5io THE WATER-SPRITE.
H That will be no doubt a puppy or a kitten," thought the miller, and at once promised what she asked.
The water-sprite immediately disappeared in the water, and the miller returned with renewed courage to his mill.
He had scarcely reached the house when a maid-servant came from the door, and told him in a joyful voice that his wife had a fine little boy. On hearing this, the miller stood as if thunderstruck. He saw at once that the malicious water-sprite had betrayed him into a fatal promise.
He went into his wife's room, with his head bowed down and looking so sad that she said : " Are you not pleased at having a little son ?"
Then he was obliged to tell her all that had occurred, and what a terrible promise he had made to the water-sprite.
"What is the use of all the riches and honours in the world," he said, " if I am to lose my child ?"
And now what could he do ? None of his relations who came to wish him joy could give him any advice. However, from that day good fortune came back to the miller's house. Everything he did prospered. It seemed as if his chests and coffers filled themselves, and the money in his desk increased during the night, and in a short time the miller was richer than ever.
But his wealth could not bring him happiness, for the fatal promise to the water-sprite cruelly tormented his heart. Every time he passed by the lake, he expected to see her rise out of the water and claim her debt. He would not allow the child to go near it, and often said to him : " Take care, my boy ; if you ever touch that water, a hand will rise up and drag you under."
But as days and years rolled by, and the water-sprite never again made her appearance, the miller began to feel more at ease.
When the boy grew up to a young man, he was placed with a gamekeeper, to learn the use of a gun. He was a clever lad, and soon became so expert in the business that a gentleman near the town took him into his service as gamekeeper.
In this town lived a beautiful and true maiden, with whom the young keeper fell in love. His master on hearing this gave them a small but pretty cottage when they were married, and they lived in peace and contentment, loving each other very fondly.
One day, when the keeper was hunting a deer in full chase,