The poor miller's boy and the cat


El pobre mozo molinero y la gatita

In a certain mill lived an old miller who had neither wife nor child, and three apprentices served under him. As they had been with him several years, he one day said to them, "I am old, and want to sit in the chimney-corner, go out, and whichsoever of you brings me the best horse home, to him will I give the mill, and in return for it he shall take care of me till my death." The third of the boys was, however, the drudge, who was looked on as foolish by the others; they begrudged the mill to him, and afterwards he would not have it. Then all three went out together, and when they came to the village, the two said to stupid Hans, "Thou mayst just as well stay here, as long as thou livest thou wilt never get a horse." Hans, however, went with them, and when it was night they came to a cave in which they lay down to sleep. The two sharp ones waited until Hans had fallen asleep, then they got up, and went away leaving him where he was. And they thought they had done a very clever thing, but it was certain to turn out ill for them. When the sun arose, and Hans woke up, he was lying in a deep cavern. He looked around on every side and exclaimed, "Oh, heavens, where am I?" Then he got up and clambered out of the cave, went into the forest, and thought, "Here I am quite alone and deserted, how shall I obtain a horse now?" Whilst he was thus walking full of thought, he met a small tabby-cat which said quite kindly, "Hans, where are you going?" - "Alas, thou canst not help me." - "I well know your desire," said the cat. "You wish to have a beautiful horse. Come with me, and be my faithful servant for seven years long, and then I will give you one more beautiful than any you have ever seen in your whole life." - "Well, this is a wonderful cat!" thought Hans, "but I am determined to see if she is telling the truth." So she took him with her into her enchanted castle, where there were nothing but cats who were her servants. They leapt nimbly upstairs and downstairs, and were merry and happy. In the evening when they sat down to dinner, three of them had to make music. One played the bassoon, the other the fiddle, and the third put the trumpet to his lips, and blew out his cheeks as much as he possibly could. When they had dined, the table was carried away, and the cat said, "Now, Hans, come and dance with me." - "No," said he, "I won't dance with a pussy cat. I have never done that yet." - "Then take him to bed," said she to the cats. So one of them lighted him to his bed-room, one pulled his shoes off, one his stockings, and at last one of them blew out the candle. Next morning they returned and helped him out of bed, one put his stockings on for him, one tied his garters, one brought his shoes, one washed him, and one dried his face with her tail. "That feels very soft!" said Hans. He, however, had to serve the cat, and chop some wood every day, and to do that, he had an axe of silver, and the wedge and saw were of silver and the mallet of copper. So he chopped the wood small; stayed there in the house and had good meat and drink, but never saw anyone but the tabby-cat and her servants. Once she said to him, "Go and mow my meadow, and dry the grass," and gave him a scythe of silver, and a whetstone of gold, but bade him deliver them up again carefully. So Hans went thither, and did what he was bidden, and when he had finished the work, he carried the scythe, whetstone, and hay to the house, and asked if it was not yet time for her to give him his reward. "No," said the cat, "you must first do something more for me of the same kind. There is timber of silver, carpenter's axe, square, and everything that is needful, all of silver, with these build me a small house." Then Hans built the small house, and said that he had now done everything, and still he had no horse. Nevertheless the seven years had gone by with him as if they were six months. The cat asked him if he would like to see her horses? "Yes," said Hans. Then she opened the door of the small house, and when she had opened it, there stood twelve horses, such horses, so bright and shining, that his heart rejoiced at the sight of them. And now she gave him to eat and drink, and said, "Go home, I will not give thee thy horse away with thee; but in three days' time I will follow thee and bring it." So Hans set out, and she showed him the way to the mill. She had, however, never once given him a new coat, and he had been obliged to keep on his dirty old smock-frock, which he had brought with him, and which during the seven years had everywhere become too small for him. When he reached home, the two other apprentices were there again as well, and each of them certainly had brought a horse with him, but one of them was a blind one, and the other lame. They asked Hans where his horse was. "It will follow me in three days' time." Then they