Infomotions, Inc.The Mysterious Stranger / Twain, Mark, 1835-1910



Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910
Title: The Mysterious Stranger
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): marget; satan; seppi; nikolaus; ursula; father adolf; father peter
Contributor(s): Dickson, William P. (William Purdie), 1823-1901 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 43,999 words (really short) Grade range: 8-11 (high school) Readability score: 68 (easy)
Identifier: etext3186
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories
by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

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Title: The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories

Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Release Date: August 19, 2006 [EBook #3186]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER AND ***




Produced by David Widger and Be Wolf





THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER

by Mark Twain



Contents:
     The Mysterious Stranger
     A Fable
     Hunting The Deceitful Turkey
     The Mcwilliamses And The Burglar Alarm





THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER


Chapter 1

It was in 1590--winter.  Austria was far away from the world, and asleep;
it was still the Middle Ages in Austria, and promised to remain so
forever.  Some even set it away back centuries upon centuries and said
that by the mental and spiritual clock it was still the Age of Belief in
Austria.  But they meant it as a compliment, not a slur, and it was so
taken, and we were all proud of it.  I remember it well, although I was
only a boy; and I remember, too, the pleasure it gave me.

Yes, Austria was far from the world, and asleep, and our village was in
the middle of that sleep, being in the middle of Austria.  It drowsed in
peace in the deep privacy of a hilly and woodsy solitude where news from
the world hardly ever came to disturb its dreams, and was infinitely
content.  At its front flowed the tranquil river, its surface painted
with cloud-forms and the reflections of drifting arks and stone-boats;
behind it rose the woody steeps to the base of the lofty precipice; from
the top of the precipice frowned a vast castle, its long stretch of
towers and bastions mailed in vines; beyond the river, a league to the
left, was a tumbled expanse of forest-clothed hills cloven by winding
gorges where the sun never penetrated; and to the right a precipice
overlooked the river, and between it and the hills just spoken of lay a
far-reaching plain dotted with little homesteads nested among orchards
and shade trees.

The whole region for leagues around was the hereditary property of a
prince, whose servants kept the castle always in perfect condition for
occupancy, but neither he nor his family came there oftener than once in
five years.  When they came it was as if the lord of the world had
arrived, and had brought all the glories of its kingdoms along; and when
they went they left a calm behind which was like the deep sleep which
follows an orgy.

Eseldorf was a paradise for us boys.  We were not overmuch pestered with
schooling.  Mainly we were trained to be good Christians; to revere the
Virgin, the Church, and the saints above everything.  Beyond these
matters we were not required to know much; and, in fact, not allowed to.
Knowledge was not good for the common people, and could make them
discontented with the lot which God had appointed for them, and God would
not endure discontentment with His plans.  We had two priests.  One of
them, Father Adolf, was a very zealous and strenuous priest, much
considered.

There may have been better priests, in some ways, than Father Adolf, but
there was never one in our commune who was held in more solemn and awful
respect.  This was because he had absolutely no fear of the Devil.  He
was the only Christian I have ever known of whom that could be truly
said.  People stood in deep dread of him on that account; for they
thought that there must be something supernatural about him, else he
could not be so bold and so confident.  All men speak in bitter
disapproval of the Devil, but they do it reverently, not flippantly; but
Father Adolf's way was very different; he called him by every name he
could lay his tongue to, and it made everyone shudder that heard him; and
often he would even speak of him scornfully and scoffingly; then the
people crossed themselves and went quickly out of his presence, fearing
that something fearful might happen.

Father Adolf had actually met Satan face to face more than once, and
defied him.  This was known to be so.  Father Adolf said it himself.  He
never made any secret of it, but spoke it right out.  And that he was
speaking true there was proof in at least one instance, for on that
occasion he quarreled with the enemy, and intrepidly threw his bottle at
him; and there, upon the wall of his study, was the ruddy splotch where
it struck and broke.

But it was Father Peter, the other priest, that we all loved best and
were sorriest for.  Some people charged him with talking around in
conversation that God was all goodness and would find a way to save all
his poor human children.  It was a horrible thing to say, but there was
never any absolute proof that Father Peter said it; and it was out of
character for him to say it, too, for he was always good and gentle and
truthful.  He wasn't charged with saying it in the pulpit, where all the
congregation could hear and testify, but only outside, in talk; and it is
easy for enemies to manufacture that.  Father Peter had an enemy and a
very powerful one, the astrologer who lived in a tumbled old tower up the
valley, and put in his nights studying the stars.  Every one knew he
could foretell wars and famines, though that was not so hard, for there
was always a war, and generally a famine somewhere.  But he could also
read any man's life through the stars in a big book he had, and find lost
property, and every one in the village except Father Peter stood in awe
of him.  Even Father Adolf, who had defied the Devil, had a wholesome
respect for the astrologer when he came through our village wearing his
tall, pointed hat and his long, flowing robe with stars on it, carrying
his big book, and a staff which was known to have magic power.  The
bishop himself sometimes listened to the astrologer, it was said, for,
besides studying the stars and prophesying, the astrologer made a great
show of piety, which would impress the bishop, of course.

But Father Peter took no stock in the astrologer.  He denounced him
openly as a charlatan--a fraud with no valuable knowledge of any kind, or
powers beyond those of an ordinary and rather inferior human being, which
naturally made the astrologer hate Father Peter and wish to ruin him.  It
was the astrologer, as we all believed, who originated the story about
Father Peter's shocking remark and carried it to the bishop.  It was said
that Father Peter had made the remark to his niece, Marget, though Marget
denied it and implored the bishop to believe her and spare her old uncle
from poverty and disgrace.  But the bishop wouldn't listen.  He suspended
Father Peter indefinitely, though he wouldn't go so far as to
excommunicate him on the evidence of only one witness; and now Father
Peter had been out a couple of years, and our other priest, Father Adolf,
had his flock.

Those had been hard years for the old priest and Marget.  They had been
favorites, but of course that changed when they came under the shadow of
the bishop's frown.  Many of their friends fell away entirely, and the
rest became cool and distant.  Marget was a lovely girl of eighteen when
the trouble came, and she had the best head in the village, and the most
in it.  She taught the harp, and earned all her clothes and pocket money
by her own industry.  But her scholars fell off one by one now; she was
forgotten when there were dances and parties among the youth of the
village; the young fellows stopped coming to the house, all except
Wilhelm Meidling--and he could have been spared; she and her uncle were
sad and forlorn in their neglect and disgrace, and the sunshine was gone
out of their lives.  Matters went worse and worse, all through the two
years.  Clothes were wearing out, bread was harder and harder to get.
And now, at last, the very end was come.  Solomon Isaacs had lent all the
money he was willing to put on the house, and gave notice that to-morrow
he would foreclose.




Chapter 2

Three of us boys were always together, and had been so from the cradle,
being fond of one another from the beginning, and this affection deepened
as the years went on--Nikolaus Bauman, son of the principal judge of the
local court; Seppi Wohlmeyer, son of the keeper of the principal inn, the
"Golden Stag," which had a nice garden, with shade trees reaching down to
the riverside, and pleasure boats for hire; and I was the third--Theodor
Fischer, son of the church organist, who was also leader of the village
musicians, teacher of the violin, composer, tax-collector of the commune,
sexton, and in other ways a useful citizen, and respected by all.  We
knew the hills and the woods as well as the birds knew them; for we were
always roaming them when we had leisure--at least, when we were not
swimming or boating or fishing, or playing on the ice or sliding down
hill.

And we had the run of the castle park, and very few had that.  It was
because we were pets of the oldest servingman in the castle--Felix
Brandt; and often we went there, nights, to hear him talk about old times
and strange things, and to smoke with him (he taught us that) and to
drink coffee; for he had served in the wars, and was at the siege of
Vienna; and there, when the Turks were defeated and driven away, among
the captured things were bags of coffee, and the Turkish prisoners
explained the character of it and how to make a pleasant drink out of it,
and now he always kept coffee by him, to drink himself and also to
astonish the ignorant with.  When it stormed he kept us all night; and
while it thundered and lightened outside he told us about ghosts and
horrors of every kind, and of battles and murders and mutilations, and
such things, and made it pleasant and cozy inside; and he told these
things from his own experience largely.  He had seen many ghosts in his
time, and witches and enchanters, and once he was lost in a fierce storm
at midnight in the mountains, and by the glare of the lightning had seen
the Wild Huntsman rage on the blast with his specter dogs chasing after
him through the driving cloud-rack.  Also he had seen an incubus once,
and several times he had seen the great bat that sucks the blood from the
necks of people while they are asleep, fanning them softly with its wings
and so keeping them drowsy till they die.

He encouraged us not to fear supernatural things, such as ghosts, and
said they did no harm, but only wandered about because they were lonely
and distressed and wanted kindly notice and compassion; and in time we
learned not to be afraid, and even went down with him in the night to the
haunted chamber in the dungeons of the castle.  The ghost appeared only
once, and it went by very dim to the sight and floated noiseless through
the air, and then disappeared; and we scarcely trembled, he had taught us
so well.  He said it came up sometimes in the night and woke him by
passing its clammy hand over his face, but it did him no hurt; it only
wanted sympathy and notice.  But the strangest thing was that he had seen
angels--actual angels out of heaven--and had talked with them.  They had
no wings, and wore clothes, and talked and looked and acted just like any
natural person, and you would never know them for angels except for the
wonderful things they did which a mortal could not do, and the way they
suddenly disappeared while you were talking with them, which was also a
thing which no mortal could do.  And he said they were pleasant and
cheerful, not gloomy and melancholy, like ghosts.

It was after that kind of a talk one May night that we got up next
morning and had a good breakfast with him and then went down and crossed
the bridge and went away up into the hills on the left to a woody
hill-top which was a favorite place of ours, and there we stretched out
on the grass in the shade to rest and smoke and talk over these strange
things, for they were in our minds yet, and impressing us.  But we
couldn't smoke, because we had been heedless and left our flint and steel
behind.

Soon there came a youth strolling toward us through the trees, and he sat
down and began to talk in a friendly way, just as if he knew us.  But we
did not answer him, for he was a stranger and we were not used to
strangers and were shy of them.  He had new and good clothes on, and was
handsome and had a winning face and a pleasant voice, and was easy and
graceful and unembarrassed, not slouchy and awkward and diffident, like
other boys.  We wanted to be friendly with him, but didn't know how to
begin.  Then I thought of the pipe, and wondered if it would be taken as
kindly meant if I offered it to him.  But I remembered that we had no
fire, so I was sorry and disappointed.  But he looked up bright and
pleased, and said:

"Fire?  Oh, that is easy; I will furnish it."

I was so astonished I couldn't speak; for I had not said anything.  He
took the pipe and blew his breath on it, and the tobacco glowed red, and
spirals of blue smoke rose up.  We jumped up and were going to run, for
that was natural; and we did run a few steps, although he was yearningly
pleading for us to stay, and giving us his word that he would not do us
any harm, but only wanted to be friends with us and have company.  So we
stopped and stood, and wanted to go back, being full of curiosity and
wonder, but afraid to venture.  He went on coaxing, in his soft,
persuasive way; and when we saw that the pipe did not blow up and nothing
happened, our confidence returned by little and little, and presently our
curiosity got to be stronger than our fear, and we ventured back--but
slowly, and ready to fly at any alarm.

He was bent on putting us at ease, and he had the right art; one could
not remain doubtful and timorous where a person was so earnest and simple
and gentle, and talked so alluringly as he did; no, he won us over, and
it was not long before we were content and comfortable and chatty, and
glad we had found this new friend.  When the feeling of constraint was
all gone we asked him how he had learned to do that strange thing, and he
said he hadn't learned it at all; it came natural to him--like other
things--other curious things.

"What ones?"

"Oh, a number; I don't know how many."

"Will you let us see you do them?"

"Do--please!" the others said.

"You won't run away again?"

"No--indeed we won't.  Please do.  Won't you?"

"Yes, with pleasure; but you mustn't forget your promise, you know."

We said we wouldn't, and he went to a puddle and came back with water in
a cup which he had made out of a leaf, and blew upon it and threw it out,
and it was a lump of ice the shape of the cup.  We were astonished and
charmed, but not afraid any more; we were very glad to be there, and
asked him to go on and do some more things.  And he did.  He said he
would give us any kind of fruit we liked, whether it was in season or
not.  We all spoke at once;

"Orange!"

"Apple!"

"Grapes!"

"They are in your pockets," he said, and it was true.  And they were of
the best, too, and we ate them and wished we had more, though none of us
said so.

"You will find them where those came from," he said, "and everything else
your appetites call for; and you need not name the thing you wish; as
long as I am with you, you have only to wish and find."

And he said true.  There was never anything so wonderful and so
interesting.  Bread, cakes, sweets, nuts--whatever one wanted, it was
there.  He ate nothing himself, but sat and chatted, and did one curious
thing after another to amuse us.  He made a tiny toy squirrel out of
clay, and it ran up a tree and sat on a limb overhead and barked down at
us.  Then he made a dog that was not much larger than a mouse, and it
treed the squirrel and danced about the tree, excited and barking, and
was as alive as any dog could be.  It frightened the squirrel from tree
to tree and followed it up until both were out of sight in the forest.
He made birds out of clay and set them free, and they flew away, singing.

At last I made bold to ask him to tell us who he was.

"An angel," he said, quite simply, and set another bird free and clapped
his hands and made it fly away.

A kind of awe fell upon us when we heard him say that, and we were afraid
again; but he said we need not be troubled, there was no occasion for us
to be afraid of an angel, and he liked us, anyway.  He went on chatting
as simply and unaffectedly as ever; and while he talked he made a crowd
of little men and women the size of your finger, and they went diligently
to work and cleared and leveled off a space a couple of yards square in
the grass and began to build a cunning little castle in it, the women
mixing the mortar and carrying it up the scaffoldings in pails on their
heads, just as our work-women have always done, and the men laying the
courses of masonry--five hundred of these toy people swarming briskly
about and working diligently and wiping the sweat off their faces as
natural as life.  In the absorbing interest of watching those five
hundred little people make the castle grow step by step and course by
course, and take shape and symmetry, that feeling and awe soon passed
away and we were quite comfortable and at home again.  We asked if we
might make some people, and he said yes, and told Seppi to make some
cannon for the walls, and told Nikolaus to make some halberdiers, with
breastplates and greaves and helmets, and I was to make some cavalry,
with horses, and in allotting these tasks he called us by our names, but
did not say how he knew them.  Then Seppi asked him what his own name
was, and he said, tranquilly, "Satan," and held out a chip and caught a
little woman on it who was falling from the scaffolding and put her back
where she belonged, and said, "She is an idiot to step backward like that
and not notice what she is about."

It caught us suddenly, that name did, and our work dropped out of our
hands and broke to pieces--a cannon, a halberdier, and a horse.  Satan
laughed, and asked what was the matter.  I said, "Nothing, only it seemed
a strange name for an angel." He asked why.

"Because it's--it's--well, it's his name, you know."

"Yes--he is my uncle."

He said it placidly, but it took our breath for a moment and made our
hearts beat.  He did not seem to notice that, but mended our halberdiers
and things with a touch, handing them to us finished, and said, "Don't
you remember?--he was an angel himself, once."

"Yes--it's true," said Seppi; "I didn't think of that."

"Before the Fall he was blameless."

"Yes," said Nikolaus, "he was without sin."

"It is a good family--ours," said Satan; "there is not a better.  He is
the only member of it that has ever sinned."

I should not be able to make any one understand how exciting it all was.
You know that kind of quiver that trembles around through you when you
are seeing something so strange and enchanting and wonderful that it is
just a fearful joy to be alive and look at it; and you know how you gaze,
and your lips turn dry and your breath comes short, but you wouldn't be
anywhere but there, not for the world.  I was bursting to ask one
question--I had it on my tongue's end and could hardly hold it back--but
I was ashamed to ask it; it might be a rudeness.  Satan set an ox down
that he had been making, and smiled up at me and said:

"It wouldn't be a rudeness, and I should forgive it if it was.  Have I
seen him?  Millions of times.  From the time that I was a little child a
thousand years old I was his second favorite among the nursery angels of
our blood and lineage--to use a human phrase--yes, from that time until
the Fall, eight thousand years, measured as you count time."

"Eight--thousand!"

"Yes." He turned to Seppi, and went on as if answering something that was
in Seppi's mind: "Why, naturally I look like a boy, for that is what I
am.  With us what you call time is a spacious thing; it takes a long
stretch of it to grow an angel to full age."  There was a question in my
mind, and he turned to me and answered it, "I am sixteen thousand years
old--counting as you count."  Then he turned to Nikolaus and said: "No,
the Fall did not affect me nor the rest of the relationship.  It was only
he that I was named for who ate of the fruit of the tree and then
beguiled the man and the woman with it.  We others are still ignorant of
sin; we are not able to commit it; we are without blemish, and shall
abide in that estate always.  We--" Two of the little workmen were
quarreling, and in buzzing little bumblebee voices they were cursing and
swearing at each other; now came blows and blood; then they locked
themselves together in a life-and-death struggle.  Satan reached out his
hand and crushed the life out of them with his fingers, threw them away,
wiped the red from his fingers on his handkerchief, and went on talking
where he had left off: "We cannot do wrong; neither have we any
disposition to do it, for we do not know what it is."

It seemed a strange speech, in the circumstances, but we barely noticed
that, we were so shocked and grieved at the wanton murder he had
committed--for murder it was, that was its true name, and it was without
palliation or excuse, for the men had not wronged him in any way.  It
made us miserable, for we loved him, and had thought him so noble and so
beautiful and gracious, and had honestly believed he was an angel; and to
have him do this cruel thing--ah, it lowered him so, and we had had such
pride in him.  He went right on talking, just as if nothing had happened,
telling about his travels, and the interesting things he had seen in the
big worlds of our solar systems and of other solar systems far away in
the remotenesses of space, and about the customs of the immortals that
inhabit them, somehow fascinating us, enchanting us, charming us in spite
of the pitiful scene that was now under our eyes, for the wives of the
little dead men had found the crushed and shapeless bodies and were
crying over them, and sobbing and lamenting, and a priest was kneeling
there with his hands crossed upon his breast, praying; and crowds and
crowds of pitying friends were massed about them, reverently uncovered,
with their bare heads bowed, and many with the tears running down--a
scene which Satan paid no attention to until the small noise of the
weeping and praying began to annoy him, then he reached out and took the
heavy board seat out of our swing and brought it down and mashed all
those people into the earth just as if they had been flies, and went on
talking just the same.

An angel, and kill a priest!  An angel who did not know how to do wrong,
and yet destroys in cold blood hundreds of helpless poor men and women
who had never done him any harm!  It made us sick to see that awful deed,
and to think that none of those poor creatures was prepared except the
priest, for none of them had ever heard a mass or seen a church.  And we
were witnesses; we had seen these murders done and it was our duty to
tell, and let the law take its course.

But he went on talking right along, and worked his enchantments upon us
again with that fatal music of his voice.  He made us forget everything;
we could only listen to him, and love him, and be his slaves, to do with
us as he would.  He made us drunk with the joy of being with him, and of
looking into the heaven of his eyes, and of feeling the ecstasy that
thrilled along our veins from the touch of his hand.




Chapter 3

The Stranger had seen everything, he had been everywhere, he knew
everything, and he forgot nothing.  What another must study, he learned
at a glance; there were no difficulties for him.  And he made things live
before you when he told about them.  He saw the world made; he saw Adam
created; he saw Samson surge against the pillars and bring the temple
down in ruins about him; he saw Caesar's death; he told of the daily life
in heaven; he had seen the damned writhing in the red waves of hell; and
he made us see all these things, and it was as if we were on the spot and
looking at them with our own eyes.  And we felt them, too, but there was
no sign that they were anything to him beyond mere entertainments.  Those
visions of hell, those poor babes and women and girls and lads and men
shrieking and supplicating in anguish--why, we could hardly bear it, but
he was as bland about it as if it had been so many imitation rats in an
artificial fire.

And always when he was talking about men and women here on the earth and
their doings--even their grandest and sublimest--we were secretly
ashamed, for his manner showed that to him they and their doings were of
paltry poor consequence; often you would think he was talking about
flies, if you didn't know.  Once he even said, in so many words, that our
people down here were quite interesting to him, notwithstanding they were
so dull and ignorant and trivial and conceited, and so diseased and
rickety, and such a shabby, poor, worthless lot all around.  He said it
in a quite matter-of-course way and without bitterness, just as a person
might talk about bricks or manure or any other thing that was of no
consequence and hadn't feelings.  I could see he meant no offense, but in
my thoughts I set it down as not very good manners.

"Manners!" he said.  "Why, it is merely the truth, and truth is good
manners; manners are a fiction.  The castle is done.  Do you like it?"

Any one would have been obliged to like it.  It was lovely to look at, it
was so shapely and fine, and so cunningly perfect in all its particulars,
even to the little flags waving from the turrets.  Satan said we must put
the artillery in place now, and station the halberdiers and display the
cavalry.  Our men and horses were a spectacle to see, they were so little
like what they were intended for; for, of course, we had no art in making
such things.  Satan said they were the worst he had seen; and when he
touched them and made them alive, it was just ridiculous the way they
acted, on account of their legs not being of uniform lengths.  They
reeled and sprawled around as if they were drunk, and endangered
everybody's lives around them, and finally fell over and lay helpless and
kicking.  It made us all laugh, though it was a shameful thing to see.
The guns were charged with dirt, to fire a salute, but they were so
crooked and so badly made that they all burst when they went off, and
killed some of the gunners and crippled the others.  Satan said we would
have a storm now, and an earthquake, if we liked, but we must stand off a
piece, out of danger.  We wanted to call the people away, too, but he
said never mind them; they were of no consequence, and we could make
more, some time or other, if we needed them.

A small storm-cloud began to settle down black over the castle, and the
miniature lightning and thunder began to play, and the ground to quiver,
and the wind to pipe and wheeze, and the rain to fall, and all the people
flocked into the castle for shelter.  The cloud settled down blacker and
blacker, and one could see the castle only dimly through it; the
lightning blazed out flash upon flash and pierced the castle and set it
on fire, and the flames shone out red and fierce through the cloud, and
the people came flying out, shrieking, but Satan brushed them back,
paying no attention to our begging and crying and imploring; and in the
midst of the howling of the wind and volleying of the thunder the
magazine blew up, the earthquake rent the ground wide, and the castle's
wreck and ruin tumbled into the chasm, which swallowed it from sight, and
closed upon it, with all that innocent life, not one of the five hundred
poor creatures escaping.  Our hearts were broken; we could not keep from
crying.

