Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss—Aboard the Ship  by Lisa M. Ripperton

The Dwarfs' Tailor

O NCE upon a time, long, long ago, there lived in the old imperial town of Aix a worthy tailor, Master Caspar by name, who had many apprentices working under him. He was exceedingly strict, and insisted that during work hours there should be diligent sewing and no playing, for he was no friend to pranks and nonsense, and whoever would not conform to his rules was shown to the door. Notwithstanding this rigorous discipline the young men were glad to be inmates of the household, for Master Caspar was so skilful with his needle that much could be learned from him; and his pretty daughter Rosa, who had charge of the house-keeping, was always kind, and moreover cooked excellent dinners. There was, however, one among them who did not trouble himself to obey any rules. This was the only son of Master Caspar's sister, who had been sent to learn the tailor's trade of his uncle. No jollier fellow than Philip could be found anywhere. To laugh and joke was his delight, and if he could only play some trick upon his fellow-workmen he was content. He knew how to sew and to cut excellently, but to sit still for any length of time was impossible for him. Every day Master Caspar showed himself more and more impatient, when Philip, in the midst of work hours, sang droll songs or played pranks which set the whole shop in an uproar. Neither kind words nor reproaches from his uncle mended matters, and at last the latter threatened to discharge Philip at the very next offence. Instead of improving, however, the foolish fellow only joked the more, worked carelessly, and spoiled many a garment intrusted to him to make. Rosa, who dearly loved her cousin, begged him every evening, when the other apprentices had gone away, not to behave so badly; but even her entreaties had no effect.

One day Philip made a black cloak for a respected alderman of the town, and out of pure mischief sewed some colored patches under the collar. These were not noticed until the garment was worn in a high wind which lifted the collar and exposed them to view, whereupon a crowd of little street urchins ran behind the good man and enraged him by their jeers and laughter.

The proverb, "The pitcher that goes too often to the well is broken at last," was now brought home to Philip, for when this escapade reached his uncle's ears, Master Caspar took a big piece of chalk and drew a significant line through Philip's name in his book. He then informed the young man that early the following morning he would have to leave the house; and as Master Caspar feared that he himself might yield to his nephew's entreaties and Rosa's tears, he uttered a great oath not to receive Philip back until the latter had turned over a new leaf, and could lay at least six well-earned gold guldens upon the table. In those days that was a large sum.

So Philip packed his knapsack, fastened his shears and smoothing-iron outside it, and went to bid farewell to Master Caspar and Rosa.

But it would have been better if he had not seen his little cousin again, for as he said good-bye he realized how dearly he loved her, and when he saw tears in her blue eyes, it distressed him more than ever to think how badly he had behaved. Rosa put into his hand a little purse containing all her spare money, and the poor fellow was so overcome that he hastened from the house in order to hide his tears.

Sadly Philip climbed the heights behind his native town of Aix, for he had not courage to enter the streets of the city, where everybody knew him. He paid little attention to the path, as his thoughts dwelt sorrowfully on his home, on Master Caspar, and, above all, on Rosa. Without noticing whither he was going, he entered a dark forest where the fir-trees grew so high and thick that presently he found he had lost his way. He ran in this direction and in that, vainly looking for the path, and his shouts for help were only answered by the echo, which sounded like a peal of scornful laughter. Finally he resigned himself to his fate, and made up his mind to spend the night in the forest. He picked out a spot which was sheltered from the wind, stretched himself on the moss, said his prayers, and was soon sound asleep.

Suddenly it seemed in his dreams that some one was calling him. He supposed it to be Rosa, who always woke him in the mornings to go to the shop, and answered, half asleep:

"All right, Rosa, all right."

But the only reply was a long, shrill laugh, which roused him at once from slumber. He opened his eyes, and could scarcely trust his senses when he perceived before him a little man who was barely a foot high.

The tiny fellow looked very good-natured, had a long, snow-white beard, and was leaning upon a staff. Philip, who thought he must still be dreaming, repeatedly rubbed his eyes, coughed, and called himself by name; the little man, however, did not disappear, but raised his hand and motioned Philip to follow him.

At first the youth felt a strong desire to run away, but the little creature looked by no means wicked and seemed too insignificant to do him any harm, so he shouldered his knapsack and followed the elf, for such it surely was.

A dim light, which came neither from the moon nor the stars, gleamed through the trees, and they pursued this deeper and deeper into the forest. It soon became evident that the light shone from a fire which was burning near some large rocks. Upon the ground around it were seated five other little elves, with sorrowful faces and dejected bearing. Philip's guide sat down beside them and motioned him to do the same.

