How the Devil Fell into the Holy Water
Richard von Volkmann-Leander
Everyone knows that the devil often has bad luck. Yes, just consider for a moment that people call a
person who has a toothache, or the man with holes in his boots who has to set cobble stones all day
long on the street or someone who has a birthday, who instead of receiving a birthday greeting receives
a farewell letter — all three of these are called Poor Devils.
One day the devil was snooping around in the cathedral in Cologne hoping to catch a holy monk perhaps
or a saintly old nun when he tripped and — plop! fell headlong into the holy water font. You should have
seen what a face he made, how he sputtered and snorted, and how nimbly he tried to get out! And how
he shook himself afterwards and sneaked away like a drenched poodle. It was close to Christmas time
and very cold, and there he stood in front of the cathedral shivering. He had just fled from inside with all
haste because he was afraid the pious people had seen what had happened and would make fun of him.
"What should I do now?" he wondered, for he knew how pitiful he looked. "At home in hell I could never
be seen in such clothes. Grandmother would take me to task. So I will go to the land of the Moors for a
few hours where it is warm and I can let my clothes dry there. Besides that, this is the day they are
butchering prisoners. Do I have my opera glass?"
So he went to the land of the Moors, watched the butchering, clapped a hearty bravo when it pleased
him, and after his jacket had dried, strolled home, to hell's cauldron, happy as could be.
But he had hardly entered when his grandmother saw him. Her face turned as yellow as sulphur and
violet-blue alternately and she shouted:
"What is that smell? How awful you look, you little rascal?! Have you been prowling around some church
again?" —Then, stuttering, he told her everything that had happened.
"Take off that jacket," commanded his grandmother," and go to bed at once." Now the little devil did as
he was told because he was so utterly ashamed of himself. He pulled the red and blue checkered
bedclothes up over his ears so that only his dirty toes stuck out at the other end. His grandmother held
up the ends of his jacket with two fingers just like a cook would hold a dead mouse by the tail. "Brr!"
she said, shuddering with disgust. "Look at this jacket!" Then she took it out to the gutter where all of
hell's thick mud and drain water flowed by, swished it around a few times, soaked it and then scrubbed it
briskly. After that she hung it on a chair by the fire to dry.
When it was dry enough and the little devil was just stretching his leg out from under the blanket and
was about to get out of bed and put it on, she took it once again and held it to her nose:
"Phooey!" she said and sneezed, "How hard it is to get rid of that church smell!" and she went and
fetched a pan of hot coals, sprinkled a few handfuls of finely chopped dog hair and graded horses' hoof
on it. When it started to burn it gave off a strong smell she held the jacket over it. "So," she said to the
little devil, "the jacket is clean and now you can let yourself be seen again in respectable society! But I
forbid you to do something like that again! Do you understand?" —
|Reveries at French Firesides