Once upon a time there lived on the banks of the River Dee a miller, who was the happiest man in England. He was always busy from morning till night, and he was always singing as merrily as any lark. He was so cheerful that he made everybody else cheerful, and people all over the land liked to talk about his pleasant ways. At last, the king heard about him.
“I will go down and talk with this wonderful miller,” he said. “Perhaps he can tell me how to be happy.”
As soon as he stepped inside of the mill, he heard the miller singing:
“I envy nobody, no, not I!
For I am as happy as I can be;
And nobody envies me.”
“You’re wrong, my friend,” said the king. “You’re wrong as wrong can be. I envy you, and I would gladly change places with you if I could only be as light-hearted as you are.”
The miller smiled and bowed to the king.
“I am sure I could not think of changing places with you, sir,” he said.
“Now tell me,” said the king, “what makes you so cheerful and glad here in your dusty mill, while I, who am king, am sad and in trouble every day.”
The miller smiled again, and said, “I do not know why you are sad, but I can easily tell why I am glad. I earn my own bread; I love my wife and my children; I love my friends, and they love me, and I owe not a penny to any man. Why should I not be happy? For here is the River Dee, and every day it turns my mill; and the mill grinds the corn that feeds my wife, my babes, and me.”
“Say no more,” said the king. “Stay where you are, and be happy still. But I envy you. Your dusty cap is worth more than my golden crown. Your mill does more for you than my kingdom can do for me. If there were more such men like you, what a good place this world would be! Good-by, my friend!”
The king turned about and walked sadly away, and the miller went back to his work singing:
“Oh, I’m as happy as happy can be,
For I live by the side of the River Dee!”