"Don't cry," Satan said; "they were of no value."

"But they are gone to hell!"

"Oh, it is no matter; we can make plenty more."

It was of no use to try to move him; evidently he was wholly without
feeling, and could not understand.  He was full of bubbling spirits, and
as gay as if this were a wedding instead of a fiendish massacre.  And he
was bent on making us feel as he did, and of course his magic
accomplished his desire.  It was no trouble to him; he did whatever he
pleased with us.  In a little while we were dancing on that grave, and he
was playing to us on a strange, sweet instrument which he took out of his
pocket; and the music--but there is no music like that, unless perhaps in
heaven, and that was where he brought it from, he said.  It made one mad,
for pleasure; and we could not take our eyes from him, and the looks that
went out of our eyes came from our hearts, and their dumb speech was
worship.  He brought the dance from heaven, too, and the bliss of
paradise was in it.

Presently he said he must go away on an errand.  But we could not bear
the thought of it, and clung to him, and pleaded with him to stay; and
that pleased him, and he said so, and said he would not go yet, but would
wait a little while and we would sit down and talk a few minutes longer;
and he told us Satan was only his real name, and he was to be known by it
to us alone, but he had chosen another one to be called by in the
presence of others; just a common one, such as people have--Philip Traum.

It sounded so odd and mean for such a being!  But it was his decision,
and we said nothing; his decision was sufficient.

We had seen wonders this day; and my thoughts began to run on the
pleasure it would be to tell them when I got home, but he noticed those
thoughts, and said:

"No, all these matters are a secret among us four.  I do not mind your
trying to tell them, if you like, but I will protect your tongues, and
nothing of the secret will escape from them."

It was a disappointment, but it couldn't be helped, and it cost us a sigh
or two.  We talked pleasantly along, and he was always reading our
thoughts and responding to them, and it seemed to me that this was the
most wonderful of all the things he did, but he interrupted my musings
and said:

"No, it would be wonderful for you, but it is not wonderful for me.  I am
not limited like you.  I am not subject to human conditions.  I can
measure and understand your human weaknesses, for I have studied them;
but I have none of them.  My flesh is not real, although it would seem
firm to your touch; my clothes are not real; I am a spirit.  Father Peter
is coming."  We looked around, but did not see any one.  "He is not in
sight yet, but you will see him presently."

"Do you know him, Satan?"

"No."

"Won't you talk with him when he comes?  He is not ignorant and dull,
like us, and he would so like to talk with you.  Will you?"

"Another time, yes, but not now.  I must go on my errand after a little.
There he is now; you can see him.  Sit still, and don't say anything."

We looked up and saw Father Peter approaching through the chestnuts.  We
three were sitting together in the grass, and Satan sat in front of us in
the path.  Father Peter came slowly along with his head down, thinking,
and stopped within a couple of yards of us and took off his hat and got
out his silk handkerchief, and stood there mopping his face and looking
as if he were going to speak to us, but he didn't.  Presently he
muttered, "I can't think what brought me here; it seems as if I were in
my study a minute ago--but I suppose I have been dreaming along for an
hour and have come all this stretch without noticing; for I am not myself
in these troubled days."  Then he went mumbling along to himself and
walked straight through Satan, just as if nothing were there.  It made us
catch our breath to see it.  We had the impulse to cry out, the way you
nearly always do when a startling thing happens, but something
mysteriously restrained us and we remained quiet, only breathing fast.
Then the trees hid Father Peter after a little, and Satan said:

"It is as I told you--I am only a spirit."

"Yes, one perceives it now," said Nikolaus, "but we are not spirits.  It
is plain he did not see you, but were we invisible, too?  He looked at
us, but he didn't seem to see us."

"No, none of us was visible to him, for I wished it so."

It seemed almost too good to be true, that we were actually seeing these
romantic and wonderful things, and that it was not a dream.  And there he
sat, looking just like anybody--so natural and simple and charming, and
chatting along again the same as ever, and--well, words cannot make you
understand what we felt.  It was an ecstasy; and an ecstasy is a thing
that will not go into words; it feels like music, and one cannot tell
about music so that another person can get the feeling of it.  He was
back in the old ages once more now, and making them live before us.  He
had seen so much, so much!  It was just a wonder to look at him and try
to think how it must seem to have such experience behind one.

But it made you seem sorrowfully trivial, and the creature of a day, and
such a short and paltry day, too.  And he didn't say anything to raise up
your drooping pride--no, not a word.  He always spoke of men in the same
old indifferent way--just as one speaks of bricks and manure-piles and
such things; you could see that they were of no consequence to him, one
way or the other.  He didn't mean to hurt us, you could see that; just as
we don't mean to insult a brick when we disparage it; a brick's emotions
are nothing to us; it never occurs to us to think whether it has any or
not.

Once when he was bunching the most illustrious kings and conquerors and
poets and prophets and pirates and beggars together--just a brick-pile--I
was shamed into putting in a word for man, and asked him why he made so
much difference between men and himself.  He had to struggle with that a
moment; he didn't seem to understand how I could ask such a strange
question.  Then he said:

"The difference between man and me?  The difference between a mortal and
an immortal? between a cloud and a spirit?" He picked up a wood-louse
that was creeping along a piece of bark: "What is the difference between
Caesar and this?"

I said, "One cannot compare things which by their nature and by the
interval between them are not comparable."

"You have answered your own question," he said.  "I will expand it.  Man
is made of dirt--I saw him made.  I am not made of dirt.  Man is a museum
of diseases, a home of impurities; he comes to-day and is gone to-morrow;
he begins as dirt and departs as stench; I am of the aristocracy of the
Imperishables.  And man has the Moral Sense.  You understand?  He has the
Moral Sense.  That would seem to be difference enough between us, all by
itself."

He stopped there, as if that settled the matter.  I was sorry, for at
that time I had but a dim idea of what the Moral Sense was.  I merely
knew that we were proud of having it, and when he talked like that about
it, it wounded me, and I felt as a girl feels who thinks her dearest
finery is being admired and then overhears strangers making fun of it.
For a while we were all silent, and I, for one, was depressed.  Then
Satan began to chat again, and soon he was sparkling along in such a
cheerful and vivacious vein that my spirits rose once more.  He told some
very cunning things that put us in a gale of laughter; and when he was
telling about the time that Samson tied the torches to the foxes' tails
and set them loose in the Philistines' corn, and Samson sitting on the
fence slapping his thighs and laughing, with the tears running down his
cheeks, and lost his balance and fell off the fence, the memory of that
picture got him to laughing, too, and we did have a most lovely and jolly
time.  By and by he said:

"I am going on my errand now."

"Don't!" we all said.  "Don't go; stay with us.  You won't come back."

"Yes, I will; I give you my word."

"When?  To-night?  Say when."

"It won't be long.  You will see."

"We like you."

"And I you.  And as a proof of it I will show you something fine to see.
Usually when I go I merely vanish; but now I will dissolve myself and let
you see me do it."

He stood up, and it was quickly finished.  He thinned away and thinned
away until he was a soap-bubble, except that he kept his shape.  You
could see the bushes through him as clearly as you see things through a
soap-bubble, and all over him played and flashed the delicate iridescent
colors of the bubble, and along with them was that thing shaped like a
window-sash which you always see on the globe of the bubble.  You have
seen a bubble strike the carpet and lightly bound along two or three
times before it bursts.  He did that.  He sprang--touched the grass
--bounded--floated along--touched again--and so on, and presently
exploded--puff! and in his place was vacancy.

It was a strange and beautiful thing to see.  We did not say anything,
but sat wondering and dreaming and blinking; and finally Seppi roused up
and said, mournfully sighing:

"I suppose none of it has happened."

Nikolaus sighed and said about the same.

I was miserable to hear them say it, for it was the same cold fear that
was in my own mind.  Then we saw poor old Father Peter wandering along
back, with his head bent down, searching the ground.  When he was pretty
close to us he looked up and saw us, and said, "How long have you been
here, boys?"

"A little while, Father."

"Then it is since I came by, and maybe you can help me.  Did you come up
by the path?"

"Yes, Father."

"That is good.  I came the same way.  I have lost my wallet.  There
wasn't much in it, but a very little is much to me, for it was all I had.
I suppose you haven't seen anything of it?"

"No, Father, but we will help you hunt."

"It is what I was going to ask you.  Why, here it is!"

We hadn't noticed it; yet there it lay, right where Satan stood when he
began to melt--if he did melt and it wasn't a delusion.  Father Peter
picked it up and looked very much surprised.

"It is mine," he said, "but not the contents.  This is fat; mine was
flat; mine was light; this is heavy."  He opened it; it was stuffed as
full as it could hold with gold coins.  He let us gaze our fill; and of
course we did gaze, for we had never seen so much money at one time
before.  All our mouths came open to say "Satan did it!" but nothing came
out.  There it was, you see--we couldn't tell what Satan didn't want
told; he had said so himself.

"Boys, did you do this?"

It made us laugh.  And it made him laugh, too, as soon as he thought what
a foolish question it was.

"Who has been here?"

Our mouths came open to answer, but stood so for a moment, because we
couldn't say "Nobody," for it wouldn't be true, and the right word didn't
seem to come; then I thought of the right one, and said it:

"Not a human being."

"That is so," said the others, and let their mouths go shut.

"It is not so," said Father Peter, and looked at us very severely.  "I
came by here a while ago, and there was no one here, but that is nothing;
some one has been here since.  I don't mean to say that the person didn't
pass here before you came, and I don't mean to say you saw him, but some
one did pass, that I know.  On your honor--you saw no one?"

"Not a human being."

"That is sufficient; I know you are telling me the truth."

He began to count the money on the path, we on our knees eagerly helping
to stack it in little piles.

"It's eleven hundred ducats odd!" he said.  "Oh dear! if it were only
mine--and I need it so!" and his voice broke and his lips quivered.

"It is yours, sir!" we all cried out at once, "every heller!"

"No--it isn't mine.  Only four ducats are mine; the rest...!" He fell to
dreaming, poor old soul, and caressing some of the coins in his hands,
and forgot where he was, sitting there on his heels with his old gray
head bare; it was pitiful to see.  "No," he said, waking up, "it isn't
mine.  I can't account for it.  I think some enemy...  it must be a
trap."

Nikolaus said: "Father Peter, with the exception of the astrologer you
haven't a real enemy in the village--nor Marget, either.  And not even a
half-enemy that's rich enough to chance eleven hundred ducats to do you a
mean turn.  I'll ask you if that's so or not?"

He couldn't get around that argument, and it cheered him up.  "But it
isn't mine, you see--it isn't mine, in any case."

He said it in a wistful way, like a person that wouldn't be sorry, but
glad, if anybody would contradict him.

"It is yours, Father Peter, and we are witness to it.  Aren't we, boys?"

"Yes, we are--and we'll stand by it, too."

"Bless your hearts, you do almost persuade me; you do, indeed.  If I had
only a hundred-odd ducats of it!  The house is mortgaged for it, and
we've no home for our heads if we don't pay to-morrow.  And that four
ducats is all we've got in the--"

"It's yours, every bit of it, and you've got to take it--we are bail that
it's all right.  Aren't we, Theodor?  Aren't we, Seppi?"

We two said yes, and Nikolaus stuffed the money back into the shabby old
wallet and made the owner take it.  So he said he would use two hundred
of it, for his house was good enough security for that, and would put the
rest at interest till the rightful owner came for it; and on our side we
must sign a paper showing how he got the money--a paper to show to the
villagers as proof that he had not got out of his troubles dishonestly.




Chapter 4

It made immense talk next day, when Father Peter paid Solomon Isaacs in
gold and left the rest of the money with him at interest.  Also, there
was a pleasant change; many people called at the house to congratulate
him, and a number of cool old friends became kind and friendly again;
and, to top all, Marget was invited to a party.

And there was no mystery; Father Peter told the whole circumstance just
as it happened, and said he could not account for it, only it was the
plain hand of Providence, so far as he could see.

One or two shook their heads and said privately it looked more like the
hand of Satan; and really that seemed a surprisingly good guess for
ignorant people like that.  Some came slyly buzzing around and tried to
coax us boys to come out and "tell the truth;" and promised they wouldn't
ever tell, but only wanted to know for their own satisfaction, because
the whole thing was so curious.  They even wanted to buy the secret, and
pay money for it; and if we could have invented something that would
answer--but we couldn't; we hadn't the ingenuity, so we had to let the
chance go by, and it was a pity.

We carried that secret around without any trouble, but the other one, the
big one, the splendid one, burned the very vitals of us, it was so hot to
get out and we so hot to let it out and astonish people with it.  But we
had to keep it in; in fact, it kept itself in.  Satan said it would, and
it did.  We went off every day and got to ourselves in the woods so that
we could talk about Satan, and really that was the only subject we
thought of or cared anything about; and day and night we watched for him
and hoped he would come, and we got more and more impatient all the time.
We hadn't any interest in the other boys any more, and wouldn't take part
in their games and enterprises.  They seemed so tame, after Satan; and
their doings so trifling and commonplace after his adventures in
antiquity and the constellations, and his miracles and meltings and
explosions, and all that.

During the first day we were in a state of anxiety on account of one
thing, and we kept going to Father Peter's house on one pretext or
another to keep track of it.  That was the gold coin; we were afraid it
would crumble and turn to dust, like fairy money.  If it did--But it
didn't.  At the end of the day no complaint had been made about it, so
after that we were satisfied that it was real gold, and dropped the
anxiety out of our minds.

There was a question which we wanted to ask Father Peter, and finally we
went there the second evening, a little diffidently, after drawing
straws, and I asked it as casually as I could, though it did not sound as
casual as I wanted, because I didn't know how:

"What is the Moral Sense, sir?"

He looked down, surprised, over his great spectacles, and said, "Why, it
is the faculty which enables us to distinguish good from evil."

It threw some light, but not a glare, and I was a little disappointed,
also to some degree embarrassed.  He was waiting for me to go on, so, in
default of anything else to say, I asked, "Is it valuable?"

"Valuable?  Heavens! lad, it is the one thing that lifts man above the
beasts that perish and makes him heir to immortality!"

This did not remind me of anything further to say, so I got out, with the
other boys, and we went away with that indefinite sense you have often
had of being filled but not fatted.  They wanted me to explain, but I was
tired.

We passed out through the parlor, and there was Marget at the spinnet
teaching Marie Lueger.  So one of the deserting pupils was back; and an
influential one, too; the others would follow.  Marget jumped up and ran
and thanked us again, with tears in her eyes--this was the third time
--for saving her and her uncle from being turned into the street, and we
told her again we hadn't done it; but that was her way, she never could
be grateful enough for anything a person did for her; so we let her have
her say.  And as we passed through the garden, there was Wilhelm Meidling
sitting there waiting, for it was getting toward the edge of the evening,
and he would be asking Marget to take a walk along the river with him
when she was done with the lesson.  He was a young lawyer, and succeeding
fairly well and working his way along, little by little.  He was very
fond of Marget, and she of him.  He had not deserted along with the
others, but had stood his ground all through.  His faithfulness was not
lost on Marget and her uncle.  He hadn't so very much talent, but he was
handsome and good, and these are a kind of talents themselves and help
along.  He asked us how the lesson was getting along, and we told him it
was about done.  And maybe it was so; we didn't know anything about it,
but we judged it would please him, and it did, and didn't cost us
anything.




Chapter 5

On the fourth day comes the astrologer from his crumbling old tower up
the valley, where he had heard the news, I reckon.  He had a private talk
with us, and we told him what we could, for we were mightily in dread of
him.  He sat there studying and studying awhile to himself; then he
asked:

"How many ducats did you say?"

"Eleven hundred and seven, sir."

Then he said, as if he were talking to himself: "It is ver-y singular.
Yes...  very strange.  A curious coincidence."  Then he began to ask
questions, and went over the whole ground from the beginning, we
answering.  By and by he said: "Eleven hundred and six ducats.  It is a
large sum."

"Seven," said Seppi, correcting him.

"Oh, seven, was it?  Of course a ducat more or less isn't of consequence,
but you said eleven hundred and six before."

It would not have been safe for us to say he was mistaken, but we knew he
was.  Nikolaus said, "We ask pardon for the mistake, but we meant to say
seven."

"Oh, it is no matter, lad; it was merely that I noticed the discrepancy.
It is several days, and you cannot be expected to remember precisely.
One is apt to be inexact when there is no particular circumstance to
impress the count upon the memory."

"But there was one, sir," said Seppi, eagerly.

"What was it, my son?" asked the astrologer, indifferently.

"First, we all counted the piles of coin, each in turn, and all made it
the same--eleven hundred and six.  But I had slipped one out, for fun,
when the count began, and now I slipped it back and said, 'I think there
is a mistake--there are eleven hundred and seven; let us count again.'
We did, and of course I was right.  They were astonished; then I told how
it came about."

The astrologer asked us if this was so, and we said it was.

"That settles it," he said.  "I know the thief now.  Lads, the money was
stolen."

Then he went away, leaving us very much troubled, and wondering what he
could mean.  In about an hour we found out; for by that time it was all
over the village that Father Peter had been arrested for stealing a great
sum of money from the astrologer.  Everybody's tongue was loose and
going.  Many said it was not in Father Peter's character and must be a
mistake; but the others shook their heads and said misery and want could
drive a suffering man to almost anything.  About one detail there were no
differences; all agreed that Father Peter's account of how the money came
into his hands was just about unbelievable--it had such an impossible
look.  They said it might have come into the astrologer's hands in some
such way, but into Father Peter's, never!  Our characters began to suffer
now.  We were Father Peter's only witnesses; how much did he probably pay
us to back up his fantastic tale?  People talked that kind of talk to us
pretty freely and frankly, and were full of scoffings when we begged them
to believe really we had told only the truth.  Our parents were harder on
us than any one else.  Our fathers said we were disgracing our families,
and they commanded us to purge ourselves of our lie, and there was no
limit to their anger when we continued to say we had spoken true.  Our
mothers cried over us and begged us to give back our bribe and get back
our honest names and save our families from shame, and come out and
honorably confess.  And at last we were so worried and harassed that we
tried to tell the whole thing, Satan and all--but no, it wouldn't come
out.  We were hoping and longing all the time that Satan would come and
help us out of our trouble, but there was no sign of him.

Within an hour after the astrologer's talk with us, Father Peter was in
prison and the money sealed up and in the hands of the officers of the
law.  The money was in a bag, and Solomon Isaacs said he had not touched
it since he had counted it; his oath was taken that it was the same
money, and that the amount was eleven hundred and seven ducats.  Father
Peter claimed trial by the ecclesiastical court, but our other priest,
Father Adolf, said an ecclesiastical court hadn't jurisdiction over a
suspended priest.  The bishop upheld him.  That settled it; the case
would go to trial in the civil court.  The court would not sit for some
time to come.  Wilhelm Meidling would be Father Peter's lawyer and do the
best he could, of course, but he told us privately that a weak case on
his side and all the power and prejudice on the other made the outlook
bad.

So Marget's new happiness died a quick death.  No friends came to condole
with her, and none were expected; an unsigned note withdrew her
invitation to the party.  There would be no scholars to take lessons.
How could she support herself?  She could remain in the house, for the
mortgage was paid off, though the government and not poor Solomon Isaacs
had the mortgage-money in its grip for the present.  Old Ursula, who was
cook, chambermaid, housekeeper, laundress, and everything else for Father
Peter, and had been Marget's nurse in earlier years, said God would
provide.  But she said that from habit, for she was a good Christian.
She meant to help in the providing, to make sure, if she could find a
way.

We boys wanted to go and see Marget and show friendliness for her, but
our parents were afraid of offending the community and wouldn't let us.
The astrologer was going around inflaming everybody against Father Peter,
and saying he was an abandoned thief and had stolen eleven hundred and
seven gold ducats from him.  He said he knew he was a thief from that
fact, for it was exactly the sum he had lost and which Father Peter
pretended he had "found."

In the afternoon of the fourth day after the catastrophe old Ursula
appeared at our house and asked for some washing to do, and begged my
mother to keep this secret, to save Marget's pride, who would stop this
project if she found it out, yet Marget had not enough to eat and was
growing weak.  Ursula was growing weak herself, and showed it; and she
ate of the food that was offered her like a starving person, but could
not be persuaded to carry any home, for Marget would not eat charity
food.  She took some clothes down to the stream to wash them, but we saw
from the window that handling the bat was too much for her strength; so
she was called back and a trifle of money offered her, which she was
afraid to take lest Marget should suspect; then she took it, saying she
would explain that she found it in the road.  To keep it from being a lie
and damning her soul, she got me to drop it while she watched; then she
went along by there and found it, and exclaimed with surprise and joy,
and picked it up and went her way.  Like the rest of the village, she
could tell every-day lies fast enough and without taking any precautions
against fire and brimstone on their account; but this was a new kind of
lie, and it had a dangerous look because she hadn't had any practice in
it.  After a week's practice it wouldn't have given her any trouble.  It
is the way we are made.

I was in trouble, for how would Marget live?  Ursula could not find a
coin in the road every day--perhaps not even a second one.  And I was
ashamed, too, for not having been near Marget, and she so in need of
friends; but that was my parents' fault, not mine, and I couldn't help
it.

I was walking along the path, feeling very down-hearted, when a most
cheery and tingling freshening-up sensation went rippling through me, and
I was too glad for any words, for I knew by that sign that Satan was by.
I had noticed it before.  Next moment he was alongside of me and I was
telling him all my trouble and what had been happening to Marget and her
uncle.  While we were talking we turned a curve and saw old Ursula
resting in the shade of a tree, and she had a lean stray kitten in her
lap and was petting it.  I asked her where she got it, and she said it
came out of the woods and followed her; and she said it probably hadn't
any mother or any friends and she was going to take it home and take care
of it.  Satan said:

"I understand you are very poor.  Why do you want to add another mouth to
feed?  Why don't you give it to some rich person?"

Ursula bridled at this and said: "Perhaps you would like to have it.  You
must be rich, with your fine clothes and quality airs."  Then she sniffed
and said: "Give it to the rich--the idea!  The rich don't care for
anybody but themselves; it's only the poor that have feeling for the
poor, and help them.  The poor and God.  God will provide for this
kitten."

"What makes you think so?"

Ursula's eyes snapped with anger.  "Because I know it!" she said.  "Not a
sparrow falls to the ground without His seeing it."

"But it falls, just the same.  What good is seeing it fall?"

Old Ursula's jaws worked, but she could not get any word out for the
moment, she was so horrified.  When she got her tongue, she stormed out,
"Go about your business, you puppy, or I will take a stick to you!"

