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The beggars carried bags of grain and poured the grain into a hopper above the mill-stone. All the remainder of that day they stooped and stepped and hauled and hoisted. The noise beat relentlessly. Noise pummeled the dust-clotted air. Noise like gravel filled their ears. Ashy flour filled their noses and stuck to the creases of their skin.

Evening came. The Miller disengaged vast wooden gears. The water-wheel yet turned, but the stone stopped grinding. The mill’s hard heart fell silent.

Jack cried at the stillness.

“Foolish boy,” scolded Clever. “The monster is fled. Keep bawling and it will run back to gobble you up.”

Jack cried more loudly.

“Silly boy,” teased Lively. “The music has changed is all. I hear a water song pushing the wheel. Take my hand and dance with me.”

Jack sobbed on.

Who knows how long he might have wept had not the the Golden Bird twittered in his ear, had not the fearsome Hound brought a supper of bread. The children ate and were grateful.

The Hound led them to a small room where, the beggars being tired and full-fed, they tumbled into sleep. At least Jack and Lively did so, covered over by golden wings. 

Clever, a careful girl, pretended. Soon she heard whispering, and her brain filled with wonder at what the Miller and the Hound might be plotting.

 

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Clever’s Road 5: GB0052