misery and want could drive a suffering man to
almost anything. About one detail there were no
differences; all agreed that Father Peter's account of
how the money came into his hands was just about
unbelievable it had such an impossible look. They
said it might have come into the astrologer's hands
in some such way, but into Father Peter's, never!
Our characters began to suffer now. We were
Father Peter's only witnesses; how much did he
probably pay us to back up his fantastic tale?
People talked that kind of talk to us pretty freely
and frankly, and were full of scoffings when we
begged them to believe really we had told only the
truth. Our parents were harder on us than any one
else. Our fathers said we were disgracing our
families, and they commanded us to purge ourselves
of our lie, and there was no limit to their anger when
we continued to say we had spoken true. Our
mothers cried over us and begged us to give back
our bribe and get back our honest names and save
our families from shame, and come out and honorably
confess. And at last we were so worried and harassed
that we tried to tell the whole thing, Satan and all
but no, it wouldn't come out. We were hoping and
longing all the time that Satan would come and help
us out of our trouble, but there was no sign of him.
Within an hour after the astrologer's talk with us,
Father Peter was in prison and. the money sealed up
and in the hands of the officers of the law. The
money was in a bag, and Solomon Isaacs said he
had not touched it since he had counted it ; his oath
was taken that it was the same money, and that the
amount was eleven hundred and seven ducats
Father Peter claimed trial by the ecclesiastical court,
but our other priest, Father Adolf, said an ecclesi
astical court hadn't jurisdiction over a suspended
priest. The bishop upheld him. That settled it;
the case would go to trial in the civil court. The
court would not sit for some time to come. Wilhelm
Meidling would be Father Peter's lawyer and do the
best he could, of course, but he told us privately
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
that a weak case on his side and all the power and
prejudice on the other made the outlook bad.
So Marget's new happiness died a quick death.
No friends came to condole with her, and none were
expected; an unsigned note withdrew her invitation
to the party. There would be no scholars to take
lessons. How could she support herself? She could
remain in the house, for the mortgage was paid off,
though the government and not poor Solomon Isaacs
had the mortgage-money in its grip for the present.
Old Ursula, who was cook, chambermaid, house
keeper, laundress, and everything else for Father
Peter, and had been Marget's nurse in earlier years,
said God would provide. But she said that from
habit, for she was a good Christian. She meant to
help in the providing, to make sure, if she could
find a way.
We boys wanted to go and see Marget and show
friendliness for her, but our parents were afraid of
offending the community and wouldn't let us. The
astrologer was going around inflaming everybody
against Father Peter, and saying he was an aban
doned thief and had stolen eleven hundred and seven
gold ducats from him. He said he knew he was a
thief from that fact, for it was exactly the sum he
had lost and which Father Peter pretended he had
In the afternoon of the fourth day after the
catastrophe old Ursula appeared at our house and
asked for some washing to do, and begged my mother
to keep this secret, to save Marget's pride, who
would stop this project if she found it out, yet Marget
had not enough to eat and was growing weak.
Ursula was growing weak herself, and showed it;
and she ate of the food that was offered her like a
starving person, but could not be persuaded to cany
any home, for Marget would not eat charity food.
She took some clothes down to the stream to wash
them, but we saw from the window that handling
the bat was too much for her strength; so she was
called back and a trifle of money offered her, which
she was afraid to take lest Marget should suspect;
then she took it, saying she would explain that she
found it in the road. To keep it from being a lie
and damning her soul, she got me to drop it while
she watched ; then she went along by there and found
it, and exclaimed with surprise and joy, and picked
it up and went her way. Like the rest of the village,
she could tell every-day lies fast enough and without
taking any precautions against fire and brimstone
on their account ; but this was a new kind of lie, and
it had a dangerous look because she hadn't had any
practice in it. After a week's practice it wouldn't
have given her any trouble. It is the way we are
I was in trouble, for how would Marget live?
Ursula could not find a coin in the road every day
perhaps not even a second one. And I was ashamed,
too, for not having been near Marget, and she so in
need of friends; but that was my parents' fault,
not mine, and I couldn't help it.