I could not speak, I was so scared.  I knew that with his notions about
the human race Satan would consider it a matter of no consequence to
strike her dead, there being "plenty more"; but my tongue stood still, I
could give her no warning.  But nothing happened; Satan remained
tranquil--tranquil and indifferent.  I suppose he could not be insulted
by Ursula any more than the king could be insulted by a tumble-bug.  The
old woman jumped to her feet when she made her remark, and did it as
briskly as a young girl.  It had been many years since she had done the
like of that.  That was Satan's influence; he was a fresh breeze to the
weak and the sick, wherever he came.  His presence affected even the lean
kitten, and it skipped to the ground and began to chase a leaf.  This
surprised Ursula, and she stood looking at the creature and nodding her
head wonderingly, her anger quite forgotten.

"What's come over it?" she said.  "Awhile ago it could hardly walk."

"You have not seen a kitten of that breed before," said Satan.

Ursula was not proposing to be friendly with the mocking stranger, and
she gave him an ungentle look and retorted: "Who asked you to come here
and pester me, I'd like to know?  And what do you know about what I've
seen and what I haven't seen?"

"You haven't seen a kitten with the hair-spines on its tongue pointing to
the front, have you?"

"No--nor you, either."

"Well, examine this one and see."

Ursula was become pretty spry, but the kitten was spryer, and she could
not catch it, and had to give it up.  Then Satan said:

"Give it a name, and maybe it will come."

Ursula tried several names, but the kitten was not interested.

"Call it Agnes.  Try that."

The creature answered to the name and came.  Ursula examined its tongue.
"Upon my word, it's true!" she said.  "I have not seen this kind of a cat
before.  Is it yours?"

"No."

"Then how did you know its name so pat?"

"Because all cats of that breed are named Agnes; they will not answer to
any other."

Ursula was impressed.  "It is the most wonderful thing!" Then a shadow of
trouble came into her face, for her superstitions were aroused, and she
reluctantly put the creature down, saying: "I suppose I must let it go; I
am not afraid--no, not exactly that, though the priest--well, I've heard
people--indeed, many people...  And, besides, it is quite well now and
can take care of itself."  She sighed, and turned to go, murmuring: "It
is such a pretty one, too, and would be such company--and the house is so
sad and lonesome these troubled days...  Miss Marget so mournful and just
a shadow, and the old master shut up in jail."

"It seems a pity not to keep it," said Satan.

Ursula turned quickly--just as if she were hoping some one would
encourage her.

"Why?" she asked, wistfully.

"Because this breed brings luck."

"Does it?  Is it true?  Young man, do you know it to be true?  How does
it bring luck?"

"Well, it brings money, anyway."

Ursula looked disappointed.  "Money?  A cat bring money?  The idea!  You
could never sell it here; people do not buy cats here; one can't even
give them away."  She turned to go.

"I don't mean sell it.  I mean have an income from it.  This kind is
called the Lucky Cat.  Its owner finds four silver groschen in his pocket
every morning."

I saw the indignation rising in the old woman's face.  She was insulted.
This boy was making fun of her.  That was her thought.  She thrust her
hands into her pockets and straightened up to give him a piece of her
mind.  Her temper was all up, and hot.  Her mouth came open and let out
three words of a bitter sentence,...  then it fell silent, and the anger
in her face turned to surprise or wonder or fear, or something, and she
slowly brought out her hands from her pockets and opened them and held
them so.  In one was my piece of money, in the other lay four silver
groschen.  She gazed a little while, perhaps to see if the groschen would
vanish away; then she said, fervently:

"It's true--it's true--and I'm ashamed and beg forgiveness, O dear master
and benefactor!" And she ran to Satan and kissed his hand, over and over
again, according to the Austrian custom.

In her heart she probably believed it was a witch-cat and an agent of the
Devil; but no matter, it was all the more certain to be able to keep its
contract and furnish a daily good living for the family, for in matters
of finance even the piousest of our peasants would have more confidence
in an arrangement with the Devil than with an archangel.  Ursula started
homeward, with Agnes in her arms, and I said I wished I had her privilege
of seeing Marget.

Then I caught my breath, for we were there.  There in the parlor, and
Marget standing looking at us, astonished.  She was feeble and pale, but
I knew that those conditions would not last in Satan's atmosphere, and it
turned out so.  I introduced Satan--that is, Philip Traum--and we sat
down and talked.  There was no constraint.  We were simple folk, in our
village, and when a stranger was a pleasant person we were soon friends.
Marget wondered how we got in without her hearing us.  Traum said the
door was open, and we walked in and waited until she should turn around
and greet us.  This was not true; no door was open; we entered through
the walls or the roof or down the chimney, or somehow; but no matter,
what Satan wished a person to believe, the person was sure to believe,
and so Marget was quite satisfied with that explanation.  And then the
main part of her mind was on Traum, anyway; she couldn't keep her eyes
off him, he was so beautiful.  That gratified me, and made me proud.  I
hoped he would show off some, but he didn't.  He seemed only interested
in being friendly and telling lies.  He said he was an orphan.  That made
Marget pity him.  The water came into her eyes.  He said he had never
known his mamma; she passed away while he was a young thing; and said his
papa was in shattered health, and had no property to speak of--in fact,
none of any earthly value--but he had an uncle in business down in the
tropics, and he was very well off and had a monopoly, and it was from
this uncle that he drew his support.  The very mention of a kind uncle
was enough to remind Marget of her own, and her eyes filled again.  She
said she hoped their two uncles would meet, some day.  It made me
shudder.  Philip said he hoped so, too; and that made me shudder again.

"Maybe they will," said Marget.  "Does your uncle travel much?"

"Oh yes, he goes all about; he has business everywhere."

And so they went on chatting, and poor Marget forgot her sorrow for one
little while, anyway.  It was probably the only really bright and cheery
hour she had known lately.  I saw she liked Philip, and I knew she would.
And when he told her he was studying for the ministry I could see that
she liked him better than ever.  And then, when he promised to get her
admitted to the jail so that she could see her uncle, that was the
capstone.  He said he would give the guards a little present, and she
must always go in the evening after dark, and say nothing, "but just show
this paper and pass in, and show it again when you come out,"--and he
scribbled some queer marks on the paper and gave it to her, and she was
ever so thankful, and right away was in a fever for the sun to go down;
for in that old, cruel time prisoners were not allowed to see their
friends, and sometimes they spent years in the jails without ever seeing
a friendly face.  I judged that the marks on the paper were an
enchantment, and that the guards would not know what they were doing, nor
have any memory of it afterward; and that was indeed the way of it.
Ursula put her head in at the door now and said:

"Supper's ready, miss."  Then she saw us and looked frightened, and
motioned me to come to her, which I did, and she asked if we had told
about the cat.  I said no, and she was relieved, and said please don't;
for if Miss Marget knew, she would think it was an unholy cat and would
send for a priest and have its gifts all purified out of it, and then
there wouldn't be any more dividends.  So I said we wouldn't tell, and
she was satisfied.  Then I was beginning to say good-by to Marget, but
Satan interrupted and said, ever so politely--well, I don't remember just
the words, but anyway he as good as invited himself to supper, and me,
too.  Of course Marget was miserably embarrassed, for she had no reason
to suppose there would be half enough for a sick bird.  Ursula heard him,
and she came straight into the room, not a bit pleased.  At first she was
astonished to see Marget looking so fresh and rosy, and said so; then she
spoke up in her native tongue, which was Bohemian, and said--as I learned
afterward--"Send him away, Miss Marget; there's not victuals enough."

Before Marget could speak, Satan had the word, and was talking back to
Ursula in her own language--which was a surprise to her, and for her
mistress, too.  He said, "Didn't I see you down the road awhile ago?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ah, that pleases me; I see you remember me."  He stepped to her and
whispered: "I told you it is a Lucky Cat.  Don't be troubled; it will
provide."

That sponged the slate of Ursula's feelings clean of its anxieties, and a
deep, financial joy shone in her eyes.  The cat's value was augmenting.
It was getting full time for Marget to take some sort of notice of
Satan's invitation, and she did it in the best way, the honest way that
was natural to her.  She said she had little to offer, but that we were
welcome if we would share it with her.

We had supper in the kitchen, and Ursula waited at table.  A small fish
was in the frying-pan, crisp and brown and tempting, and one could see
that Marget was not expecting such respectable food as this.  Ursula
brought it, and Marget divided it between Satan and me, declining to take
any of it herself; and was beginning to say she did not care for fish
to-day, but she did not finish the remark.  It was because she noticed
that another fish had appeared in the pan.  She looked surprised, but did
not say anything.  She probably meant to inquire of Ursula about this
later. There were other surprises: flesh and game and wines and fruits
--things which had been strangers in that house lately; but Marget made
no exclamations, and now even looked unsurprised, which was Satan's
influence, of course.  Satan talked right along, and was entertaining,
and made the time pass pleasantly and cheerfully; and although he told a
good many lies, it was no harm in him, for he was only an angel and did
not know any better.  They do not know right from wrong; I knew this,
because I remembered what he had said about it.  He got on the good side
of Ursula.  He praised her to Marget, confidentially, but speaking just
loud enough for Ursula to hear.  He said she was a fine woman, and he
hoped some day to bring her and his uncle together.  Very soon Ursula was
mincing and simpering around in a ridiculous girly way, and smoothing out
her gown and prinking at herself like a foolish old hen, and all the time
pretending she was not hearing what Satan was saying.  I was ashamed, for
it showed us to be what Satan considered us, a silly race and trivial.
Satan said his uncle entertained a great deal, and to have a clever woman
presiding over the festivities would double the attractions of the place.

"But your uncle is a gentleman, isn't he?" asked Marget.

"Yes," said Satan indifferently; "some even call him a Prince, out of
compliment, but he is not bigoted; to him personal merit is everything,
rank nothing."

My hand was hanging down by my chair; Agnes came along and licked it; by
this act a secret was revealed.  I started to say, "It is all a mistake;
this is just a common, ordinary cat; the hair-needles on her tongue point
inward, not outward."  But the words did not come, because they couldn't.
Satan smiled upon me, and I understood.

When it was dark Marget took food and wine and fruit, in a basket, and
hurried away to the jail, and Satan and I walked toward my home.  I was
thinking to myself that I should like to see what the inside of the jail
was like; Satan overheard the thought, and the next moment we were in the
jail.  We were in the torture-chamber, Satan said.  The rack was there,
and the other instruments, and there was a smoky lantern or two hanging
on the walls and helping to make the place look dim and dreadful.  There
were people there--and executioners--but as they took no notice of us, it
meant that we were invisible.  A young man lay bound, and Satan said he
was suspected of being a heretic, and the executioners were about to
inquire into it.  They asked the man to confess to the charge, and he
said he could not, for it was not true.  Then they drove splinter after
splinter under his nails, and he shrieked with the pain.  Satan was not
disturbed, but I could not endure it, and had to be whisked out of there.
I was faint and sick, but the fresh air revived me, and we walked toward
my home.  I said it was a brutal thing.

"No, it was a human thing.  You should not insult the brutes by such a
misuse of that word; they have not deserved it," and he went on talking
like that.  "It is like your paltry race--always lying, always claiming
virtues which it hasn't got, always denying them to the higher animals,
which alone possess them.  No brute ever does a cruel thing--that is the
monopoly of those with the Moral Sense.  When a brute inflicts pain he
does it innocently; it is not wrong; for him there is no such thing as
wrong.  And he does not inflict pain for the pleasure of inflicting it
--only man does that.  Inspired by that mongrel Moral Sense of his!  A
sense whose function is to distinguish between right and wrong, with
liberty to choose which of them he will do.  Now what advantage can he
get out of that?  He is always choosing, and in nine cases out of ten he
prefers the wrong.  There shouldn't be any wrong; and without the Moral
Sense there couldn't be any.  And yet he is such an unreasoning creature
that he is not able to perceive that the Moral Sense degrades him to the
bottom layer of animated beings and is a shameful possession.  Are you
feeling better?  Let me show you something."




Chapter 6

In a moment we were in a French village.  We walked through a great
factory of some sort, where men and women and little children were
toiling in heat and dirt and a fog of dust; and they were clothed in
rags, and drooped at their work, for they were worn and half starved, and
weak and drowsy.  Satan said:

"It is some more Moral Sense.  The proprietors are rich, and very holy;
but the wage they pay to these poor brothers and sisters of theirs is
only enough to keep them from dropping dead with hunger.  The work-hours
are fourteen per day, winter and summer--from six in the morning till
eight at night--little children and all.  And they walk to and from the
pigsties which they inhabit--four miles each way, through mud and slush,
rain, snow, sleet, and storm, daily, year in and year out.  They get four
hours of sleep.  They kennel together, three families in a room, in
unimaginable filth and stench; and disease comes, and they die off like
flies.  Have they committed a crime, these mangy things?  No.  What have
they done, that they are punished so?  Nothing at all, except getting
themselves born into your foolish race.  You have seen how they treat a
misdoer there in the jail; now you see how they treat the innocent and
the worthy.  Is your race logical?  Are these ill-smelling innocents
better off than that heretic?  Indeed, no; his punishment is trivial
compared with theirs.  They broke him on the wheel and smashed him to
rags and pulp after we left, and he is dead now, and free of your
precious race; but these poor slaves here--why, they have been dying for
years, and some of them will not escape from life for years to come.  It
is the Moral Sense which teaches the factory proprietors the difference
between right and wrong--you perceive the result.  They think themselves
better than dogs.  Ah, you are such an illogical, unreasoning race!  And
paltry--oh, unspeakably!"

Then he dropped all seriousness and just overstrained himself making fun
of us, and deriding our pride in our warlike deeds, our great heroes, our
imperishable fames, our mighty kings, our ancient aristocracies, our
venerable history--and laughed and laughed till it was enough to make a
person sick to hear him; and finally he sobered a little and said, "But,
after all, it is not all ridiculous; there is a sort of pathos about it
when one remembers how few are your days, how childish your pomps, and
what shadows you are!"

Presently all things vanished suddenly from my sight, and I knew what it
meant.  The next moment we were walking along in our village; and down
toward the river I saw the twinkling lights of the Golden Stag.  Then in
the dark I heard a joyful cry:

"He's come again!"

It was Seppi Wohlmeyer.  He had felt his blood leap and his spirits rise
in a way that could mean only one thing, and he knew Satan was near,
although it was too dark to see him.  He came to us, and we walked along
together, and Seppi poured out his gladness like water.  It was as if he
were a lover and had found his sweetheart who had been lost.  Seppi was a
smart and animated boy, and had enthusiasm and expression, and was a
contrast to Nikolaus and me.  He was full of the last new mystery, now
--the disappearance of Hans Oppert, the village loafer.  People were
beginning to be curious about it, he said.  He did not say anxious
--curious was the right word, and strong enough.  No one had seen Hans
for a couple of days.

"Not since he did that brutal thing, you know," he said.

"What brutal thing?" It was Satan that asked.

"Well, he is always clubbing his dog, which is a good dog, and his only
friend, and is faithful, and loves him, and does no one any harm; and two
days ago he was at it again, just for nothing--just for pleasure--and the
dog was howling and begging, and Theodor and I begged, too, but he
threatened us, and struck the dog again with all his might and knocked
one of his eyes out, and he said to us, 'There, I hope you are satisfied
now; that's what you have got for him by your damned meddling'--and he
laughed, the heartless brute."  Seppi's voice trembled with pity and
anger.  I guessed what Satan would say, and he said it.

"There is that misused word again--that shabby slander.  Brutes do not
act like that, but only men."

"Well, it was inhuman, anyway."

"No, it wasn't, Seppi; it was human--quite distinctly human.  It is not
pleasant to hear you libel the higher animals by attributing to them
dispositions which they are free from, and which are found nowhere but in
the human heart.  None of the higher animals is tainted with the disease
called the Moral Sense.  Purify your language, Seppi; drop those lying
phrases out of it."

He spoke pretty sternly--for him--and I was sorry I hadn't warned Seppi
to be more particular about the word he used.  I knew how he was feeling.
He would not want to offend Satan; he would rather offend all his kin.
There was an uncomfortable silence, but relief soon came, for that poor
dog came along now, with his eye hanging down, and went straight to
Satan, and began to moan and mutter brokenly, and Satan began to answer
in the same way, and it was plain that they were talking together in the
dog language.  We all sat down in the grass, in the moonlight, for the
clouds were breaking away now, and Satan took the dog's head in his lap
and put the eye back in its place, and the dog was comfortable, and he
wagged his tail and licked Satan's hand, and looked thankful and said the
same; I knew he was saying it, though I did not understand the words.
Then the two talked together a bit, and Satan said:

"He says his master was drunk."

"Yes, he was," said we.

"And an hour later he fell over the precipice there beyond the Cliff
Pasture."

"We know the place; it is three miles from here."

"And the dog has been often to the village, begging people to go there,
but he was only driven away and not listened to."

We remembered it, but hadn't understood what he wanted.

"He only wanted help for the man who had misused him, and he thought only
of that, and has had no food nor sought any.  He has watched by his
master two nights.  What do you think of your race?  Is heaven reserved
for it, and this dog ruled out, as your teachers tell you?  Can your race
add anything to this dog's stock of morals and magnanimities?" He spoke
to the creature, who jumped up, eager and happy, and apparently ready for
orders and impatient to execute them.  "Get some men; go with the dog--he
will show you that carrion; and take a priest along to arrange about
insurance, for death is near."

With the last word he vanished, to our sorrow and disappointment.  We got
the men and Father Adolf, and we saw the man die.  Nobody cared but the
dog; he mourned and grieved, and licked the dead face, and could not be
comforted.  We buried him where he was, and without a coffin, for he had
no money, and no friend but the dog.  If we had been an hour earlier the
priest would have been in time to send that poor creature to heaven, but
now he was gone down into the awful fires, to burn forever.  It seemed
such a pity that in a world where so many people have difficulty to put
in their time, one little hour could not have been spared for this poor
creature who needed it so much, and to whom it would have made the
difference between eternal joy and eternal pain.  It gave an appalling
idea of the value of an hour, and I thought I could never waste one again
without remorse and terror.  Seppi was depressed and grieved, and said it
must be so much better to be a dog and not run such awful risks.  We took
this one home with us and kept him for our own.  Seppi had a very good
thought as we were walking along, and it cheered us up and made us feel
much better.  He said the dog had forgiven the man that had wronged him
so, and maybe God would accept that absolution.

There was a very dull week, now, for Satan did not come, nothing much was
going on, and we boys could not venture to go and see Marget, because the
nights were moonlit and our parents might find us out if we tried.  But
we came across Ursula a couple of times taking a walk in the meadows
beyond the river to air the cat, and we learned from her that things were
going well.  She had natty new clothes on and bore a prosperous look.
The four groschen a day were arriving without a break, but were not being
spent for food and wine and such things--the cat attended to all that.

Marget was enduring her forsakenness and isolation fairly well, all
things considered, and was cheerful, by help of Wilhelm Meidling.  She
spent an hour or two every night in the jail with her uncle, and had
fattened him up with the cat's contributions.  But she was curious to
know more about Philip Traum, and hoped I would bring him again.  Ursula
was curious about him herself, and asked a good many questions about his
uncle.  It made the boys laugh, for I had told them the nonsense Satan
had been stuffing her with.  She got no satisfaction out of us, our
tongues being tied.

Ursula gave us a small item of information: money being plenty now, she
had taken on a servant to help about the house and run errands.  She
tried to tell it in a commonplace, matter-of-course way, but she was so
set up by it and so vain of it that her pride in it leaked out pretty
plainly.  It was beautiful to see her veiled delight in this grandeur,
poor old thing, but when we heard the name of the servant we wondered if
she had been altogether wise; for although we were young, and often
thoughtless, we had fairly good perception on some matters.  This boy was
Gottfried Narr, a dull, good creature, with no harm in him and nothing
against him personally; still, he was under a cloud, and properly so, for
it had not been six months since a social blight had mildewed the family
--his grandmother had been burned as a witch.  When that kind of a malady
is in the blood it does not always come out with just one burning.  Just
now was not a good time for Ursula and Marget to be having dealings with
a member of such a family, for the witch-terror had risen higher during
the past year than it had ever reached in the memory of the oldest
villagers.  The mere mention of a witch was almost enough to frighten us
out of our wits.  This was natural enough, because of late years there
were more kinds of witches than there used to be; in old times it had
been only old women, but of late years they were of all ages--even
children of eight and nine; it was getting so that anybody might turn out
to be a familiar of the Devil--age and sex hadn't anything to do with it.
In our little region we had tried to extirpate the witches, but the more
of them we burned the more of the breed rose up in their places.

Once, in a school for girls only ten miles away, the teachers found that
the back of one of the girls was all red and inflamed, and they were
greatly frightened, believing it to be the Devil's marks.  The girl was
scared, and begged them not to denounce her, and said it was only fleas;
but of course it would not do to let the matter rest there.  All the
girls were examined, and eleven out of the fifty were badly marked, the
rest less so.  A commission was appointed, but the eleven only cried for
their mothers and would not confess.  Then they were shut up, each by
herself, in the dark, and put on black bread and water for ten days and
nights; and by that time they were haggard and wild, and their eyes were
dry and they did not cry any more, but only sat and mumbled, and would
not take the food.  Then one of them confessed, and said they had often
ridden through the air on broomsticks to the witches' Sabbath, and in a
bleak place high up in the mountains had danced and drunk and caroused
with several hundred other witches and the Evil One, and all had
conducted themselves in a scandalous way and had reviled the priests and
blasphemed God.  That is what she said--not in narrative form, for she
was not able to remember any of the details without having them called to
her mind one after the other; but the commission did that, for they knew
just what questions to ask, they being all written down for the use of
witch-commissioners two centuries before.  They asked, "Did you do so and
so?" and she always said yes, and looked weary and tired, and took no
interest in it.  And so when the other ten heard that this one confessed,
they confessed, too, and answered yes to the questions.  Then they were
burned at the stake all together, which was just and right; and everybody
went from all the countryside to see it.  I went, too; but when I saw
that one of them was a bonny, sweet girl I used to play with, and looked
so pitiful there chained to the stake, and her mother crying over her and
devouring her with kisses and clinging around her neck, and saying, "Oh,
my God!  Oh, my God!" it was too dreadful, and I went away.

