Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum
by the author of The Wizard of Oz - There was a jolly miller

There was a jolly miller
Lived on the river Dee;
He sang and worked from morn till night,
No lark so blithe as he.
And this the burden of his song
Forever seemed to be:
I care for nobody, no! not I,
Since nobody cares for me.

"Cree-e-eekety-cruck-crick! cree-e-eekety-cruck-crick!" sang out the
big wheel of the mill upon the river Dee, for it was old and ricketty
and had worked many years grinding corn for the miller; so from
morning till night it creaked and growled and complained as if
rebelling against the work it must do. And the country people, at work
in the fields far away, would raise their heads when the soft summer
breezes wafted the sound of the wheel to their ears and say,

"The jolly miller is grinding his corn." And again, at the times when
the mill was shut down and no sound of the wheel reached them, they
said to one another,

"The jolly miller has no corn to grind to-day," or, "The miller is
oiling the great wheel." But they would miss the creaking, monotonous
noise, and feel more content when the mill started again and made
music for them as they worked.

But no one came to the mill unless they brought corn to grind, for the
miller was a queer man, and liked to be alone. When people passed by
the mill and saw the miller at his work, they only nodded their heads,
for they knew he would not reply if they spoke to him.

He was not an old man, nor a sour man, nor a bad man; on the contrary
he could be heard singing at his work most of the time. But the words
of his song would alone have kept people away from him, for they were
always these:

"I care for nobody, no! not I,
Since nobody cares for me."

He lived all alone in the mill-house, cooking his own meals and making
his own bed, and neither asking nor receiving help from anyone. It is
very certain that if the jolly miller had cared to have friends many
would have visited him, since the country people were sociable enough
in their way; but it was the miller himself who refused to make
friends, and old Farmer Dobson used to say,

"The reason nobody cares for the miller is because he won't let them.
It is the fault of the man himself, not the fault of the people!"

However this may have been, it is true the miller had no friends, and
equally sure that he cared to have none, for it did not make him a bit
unhappy.

Sometimes, indeed, as he sat at evening in the doorway of the mill and
watched the moon rise in the sky, he grew a bit lonely and thoughtful,
and found himself longing for some one to love and cherish, for this
is the nature of all good men. But when he realized how his thoughts
were straying he began to sing again, and he drove away all such
hopeless longings.

At last a change came over the miller's life. He was standing one
evening beside the river, watching the moonbeams play upon the water,
when something came floating down the stream that attracted his
attention. For a long time he could not tell what it was, but it
looked to him like a big black box; so he got a long pole and reached
it out towards the box and managed to draw it within reach just above
the big wheel. It was fortunate he saved it when he did for in another
moment it would have gone over the wheel and been dashed to pieces far
below.

When the miller had pulled the floating object upon the bank he found
it really was a box, the lid being fastened tight with a strong cord.
So he lifted it carefully and carried it into the mill-house, and then
he placed it upon the floor while he lighted a candle. Then he cut the
cord and opened the box and behold! a little babe lay within it,
sweetly sleeping upon a pillow of down.

The miller was so surprised that he stopped singing and gazed with big
eyes at the beautiful face of the little stranger. And while he gazed
its eyes opened--two beautiful, pleading blue eyes,--and the little
one smiled and stretched out her arms toward him.

"Well, well!" said the miller, "where on earth did you come from?"

The baby did not reply, but she tried to, and made some soft little
noises that sounded like the cooing of a pigeon.

The tiny arms were still stretched upwards, and the miller bent down
and tenderly lifted the child from the box and placed her upon his
knee, and then he began to stroke the soft, silken ringlets that
clustered around her head, and to look upon her wonderingly.

The baby leaned against his breast and fell asleep again, and the
miller became greatly troubled, for he was unused to babies and did
not know how to handle them or care for them. But he sat very still
until the little one awoke, and then, thinking it must be hungry, he
brought some sweet milk and fed her with a spoon. The baby smiled at
him and ate the milk as if it liked it, and then one little dimpled
hand caught hold of the miller's whiskers and pulled sturdily, while
the baby jumped its little body up and down and cooed its delight.

Do you think the miller was angry? Not a bit of it! He smiled back
into the laughing face and let her pull his whiskers as much as she
liked. For his whole heart had gone out to this little waif that he
rescued from the river, and at last the solitary man had found
something to love.

The baby slept that night in the miller's own bed, snugly tucked in
beside the miller himself; and in the morning he fed her milk again,
and then went out to work singing more merrily than ever.

Every few minutes he would put his head into the room where he had
left the child, to see if it wanted anything, and if it cried even the
least bit he would run in and take it in his arms and soothe the
little girl until she smiled again.

That first day the miller was fearful some one would come and claim
the child, but when evening came without the arrival of any stranger
he decided the baby had been cast adrift and now belonged to nobody
but him.

"I shall keep her as long as I live," he thought, "and never will we
be separated for even a day. For now that I have found some one to
love I could not bear to let her go again."

He cared for the waif very tenderly; and as the child was strong and
healthy she was not much trouble to him, and to his delight grew
bigger day by day.

The country people were filled with surprise when they saw a child in
the mill-house, and wondered where it came from; but the miller would
answer no questions, and as year after year passed away they forgot to
enquire how the child came there and looked upon her as the miller's
own daughter.

She grew to be a sweet and pretty child, and was the miller's constant
companion. She called him "papa," and he called her Nathalie, because
he had found her upon the water, and the country people called her the
Maid of the Mill.

The miller worked harder than ever before, for now he had to feed and
clothe the little girl; and he sang from morn till night, so joyous
was he, and still his song was:

"I care for nobody, no! not I,
Since nobody cares for me."

One day, while he was singing this, he heard a sob beside him, and
looked down to see Nathalie weeping.

"What is it, my pet?" he asked, anxiously.

"Oh, papa," she answered, "why do you sing that nobody cares for you,
when you know I love you so dearly?"

The miller was surprised, for he had sung the song so long he had
forgotten what the words meant.

"Do you indeed love me, Nathalie?" he asked.

"Indeed, indeed! You know I do!" she replied.

"Then," said the miller, with a happy laugh, as he bent down and
kissed the tear-stained face, "I shall change my song."

And after that he sang:

"I love sweet Nathalie, that I do.
For Nathalie she loves me."

The years passed by and the miller was very happy. Nathalie grew to
be a sweet and lovely maiden, and she learned to cook the meals and
tend the house, and that made it easier for the miller, for now he was
growing old.

One day the young Squire, who lived at the great house on the hill,
came past the mill and saw Nathalie sitting in the doorway, her pretty
form framed in the flowers that climbed around and over the door.

And the Squire loved her after that first glance, for he saw that she
was as good and innocent as she was beautiful. The miller, hearing the
sound of voices, came out and saw them together, and at once he became
very angry, for he knew that trouble was in store for him, and he must
guard his treasure very carefully if he wished to keep her with him.
The young Squire begged very hard to be allowed to pay court to the
Maid of the Mill, but the miller ordered him away, and he was forced
to go. Then the miller saw there were tears in Nathalie's eyes, and
that made him still more anxious, for he feared the mischief was
already done.

Indeed, in spite of the miller's watchfulness, the Squire and Nathalie
often met and walked together in the shady lanes or upon the green
banks of the river. It was not long before they learned to love one
another very dearly, and one day they went hand in hand to the miller
and asked his consent that they should wed.

"What will become of me?" asked the miller, with a sad heart.

"You shall live in the great house with us," replied the Squire, "and
never again need you labor for bread."

But the old man shook his head.

"A miller I have lived," quoth he, "and a miller will I die. But tell
me, Nathalie, are you willing to leave me?"

The girl cast down her eyes and blushed sweetly.

"I love him," she whispered, "and if you separate us I shall die."

"Then," said the miller, kissing her with a heavy heart, "go; and may
God bless you."

So Nathalie and the Squire were wed, and lived in the great house, and
the very day after the wedding she came walking down to the mill in
her pretty new gown to see the miller.

But as she drew near she heard him singing, as was his wont; and the
song he sung she had not heard since she was a little girl, for this
was it:

"I care for nobody, no! not I,
Since nobody cares for me."

She came up softly behind him, and put her arms around his neck.

"Papa," said she, "you must not sing that song. Nathalie loves you
yet, and always will while she lives; for my new love is complete in
itself, and has not robbed you of one bit of the love that has always
been your very own."

The miller turned and looked into her blue eyes, and knew that she
spoke truly.

"Then I must learn a new song again," he said, "for it is lonely at
the mill, and singing makes the heart lighter. But I will promise that
never again, till you forget me, will I sing that nobody cares for
me."

And the miller did learn a new song, and sang it right merrily for
many years; for each day Nathalie came down to the mill to show that
she had not forgotten him.


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