282 THE HEADLESS DWARFS
Hans was quite content with this proposal, and went straight into the kitchen to begin his work, not knowing that his new master was quite as stingy as his old one. In the hope that his presence might be a restraint upon them, the minister used to sit at the table during his servants' meals, and would exhort them to drink much and often, thinking that they would not be able to eat as well, and beef was dearer than beer. But in Hans he had met his match, and the minister soon found to his cost that in his case at any rate a full cup did not mean an empty plate.
About an hour before midnight, Hans entered the church and locked the door behind him, but what was his surprise when, in place of the darkness and silence he expected, he found the church brilliantly lighted, and a crowd of people sitting round a table playing cards. Hans felt no fear at this strange sight, or was prudent enough to hide it if he did, and, going up to the table, sat down amongst the players. One of them looked up and asked, ' My friend, what are you doing here?' and Hans gazed at him for a moment, then laughed and answered, ' Well, if anybody has a right to put that question, it is I! And if I do not put it, it will certainly be wiser for you not to do so ! '
Then he picked up some cards, and played with the unknown men as if he had known them all his life. The luck was on his side, and soon the money of the other gamblers found its way from their pockets into his. On the stroke of midnight the cock crew, and in an instant lights, table, cards, and people all had vanished, and Hans was left alone.
He groped about for some time, till he found the staircase in the tower, and then began to feel his way up the steps.
On the first landing a glimmer of light came through a slit in the wall, and he saw a tiny man sitting there, without a head. ' Ho! ho! my little fellow, what are