It was bitter cold weather when Gottfried's grandmother was burned.  It
was charged that she had cured bad headaches by kneading the person's
head and neck with her fingers--as she said--but really by the Devil's
help, as everybody knew.  They were going to examine her, but she stopped
them, and confessed straight off that her power was from the Devil.  So
they appointed to burn her next morning, early, in our market-square.
The officer who was to prepare the fire was there first, and prepared it.
She was there next--brought by the constables, who left her and went to
fetch another witch.  Her family did not come with her.  They might be
reviled, maybe stoned, if the people were excited.  I came, and gave her
an apple.  She was squatting at the fire, warming herself and waiting;
and her old lips and hands were blue with the cold.  A stranger came
next.  He was a traveler, passing through; and he spoke to her gently,
and, seeing nobody but me there to hear, said he was sorry for her.  And
he asked if what she confessed was true, and she said no.  He looked
surprised and still more sorry then, and asked her:

"Then why did you confess?"

"I am old and very poor," she said, "and I work for my living.  There was
no way but to confess.  If I hadn't they might have set me free.  That
would ruin me, for no one would forget that I had been suspected of being
a witch, and so I would get no more work, and wherever I went they would
set the dogs on me.  In a little while I would starve.  The fire is best;
it is soon over.  You have been good to me, you two, and I thank you."

She snuggled closer to the fire, and put out her hands to warm them, the
snow-flakes descending soft and still on her old gray head and making it
white and whiter.  The crowd was gathering now, and an egg came flying
and struck her in the eye, and broke and ran down her face.  There was a
laugh at that.

I told Satan all about the eleven girls and the old woman, once, but it
did not affect him.  He only said it was the human race, and what the
human race did was of no consequence.  And he said he had seen it made;
and it was not made of clay; it was made of mud--part of it was, anyway.
I knew what he meant by that--the Moral Sense.  He saw the thought in my
head, and it tickled him and made him laugh.  Then he called a bullock
out of a pasture and petted it and talked with it, and said:

"There--he wouldn't drive children mad with hunger and fright and
loneliness, and then burn them for confessing to things invented for them
which had never happened.  And neither would he break the hearts of
innocent, poor old women and make them afraid to trust themselves among
their own race; and he would not insult them in their death-agony.  For
he is not besmirched with the Moral Sense, but is as the angels are, and
knows no wrong, and never does it."

Lovely as he was, Satan could be cruelly offensive when he chose; and he
always chose when the human race was brought to his attention.  He always
turned up his nose at it, and never had a kind word for it.

Well, as I was saying, we boys doubted if it was a good time for Ursula
to be hiring a member of the Narr family.  We were right.  When the
people found it out they were naturally indignant.  And, moreover, since
Marget and Ursula hadn't enough to eat themselves, where was the money
coming from to feed another mouth?  That is what they wanted to know; and
in order to find out they stopped avoiding Gottfried and began to seek
his society and have sociable conversations with him.  He was pleased
--not thinking any harm and not seeing the trap--and so he talked
innocently along, and was no discreeter than a cow.

"Money!" he said; "they've got plenty of it.  They pay me two groschen a
week, besides my keep.  And they live on the fat of the land, I can tell
you; the prince himself can't beat their table."

This astonishing statement was conveyed by the astrologer to Father Adolf
on a Sunday morning when he was returning from mass.  He was deeply
moved, and said:

"This must be looked into."

He said there must be witchcraft at the bottom of it, and told the
villagers to resume relations with Marget and Ursula in a private and
unostentatious way, and keep both eyes open.  They were told to keep
their own counsel, and not rouse the suspicions of the household.  The
villagers were at first a bit reluctant to enter such a dreadful place,
but the priest said they would be under his protection while there, and
no harm could come to them, particularly if they carried a trifle of holy
water along and kept their beads and crosses handy.  This satisfied them
and made them willing to go; envy and malice made the baser sort even
eager to go.

And so poor Marget began to have company again, and was as pleased as a
cat.  She was like 'most anybody else--just human, and happy in her
prosperities and not averse from showing them off a little; and she was
humanly grateful to have the warm shoulder turned to her and he smiled
upon by her friends and the village again; for of all the hard things to
bear, to be cut by your neighbors and left in contemptuous solitude is
maybe the hardest.

The bars were down, and we could all go there now, and we did--our
parents and all--day after day.  The cat began to strain herself.  She
provided the top of everything for those companies, and in abundance
--among them many a dish and many a wine which they had not tasted before
and which they had not even heard of except at second-hand from the
prince's servants.  And the tableware was much above ordinary, too.

Marget was troubled at times, and pursued Ursula with questions to an
uncomfortable degree; but Ursula stood her ground and stuck to it that it
was Providence, and said no word about the cat.  Marget knew that nothing
was impossible to Providence, but she could not help having doubts that
this effort was from there, though she was afraid to say so, lest
disaster come of it.  Witchcraft occurred to her, but she put the thought
aside, for this was before Gottfried joined the household, and she knew
Ursula was pious and a bitter hater of witches.  By the time Gottfried
arrived Providence was established, unshakably intrenched, and getting
all the gratitude.  The cat made no murmur, but went on composedly
improving in style and prodigality by experience.

In any community, big or little, there is always a fair proportion of
people who are not malicious or unkind by nature, and who never do
unkind things except when they are overmastered by fear, or when their
self-interest is greatly in danger, or some such matter as that.
Eseldorf had its proportion of such people, and ordinarily their good and
gentle influence was felt, but these were not ordinary times--on account
of the witch-dread--and so we did not seem to have any gentle and
compassionate hearts left, to speak of.  Every person was frightened at
the unaccountable state of things at Marget's house, not doubting that
witchcraft was at the bottom of it, and fright frenzied their reason.
Naturally there were some who pitied Marget and Ursula for the danger
that was gathering about them, but naturally they did not say so; it
would not have been safe.  So the others had it all their own way, and
there was none to advise the ignorant girl and the foolish woman and warn
them to modify their doings.  We boys wanted to warn them, but we backed
down when it came to the pinch, being afraid.  We found that we were not
manly enough nor brave enough to do a generous action when there was a
chance that it could get us into trouble.  Neither of us confessed this
poor spirit to the others, but did as other people would have done
--dropped the subject and talked about something else.  And I knew we all
felt mean, eating and drinking Marget's fine things along with those
companies of spies, and petting her and complimenting her with the rest,
and seeing with self-reproach how foolishly happy she was, and never
saying a word to put her on her guard.  And, indeed, she was happy, and
as proud as a princess, and so grateful to have friends again.  And all
the time these people were watching with all their eyes and reporting all
they saw to Father Adolf.

But he couldn't make head or tail of the situation.  There must be an
enchanter somewhere on the premises, but who was it?  Marget was not seen
to do any jugglery, nor was Ursula, nor yet Gottfried; and still the
wines and dainties never ran short, and a guest could not call for a
thing and not get it.  To produce these effects was usual enough with
witches and enchanters--that part of it was not new; but to do it without
any incantations, or even any rumblings or earthquakes or lightnings or
apparitions--that was new, novel, wholly irregular.  There was nothing in
the books like this.  Enchanted things were always unreal.  Gold turned
to dirt in an unenchanted atmosphere, food withered away and vanished.
But this test failed in the present case.  The spies brought samples:
Father Adolf prayed over them, exorcised them, but it did no good; they
remained sound and real, they yielded to natural decay only, and took the
usual time to do it.

Father Adolf was not merely puzzled, he was also exasperated; for these
evidences very nearly convinced him--privately--that there was no
witchcraft in the matter.  It did not wholly convince him, for this could
be a new kind of witchcraft.  There was a way to find out as to this: if
this prodigal abundance of provender was not brought in from the outside,
but produced on the premises, there was witchcraft, sure.




Chapter 7

Marget announced a party, and invited forty people; the date for it was
seven days away.  This was a fine opportunity.  Marget's house stood by
itself, and it could be easily watched.  All the week it was watched
night and day.  Marget's household went out and in as usual, but they
carried nothing in their hands, and neither they nor others brought
anything to the house.  This was ascertained.  Evidently rations for
forty people were not being fetched.  If they were furnished any
sustenance it would have to be made on the premises.  It was true that
Marget went out with a basket every evening, but the spies ascertained
that she always brought it back empty.

The guests arrived at noon and filled the place.  Father Adolf followed;
also, after a little, the astrologer, without invitation.  The spies had
informed him that neither at the back nor the front had any parcels been
brought in.  He entered, and found the eating and drinking going on
finely, and everything progressing in a lively and festive way.  He
glanced around and perceived that many of the cooked delicacies and all
of the native and foreign fruits were of a perishable character, and he
also recognized that these were fresh and perfect.  No apparitions, no
incantations, no thunder.  That settled it.  This was witchcraft.  And
not only that, but of a new kind--a kind never dreamed of before.  It was
a prodigious power, an illustrious power; he resolved to discover its
secret.  The announcement of it would resound throughout the world,
penetrate to the remotest lands, paralyze all the nations with amazement
--and carry his name with it, and make him renowned forever.  It was a
wonderful piece of luck, a splendid piece of luck; the glory of it made
him dizzy.

All the house made room for him; Marget politely seated him; Ursula
ordered Gottfried to bring a special table for him.  Then she decked it
and furnished it, and asked for his orders.

"Bring me what you will," he said.

The two servants brought supplies from the pantry, together with white
wine and red--a bottle of each.  The astrologer, who very likely had
never seen such delicacies before, poured out a beaker of red wine, drank
it off, poured another, then began to eat with a grand appetite.

I was not expecting Satan, for it was more than a week since I had seen
or heard of him, but now he came in--I knew it by the feel, though people
were in the way and I could not see him.  I heard him apologizing for
intruding; and he was going away, but Marget urged him to stay, and he
thanked her and stayed.  She brought him along, introducing him to the
girls, and to Meidling, and to some of the elders; and there was quite a
rustle of whispers: "It's the young stranger we hear so much about and
can't get sight of, he is away so much."  "Dear, dear, but he is
beautiful--what is his name?" "Philip Traum."  "Ah, it fits him!" (You
see, "Traum" is German for "Dream.") "What does he do?" "Studying for the
ministry, they say."  "His face is his fortune--he'll be a cardinal some
day."  "Where is his home?"  "Away down somewhere in the tropics, they
say--has a rich uncle down there."  And so on.  He made his way at once;
everybody was anxious to know him and talk with him.  Everybody noticed
how cool and fresh it was, all of a sudden, and wondered at it, for they
could see that the sun was beating down the same as before, outside, and
the sky was clear of clouds, but no one guessed the reason, of course.

The astrologer had drunk his second beaker; he poured out a third.  He
set the bottle down, and by accident overturned it.  He seized it before
much was spilled, and held it up to the light, saying, "What a pity--it
is royal wine."  Then his face lighted with joy or triumph, or something,
and he said, "Quick!  Bring a bowl."

It was brought--a four-quart one.  He took up that two-pint bottle and
began to pour; went on pouring, the red liquor gurgling and gushing into
the white bowl and rising higher and higher up its sides, everybody
staring and holding their breath--and presently the bowl was full to the
brim.

"Look at the bottle," he said, holding it up; "it is full yet!" I glanced
at Satan, and in that moment he vanished.  Then Father Adolf rose up,
flushed and excited, crossed himself, and began to thunder in his great
voice, "This house is bewitched and accursed!" People began to cry and
shriek and crowd toward the door.  "I summon this detected household
to--"

His words were cut off short.  His face became red, then purple, but he
could not utter another sound.  Then I saw Satan, a transparent film,
melt into the astrologer's body; then the astrologer put up his hand, and
apparently in his own voice said, "Wait--remain where you are."  All
stopped where they stood.  "Bring a funnel!"  Ursula brought it,
trembling and scared, and he stuck it in the bottle and took up the great
bowl and began to pour the wine back, the people gazing and dazed with
astonishment, for they knew the bottle was already full before he began.
He emptied the whole of the bowl into the bottle, then smiled out over
the room, chuckled, and said, indifferently: "It is nothing--anybody can
do it!  With my powers I can even do much more."

A frightened cry burst out everywhere.  "Oh, my God, he is possessed!"
and there was a tumultuous rush for the door which swiftly emptied the
house of all who did not belong in it except us boys and Meidling.
We boys knew the secret, and would have told it if we could, but we
couldn't.  We were very thankful to Satan for furnishing that good help
at the needful time.

Marget was pale, and crying; Meidling looked kind of petrified; Ursula
the same; but Gottfried was the worst--he couldn't stand, he was so weak
and scared.  For he was of a witch family, you know, and it would be bad
for him to be suspected.  Agnes came loafing in, looking pious and
unaware, and wanted to rub up against Ursula and be petted, but Ursula
was afraid of her and shrank away from her, but pretending she was not
meaning any incivility, for she knew very well it wouldn't answer to have
strained relations with that kind of a cat.  But we boys took Agnes and
petted her, for Satan would not have befriended her if he had not had a
good opinion of her, and that was indorsement enough for us.  He seemed
to trust anything that hadn't the Moral Sense.

Outside, the guests, panic-stricken, scattered in every direction and
fled in a pitiable state of terror; and such a tumult as they made with
their running and sobbing and shrieking and shouting that soon all the
village came flocking from their houses to see what had happened, and
they thronged the street and shouldered and jostled one another in
excitement and fright; and then Father Adolf appeared, and they fell
apart in two walls like the cloven Red Sea, and presently down this lane
the astrologer came striding and mumbling, and where he passed the lanes
surged back in packed masses, and fell silent with awe, and their eyes
stared and their breasts heaved, and several women fainted; and when he
was gone by the crowd swarmed together and followed him at a distance,
talking excitedly and asking questions and finding out the facts.
Finding out the facts and passing them on to others, with improvements
--improvements which soon enlarged the bowl of wine to a barrel, and
made the one bottle hold it all and yet remain empty to the last.

When the astrologer reached the market-square he went straight to a
juggler, fantastically dressed, who was keeping three brass balls in the
air, and took them from him and faced around upon the approaching crowd
and said: "This poor clown is ignorant of his art.  Come forward and see
an expert perform."

So saying, he tossed the balls up one after another and set them whirling
in a slender bright oval in the air, and added another, then another and
another, and soon--no one seeing whence he got them--adding, adding,
adding, the oval lengthening all the time, his hands moving so swiftly
that they were just a web or a blur and not distinguishable as hands; and
such as counted said there were now a hundred balls in the air.  The
spinning great oval reached up twenty feet in the air and was a shining
and glinting and wonderful sight.  Then he folded his arms and told the
balls to go on spinning without his help--and they did it.  After a
couple of minutes he said, "There, that will do," and the oval broke and
came crashing down, and the balls scattered abroad and rolled every
whither.  And wherever one of them came the people fell back in dread,
and no one would touch it.  It made him laugh, and he scoffed at the
people and called them cowards and old women.  Then he turned and saw the
tight-rope, and said foolish people were daily wasting their money to see
a clumsy and ignorant varlet degrade that beautiful art; now they should
see the work of a master.  With that he made a spring into the air and
lit firm on his feet on the rope.  Then he hopped the whole length of it
back and forth on one foot, with his hands clasped over his eyes; and
next he began to throw somersaults, both backward and forward, and threw
twenty-seven.

The people murmured, for the astrologer was old, and always before had
been halting of movement and at times even lame, but he was nimble enough
now and went on with his antics in the liveliest manner.  Finally he
sprang lightly down and walked away, and passed up the road and around
the corner and disappeared.  Then that great, pale, silent, solid crowd
drew a deep breath and looked into one another's faces as if they said:
"Was it real?  Did you see it, or was it only I--and was I dreaming?"
Then they broke into a low murmur of talking, and fell apart in couples,
and moved toward their homes, still talking in that awed way, with faces
close together and laying a hand on an arm and making other such gestures
as people make when they have been deeply impressed by something.

We boys followed behind our fathers, and listened, catching all we could
of what they said; and when they sat down in our house and continued
their talk they still had us for company.  They were in a sad mood, for
it was certain, they said, that disaster for the village must follow this
awful visitation of witches and devils.  Then my father remembered that
Father Adolf had been struck dumb at the moment of his denunciation.

"They have not ventured to lay their hands upon an anointed servant of
God before," he said; "and how they could have dared it this time I
cannot make out, for he wore his crucifix.  Isn't it so?"

"Yes," said the others, "we saw it."

"It is serious, friends, it is very serious.  Always before, we had a
protection.  It has failed."

The others shook, as with a sort of chill, and muttered those words over
--"It has failed."  "God has forsaken us."

"It is true," said Seppi Wohlmeyer's father; "there is nowhere to look
for help."

"The people will realize this," said Nikolaus's father, the judge, "and
despair will take away their courage and their energies.  We have indeed
fallen upon evil times."

He sighed, and Wohlmeyer said, in a troubled voice: "The report of it all
will go about the country, and our village will be shunned as being under
the displeasure of God.  The Golden Stag will know hard times."

"True, neighbor," said my father; "all of us will suffer--all in repute,
many in estate.  And, good God!--"

"What is it?"

"That can come--to finish us!"

"Name it--um Gottes Willen!"

"The Interdict!"

It smote like a thunderclap, and they were like to swoon with the terror
of it.  Then the dread of this calamity roused their energies, and they
stopped brooding and began to consider ways to avert it.  They discussed
this, that, and the other way, and talked till the afternoon was far
spent, then confessed that at present they could arrive at no decision.
So they parted sorrowfully, with oppressed hearts which were filled with
bodings.

While they were saying their parting words I slipped out and set my
course for Marget's house to see what was happening there.  I met many
people, but none of them greeted me.  It ought to have been surprising,
but it was not, for they were so distraught with fear and dread that they
were not in their right minds, I think; they were white and haggard, and
walked like persons in a dream, their eyes open but seeing nothing, their
lips moving but uttering nothing, and worriedly clasping and unclasping
their hands without knowing it.

At Marget's it was like a funeral.  She and Wilhelm sat together on the
sofa, but said nothing, and not even holding hands.  Both were steeped in
gloom, and Marget's eyes were red from the crying she had been doing.
She said:

"I have been begging him to go, and come no more, and so save himself
alive.  I cannot bear to be his murderer.  This house is bewitched, and
no inmate will escape the fire.  But he will not go, and he will be lost
with the rest."

Wilhelm said he would not go; if there was danger for her, his place was
by her, and there he would remain.  Then she began to cry again, and it
was all so mournful that I wished I had stayed away.  There was a knock,
now, and Satan came in, fresh and cheery and beautiful, and brought that
winy atmosphere of his and changed the whole thing.  He never said a word
about what had been happening, nor about the awful fears which were
freezing the blood in the hearts of the community, but began to talk and
rattle on about all manner of gay and pleasant things; and next about
music--an artful stroke which cleared away the remnant of Marget's
depression and brought her spirits and her interests broad awake.  She
had not heard any one talk so well and so knowingly on that subject
before, and she was so uplifted by it and so charmed that what she was
feeling lit up her face and came out in her words; and Wilhelm noticed it
and did not look as pleased as he ought to have done.  And next Satan
branched off into poetry, and recited some, and did it well, and Marget
was charmed again; and again Wilhelm was not as pleased as he ought to
have been, and this time Marget noticed it and was remorseful.

I fell asleep to pleasant music that night--the patter of rain upon the
panes and the dull growling of distant thunder.  Away in the night Satan
came and roused me and said: "Come with me.  Where shall we go?"

"Anywhere--so it is with you."

Then there was a fierce glare of sunlight, and he said, "This is China."

That was a grand surprise, and made me sort of drunk with vanity and
gladness to think I had come so far--so much, much farther than anybody
else in our village, including Bartel Sperling, who had such a great
opinion of his travels.  We buzzed around over that empire for more than
half an hour, and saw the whole of it.  It was wonderful, the spectacles
we saw; and some were beautiful, others too horrible to think.  For
instance--However, I may go into that by and by, and also why Satan chose
China for this excursion instead of another place; it would interrupt my
tale to do it now.  Finally we stopped flitting and lit.

We sat upon a mountain commanding a vast landscape of mountain-range and
gorge and valley and plain and river, with cities and villages slumbering
in the sunlight, and a glimpse of blue sea on the farther verge.  It was
a tranquil and dreamy picture, beautiful to the eye and restful to the
spirit.  If we could only make a change like that whenever we wanted to,
the world would be easier to live in than it is, for change of scene
shifts the mind's burdens to the other shoulder and banishes old,
shop-worn wearinesses from mind and body both.

We talked together, and I had the idea of trying to reform Satan and
persuade him to lead a better life.  I told him about all those things he
had been doing, and begged him to be more considerate and stop making
people unhappy.  I said I knew he did not mean any harm, but that he
ought to stop and consider the possible consequences of a thing before
launching it in that impulsive and random way of his; then he would not
make so much trouble.  He was not hurt by this plain speech; he only
looked amused and surprised, and said:

"What?  I do random things?  Indeed, I never do.  I stop and consider
possible consequences?  Where is the need?  I know what the consequences
are going to be--always."

"Oh, Satan, then how could you do these things?"

"Well, I will tell you, and you must understand if you can.  You
belong to a singular race.  Every man is a suffering-machine and a
happiness-machine combined.  The two functions work together
harmoniously, with a fine and delicate precision, on the give-and-take
principle.  For every happiness turned out in the one department the
other stands ready to modify it with a sorrow or a pain--maybe a dozen.
In most cases the man's life is about equally divided between happiness
and unhappiness. When this is not the case the unhappiness predominates
--always; never the other.  Sometimes a man's make and disposition are
such that his misery-machine is able to do nearly all the business.  Such
a man goes through life almost ignorant of what happiness is.  Everything
he touches, everything he does, brings a misfortune upon him.  You have
seen such people?  To that kind of a person life is not an advantage, is
it?  It is only a disaster.  Sometimes for an hour's happiness a man's
machinery makes him pay years of misery.  Don't you know that?  It
happens every now and then.  I will give you a case or two presently. Now
the people of your village are nothing to me--you know that, don't you?"

I did not like to speak out too flatly, so I said I had suspected it.

"Well, it is true that they are nothing to me.  It is not possible that
they should be.  The difference between them and me is abysmal,
immeasurable.  They have no intellect."

"No intellect?"

