bench, and on it, instead of

leather, he laid the two sets of gay little fairy-clothes. Then he and

his wife hid away as before, to watch.



Promptly at midnight, the little naked elves came in. They hopped upon

the bench; but when they saw the little clothes there, they laughed and

danced for joy. Each one caught up his little coat and things and began

to put them on. Then they looked at each other and made all kinds of

funny motions in their delight. At last they began to dance, and when

the clock struck two, they danced quite away, out of the window.



They never came back any more, but from that day they gave the shoemaker

and his wife good luck, so that they never needed any more help.





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