Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Coffee-mill which Grinds Salt

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THE COFFEE-MILL WHICH GRINDS SALT


THERE was once a little boy by the name of Hans. As his parents died while he was very young, his grandmother took care of him and taught him reading and writing, and to be a good boy. When she became very old, and thought she was about to die, she called the little boy to her and said: "I am old, Hans, and may not live long. You were always a good boy, and therefore you shall have my only treasure, a coffee-mill which I have always kept at the bottom of my old chest. This coffee-mill will grind all that you wish. If you say to it, 'Grind a house, little mill,' it will work away, and there the house will stand. When you say, 'Stop, little mill,' it will cease to grind."

Hans thanked his grandmother kindly, and when she died, and he was alone in the world, he opened the chest, took the coffee-mill, and went out into the world. When he had walked a long distance, and needed something to eat, he placed the mill on the grass and said, "Grind some bread and butter, little mill." Very soon Hans had all that he needed, and then he bid the mill to stop.

The next day he came to a large seaport, and when he saw the many vessels, he thought it would be pleasant to see more of the great world. He therefore boarded one of the ships and offered his service to the sailors. As it just happened that the captain needed a boy of Hans's age, he told him to stay.

As soon as the ship was out of port, the sailors commenced abusing Hans. He bore the harsh treatment as well as he could, and when he had nothing to eat the mill ground all that he wished. The bad men wondered how he could always be contented, although they gave him but little to eat. One day one of them peeped through a hole in the cabin-door and discovered how the coffee-mill served him. Now the sailors offered a large sum of money to Hans if he would sell his treasure. He refused, however, saying that it was all that his good old grandmother had left him. So one day these wicked men threw Hans overboard and seized the mill. As they were in need of some salt, they bid it grind for them. The mill immediately began its work, and soon they had enough. Now they asked it to stop, but as the one who had peeped through the hole into the boy's cabin had not learned the exact command, the mill refused to obey, and before long the ship was filled with salt. The men grew desperate, but none of them was able to find a way out of the difficulty. So at length the ship sank down with the mill, the salt, and all the wicked men. The men were drowned, but the mill is yet standing at the bottom of the sea, grinding away, and for this reason the water in the ocean has and always will have a salt taste.