Mit ‘The Devil’ getaggte Artikel
A ballad, of a young man that would read unlawful books, and how he was punished.
Very pithy and profitable.
Cornelius Agrippa went out one day,
His Study he lock’d ere he went away,
And he gave the key of the door to his wife
And charged her to keep it lock’d on her life.
“And if any one ask my Study to see,
I charge you to trust them not with the key;
Whoever may beg, and entreat, and implore,
On your life let nobody enter that door.”
There lived a young man in the house, who in vain
Access to that Study had sought to obtain;
And he begg’d and pray’d the books to see,
Till the foolish woman gave him the key.
On the Study-table a book there lay,
Which Agrippa himself had been reading that day;
The letters were written with blood therein,
And the leaves were made of dead men’s skin;
And these horrible leaves of magic between
Were the ugliest pictures that ever were seen,
The likeness of things so foul to behold,
That what they were is not fit to be told.
The young man, he began to read
He knew not what, but he would proceed,
When there was heard a sound at the door
Which as he read on grew more and more.
And more and more the knocking grew,
The young man knew not what to do;
But trembling in fear he sat within,
Till the door was broke, and the Devil came in.
Two hideous horns on his head he had got,
Like iron heated nine times red-hot;
The breath of his nostrils was brimstone blue,
And his tail like a fiery serpent grew.
“What wouldst thou with me?” the Wicked One cried,
But not a word the young man replied;
Every hair on his head was standing upright,
And his limbs like a palsy shook with affright.
“What wouldst thou with me?”cried the Author of ill,
But the wretched young man was silent still;
Not a word had his lips the power to say,
And his marrow seem’d to be melting away.
“What wouldst thou with me?”the third time he cries,
And a flash of lightning came from his eyes,
And he lifted his griffin claw in the air,
And the young man had not strength for a prayer.
His eyes red fire and fury dart
As out he tore the young man’s heart;
He grinn’d a horrible grin at his prey,
And in a clap of thunder vanish’d away.
Henceforth let all young men take heed
How in a Conjuror’s books they read.
[The clock strikes eleven.]
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then thou must be damn’d perpetually!
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,
That time may cease, and midnight never come;
Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again, and make
Perpetual day; or let this hour be but
A year, a month, a week, a natural day,
That Faustus may repent and save his soul!
O lente, lente curite, noctis equi!
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’d.
O, I’ll leap up to my God!–Who pulls me down?–
See, see where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!
One drop would save my soul–half a drop: O my Christ!–
Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ;
Yet will I call on him: O, spare me, Lucifer!–
Where is it now? ‘Tis gone; and see where God
Strecheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!
Mountains and hills, come, come, and fall on me,
And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!
Then will I headlong run into the earth:
Earth gape! O, no, it will not harbour me!
You stars that reign’d at my nativity,
Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,
Now draw up Faustus, like a foggy mist,
Into the entrails of yon labouring clouds,
That, when you vomit forth into the air,
My limbs may issue from their smoky mouths;
So that my soul may but ascend to heaven! [The watch strikes the half hour.]
Ah, half the hour is past! ’twill all be past anon!
If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,
Yet for Christ’s sake whose blood hath ransom’d me,
Impose some end to my incessant pain;
Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years,
A hundred thousand, and at last be sav’d!
O, no end is limited to damned souls.
Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?
Or why is this immortal that thou hast?
Ah, Pythagoras’ metempsychosis, were that true,
This soul should fly from me, and I be chang’d
Into some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,
For, when they die,
Their souls are soon dissolv’d in elements;
But mine must live still to be plagu’d in hell.
Curs’d be the parents that engender’d me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself, curse Lucifer
That hath depriv’d thee of the joys of heaven. [The clock striketh twelve.]
O, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,
Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell! [Thunder and lightning.]
O soul, be chang’d into little water-drops,
And fall into the ocean, ne’er be found!
My God, my God! look not so fierce on me! [Enter DEVILS.]
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while!
Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!
I’ll burn my books!–Ah Mephistophilis! [Exeunt DEVILS with Faustus).
Goethe hat es Eckermann gegenüber abgestritten, von Calderon beeinflusst worden zu sein – aber es ist sicher, daß er die Übersetzung dieses eher unbekannten Dramas kannte. (Bin heute eher zufällig darauf gestoßen, als ich mich mit Cyprianus von Antiochien beschäftigte).
O könnt ich ihn doch lenken,
Mir Unterricht in der Magie zu schenken!
Durch sie vielleicht geläng es meiner Liebe,
Daß sie zum Teil doch meine Qual vertriebe;
Vielleicht auch könnt es ihr durch sie gelingen,
Was diese Qual bewirkt, ganz zu erringen,
Was mich zur Wut, zum Rasen treibt, zum Bangen!
Schon halten Lieb und Wißgier ihn gefangen… (…)
Kannst du zweifeln?…
Was verlangst du jetzt?
CYPRIANUS nachdem er es getan.
Nun stört uns keiner.
Sagtest du nicht hier, du würdest,
Zu genießen dieses Weibes,
Deine Seele geben?
Wohl, ich will den Handel eingehn.
Wie? Was sagst du?
Eingehn will ich’s.