I was walking along the path, feeling very down
hearted, when a most cheery and tingling freshening-
up sensation went rippling through me, and I was
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
too glad for any words, for I knew by that sign that
Satan was by. I had noticed it before. Next
moment he was alongside of me and I was telling
him all my trouble and what had been happening
to Marget and her uncle. While we were talking we
turned a curve and saw old Ursula resting in the
shade of a tree, and she had a lean stray kitten in
her lap and was petting it. I asked her where she
got it, and she said it came out of the woods and
followed her; and she said it probably hadn't any
mother or any friends and she was going to take it
home and take care of it. Satan said :
"I understand you are very poor. Why do you
want to add another mouth to feed? Why don't you
give it to some rich person?"
Ursula bridled at this and said: "Perhaps you
would like to have it. You must be rich, with your
fine clothes and quality airs." Then she sniffed and
said: "Give it to the rich the idea! The rich
don't care for anybody but themselves; it's only the
poor that have feeling for the poor, and help them.
The poor and God. God will provide for this
"What makes you think so?"
Ursula's eyes snapped with anger. "Because I
know it!" she said. "Not a sparrow falls to the
ground without His seeing it."
"But it falls, just the same. What good is seeing
Old Ursula's jaws worked, but she could not get
any word out for the moment, she was so horrified.
When she got her tongue she stormed out, "Go
about your business, you puppy, or I will take a
stick to you!"
I could not speak, I was so scared. I knew that
with his notions about the human race Satan would
consider it a matter of no consequence to strike her
dead, there being "plenty more;" but my tongue
stood still, I could give her no warning. But nothing
happened; Satan remained tranquil tranquil and
indifferent. I suppose he could not be insulted by
Ursula any more than the king could be insulted by
a tumble-bug. The old woman jumped to her feet
when she made her remark, and did it as briskly as
a young girl. It had been many years since she had
done the like of that. That was Satan's influence;
he was a fresh breeze to the weak and the sick,
wherever he came. His presence affected even the
lean kitten, and it skipped to the ground and began
to chase a leaf. This surprised Ursula, and she
stood looking at the creature and nodding her head
wonderingly, her anger quite forgotten.
"What's come over it?" she said. "Awhile ago
it could hardly walk."
"You have not seen a kitten of that breed before,"
Ursula was not proposing to be friendly with the
mocking stranger, and she gave him an ungentle
look and retorted: "Who asked you to come here
and pester me, I'd like to know? And what do you
know about what I've seen and what I haven't seen?"
"You haven't seen a kitten with the hair-spines
on its tongue pointing to the front, have you?"
"No nor you, either."
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
"Well, examine this one and see."
Ursula was become pretty spry, but the kitten
was spryer, and she could not catch it, and had to
give it up. Then Satan said:
"Give it a name, and maybe it will come."
Ursula tried several names, but the kitten was not
' ' Call it Agnes. Try that. ' '
The creature answered to the name and came.
Ursula examined its tongue. "Upon my word, it's
true!" she said. "I have not seen this kind of a cat
before. Is it yours?"
"Then how did you know its name so pat?"
"Because all cats of that breed are named Agnes;
they will not answer to any other."
Ursula was impressed. "It is the most wonderful
thing !' ' Then a shadow of trouble came into her face,
for her superstitions were aroused, and she reluc
tantly put the creature down, saying: "I suppose
I must let it go; I am not afraid no, not exactly
that, though the priest well, I've heard people
indeed, many people . . . And, besides, it is quite
well now and can take care of itself." She sighed,
and turned to go, murmuring: "It is such a pretty
one, too, and would be such company and the
house is so sad and lonesome these troubled
days . . . Miss Marget so mournful and just a
shadow, and the old master shut up in jail."
"It seems a pity not to keep it," said Satan.
Ursula turned quickly just as if she were hoping
some one would encourage her.
"Why?" she asked, wistfully.
"Because this breed brings luck."
"Does it? Is it true? Young man, do you know
it to be true? How does it bring luck?
"Well, it brings money, anyway."