As the night was chilly the warmth felt pleasant, and stretching himself out close to the blaze, Philip rubbed his benumbed hands. Before long, however, the silence seemed to him somewhat tedious, and he attempted to induce his little neighbors to speak. But when he turned to them with a question, or tried to rouse them to reply by a friendly poke in the ribs, the dwarfs gnashed their teeth and looked at him angrily. Indeed, as Philip continued to question and tease, the dwarf who had been his guide stirred up the fire vigorously with his stick, so that the glowing coals flew into Philip's face and burned him badly. Just as he was about to give the elf a blow over the head for such treatment, he remembered that his old nurse had warned him to beware of making such little people angry, and told him of a poor mortal who had roused their wrath and had had his head turned completely round by way of punishment. So Philip prudently kept quiet, and since all desire for sleep was gone, began to unpack his knapsack.

At this sight the dwarfs drew near and peeped curiously into the open wallet. Philip for his part remained perfectly indifferent and spread a cloth before him, upon which he placed needles, scissors, and thread, all in perfect order, and, close by, the smoothing-iron. The dwarfs drew still nearer and craned their necks in order to see exactly what he was about. Philip thought to himself:

"Aha, now you begin to look alive!"

He pretended not to notice the curiosity of the little creatures, and taking an old garment out of the knapsack, began to mend a large rent in it. At sight of this the faces of the dwarfs lighted up, and all stood on their tiptoes the better to watch every stitch. All at once the six began to sigh piteously, so that Philip looked up from his work and observed that the little men seemed even more sorrowful than before. This distressed him, and thinking they would certainly answer him now, he began again to question them. But scarcely had he uttered the first word when, with angry looks, all seated themselves, and at the same instant Philip received such a violent box on the ear that he was thrown head-foremost into the moss. At first he thought, in his bewilderment, it must be Master Caspar who had caught him asleep; but when he looked around, lo! it was only the branch of a tree which had struck him so roughly. Thoroughly provoked, Philip seated himself again and went on with his work. At every stitch the dwarfs drew nearer, uttering deep sighs the while. Philip, in his good-nature, wondered what could be the matter with the little fellows. At last his former guide stepped quite near, gave him a strange look, and began to stroke his little back with his hand. Philip thought:

"Aha, perhaps they want me to mend their jackets and trousers!"

The dwarf seemed to read what was passing through the youth's mind, for a friendly smile spread over his face. Encouraged by this, the tailor seized him by the nape of the neck and laid him on his knee, in order to examine his clothes. Sure enough, there was a large hole in the back of the jacket, and as Philip separated the tiny garments he found that the rent extended not only to the underclothes, but even to the little elfin body itself. Now this body was of a very extraordinary description. It was not of flesh, but was formed like an onion or a hyacinth bulb, and the scales, which overlapped each other, were composed of a fine material exactly like rose-leaves.

As Philip was a very skilful tailor, he wondered whether he could not mend the tiny body also. He threaded a fine needle with silk and began to work. In remembrance of the hot coals which the elf had caused to fly out of the fire into his face, he now and then took a deeper stitch than was necessary.

Consumed with curiosity, the other dwarfs drew nearer and nearer, and their countenances brightened when they saw how carefully the tailor sewed together the deep-lying edges of the rent in the body.

Philip now thought it would be no more than fair that the little fellows should answer questions, so, while rethreading his needle, he asked if they would kindly tell him exactly who they were. But, oh, misery! Scarcely had he spoken the words when the needle in his fingers became red-hot and gave him such a stab in the hand that he cried out with pain. At the same instant he received from the other side a box on the ear quite as violent as the first. Out of all patience, Philip seized his stick, and was on the point of throwing the little dwarf who was stretched out on his knee to the ground, when he observed that the elves suddenly began to increase in size. Therefore he merely sighed and returned to his work. But, alas! all the stitches which he had taken so carefully were ripped, and it was quite half an hour before he had made them good again.

It was Philip's private opinion that he had fallen into bad company, and he thought with longing of the workshop in Aix. There, it is true, he was scolded for laughing and joking, but there were no blows on his ears, nor red-hot needles to burn his fingers! However, he remained dumb as a fish, and his work progressed rapidly; but it struck him as odd that whenever he made a larger stitch than was necessary the needle pricked his finger.

In the meantime the other dwarfs collected dry branches and twigs, and kept up a roaring fire. When Philip had finished his work he smoothed the seam with his great shears, and then, taking the dwarf by the hand, looked sharply into his face, and was pleased to see that the expression of sadness had entirely disappeared. Thereupon he gave him such a vigorous slap on the back that the little creature was sent flying over the fire into the soft moss beyond. The dwarf, however, was not at all incensed, but picked himself up quickly and danced about for joy. Then, taking out of his pocket a large, gold gulden, he stepped up to Philip and laid it in his hand.

