The Devil’s Mill

★ The Devil’s Mill Story :

You see, sir, there was a colonel wanst, in times back, that owned a power of land about here–but God keep uz, they said he didn’t come by it honestly, but did a crooked turn whenever ’twas to sarve himself.

Well, the story goes that at last the divil (God bless us) kem to him, and promised him hapes o’ money, and all his heart could desire and more, too, if he’d sell his sowl in exchange.

He was too cunnin’ for that; bad as he was–and he was bad enough God knows–he had some regard for his poor sinful sowl, and he would not give himself up to the divil, all out; but, the villain, he thought he might make a bargain with the old chap, and get all he wanted, and keep himself out of harm’s way still: for he was mighty ‘cute–and, throth, he was able for Owld Nick any day.

Well, the bargain was struck, and it was this-a-way: the divil was to give him all the goold ever he’d ask for, and was to let him alone as long as he could; and the timpter promised him a long day, and said ‘twould be a great while before he’d want him at all, at all; and whin that time kem, he was to keep his hands aff him, as long as the other could give him some work he couldn’t do.

So, when the bargain was made, ‘Now,’ says the colonel to the divil, ‘give me all the money I want.’

‘As much as you like,’ says Owld Nick; ‘how much will you have?’

‘You must fill me that room,’ says he, pointin’ into a murtherin’ big room that he emptied out on purpose–‘you must fill that room,’ says he, ‘up to the very ceilin’ with goolden guineas.’

‘And welkem,’ says the divil.

With that, sir, he began to shovel the guineas into the room like mad; and the colonel towld him, that as soon as he was done, to come to him in his own parlour below, and that he would then go up and see if the divil was as good as his word, and had filled the room with the goolden guineas. So the colonel went downstairs, and the owld fellow worked away as busy as a nailer, shovellin’ in the guineas by hundherds and thousands.

Well, he worked away for an hour and more, and at last he began to get tired; and he thought it mighty odd that the room wasn’t fillin’ fasther. Well, afther restin’ for awhile, he began agin, and he put his shouldher to the work in airnest; but still the room was no fuller at all, at all.

‘Och! bad luck to me,’ says the divil, ‘but the likes of this I never seen,’ says he, ‘far and near, up and down–the dickens a room I ever kem across afore,’ says he, ‘I couldn’t cram while a cook would be crammin’ a turkey, till now; and here I am,’ says he, ‘losin’ my whole day, and I with such a power o’ work an my hands yit, and this room no fuller than five minutes ago.’

Begor, while he was spakin’ he seen the hape o’ guineas in the middle of the flure growing littler and littler every minit; and at last they wor disappearing, for all the world like corn in the hopper of a mill.

‘Ho! ho!’ says Owld Nick, ‘is that the way wid you?’ says he; and wid that, he ran over to the hape of goold–and what would you think, but it was runnin’ down through a great big hole in the flure, that the colonel made through the ceilin’ in the room below; and that was the work he was at afther he left the divil, though he purtended he was only waitin’ for him in his parlour; and there the divil, when he looked down the hole in the flure, seen the colonel, not content with the two rooms full of guineas, but with a big shovel throwin’ them into a closet a’ one side of him as fast as they fell down. So, putting his head through the hole, he called down to the colonel:

‘Hillo, neighbour!’ says he.

The colonel looked up, and grew as white as a sheet, when he seen he was found out, and the red eyes starin’ down at him through the hole.

‘Musha, bad luck to your impudence!’ says Owld Nick: ‘it is sthrivin’ to chate me you are,’ says he, ‘you villain!’

‘Oh, forgive me for this wanst!’ says the colonel, ‘and, upon the honour of a gintleman,’ says he, ‘I’ll never—-‘

‘Whisht! whisht! you thievin’ rogue,’ says the divil, ‘I’m not angry with you at all, at all, but only like you the betther, bekase you’re so cute;–lave off slaving yourself there,’ says he, ‘you have got goold enough for this time; and whenever you want more, you have only to say the word, and it shall be yours to command.’

So with that, the divil and he parted for that time: and myself doesn’t know whether they used to meet often afther or not; but the colonel never wanted money, anyhow, but went on prosperous in the world–and, as the saying is, if he took the dirt out o’ the road, it id turn to money wid him; and so, in course of time, he bought great estates, and was a great man entirely–not a greater in Ireland, throth.