laughed and said, "Indeed, stupid Hans, where wilt thou get a horse?" - "It will be a fine one!" Hans went into the parlour, but the miller said he should not sit down to table, for he was so ragged and torn, that they would all be ashamed of him if any one came in. So they gave him a mouthful of food outside, and at night, when they went to rest, the two others would not let him have a bed, and at last he was forced to creep into the goose-house, and lie down on a little hard straw. In the morning when he awoke, the three days had passed, and a coach came with six horses and they shone so bright that it was delightful to see them! and a servant brought a seventh as well, which was for the poor miller's boy. And a magnificent princess alighted from the coach and went into the mill, and this princess was the little tabby-cat whom poor Hans had served for seven years. She asked the miller where the miller's boy and drudge was? Then the miller said, "We cannot have him here in the mill, for he is so ragged; he is lying in the goose-house." Then the King's daughter said that they were to bring him immediately. So they brought him out, and he had to hold his little smock-frock together to cover himself. The servants unpacked splendid garments, and washed him and dressed him, and when that was done, no King could have looked more handsome. Then the maiden desired to see the horses which the other apprentices had brought home with them, and one of them was blind and the other lame. So she ordered the servant to bring the seventh horse, and when the miller saw it, he said that such a horse as that had never yet entered his yard. "And that is for the third miller's boy," said she. "Then he must have the mill," said the miller, but the King's daughter said that the horse was there, and that he was to keep his mill as well, and took her faithful Hans and set him in the coach, and drove away with him. They first drove to the little house which he had built with the silver tools, and behold it was a great castle, and everything inside it was of silver and gold; and then she married him, and he was rich, so rich that he had enough for all the rest of his life. After this, let no one ever say that anyone who is silly can never become a person of importance.
Vivía en un molino un viejo molinero que no tenía mujer ni hijos, sino sólo tres mozos a su servicio. Cuando ya llevaban muchos años trabajando con él, un día les dijo:
- Soy viejo y quiero retirarme a descansar. Salid a recorrer el mundo, y a aquel de vosotros que me traiga el mejor caballo, le cederé el molino; pero con la condición de que me cuide hasta mi muerte.
El más joven de los mozos, que era el aprendiz, se llamaba Juan, y los otros lo tenían por necio y no querían que llegase a ser dueño del molino. Marcháronse los tres juntos y, al llegar a las afueras del pueblo, dijeron los dos a Juan el tonto:
- Mejor será que te quedes aquí; en toda tu vida no podrás procurarte un jamelgo.
Sin embargo, Juan insistió en ir con ellos, y al anochecer llegaron a una cueva en la que se refugiaron para dormir. Los dos mayores, que se creían muy listos, aguardaron a que Juan estuviese dormido, y luego se marcharon, abandonando a su compañero.
¡Ya veréis cómo saldrá la criada respondona!
Cuando, al salir el sol, se despertó Juan, encontróse en una profunda caverna y, mirando en torno suyo, exclamó:
- ¡Dios mío!, ¿dónde estoy?
Subió al borde de la cueva y salió al bosque, pensando: "Solo y abandonado, ¿cómo me procuraré el caballo?." Mientras andaba sumido en sus pensamientos, salióle al encuentro una gatita, de piel abigarrada, que le dijo en tono amistoso:
- ¿Adónde vas, Juan?
- ¡Bah! ¿Qué puedes hacer tú por mí?
- Sé muy bien qué es lo que buscas - respondióle la gata -: un buen caballo. Vente conmigo; si me sirves durante siete años, te daré uno tan hermoso como jamás lo viste en tu vida.
"¡Vaya una gata maravillosa! - pensó Juan -; voy a probar si es cierto lo que me dice." Condújolo la gata a un pequeño palacio encantado en el que todos los servidores eran gatitos; saltaban con gran agilidad por las escaleras, arriba y abajo, y parecían de muy buen humor. Al anochecer, cuando se sentaron a la mesa, tres de ellos se encargaron de amenizar la comida con música: tocaba uno el contrabajo; otro, el violín, y el tercero, la trompeta, soplando con toda la fuerza de sus pulmones. Después de cenar, y levantados los manteles, dijo la gatita:
- ¡Anda, Juan, vamos a bailar!
- No - respondió él -, yo no sé bailar con una gata; jamás lo hice.
- Entonces, llevadlo a la cama - mandó la gata a los gatitos. Acompañáronlo con una vela a su dormitorio; uno le quitó los zapatos; otro, las medias y, finalmente, apagaron la luz. Por la mañana se presentaron de nuevo y le ayudaron a vestirse. Púsole uno las medias; otro le ató las ligas; un tercero le trajo los zapatos; el cuarto le lavó la cara, y, finalmente, otro se la secó con el rabo.