During this time the night had been passing and now day began to dawn. Philip packed his knapsack, took up his walking-stick, gave his hand to the dwarfs and bade them farewell. He was sorry to see that five of them still looked utterly dejected, although the one whom he had mended had a most joyous expression. This little fellow drew from his pocket a tiny golden cup, put it first to his own lips, and then handed it to the tailor, who drank the sweet mixture it contained to the last drop. But what was it that happened to him? At first it seemed to Philip as if he were falling from a high mountain; then he realized with horror that his body was rapidly shrinking, and at the end of a few seconds he found himself as diminutive as the six little men. That was a dreadful moment for poor Philip, and, with bitter tears, he reproached the dwarfs for their ingratitude; but they merely shrugged their shoulders and pointed upward, as if to indicate that he would again grow as large as before, if he would only have patience. Patience, indeed! But what could the poor tailor do? Sadly he followed the dwarfs, who beckoned him to accompany them.

How monstrous now appeared the fir-trees! He could scarcely see to the tops of them. The low bushes and thistles, which yesterday he had trodden under foot, were now far above his head, and beetles and spiders, awakened by the coming day, seemed to him terrible in their size.

After a short time they reached a huge rock, higher, so it seemed to Philip, than any he had ever beheld. In one side of it was imbedded a large shell, before which they paused. One of the dwarfs blew a golden whistle, and the shell slowly turned around, showing an opening, through which the little troop entered. Within was a spiral staircase, and splendor such as he had never imagined met Philip's gaze when they had mounted the stairs. For a moment he forgot his misery. First they entered a spacious vestibule built of the most precious stones, the vaulted ceiling of which was supported by columns of white and rose colored crystal. Out of this vestibule opened numberless halls, each one more beautiful than the other. Gold and silver dishes, some empty and some filled with the most tempting delicacies, were placed here and there on long tables, and half-burned candles hung in the chandeliers. Evidently a great banquet had just been held, but not a living being was to be seen.

Greatly astonished, Philip followed the dwarfs as they wandered silently and sadly through these festive halls. Finally they reached a number of winding corridors, when the six little men pressed each other's hands, and went each a different way. One of them signed to Philip to follow him, and they entered a vaulted passage, at the extreme end of which the dwarf opened a little door, motioned to the tailor to enter, and locked it behind him.

Philip was somewhat anxious, but when he looked around his tiny chamber he found nothing unusual about it except the bed, which was made of a large mussel-shell. The coverings and pillows were wonderfully soft and fine, and he was thoroughly weary, so he quickly undressed and lay down. Soft music sounded from the distance; and fondly thinking of Rosa, he soon fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning he felt something pulling at his sleeve, and opened his eyes to behold his little guide of the evening before, who motioned to him to get up. With a heavy heart the poor tailor put on his clothes and followed the dwarf out into the corridor, where he heard gay music resounding from the halls and apartments through which they had wandered the night before. At the end of the passage the five other dwarfs joined them, and all passed silently through the now brilliantly lighted rooms. His six companions cast down their eyes, but Philip could not refrain from looking about him. He saw little men and women, in beautifully embroidered garments, come out of the various doors; but at sight of the six dwarfs they all immediately drew back. When the mournful little troop reached the vestibule with the white and rose colored crystal columns, one of the dwarfs again blew a whistle, whereupon the large shell turned as before, and as they slowly passed down the winding stairs, the sound of the music became fainter and fainter, until it ceased altogether, as they stepped out into the forest.

It was again night, and to Philip it seemed much colder than before. The dwarfs at once made a fire, and while the tailor was warming his fingers he noticed that the little fellow who had roused him from sleep had placed his knapsack beside him. The company seated itself around the fire, silent as before. Even Philip, remembering the cuffs on his ears and the red-hot needle, did not now venture to open his lips. After some time he took from the knapsack needle and thread, and by means of signs asked the dwarfs if another of them would like to be mended.


The Tailor and the Dwarfs

Instantly five of them sprang up and eagerly pressed about him. Taking one by the sleeve, he examined his clothes and found that this one had a large rent in the left side. Having placed the little fellow on his knee, Philip began to stitch diligently, but his hands were now no larger than those of the dwarfs, and he could not hold the little creature as well as before. The work progressed slowly, and he did not finish his task until just as the sun was rising.

The dwarf whom he had made whole capered about merrily on the grass, as his companion had done, and then he, too, took from his pocket a gold gulden and gave it to the tailor. Thereupon they all returned to the dwarfs' palace, and Philip stretched himself out upon his mussel-shell bed again and went to sleep.