At last, afther many years of prosperity, the owld colonel got stricken in years, and he began to have misgivings in his conscience for his wicked doings, and his heart was heavy as the fear of death came upon him; and sure enough, while he had such murnful thoughts, the divil kem to him, and towld him he should go wid him.

Well, to be sure, the owld man was frekened, but he plucked up his courage and his cuteness, and towld the divil, in a bantherin’ way, jokin’ like, that he had partic’lar business thin, that he was goin’ to a party, and hoped an owld friend wouldn’t inconvaynience him that-a-way.

The divil said he’d call the next day, and that he must be ready; and sure enough in the evenin’ he kem to him; and when the colonel seen him, he reminded him of his bargain that as long as he could give him some work he couldn’t do, he wasn’t obleeged to go.

‘That’s thrue,’ says the divil.

‘I’m glad you’re as good as your word, anyhow,’ says the colonel.

‘I never bruk my word yit,’ says the owld chap, cocking up his horns consaitedly; ‘honour bright,’ says he.

‘Well then,’ says the colonel, ‘build me a mill, down there, by the river,’ says he, ‘and let me have it finished by to-morrow mornin’.’

‘Your will is my pleasure,’ says the owld chap, and away he wint; and the colonel thought he had nicked Owld Nick at last, and wint to bed quite aisy in his mind.

But, jewel machree, sure the first thing he heerd the next mornin’ was that the whole counthry round was runnin’ to see a fine bran new mill that was an the river-side, where the evening before not a thing at all, at all, but rushes was standin’, and all, of coorse, wonderin’ what brought it there; and some sayin’ ’twas not lucky, and many more throubled in their mind, but one and all agreein’ it was no good; and that’s the very mill forninst you.

But when the colonel heered it he was more throubled than any, of coorse, and began to conthrive what else he could think iv to keep himself out iv the claws of the owld one. Well, he often heerd tell that there was one thing the divil never could do, and I darsay you heerd it too, sir,–that is, that he couldn’t make a rope out of the sands of the say; and so when the owld one kem to him the next day and said his job was done, and that now the mill was built he must either tell him somethin’ else he wanted done, or come away wid him.

So the colonel said he saw it was all over wid him. ‘But,’ says he, ‘I wouldn’t like to go wid you alive, and sure it’s all the same to you, alive or dead?’

‘Oh, that won’t do,’ says his frind; ‘I can’t wait no more,’ says he.

‘I don’t want you to wait, my dear frind,’ says the colonel; ‘all I want is, that you’ll be plased to kill me before you take me away.’

‘With pleasure,’ says Owld Nick.

‘But will you promise me my choice of dyin’ one partic’lar way?’ says the colonel.

‘Half a dozen ways, if it plazes you,’ says he.

‘You’re mighty obleegin’,’ says the colonel; ‘and so,’ says he, ‘I’d rather die by bein’ hanged with a rope made out of the sands of the say,’ says he, lookin’ mighty knowin’ at the owld fellow.

‘I’ve always one about me,’ says the divil, ‘to obleege my frinds,’ says he; and with that he pulls out a rope made of sand, sure enough.

‘Oh, it’s game you’re makin’,’ says the colonel, growin’ as white as a sheet.

‘The game is mine, sure enough,’ says the owld fellow, grinnin’, with a terrible laugh.

‘That’s not a sand-rope at all,’ says the colonel.

‘Isn’t it?’ says the divil, hittin’ him acrass the face with the ind iv the rope, and the sand (for it was made of sand, sure enough) went into one of his eyes, and made the tears come with the pain.

‘That bates all I ever seen or heerd,’ says the colonel, sthrivin’ to rally and make another offer; ‘is there anything you can’t do?’

‘Nothing you can tell me,’ says the divil, ‘so you may as well leave off your palaverin’ and come along at wanst.’

‘Will you give me one more offer,’ says the colonel.

‘You don’t desarve it,’ says the divil; ‘but I don’t care if I do’; for you see, sir, he was only playin’ wid him, and tantalising the owld sinner.

‘All fair,’ says the colonel, and with that he ax’d him could he stop a woman’s tongue.

‘Thry me,’ says Owld Nick.

‘Well then,’ says the colonel, ‘make my lady’s tongue be quiet for the next month and I’d thank you.’

‘She’ll never trouble you agin,’ says Owld Nick; and with that the colonel heerd roarin’ and cryin’, and the door of his room was thrown open and in ran his daughter, and fell down at his feet, telling him her mother had just dhropped dead.