- ¡Qué suavidad! - dijo Juan. Pero él tenía que servir a la gata y ocuparse en partir leña todos los días, para lo cual le habían dado un hacha de plata, cuñas y sierras de plata también, y el tajo, que era de cobre. Y he aquí que, por cortar la leña, estaba en aquella casa donde no le faltaba buena comida ni bebida y no veía a nadie, aparte la gata y su servidumbre. Un día le dijo la dueña:
- Ve a segar el prado y haz secar la hierba - y le dio una guadaña de plata y un mollejón de oro, recomendándole que lo devolviese todo en buen estado. Salió Juan a cumplir lo mandado, y, una vez listo el trabajo, volvió a casa con la guadaña, la piedra afiladora y el heno, y preguntó al ama si quería darle ya su prometida recompensa.
- No - respondióle la gata -; antes has de hacerme otra cosa. Ahí tienes tablas de plata, un hacha, una escuadra y demás instrumentos necesarios, todos de plata; con ello vas a construirme una casita.
Juan levantó una casita y luego le recordó que seguía aún sin el caballo, a pesar de haber cumplido cuanto le ordenara; pues, sin darse cuenta apenas, habían transcurrido ya los siete años.
Preguntóle entonces la gata si quería ver los caballos que tenía a lo que Juan respondió afirmativamente. Abrió ella la puerta de la casita, y lo primero que se ofreció a su vista fueron doce caballos soberbios, pulidos y relucientes, que le hicieron saltar el corazón de gozo. Dioles la gata de comer y de beber, y luego dijo a Juan:
- Vuélvete a tu casa, ahora no te daré el caballo. Pero dentro de tres días iré yo a llevártelo -. Y le indicó el camino del molino.
Durante todo aquel tiempo no le había dado ningún traje nuevo; seguía llevando su vieja blusa andrajosa que, en el curso de los siete años, se le había quedado pequeña por todas partes. Al llegar a casa encontró que los otros dos mozos estaban ya en ella, y cada uno había traído un caballo, aunque el uno era ciego, y el otro, cojo.
- ¿Dónde está tu caballo, Juan? - le preguntaron.
- Llegará dentro de tres días.
Echáronse los otros a reír, diciendo:
- ¡Mira el bobo! ¡De dónde vas a sacar tú un caballo que no sea un saldo!
Al entrar Juan en la sala, el molinero no lo dejó sentarse a la mesa, porque iba demasiado roto y harapiento. ¡Sería una vergüenza que alguien lo viese!
Sacáronle a la era una pizca de comida, y cuando fue la hora de acostarse, los otros se negaron a darle una cama, por lo que tuvo que acomodarse en el corral, sobre un lecho de dura paja.
A la mañana siguiente habían transcurrido ya los tres días, y he aquí que se presentó una carroza, tirada por seis caballos relucientes que daba gloria verlos; venía, además, otro que un criado llevaba de la brida, destinado al pobre mozo molinero. Del coche se apeó una bellísima princesa, que entró en el molino; no era otra sino la gatita, a la que el pobre Juan sirviera durante siete años. Preguntó al molinero por el más pequeño de los mozos, y el hombre respondió:
- No lo queremos en el molino, porque va demasiado roto; está en el corral de los gansos.
Dijo entonces la princesa que fuesen a buscarlo. El muchacho se presentó sujetándose la blusa, que a duras penas alcanzaba a cubrirle el cuerpo. El criado sacó magníficos vestidos y, después que lo hubo lavado y vestido, quedó tan bello y elegante que ni un rey podía comparársele. Quiso la princesa ver los caballos que habían traído los otros dos, y resultó que, como ya hemos dicho, eran uno ciego y el otro cojo. Mandó entonces al criado que trajese el séptimo, que no venía enganchado a la carroza, y, al verlo, el molinero hubo de confesar que jamás había entrado en el molino un animal como aquél.
- Éste es el caballo de Juan - dijo la princesa.
- Suyo será, pues, el molino - contestó el molinero.
Pero la princesa le dijo que podía quedarse con el caballo y el molino, y, llevándose a su fiel Juan, lo hizo subir al coche y se marchó con él. Fueron primero a la casita que él había construido con las herramientas de plata y que, a la sazón, se había transformado en un gran palacio, todo de plata y oro. Allí se casó con él, y Juan fue rico, tan rico, que ya no le faltó nada en toda su vida. Nadie diga, pues, que un tonto no puede hacer nada a derechas.

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