Da ich dir mitzuteilen
Eine Wissenschaft vermag,
Mittels welcher du herbeiziehn
Kannst die Schöne, die du liebst
(Denn ich kann, obschon so weise,
Sie herbeiziehn keinem andern).
Laß zuvörderst uns mit eignen
Händen die Verschreibung machen.
Willst du noch durch neue Leiden
Meine bittre Pein verlängern?
Was ich biete, steht in meiner
Hand, doch was du bietest, nicht
In der deinen; denn, ich weiß es,
Weder Zauber noch Beschwörung
Kann den freien Willen meistern.
Nun, so schreib auf die Bedingung
Den Kontrakt mir.
Sind für frohgestimmte Freunde,
Nicht für solche, die verzweifeln.
Wohl, ich geb, um dir mein Können
Und Vermögen zu beweisen,
Dir ein Merkmal, wär’s auch nur
Meiner Macht ein schwaches Zeichen.
Was zeigt hier sich deinem Auge?
Vieler Himmel, viele Weiden,
Ein Gebüsch, ein Bach, ein Berg.
Was gefällt dir nun am meisten?
Dieser Berg, weil er als Bild
Der Geliebten mir erscheinet.
Stolzer Nebenbuhler du
Der gesamten Jahreszeiten,
Der als König der Gefilde
Krönt mit Wolken seine Scheitel,
Rege dich, durchmiß die Lüfte!
Siehe, dir gebeut dein Meister. –
Und sieh, ob du nicht ein Weib
Wirst, wie ich den Berg, herbeiziehn.
Ein Berg bewegt sich von einer Seite der Bühne zur andern.
Nie sah ich ein seltner Wunder,
Nie ein grauenvoller Zeichen!
Vor Erstaunen und vor Furcht
Bebt zweimal mein Herz im Leibe.
Vogel, der die Luft durchflieget,
Dem als Flügel dienen Zweige,
Schiff, das durch die Lüfte segelt,
Dem Gesträuche dient zu Seilen,
Geh an deinen Ort, und laß
Staunen und Bewundrung schweigen!
Der Berg kehrt an seinen vorigen Platz zurück.
Reicht die Probe nicht, so will ich
Eine zweite noch dir zeigen.
Wünschest du das Weib zu sehn,
Das du liebst?
Ungeheur der Elemente,
Du dein hartes Eingeweide;
Laß die Schönheit, die dein dunkler
Schoß mir aufbewahrt, erscheinen!
Ein Fels öffnet sich, und Justina erscheint schlafend.
Ist es diese, die du liebst?
Die, der ich Anbetung weihe.
Sieh, ob ich sie dir kann geben,
Da ich so sie kann herbeiziehn.
Göttlich Weib! In deinen Armen
Will das Zentrum meiner heißen
Lieb ich finden, Sonne trinkend
Strahl bei Strahl und Schein bei Scheine!
Indem er sich Justina nähern will, schließt sich der Fels.
Halt! Denn eh du das Versprechen,
Das du gabst, nicht unterzeichnest,
Rührst du sie nicht an.
Dunkle Wolke dieser heitern
Sonne, die zum Heil mir aufging!
Doch nur Luft ist’s, was ich greife. –
Ja, ich traue deinem Wissen,
Ja, dir geb ich ganz mich eigen.
Sprich, was soll ich tun für dich?
Wes bedarfst du?
Den, zur Vorsicht, deine Hand
Muß mit deinem Blute schreiben.
Dien als Feder dieser Dolch,
Als Papier dies weiße Leinen,
Und das Blut aus meinem Arme
Dien als Tinte mir zum Schreiben.
Er schreibt mit dem Dolche auf ein Schnupftuch, nachdem er sich Blut aus dem Arme gelassen hat.
Ich, der große Cyprianus
(Welcher Frost, welch Gram mich peinigt!),
Gebe hier die ew’ge Seele
(Welcher Wahnsinn mich ergreifet!)
Dem, der eine Kunst mich lehret
(Welches Grausen mich durchschneidet!),
Daß ich zu mir her Justina
Könne ziehn, die strenge Feindin.
Dies bescheiniget mein Name.
Jetzt ward meinen Täuschereien
Auf das gültigste gehuldigt,
Wenn er gleich an Leib und Seele
Zagt’ und bebte. –
Ja, und unterzeichnet.
Er gibt ihm das Tuch.
Dein ist deines Lebens Sonne.
Dein auf ew’ge Zeit ist meine
Seele nun, die ich dir biete.
Seele dir für Seel erteil ich,
Denn Justinas geb ich dir
Für die deine.
Nimmst du dir zum Unterricht
Ein Jahr wird reichen;
Doch beding ich …
Daß auf diese Zeit wir beide
Uns in eine Höhle schließen,
Ohn ein andres Werk zu treiben…
Gebirg und Wald; im Hintergrund eine Höhle. Cyprianus tritt aus der Höhle hervor.
Heut, undankbare Schöne,
Erscheint der Tag der frohen Jubeltöne,
Der Hoffnung Ziel, der Liebe
Termin, die Frist des Wandels deiner Triebe;
Denn heute zu begehen
Hoff ich das Siegsfest über dein Verschmähen.
