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Another story, in which the Devil gets the worst of it, is
ONCE upon a time, when God himself was still on earth, it happened that he went to a farm-house disguised as a beggar,1 while a christening was going forward, and asked for a lodging. But the people did not receive him, and declared that he might easily be trodden under the feet of the guests in the confusion. The poor man offered to creep under the stove, and lie still there; but they would not heed his prayer, and showed him the door, telling him he might go to the mud hovel, or wherever he liked.
In the hovel lived a shoemaker, who was always very compassionate towards the poor and needy, and would rather suffer hunger himself than allow p. 183 a poor man to leave his threshold unrelieved. God went to him, and begged for a night’s lodging. The shoemaker gave him a friendly reception and something to eat, and offered him his own bed, while he himself lay on straw.
Next morning, when God took his departure, he thanked his host, and said, “I am he who has power to fulfil whatsoever the heart can desire. You have given me a friendly and most hospitable reception and I am grateful to you from my heart, and will reward you. Speak a wish, and it shall be fulfilled.”
The shoemaker answered, “Then I will wish that whenever a poor man comes to ask my aid, I may be able to give him what he most requires, and that I myself may never want for daily bread as long as I live.”
“Let it be so!” answered God, who took leave of him and departed.
Meantime the people in the farmhouse were feasting and drinking, not remembering the proverbs, “A large piece strains the mouth,” and “The mouth is the measure of the stomach.” They set the house on fire by their recklessness, and only escaped with bare life. All their goods and chattels were reduced p. 184 to ashes, and they were left without a roof to shelter them. The guests hastened home, but the farmer and his people were forced to take refuge in the shoemaker’s hut. He received them in the most friendly way, and gave them clothes and shoes, and food and drink, and saw to it that they wanted for nothing till they could again provide themselves with shelter.
Besides this, needy people came every day to the shoemaker, and each received an abundant allowance.
As he thus doled out everything, and refused no one relief, low people jeered at him, saying, “What is your object in giving everything away? You cannot make the world warm.” He answered, “We should love our neighbours as ourselves.”
At length the shoemaker felt that his last hour had come. So he dressed himself neatly, took with him a staff of juniper, and set off on the way to hell. The warden trembled when he saw him, and cried out, “Throw down the staff! No one may bring such a weapon to hell.” The shoemaker took no heed of this speech, but pressed on his way. At length the Prince of Hell himself met him, and cried out, “Throw down your staff and let us wrestle. If you overcome me, I will be your p. 185 slave; but if I should overcome you, then you must serve me.”
This did not please the shoemaker, who answered, “I will not wrestle with you, for you have such very clumsy hands, but come against me with a spear.”
As the Devil continued talking, and again advised him to throw away the staff, the shoemaker struck him a heavy blow with it behind the ear. Upon this, all hell shook, and the Devil and his companions vanished suddenly, as lead sinks in water.
Then the shoemaker proceeded farther, and cautiously explored the interior of the underworld. In one hall lay a great book, in which the souls of all children who died unbaptized were recorded. Near the book lay many keys, which opened the rooms in which the children’s souls were imprisoned. So he took the keys, released the innocent captive souls, and went with them to heaven, where he was received with honour, and a thanksgiving feast was instituted in remembrance of his good deed.
Among other stories of devils is one of a forester who gave the Devil three drops of blood for a magic powder which would heal all wounds. But when p. 186 he died, his corpse rushed out at the door, and was never seen again. Another time, a dull schoolboy, who was always beaten by his master, met the Devil, who drew blood from three punctures, and wrote a compact with it; but the boy was rescued by a clever student, who afterwards died from the bursting of the “blood-vessel of wisdom,” as was ascertained by autopsy.
The Devil is sometimes represented as driving about in a coach drawn by twelve black stallions, and annoying the neighbourhood.
Another time, a charitable orphan-girl stayed late one Saturday evening in the bath-house,1 after washing the poor and helpless, when the Devil and his mother and three sons drove up in a coach drawn by four black stallions, with harness adorned with gold and silver, and asked her hand for one of his sons. But the maiden fled back into the bath-house, after making the sign of the cross on the threshold, and replied that she was not ready, as she had no shoes nor dress. The Devil desired her to ask for whatever she wanted; but a mouse called to her to ask for each article separately. p. 187 One of the sons fetched each article as it was asked for; and the maiden was at last fully attired, when the cock crew, and everything vanished. Next day the girl’s mistress and her daughter were envious of her fine clothes and ornaments; and next Saturday evening the daughter went to the bath-house. But she despised the warning of the mouse, and asked for everything at once, when she was taken into the coach and carried away.
Tales of minor dealings with the Devil are common. A farmer taking flax to market, invoked the Devil to enable him to sell it well. The Devil did so, and rode home with him from market, made him drunk, and tempted him to commit a burglary at the house of a rich man in the neighbourhood. He put his hat on the farmer’s head, which made him invisible, and broke open the iron bars of the door with his teeth. On the way home, the farmer cried out, while crossing the ford where he had first met the Devil, “Good God! how much money I’ve got!” The Devil vanished, and all the treasure fell into the stream, and was lost. On another occasion, a labourer devoted his horse to the Devil, at a time when an old Devil and his son overheard him. The son wanted to lay claim to it, but his father warned p. 188 him that it was no use, for such people did not mean what they said, and did not keep their word. Nevertheless, the imp went to unharness it, and the peasant in terror invoked the Trinity, when the imp ran away, and his father laughed at him.
The stories which follow, like several of the preceding, are mostly told by Jannsen, and deal with various forms of black magic. The first is an instance of something very like Vampyrism.
1 This disguise is often assumed by God in the stories of Eastern Europe, when he wishes to be incognito; nor is it always clear whether God or Christ is intended. I remember once reading a Lithuanian Story in which God and St. Peter are represented as descending to earth disguised as beggars, for fear they might be recognised, to inquire into the wickedness of mankind before the Flood.
1 The bath is a special place of resort for devils in Mohammedan folk-lore.