Once upon a time, beyond seven times seven lands, beyond the clucking and pecking of nine turkeys and the paces of a hundred lice, there was once an old miller who had a large mill. He amassed such riches with his mill that he had an enormous amount of money and land and vast herds of sheep and cattle. He was a very wealthy farmer. But they were only two, he and his wife-they had no children. So they were forever worrying about who would look after them in their old age.One day he and his wife decided that they would adopt a little girl or a little boy, and soon they brought a little girl into their home.Said the old miller: “Well, my girl, you came to my house and if you behave
well, all this wealth will be yours. We’ll raise you and marry you off.”The girl said: “All right, grandpa and mother.”This is what she called them. After only a few months, they grew very fond of the little girl for she was clever and most intelligent. They wouldn’t have let her leave them for anything. She was growing up nicely. One day the old miller said to her: “Listen, my girl, we have been invited to a
wedding next Sunday. An uncle of mine is holding a big feast and has asked us to come. How should we do it? You wouldn’t want to be there, for you are young, and it behooves us to go for he is my uncle; it would be a disgrace if we were absent.”She answered: “Don’t worry, I’ll stay home.” Someone had to be at home for the farmstead was large and they were uneasy about leaving it. “All right then, we’ll go, my little girl, but be on your guard, I beg you, for below us there are robbers in the forest and they often go plundering in the area. So I am cautioning you, try to finish the outside work before nightfall and then be sure to lock all the doors and gates so no one can enter. Once your work is done, there is no need for you to go out--just stay quietly indoors!”So the old couple pulled themselves together, climbed into their carriage and left. The young girl stayed at home. When evening closed in, she lit two candles, placed them on the table, took her prayer book and read. All of a sudden, as she was reading, she heard the dog bark. “The dog is barking as if someone were walking about outside”—she said to herself —“but whoever it is, I won’t let anyone come in.”Then, as she continued reading, she heard a knock. She said to herself: “Dear God, what could that knock be?” There was a second knock, and a third. She put down her prayer book and listened for what would happen next. Soon the girl realized that the robbers were breaking into the foundation wall at the very place she was standing. She knew exactly what was going on. She understood what the robbers were up to, so she quickly moved away, stepped into the storeroom and there her eyes fell on a rusty sword hanging from a peg. The old miller had served with the hussars and brought the sword home as a souvenir. She lifted it off and set to sharpening it. When the edge was good and sharp, she went back into the room and stood facing the wall they were demolishing. They had broken in so far that even their whispers could be heard inside! Then, all at once, a hole appeared in the wall.“Hey,” she said to herself, “just come along-you are coming to the right place!” When the hole was large enough to admit a man, the leader of the robbers said: “Now, who will be the first to go in?”One of them said: “I’ll go, the others can follow me.”Said the leader: “The first one in should unlock the door so we can enter, instead of having to crawl in through the hole!” When the robber stuck his head in, the girl chopped it off, grabbed his two
shoulders, yanked the body inside and shoved it to the side. Then came the second and the third robber and she cut off the head of each one. They called in again: “I said to unlock the door!”The girl answered from the door in a deep voice:“I can’t--just come through here, one by one.”So eleven robbers came through and she cut the heads off all eleven, then pushed their bodies over to the side. When it was the turn of the twelfth, he stuck his two hands in first, found them soaked in blood and quickly withdrew his head. Still, the girl struck him and sliced off a piece of his scalp, but the wound she inflicted wasn’t too deep. “Just you wait, you beast, you destroyed my eleven brothers, you’ll pay for this!” With those words he ran away, he ran back to the forest. Other robbers were camping out there, not only those eleven-maybe there were twice as many assembled in a den.“Well, my comrades, I lost eleven of my strongest lads, but I will not rest until I have my revenge!” That very night he sent the robbers to break into a pharmacy. They plundered it and brought back all sorts of medicines.He said to them: “Listen to me. Take good care of my wound for I must get hold of that filthy girl and, when I do, I’ll kill her.”“Oh, captain,” said one of them, “you won’t be able to put your hands on her easily; she is afraid of you so she is very careful.”He said: “If I can’t do otherwise, I’ll marry her and then I’ll take my revenge.” And that’s how it was.One day he wrote a letter to the girl but he signed with a fictitious name, as if he were some young count. He wrote: “My dear Anuska, I saw you once at the mill and since then I haven’t been able to sleep or eat, all I do is think about you and about how I could make you my wife. I am writing this letter and sending you a photograph-if you fancy me answer quickly and tell me what you want! But don’t break my heart, for I’d die for you!”He posted the letter, and soon the girl had it in her hands. She opened it, it was from an unknown lad. The girl was surprised-who could he be, she wondered.“My dear Anuska, send me your reply. If you write that you’ll marry me, I’ll be on my way to you immediately.”The girl received the letter and read it. She laughed and rushed in to the old folks to show them the kind of letter she got. The old man looked at it-he liked it too, for it was nicely written.“Do you know him, my girl?”“No, but he says he saw me at the mill.”The old man looked at the lad’s picture and, well, he was taken with it.“He is a fine, handsome young man. I don’t know what his habits are, but he is
a good-looking lad. What do you say, my girl?” “I like him. If you give me permission, I’ll take him for my husband. I’ll marryhim.” Right away she wrote him a letter that he may come, if he so wishes, and that she wanted her mother and father to meet him and see if they liked him or not.By then his wound had healed but the area on his head remained bald. Still he was able to comb his hair every which way to cover it, so no one could tell that he had a bald spot. He dressed up in his finest to look like a young count, and went to the girl’s house. When he stepped into the room, the girl was alone.