The Elves and the Shoemaker

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Once there was a shoemaker lived in a town with her wife. As the shoemaker was getting old he was unable to work at a rapid pace. They are now short of money and the other essentials.
One day, the shoemaker's wife watched her husband at work. "Can't you work any faster, my dear?" said the wife anxiously.
The shoemaker smiled. "Oh! I can work faster," he said. "I could cut out the leather for the shoes less neatly, and I could sew with bigger stitches. But I like to give my best workmanship to customers. And that takes time."
"I know, dear. You work so carefully that it takes you two days to make one pair of shoes. Now we don't have money to buy leather."
"What can I do?" said the shoemaker sadly. "My eyesight isn't as good as it was and my fingers aren't so quick."
The shoemaker continued his slow show although careful best.
But there was soon no money left to buy leather as his wife had warned, and all his hides and suedes were used up.
Only one scrap of leather was left on his workbench.
"Dear me, what shall we do tomorrow when there's no leather to sew and when there are no more shoes to sell?" asked the worried wife.
The shoemaker smiled,"Well, let's leave it on tomorrow."
The shoemaker spent all day cutting out a pair of shoes from the last of the leather. "These are probably the last shoes I shall ever make," he thought, "so they must be my best."
At last, he left the cut-out shapes on his workbench and went to bed.
"I'm sorry we are so poor, my dear," he said to his wife as he climbed into bed.
"You are doing your best," she said comfortingly. "You can't do any more."
Next morning, the shoe maker cleaned his glasses and threaded his needle and looked around for the pieces of leather.
But a surprise was in store for him. A finished pair of shoes stood in the centre of the bench, perfect to the last shiny buckle.
Someone had made the shoes for him, overnight.
"Just look at the workmanship!" he exclaimed, showing them to his wife. "And look at the beautiful tiny stitches! Who could have made them?"
The shoes were so well made that they sold for twice the usual price. So, the old shoemaker was able to buy a new strip of leather and cut out two pairs of shoes during the day.
At night he left the cut out shapes on his workbench and went to bed a much more cheerful man.
In the morning, the two pairs of shoes were completely finished, right down to the tags on their laces.
"What craftsmanship!" said the shoemaker to his wife. The shoes brought such a good price that this time he was able to buy enough leather for eight shoes and the mysterious visitors sewed all four pairs.
"Such perfect cobbling!" exclaimed the customers. And they came from miles around to buy the shoemaker's wares.
There were long, glossy riding boots for the men and pretty velvet dancing shoes for the ladies.
"We have enough leather for a lifetime!" said the shoemaker's happy wife. "And so many people come here to buy their shoes that we are almost rich!"
But the shoemaker was in deep thoughts, "Wouldn't you like to know who is helping us every night? It's time we found out."
So, one cold night, just before Christmas, the shoemaker left the cut-out leather on his workbench, then he and his wife hid nearby behind a curtain.
As midnight struck, out from behind the clock crept six naked little elves. They climbed on to the bench and went to work at once, sewing and hammering and lacing and polishing.
Every now and then they stopped to blow into their cold hands or stamp their cold feet or hug themselves against the chilly night air. They were shivering blue from head to foot.
"Poor little mites," said the shoemaker's wife."All that work for us and they haven't got a shirt or even a pair of boots."
"Well, after all they've done for us, we ought to give them a thank-you present," said the shoemaker.
The next day, his wife was soon busy cutting out little shirts and trousers from some bright warm cloth.
The shoemaker took out his finest needle and softest leather and made a handsome pair of boots for each elf.
On Christmas night, they left their presents on the workbench and hid as they had done before. It was bitterly cold.
When the midnight struck six little elves appeared, they were shuddering and shivering, and their breath turned white in the frosty air.
They were confused at first, when they could find no boot leather to sew. But when they saw the clothes and realised that they were for them, they put them on and danced about, laughing and clapping their hands inside their new woolly mittens.
"No more cobbling for us! We are smart fellows now!" And they all sang as they danced out of the shop and down the street.
"So! No more help from the elves," said the shoemaker's wife, laughing. "How will you manage now that so many people come to you for their shoes and boots?"
The shoemaker smiled. "I'll just have to do my best," he said.
"I'm sure you will, my dear," said his wife. "You always do."

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