“Good-morning, neighbor. I came to ask you to open your sluice-gates at noon, so that your mill may stop for half an hour. We have had our large wash, and shall empty our tubs, which will cause a flood that might injure your mill. Farewell! and pray attend to my friendly warning.”
HOW THE MILLER BEHAVED TO HIS KIND NEIGHBORS, AND ABOUT THE RUSHING TORRENT WHICH CAME VERY NEAR DESTROYING THE OLD MILL.
The miller knew not what to think. He had never heard of these neighbors before. He had lately been in the upper valley to cut firewood for the winter season, and had seen no trace of inhabitants in the silent gloomy forest. “Besides,” thought he, “wherever they are, and if they have ever so great a wash, what need is there to stop my mill? No, no, it will not do, careful neighbor; there is a great deal of meal to be ground to-day, and we must lose no time.” He went to work, and forgot the warning.
At dinner, however, one of his men came in hastily, crying, “Master! master! has not the little water-maid given you notice, as she always did to my old master? She and her company are having their large wash and have been emptying their water-tubs. Hark! how the stream roars and rages! and the wheel turns as if driven by a hurricane! The sky is clear, there has been no rain, yet look at the rushing torrent.”
The miller, alarmed, looked out of the window. His face became red with anger, and he said, “What did I know about the water-witch, and her abominable washing-day? Spiteful, mischievous hag!”
In an hour or two the stream resumed its usual course, and subsided to its former level; but the wheels and works of the mill were damaged, and the miller suffered from the expense of repairs, and from the delay it occasioned.
After some time the mill went on clacking and grinding corn as well as ever, when one day the miller stood looking at his meadow, thinking to himself, “The grass looks very green, and the weather is very fine; this meadow must be mown to-morrow.”
As he thus stood and looked, two airy figures like young girls appeared, so transparent that the miller fancied that he could see the grass through them as they floated over it, and a gentle voice said, “Good day to you, miller! We beg that thou wilt allow us to dance this evening upon this meadow.”
Though much astonished, the miller quickly replied in a cross tone, “How! dance upon my meadow! tread down my grass!”
The voice answered “We will not do thy grass any harm; we and our friends dance so lightly that we hardly touch the tips, of thy long grass.”
The miller replied sharply, “Why then ask me? If you do not trample my grass, you may dance all the year round for all me.”
“Thank you,” replied the airy creature; “we only beg, for thy own good, that thou wilt not mow thy grass until a shower of rain has wet it after our dance. Remember this.”