lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious
thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and
free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who
in their secret hearts are still at one with those
stoned speakers as earlier but do not dare to say
And now the whole nation pulpit and all will
take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and
mob any honest man who ventures to open his
mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to
open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies,
putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked,
and every man will be glad of those conscience-
soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and
refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus
he will by and by convince himself that the war is
just, and will thank God for the better sleep he
enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
DAYS and days went by now, and no Satan. It
was dull without him. But the astrologer,
who had returned from his excursion to the moon,
went about the village, braving public opinion, and
getting a stone in the middle of his back now and
then when some witch-hater got a safe chance to
throw it and dodge out of sight. Meantime two
influences had been working well for Marget. That
Satan, who was quite indifferent to her, had stopped
going to her house after a visit or two had hurt her
pride, and she had set herself the task of banishing
him from her heart. Reports of Wilhelm Meidling's
dissipation brought to her from time to time by old
Ursula had touched her with remorse, jealousy of
Satan being the cause of it; and so now, these two
matters working upon her together, she was getting
a good profit out of the combination her interest
in Satan was steadily cooling, her interest in Wilhelm
as steadily warming. All that was needed to com
plete her conversion was that Wilhelm should brace
up and do something that should cause favorable
talk and incline the public toward him again.
The opportunity came now. Marget sent and
asked him to defend her uncle in the approaching
trial, and he was greatly pleased, and stopped
drinking and began his preparations with diligence.
With more diligence than hope, in fact, for it was not
a promising case. He had many interviews in his
office with Seppi and me, and threshed out our
testimony pretty thoroughly, thinking to find some
valuable grains among the chaff, but the harvest
was poor, of course.
If Satan would only come ! That was my constant
thought. He could invent some way to win the
case; for he had said it would be won, so he neces
sarily knew how it could be done. But the days
dragged on, and still he did not come. Of course I
did not doubt that it would win, and that Father
Peter would be happy for the rest of his life, since
Satan had said so; yet I knew I should be much
more comfortable if he would come and tell us how
to manage it. It was getting high time for Father
Peter to have a saving change toward happiness, for
by general report he was worn out with his imprison
ment and the ignominy that was burdening him, and
was like to die of his miseries unless he got relief
At last the trial came on, and the people gathered
from all around to witness it; among them many
strangers from considerable distances. Yes, every
body was there except the accused. He was too
feeble in body for the strain. But Marget was
present, and keeping up her hope and her spirit the
best she could. The money was present, too. It
was emptied on the table, and was handled and
caressed and examined by such as were privileged.
The astrologer was put in the witness-box. He
had on his best hat and robe for the occasion.
Question. You claim that this money is yours ?
Answer. I do.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
Q. How did you come by it ?
A. I found the bag in the road when I was
returning from a journey.
A. More than two years ago.
Q, What did you do with it?
A. I brought it home and hid it in a secret place
in my observatory, intending to find the owner if
Q. You endeavored to find him?
A. I made diligent inquiry during several months,
but nothing came of it.
Q. And then?
A. I thought it not worth while to look further,
and was minded to use the money in finishing the
wing of the foundling-asylum connected with the
priory and nunnery. So I took it out of its hiding-
place and counted it to see if any of it was missing.
Q. Why do you stop ? Proceed.
A. I am sorry to have to say this, but just as I
had finished and was restoring the bag to its place,
I looked up and there stood Father Peter behind me.
Several murmured, "That looks bad," but others
answered, "Ah, but he is such a liar!"
Q. That made you uneasy?
A. No; I thought nothing of it at the time, for
Father Peter often came to me unannounced to ask
for a little help in his need.
Marget blushed crimson at hearing her uncle
falsely and impudently charged with begging, es
pecially from one he had always denounced as a
fraud, and was going to speak, but remembered
herself in time and held her peace.
