The Cobbler and the Devil
Once upon a time there was a cobbler. Everyone in his village would come to him for their shoes, and from the villages round about. He made everything from labourers’ working boots to fine Sunday best shoes for the farmers’ wives. He fancied himself the best cobbler there ever was, and if that was not quite right, it was not very wrong.
One day, at daybreak, a stranger appeared at the door of his cottage (for this was long before shops and opening hours were invented). “Cobbler, I must have new boots,” he said, “for these fit me ill. Can you make them this day?”
“A silver piece each,” said the cobbler, “and you shall walk in them before the sun goes down.”
But when the stranger drew off his old boots, the cobbler was appalled to see that he had hooves inside them, that smoked on the wooden floor. The cobbler tried to put a brave face forward, saying ”You do not want a cobbler, be off to a blacksmith!”
“You have taken my money!” gloated the devil. “Make me my boots, or I shall take your soul!”
The cobbler trembled to think how he might make boots for such feet, for he must measure those hooves and make lasts of no shape he had ever made before, and plan how the leather should be stretched and stitched around them. He laboured the day through, hammering, cutting, sewing, and nailing, and all the while fearing the devil’s wrath if they fitted any less than perfectly. Toward the end of the day, there were only the soft insoles left to make, for which he went out to his storeroom and rummaged a long time before he found the perfect material.
“Your new boots, sir,” said the cobbler, as the last rays of the sun declined into darkness. The devil leapt up high, and his hooves came down into the boots. At once, he screamed in pain, for the cobbler had lined the soles with the leather covers ripped off from the family Bible. The devil hopped from one leg to the other, vainly trying to tear the boots off, until, with a great flash of flame that singed the cobbler’s hair clean away, he vanished.
The devil’s two silver coins remained, but the cobbler would never touch them. Nor did his sons, who followed in the trade after him. And if one day you should go into a village cobbler’s workshop, and chance to see two very old silver coins lying on a bench, you’ll know this story is true.