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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Vintner’s Story
By Alain René Lesage (1688–1747)
 
From ‘The Devil upon Two Sticks’

“UNDER the closet there is a dungeon that serves for a lodging to a young vintner.”—“What, my host again?” cried Leandro; “sure these people have a mind to poison all the world.” “This man’s case is not the same,” replied Asmodeus: “he was seized yesterday, and is likewise claimed by the Inquisition. I will in few words relate to you the subject of his commitment.  1
  “An old soldier, by his courage, or rather patience, having mounted to the post of a sergeant in his company, came to raise recruits in this city. He inquired for a lodging at an inn, where he was answered that they had indeed empty rooms, but that they could not recommend any of them to him, because the house was haunted every night by a spirit, which treated all strangers very ill that were rash enough to lodge there. This did not at all balk the sergeant. ‘Put me in what chamber you please,’ said he, ‘but give me a candle, wine, pipes, and tobacco; and as for the spirit, never trouble yourself about it,—ghosts have a respect for men of war who are grown old in the service.’  2
  “As he seemed so resolute, he was shown into a chamber, where all that he desired was brought to him. He fell to drinking and smoking till midnight, and no spirit had yet disturbed the profound silence that reigned in the house. One would have imagined he feared this new guest; but betwixt one and two, the sergeant all of a sudden heard a terrible noise like the rattling of old iron, and immediately saw entering his chamber an apparition clothed in black and laden all round with iron chains. Our smoker, not in the least affrighted at this sight, drew his sword, advanced towards the spirit, and with the flat side of it gave him a very severe blow on the head.  3
  “The apparition, not much used to meet with such bold guests, cried out; and perceiving the soldier going to begin with him again, he most humbly prostrated himself at his feet. ‘Mr. Sergeant,’ said he, ‘for God’s sake do not give me any more; but have mercy on a poor devil that casts himself at your feet. I conjure you by St. James, who, as you are, was a great soldier.’ ‘If you are willing to save your life,’ answered the soldier, ‘you must tell me who you are, and speak without the least prevarication; or else this moment I cut you down the middle, as your knights of old were used to serve the giants they encountered.’ At these words, the ghost, finding what sort of man he had to do with, resolved to own all.  4
  “‘I am the principal servant of this inn,’ replied the spirit; ‘my name is Guillermo; I am in love with my master’s only daughter, and she does not dislike me: but the father and mother having a better match in view, the girl and I have agreed, in order to compel them to make me their son-in-law, that I shall every night act the part which I now do. I wrap myself up in a long black cloak and hang the jack-chain about my neck. Thus equipped, I run up and down the house from the cellar to the garret, and make all the noise which you have heard. When I am at my master’s and mistress’s chamber-door, I stop and cry out: “Do not hope that I will ever let you rest till you marry Juanna to Guillermo, your upper drawer.” ‘After having pronounced these words with a hoarse, broken voice, I continue my noise, and at a window enter the closet where Juanna lies alone, to give her an account of what I have done.—Mr. Sergeant,’ continued Guillermo, ‘you see I have told you the whole truth. I know that after this confession you may ruin me by discovering it to my master; but if you please to serve instead of undoing me, I swear that my acknowledgments—’  5
  “‘Alas, what service can I do thee?’ interrupted the soldier. ‘You need do no more,’ returned Guillermo, ‘than to say to-morrow that you have seen the spirit, that it so terribly affrighted you—’ ‘How? terribly affrighted!’ interrupted the soldier; ‘would you have Sergeant Annibal Antonio Quebrantador own such a thing as fear? I had rather ten thousand devils should—’ ‘That’s not absolutely necessary,’ interrupted Guillermo; ‘and after all it is not much matter what you say, provided you second my design. And when I have married Juanna and am settled, I promise to treat you and all your friends nobly for nothing every day.’—‘You are a very tempting person, Mr. Guillermo,’ said the soldier. ‘You propose to me to support a tribe: it is a serious affair, which requires mature deliberation; but the consequences hurry me on. So continue your noise; give your account to Juanna, and I will take care of the rest.’  6
  “Accordingly, next morning he said to his landlord and landlady: ‘I have seen the spirit and have talked with it. It is a very honest fellow. “I am,” said he, “the great-grandfather of the master of this house. I had a daughter whom I promised to the father of the grandfather of this drawer. However, neglecting the word I had given him, I married her to another, and died soon after, and ever since am tormented as the punishment of my perjury, and shall never be at rest till one of my family shall marry one of Guillermo’s; and it is for this reason I walk here every night. Yet it is to no purpose that I bid them marry Juanna to their head drawer. The son of my grandson and his wife turn the deaf ear to all I can say. But tell them, if you please, Mr. Sergeant, that if they do not immediately comply with my desires, I shall proceed to action and will torment them both in an extraordinary manner.’”  7
  “The host, being silly enough, was terrified at this discourse; but the hostess, yet more silly than her husband, fancying that the spirit was always at her heels, consented to the match, and Guillermo married Juanna the next day, and set up in another part of the town. Sergeant Quebrantador did not fail to visit him often; and he, in acknowledgment of the service he had done him, gave him as much wine as he cared for. This so pleased the soldier that he brought thither not only all his friends, but listed his men there, and made all his recruits drunk.  8
  “But at last Guillermo, grown weary of satiating such a crew of drunkards, told his mind to the soldier; who, without ever thinking that he had exceeded his agreement, was so unjust as to call Guillermo a little ungrateful rascal. The host answered; the sergeant replied; and the dialogue ended with several strokes with the flat side of the sword, which Guillermo received. Several persons passing by took the vintner’s part; the sergeant wounded three or four, but was suddenly fallen on by a crowd of alguazils, who seized him as a disturber of the public peace and carried him to prison. He there declared what I have told you: and upon his deposition, the officers have also seized Guillermo; the father-in-law requires the annulling of the marriage; and the Holy Office being informed that Guillermo is rich, have thought fit to take cognizance of it.”  9
  “As I hope to be saved,” said Don Cleofas, “this same Holy Inquisition is very alert. The moment they see the least glimpse of profit—”  10
  “Softly,” interrupted the cripple; “have a care what freedom you take with this tribunal, for it has its spies everywhere, even of things that were never spoken. I myself dare not speak of it without trembling.”  11
 
 
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