A. In the end I was afraid to contribute the
money to the foundling-asylum, but elected to wait
yet another year and continue my inquiries. When
I heard of Father Peter's find I was glad, and no
suspicion entered my mind; when I came home a
day or two later and discovered that my own money
was gone I still did not suspect until three circum
stances connected with Father Peter's good fortune
struck me as being singular coincidences.
Q. Pray name them.
A . Father Peter had found his money in a path I
had found mine in a road. Father Peter's find con
sisted exclusively of gold ducats mine also. Father
Peter found eleven hundred and seven ducats I
exactly the same.
This closed his evidence, and certainly it made
a strong impression on the house; one could see
Wilhelm Meidling asked him some questions, then
called us boys, and we told our tale. It made the
people laugh, and we were ashamed. We were feeling
pretty badly, anyhow, because Wilhelm was hope
less, and showed it. He was doing as well as he
could, poor young fellow, but nothing was in his
favor, and such sympathy as there was was now
plainly not with his client. It might be difficult for
court and people to believe the astrologer's story,
considering his character, but it was almost impossible
to believe Father Peter's. We were already feeling
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
badly enough, but when the astrologer's lawyer said
he believed he would not ask us any questions for
our story was a little delicate and it would be cruel
for him to put any strain upon it everybody tit
tered, and it was almost more than we could bear.
Then he made a sarcastic little speech, and got so
much fun out of our tale, and it seemed so ridiculous
and childish and every way impossible and foolish,
that it made everybody laugh till the tears came;
and at last Marget could not keep up her courage
any longer, but broke down and cried, and I was so
sorry for her.
Now I noticed something that braced me up. It
was Satan standing alongside of Wilhelm ! And there
was such a contrast! Satan looked so confident,
had such a spirit in his eyes and face, and Wilhelm
looked so depressed and despondent. We two were
comfortable now, and judged that he would testify
and persuade the bench and the people that black
was white and white black, or any other color he
wanted it. We glanced around to see what the
strangers in the house thought of him, for he was
beautiful, you know stunning, in fact but no one
was noticing him; so we knew by that that he was
The lawyer was saying his last words; and while
he was saying them Satan began to melt into
Wilhelm. He melted into him and disappeared;
and then there was a change, when his spirit began
to look out of Wilhelm's eyes.
That lawyer finished quite seriously, and with
dignity. He pointed to the money, and said :
"The love of it is the root of all evil. There it
lies, the ancient tempter, newly red with the shame
of its latest victory the dishonor of a priest of God
and his two poor juvenile helpers in crime. If it
could but speak, let us hope that it would be con
strained to confess that of all its conquests this was
the basest and the most pathetic."
He sat down. Wilhelm rose and said :
"From the testimony of the accuser I gather that
he found this money in a road more than two years
ago. Correct me, sir, if I misunderstood you."
The astrologer said his understanding of it was
"And the money so found was never out of his
hands thenceforth up to a certain definite date the
last day of last year. Correct me, sir, if I am wrong."
The astrologer nodded his head. Wilhelm turned
to the bench and said:
"If I prove that this money here was not that
money, then it is not his?"
"Certainly not; but this is irregular. If you had
such a witness it was your duty to give proper
notice of it and have him here to " He broke off
and began to consult with the other judges. Mean
time that other lawyer got up excited and began to
protest against allowing new witnesses to be brought
into the case at this late stage.
The judges decided that his contention was just
and must be allowed.
"But this is not a new witness," said Wilhelm.
"It has already been partly examined. I speak of
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
"The coin? What can the coin say?"
"It can say it is not the coin that the astrologer
once possessed. It can say it was not in existence
last December. By its date it can say this."
And it was so! There was the greatest excitement
in the court while that lawyer and the judges were
reaching for coins and examining them and exclaim
ing. And everybody was full of admiration of
Wilhelm's brightness in happening to think of that
neat idea. At last order was called and the court
"All of the coins but four are of the date of the pres
ent year. The court tenders its sincere sympathy to
the accused, and its deep regret that he, an innocent
man, through an unfortunate mistake, has suffered
the undeserved humiliation of imprisonment and
trial. The case is dismissed."
