he said, “Madame has been ill since her husband died.”

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[117] For further particulars see Cox, Mythology of the Aryan Nations, Vol. II. pp 358, 366; to which I am indebted for several of the details here given. Compare Welcker, Griechische Gotterlehre, I. 661, seq.

he said, “Madame has been ill since her husband died.”

According to the Scotch divines of the seventeenth century, the Devil is a learned scholar and profound thinker. Having profited by six thousand years of intense study and meditation, he has all science, philosophy, and theology at his tongue's end; and, as his skill has increased with age, he is far more than a match for mortals in cunning.[118] Such, however, is not the view taken by mediaeval mythology, which usually represents his stupidity as equalling his malignity. The victory of Hercules over Cacus is repeated in a hundred mediaeval legends in which the Devil is overreached and made a laughing-stock. The germ of this notion may be found in the blinding of Polyphemos by Odysseus, which is itself a victory of the sun-hero over the night-demon, and which curiously reappears in a Middle-Age story narrated by Mr. Cox. "The Devil asks a man who is moulding buttons what he may be doing; and when the man answers that he is moulding eyes, asks him further whether he can give him a pair of new eyes. He is told to come again another day; and when he makes his appearance accordingly, the man tells him that the operation cannot be performed rightly unless he is first tightly bound with his back fastened to a bench. While he is thus pinioned he asks the man's name. The reply is Issi (`himself'). When the lead is melted, the Devil opens his eyes wide to receive the deadly stream. As soon as he is blinded, he starts up in agony, bearing away the bench to which he had been bound; and when some workpeople in the fields ask him who had thus treated him, his answer is, 'Issi teggi' (`Self did it'). With a laugh they bid him lie on the bed which he has made: 'selbst gethan, selbst habe.' The Devil died of his new eyes, and was never seen again."

he said, “Madame has been ill since her husband died.”

[118] "Many amusing passages from Scotch theologians are cited in Buckle's History of Civilization, Vol. II. p. 368. The same belief is implied in the quaint monkish tale of "Celestinus and the Miller's Horse." See Tales from the Gesta Romanorum, p. 134.

he said, “Madame has been ill since her husband died.”

In his attempts to obtain human souls the Devil is frequently foiled by the superior cunning of mortals. Once, he agreed to build a house for a peasant in exchange for the peasant's soul; but if the house were not finished before cockcrow, the contract was to be null and void. Just as the Devil was putting on the last tile the man imitated a cockcrow and waked up all the roosters in the neighbourhood, so that the fiend had his labour for his pains. A merchant of Louvain once sold himself to the Devil, who heaped upon him all manner of riches for seven years, and then came to get him. The merchant "took the Devil in a friendly manner by the hand and, as it was just evening, said, 'Wife, bring a light quickly for the gentleman.' 'That is not at all necessary,' said the Devil; 'I am merely come to fetch you.' 'Yes, yes, that I know very well,' said the merchant, 'only just grant me the time till this little candle-end is burnt out, as I have a few letters to sign and to put on my coat.' 'Very well,' said the Devil, 'but only till the candle is burnt out.' 'Good,' said the merchant, and going into the next room, ordered the maid-servant to place a large cask full of water close to a very deep pit that was dug in the garden. The men-servants also carried, each of them, a cask to the spot; and when all was done, they were ordered each to take a shovel, and stand round the pit. The merchant then returned to the Devil, who seeing that not more than about an inch of candle remained, said, laughing, 'Now get yourself ready, it will soon be burnt out.' 'That I see, and am content; but I shall hold you to your word, and stay till it IS burnt.' 'Of course,' answered the Devil; 'I stick to my word.' 'It is dark in the next room,' continued the merchant, 'but I must find the great book with clasps, so let me just take the light for one moment.' 'Certainly,' said the Devil, 'but I'll go with you.' He did so, and the merchant's trepidation was now on the increase. When in the next room he said on a sudden, 'Ah, now I know, the key is in the garden door.' And with these words he ran out with the light into the garden, and before the Devil could overtake him, threw it into the pit, and the men and the maids poured water upon it, and then filled up the hole with earth. Now came the Devil into the garden and asked, 'Well, did you get the key? and how is it with the candle? where is it?' 'The candle?' said the merchant. 'Yes, the candle.' 'Ha, ha, ha! it is not yet burnt out,' answered the merchant, laughing, 'and will not be burnt out for the next fifty years; it lies there a hundred fathoms deep in the earth.' When the Devil heard this he screamed awfully, and went off with a most intolerable stench."[119]

[119] Thorpe, Northern Mythology, Vol. 11. p. 258.

One day a fowler, who was a terrible bungler and could n't hit a bird at a dozen paces, sold his soul to the Devil in order to become a Freischutz. The fiend was to come for him in seven years, but must be always able to name the animal at which he was shooting, otherwise the compact was to be nullified. After that day the fowler never missed his aim, and never did a fowler command such wages. When the seven years were out the fowler told all these things to his wife, and the twain hit upon an expedient for cheating the Devil. The woman stripped herself, daubed her whole body with molasses, and rolled herself up in a feather-bed, cut open for this purpose. Then she hopped and skipped about the field where her husband stood parleying with Old Nick. "there's a shot for you, fire away," said the Devil. "Of course I'll fire, but do you first tell me what kind of a bird it is; else our agreement is cancelled, Old Boy." There was no help for it; the Devil had to own himself nonplussed, and off he fled, with a whiff of brimstone which nearly suffocated the Freischutz and his good woman.[120]

[120] Thorpe, Northern Mythology, Vol. II. p. 259. In the Norse story of "Not a Pin to choose between them," the old woman is in doubt as to her own identity, on waking up after the butcher has dipped her in a tar-barrel and rolled her on a heap of feathers; and when Tray barks at her, her perplexity is as great as the Devil's when fooled by the Frenschutz. See Dasent, Norse Tales, p. 199.

In the legend of Gambrinus, the fiend is still more ingloriously defeated. Gambrinus was a fiddler, who, being jilted by his sweetheart, went out into the woods to hang himself. As he was sitting on the bough, with the cord about his neck, preparatory to taking the fatal plunge, suddenly a tall man in a green coat appeared before him, and offered his services. He might become as wealthy as he liked, and make his sweetheart burst with vexation at her own folly, but in thirty years he must give up his soul to Beelzebub. The bargain was struck, for Gambrinus thought thirty years a long time to enjoy one's self in, and perhaps the Devil might get him in any event; as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Aided by Satan, he invented chiming-bells and lager-beer, for both of which achievements his name is held in grateful remembrance by the Teuton. No sooner had the Holy Roman Emperor quaffed a gallon or two of the new beverage than he made Gambrinus Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders, and then it was the fiddler's turn to laugh at the discomfiture of his old sweetheart. Gambrinus kept clear of women, says the legend, and so lived in peace. For thirty years he sat beneath his belfry with the chimes, meditatively drinking beer with his nobles and burghers around him. Then Beelzebub sent Jocko, one of his imps, with orders to bring back Gambrinus before midnight. But Jocko was, like Swiveller's Marchioness, ignorant of the taste of beer, never having drunk of it even in a sip, and the Flemish schoppen were too much for him. He fell into a drunken sleep, and did not wake up until noon next day, at which he was so mortified that he had not the face to go back to hell at all. So Gambrinus lived on tranquilly for a century or two, and drank so much beer that he turned into a beer-barrel.[121]

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