Der Berg hier, dessen Stirne
Emporragt bis zur Festung der Gestirne,
Und dieser Höhle Grausen,
Ein düstres Grab, wo zwei Lebend’ge hausen,
Sie sind die rauhe Schule,
Wo ich Magie erlernt am Lehrerstuhle;
Und so besitz ich diese,
Daß ich den Meister selbst wohl unterwiese.
Und sehend, daß die Sonne heut ihr Wandern
Von einer Sphäre hat vollbracht zur andern,
Tret ich aus meinem Kerker, um am Lichte
Zu schaun, was ich vermag, was ich verrichte.
Du reiner Himmel dorten,
Merk auf die Kraft von meinen Zauberworten!
Du Luft, dein lindes Kosen
Halt ein bei meiner Stimme mächt’gem Tosen!
Du starre Felsenmauer,
Beb auf bei meines Donnerrufes Schauer!
Ihr grünen Waldessöhne,
Erzitternd hört mein schreckenvoll Gestöhne!
Ihr blühnden Pflanzen alle,
Erbangt vor meiner Klagen Widerhalle!
Hold singend Haingefieder,
Schreck meiner Wunder hemme deine Lieder!
Du Wild im Waldesgrauen,
Komm, meiner Arbeit Erstlinge zu schauen!
Und blind, von Furcht beklommen,
Verwirrt, unruhig, mutlos, angstentglommen,
Staunt solcher Wissenschaft, ihr Himmel, Lüfte,
Wild, Vögel, Bäume, Pflanzen, Felsenklüfte!
Denn nicht die Frucht entbehren
Soll Cyprianus von der Hölle Lehren.
Der Dämon tritt auf.
O mein weiser Meister!
Weshalb, befolgend deine Willkür dreister,
Als was ich vorgeschrieben,
Von welchem Zwecke, Grunde, Wunsch getrieben,
Frech oder unbesonnen,
Trittst du hervor ans helle Licht der Sonnen?
Da ich mich seh imstande,
Zu schrecken schon des Abgrunds düstre Lande,
Weil ich mit solchem Streben
Mich der Magie ergeben,
Daß auch du selbst mußt sagen,
Du kannst mir gleichen, nicht mich überragen;
Da ich mich seh im wahren
Besitz all ihrer Teile, durch Gefahren,
Müh und Beschwerd errungen,
Weil die Nekromantie ich ganz durchdrungen,
Durch deren düstre Klänge
Ich mir zu öffnen weiß der Gräber Enge
Und mache, daß gebären
Ihr Schoß die Leichen muß, die dort vom schweren,
Hartnäck’gen Druck der alten
Tyrannin Erd habsüchtig festgehalten,
Und daß die bleichen Toten
Mir Antwort geben, wie ich es geboten;
Und da ich seh, es endet
Der Sonne Lauf, der mir zur Frist gespendet,
Weil sie – die jeden Tag, nach ihrem Wahne,
Auf weitem Himmelsplane
Forteilt mit raschem Gange,
Und dennoch, trotz dem angebornen Drange,
Zurück, sich selbst ein Staunen, immer weichet –
Heut das verhängte Jahresziel erreichet:
So soll mir nun der bangen
Drangsale Lohn herbeiziehn mein Verlangen.
Heut wird die seltne Schönheit, der ich diene,
Die göttliche Justine,
Wenn sie den Ruf vernommen
Der mächt’gen Lieb, an meinen Busen kommen;
Denn länger nicht verschieben
Will ich Befried’gung meinen heißen Trieben.
Kann dies dein Sehnen lindern,
So will ich die Befriedigung nicht hindern.
Drück ein dem Erdengrunde
Die stumme Zeichenschrift, die Luft verwunde
Mit schneidender Beschwörung,
Zu deiner Hoffnung, deiner Lieb Erhörung.
Wohlan, bald sollst du schauen,
Daß Erd und Himmel ich versenk in Grauen.
Auf, ihr, des Abgrunds Mächte,
Verzweiflungsvolles Reich der Höllennächte!
Aus eures Kerkers Enge
Entlasset eurer Geister geile Menge,
Und des Verderbens Fülle
Stürzt auf Justinas jungfräuliche Hülle!
In tausend Truggestalten
Laßt schändliche Phantome sich entfalten
Der keuschen Phantasie; von heißem Triebe
Schwell ihre Brust und öffne sich der Liebe
Beim süßen, luftdurchglühten
Wechselgesang der Vögel, Pflanzen, Blüten.
Nichts seh ihr Auge heute
Als nur der Liebe wonnevolle Beute;
Nichts soll ihr Ohr umschwirren
Als nur der Liebe zauberisches Girren,
Damit sie, unbeschützt von ihrem Glauben,
Den Cyprianus such in diesen Lauben,
Durch seine Kunst bewogen,
Durch meinen dunklen Geist herbeigezogen.
Beginnet jetzt; ich schweige,
Daß eur Gesang sein mächtig Wirken zeige.
