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85. THE DEVIL'S TASKS (9, 10)


A man who was pretty well off was very fond of gambling with cards, and one time he lost everything he owned. Then he determined to find the devil and get help from him, so he set out toward the west. On the evening of the same day he met a man coming along on a mule. The man asked, "Where are you going?" "I do not know. They say there is a devil and I want to find him." "Why do you want to see him?" "Because I have lost everything in gambling," said the man. Then the stranger answered, "I am the devil, If you want me to help you, you must work for me and I am a pretty hard master, but if you wish you can try." However, the gambler was so anxious to win back what he had lost that he agreed. "I have only a quarter," said the devil, "but take it back to the place where you lost and play again." Then the devil turned back and the gambler also returned to his home. When he arrived he told the people who had won from him that he was ready to play again. "How much money have you?" they asked. "Only a quarter."

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[paragraph continues] "Why, you can't do anything with that," they replied. However, they started playing again and before long he won half of his property back. Then he doubled the bet and won it all, and returned with it to his home.

Some time later the gambler suddenly thought, "Why, I promised to work for the devil. I will go and see about it." He went in the same direction he had before, taken, passed far beyond the place where he had encountered the devil, and finally came to a house. "Where are you going?" they asked. "I promised to work for a man and I am in search of him." "What is his name?" "His name is the devil." "Down yonder there are three women in swimming. If you can steal the clothes belonging to one of them, she will take you to him." These were the devil's daughters. So the man did as he had been advised. He stole the clothes belonging to one of the women and hid them, concealing himself also. When the girls were ready to go home, two of them found their clothes, but the clothes of the third were missing. The third girl, therefore, remained in the water and called out, "If someone will bring my clothes back, I will do what he wants." Therefore, the man brought the girl's clothes to her, she put them on and then asked him where he was going. "To see the devil," he replied. "He is our father. Why do you want to see him?" "I was beaten in gambling and he loaned me some money for which I agreed to work for him." "Our father is a very bad man," she said, "but if you wish we will take you to him."

When they got home the devil was there and he said to the newcomer, "You are the man who was to work for me. You have come. I do not work in the daytime. I work at night, so you can sleep during the day." The man, therefore, rested all that day, and in the evening the devil gave him some tools and told him to remove before morning a high bald mountain which stood opposite. The gambler found he could do nothing with it, but the girl whose clothes he had stolen had offered to help him, so he went to her. "I can't even cut into it," he said. "I will do it for you," she answered, and they went back together. She took with her a kind of shovel and when she had thrown a shovelful of earth north, west, south, and east in succession the mountain was gone. "Lie here until morning," she said, and returned home.

The devil came at daybreak and the man said to him, "I have completed that job." "You have done well," answered the devil; "Go to sleep now and tonight I will give you another job." So the man rested all of that day and in the evening the devil said, "Over there in a lot are some horses. I want you to have them all broken by daylight." The man went to the place and found a big corral full of horses. He roped one of them but it escaped from him along with the lariat. As he could do nothing with them, he went

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to the girl again. She asked what the matter was and he replied, "I roped a horse and it ran away with the lariat. I can do nothing with them." Then the girl said, "I will do it," and together they went to the place. She had a way of knocking them down by hitting them on the knot back of the head. Then she mounted and rode each, so that before morning she had all of them broken. She told the man to wait there until day and then go and tell the devil that he had accomplished his task. Upon hearing it the devil's wife said to him, "Why, no one could compete with you formerly, but I think you have met your match. I think he is going to gain one of your daughters."

At the words of his wife the devil became angry and said, "Well, I will find out to-night whether he can compete with me." He told the man to retire for the day and in the evening set him another task. "My wife lost a fine gold ring down yonder in the creek. You must get it by daylight." The man went to the creek but could see nothing there except numbers of fish, so he had to come back to the girl. He told her that he had come because he could not make the first move toward accomplishing the task he had been set. "I will do it," she said. "A fish swallowed the ring. Cut me in pieces and throw me into the water and we will get the ring." He hated to do that and put it off until after midnight, but at last he killed her, cut her in pieces joint by joint, and threw all into the water except a joint of one of the fingers which was left on land. She was gone for a long time but at length came up in her proper form bringing a big fish. "Cut that fish open," she said, and when he had done so he found the ring inside. Then the girl told him to remain where he was until daylight as he had done before and afterwards go and tell the devil. She added, "I know that your next task will be to drain all of the water out of that lake."

The man did as he had been told and when he presented the ring the devil's wife said to her husband, "You used to brag that no one could compete with you and here is one man who is going to do it and win your daughter, and indeed has already done so." This angered the devil again, but he told the man to rest until evening. At night the devil came to him. and said, "Over yonder is a big lake. Go and bail the water all out of it." He was given a dipper and set to work bailing up the water and pouring it off, but it appeared to him that he was doing nothing at all, so he went to the devil's daughter once more. As before, she agreed to help him and they set out. She took with her four hollow reeds and with each of these she dipped out water toward the north, west, south, and east in turn, whereupon the lake vanished. Telling the man to remain where he was and inform her father in the morning, she went home.

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Therefore, about daybreak the man went to the devil and said, "I have completed that task you set me." Then the devil said, "I will give you one of my daughters if you will dance four times with each of them and pick out the same one four times in succession." The man picked out the girl who had helped him four times in succession by means of the missing finger joint, and the devil gave her to him.

But as soon as the pair retired to their room the girl said, "My father is very mean. We must leave the house and run away." They did so immediately, but before they went she left a bubble of saliva in the middle of the floor. Then they climbed upon the back of the devil's mule and started off.

In the morning the devil came to their door and called out, but there was no reply and he thought, "They are probably still asleep." When he called again the saliva answered for them and thus delayed him for a considerable time. At last he discovered that they were gone and he set out after them, but was unable to overtake them and turned back.

When the man came in sight of his own home, he said to his wife, "Yonder is my home. I will go on ahead and see it." "If you do you will forget me," she, replied. The man persisted, however, and sure enough his wife went entirely out of his head. One time as he was sitting at the table he whirled a biscuit on it which turned into a dove and flew away. This was the woman he had left. It flew out into the wilderness, and because it was abandoned it now has a lonesome way of calling.


76:1 Only the most patently European stories are pointed out in this manner. The actual number of stories of European origin is very much greater.

Next: 86. The Boy and the Lion