Ursula looked disappointed. "Money? A cat
bring money? The idea! You could never sell it
here; people do not buy cats here; one can't even
give them away." She turned to go.
' ' I don't mean sell it. I mean have an income from
it. This kind is called the Lucky Cat. Its owner
finds four silver groschen in his pocket every morning.
I saw the indignation rising in the old woman's
face. She was insulted. This boy was making fun
of her. That was her thought. She thrust her
hands into her pockets and straightened up to give
him a piece of her mind. Her temper was all up,
and hot. Her mouth came open and let out three
words of a bitter sentence, . . . then it fell silent,
and the anger in her face turned to surprise or
wonder or fear, or something, and she slowly brought
out her hands from her pockets and opened them
and held them so. In one was my piece of money,
in the other lay four silver groschen. She gazed
a little while, perhaps to see if the groschen would
vanish away; then she said, fervently:
"It's true it's true and I'm ashamed and beg
forgiveness, O dear master and benefactor!" And
she ran to Satan and kissed his hand, over and over
again, according to the Austrian custom.
In her heart she probably believed it was a witch-
cat and an agent of the Devil; but no matter, it
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
was all the more certain to be able to keep its con
tract and furnish a daily good living for the family,
for in matters of finance even the piousest of our
peasants would have more confidence in an arrange
ment with the Devil than with an archangel.
Ursula started homeward, with Agnes in her arms,
and I said I wished I had her privilege of seeing
Then I caught my breath, for we were there.
There in the parlor, and Marget standing looking
at us, astonished. She was feeble and pale, but I
knew that those conditions would not last in Satan's
atmosphere, and it turned out so. I introduced
Satan that is, Philip Traum and we sat down and
talked. There was no constraint. We were simple
folk, in our village, and when a stranger was a
pleasant person we were soon friends. Marget
wondered how we got in without her hearing us.
Traum said the door was open, and we walked in
and waited until she should turn around and greet
us. This was not true; no door was open; we
entered through the walls or the roof or down the
chimney, or somehow; but no matter, what Satan
wished a person to believe, the person was sure to
believe, and so Marget was quite satisfied with that
explanation. And then the main part of her mind
was on Traum, anyway; she couldn't keep her eyes
off him, he was so beautiful. That gratified me, and
made me proud. I hoped he would show off some,
but he didn't. He seemed only interested in being
friendly and telling lies. He said he was an orphan.
That made Marget pity him. The water came into
her eyes. He said he had never known his mamma;
she passed away while he was a young thing; and
said his papa was in shattered health, and had no
property to speak of in fact, none of any earthly
value but he had an uncle in business down in the
tropics, and he was very well off and had a monopoly,
and it was from this uncle that he drew his support.
The very mention of a kind uncle was enough to
remind Marget of her own, and her eyes filled again.
She said she hoped their two uncles would meet,
some day. It made me shudder. Philip said he
hoped so, too; and that made me shudder again.
"Maybe they will," said Marget. "Does your
uncle travel much?"
"Oh yes, he goes all about; he has business every
And so they went on chatting, and poor Marget
forgot her sorrow for one little while, anyway. It
was probably the only really bright and cheery hour
she had known lately. I saw she liked Philip, and
I knew she would. And when he told her he was
studying for the ministry I could see that she liked
him better than ever. And then, when he promised
to get her admitted to the jail so that she could see
her uncle, that was the capstone. He said he would
give the guards a little present, and she must always
go in the evening after dark, and say nothing,
"but just show this paper and pass in, and show it
again when you come out" and he scribbled some
queer marks on the paper and gave it to her, and she
was ever so thankful, and right away was in a fever
for the sun to go down; for in that old, cruel time
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
prisoners were not allowed to see their friends, and
sometimes they spent years in the jails without ever
seeing a friendly face. I judged that the marks on
the paper were an enchantment, and that the guards
would not know what they were doing, nor have any
memory of it afterward; and that was indeed the
way of it. Ursula put her head in at the door now
and said :
"Supper's ready, miss." Then she saw us and
looked frightened, and motioned me to come to her,
which I did, and she asked if we had told about the
cat. I said no, and she was relieved, and said
please don't; for if Miss Marget knew, she would
think it was an unholy cat and would send for a
priest and have its gifts all purified out of it, and
then there wouldn't be any more dividends. So I
said we wouldn't tell, and she was satisfied. Then
I was beginning to say good-by to Marget, but
Satan interrupted and said, ever so politely well,
I don't remember just the words, but anyway he as
good as invited himself to supper, and me, too. Of
course Marget was miserably embarrassed, for she
had no reason to suppose there would be half enough
for a sick bird. Ursula heard him, and she came
straight into the room, not a bit pleased. At first
she was astonished to see Marget looking so fresh
and rosy, and said so; then she spoke up in her
native tongue, which was Bohemian, and said as I
learned afterward "Send him away, Miss Marget;
there's not victuals enough."