Herr Graverol, seinerzeit einer der geschicktesten und geachtetsten Architekten in Nimes, war des nachmittags gegen zwei Uhr allein in seinem Kabinett und arbeitete, als ein Bedienter kam und einen Fremden bei ihm anmeldete, welcher ihn zu sprechen verlangte. Herr Graverol sagte, dass man ihn herein sollte kommen lassen, und der Bediente ging fort, nachdem er Stühle gestellt hatte.
So bald sich der Fremde bei Herrn Graverol allein sahe, so sagte er ihm, und zwar in dem zierlichsten Latein von der Welt, dass er von seiner ausgezeichneten Gelehrsamkeit gehört habe, und aus einem sehr entlegenen Lande gekommen sey, um ihn zu sprechen, und mit ihm über Dinge zu räsonniren, welche vom Scharfsinn der alten und neuen Weltweisheiten noch nicht in´s Reine gebracht wären. Herr Graverol, nachdem er auf die Lobsprüche des Fremden bescheiden geantwortet hatte, nahm den Antrag an. Es wurden alsobald die sublimsten und geheimsten Wissenschaften auf´s Tapet gebracht, man blieb nicht lange bei dem Latein, man redete Griechisch, und Herr Graverol, welcher auch die morgenländischen Sprachen verstand, erstaunte bald ungemein, als er sah, dass der Fremde solche so vollkommen inne hatte, dass sie seine Muttersprache zu seyn schien.
Indem er also ganz begeistert von dessen Umgang war, trug er ihm, aus Furcht, sie möchten in ihren Gesprächen gestört werden, einen Spaziergang an; es war liebliches Wetter, und die Zeit dazu war auch bequem, und wie die Gegend um Nimes überaus reizend ist, verliessen sie mit dem Vorsatz das Haus, durch das Kronen-Thor, welches zu den Gärten und schönen Alleen führt, aus der Stadt zu gehen. Weil aber Herr Graverol ziemlich weit von diesem Thor wohnte, mussten sie mehrere Strassen passieren, sie redeten unterwegs beständig miteinander und unterhielten sich auf das angenehmste.
Was aber dabei für diejenigen, welche es sahen, ganz ausserordentlich zu verwundern war, ist diess: man sahe den Herrn Graverol solche Bewegungen und Mienen machen, als wenn er mit jemandem auf´s lebhafteste redete, und doch sah man niemanden bei ihm, welches denn mehrere von seinen Bekannten veranlasste, sofort zu seiner Gattin zu gehn und ihr zu melden, dass er entweder ausser sich sey, oder ihm sonst etwas ausserordentliches begegnet seyn müsste. Es wurden auf der Stelle Leute nach ihm ausgeschickt, ihn zu suchen, aber vergebens, er war schon zu weit von der Stadt entfernt, und in die schattichten Alleen gekommen, allwo er sich mit seinem neuen Bekannten, ohne von jemand gestört zu werden, von hohen und geheimen Dingen unterhielt.
Nachdem sie die alte und neue Philosophie erschöpft, und von den Geheimnissen der Natur gehandelt hatten, so kamen sie auch auf die geheimen Wissenschaften, die Magie und andere dergleichen Dinge. Der Fremde machte die geistreichsten Bemerkungen und vortrefflichsten Schlüsse von der Welt. Wie er endlich die Sache etwas zu weit treiben wollte, so sagte Herr Graverol zu ihm: Halten Sie hier innen, mein Herr, das Christenthum erlaubt uns nicht, so weit zu gehn, und wir sollten nicht über die uns vorgeschriebenen Schranken hinaus schweifen. Indem er diess sagte, wurde er mit ausserordentlichem Schrecken gewahr, dass niemand um ihn war. Und doch befand er sich gerade an dem Ende einer Allee, welche mit Pallisaden besetzt war, so dass sie eine Art von Sack bildete, und zwar genau so, dass man, wenn man daraus kommen wollte, nothwendig wieder in denselben Weg zurück gehn musste, wo man hergekommen war. Dieser sein Schrecken war so gross, dass er ihn nöthigte, ein entsetzliches Geschrei zu machen. Und auf solches Geschrei kamen einige von den Leuten herbei, welche nahe dabei an den Bäumen arbeiteten. Diese Leute, welche ihn ganz bestürzt und der Ohnmacht nahe fanden, gaben ihm ein Bischen Wein zu trinken, welchen sie in ihren Flaschen bei sich hatten, und erzeigten ihm alle mögliche Hilfe. Aber seine Bestürzung vermehrte sich noch, als ihm diese guten Leute sagten, dass sie ihn schon von Ferne hätten kommen sehen, und dass sie sich, weil sie ihn allein sprechen höreten, sehr würden verwundert haben, wenn sie nicht gedacht hätten, er halte eine Rechts-Rede, oder verfertige eben eine dergleichen Rede, indem sie wussten, dass er ein Advokat war.
Herr Graverol, voll Verwunderung über die Reden dieser Leute und über das Verschwinden des Fremden, ging nach Hause, wo er Alles wegen der Nachricht in Unruh und Bestürzung fand, welche man seiner Frau gebracht hatte. Er erzählte alsdenn, was ihm begegnet war, und alle diese Umstände zusammen genommen, verursachten, dass man bald in der ganzen Stadt behauptete, der – Teufel sey zu Herrn Graverol gekommen.
