gasped out, "Do it!"
"It is done," he said; "she was going around a
corner; I have turned her back; it has changed her
"Then what will happen, Satan?"
"It is happening now. She is having words with
Fischer, the weaver. In his anger Fischer will
straightway do what he would not have done
but for this accident. He was present when she
stood over her child's body and uttered those blas
"What will he do?"
' ' He is doing it now betraying her. In three days
she will go to the stake."
We could not speak; we were frozen with horror,
for if we had not meddled with her career she would
have been spared this awful fate. Satan noticed
these thoughts, and said :
"What you are thinking is strictly human-like
that is to say, foolish. The woman is advantaged.
Die when she might, she would go to heaven. By
this prompt death she gets twenty-nine years more
of heaven than she is entitled to, and escapes twenty-
nine years of misery here."
A moment before we were bitterly making up our
minds that we would ask no more favors of Satan for
friends of ours, for he did not seem to know any way
to do a person a kindness but by killing him ; but the
whole aspect of the case was changed now, and we
were glad of what we had done and full of happiness
in the thought of it.
After a little I began to feel troubled about Fischer,
and asked, timidly, "Does this episode change
Fischer's life-scheme, Satan?"
"Change it? Why, certainly. And radically. If
he had not met Frau Brandt awhile ago he would
die next year, thirty-four years of age. Now he will
live to be ninety, and have a pretty prosperous and
comfortable life of it, as human lives go."
We felt a great joy and pride in what we had done
for Fischer, and were expecting Satan to sympathize
with this feeling; but he showed no sign and this
made us uneasy. We waited for him to speak, but
he didn't; so, to assuage our solicitude we had to
ask him if there was any defect in Fischer's good
luck. Satan considered the question a moment, then
said, with some hesitation:
"Well, the fact is, it is a delicate point. Under
his several former possible life-careers he was going
We were aghast. ' * Oh, Satan ! and under this one "
"There, don't be so distressed. You were sincerely
trying to do him a kindness; let that comfort you."
"Oh, dear, dear, that cannot comfort us. You
ought to have told us what we were doing, then we
wouldn't have acted so."
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
But it made no impression on him. He had never
felt a pain or a sorrow, and did not know what they
were, in any really informing way. He had no
knowledge of them except theoretically that is to
say, intellectually. And of course that is no good.
One can never get any but a loose and ignorant
notion of such things except by experience. We tried
our best to make him comprehend the awful thing
that had been done and how we were compromised
by it, but he couldn't seem to get hold of it. He said
he did not think it important where Fischer went to;
in heaven he would not be missed, there were
"plenty there.'* We tried to make him see that he
was missing the point entirely; that Fischer, and not
other people, was the proper one to decide about the
importance of it ; but it all went for nothing ; he said
he did not care for Fischer there were plenty more
The next minute Fischer went by on the other side
of the way, and it made us sick and faint to see him,
remembering the doom that was upon him, and we
the cause of it. And how unconscious he was that
anything had happened to him! You could see by
his elastic step and his alert manner that he was well
satisfied with himself for doing that hard turn for
poor Frau Brandt. He kept glancing back over his
shoulder expectantly. And, sure enough, pretty soon
Frau Brandt followed after, in charge of the officers
and wearing jingling chains. A mob was in her wake,
jeering and shouting, "Blasphemer and heretic!"
and some among them were neighbors and friends of
her happier days. Some were trying to strike her,
and the officers were not taking as much trouble as
they might to keep them from it.
"Oh, stop them, Satan!" It was out before we
remembered that he could not interrupt them for a
moment without changing their whole after-lives.
He puffed a little puff toward them with his lips and
they began to reel and stagger and grab at the empty
air; then they broke apart and fled in every direc
tion, shrieking, as if in intolerable pain. He had
crushed a rib of each of them with that little puff.
We could not help asking if their life-chart was
"Yes, entirely. Some have gained years, some
have lost them. Some few will profit in various
ways by the change, but only that few."
We did not ask if we had brought poor Fischer's
luck to any of them. We did not wish to know.
We fully believed in Satan's desire to do us kind
nesses, but we were losing confidence in his judg
ment. It was at this time that our growing anxiety
to have him look over our life-charts and suggest
improvements began to fade out and give place to
For a day or two the whole village was a chattering
turmoil over Frau Brandt's case and over the
mysterious calamity that had overtaken the mob,
and at her trial the place was crowded. She was
easily convicted of her blasphemies, for she uttered
those terrible words again and said she would not
take them back. When warned that she was
imperiling her life, she said they could take it in
welcome, she did not want it, she would rather live
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
with the professional devils in perdition than with
these imitators in the village. They accused her of
breaking all those ribs by witchcraft, and asked her
if she was not a witch? She answered scornfully:
"No. If I had that power would any of you holy
hypocrites be alive five minutes? No; I would
strike you all dead. Pronounce your sentence and
let me go; I am tired of your society."
