T HERE was once a shoemaker, who, through no fault of his own, had become so poor that at last he had only leather enough for one pair of shoes. So in the evening he cut out the shoes which he intended to begin upon the next morning, and since he had a good conscience he lay down quietly, said his prayers, and fell asleep.
In the morning he was preparing to sit down to work, when he looked, and there stood the shoes all finished on his table. He was so astonished that he did not know what to say. He took the shoes in his hands to examine them inside and out; and they were so neatly made that not a stitch was out of place, showing that they were done by a master hand.
Very soon a customer came in, and because the shoes pleased him so much he paid more than the ordinary price for them. With this money the shoemaker was able to purchase leather for two pairs of shoes. He cut them out in the evening, and next day was about to go to work with fresh courage; but there was no need for him to work, for the two pairs of shoes stood beautifully finished on his table. Presently customers came in, who paid him so well he was able to buy leather for four pairs of shoes. The following morning he found the four pairs finished, and so it went on; what he cut out in the evening was finished in the morning, so that he was soon in comfortable circumstances again, and at last was becoming really prosperous.
One evening, not long before Christmas, the shoemaker said to his wife: "What do you think of staying up to-night to see who it is that lends us the helping hand?"
The wife liked this idea; so they lighted a candle and hid themselves in a corner of the room behind some clothes which were hanging there. At midnight came two little naked men, who sat down at the shoemaker's table, took up the work which was cut out, and set to work so nimbly, stitching, sewing, and hammering with their little fingers, that the shoemaker could not take his eyes off them. They did not stop till everything was finished and the shoes stood ready on the table; then they ran quickly away.
The next day the wife said to her husband: "The little men have made us rich, and we must show them how grateful we are. They must be almost frozen, running about with nothing on. I'll tell you what we'll do; I will make them little shirts, and coats, and vests, and trousers, and knit them stockings, and you shall make each of them a pair of shoes."
The shoemaker was pleased with this plan, and on Christmas eve, when everything was ready, they laid out the presents on the table instead of the usual work; but there was no leather to be seen, only the charming little clothes.
At first they were astonished, and then perfectly delighted. With the greatest speed they put on and smoothed down the pretty clothes, singing:
"Now we are boys so fine to see,
Why should we longer cobblers be?"
Then they danced and skipped, and leaped over chairs and benches. At last they danced out the door. From this time on they came no more; but the shoemaker prospered as long as he lived, and succeeded in all his undertakings.