At last he lost his way, and wandered off on the moor, which was a very dangerous place, as it was full of deep holes, and there poor little Hans was drowned. His body was found the next day by some goatherds, floating in a great pool of water, and was brought back by them to the cottage.
“Everybody went to little Hans’ funeral, as he was so popular, and the Miller was the chief mourner.
“‘As I was his best friend,’ said the Miller, ‘it is only fair that I should have the best place’; so he walked at the head of the procession in a long black cloak, and every now and then he wiped his eyes with a big pocket-handkerchief.
“‘Little Hans is certainly a great loss to every one,’ said the Blacksmith, when the funeral was over, and they were all seated comfortably in the inn, drinking spiced wine and eating sweet cakes.
“‘A great loss to me at any rate,’ answered the Miller; ‘why, I had as good as given him my wheelbarrow, and now I really don’t know what to do with it. It is very much in my way at home, and it is in such bad repair that I could not get anything for it if I sold it. I will certainly take care not to give away anything again. One always suffers for being generous.’”
“Well?” said the Water-rat, after a long pause.
“Well, that is the end,” said the Linnet.
“But what became of the Miller?” asked the Water-rat.
“Oh! I really don’t know,” replied the Linnet; “and I am sure that I don’t care.”
“It is quite evident then that you have no sympathy in your nature,” said the Water-rat.
“I am afraid you don’t quite see the moral of the story,” remarked the Linnet.
“The what?” screamed the Water-rat.
“Do you mean to say that the story has a moral?”
“Certainly,” said the Linnet.
“Well, really,” said the Water-rat, in a very angry manner, “I think you should have told me that before you began. If you had done so, I certainly would not have listened to you; in fact, I should have said ‘Pooh,’ like the critic. However, I can say it now”; so he shouted out “Pooh” at the top of his voice, gave a whisk with his tail, and went back into his hole.
“And how do you like the Water-rat?” asked the Duck, who came paddling up some minutes afterwards. “He has a great many good points, but for my own part I have a mother’s feelings, and I can never look at a confirmed bachelor without the tears coming into my eyes.”
“I am rather afraid that I have annoyed him,” answered the Linnet. “The fact is, that I told him a story with a moral.”
“Ah! that is always a very dangerous thing to do,” said the Duck.
And I quite agree with her.