THE REJECTED GIFT
A DWARF came down one night from the chesnut woods on the side of the mountain over the village of Walchwyl, and enquired for the house of a midwife, whom he earnestly pressed to come out and go with him. She consented, and the Dwarf, bearing a light, led the way in silence to the woods. He stopped at last before a cleft in a rock, at which they entered, and the woman suddenly found herself in a magnificent hall. She was thence led through several rich apartments to the chamber of state, where the queen of the Dwarfs, for whom her services were required, was lying. She performed her office, and brought a fair young prince to the light. She was thanked and dismissed, and her former conductor appeared to lead her home. As he was taking leave of her, he filled her apron with something, bidding her on no account to look at it till she was in her own house. But the woman could not control her curiosity, and the moment the Dwarf disappeared, she partly opened the apron, and lo! there was nothing in it but some black coals. In a rage, she shook them out on the ground, but she kept two of them in her hands, as a proof of the shabby treatment she had met with from the Dwarfs. On reaching home, she threw them also down on the ground. Her husband cried out with joy and surprise, for they shone like carbuncles. She asserted that the Dwarf had put nothing but coals into her apron; but she ran out to call a neighbour, who knew more of such things than they did, and he on examining them pronounced them to be precious stones of great value. The woman immediately ran back to where she had shaken out the supposed coals, but they were all gone. [a]
[a] Müller, Bilder und Sagen, p. 119; Coals are the usual form under which the Dwarfs conceal the precious metals. We also find this trait in Scandinavia. A smith who lived near Aarhuus in Jutland, as he was going to church, saw a Troll on the roadside very busy about two straws that had got across each other on a heap of coals, and which, do what he would, he could not remove from their position. He asked the smith to do it for him; but he who knew better things took up the coals with the cross straws on them, and carried them home in spite of the screams of the Troll, and when he reached his own house he found it was a large treasure he had got, over which the Troll had lost all power. Thiele, 1. 122.