THE AVARICIOUS BLACKSMITH.
music, which grew more distinct as they proceeded on their way. The tones were rather unearthly, but so charming that they quite forgot their fatigue, and went forward with rapid steps.
After walking a little distance, they reached the hill side, and presently caught sight of a crowd of little men and women, holding hands, and dancing merrily in a circle to the strange music they had heard.
In the centre of the ring round which the pixies danced stood a little old man, yet larger and stouter than the rest. He wore a coat of many colours, and his snow-white beard descended to his breast. The travellers stood still and gazed in wonder at the dancers, and presently the old man made signs to them, and the little people separated that they might come within the circle.
The blacksmith, who was a bold fellow, and had a slight hump on his back, stepped in without fear, but the tailor was at first rather timid, and held back. In a very short time, however, seeing how merry and good-natured they all looked, he took heart, and entered the circle. Immediately they closed the ring again, and the little folks danced and sprung about in the wildest manner.
Meanwhile, the old man in the centre took out a large knife which hung at his girdle, sharpened it on a stone, and feeling the edge with his finger, turned and looked at the strangers in a manner that caused them to tremble with fear.
They were not kept long in suspense, however, for the little man seized the smith, and with the greatest rapidity shaved off his hair and beard clean at one stroke ! He then turned to the tailor, and did the same to him.
But their alarm vanished when the old man, after finishing his performance, slapped them on the shoulder in the most friendly manner, as if to tell them that they had done well in submitting to be shaved without resistance. He then pointed with his finger to a heap of coals that lay on one side, and made signs that they should fill their pockets.
They both obeyed, although they could not imagine what could be the use of coals to them. They soon left the little people after this, for it was getting late, and they wanted to find a night's lodging.
Just as they reached the valley, a clock from the neighbouring cloisters struck twelve. Immediately the music ended, the little