(aus `Lettres historiques et galantes´, Paris 1739)
A few miles from Boston, in Massachusetts, there is a deep inlet winding several miles into the interior of the country from Charles Bay, and terminating in a thickly wooded swamp, or morass. On one side of this inlet is a beautiful dark grove; on the opposite side the land rises abruptly from the water’s edge, into a high ridge on which grow a few scattered oaks of great age and immense size. Under one of these gigantic trees, according to old stories, there was a great amount of treasure buried by Kidd the pirate. The inlet allowed a facility to bring the money in a boat secretly and at night to the very foot of the hill. The elevation of the place permitted a good look out to be kept that no one was at hand, while the remarkable trees formed good landmarks by which the place might easily be found again. The old stories add, moreover, that the devil presided at the hiding of the money, and took it under his guardianship; but this, it is well known, he always does with buried treasure, particularly when it has been ill gotten. Be that as it may, Kidd never returned to recover his wealth; being shortly after seized at Boston, sent out to England, and there hanged for a pirate.
About the year 1727, just at the time when earthquakes were prevalent in New England, and shook many tall sinners down upon their knees, there lived near this place a meagre miserly fellow of the name of Tom Walker. He had a wife as miserly as himself; they were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other. Whatever the woman could lay hands on she hid away: a hen could not cackle but she was on the alert to secure the new-laid egg. Her husband was continually prying about to detect her secret hoards, and many and fierce were the conflicts that took place about what ought to have been common property. They lived in a forlorn looking house, that stood alone and had an air of starvation. A few straggling savin trees, emblems of sterility, grew near it; no smoke ever curled from its chimney; no traveller stopped at its door. A miserable horse, whose ribs were as articulate as the bars of a gridiron, stalked about a field where a thin carpet of moss, scarcely covering the ragged beds of pudding stone, tantalized and balked his hunger; and sometimes he would lean his head over the fence, look piteously at the passer by, and seem to petition deliverance from this land of famine. The house and its inmates had altogether a bad name. Tom’s wife was a tall termagant, fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm. Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband; and his face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to words. No one ventured, however, to interfere between them; the lonely wayfarer shrunk within himself at the horrid clamour and clapper clawing; eyed the den of discord askance, and hurried on his way, rejoicing, if a bachelor, in his celibacy.
One day that Tom Walker had been to a distant part of the neighbourhood, he took what he considered a short cut homewards through the swamp. Like most short cuts, it was an ill chosen route. The swamp was thickly grown with great gloomy pines and hemlocks, some of them ninety feet high; which made it dark at noonday, and a retreat for all the owls of the neighbourhood. It was full of pits and quagmires, partly covered with weeds and mosses; where the green surface often betrayed the traveller into a gulf of black smothering mud; there were also dark and stagnant pools, the abodes of the tadpole, the bull-frog, and the water snake, and where trunks of pines and hemlocks lay half drowned, half rotting, looking like alligators, sleeping in the mire.
Tom had long been picking his way cautiously through this treacherous forest; stepping from tuft to tuft of rushes and roots which afforded precarious footholds among deep sloughs; or pacing carefully, like a cat, along the prostrate trunks of trees; startled now and then by the sudden screaming of the bittern, or the quacking of a wild duck, rising on the wing from some solitary pool. At length he arrived at a piece of firm ground, which ran out like a peninsula into the deep bosom of the swamp. It had been one of the strong holds of the Indians during their wars with the first colonists. Here they had thrown up a kind of fort which they had looked upon as almost impregnable, and had used as a place of refuge for their squaws and children. Nothing remained of the Indian fort but a few embankments gradually sinking to the level of the surrounding earth, and already overgrown in part by oaks and other forest trees, the foliage of which formed a contrast to the dark pines and hemlocks of the swamp.
It was late in the dusk of evening that Tom Walker reached the old fort, and he paused there for a while to rest himself. Any one but he would have felt unwilling to linger in this lonely melancholy place, for the common people had a bad opinion of it from the stories handed down from the time of the Indian wars; when it was asserted that the savages held incantations here and made sacrifices to the evil spirit. Tom Walker, however, was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind.
He reposed himself for some time on the trunk of a fallen hemlock, listening to the boding cry of the tree toad, and delving with his walking staff into a mound of black mould at his feet. As he turned up the soil unconsciously, his staff struck against something hard. He raked it out of the vegetable mould, and lo! a cloven skull with an Indian tomahawk buried deep in it, lay before him. The rust on the weapon showed the time that had elapsed since this death blow had been given. It was a dreary memento of the fierce struggle that had taken place in this last foothold of the Indian warriors.
“Humph!” said Tom Walker, as he gave the skull a kick to shake the dirt from it.
“Let that skull alone!” said a gruff voice.
Tom lifted up his eyes and beheld a great black man, seated directly opposite him on the stump of a tree. He was exceedingly surprised, having neither seen nor heard any one approach, and he was still more perplexed on observing, as well as the gathering gloom would permit, that the stranger was neither negro nor Indian. It is true, he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body, but his face was neither black nor copper colour, but swarthy and dingy and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an axe on his shoulder.
He scowled for a moment at Tom with a pair of great red eyes.
