The devil’s secret

In the old, old days, the farmers of Brigels in the mountains of Graubünden used to drive their cows to pasture, as they do now, and used to milk them, as they do now, but then all they did was drink the milk. One day, a well-dressed stranger turned up in the village. No-one knew where he had come from, but he seemed a respectable person, even though his eyes were unnaturally bright, like burning coals. He asked the farmers why they used their milk only for drinking.

“We’d be glad to do something else with it, but what?” they said.

Ah ha! The stranger sat down over a bowl of milk, rolled up his sleeves, and showed them how to make cheese. They were naturally delighted. Then he asked what could be done with the liquid that was left over.

“We don't know,” they said.

Ah ha! He sat down again, and showed them how to make curd cheese. They were again delighted. Then he asked what could be done with the liquid that was left over.

“Huh,” said one old man, “water is water, and will never be anything different.”

“That's what you think,” said the stranger. “And now you will never know.”

And suddenly he wasn’t there any more. And the farmers remembered his burning eyes, and realised they had just met the devil himself.

And they realised too that they had lost their chance ever to find out what can be made out of whey.