Whir! whir! went the wheel. Faster and faster it whirled.
In the morning the straw had all been turned into finest gold.
When the king opened the door, how his eyes glistened at the sight of the gold! Still, it only made him greedy for more, so taking the poor girl by the hand, he led her to a much larger chamber.
This was so full of straw that there was hardly room for her to sit at the spinning wheel.
Turning to the maiden, the king said:
“There is your spinning wheel, and here is the straw. If you do not spin all of it into gold by morning, your head shall be cut off. But if you do spin the gold, I will marry you and make you my queen.”
“For,” thought the king, “though she is only a miller’s daughter, yet she can make me the richest king in the world.”
Hardly had the door closed behind the king, when the little old man came hopping and skipping into the room.
Taking off his pointed cap, he said to the girl, “What will you give me if I will again spin this straw for you?”
“Ah!” said the maiden, “I have nothing more to give.”
“Then you must make me a promise,” said the little man. “You must promise to give me your first child, after you have become queen.”
The poor girl saw no other way to save her life, so she gave her promise to the little man.
Then he sat down and began to spin.
Whir! whir! went the wheel. Faster and faster he spun.
Soon the great roomful of straw was all turned into gold.
When the king opened the door the next morning, he saw the maiden sitting beside a large heap of shining gold.
The king kept his promise, and made the poor miller’s daughter his queen.
About a year later the queen had a lovely child, but she forgot all about her promise.
One day the little old man came hopping into the queen’s room and said, “Now give me what you have promised.”
The queen was filled with terror, and offered the little man all the riches of the kingdom if he would leave her the child.
“No, I do not care for riches; you must keep your promise.”
Then the queen began to mourn and to weep, until the little man had pity for her.
“I will give you three days,” he said, “and if, in that time, you can guess my name, you shall keep the child.”
The queen lay awake that night, thinking of all the names she had ever heard. In the morning men were sent to every part of the kingdom to find strange names.
The next day the little man came again. The queen began to call off to him all the names that she had found—Caspar, Melchior, and many, many others.
At each one the little man shook his head, and said, “No, that is not my name.”
Then the queen had her men go from house to house through the town. They took down the name of every man, woman, and child.