"Nothing that resembles it.  At a future time I will examine what man
calls his mind and give you the details of that chaos, then you will see
and understand.  Men have nothing in common with me--there is no point of
contact; they have foolish little feelings and foolish little vanities
and impertinences and ambitions; their foolish little life is but a
laugh, a sigh, and extinction; and they have no sense.  Only the Moral
Sense.  I will show you what I mean.  Here is a red spider, not so big as
a pin's head.  Can you imagine an elephant being interested in him
--caring whether he is happy or isn't, or whether he is wealthy or poor,
or whether his sweetheart returns his love or not, or whether his mother
is sick or well, or whether he is looked up to in society or not, or
whether his enemies will smite him or his friends desert him, or whether
his hopes will suffer blight or his political ambitions fail, or whether
he shall die in the bosom of his family or neglected and despised in a
foreign land?  These things can never be important to the elephant; they
are nothing to him; he cannot shrink his sympathies to the microscopic
size of them.  Man is to me as the red spider is to the elephant.  The
elephant has nothing against the spider--he cannot get down to that
remote level; I have nothing against man.  The elephant is indifferent; I
am indifferent.  The elephant would not take the trouble to do the spider
an ill turn; if he took the notion he might do him a good turn, if it
came in his way and cost nothing.  I have done men good service, but no
ill turns.

"The elephant lives a century, the red spider a day; in power, intellect,
and dignity the one creature is separated from the other by a distance
which is simply astronomical.  Yet in these, as in all qualities, man is
immeasurably further below me than is the wee spider below the elephant.

"Man's mind clumsily and tediously and laboriously patches little
trivialities together and gets a result--such as it is.  My mind creates!
Do you get the force of that?  Creates anything it desires--and in a
moment.  Creates without material.  Creates fluids, solids, colors
--anything, everything--out of the airy nothing which is called Thought.
A man imagines a silk thread, imagines a machine to make it, imagines a
picture, then by weeks of labor embroiders it on canvas with the thread.
I think the whole thing, and in a moment it is before you--created.

"I think a poem, music, the record of a game of chess--anything--and it
is there.  This is the immortal mind--nothing is beyond its reach.
Nothing can obstruct my vision; the rocks are transparent to me, and
darkness is daylight.  I do not need to open a book; I take the whole of
its contents into my mind at a single glance, through the cover; and in a
million years I could not forget a single word of it, or its place in the
volume.  Nothing goes on in the skull of man, bird, fish, insect, or
other creature which can be hidden from me.  I pierce the learned man's
brain with a single glance, and the treasures which cost him threescore
years to accumulate are mine; he can forget, and he does forget, but I
retain.

"Now, then, I perceive by your thoughts that you are understanding me
fairly well.  Let us proceed.  Circumstances might so fall out that the
elephant could like the spider--supposing he can see it--but he could not
love it.  His love is for his own kind--for his equals.  An angel's love
is sublime, adorable, divine, beyond the imagination of man--infinitely
beyond it!  But it is limited to his own august order.  If it fell upon
one of your race for only an instant, it would consume its object to
ashes.  No, we cannot love men, but we can be harmlessly indifferent to
them; we can also like them, sometimes.  I like you and the boys, I like
Father Peter, and for your sakes I am doing all these things for the
villagers."

He saw that I was thinking a sarcasm, and he explained his position.

"I have wrought well for the villagers, though it does not look like it
on the surface.  Your race never know good fortune from ill.  They are
always mistaking the one for the other.  It is because they cannot see
into the future.  What I am doing for the villagers will bear good fruit
some day; in some cases to themselves; in others, to unborn generations
of men.  No one will ever know that I was the cause, but it will be none
the less true, for all that.  Among you boys you have a game: you stand a
row of bricks on end a few inches apart; you push a brick, it knocks its
neighbor over, the neighbor knocks over the next brick--and so on till
all the row is prostrate.  That is human life.  A child's first act
knocks over the initial brick, and the rest will follow inexorably.  If
you could see into the future, as I can, you would see everything that
was going to happen to that creature; for nothing can change the order of
its life after the first event has determined it.  That is, nothing will
change it, because each act unfailingly begets an act, that act begets
another, and so on to the end, and the seer can look forward down the
line and see just when each act is to have birth, from cradle to grave."

"Does God order the career?"

"Foreordain it?  No.  The man's circumstances and environment order it.
His first act determines the second and all that follow after.  But
suppose, for argument's sake, that the man should skip one of these acts;
an apparently trifling one, for instance; suppose that it had been
appointed that on a certain day, at a certain hour and minute and second
and fraction of a second he should go to the well, and he didn't go.
That man's career would change utterly, from that moment; thence to the
grave it would be wholly different from the career which his first act as
a child had arranged for him.  Indeed, it might be that if he had gone to
the well he would have ended his career on a throne, and that omitting to
do it would set him upon a career that would lead to beggary and a
pauper's grave.  For instance: if at any time--say in boyhood--Columbus
had skipped the triflingest little link in the chain of acts projected
and made inevitable by his first childish act, it would have changed his
whole subsequent life, and he would have become a priest and died obscure
in an Italian village, and America would not have been discovered for two
centuries afterward.  I know this.  To skip any one of the billion acts
in Columbus's chain would have wholly changed his life.  I have examined
his billion of possible careers, and in only one of them occurs the
discovery of America.  You people do not suspect that all of your acts
are of one size and importance, but it is true; to snatch at an appointed
fly is as big with fate for you as is any other appointed act--"

"As the conquering of a continent, for instance?"

"Yes.  Now, then, no man ever does drop a link--the thing has never
happened!  Even when he is trying to make up his mind as to whether he
will do a thing or not, that itself is a link, an act, and has its proper
place in his chain; and when he finally decides an act, that also was the
thing which he was absolutely certain to do.  You see, now, that a man
will never drop a link in his chain.  He cannot.  If he made up his mind
to try, that project would itself be an unavoidable link--a thought bound
to occur to him at that precise moment, and made certain by the first act
of his babyhood."

It seemed so dismal!

"He is a prisoner for life," I said sorrowfully, "and cannot get free."

"No, of himself he cannot get away from the consequences of his first
childish act.  But I can free him."

I looked up wistfully.

"I have changed the careers of a number of your villagers."

I tried to thank him, but found it difficult, and let it drop.

"I shall make some other changes.  You know that little Lisa Brandt?"

"Oh yes, everybody does.  My mother says she is so sweet and so lovely
that she is not like any other child.  She says she will be the pride of
the village when she grows up; and its idol, too, just as she is now."

"I shall change her future."

"Make it better?" I asked.

"Yes.  And I will change the future of Nikolaus."

I was glad, this time, and said, "I don't need to ask about his case; you
will be sure to do generously by him."

"It is my intention."

Straight off I was building that great future of Nicky's in my
imagination, and had already made a renowned general of him and
hofmeister at the court, when I noticed that Satan was waiting for me to
get ready to listen again.  I was ashamed of having exposed my cheap
imaginings to him, and was expecting some sarcasms, but it did not
happen.  He proceeded with his subject:

"Nicky's appointed life is sixty-two years."

"That's grand!" I said.

"Lisa's, thirty-six.  But, as I told you, I shall change their lives and
those ages.  Two minutes and a quarter from now Nikolaus will wake out of
his sleep and find the rain blowing in.  It was appointed that he should
turn over and go to sleep again.  But I have appointed that he shall get
up and close the window first.  That trifle will change his career
entirely.  He will rise in the morning two minutes later than the chain
of his life had appointed him to rise.  By consequence, thenceforth
nothing will ever happen to him in accordance with the details of the old
chain."  He took out his watch and sat looking at it a few moments, then
said: "Nikolaus has risen to close the window.  His life is changed, his
new career has begun.  There will be consequences."

It made me feel creepy; it was uncanny.

"But for this change certain things would happen twelve days from now.
For instance, Nikolaus would save Lisa from drowning.  He would arrive
on the scene at exactly the right moment--four minutes past ten, the
long-ago appointed instant of time--and the water would be shoal, the
achievement easy and certain.  But he will arrive some seconds too late,
now; Lisa will have struggled into deeper water.  He will do his best,
but both will drown."

"Oh, Satan!  Oh, dear Satan!" I cried, with the tears rising in my eyes,
"save them!  Don't let it happen.  I can't bear to lose Nikolaus, he is
my loving playmate and friend; and think of Lisa's poor mother!"

I clung to him and begged and pleaded, but he was not moved.  He made me
sit down again, and told me I must hear him out.

"I have changed Nikolaus's life, and this has changed Lisa's.  If I had
not done this, Nikolaus would save Lisa, then he would catch cold from
his drenching; one of your race's fantastic and desolating scarlet fevers
would follow, with pathetic after-effects; for forty-six years he would
lie in his bed a paralytic log, deaf, dumb, blind, and praying night and
day for the blessed relief of death.  Shall I change his life back?"

"Oh no!  Oh, not for the world!  In charity and pity leave it as it is."

"It is best so.  I could not have changed any other link in his life and
done him so good a service.  He had a billion possible careers, but not
one of them was worth living; they were charged full with miseries and
disasters.  But for my intervention he would do his brave deed twelve
days from now--a deed begun and ended in six minutes--and get for all
reward those forty-six years of sorrow and suffering I told you of.  It
is one of the cases I was thinking of awhile ago when I said that
sometimes an act which brings the actor an hour's happiness and
self-satisfaction is paid for--or punished--by years of suffering."

I wondered what poor little Lisa's early death would save her from.  He
answered the thought:

"From ten years of pain and slow recovery from an accident, and then from
nineteen years' pollution, shame, depravity, crime, ending with death at
the hands of the executioner.  Twelve days hence she will die; her mother
would save her life if she could.  Am I not kinder than her mother?"

"Yes--oh, indeed yes; and wiser."

"Father Peter's case is coming on presently.  He will be acquitted,
through unassailable proofs of his innocence."

"Why, Satan, how can that be?  Do you really think it?"

"Indeed, I know it.  His good name will be restored, and the rest of his
life will be happy."

"I can believe it.  To restore his good name will have that effect."

"His happiness will not proceed from that cause.  I shall change his life
that day, for his good.  He will never know his good name has been
restored."

In my mind--and modestly--I asked for particulars, but Satan paid no
attention to my thought.  Next, my mind wandered to the astrologer, and I
wondered where he might be.

"In the moon," said Satan, with a fleeting sound which I believed was a
chuckle.  "I've got him on the cold side of it, too.  He doesn't know
where he is, and is not having a pleasant time; still, it is good enough
for him, a good place for his star studies.  I shall need him presently;
then I shall bring him back and possess him again.  He has a long and
cruel and odious life before him, but I will change that, for I have no
feeling against him and am quite willing to do him a kindness.  I think I
shall get him burned."

He had such strange notions of kindness!  But angels are made so, and do
not know any better.  Their ways are not like our ways; and, besides,
human beings are nothing to them; they think they are only freaks.  It
seems to me odd that he should put the astrologer so far away; he could
have dumped him in Germany just as well, where he would be handy.

"Far away?" said Satan.  "To me no place is far away; distance does not
exist for me.  The sun is less than a hundred million miles from here,
and the light that is falling upon us has taken eight minutes to come;
but I can make that flight, or any other, in a fraction of time so minute
that it cannot be measured by a watch.  I have but to think the journey,
and it is accomplished."

I held out my hand and said, "The light lies upon it; think it into a
glass of wine, Satan."

He did it.  I drank the wine.

"Break the glass," he said.

I broke it.

"There--you see it is real.  The villagers thought the brass balls were
magic stuff and as perishable as smoke.  They were afraid to touch them.
You are a curious lot--your race.  But come along; I have business.  I
will put you to bed."  Said and done.  Then he was gone; but his voice
came back to me through the rain and darkness saying, "Yes, tell Seppi,
but no other."

It was the answer to my thought.




Chapter 8

Sleep would not come.  It was not because I was proud of my travels and
excited about having been around the big world to China, and feeling
contemptuous of Bartel Sperling, "the traveler," as he called himself,
and looked down upon us others because he had been to Vienna once and was
the only Eseldorf boy who had made such a journey and seen the world's
wonders.  At another time that would have kept me awake, but it did not
affect me now.  No, my mind was filled with Nikolaus, my thoughts ran
upon him only, and the good days we had seen together at romps and
frolics in the woods and the fields and the river in the long summer
days, and skating and sliding in the winter when our parents thought we
were in school.  And now he was going out of this young life, and the
summers and winters would come and go, and we others would rove and play
as before, but his place would be vacant; we should see him no more.
To-morrow he would not suspect, but would be as he had always been, and
it would shock me to hear him laugh, and see him do lightsome and
frivolous things, for to me he would be a corpse, with waxen hands and
dull eyes, and I should see the shroud around his face; and next day he
would not suspect, nor the next, and all the time his handful of days
would be wasting swiftly away and that awful thing coming nearer and
nearer, his fate closing steadily around him and no one knowing it but
Seppi and me. Twelve days--only twelve days.  It was awful to think of.
I noticed that in my thoughts I was not calling him by his familiar
names, Nick and Nicky, but was speaking of him by his full name, and
reverently, as one speaks of the dead.  Also, as incident after incident
of our comradeship came thronging into my mind out of the past, I noticed
that they were mainly cases where I had wronged him or hurt him, and they
rebuked me and reproached me, and my heart was wrung with remorse, just
as it is when we remember our unkindnesses to friends who have passed
beyond the veil, and we wish we could have them back again, if only for a
moment, so that we could go on our knees to them and say, "Have pity, and
forgive."

Once when we were nine years old he went a long errand of nearly two
miles for the fruiterer, who gave him a splendid big apple for reward,
and he was flying home with it, almost beside himself with astonishment
and delight, and I met him, and he let me look at the apple, not thinking
of treachery, and I ran off with it, eating it as I ran, he following me
and begging; and when he overtook me I offered him the core, which was
all that was left; and I laughed.  Then he turned away, crying, and said
he had meant to give it to his little sister.  That smote me, for she was
slowly getting well of a sickness, and it would have been a proud moment
for him, to see her joy and surprise and have her caresses.  But I was
ashamed to say I was ashamed, and only said something rude and mean, to
pretend I did not care, and he made no reply in words, but there was a
wounded look in his face as he turned away toward his home which rose
before me many times in after years, in the night, and reproached me and
made me ashamed again.  It had grown dim in my mind, by and by, then it
disappeared; but it was back now, and not dim.

Once at school, when we were eleven, I upset my ink and spoiled four
copy-books, and was in danger of severe punishment; but I put it upon
him, and he got the whipping.

And only last year I had cheated him in a trade, giving him a large
fish-hook which was partly broken through for three small sound ones.
The first fish he caught broke the hook, but he did not know I was
blamable, and he refused to take back one of the small hooks which my
conscience forced me to offer him, but said, "A trade is a trade; the
hook was bad, but that was not your fault."

No, I could not sleep.  These little, shabby wrongs upbraided me and
tortured me, and with a pain much sharper than one feels when the wrongs
have been done to the living.  Nikolaus was living, but no matter; he was
to me as one already dead.  The wind was still moaning about the eaves,
the rain still pattering upon the panes.

In the morning I sought out Seppi and told him.  It was down by the
river.  His lips moved, but he did not say anything, he only looked dazed
and stunned, and his face turned very white.  He stood like that a few
moments, the tears welling into his eyes, then he turned away and I
locked my arm in his and we walked along thinking, but not speaking.  We
crossed the bridge and wandered through the meadows and up among the
hills and the woods, and at last the talk came and flowed freely, and it
was all about Nikolaus and was a recalling of the life we had lived with
him.  And every now and then Seppi said, as if to himself:

"Twelve days!--less than twelve days."

We said we must be with him all the time; we must have all of him we
could; the days were precious now.  Yet we did not go to seek him.  It
would be like meeting the dead, and we were afraid.  We did not say it,
but that was what we were feeling.  And so it gave us a shock when we
turned a curve and came upon Nikolaus face to face.  He shouted, gaily:

"Hi-hi!  What is the matter?  Have you seen a ghost?"

We couldn't speak, but there was no occasion; he was willing to talk for
us all, for he had just seen Satan and was in high spirits about it.
Satan had told him about our trip to China, and he had begged Satan to
take him a journey, and Satan had promised.  It was to be a far journey,
and wonderful and beautiful; and Nikolaus had begged him to take us, too,
but he said no, he would take us some day, maybe, but not now.  Satan
would come for him on the 13th, and Nikolaus was already counting the
hours, he was so impatient.

That was the fatal day.  We were already counting the hours, too.

We wandered many a mile, always following paths which had been our
favorites from the days when we were little, and always we talked about
the old times.  All the blitheness was with Nikolaus; we others could not
shake off our depression.  Our tone toward Nikolaus was so strangely
gentle and tender and yearning that he noticed it, and was pleased; and
we were constantly doing him deferential little offices of courtesy, and
saying, "Wait, let me do that for you," and that pleased him, too.  I
gave him seven fish-hooks--all I had--and made him take them; and Seppi
gave him his new knife and a humming-top painted red and yellow
--atonements for swindles practised upon him formerly, as I learned
later, and probably no longer remembered by Nikolaus now.  These things
touched him, and he could not have believed that we loved him so; and his
pride in it and gratefulness for it cut us to the heart, we were so
undeserving of them.  When we parted at last, he was radiant, and said he
had never had such a happy day.

As we walked along homeward, Seppi said, "We always prized him, but never
so much as now, when we are going to lose him."

Next day and every day we spent all of our spare time with Nikolaus; and
also added to it time which we (and he) stole from work and other duties,
and this cost the three of us some sharp scoldings, and some threats of
punishment.  Every morning two of us woke with a start and a shudder,
saying, as the days flew along, "Only ten days left;" "only nine days
left;" "only eight;" "only seven."  Always it was narrowing.  Always
Nikolaus was gay and happy, and always puzzled because we were not.  He
wore his invention to the bone trying to invent ways to cheer us up, but
it was only a hollow success; he could see that our jollity had no heart
in it, and that the laughs we broke into came up against some obstruction
or other and suffered damage and decayed into a sigh.  He tried to find
out what the matter was, so that he could help us out of our trouble or
make it lighter by sharing it with us; so we had to tell many lies to
deceive him and appease him.

But the most distressing thing of all was that he was always making
plans, and often they went beyond the 13th!  Whenever that happened it
made us groan in spirit.  All his mind was fixed upon finding some way to
conquer our depression and cheer us up; and at last, when he had but
three days to live, he fell upon the right idea and was jubilant over it
--a boys-and-girls' frolic and dance in the woods, up there where we
first met Satan, and this was to occur on the 14th.  It was ghastly, for
that was his funeral day.  We couldn't venture to protest; it would only
have brought a "Why?" which we could not answer.  He wanted us to help
him invite his guests, and we did it--one can refuse nothing to a dying
friend.  But it was dreadful, for really we were inviting them to his
funeral.

It was an awful eleven days; and yet, with a lifetime stretching back
between to-day and then, they are still a grateful memory to me, and
beautiful.  In effect they were days of companionship with one's sacred
dead, and I have known no comradeship that was so close or so precious.
We clung to the hours and the minutes, counting them as they wasted away,
and parting with them with that pain and bereavement which a miser feels
who sees his hoard filched from him coin by coin by robbers and is
helpless to prevent it.

When the evening of the last day came we stayed out too long; Seppi and I
were in fault for that; we could not bear to part with Nikolaus; so it
was very late when we left him at his door.  We lingered near awhile,
listening; and that happened which we were fearing.  His father gave him
the promised punishment, and we heard his shrieks.  But we listened only
a moment, then hurried away, remorseful for this thing which we had
caused.  And sorry for the father, too; our thought being, "If he only
knew--if he only knew!"

In the morning Nikolaus did not meet us at the appointed place, so we
went to his home to see what the matter was.  His mother said:

"His father is out of all patience with these goings-on, and will not
have any more of it.  Half the time when Nick is needed he is not to be
found; then it turns out that he has been gadding around with you two.
His father gave him a flogging last night.  It always grieved me before,
and many's the time I have begged him off and saved him, but this time he
appealed to me in vain, for I was out of patience myself."

"I wish you had saved him just this one time," I said, my voice trembling
a little; "it would ease a pain in your heart to remember it some day."

She was ironing at the time, and her back was partly toward me.  She
turned about with a startled or wondering look in her face and said,
"What do you mean by that?"

I was not prepared, and didn't know anything to say; so it was awkward,
for she kept looking at me; but Seppi was alert and spoke up:

"Why, of course it would be pleasant to remember, for the very reason we
were out so late was that Nikolaus got to telling how good you are to
him, and how he never got whipped when you were by to save him; and he
was so full of it, and we were so full of the interest of it, that none
of us noticed how late it was getting."

"Did he say that?  Did he?" and she put her apron to her eyes.

"You can ask Theodor--he will tell you the same."

"It is a dear, good lad, my Nick," she said.  "I am sorry I let him get
whipped; I will never do it again.  To think--all the time I was sitting
here last night, fretting and angry at him, he was loving me and praising
me!  Dear, dear, if we could only know!  Then we shouldn't ever go wrong;
but we are only poor, dumb beasts groping around and making mistakes.  I
shan't ever think of last night without a pang."

She was like all the rest; it seemed as if nobody could open a mouth, in
these wretched days, without saying something that made us shiver.  They
were "groping around," and did not know what true, sorrowfully true
things they were saying by accident.

Seppi asked if Nikolaus might go out with us.

"I am sorry," she answered, "but he can't.  To punish him further, his
father doesn't allow him to go out of the house to-day."

We had a great hope!  I saw it in Seppi's eyes.  We thought, "If he
cannot leave the house, he cannot be drowned."  Seppi asked, to make
sure:

"Must he stay in all day, or only the morning?"

"All day.  It's such a pity, too; it's a beautiful day, and he is so
unused to being shut up.  But he is busy planning his party, and maybe
that is company for him.  I do hope he isn't too lonesome."

Seppi saw that in her eye which emboldened him to ask if we might go up
and help him pass his time.

"And welcome!" she said, right heartily.  "Now I call that real
friendship, when you might be abroad in the fields and the woods, having
a happy time.  You are good boys, I'll allow that, though you don't
always find satisfactory ways of improving it.  Take these cakes--for
yourselves--and give him this one, from his mother."

The first thing we noticed when we entered Nikolaus's room was the time
--a quarter to 10.  Could that be correct?  Only such a few minutes to
live!  I felt a contraction at my heart.  Nikolaus jumped up and gave us
a glad welcome.  He was in good spirits over his plannings for his party
and had not been lonesome.

"Sit down," he said, "and look at what I've been doing.  And I've
finished a kite that you will say is a beauty.  It's drying, in the
kitchen; I'll fetch it."

He had been spending his penny savings in fanciful trifles of various
kinds, to go as prizes in the games, and they were marshaled with fine
and showy effect upon the table.  He said:

"Examine them at your leisure while I get mother to touch up the kite
with her iron if it isn't dry enough yet."

Then he tripped out and went clattering down-stairs, whistling.

