I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the cloth, thought the emperor. But he felt rather uneasy when he remembered that he who was not fit for his office could not see it. Personally, he was of opinion that he had nothing to fear, yet he thought it advisable to send somebody else first to see how matters stood. Everybody in the town knew what a remarkable quality the stuff possessed, and all were anxious to see how bad or stupid their neighbours were.10
I shall send my honest old minister to the weavers, thought the emperor. He can judge best how the stuff looks, for he is intelligent, and nobody understands his office better than he.
Now, have you got nothing to say? said one of the swindlers, while he pretended to be busily weaving.
Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly beautiful, replied the old minister looking through his glasses. What a beautiful pattern, what brilliant colours! I shall tell the emperor that I like the cloth very much.
We are pleased to hear that, said the two weavers, and described to him the colours and explained the curious pattern. The old minister listened attentively, that he might relate to the emperor what they said; and so he did.
Now the swindlers asked for more money, silk and gold-cloth, which they required for weaving. They kept everything for themselves,12 and not a thread came near the loom, but they continued, as hitherto, to work at the empty looms.
Soon afterwards the emperor sent another honest courtier to the weavers to see how they were getting on, and if the cloth was nearly finished. Like the old minister, he looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen.
Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth? asked the two swindlers, showing and explaining the magnificent pattern, which, however, did not exist.
Everybody in the whole town talked about the precious cloth. At last the emperor wished to see it himself, while it was still on the loom. With a number of courtiers, including the two who had already been there, he went to the two clever swindlers, who now worked as hard as they could, but without using any thread.
What is this? thought the emperor, I do not see anything at all. That is terrible! Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be emperor? That would indeed be the most dreadful thing that could happen to me.
Really, he said, turning to the weavers, your cloth has our most gracious approval; and nodding contentedly he looked at the empty loom, for he did not like to say that he saw nothing. All his attendants, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything more than the others, they said, like the emperor, It is very beautiful. And all advised him to wear the new magnificent clothes at a great procession which was soon to take place. It is magnificent, beautiful, excellent, one heard them say; everybody seemed to be delighted, and the emperor appointed the two swindlers Imperial Court weavers.
The whole night previous to the day on which the procession was to take place, the swindlers pretended to work, and burned more than sixteen candles.15 People should see that they were busy to finish the emperors new suit. They pretended to take the cloth from the loom, and worked about in the air with big scissors, and sewed with needles without thread, and said at last: The emperors new suit is ready now.
Indeed! said all the courtiers; but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to be seen.
Does it please your Majesty now to graciously undress, said the swindlers, that we may assist your Majesty in putting on the new suit before the large looking-glass?
The emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put the new suit upon him, one piece after another; and the emperor looked at himself in the glass from every side.
How well they look! How well they fit! said all. What a beautiful pattern! What fine colours! That is a magnificent suit of clothes!
The master of the ceremonies announced that the bearers of the canopy, which was to be carried in the procession, were ready.
I am ready, said the emperor. Does not my suit fit me marvellously? Then he turned once more to the looking-glass, that people should think he admired his garments.
The chamberlains, who were to carry the train, stretched their hands to the ground as if they lifted up a train, and pretended to hold something in their hands; they did not like people to know that they could not see anything.