A tailor and a goldsmith were travelling together, and one evening when the sun had sunk behind the mountains, they heard the sound of distant music, which became more and more distinct. It sounded strange, but so pleasant that they forgot all their weariness and stepped quickly onwards. The moon had already arisen when they reached a hill on which they saw a crowd of little men and women, who had taken each other's hands, and were whirling round in the dance with the greatest pleasure and delight.
They sang to it most charmingly, and that was the music which the travellers had heard. In the midst of them sat an old man who was rather taller than the rest. He wore a parti-coloured coat, and his iron-grey beard hung down over his breast. The two remained standing full of astonishment, and watched the dance. The old man made a sign that they should enter, and the little folks willingly opened their circle. The goldsmith, who had a hump, and like all hunchbacks was brave enough, stepped in; the tailor felt a little afraid at first, and held back, but when he saw how merrily all was going, he plucked up his courage, and followed. The circle closed again directly, and the little folks went on singing and dancing with the wildest leaps. The old man, however, took a large knife which hung to his girdle, whetted it, and when it was sufficiently sharpened, he looked round at the strangers. They were terrified, but they had not much time for reflection, for the old man seized the goldsmith and with the greatest speed, shaved the hair of his head clean off, and then the same thing happened to the tailor. But their fear left them when, after he had finished his work, the old man clapped them both on the shoulder in a friendly manner, as much as to say, they had behaved well to let all that be done to them willingly, and without any struggle. He pointed with his finger to a heap of coals which lay at one side, and signified to the travellers by his gestures that they were to fill their pockets with them. Both of them obeyed, although they did not know of what use the coals would be to them, and then they went on their way to seek a shelter for the night. When they had got into the valley, the clock of the neighbouring monastery struck twelve, and the song ceased. In a moment all had vanished, and the hill lay in solitude in the moonlight.
The two travellers found an inn, and covered themselves up on their straw-beds with their coats, but in their weariness forgot to take the coals out of them before doing so. A heavy weight on their limbs awakened them earlier than usual. They felt in the pockets, and could not believe their eyes when they saw that they were not filled with coals, but with pure gold; happily, too, the hair of their heads and beards was there again as thick as ever.
They had now become rich folks, but the goldsmith, who, in accordance with his greedy disposition, had filled his pockets better, was as rich again as the tailor. A greedy man, even if he has much, still wishes to have more, so the goldsmith proposed to the tailor that they should wait another day, and go out again in the evening in order to bring back still greater treasures from the old man on the hill. The tailor refused, and said, "I have enough and am content; now I shall be a master, and marry my dear object (for so he called his sweetheart), and I am a happy man." But he stayed another day to please him. In the evening the goldsmith hung a couple of bags over his shoulders that he might be able to stow away a great deal, and took the road to the hill. He found, as on the night before, the little folks at their singing and dancing, and the old man again shaved him clean, and signed to him to take some coal away with him. He was not slow about sticking as much into his bags as would go, went back quite delighted, and covered himself over with his coat. "Even if the gold does weigh heavily," said he, "I will gladly bear that," and at last he fell asleep with the sweet anticipation of waking in the morning an enormously rich man.
When he opened his eyes, he got up in haste to examine his pockets, but how amazed he was when he drew nothing out of them but black coals, and that howsoever often he put his hands in them. "The gold I got the night before is still there for me," thought he, and went and brought it out, but how shocked he was when he saw that it likewise had again turned into coal. He smote his forehead with his dusty black hand, and then he felt that his whole head was bald and smooth, as was also the place where his beard should have been. But his misfortunes were not yet over; he now remarked for the first time that in addition to the hump on his back, a second, just as large, had grown in front on his breast. Then he recognized the punishment of his greediness, and began to weep aloud. The good tailor, who was wakened by this, comforted the unhappy fellow as well as he could, and said, "Thou hast been my comrade in my travelling time; thou shalt stay with me and share in my wealth." He kept his word, but the poor goldsmith was obliged to carry the two humps as long as he lived, and to cover his bald head with a cap.
Fost odata un croitor si un giuvaergiu si au pornit ei impreuna la drum, ca aveau amandoi cam aceiasi tinta, Si mergand ei asa, intr-o seara, dupa ce soarele apuses in dosul muntilor, numai ce le venira in auz sunetele unui cantec indepartat, care se deslusea din ce in ce mai mult. Si cum cantecul suna ciudat dar si deosebit de placut, isi uitara de orisice oboseala si-o luara repede inspre partea de unde venea cantecul.
Luna rasarise de-acum pe cer si lumina drumul ca ziua, asa ca cei doi calatori putura sa mearga fara de nici o opreliste. Si-n curand, ajunsera la o colina. Si pe colina aceasta, zarira o multime de omuleti care se tineau de mana si dantuiau plini de voiosie, invartindu-se in cerc. Si-n timp ce jucau de mama focului, cantau cu totii o melodie tare duioasa. Pasamite, asta era cantecul pe care-l deslusisera cei doi calatori. In mijlocul piticilor se afla un batran, care era mai mare de stat decat ceilalti si omuletul asta, purta un vesmant, impestritat cu toete culorile si-avea o barba cenusie, care-i atarna pana la glezne.
Croitorul si giuvaergiul se oprira sa priveasca la dantuiala piticilor si se minunara de frumusestea jocului si de dulceata cantecului. La un moment dat, batranul le facu semn sa intre si ei in joc si omuletii desfacura cercul cu draga inima, imbiindu-i la randu-le, sa se prinda in hora. Cum era indraznet din fire, giuvaergiul se si apropie dar vezi ca croitorul se sfii la inceput si ramase pe loc. Dar cand vazu cum se veselesc cu totii, isi lua inima in dinti si se prinse si el in joc. Cat ai clipi, cercul se inchise din nou si prichindeii se prinsera sa cante si sa topaie ca niste apucati, facand sarituri de doi coti. In acest timp, batranul scoase un palos care-i atarna la cingatoare si incepu sa-l ascua.
