The Canterbury Pilgrims eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 138 pages of information about The Canterbury Pilgrims.
from Hell and I range the world seeking what men will give me,’ ‘Is that truly so?’ said the summoner.  ’I thought you a man as I am.  Can you change your shape at will?’ ‘Yes, truly,’ the other answered.  ’In whatever guise we may best accomplish our purpose—­that we wear.  We go on all errands, God’s and the Devil’s, and some we torment for their soul’s good, as we did Job, but some we take body and soul together,’

“By this time they were quite close to the town for which they were bound.  In the muddy road was a carter with a waggon of hay.  The wain had sunk in down to the axle-trees and the three horses had not the strength to drag it out of the mire.  The carter was yelling at his horses, ‘Gee-up, Jock!  Gee-up, Bessy!  Pull, my beauties, pull!’ And when they failed to move the cart, ’The demons take you, cart and all!  Pull away, or the fiend catch you!’ When he heard the carter swearing like this, the summoner began to nudge the other.  ’There is something for you,’ he said; ’that carter is giving you horses and waggon.  Why don’t you take them?’ ‘Wait,’ said the yeoman, ’he does not mean what he says,’ Just at this moment the horses by a great effort pulled the waggon free.  ‘God bless you, my good horses!’ said the carter.  ‘Gee-up!  Heaven be praised, we are clear.’  ‘There,’ said the yeoman, ’you see men do not always mean what they say.  We have to be sure.’

“Before long they came to the cottage where the widow lived.  ’Just watch how I manage affairs,’ said the summoner, and he began to knock on the gate and shout, ’Come out, come out, you wicked old woman!’ The widow opened the door at length and came hobbling out.  ‘What witchcraft were you doing inside?’ asked the summoner.  ’I swear it was nothing good.  I have here an order for you to answer in the archdeacon’s court for your manner of life.  To-morrow you must appear and answer for your sins.’  The poor old woman fell on her knees.  ’How can I come?’ she said—­’and I just risen from a bed of sickness.  Let me send someone to answer for me.’  ‘Not so.’ said the summoner.  ’Either you appear yourself or you give me twelve pence to get the charge withdrawn.  I should be doing you a great favour, for the archdeacon is no mild man to such hardened sinners as you.’  The old woman began to cry.  ’I cannot give you twelve pence, nor six, I am too poor.  I am innocent of any crime; I practise no witchcraft.  I cannot come to court, I am too weak.’  ‘Stop that!’ said the summoner; ’if you do not pay what I ask I will take your brass pan.  You owe it me already for crimes of long standing.’  At this the woman wept more and more.  ‘A curse on you.’ cried she, ’may the fiend fly away with you and the pan too!’

“At this, the yeoman, who had been standing by, said, ’Dame, do you mean this?  Would you give the summoner over to the fiend?’ ’Yea, that I would.’ she answered, ’and my pan too, so that I might be rid of him.’  At this the devil laughed.  ‘Now you are fairly mine!’ he said to the summoner, and with that he tucked him under his arm and carried him off to Hell.

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The Canterbury Pilgrims from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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