We did not look at the things; we couldn't take any interest in anything
but the clock.  We sat staring at it in silence, listening to the
ticking, and every time the minute-hand jumped we nodded recognition--one
minute fewer to cover in the race for life or for death.  Finally Seppi
drew a deep breath and said:

"Two minutes to ten.  Seven minutes more and he will pass the
death-point.  Theodor, he is going to be saved!  He's going to--"

"Hush!  I'm on needles.  Watch the clock and keep still."

Five minutes more.  We were panting with the strain and the excitement.
Another three minutes, and there was a footstep on the stair.

"Saved!" And we jumped up and faced the door.

The old mother entered, bringing the kite.  "Isn't it a beauty?" she
said.  "And, dear me, how he has slaved over it--ever since daylight, I
think, and only finished it awhile before you came."  She stood it
against the wall, and stepped back to take a view of it.  "He drew the
pictures his own self, and I think they are very good.  The church isn't
so very good, I'll have to admit, but look at the bridge--any one can
recognize the bridge in a minute.  He asked me to bring it up....  Dear
me! it's seven minutes past ten, and I--"

"But where is he?"

"He?  Oh, he'll be here soon; he's gone out a minute."

"Gone out?"

"Yes.  Just as he came down-stairs little Lisa's mother came in and said
the child had wandered off somewhere, and as she was a little uneasy I
told Nikolaus to never mind about his father's orders--go and look her
up....  Why, how white you two do look!  I do believe you are sick.  Sit
down; I'll fetch something.  That cake has disagreed with you.  It is a
little heavy, but I thought--"

She disappeared without finishing her sentence, and we hurried at once to
the back window and looked toward the river.  There was a great crowd at
the other end of the bridge, and people were flying toward that point
from every direction.

"Oh, it is all over--poor Nikolaus!  Why, oh, why did she let him get out
of the house!"

"Come away," said Seppi, half sobbing, "come quick--we can't bear to meet
her; in five minutes she will know."

But we were not to escape.  She came upon us at the foot of the stairs,
with her cordials in her hands, and made us come in and sit down and take
the medicine.  Then she watched the effect, and it did not satisfy her;
so she made us wait longer, and kept upbraiding herself for giving us the
unwholesome cake.

Presently the thing happened which we were dreading.  There was a sound
of tramping and scraping outside, and a crowd came solemnly in, with
heads uncovered, and laid the two drowned bodies on the bed.

"Oh, my God!" that poor mother cried out, and fell on her knees, and put
her arms about her dead boy and began to cover the wet face with kisses.
"Oh, it was I that sent him, and I have been his death.  If I had obeyed,
and kept him in the house, this would not have happened.  And I am
rightly punished; I was cruel to him last night, and him begging me, his
own mother, to be his friend."

And so she went on and on, and all the women cried, and pitied her, and
tried to comfort her, but she could not forgive herself and could not be
comforted, and kept on saying if she had not sent him out he would be
alive and well now, and she was the cause of his death.

It shows how foolish people are when they blame themselves for anything
they have done.  Satan knows, and he said nothing happens that your first
act hasn't arranged to happen and made inevitable; and so, of your own
motion you can't ever alter the scheme or do a thing that will break a
link.  Next we heard screams, and Frau Brandt came wildly plowing and
plunging through the crowd with her dress in disorder and hair flying
loose, and flung herself upon her dead child with moans and kisses and
pleadings and endearments; and by and by she rose up almost exhausted
with her outpourings of passionate emotion, and clenched her fist and
lifted it toward the sky, and her tear-drenched face grew hard and
resentful, and she said:

"For nearly two weeks I have had dreams and presentiments and warnings
that death was going to strike what was most precious to me, and day and
night and night and day I have groveled in the dirt before Him praying
Him to have pity on my innocent child and save it from harm--and here is
His answer!"

Why, He had saved it from harm--but she did not know.

She wiped the tears from her eyes and cheeks, and stood awhile gazing
down at the child and caressing its face and its hair with her hands;
then she spoke again in that bitter tone: "But in His hard heart is no
compassion.  I will never pray again."

She gathered her dead child to her bosom and strode away, the crowd
falling back to let her pass, and smitten dumb by the awful words they
had heard.  Ah, that poor woman!  It is as Satan said, we do not know
good fortune from bad, and are always mistaking the one for the other.
Many a time since I have heard people pray to God to spare the life of
sick persons, but I have never done it.

Both funerals took place at the same time in our little church next day.
Everybody was there, including the party guests.  Satan was there, too;
which was proper, for it was on account of his efforts that the funerals
had happened.  Nikolaus had departed this life without absolution, and a
collection was taken up for masses, to get him out of purgatory.  Only
two-thirds of the required money was gathered, and the parents were going
to try to borrow the rest, but Satan furnished it.  He told us privately
that there was no purgatory, but he had contributed in order that
Nikolaus's parents and their friends might be saved from worry and
distress.  We thought it very good of him, but he said money did not cost
him anything.

At the graveyard the body of little Lisa was seized for debt by a
carpenter to whom the mother owed fifty groschen for work done the year
before.  She had never been able to pay this, and was not able now.  The
carpenter took the corpse home and kept it four days in his cellar, the
mother weeping and imploring about his house all the time; then he buried
it in his brother's cattle-yard, without religious ceremonies.  It drove
the mother wild with grief and shame, and she forsook her work and went
daily about the town, cursing the carpenter and blaspheming the laws of
the emperor and the church, and it was pitiful to see.  Seppi asked Satan
to interfere, but he said the carpenter and the rest were members of the
human race and were acting quite neatly for that species of animal.  He
would interfere if he found a horse acting in such a way, and we must
inform him when we came across that kind of horse doing that kind of
human thing, so that he could stop it.  We believed this was sarcasm, for
of course there wasn't any such horse.

But after a few days we found that we could not abide that poor woman's
distress, so we begged Satan to examine her several possible careers, and
see if he could not change her, to her profit, to a new one.  He said the
longest of her careers as they now stood gave her forty-two years to
live, and her shortest one twenty-nine, and that both were charged with
grief and hunger and cold and pain.  The only improvement he could make
would be to enable her to skip a certain three minutes from now; and he
asked us if he should do it.  This was such a short time to decide in
that we went to pieces with nervous excitement, and before we could pull
ourselves together and ask for particulars he said the time would be up
in a few more seconds; so then we gasped out, "Do it!"

"It is done," he said; "she was going around a corner; I have turned her
back; it has changed her career."

"Then what will happen, Satan?"

"It is happening now.  She is having words with Fischer, the weaver.  In
his anger Fischer will straightway do what he would not have done but for
this accident.  He was present when she stood over her child's body and
uttered those blasphemies."

"What will he do?"

"He is doing it now--betraying her.  In three days she will go to the
stake."

We could not speak; we were frozen with horror, for if we had not meddled
with her career she would have been spared this awful fate.  Satan
noticed these thoughts, and said:

"What you are thinking is strictly human-like--that is to say, foolish.
The woman is advantaged.  Die when she might, she would go to heaven.  By
this prompt death she gets twenty-nine years more of heaven than she is
entitled to, and escapes twenty-nine years of misery here."

A moment before we were bitterly making up our minds that we would ask no
more favors of Satan for friends of ours, for he did not seem to know any
way to do a person a kindness but by killing him; but the whole aspect of
the case was changed now, and we were glad of what we had done and full
of happiness in the thought of it.

After a little I began to feel troubled about Fischer, and asked,
timidly, "Does this episode change Fischer's life-scheme, Satan?"

"Change it?  Why, certainly.  And radically.  If he had not met Frau
Brandt awhile ago he would die next year, thirty-four years of age.  Now
he will live to be ninety, and have a pretty prosperous and comfortable
life of it, as human lives go."

We felt a great joy and pride in what we had done for Fischer, and were
expecting Satan to sympathize with this feeling; but he showed no sign
and this made us uneasy.  We waited for him to speak, but he didn't; so,
to assuage our solicitude we had to ask him if there was any defect in
Fischer's good luck.  Satan considered the question a moment, then said,
with some hesitation:

"Well, the fact is, it is a delicate point.  Under his several former
possible life-careers he was going to heaven."

We were aghast.  "Oh, Satan! and under this one--"

"There, don't be so distressed.  You were sincerely trying to do him a
kindness; let that comfort you."

"Oh, dear, dear, that cannot comfort us.  You ought to have told us what
we were doing, then we wouldn't have acted so."

But it made no impression on him.  He had never felt a pain or a sorrow,
and did not know what they were, in any really informing way.  He had no
knowledge of them except theoretically--that is to say, intellectually.
And of course that is no good.  One can never get any but a loose and
ignorant notion of such things except by experience.  We tried our best
to make him comprehend the awful thing that had been done and how we were
compromised by it, but he couldn't seem to get hold of it.  He said he
did not think it important where Fischer went to; in heaven he would not
be missed, there were "plenty there."  We tried to make him see that he
was missing the point entirely; that Fischer, and not other people, was
the proper one to decide about the importance of it; but it all went for
nothing; he said he did not care for Fischer--there were plenty more
Fischers.

The next minute Fischer went by on the other side of the way, and it made
us sick and faint to see him, remembering the doom that was upon him, and
we the cause of it.  And how unconscious he was that anything had
happened to him!  You could see by his elastic step and his alert manner
that he was well satisfied with himself for doing that hard turn for poor
Frau Brandt.  He kept glancing back over his shoulder expectantly.  And,
sure enough, pretty soon Frau Brandt followed after, in charge of the
officers and wearing jingling chains.  A mob was in her wake, jeering and
shouting, "Blasphemer and heretic!" and some among them were neighbors
and friends of her happier days.  Some were trying to strike her, and the
officers were not taking as much trouble as they might to keep them from
it.

"Oh, stop them, Satan!" It was out before we remembered that he could not
interrupt them for a moment without changing their whole after-lives.  He
puffed a little puff toward them with his lips and they began to reel and
stagger and grab at the empty air; then they broke apart and fled in
every direction, shrieking, as if in intolerable pain.  He had crushed a
rib of each of them with that little puff.  We could not help asking if
their life-chart was changed.

"Yes, entirely.  Some have gained years, some have lost them.  Some few
will profit in various ways by the change, but only that few."

We did not ask if we had brought poor Fischer's luck to any of them.  We
did not wish to know.  We fully believed in Satan's desire to do us
kindnesses, but we were losing confidence in his judgment.  It was at
this time that our growing anxiety to have him look over our life-charts
and suggest improvements began to fade out and give place to other
interests.

For a day or two the whole village was a chattering turmoil over Frau
Brandt's case and over the mysterious calamity that had overtaken the
mob, and at her trial the place was crowded.  She was easily convicted of
her blasphemies, for she uttered those terrible words again and said she
would not take them back.  When warned that she was imperiling her life,
she said they could take it in welcome, she did not want it, she would
rather live with the professional devils in perdition than with these
imitators in the village.  They accused her of breaking all those ribs by
witchcraft, and asked her if she was not a witch?  She answered
scornfully:

"No.  If I had that power would any of you holy hypocrites be alive five
minutes?  No; I would strike you all dead.  Pronounce your sentence and
let me go; I am tired of your society."

So they found her guilty, and she was excommunicated and cut off from the
joys of heaven and doomed to the fires of hell; then she was clothed in a
coarse robe and delivered to the secular arm, and conducted to the
market-place, the bell solemnly tolling the while.  We saw her chained to
the stake, and saw the first film of blue smoke rise on the still air.
Then her hard face softened, and she looked upon the packed crowd in
front of her and said, with gentleness:

"We played together once, in long-agone days when we were innocent little
creatures.  For the sake of that, I forgive you."

We went away then, and did not see the fires consume her, but we heard
the shrieks, although we put our fingers in our ears.  When they ceased
we knew she was in heaven, notwithstanding the excommunication; and we
were glad of her death and not sorry that we had brought it about.

One day, a little while after this, Satan appeared again.  We were always
watching out for him, for life was never very stagnant when he was by.
He came upon us at that place in the woods where we had first met him.
Being boys, we wanted to be entertained; we asked him to do a show for
us.

"Very well," he said; "would you like to see a history of the progress of
the human race?--its development of that product which it calls
civilization?"

We said we should.

So, with a thought, he turned the place into the Garden of Eden, and we
saw Abel praying by his altar; then Cain came walking toward him with his
club, and did not seem to see us, and would have stepped on my foot if I
had not drawn it in.  He spoke to his brother in a language which we did
not understand; then he grew violent and threatening, and we knew what
was going to happen, and turned away our heads for the moment; but we
heard the crash of the blows and heard the shrieks and the groans; then
there was silence, and we saw Abel lying in his blood and gasping out his
life, and Cain standing over him and looking down at him, vengeful and
unrepentant.

Then the vision vanished, and was followed by a long series of unknown
wars, murders, and massacres.  Next we had the Flood, and the Ark tossing
around in the stormy waters, with lofty mountains in the distance showing
veiled and dim through the rain.  Satan said:

"The progress of your race was not satisfactory.  It is to have another
chance now."

The scene changed, and we saw Noah overcome with wine.

Next, we had Sodom and Gomorrah, and "the attempt to discover two or
three respectable persons there," as Satan described it.  Next, Lot and
his daughters in the cave.

Next came the Hebraic wars, and we saw the victors massacre the survivors
and their cattle, and save the young girls alive and distribute them
around.

Next we had Jael; and saw her slip into the tent and drive the nail into
the temple of her sleeping guest; and we were so close that when the
blood gushed out it trickled in a little, red stream to our feet, and we
could have stained our hands in it if we had wanted to.

Next we had Egyptian wars, Greek wars, Roman wars, hideous drenchings of
the earth with blood; and we saw the treacheries of the Romans toward the
Carthaginians, and the sickening spectacle of the massacre of those brave
people.  Also we saw Caesar invade Britain--"not that those barbarians
had done him any harm, but because he wanted their land, and desired to
confer the blessings of civilization upon their widows and orphans," as
Satan explained.

Next, Christianity was born.  Then ages of Europe passed in review before
us, and we saw Christianity and Civilization march hand in hand through
those ages, "leaving famine and death and desolation in their wake, and
other signs of the progress of the human race," as Satan observed.

And always we had wars, and more wars, and still other wars--all over
Europe, all over the world.  "Sometimes in the private interest of royal
families," Satan said, "sometimes to crush a weak nation; but never a war
started by the aggressor for any clean purpose--there is no such war in
the history of the race."

"Now," said Satan, "you have seen your progress down to the present, and
you must confess that it is wonderful--in its way.  We must now exhibit
the future."

He showed us slaughters more terrible in their destruction of life, more
devastating in their engines of war, than any we had seen.

"You perceive," he said, "that you have made continual progress.  Cain
did his murder with a club; the Hebrews did their murders with javelins
and swords; the Greeks and Romans added protective armor and the fine
arts of military organization and generalship; the Christian has added
guns and gunpowder; a few centuries from now he will have so greatly
improved the deadly effectiveness of his weapons of slaughter that all
men will confess that without Christian civilization war must have
remained a poor and trifling thing to the end of time."

Then he began to laugh in the most unfeeling way, and make fun of the
human race, although he knew that what he had been saying shamed us and
wounded us.  No one but an angel could have acted so; but suffering is
nothing to them; they do not know what it is, except by hearsay.

More than once Seppi and I had tried in a humble and diffident way to
convert him, and as he had remained silent we had taken his silence as a
sort of encouragement; necessarily, then, this talk of his was a
disappointment to us, for it showed that we had made no deep impression
upon him.  The thought made us sad, and we knew then how the missionary
must feel when he has been cherishing a glad hope and has seen it
blighted.  We kept our grief to ourselves, knowing that this was not the
time to continue our work.

Satan laughed his unkind laugh to a finish; then he said: "It is a
remarkable progress.  In five or six thousand years five or six high
civilizations have risen, flourished, commanded the wonder of the world,
then faded out and disappeared; and not one of them except the latest
ever invented any sweeping and adequate way to kill people.  They all did
their best--to kill being the chiefest ambition of the human race and the
earliest incident in its history--but only the Christian civilization has
scored a triumph to be proud of.  Two or three centuries from now it will
be recognized that all the competent killers are Christians; then the
pagan world will go to school to the Christian--not to acquire his
religion, but his guns.  The Turk and the Chinaman will buy those to kill
missionaries and converts with."

By this time his theater was at work again, and before our eyes nation
after nation drifted by, during two or three centuries, a mighty
procession, an endless procession, raging, struggling, wallowing through
seas of blood, smothered in battle-smoke through which the flags glinted
and the red jets from the cannon darted; and always we heard the thunder
of the guns and the cries of the dying.

"And what does it amount to?" said Satan, with his evil chuckle.
"Nothing at all.  You gain nothing; you always come out where you went
in.  For a million years the race has gone on monotonously propagating
itself and monotonously reperforming this dull nonsense--to what end?  No
wisdom can guess!  Who gets a profit out of it?  Nobody but a parcel of
usurping little monarchs and nobilities who despise you; would feel
defiled if you touched them; would shut the door in your face if you
proposed to call; whom you slave for, fight for, die for, and are not
ashamed of it, but proud; whose existence is a perpetual insult to you
and you are afraid to resent it; who are mendicants supported by your
alms, yet assume toward you the airs of benefactor toward beggar; who
address you in the language of master to slave, and are answered in the
language of slave to master; who are worshiped by you with your mouth,
while in your heart--if you have one--you despise yourselves for it.  The
first man was a hypocrite and a coward, qualities which have not yet
failed in his line; it is the foundation upon which all civilizations
have been built.  Drink to their perpetuation!  Drink to their
augmentation!  Drink to--" Then he saw by our faces how much we were
hurt, and he cut his sentence short and stopped chuckling, and his manner
changed.  He said, gently: "No, we will drink one another's health, and
let civilization go.  The wine which has flown to our hands out of space
by desire is earthly, and good enough for that other toast; but throw
away the glasses; we will drink this one in wine which has not visited
this world before."

We obeyed, and reached up and received the new cups as they descended.
They were shapely and beautiful goblets, but they were not made of any
material that we were acquainted with.  They seemed to be in motion, they
seemed to be alive; and certainly the colors in them were in motion.
They were very brilliant and sparkling, and of every tint, and they were
never still, but flowed to and fro in rich tides which met and broke and
flashed out dainty explosions of enchanting color.  I think it was most
like opals washing about in waves and flashing out their splendid fires.
But there is nothing to compare the wine with.  We drank it, and felt a
strange and witching ecstasy as of heaven go stealing through us, and
Seppi's eyes filled and he said worshipingly:

"We shall be there some day, and then--"

He glanced furtively at Satan, and I think he hoped Satan would say,
"Yes, you will be there some day," but Satan seemed to be thinking about
something else, and said nothing.  This made me feel ghastly, for I knew
he had heard; nothing, spoken or unspoken, ever escaped him.  Poor Seppi
looked distressed, and did not finish his remark.  The goblets rose and
clove their way into the sky, a triplet of radiant sundogs, and
disappeared.  Why didn't they stay?  It seemed a bad sign, and depressed
me.  Should I ever see mine again?  Would Seppi ever see his?




Chapter 9

It was wonderful, the mastery Satan had over time and distance.  For him
they did not exist.  He called them human inventions, and said they were
artificialities.  We often went to the most distant parts of the globe
with him, and stayed weeks and months, and yet were gone only a fraction
of a second, as a rule.  You could prove it by the clock.  One day when
our people were in such awful distress because the witch commission were
afraid to proceed against the astrologer and Father Peter's household, or
against any, indeed, but the poor and the friendless, they lost patience
and took to witch-hunting on their own score, and began to chase a born
lady who was known to have the habit of curing people by devilish arts,
such as bathing them, washing them, and nourishing them instead of
bleeding them and purging them through the ministrations of a
barber-surgeon in the proper way.  She came flying down, with the howling
and cursing mob after her, and tried to take refuge in houses, but the
doors were shut in her face.  They chased her more than half an hour, we
following to see it, and at last she was exhausted and fell, and they
caught her.  They dragged her to a tree and threw a rope over the limb,
and began to make a noose in it, some holding her, meantime, and she
crying and begging, and her young daughter looking on and weeping, but
afraid to say or do anything.

They hanged the lady, and I threw a stone at her, although in my heart I
was sorry for her; but all were throwing stones and each was watching his
neighbor, and if I had not done as the others did it would have been
noticed and spoken of.  Satan burst out laughing.

All that were near by turned upon him, astonished and not pleased.  It
was an ill time to laugh, for his free and scoffing ways and his
supernatural music had brought him under suspicion all over the town and
turned many privately against him.  The big blacksmith called attention
to him now, raising his voice so that all should hear, and said:

"What are you laughing at?  Answer!  Moreover, please explain to the
company why you threw no stone."

"Are you sure I did not throw a stone?"

"Yes.  You needn't try to get out of it; I had my eye on you."

"And I--I noticed you!" shouted two others.

"Three witnesses," said Satan: "Mueller, the blacksmith; Klein, the
butcher's man; Pfeiffer, the weaver's journeyman.  Three very ordinary
liars.  Are there any more?"

"Never mind whether there are others or not, and never mind about what
you consider us--three's enough to settle your matter for you.  You'll
prove that you threw a stone, or it shall go hard with you."

"That's so!" shouted the crowd, and surged up as closely as they could to
the center of interest.

"And first you will answer that other question," cried the blacksmith,
pleased with himself for being mouthpiece to the public and hero of the
occasion.  "What are you laughing at?"

Satan smiled and answered, pleasantly: "To see three cowards stoning a
dying lady when they were so near death themselves."

You could see the superstitious crowd shrink and catch their breath,
under the sudden shock.  The blacksmith, with a show of bravado, said:

"Pooh!  What do you know about it?"

"I?  Everything.  By profession I am a fortune-teller, and I read the
hands of you three--and some others--when you lifted them to stone the
woman.  One of you will die to-morrow week; another of you will die
to-night; the third has but five minutes to live--and yonder is the
clock!"

It made a sensation.  The faces of the crowd blanched, and turned
mechanically toward the clock.  The butcher and the weaver seemed smitten
with an illness, but the blacksmith braced up and said, with spirit:

"It is not long to wait for prediction number one.  If it fails, young
master, you will not live a whole minute after, I promise you that."

No one said anything; all watched the clock in a deep stillness which was
impressive.  When four and a half minutes were gone the blacksmith gave a
sudden gasp and clapped his hands upon his heart, saying, "Give me
breath!  Give me room!" and began to sink down.  The crowd surged back,
no one offering to support him, and he fell lumbering to the ground and
was dead.  The people stared at him, then at Satan, then at one another;
and their lips moved, but no words came.  Then Satan said:

"Three saw that I threw no stone.  Perhaps there are others; let them
speak."