Si cand fu de ajuns de ascutit, arunca o privire inspre cei doi straini, ca li se facu la amandoi inima, cat un purice. Dar pana sa se gandeasca bine la ce aveau de facut, batranul il apuca pe giuvaergiu de chica si, cu cea mai mare iuteala, ii taie parul de pe cap si mandretea de barba stufoasa. Si la fel pati si croitorul. Dupa ce-i sluti astfel, batranelul ii batu pe umar, de parca ar fi vrut sa le spuna ca e bucuros ca nu s-au impotrivit si, daca vazura asta, celor doi, le mai veni inima la loc. Mosneagul le arata cu degetul o gramada de carbuni si le dadu de inteles sa-si umple cu ei buzunarele. Si cu toate ca nu pricepeau la ce le-ar putea folosi niste carbuni, amandoi il ascultara. Apoi plecara mai departe, sa-si gaseasca un culcus peste noapte, ca picau de somn.
Mersera ei ce mersera, dar nu prea mult, si cand ajunsera in vale, clopotele de la biserica bateau de miezul noptii. Si pe data cantecul amuti. Tot alaiul piticilor se facu nevazut si colina ramase pustie in lumina lunii. Cei doi calatori, gasira adapost la un gospodar, care se indura de ai sa-i lase in grajd. Si facandu-si culcusul pe-un maldar de paie, amandoi se culcara, invelindu-se cu toale, ca se lasase frigul. Vezi insa ca din pricina oboselii, uitasera sa-si scoata carbunii din buzunar, si o greutate care-i inghioldea si-i apasa ii facu sa se trezeasca mai devreme ca de obicei. Bagara ei mana in buzunar, sa vada ce-i supara, si cand o scoasera, nu le veni sa-si creada ochilor, ca in loc de carbuni era plina de aur!… Si ce crezi, parul de pe cap si barba le crescusera la loc, din belsug.
Acu' erau oameni avuti, dar vezi ca giuvaergiul, care din fire era mai hraparet, isi umpluse mai vartos buzunarele decat croitorul, si avea de doua ori mai mult aur decat acesta. Dar parca era multumit!… Un hraparet, cand are mult jinduieste si dupa mai mult… Cum era lacom de avere, giuvaergiul ii propuse croitorului sa mai zaboveasca pe acele locuri si, cand s-o intuneca, sa mearga iarasi la colinaunde-i gasise pe pitici si sa ia cu ei o comoara si mai mare. Vezi insa ca croitorul nici nu vru sa auda de asa ceva.
- Eu sunt multumit cu ce am. Peste putin o sa ajung mester, si-o sa ma insor cu aleasa inimii. Si pot spune ca o sa fiu un om fericit… La ce m-as lacomi? …
Dar ca sa-i faca pe plac, mai ramase inca o zi in satul unde manasera peste noapte. Catre seara, giuvaergiul isi atarna pe umer cateva traiste ca sa poata indesa in elecat mai multi carbuni, si-o porni la drum catre colina piticilor. Si ca si in noaptea trecuta, ii afla pe toti acolo, jucand de mama focului si cantand. Mosneagul il mai tunse o data chilug si dupa asta il indemna sa ia din gramada de carbuni. Giuvaergiul doar atata astepta, si incepu sa-si umple traistele cat incapea in ele. Apoi se intoarse fericit in satul unde astepta croitorul si, culcandu-se, se acoperi cu haina. Si mai inainte de a adormi, isi spuse: "Chiar daca m-o inghioldi aurul de mi-o scoate sufletul, o sa strang din dinti si-o sa rabd!" Si dormi el leganat de dulcea presimtire ca a doua zi va fi un om putred de bogat.
In zori, de cum deschise ochii, se scula sa-si cerceteze buzunarele, dar nu mica-i fu mirarea cand scoase de acolo doar carbuni. Si oricat de mult cauta, nu gasi decat tot carbuni. "Nu-i mare paguba - se mangaie el - ca tot mi-a mai ramas aurul de l-am dobandit in noaptea trecuta!…" Si se duse sa-l ia de unde il ascunsese, ca sa-si mai bucure ochii cu stralucirea lui. Si ce crezi, odata ramase incremenit de spaima, ca-n locul aurului erau doar carbuni!… De amar, se batu peste frunte cu palma plina de negreala si pe loc simti ca tot capul ii este neted ca in palma, si la fel si barbia.
Vezi insa ca nenorocirea lui nu luase inca sfarsit… Abia acum baga de seama ca pe langa cocoasa din spate, ii mai crescuse o cocoasa la fel de mare si-n fata. Abia atunci pricepu ca fusese pedepsit pentru lacomia lui si, de mahnit ce era, incepu sa se jeleasca amarnic. La tipetele lui, croitorul cel cumsecade se trezi din somn si gasi o multime de vorbe bune ca sa-i ogoiasca durerea:
- Ai fost tovarasul meu de drum si-o sa ramai la mine cat oi trai. Si-o sa impartim averea frateste.
Croitorasul se tinu de cuvant, dar bietul giuvaergiu trebui sa poarte toata viata cele doua cocoase. Si cum ramasese chelbos, trebui sa-si acopere capul cu o caciula, ca sa nu i se vada betesugul asta.