Before Marget could speak, Satan had the word,
and was talking back to Ursula in her own language
which was a surprise to her, and for her mistress,
too. He said, "Didn't I see you down the road
"Ah, that pleases me; I see you remember me."
He stepped to her and whispered: "I told you it is
a Lucky Cat. Don't be troubled; it will provide."
That sponged the slate of Ursula's feelings clean
of its anxieties, and a deep, financial joy shone in
her eyes. The cat's value was augmenting. It was
getting full time for Marget to take some sort of
notice of Satan's invitation, and she did it in the
best way, the honest way that was natural to her.
She said she had little to offer, but that we were
welcome if we would share it with her.
We had supper in the kitchen, and Ursula waited
at table. A small fish was in the frying-pan, crisp
and brown and tempting, and one could see that
Marget was not expecting such respectable food as
this. Ursula brought it, and Marget divided it
between Satan and me, declining to take any of it
herself; and was beginning to say she did not care
for fish to-day, but she did not finish the remark.
It was because she noticed that another fish had
appeared in the pan. She looked surprised, but did
not say anything. She probably meant to inquire
of Ursula about this later. There were other sur
prises : flesh and game and wines and fruits things
which had been strangers in that house lately; but
Marget made no exclamations, and now even looked
unsurprised, which was Satan's influence, of course.
Satan talked right along, and was entertaining, and
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
made the time pass pleasantly and cheerfully; and
although he told a good many lies, it was no harm
in him, for he was only an angel and did not know
any better. They do not know right from wrong;
I knew this, because I remembered what he had
said about it. He got on the good side of Ursula.
He praised her to Marget, confidentially, but speak
ing just loud enough for Ursula to hear. He said
she was a fine woman, and he hoped some day to
bring her and his uncle together. Very soon Ursula
was mincing and simpering around in a ridiculous
girly way, and smoothing out her gown and prinking
at herself like a foolish old hen, and all the time
pretending she was not hearing what Satan was
saying. I was ashamed, for it showed us to be
what Satan considered us, a silly race and trivial.
Satan said his uncle entertained a great deal, and
to have a clever woman presiding over the festivities
would double the attractions of the place.
"But your uncle is a gentleman, isn't he?" asked
"Yes," said Satan indifferently; "some even call
him a Prince, out of compliment, but he is not
bigoted; to him personal merit is everything, rank
My hand was hanging down by my chair; Agnes
came along and licked it; by this act a secret was
revealed. I started to say, "It is all a mistake;
this is just a common, ordinary cat; the hair-needles
on her tongue point inward, not outward." But the
words did not come, because they couldn't. Satan
smiled upon me, and I understood.
When it was dark Marget took food and wine and
fruit, in a basket, and hurried away to the jail, and
Satan and I walked toward my home. I was thinking
to myself that I should like to see what the inside of
the jail was like; Satan overheard the thought, and
the next moment we were in the jail. We were in
the torture-chamber, Satan said. The rack was
there, and the other instruments, and there was a
smoky lantern or two hanging on the walls and
helping to make the place look dim and dreadful.
There were people there and executioners but as
they took no notice of us, it meant that we were
invisible. A young man lay bound, and Satan said
he was suspected of being a heretic, and the execu
tioners were about to inquire into it. They asked
the man to confess to the charge, and he said he
could not, for it was not true. Then they drove
splinter after splinter under his nails, and he shrieked
with the pain. Satan was not disturbed, but I
could not endure it, and had to be whisked out of
there. I was faint and sick, but the fresh air revived
me, and we walked toward my home. I said it was
a brutal thing.
