The Complete Works of Mark Twain


 
 
Mark Twain > The Mysterious Stranger > Chapter 7

The Mysterious Stranger

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.


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