So he sat down, and felt warm directly he was near them. But he dared not speak while they were silent. What astonished him most was that they changed seats one after another, and in such a way that each one passed round the fire and came back to his own place. When he drew near the fire an old man with long white beard and bald head arose from the flames and spoke to him thus:
“Man, waste not thy life here; return to thy cottage, work, and live honestly. Take as many embers as thou wilt, we have more than we need.”
And having said this he disappeared. Then the twelve filled a large sack with embers, and, putting it on the poor man’s shoulders, advised him to hasten home.
Humbly thanking them, he set off. As he went he wondered why the embers did not feel hot, and why they should weigh no more than a sack of paper. He was thankful that he should be able to have a fire, but imagine his astonishment when on arriving home he found the sack to contain as many gold pieces as there had been embers; he almost went out of his mind with joy at the possession of so much money. With all his heart he thanked those who had been so ready to help him in his need.
He was now rich, and rejoiced to be able to provide for his family. Being curious to find out how many gold pieces there were, and not knowing how to count, he sent his wife to his rich brother for the loan of a quart measure.
This time the brother was in a better temper, so he lent what was asked of him, but said mockingly, “What can such beggars as you have to measure?”
The wife replied, “Our neighbor owes us some wheat; we want to be sure he returns us the right quantity.”
The rich brother was puzzled, and suspecting something he, unknown to his sister-in-law, put some grease inside the measure. The trick succeeded, for on getting it back he found a piece of gold sticking to it. Filled with astonishment, he could only suppose his brother had joined a band of robbers: so he hurried to his brother’s cottage, and threatened to bring him before the justice of the peace if he did not confess where the gold came from. The poor man was troubled, and, dreading to offend his brother, told the story of his journey to the Crystal Mountain.
Now the elder brother had plenty of money for himself, yet he was envious of the brother’s good fortune, and became greatly displeased when he found that his brother won every one’s esteem by the good use he made of his wealth. At last, he too determined to visit the Crystal Mountain.
“I may meet with as good luck as my brother,” said he to himself.
Upon reaching the Crystal Mountain he found the twelve seated round the fire as before, and thus addressed them:
“I beg of you, good people, to let me warm myself, for it is bitterly cold, and I am poor and homeless.”
But one of them replied: “My son, the hour of thy birth was favorable; thou art rich, but a miser; thou art wicked, for thou hast dared to lie to us. Well dost thou deserve thy punishment.”