Gateway to the Classics: The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by Clifton Johnson
The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson

The Elves and the Shoemaker

T HERE was once a shoemaker who, though he worked very hard and was very honest, yet could not earn enough to live on. At last all his money was gone and he had the leather for only one more pair of shoes. That evening he cut the leather to have it ready to make into shoes the next day. "Alas!" said he, "things are in a bad way; but I've done the best I could, and now I may as well go to bed."

So he went to bed and fell asleep. Early in the morning he sat down to his work, when, to his great astonishment, there stood the shoes all made on the table. The good man knew not what to say or think of this strange event. He looked at the workmanship. "Not a false stitch in the whole job," said he. "How neat and true. It is better work than I could do myself."

Presently a customer came in, and the shoemaker showed him the new pair of shoes. The customer examined them and was so much pleased with them that he willingly paid a higher price than usual. With this money the shoemaker bought leather enough to make two pairs more. In the evening he cut out the work and went early to bed, that he might be up and start making the shoes at daybreak on the morrow. But when he rose with the first light in the morning, there on the table were the two pairs of shoes all finished. Buyers came in who paid him handsomely for the shoes, and he had the money to buy leather for four pairs more. He cut out the work again in the evening, and found it finished the next morning. Thus matters went on for some time—whatever leather was got ready in the evening was always made into shoes by daylight, and the good man soon became quite prosperous.

One evening, shortly before Christmas, as the shoemaker and his wife were sitting by the fire chatting together, he said to her, "I would like to stay up and watch to-night and see who it is that comes and does my work for me."

"I think that is a very good plan," said his wife, "and I will stay up with you."

So they left a light burning and hid themselves in a corner of the room behind a curtain and watched what should happen. They saw nothing unusual until the clock struck twelve. Then two little elves slipped in at the door and sat down on the shoemaker's bench. They took up the work that was cut out, and how their fingers flew! They rapped and tapped and stitched away at such a rate that the shoemaker was all amazement and could not take his eyes off them for a moment. Not once did they stop till the job was finished and the shoes stood ready for use on the table. The elves were through long before daybreak. However, they did not loiter, but at once bustled out of the house.


The next day the wife said to the shoemaker, "Those little men have made us rich and we ought to be thankful to them and do them a good office in return. I tell you what I will do—I will make them each a suit of clothes, and you can make each of them a little pair of shoes."

"Yes," said the shoemaker, "and we will have the things ready to give them for Christmas."

So the shoemaker made the little shoes, and his wife made the clothes, and the night before Christmas they laid these things on the table, instead of the leather which was usually put there. Then they hid behind the curtain to watch what the little elves would do. The clock struck twelve, and in they came and were going to sit down to their work; but when they saw the clothes lying on the table for them, they picked them up and laughed and danced and were greatly delighted. For a little while they capered and jumped about as merry as could be, shaking the clothes and looking them over, and singing,

"Now we've clothes so fine and neat,

Why cobble more for others' feet?"

Then, with the clothes in their hands, they danced out of the door, and they never came to the house again. But everything went well with the shoemaker from that time as long as he lived.

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