Near the town of Apolda in Thuringia there is a strange place known as the Old-Women's-Mill. It
looks something like a large coffee grinder but instead of cranking it from the top you crank it at
the bottom from which two thick planks sticking out. It takes two men to crank them and set the
mill in motion. Old women are put in at the top; women who have wrinkled faces and hunched
backs, women who have lost their hair and teeth. When they come out at the bottom they look
like they did in their youth: fresh and with cheeks the color of red apples. It takes one complete
turn of the wheel to make it happen; it goes ratch, ratch ratch and the woman inside is shaken
through and through. But if you ask any of them afterwards if the procedure hurts they answer:
"Oh my! It is just wonderful! It's like waking up in the early morning after having slept soundly,
and with the sun shining in your window and the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the trees
and you can turn over and stretch out one last time before getting up. Every now and then you
hear a clicking sound, but that doesn't bother you."
There was a woman who lived far away from Apolda and someone told her about what went on
that town. And because she had a great desire to be young again she quickly made up her mind
to go there. It was a difficult journey; oftentimes she had to stop and cough but she made her
way slowly and finally she found herself standing in front of the mill.
"I would like to be put through the mill and be made young again" she said to the miller's boy,
who, with his hands in his pockets was sitting out in front smoking his pipe and blowing rings up
to the blue sky. "Oh my, what a long way it is to Apolda!"
"What is your name?" asked the miller's boy and yawned.
"They call me Mother Klapproth!"
"Sit down on the bench for a moment, Mother Klappoth", the boy said and he went into the mill,
opened a large book and came out again with a long strip of paper in his hand.
"Is that the bill, my lad?" asked the old woman.
"Nothing of the kind!" replied the miller's boy. "Putting you through is free of charge. But you
have to sign your name before we can begin!"
"Sign my name?" repeated the old woman. "And sign away my soul to the devil? No! I won't! I am
a devout woman and hope to get into heaven some day."
"It is not all that bad!" laughed the miller's boy. "On this slip of paper there is a list of the foolish
things you have done in your lifetime, all quite exact, one after the other, according to the day,
hour. Before we put you through you must pledge that once you have been made young again,
you will repeat all the foolish things you have done, and do them one after the other, just like
they are listed here on this slip of paper.
After telling her that he looked at the list and said with a chuckle: "A bit many, for sure, Mother
Klapproth, a bit many! From your sixteenth to twenty-sixth birthday once a day, on Sundays
twice. After that it levels off. But in your early forties there are up to a thousand, they come like
an avalanche. After that it goes back to normal!"
The old woman sighed and said: "Listen here, what is the use of going through the mill!"
"Yes, yes", answered the miller's boy, "for most women it is useless!" That's why we are having a
lull here at present; seven days a week without work, and the mill stands still, but it has been
that way only for the last year. Before that the mill was much in demand."
"Would it be possible to strike some entries off the list?" asked the old woman once again and
patted the boy on the cheek. "Just three things, my boy, everything else I will do again if that's
the way it has to be."
"No", answered the boy, "that is utterly impossible. Either — or!"
"Here, you can have your list", answered the old woman after considering for a while, "I don't
want to have anything to do with your stupid old mill!" and she set off for home.
But when she got there people looked at her in wonderment and said: "But Mother Klapproth, you
look just as old as you did when you left us! Didn't you have any luck at the mill? — She coughed
and replied: "Yes, things do happen there; but my fear got the best of me, and after all — what
would being young again add to the few days I have before I die! — Goodness gracious me!" —
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Illustrations: Hans von Volkmann (Son)
Reveries at French Firesides