“The day you part with it your portion shall be ashes, and mine annihilation.”
One day, after the space of a year, there came to the woodchopper’s door a captain from far-off lands.
“I am here,” he said, “to see the famous wonder-mill that blesses the house of Koerg.”
There was a simplicity about the old tar that completely dismantled Koerg. With less than ordinary caution he brought forth the mill, and displayed it, in all its phases, before his astonished guest.
“It is a clever trickster,” finally he quoth. “I wonder if it could grind so common a thing as salt.”
Koerg chuckled contemptuously, and speedily spurted right and left such a briny shower as made the old tar blink spasmodically and walk hurriedly away.
But, alas! that night Koerg missed the mill from his side; and when, pale and shivering, he sought the golden treasures hid ’neath the floor, he found only an ashy heap, heard only the mournful words:
“The mermen and mermaids are dead. The geists have ceased to reign.”
Far out on the blue bosom of the sea the jolly captain rode, shouting uproariously over the treasure he had secured.
“Precious wonder-mill,” he sang, “I will try thee in all thy ways. First salt for savor, then ducks for food, and gold to the end of my days.” And he started the tiny wheels, and clapped his hands frantically at its ready compliance to his will.
Forth poured the sparkling, crusty grain in one buzzing maze of whiteness. Thick gathered the milky drifts from bow to stern. Still shouted the captain his savage joy till—a-sudden he paused, gazed as if spell-bound on the mill’s mad work, with a cry of terror sprang forward and grasped the check. But, in vain. There was no surcease to its labor. Higher and higher up lifted the mighty salt banks, and, in a twinkling, both destroyed and destroyer sank helpless into the depths of the sea.
And, down amid the green sea-weeds, the wonder-mill still stands, pouring forth salt the whole day long—no hand to check its raging; for the mermen and mermaids are all dead, and the geists have ceased to reign.
And this is why the sea-water is salt.
It is nothing strange that a man should wear a straw hat; but—well, listen to my story.
One winter I was travelling near Lake Ontario, and, as the day was dark, I could not see every one in the car very plainly. There was a little old man near whose face I could but just see—for he had on a small black hat, and his coat collar was turned up. Soon after I noticed him the train stopped at the station where I was to get off. The old man and five or six other persons also left the train. We all stepped into a sleigh, and were driven several miles over the snow to a hotel.