“What are you doing in my grounds?” said the black man, with a hoarse growling voice.
“Your grounds?” said Tom, with a sneer; “no more your grounds than mine: they belong to Deacon Peabody.”
“Deacon Peabody be d–d,” said the stranger, “as I flatter myself he will be, if he does not look more to his own sins and less to his neighbour’s. Look yonder, and see how Deacon Peabody is faring.”
Tom looked in the direction that the stranger pointed, and beheld one of the great trees, fair and flourishing without, but rotten at the core, and saw that it had been nearly hewn through, so that the first high wind was likely to below it down. On the bark of the tree was scored the name of Deacon Peabody. He now looked round and found most of the tall trees marked with the name of some great men of the colony, and all more or less scored by the axe. The one on which he had been seated, and which had evidently just been hewn down, bore the name of Crowninshield; and he recollected a mighty rich man of that name, who made a vulgar display of wealth, which it was whispered he had acquired by buccaneering.
“He’s just ready for burning!” said the black man, with a growl of triumph. “You see I am likely to have a good stock of firewood for winter.”
“But what right have you,” said Tom, “to cut down Deacon Peabody’s timber?”
“The right of prior claim,” said the other. “This woodland belonged to me long before one of your white faced race put foot upon the soil.”
“And pray, who are you, if I may be so bold?” said Tom. “Oh, I go by various names. I am the Wild Huntsman in some countries; the Black Miner in others. In this neighbourhood I am known by the name of the Black Woodsman. I am he to whom the red men devoted this spot, and now and then roasted a white man by way of sweet smelling sacrifice. Since the red men have been exterminated by you white savages, I amuse myself by presiding at the persecutions of quakers and anabaptists; I am the great patron and prompter of slave dealers, and the grand master of the Salem witches.”
“The upshot of all which is, that, if I mistake not,” said Tom, sturdily, “you are he commonly called Old Scratch.”
“The same at your service!” replied the black man, with a half civil nod.
Such was the opening of this interview, according to the old story, though it has almost too familiar an air to be credited. One would think that to meet with such a singular personage in this wild lonely place, would have shaken any man’s nerves: but Tom was a hard-minded fellow, not easily daunted, and he had lived so long with a termagant wife, that he did not even fear the devil.
It is said that after this commencement, they had a long and earnest conversation together, as Tom returned homewards. The black man told him of great sums of money which had been buried by Kidd the pirate, under the oak trees on the high ridge not far from the morass. All these were under his command and protected by his power, so that none could find them but such as propitiated his favour. These he offered to place within Tom Walker’s reach, having conceived an especial kindness for him: but they were to be had only on certain conditions. What these conditions were, may easily be surmised, though Tom never disclosed them publicly. They must have been very hard, for he required time to think of them, and he was not a man to stick at trifles where money was in view. When they had reached the edge of the swamp the stranger paused.
“What proof have I that all you have been telling me is true?” said Tom.
“There is my signature,” said the black man, pressing his finger on Tom’s forehead. So saying, he turned off among the thickets of the swamp, and seemed, as Tom said, to go down, down, down, into the earth, until nothing but his head and shoulders could be seen, and so on until he totally disappeared.
When Tom reached home he found the black print of a finger burnt, as it were, into his forehead, which nothing could obliterate.
The first news his wife had to tell him was the sudden death of Absalom Crowninshield the rich buccaneer. It was announced in the papers with the usual flourish, that “a great man had fallen in Israel.”
Tom recollected the tree which his black friend had just hewn down, and which was ready for burning. “Let the freebooter roast,” said Tom, “who cares!” He now felt convinced that all he had heard and seen was no illusion.
He was not prone to let his wife into his confidence; but as this was an uneasy secret, he willingly shared it with her. All her avarice was awakened at the mention of hidden gold, and she urged her husband to comply with the black man’s terms and secure what would make them wealthy for life. However Tom might have felt disposed to sell himself to the devil, he was determined not to do so to oblige his wife; so he flatly refused out of the mere spirit of contradiction. Many and bitter were the quarrels they had on the subject, but the more she talked the more resolute was Tom not to be damned to please her. At length she determined to drive the bargain on her own account, and if she succeeded, to keep all the gain to herself.
Being of the same fearless temper as her husband, she set off for the old Indian fort towards the close of a summer’s day. She was many hours absent. When she came back she was reserved and sullen in her replies. She spoke something of a black man whom she had met about twilight, hewing at the root of a tall tree. He was sulky, however, and would not come to terms; she was to go again with a propitiatory offering, but what it was she forebore to say.
The next evening she set off again for the swamp, with her apron heavily laden. Tom waited and waited for her, but in vain: midnight came, but she did not make her appearance; morning, noon, night returned, but still she did not come. Tom now grew uneasy for her safety; especially as he found she had carried off in her apron the silver teapot and spoons and every portable article of value. Another night elapsed, another morning came; but no wife. In a word, she was never heard of more.