So they found her guilty, and she was excom
municated and cut off from the joys of heaven and
doomed to the fires of hell; then she was clothed in a
coarse robe and delivered to the secular arm, and con
ducted to the market-place, the bell solemnly tolling
the while. We saw her chained to the stake, and saw
the first film of blue smoke rise on the still air. Then
her hard face softened, and she looked upon the
packed crowd in front of her and said, with gentleness :
"We played together once, in long-agone days
when we were innocent little creatures. For the
sake of that, I forgive you."
We went away then, and did not see the fires
consume her, but we heard the shrieks, although we
put our fingers in our ears. When they ceased we
knew she was in heaven, notwithstanding the excom
munication; and we were glad of her death and not
sorry that we had brought it about.
One day, a little while after this, Satan appeared
again. We were always watching out for him, for
life was never very stagnant when he was by. He
came upon us at that place in the woods where we
had first met him. Being boys, we wanted to be
entertained ; we asked him to do a show for us.
"Very well," he said; "would you like to see a
history of the progress of the human race? its devel
opment of that product which it calls civilization?"
We said we should.
So, with a thought, he turned the place into the
Garden of Eden, and we saw Abel praying by his
altar; then Cain came walking toward him with his
club, and did not seem to see us, and would have
stepped on my foot if I had not drawn it in. He
spoke to his brother in a language which we did not
understand; then he grew violent and threatening,
and we knew what was going to happen, and turned
away our heads for the moment; but we heard the
crash of the blows and heard the shrieks and the
groans; then there was silence, and we saw Abel
lying in his blood and gasping out his life, and Cain
standing over him and looking down at him, vengeful
Then the vision vanished, and was followed by a
long series of unknown wars, murders, and massacres.
Next we had the Flood, and the Ark tossing around
in the stormy waters, with lofty mountains in the
distance showing veiled and dim through the rain.
"The progress of your race was not satisfactory.
It is to have another chance now."
The scene changed, and we saw Noah overcome
Next, we had Sodom and Gomorrah, and "the
attempt to discover two or three respectable persons
there," as Satan described it. Next, Lot and his
daughters in the cave.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
Next came the Hebraic wars, and we saw the
victors massacre the survivors and their cattle,
and save the young girls alive and distribute them
Next we had Jael; and saw her slip into the tent
and drive the nail into the temple of her sleeping
guest; and we were so close that when the blood
gushed out it trickled in a little, red stream to our
feet, and we could have stained our hands in it if
we had wanted to.
Next we had Egyptian wars, Greek wars, Roman
wars, hideous drenchings of the earth with blood;
and we saw the treacheries of the Romans toward
the Carthaginians, and the sickening spectacle of the
massacre of those brave people. Also we saw Caesar
invade Britain "not that those barbarians had done
him any harm, but because he wanted their land, and
desired to confer the blessings of civilization upon
their widows and orphans," as Satan explained.
Next, Christianity was born. Then ages of Europe
passed in review before us, and we saw Christianity
and Civilization march hand in hand through those
ages, "leaving famine and death and desolation in
their wake, and other signs of the progress of the
human race," as Satan observed.
And always we had wars, and more wars, and still
other wars all over Europe, all over the world.
"Sometimes in the private interest of royal families,"
Satan said, "sometimes to crush a weak nation;
but never a war started by the aggressor for any clean
purpose there is no such war in the history of the
"Now," said Satan, "you have seen your progress
down to the present, and you must confess that it is
wonderful in its way. We must now exhibit the
He showed us slaughters more terrible in their
destruction of life, more devastating in their engines
of war, than any we had seen.
"You perceive," he said, "that you have made
continual progress. Cain did his murder with a club ;
the Hebrews did their murders with javelins and
swords; the Greeks and Romans added protective
armor and the fine arts of military organization and
generalship ; the Christian has added guns and gun
powder; a few centuries from now he will have so
greatly improved the deadly effectiveness of his
weapons of slaughter that all men will confess that
without Christian civilization war must have re
mained a poor and trifling thing to the end of time."
Then he began to laugh in the most unfeeling way,
and make fun of the human race, although he knew
that what he had been saying shamed us and
wounded us. No one but an angel could have acted
so; but suffering is nothing to them; they do not
know what it is, except by hearsay.
More than once Seppi and I had tried in a humble
and diffident way to convert him, and as he had
remained silent we had taken his silence as a sort of
encouragement; necessarily, then, this talk of his
was a disappointment to us, for it showed that we
had made no deep impression upon him. The
thought made us sad, and we knew then how the
missionary must feel when he has been cherishing a
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
glad hope and has seen it blighted. We kept our
grief to ourselves, knowing that this was not the
time to continue our work.
