Ex-Classics Home Page

The Devil on Two Sticks - CHAPTER II


UPON perceiving that his appearance had not prepossessed the student very greatly in his favour, the Demon said to him, smiling: Well, Signor Don Cleophas Leandro Perez Zambullo, you behold the charming god of love, that sovereign master of the human heart. What think you of my air and beauty? Confess that the poets are excellent painters. Frankly! replied Don Cleophas, I must say they have a little flattered you. I fancy, it was not in this form that you won the love of Psyche. Certainly not, replied the Devil: I borrowed the graces of a little French Marquis to make her dote upon me. Vice must be hidden under a pleasing veil, or it wins not even woman. I take what shape best )leases me; and I could have discovered myself to you order the form of the Apollo Belvi, but that as I have nothing to disguise from you, I preferred you should see me under a figure more agreeable to the opinion which the world generally entertains of me and my performances. I am not surprised, said Leandro, to find you rather ugly—excuse the phrase, I pray you; the transactions we are about to have with each other demand a little frankness: your features indeed almost exactly realise the idea I had formed of you. But tell me, how happens it that you are on crutches?

Why, replied the Demon, many years ago, I had an unfortunate difference with Pillardoc, the spirit of gain, and the patron of pawnbrokers. The subject of our dispute was a stripling who came to Paris to seek his fortune. As he was capital game, a youth of promising talents, we contested the prize with a noble ardour. We fought in the regions of mid-air; and Pillardoc, who excelled me in strength, cast me on the earth after the mode in which Jupiter is related by the poets to have tumbled Vulcan. The striking resemblance of our mishaps gained me, from my witty comrades, the sobriquet of the Limping Devil, or the Devil on Two Sticks, which has stuck to me from that time to this. Nevertheless, limping as I am, I am tolerably quick in my movements; and you shall witness for my agility.

But, added he, a truce to idle talk; let us get out of this confounded garret. My friend the magician will be here shortly; as he is hard at work on rendering a handsome damsel, who visits him nightly, immortal. If he should surprise us, I shall be snug in a bottle in no time; and it may go hard but he finds one to fit you also. So let us away! But first to throw the pieces, of that which was once my prison, out of the window; for such "dead men" as these do tell tales.

What if your friend does find out that you are "missing?" What! hastily replied the Demon; I see you have never studied the Treatise on Compulsions. Were I hidden at the extremity of the earth, or in the region where dwells the fiery salamander; though I sought the murkiest cavern of the gnomes, or plunged in the most unfathomable depths of the ocean, I should vainly strive to evade the terrors of his wrath. Hell itself would tremble at the potency of his spells. In vain should I struggle: despite myself should I be dragged before my master, to feel the weight of his dreaded chains.

That being the case, said the Student, I fear that our intimacy will not be of long duration: this redoubtable necromancer will doubtless soon discover your flight. That is more than I know, replied the Spirit; there is no foreseeing what may happen. What! cried Leandro Perez; a demon, and ignorant of the future! Exactly so, answered the Devil; and they are only our dupes who think otherwise. However, there are enough of them to find good employment for diviners and fortune-tellers, especially among your women of quality; for those are always most eager about the future who have best reason to be contented with the present, which and the past are all we know or care for. I am ignorant, therefore, whether my master will soon discover my absence; but let us hope he will not: there are plenty of phials similar to the one in which I was enclosed, and he may never miss that. Besides, in his laboratory, I am something like a law-book in the library of a financier. He never thinks of me; or if he does he would think he did me too great an honour if he condescended to notice me. He is the most haughty enchanter of my acquaintance: long as he has deprived me of my liberty, we have never exchanged a syllable.

That is extraordinary! said Don Cleophas; what have you done to deserve so much hatred or scorn? I crossed him in one of his projects, replied Asmodeus. There was a chair vacant in a certain Academy, which he had designed for a friend of his, a professor of necromancy; but which I had destined for a particular friend of my own. The magician set to work with one of the most potent talismans of the Cabala; but I knew better than that: I had placed my man in the service of the prime minister; whose word is worth a dozen talismans, with the Academicians, any day.

While the Demon was thus conversing, he was busily engaged in collecting every fragment of the broken phial; which having thrown out of the window, Signor Zambullo, said he, let us begone! Hold fast by the end of my mantle, and fear nothing. However perilous this appeared to Leandro Perez, he preferred the possible danger to the certainty of the magician's resentment; and, accordingly, he fastened himself as well as he could to the Demon, who in an instant whisked him out of the apartment.


Previous Next