"No, it was a human thing. You should not
insult the brutes by such a misuse of that word;
they have not deserved it," and he went on talking
like that. " It is like your paltry race always lying,
always claiming virtues which it hasn't got, always
denying them to the higher animals, which alone
possess them. No brute ever does a cruel thing
that is the monopoly of those with the Moral Sense.
When a brute inflicts pain he does it innocently; it
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
is not wrong; for him there is no such thing as
wrong. And he does not inflict pain for the pleasure
of inflicting it only man does that. Inspired ;by
that mongrel Moral Sense of his! A sense whose
function is to distinguish between right and wrong,
with liberty to choose which of them he will do.
Now what advantage can he get out of that? He is
always choosing, and in nine cases out of ten he
prefers the wrong. There shouldn't be any wrong;
and without the Moral Sense there couldn't be any.
And yet he is such an unreasoning creature that he
is not able to perceive that the Moral Sense degrades
him to the bottom layer of animated beings and is a
shameful possession. Are you feeling better? Let
me show you something."
IN a moment we were in a French village. We
walked through a great factory of some sort,
where men and women and little children were toiling
in heat and dirt and a fog of dust; and they were
clothed in rags, and drooped at their work, for they
were worn and half starved, and weak and drowsy.
"It is some more Moral Sense. The proprietors
are rich, and very holy; but the wage they pay to
these poor brothers and sisters of theirs is only
enough to keep them from dropping dead with
hunger. The work-hours are fourteen per day,
winter and summer from six in the morning till
eight at night little children and all. And they
walk to and from the pigsties which they inhabit
four miles each way, through mud and slush, rain,
snow, sleet, and storm, daily, year in and year out.
They get four hours of sleep. They kennel together,
three families in a room, in unimaginable filth and
stench ; and disease comes, and they die off like flies.
Have they committed a crime, these mangy things?
No. What have they done, that they are punished
so? Nothing at all, except getting themselves born
into your foolish race. You have seen how they
treat a misdoer there in the jail; now yon see how
they treat the innocent and the worthy. Is your
race logical? Are these ill-smelling innocents better
off than that heretic? Indeed, no; his punishment
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
is trivial compared with theirs. They broke him on
the wheel and smashed him to rags and pulp after
we left, and he is dead now, and free of your precious
race; but these poor slaves here why, they have
been dying for years, and some of them will not
escape from life for years to come. It is the Moral
Sense which teaches the factory proprietors the dif
ference between right and wrong you perceive the
result. They think themselves better than dogs.
Ah, you are such an illogical, unreasoning race!
And paltry oh, unspeakably!"
Then he dropped all seriousness and just over
strained himself making fun of us, and deriding our
pride in our warlike deeds, our great heroes, our
imperishable fames, our mighty kings, our ancient
aristocracies, our venerable history and laughed and
laughed till it was enough to make a person sick to
hear him; and finally he sobered a little and said,
"But, after all, it is not all ridiculous; there is a sort
of pathos about it when one remembers how few
are your days, how childish your pomps, and what
shadows you are!"
Presently all things vanished suddenly from my
sight, and I knew what it meant. The next moment
we were walking along in our village; and down
toward the. river I saw the twinkling lights of the
Golden Stag. Then in the dark I heard a joyful cry :
"He's come again!"
It was Seppi Wohlmeyer. He had felt his blood
leap and his spirits rise, in a way that could mean
only one thing, and he knew Satan was near, although
it was too dark to see him. He came to us, and we
walked along together, and Seppi poured out his
gladness like water. It was as if he were a lover and
had found his sweetheart who had been lost. Seppi
was a smart and animated boy, and had enthusiasm
and expression, and was a contrast to Nikolaus and
me. He was full of the last new mystery, now the
disappearance of Hans Oppert, the village loafer.
People were beginning to be curious about it, he said.
He did not say anxious curious was the right word,