On the third, fourth, and fifth nights the same events were repeated. Each time Philip sewed up one of the little dwarfs, carefully mended all his clothes, and received in return a gold gulden. As there seemed no help for it, he resigned himself as cheerfully as he could to his fate of being the dwarfs' tailor.

Now there was one thing in these nightly expeditions to the forest which struck Philip as very strange. Winter advanced with such astonishing rapidity that even on the third night it was so bitter cold that his fingers would certainly have been frozen stiff had it not been for the dwarfs' fire, yet when he left Aix it was only the end of August. On the fourth night he could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw the branches of the fir-trees thickly covered with snow, and on the fifth night icicles hung from every twig.

When he came to the sixth and last dwarf, Philip sewed faster than ever, in order to keep warm in the cold, frosty air, and soon after midnight he had finished his task. He then dismissed the little fellow with a friendly slap, as he had done with the others, and saw to his amazement that all six arose, seized each other's hands, and danced around him with joyous gestures. After this performance had continued a few minutes the dwarfs stood still, and he who had at first been the tailor's guide stepped forward and addressed him thus:

"Accept our most heartfelt thanks for all you have done, and learn now what a great service you have rendered us. You have seen what a merry, happy life we dwarfs are accustomed to lead in our castle. During the time which men call day, when that great star known to them as the sun gives forth its blinding light, we sleep, and only when night falls do our people awake and spend delightful hours in dance and play.

"Now it so happened that one night, when we six were visiting in the neighboring castle of one of the dwarf kings, in the excitement of the dance we unfortunately forgot one of the most important laws of our race, namely, to be silent at the proper time. As a consequence of this we fell into a dispute with the other dwarfs, until, finally, we came to blows, which ended in a bloody combat. You have seen what injuries we sustained in the fray, and if we had not possessed the power of living, under no matter what circumstances, for a thousand years, we should assuredly have died of the wounds. Upon our return home, our king pronounced a severe sentence upon us. We were to be excluded from the feasts of our happy fellows, and to spend our nights outside in the dark forest. This punishment was to continue until a human being could be found who, unasked by us, and without speaking a word, should mend, as you have done, our clothes and wounds. To make our punishment more severe we were permitted to become visible to mortal eyes only at the changing of the moon, and we were obliged to implore help in silence. More than a hundred years had thus passed without bringing us release, so that you may well comprehend how indescribably grateful we are to you."

Philip knew not what to reply to the dwarf's speech, for he was dumb with astonishment. The little fellow then took from under his cloak the well-known golden cup and handed it to the tailor, who quickly drank the contents, and felt at once an irresistible desire to stretch his limbs. He began forthwith to grow in height and breadth, and in a few minutes found to his great joy that he had regained his former size.

The dwarf continued:

"Consider the six gold guldens which we have given you as a reward for your services. Never let them go out of your possession, but lock them in a chest, and whenever money is needed you will find all that is requisite beside them. Bequeath them to your children and your children's children, for as the years go by their mysterious power will increase! Now farewell, and bear in mind our golden rule, the disregard of which has brought us so much misfortune, and the value of which you yourself do not seem to realize: 'Be silent at the proper time!' "

With these words all six dwarfs extended their hands to Philip, and in the twinkling of an eye vanished from sight.

The first beams of the morning sun appeared over the tops of the mountains and lighted up the snow which covered the ground. It was now clear to Philip why he had so suddenly found himself in the midst of winter; for as the dwarfs were permitted to become visible to mortal eye only at the changing of the moon, they had cast over him a magic spell which caused each sleep of his to last a whole month.

It was now February, and bitter cold. Through the leafless branches of the trees Philip could see the way more plainly than before, and he stepped briskly along. When from the hills he saw his beloved Aix lying before him he shouted aloud for joy. Soon he had descended the heights, had reached the city walls, and was hurrying along the streets to Master Caspar's house.

His uncle, in the meantime, had repented of his severity towards Philip, and Rosa had wept many bitter tears. You may imagine their surprise when Philip, in his shabby attire, suddenly burst into the room. How great was their joy when he triumphantly produced from his knapsack six gold guldens and declared they were his well-earned wages. Master Caspar welcomed him warmly, and finding that he had truly mended his ways, gave him Rosa for wife and took him into partnership.

Since that time no better nor more diligent workman than Philip could be found, and if ever he was tempted to look up from his labor and chatter, he would feel a tingling in his ears and a prick in his hand which recalled him to his task.

The dwarfs faithfully kept their promise; whenever a necessary expense was to be incurred, a sum sufficient to meet it was found in the chest where the six gold guldens were kept, and as the years went by they brought good luck and happiness to Philip's children and grandchildren after him.