The Silent Mill

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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No one can tell how many years ago it is was since the "Silent Mill" first received its name. As long as I can remember it has been an old, tumble-down structure, an ancient relic of long-forgotten times.

Old, and weather-beaten, and roofless, its crumbling walls stretch upwards toward the sky, giving free access to every gust of wind. Two large, round stones that once, maybe, bravely fulfilled their task, have broken through the rotten wood-work and, obeying the natural law of gravitation, have wedged themselves deep into the ground.

The large mill-wheel hangs awry between its moulding supports. The paddles are broken off, and only the spokes stick up into the air, like arms stretched forth to implore the "coup de grace."

Moss and lichen have clothed all in green, and here and there some water-cress puts forth its sickly green, sodden growth. From a half-broken pipe the water runs slowly down, trickles in sleepy monotony onto the spokes and breaks there, filling the surrounding air with fine, drizzling spray. Under a gray thicket of alders the little rivulet lies hidden in malodorous slothfulness, washed full of water-weeds and frog-spawn, choked up with mare's tail and flowering rushes. Only in the middle there trickles still a tiny stream of thick, black water, in which the little palegreen leaves of the duck-weed lazily drift along.

But those long years ago the mill-stream flowed right gayly and jauntily; snow-white foam gleamed at the weir; the merry chatter of the wheels resounded as far as the village; in long rows the carts drove in and out of the mill-yard; and far into the distance there echoed the mighty voice of the old miller.

Rockhammer was his name, and all who saw him felt that he did honor to it, too. What a man he was! He had it in him to blast rocks. Of course there was no such thing as trying to bully or contradict him, for it only served to make him perfectly wild with rage: he would clench his fists; the veins on his temples would swell up like thick thongs; and when he started swearing into the bargain, every being trembled before him, and the very dogs fled in terror to their kennels. His wife was a meek, gentle, yielding creature. How could it be otherwise? Not for twenty-four hours would he have endured at his side a more sturdy-natured being, who might have attempted to preserve even the shadow of an independent will. As it was, the two lived together fairly well, happily one might almost have said, had it not been for his fatal temper, which broke forth wildly at the slightest provocation and caused the quiet woman many a tearful hour.

But she shed most tears when misfortune's hand fell heavily upon her children. Three had been born to them--bonny, healthy, sturdy boys. They had clear, blue eyes, flaxen hair and, above all, "a pair of promising fists," as their father was wont to declare with pride, though the youngest, who was still in his cradle, could as yet only make use of his to suck at them. The two elder boys, however, were already splendid fellows....