It struck a kind of panic into them, and, although no one answered him,
many began to violently accuse one another, saying, "You said he didn't
throw," and getting for reply, "It is a lie, and I will make you eat it!"
And so in a moment they were in a raging and noisy turmoil, and beating
and banging one another; and in the midst was the only indifferent one
--the dead lady hanging from her rope, her troubles forgotten, her spirit
at peace.

So we walked away, and I was not at ease, but was saying to myself, "He
told them he was laughing at them, but it was a lie--he was laughing at
me."

That made him laugh again, and he said, "Yes, I was laughing at you,
because, in fear of what others might report about you, you stoned the
woman when your heart revolted at the act--but I was laughing at the
others, too."

"Why?"

"Because their case was yours."

"How is that?"

"Well, there were sixty-eight people there, and sixty-two of them had no
more desire to throw a stone than you had."

"Satan!"

"Oh, it's true.  I know your race.  It is made up of sheep.  It is
governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities.  It suppresses its
feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most
noise.  Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no
matter, the crowd follows it.  The vast majority of the race, whether
savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting
pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they
don't dare to assert themselves.  Think of it!  One kind-hearted creature
spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities
which revolt both of them.  Speaking as an expert, I know that
ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the
killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful
of pious lunatics in the long ago.  And I know that even to-day, after
ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in
twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch.  And yet
apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed.  Some day a
handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise--perhaps
even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do
it--and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and
witch-hunting will come to a sudden end.

"Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions are all based upon that large
defect in your race--the individual's distrust of his neighbor, and his
desire, for safety's or comfort's sake, to stand well in his neighbor's
eye.  These institutions will always remain, and always flourish, and
always oppress you, affront you, and degrade you, because you will always
be and remain slaves of minorities.  There was never a country where the
majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these
institutions."

I did not like to hear our race called sheep, and said I did not think
they were.

"Still, it is true, lamb," said Satan.  "Look at you in war--what mutton
you are, and how ridiculous!"

"In war?  How?"

"There has never been a just one, never an honorable one--on the part of
the instigator of the war.  I can see a million years ahead, and this
rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances.  The loud
little handful--as usual--will shout for the war.  The pulpit will
--warily and cautiously--object--at first; the great, big, dull bulk of
the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should
be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, 'It is unjust and
dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it.'  Then the handful will
shout louder.  A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason
against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and
be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them,
and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity.
Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the
platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their
secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers--as earlier
--but do not dare to say so.  And now the whole nation--pulpit and all
--will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest
man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease
to open.  Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame
upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those
conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse
to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince
himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he
enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."




Chapter 10

Days and days went by now, and no Satan.  It was dull without him.  But
the astrologer, who had returned from his excursion to the moon, went
about the village, braving public opinion, and getting a stone in the
middle of his back now and then when some witch-hater got a safe chance
to throw it and dodge out of sight.  Meantime two influences had been
working well for Marget.  That Satan, who was quite indifferent to her,
had stopped going to her house after a visit or two had hurt her pride,
and she had set herself the task of banishing him from her heart.
Reports of Wilhelm Meidling's dissipation brought to her from time to
time by old Ursula had touched her with remorse, jealousy of Satan being
the cause of it; and so now, these two matters working upon her together,
she was getting a good profit out of the combination--her interest in
Satan was steadily cooling, her interest in Wilhelm as steadily warming.
All that was needed to complete her conversion was that Wilhelm should
brace up and do something that should cause favorable talk and incline
the public toward him again.

The opportunity came now.  Marget sent and asked him to defend her uncle
in the approaching trial, and he was greatly pleased, and stopped
drinking and began his preparations with diligence.  With more diligence
than hope, in fact, for it was not a promising case.  He had many
interviews in his office with Seppi and me, and threshed out our
testimony pretty thoroughly, thinking to find some valuable grains among
the chaff, but the harvest was poor, of course.

If Satan would only come!  That was my constant thought.  He could invent
some way to win the case; for he had said it would be won, so he
necessarily knew how it could be done.  But the days dragged on, and
still he did not come.  Of course I did not doubt that it would be won,
and that Father Peter would be happy for the rest of his life, since
Satan had said so; yet I knew I should be much more comfortable if he
would come and tell us how to manage it.  It was getting high time for
Father Peter to have a saving change toward happiness, for by general
report he was worn out with his imprisonment and the ignominy that was
burdening him, and was like to die of his miseries unless he got relief
soon.

At last the trial came on, and the people gathered from all around to
witness it; among them many strangers from considerable distances.  Yes,
everybody was there except the accused.  He was too feeble in body for
the strain.  But Marget was present, and keeping up her hope and her
spirit the best she could.  The money was present, too.  It was emptied
on the table, and was handled and caressed and examined by such as were
privileged.

The astrologer was put in the witness-box.  He had on his best hat and
robe for the occasion.

QUESTION.  You claim that this money is yours?

ANSWER.  I do.

Q.  How did you come by it?

A.  I found the bag in the road when I was returning from a journey.

Q.  When?

A.  More than two years ago.

Q.  What did you do with it?

A.  I brought it home and hid it in a secret place in my observatory,
intending to find the owner if I could.

Q.  You endeavored to find him?

A.  I made diligent inquiry during several months, but nothing came of
it.

Q.  And then?

A.  I thought it not worth while to look further, and was minded to use
the money in finishing the wing of the foundling-asylum connected with
the priory and nunnery.  So I took it out of its hiding-place and counted
it to see if any of it was missing.  And then--

Q.  Why do you stop?  Proceed.

A.  I am sorry to have to say this, but just as I had finished and was
restoring the bag to its place, I looked up and there stood Father Peter
behind me.

Several murmured, "That looks bad," but others answered, "Ah, but he is
such a liar!"

Q.  That made you uneasy?

A.  No; I thought nothing of it at the time, for Father Peter often came
to me unannounced to ask for a little help in his need.

Marget blushed crimson at hearing her uncle falsely and impudently
charged with begging, especially from one he had always denounced as a
fraud, and was going to speak, but remembered herself in time and held
her peace.

Q.  Proceed.

A.  In the end I was afraid to contribute the money to the
foundling-asylum, but elected to wait yet another year and continue my
inquiries. When I heard of Father Peter's find I was glad, and no
suspicion entered my mind; when I came home a day or two later and
discovered that my own money was gone I still did not suspect until three
circumstances connected with Father Peter's good fortune struck me as
being singular coincidences.

Q.  Pray name them.

A.  Father Peter had found his money in a path--I had found mine in a
road.  Father Peter's find consisted exclusively of gold ducats--mine
also.  Father Peter found eleven hundred and seven ducats--I exactly the
same.

This closed his evidence, and certainly it made a strong impression on
the house; one could see that.

Wilhelm Meidling asked him some questions, then called us boys, and we
told our tale.  It made the people laugh, and we were ashamed.  We were
feeling pretty badly, anyhow, because Wilhelm was hopeless, and showed
it.  He was doing as well as he could, poor young fellow, but nothing was
in his favor, and such sympathy as there was was now plainly not with his
client.  It might be difficult for court and people to believe the
astrologer's story, considering his character, but it was almost
impossible to believe Father Peter's.  We were already feeling badly
enough, but when the astrologer's lawyer said he believed he would not
ask us any questions--for our story was a little delicate and it would be
cruel for him to put any strain upon it--everybody tittered, and it was
almost more than we could bear.  Then he made a sarcastic little speech,
and got so much fun out of our tale, and it seemed so ridiculous and
childish and every way impossible and foolish, that it made everybody
laugh till the tears came; and at last Marget could not keep up her
courage any longer, but broke down and cried, and I was so sorry for her.

Now I noticed something that braced me up.  It was Satan standing
alongside of Wilhelm!  And there was such a contrast!--Satan looked so
confident, had such a spirit in his eyes and face, and Wilhelm looked so
depressed and despondent.  We two were comfortable now, and judged that
he would testify and persuade the bench and the people that black was
white and white black, or any other color he wanted it.  We glanced
around to see what the strangers in the house thought of him, for he was
beautiful, you know--stunning, in fact--but no one was noticing him; so
we knew by that that he was invisible.

The lawyer was saying his last words; and while he was saying them Satan
began to melt into Wilhelm.  He melted into him and disappeared; and then
there was a change, when his spirit began to look out of Wilhelm's eyes.

That lawyer finished quite seriously, and with dignity.  He pointed to
the money, and said:

"The love of it is the root of all evil.  There it lies, the ancient
tempter, newly red with the shame of its latest victory--the dishonor of
a priest of God and his two poor juvenile helpers in crime.  If it could
but speak, let us hope that it would be constrained to confess that of
all its conquests this was the basest and the most pathetic."

He sat down.  Wilhelm rose and said:

"From the testimony of the accuser I gather that he found this money in a
road more than two years ago.  Correct me, sir, if I misunderstood you."

The astrologer said his understanding of it was correct.

"And the money so found was never out of his hands thenceforth up to a
certain definite date--the last day of last year.  Correct me, sir, if I
am wrong."

The astrologer nodded his head.  Wilhelm turned to the bench and said:

"If I prove that this money here was not that money, then it is not his?"

"Certainly not; but this is irregular.  If you had such a witness it was
your duty to give proper notice of it and have him here to--" He broke
off and began to consult with the other judges.  Meantime that other
lawyer got up excited and began to protest against allowing new witnesses
to be brought into the case at this late stage.

The judges decided that his contention was just and must be allowed.

"But this is not a new witness," said Wilhelm.  "It has already been
partly examined.  I speak of the coin."

"The coin?  What can the coin say?"

"It can say it is not the coin that the astrologer once possessed.  It
can say it was not in existence last December.  By its date it can say
this."

And it was so!  There was the greatest excitement in the court while that
lawyer and the judges were reaching for coins and examining them and
exclaiming.  And everybody was full of admiration of Wilhelm's brightness
in happening to think of that neat idea.  At last order was called and
the court said:

"All of the coins but four are of the date of the present year.  The
court tenders its sincere sympathy to the accused, and its deep regret
that he, an innocent man, through an unfortunate mistake, has suffered
the undeserved humiliation of imprisonment and trial.  The case is
dismissed."

So the money could speak, after all, though that lawyer thought it
couldn't.  The court rose, and almost everybody came forward to shake
hands with Marget and congratulate her, and then to shake with Wilhelm
and praise him; and Satan had stepped out of Wilhelm and was standing
around looking on full of interest, and people walking through him every
which way, not knowing he was there.  And Wilhelm could not explain why
he only thought of the date on the coins at the last moment, instead of
earlier; he said it just occurred to him, all of a sudden, like an
inspiration, and he brought it right out without any hesitation, for,
although he didn't examine the coins, he seemed, somehow, to know it was
true.  That was honest of him, and like him; another would have pretended
he had thought of it earlier, and was keeping it back for a surprise.

He had dulled down a little now; not much, but still you could notice
that he hadn't that luminous look in his eyes that he had while Satan was
in him.  He nearly got it back, though, for a moment when Marget came and
praised him and thanked him and couldn't keep him from seeing how proud
she was of him.  The astrologer went off dissatisfied and cursing, and
Solomon Isaacs gathered up the money and carried it away.  It was Father
Peter's for good and all, now.

Satan was gone.  I judged that he had spirited himself away to the jail
to tell the prisoner the news; and in this I was right.  Marget and the
rest of us hurried thither at our best speed, in a great state of
rejoicing.

Well, what Satan had done was this: he had appeared before that poor
prisoner, exclaiming, "The trial is over, and you stand forever disgraced
as a thief--by verdict of the court!"

The shock unseated the old man's reason.  When we arrived, ten minutes
later, he was parading pompously up and down and delivering commands to
this and that and the other constable or jailer, and calling them Grand
Chamberlain, and Prince This and Prince That, and Admiral of the Fleet,
Field Marshal in Command, and all such fustian, and was as happy as a
bird.  He thought he was Emperor!

Marget flung herself on his breast and cried, and indeed everybody was
moved almost to heartbreak.  He recognized Marget, but could not
understand why she should cry.  He patted her on the shoulder and said:

"Don't do it, dear; remember, there are witnesses, and it is not becoming
in the Crown Princess.  Tell me your trouble--it shall be mended; there
is nothing the Emperor cannot do."  Then he looked around and saw old
Ursula with her apron to her eyes.  He was puzzled at that, and said,
"And what is the matter with you?"

Through her sobs she got out words explaining that she was distressed to
see him--"so."  He reflected over that a moment, then muttered, as if to
himself: "A singular old thing, the Dowager Duchess--means well, but is
always snuffling and never able to tell what it is about.  It is because
she doesn't know."  His eyes fell on Wilhelm.  "Prince of India," he
said, "I divine that it is you that the Crown Princess is concerned
about.  Her tears shall be dried; I will no longer stand between you; she
shall share your throne; and between you you shall inherit mine.  There,
little lady, have I done well?  You can smile now--isn't it so?"

He petted Marget and kissed her, and was so contented with himself and
with everybody that he could not do enough for us all, but began to give
away kingdoms and such things right and left, and the least that any of
us got was a principality.  And so at last, being persuaded to go home,
he marched in imposing state; and when the crowds along the way saw how
it gratified him to be hurrahed at, they humored him to the top of his
desire, and he responded with condescending bows and gracious smiles, and
often stretched out a hand and said, "Bless you, my people!"

As pitiful a sight as ever I saw.  And Marget, and old Ursula crying all
the way.

On my road home I came upon Satan, and reproached him with deceiving me
with that lie.  He was not embarrassed, but said, quite simply and
composedly:

"Ah, you mistake; it was the truth.  I said he would be happy the rest of
his days, and he will, for he will always think he is the Emperor, and
his pride in it and his joy in it will endure to the end.  He is now, and
will remain, the one utterly happy person in this empire."

"But the method of it, Satan, the method!  Couldn't you have done it
without depriving him of his reason?"

It was difficult to irritate Satan, but that accomplished it.

"What an ass you are!" he said.  "Are you so unobservant as not to have
found out that sanity and happiness are an impossible combination?  No
sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a
fearful thing it is.  Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those.
The few that imagine themselves kings or gods are happy, the rest are no
happier than the sane.  Of course, no man is entirely in his right mind
at any time, but I have been referring to the extreme cases.  I have
taken from this man that trumpery thing which the race regards as a Mind;
I have replaced his tin life with a silver-gilt fiction; you see the
result--and you criticize!  I said I would make him permanently happy,
and I have done it.  I have made him happy by the only means possible to
his race--and you are not satisfied!" He heaved a discouraged sigh, and
said, "It seems to me that this race is hard to please."

There it was, you see.  He didn't seem to know any way to do a person a
favor except by killing him or making a lunatic out of him.  I
apologized, as well as I could; but privately I did not think much of his
processes--at that time.

Satan was accustomed to say that our race lived a life of continuous and
uninterrupted self-deception.  It duped itself from cradle to grave with
shams and delusions which it mistook for realities, and this made its
entire life a sham.  Of the score of fine qualities which it imagined it
had and was vain of, it really possessed hardly one.  It regarded itself
as gold, and was only brass.  One day when he was in this vein he
mentioned a detail--the sense of humor.  I cheered up then, and took
issue.  I said we possessed it.

"There spoke the race!" he said; "always ready to claim what it hasn't
got, and mistake its ounce of brass filings for a ton of gold-dust.  You
have a mongrel perception of humor, nothing more; a multitude of you
possess that.  This multitude see the comic side of a thousand low-grade
and trivial things--broad incongruities, mainly; grotesqueries,
absurdities, evokers of the horse-laugh.  The ten thousand high-grade
comicalities which exist in the world are sealed from their dull vision.
Will a day come when the race will detect the funniness of these
juvenilities and laugh at them--and by laughing at them destroy them?
For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective
weapon--laughter.  Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution
--these can lift at a colossal humbug--push it a little--weaken it a
little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and
atoms at a blast.  Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
You are always fussing and fighting with your other weapons.  Do you ever
use that one?  No; you leave it lying rusting.  As a race, do you ever
use it at all?  No; you lack sense and the courage."

We were traveling at the time and stopped at a little city in India and
looked on while a juggler did his tricks before a group of natives.  They
were wonderful, but I knew Satan could beat that game, and I begged him
to show off a little, and he said he would.  He changed himself into a
native in turban and breech-cloth, and very considerately conferred on me
a temporary knowledge of the language.

The juggler exhibited a seed, covered it with earth in a small
flower-pot, then put a rag over the pot; after a minute the rag began to
rise; in ten minutes it had risen a foot; then the rag was removed and a
little tree was exposed, with leaves upon it and ripe fruit.  We ate the
fruit, and it was good.  But Satan said:

"Why do you cover the pot?  Can't you grow the tree in the sunlight?"

"No," said the juggler; "no one can do that."

"You are only an apprentice; you don't know your trade.  Give me the
seed.  I will show you."  He took the seed and said, "What shall I raise
from it?"

"It is a cherry seed; of course you will raise a cherry."

"Oh no; that is a trifle; any novice can do that.  Shall I raise an
orange-tree from it?"

"Oh yes!" and the juggler laughed.

"And shall I make it bear other fruits as well as oranges?"

"If God wills!" and they all laughed.

Satan put the seed in the ground, put a handful of dust on it, and said,
"Rise!"

A tiny stem shot up and began to grow, and grew so fast that in five
minutes it was a great tree, and we were sitting in the shade of it.
There was a murmur of wonder, then all looked up and saw a strange and
pretty sight, for the branches were heavy with fruits of many kinds and
colors--oranges, grapes, bananas, peaches, cherries, apricots, and so on.
Baskets were brought, and the unlading of the tree began; and the people
crowded around Satan and kissed his hand, and praised him, calling him
the prince of jugglers.  The news went about the town, and everybody came
running to see the wonder--and they remembered to bring baskets, too.
But the tree was equal to the occasion; it put out new fruits as fast as
any were removed; baskets were filled by the score and by the hundred,
but always the supply remained undiminished.  At last a foreigner in
white linen and sun-helmet arrived, and exclaimed, angrily:

"Away from here!  Clear out, you dogs; the tree is on my lands and is my
property."

The natives put down their baskets and made humble obeisance.  Satan made
humble obeisance, too, with his fingers to his forehead, in the native
way, and said:

"Please let them have their pleasure for an hour, sir--only that, and no
longer.  Afterward you may forbid them; and you will still have more
fruit than you and the state together can consume in a year."

This made the foreigner very angry, and he cried out, "Who are you, you
vagabond, to tell your betters what they may do and what they mayn't!"
and he struck Satan with his cane and followed this error with a kick.

The fruits rotted on the branches, and the leaves withered and fell.  The
foreigner gazed at the bare limbs with the look of one who is surprised,
and not gratified.  Satan said:

"Take good care of the tree, for its health and yours are bound together.
It will never bear again, but if you tend it well it will live long.
Water its roots once in each hour every night--and do it yourself; it
must not be done by proxy, and to do it in daylight will not answer.  If
you fail only once in any night, the tree will die, and you likewise.  Do
not go home to your own country any more--you would not reach there; make
no business or pleasure engagements which require you to go outside your
gate at night--you cannot afford the risk; do not rent or sell this
place--it would be injudicious."

The foreigner was proud and wouldn't beg, but I thought he looked as if
he would like to.  While he stood gazing at Satan we vanished away and
landed in Ceylon.

I was sorry for that man; sorry Satan hadn't been his customary self and
killed him or made him a lunatic.  It would have been a mercy.  Satan
overheard the thought, and said:

"I would have done it but for his wife, who has not offended me.  She is
coming to him presently from their native land, Portugal.  She is well,
but has not long to live, and has been yearning to see him and persuade
him to go back with her next year.  She will die without knowing he can't
leave that place."

"He won't tell her?"

"He?  He will not trust that secret with any one; he will reflect that it
could be revealed in sleep, in the hearing of some Portuguese guest's
servant some time or other."

"Did none of those natives understand what you said to him?"

"None of them understood, but he will always be afraid that some of them
did.  That fear will be torture to him, for he has been a harsh master to
them.  In his dreams he will imagine them chopping his tree down.  That
will make his days uncomfortable--I have already arranged for his
nights."

It grieved me, though not sharply, to see him take such a malicious
satisfaction in his plans for this foreigner.

"Does he believe what you told him, Satan?"

"He thought he didn't, but our vanishing helped.  The tree, where there
had been no tree before--that helped.  The insane and uncanny variety of
fruits--the sudden withering--all these things are helps.  Let him think
as he may, reason as he may, one thing is certain, he will water the
tree.  But between this and night he will begin his changed career with a
very natural precaution--for him."

"What is that?"

"He will fetch a priest to cast out the tree's devil.  You are such a
humorous race--and don't suspect it."

"Will he tell the priest?"

"No.  He will say a juggler from Bombay created it, and that he wants the
juggler's devil driven out of it, so that it will thrive and be fruitful
again.  The priest's incantations will fail; then the Portuguese will
give up that scheme and get his watering-pot ready."

"But the priest will burn the tree.  I know it; he will not allow it to
remain."

"Yes, and anywhere in Europe he would burn the man, too.  But in India
the people are civilized, and these things will not happen.  The man will
drive the priest away and take care of the tree."

I reflected a little, then said, "Satan, you have given him a hard life,
I think."

"Comparatively.  It must not be mistaken for a holiday."

We flitted from place to place around the world as we had done before,
Satan showing me a hundred wonders, most of them reflecting in some way
the weakness and triviality of our race.  He did this now every few days
--not out of malice--I am sure of that--it only seemed to amuse and
interest him, just as a naturalist might be amused and interested by a
collection of ants.




Chapter 11

For as much as a year Satan continued these visits, but at last he came
less often, and then for a long time he did not come at all.  This always
made me lonely and melancholy.  I felt that he was losing interest in our
tiny world and might at any time abandon his visits entirely.  When one
day he finally came to me I was overjoyed, but only for a little while.
He had come to say good-by, he told me, and for the last time.  He had
investigations and undertakings in other corners of the universe, he
said, that would keep him busy for a longer period than I could wait for
his return.

"And you are going away, and will not come back any more?"

"Yes," he said.  "We have comraded long together, and it has been
pleasant--pleasant for both; but I must go now, and we shall not see each
other any more."

"In this life, Satan, but in another?  We shall meet in another, surely?"

Then, all tranquilly and soberly, he made the strange answer, "There is
no other."

A subtle influence blew upon my spirit from his, bringing with it a
vague, dim, but blessed and hopeful feeling that the incredible words
might be true--even must be true.

"Have you never suspected this, Theodor?"

"No.  How could I?  But if it can only be true--"

"It is true."