What was her real fate nobody knows, in consequence of so many pretending to know. It is one of those facts that have become confounded by a variety of historians. Some asserted that she lost her way among the tangled mazes of the swamp and sunk into some pit or slough; others, more uncharitable, hinted that she had eloped with the household booty, and made off to some other province; while others assert that the tempter had decoyed her into a dismal quagmire on top of which her hat was found lying. In confirmation of this, it was said a great black man with an axe on his shoulder was seen late that very evening coming out of the swamp, carrying a bundle tied in a check apron, with an air of surly triumph.
The most current and probable story, however, observes that Tom Walker grew so anxious about the fate of his wife and his property that he sat out at length to seek them both at the Indian fort. During a long summer’s afternoon he searched about the gloomy place, but no wife was to be seen. He called her name repeatedly, but she was no where to be heard. The bittern alone responded to his voice, as he flew screaming by; or the bull frog croaked dolefully from a neighbouring pool. At length, it is said, just in the brown hour of twilight, when the owls began to hoot and the bats to flit about, his attention was attracted by the clamour of carrion crows that were hovering about a cypress tree. He looked and beheld a bundle tied in a check apron and hanging in the branches of the tree; with a great vulture perched hard by, as if keeping watch upon it. He leaped with joy, for he recognized his wife’s apron, and supposed it to contain the household valuables.
“Let us get hold of the property,” said he, consolingly to himself, “and we will endeavour to do without the woman.”
As he scrambled up the tree the vulture spread its wide wings, and sailed off screaming into the deep shadows of the forest. Tom seized the check apron, but, woful sight! found nothing but a heart and liver tied up in it.
Such, according to the most authentic old story, was all that was to be found of Tom’s wife. She had probably attempted to deal with the black man as she had been accustomed to deal with her husband; but though a female scold is generally considered a match for the devil, yet in this instance she appears to have had the worst of it. She must have died game however; for it is said Tom noticed many prints of cloven feet deeply stamped about the tree, and several handsful of hair, that looked as if they had been plucked from the coarse black shock of the woodsman. Tom knew his wife’s prowess by experience. He shrugged his shoulders as he looked at the signs of a fierce clapper clawing. “Egad,” said he to himself, “Old Scratch must have had a tough time of it!”
Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property with the loss of his wife; for he was a man of fortitude. He even felt something like gratitude towards the black woodsman, who he considered had done him a kindness. He sought, therefore, to cultivate a farther acquaintance with him, but for some time without success; the old black legs played shy, for whatever people may think, he is not always to be had for calling for; he knows how to play his cards when pretty sure of his game.
At length, it is said, when delay had whetted Tom’s eagerness to the quick, and prepared him to agree to any thing rather than not gain the promised treasure, he met the black man one evening in his usual woodman dress, with his axe on his shoulder, sauntering along the edge of the swamp, and humming a tune. He affected to receive Tom’s advance with great indifference, made brief replies, and went on humming his tune.
By degrees, however, Tom brought him to business, and they began to haggle about the terms on which the former was to have the pirate’s treasure. There was one condition which need not be mentioned, being generally understood in all cases where the devil grants favours; but there were others about which, though of less importance, he was inflexibly obstinate. He insisted that the money found through his means should be employed in his service. He proposed, therefore, that Tom should employ it in the black traffick; that is to say, that he should fit out a slave ship. This, however, Tom resolutely refused; he was bad enough in all conscience; but the devil himself could not tempt him to turn slave dealer.
Finding Tom so squeamish on this point, he did not insist upon it, but proposed instead that he should turn usurer; the devil being extremely anxious for the increase of usurers, looking upon them as his peculiar people.
To this no objections were made, for it was just to Tom’s taste.
“You shall open a broker’s shop in Boston next month,” said the black man.
“I’ll do it to-morrow, if you wish,” said Tom Walker.
“You shall lend money at two per cent. a month.”
“Egad, I’ll charge four!” replied Tom Walker.
“You shall extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, drive the merchant to bankruptcy-”
“I’ll drive him to the d–l,” cried Tom Walker, eagerly.
“You are the usurer for my money!” said the black legs, with delight. “When will you want the rhino?”
“This very night.”
“Done!” said the devil.
“Done!” said Tom Walker. -So they shook hands, and struck a bargain.
A few days’ time saw Tom Walker seated behind his desk in a counting house in Boston. His reputation for a ready moneyed man, who would lend money out for a good consideration, soon spread abroad. Every body remembers the days of Governor Belcher, when money was particularly scarce. It was a time of paper credit. The country had been deluged with government bills; the famous Land Bank had been established; there had been a rage for speculating; the people had run mad with schemes for new settlements; for building cities in the wilderness; land jobbers went about with maps of grants, and townships, and Eldorados, lying nobody knew where, but which every body was ready to purchase. In a word, the great speculating fever which breaks out every now and then in the country, had raged to an alarming degree, and every body was dreaming of making sudden fortunes from nothing. As usual the fever had subsided; the dream had gone off, and the imaginary fortunes with it; the patients were left in doleful plight, and the whole country resounded with the consequent cry of “hard times.”
At this propitious time of public distress did Tom Walker set up as a usurer in Boston. His door was soon thronged by customers. The needy and the adventurous; the gambling speculator; the dreaming land jobber; the thriftless tradesman; the merchant with cracked credit; in short, every one driven to raise money by desperate means and desperate sacrifices, hurried to Tom Walker.
