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The Miller and The Devil

Once there was a miller who could “toll ‘em heavy” or “toll ‘em light” as he ground corn for rich farmers, ordinary farmers, and farmers who mademill barely enough to eat.  As he ground the corn, the miller always carried on a conversation with the devil, who stood behind his shoulder, as to whether or not he should play fair with his customers.

One day, a little before noon, there drove up to the mill a very rich farmer with fifty wagon loads of corn.  The miller began to grind.

As he ground, he turned his head over his should and said, “Devil, he’s rich.  Must I toll him heavy or toll him light?”

And the devil said to the miller, “He probably got rich being hard on the poor.  Toll him heavy.”

And the miller tolled him heavy.

Early that afternoon came to the mill just an ordinary farmer with ten wagon loads of corn.  And the miller put the corn in the mill and began to grind.

And as he ground, he turned to the devil and said, “This fellow is not poor, he is not rich.  How must I toll him, heavy or light?”

And the devil said, “Oh, he’ll get along all right.  Certainly he will not starve.  He is contented with his lot.  He is healthy.  He is happy.  Toll him heavy.”

So the miller tolled him heavy.

A little before sundown came to the mill another farmer.  He had one sack of corn on his back, about a bushel perhaps.  He was tired from walking a long way.  He was hungry.  And the miller put his corn into the mill and began to grind it.

And as he ground, he turned once more to the devil and said, “Devil, this fellow certainly is poor.  He’s tired.  He’s hungry.  What must I do with him, toll him heavy or toll him light?”

And the devil answered, “He’s poor, damn him, keep him poor!  Toll him heavy.”

And the miller tolled him heavy.