The Elves And The Shoemaker.

Once upon a time there was a shoemaker who made very good shoes. But though he worked hard in his shop, times were difficult and he became poorer and poorer. One evening he realized he had only enough leather to make one more pair of shoes. He cut up the leather and laid the pieces out on his workbench to sew in the morning when the light was better.

"I may never make another pair of shoes", he sighed as he put up the shutters over his shop window.

The next morning when he went back to his workbench he found a beautiful pair of shoes. He examined them carefully and discovered they were made from the leather he had cut out the night before. The stitches were exquisite, very tiny and neat, and he knew the shoes were far better than any he could have made. Quickly he took down his shutters and placed the shoes in his shop window.

Soon the door opened and in came a grand gentleman. He bought the shoes and paid four times more than the price of an ordinary pair. With this money the shoemaker bought more leather and enough food for several days.

That evening he sat at his workbench and cut out two pairs of shoes from his new leather. He left the pieces laid out as before, all ready to sew in the morning, and put up the shutters.

In the morning he could scarcely believe his eyes, for there on his workbench were two beautiful pairs of shoes.

"Who could sew such tiny stitches?" he wondered, "and who could work so fast?"

He placed the shoes in the shop window. Rich people who had never visited his shop before came in to buy them and paid a lot of money for them.

Each night for many weeks the same thing happened. Two pairs, sometimes four pairs, were made in a night.

The shoemaker cut out all sorts of shoes: men's shoes, ladies' shoes, little children's shoes, dancing shoes, party shoes, shoes with laces, shoes with straps and buckles. He became well known for the excellent shoes he sold, and each week he took even more money in his shop.

One evening, just before Christmas, his wife suggested they should peep around the door of the workroom to see if they could find out who was making the shoes. As the town clock struck midnight, there was a scuffling and a scurrying by the window, and two tiny little men squeezed through a crack in the shutters and hurried over to the workbench. They took tiny tools from their workbags and began to work. They stitched and hammered, stitched and hammered, until a row of new shoes lay, on the workbench. Then, their work finished, the elves left everything neat and tidy and vanished.

As it was just before Christmas, the shoemaker's wife suggested that they should give presents to the two little men who had helped them so much during the year. The next day she made two little green jackets and trousers and green hats to match, and her husband stitched two tiny pairs of boots.

The shoemaker and his wife laid these gifts out on the workbench that evening, together with two little glasses of wine and plates with little cakes and biscuits. They then kept watch again. At the stroke of midnight, they saw the elves scramble into the workshop and climb onto the workbench as they had done before. When they saw the little green jackets, trousers and hats and tiny boots the elves gave a shout of joy. They tried on their new clothes straightaway and they were so delighted they danced around the workbench, waving their hats in the air. Then they sat down and ate all the food that had been left out, and disappeared as before.

After Christmas the shoemaker still cut out the shoes and left the pieces on his workbench but the elves never returned. They knew the shoemaker and his wife must have seen them, for their clothes were exactly the right size, and fairy people do not like to be seen. But the shoemaker was now so well known that he had plenty of customers. Although his stitches were not as tiny and neat as the elves stitches no one ever noticed. For many years he was known as the best shoemaker in town and he and his wife were never poor again.