A gust of thankfulness rose in my breast, but a doubt checked it before
it could issue in words, and I said, "But--but--we have seen that future
life--seen it in its actuality, and so--"

"It was a vision--it had no existence."

I could hardly breathe for the great hope that was struggling in me.
"A vision?--a vi--"

"Life itself is only a vision, a dream."

It was electrical.  By God!  I had had that very thought a thousand times
in my musings!

"Nothing exists; all is a dream.  God--man--the world--the sun, the moon,
the wilderness of stars--a dream, all a dream; they have no existence.
Nothing exists save empty space--and you!"

"I!"

"And you are not you--you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a
thought.  I myself have no existence; I am but a dream--your dream,
creature of your imagination.  In a moment you will have realized this,
then you will banish me from your visions and I shall dissolve into the
nothingness out of which you made me....

"I am perishing already--I am failing--I am passing away.  In a little
while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless
solitudes without friend or comrade forever--for you will remain a
thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable,
indestructible.  But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself
and set you free.  Dream other dreams, and better!

"Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago--centuries, ages,
eons, ago!--for you have existed, companionless, through all the
eternities.  Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that
your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction!
Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane--like all
dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet
preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy,
yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life,
yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness
unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels
painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and
maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell--mouths
mercy and invented hell--mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied
by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other
people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them
all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the
responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it
where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine
obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!...

"You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a
dream.  You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly
creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks--in a
word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it.  The dream-marks
are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no
universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell.  It is all
a dream--a grotesque and foolish dream.  Nothing exists but you.  And you
are but a thought--a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless
thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"

He vanished, and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he
had said was true.






A FABLE

Once upon a time an artist who had painted a small and very beautiful
picture placed it so that he could see it in the mirror.  He said, "This
doubles the distance and softens it, and it is twice as lovely as it was
before."

The animals out in the woods heard of this through the housecat, who was
greatly admired by them because he was so learned, and so refined and
civilized, and so polite and high-bred, and could tell them so much which
they didn't know before, and were not certain about afterward.  They were
much excited about this new piece of gossip, and they asked questions, so
as to get at a full understanding of it.  They asked what a picture was,
and the cat explained.

"It is a flat thing," he said; "wonderfully flat, marvelously flat,
enchantingly flat and elegant.  And, oh, so beautiful!"

That excited them almost to a frenzy, and they said they would give the
world to see it.  Then the bear asked:

"What is it that makes it so beautiful?"

"It is the looks of it," said the cat.

This filled them with admiration and uncertainty, and they were more
excited than ever.  Then the cow asked:

"What is a mirror?"

"It is a hole in the wall," said the cat.  "You look in it, and there you
see the picture, and it is so dainty and charming and ethereal and
inspiring in its unimaginable beauty that your head turns round and
round, and you almost swoon with ecstasy."

The ass had not said anything as yet; he now began to throw doubts.
He said there had never been anything as beautiful as this before, and
probably wasn't now.  He said that when it took a whole basketful of
sesquipedalian adjectives to whoop up a thing of beauty, it was time for
suspicion.

It was easy to see that these doubts were having an effect upon the
animals, so the cat went off offended.  The subject was dropped for a
couple of days, but in the meantime curiosity was taking a fresh start,
aid there was a revival of interest perceptible.  Then the animals
assailed the ass for spoiling what could possibly have been a pleasure to
them, on a mere suspicion that the picture was not beautiful, without any
evidence that such was the case.  The ass was not, troubled; he was calm,
and said there was one way to find out who was in the right, himself or
the cat: he would go and look in that hole, and come back and tell what
he found there.  The animals felt relieved and grateful, and asked him to
go at once--which he did.

But he did not know where he ought to stand; and so, through error, he
stood between the picture and the mirror.  The result was that the
picture had no chance, and didn't show up.  He returned home and said:

"The cat lied.  There was nothing in that hole but an ass.  There wasn't
a sign of a flat thing visible.  It was a handsome ass, and friendly, but
just an ass, and nothing more."

The elephant asked:

"Did you see it good and clear?  Were you close to it?"

"I saw it good and clear, O Hathi, King of Beasts.  I was so close that I
touched noses with it."

"This is very strange," said the elephant; "the cat was always truthful
before--as far as we could make out.  Let another witness try.  Go,
Baloo, look in the hole, and come and report."

So the bear went.  When he came back, he said:

"Both the cat and the ass have lied; there was nothing in the hole but a
bear."

Great was the surprise and puzzlement of the animals.  Each was now
anxious to make the test himself and get at the straight truth.  The
elephant sent them one at a time.

First, the cow.  She found nothing in the hole but a cow.

The tiger found nothing in it but a tiger.

The lion found nothing in it but a lion.

The leopard found nothing in it but a leopard.

The camel found a camel, and nothing more.

Then Hathi was wroth, and said he would have the truth, if he had to go
and fetch it himself.  When he returned, he abused his whole subjectry
for liars, and was in an unappeasable fury with the moral and mental
blindness of the cat.  He said that anybody but a near-sighted fool could
see that there was nothing in the hole but an elephant.

                            MORAL, BY THE CAT

You can find in a text whatever you bring, if you will stand between it
and the mirror of your imagination.  You may not see your ears, but they
will be there.






HUNTING THE DECEITFUL TURKEY

When I was a boy my uncle and his big boys hunted with the rifle, the
youngest boy Fred and I with a shotgun--a small single-barrelled shotgun
which was properly suited to our size and strength; it was not much
heavier than a broom.  We carried it turn about, half an hour at a time.
I was not able to hit anything with it, but I liked to try.  Fred and I
hunted feathered small game, the others hunted deer, squirrels, wild
turkeys, and such things.  My uncle and the big boys were good shots.
They killed hawks and wild geese and such like on the wing; and they
didn't wound or kill squirrels, they stunned them.  When the dogs treed a
squirrel, the squirrel would scamper aloft and run out on a limb and
flatten himself along it, hoping to make himself invisible in that way
--and not quite succeeding.  You could see his wee little ears sticking
up. You couldn't see his nose, but you knew where it was.  Then the
hunter, despising a "rest" for his rifle, stood up and took offhand aim
at the limb and sent a bullet into it immediately under the squirrel's
nose, and down tumbled the animal, unwounded,  but unconscious; the dogs
gave him a shake and he was dead.  Sometimes when the distance was great
and the wind not accurately allowed for, the bullet would hit the
squirrel's head; the dogs could do as they pleased with that one--the
hunter's pride was hurt, and he wouldn't allow it to go into the gamebag.

In the first faint gray of the dawn the stately wild turkeys would be
stalking around in great flocks, and ready to be sociable and answer
invitations to come and converse with other excursionists of their kind.
The hunter concealed himself and imitated the turkey-call by sucking the
air through the leg-bone of a turkey which had previously answered a call
like that and lived only just long enough to regret it.  There is nothing
that furnishes a perfect turkey-call except that bone.  Another of
Nature's treacheries, you see.  She is full of them; half the time she
doesn't know which she likes best--to betray her child or protect it.
In the case of the turkey she is badly mixed: she gives it a bone to be
used in getting it into trouble, and she also furnishes it with a trick
for getting itself out of the trouble again.  When a mamma-turkey answers
an invitation and finds she has made a mistake in accepting it, she does
as the mamma-partridge does--remembers a previous engagement--and goes
limping and scrambling away, pretending to be very lame; and at the same
time she is saying to her not-visible children, "Lie low, keep still,
don't expose yourselves; I shall be back as soon as I have beguiled this
shabby swindler out of the country."

When a person is ignorant and confiding, this immoral device can have
tiresome results.  I followed an ostensibly lame turkey over a
considerable part of the United States one morning, because I believed in
her and could not think she would deceive a mere boy, and one who was
trusting her and considering her honest.  I had the single-barrelled
shotgun, but my idea was to catch her alive.  I often got within rushing
distance of her, and then made my rush; but always, just as I made my
final plunge and put my hand down where her back had been, it wasn't
there; it was only two or three inches from there and I brushed the
tail-feathers as I landed on my stomach--a very close call, but still not
quite close enough; that is, not close enough for success, but just close
enough to convince me that I could do it next time.  She always waited
for me, a little piece away, and let on to be resting and greatly
fatigued; which was a lie, but I believed it, for I still thought her
honest long after I ought to have begun to doubt her, suspecting that
this was no way for a high-minded bird to be acting.  I followed, and
followed, and followed, making my periodical rushes, and getting up and
brushing the dust off, and resuming the voyage with patient confidence;
indeed, with a confidence which grew, for I could see by the change of
climate and vegetation that we were getting up into the high latitudes,
and as she always looked a little tireder and a little more discouraged
after each rush, I judged that I was safe to win, in the end, the
competition being purely a matter of staying power and the advantage
lying with me from the start because she was lame.

Along in the afternoon I began to feel fatigued myself.  Neither of us
had had any rest since we first started on the excursion, which was
upwards of ten hours before, though latterly we had paused awhile after
rushes, I letting on to be thinking about something else; but neither of
us sincere, and both of us waiting for the other to call game but in no
real hurry about it, for indeed those little evanescent snatches of rest
were very grateful to the feelings of us both; it would naturally be so,
skirmishing along like that ever since dawn and not a bite in the
meantime; at least for me, though sometimes as she lay on her side
fanning herself with a wing and praying for strength to get out of this
difficulty a grasshopper happened along whose time had come, and that was
well for her, and fortunate, but I had nothing--nothing the whole day.

More than once, after I was very tired, I gave up taking her alive, and
was going to shoot her, but I never did it, although it was my right, for
I did not believe I could hit her; and besides, she always stopped and
posed, when I raised the gun, and this made me suspicious that she knew
about me and my marksmanship, and so I did not care to expose myself to
remarks.

I did not get her, at all.  When she got tired of the game at last, she
rose from almost under my hand and flew aloft with the rush and whir of a
shell and lit on the highest limb of a great tree and sat down and
crossed her legs and smiled down at me, and seemed gratified to see me so
astonished.

I was ashamed, and also lost; and it was while wandering the woods
hunting for myself that I found a deserted log cabin and had one of the
best meals there that in my life-days I have eaten.  The weed-grown
garden was full of ripe tomatoes, and I ate them ravenously, though I had
never liked them before.  Not more than two or three times since have I
tasted anything that was so delicious as those tomatoes.  I surfeited
myself with them, and did not taste another one until I was in middle
life.  I can eat them now, but I do not like the look of them.  I suppose
we have all experienced a surfeit at one time or another.  Once, in
stress of circumstances, I ate part of a barrel of sardines, there being
nothing else at hand, but since then I have always been able to get along
without sardines.






THE McWILLIAMSES AND THE BURGLAR ALARM

The conversation drifted smoothly and pleasantly along from weather to
crops, from crops to literature, from literature to scandal, from scandal
to religion; then took a random jump, and landed on the subject of
burglar alarms.  And now for the first time Mr. McWilliams showed
feeling.  Whenever I perceive this sign on this man's dial, I comprehend
it, and lapse into silence, and give him opportunity to unload his heart.
Said he, with but ill-controlled emotion:

"I do not go one single cent on burglar alarms, Mr. Twain--not a single
cent--and I will tell you why.  When we were finishing our house, we
found we had a little cash left over, on account of the plumber not
knowing it.  I was for enlightening the heathen with it, for I was always
unaccountably down on the heathen somehow; but Mrs. McWilliams said no,
let's have a burglar alarm.  I agreed to this compromise.  I will explain
that whenever I want a thing, and Mrs. McWilliams wants another thing,
and we decide upon the thing that Mrs. McWilliams wants--as we always do
--she calls that a compromise.  Very well: the man came up from New York
and put in the alarm, and charged three hundred and twenty-five dollars
for it, and said we could sleep without uneasiness now.  So we did for
awhile--say a month.  Then one night we smelled smoke, and I was advised
to get up and see what the matter was.  I lit a candle, and started
toward the stairs, and met a burglar coming out of a room with a basket
of tinware, which he had mistaken for solid silver in the dark.  He was
smoking a pipe.  I said, 'My friend, we do not allow smoking in this
room.'  He said he was a stranger, and could not be expected to know the
rules of the house: said he had been in many houses just as good as this
one, and it had never been objected to before.  He added that as far as
his experience went, such rules had never been considered to apply to
burglars, anyway.

"I said: 'Smoke along, then, if it is the custom, though I think that the
conceding of a privilege to a burglar which is denied to a bishop is a
conspicuous sign of the looseness of the times.  But waiving all that,
what business have you to be entering this house in this furtive and
clandestine way, without ringing the burglar alarm?'

"He looked confused and ashamed, and said, with embarrassment: 'I beg a
thousand pardons.  I did not know you had a burglar alarm, else I would
have rung it.  I beg you will not mention it where my parents may hear of
it, for they are old and feeble, and such a seemingly wanton breach of
the hallowed conventionalities of our Christian civilization might all
too rudely sunder the frail bridge which hangs darkling between the pale
and evanescent present and the solemn great deeps of the eternities.  May
I trouble you for a match?'

"I said: 'Your sentiments do you honor, but if you will allow me to say
it, metaphor is not your best hold.  Spare your thigh; this kind light
only on the box, and seldom there, in fact, if my experience may be
trusted.  But to return to business: how did you get in here?'

"'Through a second-story window.'

"It was even so.  I redeemed the tinware at pawnbroker's rates, less cost
of advertising, bade the burglar good-night, closed the window after him,
and retired to headquarters to report.  Next morning we sent for the
burglar-alarm man, and he came up and explained that the reason the alarm
did not 'go off' was that no part of the house but the first floor was
attached to the alarm.  This was simply idiotic; one might as well have
no armor on at all in battle as to have it only on his legs.  The expert
now put the whole second story on the alarm, charged three hundred
dollars for it, and went his way.  By and by, one night, I found a
burglar in the third story, about to start down a ladder with a lot of
miscellaneous property.  My first impulse was to crack his head with a
billiard cue; but my second was to refrain from this attention, because
he was between me and the cue rack.  The second impulse was plainly the
soundest, so I refrained, and proceeded to compromise.  I redeemed the
property at former rates, after deducting ten per cent. for use of
ladder, it being my ladder, and, next day we sent down for the expert
once more, and had the third story attached to the alarm, for three
hundred dollars.

"By this time the 'annunciator' had grown to formidable dimensions.  It
had forty-seven tags on it, marked with the names of the various rooms
and chimneys, and it occupied the space of an ordinary wardrobe.  The
gong was the size of a wash-bowl, and was placed above the head of our
bed.  There was a wire from the house to the coachman's quarters in the
stable, and a noble gong alongside his pillow.

"We should have been comfortable now but for one defect.  Every morning
at five the cook opened the kitchen door, in the way of business, and rip
went that gong!  The first time this happened I thought the last day was
come sure.  I didn't think it in bed--no, but out of it--for the first
effect of that frightful gong is to hurl you across the house, and slam
you against the wall, and then curl you up, and squirm you like a spider
on a stove lid, till somebody shuts the kitchen door.  In solid fact,
there is no clamor that is even remotely comparable to the dire clamor
which that gong makes.  Well, this catastrophe happened every morning
regularly at five o'clock, and lost us three hours sleep; for, mind you,
when that thing wakes you, it doesn't merely wake you in spots; it wakes
you all over, conscience and all, and you are good for eighteen hours of
wide-awakeness subsequently--eighteen hours of the very most
inconceivable wide-awakeness that you ever experienced in your life.
A stranger died on our hands one time, aid we vacated and left him in our
room overnight.  Did that stranger wait for the general judgment?  No,
sir; he got up at five the next morning in the most prompt and
unostentatious way.  I knew he would; I knew it mighty well.  He
collected his life-insurance, and lived happy ever after, for there was
plenty of proof as to the perfect squareness of his death.

"Well, we were gradually fading toward a better land, on account of the
daily loss of sleep; so we finally had the expert up again, and he ran a
wire to the outside of the door, and placed a switch there, whereby
Thomas, the butler, always made one little mistake--he switched the alarm
off at night when he went to bed, and switched it on again at daybreak in
the morning, just in time for the cook to open the kitchen door, and
enable that gong to slam us across the house, sometimes breaking a window
with one or the other of us.  At the end of a week we recognized that
this switch business was a delusion and a snare.  We also discovered that
a band of burglars had been lodging in the house the whole time--not
exactly to steal, for there wasn't much left now, but to hide from the
police, for they were hot pressed, and they shrewdly judged that the
detectives would never think of a tribe of burglars taking sanctuary in a
house notoriously protected by the most imposing and elaborate burglar
alarm in America.

"Sent down for the expert again, and this time he struck a most dazzling
idea--he fixed the thing so that opening the kitchen door would take off
the alarm.  It was a noble idea, and he charged accordingly.  But you
already foresee the result.  I switched on the alarm every night at
bed-time, no longer trusting on Thomas's frail memory; and as soon as the
lights were out the burglars walked in at the kitchen door, thus taking
the alarm off without waiting for the cook to do it in the morning.  You
see how aggravatingly we were situated.  For months we couldn't have any
company.  Not a spare bed in the house; all occupied by burglars.

"Finally, I got up a cure of my own.  The expert answered the call, and
ran another ground wire to the stable, and established a switch there, so
that the coachman could put on and take off the alarm.  That worked first
rate, and a season of peace ensued, during which we got to inviting
company once more and enjoying life.

"But by and by the irrepressible alarm invented a new kink.  One winter's
night we were flung out of bed by the sudden music of that awful gong,
and when we hobbled to the annunciator, turned up the gas, and saw the
word 'Nursery' exposed, Mrs. McWilliams fainted dead away, and I came
precious near doing the same thing myself.  I seized my shotgun, and
stood timing the coachman whilst that appalling buzzing went on.  I knew
that his gong had flung him out, too, and that he would be along with his
gun as soon as he could jump into his clothes.  When I judged that the
time was ripe, I crept to the room next the nursery, glanced through the
window, and saw the dim outline of the coachman in the yard below,
standing at present-arms and waiting for a chance.  Then I hopped into
the nursery and fired, and in the same instant the coachman fired at the
red flash of my gun.  Both of us were successful; I crippled a nurse, and
he shot off all my back hair.  We turned up the gas, and telephoned for a
surgeon.  There was not a sign of a burglar, and no window had been
raised.  One glass was absent, but that was where the coachman's charge
had come through.  Here was a fine mystery--a burglar alarm 'going off'
at midnight of its own accord, and not a burglar in the neighborhood!

"The expert answered the usual call, and explained that it was a 'False
alarm.' Said it was easily fixed.  So he overhauled the nursery window,
charged a remunerative figure for it, and departed.

"What we suffered from false alarms for the next three years no
stylographic pen can describe.  During the next three months I always
flew with my gun to the room indicated, and the coachman always sallied
forth with his battery to support me.  But there was never anything to
shoot at--windows all tight and secure.  We always sent down for the
expert next day, and he fixed those particular windows so they would keep
quiet a week or so, and always remembered to send us a bill about like
this:

          Wire ............................$2.15
          Nipple...........................  .75
          Two hours' labor ................ 1.50
          Wax..............................  .47
          Tape.............................  .34
          Screws...........................  .15
          Recharging battery ..............  .98
          Three hours' labor .............. 2.25
          String...........................  .02
          Lard ............................  .66
          Pond's Extract .................. 1.25
          Springs at 50.................... 2.00
          Railroad fares................... 7.25


"At length a perfectly natural thing came about--after we had answered
three or four hundred false alarms--to wit, we stopped answering them.
Yes, I simply rose up calmly, when slammed across the house by the alarm,
calmly inspected the annunciator, took note of the room indicated; and
then calmly disconnected that room from the alarm, and went back to bed
as if nothing had happened.  Moreover, I left that room off permanently,
and did not send for the expert.  Well, it goes without saying that in
the course of time all the rooms were taken off, and the entire machine
was out of service.

"It was at this unprotected time that the heaviest calamity of all
happened.  The burglars walked in one night and carried off the burglar
alarm! yes, sir, every hide and hair of it: ripped it out, tooth and
nail; springs, bells, gongs, battery, and all; they took a hundred and
fifty miles of copper wire; they just cleaned her out, bag and baggage,
and never left us a vestige of her to swear at--swear by, I mean.

"We had a time of it to get her back; but we accomplished it finally, for
money.  The alarm firm said that what we needed now was to have her put
in right--with their new patent springs in the windows to make false
alarms impossible, and their new patent clock attached to take off and
put on the alarm morning and night without human assistance.  That seemed
a good scheme.  They promised to have the whole thing finished in ten
days.  They began work, and we left for the summer.  They worked a couple
of days; then they left for the summer.  After which the burglars moved
in, and began their summer vacation.  When we returned in the fall, the
house was as empty as a beer closet in premises where painters have been
at work.  We refurnished, and then sent down to hurry up the expert.  He
came up and finished the job, and said: 'Now this clock is set to put on
the alarm every night at 10, and take it off every morning at 5:45.  All
you've got to do is to wind her up every week, and then leave her alone
--she will take care of the alarm herself.'

"After that we had a most tranquil season during three months.  The bill
was prodigious, of course, and I had said I would not pay it until the
new machinery had proved itself to be flawless.  The time stipulated was
three months.  So I paid the bill, and the very next day the alarm went
to buzzing like ten thousand bee swarms at ten o'clock in the morning.
I turned the hands around twelve hours, according to instructions, and
this took off the alarm; but there was another hitch at night, and I had
to set her ahead twelve hours once more to get her to put the alarm on
again.  That sort of nonsense went on a week or two, then the expert came
up and put in a new clock.  He came up every three months during the next
three years, and put in a new clock.  But it was always a failure.  His
clocks all had the same perverse defect: they would put the alarm on in
the daytime, and they would not put it on at night; and if you forced it
on yourself, they would take it off again the minute your back was
turned.

"Now there is the history of that burglar alarm--everything just as it
happened; nothing extenuated, and naught set down in malice.  Yes, sir,
--and when I had slept nine years with burglars, and maintained an
expensive burglar alarm the whole time, for their protection, not mine,
and at my sole cost--for not a d---d cent could I ever get THEM to
contribute--I just said to Mrs.  McWilliams that I had had enough of that
kind of pie; so with her full consent I took the whole thing out and
traded it off for a dog, and shot the dog.  I don't know what you think
about it, Mr.  Twain; but I think those things are made solely in the
interest of the burglars.  Yes, sir, a burglar alarm combines in its
person all that is objectionable about a fire, a riot, and a harem, and
at the same time had none of the compensating advantages, of one sort or
another, that customarily belong with that combination.  Good-by: I get
off here."





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