Satan laughed his unkind laugh to a finish; then
he said: "It is a remarkable progress. In five or six
thousand years five or six high civilizations have
risen, flourished, commanded the wonder of the
world, then faded out and disappeared ; and not one
of them except the latest ever invented any sweeping
and adequate way to kill people. They all did their
best to kill being the chief est ambition of the human
race and the earliest incident in its history but only
the Christian civilization has scored a triumph to
be proud of. Two or three centuries from now it will
be recognized that all the competent killers are
Christians; then the pagan world will go to school
to the Christian not to acquire his religion, but his
guns. The Turk and the Chinaman will buy those
to kill missionaries and converts with."
By this time his theater was at work again, and
before our eyes nation after nation drifted by, during
two or three centuries, a mighty procession, an end
less procession, raging, struggling, wallowing through
seas of blood, smothered in battle-smoke through
which the flags glinted and the red jets from the
cannon darted ; and always we heard the thunder of
the guns and the cries of the dying.
"And what does it amount to?" said Satan, with
his evil chuckle. "Nothing at all. You gain noth
ing; you always come out where you went in. For
a million years the race has gone on monotonously
propagating itself and monotonously reperforming
this dull nonsense to what end? No wisdom can
guess! Who gets a profit out of it? Nobody but a
parcel of usurping little monarchs and nobilities who
despise you; would feel defiled if you touched them;
would shut the door in your face if you proposed to
call; whom you slave for, fight for, die for, and are
not ashamed of it, but proud; whose existence is a
perpetual insult to you and you are afraid to resent
it; who are mendicants supported by your alms,
yet assume toward you the airs of benefactor toward
beggar; who address you in the language of master
to slave, and are answered in the language of slave
to master; who are worshiped by you with your
mouth, while in your heart if you have one you
despise yourselves for it. The first man was a
hypocrite and a coward, qualities which have not
yet failed in his line; it is the foundation upon which
all civilizations have been built. Drink to their
perpetuation ! Drink to their augmentation ! Drink
to " Then he saw by our faces how much we were
hurt, and he cut his sentence short and stopped
chuckling, and his manner changed. He said,
gently: "No, we will drink one another's health,
and let civilization go. The wine which has flown to
our hands out of space by desire is earthly, and good
enough for that other toast; but throw away the
glasses; we will drink this one in wine which has not
visited this world before."
We obeyed, and reached up and received the new
cups as they descended. They were shapely and
beautiful goblets, but they were not made of any
material that we were acquainted with. They seemed
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
to be in motion, they seemed to be alive; and cer
tainly the colors in them were in motion. They
were very brilliant and sparkling, and of every tint,
and they were never still, but flowed to and fro in
rich tides which met and broke and flashed out
dainty explosions of enchanting color. I think it
was most like opals washing about in waves and
flashing out their splendid fires. But there is nothing
to compare the wine with. We drank it, and felt
a strange and witching ecstasy as of heaven go
stealing through us, and Seppi's eyes filled and he
"We shall be there some day, and then "
He glanced furtively at Satan, and I think he
hoped Satan would say, "Yes, you will be there
some day,'* but Satan seemed to be thinking about
something else, and said nothing. This made me
feel ghastly, for I knew he had heard; nothing,
spoken or unspoken, ever escaped him. Poor Seppi
looked distressed, and did not finish his remark.
The goblets rose and clove their way into the sky,
a triplet of radiant sundogs, and disappeared. Why
didn't they stay ? It seemed a bad sign, and depressed
me. Should I ever see mine again? Would Seppi
ever see his?
Pwas wonderful, the mastery Satan had over
;ime and distance. For him they did not exist.
He called them human inventions, and said they
were artificialities. We often went to the most dis
tant parts of the globe with him, and stayed weeks
and months, and yet were gone only a fraction of a
second, as a rule. You could prove it by the clock.
One day when our people were in such awful dis
tress because the witch commission were afraid to
proceed against the astrologer and Father Peter's
household, or against any, indeed, but the poor and
the friendless, they lost patience and took to witch-
hunting on their own score, and began to chase a
born lady who was known to have the habit of
curing people by devilish arts, such as bathing them,
washing them, and nourishing them instead of bleed
ing them and purging them through the ministrations
of a barber-surgeon in the proper way. She came
flying down, with the howling and cursing mob after
her, and tried to take refuge in houses, but the doors
were shut in her face. They chased her more than
half an hour, we following to see it, and at last she
was exhausted and fell, and they caught her. They
dragged her to a tree and threw a rope over the limb,
and began to make a noose in it, some holding her,
meantime, and she crying and begging, and her
young daughter looking on and weeping, but afraid
to say or do anything.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
They hanged the lady, and I threw a stone at her,
although in my heart I was sorry for her; but all
were throwing stones and each was watching his
neighbor, and if I had not done as the others did it
would have been noticed and spoken of. Satan burst
All that were near by turned upon him, astonished
and not pleased. It was an ill time to laugh, for his
free and scoffing ways and his supernatural music
had brought him under suspicion all over the town
and turned many privately against him. The big
blacksmith called attention to him now, raising his
voice so that all should hear, and said:
"What are you laughing at? Answer! Moreover,
please explain to the company why you threw no
"Are you sure I did not throw a stone?"
