ON'T CARE"--SO they say--fell into a goose-pond; and "I won't" is apt to come to no better an end. At least, my grandmother tells me that was how the Miller had to quit his native town, and leave the tip of his nose behind him.
It all came of his being allowed to say "I won't" when he was quite a little boy. His mother thought he looked pretty when he was pouting, and that wilfulness gave him an air which distinguished him from other people's children. And when she found out that his lower lip was becoming so big that it spoilt his beauty, and that his wilfulness gained his way twice and stood in his way eight times out of ten, it was too late to alter him.
Then she said, "Dearest Abinadab, do be more obliging!"
And he replied (as she had taught him), "I won't."
He always took what he could get, and would neither give nor give up to other people. This, he thought, was the way to get more out of life than one's neighbours.
Amongst other things, he made a point of taking the middle of the footpath.
"Will you allow me to pass you, sir?--I am in a hurry," said a voice behind him one day.
"I won't," said Abinadab; on which a poor washerwoman, with her basket, scrambled down into the road, and Abinadab chuckled.
Next day he was walking as before.
"Will you allow me to pass you, sir?--I am in a hurry," said a voice behind him.
"I won't," said Abinadab. On which he was knocked into the ditch; and the Baron walked on, and left him to get out of the mud on whichever side he liked.
He quarrelled with his friends till he had none left, and he quarrelled with the tradesmen of the town till there was only one who would serve him, and this man offended him at last.
"I'll show you who's master!" said the Miller. "I won't pay a penny of your bill--not a penny."
"Sir," said the tradesman, "my giving you offence now, is no just reason why you should refuse to pay for what you have had and been satisfied with. I must beg you to pay me at once."
"I won't," said the Miller, "and what I say I mean. I won't; I tell you, I won't."
So the tradesman summoned him before the Justice, and the Justice condemned him to pay the bill and the costs of the suit.
"I won't," said the Miller.
So they put him in prison, and in prison he would have remained if his mother had not paid the money to obtain his release. By and by she died, and left him her blessing and some very good advice, which (as is sometimes the case with bequests) would have been more useful if it had come earlier.
The Miller's mother had taken a great deal of trouble off his hands which now fell into them. She took in all the small bags of grist which the country-folk brought to be ground, and kept account of them, and spoke civilly to the customers, big and little. But these small matters irritated the Miller.
"I may be the slave of all the old women in the country-side," said he; "but I won't--they shall see that I won't."
So he put up a notice to say that he would only receive grist at a certain hour on certain days. Now, but a third of the old women could read the notice, and they did not attend to it. People came as before; but the Miller locked the door of the mill and sat in the counting-house and chuckled.
"My good friend," said his neighbours, "you can't do business in this way. If a man lives by trade, he must serve his customers. And a Miller must take in grist when it comes to the mill."
"Others may if they please," said the Miller; "but I won't. When I make a rule, I stick to it."
"Take advice, man, or you'll be ruined," said his friends.
"I won't," said the Miller.
In a few weeks all the country-folk turned their donkeys' heads towards the windmill on the heath. It was a little farther to go, but the Windmiller took custom when it came to him, gave honest measure, and added civil words gratis.
The other Miller was ruined.
"All you can do now is to leave the mill while you can pay the rent, and try another trade," said his friends.
"I won't," said the Miller. "Shall I be turned out of the house where I was born, because the country-folk are fools?"
However, he could not pay the rent, and the landlord found another tenant.
"You must quit," said he to the Miller.
"That I won't," said the Miller, "not for fifty new tenants."