222 THE UNDERGROUND WORKERS
choose some of the bars from the heap, as I should like to make you a present of them.'
Hans did not wait to be asked twice, and stooped to pick up a bar of gold, but though he put forth all his strength he could not even move it with both hands, still less lift it off the ground.
' Why, you have no more power than a flea,' laughed the host; ' you will have to content yourself with feasting your eyes upon them!'
So he bade Hans follow him through other rooms, till they entered one bigger than a church, filled, like the rest, witli gold and silver. Hans wondered to see these vast riches, which might have bought all the kingdoms of the world, and lay buried, useless, he thought, to anyone.
' What is the reason,' he asked of his guide, ' that you gather up these treasures here, where they can do good to nobody? If they fell into the hands of men, everyone would be rich, and none need work or suffer hunger.'
' And it is exactly for that reason,' answered he, ' that I must keep these riches out of their way. The whole world would sink to idleness if men were not forced to earn their daily bread. It is only through work and care that man can ever hope to be good for anything.'
Hans stared at these words, and at last he begged that his host would tell him what use it was to anybody that this gold and silver should lie mouldering there, and the owner of it be continually trying to increase his treasure, which already overflowed his store rooms.
' I am not really a man,' replied his guide, ' though I have the outward form of one, but one of those beings to whom is given the care of the world. It is my task and that of my workmen to prepare under the earth the gold and silver, a small portion of which finds its way every year to the upper world, but only just enough to help them carry on their business. To none comes wealth