"Yes. You needn't try to get out of it; I had
my eye on you."
"And I I noticed you!" shouted two others.
"Three witnesses," said Satan: "Mueller, the
blacksmith; Klein, the butcher's man; Pfeiffer, the
weaver's journeyman. Three very ordinary liars.
Are there any more?"
"Never mind whether there are others or not, and
never mind about what you consider us three's
enough to settle your matter for you. You'll prove
that you threw a stone, or it shall go hard with you."
"That's so!" shouted the crowd, and surged up
as closely as they could to the center of interest.
"And first you will answer that other question,"
cried the blacksmith, pleased with himself for being
mouthpiece to the public and hero of the occasion.
"What are you laughing at?"
Satan smiled and answered, pleasantly: "To see
three cowards stoning a dying lady when they were
so near death themselves."
You could see the superstitious crowd shrink and
catch their breath, under the sudden shock. The
blacksmith, with a show of bravado, said :
"Pooh! What do you know about it?"
"I? Everything. By profession I am a fortune
teller, and I read the hands of you three and some
others when you lifted them to stone the woman.
One of you will die to-morrow week; another of you
will die to-night; the third has but five minutes to
live and yonder is the clock!"
It 1 made a sensation. The faces of the crowd
blanched, and turned mechanically toward the clock.
The butcher and the weaver seemed smitten with an
illness, but the blacksmith braced up and said, with
"It is not long to wait for prediction number one.
If it fails, young master, you will not live a whole
minute after, I promise you that."
No one said anything; all watched the clock in a
deep stillness which was impressive. When four and
a half minutes were gone the blacksmith gave a
sudden gasp and clapped his hands upon his heart,
saying, "Give me breath! Give me room!" and
began to sink down. The crowd surged back, no
one offering to support him, and he fell lumbering
to the ground and was dead. The people stared
at him, then at Satan, then at one another; and
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
their lips moved, but no words came. Then Satan
"Three saw that I threw no stone. Perhaps there
are others; let them speak."
It struck a kind of panic into them, and, although
no one answered him, many began to violently accuse
one another, saying, "You said he didn't throw,"
and getting for reply, "It is a lie, and I will make
you eat it!" And so in a moment they were in a
raging and noisy turmoil, and beating and banging
one another; and in the midst was the only indiffer
ent one the dead lady hanging from her rope, her
troubles forgotten, her spirit at peace.
So we walked away, and I was not at ease, but
was saying to myself, "He told them he was laugh
ing at them, but it was a lie he was laughing at me."
That made him laugh again, and he said, "Yes,
I was laughing at you, because, in fear of what others
might report about you, you stoned the woman when
your heart revolted at the act but I was laughing
at the others, too."
"Because their case was yours."
"How is that?"
"Well, there were sixty-eight people there, and
sixty-two of them had no more desire to throw a stone
than you had."
"Oh, it's true. I know your race. It is made tip
of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or
never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and
its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the
most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right,
sometimes wrong ; but no matter, the crowd follows
it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage
or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink
from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggres
sive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert
themselves. Think of it ! One kind-hearted creature
spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally
helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speak
ing as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a
hundred of your race were strongly against the killing
of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by
a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I
know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted
prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in
twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a
witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches
and wants them killed. Some day a handful will
rise up on the other side and make the most noise
perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice
and a determined front will do it and in a week
all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-
hunting will come to a sudden end.
Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions are all
based upon that large defect in your race the
individual's distrust of his neighbor, and his desire,
for safety's or comfort's sake, to stand well in his
neighbor's eye. These institutions will always
remain, and always flourish, and always oppress
you, affront you, and degrade you, because you will
always be and remain slaves of minorities. There
was never a country where the majority of the people
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these
I did not like to hear our race called sheep, and
said I did not think they were.
"Still, it is true, lamb," said Satan. "Look at
you in war what mutton you are, and how ridic
"In war? How?"
"There has never been a just one, never an
honorable one on the part of the instigator of the
war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule
will never change in so many as half a dozen instances.
The loud little handful as usual will shout for the
war. The pulpit will warily and cautiously object
at first ; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will
rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there
should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indig
nantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is
no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout
louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue
and reason against the war with speech and pen, and
at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it
will not last long; those others will outshout them,
and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and