Thus Tom was the universal friend of the needy, and he acted like a “friend in need;” that is to say, he always exacted good pay and good security. In proportion to the distress of the applicant was the hardness of his terms. He accumulated bonds and mortgages; gradually squeezed his customers closer and closer; and sent them at length, dry as a sponge from his door.
In this way he made money hand over hand; became a rich and mighty man, and exalted his cocked hat upon change. He built himself, as usual, a vast house, out of ostentation; but left the greater part of it unfinished and unfurnished out of parsimony. He even set up a carriage in the fullness of his vain glory, though he nearly starved the horses which drew it; and as the ungreased wheels groaned and screeched on the axle trees, you would have thought you heard the souls of the poor debtors he was squeezing.
As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next. He thought with regret on the bargain he had made with his black friend, and set his wits to work to cheat him out of the conditions. He became, therefore, all of a sudden, a violent church goer. He prayed loudly and strenuously as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs. Indeed, one might always tell when he had sinned most during the week, by the clamour of his Sunday devotion. The quiet christians who had been modestly and steadfastly travelling Zionward, were struck with self reproach at seeing themselves so suddenly outstripped in their career by this new-made convert. Tom was as rigid in religious, as in money matters; he was a stern supervisor and censurer of his neighbours, and seemed to think every sin entered up to their account became a credit on his own side of the page. He even talked of the expediency of reviving the persecution of quakers and anabaptists. In a word, Tom’s zeal became as notorious as his riches.
Still, in spite of all this strenuous attention to forms, Tom had a lurking dread that the devil, after all, would have his due. That he might not be taken unawares, therefore, it is said he always carried a small bible in his coat pocket. He had also a great folio bible on his counting house desk, and would frequently be found reading it when people called on business; on such occasions he would lay his green spectacles on the book, to mark the place, while he turned round to drive some usurious bargain.
Some say that Tom grew a little crack brained in his old days, and that fancying his end approaching, he had his horse new shod, saddled and bridled, and buried with his feet uppermost; because he supposed that at the last day the world would be turned upside down; in which case he should find his horse standing ready for mounting, and he was determined at the worst to give his old friend a run for it. This, however, is probably a mere old wives fable. If he really did take such a precaution it was totally superfluous; at least so says the authentic old legend which closes his story in the following manner.
On one hot afternoon in the dog days, just as a terrible black thundergust was coming up, Tom sat in his counting house in his white linen cap and India silk morning gown. He was on the point of foreclosing a mortgage, by which he would complete the ruin of an unlucky land speculator for whom he had professed the greatest friendship. The poor land jobber begged him to grant a few months indulgence. Tom had grown testy and irritated and refused another day.
“My family will be ruined and brought upon the parish,” said the land jobber. “Charity begins at home,” replied Tom, “I must take care of myself in these hard times.”
“You have made so much money out of me,” said the speculator.
Tom lost his patience and his piety-”The devil take me,” said he, “if I have made a farthing!”
Just then there were three loud knocks at the street door. He stepped out to see who was there. A black man was holding a black horse which neighed and stamped with impatience.
“Tom, you’re come for!” said the black fellow, gruffly. Tom shrunk back, but too late. He had left his little bible at the bottom of his coat pocket, and his big bible on the desk buried under the mortgage he was about to forclose: never was sinner taken more unawares. The black man whisked him like a child astride the horse and away he galloped in the midst of a thunder storm. The clerks stuck their pens behind their ears and stared after him from the windows. Away went Tom Walker, dashing down the streets; his white cap bobbing up and down; his morning gown fluttering in the wind, and his steed striking fire out of the pavement at every bound. When the clerks turned to look for the black man he had disappeared.
Tom Walker never returned to foreclose the mortgage. A countryman who lived on the borders of the swamp, reported that in the height of the thunder gust he had heard a great clattering of hoofs and a howling along the road, and that when he ran to the window he just caught sight of a figure, such as I have described, on a horse that galloped like mad across the fields, over the hills and down into the black hemlock swamp towards the old Indian fort; and that shortly after a thunderbolt fell in that direction which seemed to set the whole forest in a blaze.
The good people of Boston shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders, but had been so much accustomed to witches and goblins and tricks of the devil in all kinds of shapes from the first settlement of the colony, that they were not so much horror struck as might have been expected. Trustees were appointed to take charge of Tom’s effects. There was nothing, however, to administer upon. On searching his coffers all his bonds and mortgages were found reduced to cinders. In place of gold and silver his iron chest was filled with chips and shavings; two skeletons lay in his stable instead of his half starved horses, and the very next day his great house took fire and was burnt to the ground.
Such was the end of Tom Walker and his ill gotten wealth. Let all griping money brokers lay this story to heart. The truth of it is not to be doubted. The very hole under the oak trees, from whence he dug Kidd’s money is to be seen to this day; and the neighbouring swamp and old Indian fort is often haunted in stormy nights by a figure on horseback, in a morning gown and white cap, which is doubtless the troubled spirit of the usurer. In fact, the story has resolved itself into a proverb, and is the origin of that popular saying, prevalent throughout New-England, of “The Devil and Tom Walker”.