The minit the door opened, the divil runs and hides himself behind a big elbow-chair; and the colonel was frekened almost out of his siven sinses by raison of the sudden death of his poor lady, let alone the jeopardy he was in himself, seein’ how the divil had forestalled him every way; and after ringin’ his bell and callin’ to his sarvants and recoverin’ his daughter out of her faint, he was goin’ away wid her out of the room, whin the divil caught howld of him by the skirt of the coat, and the colonel was obleeged to let his daughter be carried out by the sarvants, and shut the door afther them.

‘Well,’ says the divil, and he grinn’d and wagg’d his tail, all as one as a dog when he’s plaised; ‘what do you say now?’ says he.

‘Oh,’ says the colonel, ‘only lave me alone until I bury my poor wife,’ says he, ‘and I’ll go with you then, you villain,’ says he.

‘Don’t call names,’ says the divil; ‘you had better keep a civil tongue in your head,’ says he; ‘and it doesn’t become a gintleman to forget good manners.’

‘Well, sir, to make a long story short, the divil purtended to let him off, out of kindness, for three days antil his wife was buried; but the raison of it was this, that when the lady his daughter fainted, he loosened the clothes about her throat, and in pulling some of her dhress away, he tuk off a goold chain that was on her neck and put it in his pocket, and the chain had a diamond crass on it (the Lord be praised!) and the divil darn’t touch him while he had the sign of the crass about him.

Well, the poor colonel (God forgive him!) was grieved for the loss of his lady, and she had an illigant berrin–and they say that when the prayers was readin’ over the dead, the owld colonel took it to heart like anything, and the word o’ God kem home to his poor sinful sowl at last.

Well, sir, to make a long story short, the ind of it was, that for the three days o’ grace that was given to him the poor deluded owld sinner did nothin’ at all but read the Bible from mornin’ till night, and bit or sup didn’t pass his lips all the time, he was so intint upon the Holy Book, but he sat up in an owld room in the far ind of the house, and bid no one disturb him an no account, and struv to make his heart bould with the words iv life; and sure it was somethin’ strinthened him at last, though as the time drew nigh that the inimy was to come, he didn’t feel aisy, and no wondher; and, bedad the three days was past and gone in no time, and the story goes that at the dead hour o’ the night, when the poor sinner was readin’ away as fast as he could, my jew’l, his heart jumped up to his mouth at gettin’ a tap on the shoulder.

‘Oh, murther!’ says he, ‘who’s there?’ for he was afeard to look up.

‘It’s me,’ says the owld one, and he stood right forninst him, and his eyes like coals o’ fire, lookin’ him through, and he said, with a voice that almost split his owld heart, ‘Come!’ says he.

‘Another day!’ cried out the poor colonel.

‘Not another hour,’ says Sat’n.

‘Half an hour!’

‘Not a quarther,’ says the divil, grinnin’ with a bitther laugh; ‘give over your reading I bid you,’ says he, ‘and come away wid me.’

‘Only gi’ me a few minits,’ says he.

‘Lave aff your palaverin’ you snakin’ owld sinner,’ says Sat’n; ‘you know you’re bought and sould to me, and a purty bargain I have o’ you, you owld baste,’ says he; ‘so come along at wanst,’ and he put out his claw to ketch him; but the colonel tuk a fast hould o’ the Bible, and begged hard that he’d let him alone, and wouldn’t harm him antil the bit o’ candle that was just blinkin’ in the socket before him was burned out.

‘Well, have it so, you dirty coward,’ says Owld Nick, and with that he spit an him.

But the poor owld colonel didn’t lose a minit (for he was cunnin’ to the ind), but snatched the little taste o’ candle that was forninst him out o’ the candlestick, and puttin’ it an the Holy Book before him, he shut down the cover of it and quinched the light. With that the divil gave a roar like a bull, and vanished in a flash o’ fire, and the poor colonel fainted away in his chair; but the sarvants heerd the noise (for the divil tore aff the roof o’ the house when he left it), and run into the room, and brought their master to himself agin. And from that day he was an althered man, and used to have the Bible read to him every day, for he couldn’t read himself any more, by raison of losin’ his eyesight when the divil hit him with the rope of sand in the face, and afther spit an him–for the sand wint into one eye, and he lost the other that-a-way, savin’ your presence.

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