He did not care for his
soldiers, and the theatre did not amuse him; the only thing, in fact, he
thought anything of was to drive out and show a new suit of clothes. He
had a coat for every hour of the day; and as one would say of a king "He
is in his cabinet," so one could say of him, "The emperor is in his
The great city where he resided was very gay; every day many strangers
from all parts of the globe arrived. One day two swindlers came to this
city; they made people believe that they were weavers, and declared they
could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined. Their colours and
patterns, they said, were not only exceptionally beautiful, but the
clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being
invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably
"That must be wonderful cloth," thought the emperor. "If I were to be
dressed in a suit made of this cloth I should be able to find out which
men in my empire were unfit for their places, and I could distinguish
the clever from the stupid. I must have this cloth woven for me without
delay." And he gave a large sum of money to the swindlers, in advance,
that they should set to work without any loss of time. They set up two
looms, and pretended to be very hard at work, but they did nothing
whatever on the looms. They asked for the finest silk and the most
precious gold-cloth; all they got they did away with, and worked at the
empty looms till late at night.
"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
"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."
The good old minister went into the room where the swindlers sat before
the empty looms. "Heaven preserve us!" he thought, and opened his eyes
wide, "I cannot see anything at all," but he did not say so.
swindlers requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire
the exquisite pattern and the beautiful colours, pointing to the empty
looms. The poor old minister tried his very best, but he could see
nothing, for there was nothing to be seen. "Oh dear," he thought, "can I
be so stupid? I should never have thought so, and nobody must know it!
Is it possible that I am not fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say
that I was unable to see the cloth."
"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, 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.
"I am not stupid," said the man. "It is therefore my good appointment
for which I am not fit. It is very strange, but I must not let any one
know it;" and he praised the cloth, which he did not see, and expressed
his joy at the beautiful colours and the fine pattern. "It is very
excellent," he said to the emperor.