So the money could speak, after all, though that
lawyer thought it couldn't. The court rose, and
almost everybody came forward to shake hands with
Marget and congratulate her, and then to shake
with Wilhelm and praise him; and Satan had
stepped out of Wilhelm and was standing around
looking on full of interest, and people walking
through him every which way, not knowing he was
there. And Wilhelm could not explain why he only
thought of the date on the coins at the last moment,
instead of earlier; he said it just occurred to him,
all of a sudden, like an inspiration, and he brought
it right out without any hesitation, for, although he
didn't examine the coins, he seemed, somehow, to
know it was true. That was honest of him, and like
him; another would have pretended he had thought
of it earlier, and was keeping it back for a surprise.
He had dulled down a little now; not much, but
still you could notice that he hadn't that luminous
look in his eyes that he had while Satan was in him.
He nearly got it back, though, for a moment when
Marget came and praised him and thanked him and
couldn't keep him from seeing how proud she was of
him. The astrologer went off dissatisfied and curs
ing, and Solomon Isaacs gathered up the money and
carried it away. It was Father Peter's for good and
Satan was gone. I judged that he had spirited
himself away to the jail to tell the prisoner the news;
and in this I was right. Marget and the rest of us
hurried thither at our best speed, in a great state of
Well, what Satan had done was this: he had
appeared before that poor prisoner, exclaiming, "The
trial is over, and you stand forever disgraced as a
thief by verdict of the court!"
The shock unseated the old man's reason. When
we arrived, ten minutes later, he was parading
pompously up and down and delivering commands
to this and that and the other constable or jailer,
and calling them Grand Chamberlain, and Prince
This and Prince That, and Admiral of the Fleet,
Field Marshal in Command, and all such fustian,
and was as happy as a bird. He thought he was
Marget flung herself on his breast and cried, and
indeed everybody was moved almost to heartbreak.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
He recognized Marget, but could not understand
why she should cry. He patted her on the shoulder
and said :
"Don't do it, dear; remember, there are witnesses,
and it is not becoming in the Crown Princess. Tell
me your trouble it shall be mended; there is
nothing the Emperor cannot do." Then he looked
around and saw old Ursula with her apron to her
eyes. He was puzzled at that, and said, "And what
is the matter with you?"
Through her sobs she got out words explaining that
she was distressed to see him "so." He reflected
over that a moment, then muttered, as if to himself:
"A singular old thing, the Dowager Duchess means
well, but is always snuffling and never able to tell
what it is about. It is because she doesn't know."
His eyes fell on Wilhelm. "Prince of India," he
said, "I divine that it is you that the Crown
Princess is concerned about. Her tears shall be
dried; I will no longer stand between you; she shall
share your throne; and between you you shall
inherit mine. There, little lady, have I done well?
You can smile now isn't it so?"
He petted Marget and kissed her, and was so
contented with himself and with everybody that he
could not do enough for us all, but began to give
away kingdoms and such things right and left, and
the least that any of us got was a principality. And
so at last, being persuaded to go home, he marched
in imposing state; and when the crowds along the
way saw how it gratified him to be hurrahed at, they
humored him to the top of his desire, and he
responded with condescending bows and gracious
smiles, and often stretched out a hand and said,
"Bless you, my people!"
As pitiful a sight as ever I saw. And Marget, and
old Ursula crying all the way.
On my road home I came upon Satan, and
reproached him with deceiving me with that lie.
He was not embarrassed, but said, quite simply and
"Ah, you mistake; it was the truth. I said he
would be happy the rest of his days, and he will, for
he will always think he is the Emperor, and his
pride in it and his joy in it will endure to the end.
He is now, and will remain, the one utterly happy
person in this empire."
"But the method of it, Satan, the method!
Couldn't you have done it without depriving him
of his reason?"
It was difficult to irritate Satan, but that accom
"What an ass you are!" he said. "Are you so
unobservant as not to have found out that sanity
and happiness are an impossible combination? No
sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he
sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be
happy, and not many of those. The few that imagine
themselves kings or gods are happy, the rest are no
happier than the sane. Of course, no man is entirely
in his right mind at any time, but I have been
referring to the extreme cases. I have taken from
this man that trumpery thing which the race regards
as a Mind; I have replaced his tin life with a silver-
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
gilt fiction; you see the result and you criticize!
I said I would make him permanently happy, and I
have done it. I have made him happy by the only
means possible to his race and you are not satisfied !"
He heaved a discouraged sigh, and said, "It seems
to me that this race is hard to please."
There it was, you see. He Jidn't seem to know
any way to do a person a favor except by killing him
or making a lunatic out of him. I apologized, as
well as I could; but privately I did not think much
of his processes at that time.
Satan was accustomed to say that our race lived
a life of continuous and uninterrupted self-deception.
It duped itself from cradle to grave with shams and
delusions which it mistook for realities, and this
made its entire life a sham. Of the score of fine
qualities which it imagined it had and was vain of, it
really possessed hardly one. It regarded itself as gold,
and was only brass. One day when he was in this vein
he mentioned a detail the sense of humor. I cheered
up then, and took issue. I said we possessed it.
"There spoke the race!" he said; "always ready
to claim what it hasn't got, and mistake its ounce of
brass filings for a ton of gold-dust. You have a
mongrel perception of humor, nothing more; a mul
titude of you possess that. This multitude see the
comic side of a thousand low-grade and trivial things
broad incongruities, mainly; grotesqueries, absurd
ities, evokers of the horse-laugh. The ten thousand
high-grade comicalities which exist in the world are
sealed from their dull vision. Will a day come when
the race will detect the funniness of these juvenilities
and laugh at them and by laughing at them destroy
them ? For your race, in its poverty, has unquestion
ably one really effective weapon laughter. Power,
money, persuasion, supplication, persecution these
can lift at a colossal humbug push it a little
weaken it a little, century by century; but only
laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast.
Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.
You are always fussing and fighting with your other
weapons. Do you ever use that one? No; you
leave it lying rusting. As a race, do you ever use it
at all? No; you lack sense and the courage."
We were traveling at the time and stopped at a
little city in India and looked on while a juggler did
his tricks before a group of natives. They were
wonderful, but I knew Satan could beat that game,
and I begged him to show off a little, and he said he
would. He changed himself into a native in turban
and breech-cloth, and very considerately conferred
on me a temporary knowledge of the language.
The juggler exhibited a seed, covered it with earth
in a small flower-pot, then put a rag over the pot ; after
a minute the rag began to rise; in ten minutes it had
risen a foot; then the rag was removed and a little
tree was exposed, with leaves upon it and ripe fruit.
We ate the fruit, and it was good. But Satan said :
"Why do you cover the pot? Can't you grow the
tree in the sunlight?"
"No," said the juggler; "no one can do that."
"You are only an apprentice; you don't know your
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
trade. Give me the seed. I will show you." He took
the seed and said, "What shall I raise from it?"
"It is a cherry seed; of course you will raise a
"Oh no; that is a trifle; any novice can do that.
Shall I raise an orange- tree from it?"
"Oh yes!" and the juggler laughed.
"And shall I make it bear other fruits as well as
"If God wills!" and they all laughed.
Satan put the seed in the ground, put a handful
of dust on it, and said, "Rise!"
A tiny stem shot up and began to grow, and grew
so fast that in five minutes it was a great tree, and
we were sitting in the shade of it. There was a
murmur of wonder, then all looked up and saw a
strange and pretty sight, for the branches were
heavy with fruits of many kinds and colors oranges,
grapes, bananas, peaches, cherries, apricots, and so
on. Baskets were brought, and the unlading of the
tree began; and the people crowded around Satan
and kissed his hand, and praised him, calling him the
prince of jugglers. The news went about the town,
and everybody came running to see the wonder and
they remembered to bring baskets, too. But the
tree was equal to the occasion ; it put out new fruits
as fast as any were removed; baskets were filled by
the score and by the hundred, but always the supply
remained undiminished. At last a foreigner in white
linen and sun-helmet arrived, and exclaimed, angrily :
"Away from here! Clear out, you dogs; the tree
is on my lands and is my property."
The natives put down their baskets and made hum
ble obeisance. Satan made humble obeisance, too, with
his fingers to his forehead, in the native way, and said :
"Please let them have their pleasure for an hour,
sir only that, and no longer. Afterward you may
forbid them; and you will still have more fruit than
you and the state together can consume in a year."
This made the foreigner very angry, and he cried
out, "Who are you, you vagabond, to tell your betters
what they may do and what they mayn't!" and he
struck Satan with his cane and followed this error
with a kick.
The fruits rotted on the branches, and the leaves
withered and fell. The foreigner gazed at the bare
limbs with the look of one who is surprised, and not
gratified. Satan said:
"Take good care of the tree, for its health and
yours are bound together. It will never bear again,
but if you tend it well it will live long. Water its
roots once in each hour every night and do it
yourself; it must not be done by proxy, and to do
it in daylight will not answer. If you fail only once
in any night, the tree will die, and you likewise. Do
not go home to your own country any more you
would not reach there; make no business or pleasure
engagements which require you to go outside your
gate at night you cannot afford the risk; do not
rent or sell this place it would be injudicious."
The foreigner was proud and wouldn't beg, but I
thought he looked as if he would like to. While he
stood gazing at Satan we vanished away and landed
THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
I was sorry for that man ; sorry Satan hadn't been
his customary self and killed him or made him a
lunatic. It would have been a mercy. Satan over
heard the thought, and said :
"I would have done it but for his wife, who has
not offended me. She is coming to him presently
from their native land, Portugal. She is well, but
has not long to live, and has been yearning to see
him and persuade him to go back with her next year.
She will die without knowing he can't leave that
"He won't teU her?"
"He? He will not trust that secret with any one;
he will reflect that it could be revealed in sleep, in
the hearing of some Portuguese guest's servant
some time or other."
"Did none of those natives understand what you
said to him?"
"None of them understood, but he will always be
afraid that some of them did. That fear will be
torture to him, for he has been a harsh master to
them. In his dreams he will imagine them chopping
his tree down. That will make his days uncomfort
able I have already arranged for his nights."
It grieved me, though not sharply, to see him take
such a malicious satisfaction in his plans for this
"Does he believe what you told him, Satan?"
"He thought he didn't, but our vanishing helped.
The tree, where there had been no tree before that
helped. The insane and uncanny variety of fruits
the sudden withering all these things are helps.
Let him think as he may, reason as he may, one
thing is certain, he will water the tree. But between
this and night he will begin his changed career with
a very natural precaution for him."
"What is that?"
"He will fetch a priest to cast out the tree's devil.
You are such a humorous race and don't suspect it."
"Will he tdl the priest?"
"No. He will say a juggler from Bombay created
it, and that he wants the juggler's devil driven out
of it, so that it will thrive and be fruitful again.
The priest's incantations will fail; then the Portu
guese will give up that scheme and get his watering-
"But the priest will burn the tree. I know it; he
will not allow it to remain."
"Yes, and anywhere in Europe he would burn the
man, too. But in India the people are civilized, and
these things will not happen. The man will drive
the priest away and take care of the tree."
I reflected a little, then said, "Satan, you have
given him a hard life, I think."
"Comparatively. It must not be mistaken for a
We flitted from place to place around the world as
we had done before, Satan showing me a hundred
wonders, most of them reflecting in some way the
weakness and triviality of our race. He did this now
every few days not out of malice I am sure of
that it only seemed to amuse and interest him,
just as a naturalist might be amused and interested
by a collection of ants.