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The Miller's wife on the Wisper
In olden times in the valley through which the Wisper stream flows, there was a mill, and the miller's wife was a young, light-headed woman. One day she thought she heard a voice whispering in her ear, which seemed to say to her that if she went up the Kammer mountain, she would find treasures there, the key being hidden in a chest in the tower.
The miller's wife looked round in terror but perceiving no one, she felt convinced that some kind of invisible spirit had spoken to her. The next day as she was washing clothes in the stream, the same low voice whispered in her ear, "Go to the tower and take possession of the treasure; the key is hidden in a black chest." The woman hastily left her washing and ran to tell her husband of the wonderful words which had sounded in her ear. But he scolded her, calling her a foolish woman to listen to such sounds, and then said jokingly that surer treasures lay in his sacks of flour than in the black chest.
But the words remained steadfastly fixed in the woman's head, and sounded more and more tempting to her. At last she determined to satisfy her curiosity, and one day, the miller having gone away to bring a load of flour to Lorch, his wife set off from the mill, taking her baby on her arm, and made her way towards the mountain. But on arriving at the tower, she began to feel a little afraid. Already regretting her determination, she was just about to turn home when the whispering voice again sounded in her ear. This time it told her she need fear nothing disagreeable, only she must not speak one syllable, and the treasure would surely be hers.
So the woman boldly entered the vault of the tower, having first set her baby on the grass outside. She then went to look for the chest.
It stood deep down in the vault just where the voice had told her, and the key was lying in the exact place where she sought it. Taking it up she unlocked the huge trunk and having raised the heavy oak lid, she was surprised to find a heap of shining gold before her.
The woman plunged her eager hands into the chest, but as she was doing so, her baby boy outside uttered an anxious little cry, "Mamma, Mamma!" He had seen a snake crawling near him in the long grass where he was playing. She turned round and called out angrily, "What's the matter, child?" But no sooner had she uttered these words than a long peal of thunder was heard, the woman was violently thrown on the ground, and an awful voice sounded mournfully through the vault, "Woe to you for having spoken, another hundred years I must remain undelivered! Woe to you and to me!"
The miller returned home towards noon and found the mill empty. On making inquiries about his wife, the servant informed him that he had seen her going up the Kammer mountain that morning, with her child on her arm. A strange misgiving seized the poor miller, and with hasty steps he hurried off to the mountain after her. All was silent there, not a sound was to be heard round the old castle. His little child was sitting in the grass playing with the flowers and he stretched out his arms joyfully to his father. As he rushed to the child, the miller heard a low moan in the vault of the tower, and looking in horrified, he saw his wife lying on the ground.
A broken-hearted man returned to the mill, and three days afterwards the mill-wheel stood still. They carried the miller's wife to the churchyard at Lorch, and since then no one has ever dared to look for the treasure in the tower.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine